Various.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

. (page 5 of 23)
Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 5 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


rebellious, had any thing but a serious effect. "Indeed!" said she,
curtsying yet more profoundly in return for another bow. "How do you do,
sir? Oh, he is beautiful, isn't he?" half-aside to Willingham, who was
swallowing as much as he could of the butt of his whip. Poor Mr Plympton
looked aghast at the compliment. Branling fairly turned his back, and
burst from the room, nearly upsetting Hanmer and myself; who, having
waited below some time for our party to join us, had made our way
upstairs to ascertain the cause of the unusual noises which reached us
from the open door of the drawing-room. Dawson was shaking with reckless
disregard of the safety of his head-dress, and the captain in an agony
between his natural relish for a joke and his real good breeding. "Aunt
Martha, this is a clergyman, a friend of Mr Hanmer's, who is on a visit
here, and whom I introduce to you, because I know you will like him." Mr
Plympton commenced a fresh series of bows, in which there was, perhaps,
less gallantry and more dignity than usual, looking all the time as
comfortable as a gentleman might do who was debating with himself
whether the probabilities, as regarded the old lady's next movements,
lay on the side of kissing or scratching. Mrs Martha Phillips herself
commenced an incoherent apology about "expecting to see four young
gentlemen in fancy dresses;" and Hanmer and the captain tried all they
could to laugh off a _contretemps_, which to explain was impossible.
What the old lady took Mr Plympton for, and what Mr Plympton thought of
her, were questions which, so far as I know, no one ventured to ask. He
left Glyndewi the next morning, but the joke, after furnishing us with a
never-failing fund of ludicrous reminiscence for the rest of our stay,
followed him to the Oriel common-room, and was an era in the dulness of
that respectable symposium.

Dancing had begun in good earnest when we arrived at the ballroom. There
was the usual motley assemblage of costumes of all nations under the
sun, and some which the sun, when he put down the impudence of the
wax-lights upon his return the next morning, must have marvelled to
behold. Childish as it may be called, a fancy ball is certainly, for the
first half-hour at all events, an amusing scene. Willingham and myself
stood a little inside the doorway for some moments, he enjoying the
admiring glances which his tine figure and picturesque costume were well
calculated to call forth, and I vainly endeavouring to make out Clara's
figure amidst the gay dresses, and well-grown proportions, of the pretty
Cambrians who flitted past. Sounds of expostulation and entreaty,
mingled with a laugh which we knew to be Branling's, in the passage
outside, disturbed both our meditations, and at last induced me to turn
my eyes unwillingly to the open door. Branling was leaning against it in
a fit of uncontrollable mirth, and beckoned us earnestly to join him.
Outside stood Dawson, stamping with vexation, and endeavouring to undo
the complex machinery which had hitherto secured his shako in an erect
position. He was in the unfortunate predicament of Dr S - - 's
candelabrum, which, presented to him as a testimony of respect from his
grateful pupils, was found by many feet too large to be introduced into
any room in the Dr's comparatively humble habitation, and stood for some
time in the manufacturer's show-room in testimony of the fact, that
public acknowledgments of merit are _sometimes_ made on too large a
scale. Architects who give measurements for ordinary doorways, do not
contemplate such emergencies as testimonial candelabrums or irremoveable
caps and plumes: and the door of the Glyndewi ballroom had no notion of
accommodating a lancer in full dress who could not even be civil enough
to take off his hat. So there stood our friend, impatient to display his
uniform, and unwilling to lessen the effect of his first appearance by
doffing so important a part of his costume: to get through the door, in
the rigid inflexibility of head and neck which he had hitherto
maintained, was a manifest impossibility: Branling had suggested his
staying outside, and he would undertake to bring people to look at him:
but Dawson, for some unaccountable reason, was usually suspicious of
advice from that quarter; so he "stooped to conquer" and lost all. The
shako tumbled from its precarious perch, and hung ignobly suspended by
the cap-lines. A lancer with a pair of grey spectacles, and a shako
hanging round his neck, would have been a very fancy dress indeed: so he
was endeavouring, at the risk of choking himself, to disentangle, by
main force, the complication of knots which we had woven with some dim
hope of the result. In vain did we exhort him to take it patiently, and
remind him how preposterous it was to expect, that what had taken our
united ingenuity half an hour to arrange "to please him," could be
undone in a minute. "Cut the cursed things, can't you?" implored he. No
one had a knife. "I do believe Branling, you are tying that knot
tighter: I had much rather not have your assistance." Branling protested
his innocence. At last we did release him, and he entered the room with
a look most appropriately crest-fallen, shako in hard, solacing himself
by displaying its glories as well as could be effected by judicious
changes of its position.

I soon found Clara, looking more radiantly beautiful than ever I had
seen her, in a sweet dress of Stuart tartan. I had to make my apologies,
which were most sincerely penitent ones, for not being in time to claim
my privilege of dancing the first quadrille with her. She smiled at my
evident earnestness, and good-humouredly added, that the next would be a
much more pleasant dance, as the room was now beginning to fill. It was
a pleasant dance as she said: and the waltz that followed still more
delightful: and then Clara, with a blush and a laugh, declined my
pressing entreaties until after supper at all events. I refused her
good-natured offer of an introduction to "that pretty girl in blue" or
any other among the stars of the night: and sat down, or leant against
the wall, almost unconsciously watching her light step, and sternly
resisting all attempts on the part of my acquaintances to persuade me
to dance again. Of course all the dancing characters among our party
were Clara's partners in succession; and both Gordon and Dawson, who
came to ask what had put me into the sulks, were loud in their encomiums
on her beauty and fascination; even Branling, no very devoted admirer of
the sex, (he saw too much of them, he said, having four presentable
sisters,) allowed that she was "the right sort of girl;" but it was not
until I saw her stand up with Willingham, and marked his evident
admiration of her, and heard the remarks freely made around me, that
they were the handsomest couple in the room, that I felt a twinge of
what I would hardly allow to myself was jealousy: when, however, after
the dance, they passed me in laughing conversation, evidently in high
good humour with each other, and too much occupied to notice any one
else, I began to wonder I had never before found out what a conceited
puppy Willingham was, and set down poor Clara as an arrant flirt. But I
was in a variable mood, it seemed, and a feather - or, what some may say
is even lighter, a woman's word - was enough to turn me. So when I found
myself, by some irresistible attraction, drawn next to her again at
supper, and heard her sweet voice, and saw what I interpreted into a
smile of welcome, as she made room for me beside her, I forgave her all
past offences, and was perfectly happy for the next hour: nay, even
condescended to challenge Willingham to a glass of _soi-disant_
champagne. The Tiger, who was, according to annual custom, displaying
the tarnished uniform of the 3d Madras N. I., and illustrating his
tremendous stories of the siege of Overabad, or some such place, by
attacks on all the edibles in his neighbourhood, gave me a look of
intelligence as he requested I would "do him the honour," and shook his
whiskers with some meaning which I did not think it necessary to enquire
into. What was it to him if I chose to confine my attentions to my
undoubtedly pretty neighbour? No one could dispute my taste, at all
events; for Clara Phillips was a universal favourite, though I had
remarked that none of the numerous "eligible young men" in the room
appeared about her in the character of a dangler. She was engaged to
Willingham for the waltz next after supper, and I felt queerish again,
till she willingly agreed to dance the next set with me, on condition
that I would oblige her so far as to ask a friend of hers to be my
partner in the mean time. "She is a very nice girl, Mr. Hawthorne,
though, perhaps, not one of the _belles_ of the room, and has danced but
twice this evening, and it will be so kind in you to ask her - only don't
do it upon my introduction, but let Major Jones introduce you as if at
your own request." Let no one say that vanity, jealousy, and all those
pretty arts by which woman wrongs her better nature, are the rank growth
necessarily engendered by the vitiated air of a ballroom; rooted on the
same soil, warmed by the same sunshine, fed by the same shower, one
plant shall bear the antidote and one the poison: one kind and gentle
nature shall find exercise for all its sweetest qualities in those very
scenes which, in another, shall foster nothing but heartless coquetry or
unfeminine display. Never did Clara seem so lovely in mind and person as
when she drew upon her own attractions to give pleasure to her less
gifted friend; and I suppose, I must have thrown into the tone of my
reply something of what I felt; for she blushed, uttered a hasty "I
thank you," and told Willingham it was time to take their places. I
sought and obtained the introduction, and endeavoured, for Clara's sake,
to be an agreeable partner to the quiet little girl beside me. One
subject of conversation, at all events, we hit upon, where we seemed
both at home; and if I felt some hesitation in saying all I thought of
Clara, my companion had none, but told me how much every body loved her,
and how much she deserved to be loved. It was really so much easier to
draw my fair partner out on this point than any other that I excused
myself for being so eager a listener; and, when we parted, to show my
gratitude in what I conceived the most agreeable way, I begged
permission to introduce Mr. Sydney Dawson, and thus provided her with
what, I dare say, she considered a most enviable partner. I had told
Dawson she was a very clever girl; (he was fond of what he called
"talented women," and had a delusive notion that he was himself a
genius:) he had the impertinence to tell me afterwards he found her
rather stupid; I ought, perhaps, to have given him the key-note. During
the dance which followed, I remember I was silent and _distrait_; and
when it was over, and Clara told me she was positively engaged for more
sets than she should dance again, I left the ballroom, and wandered
feverishly along the quay to our lodgings. I remember persuading myself,
by a syllogistic process, that I was not in love, and dreaming that I
was anxiously reading the class-list, in which it seemed unaccountable
that my name should be omitted, till I discovered, on a second perusal,
that just about the centre of the first class, where "Hawthorne,
Franciscus, e. Coll - " ought to have come in, stood in large type the
name of "CLARA PHILLIPS."

The races, which occupied the morning of the next day, were as stupid as
country races usually are, except that the Welshmen had rather more
noise about it. The guttural shouts and yells from the throats of
tenants and other dependents, as the "mishtur's" horse won or lost, and
the extraordinary terms in which they endeavoured to encourage the
riders, were amusing even to a stranger, though one lost the point of
the various sallies which kept the course in one continued roar. As to
the running, every body - that is, all the sporting world - knew perfectly
well, long before the horses started, which was to win; that appearing
to be the result of some private arrangement between the parties
interested, while the "racing" was for the benefit of the strangers and
the ladies. Those of the latter who had fathers, or brothers, or, above
all, lovers, among the knowing ones, won divers pairs of gloves on the
occasion, while those who were not so fortunate, lost them.

I fancied that Clara was not in her usual spirits on the race-course,
and she pleaded a headach as an excuse to her sister for ordering the
carriage to drive home long before the "sport" was over. If I had
thought the said sport stupid before, it did not improve in attraction
after her departure; and, when the jumping in sacks, and climbing up
poles, and other callisthenic exercises began, feeling a growing disgust
for "things in general," I resisted the invitation of a mamma and three
daughters, to join themselves and Mr Dawson in masticating some
sandwiches which looked very much like "relics of joy" from last night's
supper, and sauntered home, and sat an hour over a cigar and a chapter
of ethics. As the clock struck five, remembering that the Ordinary hour
was six, I called at the Phillips' lodgings to enquire for Clara. She
was out walking with her sister; so I returned to dress in a placid
frame of mind, confident that I should meet her at dinner.

For it was an Ordinary for ladies as well as gentlemen. A jovial Welsh
baronet sat at the head of the table, with the two ladies of highest
"consideration" - the county member's wife and the would-have-been
member's daughter - on his right and left; nobody thought of politics at
the Glyndewi regatta. Clara was there; but she was escorted into the
room by some odious man, who, in virtue of having been made high-sheriff
by mistake, sat next Miss Anti-reform on the chairman's left. The
natives were civil enough to marshal us pretty high up by right of
strangership, but still I was barely near enough to drink wine with her.

If a man wants a good dinner, a hearty laugh, an opportunity of singing
songs and speech-making, and can put up with indifferent wine, let him
go to the race Ordinary at Glyndewi next year, if it still be among the
things which time has spared. There was nothing like stiffness or
formality: people came there for amusement, and they knew that the only
way to get it was to make it for themselves. There seemed to be fun
enough for half-a-dozen of the common run of such dinners, even while
the ladies remained. It was, as Hanmer called it, an _extra_-ordinary.
But it was when the ladies had retired, and Hanmer and a few of the
"steady ones" had followed them, and those who remained closed up around
the chairman, and cigars and genuine whisky began to supersede the
questionable port and sherry, and the "Vice" requested permission to
call on a gentleman for a song, that we began to fancy ourselves within
the walls of some hitherto unknown college, where the "levelling system"
had mixed up fellows and under-graduates in one common supper-party, and
the portly principal himself rejoiced in the office of "arbiter
bibendi." Shall I confess it? I forgot even Clara in the uproarious
mirth that followed. Two of the young Phillipses were admirable singers,
and drew forth the hearty applause of the whole company. We got Dawson
to make a speech, in which he waxed poetical touching the "flowers of
Cambria," and drew down thunders of applause by a Latin quotation, which
every one took that means of showing that they understood. I obtained
almost unconsciously an immortal reputation by a species of flattery to
which the Welsh are most open. I had learnt, after no little
application, a Welsh toast - a happy specimen of the language; it was but
three words, but they were truly cabalistic. No sooner had I, after a
"neat and appropriate" preface, uttered my triple Shibboleth, (it ended
in _rag_, and signified "Wales, Welshmen, and Welshwomen,") than the
whole party rose, and cheered at me till I felt positively modest. My
pronunciation, I believe, was perfect, (a woman's lips and an angel's
voice had taught it to me:) and it was indeed the Open Sesame to their
hearts and feelings. I became at once the intimate friend of all who
could get near enough to offer me their houses, their horses, their
dogs - I have no doubt, had I given a hint at the moment, I might have
had any one of their daughters. "Would I come and pay a visit at
Abergwrnant before I left the neighbourhood? Only twenty-five miles, and
a coach from B - - !" "Would I, before the shooting began, come to
Craig-y-bwldrwn, and stay over the first fortnight in September?" I
could have quartered myself, and two or three friends, in a dozen places
for a month at a time. And, let me do justice to the warm hospitality of
North Wales - these invitations were renewed in the morning: and were I
ever to visit those shores again, I should have no fear of their having
been yet forgotten.

Captain Phillips had told us, that when we left the table, "the girls"
would have some coffee for us, if not too late; and Willingham and
myself, having taken a turn or two in the moonlight to get rid of the
excitement of the evening, bent our steps in that direction. There were
about as many persons assembled as the little drawing-room would hold,
and Clara, having forgotten her headach, and looking as lovely as ever,
was seated at a wretched piano, endeavouring to accompany herself in her
favourite songs. Willingham and myself stood by, and our repeated
requests for some of those melodies which, unknown to us before, we had
learnt from her singing to admire beyond all the fashionable trash of
the day, were gratified with untiring good-nature. Somehow I thought
that she avoided my eye, and answered my remarks with less than her
usual archness and vivacity. I could bear it on this evening less than
ever; a hair will turn the scale, and I had just been, half ludicrously,
half seriously, affected by Welsh nationality. One cannot help warming
towards a community which are so warm-hearted among themselves. Visions
of I know not what - love and a living, Clara and a cottage - were
floating dreamlike before my eyes, and I felt as if borne along by a
current whose direction might be dangerous, but which it was misery to
resist. Willingham had turned away a minute to hunt for some missing
book, which contained one of his favourites; and, leaning over her with
my finger pointing to the words which she had just been singing, I said
something about there being always a fear in happiness such as I had
lately been enjoying, lest it might not last. For a moment she met my
earnest look, and coloured violently; and then fixing her eyes on the
music before her, she said quickly, "Mr Hawthorne, I thought you had a
higher opinion of me than to make me pretty speeches; I have a great
dislike to them." I began to protest warmly against any intention of
mere compliment, when the return of Willingham with his song prevented
any renewal of the subject. I was annoyed and silent, and detected a
tremor in her voice while she sang the words, and saw her cheek paler
than usual. The instant the song was over, she complained with a smile
of being tired, and without a look at either of us, joined a party who
were noisily recounting the events of the race-course. Nor could I again
that evening obtain a moment's conversation with her. She spoke to me,
indeed, and very kindly; but once only did I catch her eye, when I was
speaking to some one else - the glance was rapidly withdrawn, but it
seemed rather sorrowful than cold.

I was busy with Hanmer the next morning before breakfast, when Dick
Phillips made his appearance, and informed us that the "strangers" had
made up an eleven for the cricket match, and that we were to play at
ten. He was a sort of live circular, dispatched to get all parties in
readiness.

"Oh! I have something for you from Clara," said he to me, as he was
leaving; "the words of a song she promised you, I believe."

I opened the sealed envelope, saw that it was not a song, and left
Hanmer somewhat abruptly. When I was alone, I read the following: -

"DEAR MR HAWTHORNE, - Possibly you may have been told that I have, before
now, done things which people call strange - that is, contrary to some
arbitrary notions which are to supersede our natural sense of right and
wrong. But never, until now, did I follow the dictates of my own
feelings in opposition to conventional rules, with the painful
uncertainty as to the propriety of such a course, which I now feel. And
if I had less confidence than I have in your honour and your kindness,
or less esteem for your character, or less anxiety for your happiness, I
would not write to you now. But I feel, that if you are what I wish to
believe you, it is right that you should be at once undeceived as to my
position. Others should have done it, perhaps - it would have spared me
much. Whether your attentions to me are in sport or earnest, they must
cease. I have no right to listen to such words as yours last night - my
heart and hand are engaged to one, who deserves better from me than the
levity which alone could have placed me in the position from which I
thus painfully extricate myself. For any fault on my part, I thus make
bitter atonement. I wish you health and happiness, and now let this save
us both from further misunderstanding.

"C."

Again and again did I read these words. Not one woman in a hundred would
have ventured on such a step. And for what? to save me from the
mortification of a rejection? It could be nothing else. How easy for a
man of heartless gallantry to have written a cool note in reply,
disclaiming "any aspiration after the honour implied," and placing the
warm-hearted writer in the predicament of having declined attentions
never meant to be serious! But I felt how kindly, how gently, I had been
treated - the worst of it was, I loved her better than ever. I wrote some
incoherent words in reply, sufficiently expressive of my bitter
disappointment, and my admiration of her conduct; and then I felt "that
my occupation was gone." She whom I had so loved to look upon, I
trembled now to see. I had no mind to break my heart; but I felt that
time and change were necessary to prevent it. Above all, Glyndewi was no
place for me to forget _her_ in.

In the midst of my painful reflections on all the happy hours of the
past week, Gordon and Willingham broke in upon me with high matter for
consultation relative to the match, In vain did I plead sudden illness,
and inability to play: they declared it would knock the whole thing on
the head, for Hanmer would be sure to turn sulky, and there was an end
of the eleven; and they looked so really chagrined at my continued
refusals, that at length I conquered my selfishness, (I had had a lesson
in that,) and, though really feeling indisposed for any exertion, went
down with them to the ground. I was in momentary dread of seeing Clara
arrive, (for all the world was to be there,) and felt nervous and
low-spirited. The strangers' eleven was a better one than we expected,
and they put our men out pretty fast. Hanmer got most unfortunately run
out after a splendid hit, and begged me to go in and "do something." I
took my place mechanically, and lost my wicket to the first ball. We
made a wretched score, and the strangers went in exultingly. In spite of
Hanmer's steady bowling, they got runs pretty fast; and an easy catch
came into my hands just as Clara appeared on the ground, and I lost all
consciousness of what I was about. Again the same opportunity offered,
and again my eyes were wandering among the tents. Hanmer got annoyed,
and said something not over civil: I vas vexed myself that my
carelessness should be the cause of disappointment twice, and yet more
than half-inclined to quarrel with Branling, whom I overheard muttering
about my "cursed awkwardness." We were left in a fearful minority at the
close of the first innings, when we retired to dinner. The Glyndewi
party and their friends were evidently disappointed. I tried to avoid
Clara; but could not keep far from her. At last she came up with one of
her brothers, spoke and shook hands with me, said that her brother had
told her I was not well, and that she feared I ought not to have played
at all. "I wish you could have beat them, Mr Hawthorne - I had bet that
you would; perhaps you will feel better after dinner, those kind of
headachs soon wear off," she added with a smile and a kind look, which I
understood as she meant it. I walked into the tent where we were to


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 5 of 23)