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“ Then now is the time for action. You say that action is man's true element."
- Ay, a comfortable thing to tell a man to act with his arms fast pinioned down—to exert himself with a strait waistcoat on. Had liberty been left me, I might have done something. But no—a thousand chances to one that I should have found the energy. The being here at once originates the motive, and neutralises it too.
I never could realise a fear. I never could picture myself to myself in such a place as this; and now that I am here, I am without fear, for I am at the worst: I am without hope, because it is not in the chapter of probabilities that I should escape my prison-house."
“ And is the neutral ground between hope and fear dulness ?” 661
suppose that it is peace to the good: I know that it is dulness to the scapegrace. Ay, this is precisely the feeling which occupies -occupies, if I may use the verb active—which occupies the hearts of those disappointed men who have arrived at the summit of their wishes. The soldier reposes beneath his laurels—he is dull. The merchant withdraws from toil— he is dull. The tradesman has realised his thousands—he retires to his little pea-green box in the suburbs, expecting to be happy-he is dull: dull because he has no more to hope-dull because he has no more to fear.”
“ It seems as if this state of stagnation were pretty well provided against. There is a tide in the affairs of men.'-Shakspeare. Hum! The world goes round and round, and we in it, something like the compulsory way of the treadmill.”
“I would I were in that world again.”
“ You soon will be. I prophesy from the past, and that is the truest prescience, that you will ere long resume your part in the grand drama; but I must leave you now to take my own.” 66 Whither are
bound ?" " To the club. 66 And I
“Never mind, man, the chances of war—the turning of the wheel. You will soon join us again.”
“ Not I !—but no matter. I hate moralising, especially on neces sity. Whom do you meet ?"
“We make a quartetto—the colonel, Lemorne, Fred, and your humble."
Happy fellows ! I have dined on-n'importe-a vulgar fare, suiting the vulgar hour: have swallowed my dose of muddy port, and am consigned to all the pleasures of dulness."
66 Write-write!—be in the fashion. The Pleasures of Dulness-as good a title as the Pleasures of Hope or Memory.”
“ I am miserable enough without appropriating the miseries of authorship. Writing a note bores me."
“Well, do anything but quarrel with yourself or me. Adieu, my dear fellow.”
“ Adieu, if you will go; but what a night! Will you have my Mackintosh ?"
“ No! my tiger and my cab are outside." The two fashionables parted. Leigh Bingham passed down those
dismal stone stairs, trod hastily across the deserted pavement, which was deluging beneath the tears of a weeping heaven, took his stand among a little number whom either faithfulness or necessity had clustered there together, waited until the crash of the key had turned the ponderous lock, underwent the harsh and hard stare of the turnkey, who, while gilding that little miserable troop with the beam of his eye, seemed to transfuse his own essential vulgarity into what he looked upon, passed through the lobby, darted into his cab, took the reins from his dwarfish tiger, and soon emerged from the polluted atmosphere of the Rules, and inhaled again the purer breezes of that ambient air which floats about the hemisphere of St. James's.
Leigh Bingham dressed, dined at the club, lounged at eleven into the Opera, listened to a few of Grisi's notes, encored one of her airs, decided that her Greek dress became her, admired the length of her hair, as it hung in its long plats, now before and now behind, got rather beyond the nonchalance of a fine gentleman in gazing at the radii of Taglioni's shawl, and applauded the grace with which Fanny Elsler walked on her toes : from thence he dropped in at a rout, found it too much trouble to make the amiable, so relinquished the attempt, and resigned himself to the indulgence of a little private supper.
Meanwhile Frederick Herriott threw himself into a chair in moody silence—the hollowness of the world had not yet sounded upon his ear-upon
his heart. He had much of that temperature which is the impulse to enjoyment, and much of that hilarity of temper which is, in fact, enjoyment. This appetite for mirth is like bodily hunger-it gives the keenish relish to lowly fare-it makes itself the difference between the homely diet and the costly viands. In fact, this seizing on the moments as they fly, and extracting the honeyed ingredients of pleasure, is the only earthly happiness. That man is a vain dreamer who expects in our visible world a higher revelry than this. Beyond this point pleasures are more intellectual, more refined, belonging to a different stage, or a higher order of existence, and the spirit that inhabits those higher regions loses as he leaves the joys of this. He can no more reap pleasure from mirth and cheerfulness: henceforth his lot is solitary—the higher, the more solitary.
Herriott had not yet reached this point of his existence: he was among the few of whom it may almost be thought that Providence leaves them to themselves, unless now, in a prison, some cognisable moment had arrived. He had been gay, not dissolute, and had thus escaped from his own self-reproach, for he wanted some teaching to learn that wasted talents, and abused opportunities, and mispent time, were things that need trouble his conscience. No; he regretted only that his wealth was wasted, that he possessed no longer the sesame into the scenes of luxurious dissipation, that beauty no longer smiled upon him, that wit no longer brightened round him, that music no longer breathed her witchery, that he was no longer within the pale of pleasure.
These things were his grief: not that the world had no joys, but that he was excluded from their participation. He sat in that solitary room, that comfortless and desolate room, alone in a prison. The dark and dreary wall was the only boundary which obstructed his eye, and when he would have aspired, though only by a glance, to the free air and the unlimited sky, the threatening chevaux-de-frise insulted his eye, canopied only by the heavy atmosphere which was discharging its gloom in an uninterrupted deluge. There was not even the comfort of a cloud to induce a hope that at length its freight might be spent.
Frederick Herriott leaned his elbows on the little mean table before him, hid his face within his hands, and thought.
“ This way,” said the turnkey, as he ascended the stone staircase of the prison, and as he spoke he threw open the door of one of those melancholy rooms--we must not dignify them with the title of cells, though the term would be more poetical. It was that identical apartment in which Daniel Whittle Harvey spent the term of his incarceration, and on which he had devoted the first quarter of the first moon in investing with as much of the Englishman's comfort as the localities allowed. We remember, on the occasion of a half-hour's visit, seeing, either with our own eyes, or those of some other person, the same honourable member assiduously occupied in superintending the papering and furnishing of this very room into which we are now introducing our readers.
6 Your chums, sir,” said the turnkey.
Frederick Herriott raised himself from his leaning attitude, and received the intruders with a frown. His eye first fell on a broad-faced vulgar man, the very personification of sordid sensuality. The red face, the bloated corpulency, the disgusting expression of the mouth and eye-oh! that man's whole person was an insult to the soul.
We wish that we could hate sin as heartily in its robe of splendour and refinement, in its grace and intellectuality, as we do in its coarseness and vulgarity. Sin is equally sinful, whether as a low and revolting thing, or sitting in its high places. We fear that our hate is only a matter of taste.
This man, this mountain of flesh, threw himself unceremoniously into a chair. 6 Make myself at home at once. Best way. Hate ceremony. Right to be here. Give us a light.” Puff, puff, puff.
And forthwith the red-faced burly man began to raise an atmosphere of nauseous vapour, in the clouds of which he was speedily enveloped.
Herriott's frown, contrary to its usual result, produced no effect on the impervious mind of the new comer, and he carried it on to the intruders who had lingered behind, either through sorrow of mind or debility of body.
They entered at last. The frown vanished from Herriott's brow, and he involuntarily rose to receive them. Youth and age !
Alas, the touching contrast ! The rounded limb, the springing foot that seems to derive new life from the very ground which it treads on--the bright eye-the full cheek-the rich lip—the flowing hair-Oh! surely youth is beauty! And thus robed like divinity, alas that it should be divinity that can die--all trustful, all hopeful, all glowing, all instinct with glorious emotion, we take our place on the grand arena of life.
And age--age with its wasted limbs-its lagging foot—its dull, dim eye-its hollow cheek—its hair blanched in the storms of the world— its hopes crushed-its spirit quenched—its desires dead, age, which is but another name for disappointment-age, which is disappointment, passes from a present into a future.
We scarcely know on which to fix attention first, on father or on daughter : the one so venerable, the other so sadly and so sweetly beautiful. The
of Herriott vibrated from one to the other. The gentleman, for such Herriott by the power of free-masonry allowed him to be, was evidently in broken health. The infirm and hesitating step—the subdued mien—the downcast eye—the boweddown figure; all these things confessed the thraldom of age, of sickness, and of sorrow.
The father was leaning on the arm of the daughter. We will not describe her. The world is wearied with the changes rung on black eyes and blue, on blonde and brunette ; besides, it was not in these things that the spirit of her beauty lay. It was rather in the expression. The soul that was bearing its unutterable grief yet would not be broken down—the heart that was torn with an anguish which it would not express--the breast that was heavy with sighs that it would not breathe—the eyes that were surcharged with tears which yet they would not let fall.
O, what a nobleness there is in human suffering when it is borne, when it crushes not ! The weight of the burden is the proof of the godlike strength which sustains it.
It is one of the characteristics of elevation of character, as well as of pride, to be regardless of the scrutiny of little people. Joanna Huntingdon walked into that prison-chamber, blind to the presence of her companions.
The first words were from the father, and pronounced in unutterable emotion—" A prison ! I am in a prison !"
“I am with you," said the daughter.
How much did those few words convey! In what a variety of senses might they not be understood ! Comfort, consolation, stimulation, even chiding !
" Mine only comfort !” exclaimed the father.
These few words were enough to explain their respective characters. Herriott saw at once which was the sustaining mind.
The morning came, and with it came again Joanna.
Frederick Herriott received her with more profound respect than ever he had shown to rich and titled beauty.
Joanna kissed her father's wrinkled brow, and looked the inquiry which she scarcely dared to utter.
“ Better; my good, my noble girl, better, thanks to the kind care of our new friend—for friend I must call him, despite the recentness of our acquaintance."
Joanna turned her large swimming eyes full on Herriott. It was the first time that she had looked upon him, but the look was full of a gentle thankfulness that went straight to his heart.
“ How little is all that I could do !” said Herriott.
“ The pleasure of being useful to you," said Herriott, “shall be the redeeming point of this wretched place !”
“ This wretched place!" repeated Joanna; “ I would fain believe that we may dwell even here without being quite unhappy. No place can be a prison to the mind, and when that is free from selfreproach, surely it may support even a sinking body. My father can inhabit a prison without shame, for he enters it without dishonour."
Joanna turned the fondest look of respect and love upon her father ; while Herriott's brow grew red with shame at the casual reproach of her words.
“ Not such a bad place neither !” exclaimed our acquaintance of the gone-by evening. “ This room is comfortable enough. We may eat and drink and forget our troubles in this chimney corner; and if a man can't be happy with a pot and pipe, why, he does not deserve to be happy at all.” Puff! puff! puff!
Joanna turned away her head and sighed. “ There are things in a prison which are hard to bear.”
Companionship,” said Herriott.
Still,” said Joanna, “it may be violence to the tastes only. Life was never meant to be a path of flowers.”
“ There never was a flower like tobacco !” responded he of the red waistcoat;
“and as to taste, why that's a bad taste indeed, that does not fancy tobacco, especially in the shape of a pipe before breakfast.” Puff! puff! puff! “ And as to companionship, why that's what I like here—there's plenty of company; and as we are all upon a level, one can't find fault with one another." Puff! puff! puff!
Herriott called the man aside. They trode together one of the long stone corridors of the prison.
“ Have you considered my offer ?” asked Herriott.
“ I have,” he replied, “ and to tell you the truth I am divided. My maxim is to enjoy life while I can, and I care not who knows it. I have had my pot and my pipe and my chimney corner till now, and I hope, by good luck, to have them still.”
“ Does my proposal threaten to lessen your comforts?"
“ In one sense no, in another sense yes. I shall have to look out for quarters — that is a trouble I don't like trouble. I shall have to pay
for them when I have found them, and that is expense—I don't like expense: and then I shall exchange for the worse, for that room of ours is a very decent place, and I can smoke in the corner very comfortably.”
“ But the lady-
offer.” - In one word then I take it. Fools and their moneyThey parted, yet not without an impression on Herriott's mind: