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The Man-at-Arms

Henry de Cerons

308 pages
Library of Alexandria
It is difficult to discover what are the exact sources from which spring the thrilling feelings of joy and satisfaction with which we look back to the days of our early youth, and to the scenes in which our infancy was passed. It matters not, or at least very little, what are the pleasures to which we have addicted ourselves in after years, what are the delights that surround us, what are the enjoyments which Heaven has cast upon our lot. Whenever the mind, either as a voluntary act or from accidental associations, recalls, by the art of memory, the period of childhood, and the things which surrounded it, there comes over us a general gladdening sensation of pure and simple joys which we never taste again at any time of life. It must be, at least in part, that the delights of those days were framed in innocence and ignorance of evil, and that he who declared that of such as little children consisted the kingdom of heaven, has allotted to the babes of this world, in the brightness of their innocence, joys similar to those of the world beyond-joys that never cloy, and that leave no regret. What though some mortal tears will mix with those delights; what though the flesh must suffer, and the evil one will tempt; yet the allotted pleasures have a zest which not even novelty alone can give, and an imperishable purity in their nature which makes their remembrance sweeter than the fruition of other joys, and speaks their origin from heaven. I love to dwell upon such memories, and to find likenesses for them in the course, the aspect, and the productions of the earth itself. I see the same sweetness and the same simplicity pervading the youth of all nature; and find in the sweet violet, the blue-eyed child of spring, an image of those early joys, pure, soft, and calm, and full of an odour that lasts upon the sense more than that of any other flower. Thus it is, I suppose, and for these causes, that, in looking back upon the days of my youth, though those days were not as happy and as bright as they are to many people, I feel a sweet satisfaction which I knew not at the actual time; for those hours-as one who gives a diamond to a child-bestowed upon me a gift the value of which I knew not till many a year had passed away. My first recollections refer to the period when I was about seven or eight years old, and to a sweet spot in the far south of France called Blancford, not far from the great city of Bordeaux. The chateau in which I dwelt had belonged for ages to my ancestors, and the little room in one of the turrets which was assigned to me, looked towards the setting sun over manifold beautiful green slopes and wooded banks, with now and then a broken, cliffy bit of yellow ground, that harmonized beautifully and richly with the warm tints of the spring and the autumn, and broke not less pleasantly the thick green of the mid year. Upon those banks, and trees, and slopes, the sunshine seemed to dwell with peculiar fondness; and thither came the bright and smiling showers of spring, and the rich, vision-like lights and shades of autumn. Gay hawking parties, and many a splendid cavalcade from the rich and important town in the neighbourhood, diversified the scenery during the bright part of the year, and towards the winter-time the beasts of the forest and the field used to resume their dwelling in the neighbouring woods, and afford sport and diversion to the inhabitants of the castle.