Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 131.djvu/412

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406

THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

gland. Walsingham attributed his retirement from the toils of state to the weight of sorrow with which his son's premature death overwhelmed him. More silently but profoundly must have mourned the multitude of aged, poor, and desolate whom Sidney's charity had befriended. The letters written by him at various times to and on behalf of such pensioners form a noble chapter in the history of his life. He died with an estate seriously encumbered, notwithstanding "his so great care to see all men satisfied."

His eulogists have been so numerous, and their functions so easy of performance, that it would be difficult to lay a wreath upon his tomb which should be distinguishable from any other. His character is not unique, like a monolithic obelisk, or a tazza hollowed out of a single gem, but rather resembles one of those mosaic altars found in Italian cathedrals, wherein each precious section of lapis-lazuli, porphyry, and serpentine, while retaining its distinctive beauty of grain and radiance of color, blends with all the rest into a harmony of glowing lustre. Such faults as he displayed carry with them their own excuse, as the inevitable sign of humanity, the natural excess of impulse in a generous spirit. To the student of history he affords a striking type of the luxuriant national energy which marked the Elizabethan epoch. The marvellous development of thought and action shown in every field of human enterprise, to an extent scarcely appreciable by us who witness the minutest division of labor, is fitly exemplified in the life of one who Was at once statesman, soldier, poet, and critic, and excelled in each career as though he had been trained for no other; who could unravel the mesh of European politics as though the Old World contained all that was worth living for; and then turn to discuss schemes of colonization and adventure as though the New World were the sole outlet for his genius and ambition. To the hero- worshipper his character possesses a no less distinct individuality, and of a type which Englishmen may boast with some justice to be eminently national. That indefinable yet most intelligible combination which seems the quintessence of classic refinement, feudal chivalry, and modern civilization, the concord of intellectual grace, moral purity, and emotional sensibility, which, partially expressed in the words generosity, urbanity, and courtesy, is comprehended alone in —

The grand old name of gentleman,

attained its ideal personation in Sir Philip Sidney.




THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.

CHAPTER X.

THE TEMPEST.

The play was begun, and the stage was the centre of light. Thither Malcolm's eyes were drawn the instant he entered. He was all but unaware of the multitude of faces about him, and his attention was at once fascinated by the lovely show revealed in soft radiance. But surely he had seen the vision before. One long moment its effect upon him was as real as if he had been actually deceived as to its nature: was it not the shore between Scaurnose and Portlossie, betwixt the Boar's Tail and the sea? and was not that the marquis, his father, in his dressing-gown, pacing to and fro upon the sands? He abandoned himself to illusion, yielded himself to the wonderful, and looked only for what would come next.

A lovely lady entered: to his excited fancy it was Florimel. A moment more, and she spoke: —

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.

Then first he understood that before him rose in wondrous realization the play of Shakespeare he knew best, the first he had ever read, "The Tempest" — hitherto a lovely phantom for the mind's eye, now embodied to the enraptured sense. During the whole of the first act he never thought either of Miranda or Florimel apart. At the same time, so taken was he with the princely carriage and utterance of Ferdinand that, though with a sigh, he consented he should have his sister.

The drop-scene had fallen for a minute or two before he began to look around him. A moment more and he had commenced a systematic search for his sister amongst the ladies in the boxes. But when at length he found her, he dared not fix his eyes upon her lest his gaze should make her look at him and she should recognize him. Alas! her eyes might have rested on him twenty times without his face once rousing in her mind the thought of the fisher-lad of Portlossie.