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THE SAME TO THE SAME
Tam Luter was their minstrel meet, Gude Lord as he could lance, He play'd sae shrill, and sang sae sweet, Till Towsie took a trance. Auld Lightfoot there he did forleet, And counterfeited France; He used himself as man discreet, And up took Morrice danse sae loud, At Christ's Kirk on the Green that day.--KING JAMES I.
I continue to scribble at length, though the subject may seem somewhat deficient in interest. Let the grace of the narrative, therefore, and the concern we take in each other's matters, make amends for its tenuity. We fools of fancy who suffer ourselves, like Malvolio, to be cheated with our own visions, have, nevertheless, this advantage over the wise ones of the earth, that we have our whole stock of enjoyments under our own command, and can dish for ourselves an intellectual banquet with most moderate assistance from external objects. It is, to be sure, something like the feast which the Barmecide served up to Alnaschar; and we cannot expect to get fat upon such diet. But then, neither is there repletion nor nausea, which often succeed the grosser and more material revel. On the whole, I still pray, with the Ode to Castle Building--
Give me thy hope which sickens not the heart; Give me thy wealth which has no wings to fly; Give me the bliss thy visions can impart: Thy friendship give me, warm in poverty!
And so, despite thy solemn smile and sapient shake of the head, I will go on picking such interest as I can out of my trivial adventures, even though that interest should be the creation of my own fancy; nor will I cease to indict on thy devoted eyes the labour of perusing the scrolls in which I shall record my narrative.
My last broke off as we were on the point of descending into the glen at Brokenburn, by the dangerous track which I had first travelled EN CROUPE, behind a furious horseman, and was now again to brave under the precarious guidance of a blind man.
It was now getting dark; but this was no inconvenience to my guide, who moved on, as formerly, with instinctive security of step, so that we soon reached the bottom, and I could see lights twinkling in the cottage which had been my place of refuge on a former occasion. It was not thither, however, that our course was directed. We left the habitation of the laird to the left, and turning down the brook, soon approached the small hamlet which had been erected at the mouth of the stream, probably on account of the convenience which it afforded as a harbour to the fishing-boats. A large, low cottage, full in our front, seemed highly illuminated; for the light not only glanced from every window and aperture in its frail walls, but was even visible from rents and fractures in the roof, composed of tarred shingles, repaired in part by thatch and divot.
While these appearances engaged my attention, that of my companion was attracted by a regular succession of sounds, like a bouncing on the floor, mixed with a very faint noise of music, which Willie's acute organs at once recognized and accounted for, while to me it was almost inaudible. The old man struck the earth with his staff in a violent passion. 'The whoreson fisher rabble! They have brought another violer upon my walk! They are such smuggling blackguards, that they must run in their very music; but I'll sort them waur than ony gauger in the country.-- Stay--hark--it 's no a fiddle neither--it's the pipe and tabor bastard, Simon of Sowport, frae the Nicol Forest; but I'll pipe and tabor him!--Let me hae ance my left hand on his cravat, and ye shall see what my right will do. Come away, chap--come away, gentle chap--nae time to be picking and waling your steps.' And on he passed with long and determined strides, dragging me along with him.
I was not quite easy in his company; for, now that his minstrel pride was hurt, the man had changed from the quiet, decorous, I might almost say respectable person, which he seemed while he told his tale, into the appearance of a fierce, brawling, dissolute stroller. So that when he entered the large hut, where a great number of fishers, with their wives and daughters, were engaged in eating, drinking, and dancing, I was somewhat afraid that the impatient violence of my companion might procure us an indifferent reception.
But the universal shout of welcome with which Wandering Willie was received--the hearty congratulations--the repeated 'Here's t' ye, Willie!'--'Where hae ya been, ye blind deevil?' and the call upon him to pledge them--above all, the speed with which the obnoxious pipe and tabor were put to silence, gave the old man such effectual assurance of undiminished popularity and importance, as at once put his jealousy to rest, and changed his tone of offended dignity into one better fitted to receive such cordial greetings. Young men and women crowded round, to tell how much they were afraid some mischance had detained him, and how two or three young fellows had set out in quest of him.
'It was nae mischance, praised be Heaven,' said Willie, 'but the absence of the lazy loon Rob the Rambler, my comrade, that didna come to meet me on the Links; but I hae gotten a braw consort in his stead, worth a dozen of him, the unhanged blackguard.'
'And wha is't tou's gotten, Wullie, lad?' said half a score of voices, while all eyes were turned on your humble servant, who kept the best countenance he could, though not quite easy at becoming the centre to which all eyes were pointed.
'I ken him by his hemmed cravat,' said one fellow; 'it's Gil Hobson, the souple tailor frae Burgh. Ye are welcome to Scotland, ye prick-the-clout loon,' he said, thrusting forth a paw; much the colour of a badger's back, and of most portentous dimensions.
'Gil Hobson? Gil whoreson!' exclaimed Wandering Willie; 'it's a gentle chap that I judge to be an apprentice wi' auld Joshua Geddes, to the quaker-trade.'
'What trade be's that, man?' said he of the badger-coloured fist.
'Canting and lying,'--said Willie, which produced a thundering laugh; 'but I am teaching the callant a better trade, and that is, feasting and fiddling.'
Willie's conduct in thus announcing something like my real character, was contrary to compact; and yet I was rather glad he did so, for the consequence of putting a trick upon these rude and ferocious men, might, in case of discovery, have been dangerous to us both, and I was at the same time delivered from the painful effort to support a fictitious character. The good company, except perhaps one or two of the young women whose looks expressed some desire for better acquaintance, gave themselves no further trouble about me; but, while the seniors resumed their places near an immense bowl or rather reeking cauldron of brandy- punch, the younger arranged themselves on the floor and called loudly on Willie to strike up.
With a brief caution to me, to 'mind my credit, for fishers have ears, though fish have none,' Willie led off in capital style, and I followed, certainly not so as to disgrace my companion, who, every now and then, gave me a nod of approbation. The dances were, of course, the Scottish jigs, and reels, and 'twasome dances', with a strathspey or hornpipe for interlude; and the want of grace on the part of the performers was amply supplied by truth of ear, vigour and decision of step, and the agility proper to the northern performers. My own spirits rose with the mirth around me, and with old Willie's admirable execution, and frequent 'weel dune, gentle chap, yet;'--and, to confess the truth, I felt a great deal more pleasure in this rustic revel, than I have done at the more formal balls and concerts in your famed city, to which I have sometimes made my way. Perhaps this was because I was a person of more importance to the presiding matron of Brokenburn-foot, than I had the means of rendering myself to the far-famed Miss Nickie Murray, the patroness of your Edinburgh assemblies. The person I mean was a buxom dame of about thirty, her fingers loaded with many a silver ring, and three or four of gold; her ankles liberally displayed from under her numerous blue, white, and scarlet; short petticoats, and attired in hose of the finest and whitest lamb's- wool, which arose from shoes of Spanish cordwain, fastened with silver buckles. She took the lead in my favour, and declared, 'that the brave young gentleman should not weary himself to death wi' playing, but take the floor for a dance or twa.'
'And what's to come of me, Dame Martin?' said Willie.
'Come o' thee?' said the dame; 'mishanter on the auld beard o' ye! ye could play for twenty hours on end, and tire out the haill countryside wi' dancing before ye laid down your bow, saving for a by-drink or the like o' that.'
'In troth, dame,' answered Willie, 'ye are no sae far wrang; sae if my comrade is to take his dance, ye maun gie me my drink, and then bob it away like Madge of Middlebie.'
The drink was soon brought; but while Willie was partaking of it, a party entered the hut, which arrested my attention at once, and intercepted the intended gallantry with which I had proposed to present my hand to the fresh-coloured, well-made, white-ankled Thetis, who had obtained me manumission from my musical task.
This was nothing less than the sudden appearance of the old woman whom the laird had termed Mabel; Cristal Nixon, his male attendant; and the young person who had said grace to us when I supped with him.
This young person--Alan, thou art in thy way a bit of a conjurer --this young person whom I DID NOT describe, and whom you, for that very reason, suspected was not an indifferent object to me --is, I am sorry to say it, in very fact not so much so as in prudence she ought. I will not use the name of love on this occasion; for I have applied it too often to transient whims and fancies to escape your satire, should I venture to apply it now. For it is a phrase, I must confess, which I have used--a romancer would say, profaned--a little too often, considering how few years have passed over my head. But seriously, the fair chaplain of Brokenburn has been often in my head when she had no business there; and if this can give thee any clue for explaining my motives in lingering about the country, and assuming the character of Willie's companion, why, hang thee, thou art welcome to make use of it--a permission for which thou need'st not thank me much, as thou wouldst not have failed to assume it whether it were given or no.
Such being my feelings, conceive how they must have been excited, when, like a beam upon a cloud, I saw this uncommonly beautiful girl enter the apartment in which they were dancing; not, however, with the air of an equal, but that of a superior, come to grace with her presence the festival of her dependants. The old man and woman attended, with looks as sinister as hers were lovely, like two of the worst winter months waiting upon the bright-eyed May.
When she entered--wonder if thou wilt--she wore A GREEN MANTLE, such as thou hast described as the garb of thy fair client, and confirmed what I had partly guessed from thy personal description, that my chaplain and thy visitor were the same person. There was an alteration on her brow the instant she recognized me. She gave her cloak to her female attendant, and, after a momentary hesitation, as if uncertain whether to advance or retire, she walked into the room with dignity and composure, all making way, the men unbonneting, and the women curtsying respectfully, as she assumed a chair which was reverently placed for her accommodation, apart from others.
There was then a pause, until the bustling mistress of the ceremonies, with awkward but kindly courtesy, offered the young lady a glass of wine, which was at first declined, and at length only thus far accepted, that, bowing round to the festive company, the fair visitor wished them all health and mirth, and just touching the brim with her lip, replaced it on the salver. There was another pause; and I did not immediately recollect, confused as I was by this unexpected apparition, that it belonged to me to break it. At length a murmur was heard around me, being expected to exhibit,--nay, to lead down the dance,--in consequence of the previous conversation.
'Deil's in the fiddler lad,' was muttered from more quarters than one--'saw folk ever sic a thing as a shame-faced fiddler before?'
At length a venerable Triton, seconding his remonstrances with a hearty thump on my shoulder, cried out, 'To the floor--to the floor, and let us see how ye can fling--the lasses are a' waiting.'
Up I jumped, sprang from the elevated station which constituted our orchestra, and, arranging my ideas as rapidly as I could, advanced to the head of the room, and, instead of offering my hand to the white-footed Thetis aforesaid, I venturously made the same proposal to her of the Green Mantle.
The nymph's lovely eyes seemed to open with astonishment at the audacity of this offer; and, from the murmurs I heard around me, I also understood that it surprised, and perhaps offended, the bystanders. But after the first moment's emotion, she wreathed her neck, and drawing herself haughtily up, like one who was willing to show that she was sensible of the full extent of her own condescension, extended her hand towards me, like a princess gracing a squire of low degree.
There is affectation in all this, thought I to myself, if the Green Mantle has borne true evidence--for young ladies do not make visits, or write letters to counsel learned in the law, to interfere in the motions of those whom they hold as cheap as this nymph seems to do me; and if I am cheated by a resemblance of cloaks, still I am interested to show myself, in some degree, worthy of the favour she has granted with so much state and reserve. The dance to be performed was the old Scots Jig, in which you are aware I used to play no sorry figure at La Pique's, when thy clumsy movements used to be rebuked by raps over the knuckles with that great professor's fiddlestick. The choice of the tune was left to my comrade Willie, who, having finished his drink, feloniously struck up the well-known and popular measure,
Merrily danced the Quaker's wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker.
An astounding laugh arose at my expense, and I should have been annihilated, but that the smile which mantled on the lip of my partner, had a different expression from that of ridicule, and seemed to say, 'Do not take this to heart.' And I did not, Alan --my partner danced admirably, and I like one who was determined, if outshone, which I could not help, not to be altogether thrown into the shade.
I assure you our performance, as well as Willie's music, deserved more polished spectators and auditors; but we could not then have been greeted with such enthusiastic shouts of applause as attended while I handed my partner to her seat, and took my place by her side, as one who had a right to offer the attentions usual on such an occasion. She was visibly embarrassed, but I was determined not to observe her confusion, and to avail myself of the opportunity of learning whether this beautiful creature's mind was worthy of the casket in which nature had lodged it.
Nevertheless, however courageously I formed this resolution, you cannot but too well guess the difficulties I must needs have felt in carrying it into execution; since want of habitual intercourse with the charmers of the other sex has rendered me a sheepish cur, only one grain less awkward than thyself. Then she was so very beautiful, and assumed an air of so much dignity, that I was like to fall under the fatal error of supposing she should only be addressed with something very clever; and in the hasty raking which my brains underwent in this persuasion, not a single idea occurred that common sense did not reject as fustian on the one hand, or weary, flat, and stale triticism on the other. I felt as if my understanding were no longer my own, but was alternately under the dominion of Aldeborontiphoscophornio, and that of his facetious friend Rigdum-Funnidos. How did I envy at that moment our friend Jack Oliver, who produces with such happy complacence his fardel of small talk, and who, as he never doubts his own powers of affording amusement, passes them current with every pretty woman he approaches, and fills up the intervals of chat by his complete acquaintance with the exercise of the fan, the FLACON, and the other duties of the CAVALIERE SERVENTE. Some of these I attempted, but I suppose it was awkwardly; at least the Lady Green Mantle received them as a princess accepts the homage of a clown.
Meantime the floor remained empty, and as the mirth of the good meeting was somewhat checked, I ventured, as a DERNIER RESSORT, to propose a minuet. She thanked me, and told me haughtily enough, 'she was here to encourage the harmless pleasures of these good folks, but was not disposed to make an exhibition of her own indifferent dancing for their amusement.'
She paused a moment, as if she expected me to suggest something; and as I remained silent and rebuked, she bowed her head more graciously, and said, 'Not to affront you, however, a country- dance, if you please.'
What an ass was I, Alan, not to have anticipated her wishes! Should I not have observed that the ill-favoured couple, Mabel and Cristal, had placed themselves on each side of her seat, like the supporters of the royal arms? the man, thick, short, shaggy, and hirsute, as the lion; the female, skin-dried, tight-laced, long, lean, and hungry-faced, like the unicorn. I ought to have recollected, that under the close inspection of two such watchful salvages, our communication, while in repose, could not have been easy; that the period of dancing a minuet was not the very choicest time for conversation; but that the noise, the exercise, and the mazy confusion of a country-dance, where the inexperienced performers were every now and then running against each other, and compelling the other couples to stand still for a minute at a time, besides the more regular repose afforded by the intervals of the dance itself, gave the best possible openings for a word or two spoken in season, and without being liable to observation.
We had but just led down, when an opportunity of the kind occurred, and my partner said, with great gentleness and modesty, 'It is not perhaps very proper in me to acknowledge an acquaintance that is not claimed; but I believe I speak to Mr. Darsie Latimer?'
'Darsie Latimer was indeed the person that had now the honour and happiness'--
I would have gone on in the false gallop of compliment, but she cut me short. 'And why,' she said, 'is Mr. Latimer here, and in disguise, or at least assuming an office unworthy of a man of education?--I beg pardon,' she continued,--'I would not give you pain, but surely making, an associate of a person of that description'--
She looked towards my friend Willie, and was silent. I felt heartily ashamed of myself, and hastened to say it was an idle frolic, which want of occupation had suggested, and which I could not regret, since it had procured me the pleasure I at present enjoyed.
Without seeming to notice my compliment, she took the next opportunity to say, 'Will Mr. Latimer permit a stranger who wishes him well to ask, whether it is right that, at his active age, he should be in so far void of occupation, as to be ready to adopt low society for the sake of idle amusement?'
'You are severe, madam,' I answered; 'but I cannot think myself degraded by mixing with any society where I meet'--
Here I stopped short, conscious that I was giving my answer an unhandsome turn. The ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM, the last to which a polite man has recourse, may, however, be justified by circumstances, but seldom or never the ARGUMENTUM AD FOEMINAM.
She filled up the blank herself which I had left. 'Where you meet ME, I suppose you would say? But the case is different. I am, from my unhappy fate, obliged to move by the will of others, and to be in places which I would by my own will gladly avoid. Besides, I am, except for these few minutes, no participator of the revels--a spectator only, and attended by my servants. Your situation is different--you are here by choice, the partaker and minister of the pleasures of a class below you in education, birth, and fortunes. If I speak harshly, Mr. Latimer,' she added, with much sweetness of manner, 'I mean kindly.'
I was confounded by her speech, 'severe in youthful wisdom'; all of naive or lively, suitable to such a dialogue, vanished from my recollection, and I answered with gravity like her own, 'I am, indeed, better educated than these poor people; but you, madam, whose kind admonition I am grateful for, must know more of my condition than I do myself--I dare not say I am their superior in birth, since I know nothing of my own, or in fortunes, over which hangs an impenetrable cloud.'
'And why should your ignorance on these points drive you into low society and idle habits?' answered my female monitor. 'Is it manly to wait till fortune cast her beams upon you, when by exertion of your own energy you might distinguish yourself? Do not the pursuits of learning lie open to you--of manly ambition --of war? But no--not of war, that has already cost you too dear.'
'I will be what you wish me to be,' I replied with eagerness-- 'You have but to choose my path, and you shall see if I do not pursue it with energy, were it only because you command me.'
'Not because I command you,' said the maiden, 'but because reason, common sense, manhood, and, in one word, regard for your own safety, give the same counsel.'
'At least permit me to reply, that reason and sense never assumed a fairer form--of persuasion,' I hastily added; for she turned from me--nor did she give me another opportunity of continuing what I had to say till the next pause of the dance, when, determined to bring our dialogue to a point, I said, 'You mentioned manhood also, and in the same breath, personal danger. My ideas of manhood suggest that it is cowardice to retreat before dangers of a doubtful character. You, who appear to know so much of my fortunes that I might call you my guardian angel, tell me what these dangers are, that I may judge whether manhood calls on me to face or to fly them.'
She was evidently perplexed by this appeal.
'You make me pay dearly for acting as your humane adviser,' she replied at last: 'I acknowledge an interest in your fate, and yet I dare not tell you whence it arises; neither am I at liberty to say why, or from whom, you are in danger; but it is not less true that danger is near and imminent. Ask me no more, but, for your own sake, begone from this country. Elsewhere you are safe --here you do but invite your fate.'
'But am I doomed to bid thus farewell to almost the only human being who has showed an interest in my welfare? Do not say so-- say that we shall meet again, and the hope shall be the leading star to regulate my course!'
'It is more than probable,' she said--'much more than probable, that we may never meet again. The help which I now render you is all that may be in my power; it is such as I should render to a blind man whom I might observe approaching the verge of a precipice; it ought to excite no surprise, and requires no gratitude.'
So saying, she again turned from me, nor did she address me until the dance was on the point of ending, when she said, 'Do not attempt to speak to or approach me again in the course of the night; leave the company as soon as you can, but not abruptly, and God be with you.'
I handed her to her seat, and did not quit the fair palm I held, without expressing my feelings by a gentle pressure. She coloured slightly, and withdrew her hand, but not angrily. Seeing the eyes of Cristal and Mabel sternly fixed on me, I bowed deeply, and withdrew from her; my heart saddening, and my eyes becoming dim in spite of me, as the shifting crowd hid us from each other.
It was my intention to have crept back to my comrade Willie, and resumed my bow with such spirit as I might, although, at the moment, I would have given half my income for an instant's solitude. But my retreat was cut off by Dame Martin, with the frankness--if it is not an inconsistent phrase-of rustic coquetry, that goes straight up to the point.
'Aye, lad, ye seem unco sune weary, to dance sae lightly? Better the nag that ambles a' the day, than him that makes a brattle for a mile, and then's dune wi' the road.'
This was a fair challenge, and I could not decline accepting it. Besides, I could see Dame Martin was queen of the revels; and so many were the rude and singular figures about me, that I was by no means certain whether I might not need some protection. I seized on her willing hand, and we took our places in the dance, where, if I did not acquit myself with all the accuracy of step and movement which I had before attempted, I at least came up to the expectations of my partner, who said, and almost swore, 'I was prime at it;' while, stimulated to her utmost exertions, she herself frisked like a kid, snapped her fingers like castanets, whooped like a Bacchanal, and bounded from the floor like a tennis-ball,--aye, till the colour of her garters was no particular mystery. She made the less secret of this, perhaps, that they were sky-blue, and fringed with silver.
The time has been that this would have been special fun; or rather, last night was the only time I can recollect these four years when it would not have been so; yet, at this moment, I cannot tell you how I longed to be rid of Dame Martin. I almost wished she would sprain one of those 'many-twinkling' ankles, which served her so alertly; and when, in the midst of her exuberant caprioling, I saw my former partner leaving the apartment, and with eyes, as I thought, turning towards me, this unwillingness to carry on the dance increased to such a point, that I was almost about to feign a sprain or a dislocation myself, in order to put an end to the performance. But there were around me scores of old women, all of whom looked as if they might have some sovereign recipe for such an accident; and, remembering Gil Blas, and his pretended disorder in the robber's cavern, I thought it as wise to play Dame Martin fair, and dance till she thought proper to dismiss me. What I did I resolved to do strenuously, and in the latter part of the exhibition I cut and sprang from the floor as high and as perpendicularly as Dame Martin herself; and received, I promise you, thunders of applause, for the common people always prefer exertion and agility to grace. At length Dame Martin could dance no more, and, rejoicing at my release, I led her to a seat, and took the privilege of a partner to attend her.
'Hegh, sirs,' exclaimed Dame Martin, 'I am sair forfoughen! Troth! callant, I think ye hae been amaist the death o' me.'
I could only atone for the alleged offence by fetching her some refreshment, of which she readily partook.
'I have been lucky in my partners,' I said, 'first that pretty young lady, and then you, Mrs, Martin.'
'Hout wi' your fleeching,' said Dame Martin. 'Gae wa--gae wa, lad; dinna blaw in folk's lugs that gate; me and Miss Lilias even'd thegither! Na, na, lad--od, she is maybe four or five years younger than the like o' me,--bye and attour her gentle havings.'
'She is the laird's daughter?' said I, in as careless a tone of inquiry as I could assume.
'His daughter, man? Na, na, only his niece--and sib aneugh to him, I think.'
'Aye, indeed,' I replied; 'I thought she had borne his name?'
'She bears her ain name, and that's Lilias.'
'And has she no other name?' asked I.
'What needs she another till she gets a gudeman?' answered my Thetis, a little miffed perhaps--to use the women's phrase--that I turned the conversation upon my former partner, rather than addressed it to herself.
There was a little pause, which was interrupted by Dame Martin observing, 'They are standing up again.'
'True,' said I, having no mind to renew my late violent CAPRIOLE, and I must go help old Willie.'
Ere I could extricate myself, I heard poor Thetis address herself to a sort of merman in a jacket of seaman's blue, and a pair of trousers (whose hand, by the way, she had rejected at an earlier part of the evening) and intimate that she was now disposed to take a trip.
'Trip away, then, dearie,' said the vindictive man of the waters, without offering his hand; 'there,' pointing to the floor, 'is a roomy berth for you.'
Certain I had made one enemy, and perhaps two, I hastened to my original seat beside Willie, and began to handle my bow. But I could see that my conduct had made an unfavourable impression; the words, 'flory conceited chap,'--'hafflins gentle,' and at length, the still more alarming epithet of 'spy,' began to be buzzed about, and I was heartily glad when the apparition of Sam's visage at the door, who was already possessed of and draining a can of punch, gave me assurance that my means of retreat were at hand. I intimated as much to Willie, who probably had heard more of the murmurs of the company than I had, for he whispered, 'Aye, aye,--awa wi' ye--ower lang here--slide out canny--dinna let them see ye are on the tramp.'
I slipped half a guinea into the old man's hand, who answered, 'Truts pruts! nonsense but I 'se no refuse, trusting ye can afford it. Awa wi' ye--and if ony body stops ye, cry on me.'
I glided, by his advice, along the room as if looking for a partner, joined Sam, whom I disengaged with some difficulty from his can, and we left the cottage together in a manner to attract the least possible observation. The horses were tied in a neighbouring shed, and as the moon was up, and I was now familiar with the road, broken and complicated as it is, we soon reached the Shepherd's Bush, where the old landlady was sitting up waiting for us, under some anxiety of mind, to account for which she did not hesitate to tell me that some folks had gone to Brokenburn from her house, or neighbouring towns, that did not come so safe back again. 'Wandering Willie,' she said, 'was doubtless a kind of protection.'
Here Willie's wife, who was smoking in the chimney corner, took up the praises of her 'hinnie,' as she called him, and endeavoured to awaken my generosity afresh, by describing the dangers from which, as she was pleased to allege, her husband's countenance had assuredly been the means of preserving me. I was not, however, to be fooled out of more money at this time, and went to bed in haste, full of vanous cogitations.
I have since spent a couple of days betwixt Mount Sharon and this place, and betwixt reading, writing to thee this momentous history, forming plans for seeing the lovely Lilias, and--partly, I think, for the sake of contradiction--angling a little in spite of Joshua'a scruples--though I am rather liking the amusement better as I begin to have some success in it.
And now, my dearest Alan, you are in full possession of my secret--let me as frankly into the recesses of your bosom. How do you feel towards this fair ignis fatuus, this lily of the desert? Tell me honestly; for however the recollection of her may haunt my own mind, my love for Alan Fairford surpasses the love of woman, I know, too, that when you DO love, it will be to
Love once and love no more.
A deep-consuming passion, once kindled in a breast so steady as yours, would never be extinguished but with life. I am of another and more volatile temper, and though I shall open your next with a trembling hand and uncertain heart, yet let it bring a frank confession that this fair unknown has made a deeper impression on your gravity than you reckoned for, and you will see I can tear the arrow from my own wound, barb and all. In the meantime, though I have formed schemes once more to see her, I will, you may rely on it, take no step for putting them into practice. I have refrained from this hitherto, and I give you my word of honour, I shall continue to do so; yet why should you need any further assurance from one who is so entirely yours as D.L.
PS.--I shall be on thorns till I receive your answer. I read, and re-read your letter, and cannot for my soul discover what your real sentiments are. Sometimes I think you write of her as one in jest--and sometimes I think that cannot be. Put me at ease as soon as possible.
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