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killing, as poor Tom observed, two as fine litters of rabbits as ever were kittened. Remotely, I have no doubt that he himself fell a sacrifice to this misadventure. The overseer, to whom he applied to reinstate his beloved habitation, decided that the walls would never bear another roof, and removed him and his wife, as an especial favour, to a tidy, snug, comfortable room in the workhouse. The workhouse! From that hour poor Tom was visibly altered. He lost his hilarity and his independence. It was a change such as he had himself often inflicted, a complete change of habits, a transition from the wild to the tame. No labour was demanded of him; he went about as before, finding hares, killing rats, selling brooms, but the spirit of the man was departed: he talked of the quiet of his old abode, and the noise of the new; complained of children and other bad company; and looked down on his neighbours with the sort of contempt with which a cock pheasant might regard a barn door fowl. Most of all did he, braced into a gipsy like defiance of wet and cold, grumble at the warmth and dryness of his apartment. He used to foretell that it would kill him, and assuredly it did so. Never could the typhus fever have found out that wild hill side, or have lurked under the broken roof. The free touch of air would have chased the demon. Alas, poor Tom! warmth and snugness,and comfort, whole windows, and an entire ceiling were the death of him. Alas, poor Tom! Miss Mitford.
PORTRAIT OF A COUNTRY DOWAGER.
Though the prevailing incidents of my latter part of life have fixed it almost constantly to a town, yet nobody is more enthusiastically fond of the country than I; and amidst all my banishment from it, I have contrived still to preserve a relish for its pleasures, and an enjoyment of its sports, which few who visit it so seldom are able to retain. I can still weave an angling-line, or dress a fly, am at least a hit-and-miss-man a shooting, and have not forgotten the tune of a View holla, or the encouraging Hark forward! to a cautious hound. But though these are a set of capacities which mark one's denizenship to the country, and which therefore I am proud to retain, yet I confess I am more delighted with its quieter and less turbulent pleasures. There is a sort of moral use of the country, which every man who has not lost the rural sentiment will feel; a certain purity of mind and imagination which its scenes inspire, a simplicity, a colouring of nature on the objects around us, which correct the artifice and interestedness of the world. There is in the country a pensive vacancy (if the expression may be allowed me) of mind, which stills the violence of passion and the tumult of desire. One can hardly dream on the bank of some nameless brook without making a better and a wiser man. I early took the liberty of boasting to my readers, that, as a lounger, I had learned to be idle without guilt, and indolent without indifference. In the country, methinks, I find this disposition congenial to the place; the air which breathes around me, like that which touches the Eolian harp, steals on my soul a tender but varied tone of feeling, that lulls while it elevates, that soothes while it inspires. Not a blade that whistles in the breeze, not a weed that spreads its speckled leaves to the sun, but ma; add something to the ideas of him who can lounge with all his mind open about him.
I am not sure if, in the regret which I feel for my absence from the country, I do not raise its enjoyments higher, and paint its landscapes in more glowing colours than the reality might afford. I have long cultivated a talent very fortunate for a man of my disposition, that of traveling in my easy chair, of transporting myself, without stirring from my parlour, to distant places and to absent friends, of drawing scenes in my mind's eye, and of peopling them with the groups of fancy, or the society of remembrance. 'When I have sometimes lately felt the dreariness of the town, deserted by my acquaintance; when I have returned from the coffeehouse, where the boxes were unoccupied, and strolled out for my accustomed walk, which even the lame beggar had left, I was fain to shut myself up in my room, order a dish of my best tea (for there is a sort of melancholy which disposes one to make much of one's self), and calling up the powers of memory and imagination, leave the solitary town for a solitude more interesting, which my younger days enjoyed in the country, which I think, and if I am wrong I do not wish to be undeceived, was the most elysian spot in the world.
It was at an old lady's, a relation and godmother of mine, where a particular incident occasioned my being left during the vacation of two successive seasons. Her house was formed out of the remains of an old Gothic castle, of which one tower was still almost entire; it was tenanted by kindly daws and swallows. Beneath, in a modernized part of the building, resided the mistress of the mansion. The house was skirted by a few majestic elms and beeches, and the stumps of several others showed that they had once been more numerous. To the west a clump of firs covered a rugged rocky dell, where the rooks claimed a prescriptive seigniory. Through this a dashing rivulet forced its way, which afterwards grew quiet in its progress, and gurgling gently through a piece of meadow ground, crossed the bottom of the garden, where a little rustic paling enclosed a washing-green, and a wicker seat, fronting the south, was placed for the accommodation of the old lady, whose lesser tour, when her fields did not require a visit, used to terminate in this spot. Here, too, were ranged the hives for her bees, whose hum, in a still, warm sunshine, soothed the good old lady's indolence, while their proverbial industry was sometimes quoted for the instruction of her washers. The brook ran brawling through some underwood on the outside of the garden; and soon after formed a little cascade, which fell into the river that winded through a valley in front of the house. When haymaking or harvest was going on, my godmother took her long stick in her hand, and overlooked the labours of the mowers or reapers, though I believe there was little thrift in the
Buperintendency, as the visit generally cost her a draught of beer or a dram, to encourage their diligence.
Within doors she had so able an assistant, that her labour was little. In that department an old man servant was her minister, the father of my Peter, who serves me not the less faithfully that we have gathered nuts together in my godmother's hazel bank. This old butler (I call him by his title of honour, though, in truth, he had many subordinate offices) had originally enlisted with her husband, who went into the army a youth, though he afterwards married and became a country gentleman, had been his servant abroad, and attended him during his last illness at home. His best hat, which he wore a Sundays, with a scarlet waistcoat of his master's, had still a cockade in it.
Her husband's books were in a room at the top of a screw staircase, which had scarce been opened since his death; but her own library, for Sabbath or rainy days, was ranged in a little book press in the parlour. It consisted, as far as I can remember, of several volumes of Sermons, a Concordance,Thomas a Kempis, Antoninus's Meditations, the Works of the author of the Whole Duty of Man, and a translation of Boethius; the original editions of the Spectator and Guardian, Cowley's Poems, Dryden's Works (of which I had lost a volume soon after I first came about her house), Baker's Chronicle, Burnet's History of his own Times, Lamb's Royal Cookery, Abercromby's Scots Warriors, and Nisbet's Heraldry.
The subject of the last mentioned book was my