« ZurückWeiter »
with almost every one of its little intricacies and entanglements of wood and crag, and, with Cotton in his hand, had often lounged along the banks of Bentley brook, the favourite scene of that philosophic angler's recreation; or traced him to that philosophic retreat (now become so classical from his description of it) where he and his master* had mingled their minds in conversation, after the patient toil of their morning sport.
These haunts, however, had now become too involved and precipitous to thread them on horseback, and in the humour he was in, it even suited him better to pursue his purpose on foot. He dismounted, therefore, at the top of a steep ascent, from which he had to sink suddenly by a winding path to the brink of the stream, which had by this time become a torrent. For he was now in Dovedale, with whose beautiful varieties of wildness and cultivation, of tangled wood, of rock, and bursting cascade, many, perhaps, are acquainted, He there. fore cautiously proceeded till he stood on the very edge of the waterfall. It fumed and foamed, and rattled hoarsely from rock to rock, and led him along with it to the bottom, where it suddenly quitted its tumultuous character, and, as if by magic, became a smooth, untroubled, clear, and glassy stream, watering a home-view that was delicious.
It was a green glen, long, winding, and narrow, shut in by two steep banks, shaggy from top to bottom with copsewood, now in fresh leaf, with here and there an oak or mountain-ash, left for timber at the last falling, The whole space, from side to side, was perhaps not a furlong across; and the now sober river, full to the brim, wended along in silent and equal march through a margin of grass green as an emerald. By its side was a footpath so elastic to the tread, and so beset with daisies, that one would have supposed the fairy troop had made it their nightly passage as they coursed up and down this lovely dale. Hence, perhaps, its name of the Valley of Oberon.
The whole was a sight which no traveller of the world, whatever his business, character, or contemplations, but must have stopped to enjoy. The miser all shrunk, the soldier all rugged, or the politician all dazzled in mind,
* Old Izaac
even the hardened sinner, or thief on a predatory expe. dition, would have paused to behold it, and forgot himself awhile in the gentleness of the scene,
We may suppose that De Vere could not pass such a scene unobserved in any humour. In that he was in, it was delightful to his senses; and while his horses, winding in the road above, only added a pleasant variety to the landscape, he sat down on a stone to indulge his reflections. To say his eye was not pleased would wrong the truth; but it was rather his eye than his memory. Several eventful years (eventful in his young life) had passed since he had sat upon that very stone, beholding the march of that very river. The stone and the river were the same; was De Vere so too? His mind, indeed his character, had undergone no alteration, but not so his hopes, or his opinions. He knew this, and he could not help thinking of this his native stream, as a contemporary poet thought of the Lodon, upon his rejoining its banks, on which he had been nursed, after many years of wandering in the world.
“Ah! what a weary race my feet have run,
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene." Remembering these verses with emotion, it is certain that De Vere, as well as Warton, in revolving his life, meditated on
“Much pleasure, more of sorrow!" It must be owned, however, that in a succeeding stanza, the poet had an advantage which De Vere could not boast.
“ Sweet native stream, whose skics and san so pure,
No more return to cheer my evening road,
This last thought was not De Vere's; for, free as he felt that his life had been from vice or dishonour, he felt but too keenly that it had been hitherto useless, and his lot obscure. “ Of what avail,” said he, rising from his seat, and taking the footpath,“ of what avail the advantages with which I was supposed to start,--high and powerful connexions, education, perhaps or may I indeed say it?) reputation ? of what avail all these if they have only left me where they found me, idle, unemployed, and useless? Have I even gained a friend, or have I not_" (and here he faltered almost to sighing),“ have I not lost” The sadness of his thought prevented him from finishing. He then began to question whether in reality he might not have been too fastidious, too unaccommodating to the weaknesses, or perhaps fair pursuits of men at least as worthy and estimable as himself? Whether they were doing more than obeying the impetus to action given by nature, in what he presumed to blame, and had chosen to avoid ? Might he not have done as they did? And if so, might he not have kept his friends, and been in the high road to advancement with them, which might ultimately lead even to success in another object too tender almost to think of?
These were cruel thoughts at the moment; and, to say truth, ambition is not only so natural to man, but so properly pursued, when properly regulated, that he would be an ill teacher who should propose to eradicate it from the mind, and be a worse pupil who would suffer it to be eradicated. All this now struck the more forcibly on the thoughts of De Vere, from the solitude in which he made these reflections; a solitude to which, it might be, he was most prematurely about to reduce himself.
“ And yet,” said he, hurrying on his steps, “to be like Clayton! or even Eustace! or Cleveland, worst of all !-No! a scene like this is heaven to it.”
He was pursuing this train, when he was saluted by the note of the wood-pigeon, which sounded from the copse above. He recollected how often of an evening at this time of the year he had thrown down his spade and rake at Talbois, when tired of gardening, to listen to those lulling notes, till night came on, and he returned to a contented though homely supper, and afterward to a bed, in which, from the labours of the day, and his ignorance of the struggles of the world, his sleep was as instantaneous as it was sweet.
" And am I reduced to regret those days," said he, “ when all was ignorance, and I even shrank under oppression ?--almost to wish for them again!-I, who have known Constance, and been the friend of Wentworth !"
“And yet,” continued he, “what have I known in this world of ours, dazzling as are its scenes, comparable to what this little spot, this shut-up valley may afford ?"
Thus reasoned, and thus fluctuated in his reasoning, the honourable, natural, and enthusiastic De Vere; with no pleasure either from the satisfaction of his recollections or the certainty of his conclusions. In truth, he was tossed between disgust at many things he had seen, and his fear, that if he renounced the world, he might renounce his duty to society, and, above all, the secret hope of his heart, which, whatever resolve he might make against it, still dwelt there in the image of his cousin.
He had now, however, approached to the end of the valley, where the river, rolling over a broad weir, turned itself into a mill-stream, working a considerable wheel, in the close neighbourhood of which rose a retired house of old red brick, but looking cool and enlivened, from being almost covered by a large vine. It belonged to the owner of the mill. Opposite to this, a little promontory or elbow, formed by a wood-clothed steep, pushed itself into the stream, so as completely to stop the path. way on its bank. Here the glen opened another reach, resembling the last in form, only busy and peopled, with houses bordering one whole side of the river,-a little inn, a little church, and a pretty parsonage. To a man at ease with himself, and with mankind, this scene would have been (as in former days to De Vere it had been) a perfect paradise.
De Vere had now to cross the river, but there was no bridge, and he looked rather wistfully at a punt, moored close to the piles which contained the miller's garden. The miller himself was there, in the act of giving an evening's watering to a large bed of sprouts he had just planted, which had drooped, and hung their heads during a hot day, and now seemed to drink with eagerness the great buckets which the miller threw over them. They had already begun to revive, and looked greener and greener for it, as he continued his refreshing work. He himself seemed to take such delight in it, that though he saw De Vere's embarrassment to get across, and resolved to relieve it by punting him over in his own good time, yet he thought he would just finish his first
“ the plants,” he said, “ seemed so much pleased with it."
At the same time, a sleek, good-humoured-looking dame came out of the house, to beg the miller, while his hand was in, not to forget her pinks and polyanthus, which, she said, were as sick for want of water as the cabbageplants themselves.
“I will," said the miller, “as soon as I have punted the gentleman over.”
“Gentleman! what gentleman ?" cried his wife; when, perceiving a person of De Vere's appearance, Lord bless me, Thomas Gurney,” said she, “how could you let such a gentleman wait upon them foolish plants, when, perhaps, he is in a hurry, and wants to get to his inn, or perhaps to Muster Archer's.”
“Indeed,” cried De Vere, “I am in no hurry, and could look on much longer at so pleasant a work; besides, I am the person to be obliged, and ought to wait
“ There! Thomas Gurney,” cried his wife; "and such a civil-spoken gentleman, tov; do lose no more time, but get into the punt.”
The miller did as he was bid. " Our mistress," said he, as he pulled against the rope which stretched across the river, “is for no sooner said than done, when a goodnatured thing is in hand; and yet,” added he, giving a significant toss with his head, “she would have combed my locks if I had neglected them cabbageplants, let alone her flowers she's so fond of, because Parson Archer gave them to her.”
De Vere was amused, and it seemed a relief to his late train of thought to give a minute to this homely but obliging couple, who received him at his landing with a bow and a courtesy, and asked him to walk in. “ Though I suppose," said the hostess, "you are going to Mr. Archer's, or at least to the Dog and Partridge, where there is always a genteel bed, though not, perhaps, for such a gentleman as you."
“I am not difficult,” said De Vere; “and if I were, I should think I could find no difficulty in such a beautiful quiet place as this.”
“Too quiet by half,” said the dame; “ for, except when the quality comes a pleasuring from the peak (which they don't always do neither), you may hear a pin fall in the street. To be sure, there is the river, and