George Hooker Colton.

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marriage he had had no hope ; for in
every mention of the matter to her pa-
rents, questions arose of his ability and
condition. They wished their daughter
well married, or not married at all : a
very reasonable desire, notwithstanding
the loud complaints of mother Nature ;
indeed, these respectable parents had but
little regard for the suggestions of the
universal mother, and suspected her of
being no better than she should be — per-
haps worse. They suffered their daugh-
ter — good, unthinking people that they
were — to be often alone with our friend,
until the accident of this night's adven-
ture. But novv it was too late. The
daughter's reputation was gone in any
case, and Master Yorick bore the blame.
He remembers some particulars of a
duel, in consequence, with an officious
cousin of Chloris, but the affair appeared
to him in a philosophical light more than
any other ; he wounded his adversary
severely, and expected to feel a vast deal
of horror and remorse for having done
so ; but he seemed to discover that the
anguish of his spirit had seared his con-



science, and made him indifferent to in-
jury.

In regard to this rencontre with the
cousin of Chloris, who was also a rival,
or seemed to be, 1 find enough lying
by me in the form of letters by and to
our hero for the basis of a very perfect
romance. I select a few, and leave the
rest to romantic imagination.

Letter from Chloris to Yorick.

This is the first time I have written to
you — it will probably be the last. I
have a favor to request of you, the first
I have asked, and which will be the
final one, that you will quit this house
and find some other lodging. My mo-
ther insists upon remaining here. She
wishes me to " live down," as she says,
the injury which my reputation has suf-
fered by the accident of night before last,
and has persuaded me not to seem to
withdraw from society, or to show any
coldness to j'ou. She even speaks indif-
ferently of the accident among friends,
and makes a jest of it. This is her way.
But for me, I feel that my happiness is
forever gone. The sight of you fills me
with apprehension. While my heart
bounds with an agony of solicitude for
you, I seem to behold in you an evil be-
ing destined to destroy me. Grant me
this favor, dear friend, never to see or
speak to me again. Banish me from
your thoughts, lest, if we accidentally
meet, your thoughts should betiay us
both, when we ought to seem perfectly
indifferent to each other. Farewell.
Chloris.

Yorick to Chloris.

I received your note an instant ago,
my amiable friend, and am inexpressibly
grieved by it. Your mother's taste and
prudence will certainly save your repu-
tation from injury, and I cannot but ap-
prove her plan. But for me, 1 confess to
you, my misery is greater than I can
bear. 1 am hurled this way and that by
contending passions. I am ready to de-
stroy myself, and am withheld only by
the fear of afflicting you. Do not banish
me from your presence. 1 will conceal
every emotion, and put on the appear-
ance of cheerfulness — nay, I will be
truly cheerful, if you will assure me of
your confidence and trust my discretion.
Vale. Y.



1S8



The Life and Opinions



[August,



Chloris to YoricJc.

Your note, which I have just opened,
gives me no comfort. I seem to know
your nature better than I can know my
own. Your ardent expressions destroy
my courage. We must no longer in-
dulge this reckless tenderness. It will
destroy us ; it will destroy me, whom you
profess to regard. I confess I have not
strength to resist your written words,
much less your presence and voice. Be,
then, my friend indeed, and save me
from falling by my own weakness.

C.

From the same to the same.

I am informed of the particulars of
my cousin's conduct, and from his own
expressions am persuaded that he means
if possible to take your life. See into
what misery we are already plunged by
our errors. For me, a reputation unde-
servedly lost, a father enraged, a mother
rendered miserable. For you the hazard
of your life, loss of honor to your own
name if you are slain, to mine if you
triumph. I beseech you leave this
place, — and yet my heart is weak, and I
could not endure your disgrace. If you
fly, all will pronounce you and myself
alike guilty. I should be compelled to
destroy myself. Stay then, there is no
alternative ; but if you love me avoid my
presence. The sight of you fills me
with anguish. You were to blame, —
but not you alone. I begin to be a be-
liever in late, and mine is to perish
soon.

Yorick to Chloris.

Your cousin boasted his skill, threat-
ened loudly, and got shot for his pains.
Murderer ! do you exclaim ! — No dear-
est friend, I am no murderer; he is
wounded, but not dangerously. I did not
design to injure him, but to defend you.
I have forced the coward to retract, and
to exculpate you before witnesses. The
ball of my rifle struck his shoulder ; he
fell prone, and lay groveling in the dust,
uttering the most contemptible cries, and
declaring vehemently that all that he
had said against us was false and a fic-
tion of his own. The seconds came
forward, and while they supported him
in their arms, I forced from him a detail-
ed confession of the lie, on the condition
if he refused, of standing another shot.
The coward trembled and recanted. He



denied that he had seen us together in
the wood, denied all that he had impu-
dently feigned to your father, and said
he believed you to be an angel of inno-
cence, and himself a liar accursed. Thus,
dear Chloris, I rescued your honor, at
the cost of a trifling wound ; for I forgot
to tell you, the ball of his rifle struck my
left arm and disabled it.

I have obeyed your injunctions. My
lodging is now at the farm-house by
Wills' bridge, where we have so often
met. Y.

Chloris to Yorick.
I thank you, my generous friend, for
your conduct, and yet in thanking you I
have done wrong. Is there no law to
protect the iftnocent ? No statute
against slander .' Unhappy are they
whom society compels to be their own
avengers. I begin to see that this is a
region of barbarians, who only assume
the forms of civilization and humanity,
while they remain savage and unre-
claimed at heart. My father seems to
be satisfied with your conduct, but it in-
spires him at the same time with a
stronger determination against our wish-
es. He forced from me to-day a promise
that I should never voluntarily see you
again ; he avers that no other course
will save my reputation or satisfy him-
self. My cousin recalled his slanders,
but who can change opinion .' Who
will believe that we were innocent, where
all are vicious .' When we lost our way
in the forest, we lost our way indeed.

Yorick to Chloris.

I have seen your father, and explained
everything. He is cold and civil, puts
me off with conditions, talks about posi-
tion in life, providing for a family, and
what not else. I assure him of my
ability and my hopes, point to him my
present successes, and talk freely of the
future. All will not do. He is resolved
to connect himself with riches and fash-
ion, and you are to be the means. I am
not a person to his mind ; he thinks me
predestinated to poverty. By the favor
of Heaven, I will one day undeceive him.

Chloris to Yorick.
Farewell. We leave this place to-
day. Beware how you pursue us ; send
me no letters, they will only turn my
regard into dislike — dare 1 say hatred ?
Could we in one brief moment learn to



1847.]



OJ Philip Yorick, Esq.



189



love, and not learn hatred as quickly? 1
say this for your good. And yet no-
thing has happened. We are both the
same. It is duty compels me, and I
must hate the person who leads my heart
from its duty. I belong to my parents
and they shall control me in every par-
ticular. Once more, farewell. Forget
me as one living, cherish me as one
dead, — for so shall I do to yourself.

Chloris.

On receiving this letter, Master Yorick
hastened to the tavern, in hopes of at
least catching sight of his Chloris. She,
and her parents, had that morning taken
their departure for the city. Without
an instant's delay our friend called for
his horse, and chiding the sluggish groom,
assisted in tightening the girths. In a mo-
ment he was on the way, galloping mad-
ly dovrn along the loops of a mountain
road. Straining every nerve, and urging
his good horse with voice and spur, he
achieved the next summit, and saw be-
fore him, far off, among trees upon the
plain, a flash of sunlight reflected from
the pannel of a carriage. I will overtake
them, thought he, before noon, for they
travel slowly, and checking his horse
to a moderate pace, he moved cautiously
along the rocky descent. Imagine to
yourself a plain of almost infinite extent,
towards the east, and towards the north
and south, removed by a space of thirty
leagues, the blue horns of a chain
of mountains, tapering mistily in-
to the horizon. Fields of rank grain
and rich grass, interrupted by circular
patches of forest, and open groves, mark-
ed at intervals by the glittering of white
cottages, and the wreathing of mists
along the crooked courses of rivers — the
Bun not yet an hour above his rising,
making every where vast breadths of
light and shadow — beyond all, the sea, a
dim, white, line — sapphire clouds strewn
amid the sky, and seeming to bang in its
depths, slated by the purity of the air —
imagine all this, while the burning face
of Sol is vailed for the moment by a
comely cloud, whose edges are an ame-
thystine embroidery — and now look out
of the eyes of our love-intoxicated friend
upon this scene, and say whether he sees
anything of its splendor, save an occa-
sional glister of light on the japanned
pannel of a lumbering coach; or per-
ceives any beauty in these sapphire
clouds that lie scattered over the floor of
heaven, like plumes torn from the wings

VOL. v.— NO. n. 13



of angels in their battles against the
hosts of Lucifer, more than in the coarse
curls of poor Chloris, which he loved the
more because his love was enriched with
pity for their coarseness ?

But see, our horseman has reached the
plain, and Js about entering a wood,
where we 'shall lose sight of him. On a
sudden he checks his horse, and .slack-
ening the rein, leans forward over the
neck of his mute bearer. A tear drops
upon the dust of the road. His frame is
wrenched with a deep agony ; he shud-
ders, he trembles ; he wrings one hand in
his hair, and, as if pain had become a
pleasure, twists slowly out a tuft of his
wiry locks ; see ! he faints, falls ! under
the hoofs of his horse, and lies like one
dead, with his face toward the heavens!
Shall we leave him there to die, poor,
friendless wretch.' better die, said he, than
live comfortless, and with heart void of
consolation.

A waggoner passing that way, found
our hero lying in the road ; the horse
standing by him; and, being of a dispo-
sition better than his occupation would
seem to promise, conveyed both master
and steed to the nearest farm-house, where
he was presently stripped and put to bed,
by the compassionate farmer's wife, to
whom he had rendered services in her
sickness. The next day, finding himself
too weak to travel, he rested, and recog-
nizing the absurdity of his previous con-
duct, as in attempting to follow Chloris
he would only deepen her misery and in-
crease the anger of her parent — a thought
which struck him and occasioned the
sudden agony at the entrance of the
wood — he firmly resolved to give up all
thoughts of his mistress, and neither to
write to her, nor, if possible, suffer her
image to visit his fancy.

Upon disconsolate lovers the common
duties of life press with a peculiar and
disgusting obtrusiveness. Master Yor-
ick soon found it impossible to continue
in the business of his profession, at least
in that neighborhood ; everywhere the
presence of Chloris, like a poet's imagin-
ation, had given glory to the grass and
splendor to the meanest things. Now
her absence took all beauty from the day,
and all sweetness from the faces of men.
He could not endure the filthy expedi-
ents of physic. He abhorred the servi-
ces he rendered, and despised the wisdom
he doled out; but his astonishment was
not a little on finding that, with the
growth of his disgusts, his favor grew



190



The Life and Opinions



[August,



with the public, and, if he deigned to
exhibit a dose, or throw down a shilling's
worth of advice, the physic was swal-
lowed as if it were something sacred,
and the advice listened to and observed
like the dictum of an oracle. In fine,
our hero's lovesickness got him the char-
acter of a very Solomon ; and, as his
bearing had become more haughty and
careless, as his misery deepened, to say
nothing of the reputation of his galantry
in the rifle rencounter, which earned him
the fear of ail contemptible spirits and
the admiration of the generous, he pro-



mised fair to be the first man of his
county, had he but deigned to improve
the popularity so suddenly fallen upon
him. Propositions for employments of
trust poured in upon him. This man
would have him an overseer to his mines,
with an adequate salary ; another offered
him his daughter and a share in the coun-
try trade ; another begged he would un-
dertake the education of his sons; and
not a few made him their arbitiator, as
if a sad countenance implied of course a
knowledge of the rights of men, and
their belongings.



CHAPTER XXVII.



Fortune is the only '^power which
men dare defy and make light of. She
hath no heart. Seriousness hath its seat
in the passions, and is a distillation from
their experiences. If of hate, then is it
bitter, tasting of the root; if of love,
then is it sweet and delicious ; hence, all
persons, but especially women, are affect-
ed by those whose wisdom is founded in
love affairs, and tastes of the sweet spice
of amatory pa.ssion. Such are your
great saints, and eremites, devoted to
divine ardor and the contemplation of
beatitudes. All the world, men, women,
and children, run to hear and see them ;
there is a sweet fire in their eyes, and a
honeyed accent of speech, which carry
the heart away, and fill imagination
with the most delicious ideas.

Our hero long remained irresolute; for
whatever disgust he might entertain for
the practice of his profession, he found it
difficult to escape the pressing solicita-
tions of the sick, and their friends, who
went angrily away from his door, when
he declined prescribing for them for the
reason, that he had given up the busi-
ness. Meanwhile he suffered no incon-
venience for want of money, though no
means as yet appeared to him by which
he might arrive at fortune. Betwixt one
resolution and another, the summer, the
autumn, and the winter passed away,
and spring found him still occupied in
his loathed employment. Meanwhile his
melancholy increased, and began to un-
dermine a constitution naturally strong,
but abused and weakened by the excess of
feeling. On a sudden, while riding, one
cold March morning, through a solitary
wood, w'hose carpet of pine leaves was
yet patched with soiled snow, the path
rough and dangerous, full of pit-falls,



slides, and sharp stumps, the pines over-
head throwing down showers of ice-
flakes peeled from their twiggs ; the sky
overcast with muddy gray clouds, and a
moist wind setting from the east ; the
idea struck him that he had never in his
life deliberately meditated of his own
condition, or of the present or future
condition of his soul.

The passion of love had made so grand
a breach in the materialism of our friend's
intellect, persuading him of the existence
of superior and beneficent, as well as of
merely evil, or indifferent beings — for in
the idea of Chloris, he first saw the possi-
bility of truth and innocence — he lay open
almost to the least gust of religious fer-
vor that might blow across his spirit.

Beginning, as his wont was, with a
logical dilemma, he reasoned thus :

If there be no eternal future, it matters
not how men spend their lives, religious-
ly or otherwise; — if, then, religion is a
happiness and a consolation, we may
properly indulge it.

But if there be an eternity of rewards
and punishments in the next life, it mat-
ters vmch how men spend their lives, re-
ligiously or otherwise.

In the one case religion is indifferent ;
in the other case it is necessary. At all
events, therefore, we should be religious
for the sake of mere security. Religion
is the best policy, he concluded, in view
of all chances.

By thesame dilemma he reasoned him-
self into admitting a just Providence;
conceding, at least, high probability of
its existence.

Of mediation and redemption he could
make little, having read no books
upon those subjects. But on this, of the
heavenly beauty, I have a writing of his



1S47.]



Of Philip Yorick, Esq.



191



by me, from which the following is an
extract:

" Because beauties are many in num-
ber, as of foj-m, sound, grace; the hea-
vens, the earth ; the mind and spirit : 1
seem to know that there is a super-essen-
tial beauty worthy of adoration, and
from which all the inferior sort are de-
rived and flow. It is this super-essential
beauty perceived by the soul, which gives
its charm to humanity, and makes it
loving and beloved for its own sake. It
is sometimes visible in the features of in-
fancy, more frequently in those of youth,
but most in those of old age. The poets
endeavor to infuse its spirit into poems,
and the artists into statues and pictures.
It cannot be made to appear by any com-
bination of forms inferior to the human
face, and in those only of the noblest
quality. This beauty is always apparent
in those who possess it — but is also visi-
ble only to those who are endued with
it. In the faces of apostles, saints, and
martyrs, and above all, in that of Christ,
it is most evident, and indicates the im-
mediate presence of the Comforter, or
Spirit of Divine Love, which, by some
ancient writers, has been named the love
of the Father for the Son."

To one who wrote and reasoned in this
manner, as I am certain Master Yorick
did, though indeed not at the period of
which we are now speaking, it is neces-
sary to ascribe an intellect susceptible of
religious enthusiasm, and a heart liable
to ecstatic emotions.

Now, then, we find him affected by
spring heats of passion, engendered by
melancholy and moisture, and here rea-
soning, under a canopy of March mists,
on the probabilities of a future state.
While thus engaged, he saw before him
atraveller, mounted on a lean black horse,
which he continually urged forward.
His figure was lank and uncouth, envel-
oped in a rusty brown cloak with a stand-
ing collar, and of which the skirts barely
covered his knees. His feet were turned
outward in an ungainly fashion, and
wagged with the motion of the horse.
On his head he wore a low-crowned, broad-
brimmed hat, apparently of felt, but rusty
and dinted, from under which his straight
black hair hung low, hiding a lean and
withered neck. Our hero saw that it was
the Methodist preacher, travelling his
round ; and knowing him to be a man not
without sense, and of a companionable
temper, he spurred forward and overtook
him.



After friendly salutations on both sides,
and a wandering talk of some minutes,
he turned the conversation into the
channel of his present thoughts; and
finding the man of prayer not loath,
laid before him several of hisspiritual per-
plexities, which the good preacher found
of so difficult a character, he rather an-
grily reproached his companion with a
leaning toward Atheism. With a mind
of this mettle he had had no dealings,
and was thrown off his guard. After a
warm exhortation, he proposed to solve
everything by an appeal direct, as he
said, to the throne, and invited oar hero
to join him in a short prayer against
doubts and evil suggestions. They dis-
mounted, and, having tied their horses to
a tree, went upon their knees forthwith,
though the ground was wet thereabout ;
and, what with his moody inclination,
and the fervent power of the preachtr, our
friend found his blood strangely moved,
and the spirit come upon him with a
fierce, regenerative, power. The strug-
gle of his soul was short, and a smile of
hope, shining through tears, lighted up
his face. Thou hast wrestled well, bro-
ther, said the preacher, and gained a great
victory over thyself with the helj) of
grace. Beware of falling therefrom. And
they went on their way rejoicing.

For a period of sixty days, or therea-
bouts, this new passion absorbed him
quite, and seemed to banish the inferior
sentiments from his soul. He thought
he knew divine grace, and had tasted its
perfect sweetness, but in all his ])rayers
he remembered the name of Chloris. On
the evening of the sixtieth day, being
alone, as usual, he re-calculated the pro-
babilities of the existence of Providence,
and a future state, and doubled. For
probability he wished to discover cer-
tainty; but the Absolute refused to make
itself known ; he remained skeptical.
Meanwhile, his passion returned with
greater force ; for it seemed a condition of
his nature to be always intoxicated with
some hope. He had heard nothing of
Chloris or her parents, and did not so
much as know whether she was living
or deceased. During a month or more of
agonizing suspense, from the moment of
the reappearance of his passion, his frame
wasted away, and he became incapable
of the least exertion of mind; his busi-
ness began to fail ; he committed great
errors through inadvertency, and was
suspected of insanity. Perceiving his
own situat on, he took a sudden res-



192



The Life and Opinions



[August,



olution, sold his stock of physic and
his library, and rode off in the direc-
tion of the city where the parents of his
divinity resided. This befel on the 10th
of June. Master Yorick was just then
entering his twenty-first year. His whole
interest in this world, consisted in ahorse,



a change of linen, the clothes he wore,
and a tew dollars in silver. He regarded
himself as a hero and a gentleman, go-
ing on his enterprises; others looked
upon him as a needy adventurer, seeking
his fortune.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CATASTROPHE.



An adventurer seeking his fortune,
with a foreign face, a mixed accent,
coarse clothes, and a bush of neglected
beard, he rode into the city, meditating
bat one thing, to see his Chloris — to
speak with her, if it was only for an in-
stant. To win from her a single look of
aiFection, was the height of his expecta-
tion ; he thought of nothing beyond. As
he rode up the principal street of the city,
pb.'ierving that his rustic appearance at-
tracted attention, he turned down a nar-
row, unfrequented street. The windows
on either hand were low, and mostly
open, for coolness. As he passed one of
the meanest, of the houses, walking his
horse at a leisurely pace, he looked in at
the narrow window, and saw reclining
on a miserable sofa, a person who seem-
ed to he the one whom he sought. With
an almost breathless expectation he dis-
moiiated, and fastening his honse, lifted
and let fall the iron knocker of the door,
and listened. Presently a light step an-
swered, and his heart assured him that
it was her's. She opened the door, and
stood before him plainly attired, and
very much changed in appearance. Her
figure, which had been full to robustness,
had become slender and almost frail. Her
color, which had been white and red, in
a glowing contrast, had faded to a faint,
unilorm sallowness. The lustre of her
eyes had disappeared, and the vivacity of
her manner. Only her mouth retained
its marvelous mixture of subtlety and
sweetness, which Master Yorick has
since compared, in his mind's eye, with
that of Medusa before the serpents be-
gan to start from her head. It expressed
a mixture of all passions, harmonized by
a serious humor. It was this feature
which had at first bewitched our friend,
and lie instantly felt its power.

Chloris did not at first recognize her
lover through his slovenly disguise. He
inquired of her, in a somewhat husky
voice, whether the persons whom he
named occupied this house. He named
her parents. She replied that they did



not, but that if he had anything to com-
municate to them, she would be the mes-
senger. He said he had something to
communicate, and they walked together
into the parlor, she failing to recognize
him in the dimness. He took his seat
with his back to the window, and in a



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 6) → online text (page 36 of 126)