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within ten miles round, but a hundred other blockheads cry out that I killed him!” My blood ran cold; but at this moment the violence of the tempest increased, and for some minutes I heard no more of the discussion.
By degrees the tumult of the elements abated, and I again caught a few words. “ Your system, Brother! is too violent: I have always employed milder methods.” (Blessings on you ! thought I.) “ I disapprove of your indiscriminate use of steel in all cases.” “ Steel, Sir !" cried the other, “ steel!-Nothing is to be done in our way without steel.” They began to move towards me!
I felt my brow grow clammy—my hair stand on end-my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. They approached ! nearer !--nearer! Despair gave me courage. I seized a large branch which had been rent from its parent tree by the wind, and dashed it, with all the fury of hopelessness,
“ Full on the foot-pad's forehead ! down be sank
Without a groan expiring." I heard my name vociferated as I fled; but I staid not for this. With inconceivable rapidity I fed from the place of combat, and, after traversing a space of many miles, perceived, to my great satisfaction, that I was not pursued.
I was endeavouring, though without much chance of accomplishing this desirable object, to discover the road I ought to take, when my ear was suddenly startled by a sound which very much resembled a groan. At first I treated it as a fanciful sound, though I confess my eyes were turned, with not the most comfortable feelings, upon the rugged branches and broken stumps that might have, to a terrified mind, borne the appearance of Satan and his sable attendants. A second, more loudly repeated, convinced me of its reality, and immediately looking in the direction whence it seemed to proceed, I espied something white lying upon an open tuft of grass; but I was unfortunately short-sighted, and this, added to the natural darkness, rendered me incapable of distinguishing the nature of the mysterious appearance. A third and deeper groan vibrated on my ear; imagination immediately resumed its sway, and, concluding it to be a woman, and fancying I could distinguish her garments, “ Alas, unhappy one,” thought I to myself, “ thou wast once perhaps lovely in the bloom of youth, and surrounded by all the blessings of peace and innocence, but now, by the arts of some infamous seducer, art become a fugitive vagabond, cast upon the wide world, houseless and helpless, with no one to pity, no one to succour thee! Yes, by Heaven! there is one,” I exclained, rushing forward with the most fervent feelings of humanity and pity," there is one shall help thee, poor victim,
and shelter thee from the furious storm ; there is one,” I continued with all the ardour of a mind inspired with the most generous benevolence, “ that shall recruit thy weary frame, and, if possible, restore thee to happiness ;” and, approaching still closer, I bent down, and was preparing to modulate my voice in the softest accents of pity, when up it started, Mr. Editor, not in the shape of either a Chloe or Lucinda, but in that of one of my father's favourite Dorsetshire sheep, which, while enjoying the slumbers I had disturbed, uttered those hard breathings which to my ear sounded as groans. “Damn humanity!” I exclaimed, as the animal retreated with frightened rapidity through an opening in the trees. “ Damn humanity!” I exclaimed, as I hurried back on my way in no very placid temper, and in the next instant found myself at the bottom of a ditch, the existence of which I had entirely forgotten. Luckily it was a dry one, but unluckily of such depth, and defended by such steep banks, that, notwithstanding ] received no injury by the fall, I was soon aware that the retrea would be a labour of much greater difficulty than the entrance had been; and, to add to my troubles, the long-expected rain began to fall in torrents. Thrice I attempted the steep ascent, and thrice, with nails begrimed with dirt, and muddy knees, met with a repulse. My labours might have continued much longer, had not a large Newfoundland dog, accompanied by the butler, sent to search for me, smelt out my retreat. With the joint assistance of Hector and John, I was soon rescued, and in a short time found myself at the hall-door, surrounded by all the servants, who had been on the look-out, and who, while listening to John's account, passed not a few jokes on young gentlemen studying the stars in a ditch. Heedless of these, and their stifled laughter, and having relieved my father's fears, I had the gratitude to recal my oath, and thank Humanity for my safe return; and when I found myself established by the blaze of a good fire to dry my moistened garments, “ Bless Humanity!” I exclaimed, “ for had she not directed Hector, I might still be exposed to yon rumbling thunder, and all the fury of the tempest, with a ditch for my bed, and in no better plight than—the unfortunate victim of seduction.” This suggested an intrusive thought : “ Pshaw!” I cried, “ that must be forgotten till the next Meeting of the King of Clubs, and then, perhaps, I may be inclined, though at my own expense, to furnish ample food for laughter to the Members, by sending an account of my adventure. Sterling will deliver a lecture on star-gazing, and Musgrave descant upon the propriety of having lamps to a night-coach. Peregrine perhaps will dish it up as a pretty morsel of a tale in “the Etonian.” It will be a warning to all warm and poetical imaginations not to stray too far, allured by the beauties of
an Autumn evening, until, after mistaking a Dorsetshire wether for a frail fair one repenting of a faux pas, they shall slip, by a faux pas, into a ditch, after the manner of
P. S. I forgot to mention that the apothecary's lad brought a complaint the next morning against Master Theodore, for “ breaking Mr. Gargle's head in the storm last night.”
CASTLES IN THE AIR.
“ Ilusioni! grida il filosofo ; Illusioni, ma intanto senza di esse io non sentirei la vita che nel dolore."*-ORTIS, Ultime Lettere,
THERE exist in the world a certain set of sober-minded beings, who profess it as their opinion, that those thoughts which proceed from illusion or fancy ought to be banished from our minds; that time is foolishly and unprofitably consumed in thinking of impossibilities. They dislike or despise poetry, as it is frequently composed of fictions, and represents things which are not in the ordinary course of nature. Some of these, who profess to admire nothing but reality or a representation of it, carry their prejudices to a ludicrous extent: for example, some of them will admire a staring likeness of the last Lady Mayoress † and family more than the finest composition of Raphael. “ We are not interested,” say they, “ in looking at features which we know never existed in a group of ideal personages : but there is an evident reality in the delineation of her Ladyship; we see something resembling what is frequently before our eyes, and we are therefore pleased with it.” These people will study with unwearied patience the incontrovertible facts of Cocker's Arithmetic, and abhor the beautiful fictions of the Fairy Queen; in short, matter of fact is their idol,-Fiction, romance, or poetry, the objects of their scorn. A fanciful disposition of mind may be disadvantageous; but it may be doubted whether we should not be, as it were, wearied by the continual succession of realities, were it not for the occasional relief of fancy or illusion, whose ideal pleasures are at all times at hand to assist us when we are overcome with the real cares of life. By these illu
* Translation of the Motto :« Illusions ! exclaims the philosopher- Illusions- yes; but without them I should feel nothing of life but its misery.”
+ We beg to assure our eastern readers that we mean no personal reflections upon Mrs. Bridges, should there be such a person : we beg to be understood of any Lady Mayoress.
sions I mean those incoherent ideas of future happiness or greatness which frequently occur to every one, and, if I mistake not, even to those who profess to despise the workings of inagination ; ideas which, on reasoning, we might feel could not be realized without some most material change in ourselves and circumstances,-a sort of waking dreams, commonly designated by the name of Castles in the Air. These freaks of fancy prevail in a less or greater degree in every one, from the madman in whom they are strongest, down to the ideot in whom their influence is hardly perceptible. In the madman they have overcome his intellect and entirely blinded his reasoning faculties, so that he fancies that he has lost his head, and runs about in search of it, or that he is transformed into a tea-pot, and is afraid of being broken. Next to him comes the poet; he seems to be the boundary which limits sanity ; beyond him is madness; for small is the barrier which divides insanity from inspiration. His imagination is more vivid than that of other men, but it has not quite overcome his reason. After these follow the general mass of mankind, who are all, in their several stations, subject to these waking dreams. What would become of the lover if he were denied some moments in which he might picture to himself a sort of acmè of happiness, which, upon reflection, he would feel was unattainable? Where would be the happy hours of a young author, if he were not led on by his fancy to dreams of imaginary Second Editions, which, on a return to his senses, and a perusal of the productions of his pen, would quickly vanish into air ? How wretched would be the solitary hours to a younger son of a remote branch, if he were denied the pleasing occupation of picturing to himself the pleasure he would feel in possessing the wealth and rank of a distinguished nobleman, should he, by the extinction of only fourteen awkwardly intervening heirs, arrive at that summit of his hopes. The petty clerk of an office, ceasing awhile from the toil and drudgery of his desk, revolves his plans for saving the nation and advancing his family, should he be made Secretary of State. The gambling groom, when he has lost his last penny and broken his dice-box against the table of the servants' hall, retires to meditate on the dash he will cut when he wins a prize in the Lottery and becomes a country Squire.--To these illusions are the minds of men continually prone; and at no time more so, than when, by any accident, they are left for a short time in solitude. Our thoughts then receive a selfish cast; they are directed towards ourselves and our prospects in life; and it is at this time we delight to weave those spider-webs of fancy, which the bustle of the real world quickly sweeps away.
I am far from being one of those persons who think, or profess to think, that there is little in real life worthy of their attention ;
: that common things are below their notice, and that their only pleasures are to be found in the ideal world of their imagination. Those, who hold these sentiments, run into the opposite extreme from the set I before described. They say, (for I always am inclined to doubt that they think so,) that as solitude is the parent of that world of fiction, they infinitely prefer the sight of mountains, the roar of a cataract, or the gloom of a forest, to the acquaintance with man, his ways, manners, and conversation ;they profess that they could live retired from life, and feed upon the joys of romance and imagination. I would not advise them to try their plan ; they would only destroy a pleasing illusion, and convince themselves that they were wrong. Yet, for my part, (though I am not one of these would-be anchorites,) I am fond of indulging myself at times in building castles in the air, and consequently of the occasional solitude which produces them. Were I deprived of these illusions, I should feel as if I had lost an intimate companion, who was always at hand to raise my spirits and to comfort me under every misfortune.
The ancient poets tell us, that of the contents of Pandora's box, every thing escaped, except Hope, which remained at the bottom to console mankind. Now I am disposed to keep up the Allegory, and to suppose these illusions to constitute the box itself in which this universal comforter Hope was contained. Indeed, as the box seemed necessary, in order that its contents should be retained, so these illusions appear to ine to be necessary for the preservation of Hope, which is surrounded by, and, as it were, contained within them. Had it not been for them, it would, with the rest of the contents, have escaped, and left the mind of man without a consolation in misfortune.
I must confess I pity those who have no pleasure in these illusions; and who tell you that when this
“Fancy's fairy frost-work melts away,” they are more discontented than they were before, and feel that they have only been playing Tantalus with happiness. This, in my opinion, argues a most inveterate determination (perhaps not an uncommon propensity) to be discontented; together with an ingratitude to the moments which have afforded us pleasure ; an ingratitude which deserves the self-inflicted punishment it often receives, of never enjoying any at all. A contented mind will encourage these imaginary pleasures, at whatever time they appear; will snatch the delight of them, be it but for a moment ; and, when these magic fascinations are fled, will return to the dreary scene of reality with cheerfulness, thankful for what it has enjoyed, and prepared for whatever it is about to suffer.
Lin, A. L. B.