Page images
PDF
EPUB

them, only stipulating that she might be made acquainted with their route, in order to meet them on their return, if so disposed.

The day was beautiful, the sea most brilliant. A fresh breeze played over the surface of the waves; while gray fleecy clouds, fringed with white, threw here and there a quickly passing shadow on the waters below, or on the jutting headlands that stretched out into the ocean, catching alternately the lights and shades of this imposing scene.

The sea is beautiful, I think, dear Seymy, after all;" said Kitty, in a soft, low voice, as she clasped her brother's hand more closely in her own.

"Yes, it is very beautiful as a picture," Seymour replied, "and it is beautiful as God's work."

"And does not that make it beautiful to you?" asked the child. "You love God so much, dear Seymy."

"I wish I loved him better," was the somewhat sad reply. And the brother and sister walked on, not this time separated from the rest for more than a few moments now and then; for, as already stated, all felt, on this day especially, as if their approaching separation had made them dearer to each other.

For Robert it was a glorious day, and for Philip not less so. Both could enjoy themselves after the peculiar bent of their own minds. Robert, in idea, took the bearings of the land, built breast-works, thrust out the sea, and fortified a huge promontory in case of invasion, for the especial benefit of Philip, who seemed to have been born with a natural anticipation of war, and fighting, and mastery over some enemy, either foreign or domestic. Thus, when he and Robert built their castles in the air together, they were chiefly castles of defence, well manned, and supplied with ammunition enough to withstand the attacks of the whole world. And thus pleasantly accommodating themselves one to another, the party rambled on, Helen alone petitioning sometimes for a halt, in order that she might sit down in some quiet nook, and enjoy a delightful book which she had taken with her for that purpose, but which Philip threatened should be thrown into the sea, if she did bury herself in its pages.

People of one idea are not always the safest guides for a party; and even Robert Clifton, with all his good sense, was too much absorbed to see exactly what was taking place around him. On the present occasion, that glistening aspect of the morning which is so inexpressibly beautiful, gave place, as it almost always does, to the gathering of soft clouds into one general mass, so that the young travellers became almost simultaneously aware that the sun had hid his face, and that a dead green hue upon the waters had usurped the place of that exquisite light and shadow which, as it seemed but a moment before, had thrown into such brilliant contrast the soft waves and their snow-white foam.

Seymour stopped, and shuddered as he contemplated this scene. "Let us go back," said he. But Philip laughed, and shouted, and said he liked it better than before, and hoped the wind would rise, and send much bigger waves upon the shore than those which already ran up hissing around their feet.

For some time the party walked on, rather more silently than before. At last Kitty said in her most serious voice, "Isn't there a tide, brother Robert?"

Robert suddenly stopped, looked all around him, then at his watch, and then faced about, taking the hand of Kitty in one of his, and that of Helen in the other.

No word did Robert utter as he walked along which bore the slightest relation to tide, or wind, or water, or any kind of difficulty in which these elements are concerned. He spoke of shells, but he would not let his sisters stop and pick them up; of marine plants, but he led them along the higher part of the shore where nothing looked so fresh and sparkling as near the water's edge. Here he pointed out to them the different strata of the cliff, discussed the various formations and structures of the earth, and delivered quite a geological lecture, but would not allow of the gathering of a single specimen, or even of any relaxation of the speed at which he was walking, though it might have been for some practical elucidation of the truths he unfolded.

Seymour, all the while, followed closely, and kept silence. He knew the reason why his brother was hastening back in

this determined manner, and he had the good sense to keep it to himself; but he could no more have talked of other things, as Robert did, than he could have flown upon the wings of the sea-bird which skimmed past them; and yet this was the only way to act a part that was at once both manly and kind.

Philip, although he also directed his steps the same way, knew little about the reason why they should return, and cared less. To him there was infinite amusement any way, in clambering occasionally half way up the cliff, then overtaking the party by double speed; and then, when he did keep on the shore, tempting the capricious waves to follow and catch him if they could.

The waves were not so capricious, however, but that they gained rapidly and steadily upon the shore, so that a very narrow strip remained for the party to walk upon, compared with the space they had recently enjoyed. The sisters, if they noticed this at all, thought it was occasioned by the bend of the coast, for Robert had succeeded so well in his endeavours to inspire them with confidence, that so long as his voice remained cheerful, and his manner self-possessed, they entertained not a thought of danger, nor, indeed, were aware that any danger was at hand.

There was but one point-one little spot along the shore, to which Robert attached any importance. Once safely past that, and all would be well. It was a little gully or creek, where the land was broken and irregular; and here, he very naturally thought, the sea would soonest reach the cliff. But then, here also, from the nature of the land, there might be a means of escape, by clambering up the side of the cliff. So Robert looked anxiously onward for this point, though he ceased not for a moment to amuse and interest his sisters, speaking all the time in the clearest, liveliest tones of his fine manly voice.

At last, on turning suddenly round a slight bend of the coast, the little hollow or bay became visible. Robert thought there was a good deal of white foam about it, and he could not see anything at all likely to prove a pathway above. Kitty, too, disturbed his composure by calling

out, "Look there, Robert, we shall have to wade through the water—I am quite sure we shall!"

"And if we have," said Robert, "what of that? Your little feet will skim through it like yon sea-bird; and as for Helen, I will carry her on my back."

The tone in which Robert spoke reassured his sisters again; so much so, that Kitty actually clapped her hands, exclaiming "That would be charming fun!” To which Robert replied by snatching her up playfully, as a sort of preliminary movement, and running with her nearly to the spot where the waves were already rolling in rather more than he had expected. He knew that when he did so the others would follow, and that thus a little time would be gained.

It appeared, on reaching this spot, that a very narrow passage, from rock to rock, was all that was necessary to be made good, in order to secure the safety of the whole party. There were some fragments of broken timber laid about, and many loose stones of considerable size. With these, it struck Robert, that he could very soon construct a sort of bridge, on which his sisters might pass over without so much as wetting their feet. He, therefore, placed Kitty on the sand, and telling them what he was about to do, busied himself immediately in collecting together such materials as he could find, the two girls helping him as well as they could.

But, where was Seymour all this while, and what was he doing? Robert was startled on turning round to catch a view of his countenance. It was absolutely white with terror and agony. From the first moment when the party turned back, he had given himself up to being swallowed in by the sea. Every roll of the waves, every burst of the heavy breakers, seemed like the roar of an enemy about to devour him in its horrid jaws. His sisters, too, his brothers-almost all he loved best in the world-all appeared to him about to share the same dreadful doom; and so strong was this impression, so terrible the working of fear in his distempered mind, that the spectacle of what Robert was about, and the really trifling nature of the difficulty which they all had now to encounter, served in no

[blocks in formation]

Building a bridge," screamed Kitty, for it was Philip who shouted to them from an elevated position which he had reached on the side of the cliff.

66

They can't get this way, that's clear," said he, as he sprang down like a goat, and was soon upon the beach with the others.

Robert was still busy, very busy, indeed, so much so, that he failed to observe what was going on.

"Come, Kitty," said Philip, stooping down, "you spring upon my back."

"Take Helen first," whispered the child. "She is rather frightened. I am not at all."

So Philip snatched up his sister Helen, and carried her across, sometimes wading knee deep in the water, and sometimes edging towards the foot of the cliff, so as to escape the splash of a breaking wave.

Kitty watched the process with intense anxiety. She had just said she was not at all afraid; but her blanched cheek and quivering lip now told a different story. Her turn came, however, very quickly, for Helen was soon standing almost dry upon the shore, while Philip dashed back amongst the waves, really quite enjoying the exploit.

"You are very wet about the legs, dear Philip," said Kitty, in a most pathetic tone as he approached her. "Do you think I shall be wet, too? Is the water very cold?" she added, grasping his neck so tightly with her small arms that her brother declared he should be suffocated, if he was not drowned. But Kitty spoke no more, and she also was soon set safely down beside her sister Helen.

Robert, on awaking to a sense of what was going on, felt first surprised, then amused; and bursting into a loud laugh,

he threw down a block of stone intended for the foundation of his bridge, exclaiming as he did so, "What a fool I have been to stand here contriving, while you were acting!" After which he also dashed through the water, and was soon beside his sisters. Seymour alone was now left. Had no previous terror filled his mind, he would have thought little more of crossing the water than his brothers thought of it; but when once his mind was taken possession of by this feeling, all attempts to call back anything like manly resolution were in vain. Utterly fruitless, then, were all the loud callings of his brothers to him to come over-all the imploring attitudes and gestures of his sisters. He who would have walked through the furnace had there been a moral cause for doing so, dared not trust himself to the shallow waves of the foaming sea, though he had just seen how lightly they might be encountered by others.

Robert wished, for Seymour's own sake, that he would come over unassisted, and therefore he called to him the more earnestly. But Seymour thought it was because of greater danger, and he was the more afraid to go. Philip had no such scruples about his brother's dignity and credit; but, dashing through once more, he snatched the terrified boy upon his shoulders and bore him harmless through. Indeed, to Philip the whole affair was so amusing, and so little fraught with anything like danger, that he could not refrain from his accustomed jokes at his brother's expense. So, carrying him on his back a great deal further along the shore than was necessary, he called out lustily-" Three cheers for the admiral!" and then, lifting him with all his might, acted the best representation he could of an electioneering chairing, with plentiful hurrahs and shouts, too, that startled the sea-gulls from the rocking waves.

This day, then, which had begun so pleasantly, only added another of those dark pages to poor Seymour's experience, which threatened to fill up, in a considerable degree, the volume of his life. But he was beginning to have practical things to think of that were enough, and sometimes a little too much, to fill each passing moment with its full saare of bitterness.

Though nearer and nearer drew the time of his departure from home, and more and more fixed the chains which were still not finally rivetted, Seymour made no absolute resistance, nor, in justice to his parents, it must be stated, ever made them really acquainted with the state of his own feelings on the subject. Those who observe little of human nature may think this improbable-those who watch it narrowly will know better; for how many voluntary victims may be found, even in the kindest families, who go on to their graves complaining that all things were against them in early life, when they never made any full and clear explanation at home, either of what were their own real wishes, or what were their sufferings from the wishes of others.

But with all this, Seymour was not learning the virtue of practical obedience. He was rebelling every moment in his heart, and working in many indirect ways with a hope that grew fainter every day as to any real good to be attained.

"Philip," said Seymour, one evening, as they strolled along the shore together, and he spoke very seriously, for his heart was heavy and sad," Philip, don't you think you could persuade papa and mamma to let you change places with me, even yet? I am sure you would make a better admiral than I ever shall."

"And you a better parson than I shall make," said Philip, laughing. "That's clear enough."

"Then do try what you can do," added Seymour.

"You are so very grave about the matter," said Philip.

"It is a grave subject," observed his brother," in whatever light you look at it."

"It doesn't seem so very grave to me." "Not yet, perhaps. But it will, I hope, sometime; that is, if you do take upon yourself the holy office you are contemplating."

"Don't talk in that canting way, Seymy. It reminds me of the old conventicle. You know it is not in my nature to contemplate anything, as you call it; and as to a holy office, I never look at it in that light, or I should give the thing up at once."

"And yet that is the only way to make the office either respectable in the sight of others, or tolerable to oneself. I know

I should think it holy, and should desire to think it so, if I were in your place." Perhaps so; but you and I are very different."

66

"That is the sole reason why I ask you now to make one last effort to bring about an exchange between us."

"It would be of no use; not the least in the world."

"But do try, dear Philip, just once. Do try, as you love me, and desire my happiness."

"Why, look you, Seymy, you may take my pulpit any day, and preach in it as often and as long as you like. But as to the navy, I tell you what, my boy, I once caught a sight of that old uncle of ours, the admiral, with his goldheaded cane, and ruffled shirt, and gouty legs. Did you ever see him?"

66

Yes, many times."

"And did you like the look of him?" 'No, not at all."

66

[blocks in formation]

"Study for the Church?"

"I can go to college. I don't think the fellows there study much. They eat, and drink, and row-I can do all that with any of them."

"But you must do something else, or you will be disgraced."

"Not much of it, I fancy. Do you think Wellesborough studies, or Page, or Jackson?"

They are not in the Church yet." "No, but they will be; and where they can pass, I can follow. At least it is so in riding, I know, and a little beyond. them I can go at a leap."

"And when you are in the Church, as you call it, Philip, what do you mean to do?"

66

"Oh! attend to parish business, to be sure; make myself comfortable; and shoot, when the season comes,-perhaps hunt a little too."

|

Seymour could not help smiling at the difference of their tastes at the wide extremes at which they lived in thought and feeling; but he felt secretly more disposed to sigh than smile, at the idea that this was all which entered into his

tod

brother's calculations. He thought, too, unacquainted with the nature or the cause with how much he himself would have of their own malady, was becoming rather invested the sacred office, had it been his difficult to do with in the office, and often TI privilege to contemplate it as his own. charged his son with blame which was The subject was altogether a very sad one wholly undeserved. The clerks were to him. Could his brother have been becoming dissatisfied, and often went to brought seriously to contemplate the Robert to complain. The affairs of the change he proposed, so that the Church business were falling into more confusion and the Admiralty might still have been re- than Robert knew how to bring into order, tained in the family, all might have been scarcely even to understand. His father, well ; but Philip, as he grew older, did too, forgot himself sometimes, but more not altogether dislike the comforts which frequently changed his mind without his own destination had in store; and, sufficient cause, giving orders and revoktherefore, he was wary about exchanging ing them in a hurried, vacillating manner, them for those which were less certain. which put every body out of temper, In fact, as he grew older, it was evident and himself most of all ; so that poor that his own future grew less disagreeable Robert seemed to have a weight upon his in contemplation. Many other fine spirited young shoulders heavier at times than he fellows, he thought, went into the Church knew how to bear. And all the while he did -it was a gentlemanly calling, at all not like the business-almost hated it, events, and saved a man a good deal of and wished himself anywhere but in that trouble, in keeping up appearances.

dark dull office, amongst account-books, But Philip has not got into the Church and invoices of things that were to him little ! yet. There are a good many things to be better than filthy and disgusting ; such bar done first. Above all, there is his college as tallow, and other commodities, which, life to lead, for which, however, he is touched in detail, are supposed to degrade preparing as fast as a most patient tutor | the character, but dealt with in the mass can prepare him; only that the boy has seem to give it dignity and worth. already got his head filled with dogs, and Robert Clifton had so much to do with horses, races, and grooms; and the tutor things of this kind, so little with his fafinds them rather inconvenient, as well as vourite objects of pursuit; he was so boisterous companions, in the hours of pressed down, too, by heavy galling cares, a study. Somewhat expensive, too, the that a premature old age seemed to be ab young man's tastes begin to be, so that creeping over him; and his once athletic site altogether it is a serious matter getting form grew spare and meagre in its proporPhilip Clifton into the Church.

tions. His face also was too pale and 12a To the oldest brother these tastes were sharp for perfect health : and his heavy becoming particularly serious, when con- black hair sometimes cast a shadow over sidered in connection with the general his fine brow so deep that a mother's circumstances of his family. Robert was heart might well have sunk within her at now old enough to take these into calcu- the sight. But Robert did not complain: lation, and he did so with a gravity which he was only out of his element, that was all. often called forth a laugh from Philip at “That was all," the mother would have the “old man” as he was pleased to said ; hundreds of grave kind experienced designate his brother. Such laughter, friends would have said that was nothing however, seldom lasted long, for Robert compared with duty-duty to a well-reguhad something about him which equally lated mind was paramount. Robert Clifdisarmed ridicule, and commanded respect. ton knew this as well as the gravest Besides which, he had early become so them all—he knew it practically, for he responsible an agent in the pecuniary acted upon it every day; but it made his transactions of the household, that self-cheek pale nevertheless-yes, and his heart interest, if Philip ever acknowledged such a little heavy sometimes; but he was getan influence, dictated a manner calcu- ting himself “schooled in,” he said, and lated to conciliate, rather than offend, or when youth was over, and those silly fancies repel.

which floated through his brain had all Mr. Clifton, like many half-invalids, passed by, he should do very well.

« PreviousContinue »