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for the happy suggestion that the young man delayed merely because he was dubious as to his reception. This view of the matter was an excellent salve to whatever of bitter or wounded feeling the Major still retained. Bergan longing, yet fearing, to return to him was a vision that gently soothed his pride, while it appealed powerfully to his sympathies.
Matters having reached this point, he yielded easily to Rue's suggestion that Bergan's horse and servant should be sent to him, as a hint that hostilities had ceased; and though their prompt return was at first new matter of wrath, Bergan's note, Brick's report, and Rue's representations and entreaties, availed to smother the halfkindled flame, and send him forth toward Berganton in a most forgiving and patronizing frame of mind. He was ready to make any concessions to his nephew's principles and habits. If Bergan would but return to the Hall, he might dictate his own terms, and order his life in his own way. The Major had missed him more than he would have been willing to allow. The old place had not seemed the same without him. Its present had lost a strong element of cheer and energy, and its future had faded into dimness.
Arriving, in due time, at Mrs. Lyte's gate, the Major dismounted, and was about to enter, when his
eyes on the little tin plate, in Bergan's office window, which has before been mentioned. If it had been the head of Medusa, with all its supernatural powers intact, it could scarcely have wrought a more complete change in the expression of his face. First, he glared at it in incredulous wonder ; then he nearly choked with inarticulate rage; finally, words came to his relief. To the consternation of Mrs. Lyte, and the intense gratification of the crowd of boys and negroes which quickly gathered at a safe distance, he proceeded to pour forth a volley of the bitterest curses that he could frame upon the author of what he chose to consider an insult to himself, and a disgrace to his lineage.
" That I should live to see the name of Bergan on a snip of a tin sign like that!” he growled, shaking his fist at the offending plate, and trembling with rage. “What right had the scoundrel to put it there, I should like to know? 'Attorney at Law,' indeed, he shall have law enough since he likes it so well! I'll sue him for trespass, libel, forgery; I'll horsewhip him, and then have him indicted for assault and battery; I'll —” But here his indignation choked him for a moment.
Recovering his voice, his anger took a new direction. « • Bergan Arling,' indeed !” he muttered. “I suppose he was ashamed of the Harry,' though he could put it at the end of his note, smooth-faced hypocrite that he is! Where is he?” he went on, lifting his voice. “Why don't he come out, and face me like a man? Must I go in, and drag him out by the nape of his neck, the mean, sneaking, insulting puppy!”
"Mr. Arling is out, I regret to say," said Dr. Remy, appearing in the doorway, and confronting the furious
Major with his cool, cynical smile. “He went out for a walk some fifteen or twenty minutes ago.
If he were here, no doubt it would give him great pleasure to meet you."
Major Bergan scowled in a way to show how willingly he would transfer his wrath to this timely object, if he could only find a reasonable excuse ; but, discovering not the shadow of one in the doctor's polite, careless manner, he contented himself with growling
Out, is he? I wish he were out of the county, and a good riddance! When will he be in?”
“Not under an hour or two,” answered the doctor, wisely postponing the era of Bergan's return to the utmost limit.
“Umph! that's the way he spends his time, is it? loafing about the country when he should be in his office! Well, I've got something to do, besides wait for him. Just tell him, will you, that I owe him a good, sound horsewhipping, and I'll pay it to him the first time I meet him."
“I will take charge of your kind message with pleasure," returned the doctor, blandly. “Any further commands ?”
“No!” roared the Major, with a dim suspicion that he was being made to appear ridiculous, “not unless you like to come out and take the horsewhipping yourself. On the whole, I'd just as soon give it to you.”
" Many thanks,” replied the doctor, with imperturbable coolness; “but I could not consent to appropriate anything designed for Mr. Arling."
“If it hurts your conscience, you can pass it over to him," rejoined Major Bergan, with grim humour.
“It would lose its flavour at second-hand," said the doctor, smiling
“ It would be your own fault if it did,” responded the Major. “At any rate, take care that my message don't lose anything on the way; and, while you're about it, just tell him that he shall never have Bergan Hall, nor an inch of ground that belongs to it-never! I'll give it to-Astra Lyte first ! ”
The doctor slightly shrugged his shoulders as an intimation that the Major's disposition of his property was a matter that did not interest him; but the latter mistook it for a sign of incredulity.
“I will! I swear I will!” he repeated, with an oath. “And why shouldn't I?” he went on, after a slight pause, as if the sudden idea had unexpectedly commended itself to him; why shouldn't I?
Her father was my cousin, and he had Bergan blood in his veins, too, through his mother; and he was a right good fellow besides. Where is she?"
“Miss Lyte is in New York on a visit,” replied the doctor.
* Umph! I should like to see her. Is she growing up bright and handsome?”
“She is both," returned the doctor, briefly,
with sudden decision. “I'll go home, and make my
will. Tell Harry so, for his comfort, when he comes back.”
And the Major, delighted that he had bethought himself of a revenge so swift and ample, mounted his horse, and rode off.
On Bergan's return, the scene was described to him by Doctor Remy, with a minuteness and accuracy of detail and colouring that did great credit to that gentleman's
powers both of observation and description. Nevertheless, there was something of cynicism or of satire that grated on his listener's ear, and he finally stopped the doctor's flow of eloquence with the question
“Who is Astra Lyte ?"
it possible that you have not yet heard of her?” he asked. “She is Mrs. Lyte's eldest daughter, and a genius too-or, at least, an artist; they are not always synonymous terms, I believe.
But where have you been living, not to have become acquainted with her name before this? It is always on Mrs. Lyte's lips; at least, she is ready to talk of her by the hour with a little encouragement.”
My conversations with Mrs. Lyte have not been many nor long," replied Bergan. “An artist, did you
But Doctor Remy had fallen into a fit of thought. He merely answered the question by a nod, and very shortly he left Bergan to his own reflections.
CURIOUS MAY-DAY OBSERVANCES.
A HALO of superstitious reverence once hung around
the first of May—the marriage morning of spring and summer. Now, we are getting too prosaic for Maypoles, May-day processions are fast becoming things of the past. We are not like Mr. Pepys and his wife, who went out to Woolwich on May-day for a " little ayre, and to gather May-dew;" or like Chaucer's Arcite, when he rose up and looked on the merry day, and "for to do his observances to May,” he went forth“ to maken him a garlande of the green," and loud he sang against "the sunnie shine":
“O, May, with all thy flow'rs and thy green,
Right welcome to thee, fair fresh May,
Yet still, even within the present century, many curious customs were observed on the first of May, in which remnants of sun-worship and traditions of fairy-land were strangely mixed up. The practice of lighting large fires on the mountains and hills, originally instituted with the view of propitiating the good spirits and keeping off the evil ones, held its ground obstinately in many countries. In Germany, the festival of the Walpurgisnacht (night of the first of May), and the fires which were lighted to keep off the witches, has been celebrated in song and story, and both Goethe and Mendelssohn have lent their genius to illustrate it. Frederika Bremer gives us an interesting account of how she witnessed the custom of dancing round the May-day fires in the obscure region of Dalecarlia; and there must have been something singularly wild and romantic about the bright flames as they flashed back to one another from the adjoining hills in the still gloom of evening, while the dark figures gathered round to heap on more wood and keep the blaze alight. In Ireland and Scot
land these fires were sometimes known as Bel-taine fires or fires of Bel, and not more than twenty years ago they were lighted in Ireland with perhaps hardly an inkling of this original meaning as tributes to the sun-god. General Vallancey says :-“ The Irish still (the beginning of the present century) preserve this custom. To this day fires are lighted in the milking yards; the men, women, and children pass through or leap over the sacred fires, and the cattle are driven through the flames of the burning straw on the first of May.” The Dublin bonfire of 1825 is thus described :—The May-boys purchased a heap of turf, sufficient for a large fire, and, if the funds would allow, an old tar-barrel, a horse's skull and bones were also considered necessary, and on May morning groups of boys dragged loads of bones to their several destinations; hence the threat, “I will drag you like a horse's head to a bonfire." The preparations for Mayday began about the middle of April, and terrible were the riots which went on between the rival factions of the Liberty and the Ormond boys. The great fire was in a part of Dublin called the Coombe, the weavers had their fire in Weaver's Square, the hatters and pipe-makers in James Street. The whole population collected round these fires, the old people bringing chairs and stools to sit out the wake of winter and spring Fiddlers played, and there was no lack of dancing, shouting, or singing. As the fire sank lower and lower, the old people walked round it, repeating certain prayers; if a man was going on a journey, he leaped backwards and forwards to ensure success; if he was thinking of marriage, he did it to purify himself, while the girls tripped across to procure good husbands. Everyone took an ember of the fire to carry away, and if it was extinguished before the bearer arrived at home, he had to make up his mind for ill-luck, but if it was still alive, a new fire was kindled chapter of Job, and on going to bed she places the stocking, with its contents, under her head. These rites duly performed, she will in a dream see her future husband. Another mode of obtaining the same knowledge consists in going, after sunset on May Eve, to a bank on which the yarrow is growing, and gathering nine sprigs of the plant. The girl then repeats the following words :
Good morrow, good morrow, fair yarrow,
And thrice good morrow to thee, Come tell me before to-morrow
Who my true love shall be."
from it, and lighted ashes were thrown into the corn and potato fields. Some places in Ireland are still called Bealtine, from May-fires having been lighted there. Baltinglas is said to mean Baal's green place; and in Scotland, a town in Perthshire, on the borders of the Highlands, is called Tillebeltane, that is, the eminence or rising ground of the fire of Baal. Dr. Eadie, the author of the “Bible Cyclopædia," says that an enclosure of eight upright staves is made where it is supposed the fire was kindled. In an ancient Irish manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin, the following reference is found to the May-day fires : “Beltine, lucky fire, bonfire. Two fires, which used to be made by the law-givers, or Druids, with great incantations, and they used to drive the cattle between them to guard against the diseases of each year.
Bel was the name of an idol-god. It was on these days that the firstlings of every kind of cattle used to be exhibited as in the possession of Bel.” We are told elsewhere that " a certain King Suathal erected a second palace in that part of Meath which was taken from Connaught, at Nisenach, when there was a general meeting of the men of Erin. This fair or assembly was held on the first day of May, and they were wont to exchange their cattle, jewels, and other property. They were also accustomed to make offerings to their chief god Bel, to make two fires in honour of him, and to drive a couple of every kind of cattle between the two fires. When we think of such customs as these, kept up, too, so close to our times, a curious link is established with long past ages, and we are strangely reminded of those passages of Holy Scripture where the Israelites are reproached for "causing their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Moloch."
So much for May-day fires ; now for love and life charms, which were considered unusually efficacious when they were observed at this time. The snail charm is described by Gay in the Shepherd's Week, and used to be frequently performed by the country girls in Ireland. The snail is not the box-snail, but the Dultrean, or slug. When found, it is placed between two pewter plates, or on a table sprinkled with ashes or flour, and covered with a wooden bowl. In the morning the anxious maid tries to find in the shiny track the initials of her sweetheart's name :
The yarrow is brought home, put into the right foot stocking, placed under the pillow, and the mystic dream is confidently expected; but if the girl speaks after pulling
the charm is broken. It was once usual in some parts of Ireland for the brides married since the last May day, to be compelled to present the young people with a ball covered with gold lace, and another with silver lace, beautifully ornamented with tassels. The price of these sometimes amounted to two guineas. The pathetic old air, “Summer is Coming,” to which Moore has written the words,“ Rich and Rare were the Gems she Wore," was generally sung at this time.
“Summer, summer, the milk of the heifers,
Ourselves brought the summer with us ;
Wells were objects of special care and attention at May-time; and used, we learn, to be frequently watched all night to ensure them against being skimmed with a wooden bowl by some butter-stealing hag as the sun rose on May morning. This was called “taking the flower of the well,” and the words, “ Come, butter, come,” were then repeated. An old woman was once caught on May morning at a spring well, cutting the tops of watercresses with a pair of scissors, muttering strange words and the names of certain persons who had cows, and also “half mine is thine," in Irish. She repeated this last charm as often as she cut off a sprig of cress, which sprig represented the person whom she intended to rob of his milk and butter.
Mr. G. Steward, in his “Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland," tells us that at Belton Eve messengers were dispatched for cargoes of the blessed rowan tree. When brought, the branches were shaped into the form of crosses by means of a red thread. These crosses were inserted into the lintels of the different doors in the town, and were sure to protect the inhabitants from the most diabolical witch in the universe. Meantime, the matron was engaged in baking Belton, or Beltaine bannocks. The children are each presented with a bannock, and assemble on the brow of some sloping hill to roll their bannocks, and learn their future fate. With their knives they make the signs of life and death on their cakes ; these signs are a cross, or the sign of life on one side, and a cypher, or the sign of death on the other.
“Slow crawled the snail, and if I right can spell,
In the soft ashes marked a curious L;
In the extreme north of Ireland, particularly in Raherty Island, several May-day superstitions were observed. If a young woman wished to know who was to be her future spouse, she went late on May Eve to a black sally, or willow tree, and takes from it nine sprigs, the last of which she throws over her right shoulder, and puts the remaining eight into the foot of her right stocking. She then, on her knees, reads the 3rd verse of the 17th
This being done, the bannocks are all arranged in a line, and on their edges let down the hill. This process is repeated three times, and if the cross most frequently turns up, the owner will live to celebrate another Belton day, but if the cypher oftenest appear, he is, of course, doomed to die.”
On May Eve, a few solitary ones used to wander among the lonely fairy-peopled glens in Ireland, in hopes of hearing the mystic pipers of the “sheogues," which are said to be out on that evening. Great is the agility and grace conferred on those fortunate enough to dance to the fairy pipers, and it used to be a proverb in Connaught, upon seeing a good dancer to say, “Troth! ma bouchal, you listened to the piper on May Eve.” On that evening the hearth used to be carefully swept and sprinkled with some of the turf ashes, and if in the morning the print of a foot was seen on it pointing towards the door, it was fully
expected that some one would die before that day twelvemonth. It was considered necessary to lay in a stock of brooms before May-day, as it would be unlucky to make any at May-time, and on no account would either fire or water, but, above all, a coal of fire, be given out of a house for love or money during the whole of May. The charm of May dew, and its beautifying effects on the complexion, is tolerably well known; but it is not only used as a cosmetic ; it is, or was, as Lover has described in his “Song of the May-dew," a bond of peculiar power amongst lovers. As civilization advances, no doubt all traces of these May-day superstitions will rapidly disappear.
Some are interesting, embodying as they do bygone forms of thought or religion, and showing that intense belief in signs from an invisible world which nowa-days we are content to ignore. Perhaps we are wiser; we are certainly less imaginative than our ancestors.
UDGE PROVOST, whose wife and daughters were
the leaders of fashion in Hamilton, was himself a social Greatheart. Having brought to bear upon various vexed domestic problems the force of his astute mind and enlightened Christianity, he had arrived at a series of conclusions equally creditable to both. The pertinence of his deductions was so obvious to the impartial reasoner as to excite his surprise, that the great body of good and sensible men and women did not adopt and practise them. For example, he maintained, first, that the best way to keep men out of jails, was to provide them with abodes so comfortable that they would prefer these to stone cells and prison fare ; secondly, as a modification of the same principle, that, since amusements are necessary to the happiness of the young, they should be provided with lawful diversions in their own homes, lest they should seek unlawful abroad ; thirdly, in unconscious plagiarism of the wise and genial author of "Annals of a Country Neighbourhood,” he held and believed for certain, that the surest way to make an indifferent thing bad, was for good people to hold themselves aloof from doing it.
Acting upon these principles, the eminent jurist built a bowling-alley at the back of his garden; caused his eight children to be instructed in music and dancing, and encouraged them to pursue these recreations in his parlours,—where, also, lay backgammon and chess-board in full sight. Finally, he crowned their gratification while he drew upon himself the reprobation of the zealots and puritans among his neighbours, by throwing a wing out from his already spacious residence, expressly
for a billiard-room. It was a pretty place, and a cheerful, with its green carpets and lounges, tinted walls, and long French windows, and was, as may be supposed, a popular resort with those of the college students who had the entrée, as well as with the young Provosts and their friends of both sexes in the town. A happy, hospitable set were the young Provosts—the four sisters and four brothers-affectionate to one another, dutiful and loving to the parents to whose judicious affection they owed their sunny childhood and youth. Jessie liked them better than she did any other family in Hamilton, while Fanny, the second daughter, had at first sight taken a fancy to her, which was ripening into a cordial friendship.
The billiard-room was very bright with afternoon sunshine, and merry with the chatter of gay voices, one day late in February, when a party of six or eight girls was collected about the table—four playing, the others looking on and talking, sometimes of the game in progress, sometimes upon other subjects—all in a familiar yet ladylike way.
“Somebody mark for me, please!” said a ruddycheeked damsel who had never, by any chance, won a game, and whose principal points were the point she made of missing every shot. “If I should hit anything it would be a pity not to get credit for it. Now-all of you look and learn!”
She poised the cue with a superabundance of caution, pursing up her lips into an O, as she took aim; dashed at the white ball nearest her, which few frantically from side to side of the board, rebounding twice from the
cushion, and, at last, popping into a distant pocket, having dodged every other ball with a malicious ingenuity eminently illustrative of the proverbial perversity of in animate things.
“Better luck next time!” said the player, invincibly good-humoured, resigning her place. “If there is anything in perserverance and hope, I shall do it yet, some day, and astonish you all."
The others laughed—with, rather than at her-and Jessie Kirke took the stand she had vacated. All leaned forward to watch her play, her skill being already an established fact. A touch-not a thrust-to the white ball sent it against a red at such an angle that in the rebound it hit another quite at the other end of the green table, which latter rolled into a pocket. This, to the uninitiated meaningless process, being repeated by her, with trifling variations, until she had made sixteen points, was considered a feat among the embryo billiardists surrounding her.
“So much for a true eye and a sure touch! said Fanny Provost. “You shame us all, Jessie dear.”
“So much for having a good teacher !” said another, less complimentary. “If Mr. Wyllys would bestow as much care upon our tuition as he has upon hers, we might be adepts, too."
“She has practised ten times as much with me as she has with him," answered Fanny, pleasantly. “So, I am entitled to the larger share of the praise for her proficiency. I will not be cheated of my laurels."
“Is Mr. Wyllys, then, your best player ?”
The querist was Miss Sanford, who “did not care about billiards,” and had even remonstrated, at the beginning of her visit with her cousin Fanny, with regard to her liking for the game—"such a queer one for ladies! She would be afraid to touch a cue for fear she might be called strong-minded.” She had discovered, furthermore, that her wrists were not stout enough to bear the weight of a cue steadily, and took pleasure in publishing their genteel fragility. Only that afternoon she had called attention to this by an exclamation addressed to Jessie, as she drew up her cuffs in order to be ready for her turn.
“Dear me! Miss Kirke! what wouldn't I give to be as robust as you are! Look at her arms! They would make six of mine. What do you do to develop your muscles so?”
Jessie smiled in, quiet satisfaction with her own beautifully moulded wrists.
“ I am healthy, and I lead an active life," she said, laconically, but politely.
Miss Sanford was not pleased either with smile or words, but there was apparently nothing to resent, and she returned to her sofa. She had attended a party the evening before, and was to-day “utterly worn out." While the game went on, she toyed with her rings, slipped her bracelets of dead gold and pearls up and down her thin arms, and now and then yawned behind
her hand. Mr. Wyllys’ name awoke her from the apathetic droning.
“Decidedly!” replied a looker-on, Selina Bradley by name—a kind-hearted, talkative, and indiscreet girl whom everybody liked, yet of whose tripping tongce many were afraid.
Decidedly the best in town. Don't you think so, Fan?”
“There are not many who can equal him among our finest billiard players," said Fanny. “I do not believe he has lost a game since Mr. Fordham went away. He played splendidly! His nerves were steady and his judgment nice."
“Fordham!" repeated the heiress, quickly. was his first name? Who is he?'
"Roy-and he is a professor in our college. He is now in Heidelberg, Germany. Do you know him ? " said Fanny, in surprise. “ You must have heard us speak of him before."
“Never! I used to know him," rejoined Miss Sanford, tossing her head. “He was engaged to a very dear friend of mind. No! I didn't know he was in Germany. I am glad of it!"
Selina, breathless with excitement, did not catch the latter sentences.
"Engaged ! I thought he was love-proof! Fanny ! Nettie! Sue! do you hear this? Who do you guess is engaged to be married ? No less a personage than our invulnerable Professor Fordham!”
The girls crowded about Miss Sanford, forgetting the game in the superior attractions of a love-story.
“ I don't believe it !” were the divers comments upon the intelligence.
Jessie remained alone at the table, tapping the cushion opposite her with her cue, her face flaming with indignant confusion. Taken utterly by surprise, she could not at once rally to reply to the false statement she had heard, or govern her countenance well enough to seem indifferent.
The heiress bridled at the last remark, setting back her head in a fashion she conceived was regal, whereas it was merely ungracefully scornful.
“ You are not asked to believe it, Miss Barnes ! I said distinctly that the gentleman was formerly betrothed to my friend. I am happy, on her account, to be able to state that the (to her) unfortunate engagement was broken almost a year since.”
“What do you mean? How did it happen? And to think we never heard a breath of it! Go on! there's a darling! and tell us all about it!" entreated Selina, sinking to the carpet at the feet of the in nowise reluctant newsmonger.
“Perhaps you had rather not, Hester," suggested gentle Fanny to her cousin. "Such stories are painful to those interested in either of the parties to the engagement, and the telling does no good to anyone. The