University of Virginia Library


Page 040



Know you before whom, sir?


Ay, better than he I am before knows me. I know you are
my elder brother; and, in the gentle condition of blood, you should so know
me. The courtesy of nations allows you my better, in that you are the first
born; but the same tradition takes not away my blood were there twenty
brothers betwixt us. I have as much of my father in me as you; albeit, I
confess your coming before me is nearer to his reverence.


What, boy!


Come, come, elder brother, you are too young in this.


Wilt thou lay hands on me, villain?


I am no villain:—Wert thou not my brother I would not take
this hand from thy throat, till this other had pulled out thy tongue for saying

As You Like It.

The time approached which had been appointed
for our departure, and the increased beating of my
heart warned me of some trial scenes yet to be undergone.
I knew that I should have little difficulty
at parting with my father, and much less with my
more fortunate brother. The parting from my mother
was a different matter, as, knowing well the love
which she bore me, I was already prepared for
her sorrow, if not agony, when bidding me farewell.
Besides, resolving in my secret mind never
to return, I had a feeling of compunction for my
meditated hypocrisy, which added the annoyance of


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shame to my own sorrow on the occasion. I did
not think less of the final separation from Mary
Easterby, but my pride schooled my heart in reference
to her. I resolved that she should see me go
without a change of feature, without the quivering
of a single muscle. I resolved to see her. A more
prudent man would have gone away in silence and
in secrecy. He would have as resolutely avoided as
I sought the interview. But I was not a prudent
man. My feelings were too impetuous, my pride
too ostentatious to suffer me to hide it from exhibition.
To depart without seeking and seeing Mary
would be a tacit acknowledgment of weakness. It
would seem that I feared the interview, that I questioned
my own strength, to contend against an influence
which all around me suspected, but which it
was my pride not to acknowledge even to myself.

The day came preceding that on which I was to
depart; and the dinner was scarcely over, when,
ordering my horse, I set out to go to Squire Easterby's
plantation. The distance was seven miles, a
matter of no importance in a country, where, from
childhood, the people are used equally to fine horses,
and long distances. I rode slowly, however, for
I was meditating what I should say, and how I
should demean myself during the interview which
I sought. While I deliberated I discovered that I
had overtasked my strength. I felt that I loved too


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earnestly not to be somewhat, if not severely, tried.
Could it have been that at that late moment I could
have re-resolved, and without a depreciation of my self-esteem,
have turned back, I feel that I should have
done so. But my pride would not suffer this, and
I resolved to leave it to the same pride to sustain and
succour me throughout. To lose emotions which I
found it impossible to subdue, I increased the speed
of my horse; striking the rowel into his flanks, and
giving him free rein, I plunged into the solitary yet
crowded woods, over a road which I had often trodden,
and which was now filled at every step in my progress
with staring, obtrusive memories, which chattered
as I went in sweet, and bitter yet familiar tongues.

How often had I trodden the same region with
her, when I had no fears, and none but pleasant images
rose up before my contemplation! What harmonies
were my unspoken, my unchallenged hopes
on those occasions! What pictures of felicity rose
before the mind on every side! Not that I then
thought of love—not that I proposed to myself any
plan or purpose which regarded our union. No! It
was in the death of my hope that I was first taught
to know that it had ever lived. It was only in the
moment that I was taught that I loved in vain, that
my boy-heart discovered it had ever loved at all.
Memories were all that I had rescued from the wreck
of hope, and they were such as I had been most


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willing to have lost forever. It was but a sad consolation
to know how sweet had been those things
which I had once known, but which I was doomed
to know no longer.

Bitter were the thoughts which attended me as I
rode; yet in their very bitterness my soul gathered
its strength. The sweets of life enfeeble us. We
struggle among them as a greedy fly in the honey
which clogs its wings, and fetters it forever. The
grief of the heart is sometimes its best medicine, and
though it may not give us back the lost, it arms us
against loss, and blunts the sensibility which too
frequently finds its fate in its own acuteness. From
my bitter thoughts I gathered resolution. I remembered
the intimacy which had formerly prevailed
between us—how we had mutually confided to each
other, how I had entirely confided to her—how joint
were our sympathies, how impatient our desires to
be together—how clearly she must have seen the
feelings which I never spoke—how clearly had like
feelings in her been exhibited (so I now thought)
to me; and as I dwelt on these memories, I inly resolved
that she had trifled with me. She had won
me by her arts, till my secret was in her possession,
and then, either unmoved herself, or willing to sacrifice
her affections to a baser worship—she had given
herself to another whom she could not love, but


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whose wealth had been too great a temptation to her
woman eyes, for her feeble spirit to withstand.

That she was engaged to my brother, I never
doubted for an instant. It was as little the subject
of doubt among the whole neighbourhood. Indeed
it was the conviction of the neighbourhood, and the
old women thereof, which produced mine; and then,
the evidence seemed utterly conclusive. John Hurdis
spoke of Mary Easterby, as if the right were in
him to speak for her; and she—she never denied the
imputation. It is true I had never questioned her
on the subject, nor, indeed, do I know that she had
ever been questioned by others; but where was the
necessity to inquire when there was seemingly so little
occasion for doubt? The neighbourhood believed,
and it was no hard matter for one, so jealous and suspicious
as myself, to leap with even more readiness
to a like conclusion.

And yet, riding along that road, all my memories
spoke against so strange a faith. It was impossible
that she who had so freely confided to me the fancies
and the feelings of her childhood, to whom I had so
readily yielded mine, should have given herself up to
another, with whom no such communion had existed
—to whom no such sympathy had been ever shown.
We had sat or reclined under the same tree—we had
sought the same walks together—the same echoes
had caught the tones of our kindred voices, and chronicled,


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by their responses from the hill side and among
the groves, the sentiments of our unfettered hearts.
And how could she love another? Her hand had
rested in mine without a fear—my arm had encircled
her waist without a resistance on her part, or a meditated
wrong on mine. And had we not kissed each
other at meeting and parting, from childhood, and
through its pleasant limits, until—ay, almost until
the moment, when the right of another first led me
to know what dear privileges had been my own?
Wonder not at the bitterness of my present memories.

It was at the moment when they were bitterest,
that a sudden turn in the road revealed to me the
person of John Hurdis. I recoiled in my saddle,
and, under the involuntary impulse of my hands,
bore back my horse until he almost sank upon his
haunches. The movement of both could not have
been more prompt if we had beheld a vexed and
ready adder in our path. And had he not been the
adder in my path? Had he not, by his sly and
sneaking practices, infused his venom into the mind
of her upon whom my hope, which is the life of
life, utterly depended? Had he not struck at my
heart with a sting not less fearful, though more concealed,
than that of the adder; and if he had failed
to destroy, was it not rather because of the feebleness
of his fang, than either its purpose or its venom. If
he had not, then did I do him grievous wrong. I


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thought he had, and my soul recoiled, as I surveyed
him, with a hatred, which, had he been other than my
mother's son, would have prompted me to slay him.

I had rounded a little swamp that lay upon the
side of the road, and gave it the outline of a complete
elbow. John Hurdis was some fifty yards in
advance of me. I had not seen him at dinner, and
there was he now on his way to the dwelling of her
to whom I was about to pay my parting visit. The
thought that I should meet him with her, that he
might behold these emotions which it shamed me to
think I might not be altogether able to conceal, at
once brought about a change in my resolve. I determined
to give him no such chance of triumph;
and was about to turn the head of my horse and return
to my father, when he stopped short, wheeled
round and beckoned me to advance. My resolution
underwent a second change. That he should suppose
that I shrunk from an encounter with him of any
description, was, if possible, even more mortifying
than to expose the whole amount of my heart's weakness
to Mary Easterby before his eyes. I determined
to give him no such cause for exultation, and furiously
spurring forward, another instant brought me
beside him.

His face was complaisance itself, and his manner
was unpresuming enough; but there was something in
the slight smile which played about the corners of


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his mouth, and in the twinkle of his eye, which I
did not relish. It may have been that, in the morbid
state of my feelings, I saw through a false medium;
but I could not help the thought, that there was exultation
in his smile, and my jaundiced spirit put on
new forms of jealousy with this conviction. The
blood boiled within my veins, as I regarded him,
and thought thus; and I trembled like a dry leaf in
the gusts of November, while I suppressed, or
strove to suppress, the rebellious and unruly impulses
to which it prompted me. I struggled to
be calm. For my mother's sake, I resolved to say and
do nothing which should savour of violence at the
moment when I was about to part with her forever.

“I will bear it all—all. I will be patient,” I
said to my soul; “It is not long, it will soon be
over. Another day, and I will be free from the
chance of contact with the base, dishonest reptile.
Let him gain, let him triumph as he may. It may
be—the day may come! But no—I will not think
of such a thing; revenge is not for me. He is still,
though base, a brother. Let the eternal avenger
decree his punishment, and choose his fitting executioner.”

These thoughts, and this resolution of forbearance
were all over in the progress of an instant; and we
rode by the side of one another, as two belligerents
who had lately been warring to the very knife, but


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who, under the security of a temporary truce, look on
one another, and move together with a mixed air,
half of peace, half of war, and neither altogether
assured of the virtue which is assumed to exist in
their mutual pledges.

“Did I not see you turn your horse, Richard, as
if to go back?”

“You did,” was my reply; and my face flushed
as he thus compelled me to the acknowledgment.

“And wherefore?”

“Wherefore!” I paused when I had repeated
the word. It would have been too galling to have
spoken out the truth. I continued thus:

“I saw you proceeding in the same direction, and
cared not to be in the way. Your good fortune
is too well known, to require that you should have
fresh witnesses. Besides, my farewell—for it is only
to say farewell, that I go now—is no such important

“You are right, Richard. My good fortune
needs no witnesses, though it likes them. But why
should you think that you could be in the way?
What do you mean by that?”

“Mean! can you ask,” I replied, with something
of a sneer growing on my lips as I proceeded;
“when you know it is proverbial that young lovers,
who are apt to be more sentimental than sensible,
usually, need no third persons at their interviews?


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Indeed, for that matter, the third person likes it
quite as little as themselves.”

“Less, perhaps, Richard, if he himself has been
a loser at the game,” was the retort.

“Ay,” I rejoined bitterly; but if the game be
played foully, his dislike is quite as much the result
of his scorn, as of his disappointment. He is reconciled
to his loss, when he finds its worthlessness,
and he envies not the victor, whose treachery, rather
than his skill, has been the source of his greater

The lips of my brother grew positively livid, as
he opened them, as if in the act to speak. He
was prudent in forbearing, for he kept silent.

“Look you, John Hurdis,” I continued, turning
full upon him as I spoke, and putting my hand upon
his shoulder. He shrank from under it. His guilty
conscience had put a morbid nerve under every inch
of flesh in his system. I laughed aloud as I beheld him.

“Why do you shrink?” I demanded, now in
turn becoming the questioner.

“Shrink—I shrink—did I shrink?” He answered
me confusedly, scarcely conscious what he said.

“Ay—did you,” I responded with a glance intended
to go through him; “You shrank as if my
finger were fire—as if you feared that I meant to
harm you.”

His pride came to his relief. He plucked up


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strength to say, “You mistake, Richard. I did not
shrink, and if I did, it was not through fear of you
or any other man.”

My hand again rested on his shoulder, as I replied—my
eye searching through him all the while
with a keenness, beneath which, it was a pleasure
to me to behold him again shrink and falter.

“You may deceive yourself, John Hurdis, but
you cannot deceive me. You did shrink from my
touch, even as you shrink now beneath mine eye.
More than this, John Hurdis, you do fear me whatever
may be your ordinary courage in the presence
of other men. I see—I feel that you fear me; and I
am not less assured on the subject of your fears. You
would not fear were you not guilty—nor tremble
now while I speak were you less deserving of my
punishment. But you need not tremble. You
are secure, John Hurdis. That which you have in
your bosom of my blood is your protection for the
greater quantity which you have that is not mine,
and with which my soul scorns all communion.”

His face grew black as he gazed upon me. The
foam flecked his blanched lips even as it gathers
upon the bit of the driven and infuriated horse.
His frame quivered—his tongue muttered inaudible
sounds, and he gazed on me, labouring but in vain
to speak. I laughed as I beheld his feeble fury—I


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laughed in the abundance of my scorn, and he then

“Boy!” he cried—“boy,—but for your mother,
I should lay this whip over your shoulders.”

He shook it before me as he spoke, and I grappled
with him on the second instant. With a sudden
grasp, and an effort, to oppose which, he had neither
strength of soul nor of body, I dragged him from
his horse. Straining feebly and ineffectually to resist
his coward tendency, he, at length, after a few
struggles, fell heavily upon the ground and almost
under the feet of my animal. His own horse passed
away, and at the same moment, I leaped down from
mine. My blood was in a dreadful tumult—my
fingers twitched nervously to grapple with him again,
but ere I could do so, a sound—a scream—the sudden
and repeated shrieks of a woman's voice, arrested
me in my angry purpose, and I stood rooted to the
spot. Too well I knew that voice, and the tremor
of rage which an instant before had shaken me to
the centre was now succeeded by a tremor far more
powerful. Unlike the former it was enfeebling,
palsying—it took from me the wolfish strength with
which the former seemed to have endued me. The
voice of a girl had given me the weakness of a girl,
and like a culprit I stood, as if fixed and frozen, until
my brother had arisen from the ground where I had
thrown him, and Mary Easterby stood between us.