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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 454 Volume 18, New Series, September 11, 1852
CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 454. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




MONETARY SENSATIONS.


The poorest and most unlucky dog in the world either has or had some
small portion of money. No matter how small, how hardly, or how
precariously earned, he has seen, from time to time, a glimpse of the
colour of his own cash, and rejoiced accordingly as that colour was
brown, white, or yellow. It follows, therefore, that even the poorest
and most unlucky dog in the world has experienced monetary sensations.
It may appear paradoxical, but it is no less true, that it is the very
rich, born to riches, the heirs to great properties, or no end of
consolidated stock, who have never enjoyed or feared the sensation to
which we allude. To them, money is a thing of course; it pours in upon
them with the regularity of the succeeding seasons. Rent-day comes of
itself, and there is the money; dividend-day is as sure as Christmas,
and there lie the receipts. These are the people who know nothing of
the commodity with which they are so well endowed, or, at most, their
knowledge is but skin-deep. They take and spend, just as they sit or
walk. Both seem natural processes; they have performed them since they
were born. Their money is a bit of themselves--an extra and uncommonly
convenient limb with which they are endowed. It is only when some
sudden catastrophe bursts upon and cuts off the supplies, that this
class of ladies and gentlemen experience, like the shock of a thousand
freezing shower-baths, their first 'monetary sensation.'

But the men and women who work either with head or hands--who fight
their way--who plan to gain and plan to spend, so that the latter
shall counterbalance the former--who lie sleepless in their beds,
intent on how to make both ends meet--who are lucky and unlucky--who
travel the ups and the downs of life, here grasping fortunes, there
turning out the linings of penniless pockets: these are the people
whose whole lives are one long succession of monetary sensations.
Among them mainly is cultivated the art of looking at two sides of a
shilling. They know how to value half-crowns and sovereigns in calling
up the long arrear of hard-worked hours, which are, as it were, the
small-change of quarters' salaries and weeks' wages. How many strokes
of the steady-going pen are encircled in those bright yellow
disks--how many thumps of the ponderous hammer has it taken to produce
this handful of silver. Or on a larger scale--as the successful
speculator sweeps to himself the mass of notes and bills, all as good
as gold, for which he has set every penny of his worldly means upon
the stake, and feels with a thrill which makes him clutch the precious
paper, that had things not turned out as, thank Heaven! they have,
that then, and then!----He has had a tolerably vigorous monetary
sensation.

But the whole of the money-getting classes, and, to some extent, the
classes who merely spend what others got and gave them, can look very
well back upon a series of monetary sensations which have marked
epochs in their lives. Our remembrances of that kind are, of course,
most deeply engraved, and most clearly recollected, in the cases in
which we are working for ourselves, and have ourselves achieved steps
and triumphed over difficulties in life--each step and triumph marked
by a lengthening of the purse. But there are early monetary
impressions common to almost all the juvenile world, rich and poor--to
the children of the duke or of the mechanic, to the boy who has
obtained the price of a pony or a watch, and the boy who has been made
a present of what will buy him a twopenny story-book, or a twopenny
bun. Boys and girls commonly have poses--to adopt a phrase not known
south of the Tweed, where it must be explained, that to have a pose,
is to possess a little private and secret, or quasi-secret, hoard of
treasure. This pose frequently imparts the first monetary sensation.
It instils the first distinct idea of the value of money; it gives the
first notion of the accumulation of precious things; and the little
proprietor or proprietrix comes to rattle the box with the narrow slit
as a sort of sly enjoyment. To break into a pose would be quite
profane and irreverent. Pose-boxes do not open, and so far read a
philosophic lesson to the proprietors. Always save, always add, always
hold as a sort of sacred deposit, the mysteriously precious
pose-boxes. Occasionally, again, a child gets a present of a
sovereign, or an old-fashioned guinea, which it would be dreadful
sacrilege to change. Every one will remember how Sophy and Livy
Primrose 'never went without money themselves, as my wife always let
them have a guinea each to keep in their pockets, but with strict
injunctions never to change it.' There are hundreds of thousands of
Sophies and Livies possessed of the same sacred store, or having given
it to their parents 'to keep,' over whose minds the remembrance of the
secret hoard every now and then sends flashing across the mind
of the child a sense of importance, or richness, or a general
self-complacency which varies with the individuality. Boys and girls
in the next stages of their growth care little and think little about
money, except as a means of obtaining some trifling passing
indulgence. The childish reverence for the pose has passed. The
unopenable box has been long since opened, and the unchangeable guinea
long since changed. We allude here, of course, to the children of the
well-to-do. With the children of the poor, the case is different.
They never lose the faculty of monetary sensation. Money is too
valuable to them, because as soon as the mere childish period is past,
and sometimes before it, money to the young poor is always
translatable into good food and new clothes. There is nothing more
sadly frequent in the squalid lanes and alleys of London, than to see
a little creature, boy or girl, toddle with a chance-penny, not into
the toy-shop or the sweet-shop, but into the cook-shop, and there
spend the treasure in food, taking care, with melancholy precocity, to
have the full weight, and only a due proportion of gristle or fat.
Further on in life, when a poor boy earns a chance-sixpence or a
shilling, there is so much added to the store laying up for the new
jacket, the new cap, or the new boots; or, not unfrequently, there is
so much gained for the family exigencies of Saturday night. Here there
are monetary sensations in abundance. The life of such people is full
of them. The annuitant or the proprietor who listlessly, and without
one additional throb of his pulse, drops hundreds into his purse, has
not the ghost of an idea of the thrill of pleasure--invoking, perhaps,
a score of delightful associations--with which the boy who holds his
horse receives the sixpence, which is tossed him as the capitalist in
his normal condition rides coolly and unmovedly away. To experience
monetary sensations, you must earn the money first, and have a score
of urgent purposes disputing for its application.

But perhaps one of the most vivid monetary sensations which a man
experiences, is when he is paid the first instalment of the price of
his labours. In an instant, he seems to rise and take a footing in the
world. He has struck the first blow in his Battle of Life, and
prostrated his antagonist, for whom, however, as soon as he has taken
him captive, he conceives a particular affection. The glow of assured
independence is a proud and manly feeling. The money is not _given_.
That is the overmastering sensation. It is fairly earned. The
recipient swells with honest pride as he thinks he is now a man
working his way, and strides off a couple of inches higher than he
came. This elevation of sentiment of course gradually dies away. The
monetary sensation of the first-earned payment is not supported, but
it is not forgotten, and insensibly, perhaps, to the recipient, it has
at once heightened and deepened the moral qualities and tendencies of
his spiritual being. From time to time, as remuneration ascends, a
shade, as it were, of the first impression is recalled, particularly
when the recipient perceives that at last--that great change in a
young man's life--his 'settlement' may be accomplished. Here is
another sensational era in his monetary experiences--the realisation
of the grand fact that the struggle, always promising, is at length
successful, and that he is now enlisted in the regular army of
society. The elder Stephenson, when an occasional wage of a shilling
per day was raised to a permanent two, flung up his hat, and
exclaimed: 'Thank God! I'm a made man for life!' Here was a fine
monetary sensation.

But there are also monetary sensations of quite a different species
from those to which we have alluded. The sun shines on both sides of
the hedge, and blank and dreary, if not dismaying and crushing, is the
first trial of monetary difficulty. People, long struggling, get
blunted to the _res angustæ_, precisely as people fast prospering do
to the steady tide of wealth. The man who leaps heart-struck from his
seat, as for the first time he contemplates a quarter's rent due and
unprovided for, or the foolish fellow who groans in spirit over a
protested bill returned upon the hand which he 'set' to it, merely for
the convenience of acquaintance, and who has never thought of stamped
paper since--such are two of the negative monetary associations which
checker life; of course, their number is legion. The man who found his
fairy gold transmuted into oak leaves, experienced a decided monetary
sensation; but not more so than fell to the lot of many a speculator,
who had bought to his last available penny in the Mississippi or the
South-sea Bubbles; or, to come to more recent days, in the stock of
fly-away English projected railways. To the mass of monetary
sensations of the kind, we fear, must be added at the present day
those produced by betting-offices. In these swindling dens, it is by
no means uncommon to see children, whose heads hardly come above the
counter, staking their shillings; even servant-maids haunt the
'office;' working-men abound, and clerks and shop-boys are great
customers. Among these people, there ought to be a good crop of
monetary sensations. In success, the little man-boy sees a grand
vision of cheap cigars, and copper and paste jewellery; for the urchin
early initiated in practical London-life, thinks of such things, and
worse, when the country lad of the same age would dream of nothing
beyond kites, fishing-tackle, or perhaps a gun. Molly, the housemaid,
has her prospects of unbounded 'loves of dresses' and 'ducks of
bonnets;' and the clerk and the shopman very possibly count upon their
racing gains as the fruitful origin of 'sprees' and 'larks'
innumerable. On the other hand, how has the money staked been
acquired? The pawnbroker's shop and the till will very frequently
figure in the answer. Pilfered half-crowns, or perhaps sovereigns,
kept back from collected accounts; or, in domestic service, pledged
spoons and forks, are frequently at the bottom of the betting
transactions of these 'noble sportsmen.' Then comes the period of
anticipation, and hope and fear. Bright visions of luck, on one hand;
a black and down-sloping avenue, stopping at the jail door, on the
other. Luck--and the stolen property can be replaced, with a handsome
profit; the reverse--and the police-office, the magistrate, and the
sessions, float before the tortured imagination of the 'sportsman.'
Here, then, are some of the saddest, and--whether the result in any
case be winning or losing--the most wearing and degrading of monetary
sensations.

We turn, however, to a concluding and a more cheering experience
connected with money, and which may be regarded as a sequel to the
sensation of the first earnings. We allude to the first interest, to
the receipt of the first sum which properly belongs to the recipient,
and yet for which he has not immediately and directly toiled. Here
another great step has been achieved. To earn money, was the first
triumph; to make money earn money, is the second. There is something
more significantly pleasing in the sensation with which the young
up-struggler of the world receives his first instalment of interest,
and yet remembers that all his original investment is still entire,
than in all the lazy satisfaction with which a great stockholder--born
perhaps to stockholding--gathers in his mighty dividends. For the
first time, the former begins to feel a taste, just a taste, of the
sweets of property, of the fruits of realisation, and of the double
profits which labour, judiciously managed, will at length bestow. It
is getting money for which he has worked and yet not worked, it is
picking up the returning bread thrown upon the waters; and it is the
first experienced sensation of a stable and assured position, of
standing upon one's own feet, independent more or less absolutely of
the caprices of fortune and the liking of employers. The first
received amount of interest, however small it may be, assuredly calls
up one of the not easily-forgotten eras of a man's life. There is
nothing selfish or miserly in the fact. On the contrary, it is founded
upon pure and natural feelings and impulses. The most generous man in
the world likes to prosper, and the first received sum which his own
money has bred, is a palpable proof that he is prospering. From his
childish pose, he can recall the mental results attendant upon each
step of his worldly career, and look back with interest and curiosity
over what, in the course of his life, may have been his 'Monetary
Sensations.'




THE POSTHUMOUS PORTRAIT.


A country town is not a very hopeful arena for the exercise of the
portrait-painter's art. Supposing an artist to acquire a local
celebrity in such a region, he may paint the faces of one generation,
and then, haply finding a casual job once a year or so, may sit down
and count the hours till another generation rises up and supplies him
with a second run of work. In a measure, the portrait-painter must be
a rolling-stone, or he will gather no moss. So thought Mr Conrad
Merlus, as he packed up his property, and prepared to take himself off
from the town of C----, in Wiltshire, to seek fresh fields and
pastures new, where the sun might be disposed to shine upon
portrait-painting, and where he might manage to make hay the while.
Conrad was a native of C----. In that congenial spot he had first
pursued the study of his art, cheered by the praises of the good folks
around him, and supported by their demands upon his talents. While, in
a certain fashion, he had kept the spirit of art alive in the place,
the spirit of art, in return, had kept him alive. But now all the work
was done for a long time to come; every family had its great
portraits, and would want him no more yet awhile; and Conrad saw, that
if he could not turn his hand to something else, and in place of
pencils and brushes, work with last, spade, needle, or quill, make
shoes, coats, till the ground, or cast up accounts, he should shortly
be hardly put to it to keep himself going. He had made and saved a
pretty tolerable little purse during his short season of patronage,
and determined to turn that to account in seeking, in other places, a
continuation of commissions. His father and mother were both dead,
and, so far as he knew, he had no near relative alive. Therefore,
there were no ties, save those of association, to bind him to his
native place--'No ties,' sighed Conrad, 'no ties at all.'

It was Monday evening, and the next day, Tuesday, was to behold his
departure. His rent was paid, his traps were all packed up in
readiness, and he had nothing to think about, saving whither he should
proceed. He walked out, for the last time, into the little garden
behind the modest house in which he had dwelt, pensive and somewhat
_triste_; for one cannot, without sorrowful emotions of some sort,
leave, perhaps for ever, a spot in which the stream of life has flowed
peacefully and pleasantly for many years, and where many little
enjoyments, successes, and triumphs have been experienced. Even a
Crusoe cannot depart from his desolate island without a pang, although
he goes, after years of miserable solitude, to rejoin the human
family. It was the month of August, and the glory of the summer was
becoming mellowed and softened. The nights were gradually growing
longer and the days shorter, the reapers were in the harvest-fields,
the woods and groves were beginning to shew the autumn tint, the sun
sank behind the hills earlier and earlier day by day, and the broad
harvest-moon reigned throughout the sweet and fragrant nights. Conrad
felt the influence of the season, and though he had for some time
contemplated his departure from his home with all the cheerfulness
which the spirit of adventure imparts to young men, he now, as the
time arrived, felt inclined to weep over the separation. He was
indulging in reveries of a mournful complexion, when he observed his
landlady leave the house, and, entering the garden, bustle towards him
in a great hurry. Assured by the manner of the worthy old lady that he
was wanted, and urgently, by some one or other, he rose from the
rustic seat on which he had been sitting, and went to meet her. A
gentleman had called to see him, in a phaeton, and was waiting in the
parlour in a state of impatience and excitement which Mrs Farrell had
never seen the like of. Wondering who the visitor could be, Conrad
hastened into the parlour. He found there an elderly individual of
gentlemanly appearance, who was walking to and fro restlessly, and
whose countenance and demeanour bore affecting evidences of agitation
and sorrow. He approached Conrad quickly.

'You are a portrait-painter, Mr Merlus?'

'Yes, sir.'

'The only one, I believe, in this neighbourhood?'

'Yes.'

'I am anxious,' continued the gentleman, speaking in a low tone, and
with a tremulous earnestness that rendered his speech peculiarly
emphatic--'I am anxious to have painted the portrait of one who
is--who was--very very dear to me, immediately--_immediately_, for a
few hours may make such a performance impossible. May I beg that you
will submit to some sacrifice of convenience--that you will be good
enough to set aside your arrangements for a day or two to execute this
work? Do so, and you shall find that you have lost nothing.'

'Without entertaining any consideration of that sort, sir,' answered
Conrad, deeply touched by the manner of his visitor, which betokened
recent and heavy affliction, 'my best abilities, such as they are, are
immediately at your service.'

'Many thanks,' answered the gentleman, pressing his hand warmly. 'Had
you declined, I know not what I should have done; for there is no
other of the profession in this neighbourhood, and there is no time to
seek further. Come; for Heaven's sake, let us hasten.'

Conrad immediately gave the necessary intimation to his landlady; his
easel, pallet, and painting-box were quickly placed in the phaeton;
the gentleman and himself took their places inside; and the coachman
drove off at as great a pace as a pair of good horses could command.

Twilight was deepening into dusk when, after a silent and rapid ride
of some ten miles, the phaeton stopped before the gates of a park-like
demesne. The coachman shouted; when a lad, who appeared to have been
waiting near the spot, ran and opened the gates, and they resumed
their way through a beautiful drive--the carefully-kept sward, the
venerable trees, and the light and elegant ha-has on either side,
testifying that they were within the boundaries of an estate of some
pretensions. Half a mile brought them to the portal of a sombre and
venerable mansion, which rose up darkly and majestically in front of
an extensive plantation of forest-like appearance. Facing it was a
large, level lawn, having in the centre the pedestal and sun-dial so
frequently found in such situations.

A footman in livery came forth, and taking Conrad's easel and
apparatus, carried them into the house. The young artist, who had
always lived and moved among humble people, was surprised and abashed
to find himself suddenly brought into contact with wealth and its
accompaniments, and began to fear that more might be expected of him
than he would be able to accomplish. The occasion must be urgent
indeed, thought he nervously, which should induce wealthy people to
have recourse to him--a poor, self-taught, obscure artist--merely
because he happened to be the nearest at hand. However, to draw back
was impossible; and, although grief is always repellent, there was
still an amount of kindness and consideration in the demeanour of his
new employer that reassured him. Besides, he knew that, let his
painting be as crude and amateur-like as any one might please to
consider it, he had still the undoubted talent of being able to catch
a likeness--indeed, his ability to do this had never once failed him.
This reflection gave him some consolation, and he resolved to
undertake courageously whatever was required of him, and do his best.

When they had entered the house, the door was softly closed, and the
gentleman, whose name we may here mention was Harrenburn, conducted
Conrad across the hall, and up stairs to an apartment on the second
storey, having a southern aspect. The proportions of the house were
noble. The wide entrance-hall was boldly tesselated with white and
black marble; the staircase was large enough for a procession of
giants; the broad oaken stairs were partly covered with thick, rich
carpet; fine pictures, in handsome frames, decorated the walls; and
whenever they happened in their ascent to pass an opened door, Conrad
could see that the room within was superbly furnished. To the poor
painter, these evidences of opulence and taste seemed to have
something of the fabulous about them. The house was good enough for a
monarch; and to find a private gentleman of neither rank nor title
living in such splendour, was what he should never have expected. Mr
Harrenburn placed his finger on his lips, as he opened the door of the
chamber already indicated; Conrad followed him in with stealthy steps
and suppressed breath. The room was closely curtained, and a couple of
night-lights shed their feeble and uncertain rays upon the objects
within it. The height of the apartment, and the absorbing complexion
of the dark oaken wainscot, here and there concealed by falls of
tapestry, served to render such an illumination extremely inefficient.
But Conrad knew that this must be the chamber of death, even before he
was able to distinguish that an apparently light and youthful figure
lay stretched upon the bed--still, motionless, impassive, as death
alone can be. Two women, dressed in dark habiliments--lately nurses of
the sick, now watchers over the dead--rose from their seats, and
retired silently to a distant corner of the room as Mr Harrenburn and
Conrad entered. Where does the poor heart suffer as it does in the
chamber of the dead, where lies, as in this instance, the corpse of a
beloved daughter? A hundred objects, little thought of heretofore,
present themselves, and by association with the lost one, assume a
power over the survivor. The casual objects of everyday life rise up
and seize a place in the fancy and memory, and, become invested with
deep, passionate interest, as relics of the departed. There is the
dress which lately so well became her; there the little shoes in which
she stepped so lightly and gracefully; there the book which she was
reading only yesterday, the satin ribbon still between the pages at
which she had arrived when she laid it down for ever; there the cup
from which she drank but a few hours back; there the toilet, with all
its little knick-knacks, and the glass which so often mirrored her
sweet face.

Thus Conrad instinctively interpreted the glances which Mr Harrenburn
directed at the objects around him. The bereaved father standing
motionless, regarded one thing and then another with a sort of absent
attention, which, under other circumstances, would have appeared like
imbecility or loss of self-command, but now was full of a
deeply-touching significance, which roused the sympathies of the young
painter more powerfully than the finest eloquence could have done. He
seemed at first to shun the bed, as if the object lying there were too
powerful a source of grief to bear--seemed to be anxious to discover
in some minor souvenirs of sorrow, a preparatory step, which should
enable him to approach with seemly and rational composure the mute
wreck of his beloved child--the cast-shell of the spirit which had
been the pride and joy, the hope and comfort of his life. But
presently he succeeded in mastering this sensibility, and approaching
the bed, motioned Conrad to follow him. He gently drew aside the
curtain which had concealed the face of the figure that was lying
there. Conrad started. Could that be death? That hair, so freshly
black and glossy; those slightly-parted lips, on which the light of
fancy still seemed to play; the teeth within, so white and
healthy-looking; the small, well-shapen hand and arm, so listlessly
laid along the pillow: could these be ready for the grave? It seemed
so much like sleep, and so little like death, that Conrad, who had
never looked upon the dead before, was amazed. When he saw the eyes,
however, visible betwixt the partly-opened lids, his scepticism
vanished. The cold, glazed, fixed unmeaningness of them chilled and
frightened him--they did really speak of the tomb.

'My daughter,' said Mr Harrenburn, to whose tone the effort of
self-command now communicated a grave and cold severity. 'She died at
four this afternoon, after a very short illness--only in her twentieth
year. I wish to have her represented exactly as she lies now. From the
window there, in the daytime, a strong light is thrown upon this spot;
so that I do not think it will be needful to make any new disposition
either of the bed or its poor burden. Your easel and other matters
shall be brought here during the night. I will rouse you at five in
the morning, and you will then, if you please, use your utmost
expedition.'

Conrad promised to do all he could to accomplish the desire of the
afflicted parent, and after the latter had approached the bed, leaned
over it, and kissed the cold lips of his child, they left the room to
the dead and its silent watchers.

After a solemn and memorable evening, Conrad was shewn to his bedroom,
and there dreamed through the livelong night--now, that he was riding
at frightful speed through woods and wilds with Mr Harrenburn,
hurrying with breathless haste to avert some catastrophe that was
about to happen somewhere to some one; now, that he was intently
painting a picture of the corpse of a beautiful young lady--terribly
oppressed by nervousness, and a fretful sense of incapacity most
injurious to the success of his labours--when suddenly, O horror! he
beheld the body move, then rise, in a frightful and unnatural manner,
stark upright, and with opened lips, but rigidly-clenched teeth, utter
shriek upon shriek as it waved its white arms, and tore its streaming
hair; then, that his landlady, Mrs Farrell, came up to him, as he
crouched weeping and trembling by, and bade him be comforted, for that
they who were accustomed to watch by the dead often beheld such
scenes; then that Mr Harrenburn suddenly entered the room, and sternly
reproached him for not proceeding with his work, when, on looking
towards the bed, they perceived that the corpse was gone, and was
nowhere to be seen, upon which Mr Harrenburn, with a wild cry, laid
hands upon him, as if to slay him on the spot.

'You do not sleep well.' A hand was gently laid upon his shoulder; a
kind voice sounded in his ear: he opened his eyes; Mr Harrenburn was
standing at his bedside. 'You have not slept well, I regret to find.
I have knocked at your door several times, but, receiving no reply,
ventured to enter. I have relieved you from an unpleasant dream, I
think.'

Conrad, somewhat embarrassed by the combined influence of the
nightmare, and being awakened suddenly by a stranger in a strange
place, informed his host that he always dreamed unpleasantly when he
slept too long, and was sorry that he had given so much trouble.

'It is some minutes past five o'clock,' said Mr Harrenburn. 'Tea and
coffee will be waiting for you by the time you are dressed: doubtless,
breakfast will restore you, and put you in order for your work; for
really you have been dreaming in a manner which appeared very painful,
whatever the experience might have been.'

Conrad rose, dressed, breakfasted, and did undoubtedly feel much more
comfortable and lighthearted than during the night. He was shortly
conducted to the chamber in which he had received so many powerful
impressions on the preceding evening, and forthwith commenced the task
he had engaged to perform. Conrad was by no means a young man of a
romantic or sentimental turn, but it is not to be wondered at, that
his present occupation should produce a deep effect upon his mind. The
form and features he was now endeavouring to portray were certainly
the most beautiful he had as yet exercised his art upon--indeed,
without exception, the most beautiful he had ever beheld. The
melancholy spectacle of youth cut off in the first glow of life's
brightest season, and when surrounded by everything that wealth and
education can contribute towards rendering existence brilliant and
delightful, can never fail to excite deep and solemn emotion. As the
artist laboured to give a faithful representation of the sweetly
serene face, the raven hair, the marble forehead, the delicately
arched brow, the exquisitely formed nose and mouth, and thought how
well such noble beauty seemed to suit one who was fit to die--a pure,
spotless, bright being--he had more than once to pause in his work
while he wiped the tears from his eyes. Few experiences chasten the
heart so powerfully as the sight of the early dead; those who live
among us a short while, happy and good, loving and beloved, and then
are suddenly taken away, ere the rough journey of life is well begun,
leaving us to travel on through the perilous and difficult world by
ourselves; no more sweet words for us, no more songs, no more
companionship, no more loving counsel and assistance--nothing now,
save the remembrance of beauty and purity departed. How potent is that
remembrance against the assaults of evil thoughts! How impressive the
thought of virtue in the shroud!

With one or two necessary intervals, Conrad worked throughout the day,
and until the declining light warned him to desist. The next morning
he resumed his pallet, and in about four or five hours brought his
task to a conclusion, taking, in addition to the painting he was
commissioned to make, a small crayon sketch for himself. It was his
wish to preserve some memento of what he regarded as the most
remarkable of his experiences, and likewise to possess a 'counterfeit
presentment' of a face the beauty of which he had never seen equalled.
Mr Harrenburn expressed himself highly gratified by the manner in
which Conrad had acquitted himself--he only saw the painting, of
course--and taking him into his study, bade him persevere in his art,
and paid him fifty guineas; a sum which almost bereft the young man of
his senses, it seemed so vast, and came so unexpectedly, after all his
misgivings, especially in the presence of one who, to judge from the
taste he had exhibited in his collection, must be no ordinary
connoisseur.

It is difficult to describe the remarkable influence which this
adventure exercised upon the young artist. His susceptible mind
received an impression from this single association with a scene of
death on the one hand, and an appreciating patron on the other, which
affected the whole of his future life. He returned to C----, bade
adieu to his landlady and friends, and, placing himself and his
luggage upon the London coach, proceeded to the metropolis. Here,
after looking about him for some time, and taking pains to study the
various masters in his art, he made a respectful application to one
who stood among the highest in repute, and whose works had pleased his
own taste and fancy better than any he had seen. After much earnest
pleading, and offering very nearly all the little wealth he possessed,
he was accepted as a pupil, to receive a course of ten lessons. With
great assiduity he followed the instructions of the master, and
learned the mysteries of colouring, and a great number of artistic
niceties, all tending to advance him towards perfection of execution.
He was really possessed of natural talents of a high order, and in the
development of these he now evinced great acuteness, as well as
industry. His master, an artist who had made a reputation years
before, and who had won high patronage, and earned for himself a large
fortune, thus being beyond the reach of any feelings of professional
jealousy, was much delighted with Conrad's progress, was proud to have
discovered and taught an artist of really superior talent; and
generously returning to him the money he had lately received with so
much mistrust and even nausea--for a raw pupil is the horror of
_cognoscenti_--he forthwith established him as his protégé. Thanks to
his introduction, Conrad shortly received a commission of importance,
and had the honour of painting the portrait of one of the most
distinguished members of the British aristocracy. He exerted all his
powers in the work, and was rewarded with success; the portrait caused
some sensation, and was regarded as a _chef-d'oeuvre_. Thus
auspiciously wooed, Fortune opened her arms, and gave him a place
among her own favoured children. The first success was succeeded by
others, commission followed commission; and, to be brief, after four
years of incessant engagements and unwearied industry, he found
himself owner of a high reputation and a moderate independence.

During all this time, and throughout the dazzling progress of his
fortunes, the crayon sketch of poor Miss Harrenburn was preserved and
prized, and carried wherever he went with never-failing care and
solicitude. Sanctified by indelible associations, it was to him a
sacred amulet--a charm against evil thoughts, a stimulant to virtue
and purity--this picture of the young lady lying dead, gone gently to
the last account in the midst of her beauty and untainted goodness.
Its influence made him a pure-minded, humble, kind, and charitable
man. Living quietly and frugally, he constantly devoted a large
proportion of his extensive earnings to the relief of the miseries of
the unfortunate; and such traits did not pass without due recognition:
few who knew him spoke of his great talents without bearing testimony
to the beauty of his moral character.

But everything may be carried to excess; even the best feelings may be
cherished to an inordinate degree. Many of the noblest characters the
world has produced have overreached their intentions, and sunk into
fanaticism. Conrad, in the fourth year of his success, was fast
merging from a purist into an ascetic; he began to weary of the world,
and to desire to live apart from it, employing his life, and the
fortune he had already accumulated, solely in works of charity and
beneficence. While in this state of mind, he determined to proceed on
a continental tour. After spending some time in France, where many an
Hôtel Dieu was benefited by his bounty, he travelled into Switzerland.
At Chamouni, he made a stay of some days, residing in the cottage of
an herbalist named Wegner, in preference to using the hotels so well
known to tourists.

One evening, he had walked some distance along the road towards Mont
Blanc, and, in a tranquil and contemplative mood, had paused to watch
the various effects of sunset. He leaned against a tree by the
roadside, at the corner of a path which led from the highway to a
private residence. Again it was August, exactly four years since he
had quitted C----, exactly four years since the most singular event of
his life had occurred. He took from his breast the little crayon
sketch, carefully preserved in a black morocco-case, and, amid the
most beautiful scenery in the world, gave way to a reverie in which
the past blended with the future--his thoughts roaming from the
heavenly beauty of the death-bed scene to the austere sanctity of St
Bernard or La Trappe. Strange fancies for one who had barely completed
his twenty-seventh year, and who was in the heyday of fame and
fortune! Suddenly, the sound of approaching footsteps was heard.
Conrad hastily closed the morocco-case, replaced it in his breast, and
was preparing to continue his walk, when an elegant female figure
abruptly emerged from the bypath; and the features, turned fully
towards him--O Heavens!--who could mistake? The very same he had
painted!--the same which had dwelt in his heart for years! The shock
was too tremendous: without a sigh or exclamation, Conrad fell
senseless to the ground.

When he revived, he found himself lying upon a sofa in a
well-furnished chamber, with the well-remembered form and features of
Mr Harrenburn bending over him. It seemed as if the whole course of
the last four years had been a long dream--that Mr Harrenburn, in
fact, was rousing him to perform the task for which he had sought him
out at C----. For awhile Conrad was dreadfully bewildered.

'I can readily comprehend this alarm and amazement,' said his host,
holding Conrad's hand, and shaking it as if it were that of an old
friend, newly and unexpectedly met. 'But be comforted; you have not
seen a spirit, but a living being, who, after undergoing a terrible
and perilous crisis four years ago, awoke from her death-sleep to heal
her father's breaking heart, and has since been his pride and joy as
of yore--her health completely restored, and her heart and mind as
light and bright as ever.'

'Indeed!--indeed!' gasped Conrad.

'Yes,' continued Mr Harrenburn, whose countenance, Conrad observed,
wore an appearance very different from that which affliction had
imparted to it four years previously. 'The form on the bed which your
pencil imitated so well, remained so completely unchanged, that my
heart began to tremble with a new agony. I summoned an eminent
physician the very day on which you completed the sad portrait, and,
detailing the particulars of her case, besought him to study it,
hoping--I hardly dared to confess what. God bless him! he did study
the case: he warned me to delay interment; and, three days after, my
daughter opened her eyes and spoke. She had been entranced,
catalepsed, no more--though, had it not been for this stubborn
unbelief of a father's heart, she had been entombed! But it harrows me
to think of this! Are you better now, and quite reassured as to the
object of your alarm? I have watched your career with strong interest
since that time, my young friend, and let me congratulate you on your
success--a success which has by no means surprised me, although I
never beheld more than _one_ of your performances.'

Mr Harrenburn had passed the summer, with his daughter, at Chamouni,
in a small but convenient and beautifully situated château. He
intended to return to England in a few weeks, and invited Conrad to
spend the interim with him--an invitation which the latter accepted
with much internal agitation. For three weeks he lived in the same
house, walked in the same paths, with the youthful saint of his
reveries--heard her voice, marked her thoughts, observed her conduct,
and found with rapture that his ideal was living indeed.

* * * * *

After a sequence, which the reader may easily picture to himself,
Conrad Merlus and Julia Harrenburn were married. Among the prized
relics at Harrenburn House, in Wiltshire, where he and his wife are
living, are the 'posthumous' portrait and the crayon sketch; and
these, I suppose, will be preserved as heirlooms in the family
archives.




SAMPLES OF UNCLE SAM'S 'CUTENESS.


In some respects, Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan are 'familiar as
household words' on the lips of John Bull; but it may be safely
affirmed, notwithstanding, that the English know less of the Americans
than the Americans know of the English.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 454 Volume 18, New Series, September 11, 1852