图书图片
PDF
ePub

THE PERPLEXED STUDENT.

A LESSON FOR BACHELOR BOOKWORMS.

BY MRS. C. H. BUTLER.

"From woman's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire,
They arc tho books—the arts—the academies
That show, contain, and nourish all the world."

CHAPTER I.

Horace Manspield was rapidly becoming a misanthrope—yet stay, that may be too harsh a term to apply to my young hero, for, although shunning society,

"He hated not his fellow-men,
While from their close companionship he shrank,
And in rapt converse with the dead, forgot
To wave the mystic wand which must reveal
The sources, whence flow streams of draper happiness."

For, with an almost hermit-like seclusion from the world did ho shut himself within the narrow limits of his study—seldom going thence unless to stroll in meditative mood, with folded arms and eyes downcast, through the adjoining forest. Earthquakes might shake the globe— thrones totter from their base, and kings bite the dust—what then? To him, it was no more than the sighing of the autumnal blast, sweeping in its course from the monarchs of the wood their gorgeous diadems!

Already at the age of twenty-three, he had never felt the passion of love, nor looked with deeper emotion upon any of Eve's fuir daughters, than he did upon the painted butterfly glancing in giddy circles before him, and should either approach too near, he would probably have brushed both from his path with the same stoical indifference—pretty, harmless creatures, butterflies and maidens!

Now this was a most unfortunate state of things for Mr. Mansfield, Senior. A widower for many long years, and too much attached to the memory of the departed to think of marrying a second time, he had suffered himself to look forward with pleased anticipation to the period when Horace, his only child, should be old enough to take a wife. Ah! the presence of a young charming bride, how it would change all things at the lonely old Hall! What magic would her sweet voice exert—how would her lightest footfall thrill his heart with the gladness of other days! Bless her bright eyes, and her sunny smile—already the old gentleman

doted upon this ignis fatuus of his imagination.

How great then was his disappointment to find Horace, at the age of manhood, too deeply absorbed by the Portias and Lucretias of ancient days, to bestow even a thought upon living beauties—going back into the dim ages of the past, and there falling in raptures over the virtues of a Cornelia, or the charms of a Helen, and would take to his arms an old musty blackletter folio with more delight, than he would clasp the fairest copy of womankind. In vain the old gentleman preached to his moody son— in vain tossing upon a sleepless pillow, he, night after night, strove to devise some plan to draw him from his studies—one day he would propose hunting, another, fishing; sometimes he would urge travel, or suggest a winter in the city. But looking up with a dreamy air, Horace would only shrug his shoulders, utter something between a yawn and a groan, and then plunge anew into the labyrinth of bygone ages, or puzzle his brains with some metaphysical question. Besides,

"He was in logic a great critic
Profoundly skilled in analytic:
He could distinguish and divide
A hair 'twixt south and southwest side.
In mathematics he was greater
Than Tycho Brahe or Erra Pater,
Besides 'twas known he could speak Greek
As naturally as pigs do squeak!"

"Confound all books!" would the old gentleman exclaim. And indeed had books been as rare as in the days of the worshipful Knight of La Mancha, how gladly would Mr. Mansfield have emulated the zeal of the worthy curate and barber, and consigned to the flames those silent yet sorcerous enemies to his hopes. But in these "latter days," when, with the swiftness with which one wave chases another, as the speed of thought, or the constant dropping of sand in the inverted hour-glass, tho teeming Press sends forth her offspring, well he knew, that from the glowing mass, another, Phoenixlike, would arise from its ashes, and its name be "Legion!" Therefore smothering his fiery ardour, he once more looked within his brain for some more effectual counter-charm to their enchantments.

And no wonder the poor old gentleman was out of all patience, for it did seem a thousand pities that such a fine, handsome young fellow as Horace, should be thus wasting the freshness of his youth, encased like a mummy in a catacomb!

And so one day Mr. Mansfield suddenly broke into this living tomb, making considerable bustle, too, as he did so, by slamming the door, and kicking over a huge Josephus—but bless you! the student heeded it no more than he

[graphic]

would the dancing of a thistle-down through the open window. Dragging a chair not very gently to the table, the old gentleman seated himself facing his abstracted son, where he might have sat unnoticed till doomsday had he not taken a pretty sure way of making his presence known, namely, by suddenly sweeping his large bony hand over the open page, and hurling the book under the table. It must be confessed Horace was too well accustomed to this mode of salutation to express any surprise,

VOL. vI. 16

and, therefore, merely raising his head, with a long-drawn sigh, he said— "Well, father?"

"Now I tell you what it is, Horace," exclaimed the old gentleman, striking his fist upon the voluminous mass of papers before him; "I can't stand this any longer—this sort of life won't do for me. I have borne it as patiently as a saint for as many years as you can count fingers and toes, and now there must be an end of it. I ask you if you don't feel ashamed of yonrself,—I ask you if you are doing anything to make your old father happy, perched up there week in and week out, like a piece of petrified clay, when you should be looking out for a wife, and gladdening my old eyes, ere death closes them for ever, by the sight of your happiness."

"Why, my dear sir, I cannot conceive of greater happiness than these my silent friends afford me," replied Horace.

"Nonsense—I know better; but I'm not going to argue the point with you,—it is only a waste of breath, and I am tired of it. Only answer mi one question,—will you or will you not get married?"

Horace smiled, shook his head, and tracing a parallelogram on the paper before him, replied:

"Methinks, my dear father, it would have been no greater absurdity for old Thomas Aquinas to have doffed the cowl, and relaxed his stern visage into the soft simper of a lover's smile, than for me to break from these rusty fetters, ouly to yield allegiance to Love's rosy bondage."

"Fiddle-de-dee .'—Then I tell you what I've a great mind to do,—fall into the what-doyou-call-it bondage of Love myself," answered the old gentleman. "Now, suppose / get a wife, Horace V

"No doubt, father, a woman would be very useful in looking after the house,—really, I think your suggestion most excellent."

"Look after the house, you iceberg!—Mrs. Dimity does that, don't she? No, ! want no wife that will be for ever bustling about in the kitchen and pantry—I want society, I teh you —I am tired of sitting like an old solitary badger, or of smoking my pipe with the gravity of Robinson Crusoe, with only the cat at my elbow, and for amusement counting the flies crawling over the ceiling,—I am tired of it, I tell you!"

"Then, father, to be serious, why not get married? I really don't see how you can do better," said Horace.

"You don't, well I do,—for, after all, no pretty lass would fancy an old fellow like me, and as for the elderly damsels, they would prefer their snuff and tea;—no, no, I have a better plan than marriage in my head. Harkee, young gentleman! I am going to rejuvenate these old walls; I will fill them with beauty, with sparkling eyes and beaming smiles, angels and sylphs shall glide amid its lonely chambers, and the music of glad voices ring like marriage bells through these old elms!"

"Do you wield the wand of Prospero, my dear father, that you can thus at pleasure summon such dainty spirits?" said Horace, smiling.

"You shall see, for to-morrow I start for New York, from thence I shall take a trip into Jersey;—I have nieces by the dozen, young, glad creatures, as merry as the birds, and it shall go hard but I will bring home such a charming flock as shall make me young again. So, Mr. Horace, revel among your old tomes like a book-worm, as you are, while I cry ' Vive la bagatelle I'" Saying which, the old gentleman leaped up from his chair, cut the pigeon wing with a great flourish, snapped his fingers in the face of Horace, and then fairly danced out of the room with all the agility of a boy.

Sure enough it was no joke, the threat which Mr. Mansfield had uttered, for, that very evening, Pete was despatched to the village, three miles distant, to book the old gentleman for the Albany stage, whence the steamboat would bear him to the city, and, at an early hour the following morning, the quiet woods around the old Hall echoed, not with the merry peal of the huntsman's notes, but with the doleful "Toot-toot-too-oo-ot-toot" of the tin stage-horn, dolefully re-tooted on every side, and in a few moments the lumbering coach itself, with its four lean, spavined attachlet, appeared looming through the fog, and wheeled up with a desperate attempt at display to the door of the Hall.

"Well, good-bye, .Mrs. Dimity," exclaimed the old gentleman, slowly descending the steps, and drawing on his gloves; "have an eye on the boy that he don't starve upon his logical chips, and remember, too, to have everything in readiness, just as I told you,—see that the rooms are all well aired,—keep Pete busy among the weeds, and look out for the strawberry beds, for there will be dainty fingers busy there by-and-by,—and don't forget to send

Pete down to the village for Treble to come and tune up the old piano. There, good-bye to you." So saying, he mounted to the roof of the stage, where he seated himself comfortably by the side of the driver, then, with a chuckle and a significant nod toward the still closed shutters of his son, he gave the word, "AWs ready." The wheels groaned and shrieked— the coach grumbled—Jehu cracked his whip —the horses, looking sideways at each other, as if to say, "if we must—we must, that's all," stretched their sinews to the task, and the coach was set in motion.

Mr. Mansfield once more waved his hand to the housekeeper, and then bracing himself to bear the jolting of the crazy vehicle, was soon rattling over the turnpike, en route for Albany.

CHAPTER II.

"Mr. Horace! Mr. Horace!—dear me, what a boy! I say, Mr. Horace, don't you know your father is coming home this very blessed day, with all those city girls, and yet here you sit, although it is past five o'clock, in your old dressing-gown and slippers !—Dear me, Mr. Hor-a-ce!" and elevating her voice almost to a scream, Mrs. Dimity, the housekeeper, approached close to the elbow of the student, and placed her hand upon his shoulder.

"Ah, Mrs. Dimity, dinner is ready then,— very well, don't wait, I will be down in a moment," said Horace, without, however, raising his eyes from his book.

"Dear me! dear me! do pray shut up your book, Mr. Horace!" cried the good woman; "why, bless me, they will be here in an hour! Do now, Mr. Horace, go and shave yourself, and put on your new black coat and your satin vest,—why dearee me, your beard is as long as any old patriarch's in the book of Genesis!—Come, Mr. Horace, I have laid your clothes all out for you—Mr. Horace! Mr. Horace! there, there!—Mercy on me, he don't hear no more than the dead!" And poor Mrs. Dimity made a second attempt to attract the attention of the absent young gentleman, by pulling his sleeve.

"Ah, yes; well, Mrs. Dimity, what were you saying?"

"Why that it is time for you to make yourself decent to appear before the company," replied the housekeeper. "For shame, Mr. Horace; why most young men would have been dressed an hour ago, and all on tiptoe, like Prince Chorazzin in the fairy tale, to see your beautiful cousins,—come now, throw away your book, do!"

"My good Mrs. Dimity," replied Horace smiling, " if you ever read Shakespeare I would ask,

'What's Hecuba to me or I to Hecuba!' Yet I thank you for reminding me of these expected guests, whom I had indeed forgotten."

"Forgotten! dear me, did any one ever hear the Hke!" exclaimed Mrs. Dimity, raising her hands in astonishment.

"How many of these cousins of mine do you expect?" asked Horace. "Mere school-girls, I suppose."

'' All I know is, your father said he would bring home a whole coach-load, if he could get them," answered Mrs. Dimity, "and I have been all the week getting the house in order for them—rubbing up the old furniture—cleaning the brasses, whitening the linen, and filling the store closet with plenty of plum-cake and ginger-nuts I I Tow and declare, Mr. Horace, it is absolutely provoking to see you take it so coolly, just as if your father was only going to bring home a new brood of ducks or chickens!"

"They will gabble as fast, no doubt," said Horace. "I shall be glad, however, if my father finds pleasure from their society, Mrs. Dimity; so far, their presence will be a relief to roe."

"Well, well, aren't you going to dress yourself?—Mercy on me, if you appear before them in that dishabilly, the poor things will think you are Valentine and Orson t"

"Rest easy, Mrs. Dimity—I will be in readiness to receive our guests. Don't stop longer on my account, I beg," returned Horace.

"A-hem! hem !—just as sure as I live he will never stir a step if I don't keep teasing him!" said the old housekeeper to herself, pretending to leave the room, but stopping midway to watch the effect of her previous admonition.

In another moment Horace had apparently forgotten everything but the page before him, to which he now gave his most rapt attention.

"How beautiful!" he exclaimed abstractedly —" as A is to B, so is C to D—let me see—as X is to Y—so is M to N—what harmony!"

"Dear, dear, only hear him!" cried Mrs. Dimity. "What is the use of spending so much time if one can't learn? Poor boy, he is always puzzling over A, B, and C—well, I don't know much to be sure, but thank Heaven, I do know that AB spells ab, and CA spells ca! Mr. Horace!" and this time the vexed old lady shook our hero not very gently.

"Ah yes, true—I had forgotten—well I will go now;" and most reluctantly the student rose from the table, and casting 'a long lingering look behind,' proceeded to the duties of the toilet.

Feeling that she had thus successfully acquitted herself of this responsibility, the housekeeper now hurried to the kitchen to see if the supper was in progress—the coffee boiling, and the rolls ready to put in the oven—from thence she put her head into the dairy, to look after

the fine, fragrant butter, and the rich cream set apart for the table. The tea-room next demanded her attention—lifting the fine damask cloth spread over the tea equipage, to discover if the flies had dared to crawl within any chance opening, and were now, little thieves, feasting upon the delicious cake, the dishes of ruby quince, or the lumps of snowy sugar heaped so generously upon the social board. Her next visit was to the parlour, surveying for, at least, the twentieth time that day the proofs of her neatness and taste, displayed in its arrangement, and every time finding a little something to do —a chair to move half an inch to the right, a table to wheel a little more to the left—the curtains to be looped up or let down—books to move, and the little china vases filled with pretty flowers to rearrange, so as to exhibit to greater advantage some favourite blossom; and lastly, the notable old lady took a hurried and satisfactory inspection of the chambers, and then hastened to her own little room to doff the homely dark chintz gown for a more becoming attire, ere the arrival of Mr. Mansfield and his young nieces.

A short time sufficed for her toilet, and Mrs. Dimity came forth arrayed in a shining black silk petticoat, relieved by a short gown or negligee of white cambric falling just below the hips, and ornamented with a broad ruffle neatly plaited, and her gray hair combed smoothly back under a cap of the whitest and stiffest lawn. But of all her earthly possessions, that which the old lady most prized wns the gold spectacles which Mr. Mansfield had presented her on Christmas, and these she had now mounted, together with the large silver watch once the property of her deceased husband. In this becoming and tidy garb, she now paused before the door of Horace's chamber.

"I may as well give him a call," said she, "for just as likely as not he is off in one of his absent fits again."

She listened a moment,—all was still—taptap-tap—no answer—tap-tap—" Mr. Horace!" —knock, knock,—" Mr. Hor"—knock,—" ace! —Come, are you ready, Mr. Horace?" And the good lady, now quite out of patience, shook and pounded the door as if the house was on fire, and unconscious of danger, the inmate of the chamber calmly sleeping.

"Yes, Mrs. Dimity, yea, yes, I am coming, I hear," said the voice of Horace, aroused at length by the din.

Even as he spoke, the winding of the stagehorn proclaimed the approach of the travellers.

"Mercy on me, here they come! There—the coach is now turning into the great gate,—do make haste, do, Mr. Horaoe." And as rapidly as she could the old lady descended the stairs, and throwing open the hall door, stepped out upon the piazza to receive them. Horace almost mechanically followed close behind her,— but, to the horror of the worthy housekeeper, all her labour of speech had been thrown away, for there he stood in the full glare of sunlight, still in robe-dt-ckambre andpantoufflu, his beard unshorn, his hair disordered.

"Good gracious, Mr. Horace! Do go back— you look like a fright—pray go quick,—I will say you are sick, or out, or anything, only don't stand there in such a trim."

But it was too late. The driver cracked his whip—the horses bounded forward, and the crazy old coach drew up to the door.

Merry peals of laughter met the ear, and the music of young, girlish voices,—bewitching little straw bonnets clustered together, and taper fingers and snowy wrists rested upon the old brown sides of the coach—then suddenly these were withdrawn, and fluttering veils thrown back, and out blazed a galaxy of the most brilliant orbs, all fixed with mischievous glance upon the person of our hero, standing ready to assist their egress from the stage.

Agile as sylphs, out they sprang upon the bright green turf, and gathered around poor Horace, whilst Mr. Mansfield, his good-humoured face all in a glow of delight, slowly dismounted.

"You need not laugh, you little jades, I am not as young as you are!—Ah, Horace, my boy, how are you ?" cried the old gentleman. "Bless me, why don't jou salute your cousins? Never be bashful, man,—here, this is your cousin Kate, and this is her sister, Lucy Mansfield, and here is my stately Constance, and this, the mirth-loving Gabriella Lincoln, and this is roguish Bessie, and this little—hey,

where is Meg ?—ah, there she goes, the gipsy, skimming over the lawn like a lapwing!"

And each fair cousin in turn presented a rosy cheek to the salute of the embarrassed Horace.

"Well, girls, weleome to Mansfield Hall,'' continued the old gentleman, as the gay party tripped up the steps of the portico. "Here, Mrs. Dimity, I make over these merry girls to you. Show them their rooms, if you please, and then let's have supper, for this long ride over the hills has given me a pretty sharp appetite. Hark ye, girls, you need not stop to beautify yourselves; there is nobody here but your old uncle to see you, for as for your cousin Horace, he will never look at you, or fall in love with you."

There was more than one arch glance cast toward the spot where Horace stood leaning against one of the pillars, feeling, it must be confessed, a little foolish at this blunt speech of his father,—and more than one little head was saucily tossed, ere the fair girls disappeared with Mrs. Dimity into the house.

"Nice girls, Horace, full of life and spirit!" exclaimed Mr. Mansfield, slapping him on the shoulder. "Bless their sunny faces, why they have made me young again!—Hark, did yon ever hear such music as that?" as a joyons laugh rang out upon the summer air from one of the upper windows. "Ah, I see you, minx '." shaking his cane at a mirthful face peeping J down upon him through the fragrant sweetbrier which clustered around the casement.

Horace quickly retreated into the hall, and passed on to his chamber, his ears yet ringing with that happy, merry laugh.

(To be continued.)

THE SEA-SHELL.

BY. MISS E. W. BARNES.

On, there is music at my heart,

If thou wilt bend thine ear

And listen to the plaintive tone

That is to me so dearl

Tis the echo of my mother's voice,

And I bore it thence with me,

When they tore mo from her heaving breast,

The bosom of the sea.

Now. ye may bear me where soe'er
Your wandering steps may roam,
But the music of my mother's voice
Shall tell me of my home:

Ye may bear me o'er the mountain peak,

Ye may bear me where ye will,
But ye cannot tear it from my heart,
Twill be my solace still.

Ye may not bid it die away

Upon the passing breeze,

For, 'tis treasured like the diver's pearls,

Ay, dearer far than these,

Within the heart which ye must break

Ere the sound will cease to be,

Of my mother's voice—the Ocean's voice—

The murmur of the sea.

« 上一页继续 »