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Chapter 3


SCHOOLS: LLANBLETHIAN; PARIS; LONDON.

Edward Sterling never shone in farming; indeed I believe he never took
heartily to it, or tried it except in fits. His Bute farm was, at
best, a kind of apology for some far different ideal of a country
establishment which could not be realized; practically a temporary
landing-place from which he could make sallies and excursions in
search of some more generous field of enterprise. Stormy brief
efforts at energetic husbandry, at agricultural improvement and rapid
field-labor, alternated with sudden flights to Dublin, to London,
whithersoever any flush of bright outlook which he could denominate
practical, or any gleam of hope which his impatient ennui could
represent as such, allured him. This latter was often enough the
case. In wet hay-times and harvest-times, the dripping outdoor world,
and lounging indoor one, in the absence of the master, offered far
from a satisfactory appearance! Here was, in fact, a man much
imprisoned; haunted, I doubt not, by demons enough; though ever brisk
and brave withal,--iracund, but cheerfully vigorous, opulent in wise
or unwise hope. A fiery energetic soul consciously and unconsciously
storming for deliverance into better arenas; and this in a restless,
rapid, impetuous, rather than in a strong, silent and deliberate way.

In rainy Bute and the dilapidated Kaimes Castle, it was evident, there
lay no Goshen for such a man. The lease, originally but for some
three years and a half, drawing now to a close, he resolved to quit
Bute; had heard, I know not where, of an eligible cottage without farm
attached, in the pleasant little village of Llanblethian close by
Cowbridge in Glamorganshire; of this he took a lease, and thither with
his family he moved in search of new fortunes. Glamorganshire was at
least a better climate than Bute; no groups of idle or of busy reapers
could here stand waiting on the guidance of a master, for there was no
farm here;--and among its other and probably its chief though secret
advantages, Llanblethian was much more convenient both for Dublin and
London than Kaimes Castle had been.

The removal thither took place in the autumn of 1809. Chief part of
the journey (perhaps from Greenock to Swansea or Bristol) was by sea:
John, just turned of three years, could in after-times remember
nothing of this voyage; Anthony, some eighteen months older, has still
a vivid recollection of the gray splashing tumult, and dim sorrow,
uncertainty, regret and distress he underwent: to him a
"dissolving-view" which not only left its effect on the _plate_ (as
all views and dissolving-views doubtless do on that kind of "plate"),
but remained consciously present there. John, in the close of his
twenty-first year, professes not to remember anything whatever of
Bute; his whole existence, in that earliest scene of it, had faded
away from him: Bute also, with its shaggy mountains, moaning woods,
and summer and winter seas, had been wholly a dissolving-view for him,
and had left no conscious impression, but only, like this voyage, an
effect.

Llanblethian hangs pleasantly, with its white cottages, and orchard
and other trees, on the western slope of a green hill looking far and
wide over green meadows and little or bigger hills, in the pleasant
plain of Glamorgan; a short mile to the south of Cowbridge, to which
smart little town it is properly a kind of suburb. Plain of
Glamorgan, some ten miles wide and thirty or forty long, which they
call the Vale of Glamorgan;--though properly it is not quite a Vale,
there being only one range of mountains to it, if even one: certainly
the central Mountains of Wales do gradually rise, in a miscellaneous
manner, on the north side of it; but on the south are no mountains,
not even land, only the Bristol Channel, and far off, the Hills of
Devonshire, for boundary,--the "English Hills," as the natives call
them, visible from every eminence in those parts. On such wide terms
is it called Vale of Glamorgan. But called by whatever name, it is a
most pleasant fruitful region: kind to the native, interesting to the
visitor. A waving grassy region; cut with innumerable ragged lanes;
dotted with sleepy unswept human hamlets, old ruinous castles with
their ivy and their daws, gray sleepy churches with their ditto ditto:
for ivy everywhere abounds; and generally a rank fragrant vegetation
clothes all things; hanging, in rude many-colored festoons and fringed
odoriferous tapestries, on your right and on your left, in every lane.
A country kinder to the sluggard husbandman than any I have ever seen.
For it lies all on limestone, needs no draining; the soil, everywhere
of handsome depth and finest quality, will grow good crops for you
with the most imperfect tilling. At a safe distance of a day's riding
lie the tartarean copper-forges of Swansea, the tartarean iron-forges
of Merthyr; their sooty battle far away, and not, at such safe
distance, a defilement to the face of the earth and sky, but rather an
encouragement to the earth at least; encouraging the husbandman to
plough better, if he only would.

The peasantry seem indolent and stagnant, but peaceable and
well-provided; much given to Methodism when they have any
character;--for the rest, an innocent good-humored people, who all
drink home-brewed beer, and have brown loaves of the most excellent
home-baked bread. The native peasant village is not generally
beautiful, though it might be, were it swept and trimmed; it gives one
rather the idea of sluttish stagnancy,--an interesting peep into the
Welsh Paradise of Sleepy Hollow. Stones, old kettles, naves of
wheels, all kinds of broken litter, with live pigs and etceteras, lie
about the street: for, as a rule, no rubbish is removed, but waits
patiently the action of mere natural chemistry and accident; if even a
house is burnt or falls, you will find it there after half a century,
only cloaked by the ever-ready ivy. Sluggish man seems never to have
struck a pick into it; his new hut is built close by on ground not
encumbered, and the old stones are still left lying.

This is the ordinary Welsh village; but there are exceptions, where
people of more cultivated tastes have been led to settle, and
Llanblethian is one of the more signal of these. A decidedly cheerful
group of human homes, the greater part of them indeed belonging to
persons of refined habits; trimness, shady shelter, whitewash, neither
conveniency nor decoration has been neglected here. Its effect from
the distance on the eastward is very pretty: you see it like a little
sleeping cataract of white houses, with trees overshadowing and
fringing it; and there the cataract hangs, and does not rush away from
you.

John Sterling spent his next five years in this locality. He did not
again see it for a quarter of a century; but retained, all his life, a
lively remembrance of it; and, just in the end of his twenty-first
year, among his earliest printed pieces, we find an elaborate and
diffuse description of it and its relations to him,--part of which
piece, in spite of its otherwise insignificant quality, may find place
here:--

"The fields on which I first looked, and the sands which were marked
by my earliest footsteps, are completely lost to my memory; and of
those ancient walls among which I began to breathe, I retain no
recollection more clear than the outlines of a cloud in a moonless
sky. But of L----, the village where I afterwards lived, I persuade
myself that every line and hue is more deeply and accurately fixed
than those of any spot I have since beheld, even though borne in upon
the heart by the association of the strongest feelings.

"My home was built upon the slope of a hill, with a little orchard
stretching down before it, and a garden rising behind. At a
considerable distance beyond and beneath the orchard, a rivulet flowed
through meadows and turned a mill; while, above the garden, the summit
of the hill was crowned by a few gray rocks, from which a yew-tree
grew, solitary and bare. Extending at each side of the orchard,
toward the brook, two scattered patches of cottages lay nestled among
their gardens; and beyond this streamlet and the little mill and
bridge, another slight eminence arose, divided into green fields,
tufted and bordered with copsewood, and crested by a ruined castle,
contemporary, as was said, with the Conquest. I know not whether these
things in truth made up a prospect of much beauty. Since I was eight
years old, I have never seen them; but I well know that no landscape I
have since beheld, no picture of Claude or Salvator, gave me half the
impression of living, heartfelt, perfect beauty which fills my mind
when I think of that green valley, that sparkling rivulet, that broken
fortress of dark antiquity, and that hill with its aged yew and breezy
summit, from which I have so often looked over the broad stretch of
verdure beneath it, and the country-town, and church-tower, silent and
white beyond.

"In that little town there was, and I believe is, a school where the
elements of human knowledge were communicated to me, for some hours of
every day, during a considerable time. The path to it lay across the
rivulet and past the mill; from which point we could either journey
through the fields below the old castle, and the wood which surrounded
it, or along a road at the other side of the ruin, close to the
gateway of which it passed. The former track led through two or three
beautiful fields, the sylvan domain of the keep on one hand, and the
brook on the other; while an oak or two, like giant warders advanced
from the wood, broke the sunshine of the green with a soft and
graceful shadow. How often, on my way to school, have I stopped
beneath the tree to collect the fallen acorns; how often run down to
the stream to pluck a branch of the hawthorn which hung over the
water! The road which passed the castle joined, beyond these fields,
the path which traversed them. It took, I well remember, a certain
solemn and mysterious interest from the ruin. The shadow of the
archway, the discolorizations of time on all the walls, the dimness of
the little thicket which encircled it, the traditions of its
immeasurable age, made St. Quentin's Castle a wonderful and awful
fabric in the imagination of a child; and long after I last saw its
mouldering roughness, I never read of fortresses, or heights, or
spectres, or banditti, without connecting them with the one ruin of my
childhood.

"It was close to this spot that one of the few adventures occurred
which marked, in my mind, my boyish days with importance. When
loitering beyond the castle, on the way to school, with a brother
somewhat older than myself, who was uniformly my champion and
protector, we espied a round sloe high up in the hedge-row. We
determined to obtain it; and I do not remember whether both of us, or
only my brother, climbed the tree. However, when the prize was all
but reached,--and no alchemist ever looked more eagerly for the moment
of projection which was to give him immortality and omnipotence,--a
gruff voice startled us with an oath, and an order to desist; and I
well recollect looking back, for long after, with terror to the vision
of an old and ill-tempered farmer, armed with a bill-hook, and vowing
our decapitation; nor did I subsequently remember without triumph the
eloquence whereby alone, in my firm belief, my brother and myself had
been rescued from instant death.

"At the entrance of the little town stood an old gateway, with a
pointed arch and decaying battlements. It gave admittance to the
street which contained the church, and which terminated in another
street, the principal one in the town of C----. In this was situated
the school to which I daily wended. I cannot now recall to mind the
face of its good conductor, nor of any of his scholars; but I have
before me a strong general image of the interior of his establishment.
I remember the reverence with which I was wont to carry to his seat a
well-thumbed duodecimo, the _History of Greece_ by Oliver Goldsmith.
I remember the mental agonies I endured in attempting to master the
art and mystery of penmanship; a craft in which, alas, I remained too
short a time under Mr. R---- to become as great a proficient as he
made his other scholars, and which my awkwardness has prevented me
from attaining in any considerable perfection under my various
subsequent pedagogues. But that which has left behind it a brilliant
trait of light was the exhibition of what are called 'Christmas
pieces;' things unknown in aristocratic seminaries, but constantly
used at the comparatively humble academy which supplied the best
knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic to be attained in that
remote neighborhood.

"The long desks covered from end to end with those painted
masterpieces, the Life of Robinson Crusoe, the Hunting of Chevy-Chase,
the History of Jack the Giant-Killer, and all the little eager faces
and trembling hands bent over these, and filling them up with some
choice quotation, sacred or profane;--no, the galleries of art, the
theatrical exhibitions, the reviews and processions,--which are only
not childish because they are practiced and admired by men instead of
children,--all the pomps and vanities of great cities, have shown me
no revelation of glory such as did that crowded school-room the week
before the Christmas holidays. But these were the splendors of life.
The truest and the strongest feelings do not connect themselves with
any scenes of gorgeous and gaudy magnificence; they are bound up in
the remembrances of home.

"The narrow orchard, with its grove of old apple-trees against one of
which I used to lean, and while I brandished a beanstalk, roar out
with Fitzjames,--


'Come one, come all; this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I!'--

while I was ready to squall at the sight of a cur, and run valorously
away from a casually approaching cow; the field close beside it, where
I rolled about in summer among the hay; the brook in which, despite of
maid and mother, I waded by the hour; the garden where I sowed
flower-seeds, and then turned up the ground again and planted
potatoes, and then rooted out the potatoes to insert acorns and
apple-pips, and at last, as may be supposed, reaped neither roses, nor
potatoes, nor oak-trees, nor apples; the grass-plots on which I played
among those with whom I never can play nor work again: all these are
places and employments,--and, alas, playmates,--such as, if it were
worth while to weep at all, it would be worth weeping that I enjoy no
longer.

"I remember the house where I first grew familiar with peacocks; and
the mill-stream into which I once fell; and the religious awe
wherewith I heard, in the warm twilight, the psalm-singing around the
house of the Methodist miller; and the door-post against which I
discharged my brazen artillery; I remember the window by which I sat
while my mother taught me French; and the patch of garden which I dug
for-- But her name is best left blank; it was indeed writ in water.
These recollections are to me like the wealth of a departed friend, a
mournful treasure. But the public has heard enough of them; to it
they are worthless: they are a coin which only circulates at its true
value between the different periods of an individual's existence, and
good for nothing but to keep up a commerce between boyhood and
manhood. I have for years looked forward to the possibility of
visiting L----; but I am told that it is a changed village; and not
only has man been at work, but the old yew on the hill has fallen, and
scarcely a low stump remains of the tree which I delighted in
childhood to think might have furnished bows for the Norman
archers."[3]

In Cowbridge is some kind of free school, or grammar-school, of a
certain distinction; and this to Captain Sterling was probably a
motive for settling in the neighborhood of it with his children. Of
this however, as it turned out, there was no use made: the Sterling
family, during its continuance in those parts, did not need more than
a primary school. The worthy master who presided over these Christmas
galas, and had the honor to teach John Sterling his reading and
writing, was an elderly Mr. Reece of Cowbridge, who still (in 1851)
survives, or lately did; and is still remembered by his old pupils as
a worthy, ingenious and kindly man, "who wore drab breeches and white
stockings." Beyond the Reece sphere of tuition John Sterling did not
go in this locality.

In fact the Sterling household was still fluctuating; the problem of a
task for Edward Sterling's powers, and of anchorage for his affairs in
any sense, was restlessly struggling to solve itself, but was still a
good way from being solved. Anthony, in revisiting these scenes with
John in 1839, mentions going to the spot "where we used to stand with
our Father, looking out for the arrival of the London mail:" a little
chink through which is disclosed to us a big restless section of a
human life. The Hill of Welsh Llanblethian, then, is like the mythic
Caucasus in its degree (as indeed all hills and habitations where men
sojourn are); and here too, on a small scale, is a Prometheus Chained!
Edward Sterling, I can well understand, was a man to tug at the chains
that held him idle in those the prime of his years; and to ask
restlessly, yet not in anger and remorse, so much as in hope,
locomotive speculation, and ever-new adventure and attempt, Is there
no task nearer my own natural size, then? So he looks out from the
Hill-side "for the arrival of the London mail;" thence hurries into
Cowbridge to the Post-office; and has a wide web, of threads and
gossamers, upon his loom, and many shuttles flying, in this world.

By the Marquis of Bute's appointment he had, very shortly after his
arrival in that region, become Adjutant of the Glamorganshire Militia,
"Local Militia," I suppose; and was, in this way, turning his military
capabilities to some use. The office involved pretty frequent
absences, in Cardiff and elsewhere. This doubtless was a welcome
outlet, though a small one. He had also begun to try writing,
especially on public subjects; a much more copious outlet,--which
indeed, gradually widening itself, became the final solution for him.
Of the year 1811 we have a Pamphlet of his, entitled _Military
Reform_; this is the second edition, "dedicated to the Duke of Kent;"
the first appears to have come out the year before, and had thus
attained a certain notice, which of course was encouraging. He now
furthermore opened a correspondence with the _Times_ Newspaper; wrote
to it, in 1812, a series of Letters under the signature _Vetus_:
voluntary Letters I suppose, without payment or pre-engagement, one
successful Letter calling out another; till _Vetus_ and his doctrines
came to be a distinguishable entity, and the business amounted to
something. Out of my own earliest Newspaper reading, I can remember
the name _Vetus_, as a kind of editorial hacklog on which able-editors
were wont to chop straw now and then. Nay the Letters were collected
and reprinted; both this first series, of 1812, and then a second of
next year: two very thin, very dim-colored cheap octavos; stray
copies of which still exist, and may one day become distillable into a
drop of History (should such be wanted of our poor "Scavenger Age" in
time coming), though the reading of them has long ceased in this
generation.[4] The first series, we perceive, had even gone to a
second edition. The tone, wherever one timidly glances into this
extinct cockpit, is trenchant and emphatic: the name of _Vetus_,
strenuously fighting there, had become considerable in the talking
political world; and, no doubt, was especially of mark, as that of a
writer who might otherwise be important, with the proprietors of the
_Times_. The connection continued: widened and deepened itself,--in
a slow tentative manner; passing naturally from voluntary into
remunerated: and indeed proving more and more to be the true ultimate
arena, and battle-field and seed-field, for the exuberant
impetuosities and faculties of this man.

What the _Letters of Vetus_ treated of I do not know; doubtless they
ran upon Napoleon, Catholic Emancipation, true methods of national
defence, of effective foreign Anti-gallicism, and of domestic ditto;
which formed the staple of editorial speculation at that time. I have
heard in general that Captain Sterling, then and afterwards, advocated
"the Marquis of Wellesley's policy;" but that also, what it was, I
have forgotten, and the world has been willing to forget. Enough, the
heads of the _Times_ establishment, perhaps already the Marquis of
Wellesley and other important persons, had their eye on this writer;
and it began to be surmised by him that here at last was the career he
had been seeking.


Accordingly, in 1814, when victorious Peace unexpectedly arrived; and
the gates of the Continent after five-and-twenty years of fierce
closure were suddenly thrown open; and the hearts of all English and
European men awoke staggering as if from a nightmare suddenly removed,
and ran hither and thither,--Edward Sterling also determined on a new
adventure, that of crossing to Paris, and trying what might lie in
store for him. For curiosity, in its idler sense, there was evidently
pabulum enough. But he had hopes moreover of learning much that might
perhaps avail him afterwards;--hopes withal, I have understood, of
getting to be Foreign Correspondent of the _Times_ Newspaper, and so
adding to his income in the mean while. He left Llanblethian in May;
dates from Dieppe the 27th of that month. He lived in occasional
contact with Parisian notabilities (all of them except Madame de Stael
forgotten now), all summer, diligently surveying his ground;--returned
for his family, who were still in Wales but ready to move, in the
beginning of August; took them immediately across with him; a house in
the neighborhood of Paris, in the pleasant village of Passy at once
town and country, being now ready; and so, under foreign skies, again
set up his household there.

Here was a strange new "school" for our friend John now in his eighth
year! Out of which the little Anthony and he drank doubtless at all
pores, vigorously as they had done in no school before. A change
total and immediate. Somniferous green Llanblethian has suddenly been
blotted out; presto, here are wakeful Passy and the noises of paved
Paris instead. Innocent ingenious Mr. Reece in drab breeches and
white stockings, he with his mild Christmas galas and peaceable rules
of Dilworth and Butterworth, has given place to such a saturnalia of
panoramic, symbolic and other teachers and monitors, addressing all
the five senses at once. Who John's express tutors were, at Passy, I
never heard; nor indeed, especially in his case, was it much worth
inquiring. To him and to all of us, the expressly appointed
schoolmasters and schoolings we get are as nothing, compared with the
unappointed incidental and continual ones, whose school-hours are all
the days and nights of our existence, and whose lessons, noticed or
unnoticed, stream in upon us with every breath we draw. Anthony says
they attended a French school, though only for about three months; and
he well remembers the last scene of it, "the boys shouting _Vive
l'Empereur_ when Napoleon came back."

Of John Sterling's express schooling, perhaps the most important
feature, and by no means a favorable one to him, was the excessive
fluctuation that prevailed in it. Change of scene, change of teacher,
_both_ express and implied, was incessant with him; and gave his young
life a nomadic character,--which surely, of all the adventitious
tendencies that could have been impressed upon him, so volatile, swift
and airy a being as him, was the one he needed least. His gentle
pious-hearted Mother, ever watching over him in all outward changes,
and assiduously keeping human pieties and good affections alive in
him, was probably the best counteracting element in his lot. And on
the whole, have we not all to run our chance in that respect; and
take, the most victoriously we can, such schooling as pleases to be
attainable in our year and place? Not very victoriously, the most of
us! A wise well-calculated breeding of a young genial soul in this
world, or alas of any young soul in it, lies fatally over the horizon
in these epochs!--This French scene of things, a grand school of its
sort, and also a perpetual banquet for the young soul, naturally
captivated John Sterling; he said afterwards, "New things and
experiences here were poured upon his mind and sense, not in streams,
but in a Niagara cataract." This too, however, was but a scene;
lasted only some six or seven months; and in the spring of the next
year terminated as abruptly as any of the rest could do.

For in the spring of the next year, Napoleon abruptly emerged from
Elba; and set all the populations of the world in motion, in a strange
manner;--set the Sterling household afloat, in particular; the big
European tide rushing into all smallest creeks, at Passy and
elsewhere. In brief, on the 20th of March, 1815, the family had to
shift, almost to fly, towards home and the sea-coast; and for a day or
two were under apprehension of being detained and not reaching home.
Mrs. Sterling, with her children and effects, all in one big carriage
with two horses, made the journey to Dieppe; in perfect safety, though
in continual tremor: here they were joined by Captain Sterling, who
had stayed behind at Paris to see the actual advent of Napoleon, and
to report what the aspect of affairs was, "Downcast looks of citizens,
with fierce saturnalian acclaim of soldiery:" after which they
proceeded together to London without farther apprehension;--there to
witness, in due time, the tar-barrels of Waterloo, and other phenomena
that followed.


Captain Sterling never quitted London as a residence any more; and
indeed was never absent from it, except on autumnal or other
excursions of a few weeks, till the end of his life. Nevertheless his
course there was as yet by no means clear; nor had his relations with
the heads of the _Times_, or with other high heads, assumed a form
which could be called definite, but were hanging as a cloudy maze of
possibilities, firm substance not yet divided from shadow. It
continued so for some years. The Sterling household shifted twice or
thrice to new streets or localities,--Russell Square or Queen Square,
Blackfriars Road, and longest at the Grove, Blackheath,-- before the
vapors of Wellesley promotions and such like slowly sank as useless
precipitate, and the firm rock, which was definite employment, ending
in lucrative co-proprietorship and more and more important connection
with the _Times_ Newspaper, slowly disclosed itself.

These changes of place naturally brought changes in John Sterling's
schoolmasters: nor were domestic tragedies wanting, still more
important to him. New brothers and sisters had been born; two little
brothers more, three little sisters he had in all; some of whom came
to their eleventh year beside him, some passed away in their second or
fourth: but from his ninth to his sixteenth year they all died; and
in 1821 only Anthony and John were left.[5] How many tears, and
passionate pangs, and soft infinite regrets; such as are appointed to
all mortals! In one year, I find, indeed in one half-year, he lost
three little playmates, two of them within one month. His own age was
not yet quite twelve. For one of these three, for little Edward, his
next younger, who died now at the age of nine, Mr. Hare records that
John copied out, in large school-hand, a _History of Valentine and
Orson_, to beguile the poor child's sickness, which ended in death
soon, leaving a sad cloud on John.


Of his grammar and other schools, which, as I said, are hardly worth
enumerating in comparison, the most important seems to have been a Dr.
Burney's at Greenwich; a large day-schoo] and boarding-school, where
Anthony and John gave their attendance for a year or two (1818-19)
from Blackheath. "John frequently did themes for the boys," says
Anthony, "and for myself when I was aground." His progress in all
school learning was certain to be rapid, if he even moderately took to
it. A lean, tallish, loose-made boy of twelve; strange alacrity,
rapidity and joyous eagerness looking out of his eyes, and of all his
ways and movements. I have a Picture of him at this stage; a little
portrait, which carries its verification with it. In manhood too, the
chief expression of his eyes and physiognomy was what I might call
alacrity, cheerful rapidity. You could see, here looked forth a soul
which was winged; which dwelt in hope and action, not in hesitation or
fear. Anthony says, he was "an affectionate and gallant kind of boy,
adventurous and generous, daring to a singular degree." Apt enough
withal to be "petulant now and then;" on the whole, "very
self-willed;" doubtless not a little discursive in his thoughts and
ways, and "difficult to manage."

I rather think Anthony, as the steadier, more substantial boy, was the
Mother's favorite; and that John, though the quicker and cleverer,
perhaps cost her many anxieties. Among the Papers given me, is an old
browned half-sheet in stiff school hand, unpunctuated, occasionally
ill spelt,--John Sterling's earliest remaining Letter,--which gives
record of a crowning escapade of his, the first and the last of its
kind; and so may be inserted here. A very headlong adventure on the
boy's part; so hasty and so futile, at once audacious and
impracticable; emblematic of much that befell in the history of the
man!

"_To Mrs. Sterling, Blackheath_.
"21st September, 1818.

"DEAR MAMMA,--I am now at Dover, where I arrived this morning about
seven o'clock. When you thought I was going to church, I went down
the Kent Road, and walked on till I came to Gravesend, which is
upwards of twenty miles from Blackheath; at about seven o'clock in the
evening, without having eat anything the whole time. I applied to an
inkeeper (_sic_) there, pretending that I had served a haberdasher in
London, who left of (_sic_) business, and turned me away. He believed
me; and got me a passage in the coach here, for I said that I had an
Uncle here, and that my Father and Mother were dead;--when I wandered
about the quays for some time, till I met Captain Keys, whom I asked
to give me a passage to Boulogne; which he promised to do, and took me
home to breakfast with him: but Mrs. Keys questioned me a good deal;
when I not being able to make my story good, I was obliged to confess
to her that I had run away from you. Captain Keys says that he will
keep me at his house till you answer my letter.

"J. STERLING."

Anthony remembers the business well; but can assign no origin to
it,--some penalty, indignity or cross put suddenly on John, which the
hasty John considered unbearable. His Mother's inconsolable weeping,
and then his own astonishment at such a culprit's being forgiven, are
all that remain with Anthony. The steady historical style of the
young runaway of twelve, narrating merely, not in the least
apologizing, is also noticeable.

This was some six months after his little brother Edward's death;
three months after that of Hester, his little sister next in the
family series to him: troubled days for the poor Mother in that small
household on Blackheath, as there are for mothers in so many
households in this world! I have heard that Mrs. Sterling passed much
of her time alone, at this period. Her husband's pursuits, with his
Wellesleys and the like, often carrying him into Town and detaining
him late there, she would sit among her sleeping children, such of
them as death had still spared, perhaps thriftily plying her needle,
full of mournful affectionate night-thoughts,--apprehensive too, in
her tremulous heart, that the head of the house might have fallen
among robbers in his way homeward.

Thomas Carlyle

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