« ElőzőTovább »
in herself, she fears every transient competition, and feels every interval which interrupts exclusive interest as an infringement on the claims which her own love compels her to make. No selfishness causes so much pain as that which requires the outward signs of affection as well as the reality. The desire of sympathy once felt and encouraged may be forcibly suppressed, may sometimes even be satisfied; but it can rarely be kept under command, of contented with mere probabilities. Faith in mankind is reasonable; for we know that the better parts of our nature exist in all, and with due cultivation may prevail over evil. Faith in friends is easier still, so far as it extends to their principles, their virtues, and their capabilities of disinterested affection; for it is scarcely possible to become closely acquainted with any one without thinking better of human nature; men's faults appear greatest at a distance, and chiefly concern their dealings with strangers. But a belief that a given individual will feel an affection for a definite object, though it may be desirable if it is necessary to our happiness, can never be a postulate of reason, or a duty; it is not faith but opinion, and must rest upon outward facts, unless it can be changed into conviction by the consciously reciprocal magnetism of love, or in a smaller degree by the freemasonry of friendship. Those are happy, who in the completeness of their being can dispense with all proofs of returned affection, and be contented with loving, while they are always the most beloved.
Of such a character is Margaret Ibbotson; devoted to all around her without a thought of self, and unconsciously receiving her reward in the affection which she universally inspires. She has all the courage, and firmness, and practical wisdom which in man or woman accompany singlemindedness.
A quiet mind, a patient mood,
It is not wonderful that both Hope
"There are two ladies here from Birmingham, so far beyond any ladies that
we have to boast of, that some of us begin to suspect that Deerbrook is not the Athens and Arcadia united that we have been accustomed to believe it. The truth is, these girls have brought in a new life among us, and there is not one of us, except the children, that is not some years younger for their presence. Grey deserts his business for them like a schoolboy, and Mr Rowland watches his opportunity to play truant in turn. Mrs Enderby gives dances, and looks quite disposed to lead off in person. Dr Levitt is preaching his old sermons. Mrs the hostess of these ladies, and has even Grey is wellnigh intoxicated with being reached the point of allowing her drawingis a fixture while they are so. room to be used every afternoon. Enderby mother, sister, friend, nor frolic, ever de Neither tained him here before for a month together. He was going away in a fortnight when these ladies came: they have been here six weeks, and Enderby has dropped all mention of the external world. . . But who are they? you want to knowthey are distant cousins of Mr Grey's, just over twenty, and their name is Ibbotson.
Are they handsome?' is your next question. The eldest, Hester, is beautiful as the evening star. Margaret is very different. It does not matter what she is as to beauty, for the question seems never to have entered her own mind. I doubt whether it has often occurred to her, whe
ther she can be this, or that, or the other— she is, and there is an end of the matter. Such pure existence without question, without introspection, without hesitation or consciousness, I never saw in any one
above eight years old. Yet she is wise; it
becomes not me to estimate how wise. You will ask how I know this already. I knew it the first day I saw them; I knew it by her infinite simplicity, from which all selfishness is discharged, and into which no folly can enter.
fection for her sister is a sort of passion. It has some of the features of the serene guardianship of one from on high; but it is yet more like the passionate servitudeof the benefited to a benefactor for instance-which is perhaps the most graceful attitude in which our humanity appears. I go, grave and longing to listen. I come away, and find I have been talking more than any one; revealing, disthe learner;-you will say the worshipper. cussing, as if I were the teacher, and not worships the one or the other. Say it if you will. Our whole little world Hester is also well worthy of worship. If there were nothing but her beauty, she would have a wider world than ours of Deerbrook at her feet. But she has much more. e. She is what you would call a true
woman. She has a generous soul, strong affections, and a susceptibility which inter feres with her serenity.
She will be a devoted wife; but Margaret does not wait to be a wife to be devoted. Her life has been devotedness, and will be to the end. If she were left the last of her race, she would spend her life in worshipping the unseen that lay about her, and would be as unaware of herself as now,
The homage to Hester is visible enough. But I also see Sydney Grey growing manly, and his sisters amiable, under Margaret's eye. There is no one of us so worthy of her, so capable of appreciating her, as Maria Young; they are friends, and Maria Young is becoming a new creature. Health and spirit are returning to that poor girl's countenance; there is absolutely a new tone in her voice, and a joyous strain in her sparing conversation, which I for one never recognised before. It is a sight on which angels might look down, to see Margaret with her earnest face, listening humbly, and lovingly serving the infirm and much-tried friend, whom she herself is daily lifting up into life and gladness..."
But in the mean time Hester has given all her affections to Hope. He is described as the favourite of all the inhabitants of Deerbrook: his influence extends to all; even the Grey and Rowland ladies keep their jealousies quiet in his presence. Yet his character is far from being as marked as that of Margaret; whether it be that a faultless man is less easy to imagine than a perfect woman, or, as we incline to think, that in this case the authoress is less at home, while our criticism is more exacting. A dangerous illness, resulting from an accident which he meets with, betrays Hester's feelings to Mrs Grey; and she, in her womanly zeal to prove that she had been right from the first, and in her regard for her young relative, persuades Hope that he is bound in honour to return her affection, and ask her hand. He seeks an interview with Margaret.
"I hear that you are already thinking of returning to Birmingham. Is this true?' Yes we shall go home in a few days.' " Then, before you leave us, will you allow me to ask your advice?' At the word 'advice,' a glow of pleasure passed over Margaret's face, and she could not quite suppress a sigh of relief. She now looked up, freely and fearlessly. All this was good for Mr Hope; but it went to his heart, and for a moment checked his speech. He soon proceeded, however
I want your advice as a friend, and also
some information which you alone can give me. What I have to say relates to your sister.' Margaret's extasy of hope was scarcely controllable. For her sister's sake she hung her head upon her bosom, the better to conceal her joy. It was a bitter moment for him, who could not but note, and rightly interpret the change in her countenance and manner. 'I wish to know, if you have no objection to tell me, whether your sister is disengaged.' 'I have no objection to say,' declared Margaret, looking up cheerfully, that my sister is not engaged.' She looked at him with the bright expression of sincerity and regard, which had touched his heart oftener and more deeply than all Hester's beauty. He could not have offered to shake hands at the moment, but she held out hers, and he could not but take it.— The door burst open at the same instant, and Mr Enderby entered. Both let drop the hand they held, and looked extremely awkward and grave. A single glance was enough to send Mr Enderby away, without having spoken his errand, which was to summon Margaret to the orchard for the final shake of the apple-tree. When he was gone, each saw that the face of the other was crimson: but while Hope had a look of distress which Margaret wondered at, remembering how soon Mr Enderby would understand the nature of the interview, she was struggling to restrain a laugh."
The marriage takes place, and Margaret goes to live with her sister and brother in law, enjoying the brightest anticipations. But the old nurse and servant, Morris, who had accompanied the sisters from Birmingham, has discovered the secret of Mr Hope's real feelings, and warns her not to be too sanguine. "We never know, Miss Margaret, my dear, how things will turn out. Do you remember Miss Stevenson, that married a gentleman her family all thought a great deal of, and he turned out a swindler; and .' The girls burst out a-laughing, and Maria assured Morris that she could answer for no accident of that kind happening with regard to Mr Hope. Morris laughed too, and said she did not mean that, but only that she never saw any body more confident of every thing going right than Miss Stevenson and all her family; and within a month after the wedding they were in the deepest distress. That was what she meant ; but there were many other ways of distress happening.There is death, my dears,' she said ; ⚫ remember death, Miss Margaret.'
The troubles of life soon begin to come thick upon her: Hope disappoints her wish for friendly intimacy, in consequence of his high-principled determination to overcome his former feelings towards her; Hester feels that she has not his full confidence, and distresses herself and all around her with the inequalities of her temper. If we had room, we might quote an eloquent digression on the misery which is caused by irritability and an exacting disposition. There is much truth in what is said; and yet we doubt whether there is not too much blame and too little allowance. But Miss Martineau is never lax in questions of duty; and a tendency to strictness is better than the converse. Hope votes at the county election against the opinions of Deerbrook and of the great man of the neighbourhood, Sir William Hunter: his popularity begins to fail, and his wife is exposed to the petty impertinencies of the shopkeepers and milliners of the village. One day Mrs Rowland's children gratify her with the information that Mrs Hope has been met crying in the road. "What could she be crying for, papa?" "Suppose you ask her, my dear. Had you not better go directly to Mr Hope's, and ask, with our compliments, what Mrs Hope was crying for at four o'clock yesterday afternoon? Of course she can tell better than any body else.”— "Nonsense, Mr Rowland," observed his lady.
wards Miss Young is interrupted in the schoolroom by a visit from Mar. garet, holding little George Rowland by the hand. "Do you know who sent little George with a message to my sister just now? I concluded you did not. George has been calling at my brother's door, with his papa and mama's compliments, and a request to know what Mrs Hope was crying for yesterday at four o'clock."
These, however, are not the heaviest of Margaret's sorrows. Maria Young has brought her to acknowledge to herself that she loves Enderby; and he has gone without making any declaration of his feelings: moreover, Mrs Rowland declares that he has an engagement elsewhere; and she has the pain of thinking that she has loved without return. Her gentle suffering and resignation are touchingly described once only, when she falls into the river in an attempt to cross it
on the ice, she is tempted to wish for death; but she derives some consolation from the warmth of attachment which her brother-in-law is surprised into displaying, and resolves to content herself with living for others.
While Hope's prospects are rapidly getting worse and worse, Enderby returns to Deerbrook, proposes to Margaret, and explains all doubts and difficulties away; but Margaret refuses to marry him till he has entered on his profession of law, for which he is studying, and declines to leave her brother and sister at a time when they want her assistance and the aid of her little fortune. Hope is insulted wherever he goes, in consequence of stories about body stealing and the like, which Mrs Rowland, taking advantage of his political unpopularity, has propa. gated. There is a vivid description of a mob-attack on his house, in which Sir William Hunter is almost a participator. Here we think Miss Martineau goes too far. The petty spite, the persecuting spirit, the jealous malignity of a local autocrat to an inferior who has opposed his wishes, may be expressed in many vexatious ways; but not, especially where the offended dignitary is a justice of the peace, by his sitting complacently on horseback while the rabble break his enemy's windows, or make a bonfire of his furniture. If Sir William did not care for his duties, or fear the Lord Chancellor's interference with the next commission, he would at least see that proceedings so riotous were in a high degree disrespectful to himself. We are delighted, however, with Lady Hunter's proceedings in the mean time. She knows that the mob will, under the circumstances, respect her carriage, and therefore drives slowly up the street of Deerbrook. "Sir William's popularity," she observes to Mrs Howell the milliner, "is a most fortunate circumstance for us all."-" Oh dear! your ladyship, what should we be not to estimate Sir William? We have our faults, like other people; but really, if we did not know how to value Sir William "Thank Heaven," said Miss Miskin (the assistant,) "we have not fallen so low as that! Her attention to the stories of Mr Hope's misdoings, as of his setting the nursemaid's arm awry, so that the children, when she beckons them, think that she is motioning them
away; her suspicions of a plot to fire the church, from a charred stick having been found in the churchyard; and finally, her slow return, in the enjoyment of her husband's popularity, with Sir William reading the newspaper, to show that he considered the affair a trifling one; and the interruption of her satisfaction when she sees the Hopes, through their broken window, eating their dinner at leisure, are all represented with exquisite truth and humour.
Just at this time Mrs Rowland introduces a new surgeon, Mr Walcot, who obtains nearly the whole of Hope's practice. He is obliged to part with his horse, and with one servant after another till Morris only remains; and she stays only till Hester is recovered after her confinement, and then departs. Margaret and Enderby are again estranged from one another by Mrs Rowland's contrivances; but she is now relieved from her former fear of having loved without requital, and comforts herself by the exertions which are necessary to assist in the domestic affairs. Hester's character meanwhile rises as she is tried: she can bear hardship better than supposed neglect, and finds it easier to forgive great offences than small. There is no part of the story more interesting or more true to nature than this. Hope is happy as he sees the removal of her former weaknesses, and she feels his increased love; while Margaret is contented with her own usefulness, and with the removal of her fears for her sister. The cheerful exertions of the three, to spare each other in the unavoidable hardships which now surround them, are their own recompense, and Mrs Rowland feels with disappointment that she has failed in her revenge. A time of scarcity and distress is by this time approaching in Deerbrook ; robberies are frequent, and Hope's house does not escape. The satisfaction of Margaret and Maria Young, who are sitting together when the thieves enter, at finding
that they are, after all, not half so much frightened as they expected, is pleasantly described; but Margaret has to lament the loss of a ring which she values as Enderby's gift. Matters grow still worse: an epidemic fever comes, and the sisters devote themselves to the relief of their poorer neighbours, who begin to admit that Hope did not deserve to be pelted-a sentiment in which even the great Sir William, who has shut himself up at home for fear of infection, is reported to agree. In one of her visits, Margaret has her ring restored to her by a dying man, whom she recognises as the robber, and soon afterwards finds the omen justified by Enderby's return, and Mrs Rowland's confession of the falsehoods she had used. But before we quit the misfortunes of the Hopes, we feel it our duty to investigate the probabilities of their having been in reality reduced to such penury, that Dr Levitt, calling one day at dinner, has to sit down to a bowl of potatoes and a pitcher of water. Now, Mr Hope's practice, at the full, must evidently have been worth £350 ayear; nor would so prudent a man have married without having at least one year's income in advance. sisters, between them, had £140 ayear; and a few pounds were received for contribution to medical periodicals. The decline of practice did not commence till the summer after their marriage, while their poverty came to a climax early in the following spring; we may therefore fairly assume that it brought in £250 during the year, and that at the worst it never sunk below £50. The rent of the corner house at Deerbrook, unfurnished, could scarcely exceed £30. We will allow £5 more for taxes, £10 for rates, and put the housekeeping expenses before the reduction of the establishment at £200, which is rather above the mark, and we shall have the following result as the receipt and expenditure from the first autumn to the spring twelvemouth:
175 0 0
62 10 0
Total, £845 00
Leaving a balance at the end of the period of adversity of £497, 10s., of which at least £147, 10s., the surplus above the original capital, would have been fairly applicable to the purchase of meat for dinner, and the hire of a servant-girl, who might have saved Margaret the occupation of sweeping the floors. We hope that an authoress who understands public and private finance so well, will avoid similar errors in future.
The tide of popularity now begins again to change. Hope's practice returns, and he forms an advantageous partnership with his rival, Mr Walcot, whom a similarity of character has recommended to the good graces of Sophia Grey. Sir William and Lady Hunter graciously invite the whole connexion to dinner; but Margaret spends the evening with her friend Maria Young.
"You must take some of our hyacinths with you to London, and see whether they will not blossom there,' said Maria, answering to her friend's thought. I hardly know whether there would be most pain or pleasure in seeing plants sprout, and then wither, in the little balcony of a back drawingroom which overlooks gables or stables, instead of those delicious green meadows.'' How fond you were, two years ago, of imagining the bliss of living always in the sight of this very landscape! Yet it has yielded already to the back drawing-room, with a prospect of gables and stables.'
We shall come and look on your woods sometimes, you know. I am not bidding good-by to this place, or to you; God forbid !'- Now tell me, Margaret,' said Maria, after a pause; 'tell me when you are to be married.'
That is just what I was about to do. We go on Tuesday. Indeed! in three days; but why should it not be so ? It is a weary time since you promised first.'- A year ago there were reasons, as Philip admits now, why I could not leave Hester and Edward. There are no such reasons now. They are prosperous ;their days of struggle, when they wanted me-my head, my hands, my little income-are past;- Edward's practice has come back to him. There is nothing more to fear for them.'— You have done your duty by them; now- My duty! what has it been to theirs? O, Maria, what a spectacle has that been! When I think how
they have overcome evil with good, how they have endured, how forgiven, how toiled and watched on their enemies' behalf, till they have ruled all the minds and touched all the hearts of friends and foes for miles round, I think theirs the most gracious tribulation that ever befell. At homeO even you do not know what a home it is!” Whose horse do
I hear stopping at the stable?'—' It is Philip's. He has galloped home before the rest,' said Margaret, drawing back from the window with the smile still on her face. Now, Maria, before any one comes, tell me would you like to be with me on Tuesday morning, or not? Do as you like.'
I will come, to be sure,' said Maria, smiling; and now, while there is any twilight left, go and give Mr Enderby the walk in the shrubbery that he galloped home for.'-Margaret kept Philip waiting, while she lighted her friend's lamp; and its gleam shone from the window of the summer-house for long, while, talking of Maria, the lovers paced the shrubbery, and let the twilight go.'
The extracts which we have given will be sufficient proofs of the great beauty of Miss Martineau's style, of which the only fault is an occasional tension, both of thought and language, which interferes with the usual harmony of the composition. Superlatives and strong phrases always betray the presence of half truths, of thoughts seen in a larger than due proportion to others, or of a proselytizing and argumentative spirit. Her dialogues are excellent, and her little playful touches of character very happy. We hardly know whether to admire most the delineation of the empty and shallow Sophia Grey, or of her spirited brother Sydney, who defines philosophy as being good to know how to do things. "What sort of things?'
Why, to make phosphorus lights, and electrify people, as Dr Levitt did when he made Sophia jump off the stool with glass legs.'-Sophia was sure that any one else would have jumped off the stool as she did. She should take good care never to jump on it again '-a female ignoratio elenchi, which is enough by itself to explain the young lady's character. the election is coming on, Sydney wears a splendid green and orange cockade, and shows Margaret a corking-pin stuck upright under each bow.