Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

spirit, had summoned a meeting of the nobles, at which she was to preside in the dress she wore on the day of victory; the sight of which, it was thought, with the arguments which they meant to use, would prevail upon the assembly to urge her to a revocation of the bequest. Her women dressed her, while she was almost unconscious of what they were doing, for she had now begun to fade quickly, body as well as mind. They put on her the white garments edged with silver waves, in remembrance of the stream of Inachus, the founder of the Argive monarchy; the spear was brought out, to be stuck by the side of the throne, instead of the sceptre ; and their hands prepared to put the same laurel on her head which bound its healthy white temples, when she sat on horseback, and saw the prisoner go by. But at sight of its twisted and withered green, she took it in her hand ; and, looking about her in her chair with an air of momentary recollection, began picking it, and letting the leaves fall upon the floor. She went on thus, leaf after leaf, looking vacantly downwards; and when she had stripped the circle half round, she leaned her cheek against the side of her sick chair; and shutting her eyes quietly, so died.

The envoys from Argos went to the court of Calydon, where Doracles then was; and, bringing him the diadem upon a black cushion, informed him at once of the death of the Queen, and her nomination of him to the throne. He showed little more than a ceremonious gravity at the former news; but could ill contain his joy at the latter, and set off instantly to take posses. sion. Among the other nobles who feasted him was one who, having been the particular companion of the late king, had become like a second father to his unhappy daughter.

The new prince, observing the melancholy which he scarcely affected to repress, and seeing him look up occasionally at a picture which had a veil over it, asked him what the picture was that seemed to disturb him so, and why it was veiled. “If it be the portrait of the late king,” said Doracles, “pray think me worthy of doing honour to it, for he was a noble prince. Unveil it, pray. I in

a

sist upon it.

What? Am I not worthy to look upon my predecessors, Phorbas?” And at these words he frowned impatiently. Phorbas, with a trembling hand, but not for want of courage, withdrew the black covering; and the portrait of Daphles, in all her youth and beauty, flashed upon the eyes of Doracles. It was not a melancholy face. It was drawn before misfortune had touched it, and sparkled with a blooming beauty, in which animal spirits and good-nature contended for predominance. Doracles paused, and seemed struck. “The possessor of that face,” said he, inquiringly, “ could never have been so sorrowful as I have heard ?" " Pardon me, sir," answered Phorbas; “ I was as another father to her, and knew all.” “It cannot be,” returned the prince. The old man begged his other guests to withdraw a while, and then told Doracles how many fond and despairing things the Queen had said of him, both before her wits began to fail, and after. Her wits to fail ?” murmured the King: “I have known what it is to feel almost a mad impatience of the will ; but I knew not that these gentle creatures, women, could so feel for such a trifle.” Phorbas brought out the laurel-crown, and told him how it was that the half of it became bare. The impatient blood of Doracles mounted, but not in anger, to his face ; and, breaking up the party, he requested that the picture might be removed to his own chamber, promising to return it.

A whole year, however, did he keep it, and, as he had no foreign enemies to occupy his time, nor was disposed enter into the common sports of peace, it was understood that he spent the greatest part of his time, when he was not in council, in the room where the picture hung. In truth, the image of the once-smiling Daphles haunted him wherever he went; and to ease himself of the yearning of wishing her alive again and seeing her face, he was in the habit of being with it as much as possible. His self-will turned upon him even in that gentle shape. Millions of times did he wish back the loving author of his fortunes, whom he had treated with so clownish an ingrati

tude; and millions of times did the sense of the impotence of his wish run up in red hurry to his cheeks, and help to pull them into a gaunt melancholy. But this is not a repaying sorrow to dwell upon. He was one day, after being in vain expected at council, found lying madly on the floor of the room, dead. He had torn the portrait from the wall. His dagger was in his heart; and his cheek lay upon that blooming and smiling face, which, had it been living, would never have looked so at being revenged.

[NOTE.—This story was a favourite with Shelly. (See Leigh Hunt's “ Autobiography,” Chap. XVI.)].

GETTING UP ON COLD MORNINGS.

A

N Italian author-Giulio Cordara, a Jesuit-has written

a poem upon insects, which he begins by insisting that

those troublesome and abominable little animals were created for our annoyance, and that they were certainly not inhabitants of Paradise. We of the North may dispute this piece of theology; but, on the other hand, it is as clear as the snow on the house-tops, that Adam was not under the necessity of shaving ; and that when Eve walked out of her delicious bower, she did not step upon ice three inches thick.

Some people say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning. You have only, they tell you, to take the resolution, and the thing is done. This may be very true ; just as a boy at school has only to take a flogging, and the thing is over. But we have not at all made up our minds upon it; and we find it a very pleasant exercise to discuss the matter candidly before we get up. This at least is not idling, though it may be lying. It affords an excellent answer to those who ask how lying in bed can be indulged in by a reasoning being,-a rational creature. How? Why, with the argument calmly at work in one's head, and the clothes over one's shoulder. Oh, it is a fine way of spending a sensible, impartial half-hour.

If these people would be more charitable, they would get on with their argument better. But they are apt to reason so ill, and to assert so dogmatically, that one could wish to have them stand round one's bed of a bitter morning, and lie before their faces. They ought to hear both sides of the bed, the inside and out. If they cannot entertain themselves with their own thoughts for half an hour or so, it is not the fault of those who can. If their will is never pulled aside by the enticing arms of imagination, so much the luckier for the stage-coachman.

Candid inquirers into one's decumbency, besides the greater or less privileges to be allowed a man in proportion to his ability of keeping early hours, the work given his faculties, &c., will at least concede their due merits to such representations as the following. In the first place (says the injured but calm appealer), I have been warm all night, and find my system in a state perfectly suitable to a warm-blooded animal. To get out of this state into the cold, besides the inharmonious and uncritical abruptness of the transition, is so unnatural to such a creature that the poets, refining upon the tortures of the damned, make one of their greatest agonies consist in being suddenly transported from heat to cold,—from fire to ice. They are “haled” out of their “beds," says Milton, by "harpy-footed furies,”—fellows who come to call them. On my first movement towards the anticipation of getting up, I find that such parts of the sheets and bolster as are exposed to the air of the room are stone-cold. On opening my eyes, the first thing that meets them is my own breath rolling forth, as if in the open air, like smoke out of a cottage chimney. Think of this symptom. Then I turn my eyes sideways, and see the window all frozen over,

Think of that. Then the servant comes in. “ It is very cold this morning, is it not ?” Very cold, sir.” “Very cold indeed, isn't it ?” “Very cold indeed, sir.” “ More than usually so, isn't it, even for this weather ? ” (Here the servant's wit and good-nature are put to a considerable test, and the inquirer lies on thorns for the answer.) “Why, sir,- I think it is.” (Good creature! There is not a better or more truth-telling servant going.) “I must rise, however; get me some warm water." Here comes a fine interval between the departure of the servant

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »