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Snipeton, as he thought, made immediate amends. For taking his wife's hand, he pressed it very tenderly ; kissed her, and then repeated—“ What a fool I am ! ”
(Now this confession--a confession that the very wisest of us might, without any hesitation, make to himself three times a day; and we much question whether the discipline so exercised would not carry with it more profitable castigation than aught laid on with knotted rope
this confession was not to be expected of so sage and close a man as Ebenezer Snipeton. Some sudden satisfaction must have betrayed him into the avowal: some unexpected pleasure, tripping up habitual gravity, and showing its unthought of weakness. Much, indeed, did the wife of his bosom, as he would call her-and why not? for do not rocks bear flowers ?much did she marvel at the humility of her husband that, even for a moment, placed him on the flat level with other men. But great happiness, like great sorrow, will sometimes knock the stilts from under us ; admirable stilts, upon which so many of us walk abroad, ay, and at home too ; though the world, provoking in its blindness, will often not perceive how very tall we are.)
“But the truth is, dear Clarissa” continued Snipeton had a sort of respect for Mrs. Wilton, and though I often spoke of it, I really had not the heart to turn her from the house. I often threatened it; but it's a comfort to know it I couldn't have done it. Now she's gone, I feel it.”
“ Gone !” exclaimed Clarissa !
“Discharged herself, my dear,” said Snipeton, as upon his defence. “ I found this upon the breakfast table.” Hereupon Snipeton, unfolding a note, placed it in his wife's hand. Silently, with trickling tears, she gazed upon the paper. "I shall have no objection to give her a character ; none at all: for I feel very easy about the plate. I've no doubt, though I've made no inquiry as yet, that all's safe to a salt-spoon. Not that she tells us where she's gone ; nevertheless, I feel my heart at ease about the property. Come, come, now-don't be weak—don't be silly. You should not attach yourself in this way to a servant. It's weakness
-worse than weakness.” Thus spoke Snipeton to his wife, who had sunk back in her chair, and covering her face with her hands, was sobbing piteously. At this moment. Dorothy Vale moved into the room.
66 Will mistress ride to-day, the man wants to know.” Yes, she will." Yes, my dear, you will”—repeated Snipeton,
moving to Clarissa, and very tenderly placing his arms around her ; and shuddering, she endured him. You hear ; let the horses be ready in half-an-hour. Go.” And Dorothy went; but not a thought the faster for the thundering monosyllable discharged at her. “ You'll see me on my way to town? Some way ; not far ; no, a mile or so. 'Tis such a morning : there's so much heaven come down upon
the earth. Such weather ! You'll take health with every breath. Eh, Clarissa ?” And again the old man threatened an embrace, when the victim rose.
• Be it as you will, sir,”—said Clarissa—“ in half-an-hour, I shall be ready.”
And she left the room. Now was Snipeton delighted with her obedience; and now, he paused in his triumphant strides about the room, to listen. Had she really gone to her chamber? Ashamed of the doubt, he walked the faster-walked and whistled. And then he was so happy, the room was too small for his felicity: he would forth, and expand himself in the garden. He so loved a garden ; and then he could walk amid the shrubs and flowers, with his eye upon the window that enshrined the saint, his soul so reverently bowed
IIow frankly she yielded to his wish! Every day-he was quite sure of it—he was becoming a happier and happier husband. TIe looked forward to years and years of growing joy. To be sure, he was growing old: but still looking onward, the nearer the grave, the less we see of it.
“ If you please, sir,”—said St. Giles to his new master, as he entered the garden,—"do you put up both the horses in the city?"
“No : your mistress will come back,” said Snipeton.
“ Alone, sir?” asked St. Giles ; and the husband, as though the words had stung him, started.
“ Alone! Why, no : dolt. Alone ! There was something hideous in the question : something that called up a throng of terrors. Clarissa alone, with the world's wicked eyes staring, smiling, winking at her!
“Humph ! I had forgotten. As yet, we have but two horses. Fool that I am !” A second confession, and yet early day! And Snipeton, musing, walked up and down the path ; and plucking a flower, rolled it betwixt his finger and thumb to assist his meditation. She had consented—so kindly, blithely consented to his wish, that it would be cruel to her--cruel to himself—to disappoint her. Now, my man, be quick. Run to the Flask, and in my name get a horse for yourself. In a day or two, we must
see and mount you—must see and light upon a decent penn'orth. Quick. We mustn't keep your mistress waiting. And harkye ! take my last orders now. When you return, you will ride closevery close to your lady: so close that you may grasp the bridle ; the horse
may be skittish ; and we cannot be too cautious. Obey me ; and you know not how you may serve yourself. Go.”
St. Giles ran upon his errand, and Snipeton-after a turn or two, after another look at the chamber-window where it so strangely comforted him to see, through the curtain, his wife pass and repass—walked towards the stable. He began to hum a tune. Suddenly he stopt. He had never thought of it before ; but-it was a whim, a foolish whim, he knew that nevertheless he now remembered that his wife never sang. Not a single note. Perhaps she could not sing. Pshaw ! There was an idleness of the heart that always sang--somehow. And thus, for a minute, Snipeton pondered, and then laughed—a little hollowly, but still he laughed-at the childishness of his folly.
Mr. Snipeton was by no means a proud man. He was not one of those incarnate contradictions that, in the way of business, would wipe the shoes of a customer in the counting-house, yet ring up the servant to poke the fire at home. No: he was not proud. He refused not to put his hands to his own snuffers if the candle, or his own convenience, needed them. And so, entering the stable, and seeing the mare yet unsaddled, he thought he would make her ready. And then he patted and caressed the beast as the thing that was to bear the treasure of his life : even already he felt a sort of regard for the creature. He was about to saddle the animal, when he heard, as he thought, his wife in the garden. He hurried out, and found Clarissa-already habited-awaiting him. And still his heart grew bigger with new pride, when he saw his wife; she looked so newly beautiful. What wondrous excellence she had ! Under every new aspect, she showed another loveliness! If he could only be sure that so sweet—so gracious a creature loved him-him so old and—and—so uncomely a man! And then she wanly smiled ; and he felt sure of her heart: yes, it was beating with, a part and parcel of, his own-pulse with pulse--throb for throb—their blood commingled—and their spirits, like flame meeting flame-were one !
Why, Clarissa-love-you never looked so beautiful-indeed, never,” said Snipeton, and the old man felt sick with happiness.
“Tautiful, ma-ter, isn't missus ?" said Becky, and with her opone land, die 51:60theel down the folds of the riding-dress, as though it was some living thing she loved ; and then she gazed at the beauty of her mistress, believing it would be wrong to think her quite an angel, and just as wrong not to think her
Your horse is not vot saddled, lore,” said Snipeton, taking his wife's hand, not vet, dearest.'
Bless you, master, now missus is drest, I'll saddle her," cried Becky, anil she ran to the stable. Most adroit of handmaids ! Equal to tie a bubbin as to buckle a girth! And ere St. Giles arrived from the Flask with his borrowed steed—it had a sorry, packhorse look, but, as the landlord assured the borrower, was "quite good enough for him ; who was he?”—the mare was ready.
Well, 'twill serve for today, but next time we must do better than that,” sail Snipeton, glancing at St. Giles’s horse ; and then he turned to lift his wife into the saddle. Untouched by his hand, she was in a moment in her scat: another moment, nay, longer, Snipeton paused to look at her ; he had never before seen her on horseback. At length the riders went their way, Becky, hanging over the gate, now looking at her mistress and now, with red, reel face and sparkling eyes, bobbing her head, and showing her teeth to St. Giles, doing his first service as groom to Snipeton—and doing it with a sad, uncasy heart; for he felt that he was the intended tool for some mischief-the bound slave to some wrong. And with this thought in his brain, he looked dull and moody, and answered the eloquent farewells of Becky, with a brief, heavy nod.
“Well, I'm sure !” said Becky, as she thought, to her own snubbed soul.
“ What's the matter?" asked Dorothy Vale, who stood rubbing her arms, a pace or two behind her.
Nothin'. What should be ? I never lets anything be the matter. Only when people look 'good bye' people might answer.
“la! child," replied Mrs. Vale, with an extraordinary gush of eloquence, men upon foot is one thing—men upon horseback is another.” IIow it was that Mrs. Vale condescended to the utterance of this wisdom, we cannot safely say : for no thrifty housewifo ever kept her tea and sugar under closer lock than did she the truths unquestionably within her. Perhaps she thought it would twit the new maid—the interloper-brought to be put over
her head. And perhaps she meant it as a kindly warning : for certainly, Dorothy felt herself charitably disposed. Mrs. Wilton had left the cottage ; and of course that girl—that chit-could never be made housekeeper. However, leaving the matron and the maid, let us follow the riders.
Great was the delight of Snipeton, as he ambled on, his wife at his side ; her long curls dancing in the air ; the nimble blood in her face; and, as he thought, deeper, keener affection sparkling in her eyes.
Never before had he taken such delight in horsemanship: never had felt the quick pulsation -the new power, as though the horse communicated its strength to the rider—the buoyancy, the youthfulness of that time. And still he rode ; and still, at his side, his wife smiled, and glowed with fresher beauty, and her ringlets—as they were blown now about her cheeks, and now upon her lips, how he envied them !-still danced and fluttered, and when suddenly—as at some blithe word dropt from him—she laughed with such a honied chuckle, she seemed to him an incarnate spell, at whose every motion, look, and sound, an atmosphere of love and pleasure broke on all around her. Poor old man ! At that delicious moment, every wrinkle had vanished from his brow and heart. He felt as though he had caught time by the beard, and had made him render back every spoil of youth. His brain sang with happiness; and his blood burned like lava.
And so rode they on; and Snipeton little heeded-he was so young, so newly-made the steed that, with asthmatic roar, toiled heavily behind. They crossed the heath,—turned into Highgate, and with more careful pace descended the hill. Every minute Snipeton felt more precious, it was so close to the last, when he must leave, for some long hours, his life of life !-
(Now, is it not sad-we specially put the question to the Eve whose eyes may chance to rest upon these ink-stained thoughtsis it not a matter, tears being upon hand, to weep over, to think of love in love's paralysis, or dotage? Love, with cherub face and pale gold locks, may chase his butterflies--may, monkey as he is, climb the Hesperian timber, pluck the fruit : he is in the gay audacity of youth, and the tender years of the offender sink felonies to petty larcenies. But love--elderly love—to go limping after painted fancies—to try to reach the golden apples with a crutch-stick,—why, set the offender in the pillory, and shower upon him laughter.)