“Shall I, wasting in despair,
Sigh because a woman’s fair?
Shall my cheeks grow pale with care
Because another’s rosy are?
If she be not kind to me,
What care I how fair she be?”
This resolute little gentleman passed through the gate as he concluded the verse, waved his hand jauntily by way of everlasting adieu, and went off whistling the refrain with great spirit, and both hands in his pockets.
“You impudent!” cried Julia, almost choking; then, authoritatively, “Percy—Mr. Fitzroy;” then, coaxingly, “Percy dear.”
Percy heard, and congratulated himself upon his spirit. “That’s the way to treat them,” said he to himself.
“Well?” said he, with an air of indifference, and going slowly back to the gate. “What is it now?” said he, a little arrogantly.
She soon let him know. Directly he was quite within reach she gave him a slap in the face that sounded like one plank falling upon another, and marched off with an air of royal dignity, as if she had done the most graceful and lady-like thing in all the world.
How happy are those choice spirits who can always preserve their dignity!
Percy retired red as fire, and one of his cheeks retained that high color for the rest of the day.
We must now describe the place to which Hope conducted his daughter, and please do not skip our little description. It is true that some of our gifted contemporaries paint Italian scenery at prodigious length a propos de bottes, and others show in many pages that the rocks and the sea are picturesque objects, even when irrelevant. True that others gild the evening clouds and the western horizon merely to please the horizon and the clouds. But we hold with Pope that
“The proper study of mankind is man,”
and that authors’ pictures are bores, except as narrow frames to big incidents. The true model, we think, for a writer is found in the opening lines of “Marmion,” where the castle at even-tide, its yellow lustre, its drooping banner, its mail-clad warders reflecting the western blaze, the tramp of the sentinel, and his low-hummed song, are flung on paper with the broad and telling touch of Rubens, not from an irrelevant admiration of old castles and the setting sun, but because the human figures of the story are riding up to that sun-gilt castle to make it a scene of great words and deeds.
Even so, though on a much humbler scale, we describe Hope’s cottage and garden, merely because it was for a moment or two the scene of a remarkable incident never yet presented in history or fiction.
This cottage, then, was in reality something between a villa and a cottage; it resembled a villa in this, that the rooms were lofty, and the windows were casements glazed with plate glass and very large. Walter Clifford had built it for a curate, who proved a bird of passage, and the said Walter had a horror of low rooms, for he said, “I always feel as if the ceiling was going to flatten me to the floor.” Owing to this the bedroom windows, which looked westward on the garden, were a great height from the ground, and the building had a Gothic character.