Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ejaculated, at the top of his voice, to a rugged, wolfish-.oolcing dog, a sott of lurcher, half mastiff, half greyhound, which ran limping about as if with a purpose of seconding his master in collecting the refractory grunters; but which, in fact, from misapprehension of the swine-her"d's signals, ignorance of his own duty, or malice prepense, only drove them hither and thither, and increased the evil which he seemed to design to remedy. ,

20. "A devil draw the teeth of him!" said Gurth; "and the mother of mischief confound the ranger of the forest that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs, and makes them unfit for their trade! — Wamba, up and help me, an' thou be'st a man; take a turn round the back of the hill to gain the wind on them; and when thou 'st got the weather-gage, thou may'st drive them before thee as gently as so many innocent lambs."

21. "Truly," said Wamba, without stirring from the spot, "I have consulted my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of opinion that to carry my gay garments through these sloughs would be an act of unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal wardrobe; wherefore, Gurth, I advise thee to call off Fangs, and leave the herd to their destiny, which, whether they meet with bands of traveling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims, can be little else than be converted into Normans before morning, to thy no small ease and comfort."

22. "The swine turned Normans into my comfort ?" quoth Gurth; "expound that to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull and my mind too vexed to read riddles."—"Why, how call you these grunting brutes running about on their four legs?" demanded Wamba.—" Swine, fool, swine!" said the herd; "every fool knows that."

23. "And swine is good Saxon," said the jester; " but how call you the sow, when she is flayed, and drawn and quartered, and hung up by the heels, like a traitor?" — "Pork," answered the swine-herd.—" I am very glad every fool knows that, too," said Wamba, "and pork, I think, is good Norman French; and so, when the.brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the castlehall to feast among the nobles. What dost thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?"

24. "It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it' got into thy fool's pate." — " Nay, I can tell you more," said Wamba, in the same tone; ," there is old Alderman Ox con

tinues to ho.d his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen, such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Master Calf, too, becomes Master Veal in the*ike manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment."

25. "By St. Dunstan," answered Gurth, "thou speakest but sad truths; little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, clearly for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest is for their board; the loveliest is for their couch; the best and bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones, leaving few here who have either will or power to protect the unfortunate Saxon.

26. "God's blessing on our master Cedric! he hath done the work of a man in standing in the gap; but Reginald FrondetxEuf* is coming down to this country in person, and we shall soon see how little Cedric's trouble will avail him.—, Here, here," he exclaimed again, raising his voice, " so ho! so ho! well done, Fangs ! thou hast them all before thee now, and bring'st them on bravely, lad."

27. "Gurth," said the jester, " I know thou thinkest me a fool, or thou wouldst not be so rash in putting thy head into my mouth. One word to Reginald Front-de-Bceuf, or Philip de Malvoisin, that thou hast spoken treason against the Norman, and thou art but a cast-away swine-herd, — thou

. wouldst waver on one of these trees, as a terror to all evil speakers against dignities."

28. "Dog! thou wouldst not betray me," said Gurth, "after having led me on to speak so much at disadvantage?''

—" Betray thee!" answered the jester; "no, that were the trick of a wise man; a fool cannot half so well help himself,

— but soft, whom have we here?" he said, listening to the trampling of several horses'which became then audible.

29. "Never mind whom," answered Gurth, who had now got his herd before him, and, with the aid of Fangs, was driving them down one of the long, dim vistas which we have endeavored to describe. — " Nay, but I must see the

* Gurth mispronounces this name. Wamba, a few lines below, oalU It rightly — Reginald Front-de-Bceuf.

riders," answered Wamba; "perhaps they come from tne Fairy-land, with a message from King Oberon."

30. "A murrain take thee!" rejoined the swine-herd; "wilt thou talk of such things wj^ile a terrible storm of thunder and lightning is raging within a few miles of us? Hark! how the thunder rumbles! and for summer rain, I never saw such broad, downright, flat drops fall out of the clouds. The oaks too, notwithstanding the calm weather, sob and creak with their green boughs, as if announcing a tempest. Thou canst play the rational, if thou wilt; credit me for once, and let us home ere the storm begins to rage, for the night will be fearful."

31. Wamba seemed to feel the force of this appeal, ana accompanied his companion, who began his journey, after catching up a long quarter-staff which lay upon the grass beside him. This second Eumaeus* strode hastily down the forest glade, driving before him, with the assistance of Fangs, the whole herd of his inharmonious charge.

_ LESSON VI.
Letters and Letter-writing. Chambers' Journal.

1. Neither history nor tradition tells us aught of the first /etter, —who was its writer, and on what occasion; how it was transmitted, or in what manner it was answered. The Chinese, the Hindoo, and the Scandinavian mythologies had each tales regarding the inventors of writing, and the rest of those that by preeminence may be called human arts; but concerning the beginner of mankind's epistolary correspondence, neither they nor the classic poets — who, by the way, volunteered many an ingenious story on subjects far less important—have given us the least account.

2. Pope says:

"Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid —
Some banished lover, or some captive maid."

♦Eumaeus was the herdsman and steward of Ulysses, who recognized his master at his return from the Trojau war, after an absence of twenty years.

The poet evidently refers to the letter-writing art, and it may De so, for aught we can tell; but, with all submission to his superior knowledge, banished lovers and captive maids have rarely been the transmitters of such useful inventions. Certainly, whoever commenced letter-writing, the world has been long his debtor.

3. It is long since the Samaritans wrote a letter against ;he builders of Jerusalem to Artaxerxes, and it may be )bserved that the said letter is the earliest epistle mentioned n any history.* Older communications appear to have been ilways verbal, by means of heralds and messengers.

4. Homer, in.his account of all the news received and sent between the Greeks and Trojans, never refers to a single letter. The Scribe's occupation was not altogether unknown in those days, but it must have been brought to considerable perfection before efforts in the epistolary style were made.

5. That ancient language of picture and symbol, in which Egypt expressed her wisdom, was undoubtedly the earliest mode of writing; but, however calculated to preserve the memory of great historical events amid the daily life, and toil, and changes of nations, it was but poorly fitted for the purpose of correspondence. How could compliments or insinuations be conveyed by such an autograph? Letters must have been brief and scanty in the hieroglyphic times; yet doubtless not without some representations, for the unalphabeted of mankind have combined to hold mutual intelligence by many a sign and emblem, especially in those affairs designated of the heart, as they, above all others, contribute to ingenuity.

6. Hence carne the Eastern language of flowers, which, witb Oriental literature and mythology, is now partially known >ver the civilized world. In its native clime this natural ilphabet is said to be so distinctly understood, that the nost minute intimations are expressed by it; but the more Irank and practical courtship of Europe has always preferred the pen as its channel of communication, which, besides its greater power of enlargement, prevents those mistakes into which the imperfectly initiated are apt to fall, with flowers.

7. For instance, there is a story of a British officer in

* The writer of this article has forgotten that in the days of the Prophet Elisha, three hundred and fifty years before the letter of Artaxerxes, "the King of Syria sent a letter to the King of Israel." See 1 Kings, chapter 5. —- Compiler.

Andalusia * who, having made a deep impression on the heart of a certain alcade's t daughter, in one of the small old towns of that half Moorish province, and receiving from her, one morning, a bouquet, the significance of which was, "My mother is in the way now, but come to visit me in the twilight," supposed, in his ignorance, and perhaps presumption, that he was invited to an immediate appointment; whereupon he hurried to the house, just in time to meet the venerable signora, when the lady of his heart boxed his ears with her own fair hands, and vowed she would never again send flowers to a stupid Englishman!

8. In fine contrast to this sample of misunderstanding stands forth the dexterity with which an Irish serving-maid contrived to signify, by symbols of her own invention, her pleasure on a still more trying occasion. Poor Kitty, though a belle in her class, could neither read nor write; but her mistress' grown-up daughter undertook, as a labor of love, to carry on a correspondence between her and a certain schoolmaster in the neighborhood, who laid siege to Kitty's heart and hand, on account of a small deposit in the savings-bank, and that proverbial attraction which learned men are said to 6nd in rather illiterate ladies.

9. The schoolmaster was, however, providentially desirous of fixing on the mind of his future partner an impression of his own superiority sufficient to outlast the wear and tear of married life, and therefore wooed chiefly by long and learned letters, to which Kitty responded in her best style, leaving to her voluntary secretary what she called the grammar of her replies; besides declaring, with many hardly complimentary observations on the schoolmaster's person and manners, that she had not the slightest interest in the affair, but only, in he' own words, " to keep up the craythur's heart."

10. Thus the courtship had proceeded prosperously througl all the usual stages, when at length the question, par excel lence, was popped,—of course, on paper. Kitty heard tha epistle read with wonted disdain; but, alas for human confi dence! there was something in her answer with which sht could not trust the writer of so many; for, after all hej scorn, Kitty intended to say " Yes," and her mode of doing so merits commendation.

11. In solitude, that evening, beside the kitchen hearth, she

* The most fertile and commercial province in Spain, t The term Alcaid, or Alcade, means a leader, or governor. It ii -de rived from tht «am» rool with the Turkish Cadi.

« AnteriorContinuar »