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Title: Eugene Aram — Complete
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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EUGENE ARAM

A TALE


By Edward Bulwer Lytton



TO SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART., ETC.

SIR,--It has long been my ambition to add some humble tribute to the
offerings laid upon the shrine of your genius. At each succeeding book
that I have given to the world, I have paused to consider if it were
worthy to be inscribed with your great name, and at each I have played
the procrastinator, and hoped for that morrow of better desert which
never came. But ‘defluat amnis’,--the time runs on; and I am tired of
waiting for the ford which the tides refuse. I seize, then, the present
opportunity, not as the best, but as the only one I can be sure of
commanding, to express that affectionate admiration with which you have
inspired me in common with all your contemporaries, and which a French
writer has not ungracefully termed “the happiest prerogative of genius.”
 As a Poet and as a Novelist your fame has attained to that height in
which praise has become superfluous; but in the character of the writer
there seems to me a yet higher claim to veneration than in that of the
writings. The example your genius sets us, who can emulate? The example
your moderation bequeaths to us, who shall forget? That nature
must indeed be gentle which has conciliated the envy that pursues
intellectual greatness, and left without an enemy a man who has no
living equal in renown.

You have gone for a while from the scenes you have immortalized, to
regain, we trust, the health which has been impaired by your noble
labors or by the manly struggles with adverse fortunes which have not
found the frame as indomitable as the mind. Take with you the prayers of
all whom your genius, with playful art, has soothed in sickness, or has
strengthened, with generous precepts, against the calamities of life.

   [Written at the time of Sir W. Scott’s visit to Italy, after the
   great blow to his health and fortunes.]

          “Navis quae, tibi creditum
           Debes Virgilium...
           Reddas incolumem!”

     “O ship, thou owest to us Virgil! Restore in
     safety him whom we intrusted to thee.”

You, I feel assured, will not deem it presumptuous in one who, to
that bright and undying flame which now streams from the gray hills
of Scotland,--the last halo with which you have crowned her literary
glories,--has turned from his first childhood with a deep and unrelaxing
devotion; you, I feel assured, will not deem it presumptuous in him to
inscribe an idle work with your illustrious name,--a work which, however
worthless in itself, assumes something of value in his eyes when thus
rendered a tribute of respect to you.

THE AUTHOR OF “EUGENE ARAM.”

LONDON, December 22, 1831.



PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1831.

Since, dear Reader, I last addressed thee, in “Paul Clifford,” nearly
two years have elapsed, and somewhat more than four years since, in
“Pelham,” our familiarity first began. The Tale which I now submit to
thee differs equally from the last as from the first of those works; for
of the two evils, perhaps it is even better to disappoint thee in a new
style than to weary thee with an old. With the facts on which the
tale of “Eugene Aram” is founded, I have exercised the common and fair
license of writers of fiction it is chiefly the more homely parts of the
real story that have been altered; and for what I have added, and what
omitted, I have the sanction of all established authorities, who have
taken greater liberties with characters yet more recent, and far more
protected by historical recollections. The book was, for the most part,
written in the early part of the year, when the interest which the task
created in the Author was undivided by other subjects of excitement, and
he had leisure enough not only to be ‘nescio quid meditans nugarum,’ but
also to be ‘totes in illis.’

   [“Not only to be meditating I know not what of trifles, but also to
   be wholly engaged on them.”]

I originally intended to adapt the story of Eugene Aram to the Stage.
That design was abandoned when more than half completed; but I wished to
impart to this Romance something of the nature of Tragedy,--something
of the more transferable of its qualities. Enough of this: it is not the
Author’s wishes, but the Author’s books that the world will judge him
by. Perhaps, then (with this I conclude), in the dull monotony of public
affairs, and in these long winter evenings, when we gather round the
fire, prepared for the gossip’s tale, willing to indulge the fear and
to believe the legend, perhaps, dear Reader, thou mayest turn, not
reluctantly, even to these pages, for at least a newer excitement than
the Cholera, or for momentary relief from the everlasting discussion on
“the Bill.” [The year of the Reform Bill.]

LONDON, December 22, 1831.



PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1840.

The strange history of Eugene Aram had excited my interest and wonder
long before the present work was composed or conceived. It so happened
that during Aram’s residence at Lynn his reputation for learning had
attracted the notice of my grandfather,--a country gentleman living in
the same county, and of more intelligence and accomplishments than, at
that day, usually characterized his class. Aram frequently visited at
Heydon (my grandfather’s house), and gave lessons--probably in no very
elevated branches of erudition--to the younger members of the family.
This I chanced to hear when I was on a visit in Norfolk some two years
before this novel was published; and it tended to increase the interest
with which I had previously speculated on the phenomena of a trial
which, take it altogether, is perhaps the most remarkable in the
register of English crime. I endeavored to collect such anecdotes of
Aram’s life and manners as tradition and hearsay still kept afloat.
These anecdotes were so far uniform that they all concurred in
representing him as a person who, till the detection of the crime for
which he was sentenced, had appeared of the mildest character and the
most unexceptionable morals. An invariable gentleness and patience in
his mode of tuition--qualities then very uncommon at school--had made
him so beloved by his pupils at Lynn that, in after life, there was
scarcely one of them who did not persist in the belief of his innocence.

His personal and moral peculiarities, as described in these pages, are
such as were related to me by persons who had heard him described by his
contemporaries, the calm, benign countenance; the delicate health; the
thoughtful stoop; the noiseless step; the custom, not uncommon with
scholars and absent men, of muttering to himself; a singular eloquence
in conversation, when once roused from silence; an active tenderness
and charity to the poor, with whom he was always ready to share his own
scanty means; an apparent disregard for money, except when employed in
the purchase of books; an utter indifference to the ambition usually
accompanying self-taught talent, whether to better the condition or to
increase the repute: these, and other traits of the character portrayed
in the novel, are, as far as I can rely on my information, faithful to
the features of the original.

That a man thus described--so benevolent that he would rob his own
necessities to administer to those of another, so humane that he would
turn aside from the worm in his path--should have been guilty of the
foulest of human crimes, namely, murder for the sake of gain; that a
crime thus committed should have been so episodical and apart from the
rest of his career that, however it might rankle in his conscience,
it should never have hardened his nature; that through a life of some
duration, none of the errors, none of the vices, which would seem
essentially to belong to a character capable of a deed so black,
from motives apparently so sordid, should have been discovered or
suspected,--all this presents all anomaly in human conduct so rare and
surprising that it would be difficult to find any subject more adapted
for that metaphysical speculation and analysis, in order to indulge
which, Fiction, whether in the drama or the higher class of romance,
seeks its materials and grounds its lessons in the chronicles of passion
and crime.

   [For I put wholly out of question the excuse of jealousy, as
   unsupported by any evidence, never hinted at by Aram himself
   (at least on any sufficient authority), and at variance with the
   only fact which the trial establishes; namely, that the robbery was
   the crime planned, and the cause, whether accidental or otherwise,
   of the murder.]

The guilt of Eugene Aram is not that of a vulgar ruffian; it leads to
views and considerations vitally and wholly distinct from those with
which profligate knavery and brutal cruelty revolt and displease us in
the literature of Newgate and the hulks. His crime does, in fact, belong
to those startling paradoxes which the poetry of all countries, and
especially of our own, has always delighted to contemplate and examine.
Whenever crime appears the aberration and monstrous product of a great
intellect or of a nature ordinarily virtuous, it becomes not only
the subject for genius, which deals with passions, to describe, but a
problem for philosophy, which deals with actions, to investigate and
solve; hence the Macbeths and Richards, the Iagos and Othellos. My
regret, therefore, is not that I chose a subject unworthy of elevated
fiction, but that such a subject did not occur to some one capable of
treating it as it deserves; and I never felt this more strongly than
when the late Mr. Godwin (in conversing with me after the publication
of this romance) observed that he had always thought the story of Eugene
Aram peculiarly adapted for fiction, and that he had more than once
entertained the notion of making it the foundation of a novel. I can
well conceive what depth and power that gloomy record would have taken
from the dark and inquiring genius of the author of “Caleb Williams.”
 In fact, the crime and trial of Eugene Aram arrested the attention and
engaged the conjectures of many of the most eminent men of his own time.
His guilt or innocence was the matter of strong contest; and so keen
and so enduring was the sensation created by an event thus completely
distinct from the ordinary annals of human crime that even History
turned aside from the sonorous narrative of the struggles of parties
and the feuds of kings to commemorate the learning and the guilt of
the humble schoolmaster of Lynn. Did I want any other answer to the
animadversions of commonplace criticism, it might be sufficient to
say that what the historian relates the novelist has little right to
disdain.

Before entering on this romance, I examined with some care the
probabilities of Aram’s guilt; for I need scarcely perhaps observe that
the legal evidence against him is extremely deficient,--furnished almost
entirely by one (Houseman) confessedly an accomplice of the crime and
a partner in the booty, and that in the present day a man tried
upon evidence so scanty and suspicious would unquestionably escape
conviction. Nevertheless, I must frankly own that the moral evidence
appeared to me more convincing than the legal; and though not without
some doubt, which, in common with many, I still entertain of the real
facts of the murder, I adopted that view which, at all events, was the
best suited to the higher purposes of fiction. On the whole, I still
think that if the crime were committed by Aram, the motive was not very
far removed from one which led recently to a remarkable murder in Spain.
A priest in that country, wholly absorbed in learned pursuits, and
apparently of spotless life, confessed that, being debarred by extreme
poverty from prosecuting a study which had become the sole passion of
his existence, he had reasoned himself into the belief that it would
be admissible to rob a very dissolute, worthless man if he applied the
money so obtained to the acquisition of a knowledge which he could
not otherwise acquire, and which he held to be profitable to mankind.
Unfortunately, the dissolute rich man was not willing to be robbed for
so excellent a purpose; he was armed and he resisted. A struggle ensued,
and the crime of homicide was added to that of robbery. The robbery was
premeditated; the murder was accidental. But he who would accept some
similar interpretation of Aram’s crime must, to comprehend fully the
lessons which belong to so terrible a picture of frenzy and guilt,
consider also the physical circumstances and condition of the criminal
at the time,--severe illness, intense labor of the brain, poverty
bordering upon famine, the mind preternaturally at work devising schemes
and excuses to arrive at the means for ends ardently desired. And all
this duly considered, the reader may see the crime bodying itself out
from the shades and chimeras of a horrible hallucination,--the awful
dream of a brief but delirious and convulsed disease. It is thus only
that we can account for the contradiction of one deed at war with a
whole life,--blasting, indeed, forever the happiness, but making little
revolution in the pursuits and disposition of the character. No one who
has examined with care and thoughtfulness the aspects of Life and Nature
but must allow that in the contemplation of such a spectacle, great and
most moral truths must force themselves on the notice and sink deep
into the heart. The entanglements of human reasoning; the influence
of circumstance upon deeds; the perversion that may be made, by one
self-palter with the Fiend, of elements the most glorious; the secret
effect of conscience in frustrating all for which the crime was
done, leaving genius without hope, knowledge without fruit, deadening
benevolence into mechanism, tainting love itself with terror and
suspicion,--such reflections (leading, with subtler minds, to many more
vast and complicated theorems in the consideration of our nature, social
and individual) arise out of the tragic moral which the story of Eugene
Aram (were it but adequately treated) could not fail to convey.

BRUSSELS, August, 1840.



PREFACE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.

If none of my prose works have been so attacked as “Eugene Aram,” none
have so completely triumphed over attack. It is true that, whether
from real or affected ignorance of the true morality of fiction, a few
critics may still reiterate the old commonplace charges of “selecting
heroes from Newgate,” or “investing murderers with interest;” but the
firm hold which the work has established in the opinion of the general
public, and the favor it has received in every country where English
literature is known, suffice to prove that, whatever its faults, it
belongs to that legitimate class of fiction which illustrates life and
truth, and only deals with crime as the recognized agency of pity and
terror in the conduct of tragic narrative. All that I would say further
on this score has been said in the general defence of my writings which
I put forth two years ago; and I ask the indulgence of the reader if I
repeat myself:--

   “Here, unlike the milder guilt of Paul Clifford, the author was not
   to imply reform to society, nor open in this world atonement and
   pardon to the criminal. As it would have been wholly in vain to
   disguise, by mean tamperings with art and truth, the ordinary habits
   of life and attributes of character which all record and remembrance
   ascribed to Eugene Aram; as it would have defeated every end of the
   moral inculcated by his guilt, to portray, in the caricature of the
   murderer of melodrama, a man immersed in study, of whom it was noted
   that he turned aside from the worm in his path,--so I have allowed
   to him whatever contrasts with his inexpiable crime have been
   recorded on sufficient authority. But I have invariably taken care
   that the crime itself should stand stripped of every sophistry, and
   hideous to the perpetrator as well as to the world. Allowing all by
   which attention to his biography may explain the tremendous paradox
   of fearful guilt in a man aspiring after knowledge, and not
   generally inhumane; allowing that the crime came upon him in the
   partial insanity produced by the combining circumstances of a brain
   overwrought by intense study, disturbed by an excited imagination
   and the fumes of a momentary disease of the reasoning faculty,
   consumed by the desire of knowledge, unwholesome and morbid, because
   coveted as an end, not a means, added to the other physical causes
   of mental aberration to be found in loneliness, and want verging
   upon famine,--all these, which a biographer may suppose to have
   conspired to his crime, have never been used by the novelist as
   excuses for its enormity, nor indeed, lest they should seem as
   excuses, have they ever been clearly presented to the view. The
   moral consisted in showing more than the mere legal punishment at
   the close. It was to show how the consciousness of the deed was to
   exclude whatever humanity of character preceded and belied it from
   all active exercise, all social confidence; how the knowledge of the
   bar between the minds of others and his own deprived the criminal of
   all motive to ambition, and blighted knowledge of all fruit.
   Miserable in his affections, barren in his intellect; clinging to
   solitude, yet accursed in it; dreading as a danger the fame he had
   once coveted; obscure in spite of learning, hopeless in spite of
   love, fruitless and joyless in his life, calamitous and shameful in
   his end,--surely such is no palliative of crime, no dalliance and
   toying with the grimness of evil! And surely to any ordinary
   comprehension and candid mind such is the moral conveyed by the
   fiction of ‘Eugene Aram.’”--[A word to the Public, 1847]

In point of composition “Eugene Aram” is, I think, entitled to
rank amongst the best of my fictions. It somewhat humiliates me to
acknowledge that neither practice nor study has enabled me to surpass
a work written at a very early age, in the skilful construction and
patient development of plot; and though I have since sought to call
forth higher and more subtle passions, I doubt if I have ever excited
the two elementary passions of tragedy,--namely, pity and terror,--to
the same degree. In mere style, too, “Eugene Aram,” in spite of certain
verbal oversights, and defects in youthful taste (some of which I have
endeavored to remove from the present edition), appears to me unexcelled
by any of my later writings,--at least in what I have always studied as
the main essential of style in narrative; namely, its harmony with the
subject selected and the passions to be moved,--while it exceeds them
all in the minuteness and fidelity of its descriptions of external
nature. This indeed it ought to do, since the study of external nature
is made a peculiar attribute of the principal character, whose fate
colors the narrative. I do not know whether it has been observed that
the time occupied by the events of the story is conveyed through the
medium of such descriptions. Each description is introduced, not for its
own sake, but to serve as a calendar marking the gradual changes of the
seasons as they bear on to his doom the guilty worshipper of Nature. And
in this conception, and in the care with which it has been followed
out, I recognize one of my earliest but most successful attempts at the
subtler principles of narrative art.

In this edition I have made one alteration somewhat more important than
mere verbal correction. On going, with maturer judgment, over all the
evidences on which Aram was condemned, I have convinced myself that
though an accomplice in the robbery of Clarke, he was free both from the
premeditated design and the actual deed of murder. The crime, indeed,
would still rest on his conscience and insure his punishment, as
necessarily incidental to the robbery in which he was an accomplice,
with Houseman; but finding my convictions, that in the murder itself he
had no share, borne out by the opinion of many eminent lawyers by whom
I have heard the subject discussed, I have accordingly so shaped his
confession to Walter.

Perhaps it will not be without interest to the reader if I append to
this preface an authentic specimen of Eugene Aram’s composition, for
which I am indebted to the courtesy of a gentleman by whose grandfather
it was received, with other papers (especially a remarkable “Outline of
a New Lexicon”), during Aram’s confinement in York prison. The essay
I select is, indeed, not without value in itself as a very curious and
learned illustration of Popular Antiquities, and it serves also to show
not only the comprehensive nature of Aram’s studies and the inquisitive
eagerness of his mind, but also the fact that he was completely
self-taught; for in contrast to much philological erudition, and to
passages that evince considerable mastery in the higher resources of
language, we may occasionally notice those lesser inaccuracies from
which the writings of men solely self-educated are rarely free,--indeed
Aram himself, in sending to a gentleman an elegy on Sir John Armitage,
which shows much, but undisciplined, power of versification, says, “I
send this elegy, which, indeed, if you had not had the curiosity to
desire, I could not have had the assurance to offer, scarce believing I,
who was hardly taught to read, have any abilities to write.”

         THE MELSUPPER AND SHOUTING THE CHURN.

These rural entertainments and usages were formerly more general all
over England than they are at present, being become by time, necessity,
or avarice, complex, confined, and altered. They are commonly insisted
upon by the reapers as customary things, and a part of their due for the
toils of the harvest, and complied with by their masters perhaps more
through regards of interest than inclination; for should they refuse
them the pleasures of this much-expected time, this festal night, the
youth especially, of both sexes would decline serving them for the
future, and employ their labors for others, who would promise them the
rustic joys of the harvest-supper, mirth and music, dance and song.
These feasts appear to be the relics of Pagan ceremonies or of Judaism,
it is hard to say which, and carry in them more meaning and are of far
higher antiquity than is generally apprehended. It is true the subject
is more curious than important, and I believe altogether untouched; and
as it seems to be little understood, has been as little adverted to.
I do not remember it to have been so much as the subject of a
conversation. Let us make, then, a little excursion into this field, for
the same reason men sometimes take a walk. Its traces are discoverable
at a very great distance of time from ours,--nay, seem as old as a sense
of joy for the benefit of plentiful harvests and human gratitude to the
eternal Creator for His munificence to men. We hear it under various
names in different counties, and often in the same county; as,
“melsupper,” “churn-supper,” “harvest-supper,” “harvest-home,” “feast of
in-gathering,” etc. And perhaps this feast had been long observed, and
by different tribes of people, before it became preceptive with the
Jews. However, let that be as it will, the custom very lucidly appears
from the following passages of S. S., Exod. xxiii. 16, “And the feast
of harvest, the first-fruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown in
the field.” And its institution as a sacred rite is commanded in Levit.
xxiii. 39: “When ye have gathered in the fruit of the land ye shall keep
a feast to the Lord.”

The Jews then, as is evident from hence, celebrated the feast of
harvest, and that by precept; and though no vestiges of any such feast
either are or can be produced before these, yet the oblation of the
Primitae, of which this feast was a consequence, is met with prior
to this, for we find that “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an
offering to the Lord” (Gen. iv. 3).

Yet this offering of the first-fruits, it may well be supposed was not
peculiar to the Jews either at the time of, or after, its establishment
by their legislator; neither the feast in consequence of it. Many other
nations, either in imitation of the Jews, or rather by tradition from
their several patriarchs, observed the rite of offering their Primitiae,
and of solemnizing a festival after it, in religious acknowledgment
for the blessing of harvest, though that acknowledgment was ignorantly
misapplied in being directed to a secondary, not the primary, fountain
of this benefit,--namely to Apollo, or the Sun.

For Callimachus affirms that these Primitiae were sent by the people
of every nation to the temple of Apollo in Delos, the most distant that
enjoyed the happiness of corn and harvest, even by the Hyperboreans
in particular,--Hymn to Apol., “Bring the sacred sheafs and the mystic
offerings.”

Herodotus also mentions this annual custom of the Hyperboreans,
remarking that those of Delos talk of “Holy things tied up in sheaf of
wheat conveyed from the Hyperboreans.” And the Jews, by the command of
their law, offered also a sheaf: “And shall reap the harvest thereof,
then ye shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of the harvest unto the
priest.”

This is not introduced in proof of any feast observed by the people who
had harvests, but to show the universality of the custom of offering the
Primitiae, which preceded this feast. But yet it maybe looked upon as
equivalent to a proof; for as the offering and the feast appear to have
been always and intimately connected in countries affording records, so
it is more than probable they were connected too in countries which
had none, or none that ever survived to our times. An entertainment
and gayety were still the concomitants of these rites, which with the
vulgar, one may pretty truly suppose, were esteemed the most acceptable
and material part of them, and a great reason of their having subsisted
through such a length of ages, when both the populace and many of
the learned too have lost sight of the object to which they had been
originally directed. This, among many other ceremonies of the heathen
worship, became disused in some places and retained in others, but still
continued declining after the promulgation of the Gospel. In short,
there seems great reason to conclude that this feast, which was once
sacred to Apollo, was constantly maintained, when a far less valuable
circumstance,--i.e., “shouting the churn,”--is observed to this day by
the reapers, and from so old an era; for we read of this exclamation,
Isa. xvi. 9: “For the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest
is fallen;” and again, ver. 10: “And in the vineyards there shall be no
singing, their shouting shall be no shouting.” Hence then, or from some
of the Phoenician colonies, is our traditionary “shouting the churn.”
 But it seems these Orientals shouted both for joy of their harvest of
grapes and of corn. We have no quantity of the first to occasion so much
joy as does our plenty of the last; and I do not remember to have heard
whether their vintages abroad are attended with this custom. Bread or
cakes compose part of the Hebrew offering (Levit. xxiii. 13), and a cake
thrown upon the head of the victim was also part of the Greek offering
to Apollo (see Hom., Il., a), whose worship was formerly celebrated in
Britain, where the May-pole yet continues one remain of it. This they
adorned with garlands on May-day, to welcome the approach of Apollo, or
the Sun, towards the North, and to signify that those flowers were
the product of his presence and influence. But upon the progress of
Christianity, as was observed above, Apollo lost his divinity again,
and the adoration of his deity subsided by degrees. Yet so permanent is
custom that this rite of the harvest-supper, together with that of the
May-pole (of which last see Voss. de Orig. and Prag. Idolatr., 1, 2),
have been preserved in Britain; and what had been anciently offered to
the god, the reapers as prudently ate up themselves.

At last the use of the meal of the new corn was neglected, and the
supper, so far as meal was concerned, was made indifferently of old
or new corn, as was most agreeable to the founder. And here the usage
itself accounts for the name of “Melsupper” (where mel signifies meal,
or else the instrument called with us a “Mell,” wherewith antiquity
reduced their corn to meal in a mortar, which still amounts to the same
thing); for provisions of meal, or of corn in furmety, etc., composed
by far the greatest part in these elder and country entertainments,
perfectly conformable to the simplicity of those times, places, and
persons, however meanly they may now be looked upon. And as the harvest
was last concluded with several preparations of meal, or brought to be
ready for the “mell,” this term became, in a translated signification,
to mean the last of other things; as, when a horse comes last in the
race, they often say in the North, “He has got the mell.”

All the other names of this country festivity sufficiently explain
themselves, except “Churn-supper;” and this is entirely different from
“Melsupper:” but they generally happen so near together that they are
frequently confounded. The “Churn-supper” was always provided when all
was shorn, but the “Melsupper” after all was got in. And it was called
the “Churn-supper” because, from immemorial times, it was customary to
produce in a churn a great quantity of cream, and to circulate it by
dishfuls to each of the rustic company, to be eaten with bread. And here
sometimes very extraordinary execution has been done upon cream. And
though this custom has been disused in many places, and agreeably
commuted for by ale, yet it survives still, and that about Whitby and
Scarborough in the East, and round about Gisburn, etc., in Craven, in
the West. But perhaps a century or two more will put an end to it, and
both the thing and name shall die. Vicarious ale is now more approved,
and the tankard almost everywhere politely preferred to the Churn.

This Churn (in our provincial pronunciation Kern) is the Hebrew Kern,
or Keren, from its being circular, like most horns; and it is the Latin
‘corona’,--named so either from ‘radii’, resembling horns, as on some
very ancient coins, or from its encircling the head: so a ring of people
is called corona. Also the Celtic Koren, Keren, or corn, which continues
according to its old pronunciation in Cornwall, etc., and our modern
word horn is no more than this; the ancient hard sound of k in corn
being softened into the aspirate h, as has been done in numberless
instances.

The Irish Celtae also called a round stone ‘clogh crene’, where the
variation is merely dialectic. Hence, too, our crane-berries,--i.e.,
round berries,--from this Celtic adjective ‘crene’, round.

The quotations from Scripture in Aram’s original MS. were both in the
Hebrew character, and their value in English sounds.



                 CONTENTS.

                  BOOK I.


 CHAPTER I.

 THE VILLAGE.--ITS INHABITANTS.--AN OLD MANORHOUSE: AND AN ENGLISH FAMILY;
 THEIR HISTORY, INVOLVING A MYSTERIOUS EVENT.


 CHAPTER II.
 A PUBLICAN, A SINNER, AND A STRANGER


 CHAPTER III.
 A DIALOGUE AND AN ALARM.--A STUDENT’S HOUSE.


 CHAPTER IV.
 THE SOLILOQUY, AND THE CHARACTER, OF A RECLUSE.--THE INTERRUPTION.


 CHAPTER V.

 A DINNER AT THE SQUIRE’S HALL.--A CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO RETIRED MEN
 WITH DIFFERENT OBJECTS IN RETIREMENT.--DISTURBANCE FIRST INTRODUCED INTO
 A PEACEFUL FAMILY.


 CHAPTER VI.

 THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE STUDENT.--A SUMMER SCENE--ARAM’S CONVERSATION WITH
 WALTER, AND SUBSEQUENT COLLOQUY WITH HIMSELF.


 CHAPTER VII.

 THE POWER OF LOVE OVER THE RESOLUTION OF THE STUDENT.--ARAM BECOMES A
 FREQUENT GUEST AT THE MANOR-HOUSE.--A WALK.--CONVERSATION WITH DAME
 DARKMANS.--HER HISTORY.--POVERTY AND ITS EFFECTS.


 CHAPTER VII.

 THE PRIVILEGE OF GENIUS.--LESTER’S SATISFACTION AT THE ASPECT OF
 EVENTS.--HIS CONVERSATION WITH WALTER.--A DISCOVERY.


 CHAPTER IX.

 THE STATE OF WALTER’S MIND.--AN ANGLER AND A MAN OF THE WORLD.--A
 COMPANION FOUND FOR WALTER.


 CHAPTER X.
 THE LOVERS.--THE ENCOUNTER AND QUARREL OF THE RIVALS.


 CHAPTER XI.

 THE FAMILY SUPPER.--THE TWO SISTERS IN THEIR CHAMBER.--A MISUNDERSTANDING
 FOLLOWED BY A CONFESSION.--WALTER’S APPROACHING DEPARTURE AND THE
 CORPORAL’S BEHAVIOUR THEREON.--THE CORPORAL’S FAVOURITE INTRODUCED TO THE
 READER.--THE CORPORAL PROVES HIMSELF A SUBTLE DIPLOMATIST.


 CHAPTER XII.

 A STRANGE HABIT.--WALTER’S INTERVIEW WITH MADELINE.--HER GENEROUS AND
 CONFIDING DISPOSITION.--WALTER’S ANGER.--THE PARTING MEAL.--CONVERSATION
 BETWEEN THE UNCLE AND NEPHEW.--WALTER ALONE.--SLEEP THE BLESSING OF THE
 YOUNG.


 BOOK II.


 CHAPTER I.

 THE MARRIAGE SETTLED.--LESTER’S HOPES AND SCHEMES.--GAIETY OF TEMPER A
 GOOD SPECULATION.--THE TRUTH AND FERVOUR OF ARAM’S LOVE.


 CHAPTER II.

 A FAVOURABLE SPECIMEN OF A NOBLEMAN AND A COURTIER.--A MAN OF SOME FAULTS
 AND MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS.


 CHAPTER III.

 WHEREIN THE EARL AND THE STUDENT CONVERSE ON GRAVE BUT DELIGHTFUL
 MATTERS.--THE STUDENT’S NOTION OF THE ONLY EARTHLY HAPPINESS.


 CHAPTER IV.

 A DEEPER EXAMINATION INTO THE STUDENT’S HEART.--THE VISIT TO THE
 CASTLE.--PHILOSOPHY PUT TO THE TRIAL.


 CHAPTER V.

 IN WHICH THE STORY RETURNS TO WALTER AND THE CORPORAL.--THE RENCONTRE
 WITH A STRANGER, AND HOW THE STRANGER PROVES TO BE NOT ALTOGETHER A
 STRANGER.


 CHAPTER VI.

 SIR PETER DISPLAYED.--ONE MAN OF THE WORLD SUFFERS FROM ANOTHER.--THE
 INCIDENT OF THE BRIDLE BEGETS THE INCIDENT OF THE SADDLE; THE INCIDENT OF
 THE SADDLE BEGETS THE INCIDENT OF THE WHIP; THE INCIDENT OF THE WHIP
 BEGETS WHAT THE READER MUST READ TO SEE.


 CHAPTER VII.

 WALTER VISITS ANOTHER OF HIS UNCLE’S FRIENDS.--MR. COURTLAND’S STRANGE
 COMPLAINT.--WALTER LEARNS NEWS OF HIS FATHER, WHICH SURPRISES HIM.--THE
 CHANGE IN HIS DESTINATION.


 CHAPTER VIII.

 WALTER’S MEDITATIONS.--THE CORPORAL’S GRIEF AND ANGER.--THE CORPORAL
 PERSONALLY DESCRIBED.--AN EXPLANATION WITH HIS MASTER.--THE CORPORAL
 OPENS HIMSELF TO THE YOUNG TRAVELLER.--HIS OPINIONS ON LOVE;--ON THE
 WORLD;--ON THE PLEASURE AND RESPECTABILITY OF CHEATING;--ON LADIES--AND A
 PARTICULAR CLASS OF LADIES;--ON AUTHORS;--ON THE VALUE OF WORDS;--ON
 FIGHTING;--WITH SUNDRY OTHER MATTERS OF EQUAL DELECTATION AND
 IMPROVEMENT.--AN UNEXPECTED EVENT.


 BOOK III.


 CHAPTER I.

 FRAUD AND VIOLENCE ENTER EVEN GRASSDALE.--PETER’S NEWS.--THE LOVERS’
 WALK.--THE REAPPEARANCE.


 CHAPTER II.
 THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN ARAM AND THE STRANGER.


 CHAPTER III.

 FRESH ALARM IN THE VILLAGE.--LESTER’S VISIT TO ARAM.--A TRAIT OF DELICATE
 KINDNESS IN THE STUDENT.--MADELINE.--HER PRONENESS TO CONFIDE.--THE
 CONVERSATION BETWEEN LESTER AND ARAM.--THE PERSONS BY WHOM IT IS
 INTERRUPTED.


 CHAPTER IV.

 MILITARY PREPARATIONS.--THE COMMANDER AND HIS MAN.--ARAM IS PERSUADED TO
 PASS THE NIGHT AT THE MANOR-HOUSE.


 CHAPTER V.
 THE SISTERS ALONE.--THE GOSSIP OF LOVE.--AN ALARM--AND AN EVENT.


 CHAPTER VI.

 ARAM ALONE AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.--HIS SOLILOQUY AND PROJECT.--SCENE
 BETWEEN HIMSELF AND MADELINE.


 CHAPTER VII

 ARAM’S SECRET EXPEDITION.--A SCENE WORTHY THE ACTORS.--ARAM’S ADDRESS AND
 POWERS OF PERSUASION OR HYPOCRISY.--THEIR RESULT.--A FEARFUL
 NIGHT.--ARAM’S SOLITARY RIDE HOMEWARD.--WHOM HE MEETS BY THE WAY, AND
 WHAT HE SEES.


 BOOK IV.


 CHAPTER I.

 IN WHICH WE RETURN TO WALTER.--HIS DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO MR. PERTINAX
 FILLGRAVE.--THE CORPORAL’S ADVICE, AND THE CORPORAL’S VICTORY.


 CHAPTER II.

 NEW TRACES OF THE FATE OF GEOFFREY LESTER.--WALTER AND THE CORPORAL
 PROCEED ON A FRESH EXPEDITION.--THE CORPORAL IS ESPECIALLY SAGACIOUS ON
 THE OLD TOPIC OF THE WORLD.--HIS OPINIONS ON THE MEN WHO CLAIM ‘KNOWLEDGE
 THEREOF.--ON THE ADVANTAGES ENJOYED BY A VALET.--ON THE SCIENCE OF
 SUCCESSFUL LOVE.--ON VIRTUE AND THE CONSTITUTION.--ON QUALITIES TO BE
 DESIRED IN A MISTRESS, ETC.--A LANDSCAPE.


 CHAPTER III.

 A SCHOLAR, BUT OF A DIFFERENT MOULD FROM THE STUDENT OF GRASSDALE.--NEW
 PARTICULARS CONCERNING GEOFFREY LESTER.--THE JOURNEY RECOMMENCED.


 CHAPTER IV.

 ARAM’S DEPARTURE.--MADELINE.--EXAGGERATION OF SENTIMENT NATURAL IN
 LOVE.--MADELINE’S LETTER.--WALTER’S.--THE WALK.--TWO VERY DIFFERENT
 PERSONS, YET BOTH INMATES OF THE SAME COUNTRY VILLAGE.--THE HUMOURS OF
 LIFE, AND ITS DARK PASSIONS, ARE FOUND IN JUXTA-POSITION EVERYWHERE.


 CHAPTER V.

 A REFLECTION NEW AND STRANGE.--THE STREETS OF LONDON.--A GREAT MAN’S
 LIBRARY.--A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE STUDENT AND AN ACQUAINTANCE OF THE
 READER’S.--ITS RESULT.


 CHAPTER VI.

 THE THAMES AT NIGHT.--A THOUGHT.--THE STUDENT RE-SEEKS THE RUFFIAN.--A
 HUMAN FEELING EVEN IN THE WORST SOIL.


 CHAPTER VII.

 MADELINE, HER HOPES.--A MILD AUTUMN CHARACTERISED.--A LANDSCAPE.--A
 RETURN.


 CHAPTER VIII.

 AFFECTION: ITS GODLIKE NATURE.--THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN ARAM AND
 MADELINE.--THE FATALIST FORGETS FATE.


 CHAPTER IX.

 WALTER AND THE CORPORAL ON THE ROAD.--THE EVENING SETS IN.--THE GIPSEY
 TENTS.--ADVENTURE WITH THE HORSEMAN.--THE CORPORAL DISCOMFITED, AND THE
 ARRIVAL AT KNARESBOROUGH.


 CHAPTER X.

 WALTER’S REFLECTIONS.--MINE HOST.--A GENTLE CHARACTER AND A GREEN OLD
 AGE.--THE GARDEN, AND THAT WHICH IT TEACHETH.--A DIALOGUE, WHEREIN NEW
 HINTS TOWARDS THE WISHED FOR DISCOVERY ARE SUGGESTED.--THE CURATE.--A
 VISIT TO A SPOT OF DEEP INTEREST TO THE ADVENTURER.


 CHAPTER XI.

 GRIEF IN A RUFFIAN.--THE CHAMBER OF EARLY DEATH.--A HOMELY YET MOMENTOUS
 CONFESSION.--THE EARTH’S SECRETS.--THE CAVERN.--THE ACCUSATION.


 BOOK V.


 CHAPTER I.

 GRASSDALE.--THE MORNING OF THE MARRIAGE.--THE CRONES’ GOSSIP. THE BRIDE
 AT HER TOILET.--THE ARRIVAL.


 CHAPTER II.
 THE STUDENT ALONE IN HIS CHAMBER.--THE INTERRUPTION.--FAITHFUL
 LOVE.


 CHAPTER III.

 THE JUSTICE.--THE DEPARTURE.--THE EQUANIMITY OF THE CORPORAL IN BEARING
 THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHER PEOPLE.--THE EXAMINATION; ITS RESULT.--ARAM’S
 CONDUCT IN PRISON.--THE ELASTICITY OF OUR HUMAN NATURE.--A VISIT FROM THE
 EARL.--WALTER’S DETERMINATION.--MADELINE.


 CHAPTER IV.

 THE EVENING BEFORE THE TRIAL.--THE COUSINS.--THE CHANGE IN MADELINE.--THE
 FAMILY OF GRASSDALE MEET ONCE MORE BENEATH ONE ROOF.


 CHAPTER V.
 THE TRIAL


 CHAPTER VI.
 THE DEATH.--THE PRISON.--AN INTERVIEW.--ITS RESULT


 CHAPTER VII.
 THE CONFESSION; AND THE FATE


 CHAPTER VIII AND LAST.

 THE TRAVELLER’S RETURN.--THE COUNTRY VILLAGE ONCE MORE VISITED.--ITS
 INHABITANTS.--THE REMEMBERED BROOK.--THE DESERTED MANOR-HOUSE.--THE
 CHURCH-YARD.--THE TRAVELLER RESUMES HIS JOURNEY.--THE COUNTRY TOWN.--A
 MEETING OF TWO LOVERS AFTER LONG ABSENCE AND MUCH SORROW.--CONCLUSION.



EUGENE ARAM



BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.

THE VILLAGE.--ITS INHABITANTS.--AN OLD MANORHOUSE: AND AN ENGLISH
FAMILY; THEIR HISTORY, INVOLVING A MYSTERIOUS EVENT.

“Protected by the divinity they adored, supported by the earth which
they cultivated, and at peace with themselves, they enjoyed the sweets
of life, without dreading or desiring dissolution.” Numa Pompilius.

In the country of--there is a sequestered hamlet, which I have often
sought occasion to pass, and which I have never left without a certain
reluctance and regret. It is not only (though this has a remarkable
spell over my imagination) that it is the sanctuary, as it were, of a
story which appears to me of a singular and fearful interest; but the
scene itself is one which requires no legend to arrest the traveller’s
attention. I know not in any part of the world, which it has been my lot
to visit, a landscape so entirely lovely and picturesque, as that which
on every side of the village I speak of, you may survey. The hamlet to
which I shall here give the name of Grassdale, is situated in a valley,
which for about the length of a mile winds among gardens and orchards,
laden with fruit, between two chains of gentle and fertile hills.

Here, singly or in pairs, are scattered cottages, which bespeak a
comfort and a rural luxury, less often than our poets have described
the characteristics of the English peasantry. It has been observed,
and there is a world of homely, ay, and of legislative knowledge in the
observation, that wherever you see a flower in a cottage garden, or a
bird-cage at the window, you may feel sure that the cottagers are better
and wiser than their neighbours; and such humble tokens of attention to
something beyond the sterile labour of life, were (we must now revert
to the past,) to be remarked in almost every one of the lowly abodes
at Grassdale. The jasmine here, there the vine clustered over the
threshold, not so wildly as to testify negligence; but rather to sweeten
the air than to exclude it from the inmates. Each of the cottages
possessed at its rear its plot of ground, apportioned to the more useful
and nutritious product of nature; while the greater part of them fenced
also from the unfrequented road a little spot for the lupin, the sweet
pea, or the many tribes of the English rose. And it is not unworthy of
remark, that the bees came in greater clusters to Grassdale than to any
other part of that rich and cultivated district. A small piece of waste
land, which was intersected by a brook, fringed with ozier and dwarf
and fantastic pollards, afforded pasture for a few cows, and the only
carrier’s solitary horse. The stream itself was of no ignoble
repute among the gentle craft of the Angle, the brotherhood whom our
associations defend in the spite of our mercy; and this repute drew
welcome and periodical itinerants to the village, who furnished it with
its scanty news of the great world without, and maintained in a decorous
custom the little and single hostelry of the place. Not that Peter
Dealtry, the proprietor of the “Spotted Dog,” was altogether contented
to subsist upon the gains of his hospitable profession; he joined
thereto the light cares of a small farm, held under a wealthy and an
easy landlord; and being moreover honoured with the dignity of clerk
to the parish, he was deemed by his neighbours a person of no small
accomplishment, and no insignificant distinction. He was a little, dry,
thin man, of a turn rather sentimental than jocose; a memory well stored
with fag-ends of psalms, and hymns which, being less familiar than the
psalms to the ears of the villagers, were more than suspected to be his
own composition; often gave a poetic and semi-religious colouring to his
conversation, which accorded rather with his dignity in the church, than
his post at the Spotted Dog. Yet he disliked not his joke, though it was
subtle and delicate of nature; nor did he disdain to bear companionship
over his own liquor, with guests less gifted and refined.

In the centre of the village you chanced upon a cottage which had been
lately white-washed, where a certain preciseness in the owner might be
detected in the clipped hedge, and the exact and newly mended style by
which you approached the habitation; herein dwelt the beau and bachelor
of the village, somewhat antiquated it is true, but still an object of
great attention and some hope to the elder damsels in the vicinity, and
of a respectful popularity, that did not however prohibit a joke, to
the younger part of the sisterhood. Jacob Bunting, so was this gentleman
called, had been for many years in the king’s service, in which he had
risen to the rank of corporal, and had saved and pinched together a
certain small independence upon which he now rented his cottage and
enjoyed his leisure. He had seen a good deal of the world, and profited
in shrewdness by his experience; he had rubbed off, however, all
superfluous devotion as he rubbed off his prejudices, and though he
drank more often than any one else with the landlord of the Spotted
Dog, he also quarrelled with him the oftenest, and testified the least
forbearance at the publican’s segments of psalmody. Jacob was a
tall, comely, and perpendicular personage; his threadbare coat was
scrupulously brushed, and his hair punctiliously plastered at the sides
into two stiff obstinate-looking curls, and at the top into what he
was pleased to call a feather, though it was much more like a tile. His
conversation had in it something peculiar; generally it assumed a quick,
short, abrupt turn, that, retrenching all superfluities of pronoun and
conjunction, and marching at once upon the meaning of the sentence, had
in it a military and Spartan significance, which betrayed how
difficult it often is for a man to forget that he has been a corporal.
Occasionally indeed, for where but in farces is the phraseology of
the humorist always the same? he escaped into a more enlarged and
christianlike method of dealing with the king’s English, but that was
chiefly noticeable, when from conversation he launched himself into
lecture, a luxury the worthy soldier loved greatly to indulge, for much
had he seen and somewhat had he reflected; and valuing himself, which
was odd in a corporal, more on his knowledge of the world than his
knowledge even of war, he rarely missed any occasion of edifying a
patient listener with the result of his observations.

After you had sauntered by the veteran’s door, beside which you
generally, if the evening were fine, or he was not drinking with
neighbour Dealtry--or taking his tea with gossip this or master that--or
teaching some emulous urchins the broadsword exercise--or snaring trout
in the stream--or, in short, otherwise engaged; beside which, I say, you
not unfrequently beheld him sitting on a rude bench, and enjoying with
half-shut eyes, crossed legs, but still unindulgently erect posture, the
luxury of his pipe; you ventured over a little wooden bridge; beneath
which, clear and shallow, ran the rivulet we have before honorably
mentioned; and a walk of a few minutes brought you to a moderately sized
and old-fashioned mansion--the manor-house of the parish. It stood at
the very foot of the hill; behind, a rich, ancient, and hanging wood,
brought into relief--the exceeding freshness and verdure of the patch of
green meadow immediately in front. On one side, the garden was bounded
by the village churchyard, with its simple mounds, and its few scattered
and humble tombs. The church was of great antiquity; and it was only in
one point of view that you caught more than a glimpse of its grey tower
and graceful spire, so thickly and so darkly grouped the yew tree and
the larch around the edifice. Opposite the gate by which you gained the
house, the view was not extended, but rich with wood and pasture, backed
by a hill, which; less verdant than its fellows, was covered with sheep:
while you saw hard by the rivulet darkening and stealing away; till your
sight, though not your ear, lost it among the woodland.

Trained up the embrowned paling on either side of the gate, were bushes
of rustic fruit, and fruit and flowers (through plots of which green and
winding alleys had been cut with no untasteful hand) testified by their
thriving and healthful looks, the care bestowed upon them. The main
boasts of the garden were, on one side, a huge horse-chesnut tree--the
largest in the village; and on the other, an arbour covered without
with honeysuckles, and tapestried within by moss. The house, a grey and
quaint building of the time of James I. with stone copings and gable
roof, could scarcely in these days have been deemed a fitting residence
for the lord of the manor. Nearly the whole of the centre was occupied
by the hall, in which the meals of the family were commonly held--only
two other sitting-rooms of very moderate dimensions had been reserved by
the architect for the convenience or ostentation of the proprietor. An
ample porch jutted from the main building, and this was covered with
ivy, as the windows were with jasmine and honeysuckle; while seats were
ranged inside the porch covered with many a rude initial and long-past
date.

The owner of this mansion bore the name of Rowland Lester. His
forefathers, without pretending to high antiquity of family, had held
the dignity of squires of Grassdale for some two centuries; and Rowland
Lester was perhaps the first of the race who had stirred above fifty
miles from the house in which each successive lord had received his
birth, or the green churchyard in which was yet chronicled his death.
The present proprietor was a man of cultivated tastes; and abilities,
naturally not much above mediocrity, had been improved by travel as well
as study. Himself and one younger brother had been early left masters of
their fate and their several portions. The younger, Geoffrey,
testified a roving and dissipated turn. Bold, licentious, extravagant,
unprincipled,--his career soon outstripped the slender fortunes of
a cadet in the family of a country squire. He was early thrown into
difficulties, but, by some means or other they never seemed to overwhelm
him; an unexpected turn--a lucky adventure--presented itself at the very
moment when Fortune appeared the most utterly to have deserted him.

Among these more propitious fluctuations in the tide of affairs, was,
at about the age of forty, a sudden marriage with a young lady of what
might be termed (for Geoffrey Lester’s rank of life, and the rational
expenses of that day) a very competent and respectable fortune.
Unhappily, however, the lady was neither handsome in feature nor gentle
in temper; and, after a few years of quarrel and contest, the faithless
husband, one bright morning, having collected in his proper person
whatever remained of their fortune, absconded from the conjugal hearth
without either warning or farewell. He left nothing to his wife but
his house, his debts, and his only child, a son. From that time to
the present little had been known, though much had been conjectured,
concerning the deserter. For the first few years they traced, however,
so far of his fate as to learn that he had been seen once in India;
and that previously he had been met in England by a relation, under the
disguise of assumed names: a proof that whatever his occupations, they
could scarcely be very respectable. But, of late, nothing whatsoever
relating to the wanderer had transpired. By some he was imagined dead;
by most he was forgotten. Those more immediately connected with him--his
brother in especial, cherished a secret belief, that wherever Geoffrey
Lester should chance to alight, the manner of alighting would (to use
the significant and homely metaphor) be always on his legs; and coupling
the wonted luck of the scapegrace with the fact of his having been seen
in India, Rowland, in his heart, not only hoped, but fully expected,
that the lost one would, some day or other, return home laden with
the spoils of the East, and eager to shower upon his relatives, in
recompense of long desertion,

“With richest hand... barbaric pearl and gold.”

But we must return to the forsaken spouse.--Left in this abrupt
destitution and distress, Mrs. Lester had only the resource of applying
to her brother-in-law, whom indeed the fugitive had before seized many
opportunities of not leaving wholly unprepared for such an application.
Rowland promptly and generously obeyed the summons: he took the child
and the wife to his own home,--he freed the latter from the persecution
of all legal claimants,--and, after selling such effects as remained, he
devoted the whole proceeds to the forsaken family, without regarding his
own expenses on their behalf, ill as he was able to afford the luxury
of that self-neglect. The wife did not long need the asylum of his
hearth,--she, poor lady, died of a slow fever produced by irritation and
disappointment, a few months after Geoffrey’s desertion. She had no need
to recommend her children to their kindhearted uncle’s care. And now we
must glance over the elder brother’s domestic fortunes.

In Rowland, the wild dispositions of his brother were so far tamed, that
they assumed only the character of a buoyant temper and a gay spirit. He
had strong principles as well as warm feelings, and a fine and resolute
sense of honour utterly impervious to attack. It was impossible to be
in his company an hour and not see that he was a man to be respected. It
was equally impossible to live with him a week and not see that he was a
man to be beloved. He also had married, and about a year after that era
in the life of his brother, but not for the same advantage of fortune.
He had formed an attachment to the portionlesss daughter of a man in his
own neighbourhood and of his own rank. He wooed and won her, and for a
few years he enjoyed that greatest happiness which the world is capable
of bestowing--the society and the love of one in whom we could wish
for no change, and beyond whom we have no desire. But what Evil cannot
corrupt Fate seldom spares. A few months after the birth of a second
daughter the young wife of Rowland Lester died. It was to a widowed
hearth that the wife and child of his brother came for shelter. Rowland
was a man of an affectionate and warm heart: if the blow did not crush,
at least it changed him. Naturally of a cheerful and ardent disposition,
his mood now became soberized and sedate. He shrunk from the rural
gaieties and companionship he had before courted and enlivened, and, for
the first time in his life, the mourner felt the holiness of solitude.
As his nephew and his motherless daughters grew up, they gave an object
to his seclusion and a relief to his reflections. He found a pure and
unfailing delight in watching the growth of their young minds, and
guiding their differing dispositions; and, as time at length enabled the
to return his affection, and appreciate his cares, he became once more
sensible that he had a HOME.

The elder of his daughters, Madeline, at the time our story opens, had
attained the age of eighteen. She was the beauty and the boast of the
whole country. Above the ordinary height, her figure was richly and
exquisitely formed. So translucently pure and soft was her complexion,
that it might have seemed the token of delicate health, but for the dewy
and exceeding redness of her lips, and the freshness of teeth whiter
than pearls. Her eyes of a deep blue, wore a thoughtful and serene
expression, and her forehead, higher and broader than it usually is
in women, gave promise of a certain nobleness of intellect, and added
dignity, but a feminine dignity, to the more tender characteristics of
her beauty. And indeed, the peculiar tone of Madeline’s mind fulfilled
the indication of her features, and was eminently thoughtful and
high-wrought. She had early testified a remarkable love for study,
and not only a desire for knowledge, but a veneration for those who
possessed it. The remote corner of the county in which they lived, and
the rarely broken seclusion which Lester habitually preserved from the
intercourse of their few and scattered neighbours, had naturally cast
each member of the little circle upon his or her own resources. An
accident, some five years ago, had confined Madeline for several weeks
or rather months to the house; and as the old hall possessed a very
respectable share of books, she had then matured and confirmed that
love to reading and reflection, which she had at a yet earlier period
prematurely evinced. The woman’s tendency to romance naturally tinctured
her meditations, and thus, while they dignified, they also softened
her mind. Her sister Ellinor, younger by two years, was of a character
equally gentle, but less elevated. She looked up to her sister as a
superior being. She felt pride without a shadow of envy, at her superior
and surpassing beauty; and was unconsciously guided in her pursuits and
predilections, by a mind she cheerfully acknowledged to be loftier
than her own. And yet Ellinor had also her pretensions to personal
loveliness, and pretensions perhaps that would be less reluctantly
acknowledged by her own sex than those of her sister. The sunlight of
a happy and innocent heart sparkled on her face, and gave a beam it
gladdened you to behold, to her quick hazel eye, and a smile that broke
out from a thousand dimples. She did not possess the height of Madeline,
and though not so slender as to be curtailed of the roundness and
feminine luxuriance of beauty, her shape was slighter, feebler, and less
rich in its symmetry than her sister’s. And this the tendency of the
physical frame to require elsewhere support, nor to feel secure of
strength, influenced perhaps her mind, and made love, and the dependence
of love, more necessary to her than to the thoughtful and lofty
Madeline. The latter might pass through life, and never see the one to
whom her heart could give itself away. But every village might possess
a hero whom the imagination of Ellinor could clothe with unreal graces,
and to whom the lovingness of her disposition might bias her affections.
Both, however, eminently possessed that earnestness and purity of heart,
which would have made them, perhaps in an equal degree, constant and
devoted to the object of an attachment, once formed, in defiance of
change and to the brink of death.

Their cousin Walter, Geoffrey Lester’s son, was now in his twenty-first
year; tall and strong of person, and with a face, if not regularly
handsome, striking enough to be generally deemed so. High-spirited,
bold, fiery, impatient; jealous of the affections of those he loved;
cheerful to outward seeming, but restless, fond of change, and subject
to the melancholy and pining mood common to young and ardent minds: such
was the character of Walter Lester. The estates of Lester were settled
in the male line, and devolved therefore upon him. Yet there were
moments when he keenly felt his orphan and deserted situation; and
sighed to think, that while his father perhaps yet lived, he was a
dependent for affection, if not for maintenance, on the kindness of
others. This reflection sometimes gave an air of sullenness or petulance
to his character, that did not really belong to it. For what in the
world makes a man of just pride appear so unamiable as the sense of
dependence?



CHAPTER II.

         A PUBLICAN, A SINNER, AND A STRANGER

“Ah, Don Alphonso, is it you? Agreeable accident! Chance presents you to
my eyes where you were least expected.” Gil Blas.

It was an evening in the beginning of summer, and Peter Dealtry and the
ci-devant Corporal sate beneath the sign of The Spotted Dog (as it hung
motionless from the bough of a friendly elm), quaffing a cup of boon
companionship. The reader will imagine the two men very different
from each other in form and aspect; the one short, dry, fragile, and
betraying a love of ease in his unbuttoned vest, and a certain lolling,
see-sawing method of balancing his body upon his chair; the other, erect
and solemn, and as steady on his seat as if he were nailed to it. It
was a fine, tranquil balmy evening; the sun had just set, and the clouds
still retained the rosy tints which they had caught from his parting
ray. Here and there, at scattered intervals, you might see the cottages
peeping from the trees around them; or mark the smoke that rose from
their roofs--roofs green with mosses and house-leek,--in graceful and
spiral curls against the clear soft air. It was an English scene, and
the two men, the dog at their feet, (for Peter Dealtry favoured a wirey
stone-coloured cur, which he called a terrier,) and just at the door of
the little inn, two old gossips, loitering on the threshold in familiar
chat with the landlady, in cap and kerchief,--all together made a groupe
equally English, and somewhat picturesque, though homely enough, in
effect.

“Well, now,” said Peter Dealtry, as he pushed the brown jug towards the
Corporal, “this is what I call pleasant; it puts me in mind--”

“Of what?” quoth the Corporal.

“Of those nice lines in the hymn, Master Bunting.

     ‘How fair ye are, ye little hills,
       Ye little fields also;
      Ye murmuring streams that sweetly run;
       Ye willows in a row!’

“There is something very comfortable in sacred verses, Master Bunting;
but you’re a scoffer.”

“Psha, man!” said the Corporal, throwing out his right leg and leaning
back, with his eyes half-shut, and his chin protruded, as he took an
unusually long inhalation from his pipe; “Psha, man!--send verses to the
right-about--fit for girls going to school of a Sunday; full-grown men
more up to snuff. I’ve seen the world, Master Dealtry;--the world, and
be damned to you!--augh!”

“Fie, neighbour, fie! What’s the good of profaneness, evil speaking and
slandering?--

     ‘Oaths are the debts your spendthrift soul must pay;
      All scores are chalked against the reckoning day.’
      Just wait a bit, neighbour; wait till I light my pipe.”

“Tell you what,” said the Corporal, after he had communicated from
his own pipe the friendly flame to his comrade’s; “tell you what--talk
nonsense; the commander-in-chief’s no Martinet--if we’re all right in
action, he’ll wink at a slip word or two. Come, no humbug--hold jaw.
D’ye think God would sooner have snivelling fellow like you in his
regiment, than a man like me, clean limbed, straight as a dart, six feet
one without his shoes!--baugh!”

This notion of the Corporal’s, by which he would have likened the
dominion of Heaven to the King of Prussia’s body-guard, and only
admitted the elect on account of their inches, so tickled mine host’s
fancy, that he leaned back in his chair, and indulged in a long, dry,
obstreperous cachinnation. This irreverence mightily displeased the
Corporal. He looked at the little man very sourly, and said in his least
smooth accentuation:--

“What--devil--cackling at?--always grin, grin, grin--giggle, giggle,
giggle--psha!”

“Why really, neighbour,” said Peter, composing himself, “you must let a
man laugh now and then.”

“Man!” said the Corporal; “man’s a noble animal! Man’s a musquet,
primed, loaded, ready to supply a friend or kill a foe--charge not to be
wasted on every tom-tit. But you! not a musquet, but a cracker! noisy,
harmless,--can’t touch you, but off you go, whizz, pop, bang in one’s
face!--baugh!”

“Well!” said the good-humoured landlord, “I should think Master Aram,
the great scholar who lives down the vale yonder, a man quite after
your own heart. He is grave enough to suit you. He does not laugh very
easily, I fancy.”

“After my heart? Stoops like a bow!”

“Indeed he does look on the ground as he walks; when I think, I do the
same. But what a marvellous man it is! I hear, that he reads the Psalms
in Hebrew. He’s very affable and meek-like for such a scholard.”

“Tell you what. Seen the world, Master Dealtry, and know a thing or two.
Your shy dog is always a deep one. Give me a man who looks me in the
face as he would a cannon!”

“Or a lass,” said Peter knowingly.

The grim Corporal smiled.

“Talking of lasses,” said the soldier, re-filling his pipe, “what
creature Miss Lester is! Such eyes!--such nose! Fit for a colonel, by
God! ay, or a major-general!”

“For my part, I think Miss Ellinor almost as handsome; not so
grand-like, but more lovesome!”

“Nice little thing!” said the Corporal, condescendingly. “But, zooks!
whom have we here?”

This last question was applied to a man who was slowly turning from
the road towards the inn. The stranger, for such he was, was stout,
thick-set, and of middle height. His dress was not without pretension
to a rank higher than the lowest; but it was threadbare and worn,
and soiled with dust and travel. His appearance was by no means
prepossessing; small sunken eyes of a light hazel and a restless and
rather fierce expression, a thick flat nose, high cheekbones, a large
bony jaw, from which the flesh receded, and a bull throat indicative
of great strength, constituted his claims to personal attraction. The
stately Corporal, without moving, kept a vigilant and suspicious eye
upon the new comer, muttering to Peter,--“Customer for you; rum customer
too--by Gad!”

The stranger now reached the little table, and halting short, took up
the brown jug, without ceremony or preface, and emptied it at a draught.

The Corporal stared--the Corporal frowned; but before--for he was
somewhat slow of speech--he had time to vent his displeasure, the
stranger, wiping his mouth across his sleeve, said, in rather a civil
and apologetic tone,

“I beg pardon, gentlemen. I have had a long march of it, and very tired
I am.”

“Humph! march,” said the Corporal a little appeased, “Not in his
Majesty’s service--eh?”

“Not now,” answered the Traveller; then, turning round to Dealtry, he
said: “Are you landlord here?”

“At your service,” said Peter, with the indifference of a man well to
do, and not ambitious of halfpence.

“Come, then, quick--budge,” said the Traveller, tapping him on the back:
“bring more glasses--another jug of the October; and any thing or every
thing your larder is able to produce--d’ye hear?”

Peter, by no means pleased with the briskness of this address, eyed the
dusty and way-worn pedestrian from head to foot; then, looking over his
shoulder towards the door, he said, as he ensconced himself yet more
firmly on his seat--

“There’s my wife by the door, friend; go, tell her what you want.”

“Do you know,” said the Traveller, in a slow and measured accent--“Do
you know, master Shrivel-face, that I have more than half a mind to
break your head for impertinence. You a landlord!--you keep an inn,
indeed! Come, Sir, make off, or--”

“Corporal!--Corporal!” cried Peter, retreating hastily from his seat as
the brawny Traveller approached menacingly towards him--“You won’t see
the peace broken. Have a care, friend--have a care I’m clerk to the
parish--clerk to the parish, Sir--and I’ll indict you for sacrilege.”

The wooden features of Bunting relaxed into a sort of grin at the alarm
of his friend. He puffed away, without making any reply; meanwhile
the Traveller, taking advantage of Peter’s hasty abandonment of his
cathedrarian accommodation, seized the vacant chair, and drawing it yet
closer to the table, flung himself upon it, and placing his hat on
the table, wiped his brows with the air of a man about to make himself
thoroughly at home.

Peter Dealtry was assuredly a personage of peaceable disposition; but
then he had the proper pride of a host and a clerk. His feeling were
exceedingly wounded at this cavalier treatment--before the very eyes
of his wife too--what an example! He thrust his hands deep into his
breeches pockets, and strutting with a ferocious swagger towards the
Traveller, he said:--

“Harkye, sirrah! This is not the way folks are treated in this
country: and I’d have you to know, that I’m a man what has a brother a
constable.”

“Well, Sir!”

“Well, Sir, indeed! Well!--Sir, it’s not well, by no manner of means;
and if you don’t pay for the ale you drank, and go quietly about your
business, I’ll have you put in the stocks for a vagrant.”

This, the most menacing speech Peter Dealtry was ever known to deliver,
was uttered with so much spirit, that the Corporal, who had hitherto
preserved silence--for he was too strict a disciplinarian to thrust
himself unnecessarily into brawls,--turned approvingly round, and
nodding as well as his stock would suffer him at the indignant Peter,
he said: “Well done! ‘fegs--you’ve a soul, man!--a soul fit for the
forty-second! augh!--A soul above the inches of five feet two!”

There was something bitter and sneering in the Traveller’s aspect as he
now, regarding Dealtry, repeated--

“Vagrant--humph! And pray what is a vagrant?”

“What is a vagrant?” echoed Peter, a little puzzled.

“Yes! answer me that.”

“Why, a vagrant is a man what wanders, and what has no money.”

“Truly,” said the stranger smiling, but the smile by no means improved
his physiognomy, “an excellent definition, but one which, I will
convince you, does not apply to me.” So saying, he drew from his pocket
a handful of silver coins, and, throwing them on the table, added:
“Come, let’s have no more of this. You see I can pay for what I order;
and now, do recollect that I am a weary and hungry man.”

No sooner did Peter behold the money, than a sudden placidity stole over
his ruffled spirit:--nay, a certain benevolent commiseration for the
fatigue and wants of the Traveller replaced at once, and as by a spell,
the angry feelings that had previously roused him.

“Weary and hungry,” said he; “why did not you say that before? That
would have been quite enough for Peter Dealtry. Thank God! I am a man
what can feel for my neighbours. I have bowels--yes, I have bowels.
Weary and hungry!--you shall be served in an instant. I may be a little
hasty or so, but I’m a good Christian at bottom--ask the Corporal. And
what says the Psalmist, Psalm 147?--

     ‘By Him, the beasts that loosely range
       With timely food are fed:
      He speaks the word--and what He wills
       Is done as soon as said.’”

Animating his kindly emotions by this apt quotation, Peter turned to the
house. The Corporal now broke silence: the sight of the money had not
been without an effect upon him as well as the landlord.

“Warm day, Sir:--your health. Oh! forgot you emptied jug--baugh! You
said you were not now in his Majesty’s service: beg pardon--were you
ever?”

“Why, once I was; many years ago.”

“Ah!--and what regiment? I was in the forty-second. Heard of the
forty-second? Colonel’s name, Dysart; captain’s, Trotter; corporal’s,
Bunting, at your service.”

“I am much obliged by your confidence,” said the Traveller drily. “I
dare say you have seen much service.”

“Service! Ah! may well say that;--twenty-three years’ hard work: and
not the better for it! A man that loves his country is ‘titled to
a pension--that’s my mind!--but the world don’t smile upon
corporals--augh!”

Here Peter re-appeared with a fresh supply of the October, and an
assurance that the cold meat would speedily follow.

“I hope yourself and this gentleman will bear me company,” said the
Traveller, passing the jug to the Corporal; and in a few moments, so
well pleased grew the trio with each other, that the sound of their
laughter came loud and frequent to the ears of the good housewife
within.

The traveller now seemed to the Corporal and mine host a right jolly,
good-humoured fellow. Not, however, that he bore a fair share in the
conversation--he rather promoted the hilarity of his new acquaintances
than led it. He laughed heartily at Peter’s jests, and the Corporal’s
repartees; and the latter, by degrees, assuming the usual sway he bore
in the circle of the village, contrived, before the viands were on the
table, to monopolize the whole conversation.

The Traveller found in the repast a new excuse for silence. He ate with
a most prodigious and most contagious appetite; and in a few seconds the
knife and fork of the Corporal were as busily engaged as if he had only
three minutes to spare between a march and a dinner.

“This is a pretty, retired spot,” quoth the Traveller, as at length he
finished his repast, and threw himself back on his chair--a very pretty
spot. Whose neat old-fashioned house was that I passed on the green,
with the gable-ends and the flower-plots in front?

“Oh, the Squire’s,” answered Peter; “Squire Lester’s an excellent
gentleman.”

“A rich man, I should think, for these parts; the best house I have seen
for some miles,” said the Stranger carelessly.

“Rich--yes, he’s well to do; he does not live so as not to have money to
lay by.”

“Any family?”

“Two daughters and a nephew.”

“And the nephew does not ruin him. Happy uncle! Mine was not so lucky,”
 said the Traveller.

“Sad fellows we soldiers in our young days!” observed the Corporal with
a wink. “No, Squire Walter’s a good young man, a pride to his uncle!”

“So,” said the pedestrian, “they are not forced to keep up a large
establishment and ruin themselves by a retinue of servants?--Corporal,
the jug.”

“Nay!” said Peter, “Squire Lester’s gate is always open to the poor; but
as for shew, he leaves that to my lord at the castle.”

“The castle, where’s that?”

“About six miles off, you’ve heard of my Lord--, I’ll swear.”

“Ah, to be sure, a courtier. But who else lives about here? I mean,
who are the principal persons, barring the Corporal and yourself, Mr.
Eelpry--I think our friend here calls you.”

“Dealtry, Peter Dealtry, Sir, is my name.--Why the most noticeable man,
you must know, is a great scholard, a wonderfully learned man; there
yonder, you may just catch a glimpse of the tall what-d’ye-call-it he
has built out on the top of his house, that he may get nearer to the
stars. He has got glasses by which I’ve heard that you may see the
people in the moon walking on their heads; but I can’t say as I believe
all I hear.”

“You are too sensible for that, I’m sure. But this scholar, I suppose,
is not very rich; learning does not clothe men now-a-days--eh,
Corporal?”

“And why should it? Zounds! can it teach a man how to defend his
country? Old England wants soldiers, and be d--d to them! But the man’s
well enough, I must own, civil, modest--”

“And not by no means a beggar,” added Peter; “he gave as much to the
poor last winter as the Squire himself.”

“Indeed!” said the Stranger, “this scholar is rich then?”

“So, so; neither one nor t’other. But if he were as rich as my lord, he
could not be more respected; the greatest folks in the country come in
their carriages and four to see him. Lord bless you, there is not a name
more talked on in the whole county than Eugene Aram.”

“What!” cried the Traveller, his countenance changing as he sprung from
his seat; “what!--Aram!--did you say Aram? Great God! how strange!”

Peter, not a little startled by the abruptness and vehemence of his
guest, stared at him with open mouth, and even the Corporal took his
pipe involuntarily from his lips.

“What!” said the former, “you know him, do you? you’ve heard of him,
eh?”

The Stranger did not reply, he seemed lost in a reverie; he muttered
inaudible words between his teeth; now he strode two steps forward,
clenching his hands; now smiled grimly; and then returning to his
seat, threw himself on it, still in silence. The soldier and the clerk
exchanged looks, and now outspake the Corporal.

“Rum tantrums! What the devil, did the man eat your grandmother?”

Roused perhaps by so pertinent and sensible a question, the Stranger
lifted his head from his breast, and said with a forced smile, “You have
done me, without knowing it, a great kindness, my friend. Eugene Aram
was an early and intimate acquaintance of mine: we have not met for many
years. I never guessed that he lived in these parts: indeed I did not
know where he resided. I am truly glad to think I have lighted upon him
thus unexpectedly.”

“What! you did not know where he lived? Well! I thought all the world
knew that! Why, men from the univarsities have come all the way, merely
to look at the spot.”

“Very likely,” returned the Stranger; “but I am not a learned man
myself, and what is celebrity in one set is obscurity in another.
Besides, I have never been in this part of the world before!”

Peter was about to reply, when he heard the shrill voice of his wife
behind.

“Why don’t you rise, Mr. Lazyboots? Where are your eyes? Don’t you see
the young ladies.”

Dealtry’s hat was off in an instant,--the stiff Corporal rose like a
musquet; the Stranger would have kept his seat, but Dealtry gave him
an admonitory tug by the collar; accordingly he rose, muttering a hasty
oath, which certainly died on his lips when he saw the cause which had
thus constrained him into courtesy.

Through a little gate close by Peter’s house Madeline and her sister
had just passed on their evening walk, and with the kind familiarity for
which they were both noted, they had stopped to salute the landlady of
the Spotted Dog, as she now, her labours done, sat by the threshold,
within hearing of the convivial group, and plaiting straw. The whole
family of Lester were so beloved, that we question whether my Lord
himself, as the great nobleman of the place was always called, (as if
there were only one lord in the peerage,) would have obtained the same
degree of respect that was always lavished upon them.

“Don’t let us disturb you, good people,” said Ellinor, as they now
moved towards the boon companions, when her eye suddenly falling on the
Stranger, she stopped short. There was something in his appearance, and
especially in the expression of his countenance at that moment, which
no one could have marked for the first time without apprehension and
distrust: and it was so seldom that, in that retired spot, the young
ladies encountered even one unfamiliar face, that the effect the
stranger’s appearance might have produced on any one, might well be
increased for them to a startling and painful degree. The Traveller saw
at once the sensation he had created: his brow lowered; and the same
unpleasing smile, or rather sneer, that we have noted before, distorted
his lip, as he made with affected humility his obeisance.

“How!--a stranger!” said Madeline, sharing, though in a less degree,
the feelings of her sister; and then, after a pause, she said, as she
glanced over his garb, “not in distress, I hope.”

“No, Madam!” said the stranger, “if by distress is meant beggary. I am
in all respects perhaps better than I seem.”

There was a general titter from the Corporal, my host, and his wife,
at the Traveller’s semi-jest at his own unprepossessing appearance:
but Madeline, a little disconcerted, bowed hastily, and drew her sister
away.

“A proud quean!” said the Stranger, as he re-seated himself, and watched
the sisters gliding across the green.

All mouths were opened against him immediately. He found it no easy
matter to make his peace; and before he had quite done it, he called for
his bill, and rose to depart.

“Well!” said he, as he tendered his hand to the Corporal, “we may meet
again, and enjoy together some more of your good stories. Meanwhile,
which is my way to this--this--this famous scholar’s--Ehem?”

“Why,” quoth Peter, “you saw the direction in which the young ladies
went; you must take the same. Cross the stile you will find at the
right--wind along the foot of the hill for about three parts of a mile,
and you will then see in the middle of a broad plain, a lonely grey
house with a thingumebob at the top; a servatory they call it. That’s
Master Aram’s.”

“Thank you.”

“And a very pretty walk it is too,” said the Dame, “the prettiest
hereabouts to my liking, till you get to the house at least; and so the
young ladies think, for it’s their usual walk every evening!”

“Humph,--then I may meet them.”

“Well, and if you do, make yourself look as Christian-like as you can,”
 retorted the hostess.

There was a second grin at the ill-favoured Traveller’s expense, amidst
which he went his way.

“An odd chap!” said Peter, looking after the sturdy form of the
Traveller. “I wonder what he is; he seems well edicated--makes use of
good words.”

“What sinnifies?” said the Corporal, who felt a sort of fellow-feeling
for his new acquaintance’s brusquerie of manner;--“what sinnifies what
he is. Served his country,--that’s enough;--never told me, by the by,
his regiment;--set me a talking, and let out nothing himself;--old
soldier every inch of him!”

“He can take care of number one,” said Peter. “How he emptied the jug;
and my stars! what an appetite!”

“Tush,” said the Corporal, “hold jaw. Man of the world--man of the
world,--that’s clear.”



CHAPTER III.

       A DIALOGUE AND AN ALARM.--A STUDENT’S HOUSE.

          “A fellow by the hand of Nature marked,
          Quoted, and signed, to do a deed of shame.”
                  --Shakspeare.--King John.

          “He is a scholar, if a man may trust
          The liberal voice of Fame, in her report.
           Myself was once a student, and indeed
           Fed with the self-same humour he is now.”
              --Ben Jonson.--Every Man in his Humour.

The two sisters pursued their walk along a scene which might well be
favoured by their selection. No sooner had they crossed the stile, than
the village seemed vanished into earth; so quiet, so lonely, so far from
the evidence of life was the landscape through which they passed. On
their right, sloped a green and silent hill, shutting out all view
beyond itself, save the deepening and twilight sky; to the left, and
immediately along their road lay fragments of stone, covered with moss,
or shadowed by wild shrubs, that here and there, gathered into copses,
or breaking abruptly away from the rich sod, left frequent spaces
through which you caught long vistas of forestland, or the brooklet
gliding in a noisy and rocky course, and breaking into a thousand
tiny waterfalls, or mimic eddies. So secluded was the scene, and so
unwitnessing of cultivation, that you would not have believed that a
human habitation could be at hand, and this air of perfect solitude and
quiet gave an additional charm to the spot.

“But I assure you,” said Ellinor, earnestly continuing a conversation
they had begun, “I assure you I was not mistaken, I saw it as plainly as
I see you.”

“What, in the breast pocket?”

“Yes, as he drew out his handkerchief, I saw the barrel of the pistol
quite distinctly.”

“Indeed, I think we had better tell my father as soon as we get home;
it may be as well to be on our guard, though robbery, I believe, has not
been heard of in Grassdale for these twenty years.”

“Yet for what purpose, save that of evil, could he in these peaceable
times and this peaceable country, carry fire arms about him. And what a
countenance! Did you note the shy, and yet ferocious eye, like that of
some animal, that longs, yet fears to spring upon you.”

“Upon my word, Ellinor,” said Madeline, smiling, “you are not very
merciful to strangers. After all, the man might have provided himself
with the pistol which you saw as a natural precaution; reflect that, as
a stranger, he may well not know how safe this district usually is, and
he may have come from London, in the neighbourhood of which they say
robberies have been frequent of late. As to his looks, they are I own
unpardonable; for so much ugliness there can be no excuse. Had the man
been as handsome as our cousin Walter, you would not perhaps have been
so uncharitable in your fears at the pistol.”

“Nonsense, Madeline,” said Ellinor, blushing, and turning away her
face;--there was a moment’s pause, which the younger sister broke.

“We do not seem,” said she, “to make much progress in the friendship of
our singular neighbour. I never knew my father court any one so much as
he has courted Mr. Aram, and yet, you see how seldom he calls upon us;
nay, I often think that he seeks to shun us; no great compliment to our
attractions, Madeline.”

“I regret his want of sociability, for his own sake,” said Madeline,
“for he seems melancholy as well as thoughtful, and he leads so secluded
a life, that I cannot but think my father’s conversation and society, if
he would but encourage it, might afford some relief to his solitude.”

“And he always seems,” observed Ellinor, “to take pleasure in my
father’s conversation, as who would not? how his countenance lights up
when he converses! it is a pleasure to watch it. I think him positively
handsome when he speaks.”

“Oh, more than handsome!” said Madeline, with enthusiasm, “with that
high, pale brow, and those deep, unfathomable eyes!”

Ellinor smiled, and it was now Madeline’s turn to blush.

“Well,” said the former, “there is something about him that fills one
with an indescribable interest; and his manner, if cold at times, is yet
always so gentle.”

“And to hear him converse,” said Madeline, “it is like music. His
thoughts, his very words, seem so different from the language and ideas
of others. What a pity that he should ever be silent!”

“There is one peculiarity about his gloom, it never inspires one
with distrust,” said Ellinor; “if I had observed him in the same
circumstances as that ill-omened traveller, I should have had no
apprehension.”

“Ah! that traveller still runs in your head. If we were to meet him in
this spot.”

“Heaven forbid!” cried Ellinor, turning hastily round in alarm--and, lo!
as if her sister had been a prophet, she saw the very person in question
at some little distance behind them, and walking on with rapid strides.

She uttered a faint shriek of surprise and terror, and Madeline, looking
back at the sound, immediately participated in her alarm. The spot
looked so desolate and lonely, and the imagination of both had been
already so worked upon by Ellinor’s fears, and their conjectures
respecting the ill-boding weapon she had witnessed, that a thousand
apprehensions of outrage and murder crowded at once upon the minds of
the two sisters. Without, however, giving vent in words to their alarm,
they, as by an involuntary and simultaneous suggestion, quickened their
pace, every moment stealing a glance behind, to watch the progress of
the suspected robber. They thought that he also seemed to accelerate his
movements; and this observation increased their terror, and would appear
indeed to give it some more rational ground. At length, as by a sudden
turn of the road they lost sight of the dreaded stranger, their alarm
suggested to them but one resolution, and they fairly fled on as fast as
the fear which actuated, would allow, them. The nearest, and indeed the
only house in that direction, was Aram’s, but they both imagined if they
could come within sight of that, they should be safe. They looked back
at every interval; now they did not see their fancied pursuer--now he
emerged again into view--now--yes--he also was running.

“Faster, faster, Madeline, for God’s sake! he is gaining upon us!” cried
Ellinor: the path grew more wild, and the trees more thick and frequent;
at every cluster that marked their progress they saw the Stranger
closer and closer; at length, a sudden break,--a sudden turn in the
landscape;--a broad plain burst upon them, and in the midst of it the
Student’s solitary abode!

“Thank God, we are safe!” cried Madeline. She turned once more to look
for the Stranger; in so doing, her foot struck against a fragment of
stone, and she fell with great violence to the ground. She endeavoured
to rise, but found herself, at first, unable to stir from the spot.
In this state she looked, however, back, and saw the Traveller at
some little distance. But he also halted, and after a moment’s seeming
deliberation, turned aside, and was lost among the bushes.

With great difficulty Ellinor now assisted Madeline to rise; her ancle
was violently sprained, and she could not put her foot to the ground;
but though she had evinced so much dread at the apparition of the
stranger, she now testified an almost equal degree of fortitude in
bearing pain.

“I am not much hurt, Ellinor,” she said, faintly smiling, to encourage
her sister, who supported her in speechless alarm: “but what is to be
done? I cannot use this foot; how shall we get home?”

“Thank God, if you are not much hurt!” said poor Ellinor, almost crying,
“lean on me--heavier--pray. Only try and reach the house, and we can
then stay there till Mr. Aram sends home for the carriage.”

“But what will he think? how strange it will seem!” said Madeline,
the colour once more visiting her cheek, which a moment since had been
blanched as pale as death.

“Is this a time for scruples and ceremony?” said Ellinor. “Come! I
entreat you, come; if you linger thus, the man may take courage and
attack us yet. There! that’s right! Is the pain very great?”

“I do not mind the pain,” murmured Madeline; “but if he should think we
intrude? His habits are so reserved--so secluded; indeed I fear--”

“Intrude!” interrupted Ellinor. “Do you think so ill of him?--Do you
suppose that, hermit as he is, he has lost common humanity? But lean
more on me, dearest; you do not know how strong I am!”

Thus alternately chiding, caressing, and encouraging her sister, Ellinor
led on the sufferer, till they had crossed the plain, though with
slowness and labour, and stood before the porch of the Recluse’s house.
They had looked back from time to time, but the cause of so much alarm
appeared no more. This they deemed a sufficient evidence of the justice
of their apprehensions.

Madeline would even now fain have detained her sister’s hand from the
bell that hung without the porch half imbedded in ivy; but Ellinor,
out of patience--as she well might be--with her sister’s unseasonable
prudence, refused any longer delay. So singularly still and solitary
was the plain around the house, that the sound of the bell breaking the
silence, had in it something startling, and appeared in its sudden and
shrill voice, a profanation to the deep tranquillity of the spot.
They did not wait long--a step was heard within--the door was slowly
unbarred, and the Student himself stood before them.

He was a man who might, perhaps, have numbered some five and thirty
years; but at a hasty glance, he would have seemed considerably younger.
He was above the ordinary stature; though a gentle, and not ungraceful
bend in the neck rather than the shoulders, somewhat curtailed his
proper advantages of height. His frame was thin and slender, but well
knit and fair proportioned. Nature had originally cast his form in
an athletic mould; but sedentary habits, and the wear of mind, seemed
somewhat to have impaired her gifts. His cheek was pale and delicate;
yet it was rather the delicacy of thought than of weak health. His hair,
which was long, and of a rich and deep brown, was worn back from his
face and temples, and left a broad high majestic forehead utterly
unrelieved and bare; and on the brow there was not a single wrinkle, it
was as smooth as it might have been some fifteen years ago. There was
a singular calmness, and, so to speak, profundity, of thought, eloquent
upon its clear expanse, which suggested the idea of one who had passed
his life rather in contemplation than emotion. It was a face that a
physiognomist would have loved to look upon, so much did it speak both
of the refinement and the dignity of intellect.

Such was the person--if pictures convey a faithful resemblance--of a
man, certainly the most eminent in his day for various and profound
learning, and a genius wholly self-taught, yet never contented to repose
upon the wonderful stores it had laboriously accumulated.

He now stood before the two girls, silent, and evidently surprised; and
it would scarce have been an unworthy subject for a picture--that
ivied porch--that still spot--Madeline’s reclining and subdued form and
downcast eyes--the eager face of Ellinor, about to narrate the nature
and cause of their intrusion--and the pale Student himself, thus
suddenly aroused from his solitary meditations, and converted into the
protector of beauty.

No sooner did Aram gather from Ellinor the outline of their story, and
of Madeline’s accident, than his countenance and manner testified the
liveliest and most eager sympathy. Madeline was inexpressibly touched
and surprised at the kindly and respectful earnestness with which this
recluse scholar--usually so cold and abstracted in mood--assisted and
led her into the house: the sympathy he expressed for her pain--the
sincerity of his tone--the compassion of his eyes--and as those
dark--and to use her own thought--unfathomable orbs bent admiringly and
yet so gently upon her, Madeline, even in spite of her pain, felt an
indescribable, a delicious thrill at her heart, which in the presence of
no one else had she ever experienced before.

Aram now summoned the only domestic his house possessed, who appeared in
the form of an old woman, whom he seemed to have selected from the whole
neighbourhood as the person most in keeping with the rigid seclusion he
preserved. She was exceedingly deaf, and was a proverb in the village
for her extreme taciturnity. Poor old Margaret; she was a widow, and had
lost ten children by early deaths. There was a time when her gaiety had
been as noticeable as her reserve was now. In spite of her infirmity,
she was not slow in comprehending the accident Madeline had met with;
and she busied herself with a promptness that shewed her misfortunes
had not deadened her natural kindness of disposition, in preparing
fomentations and bandages for the wounded foot.

Meanwhile Aram, having no person to send in his stead, undertook to seek
the manor-house, and bring back the old family coach, which had dozed
inactively in its shelter for the last six months, to convey the
sufferer home.

“No, Mr. Aram,” said Madeline, colouring; “pray do not go yourself:
consider, the man may still be loitering on the road. He is armed--good
Heavens, if he should meet you!”

“Fear not, Madam,” said Aram, with a faint smile. “I also keep arms,
even in this obscure and safe retreat; and to satisfy you, I will not
neglect to carry them with me.”

“As he spoke, he took from the wainscoat, from which they hung, a brace
of large horse pistols, slung them round him by a leather belt, and
flinging over his person, to conceal weapons so alarming to any less
dangerous passenger he might encounter, the long cloak then usually worn
in inclement seasons, as an outer garment, he turned to depart.

“But are they loaded?” asked Ellinor.

Aram answered briefly, in the affirmative. It was somewhat singular,
but the sisters did not then remark it, that a man so peaceable in
his pursuits, and seemingly possessed of no valuables that could tempt
cupidity, should in that spot, where crime was never heard of, use such
habitual precaution.

When the door closed upon him, and while the old woman, relieved with
a light hand and soothing lotions, which she had shewn some skill in
preparing, the anguish of the sprain, Madeline cast glances of interest
and curiosity around the apartment into which she had had the rare good
fortune to obtain admittance.

The house had belonged to a family of some note, whose heirs had
outstripped their fortunes. It had been long deserted and uninhabited;
and when Aram settled in those parts, the proprietor was too glad to
get rid of the incumbrance of an empty house, at a nominal rent. The
solitude of the place had been the main attraction to Aram; and as he
possessed what would be considered a very extensive assortment of books,
even for a library of these days, he required a larger apartment than
he would have been able to obtain in an abode more compact and more
suitable to his fortunes and mode of living.

The room in which the sisters now found themselves was the most spacious
in the house, and was indeed of considerable dimensions. It contained in
front one large window, jutting from the wall. Opposite was an antique
and high mantelpiece of black oak. The rest of the room was walled from
the floor to the roof with books; volumes of all languages, and it might
even be said, without much exaggeration, upon all sciences, were strewed
around, on the chairs, the tables, or the floor. By the window stood the
Student’s desk, and a large old-fashioned chair of oak. A few papers,
filled with astronomical calculations, lay on the desk, and these were
all the witnesses of the result of study. Indeed Aram does not appear
to have been a man much inclined to reproduce the learning he
acquired;--what he wrote was in very small proportion to what he had
read.

So high and grave was the reputation he had acquired, that the retreat
and sanctum of so many learned hours would have been interesting, even
to one who could not appreciate learning; but to Madeline, with her
peculiar disposition and traits of mind, we may readily conceive that
the room presented a powerful and pleasing charm. As the elder sister
looked round in silence, Ellinor attempted to draw the old woman into
conversation. She would fain have elicited some particulars of the
habits and daily life of the recluse; but the deafness of their
attendant was so obstinate and hopeless, that she was forced to give up
the attempt in despair. “I fear,” said she at last, her good-nature so
far overcome by impatience as not to forbid a slight yawn; “I fear we
shall have a dull time of it till my father arrives. Just consider,
the fat black mares, never too fast, can only creep along that broken
path,--for road there is none: it will be quite night before the coach
arrives.”

“I am sorry, dear Ellinor, my awkwardness should occasion you so stupid
an evening,” answered Madeline.

“Oh,” cried Ellinor, throwing her arms around her sister’s neck, “it is
not for myself I spoke; and indeed I am delighted to think we have got
into this wizard’s den, and seen the instruments of his art. But I do so
trust Mr. Aram will not meet that terrible man.”

“Nay,” said the prouder Madeline, “he is armed, and it is but one man. I
feel too high a respect for him to allow myself much fear.”

“But these bookmen are not often heroes,” remarked Ellinor, laughing.

“For shame,” said Madeline, the colour mounting to her forehead. “Do you
not remember how, last summer, Eugene Aram rescued Dame Grenfeld’s child
from the bull, though at the literal peril of his own life? And who
but Eugene Aram, when the floods in the year before swept along the low
lands by Fairleigh, went day after day to rescue the persons, or even
to save the goods of those poor people; at a time too, when the boldest
villagers would not hazard themselves across the waters?--But bless me,
Ellinor, what is the matter? you turn pale, you tremble.’

“Hush!” said Ellinor under her breath, and, putting her finger to her
mouth, she rose and stole lightly to the window; she had observed the
figure of a man pass by, and now, as she gained the window, she saw him
halt by the porch, and recognised the formidable Stranger. Presently the
bell sounded, and the old woman, familiar with its shrill sound, rose
from her kneeling position beside the sufferer to attend to the summons.
Ellinor sprang forward and detained her: the poor old woman stared at
her in amazement, wholly unable to comprehend her abrupt gestures
and her rapid language. It was with considerable difficulty and after
repeated efforts, that she at length impressed the dulled sense of the
crone with the nature of their alarm, and the expediency of refusing
admittance to the Stranger. Meanwhile, the bell had rung again,--again,
and the third time with a prolonged violence which testified the
impatience of the applicant. As soon as the good dame had satisfied
herself as to Ellinor’s meaning, she could no longer be accused of
unreasonable taciturnity; she wrung her hands and poured forth a volley
of lamentations and fears, which effectually relieved Ellinor from the
dread of her unheeding the admonition. Satisfied at having done thus
much, Ellinor now herself hastened to the door and secured the ingress
with an additional bolt, and then, as the thought flashed upon her,
returned to the old woman and made her, with an easier effort than
before, now that her senses were sharpened by fear, comprehend the
necessity of securing the back entrance also; both hastened away to
effect this precaution, and Madeline, who herself desired Ellinor to
accompany the old woman, was left alone. She kept her eyes fixed on
the window with a strange sentiment of dread at being thus left in so
helpless a situation; and though a door of no ordinary dimensions and
doubly locked interposed between herself and the intruder, she expected
in breathless terror, every instant, to see the form of the ruffian
burst into the apartment. As she thus sat and looked, she shudderingly
saw the man, tired perhaps of repeating a summons so ineffectual, come
to the window and look pryingly within: their eyes met; Madeline had
not the power to shriek. Would he break through the window? that was her
only idea, and it deprived her of words, almost of sense. He gazed upon
her evident terror for a moment with a grim smile of contempt; he then
knocked at the window, and his voice broke harshly on a silence yet more
dreadful than the interruption.

“Ho, ho! so there is some life stirring! I beg pardon, Madam, is Mr.
Aram--Eugene Aram, within?”

“No,” said Madeline faintly, and then, sensible that her voice did not
reach him, she reiterated the answer in a louder tone. The man, as if
satisfied, made a rude inclination of his head and withdrew from the
window. Ellinor now returned, and with difficulty Madeline found words
to explain to her what had passed. It will be conceived that the two
young ladies watched the arrival of their father with no lukewarm
expectation; the stranger however appeared no more; and in about an
hour, to their inexpressible joy, they heard the rumbling sound of the
old coach as it rolled towards the house. This time there was no delay
in unbarring the door.



CHAPTER IV.

     THE SOLILOQUY, AND THE CHARACTER, OF A RECLUSE.--THE
               INTERRUPTION.

          “Or let my lamp at midnight hour
          Be seen in some high lonely tower,
          Where I may oft outwatch the Bear,
          Or thrice-great Hermes, and unsphere
          The spirit of Plato.”
               --Milton.--Il Penseroso.

As Aram assisted the beautiful Madeline into the carriage--as he
listened to her sweet voice--as he marked the grateful expression of her
soft eyes--as he felt the slight yet warm pressure of her fairy hand,
that vague sensation of delight which preludes love, for the first time,
in his sterile and solitary life, agitated his breast. Lester held out
his hand to him with a frank cordiality which the scholar could not
resist.

“Do not let us be strangers, Mr. Aram,” said he warmly. “It is not often
that I press for companionship out of my own circle; but in your company
I should find pleasure as well as instruction. Let us break the ice
boldly, and at once. Come and dine with me to-morrow, and Ellinor shall
sing to us in the evening.”

The excuse died upon Aram’s lips. Another glance at Madeline conquered
the remains of his reserve: he accepted the invitation, and he could
not but mark, with an unfamiliar emotion of the heart, that the eyes of
Madeline sparkled as he did so.

With an abstracted air, and arms folded across his breast, he gazed
after the carriage till the winding of the valley snatched it from his
view. He then, waking from his reverie with a start, turned into the
house, and carefully closing and barring the door, mounted with slow
steps to the lofty chamber with which, the better to indulge his
astronomical researches, he had crested his lonely abode.

It was now night. The Heavens broadened round him in all the loving yet
august tranquillity of the season and the hour; the stars bathed the
living atmosphere with a solemn light; and above--about--around--

“The holy time was quiet as a nun Breathless with adoration.” He looked
forth upon the deep and ineffable stillness of the night, and indulged
the reflections that it suggested.

“Ye mystic lights,” said he soliloquizing: “worlds upon
worlds--infinite--incalculable.--Bright defiers of rest and change,
rolling for ever above our petty sea of mortality, as, wave after wave,
we fret forth our little life, and sink into the black abyss;--can we
look upon you, note your appointed order, and your unvarying course, and
not feel that we are indeed the poorest puppets of an all-pervading
and resistless destiny? Shall we see throughout creation each marvel
fulfilling its pre-ordered fate--no wandering from its orbit--no
variation in its seasons--and yet imagine that the Arch-ordainer
will hold back the tides He has sent from their unseen source, at our
miserable bidding? Shall we think that our prayers can avert a doom
woven with the skein of events? To change a particle of our fate, might
change the destiny of millions! Shall the link forsake the chain, and
yet the chain be unbroken? Away, then, with our vague repinings, and our
blind demands. All must walk onward to their goal, be he the wisest
who looks not one step behind. The colours of our existence were doomed
before our birth--our sorrows and our crimes;--millions of ages back,
when this hoary earth was peopled by other kinds, yea! ere its atoms
had formed one layer of its present soil, the Eternal and the all-seeing
Ruler of the universe, Destiny, or God, had here fixed the moment of
our birth and the limits of our career. What then is crime?--Fate! What
life?--Submission!”

Such were the strange and dark thoughts which, constituting a part
indeed of his established creed, broke over Aram’s mind. He sought for a
fairer subject for meditation, and Madeline Lester rose before him.

Eugene Aram was a man whose whole life seemed to have been one sacrifice
to knowledge. What is termed pleasure had no attraction for him. From
the mature manhood at which he had arrived, he looked back along his
youth, and recognized no youthful folly. Love he had hitherto regarded
with a cold though not an incurious eye: intemperance had never lured
him to a momentary self-abandonment. Even the innocent relaxations with
which the austerest minds relieve their accustomed toils, had had no
power to draw him from his beloved researches. The delight monstrari
digito; the gratification of triumphant wisdom; the whispers of an
elevated vanity; existed not for his self-dependent and solitary heart.
He was one of those earnest and high-wrought enthusiasts who now are
almost extinct upon earth, and whom Romance has not hitherto attempted
to pourtray; men not uncommon in the last century, who were devoted to
knowledge, yet disdainful of its fame; who lived for nothing else than
to learn. From store to store, from treasure to treasure, they proceeded
in exulting labour, and having accumulated all, they bestowed nought;
they were the arch-misers of the wealth of letters. Wrapped in
obscurity, in some sheltered nook, remote from the great stir of men,
they passed a life at once unprofitable and glorious; the least part of
what they ransacked would appal the industry of a modern student, yet
the most superficial of modern students might effect more for mankind.
They lived among oracles, but they gave none forth. And yet, even in
this very barrenness, there seems something high; it was a rare and
great spectacle--Men, living aloof from the roar and strife of the
passions that raged below, devoting themselves to the knowledge which is
our purification and our immortality on earth, and yet deaf and blind
to the allurements of the vanity which generally accompanies research;
refusing the ignorant homage of their kind, making their sublime motive
their only meed, adoring Wisdom for her sole sake, and set apart in the
populous universe, like stars, luminous with their own light, but too
remote from the earth on which they looked, to shed over its inmates the
lustre with which they glowed.

From his youth to the present period, Aram had dwelt little in cities
though he had visited many, yet he could scarcely be called ignorant of
mankind; there seems something intuitive in the science which teaches
us the knowledge of our race. Some men emerge from their seclusion, and
find, all at once, a power to dart into the minds and drag forth the
motives of those they see; it is a sort of second sight, born with
them, not acquired. And Aram, it may be, rendered yet more acute by his
profound and habitual investigations of our metaphysical frame, never
quitted his solitude to mix with others, without penetrating into the
broad traits or prevalent infirmities their characters possessed.
In this, indeed, he differed from the scholar tribe, and even in
abstraction was mechanically vigilant and observant. Much in his nature
would, had early circumstances given it a different bias, have fitted
him for worldly superiority and command. A resistless energy, an
unbroken perseverance, a profound and scheming and subtle thought, a
genius fertile in resources, a tongue clothed with eloquence, all, had
his ambition so chosen, might have given him the same empire over the
physical, that he had now attained over the intellectual world. It could
not be said that Aram wanted benevolence, but it was dashed, and mixed
with a certain scorn: the benevolence was the offspring of his nature;
the scorn seemed the result of his pursuits. He would feed the birds
from his window, he would tread aside to avoid the worm on his path;
were one of his own tribe in danger, he would save him at the hazard of
his life:--yet in his heart he despised men, and believed them beyond
amelioration. Unlike the present race of schoolmen, who incline to the
consoling hope of human perfectibility, he saw in the gloomy past but a
dark prophecy of the future. As Napoleon wept over one wounded soldier
in the field of battle, yet ordered without emotion, thousands to a
certain death; so Aram would have sacrificed himself for an individual,
but would not have sacrificed a momentary gratification for his race.
And this sentiment towards men, at once of high disdain and profound
despondency, was perhaps the cause why he rioted in indolence upon his
extraordinary mental wealth, and could not be persuaded either to dazzle
the world or to serve it. But by little and little his fame had broke
forth from the limits with which he would have walled it: a man who had
taught himself, under singular difficulties, nearly all the languages
of the civilized earth; the profound mathematician, the elaborate
antiquarian, the abstruse philologist, uniting with his graver lore the
more florid accomplishments of science, from the scholastic trifling
of heraldry to the gentle learning of herbs and flowers, could scarcely
hope for utter obscurity in that day when all intellectual acquirement
was held in high honour, and its possessors were drawn together into a
sort of brotherhood by the fellowship of their pursuits. And though
Aram gave little or nothing to the world himself, he was ever willing
to communicate to others any benefit or honour derivable from his
researches. On the altar of science he kindled no light, but the
fragrant oil in the lamps of his more pious brethren was largely
borrowed from his stores. From almost every college in Europe came to
his obscure abode letters of acknowledgement or inquiry; and few
foreign cultivators of learning visited this country without seeking
an interview with Aram. He received them with all the modesty and the
courtesy that characterized his demeanour; but it was noticeable that
he never allowed these interruptions to be more than temporary. He
proffered no hospitality, and shrunk back from all offers of friendship;
the interview lasted its hour, and was seldom renewed. Patronage was
not less distasteful to him than sociality. Some occasional visits and
condescensions of the great, he had received with a stern haughtiness,
rather than his wonted and subdued urbanity. The precise amount of his
fortune was not known; his wants were so few, that what would have been
poverty to others might easily have been competence to him; and the only
evidence he manifested of the command of money, was in his extended and
various library.

He had now been about two years settled in his present retreat. Unsocial
as he was, every one in the neighbourhood loved him; even the reserve
of a man so eminent, arising as it was supposed to do from a painful
modesty, had in it something winning; and he had been known to evince on
great occasions, a charity and a courage in the service of others which
removed from the seclusion of his habits the semblance of misanthropy
and of avarice. The peasant drew aside with a kindness mingled with his
respect, as in his homeward walk he encountered the pale and thoughtful
Student, with the folded arms and downeast eyes, which characterised the
abstraction of his mood; and the village maiden, as she curtsied by him,
stole a glance at his handsome but melancholy countenance; and told her
sweetheart she was certain the poor scholar had been crossed in love.

And thus passed the Student’s life; perhaps its monotony and dullness
required less compassion than they received; no man can judge of the
happiness of another. As the Moon plays upon the waves, and seems to our
eyes to favour with a peculiar beam one long track amidst the waters,
leaving the rest in comparative obscurity; yet all the while, she is no
niggard in her lustre--for though the rays that meet not our eyes seem
to us as though they were not, yet she with an equal and unfavouring
loveliness, mirrors herself on every wave: even so, perhaps, Happiness
falls with the same brightness and power over the whole expanse of Life,
though to our limited eyes she seems only to rest on those billows from
which the ray is reflected back upon our sight.

From his contemplations, of whatsoever nature, Aram was now aroused by a
loud summons at the door;--the clock had gone eleven. Who could at
that late hour, when the whole village was buried in sleep, demand
admittance? He recollected that Madeline had said the Stranger who had
so alarmed them had inquired for him, at that recollection his cheek
suddenly blanched, but again, that stranger was surely only some poor
traveller who had heard of his wonted charity, and had called to solicit
relief, for he had not met the Stranger on the road to Lester’s house;
and he had naturally set down the apprehensions of his fair visitants to
a mere female timidity. Who could this be? no humble wayfarer would at
that hour crave assistance;--some disaster perhaps in the village. From
his lofty chamber he looked forth and saw the stars watch quietly over
the scattered cottages and the dark foliage that slept breathlessly
around. All was still as death, but it seemed the stillness of innocence
and security: again! the bell again! He thought he heard his name
shouted without; he strode once or twice irresolutely to and fro the
chamber; and then his step grew firm, and his native courage returned.
His pistols were still girded round him; he looked to the priming, and
muttered some incoherent words; he then descended the stairs, and slowly
unbarred the door. Without the porch, the moonlight full upon his harsh
features and sturdy frame, stood the ill-omened Traveller.



CHAPTER V.

    A DINNER AT THE SQUIRE’S HALL.--A CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO
   RETIRED MEN WITH DIFFERENT OBJECTS IN RETIREMENT.--DISTURBANCE
        FIRST INTRODUCED INTO A PEACEFUL FAMILY.

          “Can he not be sociable?”
                  --Troilus and Cressida.

        “Subit quippe etiam ipsius inertiae dulcedo;
         et invisa primo desidia postremo amatur.”
                   --Tacitus.

          “How use doth breed a habit in a man!
          This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods,
          I better brook than flourishing people towns.”
                  --Winter’s Tale.

The next day, faithful to his appointment, Aram arrived at Lester’s.
The good Squire received him with a warm cordiality, and Madeline with
a blush and a smile that ought to have been more grateful to him
than acknowledgements. She was still a prisoner to the sofa, but in
compliment to Aram, the sofa was wheeled into the hall where they dined,
so that she was not absent from the repast. It was a pleasant room, that
old hall! Though it was summer--more for cheerfulness than warmth, the
log burnt on the spacious hearth: but at the same time the latticed
windows were thrown open, and the fresh yet sunny air stole in, rich
from the embrace of the woodbine and clematis, which clung around the
casement.

A few old pictures were paneled in the oaken wainscot; and here and
there the horns of the mighty stag adorned the walls, and united with
the cheeriness of comfort associations of that of enterprise. The good
old board was crowded with the luxuries meet for a country Squire. The
speckled trout, fresh from the stream, and the four-year-old mutton
modestly disclaiming its own excellent merits, by affecting the shape
and assuming the adjuncts of venison. Then for the confectionery,--it
was worthy of Ellinor, to whom that department generally fell; and we
should scarcely be surprised to find, though we venture not to affirm,
that its delicate fabrication owed more to her than superintendence.
Then the ale, and the cyder with rosemary in the bowl, were incomparable
potations; and to the gooseberry wine, which would have filled Mrs.
Primrose with envy, was added the more generous warmth of port which, in
the Squire’s younger days, had been the talk of the country, and which
had now lost none of its attributes, save “the original brightness” of
its colour.

But (the wine excepted) these various dainties met with slight honour
from their abstemious guest; and, for though habitually reserved he was
rarely gloomy, they remarked that he seemed unusually fitful and sombre
in his mood. Something appeared to rest upon his mind, from which, by
the excitement of wine and occasional bursts of eloquence more
animated than ordinary, he seemed striving to escape; and at length, he
apparently succeeded. Naturally enough, the conversation turned upon the
curiosities and scenery of the country round; and here Aram shone with a
peculiar grace. Vividly alive to the influences of Nature, and minutely
acquainted with its varieties, he invested every hill and glade to
which remark recurred with the poetry of his descriptions; and from his
research he gave even scenes the most familiar, a charm and interest
which had been strange to them till then. To this stream some romantic
legend had once attached itself, long forgotten and now revived;--that
moor, so barren to an ordinary eye, was yet productive of some rare
and curious herb, whose properties afforded scope for lively
description;--that old mound was yet rife in attraction to one versed in
antiquities, and able to explain its origin, and from such explanation
deduce a thousand classic or celtic episodes.

No subject was so homely or so trite but the knowledge that had
neglected nothing, was able to render it luminous and new. And as he
spoke, the scholar’s countenance brightened, and his voice, at first
hesitating and low, compelled the attention to its earnest and winning
music. Lester himself, a man who, in his long retirement, had not
forgotten the attractions of intellectual society, nor even neglected a
certain cultivation of intellectual pursuits, enjoyed a pleasure that
he had not experienced for years. The gay Ellinor was fascinated into
admiration; and Madeline, the most silent of the groupe, drank in every
word, unconscious of the sweet poison she imbibed. Walter alone seemed
not carried away by the eloquence of their guest. He preserved an
unadmiring and sullen demeanour, and every now and then regarded Aram
with looks of suspicion and dislike. This was more remarkable when
the men were left alone; and Lester, in surprise and anger, darted
significant and admonitory looks towards his nephew, which at length
seemed to rouse him into a more hospitable bearing. As the cool of
the evening now came on, Lester proposed to Aram to enjoy it without,
previous to returning to the parlour, to which the ladies had retired.
Walter excused himself from joining them. The host and the guest
accordingly strolled forth alone.

“Your solitude,” said Lester, smiling, “is far deeper and less broken
than mine: do you never find it irksome?”

“Can Humanity be at all times contented?” said Aram. “No stream,
howsoever secret or subterranean, glides on in eternal tranquillity.”

“You allow, then, that you feel some occasional desire for a more active
and animated life?”

“Nay,” answered Aram; “that is scarcely a fair corollary from my remark.
I may, at times, feel the weariness of existence--the tedium vitae;
but I know well that the cause is not to be remedied by a change from
tranquillity to agitation. The objects of the great world are to be
pursued only by the excitement of the passions. The passions are at
once our masters and our deceivers;--they urge us onward, yet present no
limit to our progress. The farther we proceed, the more dim and shadowy
grows the goal. It is impossible for a man who leads the life of the
world, the life of the passions, ever to experience content. For the
life of the passions is that of a perpetual desire; but a state of
content is the absence of all desire. Thus philosophy has become
another name for mental quietude; and all wisdom points to a life of
intellectual indifference, as the happiest which earth can bestow.”

“This may be true enough,” said Lester, reluctantly; “but--”

“But what?”

“A something at our hearts--a secret voice--an involuntary
impulse--rebels against it, and points to action--action, as the true
sphere of man.”

A slight smile curved the lip of the Student; he avoided, however, the
argument, and remarked,

“Yet, if you think so, the world lies before you; why not return to it?”

“Because constant habit is stronger than occasional impulse; and my
seclusion, after all, has its sphere of action--has its object.”

“All seclusion has.”

“All? Scarcely so; for me, I have my object of interest in my children.”

“And mine is in my books.”

“And engaged in your object, does not the whisper of Fame ever animate
you with the desire to go forth into the world, and receive the homage
that would await you?”

“Listen to me,” replied Aram. “When I was a boy, I went once to a
theatre. The tragedy of Hamlet was performed: a play full of the
noblest thoughts, the subtlest morality, that exists upon the stage. The
audience listened with attention, with admiration, with applause. I said
to myself, when the curtain fell, ‘It must be a glorious thing to obtain
this empire over men’s intellects and emotions.’ But now an Italian
mountebank appeared on the stage,--a man of extraordinary personal
strength and slight of hand. He performed a variety of juggling
tricks, and distorted his body into a thousand surprising and unnatural
postures. The audience were transported beyond themselves: if they had
felt delight in Hamlet, they glowed with rapture at the mountebank: they
had listened with attention to the lofty thought, but they were snatched
from themselves by the marvel of the strange posture. ‘Enough,’ said I;
‘I correct my former notion. Where is the glory of ruling men’s minds,
and commanding their admiration, when a greater enthusiasm is excited by
mere bodily agility, than was kindled by the most wonderful emanations
of a genius little less than divine?’ I have never forgotten the
impression of that evening.”

Lester attempted to combat the truth of the illustration, and thus
conversing, they passed on through the village green, when the gaunt
form of Corporal Bunting arrested their progress.

“Beg pardon, Squire,” said he, with a military salute; “beg pardon, your
honour,” bowing to Aram; “but I wanted to speak to you, Squire, ‘bout
the rent of the bit cot yonder; times very hard--pay scarce--Michaelmas
close at hand--and--”

“You desire a little delay, Bunting, eh?--Well, well, we’ll see about
it, look up at the Hall to-morrow; Mr. Walter, I know wants to consult
you about letting the water from the great pond, and you must give us
your opinion of the new brewing.”

“Thank your honour, thank you; much obliged I’m sure. I hope your honour
liked the trout I sent up. Beg pardon, Master Aram, mayhap you would
condescend to accept a few fish now and then; they’re very fine in these
streams, as you probably know; if you please to let me, I’ll send some
up by the old ‘oman to-morrow, that is if the day’s cloudy a bit.”

The Scholar thanked the good Bunting, and would have proceeded onward,
but the Corporal was in a familiar mood.

“Beg pardon, beg pardon, but strange-looking dog here last
evening--asked after you--said you were old friend of his--trotted off
in your direction--hope all was right, Master?--augh!”

“All right!” repeated Aram, fixing his eyes on the Corporal, who had
concluded his speech with a significant wink, and pausing a full moment
before he continued, then as if satisfied with his survey, he added:

“Ay, ay, I know whom you mean; he had known me some years ago. So you
saw him! What said he to you of me?”

“Augh! little enough, Master Aram, he seemed to think only of satisfying
his own appetite; said he’d been a soldier.”

“A soldier, humph!”

“Never told me the regiment, though,--shy--did he ever desert, pray,
your honour?”

“I don’t know;” answered Aram, turning away. “I know little, very
little, about him!” He was going away, but stopped to add: “The man
called on me last night for assistance; the lateness of the hour a
little alarmed me. I gave him what I could afford, and he has now
proceeded on his journey.”

“Oh, then, he won’t take up his quarters hereabouts, your honour?” said
the Corporal, inquiringly.

“No, no; good evening.”

“What! this singular stranger, who so frightened my poor girls,
is really known to you;” said Lester, in surprise: “pray is he as
formidable as he seemed to them?”

“Scarcely,” said Aram, with great composure; “he has been a wild roving
fellow all his life, but--but there is little real harm in him. He is
certainly ill-favoured enough to--” here, interrupting himself, and
breaking into a new sentence, Aram added: “but at all events he will
frighten your nieces no more--he has proceeded on his journey northward.
And now, yonder lies my way home. Good evening.” The abruptness of this
farewell did indeed take Lester by surprise.

“Why, you will not leave me yet? The young ladies expect your return to
them for an hour or so! What will they think of such desertion? No, no,
come back, my good friend, and suffer me by and by to walk some part of
the way home with you.”

“Pardon me,” said Aram, “I must leave you now. As to the ladies,” he
added, with a faint smile, half in melancholy, half in scorn, “I am not
one whom they could miss;--forgive me if I seem unceremonious. Adieu.”

Lester at first felt a little offended, but when he recalled the
peculiar habits of the Scholar, he saw that the only way to hope for
a continuance of that society which had so pleased him, was to indulge
Aram at first in his unsocial inclinations, rather than annoy him by a
troublesome hospitality; he therefore, without further discourse, shook
hands with him, and they parted.

When Lester regained the little parlour, he found his nephew sitting,
silent and discontented, by the window. Madeline had taken up a book,
and Ellinor, in an opposite corner, was plying her needle with an air
of earnestness and quiet, very unlike her usual playful and cheerful
vivacity. There was evidently a cloud over the groupe; the good Lester
regarded them with a searching, yet kindly eye.

“And what has happened?” said he, “something of mighty import, I am
sure, or I should have heard my pretty Ellinor’s merry laugh long before
I crossed the threshold.”

Ellinor coloured and sighed, and worked faster than ever. Walter threw
open the window, and whistled a favourite air quite out of tune. Lester
smiled, and seated himself by his nephew.

“Well, Walter,” said he, “I feel, for the first time in these ten
years, I have a right to scold you. What on earth could make you so
inhospitable to your uncle’s guest? You eyed the poor student, as if you
wished him among the books of Alexandria!”

“I would he were burnt with them!” answered Walter, sharply. “He seems
to have added the black art to his other accomplishments, and bewitched
my fair cousins here into a forgetfulness of all but himself.”

“Not me!” said Ellinor eagerly, and looking up.

“No, not you, that’s true enough; you are too just, too kind;--it is a
pity that Madeline is not more like you.”

“My dear Walter,” said Madeline, “what is the matter? You accuse me of
what? being attentive to a man whom it is impossible to hear without
attention!”

“There!” cried Walter passionately; “you confess it; and so for a
stranger,--a cold, vain, pedantic egotist, you can shut your ears and
heart to those who have known and loved you all your life; and--and--”

“Vain!” interrupted Madeline, unheeding the latter part of Walter’s
address.

“Pedantic!” repeated her father.

“Yes! I say vain, pedantic!” cried Walter, working himself into a
passion. What on earth but the love of display could make him monopolize
the whole conversation?--What but pedantry could make him bring out
those anecdotes and allusions, and descriptions, or whatever you call
them, respecting every old wall or stupid plant in the country?

“I never thought you guilty of meanness before,” said Lester gravely.

“Meanness!”

“Yes! for is it not mean to be jealous of superior acquirements, instead
of admiring them?”

“What has been the use of those acquirements? Has he benefited mankind
by them? Shew me the poet--the historian--the orator, and I will yield
to none of you; no, not to Madeline herself in homage of their genius:
but the mere creature of books--the dry and sterile collector of other
men’s learning--no--no. What should I admire in such a machine of
literature, except a waste of perseverance?--And Madeline calls him
handsome too!”

At this sudden turn from declamation to reproach, Lester laughed
outright; and his nephew, in high anger, rose and left the room.

“Who could have thought Walter so foolish?” said Madeline.

“Nay,” observed Ellinor gently, “it is the folly of a kind heart, after
all. He feels sore at our seeming to prefer another--I mean another’s
conversation--to his!”

Lester turned round in his chair, and regarded with a serious look, the
faces of both sisters.

“My dear Ellinor,” said he, when he had finished his survey, “you are a
kind girl--come and kiss me!”



CHAPTER VI.

     THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE STUDENT.--A SUMMER SCENE--ARAM’S
     CONVERSATION WITH WALTER, AND SUBSEQUENT COLLOQUY WITH
                HIMSELF.

          “The soft season, the firmament serene,
          The loun illuminate air, and firth amene
          The silver-scalit fishes on the grete
          O’er-thwart clear streams sprinkillond for the heat,”
                  --Gawin Douglas.

                    “Ilia subter
          Caecum vulnus habes; sed lato balteus auro
          Praetegit.”
                  --Persius.

Several days elapsed before the family of the manor-house encountered
Aram again. The old woman came once or twice to present the inquiries
of her master as to Miss Lester’s accident; but Aram himself did not
appear. This want to interest certainly offended Madeline, although she
still drew upon herself Walter’s displeasure, by disputing and resenting
the unfavourable strictures on the scholar, in which that young
gentleman delighted to indulge. By degrees, however, as the days passed
without maturing the acquaintance which Walter had disapproved, the
youth relaxed in his attacks, and seemed to yield to the remonstrances
of his uncle. Lester had, indeed, conceived an especial inclination
towards the recluse. Any man of reflection, who has lived for some
time alone, and who suddenly meets with one who calls forth in him, and
without labour or contradiction, the thoughts which have sprung up in
his solitude, scarcely felt in their growth, will comprehend the new
zest, the awakening, as it were, of the mind, which Lester found in the
conversation of Eugene Aram. His solitary walk (for his nephew had the
separate pursuits of youth) appeared to him more dull than before; and
he longed to renew an intercourse which had given to the monotony of his
life both variety and relief. He called twice upon Aram, but the student
was, or affected to be, from home; and an invitation he sent him, though
couched in friendly terms, was, but with great semblance of kindness,
refused.

“See, Walter,” said Lester, disconcerted, as he finished reading the
refusal--“see what your rudeness has effected. I am quite convinced that
Aram (evidently a man of susceptible as well as retired mind) observed
the coldness of your manner towards him, and that thus you have deprived
me of the only society which, in this country of boors and savages, gave
me any gratification.”

Walter replied apologetically, but his uncle turned away with a greater
appearance of anger than his placid features were wont to exhibit; and
Walter, cursing the innocent cause of his uncle’s displeasure towards
him, took up his fishing-rod and went out alone, in no happy or
exhilarated mood.

It was waxing towards eve--an hour especially lovely in the month of
June, and not without reason favoured by the angler. Walter sauntered
across the rich and fragrant fields, and came soon into a sheltered
valley, through which the brooklet wound its shadowy way. Along the
margin the grass sprung up long and matted, and profuse with a thousand
weeds and flowers--the children of the teeming June. Here the ivy-leaved
bell-flower, and not far from it the common enchanter’s night-shade,
the silver weed, and the water-aven; and by the hedges that now and then
neared the water, the guelder-rose, and the white briony, overrunning
the thicket with its emerald leaves and luxuriant flowers. And here and
there, silvering the bushes, the elder offered its snowy tribute to the
summer. All the insect youth were abroad, with their bright wings and
glancing motion; and from the lower depths of the bushes the blackbird
darted across, or higher and unseen the first cuckoo of the eve began
its continuous and mellow note. All this cheeriness and gloss of life,
which enamour us with the few bright days of the English summer, make
the poetry in an angler’s life, and convert every idler at heart into a
moralist, and not a gloomy one, for the time.

Softened by the quiet beauty and voluptuousness around him, Walter’s
thoughts assumed a more gentle dye, and he broke out into the old lines:

“Sweet day, so soft, so calm, so bright; The bridal of the earth and
sky,” as he dipped his line into the current, and drew it across the
shadowy hollows beneath the bank. The river-gods were not, however, in
a favourable mood, and after waiting in vain for some time, in a spot in
which he was usually successful, he proceeded slowly along the margin
of the brooklet, crushing the reeds at every step, into that fresh and
delicious odour, which furnished Bacon with one of his most beautiful
comparisons.

He thought, as he proceeded, that beneath a tree that overhung the
waters in the narrowest part of their channel, he heard a voice, and as
he approached he recognised it as Aram’s; a curve in the stream brought
him close by the spot, and he saw the student half reclined beneath the
tree, and muttering, but at broken intervals, to himself.

The words were so scattered, that Walter did not trace their clue; but
involuntarily he stopped short, within a few feet of the soliloquist:
and Aram, suddenly turning round, beheld him. A fierce and abrupt change
broke over the scholar’s countenance; his cheek grew now pale, now
flushed; and his brows knit over his flashing and dark eyes with an
intent anger, that was the more withering, from its contrast to the
usual calmness of his features. Walter drew back, but Aram stalking
directly up to him, gazed into his face, as if he would read his very
soul.

“What! eaves-dropping?” said he, with a ghastly smile. “You overheard
me, did you? Well, well, what said I?--what said I?” Then pausing, and
noting that Walter did not reply, he stamped his foot violently, and
grinding his teeth, repeated in a smothered tone “Boy! what said I?”

“Mr. Aram,” said Walter, “you forget yourself; I am not one to play
the listener, more especially to the learned ravings of a man who can
conceal nothing I care to know. Accident brought me hither.”

“What! surely--surely I spoke aloud, did I not?--did I not?”

“You did, but so incoherently and indistinctly, that I did not profit
by your indiscretion. I cannot plagiarise, I assure you, from any
scholastic designs you might have been giving vent to.”

Aram looked on him for a moment, and then breathing heavily, turned
away.

“Pardon me,” he said; “I am a poor half-crazed man; much study has
unnerved me; I should never live but with my own thoughts; forgive me,
Sir, I pray you.”

Touched by the sudden contrition of Aram’s manner, Walter forgot, not
only his present displeasure, but his general dislike; he stretched
forth his hand to the Student, and hastened to assure him of his ready
forgiveness. Aram sighed deeply as he pressed the young man’s hand, and
Walter saw, with surprise and emotion, that his eyes were filled with
tears.

“Ah!” said Aram, gently shaking his head, “it is a hard life we bookmen
lead. Not for us is the bright face of noon-day or the smile of woman,
the gay unbending of the heart, the neighing steed, and the shrill
trump; the pride, pomp, and circumstance of life. Our enjoyments are few
and calm; our labour constant; but that is it not, Sir?--that is it not?
the body avenges its own neglect. We grow old before our time; we wither
up; the sap of youth shrinks from our veins; there is no bound in our
step. We look about us with dimmed eyes, and our breath grows short and
thick, and pains and coughs, and shooting aches come upon us at night;
it is a bitter life--a bitter life--a joyless life. I would I had never
commenced it. And yet the harsh world scowls upon us: our nerves are
broken, and they wonder we are querulous; our blood curdles, and they
ask why we are not gay; our brain grows dizzy and indistinct, (as
with me just now,) and, shrugging their shoulders, they whisper their
neighbours that we are mad. I wish I had worked at the plough, and known
sleep, and loved mirth--and--and not been what I am.”

As the Student uttered the last sentence, he bowed down his head, and a
few tears stole silently down his cheek. Walter was greatly affected--it
took him by surprise; nothing in Aram’s ordinary demeanour betrayed any
facility to emotion; and he conveyed to all the idea of a man, if not
proud, at least cold.

“You do not suffer bodily pain, I trust?” asked Walter, soothingly.

“Pain does not conquer me,” said Aram, slowly recovering himself. “I
am not melted by that which I would fain despise. Young man, I wronged
you--you have forgiven me. Well, well, we will say no more on that head;
it is past and pardoned. Your father has been kind to me, and I have
not returned his advances; you shall tell him why. I have lived thirteen
years by myself, and I have contracted strange ways and many humours
not common to the world--you have seen an example of this. Judge for
yourself if I be fit for the smoothness, and confidence, and ease
of social intercourse; I am not fit, I feel it! I am doomed to be
alone--tell your father this--tell him to suffer me to live so! I am
grateful for his goodness--I know his motives--but have a certain pride
of mind; I cannot bear sufferance--I loath indulgence. Nay, interrupt me
not, I beseech you. Look round on Nature--behold the only company
that humbles me not--except the dead whose souls speak to us from the
immortality of books. These herbs at your feet, I know their secrets--I
watch the mechanism of their life; the winds--they have taught me their
language; the stars--I have unravelled their mysteries; and these, the
creatures and ministers of God--these I offend not by my mood--to them
I utter my thoughts, and break forth into my dreams, without reserve and
without fear. But men disturb me--I have nothing to learn from them--I
have no wish to confide in them; they cripple the wild liberty which
has become to me a second nature. What its shell is to the tortoise,
solitude has become to me--my protection; nay, my life!”

“But,” said Walter, “with us, at least, you would not have to dread
restraint; you might come when you would; be silent or converse,
according to your will.”

Aram smiled faintly, but made no immediate reply.

“So, you have been angling!” he said, after a short pause, and as if
willing to change the thread of conversation. “Fie! It is a treacherous
pursuit; it encourages man’s worst propensities--cruelty and deceit.”

“I should have thought a lover of Nature would have been more indulgent
to a pastime which introduces us to her most quiet retreats.”

“And cannot Nature alone tempt you without need of such allurements?
What! that crisped and winding stream, with flowers on its very
tide--the water-violet and the water-lily--these silent brakes--the cool
of the gathering evening--the still and luxuriance of the universal life
around you; are not these enough of themselves to tempt you forth? if
not, go to--your excuse is hypocrisy.”

“I am used to these scenes,” replied Walter; “I am weary of the thoughts
they produce in me, and long for any diversion or excitement.”

“Ay, ay, young man! The mind is restless at your age--have a care.
Perhaps you long to visit the world--to quit these obscure haunts which
you are fatigued in admiring?”

“It may be so,” said Walter, with a slight sigh. “I should at least like
to visit our great capital, and note the contrast; I should come back, I
imagine, with a greater zest to these scenes.”

Aram laughed. “My friend,” said he, “when men have once plunged into the
great sea of human toil and passion, they soon wash away all love and
zest for innocent enjoyments. What once was a soft retirement,
will become the most intolerable monotony; the gaming of social
existence--the feverish and desperate chances of honour and wealth,
upon which the men of cities set their hearts, render all pursuits
less exciting, utterly insipid and dull. The brook and the
angle--ha!--ha!--these are not occupations for men who have once battled
with the world.”

“I can forego them, then, without regret;” said Walter, with the
sanguineness of his years. Aram looked upon him wistfully; the bright
eye, the healthy cheek, and vigorous frame of the youth, suited with his
desire to seek the conflict of his kind, and gave a naturalness to his
ambition, which was not without interest, even to the recluse.

“Poor boy!” said he, mournfully, “how gallantly the ship leaves the
port; how worn and battered it will return!”

When they parted, Walter returned slowly homewards, filled with pity
towards the singular man whom he had seen so strangely overpowered;
and wondering how suddenly his mind had lost its former rancour to the
Student. Yet there mingled even with these kindly feelings, a little
displeasure at the superior tone which Aram had unconsciously adopted
towards him; and to which, from any one, the high spirit of the young
man was not readily willing to submit.

Meanwhile, the Student continued his path along the water side, and
as, with his gliding step and musing air, he roamed onward, it was
impossible to imagine a form more suited to the deep tranquillity of the
scene. Even the wild birds seemed to feel, by a sort of instinct, that
in him there was no cause for fear; and did not stir from the turf that
neighboured, or the spray that overhung, his path.

“So,” said he, soliloquizing, but not without casting frequent and
jealous glances round him, and in a murmur so indistinct as would have
been inaudible even to a listener--“so, I was not overheard,--well, I
must cure myself of this habit; our thoughts, like nuns, ought not to go
abroad without a veil. Ay, this tone will not betray me, I will
preserve its tenor, for I can scarcely altogether renounce my sole
confidant--SELF; and thought seems more clear when uttered even thus.
‘Tis a fine youth! full of the impulse and daring of his years; I was
never so young at heart. I was--nay, what matters it? Who is answerable
for his nature? Who can say, ‘I controlled all the circumstances which
made me what I am?’ Madeline,--Heavens! did I bring on myself this
temptation? Have I not fenced it from me throughout all my youth, when
my brain did at moments forsake me, and the veins did bound? And now,
when the yellow hastens on the green of life; now, for the first
time, this emotion--this weakness--and for whom? One I have lived
with--known--beneath whose eyes I have passed through all the fine
gradations, from liking to love, from love to passion? No;--one, whom
I have seen but little; who, it is true, arrested my eye at the first
glance it caught of her two years since, but with whom till within the
last few weeks I have scarcely spoken! Her voice rings on my ear, her
look dwells on my heart; when I sleep, she is with me; when I wake, I
am haunted by her image. Strange, strange! Is love then, after all, the
sudden passion which in every age poetry has termed it, though till now
my reason has disbelieved the notion?... And now, what is the question?
To resist, or to yield. Her father invites me, courts me; and I stand
aloof! Will this strength, this forbearance, last?--Shall I encourage my
mind to this decision?” Here Aram paused abruptly, and then renewed:
“It is true! I ought to weave my lot with none. Memory sets me apart
and alone in the world; it seems unnatural to me, a thought of dread--to
bring another being to my solitude, to set an everlasting watch on my
uprisings and my downsittings; to invite eyes to my face when I sleep at
nights, and ears to every word that may start unbidden from my lips. But
if the watch be the watch of love--away! does love endure for ever? He
who trusts to woman, trusts to the type of change. Affection may turn to
hatred, fondness to loathing, anxiety to dread; and, at the best, woman
is weak, she is the minion to her impulses. Enough, I will steel my
soul,--shut up the avenues of sense,--brand with the scathing-iron these
yet green and soft emotions of lingering youth,--and freeze and chain
and curdle up feeling, and heart, and manhood, into ice and age!”



CHAPTER VII.

   THE POWER OF LOVE OVER THE RESOLUTION OF THE STUDENT.--ARAM
    BECOMES A FREQUENT GUEST AT THE MANOR-HOUSE.--A WALK.--
   CONVERSATION WITH DAME DARKMANS.--HER HISTORY.--POVERTY AND
               ITS EFFECTS.

       MAD. “Then, as Time won thee frequent to our hearth,

       Didst thou not breathe, like dreams, into my soul

       Nature’s more gentle secrets, the sweet lore

       Of the green herb and the bee-worshipp’d flower?

       And when deep Night did o’er the nether Earth

       Diffuse meek quiet, and the Heart of Heaven

       With love grew breathless--didst thou not unrol

       The volume of the weird chaldean stars,

       And of the winds, the clouds, the invisible air,

       Make eloquent discourse, until, methought,

       No human lip, but some diviner spirit

       Alone, could preach such truths of things divine?

       And so--and so--”

       ARAM. “From Heaven we turned to Earth,

       And Wisdom fathered Passion.”

       ..................

       ARAM. “Wise men have praised the Peasant’s thoughtless lot,

       And learned Pride hath envied humble Toil;

       If they were right, why let us burn our books,

       And sit us down, and play the fool with Time,

       Mocking the prophet Wisdom’s high decrees,

       And walling this trite Present with dark clouds,

       ‘Till Night becomes our Nature; and the ray

       Ev’n of the stars, but meteors that withdraw

       The wandering spirit from the sluggish rest

       Which makes its proper bliss. I will accost

       This denizen of toil.”

       --From Eugene Aram, a MS. Tragedy.

       “A wicked hag, and envy’s self excelling

       In mischiefe, for herself she only vext,

       But this same, both herself and others eke perplext.”

     ...............

       “Who then can strive with strong necessity,

       That holds the world in his still changing state,

     .................

       Then do no further go, no further stray,

       But here lie down, and to thy rest betake.”

                --Spenser.

Few men perhaps could boast of so masculine and firm a mind, as, despite
his eccentricities, Aram assuredly possessed. His habits of solitude
had strengthened its natural hardihood; for, accustomed to make all the
sources of happiness flow solely from himself, his thoughts the only
companion--his genius the only vivifier--of his retreat; the tone and
faculty of his spirit could not but assume that austere and vigorous
energy which the habit of self-dependence almost invariably produces;
and yet, the reader, if he be young, will scarcely feel surprise that
the resolution of the Student, to battle against incipient love, from
whatever reasons it might be formed, gradually and reluctantly melted
away. It may be noted, that the enthusiasts of learning and reverie
have, at one time or another in their lives, been, of all the tribes
of men, the most keenly susceptible to love; their solitude feeds their
passion; and deprived, as they usually are, of the more hurried and
vehement occupations of life, when love is once admitted to their
hearts, there is no counter-check to its emotions, and no escape from
its excitation. Aram, too, had just arrived at that age when a man
usually feels a sort of revulsion in the current of his desires. At
that age, those who have hitherto pursued love, begin to grow alive to
ambition; those who have been slaves to the pleasures of life, awaken
from the dream, and direct their desire to its interests. And in the
same proportion, they who till then have wasted the prodigal fervours
of youth upon a sterile soil; who have served Ambition, or, like Aram,
devoted their hearts to Wisdom; relax from their ardour, look back on
the departed years with regret, and commence, in their manhood, the
fiery pleasures and delirious follies which are only pardonable in
youth. In short, as in every human pursuit there is a certain
vanity, and as every acquisition contains within itself the seed of
disappointment, so there is a period of life when we pause from the
pursuit, and are discontented with the acquisition. We then look around
us for something new--again follow--and are again deceived. Few men
throughout life are the servants to one desire. When we gain the middle
of the bridge of our mortality, different objects from those which
attracted us upward almost invariably lure us to the descent. Happy
they who exhaust in the former part of the journey all the foibles of
existence! But how different is the crude and evanescent love of that
age when thought has not given intensity and power to the passions,
from the love which is felt, for the first time, in maturer but still
youthful years! As the flame burns the brighter in proportion to the
resistance which it conquers, this later love is the more glowing in
proportion to the length of time in which it has overcome temptation:
all the solid and, concentred faculties ripened to their full height,
are no longer capable of the infinite distractions, the numberless
caprices of youth; the rays of the heart, not rendered weak by
diversion, collect into one burning focus;

   [Love is of the nature of a burning glass, which kept
    still in one place, fireth; changed often it doth nothing!”
     --Letters by Sir John Suckling.]

the same earnestness and unity of purpose which render what we undertake
in manhood so far more successful than what we would effect in youth,
are equally visible and equally triumphant, whether directed to interest
or to love. But then, as in Aram, the feelings must be fresh as well as
matured; they must not have been frittered away by previous indulgence;
the love must be the first produce of the soil, not the languid
after-growth.

The reader will remark, that the first time in which our narrative has
brought Madeline and Aram together, was not the first time they had met;
Aram had long noted with admiration a beauty which he had never seen
paralleled, and certain vague and unsettled feelings had preluded the
deeper emotion that her image now excited within him. But the main cause
of his present and growing attachment, had been in the evident sentiment
of kindness which he could not but feel Madeline bore towards him. So
retiring a nature as his, might never have harboured love, if the love
bore the character of presumption; but that one so beautiful beyond
his dreams as Madeline Lester, should deign to exercise towards him a
tenderness, that might suffer him to hope, was a thought, that when he
caught her eye unconsciously fixed upon him, and noted that her voice
grew softer and more tremulous when she addressed him, forced itself
upon his heart, and woke there a strange and irresistible emotion,
which solitude and the brooding reflection that solitude produces--a
reflection so much more intense in proportion to the paucity of living
images it dwells upon--soon ripened into love. Perhaps even, he would
not have resisted the impulse as he now did, had not at this time
certain thoughts connected with past events, been more forcibly than
of late years obtruded upon him, and thus in some measure divided his
heart. By degrees, however, those thoughts receded from their vividness,
into the habitual deep, but not oblivious, shade beneath which his
commanding mind had formerly driven them to repose; and as they thus
receded, Madeline’s image grew more undisturbedly present, and his
resolution to avoid its power more fluctuating and feeble. Fate seemed
bent upon bringing together these two persons, already so attracted
towards each other. After the conversation recorded in our last chapter,
between Walter and the Student, the former, touched and softened as we
have seen, in spite of himself, had cheerfully forborne (what before
he had done reluctantly) the expressions of dislike which he had once
lavished so profusely upon Aram; and Lester, who, forward as he had
seemed, had nevertheless been hitherto a little checked in his advances
to his neighbour by the hostility of his son, now felt no scruple
to deter him from urging them with a pertinacity that almost forbade
refusal. It was Aram’s constant habit, in all seasons, to wander abroad
at certain times of the day, especially towards the evening; and if
Lester failed to win entrance to his house, he was thus enabled to meet
the Student in his frequent rambles, and with a seeming freedom from
design. Actuated by his great benevolence of character, Lester earnestly
desired to win his solitary and unfriended neighbour from a mood and
habit which he naturally imagined must engender a growing melancholy
of mind; and since Walter had detailed to him the particulars of his
meeting with Aram, this desire had been considerably increased. There is
not perhaps a stronger feeling in the world than pity, when united
with admiration. When one man is resolved to know another, it is almost
impossible to prevent him: we see daily the most remarkable instances of
perseverance on one side conquering distaste on the other. By degrees,
then, Aram relaxed from his insociability; he seemed to surrender
himself to a kindness, the sincerity of which he was compelled to
acknowledge; if he for a long time refused to accept the hospitality
of his neighbour, he did not reject his society when they met, and
this intercourse by little and little progressed, until ultimately
the recluse yielded to solicitation, and became the guest as well
as companion. This, at first accident, grew, though not without many
interruptions, into habit; and at length few evenings were passed by the
inmates of the Manor-house without the society of the Student. As his
reserve wore off, his conversation mingled with its attractions a tender
and affectionate tone. He seemed grateful for the pains which had been
taken to allure him to a scene in which, at last, he acknowledged he
found a happiness that he never experienced before: and those who had
hitherto admired him for his genius, admired him now yet more for his
susceptibility to the affections.

There was not in Aram any thing that savoured of the harshness of
pedantry, or the petty vanities of dogmatism: his voice was soft and
low, and his manner always remarkable for its singular gentleness, and a
certain dignified humility. His language did indeed, at times, assume
a tone of calm and patriarchal command; but it was only the command
arising from an intimate persuasion of the truth of what he uttered.
Moralizing upon our nature, or mourning over the delusions of the world,
a grave and solemn strain breathed throughout his lofty words and
the profound melancholy of his wisdom; but it touched, not
offended--elevated, not humbled--the lesser intellect of his listeners;
and even this air of unconscious superiority vanished when he was
invited to teach or explain. That task which so few do gracefully, that
an accurate and shrewd thinker has said: “It is always safe to learn,
even from our enemies; seldom safe to instruct even our friends,” [Note:
Lacon.] Aram performed with a meekness and simplicity that charmed the
vanity, even while it corrected the ignorance, of the applicant; and so
various and minute was the information of this accomplished man, that
there scarcely existed any branch even of that knowledge usually called
practical, to which he could not impart from his stores something
valuable and new. The agriculturist was astonished at the success of his
suggestions; and the mechanic was indebted to him for the device which
abridged his labour in improving its result.

It happened that the study of botany was not, at that day, so favourite
and common a diversion with young ladies as it is now, and Ellinor,
captivated by the notion of a science that gave a life and a history
to the loveliest of earth’s offspring, besought Aram to teach her its
principles.

As Madeline, though she did not second the request, could scarcely
absent herself from sharing the lesson, this pursuit brought the
pair--already lovers--closer and closer together. It associated them not
only at home, but in their rambles throughout that enchanting country;
and there is a mysterious influence in Nature, which renders us, in her
loveliest scenes, the most susceptible to love! Then, too, how often in
their occupation their hands and eyes met:--how often, by the shady wood
or the soft water-side, they found themselves alone. In all times, how
dangerous the connexion, when of different sexes, between the scholar
and the teacher! Under how many pretences, in that connexion, the heart
finds the opportunity to speak out.

Yet it was not with ease and complacency that Aram delivered himself
to the intoxication of his deepening attachment. Sometimes he was
studiously cold, or evidently wrestling with the powerful passion that
mastered his reason. It was not without many throes, and desperate
resistance, that love at length overwhelmed and subdued him; and these
alternations of his mood, if they sometimes offended Madeline and
sometimes wounded, still rather increased than lessened the spell which
bound her to him. The doubt and the fear--the caprice and the change,
which agitate the surface, swell also the tides, of passion. Woman,
too, whose love is so much the creature of her imagination, always asks
something of mystery and conjecture in the object of her affection. It
is a luxury to her to perplex herself with a thousand apprehensions;
and the more restlessly her lover occupies her mind, the more deeply he
enthrals it.

Mingling with her pure and tender attachment to Aram, a high and
unswerving veneration, she saw in his fitfulness, and occasional
abstraction and contradiction of manner, a confirmation of the modest
sentiment that most weighed upon her fears; and imagined that at those
times he thought her, as she deemed herself, unworthy of his love.
And this was the only struggle which she conceived to pass between
the affection he evidently bore her, and the feelings which had as yet
restrained him from its open avowal.

One evening, Lester and the two sisters were walking with the Student
along the valley that led to the house of the latter, when they saw an
old woman engaged in collecting firewood among the bushes, and a little
girl holding out her apron to receive the sticks with which the crone’s
skinny arms unsparingly filled it. The child trembled, and seemed
half-crying; while the old woman, in a harsh, grating croak, was
muttering forth mingled objurgation and complaint.

There was something in the appearance of the latter at once impressive
and displeasing; a dark, withered, furrowed skin was drawn like
parchment over harsh and aquiline features; the eyes, through the rheum
of age, glittered forth black and malignant; and even her stooping
posture did not conceal a height greatly above the common stature,
though gaunt and shrivelled with years and poverty. It was a form and
face that might have recalled at once the celebrated description of
Otway, on a part of which we have already unconsciously encroached, and
the remaining part of which we shall wholly borrow.

“--On her crooked shoulders had she wrapped The tattered remnants of an
old stript hanging, That served to keep her carcase from the cold, So
there was nothing of a piece about her. Her lower weeds were all o’er
coarsely patched With different coloured rags, black, red, white,
yellow, And seemed to speak variety of wretchedness.”

“See,” said Lester, “one of the eyesores of our village, (I might say)
the only discontented person.”

“What! Dame Darkmans!” said Ellinor, quickly. “Ah! let us turn back. I
hate to encounter that old woman; there is something so evil and savage
in her manner of talk--and look, how she rates that poor girl, whom she
has dragged or decoyed to assist her!”

Aram looked curiously on the old hag. “Poverty,” said he, “makes some
humble, but more malignant; is it not want that grafts the devil on this
poor woman’s nature? Come, let us accost her--I like conferring with
distress.”

“It is hard labour this?” said the Student gently.

The old woman looked up askant--the music of the voice that addressed
her sounded harsh on her ear.

“Ay, ay!” she answered. “You fine gentlefolks can know what the poor
suffer; ye talk and ye talk, but ye never assist.”

“Say not so, Dame,” said Lester; “did I not send you but yesterday bread
and money? and when do you ever look up at the Hall without obtaining
relief?”

“But the bread was as dry as a stick,” growled the hag: “and the money,
what was it? will it last a week? Oh, yes! Ye think as much of your
doits and mites, as if ye stripped yourselves of a comfort to give it
to us. Did ye have a dish less--a ‘tato less, the day ye sent me--your
charity I ‘spose ye calls it? Och! fie! But the Bible’s the poor
cretur’s comfort.”

“I am glad to hear you say that, Dame,” said the good-natured Lester;
“and I forgive every thing else you have said, on account of that one
sentence.”

The old woman dropped the sticks she had just gathered, and glowered
at the speaker’s benevolent countenance with a malicious meaning in her
dark eyes.

“An’ ye do? Well, I’m glad I please ye there. Och! yes! the Bible’s a
mighty comfort; for it says as much that the rich man shall not inter
the kingdom of Heaven! There’s a truth for you, that makes the poor
folk’s heart chirp like a cricket--ho! ho! I sits by the imbers of a
night, and I thinks and thinks as how I shall see you all burning;
and ye’ll ask me for a drop o’ water, and I shall laugh thin from my
pleasant seat with the angels. Och--it’s a book for the poor that!”

The sisters shuddered. “And you think then that with envy, malice,
and all uncharitableness at your heart, you are certain of Heaven? For
shame! Pluck the mote from your own eye!”

“What sinnifies praching? Did not the Blessed Saviour come for the poor?
Them as has rags and dry bread here will be ixalted in the nixt world;
an’ if we poor folk have malice as ye calls it, whose fault’s that? What
do ye tache us? Eh?--answer me that. Ye keeps all the larning an’ all
the other fine things to yoursel’, and then ye scould, and thritten, and
hang us, ‘cause we are not as wise as you. Och! there is no jistice in
the Lamb, if Heaven is not made for us; and the iverlasting Hell, with
its brimstone and fire, and its gnawing an’ gnashing of teeth, an’ its
theirst, an’ its torture, and its worm that niver dies, for the like o’
you.”

“Come! come away,” said Ellinor, pulling her father’s arm.

“And if,” said Aram, pausing, “if I were to say to you,--name your want
and it shall be fulfilled, would you have no charity for me also?”

“Umph,” returned the hag, “ye are the great scolard; and they say
ye knows what no one else do. Till me now,” and she approached, and
familiarly, laid her bony finger on the student’s arm; “till me,--have
ye iver, among other fine things, known poverty?”

“I have, woman!” said Aram, sternly.

“Och ye have thin! And did ye not sit and gloat, and eat up your oun
heart, an’ curse the sun that looked so gay, an’ the winged things that
played so blithe-like, an’ scowl at the rich folk that niver wasted a
thought on ye? till me now, your honour, till me!”

And the crone curtesied with a mock air of beseeching humility.

“I never forgot, even in want, the love due to my fellow-sufferers; for,
woman, we all suffer,--the rich and the poor: there are worse pangs than
those of want!”

“Ye think there be, do ye? that’s a comfort, umph! Well, I’ll till ye
now, I feel a rispict for you, that I don’t for the rest on ‘em; for
your face does not insult me with being cheary like their’s yonder;
an’ I have noted ye walk in the dusk with your eyes down and your arms
crossed; an’ I have said,--that man I do not hate, somehow, for he has
something dark at his heart like me!”

“The lot of earth is woe,” answered Aram calmly, yet shrinking back
from the crone’s touch; “judge we charitably, and act we kindly to each
other. There--this money is not much, but it will light your hearth and
heap your table without toil, for some days at least!”

“Thank your honour: an’ what think you I’ll do with the money?”

“What?”

“Drink, drink, drink!” cried the hag fiercely; “there’s nothing like
drink for the poor, for thin we fancy oursels what we wish, and,”
 sinking her voice into a whisper, “I thinks thin that I have my foot
on the billies of the rich folks, and my hands twisted about their
intrails, and I hear them shriek, and--thin I’m happy!”

“Go home!” said Aram, turning away, “and open the Book of life with
other thoughts.”

The little party proceeded, and, looking back, Lester saw the old woman
gaze after them, till a turn in the winding valley hid her from his
sight.

“That is a strange person, Aram; scarcely a favourable specimen of the
happy English peasant;” said Lester, smiling.

“Yet they say,” added Madeline, “that she was not always the same
perverse and hateful creature she is now.”

“Ay,” said Aram, “and what then is her history?”

“Why,” replied Madeline, slightly blushing to find herself made the
narrator of a story, “some forty years ago this woman, so gaunt and
hideous now, was the beauty of the village. She married an Irish soldier
whose regiment passed through Grassdale, and was heard of no more
till about ten years back, when she returned to her native place, the
discontented, envious, altered being you now see her.”

“She is not reserved in regard to her past life,” said Lester. “She is
too happy to seize the attention of any one to whom she can pour forth
her dark and angry confidence. She saw her husband, who was afterwards
dismissed the service, a strong, powerful man, a giant of his tribe,
pine and waste, inch by inch, from mere physical want, and at last
literally die from hunger. It happened that they had settled in the
country in which her husband was born, and in that county, those
frequent famines which are the scourge of Ireland were for two years
especially severe. You may note, that the old woman has a strong vein of
coarse eloquence at her command, perhaps acquired in (for it partakes of
the natural character of) the country in which she lived so long; and it
would literally thrill you with horror to hear her descriptions of the
misery and destitution that she witnessed, and amidst which her husband
breathed his last. Out of four children, not one survives. One, an
infant, died within a week of the father; two sons were executed, one
at the age of sixteen, one a year older, for robbery committed under
aggravated circumstances; and the fourth, a daughter, died in the
hospitals of London. The old woman became a wanderer and a vagrant, and
was at length passed to her native parish, where she has since dwelt.
These are the misfortunes which have turned her blood to gall; and these
are the causes which fill her with so bitter a hatred against those whom
wealth has preserved from sharing or witnessing a fate similar to hers.”

“Oh!” said Aram, in a low, but deep tone, “when--when will these hideous
disparities be banished from the world? How many noble natures--how many
glorious hopes--how much of the seraph’s intellect, have been crushed
into the mire, or blasted into guilt, by the mere force of physical
want? What are the temptations of the rich to those of the poor? Yet see
how lenient we are to the crimes of the one,--how relentless to those of
the other! It is a bad world; it makes a man’s heart sick to look around
him. The consciousness of how little individual genius can do to relieve
the mass, grinds out, as with a stone, all that is generous in ambition;
and to aspire from the level of life is but to be more graspingly
selfish.”

“Can legislators, or the moralists that instruct legislators, do so
little, then, towards universal good?” said Lester, doubtingly.

“Why? what can they do but forward civilization? And what is
civilization, but an increase of human disparities? The more the luxury
of the few, the more startling the wants, and the more galling the
sense, of poverty. Even the dreams of the philanthropist only tend
towards equality; and where is equality to be found, but in the state
of the savage? No; I thought otherwise once; but I now regard the
vast lazar-house around us without hope of relief:--Death is the sole
Physician!”

“Ah, no!” said the high-souled Madeline, eagerly; “do not take away from
us the best feeling and the highest desire we can cherish. How poor,
even in this beautiful world, with the warm sun and fresh air about us,
that alone are sufficient to make us glad, would be life, if we could
not make the happiness of others!”

Aram looked at the beautiful speaker with a soft and half-mournful
smile. There is one very peculiar pleasure that we feel as we grow
older,--it is to see embodied in another and a more lovely shape the
thoughts and sentiments we once nursed ourselves; it is as if we viewed
before us the incarnation of our own youth; and it is no wonder that we
are warmed towards the object, that thus seems the living apparition
of all that was brightest in ourselves! It was with this sentiment
that Aram now gazed on Madeline. She felt the gaze, and her heart beat
delightedly, but she sunk at once into a silence, which she did not
break during the rest of their walk.

“I do not say,” said Aram, after a pause, “that we are not able to make
the happiness of those immediately around us. I speak only of what
we can effect for the mass. And it is a deadening thought to mental
ambition, that the circle of happiness we can create is formed more by
our moral than our mental qualities. A warm heart, though accompanied
but by a mediocre understanding, is even more likely to promote the
happiness of those around, than are the absorbed and abstract, though
kindly powers of a more elevated genius; but (observing Lester about
to interrupt him), let us turn from this topic,--let us turn from man’s
weakness to the glories of the mother-nature, from which he sprung.”

And kindling, as he ever did, the moment he approached a subject so
dear to his studies, Aram now spoke of the stars, which began to sparkle
forth,--of the vast, illimitable career which recent science had opened
to the imagination,--and of the old, bewildering, yet eloquent theories,
which from age to age had at once misled and elevated the conjecture of
past sages. All this was a theme which his listeners loved to listen
to, and Madeline not the least. Youth, beauty, pomp, what are these,
in point of attraction, to a woman’s heart, when compared to
eloquence?--the magic of the tongue is the most dangerous of all spells!



CHAPTER VIII.

   THE PRIVILEGE OF GENIUS.--LESTER’S SATISFACTION AT THE ASPECT
    OF EVENTS.--HIS CONVERSATION WITH WALTER.--A DISCOVERY.

       “Alc.--I am for Lidian:
       This accident no doubt will draw him from his hermit’s life!

       “Lis.--Spare my grief, and apprehend
       What I should speak.”
          --Beaumont and Fletcher.--The Lovers’ Progress.

In the course of the various conversations our family of Grassdale
enjoyed with their singular neighbour, it appeared that his knowledge
had not been confined to the closet; at times, he dropped remarks
which shewed that he had been much among cities, and travelled with the
design, or at least with the vigilance, of the observer; but he did
not love to be drawn into any detailed accounts of what he had seen,
or whither he had been; an habitual though a gentle reserve, kept watch
over the past--not indeed that character of reserve which excites the
doubt, but which inspires the interest. His most gloomy moods were
rather abrupt and fitful than morose, and his usual bearing was calm,
soft, and even tender.

There is a certain charm about great superiority of intellect,
that winds into deep affections which a much more constant and even
amiability of manners in lesser men, often fails to reach. Genius makes
many enemies, but it makes sure friends--friends who forgive much,
who endure long, who exact little; they partake of the character of
disciples as well as friends. There lingers about the human heart a
strong inclination to look upward--to revere: in this inclination
lies the source of religion, of loyalty, and also of the worship and
immortality which are rendered so cheerfully to the great of old. And
in truth, it is a divine pleasure to admire! admiration seems in some
measure to appropriate to ourselves the qualities it honours in others.
We wed,--we root ourselves to the natures we so love to contemplate,
and their life grows a part of our own. Thus, when a great man, who has
engrossed our thoughts, our conjectures, our homage, dies, a gap seems
suddenly left in the world; a wheel in the mechanism of our own being
appears abruptly stilled; a portion of ourselves, and not our worst
portion, for how many pure, high, generous sentiments it contains, dies
with him! Yes! it is this love, so rare, so exalted, and so denied to
all ordinary men, which is the especial privilege of greatness, whether
that greatness be shewn in wisdom, in enterprise, in virtue, or even,
till the world learns better, in the more daring and lofty order of
crime. A Socrates may claim it to-day--a Napoleon to-morrow; nay, a
brigand chief, illustrious in the circle in which he lives, may call it
forth no less powerfully than the generous failings of a Byron, or the
sublime excellence of the greater Milton.

Lester saw with evident complacency the passion growing up between
his friend and his daughter; he looked upon it as a tie that would
permanently reconcile Aram to the hearth of social and domestic life; a
tie that would constitute the happiness of his daughter, and secure to
himself a relation in the man he felt most inclined, of all he knew, to
honour and esteem. He remarked in the gentleness and calm temper of
Aram much that was calculated to ensure domestic peace, and knowing
the peculiar disposition of Madeline, he felt that she was exactly the
person, not only to bear with the peculiarities of the Student, but to
venerate their source. In short, the more he contemplated the idea of
this alliance, the more he was charmed with its probability.

Musing on this subject, the good Squire was one day walking in his
garden, when he perceived his nephew at some distance, and remarked that
Walter, on seeing him, was about, instead of coming forward to meet him,
to turn down an alley in an opposite direction.

A little pained at this, and remembering that Walter had of late seemed
estranged from himself, and greatly altered from the high and cheerful
spirits natural to his temper, Lester called to his nephew; and Walter,
reluctantly and slowly changing his purpose of avoidance, advanced and
met him.

“Why, Walter!” said the uncle, taking his arm; “this is somewhat unkind,
to shun me; are you engaged in any pursuit that requires secrecy or
haste?”

“No, indeed, Sir!” said Walter, with some embarrassment; “but I thought
you seemed wrapped in reflection, and would naturally dislike being
disturbed.”

“Hem! as to that, I have no reflections I wish concealed from you,
Walter, or which might not be benefited by your advice.” The youth
pressed his uncle’s hand, but made no reply; and Lester, after a pause,
continued:--

“You seem, Walter, I am most delighted to think, entirely to have
overcome the little unfavourable prepossession which at first you
testified towards our excellent neighbour. And for my part, I think
he appears to be especially attracted towards yourself, he seeks your
company; and to me he always speaks of you in terms, which, coming from
such a quarter, give me the most lively gratification.”

Walter bowed his head, but not in the delighted vanity with which a
young man generally receives the assurance of another’s praise.

“I own,” renewed Lester, “that I consider our friendship with Aram one
of the most fortunate occurrences in my life; at least,” added he with
a sigh, “of late years. I doubt not but you must have observed the
partiality with which our dear Madeline evidently regards him; and yet
more, the attachment to her, which breaks forth from Aram, in spite
of his habitual reserve and self-control. You have surely noted this,
Walter?”

“I have,” said Walter, in a low tone, and turning away his head.

“And doubtless you share my satisfaction. It happens fortunately now,
that Madeline early contracted that studious and thoughtful turn, which
I must own at one time gave me some uneasiness and vexation. It has
taught her to appreciate the value of a mind like Aram’s. Formerly, my
dear boy, I hoped that at one time or another, she and yourself might
form a dearer connection than that of cousins. But I was disappointed,
and I am now consoled. And indeed I think there is that in Ellinor which
might be yet more calculated to render you happy; that is, if the bias
of your mind should ever lean that way.”

“You are very good,” said Walter, bitterly. “I own I am not flattered by
your selection; nor do I see why the plainest and least brilliant of the
two sisters must necessarily be the fittest for me.”

“Nay,” replied Lester, piqued, and justly angry, “I do not think, even
if Madeline have the advantage of her sister, that you can find any
fault with the personal or mental attractions of Ellinor. But indeed
this is not a matter in which relations should interfere. I am far from
any wish to prevent you from choosing throughout the world any one
whom you may prefer. All I hope is, that your future wife will be like
Ellinor in kindness of heart and sweetness of temper.”

“From choosing throughout the world!” repeated Walter; “and how in this
nook am I to see the world?”

“Walter! your voice is reproachful!--do I deserve it?”

Walter was silent.

“I have of late observed,” continued Lester, “and with wounded feelings,
that you do not give me the same confidence, or meet me with the same
affection, that you once delighted me by manifesting towards me. I know
of no cause for this change. Do not let us, my son, for I may so call
you--do not let us, as we grow older, grow also more apart. Time divides
with a sufficient demarcation the young from the old; why deepen the
necessary line? You know well, that I have never from your childhood
insisted heavily on a guardian’s authority. I have always loved to
contribute to your enjoyments, and shewn you how devoted I am to your
interests, by the very frankness with which I have consulted you on my
own. If there be now on your mind any secret grievance, or any secret
wish, speak it, Walter:--you are alone with the friend on earth who
loves you best!”

Walter was wholly overcome by this address: he pressed his good
uncle’s hand to his lips, and it was some moments before he mustered
self-composure sufficient to reply.

“You have ever, ever been to me all that the kindest parent, the
tenderest friend could have been:--believe me, I am not ungrateful.
If of late I have been altered, the cause is not in you. Let me speak
freely: you encourage me to do so. I am young, my temper is restless; I
have a love of enterprise and adventure: is it not natural that I should
long to see the world? This is the cause of my late abstraction of mind.
I have now told you all: it is for you to decide.”

Lester looked wistfully on his nephew’s countenance before he replied--

“It is as I gathered,” said he, “from various remarks which you have
lately let fall. I cannot blame your wish to leave us; it is certainly
natural: nor can I oppose it. Go, Walter, when you will!”

The young man turned round with a lighted eye and flushed cheek.

“And why, Walter?” said Lester, interrupting his thanks, “why this
surprise? why this long doubt of my affection? Could you believe I
should refuse a wish that, at your age, I should have expressed myself?
You have wronged me; you might have saved a world of pain to us both by
acquainting me with your desire when it was first formed; but, enough. I
see Madeline and Aram approach,--let us join them now, and to-morrow we
will arrange the time and method of your departure.

“Forgive me, Sir,” said Walter, stopping abruptly as the glow faded
from his cheek, “I have not yet recovered myself; I am not fit for other
society than yours. Excuse my joining my cousin, and--”

“Walter!” said Lester, also stopping short and looking full on his
nephew, “a painful thought flashes upon me! Would to heaven I may be
wrong!--Have you ever felt for Madeline more tenderly than for her
sister?”

Walter literally trembled as he stood. The tears rushed into Lester’s
eyes:--he grasped his nephew’s hand warmly--

“God comfort thee, my poor boy!” said he, with great emotion; “I never
dreamt of this.”

Walter felt now that he was understood. He gratefully returned the
pressure of his uncle’s hand, and then, withdrawing his own, darted down
one of the intersecting walks, and was almost instantly out of sight.



CHAPTER IX.

    THE STATE OF WALTER’S MIND.--AN ANGLER AND A MAN OF THE
         WORLD.--A COMPANION FOUND FOR WALTER.

          “This great disease for love I dre,
           There is no tongue can tell the wo;
          I love the love that loves not me,
           I may not mend, but mourning mo.”
                 --The Mourning Maiden.

          “I in these flowery meads would be,
          These crystal streams should solace me,
          To whose harmonious bubbling voice

          I with my angle would rejoice.”
               --Izaac Walton.

When Walter left his uncle, he hurried, scarcely conscious of his steps,
towards his favourite haunt by the water-side. From a child, he had
singled out that scene as the witness of his early sorrows or boyish
schemes; and still, the solitude of the place cherished the habit of his
boyhood.

Long had he, unknown to himself, nourished an attachment to his
beautiful cousin; nor did he awaken to the secret of his heart, until,
with an agonizing jealousy, he penetrated the secret at her own. The
reader has, doubtless, already perceived that it was this jealousy which
at the first occasioned Walter’s dislike to Aram: the consolation of
that dislike was forbid him now. The gentleness and forbearance of the
Student’s deportment had taken away all ground of offence; and Walter
had sufficient generosity to acknowledge his merits, while tortured
by their effect. Silently, till this day, he had gnawed his heart, and
found for its despair no confidant and no comfort. The only wish that
he cherished was a feverish and gloomy desire to leave the scene which
witnessed the triumph of his rival. Every thing around had become
hateful to his eyes, and a curse had lighted upon the face of Home. He
thought now, with a bitter satisfaction, that his escape was at hand: in
a few days he might be rid of the gall and the pang, which every moment
of his stay at Grassdale inflicted upon him. The sweet voice of Madeline
he should hear no more, subduing its silver sound for his rival’s
ear:--no more he should watch apart, and himself unheeded, how timidly
her glance roved in search of another, or how vividly her cheek flushed
when the step of that happier one approached. Many miles would at least
shut out this picture from his view; and in absence, was it not possible
that he might teach himself to forget? Thus meditating, he arrived at
the banks of the little brooklet, and was awakened from his reverie by
the sound of his own name. He started, and saw the old Corporal seated
on the stump of a tree, and busily employed in fixing to his line the
mimic likeness of what anglers, and, for aught we know, the rest of the
world, call the “violet fly.”

“Ha! master,--at my day’s work, you see:--fit for nothing else now. When
a musquet’s halfworn out, schoolboys buy it--pop it at sparrows. I be
like the musket: but never mind--have not seen the world for nothing. We
get reconciled to all things: that’s my way--augh! Now, Sir, you shall
watch me catch the finest trout you have seen this summer: know where he
lies--under the bush yonder. Whi--sh! Sir, whi--sh!”

The Corporal now gave his warrior soul up to the due guidance of the
violet-fly: now he shipped it lightly on the wave; now he slid it
coquettishly along the surface; now it floated, like an unconscious
beauty, carelessly with the tide; and now, like an artful prude, it
affected to loiter by the way, or to steal into designing obscurity
under the shade of some overhanging bank. But none of these manoeuvres
captivated the wary old trout on whose acquisition the Corporal had
set his heart; and what was especially provoking, the angler could see
distinctly the dark outline of the intended victim, as it lay at the
bottom,--like some well-regulated bachelor who eyes from afar the charms
he has discreetly resolved to neglect.

The Corporal waited till he could no longer blind himself to the
displeasing fact, that the violet-fly was wholly inefficacious; he then
drew up his line, and replaced the contemned beauty of the violet-fly,
with the novel attractions of the yellow-dun.

“Now, Sir!” whispered he, lifting up his finger, and nodding sagaciously
to Walter. Softly dropped the yellow-dun upon the water, and swiftly did
it glide before the gaze of the latent trout; and now the trout seemed
aroused from his apathy, behold he moved forward, balancing himself on
his fins; now he slowly ascended towards the surface; you might see all
the speckles of his coat;--the Corporal’s heart stood still--he is
now at a convenient distance from the yellow-dun; lo, he surveys it
steadfastly; he ponders, he see-saws himself to and fro. The yellow-dun
sails away in affected indifference, that indifference whets the
appetite of the hesitating gazer, he darts forward; he is opposite
the yellow-dun,--he pushes his nose against it with an eager
rudeness,--he--no, he does not bite, he recoils, he gazes again with
surprise and suspicion on the little charmer; he fades back slowly
into the deeper water, and then suddenly turning his tail towards the
disappointed bait, he makes off as fast as he can,--yonder,--yonder, and
disappears! No, that’s he leaping yonder from the wave; Jupiter! what
a noble fellow! What leaps he at?--a real fly--“Damn his eyes!” growled
the Corporal.

“You might have caught him with a minnow,” said Walter, speaking for the
first time.

“Minnow!” repeated the Corporal gruffly, “ask your honour’s pardon.
Minnow!--I have fished with the yellow-dun these twenty years, and never
knew it fail before. Minnow!--baugh! But ask pardon; your honour is very
welcome to fish with a minnow if you please it.”

“Thank you, Bunting. And pray what sport have you had to-day?”

“Oh,--good, good,” quoth the Corporal, snatching up his basket and
closing the cover, lest the young Squire should pry into it. No man is
more tenacious of his secrets than your true angler. “Sent the best home
two hours ago; one weighed three pounds, on the faith of a man; indeed,
I’m satisfied now; time to give up;” and the Corporal began to disjoint
his rod.

“Ah, Sir!” said he, with a half sigh, “a pretty river this, don’t mean
to say it is not; but the river Lea for my money. You know the Lea?--not
a morning’s walk from Lunnun. Mary Gibson, my first sweetheart, lived
by the bridge,--caught such a trout there by the by!--had beautiful
eyes--black, round as a cherry--five feet eight without shoes--might
have listed in the forty-second.”

“Who, Bunting!” said Walter smiling, “the lady or the trout?”

“Augh!--baugh!--what? Oh, laughing at me, your honour, you’re welcome,
Sir. Love’s a silly thing--know the world now--have not fallen in love
these ten years. I doubt--no offence, Sir, no offence--I doubt whether
your honour and Miss Ellinor can say as much.”

“I and Miss Ellinor!--you forge yourself strangely, Bunting,” said
Walter, colouring with anger.

“Beg pardon, Sir, beg pardon--rough soldier--lived away from the world
so long, words slipped out of my mouth--absent without leave.”

“But why,” said Walter, smothering or conquering his vexation,--“why
couple me with Miss Ellinor? Did you imagine that we,--we were in love
with each other?”

“Indeed, Sir, and if I did, ‘tis no more than my neighbours imagine
too.”

“Humph! your neighbours are very silly, then, and very wrong.”

“Beg pardon, Sir, again--always getting askew. Indeed some did say
it was Miss Madeline, but I says,--says I,--‘No! I’m a man of the
world--see through a millstone; Miss Madeline’s too easy like; Miss
Nelly blushes when he speaks; scarlet is love’s regimentals--it was ours
in the forty-second, edged with yellow--pepper and salt pantaloons! For
my part I think,--but I’ve no business to think, howsomever--baugh!”

“Pray what do you think, Mr. Bunting? Why do you hesitate?”

“‘Fraid of offence--but I do think that Master Aram--your honour
understands--howsomever Squire’s daughter too great a match for such as
he!”

Walter did not answer; and the garrulous old soldier, who had been
the young man’s playmate and companion since Walter was a boy; and
was therefore accustomed to the familiarity with which he now spoke,
continued, mingling with his abrupt prolixity an occasional shrewdness
of observation, which shewed that he was no inattentive commentator on
the little and quiet world around him.

“Free to confess, Squire Walter, that I don’t quite like this larned
man, as much as the rest of ‘em--something queer about him--can’t see
to the bottom of him--don’t think he’s quite so meek and lamb-like as
he seems:--once saw a calm dead pool in foren parts--peered down into
it--by little and little, my eye got used to it--saw something dark
at the bottom--stared and stared--by Jupiter--a great big
alligator!--walked off immediately--never liked quiet pools since--augh,
no!”

“An argument against quiet pools, perhaps, Bunting; but scarcely against
quiet people.”

“Don’t know as to that, your honour--much of a muchness. I have seen
Master Aram, demure as he looks, start, and bite his lip, and change
colour, and frown--he has an ugly frown, I can tell ye--when he thought
no one nigh. A man who gets in a passion with himself may be soon out
of temper with others. Free to confess, I should not like to see him
married to that stately beautiful young lady--but they do gossip about
it in the village. If it is not true, better put the Squire on his
guard--false rumours often beget truths--beg pardon, your honour--no
business of mine--baugh! But I’m a lone man, who have seen the world,
and I thinks on the things around me, and I turns over the quid--now on
this side, now on the other--‘tis my way, Sir--and--but I offend your
honour.”

“Not at all; I know you are an honest man, Bunting, and well affected
to our family; at the same time it is neither prudent nor charitable to
speak harshly of our neighbours without sufficient cause. And really you
seem to me to be a little hasty in your judgment of a man so inoffensive
in his habits and so justly and generally esteemed as Mr. Aram.”

“May be, Sir--may be,--very right what you say. But I thinks what I
thinks all the same; and indeed, it is a thing that puzzles me, how that
strange-looking vagabond, as frighted the ladies so, and who, Miss Nelly
told me, for she saw them in his pocket, carried pistols about him,
as if he had been among cannibals and hottentots, instead of the
peaceablest county that man ever set foot in, should boast of his
friendship with this larned schollard, and pass a whole night in his
house. Birds of a feather flock together--augh!--Sir!”

“A man cannot surely be answerable for the respectability of all
his acquaintances, even though he feel obliged to offer them the
accommodation of a night’s shelter.”

“Baugh!” grunted the Corporal. “Seen the world, Sir--seen the
world--young gentlemen are always so good-natured; ‘tis a pity, that the
more one sees the more suspicious one grows. One does not have gumption
till one has been properly cheated--one must be made a fool very often
in order not to be fooled at last!”

“Well, Corporal, I shall now have opportunities enough of profiting
by experience. I am going to leave Grassdale in a few days, and learn
suspicion and wisdom in the great world.”

“Augh! baugh!--what?” cried the Corporal, starting from the
contemplative air which he had hitherto assumed. “The great
world?--how?--when?--going away;--who goes with your honour?”

“My honour’s self; I have no companion, unless you like to attend me;”
 said Walter, jestingly--but the Corporal affected, with his natural
shrewdness, to take the proposition in earnest.

“I! your honour’s too good; and indeed, though I say it, Sir, you might
do worse; not but what I should be sorry to leave nice snug home here,
and this stream, though the trout have been shy lately,--ah! that was a
mistake of yours, Sir, recommending the minnow; and neighbour Dealtry,
though his ale’s not so good at ‘twas last year; and--and--but, in
short, I always loved your honour--dandled you on my knees;--You
recollect the broadsword exercise?--one, two, three--augh! baugh!--and
if your honour really is going, why rather than you should want a proper
person who knows the world, to brush your coat, polish your shoes, give
you good advice--on the faith of a man, I’ll go with you myself!”

This alacrity on the part of the Corporal was far from displeasing to
Walter. The proposal he had at first made unthinkingly, he now seriously
thought advisable; and at length it was settled that the Corporal should
call the next morning at the manor-house, and receive instructions as to
the time and method of their departure. Not forgetting, as the sagacious
Bunting delicately insinuated, “the wee settlements as to wages, and
board wages, more a matter of form, like, than any thing else--augh!”



CHAPTER X.

     THE LOVERS.--THE ENCOUNTER AND QUARREL OF THE RIVALS.

          Two such I saw, what time the laboured ox
          In his loose traces from the furrow came.
                 --Comus.

          Pedro. Now do me noble right.
          Rod. I’ll satisfy you;
          But not by the sword.
           --Beaumont and Fletcher.--The Pilgrim.

While Walter and the Corporal enjoyed the above conversation, Madeline
and Aram, whom Lester soon left to themselves, were pursuing their walk
along the solitary fields. Their love had passed from the eye to the
lip, and now found expression in words.

“Observe,” said he, as the light touch of one who he felt loved him
entirely rested on his arm,--“Observe, as the later summer now begins
to breathe a more various and mellow glory into the landscape, how
singularly pure and lucid the atmosphere becomes. When, two months ago,
in the full flush of June, I walked through these fields, a grey mist
hid yon distant hills and the far forest from my view. Now, with what a
transparent stillness the whole expanse of scenery spreads itself before
us. And such, Madeline, is the change that has come over myself since
that time. Then, if I looked beyond the limited present, all was dim
and indistinct. Now, the mist had faded away--the broad future extends
before me, calm and bright with the hope which is borrowed from your
love!”

We will not tax the patience of the reader, who seldom enters with keen
interest into the mere dialogue of love, with the blushing Madeline’s
reply, or with all the soft vows and tender confessions which the rich
poetry of Aram’s mind made yet more delicious to the ear of his dreaming
and devoted mistress.

“There is one circumstance,” said Aram, “which casts a momentary shade
on the happiness I enjoy--my Madeline probably guesses its nature. I
regret to see that the blessing of your love must be purchased by the
misery of another, and that other, the nephew of my kind friend. You
have doubtless observed the melancholy of Walter Lester, and have long
since known its origin.”

“Indeed, Eugene,” answered Madeline, “it has given me great pain to note
what you refer to, for it would be a false delicacy in me to deny that I
have observed it. But Walter is young and high-spirited; nor do I think
he is of a nature to love long where there is no return!”

“And what,” said Aram, sorrowfully,--“what deduction from reason can
ever apply to love? Love is a very contradiction of all the elements
of our ordinary nature,--it makes the proud man meek,--the cheerful,
sad,--the high-spirited, tame; our strongest resolutions, our hardiest
energy fail before it. Believe me, you cannot prophesy of its future
effect in a man from any knowledge of his past character. I grieve
to think that the blow falls upon one in early youth, ere the world’s
disappointments have blunted the heart, or the world’s numerous
interests have multiplied its resources. Men’s minds have been turned
when they have not well sifted the cause themselves, and their fortunes
marred, by one stroke on the affections of their youth. So at least have
I read, Madeline, and so marked in others. For myself, I knew nothing
of love in its reality till I knew you. But who can know you, and not
sympathise with him who has lost you?”

“Ah, Eugene! you at least overrate the influence which love produces on
men. A little resentment and a little absence will soon cure my cousin
of an ill-placed and ill-requited attachment. You do not think how easy
it is to forget.”

“Forget!” said Aram, stopping abruptly; “Ay, forget--it is a strange
truth! we do forget! the summer passes over the furrow, and the
corn springs up; the sod forgets the flower of the past year; the
battle-field forgets the blood that has been spilt upon its turf; the
sky forgets the storm; and the water the noon-day sun that slept upon
its bosom. All Nature preaches forgetfulness. Its very order is the
progress of oblivion. And I--I--give me your hand, Madeline,--I, ha! ha!
I forget too!”

As Aram spoke thus wildly, his countenance worked; but his voice was
slow, and scarcely audible; he seemed rather conferring with himself,
than addressing Madeline. But when his words ceased, and he felt the
soft hand of his betrothed, and turning, saw her anxious and wistful
eyes fixed in alarm, yet in all unsuspecting confidence, on his face;
his features relaxed into their usual serenity, and kissing the hand he
clasped, he continued, in a collected and steady tone,

“Forgive me, my sweetest Madeline. These fitful and strange moods
sometimes come upon me yet. I have been so long in the habit of pursuing
any train of thought, however wild, that presents itself to my mind,
that I cannot easily break it, even in your presence. All studious
men--the twilight Eremites of books and closets, contract this
ungraceful custom of soliloquy. You know our abstraction is a common
jest and proverb: you must laugh me out of it. But stay, dearest!--there
is a rare herb at your feet, let me gather it. So, do you note its
leaves--this bending and silver flower? Let us rest on this bank, and I
will tell you of its qualities. Beautiful as it is, it has a poison.”

The place in which the lovers rested, is one which the villagers to
this day call “The Lady’s-seat;” for Madeline, whose history is fondly
preserved in that district, was afterwards wont constantly to repair to
that bank (during a short absence of her lover, hereafter to be noted),
and subsequent events stamped with interest every spot she was known to
have favoured with resort. And when the flower had been duly conned,
and the study dismissed, Aram, to whom all the signs of the seasons were
familiar, pointed to her the thousand symptoms of the month which are
unheeded by less observant eyes; not forgetting, as they thus reclined,
their hands clasped together, to couple each remark with some allusion
to his love or some deduction which heightened compliment into poetry.
He bade her mark the light gossamer as it floated on the air; now
soaring high--high into the translucent atmosphere; now suddenly
stooping, and sailing away beneath the boughs, which ever and anon it
hung with a silken web, that by the next morn, would glitter with a
thousand dew drops. “And, so,” said he fancifully, “does Love lead forth
its numberless creations, making the air its path and empire; ascending
aloof at its wild will, hanging its meshes on every bough, and bidding
the common grass break into a fairy lustre at the beam of the daily
sun!”

He pointed to her the spot, where, in the silent brake, the harebells,
now waxing rare and few, yet lingered--or where the mystic ring on the
soft turf conjured up the associations of Oberon and his train. That
superstition gave licence and play to his full memory and glowing fancy;
and Shakspeare--Spenser--Ariosto--the magic of each mighty master of
Fairy Realm--he evoked, and poured into her transported ear. It was
precisely such arts, which to a gayer and more worldly nature than
Madeline’s might have seemed but wearisome, that arrested and won her
imaginative and high-wrought mind. And thus he, who to another might
have proved but the retired and moody Student, became to her the very
being of whom her “Maiden meditation” had dreamed--the master and
magician of her fate.

Aram did not return to the house with Madeline; he accompanied her to
the garden gate, and then taking leave of her, bent his way homeward. He
had gained the entrance of the little valley that led to his abode, when
he saw Walter cross his path at a short distance. His heart, naturally
susceptible to kindly emotion, smote him as he remarked the moody
listlessness of the young man’s step, and recalled the buoyant lightness
it was once wont habitually to wear. He quickened his pace, and joined
Walter before the latter was aware of his presence.

“Good evening,” said he, mildly; “if you are going my way, give me the
benefit of your company.”

“My path lies yonder,” replied Walter, somewhat sullenly; “I regret that
it is different from yours.”

“In that case,” said Aram, “I can delay my return home, and will, with
your leave, intrude my society upon you for some few minutes.”

Walter bowed his head in reluctant assent. They walked on for some
moments without speaking, the one unwilling, the other seeking an
occasion, to break the silence.

“This to my mind,” said Aram at length, “is the most pleasing landscape
in the whole country; observe the bashful water stealing away among the
woodlands. Methinks the wave is endowed with an instinctive wisdom, that
it thus shuns the world.”

“Rather,” said Walter, “with the love for change which exists everywhere
in nature, it does not seek the shade until it has passed by ‘towered
cities, and ‘the busy hum of men.’”

“I admire the shrewdness of your reply,” rejoined Aram; “but note how
far more pure and lovely are its waters in these retreats, than when
washing the walls of the reeking town, receiving into its breast the
taint of a thousand pollutions, vexed by the sound, and stench, and
unholy perturbation of men’s dwelling-place. Now it glasses only what is
high or beautiful in nature--the stars or the leafy banks. The wind
that ruffles it, is clothed with perfumes; the rivulet that swells it,
descends from the everlasting mountains, or is formed by the rains of
Heaven. Believe me, it is the type of a life that glides into solitude,
from the weariness and fretful turmoil of the world.

‘No flattery, hate, or envy lodgeth there, There no suspicion walled in
proved steel, Yet fearful of the arms herself doth wear, Pride is not
there; no tyrant there we feel!’”

[Phineas Fletcher.]

“I will not cope with you in simile, or in poetry,” said Walter, as his
lip curved; “it is enough for me to think that life should be spent in
action. I hasten to prove if my judgment be erroneous.”

“Are you, then, about to leave us?” inquired Aram.

“Yes, within a few days.”

“Indeed, I regret to hear it.”

The answer sounded jarringly on the irritated nerves of the disappointed
rival.

“You do me more honour than I desire,” said he, “in interesting
yourself, however lightly, in my schemes or fortune!”

“Young man,” replied Aram, coldly, “I never see the impetuous and
yearning spirit of youth without a certain, and it may be, a painful
interest. How feeble is the chance, that its hopes will be fulfilled!
Enough, if it lose not all its loftier aspirings, as well as its
brighter expectations.”

Nothing more aroused the proud and fiery temper of Walter Lester than
the tone of superior wisdom and superior age, which his rival assumed
towards him. More and more displeased with his present companion, he
answered, in no conciliatory tone, “I cannot but consider the warning
and the fears of one, neither my relation nor my friend, in the light of
a gratuitous affront.”

Aram smiled as he answered,

“There is no occasion for resentment. Preserve this hot spirit, and high
self-confidence, till you return again to these scenes, and I shall be
at once satisfied and corrected.”

“Sir,” said Walter, colouring, and irritated more by the smile than the
words of his rival, “I am not aware by what right or on what ground you
assume towards me the superiority, not only of admonition but reproof.
My uncle’s preference towards you gives you no authority over me. That
preference I do not pretend to share.”--He paused for a moment, thinking
Aram might hasten to reply; but as the Student walked on with his usual
calmness of demeanour, he added, stung by the indifference which he
attributed, not altogether without truth, to disdain, “And since you
have taken upon yourself to caution me, and to forebode my inability
to resist the contamination, as you would term it, of the world, I tell
you, that it may be happy for you to bear so clear a conscience, so
untouched a spirit as that which I now boast, and with which I trust in
God and my own soul I shall return to my birth-place. It is not the holy
only that love solitude; and men may shun the world from another motive
than that of philosophy.”

It was now Aram’s turn to feel resentment, and this was indeed an
insinuation not only unwarrantable in itself, but one which a man of
so peaceable and guileless a life, affecting even an extreme and rigid
austerity of morals, might well be tempted to repel with scorn and
indignation; and Aram, however meek and forbearing in general, testified
in this instance that his wonted gentleness arose from no lack of
man’s natural spirit. He laid his hand commandingly on young Lester’s
shoulder, and surveyed his countenance with a dark and menacing frown.

“Boy!” said he, “were there meaning in your words, I should (mark me!)
avenge the insult;--as it is, I despise it. Go!”

So high and lofty was Aram’s manner--so majestic was the sternness of
his rebuke, and the dignity of his bearing, as he now waving his hand
turned away, that Walter lost his self-possession and stood fixed to the
spot, absorbed, and humbled from his late anger. It was not till Aram
had moved with a slow step several paces backward towards his home,
that the bold and haughty temper of the young man returned to his aid.
Ashamed of himself for the momentary weakness he had betrayed, and
burning to redeem it, he hastened after the stately form of his rival,
and planting himself full in his path, said, in a voice half choked with
contending emotions,

“Hold!--you have given me the opportunity I have long desired; you
yourself have now broken that peace which existed between us, and which
to me was more bitter than wormwood. You have dared,--yes, dared to use
threatening language towards me. I call on you to fulfil your threat. I
tell you that I meant, I designed, I thirsted to affront you. Now resent
my purposed--premeditated affront as you will and can!”

There was something remarkable in the contrasted figures of the rivals,
as they now stood fronting each other. The elastic and vigorous form of
Walter Lester, his sparkling eyes, his sunburnt and glowing cheek, his
clenched hands, and his whole frame, alive and eloquent with the energy,
the heat, the hasty courage, and fiery spirit of youth; on the other
hand,--the bending frame of the student, gradually rising into the
dignity of its full height--his pale cheek, in which the wan hues
neither deepened nor waned, his large eye raised to meet Walter’s
bright, steady, and yet how calm! Nothing weak, nothing irresolute could
be traced in that form--or that lofty countenance; yet all resentment
had vanished from his aspect. He seemed at once tranquil and prepared.

“You designed to affront me!” said he; “it is well--it is a noble
confession;--and wherefore? What do you propose to gain by it?--a man
whose whole life is peace, you would provoke to outrage? Would there be
triumph in this, or disgrace?--A man whom your uncle honours and loves,
you would insult without cause--you would waylay--you would, after
watching and creating your opportunity, entrap into defending himself.
Is this worthy of that high spirit of which you boasted?--is this worthy
a generous anger, or a noble hatred? Away! you malign yourself. I shrink
from no quarrel--why should I? I have nothing to fear: my nerves are
firm--my heart is faithful to my will; my habits may have diminished my
strength, but it is yet equal to that of most men. As to the weapons
of the world--they fall not to my use. I might be excused by the most
punctilious, for rejecting what becomes neither my station nor my habits
of life; but I learnt this much from books long since, ‘hold thyself
prepared for all things:’--I am so prepared. And as I can command the
spirit, I lack not the skill, to defend myself, or return the hostility
of another.” As Aram thus said, he drew a pistol from his bosom; and
pointed it leisurely towards a tree, at the distance of some paces.

“Look,” said he, “you note that small discoloured and white stain in
the bark--you can but just observe it;--he who can send a bullet through
that spot, need not fear to meet the quarrel which he seeks to avoid.”

Walter turned mechanically, and indignant, though silent, towards the
tree. Aram fired, and the ball penetrated the centre of the stain. He
then replaced the pistol in his bosom, and said:--

“Early in life I had many enemies, and I taught myself these arts. From
habit, I still bear about me the weapons I trust and pray I may never
have occasion to use. But to return.--I have offended you--I have
incurred your hatred--why? What are my sins?”

“Do you ask the cause?” said Walter, speaking between his ground teeth.
“Have you not traversed my views--blighted my hopes--charmed away from
me the affections which were more to me than the world, and driven me
to wander from my home with a crushed spirit, and a cheerless heart. Are
these no cause for hate?”

“Have I done this?” said Aram, recoiling, and evidently and powerfully
affected. “Have I so injured you?--It is true! I know it--I perceive
it--I read your heart; and--bear witness Heaven!--I felt for the wound
that I, but with no guilty hand, inflict upon you. Yet be just:--ask
yourself, have I done aught that you, in my case, would have left
undone? Have I been insolent in triumph, or haughty in success? if so,
hate me, nay, spurn me now.”

Walter turned his head irresolutely away.

“If it please you, that I accuse myself, in that I, a man seared
and lone at heart, presumed to come within the pale of human
affections;--that I exposed myself to cross another’s better and
brighter hopes, or dared to soften my fate with the tender and endearing
ties that are meet alone for a more genial and youthful nature;--if it
please you that I accuse and curse myself for this--that I yielded to it
with pain and with self-reproach--that I shall think hereafter of what I
unconsciously cost you with remorse--then be consoled!”

“It is enough,” said Walter; “let us part. I leave you with more
soreness at my late haste than I will acknowledge, let that content you;
for myself, I ask for no apology or--.”

“But you shall have it amply,” interrupted Aram, advancing with a
cordial openness of mien not usual to him. “I was all to blame; I should
have remembered you were an injured man, and suffered you to have said
all you would. Words at best are but a poor vent for a wronged and
burning heart. It shall be so in future, speak your will, attack,
upbraid, taunt me, I will bear it all. And indeed, even to myself
there seems some witchcraft, some glamoury in what has chanced. What! I
favoured where you love? Is it possible? It might teach the vainest
to forswear vanity. You, the young, the buoyant, the fresh, the
beautiful?--And I, who have passed the glory and zest of life between
dusty walls; I who--well, well, fate laughs at probabilities!”

Aram now seemed relapsing into one of his more abstracted moods; he
ceased to speak aloud, but his lips moved, and his eyes grew fixed in
reverie on the ground. Walter gazed at him for some moments with mixed
and contending sensations. Once more, resentment and the bitter wrath
of jealousy had faded back into the remoter depths of his mind, and a
certain interest for his singular rival, despite of himself, crept into
his breast. But this mysterious and fitful nature, was it one in which
the devoted Madeline would certainly find happiness and repose?--would
she never regret her choice? This question obtruded itself upon him,
and while he sought to answer it, Aram, regaining his composure, turned
abruptly and offered him his hand. Walter did not accept it, he bowed
with a cold respect. “I cannot give my hand without my heart,” said he;
“we were foes just now; we are not friends yet. I am unreasonable in
this, I know, but--”

“Be it so,” interrupted Aram; “I understand you. I press my good will on
you no more. When this pang is forgotten, when this wound is healed,
and when you will have learned more of him who is now your rival, we may
meet again with other feelings on your side.”

Thus they parted, and the solitary lamp which for weeks past had been
quenched at the wholesome hour in the Student’s home, streamed from the
casement throughout the whole of that night; was it a witness of the
calm and learned vigil, or of the unresting heart?



CHAPTER XI.

     THE FAMILY SUPPER.--THE TWO SISTERS IN THEIR CHAMBER.
  --A MISUNDERSTANDING FOLLOWED BY A CONFESSION.--WALTER’S
   APPROACHING DEPARTURE AND THE CORPORAL’S BEHAVIOUR THEREON.--
    THE CORPORAL’S FAVOURITE INTRODUCED TO THE READER.--THE
       CORPORAL PROVES HIMSELF A SUBTLE DIPLOMATIST.

                    So we grew together
          Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
          But yet an union in partition.
              --Midsummer Night’s Dream.

        The Corporal had not taken his measures so badly
        in this stroke of artilleryship.--Tristram Shandy.

It was late that evening when Walter returned home, the little family
were assembled at the last and lightest meal of the day; Ellinor
silently made room for her cousin beside herself, and that little
kindness touched Walter. “Why did I not love her?” thought he, and he
spoke to her in a tone so affectionate, that it made her heart thrill
with delight. Lester was, on the whole, the most pensive of the group,
but the old and young man exchanged looks of restored confidence, which,
on the part of the former, were softened by a pitying tenderness.

When the cloth was removed, and the servants gone, Lester took it on
himself to break to the sisters the intended departure of their
cousin. Madeline received the news with painful blushes, and a certain
self-reproach; for even where a woman has no cause to blame herself,
she, in these cases, feels a sort of remorse at the unhappiness she
occasions. But Ellinor rose suddenly and left the room.

“And now,” said Lester, “London will, I suppose, be your first
destination. I can furnish you with letters to some of my old friends
there: merry fellows they were once: you must take care of the
prodigality of their wine. There’s John Courtland--ah! a seductive dog
to drink with. Be sure and let me know how honest John looks, and what
he says of me. I recollect him as if it were yesterday; a roguish eye,
with a moisture in it; full cheeks; a straight nose; black curled hair;
and teeth as even as dies:--honest John shewed his teeth pretty often,
too: ha, ha! how the dog loved a laugh. Well, and Peter Hales--Sir Peter
now, has his uncle’s baronetcy--a generous, open-hearted fellow as ever
lived--will ask you very often to dinner--nay, offer you money if you
want it: but take care he does not lead you into extravagances: out
of debt, out of danger, Walter. It would have been well for poor Peter
Hales, had he remembered that maxim. Often and often have I been to see
him in the Marshalsea; but he was the heir to good fortunes, though his
relations kept him close; so I suppose he is well off now. His estates
lie in--shire, on your road to London; so, if he is at his country-seat,
you can beat up his quarters, and spend a month or so with him: a most
hospitable fellow.”

With these little sketches of his cotemporaries, the good Squire
endeavoured to while the time; taking, it is true, some pleasure in the
youthful reminiscences they excited, but chiefly designing to enliven
the melancholy of his nephew. When, however, Madeline had retired, and
they were alone, he drew his chair closer to Walter’s, and changed the
conversation into a more serious and anxious strain. The guardian and
the ward sate up late that night; and when Walter retired to rest, it
was with a heart more touched by his uncle’s kindness, than his own
sorrows.

But we are not about to close the day without a glance at the chamber
which the two sisters held in common. The night was serene and starlit,
and Madeline sate by the open window, leaning her face upon her hand,
and gazing on the lone house of her lover, which might be seen afar
across the landscape, the trees sleeping around it, and one pale and
steady light gleaming from its lofty casement like a star.

“He has broken faith,” said Madeline: “I shall chide him for this
to-morrow. He promised me the light should be ever quenched before this
hour.”

“Nay,” said Ellinor in a tone somewhat sharpened from its native
sweetness, and who now sate up in the bed, the curtain of which was
half-drawn aside, and the soft light of the skies rested full upon her
rounded neck and youthful countenance--“nay, Madeline, do not loiter
there any longer; the air grows sharp and cold, and the clock struck one
several minutes since. Come, sister, come!”

“I cannot sleep,” replied Madeline, sighing, “and think that yon light
streams upon those studies which steal the healthful hues from his
cheek, and the very life from his heart.”

“You are infatuated--you are bewitched by that man,” said Ellinor,
peevishly.

“And have I not cause--ample cause?” returned Madeline, with all a
girl’s beautiful enthusiasm, as the colour mantled her cheek, and gave
it the only additional loveliness it could receive. “When he speaks,
is it not like music?--or rather, what music so arrests and touches the
heart? Methinks it is Heaven only to gaze upon him--to note the changes
of that majestic countenance--to set down as food for memory every look
and every movement. But when the look turns to me--when the voice utters
my name, ah! Ellinor, then it is not a wonder that I love him thus much:
but that any others should think they have known love, and yet not loved
him! And, indeed, I feel assured that what the world calls love is not
my love. Are there more Eugenes in the world than one? Who but Eugene
could be loved as I love?”

“What! are there none as worthy?” said Ellinor, half smiling.

“Can you ask it?” answered Madeline, with a simple wonder in her voice;
“Whom would you compare--compare! nay, place within a hundred grades of
the height which Eugene Aram holds in this little world?”

“This is folly--dotage;” said Ellinor, indignantly: “Surely there are
others, as brave, as gentle, as kind, and if not so wise, yet more
fitted for the world.”

“You mock me,” replied Madeline, incredulously; “whom could you select?”

Ellinor blushed deeply--blushed from her snowy temples to her yet whiter
bosom, as she answered,

“If I said Walter Lester, could you deny it?”

“Walter!” repeated Madeline, “the equal to Eugene Aram!”

“Ay, and more than equal,” said Ellinor, with spirit, and a warm and
angry tone. “And indeed, Madeline,” she continued, after a pause, “I
lose something of that respect, which, passing a sister’s love, I have
always borne towards you, when I see the unthinking and lavish idolatry
you manifest to one, who, but for a silver tongue and florid words,
would rather want attractions than be the wonder you esteem him. Fie,
Madeline! I blush for you when you speak, it is unmaidenly so to love
any one!”

Madeline rose from the window, but the angry word died on her lips when
she saw that Ellinor, who had worked her mind beyond her self-control,
had thrown herself back on the pillow, and now sobbed aloud.

The natural temper of the elder sister had always been much more
calm and even than that of the younger, who united with her vivacity
something of the passionate caprice and fitfulness of her sex. And
Madeline’s affection for her had been tinged by that character of
forbearance and soothing, which a superior nature often manifests to
one more imperfect, and which in this instance did not desert her. She
gently closed the window, and, gliding to the bed, threw her arms round
her sister’s neck, and kissed away her tears with a caressing fondness,
that, if Ellinor resisted for one moment, she returned with equal
tenderness the next.

“Indeed, dearest,” said Madeline, gently, “I cannot guess how I hurt
you, and still less, how Eugene has offended you?”

“He has offended me in nothing,” replied Ellinor, still weeping, “if
he has not stolen away all your affection from me. But I was a foolish
girl, forgive me, as you always do; and at this time I need your
kindness, for I am very--very unhappy.”

“Unhappy, dearest Nell, and why?”

Ellinor wept on without answering.

Madeline persisted in pressing for a reply; and at length her sister
sobbed out:

“I know that--that--Walter only has eyes for you, and a heart for you,
who neglect, who despise his love; and I--I--but no matter, he is going
to leave us, and of me--poor me, he will think no more!”

Ellinor’s attachment to their cousin, Madeline had long half suspected,
and she had often rallied her sister upon it; indeed it might have been
this suspicion which made her at the first steel her breast against
Walter’s evident preference to herself. But Ellinor had never till now
seriously confessed how much her heart was affected; and Madeline, in
the natural engrossment of her own ardent and devoted love, had not
of late spared much observation to the tokens of her sister’s. She was
therefore dismayed, if not surprised, as she now perceived the cause of
the peevishness Ellinor had just manifested, and by the nature of the
love she felt herself, she judged, and perhaps somewhat overrated, the
anguish that Ellinor endured.

She strove to comfort her by all the arguments which the fertile
ingenuity of kindness could invent; she prophesied Walter’s speedy
return, with his boyish disappointment forgotten, and with eyes no
longer blinded to the attractions of one sister, by a bootless fancy
for another. And though Ellinor interrupted her from time to time with
assertions, now of Walter’s eternal constancy to his present idol; now,
with yet more vehement declarations of the certainty of his finding new
objects for his affections in new scenes; she yet admitted, by little
and little, the persuasive power of Madeline to creep into her heart,
and brighten away its griefs with hope, till at last, with the tears yet
wet on her cheek, she fell asleep in her sister’s arms.

And Madeline, though she would not stir from her post lest the movement
should awaken her sister, was yet prevented from closing her eyes in a
similar repose; ever and anon she breathlessly and gently raised herself
to steal a glimpse of that solitary light afar; and ever, as she looked,
the ray greeted her eyes with an unswerving and melancholy stillness,
till the dawn crept greyly over the heavens, and that speck of light,
holier to her than the stars, faded also with them beneath the broader
lustre of the day.

The next week was passed in preparations for Walter’s departure. At
that time, and in that distant part of the country, it was greatly the
fashion among the younger travellers to perform their excursions on
horseback, and it was this method of conveyance that Walter preferred.
The best steed in the squire’s stables was therefore appropriated to his
service, and a strong black horse with a Roman nose and a long tail, was
consigned to the mastery of Corporal Bunting. The Squire was delighted
that his nephew had secured such an attendant. For the soldier, though
odd and selfish, was a man of some sense and experience, and Lester
thought such qualities might not be without their use to a young master,
new to the common frauds and daily usages of the world he was about to
enter.

As for Bunting himself, he covered his secret exultation at the prospect
of change, and board-wages, with the cool semblance of a man sacrificing
his wishes to his affections. He made it his peculiar study to impress
upon the Squire’s mind the extent of the sacrifice he was about to make.
The bit cot had been just white-washed, the pet cat just lain in; then
too, who would dig, and gather seeds, in the garden, defend the plants,
(plants! the Corporal could scarce count a dozen, and nine out of them
were cabbages!) from the impending frosts? It was exactly, too, the time
of year when the rheumatism paid flying visits to the bones and loins
of the worthy Corporal; and to think of his “galavanting about the
country,” when he ought to be guarding against that sly foe the lumbago,
in the fortress of his chimney corner!

To all these murmurs and insinuations the good Lester seriously
inclined, not with the less sympathy, in that they invariably ended
in the Corporal’s slapping his manly thigh, and swearing that he loved
Master Walter like gunpowder, and that were it twenty times as much, he
would cheerfully do it for the sake of his handsome young honour. Ever
at this peroration, the eyes of the Squire began to twinkle, and new
thanks were given to the veteran for his disinterested affection, and
new promises pledged him in inadequate return.

The pious Dealtry felt a little jealousy at the trust imparted to his
friend. He halted, on his return from his farm, by the spruce stile
which led to the demesne of the Corporal, and eyed the warrior somewhat
sourly, as he now, in the cool of the evening, sate without his door,
arranging his fishing-tackle and flies, in various little papers, which
he carefully labelled by the help of a stunted pen which had seen at
least as much service as himself.

“Well, neighbour Bunting,” said the little landlord, leaning over the
stile, but not passing its boundary, “and when do you go?--you will have
wet weather of it (looking up to the skies)--you must take care of the
rumatiz. At your age it’s no trifle, eh--hem.”

“My age! should like to know--what mean by that! my age
indeed!--augh!--bother!” grunted Bunting, looking up from his
occupation. Peter chuckled inly at the Corporal’s displeasure, and
continued, as in an apologetic tone,

“Oh, I ax your pardon, neighbour. I don’t mean to say you are too old to
travel. Why there was Hal Whittol, eighty-two come next Michaelmas, took
a trip to Lunnun last year--

“For young and old, the stout--the poorly,--The eye of God be on them
surely.”

“Bother!” said the Corporal, turning round on his seat.

“And what do you intend doing with the brindled cat? put’un up in the
saddle-bags? You won’t surely have the heart to leave’un.”

“As to that,” quoth the Corporal, sighing, “the poor dumb animal makes
me sad to think on’t.” And putting down his fish-hooks, he stroked the
sides of an enormous cat, who now, with tail on end, and back bowed up,
and uttering her lenes susurros--anglicae, purr;--rubbed herself to and
fro, athwart the Corporal’s legs.

“What staring there for? won’t ye step in, man? Can climb the stile I
suppose?--augh!”

“No thank’ye, neighbour. I do very well here, that is, if you can hear
me; your deafness is not so troublesome as it was last win--”

“Bother!” interrupted the Corporal, in a voice that made the little
landlord start bolt upright from the easy confidence of his position.
Nothing on earth so offended the perpendicular Jacob Bunting, as any
insinuation of increasing years or growing infirmities; but at this
moment, as he meditated putting Dealtry to some use, he prudently
conquered the gathering anger, and added, like the man of the world he
justly plumed himself on being--in a voice gentle as a dying howl,
“What ‘fraid on? come in, there’s good fellow, want to speak to ye. Come
do--a-u-g-h!” the last sound being prolonged into one of unutterable
coaxingness, and accompanied with a beck of the hand and a wheedling
wink.

These allurements the good Peter could not resist--he clambered the
stile, and seated himself on the bench beside the Corporal.

“There now, fine fellow, fit for the forty-second;” said Bunting,
clapping him on the back. “Well, and--a--nd--a beautiful cat, isn’t
her?”

“Ah!” said Peter very shortly--for though a remarkably mild man, Peter
did not love cats: moreover, we must now inform the reader, that the
cat of Jacob Bunting was one more feared than respected throughout the
village. The Corporal was a cunning teacher of all animals: he
could learn goldfinches the use of the musket; dogs, the art of the
broadsword; horses, to dance hornpipes and pick pockets; and he
had relieved the ennui of his solitary moments by imparting sundry
accomplishments to the ductile genius of his cat. Under his tuition,
Puss had learned to fetch and carry; to turn over head and tail, like a
tumbler; to run up your shoulder when you least expected it; to fly, as
if she were mad, at any one upon whom the Corporal thought fit to set
her; and, above all, to rob larders, shelves, and tables, and bring the
produce to the Corporal, who never failed to consider such stray waifs
lawful manorial acquisitions. These little feline cultivations of
talent, however delightful to the Corporal, and creditable to his powers
of teaching the young idea how to shoot, had nevertheless, since the
truth must be told, rendered the Corporal’s cat a proverb and byeword
throughout the neighbourhood. Never was cat in such bad odour: and the
dislike in which it was held was wonderfully increased by terror;
for the creature was singularly large and robust, and withal of so
courageous a temper, that if you attempted to resist its invasion of
your property, it forthwith set up its back, put down its ears, opened
its mouth, and bade you fully comprehend that what it feloniously seized
it could gallantly defend. More than one gossip in the village had this
notable cat hurried into premature parturition, as, on descending at
day-break into her kitchen, the dame would descry the animal perched on
the dresser, having entered, God knows how, and gleaming upon her
with its great green eyes, and a malignant, brownie expression of
countenance.

Various deputations had indeed, from time to time, arrived at the
Corporal’s cottage, requesting the death, expulsion, or perpetual
imprisonment of the favourite. But the stout Corporal received them
grimly, and dismissed them gruffly; and the cat still went on waxing
in size and wickedness, and baffling, as if inspired by the devil, the
various gins and traps set for its destruction. But never, perhaps, was
there a greater disturbance and perturbation in the little hamlet, than
when, some three weeks since, the Corporal’s cat was known to be brought
to bed, and safely delivered of a numerous offspring. The village saw
itself overrun with a race and a perpetuity of Corporal’s cats! Perhaps,
too, their teacher growing more expert by practice, the descendants
might attain to even greater accomplishment than their nefarious
progenitor. No longer did the faint hope of being delivered from their
tormentor by an untimely or even natural death, occur to the harassed
Grassdalians. Death was an incident natural to one cat, however
vivacious, but here was a dynasty of cats! Principes mortales,
respublica eterna!

Now the Corporal loved this creature better, yes better than any thing
in the world, except travelling and board-wages; and he was sorely
perplexed in his mind how he should be able to dispose of her safely in
his absence. He was aware of the general enmity she had inspired, and
trembled to anticipate its probable result, when he was no longer by to
afford her shelter and protection. The Squire had, indeed, offered her
an asylum at the manor-house; but the Squire’s cook was the cat’s most
embittered enemy; and who can answer for the peaceable behaviour of
his cook? The Corporal, therefore, with a reluctant sigh, renounced the
friendly offer, and after lying awake three nights, and turning over in
his own mind the characters, consciences, and capabilities of all his
neighbours, he came at last to the conviction that there was no one with
whom he could so safely entrust his cat as Peter Dealtry. It is true,
as we said before, that Peter was no lover of cats, and the task of
persuading him to afford board and lodging to a cat, of all cats the
most odious and malignant, was therefore no easy matter. But to a man of
the world, what intrigue is impossible?

The finest diplomatist in Europe might have taken a lesson from the
Corporal, as he now proceeded earnestly towards the accomplishment of
his project.

He took the cat, which by the by we forgot to say that he had thought
fit to christen after himself, and to honour with a name, somewhat
lengthy for a cat, (but indeed this was no ordinary cat!) viz. Jacobina.
He took Jacobina then, we say, upon his lap, and stroking her brindled
sides with great tenderness, he bade Dealtry remark how singularly quiet
the animal was in its manners. Nay, he was not contented until Peter
himself had patted her with a timorous hand, and had reluctantly
submitted the said hand to the honour of being licked by the cat in
return. Jacobina, who, to do her justice, was always meek enough in the
presence, and at the will, of her master, was, fortunately this day, on
her very best behaviour.

“Them dumb animals be mighty grateful,” quoth the Corporal.

“Ah!” rejoined Peter, wiping his hand with his pocket handkerchief.

“But, Lord! what scandal there be in the world!”

“‘Though slander’s breath may raise a storm, It quickly does decay!’”
 muttered Peter.

“Very well, very true; sensible verses those,” said the Corporal,
approvingly; “and yet mischief’s often done before the amends come. Body
o’ me, it makes a man sick of his kind, ashamed to belong to the race of
men, to see the envy that abounds in this here sublunary wale of tears!”
 said the Corporal, lifting up his eyes.

Peter stared at him with open mouth; the hypocritical rascal continued,
after a pause,--

“Now there’s Jacobina, ‘cause she’s a good cat, a faithful servant,
the whole village is against her: such lies as they tell on her, such
wappers, you’d think she was the devil in garnet! I grant, I grant,”
 added the Corporal, in a tone of apologetic candour, “that she’s wild,
saucy, knows her friends from her foes, steals Goody Solomon’s butter;
but what then? Goody Solomon’s d--d b--h! Goody Solomon sold beer in
opposition to you, set up a public;--you do not like Goody Solomons,
Peter Dealtry?”

“If that were all Jacobina had done!” said the landlord, grinning.

“All! what else did she do? Why she eat up John Tomkins’s canary-bird;
and did not John Tomkins, saucy rascal, say you could not sing better
nor a raven?”

“I have nothing to say against the poor creature for that,” said Peter,
stroking the cat of his own accord. “Cats will eat birds, ‘tis the
‘spensation of Providence. But what! Corporal!” and Peter hastily
withdrawing his hand, hurried it into his breeches pocket--“but what!
did not she scratch Joe Webster’s little boy’s hand into ribbons,
because the boy tried to prevent her running off with a ball of string?”

“And well,” grunted the Corporal, “that was not Jacobina’s doing, that
was my doing. I wanted the string--offered to pay a penny for it--think
of that!”

“It was priced three pence ha’penny,” said Peter.

“Augh--baugh! you would not pay Joe Webster all he asks! What’s the use
of being a man of the world, unless one makes one’s tradesmen bate a
bit? Bargaining is not cheating, I hope?”

“God forbid!” said Peter.

“But as to the bit string, Jacobina took it solely for your sake. Ah,
she did not think you were to turn against her!”

So saying, the Corporal, got up, walked into his house, and presently
came back with a little net in his hand.

“There, Peter, net for you, to hold lemons. Thank Jacobina for that; she
got the string. Says I to her one day, as I was sitting, as I might be
now, without the door, ‘Jacobina, Peter Dealtry’s a good fellow, and
he keeps his lemons in a bag: bad habit,--get mouldy,--we’ll make him
a net: and Jacobina purred, (stroke the poor creature, Peter!)--so
Jacobina and I took a walk, and when we came to Joe Webster’s I pointed
out the ball o’twine to her. So, for your sake, Peter, she got into this
here scrape--augh.”

“Ah!” quoth Peter laughing, “poor Puss! poor Pussy! poor little Pussy!”

“And now, Peter,” said the Corporal, taking his friend’s hand, “I am
going to prove friendship to you--going to do you great favour.”

“Aha!” said Peter, “my good friend, I’m very much obliged to you. I know
your kind heart, but I really don’t want any”--

“Bother!” cried the Corporal, “I’m not the man as makes much of doing
a friend a kindness. Hold jaw! tell you what,--tell you what: am going
away on Wednesday at day-break, and in my absence you shall--”

“What? my good Corporal.”

“Take charge of Jacobina!”

“Take charge of the devil!” cried Peter.

“Augh!--baugh!--what words are those? Listen to me.”

“I won’t!”

“You shall!”

“I’ll be d--d if I do!” quoth Peter sturdily. It was the first time he
had been known to swear since he was parish clerk.

“Very well, very well!” said the Corporal chucking up his chin,
“Jacobina can take care of herself! Jacobina knows her friends and her
foes as well as her master! Jacobina never injures her friends, never
forgives foes. Look to yourself! look to yourself! insult my cat, insult
me! Swear at Jacobina, indeed!”

“If she steals my cream!” cried Peter--

“Did she ever steal your cream?”

“No! but, if--”

“Did she ever steal your cream?”

“I can’t say she ever did.”

“Or any thing else of yours?”

“Not that I know of; but--”

“Never too late to mend.”

“If--”

“Will you listen to me, or not?”

“Well.”

“You’ll listen?”

“Yes.”

“Know then, that I wanted to do you kindness.”

“Humph!”

“Hold jaw! I taught Jacobina all she knows.”

“More’s the pity!”

“Hold jaw! I taught her to respect her friends,--never to commit herself
in doors--never to steal at home--never to fly at home--never to
scratch at home--to kill mice and rats--to bring all she catches to her
master--to do what he tells her--and to defend his house as well as a
mastiff: and this invaluable creature I was going to lend you:--won’t
now, d--d if I do!”

“Humph.”

“Hold jaw! When I’m gone, Jacobina will have no one to feed her. She’ll
feed herself--will go to every larder, every house in the place--your’s
best larder, best house;--will come to you oftenest. If your wife
attempts to drive her away, scratch her eyes out; if you disturb her,
serve you worse than Joe Webster’s little boy:--wanted to prevent
this--won’t now, d--d if I do!”

“But, Corporal, how would it mend the matter to take the devil
in-doors?”

“Devil! Don’t call names. Did not I tell you, only one Jacobina does
not hurt is her master?--make you her master: now d’ye see?”

“It is very hard,” said Peter grumblingly, “that the only way I can
defend myself from this villainous creature is to take her into my
house.”

“Villainous! You ought to be proud of her affection. She returns
good for evil--she always loved you; see how she rubs herself against
you--and that’s the reason why I selected you from the whole village, to
take care of her; but you at once injure yourself and refuse to do your
friend a service. Howsomever, you know I shall be with young Squire, and
he’ll be master here one of these days, and I shall have an influence
over him--you’ll see--you’ll see. Look that there’s not another ‘Spotted
Dog’ set up--augh!--bother!”

“But what would my wife say, if I took the cat? she can’t abide its
name.”

“Let me alone to talk to your wife. What would she say if I bring
her from Lunnun Town a fine silk gown, or a neat shawl, with a blue
border--blue becomes her; or a tay-chest--that will do for you both,
and would set off the little back parlour. Mahogany tay-chest--inlaid at
top--initials in silver--J. B. to D. and P. D.--two boxes for tay, and
a bowl for sugar in the middle.--Ah! ah! Love me, love my cat! When was
Jacob Bunting ungrateful?--augh!”

“Well, well! will you talk to Dorothy about it?”

“I shall have your consent, then? Thanks, my dear, dear Peter; ‘pon my
soul you’re a fine fellow! you see, you’re great man of the parish. If
you protect her, none dare injure; if you scout her, all set upon her.
For as you said, or rather sung, t’other Sunday--capital voice you were
in too--

“The mighty tyrants without cause Conspire her blood to shed!”

“I did not think you had so good a memory, Corporal,” said Peter
smiling;--the cat was now curling itself up in his lap: “after all,
Jacobina--what a deuce of a name--seems gentle enough.”

“Gentle as a lamb--soft as butter--kind as cream--and such a mouser!”

“But I don’t think Dorothy--”

“I’ll settle Dorothy.”

“Well, when will you look up?”

“Come and take a dish of tay with you in half an hour;--you want a new
tay-chest; something new and genteel.”

“I think we do,” said Peter, rising and gently depositing the cat on the
ground.

“Aha! we’ll see to it!--we’ll see! Good b’ye for the present--in half an
hour be with you!”

The Corporal left alone with Jacobina, eyed her intently, and burst into
the following pathetic address.

“Well, Jacobina! you little know the pains I takes to serve you--the
lies I tells for you--endangered my precious soul for your sake, you
jade! Ah! may well rub your sides against me. Jacobina! Jacobina! you be
the only thing in the world that cares a button for me. I have neither
kith nor kin. You are daughter--friend--wife to me: if any thing
happened to you, I should not have the heart to love any thing else. Any
body o’ me, but you be as kind as any mistress, and much more tractable
than any wife; but the world gives you a bad name, Jacobina. Why? Is
it that you do worse than the world do? You has no morality in you,
Jacobina; well, but has the world?--no! But it has humbug--you have no
humbug, Jacobina. On the faith of a man, Jacobina, you be better than
the world!--baugh! You takes care of your own interest, but you takes
care of your master’s too!--You loves me as well as yourself. Few cats
can say the same, Jacobina! and no gossip that flings a stone at your
pretty brindled skin, can say half as much. We must not forget your
kittens, Jacobina;--you have four left--they must be provided for.
Why not a cat’s children as well as a courtier’s? I have got you a
comfortable home, Jacobina--take care of yourself, and don’t fall in
love with every Tomcat in the place. Be sober, and lead a single life
till my return. Come, Jacobina, we will lock up the house, and go and
see the quarters I have provided for you.--Heigho!”

As he finished his harangue, the Corporal locked the door of his
cottage, and Jacobina trotting by his side, he stalked with his usual
stateliness to the Spotted Dog.

Dame Dorothy Dealtry received him with a clouded brow, but the man of
the world knew whom he had to deal with. On Wednesday morning Jacobina
was inducted into the comforts of the hearth of mine host;--and her four
little kittens mewed hard by, from the sinecure of a basket lined with
flannel.

Reader. Here is wisdom in this chapter: it is not every man who knows
how to dispose of his cat!



CHAPTER XII.

    A STRANGE HABIT.--WALTER’S INTERVIEW WITH MADELINE.--HER
    GENEROUS AND CONFIDING DISPOSITION.--WALTER’S ANGER.--THE
   PARTING MEAL.--CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE UNCLE AND NEPHEW.--
      WALTER ALONE.--SLEEP THE BLESSING OF THE YOUNG.

       Fall. Out, out, unworthy to speak where he breatheth....

       Punt. Well now, my whole venture is forth, I will resolve
          to depart.
           --Ben Jonson.--Every Man out of his Humour.

It was now the eve before Walter’s departure, and on returning home from
a farewell walk among his favourite haunts, he found Aram, whose visit
had been made during Walter’s absence, now standing on the threshold of
the door, and taking leave of Madeline and her father. Aram and Walter
had only met twice before since the interview we recorded, and each time
Walter had taken care that the meeting should be but of short duration.
In these brief encounters, Aram’s manner had been even more gentle than
heretofore; that of Walter’s, more cold and distant. And now, as they
thus unexpectedly met at the door, Aram, looking at him earnestly, said:

“Farewell, Sir! You are to leave us for some time, I hear. Heaven speed
you!” Then he added in a lower tone, “Will you take my hand, now, in
parting?”

As he said, he put forth his hand,--it was the left.

“Let it be the right hand,” observed the elder Lester, smiling: “it is a
luckier omen.”

“I think not,” said Aram, drily. And Walter noted that he had never
remembered him to give his right hand to any one, even to Madeline; the
peculiarity of this habit might, however, arise from an awkward early
habit, it was certainly scarce worth observing, and Walter had already
coldly touched the hand extended to him: when Lester carelessly renewed
the subject.

“Is there any superstition,” said he gaily, “that makes you think, as
some of the ancients did, the left hand luckier than the right?”

“Yes,” replied Aram; “a superstition. Adieu.”

The Student departed; Madeline slowly walked up one of the garden
alleys, and thither Walter, after whispering to his uncle, followed her.

There is something in those bitter feelings, which are the offspring of
disappointed love; something in the intolerable anguish of well-founded
jealousy, that when the first shock is over, often hardens, and perhaps
elevates the character. The sterner powers that we arouse within us
to combat a passion that can no longer be worthily indulged, are never
afterwards wholly allayed. Like the allies which a nation summons to its
bosom to defend it from its foes, they expel the enemy only to find
a settlement for themselves. The mind of every man who conquers an
unfortunate attachment, becomes stronger than before; it may be for
evil, it may be for good, but the capacities for either are more
vigorous and collected.

The last few weeks had done more for Walter’s character than years of
ordinary, even of happy emotion, might have effected. He had passed from
youth to manhood, and with the sadness, had acquired also something of
the dignity, of experience. Not that we would say that he had subdued
his love, but he had made the first step towards it; he had resolved
that at all hazards it should be subdued.

As he now joined Madeline, and she perceived him by her side, her
embarrassment was more evident than his. She feared some avowal, and
from his temper, perhaps some violence on his part. However, she was the
first to speak: women, in such cases, always are.

“It is a beautiful evening,” said she, “and the sun set in promise of a
fine day for your journey to-morrow.”

Walter walked on silently; his heart was full. “Madeline,” he said at
length, “dear Madeline, give me your hand. Nay, do not fear me; I know
what you think, and you are right; I loved--I still love you! but I know
well that I can have no hope in making this confession; and when I ask
you for your hand, Madeline, it is only to convince you that I have no
suit to press; had I, I would not dare to touch that hand.”

Madeline, wondering and embarrassed, gave him her hand; he held it for a
moment with a trembling clasp, pressed it to his lips, and then resigned
it.

“Yes, Madeline, my cousin, my sweet cousin; I have loved you deeply, but
silently, long before my heart could unravel the mystery of the feelings
with which it glowed. But this--all this--it were now idle to repeat.
I know that I have no hope of return; that the heart whose possession
would have made my whole life a dream, a transport, is given to another.
I have not sought you now, Madeline, to repine at this, or to vex you by
the tale of any suffering I may endure: I am come only to give you the
parting wishes, the parting blessing, of one, who, wherever he goes,
or whatever befall him, will always think of you as the brightest and
loveliest of human beings. May you be happy, yes even with another!”

“Oh, Walter!” said Madeline, affected to tears, “if I ever
encouraged--if I ever led you to hope for more than the warm, the
sisterly affection I bear you, how bitterly I should reproach myself!”

“You never did, dear Madeline; I asked for no inducement to love you,--I
never dreamed of seeking a motive, or inquiring if I had cause to hope.
But as I am now about to quit you, and as you confess you feel for me a
sister’s affection, will you give me leave to speak to you as a brother
might?”

Madeline held her hand to him in frank cordiality: “Yes!” said she,
“speak!”

“Then,” said Walter, turning away his head in a spirit of delicacy
that did him honour, “is it yet all too late for me to say one word of
caution as relates to--Eugene Aram?”

“Of caution! you alarm me, Walter; speak, has aught happened to him? I
saw him as lately as yourself. Does aught threaten him? Speak, I implore
you,--quick?”

“I know of no danger to him!” replied Walter, stung to perceive the
breathless anxiety with which Madeline spoke; “but pause, my cousin, may
there be no danger to you from this man?”

“Walter!”

“I grant him wise, learned, gentle,--nay, more than all, bearing about
him a spell, a fascination, by which he softens, or awes at will, and
which even I cannot resist. But yet his abstracted mood, his gloomy
life, certain words that have broken from him unawares,--certain
tell-tale emotions, which words of mine, heedlessly said, have fiercely
aroused, all united, inspire me,--shall I say it,--with fear and
distrust. I cannot think him altogether the calm and pure being
he appears. Madeline, I have asked myself again and again, is this
suspicion the effect of jealousy? do I scan his bearing with the
jaundiced eye of disappointed rivalship? And I have satisfied my
conscience that my judgment is not thus biassed. Stay! listen yet a
little while! You have a high--a thoughtful mind. Exert it now. Consider
your whole happiness rests on one step! Pause, examine, compare!
Remember, you have not of Aram, as of those whom you have hitherto mixed
with, the eye-witness of a life! You can know but little of his real
temper, his secret qualities; still less of the tenor of his former
life. I only ask of you, for your own sake, for my sake, your sister’s
sake, and your good father’s, not to judge too rashly! Love him, if you
will; but observe him!”

“Have you done?” said Madeline, who had hitherto with difficulty
contained herself; “then hear me. Was it I? was it Madeline Lester whom
you asked to play the watch, to enact the spy upon the man whom she
exults in loving? Was it not enough that you should descend to mark down
each incautious look--to chronicle every heedless word--to draw dark
deductions from the unsuspecting confidence of my father’s friend--to
lie in wait--to hang with a foe’s malignity upon the unbendings of
familiar intercourse--to extort anger from gentleness itself, that
you might wrest the anger into crime! Shame, shame upon you, for the
meanness! And must you also suppose that I, to whose trust he has given
his noble heart, will receive it only to play the eavesdropper to its
secrets? Away!”

The generous blood crimsoned the cheek and brow of this high-spirited
girl as she uttered her galling reproof; her eyes sparkled, her lip
quivered, her whole frame seemed to have grown larger with the majesty
of indignant love.

“Cruel, unjust, ungrateful!” ejaculated Walter, pale with rage, and
trembling under the conflict of his roused and wounded feelings. “Is it
thus you answer the warning of too disinterested and self-forgetful a
love?”

“Love!” exclaimed Madeline. “Grant me patience!--Love! It was but now I
thought myself honoured by the affection you said you bore me. At this
instant, I blush to have called forth a single sentiment in one who
knows so little what love is! Love!--methought that word denoted all
that was high and noble in human nature--confidence, hope,
devotion, sacrifice of all thought of self! but you would
make it the type and concentration of all that lowers and
debases!--suspicion--cavil--fear--selfishness in all its shapes!
Out on you--love!”

“Enough, enough! Say no more, Madeline, say no more. We part not as
I had hoped; but be it so. You are changed indeed, if your conscience
smite you not hereafter for this injustice. Farewell, and may you never
regret, not only the heart you have rejected, but the friendship you
have belied.” With these words, and choked by his emotions, Walter
hastily strode away.

He hurried into the house, and into a little room adjoining the chamber
in which he slept, and which had been also appropriated solely to his
use. It was now spread with boxes and trunks, some half packed, some
corded, and inscribed with the address to which they were to be sent in
London. All these mute tokens of his approaching departure struck upon
his excited feelings with a suddenness that overpowered him.

“And it is thus--thus,” said he aloud, “that I am to leave, for the
first time, my childhood’s home.”

He threw himself on his chair, and covering his face with his hands,
burst, fairly subdued and unmanned, into a paroxysm of tears.

When this emotion was over, he felt as if his love for Madeline had
also disappeared; a sore and insulted feeling was all that her image now
recalled to him. This idea gave him some consolation. “Thank God!” he
muttered, “thank God, I am cured at last!”

The thanksgiving was scarcely over, before the door opened softly, and
Ellinor, not perceiving him where he sat, entered the room, and laid
on the table a purse which she had long promised to knit him, and which
seemed now designed as a parting gift.

She sighed heavily as she laid it down, and he observed that her eyes
seemed red as with weeping.

He did not move, and Ellinor left the room without discovering him; but
he remained there till dark, musing on her apparition, and before he
went down-stairs, he took up the little purse, kissed it, and put it
carefully into his bosom.

He sate next to Ellinor at supper that evening, and though he did not
say much, his last words were more to her than words had ever been
before. When he took leave of her for the night, he whispered, as he
kissed her cheek; “God bless you, dearest Ellinor, and till I return,
take care of yourself, for the sake of one, who loves you now, better
than any thing on earth.”

Lester had just left the room to write some letters for Walter; and
Madeline, who had hitherto sat absorbed and silent by the window, now
approached Walter, and offered him her hand.

“Forgive me, my dear cousin,” she said, in her softest voice. “I feel
that I was hasty, and to blame. Believe me, I am now at least grateful,
warmly grateful, for the kindness of your motives.”

“Not so,” said Walter, bitterly, “the advice of a friend is only
meanness.”

“Come, come, forgive me; pray, do not let us part unkindly. When did we
ever quarrel before? I was wrong, grievously wrong--I will perform any
penance you may enjoin.”

“Agreed then, follow my admonitions.”

“Ah! any thing else,” said Madeline, gravely, and colouring deeply.

Walter said no more; he pressed her hand lightly and turned away.

“Is all forgiven?” said she, in so bewitching a tone, and with so bright
a smile, that Walter, against his conscience, answered, “Yes.”

The sisters left the room. I know not which of the two received his last
glance.

Lester now returned with the letters. “There is one charge, my dear
boy,” said he, in concluding the moral injunctions and experienced
suggestions with which the young generally leave the ancestral home
(whether practically benefited or not by the legacy, may be matter
of question)--“there is one charge which I need not entrust to your
ingenuity and zeal. You know my strong conviction, that your father, my
poor brother, still lives. Is it necessary for me to tell you to exert
yourself by all ways and in all means to discover some clue to his fate?
Who knows,” added Lester, with a smile, “but that you may find him a
rich nabob. I confess that I should feel but little surprise if it
were so; but at all events you will make every possible inquiry. I have
written down in this paper the few particulars concerning him which I
have been enabled to glean since he left his home; the places where
he was last seen, the false names he assumed, I shall watch with great
anxiety for any fuller success to your researches.”

“You needed not, my dear uncle,” said Walter seriously, “to have spoken
to me on this subject. No one, not even yourself, can have felt what
I have; can have cherished the same anxiety, nursed the same hope,
indulged the same conjecture. I have not, it is true, often of late
years spoken to you on a matter so near to us both, but I have spent
whole hours in guesses at my father’s fate, and in dreams that for me
was reserved the proud task to discover it. I will not say indeed that
it makes at this moment the chief motive for my desire to travel, but in
travel it will become my chief object. Perhaps I may find him not only
rich,--that for my part is but a minor wish,--but sobered and reformed
from the errors and wildness of his earlier manhood. Oh, what should be
his gratitude to you for all the care with which you have supplied to
the forsaken child the father’s place; and not the least, that you have,
in softening the colours of his conduct, taught me still to prize and
seek for a father’s love!”

“You have a kind heart, Walter,” said the good old man, pressing his
nephew’s hand, “and that has more than repaid me for the little I have
done for you; it is better to sow a good heart with kindness, than a
field with corn, for the heart’s harvest is perpetual.”

Many, keen, and earnest were that night the meditations of Walter
Lester. He was about to quit the home in which youth had been passed, in
which first love had been formed and blighted: the world was before
him; but there was something more grave than pleasure, more steady than
enterprise, that beckoned him to its paths. The deep mystery that for so
many years had hung over the fate of his parent, it might indeed be his
lot to pierce; and with a common waywardness in our nature, the
restless son felt his interest in that parent the livelier from the very
circumstance of remembering nothing of his person. Affection had been
nursed by curiosity and imagination, and the bad father was thus more
fortunate in winning the heart of the son, than had he perhaps, by the
tenderness of years, deserved that affection.

Oppressed and feverish, Walter opened the lattice of his room, and
looked forth on the night. The broad harvest-moon was in the heavens,
and filled the air as with a softer and holier day. At a distance its
light just gave the dark outline of Aram’s house, and beneath the window
it lay bright and steady on the green, still church-yard that adjoined
the house. The air and the light allayed the fitfulness at the young
man’s heart, but served to solemnize the project and desire with which
it beat. Still leaning from the casement, with his eyes fixed upon the
tranquil scene below, he poured forth a prayer, that to his hands might
the discovery of his lost sire be granted. The prayer seemed to lift the
oppression from his breast; he felt cheerful and relieved, and flinging
himself on his bed, soon fell into the sound and healthful sleep of
youth. And oh! let Youth cherish that happiest of earthly boons while
yet it is at its command;--for there cometh the day to all, when
“neither the voice of the lute or the birds”

           [Quotation from Horace]

shall bring back the sweet slumbers that fell on their young eyes, as
unbidden as the dews. It is a dark epoch in a man’s life when Sleep
forsakes him; when he tosses to and fro, and Thought will not be
silenced; when the drug and draught are the courters of stupefaction,
not sleep; when the down pillow is as a knotted log; when the eyelids
close but with an effort, and there is a drag and a weight, and a
dizziness in the eyes at morn. Desire and Grief, and Love, these are the
young man’s torments, but they are the creatures of Time; Time removes
them as it brings, and the vigils we keep, “while the evil days come
not,” if weary, are brief and few. But Memory, and Care, and Ambition,
and Avarice, these are the demon-gods that defy the Time that fathered
them. The worldlier passions are the growth of mature years, and their
grave is dug but in our own. As the dark Spirits in the Northern tale,
that watch against the coming of one of a brighter and holier race, lest
if he seize them unawares, he bind them prisoners in his chain, they
keep ward at night over the entrance of that deep cave--the human
heart--and scare away the angel Sleep!



BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.

   THE MARRIAGE SETTLED.--LESTER’S HOPES AND SCHEMES.--GAIETY OF
     TEMPER A GOOD SPECULATION.--THE TRUTH AND FERVOUR OF
               ARAM’S LOVE.

        Love is better than a pair of spectacles, to make
        every thing seem greater which is seen through it.
             --Sir Philip Sydney’s Arcadia.

Aram’s affection to Madeline having now been formally announced to
Lester, and Madeline’s consent having been somewhat less formally
obtained, it only remained to fix the time for their wedding. Though
Lester forbore to question Aram as to his circumstances, the Student
frankly confessed, that if not affording what the generality of persons
would consider even a competence, they enabled one of his moderate
wants and retired life to dispense, especially in the remote and cheap
district in which they lived, with all fortune in a wife, who, like
Madeline, was equally with himself enamoured of obscurity. The good
Lester, however, proposed to bestow upon his daughter such a portion
as might allow for the wants of an increased family, or the probable
contingencies of Fate. For though Fortune may often slacken her wheel,
there is no spot in which she suffers it to be wholly still.

It was now the middle of September, and by the end of the ensuing month
it was agreed that the spousals of the lovers should be held. It is
certain that Lester felt one pang for his nephew, as he subscribed to
this proposal; but he consoled himself with recurring to a hope he had
long cherished, viz. that Walter would return home not only cured of
his vain attachment to Madeline, but of the disposition to admit the
attractions of her sister. A marriage between these two cousins had
for years been his favourite project. The lively and ready temper of
Ellinor, her household turn, her merry laugh, a winning playfulness
that characterised even her defects, were all more after Lester’s secret
heart than the graver and higher nature of his elder daughter. This
might mainly be, that they were traits of disposition that more reminded
him of his lost wife, and were therefore more accordant with his ideal
standard of perfection; but I incline also to believe that the more
persons advance in years, the more, even if of staid and sober temper
themselves, they love gaiety and elasticity in youth. I have often
pleased myself by observing in some happy family circle embracing
all ages, that it is the liveliest and wildest child that charms the
grandsire the most. And after all, it is perhaps with characters as with
books, the grave and thoughtful may be more admired than the light and
cheerful, but they are less liked; it is not only that the former, being
of a more abstruse and recondite nature, find fewer persons capable of
judging of their merits, but also that the great object of the majority
of human beings is to be amused, and that they naturally incline to love
those the best who amuse them most. And to so great a practical extent
is this preference pushed, that I think were a nice observer to make a
census of all those who have received legacies, or dropped unexpectedly
into fortunes; he would find that where one grave disposition had so
benefited, there would be at least twenty gay. Perhaps, however, it may
be said that I am taking the cause for the effect!

But to return from our speculative disquisitions; Lester then, who,
though he so slowly discovered his nephew’s passion for Madeline, had
long since guessed the secret of Ellinor’s affection for him, looked
forward with a hope rather sanguine than anxious to the ultimate
realization of his cherished domestic scheme. And he pleased himself
with thinking that when all soreness would, by this double wedding, be
banished from Walter’s mind, it would be impossible to conceive a family
group more united or more happy.

And Ellinor herself, ever since the parting words of her cousin, had
seemed, so far from being inconsolable for his absence, more bright of
cheek and elastic of step than she had been for months before. What a
world of all feelings, which forbid despondence, lies hoarded in the
hearts of the young! As one fountain is filled by the channels that
exhaust another; we cherish wisdom at the expense of hope. It thus
happened from one cause or another, that Walter’s absence created a less
cheerless blank in the family circle than might have been expected, and
the approaching bridals of Madeline and her lover, naturally diverted in
a great measure the thoughts of each, and engrossed their conversation.

Whatever might be Madeline’s infatuation as to the merits of Aram, one
merit--the greatest of all in the eyes of a woman who loves, he at least
possessed. Never was mistress more burningly and deeply loved than she,
who, for the first time, awoke the long slumbering passions in the
heart of Eugene Aram. Every day the ardour of his affections seemed
to increase. With what anxiety he watched her footsteps!--with what
idolatry he hung upon her words!--with what unspeakable and yearning
emotion he gazed upon the changeful eloquence of her cheek. Now that
Walter was gone, he almost took up his abode at the manor-house. He came
thither in the early morning, and rarely returned home before the family
retired for the night; and even then, when all was hushed, and they
believed him in his solitary home, he lingered for hours around the
house, to look up to Madeline’s window, charmed to the spot which held
the intoxication of her presence. Madeline discovered this habit, and
chid it; but so tenderly, that it was not cured. And still at times, by
the autumnal moon, she marked from her window his dark figure gliding
among the shadows of the trees, or pausing by the lowly tombs in the
still churchyard--the resting-place of hearts that once, perhaps, beat
as wildly as his own.

It was impossible that a love of this order, and from one so richly
gifted as Aram; a love, which in substance was truth, and yet in
language poetry, could fail wholly to subdue and inthral a girl so
young, so romantic, so enthusiastic, as Madeline Lester. How intense and
delicious must have been her sense of happiness! In the pure heart of a
girl loving for the first time--love is far more ecstatic than in man,
inasmuch as it is unfevered by desire--love then and there makes the
only state of human existence which is at once capable of calmness and
transport!



CHAPTER II.

   A FAVOURABLE SPECIMEN OF A NOBLEMAN AND A COURTIER.--A MAN OF
         SOME FAULTS AND MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

      Titinius Capito is to rehearse. He is a man of an excellent
      disposition, and to be numbered among the chief ornaments of
      his age. He cultivates literature--he loves men of learning,
      etc.
           --Lord Orrery: Pliny.

About this time the Earl of ______, the great nobleman of the district,
and whose residence was within four miles of Grassdale, came down to pay
his wonted yearly visit to his country domains. He was a man well known
in the history of the times; though, for various reasons, I conceal
his name. He was a courtier;--deep--wily--accomplished; but capable
of generous sentiments and enlarged views. Though, from regard to his
interests, he seized and lived as it were upon the fleeting spirit of
the day--the penetration of his intellect went far beyond its reach. He
claims the merit of having been the one of all his co-temporaries (Lord
Chesterfield alone excepted), who most clearly saw, and most distinctly
prophesied, the dark and fearful storm that at the close of the century
burst over the vices, in order to sweep away the miseries, of France--a
terrible avenger--a salutary purifier.

From the small circle of sounding trifles, in which the dwellers of a
court are condemned to live, and which he brightened by his abilities
and graced by his accomplishments, the sagacious and far-sighted mind of
Lord--comprehended the vast field without, usually invisible to those
of his habits and profession. Men who the best know the little nucleus
which is called the world, are often the most ignorant of mankind; but
it was the peculiar attribute of this nobleman, that he could not only
analyse the external customs of his species, but also penetrate their
deeper and more hidden interests.

The works, and correspondence he has left behind him, though far from
voluminous, testify a consummate knowledge of the varieties of human
nature The refinement of his taste appears less remarkable than the
vigour of his understanding. It might be that he knew the vices of men
better than their virtues; yet he was no shallow disbeliever in the
latter: he read the heart too accurately not to know that it is guided
as often by its affections as its interests. In his early life he had
incurred, not without truth, the charge of licentiousness; but even in
pursuit of pleasure, he had been neither weak on the one hand, nor gross
on the other;--neither the headlong dupe, nor the callous sensualist:
but his graces, his rank, his wealth, had made his conquests a matter
of too easy purchase; and hence, like all voluptuaries, the part of his
worldly knowledge, which was the most fallible, was that which related
to the sex. He judged of women by a standard too distinct from that by
which he judged of men, and considered those foibles peculiar to the
sex, which in reality are incident to human nature.

His natural disposition was grave and reflective; and though he was
not without wit, it was rarely used. He lived, necessarily, with the
frivolous and the ostentatious, yet ostentation and frivolity were
charges never brought against himself. As a diplomatist and a statesman,
he was of the old and erroneous school of intriguers; but his favourite
policy was the science of conciliation. He was one who would so far have
suited the present age, that no man could better have steered a nation
from the chances of war; James the First could not have been inspired
with a greater affection for peace; but the Peer’s dexterity would have
made that peace as honourable as the King’s weakness could have made it
degraded. Ambitious to a certain extent, but neither grasping nor
mean, he never obtained for his genius the full and extensive field it
probably deserved. He loved a happy life above all things; and he knew
that while activity is the spirit, fatigue is the bane, of happiness.

In his day he enjoyed a large share of that public attention which
generally bequeaths fame; yet from several causes (of which his own
moderation is not the least) his present reputation is infinitely
less great than the opinions of his most distinguished cotemporaries
foreboded.

It is a more difficult matter for men of high rank to become illustrious
to posterity, than for persons in a sterner and more wholesome walk of
life. Even the greatest among the distinguished men of the patrician
order, suffer in the eyes of the after-age for the very qualities,
mostly dazzling defects, or brilliant eccentricities, which made them
most popularly remarkable in their day. Men forgive Burns his amours and
his revellings with greater ease than they will forgive Bolingbroke and
Byron for the same offences.

Our Earl was fond of the society of literary men; he himself was well,
perhaps even deeply, read. Certainly his intellectual acquisitions were
more profound than they have been generally esteemed, though with the
common subtlety of a ready genius, he could make the quick adaptation of
a timely fact, acquired for the occasion, appear the rich overflowing of
a copious erudition. He was a man who instantly perceived, and liberally
acknowledged, the merits of others. No connoisseur had a more felicitous
knowledge of the arts, or was more just in the general objects of his
patronage. In short, what with all his advantages, he was one whom an
aristocracy may boast of, though a people may forget; and if not a great
man, was at least a most remarkable lord.

The Earl of--, in his last visit to his estates, had not forgotten to
seek out the eminent scholar who shed an honour upon his neighbourhood;
he had been greatly struck with the bearing and conversation of Aram,
and with the usual felicity with which the accomplished Earl adapted
his nature to those with whom he was thrown, he had succeeded in
ingratiating himself with Aram in return. He could not indeed persuade
the haughty and solitary Student to visit him at the castle; but
the Earl did not disdain to seek any one from whom he could obtain
instruction, and he had twice or thrice voluntarily encountered Aram,
and effectually drawn him from his reserve. The Earl now heard with some
pleasure, and more surprise, that the austere Recluse was about to be
married to the beauty of the county, and he resolved to seize the
first occasion to call at the manor-house to offer his compliments and
congratulations to its inmates.

Sensible men of rank, who, having enjoyed their dignity from their
birth, may reasonably be expected to grow occasionally tired of it;
often like mixing with those the most who are the least dazzled by
the condescension; I do not mean to say, with the vulgar parvenus who
mistake rudeness for independence;--no man forgets respect to another
who knows the value of respect to himself; but the respect should be
paid easily; it is not every Grand Seigneur, who like Louis XIVth., is
only pleased when he puts those he addresses out of countenance.

There was, therefore, much in the simplicity of Lester’s manners, and
those of his nieces, which rendered the family at the manor-house,
especial favourites with Lord--; and the wealthier but less honoured
squirearchs of the county, stiff in awkward pride, and bustling with
yet more awkward veneration, heard with astonishment and anger of the
numerous visits which his Lordship, in his brief sojourn at the castle,
always contrived to pay to the Lesters, and the constant invitations,
which they received to his most familiar festivities.

Lord--was no sportsman, and one morning, when all his guests were
engaged among the stubbles of September, he mounted his quiet palfrey,
and gladly took his way to the Manor-house.

It was towards the latter end of the month, and one of the earliest
of the autumnal fogs hung thinly over the landscape. As the Earl wound
along the sides of the hill on which his castle was built, the scene on
which he gazed below received from the grey mists capriciously hovering
over it, a dim and melancholy wildness. A broader and whiter vapour,
that streaked the lower part of the valley, betrayed the course of the
rivulet; and beyond, to the left, rose wan and spectral, the spire
of the little church adjoining Lester’s abode. As the horseman’s eye
wandered to this spot, the sun suddenly broke forth, and lit up as
by enchantment, the quiet and lovely hamlet embedded, as it were,
beneath,--the cottages, with their gay gardens and jasmined porches, the
streamlet half in mist, half in light, while here and there columns of
vapour rose above its surface like the chariots of the water genii, and
broke into a thousand hues beneath the smiles of the unexpected sun: But
far to the right, the mists around it yet unbroken, and the outline of
its form only visible, rose the lone house of the Student, as if there
the sadder spirits of the air yet rallied their broken armament of mist
and shadow.

The Earl was not a man peculiarly alive to scenery, but he now
involuntarily checked his horse, and gazed for a few moments on the
beautiful and singular aspect which the landscape had so suddenly
assumed. As he so gazed, he observed in a field at some little distance,
three or four persons gathered around a bank, and among them he thought
he recognised the comely form of Rowland Lester. A second inspection
convinced him that he was right in his conjecture, and, turning from the
road through a gap in the hedge, he made towards the group in question.
He had not proceeded far, before he saw, that the remainder of the
party was composed of Lester’s daughters, the lover of the elder, and
a fourth, whom he recognised as a celebrated French botanist who had
lately arrived in England, and who was now making an amateur excursion
throughout the more attractive districts of the island.

The Earl guessed rightly, that Monsieur de N--had not neglected to apply
to Aram for assistance in a pursuit which the latter was known to have
cultivated with such success, and that he had been conducted hither, as
a place affording some specimen or another not unworthy of research. He
now, giving his horse to his groom, joined the group.



CHAPTER III.

     WHEREIN THE EARL AND THE STUDENT CONVERSE ON GRAVE BUT
   DELIGHTFUL MATTERS.--THE STUDENT’S NOTION OF THE ONLY EARTHLY
                HAPPINESS.

       ARAM. If the witch Hope forbids us to be wise,
       Yet when I turn to these--Woe’s only friends,
       And with their weird and eloquent voices calm
       The stir and Babel of the world within,
       I can but dream that my vex’d years at last
       Shall find the quiet of a hermit’s cell:--
       And, neighbouring not this hacked and jaded world,
       Beneath the lambent eyes of the loved stars,
       And, with the hollow rocks and sparry caves,
       The tides, and all the many-music’d winds

       My oracles and co-mates;--watch my life
       Glide down the Stream of Knowledge, and behold
       Its waters with a musing stillness glass
       The thousand hues of Nature and of Heaven.
           --From Eugene Aram, a MS. Tragedy.

The Earl continued with the party he had joined; and when their
occupation was concluded and they turned homeward, he accepted the
Squire’s frank invitation to partake of some refreshment at the
Manor-house. It so chanced, or perhaps the Earl so contrived it, that
Aram and himself, in their way to the village lingered a little behind
the rest, and that their conversation was thus, for a few minutes, not
altogether general.

“Is it I, Mr. Aram?” said the Earl smiling, “or is it Fate that has made
you a convert? The last time we sagely and quietly conferred together,
you contended that the more the circle of existence was contracted, the
more we clung to a state of pure and all self-dependent intellect, the
greater our chance of happiness. Thus you denied that we were rendered
happier by our luxuries, by our ambition, or by our affections. Love and
its ties were banished from your solitary Utopia. And you asserted
that the true wisdom of life lay solely in the cultivation--not of our
feelings, but our faculties. You know, I held a different doctrine: and
it is with the natural triumph of a hostile partizan, that I hear
you are about to relinquish the practice of one of your dogmas;--in
consequence, may I hope, of having forsworn the theory?”

“Not so, my Lord,” answered Aram, colouring slightly; “my weakness
only proves that my theory is difficult,--not that it is wrong. I still
venture to think it true. More pain than pleasure is occasioned us
by others--banish others, and you are necessarily the gainer. Mental
activity and moral quietude are the two states which, were they
perfected and united, would constitute perfect happiness. It is such
a union which constitutes all we imagine of Heaven, or conceive of the
majestic felicity of a God.”

“Yet, while you are on earth you will be (believe me) happier in the
state you are about to choose,” said the Earl. “Who could look at that
enchanting face (the speaker directed his eyes towards Madeline) and not
feel that it gave a pledge of happiness that could not be broken?”

It was not in the nature of Aram to like any allusion to himself, and
still less to his affections: he turned aside his head, and remained
silent: the wary Earl discovered his indiscretion immediately.

“But let us put aside individual cases,” said he,--“the meum and the
tuum forbid all argument:--and confess, that there is for the majority
of human beings a greater happiness in love than in the sublime state of
passionless intellect to which you would so chillingly exalt us. Has not
Cicero said wisely, that we ought no more to subject too slavishly our
affections, than to elevate them too imperiously into our masters? Neque
se nimium erigere, nec subjacere serviliter.”

“Cicero loved philosophizing better than philosophy,” said Aram, coldly;
“but surely, my Lord, the affections give us pain as well as pleasure.
The doubt, the dread, the restlessness of love,--surely these prevent
the passion from constituting a happy state of mind; to me one knowledge
alone seems sufficient to embitter all its enjoyments,--the knowledge
that the object beloved must die. What a perpetuity of fear that
knowledge creates! The avalanche that may crush us depends upon a single
breath!”

“Is not that too refined a sentiment? Custom surely blunts us to every
chance, every danger, that may happen to us hourly. Were the avalanche
over you for a day,--I grant your state of torture,--but had an
avalanche rested over you for years, and not yet fallen, you would
forget that it could ever fall; you would eat, sleep, and make love, as
if it were not!”

“Ha! my Lord, you say well--you say well,” said Aram, with a marked
change of countenance; and, quickening his pace, he joined Lester’s
side, and the thread of the previous conversation was broken off.

The Earl afterwards, in walking through the gardens (an excursion which
he proposed himself, for he was somewhat of an horticulturist), took an
opportunity to renew the subject.

“You will pardon me,” said he, “but I cannot convince myself that man
would be happier were he without emotions; and that to enjoy life he
should be solely dependant on himself!”

“Yet it seems to me,” said Aram, “a truth easy of proof; if we love,
we place our happiness in others. The moment we place our happiness in
others, comes uncertainty, but uncertainty is the bane of happiness.
Children are the source of anxiety to their parents;--his mistress to
the lover. Change, accident, death, all menace us in each person whom we
regard. Every new tie opens new channels by which grief can invade us;
but, you will say, by which joy also can flow in;--granted! But in
human life is there not more grief than joy? What is it that renders the
balance even? What makes the staple of our happiness,--endearing to us
the life at which we should otherwise repine? It is the mere passive,
yet stirring, consciousness of life itself!--of the sun and the air of
the physical being; but this consciousness every emotion disturbs. Yet
could you add to its tranquillity an excitement that never exhausts
itself,--that becomes refreshed, not sated, with every new possession,
then you would obtain happiness. There is only one excitement of this
divine order,--that of intellectual culture. Behold now my theory!
Examine it--it contains no flaw. But if,” renewed Aram, after a pause,
“a man is subject to fate solely in himself, not in others, he soon
hardens his mind against all fear, and prepares it for all events.
A little philosophy enables him to bear bodily pain, or the common
infirmities of flesh: by a philosophy somewhat deeper, he can conquer
the ordinary reverses of fortune, the dread of shame, and the last
calamity of death. But what philosophy could ever thoroughly console him
for the ingratitude of a friend, the worthlessness of a child, the death
of a mistress? Hence, only when he stands alone, can a man’s soul say to
Fate, ‘I defy thee.’”

“You think then,” said the Earl, reluctantly diverting the conversation
into a new channel “that in the pursuit of knowledge lies our only
active road to real happiness. Yet here how eternal must be the
disappointments even of the most successful! Does not Boyle tell us of
a man who, after devoting his whole life to the study of one mineral,
confessed himself, at last, ignorant of all its properties?”

“Had the object of his study been himself, and not the mineral, he would
not have been so unsuccessful a student,” said Aram, smiling. “Yet,”
 added he, in a graver tone, “we do indeed cleave the vast heaven of
Truth with a weak and crippled wing: and often we are appalled in our
way by a dread sense of the immensity around us, and of the inadequacy
of our own strength. But there is a rapture in the breath of the pure
and difficult air, and in the progress by which we compass earth,
the while we draw nearer to the stars,--that again exalts us beyond
ourselves, and reconciles the true student unto all things,--even to the
hardest of them all,--the conviction how feebly our performance can
ever imitate the grandeur of our ambition! As you see the spark
fly upward,--sometimes not falling to earth till it be dark and
quenched,--thus soars, whither it recks not, so that the direction be
above, the luminous spirit of him who aspires to Truth; nor will it back
to the vile and heavy clay from which it sprang, until the light which
bore it upward be no more!”



CHAPTER IV.

   A DEEPER EXAMINATION INTO THE STUDENT’S HEART.--THE VISIT TO
        THE CASTLE.--PHILOSOPHY PUT TO THE TRIAL.

          I weigh not fortune’s frown or smile,
           I joy not much in earthly joys,
          I seek not state, I seek not stile,
           I am not fond of fancy’s toys;
          I rest so pleased with what I have,
          I wish no more, no more I crave.
              --Joshua Sylvester.

The reader must pardon me, if I somewhat clog his interest in my tale
by the brief conversations I have given, and must for a short while cast
myself on his indulgence and renew. It is not only the history of his
life, but the character and tone of Aram’s mind, that I wish to stamp
upon my page. Fortunately, however, the path my story assumes is of such
a nature, that in order to effect this object, I shall never have to
desert, and scarcely again even to linger by, the way.

Every one knows the magnificent moral of Goethe’s “Faust!” Every one
knows that sublime discontent--that chafing at the bounds of human
knowledge--that yearning for the intellectual Paradise beyond, which
“the sworded angel” forbids us to approach--that daring, yet sorrowful
state of mind--that sense of defeat, even in conquest, which Goethe has
embodied,--a picture of the loftiest grief of which the soul is capable,
and which may remind us of the profound and august melancholy which the
Great Sculptor breathed into the repose of the noblest of mythological
heroes, when he represented the God resting after his labours, as if
more convinced of their vanity than elated with their extent!

In this portrait, the grandeur of which the wild scenes that follow in
the drama we refer to, do not (strangely wonderful as they are) perhaps
altogether sustain, Goethe has bequeathed to the gaze of a calmer and
more practical posterity, the burning and restless spirit--the feverish
desire for knowledge more vague than useful, which characterised the
exact epoch in the intellectual history of Germany, in which the poem
was inspired and produced.

At these bitter waters, the Marah of the streams of Wisdom, the soul
of the man whom we have made the hero of these pages, had also, and not
lightly, quaffed. The properties of a mind, more calm and stern than
belonged to the visionaries of the Hartz and the Danube, might indeed
have preserved him from that thirst after the impossibilities of
knowledge, which gives so peculiar a romance, not only to the poetry,
but the philosophy of the German people. But if he rejected the
superstitions, he did not also reject the bewilderments of the mind. He
loved to plunge into the dark and metaphysical subtleties which human
genius has called daringly forth from the realities of things:--

                “To spin

       A shroud of thought, to hide him from the sun

       Of this familiar life, which seems to be,

       But is not--or is but quaint mockery

       Of all we would believe;--or sadly blame

       The jarring and inexplicable frame

       Of this wrong world: and then anatomize

       The purposes and thoughts of man, whose eyes

       Were closed in distant years; or widely guess

       The issue of the earth’s great business,

       When we shall be, as we no longer are,

       Like babbling gossips, safe, who hear the war

       Of winds, and sigh!--but tremble not!”

Much in him was a type, or rather forerunner, of the intellectual spirit
that broke forth when we were children, among our countrymen, and is now
slowly dying away amidst the loud events and absorbing struggles of
the awakening world. But in one respect he stood aloof from all his
tribe--in his hard indifference to worldly ambition, and his contempt of
fame. As some sages have seemed to think the universe a dream, and self
the only reality, so in his austere and collected reliance upon his own
mind--the gathering in, as it were, of his resources, he appeared to
consider the pomps of the world as shadows, and the life of his own
spirit the only substance. He had built a city and a tower within the
Shinar of his own heart, whence he might look forth, unscathed and
unmoved, upon the deluge that broke over the rest of earth.

Only in one instance, and that, as we have seen, after much struggle, he
had given way to the emotions that agitate his kind, and had surrendered
himself to the dominion of another. This was against his theories--but
what theories ever resist love? In yielding, however, thus far, he
seemed more on his guard than ever against a broader encroachment. He
had admitted one ‘fair spirit’ for his ‘minister,’ but it was only with
a deeper fervour to invoke ‘the desert’ as ‘his dwelling-place.’ Thus,
when the Earl, who, like most practical judges of mankind, loved to
apply to each individual the motives that actuate the mass, and who only
unwillingly, and somewhat sceptically, assented to the exceptions,
and was driven to search for peculiar clues to the eccentric
instance,--finding, to his secret triumph, that Aram had admitted one
intruding emotion into his boasted circle of indifference, imagined that
he should easily induce him (the spell once broken) to receive another,
he was surprised and puzzled to discover himself in the wrong.

Lord--at that time had been lately called into the administration, and
he was especially anxious to secure the support of all the talent that
he could enlist in its behalf. The times were those in which party ran
high, and in which individual political writings were honoured with an
importance which the periodical press in general has now almost wholly
monopolized. On the side opposed to Government, writers of great name
and high attainments had shone with peculiar effect, and the Earl was
naturally desirous that they should be opposed by an equal array of
intellect on the side espoused by himself. The name alone of Eugene
Aram, at a day when scholarship was renown, would have been no ordinary
acquisition to the cause of the Earl’s party; but that judicious and
penetrating nobleman perceived that Aram’s abilities, his various
research, his extended views, his facility of argument, and the heat and
energy of his eloquence, might be rendered of an importance which could
not have been anticipated from the name alone, however eminent, of
a retired and sedentary scholar; he was not therefore without an
interested motive in the attentions he now lavished upon the Student,
and in his curiosity to put to the proof the disdain of all worldly
enterprise and worldly temptation, which Aram affected. He could not
but think, that to a man poor and lowly of circumstance, conscious of
superior acquirements, about to increase his wants by admitting to them
a partner, and arrived at that age when the calculations of interest
and the whispers of ambition have usually most weight;--he could not but
think that to such a man the dazzling prospects of social advancement,
the hope of the high fortunes, and the powerful and glittering influence
which political life, in England, offers to the aspirant, might be
rendered altogether irresistible.

He took several opportunities in the course of the next week, of
renewing his conversation with Aram, and of artfully turning it into
the channels which he thought most likely to produce the impression he
desired to create. He was somewhat baffled, but by no means dispirited,
in his attempts; but he resolved to defer his ultimate proposition until
it could be made to the fullest advantage. He had engaged the Lesters to
promise to pass a day at the castle; and with great difficulty, and
at the earnest intercession of Madeline, Aram was prevailed upon to
accompany them. So extreme was his distaste to general society, and,
from some motive or another more powerful than mere constitutional
reserve, so invariably had he for years refused all temptations to enter
it, that natural as this concession was rendered by his approaching
marriage to one of the party, it filled him with a sort of terror and
foreboding of evil. It was as if he were passing beyond the boundary of
some law, on which the very tenure of his existence depended. After he
had consented, a trembling came over him; he hastily left the room, and
till the day arrived, was observed by his friends of the Manor-house to
be more gloomy and abstracted than they ever had known him, even at the
earliest period of acquaintance.

On the day itself, as they proceeded to the castle, Madeline perceived
with a tearful repentance of her interference, that he sate by her side
cold and rapt; and that once or twice when his eyes dwelt upon her, it
was with an expression of reproach and distrust.

It was not till they entered the lofty hall of the castle, when a vulgar
diffidence would have been most abashed, that Aram recovered himself.
The Earl was standing--the centre of a group in the recess of a window
in the saloon, opening upon an extensive and stately terrace. He came
forward to receive them with the polished and warm kindness which he
bestowed upon al his inferiors in rank. He complimented the sisters; he
jested with Lester; but to Aram only, he manifested less the courtesy
of kindness than of respect. He took his arm, and leaning on it with a
light touch, led him to the group at the window. It was composed of the
most distinguished public men in the country, and among them (the Earl
himself was connected through an illegitimate branch with the reigning
monarch,) was a prince of the blood royal.

To these, whom he had prepared for the introduction, he severally, and
with an easy grace, presented Aram, and then falling back a few steps,
he watched with a keen but seemingly careless eye, the effect which so
sudden a contact with royalty itself would produce on the mind of
the shy and secluded Student, whom it was his object to dazzle and
overpower. It was at this moment that the native dignity of Aram, which
his studies, unworldly as they were, had certainly tended to increase,
displayed itself, in a trial which, poor as it was in abstract theory,
was far from despicable in the eyes of the sensible and practised
courtier. He received with his usual modesty, but not with his usual
shrinking and embarrassment on such occasions, the compliments he
received; a certain and far from ungraceful pride was mingled with his
simplicity of demeanour; no fluttering of manner, betrayed that he was
either dazzled or humbled by the presence in which he stood, and the
Earl could not but confess that there was never a more favourable
opportunity for comparing the aristocracy of genius with that of birth;
it was one of those homely every-day triumphs of intellect, which please
us more than they ought to do, for, after all, they are more common than
the men of courts are willing to believe.

Lord--did not however long leave Aram to the support of his own
unassisted presence of mind and calmness of nerve; he advanced, and led
the conversation, with his usual tact, into a course which might at
once please Aram, and afford him the opportunity to shine. The Earl
had imported from Italy some of the most beautiful specimens of classic
sculpture which this country now possesses. These were disposed
in niches around the magnificent apartment in which the guest were
assembled, and as the Earl pointed them out, and illustrated each from
the beautiful anecdotes and golden allusions of antiquity, he felt that
he was affording to Aram a gratification he could never have experienced
before; and in the expression of which, the grace and copiousness of his
learning would find vent. Nor was he disappointed. The cheek, which
till then had retained its steady paleness, now caught the glow of
enthusiasm; and in a few moments there was not a person in the group,
who did not feel, and cheerfully feel, the superiority of the one who,
in birth and fortune, was immeasurably the lowest of all.

The English aristocracy, whatever be the faults of their education, (and
certainly the name of the faults is legion!) have at least the merit of
being alive to the possession, and easily warmed to the possessor, of
classical attainment: perhaps even from this very merit spring many
of the faults we allude to; they are too apt to judge all talent by
a classical standard, and all theory by classical experience.
Without,--save in very rare instances,--the right to boast of any deep
learning, they are far more susceptible than the nobility of any other
nation to the spiritum Camoenae. They are easily and willingly charmed
back to the studies which, if not eagerly pursued in youth, are still
entwined with all their youth’s brightest recollections; the schoolboy’s
prize, and the master’s praise,--the first ambition, and its first
reward. A felicitous quotation, a delicate allusion, is never lost
upon their ear; and the veneration which at Eton they bore to the best
verse-maker in the school, tinctures their judgment of others throughout
life, mixing I know not what, both of liking and esteem, with their
admiration of one who uses his classical weapons with a scholar’s
dexterity, not a pedant’s inaptitude: for such a one there is a sort of
agreeable confusion in their respect; they are inclined, unconsciously,
to believe that he must necessarily be a high gentleman--ay, and
something of a good fellow into the bargain.

It happened then that Aram could not have dwelt upon a theme more
likely to arrest the spontaneous interest of those with whom he now
conversed--men themselves of more cultivated minds than usual, and more
capable than most (from that acute perception of real talent, which is
produced by habitual political warfare,) of appreciating not only his
endowments, but his facility in applying them.

“You are right, my Lord,” said Sir--, the whipper-in of the--party,
taking the Earl aside; “he would be an inestimable pamphleteer.”

“Could you get him to write us a sketch of the state of parties;
luminous, eloquent?’” whispered a lord of the bed-chamber.

The Earl answered by a bon mot, and turned to a bust of Caracalla.

The hours at that time were (in the country at least) not late, and the
Earl was one of the first introducers of the polished fashion of France,
by which we testify a preference of the society of the women to that of
our own sex; so that, in leaving the dining-room, it was not so late
but that the greater part of the guests walked out upon the terrace, and
admired the expanse of country which it overlooked, and along which the
thin veil of the twilight began now to hover.

Having safely deposited his royal guest at a whist table, and thus left
himself a free agent, the Earl, inviting Aram to join him, sauntered
among the loiterers on the terrace for a few moments, and then descended
a broad flight of steps, which brought them into a more shaded and
retired walk; on either side of which rows of orange-trees gave forth
their fragrance, while, to the right, sudden and numerous vistas were
cut among the more irregular and dense foliage, affording glimpses--now
of some rustic statue--now of some lone temple--now of some quaint
fountain, on the play of whose waters the first stars had begun to
tremble.

It was one of those magnificent gardens, modelled from the stately
glories of Versailles, which it is now the mode to decry, but which
breathe so unequivocally of the Palace. I grant that they deck Nature
with somewhat too prolix a grace; but is beauty always best seen in
deshabille? And with what associations of the brightest traditions
connected with Nature they link her more luxuriant loveliness! Must we
breathe only the malaria of Rome to be capable of feeling the interest
attached to the fountain or the statue?

“I am glad,” said the Earl, “that you admired my bust of Cicero--it
is from an original very lately discovered. What grandeur in the
brow!--what energy in the mouth, and downward bend of the head! It
is pleasant even to imagine we gaze upon the likeness of so bright
a spirit;--and confess, at least of Cicero, that in reading the
aspirations and outpourings of his mind, you have felt your apathy to
Fame melting away; you have shared the desire to live to the future
age,--‘the longing after immortality?”

“Was it not that longing,” replied Aram, “which gave to the character
of Cicero its poorest and most frivolous infirmity? Has it not made
him, glorious as he is despite of it, a byword in the mouths of every
schoolboy? Wherever you mention his genius, do you not hear an appendix
on his vanity?”

“Yet without that vanity, that desire for a name with posterity,
would he have been equally great--would he equally have cultivated his
genius?”

“Probably, my Lord, he would not have equally cultivated his genius,
but in reality he might have been equally great. A man often injures his
mind by the means that increase his genius. You think this, my Lord, a
paradox, but examine it. How many men of genius have been but ordinary
men, take them from the particular objects in which they shine. Why is
this, but that in cultivating one branch of intellect they neglect the
rest? Nay, the very torpor of the reasoning faculty has often kindled
the imaginative. Lucretius composed his sublime poem under the influence
of a delirium. The susceptibilities that we create or refine by the
pursuit of one object, weaken our general reason; and I may compare with
some justice the powers of the mind to the faculties of the body, in
which squinting is occasioned by an inequality of strength in the eyes,
and discordance of voice by the same inequality in the ears.”

“I believe you are right,” said the Earl; “yet I own I willingly forgive
Cicero for his vanity, if it contributed to the production of his
orations and his essays; and he is a greater man, even with his vanity
unconquered, than if he had conquered his foible, and in doing so taken
away the incitements to his genius.”

“A greater man in the world’s eye, my Lord, but scarcely in reality. Had
Homer written his Iliad and then burnt it, would his genius have been
less? The world would have known nothing of him, but would he have been
a less extraordinary man on that account? We are too apt, my Lord, to
confound greatness and fame.

“There is one circumstance,” added Aram, after a pause, “that should
diminish our respect for renown. Errors of life, as well as foibles
of characters, are often the real enhancers of celebrity. Without his
errors, I doubt whether Henri Quatre would have become the idol of a
people. How many Whartons has the world known, who, deprived of their
frailties, had been inglorious! The light that you so admire, reaches
you only through the distance of time, on account of the angles and
unevenness of the body whence it emanates. Were the surface of the moon
smooth, it would be invisible.”

“I admire your illustrations,” said the Earl; “but I reluctantly submit
to your reasonings. You would then neglect your powers, lest they should
lead you into errors?”

“Pardon me, my Lord; it is because I think all the powers should be
cultivated, that I quarrel with the exclusive cultivation of one. And
it is only because I would strengthen the whole mind that I dissent from
the reasonings of those who tell you to consult your genius.”

“But your genius may serve mankind more than this general cultivation of
intellect?”

“My Lord,” replied Aram, with a mournful cloud upon his countenance;
“that argument may have weight with those who think mankind can be
effectually served, though they may be often dazzled, by the labours of
an individual. But, indeed, this perpetual talk of ‘mankind’ signifies
nothing: each of us consults his proper happiness, and we consider him a
madman who ruins his own peace of mind by an everlasting fretfulness of
philanthropy.”

This was a doctrine that half pleased, half displeased the Earl--it
shadowed forth the most dangerous notions which Aram entertained.

“Well, well,” said the noble host, as, after a short contest on the
ground of his guest’s last remark, they left off where they began, “Let
us drop these general discussions: I have a particular proposition to
unfold. We have, I trust, Mr. Aram, seen enough of each other, to feel
that we can lay a sure foundation for mutual esteem. For my part, I
own frankly, that I have never met with one who has inspired me with a
sincerer admiration. I am desirous that your talents and great learning
should be known in the widest sphere. You may despise fame, but you must
permit your friends the weakness to wish you justice, and themselves
triumph. You know my post in the present administration--the place of my
secretary is one of great trust--some influence, and large emolument. I
offer it to you--accept it, and you will confer upon me an honour and
an obligation. You will have your own separate house, or apartments
in mine, solely appropriated to your use. Your privacy will never be
disturbed. Every arrangement shall be made for yourself and your bride,
that either of you can suggest. Leisure for your own pursuits you will
have, too, in abundance--there are others who will perform all that is
toilsome in your office. In London, you will see around you the most
eminent living men of all nations, and in all pursuits. If you contract,
(which believe me is possible--it is a tempting game,) any inclination
towards public life, you will have the most brilliant opportunities
afforded you, and I foretell you the most signal success. Stay yet one
moment:--for this you will owe me no thanks. Were I not sensible that I
consult my own interests in this proposal, I should be courtier enough
to suppress it.”

“My Lord,” said Aram, in a voice which, in spite of its calmness,
betrayed that he was affected, “it seldom happens to a man of my
secluded habits, and lowly pursuits, to have the philosophy he affects
put to so severe a trial. I am grateful to you--deeply grateful for
an offer so munificent--so undeserved. I am yet more grateful that it
allows me to sound the strength of my own heart, and to find that I did
not too highly rate it. Look, my Lord, from the spot where we now stand”
 (the moon had risen, and they had now returned to the terrace): “in the
vale below, and far among those trees, lies my home. More than two years
ago, I came thither, to fix the resting-place of a sad and troubled
spirit. There have I centered all my wishes and my hopes; and there may
I breathe my last! My Lord, you will not think me ungrateful, that my
choice is made; and you will not blame my motive, though you may despise
my wisdom.”

“But,” said the Earl astonished, “you cannot foresee all the advantages
you would renounce. At your age--with your intellect--to choose the
living sepulchre of a hermitage--it was wise to reconcile yourself to
it, but not to prefer it! Nay, nay; consider--pause. I am in no haste
for your decision; and what advantages have you in your retreat, that
you will not possess in a greater degree with me? Quiet?--I pledge it
to you under my roof. Solitude?--you shall have it at your will.
Books?--what are those which you, which any individual possesses, to
the public institutions, the magnificent collections, of the metropolis?
What else is it you enjoy yonder, and cannot enjoy with me?”

“Liberty!” said Aram energetically.--“Liberty! the wild sense of
independence. Could I exchange the lonely stars and the free air,
for the poor lights and feverish atmosphere of worldly life? Could I
surrender my mood, with its thousand eccentricities and humours--its
cloud and shadow--to the eyes of strangers, or veil it from their gaze
by the irksomeness of an eternal hypocrisy? No, my Lord! I am too old
to turn disciple to the world! You promise me solitude and quiet.
What charm would they have for me, if I felt they were held from
the generosity of another? The attraction of solitude is only in its
independence. You offer me the circle, but not the magic which made it
holy. Books! They, years since, would have tempted me; but those whose
wisdom I have already drained, have taught me now almost enough: and
the two Books, whose interest can never be exhausted--Nature and my own
Heart--will suffice for the rest of life. My Lord, I require no time for
consideration.”

“And you positively refuse me?”

“Gratefully refuse you.”

The Earl walked peevishly away for one moment; but it was not in his
nature to lose himself for more.

“Mr. Aram,” said he frankly, and holding out his hand; “you have chosen
nobly, if not wisely; and though I cannot forgive you for depriving
me of such a companion, I thank you for teaching me such a lesson.
Henceforth, I will believe, that philosophy may exist in practice; and
that a contempt for wealth and for honours, is not the mere profession
of discontent. This is the first time, in a various and experienced
life, that I have found a man sincerely deaf to the temptations of the
world,--and that man of such endowments! If ever you see cause to alter
a theory that I still think erroneous, though lofty--remember me; and at
all times, and on all occasions,” he added, with a smile, “when a friend
becomes a necessary evil, call to mind our starlit walk on the castle
terrace.”

Aram did not mention to Lester, or even Madeline, the above
conversation. The whole of the next day he shut himself up at home;
and when he again appeared at the Manor-house, he heard with evident
satisfaction that the Earl had been suddenly summoned on state affairs
to London.

There was an unaccountable soreness in Aram’s mind, which made him feel
a resentment--a suspicion against all who sought to lure him from
his retreat. “Thank Heaven!” thought he, when he heard of the
Earl’s departure; “we shall not meet for another year!” He was
mistaken.--Another year!



CHAPTER V.

   IN WHICH THE STORY RETURNS TO WALTER AND THE CORPORAL.--THE
   RENCONTRE WITH A STRANGER, AND HOW THE STRANGER PROVES TO BE
            NOT ALTOGETHER A STRANGER.

      Being got out of town in the road to Penaflor, master of my own
      action, and forty good ducats; the first thing I did was to
      give my mule her head, and to go at what pace she pleased.
           .............
      I left them in the inn, and continued my journey; I was hardly
      got half-a-mile farther, when I met a cavalier very genteel,
                  --Gil Blas.

It was broad and sunny noon on the second day of their journey, as
Walter Lester, and the valorous attendant with whom it had pleased Fate
to endow him, rode slowly into a small town in which the Corporal in
his own heart, had resolved to bait his roman-nosed horse and refresh
himself. Two comely inns had the younger traveller of the twain already
passed with an indifferent air, as if neither bait nor refreshment
made any part of the necessary concerns of this habitable world. And in
passing each of the said hostelries, the roman-nosed horse had uttered
a snort of indignant surprise, and the worthy Corporal had responded
to the quadrupedal remonstrance by a loud hem. It seemed, however, that
Walter heard neither of the above significant admonitions; and now the
town was nearly passed, and a steep hill that seemed winding away into
eternity, already presented itself to the rueful gaze of the Corporal.

“The boy’s clean mad,” grunted Bunting to himself--“must do my duty to
him--give him a hint.”

Pursuant to this notable and conscientious determination, Bunting jogged
his horse into a trot, and coming alongside of Walter, put his hand to
his hat and said:

“Weather warm, your honour--horses knocked up--next town far as
hell!--halt a bit here--augh!”

“Ha! that is very true, Bunting; I had quite forgotten the length of our
journey. But see, there is a sign-post yonder, we will take advantage of
it.”

“Augh! and your honour’s right--fit for the forty-second;” said the
Corporal, falling back; and in a few moments he and his charger found
themselves, to their mutual delight, entering the yard of a small, but
comfortable-looking inn.

The Host, a man of a capacious stomach and a rosy cheek--in short, a
host whom your heart warms to see, stepped forth immediately, held the
stirrup for the young Squire, (for the Corporal’s movements were
too stately to be rapid,) and ushered him with a bow, a smile, and a
flourish of his napkin, into one of those little quaint rooms, with
cupboards bright with high glasses and old china, that it pleases us
still to find extant in the old-fashioned inns, in our remoter roads and
less Londonized districts.

Mine host was an honest fellow, and not above his profession; he stirred
the fire, dusted the table, brought the bill of fare, and a newspaper
seven days old, and then bustled away to order the dinner and chat with
the Corporal. That accomplished hero had already thrown the stables into
commotion, and frightening the two ostlers from their attendance on the
steeds of more peaceable men, had set them both at leading his own horse
and his master’s to and fro’ the yard, to be cooled into comfort and
appetite.

He was now busy in the kitchen, where he had seized the reins of
government, sent the scullion to see if the hens had laid any fresh
eggs, and drawn upon himself the objurgations of a very thin cook with a
squint.

“Tell you, ma’am, you are wrong--quite wrong--have seen the world--old
soldier--and know how to fry eggs better than any she in the
three kingdoms--hold jaw--mind your own business--where’s the
frying-pan?--baugh!”

So completely did the Corporal feel himself in his element, while he was
putting everybody else out of the way; and so comfortable did he find
his new quarters, that he resolved that the “bait” should be at all
events prolonged until his good cheer had been deliberately digested,
and his customary pipe duly enjoyed.

Accordingly, but not till Walter had dined, for our man of the world
knew that it is the tendency of that meal to abate our activity, while
it increases our good humour, the Corporal presented himself to his
master, with a grave countenance.

“Greatly vexed, your honour--who’d have thought it?--but those large
animals are bad on long march.”

“Why what’s the matter now, Bunting?”

“Only, Sir, that the brown horse is so done up, that I think it would be
as much as life’s worth to go any farther for several hours.”

“Very well, and if I propose staying here till the evening?--we have
ridden far, and are in no great hurry.”

“To be sure not--sure and certain not,” cried the Corporal. “Ah, Master,
you know how to command, I see. Nothing like discretion--discretion,
Sir, is a jewel. Sir, it is more than jewel--it’s a pair of stirrups!”

“A what? Bunting.”

“Pair of stirrups, your honour. Stirrups help us to get on, so does
discretion; to get off, ditto discretion. Men without stirrups look
fine, ride bold, tire soon: men without discretion cut dash, but knock
up all of a crack. Stirrups--but what sinnifies? Could say much more,
your honour, but don’t love chatter.”

“Your simile is ingenious enough, if not poetical,” said Walter; “but it
does not hold good to the last. When a man falls, his discretion should
preserve him; but he is often dragged in the mud by his stirrups.”

“Beg pardon--you’re wrong,” quoth the Corporal, nothing taken by
surprise; “spoke of the new-fangled stirrups that open, crank, when we
fall, and let us out of the scrape.” [Note: Of course the Corporal does
not speak of the patent stirrup: that would be an anachronism.]

Satisfied with this repartee, the Corporal now (like an experienced
jester) withdrew to leave its full effect on the admiration of his
master. A little before sunset the two travellers renewed their journey.

“I have loaded the pistols, Sir,” said the Corporal, pointing to the
holsters on Walter’s saddle. “It is eighteen miles off to the next
town--will be dark long before we get there.”

“You did very right, Bunting, though I suppose there is not much danger
to be apprehended from the gentlemen of the highway.”

“Why the Landlord do say the revarse, your honour,--been many robberies
lately in these here parts.”

“Well, we are fairly mounted, and you are a formidable-looking fellow,
Bunting.”

“Oh! your honour,” quoth the Corporal, turning his head stiffly away,
with a modest simper, “You makes me blush; though, indeed, bating that I
have the military air, and am more in the prime of life, your honour is
well nigh as awkward a gentleman as myself to come across.”

“Much obliged for the compliment!” said Walter, pushing his horse a
little forward--the Corporal took the hint and fell back.

It was now that beautiful hour of twilight when lovers grow especially
tender. The young traveller every instant threw his dark eyes upward,
and thought--not of Madeline, but her sister. The Corporal himself
grew pensive, and in a few moments his whole soul was absorbed in
contemplating the forlorn state of the abandoned Jacobina.

In this melancholy and silent mood, they proceeded onward till the
shades began to deepen; and by the light of the first stars Walter
beheld a small, spare gentleman riding before him on an ambling nag,
with cropped ears and mane. The rider, as he now came up to him, seemed
to have passed the grand climacteric, but looked hale and vigorous; and
there was a certain air of staid and sober aristocracy about him, which
involuntarily begat your respect.

He looked hard at Walter as the latter approached, and still more hard
at the Corporal. He seemed satisfied with the survey.

“Sir,” said he, slightly touching his hat to Walter, and with an
agreeable though rather sharp intonation of voice, “I am very glad to
see a gentleman of your appearance travelling my road. Might I request
the honour of being allowed to join you so far as you go? To say the
truth, I am a little afraid of encountering those industrious gentlemen
who have been lately somewhat notorious in these parts; and it may be
better for all of us to ride in as strong a party as possible.”

“Sir,” replied Walter, eyeing in his turn the speaker, and in his turn
also feeling satisfied with the scrutiny, “I am going to--, where I
shall pass the night on my way to town; and shall be very happy in your
company.”

The Corporal uttered a loud hem; that penetrating man of the world was
not too well pleased with the advances of a stranger.

“What fools them boys be!” thought he, very discontentedly; “howsomever,
the man does seem like a decent country gentleman, and we are two to
one: besides, he’s old, little, and--augh, baugh--I dare say, we are
safe enough, for all he can do.”

The Stranger possessed a polished and well-bred demeanour; he talked
freely and copiously, and his conversation was that of a shrewd and
cultivated man. He informed Walter that, not only the roads had been
infested by those more daring riders common at that day, and to whose
merits we ourselves have endeavoured to do justice in a former work of
blessed memory, but that several houses had been lately attempted, and
two absolutely plundered.

“For myself,” he added, “I have no money, to signify, about my
person: my watch is only valuable to me for the time it has been in my
possession; and if the rogues robbed one civilly, I should not so much
mind encountering them; but they are a desperate set, and use violence
when there is nothing to be got by it. Have you travelled far to-day,
Sir?”

“Some six or seven-and-twenty miles,” replied Walter. “I am proceeding
to London, and not willing to distress my horses by too rapid a
journey.”

“Very right, very good; and horses, Sir, are not now what they used to
be when I was a young man. Ah, what wagers I used to win then! Horses
galloped, Sir, when I was twenty; they trotted when I was thirty-five;
but they only amble now. Sir, if it does not tax your patience too
severely, let us give our nags some hay and water at the half-way house
yonder.”

Walter assented; they stopped at a little solitary inn by the side of
the road, and the host came out with great obsequiousness when he heard
the voice of Walter’s companion.

“Ah, Sir Peter!” said he, “and how be’st your honour--fine night, Sir
Peter--hope you’ll get home safe, Sir Peter.”

“Safe--ay! indeed, Jock, I hope so too. Has all been quiet here this
last night or two?”

“Whish, Sir!” whispered my host, jerking his thumb back towards the
house; “there be two ugly customers within I does not know: they have
got famous good horses, and are drinking hard. I can’t say as I knows
any thing agen ‘em, but I think your honours had better be jogging.”

“Aha! thank ye, Jock, thank ye. Never mind the hay now,” said Sir Peter,
pulling away the reluctant mouth of his nag; and turning to Walter,
“Come, Sir, let us move on. Why, zounds! where is that servant of
yours?”

Walter now perceived, with great vexation, that the Corporal had
disappeared within the alehouse; and looking through the casement, on
which the ruddy light of the fire played cheerily, he saw the man of the
world lifting a little measure of “the pure creature” to his lips; and
close by the hearth, at a small, round table, covered with glasses,
pipes, he beheld two men eyeing the tall Corporal very wistfully, and of
no prepossessing appearance themselves. One, indeed, as the fire played
full on his countenance, was a person of singularly rugged and sinister
features; and this man, he now remarked, was addressing himself with
a grim smile to the Corporal, who, setting down his little “noggin,”
 regarded him with a stare, which appeared to Walter to denote
recognition. This survey was the operation of a moment; for Sir Peter
took it upon himself to despatch the landlord into the house, to order
forth the unseasonable carouser; and presently the Corporal stalked
out, and having solemnly remounted, the whole trio set onward in a brisk
trot. As soon as they were without sight of the ale-house, the Corporal
brought the aquiline profile of his gaunt steed on a level with his
master’s horse.

“Augh, Sir!” said he, with more than his usual energy of utterance, “I
see’d him!”

“Him! whom?”

“Man with ugly face what drank at Peter Dealtry’s, and knew Master
Aram,--knew him in a crack,--sure he’s a Tartar!”

“What! does your servant recognize one of those suspicious fellows whom
Jock warned us against?” cried Sir Peter, pricking up his ears.

“So it seems, Sir,” said Walter: “he saw him once before, many miles
hence; but I fancy he knows nothing really to his prejudice.”

“Augh!” cried the Corporal; “he’s d--d ugly any how!”

“That’s a tall fellow of yours,” said Sir Peter, jerking up his chin
with that peculiar motion common to the brief in stature, when they are
covetous of elongation. “He looks military:--has he been in the army?
Ay, I thought so; one of the King of Prussia’s grenadiers, I suppose?
Faith, I hear hoofs behind!”

“Hem!” cried the Corporal, again coming alongside of his master. “Beg
pardon, Sir--served in the 42nd--nothing like regular line--stragglers
always cut off--had rather not straggle just now--enemy behind!”

Walter looked back, and saw two men approaching them at a hand-gallop.
“We are a match at least for them, Sir,” said he, to his new
acquaintance.

“I am devilish glad I met you,” was Sir Peter’s rather selfish reply.

“‘Tis he! ‘tis the devil!” grunted the Corporal, as the two men now
gained their side and pulled up; and Walter recognised the faces he had
marked in the ale-house.

“Your servant, gentlemen,” quoth the uglier of the two; “you ride
fast--”

“And ready;--bother--baugh!” chimed in the Corporal, plucking a gigantic
pistol from his holster, without any farther ceremony.

“Glad to hear it, Sir!” said the hard-featured Stranger, nothing dashed.
“But I can tell you a secret!”

“What’s that--augh?” said the Corporal, cocking his pistol.

“Whoever hurts you, friend, cheats the gallows!” replied the stranger,
laughing, and spurring on his horse, to be out of reach of any practical
answer with which the Corporal might favour him. But Bunting was a
prudent man, and not apt to be choleric.

“Bother!” said he, and dropped his pistol, as the other stranger
followed his ill-favoured comrade.

“You see we are too strong for them!” cried Sir Peter, gaily; “evidently
highwaymen! How very fortunate that I should have fallen in with you!”

A shower of rain now began to fall. Sir Peter looked serious--he halted
abruptly--unbuckled his cloak, which had been strapped before his
saddle--wrapped himself up in it--buried his face in the collar--muffled
his chin with a red handkerchief, which he took out of his pocket, and
then turning to Walter, he said to him, “What! no cloak, Sir? no wrapper
even? Upon my soul I am very sorry I have not another handkerchief to
lend you!”

“Man of the world--baugh!” grunted the Corporal, and his heart quite
warmed to the stranger he had at first taken for a robber.

“And now, Sir,” said Sir Peter, patting his nag, and pulling up his
cloak-collar still higher, “let us go gently; there is no occasion for
hurry. Why distress our horses?--”

“Really, Sir,” said Walter, smiling, “though I have a great regard for
my horse, I have some for myself; and I should rather like to be out of
this rain as soon as possible.”

“Oh, ah! you have no cloak. I forgot that; to be sure--to be sure, let
us trot on, gently--though--gently. Well, Sir, as I was saying, horses
are not so swift as they were. The breed is bought up by the French! I
remember once, Johnny Courtland and I, after dining at my house, till
the champagne had played the dancing-master to our brains, mounted our
horses, and rode twenty miles for a cool thousand the winner. I lost it,
Sir, by a hair’s breadth; but I lost it on purpose; it would have half
ruined Johnny Courtland to have paid me, and he had that delicacy,
Sir,--he had that delicacy, that he would not have suffered me to refuse
taking his money,--so what could I do, but lose on purpose? You see I
had no alternative!”

“Pray, Sir,” said Walter, charmed and astonished at so rare an instance
of the generosity of human friendships--“Pray, Sir, did I not hear you
called Sir Peter, by the landlord of the little inn? can it be, since
you speak so familiarly of Mr. Courtland, that I have the honour to
address Sir Peter Hales?”

“Indeed that is my name,” replied the gentleman, with some surprise in
his voice. “But I have never had the honour of seeing you before.”

“Perhaps my name is not unfamiliar to you,” said Walter. “And among my
papers I have a letter addressed to you from my uncle Rowland Lester.

“God bless me!” cried Sir Peter, “What Rowy!--well, indeed I am
overjoyed to hear of him. So you are his nephew? Pray tell me all about
him, a wild, gay, rollicking fellow still, eh?” Always fencing, sa--sa!
or playing at billiards, or hot in a steeple chace; there was not a
jollier, better-humoured fellow in the world than Rowy Lester.

“You forget, Sir Peter,” said Walter, laughing at a description so
unlike his sober and steady uncle, “that some years have passed since
the time you speak of.”

“Ah, and so there have,” replied Sir Peter; “and what does your uncle
say of me?”

“That, when he knew you, you were generosity, frankness, hospitality
itself.”

“Humph, humph!” said Sir Peter, looking extremely disconcerted, a
confusion which Walter imputed solely to modesty. “I was hairbrained
foolish fellow then, quite a boy, quite a boy; but bless me, it rains
sharply, and you have no cloak. But we are close on the town now. An
excellent inn is the ‘Duke of Cumberland’s Head,’ you will have charming
accommodation there.”

“What, Sir Peter, you know this part of the country well!”

“Pretty well, pretty well; indeed I live near, that is to say not very
far from, the town. This turn, if you please. We separate here. I have
brought you a little out of your way--not above a mile or two--for fear
the robbers should attack me if I was left alone. I had quite forgot you
had no cloak. That’s your road--this mine. Aha! so Rowy Lester is still
alive and hearty, the same excellent, wild fellow, no doubt. Give my
kindest remembrance to him when you write. Adieu, Sir.”

This latter speech having been delivered during a halt, the Corporal had
heard it: he grinned delightedly as he touched his hat to Sir Peter, who
now trotted off, and muttered to his young master:--

“Most sensible man, that, Sir!”



CHAPTER VI.

    SIR PETER DISPLAYED.--ONE MAN OF THE WORLD SUFFERS FROM
   ANOTHER.--THE INCIDENT OF THE BRIDLE BEGETS THE INCIDENT OF
   THE SADDLE; THE INCIDENT OF THE SADDLE BEGETS THE INCIDENT OF
   THE WHIP; THE INCIDENT OF THE WHIP BEGETS WHAT THE READER MUST
               READ TO SEE.

          Nihil est aliud magnum quam multa minuta.
              --Vetus Auctor.

          [Nor is their anything that hath so great
          a power as the aggregate of small things.]

“And so,” said Walter, the next morning to the head waiter, who was
busied about their preparations for breakfast; “and so, Sir Peter Hales,
you say, lives within a mile of the town?”

“Scarcely a mile, Sir,--black or green? you passed the turn to his
house last night;--Sir, the eggs are quite fresh this morning. This inn
belongs to Sir Peter.”

“Oh!--Does Sir Peter see much company?”

The waiter smiled.

“Sir Peter gives very handsome dinners, Sir; twice a year! A most clever
gentleman, Sir Peter! They say he is the best manager of property in the
whole county. Do you like Yorkshire cake?--toast? yes, Sir!”

“So so,” said Walter to himself, “a pretty true description my uncle
gave me of this gentleman. ‘Ask me too often to dinner, indeed!’--‘offer
me money if I want it!’--‘spend a month at his house!’--‘most hospitable
fellow in the world!’--My uncle must have been dreaming.”

Walter had yet to learn, that the men most prodigal when they have
nothing but expectations, are often most thrifty when they know the
charms of absolute possession. Besides, Sir Peter had married a Scotch
lady, and was blessed with eleven children! But was Sir Peter Hales much
altered? Sir Peter Hales was exactly the same man in reality that he
always had been. Once he was selfish in extravagance; he was now selfish
in thrift. He had always pleased himself, and damned other people; that
was exactly what he valued himself on doing now. But the most absurd
thing about Sir Peter was, that while he was for ever extracting use
from every one else, he was mightily afraid of being himself put to use.
He was in parliament, and noted for never giving a frank out of his own
family. Yet withal, Sir Peter Hales was still an agreeable fellow; nay,
he was more liked and much more esteemed than ever. There is something
conciliatory in a saving disposition; but people put themselves in a
great passion when a man is too liberal with his own. It is an insult
on their own prudence. “What right has he to be so extravagant? What an
example to our servants!” But your close neighbour does not humble you.
You love your close neighbour; you respect your close neighbour; you
have your harmless jest against him--but he is a most respectable man.

“A letter, Sir, and a parcel, from Sir Peter Hales,” said the waiter,
entering.

The parcel was a bulky, angular, awkward packet of brown paper, sealed
once and tied with the smallest possible quantity of string; it was
addressed to Mr. James Holwell, Saddler,--Street,--The letter was
to--Lester Esq., and ran thus, written in a very neat, stiff, Italian
character.

“Dr Sr,

“I trust you had no difficulty in findg ye Duke of Cumberland’s Head, it
is an excellent In.

“I greatly regt yt you are unavoidy oblig’d to go on to Londn; for,
otherwise I shd have had the sincerest please in seeing you here at
dinr, introducing you to Ly Hales. Anothr time I trust we may be more
fortunate.

“As you pass thro’ ye litte town of..., exactly 21 miles from hence, on
the road to Londn, will you do me the favr to allow your servt to put
the little parcel I send into his pockt, drop it as directd. It is a
bridle I am forc’d to return. Country workn are such bungrs.

“I shd most certainy have had ye honr to wait on you persony, but the
rain has given me a mo seve cold;--hope you have escap’d, tho’ by ye by,
you had no cloke, nor wrappr!

“My kindest regards to your mo excellent unce. I am quite sure he’s the
same fine merry fellw he always was,--tell him so!

“Dr Sr, Yours faithy,

“Peter Grindlescrew Hales.

“P.S. You know perhs yt poor Jno Courtd, your uncle’s mo intime friend,
lives in..., the town in which your servt will drop ye bride. He is much
alter’d,--poor Jno!”

“Altered! alteration then seems the fashion with my uncle’s friends!”
 thought Walter, as he rang for the Corporal, and consigned to his charge
the unsightly parcel.

“It is to be carried twenty-one miles at the request of the gentleman we
met last night,--a most sensible man, Bunting.”

“Augh--whaugh,--your honour!” grunted the Corporal, thrusting the bridle
very discontentedly into his pocket, where it annoyed him the whole
journey, by incessantly getting between his seat of leather and his seat
of honour. It is a comfort to the inexperienced, when one man of the
world smarts from the sagacity of another; we resign ourselves more
willingly to our fate. Our travellers resumed their journey, and in a
few minutes, from the cause we have before assigned, the Corporal became
thoroughly out of humour.

“Pray, Bunting,” said Walter, calling his attendant to his side, “do you
feel sure that the man we met yesterday at the alehouse, is the same you
saw at Grassdale some months ago?”

“Damn it!” cried the Corporal quickly, and clapping his hand behind.

“How, Sir!”

“Beg pardon, your honour--slip tongue, but this confounded
parcel!--augh--bother!”

“Why don’t you carry it in your hand?”

“‘Tis so ungainsome, and be d--d to it; and how can I hold parcel and
pull in this beast, which requires two hands; his mouth’s as hard as a
brickbat,--augh!”

“You have not answered my question yet?”

“Beg pardon, your honour. Yes, certain sure the man’s the same; phiz not
to be mistaken.”

“It is strange,” said Walter, musing, “that Aram should know a man, who,
if not a highwayman as we suspected, is at least of rugged manner and
disreputable appearance; it is strange too, that Aram always avoided
recurring to the acquaintance, though he confessed it.” With this he
broke into a trot, and the Corporal into an oath.

They arrived by noon, at the little town specified by Sir Peter, and in
their way to the inn (for Walter resolved to rest there), passed by the
saddler’s house. It so chanced that Master Holwell was an adept in his
craft, and that a newly-invented hunting-saddle at the window caught
Walter’s notice. The artful saddler persuaded the young traveller to
dismount and look at “the most convenientest and handsomest saddle what
ever was seed;” and the Corporal having lost no time in getting rid of
his encumbrance, Walter dismissed him to the inn with the horses, and
after purchasing the saddle, in exchange for his own, he sauntered into
the shop to look at a new snaffle. A gentleman’s servant was in the
shop at the time, bargaining for a riding whip; and the shopboy, among
others, shewed him a large old-fashioned one, with a tarnished silver
handle. Grooms have no taste for antiquity, and in spite of the
silverhandle, the servant pushed it aside with some contempt. Some jest
he uttered at the time, chanced to attract Walter’s notice to the whip;
he took it up carelessly, and perceived with great surprise that it
bore his own crest, a bittern, on the handle. He examined it now with
attention, and underneath the crest were the letters G. L., his father’s
initials.

“How long have you had this whip?” said he to the saddler, concealing
the emotion, which this token of his lost parent naturally excited.

“Oh, a nation long time, Sir,” replied Mr. Holwell; “it is a queer old
thing, but really is not amiss, if the silver was scrubbed up a bit,
and a new lash put on; you may have it a bargain, Sir, if so be you have
taken a fancy to it.”

“Can you at all recollect how you came by it,” said Walter, earnestly;
“the fact is that I see by the crest and initials, that it belonged to a
person whom I have some interest in discovering.”

“Why let me see,” said the saddler, scratching the tip of his right ear,
“‘tis so long ago sin I had it, I quite forgets how I came by it.”

“Oh, is it that whip, John?” said the wife, who had been attracted from
the back parlour by the sight of the handsome young stranger. “Don’t you
remember, it’s a many year ago, a gentleman who passed a day with Squire
Courtland, when he first come to settle here, called and left the whip
to have a new thong put to it. But I fancies he forgot it, Sir, (turning
to Walter,) for he never called for it again; and the Squire’s people
said as how he was a gone into Yorkshire; so there the whip’s been ever
sin. I remembers it, Sir, ‘cause I kept it in the little parlour nearly
a year, to be in the way like.”

“Ah! I thinks I do remember it now,” said Master Holwell. “I should
think it’s a matter of twelve yearn ago. I suppose I may sell it without
fear of the gentleman’s claiming it again.”

“Not more than twelve years!” said Walter, anxiously, for it was some
seventeen years since his father had been last heard of by his family.

“Why it may be thirteen, Sir, or so, more or less, I can’t say exactly.”

“More likely fourteen!” said the Dame, “it can’t be much more, Sir, we
have only been a married fifteen year come next Christmas! But my old
man here, is ten years older nor I.”

“And the gentleman, you say, was at Mr. Courtland’s.”

“Yes, Sir, that I’m sure of,” replied the intelligent Mrs. Holwell;
“they said he had come lately from Ingee.”

Walter now despairing of hearing more, purchased the whip; and blessing
the worldly wisdom of Sir Peter Hales, that had thus thrown him on a
clue, which, however faint and distant, he resolved to follow up, he
inquired the way to Squire Courtland’s, and proceeded thither at once.



CHAPTER VII.

   WALTER VISITS ANOTHER OF HIS UNCLE’S FRIENDS.--MR. COURTLAND’S
   STRANGE COMPLAINT.--WALTER LEARNS NEWS OF HIS FATHER, WHICH
       SURPRISES HIM.--THE CHANGE IN HIS DESTINATION.

   God’s my life, did you ever hear the like, what a strange man is
   this!

   What you have possessed me withall, I’ll discharge it amply.
   --Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour.

Mr. Courtland’s house was surrounded by a high wall, and stood at the
outskirts of the town. A little wooden door buried deep within the
wall, seemed the only entrance. At this Walter paused, and after twice
applying to the bell, a footman of a peculiarly grave and sanctimonious
appearance, opened the door.

In reply to Walter’s inquiries, he informed him that Mr. Courtland was
very unwell, and never saw “Company.”--Walter, however, producing from
his pocket-book the introductory letter given him by his father, slipped
it into the servant’s hand, accompanied by half a crown, and begged to
be announced as a gentleman on very particular business.

“Well, Sir, you can step in,” said the servant, giving way; “but my
master is very poorly, very poorly indeed.”

“Indeed, I am sorry to hear it: has he been long so?”

“Going on for ten--years, sir!” replied the servant, with great gravity;
and opening the door of the house which stood within a few paces of the
wall, on a singularly flat and bare grass-plot, he showed him into a
room, and left him alone.

The first thing that struck Walter in this apartment, was its remarkable
lightness. Though not large, it had no less than seven windows. Two
sides of the wall, seemed indeed all window! Nor were these admittants
of the celestial beam-shaded by any blind or curtain,--

   “The gaudy, babbling, and remorseless day”

made itself thoroughly at home in this airy chamber. Nevertheless,
though so light, it seemed to Walter any thing but cheerful. The sun had
blistered and discoloured the painting of the wainscot, originally of a
pale sea-green; there was little furniture in the apartment; one table
in the centre, some half a dozen chairs, and a very small Turkey-carpet,
which did not cover one tenth part of the clean, cold, smooth, oak
boards, constituted all the goods and chattels visible in the room. But
what particularly added effect to the bareness of all within, was the
singular and laborious bareness of all without. From each of these seven
windows, nothing but a forlorn green flat of some extent was to be seen;
there was not a tree, or a shrub, or a flower in the whole expanse,
although by several stumps of trees near the house, Walter perceived
that the place had not always been so destitute of vegetable life.

While he was yet looking upon this singular baldness of scene, the
servant re-entered with his master’s compliments, and a message that he
should be happy to see any relation of Mr. Lester.

Walter accordingly followed the footman into an apartment possessing
exactly the same peculiarities as the former one; viz. a most
disproportionate plurality of windows, a commodious scantiness of
furniture, and a prospect without, that seemed as if the house had been
built on the middle of Salisbury plain.

Mr. Courtland, himself a stout man, and still preserving the rosy hues
and comely features, though certainly not the same hilarious expression,
which Lester had attributed to him, sat in a large chair, close by the
centre window, which was open. He rose and shook Walter by the hand with
great cordiality.

“Sir, I am delighted to see you! How is your worthy uncle? I only wish
he were with you--you dine with me of course. Thomas, tell the cook to
add a tongue and chicken to the roast beef--no,--young gentleman, I will
have no excuse; sit down, sit down; pray come near the window; do you
not find it dreadfully close? not a breath of air? This house is so
choked up; don’t you find it so, eh? Ah, I see, you can scarcely gasp.”

“My dear Sir, you are mistaken; I am rather cold, on the contrary: nor
did I ever in my life see a more airy house than yours.”

“I try to make it so, Sir, but I can’t succeed; if you had seen what
it was, when I first bought it! a garden here, Sir; a copse there; a
wilderness, God wot! at the back: and a row of chesnut trees in the
front! You may conceive the consequence, Sir; I had not been long here,
not two years, before my health was gone, Sir, gone--the d--d vegetable
life sucked it out of me. The trees kept away all the air--I was nearly
suffocated, without, at first, guessing the cause. But at length, though
not till I had been withering away for five years, I discovered the
origin of my malady. I went to work, Sir; I plucked up the cursed
garden, I cut down the infernal chesnuts, I made a bowling green of
the diabolical wilderness, but I fear it is too late. I am dying by
inches,--have been dying ever since. The malaria has effectually tainted
my constitution.”

Here Mr. Courtland heaved a deep sigh, and shook his head with a most
gloomy expression of countenance.

“Indeed, Sir,” said Walter, “I should not, to look at you, imagine that
you suffered under any complaint. You seem still the same picture of
health, that my uncle describes you to have been when you knew him so
many years ago.”

“Yes, Sir, yes; the confounded malaria fixed the colour to my cheeks;
the blood is stagnant, Sir. Would to God I could see myself a shade
paler!--the blood does not flow; I am like a pool in a citizen’s garden,
with a willow at each corner;--but a truce to my complaints. You see,
Sir, I am no hypochondriac, as my fool of a doctor wants to persuade me:
a hypochondriac shudders at every breath of air, trembles when a door
is open, and looks upon a window as the entrance of death. But I, Sir,
never can have enough air; thorough draught or east wind, it is all the
same to me, so that I do but breathe. Is that like hypochondria?--pshaw!
But tell me, young gentleman, about your uncle; is he quite
well,--stout,--hearty,--does he breathe easily,--no oppression?”

“Sir, he enjoys exceedingly good health: he did please himself with the
hope that I should give him good tidings of yourself, and another of his
old friends whom I accidentally saw yesterday,--Sir Peter Hales.”

“Hales, Peter Hales!--ah! a clever little fellow that: how delighted
Lester’s good heart will be to hear that little Peter is so
improved;--no longer a dissolute, harum-scarum fellow, throwing away his
money, and always in debt. No, no; a respectable steady character, an
excellent manager, an active member of Parliament, domestic in private
life,--Oh! a very worthy man, Sir, a very worthy man!”

“He seems altered indeed, Sir,” said Walter, who was young enough in the
world to be surprised at this eulogy; “but is still agreeable and fond
of anecdote. He told me of his race with you for a thousand guineas.”

“Ah, don’t talk of those days,” said Mr. Courtland, shaking his head
pensively, “it makes me melancholy. Yes, Peter ought to recollect that,
for he has never paid me to this day; affected to treat it as a jest,
and swore he could have beat me if he would. But indeed it was my fault,
Sir; Peter had not then a thousand farthings in the world, and when he
grew rich, he became a steady character, and I did not like to remind
him of our former follies. Aha! can I offer you a pinch of snuff?--You
look feverish, Sir; surely this room must affect you, though you are
too polite to say so. Pray open that door, and then this window, and put
your chair right between the two. You have no notion how refreshing the
draught is.”

Walter politely declined the proffered ague, and thinking he had
now made sufficient progress in the acquaintance of this singular
non-hypochondriac to introduce the subject he had most at heart,
hastened to speak of his father.

“I have chanced, Sir,” said he, “very unexpectedly upon something that
once belonged to my poor father;” here he showed the whip. “I find from
the saddler of whom I bought it, that the owner was at your house some
twelve or fourteen years ago. I do not know whether you are aware
that our family have heard nothing respecting my father’s fate for a
considerably longer time than that which has elapsed since you appear
to have seen him, if at least I may hope that he was your guest, and
the owner of this whip; and any news you can give me of him, any clue
by which he can possibly be traced, would be to us all--to me in
particular--an inestimable obligation.”

“Your father!” said Mr. Courtland. “Oh,--ay, your uncle’s brother. What
was his Christian name?--Henry?”

“Geoffrey.”

“Ay, exactly; Geoffrey! What, not been heard of?--his family not know
where he is? A sad thing, Sir; but he was always a wild fellow; now
here, now there, like a flash of lightning. But it is true, it is true,
he did stay a day here, several years ago, when I first bought the
place. I can tell you all about it;--but you seem agitated,--do come
nearer the window:--there, that’s right. Well, Sir, it is, as I said,
a great many years ago,--perhaps fourteen,--and I was speaking to the
landlord of the Greyhound about some hay he wished to sell, when a
gentleman rode into the yard full tear, as your father always did ride,
and in getting out of his way I recognised Geoffrey Lester. I did not
know him well--far from it; but I had seen him once or twice with your
uncle, and though he was a strange pickle, he sang a good song, and was
deuced amusing. Well, Sir, I accosted him, and, for the sake of your
uncle, I asked him to dine with me, and take a bed at my new house.
Ah! I little thought what a dear bargain it was to be. He accepted my
invitation, for I fancy--no offence, Sir,--there were few
invitations that Mr. Geoffrey Lester ever refused to accept. We dined
tete-a-tete,--I am an old bachelor, Sir,--and very entertaining he was,
though his sentiments seemed to me broader than ever. He was
capital, however, about the tricks he had played his creditors,--such
manoeuvres,--such escapes! After dinner he asked me if I ever
corresponded with his brother. I told him no; that we were very good
friends, but never heard from each other; and he then said, ‘Well,
I shall surprise him with a visit shortly; but in case you should
unexpectedly have any communication with him, don’t mention having seen
me; for, to tell you the truth, I am just returned from India, where I
should have scraped up a little money, but that I spent it as fast as
I got it. However, you know that I was always proverbially the luckiest
fellow in the world--(and so, Sir, your father was!)--and while I was
in India, I saved an old Colonel’s life at a tiger-hunt; he went home
shortly afterwards, and settled in Yorkshire; and the other day on my
return to England, to which my ill-health drove me, I learned that my
old Colonel was really dead, and had left me a handsome legacy, with
his house in Yorkshire. I am now going down to Yorkshire to convert the
chattels into gold--to receive my money, and I shall then seek out my
good brother, my household gods, and, perhaps, though it’s not likely,
settle into a sober fellow for the rest of my life.’ I don’t tell you,
young gentleman, that those were your father’s exact words,--one can’t
remember verbatim so many years ago;--but it was to that effect. He left
me the next day, and I never heard any thing more of him: to say the
truth, he was looking wonderfully yellow, and fearfully reduced. And I
fancied at the time, he could not live long; he was prematurely old, and
decrepit in body, though gay in spirit; so that I had tacitly imagined
in never hearing of him more--that he had departed life. But, good
Heavens! did you never hear of this legacy?”

“Never: not a word!” said Walter, who had listened to these particulars
in great surprise. “And to what part of Yorkshire did he say he was
going?”

“That he did not mention.”

“Nor the Colonel’s name?”

“Not as I remember; he might, but I think not. But I am certain that the
county was Yorkshire, and the gentleman, whatever was his name, was a
Colonel. Stay! I recollect one more particular, which it is lucky I
do remember. Your father in giving me, as I said before, in his own
humorous strain, the history of his adventures, his hair-breadth escapes
from his duns, the various disguises, and the numerous aliases he had
assumed, mentioned that the name he had borne in India, and by which,
he assured me, he had made quite a good character--was Clarke: he also
said, by the way, that he still kept to that name, and was very merry on
the advantages of having so common an one. ‘By which,’ he said wittily,
‘he could father all his own sins on some other Mr. Clarke, at the same
time that he could seize and appropriate all the merits of all his other
namesakes.’ Ah, no offence; but he was a sad dog, that father of yours!
So you see that, in all probability, if he ever reached Yorkshire, it
was under the name of Clarke that he claimed and received his legacy.”

“You have told me more,” said Walter joyfully, “than we have heard
since his disappearance, and I shall turn my horses’ heads northward
to-morrow, by break of day. But you say, ‘if he ever reached
Yorkshire,’--What should prevent him?”

“His health!” said the non-hypochondriac, “I should not be greatly
surprised if--if--In short you had better look at the grave-stones by
the way, for the name of Clarke.”

“Perhaps you can give me the dates, Sir,” said Walter, somewhat cast
down from his elation.

“Ay! I’ll see, I’ll see, after dinner; the commonness of the name has
its disadvantages now. Poor Geoffrey!--I dare say there are fifty tombs,
to the memory of fifty Clarkes, between this and York. But come, Sir,
there’s the dinner-bell.”

Whatever might have been the maladies entailed upon the portly frame
of Mr. Courtland by the vegetable life of the departed trees, a want of
appetite was not among the number. Whenever a man is not abstinent from
rule, or from early habit, as in the case of Aram, Solitude makes its
votaries particularly fond of their dinner. They have no other event
wherewith to mark their day--they think over it, they anticipate it,
they nourish its soft idea with their imagination; if they do look
forward to any thing else more than dinner, it is--supper!

Mr. Courtland deliberately pinned the napkin to his waistcoat, ordered
all the windows to be thrown open, and set to work like the good Canon
in Gil Blas. He still retained enough of his former self, to preserve an
excellent cook; so far at least as the excellence of a she-artist goes;
and though most of his viands were of the plainest, who does not
know what skill it requires to produce an unexceptionable roast, or a
blameless boil? Talk of good professed cooks, indeed! they are plentiful
as blackberries: it is the good, plain cook, who is the rarity!

Half a tureen of strong soup; three pounds, at least, of stewed carp;
all the under part of a sirloin of beef; three quarters of a tongue;
the moiety of a chicken; six pancakes and a tartlet, having severally
disappeared down the jaws of the invalid,

        “Et cuncta terrarum subacta
        Praeter atrocem animum Catonis,”

        [And everything of earth subdued,
        except the resolute mind of Cato.]

he still called for two deviled biscuits and an anchovy!

When these were gone, he had the wine set on a little table by the
window, and declared that the air seemed closer than ever. Walter was
no longer surprised at the singular nature of the nonhypochondriac’s
complaint.

Walter declined the bed that Mr. Courtland offered him--though his host
kindly assured him that it had no curtains, and that there was not a
shutter to the house--upon the plea of starting the next morning at
daybreak, and his consequent unwillingness to disturb the regular
establishment of the invalid: and Courtland, who was still an excellent,
hospitable, friendly man, suffered his friend’s nephew to depart with
regret. He supplied him, however, by a reference to an old note-book,
with the date of the year, and even month, in which he had been favoured
by a visit from Mr. Clarke, who, it seemed, had also changed his
Christian name from Geoffrey, to one beginning with D--; but whether
it was David or Daniel the host remembered not. In parting with Walter,
Courtland shook his head, and observed:--“Entre nous, Sir, I fear this
may be a wildgoose chase. Your father was too facetious to confine
himself to fact--excuse me, Sir--and perhaps the Colonel and the legacy
were merely inventions--pour passer le temps--there was only one reason
indeed, that made me fully believe the story.”

“What was that, Sir?” asked Walter, blushing deeply, at the universality
of that estimation his father had obtained.

“Excuse me, my young friend.”

“Nay, Sir, let me press you.”

“Why, then, Mr. Geoffrey Lester did not ask me to lend him any money.”

The next morning, instead of repairing to the gaieties of the
metropolis, Walter had, upon this slight and dubious clue, altered
his journey northward, and with an unquiet yet sanguine spirit,
the adventurous son commenced his search after the fate of a father
evidently so unworthy of the anxiety he had excited.



CHAPTER VIII.

   WALTER’S MEDITATIONS.--THE CORPORAL’S GRIEF AND ANGER.--THE
    CORPORAL PERSONALLY DESCRIBED.--AN EXPLANATION WITH HIS
   MASTER.--THE CORPORAL OPENS HIMSELF TO THE YOUNG TRAVELLER.--
    HIS OPINIONS ON LOVE;--ON THE WORLD;--ON THE PLEASURE AND
   RESPECTABILITY OF CHEATING;--ON LADIES--AND A PARTICULAR CLASS
   OF LADIES;--ON AUTHORS;--ON THE VALUE OF WORDS;--ON FIGHTING;
   --WITH SUNDRY OTHER MATTERS OF EQUAL DELECTATION AND
         IMPROVEMENT.--AN UNEXPECTED EVENT.

          Quale per incertam Lunam sub luce maligna
          Est iter.
              --Virgil.

          [Even as a journey by the upropitious light
          of the uncertain moon.]

The road prescribed to our travellers by the change in their destination
led them back over a considerable portion of the ground they had already
traversed, and since the Corporal took care that they should remain some
hours in the place where they dined, night fell upon them as they found
themselves in the midst of the same long and dreary stage in which they
had encountered Sir Peter Hales and the two suspected highwaymen.

Walter’s mind was full of the project on which he was bent. The reader
can fully comprehend how vivid must have been his emotions at thus
chancing on what might prove a clue to the mystery that hung over
his father’s fate; and sanguinely did he now indulge those intense
meditations with which the imaginative minds of the young always
brood over every more favourite idea, until they exalt the hope into a
passion. Every thing connected with this strange and roving parent,
had possessed for the breast of his son, not only an anxious, but so
to speak, indulgent interest. The judgment of a young man is always
inclined to sympathize with the wilder and more enterprising order of
spirits; and Walter had been at no loss for secret excuses wherewith to
defend the irregular life and reckless habits of his parent. Amidst all
his father’s evident and utter want of principle, Walter clung with a
natural and self-deceptive partiality to the few traits of courage or
generosity which relieved, if they did not redeem, his character; traits
which, with a character of that stamp, are so often, though always so
unprofitably blended, and which generally cease with the commencement
of age. He now felt elated by the conviction, as he had always been
inspired by the hope, that it was to be his lot to discover one whom
he still believed living, and whom he trusted to find amended. The same
intimate persuasion of the “good luck” of Geoffrey Lester, which all who
had known him appeared to entertain, was felt even in a more credulous
and earnest degree by his son. Walter gave way now, indeed, to a variety
of conjectures as to the motives which could have induced his father to
persist in the concealment of his fate after his return to England; but
such of those conjectures as, if the more rational, were also the more
despondent, he speedily and resolutely dismissed. Sometimes he thought
that his father, on learning the death of the wife he had abandoned,
might have been possessed with a remorse which rendered him unwilling to
disclose himself to the rest of his family, and a feeling that the main
tie of home was broken; sometimes he thought that the wanderer had been
disappointed in his expected legacy, and dreading the attacks of his
creditors, or unwilling to throw himself once more on the generosity
of his brother, had again suddenly quitted England and entered on
some enterprise or occupation abroad. It was also possible, to one
so reckless and changeful, that even, after receiving the legacy, a
proposition from some wild comrade might have hurried him away on any
continental project on the mere impulse of the moment, for the impulse
of the moment had always been the guide of his life; and once abroad he
might have returned to India, and in new connections forgotten the
old ties at home. Letters from abroad too, miscarry; and it was
not improbable that the wanderer might have written repeatedly,
and receiving no answer to his communications, imagined that the
dissoluteness of his life had deprived him of the affections of
his family, and, deserving so well to have the proffer of renewed
intercourse rejected, believed that it actually was so. These, and
a hundred similar conjectures, found favour in the eyes of the young
traveller; but the chances of a fatal accident, or sudden death,
he pertinaciously refused at present to include in the number of
probabilities. Had his father been seized with a mortal illness on the
road, was it not likely that he would, in the remorse occasioned in
the hardiest by approaching death, have written to his brother, and
recommending his child to his care, have apprised him of the addition
to his fortune? Walter then did not meditate embarrassing his present
journey by those researches among the dead, which the worthy Courtland
had so considerately recommended to his prudence: should his expedition,
contrary to his hopes, prove wholly unsuccessful, it might then be well
to retrace his steps and adopt the suggestion. But what man, at the
age of twenty-one, ever took much precaution on the darker side of a
question on which his heart was interested?

With what pleasure, escaping from conjecture to a more ultimate
conclusion--did he, in recalling those words, in which his father had
more than hinted to Courtland of his future amendment, contemplate
recovering a parent made wise by years and sober by misfortunes, and
restoring him to a hearth of tranquil virtues and peaceful enjoyments!
He imaged to himself a scene of that domestic happiness, which is so
perfect in our dreams, because in our dreams monotony is always
excluded from the picture. And, in this creation of Fancy, the form
of Ellinor--his bright-eyed and gentle cousin, was not the least
conspicuous. Since his altercation with Madeline, the love he had once
thought so ineffaceable, had faded into a dim and sullen hue; and, in
proportion as the image of Madeline grew indistinct, that of her sister
became more brilliant. Often, now, as he rode slowly onward, in the
quiet of the deepening night, and the mellow stars softening all on
which they shone, he pressed the little token of Ellinor’s affection to
his heart, and wondered that it was only within the last few days he had
discovered that her eyes were more beautiful than Madeline’s, and her
smile more touching. Meanwhile the redoubted Corporal, who was by no
means pleased with the change in his master’s plans, lingered behind,
whistling the most melancholy tune in his collection. No young lady,
anticipative of balls or coronets, had ever felt more complacent
satisfaction in a journey to London than that which had cheered the
athletic breast of the veteran on finding himself, at last, within
one day’s gentle march of the metropolis. And no young lady, suddenly
summoned back in the first flush of her debut, by an unseasonable fit of
gout or economy in papa, ever felt more irreparably aggrieved than now
did the dejected Corporal. His master had not yet even acquainted him
with the cause of the countermarch; and, in his own heart, he believed
it nothing but the wanton levity and unpardonable fickleness “common
to all them ere boys afore they have seen the world.” He certainly
considered himself a singularly ill-used and injured man, and drawing
himself up to his full height, as if it were a matter with which Heaven
should be acquainted at the earliest possible opportunity, he indulged,
as we before said, in the melancholy consolation of a whistled
death-dirge, occasionally interrupted by a long-drawn interlude half
sigh, half snuffle of his favourite augh--baugh.

And here, we remember, that we have not as yet given to our reader
a fitting portrait of the Corporal on horseback. Perhaps no better
opportunity than the present may occur; and perhaps, also, Corporal
Bunting, as well as Melrose Abbey, may seem a yet more interesting
picture when viewed by the pale moonlight.

The Corporal then wore on his head a small cocked hat, which had
formerly belonged to the Colonel of the Forty-second--the prints of
my uncle Toby may serve to suggest its shape;--it had once boasted a
feather--that was gone; but the gold lace, though tarnished, and the
cockade, though battered, still remained. From under this shade the
profile of the Corporal assumed a particular aspect of heroism: though
a good-looking man on the main, it was his air, height, and complexion,
which made him so; and a side view, unlike Lucian’s one-eyed prince, was
not the most favourable point in which his features could be regarded.
His eyes, which were small and shrewd, were half hid by a pair of thick
shaggy brows, which, while he whistled, he moved to and fro, as a horse
moves his ears when he gives warning that he intends to shy; his nose
was straight--so far so good--but then it did not go far enough; for
though it seemed no despicable proboscis in front, somehow or another
it appeared exceedingly short in profile; to make up for this, the
upper lip was of a length the more striking from being exceedingly
straight;--it had learned to hold itself upright, and make the most of
its length as well as its master! his under lip, alone protruded in the
act of whistling, served yet more markedly to throw the nose into the
background; and, as for the chin--talk of the upper lip being long
indeed!--the chin would have made two of it; such a chin! so long, so
broad, so massive, had it been put on a dish might have passed, without
discredit, for a round of beef! it looked yet larger than it was from
the exceeding tightness of the stiff black-leather stock below, which
forced forth all the flesh it encountered into another chin,--a remove
to the round. The hat, being somewhat too small for the Corporal,
and being cocked knowingly in front, left the hinder half of the head
exposed. And the hair, carried into a club according to the fashion,
lay thick, and of a grizzled black, on the brawny shoulders below. The
veteran was dressed in a blue coat, originally a frock; but the skirts,
having once, to the imminent peril of the place they guarded, caught
fire, as the Corporal stood basking himself at Peter Dealtry’s, had
been so far amputated, as to leave only the stump of a tail, which just
covered, and no more, that part which neither Art in bipeds nor Nature
in quadrupeds loves to leave wholly exposed. And that part, ah,
how ample! had Liston seen it, he would have hid for ever his
diminished--opposite to head!--No wonder the Corporal had been so
annoyed by the parcel of the previous day, a coat so short, and a--; but
no matter, pass we to the rest! It was not only in its skirts that this
wicked coat was deficient; the Corporal, who had within the last
few years thriven lustily in the inactive serenity of Grassdale, had
outgrown it prodigiously across the chest and girth; nevertheless he
managed to button it up. And thus the muscular proportions of the wearer
bursting forth in all quarters, gave him the ludicrous appearance of a
gigantic schoolboy. His wrists, and large sinewy hands, both employed
at the bridle of his hard-mouthed charger, were markedly visible; for it
was the Corporal’s custom whenever he came into an obscure part of
the road, carefully to take off, and prudently to pocket, a pair
of scrupulously clean white leather gloves which smartened up his
appearance prodigiously in passing through the towns in their route.
His breeches were of yellow buckskin, and ineffably tight; his stockings
were of grey worsted, and a pair of laced boots, that reached the ascent
of a very mountainous calf, but declined any farther progress, completed
his attire.

Fancy then this figure, seated with laborious and unswerving
perpendicularity on a demi-pique saddle, ornamented with a huge pair of
well-stuffed saddle-bags, and holsters revealing the stocks of a brace
of immense pistols, the horse with its obstinate mouth thrust out, and
the bridle drawn as tight as a bowstring! its ears laid sullenly down,
as if, like the Corporal, it complained of going to Yorkshire, and its
long thick tail, not set up in a comely and well-educated arch, but
hanging sheepishly down, as if resolved that its buttocks should at
least be better covered than its master’s!

And now, reader, it is not our fault if you cannot form some conception
of the physical perfections of the Corporal and his steed.

The reverie of the contemplative Bunting was interrupted by the voice of
his master calling upon him to approach.

“Well, well!” muttered he, “the younker can’t expect one as close at
his heels as if we were trotting into Lunnon, which we might be at this
time, sure enough, if he had not been so damned flighty,--augh!”

“Bunting, I say, do you hear?”

“Yes, your honour, yes; this ere horse is so ‘nation sluggish.”

“Sluggish! why I thought he was too much the reverse, Bunting? I thought
he was one rather requiring the bridle than the spur.”

“Augh! your honour, he’s slow when he should not, and fast when he
should not; changes his mind from pure whim, or pure spite; new to the
world, your honour, that’s all; a different thing if properly broke.
There be a many like him!”

“You mean to be personal, Mr. Bunting,” said Walter, laughing at the
evident ill-humour of his attendant.

“Augh! indeed and no!--I daren’t--a poor man like me--go for to presume
to be parsonal,--unless I get hold of a poorer!”

“Why, Bunting, you do not mean to say that you would be so ungenerous as
to affront a man because he was poorer than you?--fie!”

“Whaugh, your honour! and is not that the very reason why I’d affront
him? surely it is not my betters I should affront; that would be ill
bred, your honour,--quite want of discipline.”

“But we owe it to our great Commander,” said Walter, “to love all men.”

“Augh! Sir, that’s very good maxim,--none better--but shows ignorance of
the world, Sir--great!”

“Bunting, your way of thinking is quite disgraceful. Do you know, Sir,
that it is the Bible you were speaking of?”

“Augh, Sir! but the Bible was addressed to them Jew creturs! How
somever, it’s an excellent book for the poor; keeps ‘em in order,
favours discipline,--none more so.” “Hold your tongue. I called you,
Bunting, because I think I heard you say you had once been at York. Do
you know what towns we shall pass on our road thither?”

“Not I, your honour; it’s a mighty long way.--What would the Squire
think?--just at Lunnon, too. Could have learnt the whole road, Sir, inns
all, if you had but gone on to Lunnon first. Howsomever, young gentlemen
will be hasty,--no confidence in those older, and who are experienced
in the world. I knows what I knows,” and the Corporal recommenced his
whistle.

“Why, Bunting, you seem quite discontented at my change of journey. Are
you tired of riding, or were you very eager to get to town?”

“Augh! Sir; I was only thinking of what best for your honour,--I!--‘tis
not for me to like or dislike. Howsomever, the horses, poor creturs,
must want rest for some days. Them dumb animals can’t go on for ever,
bumpety, bumpety, as your honour and I do.--Whaugh!” “It is very true,
Bunting, and I have had some thoughts of sending you home again with the
horses, and travelling post.”

“Eh!” grunted the Corporal, opening his eyes; “hopes your honour ben’t
serious.”

“Why if you continue to look so serious, I must be serious too; you
understand, Bunting?”

“Augh--and that’s all, your honour,” cried the Corporal, brightening up,
“shall look merry enough to-morrow, when one’s in, as it were, like, to
the change of road. But you see, Sir, it took me by surprise. Said I to
myself, says I, it is an odd thing for you, Jacob Bunting, on the faith
of a man, it is! to go tramp here, tramp there, without knowing why or
wherefore, as if you was still a private in the Forty-second, ‘stead of
a retired Corporal. You see, your honour, my pride was a hurt; but it’s
all over now;--only spites those beneath me,--I knows the world at my
time o’ life.”

“Well, Bunting, when you learn the reason of my change of plan, you’ll
be perfectly satisfied that I do quite right. In a word, you know that
my father has been long missing; I have found a clue by which I yet hope
to trace him. This is the reason of my journey to Yorkshire.”

“Augh!” said the Corporal, “and a very good reason: you’re a most
excellent son, Sir;--and Lunnon so nigh!”

“The thought of London seems to have bewitched you; did you expect to
find the streets of gold since you were there last?”

“A--well Sir; I hears they be greatly improved.”

“Pshaw! you talk of knowing the world, Bunting, and yet you pant to
enter it with all the inexperience of a boy. Why even I could set you an
example.”

“‘Tis ‘cause I knows the world,” said the Corporal, exceedingly nettled,
“that I wants to get back to it. I have heard of some spoonies as never
kist a girl, but never heard of any one who had kist a girl once, that
did not long to be at it again.”

“And I suppose, Mr. Profligate, it is that longing which makes you so
hot for London?”

“There have been worse longings nor that,” quoth the Corporal gravely.

“Perhaps you meditate marrying one of the London belles; an
heiress--eh?”

“Can’t but say,” said the Corporal very solemnly, “but that might be
‘ticed to marry a fortin, if so be she was young, pretty, good-tempered,
and fell desperately in love with me,--best quality of all.”

“You’re a modest fellow.”

“Why, the longer a man lives, the more knows his value; would not sell
myself a bargain now, whatever might at twenty-one!”

“At that rate you would be beyond all price at seventy,” said Walter:
“but now tell me, Bunting, were you ever in love,--really and honestly
in love?”

“Indeed, your honour,” said the Corporal, “I have been over head and
ears; but that was afore I learnt to swim. Love’s very like bathing.
At first we go souse to the bottom, but if we’re not drowned, then we
gather pluck, grow calm, strike out gently, and make a deal pleasanter
thing of it afore we’ve done. I’ll tell you, Sir, what I thinks of love:
‘twixt you and me, Sir, ‘tis not that great thing in life, boys and
girls want to make it out to be; if ‘twere one’s dinner, that would be
summut, for one can’t do without that; but lauk, Sir, Love’s all in the
fancy. One does not eat it, nor drink it; and as for the rest,--why it’s
bother!”

“Bunting, you’re a beast,” said Walter in a rage, for though the
Corporal had come off with a slight rebuke for his sneer at religion,
we grieve to say that an attack on the sacredness of love seemed a crime
beyond all toleration to the theologian of twenty-one.

The Corporal bowed, and thrust his tongue in his cheek.

There was a pause of some moments.

“And what,” said Walter, for his spirits were raised, and he liked
recurring to the quaint shrewdness of the Corporal, “and what, after
all, is the great charm of the world, that you so much wish to return to
it?”

“Augh!” replied the Corporal, “‘tis a pleasant thing to look about
un with all one’s eyes open; rogue here, rogue there--keeps one
alive;--life in Lunnon, life in a village--all the difference ‘twixt
healthy walk, and a doze in arm-chair; by the faith of a man, ‘tis!”

“What! it is pleasant to have rascals about one?”

“Surely yes,” returned the Corporal drily; “what so delightful like as
to feel one’s cliverness and ‘bility all set an end--bristling up like a
porkypine; nothing makes a man tread so light, feel so proud, breathe so
briskly, as the knowledge that he’s all his wits about him, that he’s a
match for any one, that the Divil himself could not take him in. Augh!
that’s what I calls the use of an immortal soul--bother!”

Walter laughed.

“And to feel one is likely to be cheated is the pleasantest way of
passing one’s time in town, Bunting, eh?”

“Augh! and in cheating too!” answered the Corporal; “‘cause you sees,
Sir, there be two ways o’ living; one to cheat,--one to be cheated. ‘Tis
pleasant enough to be cheated for a little while, as the younkers
are, and as you’ll be, your honour; but that’s a pleasure don’t last
long--t’other lasts all your life; dare say your honour’s often heard
rich gentlemen say to their sons, ‘you ought, for your own happiness’
sake, like, my lad, to have summut to do--ought to have some profession,
be you niver so rich,’--very true, your honour, and what does that mean?
why it means that ‘stead of being idle and cheated, the boy ought to be
busy and cheat--augh!”

“Must a man who follows a profession, necessarily cheat, then?”

“Baugh! can your honour ask that? Does not the Lawyer cheat? and the
Doctor cheat? and the Parson cheat, more than any? and that’s the reason
they all takes so much int’rest in their profession--bother!”

“But the soldier? you say nothing of him.”

“Why, the soldier,” said the Corporal, with dignity, “the private
soldier, poor fellow, is only cheated; but when he comes for to get for
to be as high as a corp’ral, or a sargent, he comes for to get to
bully others, and to cheat. Augh! then ‘tis not for the privates to
cheat,--that would be ‘sumpton indeed, save us!”

“The General, then, cheats more than any, I suppose?”

“‘Course, your honour; he talks to the world ‘bout honour an’ glory, and
love of his Country, and sich like--augh! that’s proper cheating!”

“You’re a bitter fellow, Mr. Bunting: and pray, what do you think of the
Ladies--‘are they as bad as the men?’”

“Ladies--augh! when they’re married--yes! but of all them ere creturs,
I respects the kept Ladies, the most--on the faith of a man, I do! Gad!
how well they knows the world--one quite invies the she rogues; they
beats the wives hollow! Augh! and your honour should see how they fawns
and flatters, and butters up a man, and makes him think they loves him
like winkey, all the time they ruins him. They kisses money out of the
miser, and sits in their satins, while the wife, ‘drot her, sulks in a
gingham. Oh, they be cliver creturs, and they’ll do what they likes with
old Nick, when they gets there, for ‘tis the old gentlemen they cozens
the best; and then,” continued the Corporal, waxing more and more
loquacious, for his appetite in talking grew with that it fed on,--“then
there be another set o’ queer folks you’ll see in Lunnon, Sir, that is,
if you falls in with ‘em,--hang all together, quite in a clink. I
seed lots on ‘em when lived with the Colonel--Colonel Dysart, you
knows--augh?”

“And what are they?”

“Rum ones, your honour; what they calls Authors.”

“Authors! what the deuce had you or the Colonel to do with Authors?”

“Augh! then, the Colonel was a very fine gentleman, what the larned
calls a my-seen-ass, wrote little songs himself, ‘crossticks, you knows,
your honour: once he made a play--‘cause why, he lived with an actress!”

“A very good reason, indeed, for emulating Shakespear; and did the play
succeed?”

“Fancy it did, your honour; for the Colonel was a dab with the
scissors.”

“Scissors! the pen, you mean?”

“No! that’s what the dirty Authors make plays with; a Lord and a
Colonel, my-seen-asses, always takes the scissors.”

“How?”

“Why the Colonel’s Lady--had lots of plays--and she marked a scene
here--a jest there--a line in one place--a sentiment in t’ other--and
the Colonel sate by with a great paper book--cut ‘em out, pasted them in
book. Augh! but the Colonel pleased the town mightily.”

“Well, so he saw a great many authors; and did not they please you?”

“Why they be so damned quarrelsome,” said the Corporal, “wringle,
wrangle, wrongle, snap, growl, scratch; that’s not what a man of the
world does; man of the world niver quarrels; then, too, these creturs
always fancy you forgets that their father was a clargyman; they always
thinks more of their family, like, than their writings; and if they
does not get money when they wants it, they bristles up and cries, ‘not
treated like a gentleman, by God!’ Yet, after all, they’ve a deal
of kindness in ‘em, if you knows how to manage ‘em--augh! but,
cat-kindness, paw today, claw to-morrow. And then they always marries
young, the poor things, and have a power of children, and live on the
fame and forten they are to get one of these days; for, my eye! they be
the most sanguinest folks alive!”

“Why, Bunting, what an observer you have been! who could ever have
imagined that you had made yourself master of so many varieties in men!”

“Augh! your honour, I had nothing to do when I was the Colonel’s valley,
but to take notes to ladies and make use of my eyes. Always a ‘flective
man.”

“It is odd that, with all your abilities, you did not provide better for
yourself.”

“‘Twas not my fault,” said the Corporal, quickly; “but somehow, do what
will--‘tis not always the cliverest as foresees the best. But I be young
yet, your honour!”

Walter stared at the Corporal and laughed outright: the Corporal was
exceedingly piqued.

“Augh! mayhap you thinks, Sir, that ‘cause not so young as you, not
young at all; but, what’s forty, or fifty, or fifty-five, in public
life? never hear much of men afore then. ‘Tis the autumn that reaps,
spring sows, augh!--bother!”

“Very true and very poetical. I see you did not live among authors for
nothing.”

“I knows summut of language, your honour,” quoth the Corporal
pedantically.

“It is evident.”

“For, to be a man of the world, Sir, must know all the ins and outs of
speechifying; ‘tis words, Sir, that makes another man’s mare go your
road. Augh! that must have been a cliver man as invented language;
wonders who ‘twas--mayhap Moses, your honour?”

“Never mind who it was,” said Walter gravely; “use the gift discreetly.”

“Umph!” said the Corporal--“yes, your honour,” renewed he after a pause.
“It be a marvel to think on how much a man does in the way of cheating,
as has the gift of the gab. Wants a Missis, talks her over--wants your
purse, talks you out on it--wants a place, talks himself into it.--What
makes the Parson? words!--the lawyer? words--the Parliament-man?
words!--words can ruin a country, in the Big House--words save souls,
in the Pulpits--words make even them ere authors, poor creturs, in every
man’s mouth.--Augh! Sir, take note of the words, and the things will
take care of themselves--bother!”

“Your reflections amaze me, Bunting,” said Walter smiling; “but
the night begins to close in; I trust we shall not meet with any
misadventure.”

“‘Tis an ugsome bit of road!” said the Corporal, looking round him.

“The pistols?”

“Primed and loaded, your honour.”

“After all, Bunting, a little skirmish would be no bad
sport--eh?--especially to an old soldier like you.”

“Augh, baugh! ‘tis no pleasant work, fighting, without pay, at least;
‘tis not like love and eating, your honour, the better for being, what
they calls, ‘gratis!’”

“Yet I have heard you talk of the pleasure of fighting; not for pay,
Bunting, but for your King and Country!”

“Augh! and that’s when I wanted to cheat the poor creturs at Grassdale,
your honour; don’t take the liberty to talk stuff to my master!”

They continued thus to beguile the way, till Walter again sank into
a reverie, while the Corporal, who began more and more to dislike the
aspect of the ground they had entered on, still rode by his side.

The road was heavy, and wound down the long hill which had stricken so
much dismay into the Corporal’s stout heart on the previous day, when he
had beheld its commencement at the extremity of the town, where but for
him they had not dined. They were now little more than a mile from the
said town, the whole of the way was taken up by this hill, and the
road, very different from the smoothened declivities of the present day,
seemed to have been cut down the very steepest part of its centre; loose
stones, and deep ruts encreased the difficulty of the descent, and it
was with a slow pace and a guarded rein that both our travellers now
continued their journey. On the left side of the road was a thick and
lofty hedge; to the right, a wild, bare, savage heath, sloped downward,
and just afforded a glimpse of the spires and chimneys of the town,
at which the Corporal was already supping in idea! That incomparable
personage was, however, abruptly recalled to the present instant, by a
most violent stumble on the part of his hard-mouthed, Romannosed horse.
The horse was all but down, and the Corporal all but over.

“Damn it,” said the Corporal, slowly recovering his perpendicularity,
“and the way to Lunnon was as smooth as a bowling-green!”

Ere this rueful exclamation was well out of the Corporal’s mouth, a
bullet whizzed past him from the hedge; it went so close to his ear,
that but for that lucky stumble, Jacob Bunting had been as the grass of
the field, which flourisheth one moment and is cut down the next!

Startled by the sound, the Corporal’s horse made off full tear down the
hill, and carried him several paces beyond his master, ere he had power
to stop its career. But Walter reining up his better managed steed,
looked round for the enemy, nor looked in vain.

Three men started from the hedge with a simultaneous shout. Walter
fired, but without effect; ere he could lay hand on the second pistol,
his bridle was seized, and a violent blow from a long double-handed
bludgeon, brought him to the ground.



BOOK III.



CHAPTER I.

    FRAUD AND VIOLENCE ENTER EVEN GRASSDALE.--PETER’S NEWS.
      --THE LOVERS’ WALK.--THE REAPPEARANCE.

          AUF.--“Whence comest thou--what wouldst thou?”
                  --Coriolanus.

One evening Aram and Madeline were passing through the village in their
accustomed walk, when Peter Dealtry sallied forth from The Spotted Dog,
and hurried up to the lovers with a countenance full of importance, and
a little ruffled by fear.

“Oh, Sir, Sir,--(Miss, your servant!)--have you heard the news? Two
houses at Checkington, (a small town some miles distant from Grassdale,)
were forcibly entered last night,--robbed, your honour, robbed. Squire
Tibson was tied to his bed, his bureau rifled, himself shockingly
confused on the head; and the maidservant Sally--her sister lived with
me, a very good girl she was,--was locked up in the--the--the--I beg
pardon, Miss--was locked up in the cupboard. As to the other house, they
carried off all the plate. There were no less than four men, all masked,
your honour, and armed with pistols. What if they should come here!
such a thing was never heard of before in these parts. But, Sir,--but,
Miss,--do not be afraid, do not ye now, for I may say with the Psalmist,

          ‘But wicked men shall drink the dregs
           Which they in wrath shall wring,
          For I will lift my voice, and make
           Them flee while I do sing!’”

“You could not find a more effectual method of putting them to flight,
Peter,” said Madeline smiling; “but go and talk to my uncle. I know we
have a whole magazine of blunderbusses and guns at home: they may be
useful now. But you are well provided in case of attack. Have you not
the Corporal’s famous cat Jacobina,--surely a match for fifty robbers?”

“Ay, Miss, on the principle of set a thief to catch a thief, perhaps she
may; but really it is no jesting matter. Them ere robbers flourish like
a green bay tree, for a space at least, and it is ‘nation bad sport for
us poor lambs till they be cut down and withered like grass. But your
house, Mr. Aram, is very lonesome like; it is out of reach of all
your neighbours. Hadn’t you better, Sir, take up your lodgings at the
Squire’s for the present?”

Madeline pressed Aram’s arm, and looked up fearfully in his face. “Why,
my good friend,” said he to Dealtry, “robbers will have little to gain
in my house, unless they are given to learned pursuits. It would be
something new, Peter, to see a gang of housebreakers making off with a
telescope, or a pair of globes, or a great folio covered with dust.”

“Ay, your honour, but they may be the more savage for being
disappointed.”

“Well, well, Peter, we will see,” replied Aram impatiently; “meanwhile
we may meet you again at the hall. Good evening for the present.”

“Do, dearest Eugene, do, for Heaven’s sake,” said Madeline, with tears
in her eyes, as they, now turning from Dealtry, directed their steps
towards the quiet valley, at the end of which the Student’s house was
situated, and which was now more than ever Madeline’s favourite walk,
“do, dearest Eugene, come up to the Manor-house till these wretches are
apprehended. Consider how open your house is to attack; and surely there
can be no necessity to remain in it now.”

Aram’s calm brow darkened for a moment. “What! dearest,” said he, “can
you be affected by the foolish fears of yon dotard? How do we know as
yet, whether this improbable story have any foundation in truth. At
all events, it is evidently exaggerated. Perhaps an invasion of the
poultry-yard, in which some hungry fox was the real offender, may be
the true origin of this terrible tale. Nay, love, nay, do not look thus
reproachfully; it will be time enough for us when we have sifted the
grounds of alarm to take our precautions; meanwhile, do not blame me if
in your presence I cannot admit fear. Oh Madeline, dear, dear Madeline,
could you know, could you dream, how different life has become to me
since I knew you! Formerly, I will frankly own to you, that dark and
boding apprehensions were wont to lie heavy at my heart; the cloud was
more familiar to me than the sunshine. But now I have grown a child, and
can see around me nothing but hope; my life was winter--your love has
breathed it into spring.”

“And yet, Eugene--yet--” “Yet what, my Madeline?”

“There are still moments when I have no power over your thoughts;
moments when you break away from me; when you mutter to yourself
feelings in which I have no share, and which seem to steal the
consciousness from your eye and the colour from your lip.”

“Ah, indeed!” said Aram quickly; “what! you watch me so closely?”

“Can you wonder that I do?” said Madeline, with an earnest tenderness in
her voice.

“You must not then, you must not,” returned her lover, almost fiercely;
“I cannot bear too nice and sudden a scrutiny; consider how long I have
clung to a stern and solitary independence of thought, which allows no
watch, and forbids account of itself to any one. Leave it to time and
your love to win their inevitable way. Ask not too much from me now. And
mark, mark, I pray you, whenever, in spite of myself, these moods you
refer to darken over me, heed not, listen not--Leave me! solitude is
their only cure! promise me this, love--promise.”

“It is a harsh request, Eugene, and I do not think I will grant you so
complete a monopoly of thought;” answered Madeline, playfully, yet half
in earnest.

“Madeline,” said Aram, with a deep solemnity of manner, “I ask a request
on which my very love for you depends. From the depths of my soul, I
implore you to grant it; yea, to the very letter.”

“Why, why, this is--” began Madeline, when encountering the full, the
dark, the inscrutable gaze of her strange lover, she broke off in a
sudden fear, which she could not analyse; and only added in a low and
subdued voice, “I promise to obey you.”

As if a weight were lifted from his heart, Aram now brightened at once
into himself in his happiest mood. He poured forth a torrent of grateful
confidence, of buoyant love, that soon swept from the remembrance of
the blushing and enchanted Madeline, the momentary fear, the sudden
chillness, which his look had involuntarily stricken into her mind. And
as they now wound along the most lonely part of that wild valley, his
arm twined round her waist, and his low but silver voice pouring magic
into the very air she breathed--she felt perhaps a more entire and
unruffled sentiment of present, and a more credulous persuasion of
future, happiness, than she had ever experienced before. And Aram
himself dwelt with a more lively and detailed fulness, than he was wont,
on the prospects they were to share, and the security and peace which
retirement would instill into their mode of life.

“Is it not,” said he, with a lofty triumph that we shall look from our
retreat upon the shifting passions, and the hollow loves of the distant
world? We can have no petty object, no vain allurement to distract the
unity of our affection: we must be all in all to each other; for what
else can there be to engross our thoughts, and occupy our feelings here?

“If, my beautiful love, you have selected one whom the world might
deem a strange choice for youth and loveliness like yours; you have, at
least, selected one who can have no idol but yourself. The poets tell
you, and rightly, that solitude is the fit sphere for love; but how
few are the lovers whom solitude does not fatigue! they rush into
retirement, with souls unprepared for its stern joys and its unvarying
tranquillity: they weary of each other, because the solitude itself to
which they fled, palls upon and oppresses them. But to me, the freedom
which low minds call obscurity, is the aliment of life; I do not enter
the temples of Nature as the stranger, but the priest: nothing can ever
tire me of the lone and august altars, on which I sacrificed my youth:
and now, what Nature, what Wisdom once were to me--no, no, more,
immeasurably more than these, you are! Oh, Madeline! methinks there is
nothing under Heaven like the feeling which puts us apart from all that
agitates, and fevers, and degrades the herd of men; which grants us
to control the tenour of our future life, because it annihilates our
dependence upon others, and, while the rest of earth are hurried on,
blind and unconscious, by the hand of Fate, leaves us the sole lords of
our destiny; and able, from the Past, which we have governed, to become
the Prophets of our Future!”

At this moment Madeline uttered a faint shriek, and clung trembling to
Aram’s arm. Amazed, and roused from his enthusiasm, he looked up, and on
seeing the cause of her alarm, seemed himself transfixed, as by a sudden
terror, to the earth.

But a few paces distant, standing amidst the long and rank fern that
grew on either side of their path, quite motionless, and looking on the
pair with a sarcastic smile, stood the ominous stranger, whom the second
chapter of our first volume introduced to the reader.

For one instant Aram seemed utterly appalled and overcome; his cheek
grew the colour of death; and Madeline felt his heart beat with a loud,
a fearful force beneath the breast to which she clung. But his was not
the nature any earthly dread could long abash. He whispered to Madeline
to come on; and slowly, and with his usual firm but gliding step,
continued his way.

“Good evening, Eugene Aram,” said the stranger; and as he spoke, he
touched his hat slightly to Madeline.

“I thank you,” replied the Student, in a calm voice; “do you want aught
with me?”

“Humph!--yes, if it so please you?”

“Pardon me, dear Madeline,” said Aram softly, and disengaging himself
from her, “but for one moment.”

He advanced to the stranger, and Madeline could not but note that, as
Aram accosted him, his brow fell, and his manner seemed violent and
agitated; but she could not hear the words of either; nor did the
conference last above a minute. The stranger bowed, and turning away,
soon vanished among the shrubs. Aram regained the side of his mistress.

“Who,” cried she eagerly, “is that fearful man? What is his business?
What his name?”

“He is a man whom I knew well some fourteen years ago,” replied Aram
coldly, and with ease; “I did not then lead quite so lonely a life,
and we were thrown much together. Since that time, he has been in
unfortunate circumstances--rejoined the army--he was in early life a
soldier, and had been disbanded--entered into business, and failed; in
short, he has partaken of those vicissitudes inseparable from the life
of one driven to seek the world. When he travelled this road some months
ago, he accidentally heard of my residence in the neighbourhood, and
naturally sought me. Poor as I am, I was of some assistance to him. His
route brings him hither again, and he again seeks me: I suppose too that
I must again aid him.”

“And is that indeed all,” said Madeline, breathing more freely; “well,
poor man, if he be your friend, he must be inoffensive--I have done him
wrong. And does he want money? I have some to give him--here Eugene!”
 And the simple-hearted girl put her purse into Aram’s hand.

“No, dearest,” said he, shrinking back; “no, we shall not require your
contribution; I can easily spare him enough for the present. But let us
turn back, it grows chill.”

“And why did he leave us, Eugene?”

“Because I desired him to visit me at home an hour hence.”

“An hour! then you will not sup with us to-night?”

“No, not this night, dearest.”

The conversation now ceased; Madeline in vain endeavoured to renew
it. Aram, though without relapsing into any of his absorbed reveries,
answered her only in monosyllables. They arrived at the Manor-house, and
Aram at the garden gate took leave of her for the night, and hastened
backward towards his home. Madeline, after watching his form through
the deepening shadows until it disappeared, entered the house with a
listless step; a nameless and thrilling presentiment crept to her heart;
and she could have sate down and wept, though without a cause.



CHAPTER II.

       THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN ARAM AND THE STRANGER.

          The spirits I have raised abandon me,
          The spells which I have studied baffle me.
              --Manfred.

Meanwhile Aram strode rapidly through the village, and not till he had
regained the solitary valley did he relax his step.

The evening had already deepened into night. Along the sere and
melancholy wood, the autumnal winds crept, with a lowly, but gathering
moan. Where the water held its course, a damp and ghostly mist clogged
the air, but the skies were calm, and chequered only by a few clouds,
that swept in long, white, spectral streaks, over the solemn stars. Now
and then, the bat wheeled swiftly round, almost touching the figure
of the Student, as he walked musingly onward. And the owl [Note: That
species called the short-eared owl.] that before the month waned many
days, would be seen no more in that region, came heavily from the
trees, like a guilty thought that deserts its shade. It was one of those
nights, half dim, half glorious, which mark the early decline of the
year. Nature seemed restless and instinct with change; there were those
signs in the atmosphere which leave the most experienced in doubt,
whether the morning may rise in storm or sunshine. And in this
particular period, the skiey influences seem to tincture the animal life
with their own mysterious and wayward spirit of change. The birds desert
their summer haunts; an unaccountable inquietude pervades the brute
creation; even men in this unsettled season have considered themselves,
more (than at others) stirred by the motion and whisperings of their
genius. And every creature that flows upon the tide of the Universal
Life of Things, feels upon the ruffled surface, the mighty and solemn
change, which is at work within its depths.

And now Aram had nearly threaded the valley, and his own abode became
visible on the opening plain, when the stranger emerged from the trees
to the right, and suddenly stood before the Student. “I tarried for you
here, Aram,” said he, “instead of seeking you at home, at the time you
fixed; for there are certain private reasons which make it prudent I
should keep as much as possible among the owls, and it was therefore
safer, if not more pleasant, to lie here amidst the fern, than to make
myself merry in the village yonder.”

“And what,” said Aram, “again brings you hither? Did you not say, when
you visited me some months since, that you were about to settle in a
different part of the country, with a relation?”

“And so I intended; but Fate, as you would say, or the Devil, as I
should, ordered it otherwise. I had not long left you, when I fell in
with some old friends, bold spirits and true; the brave outlaws of
the road and the field. Shall I have any shame in confessing that I
preferred their society, a society not unfamiliar to me, to the dull
and solitary life that I might have led in tending my old bed-ridden
relation in Wales, who after all, may live these twenty years, and
at the end can scarce leave me enough for a week’s ill luck at the
hazard-table? In a word, I joined my gallant friends, and entrusted
myself to their guidance. Since then, we have cruised around the
country, regaled ourselves cheerily, frightened the timid, silenced
the fractious, and by the help of your fate, or my devil, have found
ourselves by accident, brought to exhibit our valour in this very
district, honoured by the dwelling-place of my learned friend, Eugene
Aram.”

“Trifle not with me, Houseman,” said Aram sternly; “I scarcely yet
understand you. Do you mean to imply, that yourself, and the lawless
associates you say you have joined, are lying out now for plunder in
these parts?”

“You say it: perhaps you heard of our exploits last night, some four
miles hence?”

“Ha! was that villainy yours?”

“Villainy!” repeated Houseman, in a tone of sullen offence. “Come,
Master Aram, these words must not pass between you and me, friends of
such date, and on such a footing.”

“Talk not of the past,” replied Aram with a livid lip, “and call not
those whom Destiny once, in despite of Nature, drove down her dark tide
in a momentary companionship, by the name of friends. Friends we are
not; but while we live, there is a tie between us stronger than that of
friendship.”

“You speak truth and wisdom,” said Houseman, sneeringly; “for my part, I
care not what you call us, friends or foes.”

“Foes, foes!” exclaimed Aram abruptly, “not that. Has life no medium in
its ties?--pooh--pooh! not foes; we may not be foes to each other.”

“It were foolish, at least at present,” said Houseman carelessly.

“Look you, Houseman,” continued Aram drawing his comrade from the
path into a wilder part of the scene, and, as he spoke, his words were
couched in a more low and inward voice than heretofore. “Look you, I
cannot live and have my life darkened thus by your presence. Is not the
world wide enough for us both? Why haunt each other? what have you to
gain from me? Can the thoughts that my sight recalls to you be brighter,
or more peaceful, than those which start upon me, when I gaze on you?
Does not a ghastly air, a charnel breath, hover about us both? Why
perversely incur a torture it is so easy to avoid? Leave me--leave these
scenes. All earth spreads before you--choose your pursuits, and your
resting place elsewhere, but grudge me not this little spot.”

“I have no wish to disturb you, Eugene Aram, but I must live; and in
order to live I must obey my companions; if I deserted them, it would
be to starve. They will not linger long in this district; a week, it may
be; a fortnight, at most; then, like the Indian animal, they will strip
the leaves, and desert the tree. In a word, after we have swept the
country, we are gone.”

“Houseman, Houseman!” said Aram passionately, and frowning till his
brows almost hid his eyes, but that part of the orb which they did
not hide, seemed as living fire; “I now implore, but I can
threaten--beware!--silence, I say;” (and he stamped his foot violently
on the ground, as he saw Houseman about to interrupt him;) “listen to
me throughout--Speak not to me of tarrying here--speak not of days, of
weeks--every hour of which would sound upon my ear like a death-knell.
Dream not of a sojourn in these tranquil shades, upon an errand of dread
and violence--the minions of the law aroused against you, girt with the
chances of apprehension and a shameful death--” “And a full confession
of my past sins,” interrupted Houseman, laughing wildly.

“Fiend! devil!” cried Aram, grasping his comrade by the throat, and
shaking him with a vehemence that Houseman, though a man of great
strength and sinew, impotently attempted to resist.

“Breathe but another word of such import; dare to menace me with the
vengeance of such a thing as thou, and, by the God above us, I will lay
thee dead at my feet!”

“Release my throat, or you will commit murder,” gasped Houseman with
difficulty, and growing already black in the face.

Aram suddenly relinquished his gripe, and walked away with a hurried
step, muttering to himself. He then returned to the side of Houseman,
whose flesh still quivered either with rage or fear, and, his own
self-possession completely restored, stood gazing upon him with folded
arms, and his usual deep and passionless composure of countenance; and
Houseman, if he could not boldly confront, did not altogether shrink
from, his eye. So there and thus they stood, at a little distance from
each other, both silent, and yet with something unutterably fearful in
their silence.

“Houseman,” said Aram at length, in a calm, yet a hollow voice, “it
may be that I was wrong; but there lives no man on earth, save you, who
could thus stir my blood,--nor you with ease. And know, when you menace
me, that it is not your menace that subdues or shakes my spirit; but
that which robs my veins of their even tenor is that you should deem
your menace could have such power, or that you,--that any man,--should
arrogate to himself the thought that he could, by the prospect of
whatsoever danger, humble the soul and curb the will of Eugene Aram. And
now I am calm; say what you will, I cannot be vexed again.”

“I have done,” replied Houseman coldly; “I have nothing to say;
farewell!” and he moved away among the trees.

“Stay,” cried Aram in some agitation; “stay; we must not part thus. Look
you, Houseman, you say you would starve should you leave your present
associates. That may not be; quit them this night,--this moment: leave
the neighbourhood, and the little in my power is at your will.”

“As to that,” said Houseman drily, “what is in your power is, I fear
me, so little as not to counterbalance the advantages I should lose in
quitting my companions. I expect to net some three hundreds before I
leave these parts.”

“Some three hundreds!” repeated Aram recoiling; “that were indeed beyond
me. I told you when we last met that it is only by an annual payment I
draw the little wealth I have.”

“I remember it. I do not ask you for money, Eugene Aram; these hands can
maintain me,” replied Houseman, smiling grimly. “I told you at once the
sum I expected to receive somewhere, in order to prove that you need
not vex your benevolent heart to afford me relief. I knew well the sum
I named was out of your power, unless indeed it be part of the marriage
portion you are about to receive with your bride. Fie, Aram! what,
secrets from your old friend! You see I pick up the news of the place
without your confidence.”

Again Aram’s face worked, and his lip quivered; but he conquered his
passion with a surprising self-command, and answered mildly, “I do not
know, Houseman, whether I shall receive any marriage portion whatsoever:
If I do, I am willing to make some arrangement by which I could engage
you to molest me no more. But it yet wants several days to my marriage;
quit the neighbourhood now, and a month hence let us meet again.
Whatever at that time may be my resources, you shall frankly know them.”

“It cannot be,” said Houseman; “I quit not these districts without a
certain sum, not in hope, but possession. But why interfere with me?
I seek not my hoards in your coffer. Why so anxious that I should not
breathe the same air as yourself?”

“It matters not,” replied Aram, with a deep and ghastly voice; “but when
you are near me, I feel as if I were with the dead; it is a spectre that
I would exorcise in ridding me of your presence. Yet this is not what
I now speak of. You are engaged, according to your own lips, in lawless
and midnight schemes, in which you may, (and the tide of chances runs
towards that bourne,) be seized by the hand of Justice.”

“Ho,” said Houseman, sullenly, “and was it not for saying that you
feared this, and its probable consequences, that you well-nigh stifled
me, but now?--so truth may be said one moment with impunity, and the
next at peril of life! These are the subtleties of you wise schoolmen,
I suppose. Your Aristotles, and your Zenos, your Platos, and your
Epicurus’s, teach you notable distinctions, truly!”

“Peace!” said Aram; “are we at all times ourselves? Are the passions
never our masters? You maddened me into anger; behold, I am now calm:
the subjects discussed between myself and you, are of life and death;
let us approach them with our senses collected and prepared. What,
Houseman, are you bent upon your own destruction, as well as mine, that
you persevere in courses which must end in a death of shame?”

“What else can I do? I will not work, and I cannot live like you in a
lone wilderness on a crust of bread. Nor is my name like yours, mouthed
by the praise of honest men: my character is marked; those who once knew
me, shun now. I have no resource for society, (for I cannot face myself
alone,) but in the fellowship of men like myself, whom the world has
thrust from its pale. I have no resource for bread, save in the pursuits
that are branded by justice, and accompanied with snares and danger.
What would you have me do?”

“Is it not better,” said Aram, “to enjoy peace and safety upon a small
but certain pittance, than to live thus from hand to mouth? vibrating
from wealth to famine, and the rope around your neck, sleeping and
awake? Seek your relation; in that quarter, you yourself said your
character was not branded: live with him, and know the quiet of easy
days, and I promise you, that if aught be in my power to make your lot
more suitable to your wants, so long as you lead the life of honest men,
it shall be freely yours. Is not this better, Houseman, than a short and
sleepless career of dread?”

“Aram,” answered Houseman, “are you, in truth, calm enough to hear me
speak? I warn you, that if again you forget yourself, and lay hands on
me--” “Threaten not, threaten not,” interrupted Aram, “but proceed;
all within me is now still and cold as ice. Proceed without fear of
scruple.”

“Be it so; we do not love one another: you have affected contempt for
me--and I--I--no matter--I am not a stone or stick, that I should not
feel. You have scorned me--you have outraged me--you have not assumed
towards me even the decent hypocrisies of prudence--yet now you would
ask of me, the conduct, the sympathy, the forbearance, the concession
of friendship. You wish that I should quit these scenes, where, to my
judgment, a certain advantage waits me, solely that I may lighten your
breast of its selfish fears. You dread the dangers that await me on your
own account. And in my apprehension, you forebode your own doom. You ask
me, nay, not ask, you would command, you would awe me to sacrifice my
will and wishes, in order to soothe your anxieties, and strengthen your
own safety. Mark me! Eugene Aram, I have been treated as a tool, and I
will not be governed as a friend. I will not stir from the vicinity of
your home, till my designs be fulfilled,--I enjoy, I hug myself in your
torments. I exult in the terror with which you will hear of each new
enterprise, each new daring, each new triumph of myself and my gallant
comrades. And now I am avenged for the affront you put upon me.”

Though Aram trembled, with suppressed passions, from limb to limb, his
voice was still calm, and his lip even wore a smile as he answered,--“I
was prepared for this, Houseman, you utter nothing that surprises or
appalls me. You hate me; it is natural; men united as we are, rarely
look on each other with a friendly or a pitying eye. But Houseman; I
know you!--you are a man of vehement passions, but interest with you is
yet stronger than passion. If not, our conference is over. Go--and do
your worst.”

“You are right, most learned scholar; I can fetter the tiger within, in
his deadliest rage, by a golden chain.”

“Well, then, Houseman, it is not your interest to betray me--my
destruction is your own.”

“I grant it; but if I am apprehended, and to be hung for robbery?”

“It will be no longer an object to you, to care for my safety.
Assuredly, I comprehend this. But my interest induces me to wish
that you be removed from the peril of apprehension, and your interest
replies, that if you can obtain equal advantages in security, you would
forego advantages accompanied by peril. Say what we will, wander as we
will, it is to this point that we must return at last.”

“Nothing can be clearer; and were you a rich man, Eugene Aram, or could
you obtain your bride’s dowry (no doubt a respectable sum) in advance,
the arrangement might at once be settled.”

Aram gasped for breath, and as usual with him in emotion, made several
strides forward, muttering rapidly, and indistinctly to himself, and
then returned.

“Even were this possible, it would be but a short reprieve; I could not
trust you; the sum would be spent, and I again in the state to which you
have compelled me now; but without the means again to relieve myself.
No, no! if the blow must fall, be it so one day as another.”

“As you will,” said Houseman; ‘but--’ Just at that moment, a long
shrill whistle sounded below, as from the water. Houseman paused
abruptly--“That signal is from my comrades; I must away. Hark, again!
Farewell, Aram.”

“Farewell, if it must be so,” said Aram, in a tone of dogged sullenness;
“but to-morrow, should you know of any means by which I could feel
secure, beyond the security of your own word, from your future
molestation, I might--yet how?”

“To-morrow,” said Houseman, “I cannot answer for myself; it is not
always that I can leave my comrades; a natural jealousy makes them
suspicious of the absence of their friends. Yet hold; the night after
to-morrow, the Sabbath night, most virtuous Aram, I can meet you--but
not here--some miles hence. You know the foot of the Devil’s Crag, by
the waterfall; it is a spot quiet and shaded enough in all conscience
for our interview; and I will tell you a secret I would trust to no
other man--(hark, again!)--it is close by our present lurking-place.
Meet me there!--it would, indeed, be pleasanter to hold our conference
under shelter--but just at present, I would rather not trust myself
beneath any honest man’s roof in this neighbourhood. Adieu! on Sunday
night, one hour before mid-night.”

The robber, for such then he was, waved his hand, and hurried away in
the direction from which the signal seemed to come.

Aram gazed after him, but with vacant eyes; and remained for several
minutes rooted to the spot, as if the very life had left him.

“The Sabbath night!” said he, at length, moving slowly on; “and I must
spin forth my existence in trouble and fear till then--till then! what
remedy can I then invent? It is clear that I can have no dependance on
his word, if won; and I have not even aught wherewith to buy it. But
courage, courage, my heart; and work thou, my busy brain! Ye have never
failed me yet!”



CHAPTER III.

   FRESH ALARM IN THE VILLAGE.--LESTER’S VISIT TO ARAM.--A TRAIT
   OF DELICATE KINDNESS IN THE STUDENT.--MADELINE.--HER PRONENESS
     TO CONFIDE.--THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN LESTER AND ARAM.
      --THE PERSONS BY WHOM IT IS INTERRUPTED.

        Not my own fears, nor the prophetic soul
        Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,
        Can yet the lease of my true love controul.
           --Shakspeare: Sonnets.

        Commend me to their love, and I am proud, say,
        That my occasions have found time to use them
        Toward a supply of money; let the request
        Be fifty talents.
           --Timon Of Athens.

The next morning the whole village was alive and bustling with terror
and consternation. Another, and a yet more daring robbery, had been
committed in the neighbourhood, and the police of the county town had
been summoned, and were now busy in search of the offenders. Aram had
been early disturbed by the officious anxiety of some of his neighbours;
and it wanted yet some hours of noon, when Lester himself came to seek
and consult with the Student.

Aram was alone in his large and gloomy chamber, surrounded, as usual,
by his books, but not as usual engaged in their contents. With his face
leaning on his hand, and his eyes gazing on a dull fire, that crept
heavily upward through the damp fuel, he sate by his hearth, listless,
but wrapt in thought.

“Well, my friend,” said Lester, displacing the books from one of the
chairs, and drawing the seat near the Student’s--“you have ere this
heard the news, and indeed in a county so quiet as ours, these outrages
appear the more fearful, from their being so unlooked for. We must set
a guard in the village, Aram, and you must leave this defenceless
hermitage and come down to us; not for your own sake,--but consider you
will be an additional safeguard to Madeline. You will lock up the house,
dismiss your poor old governante to her friends in the village, and walk
back with me at once to the hall.”

Aram turned uneasily in his chair.

“I feel your kindness,” said he after a pause, “but I cannot accept
it--Madeline,” he stopped short at that name, and added in an altered
voice; “no, I will be one of the watch, Lester; I will look to her--to
your--safety; but I cannot sleep under another roof. I am superstitious,
Lester--superstitious. I have made a vow, a foolish one perhaps, but I
dare not break it. And my vow binds me, save on indispensable and urgent
necessity, not to pass a night any where but in my own home.”

“But there is necessity.”

“My conscience says not,” said Aram smiling: “peace, my good friend, we
cannot conquer men’s foibles, or wrestle with men’s scruples.”

Lester in vain attempted to shake Aram’s resolution on this head; he
found him immoveable, and gave up the effort in despair.

“Well,” said he, “at all events we have set up a watch, and can spare
you a couple of defenders. They shall reconnoitre in the neighbourhood
of your house, if you persevere in your determination, and this will
serve in some slight measure to satisfy poor Madeline.”

“Be it so,” replied Aram; “and dear Madeline herself, is she so
alarmed?”

And now in spite of all the more wearing and haggard thoughts that
preyed upon his breast, and the dangers by which he conceived himself
beset, the Student’s face, as he listened with eager attention to every
word that Lester uttered concerning his niece, testified how alive he
yet was to the least incident that related to Madeline, and how easily
her innocent and peaceful remembrance could allure him from himself.

“This room,” said Lester, looking round, “will be, I conclude, after
Madeline’s own heart; but will you always suffer her here? students do
not sometimes like even the gentlest interruption.”

“I have not forgotten that Madeline’s comfort requires some more
cheerful retreat than this,” said Aram, with a melancholy expression of
countenance. “Follow me, Lester; I meant this for a little surprise to
her. But Heaven only knows if I shall ever show it to herself?”

“Why? what doubt of that can even your boding temper discover?”

“We are as the wanderers in the desert,” answered Aram, “who are taught
wisely to distrust their own senses: that which they gaze upon as the
waters of existence, is often but a faithless vapour that would lure
them to destruction.”

In thus speaking he had traversed the room, and, opening a door, showed
a small chamber with which it communicated, and which Aram had fitted up
with evident, and not ungraceful care. Every article of furniture that
Madeline might most fancy, he had sent for from the neighbouring town.
And some of the lighter and more attractive books that he possessed,
were ranged around on shelves, above which were vases, intended for
flowers; the window opened upon a little plot that had been lately
broken up into a small garden, and was already intersected with walks,
and rich with shrubs.

There was something in this chamber that so entirely contrasted the
one it adjoined, something so light, and cheerful, and even gay in its
decoration and its tout ensemble, that Lester uttered an exclamation
of delight and surprise. And indeed it did appear to him touching, that
this austere scholar, so wrapt in thought, and so inattentive to the
common forms of life, should have manifested this tender and delicate
consideration. In another it would have been nothing, but in Aram, it
was a trait, that brought involuntary tears to the eyes of the good
Lester. Aram observed them: he walked hastily away to the window, and
sighed heavily; this did not escape his friend’s notice, and after
commenting on the attractions of the little room--Lester said: “You seem
oppressed in spirits, Eugene: can any thing have chanced to disturb you,
beyond, at least, these alarms which are enough to agitate the nerves of
the hardiest of us?”

“No,” said Aram; “I had no sleep last night, and my health is easily
affected, and with my health my mind; but let us go to Madeline; the
sight of her will revive me.”

They then strolled down to the Manor-house, and met by the way a band
of the younger heroes of the village, who had volunteered to act as
a patrole, and who were now marshalled by Peter Dealtry, in a fit of
heroic enthusiasm.

Although it was broad daylight, and, consequently, there was little
cause of immediate alarm, the worthy publican carried on his shoulder
a musket on full cock; and each moment he kept peeping about, as if not
only every bush, but every blade of grass contained an ambuscade, ready
to spring up the instant he was off his guard. By his side the redoubted
Jacobina, who had transferred to her new master, the attachment she had
originally possessed for the Corporal, trotted peeringly along, her
tail perpendicularly cocked, and her ears moving to and fro, with a most
incomparable air of vigilant sagacity. The cautious Peter every now
and then checked her ardour, as she was about to quicken her step, and
enliven the march by the gambols better adapted to serener times.

“Soho, Jacobina, soho! gently, girl, gently; thou little knowest the
dangers that may beset thee. Come up, my good fellows, come to the
Spotted Dog; I will tap a barrel on purpose for you; and we will settle
the plan of defence for the night. Jacobina, come in, I say, come in,--

       “‘Lest, like a lion, they thee tear,
        And rend in pieces small;
        While there is none to succour thee,
        And rid thee out of thrall.’

What ho, there! Oh! I beg your honour’s pardon! Your servant, Mr. Aram.”

“What, patroling already?” said the squire; “your men will be tired
before they are wanted; reserve their ardour for the night.”

“Oh, your Honour, I have only been beating up for recruits; and we are
going to consult a bit at home. Ah! what a pity the Corporal isn’t
here: he would have been a tower of strength unto the righteous. But
howsomever, I do my best to supply his place--Jacobina, child, be still:
I can’t say as I knows the musket-sarvice, your honour; but I fancy’s as
how, like Joe Roarjug, the Methodist, we can do it extemporaneous-like
at a pinch.”

“A bold heart, Peter, is the best preparation,” said the squire.

“And,” quoth Peter quickly, “what saith the worshipful Mister Sternhold,
in the 45th psalm, 5th verse,--

 ‘Go forth with godly speed, in meekness, truth, and might,
  And thy right hand shall thee instruct in works of dreadful might.’”

Peter quoted these verses, especially the last, with a truculent frown,
and a brandishing of the musket, that surprisingly encouraged the hearts
of his little armament; and with a general murmur of enthusiasm, the
warlike band marched off to The Spotted Dog.

Lester and his companion found Madeline and Ellinor standing at the
window of the hall; and Madeline’s light step was the first that
sprang forward to welcome their return: even the face of the Student
brightened, when he saw the kindling eye, the parted lip, the buoyant
form, from which the pure and innocent gladness she felt on seeing him
broke forth.

There was a remarkable trustingness, if I may so speak, in Madeline’s
disposition. Thoughtful and grave as she was, by nature, she was yet
ever inclined to the more sanguine colourings of life; she never
turned to the future with fear--a placid sentiment of Hope slept at
her heart--she was one who surrendered herself with a fond and implicit
faith to the guidance of all she loved; and to the chances of life. It
was a sweet indolence of the mind, which made one of her most beautiful
traits of character; there is something so unselfish in tempers
reluctant to despond. You see that such persons are not occupied with
their own existence; they are not fretting the calm of the present life,
with the egotisms of care, and conjecture, and calculation: if they
learn anxiety, it is for another; but in the heart of that other, how
entire is their trust!

It was this disposition in Madeline which perpetually charmed, and
yet perpetually wrung, the soul of her wild lover; and as she now
delightedly hung upon his arm, uttering her joy at seeing him safe, and
presently forgetting that there ever had been cause for alarm, his heart
was filled with the most gloomy sense of horror and desolation. “What,”
 thought he, “if this poor, unconscious girl could dream that at this
moment I am girded with peril, from which I see no ultimate escape?
Delay it as I will, it seems as if the blow must come at last. What, if
she could think how fearful is my interest in these outrages, that in
all probability, if their authors are detected, there is one who will
drag me into their ruin; that I am given over, bound and blinded,
into the hands of another; and that other, a man steeled to mercy,
and withheld from my destruction by a thread--a thread that a blow
on himself would snap. Great God! wherever I turn, I see despair! And
she--she clings to me; and beholding me, thinks the whole earth is
filled with hope!”

While these thoughts darkened his mind, Madeline drew him onward into
the more sequestered walks of the garden, to show him some flowers she
had transplanted. And when an hour afterwards he returned to the hall,
so soothing had been the influence of her looks and words upon Aram,
that if he had not forgotten the situation in which he stood, he had at
least calmed himself to regard with a steady eye the chances of escape.

The meal of the day passed as cheerfully as usual, and when Aram and his
host were left over their abstemious potations, the former proposed a
walk before the evening deepened. Lester readily consented, and they
sauntered into the fields. The Squire soon perceived that something
was on Aram’s mind, of which he felt evident embarrassment in ridding
himself: at length the Student said rather abruptly: “My dear friend,
I am but a bad beggar, and therefore let me get over my request as
expeditiously as possible. You said to me once that you intended
bestowing some dowry upon Madeline; a dowry I would and could willingly
dispense with; but should you of that sum be now able to spare me some
portion as a loan,--should you have some three hundred pounds with
which you could accommodate me.--” “Say no more, Eugene, say no
more,” interrupted the Squire,--“you can have double that amount. Your
preparations for your approaching marriage, I ought to have foreseen,
must have occasioned you some inconvenience; you can have six hundred
pounds from me to-morrow.”

Aram’s eyes brightened. “It is too much, too much, my generous friend,”
 said he; “the half suffices--but, but, a debt of old standing presses me
urgently, and to-morrow, or rather Monday morning, is the time fixed for
payment.”

“Consider it arranged,” said Lester, putting his hand on Aram’s arm,
and then leaning on it gently, he added, “And now that we are on this
subject, let me tell you what I intended as a gift to you, and my
dear Madeline; it is but small, but my estates are rigidly entailed on
Walter, and of poor value in themselves, and it is half the savings of
many years.”

The Squire then named a sum, which, however small it may seem to our
reader, was not considered a despicable portion for the daughter of
a small country squire at that day, and was in reality, a generous
sacrifice for one whose whole income was scarcely, at the most, seven
hundred a year. The sum mentioned doubled that now to be lent, and which
was of course a part of it; an equal portion was reserved for Ellinor.

“And to tell you the truth,” said the Squire, “you must give me some
little time for the remainder--for not thinking some months ago it would
be so soon wanted, I laid out eighteen hundred pounds, in the purchase
of Winclose Farm, six of which, (the remainder of your share,) I can pay
off at the end of the year; the other twelve, Ellinor’s portion, will
remain a mortgage on the farm itself. And between us,” added the Squire,
“I do hope that I need be in no hurry respecting her, dear girl. When
Walter returns, I trust matters may be arranged, in a manner, and
through a channel, that would gratify the most cherished wish of my
heart. I am convinced that Ellinor is exactly suited to him; and,
unless he should lose his senses for some one else in the course of his
travels, I trust that he will not be long returned before he will make
the same discovery. I think of writing to him very shortly after your
marriage, and making him promise, at all events, to revisit us at
Christmas. Ah! Eugene, we shall be a happy party, then, I trust. And be
assured, that we shall beat up your quarters, and put your hospitality,
and Madeline’s housewifery to the test.”

Therewith the good Squire ran on for some minutes in the warmth of his
heart, dilating on the fireside prospects before them, and rallying the
Student on those secluded habits, which he promised him he should no
longer indulge with impunity.

“But it is growing dark,” said he, awakening from the theme which had
carried him away, “and by this time Peter and our patrole will be at the
hall. I told them to look up in the evening, in order to appoint their
several duties and stations--let us turn back. Indeed, Aram, I can
assure you, that I, for my own part, have some strong reasons to take
precautions against any attack; for besides the old family plate,
(though that’s not much,) I have,--you know the bureau in the parlour to
the left of the hall--well, I have in that bureau three hundred guineas,
which I have not as yet been able to take to safe hands at--, and which,
by the way, will be your’s to-morrow. So, you see, it would be no light
misfortune to me to be robbed.”

“Hist!” said Aram, stopping short, “I think I heard steps on the other
side of the hedge.”

The Squire listened, but heard nothing; the senses of his companion
were, however, remarkably acute, more especially that of hearing.

“There is certainly some one; nay, I catch the steps of two persons,”
 whispered he to Lester. “Let us come round the hedge by the gap below.”

They both quickened their pace, and gaining the other side of the hedge,
did indeed perceive two men in carters’ frocks, strolling on towards the
village.

“They are strangers too,” said the Squire suspiciously, “not Grassdale
men. Humph! could they have overheard us, think you?”

“If men whose business it is to overhear their neighbours--yes; but not
if they be honest men,” answered Aram, in one of those shrewd remarks
which he often uttered, and which seemed almost incompatible with the
tenor of the quiet and abstruse pursuits that he had adopted, and that
generally deaden the mind to worldly wisdom.

They had now approached the strangers, who, however, appeared mere
rustic clowns, and who pulled off their hats with the wonted obeisance
of their tribe.

“Hollo, my men,” said the Squire, assuming his magisterial air, for the
mildest Squire in Christendom can play the Bashaw, when he remembers he
is a Justice of the Peace. “Hollo! what are you doing here this time of
day? you are not after any good, I fear.”

“We ax pardon, your honour,” said the elder clown, in the peculiar
accent of the country, “but we be come from Gladsmuir; and be going to
work at Squire Nixon’s at Mow-hall, on Monday; so as I has a brother
living on the green afore the Squire’s, we be a-going to sleep there
to-night and spend the Sunday, your honour.”

“Humph! humph! What’s your name?”

“Joe Wood, your honour, and this here chap is, Will Hutchings.”

“Well, well, go along with you,” said the Squire: “And mind what you
are about. I should not be surprised if you snare one of Squire Nixon’s
hares by the way.”

“Oh, well and indeed, your honour.”--“Go along, go along,” said the
Squire, and away went the men.

“They seem honest bumpkins enough,” observed Lester.

“It would have pleased me better,” said Aram, “had the speaker of the
two particularized less; and you observed that he seemed eager not to
let his companion speak; that is a little suspicious.”

“Shall I call them back?” asked the Squire.

“Why it is scarcely worth while,” said Aram; “perhaps I over refine. And
now I look again at them, they seem really what they affect to be. No,
it is useless to molest the poor wretches any more. There is something,
Lester, humbling to human pride in a rustic’s life. It grates against
the heart to think of the tone in which we unconsciously permit
ourselves to address him. We see in him humanity in its simple state; it
is a sad thought to feel that we despise it; that all we respect in our
species is what has been created by art; the gaudy dress, the glittering
equipage, or even the cultivated intellect; the mere and naked material
of Nature, we eye with indifference or trample on with disdain. Poor
child of toil, from the grey dawn to the setting sun, one long task!--no
idea elicited--no thought awakened beyond those that suffice to make him
the machine of others--the serf of the hard soil! And then too, mark how
we scowl upon his scanty holidays, how we hedge in his mirth with laws,
and turn his hilarity into crime! We make the whole of the gay world,
wherein we walk and take our pleasure, to him a place of snares and
perils. If he leave his labour for an instant, in that instant how many
temptations spring up to him! And yet we have no mercy for his
errors; the gaol--the transport-ship--the gallows; those are our sole
lecture-books, and our only methods of expostulation--ah, fie on the
disparities of the world! They cripple the heart, they blind the sense,
they concentrate the thousand links between man and man, into the two
basest of earthly ties--servility, and pride. Methinks the devils laugh
out when they hear us tell the boor that his soul is as glorious and
eternal as our own; and yet when in the grinding drudgery of his life,
not a spark of that soul can be called forth; when it sleeps, walled
around in its lumpish clay, from the cradle to the grave, without a
dream to stir the deadness of its torpor.”

“And yet, Aram,” said Lester, “the Lords of science have their ills.
Exalt the soul as you will, you cannot raise it above pain. Better,
perhaps, to let it sleep, when in waking it looks only upon a world of
trial.”

“You say well, you say well,” said Aram smiting his heart, “and I
suffered a foolish sentiment to carry me beyond the sober boundaries of
our daily sense.”



CHAPTER IV.

   MILITARY PREPARATIONS.--THE COMMANDER AND HIS MAN.--ARAM IS
      PERSUADED TO PASS THE NIGHT AT THE MANOR-HOUSE.

      Falstaff.--“Bid my Lieutenant Peto meet me at the town’s end.
    .. I pressed me none but such toasts and butter, with hearts
      in their bellies no bigger than pins’ heads.”
         --Henry IV.

They had scarcely reached the Manor-house, before the rain, which the
clouds had portended throughout the whole day, began to descend in
torrents, and to use the strong expression of the Roman poet--the night
rushed down, black and sudden, over the face of the earth.

The new watch were not by any means the hardy and experienced soldiery,
by whom rain and darkness are unheeded. They looked with great dismay
upon the character of the night in which their campaign was to commence.
The valorous Peter, who had sustained his own courage by repeated
applications to a little bottle, which he never failed to carry about
him in all the more bustling and enterprising occasions of life,
endeavoured, but with partial success, to maintain the ardour of his
band. Seated in the servants’ hall of the Manor-house, in a large
arm-chair, Jacobina on his knee, and his trusty musket, which, to the
great terror of the womankind, had never been uncocked throughout the
day, still grasped in his right hand, while the stock was grounded on
the floor; he indulged in martial harangues, plentifully interlarded
with plagiarisms from the worshipful translations of Messrs. Sternhold
and Hopkins, and psalmodic versions of a more doubtful authorship.
And when at the hour of ten, which was the appointed time, he led his
warlike force, which consisted of six rustics, armed with sticks of
incredible thickness, three guns, one pistol, a broadsword, and a
pitchfork, (a weapon likely to be more effectively used than all the
rest put together;) when at the hour of ten he led them up to the room
above, where they were to be passed in review before the critical eye
of the Squire, with Jacobina leading the on-guard, you could not fancy
a prettier picture for a hero in a little way, than mine host of the
Spotted Dog.

His hat was fastened tight on his brows by a blue pocket-handkerchief;
he wore a spencer of a light brown drugget, a world too loose, above a
leather jerkin; his breeches of corduroy, were met all of a sudden half
way up the thigh, by a detachment of Hessians, formerly in the service
of the Corporal, and bought some time since by Peter Dealtry to wear
when employed in shooting snipes for the Squire, to whom he occasionally
performed the office of game-keeper; suspended round his wrist by a bit
of black ribbon, was his constable’s baton; he shouldered his musket
gallantly, and he carried his person as erect as if the least deflexion
from its perpendicularity were to cost him his life. One may judge of
the revolution that had taken place in the village, when so peaceable a
man as Peter Dealtry was thus metamorphosed into a commander-in-chief.
The rest of the regiment hung sheepishly back; each trying to get as
near to the door, and as far from the ladies, as possible. But Peter
having made up his mind, that a hero should only look straight forward,
did not condescend to turn round, to perceive the irregularity of his
line. Secure in his own existence, he stood truculently forth, facing
the Squire, and prepared to receive his plaudits.

Madeline and Aram sat apart at one corner of the hearth, and Ellinor
leaned over the chair of the former; the mirth that she struggled to
suppress from being audible, mantling over her arch face and laughing
eyes; while the Squire, taking the pipe from his mouth, turned round
on his easy chair, and nodded complacently to the little corps, and the
great commander.

“We are all ready now, your honour,” said Peter, in a voice that did not
seem to belong to his body, so big did it sound, “all hot, all eager.”

“Why you yourself are a host, Peter,” said Ellinor with affected
gravity; “your sight alone would frighten an army of robbers: who could
have thought you could assume so military an air? The Corporal himself
was never so upright!”

“I have practised my present attitude all the day, Miss,” said Peter,
proudly, “and I believe I may now say as Mr. Sternhold says or sings, in
the twenty-sixth Psalm, verse twelfth.

        ‘My foot is stayed for all assays,
         It standeth well and right,
        Wherefore to God--will I give praise
         In all the people’s sight!’

Jacobina, behave yourself, child. I don’t think, your honour, that we
miss the Corporal so much as I fancied at first, for we all does very
well without him.”

“Indeed you are a most worthy substitute, Peter; and now, Nell, just
reach me my hat and cloak; I will set you at your posts: you will have
an ugly night of it.”

“Very indeed, your honour,” cried all the army, speaking for the first
time.

“Silence--order--discipline,” said Peter gruffly. “March!”

But instead of marching across the hall, the recruits huddled up one
after the other, like a flock of geese, whom Jacobina might be supposed
to have set in motion, and each scraping to the ladies, as they
shuffled, sneaked, bundled, and bustled out at the door.

“We are well guarded now, Madeline,” said Ellinor; “I fancy we may go to
sleep as safely as if there were not a housebreaker in the world.”

“Why,” said Madeline, “let us trust they will be more efficient than
they seem, though I cannot persuade myself that we shall really need
them. One might almost as well conceive a tiger in our arbour, as a
robber in Grassdale. But dear, dear Eugene, do not--do not leave us
this night; Walter’s room is ready for you, and if it were only to walk
across that valley in such weather, it would be cruel to leave us. Let
me beseech you; come, you cannot, you dare not refuse me such a favour.”

Aram pleaded his vow, but it was overruled; Madeline proved herself a
most exquisite casuist in setting it aside. One by one his objections
were broken down; and how, as he gazed into those eyes, could he
keep any resolution, that Madeline wished him to break! The power she
possessed over him seemed exactly in proportion to his impregnability to
every one else. The surface on which the diamond cuts its easy way, will
yield to no more ignoble instrument; it is easy to shatter it, but by
only one substance can it be impressed. And in this instance Aram had
but one secret and strong cause to prevent his yielding to Madeline’s
wishes;--if he remained at the house this night, how could he well avoid
a similar compliance the next? And on the next was his interview with
Houseman. This reason was not, however, strong enough to enable him to
resist Madeline’s soft entreaties; he trusted to the time to furnish him
with excuses, and when Lester returned, Madeline with a triumphant air
informed him that Aram had consented to be their guest for the night.”

“Your influence is indeed greater than mine,” said Lester, wringing his
hat as the delicate fingers of Ellinor loosened his cloak; “yet one can
scarcely think our friend sacrifices much in concession, after proving
the weather without. I should pity our poor patrole most exceedingly,
if I were not thoroughly assured that within two hours every one of
them will have quietly slunk home; and even Peter himself, when he has
exhausted his bottle, will be the first to set the example. However,
I have stationed two of the men near our house, and the rest at equal
distances along the village.”

“Do you really think they will go home, Sir?” said Ellinor, in a little
alarm; “why they would be worse than I thought them, if they were driven
to bed by the rain. I knew they could not stand a pistol, but a shower,
however hard, I did imagine would scarcely quench their valour.”

“Never mind, girl,” said Lester, gaily chucking her under the chin, “we
are quite strong enough now to resist them. You see Madeline has grown
as brave as a lioness--Come, girls, come, let’s have supper, and stir up
the fire. And, Nell, where are my slippers?”

And thus on the little family scene, the cheerful wood fire flickering
against the polished wainscot; the supper table arranged, the Squire
drawing his oak chair towards it, Ellinor mixing his negus; and Aram
and Madeline, though three times summoned to the table, and having three
times answered to the summons, still lingering apart by the hearth--let
us drop the curtain.

We have only, ere we close our chapter, to observe, that when Lester
conducted Aram to his chamber he placed in his hands an order payable
at the county town, for three hundred pounds. “The rest,” he said in a
whisper, “is below, where I mentioned; and there in my secret drawer it
had better rest till the morning.”

The good Squire then, putting his finger to his lip, hurried away, to
avoid the thanks, which, indeed, however he might feel them, Aram was no
dexterous adept in expressing.



CHAPTER V.

      THE SISTERS ALONE.--THE GOSSIP OF LOVE.--AN ALARM
            --AND AN EVENT.

          Juliet.--My true love is grown to such excess,
          I cannot sum up half my sum of wealth.
              --Romeo and Juliet.

          Eros.--Oh, a man in arms;
          His weapon drawn, too!
              --The False One.

It was a custom with the two sisters, when they repaired to their
chamber for the night, to sit conversing, sometimes even for hours,
before they finally retired to bed. This indeed was the usual time for
their little confidences, and their mutual dilations over those hopes
and plans for the future, which always occupy the larger share of the
thoughts and conversation of the young. I do not know any thing in the
world more lovely than such conferences between two beings who have
no secrets to relate but what arise, all fresh, from the springs of a
guiltless heart,--those pure and beautiful mysteries of an unsullied
nature which warm us to hear; and we think with a sort of wonder when we
feel how arid experience has made ourselves, that so much of the dew and
sparkle of existence still linger in the nooks and valleys, which are as
yet virgin of the sun and of mankind.

The sisters this night were more than commonly indifferent to sleep.
Madeline sate by the small but bright hearth of the chamber, in her
night dress, and Ellinor, who was much prouder of her sister’s beauty
than her own, was employed in knotting up the long and lustrous hair
which fell in rich luxuriance over Madeline’s throat and shoulders.

“There certainly never was such beautiful hair!” said Ellinor
admiringly; “and, let me see,--yes,--on Thursday fortnight I may be
dressing it, perhaps, for the last time--heigho!”

“Don’t flatter yourself that you are so near the end of your troublesome
duties,” said Madeline, with her pretty smile, which had been much
brighter and more frequent of late than it was formerly wont to be, so
that Lester had remarked “That Madeline really appeared to have become
the lighter and gayer of the two.”

“You will often come to stay with us for weeks together, at least
till--till you have a double right to be mistress here. Ah! my poor
hair,--you need not pull it so hard.”

“Be quiet, then,” said Ellinor, half laughing, and wholly blushing.

“Trust me, I have not been in love myself without learning its signs;
and I venture to prophesy that within six months you will come to
consult me whether or not,--for there is a great deal to be said on both
sides of the question,--you can make up your mind to sacrifice your own
wishes, and marry Walter Lester. Ah!--gently, gently. Nell--” “Promise
to be quiet.”

“I will--I will; but you began it.”

As Ellinor now finished her task, and kissed her sister’s forehead, she
sighed deeply.

“Happy Walter!” said Madeline.

“I was not sighing for Walter, but for you.”

“For me?--impossible! I cannot imagine any part of my future life that
can cost you a sigh. Ah! that I were more worthy of my happiness.”

“Well, then,” said Ellinor, “I sighed for myself;--I sighed to think we
should so soon be parted, and that the continuance of your society would
then depend not on our mutual love, but the will of another.”

“What, Ellinor, and can you suppose that Eugene,--my Eugene,--would not
welcome you as warmly as myself? Ah! you misjudge him; I know you have
not yet perceived how tender a heart lies beneath all that melancholy
and reserve.”

“I feel, indeed,” said Ellinor warmly, “as if it were impossible that
one whom you love should not be all that is good and noble; yet if this
reserve of his should increase, as is at least possible, with increasing
years; if our society should become again, as it once was, distasteful
to him, should I not lose you, Madeline?”

“But his reserve cannot increase: do you not perceive how much it is
softened already? Ah! be assured that I will charm it away.”

“But what is the cause of the melancholy that even now, at times,
evidently preys upon him?--has he never revealed it to you?”

“It is merely the early and long habit of solitude and study, Ellinor,”
 replied Madeline; “and shall I own to you I would scarcely wish that
away; his tenderness itself seems linked with his melancholy. It is like
a sad but gentle music, that brings tears into our eyes, but which we
would not change for gayer airs for the world.”

“Well, I must own,” said Ellinor, reluctantly, “that I no longer wonder
at your infatuation; I can no longer chide you as I once did; there is,
assuredly, something in his voice, his look, which irresistibly sinks
into the heart. And there are moments when, what with his eyes and
forehead, his countenance seems more beautiful, more impressive, than
any I ever beheld. Perhaps, too, for you, it is better, that your lover
should be no longer in the first flush of youth. Your nature seems
to require something to venerate, as well as to love. And I have ever
observed at prayers, that you seem more especially rapt and carried
beyond yourself, in those passages which call peculiarly for worship and
adoration.”

“Yes, dearest,” said Madeline fervently, “I own that Eugene is of all
beings, not only of all whom I ever knew, but of whom I ever dreamed, or
imagined, the one that I am most fitted to love and to appreciate. His
wisdom, but more than that, the lofty tenor of his mind, calls forth all
that is highest and best in my own nature. I feel exalted when I listen
to him;--and yet, how gentle, with all that nobleness! And to think that
he should descend to love me, and so to love me. It is as if a star were
to leave its sphere!”

“Hark! one o’clock,” said Ellinor, as the deep voice of the clock told
the first hour of morning. “Heavens! how much louder the winds rave. And
how the heavy sleet drives against the window! Our poor watch without!
but you may be sure my uncle was right, and they are safe at home by
this time; nor is it likely, I should think, that even robbers would be
abroad in such weather!”

“I have heard,” said Madeline, “that robbers generally choose these
dark, stormy nights for their designs, but I confess I don’t feel much
alarm, and he is in the house. Draw nearer to the fire, Ellinor; is
it not pleasant to see how serenely it burns, while the storm howls
without! it is like my Eugene’s soul, luminous, and lone, amidst the
roar and darkness of this unquiet world!”

“There spoke himself,” said Ellinor smiling to perceive how invariably
women, who love, imitate the tone of the beloved one. And Madeline felt
it, and smiled too.

“Hist!” said Ellinor abruptly, “did you not hear a low, grating noise
below? Ah! the winds now prevent your catching the sound; but hush,
hush!--now the wind pauses,--there it is again!”

“Yes, I hear it,” said Madeline, turning pale, “it seems in the little
parlour; a continued, harsh, but very low, noise. Good heavens! it seems
at the window below.”

“It is like a file,” whispered Ellinor: “perhaps--” “You are right,”
 said Madeline, suddenly rising, “it is a file, and at the bars my father
had fixed against the window yesterday. Let us go down, and alarm the
house.”

“No, no; for God’s sake, don’t be so rash,” cried Ellinor, losing all
presence of mind: “hark! the sound ceases, there is a louder noise
below,--and steps. Let us lock the door.”

But Madeline was of that fine and high order of spirit which rises in
proportion to danger, and calming her sister as well as she could, till
she found her attempts wholly ineffectual, she seized the light with a
steady hand, opened the door, and Ellinor still clinging to her, passed
the landing-place, and hastened to her father’s room; he slept at the
opposite corner of the staircase. Aram’s chamber was at the extreme end
of the house. Before she reached the door of Lester’s apartment, the
noise below grew loud and distinct--a scuffle--voices--curses--and
now--the sound of a pistol!--in a moment more the whole house was
stirring. Lester in his night robe, his broadsword in his hand, and his
long grey hair floating behind, was the first to appear; the servants,
old and young, male and female, now came thronging simultaneously round;
and in a general body, Lester several paces at their head, his daughters
following next to him, they rushed to the apartment whence the noise,
now suddenly stilled, had proceeded.

The window was opened, evidently by force; an instrument like a wedge
was fixed in the bureau containing Lester’s money, and seemed to have
been left there, as if the person using it had been disturbed before the
design for which it was introduced had been accomplished, and, (the only
evidence of life,) Aram stood, dressed, in the centre of the room, a
pistol in his left hand, a sword in his right; a bludgeon severed in two
lay at his feet, and on the floor within two yards of him, towards the
window, drops of blood yet warm, showed that the pistol had not been
discharged in vain.

“And is it you, my brave friend, that I have to thank for our safety?”
 cried Lester in great emotion.

“You, Eugene!” repeated Madeline, sinking on his breast.

“But thanks hereafter,” continued Lester; “let us now to the
pursuit,--perhaps the villain may have perished beneath your bullet?”

“Ha!” muttered Aram, who had hitherto seemed unconscious of all around
him; so fixed had been his eye, so colourless his cheek, so motionless
his posture. “Ha! say you so?--think you I have slain him?--no, it
cannot be--the ball did not slay, I saw him stagger; but he rallied--not
so one who receives a mortal wound!--ha! ha!--there is blood, you say,
that is true; but what then!--it is not the first wound that kills, you
must strike again--pooh, pooh, what is a little blood!”

While he was thus muttering, Lester and the more active of the servants
had already sallied through the window, but the night was so intensely
dark that they could not penetrate a step beyond them. Lester returned,
therefore, in a few moments; and met Aram’s dark eye fixed upon him with
an unutterable expression of anxiety.

“You have found no one,” said he, “no dying man?--Ha!--well--well--well!
they must both have escaped; the night must favour them.”

“Do you fancy the villain was severely wounded?”

“Not so--I trust not so; he seemed able to--But stop--oh
God!--stop!--your foot is dabbling in blood--blood shed by me,--off!
off!”

Lester moved aside with a quick abhorrence, as he saw that his feet were
indeed smearing the blood over the polished and slippery surface of the
oak boards, and in moving he stumbled against a dark lantern in which
the light still burnt, and which the robbers in their flight had left.

“Yes,” said Aram observing it. “It was by that--their own light that I
saw them--saw their faces--and--and--(bursting into a loud, wild laugh)
they were both strangers!”

“Ah, I thought so, I knew so,” said Lester plucking the instrument from
the bureau. “I knew they could be no Grassdale men. What, did you fancy,
they could be? But--bless me, Madeline--what ho! help!--Aram, she has
fainted at your feet.”

And it was indeed true and remarkable, that so utter had been the
absorption of Aram’s mind, that he had been insensible not only to
the entrance of Madeline, but even that she had thrown herself on his
breast. And she, overcome by her feelings, had slid to the ground from
that momentary resting-place, in a swoon which Lester, in the general
tumult and confusion, was now the first to perceive.

At this exclamation, at the sound of Madeline’s name, the blood rushed
back from Aram’s heart, where it had gathered, icy and curdling; and,
awakened thoroughly and at once to himself, he knelt down, and weaving
his arms around her, supported her head on his breast, and called upon
her with the most passionate and moving exclamations.

But when the faint bloom retinged her cheek, and her lips stirred, he
printed a long kiss on that cheek--on those lips, and surrendered his
post to Ellinor; who, blushingly gathering the robe over the beautiful
breast from which it had been slightly drawn; now entreated all, save
the women of the house, to withdraw till her sister was restored.

Lester, eager to hear what his guest could relate, therefore took Aram
to his own apartment, where the particulars were briefly told.

Suspecting, which indeed was the chief reason that excused him to
himself in yielding to Madeline’s request, that the men Lester and
himself had encountered in their evening walk, might be other than they
seemed, and that they might have well overheard Lester’s communication,
as to the sum in his house, and the place where it was stored; he had
not undressed himself, but kept the door of his room open to listen
if any thing stirred. The keen sense of hearing, which we have before
remarked him to possess, enabled him to catch the sound of the file at
the bars, even before Ellinor, notwithstanding the distance of his own
chamber from the place, and seizing the sword which had been left in his
room, (the pistol was his own) he had descended to the room below.

“What!” said Lester, “and without a light?”

“The darkness is familiar to me,” said Aram. “I could walk by the edge
of a precipice in the darkest night without one false step, if I had but
once passed it before. I did not gain the room, however, till the window
had been forced; and by the light of a dark lantern which one of them
held, I perceived two men standing by the bureau--the rest you can
imagine; my victory was easy, for the bludgeon, with which one of them
aimed at me, gave way at once to the edge of your good sword, and my
pistol delivered me of the other.--There ends the history.”

Lester overwhelmed him with thanks and praises, but Aram, glad to
escape them, hurried away to see after Madeline, whom he now met on the
landing-place, leaning on Ellinor’s arm and still pale.

She gave him her hand, which he for one moment pressed passionately to
his lips, but dropped, the next, with an altered and chilled air. And
hastily observing he would not now detain her from a rest which she must
so much require, he turned away and descended the stairs. Some of the
servants were grouped around the place of encounter; he entered the
room, and again started at the sight of the blood.

“Bring water,” said he fiercely: “will you let the stagnant gore ooze
and rot into the boards, to startle the eye, and still the heart with
its filthy, and unutterable stain--water, I say! water!”

They hurried to obey him, and Lester coming into the room to see the
window reclosed by the help of boards found the Student bending over the
servants as they performed their reluctant task, and rating them with a
raised and harsh voice for the hastiness with which he accused them of
seeking to slur it over.



CHAPTER VI.

   ARAM ALONE AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.--HIS SOLILOQUY AND PROJECT.--
         SCENE BETWEEN HIMSELF AND MADELINE.

                   Luce non grata fruor;
          Trepidante semper corde, non mortis metu
          Sed--
             --Seneca: Octavia, act i.

The two men servants of the house remained up the rest of the night; but
it was not till the morning had progressed far beyond the usual time
of rising in the fresh shades of Grassdale, that Madeline and Ellinor
became visible; even Lester left his bed an hour later than his wont;
and knocking at Aram’s door, found the Student was already abroad, while
it was evident that his bed had not been pressed during the whole of
the night. Lester descended into the garden, and was there met by Peter
Dealtry, and a detachment of the band; who, as common sense and Lester
had predicted, were indeed, at a very early period of the watch, driven
to their respective homes. They were now seriously concerned for their
unmanliness, which they passed off as well as they could upon their
conviction “that nobody at Grassdale could ever really be robbed;” and
promised with sincere contrition, that they would be most excellent
guards for the future. Peter was, in sooth, singularly chop-fallen; and
could only defend himself by an incoherent mutter, from which the Squire
turned somewhat impatiently, when he heard, louder than the rest, the
words “seventy-seventh psalm, seventeenth verse,

“The clouds that were both thick and black,

          Did rain full plenteously.”

Leaving the Squire to the edification of the pious host, let us follow
the steps of Aram, who at the early dawn had quitted his sleepless
chamber, and, though the clouds at that time still poured down in a dull
and heavy sleet, wandered away, whither he neither knew, nor heeded. He
was now hurrying, with unabated speed, though with no purposed bourne
or object, over the chain of mountains that backed the green and lovely
valleys, among which his home was cast.

“Yes!” said he, at last halting abruptly, with a desperate resolution
stamped on his countenance, “yes! I will so determine. If, after this
interview, I feel that I cannot command and bind Houseman’s perpetual
secrecy, I will surrender Madeline at once. She has loved me generously
and trustingly. I will not link her life with one that may be called
hence in any hour, and to so dread an account. Neither shall the grey
hairs of Lester be brought with the sorrow of my shame, to a dishonoured
and untimely grave. And after the outrage of last night, the daring
outrage, how can I calculate on the safety of a day? though Houseman
was not present, though I can scarce believe that he knew or at least
abetted the attack; yet they were assuredly of his gang: had one been
seized, the clue might have traced to his detection--and he detected,
what should I have to dread! No, Madeline! no; not while this sword
hangs over me, will I subject thee to share the horror of my fate!”

This resolution, which was certainly generous, and yet no more than
honest, Aram had no sooner arrived at, than he dismissed, at once, by
one of those efforts which powerful minds can command, all the weak
and vacillating thoughts that might interfere with the sternness of his
determination. He seemed to breathe more freely, and the haggard wanness
of his brow, relaxed at least from the workings that, but the moment
before, distorted its wonted serenity, with a maniac wildness.

He pursued his desultory way now with a calmer step.

“What a night!” said he, again breaking into the low murmur in which he
was accustomed to hold commune with himself. “Had Houseman been one of
the ruffians! a shot might have freed me, and without a crime, for ever!
And till the light flashed on their brows, I thought the smaller man
bore his aspect. Ha, out, tempting thought! out on thee!” he cried
aloud, and stamping with his foot, then recalled by his own vehemence,
he cast a jealous and hurried glance round him, though at that moment
his step was on the very height of the mountains, where not even the
solitary shepherd, save in search of some more daring straggler of the
flock, ever brushed the dew from the cragged, yet fragrant soil. “Yet,”
 he said, in a lower voice, and again sinking into the sombre depths of
his reverie, “it is a tempting, a wondrously tempting thought. And it
struck athwart me, like a flash of lightning when this hand was at his
throat--a tighter strain, another moment, and Eugene Aram had not had an
enemy, a witness against him left in the world. Ha! are the dead no foes
then? Are the dead no witnesses?” Here he relapsed into utter silence,
but his gestures continued wild, and his eyes wandered round, with a
bloodshot and unquiet glare. “Enough,” at length he said calmly; and
with the manner of one ‘who has rolled a stone from his heart;’ [Note:
Eastern saying.] “enough! I will not so sully myself; unless all other
hope of self-preservation be extinct. And why despond? the plan I have
thought of seems well-laid, wise, consummate at all points. Let me
consider--forfeited the moment he enters England--not given till he has
left it--paid periodically, and of such extent as to supply his wants,
preserve him from crime, and forbid the possibility of extorting
more: all this sounds well; and if not feasible at last, why farewell
Madeline, and I myself leave this land for ever. Come what will to
me--death in its vilest shape--let not the stroke fall on that breast.
And if it be,” he continued, his face lighting up, “if it be, as it may
yet, that I can chain this hell-hound, why, even then, the instant that
Madeline is mine, I will fly these scenes; I will seek a yet obscurer
and remoter corner of earth: I will choose another name--Fool! why did
I not so before? But matters it? What is writ is writ. Who can struggle
with the invisible and giant hand, that launched the world itself into
motion; and at whose predecree we hold the dark boon of life and death?”

It was not till evening that Aram, utterly worn out and exhausted, found
himself in the neighbourhood of Lester’s house. The sun had only broken
forth at its setting; and it now glittered from its western pyre over
the dripping hedges, and spread a brief, but magic glow along the
rich landscape around; the changing woods clad in the thousand dies of
Autumn; the scattered and peaceful cottages, with their long wreaths
of smoke curling upward, and the grey and venerable walls of the
Manor-house, with the Church hard by, and the delicate spire, which,
mixing itself with heaven, is at once the most touching and solemn
emblem of the Faith to which it is devoted. It was a sabbath eve; and
from the spot on which Aram stood, he might discern many a rustic train
trooping slowly up the green village lane towards the Church; and the
deep bell which summoned to the last service of the day now swung its
voice far over the sunlit and tranquil scene.

But it was not the setting sun, nor the autumnal landscape, nor the
voice of the holy bell that now arrested the step of Aram. At a little
distance before him, leaning over a gate, and seemingly waiting till
the ceasing of the bell should announce the time to enter the sacred
mansion, he beheld the figure of Madeline Lester. Her head, at the
moment, was averted from him, as if she were looking after Ellinor and
her uncle, who were in the churchyard among a little group of their
homely neighbours; and he was half in doubt whether to shun her
presence, when she suddenly turned round, and seeing him, uttered an
exclamation of joy. It was now too late for avoidance; and calling to
his aid that mastery over his features, which, in ordinary times, few
more eminently possessed, he approached his beautiful mistress with
a smile as serene, if not as glowing, as her own. But she had already
opened the gate, and bounding forward, met him half way.

“Ah, truant, truant,” said she, the whole day absent, without inquiry or
farewell! After this, when shall I believe that thou really lovest me?

“But,” continued Madeline, gazing on his countenance, which bore
witness, in its present languor, to the fierce emotions which had
lately raged within, “but, heavens! dearest, how pale you look; you are
fatigued; give me your hand, Eugene,--it is parched and dry. Come into
the house;--you must need rest and refreshment.”

“I am better here, my Madeline,--the air and the sun revive me: let us
rest by the stile yonder. But you were going to Church? and the bell has
ceased.”

“I could attend, I fear, little to the prayers now,” said Madeline,
“unless you feel well enough and will come to Church with me.”

“To Church!” said Aram, with a half shudder, “no; my thoughts are in no
mood for prayer.”

“Then you shall give your thoughts to me and I, in return, will pray for
you before I rest.”

And so saying, Madeline, with her usual innocent frankness of manner,
wound her arm in his, and they walked onward towards the stile Aram had
pointed out. It was a little rustic stile, with chesnut-trees hanging
over it on either side. It stands to this day, and I have pleased myself
with finding Walter Lester’s initials, and Madeline’s also, with the
date of the year, carved in half-worn letters on the wood, probably by
the hand of the former.

They now rested at this spot. All around them was still and solitary;
the groups of peasants had entered the Church, and nothing of life, save
the cattle grazing in the distant fields, or the thrush starting from
the wet bushes, was visible. The winds were lulled to rest, and, though
somewhat of the chill of autumn floated on the air, it only bore a
balm to the harassed brow and fevered veins of the Student; and
Madeline!--she felt nothing but his presence. It was exactly what we
picture to ourselves of a sabbath eve, unutterably serene and soft, and
borrowing from the very melancholy of the declining year an impressive,
yet a mild solemnity.

There are seasons, often in the most dark or turbulent periods of our
life, when, why we know not, we are suddenly called from ourselves,
by the remembrances of early childhood: something touches the electric
chain, and, lo! a host of shadowy and sweet recollections steal upon us.
The wheel rests, the oar is suspended, we are snatched from the labour
and travail of present life; we are born again, and live anew. As the
secret page in which the characters once written seem for ever effaced,
but which, if breathed upon, gives them again into view; so the memory
can revive the images invisible for years: but while we gaze, the breath
recedes from the surface, and all one moment so vivid, with the next
moment has become once more a blank!

“It is singular,” said Aram, “but often as I have paused at this spot,
and gazed upon this landscape, a likeness to the scenes of my childish
life, which it now seems to me to present, never occurred to me before.
Yes, yonder, in that cottage, with the sycamores in front, and the
orchard extending behind, till its boundary, as we now stand, seems lost
among the woodland, I could fancy that I looked upon my father’s home.
The clump of trees that lies yonder to the right could cheat me readily
to the belief that I saw the little grove in which, enamoured with the
first passion of study, I was wont to pore over the thrice-read book
through the long summer days;--a boy,--a thoughtful boy; yet, oh! how
happy! What worlds appeared then to me, to open in every page! how
exhaustless I thought the treasures and the hopes of life! and beautiful
on the mountain tops seemed to me the steps of Knowledge! I did not
dream of all that the musing and lonely passion that I nursed was to
entail upon me. There, in the clefts of the valley, or the ridges of the
hill, or the fragrant course of the stream, I began already to win its
history from the herb or flower; I saw nothing, that I did not long
to unravel its secrets; all that the earth nourished ministered to one
desire:--and what of low or sordid did there mingle with that desire?
The petty avarice, the mean ambition, the debasing love, even the heat,
the anger, the fickleness, the caprice of other men, did they allure
or bow down my nature from its steep and solitary eyrie? I lived but to
feed my mind; wisdom was my thirst, my dream, my aliment, my sole fount
and sustenance of life. And have I not sown the whirlwind and reaped the
wind? The glory of my youth is gone, my veins are chilled, my frame
is bowed, my heart is gnawed with cares, my nerves are unstrung as
a loosened bow: and what, after all, is my gain? Oh, God! what is my
gain?”

“Eugene, dear, dear Eugene!” murmured Madeline soothingly, and wrestling
with her tears, “is not your gain great? is it no triumph that you
stand, while yet young, almost alone in the world, for success in all
that you have attempted?”

“And what,” exclaimed Aram, breaking in upon her, “what is this world
which we ransack, but a stupendous charnel-house? Every thing that we
deem most lovely, ask its origin?--Decay! When we rifle nature, and
collect wisdom, are we not like the hags of old, culling simples from
the rank grave, and extracting sorceries from the rotting bones of
the dead? Every thing around us is fathered by corruption, battened by
corruption, and into corruption returns at last. Corruption is at once
the womb and grave of Nature, and the very beauty on which we gaze and
hang,--the cloud, and the tree, and the swarming waters,--all are one
vast panorama of death! But it did not always seem to me thus; and even
now I speak with a heated pulse and a dizzy brain. Come, Madeline, let
us change the theme.”

And dismissing at once from his language, and perhaps, as he proceeded,
also from his mind, all of its former gloom, except such as might
shade, but not embitter, the natural tenderness of remembrance, Aram now
related, with that vividness of diction, which, though we feel we can
very inadequately convey its effect, characterised his conversation, and
gave something of poetic interest to all he uttered; those reminiscences
which belong to childhood, and which all of us take delight to hear from
the lips of any one we love.

It was while on this theme that the lights which the deepening twilight
had now made necessary, became visible in the Church, streaming afar
through its large oriel window, and brightening the dark firs that
overshadowed the graves around: and just at that moment the organ, (a
gift from a rich rector, and the boast of the neighbouring country,)
stole upon the silence with its swelling and solemn note. There was
something in the strain of this sudden music that was so kindred with
the holy repose of the scene, and which chimed so exactly to the chord
that now vibrated in Aram’s mind, that it struck upon him at once with
an irresistible power. He paused abruptly “as if an angel spoke!” that
sound so peculiarly adapted to express sacred and unearthly emotion none
who have ever mourned or sinned can hear, at an unlooked for moment,
without a certain sentiment, that either subdues, or elevates, or awes.
But he,--he was a boy once more!--he was again in the village church of
his native place: his father, with his silver hair, stood again beside
him! there was his mother, pointing to him the holy verse; there
the half arch, half reverent face of his little sister, (she died
young!)--there the upward eye and hushed countenance of the preacher who
had first raised his mind to knowledge, and supplied its food,--all, all
lived, moved, breathed, again before him,--all, as when he was young and
guiltless, and at peace; hope and the future one word!

He bowed his head lower and lower; the hardness and hypocrisies of
pride, the sense of danger and of horror, that, in agitating, still
supported, the mind of this resolute and scheming man, at once forsook
him. Madeline felt his tears drop fast and burning on her hand, and the
next moment, overcome by the relief it afforded to a heart preyed upon
by fiery and dread secrets, which it could not reveal, and a frame
exhausted by the long and extreme tension of all its powers, he laid his
head upon that faithful bosom, and wept aloud.



CHAPTER VII.

   ARAM’S SECRET EXPEDITION.--A SCENE WORTHY THE ACTORS.--ARAM’S
   ADDRESS AND POWERS OF PERSUASION OR HYPOCRISY.--THEIR RESULT.
   --A FEARFUL NIGHT.--ARAM’S SOLITARY RIDE HOMEWARD.
    --WHOM HE MEETS BY THE WAY, AND WHAT HE SEES.

          Macbeth. Now o’er the one half world
               Nature seems dead.

          Donalbain.  Our separated fortune
               Shall keep us both the safer.

          Old Man. Hours dreadful and things strange.
                 --Macbeth.

“And you must really go to ------ to pay your importunate creditor this
very evening. Sunday is a bad day for such matters; but as you pay him
by an order, it does not much signify; and I can well understand your
impatience to feel discharged of the debt. But it is already late; and
if it must be so, you had better start.”

“True,” said Aram to the above remark of Lester’s, as the two stood
together without the door; “but do you feel quite secure and guarded
against any renewed attack?”

“Why, unless they bring a regiment, yes! I have put a body of our
patrole on a service where they can scarce be inefficient, viz. I have
stationed them in the house, instead of without; and I shall myself bear
them company through the greater part of the night: to-morrow I shall
remove all that I possess of value to--(the county town) including those
unlucky guineas, which you will not ease me of.”

“The order you have kindly given me will amply satisfy my purpose,”
 answered Aram: “And so, there has been no clue to these robberies
discovered throughout the day?”

“None: to-morrow, the magistrates are to meet at--, and concert
measures: it is absolutely impossible, but that we should detect the
villains in a few days, viz. if they remain in these parts. I hope to
heaven you will not meet them this evening.”

“I shall go well armed,” answered Aram, “and the horse you lend me is
fleet and strong. And now farewell for the present; I shall probably
not return to Grassdale this night, or if I do, it will be at so late an
hour, that I shall seek my own domicile without disturbing you.”

“No, no; you had better remain in the town, and not return till
morning,” said the Squire; “and now let us come to the stables.”

To obviate all chance of suspicion as to the real place of his
destination, Aram deliberately rode to the town he had mentioned, as the
one in which his pretended creditor expected him. He put up at an inn,
walked forth as if to visit some one in the town, returned, remounted,
and by a circuitous route, came into the neighbourhood of the place in
which he was to meet Houseman: then turning into a long and dense chain
of wood, he fastened his horse to a tree, and looking to the priming of
his pistols, which he carried under his riding-cloak, proceeded to the
spot on foot.

The night was still, and not wholly dark; for the clouds lay scattered
though dense, and suffered many stars to gleam through the heavy air;
the moon herself was abroad, but on her decline, and looked forth with
a man and saddened aspect, as she travelled from cloud to cloud. It has
been the necessary course of our narrative, to pourtray Aram, more often
than to give an exact notion of his character we could have altogether
wished, in his weaker moments; but whenever he stood in the actual
presence of danger, his whole soul was in arms to cope with it worthily:
courage, sagacity, even cunning, all awakened to the encounter; and the
mind which his life had so austerely cultivated repaid him in the urgent
season, with its acute address, and unswerving hardihood. The Devil’s
Crag, as it was popularly called, was a spot consecrated by many a wild
tradition, which would not, perhaps, be wholly out of character with
the dark thread of this tale, were we in accordance with certain of
our brethren, who seem to think a novel like a bundle of wood, the more
faggots it contains the greater its value, allowed by the rapidity of
our narrative to relate them.

The same stream which lent so soft an attraction to the valleys of
Grassdale, here assumed a different character; broad, black, and
rushing, it whirled along a course, overhung by shagged and abrupt
banks. On the opposite side to that by which Aram now pursued his path,
an almost perpendicular mountain was covered with gigantic pine and fir,
that might have reminded a German wanderer of the darkest recesses of
the Hartz; and seemed, indeed, no unworthy haunt for the weird huntsman,
or the forest fiend. Over this wood the moon now shimmered, with the
pale and feeble light we have already described; and only threw into
a more sombre shade the motionless and gloomy foliage. Of all the
offspring of the forest, the Fir bears, perhaps, the most saddening and
desolate aspect. Its long branches, without absolute leaf or blossom;
its dead, dark, eternal hue, which the winter seems to wither not, nor
the spring to revive, have, I know not what of a mystic and unnatural
life. Around all woodland, there is that horror umbrarum which becomes
more remarkably solemn and awing amidst the silence and depth of night:
but this is yet more especially the characteristic of that sullen
evergreen. Perhaps, too, this effect is increased by the sterile and
dreary soil, on which, when in groves, it is generally found; and its
very hardiness, the very pertinacity with which it draws its strange
unfluctuating life, from the sternest wastes and most reluctant strata,
enhance, unconsciously, the unwelcome effect it is calculated to create
upon the mind. At this place, too, the waters that dashed beneath
gave yet additional wildness to the rank verdure of the wood, and
contributed, by their rushing darkness partially broken by the stars,
and the hoarse roar of their chafed course, a yet more grim and savage
sublimity to the scene.

Winding a narrow path, (for the whole country was as familiar as a
garden to his footstep) that led through the tall wet herbage, almost
along the perilous brink of the stream, Aram was now aware, by the
increased and deafening sound of the waters, that the appointed spot was
nearly gained; and presently the glimmering and imperfect light of the
skies, revealed the dim shape of a gigantic rock, that rose abruptly
from the middle of the stream; and which, rude, barren, vast, as it
really was, seemed now, by the uncertainty of night, like some monstrous
and deformed creature of the waters, suddenly emerging from their vexed
and dreary depths. This was the far-famed Crag, which had borrowed from
tradition its evil and ominous name. And now, the stream, bending round
with a broad and sudden swoop, showed at a little distance, ghostly and
indistinct through the darkness, the mighty Waterfall, whose roar had
been his guide. Only in one streak a-down the giant cataract, the
stars were reflected; and this long train of broken light glittered
preternaturally forth through the rugged crags and the sombre verdure,
that wrapped either side of the waterfall in utter and rayless gloom.

Nothing could exceed the forlorn and terrific grandeur of the spot; the
roar of the waters supplied to the ear what the night forbade to the
eye. Incessant and eternal they thundered down into the gulf; and then
shooting over that fearful basin, and forming another, but a mimic fall,
dashed on, till they were opposed by the sullen and abrupt crag below;
and besieging its base with a renewed roar, sent their foamy and angry
spray half way up the hoar ascent.

At this stern and dreary spot, well suited for such conferences as Aram
and Houseman alone could hold; and which, whatever was the original
secret that linked the two men thus strangely, seemed of necessity to
partake of a desperate and lawless character, with danger for its main
topic, and death itself for its colouring, Aram now paused, and with an
eye accustomed to the darkness, looked around for his companion.

He did not wait long: from the profound shadow that girded the space
immediately around the fall, Houseman now emerged and joined the
Student. The stunning noise of the cataract in the place where they met,
forbade any attempt to converse; and they walked on by the course of
the stream, to gain a spot less in reach of the deafening shout of the
mountain giant as he rushed with his banded waters, upon the valley like
a foe.

It was noticeable that as they proceeded, Aram walked on with an
unsuspicious and careless demeanour; but Houseman pointing out the way
with his hand, not leading it, kept a little behind Aram, and watched
his motions with a vigilant and wary eye. The Student, who had diverged
from the path at Houseman’s direction, now paused at a place where the
matted bushes seemed to forbid any farther progress; and said, for the
first time breaking the silence, “We cannot proceed; shall this be the
place of our conference?”

“No,” said Houseman, “we had better pierce the bushes. I know the way,
but will not lead it.”

“And wherefore?”

“The mark of your gripe is still on my throat,” replied Houseman,
significantly; “you know as well as I, that it is not always safe to
have a friend lagging behind.”

“Let us rest here, then,” said Aram, calmly, the darkness veiling any
alteration of his countenance, which his comrade’s suspicion might have
created.

“Yet it were much better,” said Houseman, doubtingly, “could we gain the
cave below.”

“The cave!” said Aram, starting, as if the word had a sound of fear.

“Ay, ay: but not St. Robert’s,” said Houseman; and the grin of his teeth
was visible through the dullness of the shade. “But come, give me your
hand, and I will venture to conduct you through the thicket:--that is
your left hand,” observed Houseman with a sharp and angry suspicion in
his tone; “give me the right.”

“As you will,” said Aram in a subdued, yet meaning voice, that seemed to
come from his heart; and thrilled, for an instant, to the bones of him
who heard it; “as you will; but for fourteen years I have not given this
right hand, in pledge of fellowship, to living man; you alone deserve
the courtesy--there!”

Houseman hesitated, before he took the hand now extended to him.

“Pshaw!” said he, as if indignant at himself, “what! scruples at a
shadow! Come,” (grasping the hand) “that’s well--so, so; now we are in
the thicket--tread firm--this way--hold,” continued Houseman, under his
breath, as suspicion anew seemed to cross him; “hold! we can see each
other’s face not even dimly now: but in this hand, my right is free, I
have a knife that has done good service ere this; and if I feel cause to
suspect that you meditate to play me false, I bury it in your heart; do
you heed me?”

“Fool!” said Aram, scornfully, “I should dread you dead yet more than
living.”

Houseman made no answer; but continued to grope on through the path in
the thicket, which he evidently knew well; though even in daylight,
so thick were the trees, and so artfully had their boughs been left to
cover the track, no path could have been discovered by one unacquainted
with the clue.

They had now walked on for some minutes, and of late their steps had
been threading a rugged, and somewhat precipitous descent: all this
while, the pulse of the hand Houseman held, beat with as steadfast and
calm a throb, as in the most quiet mood of learned meditation; although
Aram could not but be conscious that a mere accident, a slip of the
foot, an entanglement in the briars, might awaken the irritable fears of
his ruffian comrade, and bring the knife to his breast. But this was
not that form of death that could shake the nerves of Aram; nor, though
arming his whole soul to ward off one danger, was he well sensible of
another, that might have seemed equally near and probable, to a less
collected and energetic nature. Houseman now halted, again put aside the
boughs, proceeded a few steps, and by a certain dampness and oppression
in the air, Aram rightly conjectured himself in the cavern Houseman had
spoken of.

“We are landed now,” said Houseman, “but wait, I will strike a light; I
do not love darkness, even with another sort of companion than the one I
have now the honour to entertain!”

In a few moments a light was produced, and placed aloft on a crag in the
cavern; but the ray it gave was feeble and dull, and left all beyond the
immediate spot in which they stood, in a darkness little less Cimmerian
than before.

“‘Fore Gad, it is cold,” said Houseman shivering, “but I have taken
care, you see, to provide for a friend’s comfort;” so saying, he
approached a bundle of dry sticks and leaves, piled at one corner of
the cave, applied the light to the fuel, and presently, the fire rose
crackling, breaking into a thousand sparks, and freeing itself gradually
from the clouds of smoke in which it was enveloped. It now mounted into
a ruddy and cheering flame, and the warm glow played picturesquely upon
the grey sides of the cavern, which was of a rugged shape, and small
dimensions, and cast its reddening light over the forms of the two men.

Houseman stood close to the flame, spreading his hands over it, and
a sort of grim complacency stealing along features singularly
ill-favoured, and sinister in their expression, as he felt the animal
luxury of the warmth.

Across his middle was a broad leathern belt, containing a brace of
large horse pistols, and the knife, or rather dagger, with which he had
menaced Aram, an instrument sharpened on both sides, and nearly a foot
in length. Altogether, what with his muscular breadth of figure, his
hard and rugged features, his weapons, and a certain reckless, bravo
air which indescribably marked his attitude and bearing, it was not well
possible to imagine a fitter habitant for that grim cave, or one from
whom men of peace, like Eugene Aram, might have seemed to derive more
reasonable cause of alarm.

The Scholar stood at a little distance, waiting till his companion was
entirely prepared for the conference, and his pale and lofty features,
hushed in their usual deep, but at such a moment, almost preternatural
repose. He stood leaning with folded arms against the rude wall; the
light reflected upon his dark garments, with the graceful riding-cloak
of the day half falling from his shoulder, and revealing also the
pistols in his belt, and the sword, which, though commonly worn at
that time, by all pretending to superiority above the lower and trading
orders, Aram usually waived as a distinction, but now carried as a
defence. And nothing could be more striking, than the contrast between
the ruffian form of his companion, and the delicate and chiselled beauty
of the Student’s features, with their air of mournful intelligence and
serene command, and the slender, though nervous symmetry of his frame.

“Houseman,” said Aram, now advancing, as his comrade turned his face
from the flame, towards him; “before we enter on the main subject of our
proposed commune--tell me, were you engaged on the attempt last night
upon Lester’s house?”

“By the Fiend, no!” answered Houseman, nor did I learn it till this
morning; it was unpremeditated till within a few hours of the time, by
the two fools who alone planned it. The fact is, that myself and the
greater part of our little band, were engaged some miles off, in the
western part of the county. Two--our general--spies, had been, of
their own accord, into your neighbourhood, to reconnoitre. They marked
Lester’s house during the day, and gathered, (as I can say by experience
it was easy to do) from unsuspected inquiry in the village, for they
wore a clown’s dress, several particulars which induced them to think it
contained what might repay the trouble of breaking into it. And walking
along the fields, they overheard the good master of the house tell one
of his neighbours of a large sum at home; nay, even describe the place
where it was kept: that determined them;--they feared, (as the old man
indeed observed,) that the sum might be removed the next day; they had
noted the house sufficiently to profit by the description given: they
resolved, then, of themselves, for it was too late to reckon on our
assistance, to break into the room in which the money was kept--though
from the aroused vigilance of the frightened hamlet and the force within
the house, they resolved to attempt no farther booty. They reckoned
on the violence of the storm, and the darkness of the night to prevent
their being heard or seen; they were mistaken--the house was alarmed,
they were no sooner in the luckless room, than--“Well, I know the rest;
was the one wounded dangerously hurt?”

“Oh, he will recover, he will recover; our men are no chickens. But I
own I thought it natural that you might suspect me of sharing in the
attack; and though, as I have said before, I do not love you, I have
no wish to embroil matters so far as an outrage on the house of your
father-in-law, might be reasonably expected to do:--at all events, while
the gate to an amicable compromise between us is still open.”

“I am satisfied on this head,” said Aram, “and I can now treat with
you in a spirit of less distrustful precaution than before. I tell you,
Houseman, that the terms are no longer at your control; you must leave
this part of the country, and that forthwith, or you inevitably perish.
The whole population is alarmed, and the most vigilant of the London
Police have been already sent for. Life is sweet to you, as to us all,
and I cannot imagine you so mad, as to incur not the risk, but the
certainty, of losing it. You can no longer therefore, hold the threat of
your presence over my head. Besides, were you able to do so, I at least
have the power, which you seem to have forgotten, of freeing myself from
it. Am I chained to yonder valleys? have I not the facility of quitting
them at any moment I will? of seeking a hiding-place, which might
baffle, not only your vigilance to discover me, but that of the Law?
True, my approaching marriage puts some clog upon my wing, but you know
that I, of all men, am not likely to be the slave of passion. And what
ties are strong enough to arrest the steps of him who flies from a
fearful death? Am I using sophistry here, Houseman? Have I not reason on
my side?”

“What you say is true enough,” said Houseman reluctantly; “I do not
gainsay it. But I know you have not sought me, in this spot, and at this
hour, for the purpose of denying my claims: the desire of compromise
alone can have brought you hither.”

“You speak well,” said Aram, preserving the admirable coolness of his
manner; and continuing the deep and sagacious hypocrisy by which he
sought to baffle the dogged covetousness and keen sense of interest with
which he had to contend. “It is not easy for either of us to deceive
the other. We are men, whose perceptions a life of danger, has sharpened
upon all points; I speak to you frankly, for disguise is unavailing.
Though I can fly from your reach--though I can desert my present home
and my intended bride, I would fain think I have free and secure choice
to preserve that exact path and scene of life which I have chalked out
for myself: I would fain be rid of all apprehension from you. There are
two ways only by which this security can be won: the first is through
your death;--nay, start not, nor put your hand on your pistol; you have
not now cause to fear me. Had I chosen that method of escape, I could
have effected it long since: When, months ago, you slept under my
roof--ay, slept--what should have hindered me from stabbing you during
the slumber? Two nights since, when my blood was up, and the fury upon
me, what should have prevented me tightening the grasp that you so
resent, and laying you breathless at my feet? Nay, now, though you keep
your eye fixed on my motions, and your hand upon your weapon, you would
be no match for a desperate and resolved man, who might as well perish
in conflict with you, as by the protracted accomplishment of
your threats. Your ball might fail--(even now I see your hand
trembles)--mine, if I so will it, is certain death. No, Houseman, it
would be as vain for your eye to scan the dark pool into whose breast
you cataract casts its waters, as for your intellect to pierce the
depths of my mind and motives. Your murder, though in self-defence,
would lay a weight upon my soul, which would sink it for ever: I should
see, in your death, new chances of detection spread themselves before
me: the terrors of the dead are not to be bought or awed into silence;
I should pass from one peril into another; and the law’s dread vengeance
might fall upon me, through the last peril, even yet more surely than
through the first. Be composed, then, on this point! From my hand,
unless you urge it madly upon yourself, you are wholly safe. Let us
turn to my second method of attaining security. It lies, not in your
momentary cessation from persecutions; not in your absence from this
spot alone; you must quit the country--you must never return to it--your
home must be cast, and your very grave dug in a foreign soil. Are you
prepared for this? If not, I can say no more; and I again cast myself
passive into the arms of Fate.”

“You ask,” said Houseman, whose fears were allayed by Aram’s address,
though, at the same time, his dissolute and desperate nature was subdued
and tamed in spite of himself, by the very composure of the loftier mind
with which it was brought in contact: “You ask,” said he, “no trifling
favour of a man--to desert his country for ever; but I am no dreamer, to
love one spot better than another. I should, perhaps, prefer a foreign
clime, as the safer and the freer from old recollections, if I could
live in it as a man who loves the relish of life should do. Show me the
advantages I am to gain by exile, and farewell to the pale cliffs of
England for ever!”

“Your demand is just,” answered Aram; “listen, then. I am willing to
coin all my poor wealth, save alone the barest pittance wherewith to
sustain life; nay, more, I am prepared also to melt down the whole of
my possible expectations from others, into the form of an annuity to
yourself. But mark, it will be taken out of my hands, so that you can
have no power over me to alter the conditions with which it will be
saddled. It will be so vested that it shall commence the moment you
touch a foreign clime; and wholly and for ever cease the moment you set
foot on any part of English ground; or, mark also, at the moment of my
death. I shall then know that no farther hope from me can induce you to
risk this income; for, as I should have spent my all in attaining it,
you cannot even meditate the design of extorting more. I shall know that
you will not menace my life; for my death would be the destruction of
your fortunes. We shall live thus separate and secure from each other;
you will have only cause to hope for my safety; and I shall have no
reason to shudder at yours. Through one channel alone could I then
fear; namely, that in dying, you should enjoy the fruitless vengeance of
criminating me. But this chance I must patiently endure: you, if older,
are more robust and hardy than myself--your life will probably be
longer than mine; and, even were it otherwise, why should we destroy one
another? At my death-bed I will solemnly swear to respect your secret;
why not on your part, I say not swear, but resolve, to respect mine?
We cannot love one another; but why hate with a gratuitous and demon
vengeance? No, Houseman, however circumstances may have darkened or
steeled your heart, it is touched with humanity yet--you will have owed
to me the bread of a secure and easy existence--you will feel that
I have stripped myself, even to penury, to purchase the comforts
I cheerfully resign to you--you will remember that, instead of the
sacrifices enjoined by this alternative, I might have sought only to
counteract your threats, by attempting a life that you strove to make
a snare and torture to my own. You will remember this; and you will not
grudge me the austere and gloomy solitude in which I seek to forget,
or the one solace with which I, perhaps vainly, endeavour to cheer my
passage to a quiet grave. No, Houseman, no; dislike, hate, menace me
as you will, I still feel I shall have no cause to dread the mere
wantonness of your revenge.”

These words, aided by a tone of voice, and an expression of countenance
that gave them perhaps their chief effect, took even the hardened nature
of Houseman by surprise; he was affected by an emotion which he could
not have believed it possible the man who till then had galled him by
the humbling sense of inferiority, could have created. He extended his
hand to Aram.

“By--,” he exclaimed, with an oath which we spare the reader, “you
are right! you have made me as helpless in your hands, as an infant.
I accept your offer--if I were to refuse it, I should be driven to the
same courses I now pursue. But look you; I know not what may be the
amount of the annuity you can raise. I shall not, however, require more
than will satisfy wants, which, if not so scanty as your own, are not at
least very extravagant or very refined. As for the rest, if there be any
surplus, in God’s name keep it for yourself, and rest assured that, so
far as I am concerned, you shall be molested no more.”

“No, Houseman,” said Aram, with a half smile, “you shall have all I
first mentioned; that is, all beyond what nature craves, honourably and
fully. Man’s best resolutions are weak: if you knew I possessed aught
to spare, a fancied want, a momentary extravagance might tempt you to
demand it. Let us put ourselves beyond the possible reach of temptation.
But do not flatter yourself by the hope that the income will be
magnificent. My own annuity is but trifling, and the half of the dowry
I expect from my future father-in-law, is all that I can at present
obtain. The whole of that dowry is insignificant as a sum. But if this
does not suffice for you, I must beg or borrow elsewhere.”

“This, after all, is a pleasanter way of settling business,” said
Houseman, “than by threats and anger. And now I will tell you exactly
the sum on which, if I could receive it yearly, I could live without
looking beyond the pale of the Law for more--on which I could cheerfully
renounce England, and commence ‘the honest man.’ But then, hark you, I
must have half settled on my little daughter.”

“What! have you a child?” said Aram eagerly, and well pleased to find an
additional security for his own safety.

“Ay, a little girl, my only one, in her eighth year; she lives with her
grandmother, for she is motherless, and that girl must not be left quite
penniless should I be summoned hence before my time. Some twelve years
hence--as poor Jane promises to be pretty--she may be married off my
hands, but her childhood must not be left to the chances of beggary or
shame.”

“Doubtless not, doubtless not. Who shall say now that we ever outlive
feeling?” said Aram, “Half the annuity shall be settled upon her, should
she survive you; but on the same conditions, ceasing when I die, or the
instant of your return to England. And now, name the sum that you deem
sufficing.”

“Why,” said Houseman, counting on his fingers, and muttering
“twenty--fifty--wine and the creature cheap abroad--humph! a hundred for
living, and half as much for pleasure. Come, Aram, one hundred and fifty
guineas per annum, English money, will do for a foreign life--you see I
am easily satisfied.”

“Be it so,” said Aram, “I will engage by one means or another to procure
it. For this purpose I shall set out for London to-morrow; I will
not lose a moment in seeing the necessary settlement made as we have
specified. But meanwhile, you must engage to leave this neighbourhood,
and if possible, cause your comrades to do the same, although you will
not hesitate, for the sake of your own safety, immediately to separate
from them.”

“Now that we are on good terms,” replied Houseman, “I will not scruple
to oblige you in these particulars. My comrades intend to quit the
country before to-morrow; nay, half are already gone; by daybreak I
myself will be some miles hence, and separated from each of them. Let us
meet in London after the business is completed, and there conclude our
last interview on earth.”

“What will be your address?”

“In Lambeth there is a narrow alley that leads to the water-side, called
Peveril Lane. The last house to the right, towards the river, is my
usual lodging; a safe resting-place at all times, and for all men.”

“There then will I seek you. And now, Houseman, fare-you-well! As you
remember your word to me, may life flow smooth for your child.”

“Eugene Aram,” said Houseman, “there is about you something against
which the fiercer devil within me would rise in vain. I have read
that the tiger can be awed by the human eye, and you compel me into
submission by a spell equally unaccountable. You are a singular man, and
it seems to me a riddle, how we could ever have been thus connected; or
how--but we will not rip up the past, it is an ugly sight, and the fire
is just out. Those stories do not do for the dark. But to return;--were
it only for the sake of my child, you might depend upon me now; better
too an arrangement of this sort, than if I had a larger sum in hand
which I might be tempted to fling away, and in looking for more, run my
neck into a halter, and leave poor Jane upon charity. But come, it is
almost dark again, and no doubt you wish to be stirring: stay, I will
lead you back, and put you on the right track, lest you stumble on my
friends.”

“Is this cavern one of their haunts?” said Aram.

“Sometimes: but they sleep the other side of the Devil’s Crag to-night.
Nothing like a change of quarters for longevity--eh?”

“And they easily spare you.”

“Yes, if it be only on rare occasions, and on the plea of family
business. Now then, your hand, as before. Jesu! how it rains--lightning
too--I could look with less fear on a naked sword, than those red,
forked, blinding flashes--Hark! thunder.”

The night had now, indeed, suddenly changed its aspect; the rain
descended in torrents, even more impetuously than on the former night,
while the thunder burst over their very heads, as they wound upward
through the brake. With every instant, the lightning broke from the
riven chasm of the blackness that seemed suspended as in a solid
substance above, brightened the whole heaven into one livid and terrific
flame, and showed to the two men the faces of each other, rendered
deathlike and ghastly by the glare. Houseman was evidently affected
by the fear that sometimes seizes even the sturdiest criminals, when
exposed to those more fearful phenomena of the Heavens, which seem to
humble into nothing the power and the wrath of man. His teeth chattered,
and he muttered broken words about the peril of wandering near trees
when the lightning was of that forked character, accelerating his
pace at every sentence, and sometimes interrupting himself with an
ejaculation, half oath, half prayer, or a congratulation that the rain
at least diminished the danger. They soon cleared the thicket, and a
few minutes brought them once more to the banks of the stream, and the
increased roar of the cataract. No earthly scene perhaps could surpass
the appalling sublimity of that which they beheld;--every instant the
lightning, which became more and more frequent, converting the black
waters into billows of living fire, or wreathing itself in lurid spires
around the huge crag that now rose in sight; and again, as the thunder
rolled onward, darting its vain fury upon the rushing cataract, and the
tortured breast of the gulf that raved below low. And the sounds that
filled the air were even more fraught with terror and menace than the
scene;--the waving, the groans, the crash of the pines on the hill, the
impetuous force of the rain upon the whirling river, and the everlasting
roar of the cataract, answered anon by the yet more awful voice that
burst above it from the clouds.

They halted while yet sufficiently distant from the cataract to be heard
by each other. “My path,” said Aram, as the lightning now paused upon
the scene, and seemed literally to wrap in a lurid shroud the dark
figure of the Student, as he stood, with his hand calmly raised, and his
cheek pale, but dauntless and composed; “My path now lies yonder: in a
week we shall meet again.”

“By the fiend,” said Houseman, shuddering, “I would not, for a full
hundred, ride alone through the moor you will pass. There stands a
gibbet by the road, on which a parricide was hanged in chains. Pray
Heaven this night be no omen of the success of our present compact!”

“A steady heart, Houseman,” answered Aram, striking into the separate
path, “is its own omen.”

The Student soon gained the spot in which he had left his horse; the
animal had not attempted to break the bridle, but stood trembling from
limb to limb, and testified by a quick short neigh the satisfaction with
which it hailed the approach of its master, and found itself no longer
alone.

Aram remounted, and hastened once more into the main road. He scarcely
felt the rain, though the fierce wind drove it right against his path;
he scarcely marked the lightning, though at times it seemed to dart its
arrows on his very form; his heart was absorbed in the success of his
schemes.

“Let the storm without howl on,” thought he, “that within hath a respite
at last. Amidst the winds and rains I can breathe more freely than I
have done on the smoothest summer day. By the charm of a deeper mind
and a subtler tongue, I have then conquered this desperate foe; I have
silenced this inveterate spy: and, Heaven be praised, he too has human
ties; and by those ties I hold him! Now, then, I hasten to London--I
arrange this annuity--see that the law tightens every cord of the
compact; and when all is done, and this dangerous man fairly departed on
his exile, I return to Madeline, and devote to her a life no longer the
vassal of accident and the hour: but I have been taught caution.
Secure as my own prudence may have made me from farther apprehension of
Houseman, I will yet place myself wholly beyond his power: I will still
consummate my former purpose, adopt a new name, and seek a new retreat;
Madeline may not know the real cause; but this brain is not barren of
excuse. Ah!” as drawing his cloak closer round him, he felt the purse
hid within his breast which contained the order he had obtained from
Lester; “Ah! this will now add its quota to purchase, not a momentary
relief, but the stipend of perpetual silence. I have passed through the
ordeal easier than I had hoped for. Had the devil at his heart been
more difficult to lay, so necessary is his absence, that I must have
purchased it at any cost. Courage, Eugene Aram! thy mind, for which thou
hast lived, and for which thou hast hazarded thy soul--if soul and mind
be distinct from each other--thy mind can support thee yet through
every peril: not till thou art stricken into idiotcy, shalt thou behold
thyself defenceless. How cheerfully,” muttered he, after a momentary
pause, “how cheerfully, for safety, and to breathe with a quiet heart,
the air of Madeline’s presence, shall I rid myself of all save enough
to defy want. And want can never now come to me, as of old. He who knows
the sources of every science from which wealth is wrought holds even
wealth at his will.”

Breaking at every interval into these soliloquies, Aram continued to
breast the storm until he had won half his journey, and had come upon
a long and bleak moor, which was the entrance to that beautiful line of
country in which the valleys around Grassdale are embosomed: faster and
faster came the rain; and though the thunder-clouds were now behind,
they yet followed loweringly, in their black array, the path of the
lonely horseman.

But now he heard the sound of hoofs making towards him; he drew his
horse on one side of the road, and at that instant a broad flash of
lightning illumining the space around, he beheld four horsemen speeding
along at a rapid gallop; they were armed, and conversing loudly--their
oaths were heard jarringly and distinctly amidst all the more solemn
and terrific sounds of the night. They came on, sweeping by the Student,
whose hand was on his pistol, for he recognised in one of the riders the
man who had escaped unwounded from Lester’s house. He and his comrades
were evidently, then, Houseman’s desperate associates; and they too,
though they were borne too rapidly by Aram to be able to rein in their
horses on the spot, had seen the solitary traveller, and already wheeled
round, and called upon him to halt!

The lightning was again gone, and the darkness snatched the robbers and
their intended victim from the sight of each other. But Aram had not
lost a moment; fast fled his horse across the moor, and when, with the
next flash, he looked back, he saw the ruffians, unwilling even for
booty to encounter the horrors of the night, had followed him but a few
paces, and again turned round; still he dashed on, and had now nearly
passed the moor; the thunder rolled fainter and fainter from behind, and
the lightning only broke forth at prolonged intervals, when suddenly,
after a pause of unusual duration, it brought the whole scene into a
light, if less intolerable, even more livid than before. The horse, that
had hitherto sped on without start or stumble, now recoiled in abrupt
affright; and the horseman, looking up at the cause, beheld the Gibbet
of which Houseman had spoken immediately fronting his path, with its
ghastly tenant waving to and fro, as the winds rattled through the
parched and arid bones; and the inexpressible grin of the skull fixed,
as in mockery, upon his countenance.



BOOK IV.



CHAPTER I.

    IN WHICH WE RETURN TO WALTER.--HIS DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO
      MR. PERTINAX FILLGRAVE.--THE CORPORAL’S ADVICE,
           AND THE CORPORAL’S VICTORY.

        Let a Physician be ever so excellent,
        there will be those that censure him.
           --Gil Blas.

We left Walter in a situation of that critical nature, that it would be
inhuman to delay our return to him any longer. The blow by which he had
been felled, stunned him for an instant; but his frame was of no common
strength and hardihood, and the imminent peril in which he was placed,
served to recall him from the momentary insensibility. On recovering
himself, he felt that the ruffians were dragging him towards the hedge,
and the thought flashed upon him that their object was murder. Nerved by
this idea, he collected his strength, and suddenly wresting himself from
the grasp of one of the ruffians who had seized him by the collar, he
had already gained his knee, and now his feet, when a second blow once
more deprived him of sense.

When a dim and struggling consciousness recurred to him; he found that
the villains had dragged him to the opposite side of the hedge and were
deliberately robbing him. He was on the point of renewing an useless and
dangerous struggle, when one of the ruffians said, “I think he stirs, I
had better draw my knife across his throat.”

“Pooh, no!” replied another voice, “never kill if it can be helped:
trust me ‘tis an ugly thing to think of afterwards. Besides, what use
is it? A robbery, in these parts, is done and forgotten; but a murder
rouses the whole country.”

“Damnation, man! why, the deed’s done already, he’s as dead as a
door-nail.”

“Dead!” said the other in a startled voice; “no, no!” and leaning down,
the ruffian placed his hand on Walter’s heart. The unfortunate traveller
felt his flesh creep as the hand touched him, but prudently abstained
from motion or exclamation. He thought, however, as with dizzy and
half-shut eyes he caught the shadowy and dusk outline of the face that
bent over him, so closely that he felt the breath of its lips, that it
was one that he had seen before; and as the man now rose, and the wan
light of the skies gave a somewhat clearer view of his features, the
supposition was heightened, though not absolutely confirmed. But Walter
had no farther power to observe his plunderers: again his brain reeled;
the dark trees, the grim shadows of human forms, swam before his glazing
eye; and he sunk once more into a profound insensibility.

Meanwhile, the doughty Corporal had at the first sight of his master’s
fall, halted abruptly at the spot to which his steed had carried
him; and coming rapidly to the conclusion that three men were best
encountered at a distance, he fired his two pistols, and without staying
to see if they took effect, which, indeed, they did not, galloped down
the precipitous hill with as much despatch, as if it had been the last
stage to “Lunnun.”

“My poor young master!” muttered he: “But if the worst comes to the
worst, the chief part of the money’s in the saddle-bags any how; and so,
messieurs thieves, you’re bit--baugh!”

The Corporal was not long in reaching the town, and alarming the
loungers at the inn-door. A posse comitatus was soon formed; and, armed
as if they were to have encountered all the robbers between Hounslow
and the Apennine, a band of heroes, with the Corporal, who had first
deliberately reloaded his pistols, at their head, set off to succour
“the poor gentleman what was already murdered.”

They had not got far before they found Walter’s horse, which had luckily
broke from the robbers, and was now quietly regaling himself on a patch
of grass by the roadside. “He can get his supper, the beast,” grunted
the Corporal, thinking of his own; and bid one of the party try to catch
the animal, which, however, would have declined all such proffers, had
not a long neigh of recognition from the roman nose of the Corporal’s
steed, striking familiarly on the straggler’s ear, called it forthwith,
to the Corporal’s side; and (while the two chargers exchanged greeting)
the Corporal seized its rein.

When they came to the spot from which the robbers had made their sally,
all was still and tranquil; no Walter was to be seen: the Corporal
cautiously dismounted, and searched about with as much minuteness as
if he were looking for a pin; but the host of the inn at which the
travellers had dined the day before, stumbled at once on the right
track. Gouts of blood on the white chalky soil directed him to the
hedge, and creeping through a small and recent gap, he discovered the
yet breathing body of the young traveller.

Walter was now conducted with much care to the inn; a Surgeon was
already in attendance; for having heard that a gentleman had been
murdered without his knowledge, Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave had rushed from
his house, and placed himself on the road, that the poor creature might
not, at least, be buried without his assistance. So eager was he to
begin, that he scarce suffered the unfortunate Walter to be taken
within, before he whipped out his instruments, and set to work with the
smack of an amateur.

Although the Surgeon declared his patient to be in the greatest possible
danger, the sagacious Corporal, who thought himself more privileged
to know about wounds than any man of peace, by profession, however
destructive by practice, could possibly be, had himself examined those
his master had received, before he went down to taste his long-delayed
supper; and he now confidently assured the landlord, and the rest of the
good company in the kitchen, that the blows on the head had been mere
fly-bites, and that his master would be as well as ever in a week at the
farthest.

And, indeed, when Walter the very next morning woke from the stupor,
rather than sleep, he had undergone, he felt himself surprisingly
better than the Surgeon, producing his probe, hastened to assure him he
possibly could be.

By the help of Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, Walter was detained several days
in the town; nor is it wholly improbable, but that for the dexterity of
the Corporal, he might be in the town to this day; not, indeed in the
comfortable shelter of the old-fashioned inn, but in the colder quarters
of a certain green spot, in which, despite of its rural attractions, few
persons are willing to fix a permanent habitation.

Luckily, however, one evening, the Corporal, who had been, to say
truth, very regular in his attendance on his master; for, bating the
selfishness, consequent, perhaps, on his knowledge of the world, Jacob
Bunting was a good-natured man on the whole, and liked his master as
well as he did any thing, always excepting Jacobina, and board-wages;
one evening, we say, the Corporal coming into Walter’s apartment,
found him sitting up in his bed, with a very melancholy and dejected
expression of countenance.

“And well, Sir, what does the Doctor say?” asked the Corporal, drawing
aside the curtains.

“Ah, Bunting, I fancy it’s all over with me!”

“The Lord forbid, Sir! you’re a-jesting, surely?”

“Jesting! my good fellow, ah! just get me that phial.”

“The filthy stuff!” said the Corporal, with a wry face; “Well, Sir, if I
had had the dressing of you--been half way to Yorkshire by this. Man’s a
worm; and when a doctor gets un on his hook, he is sure to angle for the
devil with the bait--augh!”

“What! you really think that damned fellow, Fillgrave, is keeping me on
in this way?”

“Is he a fool, to give up three phials a day, 4s. 6d. item, ditto,
ditto?” cried the Corporal, as if astonished at the question; “but don’t
you feel yourself getting a deal better every day? Don’t you feel all
this ere stuff revive you?”

No, indeed, I was amazingly better the first day than I am now; I
progress from worse to worse. Ah! Bunting, if Peter Dealtry were here,
he might help me to an appropriate epitaph: as it is, I suppose I shall
be very simply labelled. Fillgrave will do the whole business, and put
it down in his bill--item, nine draughts--item, one epitaph.

“Lord-a-mercy, your honour,” said the Corporal, drawing out a little
red-spotted pocket-handkerchief; “how can--jest so?--it’s quite moving.”

“I wish we were moving!” sighed the patient.

“And so we might be,” cried the Corporal; “so we might, if you’d
pluck up a bit. Just let me look at your honour’s head; I knows what a
confusion is better nor any of ‘em.”

The Corporal having obtained permission, now removed the bandages
wherewith the Doctor had bound his intended sacrifice to Pluto, and
after peering into the wounds for about a minute, he thrust out his
under lip, with a contemptuous, “Pshaugh! augh! And how long,” said he,
“does Master Fillgrave say you be to be under his hands,--augh!”

“He gives me hopes that I may be taken out an airing very gently, (yes,
hearses always go very gently!) in about three weeks!”

The Corporal started, and broke into a long whistle. He then grinned
from ear to ear, snapped his fingers, and said, “Man of the world,
Sir,--man of the world every inch of him!”

“He seems resolved that I shall be a man of another world,” said Walter.

“Tell ye what, Sir--take my advice--your honour knows I be
no fool--throw off them ere wrappers; let me put on scrap of
plaister--pitch phials to devil--order out horses to-morrow, and when
you’ve been in the air half an hour, won’t know yourself again!”

“Bunting! the horses out to-morrow?--faith, I don’t think I could walk
across the room.”

“Just try, your honour.”

“Ah! I’m very weak, very weak--my dressing-gown and slippers--your arm,
Bunting--well, upon my honour, I walk very stoutly, eh? I should
not have thought this! leave go: why I really get on without your
assistance!”

“Walk as well as ever you did.”

“Now I’m out of bed, I don’t think I shall go back again to it.”

“Would not, if I was your honour.”

“And after so much exercise, I really fancy I’ve a sort of an appetite.”

“Like a beefsteak?”

“Nothing better.”

“Pint of wine?”

“Why that would be too much--eh?”

“Not it.”

“Go, then, my good Bunting; go and make haste--stop, I say that d--d
fellow--” “Good sign to swear,” interrupted the Corporal; “swore twice
within last five minutes--famous symptom!”

“Do you choose to hear me? That d--d fellow, Fillgrave, is coming back
in an hour to bleed me: do you mount guard--refuse to let him in--pay
him his bill--you have the money. And harkye, don’t be rude to the
rascal.”

“Rude, your honour! not I--been in the Forty-second--knows
discipline--only rude to the privates!”

The Corporal, having seen his master conduct himself respectably toward
the viands with which he supplied him--having set his room to rights,
brought him the candles, borrowed him a book, and left him for the
present in extremely good spirits, and prepared for the flight of the
morrow; the Corporal, I say, now lighting his pipe, stationed himself
at the door of the inn, and waited for Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave. Presently
the Doctor, who was a little thin man, came bustling across the street,
and was about, with a familiar “Good evening,” to pass by the Corporal,
when that worthy, dropping his pipe, said respectfully, “Beg pardon,
Sir--want to speak to you--a little favour. Will your honour walk in the
back-parlour?”

“Oh! another patient,” thought the Doctor; “these soldiers are careless
fellows--often get into scrapes. Yes, friend, I’m at your service.”

The Corporal showed the man of phials into the back-parlour, and,
hemming thrice, looked sheepish, as if in doubt how to begin. It was the
Doctor’s business to encourage the bashful.

“Well, my good man,” said he, brushing off, with the arm of his coat,
some dust that had settled on his inexpressibles, “so you want to
consult me?”

“Indeed, your honour, I do; but--feel a little awkward in doing so--a
stranger and all.”

“Pooh!--medical men are never strangers. I am the friend of every man
who requires my assistance.”

“Augh!--and I do require your honour’s assistance very sadly.”

“Well--well--speak out. Any thing of long standing?”

“Why, only since we have been here, Sir.”

“Oh, that’s all! Well.”

“Your honour’s so good--that--won’t scruple in telling you all. You
sees as how we were robbed--master at least was--had some little in my
pockets--but we poor servants are never too rich. You seems such a
kind gentleman--so attentive to master--though you must have felt how
disinterested it was to ‘tend a man what had been robbed--that I have no
hesitation in making bold to ask you to lend us a few guineas, just to
help us out with the bill here,--bother!”

“Fellow!” said the Doctor, rising, “I don’t know what you mean; but
I’d have you to learn that I am not to be cheated out of my time and
property. I shall insist upon being paid my bill instantly, before I
dress your master’s wound once more.”

“Augh!” said the Corporal, who was delighted to find the Doctor come
so immediately into the snare;--“won’t be so cruel surely,--why, you’ll
leave us without a shiner to pay my host here.”

“Nonsense!--Your master, if he’s a gentleman, can write home for money.”

“Ah, Sir, all very well to say so;--but, between you and me and the
bed-post--young master’s quarrelled with old master--old master won’t
give him a rap,--so I’m sure, since your honour’s a friend to every man
who requires your assistance--noble saying, Sir!--you won’t refuse us
a few guineas;--and as for your bill--why--” “Sir, you’re an impudent
vagabond!” cried the Doctor, as red as a rose-draught, and flinging out
of the room; “and I warn you, that I shall bring in my bill, and expect
to be paid within ten minutes.”

The Doctor waited for no answer--he hurried home, scratched off his
account, and flew back with it in as much haste as if his patient had
been a month longer under his care, and was consequently on the brink
of that happier world, where, since the inhabitants are immortal, it is
very evident that doctors, as being useless, are never admitted.

The Corporal met him as before.

“There, Sir,” cried the Doctor, breathlessly, and then putting his arms
akimbo, “take that to your master, and desire him to pay me instantly.”

“Augh! and shall do no such thing.”

“You won’t?”

“No, for shall pay you myself. Where’s your wee stamp--eh?”

And with great composure the Corporal drew out a well-filled purse, and
discharged the bill. The Doctor was so thunderstricken, that he pocketed
the money without uttering a word. He consoled himself, however, with
the belief that Walter, whom he had tamed into a becoming hypochondria,
would be sure to send for him the next morning. Alas, for mortal
expectations!--the next morning Walter was once more on the road.



CHAPTER II.

    NEW TRACES OF THE FATE OF GEOFFREY LESTER.--WALTER AND THE
    CORPORAL PROCEED ON A FRESH EXPEDITION.--THE CORPORAL IS
    ESPECIALLY SAGACIOUS ON THE OLD TOPIC OF THE WORLD.--HIS
    OPINIONS ON THE MEN WHO CLAIM ‘KNOWLEDGE THEREOF.--ON THE
   ADVANTAGES ENJOYED BY A VALET.--ON THE SCIENCE OF SUCCESSFUL
   LOVE.--ON VIRTUE AND THE CONSTITUTION.--ON QUALITIES TO BE
         DESIRED IN A MISTRESS,--A LANDSCAPE.

        This way of talking of his very much enlivens the
        conversation among us of a more sedate turn.
           --Spectator, No. 3.

Walter found, while he made search himself, that it was no easy matter,
in so large a county as Yorkshire, to obtain even the preliminary
particulars, viz. the place of residence, and the name of the Colonel
from India whose dying gift his father had left the house of the worthy
Courtland, to claim and receive. But the moment he committed the inquiry
to the care of an active and intelligent lawyer, the case seemed to
brighten up prodigiously; and Walter was shortly informed that a Colonel
Elmore, who had been in India, had died in the year 17--; that by a
reference to his will it appeared that he had left to Daniel Clarke the
sum of a thousand pounds, and the house in which he resided before his
death, the latter being merely leasehold at a high rent, was specified
in the will to be of small value: it was situated in the outskirts of
Knaresborough. It was also discovered that a Mr. Jonas Elmore, the only
surviving executor of the will, and a distant relation of the deceased
Colonel’s, lived about fifty miles from York, and could, in all
probability, better than any one, afford Walter those farther
particulars of which he was so desirous to be informed. Walter
immediately proposed to his lawyer to accompany him to this gentleman’s
house; but it so happened that the lawyer could not, for three or four
days, leave his business at York, and Walter, exceedingly impatient to
proceed on the intelligence thus granted him, and disliking the meagre
information obtained from letters, when a personal interview could
be obtained, resolved himself to repair to Mr. Jonas Elmore’s without
farther delay; and behold, therefore, our worthy Corporal and his master
again mounted, and commencing a new journey.

The Corporal, always fond of adventure, was in high spirits.

“See, Sir,” said he to his master, patting with great affection the neck
of his steed, “See, Sir, how brisk the creturs are; what a deal of good
their long rest at York city’s done’em. Ah, your honour, what a fine
town that ere be!--yet,” added the Corporal, with an air of great
superiority, “it gives you no notion of Lunnun, like--on the faith of a
man, no!”

“Well, Bunting, perhaps we may be in London within a month hence.”

“And afore we gets there, your honour,--no offence,--but should like to
give you some advice; ‘tis ticklish place, that Lunnun, and though you
be by no manner of means deficient in genus, yet, Sir, you be young, and
I be--” “Old,--true, Bunting,” added Walter very gravely.

“Augh--bother! old, Sir, old, Sir!--A man in the prime of life,--hair
coal black, (bating a few grey ones that have had, since twenty--care,
and military service, Sir,)--carriage straight,--teeth strong,--not an
ail in the world, bating the rheumatics--is not old, Sir,--not by no
manner of means,--baugh!”

“You are very right, Bunting; when I said old, I meant experienced. I
assure you I shall be very grateful for your advice; and suppose, while
we walk our horses up this hill, you begin lecture the first. London’s a
fruitful subject. All you can say on it won’t be soon exhausted.”

“Ah, may well say that,” replied the Corporal, exceedingly flattered
with the permission he had obtained, “and any thing my poor wit can
suggest, quite at your honour’s sarvice--ehem!--hem! You must know
by Lunnun, I means the world, and by the world means Lunnun,--know
one--know t’other. But ‘tis not them as affects to be most knowing as
be so at bottom. Begging your honour’s pardon, I thinks gentlefolks what
lives only with gentlefolks, and call themselves men of the world, be
often no wiser nor Pagan creturs, and live in a gentile darkness.”

“The true knowledge of the world,” said Walter, “is only then for the
Corporals of the Forty-second,--eh, Bunting?”

“As to that, Sir,” quoth the Corporal, “‘tis not being of this calling
or of that calling that helps one on; ‘tis an inborn sort of genus the
talent of obsarving, and growing wise by obsarving. One picks up
crumb here, crumb there: but if one has not good digestion, Lord, what
sinnifies a feast?--Healthy man thrives on a ‘tatoe, sickly looks pale
on a haunch. You sees, your honour, as I said afore, I was own sarvant
to Colonel Dysart; he was a Lord’s nephy, a very gay gentleman, and
great hand with the ladies,--not a man more in the world;--so I had the
opportunity of larning what’s what among the best set; at his honour’s
expense, too,--augh! To my mind, Sir, there is not a place from which a
man has a better view of things than the bit carpet behind a gentleman’s
chair. The gentleman eats, and talks, and swears, and jests, and plays
cards and makes love, and tries to cheat, and is cheated, and his man
stands behind with his eyes and ears open,--augh!”

“One should go to service to learn diplomacy, I see,” said Walter,
greatly amused.

“Does not know what ‘plomacy be, Sir, but knows it would be better for
many a young master nor all the Colleges;--would not be so many bubbles
if my Lord could take a turn now and then with John. A-well, Sir!--how
I used to laugh in my sleeve like, when I saw my master, who was thought
the knowingest gentleman about Court, taken in every day smack afore my
face. There was one lady whom he had tried hard, as he thought, to get
away from her husband; and he used to be so mighty pleased at every
glance from her brown eyes--and be d--d to them!--and so careful the
husband should not see--so pluming himself on his discretion here, and
his conquest there,--when, Lord bless you, it was all settled ‘twixt man
and wife aforehand! And while the Colonel laughed at the cuckold, the
cuckold laughed at the dupe. For you sees, Sir, as how the Colonel was
a rich man, and the jewels as he bought for the lady went half into the
husband’s pocket--he! he!--That’s the way of the world, Sir,--that’s the
way of the world!”

“Upon my word, you draw a very bad picture of the world: you colour
highly; and, by the way, I observe that whenever you find any man
committing a roguish action, instead of calling him a scoundrel, you
show those great teeth of yours, and chuckle out ‘A man of the world! a
man of the world!”’

“To be sure, your honour; the proper name, too. ‘Tis your green-horns
who fly into a passion, and use hard words. You see, Sir, there’s one
thing we larn afore all other things in the world--to butter bread.
Knowledge of others, means only the knowledge which side bread’s
buttered. In short, Sir, the wiser grow, the more take care of oursels.
Some persons make a mistake, and, in trying to take care of themsels,
run neck into halter--baugh! they are not rascals--they are would-be
men of the world. Others be more prudent, (for, as I said afore, Sir,
discretion is a pair of stirrups;) they be the true men of the world.”

“I should have thought,” said Walter, “that the knowledge of the world
might be that knowledge which preserves us from being cheated, but not
that which enables us to cheat.”

“Augh!” quoth the Corporal, with that sort of smile with which you see
an old philosopher put down a sounding error from the lips of a young
disciple who flatters himself he has uttered something prodigiously
fine,--“Augh! and did not I tell you, t’other day, to look at the
professions, your honour? What would a laryer be if he did not know how
to cheat a witness and humbug a jury?--knows he is lying,--why is he
lying? for love of his fees, or his fame like, which gets fees;--Augh!
is not that cheating others?--The doctor, too, Master Fillgrave, for
instance?--” “Say no more of doctors; I abandon them to your satire,
without a word.”

“The lying knaves! Don’t they say one’s well when one’s ill--ill when
one’s well?--profess to know what don’t know?--thrust solemn phizzes
into every abomination, as if larning lay hid in a--? and all for their
neighbours’ money, or their own reputation, which makes money--augh! In
short, Sir--look where will, impossible to see so much cheating allowed,
praised, encouraged, and feel very angry with a cheat who has only
made a mistake. But when I sees a man butter his bread carefully--knife
steady--butter thick, and hungry fellows looking on and licking
chops--mothers stopping their brats--‘See, child--respectable man--how
thick his bread’s buttered!--pull off your hat to him:’--When I sees
that, my heart warms: there’s the true man of the world--augh!”

“Well, Bunting,” said Walter, laughing, “though you are thus lenient to
those unfortunate gentlemen whom others call rogues, and thus laudatory
of gentlemen who are at best discreetly selfish, I suppose you admit the
possibility of virtue, and your heart warms as much when you see a man
of worth as when you see a man of the world?”

“Why, you knows, your honour,” answered the Corporal, “so far as
vartue’s concerned, there’s a deal in constitution; but as for knowledge
of the world, one gets it oneself!”

“I don’t wonder, Bunting--as your opinion of women is much the same as
your opinion of men--that you are still unmarried.”

“Augh! but your honour mistakes!--I am no mice-and-trope. Men are
neither one thing nor t’other--neither good nor bad. A prudent
parson has nothing to fear from ‘em--nor a foolish one any thing to
gain--baugh! As to the women creturs, your honour, as I said, vartue’s
a deal in the constitution. Would not ask what a lassie’s mind be--nor
what her eddycation;--but see what her habits be, that’s all--habits and
constitution all one--play into one another’s hands.”

“And what sort of signs, Bunting, would you mostly esteem in a lady?”

“First place, Sir--woman I’d marry, must not mope when alone!--must be
able to ‘muse herself; must be easily ‘mused. That’s a great sign, Sir,
of an innocent mind, to be tickled with straws. Besides, employments
keeps ‘em out of harm’s way. Second place, should obsarve, if she was
very fond of places, your honour--sorry to move--that’s a sure sign she
won’t tire easily; but that if she like you now from fancy, she’ll
like you by and by from custom. Thirdly, your honour, she should not be
avarse to dress--a leaning that way shows she has a desire to please:
people who don’t care about pleasing, always sullen. Fourthly, she must
bear to be crossed--I’d be quite sure that she might be contradicted,
without mumping or storming;--‘cause then, you knows, your honour, if
she wanted any thing expensive--need not give it--augh! Fifthly, must
not be over religious, your honour; they pyehouse she-creturs always
thinks themsels so much better nor we men;--don’t understand our
language and ways, your honour: they wants us not only to belave, but to
tremble--bother!”

“I like your description well enough, on the whole,” said Walter, “and
when I look out for a wife, I shall come to you for advice.”

“Your honour may have it already--Miss Ellinor’s jist the thing.”

Walter turned away his head, and told Bunting, with great show of
indignation, not to be a fool.

The Corporal, who was not quite certain of his ground here, but who
knew that Madeline, at all events, was going to be married to Aram,
and deemed it, therefore, quite useless to waste any praise upon her,
thought that a few random shots of eulogium were worth throwing away on
a chance, and consequently continued.

“Augh, your honour--‘tis not ‘cause I have eyes, that I be’s a fool.
Miss Ellinor and your honour be only cousins, to be sure; but more like
brother and sister, nor any thing else. Howsomever, she’s a rare cretur,
whoever gets her has a face that puts one in good-humour with the world,
if one sees it first thing in the morning--‘tis as good as the sun in
July--augh! But, as I was saying, your honour--‘bout the women-creturs
in general--” “Enough of them, Bunting; let us suppose you have been so
fortunate as to find one to suit you--how would you woo her? Of course,
there are certain secrets of courtship, which you will not hesitate to
impart to one, who, like me, wants such assistance from art--much more
than you can do, who are so bountifully favoured by Nature.”

“As to Nature,” replied the Corporal, with considerable modesty, for he
never disputed the truth of the compliment--“‘tis not ‘cause a man be
six feet without’s shoes, that he’s any nearer to lady’s heart. Sir, I
will own to you, howsomever it makes ‘gainst your honour and myself, for
that matter--that don’t think one is a bit more lucky with the ladies
for being so handsome! ‘Tis all very well with them ere willing ones,
your honour--caught at a glance; but as for the better sort, one’s
beauty’s all bother! Why, Sir, when we see some of the most fortunatest
men among she-creturs--what poor little minnikens they be! One’s a
dwarf--another knock-kneed--a third squints--and a fourth might be
shown for a hape! Neither, Sir, is it your soft, insinivating, die-away
youths, as seem at first so seductive; they do very well for lovers,
your honour; but then it’s always rejected ones! Neither, your honour,
does the art of succeeding with the ladies ‘quire all those finniken,
nimini-pinimi’s, flourishes, and maxims, and saws, which the Colonel,
my old master, and the great gentlefolks, as be knowing, call the art of
love--baugh! The whole science, Sir, consists in these two rules--‘Ask
soon, and ask often.’”

“There seems no great difficulty in them, Bunting.”

“Not to us who has gumption, Sir; but then there is summut in the manner
of axing--one can’t be too hot--can’t flatter too much--and, above
all, one must never take a refusal. There, Sir, now--if you
takes my advice--may break the peace of all the husbands in
Lunnun--bother--whaugh!”

“My uncle little knows what a praiseworthy tutor he has secured me in
you, Bunting,” said Walter, laughing: “And now, while the road is so
good, let us make the most of it.”

As they had set out late in the day, and the Corporal was fearful of
another attack from a hedge, he resolved, that about evening, one of the
horses should be seized with a sudden lameness, (which he effected by
slily inserting a stone between the shoe and the hoof,) that required
immediate attention and a night’s rest; so that it was not till the
early noon of the next day that our travellers entered the village in
which Mr. Jonas Elmore resided.

It was a soft, tranquil day, though one of the very last in October; for
the reader will remember that Time had not stood still during Walter’s
submission to the care of Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, and his subsequent
journey and researches.

The sun-light rested on a broad patch of green heath, covered with
furze, and around it were scattered the cottages and farm-houses of the
little village. On the other side, as Walter descended the gentle hill
that led into this remote hamlet, wide and flat meadows, interspersed
with several fresh and shaded ponds, stretched away towards a belt of
rich woodland gorgeous with the melancholy pomp by which the “regal
year” seeks to veil its decay. Among these meadows you might now see
groups of cattle quietly grazing, or standing half hid in the still
and sheltered pools. Still farther, crossing to the woods, a solitary
sportsman walked careless on, surrounded by some half a dozen spaniels,
and the shrill small tongue of one younger straggler of the canine crew,
who had broke indecorously from the rest, and already entered the wood,
might be just heard, softened down by the distance, into a wild, cheery
sound, that animated, without disturbing, the serenity of the scene.

“After all,” said Walter aloud, “the scholar was right--there is nothing
like the country!”

       “‘Oh, happiness of sweet retired content,
        To be at once secure and innocent!’”

“Be them Verses in the Psalms, Sir?” said the Corporal, who was close
behind.

“No, Bunting; but they were written by one who, if I recollect
right, set the Psalms to verse:--[Denham.] I hope they meet with your
approbation?”

“Indeed, Sir, and no--since they ben’t in the Psalms, one has no right
to think about ‘em at all.”

“And why, Mr. Critic?”

“‘Cause what’s the use of security, if one’s innocent, and does not mean
to take advantage of it--baugh! One does not lock the door for nothing,
your honour!”

“You shall enlarge on that honest doctrine of yours another time;
meanwhile, call that shepherd, and ask the way to Mr. Elmore’s.”

The Corporal obeyed, and found that a clump of trees, at the farther
corner of the waste land, was the grove that surrounded Mr. Elmore’s
house; a short canter across the heath brought them to a white gate, and
having passed this, a comfortable brick mansion of moderate size stood
before them.



CHAPTER III.

    A SCHOLAR, BUT OF A DIFFERENT MOULD FROM THE STUDENT OF
   GRASSDALE.--NEW PARTICULARS CONCERNING GEOFFREY LESTER.--THE
             JOURNEY RECOMMENCED.

Upon inquiring for Mr. Elmore, Walter was shown into a handsome library,
that appeared well-stocked with books, of that good, old-fashioned size
and solidity, which are now fast passing from the world, or at least
shrinking into old shops and public collections. The time may come, when
the mouldering remains of a folio will attract as much philosophical
astonishment as the bones of the mammoth. For behold, the deluge of
writers hath produced a new world of small octavo! and in the next
generation, thanks to the popular libraries, we shall only vibrate
between the duodecimo and the diamond edition. Nay, we foresee the
time when a very handsome collection may be carried about in one’s
waistcoat-pocket, and a whole library of the British Classics be neatly
arranged in a well-compacted snuff-box.

In a few minutes Mr. Elmore made his appearance; he was a short,
well-built man, about the age of fifty. Contrary to the established
mode, he wore no wig, and was very bald; except at the sides of the
head, and a little circular island of hair in the centre. But this
defect was rendered the less visible by a profusion of powder. He was
dressed with evident care and precision; a snuff-coloured coat was
adorned with a respectable profusion of gold lace; his breeches were of
plum-coloured satin; his salmon-coloured stockings, scrupulously drawn
up, displayed a very handsome calf; and a pair of steel buckles in his
high-heeled and square-toed shoes, were polished into a lustre which
almost rivalled the splendour of diamonds. Mr. Jonas Elmore was a
beau, a wit, and a scholar of the old school. He abounded in jests, in
quotations, in smart sayings, and pertinent anecdotes: but, withal, his
classical learning, (out of the classics he knew little enough,) was at
once elegant, but wearisome; pedantic, but profound.

To this gentleman Walter presented a letter of introduction which he had
obtained from a distinguished clergyman in York. Mr. Elmore received it
with a profound salutation--“Aha, from my friend, Dr. Hebraist,” said
he, glancing at the seal, “a most worthy man, and a ripe scholar. I
presume at once, Sir, from his introduction, that you yourself have
cultivated the literas humaniores. Pray sit down--ay--I see, you take up
a book, an excellent symptom; it gives me an immediate insight into
your character. But you have chanced, Sir, on light reading,--one of
the Greek novels, I think,--you must not judge of my studies by such a
specimen.”

“Nevertheless, Sir, it does not seem to my unskilful eye very easy
Greek.”

“Pretty well, Sir; barbarous, but amusing,--pray continue it. The
triumphal entry of Paulus Emilius is not ill told. I confess, that I
think novels might be made much higher works than they have been yet.
Doubtless, you remember what Aristotle says concerning Painters and
Sculptors, ‘that they teach and recommend virtue in a more efficacious
and powerful manner, than Philosophers by their dry precepts, and
are more capable of amending the vicious, than the best moral lessons
without such aid.’ But how much more, Sir, can a good novelist do this,
than the best sculptor or painter in the world! Every one can be
charmed by a fine novel, few by a fine painting. ‘Indocti rationem artis
intelligunt, indocti voluptatem.’ A happy sentence that in Quinctilian,
Sir, is it not? But, bless me, I am forgetting the letter of my good
friend Dr. Hebraist. The charms of your conversation carry me away. And
indeed I have seldom the happiness to meet a gentleman so well-informed
as yourself. I confess, Sir, I confess that I still retain the tastes of
my boyhood; the Muses cradled my childhood, they now smooth the pillow
of my footstool--Quem tu, Melpomene, are not yet subject to gout, dira
podagra: By the way, how is the worthy Doctor since his attack?--Ah, see
now, if you have not still, by your delightful converse, kept me from
his letter--yet, positively I need no introduction to you, Apollo has
already presented you to me. And as for the Doctor’s letter, I will read
it after dinner; for as Seneca--” “I beg your pardon a thousand times,
Sir,” said Walter, who began to despair of ever coming to the matter
which seemed lost sight of beneath this battery of erudition, “but you
will find by Dr. Hebraist’s letter, that it is only on business of the
utmost importance that I have presumed to break in upon the learned
leisure of Mr. Jonas Elmore.”

“Business!” replied Mr. Elmore, producing his spectacles, and
deliberately placing them athwart his nose,

      “‘His mane edictum, post prandia Callirhoen, etc.

“Business in the morning, and the ladies after dinner. Well, Sir, I will
yield to you in the one, and you must yield to me in the other: I will
open the letter, and you shall dine here, and be introduced to Mrs.
Elmore;--What is your opinion of the modern method of folding letters?
I--but I see you are impatient.” Here Mr. Elmore at length broke the
seal; and to Walter’s great joy fairly read the contents within.

“Oh! I see, I see!” he said, refolding the epistle, and placing it in
his pocket-book; “my friend, Dr. Hebraist, says you are anxious to be
informed whether Mr. Clarke ever received the legacy of my poor cousin,
Colonel Elmore; and if so, any tidings I can give you of Mr. Clarke
himself; or any clue to discover him will be highly acceptable. I
gather, Sir, from my friend’s letter, that this is the substance of your
business with me, caput negotii;--although, like Timanthes, the painter,
he leaves more to be understood than is described, ‘intelligitur plus
quam pingitur,’ as Pliny has it.”

“Sir,” said Walter, drawing his chair close to Mr. Elmore, and his
anxiety forcing itself to his countenance, “that is indeed the substance
of my business with you; and so important will be any information
you can give me that I shall esteem it a--” “Not a very great favour,
eh?--not very great?”

“Yes, indeed, a very great obligation.”

“I hope not, Sir; for what says Tacitus--that profound reader of the
human heart,--‘beneficia eo usque loeta sunt,’ favours easily repaid
beget affection--favours beyond return engender hatred. But, Sir, a
truce to trifling;” and here Mr. Elmore composed his countenance, and
changed,--which he could do at will, so that the change was not expected
to last long--the pedant for the man of business.

“Mr. Clarke did receive his legacy: the lease of the house at
Knaresborough was also sold by his desire, and produced the sum of seven
hundred and fifty pounds; which being added to the farther sum of a
thousand pounds, which was bequeathed to him, amounted to seventeen
hundred and fifty pounds. It so happened, that my cousin had possessed
some very valuable jewels, which were bequeathed to myself. I, Sir,
studious, and a cultivator of the Muse, had no love and no use for these
baubles; I preferred barbaric gold to barbaric pearl; and knowing that
Clarke had been in India, from whence these jewels had been brought, I
showed them to him, and consulted his knowledge on these matters, as to
the best method of obtaining a sale. He offered to purchase them of me,
under the impression that he could turn them to a profitable speculation
in London. Accordingly we came to terms: I sold the greater part of them
to him for a sum a little exceeding a thousand pounds. He was pleased
with his bargain; and came to borrow the rest of me, in order to look at
them more considerately at home, and determine whether or not he should
buy them also. Well, Sir, (but here comes the remarkable part of the
story,) about three days after this last event, Mr. Clarke and my jewels
both disappeared in rather a strange and abrupt manner. In the middle
of the night he left his lodging at Knaresborough, and never returned;
neither himself nor my jewels were ever heard of more!”

“Good God!” exclaimed Walter, greatly agitated; “what was supposed to be
the cause of his disappearance?”

“That,” replied Elmore, “was never positively traced. It excited great
surprise and great conjecture at the time. Advertisements and handbills
were circulated throughout the country, but in vain. Mr. Clarke was
evidently a man of eccentric habits, of a hasty temper, and a wandering
manner of life; yet it is scarcely probable that he took this sudden
manner of leaving the country either from whim or some secret but honest
motive never divulged. The fact is, that he owed a few debts in the
town--that he had my jewels in his possession, and as (pardon me for
saying this, since you take an interest in him,) his connections were
entirely unknown in these parts, and his character not very highly
estimated,--(whether from his manner, or his conversation, or some
undefined and vague rumours, I cannot say)--it was considered by no
means improbable that he had decamped with his property in this sudden
manner in order to save himself that trouble of settling accounts
which a more seemly and public method of departure might have rendered
necessary. A man of the name of Houseman, with whom he was acquainted,
(a resident in Knaresborough,) declared that Clarke had borrowed rather
a considerable sum from him, and did not scruple openly to accuse him
of the evident design to avoid repayment. A few more dark but utterly
groundless conjectures were afloat; and since the closest search--the
minutest inquiry was employed without any result, the supposition that
he might have been robbed and murdered was strongly entertained for some
time; but as his body was never found, nor suspicion directed against
any particular person, these conjectures insensibly died away; and being
so complete a stranger to these parts, the very circumstance of his
disappearance was not likely to occupy, for very long, the attention
of that old gossip the Public, who, even in the remotest parts, has a
thousand topics to fill up her time and talk. And now, Sir, I think you
know as much of the particulars of the case as any one in these parts
can inform you.”

We may imagine the various sensations which this unsatisfactory
intelligence caused in the adventurous son of the lost wanderer. He
continued to throw out additional guesses, and to make farther inquiries
concerning a tale which seemed to him so mysterious, but without effect;
and he had the mortification to perceive, that the shrewd Jonas was, in
his own mind, fully convinced that the permanent disappearance of Clark
was accounted for only by the most dishonest motives.

“And,” added Elmore, I am confirmed in this belief by discovering
afterwards from a tradesman in York who had seen my cousin’s
jewels--that those I had trusted to Mr. Clarke’s hands were more
valuable than I had imagined them, and therefore it was probably worth
his while to make off with them as quietly as possible. He went on
foot, leaving his horse, a sorry nag, to settle with me and the other
claimants.

        “I, pedes quo te rapiunt et aurae!”

“Heavens!” thought Walter, sinking back in his chair sickened and
disheartened, “what a parent, if the opinions of all men who knew him be
true, do I thus zealously seek to recover!”

The good-natured Elmore, perceiving the unwelcome and painful impression
his account had produced on his young guest, now exerted himself to
remove, or at least to lessen it; and turning the conversation into a
classical channel, which with him was the Lethe to all cares, he soon
forgot that Clarke had ever existed, in expatiating on the unappreciated
excellences of Propertius, who, to his mind, was the most tender of all
elegiac poets, solely because he was the most learned. Fortunately this
vein of conversation, however tedious to Walter, preserved him from the
necessity of rejoinder, and left him to the quiet enjoyment of his own
gloomy and restless reflections.

At length the time touched upon dinner; Elmore, starting up, adjourned
to the drawing-room, in order to present the handsome stranger to the
placens uxor--the pleasing wife, whom, in passing through the hall, he
eulogized with an amazing felicity of diction.

The object of these praises was a tall, meagre lady, in a yellow dress
carried up to the chin, and who added a slight squint to the charms of
red hair, ill concealed by powder, and the dignity of a prodigiously
high nose. “There is nothing, Sir,” said Elmore, “nothing, believe me,
like matrimonial felicity. Julia, my dear, I trust the chickens will not
be overdone.”

“Indeed, Mr. Elmore, I cannot tell; I did not boil them.”

“Sir,” said Elmore, turning to his guest, I do not know whether you
will agree with me, but I think a slight tendency to gourmandism is
absolutely necessary to complete the character of a truly classical
mind. So many beautiful touches are there in the ancient poets--so
many delicate allusions in history and in anecdote relating to the
gratification of the palate, that if a man have no correspondent
sympathy with the illustrious epicures of old, he is rendered incapable
of enjoying the most beautiful passages, that--Come, Sir, the dinner is
served:

      “‘Nutrimus lautis mollissima corpora mensis.’”

As they crossed the hall to the dining-room, a young lady, whom Elmore
hastily announced as his only daughter, appeared descending the stairs,
having evidently retired for the purpose of re-arranging her attire for
the conquest of the stranger. There was something in Miss Elmore that
reminded Walter of Ellinor, and, as the likeness struck him, he felt, by
the sudden and involuntary sigh it occasioned, how much the image of his
cousin had lately gained ground upon his heart.

Nothing of any note occurred during dinner, until the appearance of
the second course, when Elmore, throwing himself back with an air of
content, that signified the first edge of his appetite was blunted,
observed, Sir, the second course I always opine to be the more dignified
and rational part of a repast--

      “‘Quod nunc ratio est, impetus ante fuit.’”
    [That which is now reason, at first was but desire.]

“Ah! Mr. Elmore,” said the lady, glancing towards a brace of very
fine pigeons, “I cannot tell you how vexed I am at a mistake of the
gardener’s: you remember my poor pet pigeons, so attached to each
other--would not mix with the rest--quite an inseparable friendship,
Mr. Lester--well, they were killed by mistake, for a couple of vulgar
pigeons. Ah! I could not touch a bit of them for the world.”

“My love,” said Elmore, pausing, and with great solemnity, “hear how
beautiful a consolation is afforded to you in Valerius Maximus:--‘Ubi
idem et maximus et honestissimus amor est, aliquando praestat morte
jungi quam vitae distrahi;’ which being interpreted, means, that
wherever, as in the case of your pigeons, a thoroughly high and sincere
affection exists, it is sometimes better to be joined in death than
divided in life.--Give me half the fatter one, if you please, Julia.”

“Sir,” said Elmore, when the ladies withdrew, “I cannot tell you how
pleased I am to meet with a gentleman so deeply imbued with classic
lore. I remember, several years ago, before my poor cousin died, it was
my lot, when I visited him at Knaresborough, to hold some delightful
conversations on learned matters with a very rising young scholar who
then resided at Knaresborough,--Eugene Aram. Conversations as difficult
to obtain as delightful to remember, for he was exceedingly reserved.”

“Aram!” repeated Walter.

“What, you know him then?--and where does he live now?”

“In--, very near my uncle’s residence. He is certainly a remarkable
man.”

“Yes, indeed he promised to become so. At the time I refer to, he was
poor to penury, and haughty as poor; but it was wonderful to note the
iron energy with which he pursued his progress to learning. Never did I
see a youth,--at that time he was no more,--so devoted to knowledge for
itself.

      ‘Doctrin‘ pretium triste magister habet.’”

“Methinks,” added Elmore, “I can see him now, stealing away from the
haunts of men,

      ‘With even step and musing gait,’--

across the quiet fields, or into the woods, whence he was certain not to
re-appear till night-fall. Ah! he was a strange and solitary being, but
full of genius, and promise of bright things hereafter. I have often
heard since of his fame as a scholar, but could never learn where he
lived or what was now his mode of life. Is he yet married?”

“Not yet, I believe; but he is not now so absolutely poor as you
describe him to have been then, though certainly far from rich.”

“Yes, yes, I remember that he received a legacy from a relation shortly
before he left Knaresborough. He had very delicate health at that time:
has he grown stronger with increasing years?”

“He does not complain of ill health. And pray, was he then of the same
austere and blameless habits of life that he now professes?”

“Nothing could be so faultless as his character appeared; the passions
of youth--(ah! I was a wild fellow at his age,) never seemed to venture
near one.

      ‘Quem casto erudit docta Minerva sinu.’

Well, I am surprised he has not married. We scholars, Sir, fall in love
with abstractions, and fancy the first woman we see is--Sir, let us
drink the ladies.”

The next day Walter, having resolved to set out for Knaresborough,
directed his course towards that town; he thought it yet possible that
he might, by strict personal inquiry, continue the clue that Elmore’s
account had, to present appearance, broken. The pursuit in which he
was engaged, combined, perhaps, with the early disappointment to his
affections, had given a grave and solemn tone to a mind naturally ardent
and elastic. His character acquired an earnestness and a dignity from
late events; and all that once had been hope within him, deepened into
thought. As now, on a gloomy and clouded day he pursued his course
along a bleak and melancholy road, his mind was filled with that dark
presentiment--that shadow from the coming event, which superstition
believes the herald of the more tragic discoveries, or the more
fearful incidents of life; he felt steeled, and prepared for some dread
denouement,--to a journey to which the hand of Providence seemed to
conduct his steps; and he looked on the shroud that Time casts over all
beyond the present moment with the same intense and painful resolve with
which, in the tragic representations of life, we await the drawing up
of the curtain before the last act, which contains the catastrophe--that
while we long, we half shudder to behold.

Meanwhile, in following the adventures of Walter Lester, we have greatly
outstript the progress of events of Grassdale, and thither we now
return.



CHAPTER IV.

    ARAM’S DEPARTURE.--MADELINE.--EXAGGERATION OF SENTIMENT
   NATURAL IN LOVE.--MADELINE’S LETTER.--WALTER’S.--THE WALK.--
   TWO VERY DIFFERENT PERSONS, YET BOTH INMATES OF THE SAME
   COUNTRY VILLAGE.--THE HUMOURS OF LIFE, AND ITS DARK PASSIONS,
        ARE FOUND IN JUXTA-POSITION EVERYWHERE.

       Her thoughts as pure as the chaste morning’s breath,
       When from the Night’s cold arms it creeps away,
       Were clothed in words.
           --Sir J. Suckling--Detraction Execrated

“You positively leave us then to-day, Eugene?” said the Squire.

“Indeed,” answered Aram, “I hear from my creditor, (now no longer so,
thanks to you,) that my relation is so dangerously ill, that if I have
any wish to see her alive, I have not an hour to lose. It is the last
surviving relative I have in the world.”

“I can say no more, then,” rejoined the Squire shrugging his shoulders:
“When do you expect to return?”

“At least, ere the day fixed for the wedding,” answered Aram, with a
grave and melancholy smile.

“Well, can you find time, think you, to call at the lodging in which my
nephew proposed to take up his abode,--my old lodging;--I will give you
the address,--and inquire if Walter has been heard of there: I confess
that I feel considerable alarm on his account. Since that short and
hurried letter which I read to you, I have heard nothing of him.”

“You may rely on my seeing him if in London, and faithfully reporting to
you all that I can learn towards removing your anxiety.”

“I do not doubt it; no heart is so kind as yours, Eugene. You will not
depart without receiving the additional sum you are entitled to claim
from me, since you think it may be useful to you in London, should you
find a favourable opportunity of increasing your annuity. And now I will
no longer detain you from taking your leave of Madeline.”

The plausible story which Aram had invented of the illness and
approaching death of his last living relation, was readily believed by
the simple family to whom it was told; and Madeline herself checked her
tears that she might not, for his sake, sadden a departure that seemed
inevitable. Aram accordingly repaired to London that day,--the one that
followed the night which witnessed his fearful visit to the “Devil’s
Crag.”

It is precisely at this part of my history that I love to pause for a
moment; a sort of breathing interval between the cloud that has been
long gathering, and the storm that is about to burst. And this interval
is not without its fleeting gleam of quiet and holy sunshine.

It was Madeline’s first absence from her lover since their vows had
plighted them to each other; and that first absence, when softened by
so many hopes as smiled upon her, is perhaps one of the most touching
passages in the history of a woman’s love. It is marvellous how many
things, unheeded before, suddenly become dear. She then feels what a
power of consecration there was in the mere presence of the one beloved;
the spot he touched, the book he read, have become a part of him--are
no longer inanimate--are inspired, and have a being and a voice. And the
heart, too, soothed in discovering so many new treasures, and opening
so delightful a world of memory, is not yet acquainted with that
weariness--that sense of exhaustion and solitude which are the true
pains of absence, and belong to the absence not of hope but regret.

“You are cheerful, dear Madeline,” said Ellinor, “though you did not
think it possible, and he not here!”

“I am occupied,” replied Madeline, “in discovering how much I loved
him.”

We do wrong when we censure a certain exaggeration in the sentiments
of those who love. True passion is necessarily heightened by its very
ardour to an elevation that seems extravagant only to those who cannot
feel it. The lofty language of a hero is a part of his character;
without that largeness of idea he had not been a hero. With love, it
is the same as with glory: what common minds would call natural in
sentiment, merely because it is homely, is not natural, except to tamed
affections. That is a very poor, nay, a very coarse, love, in which the
imagination makes not the greater part. And the Frenchman, who censured
the love of his mistress because it was so mixed with the imagination,
quarrelled with the body, for the soul which inspired and preserved it.

Yet we do not say that Madeline was so possessed by the confidence of
her love, that she did not admit the intrusion of a single doubt or
fear; when she recalled the frequent gloom and moody fitfulness of
her lover--his strange and mysterious communings with self--the sorrow
which, at times, as on that Sabbath eve when he wept upon her bosom,
appeared suddenly to come upon a nature so calm and stately, and without
a visible cause; when she recalled all these symptoms of a heart not
now at rest, it was not possible for her to reject altogether a certain
vague and dreary apprehension. Nor did she herself, although to Ellinor
she so affected, ascribe this cloudiness and caprice of mood merely to
the result of a solitary and meditative life; she attributed them to the
influence of an early grief, perhaps linked with the affections, and did
not doubt but that one day or another she should learn its secret.
As for remorse--the memory of any former sin--a life so austerely
blameless, a disposition so prompt to the activity of good, and so
enamoured of its beauty--a mind so cultivated, a temper so gentle, and
a heart so easily moved--all would have forbidden, to natures far more
suspicious than Madeline’s, the conception of such a thought. And so,
with a patient gladness, though not without some mixture of anxiety, she
suffered herself to glide onward to a future, which, come cloud, come
shine, was, she believed at least, to be shared with him.

On looking over the various papers from which I have woven this tale, I
find a letter from Madeline to Aram, dated at this time. The characters,
traced in the delicate and fair Italian hand coveted at that period, are
fading, and, in one part, wholly obliterated by time; but there seems to
me so much of what is genuine in the heart’s beautiful romance in
this effusion, that I will lay it before the reader without adding or
altering a word.

“Thank you, thank you, dearest Eugene! I have received, then, the first
letter you ever wrote me. I cannot tell you how strange it seemed to me,
and how agitated I felt on seeing it, more so, I think, than if it
had been yourself who had returned. However, when the first delight of
reading it faded away, I found that it had not made me so happy as it
ought to have done--as I thought at first it had done. You seem sad and
melancholy; a certain nameless gloom appears to me to hang over your
whole letter. It affects my spirits--why I know not--and my tears
fall even while I read the assurances of your unaltered, unalterable
love--and yet this assurance your Madeline--vain girl!--never for a
moment disbelieves. I have often read and often heard of the distrust
and jealousy that accompany love; but I think that such a love must be a
vulgar and low sentiment. To me there seems a religion in love, and its
very foundation is in faith. You say, dearest, that the noise and stir
of the great city oppress and weary you even more than you had expected.
You say those harsh faces, in which business, and care, and avarice, and
ambition write their lineaments, are wholly unfamiliar to you;--you turn
aside to avoid them,--you wrap yourself up in your solitary feelings
of aversion to those you see, and you call upon those not present--upon
your Madeline! and would that your Madeline were with you! It seems to
me--perhaps you will smile when I say this--that I alone can understand
you--I alone can read your heart and your emotions;--and oh! dearest
Eugene, that I could read also enough of your past history to know all
that has cast so habitual a shadow over that lofty heart and that
calm and profound nature! You smile when I ask you--but sometimes you
sigh,--and the sigh pleases and soothes me better than the smile.

“We have heard nothing more of Walter, and my father begins at times
to be seriously alarmed about him. Your account, too, corroborates that
alarm. It is strange that he has not yet visited London, and that you
can obtain no clue of him. He is evidently still in search of his lost
parent, and following some obscure and uncertain track. Poor Walter!
God speed him! The singular fate of his father, and the many conjectures
respecting him, have, I believe, preyed on Walter’s mind more than he
acknowledged. Ellinor found a paper in his closet, where we had occasion
to search the other day for something belonging to my father, which
was scribbled with all the various fragments of guess or information
concerning my uncle, obtained from time to time, and interspersed with
some remarks by Walter himself, that affected me strangely. It seems to
have been from early childhood the one desire of my cousin to discover
his father’s fate. Perhaps the discovery may be already made;--perhaps
my long-lost uncle may yet be present at our wedding.

“You ask me, Eugene, if I still pursue my botanical researches.
Sometimes I do; but the flower now has no fragrance--and the herb no
secret, that I care for; and astronomy, which you had just begun to
teach me, pleases me more;--the flowers charm me when you are present;
but the stars speak to me of you in absence. Perhaps it would not be so,
had I loved a being less exalted than you. Every one, even my father,
even Ellinor, smile when they observe how incessantly I think of
you--how utterly you have become all in all to me. I could not tell this
to you, though I write it: is it not strange that letters should be more
faithful than the tongue? And even your letter, mournful as it is, seems
to me kinder, and dearer, and more full of yourself, than with all the
magic of your language, and the silver sweetness of your voice, your
spoken words are. I walked by your house yesterday; the windows were
closed--there was a strange air of lifelessness and dejection about
it. Do you remember the evening in which I first entered that house? Do
you--or rather is there one hour in which it is not present to you? For
me, I live in the past,--it is the present--(which is without you,) in
which I have no life. I passed into the little garden, that with your
own hands you have planted for me, and filled with flowers. Ellinor was
with me, and she saw my lips move. She asked me what I was saying to
myself. I would not tell her--I was praying for you, my kind, my beloved
Eugene. I was praying for the happiness of your future years--praying
that I might requite your love. Whenever I feel the most, I am the most
inclined to prayer. Sorrow, joy, tenderness, all emotion, lift up my
heart to God. And what a delicious overflow of the heart is prayer!
When I am with you--and I feel that you love me--my happiness would
be painful, if there were no God whom I might bless for its excess. Do
those, who believe not, love?--have they deep emotions?--can they feel
truly--devotedly? Why, when I talk thus to you--do you always answer me
with that chilling and mournful smile? You would make religion only
the creation of reason--as well might you make love the same--what is
either, unless you let it spring also from the feelings?

“When--when--when will you return? I think I love you now more than
ever. I think I have more courage to tell you so. So many things I have
to say--so many events to relate. For what is not an event to US? the
least incident that has happened to either--the very fading of a flower,
if you have worn it, is a whole history to me.

“Adieu, God bless you--God reward you--God keep your heart with Him,
dearest, dearest Eugene. And may you every day know better and better
how utterly you are loved by your

“Madeline.”

The epistle to which Lester referred as received from Walter, was one
written on the day of his escape from Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, a short
note, rather than letter, which ran as follows.

“My dear Uncle, I have met with an accident which confined me to
my bed;--a rencontre, indeed, with the Knights of the Road--nothing
serious, (so do not be alarmed!) though the Doctor would fain have made
it so. I am just about to recommence my journey, but not towards London;
on the contrary, northward.

“I have, partly through the information of your old friend Mr.
Courtland, partly by accident, found what I hope may prove a clue to
the fate of my father. I am now departing to put this hope to the issue.
More I would fain say; but lest the expectation should prove fallacious,
I will not dwell on circumstances which would in that case only create
in you a disappointment similar to my own. Only this take with you, that
my father’s proverbial good luck seems to have visited him since your
latest news of his fate; a legacy, though not a large one, awaited
his return to England from India; but see if I am not growing prolix
already--I must break off in order to reserve you the pleasure (may it
be so!) of a full surprise!

“God bless you, my dear Uncle! I write in spirits and hope; kindest love
to all at home.

“Walter Lester.

“P. S. Tell Ellinor that my bitterest misfortune in the adventure I have
referred to, was to be robbed of her purse. Will she knit me another? By
the way, I encountered Sir Peter Hales; such an open-hearted, generous
fellow as you said! ‘thereby hangs a tale.’”

This letter, which provoked all the curiosity of our little circle, made
them anxiously look forward to every post for additional explanation,
but that explanation came not. And they were forced to console
themselves with the evident exhilaration under which Walter wrote, and
the probable supposition that he delayed farther information until it
could be ample and satisfactory.--“Knights of the Road,” quoth Lester
one day, “I wonder if they were any of the gang that have just visited
us. Well, but poor boy! he does not say whether he has any money left;
yet if he were short of the gold, he would be very unlike his father,
(or his uncle for that matter,) had he forgotten to enlarge on that
subject, however brief upon others.”

“Probably,” said Ellinor, “the Corporal carried the main sum about him
in those well-stuffed saddle-bags, and it was only the purse that
Walter had about his person that was stolen; and it is probable that the
Corporal might have escaped, as he mentions nothing about that excellent
personage.”

“A shrewd guess, Nell: but pray, why should Walter carry the purse about
him so carefully? Ah, you blush: well, will you knit him another?”

“Pshaw, Papa! Good b’ye, I am going to gather you a nosegay.”

But Ellinor was seized with a sudden fit of industry, and somehow or
other she grew fonder of knitting than ever.

The neighbourhood was now tranquil and at peace; the nightly depredators
that had infested the green valleys of Grassdale were heard of no more;
it seemed a sudden incursion of fraud and crime, which was too unnatural
to the character of the spot invaded to do more than to terrify and
to disappear. The truditur dies die; the serene steps of one calm day
chasing another returned, and the past alarm was only remembered as a
tempting subject of gossip to the villagers, and (at the Hall) a theme
of eulogium on the courage of Eugene Aram.

“It is a lovely day,” said Lester to his daughters, as they sate at the
window; “come, girls, get your bonnets, and let us take a walk into the
village.”

“And meet the postman,” said Ellinor, archly.

“Yes,” rejoined Madeline in the same vein, but in a whisper that Lester
might not hear, “for who knows but that we may have a letter from
Walter?”

How prettily sounds such raillery on virgin lips. No, no; nothing on
earth is so lovely as the confidence between two happy sisters, who have
no secrets but those of a guileless love to reveal!

As they strolled into the village, they were met by Peter Dealtry, who
was slowly riding home on a large ass which carried himself and his
panniers to the neighbouring market in a more quiet and luxurious
indolence of action than would the harsher motions of the equine
species.

“A fine day, Peter: and what news at market?” said Lester.

“Corn high,--hay dear, your honour,” replied the clerk.

“Ah, I suppose so; a good time to sell ours, Peter;--we must see about
it on Saturday. But, pray, have you heard any thing from the Corporal
since his departure?”

“Not I, your honour, not I; though I think as he might have given us a
line, if it was only to thank me for my care of his cat, but--

      ‘Them as comes to go to roam,
      Thinks slight of they as stays at home.’”

“A notable distich, Peter; your own composition, I warrant.”

“Mine! Lord love your honour, I has no genus, but I has memory; and when
them ere beautiful lines of poetry-like comes into my head, they stays
there, and stays till they pops out at my tongue like a bottle of
ginger-beer. I do loves poetry, Sir, ‘specially the sacred.”

“We know it,--we know it.”

“For there be summut in it,” continued the clerk, “which smooths a man’s
heart like a clothes-brush, wipes away the dust and dirt, and sets all
the nap right; and I thinks as how ‘tis what a clerk of the parish ought
to study, your honour.”

“Nothing better; you speak like an oracle.”

“Now, Sir, there be the Corporal, honest man, what thinks himself mighty
clever,--but he has no soul for varse. Lord love ye, to see the faces
he makes when I tells him a hymn or so; ‘tis quite wicked, your
honour,--for that’s what the heathen did, as you well know, Sir.

       “‘And when I does discourse of things
        Most holy, to their tribe;
        What does they do?--they mocks at me,
        And makes my harp a gibe.’

“‘Tis not what I calls pretty, Miss Ellinor.”

“Certainly not, Peter; I wonder, with your talents for verse, you never
indulge in a little satire against such perverse taste.”

“Satire! what’s that? Oh, I knows; what they writes in elections. Why,
Miss, mayhap--” here Peter paused, and winked significantly--“but the
Corporal’s a passionate man, you knows: but I could so sting him--Aha!
we’ll see, we’ll see.--Do you know, your honour,” here Peter altered his
air to one of serious importance, as if about to impart a most sagacious
conjecture, “I thinks there be one reason why the Corporal has not
written to me.”

“And what’s that, Peter?”

“Cause, your honour, he’s ashamed of his writing: I fancy as how his
spelling is no better than it should be--but mum’s the word. You sees,
your honour, the Corporal’s got a tarn for conversation-like--he be a
mighty fine talker surely! but he be shy of the pen--‘tis not every man
what talks biggest what’s the best schollard at bottom. Why, there’s the
newspaper I saw in the market, (for I always sees the newspaper once a
week,) says as how some of them great speakers in the Parliament House,
are no better than ninnies when they gets upon paper; and that’s the
Corporal’s case, I sispect: I suppose as how they can’t spell all them
ere long words they make use on. For my part, I thinks there be mortal
desate (deceit) like in that ere public speaking; for I knows how far a
loud voice and a bold face goes, even in buying a cow, your honour; and
I’m afraid the country’s greatly bubbled in that ere partiklar; for if a
man can’t write down clearly what he means for to say, I does not thinks
as how he knows what he means when he goes for to speak!”

This speech--quite a moral exposition from Peter, and, doubtless,
inspired by his visit to market--for what wisdom cannot come from
intercourse?--our good publican delivered with especial solemnity,
giving a huge thump on the sides of his ass as he concluded.

“Upon my word, Peter,” said Lester, laughing, “you have grown quite a
Solomon; and, instead of a clerk, you ought to be a Justice of Peace,
at the least: and, indeed, I must say that I think you shine more in the
capacity of a lecturer than in that of a soldier.”

“‘Tis not for a clerk of the parish to have too great a knack at the
weapons of the flesh,” said Peter, sanctimoniously, and turning aside
to conceal a slight confusion at the unlucky reminiscence of his warlike
exploits; “But lauk, Sir, even as to that, why we has frightened all the
robbers away. What would you have us do more?”

“Upon my word, Peter, you say right; and now, good day. Your wife’s
well, I hope? and Jacobina--is not that the cat’s name?--in high health
and favour.”

“Hem, hem!--why, to be sure, the cat’s a good cat; but she steals Goody
Truman’s cream as she sets for butter reg’larly every night.”

“Oh! you must cure her of that,” said Lester, smiling, “I hope that’s
the worst fault.”

“Why, your gardiner do say,” replied Peter, reluctantly, “as how she
goes arter the pheasants in Copse-hole.”

“The deuce!” cried the Squire; “that will never do: she must be shot,
Peter, she must be shot. My pheasants! my best preserves! and poor Goody
Truman’s cream, too! a perfect devil. Look to it, Peter; if I hear any
complaints again, Jacobina is done for--What are you laughing at, Nell?”

“Well, go thy ways, Peter, for a shrewd man and a clever man; it is not
every one who could so suddenly have elicited my father’s compassion for
Goody Truman’s cream.”

“Pooh!” said the Squire, “a pheasant’s a serious thing, child; but you
women don’t understand matters.”

They had now crossed through the village into the fields, and were
slowly sauntering by

      “Hedge-row elms on hillocks green,”

when, seated under a stunted pollard, they came suddenly on the
ill-favoured person of Dame Darkmans: she sat bent (with her elbows on
her knees, and her hands supporting her chin,) looking up to the clear
autumnal sky; and as they approached, she did not stir, or testify by
sign or glance that she even perceived them.

There is a certain kind-hearted sociality of temper that you see
sometimes among country gentlemen, especially not of the highest rank,
who knowing, and looked up to by, every one immediately around them,
acquire the habit of accosting all they meet--a habit as painful for
them to break, as it was painful for poor Rousseau to be asked ‘how he
did’ by an applewoman. And the kind old Squire could not pass even Goody
Darkmans, (coming thus abruptly upon her,) without a salutation.

“All alone, Dame, enjoying the fine weather--that’s right--And how fares
it with you?”

The old woman turned round her dark and bleared eyes, but without moving
limb or posture. “‘Tis well-nigh winter now: ‘tis not easy for poor
folks to fare well at this time o’ year. Where be we to get the
firewood, and the clothing, and the dry bread, carse it! and the drop o’
stuff that’s to keep out the cold. Ah, it’s fine for you to ask how we
does, and the days shortening, and the air sharpening.”

“Well, Dame, shall I send to--for a warm cloak for you?” said Madeline.

“Ho! thankye, young leddy--thankye kindly, and I’ll wear it at your
widding, for they says you be going to git married to the larned man
yander. Wish ye well, ma’am, wish ye well.”

And the old hag grinned as she uttered this benediction, that sounded
on her lips like the Lord’s Prayer on a witch’s; which converts the
devotion to a crime, and the prayer to a curse.

“Ye’re very winsome, young lady,” she continued, eyeing Madeline’s tall
and rounded figure from head to foot. “Yes, very--but I was as bonny as
you once, and if you lives--mind that--fair and happy as you stand now,
you’ll be as withered, and foul-faced, and wretched as me--ha! ha! I
loves to look on young folk, and think o’ that. But mayhap ye won’t live
to be old--more’s the pity, for ye might be a widow and childless, and
a lone ‘oman, as I be; if you were to see sixty: an’ wouldn’t that be
nice?--ha! ha!--much pleasure ye’d have in the fine weather then, and in
people’s fine speeches, eh?”

“Come, Dame,” said Lester, with a cloud on his benign brow, “this talk
is ungrateful to me, and disrespectful to Miss Lester; it is not the
way to--” “Hout!” interrupted the old woman; “I begs pardon, Sir, if I
offended--I begs pardon, young lady, ‘tis my way, poor old soul that
I be. And you meant me kindly, and I would not be uncivil, now you are
a-going to give me a bonny cloak,--and what colour shall it be?”

“Why, what colour would you like best, Dame--red?”

“Red!--no!--like a gypsy-quean, indeed! Besides, they all has red cloaks
in the village, yonder. No; a handsome dark grey--or a gay, cheersome
black, an’ then I’ll dance in mourning at your wedding, young lady; and
that’s what ye’ll like. But what ha’ye done with the merry bridegroom,
Ma’am? Gone away, I hear. Ah, ye’ll have a happy life on it, with a
gentleman like him. I never seed him laugh once. Why does not ye hire
me as your sarvant--would not I be a favourite thin! I’d stand on the
thrishold, and give ye good morrow every day. Oh! it does me a deal of
good to say a blessing to them as be younger and gayer than me. Madge
Darkman’s blessing!--Och! what a thing to wish for!”

“Well, good day, mother,” said Lester, moving on.

“Stay a bit, stay a bit, Sir;--has ye any commands, Miss, yonder,
at Master Aram’s? His old ‘oman’s a gossip of mine--we were young
togither--and the lads did not know which to like the best. So we often
meets, and talks of the old times. I be going up there now.--Och! I
hope I shall be asked to the widding. And what a nice month to wid in;
Novimber--Novimber, that’s the merry month for me! But ‘tis cold--bitter
cold, too. Well, good day--good day. Ay,” continued the hag, as Lester
and the sisters moved on, “ye all goes and throws niver a look behind.
Ye despises the poor in your hearts. But the poor will have their day.
Och! an’ I wish ye were dead--dead--dead, an’ I dancing in my
bonny black cloak about your graves;--for an’t all mine
dead--cold--cold--rotting, and one kind and rich man might ha’ saved
them all.”

Thus mumbling, the wretched creature looked after the father and his
daughters, as they wound onward, till her dim eyes caught them no
longer; and then, drawing her rags round her, she rose, and struck into
the opposite path that led to Aram’s house.

“I hope that hag will be no constant visitor at your future residence,
Madeline,” said the younger sister; “it would be like a blight on the
air.”

“And if we could remove her from the parish,” said Lester, “it would be
a happy day for the village. Yet, strange as it may seem, so great
is her power over them all, that there is never a marriage, nor a
christening in the village, from which she is absent--they dread her
spite and foul tongue enough, to make them even ask humbly for her
presence.”

“And the hag seems to know that her bad qualities are a good policy, and
obtain more respect than amiability would do,” said Ellinor. “I think
there is some design in all she utters.”

“I don’t know how it is, but the words and sight of that woman have
struck a damp into my heart,” said Madeline, musingly.

“It would be wonderful if they had not, child,” said Lester, soothingly;
and he changed the conversation to other topics.

As concluding their walk, they re-entered the village, they encountered
that most welcome of all visitants to a country village, the postman--a
tall, thin pedestrian, famous for swiftness of foot, with a cheerful
face, a swinging gait, and Lester’s bag slung over his shoulder. Our
little party quickened their pace--one letter--for Madeline--Aram’s
handwriting. Happy blush--bright smile! Ah! no meeting ever gives the
delight that a letter can inspire in the short absences of a first love
“And none for me,” said Lester, in a disappointed tone, and Ellinor’s
hand hung more heavily on his arm, and her step moved slower. “It is
very strange in Walter; but I am more angry than alarmed.”

“Be sure,” said Ellinor, after a pause, “that it is not his fault.
Something may have happened to him. Good Heavens! if he has been
attacked again--those fearful highwaymen!”

“Nay,” said Lester, “the most probable supposition after all is, that he
will not write until his expectations are realized or destroyed. Natural
enough, too; it is what I should have done, if I had been in his place.”

“Natural,” said Ellinor, who now attacked where she before
defended--“Natural not to give us one line, to say he is well and
safe--natural; I could not have been so remiss!”

“Ay, child, you women are so fond of writing,--‘tis not so with us,
especially when we are moving about: it is always--‘Well, I must write
to-morrow--well, I must write when this is settled--well, I must write
when I arrive at such a place;’--and, meanwhile, time slips on, till
perhaps we get ashamed of writing at all. I heard a great man say
once, that ‘Men must have something effeminate about them to be good
correspondents;’ and ‘faith, I think it’s true enough on the whole.”

“I wonder if Madeline thinks so?” said Ellinor, enviously glancing at
her sister’s absorption, as, lingering a little behind, she devoured the
contents of her letter.

“He is coming home immediately, dear father; perhaps he may be here
to-morrow,” cried Madeline abruptly; “think of that, Ellinor! Ah! and he
writes in spirits!”--and the poor girl clapped her hands delightedly, as
the colour danced joyously over her cheek and neck.

“I am glad to hear it,” quoth Lester; “we shall have him at last beat
even Ellinor in gaiety!”

“That may easily be,” sighed Ellinor to herself, as she glided past them
into the house, and sought her own chamber.



CHAPTER V.

   A REFLECTION NEW AND STRANGE.--THE STREETS OF LONDON.--A GREAT
    MAN’S LIBRARY.--A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE STUDENT AND AN
        ACQUAINTANCE OF THE READER’S.--ITS RESULT.

          Rollo. Ask for thyself.
          Lat. What more can concern me than this?
              --The Tragedy of Rollo.

It was an evening in the declining autumn of 1758; some public ceremony
had occurred during the day, and the crowd, which it had assembled was
only now gradually lessening, as the shadows darkened along the streets.
Through this crowd, self-absorbed as usual--with them--not one
of them--Eugene Aram slowly wound his uncompanioned way. What an
incalculable field of dread and sombre contemplation is opened to every
man who, with his heart disengaged from himself, and his eyes accustomed
to the sharp observance of his tribe, walks through the streets of a
great city! What a world of dark and troublous secrets in the breast of
every one who hurries by you! Goethe has said somewhere, that each of
us, the best as the worst, hides within him something--some feeling,
some remembrance that, if known, would make you hate him. No doubt the
saying is exaggerated; but still, what a gloomy and profound sublimity
in the idea!--what a new insight it gives into the hearts of the common
herd!--with what a strange interest it may inspire us for the humblest,
the tritest passenger that shoulders us in the great thoroughfare of
life! One of the greatest pleasures in the world is to walk alone, and
at night, (while they are yet crowded,) through the long lamplit streets
of this huge metropolis. There, even more than in the silence of woods
and fields, seems to me the source of endless, various meditation.

There was that in Aram’s person which irresistibly commanded attention.
The earnest composure of his countenance, its thoughtful paleness, the
long hair falling back, the peculiar and estranged air of his whole
figure, accompanied as it was, by a mildness of expression, and that
lofty abstraction which characterises one who is a brooder over his
own heart--a ponderer and a soothsayer to his own dreams;--all these
arrested from time to time the second gaze of the passenger, and forced
on him the impression, simple as was the dress, and unpretending as was
the gait of the stranger, that in indulging that second gaze, he was in
all probability satisfying the curiosity which makes us love to fix our
regard upon any remarkable man.

At length Aram turned from the more crowded streets, and in a short
time paused before one of the most princely houses in London. It was
surrounded by a spacious court-yard, and over the porch, the arms of the
owner, with the coronet and supporters, were raised in stone.

“Is Lord--within?” asked Aram of the bluff porter who appeared at the
gate.

“My Lord is at dinner,” replied the porter, thinking the answer quite
sufficient, and about to reclose the gate upon the unseasonable visitor.

“I am glad to find he is at home,” rejoined Aram, gliding past the
servant, with an air of quiet and unconscious command, and passing the
court-yard to the main building.

At the door of the house, to which you ascended by a flight of stone
steps, the valet of the nobleman--the only nobleman introduced in our
tale, and consequently the same whom we have presented to our reader in
the earlier part of this work, happened to be lounging and enjoying the
smoke of the evening air. High-bred, prudent, and sagacious, Lord--knew
well how often great men, especially in public life, obtain odium
for the rudeness of their domestics, and all those, especially about
himself, had been consequently tutored into the habits of universal
courtesy and deference, to the lowest stranger, as well as to the
highest guest. And trifling as this may seem, it was an act of morality
as well as of prudence. Few can guess what pain may be saved to poor
and proud men of merit by a similar precaution. The valet, therefore,
replied to Aram’s inquiry with great politeness; he recollected the name
and repute of Aram, and as the Earl, taking delight in the company of
men of letters, was generally easy of access to all such--the great
man’s great man instantly conducted the Student to the Earl’s library,
and informing him that his Lordship had not yet left the dining-room,
where he was entertaining a large party, assured him that he should be
informed of Aram’s visit the moment he did so.

Lord--was still in office: sundry boxes were scattered on the
floor; papers, that seemed countless, lay strewed over the immense
library-table; but here and there were books of a more seductive
character than those of business, in which the mark lately set, and
the pencilled note still fresh, showed the fondness with which men of
cultivated minds, though engaged in official pursuits, will turn, in
the momentary intervals of more arid and toilsome life, to those lighter
studies which perhaps they in reality the most enjoy.

One of these books, a volume of Shaftesbury, Aram carefully took up;
it opened of its own accord in that most beautiful and profound passage
which contains perhaps the justest sarcasm, to which that ingenious and
graceful reasoner has given vent.

“The very spirit of Faction, for the greatest part, seems to be no other
than the abuse or irregularity of that social love and common affection
which is natural to mankind--for the opposite of sociableness, is
selfishness, and of all characters, the thorough selfish one--is
the least forward in taking party. The men of this sort are, in this
respect, true men of moderation. They are secure of their temper, and
possess themselves too well to be in danger of entering warmly into any
cause, or engaging deeply with any side or faction.”

On the margin of the page was the following note, in the handwriting of
Lord--.

“Generosity hurries a man into party--philosophy keeps him aloof from
it; the Emperor Julian says in his epistle to Themistius, ‘If you
should form only three or four philosophers, you would contribute more
essentially to the happiness of mankind than many kings united.’ Yet,
if all men were philosophers, I doubt whether, though more men would be
virtuous, there would be so many instances of an extraordinary virtue.
The violent passions produce dazzling irregularities.”

The Student was still engaged with this note when the Earl entered the
room. As the door through which he passed was behind Aram, and he
trod with a soft step, he was not perceived by the Scholar till he had
reached him, and, looking over Aram’s shoulder, the Earl said:--“You
will dispute the truth of my remark, will you not? Profound calm is the
element in which you would place all the virtues.”

“Not all, my Lord,” answered Aram, rising, as the Earl now shook him by
the hand, and expressed his delight at seeing the Student again. Though
the sagacious nobleman had no sooner heard the Student’s name, than, in
his own heart, he was convinced that Aram had sought him for the purpose
of soliciting a renewal of the offers he had formerly refused; he
resolved to leave his visitor to open the subject himself, and appeared
courteously to consider the visit as a matter of course, made without
any other object than the renewal of the mutual pleasure of intercourse.

“I am afraid, my Lord,” said Aram, “that you are engaged. My visit can
be paid to-morrow if--” “Indeed,” said the Earl interrupting him,
and drawing a chair to the table, “I have no engagements which should
deprive me of the pleasure of your company. A few friends have indeed
dined with me, but as they are now with Lady--, I do not think they will
greatly miss me; besides, an occasional absence is readily forgiven in
us happy men of office--we, who have the honour of exciting the envy of
all England, for being made magnificently wretched.”

“I am glad you allow so much, my Lord,” said Aram smiling, “I could not
have said more. Ambition only makes a favourite to make an ingrate;--she
has lavished her honours on Lord--, and see how he speaks of her
bounty?”

“Nay,” said the Earl, “I spoke wantonly, and stand corrected. I have no
reason to complain of the course I have chosen. Ambition, like any other
passion, gives us unhappy moments; but it gives us also an animated
life. In its pursuit, the minor evils of the world are not felt; little
crosses, little vexations do not disturb us. Like men who walk in
sleep, we are absorbed in one powerful dream, and do not even know the
obstacles in our way, or the dangers that surround us: in a word, we
have no private life. All that is merely domestic, the anxiety and the
loss which fret other men, which blight the happiness of other men, are
not felt by us: we are wholly public;--so that if we lose much comfort,
we escape much care.”

The Earl broke off for a moment; and then turning the subject, inquired
after the Lesters, and making some general and vague observations about
that family, came purposely to a pause.

Aram broke it:--“My Lord,” said he, with a slight, but not ungraceful,
embarrassment, “I fear that, in the course of your political life, you
must have made one observation, that he who promises to-day, will be
called upon to perform to-morrow. No man who has any thing to bestow,
can ever promise with impunity. Some time since, you tendered me offers
that would have dazzled more ardent natures than mine; and which I might
have advanced some claim to philosophy in refusing. I do not now come to
ask a renewal of those offers. Public life, and the haunts of men, are
as hateful as ever to my pursuits: but I come, frankly and candidly, to
throw myself on that generosity, which proffered to me then so large
a bounty. Certain circumstances have taken from me the small pittance
which supplied my wants;--I require only the power to pursue my quiet
and obscure career of study--your Lordship can afford me that power: it
is not against custom for the Government to grant some small annuity
to men of letters--your Lordship’s interest could obtain for me this
favour. Let me add, however, that I can offer nothing in return! Party
politics--Sectarian interests--are for ever dead to me: even my common
studies are of small general utility to mankind--I am conscious of
this--would it were otherwise!--Once I hoped it would be--but--” Aram
here turned deadly pale, gasped for breath, mastered his emotion, and
proceeded--“I have no great claim, then, to this bounty, beyond that
which all poor cultivators of the abstruse sciences can advance. It is
well for a country that those sciences should be cultivated; they are
not of a nature which is ever lucrative to the possessor--not of a
nature that can often be left, like lighter literature, to the fair
favour of the public--they call, perhaps, more than any species of
intellectual culture, for the protection of a government; and though in
me would be a poor selection, the principle would still be served, and
the example furnish precedent for nobler instances hereafter. I have
said all, my Lord!”

Nothing, perhaps, more affects a man of some sympathy with those who
cultivate letters, than the pecuniary claims of one who can advance them
with justice, and who advances them also with dignity. If the meanest,
the most pitiable, the most heart-sickening object in the world, is the
man of letters, sunk into the habitual beggar, practising the tricks,
incurring the rebuke, glorying in the shame, of the mingled mendicant
and swindler;--what, on the other hand, so touches, so subdues us, as
the first, and only petition, of one whose intellect dignifies our whole
kind; and who prefers it with a certain haughtiness in his very modesty;
because, in asking a favour to himself, he may be only asking the power
to enlighten the world?

“Say no more, Sir,” said the Earl, affected deeply, and giving
gracefully way to the feeling; “the affair is settled. Consider it
utterly so. Name only the amount of the annuity you desire.”

With some hesitation Aram named a sum so moderate, so trivial, that the
Minister, accustomed as he was to the claims of younger sons and widowed
dowagers--accustomed to the hungry cravings of petitioners without
merit, who considered birth the only just title to the right of
exactions from the public--was literally startled by the contrast. “More
than this,” added Aram, “I do not require, and would decline to accept.
We have some right to claim existence from the administrators of the
common stock--none to claim affluence.”

“Would to Heaven!” said the Earl, smiling, “that all claimants were like
you: pension lists would not then call for indignation; and ministers
would not blush to support the justice of the favours they conferred.
But are you still firm in rejecting a more public career, with all its
deserved emoluments and just honours? The offer I made you once, I renew
with increased avidity now.”

“‘Despiciam dites,’” answered Aram, “and, thanks to you, I may add,
‘despiciamque famem.’”



CHAPTER VI.

    THE THAMES AT NIGHT.--A THOUGHT.--THE STUDENT RE-SEEKS THE
      RUFFIAN.--A HUMAN FEELING EVEN IN THE WORST SOIL.

             Clem. ‘Tis our last interview!
             Stat. Pray Heav’n it be.
                 --Clemanthes.

On leaving Lord ------‘s, Aram proceeded, with a lighter and more rapid
step, towards a less courtly quarter of the metropolis.

He had found, on arriving in London, that in order to secure the annual
sum promised to Houseman, it had been necessary to strip himself even of
the small stipend he had hoped to retain. And hence his visit, and
hence his petition to Lord--. He now bent his way to the spot in which
Houseman had appointed their meeting. To the fastidious reader these
details of pecuniary matters, so trivial in themselves, may be a little
wearisome, and may seem a little undignified; but we are writing a
romance of real life, and the reader must take what is homely with what
may be more epic--the pettiness and the wants of the daily world, with
its loftier sorrows and its grander crimes. Besides, who knows how
darkly just may be that moral which shows us a nature originally high,
a soul once all a-thirst for truth, bowed (by what events?) to the
manoeuvres and the lies of the worldly hypocrite?

The night had now closed in, and its darkness was only relieved by the
wan lamps that vista’d the streets, and a few dim stars that struggled
through the reeking haze that curtained the great city. Aram had now
gained one of the bridges ‘that arch the royal Thames,’ and, in no time
dead to scenic attraction, he there paused for a moment, and looked
along the dark river that rushed below.

Oh, God! how many wild and stormy hearts have stilled themselves on that
spot, for one dread instant of thought--of calculation--of resolve--one
instant the last of life! Look at night along the course of that stately
river, how gloriously it seems to mock the passions of them that dwell
beside it;--Unchanged--unchanging--all around it quick death, and
troubled life; itself smiling up to the grey stars, and singing from
its deep heart as it bounds along. Beside it is the Senate, proud of its
solemn triflers, and there the cloistered Tomb, in which as the
loftiest honour, some handful of the fiercest of the strugglers may gain
forgetfulness and a grave! There is no moral to a great city like the
River that washes its walls.

There was something in the view before him, that suggested reflections
similar to these, to the strange and mysterious breast of the lingering
Student. A solemn dejection crept over him, a warning voice sounded
on his ear, the fearful Genius within him was aroused, and even in the
moment when his triumph seemed complete and his safety secured, he felt
it only as

      “The torrent’s smoothness ere it dash below.”

The mist obscured and saddened the few lights scattered on either side
the water. And a deep and gloomy quiet brooded round;

        “The very houses seemed asleep,
        And all that mighty heart was lying still.”

Arousing himself from his short and sombre reverie, Aram resumed his
way, and threading some of the smaller streets on the opposite side
of the water, arrived at last in the street in which he was to seek
Houseman.

It was a narrow and dark lane, and seemed altogether of a suspicious and
disreputable locality. One or two samples of the lowest description of
alehouses broke the dark silence of the spot;--from them streamed the
only lights which assisted the single lamp that burned at the entrance
of the alley; and bursts of drunken laughter and obscene merriment broke
out every now and then from these wretched theatres of Pleasure As Aram
passed one of them, a crowd of the lowest order of ruffian and harlot
issued noisily from the door, and suddenly obstructed his way; through
this vile press reeking with the stamp and odour of the most repellent
character of vice was the lofty and cold Student to force his path! The
darkness, his quick step, his downcast head, favoured his escape through
the unhallowed throng, and he now stood opposite the door of a small
and narrow house. A ponderous knocker adorned the door, which seemed of
uncommon strength, being thickly studded with large nails. He knocked
twice before his summons was answered, and then a voice from within,
cried, “Who’s there? What want you?”

“I seek one called Houseman.”

No answer was returned--some moments elapsed. Again the Student knocked,
and presently he heard the voice of Houseman himself call out, “Who’s
there--Joe the Cracksman?”

“Richard Houseman, it is I,” answered Aram, in a deep tone, and
suppressing the natural feelings of loathing and abhorrence.

Houseman uttered a quick exclamation; the door was hastily unbarred All
within was utterly dark; but Aram felt with a thrill of repugnance, the
gripe of his strange acquaintance on his hand.

“Ha! it is you!--Come in, come in!--let me lead you. Have a care--cling
to the wall--the right hand--now then--stay. So--so”--(opening the door
of a room, in which a single candle, wellnigh in its socket, broke
on the previous darkness;) “here we are! here we are! And, how goes
it--eh!”

Houseman, now bustling about, did the honours of his apartment with a
sort of complacent hospitality. He drew two rough wooden chairs, that
in some late merriment seemed to have been upset, and lay, cumbering the
unwashed and carpetless floor, in a position exactly contrary to that
destined them by their maker;--he drew these chairs near a table strewed
with drinking horns, half-emptied bottles, and a pack of cards. Dingy
caricatures of the large coarse fashion of the day, decorated the
walls; and carelessly thrown on another table, lay a pair of huge
horse-pistols, an immense shovel hat, a false moustache, a rouge-pot,
and a riding-whip. All this the Student comprehended with a rapid
glance--his lip quivered for a moment--whether with shame or scorn of
himself, and then throwing himself on the chair Houseman had set for
him, he said, “I have come to discharge my part of our agreement.”

“You are most welcome,” replied Houseman, with that tone of coarse, yet
flippant jocularity, which afforded to the mien and manner of Aram a
still stronger contrast than his more unrelieved brutality.

“There,” said Aram, giving him a paper; “there you will perceive that
the sum mentioned is secured to you, the moment you quit this country.
When shall that be? Let me entreat haste.”

“Your prayer shall be granted. Before day-break to-morrow, I will be on
the road.”

Aram’s face brightened.

“There is my hand upon it,” said Houseman, earnestly. “You may now rest
assured that you are free of me for life. Go home--marry--enjoy your
existence--as I have done. Within four days, if the wind set fair, I am
in France.”

“My business is done; I will believe you,” said Aram, frankly, and
rising.

“You may,” answered Houseman. “Stay--I will light you to the door. Devil
and death--how the d--d candle flickers.”

Across the gloomy passage, as the candle now flared--and now was
dulled--by quick fits and starts,--Houseman, after this brief
conference, reconducted the Student. And as Aram turned from the door,
he flung his arms wildly aloft, and exclaimed in the voice of one, from
whose heart a load is lifted--“Now, now, for Madeline. I breathe freely
at last.”

Meanwhile, Houseman turned musingly back, and regained his room,
muttering, “Yes--yes--my business here is also done! Competence and
safety abroad--after all, what a bugbear is this conscience!--fourteen
years have rolled away--and lo! nothing discovered! nothing known! And
easy circumstances--the very consequence of the deed--wait the remainder
of my days:--my child, too--my Jane--shall not want--shall not be a
beggar nor a harlot.”

So musing, Houseman threw himself contentedly on the chair, and the
last flicker of the expiring light, as it played upward on his rugged
countenance--rested on one of those self-hugging smiles, with which a
sanguine man contemplates a satisfactory future.

He had not been long alone, before the door opened; and a woman with
a light in her hand appeared. She was evidently intoxicated, and
approached Houseman with a reeling and unsteady step.

“How now, Bess? drunk as usual. Get to bed, you she shark, go!”

“Tush, man, tush! don’t talk to your betters,” said the woman, sinking
into a chair; and her situation, disgusting as it was, could not conceal
the rare, though somewhat coarse beauty of her face and person.

Even Houseman, (his heart being opened, as it were, by the cheering
prospects of which his soliloquy had indulged the contemplation,) was
sensible of the effect of the mere physical attraction, and drawing his
chair closer to her, he said in a tone less harsh than usual.

“Come, Bess, come, you must correct that d--d habit of yours; perhaps I
may make a lady of you after all. What if I were to let you take a trip
with me to France, old girl, eh? and let you set off that handsome face,
for you are devilish handsome, and that’s the truth of it, with some of
the French gewgaws you women love. What if. I were? would you be a good
girl, eh?”

“I think I would, Dick,--I think I would,” replied the woman, showing
a set of teeth as white as ivory, with pleasure partly at the flattery,
partly at the proposition: “you are a good fellow, Dick, that you are.”

“Humph!” said Houseman, whose hard, shrewd mind was not easily cajoled,
“but what’s that paper in your bosom, Bess? a love-letter, I’ll swear.”

“‘Tis to you then; came to you this morning, only somehow or other, I
forgot to give it you till now!”

“Ha! a letter to me?” said Houseman, seizing the epistle in question.
“Hem! the Knaresbro’ postmark--my mother-in-law’s crabbed hand, too!
what can the old crone want?”

He opened the letter, and hastily scanning its contents, started up.

“Mercy, mercy!” cried he, “my child is ill, dying. I may never see her
again,--my only child,--the only thing that loves me,--that does not
loath me as a villain!”

“Heyday, Dicky!” said the woman, clinging to him, “don’t take on so, who
so fond of you as me?--what’s a brat like that!”

“Curse on you, hag!” exclaimed Houseman, dashing her to the ground with
a rude brutality, “you love me! Pah! My child,--my little Jane,--my
pretty Jane,--my merry Jane,--my innocent Jane--I will seek her
instantly--instantly; what’s money? what’s ease,--if--if--” And the
father, wretch, ruffian as he was, stung to the core of that last
redeeming feeling of his dissolute nature, struck his breast with his
clenched hand, and rushed from the room--from the house.



CHAPTER VII.

      MADELINE, HER HOPES.--A MILD AUTUMN CHARACTERISED.
         --A LANDSCAPE.--A RETURN.

          ‘Tis late, and cold--stir up the fire,
          Sit close, and draw the table nigher;
          Be merry and drink wine that’s old,
          A hearty medicine ‘gainst a cold,
          Welcome--welcome shall fly round!
        --Beaumont and Fletcher: Song in the Lover’s Progress.

As when the Great Poet,--

          Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detained
          In that obscure sojourn; while, in his flight
          Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
          He sang of chaos, and eternal night:--

As when, revisiting the “Holy Light, offspring of heaven first-born,”
 the sense of freshness and glory breaks upon him, and kindles into
the solemn joyfulness of adjuring song: so rises the mind from the
contemplation of the gloom and guilt of life, “the utter and the middle
darkness,” to some pure and bright redemption of our nature--some
creature of “the starry threshold,” “the regions mild of calm and serene
air.” Never was a nature more beautiful and soft than that of Madeline
Lester--never a nature more inclined to live “above the smoke and stir
of this dim spot, which men call earth”--to commune with its own high
and chaste creations of thought--to make a world out of the emotions
which this world knows not--a paradise, which sin, and suspicion, and
fear, had never yet invaded--where God might recognise no evil, and
Angels forebode no change.

Aram’s return was now daily, nay, even hourly expected. Nothing
disturbed the soft, though thoughtful serenity, with which his betrothed
relied upon the future. Aram’s letters had been more deeply impressed
with the evidence of love, than even his spoken vows: those letters
had diffused not so much an agitated joy, as a full and mellow light of
happiness over her heart. Every thing, even Nature, seemed inclined to
smile with approbation on her hopes. The autumn had never, in the memory
of man, worn so lovely a garment: the balmy and freshening warmth, which
sometimes characterises that period of the year, was not broken, as
yet, by the chilling winds, or the sullen mists, which speak to us so
mournfully of the change that is creeping over the beautiful world.
The summer visitants among the feathered tribe yet lingered in flocks,
showing no intention of departure; and their song--but above all, the
song of the sky-lark--which, to the old English poet, was what the
nightingale is to the Eastern--seemed even to grow more cheerful as
the sun shortened his daily task;--the very mulberry-tree, and the rich
boughs of the horse chesnut, retained something of their verdure;
and the thousand glories of the woodland around Grassdale were still
chequered with the golden hues that herald, but beautify Decay. Still,
no news had been received of Walter: and this was the only source of
anxiety that troubled the domestic happiness of the Manor-house. But the
Squire continued to remember, that in youth he himself had been but a
negligent correspondent; and the anxiety he felt, assumed rather the
character of anger at Walter’s forgetfulness, than of fear for his
safety. There were moments when Ellinor silently mourned and pined; but
she loved her sister not less even than her cousin; and in the
prospect of Madeline’s happiness, did not too often question the future
respecting her own.

One evening, the sisters were sitting at their work by the window of
the little parlour, and talking over various matters of which the Great
World, strange as it may seem, never made a part.

They conversed in a low tone, for Lester sat by the hearth in which a
wood fire had been just kindled, and appeared to have fallen into
an afternoon slumber. The sun was sinking to repose, and the whole
landscape lay before them bathed in light, till a cloud passing
overhead, darkened the heavens just immediately above them, and one of
those beautiful sun showers, that rather characterize the spring than
autumn, began to fall; the rain was rather sharp, and descended with a
pleasant and freshening noise through the boughs, all shining in the sun
light; it did not, however, last long, and presently there sprang up
the glorious rainbow, and the voices of the birds, which a minute before
were mute, burst into a general chorus, the last hymn of the declining
day. The sparkling drops fell fast and gratefully from the trees, and
over the whole scene there breathed an inexpressible sense of gladness--

        “The odour and the harmony of eve.”

“How beautiful!” said Ellinor, pausing from her work--“Ah, see the
squirrel, is that our pet one? he is coming close to the window, poor
fellow! Stay, I will get him some bread.”

“Hush!” said Madeline, half rising, and turning quite pale, “Do you hear
a step without?”

“Only the dripping of the boughs,” answered Ellinor.

“No--no--it is he--it is he!” cried Madeline, the blood rushing back
vividly to her cheeks, “I know his step!”

And--yes--winding round the house till he stood opposite the window, the
sisters now beheld Eugene Aram; the diamond rain glittered on the locks
of his long hair; his cheeks were flushed by exercise, or more probably
the joy of return; a smile, in which there was no shade or sadness,
played over his features, which caught also a fictitious semblance of
gladness from the rays of the setting sun which fell full upon them.

“My Madeline, my love, my Madeline!” broke from his lips.

“You are returned--thank God--thank God--safe--well?”

“And happy!” added Aram, with a deep meaning in the tone of his voice.

“Hey day, hey day!” cried the Squire, starting up, “what’s this?
bless me, Eugene!--wet through too, seemingly! Nell, run and open the
door--more wood on the fire--the pheasants for supper--and stay, girl,
stay--there’s the key of the cellar--the twenty-one port--you know it.
Ah! ah! God willing, Eugene Aram shall not complain of his welcome back
to Grassdale!”



CHAPTER VIII.

   AFFECTION: ITS GODLIKE NATURE.--THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN ARAM
        AND MADELINE.--THE FATALIST FORGETS FATE.

          Hope is a lover’s staff; walk hence with that,
          And manage it against despairing thoughts.
              --Two Gentlemen of Verona.

If there be any thing thoroughly lovely in the human heart, it is
Affection! All that makes hope elevated, or fear generous, belongs to
the capacity of loving. For my own part, I do not wonder, in looking
over the thousand creeds and sects of men, that so many religionists
have traced their theology,--that so many moralists have wrought their
system from--Love. The errors thus originated have something in them
that charms us even while we smile at the theology, or while we neglect
the system. What a beautiful fabric would be human nature--what a divine
guide would be human reason--if Love were indeed the stratum of the
one, and the inspiration of the other! What a world of reasonings, not
immediately obvious, did the sage of old open to our inquiry, when he
said the pathetic was the truest part of the sublime. Aristides, the
painter, created a picture in which an infant is represented sucking a
mother wounded to the death, who, even in that agony, strives to prevent
the child from injuring itself by imbibing the blood mingled with the
milk. [Note: Intelligitur sentire mater et timere, ne mortuo lacte
sanguinem lambat.] How many emotions, that might have made us
permanently wiser and better, have we lost in losing that picture!

Certainly, Love assumes a more touching and earnest semblance, when we
find it in some retired and sequestered hollow of the world; when it is
not mixed up with the daily frivolities and petty emotions of which a
life passed in cities is so necessarily composed: we cannot but believe
it a deeper and a more absorbing passion: perhaps we are not always
right in the belief.

Had one of that order of angels to whom a knowledge of the future, or
the seraphic penetration into the hidden heart of man is forbidden,
stayed his wings over the lovely valley in which the main scene of
our history has been cast, no spectacle might have seemed to him more
appropriate to that lovely spot, or more elevated in the character of
its tenderness above the fierce and short-lived passions of the ordinary
world, than the love that existed between Madeline and her betrothed.
Their natures seemed so suited to each other! the solemn and undiurnal
mood of the one was reflected back in hues so gentle, and yet so
faithful, from the purer, but scarce less thoughtful character of the
other! Their sympathies ran through the same channel, and mingled in a
common fount; and whatever was dark and troubled in the breast of Aram,
was now suffered not to appear. Since his return, his mood was brighter
and more tranquil; and he seemed better fitted to appreciate and respond
to the peculiar tenderness of Madeline’s affection. There are some
stars which, viewed by the naked eye, seem one, but in reality are two
separate orbs revolving round each other, and drinking, each from each,
a separate yet united existence: such stars seemed a type of them.

Had anything been wanting to complete Madeline’s happiness, the change
in Aram supplied the want. The sudden starts, the abrupt changes of mood
and countenance, that had formerly characterized him, were now scarcely,
if ever, visible. He seemed to have resigned himself with confidence
to the prospects of the future, and to have forsworn the haggard
recollections of the past; he moved, and looked, and smiled like other
men; he was alive to the little circumstances around him, and no longer
absorbed in the contemplation of a separate and strange existence within
himself. Some scattered fragments of his poetry bear the date of this
time: they are chiefly addressed to Madeline, and, amidst the vows
of love, a spirit, sometimes of a wild and bursting--sometimes of a
profound and collected happiness, are visible. There is great beauty in
many of these fragments, and they bear a stronger impress of heart--they
breathe more of nature and truth, than the poetry that belongs of right
to that time.

And thus day rolled on day, till it was now the eve before their
bridals. Aram had deemed it prudent to tell Lester, that he had sold his
annuity, and that he had applied to the Earl for the pension which we
have seen he had been promised. As to his supposed relation--the illness
he had created he suffered now to cease; and indeed the approaching
ceremony gave him a graceful excuse for turning the conversation away
form any topics that did not relate to Madeline, or to that event.

It was the eve before their marriage; Aram and Madeline were walking
along the valley that led to the house of the former.

“How fortunate it is!” said Madeline, “that our future residence will
be so near my father’s. I cannot tell you with what delight he looks
forward to the pleasant circle we shall make. Indeed, I think he would
scarce have consented to our wedding, if it had separated us from him.”

Aram stopped, and plucked a flower.

“Ah! indeed, indeed, Madeline! Yet in the course of the various changes
of life, how more than probable it is that we shall be divided from
him--that we shall leave this spot.”

“It is possible, certainly; but not probable, is it, Eugene?”

“Would it grieve thee irremediably, dearest, were it so?” rejoined Aram,
evasively.

“Irremediably! What could grieve me irremediably, that did not happen to
you?”

“Should, then, circumstances occur to induce us to leave this part of
the country, for one yet more remote, you could submit cheerfully to the
change?”

“I should weep for my father--I should weep for Ellinor; but--”

“But what?”

“I should comfort myself in thinking that you would then be yet more to
me than ever!”

“Dearest!”

“But why do you speak thus; only to try me? Ah! that is needless.”

“No, my Madeline; I have no doubt of your affection. When you loved such
as me, I knew at once how blind, how devoted must be that love. You were
not won through the usual avenues to a woman’s heart; neither wit nor
gaiety, nor youth nor beauty, did you behold in me. Whatever attracted
you towards me, that which must have been sufficiently powerful to
make you overlook these ordinary allurements, will be also sufficiently
enduring to resist all ordinary changes. But listen, Madeline. Do not
yet ask me wherefore; but I fear, that a certain fatality will constrain
us to leave this spot, very shortly after our wedding.”

“How disappointed my poor father will be!” said Madeline, sighing.

“Do not, on any account, mention this conversation to him, or to
Ellinor; ‘sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.’”

Madeline wondered, but said no more. There was a pause for some minutes.

“Do you remember,” observed Madeline, “that it was about here we met
that strange man whom you had formerly known?”

“Ha! was it?--Here, was it?”

“What has become of him?”

“He is abroad, I hope,” said Aram, calmly. “Yes, let me think; by this
time he must be in France. Dearest, let us rest here on this dry mossy
bank for a little while;” and Aram drew his arm round her waist, and,
his countenance brightening as if with some thought of increasing joy,
he poured out anew those protestations of love, and those anticipations
of the future, which befitted the eve of a morrow so full of auspicious
promise.

The heaven of their fate seemed calm and glowing, and Aram did not dream
that the one small cloud of fear which was set within it, and which he
alone beheld afar, and unprophetic of the storm, was charged with the
thunderbolt of a doom, he had protracted, not escaped.



CHAPTER IX.

   WALTER AND THE CORPORAL ON THE ROAD.--THE EVENING SETS IN.--
   THE GIPSEY TENTS.--ADVENTURE WITH THE HORSEMAN.--THE CORPORAL
       DISCOMFITED, AND THE ARRIVAL AT KNARESBOROUGH.

          Long had he wandered, when from far he sees
          A ruddy flame that gleamed betwixt the trees.
        .... Sir Gawaine prays him tell
          Where lies the road to princely Corduel.
              --The Knight of the Sword.

“Well, Bunting, we are not far from our night’s resting-place,” said
Walter, pointing to a milestone on the road.

“The poor beast will be glad when we gets there, your honour,” answered
the Corporal, wiping his brows.

“Which beast, Bunting?”

“Augh!--now your honour’s severe! I am glad to see you so merry.”

Walter sighed heavily; there sat no mirth at his heart at that moment.

“Pray Sir,” said the Corporal after a pause, “if not too bold, has your
honour heard how they be doing at Grassdale?”

“No, Bunting; I have not held any correspondence with my uncle since our
departure. Once I wrote to him on setting off to Yorkshire, but I could
give him no direction to write to me again. The fact is, that I have
been so sanguine in this search, and from day to day I have been so led
on in tracing a clue, which I fear is now broken, that I have constantly
put off writing till I could communicate that certain intelligence which
I flattered myself I should be able ere this to procure. However, if we
are unsuccessful at Knaresbro’ I shall write from that place a detailed
account of our proceedings.”

“And I hopes you will say as how I have given your honour satisfaction.”

“Depend upon that.”

“Thank you Sir, thank you humbly; I would not like the Squire to think
I’m ungrateful!--augh,--and mayhap I may have more cause to be grateful
by and by, whenever the Squire, God bless him, in consideration of your
honour’s good offices, should let me have the bit cottage rent free.”

“A man of the world, Bunting; a man of the world!”

“Your honour’s mighty obleeging,” said the Corporal, putting his hand
to his hat; “I wonders,” renewed he, after a short pause, “I wonders how
poor neighbour Dealtry is. He was a sufferer last year; I should like to
know how Peter be getting on--‘tis a good creature.”

Somewhat surprised at this sudden sympathy on the part of the Corporal,
for it was seldom that Bunting expressed kindness for any one, Walter
replied,--

“When I write, Bunting, I will not fail to inquire how Peter Dealtry
is;--does your kind heart suggest any other message to him?”

“Only to ask arter Jacobina, poor thing; she might get herself into
trouble if little Peter fell sick and neglected her like--augh. And I
hopes as how Peter airs the bit cottage now and then; but the Squire,
God bless him, will see to that, and the tato garden, I’m sure.”

“You may rely on that, Bunting,” said Walter sinking into a reverie,
from which he was shortly roused by the Corporal.

“I’spose Miss Madeline be married afore now, your honour: well, pray
Heaven she be happy with that ere larned man!”

Walter’s heart beat faster for a moment at this sudden remark, but
he was pleased to find that the time when the thought of Madeline’s
marriage was accompanied with painful emotion was entirely gone by; the
reflection however induced a new train of idea, and without replying to
the Corporal, he sank into a deeper meditation than before.

The shrewd Bunting saw that it was not a favourable moment for renewing
the conversation; he therefore suffered his horse to fall back, and
taking a quid from his tobacco-box, was soon as well entertained as his
master. In this manner they rode on for about a couple of miles, the
evening growing darker as they proceeded, when a green opening in the
road brought them within view of a gipsy’s encampment; the scene was so
sudden and so picturesque, that it aroused the young traveller from his
reverie, and as his tired horse walked slowly on, the bridle about its
neck, he looked with an earnest eye on the vagrant settlement beside his
path. The moon had just risen above a dark copse in the rear, and cast
a broad, deep shadow along the green, without lessening the vivid effect
of the fires which glowed and sparkled in the darker recess of the waste
land, as the gloomy forms of the Egyptians were seen dimly cowering
round the blaze. A scene of this sort is perhaps one of the most
striking that the green lanes of Old England afford,--to me it has
always an irresistible attraction, partly from its own claims, partly
from those of association. When I was a mere boy, and bent on a solitary
excursion over parts of England and Scotland, I saw something of that
wild people,--though not perhaps so much as the ingenious George Hanger,
to whose memoirs the reader may be referred, for some rather amusing
pages on gipsy life. As Walter was still eyeing the encampment, he in
return had not escaped the glance of an old crone, who came running
hastily up to him, and begged permission to tell his fortune and to have
her hand crossed with silver.

Very few men under thirty ever sincerely refuse an offer of this sort.
Nobody believes in these predictions, yet every one likes hearing them:
and Walter, after faintly refusing the proposal twice, consented the
third time; and drawing up his horse submitted his hand to the old lady.
In the mean while, one of the younger urchins who had accompanied her
had run to the encampments for a light, and now stood behind the old
woman’s shoulder, rearing on high a pine brand, which cast over the
little group a red and weird-like glow.

The reader must not imagine we are now about to call his credulity in
aid to eke out any interest he may feel in our story; the old crone was
but a vulgar gipsy, and she predicted to Walter the same fortune she
always predicted to those who paid a shilling for the prophecy--an
heiress with blue eyes--seven children--troubles about the epoch of
forty-three, happily soon over--and a healthy old age with an easy
death. Though Walter was not impressed with any reverential awe for
these vaticinations, he yet could not refrain from inquiring, whether
the journey on which he was at present bent was likely to prove
successful in its object.

“‘Tis an ill night,” said the old woman, lifting up her wild face and
elfin locks with a mysterious air--“‘Tis an ill night for them as seeks,
and for them as asks.--He’s about--”

“He--who?”

“No matter!--you may be successful, young Sir, yet wish you had not been
so. The moon thus, and the wind there--promise that you will get your
desires, and find them crosses.”

The Corporal had listened very attentively to these predictions, and was
now about to thrust forth his own hand to the soothsayer, when from
a cross road to the right came the sound of hoofs, and presently a
horseman at full trot pulled up beside them.

“Hark ye, old she Devil, or you, Sirs--is this the road to Knaresbro’?”

The Gipsy drew back, and gazed on the countenance of the rider, on which
the red glare of the pine-brand shone full.

“To Knaresbro’, Richard, the dare-devil? Ay, and what does the ramping
bird want in the ould nest? Welcome back to Yorkshire, Richard, my ben
cove!”

“Ha!” said the rider, shading his eyes with his hand, as he returned
the gaze of the Gipsy--“is it you, Bess Airlie: your welcome is like
the owl’s, and reads the wrong way. But I must not stop. This takes to
Knaresbro’ then?”

“Straight as a dying man’s curse to hell,” replied the crone, in that
metaphorical style in which all her tribe love to speak, and of which
their proper language is indeed almost wholly composed.

The horseman answered not, but spurred on.

“Who is that?” asked Walter earnestly, as the old woman stretched her
tawny neck after the rider.

“An ould friend, Sir,” replied the Egyptian, drily. “I have not seen
him these fourteen years; but it is not Bess Airlie who is apt to forgit
friend or foe. Well, Sir, shall I tell your honour’s good luck?”--(Here
she turned to the Corporal, who sat erect on his saddle with his hand on
his holster)--“the colour of the lady’s hair--and--”

“Hold your tongue, you limb of Satan!” interrupted the Corporal
fiercely, as if his whole tide of thought, so lately favourable to the
Soothsayer, had undergone a deadly reversion. “Please your honour, it’s
getting late, we had better be jogging!”

“You are right,” said Walter spurring his jaded horse, and nodding his
adieu to the Gipsy,--he was soon out of sight of the encampment.

“Sir,” said the Corporal joining his master, “that is a man as I have
seed afore; I knowed his ugly face again in a crack--‘tis the man what
came to Grassdale arter Mr. Aram, and we saw arterwards the night we
chanced on Sir Peter Thingumybob.”

“Bunting,” said Walter, in a low voice, “I too have been trying to recal
the face of that man, and I too am persuaded I have seen it before. A
fearful suspicion, amounting almost to conviction, creeps over me, that
the hour in which I last saw it was one when my life was in peril. In a
word, I do believe that I beheld that face bending over me on the night
when I lay under the hedge, and so nearly escaped murder! If I am right,
it was, however, the mildest of the ruffians; the one who counselled his
comrades against despatching me.”

The Corporal shuddered.

“Pray, Sir!” said he, after a moment’s pause, “do see if your pistols
are primed--so--so. ‘Tis not out o’ nature that the man may have some
‘complices hereabout, and may think to way-lay us. The old Gipsy,
too, what a face she had! depend on it, they are two of a
trade--augh!--bother!--whaugh!”

And the Corporal grunted his most significant grunt.

“It is not at all unlikely, Bunting; and as we are now not far from
Knaresbro’, it will be prudent to ride on as fast as our horses will
allow us. Keep up alongside.”

“Certainly--I’ll purtect your honour,” said the Corporal, getting on
that side where the hedge being thinnest, an ambush was less likely to
be laid. “I care more for your honour’s safety than my own, or what a
brute I should be--augh!”

The master and man had trotted on for some little distance, when they
perceived a dark object moving along by the grass on the side of the
road. The Corporal’s hair bristled--he uttered an oath, which by him was
always intended for a prayer. Walter felt his breath grow a little
thick as he watched the motions of the object so imperfectly beheld;
presently, however, it grew into a man on horseback, trotting very
slowly along the grass; and as they now neared him, they recognised the
rider they had just seen, whom they might have imagined, from the pace
at which he left them before, to have been considerably a-head of them.

The horseman turned round as he saw them.

“Pray, gentlemen,” said he, in a tone of great and evident anxiety, “how
far is it to Knaresbro’?”

“Don’t answer him, your honour!” whispered the Corporal.

“Probably,” replied Walter, unheeding this advice, “you know this
road better than we do. It cannot however be above three or four miles
hence.”

“Thank you, Sir,--it is long since I have been in these parts. I used to
know the country, but they have made new roads and strange enclosures,
and I now scarcely recognise any thing familiar. Curse on this brute!
curse on it, I say!” repeated the horseman through his ground teeth in
a tone of angry vehemence, “I never wanted to ride so quick before,
and the beast has fallen as lame as a tree. This comes of trying to go
faster than other folks.--Sir, are you a father?”

This abrupt question, which was uttered in a sharp, strained voice,
a little startled Walter. He replied shortly in the negative, and
was about to spur onward, when the horseman continued--and there was
something in his voice and manner that compelled attention: “And I am
in doubt whether I have a child or not.--By G--! it is a bitter gnawing
state of mind.--I may reach Knaresbro’ to find my only daughter dead,
Sir!--dead!”

Despite of Walter’s suspicions of the speaker, he could not but feel a
thrill of sympathy at the visible distress with which these words were
said.

“I hope not,” said he involuntarily.

“Thank you, Sir,” replied the Horseman, trying ineffectually to spur
on his steed, which almost came down at the effort to proceed. “I have
ridden thirty miles across the country at full speed, for they had no
post-horses at the d--d place where I hired this brute. This was the
only creature I could get for love or money; and now the devil only
knows how important every moment may be.--While I speak, my child
may breathe her last!--” and the man brought his clenched fist on the
shoulder of his horse in mingled spite and rage.

“All sham, your honour,” whispered the Corporal.

“Sir,” cried the horseman, now raising his voice, “I need not have asked
if you had been a father--if you had, you would have had compassion on
me ere this,--you would have lent me your own horse.”

“The impudent rogue!” muttered the Corporal.

“Sir,” replied Walter, “it is not to the tale of every stranger that a
man gives belief.”

“Belief!--ah, well, well, ‘tis no matter,” said the horseman, sullenly.
“There was a time, man, when I would have forced what I now solicit; but
my heart’s gone. Ride on, Sir--ride on,--and the curse of--”

“If,” interrupted Walter, irresolutely--“if I could believe your
statement:--but no. Mark me, Sir: I have reasons--fearful reasons, for
imagining you mean this but as a snare!”

“Ha!” said the horseman, deliberately, “have we met before?”

“I believe so.”

“And you have had cause to complain of me? It may be--it may be: but
were the grave before me, and if one lie would smite me into it, I
solemnly swear that I now utter but the naked truth.”

“It would be folly to trust him, Bunting?” said Walter, turning round to
his attendant.

“Folly!--sheer madness--bother!”

“If you are the man I take you for,” said Walter, “you once lifted
your voice against the murder, though you assisted in the robbery of a
traveller:--that traveller was myself. I will remember the mercy--I will
forget the outrage: and I will not believe that you have devised this
tale as a snare. Take my horse, Sir; I will trust you.”

Houseman, for it was he, flung himself instantly from his saddle. “I
don’t ask God to bless you: a blessing in my mouth would be worse than a
curse. But you will not repent this: you will not repent it!”

Houseman said these few words with a palpable emotion; and it was more
striking on account of the evident coarseness and hardened vulgarity of
his nature. In a moment more he had mounted Walter’s horse, and turning
ere he sped on, inquired at what place at Knaresborough the horse should
be sent. Walter directed him to the principal inn; and Houseman, waving
his hand, and striking his spurs into the animal, wearied as it was, was
out of sight in a moment.

“Well, if ever I seed the like!” quoth the Corporal. “Lira, lira, la,
la, la! lira, lara, la, la, la!--augh!--whaugh!--bother!”

“So my good-nature does not please you, Bunting.”

“Oh, Sir, it does not sinnify: we shall have our throats cut--that’s
all.

“What! you don’t believe the story.”

“I? Bless your honour, I am no fool.”

“Bunting!”

“Sir.”

“You forget yourself.”

“Augh!”

“So you don’t think I should have lent the horse?”

“Sartainly not.”

“On occasions like these, every man ought to take care of himself?
Prudence before generosity?”

“Of a sartainty, Sir.”

“Dismount, then,--I want my horse. You may shift with the lame one.”

“Augh, Sir,--baugh!”

“Rascal, dismount, I say!” said Walter angrily: for the Corporal was one
of those men who aim at governing their masters; and his selfishness now
irritated Walter as much as his impertinent tone of superior wisdom.

The Corporal hesitated. He thought an ambuscade by the road of certain
occurrence; and he was weighing the danger of riding a lame horse
against his master’s displeasure. Walter, perceiving he demurred, was
seized with so violent a resentment, that he dashed up to the Corporal,
and, grasping him by the collar, swung him, heavy as he was,--being
wholly unprepared for such force,--to the ground.

Without deigning to look at his condition, Walter mounted the sound
horse, and throwing the bridle of the lame one over a bough, left the
Corporal to follow at his leisure.

There is not perhaps a more sore state of mind than that which we
experience when we have committed an act we meant to be generous, and
fear to be foolish.

“Certainly,” said Walter, soliloquizing, “certainly the man is a rascal:
yet he was evidently sincere in his emotion. Certainly he was one of the
men who robbed me; yet, if so, he was also the one who interceded for
my life. If I should now have given strength to a villain;--if I should
have assisted him to an outrage against myself! What more probable? Yet,
on the other hand, if his story be true;--if his child be dying,--and
if, through my means, he obtain a last interview with her! Well, well,
let me hope so!”

Here he was joined by the Corporal, who, angry as he was, judged it
prudent to smother his rage for another opportunity; and by favoring his
master with his company, to procure himself an ally immediately at hand,
should his suspicions prove true. But for once, his knowledge of the
world deceived him: no sign of living creature broke the loneliness of
the way. By and by the lights of the town gleamed upon them; and, on
reaching the inn, Walter found his horse had been already sent there,
and, covered with dust and foam, was submitting itself to the tutelary
hands of the hostler.



CHAPTER X.

   WALTER’S REFLECTIONS.--MINE HOST.--A GENTLE CHARACTER AND A
    GREEN OLD AGE.--THE GARDEN, AND THAT WHICH IT TEACHETH.--A
   DIALOGUE, WHEREIN NEW HINTS TOWARDS THE WISHED FOR DISCOVERY
     ARE SUGGESTED.--THE CURATE.--A VISIT TO A SPOT OF DEEP
           INTEREST TO THE ADVENTURER.

          I made a posy while the day ran by,
          Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
          My life within this band.
              --George Herbert.

                 The time approaches,
          That will with due precision make us know,
          What--
             --Macbeth.

The next morning Walter rose early, and descending into the court-yard
of the inn, he there met with the landlord, who--a hoe in his hand,--was
just about to enter a little gate that led into the garden. He held the
gate open for Walter.

“It is a fine morning, Sir; would you like to look into the garden,”
 said mine host, with an inviting smile.

Walter accepted the offer, and found himself in a large and well-stocked
garden, laid out with much neatness and some taste; the Landlord halted
by a parterre which required his attention, and Walter walked on in
solitary reflection.

The morning was serene and clear, but the frost mingled the freshness
with an “eager and nipping air,” and Walter unconsciously quickened his
step as he paced to and fro the straight walk that bisected the garden,
with his eyes on the ground, and his hat over his brows.

Now then he had reached the place where the last trace of his father
seemed to have vanished; in how wayward and strange a manner! If no
further clue could be here discovered by the inquiry he purposed; at
this spot would terminate his researches and his hopes. But the young
heart of the traveller was buoyed up with expectation. Looking back to
the events of the last few weeks, he thought he recognised the finger of
Destiny guiding him from step to step, and now resting on the scene
to which it had brought his feet. How singularly complete had been
the train of circumstance, which, linking things seemingly most
trifling--most dissimilar, had lengthened into one continuous chain of
evidence! the trivial incident that led him to the saddler’s shop; the
accident that brought the whip that had been his father’s, to his eye;
the account from Courtland, which had conducted him to this remote part
of the country; and now the narrative of Elmore leading him to the spot,
at which all inquiry seemed as yet to pause! Had he been led hither
only to hear repeated that strange tale of sudden and wanton
disappearance--to find an abrupt wall, a blank and impenetrable barrier
to a course, hitherto so continuously guided on? had he been the sport
of Fate, and not its instrument? No; he was filled with a serious
and profound conviction, that a discovery that he of all men was best
entitled by the unalienable claims of blood and birth to achieve was
reserved for him, and that this grand dream and nursed object of his
childhood was now about to be embodied and attained. He could not but
be sensible, too, that as he had proceeded on his high enterprise, his
character had acquired a weight and a thoughtful seriousness, which was
more fitted to the nature of that enterprise than akin to his earlier
temper. This consciousness swelled his bosom with a profound and steady
hope. When Fate selects her human agents, her dark and mysterious
spirit is at work within them; she moulds their hearts, she exalts their
energies, she shapes them to the part she has allotted them, and renders
the mortal instrument worthy of the solemn end.

Thus chewing the cud of his involved and deep reflection, the young
adventurer paused at last opposite his host, who was still bending over
his pleasant task, and every now and then, excited by the exercise and
the fresh morning air, breaking into snatches of some old rustic song.
The contrast in mood between himself and this!

“Unvexed loiterer by the world’s green ways” struck forcibly upon
him. Mine host, too, was one whose appearance was better suited to his
occupation than his profession. He might have told some three-and-sixty
years, but it was a comely and green old age; his cheek was firm and
ruddy, not with nightly cups, but the fresh witness of the morning
breezes it was wont to court; his frame was robust, not corpulent; and
his long grey hair, which fell almost to his shoulder, his clear blue
eyes, and a pleasant curve in a mouth characterized by habitual good
humour, completed a portrait that even many a dull observer would have
paused to gaze upon. And indeed the good man enjoyed a certain kind of
reputation for his comely looks and cheerful manner. His picture
had even been taken by a young artist in the neighbourhood; nay, the
likeness had been multiplied into engravings, somewhat rude and somewhat
unfaithful, which might be seen occupying no inconspicuous or dusty
corner in the principal printshop of the town: nor was mine host’s
character a contradiction to his looks. He had seen enough of life to be
intelligent, and had judged it rightly enough to be kind. He had passed
that line so nicely given to man’s codes in those admirable pages which
first added delicacy of tact to the strong sense of English composition.
“We have just religion enough,” it is said somewhere in the Spectator,
“to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Our good
landlord, peace be with his ashes! had never halted at this limit. The
country innkeeper might have furnished Goldsmith with a counterpart to
his country curate; his house was equally hospitable to the poor--his
heart equally tender, in a nature wiser than experience, to error,
and equally open, in its warm simplicity, to distress. Peace be with
thee--Our grandsire was thy patron--yet a patron thou didst not want.
Merit in thy capacity is seldom bare of reward. The public want no
indicators to a house like thine. And who requires a third person to
tell him how to appreciate the value of good nature and good cheer?

As Walter stood, and contemplated the old man bending over the sweet
fresh earth, (and then, glancing round, saw the quiet garden stretching
away on either side with its boundaries lost among the thick evergreen,)
something of that grateful and moralizing stillness with which some
country scene (the rura et silentium) generally inspires us, when we
awake to its consciousness from the troubled dream of dark and unquiet
thought, stole over his mind: and certain old lines which his uncle,
who loved the soft and rustic morality that pervades the ancient race of
English minstrels, had taught him, when a boy, came pleasantly into his
recollection,

      “With all, as in some rare-limn’d book, we see
      Here painted lectures of God’s sacred will.
      The daisy teacheth lowliness of mind;
      The camomile, we should be patient still;
      The rue, our hate of Vice’s poison ill;
      The woodbine, that we should our friendship hold;
      Our hope the savory in the bitterest cold.”
         --[Henry Peacham.]

The old man stopped from his work, as the musing figure of his guest
darkened the prospect before him, and said:

“A pleasant time, Sir, for the gardener!”

“Ay, is it so... you must miss the fruits and flowers of summer.”

“Well, Sir,--but we are now paying back the garden, for the good things
it has given us.--It is like taking care of a friend in old age, who has
been kind to us when he was young.”

Walter smiled at the quaint amiability of the idea.

“‘Tis a winning thing, Sir, a garden!--It brings us an object every day;
and that’s what I think a man ought to have if he wishes to lead a happy
life.”

“It is true,” said Walter; and mine host was encouraged to continue
by the attention and affable countenance of the stranger, for he was a
physiognomist in his way.

“And then, Sir, we have no disappointment in these objects:--the soil
is not ungrateful, as, they say, men are--though I have not often found
them so, by the by. What we sow we reap. I have an old book, Sir, lying
in my little parlour, all about fishing, and full of so many pretty
sayings about a country life, and meditation, and so forth, that it does
one as much good as a sermon to look into it. But to my mind, all those
sayings are more applicable to a gardener’s life than a fisherman’s.”

“It is a less cruel life, certainly,” said Walter.

“Yes, Sir; and then the scenes one makes oneself, the flowers one plants
with one’s own hand, one enjoys more than all the beauties which don’t
owe us any thing; at least, so it seems to me. I have always been
thankful to the accident that made me take to gardening.”

“And what was that?”

“Why, Sir, you must know there was a great scholar, though he was but a
youth then, living in this town some years ago, and he was very curious
in plants and flowers and such like. I have heard the parson say, he
knew more of those innocent matters than any man in this county. At that
time I was not in so flourishing a way of business as I am at present. I
kept a little inn in the outskirts of the town; and having formerly been
a gamekeeper of my Lord--‘s, I was in the habit of eking out my little
profits by accompanying gentlemen in fishing or snipe-shooting. So, one
day, Sir, I went out fishing with a strange gentleman from London, and,
in a very quiet retired spot some miles off, he stopped and plucked some
herbs that seemed to me common enough, but which he declared were most
curious and rare things, and he carried them carefully away. I heard
afterwards he was a great herbalist, I think they call it, but he was a
very poor fisher. Well, Sir, I thought the next morning of Mr. Aram, our
great scholar and botanist, and thought it would please him to know of
these bits of grass: so I went and called upon him, and begged leave to
go and show the spot to him. So we walked there, and certainly, Sir, of
all the men that ever I saw, I never met one that wound round your heart
like this same Eugene Aram. He was then exceedingly poor, but he never
complained; and was much too proud for any one to dare to offer him
relief. He lived quite alone, and usually avoided every one in his
walks: but, Sir, there was something so engaging and patient in his
manner, and his voice, and his pale, mild countenance, which, young as
he was then, for he was not a year or two above twenty, was marked with
sadness and melancholy, that it quite went to your heart when you met
him or spoke to him.--Well, Sir, we walked to the place, and very much
delighted he seemed with the green things I shewed him, and as I was
always of a communicative temper, rather a gossip, Sir, my neighbours
say, I made him smile now and then by my remarks. He seemed pleased with
me, and talked to me going home about flowers, and gardening, and such
like; and after that, when we came across one another, he would not shun
me as he did others, but let me stop and talk to him; and then I asked
his advice about a wee farm I thought of taking, and he told me many
curious things which, sure enough, I found quite true, and brought me
in afterwards a deal of money But we talked much about gardening, for
I loved to hear him talk on those matters; and so, Sir, I was struck
by all he said, and could not rest till I took to gardening myself, and
ever since I have gone on, more pleased with it every day of my life.
Indeed, Sir, I think these harmless pursuits make a man’s heart better
and kinder to his fellow-creatures; and I always take more pleasure in
reading the Bible, specially the New Testament, after having spent the
day in the garden. Ah! well, I should like to know, what has become of
that poor gentleman.”

“I can relieve your honest heart about him. Mr. Aram is living in--,
well off in the world, and universally liked; though he still keeps to
his old habits of reserve.”

“Ay, indeed, Sir! I have not heard any thing that pleased me more this
many a day.”

“Pray,” said Walter, after a moment’s pause, “do you remember the
circumstance of a Mr. Clarke appearing in this town, and leaving it in a
very abrupt and mysterious manner?”

“Do I mind it, Sir? Yes, indeed. It made a great noise in
Knaresbro’--there were many suspicions of foul play about it. For my
part, I too had my thoughts, but that’s neither here nor there;” and the
old man recommenced weeding with great diligence.

“My friend,” said Walter, mastering his emotion; “you would serve me
more deeply than I can express, if you would give me any information,
any conjecture, respecting this--this Mr. Clarke. I have come hither,
solely to make inquiry after his fate: in a word, he is--or was--a near
relative of mine!”

The old man looked wistfully in Walter’s face. “Indeed,” said he,
slowly, “you are welcome, Sir, to all I know; but that is very little,
or nothing rather. But will you turn up this walk, Sir? it’s more
retired. Did you ever hear of one Richard Houseman?”

“Houseman! yes. He knew my poor--, I mean he knew Clarke; he said Clarke
was in his debt when he left the town so suddenly.”

The old man shook his head mysteriously, and looked round. “I will tell
you,” said he, laying his hand on Walter’s arm, and speaking in his
ear--“I would not accuse any one wrongfully, but I have my doubts that
Houseman murdered him.”

“Great God!” murmured Walter, clinging to a post for support. “Go
on--heed me not--heed me not--for mercy’s sake go on.”

“Nay, I know nothing certain--nothing certain, believe me,” said the
old man, shocked at the effect his words had produced: “it may be better
than I think for, and my reasons are not very strong, but you shall hear
them.

“Mr. Clarke, you know, came to this town to receive a legacy--you know
the particulars.”

Walter impatiently nodded assent.

“Well, though he seemed in poor health, he was a lively careless
man, who liked any company who would sit and tell stories, and drink
o’nights; not a silly man exactly, but a weak one. Now of all the idle
persons of this town, Richard Houseman was the most inclined to this
way of life. He had been a soldier--had wandered a good deal about the
world--was a bold, talking, reckless fellow--of a character thoroughly
profligate; and there were many stories afloat about him, though none
were clearly made out. In short, he was suspected of having occasionally
taken to the high road; and a stranger who stopped once at my little
inn, assured me privately, that though he could not positively swear to
his person, he felt convinced that he had been stopped a year before on
the London road by Houseman. Notwithstanding all this, as Houseman had
some respectable connections in the town--among his relations, by the
by, was Mr. Aram--as he was a thoroughly boon companion--a good shot--a
bold rider--excellent at a song, and very cheerful and merry, he was not
without as much company as he pleased; and the first night, he and Mr.
Clarke came together, they grew mighty intimate; indeed, it seemed as if
they had met before. On the night Mr. Clarke disappeared, I had been on
an excursion with some gentlemen, and in consequence of the snow which
had been heavy during the latter part of the day, I did not return to
Knaresbro’ till past midnight. In walking through the town, I perceived
two men engaged in earnest conversation: one of them, I am sure, was
Clarke; the other was wrapped up in a great coat, with the cape over his
face, but the watchman had met the same man alone at an earlier hour,
and putting aside the cape, perceived that it was Houseman. No one else
was seen with Clarke after that hour.”

“But was not Houseman examined?”

“Slightly; and deposed that he had been spending the night with Eugene
Aram; that on leaving Aram’s house, he met Clarke, and wondering that he
the latter, an invalid, should be out at so late an hour, he walked
some way with him, in order to learn the cause; but that Clarke seemed
confused, and was reserved, and on his guard, and at last wished him
good-b’ye abruptly, and turned away. That he, Houseman, had no doubt
he left the town that night, with the intention of defrauding his
creditors, and making off with some jewels he had borrowed from Mr.
Elmore.”

“But, Aram? was this suspicious, nay, abandoned character--this
Houseman, intimate with Aram?”

“Not at all; but being distantly related, and Houseman being a familiar,
pushing sort of a fellow, Aram could not, perhaps, always shake him off;
and Aram allowed that Houseman had spent the evening with him.”

“And no suspicion rested on Aram?”

The host turned round in amazement.--“Heavens above, no! One might as
well suspect the lamb of eating the wolf!”

But not thus thought Walter Lester; the wild words occasionally uttered
by the Student--his lone habits--his frequent starts and colloquy with
self, all of which had, even from the first, it has been seen, excited
Walter’s suspicion of former guilt, that had murdered the mind’s
wholesome sleep, now rushed with tenfold force upon his memory.

“But no other circumstance transpired? Is this your whole ground for
suspicion; the mere circumstance of Houseman’s being last seen with
Clarke?”

“Consider also the dissolute and bold character of Houseman. Clarke
evidently had his jewels and money with him--they were not left in the
house. What a temptation to one who was more than suspected of having
in the course of his life taken to plunder! Houseman shortly afterwards
left the country. He has never returned to the town since, though his
daughter lives here with his wife’s mother, and has occasionally gone up
to town to see him.”

“And Aram--he also left Knaresbro’ soon after this mysterious event?”

“Yes! an old Aunt at York, who had never assisted him during her life,
died and bequeathed him a legacy, about a month afterwards. On receiving
it, he naturally went to London--the best place for such clever
scholars.”

“Ha! But are you sure that the aunt died?--that the legacy was left?
Might this be no tale to give an excuse to the spending of money
otherwise acquired?”

Mine host looked almost with anger on Walter.

“It is clear,” said he, “you know nothing of Eugene Aram, or you would
not speak thus. But I can satisfy your doubts on this head. I knew the
old lady well, and my wife was at York when she died. Besides, every one
here knows something of the will, for it was rather an eccentric one.”

Walter paused irresolutely. “Will you accompany me,” he asked, “to the
house in which Mr. Clarke lodged,--and indeed to any other place where
it may be prudent to institute inquiry?”

“Certainly, Sir, with the biggest pleasure,” said mine host: “but you
must first try my dame’s butter and eggs. It is time to breakfast.”

We may suppose that Walter’s simple meal was soon over; and growing
impatient and restless to commence his inquiries, he descended from his
solitary apartment to the little back-room behind the bar, in which he
had, on the night before, seen mine host and his better-half at supper.
It was a sung, small, wainscoated room; fishing-rods were neatly
arranged against the wall, which was also decorated by a portrait of
the landlord himself, two old Dutch pictures of fruit and game, a long,
quaint-fashioned fowling-piece, and, opposite the fireplace, a noble
stag’s head and antlers. On the window-seat lay the Izaak Walton to
which the old man had referred; the Family Bible, with its green baize
cover, and the frequent marks peeping out from its venerable pages; and,
close nestling to it, recalling that beautiful sentence, “suffer the
little children to come unto me, and forbid them not,” several of those
little volumes with gay bindings, and marvellous contents of fay and
giant, which delight the hearth-spelled urchin, and which were “the
source of golden hours” to the old man’s grandchildren, in their respite
from “learning’s little tenements,”

      “Where sits the dame, disguised in look profound,
      And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.”
         --[Shenstone’s Schoolmistress.]

Mine host was still employed by a huge brown loaf and some baked pike;
and mine hostess, a quiet and serene old lady, was alternately regaling
herself and a large brindled cat from a plate of “toasten cheer.”

While the old man was hastily concluding his repast, a little knock at
the door was heard, and presently an elderly gentleman in black put his
head into the room, and, perceiving the stranger, would have drawn back;
but both landlady and landlord bustling up, entreated him to enter by
the appellation of Mr. Summers. And then, as the gentleman smilingly
yielded to the invitation, the landlady, turning to Walter, said: “Our
clergyman, Sir: and though I say it afore his face, there is not a
man who, if Christian vartues were considered, ought so soon to be a
bishop.”

“Hush! my good lady,” said Mr. Summers, laughing as he bowed to
Walter. “You see, Sir, that it is no trifling advantage to a Knaresbro’
reputation to have our hostess’s good word. But, indeed,” turning to the
landlady, and assuming a grave and impressive air, “I have little mind
for jesting now. You know poor Jane Houseman,--a mild, quiet, blue-eyed
creature, she died at daybreak this morning! Her father had come from
London expressly to see her: she died in his arms, and, I hear, he is
almost in a state of frenzy.”

The host and hostess signified their commiseration. “Poor little girl!”
 said the latter, wiping her eyes; “her’s was a hard fate, and she felt
it, child as she was. Without the care of a mother,--and such a father!
Yet he was fond of her.”

“My reason for calling on you was this,” renewed the Clergyman,
addressing the host: “you knew Houseman formerly; me he always shunned,
and, I fancy, ridiculed. He is in distress now, and all that is
forgotten. Will you seek him, and inquire if any thing in my power can
afford him consolation? He may be poor: I can pay for the poor child’s
burial. I loved her; she was the best girl at Mrs. Summers’ school.”

“Certainly, Sir, I will seek him,” said the landlord, hesitating; and
then, drawing the Clergyman aside, he informed him in a whisper of
his engagement with Walter, and with the present pursuit and meditated
inquiry of his guest; not forgetting to insinuate his suspicion of the
guilt of the man whom he was now called upon to compassionate.

The Clergyman mused a little, and then, approaching Walter, offered his
services in the stead of the Publican in so frank and cordial a manner,
that Walter at once accepted them.

“Let us come now, then,” said the good Curate--for he was but the
Curate--seeing Walter’s impatience; “and first we will go to the house
in which Clarke lodged; I know it well.”

The two gentlemen now commenced their expedition. Summers was no
contemptible antiquary; and he sought to beguile the nervous impatience
of his companion by dilating on the attractions of the antient and
memorable town to which his purpose had brought him;--

“Remarkable,” said the Curate, “alike in history and tradition: look
yonder” (pointing above, as an opening in the road gave to view the
frowning and beetled ruins of the shattered Castle); “you would be at
some loss to recognize now the truth of old Leland’s description of that
once stout and gallant bulwark of the North, when he ‘numbrid 11 or 12
towres in the walles of the Castel, and one very fayre beside in the
second area.’ In that castle, the four knightly murderers of the haughty
Becket (the Wolsey of his age) remained for a whole year, defying the
weak justice of the times. There, too, the unfortunate Richard the
Second,--the Stuart of the Plantagenets--passed some portion of his
bitter imprisonment. And there, after the battle of Marston Moor, waved
the banners of the loyalists against the soldiers of Lilburne. It was
made yet more touchingly memorable at that time, as you may have heard,
by an instance of filial piety. The town was greatly straitened for want
of provisions; a youth, whose father was in the garrison, was accustomed
nightly to get into the deep dry moat, climb up the glacis, and put
provisions through a hole, where the father stood ready to receive them.
He was perceived at length; the soldiers fired on him. He was taken
prisoner, and sentenced to be hanged in sight of the besieged, in order
to strike terror into those who might be similarly disposed to render
assistance to the garrison. Fortunately, however, this disgrace was
spared the memory of Lilburne and the republican arms. With great
difficulty, a certain lady obtained his respite; and after the conquest
of the place, and the departure of the troops, the adventurous son was
released.”

“A fit subject for your local poets,” said Walter, whom stories of this
sort, from the nature of his own enterprise, especially affected.

“Yes: but we boast but few minstrels since the young Aram left us. The
castle then, once the residence of Pierce Gaveston,--of Hubert III.--and
of John of Gaunt, was dismantled and destroyed. Many of the houses we
shall pass have been built from its massive ruins. It is singular, by
the way, that it was twice captured by men of the name of Lilburn, or
Lilleburn, once in the reign of Edward II., once as I have related.
On looking over historical records, we are surprised to find how often
certain names have been fatal to certain spots; and this reminds me, by
the way, that we boast the origin of the English Sibyl, the venerable
Mother Shipton. The wild rock, at whose foot she is said to have been
born, is worthy of the tradition.”

“You spoke just now,” said Walter, who had not very patiently suffered
the Curate thus to ride his hobby, “of Eugene Aram; you knew him well?”

“Nay: he suffered not any to do that! He was a remarkable youth. I have
noted him from his childhood upward, long before he came to Knaresbro’,
till on leaving this place, fourteen years back, I lost sight of
him.--Strange, musing, solitary from a boy! but what accomplishment of
learning he had reached! Never did I see one whom Nature so emphatically
marked to be GREAT. I often wonder that his name has not long ere this
been more universally noised abroad: whatever he attempted was stamped
with such signal success. I have by me some scattered pieces of poetry
when a boy; they were given me by his poor father, long since dead; and
are full of a dim, shadowy anticipation of future fame. Perhaps, yet,
before he dies,--he is still young,--the presentiment will be realized.
You too know him, then?”

“Yes! I have known him. Stay--dare I ask you a question, a fearful
question? Did suspicion ever, in your mind, in the mind of any one, rest
on Aram, as concerned in the mysterious disappearance of my--of Clarke?
His acquaintance with Houseman who was suspected; Houseman’s visit to
Aram that night; his previous poverty--so extreme, if I hear rightly;
his after riches--though they perhaps may be satisfactorily accounted
for; his leaving this town so shortly after the disappearance I refer
to;--these alone might not create suspicion in me, but I have seen the
man in moments of reverie and abstraction, I have listened to strange
and broken words, I have noted a sudden, keen, and angry susceptibility
to any unmeant excitation of a less peaceful or less innocent
remembrance. And there seems to me inexplicably to hang over his heart
some gloomy recollection, which I cannot divest myself from imagining to
be that of guilt.”

Walter spoke quickly, and in great though half suppressed excitement;
the more kindled from observing that as he spoke, Summers changed
countenance, and listened as with painful and uneasy attention.

“I will tell you,” said the Curate, after a short pause, (lowering his
voice)--“I will tell you: Aram did undergo examination--I was present at
it--but from his character and the respect universally felt for him, the
examination was close and secret. He was not, mark me, suspected of
the murder of the unfortunate Clarke, nor was any suspicion of murder
generally entertained until all means of discovering Clarke were found
wholly unavailing; but of sharing with Houseman, some part of the jewels
with which Clarke was known to have left the town. This suspicion of
robbery could not, however, be brought home, even to Houseman, and Aram
was satisfactorily acquitted from the imputation. But in the minds
of some present at that examination, a doubt lingered, and this doubt
certainly deeply wounded a man so proud and susceptible. This,
I believe, was the real reason of his quitting Knaresbro’ almost
immediately after that examination. And some of us, who felt for him
and were convinced of his innocence, persuaded the others to hush up the
circumstance of his examination, nor has it generally transpired, even
to this day, when the whole business is well nigh forgot. But as to his
subsequent improvement of circumstance, there is no doubt of his aunt’s
having left him a legacy sufficient to account for it.”

Walter bowed his head, and felt his suspicions waver, when the Curate
renewed.

“Yet it is but fair to tell you, who seem so deeply interested in the
fate of Clarke, that since that period rumours have reached my ear that
the woman at whose house Aram lodged has from time to time dropped words
that require explanation--hints that she could tell a tale--that
she knows more than men will readily believe--nay, once she was even
reported to have said that the life of Eugene Aram was in her power.”

“Father of mercy! and did Inquiry sleep on words so calling for its
liveliest examination?”

“Not wholly--on their being brought to me, I went to the house, but
found the woman, whose habits and character are low and worthless, was
abrupt and insolent in her manner; and after in vain endeavouring
to call forth some explanation of the words she was reported to have
uttered, I left the house fully persuaded that she had only given vent
to a meaningless boast, and that the idle words of a disorderly gossip
could not be taken as evidence against a man of the blameless character
and austere habits of Aram. Since, however, you have now re-awakened
investigation, we will visit her before you leave the town; and it may
be as well too, that Houseman should undergo a further investigation
before we suffer him to depart.”

“I thank you! I thank you--I will not let slip one thread of this dark
clue.”

“And now,” said the Curate, pointing to a decent house, “we have reached
the lodging Clarke occupied in the town!”

An old man of respectable appearance opened the door, and welcomed the
Curate and his companion with an air of cordial respect which attested
the well-deserved popularity of the former.

“We have come,” said the Curate, “to ask you some questions respecting
Daniel Clarke, whom you remember as your lodger. This gentleman is a
relation of his, and interested deeply in his fate!”

“What, Sir!” quoth the old man, “and have you, his relation, never heard
of Mr. Clarke since he left the town? Strange!--this room, this very
room was the one Mr. Clarke occupied, and next to this,--here--(opening
a door) was his bed-chamber!”

It was not without powerful emotion that Walter found himself thus
within the apartment of his lost father. What a painful, what a
gloomy, yet sacred interest every thing around instantly assumed! The
old-fashioned and heavy chairs--the brown wainscot walls--the little
cupboard recessed as it were to the right of the fire-place, and piled
with morsels of Indian china and long taper wine glasses--the small
window-panes set deep in the wall, giving a dim view of a bleak and
melancholy-looking garden in the rear--yea, the very floor he trod--the
very table on which he leant--the very hearth, dull and fireless as
it was, opposite his gaze--all took a familiar meaning in his eye, and
breathed a household voice into his ear. And when he entered the inner
room, how, even to suffocation, were those strange, half sad, yet not
all bitter emotions increased. There was the bed on which his father had
rested on the night before--what? perhaps his murder! The bed, probably
a relic from the castle, when its antique furniture was set up to public
sale, was hung with faded tapestry, and above its dark and polished
summit were hearselike and heavy trappings. Old commodes of rudely
carved oak, a discoloured glass in a japan frame, a ponderous arm-chair
of Elizabethan fashion, and covered with the same tapestry as the bed,
altogether gave that uneasy and sepulchral impression to the mind so
commonly produced by the relics of a mouldering and forgotten antiquity.

“It looks cheerless, Sir,” said the owner, “but then we have not had any
regular lodger for years; it is just the same as when Mr. Clarke lived
here. But bless you, Sir, he made the dull rooms look gay enough. He
was a blithesome gentleman. He and his friends, Mr. Houseman especially,
used to make the walls ring again when they were over their cups!”

“It might have been better for Mr. Clarke,” said the Curate, “had he
chosen his comrades with more discretion. Houseman was not a creditable,
perhaps not a safe companion.”

“That was no business of mine then,” quoth the lodging-letter; “but it
might be now, since I have been a married man!”

The Curate smiled, “Perhaps you, Mr. Moor, bore a part in those revels?”

“Why, indeed, Mr. Clarke would occasionally make me take a glass or so,
Sir.”

“And you must then have heard the conversations that took place between
Houseman and him? Did Mr. Clarke, ever, in those conversations, intimate
an intention of leaving the town soon? and where, if so, did he talk of
going?”

“Oh! first to London. I have often heard him talk of going to London,
and then taking a trip to see some relations of his in a distant part of
the country. I remember his caressing a little boy of my brother’s; you
know Jack, Sir, not a little boy now, almost as tall as this gentleman.
‘Ah,’ said he with a sort of sigh, ‘ah! I have a boy at home about this
age,--when shall I see him again?’”

“When indeed!” thought Walter, turning away his face at this anecdote,
to him so naturally affecting.

“And the night that Clarke left you, were you aware of his absence?”

“No! he went to his room at his usual hour, which was late, and the
next morning I found his bed had not been slept in, and that he was
gone--gone with all his jewels, money, and valuables; heavy luggage he
had none. He was a cunning gentleman; he never loved paying a bill. He
was greatly in debt in different parts of the town, though he had not
been here long. He ordered everything and paid for nothing.”

Walter groaned. It was his father’s character exactly; partly it might
be from dishonest principles superadded to the earlier feelings of
his nature; but partly also from that temperament at once careless and
procrastinating, which, more often than vice, loses men the advantage of
reputation.

“Then in your own mind, and from your knowledge of him,” renewed the
Curate, “you would suppose that Clarke’s disappearance was intentional;
that though nothing has since been heard of him, none of the blacker
rumours afloat were well founded?”

“I confess, Sir, begging this gentleman’s pardon who you say is a
relation, I confess I see no reason to think otherwise.”

“Was Mr. Aram, Eugene Aram, ever a guest of Clarke’s? Did you ever see
them together?”

“Never at this house. I fancy Houseman once presented Mr. Aram to
Clarke; and that they may have met and conversed some two or three
times, not more, I believe; they were scarcely congenial spirits, Sir.”

Walter having now recovered his self-possession, entered into the
conversation; and endeavoured by as minute an examination as his
ingenuity could suggest, to obtain some additional light upon the
mysterious subject so deeply at his heart. Nothing, however, of any
effectual import was obtained from the good man of the house. He had
evidently persuaded himself that Clarke’s disappearance was easily
accounted for, and would scarcely lend attention to any other suggestion
than that of Clarke’s dishonesty. Nor did his recollection of the
meetings between Houseman and Clarke furnish him with any thing worthy
of narration. With a spirit somewhat damped and disappointed, Walter,
accompanied by the Curate, recommenced his expedition.



CHAPTER XI.

  GRIEF IN A RUFFIAN.--THE CHAMBER OF EARLY DEATH.--A HOMELY YET MOMENTOUS
  CONFESSION.--THE EARTH’S SECRETS.--THE CAVERN.--THE ACCUSATION.

              ALL is not well;
      I doubt some foul play.
    ............
              Foul deeds will rise,
      Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.
                      --Hamlet.

As they passed through the street, they perceived three or four persons
standing round the open door of a house of ordinary description, the
windows of which were partially closed.

“It is the house,” said the curate, “in which Houseman’s daughter
died,--poor, poor child! Yet why mourn for the young? Better that the
light cloud should fade away into heaven with the morning breath, than
travel through the weary day to gather in darkness and end in storm.”

“Ah, sir!” said an old man, leaning on his stick and lifting his hat, in
obeisance to the curate, “the father is within, and takes on bitterly.
He drives them all away from the room, and sits moaning by the bedside,
as if he was a going out of his mind. Won’t your reverence go in to him
a bit?”

The curate looked at Walter inquiringly. “Perhaps,” said the latter,
“you had better go in: I will wait without.” While the curate hesitated,
they heard a voice in the passage; and presently Houseman was seen at
the far end, driving some women before him with vehement gesticulations.
“I tell you, ye hell-hags,” shrieked his harsh and now straining
voice, “that ye suffered her to die! Why did ye not send to London for
physicians? Am I not rich enough to buy my child’s life at any price? By
the living ___, I would have turned your very bodies into gold to have
saved her! But she’s DEAD! and I ___ Out of my sight; out of my way!”
 And with his hands clenched, his brows knit, and his head uncovered,
Houseman sallied forth from the door, and Walter recognized the
traveller of the preceding night. He stopped abruptly as he saw the
little knot without, and scowled round at each of them with a malignant
and ferocious aspect. “Very well, it’s very well, neighbors!” said he
at length, with a fierce laugh; “this is kind! You have come to
welcome Richard Houseman home, have ye? Good, good! Not to gloat at his
distress? Lord, no! Ye have no idle curiosity, no prying, searching,
gossiping devil within ye that makes ye love to flock and gape and
chatter when poor men suffer! This is all pure compassion; and Houseman,
the good, gentle, peaceful, honest Houseman, you feel for him,--I know
you do! Hark ye, begone! Away, march, tramp, or--Ha, ha! there they go,
there they go!” laughing wildly again as the frightened neighbors shrank
from the spot, leaving only Walter and the clergyman with the childless
man.

“Be comforted, Houseman!” said Summers, soothingly; “it is a dreadful
affliction that you have sustained. I knew your daughter well: you may
have heard her speak of me. Let us in, and try what heavenly comfort
there is in prayer.”

“Prayer! pooh! I am Richard Houseman!”

“Lives there one man for whom prayer is unavailing?”

“Out, canter, out! My pretty Jane! And she laid her head on my bosom,
and looked up in my face, and so--died!”

“Come,” said the curate, placing his hand on Houseman’s arm, “come.”

Before he could proceed, Houseman, who was muttering to himself, shook
him off roughly, and hurried away up the street; but after he had gone
a few paces, he turned back, and approaching the curate, said, in a more
collected tone: “I pray you, sir, since you are a clergyman (I recollect
your face, and I recollect Jane said you had been good to her),--I pray
you go and say a few words over her. But stay,--don’t bring in my name;
you understand. I don’t wish God to recollect that there lives such a
man as he who now addresses you. Halloo! [shouting to the women] my hat,
and stick too. Fal la! la! fal la!--why should these things make us play
the madman? It is a fine day, sir; we shall have a late winter.

“Curse the b____, how long she is! Yet the hat was left below. But when
a death is in the house, sir, it throws things into confusion: don’t you
find it so?”

Here one of the women, pale, trembling, and tearful, brought the ruffian
his hat; and placing it deliberately on his head, and bowing with a
dreadful and convulsive attempt to smile, he walked slowly away and
disappeared.

“What strange mummers grief makes!” said the curate. “It is an appalling
spectacle when it thus wrings out feeling from a man of that mould! But
pardon me, my young friend; let me tarry here for a moment.”

“I will enter the house with you,” said Walter. And the two men walked
in, and in a few moments they stood within the chamber of death.

The face of the deceased had not yet suffered the last withering change.
Her young countenance was hushed and serene, and but for the fixedness
of the smile, you might have thought the lips moved. So delicate, fair,
and gentle were the features that it was scarcely possible to believe
such a scion could spring from such a stock; and it seemed no longer
wonderful that a thing so young, so innocent, so lovely, and so early
blighted should have touched that reckless and dark nature which
rejected all other invasion of the softer emotions. The curate wiped his
eyes, and kneeling down prayed, if not for the dead (who, as our Church
teaches, are beyond human intercession), perhaps for the father she had
left on earth, more to be pitied of the two! Nor to Walter was the scene
without something more impressive and thrilling than its mere pathos
alone. He, now standing beside the corpse of Houseman’s child, was son
to the man of whose murder Houseman had been suspected. The childless
and the fatherless,--might there be no retribution here?

When the curate’s prayer was over, and he and Walter escaped from the
incoherent blessings and complaints of the women of the house, they,
with difficulty resisting the impression the scene had left upon their
minds, once more resumed their errand.

“This is no time,” said Walter, musingly, “for an examination of
Houseman; yet it must not be forgotten.”

The curate did not reply for some moments; and then, as an answer to
the remark, observed that the conversation they anticipated with Aram’s
former hostess might throw some light on their researches. They now
proceeded to another part of the town, and arrived at a lonely and
desolate-looking house, which seemed to wear in its very appearance
something strange, sad, and ominous. Some houses have an expression,
as it were, in their outward aspect that sinks unaccountably into the
heart,--a dim, oppressive eloquence which dispirits and affects. You say
some story must be attached to those walls; some legendary interest, of
a darker nature, ought to be associated with the mute stone and mortar;
you feel a mingled awe and curiosity creep over you as you gaze. Such
was the description of the house that the young adventurer now surveyed.
It was of antique architecture, not uncommon in old towns; gable ends
rose from the roof; dull, small, latticed panes were sunk deep in the
gray, discolored wall; the pale, in part, was broken and jagged; and
rank weeds sprang up in the neglected garden, through which they walked
towards the porch. The door was open; they entered, and found an old
woman of coarse appearance sitting by the fireside, and gazing on space
with that vacant stare which so often characterizes the repose and
relaxation of the uneducated poor. Walter felt an involuntary thrill
of dislike come over him as he looked at the solitary inmate of the
solitary house.

“Hey day, sir!” said she, in a grating voice, “and what now? Oh! Mr.
Summers, is it you? You’re welcome, sir! I wishes I could offer you
a glass of summut, but the bottle’s dry--he! he!” pointing, with a
revolting grin, to an empty bottle that stood on a niche within the
hearth. “I don’t know how it is, sir, but I never wants to eat; but ah!
‘t is the liquor that does un good!”

“You have lived a long time in this house?” said the curate.

“A long time,--some thirty years an’ more.”

“You remember your lodger, Mr. Aram?”

“A--well--yes!”

“An excellent man--”

“Humph.”

“A most admirable man!”

“A-humph! he!--humph! that’s neither here nor there.”

“Why, you don’t seem to think as all the rest of the world does with
regard to him?”

“I knows what I knows.”

“Ah! by the by, you have some cock-and-a-bull story about him, I fancy,
but you never could explain yourself,--it is merely for the love of
seeming wise that you invented it, eh, Goody?”

The old woman shook her head, and crossing her hands on her knee,
replied with peculiar emphasis, but in a very low and whispered voice,
“I could hang him!”

“Pooh!”

“Tell you I could!”

“Well, let’s have the story then!”

“No, no! I have not told it to ne’er a one yet, and I won’t for nothing.
What will you give me? Make it worth my while.”

“Tell us all, honestly, fairly, and fully, and you shall have five
golden guineas. There, Goody.”

Roused by this promise, the dame looked up with more of energy than she
had yet shown, and muttered to herself, rocking her chair to and fro:
“Aha! why not? No fear now, both gone; can’t now murder the poor old
cretur, as the wretch once threatened. Five golden guineas,--five, did
you say, sir, five?”

“Ah! and perhaps our bounty may not stop there,” said the curate.

Still the old woman hesitated, and still she muttered to herself; but
after some further prelude, and some further enticement from the curate,
the which we spare our reader, she came at length to the following
narration:--

“It was on the 7th of February, in the year ‘44,--yes, ‘44, about six
o’clock in the evening, for I was a-washing in the kitchen,--when Mr.
Aram called to me an’ desired of me to make a fire upstairs, which I
did; he then walked out. Some hours afterwards, it might be two in the
morning, I was lying awake, for I was mighty bad with the toothache,
when I heard a noise below, and two or three voices. On this I was
greatly afeard, and got out o’ bed, and opening the door, I saw Mr.
Houseman and Mr. Clarke coming upstairs to Mr. Aram’s room, and Mr.
Aram followed them. They shut the door, and stayed there, it might be
an hour. Well, I could not a think what could make so shy an’ resarved
a gentleman as Mr. Aram admit these ‘ere wild madcaps like at that hour;
an’ I lay awake a thinking an’ a thinking, till I heard the door open
agin, an’ I went to listen at the keyhole, an’ Mr. Clarke said: ‘It
will soon be morning, and we must get off.’ They then all three left the
house. But I could not sleep, an’ I got up afore five o’clock; and about
that hour Mr. Aram an’ Mr. Houseman returned, and they both glowered at
me as if they did not like to find me a stirring; an’ Mr. Aram went into
his room, and Houseman turned and frowned at me as black as night. Lord
have mercy on me, I see him now! An’ I was sadly feared, an’ I listened
at the keyhole, an’ I heard Houseman say: ‘If the woman comes in, she’ll
tell.’

“‘What can she tell?’ said Mr. Aram; ‘poor simple thing, she knows
nothing.’ With that, Houseman said, says he: ‘If she tells that I am
here, it will be enough; but however [with a shocking oath], we’ll take
an opportunity to shoot her.’

“On that I was so frighted that I went away back to my own room, and did
not stir till they had gone out, and then--”

“What time was that?”

“About seven o’clock. Well--You put me out! where was I? Well, I went
into Mr. Aram’s, an’ I seed they had been burning a fire, an’ that
all the ashes were taken out o’ the grate; so I went an’ looked at the
rubbish behind the house, and there sure enough I seed the ashes, and
among ‘em several bits o’ cloth and linen which seemed to belong to
wearing apparel; and there, too, was a handkerchief which I had obsarved
Houseman wear (for it was a very curious handkerchief, all spotted)
many’s the time, and there was blood on it, ‘bout the size of a
shilling. An’ afterwards I seed Houseman, an’ I showed him the
handkerchief; and I said to him, ‘What has come of Clarke?’ An’ he
frowned, and, looking at me, said, ‘Hark ye, I know not what you mean;
but as sure as the devil keeps watch for souls, I will shoot you through
the head if you ever let that d---d tongue of yours let slip a single
word about Clarke or me or Mr. Aram,--so look to yourself!

“An’ I was all scared, and trimbled from limb to limb; an’ for two whole
yearn afterwards (long arter Aram and Houseman were both gone) I never
could so much as open my lips on the matter; and afore he went, Mr. Aram
would sometimes look at me, not sternly-like, as the villain Houseman,
but as if he would read to the bottom of my heart. Oh! I was as if you
had taken a mountain off o’ me when he an’ Houseman left the town; for
sure as the sun shines I believes, from what I have now said, that they
two murdered Clarke on that same February night. An’ now, Mr. Summers,
I feels more easy than I has felt for many a long day; an’ if I have
not told it afore, it is because I thought of Houseman’s frown and his
horrid words; but summut of it would ooze out of my tongue now an’ then,
for it’s a hard thing, sir, to know a secret o’ that sort and be quiet
and still about it; and, indeed, I was not the same cretur when I knew
it as I was afore, for it made me take to anything rather than thinking;
and that’s the reason, sir, I lost the good crackter I used to have.”

Such, somewhat abridged from its “says he” and “says I,” its involutions
and its tautologies, was the story which Walter held his breath to hear.
But events thicken, and the maze is nearly thridden.

“Not a moment now should be lost,” said the curate, as they left the
house. “Let us at once proceed to a very able magistrate, to whom I can
introduce you, and who lives a little way out of the town.”

“As you will,” said Walter, in an altered and hollow voice. “I am as a
man standing on an eminence, who views the whole scene he is to travel
over, stretched before him, but is dizzy and bewildered by the height
which he has reached. I know, I feel, that I am on the brink of fearful
and dread discoveries; pray God that--But heed me not, sir, heed me not;
let us on, on!”

It was now approaching towards the evening; and as they walked on,
having left the town, the sun poured his last beams on a group of
persons that appeared hastily collecting and gathering round a spot,
well known in the neighborhood of Knaresborough, called Thistle Hill.

“Let us avoid the crowd,” said the curate. “Yet what, I wonder, can be
its cause?” While he spoke, two peasants hurried by towards the throng.

“What is the meaning of the crowd yonder?” asked the curate.

“I don’t know exactly, your honor, but I hears as how Jem Ninnings,
digging for stone for the limekiln, have dug out a big wooden chest.”

A shout from the group broke in on the peasant’s explanation,--a sudden
simultaneous shout, but not of joy; something of dismay and horror
seemed to breathe in the sound.

Walter looked at the curate. An impulse, a sudden instinct, seemed to
attract them involuntarily to the spot whence that sound arose; they
quickened their pace, they made their way through the throng. A deep
chest, that had been violently forced, stood before them; its contents
had been dragged to day, and now lay on the sward--a bleached and
mouldering skeleton! Several of the bones were loose, and detached from
the body. A general hubbub of voices from the spectators,--inquiry,
guess, fear, wonder,--rang confusedly around.

“Yes!” said one old man, with gray hair, leaning on a pickaxe, “it is
now about fourteen years since the Jew pedlar disappeared. These are
probably his bones,--he was supposed to have been murdered!”

“Nay!” screeched a woman, drawing back a child who, all unalarmed,
was about to touch the ghastly relics, “nay, the pedlar was heard
of afterwards. I’ll tell ye, ye may be sure these are the bones of
Clarke,--Daniel Clarke,--whom the country was so stirred about when we
were young!”

“Right, dame, right! It is Clarke’s skeleton,” was the simultaneous cry.
And Walter, pressing forward, stood over the bones, and waved his hand
as to guard them from further insult. His sudden appearance, his tall
stature, his wild gesture, the horror, the paleness, the grief of his
countenance, struck and appalled all present. He remained speechless,
and a sudden silence succeeded the late clamor.

“And what do you here, fools?” said a voice, abruptly. The spectators
turned: a new comer had been added to the throng,--it was Richard
Houseman. His dress loose and disarranged, his flushed cheeks and
rolling eyes, betrayed the source of consolation to which he had flown
from his domestic affliction. “What do ye here?” said he, reeling
forward. “Ha! human bones? And whose may they be, think ye?”

“They are Clarke’s!” said the woman, who had first given rise to that
supposition.

“Yes, we think they are Daniel Clarke’s,--he who disappeared some
years ago!” cried two or three voices in concert. “Clarke’s?” repeated
Houseman, stooping down and picking up a thigh-bone, which lay at a
little distance from the rest; “Clarke’s? Ha! ha! they are no more
Clarke’s than mine!”

“Behold!” shouted Walter, in a voice that rang from cliff to plain; and
springing forward, he seized Houseman with a giant’s grasp,--“behold the
murderer!”

As if the avenging voice of Heaven had spoken, a thrilling, an electric
conviction darted through the crowd. Each of the elder spectators
remembered at once the person of Houseman, and the suspicion that had
attached to his name.

“Seize him! seize him!” burst forth from twenty voices. “Houseman is the
murderer!”

“Murderer!” faltered Houseman, trembling in the iron hands of
Walter,--“murderer of whom? I tell ye these are not Clarke’s bones!”

“Where then do they lie?” cried his arrester.

Pale, confused, conscience-stricken, the bewilderment of intoxication
mingling with that of fear, Houseman turned a ghastly look around him,
and, shrinking from the eyes of all, reading in the eyes of all his
condemnation, he gasped out, “Search St. Robert’s Cave, in the turn at
the entrance!”

“Away!” rang the deep voice of Walter, on the instant; “away! To the
cave, to the cave!”

On the banks of the River Nid, whose waters keep an everlasting murmur
to the crags and trees that overhang them, is a wild and dreary cavern,
hollowed from a rock which, according to tradition, was formerly the
hermitage of one of those early enthusiasts who made their solitude in
the sternest recesses of earth, and from the austerest thoughts and the
bitterest penance wrought their joyless offerings to the great Spirit
of the lovely world. To this desolate spot, called, from the name of
its once celebrated eremite, St. Robert’s Cave, the crowd now swept,
increasing its numbers as it advanced.

The old man who had discovered the unknown remains, which were gathered
up and made a part of the procession, led the way; Houseman, placed
between two strong and active men, went next; and Walter followed
behind, fixing his eyes mutely upon the ruffian. The curate had had the
precaution to send on before for torches, for the wintry evening now
darkened round them, and the light from the torch-bearers, who met them
at the cavern, cast forth its red and lurid flare at the mouth of the
chasm. One of these torches Walter himself seized, and his was the first
step that entered the gloomy passage. At this place and time, Houseman,
who till then, throughout their short journey, had seemed to have
recovered a sort of dogged self-possession, recoiled, and the big
drops of fear or agony fell fast from his brow. He was dragged forward
forcibly into the cavern; and now as the space filled, and the torches
flickered against the grim walls, glaring on faces which caught, from
the deep and thrilling contagion of a common sentiment, one common
expression, it was not well possible for the wildest imagination to
conceive a scene better fitted for the unhallowed burial-place of the
murdered dead.

The eyes of all now turned upon Houseman; and he, after twice vainly
endeavoring to speak, for the words died inarticulate and choked within
him, advancing a few steps, pointed towards a spot on which, the next
moment, fell the concentrated light of every torch. An indescribable
and universal murmur, and then a breathless silence, ensued. On the spot
which Houseman had indicated, with the head placed to the right, lay
what once had been a human body!

“Can you swear,” said the priest, solemnly, as he turned to Houseman,
“that these are the bones of Clarke?”

“Before God, I can swear it!” replied Houseman, at length finding his
voice.

“MY FATHER!” broke from Walter’s lips as he sank upon his knees; and
that exclamation completed the awe and horror which prevailed in the
breasts of all present. Stung by a sense of the danger he had drawn upon
himself, and despair and excitement restoring, in some measure, not
only his natural hardihood, but his natural astuteness, Houseman, here
mastering his emotions, and making that effort which he was afterwards
enabled to follow up with an advantage to himself of which he could not
then have dreamed,--Houseman, I say, cried aloud,

“But I did not do the deed; I am not the murderer.”

“Speak out! Whom do you accuse?” said the curate. Drawing his breath
hard, and setting his teeth as with some steeled determination, Houseman
replied,--

“The murderer is Eugene Aram!”

“Aram!” shouted Walter, starting to his feet: “O God, thy hand hath
directed me hither!” And suddenly and at once sense left him, and he
fell, as if a shot had pierced through his heart, beside the remains of
that father whom he had thus mysteriously discovered.



BOOK V.

        Surely the man that plotteth ill against his
        neighbor perpetrateth ill against himself,
        and the evil design is most evil to him that
        deviseth it.
           --Hesiod



CHAPTER I.

  GRASSDALE.--THE MORNING OF THE MARRIAGE.--THE CRONES GOSSIP.--THE BRIDE
           AT HER TOILET.--THE ARRIVAL.

      JAM veniet virgo, jam dicetur Hymenaeus,
      Hymen, O Hymenae! Hymen ades, O Hymenae!
               CATULLUS: Carmen Nuptiale.

It was now the morning in which Eugene Aram was to be married to
Madeline Lester. The student’s house had been set in order for the
arrival of the bride; and though it was yet early morn, two old women,
whom his domestic (now not the only one, for a buxom lass of eighteen
had been transplanted from Lester’s household to meet the additional
cares that the change of circumstances brought to Aram’s) had invited to
assist her in arranging what was already arranged, were bustling about
the lower apartments and making matters, as they call it, “tidy.”

“Them flowers look but poor things, after all,” muttered an old crone,
whom our readers will recognize as Dame Darkmans, placing a bowl of
exotics on the table. “They does not look nigh so cheerful as them as
grows in the open air.”

“Tush! Goody Darkmans,” said the second gossip. “They be much prettier
and finer, to my mind; and so said Miss Nelly when she plucked them
last night and sent me down with them. They says there is not a blade o’
grass that the master does not know. He must be a good man to love the
things of the field so.”

“Ho!” said Dame Darkmans, “ho! When Joe Wrench was hanged for shooting
the lord’s keeper, and he mounted the scaffold wid a nosegay in his
hand, he said, in a peevish voice, says he: ‘Why does not they give me a
tarnation? I always loved them sort o’ flowers,--I wore them when I went
a courting Bess Lucas,--an’ I would like to die with one in my hand!’ So
a man may like flowers, and be but a hempen dog after all!”

“Now don’t you, Goody; be still, can’t you? What a tale for a marriage
day!”

“Tally vally!” returned the grim hag, “many a blessing carries a curse
in its arms, as the new moon carries the old. This won’t be one of your
happy weddings, I tell ye.”

“And why d’ ye say that?”

“Did you ever see a man with a look like that make a happy husband? No,
no! Can ye fancy the merry laugh o’ childer in this house, or a babe
on the father’s knee, or the happy, still smile on the mother’s winsome
face, some few years hence? No, Madge! the devil has set his black claw
on the man’s brow.”

“Hush, hush, Goody Darkmans; he may hear o’ ye!” said the second gossip,
who, having now done all that remained to do, had seated herself down by
the window, while the more ominous crone, leaning over Aram’s oak chair,
uttered from thence her sibyl bodings.

“No,” replied Mother Darkmans, “I seed him go out an hour agone, when
the sun was just on the rise; and I said, when I seed him stroam into
the wood yonder, and the ould leaves splashed in the damp under his
feet, and his hat was aboon his brows, and his lips went so,--I said,
says I, ‘t is not the man that will make a hearth bright that would walk
thus on his marriage day. But I knows what I knows, and I minds what I
seed last night.”

“Why, what did you see last night?” asked the listener, with a trembling
voice; for Plother Darkmans was a great teller of ghost and witch tales,
and a certain ineffable awe of her dark gypsy features and malignant
words had circulated pretty largely throughout the village.

“Why, I sat up here with the ould deaf woman, and we were a drinking the
health of the man and his wife that is to be, and it was nigh twelve
o’ the clock ere I minded it was time to go home. Well, so I puts on
my cloak, and the moon was up, an’ I goes along by the wood, and up by
Fairlegh Field, an’ I was singing the ballad on Joe Wrench’s hanging,
for the spirats had made me gamesome, when I sees somemut dark creep,
creep, but iver so fast, arter me over the field, and making right ahead
to the village. And I stands still, an’ I was not a bit afeared; but
sure I thought it was no living cretur, at the first sight. And so it
comes up faster and faster, and then I sees it was not one thing, but a
many, many things, and they darkened the whole field afore me. And what
d’ ye think they was? A whole body o’ gray rats, thousands and thousands
on ‘em; and they were making away from the outbuildings here. For sure
they knew, the witch things, that an ill luck sat on the spot. And so I
stood aside by the tree, an’ I laughed to look on the ugsome creturs as
they swept close by me, tramp, tramp! and they never heeded me a jot;
but some on ‘em looked aslant at me with their glittering eyes, and
showed their white teeth, as if they grinned, and were saying to me,
‘Ha, ha! Goody Darkmans, the house that we leave is a falling house, for
the devil will have his own.’”

In some parts of the country, and especially in that where our scene is
laid, no omen is more superstitiously believed evil than the departure
of these loathsome animals from their accustomed habitation; the
instinct which is supposed to make them desert an unsafe tenement is
supposed also to make them predict, in desertion, ill fortune to
the possessor. But while the ears of the listening gossip were still
tingling with this narration, the dark figure of the student passed the
window, and the old women, starting up, appeared in all the bustle of
preparation, as Aram now entered the apartment.

“A happy day, your honor; a happy good morning,” said both the crones in
a breath; but the blessing of the worse-natured was vented in so harsh
a croak that Arum turned round as if struck by the sound, and still more
disliking the well-remembered aspect of the person from whom it came,
waved his hand impatiently, and bade them begone.

“A-whish, a-whish!” muttered Dame Darkmans,--“to spake so to the poor;
but the rats never lie, the bonny things!”

Aram threw himself into his chair, and remained for some moments
absorbed in a revery, which did not bear the aspect of gloom. Then,
walking once or twice to and fro the apartment, he stopped opposite
the chimney-piece, over which were slung the firearms, which he never
omitted to keep charged and primed.

“Humph!” he said, half aloud, “ye have been but idle servants; and now
ye are but little likely ever to requite the care I have bestowed upon
you.”

With that a faint smile crossed his features; and turning away, he
ascended the stairs that led to the lofty chamber in which he had been
so often wont to outwatch the stars,--

     “The souls of systems, and the lords of life,
      Through their wide empires.”

Before we follow him to his high and lonely retreat we will bring the
reader to the manor-house, where all was already gladness and quiet but
deep joy.

It wanted about three hours to that fixed for the marriage; and Aram was
not expected at the manor-house till an hour before the celebration
of the event. Nevertheless, the bells were already ringing loudly and
blithely; and the near vicinity of the church to the house brought that
sound, so inexpressibly buoyant and cheering, to the ears of the
bride with a noisy merriment that seemed like the hearty voice of an
old-fashioned friend who seeks in his greeting rather cordiality than
discretion. Before her glass stood the beautiful, the virgin, the
glorious form of Madeline Lester; and Ellinor, with trembling hands (and
a voice between a laugh and a cry), was braiding up her sister’s rich
hair, and uttering her hopes, her wishes, her congratulations. The small
lattice was open, and the air came rather chillingly to the bride’s
bosom.

“It is a gloomy morning, dearest Nell,” said she, shivering; “the winter
seems about to begin at last.”

“Stay, I will shut the window. The sun is struggling with the clouds at
present, but I am sure it will clear up by and by. You don’t, you don’t
leave us--the word must out--till evening.”

“Don’t cry!” said Madeline, half weeping herself, and sitting down,
she drew Ellinor to her; and the two sisters, who had never been parted
since birth, exchanged tears that were natural, though scarcely the
unmixed tears of grief.

“And what pleasant evenings we shall have,” said Madeline, holding her
sister’s hands, “in the Christmas time! You will be staying with us,
you know; and that pretty old room in the north of the house Eugene has
already ordered to be fitted up for you. Well, and my dear father, and
dear Walter, who will be returned long ere then, will walk over to see
us, and praise my housekeeping, and so forth. And then, after dinner, we
will draw near the fire,--I next to Eugene, and my father, our guest,
on the other side of me, with his long gray hair and his good fine
face, with a tear of kind feeling in his eye,--you know that look he has
whenever he is affected. And at a little distance on the other side of
the hearth will be you--and Walter; I suppose we must make room for him.
And Eugene, who will be then the liveliest of you all, shall read to us
with his soft, clear voice, or tell us all about the birds and flowers
and strange things in other countries. And then after supper we will
walk half-way home across that beautiful valley--beautiful even in
winter--with my father and Walter, and count the stars, and take new
lessons in astronomy, and hear tales about the astrologers and the
alchemists, with their fine old dreams. Ah! it will be such a happy
Christmas! And then, when spring comes, some fine morning--finer than
this--when the birds are about, and the leaves getting green, and
the flowers springing up every day, I shall be called in to help your
toilet, as you have helped mine, and to go with you to church, though
not, alas! as your bridesmaid. Ah! whom shall we have for that duty?”

“Pshaw!” said Ellinor, smiling through her tears.

While the sisters were thus engaged, and Madeline was trying, with her
innocent kindness of heart, to exhilarate the spirits, so naturally
depressed, of her doting sister, the sound of carriage-wheels was heard
in the distance,--nearer, nearer; now the sound stopped, as at the gate;
now fast, faster,--fast as the postilions could ply whip and the horses
tear along. While the groups in the church-yard ran forth to gaze, and
the bells rang merrily all the while, two chaises whirled by Madeline’s
window and stopped at the porch of the house. The sisters had flown in
surprise to the casement.

“It is, it is--good God! it is Walter,” cried Ellinor; “but how pale he
looks!”

“And who are those strange men with him?” faltered Madeline, alarmed,
though she knew not why.



CHAPTER II.

 THE STUDENT ALONE IN HIS CHAMBER.--THE INTERRUPTION.--FAITHFUL LOVE.

        NEQUICQUAM thalamo graves
        Hastas....
        Vitabis strepitumque et celerem sequi
        Ajacem.
            --HORACE: Od. xv. lib. 1.

        [“In vain within your nuptial chamber will you
        shun the deadly spears,... the hostile shout,
        and Ajax eager in pursuit.”]

Alone in his favorite chamber, the instruments of science around him,
and books, some of astronomical research, some of less lofty but yet
abstruser lore, scattered on the tables, Eugene Aram indulged the last
meditation he believed likely to absorb his thoughts before that great
change of life which was to bless solitude with a companion.

“Yes,” said he, pacing the apartment with folded arms, “yes, all is
safe! He will not again return; the dead sleeps now without a witness.
I may lay this working brain upon the bosom that loves me, and not start
at night and think that the soft hand around my neck is the hangman’s
gripe. Back to thyself, henceforth and forever, my busy heart! Let
not thy secret stir from its gloomy depth! The seal is on the tomb;
henceforth be the spectre laid. Yes, I must smooth my brow, and teach
my lip restraint, and smile and talk like other men. I have taken to my
hearth a watch, tender, faithful, anxious,--but a watch. Farewell the
unguarded hour! The soul’s relief in speech, the dark and broken, yet
how grateful, confidence with self, farewell! And come, thou veil!
subtle, close, unvarying, the everlasting curse of entire hypocrisy,
that under thee, as night, the vexed world within may sleep, and stir
not! and all, in truth concealment, may seem repose!”

As he uttered these thoughts, the student paused and looked on the
extended landscape that lay below. A heavy, chill, and comfortless mist
sat saddening over the earth. Not a leaf stirred on the autumnal trees,
but the moist damps fell slowly and with a mournful murmur upon the
unwaving grass. The outline of the morning sun was visible, but it gave
forth no lustre: a ring of watery and dark vapor girded the melancholy
orb. Far at the entrance of the valley the wild fern showed red and
faded, and the first march of the deadly winter was already heralded by
that drear and silent desolation which cradles the winds and storms. But
amidst this cheerless scene the distant note of the merry marriage-bell
floated by, like the good spirit of the wilderness, and the student
rather paused to hearken to the note than to survey the scene. “My
marriage-bell!” said he. “Could I, two short years back, have dreamed
of this? My marriage-bell! How fondly my poor mother, when first she
learned pride for her young scholar, would predict this day, and blend
its festivities with the honor and the wealth her son was to acquire!
Alas! can we have no science to count the stars and forebode the black
eclipse of the future? But peace! peace! peace! I am, I will, I shall be
happy now! Memory, I defy thee!”

He uttered the last words in a deep and intense tone; and turning away
as the joyful peal again broke distinctly on his ear,--

“My marriage-bell! Oh, Madeline, how wondrously beloved, how unspeakably
dear thou art to me! What hast thou conquered! How many reasons for
resolve, how vast an army in the Past, has thy bright and tender purity
overthrown! But thou--No, never shalt thou repent!” And for several
minutes the sole thought of the soliloquist was love. But scarce
consciously to himself, a spirit, not, to all seeming, befitted to that
bridal-day,--vague, restless, impressed with the dark and fluttering
shadow of coming change,--had taken possession of his breast, and did
not long yield the mastery to any brighter and more serene emotion.

“And why,” he said, as this spirit regained its empire over him, and he
paused before the “starred tubes” of his beloved science,--“and why this
chill, this shiver, in the midst of hope? Can the mere breath of the
seasons, the weight or lightness of the atmosphere, the outward gloom or
smile of the brute mass called Nature, affect us thus? Out on this empty
science, this vain knowledge, this little lore, if we are so fooled by
the vile clay and the common air from our one great empire, self! Great
God! hast thou made us in mercy, or in disdain? Placed in this narrow
world, darkness and cloud around us; no fixed rule for men; creeds,
morals, changing in every clime, and growing like herbs upon the mere
soil,--we struggle to dispel the shadows; we grope around; from our own
heart and our sharp and hard endurance we strike our only light. For
what? To show us what dupes we are,--creatures of accident, tools of
circumstance, blind instruments of the scorner Fate; the very mind, the
very reason, a bound slave to the desires, the weakness of the clay;
affected by a cloud, dulled by the damps of the foul marsh; stricken
from power to weakness, from sense to madness, to gaping idiocy, or
delirious raving, by a putrid exhalation! A rheum, a chill, and Caesar
trembles! The world’s gods, that slay or enlighten millions, poor
puppets to the same rank imp which calls up the fungus or breeds the
worm,--pah! How little worth is it in this life to be wise! Strange,
strange, how my heart sinks. Well, the better sign, the better sign! In
danger it never sank.”

Absorbed in these reflections, Aram had not for some minutes noticed
the sudden ceasing of the bell; but now, as he again paused from his
irregular and abrupt pacings along the chamber, the silence struck him,
and looking forth, and striving again to catch the note, he saw a little
group of men, among whom he marked the erect and comely form of Rowland
Lester, approaching towards the house.

“What!” he thought, “do they come for me? Is it so late? Have I played
the laggard? Nay, it yet wants near an hour to the time they expected
me. Well, some kindness, some attention from my good father-in-law; I
must thank him for it. What! my hand trembles. How weak are these poor
nerves; I must rest and recall my mind to itself!”

And indeed, whether or not from the novelty and importance of the event
he was about to celebrate, or from some presentiment, occasioned, as he
would fain believe, by the mournful and sudden change in the atmosphere,
an embarrassment, a wavering, a fear, very unwonted to the calm and
stately self-possession of Eugene Aram, made itself painfully felt
throughout his frame. He sank down in his chair and strove to re-collect
himself; it was an effort in which he had just succeeded, when a loud
knocking was heard at the outer door; it swung open; several voices were
heard. Aram sprang up, pale, breathless, his lips apart.

“Great God!” he exclaimed, clasping his hands. “‘Murderer!’--was that
the word I heard shouted forth? The voice, too, is Walter Lester’s. Has
he returned? Can he have learned--?”

To rush to the door, to throw across it a long, heavy iron bar, which
would resist assaults of no common strength, was his first impulse. Thus
enabled to gain time for reflection, his active and alarmed mind ran
over the whole field of expedient and conjecture. Again, “Murderer!”
 “Stay me not,” cried Walter, from below; “my hand shall seize the
murderer!”

Guess was now over; danger and death were marching on him. Escape,--how?
whither? The height forbade the thought of flight from the casement!
The door?--he heard loud steps already hurrying up the stairs; his hands
clutched convulsively at his breast, where his fire-arms were generally
concealed,--they were left below. He glanced one lightning glance round
the room; no weapon of any kind was at hand. His brain reeled for a
moment, his breath gasped, a mortal sickness passed over his heart, and
then the MIND triumphed over all. He drew up to his full height, folded
his arms doggedly on his breast, and muttering, “The accuser comes,--I
have it still to refute the charge!” he stood prepared to meet, nor
despairing to evade, the worst.

As waters close over the object which divided them, all these thoughts,
these fears, and this resolution had been but the work, the agitation,
and the succeeding calm of the moment; that moment was past.

“Admit us!” cried the voice of Walter Lester, knocking fiercely at the
door.

“Not so fervently, boy,” said Lester, laying his hand on his nephew’s
shoulder; “your tale is yet to be proved,--I believe it not. Treat him
as innocent, I pray,--I command,--till you have shown him guilty.”

“Away, uncle!” said the fiery Walter; “he is my father’s murderer. God
hath given justice to my hands.” These words, uttered in a lower key
than before, were but indistinctly heard by Aram through the massy door.

“Open, or we force our entrance!” shouted Walter again; and Aram,
speaking for the first time, replied in a clear and sonorous voice, so
that an angel, had one spoken, could not have more deeply impressed the
heart of Rowland Lester with a conviction of the student’s innocence,

“Who knocks so rudely? What means this violence? I open my doors to my
friends. Is it a friend who asks it?”

“I ask it,” said Rowland Lester, in a trembling and agitated voice.
“There seems some dreadful mistake: come forth, Eugene, and rectify it
by a word.”

“Is it you, Rowland Lester? It is enough. I was but with my books, and
had secured myself from intrusion. Enter.” The bar was withdrawn,
the door was burst open, and even Walter Lester, even the officers of
justice with him, drew back for a moment as they beheld the lofty brow,
the majestic presence, the features so unutterably calm, of Eugene Aram.
“What want you, sirs?” said he, unmoved and unfaltering, though in the
officers of justice he recognized faces he had known before, and in that
distant town in which all that he dreaded in the past lay treasured up.
At the sound of his voice the spell that for an instant had arrested the
step of the avenging son melted away.

“Seize him!” he cried to the officers; “you see your prisoner.”

“Hold!” cried Aram, drawing back. “By what authority is this
outrage,--for what am I arrested?”

“Behold,” said Walter, speaking through his teeth, “behold our
warrant! You are accused of murder! Know you the name of Richard
Houseman,--pause, consider,--or that of Daniel Clarke?”

Slowly Aram lifted his eyes from the warrant, and it might be seen that
his face was a shade more pale, though his look did not quail, or his
nerves tremble. Slowly he turned his gaze upon Walter; and then, after
one moment’s survey, dropped it once more on the paper.

“The name of Houseman is not unfamiliar to me,” said he calmly, but with
effort.

“And knew you Daniel Clarke

“What mean these questions?” said Aram, losing temper, and stamping
violently on the ground. “Is it thus that a man, free and guiltless, is
to be questioned at the behest, or rather outrage, of every lawless boy?
Lead me to some authority meet for me to answer; for you, boy, my answer
is contempt.”

“Big words shall not save thee, murderer!” cried Walter, breaking from
his uncle, who in vain endeavored to hold him, and laying his powerful
grasp upon Aram’s shoulder. Livid was the glare that shot from the
student’s eye upon his assailer; and so fearfully did his features work
and change with the passions within him that even Walter felt a strange
shudder thrill through his frame.

“Gentlemen,” said Aram at last, mastering his emotions, and resuming
some portion of the remarkable dignity that characterized his usual
bearing, as he turned towards the officers of justice, “I call upon
you to discharge your duty. If this be a rightful warrant, I am your
prisoner, but I am not this man’s. I command your protection from him!”

Walter had already released his gripe, and said, in a muttered voice,

“My passion misled me; violence is unworthy my solemn cause. God and
Justice--not these hands--are my avengers.”

“Your avengers!” said Aram. “What dark words are these? This warrant
accuses me of the murder of one Daniel Clarke. What is he to thee?”

“Mark me, man!” said Walter, fixing his eyes on Aram’s countenance. “The
name of Daniel Clarke was a feigned name; the real name was Geoffrey
Lester: that murdered Lester was my father, and the brother of him whose
daughter, had I not come to-day, you would have called your wife!”

Aram felt, while these words were uttered, that the eyes of all in the
room were on him; and perhaps that knowledge enabled him not to reveal
by outward sign what must have passed within during the awful trial of
that moment.

“It is a dreadful tale,” he said, “if true,--dreadful to me, so nearly
allied to that family. But as yet I grapple with shadows.”

“What! does not your conscience now convict you?” cried Walter,
staggered by the calmness of the prisoner. But here Lester, who could no
longer contain himself, interposed; he put by his nephew, and rushing to
Aram, fell, weeping, upon his neck.

“I do not accuse thee, Eugene, my son, my son! I feel, I know thou art
innocent of this monstrous crime; some horrid delusion darkens that poor
boy’s sight. You, you, who would walk aside to save a worm!” and the
poor old man, overcome with his emotions, could literally say no more.

Aram looked down on Lester with a compassionate expression; and soothing
him with kind words, and promises that all would be explained, gently
moved from his hold, and, anxious to terminate the scene, silently
motioned the officers to proceed. Struck with the calmness and dignity
of his manner, and fully impressed by it with the notion of his
innocence, the officers treated him with a marked respect; they did not
even walk by his side, but suffered him to follow their steps. As they
descended the stairs, Aram turned round to Walter, with a bitter and
reproachful countenance,

“And so, young man, your malice against me has reached even to this!
Will nothing but my life content you?”

“Is the desire of execution on my father’s murderer but the wish of
malice?” retorted Walter; though his heart yet well-nigh misgave him as
to the grounds on which his suspicion rested.

Aram smiled, as half in scorn, half through incredulity; and, shaking
his head gently, moved on without further words.

The three old women, who had remained in listening astonishment at the
foot of the stairs, gave way as the men descended; but the one who so
long had been Aram’s solitary domestic, and who, from her deafness, was
still benighted and uncomprehending as to the causes of his seizure,
though from that very reason her alarm was the greater and more
acute, she, impatiently thrusting away the officers, and mumbling some
unintelligible anathema as she did so, flung herself at the feet of a
master whose quiet habits and constant kindness had endeared him to her
humble and faithful heart, and exclaimed,--

“What are they doing? Have they the heart to ill-use you? O master,
God bless you! God shield you! I shall never see you, who was my only
friend--who was every one’s friend--any more!”

Aram drew himself from her, and said, with a quivering lip to Rowland
Lester,--

“If her fears are true--if--if I never more return hither, see that
her old age does not starve--does not want.” Lester could not speak for
sobbing, but the request was remembered. And now Aram, turning aside his
proud head to conceal his emotion, beheld open the door of the room so
trimly prepared for Madeline’s reception: the flowers smiled upon him
from their stands. “Lead on, gentlemen,” he said quickly. And so Eugene
Aram passed his threshold!

“Ho, ho!” muttered the old hag whose predictions in the morning had
been so ominous,--“ho, ho! you’ll believe Goody Darkmans another time!
Providence respects the sayings of the ould. ‘T was not for nothing the
rats grinned at me last night. But let’s in and have a warm glass.
He, he! there will be all the strong liquors for us now; the Lord is
merciful to the poor!”

As the little group proceeded through the valley, the officers first,
Aram and Lester side by side, Walter, with his hand on his pistol and
his eye on the prisoner, a little behind, Lester endeavored to cheer the
prisoner’s spirits and his own by insisting on the madness of the charge
and the certainty of instant acquittal from the magistrate to whom they
were bound, and who was esteemed the one both most acute and most just
in the county. Aram interrupted him somewhat abruptly,

“My friend, enough of this presently. But Madeline, what knows she as
yet?”

“Nothing; of course, we kept--”

“Exactly, exactly; you have done wisely. Why need she learn anything as
yet? Say an arrest for debt, a mistake, an absence but of a day or so at
most,--you understand?”

“Yes. Will you not see her, Eugene, before you go, and say this
yourself?”

“I!--O God!--I! to whom this day was--No, no; save me, I implore
you, from the agony of such a contrast,--an interview so mournful and
unavailing. No, we must not meet! But whither go we now? Not, not,
surely, through all the idle gossips of the village,--the crowd already
excited to gape and stare and speculate on the--”

“No,” interrupted Lester; “the carriages await us at the farther end of
the valley. I thought of that,--for the rash boy behind seems to have
changed his nature. I loved--Heaven knows how I loved my brother! But
before I would let suspicion thus blind reason, I would suffer inquiry
to sleep forever on his fate.”

“Your nephew,” said Aram, “has ever wronged me. But waste not words
on him; let us think only of Madeline. Will you go back at once to
her,--tell her a tale to lull her apprehensions, and then follow us with
haste? I am alone among enemies till you come.”

Lester was about to answer, when, at a turn in the road which brought
the carriage within view, they perceived two figures in white hastening
towards them; and ere Aram was prepared for the surprise, Madeline had
sunk pale, trembling, and all breathless on his breast.

“I could not keep her back,” said Ellinor, apologetically, to her
father.

“Back! and why? Am I not in my proper place?” cried Madeline, lifting
her face from Aram’s breast; and then, as her eyes circled the group,
and rested on Aram’s countenance, now no longer calm, but full of woe,
of passion, of disappointed love, of anticipated despair, she rose,
and gradually recoiling with a fear which struck dumb her voice, thrice
attempted to speak, and thrice failed.

“But what--what is--what means this?” exclaimed Ellinor. “Why do you
weep, father? Why does Eugene turn away his face? You answer not.
Speak, for God’s sake! These strangers,--what are they? And you, Walter,
you,--why are you so pale? Why do you thus knit your brows and fold your
arms! You, you will tell me the meaning of this dreadful silence,--this
scene. Speak, cousin, dear cousin, speak!”

“Speak!” cried Madeline, finding voice at length, but in the sharp and
straining tone of wild terror, in which they recognized no note of
the natural music. The single word sounded rather as a shriek than an
adjuration; and so piercingly it ran through the hearts of all present
that the very officers, hardened as their trade had made them, felt as
if they would rather have faced death than answered that command.

A dead, long, dreary pause, and Aram broke it. “Madeline Lester,” said
he, “prove yourself worthy of the hour of trial. Exert yourself; arouse
your heart; be prepared! You are the betrothed of one whose soul never
quailed before man’s angry word. Remember that, and fear not!”

“I will not, I will not, Eugene! Speak, only speak!”

“You have loved me in good report; trust me now in ill. They accuse me
of a crime,--a heinous crime! At first I would not have told you the
real charge. Pardon me, I wronged you,--now, know all! They accuse me,
I say, of crime. Of what crime? you ask. Ay, I scarce know, so vague
is the charge, so fierce the accuser; but prepare, Madeline,--it is of
murder!”

Raised as her spirits had been by the haughty and earnest tone of Aram’s
exhortation, Madeline now, though she turned deadly pale, though the
earth swam round and round, yet repressed the shriek upon her lips as
those horrid words shot into her soul.

“You!--murder!--you! And who dares accuse you?”

“Behold him,--your cousin!”

Ellinor heard, turned, fixed her eyes on Walter’s sullen brow and
motionless attitude, and fell senseless to the earth. Not thus Madeline.
As there is an exhaustion that forbids, not invites repose, so when
the mind is thoroughly on the rack, the common relief to anguish is not
allowed; the senses are too sharply strung, thus happily to collapse
into forgetfulness; the dreadful inspiration that agony kindles,
supports nature while it consumes it. Madeline passed, without a
downward glance, by the lifeless body of her sister; and walking with a
steady step to Walter, she laid her hand upon his arm, and fixing on his
countenance that soft clear eye, which was now lit with a searching and
preternatural glare, and seemed to pierce into his soul, she said,

“Walter, do I hear aright? Am I awake? Is it you who accuse Eugene
Aram,--your Madeline’s betrothed husband,--Madeline, whom you once
loved? Of what? Of crimes which death alone can punish. Away! It is not
you,--I know it is not. Say that I am mistaken,--that I am mad, if
you will. Come, Walter, relieve me; let me not abhor the very air you
breathe!”

“Will no one have mercy on me?” cried Walter, rent to the heart, and
covering his face with his hands. In the fire and heat of vengeance
he had not reeked of this. He had only thought of justice to a father,
punishment to a villain, rescue for a credulous girl. The woe, the
horror he was about to inflict on all he most loved: this had not struck
upon him with a due force till now!

“Mercy--you talk of mercy! I knew it could not be true!” said Madeline,
trying to pluck her cousin’s hand from his face; “you could not have
dreamed of wrong to Eugene and--and upon this day. Say we have erred, or
that you have erred, and we will forgive and bless you even now!” Aram
had not interfered in this scene; he kept his eyes fixed on the cousins,
not uninterested to see what effect Madeline’s touching words might
produce on his accuser. Meanwhile she continued: “Speak to me, Walter,
dear Walter, speak to me’. Are you, my cousin, my playfellow,--are you
the one to blight our hopes, to dash our joys, to bring dread and
terror into a home so lately all peace and sunshine, your own home, your
childhood’s home? What have you done? What have you dared to do? Accuse
him! Of what? Murder! Speak, speak. Murder, ha! ha!--murder! nay, not
so! You would not venture to come here, you would not let me take your
hand, you would not look us, your uncle, your more than sisters, in
the face if you could nurse in your heart this lie,--this black, horrid
lie!”

Walter withdrew his hands, and as he turned his face said,--

“Let him prove his innocence. Pray God he do! I am not his accuser,
Madeline. His accusers are the bones of my dead father! Save these,
Heaven alone and the revealing earth are witness against him!”

“Your father!” said Madeline, staggering back,--“my lost uncle! Nay, now
I know indeed what a shadow has appalled us all! Did you know my uncle,
Eugene? Did you ever see Geoffrey Lester?”

“Never, as I believe, so help me God!” said Aram, laying his hand on his
heart. “But this is idle now,” as, recollecting himself, he felt that
the case had gone forth from Walter’s hands, and that appeal to him had
become vain. “Leave us now, dearest Madeline, my beloved wife that shall
be, that is! I go to disprove these charges. Perhaps I shall return
to-night. Delay not my acquittal, even from doubt,--a boy’s doubt. Come,
sirs.”

“O Eugene! Eugene!” cried Madeline, throwing herself on her knees before
hint, “do not order me to leave you now, now in the hour of dread! I
will not. Nay, look not so! I swear I will not! Father, dear father,
come and plead for me,--say I shall go with you. I ask nothing more. Do
not fear for my nerves,--cowardice is gone. I will not shame you, I will
not play the woman. I know what is due to one who loves him. Try
me, only try me. You weep, father, you shake your head. But you,
Eugene,--you have not the heart to deny me? Think--think if I stayed
here to count the moments till you return, my very senses would leave
me. What do I ask? But to go with you, to be the first to hail your
triumph! Had this happened two hours hence, you could not have said me
nay,--I should have claimed the right to be with you; I now but implore
the blessing. You relent, you relent; I see it!”

“O Heaven!” exclaimed Aram, rising, and clasping her to his breast,
and wildly kissing her face, but with cold and trembling lips, “this
is indeed a bitter hour; let me not sink beneath it. Yes, Madeline, ask
your father if he consents; I hail your strengthening presence as that
of an angel. I will not be the one to sever you from my side.”

“You are right, Eugene,” said Lester, who was supporting Ellinor, not
yet recovered,--“let her go with us; it is but common kindness and
common mercy.”

Madeline uttered a cry of joy (joy even at such a moment!), and clung
fast to Eugene’s arm, as if for assurance that they were not indeed to
be separated.

By this time some of Lester’s servants, who had from a distance followed
their young mistresses, reached the spot. To their care Lester gave the
still scarce reviving Ellinor; and then, turning round with a severe
countenance to Walter, said, “Come, sir, your rashness has done
sufficient wrong for the present; come now, and see how soon your
suspicions will end in shame.”

“Justice, and blood for blood!” said Walter, sternly; but his heart felt
as if it were broken. His venerable uncle’s tears, Madeline’s look of
horror as she turned from him, Ellinor all lifeless, and he not daring
to approach her,--this was HIS work! He pulled his hat over his eyes,
and hastened into the carriage alone. Lester, Madeline, and Aram
followed in the other vehicle; and the two officers contented themselves
with mounting the box, certain the prisoner would attempt no escape.



CHAPTER III.

   THE JUSTICE--THE DEPARTURE--THE EQUANIMITY OF THE CORPORAL IN
   BEARING THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHER PEOPLE.--THE EXAMINATION; ITS
    RESULT.--ARAM’S CONDUCT IN PRISON.--THE ELASTICITY OF OUR
      HUMAN NATURE.--A VISIT FROM THE EARL.--WALTER’S
            DETERMINATION.--MADELINE.

          Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
              --Measure for Measure.

On arriving at Sir--‘s, a disappointment, for which, had they previously
conversed with the officers they might have been prepared, awaited them.
The fact was, that the justice had only endorsed the warrant sent from
Yorkshire; and after a very short colloquy, in which he expressed his
regret at the circumstance, his conviction that the charge would be
disproved, and a few other courteous common-places, he gave Aram to
understand that the matter now did not rest with him, but that it was
to Yorkshire that the officers were bound, and before Mr. Thornton, a
magistrate of that country, that the examination was to take place. “All
I can do,” said the magistrate, “I have already done; but I wished for
an opportunity of informing you of it. I have written to my brother
justice at full length respecting your high character, and treating the
habits and rectitude of your life alone as a sufficient refutation of so
monstrous a charge.”

For the first time a visible embarrassment came over the firm nerves of
the prisoner: he seemed to look with great uneasiness at the prospect
of this long and dreary journey, and for such an end. Perhaps, the very
notion of returning as a suspected criminal to that part of the country
where a portion of his youth had been passed, was sufficient to disquiet
and deject him. All this while his poor Madeline seemed actuated by a
spirit beyond herself; she would not be separated from his side--she
held his hand in hers--she whispered comfort and courage at the very
moment when her own heart most sank. The magistrate wiped his eyes when
he saw a creature so young, so beautiful, in circumstances so fearful,
and bearing up with an energy so little to be expected from her years
and delicate appearance. Aram said but little; he covered his face with
his right hand for a few moments, as if to hide a passing emotion, a
sudden weakness. When he removed it, all vestige of colour had died
away; his face was pale as that of one who has risen from the grave; but
it was settled and composed.

“It is a hard pang, Sir,” said he, with a faint smile; “so many
miles--so many days--so long a deferment of knowing the best, or
preparing to meet the worst. But, be it so! I thank you, Sir,--I thank
you all,--Lester, Madeline, for your kindness; you two must now leave
me; the brand is on my name--the suspected man is no fit object for love
or friendship! Farewell!”

“We go with you!” said Madeline firmly, and in a very low voice.

Aram’s eye sparkled, but he waved his hand impatiently.

“We go with you, my friend!” repeated Lester.

And so, indeed, not to dwell long on a painful scene, it was finally
settled. Lester and his two daughters that evening followed Aram to the
dark and fatal bourne to which he was bound.

It was in vain that Walter, seizing his uncle’s hands, whispered,

“For Heaven’s sake, do not be rash in your friendship! You have not
yet learnt all. I tell you, that there can be no doubt of his guilt!
Remember, it is a brother for whom you mourn! will you countenance his
murderer?”

Lester, despite himself, was struck by the earnestness with which his
nephew spoke, but the impression died away as the words ceased: so
strong and deep had been the fascination which Eugene Aram had exercised
over the hearts of all once drawn within the near circle of his
attraction, that had the charge of murder been made against himself,
Lester could not have repelled it with a more entire conviction of the
innocence of the accused. Still, however, the deep sincerity of his
nephew’s manner in some measure served to soften his resentment towards
him.

“No, no, boy!” said he, drawing away his hand, “Rowland Lester is not
the one to desert a friend in the day of darkness and the hour of need.
Be silent I say!--My brother, my poor brother, you tell me, has been
murdered. I will see justice done to him: but, Aram! Fie! fie! it is a
name that would whisper falsehood to the loudest accusation. Go, Walter!
go! I do not blame you!--you may be right--a murdered father is a dread
and awful memory to a son! What wonder that the thought warps your
judgment? But go! Eugene was to me both a guide and a blessing; a father
in wisdom, a son in love. I cannot look on his accuser’s face without
anguish. Go! we shall meet again.--How! Go!”

“Enough, Sir!” said Walter, partly in anger, partly in sorrow--“Time be
the judge between us all!”

With those words he turned from the house, and proceeded on foot towards
a cottage half way between Grassdale and the Magistrate’s house, at
which, previous to his return to the former place, he had prudently left
the Corporal--not willing to trust to that person’s discretion, as to
the tales and scandal that he might propagate throughout the village on
a matter so painful and so dark.

Let the world wag as it will, there are some tempers which its
vicissitudes never reach. Nothing makes a picture of distress more sad
than the portrait of some individual sitting indifferently looking on in
the back-ground. This was a secret Hogarth knew well. Mark his deathbed
scenes:--Poverty and Vice worked up into horror--and the Physicians
in the corner wrangling for the fee!--or the child playing with the
coffin--or the nurse filching what fortune, harsh, yet less harsh than
humanity, might have left. In the melancholy depth of humour that steeps
both our fancy and our heart in the immortal Romance of Cervantes (for,
how profoundly melancholy is it to be compelled by one gallant folly to
laugh at all that is gentle, and brave, and wise, and generous!) nothing
grates on us more than when--last scene of all, the poor Knight lies
dead--his exploits for ever over--for ever dumb his eloquent discourses:
than when, I say, we are told that, despite of his grief, even little
Sancho did not eat or drink the less:--these touches open to us the real
world, it is true; but it is not the best part of it. What a pensive
thing is true humour! Certain it was, that when Walter, full of
contending emotions at all he had witnessed,--harassed, tortured, yet
also elevated, by his feelings, stopped opposite the cottage door,
and saw there the Corporal sitting comfortably in the porch,--his vile
modicum Sabini before him--his pipe in his mouth, and a complacent
expression of satisfaction diffusing itself over features which
shrewdness and selfishness had marked for their own;--certain it was,
that, at this sight Walter experienced a more displeasing revulsion of
feeling--a more entire conviction of sadness--a more consummate disgust
of this weary world and the motley masquers that walk thereon, than all
the tragic scenes he had just witnessed had excited within him.

“And well, Sir,” said the Corporal, slowly rising, “how did it go
off?--Wasn’t the villain bash’d to the dust?--You’ve nabbed him safe, I
hope?”

“Silence,” said Walter, sternly, “prepare for our departure. The chaise
will be here forthwith; we return to Yorkshire this day. Ask me no more
now.”

“A--well--baugh!” said the Corporal.

There was a long silence. Walter walked to and fro the road before the
cottage. The chaise arrived; the luggage was put in. Walter’s foot was
on the step; but before the Corporal mounted the rumbling dickey, that
invaluable domestic hemmed thrice.

“And had you time, Sir, to think of poor Jacob, and look at the cottage,
and slip in a word to your uncle about the bit tato ground?”

We pass over the space of time, short in fact, long in suffering, that
elapsed, till the prisoner and his companions reached Knaresbro’. Aram’s
conduct during this time was not only calm but cheerful. The stoical
doctrines he had affected through life, he on this trying interval
called into remarkable exertion. He it was who now supported the spirits
of his mistress and his friend; and though he no longer pretended to
be sanguine of acquittal--though again and again he urged upon them
the gloomy fact--first, how improbable it was that this course had
been entered into against him without strong presumption of guilt; and
secondly, how little less improbable it was, that at that distance of
time he should be able to procure evidence, or remember circumstances,
sufficient on the instant to set aside such presumption,--he yet dwelt
partly on the hope of ultimate proof of his innocence, and still more
strongly on the firmness of his own mind to bear, without shrinking,
even the hardest fate.

“Do not,” he said to Lester, “do not look on these trials of life only
with the eyes of the world. Reflect how poor and minute a segment in
the vast circle of eternity existence is at the best. Its sorrow and its
shame are but moments. Always in my brightest and youngest hours I have
wrapt my heart in the contemplation of an august futurity.

          “‘The soul, secure in its existence, smiles
          At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.’

“If I die even the death of the felon, it is beyond the power of fate
to separate us for long. It is but a pang, and we are united again for
ever; for ever in that far and shadowy clime, where the wicked cease
from troubling, and the weary are at rest.’ Were it not for Madeline’s
dear sake, I should long since have been over weary of the world. As
it is, the sooner, even by a violent and unjust fate, we leave a path
begirt with snares below and tempests above, the happier for that soul
which looks to its lot in this earth as the least part of its appointed
doom.”

In discourses like this, which the nature of his eloquence was
peculiarly calculated to render solemn and impressive, Aram strove to
prepare his friends for the worst, and perhaps to cheat, or to steel,
himself. Ever as he spoke thus, Lester or Ellinor broke on him with
impatient remonstrance; but Madeline, as if imbued with a deeper and
more mournful penetration into the future, listened in tearless and
breathless attention. She gazed upon him with a look that shared the
thought he expressed, though it read not (yet she dreamed so) the heart
from which it came. In the words of that beautiful poet, to whose
true nature, so full of unuttered tenderness--so fraught with the rich
nobility of love--we have begun slowly to awaken,

       “Her lip was silent, scarcely beat her heart.
       Her eye alone proclaimed ‘we will not part!’
       Thy ‘hope’ may perish, or thy friends may flee.
       Farewell to life--but not adieu to thee!”
            --[Lara]

They arrived at noon at the house of Mr. Thornton, and Aram underwent
his examination. Though he denied most of the particulars in Houseman’s
evidence, and expressly the charge of murder, his commitment was made
out; and that day he was removed by the officers, (Barker and Moor, who
had arrested him at Grassdale,) to York Castle, to await his trial at
the assizes.

The sensation which this extraordinary event created throughout the
country, was wholly unequalled. Not only in Yorkshire, and the county in
which he had of late resided, where his personal habits were known, but
even in the Metropolis, and amongst men of all classes in England, it
appears to have caused one mingled feeling of astonishment, horror,
and incredulity, which in our times has had no parallel in any criminal
prosecution. The peculiar turn of the prisoner--his genius--his
learning--his moral life--the interest that by students had been for
years attached to his name--his approaching marriage--the length of time
that had elapsed since the crime had been committed--the singular and
abrupt manner, the wild and legendary spot, in which the skeleton of
the lost man had been discovered--the imperfect rumours--the dark and
suspicious evidence--all combined to make a tale of such marvellous
incident, and breeding such endless conjecture, that we cannot wonder
to find it afterwards received a place, not only in the temporary
chronicles, but even the most important and permanent histories of the
period.

Previous to Walter’s departure from Knaresbro’ to Grassdale, and
immediately subsequent to the discovery at St. Robert’s Cave, the
coroner’s inquest had been held upon the bones so mysteriously and
suddenly brought to light. Upon the witness of the old woman at
whose house Aram had lodged, and upon that of Houseman, aided by some
circumstantial and less weighty evidence, had been issued that warrant
on which we have seen the prisoner apprehended.

With most men there was an intimate and indignant persuasion of Aram’s
innocence; and at this day, in the county where he last resided, there
still lingers the same belief. Firm as his gospel faith, that conviction
rested in the mind of the worthy Lester; and he sought, by every means
he could devise, to soothe and cheer the confinement of his friend.
In prison, however (indeed after his examination--after Aram had made
himself thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstantial evidence which
identified Clarke with Geoffrey Lester, a story that till then he had
persuaded himself wholly to disbelieve) a change which, in the presence
of Madeline or her father, he vainly attempted wholly to conceal, and
to which, when alone, he surrendered himself with a gloomy
abstraction--came over his mood, and dashed him from the lofty height
of Philosophy, from which he had before looked down on the peril and the
ills below.

Sometimes he would gaze on Lester with a strange and glassy eye, and
mutter inaudibly to himself, as if unaware of the old man’s presence; at
others, he would shrink from Lester’s proffered hand, and start abruptly
from his professions of unaltered, unalterable regard; sometimes he
would sit silently, and, with a changeless and stony countenance, look
upon Madeline as she now spoke in that exalted tone of consolation which
had passed away from himself; and when she had done, instead of replying
to her speech, he would say abruptly, “Ay, at the worst you love me,
then--love me better than any one on earth--say that, Madeline, again
say that!”

And Madeline’s trembling lips obeyed the demand.

“Yes,” he would renew, “this man, whom they accuse me of murdering,
this,--your uncle,--him you never saw since you were an infant, a mere
infant; him you could not love! What was he to you?--yet it is dreadful
to think of--dreadful, dreadful;” and then again his voice ceased; but
his lips moved convulsively, and his eyes seemed to speak meanings that
defied words. These alterations in his bearing, which belied his steady
and resolute character, astonished and dejected both Madeline and her
father. Sometimes they thought that his situation had shaken his reason,
or that the horrible suspicion of having murdered the uncle of his
intended wife, made him look upon themselves with a secret shudder, and
that they were mingled up in his mind by no unnatural, though unjust
confusion, with the causes of his present awful and uncertain state.
With the generality of the world, these two tender friends believed
Houseman the sole and real murderer, and fancied his charge against Aram
was but the last expedient of a villain to ward punishment from himself,
by imputing crime to another. Naturally, then, they frequently sought to
turn the conversation upon Houseman, and on the different circumstances
that had brought him acquainted with Aram; but on this ground the
prisoner seemed morbidly sensitive, and averse to detailed discussion.
His narration, however, such as it was, threw much light upon
certain matters on which Madeline and Lester were before anxious and
inquisitive.

“Houseman is, in all ways,” said he, with great and bitter vehemence,
“unredeemed, and beyond the calculations of an ordinary wickedness; we
knew each other from our relationship, but seldom met, and still more
rarely held long intercourse together. After we separated, when I left
Knaresbro’, we did not meet for years. He sought me at Grassdale; he was
poor, and implored assistance; I gave him all within my power; he sought
me again, nay, more than once again, and finding me justly averse to
yielding to his extortionate demands, he then broached the purpose
he has now effected; he threatened--you hear me--you understand--he
threatened me with this charge--the murder of Daniel Clarke, by that
name alone I knew the deceased. The menace, and the known villainy of
the man, agitated me beyond expression. What was I? a being who lived
without the world--who knew not its ways--who desired only rest! The
menace haunted me--almost maddened! Your nephew has told you, you say,
of broken words, of escaping emotions, which he has noted, even to
suspicion, in me; you now behold the cause! Was it not sufficient? My
life, nay more, my fame, my marriage, Madeline’s peace of mind, all
depended on the uncertain fury or craft of a wretch like this! The idea
was with me night and day; to avoid it, I resolved on a sacrifice; you
may blame me, I was weak, yet I thought then not unwise; to avoid it, I
say I offered to bribe this man to leave the country. I sold my pittance
to oblige him to it. I bound him thereto by the strongest ties. Nay,
so disinterestedly, so truly did I love Madeline, that I would not wed
while I thought this danger could burst upon me. I believed that, before
my marriage day, Houseman had left the country. It was not so, Fate
ordered otherwise. It seems that Houseman came to Knaresbro’ to see
his daughter; that suspicion, by a sudden train of events, fell on him,
perhaps justly; to skreen himself he has sacrificed me. The tale seems
plausible; perhaps the accuser may triumph. But, Madeline, you now
may account for much that may have perplexed you before. Let me
remember--ay--ay--I have dropped mysterious words--have I not? have I
not?--owning that danger was around me--owning that a wild and terrific
secret was heavy at my breast; nay, once, walking with you the evening
before, before the fatal day, I said that we must prepare to seek
some yet more secluded spot, some deeper retirement; for, despite my
precautions, despite the supposed absence of Houseman from the country
itself, a fevered and restless presentiment would at some times intrude
itself on me. All this is now accounted for, is it not, Madeline? Speak,
speak!”

“All, love all! Why do you look on me with that searching eye, that
frowning brow?”

“Did I? no, no, I have no frown for you; but peace, I am not what I
ought to be through this ordeal.”

The above narration of Aram’s did indeed account to Madeline for much
that had till then remained unexplained; the appearance of Houseman at
Grassdale,--the meeting between him and Aram on the evening she walked
with the latter, and questioned him of his ill-boding visitor; the
frequent abstraction and muttered hints of her lover; and as he
had said, his last declaration of the possible necessity of leaving
Grassdale. Nor was there any thing improbable, though it was rather in
accordance with the unworldly habits, than with the haughty character of
Aram, that he should seek, circumstanced as he was, to silence even the
false accuser of a plausible tale, that might well strike horror and
bewilderment into a man much more, to all seeming, fitted to grapple
with the hard and coarse realities of life, than the moody and secluded
scholar. Be that as it may, though Lester deplored, he did not blame
this circumstance, which after all had not transpired, nor seemed likely
to transpire; and he attributed the prisoner’s aversion to enter farther
on the matter, to the natural dislike of so proud a man to refer to his
own weakness, and to dwell upon the manner in which, despite of that
weakness, he had been duped. This story Lester retailed to Walter, and
it contributed to throw a damp and uncertainty over those mixed and
unquiet feelings with which the latter waited for the coming trial.
There were many moments when the young man was tempted to regret that
Aram had not escaped a trial which, if he were proved guilty, would for
ever blast the happiness of his family; and which might, notwithstanding
such a verdict, leave on Walter’s own mind an impression of the
prisoner’s innocence; and an uneasy consciousness that he, through his
investigations, had brought him to that doom.

Walter remained in Yorkshire, seeing little of his family, of none
indeed but Lester; it was not to be expected that Madeline would
see him, and once only he caught the tearful eyes of Ellinor as she
retreated from the room he entered, and those eyes beamed kindness and
pity, but something also of reproach.

Time passed slowly and witheringly on: a man of the name of Terry having
been included in the suspicion, and indeed committed, it appeared that
the prosecutor could not procure witnesses by the customary time, and
the trial was postponed till the next assizes. As this man was however,
never brought up to trial, and appears no more, we have said nothing of
him in our narrative, until he thus became the instrument of a delay in
the fate of Eugene Aram. Time passed on, Winter, Spring, were gone, and
the glory and gloss of Summer were now lavished over the happy earth. In
some measure the usual calmness of his demeanour had returned to Aram;
he had mastered those moody fits we have referred to, which had so
afflicted his affectionate visitors; and he now seemed to prepare and
buoy himself up against that awful ordeal of life and death, which he
was about so soon to pass. Yet he,--the hermit of Nature, who--

                “Each little herb
       That grows on mountain bleak, or tangled forest,
       Had learnt to name;”
            --Remorse, by S. T. Coleridge

he could not feel, even through the bars and checks of a prison, the
soft summer air, ‘the witchery of the soft blue sky;’ he could not see
the leaves bud forth, and mellow into their darker verdure; he could not
hear the songs of the many-voiced birds; or listen to the dancing rain,
calling up beauty where it fell; or mark at night, through his high
and narrow casement, the stars aloof, and the sweet moon pouring in
her light, like God’s pardon, even through the dungeon-gloom and the
desolate scenes where Mortality struggles with Despair; he could not
catch, obstructed as they were, these, the benigner influences of
earth, and not sicken and pant for his old and full communion with their
ministry and presence. Sometimes all around him was forgotten, the harsh
cell, the cheerless solitude, the approaching trial, the boding
fear, the darkened hope, even the spectre of a troubled and fierce
remembrance,--all was forgotten, and his spirit was abroad, and his step
upon the mountain-top once more.

In our estimate of the ills of life, we never sufficiently take into our
consideration the wonderful elasticity of our moral frame, the unlooked
for, the startling facility with which the human mind accommodates
itself to all change of circumstance, making an object and even a joy
from the hardest and seemingly the least redeemed conditions of fate.
The man who watched the spider in his cell, may have taken, at least,
as much interest in the watch, as when engaged in the most ardent and
ambitious objects of his former life; and he was but a type of his
brethren; all in similar circumstances would have found some similar
occupation. Let any man look over his past life, let him recall not
moments, not hours of agony, for to them Custom lends not her blessed
magic; but let him single out some lengthened period of physical or
moral endurance; in hastily reverting to it, it may seem at first,
I grant, altogether wretched; a series of days marked with the black
stone,--the clouds without a star;--but let him look more closely, it
was not so during the time of suffering; a thousand little things, in
the bustle of life dormant and unheeded, then started froth into notice,
and became to him objects of interest or diversion; the dreary present,
once made familiar, glided away from him, not less than if it had
been all happiness; his mind dwelt not on the dull intervals, but the
stepping-stone it had created and placed at each; and, by that moral
dreaming which for ever goes on within man’s secret heart, he lived as
little in the immediate world before him, as in the most sanguine period
of his youth, or the most scheming of his maturity.

So wonderful in equalizing all states and all times in the varying tide
of life, are these two rulers yet levellers of mankind, Hope and Custom,
that the very idea of an eternal punishment includes that of an utter
alteration of the whole mechanism of the soul in its human state, and
no effort of an imagination, assisted by past experience, can conceive
a state of torture which custom can never blunt, and from which the
chainless and immaterial spirit can never be beguiled into even a
momentary escape.

Among the very few persons admitted to Aram’s solitude, was Lord--That
nobleman was staying, on a visit, with a relation of his in the
neighbourhood, and he seized with an excited and mournful avidity, the
opportunity thus afforded him of seeing, once more, a character that had
so often forced itself on his speculation and surprise. He came to offer
not condolence, but respect; services, at such a moment, no individual
could render,--he gave however, what was within his power--advice,--and
pointed out to Aram the best counsel to engage, and the best method of
previous inquiry into particulars yet unexplored. He was astonished to
find Aram indifferent on these points, so important. The prisoner,
it would seem, had even then resolved on being his own counsel, and
conducting his own cause; the event proved that he did not rely in vain
on the power of his own eloquence and sagacity, though he might on their
result. As to the rest, he spoke with impatience, and the petulance of
a wronged man. “For the idle rumours of the world, I do not care,” said
he, “let them condemn or acquit me as they will;--for my life, I might
be willing indeed, that it were spared,--I trust it may be, if not, I
can stand face to face with Death. I have now looked on him within these
walls long enough to have grown familiar with his terrors. But enough of
me; tell me, my Lord, something of the world without, I have grown eager
about it at last. I have been now so condemned to feed upon myself,
that I have become surfeited with the diet;”--and it was with great
difficulty that the Earl drew Aram back to speak of himself: he did so,
even when compelled to it, with so much qualification and reserve,
mixed with some evident anger at the thought of being sifted and
examined--that his visitor was forced finally to drop the subject,
and not liking, nor indeed able, at such a time, to converse on more
indifferent themes, the last interview he ever had with Aram terminated
much more abruptly than he had meant it. His opinion of the prisoner
was not, however, shaken in the least. I have seen a letter of his to a
celebrated personage of the day, in which, mentioning this interview, he
concludes with saying,--“In short, there is so much real dignity
about the man, that adverse circumstances increase it tenfold. Of his
innocence I have not the remotest doubt; but if he persist in being his
own counsel, I tremble for the result,--you know in such cases how much
more valuable is practice than genius. But the judge you will say is, in
criminal causes, the prisoner’s counsel,--God grant he may here prove a
successful one! I repeat, were Aram condemned by five hundred juries,
I could not believe him guilty. No, the very essence of all human
probabilities is against it.”

The Earl afterwards saw and conversed with Walter. He was much struck
with the conduct of the young Lester, and much impressed with a feeling
for a situation, so harassing and unhappy.

“Whatever be the result of the trial,” said Walter, “I shall leave the
country the moment it is finally over. If the prisoner be condemned,
there is no hearth for me in my uncle’s home; if not, my suspicions
may still remain, and the sight of each other be an equal bane to the
accused and to myself. A voluntary exile, and a life that may lead to
forgetfulness, are all that I covet.--I now find in my own person,” he
added, with a faint smile, “how deeply Shakspeare had read the mysteries
of men’s conduct. Hamlet, we are told, was naturally full of fire and
action. One dark discovery quells his spirit, unstrings his heart,
and stales to him for ever the uses of the world. I now comprehend the
change. It is bodied forth even in the humblest individual, who is met
by a similar fate--even in myself.”

“Ay,” said the Earl, “I do indeed remember you a wild, impetuous,
headstrong youth. I scarcely recognize your very appearance. The elastic
spring has left your step--there seems a fixed furrow in your brow.
These clouds of life are indeed no summer vapour, darkening one moment
and gone the next. But my young friend, let us hope the best. I firmly
believe in Aram’s innocence--firmly!--more rootedly than I can express.
The real criminal will appear on the trial. All bitterness between you
and Aram must cease at his acquittal; you will be anxious to repair to
him the injustice of a natural suspicion: and he seems not one who could
long retain malice. All will be well, believe me.”

“God send it!” said Walter, sighing deeply.

“But at the worst,” continued the Earl, pressing his hand in parting,
“if you should persist in your resolution to leave the country, write to
me, and I can furnish you with an honourable and stirring occasion for
doing so.--Farewell.”

While Time was thus advancing towards the fatal day, it was graving deep
ravages within the pure breast of Madeline Lester. She had borne up, as
we have seen, for some time, against the sudden blow that had shivered
her young hopes, and separated her by so awful a chasm from the side of
Aram; but as week after week, month after month rolled on, and he still
lay in prison, and the horrible suspense of ignominy and death still
hung over her, then gradually her courage began to fail, and her heart
to sink. Of all the conditions to which the heart is subject, suspense
is the one that most gnaws, and cankers into, the frame. One little
month of that suspense, when it involves death, we are told, in a very
remarkable work lately published by an eye-witness. [Note: See Mr.
Wakefield’s work on ‘The Punishment of Death.’] is sufficient to
plough fixed lines and furrows in the face of a convict of
five-and-twenty--sufficient to dash the brown hair with grey, and to
bleach the grey to white. And this suspense--suspense of this nature,
for more than eight whole months, had Madeline to endure!

About the end of the second month the effect upon her health grew
visible. Her colour, naturally delicate as the hues of the pink shell or
the youngest rose, faded into one marble whiteness, which again, as time
proceeded, flushed into that red and preternatural hectic, which once
settled, rarely yields its place but to the colours of the grave. Her
flesh shrank from its rounded and noble proportions. Deep hollows traced
themselves beneath eyes which yet grew even more lovely as they grew
less serenely bright. The blessed Sleep sunk not upon her brain with its
wonted and healing dews. Perturbed dreams, that towards dawn succeeded
the long and weary vigil of the night, shook her frame even more than
the anguish of the day in these dreams one frightful vision--a
crowd--a scaffold--and the pale majestic face of her lover, darkened by
unutterable pangs of pride and sorrow, were for ever present before her.
Till now, she and Ellinor had always shared the same bed: this Madeline
would not now suffer. In vain Ellinor wept and pleaded. “No,” said
Madeline, with a hollow voice; “at night I see him. My soul is alone
with his; but--but,”--and she burst into an agony of tears--“the most
dreadful thought is this, I cannot master my dreams. And sometimes I
start and wake, and find that in sleep I have believed him guilty. Nay,
O God! that his lips have proclaimed the guilt! And shall any living
being--shall any but God, who reads not words but hearts, hear this
hideous falsehood--this ghastly mockery of the lying sleep? No, I must
be alone! The very stars should not hear what is forced from me in the
madness of my dreams.”

But not in vain, or not excluded from her, was that elastic and
consoling spirit of which I have before spoken. As Aram recovered the
tenor of his self-possession, a more quiet and peaceful calm diffused
itself over the mind of Madeline. Her high and starry nature could
comprehend those sublime inspirations of comfort, which lift us from the
lowest abyss of this world to the contemplation of all that the yearning
visions of mankind have painted in another. She would sit, rapt and
absorbed for hours together, till these contemplations assumed the
colour of a gentle and soft insanity. “Come, dearest Madeline,” Ellinor
would say,--“Come, you have thought enough; my poor father asks to see
you.”

“Hush!” Madeline answered. “Hush, I have been walking with Eugene in
heaven; and oh! there are green woods, and lulling waters above, as
there are on earth, and we see the stars quite near, and I cannot tell
you how happy their smile makes those who look upon them. And Eugene
never starts there, nor frowns, nor walks aside, nor looks on me with an
estranged and chilling look; but his face is as calm and bright as the
face of an angel;--and his voice!--it thrills amidst all the music which
plays there night and day--softer than their softest note. And we are
married, Ellinor, at last. We were married in heaven, and all the angels
came to the marriage! I am now so happy that we were not wed before!
What! are you weeping, Ellinor? Ah, we never weep in heaven! but we will
all go there again--all of us, hand in hand!”

These affecting hallucinations terrified them, lest they should settle
into a confirmed loss of reason; but perhaps without cause. They never
lasted long, and never occurred but after moods of abstraction of
unusual duration. To her they probably supplied what sleep does to
others--a relaxation and refreshment--an escape from the consciousness
of life. And indeed it might always be noted, that after such harmless
aberrations of the mind, Madeline seemed more collected and patient in
thought, and for the moment, even stronger in frame than before. Yet the
body evidently pined and languished, and each week made palpable decay
in her vital powers.

Every time Aram saw her, he was startled at the alteration; and kissing
her cheek, her lips, her temples, in an agony of grief, wondered that
to him alone it was forbidden to weep. Yet after all, when she was gone,
and he again alone, he could not but think death likely to prove to her
the most happy of earthly boons. He was not sanguine of acquittal, and
even in acquittal, a voice at his heart suggested insuperable barriers
to their union, which had not existed when it was first anticipated.

“Yes, let her die,” he would say, “let her die; she at least is
certain of Heaven!” But the human infirmity clung around him, and
notwithstanding this seeming resolution in her absence, he did not mourn
the less, he was not stung the less, when he saw her again, and beheld
a new character from the hand of death graven upon her form. No; we may
triumph over all weakness, but that of the affections. Perhaps in this
dreary and haggard interval of time, these two persons loved each other
more purely, more strongly, more enthusiastically, than they had ever
done at any former period of their eventful history. Over the hardest
stone, as over the softest turf, the green moss will force its verdure
and sustain its life!



CHAPTER IV.

    THE EVENING BEFORE THE TRIAL.--THE COUSINS.--THE CHANGE IN
   MADELINE.--THE FAMILY OF GRASSDALE MEET ONCE MORE BENEATH ONE
                 ROOF.

       Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
       For Sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears,
       Divides one thing entire to many objects.
        .............
             [Hope] is a flatterer,
       A parasite, a keeper back of death;
       Who gently would dissolve the bands of death
       Which false Hope lingers in extremity?
                 --Richard II.

It was the evening before the trial. Lester and his daughters lodged
at a retired and solitary house in the suburbs of the town of York; and
thither, from the village some miles distant, in which he had chosen his
own retreat, Walter now proceeded across fields laden with the ripening
corn. The last and the richest month of summer had commenced, but the
harvest was not yet begun, and deep and golden showed the vegetation of
life, bedded among the dark verdure of the hedge-rows, and “the merrie
woods!” The evening was serene and lulled; at a distance arose the
spires and chimneys of the town, but no sound from the busy hum of men
reached the ear. Nothing perhaps gives a more entire idea of stillness
than the sight of those abodes where “noise dwelleth,” but where you
cannot now hear even its murmurs. The stillness of a city is far more
impressive than that of Nature; for the mind instantly compares the
present silence with the wonted uproar. The harvest-moon rose slowly
from a copse of gloomy firs, and diffused its own unspeakable magic into
the hush and transparency of the night. As Walter walked slowly on, the
sound of voices from some rustic party going homeward, broke jocundly on
the silence, and when he paused for a moment at the stile, from which
he first caught a glimpse of Lester’s house, he saw, winding along the
green hedgerow, some village pair, the “lover and the maid,” who
could meet only at such hours, and to whom such hours were therefore
especially dear. It was altogether a scene of pure and true pastoral
character, and there was all around a semblance of tranquillity, of
happiness, which suits with the poetical and the scriptural paintings
of a pastoral life; and which perhaps, in a new and fertile country,
may still find a realization. From this scene, from these thoughts, the
young loiterer turned with a sigh towards the solitary house in which
this night could awaken none but the most anxious feelings, and that
moon could beam only on the most troubled hearts.

       “Terra salutiferas herbas, eademque nocentes
       Nutrit; et urticae proxima saepe rosa est.”

He now walked more quickly on, as if stung by his reflections, and
avoiding the path which led to the front of the house, gained a little
garden at the rear, and opening a gate that admitted to a narrow
and shaded walk, over which the linden and nut trees made a sort of
continuous and natural arbour, the moon, piercing at broken intervals
through the boughs, rested on the form of Ellinor Lester.

“This is most kind, most like my own sweet cousin,” said Walter
approaching; “I cannot say how fearful I was, lest you should not meet
me after all.”

“Indeed, Walter,” replied Ellinor, “I found some difficulty in
concealing your note, which was given me in Madeline’s presence; and
still more, in stealing out unobserved by her, for she has been, as you
may well conceive, unusually restless the whole of this agonizing day.
Ah, Walter, would to God you had never left us!”

“Rather say,” rejoined Walter--“that this unhappy man, against whom my
father’s ashes still seem to me to cry aloud, had never come into our
peaceful and happy valley! Then you would not have reproached me, that I
have sought justice on a suspected murderer; nor I have longed for death
rather than, in that justice, have inflicted such distress and horror on
those whom I love the best!”

“What! Walter, you yet believe--you are yet convinced that Eugene Aram
is the real criminal?”

“Let to-morrow shew,” answered Walter. “But poor, poor Madeline! How
does she bear up against this long suspense? You know I have not seen
her for months.”

“Oh! Walter,” said Ellinor, weeping bitterly, “you would not know her,
so dreadfully is she altered. I fear--” (here sobs choaked the sister’s
voice, so as to leave it scarcely audible)--“that she is not many weeks
for this world!”

“Great God! is it so?” exclaimed Walter, so shocked, that the tree
against which he leant scarcely preserved him from falling to the
ground, as the thousand remembrances of his first love rushed upon his
heart. “And Providence singled me out of the whole world, to strike this
blow!”

Despite her own grief, Ellinor was touched and smitten by the violent
emotion of her cousin; and the two young persons, lovers--though love
was at this time the least perceptible feeling of their breasts--mingled
their emotions, and sought, at least to console and cheer each other.

“It may yet be better than our fears,” said Ellinor, soothingly. “Eugene
may be found guiltless, and in that joy we may forget all the past.”

Walter shook his head despondingly. “Your heart, Ellinor, was always
kind to me. You now are the only one to do me justice, and to see
how utterly reproachless I am for all the misery the crime of another
occasions. But my uncle--him, too, I have not seen for some time: is he
well?”

“Yes, Walter, yes,” said Ellinor, kindly disguising the real truth, how
much her father’s vigorous frame had been bowed by his state of mind.
“And I, you see,” added she, with a faint attempt to smile,--“I am,
in health at least, the same as when, this time last year, we were all
happy and full of hope.”

Walter looked hard upon that face, once so vivid with the rich colour
and the buoyant and arch expression of liveliness and youth, now pale,
subdued, and worn by the traces of constant tears; and, pressing his
hand convulsively on his heart, turned away.

“But can I not see my uncle?” said he, after a pause.

“He is not at home: he has gone to the Castle,” replied Ellinor.

“I shall meet him, then, on his way home,” returned Walter. “But,
Ellinor, there is surely no truth in a vague rumour which I heard in the
town, that Madeline intends to be present at the trial to-morrow.”

“Indeed, I fear that she will. Both my father and myself have sought
strongly and urgently to dissuade her; but in vain. You know, with all
that gentleness, how resolute she is when her mind is once determined on
any object.”

“But if the verdict should be against the prisoner, in her state of
health consider how terrible would be the shock!--Nay, even the joy of
acquittal might be equally dangerous--for Heaven’s sake! do not suffer
her.”

“What is to be done, Walter?” said Ellinor, wringing her hands. “We
cannot help it. My father has, at last, forbid me to contradict the
wish. Contradiction, the physician himself says, might be as fatal as
concession can be. And my father adds, in a stern, calm voice, which
it breaks my heart to hear, ‘Be still, Ellinor. If the innocent is to
perish, the sooner she joins him the better: I would then have all my
ties on the other side the grave!’”

“How that strange man seems to have fascinated you all!” said Walter,
bitterly.

Ellinor did not answer: over her the fascination had never been to an
equal degree with the rest of her family.

“Ellinor!” said Walter, who had been walking for the last few moments to
and fro with the rapid strides of a man debating with himself, and who
now suddenly paused, and laid his hand on his cousin’s arm--“Ellinor! I
am resolved. I must, for the quiet of my soul, I must see Madeline
this night, and win her forgiveness for all I have been made the
unintentional agent of Providence to bring upon her. The peace of
my future life may depend on this single interview. What if Aram be
condemned--and--and--in short, it is no matter--I must see her.”

“She would not hear of it, I fear,” said Ellinor, in alarm. “Indeed, you
cannot--you do not know her state of mind.”

“Ellinor!” said Walter, doggedly, “I am resolved.” And so saying, he
moved towards the house.

“Well, then,” said Ellinor, whose nerves had been greatly shattered by
the scenes and sorrow of the last several months, “if it must be so,
wait at least till I have gone in, and consulted or prepared her.”

“As you will, my gentlest, kindest cousin; I know your prudence and
affection. I leave you to obtain me this interview; you can, and will, I
am convinced.”

“Do not be sanguine, Walter. I can only promise to use my best
endeavours,” answered Ellinor, blushing as he kissed her hand; and,
hurrying up the walk, she disappeared within the house.

Walter walked for some moments about the alley in which Ellinor had left
him, but growing impatient, he at length wound through the overhanging
trees, and the house stood immediately before him,--the moonlight
shining full on the window-panes, and sleeping in quiet shadow over the
green turf in front. He approached yet nearer, and through one of the
windows, by a single light in the room, he saw Ellinor leaning over a
couch, on which a form reclined, that his heart, rather than his sight,
told him was his once-adored Madeline. He stopped, and his breath
heaved thick;--he thought of their common home at Grassdale--of the old
Manor-house--of the little parlour with the woodbine at its casement--of
the group within, once so happy and light-hearted, of which he had
formerly made the one most buoyant, and not least-loved. And now this
strange--this desolate house--himself estranged from all once
regarding him,--(and those broken-hearted,)--this night ushering what
a morrow!--he groaned almost aloud, and retreated once more into the
shadow of the trees. In a few minutes the door at the right of the
building opened, and Ellinor came forth with a quick step.

“Come in, dear Walter,” said she; “Madeline has consented to see
you--nay, when I told her you were here, and desired an interview, she
paused but for one instant, and then begged me to admit you.”

“God bless her!” said poor Walter, drawing his hand across his eyes, and
following Ellinor to the door.

“You will find her greatly changed!” whispered Ellinor, as they gained
the outer hall; “be prepared!”

Walter did not reply, save by an expressive gesture; and Ellinor led him
into a room, which communicated, by one of those glass doors often to be
seen in the old-fashioned houses of country towns, with the one in
which he had previously seen Madeline. With a noiseless step, and almost
holding his breath, he followed his fair guide through this apartment,
and he now stood by the couch on which Madeline still reclined. She held
out her hand to him--he pressed it to his lips, without daring to look
her in the face; and after a moment’s pause, she said--

“So, you wished to see me, Walter! It is an anxious night this for all
of us!”

“For all!” repeated Walter, emphatically; “and for me not the least!”

“We have known some sad days since we last met!” renewed Madeline; and
there was another, and an embarrassed pause.

“Madeline--dearest Madeline!” said Walter, at length dropping on his
knee; “you, whom while I was yet a boy, I so fondly, passionately
loved;--you, who yet are--who, while I live, ever will be, so
inexpressibly dear to me--say but one word to me on this uncertain and
dreadful epoch of our fate--say but one word to me--say you feel you
are conscious that throughout these terrible events I have not been
to blame--I have not willingly brought this affliction upon our
house--least of all upon that heart which my own would have forfeited
its best blood to preserve from the slightest evil;--or, if you will not
do me this justice, say at least that you forgive me!”

“I forgive you, Walter! I do you justice, my cousin!” replied Madeline,
with energy; and raising herself on her arm. “It is long since I have
felt how unreasonable it was to throw any blame upon you--the mere and
passive instrument of fate. If I have forborne to see you, it was not
from an angry feeling, but from a reluctant weakness. God bless and
preserve you, my dear cousin! I know that your own heart has bled as
profusely as ours; and it was but this day that I told my father, if we
never met again, to express to you some kind message as a last memorial
from me. Don’t weep, Walter! It is a fearful thing to see men weep! It
is only once that I have seen him weep,--that was long, long ago! He has
no tears in the hour of dread and danger. But no matter, this is a bad
world, Walter, and I am tired of it. Are not you? Why do you look so
at me, Ellinor? I am not mad! Has she told you that I am, Walter? Don’t
believe her! Look at me! I am calm and collected! Yet to-morrow is--O
God! O God!--if--if!--”

Madeline covered her face with her hands, and became suddenly silent,
though only for a short time; when she again lifted up her eyes, they
encountered those of Walter; as through those blinding and agonised
tears, which are only wrung from the grief of manhood, he gazed upon
that face on which nothing of herself, save the divine and unearthly
expression which had always characterised her loveliness, was left.

“Yes, Walter, I am wearing fast away--fast beyond the power of chance!
Thank God, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, if the worst happen,
we cannot be divided long. Ere another Sabbath has passed, I may be with
him in Paradise! What cause shall we then have for regret?”

Ellinor flung herself on her sister’s neck, sobbing violently.--“Yes, we
shall regret you are not with us, Ellinor; but you will also soon grow
tired of the world; it is a sad place--it is a wicked place--it is full
of snares and pitfalls. In our walk to-day lies our destruction for
to-morrow! You will find this soon, Ellinor! And you, and my father,
and Walter, too, shall join us! Hark! the clock strikes! By this time
to-morrow night, what triumph!--or to me at least (sinking her voice
into a whisper, that thrilled through the very bones of her listeners)
what peace!”

Happily for all parties, this distressing scene was here interrupted.
Lester entered the room with the heavy step into which his once elastic
and cheerful tread had subsided.

“Ha, Walter!” said he, irresolutely glancing over the group; but
Madeline had already sprang from her seat.

“You have seen him!--you have seen him! And how does he--how does he
look? But that I know; I know his brave heart does not sink. And what
message does he send to me? And--and--tell me all, my father: quick,
quick!”

“Dear, miserable child!--and miserable old man!” muttered Lester,
folding her in his arms; “but we ought to take courage and comfort
from him, Madeline. A hero, on the eve of battle, could not be more
firm--even more cheerful. He smiled often--his old smile; and he only
left tears and anxiety to us. But of you, Madeline, we spoke mostly:
he would scarcely let me say a word on any thing else. Oh, what a kind
heart!--what a noble spirit! And perhaps a chance tomorrow may quench
both. But, God! be just, and let the avenging lightning fall on the real
criminal, and not blast the innocent man!”

“Amen!” said Madeline deeply.

“Amen!” repeated Walter, laying his hand on his heart.

“Let us pray!” exclaimed Lester, animated by a sudden impulse, and
falling on his knees. The whole group followed his example; and Lester,
in a trembling and impassioned voice, poured forth an extempore prayer,
that Justice might fall only where it was due. Never did that majestic
and pausing Moon, which filled that lowly room as with the presence of
a spirit, witness a more impressive adjuration, or an audience more
absorbed and rapt. Full streamed its holy rays upon the now snowy locks
and upward countenance of Lester, making his venerable person more
striking from the contrast it afforded to the dark and sunburnt
cheek--the energetic features, and chivalric and earnest head of the
young man beside him. Just in the shadow, the raven locks of Ellinor
were bowed over her clasped hands,--nothing of her face visible;
the graceful neck and heaving breast alone distinguished from the
shadow;--and, hushed in a death-like and solemn repose, the parted lips
moving inaudibly; the eye fixed on vacancy; the wan transparent hands,
crossed upon her bosom; the light shone with a more softened and tender
ray upon the faded but all-angelic form and countenance of her, for
whom Heaven was already preparing its eternal recompense for the ills of
Earth!



CHAPTER V.


THE TRIAL.

       “Equal to either fortune.”--Speech of Eugene Aram.

A thought comes over us, sometimes, in our career of pleasure, or the
troublous exultation of our ambitious pursuits; a thought come over us,
like a cloud, that around us and about us Death--Shame--Crime--Despair,
are busy at their work. I have read somewhere of an enchanted land,
where the inmates walked along voluptuous gardens, and built palaces,
and heard music, and made merry; while around, and within, the land,
were deep caverns, where the gnomes and the fiends dwelt: and ever and
anon their groans and laughter, and the sounds of their unutterable
toils, or ghastly revels, travelled to the upper air, mixing in an awful
strangeness with the summer festivity and buoyant occupation of those
above. And this is the picture of human life! These reflections of the
maddening disparities of the world are dark, but salutary:--

   “They wrap our thoughts at banquets in the shroud;” [Young.]

but we are seldom sadder without being also wiser men!

The third of August 1759 rose bright, calm, and clear: it was the
morning of the trial; and when Ellinor stole into her sister’s room,
she found Madeline sitting before the glass, and braiding her rich locks
with an evident attention and care.

“I wish,” said she, “that you had pleased me by dressing as for a
holiday. See, I am going to wear the dress I was to have been married
in.”

Ellinor shuddered; for what is more appalling than to find the signs of
gaiety accompanying the reality of anguish!

“Yes,” continued Madeline, with a smile of inexpressible sweetness, “a
little reflection will convince you that this day ought not to be one of
mourning. It was the suspense that has so worn out our hearts. If he is
acquitted, as we all believe and trust, think how appropriate will be
the outward seeming of our joy! If not, why I shall go before him to our
marriage home, and in marriage garments. Ay,” she added after a moment’s
pause, and with a much more grave, settled, and intense expression of
voice and countenance--“ay; do you remember how Eugene once told us,
that if we went at noonday to the bottom of a deep pit, [Note: The
remark is in Aristotle. Buffon quotes it, with his usual adroit
felicity, in, I think, the first volume of his great work.] we should be
able to see the stars, which on the level ground are invisible. Even so,
from the depths of grief--worn, wretched, seared, and dying--the blessed
apparitions and tokens of Heaven make themselves visible to our eyes.
And I know--I have seen--I feel here,” pressing her hand on her heart,
“that my course is run; a few sands only are left in the glass. Let
us waste them bravely. Stay, Ellinor! You see these poor withered
rose-leaves: Eugene gave them to me the day before--before that fixed
for our marriage. I shall wear them to-day, as I would have worn them on
the wedding-day. When he gathered the poor flower, how fresh it was; and
I kissed off the dew: now see it! But, come, come; this is trifling: we
must not be late. Help me, Nell, help me: come, bustle, quick, quick!
Nay, be not so slovenly; I told you I would be dressed with care
to-day.”

And when Madeline was dressed, though the robe sat loose and in large
folds over her shrunken form, yet, as she stood erect, and looked with
a smile that saddened Ellinor more than tears at her image in the
glass, perhaps her beauty never seemed of a more striking and lofty
character,--she looked indeed, a bride, but the bride of no earthly
nuptials. Presently they heard an irresolute and trembling step at the
door, and Lester knocking, asked if they were prepared.

“Come in, father,” said Madeline, in a calm and even cheerful voice; and
the old man entered.

He cast a silent glance over Madeline’s white dress, and then at his
own, which was deep mourning: the glance said volumes, and its meaning
was not marred by words from any one of the three.

“Yes, father,” said Madeline, breaking the pause,--“We are all ready. Is
the carriage here?”

“It is at the door, my child.”

“Come then, Ellinor, come!”--and leaning on her arm, Madeline walked
towards the door. When she got to the threshold, she paused, and looked
round the room.

“What is it you want?” asked Ellinor.

“I was but bidding all here farewell,” replied Madeline, in a soft and
touching voice: “And now before we leave the house, Father,--Sister, one
word with you;--you have ever been very, very kind to me, and most
of all in this bitter trial, when I must have taxed your patience
sadly--for I know all is not right here, (touching her forehead)--I
cannot go forth this day without thanking you. Ellinor, my dearest
friend--my fondest sister--my playmate in gladness--my comforter in
grief--my nurse in sickness;--since we were little children, we have
talked together, and laughed together, and wept together, and though we
knew all the thoughts of each other, we have never known one thoughts
that we would have concealed from God;--and now we are going to
part?--do not stop me, it must be so, I know it. But, after a little
while may you be happy again, not so buoyant as you have been, that can
never be, but still happy!--You are formed for love and home, and for
those ties you once thought would be mine. God grant that I may have
suffered for us both, and that when we meet hereafter, you may tell me
you have been happy here!”

“But you, father,” added Madeline, tearing herself from the neck of
her weeping sister, and sinking on her knees before Lester, who leaned
against the wall convulsed with his emotions, and covering his face with
his hands--“but you,--what can I say to you?--You, who have never,--no,
not in my first childhood, said one harsh word to me--who have sunk all
a father’s authority in a father’s love,--how can I say all that I
feel for you?--the grateful overflowing, (paining, yet--oh, how sweet!)
remembrances which crowd around and suffocate me now?--The time will
come when Ellinor and Ellinor’s children must be all in all to you--when
of your poor Madeline nothing will be left but a memory; but they, they
will watch on you and tend you, and protect your grey hairs from sorrow,
as I might once have hoped I also was fated to do.”

“My child! my child! you break my heart!” faltered forth at last the
poor old man, who till now had in vain endeavoured to speak.

“Give me your blessing, dear father,” said Madeline, herself overcome by
her feelings;--“Put your hand on my head and bless me--and say, that if
I have ever unconsciously given you a moment’s pain--I am forgiven!”

“Forgiven!” repeated Lester, raising his daughter with weak and
trembling arms as his tears fell fast upon her cheek,--“Never did I feel
what an angel had sate beside my hearth till now!--But be comforted--be
cheered. What, if Heaven had reserved its crowning mercy till this day,
and Eugene be amongst us, free, acquitted, triumphant before the night!”

“Ha!” said Madeline, as if suddenly roused by the thought into new
life:--“Ha! let us hasten to find your words true. Yes! yes!--if it
should be so--if it should. And,” added she, in a hollow voice, (the
enthusiasm checked,) “if it were not for my dreams, I might believe it
would be so:--But--come--I am ready now!”

The carriage went slowly through the crowd that the fame of the
approaching trial had gathered along the streets, but the blinds were
drawn down, and the father and daughter escaped that worst of tortures,
the curious gaze of strangers on distress. Places had been kept for them
in court, and as they left the carriage and entered the fatal spot,
the venerable figure of Lester, and the trembling and veiled forms that
clung to him, arrested all eyes. They at length gained their seats, and
it was not long before a bustle in the court drew off attention from
them. A buzz, a murmur, a movement, a dread pause! Houseman was first
arraigned on his former indictment, acquitted, and admitted evidence
against Aram, who was thereupon arraigned. The prisoner stood at the
bar! Madeline gasped for breath, and clung, with a convulsive motion,
to her sister’s arm. But presently, with a long sigh she recovered her
self-possession, and sat quiet and silent, fixing her eyes upon Aram’s
countenance; and the aspect of that countenance was well calculated to
sustain her courage, and to mingle a sort of exulting pride, with all
the strained and fearful acuteness of her sympathy. Something, indeed,
of what he had suffered, was visible in the prisoner’s features; the
lines around the mouth in which mental anxiety generally the most deeply
writes its traces, were grown marked and furrowed; grey hairs were here
and there scattered amongst the rich and long luxuriance of the dark
brown locks, and as, before his imprisonment, he had seemed considerably
younger than he was, so now time had atoned for its past delay, and he
might have appeared to have told more years than had really gone over
his head; but the remarkable light and beauty of his eye was undimmed
as ever, and still the broad expanse of his forehead retained its
unwrinkled surface and striking expression of calmness and majesty.
High, self-collected, serene, and undaunted, he looked upon the crowd,
the scene, the judge, before and around him; and, even among those who
believed him guilty, that involuntary and irresistible respect which
moral firmness always produces on the mind, forced an unwilling interest
in his fate, and even a reluctant hope of his acquittal.

Houseman was called upon. No one could regard his face without a certain
mistrust and inward shudder. In men prone to cruelty, it has generally
been remarked, that there is an animal expression strongly prevalent in
the countenance. The murderer and the lustful man are often alike in
the physical structure. The bull-throat--the thick lips--the
receding forehead--the fierce restless eye--which some one
or other says reminds you of the buffalo in the instant before
he becomes dangerous, are the outward tokens of the natural animal
unsoftened--unenlightened--unredeemed--consulting only the immediate
desires of his nature, whatever be the passion (lust or revenge) to
which they prompt. And this animal expression, the witness of
his character, was especially wrought, if we may use the word, in
House-man’s rugged and harsh features; rendered, if possible, still more
remarkable at that time by a mixture of sullenness and timidity. The
conviction that his own life was saved, could not prevent remorse at his
treachery in accusing his comrade--a sort of confused principle of which
villains are the most susceptible, when every other honest sentiment has
deserted them.

With a low, choked, and sometimes a faltering tone, Houseman deposed,
that, in the night between the 7th and 8th of January 1744-5, sometime
before 11 o’clock, he went to Aram’s house--that they conversed on
different matters--that he stayed there about an hour--that some three
hours afterwards he passed, in company with Clarke, by Aram’s house, and
Aram was outside the door, as if he were about to return home--that
Aram invited them both to come in--that they did so--that Clarke,
who intended to leave the town before day-break, in order, it was
acknowledged, to make secretly away with certain property in his
possession, was about to quit the house, when Aram proposed to accompany
him out of the town--that he (Aram) and Houseman then went forth with
Clarke--that when they came into the field where St. Robert’s Cave is,
Aram and Clarke went into it, over the hedge, and when they came within
six or eight yards off the Cave, he saw them quarrelling--that he saw
Aram strike Clarke several times, upon which Clarke fell, and he never
saw him rise again--that he saw no instrument Aram had, and knew not
that he had any--that upon this, without any interposition or alarm,
he left them and returned home--that the next morning he went to Aram’s
house, and asked what business he had with Clarke last night, and what
he had done with him? Aram replied not to this question; but threatened
him, if he spoke of his being in Clarke’s company that night; vowing
revenge either by himself or some other person if he mentioned any thing
relating to the affair. This was the sum of Houseman’s evidence.

A Mr. Beckwith was next called, who deposed that Aram’s garden had
been searched, owing to a vague suspicion that he might have been an
accomplice in the frauds of Clarke--that some parts of clothing, and
also some pieces of cambric which he had sold to Clarke a little while
before, were found there.

The third witness was the watchman, Thomas Barnet, who deposed, that
before midnight (it might be a little after eleven) he saw a person come
out from Aram’s house, who had a wide coat on, with the cape about his
head, and seemed to shun him; whereupon he went up to him, and put by
the cape of his great coat, and perceived it to be Richard Houseman. He
contented himself with wishing him good night.

The officers who executed the warrant then gave their evidence as to the
arrest, and dwelt on some expressions dropped by Aram before he arrived
at Knaresbro’, which, however, were felt to be wholly unimportant.

After this evidence there was a short pause;--and then a shiver, that
recoil and tremor which men feel at any exposition of the relics of the
dead, ran through the court; for the next witness was mute--it was the
skull of the Deceased! On the left side there was a fracture, that from
the nature of it seemed as it could only have been made by the stroke of
some blunt instrument. The piece was broken, and could not be replaced
but from within.

The surgeon, Mr. Locock, who produced it, gave it as his opinion that no
such breach could proceed from natural decay--that it was not a recent
fracture by the instrument with which it was dug up, but seemed to be of
many years’ standing.

This made the chief part of the evidence against Aram; the minor points
we have omitted, and also such as, like that of Aram’s hostess, would
merely have repeated what the reader knew before.

And now closed the criminatory evidence--and now the prisoner was asked,
in that peculiarly thrilling and awful question--What he had to say
in his own behalf? Till now, Aram had not changed his posture or his
countenance--his dark and piercing eye had for one instant fixed on each
witness that appeared against him, and then dropped its gaze upon the
ground. But at this moment a faint hectic flushed his cheek, and he
seemed to gather and knit himself up for defence. He glanced round the
court, as if to see what had been the impression created against him.
His eye rested on the grey locks of Rowland Lester, who, looking down,
had covered his face with his hands. But beside that venerable form was
the still and marble face of Madeline; and even at that distance
from him, Aram perceived how intent was the hush and suspense of her
emotions. But when she caught his eye--that eye which even at such
a moment beamed unutterable love, pity, regret for her--a wild, a
convulsive smile of encouragement, of anticipated triumph, broke the
repose of her colourless features, and suddenly dying away, left her
lips apart, in that expression which the great masters of old, faithful
to Nature, give alike to the struggle of hope and the pause of terror.

“My Lord,” began Aram, in that remarkable defence still extant, and
still considered as wholly unequalled from the lips of one defending his
own, and such a, cause;--“My Lord, I know not whether it is of right, or
through some indulgence of your Lordship, that I am allowed the liberty
at this bar, and at this time, to attempt a defence; incapable and
uninstructed as I am to speak. Since, while I see so many eyes upon me,
so numerous and awful a concourse, fixed with attention, and filled with
I know not what expectancy, I labour, not with guilt, my Lord, but
with perplexity. For, having never seen a court but this, being wholly
unacquainted with law, the customs of the bar, and all judiciary
proceedings, I fear I shall be so little capable of speaking with
propriety, that it might reasonably be expected to exceed my hope,
should I be able to speak at all.

“I have heard, my Lord, the indictment read, wherein I find myself
charged with the highest of human crimes. You will grant me then
your patience, if I, single and unskilful, destitute of friends, and
unassisted by counsel, attempt something perhaps like argument in my
defence. What I have to say will be but short, and that brevity may be
the best part of it.

“My Lord, the tenor of my life contradicts this indictment. Who can
look back over what is known of my former years, and charge me with one
vice--one offence? No! I concerted not schemes of fraud--projected no
violence--injured no man’s property or person. My days were honestly
laborious--my nights intensely studious. This egotism is not
presumptuous--is not unreasonable. What man, after a temperate use of
life, a series of thinking and acting regularly, without one single
deviation from a sober and even tenor of conduct, ever plunged into
the depth of crime precipitately, and at once? Mankind are not
instantaneously corrupted. Villainy is always progressive. We decline
from right--not suddenly, but step after step.

“If my life in general contradicts the indictment, my health at that
time in particular contradicts it yet more. A little time before, I
had been confined to my bed, I had suffered under a long and severe
disorder. The distemper left me but slowly, and in part. So far from
being well at the time I am charged with this fact, I never, to this
day, perfectly recovered. Could a person in this condition execute
violence against another?--I, feeble and valetudinary, with no
inducement to engage--no ability to accomplish--no weapon wherewith
to perpetrate such a fact;--without interest, without power, without
motives, without means!

“My Lord, Clarke disappeared: true; but is that a proof of his
death? The fallibility of all conclusions of such a sort, from such
a circumstance, is too obvious to require instances. One instance is
before you: this very castle affords it.

“In June 1757, William Thompson, amidst all the vigilance of this place,
in open daylight, and double-ironed, made his escape; notwithstanding an
immediate inquiry set on foot, notwithstanding all advertisements, all
search, he was never seen or heard of since. If this man escaped
unseen through all these difficulties, how easy for Clarke, whom
no difficulties opposed. Yet what would be thought of a prosecution
commenced against any one seen last with Thompson?

“These bones are discovered! Where? Of all places in the world, can we
think of any one, except indeed the church-yard, where there is so great
a certainty of finding human bones, as a hermitage? In times past, the
hermitage was a place, not only of religious retirement, but of burial.
And it has scarce, or never been heard of, but that every cell
now known, contains, or contained these relics of humanity; some
mutilated--some entire! Give me leave to remind your Lordship, that here
sat SOLITARY SANCTITY, and here the hermit and the anchorite hoped
that repose for their bones when dead, they here enjoyed when living.
I glance over a few of the many evidences that these cells were used as
repositories of the dead, and enumerate a few of the many caves similar
in origin to St. Robert’s, in which human bones have been found.” Here
the prisoner instanced, with remarkable felicity, several places, in
which bones had been found, under circumstances, and in spots analogous
to those in point. [Note: See his published defence.] And the reader,
who will remember that it is the great principle of the law, that no man
can be condemned for murder unless the body of the deceased be found,
will perceive at once how important this point was to the prisoner’s
defence. After concluding his instances with two facts of skeletons
found in fields in the vicinity of Knaresbro’, he burst forth--“Is then
the invention of those bones forgotten or industriously concealed, that
the discovery of these in question may appear the more extraordinary?
Extraordinary--yet how common an event! Every place conceals such
remains. In fields--in hills--in high-way sides--on wastes--on commons,
lie frequent and unsuspected bones. And mark,--no example perhaps occurs
of more than one skeleton being found in one cell. Here you find but
one, agreeable to the peculiarity of every known cell in Britain. Had
two skeletons been discovered, then alone might the fact have seemed
suspicious and uncommon. What! Have we forgotten how difficult, as in
the case of Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Symnell, it has been sometimes to
identify the living; and shall we now assign personality to bones--bones
which may belong to either sex? How know you that this is even the
skeleton of a man? But another skeleton was discovered by some labourer!
Was not that skeleton averred to be Clarke’s full as confidently as
this?

“My Lord, my Lord--must some of the living be made answerable for all
the bones that earth has concealed and chance exposed? The skull that
has been produced, has been declared fractured. But who can surely tell
whether it was the cause or the consequence of death. In May, 1732 the
remains of William Lord Archbishop of this province were taken up by
permission in their cathedral, the bones of the skull were found broken
as these are. Yet he died by no violence! by no blow that could have
caused that fracture. Let it be considered how easily the fracture on
the skull produced is accounted for. At the dissolution of religious
houses, the ravages of the times affected both the living and the dead.
In search after imaginary treasures, coffins were broken, graves and
vaults dug open, monuments ransacked, shrines demolished, Parliament
itself was called in to restrain these violations. And now are the
depredations, the iniquities of those times, to be visited on this? But
here, above all, was a castle vigorously besieged; every spot around
was the scene of a sally, a conflict, a flight, a pursuit. Where the
slaughtered fell, there were they buried. What place is not burial earth
in war? How many bones must still remain in the vicinity of that
siege, for futurity to discover! Can you, then, with so many probable
circumstances, choose the one least probable? Can you impute to the
living what Zeal in its fury may have done; what Nature may have taken
off and Piety interred, or what War alone may have destroyed, alone
deposited?

“And now, glance over the circumstantial evidence, how weak, how frail!
I almost scorn to allude to it. I will not condescend to dwell upon it.
The witness of one man, arraigned himself! Is there no chance that to
save his own life he might conspire against mine?--no chance that he
might have committed this murder, if murder hath indeed been done? that
conscience betrayed to his first exclamation? that craft suggested his
throwing that guilt on me, to the knowledge of which he had unwittingly
confessed? He declares that he saw me strike Clarke, that he saw him
fall; yet he utters no cry, no reproof. He calls for no aid; he returns
quietly home; he declares that he knows not what became of the body, yet
he tells where the body is laid. He declares that he went straight home,
and alone; yet the woman with whom I lodged declares that Houseman and
I returned to my house in company together;--what evidence is this?
and from whom does it come?--ask yourselves. As for the rest of the
evidence, what does it amount to? The watchman sees Houseman leave my
house at night. What more probable, but what less connected with the
murder, real or supposed, of Clarke? Some pieces of clothing are found
buried in my garden. But how can it be shewn that they belonged to
Clarke? Who can swear to, who can prove any thing so vague? And if found
there, even if belonging to Clarke, what proof that they were there
deposited by me? How likely that the real criminal may in the dead of
night have preferred any spot, rather than that round his own home, to
conceal the evidence of his crime!

“How impotent such evidence as this! and how poor, how precarious, even
the strongest of mere circumstantial evidence invariably is! Let it
rise to probability, to the strongest degree of probability; it is but
probability still. Recollect the case of the two Harrisons, recorded by
Dr. Howell; both suffered on circumstantial evidence on account of the
disappearance of a man, who, like Clarke, contracted debts, borrowed
money, and went off unseen. And this man returned several years after
their execution. Why remind you of Jaques du Moulin, in the reign of
Charles the Second?--why of the unhappy Coleman, convicted, though
afterwards found innocent, and whose children perished for want, because
the world believed the father guilty? Why should I mention the perjury
of Smith, who, admitted king’s-evidence, screened himself by accusing
Fainloth and Loveday of the murder of Dunn? the first was executed, the
second was about to share the same fate, when the perjury of Smith was
incontrovertibly proved.

“And now, my Lord, having endeavoured to shew that the whole of this
charge is altogether repugnant to every part of my life; that it is
inconsistent with my condition of health about that time; that no
rational inference of the death of a person can be drawn from his
disappearance; that hermitages were the constant repositories of the
bones of the recluse; that the proofs of these are well authenticated;
that the revolutions in religion, or the fortune of war, have mangled
or buried the dead; that the strongest circumstantial evidence is often
lamentably fallacious, that in my case, that evidence, so far from
being strong, is weak, disconnected, contradictory; what remains? A
conclusion, perhaps, no less reasonably than impatiently wished for.
I, at last, after nearly a year’s confinement, equal to either fortune,
entrust myself to the candour, the justice, the humanity of your
Lordship, and to yours, my countrymen, gentlemen of the jury.”

The prisoner ceased: and the painful and choking sensations of sympathy,
compassion, regret, admiration, all uniting, all mellowing into one
fearful hope for his acquittal, made themselves felt through the crowded
court.

In two persons only, an uneasy sentiment remained--a sentiment that the
prisoner had not completed that which they would have asked from him.
The one was Lester;--he had expected a more warm, a more earnest,
though, perhaps, a less ingenious and artful defence. He had expected
Aram to dwell far more on the improbable and contradictory evidence of
Houseman, and above all, to have explained away, all that was still left
unaccounted for in his acquaintance with Clarke (as we will still call
the deceased), and the allegation that he had gone out with him on the
fatal night of the disappearance of the latter. At every word of the
prisoner’s defence, he had waited almost breathlessly, in the hope that
the next sentence would begin an explanation or a denial on this point:
and when Aram ceased, a chill, a depression, a disappointment, remained
vaguely on his mind. Yet so lightly and so haughtily had Aram approached
and glanced over the immediate evidence of the witnesses against
him, that his silence her might have been but the natural result of a
disdain, that belonged essentially to his calm and proud character. The
other person we referred to, and whom his defence had not impressed with
a belief in its truth, equal to an admiration for its skill, was one far
more important in deciding the prisoner’s fate--it was the Judge!

But Madeline--Great God! how sanguine is a woman’s heart, when the
innocence, the fate of the one she loves is concerned!--a radiant
flush broke over a face so colourless before; and with a joyous look,
a kindled eye, a lofty brow, she turned to Ellinor, pressed her hand in
silence, and once more gave up her whole soul to the dread procedure of
the court.

The Judge now began.--It is greatly to be regretted, that we have no
minute and detailed memorial of the trial, except only the prisoner’s
defence. The summing up of the Judge was considered at that time scarce
less remarkable than the speech of the prisoner. He stated the evidence
with peculiar care and at great length to the jury. He observed how the
testimony of the other deponents confirmed that of Houseman; and
then, touching on the contradictory parts of the latter, he made them
understand, how natural, how inevitable was some such contradiction in
a witness who had not only to give evidence against another, but to
refrain from criminating himself. There could be no doubt but that
Houseman was an accomplice in the crime; and all therefore that seemed
improbable in his giving no alarm when the deed was done, was easily
rendered natural, and reconcileable with the other parts of his
evidence. Commenting then on the defence of the prisoner (who, as if
disdaining to rely on aught save his own genius or his own innocence,
had called no witnesses, as he had employed no counsel), and eulogizing
its eloquence and art, till he destroyed their effect by guarding the
jury against that impression which eloquence and art produce in defiance
of simple fact, he contended that Aram had yet alleged nothing to
invalidate the positive evidence against him.

I have often heard, from men accustomed to courts of law, that nothing
is more marvellous, than the sudden change in a jury’s mind, which the
summing up of the Judge can produce; and in the present instance it
was like magic. That fatal look of a common intelligence, of a common
assent, was exchanged among the doomers of the prisoner’s life and death
as the Judge concluded.

They found the prisoner guilty.

The Judge drew on the black cap.



CHAPTER VI.

     THE DEATH.--THE PRISON.--AN INTERVIEW.--ITS RESULT.

                 “Lay her i’ the earth,
          And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
          May violets spring.”
            ...........
          “See in my heart there was a kind of fighting

          That would not let me sleep.”
                      --Hamlet.

“Bear with me a little longer,” said Madeline. “I shall be well, quite
well presently.”

Ellinor let down the carriage window, to admit the air; and she took the
occasion to tell the coachman to drive faster. There was that change in
Madeline’s voice which alarmed her.

“How noble was his look! you saw him smile!” continued Madeline, talking
to herself: “And they will murder him after all. Let me see, this day
week, ay, ere this day week we shall meet again.”

“Faster; for God’s sake, Ellinor, tell them to drive faster!” cried
Lester, as he felt the form that leant on his bosom wax heavier and
heavier. They sped on; the house was in sight; that lonely and cheerless
house; not their sweet home at Grassdale, with the ivy round its porch,
and the quiet church behind. The sun was setting slowly, and Ellinor
drew the blind to shade the glare from her sister’s eyes.

Madeline felt the kindness, and smiled. Ellinor wiped her eyes, and
tried to smile again. The carriage stopped, and Madeline was lifted
out; she stood, supported by her father and Ellinor, for a moment on the
threshold. She looked on the golden sun, and the gentle earth, and the
little motes dancing in the western ray--all was steeped in quiet, and
full of the peace and tranquillity of the pastoral life! “No, no,” she
muttered, grasping her father’s hand. “How is this? this is not his
hand! Ah, no, no; I am not with him! Father,” she added in a louder and
deeper voice, rising from his breast, and standing alone and unaided.
“Father, bury this little packet with me, they are his letters; do
not break the seal, and--and tell him that I never felt how deeply
I--I--loved him--till all--the world--had--deserted him!”--

She uttered a faint cry of pain, and fell at once to the ground; she
lived a few hours longer, but never made speech or sign, or
evinced token of life but its breath, which died at last
gradually,--imperceptibly--away.

On the following evening Walter obtained entrance to Aram’s cell: that
morning the prisoner had seen Lester; that morning he had heard of
Madeline’s death. He had shed no tear; he had, in the affecting language
of Scripture, “turned his face to the wall;” none had seen his emotions;
yet Lester felt in that bitter interview, that his daughter was duly
mourned.

He did not lift his eyes, when Walter was admitted, and the young man
stood almost at his knee before he perceived him. He then looked up and
they gazed on each other for a moment, but without speaking, till Walter
said in a hollow voice: “Eugene Aram!”

“Ay!”

“Madeline Lester is no more.”

“I have heard it! I am reconciled. Better now than later.”

“Aram!” said Walter, in a tone trembling with emotion, and passionately
clasping his hands, “I entreat, I implore you, at this awful time, if it
be within your power, to lift from my heart a load that weighs it to
the dust, that if left there, will make me through life a crushed and
miserable man;--I implore you, in the name of common humanity, by your
hopes of Heaven, to remove it! The time now has irrevocably passed when
your denial or your confession could alter your doom; your days are
numbered, there is no hope of reprieve; I implore you then, if you were
led, I will not ask how or wherefore, to the execution of the crime for
the charge of which you die, to say, to whisper to me but one word of
confession, and I, the sole child of the murdered man, will forgive you
from the bottom of my soul.”

Walter paused, unable to proceed.

Aram’s brow worked; he turned aside; he made no answer; his head dropped
on his bosom, and his eyes were unmovedly fixed on the earth.

“Reflect,” continued Walter, recovering himself, “Reflect! I have been
the mute instrument in bringing you to this awful fate, in destroying
the happiness of my own house--in--in--in breaking the heart of the
woman whom I adored even as a boy. If you be innocent, what a dreadful
memory is left to me! Be merciful, Aram! be merciful. And if this deed
was done by your hand, say to me but one word to remove the terrible
uncertainty that now harrows up my being. What now is earth, is man, is
opinion, to you? God only now can judge you. The eye of God reads your
heart while I speak, and in the awful hour when Eternity opens to
you, if the guilt has been indeed committed, think, oh think, how much
lighter will be your offence, if, by vanquishing the stubborn heart,
you can relieve a human being from a doubt that otherwise will make the
curse--the horror of an existence. Aram, Aram, if the father’s death
came from you, shall the life of the son be made a burthen to him,
through you also?”

“What would you have of me? speak!” said Aram, but without lifting his
face from his breast.

“Much of your nature belies this crime.--You are wise, calm, beneficent
to the distressed. Revenge, passion,--nay, the sharp pangs of hunger,
may have urged to one deed; but your soul is not wholly hardened: nay, I
think I would so far trust you, that, if at this dread moment--the
clay of Madeline Lester scarce yet cold, woe busy and softening at your
breast, and the son of the murdered dead before you;--if at this moment
you can lay your hand on your heart, and say: ‘Before God, and at peril
of my soul, I am innocent of this deed,’ I will depart--I will believe
you, and bear, as bear I may, the reflection, that, in any way I have
been one of the unconscious agents of condemning to a fearful death an
innocent man! If innocent in this--how good! how perfect in all else!
But, if you cannot at so dark a crisis take that oath,--then! oh
then! be just--be generous, even in guilt, and let me not be haunted
throughout life by the spectre of a ghastly and restless doubt! Speak!
oh! speak!”

Well, well may we judge how crushing must have been that doubt in the
breast of one naturally bold and fiery, when it thus humbled the very
son of the murdered man to forget wrath and vengeance, and descend to
prayer! But Walter had heard the defence of Aram; he had marked his
mien: not once in that trial had he taken his eyes from the prisoner,
and he had felt, like a bolt of ice through his heart, that the sentence
passed on the accused, his judgment could not have passed! How dreadful
must then have been the state of his mind when, repairing to Lester’s
house he found it the house of death--the pure, the beautiful spirit
gone--the father mourning for his child, and not to be comforted--and
Ellinor!--No! scenes like these, thoughts like these, pluck the pride
from a man’s heart.

“Walter Lester!” said Aram, after a pause; but raising his head with
dignity, though on the features there was but one expression--woe,
unutterable woe. “Walter Lester! I had thought to quit life with my tale
untold: but you have not appealed to me in vain! I tear the self from my
heart!--I renounce the last haughty dream, in which I wrapt myself from
the ills around me. You shall learn all, and judge accordingly. But to
your ear the tale can scarce be told:--the son cannot hear in silence
that which, unless I too unjustly, too wholly condemn myself, I must say
of the dead! But Time,” continued Aram, mutteringly, and with his eyes
on vacancy, “Time does not press too fast. Better let the hand speak
than the tongue:--yes; the day of execution is--ay, ay--two days yet to
it--to-morrow? no! Young man,” he said abruptly, turning to Walter, “on
the day after to-morrow, about seven in the evening, the eve before that
morn fated to be my last--come to me. At that time I will place in your
hands a paper containing the whole history that connects myself with
your father. On the word of a man on the brink of another world, no
truth that imparts your interest therein shall be omitted. But read it
not till I am no more; and when read, confide the tale to none, till
Lester’s grey hairs have gone to the grave. This swear! ‘tis an oath
difficult perhaps to keep, but--” “As my Redeemer lives, I will swear to
both conditions!” cried Walter, with a solemn fervour.

“But tell me now at least”--“Ask me no more!” interrupted Aram, in his
turn. “The time is near, when you will know all! Tarry that time, and
leave me! Yes, leave me now--at once--leave me!”

To dwell lingeringly over those passages which excite pain without
satisfying curiosity, is scarcely the duty of the drama, or of
that province even nobler than the drama; for it requires minuter
care--indulges in more complete description--yields to more elaborate
investigation of motives--commands a greater variety of chords in the
human heart--to which, with poor and feeble power for so high, yet so
ill-appreciated a task we now, not irreverently if rashly, aspire!

We pass at once--we glance not around us at the chamber of death--at
the broken heart of Lester--at the two-fold agony of his surviving
child--the agony which mourns and yet seeks to console another--the
mixed emotions of Walter, in which, an unsleeping eagerness to learn the
fearful all formed the main part--the solitary cell and solitary heart
of the convicted--we glance not at these;--we pass at once to the
evening in which Aram again saw Walter Lester, and for the last time.

“You are come, punctual to the hour,” said he, in a low clear voice: “I
have not forgotten my word; the fulfilment of that promise has been a
victory over myself which no man can appreciate: but I owed it to you.
I have discharged the debt. Enough!--I have done more than I at first
purposed. I have extended my narration, but, superficially in some
parts, over my life: that prolixity, perhaps I owed to myself. Remember
your promise: this seal is not broken till the pulse is stilled in the
hand which now gives you these papers!”

Walter renewed his oath, and Aram, pausing for a moment, continued in an
altered and softening voice:

“Be kind to Lester: soothe, console him--never by a hint let him think
otherwise of me than he does. For his sake more than mine I ask this.
Venerable, kind old man! the warmth of human affection has rarely glowed
for me. To the few who loved me, how deeply I have repaid the love! But
these are not words to pass between you and me. Farewell! Yet, before
we part, say this much: whatever I have revealed in this
confession--whatever has been my wrong to you, or whatever (a less
offence) the language I have now, justifying myself, used to--to your
father--say, that you grant me that pardon which one man may grant
another.”

“Fully, cordially,” said Walter.

“In the day that for you brings the death that to-morrow awaits me,”
 said Aram, in a deep tone, “be that forgiveness accorded to yourself!
Farewell. In that untried variety of Being which spreads beyond us,
who knows, but progressing from grade to grade, and world to world, our
souls, though in far distant ages, may meet again!--one dim and shadowy
memory of this hour the link between us, farewell--farewell!”

For the reader’s interest we think it better (and certainly it is more
immediately in the due course of narrative, if not of actual events)
to lay at once before him the Confession that Aram placed in Walter’s
hands, without waiting till that time when Walter himself broke the
seal of a confession, not of deeds alone, but of thoughts how wild and
entangled--of feelings how strange and dark--of a starred soul that had
wandered from, how proud an orbit, to what perturbed and unholy regions
of night and chaos! For me, I have not sought to derive the reader’s
interest from the vulgar sources, that such a tale might have afforded;
I have suffered him, almost from the beginning, to pierce into Aram’s
secret; and I have prepared him for that guilt, with which other
narrators of this story might have only sought to surprise.



CHAPTER VII.

           THE CONFESSION.--AND THE FATE.

        “In winter’s tedious nights, sit by the fire
        With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
        Of woful ages long ago betid:
        And ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief,
        Tell them the lamentable fall of me.”
                     --Richard II.

“I was born at Ramsgill, a little village in Netherdale. My family had
originally been of some rank; they were formerly lords of the town of
Aram, on the southern banks of the Tees. But time had humbled these
pretensions to consideration; though they were still fondly cherished by
the heritors of an ancient name, and idle but haughty recollections.
My father resided on a small farm, and was especially skilful in
horticulture, a taste I derived from him. When I was about thirteen,
the deep and intense Passion that has made the Demon of my life, first
stirred palpably within me. I had always been, from my cradle, of a
solitary disposition, and inclined to reverie and musing; these
traits of character heralded the love that now seized me--the love of
knowledge. Opportunity or accident first directed my attention to the
abstruser sciences. I poured my soul over that noble study, which is the
best foundation of all true discovery; and the success I met with soon
turned my pursuits into more alluring channels. History, poetry, the
mastery of the past, the spell that admits us into the visionary
world, took the place which lines and numbers had done before. I became
gradually more and more rapt and solitary in my habits; knowledge
assumed a yet more lovely and bewitching character, and every day the
passion to attain it increased upon me; I do not, I have not now the
heart to do it--enlarge upon what I acquired without assistance, and
with labour sweet in proportion to its intensity.

   [We learn from a letter of Eugene Aram’s, now extant, that his
   method of acquiring the learned languages, was, to linger over five
   lines at a time, and never to quit a passage till he thought he had
   comprehended its meaning.]

The world, the creation, all things that lived, moved, and were, became
to me objects contributing to one passionate, and, I fancied, one
exalted end. I suffered the lowlier pleasures of life, and the charms of
its more common ties, to glide away from me untasted and unfelt. As you
read, in the East, of men remaining motionless for days together,
with their eyes fixed upon the heavens, my mind, absorbed in the
contemplation of the things above its reach, had no sight of what passed
around. My parents died, and I was an orphan. I had no home, and no
wealth; but wherever the field contained a flower, or the heavens a
star, there was matter of thought and food for delight to me. I wandered
alone for months together, seldom sleeping but in the open air, and
shunning the human form as that part of God’s works from which I could
learn the least. I came to Knaresbro’: the beauty of the country, a
facility in acquiring books from a neighbouring library that was open to
me, made me resolve to settle there. And now, new desires opened upon me
with new stores: I became seized, possessed, haunted with the ambition
of enlightening my race. At first, I had loved knowledge solely for
itself: I now saw afar an object grander than knowledge. To what end,
said I, are these labours? Why do I feed a lamp which consumes itself in
a desert place? Why do I heap up riches, without asking who shall
gather them? I was restless and discontented. What could I do? I was
friendless; I was strange to my kind; I was shut out from all uses by
the wall of my own poverty. I saw my desires checked when their aim
was at the highest: all that was proud, and aspiring, and ardent in
my nature, was cramped and chilled. I exhausted the learning within my
reach. Where, with my appetite excited not slaked, was I, destitute
and penniless, to search for more? My abilities, by bowing them to the
lowliest tasks, but kept me from famine:--was this to be my lot for
ever? And all the while, I was thus grinding down my soul in order
to satisfy the vile physical wants, what golden hours, what glorious
advantages, what openings into new heavens of science, what chances of
illumining mankind were for ever lost to me! Sometimes when the young,
whom I taught some elementary, all-unheeded, initiations into knowledge,
came around me; when they looked me in the face with their laughing
eyes; when, for they all loved me, they told me their little pleasures
and their petty sorrows, I have wished that I could have gone back again
into childhood, and becoming as one of them, enter into that heaven of
quiet which was denied me now. Yet more often it was with an indignant
and chafed rather than a sorrowful spirit that I looked upon my lot; and
if I looked beyond it, what could I see of hope? Dig I could; but was
all that thirsted and swelled within to be dried up and stifled, in
order that I might gain the sustenance of life? Was I to turn menial to
the soil, and forget that knowledge was abroad? Was I to starve my mind,
that I might keep alive my body? Beg I could not. Where ever lived the
real student, the true minister and priest of knowledge, who was not
filled with the lofty sense of the dignity of his calling? Was I to shew
the sores of my pride, and strip my heart from its clothing, and ask
the dull fools of wealth not to let a scholar starve? Pah!--He whom the
vilest poverty ever stooped to this, may be the quack, but never the
true disciple, of Learning. Steal, rob--worse--ay, all those I or any
of my brethren might do:--beg? never! What did I then? I devoted the
lowliest part of my knowledge to the procuring the bare means of life,
and the grandest,--the knowledge that pierced to the depths of earth,
and numbered the stars of heaven--why, that was valueless, save to the
possessor.

“In Knaresbro’, at this time, I met a distant relation, Richard
Houseman. Sometimes in our walks we encountered each other; for he
sought me, and I could not always avoid him. He was a man like myself,
born to poverty, yet he had always enjoyed what to him was wealth. This
seemed a mystery to me; and when we met, we sometimes conversed upon it.
‘You are poor, with all your wisdom,’ said he. ‘I know nothing; but I
am never poor. Why is this? The world is my treasury.--I live upon
my kind.--Society is my foe.--Laws order me to starve; but
self-preservation is an instinct more sacred than society, and more
imperious then laws.’

“The undisguised and bold manner of his discourse impressed while it
revolted me. I looked upon him as a study, and I combated, in order
to learn, him. He had been a soldier--he had seen the greatest part
of Europe--he possessed a strong shrewd sense--he was a villain--but
a villain bold--adroit--and not then thoroughly unredeemed. His
conversation created dark and perturbed reflections. What was that
state of society--was it not at war with its own elements--in which vice
prospered more than virtue? Knowledge was my dream, that dream I might
realize, not by patient suffering, but by active daring. I might wrest
from society, to which I owed nothing, the means to be wise and great.
Was it not better and nobler to do this, even at my life’s hazard, than
lie down in a ditch and die the dog’s death? Was it not better than such
a doom--ay better for mankind--that I should commit one bold wrong, and
by that wrong purchase the power of good? I asked myself that question.
It is a fearful question; it opens a labyrinth of reasonings, in which
the soul may walk and lose itself for ever.

“One day Houseman met me, accompanied by a stranger who had just
visited our town, for what purpose you know already. His name--supposed
name--was Clarke. Man, I am about to speak plainly of that stranger--his
character and his fate. And yet--yet you are his son! I would fain
soften the colouring; but I speak truth of myself, and I must not,
unless I would blacken my name yet deeper than it deserves, varnish
truth when I speak of others. Houseman joined, and presented to me
this person. From the first I felt a dislike creep through me at the
stranger, which indeed it was easy to account for. He was of a careless
and somewhat insolent manner. His countenance was impressed with the
lines and character of a thousand vices: you read in the brow and
eye the history of a sordid yet reckless life. His conversation was
repellent to me beyond expression. He uttered the meanest sentiments,
and he chuckled over them as the maxims of a superior sagacity; he
avowed himself a knave upon system, and upon the lowest scale. To
overreach, to deceive, to elude, to shuffle, to fawn, and to lie, were
the arts that he confessed to with so naked and cold a grossness, that
one perceived that in the long habits of debasement he was unconscious
of what was not debased. Houseman seemed to draw him out: he told us
anecdotes of his rascality, and the distresses to which it had brought
him; and he finished by saying: ‘Yet you see me now almost rich, and
wholly contented. I have always been the luckiest of human beings; no
matter what ill-chances to-day, good turns up to-morrow. I confess that
I bring on myself the ill, and Providence sends me the good.’ We met
accidentally more than once, and his conversation was always of the same
strain--his luck and his rascality: he had no other theme, and no other
boast. And did not this stir into gloomy speculation the depths of my
mind? Was it not an ordination that called upon men to take fortune in
their own hands, when Fate lavished her rewards on this low and creeping
thing, that could only enter even Vice by its sewers and alleys? Was it
worth while to be virtuous, and look on, while the bad seized upon
the feast of life? This man was instinct with the basest passions, the
pettiest desires: he gratified them, and Fate smiled upon his daring. I,
who had shut out from my heart the poor temptations of sense--I, who
fed only the most glorious visions, the most august desires--I, denied
myself their fruition, trembling and spell-bound in the cerements of
human laws, without hope, without reward,--losing the very powers of
virtue because I would not stray into crime.

“These thoughts fell on me darkly and rapidly; but they led to no
result. I saw nothing beyond them. I suffered my indignation to gnaw my
heart; and preserved the same calm and serene demeanour which had grown
with my growth of mind. Nay, while I upbraided Fate, I did not cease to
love mankind. I envied--what? the power to serve them! I had been kind
and loving to all things from a boy; there was not a dumb animal that
would not single me from a crowd as its protector, [Note: All the
authentic anecdotes of Aram corroborate the fact of his natural
gentleness to all things. A clergyman (the Rev. Mr. Hinton) said that he
used frequently to observe Aram, when walking in the garden, stoop down
to remove a snail or worm from the path, to prevent its being destroyed.
Mr. Hinton ingeniously conjectured that Aram wished to atone for his
crime by shewing mercy to every animal and insect: but the fact is, that
there are several anecdotes to shew that he was equally humane before
the crime was committed. Such are the strange contradictions of the
human heart!] and yet I was doomed--but I must not premeditate my tale.
In returning, at night, to my own home, from my long and solitary walks,
I often passed the house in which Clarke lodged; and sometimes I met him
reeling by the door, insulting all who passed; and yet their resentment
was absorbed in their disgust. ‘And this loathsome, and grovelling
thing,’ said I, inly, ‘squanders on low excesses, wastes upon outrages
to society, that with which I could make my soul as a burning lamp, that
should shed a light over the world!”

“There was that in this man’s vices which revolted me far more than
the villainy of Houseman. The latter had possessed no advantages of
education; he descended to no minutiae of sin, he was a plain, blunt,
coarse wretch, and his sense threw something respectable around his
vices. But in Clarke you saw the traces of happier opportunities of
better education; it was in him not the coarseness of manner so much as
the sickening, universal canker of vulgarity of mind. Had Houseman money
in his purse, he would have paid a debt and relieved a friend from mere
indifference; not so the other. Had he been overflowing with wealth,
he would have slipped from a creditor, and duped a friend; there was a
pitiful and debasing weakness in his nature, which made him regard the
lowest meanness as the subtlest wit. His mind too was not only degraded,
but broken by his habits of life; a strange, idiotic folly, that made
him love laughing at his own littleness, ran through his character.
Houseman was young; he might amend; but Clarke had grey hairs and dim
eyes; was old in constitution, if not years; and every thing in him was
hopeless and confirmed; the leprosy was in the system. Time, in this,
has made Houseman what Clarke was then.

“One day, in passing through the street, though it was broad noon, I
encountered Clarke in a state of intoxication, and talking to a crowd he
had collected around him. I sought to pass in an opposite direction; he
would not suffer me; he, whom I sickened to touch, to see, threw himself
in my way, and affected gibe and insult, nay even threat. But when he
came near, he shrank before the mere glance of my eye, and I passed on
unheeding him. The insult galled me; he had taunted my poverty, poverty
was a favourite jest with him; it galled me; anger, revenge, no! those
passions I had never felt for any man. I could not rouse them for the
first time for such a cause; yet I was lowered in my own eyes, I was
stung. Poverty! he taunt me! He dream himself, on account of a little
yellow dust, my superior! I wandered from the town, and paused by the
winding and shagged banks of the river. It was a gloomy winter’s day,
the waters rolled on black and sullen, and the dry leaves rustled
desolately beneath my feet. Who shall tell us that outward nature has no
effect upon our mood? All around seemed to frown upon my lot. I read in
the face of heaven and earth a confirmation of the curse which man hath
set upon poverty. I leant against a tree that overhung the waters, and
suffered my thoughts to glide on in the bitter silence of their course.
I heard my name uttered--I felt a hand on my arm, I turned, and Houseman
was by my side.

“‘What, moralizing?’ said he, with his rude smile.

“I did not answer him.

“‘Look,’ said he, pointing to the waters, ‘where yonder fish lies
waiting his prey, that prey his kind. Come, you have read Nature, is it
not so universally?’

“I did not answer him.

“‘They who do not as the rest,’ he renewed, ‘fulfil not the object of
their existence; they seek to be wiser than their tribe, and are fools
for their pains. Is it not so? I am a plain man, and would learn.’

“Still I did not answer.

“‘You are silent,’ said he; ‘do I offend you?’

“‘No!’

“‘Now, then,’ he continued, ‘strange as it may seem, we, so different in
mind, are at this moment alike in fortunes. I have not a guinea in
the wide world; you, perhaps, are equally destitute. But mark the
difference, I, the ignorant man, ere three days have passed, will have
filled my purse; you, the wise man, will be still as poor. Come, cast
away your wisdom, and do as I do.’

“‘How?’

“‘Take from the superfluities of others what your necessities crave.
My horse, my pistol, a ready hand, a stout heart, these are to me, what
coffers are to others. There is the chance of detection and of death; I
allow it. But is not this chance better than some certainties?’

“I turned away my face. In the silence of my chamber, and in the
solitude of my heart, I had thought, as the robber spoke--there was a
strife within me.

“‘Will you share the danger and the booty?’ renewed Houseman, in a low
voice.

“I turned my eyes upon him. ‘Speak out,’ said I; ‘explain your purpose!’

“Houseman’s looks brightened.

“‘Listen!’ said he; ‘Clarke, despite his present wealth lawfully gained,
is about to purloin more; he has converted his legacy into jewels; he
has borrowed other jewels on false pretences; he purposes to make
these also his own, and to leave the town in the dead of night; he has
confided to me his intention, and asked my aid. He and I, be it known
to you, were friends of old; we have shared together other dangers, and
other spoils; he has asked my assistance in his flight. Now do you learn
my purpose? Let us ease him of his burthen! I offer to you the half;
share the enterprise and its fruits.’

“I rose, I walked away, I pressed my hands on my heart; I wished to
silence the voice that whispered me within. Houseman saw the conflict;
he followed me; he named the value of the prize he proposed to gain;
that which he called my share placed all my wished within my reach!--the
means of gratifying the one passion of my soul, the food for knowledge,
the power of a lone blessed independence upon myself,--and all were in
my grasp; no repeated acts of fraud; no continuation of sin, one single
act sufficed! I breathed heavily, but I threw not off the emotion that
seized my soul; I shut my eyes and shuddered, but the vision still rose
before me.

“‘Give me your hand,’ said Houseman. [Note: Though, in the above part of
Aram’s confession, it would seem as if Houseman did not allude to more
than the robbery of Clarke; it is evident from what follows, that the
more heinous crime also was then at least hinted at by Houseman.]

“‘No, no,’ I said, breaking away from him. ‘I must pause--I must
consider--I do not yet refuse, but I will not now decide.’--

“Houseman pressed, but I persevered in my determination;--he would have
threatened me, but my nature was haughtier than his, and I subdued him.
It was agreed that he should seek me that night and learn my choice--the
next night was the one on which the deed was to be done. We parted--I
returned an altered man to my home. Fate had woven her mesh around me--a
new incident had occurred which strengthened the web: there was a poor
girl whom I had been accustomed to see in my walks. She supported her
family by her dexterity in making lace,--a quiet, patient-looking,
gentle creature. Clarke had, a few days since, under pretence of
purchasing lace, decoyed her to his house (when all but himself were
from home), where he used the most brutal violence towards her. The
extreme poverty of the parents had enabled him easily to persuade them
to hush up the matter, but something of the story got abroad; the poor
girl was marked out for that gossip and scandal, which among the very
lowest classes are as coarse in the expression as malignant in the
sentiment; and in the paroxysm of shame and despair, the unfortunate
girl had that day destroyed herself. This melancholy event wrung forth
from the parents the real story: the event and the story reached my
ears in the very hour in which my mind was wavering to and fro. Can you
wonder that they fixed it at once, and to a dread end? What was this
wretch? aged with vice--forestalling time--tottering on to a dishonoured
grave--soiling all that he touched on his way--with grey hairs and
filthy lewdness, the rottenness of the heart, not its passion, a
nuisance and a curse to the world. What was the deed--that I should rid
the earth of a thing at once base and venomous? Was it crime? Was it
justice? Within myself I felt the will--the spirit that might bless
mankind. I lacked the means to accomplish the will and wing the spirit.
One deed supplied me with the means. Had the victim of that deed been
a man moderately good--pursuing with even steps the narrow line between
vice and virtue--blessing none but offending none,--it might have been
yet a question whether mankind would not gain more by the deed than
lose. But here was one whose steps stumbled on no good act--whose
heart beat to no generous emotion;--there was a blot--a foulness on
creation,--nothing but death could wash it out and leave the world fair.
The soldier receives his pay, and murthers, and sleeps sound, and men
applaud. But you say he smites not for pay, but glory. Granted--though a
sophism. But was there no glory to be gained in fields more magnificent
than those of war--no glory to be gained in the knowledge which saves
and not destroys? Was I not about to strike for that glory, for the
means of earning it? Nay, suppose the soldier struck for patriotism,
a better feeling than glory, would not my motive be yet larger than
patriotism? Did it not body forth a broader circle? Could the world stop
the bound of its utilities? Was there a corner of the earth--was there a
period in time, which an ardent soul, freed from, not chained as now, by
the cares of the body, and given wholly up to wisdom, might not pierce,
vivify, illumine? Such were the questions which I asked:--time only
answered them.

“Houseman came, punctual to our dark appointment. I gave him my hand in
silence. We understood each other. We said no more of the deed itself,
but of the manner in which it should be done. The melancholy incident
I have described made Clarke yet more eager to leave the town. He had
settled with Houseman that he would abscond that very night, not wait
for the next, as at first he had intended. His jewels and property were
put in a small compass. He had arranged that he would, towards midnight
or later, quit his lodging; and about a mile from the town, Houseman
had engaged to have a chaise in readiness. For this service Clarke had
promised Houseman a reward, with which the latter appeared contented. It
was arranged that I should meet Houseman and Clarke at a certain spot
in their way from the town, and there--! Houseman appeared at first
fearful, lest I should relent and waver in my purpose. It is never so
with men whose thoughts are deep and strong. To resolve was the arduous
step--once resolved, and I cast not a look behind. Houseman left me for
the present. I could not rest in my chamber. I went forth and walked
about the town; the night deepened--I saw the lights in each house
withdrawn, one by one, and at length all was hushed--Silence and Sleep
kept court over the abodes of men. That stillness--that quiet--that
sabbath from care and toil--how deeply it sank into my heart! Nature
never seemed to me to make so dread a pause. I felt as if I and my
intended victim had been left alone in the world. I had wrapped myself
above fear into a high and preternatural madness of mind. I looked
on the deed I was about to commit as a great and solemn sacrifice to
Knowledge, whose Priest I was. The very silence breathed to me of a
stern and awful sanctity--the repose, not of the charnel-house, but the
altar. I heard the clock strike hour after hour, but I neither faltered
nor grew impatient. My mind lay hushed in its design.

“The Moon came out, but with a pale and sickly countenance. Winter was
around the earth; the snow, which had been falling towards eve, lay deep
upon the ground; and the Frost seemed to lock the Universal Nature into
the same calm and deadness which had taken possession of my soul.

“Houseman was to have come to me at midnight, just before Clarke left
his house, but it was nearly two hours after that time ere he arrived.
I was then walking to and fro before my own door; I saw that he was not
alone, but with Clarke. ‘Ha!’ said he, ‘this is fortunate, I see you are
just going home. You were engaged, I recollect, at some distance from
the town, and have, I suppose, just returned. Will you admit Mr. Clarke
and myself for a short time--for to tell you the truth,’ said he, in a
lower voice--‘The watchman is about, and we must not be seen by him! I
have told Clarke that he may trust you, we are relatives!’

“Clarke, who seemed strangely credulous and indifferent, considering
the character of his associate,--but those whom fate destroys she first
blinds, made the same request in a careless tone, assigning the same
cause. Unwillingly, I opened the door and admitted them. We went up
to my chamber. Clarke spoke with the utmost unconcern of the fraud he
purposed, and with a heartlessness that made my veins boil, of the poor
victim his brutality had destroyed. All this was as iron bands round my
purpose. They stayed for nearly an hour, for the watchman remained some
time in that beat--and then Houseman asked me to accompany them a little
way out of the town. Clarke seconded the request. We walked forth; the
rest--why need I repeat? Houseman lied in the court; my hand struck--but
not the death-blow: yet, from that hour, I have never given that right
hand in pledge of love or friendship--the curse of memory has clung to
it.

“We shared our booty; mine I buried, for the present. Houseman had
dealings with a gipsy hag, and through her aid removed his share,
at once, to London. And now, mark what poor strugglers we are in the
eternal web of destiny! Three days after that deed, a relation who
neglected me in life, died, and left me wealth!--wealth at least to
me!--Wealth, greater than that for which I had...! The news fell on me
as a thunderbolt. Had I waited but three little days! Great God! when
they told me,--I thought I heard the devils laugh out at the fool who
had boasted wisdom! Tell me not now of our free will--we are but the
things of a never-swerving, an everlasting Necessity!--pre-ordered to
our doom--bound to a wheel that whirls us on till it touches the point
at which we are crushed! Had I waited but three days, three little
days!--Had but a dream been sent me, had but my heart cried within
me,--‘Thou hast suffered long, tarry yet!’ [Note: Aram has hitherto been
suffered to tell his own tale without comment or interruption. The chain
of reasonings, the metaphysical labyrinth of defence and motive, which
he wrought around his act, it was, in justice to him, necessary to
give at length, in order to throw a clearer light on his character--and
lighten, perhaps, in some measure the heinousness of his crime. No moral
can be more impressive than that which teaches how man can entangle
himself in his own sophisms--that moral is better, viewed aright, than
volumes of homilies. But here I must pause for one moment, to bid the
reader mark, that that event which confirmed Aram in the bewildering
doctrines of his fatalism, ought rather to inculcate the Divine
virtue--the foundation of all virtues, Heathen or Christian--that which
Epictetus made clear, and Christ sacred--FORTITUDE. The reader will
note, that the answer to the reasonings that probably convinced the mind
of Aram, and blinded him to his crime, may be found in the change of
feelings by which the crime was followed. I must apologize for this
interruption--it seemed to me advisable in this place;--though, in
general, the moment we begin to inculcate morality as a science, we
ought to discard moralizing as a method.] No, it was for this, for the
guilt and its penance, for the wasted life and the shameful death--with
all my thirst for good, my dreams of glory--that I was born, that I was
marked from my first sleep in the cradle!

“The disappearance of Clarke of course created great excitement;--those
whom he had over-reached had naturally an interest in discovering
him. Some vague surmises that he might have been made away with,
were rumoured abroad. Houseman and I, owing to some concurrence of
circumstance, were examined,--not that suspicion attached to me before
or after the examination. That ceremony ended in nothing. Houseman did
not betray himself; and I, who from a boy had mastered my passions,
could master also the nerves, which are the passions’ puppets: but I
read in the face of the woman with whom I lodged, that I was suspected.
Houseman told me that she had openly expressed her suspicion to him;
nay, he entertained some design against her life, which he naturally
abandoned on quitting the town. This he did soon afterwards. I did not
linger long behind him. I dug up my jewels,--I concealed them about me,
and departed on foot to Scotland. There I converted my booty into money.
And now I was above want--was I at rest? Not yet. I felt urged on to
wander--Cain’s curse descends to Cain’s children. I travelled for some
considerable time,--I saw men and cities, and I opened a new volume in
my kind. It was strange; but before the deed, I was as a child in the
ways of the world, and a child, despite my knowledge, might have duped
me. The moment after it, a light broke upon me,--it seemed as if my eyes
were touched with a charm, and rendered capable of piercing the hearts
of men! Yes, it was a charm--a new charm--it was Suspicion! I now
practised myself in the use of arms,--they made my sole companions.
Peaceful, as I seemed to the world, I felt there was that eternally
within me with which the world was at war.

“I do not deceive you. I did not feel what men call remorse! Having once
convinced myself that I had removed from the earth a thing that injured
and soiled its tribes,--that I had in crushing one worthless life, but
without crushing one virtue--one feeling--one thought that could benefit
others, strode to a glorious end;--having once convinced myself of this,
I was not weak enough to feel a vague remorse for a deed I would not
allow, in my case, to be a crime. I did not feel remorse, but I felt
regret. The thought that had I waited three days I might have been
saved, not from guilt, but from the chance of shame,--from the
degradation of sinking to Houseman’s equal--of feeling that man had the
power to hurt me--that I was no longer above the reach of human malice,
or human curiosity--that I was made a slave to my own secret--that I was
no longer lord of my heart, to shew or to conceal it--that at any hour,
in the possession of honours, by the hearth of love, I might be dragged
forth and proclaimed a murderer--that I held my life, my reputation, at
the breath of accident--that in the moment I least dreamed of, the earth
might yield its dead, and the gibbet demand its victim;--this could
I feel--all this--and not make a spectre of the past:--a spectre that
walked by my side--that slept at my bed--that rose from my books--that
glided between me and the stars of heaven, that stole along the flowers,
and withered their sweet breath--that whispered in my ear, ‘Toil,
fool, and be wise; the gift of wisdom is to place us above the reach of
fortune, but thou art her veriest minion!’ Yes; I paused at last from my
wanderings, and surrounded myself with books, and knowledge became
once more to me what it had been, a thirst; but not what it had been, a
reward. I occupied my thoughts--I laid up new hoards within my mind--I
looked around, and I saw few whose stores were like my own,--but where,
with the passion for wisdom still alive within me--where was that once
more ardent desire which had cheated me across so dark a chasm between
youth and manhood--between past and present life--the desire of applying
that wisdom to the service of mankind? Gone--dead--buried for ever in
my bosom, with the thousand dreams that had perished before it! When the
deed was done, mankind seemed suddenly to have grown my foes. I looked
upon them with other eyes. I knew that I carried within, that secret
which, if bared to-day, would make them loath and hate me,--yea, though
I coined my future life into one series of benefits on them and their
posterity! Was not this thought enough to quell my ardour--to chill
activity into rest? The more I might toil, the brighter honours I might
win--the greater services I might bestow on the world, the more dread
and fearful might be my fall at last! I might be but piling up the
scaffold from which I was to be hurled! Possessed by these thoughts, a
new view of human affairs succeeded to my old aspirings;--the moment a
man feels that an object has ceased to charm, he reconciles himself by
reasonings to his loss. ‘Why,’ said I; ‘why flatter myself that I can
serve--that I can enlighten mankind? Are we fully sure that individual
wisdom has ever, in reality, done so? Are we really better because
Newton lived, and happier because Bacon thought?’ This dampening and
frozen line of reflection pleased the present state of my mind more than
the warm and yearning enthusiasm it had formerly nourished. Mere worldly
ambition from a boy I had disdained;--the true worth of sceptres and
crowns--the inquietude of power--the humiliations of vanity--had never
been disguised from my sight. Intellectual ambition had inspired me. I
now regarded it equally as a delusion. I coveted light solely for my
own soul to bathe in. I would have drawn down the Promethean fire; but
I would no longer have given to man what it was in the power of
circumstance alone (which I could control not) to make his enlightener
or his ruin--his blessing or his curse. Yes, I loved--I love
still;--could I live for ever, I should for ever love knowledge! It is
a companion--a solace--a pursuit--a Lethe. But, no more!--oh! never more
for me was the bright ambition that makes knowledge a means, not end.
As, contrary to the vulgar notion, the bee is said to gather her honey
unprescient of the winter, labouring without a motive, save the labour,
I went on, year after year, hiving all that the earth presented to my
toils, and asking not to what use. I had rushed into a dread world, that
I might indulge a dream. Lo! the dream was fled; but I could not retrace
my steps.

“Rest now became to me the sole to kalon--the sole charm of existence.
I grew enamoured of the doctrine of those old mystics, who have placed
happiness only in an even and balanced quietude. And where but in utter
loneliness was that quietude to be enjoyed? I no longer wondered that
men in former times, when consumed by the recollection of some haunting
guilt, fled to the desert and became hermits. Tranquillity and Solitude
are the only soothers of a memory deeply troubled--light griefs fly to
the crowd--fierce thoughts must battle themselves to rest. Many
years had flown, and I had made my home in many places. All that was
turbulent, if not all that was unquiet, in my recollections, had died
away. Time had lulled me into a sense of security. I breathed more
freely. I sometimes stole from the past. Since I had quitted Knaresbro’
chance had thrown it in my power frequently to serve my brethren--not by
wisdom, but by charity or courage--by individual acts that it soothed me
to remember. If the grand aim of enlightening a world was gone--if to so
enlarged a benevolence had succeeded apathy or despair, still the man,
the human man, clung to my heart--still was I as prone to pity--as
prompt to defend--as glad to cheer, whenever the vicissitudes of life
afforded me the occasion; and to poverty, most of all, my hand never
closed. For oh! what a terrible devil creeps into that man’s soul, who
sees famine at his door! One tender act and how many black designs,
struggling into life within, you may crush for ever! He who deems the
world his foe, convince him that he has one friend, and it is like
snatching a dagger from his hand!

“I came to a beautiful and remote part of the country. Walter Lester, I
came to Grassdale!--the enchanting scenery around--the sequestered
and deep retirement of the place arrested me at once. ‘And among these
valleys,’ I said, ‘will I linger out the rest of my life, and among
these quiet graves shall mine be dug, and my secret shall die with me!’

“I rented the lonely house in which I dwelt when you first knew
me--thither I transported my books and instruments of science. I formed
new projects in the vast empire of wisdom, and a deep quiet, almost
amounting to content, fell like a sweet sleep upon my soul!

“In this state of mind, the most free from memory and from the desire
to pierce the future that I had known for twelve years, I first saw
Madeline Lester. Even with that first time a sudden and heavenly light
seemed to dawn upon me. Her face--its still--its serene--its touching
beauty, shone upon me like a vision. My heart warmed as I saw it--my
pulse seemed to wake from its even slowness. I was young once more.
Young! the youth, the freshness, the ardour--not of the frame only, but
of the soul. But I then only saw, or spoke to her--scarce knew her--not
loved her--nor was it often that we met. When we did so, I felt haunted,
as by a holy spirit, for the rest of the day--an unquiet yet delicious
emotion agitated all within--the south wind stirred the dark waters of
my mind, but it passed, and all became hushed again. It was not for two
years from the time we first saw each other, that accident brought us
closely together. I pass over the rest. We loved! Yet oh what struggles
were mine during the progress of that love! How unnatural did it seem to
me to yield to a passion that united me with my kind; and as I loved
her more, how far more urgent grew my fear of the future! That which had
almost slept before awoke again to terrible life. The soil that covered
the past might be riven, the dead awake, and that ghastly chasm separate
me for ever from HER! What a doom, too, might I bring upon that breast
which had begun so confidingly to love me! Often--often I resolved to
fly--to forsake her--to seek some desert spot in the distant parts of
the world, and never to be betrayed again into human emotions! But as
the bird flutters in the net, as the hare doubles from its pursuers, I
did but wrestle--I did but trifle--with an irresistible doom. Mark how
strange are the coincidences of fate--fate that gives us warnings and
takes away the power to obey them--the idle prophetess--the juggling
fiend! On the same evening that brought me acquainted with Madeline
Lester, Houseman, led by schemes of fraud and violence into that part of
the country, discovered and sought me! Imagine my feelings, when in the
hush of night I opened the door of my lonely home to his summons, and
by the light of that moon which had witnessed so never-to-be-forgotten a
companionship between us, beheld my accomplice in murder after the lapse
of so many years. Time and a course of vice had changed and hardened,
and lowered his nature; and in the power, at the will of that nature,
I beheld myself abruptly placed. He passed that night under my roof.
He was poor. I gave him what was in my hands. He promised to leave that
part of England--to seek me no more.

“The next day I could not bear my own thoughts, the revulsion was too
sudden, too full of turbulent, fierce, torturing emotions; I fled for a
short relief to the house to which Madeline’s father had invited me. But
in vain I sought, by wine, by converse, by human voices, human kindness,
to fly the ghost that had been raised from the grave of time. I soon
returned to my own thoughts. I resolved to wrap myself once more in the
solitude of my heart. But let me not repeat what I have said before,
somewhat prematurely, in my narrative. I resolved--I struggled in vain,
Fate had ordained, that the sweet life of Madeline Lester should wither
beneath the poison tree of mine. Houseman sought me again, and now came
on the humbling part of crime, its low calculations, its poor defence,
its paltry trickery, its mean hypocrisy! They made my chiefest penance!
I was to evade, to beguile, to buy into silence, this rude and despised
ruffian. No matter now to repeat how this task was fulfilled; I
surrendered nearly my all, on the condition of his leaving England for
ever: not till I thought that condition already fulfilled, till the day
had passed on which he should have left England, did I consent to allow
Madeline’s fate to be irrevocably woven with mine. Fool that I was, as
if laws could bind us closer than love had done already.

“How often, when the soul sins, are her loftiest feelings punished
through her lowest! To me, lone, rapt, for ever on the wing to unearthly
speculation, galling and humbling was it indeed, to be suddenly called
from the eminence of thought, to barter, in pounds and pence, for life,
and with one like Houseman. These are the curses that deepen the tragedy
of life, by grinding down our pride. But I wander back to what I have
before said. I was to marry Madeline,--I was once more poor, but want
did not rise before me; I had succeeded in obtaining the promise of a
competence from one whom you know. For that I had once forced from my
kind, I asked now, but not with the spirit of the beggar, but of the
just claimant, and in that spirit it was granted. And now I was really
happy; Houseman I believed removed for ever from my path; Madeline was
about to be mine: I surrendered myself to love, and blind and deluded,
I wandered on, and awoke on the brink of that precipice into which I am
about to plunge. You know the rest. But oh! what now was my horror!
It had not been a mere worthless, isolated unit in creation that I had
blotted out of the sum of life. I had shed the blood of his brother
whose child was my betrothed! Mysterious avenger--weird and relentless
fate! How, when I deemed myself the farthest from her, had I been
sinking into her grasp! Mark, young man, there is a moral here that few
preachers can teach thee! Mark. Men rarely violate the individual rule
in comparison to their violation of general rules. It is in the latter
that we deceive by sophisms which seem truths. In the individual
instance it was easy for me to deem that I had committed no crime. I
had destroyed a man, noxious to the world; with the wealth by which
he afflicted society I had been the means of blessing many; in the
individual consequences mankind had really gained by my deed; the
general consequence I had overlooked till now, and now it flashed upon
me. The scales fell from my eyes, and I knew myself for what I was! All
my calculations were dashed to the ground at once, for what had been
all the good I had proposed to do--the good I had done--compared to the
anguish I now inflicted on your house? Was your father my only victim?
Madeline, have I not murdered her also? Lester, have I not shaken the
sands in his glass? You, too, have I not blasted the prime and glory
of your years? How incalculable--how measureless--how viewless the
consequences of one crime, even when we think we have weighed them all
with scales that would have turned with a hair’s weight! Yes; before I
had felt no remorse. I felt it now. I had acknowledged no crime, and now
crime seemed the essence itself of my soul. The Theban’s fate, which had
seemed to the men of old the most terrible of human destinies, was mine.
The crime--the discovery--the irremediable despair--hear me, as the
voice of a man who is on the brink of a world, the awful nature of which
Reason cannot pierce--hear me! when your heart tempts to some wandering
from the line allotted to the rest of men, and whispers ‘This may be
crime in others, but is not so in thee’--tremble; cling fast, fast to
the path you are lured to leave. Remember me!

“But in this state of mind I was yet forced to play the hypocrite. Had
I been alone in the world--had Madeline and Lester not been to me what
they were, I might have avowed my deed and my motives--I might have
spoken out to the hearts of men--I might have poured forth the gloomy
tale of reasonings and of temptings, in which we lose sense, and become
the archfiend’s tools! But while their eyes were on me; while their
lives and hearts were set on my acquittal, my struggle against truth
was less for myself than them. For them I girded up my soul, a villain
I was; and for them, a bold, a crafty, a dexterous, villain I became!
My defence fulfilled its end: Madeline died without distrusting the
innocence of him she loved. Lester, unless you betray me, will die
in the same belief. In truth, since the arts of hypocrisy have been
commenced, the pride of consistency would have made it sweet to me to
leave the world in a like error, or at least in doubt. For you I conquer
that desire, the proud man’s last frailty. And now my tale is done.
From what passes at this instant within my heart, I lift not the veil!
Whether beneath, be despair, or hope, or fiery emotions, or one settled
and ominous calm, matters not. My last hours shall not belie my life: on
the verge of death I will not play the dastard, and tremble at the Dim
Unknown. The thirst, the dream, the passion of my youth, yet lives;
and burns to learn the sublime and shaded mysteries that are banned
Mortality. Perhaps I am not without a hope that the Great and Unseen
Spirit, whose emanation within me I have nursed and worshipped, though
erringly and in vain, may see in his fallen creature one bewildered by
his reason rather than yielding to his vices. The guide I received from
Heaven betrayed me, and I was lost; but I have not plunged wittingly
from crime to crime. Against one guilty deed, some good, and much
suffering may be set: and, dim and afar off from my allotted bourne, I
may behold in her glorious home the starred face of her who taught me to
love, and who, even there, could scarce be blessed without shedding
the light of her divine forgiveness upon me. Enough! ere you break this
seal, my doom rests not with man nor earth. The burning desires I have
known--the resplendent visions I have nursed--the sublime aspirings
that have lifted me so often from sense and clay--these tell me, that,
whether for good or ill--I am the thing of an Immortality, and the
creature of a God! As men of the old wisdom drew their garments around
their face, and sat down collectedly to die, I wrap myself in the
settled resignation of a soul firm to the last, and taking not from
man’s vengeance even the method of its dismissal. The courses of my life
I swayed with my own hand: from my own hand shall come the manner and
moment of my death!

                     “Eugene Aram.”


On the day after that evening in which Aram had given the above
confession to Walter Lester;--on the day of execution, when they entered
the condemned cell, they found the prisoner lying on the bed; and when
they approached to take off the irons, they found, that he neither
stirred nor answered to their call. They attempted to raise him, and
he then uttered some words in a faint voice. They perceived that he was
covered with blood. He had opened his veins in two places in the arm
with a sharp instrument he had some time since concealed. A surgeon was
instantly sent for, and by the customary applications the prisoner in
some measure was brought to himself. Resolved not to defraud the law of
its victim, they bore him, though he appeared unconscious of all around,
to the fatal spot. But when he arrived at that dread place, his sense
suddenly seemed to return. He looked hastily round the throng that
swayed and murmured below, and a faint flush rose to his cheek: he cast
his eyes impatiently above, and breathed hard and convulsively. The dire
preparations were made, completed; but the prisoner drew back for
an instant--was it from mortal fear? He motioned to the Clergyman to
approach, as if about to whisper some last request in his ear. The
clergyman bowed his head,--there was a minute’s awful pause--Aram seemed
to struggle as for words, when, suddenly throwing himself back, a bright
triumphant smile flashed over his whole face. With that smile, the
haughty Spirit passed away, and the law’s last indignity was wreaked
upon a breathless corpse!



CHAPTER VIII.

   AND LAST. THE TRAVELLER’S RETURN.--THE COUNTRY VILLAGE ONCE
   MORE VISITED;--ITS INHABITANTS.--THE REMEMBERED BROOK.--THE
   DESERTED MANOR-HOUSE.--THE CHURCHYARD.--THE TRAVELLER RESUMES
   HIS JOURNEY.--THE COUNTRY TOWN.--A MEETING OF TWO LOVERS AFTER
        LONG ABSENCE AND MUCH SORROW.--CONCLUSION.

          “The lopped tree in time may grow again,
          Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower;
          The sorriest wight may find release from pain,
          The driest soil suck in some moistening shower:
          Time goes by turns, and chances change by course
          From foul to fair.”
                   --Robert Southwell, the Jesuit.

Sometimes towards the end of a gloomy day, the sun before but dimly
visible, breaks suddenly out, and clothes the landscape with a smile;
then beneath your eye, which during the clouds and sadness of day, had
sought only the chief features of the prospect around, (some grey hill,
or rising spire, or sweeping wood,) the less prominent, yet not less
lovely features of the scene, mellow forth into view; over them,
perhaps, the sun sets with a happier and richer glow than over the
rest of Nature; and thus they leave upon your mind its last grateful
impression, and console you for the gloom and sadness which the parting
light they catch and reflect, dispels.

Just so in our tale; it continues not in cloud and sorrow to the last;
some little ray breaks forth at the close; in that ray, characters which
before received but a slight portion of the interest that prouder and
darker ones engrossed, are thrown into light, and cheer from the mind of
him who hath watched and tarried with us till now,--we will not say all
the sadness that may perhaps linger on his memory,--and yet something of
the gloom.

It was some years after the date of the last event we have recorded, and
it was a fine warm noon in the happy month of May, when a horseman was
slowly riding through the long--straggling--village of Grassdale. He
was a man, though in the prime of youth, (for he might yet want some two
years of thirty,) that bore the steady and earnest air of one who has
seen not sparingly of the world; his eye keen but tranquil, his sunburnt
though handsome features, which either exertion or thought, or care,
had despoiled of the roundness of their early contour, leaving the cheek
somewhat sunken, and the lines somewhat marked, were impressed with a
grave, and at that moment with a melancholy and soft expression; and
now, as his horse proceeded slowly through the green lane, which in
every vista gave glimpses of rich verdant valleys, the sparkling river,
or the orchard ripe with the fragrant blossoms of spring; his gaze
lost the calm expression it habitually wore, and betrayed how busily
Remembrance was at work. The dress of the horseman was of foreign
fashion, and at that day, when the garb still denoted the calling,
sufficiently military to show the profession he had belonged to. And
well did the garb become the short dark moustache, the sinewy chest and
length of limb of the young horseman: recommendations, the two latter,
not despised in the court of the great Frederic of Prussia, in whose
service he had borne arms. He had commenced his career in that battle
terminating in the signal defeat of the bold Daun, when the fortunes of
that gallant general paled at last before the star of the greatest of
modern kings. The peace of 1763 had left Prussia in the quiet enjoyment
of the glory she had obtained, and the young Englishman took the
advantage it afforded him of seeing as a traveller, not despoiler, the
rest of Europe.

The adventure and the excitement of travel pleased and left him even
now uncertain whether or not his present return to England would be for
long. He had not been a week returned, and to this part of his native
country he had hastened at once.

He checked his horse as he now past the memorable sign, that yet swung
before the door of Peter Dealtry; and there, under the shade of the
broad tree, now budding into all its tenderest verdure, a pedestrian
wayfarer sate enjoying the rest and coolness of his shelter. Our
horseman cast a look at the open door, across which, in the bustle
of housewifery, female forms now and then glanced and vanished, and
presently he saw Peter himself saunter forth to chat with the traveller
beneath his tree. And Peter Dealtry was the same as ever, only he seemed
perhaps shorter and thinner than of old, as if Time did not so much
break as wear mine host’s slender person gradually away.

The horseman gazed for a moment, but observing Peter return the gaze, he
turned aside his head, and putting his horse into a canter, soon passed
out of cognizance of the Spotted Dog.

He now came in sight of the neat white cottage of the old Corporal, and
there, leaning over the pale, a crutch under one arm, and his friendly
pipe in one corner of his shrewd mouth, was the Corporal himself.
Perched upon the railing in a semi-doze, the ears down, the eyes closed,
sat a large brown cat: poor Jacobina, it was not thyself! death spares
neither cat nor king; but thy virtues lived in thy grandchild; and thy
grandchild, (as age brings dotage,) was loved even more than thee by the
worthy Corporal. Long may thy race flourish, for at this day it is not
extinct. Nature rarely inflicts barrenness on the feline tribe; they are
essentially made for love, and love’s soft cares, and a cat’s lineage
outlives the lineage of kaisars.

At the sound of hoofs the Corporal turned his head, and he looked long
and wistfully at the horseman, as, relaxing his horse’s pace into a
walk, our traveller rode slowly on.

“‘Fore George,” muttered the Corporal, “a fine man--a very fine man;
‘bout my inches--augh!”

A smile, but a very faint smile, crossed the lip of the horseman, as he
gazed on the figure of the stalwart Corporal.

“He eyes me hard,” thought he; “yet he does not seem to remember me.
I must be greatly changed. ‘Tis fortunate, however, that I am not
recognised: fain, indeed, at this time, would I come and go unnoticed
and alone.”

The horseman fell into a reverie, which was broken by the murmur of the
sunny rivulet, fretting over each little obstacle it met, the happy and
spoiled child of Nature! That murmur rang on the horseman’s ear like
a voice from his boyhood, how familiar was it, how dear! No tone of
music--no haunting air, ever recalled so rushing a host of memories
and associations as that simple, restless, everlasting sound!
Everlasting!--all had changed,--the trees had sprung up or
decayed,--some cottages around were ruins,--some new and unfamiliar ones
supplied their place, and on the stranger himself--on all those whom the
sound recalled to his heart, Time had been, indeed, at work, but with
the same exulting bound and happy voice that little brook leaped along
its way. Ages hence, may the course be as glad, and the murmur as
full of mirth! They are blessed things, those remote and unchanging
streams!--they fill us with the same love as if they were living
creatures!--and in a green corner of the world there is one that, for my
part, I never see without forgetting myself to tears--tears that I would
not lose for a king’s ransom; tears that no other sight or sound could
call from their source; tears of what affection, what soft regret; tears
that leave me for days afterwards, a better and a kinder man!

The traveller, after a brief pause, continued his road; and now he came
full upon the old Manorhouse. The weeds were grown up in the garden, the
mossed paling was broken in many places, the house itself was shut up,
and the sun glanced on the deep-sunk casements without finding its way
into the desolate interior. High above the old hospitable gate hung
a board, announcing that the house was for sale, and referring the
curious, or the speculating, to the attorney of the neighbouring town.
The horseman sighed heavily, and muttered to himself; then turning up
the road that led to the back entrance, he came into the court-yard, and
leading his horse into an empty stable, he proceeded on foot through the
dismantled premises, pausing with every moment, and holding a sad and
ever-changing commune with himself. An old woman, a stranger to him, was
the sole inmate of the house, and imagining he came to buy, or at
least, examine, she conducted him through the house, pointing out its
advantages, and lamenting its dilapidated state. Our traveller scarcely
heard her,--but when he came to one room which he would not enter till
the last, (it was the little parlour in which the once happy family
had been wont to sit,) he sank down in the chair that had been Lester’s
honoured seat, and covering his face with his hands, did not move
or look up for several moments. The old woman gazed at him with
surprise.--“Perhaps, Sir, you knew the family, they were greatly
beloved.”

The traveller did not answer; but when he rose, he muttered to
himself,--“No, the experiment is made in vain! Never, never could I
live here again--it must be so--my forefathers’ house must pass into a
stranger’s hands.” With this reflection he hurried from the house, and
re-entering the garden, turned through a little gate that swung
half open on its shattered hinges, and led into the green and quiet
sanctuaries of the dead. The same touching character of deep and
undisturbed repose that hallows the country church-yard,--and that more
than most--yet brooded there as when, years ago, it woke his young mind
to reflection then unmingled with regret.

He passed over the rude mounds of earth that covered the deceased poor,
and paused at a tomb of higher, though but of simple pretensions; it was
not yet discoloured by the dews and seasons, and the short inscription
traced upon it was strikingly legible, in comparison with those around.

              Rowland Lester,
             Obiit 1760, aet. 64.
    Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

By that tomb the traveller remained in undisturbed contemplation for
some time, and when he turned, all the swarthy colour had died from his
cheek, his eyes were dim, and the wonted pride of a young man’s step and
a soldier’s bearing, was gone from his mien.

As he looked up, his eye caught afar, embedded among the soft verdure
of the spring, one lone and grey house, from whose chimney there rose
no smoke--sad, inhospitable, dismantled as that beside which he now
stood;--as if the curse which had fallen on the inmates of either
mansion, still clung to either roof. One hasty glance only, the
traveller gave to the solitary and distant abode,--and then started and
quickened his pace.

On re-entering the stables, the traveller found the Corporal examining
his horse from head to foot with great care and scrupulosity.

“Good hoofs too, humph!” quoth the Corporal, as he released the front
leg; and, turning round, saw, with some little confusion, the owner of
the steed he had been honouring with so minute a survey. “Oh,--augh!
looking at the beastie, Sir, lest it might have cast a shoe. Thought
your honour might want some intelligent person to shew you the premises,
if so be you have come to buy; nothing but an old ‘oman there; dare say
your honour does not like old ‘omen--augh!”

“The owner is not in these parts?” said the horseman.

“No, over seas, Sir; a fine young gentleman, but hasty; and--and--but
Lord bless me! sure--no, it can’t be--yes, now you turn--it is--it is
my young master!” So saying, the old Corporal, roused into affection,
hobbled up to the wanderer, and seized and kissed his hand. “Ah, Sir,
we shall be glad, indeed, to see you back after such doings. But’s all
forgotten now, and gone by--augh! Poor Miss Ellinor, how happy she’ll be
to see your honour. Ah! how she be changed, surely!”

“Changed; ay, I make no doubt! What! does she look in weak health?”

“No; as to that, your honour, she be winsome enough still,” quoth the
Corporal, smacking his lips; “I seed her the week afore last, when I
went over to--, for I suppose you knows as she lives there, all alone
like, in a small house, with a green rail afore it, and a brass knocker
on the door, at top of the town, with a fine view of the--hills in
front? Well, Sir, I seed her, and mighty handsome she looked, though a
little thinner than she was; but, for all that, she be greatly changed.”

“How! for the worse?”

“For the worse, indeed,” answered the Corporal, assuming an air of
melancholy and grave significance; “she be grown religious, Sir, think
of that--augh--bother--whaugh!”

“Is that all?” said Walter, relieved, and with a slight smile. “And she
lives alone?”

“Quite, poor young lady, as if she had made up her mind to be an old
maid; though I know as how she refused Squire Knyvett of the Grange
waiting for your honour’s return, mayhap!”

“Lead out the horse, Bunting; but stay, I am sorry to see you with a
crutch; what’s the cause? no accident, I trust?”

“Merely rheumatics--will attack the youngest of us; never been quite
myself since I went a travelling with your honour--augh!--without
going to Lunnon arter all. But I shall be stronger next year, I dare to
say--!”

“I hope you will, Bunting. And Miss Lester lives alone, you say?”

“Ay; and for all she be so religious, the poor about do bless her very
footsteps. She does a power of good; she gave me half-a-guinea, your
honour; an excellent young lady, so sensible like!”

“Thank you; I can tighten the girths!--so!--there, Bunting, there’s
something for old companion’s sake.”

“Thank your honour; you be too good, always was--baugh! But I hopes your
honour be a coming to live here now; ‘twill make things smile agin!”

“No, Bunting, I fear not,” said Walter, spurring through the gates of
the yard; “Good day.”

“Augh, then,” cried the Corporal, hobbling breathlessly after him,
“if so be as I shan’t see your honour agin, at which I am extramely
consarned, will your honour recollect your promise, touching the ‘tato
ground? The steward, Master Bailey, ‘od rot him, has clean forgot
it--augh!”

“The same old man, Bunting, eh? Well, make your mind easy, it shall be
done.”

“Lord bless your honour’s good heart; thankye; and--and”--laying
his hand on the bridle--“your honour did say, the bit cot should be
rent-free. You see, your honour,” quoth the Corporal, drawing up with
a grave smile, “I may marry some day or other, and have a large family;
and the rent won’t sit so easy then--augh!”

“Let go the rein, Bunting--and consider your house rent-free.”

“And, your honour--and--”

But Walter was already in a brisk trot; and the remaining petitions of
the Corporal died in empty air.

“A good day’s work, too,” muttered Jacob, hobbling homeward. “What a
green un ‘tis still! Never be a man of the world--augh!”

For two hours Walter did not relax the rapidity of his pace; and when he
did so at the descent of a steep hill, a small country town lay before
him, the sun glittering on its single spire, and lighting up the long,
clean, centre street, with the good old-fashioned garden stretching
behind each house, and detached cottages around, peeping forth here and
there from the blossoms and verdure of the young may. He rode into the
yard of the principal inn, and putting up his horse, inquired in a
tone that he persuaded himself was the tone of indifference, for Miss
Lester’s house.

“John,” said the landlady, (landlord there was none,) summoning a little
boy of about ten years old--“run on, and shew this gentleman the good
lady’s house: and--stay--his honour will excuse you a moment--just take
up the nosegay you cut for her this morning: she loves flowers. Ah! Sir,
an excellent young lady is Miss Lester,” continued the hostess, as the
boy ran back for the nosegay; “so charitable, so kind, so meek to all.
Adversity, they say, softens some characters; but she must always have
been good. And so religious, Sir, though so young! Well, God bless her!
and that every one must say. My boy John, Sir, he is not eleven yet,
come next August--a ‘cute boy, calls her the good lady: we now always
call her so here. Come, John, that’s right. You stay to dine here, Sir?
Shall I put down a chicken?”

At the farther extremity of the town stood Miss Lester’s dwelling. It
was the house in which her father had spent his last days; and there she
had continued to reside, when left by his death to a small competence,
which Walter, then abroad, had persuaded her, (for her pride was of the
right kind,) to suffer him, though but slightly, to increase. It was a
detached and small building, standing a little from the road; and Walter
paused for some moments at the garden-gate, and gazed round him before
he followed his young guide, who, tripping lightly up the gravel-walk to
the door, rang the bell, and inquired if Miss Lester was within?

Walter was left for some moments alone in a little parlour:--he required
those moments to recover himself from the past that rushed sweepingly
over him. And was it--yes, it was Ellinor that now stood before him!
Changed she was, indeed; the slight girl had budded into woman; changed
she was, indeed; the bound had for ever left that step, once so elastic
with hope; the vivacity of the quick, dark eye was soft and quiet; the
rich colour had given place to a hue fainter, though not less lovely.
But to repeat in verse what is poorly bodied forth in prose--

       “And years had past, and thus they met again;
       The wind had swept along the flower since then,
       O’er her fair cheek a paler lustre spread,
       As if the white rose triumphed o’er the red.
       No more she walk’d exulting on the air;
       Light though her step, there was a languour there;
       No more--her spirit bursting from its bound,--
       She stood, like Hebe, scattering smiles around.”

“Ellinor!” said Walter mournfully, “thank God! we meet at last.”

“That voice--that face--my cousin--my dear, dear Walter!”

All reserve--all consciousness fled in the delight of that moment; and
Ellinor leant her head upon his shoulder, and scarcely felt the kiss
that he pressed upon her lips.

“And so long absent!” said Ellinor, reproachfully.

“But did you not tell me that the blow that had fallen on our house had
stricken from you all thoughts of love--had divided us for ever? And
what, Ellinor, was England or home with out you?”

“Ah!” said Ellinor, recovering herself, and a deep paleness succeeding
to the warm and delighted flush that had been conjured to her cheek, “Do
not revive the past--I have sought for years--long, solitary, desolate
years, to escape from its dark recollections!”

“You speak wisely, dearest Ellinor; let us assist each other in doing
so. We are alone in the world--let us unite our lot. Never, through all
I have seen and felt,--in the starry nightwatch of camps--in the blaze
of courts--by the sunny groves of Italy--in the deep forests of the
Hartz--never have I forgotten you, my sweet and dear cousin. Your
image has linked itself indissolubly with all I conceived of home and
happiness, and a tranquil and peaceful future; and now I return, and
see you, and find you changed, but, oh, how lovely! Ah, let us not part
again! A consoler, a guide, a soother, father, brother, husband,--all
this my heart whispers I could be to you!”

Ellinor turned away her face, but her heart was very full. The solitary
years that had passed over her since they last met, rose up before her.
The only living image that had mingled through those years with the
dreams of the departed, was his who now knelt at her feet;--her sole
friend--her sole relative--her first--her last love! Of all the world,
he was the only one with whom she could recur to the past; on whom she
might repose her bruised, but still unconquered affections.

And Walter knew by that blush--that sigh--that tear, that he was
remembered--that he was beloved--that his cousin was his own at last!

“But before you end,” said my friend, to whom I shewed the above pages,
originally concluding my tale with the last sentence, “you must, it is a
comfortable and orthodox old fashion, tell us a little about the fate
of the other persons, to whom you have introduced us;--the wretch
Houseman?”--

“True; in the mysterious course of mortal affairs, the greater villain
had escaped, the more generous and redeemed one fallen. But though
Houseman died without violence, died in his bed, as honest men die, we
can scarcely believe that his life was not punishment enough. He lived
in strict seclusion--the seclusion of poverty, and maintained himself by
dressing flax. His life was several times attempted by the mob, for he
was an object of universal execration and horror; and even ten years
afterwards, when he died, his body was buried in secret at the dead of
night, for the hatred of the world survived him!”

“And the Corporal, did he marry in his old age?”

“History telleth of one Jacob Bunting, whose wife, several years younger
than himself, played him certain sorry pranks with the young curate
of the parish: the said Jacob, knowing nothing thereof, but furnishing
great objectation unto his neighbours, by boasting that he turned
an excellent penny by selling poultry to his reverence above market
prices,--‘For Bessy, my girl, I’m a man of the world--augh!’”

“Contented! a suitable fate for the old dog--But Peter Dealtry?”

“Of Peter Dealtry know we nothing more, save that we have seen at
Grassdale church-yard, a small tombstone inscribed to his memory, with
the following sacred poesy thereto appended,--

          “‘We flourish, saith the holy text
          One hour, and are cut down the next:
          I was like grass but yesterday,
          But Death has mowed me into hay.’”

“And his namesake, Sir Peter Grindlescrew Hales?”

“Went through a long life, honoured and respected, but met with domestic
misfortunes in old age. His eldest son married a maid servant, and his
youngest daughter--”

“Eloped with the groom?”

“By no means,--with a young spendthrift;--the very picture of what Sir
Peter was in his youth: they were both disinherited, and Sir Peter died
in the arms of his eight remaining children, seven of whom never forgave
his memory for not being the eighth, viz. chief heir.”

“And his cotemporary, John Courtland, the non-hypochondriac?”

“Died of sudden suffocation, as he was crossing Hounslow Heath.”

“But Lord--?”

“Lived to a great age; his last days, owing to growing infirmities, were
spent out of the world; every one pitied him,--it was the happiest time
of his life!”

“Dame Darkmans?”

“Was found dead in her bed, from over fatigue, it was supposed, in
making merry at the funeral of a young girl on the previous day.”

“Well!--hem,--and so Walter and his cousin were really married; and did
they never return to the old Manor-house?”

“No; the memory that is allied only to melancholy, grows sweet with
years, and hallows the spot which it haunts; not so the memory allied to
dread, terror, and something too of shame. Walter sold the property
with some pangs of natural regret; after his marriage with Ellinor he
returned abroad for some time, but finally settling in England, engaged
in active life, and left to his posterity a name they still honour; and
to his country, the memory of some services that will not lightly pass
away.”

But one dread and gloomy remembrance never forsook his mind, and
exercised the most powerful influence over the actions and motives of
his life. In every emergency, in every temptation, there rose to
his eyes the fate of him so gifted, so noble in much, so formed
for greatness in all things, blasted by one crime--self-sought, but
self-denied; a crime, the offspring of bewildered reasonings--all
the while speculating upon virtue. And that fate revealing the darker
secrets of our kind, in which the true science of morals in chiefly
found, taught him the twofold lesson, caution for himself, and charity
for others. He knew henceforth that even the criminal is not all evil;
the angel within us is not easily expelled; it survives sin, ay, and
many sins, and leaves us sometimes in amaze and marvel, at the good that
lingers round the heart even of the hardiest offender.

And Ellinor clung with more than revived affection to one with whose lot
she was now allied. Walter was her last tie upon earth, and in him she
learnt, day by day, more lavishly to treasure up her heart. Adversity
and trial had ennobled the character of both; and she who had so long
seen in her cousin all she could love, beheld now in her husband that
greater and more enduring spell--all that she could venerate and admire.
A certain religious fervour, in which, after the calamities of her
family, she had indulged, continued with her to the last; but, (softened
by human ties, and the reciprocation of earthly duties and affections,)
it was fortunately preserved either from the undue enthusiasm or the
undue austerity into which it would otherwise, in all likelihood, have
merged. What remained, however, uniting her most cheerful thoughts with
something serious, and the happiest moments of the present with the dim
and solemn forecast of the future, elevated her nature, not depressed,
and made itself visible rather in tender than in sombre, hues. And it
was sweet when the thought of Madeline and her father came across her,
to recur at once for consolation to that Heaven in which she believed
their tears were dried, and their past sorrows but a forgotten dream!
There is, indeed, a time of life when these reflections make our chief,
though a melancholy, pleasure. As we grow older, and sometimes a
hope, sometimes a friend, is shivered from our path, the thought of an
immortality will press itself forcibly upon us! and there, by little
and little, as the ant piles grain after grain, the garners of a future
sustenance, we learn to carry our hopes, and harvest, as it were, our
wishes.

Our cousins then were happy. Happy, for they loved one another entirely;
and on those who do so love, I sometimes think, that, barring physical
pain and extreme poverty, the ills of life fall with but idle malice.
Yes, they were happy in spite of the past, and in defiance of the
future.

“I am satisfied then,” said my friend,--“and your tale is fairly done!”

And now, Reader, farewell! If, sometimes as thou hast gone with me
to this our parting spot, thou hast suffered thy companion to win the
mastery over thine interest, to flash now on thy convictions, to touch
now thy heart, to guide thy hope, to excite thy anxiety, to gain even
almost to the sources of thy tears--then is there a tie between thee and
me which cannot readily be broken! And when thou hearest the malice that
wrongs affect the candour which should judge, thou wilt be surprised to
feel how unconsciously He who has, even in a tale, once wound himself
around those feelings not daily excited, can find in thy sympathies the
defence, or, in thy charity the indulgence,--of a friend!





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