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“ Miss Burtenshaw walked all the way, sir, every step." " That is five miles; by the fields five miles good: she must be tired.” “ Are you not tired, Miss ?” “Oh, no, Mrs. Featherby, not the least.” And the dear smile returned, charming as ever. “ Miss means to walk all the way back again, sir.— Oh dear, but you will be tired though; you will surely be very tired to-morrow, madam; you will indeed!” “Oh, no, Mrs. Featherby. "Well, do you know, when I was young, that is, when I was a girl, i do not mean a child, but when I was a young girl, I could walk any distance myself, any distance; and I was never tired at the time, not the least. But the next day, my knees — oh! my knees, how my knees did ache ! and my knees, the day after, oh! how my knees did ache ! I declare it makes my knees ache now, only to think how my knees ached then."
Miss Burtenshaw had dropt her eyes into her lap: her mouth was drawn down, as in death, and every trace of a smile had fled; she had no knees herself, at least to her own knowledge, nor had she ever known the knees of others. She had a head with a sweetly pretty face upon it; she had two round hands with taper fingers, and she had occasionally the extreme tips of a pair of feet; but from the topmost slide of the white frock to its last and lowest hem, all besides was a blank : knees, then, were as unintelligible as Greek, and of more difficult attainment.
We fastened our eyes upon our plates, and were dumb; but the merciless Mrs. Featherby, profiting by the deep silence, went on to discourse aloud of her own past pains, and of the pains that would attend the labours of Miss Burtenshaw. “ They would seize upon her knees, they would reach down below the calves of her legs, and " And what next - oh, what next? It seemed desirable, that the earth should open and swallow us up, whilst we still retained our innocency; but fortunately the little Scotch boy, on the right of the housekeeper, muttered that one day he crossed on foot some mountain, with a barbarous name, and on the morrow his knees ached. Being delighted with the attention, which she had long sought in vain, she immediately rewarded the boy's sympathy with several spoonfuls of peas; and the master, snatching gladly the occasion of a pause, called loudly for the tarts, and thereby preserved us.
A stately currant pie, in a large white dish, stood presently at each end of the table, and in the middle was a small punch-bowl well filled with custard. These rustic dainties found with Miss Burtenshaw a less coy reception than the first course; and they soothed and refreshed her after the embarrassment resulting from Mrs. Featherby's exceeding plainness of speech. When the cloth was withdrawn, several dishes exhibited strawberries newly gathered from the garden ; another punch-bowl contained thick yellow cream; there were glasses, many and various, and six decanters, all of an old fashion and of a different pattern. Six tickets displayed penmanship of the highest order in the words “ Orange,” “Ginger," “ Currant, “Gooseberry,” “ Raspberry,” and “Superior Old Raisin.” Miss Burtenshaw could never refuse strawberries; and accordingly this delicious fruit, in addition to its other merits, may boast a peculiar attraction, and a very powerful one in the eyes of all, whoever beheld the lady that can never tefuse it. She did not refuse cream; might it fie light upon her maiden stomach! She dealt impartially by the wine, and permitted her sweet lips to sip of each sort in turns; but she always deluged a thimbleful of wine with a flood of water, to the sore distress of Mrs. Featherby, whose excellent handiwork was thus barbarously marred. “ Dear, dear, Miss, what a pity! Why, you cannot taste the wine! It is all water! I declare it is just spoiling it! Do take a drop neat -- only to drink some of our healths."
She might well complain of the injurious treatment of such wine - of wine that might demand for the maker of any franchise except an unseasonable parade of her knowledge of the human form. “ Miss Burtenshaw, would not you like to learn Greek?” The master of the free-school having lasted once and again of each sample of wine successively, and being some what emboldened thereby, and not wanting, moreover, a proper firmness in the sacred cause of learning, although naturally modest, ventured to raise his voice once more on behalf of the literature of Greece, which he felt ought not to be put off by such a sorry word as “Indeed !” however sweetly uttered. “ Would you like to learn Greek, Miss Burtenshaw ?” sir, I fear I should be very stupid.” Her smile seemed to show that her fear was unfounded. “ We have a young gentleman with us now who is learning Greek; he knows the alphabet already.” The word “ Indeed!” again dropt from her mouth, but it seemed now less ungenial than before; and as the master fixed his eyes upon the subject of his discourse, the lady turned hers also in the same direction. The glance was momentary, but it was a powerful incentive to learn all languages - a direct provocation to speak with all the tongues of men and of angels.
“ I wish I knew the Greek alphabet myself. Perhaps I shall know it some day, when I am in full orders !” Oh, sir, how I should like to see you in full orders!”
These words, the hearty expression, and the radiant countenance, quite overcame the master, and he remained silent and thoughtful for some minutes, having stammered out with some difficulty, “ Would you indeed, Miss Burtenshaw ? indeed, you are very good !” But having gained new strength from his unextinguishable zeal for letters, and from the “ Superior Old Raisin,” he at last resumed : “ Would you not like to know the Greek alphabet yourself, Miss Burtenshaw? It is mentioned in Scripture, and in a very remarkable manner.” 6. Whatever is mentioned there, sir, must be most highly proper indeed for all of us !” 6. Mentioned in that manner.” “Of course.” It seemed that Mrs. Featherby was asleep; but she was not altogether so, for she suddenly exclaimed, not without sighs and groans “ Yes, Scripture is the only sure guide! I wish that I may live to see the day when I may begin to follow Scripture! But I am a worm, a very poor worm, something much worse than any worm! And goodness me! what is it that I hear ? Are we not all sitting here, and are not the bells going for church?”
The party was soon on the way to church. Miss Burtenshaw and the master of the free-school walked abreast, and so far apart, that, if both had extended an arm, they might nearly have touched each other with the tips of their fingers. Mrs. Featherby hovered on the flank, and the boys followed behind so closely, that if the master had said any thing to the lady, or the lady to the master, they would have heard it; and whenever the boys chanced to lag behind, the decorous couple halted for them to come up. We mounted to the gallery, or loft, the accustomed seat of the free-school, having left Miss Burtenshaw alone below in a pew, of which the oaken sides were so high, that even from our elevated position we were only able sometimes to descry a part of her white veil and the summit of her white chip bonnet; and sometimes a gentle rustling assured us that we were not wholly bereft of her.
During a sermon, which lasted more than an hour, for any thing that we could discover, our charmer might have been dead; but if she slept, her sleep was not eternal, for we all returned to the free-school in such order as we had proceeded to church. Mrs. Featherby presently began to supply
tea, to administer cream, and to distribute tea-cakes, light, hot, and well buttered, under three denominations, plain, with carraway-seeds, and with currants. We fed heartily upon the grateful nutriment, and upon the sweet smiles that had become perhaps still sweeter through a short absence. After the wholesome meal the announcement was heard with pain that Miss Burtenshaw must prepare to depart; however, we were to attend her. We withdrew as before to the utmost verge of the garden to await the preparation, which was long; and being at last summoned, we found Miss Burtenshaw before the front door, and the housekeeper making courtesies all round her, amidst a shower of smiles, bidding a manifold farewell
, together with apologies, for that she could not bear her company on foot. It was a glorious evening as ever the sky shed upon the earth; our course was towards the north-west, and the declining sun and the soft breeze met Miss Burtenshaw in the face, and sported together with her white veil. Our path led us through shady pastures and green flowery meadows, across a hill, which was comprised in a park; and having passed the hill and the park-wall, we came down again into the small grassy meadows, the footway bending towards the right hand, and winding along under thick, tall, tangled hedges.
The order of march originally adopted in going to church was strictly observed : the lady kept the path, the master walked abreast at the prescribed interval, treading in the grass ; the boys followed close behind, and when they loitered, their leaders lingered. Our progress was slow; and it was slower, because, except when we crossed the park, we found many stiles. Whenever we came to a stile, the master of the free-school and the boys climbed it hastily, advanced quickly a certain distance, and then stood in the grass by the footpath for many minutes. Silent we stood, with downcast eyes, our backs turned towards the stile, patient and humbled in spirit, not daring even to conjecture what mysterious rites might be performed behind us, and expecting we knew not what, but deeply and painfully affected, and indeed penetrated, by a profound sense of the value and sanctity of secrets so studiously veiled under elaborate concealment. “ What could the people be thinking about who made those stiles? I often wonder what in the world they could be thinking about.”
It was a relief to hear the accustomed inquiry, for it bespoke the termination of our long-protracted and often-repeated expectation, which, if it had been less reverential, might possibly have become wearisome. It was pleasant to hear her firm footsteps, and her mellow voice enlivened by a slight panting, to see her resume her position, and to prosecute our walk. The same question was always asked, but it never received an answer : it was vain to endeavour, by any conjecture, to arrive at the thoughts of some unknown carpenters, who constructed, clumsily enough, certain stiles, perhaps a century before. It would be far less difficult to describe the thoughts of him who had seen the lady ascending a lofty stile. He would doubtless think of Miss Burtenshaw herself, and of little else for ever, and for one day longer at least. But such a spectacle was never afforded to mortal eye: the princes of fairy, the elfin kings, lurking fauns, peeping satyrs, the unseen genius of the place, might look, — and love, – or laugh, — and live; but man, never — from his first feeble infancy to his last decrepitude, never, - never !
Our walk was a happy, a tranquil, and a silent one: the lady spoke little ; her admirers not at all; but happiness must have an end, even when it is tranquil and silent. It was when the sky began to give a less brilliant light; where the trees were tallest and most frequent; where the
hedges were thickest, the inclosures smallest, the grass deepest, the path most devious, and the solitude most complete, that the lady stopt suddenly, and smiling sweetly, said, “ Here we must part.” It was stated that we had attended her for more than three miles, and that in less than two miles further she would find herself at home; yet it seemed unkind and unnatural to leave her in so lonely a place: “You see the sun is set ! I would not for the whole world have it said of me that I had been seen in the fields with men after sunset: I could not bear the thought !” Thus did she reply to expostulation. We are told that Heaven itself would stoop to chastity, the master of the free-school then could only bow to the determination of Miss Burtenshaw; accordingly, he shook hands with her, at the same distance, and with the same formalities, as at meeting, and certainly not with less emotion; but even in this extremity, his love of learning did not fail him. 6. Will you not say goodnight to our Grecian, Miss Burtenshaw; he is the first we ever had! we shall not have him long - he leaves us on Tuesday.” The lady deigned to extend her arm. To remember the sweet smile, thus specially directed — the warm soft hand, as felt through a woven glove of open work — the condescending courtesy from one, before whom the proudest might bow - and the first and last “good night!” — to remember these things is to forget time and distance.
We retraced her recent steps silently, and with reverence; but it is to be feared, that on our return we jumped rather thoughtlessly over the stiles, which Miss Burtenshaw had lately passed with so much caution and circumspection
Having related on the morrow the adventures of Sunday, with a gravity and decency suggested by sentiments of admiration and respect, to an occasional companion, a native of the village, the ill-starred boy heard the narrative with much impatience, and before it was concluded, exclaimed, “Well, so you had a fine piece of work, I suppose, about Nanny Burtenshaw's mill-posts
| Oh, I know her of old !” Spiteful and heinous words like these can only proceed from the envy of vulgar minds, which meanly ascribe unworthy motives to a delicacy they are unable to understand.
How often does some winding shady lane catch the eye of a travellar as he hastens through a strange country, and cling to his memory, together with the desire to explore it, and a romantic field-path rouses a still more lively curiosity: thus is it as to those green solitary meadows, which were the scene of parting; it has often seemed, that it would be a pleasant thing to visit them again, and to extend the walk a few miles further. The quiet district was quitted at day-break on the appointed Tuesday, and it has never been surveyed again; nor has one of the party who sat at the dinnertable on the first Sunday in July been seen or heard of since the departure which so soon followed. It would be soothing to revisit the scenes of boy. hood; and not otherwise than soothing to be again subjected to the smile of Miss Burtenshaw, whose virtues have no doubt been confirmed by long experience; and being now sixty-two years of age, for this Sunday fell some forty years ago, she has perhaps learnt that it is necessary to give still greater length to petticoats, and to pass a stile with more mature deliberation.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
The French Revolution. A History. By Thomas CARLYLE.* Second Edition. Three Vols. 12mo. James Fraser. 1839.
We can have no need of apology either towards our readers or towards the illustrious writer, in profiting by the second edition of a work by Mr. Carlyle, the first having appeared three years ago, to give our opinion on it, and to give that opinion in all frankness, sine irâ et studio. The subject of the work is too important, as respects the understanding both of the past and the future of Europe, for us not to be eager to seize every possible occasion for treating of it; and the author is too eminent in the sphere of literature and in our esteem, for us not to be frank with him.
When the book appeared, if we recollect right, the praise was almost unanimous. The organs of opinions diametrically opposed fraternised in admiration. Soft and sympathetic phrases arose together from the two hostile camps which, here as elsewhere, divide society between them. In a concord so unusual, as regarding notable men treating of notable subjects, there was an indication at once of the good and the bad of the performance. It was a homage paid to the incontestably eminent and dazzling talent of the author — an unfeigned admiration imperiously called forth by an artistical fervour and a vigour of execution that have no rivals amongst us at the present day; but to those who know how thoroughly inflexible is the logic of party, it was a proof that the work was deemed harmless, and that men might applaud it without being thence led on to serious concessions. But can it be such, and be complete -- useful - equal to the wants of the epoch? No; it cannot. Doubtless it is very sad to proclaim it to those who are condemned to live and to die in this period of warfare; but such is ours. The war is furious and irreconcileable everywhere, and on all matters. Never, perhaps, has the struggle, old as the world, between fact and right, fatalism and liberty, privilege and divine equality, borne so deep a stamp, so especial a universality. To him who can detect the principle under its different appearances, it is working at the base of every branch of human development from the increase in industrial activity to the conceptions of religion. It makes instruments of every thing. The French revolution was not its programme, nor its most matured expression, but its most active and most European political manifestation. By that revolution, the spirit of emancipation became incarnate in a people, and gave battle; and the battle was long, bloody, destructive, full of great and of cruel things, of Titan-like phrenzies and achievements. How could our author take his course between the two ensigns that there clashed,
In speaking of a writer like Mr. Carlyle, we owe it to ourselves as well as to our readers to declare at the commencement, that it would be wrong to expect to find in these pages an appreciation of the genius and tendencies of Mr. Carlyle. Far from that, we look on these few remarks on one of his works as imposing on us the duty of a more general review, and we promise to undertake it within a brief period. We do not even pretend to pass an absolute judgment on the meaning of the performance, for it is proper to have some distrust of oneself when treating of an intelligence so profound and serious as that of the present writer. We desire merely to show, from our own experience, the impression that the perusal of the volumes will produce on the greater number of readers. Evidently in choosing a popular subject to handle historically, Mr. Carlyle meant not to address himself to a small minority of thinkers; he must have looked to a popular end, to the education of the greatest possible number of readers.