« AnteriorContinuar »
sous; and accordingly I put my purse into my pocketbuttoned it up-set myself a little more upon my centre, and advanced up gravely to him: there was something. I fear, forbidding in my look: I have his figure this moment before my eyes, and think there was that in it which deserved better.
The monk, as I judged from the break in his tonsure, a few scattered white hairs upon his temples being all that remained of it, might be about seventy ; but from his eyes and that sort of fire which was in them, which seemed more tempered by courtesy than years, could be no more than sixty-truth might lie between—he was certainly sixty-five; and the general air of his countenance, notwithstanding something seemed to have been planting wrinkles in it before their time, agreed to the account.
It was one of those heads which Guido has often paintedmild, pale, penetrating; free from all common-place. ideas of fat contented ignorance looking downwards upon the earth. It looked forwards; but looked as if it looked at something beyond this world. How one of his order came by it, heaven above, who let it fall upon a monk's shoulders, best knows; but it would have suited a Bramin; and had I met it upon the plains of Indostan, I had reverenced it.
The rest of his outline may be given in a few strokes; one might put it into the hands of any one to design ; for it was neither elegant nor otherwise, but as character and expression made it so. It was a thin, spare form, something above the common size, if it lost not the distinction by a bend forwards in the figure—but it was the attitude of entreaty ; and, as it now stands present to my imagination, it gained more than it lost by it.
When he had entered the room three paces, he stood still; and, laying his left hand upon his breast (a slender white staff with which he journeyed being in his right), when I had got close up to him, he introduced himself with the little story of the wants of his convent, and the poverty of
his order and did it with so simple a grace and such an air of deprecation was there in the whole cast of his look and figure-I was bewitched not to have been struck with it. A better reason was, I had predetermined not to give him a single sous.
'Tis very true, said I, replying to a cast upwards with his eyes, with which he had concluded his address—’tis very true—and heaven be their resource who have no other but the charity of the world; the stock of which, I fear, is no way sufficient for the many great claims which are hourly made upon it.
As I pronounced the words “great claims,” he gave a slight glance with his eye downwards upon the sleeve of his tunic. I felt the full force of the appeał. I acknowledge it, said I a coarse habit, and that but once in three years, with meagre diet, are no great matters: and the true point of pity is, as they can be earned in the world with so little industry, that your
order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged, and the infirm. The captive who lies down counting over and over again the days of his afflictions, languishes also for his share of it; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am, continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, full cheerfully should it have been opened to you for the ransom of the unfortunate. The monk made me a bow. But, resumed I, the unfortunate of our own country, surely, have the first right; and I have left thousands in distress upon the English shore. The monk gave a cordial wave with his head, as much as to say, no doubt, there is misery enough in every corner of the world, as well as within our convent. But we distinguish, said I, laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunic, in return for his appeal-we distinguish, my good father, betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labour, and those who eat the bread of other
people's, and have no other plan in life, but to get through it in sloth and ignorance for the love of God.
The poor Franciscan made no reply: a hectic of a moment passed across his cheek, but could not tarry. Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him: he showed none_but letting his staff fall within his arm, he pressed both his hands with resignation upon his breast, and retired.
My heart smote me the moment he shut the door. Pshaw! said I, with an air of carelessness, three several times; but it would not do: every ungracious syllable I had uttered, crowded back into my imagination; I reflected I had no right over the poor Franciscan, but to deny him; and that the punishment of that was enough to the disappointed, without the addition of unkind language. I considered his gray hairs—his courteous figure seemed to re-enter, and gently ask me what injury he had done me? and why I could use him thus ? I would have given twenty livres for an advocate. I have behaved very ill, said I within myself ; but I have only just set out upon my travels, and shall learn better manners as I get along.
X.-CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.
To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an excellent preparative. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy till
you step on the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another world.
I have said that at sea all is vacancy. I should correct the expression. To one given up to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea-voyage is full of subjects for meditation; but then they are the wonders of the deep, and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the mind from worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the quarter-railing, or climb to the main-top on a calm day, and muse for hours together on the tranquil bosom of a summer's sea; or to gaze upon the piles of golden clouds just peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy realms, and people them with a creation of my own; or to watch the gentle undulating billows rolling their silver volumes, as if to die away on those happy shores.
There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe, with which I looked down from my giddy height on the monsters of the deep at their uncouth gambols. Shoals of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship ; the grampus slowly heaving his huge form above the surface; or the ravenous shark darting like a spectre through the blue waters. My imagination would conjure up all that I had heard or read of the watery world beneath me; of the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys; of shapeless monsters that lurk among the very foundations of the earth; and those wild phantasms that swell the tales of fishermen and sailors.
Sometimes a distant sail gliding along the edge of the ocean would be another theme of idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a world hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence! What a glorious monument of human invention, that has thus triumphed over wind and wave ;
has brought the ends of the earth in communion ; has established an interchange of blessings, pouring into the sterile regions of the north all the luxuries of the south ; diffusing the light of knowledge and the charities of cultivated life; and has thus bound together those scattered portions of the human race, between which nature seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier!
We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a distance. At sea, every thing that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse attracts attention. It proved to be the mast of a ship that must have been completely wrecked; for there were the remains of handkerchiefs, by. which some of the crew had fastened themselves to this spar, to prevent their being washed off by the waves. There was
no trace by which the name of the ship could be ascertained. The wreck had evidently drifted about for many months ; clusters of shell-fish had fastened about it, and long sea-weeds flaunted at its sides. But where, thought I, is the crew ? Their struggle has long been over; they have gone down amidst the roar of the tempest; their bones lie whitening in the caverns of the deep. Silence-oblivion, like the waves, have closed over them; and no one can tell the story of their end.
What sighs have been wafted after that ship! what prayers offered up at the deserted fire-side at home! How often has the mistress, the wife, and the mother, pored over the daily news, to catch some casual intelligence of this rover of the deep! How has expectation darkened into anxiety—anxiety into dread—and dread into despair! Alas! not one memento shall ever return for love to cherish. All that shall ever be known is, that she sailed from her port, “and was never heard of more !”
XI.-THE TOWN AND COUNTRY MICE.
ONCE on a time, so runs the fable,