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Then, wheel your arm chair up to the open window; the window that looks upon flowers, and arching vines, and blue hills in the dis. tance; and there read it aloud to her, while she, lovingly,
“Takes the vacant chair beside thee,
Lays her gentle hand in thine." • But stay! Let us leave the affectionate twain at the window, and turn the pages of our book. We will turn them simply as readers ; as ardent lovers of pastoral scenes, and incidents, and characters, such as only our author can sketch. We do not open the book as a “ critic,” nor yet to tell you its story ; but only to tell you something about its incidentals.
There are its prominent characters, which you cannot but notice, smiling upon you, as they constantly pass and repass,
“With a slow and noiseless footstep," and always moving at just that indistinct distance which renders them enchanting, and troubles you with an uncomfortable desire to know more about them, while your straining eye clings to their disappearing forms. Blue-eyed Mrs. Churchill, “ who had something of Martha in her, as well as of Mary," has completely captivated us. Do' you not think that she embodies the beau-ideal of a wife? We wish that Longfellow had told us more about her. We wonder where Churchill found her, and if there are any “more of the same sort" left. She is introduced to us in her husband's study, where, at the close of a September afternoon, she has lighted the lamp and is awaiting his coming. He, having completed his daily duties as the village school-master of Fairmeadow, leaves the empty school-house with a feeling of infinite relief.
“ All the bright young faces were gone ; all the impatient little hearts were gone ; all the fresh voices, shrill, but musical with the melody of childhood, were gone; and the lately busy realm was given up to silence, and the dusty sunshine, and the old gray flies, that buzzed and bumped their heads against the window panes.
He locks the outer door, and, casting a glance at the last carricature of himself which the boys have chalked on the fence, muses homeward, by a circuitous path through the pines, and the meadows, and the orchards, and along the margin of the river. It is dark when he reaches home, and his good wife greets him “ with looks of love in her joyous blue eyes ; and in the serene expression of her face he reads the divine beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart.” The children have a frolic, become sleepy, are kissed good night, and the maid of all work, puts them to bed. After tea, Mr. Churchill and his wife playfully chat away the evening. And here is presented such a delightful view of the character of his admirable wife, that we must tell you all about the incidents of that evening. Churchill is wearied by his day's work. He begins to pace the study. He gazes rapturously at the books ranged along the walls, and thinks how many bleeding hearts and aching heads have found consolation in writing those pages. His wife sits by the table, plying her needle, occasion
ally pausing to bite off the thread and look up to her husband, but not venturing to disturb his meditations. The books seem to him as living beings. Their authors gaze at him from the walls, and commune with his spirit. Then he dreams of fame, (for Churchill is a dreamy man,) and he thinks that the time may come when he shall be to some one, what these authors are 10 him; and suddenly, in the enthusiasm of the moment, he exclaims,
6 Would you have me like these, dear Mary?
Like these great and good men,-like these scholars and poets,-the authors of all these books!
She pressed his hand and said, in a soft, but excited tone,- 0, yes! Like them, only perhaps better.”
This pretty act of the evening play over, Churchill seats himself at. the study table, and arranges his papers for writing. His wife, true to a wife's, affectionate duty, takes her seat opposite to him, with her work in her hand, ready to join in any diversion agreeable to her husband. They talk of this and that. He tells her of what he has been thinking during the day. He has thought that the study of mathematics, now dull and prosaic, may be rendered poetical.
6. For my part,' answered his wife, ' I do not see how you can make mathematics poetical. There is no poetry in them.
Ah, that is a very great mistake! There is something divine in the science of numbers. Like God, it holds the sea in the hollow of its hand. It measures the earth; it weighs the stars ; it illumines the universe ; it is law, it is order, it is beauty. And yet we imagine that is, most of us—that its highest end and culminating point is book-keeping by double-entry. It is our way of teaching it that makes it so prosaic.'"
Then he arises, and goes to the book-case, and takes down an old quarto volume, and lays it upon the table. It is a Sanscrit book of mathematics. They chat about its quaint title, and its author, and the purposes for which it was writien. He reads the preface, which contains a beautiful legend of the Hindoos, and mystical saluations to the Hindoo deities; then turning the leaves, he comes to the poetical mathematics, on some of which he and his wife very playfully disagree.
" One-third of a collection of beautiful water-lilies is offered to Mahadev, one-fifth to Huri, one-sixth to the Sun, one-fourth to Devi, and six which remain are presented to the spiritual teacher. Required the whole number of water-lilies."
.6That is very pretty," said the wife, “and would put it into the boys' heads to bring you pond-lilies."
“ Here is a prettier one still. One-fifth of a hive of bees flew to the Kadamba flower; one-third flew to the Silandhara ; three times the difference of these two numbers flew to an arbor; and one bee continued flying about, attracted on each side by the fragrant Ketaki and the Malati. What was the number of the bees?"
“I am sure I should never be able to tell.”
“ Ten times the square root of a flock of geese, seeing the clouds collect, flew to the Manus lake; one-eighth of the whole flew from the edge of the water amongst a multitude of water-lilies; and three couple were observed playing in the water. Tell me, my young girl with beautiful locks, what was the whole number of geese ?”
- Well, what was it ?"
“No, one hundred and forty-four. Now try another. The square root of half a number of bees, and also eight-ninths of the whole, alighted on the jasmines, and a female bee buzzed responsive to the hum of the male inclosed at night in a water-lily. 0, beautiful damsel, tell me the number of bees.”
“ That is not there. You made it.”
He showed her the book, and she read it herself. He then proposed some of the geometrical questions.
“In a lake the bud of a water-lily was observed, one span above the water, and when moved by the gentle breeze, it sunk in the water at two cubits' distance. Required the depth of the water.”
6. That is charming, but mnst be very difficult. I could not answer it."
“ A tree one huudred cubits high is distant from a well two hundred cubits; from this tree one monkey descends and goes to the well; another monkey takes a leap upwards, and then descends by the hypothenuse; and both pass over an equal space. Required the height of the leap."
“I do not believe you can answer that question your self, without looking into the book," said the laugbing wise, laying her hand over the solution. “ Try it."
“ With great pleasure, my dear child,” cried the confident school-master, taking a pencil and paper. After making a few figures and calculations, he answered,
“ There, my young girl with beautiful locks, there is the answer,- forty cubits."
His wife removed her hand from the book, and then, clapping both in triumph, she exclaimed,
“No, you are wrong, you are wrong, my beautiful youth with a bee in your bonnet. It is fifty cubits !"
“ Then I must have made some mistake."
She signalized his mortifying defeat, as if it had been a victory, by showering kisses, like roses, upon his forehead and cheeks, as he passed beneath the triumphal arch-way of her arms, Irying in vain to articulate,
“My dearest Lilawati, what is the whole number of the geese ?"
Churchill, "after extricating himself from this pleasing dilemma," seats himself at the table and makes preparations to write. His wife reminds him that he has not answered Mr. Cartwright's letter, "about the cottage bedstead ;" nor the letter from “ the young lady who sent you the poetry to look over and criticize ;" nor Mr. Hanson's letter, “ who wants to know about the cooking-range.”
" And he began to write with great haste. For awhile nothing was heard but the scratching of his pen. Then he said, probably in connection with the cooking-range, . One of the most convenient things in house-keeping is a ham. It is always ready and always welcome. You can eat it with any thing and without any thing. It reminds me always of the great wild boar Scrimner, in the Northern Mythology, who is killed every day for the gods to feast on in Valhalla, and comes to life again every night.'
* In that case, I should think the gods would have the night-mare,' said his wife. • Perhaps they do.'
And then a long silence, broken only by the skating of the swift pen over the sheet."
Mrs. Churchill silently follows her needle and her own train of thought. At length she looks up and tells her husband of a pedlar that called at the house during the day. But the abstracted school
master vouchsafes no reply. His noisy pen whirls and dashes away over the paper, until, after a long and busy labor, his half dozen letters are finished and sealed ;
" and he looked up to his wife. She turned her eyes dreamily upon him. Slumber was hanging in their blue orbs, like snow in the heavens, ready to fall.”
We have quoted the incidents of this September evening, thus copiously, because they give us the best picture of Mrs. Churchill which The author has sketched. We get a glimpse of her again at the Thanksgiving dinner, and, after an interval of three years in the tale, she passes before us once more, “her eyes bluer than ever, her cheeks fairer, her form more round and full.” And she has completely captivated us. We see in her, as her husband did, “ a picture always new and always beautiful, and like a painting of Gherardo della Notte.” And when you, good sir, are ready for a wife, hunt you up a Mary Churchill. Don't you take any thing less ; that is, if you want • a wife of whom you will be proud. We are here tempted, while we speak of these things, to offer you a bit of advice, (and do not esteem us officious,) it is that you do not become "engaged" while you are in college; for, as one of these incipient alumni has just told us, college engagements are premature, and not apt “ to hold.” And we have another bit of advice. When you are ready for the market, armed and equipped as the law directs, and, realizing the awful responsibilities of a perpetual matrimony, you enter the field for a prize, then do not be so — we beseech you, as to confine your search for a Mary Churchill, to the circumference of a circle, whose centre is the pulpit of the college chapel, and whose radius is not more than two or three miles! We know that we shall be trounced for this advice, by that damsel to whom we doffed our hat in the moonlight, the other evening. But we shall not mind that. It is our failing to disregard occasionally the wind and the weather.
Every Fairmeadow has its Alice Archer ; a fair and delicate girl, of deep sensitiveness, of deep sorrow, and of deep love. Her complexion was pale, and her eyes " seemed to see visions.” She was silent and thoughtful, a creature of noble spirit, of strong emotions, of tears, of reveries sad and joyous, an only daughter, the solace of her aged and querulous mother, with whom she led a lonely life. She died of a broken heart,-a melancholy but common death. She cherished a love which, by an heroic self-sacrifice, she never betrayed, and which was, therefore, never requited. She prayed, she wept, she dreamed joyously, but the sorrowful secret of her love was ever her own. Her dearest friend divined it not. No one suspected it. Public curiosity, public pity, knew nothing of it. To the fidelity of her friendship she sacrificed the vast wealth of her heart, and to the object of its inextinguishable love she became, thenceforward, “ what the moon is to the sun, forever following, forever separated, forever sad !” She faded; she fell sick; people said she was “ dangerously ill of a fever.” Ah, what that fever was, none but the sufferer knew! Day by day her crushed heart exhaled its vital odors, until all were
gone. Gently, as the passing of the evening air, she passed away; and when the first snow came, falling silently through the long November nights, it covered the lovely grave of Alice Archer! Her painful tragedy was ended; ended her secret sorrow and her secret love. And her sad history is the history of many of her sex. “ She died young, of a broken heart!” would speak many a marble sentinel in the churchyard, had it a tongue.
Cecilia Vaughan is a rare character. She appears to a stranger as a young lady of noble mein, with “ a fair and beautiful face shaded by long, light locks, in which the sunshine seemed entangled, as among the boughs of trees.”
“ Endowed with youth, beauty, talent, fortune, and, moreover, with that indefinable fascination which has no name, Cecilia Vaughan was not without lovers, avowed and unavowed ;-young men, who made an ostentatious display of their affection ;-boys, who treasured it in their bosoms, as something indescribably sweet and precious, perfuming all the chambers of the heart with its celestial fragrance. Whenever she returned from a visit to the city, some unknown youth of elegant manners and varnished leather boots was sure to hover round the village inn for a few days,—was known to visit the Vaughans assiduously, and then silently to disappear, and be seen no more. Of course, nothing could be known of the secret history of such individuals ; but shrewd surmises were formed as to their designs and their destinies ; till finally, any well-dressed stranger, lingering in the village without ostensible business, was set down as one of Miss Vaughan's lovers.'”
Cecilia's only companion was a warm and faithful friend of the same age and sex, and resident in the same village. Cecilia was rich and healthy ; her friend was poor and pale. But she dearly loved her friend, and delighted to carry sunshine into her little sanctuary—“ that columbarium lined with warmth and softness and silence.” They walked together; they sat together; they unreservedly poured forth their thoughts to each other in daily conversations, or in long and impassioned letters, written in the evening and transported by a faithful carrier-pigeon. The attachment and intimacy of these two young girls is one of the most charming pictures in the book. It is a constant and beautiful rehearsal of the “ great drama of woman's life.” It seems too pure, too artless, too confiding, for such a world as this.
We want to know more of Cecilia Vaughan. We want to see her in full womanhood. She passes before us an embodiment of the nobility and delicate refinement of her sex, in a form of exceeding grace and exquisite mould. No wonder that she had many “ lovers, avowed and unavowed.” We warrant that you would have been one of them, had you lived in Fairmeadow.
Sally Manchester, or rather “ Miss” Sally Manchester, (for she desired that people would always use the handle that belonged to her name,) makes us laugh. We have seen “ lots” of Sallys, just like her, in our New England villages ; and they always stir the fun in us. She lived with an old lady in the village, in the capacities of a very excellent chambermaid and a very bad cook. She was a large woman and stout, with masculine features, who looked upon toil as play, and is described in domestic recommendations as “a treasure, if you can get her."