Billeder på siden

Mrs. Schreiber had been amongst my mother's earliest friends as Mrs. Harvey, and in days when my mother had opportunities of doing her seasonable services. And as there were three special advantages which adorned my mother, and which ranked in Mrs. Schreiber's estimate as the highest which earth could show, namely: 1°, that she spoke and wrote English with singular elegance; 2°, that her manners were eminently polished; and 3°, that, even in that early stage of my mother's life, a certain tone of religiosity, and even of ascetic devotion, was already diffused as a luminous mist that served to exalt the coloring of her morality. To this extent Mrs. Schreiber approved of religion; but nothing of a sectarian cast could she have tolerated; nor had she anything of that nature to apprehend from my mother. Viewing my mother, therefore, as a pure model of an English matron, and feeling for her, besides, a deeper sentiment of friendship and affection than for anybody else on her visiting list, it was natural enough that she should come with her wards on an annual visit to "The Farm" (a pretty, rustic dwelling occupied by my father in the neighborhood of Manchester), and subsequently (when that arose) to Greenhay.*

[ocr errors]

As my father always retained a

*"Greenhay. - As this name might, under a false interpretation, seem absurd as including incongruous elements, I ought, in justification of my mother, who devised the name, to have mentioned that hay was meant for the old English word (derived from the old French word haie) indicating a rural enclosure. Conventionally, a hay or haie was understood to mean a country-house within a verdant ring-fence, narrower than a park which word park, in Scotch use, means any enclosure whatever, though not twelve feet square; but in English use (witness Captain Burt's wager about Culloden parks) means an

town-house in Manchester (somewhere in Fountainstreet), and, though a plain, unpretending man, was literary to the extent of having written a book, all things were so arranged that there was no possibility of any commercial mementos ever penetrating to the rural retreat of his family; such mementos, I mean, as, by reviving painful recollections of that ancient Schreiber, who was or ought to be by this time extinct, would naturally be odious and distressing. Here, therefore, liberated from all jealousy of overlooking eyes, such as haunted persons of their expectations at Brighton, Weymouth, Sidmouth, or Bath, Miss Smith and Miss Watson used to surrender themselves without restraint to their glad animal impulses of girlish gayety, like the fawns of antelopes when suddenly transferred from tigerhaunted thickets to the serene preserves of secluded rajahs. On these visits it was, that I, as a young pet whom they carried about like a doll from my second to my eighth or ninth year, learned to know

enclosure measured by square miles, and usually accounted to want its appropriate furniture, unless tenanted by deer. By the way, it

is a singular illustration of a fact illustrated in one way or other every hour, namely, of the imperfect knowledge which England possesses of England, that, within these last eight or nine months, I saw in the Illustrated London News an article assuming that the red deer was unknown in England. Whereas, if the writer had ever been at the English lakes during the hunting season, he might have seen it actually hunted over Martindale forest and its purlieus. Or, again, in Devonshire and Cornwall, over Dartmoor, etc., and, I believe, in many other regions, though naturally narrowing as civilization widens. The writer is equally wrong in supposing the prevailing deer of our parks to be the roe deer, which are very little known. It is the fallow deer that chiefly people our parks. Red deer were also found at Blenheim, in Oxfordshire, when it was visited by Dr. Johnson, as may be seen in "Boswell."

them, so as to take a fraternal interest in the succeeding periods of their lives. Their fathers I certainly had not seen; nor had they, consciously. These two fathers must both have died in India, before my inquiries had begun to travel in that direction. But, as old acquaintances of my mother's, both had visited The Farm before I was born; and about General Smith, in particular, there had survived amongst the servants a remembrance which seemed to us (that is to them and to myself) ludicrously awful, though, at that time, the practice was common throughout our Indian possessions. He had a Hindoo servant with him; and this servant every night stretched himself along the "sill" or outer threshold of the door; so that he might have been trodden on by the general when retiring to rest; and from this it was but a moderate step in advance to say that he was trodden on. Upon which basis many other wonders were naturally reared. Miss Smith's father, therefore, furnished matter for a not very amiable tradition; but Miss Smith herself was the sweetest-tempered and the loveliest of girls, and the most thoroughly English in the style of her beauty. Far different every way was Miss Watson. In person she was a finished beauty of the very highest pretensions, and generally recognized as such; that is to say, her figure was fine and queenly; her features were exquisitely cut, as regarded their forms and the correspondences of their parts; and usually by artists her face was said to be Grecian. Perhaps the nostrils, mouth, and forehead, might be so; but nothing could be less Grecian, or more eccentric in form and position, than the eyes. They were placed

obliquely, in a way that I do not remember to have seen repeated in any other face whatever. Large they were, and particularly long, tending to an almond-shape; equally strange, in fact, as to color, shape, and position: but the remarkable position of these eyes would have absorbed your gaze to the obliteration of all other features or peculiarities in the face, were it not for one other even more remarkable distinction affecting her complexion: this lay in a suffusion that mantled upon her cheeks, of a color amounting almost to carmine. Perhaps it might be no more than what Pindar meant by the лogougeo Ows Egotos, which Gray has falsely translated as "the bloom of young desire, and PURPLE light of love." It was not unpleasing, and gave a lustre to the eyes, but it added to the eccentricity of the face; and by all strangers it was presumed to be an artificial color, resulting from some mode of applying


*Falsely, becausе лодчQεоs rarely, perhaps, means in the Greek use what we mean properly by purple, and could not mean it in the Pindaric passage; much oftener it denotes some shade of crimson, or else of puniceus, or blood-red. Gibbon was never more mistaken than when he argued that all the endless disputing about the purpureus of the ancients might have been evaded by attending to its Greek designation, namely, porphyry-colored since, said he, porphyry is always of the same color. Not at all. Porphyry, I have heard, runs through as large a gamut of hues as marble; but, if this should be an exaggeration, at all events porphyry is far from being so monochromatic as Gibbon's argument would presume. The truth is, colors were as loosely and latitudinarially distinguished by the Greeks and Romans as degrees of affinity and consanguinity are everywhere. My son-in-law, says a woman, and she means my stepson. My cousin, she says, and she means any mode of relationship in the wide, wide world. Nos neveux, says a French writer, and means not our nephews, but our grandchildren, or more generally our descendants.

a preparation more brilliant than rouge. But to us children, so constantly admitted to her toilet, it was well known to be entirely natural. Generally speaking, it is not likely to assist the effect of a young woman's charms, that she presents any such variety in her style of countenance as could naturally be called odd. But Miss Watson, by the somewhat scenical effect resulting from the harmony between her fine figure and her fine countenance, triumphed over all that might else have been thought a blemish ; and when she was presented at court on occasion of her marriage, the king himself pronounced her, to friends of Mrs. Schreiber, the most splendid of all the brides that had yet given lustre to his reign. In such cases the judgments of rustic, undisciplined tastes, though marked by narrowness, and often by involuntary obedience to vulgar ideals (which, for instance, makes them insensible to all the deep sanctities of beauty that sleep amongst the Italian varieties of the Madonna face), is not without its appropriate truth. Servants and rustics all thrilled in sympathy with the sweet English loveliness of Miss Smith; but all alike acknowledged, with spontaneous looks of homage, the fine presence and finished beauty of Miss Watson. Naturally, from the splendor with which they were surrounded, and the notoriety of their great expectations,—so much to dazzle in one direction, and, on the other hand, something for as tender a sentiment as pity, in the fact of both from so early an age having been united in the calamity of orphanage,― go where they might, these young women drew all eyes upon themselves; and from the audible comparisons sometimes made between

« ForrigeFortsæt »