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"I loath and detest that eternal sneer of yours. You believe and feel, Marmaduke, although you are too weak to confess it, that the life you have described, a turbid unresting sea of passion and anxiety, and hope and fear, and brief calm and long madness, is worth, oh! twenty times over, the sleepy river of a pedant's philosophy, or the dirty ditch-water of your own clumsy indifference."
"Why, my dear Davenant," said Marmaduke, quietly, "you know love has its ditch-water occasionally; my poor ancestor found it so. But pass on.-Here is a courtier of Queen Elizabeth's day, lying on the green-sward in despondency and an attitude, with a myriad of cares and a bunch of daffy-down-dillies in his bosom. There is your true cavalier; a health to short wit and long spurs, blue eyes and white satin! the race has been quite extinct since rapiers went out and political economists came in."
"I wish," muttered Cecil, "I wish I had lived with those men. To have had Spenser for my idol, or Sydney for my friend, to have held Leicester's mantle at court, or Raleigh's back-hand at tennis,-to have stormed a town with Drake, or a bottle with Shakspeare,-by Elizabeth's ruff, it would have been worth an eternity! That was your age for choice spirits!"
"You will find very choice spirits at the Hummums," said Marmaduke; "but we are getting into the great rebellion. It abounded in good subjects,-for the pencil, I mean, not for the prince. Never was the land so sorely plagued with dire confusion and daubed canvass. There is silly Sir Lacy, who lost his head, and was none the poorer; and sillier Sir Maurice, who lost his lands, and was many acres the poorer; and there is honest Sir Paul, who came in with the Restoration, and wrote my favourite song. Ha, Davenant!
There was a curious portrait a little farther on—a beautiful and interesting woman, as far as neck and bosom could give us any information; but in place of her countenance was painted a thick black veil. I asked for her history. "Oh," said Villars, "that damosel was called Priscilla the Penniless. She was wonderfully killing, but of course that is not the reason she is veiled. Her uncle, the existing head of the
VOL. I. PART II.
family, struck her face out of the picture, and her name out of his will, because she married a young round-head, who had no merit but his insolence, and no fortune but his sword." "What a detestable fool!" said Davenant, meaning the uncle.
"I think she was," said Marmaduke, meaning the niece. "Mais allons; let me show you one more set of features, and we will adjourn. Here is my earliest and most complete idea of feminine beauty. Down on your knees, Davenant, and worship. The fairy-like symmetry of the shape, and the pretty threatening of the right arm, and the admirable nonchalance of the left, and the studied tranquillity of the black hair, and the eloquent malignity of the dark eyes, and the exquisite caprice of the nose, and the laughing scorn of her little lips!-by Venus' dimple, Davenant, I have stood here, and talked rhapsodies to her for hours."
"Pray, give us one now," said Cecil, laughing.
“I will.—Fairest of nature's works! perfection in duodecimo! I speak to you, and you do not hear; I question you, and you do not answer: but I read your taste in your dress, and your character in your countenance. You are the brightest of all earthly beauties. You would call me a blockhead if I called you a goddess; you are fashioned for a drawing-room, and not for Olympus,-for Champagne, and not for Nectar; you are born for conquest and for mirth, to busy your delicate brain with the slaves of to-day, and to snap your delicate fingers at the slaves of yesterday; epigrams only are indited to your charms, witticisms only are uttered in your presence ; you think laughter the elixir vitæ, and a folio of theology poison; you look with contempt on the Damon who has died for your sake, and with kindness on the fool who bows to the ground, and vows he is your's entire,' head and hand, pen and pistol, from infancy to age, and from shining ringlet to shoe-ribbon!"
"Admirable !” cried Cecil," and after all, the woman is nothing extraordinary."
"Chacun a son goût," said Villars.
"She has no poetry about her," said the first.
"I never write poetry about any body," said the second.
"She is not guilty of intellect,' said the reviler.
"She is guilty of coquetry," said the admirer.
"She would never understand Milton," said the poet.
"She would dance divinely," said the fashionable. "You are over head and ears in love," said Davenant, laughing immensely.
She died Anno Domini seventeen hundred !" said Marmaduke, with inestimable gravity; and so we left the gallery.
We parted from our friend the next morning. If perfect indifference, and composure in all trials and temptations, can constitute happiness, Villars will be a happy man; but there is something repulsive in his very happiness. Which shall I prefer? Marmaduke, with his unsunned and unclouded weather, or Davenant, with his eternal alternation of bright glow and fleeting shower?
I could never settle the point.
AN UNPUBLISHED EPISODE OF VATHEK.
THE taste for tower building, of which Vathek had set the example, became infectious in the country about Samarah. This monarch was at first indignant that his subjects should presume to copy his extravagancies; but his vanity was stronger than his pride, and he left them in the quiet possession of their follies. His most ambitious rival was the merchant Bekfudi. The riches of this superb person were enormous. His caravans every year brought him silks and jewels that would have rivalled a princess's dowry, and the slaves that cultivated his groves of cinnamon might have formed the rear-guard of a sultan's army. He became dizzy with his wealth, and fancied that he was descended from the Assyrian kings; though his grandfather had carried a basket in the streets of Bagdad.
Bekfudi had a handsome palace and extensive grounds; the hills and the valleys of a little province were his; a broad lake lingered in his groves of citrons and palms; and the apricots of his garden almost rivalled those which Vathek so prized from the isle of Kirmith. The ladies of his seraglio were as numerous and as beautiful as the harem of the grand vizier, and the other furniture of his palace was equally rare and costly. But Bekfudi began to be satiated with the pleasures and the magnificence of ordinary mortals; in an evil hour he pulled down his palace and sold his women. He built an impenetrable wall round his extensive gardens, and vowed to raise, upon the highest hill which this barrier enclosed, a palace upon a new fashion. Bekfudi had no violent reverence for the religion of his country; and he therefore considered it a sinless profanation to make his dwelling-place like a mosque, and his tower resembling a minaret, though he modestly proposed it to be only ten times higher than the minarets of Bagdad. It was the extravagance of his ambition which prompted him to shut out all the world till he should
have finished his mosque; and when his tower rose above the highest pines of the neighbouring hills, he solaced himself with the hope, that the peasants who gazed at an awful distance would believe that within its walls dwelt one of the sons of men, as powerful as the Genii, and as mysterious as the Dives.
Bekfudi possessed abundance of taste. His command of wealth enabled him to engross the rare productions of art which were sometimes too costly even for emirs to acquire; and he lavished his gold upon those who could best apply their talents to the excitement of his self-admiration. All the ornaments of his palace had reference to his ancestors; but though the artists, who recorded in fit emblems the mighty deeds of his progenitors, had an especial regard to truth, they sedulously avoided all allusion to the basket-bearer. In a word, the mosque was a very magnificent place. It was the handsomest monument that taste ever reared to pride; and though Bekfudi in his arrogance had tried to make his tower rival the dome of the great mosque at Damascus, and had only been stopt in his presumptuous aspirings by the equally insolent hurricane, which twice blew it down,-and though in his profaneness he had built his dormitories like the cells of the most pious santons, and had constructed studies and refectories after the models of sanctuaries and shrines,— still the palace was gorgeous and elegant, and such as no subject ever before raised in the dominions of the Commander of the Faithful.
Bekfudi went on for many moons building and embellishing his mosque, heaping stones upon his tower till the uncivil blasts gave him hints where to stop, and hanging up new draperies of Persian silks till the limited art of the dyer forbade any further change. The superb merchant lived away in a round of selfish enjoyment; his slaves racked their inventions to prepare him viands of the most costly materials; and as his health would not allow him always to drink the red wine of Shiraz, he took care, under the fatal necessity of resorting to so common a beverage as water, to render it palatable by sending caravans and escorts to bring it from a fountain at a hundred leagues' distance.
The great Mahomet, who had commissioned the Genii to mature and then pull down the presumptuous darings of the caliph Vathek, also resolved to crush the ambition of the * merchant Bekfudi. But as the pride and power of the mosquebuilder were bounded by natural limits, it was unnecessary to work any miracles for his instruction. He lived on in his round of luxuries; and as his caravans came duly over the desert, and his ships were seldom lost upon the sea, he thought
that the spices and the fruits of his fertile isles would last for ever. But there was a sudden change in the fashions of Samarah. The cooks began to make their comfits without cinnamon, and the green dates of their native plains came into request, to the exclusion of the dried fruits of our wealthy merchant. His spices and his figs lay rotting in his warehouses, and, for the first time in his life, he began to think that his mine of wealth was not inexhaustible.
Thirty moons had passed before Bekfudi ceased to pull down and build up the apartments of his mosque, or to send a hundred leagues for his water. The pastry-cooks were inexorable, and his own household even could not endure the flavour of cinnamon. He at length discharged his masons and his carpenters, and, as a great effort of economy, abridged his table of one of the fifty-two dishes with which it was daily covered. But all these privations were unavailing; Bekfudi was in debt, and his creditors would not wait for a change in the taste for spices. He resolved to invite all Samarah to see his mosque, and to purchase his curiosities. For three moons all Samarah went mad. Away ran the idle and the busy, to scramble up Bekfudi's tower,-to wander about his long galleries upon carpets from Cairo,-to touch his gold censers, or to pore upon his curious pictures. As to his books, Bekfudi carefully locked them up. He was a great commentator, and his relish for theological speculations led him to fear that his performances might introduce him to too close an acquaintance with the mufti and the cadi.
Amongst the mob who had been to see Bekfudi's tower, was a clever little Persian Jew, who had the reputation of being one of the most discreet dealers in Samarah. Did a courtier require a thousand piastres to bribe a judge, our little Jew would raise the sum in a moment, upon the pledge of the courtier's carbuncle; or did a lady of the seraglio desire a pound of gold dust to fee an eunuch, our little Jew would furnish it upon the most moderate interest. His warehouses were full of the moveable treasures of all the great men of the palace, from the grand vizier to the principal mute; and everybody vowed that he was the honestest Jew in the world, and it was a great pity so useful and so clever a trader should be a dog of an infidel.
Bekfudi had a hatred of all Jews; but, nevertheless, our little factor contrived to approach him. "He had come to proffer his services to the great merchant; he humbly proposed to purchase his matchless curiosities, and his magnificent furniture." "What he, the giaour from Persia? he presume to offer a price for rarities that monarchs might covet?" "Yes; and moreover, he would purchase his books