« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
facility for the development of his
tastes and talents, whether they He was born some thirty years ago, should turn out to be the stuff of at a moment when Saturn was lord a soldier, or a scholar, a Premier, or of the ascendant, irradiated by a “only a fiddler.” malefic quartile aspect of the planet He did not keep them waiting Mars, afflicted by a baneful opposi. long. But when-it was at the early tion with Jupiter ; a nativity which age of three-peculiarities first declares that the native shall be gave signs of life, they were of a kind involved in troubles and dangers, that filled his nurse, at least, with even to the hazard of his life. wonder, not unmixed with alarm. Failing to discover in his family “Times out of number," she tendencies or early surroundings narrates of her charge," he ran his any influence that might have life and limbs into danger by a made him what he was, we have way he had, even as a baby, of fallen back on the idle old method prying into the inside of whatever of casting his horoscope.
he had to do with. It wasn't puré The only child of fond but judi. mischief either, but he would have cious parents, John Ichabod began the real thing at all risks. I have life with every advantage under seen him go into fits of rage at the sun. He was not to be forced; what he thought tricks and deceits he was not to be spoilt. They would we played off upon him. He loaded prepare the soil, temper the air, his little waggons and trains till and supply good nourishment for they broke, and then threw them the young plant, but never check away, ate his painted wooden fruits its growth. So the roots were to and vegetables, armed his tin sol. spread, the twigs to shoot, the diers with penknives, and put a buds to expand, according to the live coal into the toy cannon's dictates of a healthy nature.
mouth!” Both father and mother watched On his birthday six, he was preeagerly for dawning signs of distinct sented by a benevolent old uncle gifts, the germs of particular powers with a set of playthings that would in the infant brain. They had made have made earth a heaven to any up their minds not only to allow commonplace child for at least a their son to follow his bent, what- week. Coming into the nursery ever it was, but to give him every the next morning, his mother was horror-struck to see the treasures worshipped him devoutly from his already carefully picked to pieces, cradle upwards, came once, long the parts sorted and neatly ar. after he had outgrown her watch ranged on the floor. She checked and ward, to pay him a visit. He her impulse to scold. John might behaved with such cold indifference be a mechanical genius-a Watt or as to get scolded for it afterwards a Stephenson in the bud. Unable, by his mother, who observed that however, to refrain from some he used to be on most affectionate exclamations of regret, she was terms with her. “Yes, baby that promptly rebuked by her son. I was !” he exclaimed, with selfChild though he was, he could tri. contempt. “Let me tell you, umphantly prove to her now that the mother, whenever there was a so-called horse was a lump of wood storm she went and hid behind the besmeared with paint,-the same, door; and she wanted me to substantially, as the cart; the pic- believe it was unlucky to spill the ture book a roll of daubed rags; salt!” Mrs. Ichabod represented the lamb that ran, and bleated, that nurse knew no better, and that and wagged its tail, worked by at any rate she was very fond of springs inside. It was all a trick, him. “Mother," said the boy, a delusion, and a snare, and made thoughtfully, “I should like to him vastly indignant. It was long know what the love of such ignobefore he could be induced to speak rant silly old women as that can be to that uncle again, nor did he ever worth !" quite forgive him for trying to take A pet lark was one day found him in.
dead in its cage, and there was a Ichabod, junior, was a prodigy; great stir among the maids. But that was settled. It was very in the young master came forwards teresting, yet his mother often fearlessly and begged to refer them thought she would rather he had to a book called “ Euthanasia for been more like other children, in Birds,” in which they might read some ways; as on one unlucky day of a method of putting them to a when his active mind (which soon painless death, and also that larks rose above the nursery and its were good, very good, for food. It contents) addressed itself to her was a scientific experiment of his favourite piece of Venetian glass. which had been perfectly successful,
Unluckily for the glass, that is. and he wanted now to have the He melted it down, and brought bird for supper, which, he confessed, her the residue with some glee, and he thought more important than was both surprised and hurt by song. her displeasure. Of course it must His first instruction in the mys. be a shock to her feelings to re- teries of Latin and Greek he receive proof positive that her pre- ceived from his father, who was cious vase was but a mixture of delighted with his quick progress. sea-sand and soda; but, as it was But here again rocks ahead soon the fact, she ought to be glad to showed themselves. The boy was have it verified. He had destroyed a good boy to work, but in these the ornament, of course ; but on particular studies familiarity bred the other hand he had made out for contempt in him with distressing her a descriptive catalogue of all rapidity. the ingredients used in its manu. Attwelve years old he scandalised
his poor father, an enthusiastic The little critic spared nothing classical scholar, by holding forth or nobody. His old nurse, who had on the folly and inconsistency of
grown people tolerating and even straight to her husband and told delighting in childish fables about him that John's precocity was gods and goddesses, and the impos- becoming so alarming that he must sible adventures of Trojans and go to a public school at once. Greeks, while the exploits of Jack Public schools are known as the the Giant Killer and Bluebeard certain grave for all the most inwere very properly left to the nur sufferable eccentricities of young sery. It was hopeless to try and genius. Master Ichabod's must please him in story books. The go their way like all others. Arabian Nights he threw down and Merged in a crowd of five hundred stamped upon in a passion of tears ordinaries, he fell in pretty readily and disgust and indignation, after with their manners and customs, five minutes perusal. Andersen's to the unspeakable relief of his fairy tales fared no better. He re- parents both. turned them to his mother, as good But his oddities were only buried, for an infant school perhaps, but not dead, as it needed but to watch not for a boy of his years. In all him closely to discover. He was his lessons, with a growing aptitude lucky in his tutor, a man of genial for learning, he showed a growing intelligence, who from the first had indifference to its aims and ends. taken a curious interest in the boy,
Neither was he fond of games and built great hopes on a lad who Exercise, which he could prove by learnt so quickly and conducted experiment to be necessary for himself so irreproachably. There health and appetite, he consented were drawbacks, though, and drawto take, but for cricket, football, backs undreamt of in the philoand all who could be keen upon sophy of his experience. Who ever such sham fights, he had nothing knew a clever fellow keep so probut ridicule. How could his vokingly aloof from any kind of father wish any reasonable child to competition ? He was always up fritter away his time and pocket- to the mark in the examinations, money, or expose his person, for the but never entered the lists for a sake of such brief and hollow joys prize if he could help it, or showed as were all these boyish victories one spark of ardour on such occacould afford?
sions. It was all a riddle to his He was tall and strong himself, tutor, who often bantered him about and one day his mother, admiring this want of emulation, but always and exulting in his sturdy health, got the worst of the argument. happened to remark that he had “Either," said the pupil, “ learning been the most feeble and delicate was useful or it wasn't. If it of babies, and reared only by un. wasn't, why work one's head off for remitting care and pains. The boy the sake of a trumpery medal or listened thoughtfully, sympatheti. book? If it was, well, use was cally,—but suddenly startled her by better than the honour and glory of replying that for her it was a mis- victory any day; so to put these fortune not to have lived in ancient forward as a motive at all was just times, or other countries, when and to carry coals to Newcastle.” where he would have been exposed He must infallibly have been to perish in infancy, as a matter of squashed as a prig by his schoolcourse, and she have been saved fellows, but he took care to keep the bother and responsibility of his ideas to himself, never spoke rearing him at all.
out his mind unless pressed to do Upon this Mrs. Ichabod, so, and was quite content, so far, thoroughly frightened, rose, went with acting up to it.
He was in his seventeenth year The gist of it was plain enough, at when his mother died, rather sud- all events : “Send your boy away denly. He had been much attached to travel-across the Atlantic if you to her, yet, after the first shock, he can—the farther the better. Give did not give way so far as to betray him a change that must shake his any agitation. But still waters whole being. He is young, and run deep, and his tutor suspected there may still be time.” that so undemonstrative an exterior Mr. Ichabod, senior, thought he must hide feelings of dangerous in must be dreaming. But no; there tensity. Finding him one day were the words. He read on: brooding, he feared, over his grief, “My reason for this advice is he laid his hand on his shoulder, not so easy to put into words. My asking kindly, “What are you feeling is that he is in a dangerous thinking of, Ichabod ? ” and with way. I seem to perceive a morbid sympathy and consolation on the taint in his mind that he delights tip of his tongue. Master Ichabod, to honour and foster as much as he who always spoke the truth, can. I may call it a depreciative replied, “I was thinking of what I mania. He is always inventing a heard yesterday, that my mother's fly in his honey, a flaw in his fortune will be mine now when I precious stone. Such a theory of come of age; and I believe it is a life it is becoming common to hear great thing not to be dependent, or preached; but I never before saw tied down to anybody in the anyone carry it out thus in practice, world.”
inexorably, like your son. He is The tutor was an impulsive man, a boy now, so this can only show and the hardness of the speech itself in trifles; but if in after life startled him and made him shrink. he applies his principle to vitalities, Nor could the pupil bring him to and follows it out as consistently see the matter in another light; not as now, I would rather not say to by the most sincere assurances that what I think it may, or must, lead." he meant to use the money well, Here Mr. Ichabod's surprise, and for the good of the human which amounted to stupor, exrace, which his mother, with her ploded in a hearty laugh. “I see fanciful tastes and thoughtless it all now," he said ; “my boy's charities, had never done... precocity has frightened his tutor,
As he grew older he began to as when he was a child once it exercise a curious influence over frightened me. I must reassure some of his schoolfellows. Little the man.” He took up his pen and did he seem to care for their regard, wrote back at once : and still less for their affection; but “I thank you for your advice, his indifference had only the effect which I take as kindly as it was of attracting both. Before he meant. But with regard to my left he found himself a kind of son's peculiarities, you must repope over a small set, who looked member that we live in a sceptical up to him as to the ne plus ultra of age, and our children must breathe boyish infallibility. At eighteen he its air. What can be the terrible came home, bearing as first-rate a consequences that threaten in this character, both in and out of school, instance I cannot imagine. Had as fond father's heart could de- they shown themselves in any sire.
vicious tendencies in the boy we The next day brought the father should have a right to be uneasy a cold shower-bath in the form of a about him. But what is poison to letter of advice from his son's tutor. certain characters may be meat to steady and harmless natures like society, matrimony, and the everhis. You say he has talents and lasting happiness that is underapplication besides, so I trust con- stood to ensue. fidently to him to make you smile But the young man's entry into some day over your gloomy fore this land of promise, the father, for bodings.”
one, was never to witness, dying They were soon forgotten. shortly before his son's college Young Ichabod passed on to the career was concluded. University, and went through his course with credit, if not distinction. There, as at school, he at
CHAPTER II. tracted round him a circle of ICHABOD was six - and - twenty, staunch friends. They were mostly clever, well spoken of, well conbis intellectual inferiors and his nected, and well off. Old people, opposites — young fellows who, poor people, obscure people, all seeing in him one unlike them envied and talked of him as a selves, “not passion's slave," made man. Bigwigs praised, thought highly of him on that mammas flattered, daughters account. He did not return the beamed upon this heir-presumptive compliment, and no wonder. How, of-what, was still an open quesin his heart of hearts, he despised sion, but a brilliant future of some their small talk, their little am- kind for him they agreed to take bitions, their little fads, their little for granted. loves and hates ! But then they From his successful college would listen and look up to him, career he had passed on to the and Ichabod liked to receive, study of the law. When called to though he hated to render, homage. the bar he established himself in
One virtue he had : a rare inde chambers in London, and became a pendence of character which might subject of conjecture, even of an fairly claim respect. It was not so airy bet or two among his own set much this, however, as a less at the Junior Highflyers' Club. reasonable attraction—the attrac- What was the special course his tion of strangeness—that drew legal energies were going to take ? most of them to his side.
“He will get into Parliament,” "A capital fellow,” said his said one ; a junior of juniors, he. friends, when defending him; “ Write for the papers, you “neither by force nor by flattery mean,” suggested a “highflyer" of could you make him move one a few years' experience. inch out of his way." His enemies “ Or for the stage, who knows ?” complained that he was equally said an amateur dramatist. deaf to all the generous emotions. “Marry and settle down," said But in what, after all, do the a member who was himself en
generous emotions” at the Uni- gaged. versity for the most part evince Some years passed, which Ichathemselves ? Fattening the trades bod spent in fulfilling all reasonmen, fleecing your family, calf-love, able expectations entertained of and idleness. “No great loss him. either," thought his parent, natu- He read, he wrote, he travelled, rally. “ If his habit of mind is still he talked, he fraternised with men over-serious for his age, that will and flirted with women. Of the soon brush off when once he gets whole duty of the man about town into practical life.”
he left nothing out. But his serMeaning some active profession, vice was only skin deep. For he