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Sir Charles.— 'Twere all in vain 1
The simple bliss enjoyed by simple people,
He then laments the want of children :—
Did I feel
A father's interest bind me to the world—
This touches a tender chord in Lady Ellinor's feelings, which she turns aside, and expresses a wish to leave the lonely sojourn of the Hall; but the colloquy, in which the husband certainly bears the more amiable character, is broken by the appearance of the Vicar, who seeks a private interview with Lady Ellinor, and who commences immediately his insidious questionings to assure himself of a secret he has long suspected, which Lady Elliuor in vain endeavours to avoid.
Why address me ?—can I assist you, Sir?
Vicar.— Excuse my boldness;
I've reason to presume a word from yon
Might supersede the need of further search.
I've heard no more than what you've now related.
A child, a boy, found at the vicarage
I well remember. I was then a bride—
Sir Charles and I sojourned in Westminster.
All that you know I know, but nothing more.
The Puritan minister, thus baffled, threatens to have an interview with the husband, and proceeds in that base and insolent strain not unusual with low-minded persons, till he tells her that he has identified the messenger who conveys the annual bounty to his hands for Walter with a near kinsman of hers,
Dependent and residing at the Hall.
As he cannot wring the unwilling secret from her, he again threatens to seek Sir Charles till she confesses.
Since you have traced
Our house's near concernment with that youth,
Subtly secured 'gainst all discovery;
A mournful story 'tis, with which the honour
Of a right noble lady, whose fair name
Never reproachful epithet received
From slander's lip, inseparably is link'd.
I own I know the parents of young Walter;
The Vicar then informs her, seeing he can extract no more, that his purpose in coming was to inform her that Walter is in love and betrothed to the daughter, the only child, of the wealthiest yeoman in that part of the country. She orders the Vicar to forbid the wedding's further progress, and resolves to remove Walter to "brighter scenes and courtlier company;" and she then expresses a desire to see Walter in the garden for a few minutes' converse.
Waiting the Vicar's arrival from the Hall, a tfle-a-tele takes place between Walter and Mary, in such sweet pastoral talk, that has won our heart too much not to let our readers share in it.
Walter.—He is ao long in coming! this delay
Come, sit you down beneath the linden trees
Upon this bank, and ease your restless mind
With admiration of yon laughing scene.
I need not turn my eyes away from thee.
Walter.— What must I admire?
Mary.—Admire! the wide and fertile view before us.
How beautiful it is! its meadow-lands,
Its corn-fields, and its woods.
Mary, my love, that intercepting curl,
That, while you talk, I may see all your face I
Upon those groups of scattered cottages
Half seen amid their orchards—on yon grange,
Whose gathered harvests crowd the rickyard nigh;
On Braunston spire, which from its woody knoll
Is ever pointing upward to the skies,
As it would warn us of our higher home.
Where the last sunbeams fall on the qreen turf,
Within that peaceful churchyard, side-by-side.
Mary.— Think of other things;
Inhale the peace that breathes from all around.
I'm never wearied gazing on this scene:
How quietly upon the upland browze
Yon scattered flock; while in the stream beneath,
Where the tall alders yield them choice of shade,
Stand pensively the kine—delightful all
In its variety of pleasing sights—
Till, where the plain in hazy distance fades,
The Malvern hills rise cloudlike to the view;
How beautiful it a I
In the bright midday as it is at eve.
I often think the scenes we most rejoice in
Are for their beauty debtors to the heavens
Gent. Mao. Vol. XXII.'
More than the earth. The rarest disposition
This delicate little strain of fond parleying is first broken by the presence of George, who impatiently informs them that he is going into the wide world, and cannot rest there; and then by the arrival of the Vicar, who informs Walter that the lady would converse with him. This it is evident is the important crisis of the plot, and the most difficult for the poet to encounter, in the strong and complicated passions which must be present at the scene. After some few speeches of involuntary admiration on her part, and of anxious doubt and inquiry on his, Lady Ellinor says,
My task is hard, but it must be performed.—
Your mother, Walter, was of noble birth;
Your father wealthy, and of gentle blood;
And both were young, and both in the esteem
Of their compeers were held the paragons,
Whose presence graced the court. Daily they met
In the town's gayest scenes—the Mall, the ball;
In the same measure danced, in the same madrigals
Mingled their voices. What could they but love?
None saw them, but assigned them to each other.
They fondly, wildly loved.
Being, as you speak, even in that cold world,
Have had the heart to sever them?
They on their course of love sailed smoothly on,
Fann'd by light gales along a placid stream,
All between banks of flowers; none barr'd their union.
Relations, friends, approved.
And such my parents, and my birth their shame'
These things perplex me.
And now the solution of the riddle is imparted, such as Walter little could have foreseen.
Lady Ellinor.— It is hard to utter—
How shall I speak it? There was much delay;
Walter.— Yourself, Lady?
* Not quite so holy as the lady seems to imagine; bat the subject is a little delicate.—Rkv.
Lady Ellinor.—To me 'twas known.
Walter.— And the poor child?
Lady Ellinor.— That hour
Was to a far secluded home conveyed.
But at that hour, enamour'd as he was,
He could deny her nothing.
Lady Ellinor.—The parting from her child nigh broke her heart;
But she subdued the mother's tenderness,
And sternly clung to honour.
Lady Ellinor.—Honour's her idol; life's a trifle to her,
Compared with her fair fame. The very night
Before your birth, a-blaze with jewellery
She shone, the bright sultana of the masque.
On the next eve she at the banquet sat,
The courteous hostess of a hundred guests,
Till, nature failing to support her courage,
The attendants bore her fainting to the chamber.
Walter receives this tale with less emotion than might be expected; inquires eagerly after his father, and asks after his brothers and sisters. He is told that his father considers him dead, and that his brothers and sisters all one by one perished. He then requests a likeness of his mother—a description of her—a picture. Lady Ellinor says she was like her, and then turns a conversation, too affecting and dangerous to be prolonged, to Walter's future fortunes, and informs him that his mother is studying to restore him to the state from which she cast him; but Walter is the child of nature, has imbibed the gentle philosophy of his father's disposition, and expresses his satisfaction in his present sphere.
Fomp, riches, rank are valueless to me;
Lady Ellinor hints to him that his unaspiring mind and love of rural tranquillity and content is owing to some attachment to a Phillis or Delia.
With wreathed crook, and silken-fleeced flock,
And she informs him that with his mother's consent these nuptials may not be, " you cannot know her heart 5" when Walter naturally bursts out.
Could she, who loved so madly, ruin mine?
And now we must give Lady Ellinor's explanation at full length.
It mast not, cannot be. The hour may come—
When the world'* less to her than now it is,
Her youth quite gone, her waning beauty faded,
When pride, the love of praise, and vanity,
Fly the chill blasts which issue from the grave,
And leave the aged breast to worthier tenants,—
That she may force herself to brook her shame,
Do a late justice to the child she has wronged.
And implore pardon from her injured husband.
But no, not yet. In sickness or in sorrow
Such thoughts have strongly urged her, and oft times
Could hardly be repressed. The day will come,
I feel it must—not yet—still come it will—
That dreadful revelation must be made,
And all its torturing consequences suffered—
The crimson ignominy ; the world's scorn;
The pity of the good; but that were little;
The loathed familiarity of those,
Who, with their blighted names, now keep aloof,
Your father's keen reproaches for the years
Of comfort in his child abstracted from him ;—
All might be borne; but I could not endure
To see my son with humble blood allied,
Or hear that yeoman's daughter call me mother.
And here we think this scene would have ended with more effect than it docs at present. From the opening of the third act it appears that Lady Ellinor had forbidden Walter to continue his attachment to Mary; but he persists in his purpose of remaining faithful to his engagements.
• Their hard, imperious will
May make me wretched; it shan't make me great.
I'll not be torn from lowly liberty,
I'll not be manacled with courtly forms,
I'll not be hemmed around by fine appointments,
I'll not be always watched by bowing lacqueys, &c.
Mary says all on the occasion that an amiable and trustful maid ought to say—" We'll love and wait and hope." George also returns to bid them farewell, behaves with admirable temper and feeling, shake hands with Walter, leaves Mary, in case he dies when away, all his little property, and even wishes them to name their first child after him. Old Empson now comes in, who has been ignorant of all the late discoveries, and is eager for the fulfilment of the marriage. The Puritan Vicar however interposes, who informs him that he is commanded, as a tenant of Sir Charles, to order them to move no further in his purpose. This moves the old man's spleen a little, and he mentions the obligations the family are under to him, among which is the following:
• When Sir Charles at Naseby
Lay fallen, with little hope to rise again,
He then finds that Sir Charles bears no part in a proceeding which is indeed guarded from his knowledge; he determines to sec him, and takes Mary with him; in the meantime Lady Ellinor has an interview with her son in the public avenue leading to Ashby Hall; and makes the following proposition: