ePub 版
[ocr errors]

young man may have been mistaken in pal authorities in brick and stone, or thinking that Susan would die if he left making contracts with wealthy citizens, her, and may have done more than his doubted whether Clement would have duty in sacrificing himself; but if so, it a sharp eye enough for business. was the mistake of a generous youth, Too many whims, you know. All who estimated the depth of another's sorts of queer ideas in his head, feelings by his own. He measured the if a boy like him was going to make depth of his own rather by what he felt things all over again ! ” they might be, than by that of any No doubt there was something of abysses they had yet sounded.

youthful extravagance in his plans and Clement was called a "genius” by expectations. But it was the untamed those who knew him, and was conse- enthusiasm which is the source of all quently in danger of being spoiled great thoughts and deeds, - a beautiful early. The risk is great enough any- delirium which age commonly tames where, but greatest in a new country, down, and for which the cold showerwhere there is an almost universal want bath the world furnishes gratis proves of fixed standards of excellence. a pretty certain cure.

He was by nature an artist; a shaper Creation is always preceded by chaos. with the pencil or the chisel, a planner, The youthful architect's mind was cona contriver capable of turning his hand fused by the multitude of suggestions to almost any work of eye and hand. which were crowding in upon it, and It would not have been strange if he which he had not yet had time or dethought he could do everything, hav- veloped mature strength sufficient to ing gifts which were capable of various reduce to order. The young American application, — and being an American of any freshness of intellect is stimucitizen. But though he was a good lated to dangerous excess by the condraughtsman, and had made some re- ditions of life into which he is born. liefs and modelled some figures, he There is a double proportion of oxygen called himself only an architect. He in the New-World air. The chemists had given himself up to his art, not have not found it out yet, but human merely from a love of it and talent brains and breathing organs have long for it, but with a kind of heroic devo- since made the discovery. tion, because he thought his country Clement knew that his hasty entanwanted a race of builders to clothe the glement had limited his possibilities of new forms of religious, social, and na- happiness in one direction, and he felt tional life afresh from the forest, the that there was a certain grandeur in quarry, and the mine. Some thought the recompense of working out his dehe would succeed, others that he would feated instincts through the ambitious be a brilliant failure.

medium of his noble art. Had not “Grand notions, – grand notions,” Pharaohs chosen it to proclaim their the master with whom he studied said. longings for immortality, Cæsars their " Large ground plan of life, - splen- passion for pomp and luxury, and the did elevation. A little wild in some of priesthood to symbolize their concephis fancies, perhaps, but he's only a tions of the heavenly mansions ? His boy, and he's the kind of boy that dreams were on a grand scale; such, sometimes grows to be a pretty big after all, are the best possessions of Wait and see,

wait and see. youth. Had he but been free, or mated He works days, and we can let him with a nature akin to his own, he would dream nights. There's a good deal of have felt himself as truly the heir of him, anyhow.” His fellow - students creation as any young man that lived. were puzzied. Those who thought of But his lot was cast, and his youth had their calling as a trade, and looked all the serious aspect to himself of forward to the time when they should thoughtful manhood. In the region of be embodying the ideals of munici- his art alone he hoped always to find


[ocr errors]


freedom and a companionship which his home life could never give him.

Clement meant to have visited his beloved before he left Alderbank, but was called unexpectedly back to the city. Happily Susan was not exacting; she looked up to him with too great a feeling of distance between them to dare to question his actions. Perhaps she found a partial consolation in the company of Mr. Gifted Hopkins, who tried his new poems on her, which was the next best thing to addressing them to her. "Would that you were with us at this delightful season," she wrote in the autumn; "but no, your Susan must not repine. Yet, in the beautiful words of our native poet,

'O would, O would that thou wast here,
For absence makes thee doubly dear;
Ah! what is life while thou 'rt away?
'Tis night without the orb of day!'"

The poet referred to, it need hardly be said, was our young and promising friend G. H., as he sometimes modestly signed himself. The letter, it is unnecessary to state, was voluminous,


a woman can tell her love, or other matter of interest, over and over again in as many forms as another poet, not G. H., found for his grief in ringing the musical changes of "In Memoriam."

The answers to Susan's letters were kind, but not very long. They convinced her that it was a simple impossibility that Clement could come to Oxbow Village, on account of the great pressure of the work he had to keep him in the city, and the plans he must finish at any rate. But at last the work was partially got rid of, and Clement was coming; yes, it was so nice, and, O dear! should n't she be real happy to see him?

To Susan he appeared as a kind of divinity, almost too grand for human nature's daily food. Yet, if the simplehearted girl could have told herself the whole truth in plain words, she would have confessed to certain doubts which from time to time, and oftener of late, cast a shadow on her seemingly bright future. With all the pleasure that the thought of meeting Clement gave her,

she felt a little tremor, a certain degree of awe, in contemplating his visit. If she could have clothed her self-humiliation in the gold and purple of the "Portuguese Sonnets," it would have been another matter; but the trouble with the most common sources of disquiet is that they have no wardrobe of flaming phraseology to air themselves in; the inward burning goes on without the relief and gratifying display of the crater.

"A friend of mine is coming to the village," she said to Mr. Gifted Hopkins. "I want you to see him. He is a genius, as some other young men are." (This was obviously personal, and the youthful poet blushed with ingenuous delight.) "I have known him for ever so many years. He and I are very good friends." The poet

knew that this meant an exclusive relation between them; and though the fact was no surprise to him, his countenance fell a little. The truth was, that his admiration was divided between Myrtle, who seemed to him divine and adorable, but distant, and Susan, who listened to his frequent poems, whom he was in the habit of seeing in artless domestic costumes, and whose attractions had been gaining upon him of late in the enforced absence of his divinity.

He retired pensive from this interview, and, flinging him at his desk, attempted wreaking his thoughts upon expression, to borrow the language of one of his brother bards, in a passionate lyric which he began thus:

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

vain, — futile, no use,

all up for times I think it is one thing, and someto-night!”

times another. Great on Paul's EpisWhile the poet, headed off in this tles, — don't you think so ?” way by the poverty of his native tongue, The honest fact was, that Clement sought inspiration by retiring into the remembered very little about “ Paul's world of dreams,—went to bed, in short, Letters to his Kinsfolk," -a book of - his more fortunate rival was just en

Sir Walter's less famous than many of tering the village, where he was to make his others; but he signified his polite his brief residence at the house of Dea- assent to the Deacon's statement, rathcon Rumrill, who, having been a loser er wondering at his choice of a favorite, by the devouring element, was glad to and smiling at his queer way of talking receive a stray boarder when any such about the Letters as Epistles. were looking about for quarters.

“I am afraid Scott is not so much For some reason or other he was read now-a-days as he once was, and restless that evening, and took out a as he ought to be," said Mr. Clement. volume he had brought with him to be- “Such character, such nature and so guile the earlier hours of the night. It much grace —” was too late when he arrived to disturb “ That 's it, - that 's it, young man,” the quiet of Mrs. Hopkins's household; the Deacon broke in, Natur and and whatever may have been Clement's Grace, — Natur' and Grace. Nobody impatience, he held it in check, and sat ever knew better what those two words tranquilly until midnight over the pages meant than Scott did, and I 'm very of the book with which he had prudent- glad to see you 've chosen such good ly provided himself.

wholesome reading. You can't set up Hope you slept well last night,” too late, young man, to read Scott. If said the old Deacon, when Mr. Clement I had twenty children, they should all came down to breakfast the next morn- begin reading Scott as soon as they ing

were old enough to spell “sin,' — and “Very well, thank you, that is, af- that 's the first word my little ones ter I got to bed. But I sat up pretty learned, next to 'pa' and ma.' Nothlate reading my favorite Scott. I am ing like beginning the lessons of life in apt to forget how the hours pass when good season.” I have one of his books in my hand.” “What a grim old satirist !” Clement

The worthy Deacon looked at Mr. said to himself. “I wonder if the old Clement with a sudden accession of in- man reads other novelists. - Do tell terest.

me, Deacon, if you have read Thacke“ You could n't find better reading, ray's last story ? " young man.

Scott is my favorite au- Thackery's story? Published by thor. A great man. I have got his the American Tract Society ? ” likeness in a gilt frame hanging up in “Not exactly,” Clement answered, the other room. I have read him all smiling, and quite delighted to find such through three times.”

an unexpected vein of grave pleasantry The young man's countenance bright- about the demure-looking church-digened. He had not expected to find so nitary; for the Deacon asked his quesmuch taste for elegant literature in an tion without moving a muscle, and took old village deacon.

no cognizance whatever of the young “ What are your favorites among his man's tone and smile. First-class huwritings, Deacon? I suppose you have morists are, as is well known, remarkayour particular likings, as the rest of us able for the immovable solemnity of have."

their features. Clement promised himThe Deacon was flattered by the self not a little amusement from the question. “Well,” he answered, “I curiously sedate drollery of the veneracan hardly tell you. I like pretty much ble Deacon, who, it was plain from his everything Scott ever wrote. Some- conversation, had cultivated a literary


[ocr errors]


taste which would make him a more agony of impatience to be alone with agreeable companion than the common his beloved, commanded his feelings ecclesiastics of his grade in country vil- admirably. He signified his approbalages.

tion of the poem by saying that the After breakfast, Mr. Clement walked lines were smooth and the rhymes abforth in the direction of Mrs. Hopkins's solutely without blemish. The stanzas house, thinking as he went of the pleas- reminded him forcibly of one of the ant surprise his visit would bring to greatest poets of the century. his longing and doubtless pensive Su- Gifted flushed hot with pleasure. san; for though she knew he was com- He had tasted the blood of his own ing, she did not know that he was at rhymes; and when a poet gets as far that moment in Oxbow Village. as that, it is like wringing the bag of ex

As he drew near the house, the first hilarating gas from the lips of a fellow thing he saw was Susan Posey, almost sucking at it, to drag his piece away running against her just as he turned a from him. corner. She looked wonderfully lively “ Perhaps you will like these lines and rosy, for the weather was getting still better,” he said ; " the style is keen and the frosts had begun to bite. more modern : A young gentleman was walking at her 'O daughter of the spicéd South, side, and reading to her from a paper Her bubbly grapes have spilled the wine he held in his hand. Both looked deep- !

That staineth with its hue divine

The red flower of thy perfect mouth."" ly interested, - so much so that Clem

And so on, through a series of stanzas ent felt half ashamed of himself for in

like these, with the pulp of two rhymes truding upon them so abruptly.

between the upper and lower crust of But lovers are lovers, and Clement

two others. could not help joining them. The

Clement was cornered. It was nefirst thing, of course, was the utterance of two simultaneous exclamations,

cessary to say something for the poet's

sake, “Why, Clement!” “Why, Susan !”

perhaps for Susan's; for she

was in a certain sense responsible for What might have come next in the

the poems of a youth of genius, of programme, but for the presence of a third party, is matter of conjecture; enthusiastically.

whom she had spoken so often and so but what did come next was a mighty

“Very good, Mr. Hopkins, and a awkward look on the part of Susan Po

form of verse little used, I should sey, and the following short speech :

think, until of late years. You mod“Mr. Lindsay, let me introduce Mr.

elled this piece on the style of a faHopkins, my friend, the poet I 've writ

mous living English poet, did you ten to you about. He was just read

not?" ing two of his poems to me. Some

“ Indeed I did not, Mr. Lindsay, other time, Gifted - Mr. Hopkins.” “O no, Mr. Hopkins, - pray go on,"

I never imitate. Originality is, if I said Clement. “I'm very fond of po- myself, my peculiar forte. Why, the

may be allowed to say so much for etry.”

critics allow as much as that. See The poet did not require much urg- here, Mr. Lindsay.” ing, and began at once reciting over

Mr. Gifted Hopkins pulled out his again the stanzas which were afterwards so much admired in the “ Banner and pocket-book, and, taking therefrom a

cutting from a newspaper, which Oracle,” - the first verse being, as the readers of that paper will remember,

dropped helplessly open of itself, as if

tired of the process, being very tender "She moves in splendor, like the ray

in the joints or creases, by reason of That flashes from unclouded skies,

having been often folded and unfolded, And all the charms of night and day Are mingled in her hair and eyes."

- read aloud as follows:

“The bard of Oxbow Village - our valued correClement, who must have been in an spondent who writes over the signature of G. H. –


is, in our opinion, more remarkable for his original had a fluent natural gift for tears, as ity than for any other of his numerous gifts."

Clement well knew, after the exercise Clement was apparently silenced by of which she used to brighten up like this, and the poet a little elated with the rose which had been washed, just a sense of triumph. Susan could not washed in a shower, mentioned by help sharing his feeling of satisfaction, Cowper. and without meaning it in the least, As for the poet, he learned more of his nay, without knowing it, for she was own sentiments during this visit of Clemas simple and pure as new milk, edged ent's than he had ever before known. a little bit — the merest infinitesimal He wandered about with a dreadfully atom - nearer to Gifted Hopkins, who disconsolate look upon his countenance. was on one side of her, while Clement He showed a falling-off in his appetite walked on the other. Women love at tea-time, which surprised and disthe conquering party, — it is the way turbed his mother, for she had filled the of their sex. And poets, as we have house with fragrant suggestions of good seen, are wellnigh irresistible when things coming, in honor of Mr. Lindsay, they exert their dangerous power of who was to be her guest at tea. And fascination upon the female heart. But chiefly the genteel form of doughnut Clement was above jealousy; and, if he called in the native dialect cymbal (Qu. perceived anything of this movement, Symbol ? B. G.) which graced the board took no notice of it.

with its plastic forms, suggestive of the He saw a good deal of his pretty most pleasing objects,

most pleasing objects, — the spiral ringSusan that day. She was tender in lets pendent from the brow of beauty, her expressions and manners as usual, the magic circlet, which is the pledge but there was a little something in her of plighted affection, — the indissoluble looks and language from time to time knot, which typifies the union of hearts, that Clement did not know exactly which organs were also largely reprewhat to make of. She colored once sented; this exceptional delicacy would or twice when the young poet's name at any other time have claimed his spewas mentioned. She was not so full of cial notice. But his mother remarked her little plans for the future as she that he paid little attention to these, had sometimes been, "everything was and his “No, I thank you,” when it so uncertain,” she said. Clement asked came to the preserved damsels" himself whether she felt quite as sure as some call them, carried a pang that her attachment would last as she with it to the maternal bosom. The once did. But there were no reproach- most touching evidence of his unhappies, not even any explanations, which ness – whether intentional or the result are about as bad between lovers. There of accident was not evident was nothing but an undefined feeling on broken heart, which he left upon his his side that she did not cling quite so plate, the meaning of which was as closely to him, perhaps, as he had once plain as anything in the language of thought, and that, if he had happened flowers. His thoughts were gloomy to have been drowned that day when during that day, running a good deal he went down with the beautiful young on the more picturesque and impreswoman, it was just conceivable that sive methods of bidding a voluntary Susan, who would have cried dread- farewell to a world which had allured fully, no doubt, would in time have him with visions of beauty only to listened to consolation from some other snatch them from his impassioned gaze. young man, possibly from the young His mother saw something of this, and poet whose verses he had been ad- got from him a few disjointed words, miring. Easy-crying widows take new which led her to lock up the clothes-line husbands soonest; there is nothing and hide her late husband's razors, like wet weather for transplanting, as an affectionate, yet perhaps unnecessary Master Gridley used to say. Susan precaution, for self-elimination contem

was a

« 上一頁繼續 »