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An excerpt from the beginning of CHAPTER I:
IT is seldom that men begin to muse and sit alone in the twilight until they arrive at the age of fifty, for until that period the cares of the world and the education of their young children engross all their thoughts. Edgar Hastings, our hero, at thirty years of age was still unmarried, but he had gone through a vast deal of excitement, and the age of musing had been anticipated by twenty years. He was left an orphan at fourteen, with a large income, and the gentleman who had the management of his estates proved faithful, so that when a person of talents and character was wanted to travel with the young man, a liberal recompense was at hand to secure his services. From the age of fourteen to twenty-one he was therefore travelling over Europe; but his education, instead of receiving a check, went on much more advantageously than if he had remained at home, and he became master of all the modern languages in the very countries where they were spoken. The last twelve months of his seven years' tour was spent in England, being stationary in London only during the sitting of Parliament.
His talents thus cultivated, and his mind enlarged by liberal travel, he returned to America well worthy the friendship and attention of those who admire and appreciate a character of his stamp. He had not therefore been back more than a year, before his society was courted by some of the best men in the country; but previous to his settling himself into a home, he thought it but proper to travel through his own country also. His old friend, still at his elbow, accompanied him; but at the close of the excursion, which lasted nearly two years, he was taken ill of a fever caught from an exposure near the Lakes, and died after a few days' illness.
Edgar Hastings was now entirely alone in the world, and he would have fallen into a deep melancholy, had he not engaged in politics. This occupied him incessantly; and, as his purse was ample and his heart liberally disposed, he found the demands on his time gradually increasing. He had occupations heaped upon him – for rich, disengaged, and willing, every body demanded his aid; and such were the enthusiasm and generosity of his nature, that no one applied in vain.
His first intention, on returning from his tour through his own country, was to improve an estate he had purchased in Pennsylvania, promising himself an amiable and beautiful wife to share his happiness; but politics interfered, and left him no time even for the luxury of musing in the evening. But a man can get weary of politics as well as of any other hard up-hill work; so, at the end of seven years, seeing that the young trees which he had planted were giving shade, and that the house that they were to overshadow was not yet begun, he fell to musing. He wanted something, likewise, to love and protect – so he fell to musing about that. He wished to convert a brisk stream, that fell down the side of a hill opposite to the south end of his grounds, into a waterfall – so he fell to musing about that. He wanted to make an opening through a noble piece of woods that bounded the north side, that he might catch a view of the village steeple – so he fell to musing about that. A beautiful winding river lay in front of his estate, the bank of which sloped down to the water's edge; this tranquillizing scene likewise operated on his feelings, so that politics faded away, and his mind became calm and serene. Thus it was, that at thirty years of age he had these fits of abstraction, and he became a muser.
Men of his age – sensible men – are not so easily pleased as those who are younger. He admired graceful, easy manners, and a polished mind, far before beauty or wealth; and thus fastidious, he doubted whether he should marry at all. Every now and then, too, an old bachelor feeling came over him, and he feared that when his beloved twilight found him sitting under the noble porticos which he intended to build, his wife would drag him away to some far distant route in the city; or that she would, untimely, fill the house with visiters. So, with all the dispositions in the world, he lived alone, though every fit of musing ended by finding a wife at his side, gazing on the dim and fading landscape with him.
While his house was building, he occupied a small stone farm house, at the extremity of the estate. Here he brought his valuable books and prints, well secured from damp and insects by aromatic oils; here did he draw his plans during the day, and here, under a small piazza, did he meditate in the evening, transferring his musings to the little parlour as soon as the damp evenings of autumn compelled him to...