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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 5
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The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 5 Post by :Joshua_Rose Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2627

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The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 5


"Brother," said Mr. Caxton, "will walk with you to the Roman encampment."

The Captain felt that this proposal was meant as the greatest peace-offering my father could think of; for, first, it was a very long walk, and my father detested long walks; secondly, it was the sacrifice of a whole day's labor at the Great Work. And yet, with that quick sensibility which only the generous possess, Uncle Roland accepted at once the proposal. If he had not done so, my father would have had a heavier heart for a month to come. And how could the Great Work have got on while the author was every now and then disturbed by a twinge of remorse?

Half an hour after breakfast, the brothers set off arm-inarm; and I followed, a little apart, admiring how sturdily the old soldier got over the ground, in spite of the cork leg. It was pleasant enough to listen to their conversation, and notice the contrasts between these two eccentric stamps from Dame Nature's ever-variable mould,--Nature, who casts nothing in stereotype; for I do believe that not even two fleas can be found identically the same.

My father was not a quick or minute observer of rural beauties. He had so little of the organ of locality that I suspect he could have lost his way in his own garden. But the Captain was exquisitely alive to external impressions,--not a feature in the landscape escaped him. At every fantastic gnarled pollard he halted to gaze; his eye followed the lark soaring up from his feet; when a fresher air came from the hill-top his nostrils dilated, as if voluptuously to inhale its delight. My father, with all his learning, and though his study had been in the stores of all language, was very rarely eloquent. The Captain had a glow and a passion in his words which, what with his deep, tremulous voice and animated gestures, gave something poetic to half of what he uttered. In every sentence of Roland's, in every tone of his voice and every play of his face, there was some outbreak of pride; but unless you set him on his hobby of that great ancestor the printer, my father had not as much pride as a homeopathist could have put into a globule. He was not proud even of not being proud. Chafe all his feathers, and still you could rouse but the dove. My father was slow and mild, my uncle quick and fiery; my father reasoned, my uncle imagined; my father was very seldom wrong, my uncle never quite in the right; but, as my father once said of him, "Roland beats about the bush till he sends out the very bird that we went to search for. He is never in the wrong without suggesting to us what is the right." All in my uncle was stern, rough, and angular; all in my father was sweet, polished, and rounded into a natural grace. My uncle's character cast out a multiplicity of shadows, like a Gothic pile in a northern sky. My father stood serene in the light, like a Greek temple at mid-day in a southern clime. Their persons corresponded with their natures. My uncle's high, aquiline features, bronzed hue, rapid fire of eye, and upper lip that always quivered, were a notable contrast to my father's delicate profile, quiet, abstracted gaze, and the steady sweetness that rested on his musing smile. Roland's forehead was singularly high, and rose to a peak in the summit where phrenologists place the organ of veneration; but it was narrow, and deeply furrowed. Augustine's might be as high, but then soft, silky hair waved carelessly over it, concealing its height, but not its vast breadth, on which not a wrinkle was visible. And yet, withal, there was a great family likeness between the two brothers. When some softer sentiment subdued him, Roland caught the very look of Augustine; when some high emotion animated my father, you might have taken him for Roland. I have often thought since, in the greater experience of mankind which life has afforded me, that if, in early years, their destinies had been exchanged,--if Roland had taken to literature, and my father had been forced into action,--each would have had greater worldly success. For Roland's passion and energy would have given immediate and forcible effect to study; he might have been a historian or a poet. It is not study alone that produces a writer, it is intensity. In the mind, as in yonder chimney, to make the fire burn hot and quick, you must narrow the draught. Whereas, had my father been forced into the practical world, his calm depth of comprehension, his clearness of reason, his general accuracy in such notions as he once entertained and pondered over, joined to a temper that crosses and losses could never ruffle, and utter freedom from vanity and self-love, from prejudice and passion, might have made him a very wise and enlightened counsellor in the great affairs of life,--a lawyer, a diplomatist, a statesman, for what I know, even a great general, if his tender humanity had not stood in the way of his military mathematics.

But as it was,--with his slow pulse never stimulated by action, and too little stirred by even scholarly ambition,--my father's mind went on widening and widening till the circle was lost in the great ocean of contemplation; and Roland's passionate energy, fretted into fever by every let and hindrance in the struggle with his kind, and narrowed more and more as it was curbed within the channels of active discipline and duty, missed its due career altogether, and what might have been the poet, contracted into the humorist.

Yet who that had ever known ye, could have wished you other than ye were, ye guileless, affectionate, honest, simple creatures?--simple both, in spite of all the learning of the one, all the prejudices, whims, irritabilities, and crotchets of the other. There you are, seated on the height of the old Roman camp, with a volume of the Stratagems of Polyaenus (or is it Frontinus?) open on my father's lap; the sheep grazing in the furrows of the circumvallations; the curious steer gazing at you where it halts in the space whence the Roman cohorts glittered forth; and your boy-biographer standing behind you with folded arms, and--as the scholar read, or the soldier pointed his cane to each fancied post in the war--filling up the pastoral landscape with the eagles of Agricola and the scythed cars of Boadicea!

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The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 6 The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 6

The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 6
PART III CHAPTER VI"It is never the same two hours together in this country," said my Uncle Roland, as, after dinner, or rather after dessert, we joined my mother in the drawing-room. Indeed, a cold, drizzling rain had come on within the last two hours, and though it was July, it was as chilly as if it had been October. My mother whispered to me, and I went out; in ten minutes more, the logs (for we live in a wooded country) blazed merrily in the grate. Why could not my mother have rung the bell and ordered the servant to

The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 1 The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 1

The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 3 - Chapter 1
PART III CHAPTER IIt was a beautiful summer afternoon when the coach set me down at my father's gate. Mrs. Primmins herself ran out to welcome me; and I had scarcely escaped from the warm clasp of her friendly hand before I was in the arms of my mother. As soon as that tenderest of parents was convinced that I was not famished, seeing that I had dined two hours ago at Dr. Herman's, she led me gently across the garden towards the arbor. "You will find your father so cheerful," said she, wiping away a tear. "His brother is with