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“I had seen her mother—and Mary, and Kit, and the pigs—and had I seen any one else—had I seen her and his children?”
Poor Matty!—after much conversation, I spoke to her of the handsome baker—she did not blush—she only shook her head, and said—
“A poor girl like me has nothing to give to an honest boy, but her heart—and though, thank God, mine's away from where it onct was, yet somehow it does not feel as if it was come back clean and clever to myself.”
“But in time, Matty?”
“May be so,” she replied; but the gentle assent had little of hope for the poor baker!
THE HEART's TRIBUTE.
No, Mary! trust me, when I say,
Now quiet memory gives me back
“Which manner of digression, however some dislike as frivolous and imperii. ment, yet I am of Beroaldus his opinion, such digressions do mightily delight and refresh a weary reader; they are like sawce to a bad stomach, and I therefore do most willingly use them.”—BURT on.
I AM not sure whether Lebanon Springs, the scene of a romantic story I am about to tell, belong to New York or Massachusetts. It is not very important, to be sure, in a country where people take Vermont and Patagonia to be neighbouring States, but I have a natural looseness in geography which I take pains to mortify by exposure. Very odd! that I should not remember more of the spot where I took my first lessons in philandering—where I first saw you, brightest and most beautiful A. D. (not Anno Domini), in your white morning-frocks and black French aprons !
Lebanon Springs are the rage about once in three years. I must let you into the secret of these things, gentle reader, for perhaps I am the only individual existing who has penetrated the mysteries of the four dynasties of American fashion. In the fourteen millions of inhabitants in the United States, there are precisely four authenticated and undis. puted aristocratic families. There is one in Boston, one in New York, one in Philadelphia, and one in Baltimore. By a blessed Providence they are not all in one State, or we should have a civil war and a monarchy in no time. With two hundred miles’ interval between them, they agree passably, and generally meet at one or another of the three watering-places of Saratoga, Ballston, or Lebanon. Their meeting is as mysterious as the process of crystallization, for it is not by agreement. You must explain it by some theory of homaeopathy or magnetism. As it is not known till the moment they arrive, there is of course great excitement among the hotel-keepers in these different parts of the country, and a village that has ten thousand transient inhabitants one summer, has, for the next, scarce as many score. The vast and solitary temples of Paestum are gay in comparison with these halls of disappointment.
As I make a point of dawdling away July and August in this locomotive metropolis of pleasure, and rather prefer Lebanon, it is always agreeable to me to hear that the nucleus is formed in that valley of hemlocks. Not for its scenery, for if there is one thing in this universe of ennui that bores me more than a man who is neither rich nor witty, it is “nature.” That is why I like Europe; you never hear of it this side the water in man, woman, or landscape; and really, my dear Eastern-hemispherian! you that are accustomed to what is called nature in England (to wit, a soft park, with a grey ruin in the midst), have little idea how wearily upon heart and mind presses a waste wilderness of mere forest and water, without stone or story. Trees in England have characters and tongues; if you see a fine one, you know whose father planted it, and for whose pleasure it was designed, and about what sum the man must possess to afford to let it stand. They are statistics, as it were—so many trees, ergo, so many owners so rich. In America, on the contrary, trees grow and waters run, as the stars shine, quite unmean:
ingly; there may be ten thousand princely elms, and not a man within a hundred miles worth five pounds five. You ask, in England, who has the privilege of this water? or you say of an oak, that it stood in such a man’s time: but with us, water is an element unclaimed and unrented, and a tree dabbles in the clouds as they go over, and is like a great idiot, without soul or responsibility. I told Miss Martineau so, and yet she persisted she should be delighted with our American forests. Introduce me to a drawing-room, full of wax figures larger than life, and I shall find them like men and women as soon. If Lebanon had a history, however, if it had been the scene of much human vice and little human virtue, like other spots of earth, if Bulwer (who is seen in apotheosis on the other edge of the great scroll of the Atlantic) had looked on it with his creative eye, and poets, with critics who are brother editors of Quarterlys, had sprung, flourished, and died within its mountainous horizon, if, in short, bad poems had becn written, and much praised there, and lovely women been made lovelier by a deifying rank and more deifying fortune,—if the ruins of a robber's stronghold stood on the shoulder of one hill, and the walls of a nunnery, suppressed for licentiousness, on the slope of another, then, I think, Lebanon would have becn a spot for a pilgrimage, for its natural beauty. It is shaped like a lotus, with one leaf laid back by the wind. It is a great green cup, with a scoop for a drinking-place. As you walk in the long porticoes of the hotel, the dark forest mounts up before you like a leafy wall, and the clouds seem just to clear the pine-tops, and the eagles sail across from horizon to horizon, without lifting their wings, as if you saw them from the bottom of a well. People born there think the world about two miles square, and hilly. The principal charm of Lebanon to me is the village of “Shakers,” lying in a valley about three miles off. As Glaucus wondered at the inert tortoise of Pompeii, and loved it for its antipodal contrast to himself, so do I affection (a French verb that I beg leave to introduce to the English language) the Shaking Quakers. That two thousand men could be found in the New World, who would embrace a religion enjoining a frozen and unsympathetic intercourse with the diviner sex, and that an equal number of females could be induced to live in the same commu: mity, without locks or walls, in the cold and rigid observance of a creed of celibacy, is to me an inexplicable and grave wonder. My delight is to get into my stanhope after breakfast, and drive over and spend the forenoon in contemplating them at their work in the fields. They have a peculiar and most expressive physiognomy; the women are pale, or of a wintry redness in the cheek, and are all attenuated and spare. Gravity, deep and habitual, broods in every line of their thin faces. They go out to . their labour in company with those serious men, and are never seen to smile. Their eyes are all hard and stony, their gait is precise and stiff, their voices are of a croaking hoarseness, and nature seems dead in them. I would bake you such men and women in a brick-kiln. Do they think the world is coming to an end? Are there to be no more children? Is Cupid to be thrown out of business, like a coach proprietor on a rail-road? What can the Shakers mean, I should be pleased to know? The oddity is that most of them are young. Men of from twenty to thirty, and women from sixteen to twenty-five, and often, spite of their
unbecoming dress, good-looking and shapely, meet you at every step. Industrious, frugal, and self-denying they certainly are, and there is every appearance that their tenets of difficult abstinence are kept to the letter. There is little temptation beyond principle to remain, and they are free to go and come as they list, yet there they live on in peace and unrepining industry, and a more thriving community does not exist in the republic. Many a time have I driven over on a Sunday, and watched those solemn virgins dropping in one after another to the church; and when the fine-limbed and russet-faced brotherhood were swimming round the floor in their fanatical dance, I have watched their countenances for some look of preference, some betrayal of an ill-suppressed impulse, till my eyes ached again. I have selected the youngest and fairest, and have not lost sight of her for two hours, and she might have been made of cheese-parings for any trace of emotion. There is food for speculation in it. Can we do without matrimony? Can we “strike,” and be independent of these dear delightful tyrants, for whom we “live and move and have our being?” Will it ever be no blot on our scutcheon to have attained thirty-five as an unfructifying unit? Is that fearful campaign, with all its embarrassments and awkwardnesses, and inquisitions into your money and morals, its bullyings and backingsout—is it evitable? Lebanon has one other charm. Within a morning drive of the Springs lies the fairest village it has ever been my lot to see. It is English in its character, except that there is really nothing in this country so perfect of its kind. There are many towns in the United States more picturesquely situated, but this, before I had been abroad, always seemed to me the very ideal of English rural scenery, and the kind of place to set apart for either love or death—for one's honeymoon or burial, the two periods of life which I have always hoped would find me in the loveliest spot of nature. Stockbridge lies in a broad sunny valley, with mountains at exactly the right distance, and a river in its bosom that is as delicate in its windings, and as suited to the charms it wanders among, as a vein in the transparent neck of beauty. I am not going into a regular description, but I have carried myself back to Lebanon, and the remembrance of the leafy mornings of summer in which I have driven to that fair earthly Paradise, and loitered under its elms, imagining myself amid the scenes of song and story in distant England, has a charm for me now. I have seen the mother-land; I have rambled through park, woodland, and village, wherever the name was old and the scene lovely, and it pleases me to go back to my dreaming days and compare the reality with the anticipation. Most small towns in America have traces of new-ness about them. The stumps of a clearing, or freshly boarded barns—something that is the antipodes of romance—meets your eye from every aspect. Stockbridge, on the contrary, is an old town, and the houses are of a rural structure, the fields look soft and genial, the grass is sward-like, the bridges picturesque, the hedges old, and the elms, nowhere so many and so luxuriant, are full grown and majestic. The village is emboweved in foliage. Greatest attraction of all, the authoress of “Redwood” and “Hope Leslie,” a novelist of whom America has the good sense to be proud, is the Miss Mitford of Stockbridge. A man, though a distinguished one,
may have little influence on the town he lives in, but a remarkable woman is the invariable cynosure of a community, and irradiates it all. I think I could divine the presence of one almost by the growing of the trees and flowers. “Our Village” does not look like other villages. You will have forgotten that I had a story to tell, dear reader. I was at Lebanon in the summer of (perhaps you don’t care about knowing exactly when it was, and in that case I would rather keep shy of dates in a periodical; I please myself with the idea that time gets on faster than I.) The Springs were thronged. The President's lady was there, (this was under our administration, the Adams') and all the four cliques spoken of above were amicably united—each others' beaux dancing with each others’ belles, and so on. If I were writing merely for American eyes, I should digress once more to describe the distinctive characters of the south, north, and central representations of beauty; but it would scarcely interest the general reader. I may say in passing that the Boston belles were à l’Anglaise, rosy and riani; the New Yorkers, like Parisians, cool, dangerous, and dressy; and the Baltimoreans (and so south), like Ionians or Romans, indolent, passionate, lovely, and languishing. Men, women, and pine apples, I am inclined to think, flourish with a more kindly growth in the fervid latitudes. The campaign went on, and a pleasant campaign it was—for the parties concerned had the management of their own affairs; i. e. they who had hearts to sell made the bargain for themselves, (this was the greater number,) and they who disposed of that commodity gratis, though necessarily young and ignorant of the world, made the transfer in the same manner, in person. That is your true republic. The trading in affections by reference—the applying to an old and selfish heart for the purchase of a young and ingenuous one—the swearing to your rents, and not to your faithful passion—to your settlements, and not your constancy—the cold distance between yourself and the young creature who is to lie in your bosom, till the purchase-money is secured, —and the hasty marriage and sudden abandonment of a nature thus chilled and put on its guard, to a freedom with one almost a stranger, that cannot but seem licentious, and cannot but break down that sense of propriety in which modesty is most strongly entrenched—this seems to me the one evil of your old worm-eaten monarchies this side the water, which touches the essential happiness of the well-bred individual. Taxation and oppression are but things he reads of in the morning paper. This freedom of intercourse between unmarried people has a single disadvantage, one gets so desperately soon to the end of the chapter! There shall be two hundred young ladies at the Springs in a given season, and, by the difference in taste so wisely arranged by Providence, there will scarce be, of course, more than four in that number whom any one gentleman at all difficult will find within the range of his beau ideal. With those four he may converse freely twelve hours in the day—more, if he particularly desires it. They may ride together, drive together, ramble together, sing together, be together from morning till night, and at the end of a month passed in this way, if he escape a committal, as is possible, he will know all that are agreeable, in one large circle at least, as well as he knows his sisters—a state of things that is very