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The Reclor. The volumes open with the embarrassments of a retired officer, General de Brooke, who, with a wife and two lovely daughters, lives in a villa surrounded by every beauty of landscape and elegance of wealth: but this is soon to pass away. His consideration now is, not where he shall enjoy, but where he shall exist; not where he shall retire occasionally from the tumults of the town into bowers of roses and saloons scented with exotics; in what arbour of exhaustless sweets he shall escape the Noon; or from what oriel, stained with a thousand colours, he shall watch the descending brightness of the sun—but into what solitude he can plunge his head, where men first live cheap, then live on little, and then make the short-lived experiment of living on nothing. This is rather an unromantic necessity, especially for an officer with two epaulettes and recollections of the showy world; but it must come. “ It is inevitable—the villa must be parted with—it must fall into the possession of others," is the soliloquy of General de Brooke, as it has been of many a man who has enjoyed prosperity as much, and was as little inclined to bear its contrary.
The Barrister. It must certainly be a very considerable task to reconcile one's-self to giving up all these things; for instance, a villa in Surrey, looking over fifty miles of a garden-visaged county, and adjourning for life to the Yorkshire Woids, or to that remote region of the West, where men talk Welch, and Sir Watkin Wynne is the greatest man in Europe ; or even to Boulogne, with all its little pinched contrivances for managing to live, its little bitter bustle of society, its decent cheating, and the gayest discomforts on the face of the earth. But the case becomes “deeper and deeper still," if the gallant exile, the Regulus, should happen to have a wife and daughters, the one of superlative virtue, and the others of superlative beauty. The homely may be reconciled to hiding their homeliness in what the ladies call the “sweet seclusion of domestic life.” But pre-eminent virtue is not a thing that we ought to withhold from the world ; and beauty is becoming so rare, since the introduction of politics and teetotalism, that it cannot be too frequently displayed for the honour of the country. The General's wife and daughters, their talents and tenderness, their wit and worth, their accomplishments, adventures, and adversities, all make the subject of this “tale of life," and make it, to the lovers of the domestic novel, a very loveable one.
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
MY LAST TOUR.
Several times in the course of my life I have started on pedestrian tours—sometimes alone, sometimes in company with other adventurers ; but a very few days' practice upon most of these occasions served to convince me that, while men could be persuaded to build travelling carriages, and horses could be found to draw them, and that with such adjuncts other men might be driven when they chose, and walk when they liked, the option was exceedingly agreeable, and the carriage by far the preferable mode of conveyance to the points which it might be desirable to visit, or to the views which it should seem essential to the happiness of the tourist to contemplate.
Well do I remember upon one of these expeditions setting forth with all the glee and energy of youth, accompanied by a dear and excellent friend, now, alas! no more, and by two others, who still survive, from Abergavenny, for a gentle rational walk through South Wales. Nothing could be brighter than the morning—nothing clearer than the skynothing fresher than the air. In those days, worldly care for the future, or retrospection of the past, weighed us not down, and, after a breakfast which might have been mistaken for a dinner, we marched off at a smart pace, taking the line of the Brecon canal, towards Crickhowel, which lovely village we reached in due time, and without much fatigue.
We were delighted with the success of our enterprise in its outset, and, although the extent of our first day's journey did not much exceed six miles, we rejoiced in the ease and comfort with which they had been achieved.
An incident occurred here, somewhat ludicrous, perhaps, to read of, but, under the circumstances, and, considering the exercise we had taken, by no means diverting to the parties concerned.
When we reached the clean and quiet inn at Crickhowel we slightly refreshed ourselves ; but that was all, inasmuch as my dearest friend of the party had a friend, who had the prettiest place in the neighbourhood, who had frequently pressed him to come and dine, and stay with him, and bring whatever companions he might have with him. To do at least the first, it was resolved that we should visit the worthy gentleman en masse, to give him, at least, the opportunity of exercising his hospitality upon the present occasion, an acceptance of which, as he had an extremely agreeable wife, and some remarkably pretty cousins, we naturally preferred to the male, matter-of-fact dinner at our ostelry, which, however agreeable, per se, must sink by comparison, in our then young minds,
Dec,- VOL. LIV. NO. CCXVI.
with the coterie, or more properly the petti-coatery, at the castellated mansion of our presumed host.
Having brushed the dust from our shoes, and washed it from our lips with small potations of ale, the name of which is pronounced as softly as it tastes (but which, having no consonant in the construction of its name, I dare not venture to write for fear of being wrong), we proceeded to the fane of hospitality, which we approached by one of the most beautiful gates I had then ever seen, the upper part of which, with a laudable anxiety for mixing usefulness with ornament, our friend (hitherto unseen by us) had converted into a laundry.
Through this gateway the view is something delightful-in the days of which I now write the Continent was closed against us by war, and the romantic beauties of Switzerland had not become as common to Cockneys as the wilds of Shooter's Hill, or the dells of Beulah Spa—the scenery of Crickhowel is Swiss, and for what it may want in comparative extent, it fully compensates in beauty. If Time has not confused my recollections (for it never can obliterate the memory of those days of happiness) the view from Crickhowel churchyard is something scarcely describable by a pen like mine.
All this did we gaze on with rapture ; nor was the loveliness of the scenery at all unsuited to the beauty of the two young ladies, to whom the master of the domain, after we had been in due form introduced to him, presented us. One was a blonde, the other a brunette, yet much resembling each other in features and figure, the main difference between them existing in the retiring gentleness of the fair Eliza, and the animated gaiety of the less fair, although not less handsome, Annie.
After these presentations had taken place, and the conversation had taken a turn upon the beauties of the situation, and the exceeding good taste of our host, a similar ceremony was performed as regarded the lady of the mansion, who, to say truth, was as agreeable a person as I ever met with, and whose warmth of manner really made us feel at home even in a strange house.
We walked and talked, and looked and laughed, but still there came no invitation, and I began to think that our leader had miscalculated the liberality of his friend; however, the proverbial hospitality of Wales was not destined to be damaged in the person of our host, who, after a little parley with his better half, who had “ dropped astern" of us for the purpose evidently of “ speaking her consort, came up
and told us that they expected a few neighbours at half-past five, and, if we would join them, he and his wife should be most happy.
“We are early people," said the good-natured man; “but, although half-past five is the hour, six will do." “ We muster strong,” said our leader :
shall crowd you. “ Not a bit,” said the lady; "we have always room for friends, here."
I must confess, taking the blue-eyed, fair-haired Eliza into consideration, I was not ill-pleased that the invitation had been given, nor, as far as less sentimental feelings, and, in all probability, more substantial enjoyments, were concerned, did I at all disrelish an extremely savoury smell, wafted on the breeze towards us from the window of the kitchen, which presented itself to our view while crossing the court which contained the offices; neither did the appearance of four of the finest trout I ever saw, borne in a basket by a boy to the door of the said kitchen,
diminish the satisfaction which the kind bidding of our host had excited.
It was now just past two o'clock, and we made a demonstration of retiring, in order to inspect the lions, such as they were, and to give an opportunity to one of the party to take sketches of any of the
pretty bits” which might strike him. And here, par parenthèse, let me advise every man, unless he draws himself most carefully, to eschew the society of a male sketcher on a tour. In the society of women—let them do what they may, let them loiter never so long, and copy nature till “daylight sets'' (as Moore has it)—a man must be happy; without affection-without love or friendship-such an association, tête-à-tête, could not well occur—therefore a female sketcher is extremely delightful ;-but, to be forced to climb up a rock, or slide down a ravine, and sit for hours together, while your male companion is taking his view, regardless alike of time or circumstance—is something unbearable; if he stop to follow his pleasing vocation in the neighbourhood of Neath or Swansea, and the breeze is fresh, the stir-up of the ashes, of which the artificial soil is thereabouts composed, is, as I know, not delightful. I must not, however, digress—for I have a great deal to tell, one way or another, in this end of my tour or rather my tours; so, having left our worthy and hospitable friend, and our sketcher having gratified himself, while our appetites were growing (for in those days I could eat), with various pictorial transcripts of the church and other striking objects, we returned to our inn.
One little turn off from the straight road of the pedestrian tourist, which I then was, perhaps may be permitted; I have already mentioned the adaptation of the upper part of our beautiful gateway to the purposes of washing out the fine linen of the gentleman with whom we were going to dine, and eke, also, of his lady, the two cousins, and divers and sundry other persons of the establishment. In the church we found the same spirit of improvement had been at work; windows had been altered, beautiful memorials of the olden time had been obliterated, and, in short, everything had been made as snug and comfortable as our hospitable friend's washhouse.
I might add here one little fact as regards the holy martyr, EDMUND, King of East Anglia, to whom this said church is dedicated-a church remarkable as being the only one in the county with a spire, and in which the bones of the Pauncefoots and Herberts of Dan y Castale rest in the most agreeable security, and which I think I will, because anybody who doubts me has only to refer to “Cressy's Church History of Brittany."
“Edmund, during the terrible eruption of the Danes through the eastern parts of England, in the year 870, was taken prisoner by the Danish general, Ingwar; after being fettered, he was tied to the trunk of a tree and severely whipped. In this situation, the Danish soldiers filled his body with their arrows, and, to finish the tragedy, Ingwar bimself chopped his head off; after which, as the veracious monks tell us, they threw his body (having subjected it to every sort of indignity) into an adjoining thicket.
“Many years afterwards,” say the monks,“ when the retreat of the invaders gave them leisure and security, his pious subjects sought for his remains in order to have them reverently interred. The body they
soon found, but the head was undiscovered ; when, according to the tradition, there happened a wonder not heard of in any age before,' for, whilst they dispersed themselves in all parts, and each one demanded of his companion, where it was the Danes had cast the head ? the head itself—the same head-answered them aloud in their own tongue'here! here! here!"
These words, sounding very like those uttered every night in the House of Commons by heads equally empty with that of St. Edmund, led them to the spot where the head lay, which they found guarded by a wolf who held it between his feet, but, upon comprehending the characters and objects of the searchers for it, immediately gave it up. This is the history, as given literally to that confiding community who are in duty bound to believe in the traditions of the priesthood.
Well, our sketching friend having finished his memorandum, and the clock having struck five, we all betook ourselves to the inn, where, much to their own contentment, our two servants had arrived with our bags and portmanteaus from Abergavenny, in a sort of gig which they had hired; leaving to their masters all the delights derivable from a walking tour, while, as I have before observed, carriages and horses might be bought or hired.
After an amicable squabble about rooms, we went to dress; and, by a quarter before six, were in marching order to the castellated mansion of our kind and liberal friend. In those days loose pantaloons were unknown-shorts, with knee-buckles and long stockings, were the indispensable attributes of a dinner-party-and, accordingly, we four proceeded—dust taken into the calculation, and the sun pretty high, in July—up the street of Crickhowel, to the laundry-gate of the castlewhich, I ought to say, boasted of a street-door-not a knocker—which door, when opened, exhibited to view-and does now, I dare say--a perpendicular flight of stairs right before you as you enter ; never mind-if men will build little castles, why should they not build them after their own fancy ? nothing to us—we were full of fun-excessively hungry, and quite resolved to be pleased with anything and everything that occurred-all that I cared about, being the getting next that fair-haired, blue-eyed Eliza—and so—we arrived
Doors flew open at our approach-everything was couleur de rose ; the lady of the house all smiles ; Eliza all sinking, shrinking, and melting; Annie, all sparkling, laughing, and dazzling, and looking so beautifully-better than they did in the morning-in spite of the aforesaid sun, which came shining in so dazzlingly, that I could not help anathematizing the system of dining by daylight (a custom which I have grown to hate the more, the longer I have lived)—that, if my heart had only fluttered in the forenoon, I felt it regularly beat upon my returnshe was a charming girl, and that's the truth on't.
When we entered the circle there was a larger party assembled than I expected; we were singularly and severally introduced, to every individual, male and female, then and there congregated--because, in those days, it was accounted reasonable so far to make every member of a society with which he was incorporated so far aware of the names, character, condition, qualifications, and peculiarities of his companions, as might prevent his unconsciously vituperating the grandfather of his next neighbour at dinner-indulging in a sarcastic anecdote of the mother of