Part 1 out of 3
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In 1828, three years after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hawthorne
published his first romance, "Fanshawe." It was issued at Boston by Marsh
& Capen, but made little or no impression on the public. The motto on the
title-page of the original was from Southey: "Wilt thou go on with me?"
Afterwards, when he had struck into the vein of fiction that came to be
known as distinctively his own, he attempted to suppress this youthful
work, and was so successful that he obtained and destroyed all but a few
of the copies then extant.
Some twelve years after his death it was resolved, in view of the interest
manifested in tracing the growth of his genius from the beginning of his
activity as an author, to revive this youthful romance; and the reissue of
"Fanshawe" was then made.
Little biographical interest attaches to it, beyond the fact that Mr.
Longfellow found in the descriptions and general atmosphere of the book a
decided suggestion of the situation of Bowdoin College, at Brunswick,
Maine, and the life there at the time when he and Hawthorne were both
undergraduates of that institution.
Professor Packard, of Bowdoin College, who was then in charge of the study
of English literature, and has survived both of his illustrious pupils,
recalls Hawthorne's exceptional excellence in the composition of English,
even at that date (1821-1825); and it is not impossible that Hawthorne
intended, through the character of Fanshawe, to present some faint
projection of what he then thought might be his own obscure history. Even
while he was in college, however, and meditating perhaps the slender
elements of this first romance, his fellow-student Horatio Bridge, whose
"Journal of an African Cruiser" he afterwards edited, recognized in him
the possibilities of a writer of fiction--a fact to which Hawthorne
alludes in the dedicatory Preface to "The Snow-Image."
G. P. L.
* * * * *
"Our court shall be a little Academe."--SHAKESPEARE.
In an ancient though not very populous settlement, in a retired corner of
one of the New England States, arise the walls of a seminary of learning,
which, for the convenience of a name, shall be entitled "Harley College."
This institution, though the number of its years is inconsiderable
compared with the hoar antiquity of its European sisters, is not without
some claims to reverence on the score of age; for an almost countless
multitude of rivals, by many of which its reputation has been eclipsed,
have sprung up since its foundation. At no time, indeed, during an
existence of nearly a century, has it acquired a very extensive fame; and
circumstances, which need not be particularized, have, of late years,
involved it in a deeper obscurity. There are now few candidates for the
degrees that the college is authorized to bestow. On two of its annual
"Commencement Days," there has been a total deficiency of baccalaureates;
and the lawyers and divines, on whom doctorates in their respective
professions are gratuitously inflicted, are not accustomed to consider the
distinction as an honor. Yet the sons of this seminary have always
maintained their full share of reputation, in whatever paths of life they
trod. Few of them, perhaps, have been deep and finished scholars; but the
college has supplied--what the emergencies of the country demanded--a set
of men more useful in its present state, and whose deficiency in
theoretical knowledge has not been found to imply a want of practical
The local situation of the college, so far secluded from the sight and
sound of the busy world, is peculiarly favorable to the moral, if not to
the literary, habits of its students; and this advantage probably caused
the founders to overlook the inconveniences that were inseparably
connected with it. The humble edifices rear themselves almost at the
farthest extremity of a narrow vale, which, winding through a long extent
of hill-country, is wellnigh as inaccessible, except at one point, as the
Happy Valley of Abyssinia. A stream, that farther on becomes a
considerable river, takes its rise at, a short distance above the college,
and affords, along its wood-fringed banks, many shady retreats, where
even study is pleasant, and idleness delicious. The neighborhood of the
institution is not quite a solitude, though the few habitations scarcely
constitute a village. These consist principally of farm-houses, of rather
an ancient date (for the settlement is much older than the college), and
of a little inn, which even in that secluded spot does not fail of a
moderate support. Other dwellings are scattered up and down the valley;
but the difficulties of the soil will long avert the evils of a too dense
population. The character of the inhabitants does not seem--as there was,
perhaps, room to anticipate--to be in any degree influenced by the
atmosphere of Harley College. They are a set of rough and hardy yeomen,
much inferior, as respects refinement, to the corresponding classes in
most other parts of our country. This is the more remarkable, as there is
scarcely a family in the vicinity that has not provided, for at least one
of its sons, the advantages of a "liberal education."
Having thus described the present state of Harley College, we must proceed
to speak of it as it existed about eighty years since, when its foundation
was recent, and its prospects flattering. At the head of the institution,
at this period, was a learned and Orthodox divine, whose fame was in all
the churches. He was the author of several works which evinced much
erudition and depth of research; and the public, perhaps, thought the more
highly of his abilities from a singularity in the purposes to which he
applied them, that added much to the curiosity of his labors, though
little to their usefulness. But, however fanciful might be his private
pursuits, Dr. Melmoth, it was universally allowed, was diligent and
successful in the arts of instruction. The young men of his charge
prospered beneath his eye, and regarded him with an affection that was
strengthened by the little foibles which occasionally excited their
ridicule. The president was assisted in the discharge of his duties by two
inferior officers, chosen from the alumni of the college, who, while they
imparted to others the knowledge they had already imbibed, pursued the
study of divinity under the direction of their principal. Under such
auspices the institution grew and flourished. Having at that time but two
rivals in the country (neither of them within a considerable distance), it
became the general resort of the youth of the Province in which it was
situated. For several years in succession, its students amounted to nearly
fifty,--a number which, relatively to the circumstances of the country,
was very considerable.
From the exterior of the collegians, an accurate observer might pretty
safely judge how long they had been inmates of those classic walls. The
brown cheeks and the rustic dress of some would inform him that they had
but recently left the plough to labor in a not less toilsome field; the
grave look, and the intermingling of garments of a more classic cut, would
distinguish those who had begun to acquire the polish of their new
residence; and the air of superiority, the paler cheek, the less robust
form, the spectacles of green, and the dress, in general of threadbare
black, would designate the highest class, who were understood to have
acquired nearly all the science their Alma Mater could bestow, and to be
on the point of assuming their stations in the world. There were, it is
true, exceptions to this general description. A few young men had found
their way hither from the distant seaports; and these were the models of
fashion to their rustic companions, over whom they asserted a superiority
in exterior accomplishments, which the fresh though unpolished intellect
of the sons of the forest denied them in their literary competitions. A
third class, differing widely from both the former, consisted of a few
young descendants of the aborigines, to whom an impracticable philanthropy
was endeavoring to impart the benefits of civilization.
If this institution did not offer all the advantages of elder and prouder
seminaries, its deficiencies were compensated to its students by the
inculcation of regular habits, and of a deep and awful sense of religion,
which seldom deserted them in their course through life. The mild and
gentle rule of Dr. Melmoth, like that of a father over his children, was
more destructive to vice than a sterner sway; and though youth is never
without its follies, they have seldom been more harmless than they were
here. The students, indeed, ignorant of their own bliss, sometimes wished
to hasten the time of their entrance on the business of life; but they
found, in after-years, that many of their happiest remembrances, many of
the scenes which they would with least reluctance live over again,
referred to the seat of their early studies. The exceptions to this remark
were chiefly those whose vices had drawn down, even from that paternal
government, a weighty retribution.
Dr. Melmoth, at the time when he is to be introduced to the reader, had
borne the matrimonial yoke (and in his case it was no light burden) nearly
twenty years. The blessing of children, however, had been denied him,--a
circumstance which he was accustomed to consider as one of the sorest
trials that checkered his pathway; for he was a man of a kind and
affectionate heart, that was continually seeking objects to rest itself
upon. He was inclined to believe, also, that a common offspring would have
exerted a meliorating influence on the temper of Mrs. Melmoth, the
character of whose domestic government often compelled him to call to mind
such portions of the wisdom of antiquity as relate to the proper endurance
of the shrewishness of woman. But domestic comforts, as well as comforts
of every other kind, have their drawbacks; and, so long as the balance is
on the side of happiness, a wise man will not murmur. Such was the opinion
of Dr. Melmoth; and with a little aid from philosophy, and more from
religion, he journeyed on contentedly through life. When the storm was
loud by the parlor hearth, he had always a sure and quiet retreat in his
study; and there, in his deep though not always useful labors, he soon
forgot whatever of disagreeable nature pertained to his situation. This
small and dark apartment was the only portion of the house to which, since
one firmly repelled invasion, Mrs. Melmoth's omnipotence did not extend.
Here (to reverse the words of Queen Elizabeth) there was "but one master
and no mistress"; and that man has little right to complain who possesses
so much as one corner in the world where he may be happy or miserable, as
best suits him. In his study, then, the doctor was accustomed to spend
most of the hours that were unoccupied by the duties of his station. The
flight of time was here as swift as the wind, and noiseless as the snow-
flake; and it was a sure proof of real happiness that night often came
upon the student before he knew it was midday.
Dr. Melmoth was wearing towards age (having lived nearly sixty years),
when he was called upon to assume a character to which he had as yet been
a stranger. He had possessed in his youth a very dear friend, with whom
his education had associated him, and who in his early manhood had been
his chief intimate. Circumstances, however, had separated them for nearly
thirty years, half of which had been spent by his friend, who was engaged
in mercantile pursuits, in a foreign country. The doctor had,
nevertheless, retained a warm interest in the welfare of his old
associate, though the different nature of their thoughts and occupations
had prevented them from corresponding. After a silence of so long
continuance, therefore, he was surprised by the receipt of a letter from
his friend, containing a request of a most unexpected nature.
Mr. Langton had married rather late in life; and his wedded bliss had been
but of short continuance. Certain misfortunes in trade, when he was a
Benedict of three years' standing, had deprived him of a large portion of
his property, and compelled him, in order to save the remainder, to leave
his own country for what he hoped would be but a brief residence in
another. But, though he was successful in the immediate objects of his
voyage, circumstances occurred to lengthen his stay far beyond the period
which he had assigned to it. It was difficult so to arrange his extensive
concerns that they could be safely trusted to the management of others;
and, when this was effected, there was another not less powerful obstacle
to his return. His affairs, under his own inspection, were so prosperous,
and his gains so considerable, that, in the words of the old ballad, "He
set his heart to gather gold"; and to this absorbing passion he sacrificed
his domestic happiness. The death of his wife, about four years after his
departure, undoubtedly contributed to give him a sort of dread of
returning, which it required a strong effort to overcome. The welfare of
his only child he knew would be little affected by this event; for she was
under the protection of his sister, of whose tenderness he was well
assured. But, after a few more years, this sister, also, was taken away by
death; and then the father felt that duty imperatively called upon him to
return. He realized, on a sudden, how much of life he had thrown away in
the acquisition of what is only valuable as it contributes to the
happiness of life, and how short a tune was left him for life's true
enjoyments. Still, however, his mercantile habits were too deeply seated
to allow him to hazard his present prosperity by any hasty measures; nor
was Mr. Langton, though capable of strong affections, naturally liable to
manifest them violently. It was probable, therefore, that many months
might yet elapse before he would again tread the shores of his native
But the distant relative, in whose family, since the death of her aunt,
Ellen Langton had remained, had been long at variance with her father, and
had unwillingly assumed the office of her protector. Mr. Langton's
request, therefore, to Dr. Melmoth, was, that his ancient friend (one of
the few friends that time had left him) would be as a father to his
daughter till he could himself relieve him of the charge.
The doctor, after perusing the epistle of his friend, lost no time in
laying it before Mrs. Melmoth, though this was, in truth, one of the very
few occasions on which he had determined that his will should be absolute
law. The lady was quick to perceive the firmness of his purpose, and would
not (even had she been particularly averse to the proposed measure) hazard
her usual authority by a fruitless opposition. But, by long disuse, she
had lost the power of consenting graciously to any wish of her husband's.
"I see your heart is set upon this matter," she observed; "and, in truth,
I fear we cannot decently refuse Mr. Langton's request. I see little good
of such a friend, doctor, who never lets one know he is alive till he has
a favor to ask."
"Nay; but I have received much good at his hand," replied Dr. Melmoth;
"and, if he asked more of me, it should be done with a willing heart. I
remember in my youth, when my worldly goods were few and ill managed (I
was a bachelor, then, dearest Sarah, with none to look after my
household), how many times I have been beholden to him. And see--in his
letter he speaks of presents, of the produce of the country, which he has
sent both to you and me."
"If the girl were country-bred," continued the lady, "we might give her
house-room, and no harm done. Nay, she might even be a help to me; for
Esther, our maid-servant, leaves us at the mouth's end. But I warrant she
knows as little of household matters as you do yourself, doctor."
"My friend's sister was well grounded in the _re familiari_" answered
her husband; "and doubtless she hath imparted somewhat of her skill to
this damsel. Besides, the child is of tender years, and will profit much
by your instruction and mine."
"The child is eighteen years of age, doctor," observed Mrs. Melmoth, "and
she has cause to be thankful that she will have better instruction than
This was a proposition that Dr. Melmoth did not choose to dispute; though
he perhaps thought that his long and successful experience in the
education of the other sex might make him an able coadjutor to his wife in
the care of Ellen Langton. He determined to journey in person to the
seaport where his young charge resided, leaving the concerns of Harley
College to the direction of the two tutors. Mrs. Melmoth, who, indeed,
anticipated with pleasure the arrival of a new subject to her authority,
threw no difficulties in the way of his intention. To do her justice, her
preparations for his journey, and the minute instructions with which she
favored him, were such as only a woman's true affection could have
suggested. The traveller met with no incidents important to this tale;
and, after an absence of about a fortnight, he and Ellen alighted from
their steeds (for on horseback had the journey been performed) in safety
at his own door.
If pen could give an adequate idea of Ellen Langton's loveliness, it would
achieve what pencil (the pencils, at least, of the colonial artists who
attempted it) never could; for, though the dark eyes might be painted, the
pure and pleasant thoughts that peeped through them could only be seen and
felt. But descriptions of beauty are never satisfactory. It must,
therefore, be left to the imagination of the reader to conceive of
something not more than mortal, nor, indeed, quite the perfection of
mortality, but charming men the more, because they felt, that, lovely as
she was, she was of like nature to themselves.
From the time that Ellen entered Dr. Melmoth's habitation, the sunny days
seemed brighter and the cloudy ones less gloomy, than he had ever before
known them. He naturally delighted in children; and Ellen, though her
years approached to womanhood, had yet much of the gayety and simple
happiness, because the innocence, of a child. She consequently became the
very blessing of his life,--the rich recreation that he promised himself
for hours of literary toil. On one occasion, indeed, he even made her his
companion in the sacred retreat of his study, with the purpose of entering
upon a course of instruction in the learned languages. This measure,
however, he found inexpedient to repeat; for Ellen, having discovered an
old romance among his heavy folios, contrived, by the charm of her sweet
voice, to engage his attention therein till all more important concerns
With Mrs. Melmoth, Ellen was not, of course, so great a favorite as with
her husband; for women cannot so readily as men, bestow upon the offspring
of others those affections that nature intended for their own; and the
doctor's extraordinary partiality was anything rather than a pledge of his
wife's. But Ellen differed so far from the idea she had previously formed
of her, as a daughter of one of the principal merchants, who were then, as
now, like nobles in the land, that the stock of dislike which Mrs. Melmoth
had provided was found to be totally inapplicable. The young stranger
strove so hard, too (and undoubtedly it was a pleasant labor), to win her
love, that she was successful to a degree of which the lady herself was
not, perhaps, aware. It was soon seen that her education had not been
neglected in those points which Mrs. Melmoth deemed most important. The
nicer departments of cookery, after sufficient proof of her skill, were
committed to her care; and the doctor's table was now covered with
delicacies, simple indeed, but as tempting on account of their intrinsic
excellence as of the small white hands that made them. By such arts as
these,--which in her were no arts, but the dictates of an affectionate
disposition,--by making herself useful where it was possible, and
agreeable on all occasions, Ellen gained the love of everyone within the
sphere of her influence.
But the maiden's conquests were not confined to the members of Dr.
Melmoth's family. She had numerous admirers among those whose situation
compelled them to stand afar off, and gaze upon her loveliness, as if she
were a star, whose brightness they saw, but whose warmth they could not
feel. These were the young men of Harley College, whose chief
opportunities of beholding Ellen were upon the Sabbaths, when she
worshipped with them in the little chapel, which served the purposes of a
church to all the families of the vicinity. There was, about this period
(and the fact was undoubtedly attributable to Ellen's influence,) a
general and very evident decline in the scholarship of the college,
especially in regard to the severer studies. The intellectual powers of
the young men seemed to be directed chiefly to the construction of Latin
and Greek verse, many copies of which, with a characteristic and classic
gallantry, were strewn in the path where Ellen Langton was accustomed to
walk. They, however, produced no perceptible effect; nor were the
aspirations of another ambitious youth, who celebrated her perfections in
Hebrew, attended with their merited success.
But there was one young man, to whom circumstances, independent of his
personal advantages, afforded a superior opportunity of gaining Ellen's
favor. He was nearly related to Dr. Melmoth, on which account he received
his education at Harley College, rather than at one of the English
universities, to the expenses of which his fortune would have been
adequate. This connection entitled him to a frequent and familiar access
to the domestic hearth of the dignitary,--an advantage of which, since
Ellen Langton became a member of the family, he very constantly availed
Edward Walcott was certainly much superior, in most of the particulars of
which a lady takes cognizance, to those of his fellow-students who had
come under Ellen's notice. He was tall; and the natural grace of his
manners had been improved (an advantage which few of his associates could
boast) by early intercourse with polished society. His features, also,
were handsome, and promised to be manly and dignified when they should
cease to be youthful. His character as a scholar was more than
respectable, though many youthful follies, sometimes, perhaps, approaching
near to vices, were laid to his charge. But his occasional derelictions
from discipline were not such as to create any very serious apprehensions
respecting his future welfare; nor were they greater than, perhaps, might
be expected from a young man who possessed a considerable command of
money, and who was, besides, the fine gentleman of the little community of
which he was a member,--a character which generally leads its possessor
into follies that he would otherwise have avoided.
With this youth Ellen Langton became familiar, and even intimate; for he
was her only companion, of an age suited to her own, and the difference of
sex did not occur to her as an objection. He was her constant companion on
all necessary and allowable occasions, and drew upon himself, in
consequence, the envy of the college.
"Why, all delights are vain, but that most vain,
Which, with pain purchased, doth inherit pain:
As painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth, while truth, the while,
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look."
On one of the afternoons which afforded to the students a relaxation from
their usual labors, Ellen was attended by her cavalier in a little
excursion over the rough bridle-roads that led from her new residence. She
was an experienced equestrian,--a necessary accomplishment at that period,
when vehicles of every kind were rare. It was now the latter end of
spring; but the season had hitherto been backward, with only a few warm
and pleasant days. The present afternoon, however, was a delicious
mingling of spring and summer, forming in their union an atmosphere so
mild and pure, that to breathe was almost a positive happiness. There was
a little alternation of cloud across the brow of heaven, but only so much
as to render the sunshine more delightful.
The path of the young travellers lay sometimes among tall and thick
standing trees, and sometimes over naked and desolate hills, whence man
had taken the natural vegetation, and then left the soil to its
barrenness. Indeed, there is little inducement to a cultivator to labor
among the huge stones which there peep forth from the earth, seeming to
form a continued ledge for several miles. A singular contrast to this
unfavored tract of country is seen in the narrow but luxuriant, though
sometimes swampy, strip of interval, on both sides of the stream, that, as
has been noticed, flows down the valley. The light and buoyant spirits of
Edward Walcott and Ellen rose higher as they rode on; and their way was
enlivened, wherever its roughness did not forbid, by their conversation
and pleasant laughter. But at length Ellen drew her bridle, as they
emerged from a thick portion of the forest, just at the foot of a steep
"We must have ridden far," she observed,--"farther than I thought. It will
be near sunset before we can reach home."
"There are still several hours of daylight," replied Edward Walcott; "and
we will not turn back without ascending this hill. The prospect from the
summit is beautiful, and will be particularly so now, in this rich
sunlight. Come, Ellen,--one light touch of the whip,--your pony is as
fresh as when we started."
On reaching the summit of the hill, and looking back in the direction in
which they had come, they could see the little stream, peeping forth many
times to the daylight, and then shrinking back into the shade. Farther on,
it became broad and deep, though rendered incapable of navigation, in this
part of its course, by the occasional interruption of rapids.
"There are hidden wonders of rock and precipice and cave, in that dark
forest," said Edward, pointing to the space between them and the river.
"If it were earlier in the day, I should love to lead you there. Shall we
try the adventure now, Ellen?"
"Oh no!" she replied. "Let us delay no longer. I fear I must even now
abide a rebuke from Mrs. Melmoth, which I have surely deserved. But who is
this, who rides on so slowly before us?"
She pointed to a horseman, whom they had not before observed. He was
descending the hill; but, as his steed seemed to have chosen his own pace,
he made a very inconsiderable progress.
"Oh, do you not know him? But it is scarcely possible you should,"
exclaimed her companion. "We must do him the good office, Ellen, of
stopping his progress, or he will find himself at the village, a dozen
miles farther on, before he resumes his consciousness."
"Has he then lost his senses?" inquired Miss Langton.
"Not so, Ellen,--if much learning has not made him mad," replied Edward
Walcott. "He is a deep scholar and a noble fellow; but I fear we shall
follow him to his grave erelong. Dr. Melmoth has sent him to ride in
pursuit of his health. He will never overtake it, however, at this pace."
As he spoke, they had approached close to the subject of their
conversation; and Ellen had a moment's space for observation before he
started from the abstraction in which he was plunged. The result of her
scrutiny was favorable, yet very painful.
The stranger could scarcely have attained his twentieth year, and was
possessed of a face and form such as Nature bestows on none but her
favorites. There was a nobleness on his high forehead, which time would
have deepened into majesty; and all his features were formed with a
strength and boldness, of which the paleness, produced by study and
confinement, could not deprive them. The expression of his countenance was
not a melancholy one: on the contrary, it was proud and high, perhaps
triumphant, like one who was a ruler in a world of his own, and
independent of the beings that surrounded him. But a blight, of which his
thin pale cheek, and the brightness of his eye, were alike proofs, seemed
to have come over him ere his maturity.
The scholar's attention was now aroused by the hoof-tramps at his side;
and, starting, he fixed his eyes on Ellen, whose young and lovely
countenance was full of the interest he had excited. A deep blush
immediately suffused his cheek, proving how well the glow of health would
have become it. There was nothing awkward, however, in his manner; and,
soon recovering his self-possession, he bowed to her, and would have rode
"Your ride is unusually long to-day, Fanshawe," observed Edward Walcott.
"When may we look for your return?"
The young man again blushed, but answered, with a smile that had a
beautiful effect upon his countenance, "I was not, at the moment, aware in
which direction my horse's head was turned. I have to thank you for
arresting me in a journey which was likely to prove much longer than I
The party had now turned their horses, and were about to resume their ride
in a homeward direction; but Edward perceived that Fanshawe, having lost
the excitement of intense thought, now looked weary and dispirited.
"Here is a cottage close at hand," he observed. "We have ridden far, and
stand in need of refreshment. Ellen, shall we alight?"
She saw the benevolent motive of his proposal, and did not hesitate to
comply with it. But, as they paused at the cottage door, she could not but
observe that its exterior promised few of the comforts which they
required. Time and neglect seemed to have conspired for its ruin; and, but
for a thin curl of smoke from its clay chimney, they could not have
believed it to be inhabited. A considerable tract of land in the vicinity
of the cottage had evidently been, at some former period, under
cultivation, but was now overrun by bushes and dwarf pines, among which
many huge gray rocks, ineradicable by human art, endeavored to conceal
themselves. About half an acre of ground was occupied by the young blades
of Indian-corn, at which a half-starved cow gazed wistfully over the
mouldering log-fence. These were the only agricultural tokens. Edward
Walcott, nevertheless, drew the latch of the cottage door, after knocking
loudly but in vain.
The apartment which was thus opened to their view was quite as wretched as
its exterior had given them reason to anticipate. Poverty was there, with
all its necessary and unnecessary concomitants. The intruders would have
retired had not the hope of affording relief detained them.
The occupants of the small and squalid apartment were two women, both of
them elderly, and, from the resemblance of their features, appearing to be
sisters. The expression of their countenances, however, was very
different. One, evidently the younger, was seated on the farther side of
the large hearth, opposite to the door at which the party stood. She had
the sallow look of long and wasting illness; and there was an unsteadiness
of expression about her eyes, that immediately struck the observer. Yet
her face was mild and gentle, therein contrasting widely with that of her
The other woman was bending over a small fire of decayed branches, the
flame of which was very disproportionate to the smoke, scarcely producing
heat sufficient for the preparation of a scanty portion of food. Her
profile only was visible to the strangers, though, from a slight motion of
her eye, they perceived that she was aware of their presence. Her features
were pinched and spare, and wore a look of sullen discontent, for which
the evident wretchedness of her situation afforded a sufficient reason.
This female, notwithstanding her years, and the habitual fretfulness (that
is more wearing than time), was apparently healthy and robust, with a dry,
leathery complexion. A short space elapsed before she thought proper to
turn her face towards her visitors; and she then regarded them with a
lowering eye, without speaking, or rising from her chair.
"We entered," Edward Walcott began to say, "in the hope"--But he paused,
on perceiving that the sick woman had risen from her seat, and with slow
and tottering footsteps was drawing near to him. She took his hand in both
her own; and, though he shuddered at the touch of age and disease, he did
not attempt to withdraw it. She then perused all his features, with an
expression, at first of eager and hopeful anxiety, which faded by degrees
into disappointment. Then, turning from him, she gazed into Fanshawe's
countenance with the like eagerness, but with the same result. Lastly,
tottering back to her chair, she hid her face and wept bitterly. The
strangers, though they knew not the cause of her grief, were deeply
affected; and Ellen approached the mourner with words of comfort, which,
more from their tone than their meaning, produced a transient effect.
"Do you bring news of him?" she inquired, raising her head. "Will he
return to me? Shall I see him before I die?" Ellen knew not what to
answer; and, ere she could attempt it, the other female prevented her.
"Sister Butler is wandering in her mind," she said, "and speaks of one she
will never behold again. The sight of strangers disturbs her, and you see
we have nothing here to offer you."
The manner of the woman was ungracious; but her words were true. They saw
that their presence could do nothing towards the alleviation of the misery
they witnessed; and they felt that mere curiosity would not authorize a
longer intrusion. So soon, therefore, as they had relieved, according to
their power, the poverty that seemed to be the least evil of this cottage,
they emerged into the open air.
The breath of heaven felt sweet to them, and removed a part of the weight
from their young hearts, which were saddened by the sight of so much
wretchedness. Perceiving a pure and bright little fountain at a short
distance from the cottage, they approached it, and, using the bark of a
birch-tree as a cup, partook of its cool waters. They then pursued their
homeward ride with such diligence, that, just as the sun was setting, they
came in sight of the humble wooden edifice which was dignified with the
name of Harley College. A golden ray rested upon the spire of the little
chapel, the bell of which sent its tinkling murmur down the valley to
summon the wanderers to evening prayers.
Fanshawe returned to his chamber that night, and lighted his lamp as he
had been wont to do. The books were around him which had hitherto been to
him like those fabled volumes of Magic, from which the reader could not
turn away his eye till death were the consequence of his studies. But
there were unaccustomed thoughts in his bosom now; and to these, leaning
his head on one of the unopened volumes, he resigned himself.
He called up in review the years, that, even at his early age, he had
spent in solitary study, in conversation with the dead, while he had
scorned to mingle with the living world, or to be actuated by any of its
motives. He asked himself to what purpose was all this destructive labor,
and where was the happiness of superior knowledge. He had climbed but a
few steps of a ladder that reached to infinity: he had thrown away his
life in discovering, that, after a thousand such lives, he should still
know comparatively nothing. He even looked forward with dread--though once
the thought had been dear to him--to the eternity of improvement that lay
before him. It seemed now a weary way, without a resting-place and without
a termination; and at that moment he would have preferred the dreamless
sleep of the brutes that perish to man's proudest attribute,--of
Fanshawe had hitherto deemed himself unconnected with the world,
Unconcerned in its feelings, and uninfluenced by it in any of his
pursuits. In this respect he probably deceived himself. If his inmost
heart could have been laid open, there would have been discovered that
dream of undying fame, which, dream as it is, is more powerful than a
thousand realities. But, at any rate, he had seemed, to others and to
himself, a solitary being, upon whom the hopes and fears of ordinary men
But now he felt the first thrilling of one of the many ties, that, so long
as we breathe the common air, (and who shall say how much longer?) unite
us to our kind. The sound of a soft, sweet voice, the glance of a gentle
eye, had wrought a change upon him; and in his ardent mind a few hours had
done the work of many. Almost in spite of himself, the new sensation was
inexpressibly delightful. The recollection of his ruined health, of his
habits (so much at variance with those of the world),--all the
difficulties that reason suggested, were inadequate to check the exulting
tide of hope and joy.
"And let the aspiring youth beware of love,--
Of the smooth glance beware; for 'tis too late
When on his heart the torrent softness pours;
Then wisdom prostrate lies, and fading fame
Dissolves in air away."
A few months passed over the heads of Ellen Langton and her admirers,
unproductive of events, that, separately, were of sufficient importance to
be related. The summer was now drawing to a close; and Dr. Melmoth had
received information that his friend's arrangements were nearly completed,
and that by the next home-bound ship he hoped to return to his native
country. The arrival of that ship was daily expected.
During the time that had elapsed since his first meeting with Ellen, there
had been a change, yet not a very remarkable one, in Fanshawe's habits. He
was still the same solitary being, so far as regarded his own sex; and he
still confined himself as sedulously to his chamber, except for one hour--
the sunset hour--of every day. At that period, unless prevented by the
inclemency of the weather, he was accustomed to tread a path that wound
along the banks of the stream. He had discovered that this was the most
frequent scene of Ellen's walks; and this it was that drew him thither.
Their intercourse was at first extremely slight,--a bow on the one side, a
smile on the other, and a passing word from both; and then the student
hurried back to his solitude. But, in course of time, opportunities
occurred for more extended conversation; so that, at the period with which
this chapter is concerned, Fanshawe was, almost as constantly as Edward
Walcott himself, the companion of Ellen's walks.
His passion had strengthened more than proportionably to the time that had
elapsed since it was conceived; but the first glow and excitement which
attended it had now vanished. He had reasoned calmly with himself, and
rendered evident to his own mind the almost utter hopelessness of success.
He had also made his resolution strong, that he would not even endeavor to
win Ellen's love, the result of which, for a thousand reasons, could not
be happiness. Firm in this determination, and confident of his power to
adhere to it; feeling, also, that time and absence could not cure his own
passion, and having no desire for such a cure,--he saw no reason for
breaking off the intercourse that was established between Ellen and
himself. It was remarkable, that, notwithstanding the desperate nature of
his love, that, or something connected with it, seemed to have a
beneficial effect upon his health. There was now a slight tinge of color
in his cheek, and a less consuming brightness in his eye. Could it be that
hope, unknown to himself, was yet alive in his breast; that a sense of the
possibility of earthly happiness was redeeming him from the grave?
Had the character of Ellen Langton's mind been different, there might,
perhaps, have been danger to her from an intercourse of this nature with
such a being as Fanshawe; for he was distinguished by many of those
asperities around which a woman's affection will often cling. But she was
formed to walk in the calm and quiet paths of life, and to pluck the
flowers of happiness from the wayside where they grow. Singularity of
character, therefore, was not calculated to win her love. She undoubtedly
felt an interest in the solitary student, and perceiving, with no great
exercise of vanity, that her society drew him from the destructive
intensity of his studies, she perhaps felt it a duty to exert her
influence. But it did not occur to her that her influence had been
sufficiently strong to change the whole current of his thoughts and
Ellen and her two lovers (for both, though perhaps not equally, deserved
that epithet) had met, as usual, at the close of a sweet summer day, and
were standing by the side of the stream, just where it swept into a deep
pool. The current, undermining the bank, had formed a recess, which,
according to Edward Walcott, afforded at that moment a hiding-place to a
trout of noble size.
"Now would I give the world," he exclaimed with great interest, "for a
hook and line, a fish-spear, or any piscatorial instrument of death! Look,
Ellen, you can see the waving of his tail from beneath the bank!"
"If you had the means of taking him, I should save him from your cruelty,
thus," said Ellen, dropping a pebble into the water, just over the fish.
"There! he has darted down the stream. How many pleasant caves and
recesses there must be under these banks, where he may be happy! May there
not be happiness in the life of a fish?" she added, turning with a smile
"There may," he replied, "so long as he lives quietly in the caves and
recesses of which you speak, Yes, there may be happiness, though such as
few would envy; but, then, the hook and line"--
"Which, there is reason to apprehend, will shortly destroy the happiness
of our friend the trout," interrupted Edward, pointing down the stream.
"There is an angler on his way toward us, who will intercept him."
"He seems to care little for the sport, to judge by the pace at which he
walks," said Ellen.
"But he sees, now, that we are observing him, and is willing to prove that
he knows something of the art," replied Edward Walcott. "I should think
him well acquainted with the stream; for, hastily as he walks, he has
tried every pool and ripple where a fish usually hides. But that point
will be decided when he reaches yonder old bare oak-tree."
"And how is the old tree to decide the question?" inquired Fanshawe. "It
is a species of evidence of which I have never before heard."
"The stream has worn a hollow under its roots," answered Edward,--"a most
delicate retreat for a trout. Now, a stranger would not discover the spot;
or, if he did, the probable result of a cast would be the loss of hook and
line,--an accident that has occurred to me more than once. If, therefore,
this angler takes a fish from thence, it follows that he knows the
They observed the fisher, accordingly, as he kept his way up the bank. He
did not pause when he reached the old leafless oak, that formed with its
roots an obstruction very common in American streams; but, throwing his
line with involuntary skill as he passed, he not only escaped the various
entanglements, but drew forth a fine large fish.
"There, Ellen, he has captivated your _protégé_, the trout, or, at
least, one very like him in size," observed Edward. "It is singular," he
added, gazing earnestly at the man.
"Why is it singular?" inquired Ellen Langton. "This person, perhaps,
resides in the neighborhood, and may have fished often in the stream."
"Do but look at him, Ellen, and judge whether his life can have been spent
in this lonely valley," he replied. "The glow of many a hotter sun than
ours has darkened his brow; and his step and air have something foreign in
them, like what we see in sailors who have lived more in other countries
than in their own. Is it not so, Ellen? for your education in a seaport
must have given you skill in these matters. But come, let us approach
They walked towards the angler, accordingly, who still remained under the
oak, apparently engaged in arranging his fishing-tackle. As the party drew
nigh, he raised his head, and threw one quick, scrutinizing glance towards
them, disclosing, on his part, a set of bold and rather coarse features,
weather-beaten, but indicating the age of the owner to be not above
thirty. In person he surpassed the middle size, was well set, and
evidently strong and active.
"Do you meet with much success, sir?" inquired Edward Walcott, when within
a convenient distance for conversation.
"I have taken but one fish," replied the angler, in an accent which his
hearers could scarcely determine to be foreign, or the contrary. "I am a
stranger to the stream, and have doubtless passed over many a likely place
"You have an angler's eye, sir," rejoined Edward.
"I observed that you made your casts as if you had often trod these banks,
and I could scarcely have guided you better myself."
"Yes, I have learned the art, and I love to practise it," replied the man.
"But will not the young lady try her skill?" he continued, casting a bold
eye on Ellen. "The fish will love to be drawn out by such white hands as
Ellen shrank back, though almost imperceptibly, from the free bearing of
the man. It seemed meant for courtesy; but its effect was excessively
disagreeable. Edward Walcott, who perceived and coincided in Ellen's
feelings, replied to the stranger's proposal.
"The young lady will not put the gallantry of the fish to the proof, sir,"
he said, "and she will therefore have no occasion for your own."
"I shall take leave to hear my answer from the young lady's own mouth,"
answered the stranger, haughtily. "If you will step this way, Miss
Langton" (here he interrupted himself),--"if you will cast the line by
yonder sunken log, I think you will meet with success."
Thus saying, the angler offered his rod and line to Ellen. She at first
drew back, then hesitated, but finally held out her hand to receive them.
In thus complying with the stranger's request, she was actuated by a
desire to keep the peace, which, as her notice of Edward Walcott's
crimsoned cheek and flashing eye assured her, was considerably endangered.
The angler led the way to the spot which he had pointed out, which, though
not at such a distance from Ellen's companions but that words in a common
tone could be distinguished, was out of the range of a lowered voice.
Edward Walcott and the student remained by the oak: the former biting his
lip with vexation; the latter, whose abstraction always vanished where
Ellen was concerned, regarding her and the stranger with fixed and silent
attention. The young men could at first hear the words that the angler
addressed to Ellen. They related to the mode of managing the rod; and she
made one or two casts under his direction. At length, however, as if to
offer his assistance, the man advanced close to her side, and seemed to
speak, but in so low a tone, that the sense of what he uttered was lost
before it reached the oak. But its effect upon Ellen was immediate and
very obvious. Her eyes flashed; and an indignant blush rose high on her
cheek, giving to her beauty a haughty brightness, of which the gentleness
of her disposition in general deprived it. The next moment, however, she
seemed to recollect herself, and, restoring the angling-rod to its owner,
she turned away calmly, and approached her companions.
"The evening breeze grows chill; and mine is a dress for a summer day,"
she observed. "Let us walk homeward."
"Miss Langton, is it the evening breeze alone that sends you homeward?"
At this moment the angler, who had resumed, and seemed to be intent upon
his occupation, drew a fish from the pool, which he had pointed out to
"I told the young lady," he exclaimed, "that, if she would listen to me a
moment longer, she would be repaid for her trouble; and here is the proof
of my words."
"Come, let us hasten towards home," cried Ellen, eagerly; and she took
Edward Walcott's arm, with a freedom that, at another time, would have
enchanted him. He at first seemed inclined to resist her wishes, but
complied, after exchanging, unperceived by Ellen, a glance with the
stranger, the meaning of which the latter appeared perfectly to
understand. Fanshawe also attended her. Their walk towards Dr. Melmoth's
dwelling was almost a silent one; and the few words that passed between
them did not relate to the adventure which occupied the thoughts of each.
On arriving at the house, Ellen's attendants took leave of her, and
Edward Walcott, eluding Fanshawe's observation with little difficulty,
hastened back to the old oak-tree. From the intelligence with which the
stranger had received his meaning glance, the young man had supposed that
he would here await his return. But the banks of the stream, upward and
downward, so far as his eye could reach, were solitary. He could see only
his own image in the water, where it swept into a silent depth; and could
hear only its ripple, where stones and sunken trees impeded its course.
The object of his search might, indeed, have found concealment among the
tufts of alders, or in the forest that was near at hand; but thither it
was in vain to pursue him. The angler had apparently set little store by
the fruits of his assumed occupation; for the last fish that he had taken
lay, yet alive, on the bank, gasping for the element to which Edward was
sufficiently compassionate to restore him. After watching him as he glided
down the stream, making feeble efforts to resist its current, the youth
turned away, and sauntered slowly towards the college.
Ellen Langton, on her return from her walk, found Dr. Melmoth's little
parlor unoccupied; that gentleman being deeply engaged in his study, and
his lady busied in her domestic affairs. The evening, notwithstanding
Ellen's remark concerning the chillness of the breeze, was almost sultry;
and the windows of the apartment were thrown open. At one of these, which
looked into the garden, she seated herself, listening, almost
unconsciously, to the monotonous music of a thousand insects, varied
occasionally by the voice of a whippoorwill, who, as the day departed, was
just commencing his song. A dusky tint, as yet almost imperceptible, was
beginning to settle on the surrounding objects, except where they were
opposed to the purple and golden clouds, which the vanished sun had made
the brief inheritors of a portion of his brightness. In these gorgeous
vapors, Ellen's fancy, in the interval of other thoughts, pictured a
fairy-land, and longed for wings to visit it.
But as the clouds lost their brilliancy, and assumed first a dull purple,
and then a sullen gray tint, Ellen's thoughts recurred to the adventure of
the angler, which her imagination was inclined to invest with an undue
singularity. It was, however, sufficiently unaccountable that an entire
stranger should venture to demand of her a private audience; and she
assigned, in turn, a thousand motives for such a request, none of which
were in any degree satisfactory. Her most prevailing thought, though she
could not justify it to her reason, inclined her to believe that the
angler was a messenger from her father. But wherefore he should deem it
necessary to communicate any intelligence that he might possess only by
means of a private interview, and without the knowledge of her friends,
was a mystery she could not solve. In this view of the matter, however,
she half regretted that her instinctive delicacy had impelled her so
suddenly to break off their conference, admitting, in the secrecy of her
own mind, that, if an opportunity were again to occur, it might not again
be shunned. As if that unuttered thought had power to conjure up its
object, she now became aware of a form standing in the garden, at a short
distance from the window where she sat. The dusk had deepened, during
Ellen's abstraction, to such a degree, that the man's features were not
perfectly distinguishable; but the maiden was not long in doubt of his
identity, for he approached, and spoke in the same low tone in which he
had addressed her when they stood by the stream.
"Do you still refuse my request, when its object is but your own good, and
that of one who should be most dear to you?" he asked.
Ellen's first impulse had been to cry out for assistance; her second was
to fly: but, rejecting both these measures, she determined to remain,
endeavoring to persuade herself that she was safe. The quivering of her
voice, however, when she attempted to reply, betrayed her apprehensions.
"I cannot listen to such a request from a stranger," she said. "If you
bring news from--from my father, why is it not told to Dr. Melmoth?"
"Because what I have to say is for your ear alone," was the reply; "and if
you would avoid misfortune now, and sorrow hereafter, you will not refuse
to hear me."
"And does it concern my father?" asked Ellen, eagerly.
"It does--most deeply," answered the stranger.
She meditated a moment, and then replied, "I will not refuse, I will hear
--but speak quickly."
"We are in danger of interruption in this place, and that would be fatal
to my errand," said the stranger. "I will await you in the garden."
With these words, and giving her no opportunity for reply, he drew back;
and his form faded from her eyes. This precipitate retreat from argument
was the most probable method that he could have adopted of gaining his
end. He had awakened the strongest interest in Ellen's mind; and he
calculated justly in supposing that she would consent to an interview upon
his own terms.
Dr. Melmoth had followed his own fancies in the mode of laying out his
garden; and, in consequence, the plan that had undoubtedly existed in his
mind was utterly incomprehensible to every one but himself. It was an
intermixture of kitchen and flower garden, a labyrinth of winding paths,
bordered by hedges, and impeded by shrubbery. Many of the original trees
of the forest were still flourishing among the exotics which the doctor
had transplanted thither. It was not without a sensation of fear, stronger
than she had ever before experienced, that Ellen Langton found herself in
this artificial wilderness, and in the presence of the mysterious
stranger. The dusky light deepened the lines of his dark, strong features;
and Ellen fancied that his countenance wore a wilder and a fiercer look
than when she had met him by the stream. He perceived her agitation, and
addressed her in the softest tones of which his voice was capable.
"Compose yourself," he said; "you have nothing to fear from me. But we are
in open view from the house, where we now stand; and discovery would not
be without danger to both of us."
"No eye can see us here," said Ellen, trembling at the truth of her own
observation, when they stood beneath a gnarled, low-branched pine, which
Dr. Melmoth's ideas of beauty had caused him to retain in his garden.
"Speak quickly; for I dare follow you no farther."
The spot was indeed sufficiently solitary; and the stranger delayed no
longer to explain his errand.
"Your father," he began,--"do you not love him? Would you do aught for his
"Everything that a father could ask I would do," exclaimed Ellen, eagerly.
"Where is my father? and when shall I meet him?"
"It must depend upon yourself, whether you shall meet him in a few days or
"Never!" repeated Ellen. "Is he ill? Is he in danger?"
"He is in danger," replied the man, "but not from illness. Your father is
a ruined man. Of all his friends, but one remains to him. That friend has
travelled far to prove if his daughter has a daughter's affection."
"And what is to be the proof?" asked Ellen, with more calmness than the
stranger had anticipated; for she possessed a large fund of plain sense,
which revolted against the mystery of these proceedings. Such a course,
too, seemed discordant with her father's character, whose strong mind and
almost cold heart were little likely to demand, or even to pardon, the
romance of affection.
"This letter will explain," was the reply to Ellen's question. "You will
see that it is in your father's hand; and that may gain your confidence,
though I am doubted."
She received the letter; and many of her suspicions of the stranger's
truth were vanquished by the apparent openness of his manner. He was
preparing to speak further, but paused, for a footstep was now heard,
approaching from the lower part of the garden. From their situation,--at
some distance from the path, and in the shade of the tree,--they had a
fair chance of eluding discovery from any unsuspecting passenger; and,
when Ellen saw that the intruder was Fanshawe, she hoped that his usual
abstraction would assist their concealment.
But, as the student advanced along the path, his air was not that of one
whose deep inward thoughts withdrew his attention from all outward
objects. He rather resembled the hunter, on the watch for his game; and,
while he was yet at a distance from Ellen, a wandering gust of wind waved
her white garment, and betrayed her.
"It is as I feared," said Fanshawe to himself. He then drew nigh, and
addressed Ellen with a calm authority that became him well,
notwithstanding that his years scarcely exceeded her own. "Miss Langton,"
he inquired, "what do you here at such an hour, and with such a
Ellen was sufficiently displeased at what she deemed the unauthorized
intrusion of Fanshawe in her affairs; but his imposing manner and her own
confusion prevented her from replying.
"Permit me to lead you to the house," he continued, in the words of a
request, but in the tone of a command. "The dew hangs dank and heavy on
these branches; and a longer stay would be more dangerous than you are
Ellen would fain have resisted; but though the tears hung as heavy on her
eyelashes, between shame and anger, as the dew upon the leaves, she felt
compelled to accept the arm that he offered her. But the stranger, who,
since Fanshawe's approach, had remained a little apart, now advanced.
"You speak as one in authority, young man," he said. "Have you the means
of compelling obedience? Does your power extend to men? Or do you rule
only over simple girls? Miss Langton is under my protection, and, till you
can bend me to your will, she shall remain so."
Fanshawe turned calmly, and fixed his eyes on the stranger. "Retire, sir,"
was all he said.
Ellen almost shuddered, as if there were a mysterious and unearthly power
in Fanshawe's voice; for she saw that the stranger endeavored in vain,
borne down by the influence of a superior mind, to maintain the boldness
of look and bearing that seemed natural to him. He at first made a step
forward, then muttered a few half-audible words; but, quailing at length
beneath the young man's bright and steady eye, he turned and slowly
Fanshawe remained silent a moment after his opponent had departed, and,
when he next spoke, it was in a tone of depression. Ellen observed, also,
that his countenance had lost its look of pride and authority; and he
seemed faint and exhausted. The occasion that called forth his energies
had passed; and they had left him.
"Forgive me, Miss Langton," he said almost humbly, "if my eagerness to
serve you has led me too far. There is evil in this stranger, more than
your pure mind can conceive. I know not what has been his errand; but let
me entreat you to put confidence in those to whose care your father has
intrusted you. Or if I--or--or Edward Walcott--But I have no right to
advise you; and your own calm thoughts will guide you best."
He said no more; and, as Ellen did not reply, they reached the house, and
parted in silence.
"The seeds by nature planted
Take a deep root in the soil, and though for a time
The trenchant share and tearing harrow may
Sweep all appearance of them from the surface,
Yet with the first warm rains of spring they'll shoot,
And with their rankness smother the good grain.
Heaven grant, it mayn't be so with him."
The scene of this tale must now be changed to the little inn, which at
that period, as at the present, was situated in the vicinity of Harley
College. The site of the modern establishment is the same with that of the
ancient; but everything of the latter that had been built by hands has
gone to decay and been removed, and only the earth beneath and around it
remains the same. The modern building, a house of two stories, after a
lapse of twenty years, is yet unfinished. On this account, it has retained
the appellation of the "New Inn," though, like many who have frequented
it, it has grown old ere its maturity. Its dingy whiteness, and its
apparent superfluity of windows (many of them being closed with rough
boards), give it somewhat of a dreary look, especially in a wet day.
The ancient inn was a house, of which the eaves approached within about
seven feet of the ground; while the roof, sloping gradually upward, formed
an angle at several times that height. It was a comfortable and pleasant
abode to the weary traveller, both in summer and winter; for the frost
never ventured within the sphere of its huge hearths; and it was protected
from the heat of the sultry season by three large elms that swept the roof
with their long branches, and seemed to create a breeze where there was
not one. The device upon the sign, suspended from one of these trees, was
a hand holding a long-necked bottle, and was much more appropriate than
the present unmeaning representation of a black eagle. But it is necessary
to speak rather more at length of the landlord than of the house over
which he presided.
Hugh Crombie was one for whom most of the wise men, who considered the
course of his early years, had predicted the gallows as an end before he
should arrive at middle age. That these prophets of ill had been deceived
was evident from the fact that the doomed man had now passed the fortieth
year, and was in more prosperous circumstances than most of those who had
wagged their tongues against him. Yet the failure of their forebodings was
more remarkable than their fulfilment would have been.
He had been distinguished, almost from his earliest infancy, by those
precocious accomplishments, which, because they consist in an imitation of
the vices and follies of maturity, render a boy the favorite plaything of
men. He seemed to have received from nature the convivial talents, which,
whether natural or acquired, are a most dangerous possession; and, before
his twelfth year, he was the welcome associate of all the idle and
dissipated of his neighborhood, and especially of those who haunted the
tavern of which he had now become the landlord. Under this course of
education, Hugh Crombie grew to youth and manhood; and the lovers of good
words could only say in his favor, that he was a greater enemy to himself
than to any one else, and that, if he should reform, few would have a
better chance of prosperity than he.
The former clause of this modicum of praise (if praise it may be termed)
was indisputable; but it may be doubted, whether, under any circumstances
where his success depended on his own exertions, Hugh would have made his
way well through the world. He was one of those unfortunate persons, who,
instead of being perfect in any single art or occupation, are superficial
in many, and who are supposed to possess a larger share of talent than
other men, because it consists of numerous scraps, instead of a single
mass. He was partially acquainted with most of the manual arts that gave
bread to others; but not one of them, nor all of them, would give bread to
him. By some fatality, the only two of his multifarious accomplishments in
which his excellence was generally conceded were both calculated to keep
him poor rather than to make him rich. He was a musician and a poet.
There are yet remaining in that portion of the country many ballads and
songs,--set to their own peculiar tunes,--the authorship of which is
attributed to him. In general, his productions were upon subjects of local
and temporary interest, and would consequently require a bulk of
explanatory notes to render them interesting or intelligible to the world
at large. A considerable proportion of the remainder are Anacreontics;
though, in their construction, Hugh Crombie imitated neither the Teian nor
any other bard. These latter have generally a coarseness and sensuality
intolerable to minds even of no very fastidious delicacy. But there are
two or three simple little songs, into which a feeling and a natural
pathos have found their way, that still retain their influence over the
heart. These, after two or three centuries, may perhaps be precious to the
collectors of our early poetry. At any rate, Hugh Crombie's effusions,
tavern-haunter and vagrant though he was, have gained a continuance of
fame (confined, indeed, to a narrow section of the country), which many
who called themselves poets then, and would have scorned such a brother,
have failed to equal.
During the long winter evenings, when the farmers were idle round their
hearths, Hugh was a courted guest; for none could while away the hours
more skilfully than he. The winter, therefore, was his season of
prosperity; in which respect he differed from the butterflies and useless
insects, to which he otherwise bore a resemblance. During the cold months,
a very desirable alteration for the better appeared in his outward man.
His cheeks were plump and sanguine; his eyes bright and cheerful; and the
tip of his nose glowed with a Bardolphian fire,--a flame, indeed, which
Hugh was so far a vestal as to supply with its necessary fuel at all
seasons of the year. But, as the spring advanced, he assumed a lean and
sallow look, wilting and fading in the sunshine that brought life and joy
to every animal and vegetable except himself. His winter patrons eyed him
with an austere regard; and some even practised upon him the modern and
fashionable courtesy of the "cut direct."
Yet, after all, there was good, or something that Nature intended to be
so, in the poor outcast,--some lovely flowers, the sweeter even for the
weeds that choked them. An instance of this was his affection for an aged
father, whose whole support was the broken reed,--his son. Notwithstanding
his own necessities, Hugh contrived to provide food and raiment for the
old man: how, it would be difficult to say, and perhaps as well not to
inquire. He also exhibited traits of sensitiveness to neglect and insult,
and of gratitude for favors; both of which feelings a course of life like
his is usually quick to eradicate.
At length the restraint--for such his father had ever been--upon Hugh
Crombie's conduct was removed by death; and then the wise men and the old
began to shake their heads; and they who took pleasure in the follies,
vices, and misfortunes of their fellow-creatures, looked for a speedy
gratification. They were disappointed, however; for Hugh had apparently
determined, that, whatever might be his catastrophe, he would meet it
among strangers, rather than at home. Shortly after his father's death, he
disappeared altogether from the vicinity; and his name became, in the
course of years, an unusual sound, where once the lack of other topics of
interest had given it a considerable degree of notoriety. Sometimes,
however, when the winter blast was loud round the lonely farm-house, its
inmates remembered him who had so often chased away the gloom of such an
hour, and, though with little expectation of its fulfilment, expressed a
wish to behold him again.
Yet that wish, formed, perhaps, because it appeared so desperate, was
finally destined to be gratified. One summer evening, about two years
previous to the period of this tale, a man of sober and staid deportment,
mounted upon a white horse, arrived at the Hand and Bottle, to which some
civil or military meeting had chanced, that day, to draw most of the
inhabitants of the vicinity. The stranger was well though plainly dressed,
and anywhere but in a retired country town would have attracted no
particular attention; but here, where a traveller was not of every-day
occurrence, he was soon surrounded by a little crowd, who, when his eye
was averted, seized the opportunity diligently to peruse his person. He
was rather a thickset man, but with no superfluous flesh; his hair was of
iron-gray; he had a few wrinkles; his face was so deeply sunburnt, that,
excepting a half-smothered glow on the tip of his nose, a dusky yellow was
the only apparent hue. As the people gazed, it was observed that the
elderly men, and the men of substance, gat themselves silently to their
steeds, and hied homeward with an unusual degree of haste; till at length
the inn was deserted, except by a few wretched objects to whom it was a
constant resort. These, instead of retreating, drew closer to the
traveller, peeping anxiously into his face, and asking, ever and anon, a
question, in order to discover the tone of his voice. At length, with one
consent, and as if the recognition had at once burst upon them, they
hailed their old boon-companion, Hugh Crombie, and, leading him into the
inn, did him the honor to partake of a cup of welcome at his expense.
But, though Hugh readily acknowledged the not very reputable acquaintances
who alone acknowledged him, they speedily discovered that he was an
altered man. He partook with great moderation of the liquor for which he
was to pay; he declined all their flattering entreaties for one of his old
songs; and finally, being urged to engage in a game at all-fours, he
calmly observed, almost in the words of an old clergyman on a like
occasion, that his principles forbade a profane appeal to the decision by
On the next Sabbath Hugh Crombie made his appearance at public worship in
the chapel of Harley College; and here his outward demeanor was
unexceptionably serious and devout,--a praise which, on that particular
occasion, could be bestowed on few besides. From these favorable symptoms,
the old established prejudices against him began to waver; and as he
seemed not to need, and to have no intention to ask, the assistance of any
one, he was soon generally acknowledged by the rich as well as by the
poor. His account of his past life, and of his intentions for the future,
was brief, but not unsatisfactory. He said that, since his departure, he
had been a seafaring man, and that, having acquired sufficient property to
render him easy in the decline of his days, he had returned to live and
die in the town of his nativity.
There was one person, and the one whom Hugh was most interested to please,
who seemed perfectly satisfied of the verity of his reformation. This was
the landlady of the inn, whom, at his departure, he had left a gay, and,
even at thirty-five, a rather pretty wife, and whom, on his return, he
found a widow of fifty, fat, yellow, wrinkled, and a zealous member of the
church. She, like others, had, at first, cast a cold eye on the wanderer;
but it shortly became evident to close observers, that a change was at
work in the pious matron's sentiments respecting her old acquaintance. She
was now careful to give him his morning dram from her own peculiar bottle,
to fill his pipe from her private box of Virginia, and to mix for him the
sleeping-cup in which her late husband had delighted. Of all these
courtesies Hugh Crombie did partake with a wise and cautious moderation,
that, while it proved them to be welcome, expressed his fear of
trespassing on her kindness. For the sake of brevity, it shall suffice to
say, that, about six weeks after Hugh's return, a writing appeared on one
of the elm-trees in front of the tavern (where, as the place of greatest
resort, such notices were usually displayed) setting forth that marriage
was intended between Hugh Crombie and the Widow Sarah Hutchins. And the
ceremony, which made Hugh a landholder, a householder, and a substantial
man, in due time took place.
As a landlord, his general conduct was very praiseworthy. He was moderate
in his charges, and attentive to his guests; he allowed no gross and
evident disorders in his house, and practised none himself; he was kind
and charitable to such as needed food and lodging, and had not wherewithal
to pay,--for with these his experience had doubtless given him a fellow-
feeling. He was also sufficiently attentive to his wife; though it must be
acknowledged that the religious zeal which had had a considerable
influence in gaining her affections grew, by no moderate degrees, less
fervent. It was whispered, too, that the new landlord could, when time,
place, and company were to his mind, upraise a song as merrily, and drink
a glass as jollily, as in the days of yore. These were the weightiest
charges that could now be brought against him; and wise men thought, that,
whatever might have been the evil of his past life, he had returned with a
desire (which years of vice, if they do not sometimes produce, do not
always destroy) of being honest, if opportunity should offer; and Hugh had
certainly a fair one.
On the afternoon previous to the events related in the last chapter, the
personage whose introduction to the reader has occupied so large a space
was seated under one of the elms in front of his dwelling. The bench which
now sustained him, and on which were carved the names of many former
occupants, was Hugh Crombie's favorite lounging-place, unless when his
attentions were required by his guests. No demand had that day been made
upon the hospitality of the Hand and Bottle; and the landlord was just
then murmuring at the unfrequency of employment. The slenderness of his
profits, indeed, were no part of his concern; for the Widow Hutchins's
chief income was drawn from her farm, nor was Hugh ever miserly inclined.
But his education and habits had made him delight in the atmosphere of the
inn, and in the society of those who frequented it; and of this species of
enjoyment his present situation certainly did not afford an overplus.
Yet had Hugh Crombie an enviable appearance of indolence and ease, as he
sat under the old tree, polluting the sweet air with his pipe, and taking
occasional draughts from a brown jug that stood near at hand. The basis of
the potation contained in this vessel was harsh old cider, from the
widow's own orchard; but its coldness and acidity were rendered innocuous
by a due proportion of yet older brandy. The result of this mixture was
extremely felicitous, pleasant to the taste, and producing a tingling
sensation on the coats of the stomach, uncommonly delectable to so old a
toper as Hugh.
The landlord cast his eye, ever and anon, along the road that led down the
valley in the direction of the village: and at last, when the sun was
wearing west-ward, he discovered the approach of a horseman. He
immediately replenished his pipe, took a long draught from the brown jug,
summoned the ragged youth who officiated in most of the subordinate
departments of the inn, and who was now to act as hostler, and then
prepared himself for confabulation with his guest.
"He comes from the sea-coast," said Hugh to himself, as the traveller
emerged into open view on the level road. "He is two days in advance of
the post, with its news of a fortnight old. Pray Heaven he prove
communicative!" Then, as the stranger drew nigher, "One would judge that
his dark face had seen as hot a sun as mine. He has felt the burning
breeze of the Indies, East and West, I warrant him. Ah, I see we shall
send away the evening merrily! Not a penny shall come out of his purse,--
that is, if his tongue runs glibly. Just the man I was praying for--Now
may the Devil take me if he is!" interrupted Hugh, in accents of alarm,
and starting from his seat. He composed his countenance, however, with the
power that long habit and necessity had given him over his emotions, and
again settled himself quietly on the bench.
The traveller, coming on at a moderate pace, alighted, and gave his horse
to the ragged hostler. He then advanced towards the door near which Hugh
was seated, whose agitation was manifested by no perceptible sign, except
by the shorter and more frequent puffs with which he plied his pipe. Their
eyes did not meet till just as the stranger was about to enter, when he
started apparently with a surprise and alarm similar to those of Hugh
Crombie. He recovered himself, however, sufficiently to return the nod of
recognition with which he was favored, and immediately entered the house,
the landlord following.
"This way, if you please, sir," said Hugh. "You will find this apartment
cool and retired."
He ushered his guest into a small room the windows of which were darkened
by the creeping plants that clustered round them. Entering, and closing
the door, the two gazed at each other a little space without speaking. The
traveller first broke silence.
"Then this is your living self, Hugh Crombie?" he said. The landlord
extended his hand as a practical reply to the question. The stranger took
it, though with no especial appearance of cordiality.
"Ay, this seems to be flesh and blood," he said, in the tone of one who
would willingly have found it otherwise. "And how happens this, friend
Hugh? I little thought to meet you again in this life. When I last heard
from you, your prayers were said, and you were bound for a better world."
"There would have been small danger of your meeting me there," observed
the landlord, dryly.
"It is an unquestionable truth, Hugh," replied the traveller. "For which
reason I regret that your voyage was delayed."
"Nay, that is a hard word to bestow on your old comrade," said Hugh
Crombie. "The world is wide enough for both of us; and why should you wish
me out of it?"
"Wide as it is," rejoined the stranger, "we have stumbled against each
other,--to the pleasure of neither of us, if I may judge from your
countenance. Methinks I am not a welcome guest at Hugh Crombie's inn."
"Your welcome must depend on the cause of your coming, and the length of
your stay," replied the landlord.
"And what if I come to settle down among these quiet hills where I was
born?" inquired the other. "What if I, too, am weary of the life we have
led,--or afraid, perhaps, that it will come to too speedy an end? Shall I
have your good word, Hugh, to set me up in an honest way of life? Or will
you make me a partner in your trade, since you know my qualifications? A
pretty pair of publicans should we be; and the quart pot would have little
rest between us."
"It may be as well to replenish it now," observed Hugh, stepping to the
door of the room, and giving orders accordingly. "A meeting between old
friends should never be dry. But for the partnership, it is a matter in
which you must excuse me. Heaven knows I find it hard enough to be honest,
with no tempter but the Devil and my own thoughts; and, if I have you also
to contend with, there is little hope of me."
"Nay, that is true. Your good resolutions were always like cobwebs, and
your evil habits like five-inch cables," replied the traveller. "I am to
understand, then, that you refuse my offer?"
"Not only that; but, if you have chosen this valley as your place of rest,
Dame Crombie and I must look through the world for another. But hush! here
comes the wine."
The hostler, in the performance of another part of his duty, now appeared,
bearing a measure of the liquor that Hugh had ordered. The wine of that
period, owing to the comparative lowness of the duties, was of more
moderate price than in the mother-country, and of purer and better quality
than at the present day.
"The stuff is well chosen, Hugh," observed the guest, after a draught
large enough to authorize an opinion. "You have most of the requisites for
your present station; and I should be sorry to draw you from it. I trust
there will be no need."
"Yet you have a purpose in your journey hither," observed his comrade.
"Yes; and you would fain be informed of it," replied the traveller. He
arose, and walked once or twice across the room; then, seeming to have
taken his resolution, he paused, and fixed his eye steadfastly on Hugh
Crombie. "I could wish, my old acquaintance," he said, "that your lot had
been cast anywhere rather than here. Yet, if you choose it, you may do me
a good office, and one that shall meet with a good reward. Can I trust
"My secrecy, you can," answered the host, "but nothing further. I know the
nature of your plans, and whither they would lead me, too well to engage
in them. To say the truth, since it concerns not me, I have little desire
to hear your secret."
"And I as little to tell it, I do assure you," rejoined the guest. "I have
always loved to manage my affairs myself, and to keep them to myself. It
is a good rule; but it must sometimes be broken. And now, Hugh, how is it
that you have become possessed of this comfortable dwelling and of these
"By my marriage with the Widow Sarah Hutchins," replied Hugh Crombie,
staring at a question which seemed to have little reference to the present
topic of conversation.
"It is a most excellent method of becoming a man of substance," continued
the traveller; "attended with little trouble, and honest withal."
"Why, as to the trouble," said the landlord, "it follows such a bargain,
instead of going before it. And for honesty,--I do not recollect that I
have gained a penny more honestly these twenty years."
"I can swear to that," observed his comrade. "Well, mine host, I entirely
approve of your doings, and, moreover, have resolved to prosper after the
same fashion myself."
"If that be the commodity you seek," replied Hugh Crombie, "you will find
none here to your mind. We have widows in plenty, it is true; but most of
them have children, and few have houses and lands. But now to be serious,
--and there has been something serious in your eye all this while,--what
is your purpose in coming hither? You are not safe here. Your name has had
a wider spread than mine, and, if discovered, it will go hard with you."
"But who would know me now?" asked the guest.
"Few, few indeed!" replied the landlord, gazing at the dark features of
his companion, where hardship, peril, and dissipation had each left their
traces. "No, you are not like the slender boy of fifteen, who stood on the
hill by moonlight to take a last look at his father's cottage. There were
tears in your eyes then; and, as often as I remember them, I repent that I
did not turn you back, instead of leading you on."
"Tears, were there? Well, there have been few enough since," said his
comrade, pressing his eyelids firmly together, as if even then tempted to
give way to the weakness that he scorned. "And, for turning me back, Hugh,
it was beyond your power. I had taken my resolution, and you did but show
me the way to execute it."
"You have not inquired after those you left behind," observed Hugh
"No--no; nor will I have aught of them," exclaimed the traveller, starting
from his seat, and pacing rapidly across the room. "My father, I know, is
dead, and I have forgiven him. My mother--what could I hear of her but
misery? I will hear nothing."
"You must have passed the cottage as you rode hitherward," said Hugh. "How
could you forbear to enter?"
"I did not see it," he replied. "I closed my eyes, and turned away my
"Oh, if I had had a mother, a loving mother! if there had been one being
in the world that loved me, or cared for me, I should not have become an
utter castaway," exclaimed Hugh Crombie.
The landlord's pathos, like all pathos that flows from the winecup, was
sufficiently ridiculous; and his companion, who had already overcome his
own brief feelings of sorrow and remorse, now laughed aloud.
"Come, come, mine host of the Hand and Bottle," he cried in his usual
hard, sarcastic tone; "be a man as much as in you lies. You had always a
foolish trick of repentance; but, as I remember, it was commonly of a
morning, before you had swallowed your first dram. And now, Hugh, fill the
quart pot again, and we will to business."
When the landlord had complied with the wishes of his guest, the latter
resumed in a lower tone than that of his ordinary conversation,--"There is
a young lady lately become a resident hereabouts. Perhaps you can guess
her name; for you have a quick apprehension in these matters."
"A young lady?" repeated Hugh Crombie. "And what is your concern with her?
Do you mean Ellen Langton, daughter of the old merchant Langton, whom you
have some cause to remember?"
"I do remember him; but he is where he will speedily be forgotten,"
answered the traveller. "And this girl,--I know your eye has been upon
her, Hugh,--describe her to me."
"Describe her!" exclaimed Hugh with much animation. "It is impossible in
prose; but you shall have her very picture in a verse of one of my own
"Nay, mine host, I beseech you to spare me. This is no time for
quavering," said the guest. "However, I am proud of your approbation, my
old friend; for this young lady do I intend to take to wife. What think
you of the plan?"
Hugh Crombie gazed into his companion's face for the space of a moment, in
silence. There was nothing in its expression that looked like a jest. It
still retained the same hard, cold look, that, except when Hugh had
alluded to his home and family, it had worn through their whole
"On my word, comrade!" he at length replied, "my advice is, that you give
over your application to the quart pot, and refresh your brain by a short
nap. And yet your eye is cool and steady. What is the meaning of this?"
"Listen, and you shall know," said the guest. "The old man, her father, is
in his grave."
"Not a bloody grave, I trust," interrupted the landlord, starting, and
looking fearfully into his comrade's face.
"No, a watery one," he replied calmly. "You see, Hugh, I am a better man
than you took me for. The old man's blood is not on my head, though my
wrongs are on his. Now listen: he had no heir but this only daughter; and
to her, and to the man she marries, all his wealth will belong. She shall
marry me. Think you her father will rest easy in the ocean, Hugh Crombie,
when I am his son-in-law?"
"No, he will rise up to prevent it, if need be," answered the landlord.
"But the dead need not interpose to frustrate so wild a scheme."
"I understand you," said his comrade. "You are of opinion that the young
lady's consent may not be so soon won as asked. Fear not for that, mine
host. I have a winning way with me, when opportunity serves; and it shall
serve with Ellen Langton. I will have no rivals in my wooing."
"Your intention, if I take it rightly, is to get this poor girl into your
power, and then to force her into a marriage," said Hugh Crombie.
"It is; and I think I possess the means of doing it," replied his comrade.
"But methinks, friend Hugh, my enterprise has not your good wishes."
"No; and I pray you to give it over," said Hugh Crombie, very earnestly.
"The girl is young, lovely, and as good as she is fair. I cannot aid in
her ruin. Nay, more: I must prevent it."
"Prevent it!" exclaimed the traveller, with a darkening countenance.
"Think twice before you stir in this matter, I advise you. Ruin, do you
say? Does a girl call it ruin to be made an honest wedded wife? No, no,
mine host! nor does a widow either, else have you much to answer for."
"I gave the Widow Hutchins fair play, at least, which is more than poor
Ellen is like to get," observed the landlord. "My old comrade, will you
not give up this scheme?"
"My old comrade, I will not give up this scheme," returned the other,
composedly. "Why, Hugh, what has come over you since we last met? Have we
not done twenty worse deeds of a morning, and laughed over them at night?"
"He is right there," said Hugh Crombie, in a meditative tone. "Of a
certainty, my conscience has grown unreasonably tender within the last two
years. This one small sin, if I were to aid in it, would add but a trifle
to the sum of mine. But then the poor girl!"
His companion overheard him thus communing with himself, and having had
much former experience of his infirmity of purpose, doubted not that he
should bend him to his will. In fact, his arguments were so effectual,
that Hugh at length, though reluctantly, promised his cooperation. It was
necessary that their motions should be speedy; for on the second day
thereafter, the arrival of the post would bring intelligence of the
shipwreck by which Mr. Langton had perished.
"And after the deed is done," said the landlord, "I beseech you never to
cross my path again. There have been more wicked thoughts in my head
within the last hour than for the whole two years that I have been an
"What a saint art thou become, Hugh!" said his comrade. "But fear not that
we shall meet again. When I leave this valley, it will be to enter it no
"And there is little danger that any other who has known me will chance
upon me here," observed Hugh Crombie. "Our trade was unfavorable to
length of days, and I suppose most of our old comrades have arrived at the
end of theirs."
"One whom you knew well is nearer to you than you think," answered the
traveller; "for I did not travel hitherward entirely alone."
"A naughty night to swim in."--SHAKESPEARE.
The evening of the day succeeding the adventure of the angler was dark
and tempestuous. The rain descended almost in a continuous sheet; and
occasional powerful gusts of wind drove it hard against the northeastern
windows of Hugh Crombie's inn. But at least one apartment of the interior
presented a scene of comfort and of apparent enjoyment, the more
delightful from its contrast with the elemental fury that raged without. A
fire, which the dullness of the evening, though a summer one, made
necessary, was burning brightly on the hearth; and in front was placed a
small round table, sustaining wine and glasses. One of the guests for whom
these preparations had been made was Edward Walcott; the other was a shy,
awkward young man, distinguished, by the union of classic and rural dress,
as having but lately become a student of Harley College. He seemed little
at his ease, probably from a consciousness that he was on forbidden
ground, and that the wine, of which he nevertheless swallowed a larger
share than his companion, was an unlawful draught.
In the catalogue of crimes provided against by the laws of Harley College,
that of tavern-haunting was one of the principal. The secluded situation
of the seminary, indeed, gave its scholars but a very limited choice of
vices; and this was, therefore, the usual channel by which the wildness of
youth discharged itself. Edward Walcott, though naturally temperate, had
been not an unfrequent offender in this respect, for which a superfluity
both of time and money might plead some excuse. But, since his
acquaintance with Ellen Langton, he had rarely entered Hugh Crombie's
doors; and an interruption in that acquaintance was the cause of his
present appearance there.
Edward's jealous pride had been considerably touched on Ellen's compliance
with the request of the angler. He had, by degrees, imperceptible perhaps
to himself, assumed the right of feeling displeased with her conduct; and
she had, as imperceptibly, accustomed herself to consider what would be
his wishes, and to act accordingly. He would, indeed, in no contingency
have ventured an open remonstrance; and such a proceeding would have been
attended by a result the reverse of what he desired. But there existed
between them a silent compact (acknowledged perhaps by neither, but felt
by both), according to which they had regulated the latter part of their
intercourse. Their lips had yet spoken no word of love; but some of love's
rights and privileges had been assumed on the one side, and at least not
disallowed on the other.
Edward's penetration had been sufficiently quick to discover that there
was a mystery about the angler, that there must have been a cause for the
blush that rose so proudly on Ellen's cheek; and his Quixotism had been
not a little mortified, because she did not immediately appeal to his
protection. He had, however, paid his usual visit the next day at Dr.
Melmoth's, expecting that, by a smile of more than common brightness, she
would make amends to his wounded feelings; such having been her usual mode
of reparation in the few instances of disagreement that had occurred
between them. But he was disappointed. He found her cold, silent, and
abstracted, inattentive when he spoke, and indisposed to speak herself.
Her eye was sedulously averted from his; and the casual meeting of their
glances only proved that there were feelings in her bosom which he did not
share. He was unable to account for this change in her deportment; and,
added to his previous conceptions of his wrongs, it produced an effect
upon his rather hasty temper, that might have manifested itself violently,
but for the presence of Mrs. Melmoth. He took his leave in very evident
displeasure; but, just as he closed the door, he noticed an expression in
Ellen's countenance, that, had they been alone, and had not he been quite
so proud, would have drawn him down to her feet. Their eyes met, when,
suddenly, there was a gush of tears into those of Ellen; and a deep
sadness, almost despair, spread itself over her features. He paused a
moment, and then went his way, equally unable to account for her coldness,
or for her grief. He was well aware, however, that his situation in
respect to her was unaccountably changed,--a conviction so disagreeable,
that, but for a hope that is latent even in the despair of youthful
hearts, he would have been sorely tempted to shoot himself.
The gloom of his thoughts--a mood of mind the more intolerable to him,
because so unusual--had driven him to Hugh Crombie's inn in search of
artificial excitement. But even the wine had no attractions; and his first
glass stood now almost untouched before him, while he gazed in heavy
thought into the glowing embers of the fire. His companion perceived his
melancholy, and essayed to dispel it by a choice of such topics of
conversation as he conceived would be most agreeable.
"There is a lady in the house," he observed. "I caught a glimpse of her in
the passage as we came in. Did you see her, Edward?"
"A lady!" repeated Edward, carelessly. "What know you of ladies? No, I did
not see her; but I will venture to say that it was Dame Crombie's self,
and no other."
"Well, perhaps it might," said the other, doubtingly. "Her head was turned
from me, and she was gone like a shadow."
"Dame Crombie is no shadow, and never vanishes like one," resumed Edward.
"You have mistaken the slipshod servant-girl for a lady."
"Ay; but she had a white hand, a small white hand," said the student,
piqued at Edward's contemptuous opinion of his powers of observation; "as
white as Ellen Langton's." He paused; for the lover was offended by the
profanity of the comparison, as was made evident by the blood that rushed
to his brow.
"We will appeal to the landlord," said Edward, recovering his equanimity,
and turning to Hugh, who just then entered the room. "Who is this angel,
mine host, that has taken up her abode in the Hand and Bottle?"
Hugh cast a quick glance from one to another before he answered, "I keep
no angels here, gentlemen. Dame Crombie would make the house anything but
heaven for them and me."
"And yet Glover has seen a vision in the passage-way,--a lady with a small
"Ah, I understand! A slight mistake of the young gentleman's," said Hugh,
with the air of one who could perfectly account for the mystery. "Our
passageway is dark; or perhaps the light had dazzled his eyes. It was the
Widow Fowler's daughter, that came to borrow a pipe of tobacco for her
mother. By the same token, she put it into her own sweet mouth, and puffed
as she went along."
"But the white hand," said Glover, only half convinced.
"Nay, I know not," answered Hugh. "But her hand was at least as white as
her face: that I can swear. Well, gentlemen, I trust you find everything
in my house to your satisfaction. When the fire needs renewing, or the
wine runs low, be pleased to tap on the table. I shall appear with the
speed of a sunbeam."
After the departure of the landlord, the conversation of the young men
amounted to little more than monosyllables. Edward Walcott was wrapped in
his own contemplations; and his companion was in a half-slumberous state,
from which he started every quarter of an hour, at the chiming of the
clock that stood in a corner. The fire died gradually away; the lamps
began to burn dim; and Glover, rousing himself from one of his periodical
slumbers, was about to propose a return to their chambers. He was
prevented, however, by the approach of footsteps along the passageway; and
Hugh Crombie, opening the door, ushered a person into the room, and
The new-comer was Fanshawe. The water that poured plentifully from his
cloak evinced that he had but just arrived at the inn; but, whatever was
his object, he seemed not to have attained it in meeting with the young
men. He paused near the door, as if meditating whether to retire.
"My intrusion is altogether owing to a mistake, either of the landlord's
or mine," he said. "I came hither to seek another person; but, as I could
not mention his name, my inquiries were rather vague."
"I thank Heaven for the chance that sent you to us," replied Edward,
rousing himself. "Glover is wretched company; and a duller evening have I
never spent. We will renew our fire and our wine, and you must sit down
with us. And for the man you seek," he continued in a whisper, "he left
the inn within a half-hour after we encountered him. I inquired of Hugh
Crombie last night."
Fanshawe did not express his doubts of the correctness of the information
on which Edward seemed to rely. Laying aside his cloak, he accepted his
invitation to make one of the party, and sat down by the fireside.
The aspect of the evening now gradually changed. A strange wild glee
spread from one to another of the party, which, much to the surprise of
his companions, began with and was communicated from, Fanshawe. He seemed
to overflow with conceptions inimitably ludicrous, but so singular, that,
till his hearers had imbibed a portion of his own spirit, they could only
wonder at, instead of enjoying them. His applications to the wine were
very unfrequent; yet his conversation was such as one might expect from a
bottle of champagne endowed by a fairy with the gift of speech. The secret
of this strange mirth lay in the troubled state of his spirits, which,
like the vexed ocean at midnight (if the simile be not too magnificent),
tossed forth a mysterious brightness. The undefined apprehensions that had
drawn him to the inn still distracted his mind; but, mixed with them,
there was a sort of joy not easily to be described. By degrees, and by the
assistance of the wine, the inspiration spread, each one contributing such
a quantity, and such quality of wit and whim, as was proportioned to his
genius; but each one, and all, displaying a greater share of both than
they had ever been suspected of possessing.
At length, however, there was a pause,--the deep pause of flagging
spirits, that always follows mirth and wine. No one would have believed,
on beholding the pensive faces, and hearing the involuntary sighs of the
party, that from these, but a moment before, had arisen so loud and wild a
laugh. During this interval Edward Walcott (who was the poet of his class)
volunteered the following song, which, from its want of polish, and from
its application to his present feelings, might charitably be taken for an
The wine is bright, the wine is bright;
And gay the drinkers be:
Of all that drain the bowl to-night,
Most jollily drain we.
Oh, could one search the weary earth,--
The earth from sea to sea,--
He'd turn and mingle in our mirth;
For we're the merriest three.
Yet there are cares, oh, heavy cares!
We know that they are nigh:
When forth each lonely drinker fares,
Mark then his altered eye.
Care comes upon us when the jest
And frantic laughter die;
And care will watch the parting guest--
Oh late, then let us fly!
Hugh Crombie, whose early love of song and minstrelsy was still alive, had
entered the room at the sound of Edward's voice, in sufficient time to
accompany the second stanza on the violin. He now, with the air of one who
was entitled to judge in these matters, expressed his opinion of the
"Really, Master Walcott, I was not prepared for this," he said in the tone
of condescending praise that a great man uses to his inferior when he
chooses to overwhelm him with excess of joy. "Very well, indeed, young
gentleman! Some of the lines, it is true, seem to have been dragged in by
the head and shoulders; but I could scarcely have done much better myself
at your age. With practice, and with such instruction as I might afford
you, I should have little doubt of your becoming a distinguished poet. A
great defect in your seminary, gentlemen,--the want of due cultivation in
this heavenly art."
"Perhaps, sir," said Edward, with much gravity, "you might yourself be
prevailed upon to accept the professorship of poetry?"
"Why, such an offer would require consideration," replied the landlord.
"Professor Hugh Crombie of Harley College: it has a good sound, assuredly.
But I am a public man, Master Walcott; and the public would be loath to
spare me from my present office."
"Will Professor Crombie favor us with a specimen of his productions?"
"Ahem, I shall be happy to gratify you, young gentleman," answered Hugh.
"It is seldom, in this rude country, Master Walcott, that we meet with
kindred genius; and the opportunity should never be thrown away."
Thus saying, he took a heavy draught of the liquor by which he was usually
inspired, and the praises of which were the prevailing subject of his
song; then, after much hemming, thrumming, and prelusion, and with many
queer gestures and gesticulations, he began to effuse a lyric in the
I've been a jolly drinker this five-and-twenty year,
And still a jolly drinker, my friends, you see me here:
I sing the joys of drinking; bear a chorus, every man,
With pint pot and quart pot and clattering of can.
The sense of the professor's first stanza was not in exact proportion to
the sound; but, being executed with great spirit, it attracted universal
applause. This Hugh appropriated with a condescending bow and smile; and,
making a signal for silence, he went on,--
King Solomon of old, boys (a jolly king was he),--
But here he was interrupted by a clapping of hands, that seemed a
continuance of the applause bestowed on his former stanza. Hugh Crombie,
who, as is the custom of many great performers, usually sang with his eyes
shut, now opened them, intending gently to rebuke his auditors for their
unseasonable expression of delight. He immediately perceived, however,
that the fault was to be attributed to neither of the three young men;
and, following the direction of their eyes, he saw near the door, in the
dim background of the apartment, a figure in a cloak. The hat was flapped
forward, the cloak muffled round the lower part of the face; and only the
eyes were visible.
The party gazed a moment in silence, and then rushed _en masse_ upon
the intruder, the landlord bringing up the rear, and sounding a charge
upon his fiddle. But, as they drew nigh, the black cloak began to assume a
familiar look; the hat, also, was an old acquaintance; and, these being
removed, from beneath them shone forth the reverend face and form of Dr.
The president, in his quality of clergyman, had, late in the preceding
afternoon, been called to visit an aged female who was supposed to be at
the point of death. Her habitation was at the distance of several miles
from Harley College; so that it was nightfall before Dr. Melmoth stood at
her bedside. His stay had been lengthened beyond his anticipation, on
account of the frame of mind in which he found the dying woman; and, after
essaying to impart the comforts of religion to her disturbed intellect, he
had waited for the abatement of the storm that had arisen while he was
thus engaged. As the evening advanced, however, the rain poured down in
undiminished cataracts; and the doctor, trusting to the prudence and sure-
footedness of his steed, had at length set forth on his return. The
darkness of the night, and the roughness of the road, might have appalled
him, even had his horsemanship and his courage been more considerable than
they were; but by the special protection of Providence, as he reasonably
supposed (for he was a good man, and on a good errand), he arrived safely
as far as Hugh Crombie's inn. Dr. Melmoth had no intention of making a
stay there; but, as the road passed within a very short distance, he saw
lights in the windows, and heard the sound of song and revelry. It
immediately occurred to him, that these midnight rioters were, probably,
some of the young men of his charge; and he was impelled, by a sense of
duty, to enter and disperse them. Directed by the voices, he found his
way, with some difficulty, to the apartment, just as Hugh concluded his
first stanza; and, amidst the subsequent applause, his entrance had been
There was a silence of a moment's continuance after the discovery of Dr.
Melmoth, during which he attempted to clothe his round, good-natured face
in a look of awful dignity. But, in spite of himself, there was a little
twisting of the corners of his mouth, and a smothered gleam in his eye.
"This has, apparently, been a very merry meeting, young gentlemen," he at
length said; "but I fear my presence has cast a damp upon it."
"Oh yes! your reverence's cloak is wet enough to cast a damp upon
anything," exclaimed Hugh Crombie, assuming a look of tender anxiety. "The
young gentlemen are affrighted for your valuable life. Fear deprives them
of utterance: permit me to relieve you of these dangerous garments."
"Trouble not yourself, honest man," replied the doctor, who was one of the
most gullible of mortals. "I trust I am in no danger; my dwelling being
near at hand. But for these young men"--
"Would your reverence but honor my Sunday suit,--the gray broadcloth coat,
and the black velvet smallclothes, that have covered my unworthy legs but
once? Dame Crombie shall have them ready in a moment," continued Hugh,
beginning to divest the doctor of his garments.
"I pray you to appease your anxiety," cried Dr. Melmoth, retaining a firm
hold on such parts of his dress as yet remained to him. "Fear not for my
health. I will but speak a word to those misguided youth, and be gone."
"Misguided youth, did your reverence say?" echoed Hugh, in a tone of utter
astonishment. "Never were they better guided than when they entered my
poor house. Oh, had your reverence but seen them, when I heard their
cries, and rushed forth to their assistance. Dripping with wet were they,
like three drowned men at the resurrec--Ahem!" interrupted Hugh,
recollecting that the comparison he meditated might not suit the doctor's
ideas of propriety.
"But why were they abroad on such a night?" inquired the president.
"Ah! doctor, you little know the love these good young gentlemen bear for
you," replied the landlord. "Your absence, your long absence, had alarmed
them; and they rushed forth through the rain and darkness to seek you."
"And was this indeed so?" asked the doctor, in a softened tone, and
casting a tender and grateful look upon the three students. They, it is
but justice to mention, had simultaneously made a step forward in order to
contradict the egregious falsehoods of which Hugh's fancy was so fertile;
but he assumed an expression of such ludicrous entreaty, that it was
"But methinks their anxiety was not of long continuance," observed Dr.
Melmoth, looking at the wine, and remembering the song that his entrance
"Ah! your reverence disapproves of the wine, I see," answered Hugh
Crombie. "I did but offer them a drop to keep the life in their poor young
hearts. My dame advised strong waters; 'But, Dame Crombie,' says I, 'would
ye corrupt their youth?' And in my zeal for their good, doctor, I was
delighting them, just at your entrance, with a pious little melody of my
own against the sin of drunkenness."
"Truly, I remember something of the kind," observed Dr. Melmoth. "And, as
I think, it seemed to meet with good acceptance."
"Ay, that it did!" said the landlord. "Will it please your reverence to
King Solomon of old, boys (a wise man I'm thinking),
Has warned you to beware of the horrid vice of drinking--
"But why talk I of drinking, foolish man that I am! And all this time,
doctor, you have not sipped a drop of my wine. Now I entreat your
reverence, as you value your health and the peace and quiet of these
Dr. Melmoth drank a glass of wine, with the benevolent intention of
allaying the anxiety of Hugh Crombie and the students. He then prepared to
depart; for a strong wind had partially dispersed the clouds, and
occasioned an interval in the cataract of rain. There was, perhaps, a
little suspicion yet remaining in the good man's mind respecting the truth
of the landlord's story: at least, it was his evident intention to see the
students fairly out of the inn before he quitted it himself. They
therefore proceeded along the passageway in a body. The lamp that Hugh
Crombie held but dimly enlightened them; and the number and contiguity of
the doors caused Dr. Melmoth to lay his hand upon the wrong one.
"Not there, not there, doctor! It is Dame Crombie's bedchamber," shouted
Hugh, most energetically. "Now Beelzebub defend me!" he muttered to
himself, perceiving that his exclamation had been a moment too late.
"Heavens! what do I see?" ejaculated Dr. Melmoth, lifting his hands, and
starting back from the entrance of the room. The three students pressed
forward; Mrs. Crombie and the servant-girl had been drawn to the spot by
the sound of Hugh's voice; and all their wondering eyes were fixed on poor
The apartment in the midst of which she stood was dimly lighted by a
solitary candle at the farther extremity; but Ellen was exposed to the
glare of the three lamps, held by Hugh, his wife, and the servant-girl.
Their combined rays seemed to form a focus exactly at the point where they
reached her; and the beholders, had any been sufficiently calm, might have
watched her features in their agitated workings and frequent change of
expression, as perfectly as by the broad light of day. Terror had at first
blanched her as white as a lily, or as a marble statue, which for a moment
she resembled, as she stood motionless in the centre of the room. Shame
next bore sway; and her blushing countenance, covered by her slender white
fingers, might fantastically be compared to a variegated rose with its