« FöregåendeFortsätt »
my readers any idea of; but I well remember some words which stood out prominent from the rest of his oration; these were-liberty, equality, brotherly love, reason, the march of intellect, the rights of man, fanaticism, tyranny, &c. &c. and how long lie might have gone on is not to be known, if his voice had not been drowned by the vehement applauses and clappings of the party chiefly addressed.
When silence was restored, and the orator; all flushed with self-satisfaction, was preparing himself perhaps to renew the same strains, the voice of the chairman admonishing him not to digress from the subject in question, viz. that for which the meeting had been called, brought him down in some degree from the heights of rhodomontade into which he had soared. In consequence of which he recommenced in a chastened tone, and with a softened expression of countenance, but one which to me was not more pleasing than that which had gone before, being of a nature which I could not comprehend. I was, however, all attention, being put even more on the alert by this hint, which in fact assisted me in discovering that which lay under a long rigmarole of flowery compliments paid to the doctor, respecting the brotherly and benevolent feelings which induced him to form the plan now in agitation for the improvement of the people, especially of those hitherto considered as inferiors. He spoke of the letters proposed to be dis. seminated; he acknowledged with much apparent liberality that they contained much excellent matter on subjects of morality; that they might perhaps throw some little light on the history of the family, and that they represented the person of whom they chiefly treated in an amiable and respectable point of view; in short, that he could see no harm in permitting all the members of the family to read them. They might amuse, they might improve in some respects; they exhibited speci. mens of fine writing ; they contained pleasing and simple descriptions of manners now changed, and modes gone by; but, to speak with candour, he did not believe that they were altogether genuine. He had cause to think that parts of them were interpolated ; and that in fact, and he affected to hesitate and shake his wise head, that in short, the person supposed to have written them was just such another as themselves, and that his pretensions, or rather the pretensions made in his name,
to the possession of the house and estate, were only a sort of fallacy-a contrivance to keep power in the hands of certain persons desiring to rule in his name. However,” he added, addressing the doctor, “you may, my excellent brother, be assured that I am ready to serve you to the utmost with my hand and heart (and the hand was laid on the heart) in this your most benevolent and well-intentioned purpose."
The doctor and Father Peter it seemed had their mouths open to answer him, and there was a sort of murmur of disapprobation rising from different parts of the room ; but the very loud clappings and applauses rendered all reply impossible. And during this interval, observing several persons who were justly offended rising to leave the room, I thought that I could not do less than to follow them, for in fact I began to comprehend that my uncle had more right on his side, in his firm resolve to have nothing to do with these people, than I had hitherto thought. As I passed out, the young man Theophilus brushed by me in haste, but perceiving me, he stopped short, and asked me when I expected my uncle. I made him no answer till we were beyond the hearing of the people coming out of the doctor's house, and then I asked him wherefore he had put the question ?
“Because," he replied, “my mind is made up to have done with them, and if your uncle will but take me into his service, I will throw aside my livery this moment, and send it back to Madame le Monde with my best compliments and thanks, leaving her to look after another servant as she pleases."
6 You cannot make a better resolution," I answered, 6 and though my uncle is not at home, yet I think I can answer for him, that he will provide you with employment and welcome you to his service.”
“ Think you so ?" said the young man, " at any rate I will run the chance, and there," said he,“go my badge and my livery," and he threw aside his badge. “I will see that they are delivered to the housekeeper. As to the wages which are due to me, I will have none of them; and as you are so kind, Master Nicodemus, I will bring my few possessions into your apartments presently, and take up my abode with you, if it be only in the little anteroom; for I had rather be a door-keeper
in your uncle's service, than occupy the seat of highest renown in that of Madame le Monde."*
“And what has brought you to this sudden resolution ?” I asked.
“ The thing has been tumbling up and down in my mind, Mr. Nicodemus," replied the young man, " for some time, but when I heard them applaud the man who actually denied, in the face of them all, the authority of the Master, why truly, then, I thought it was time to be decided ; and if I might be so bold, Mr. Nicodemus, I must say that I think you do wrong to give them so much of your company."
“Well, well," I answered pettishly, “I am not going among them any more, I have a great deal of writing to do, and I must set to work immediately."
“Yes,” replied he, “that is the work I desire, and therein I should wish no better than to assist you." So we parted, I going immediately to my room, and he promising to follow me as soon as he could free himself of the things which had been placed under his charge by his late mistress.
I was in a strange sort of humour when I found myself shut up in my room, and perhaps had I been left alone till Theophilus had arrived, I might have settled down as it were in my proper place; but as it happened, I had hardly dipped my pen into my ink to begin my writing, when comes a tap at the door, and when I had cried, Come in, who should enter but the doctor. I was surprised to see him, but he was just come from the meeting which was at that instant broken up, and he was there to ask me when I expected my uncle. As I could give him no satisfaction on that head, he fell into discourse on other things.
“Well, Mr. Nicodemus,” he said, " and what did you think of the meeting? Is it not wonderful to see how, by a little address on my part, such discordant elements have been brought into agreement, and so many jarring wheels been made to work together to one object. This is to me a glorious day," continued he, "a day of rejoicing, and a token, I trust, of the speedy approach of that period when we shall all be of one mind in this house,
*" I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm lxxxiv. 10.
and all be directed to seek only how to please our Master, and to walk in his ways."
“ But, my good sir,” I answered, “I cannot quite enter into your feelings. Surely, you cannot expect to render such persons subservient to the interests of your Master, as openly deny his right of dominion; really, I think the librarian, for instance, ought not to be depended upon ;* such spirits as these are not likely to bend to the will of the Lord."
.“ There spoke my old friend the secretary; I know him again," replied the doctor. “My good young man, you do not understand, I see, that my spell and art consist in using the talents of this man to my own purposes, even as it were against his own private convictions. He is a man of known ability, and a man of substance; and I ask you why I may not use those talents, and that substance to help forward the great end I have in view ?" And he went on a long time to show how this might be done, and the great benefit he expected to derive from bringing all sorts of persons to work together with him in his great object; all which might have passed better with me, had I not heard the discourse above related between Father Peter and the steward. My reader will, perhaps, ask why I did not repeat this discourse to the doctor? I answer, that I had not then been brought to break entirely with the steward and Madame le Monde, and I knew perfectly well that if I told out what I had heard to the doctor, it would be repeated by him to his especial followers, and so get wind; and yet I can hardly say what held me back from breaking with these people, unless it might be that I was more taken with the fasci. nations of the housekeeper's eldest daughter than I was even myself aware of at the time, and thus being in a sinful state of irresolution, I suffered the worthy man to talk on and say what he would, while I sat twisting my pen in my hand, and looking as weak as all persons do who cannot resolve to act in that way which they know to be right. Now, while we were thus situated, -I persisting in a silence' which I knew to be sinful, and the chaplain trying to talk himself into a persuasion that he was right, when more than half apprehensive that he was wrong who should come in bat a servant in the
"Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law ?" Psalm aciv. 20.
livery of the housekeeper. This man was furnished with two small notes, sealed with wax, and bearing with them the fragrance of honey,* one of which he presented to me, and the other to the doctor.
“What is this ?" said the chaplain," and from whom?"
“ From my mistress, the housekeeper,” replied the serving-man.
So we opened the notes, and found that they contained invitations couched in language the most polite, to take our supper the next evening in her room on occasion of the birthday of Mr. Fitz-Adam, which was always a great day in the family. When we had read these billets, we looked at one another, conjecturing pretty well what was passing in each other's minds, though neither of us caring to say, on account of the presence of the servant. At length, however, the doctor addressing the messenger, said, "Give my best compliments to your mistress, my good young man, and tell her that Mr. Nicodemus and I will send our answers in a few minutes ;" so the servant withdrew, and when he had shut the door after him, the doctor said, “ What is to be done now, my young friend ?".
“What is your opinion, sir ?" I answered ; thus giving question for question, a habit into which irresolute persons are almost certain to fall sooner or later.
“Why," replied the doctor, lowering his tone, and drawing his chair closer to mine,“ my worthy young friend, all things being considered, and the present crisis of our affairs being brought into calculation,-for now is the moment in which the compact is to be signed or broken ; for I would wish you to understand, that although I have with infinite difficulty brought things to the present pass, yet, that the smallest appearance of stiffness on our part just at this time would unravel the whole clew; and, therefore,”-he added, “but probably you already understand my meaning."
I bowed acquiescence, although I hardly knew what would be the upshot of all these parentheses and broken sentences, and the worthy man went on, “ Thus all things being weighed and duly considered, although it is a principle of mine, drawn from my Lord's letters,t not
*“It is not good to eat much honey; so for men to search their own glory is not glory.” Proverbs xxv. 27..
7"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that