The carpet—its hempen ground carried them to the north, from whence the material came, the inhabitants of the frozen world, their manners and their customs, the climate and their cities, their productions and their sources of wealth. Its woollen surface, with its various dyes—each dye containing an episode of an island or a state, a point of natural history, or of art and manufacture.
The mahogany table, like some magic vehicle, transported them in a second to the torrid zone, where the various tropical flowers and fruit, the towering cocoa-nut, the spreading palm, the broad-leaved banana, the fragrant pine—all that was indigenous to the country, all that was peculiar in the scenery and the clime, were pictured to the imagination of the delighted Amber.
The little vase upon the mantel-piece swelled into a splendid atlas of eastern geography, an inexhaustible folio describing Indian customs, the Asiatic splendour of costume, the gorgeous thrones of the descendants of the Prophet, the history of the Prophet himself, the superior instinct and stupendous body of the elephant; all that Edward Forster had collected of nature or of art, through these extensive regions, were successively displayed, until they returned to China, from whence they had commenced their travels. Thus did the little vase, like the vessel taken up by the fisherman in the “Arabian Nights,” contain a giant confined by the seal of Solomon—Knowledge.
The knife and spoon brought food unto the mind as well as to the body. The mines were entered, the countries pointed out in which they were to be found, the various metals, their value, and the uses to which they were applied. The dress again led them abroad; the cotton hung in pods upon the tree, the silkworm spun its yellow tomb, all the process of manufacture was explained. The loom again was worked by fancy, until the article in comment was again produced.
Thus was Amber instructed and amused: and thus, with nature for his hornbook, and art for his primer, did the little parlour of Edward Forster expand into the “universe.”
Their noble birth: conduct us to the tombs
Of their forefathers, and from age to age
Ascending, trumpet their illustrious race.”
Devoted as he was to the instruction of his adopted child, Edward Forster was nevertheless aware that more was required in the education of a female than he was competent to fulfil. Many and melancholy were his reveries on the forlorn prospects of the little girl (considering his own precarious life and the little chance that appeared of restoring her to her friends and relations), still he resolved that all that could should be done; the issue he left to Providence. That she might not be cast wholly unknown upon the world, in case of his death, he had often taken Amber to a neighbouring mansion, with the owner of which, Lord Aveleyn, he had long been on friendly terms; although, until latterly, he had declined mixing with the society which was there collected. Many years before, the possessor had entered the naval service, and had, during the few months that he had served in the capacity of midshipman, been intrusted to the charge of Edward Forster.