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My Repair Skill Became An Almighty Cheat Skill ...

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Being yet in his long Coats, (which heretofore were usually worn beyond the years of Infancy,) he was sent to Eaton School; where his pregnancy having been advantag'd by the more then paternal care and industry of his Father (who was an exact Critick in the learned Languages, especially the Greek) became the observation of those that knew him: for in that tenderness of age he was not only a Proficient in Greek and Latine, but had also some knowledge in the Elements of Hebrew: in the later of which Tongues, it being then rarely heard of even out of Grammar Schools, he grew the Tutor of those who begun [Page 4] to write themselves men, but thought it no shame to learn of one whose knowledge seem'd rather infus'd then acquir'd; or in whom the learned Languages might be thought to be the Mother-Tongue. His skill in Greek was particularly advantag'd by the conversation and kindness of Mr Allen, one of the Fellows of the College, excellently seen in that Language, and a great assistant of Sr Henry Savile in his magnificent edition of St Chrysostome.

In this valley all was rectitude and guileless truth. The hoarse din of war had never reached its happy bosom; its river had never been impurpled with the stain of human blood. Its willows had not wept over the crimes of its inhabitants, nor had the iron hand of tyranny taught care and apprehension to seat themselves upon the brow of its shepherds. They were strangers to riches, and to ambition, for they all lived in a happy equality. He was the richest man among them, that could boast of the greatest store of yellow apples and mellow pears. And their only objects of rivalship were the skill of the pipe and the favour of beauty. From morn to eve they tended their fleecy possessions. Their reward was the blazing hearth, the nut-brown beer, and the merry tale. But as they sought only the enjoyment of a humble station, and the pleasures of society, their labours were often relaxed. Often did the setting sun see the young men and the maidens of contiguous villages, assembled round the venerable oak, or the wide-spreading beech. The bells rung in the upland hamlets; the rebecs sounded with rude harmony; they danced with twinkling feet upon the level green or listened to the voice of the song, which was now gay and exhilarating, and now soothed them into pleasing melancholy.

Of all the sons of the plain, the bravest, and the most comely, was Edwin. His forehead was open and ingenuous, his hair was auburn, and flowed about his shoulders in wavy ringlets. His person was not less athletic than it was beautiful. With a firm hand he grasped the boar-spear, and in pursuit he outstripped the flying fawn. His voice was strong and melodious, and whether upon the pipe or in the song, there was no shepherd daring enough to enter the lists with Edwin. But though he excelled all his competitors, in strength of body, and the accomplishments of skill, yet was not his mind rough and boisterous. Success had not taught him a despotic and untractable temper, applause had not made him insolent and vain. He was gentle as the dove. He listened with eager docility to the voice of hoary wisdom. He had always a tear ready to drop over the simple narrative of pastoral distress. Victor as he continually was in wrestling, in the race, and in the song, the shout of triumph never escaped his lips, the exultation of insult he was never heard to utter. On the contrary, with mild and unfictitious friendship, he soothed the breast of disappointment, and cheered the spirits of his adversary with honest praise.

But as he grew to manly stature, and the down of years had begun to clothe his blushing cheek, he felt a new sensation in his breast hitherto unexperienced. He could not now behold his favourite companion without emotion; his eye sparkled when he approached her; he watched her gestures; he hung upon her accents; he was interested in all her motions. Sometimes he would catch the eye of prudent age or of sharp-sighted rivalry observing him, and he instantly became embarrassed and confused, and blushed he knew not why. He repaired to the neighbouring wake, in order to exchange his young lambs and his hoard of cheeses. Imogen was not there, and in the midst of traffic, and in the midst of frolic merriment he was conscious to a vacancy and a listlessness for which he could not account. When he tended his flocks, and played upon his slender pipe, he would sink in reverie, and form to himself a thousand schemes of imaginary happiness. Erewhile they had been vague and general. His spirit was too gentle for him not to represent to himself a fancied associate; his heart was not narrow enough to know so much as the meaning of a solitary happiness. But Imogen now formed the principal figure in these waking dreams. It was Imogen with whom he wandered beside the brawling rill. It was Imogen with whom he sat beneath the straw-built shed, and listened to the pealing rain, and the hollow roaring of the northern blast. If a moment of forlornness and despair fell to his lot, he wandered upon the heath without his Imogen, and he climbed the upright precipice without her harmonious voice to cheer and to animate him. In a word, passion had taken up her abode in his guileless heart before he was aware of her approach. Imogen was fair; and the eye of Edwin was enchanted. Imogen was gentle; and Edwin loved.

The repast being finished, the company now engaged in those less active sports, that exercise the subtility of the wit, more than the agility or strength of the body. Their untutored minds delighted themselves in the sly enigma, and the quaint conundrum. Much was their laughter at the wild guesses of the thoughtless and the giddy; and great the triumph of the swain who penetrated the mystery, and successfully removed the abstruseness of the problem. Many were the feats of skill exhibited by the dextrous shepherd, and infinite were the wonder and admiration of the gazing spectators. The whole scene indeed was calculated to display the triumph of stratagem and invention. A thousand deceits were practised upon the simple and unsuspecting, and while he looked round to discover the object of the general mirth, it was increased into bursts of merriment, and convulsive gaiety. At length they rose from the verdant green, and chased each other in mock pursuit. Many flew towards the adjoining grove; the pursued concealed himself behind the dark and impervious thicket, or the broad trunk of the oak, while the pursuers ran this way and that, and cast their wary eyes on every side. Carefully they explored the bushes, and surveyed each clump of tufted trees. And now the neighbouring echoes repeated the universal shout, and proclaimed to the plain below, that the object of their search was found. Fatigue however, in spite of the gaiety of spirit with which their sports were pursued, began to assert his empire, and they longed for that tranquility and repose which were destined to succeed.

While they yet spoke, a bard, who sat upon the right hand of the prince, prepared to sweep the string. He was in the prime of manhood. His shining locks flowed in rich abundance upon his strong and graceful shoulders. His eye expressed more of flame than gaiety, more of enthusiasm than imagination. His brow, though manly, and, as it should seem, by nature erect, bore an appearance of solemn and contemplative. He had ever been distinguished by an attachment to solitude, and a love for those grand and tremendous objects of uncultivated nature with which his country abounded. His were the hanging precipice, and the foaming cataract. His ear drank in the voice of the tempest; he was rapt in attention to the roaring thunder. When the contention of the elements seemed to threaten the destruction of the universe, when Snowdon bowed to its deepest base, it was then that his mind was most filled with sublime meditation. His lofty soul soared above the little war of terrestrial objects, and rode expanded upon the wings of the winds. Yet was the bard full of gentleness and sensibility; no breast was more susceptible to the emotions of pity, no tongue was better skilled in the soft and passionate touches of the melting and pathetic. He possessed a key to unlock all the avenues of the heart.

He ceased. And his pathetic strain had awakened the sympathy of the universal throng. Every shepherd hung his mournful head, when the untimely fate of Arthur was related; every maiden dropped a generous tear over the sorrows of Evelina. They listened to the song, and forgot the poet. Their souls were rapt with alternate passions, and they perceived not the matchless skill by which they were excited. The lofty bard hurried them along with the rapidity of his conceptions, and left them no time for hesitation, and left them no time for reflection. He ceased, and the melodious sounds still hung upon their ear, and they still sat in the posture of eager attention. At length they recollected themselves; and it was no longer the low and increasing murmur of applause: it was the exclamation of rapture; it was the unpremeditated shout of astonishment.

A sound now invaded his ear, from the shapeless rocks behind him. They repeated it with all their echoes. It was hollow as the raging wind; and yet it was not the raging wind. It was loud as the roaring thunder; and yet it was not the voice of thunder. But he did not remain long in suspense, from whence the voice proceeded. A wolf, whom hunger had made superior to fear, leaped from the rock, upon the plain below. Edwin turned his eyes upon the horrid monster; he grasped his boarspear in his hand. The unconscious Imogen glided from his arms, and he advanced before her. He met the savage in his fury, and plunged his weapon in his side. He overturned the monster; he drew forth his lance reeking with his blood; his enemy lay convulsed in the agonies of death. But ere he could return, he heard the sound of a car rattling along the plain. The reins were of silk, and the chariot shone with burnished gold. Upon the top of it sat a man, tall, lusty, and youthful. His hair flowed about his shoulders, his eyes sparkled with untamed fierceness, and his brow was marked with the haughty insolence of pride. It was Roderic, lord of a hundred hills; but Edwin knew him not. The goblin descended from its eminence, and directed the course of Roderic. In a moment, he seized the breathless and insensible Imogen, and lifted her to his car. Edwin beheld the scene with grief and astonishment; his senses were in a manner overwhelmed with so many successive prodigies. But he did not long remain inactive; grief and astonishment soon gave way to revenge. He took his javelin, still red with the blood of the mountain wolf, and whirled it from his hand. Edwin was skilled to toss the dart; from his hand it flew unerring to its aim. Forceful it sung along the air; but the goblin advanced with hasty steps among the clouds. It touched it with its hand, and it fell harmless and pointless to the ground. During this action the car of Roderic disappeared. The goblin immediately vanished; and Edwin was left in solitude. 59ce067264


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