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"You will hardly guess the reason," he proceeded; "so 1 will tell it to you. Before I became acquainted with you, was reconciled to solitude, because I could not look back with satisfaction to that part of my life which had been passed in society; but such pleasure have I taken in your conversation, that I fear, when you are gone, I shall begin to experience the irksomeness of solitude, from contrasting it with the brief period of calm enjoyment which I experienced during your visit."
"I am delighted to hear," answered I, "that my company has been a pleasing relief to your seclusion; and, as your solitude has been to me a no less grateful change, after the crowd in which I have been accustomed to live, I propose remaining your guest a short time longer.'
"On no account," rejoined the poet quickly; "that would be only to render absolutely certain what is now, I fear, more than probable. You and I are in very different situations. Your visit to the cottage of the recluse will be hereafter recollected by you merely as a variety, an excursion from your regular course of business and pleasures; but to me it will become a standard of happiness, with whigh my solitude will henceforth appear in disadvantageous comparison. Besides, if you were to remain here much longer, the pleasure your conversation affords me might grow into friendship, which, on every account, I should wish to avoid encouraging."
"I comprehend your meaning," said I; "and I am not surprised that, deceived as you have been, you should feel reluctant to trust your friendship to any person, especially to a stranger, of whose character you have no knowledge beyond that afforded by his own representations, in which the least suspicious would hesitate implicitly to confide."
"I will not deny," returned Auriol, “that the gross frauds which I have suffered have greatly diminished my confidence in human nature; and a third disappointment would swallow up the sinall remainder which I may still possess, and reduce me to utter misanthropy. As I can afford, therefore, to lose nothing, I am unwilling to hazard aught. But even if I could overcome distrust, there would still remain objections, which would deter me from cultivating your friendship."
'These latter relate to my acknowledged unworthiness, I fear," said I.
"Quite the contrary; for you have entered into my feelings, and have appeared to be interested in my hopes; you are a lover of poetry, and possess a fine intellect, which can select any subject from the store of your rich and varied knowledge, and exhibit it in a manner delightful at least to my ears. Yes, Sydenham, it is because I find in you the qualities which alone
can gain my esteem, that I wish our acquaintance to stop where it is."
"Indeed! that appears to me rather a paradoxical reason." "I will explain myself. My friendship, Sydenham, is of a nature far surpassing the love of women, which I have long since ceased to regard. In early youth, I dwelt with delight on the exquisite creation of my fancy, but I found the woman of the world a totally different being. The latter was frivolous and irrational; and the only exception that I met with-the only woman who resembled my ideal image, in fascination of mind and person, proved, upon examination, to be rotten at heart. I then abandoned the sex, merging the purer part of their love in friendship, and altogether rejecting the grosser part, as unworthy of the poetical character. My friend, therefore, must not only sympathize with me in his mind and character, but must be, in a great measure, devoted to my society. I have told you how I attempted to realize this idea how I fondly hoped that, by taking a human creature when he was young, and keeping him from the association of his species, I might succeed in suppressing the evil principle, and perfecting the good. You know also how, as soon as he had come to a degree of maturity and communion with his kind, his incorrigi ble nature broke forth, and urged him, as might have been expected, first, to turn upon and rend the one who had cherished and loved him. As for you, your situation, if nothing else, renders it impossible that you should ever be to me more than an occasional acquaintance. Perhaps indeed, after you leave this, I may never see you again. Why therefore should I encourage sentiments of friendship toward you?"
"But when your name has become that of a divine poet, will you not leave your retirement, and come into the world, personally to receive its tribute of admiration ?"
"What!” cried Auriol, "would you have me go about the country levying praise upon the public? would you have me frequent society a genteel beggar, to subsist my fame upon eleemosynary flatteries? No! let it die rather than keep itself alive by such means! I leave that for the poetasters of the present day; but if the world should deem me worthy of its commendations, let it send them to me in my solitude, for I will never quit my retirement to solicit them. Besides, a poet should always keep himself apart from the crowd, for his presence dispels that undefined but splendid illusion which surrounds the unseen person of genius.'
"But," said I, although I may not meet you in public, what is to prevent you from visiting me in the country, where I spend a great part of my time?"
The same reason which would prevent my seeing you in the town. Does not the general assembly of fashionables,
when the season is at an end, break itself up into parcels, which are distributed among the country houses? I should therefore be in the same element in one of these, as if I were in the midst of London."
"But my house is an exception to the general practice. I go to town for company, but I return to the country for society; and consequently never invite more than two or three rational friends, in whose conversation I can find delight. It would gratify me much to add you to their number."
"Such a communion," answered the poet, "would be exactly accordant with my taste. But it is a happiness which I must have in perspective; for, at present, I must give my undivided attention to the poem which I intend to bring before the public next year. This business will bring me up to London in the spring, when I shall perhaps find you there."
I told him that he certainly would, and I made him a sincere proffer of my services. He thanked me with grateful warmth.
The next day I took my leave of him. He accompanied me almost as far as M- -; and when he stopped to return, the tears stood in his eyes, and he squeezed my hand.
"God bless you!" cried he. "By this time next year, my fate will be decided."
On returning to the hotel where I had left my travelling appurtenances, I found among my letters one of importance. It was from my agent in the country, and its purport was to inform me, that Mr. Sotheby, one of the county members, had just experienced a paralytic stroke, and that his death was hourly expected. "I lose not a moment," ,"continued Mr. Nicholls, in sending you this intelligence; for, though I have never heard you express a sentiment upon the subject, yet I am aware, that it was your excellent father's wish that you should stand on the first vacancy. Therefore, Sir, if you have any idea of becoming a candidate, it is expedient that you should, without delay, make your appearance here, as names are already mentioned in the county; and I have reason to be of opinion, that you would meet with a favourable reception."
Without a moment's hesitation, I gave orders for immediate departure, and in twenty minutes I was in my carriage.
It is now time, thought I, that I should enter upon a new. scene, and the political world, very opportunely, opens to my view. With respect however to my position in the county, I was utterly unacquainted with it. I knew only, that my father had spoken to me about it, and I supposod he had been given
to understand that there was a probability of success. I had heard, likewise, that the Daventry family, which had returned one member without opposition from time immemorial, now sought to monopolize the whole representation; and that the independent electors had taken the attempt in high dudgeon. The present Lord Daventry was, for other reasons, obnoxious; he was a proud man, and an ultra-tory, merciless to his tenantry, and oppressive to the poor in general. Under these circumstances, it seemed probable, that any gentleman of character, figure, and fortune in the county, who came forward, would be returned. To this description, at least, I answered, my name was of considerable antiquity in S-shire; I was perfectly independent of the Daventrys; I had money, talents, and above. all, à clever agent.
Mr. Nicholls had been my father's righthand man ever since he succeeded to the estate, and had the complete management both of that excellent person and his property, though, to give him his due, I do not believe that he took greater care of his own interest than persons in his situation generally consider themselves entitled to do, without reproach. This was much to his credit; for Nicholls was a remarkably clever fellow, and therefore might have been a prodigious rogue with perfect safety. Having mentioned his abilities, I can give no higher proof of his discretion, than was manifested by the fact of his having always carefully concealed the former from the world. I am sure that I was the only person who was acquainted with his real character; for while I was yet a youth, he had sagacity enough to perceive that it would be vain attempting to dissemble with me; besides, he knew that I would never betray him. In his manners he was naturally vulgar, and studiously coarse -nay, almost brutal-though, at the same time, careful never to o'erstep the modesty of nature. He was therefore universally accounted a rough diamond,-an honest, plain, straight-forward John Bull. He was really much attached to my family, with whom he took a pride in identifying himself. Such was my agent.
A few hours briskly travelling brought me to Sydenham Park. Mr. Nicholls was ready to receive me.
"When did you get my letter, bearing date five days ago?" was his inquiry before I got into the house. I explained to him the cause of the delay.
"I am glad you are come, Sir," he continued, "for you have no time to lose; Mr. Sotheby died yesterday morning; and I have a great deal to tell you.'
"Come in," said I, as I entered the library, "and let me hear all your news."
"I think, Sir Matthew, you had better dine first; dinner will be ready at seven, for I have ordered it every day since I wrote,
having been in hourly expectation of your arrival. If you '11 allow me, I'll dine with you, and afterwards we 'll proceed to business."
To this arrangement I willingly acceded. Accordingly, after dinner we sent the wine into the library, and being comfortably settled there, our chairs drawn to the fire, (for it was a raw autumnal evening,) and a bottle of excellent Lafitte before us, Mr. Nicholls proceeded to open his communications.
“Well, Sir Matthew, in the first place, how do you feel disposed with respect to standing the county?" was the preliminary inquiry of my agent.
"Exceedingly well-disposed," answered I, "if there is a reasonable probability of success."
"I certainly think there is; but then it will cost a great deal of money."
Perhaps ten or twelve thousand ?” said I.
"Ten or twelve thousand!" cried the agent, "we can't go to the hustings under that; and if we get returned a shilling under twenty thousand, my name's not Joe Nicholls."
"Why, how is that? the county's not large, and the Daventrys can't spend much."
"It's true, they are rather out at the elbows, but they 'd almost ruin themselves to get the county into their hands. But if they can't spend, there's one who can and will.-Who do you think has come forward beside Colonel Haviland ?"
“I have not the least suspicion."
"What! the old waggoner, who bought Sir Thomas Rawlinson's property last year?"
"The very man: his address was published this morning, -here's a copy of it: he says he'll stand to the last; and I'm told he comes to the hustings with fifty thousand pounds in his pocket."
"Hang him!" said I; "he's an ass and a blackguard."
Very likely; but what odds is that? he's got the ready, and after all that's the main thing in an election, as well as every other business."
"Haviland and Jackson, interest and wealth, are already in the field; now, I should be glad to know in what character, or with what advantages, I should present myself?"
Why, I'll tell you, Sir Matthew," returned Mr. Nicholls, "how the matter stands with respect to you. The name of Haviland absolutely stinks through the county. The Earl and Lord Haviland and the Colonel have been canvassing this fortnight, but with such bad success, that they are in a great stew about it, I understand. The freeholders have fobbed them off with every kind of excuse they could think of. One says, he can't promise himself, till he has all the candidates