Chapter 10

In the wide pile, by others heeded not,
Hers was one sacred solitary spot,
Whose gloomy aisles and bending shelves contain
For moral hunger food, and cures for moral pain.


The library at Osbaldistone Hall was a gloomy room, whose antique oaken shelves bent beneath the weight of the ponderous folios so dear to the seventeenth century, from which, under favour be it spoken, we have distilled matter for our quartos and octavos, and which, once more subjected to the alembic, may, should our sons be yet more frivolous than ourselves, be still farther reduced into duodecimos and pamphlets. The collection was chiefly of the classics, as well foreign as ancient history, and, above all, divinity. It was in wretched order. The priests, who, in succession, had acted as chaplains at the Hall, were, for many years, the only persons who entered its precincts, until Rashleigh’s thirst for reading had led him to disturb the venerable spiders, who had muffled the fronts of the presses with their tapestry. His destination for the Church rendered his conduct less absurd in his father’s eyes, than if any of his other descendants had betrayed so strange a propensity, and Sir Hildebrand acquiesced in the library receiving some repairs, so as to fit it for a sitting-room. Still an air of dilapidation, as obvious as it was uncomfortable, pervaded the large apartment, and announced the neglect from which the knowledge which its walls contained had not been able to exempt it. The tattered tapestry, the worm-eaten shelves, the huge and clumsy, yet tottering, tables, desks, and chairs, the rusty grate, seldom gladdened by either sea-coal or fagots, intimated the contempt of the lords of Osbaldistone Hall for learning, and for the volumes which record its treasures.

“You think this place somewhat disconsolate, I suppose?” said Diana, as I glanced my eye round the forlorn apartment; “but to me it seems like a little paradise, for I call it my own, and fear no intrusion. Rashleigh was joint proprietor with me, while we were friends.”

“And are you no longer so?” was my natural question.

Her fore-finger immediately touched her dimpled chin, with an arch look of prohibition.

“We are still allies,” she continued, “bound, like other confederate powers, by circumstances of mutual interest; but I am afraid, as will happen in other cases, the treaty of alliance has survived the amicable dispositions in which it had its origin. At any rate, we live less together; and when he comes through that door there, I vanish through this door here; and so, having made the discovery that we two were one too many for this apartment, as large as it seems, Rashleigh, whose occasions frequently call him elsewhere, has generously made a cession of his rights in my favour; so that I now endeavour to prosecute alone the studies in which he used formerly to be my guide.”

“And what are those studies, if I may presume to ask?”

“Indeed you may, without the least fear of seeing my fore-finger raised to my chin. Science and history are my principal favourites; but I also study poetry and the classics.”

“And the classics? Do you read them in the original?”

“Unquestionably; Rashleigh, who is no contemptible scholar, taught me Greek and Latin, as well as most of the languages of modern Europe. I assure you, there has been some pains taken in my education, although I can neither sew a tucker, nor work cross-stitch, nor make a pudding, nor, as the vicar’s fat wife, with as much truth as elegance, goodwill, and politeness, was pleased to say in my behalf, do any other useful thing in the varsal world.”

“And was this selection of studies Rashleigh’s choice, or your own, Miss Vernon?” I asked.

“Um!” said she, as if hesitating to answer my question,—“it’s not worth while lifting my finger about, after all—why, partly his, and partly mine. As I learned out of doors to ride a horse, and bridle and saddle

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