Page images
PDF
EPUB

courage of youth, gathering flowers while they may, and very heartily and cheerfully enjoying the life they find ready to them ; and fathers love their daughters the more, not only for what they are, but for what they suggest to the memories they awake. We have read absurd stories of the sounds of musical instruments being frozen up till genial warmth thawed the music and then came the trills and cadences of the tune. Old memories, loves, delicate gossamer-like threads of thought, are sometimes frozen up in the human heart, till a smile, an indefinable, indescribable play of the features, melts them into the music of memory, which seems to us to be a part of the eternal harmony in which we hope to share.

Why cannot we write about young ladies without being just a little sentimental? That is what practical people say. Chat to them, retail odds and ends of gossip ; talk to them about fashions and fancies, dresses, gardenparties, flirtations, and pet dogs ; the last beauty who has come out, or the last bride who has bidden farewell to girlhood. We will talk of these things in proper time and place. We have set our minds on writing a few sketches of the essay kind, of which young ladies will be the subject, and there will be many opportunities for light touches. But at present we prefer to consider them as the most attractive form of the youth of the busy world, the garlands which hang on the grey buttresses of the venerable social fabric, the flowers which brighten up the somewhat Gothic sombreness of our way of life.

It would be a very grave misapprehension of the qualities of human nature to suppose that girls do not think and feel a great deal more than they always wish to express. There are many highly sensitive and emotional natures concealed under the calm exterior which the observances of our social life enforce. Why do girls like to read poetry and novels, but because they have sympathetic natures? We do not, of course, refer to those utterly commonplace young people—there are dull, commonplace people of all ages—who skip all that more sensitive minds enjoy most, and turn to the end of the third volume, to see whether Lady Gertrude really marries Lord Algernon, and if the author has described her dress and mentioned the number of bridesmaids at the wedding, but to those who are capable of ideal enjoyment, who take pleasure in the development of character, of which they find in themselves the germ of the emotions of which they feel themselves capable. It is a good thing, a very good thing, to have glimpses of an ideal world, glimpses which, as Keats says, shall" make us less forlorn,” and if the refined intellect finds in the book.

case the companionship of minds communion with which elevates and strengthens it, why should it be made a reproach that, at that time of life when imagination is most vivid and sympathies most active, fiction and poetry supply the means of recreation to young minds, of which readily awakened sympathies, quick perceptions, and generous enthusiasm are certainly not unlovely features.

Not only the young ladies themselves, but their surrounding associations, will form the subject of our proposed essays. We shall show what young ladies were thought of, how they were permitted to pass their time and amuse themselves, how they were educated and taken care of, in those to us picturesque, but really very unpleasant middle ages. We shall have something to say of the young ladies of a better time, the light, clever sisterhood, for instance, of well-read, witty, good girls, who made the gallants of that wonderful Elizabethan time not only write romances and poems about them, odes to their eyes and sonnets to their eyebrows, but made them respect them too, and so laid the foundation of that more equal social life which women now enjoy. There were the young ladies, cultivated, charming, wise, and witty, of whom Shakespeare was thinking when he drew Rosalind, Beatrice, Portia, and a dozen other true-hearted, clear-headed, womanly women. Then we shall have a few words to say about the young ladies of the teacup times of hood and hoop,” the town toasts, and modest rustic beauties, who smile on us through the pages of Addison's grave badinage, and Pope's half-quizzing, all-admiring, burlesque heroines, and live again to us as we read of courtly Kensington and the old-fashioned manor houses in more rural spots. The young ladies of fiction and the young ladies of fact will be side by side in our sketches ; but we are free to confess, in advance, that we prefer the realities to the pictures, however cleverly painted. We shall pay due attention to the young lady who loves literature, and to her who is devoted to science, to the pleasure-seeking and the pleasure-going young lady, in society and at home; the young lady engaged, and the young lady-not married for she then passes out of the sphere of our present observation—but in the character of bridesmaid (we shall have much to say about the awful responsibilities attending such a position); and when we have laid down our pen, if the sketches we have made do not support our opening remark as to the value and importance of young ladies generally, the fault will be in ourselves, not in the subject, and due to our want of skill, not want of will.

THE EDITOR.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS.

V.-UNDER THE OAKS.

NOT many weeks after the preceding incidents

, Bergan fallen needles, on which the foot fell without a sound. went out, early one afternoon, for a long, solitary A mysterious sigh pervaded it, even when no breeze was ramble. It was not his wont to leave his office before astir; its light was but a gentle gloom; and it had a soft, dusk, but his head ached with study, and his heart with aromatic atmosphere of its own, as if it were another loneliness and discouragement; an intolerable weariness world. No fitter place could have been found for the and irksomeness had taken possession of him ; his book

indulgence of a youthful day dream, with enough of inseemed meaningless, and his brain paralyzed; there was herent light and colour to overcome the prevailing somnothing for it but to turn from the world of thought that breness, or, at least, to set itself in stronger relief against had suddenly grown so insufferably arid and dead, to the so darksome a background. But to Bergan, the vast, dim living, breathing world of nature. Forest, and field, and monotony, with its suggestive correspondence to the cirwave, if they could not give him intelligent sympathy, cumstances of his own life, brought only added heartache. could at least furnish him gentle distraction.

The chance openings into the sky were so few, and the And, oftentimes, there was a subtile harmony, almost sunshine never fell save fickeringly, at the farther examounting to sympathy, between his lonely moods, and tremity of some long vista! He soon began to yearn for the soft, rich, yet melancholy, Southern landscape,- for outlook and aspiration, some spot affording at least a melancholy it always seemed to him, though that effect glimpse of the surrounding world, as well as a fair look may have been partly owing to the grey medium of isola- at the open sky. Happily, he knew where to find it. tion and depression through which he viewed it. But, Long since, he had discovered for himself a convenient whatever its origin, this gentle mournfulness was the and attractive out-door haunt,-a kind of natural amphilandscape's consummate charm, at least, for any bur- theatre, on the edge of one of the numerous bays, or dened human heart. It is possible that Eden wore a soft creeks, of the vicinity. Great, patriarchal live-oaks, with grace of pensive beauty after the fall, which Adam and hoary beards of moss trailing even to the ground, had Eve, wandering back thither, would have counted a ranged themselves in a semi-circle, on a high bank, overdearer delight, in their then mood, than its old, un- looking the water. Standing in attitudes of ponderous shadowed brightness.

grace, each one scattered shade and quietude over fifty, On his way out, Bergan found Nix stretched at full sixty, or, it might be, a hundred, feet of sward. Through length across the threshold. With the usual preference a broad opening, in the midst of the dignified circle, the of his race for masculine over feminine society, the dog cheerful sunshine fell unbrokenly; and on the water-side had early attached himself to the young man, as much as there was a fair stretch of blue waves, with a sea-green was consistent with a different ownership. He now rose, horizon-line afar ; and over all, a wide half-dome of sky, shook himself, wagged his tail, and looked wistfully in with its changeable tracery of clouds, and its transparent Bergan's face. Meeting with no rebuff, he made bold to concord of colour. It was hard to believe that the hand follow him.

of man had not wrought with that of nature, to produce Leaving the town behind as quickly as possible, a spot so perfect. Many a supset had Bergan enjoyed Bergan first struck into a long, lonely lane, shut in, on there; many a twilight had he mused away, under the either side, by a thick border of multifarious foliage. rustling oak-boughs; many a time the rising moon had Trees and shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, not only found him there, and surrounded him with weird enmingled their boughs along its sides, but were tied to. chantment. gether in an intricate polygamous knot by tangled vines. All along, this spot had been the goal of his steps, There was an endless diversity of form and colour,-every though-by way of trying first what help and heart were shape of leaf, and every hue and shade of green and to be found in exercise-he had chosen to reach it by a brown, with occasional tints of red, purple, and orange, most circumlocutory route. So far as he knew, it was his both pale and bright-and everywhere the grey fringe of own, by right of occupancy, as well as discovery; never the Spanish moss.

had it showed a sign that it knew the pressure of any By and by, the lane terminated in the inevitable pine other human foot. barren, which frames all Southern landscape pictures. It As he drew near, the sun was sending long, slanting stretched away, in every direction, as far as the eye

could beams of ruddy light athwart the amphitheatre, and dyereach,-a vast, dim solitude, with a thick, blue-green roof, ing the polished oak-leaves in rich tints of gold and orange. epheld by innumerable slender columns, and a carpet of He quickened his steps, the sooner to reach the point

whence sunset-splendours were to be seen to the best advantage ; and upon which he had taken occasion to construct a low rustic seat.

To his amazement, it was already occupied. A lady was quietly seated therein, her cheek resting on her hand, her eyes (as he judged from her pose, for her back was toward him) fixed on the glowing sky.

He stopped short, uncertain whether to advance or retreat.

Nix-who had lingered behind, to make a feint of hunting a squirrel-settled the question for him. Coming upon the scene, he first sniffed the air, and then dashed at the intruder. Fearing lest his intentions might be unfriendly-or, at least, that the lady would be startled by his sudden appearance, Bergan sternly called after him

“Nix! Nix! Here! Come back, you scamp!”

But Nix, if he heard, certainly did not heed. He was fawning upon the lady, in a way to indicate a previous acquaintance of considerable standing and intimacy. She, on her part, received his rude caresses quite as a matter of course, and cordially patted his rough head. Then she turned to Bergan.

“Nix does not mean to be disobedient,” said she, apologetically. “Only, he recognizes in me an older

friend than Mr. Arling, and, perhaps," she smiled, “a · superseding authority.”

Bergan bowed. “He is fortunate," said he; “ that is, in finding a friend, old or new, where he did not look for one." • He spoke with a slight bitterness of tone, in involuntary recognition of the fact that no such pleasant discovery was ever the reward of his own aimless rambles. At the same time, he looked curiously at the lady, seeking a clue to her identity. She had seemed to know him ; ' yet he could not remember that he had ever met her before.

Apparently, she was young ; certainly, she was small, and somewhat slender. Without being absolutely pretty, her face was exceedingly interesting, by reason of its mobility and vivacity of expression ; albeit, its changes were not always to be easily understood, nor its language at once interpreted. Her eyes were of the darkest grey, with a clear and penetrative glance, that seemed to go straight to the depths of whatever object they sought Her manner, though perfectly feminine, had an air of strength and energy, in marked contrast with the languid grace which is the more frequent product of Southern soil. She was very simply dressed; in some soft, grey material, the one beauty of which was its ability to fall in artistic folds about her figure; nevertheless, there was a certain pleasant peculiarity, a kind of sober picturesqueness, about her attire, that lifted it more surely out of the region of the common-place than any richness of texture, or newness of fashion, could have done. Moreover, it

satisfied the eye with a sense of fitness; it was plainly - the legitimate outgrowth of the wearer's character. Not

that it bid defiance to fashion, but it did not conform to it to the extent of a complete sacrifice of individuality.

Her only ornament was a cluster of bright scarlet leaves, that she had doubtless found on her way thither, and fastened on her breast; and which an opportune sun ray now touched into vivid splendour. This, too, suited her. It seemed the subtle outward expression of some correspondingly warm and rich characteristic within ; glowing soft against the grey texture of an otherwise grave, earnest, almost severe character. It might be sparkling wit, or warm affections, or both, that were thus pleasantly symbolized.

She met Bergan's curious glance with a quiet smile, that seemed to understand its object, and enjoy, beforehand, its discomfiture. She even answered it with a brief scrutiny, that was scarcely less in earnest, though not at all puzzled-scarcely, even, inquiring.

At this moment, the sun suddenly disappeared. The two faces, that had been so clearly and ruddily lit up by his declining beams, were left pale and shadowed, looking at each other under the solemn old trees; through the branches of which the wind now began to whisper softly, as if moved to utter some sombre prediction, which yet it could not make quite plain.

"Do you believe in omens?” asked the young lady, with a kind of playful shiver.

“Not at all," answered Bergan, looking a little surprised.

“It is as well that you do not. For I suspect that they are like certain modes of medical treatment: they require a large element of faith to make them efficacious. And, to say truth, neither do I believe in them; except in a poetical way. If I did, I should say that this sudden shadow augurs but badly for our future acquaintance, and influence upon each other.”

“If it means,” replied Bergan, “ that we are to know sunshine and shade together, little more could be predicted, or desired, of any earthly acquaintance."

“Perhaps not. Still, as I do believe in omens, as I said before, in a poetical way, I am glad to see that the sun is not really set, after all. He only sank into a deceptive line of cloud. There! he comes forth again, to give us another bright glance before his final leavetaking. And, in order to leave the omen in its present satisfactory state, I will anticipate his departure. Good evening."

Slightly inclining her head, as she passed Bergan, she quickly disappeared under the low-hanging oak boughs.

Nix looked after her, for a moment; then he turned to Bergan, as if wondering why he did not go, too. Seeing no sign of departure, he was about to Aing himself upon the ground, when a clear, sweet whistle suddenly sounded from the direction which the young lady had taken. Pricking up his ears, he instantly set off at a great pace; leaving Bergan with a vague sadness, as having been deserted by his last friend.

However, the feeling was but momentary. Very quickly he turned to the consideration of the interesting question who his late interlocutor might be. Running over in his mind all the branches of the family of Bergan, in the neighbourhood (of which there were several, more or less direct), he soon decided that she did not harmonize with what he knew of any of them. Yet she had seemed to know him; and to think, and even to intimate, that they were likely to meet again, and possibly to exert a degree of influence upon each other's lives. And still, as he pondered and questioned, the oak trees kept whispering overhead, with all their multitudinous tongues, an apparently full, but unintelligible, explanation.

He bewildered himself with conjectures, until all the sunset tints had faded from the sky, and darkness was fast gathering under the oak boughs. Then he rose, and went his solitary way homeward.

Arrived at Mrs. Lyte's gate, it seemed to him that there was an unusual stir and liveliness about the house. Certainly, a broad beam of life was shining across the hall, from a door that he had never before seen open. Ere he could think what these things betokened, Cathie came running to meet him, with a great piece of news in her beaming face.

“Oh! Mr. Arling!" she exclaimed, in almost breathless delight, “ Astra has come !"

The mystery was at an end. Indeed it could scarcely bave been a mystery, but for two concurrent circumstances. In the first place, knowing Miss Lyte to be an artist—or at least, an art-student-and possessed of a sufficiently independent character and spirit, he had unconsciously sketched a portrait of her in his fancy, very different from the original; taller, larger, with more colour, and, certainly, less feminine. And, secondly, only the day before, he had heard Mrs. Lyte lamenting that her daughter would not be at home for another month.

A sudden turn of circumstances, however, had wrought an equally sudden change in Miss Lyte's plans; and taking advantage of the opportune escort afforded by a business trip of a friend, she had journeyed southward with such celerity as to outstrip the letter of announcement that she had dispatched, a day before her departure from New York. Reaching home almost immediately after Bergan had gone out for his solitary stroll, she had spent the afternoon in a long, earnest, circumstantial talk with her mother; discussing her plans and prospects; throwing off, with careless Auency, vivid picture upon picture of her art life and work in the city ; listening eagerly to interjectional items of home news; and cheering Mrs. Lyte's heart, through and through, with her bright spirits, her ready, yet healthful, sympathy, and the inspiring energy both of her manner and mind. With the very sight of her, more than half the widow's burden of sorrow and care had slipped unconsciously from her

Bergan had also discovered and taken into favour. Meeting the young man there, she had instantly recognized him-by reason of Nix's suggestive companionship, and her mother's recent description-and had taken an innocent pleasure in subjecting him to a transient mystification.

She gave us such a surprise,” went on Cathie, joyously. “Mamma almost fainted, and l-guess what I did, Mr. Arling."

To please her, Bergan guessed what he supposed to be the most unlikely thing; and so, in consequence of the child's peculiar character, he guessed right.

“ Doubtless you cried,” said he.

So I did,” replied Cathie, opening her eyes wide, “though I can't see how you knew it. But I thought I was laughing all the time, till Astra asked me why I was so sorry to see her, and offered to go away again if the sight of her was so painful!' And that made me laugh in good earnest. And, oh, Mr. Arling, do come and see her little white boy! She has just been unpacking him, to show him to mamma."

“Willingly," replied Bergan, "if you are sure that she would like me to see him."

“I'll ask her," replied Cathie, darting through the open doorway at the left, whence came the broad beam of light aforementioned, and through which Bergan caught a glimpse of Mrs. Lyte's black-draped figure, seated at the farther corner of the room, in an attitude of pleased contemplation of some object not within his range of vision.

The next moment Miss Lyte herself appeared on the threshold, and, seeing by his face that his mystification was over, she frankly held out her hand to him.

“So you have found me out!” said she, laughing. “ Was it wicked in me not to answer that look in your eyes, which said so plainly, 'Who on earth can she be?' Can you pardon my selfish enjoyment of your perplexity?"

“A perplexity that ends so pleasantly deserves thanks rather than pardon," returned Bergan.

And having answered Mrs. Lyte's cordial greeting, and congratulated her upon the event which had brought such unaccustomed radiance into her face, Bergan turned, with a pardonable curiosity-or it might more fitly be termed, an inevitable interest—to glance around the room in which he found himself. Never before had he happened to enter that middle ground between the airiest ideal and the earthliest real which is occupied by a sculptor's studio.

VI.

shoulders.

[ocr errors]

Finally, toward sunset, foreseeing an unusual amount of sky splendour, she had gone forth for a brief enjoyment of it to her old, favourite haunt,the oak glade which

Bergan's first glance around the studio was necessarily a comprehensive one, dealing with general effect rather than minute detail. A large, though not a lofty, room ; a bare

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

floor'; walls crowded with designs and studies; four or five busts and statues standing around the sides, and the life-size figure of a child in the middle, of the room ;- this was what that first glance revealed to him.

Cathie gave him no time for a second. “ Look at the dear little boy, Mr. Arling ; do look at him!” she exclaimed, joining her hands over her head, and executing a rapturous pas seul around the object of her delight. “See his cunning little whip, and his funny little feet ; and isn't he a little wbite darling!"

Thus besought, Bergan turned his attention to the statue in the midst.

At first sight it seemed to represent merely a pretty and playful human child, with a toy whip in his hand, his head half turned over one shoulder, and an arch and roguish expression, as if bent on some errand of mischief. But, while Bergan continued to gaze, fascinated, the small physiognomy seemed to grow wily and malign, as well as arch; and an intelligence, far more swift and subtle than ever infant of mortal race was gifted withal, informed the tiny features. The light feet, too, were plainly moved by deliberate purpose of guile rather than childish impulse, and on their soles broad sinuate leaves were bound, either for protection or disguise.

Bergan looked at the figure long and earnestly, enjoying its delicate freshness and piquancy, but trying in vain to fathom its meaning.

“What will-o'-the-wisp is it?" he finally asked. And what is he doing, with his soft cunning and smiling malice?"

“ He is a god," replied Astra. “As to his errand, it is the laudable one of cattle-stealing."

It seems to be a case of very early depravity," said Bergan, smiling, yet puzzled.

“Early enough to be termed original sin,'” returned Astra. “For

“The babe was born at the first peep of day
And the same evening did he steal away

Apollo's herds.'
Did you ever read Homer's 'Hymn to Mercury?'"

“ Never. Indeed, I am not quite sure that I ever heard of it," replied Bergan. "Is it usually counted among his works?"

“I think so; though it is fair to say that his authorship of it has been questioned. At any rate, Shelley has put it into very musical English verse; and there I found my subject. The circumstances of Mercury's birth being first narrated, the new-born immortal is described as a babe all other babes excelling,' and also a subtle schemer and thief. He first invents the lyre, and accompanies his own impromptu song of plastic verse' with it, then he is seized with a sudden fancy for fresh meat,' and betakes himself to the Pierian mountains, where Apollo's immortal oxen' are feeding. Separating fifty from the berd,

• He drove them wandering o'er the sandy way,

But, being ever mindful of his craft,-'

driving the stolen cattle before him, of course. And this is the moment at which I have sought to represent him."

“And very perfectly you have succeeded,” said Bergan, admiringly. “The arch cunning and malice of the face is simply wonderful. Indeed, it seems to me that the statue lacks but one thing."

“And what is that,” said Astra, quickly; at the same time flashing a swift, searching glance at her work, as if she would faia have anticipated the criticism.

“ It does not tell how the story ended."

“Oh!” said Astra, looking both relieved and amused. “I am glad that you did not keep me waiting so long as Michael Angelo did poor Domenico."

“ How long was that, pray ? '

" You shall hear. Domenico Ghirlandaio, a celebrated Florentine painter, having completed a picture of St. Francis, upon which he had exhausted his utmost skill, and which seemed to him to be perfect, sent for a young artist of great promise, Buonarotti by name (who had also been his pupil), and asked for his opinion of the work. The young man contemplated it for some moments, said gravely, 'It needs but one thing,' and departed. The master remained, to study the picture anew, to pore over it hour after hour, and day after day, and rack his brain with the question what it needed. Years after, when Buonarotti had become Michael Angelo, and filled the world with his fame, Domenico sent for him to come to his death-chamber. “What did the picture need,' he asked, faintly. Only speech,' replied Michael Angelo. The old master smiled,-and died."

" It is a touching story," said Bergan. “ And it is almost an allegory, too. For 'only speech' is so often the great need of life! All our deepest feeling and best thoughts are inarticulate. But am I to be indulged with the rest of this story, also ?” he added, turning again to the statue.

" I will give it you in brief," replied Astra," by way of whetting your appetite for the richer savours of the poem itself. Having driven his stolen cattle to Alpheus, the infant god selected two fat heifers for sacrifice. And here, it seems to me, is one of the finest touches in the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »