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the side of all charity, of forbearance, against harsh judgments; it was largely and Christian!y catholic, as well in things political as literary. He never made haste to condemn.
There is a rashness in criminating this retirement from every-day political conflicts which is, to say the least, very shortsighted. Extreme radicalism spurns the comparative inactivity, and says, "Lo, a sluggard!" Extreme conservatism spurns it, and says, "Lo, a coward!" It is only too true that cowards and sluggards both may take shelter under a shield of indifference; but it is equally true that any reasonably acute mind, if only charitably disposed, can readily distinguish between an inactivity which springs from craven or sluggish propensity, and that other which belongs to constitutional temperament, aud which, while passing calm and dispassionate judgment upon excesses of opinion of either party, contributes insensibly to moderate the violence of both.
But whatever may have been Mr. Irving's reluctance to ally himself intimately with political affairs, and to assume advocacy of special measures, it is certain that he never failed in open - hearted, outspoken utterance for the cause of virtue, of human liberty, and of his country. There were vulgar assailants, indeed, who alleged at one time that he had thoroughly denationalized himself by his long absences. The charge he always regarded as an affront, and met with acorn. There are those so grossly constituted as to measure a man's love of his own country by the sneers he flings at the country of others. It was not in Mr. Irving's nature to sneer at even an enemy; it was not his way of making conquest . He recognized fully the advantages of a foreign life (at his date) in following up that career of belles-lettres study which he had marked out for himself. The free entree of European libraries and galleries, and familiar association with a class of cultivated men of leisure, (in countries where such a class exists.) offered opportunity for refining
his taste, for enlarging his stock of available material, and for stimulating his mental activity, of which he was not slow to perceive the value, and of which he has given ample account.
There is much that is interesting in the Life before us in regard to Mr. Irriug's habit of work. He was, like most men of extreme sensitiveness, moody; at times his mind seemed all aglow; he wrote, on such occasions, with extraordinary rapidity, and with that cheery appreciation of his labor which to any author is an immense stimulant. But following upon these happy humors came seasons of wearisome depression; the stale manuscript of yesterday lost its charm; the fancy refused to be lighted ; he has not the heart to hammer at the business with dull, lifeless blows, and flings down hia pen in despair. There are successive months during which this mood hangs upon him like an incubus; then it passes suddenly, like a cloud, and the air (as at Seville) wooes him to his charmingest fancies.
We do not propose a critical estimate of the books of Mr. Irving. We have neither space nor present temper for this. The world has indorsed his great popularity with the heart, as much as witlt the brain. There are those who have objected that the last subject of his labor— the "Life of Washington "— was little suited to his imaginative tone of mind, and should have been worked up with a larger and more philosophic grasp of thought. It may well be that at some future time we shall have a more profound estimate of the relations which our great Leader held to his cause and to his time; but, however profound and just such a work may be, we feel quite safe in predicting that it will never supplant the graceful labor of Mr. Irving in the hearts of the American people. Precisely what was wanted Mr. Irving has given: such charming, faithful, truthful picture of the great hero of our Revolution as should carry knowledge of him, of the battles he fought, of his large, selfdenying, unswerving patriotism, of the purity of his life, into every household. Mo man could have done this work better; nor do we think any other will ever do it as well.
And there is his " Sketch-Book,"— in blue and gold, in green and gold, in red and gold;—in what colors, and in what language, does it not appear? Yet the themes are of the simplest: a broken heart; a rural funeral; a Christmas among the hollies; an hour in the Abbey of Westminster: what is there new, or to care greatly for, in these things? Yet he touched them, and all the world are touched by them. Your critic says there is no serious insight, no deep probing; a pretty wind blows over, — that is all.
Yes, that is all; but how many are there who cau set such sweet currents of wind affow?
Only a bruised daisy, only a wounded hare, only Halloween, — and Burns, with all his fresh, healthy, hearty manhood, and only a peasant's pen, touches them in such way that his touch is making the nerves of men and women vibrate, whereever our Saxon speech is uttered.
There is many a light thing that we cherish,— with which we will not easily part. That souvenir of some dear, dead one we do not value by its weight in gold; that sweet story of the Vicar we do not measure by its breadth of logic. And no American, no matter how late born he may be, but, if he wander in the Catskills, shall hear the rumble of the Dutch revellers at their bowling in the gorges of the mountains, —not one but shall read, and reading shall love, the story of Rip Van Winkle.
It was only a quiet old gentleman of six-and-seventy who was buried awhile ago from his home upon the Hudson: yet the village-shops were all closed; the streets, the houses, the station, were hang in black; thousands from the city thirty miles away thronged the high-road leading to the little church where prayers u fiv to be said.
How shall we explain this? The author is dead, indeed, whose writings were admired by all; but there is something worthier to be said than this: — At the little church lay the body of the man whom all men loved.
Affairs went smoothly and noiselessly on for some three months. Air. St. George had received the congratulations of the neighborhood, who, perceiving that Eloise still remained at The Rim, presumed all was satisfactory; and filoise refused herself to all, the better by reason of her term of mourning. The slaves on the estate no longer infected others with the result of bad government; their association with the BlueBIuffs people, a notoriously bad set., as well they might be, was broken up; they felt, though the reins hung freely and the
burden was light, that there was a strong hand behind them that knew how to pull them up or put them in the dust, and they learned so much respect and even love for that hand as never to presume on the fact that it would not perhaps choose to exert its full power; work was well done; there was no further trespassing on other precincts; the world was in perfect order, so far as St. George's administration of it extended. He was, moreover, a man of distinction; serving, young as he was, four terms in Congress from a distant district, he was already spoken of again as the candidate of the immediate vicinity; bis advice was sought in a hundred matters about which he knew nothing at all,— and always given, in spite of the last-mentioned circumstance; he had a careless, easy way of taking the life out of a man's mouth, so to speak, and disposing of it for that man's advantage as he himself pleased, so that the man felt under an infinite obligation; he had, too, an air with him of such superiority over the ills of life, such undoubted kingliness, that every one succumbed and rested gladly on so firm a precedent. Mr. St. George in this brief time had accepted much hospitality, had won a thousand friends, and by Christmas had made himself, through his genial strength to-day and his sardonic sarcasm to-morrow, as thoroughly the autocrat of all the region as ever Mr. Erne had been. For all that men want is a master; give them somebody that will lead, and glad enough are they to follow. But Mr. Erne's supremacy had merely been a matter of birth and of kindly feeling; Mr. St. George's was, first, because he choose to have it, and secondly, because nobody was able to refuse it. Marlboro's masterliness was quite another thing, affected no clusters of men, and was felt only by those whom he owned, body and soul.
In the mean time, the family seldom saw Mr. St. George, and when they did, he was so stately that they would have been quite willing to shut their eyes. They forgot, however, that, when you insist on being yourself an iceberg, you really cool the air about you. Once, indeed, or twice, there had been brief, but notable exceptions in his conduct.
A period of heavy rains had just elapsed, and Eloise, weary of confinement, had gone on the first clear day strolling round the place, as secure as in a drawing-room, since there was not one of her father's people but adored her.
"You are going out, Miss Changarnier?" Mr. St. George had remarked at the door; and, on being answered, he had added in a soliloquy, as if not deigning
a second address for a second rebuff,— "It will be quite impossible to go far, for the freshet has swollen the brooks into rivers."
Eloise, however, took no notice of the information, and went on her way, strolled farther than she had intended, and forded a brook because Mr. St. George had said she could not. Then she sat down under a branching tree that dropped its leaves about her and into the brook, and began to read the "Romaunt of the Rose ": at least, I fancy that was the book she had. While she remained, the brook swirling ever louder between the pauses, the sunset ran red in the sky and warned her to hasten home. But she disregarded the warning till purple shadows fell softly on the page, and stars and moon stole out to peer above her shoulder and see what it was that so entranced the maiden. Rising hurriedly, she moved away; and only when she had crossed two or three of the stepping - stones did she perceive, on looking down, that, while she had been reading, the water had risen above the next ones with a depth that the failing light forbade her to see. Standing there, and bending dizzily forward to guess the strength of the dark stream now so loudly and rapidly rushing by, there came a noise like a bursting waterspout ; suddenly her waist was seized, and she was swept back to the shore. The next iustant, with a seething sound, a great uprooted oak tore along the very spot on which she had stood.
"Seeking danger for the pleasure of escape ?" said a cool voice in her ear, as her feet were planted on dry land. "A little excitement spices our still life so well!"
"Mr. St . George! how dare you?" cried Eloise, freeing herself.
"What would you have had me do? Should I have stood here, letting I dare not wait upon I would, like the cat i' the adage, while the oak caught and rushed you off to sea? Too big a broomstick for such a little witch!"
"You should not have been here at all, Sir!"
"There shall be thanks in all the churches, next Sunday, that I was."
"At least, Sir, I can spare further aid."
"Play Undine and the Knight on the island? It would n't be at all safe,—it would n't be proper, you know," said Mr. St. George, raising his eyebrows. "The dam that shuts up the irrigating waters broke an hour ago," added be, in the tone of another person. "I sent servants to find you, in every direction, and happened this way myself."
filoise was a little sobered.
"I am much obliged to you, Sir," she said.
"So it seems," he replied, dryly. "I shall be forced to offend you again," he continued, "as further delay will render the stream entirely impassable."
And before she could utter a syllable of deprecation, she had swung a brief moment in the air, and was upon the other side, up which Mr. St. George, in his high seven-league boots, clambered so soon as he had set her down. Instead of venturing any new display of indignation, as St. George expected, filoise walked on with him quietly a moment, and then, looking up, said, —
"You are very kind, and I am very ungracious."
Mr. St. George did not deny her assertion, only he glanced down at her from his height a second with an inexplicable expression, and immediately after the house became visible bowed low and left her.
"There 's been such a tantrum, Miss," said the quadroon Hazel, combing out £loise's hair that night, "and Massa St . George's horse waited two mortal hours to take him to Blue Bluffs. You ought to have heard him swear I He galloped off at last like mad."
And asfiloise gave no response, unless the cloud on her face spoke for her in the glass, the familiar girl added, —
"Not at you, Miss, not swearing at you,—oh, no, indeed I — but at all of us, to think we 'd let you go alone."
"Mr. St. George is too solicitous. That
will do, Hazel. Have you spoken to your master about buying Vane?"
"Laws, Miss, I never feels as if he was any master of mine, leastwise excep' one can't help minding him. 'S different from ole Massa, — we minded ole Massa for lub,— but I dunno if it's the music, when Massa St. George speaks, that makes you do what ho says, when you just don't uie'm to, —as if you could n't help it, and did n't want to help it?" suggested Hazel.
"Mr. St. George," said filoise, "is very good to his people; they ought to wish to obey him."
"Yes, Miss. On'y he a'n't no business here."
"Don't let me hear you speak so again, Hazel," said Eloise, facing the suddenly cringing girl. "Now you can go."
But Hazel lingered still, over one and another odd trifle, and at length glancing up from where she stooped, with a scarlet on her young tawny cheek, she added, in a low voice, —
"You 'll speak to Massa St. George now for me, won't you, Miss?"
"What? About Vane? You would do better yourself. Yes."
Two or three days passed away after this little promise to Hazel, before filoise, at first forgetting it, and then dreading it, could gather courage to proceed in the negotiations for the handmaiden's suit. She was vaguely aware that she was the last person in the world whose past conduct harmonized with the asking of favors, and she silently offered slight propitiatory sacrifices. Yet she did this so haughtily, in order still not to compromise her own dignity, that they would quite as well have answered the purpose of belligerent signals.
It was one afternoon that Eloise sat at the drawing-room window, having recently finished her day's work, and letting herself linger now in a place which she very rarely so much as passed through. She sat erect, just then, — her head thrown far back, and the eyelids, cast down along the pale face. Mr. St . Georgo came into the room noiselessly, and laid down his riding-whip and gloves. Then he paused, struck by her appearance, and admired her motionless attitude i'or several minutes.
"One sits for Mnemosyne," he said then.
Eloise lifted her eyes, and a ghost of color flitted along her cheek. Here was a fortunate moment; the deity of it"unbent and smiled. Her heart beat in her throat between the words of her thought; yet she recalled, for support, all the romances she had read, and their eloquent portraitures of love, and, remembering that just as Rebecca loved Ivanhoe, as Paolo loved Francesca, so Hazel and Vane loved each other, "I must! I must!" she kept saying chokingly to herself. Mr. St. George had taken up a book. How should she dare disturb him? At last a hesitating voice came sliding towards him, —
"Mr. St. George"
"I beg your pardon,—did you speak?" he asked, closing his book.
"Mr. St. George, I want to ask you a favor," replied Eloise.
She rose, and unconsciously with such an air that he saw her effort, then came and sat on a lower seat directly before him.
"When papa, when my dear father was living," said she, "I had a maid, who was always mine, who grew up with me, being only a little younger, and I became attached to her"
And before Eloise knew it she was lightly playing with Mr. St. George's riding-whip,— that being one of her warm traits just out of Nature, the appropriation of everything about her.
"And you have her no longer? That shall be attended to."
"Oh, yes, Sir, she waits pn me still; that is n't it . She is only seventeen, she has been an atom wayward,—just, you know, as I might have been *
Mr. St. George smiled so perceptibly that Eloise added, throwing back her head again,—
"Just as I am, Sir I But she has be
haved very nicely for several Why,
this is Mrs. Aries's whip! the one her husband gave her. I knew it by the ivory vine-stem twining the ebony; and there are her initials in the lovely gold chasing. I used to want it to play with, when I was a little girl,—and she would n't let me have it, of course. Pretty initials!"
"Yes," said Mr. St. George, coldly.
Eloise put it down. And then she stared at him forgetfully, and, unthinkingly, with great disappointed eyes. Thereat Mr. St . George laughed.
"Don't Russian women present the knout to their bridegrooms ?" asked Eloise then, mischievously.
But before he could have replied, she resumed, —
"Well, Sir, Hazel is very pretty"
"It is Hazel, then? Would yon like her to be made more distinctly yours, Miss Eloise?"
"Oh, dear, no, Sir, thank you. That is n't it at all. Hazel is in love."
"She is in love with Vane, a boy of Mr. Marlboro's: you may have seen him; he is here a good deal, — by stealth: and they want to be married. But Mr. Marlboro' is their terror, he may put an end to everything, and they are afraid, and — and — could you buy Vane, Mr. St . George?"
"I could, Miss Changarnier."
"And you will, then?" cried filoise, springing up.
"If Mr. Marlboro' will sell him."
"It is a pride of the Marlboro's that there never was a hand sold off the place."
"Oh, I had forgotten. They would tell too shocking stories."
"Not here. Not unless they were sold off the Cuban plantation, where the vicious ones are transported."
"But perhaps he would give him to you."
"Miss filoise, he would give him to you."
"Me? I have never seen him."