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grandeur,) of all that lured his eye to rest on them before, nothing now remained but that horrible one-distance, tremendous distance, which cut her off from him. It was a fine panoramic picture (I but poetize his simpler ideas,) reversed in a moment, of whose colours, gay objects, and artificial sunlight, nothing remains but a blank breadth of uncouth rough mere wood, which instead of delighting with an imaginary sunshine, proves an ugly barrier excluding the real. “What a way it is from our town to that! Why she would be in her grave before I could reach her, or her father, even if a letter came straight post to tell us of her being taken ill! And that's not all: even when she does come back, I'm always thinking she will come so altered! and I'm not altered a bit, only for the worse,—they tell me I look quite old and crabbed; I know I'm grown very curst* since she went, and can't bear a word from our master, good as he is: she wont find me a “dashing young man,” I'm sure. 1-d! how they talk there: she never knew that word now, here! I used to be so happy, I did not envy our great squire himself, not I: I verily think I'd more pleasure in every great shady oak of his fields, by only sitting to hear the thrush o' evenings, on its great green roots, while the cows were coming to be milked across the meadow brow, than he or any rich man could find in all the money all the timber of that and the whole wood would put into his pocket; and now I've no rest under our old tree or any one for these cruel thoughts; no peace at all day or evening, and yet all round is so peaceful,-quiet as ever, and that makes me ten times worse.”
“And when does the squire come down?” I inquired. “Very soon, sir; ah! he'll have a great miss of our Margery, too, for nobody should make his cream cheeses and his butter but her, she'd such a white little hand, he said and I loved the old gentleman ever since for praising her, and it's true, so she has, sure enough, she had at least,—God knows, it may be horrid whitewhite as her shroud now! or brown as earth, -earthy-earthy!" he muttered, shrugging and shuddering; "for her old mistress has had the prelatic stroke, and can't write to us, even if poor Margery were gone prelatic too, or dead and gone!"
The aspect of human life under the vicissitudes of chance and change, is like the varying face of earth under those of the seasons: now black and furrowed by the plough, and beaten by the winterstorm; now wearing all the tender unsullied gloss of young grasses, young grain, young leaves, tottering lambs, and children singing in that grass's depth, and picking primroses,--the very world seeming young again; presently waving gold to the intense blue of Autumn's skies, or to the harvest moon; and last,_all wintry desolation again!
* Froward, illhumoured.
I know not how long it was before I saw our shepherd again, I hardly knew him. Joy, glee, dance of blood, buoyancy of spirit, now fairly lifted him out of his own shy nature,-out of himself, as he led me, looking “unutterable things,” to a very pretty lone house, under a large clump of elms, in the little park
, once a keeper's lodge; kites, and crows, and weasels, still hung nailed against the wall: but now enlarged to a sort of cottage farm house, for the reception of a new bailiff to the old squire just arrived, and who but Robin was to be bailiff? who to manage the dairy but the said bailiff's wife? and who that wife but Margery Morgan? Much discourse had passed between this warm-hearted old gentleman and Jacky Morgan, about the attachment between the young people, and Robin's altered character, (for he had tried the good old master's patience greviously, to his own bitter aggravation of misery the first cool moment,) and it was settled that Robin should go up to London, superintend the sale of some droves of black cattle, which had already set off for Barnet fair, (for Morgan had made Robin an excellent farmer,) and return by coach—not alone, but with her; to wait no more for deaths and fortunes, but snatch what fortune presented now, and live again! Happy Robin! It was indeed a lovely hermitage: the sweeps of greensward all round, only broken by single trees, but each a little mass of greenwood and shade, in its venerable size, were as an emerald sunny sea shutting them in to themselves, under that lonely thatch, as in an ark which had found land again, and only waited a little farther ebb to become a blessed home! Very little, for the hours of this overwhelming misery of separation were numbered. “What's a couple of hundred miles ?" said he exultingly; “ Just none! just none, you know,- I mean when I'm set off: God knows it do seem long to then, sir!” “When do you set off?” “Tomorrow!”
Syllabubs, cream cheeses, of Margery's making; flummery, caudle (in the winter), cyder, salad suppers of Margery's raising, with "a shave of ham” of her curing; pockets of apples for my boys, and pecks of plums for myself, all were promised, my "kind acceptance" begged in futuro. Robin was grateful for my listening to his complaints, so made me partaker of both fortunes with him: rare, indeed, is a serious listener to the complaint of a lover.
A staff of ponderous bulk, and little wallet by the side of him, perhaps that Midsummer sun just risen did not see, in all the sunshiny half-world, still as night, so truly blest a mortal as the humble dust-covered one it discovered breakfasting on a hay cock, by a brook, in a field, where not one haymaker was yet stirring. To start by a Midsummer night's moon, and breakfast by a segment of sun, levelled full in our face, a golden crescent on the cdge of the gilded world, all asleep, under vermilion
clouds, and upon new mown hay and clover flowers distilled in dew: this alone is delight. But with solitude behind, and sorrow, a mistress long parted—a wife, before! what word can reach the inetiable state of such a traveller's mind? No, it must be thought alone. Perhaps Robin's smiling to himself all the while he ate (to enormity!) of his oat cake, and drank of his homely cruize of milk, best expressed it; which fixed smile leaped into a downright laugh all at once, (or was it a cry? for some haymaker, behind the hedge, just come as he was done, thought it such, for he saw his eyes full,) at the commonest object in the world, only a lamb kneeling down, with pleased wagging of its little puff of a tail, to be suckled by its patient mother, bending her bead round to touch it, as if to say "welcome baby, welcome.” What he saw typified by that natural spectacle, whether a snowy bosom, an expanded little hand, a peep of blue and sleepy eye upturned to one downcast to it, all tenderness, or what else—who can tell? That image of maternal and infantile love, however, conjured a touching train of ideas, and though Robin knew not what an Old Dramatist meant, (those living glories still buried alive!) he surely thought their thoughts, as beautifully clothed by a poet of a far nobler age than this, (with all its “march,” its "schoolmaster," and self-applauding frivolity):
“How near am I now to a happiness
Which Earth exceeds not! not another like it!
Locked up in Woman's love!" What wanted he of company with such thoughts? Day after day they kept annihilating space and time, and fatigue, and accompanied him quite into the metropolis, not banished by the gay and novel uproar of a mighty city. Entering by night he was astonished at the strong light of the streets, they seemed in illumination for some great rejoicing, and the crowd joy-mad. Nor was he doubtless less an object of some curiosity, to such as chanced to notice him. Travel-stained and footsore, his dustiness and lameness oddly combined with his happy elate look, in spite of evident pale exhaustion; for he had walked on and on without feeling his fatigue, till his day's journey had become enormous, added to his hurrying pace as he approached the neighbourhood of St. Paul's, where she lived. Then his hands were bloody and torn with forcing his way through a quickset hedge to pick for her a nosegay,—the one of huge size which he bore in his left, for (as he told her afterwards,) he smelt all at once, about dusk, near “the town,” such a perfume of flowers, as if all the May, and all the meadow-sweet of all Wye side, was blowing t’other side the hedge, so through he struggled, after long labour, and found, indeed, such a field! being in fact à nursery garden full of stocks and all powers, of which all
twilight prevented his observing the formality. Thus proceeding down High Holborn, where it widens towards the Bars, with what pride did he compare in his mind his own innocent beauty, now so near him, with one of those wretched women of misery, (misnamed of pleasure,) who allured by his country appearance thought to find in him an easy dupe and prey! Robin had too much real natural gallantry to be a rake: that is, he loved too passionately the female character,—the sex, as it should be, to endure without horror, its truly horrible transfiguration. Hence, while he shuddered at her venal blandishments, he pursued the train of happy triumphant hopes and thoughts, still thinking with Middleton
“Oh, honest wedlock
Is but a fair house built by a ditch side.”
“Her beautified body to a goodly temple
Built upon vaults where carcasses lie rotting.” But when this lost creature, at whose touch he shuddered, tried another mode to move him, urged by want, and declared she had not broken her fast that day: there was a something in her hollow real voice, no longer of feigned softness, that startled him with a frightful fancy, alınost as if he had seen duskily in a mirror an uplifted arm and knife behind him, ready to descend direct upon his heart, he looked madly at her face, a gas-lamp beamed full upon it, the look was that dagger indeed, stricken through his heart,-it was Margery Morgan. Painted, hectic, sad, and now struggling with a revived sense of shame, of innocence, of old times, -hers was the hand he had shaken, shaken off! hers the touch at which he had shuddered! “Ah Robin!” she atlected to lisp gaily, but the effort failed, and her voice dropped plaintive. For him, he did not hear it, but looked and looked without a word-still looked, till staggering, grasping at the lamp-post, all things reeled round him, the nosegay fell from his hand, he sun down and fainted away. Sickness, estrangement, death itself, these had crossed his mind in the few intervals of hope's intoxication, for these he had partly therefore prepared as possible, --but this ! no, he had indeed never thought of this !
He awoke in a filthy squalid room, ill lighted by a stinking lamp against the daubed and smoked wall; a drunken man growled or snored on the floor before the sooty hearth and huge ash-heap; another, as it seemed, (but it was a woman whose gruff voice made her appear one,) kept swearing and raving from within a strong door, a prostitute mad with drinking, at which horrible duet between sleepy intoxication without, and raving within, two
or three muffled men who had brought in poor Robin while insensible, laughed grimly, as did another dosing in a high-backed chair at a dirty table, all over dried floods of beer, to which the book before him seemed glued; with sooty tobacco pipes, halfburnt pipe-papers, &c. By which description the London reader will guess that the “guardians of the night" had picked up our shepherd, imagining him dead drunk, and conveyed him to St. Andrew's watchhouse, in the way of their vocation. A strange noise (to him) hastened his recovery, the springing of rattles, at which the watchmen ran out, but presently met their brethren dragging in a pale wretch without a coat, slipped off when he was seized, a frequent mode of escape; a street robbery and attempt to murder was the charge taken down by the drowsy night constable, and blood was upon him, his own or another's. A sort of fight betwixt the crowd of thieves and streetwalkers which pressed in after him, and those inside with their staves to force them back, followed amidst mingled shrieks, blasphemies, cries of murder, and laughter. Perhaps his return to recollection in such a place, rather than another, was a mercy; to burst at once and for ever any remains of that dream of innocence and green fields, and a virgin heart, in which he had slept so long. After that swift perdition which had fallen on his hope and heart, love and life; while the pain and the horror, the strangeness and the black loathsomeness of his thoughts and of his soul, made a very hell within him, it was well, it was congenial to his new state of existence, that what seemed to him a hell of depravity and a misery of the damned, should be actually around him, waking out of his little interval of oblivion; that the lost should hail him lost to that insufferable state!
After some insult, much merriment, and more extortion, poor Robin escaped these new companions, to prowl the now solitary streets with the houseless vagrant, the robber, and the prostitute, who alone were stirring, seen gliding by the half-extinguished lamps, or screaming up dark and noisome alleys in their drunken mirth, or conflicts with the watch. Desolate he stood, and heard the crying of the hour—midnight! without a thought of bed, or house, or rest. And where was she? What mattered where she was? It was no longer she, his master's loving daughter, that sweet, and pure, and innocent creature, his sister sweetheart, but her shocking shadow! It was—and it was not his Margery, the thought whirled his brain, confused his reason,-it was the dream of the mad, but did not the less tear his heart beyond the agony of death. His was indeed a strange and cruel fate: he was alone in a solitude of palaces, there was but one being among the careless thousands around him, that he could feel allied to his nature; her he had found, he had seen, yet she was lost, lost notwithstanding, and wretchedly lonely as she was in heart and state, he could not wish, nay he could not bear, to see her again.