« AnteriorContinuar »
FRIEND TOBIAS, As there are countenances so prepossessing as at first sight to win the confidence of beholders, so there are names which may seem to possess the like irresistible attraction, especially to persons who lead a life of retirement, and have little opportunity of selecting their intimates among the busy world. I am, you must know, a country curate, whose lot has fallen in Lancashire, a region, of all others, most decidedly evincing the change effected by trade and manufactures on the primitive manners of the people. And that, not by a comparison of remote periods, but by daily observation of passing events. It is the impetuous burst of a torrent, not the silent overflowings of a rivulet, which is here to be observed : and though I am sorry to own, that the removal of ancient land-marks, and the destruction of whatever is most amiable in ancient manners, appear most prominent in the scene; while increased civilization and mental improvement,—the boasted attendants of commercial gain,-seem in no hurry to make compensation for the wreck of unsophistical nature; it is still some consolation that such stations give more effect, by contrast, to the lingering specimens of simplicity, which they occasionally discover, than can possibly be obtained where the transition is more gradual and indistinct.". I have now and then noted down, as they occurred to me, traits of this kind, which the Author of Waverley, or Bracebridge-hall, by a little poetic colouring and sacrifice of homely fact to more flexible fiction, might render picturesque and readable enough : but as I pretend not to these profitable arts, and have no neighbouring gossips to share my chat, they might have perished with their subjects, had not the name of Tobias Merton proved in itself a Magnet, and prompted me to make the unknown bearer of it the confidant of a tale, which I could not be content altogether to monopolize. He will tell it to the world or not as he pleases. VOL. 1. 12.-Second Edition,
Early in the spring, just at the season when the power of love over all animate nature is said to be at its height, there appeared in the township of S, a youth apparently about five or six-and-twenty; tall and somewhat thin, though of hale and ruddy complexion, not over brisk, yet of firm and steady gait; with limbs seeming to possess more strength than they were in the habit of putting forth, and a Baotian countenance, which, seeming neither to possess, nor put forth any thing, could only disappoint one to the advantage of its owner. He wore a broad-brimmed hat; broad, even beyond Quaker dimensions : his coat was collarless, buttonless, and unadorned at the tail, but with large buttons of horn in front. The lappets of his waistcoat reached to his knees, his shoes were decorated with large buckles, which, with a neckcloth scant about the neck, but full and almost bib-like at his breast; and, above all, a pair of gloves, shewed that he belonged not to the meanest of the people. These last, like his hat, and indeed the whole of his dress, which was all of the Quaker cut, though still enlarging upon the peculiarities of that body, were of the best quality and of unstained white, just such as might have been assumed by a young squire in the days of chivalry, when about to receive the spurs, and to set forth in search of adventures, to furnish bearings for the blameless, but hitherto fameless argent of his shield and surcoat. A hooked staff, however, was his sole weapon; and leaning on this, at the entrance of the village, he inquired, like Abraham's steward, the characters of the unmarried damsels of the place, plainly declaring to the passers by, that he came amongst us to seek (or, as it is here pronounced, to seech) for himself a wife. He was recommended to the daughter of my host, and no very formal introduction being here needed, where all the ancient hospitality to strangers is kept up, after staring for some time in fixed amaze at the house, and expressing opinions respecting it, which augured more taste and discernment than was made good by any after part of his conduct, he came in, sat himself down, ate with the family, gazed the whole afternoon on “ the fair, who caused his care," and after
many hints had been given in vain, as to the time, and the distance from the nearest town, reluctantly departed after dark, promising, though all unasked, to return about hay-time, and assist in gathering the crop. Nothing was said as to his main object, nor were his preliminary inquiries known till some time after. He came, he said, from the neighbourhood of Sheffield, “ his father had lands, both meadow and lee;" he was accustomed to travel in this way, to study men and manners, and to see the beauties of nature and art ; and he should do so more extensively, but (no uncommon case with young gents. on their travels) the governor held the purse strings “ fearful tight.” Some surprise being expressed at his dress, and some suspicions perhaps hinted as to his creed --for you may easily suppose that his garb gave him a puritanical, as well as a primitive air,- he made confession of his faith as a churchman, and assured his wondering auditors, that all the young men in his country dressed in the same way; adding many particulars respecting their primeval and pastoral habits; which, if true, are most astonishing, especially in such a neighbourhood. On the whole, as his dress shewed him to be above want, and his conversation far more intelligent than his countenance, no one could think him mad : and he left the world of S to wonder, if not to weep, at his departure.
Certainly, no one thought of seeing him again, yet he was true to his appointment, and the hay-time brought the marvellous man once more to
our view. He went to work with the mowers, ostentatiously throwing off his coat, and as if to prove that the fair show of his upper garments was not deceptive-other parts of his dress, and he wielded the scythe with the arm of a powerful and experienced swain. But as the lady of his heart did not deign to come and view his prowess in the field, he soon flagged and grew tired of the task, and, reserving his strength and spirit for a more difficult undertaking, went in, and occupied his former and apparently his favourite station, in a window opposite the table, where she pursued steadily and unmoved the usual labours of a careful housewife.
There were at that season donkey races, and other festivities, on the green, at no great distance, and many of the Lancashire witches were making their way thither, in their most gorgeous attire ; but though his eyes now and then wandered in that direction, he could not be tempted to rove; nay, he received, with an air of contempt, some hints as to the pleasure of those elegant amusements, and the wonder it was that a young man like him, should be sitting still in the house, while such scenes and such spectators were so near. Still less could he be induced to join the mowers, though hints to that effect were also offered him. At length, when he had long sat speechless, and when, with a mouth none of the smallest, and eyes none of the brightest, he had long gaped and stared, like the traveller on the rattlesnake, “sighed and looked, sighed and looked, sighed and looked, and sighed again," he thus broke forth :
They say that women are weak things, but I say they are strong ones.” Now this was certainly true respecting the lady in question, whatever sense might be put upon the word “ strong: but like other ladies in the like case, she chose to understand him in no sense at all, and only replied by a calm collected “ How so?” to which the unbappy man answered with a deep groan, “ I say they are strong things: I have walked sixty miles for the sake of a woman already, and I shall have sixty more to go before I get home again.”—“ Oh then,” said his tormentress, with a sarcastic smile, “ you do know women in the country; though you were so careless about those on the green.”_" I know none but you and the servant,” was the reply, uttered in a solemn and determined tone. This was coming nearer to the point, but still all avenues of escape were not closed on the object of his chase, and to his great mortification she promptly rejoined, “ No doubt then it is the servant, I will go and fetch her directly." This would have been a death-blow indeed : and the warmth of his love, heightened by shame at the rebuff contained in these words, and above all by the fear of an interruption to their tête-à-tête, forced from him at last the passionate avowal:
66 What care I for the servant ? It is yourself I come so far to see.” And then he suggested that their tempers were especially alike, both models of good-nature-that the same character might be traced in their persons (he being, as I said, tall and thin, she short and thick)—that marriages were made in heaven,--above all, resorting to the strong hold from whence he had at first sallied--that he had walked sixty miles to see her ; and sixty miles back without either her person, or promise, would be a dreary walk indeed. To all this, I am sorry to say, the lady was obdurate: nay, see laughed to his face; and he, after sitting speechless for some time, staring and gaping upon her with open mouth, as if slow to believe that such cruelty could be concealed by a countenance which he had celebrated as unfolding nothing but good-nature, at last adjusted his buckles, drew on his gloves, took
up his broad-brimmed beaver, exclaimed in a piteous tone, “ Well, then, I suppose I must go ;” and again set off, to travel his threescore miles.
You must not suppose that in this story, I have taken the licence of novelists, to report thoughts as well as words. 1 had it from the lady herself, to whom, as well as to her friends, it seemed a good joke. But I admonished her, as. in duty bound, against the indulgence of such inhumanity; and as I do not doubt but we shall see him again, notwithstanding the length of the way, I have offered to marry them gratis, if she will reward such primitive simplicity and heroic perseverance with her hand.
I find that some remains of ancient manners, and some traits of the old school of yeomanry, still linger in the dells of the manufacturing districts, like the Caribees of the Fastnesses in the West India Islands. To this class I take this exotic to belong, and' venerate him accordingly.
THE HARP OF SORROW.
- Præcipe lugubres Cantus, Melpomene!
'Midst Pleasure's joyous train,
'Midst Mirth and thoughtless Folly,
Of plaintive melancholy,
That moves a sprightlier lay,
In silent scorn away;
Oh! there's a charm,-a spell,
In Sorrow's plaintive measure,
Imparts so sad a pleasure,
Can soothe Affiction's woes,-
And taste a short repose,
Sad minstrelsy to move,
Be mine the harp of Sorrow,
Each saddest note I'll borrow!
Awake one answering sigh,
In Pity's dewy eye,-
Where dunce and idler bore the wink and nod
Than that prophetic glance, which darkling shone
As his dread ire beclouded all the room!
Full fifteen streets about he held the name
By ipse dixits, could, whene'er attack’d,