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My cousin said no more upon that point, though I felt that he was not in any way convinced; but he told me that he thought I should pay a little visit, if only for a day, such as I treated him with, to my good friends at Bruntsea, before I returned to Shoxford. There was no one now at Bruntsea whom I might not wish to meet, as he knew by a trifling accident; and after all the kind services rendered by Major and Mrs. Hockin, it was hardly right to let them begin to feel themselves neglected. Now the very same thing had occurred to me, and I was going to propose it; and many things which I found it hard to do without were left in my little chest of locked-up drawers there. But of that, to my knowledge, I scarcely thought twice; whereas I longed to see and have a talk with dear “Aunt Mary." Now, since my affairs had been growing so strange, and Lord Castlewood had come forward-not strongly, but still quite enough to speak of—there had been a kindhearted and genuine wish at Bruntsea to recover me. And this desire had unreasonably grown while starved with disappointment. The less they heard of me, the more they imagined in their rich good-will; and the surer they became that, after all, there was something in my ideas.
But how could I know this, without any letters from them, since letters were a luxury forbidden me at Shoxford ? I knew it through one of the simplest and commonest of all nature's arrangements. Stixon's boy, as everybody called him (though he must have been close upon five-and-twenty, and carried a cane out of sight of the windows), being so considered, and treated boyishly by the maids of Castlewood, asserted his dignity, and rose above his value, as much as he had lain below it, by showing that he owned a tender heart to them that did not despise it. For he chanced to be walking with his cane upon the beach (the very morning after he first went to Bruntsea, too late for any train back again), and casting glances of interior wonder over the unaccustomed sea—when from the sea itself outleaped a wondrous rosy deity.
“ You there, Mr. Stixon! Oh my! How long ?” exclaimed Mrs. Hockin's new parlour-maid, ready to drop, though in full print now, on the landward steps of the bathing-machine set up by the reckless Major.
“Come this very hinstant, Miss, honour bright !” replied the junior Stixon, who had moved in good society; "and just in the hackmy of time, Miss, if I may offer you my 'umble hand.”
The fair nymph fixed him with a penetrating gaze through tresses full of salt curliness; while her cheeks were conscious of an unclad dip. But William Stixon's eyes were firm with pure truth, gently toning into shy reproach and tenderness. He had met her at supper last night, and done his best; but (as he said to the Castlewood maids) it was only feeling then, whereas now it was emoshun. " Then you are a gentleman !” Polly Hopkins cried; "and indeed,
l Mr. Stixon, these are slippery things.” She was speaking of the steps, as she came down them, and they had no hand-rails; and the young man felt himself to be no more Stixon's boy, but a gentleman under sweet refining pressure.
From that hour forth it was pronounced—and they left the world to its own opinion—that they were keeping company; and although they were sixty miles apart by air, and eighty-two by railway, at every post their hearts were one, with considerable benefit to the United Kingdom's revenue. Also they met by the sad sea waves, when the bathingmachines had been hauled up—for the Major now had three of them as often as Stixon senior smiled—which he did whenever he was not put out-on the bygone ways of these children. For Polly Hopkins had a hundred pounds, as well as being the only child of the man who kept the only shop for pickled pork in Bruntsea. And my Mr. Stixon could always contrive to get orders from his lordship, to send the boy away, with his carriage paid, when his health demanded bathing. Hence it is manifest that the deeds and thoughts of Bruntsea House, otherwise called “ Bruntlands,” were known quite as well, and discussed even better–because dispassionately-at Castlewood than and as they were at home.
Now I won for ever the heart of Stixon's boy, and that of Polly Hopkins, by recoiling with horror from the thought of going to Bruntsea unattended. After all my solitary journeys, this might have been called hypocrisy, if it had been inconvenient; but, coming as it did, it was pronounced by all who desired either news or love, to be another proof of the goodness of my heart.
Escorted thus by William Stixon (armed with a brilliant cane bought for this occasion), and knowing that Sir Montague Hockin was not there, I arrived at Bruntlands in the afternoon, and received a kindly welcome from my dear friend, Mrs. Hockin. Her husband was from home, and she grieved to say that now he generally was; but nobody else could have any idea what his avocations were! Then she paid me some compliments on my appearancea thing that I never thought of, except when I came to a question of likeness, or chanced to be thinking of things, coming up as they will, at a looking-glass. That the Major was out was a truth established in
ago; because I had seen him, as our fly crawled by, expressly and emphatically at work, on a rampart of his own designing. The work was quite new to me; but not so his figure. Though I could not see people three miles off, as Firm Gundry was said to do, I had pretty clear sight, and could not mistake the Major within a furlong. And there he was, going about in a row of square notches against the sea-line, with his coat off, and brandishing some tool, vehemently carrying on to spirits less active than his own. I burned with desire to go and join him, for I love to see activity; but Mrs. Hockin thought that I had better stay away, because it was impossible to get on there without language too strong for young ladies.
This closed the question, and I stopped with her, and found the best comfort that I ever could have dreamed of. " Aunt Mary” was so steadfast, and so built up with, or rather built of, the very faith itself, that to talk with her was as good as reading the noblest chapter of the Bible. She put by all possibility of doubt as to the modern interference of the Lord, with such a sweet pity and the seasoned smile of age,
and so much feeling (which would have been contempt, if she had not been softened by her own escapes), that really I, who had come expecting to set her beautiful white hair on end, became like a little child put into the corner, but too young yet for any other punishment at school, except to be looked at. Nevertheless, though I did look small, it made me all the happier. I seemed to become less an individual, and more a member of a large kind race under paternal management. From a practical point of view this may have been amiss, but it helped to support me afterwards. And before I began to get weary or rebel against her gentle teaching, in came her husband; and she stopped at once, because he had never any time for it.
“My geological hammer !" cried the Major, being in a rush as usual. Oh, Miss Castlewood ! I did not see you. Pardon me! It is the want of practice only; so wholly have you deserted us. Fallen into better hands, of course. Well, how are you? But I need not ask. If ever there was a young lady who looked well—don't tell me of troubles, or worries, or nerves—I put up my glasses, and simply say, ' Pretty young ladies are above all pity !' My hammer, dear Mary; my hammer I must have. The geological one, you know; we have come on a bit of old Roman work; the bricklayers' hammers go flat, like lead. I have just one minute and a half to spare. What fine fellows those Romans were! I will build like a Roman. See to every bit of it myself, Erema. No contractor's jobs for me. Mary, you know where to find it."
“Well, dear, I think that you had it last, to get the bung out of the beer-barrel, when the stool broke down in the corner, you know, because
“Never mind about that. The drayman made a fool of himself. I proceeded upon true principles. That fellow knew nothing of leverage."
“Well, dear, of course you understand it best. But he told cook that it was quite a mercy that you got off without a broken leg; and compared with that, two gallons of spilled ale-" Mrs. Hockin made off, without finishing her sentence.
“What a woman she is !" cried the Major; "she takes such a lofty view of things, and she can always find my tools. Erema, after dinner I must have a talk with you. There is something going on here on my manor- —which I cannot at all get a clue to, except by connecting you with it, the Lord knows how. Of course, you have nothing to do with it; but still, my life bas been so free from mystery, that, that-you know what I mean"
“ That you naturally think I must be at the bottom of everything mysterious. Now, is there anything dark about me? Do I not labour to get at the light? Have I kept from your knowledge any single thing? But you never cared to go into them.”
“ It is bardly fair of you to say that. The fact is that you, of your own accord, have chosen other counsellors. Have you heard any more of your late guardian, Mr. Shovelin? I suppose that his executor, or some one appointed by him, is now your legal guardian."
“I have not even asked what the law is,” I replied ; “Lord Castlewood is my proper guardian, according to all common sense ; and I mean to have him so. He has inquired through his solicitors as to Mr. Shovelin; and I am quite free there. My father's will is quite good, they say ; but it never has been proved, and none of them care to do it. My cousin thinks that I could compel them to prove it, or to renounce in proper form ; but Mr. Shovelin's sons are not nice people—as different from him as night from day, careless, and wild, and dashing.”
“ Then do you mean to do nothing about it? What a time she is finding that hammer !”
“I leave it entirely to my cousin; and he is waiting for legal advice. I wish to have the will, of course, for the sake of my dear father ; but, with or without any will, my mother's little property comes to me. And if my dear father had nothing to leave, why should we run up a great lawyer's bill ?”
“ To be sure not! I see. That makes all the difference. I admire your common sense,” said the Major—“but there! Come and look, and just exercise it here. There is that very strange woman again, just at the end of my new road! She stands quite still; and then stares about, sometimes for an hour together. Nobody knows who she is, or why she came. She has taken a tumble-down house on my manor, from a wretch of a fellow who denies my title; and what she lives on is more than any one can tell, for she never spends sixpence in Bruntsea. Some think that she walks in the dark to Newport, and gets all her food at some ship-stores there. And one of our fishermen vows that he met her walking on the sea, as he rowed home one night, and she had a long red bag on her shoulder. She is a witch, that is certain; for she won't answer me, bowever politely I accost her. But the oddest thing of all is the name she gave to the fellow she took the house from. What do you think she called herself? Of all things in the world—Mrs. Castlewood !' I congratulate you on your relative."
“How very strange!" I answered. “Oh, now I see why you connected me with it; and I beg your pardon for having been vexed. But let me go and see her. Oh, may I go at once, if you please, and speak to her ? "
“ The very thing I wish ; if you are not afraid. I will come with you, when I get my hammer. Oh, here it is ! Mary, how clever you are! Now look out of the window, and you shall see Erema make up to her grandmamma."
Genius and Vanity.
The critic who aims at the highest triumph of his art, the revelation to the world of unrecognised genius, must often feel a disagreeable qualm. May he not be puffing a charlatan, instead of heralding the advent of a great man? The doubt is still more perplexing when the genius to be proclaimed is his own, and the responsibility correspondingly greater. And hence arises a problem which has often occurred to me when reading about two eminent men of the last generation.
Wordsworth and Haydon were friends. Each sympathised with the aims of the other. Wordsworth wished to reform poetry as Haydon wished to reform painting. Each of them endeavoured to breathe a loftier spirit into the devotees of his favourite art. Each of them persevered heroically in spite of the most depressing reception. The enthusiasm which animated Haydon was not less elevated above the ends of a commonplace selfishness than that which animated Wordsworth. If the painter was undeniably vain, the poet pushed vanity to the verge of the sublime. One, however, failed where the other succeeded. Poor Haydon's life-long exertions were not, one may hope, entirely thrown away; but his most cherished ambition came to naught. He produced no work which might entitle the English school to rank amongst the great schools of the world. Wordsworth, on the contrary, breathed new life even into the rich and vigorous growth of English poetry; he set his mark upon a generation; and enjoyed, before he died, the profound homage of the best and purest minds of the succeeding generation.
Haydon, then, made a fatal mistake, whereas Wordsworth's daring was justified by the result. That is clearly a reason for pity in the one case and congratulation in the other. But is it a reason-as it is certainly a common pretext—for pronouncing a different moral judgment upon
the two men ? Is success to be the sole test of virtue in this as in so many other cases ? When a hero burns his ships, scorns the counsels of cool common sense, plucks the flower safety from the nettle danger, and ends by winning an empire in defiance of all calculation, we are ready with our hosannahs. But, if he fails, should we therefore stone him? If Columbus had met with a little more adverse weather, his courage would not have prevented the failure of his enterprise. Had our Arctic
better route, they might have reached the pole without expending more devotion. The hero is the man who dares to run a risk; who is not deterred, because an element of the radically unknowable enters into his calculations. If he knew more than others he would be a wiser, but not a better, man than his fellows. He