Billeder på siden

Soon after this we left Eton for Ireland. Our first destination being Dublin, of course we went by Holyhead. The route at that time, except that it went round by Conway, was pretty much the same as at present. One stage after leaving Shrewsbury it entered North Wales; a stage farther brought us to the celebrated vale of Llangollen; and on reaching the approach to this about sunset on a beautiful evening of June, I first found myself amongst mountains; a feature in natural scenery for which, from my earliest days, I might almost say that I had hungered and thirsted. In no one expectation of my life have I been less disappointed than in this; and I may add, that no one enjoyment has less decayed or palled upon my continued experience. A mountainous region, with but few towns, and those of a simple pastoral character, and a slender population; behold my conditions of a pleasant permanent dwelling-place! The mountains of Wales range at about the same elevation as those of Northern England; three thousand and a few odd hundreds of feet being the extreme limit which they reach. Generally speaking, their forms are less picturesque individually, and they are less happily grouped, than their English brethren. I have since also been made sensible by Mr. Wordsworth of one grievous defect in the structure of the Welch valleys; too generally they take the basin shape. Of this, however, I was not aware at the time of first seeing Wales; although the striking effect from the opposite form of the Cumberland and Westmoreland valleys, which almost universally present a flat area at the base of the surrounding hills, level, to use Mr. Wordsworth's expression, as the floor of


attendant, through a back staircase, at a time when Sir Charles, (a sportsman, as all the world knows, but a man of the highest breeding,) was himself at home, and occupied in the duties of hospitality.

a temple,' would, at any rate, have arrested my eye, from its impressive beauty. No faults, however, at that early age, struck me or disturbed my pleasure, except that after one whole day's travelling, (for so long it cost us between Llangollen and Holyhead,) the want of water struck me upon review as very remarkable. From Conway to Bangor we were in sight of the sea, but fresh water we had seen hardly any; no lake, no stream much beyond a brook. This is certainly a conspicuous defect in North Wales, considered as a region of fine scenery. The few lakes I have since become acquainted with, as that near Bala, near Beddkelert, and beyond Machynleth, are not attractive either in their forms or in their accompaniments: the Bala lake being meagre and insipid: the others as it were unfinished, and unaccomplished with their furniture of wood.

At the Head, (to call it by its common colloquial name,) we were detained a few days in those unsteaming times by foul winds. Our time, however, thanks to the hospitality of a certain Captain Skinner on that station, did not hang heavy on our hands, though we were imprisoned, as it were, on a dull rock; for Holyhead itself is a little island of rock, and a dependency of Anglesea; which, again, is a little dependency of North Wales. The packets on this station were lucrative commands; and they were given (perhaps, are given?) to post-captains in the navy. Captain S. was celebrated for his convivial talents, and did the honors of the place in a hospitable style, daily asking us to dine with him.

This answered one purpose, at least, of especial convenience to us all at that moment: it kept us from any necessity of meeting together during the day, except under circumstances where we escaped the necessity of any familiar communication with each other. Why that should

have become desirable, needs explanation: Upon the last day of our journey, Lord W———'s tutor, who had accompanied us thus far on our road, suddenly took offence at something we had said, done, or omitted, and never spoke one syllable to either of us again. Being both of us amiably disposed, and incapable of having seriously meditated either word or deed likely to wound any person's feelings, we were much hurt at the time, and often retraced the little incidents upon the road, to discover, if possible, what it was that had been open to any misconstruction. But it remained to both of us a lasting mystery. This tutor was an Irishman ; and, I believe, of considerable pretensions as a scholar; but, being reserved and haughty, or else presuming in us a knowledge of our offence, which we really had not, he gave us no opening for any expla nation. To the last moment, however, he manifested a conscientious regard to the duties of his charge. He accompanied us in our boat, on a dark and gusty night, to the packet, which lay a little out at sea. He saw us on board; and then, standing up for one moment, he said, 'Is all right on deck?' All right, Sir,' sang out the ship's steward. Have you, Lord W., got your boat-cloak with you?' 'Yes, Sir.' Then, pull away, boatmen.' We listened for a time to the measured beat of his retreating oars, marvelling more and more at the atrocious nature of our crime, which could avail even to intercept his last adieus. I, for my part, never saw him again; nor, as I have reason to think, Lord W. Neither did we ever unravel the mystery.

As if to irritate our curiosity still more, Lord W. showed me a torn fragment of paper in his tutor's hand-writing, which, together with others, had been thrown (as he believed) purposely in his way. If he was right in that belief, it appeared that he had missed the particular fragment

which was designed to raise the veil upon our guilt; for the one he produced contained exactly these words:— 'With respect to your Ladyship's anxiety to know how far the acquaintance with Mr. X. Y. Z. is likely to be of service to your son, I think I may now venture to say that There the sibylline fragment ended; nor could we torture it into any further revelation. However, when we reached Dublin, we sate down, and addressed an ingenuous account of our journey and our little mystery to my young friend's mother in England. For to her, it was clear, that the tutor had confided his wrongs. Her Ladyship answered with kindness; but did not throw any light on the problem which exercised at once our memories, our skill in conjectural interpretation, and our sincere regrets. I mention this trifle, simply because, trifle as it is, it involved a mystery, and furnishes an occasion for glancing at that topic. Mysteries as deep, with results a little more important, have occasionally crossed me in life; one, in particular, I recollect at this moment, known pretty extensively to the neighborhood in which it occurred. It was in the county of S. A lady married, and married well, as was thought. About twelve months afterwards, she returned alone in a post-chaise to her father's house; paid and herself dismissed the postilion at the gate; entered the house; ascended to the room in which she had passed her youth, and known in the family by her name; took possession of it again; intimated by signs, and by one short letter at her first arrival, what she would require; lived for nearly twenty years in this state of La Trappe seclusion and silence; nor ever, to the hour of her death, explained what circumstances had dissolved the supposed happy connection she had formed, or what had become of her husband Her looks and gestures were of a nature to repress all questions in the spirit of mere curiosity, and the

spirit of affection naturally respected a secret which was guarded so severely. This might be supposed a Spanish tale; yet it happened in England, and in a pretty populous neighborhood. The romances which occur in real life are too often connected with circumstances of deep and lasting pain to the feelings of some among the parties concerned; on that account, more than for any other, they are often suppressed; else, judging by the number which have fallen within my own knowledge, I believe they are of more frequent occurrence, even in our modern unromantic mode of life, than is usually supposed. In particular, I believe that, among such romances, those cases form an unusual proportion in which young, innocent, and high-minded persons have made a sudden discovery of some great profligacy or deep unworthiness in the person to whom they had surrendered their entire affections. That shock, more than any other, is capable of blighting the whole after existence, and sometimes of at once overthrowing the balance either of life or of reason. Instances I know of both; and such afflictions are the less open to any alleviation, that they are of a nature so delicate as to preclude all confidential communication of them to another.

A sort of adventure occurred, and not of a kind pleasant to recall, even on this short voyage. The passage to Dublin from the Head is about sixty miles, I believe; yet, from baffling winds, it cost us upwards of thirty hours. The next day, on going upon deck, we found that our only fellow-passenger of note was a woman of rank, celebrated for her beauty, and not undeservedly, for a lovely creature she was. The body of her travelling coach had been, as usual, unslung from the carriage,' (by which is technically meant the wheels and the perch,) and placed upon deck. This she used as a place of re

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »