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It then cast a look of fearful omen at a piece of cold beef, which lay
immediately beyond it, and which, being placed within reach by some kind
neighbour it immediately commenced upon, with as much fierceness as it
had just exemplified in the case of the mutton. The beef also was soon
laid waste, and another look of extermination was forthwith cast at a
broken pigeon-pie, which lay still farther off. Hereupon the eye had
scarcely alighted, when the man nearest it, with laudable promptitude,
handed it upwards. Scarcely was it laid on the altar of destruction,
when it disappeared too; and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth look,
were successively cast at other dishes, which the different members
of the party* as promptly sent away, and which the Mouth as promptly
despatched. By this time, all the rest of the party were lying upon
their oars, observing, with leisurely astonishment, the progress of the
surviving, and, as it appeared to them, eternal feeder. _He_ went on,
rejoicing in his strength, unheeding their idleness and wonder, his
very soul apparently engrossed in the grand business of devouring. They
seemed to enter into a sort of tacit compact, or agreement, to indulge
and facilitate him in his progress, by making themselves, as it were,
his servitors. Whatever dish he looked at, therefore, over the wide
expanse of the table, immediately disappeared from its place. One
after another, they trooped off towards the head of the table, like the
successive brigades which Wellington despatched at Waterloo, against a
particular field of French artillery; and, still, dish after dish,
like the said brigades, came successively away, broken, shattered,
diminished. Fish, flesh, and fowl, disappeared at the glance of that
awful eye, as the Roman fleet withered and vanished before the grand
burning glass of Archimedes. The end of all things seemed at hand! The
Mouth was arrived at a perfect transport of voracity! It seemed to be
no more capable of restraining itself than some great engine, full of
tremendous machinery, which cannot stop of itself. It had no self-will.
It was an unaccountable being. It was a separate creature, independent
of the soul. It was not a human thing at all. It was every thing that
was superhuman - every thing that was immense - inconceivably enormous!
All objects seemed reeling and toppling on towards it, like the
foam-bells upon a mighty current, floating silently on towards the
orifice of some prodigious sea-cave. It was like the whirlpool of
Maelstrom, every thing that comes within the vortex of which, for miles
round, is sure of being caught, inextricably involved, whirled round,
and round, and round, and then down, down that monstrous gulf - that
mouth of the mighty ocean, the lips of which are overwhelming waves,
whose teeth are prodigious rocks, and whose belly is the great abyss!

Here I grew dizzy, fainted, and - I never saw the Mouth again.

[ROBERT CHAMBERS.]

[Illustration: 043]




STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM.

Hail to thee, loveliest June! Thy smile awaited me at my birth; may
it rest upon me at the hour of death - may it cast its sunshine into my
grave as my coffin descends into the earth, and the few who loved me
look upon it for the last time!

The fruits - the luscious ruby fruits - are swelling into ripeness. I know
nothing of the fruits of the south - I talk of those of my own country. I
have a thorough contempt for Italy with its grapes! - I detest Spain with
its oranges! - I should be happy to annihilate Turkey and Asia with their
olives and citrons! - I am writing and thinking only of England. I was a
child once; - Reader! so were you. Do you recollect the day and the hour
when the blessed influence of strawberries and cream first flashed on
your awakened mind, and you felt that life had not been given you in
vain? I was just seven years old - my previous existence is a blank in
memory - when I spent a June in the country.

I may have picked before in the blind ignorance of infancy, some little
red pulpy balls, which may have been presented to me on a little blue
plate by my aunt or grandmother - but never - never till my seventh year
was I aware that in the melting luxuriance of one mouthful, so large
a share of human happiness might be comprised. Sugar, cream, and
strawberries! Epicurean compound of unimaginable ecstasy! trinity of
excellence! producing the only harmonious whole known to me in all the
annals of taste! The fresh vigour of my youthful palate may have yielded
somewhat to the deadening effect of time, but the glorious recollections
of those profound emotions, excited by my first intoxicating feast on
strawberries and cream, is worth every other thought that memory
can conjure up. Breathes there the man who presumes to smile at my
enthusiasm? Believe me, he is destined to pass away and be forgotten,
as the insect upon which you tread. He is a measurer of broad-cloth or a
scribbler of juridical technicalities.

Such is not the destiny awaiting yonder rosy group of smiling prattlers.
I love the rogues for the enlarged and animated countenances with
which they gaze upon the red spoils before them. Never speak to me of
gluttony. It is a natural and a noble appetite, redolent of health and
happiness, and I honour it. There is genius in the breathing expression
of those parted lips which, now that the good dame is about to commence
her impartial division, seem to anticipate, in a delightful agony of
expectation, the fulness of coming joy. Observe with how much vigour
that youthful Homer grasps his silver spoon! Would you have thought
those rose-bud lips could have admitted so vast a mouthful of
strawberries? - Yet, down they go that juvenile oesophagus, and, as
Shakspeare well expresses it, “leave not a wreck behind!” Turn your gaze
to this infantine Sappho. What unknown quantities of cream and sugar the
little cherub consumes! - Cold on the stomach! Pho! the idea is worthy of
a female Septuagenarian, doomed to the horrors of perpetual celibacy. If
she speak from experience, in heaven’s name, give her a glass of brandy,
and let her work out her miserable existence in fear and trembling.

If there be a merrier party of bon-vivants at this moment in
Christendom, may I never enter a garden again! Yet, at this very moment,
there are prime ministers sitting down to cabinet dinners, and seeing in
every guest another step in the ladder of ambition; at this very moment,
the table of the professional epicure is covered with all that is
_recherché_ in the annals of gastronomy; at this very moment, the bride
of yesternight takes her place of honour, for the first time, at the
table of her rich and titled husband. Alas! there are traitors at the
statesman’s board; there is poison and disease within the silver dishes
of the epicure; and there are silent but sad memories of days past away
for ever, strewed like withered flowers round the heart of the young
bride! But before you is a living garland, still blooming, unconscious
of the thousand cankers of earth and air.

On the whole, I am not sure that strawberries ought to be eaten when any
one is with you. There is always under such circumstances, even though
your companion be the dearest friend you have on earth, a feeling of
restraint, a consciousness that your attention is divided, a diffidence
about betraying the unfathomable depth of your love for the fruit before
you, a lurking uneasiness lest he should eat faster than yourself, or
appropriate an undue share of the delicious cream; in short there is
always, on such occasions, a secret desire that the best friend you have
in the world were at any distant part of the globe he might happen to
have a liking for. But, oh! the bliss of solitary fruition, when there
is none to interrupt you - none to compete with you - none to express
stupid amazement at the extent of your godlike appetite, or to bring
back your thoughts, by some obtrusive remark, to the vulgar affairs of
an unsubstantial world! - Behold! the milky nectar is crimsoned by the
roseate fruit! Heavens! what a flavour! and there is not another
human being near to intrude upon the sacred intensity of your joy!
Painter - poet - philosopher - where is your beau-ideal - happiness? It
is concentrated there - and, divided into equal portions by that silver
spoon, glides gloriously down the throat! Eat, child of mortality! for
June cometh but once in the year! eat, for there is yet misery in store
for thee! eat, for thy days are numbered! eat, as if thou wert eating
immortal life! - eat, eat, though thy next mouthful terminate in
apoplexy!

My dream of strawberries hath passed away! the little red rotundities
have been gathered from the surface of the globe, and man’s insatiate
maw has devoured them all! New hopes may arise, and new sources of
pleasure may perhaps be discovered; - the yellow gooseberry may glitter
like amber beads upon the bending branches - the ruby cherry may be
plucked from the living bough, and its sunny sides bruised into nectar
by the willing teeth - the apple, tinted with the vermillion bloom of
maiden beauty, may woo the eye, and tempt the silver knife - the golden
pear melting into lusciousness, soft as the lip, and sweet as the breath
of her thou lovest most, may win, for a time, thy heart’s idolatry - the
velvet peach, or downy apricot, may lull thee into brief forgetfulness
of all terrestrial woe - the dark-blue plum, or sunbeam coloured _magnum
bonum_, may waft thy soul to heaven - or, last of all, thy hot-house
grapes, purple on their bursting richness, may carry thee back to the
world’s prime, to the fawn and dryad-haunted groves of Arcady, or lap
thee in an elysium of poetry and music - but still the remembrance of thy
first love will be strong in thy heart, and, pamper thy noble nature as
thou wilt, with all the luxuries that summer yields, never, never, will
the innermost recesses of thy soul cease to be inhabited by an immortal
reminiscence of “Strawberries and Cream!”

[Memoirs of a Bon Vivant.]

[Illustration: 052]




THE ROSE IN JANUARY.

I had the good fortune to become acquainted, in his old age, with the
celebrated Wieland, and to be often admitted to his table. It was there
that, animated by a flask of Rhenish, he loved to recount the anecdotes
of his youth, and with a gaiety and _naivete_ which rendered them
extremely interesting. His age - his learning - his celebrity - no longer
threw us to a distance, and we laughed with him as joyously as he
himself laughed in relating the little adventure which I now attempt to
relate. It had a chief influence on his life, and it was that which he
was fondest of retracing, and retraced with most poignancy. I can well
remember his very words; but there are still wanting the expression of
his fine countenance - his hair white as snow, gracefully curling round
his head - his blue eyes, somewhat faded by years, yet still announcing
his genius and depth of thought; his brow touched with the lines of
reflection, but open, elevated, and of a distinguished character; his
smile full of benevolence and candour. “I was handsome enough,” he used
sometimes to say to us - and no one who looked at him could doubt
it: “but I was not amiable, for a _savant_ rarely is,” he would add
laughingly, - and this every one doubted; so to prove it, he recounted
the little history that follows: -

“I was not quite thirty,” said he to us, “when I obtained the chair of
philosophical professor in this college, in the most flattering
manner: I need not tell you that my _amour propre_ was gratified by
a distinction rare enough at my age. I certainly had worked for it
formerly: but at the moment it came to me, another species of philosophy
occupied me much more deeply, and I would have given more to know what
passed in one heart, than to have had power to analyze those of all
mankind. I was passionately in love; and you all know, I hope, that when
love takes possession of a young head, adieu to every thing else; there
is no room for any other thought. My table was covered with folios of
all colours, quires of paper of all sizes, journals of all species,
catalogues of books, in short, of all that one finds on a professor’s
table: but of the whole circle of science, I had for some time studied
only the article _Rose_, whether in the Encyclopaedia, the botanical
books, or all the gardeners’ calendars that I could meet with. You shall
learn presently what led me to this study, and why it was that my window
was always open, even during the coldest days. All this was connected
with the passion by which I was possessed, and which was become my sole
and continual thought. I could not well say at this moment how my
lectures and courses got on; but this I know, that more than once I have
said, ‘Amelia,’ instead of ‘philosophy.’

“It was the name of my beauty - in fact, of the beauty of the University,
Mademoiselle de Belmont. Her father, a distinguished officer, had
died on the field of battle. She occupied with her mother a large and
handsome house in the street in which I lived, on the same side, and
a few doors distant. This mother, wise and prudent, obliged by
circumstances to inhabit a city filled with young students from all
parts, and having so charming a daughter, never suffered her a
moment from her sight, either in or out of doors. But the good lady
passionately loved company and cards; and to reconcile her tastes
with her duties, she carried Amelia with her to all the assemblies of
dowagers, professors’ wives, canonesses, &c. &c., where the poor girl
_ennuyed_ herself to death with hemming or knitting beside her mother’s
card-table. But you ought to have been informed, that no student,
indeed no man under fifty, was admitted. I had then but little chance
of conveying my sentiments to Amelia. I am sure, however, that any
other than myself would have discovered this chance, but I was a perfect
novice in gallantry; and until the moment when I imbibed this passion
from Amelia’s beautiful dark eyes, mine, having been always fixed upon
Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, &c., understood nothing at all of
the language of the heart. It was at an old lady’s, to whom I was
introduced, that I became acquainted with Amelia; my destiny led me
to her house on the evening of her assembly; she received me - I saw
Mademoiselle de Belmont, and from that instant her image was engraven
in lines of fire on my heart. The mother frowned at the sight of a
well-looking young man: but my timid, grave, and perhaps somewhat
pedantic air, re-assured her. There were a few other young
persons - daughters and nieces of the lady of the mansion; it was
summer - they obtained permission to walk in the garden, under the
windows of the saloon, and the eyes of their mammas. I followed them;
and, without daring to address a word to my fair one, caught each that
fell from her lips.

“Her conversation appeared to me as charming as her person; she spoke
on different subjects with intelligence above her years. In making some
pleasant remarks on the defects of men in general, she observed, that
‘what she most dreaded was violence of temper.’ Naturally of a calm
disposition, I was wishing to boast of it; but not having the courage, I
at last entered into her idea, and said so much against passion, that I
could not well be suspected of an inclination to it. I was recompensed
by an approving smile; it emboldened me, and I began to talk much better
than I thought myself capable of doing before so many handsome women;
she appeared to listen with pleasure; but when they came to the chapter
of fashions, I had no more to say - it was an unknown language; neither
did she appear versed in it. Then succeeded observations on the flowers
in the garden; I knew little more of this than of the fashions, but
I might likewise have my particular taste; and to decide, I waited to
learn that of Amelia: she declared for the _Rose_, and grew animated in
the eulogy of her chosen flower. From that moment, it became for me the
queen of flowers. ‘Amelia,’ said a pretty, little, laughing, _Espiègle_,
‘how many of your favourites are condemned to death this winter?’ ‘Not
one! replied she; ‘I renounce them - their education is too troublesome,
and too ungrateful a task; and I begin to think I know nothing about
it.’

“I assumed sufficient resolution to ask the explanation of this
question and answer. She gave it to me. ‘You have just learned that I
am passionately fond of roses: it is an hereditary taste: my mother is
still fonder of them than I am; since I was able to think of any thing,
I have had the greatest wish to offer her a rose-tree in blow (as a new
year’s gift) on the first of January; I have never succeeded. Every
year I have put a quantity of rose-trees into vases; the greater number
perished; and I have never been able to offer one rose to my mother.’ So
little did I know of the culture of flowers, as to be perfectly ignorant
that it was possible to have roses in winter; but from the moment that
I understood that it might be, without a miracle, and that incessant
attention only was necessary, I promised myself, that this year the
first of January should not pass without Amelia’s offering her mother
a rose tree in blow. We returned to the saloon - so close was I on
the watch, that I heard her ask my name in a whisper. Her companion
answered, ‘I know him only by reputation; they say he is an author;
and so learned, that he is already a professor.’ ‘I should never have
guessed it,’ said Amelia; ‘he seems neither vain nor pedantic.’ How
thankful was I for this reputation. - Next morning I went to a gardener,
and ordered fifty rose-trees, of different months, to be put in vases.
‘It must be singular ill fortune,’ thought I, ‘if, among this number,
one at least does not flower.’ On leaving the gardener, I went to my
bookseller’s - purchased some works on flowers, and returned home full of
hope. I intended to accompany my rose-tree with a fine letter, in which
I should request to visit Madame de Belmont, in order to teach her
daughter the art of having roses in winter; the agreeable lesson, and
the charming scholar, were to me much pleasanter themes than those of
my philosophical lectures. I built on all this the prettiest romance
possible; my milk-pail had not yet got on so far as _Perrettes_; she
held it on her head; and my rose was not yet transplanted into its
vase; but I saw it all in blow. In the mean time, I was happy only in
imagination; I no longer saw Amelia; they ceased to invite me to the
dowager parties, and she was not allowed to mix in those of young
people. I must then be restricted, until my introducer was in a state
of presentation, to seeing her every evening pass by with her mother, as
they went to their parties. Happily for me, Madame de Belmont was such a
coward in a carriage, that she preferred walking when it was possible. I
knew the hour at which they were in the habit of leaving home; I learned
to distinguish the sound of the bell of their gate from that of all the
others of the quarter; my window on the floor was always open; at the
moment I heard their gate unclose, I snatched up some volume, which
was often turned upside down, stationed myself at the window, as if
profoundly occupied with my study, and thus almost every day saw for an
instant the lovely girl; and this instant was sufficient to attach me
to her still more deeply. The elegant simplicity of her dress; her
rich dark hair wreathed round her head, and falling in ringlets on her
forehead; her slight and graceful figure - her step at once light and
commanding - the fairy foot, that the care of guarding the snowy robe
rendered visible, inflamed my admiration; while her dignified and
composed manner, her attention to her mother, and the affability with
which she saluted her inferiors, touched my heart yet more. I began
too, to fancy, that, limited as were my opportunities of attracting her
notice, I was not entirely indifferent to her. For example, on leaving
home, she usually crossed to the opposite side of the street; for had
she passed close to my windows, she guessed, that, intently occupied as
I chose to appear, I could not well raise my eyes from my book; then, as
she came near my house, there was always something to say, in rather
a louder tone, as, ‘Take care mamma; lean heavier on me; do you feel
cold?’ I then raised my eyes, looked at her, saluted her, and generally
encountered the transient glance of my divinity, who, with a blush,
lowered her eyes, and returned my salute. The mother, all enveloped in
cloaks, and hoods, saw nothing. I saw every thing - and surrendered my
heart. A slight circumstance augmented my hopes. I had published ‘An
Abridgement of Practical Philosophy.’ It was an extract from my course
of lectures - was successful, and the edition was sold. My bookseller,
aware that I had some copies remaining, came to beg one for a customer
of his, who was extremely anxious to get it; and he named Mademoiselle
Amelia Belmont. I actually blushed with pleasure; to conceal my
embarrassment, I laughingly inquired, what could a girl of her age
want with so serious a work? ‘To read it, sir, doubtless;’ replied the
bookseller; ‘Mademoiselle Amelia does not resemble the generality of
young ladies; she prefers useful to amusing books.’ He then mentioned
the names of several that he had lately sent to her; and gave me a high
opinion of her taste. ‘From her impatience for your book,’ added he,
‘I can answer for it, that it will be perused with great pleasure; more
than ten messages have been sent; at last I promised it for to-morrow,
and I beg of you to enable me to keep my word.’ I thrilled with joy,
as I gave him the volumes, at the idea that Amelia would read my
sentiments, and that she would learn to know me.

“October arrived, and with it my fifty vases of rose-trees; for which
of course, they made me pay what they chose; - and I was as delighted
to count them in my room, as a miser would his sacks of gold. They all
looked rather languishing, but then it was because they had not yet
reconciled themselves to the new earth. I read all that was ever written
on the culture of roses, with much more attention than I had formerly
read my old philosophers; and I ended as wise as I began. I perceived
that this science, like all others has no fixed rules, and that each
vaunts his system, and believes it the best. One of my gardener authors
would have the rose-trees as much as possible in the open air; another
recommended their being kept close shut up; one ordered constant
watering; another absolutely forbade it. ‘It is thus with the
education of man,’ said I, closing the volumes in vexation. ‘Always in
extremes - let us try the medium between these opposite opinions.’

“I established a good thermometer in my room; and, according to its
indications, I put them outside the windows or took them in; you may
guess that fifty vases, to which I gave this exercise three or four
times a-day, according to the variations of the atmosphere, did not
leave me much idle time; and this was the occupation of a professor of
philosophy! Ah! well might they have taken his chair from him, and sent
him back to school, a thousand times more childish than the youngest
of those pupils to whom I hurried over the customary routine of
philosophical lessons: my whole mind was fixed on Amelia and my rose
trees.

“The death of the greater number of my _eleves_, however, soon lightened
my labour; more than half of them never struck root I flung them into
the fire; a fourth part of those that remained, after unfolding some
little leaves, stopped there. Several assumed a blackish yellow tint,
and gave me hopes of beautifying; some flourished surprisingly, but only
in leaves; others, to my great joy, were covered with buds; but in a few
days they always got that little yellow circle which gardeners call the
collar, and which is to them a mortal malady - their stalks twisted - they
drooped - and finally fell, one after the other, to the earth - not a
single bud remaining on my poor trees. This withered my hopes; and the
more care I took of my invalids - the more I hawked them from window to
window, the worse they grew. At last one of them, and but one, promised
to reward my trouble - thickly covered with leaves, it formed a handsome
bush, from the middle of which sprung out a fine vigorous branch,
crowned with six beautiful buds that got no collar - grew, enlarged, and
even discovered, through their calices, a slight rose tint. There were


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