The Project Gutenberg EBook of Tales from Blackwood, by Various

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Title: Tales from Blackwood
       Volume 4

Author: Various

Release Date: March 3, 2011 [EBook #35464]

Language: English

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Contents of this Volume

How I Stood for the Dreepdaily Burghs. By Professor

First and Last. By William Mudford

The Duke’s Dilemma.—A Chronicle of Niesenstein

The Old Gentleman’s Teetotum.

“Woe to us when we lose the Watery Wall.”

My College Friends.—Charles Russell, the

The Magic Lay of the One-Horse Chay. By the
late John Hughes, A.M.



[Pg 1]




[MAGA. September 1847.]


My dear Dunshunner,” said my friend Robert M’Corkindale as he entered my apartments one fine morning in June last, “do you happen to have seen the share-list? Things are looking in Liverpool as black as thunder. The bullion is all going out of the country, and the banks are refusing to discount.”

Bob M’Corkindale might very safely have kept his information to himself. I was, to say the truth, most painfully aware of the facts which he unfeelingly obtruded upon my notice. Six weeks before, in the full confidence that the panic was subsiding, [Pg 2]I had recklessly invested my whole capital in the shares of a certain railway company, which for the present shall be nameless; and each successive circular from my broker conveyed the doleful intelligence that the stock was going down to Erebus. Under these circumstances I certainly felt very far from being comfortable. I could not sell out except at a ruinous loss; and I could not well afford to hold on for any length of time, unless there was a reasonable prospect of a speedy amendment of the market. Let me confess it—I had of late come out rather too strong. When a man has made money easily, he is somewhat prone to launch into expense, and to presume too largely upon his credit. I had been idiot enough to make my debut in the sporting world—had started a couple of horses upon the verdant turf of Paisley—and, as a matter of course, was remorselessly sold by my advisers. These and some other minor amusements had preyed deleteriously upon my purse. In fact, I had not the ready; and as every tradesman throughout Glasgow was quaking in his shoes at the panic, and inconveniently eager to realise, I began to feel the reverse of comfortable, and was shy of showing myself in Buchanan Street. Several documents of a suspicious appearance—owing to the beastly practice of wafering, which is still adhered to by a certain class of correspondents—were lying upon my table at the moment when [Pg 3]Bob entered. I could see that the villain comprehended their nature at a glance; but there was no use in attempting to mystify him. The Political Economist was, as I was well aware, in very much the same predicament as myself.

“To tell you the truth, M’Corkindale, I have not opened a share-list for a week. The faces of some of our friends are quite long enough to serve as a tolerable exponent of the market; and I saw Grabbie pass about five minutes ago with a yard of misery in his visage. But what’s the news?”

“Everything that is bad! Total stoppage expected in a week, and the mills already put upon short time.”

“You don’t say so!”

“It is a fact. Dunshunner, this infernal tampering with the currency will be the ruin of every mother’s son of us!”—and here Bob, in a fit of indignant enthusiasm, commenced a vivid harangue upon the principles of contraction and expansion, bullion, the metallic standard, and the Bank reserves, which no doubt was extremely sound, but which I shall not recapitulate to the reader.

“That’s all very well, Bob,” said I—“very good in theory, but we should confine ourselves at present to practice. The main question seems to me to be this: How are we to get out of our present fix? I presume you are not at present afflicted with a remarkable plethora of cash?”

[Pg 4]

“Every farthing I have in the world is locked up in a falling line.”

“Any debts?”

“Not many; but quite enough to make me meditate a temporary retirement to Boulogne!”

“I believe you are better off than I am. I not only owe money, but am terribly bothered about some bills.”

“That’s awkward. Would it not be advisable to bolt?”

“I don’t think so. You used to tell me, Bob, that credit was the next best thing to capital. Now, I don’t despair of redeeming my capital yet, if I can only keep up my credit.”

“Right, undoubtedly, as you generally are. Do you know, Dunshunner, you deserve credit for your notions on political economy. But how is that to be done? Everybody is realising; the banks won’t discount; and when your bills become due, they will be, to a dead certainty, protested.”

“Well—and what then?”

Squalor carceris, et cetera.”

“Hum—an unpleasant alternative, certainly. Come, Bob! put your wits to work. You used to be a capital hand for devices, and there must be some way or other of steering clear. Time is all we want.”

“Ay, to be sure—time is the great thing. It would be very unpleasant to look out on the world through a grating during the summer months!”

“I perspire at the bare idea!”

[Pg 5]

“Not a soul in town—all your friends away in the Highlands boating, or fishing, or shooting grouse—and you pent up in a stifling apartment of eight feet square, with nobody to talk to save the turnkey, and no prospect from the window except a deserted gooseberry stall!”

“O Bob, don’t talk in that way! You make me perfectly miserable.”

“And all this for a ministerial currency crotchet? ’Pon my soul, it’s too bad! I wish those fellows in Parliament——”

“Well? Go on.”

“By Jove! I’ve an idea at last!”

“You don’t say so! My dear Bob—out with it!”

“Dunshunner, are you a man of pluck?”

“I should think I am.”

“And ready to go the whole hog, if required?”

“The entire animal.”

“Then I’ll tell you what it is—the elections will be on immediately—and, by St Andrew, we’ll put you up for Parliament!”


“You. Why not? There are hundreds of men there quite as hard up, and not half so clever as yourself.”

“And what good would that do me?”

“Don’t you see? You need not care a farthing about your debts then, for the personal liberty of a member of the House of Commons is sacred. You can fire away right and left at the currency; and [Pg 6]who knows, if you play your cards well, but you may get a comfortable place?”

“Well, you are a genius, Bob! But then, what sort of principles should I profess?”

“That is a matter which requires consideration. What are your own feelings on the subject?”

“Perfect indifference. I am pledged to no party, and am free to exercise my independent judgment.”

“Of course, of course! We shall take care to stick all that into the address; but you must positively come forward with some kind of tangible political views. The currency will do for one point, but as to the others I see a difficulty.”

“Suppose I were to start as a Peelite?”

“Something may be said in favour of that view; but, on the whole, I should rather say not. That party may not look up for some little time, and then the currency is a stumbling block in the way. No, Dunshunner, I do not think, upon my honour, that it would be wise for you to commit yourself in that quarter at the present moment.”

“If it were possible, I should like to join the Conservatives. They must come uppermost soon, for they are men of pluck and ability. What do you say to that? It is an advantage to act with gentlemen.”

“True; but at the same time, I see many objections. In a year or two these may disappear; but the press is at present against them, and I [Pg 7]should like you to start with popularity on your side.”

“Radical, then? What do you think of Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage, Vote by Ballot, and separation of Church and State?”

“I am clear against that. These views are not popular with the electors, and even the mob would entertain a strong suspicion that you were humbugging them.”

“What, then, on earth, am I to do?”

“I will tell you. Come out as a pure and transparent Whig. In the present position of parties, it is at least a safe course to pursue, and it is always the readiest step to the possession of the loaves and the fishes.”

“Bob, I don’t like the Whigs!”

“No more do I. They are a bad lot; but they are in, and that is everything. Yes, Augustus,” continued Bob solemnly, “there is nothing else for it. You must start as a pure Whig, upon the Revolution principles of sixteen hundred and eighty-eight.”

“It would be a great relief to my mind, Bob, if you would tell me what those principles really are?”

“I have not the remotest idea; but we have plenty time to look them up.”

“Then, I suppose I must swallow the Dutchman and the Massacre of Glencoe?”

“Yes, and the Darien business into the bargain. [Pg 8]These are the principles of your party, and of course you are bound to subscribe.”

“Well! you know best; but I’d rather do anything else.”

“Pooh! never fear; you and Whiggery will agree remarkably well. That matter, then, we may consider as settled. The next point to be thought of is the constituency.”

“Ay, to be sure! what place am I to start for? I have got no interest, and if I had any, there are no nomination burghs in Scotland.”

“Aren’t there? That’s all you know, my fine fellow! Hark ye, Dunshunner, more than half of the Scottish burghs are at this moment held by nominees!”

“You amaze me, Bob! The thing is impossible! The Reform Bill, that great charter of our liberties——”

“Bravo! There spoke the Whig! The Reform Bill, you think, put an end to nomination? It did nothing of the kind; it merely transferred it. Did you ever hear of such things as Cliques?”

“I have. But they are tremendously unpopular.”

“Nevertheless, they hold the returning power. There is a Clique in almost every town throughout Scotland, which leads the electors as quietly, but as surely, as the blind man is conducted by his dog. These are modelled on the true Venetian principles of secresy and terrorism. They control the whole [Pg 9]constituency, put in the member, and in return monopolise the whole patronage of the place. If you have the Clique with you, you are almost sure of your election; if not, except in the larger towns, you have not a shadow of success. Now, what I want to impress upon you is this, that wherever you go, be sure that you communicate with the Clique.”

“But how am I to find it out?”

“That is not always an easy matter, for nobody will acknowledge that he belongs to it. However, the thing is not impossible, and we shall certainly make the experiment. Come, then, I suppose you agree with me, that it is hopeless to attempt the larger towns?”

“Clearly: so far as I see, they are all provided already with candidates.”

“And you may add, Cliques, Dunshunner. Well, then, let us search among the smaller places. What would you think of a dash at the Stirling District of Burghs?”

“Why, there are at least half-a-dozen candidates in the field.”

“True, that would naturally lessen your chance. Depend upon it, some one of them has already found the key to the Clique. But there’s the Dreepdaily District with nobody standing for it, except the Honourable Paul Pozzlethwaite; and I question whether he knows himself the nature or the texture of his politics. Really, Dunshunner, that’s the very [Pg 10]place for you; and if we look sharp after it, I bet the long odds that you will carry it in a canter.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do indeed; and the sooner you start the better. Let me see. I know Provost Binkie of Dreepdaily. He is a Railway bird, was an original Glenmutchkin shareholder, and fortunately sold out at a premium. He is a capital man to begin with, and I think will be favourable to you: besides, Dreepdaily is an old Whig burgh. I am not so sure of Kittleweem. It is a shade more respectable than Dreepdaily, and has always been rather Conservative. The third burgh, Drouthielaw, is a nest of Radicalism; but I think it may be won over, if we open the public-houses.”

“But, about expenses, Bob—won’t it be a serious matter?”

“Why, you must lay your account with spending some five or six hundred pounds upon the nail; and I advise you to sell stock to that amount at least. The remainder, should it cost you more, can stand over.”

“Bob, five or six hundred pounds is a very serious sum!”

“Granted—but then look at the honour and the immunity you will enjoy. Recollect that yours is an awkward predicament. If you don’t get into Parliament, I see nothing for it but a stoppage.”

[Pg 11]

“That’s true enough. Well—hang it, then, I will start!”

“There’s a brave fellow! I should not in the least wonder to see you in the Cabinet yet. The sooner you set about preparing your address the better.”

“What! without seeing Provost Binkie?”

“To be sure. What is the use of wading when you can plunge at once into deep water? Besides, let me tell you that you are a great deal more likely to get credit when it is understood that you are an actual candidate.”

“There is something in that too. But I say, Bob—you really must help me with the address. I am a bad hand at these things, and shall never be able to tickle up the electors without your assistance.”

“I’ll do all I can. Just ring for a little brandy and water, and we’ll set to work. I make no doubt that, between us, we can polish off a plausible placard.”

Two hours afterwards, I forwarded, through the post-office, a missive, addressed to the editor of the Dreepdaily Patriot, with the following document enclosed. I am rather proud of it, as a manifesto of my political principles:—

[Pg 12]


Gentlemen,—I am induced, by a requisition, to which are appended the signatures of a large majority of your influential and patriotic body, to offer myself as a candidate for the high honour of your representation in the ensuing session of Parliament. Had I consulted my own inclination, I should have preferred the leisure of retirement and the pursuit of those studies so congenial to my taste, to the more stormy and agitating arena of politics. But a deep sense of public duty compels me to respond to your call.

“My views upon most subjects are so well known to many of you, that a lengthened explanation of them would probably be superfluous. Still, however, it may be right and proper for me to explain generally what they are.

“My principles are based upon the great and glorious Revolution settlement of 1688, which, by abolishing, or at least superseding, hereditary right, intrusted the guardianship of the Crown to an enlightened oligarchy, for the protection of an unparticipating people. That oligarchy is now most ably represented by her Majesty’s present Ministers, to whom, unhesitatingly and uncompromisingly, except [Pg 13]upon a very few matters, I give in my adhesion so long as they shall continue in office.

“Opposed to faction and an enemy to misrule, I am yet friendly to many changes of a sweeping and organic character. Without relaxing the ties which at present bind together Church and State in harmonious coalition and union, I would gradually confiscate the revenues of the one for the increasing necessities of the other. I never would become a party to an attack upon the House of Peers, so long as it remains subservient to the will of the Commons; nor would I alter or extend the franchise, except from cause shown, and the declared and universal wish of the non-electors.

“I highly approve of the policy which has been pursued towards Ireland, and of further concessions to a deep-rooted system of agitation. I approve of increased endowments to that much-neglected country; and I applaud that generosity which relieves it from all participation in the common burdens of the State. Such a line of policy cannot fail to elevate the moral tone, and to develop the internal resources of Ireland; and I never wish to see the day when the Scotsman and the Irishman may, in so far as taxation is concerned, be placed upon an equal footing. It appears to me a highly equitable adjustment that the savings of the first should be appropriated for the wants of the second.

“I am in favour of the centralising system, [Pg 14]which, by drafting away the wealth and talent of the provinces, must augment the importance of London. I am strongly opposed to the maintenance of any local or Scottish institutions, which can merely serve to foster a spirit of decayed nationality; and I am of opinion that all boards and offices should be transferred to England, with the exception of those connected with the Dreepdaily district, which it is the bounden duty of the legislature to protect and preserve.

“I am a friend to the spread of education, but hostile to any system by means of which religion, especially Protestantism, may be taught.

“I am a supporter of free trade in all its branches. I cannot see any reason for the protection of native industry, and am ready to support any fundamental measure by means of which articles of foreign manufacture may be brought to compete in the home market with our own, without restriction and without reciprocity. It has always appeared to me that our imports are of far greater importance than our exports. I think that any lowering of price which may be the result of such a commercial policy, will be more than adequately compensated by a coercive measure which shall compel the artisan to augment the period of his labour. I am against any short hours’ bill, and am of opinion that infant labour should be stringently and universally enforced.

[Pg 15]“With regard to the currency, I feel that I may safely leave that matter in the hands of her Majesty’s present Ministers, who have never shown any indisposition to oppose themselves to the popular wish.

“These, gentlemen, are my sentiments; and I think that, upon consideration, you will find them such as may entitle me to your cordial support. I need not say how highly I shall value the trust, or how zealously I shall endeavour to promote your local interests. These, probably, can be best advanced by a cautious regard to my own.

“On any other topics I shall be happy to give you the fullest and most satisfactory explanation. I shall merely add, as a summary of my opinions, that while ready on the one hand to coerce labour, so as to stimulate internal industry to the utmost, and to add largely to the amount of our population; I am, upon the other, a friend to the liberty of the subject, and to the promotion of such genial and sanatory measures as suit the tendency of our enlightened age, the diffusion of universal philanthropy, and the spread of popular opinion. I remain, Gentlemen, with the deepest respect, your very obedient and humble servant,

Augustus Reginald Dunshunner.

St Mirren’s House,
June 1847.

[Pg 16]

The editor of the Dreepdaily Patriot, wisely considering that this advertisement was the mere prelude to many more, was kind enough to dedicate a leading article to an exposition of my past services. I am not a vain man; so that I shall not here reprint the panegyric passed upon myself, or the ovation which my friend foresaw. Indeed, I am so far from vain, that I really began to think, while perusing the columns of the Patriot, that I had somewhat foolishly shut my eyes hitherto to the greatness of that talent, and the brilliancy of those parts which were now proclaimed to the world. Yes! it was quite clear that I had hitherto been concealing my candle under a bushel—that I was cut out by nature for a legislator—and that I was the very man for the Dreepdaily electors. Under this conviction, I started upon my canvass, munimented with letters of introduction from M’Corkindale, who, much against his inclination, was compelled to remain at home.


Dreepdaily is a beautiful little town, embosomed in an amphitheatre of hills which have such a winning way with the clouds that the summits are seldom visible. Dreepdaily, if situated in Arabia, would be deemed a paradise. All round it the [Pg 17]vegetation is long, and lithe, and luxuriant; the trees keep their verdure late; and the rush of the nettles is amazing.

How the inhabitants contrive to live, is to me a matter of mystery. There is no particular trade or calling exercised in the place—no busy hum of artisans, or clanking of hammer or machinery. Round the suburbs, indeed, there are rows of mean-looking cottages, each with its strapping lass in the national short-gown at the door, from the interior of which resounds the boom of the weaver’s shuttle. There is also one factory at a little distance; but when you reach the town itself, all is supereminently silent. In fine weather, crowds of urchins of both sexes are seen sunning themselves on the quaint-looking flights of steps by which the doors, usually on the second story, are approached; and as you survey the swarms of bare-legged and flaxen-haired infantry, you cannot help wondering in your heart what has become of the adult population. It is only towards evening that the seniors appear. Then you may find them either congregated on the bridge discussing politics and polemics, or lounging in the little square in affectionate vicinity to the public-house, or leaning over the windows in their shirt-sleeves, in the tranquil enjoyment of a pipe. In short, the cares and the bustle of the world, even in this railroad age, seem to have fallen lightly on the pacific burghers of Dreepdaily. According to [Pg 18]their own account, the town was once a peculiar favourite of royalty. It boasts of a charter from King David the First, and there is an old ruin in the neighbourhood which is said to have been a palace of that redoubted monarch. It may be so, for there is no accounting for constitutions; but had I been King David, I certainly should have preferred a place where the younger branches of the family would have been less liable to the accident of catarrh.

Dreepdaily, in the olden time, was among the closest of all the burghs. Its representation had a fixed price, which was always rigorously exacted and punctually paid; and for half a year thereafter, the corporation made merry thereon. The Reform Bill, therefore, was by no means popular in the council. A number of discontented Radicals and of small householders, who hitherto had been excluded from participation in the good things of the State, now got upon the roll, and seemed determined for a time to carry matters with a high hand, and to return a member of their own. And doubtless they would have succeeded, had not the same spirit been abroad in the sister burghs of Drouthielaw and Kittleweem; which, for some especial reason or other, known doubtless to Lord John Russell, but utterly unintelligible to the rest of mankind, were, though situated in different counties, associated with Dreepdaily in the return of their future member. [Pg 19]Each of these places had a separate interest, and started a separate man; so that, amidst this conflict of Liberalism, the old member for Dreepdaily, a Conservative, again slipped into his place. The consequence was, that the three burghs were involved in a desperate feud.

In those days there lived in Dreepdaily one Laurence Linklater, more commonly known by the name of Tod Lowrie, who exercised the respectable functions of a writer and a messenger-at-arms. Lowrie was a remarkably acute individual, of the Gilbert Glossin school, by no means scrupulous in his dealings, but of singular plausibility and courage. He had started in life as a Radical, but finding that that line did not pay well, he had prudently subsided into a Whig, and in that capacity had acquired a sort of local notoriety. He had contrived, moreover, to gain a tolerable footing in Drouthielaw, and in the course of time became intimately acquainted with the circumstances of its inhabitants, and under the pretext of agency had contrived to worm the greater part of their title-deeds into his keeping.

It then occurred to Lowrie, that, notwithstanding the discordant situation of the burghs, something might be done to effect a union under his own especial chieftainship. Not that he cared in his heart one farthing about the representation—Tyrian and Trojan were in reality the same to him—but he saw that the gain of these burghs would be of immense [Pg 20]advantage to his party, and he determined that the advantage should be balanced by a corresponding profit to himself. Accordingly, he began quietly to look to the state of the neglected register; lodged objections to all claims given in by parties upon whom he could not depend; smuggled a sufficient number of his own clients and adherents upon the roll, and in the course of three years was able to intimate to an eminent Whig partisan, that he, Laurence Linklater, held in his own hands the representation of the Dreepdaily Burghs, could turn the election either way he pleased, and was open to reasonable terms.

The result was, that Mr Linklater was promoted to a very lucrative county office, and moreover, that the whole patronage of the district was thereafter observed to flow through the Laurentian channel. Of course all those who could claim kith or kindred with Lowrie were provided for in the first instance; but there were stray crumbs still going, and in no one case could even a gaugership be obtained without the adhesion of an additional vote. Either the applicant must be ready to sell his independence, or, if that were done already, to pervert the politics of a relative. A Whig member was returned at the next election by an immense majority; and for some time Linklater reigned supreme in the government of Dreepdaily and Drouthielaw.

But death, which spares no governors, knocked [Pg 21]at the door of Linklater. A surfeit of mutton-pies, after the triumphant termination of a law-suit, threw the burghs into a state of anarchy. Lowrie was gathered unto his fathers, and there was no one to reign in his stead.

At least there was no apparent ruler. Every one observed, that the stream of patronage and of local jobbing still flowed on as copiously as before, but nobody could discover by what hands it was now directed. Suspicion fastened its eyes for some time upon Provost Binkie; but the vehement denials of that gentleman, though not in themselves conclusive, at last gained credence from the fact, that a situation which he had solicited from Government for his nephew was given to another person. Awful rumours began to circulate of the existence of a secret junta. Each man regarded his neighbour with intense suspicion and distrust, because, for anything he knew, that neighbour might be a member of the terrible tribunal, by means of which all the affairs of the community were regulated, and a single ill-timed word might absolutely prove his ruin. Such, indeed, in one instance was the case. In an evil hour for himself, an independent town-councillor thought fit to denounce the Clique as an unconstitutional and tyrannical body, and to table a motion for an inquiry as to its nature, members, and proceedings. So strong was the general alarm that he could not even find a seconder. But the matter [Pg 22]did not stop there. The rash meddler had drawn upon himself the vengeance of a remorseless foe. His business began to fall off; rumours of the most malignant description were circulated regarding his character; two of his relatives who held situations were dismissed without warning and without apology; his credit was assailed in every quarter; and in less than six months after he had made that most unfortunate harangue, the name of Thomas Gritt, baker in Dreepdaily, was seen to figure in the Gazette. So fell Gritt a martyr, and if any one mourned for him, it was in secret, and the profoundest awe.

Such was the political state of matters, at the time when I rode down the principal street of Dreepdaily. I need hardly say that I did not know a single soul in the burgh; in that respect, indeed, there was entire reciprocity on both sides, for the requisition referred to in my address was a felicitous fiction by M’Corkindale. I stopped before a substantial bluff-looking house, the lower part of which was occupied as a shop, and a scroll above informed me that the proprietor was Walter Binkie, grocer.

A short squat man, with an oleaginous face and remarkably bushy eyebrows, was in the act of weighing out a pennyworth of “sweeties” to a little girl as I entered.

“Is the Provost of Dreepdaily within?” asked I.

“I’se warrant he’s that,” was the reply; “Hae, my dear, there’s a sugar almond t’ye into the bargain. [Pg 23]Gae your waus hame noo, and tell your mither that I’ve some grand new tea. Weel, sir, what was you wanting?”

“I wish particularly to speak to the Provost.”

“Weel then, speak awa’,” and he straightway squatted himself before his ledger.

“I beg your pardon, sir! Have I really the honour of addressing—”

“Walter Binkie, the Provost of this burgh. But if ye come on Council matters, ye’re lang ahint the hour. I’m just steppin’ up to denner, and I never do business after that.”

“But perhaps you will allow me—”

“I will allow nae man, sir, to interrupt my leisure. If ye’re wanting onything, gang to the Town-Clerk.”

“Permit me one moment—my name is Dunshunner.”

“Eh, what!” cried the Provost, bounding from his stool, “speak lower or the lad will hear ye. Are ye the gentleman that’s stannin’ for the burrows?”

“The same.”

“Lord-sake! what for did ye no say that afore? Jims! I say, Jims! Look after the shop! Come this way, sir, up the stair, and take care ye dinna stumble on that toom cask o’ saut.”

I followed the Provost up a kind of corkscrew stair, until we emerged upon a landing-place in his own proper domicile. We entered the dining-room. [Pg 24]It was showily furnished; with an enormous urn of paper roses in the grate, two stuffed parroquets upon the mantelpiece, a flamingo-coloured carpet, enormous worsted bell-pulls, and a couple of portraits by some peripatetic follower of Vandyke, one of them representing the Provost in his civic costume, and the other bearing some likeness to a fat female in a turban, with a cairngorm brooch about the size of a platter on her breast, and no want of carmine on the space dedicated to the cheeks.

The Provost locked the door, and then clapped his ear to the key-hole. He next approached the window, drew down the blinds so as effectually to prevent any opposite scrutiny, and motioned me to a seat.

“And so ye’re Mr Dunshunner?” said he. “Oh man, but I’ve been wearyin’ to see you!”

“Indeed! you flatter me very much.”

“Nae flattery, Mr Dunshunner—nane! I’m a plain honest man, that’s a’, and naebody can say that Wattie Binkie has blawn in their lug. And sae ye’re comin’ forrard for the burrows? It’s a bauld thing, sir—a bauld thing, and a great honour ye seek. No that I think ye winna do honour to it, but it’s a great trust for sae young a man; a heavy responsibility, as a body may say, to hang upon a callant’s shouthers.”

“I hope, Mr Binkie, that my future conduct may show that I can at least act up to my professions.”

[Pg 25]

“Nae doubt, sir—I’m no misdoubtin’ ye, and to say the truth ye profess weel. I’ve read yer address, sir, and I like yer principles—they’re the stench auld Whig anes—keep a’ we can to ourselves, and haud a gude grup. But wha’s bringing ye forrard? Wha signed yer requisition? No the Kittleweem folk, I hope?—that wad be a sair thing against ye.”

“Why, no—certainly not. The fact is, Mr Binkie, that I have not seen the requisition. Its contents were communicated by a third party, on whom I have the most perfect reliance; and as I understood there was some delicacy in the matter, I did not think it proper to insist upon a sight of the signatures.”

The Provost gave a long whistle.

“I see it noo!” he said; “I see it! I ken’t there was something gaun on forbye the common. Ye’re a lucky man, Mr Dunshunner, and ye’re election is as sure as won. Ye’ve been spoken to by them ye ken o’!”

“Upon my word, I do not understand—”

“Ay—ay! Ye’re richt to be cautious. Weel I wat they are kittle cattle to ride the water on. But wha was’t, sir,—wha was’t? Ye needna be feared of me. I ken how to keep a secret.”

“Really, Mr Binkie, except through a third party, as I have told you already, I have had no communication with any one.”

“Weel—they are close—there’s nae denyin’ [Pg 26]that. But ye surely maun hae some inkling o’ the men—Them that’s ahint the screen, ye ken?”

“Indeed, I have not. But stay—if you allude to the Clique——”

“Wheest, sir, wheest!” cried the Provost, in an agitated tone of voice. “Gudesake, tak care what ye say—ye dinna ken wha may hear ye. Ye hae spoken a word that I havena heard this mony a day without shaking in my shoon. Aye speak ceevily o’ the deil—ye dinna ken how weel ye may be acquaunt!”

“Surely, sir, there can be no harm in mentioning the——”

“No under that name, Mr Dunshunner—no under that name, and no here. I wadna ca’ them that on the tap of Ben-Nevis without a grue. Ay—and sae They are wi’ ye, are they? Weel, they are a queer set!”

“You know the parties, then, Mr Binkie?”

“I ken nae mair aboot them than I ken whaur to find the caverns o’ the east wind. Whether they are three, or thretty, or a hunder, surpasses my knowledge; but they hae got the secret o’ the fern seed, and walk about invisible. It is a’thegether a great mystery, but doubtless ye will obtain a glimpse. In the mean time, since ye come from that quarter, I am bound to obey.”

“You are very kind, I am sure, Mr Binkie. May [Pg 27]I ask, then, your opinion of matters as they stand at present?”

“Our present member, Mr Whistlerigg, will no stand again. He’s got some place or ither up in London; and, my certie, he’s worked weel for it! There’s naebody else stannin’ forbye that man Pozzlethwaite, and he disna verra weel ken what he is himsel’. If it’s a’ richt yonder,” continued the Provost, jerking his thumb over his left shoulder, “ye’re as gude as elected.”

As it would have been extremely impolitic for me under present circumstances to have disclaimed all connection with a body which exercised an influence so marked and decided, I allowed Provost Binkie to remain under the illusion that I was the chosen candidate of the Clique. In fact, I had made up my mind that I should become so at any cost, so soon as it vouchsafed to disclose itself and appear before my longing eyes. I therefore launched at once into practical details, in the discussion of which the Provost exhibited both shrewdness and goodwill. He professed his readiness at once to become chairman of my committee, drew out a list of the most influential persons in the burgh to whom I ought immediately to apply, and gave me much information regarding the politics of the other places. From what he said, I gathered that, with the aid of the Clique, I was sure of Dreepdaily and Drouthielaw—as to the electors of Kittleweem, [Pg 28]they were, in his opinion, “a wheen dirt,” whom it would be useless to consult, and hopeless to conciliate. I certainly had no previous idea that the bulk of the electors had so little to say in the choice of their own representative. When I ventured to hint at the remote possibility of a revolt, the Provost indignantly exclaimed—

“They daurna, sir—they daurna for the lives of them do it! Set them up indeed! Let me see ony man that wad venture to vote against the Town Council and the—and them, and I’ll make a clean sweep of him out of Dreepdaily!”

Nothing, in short, could have been more satisfactory than this statement.

Whilst we were conversing together, I heard of a sudden a jingling in the next apartment, as if some very aged and decrepid harpsichord were being exorcised into the unusual effort of a tune. I glanced inquiringly to the door, but the Provost took no notice of my look. In a little time, however, there was a short preliminary cough, and a female voice of considerable compass took up the following strain. I remember the words not more from their singularity, than from the introduction to which they were the prelude:—

“I heard a wee bird singing clear,
In the tight, tight month o’ June—
‘What garr’d ye buy when stocks were high,
And sell when shares were doun?

[Pg 29]‘Gin ye hae play’d me fause, my luve,
In simmer ’mang the rain;
When siller’s scant and scarce at Yule,
I’ll pay ye back again!

‘O bonny were the Midland Halves,
When credit was sae free!—
But wae betide the Southron loon
That sold they Halves to me!’”

I declare, upon the word of a Railway Director, that I was never more taken aback in my life. Attached as I have been from youth to the Scottish ballad poetry, I never yet had heard a ditty of this peculiar stamp, which struck me as a happy combination of tender fancy with the sterner realities of the Exchange. Provost Binkie smiled as he remarked my amazement.

“It’s only my daughter Maggie, Mr Dunshunner,” he said. “Puir thing! It’s little she has here to amuse her, and sae she whiles writes thae kind o’ sangs hersel’. She’s weel up to the railroads; for ye ken I was an auld Glenmutchkin holder.”

“Indeed! Was that song Miss Binkie’s own composition?” asked I, with considerable interest.

“Atweel it is that, and mair too. Maggie, haud your skirling!—ye’re interrupting me and the gentleman.”

“I beg, on no account, Mr Binkie, that I may be allowed to interfere with your daughter’s amusement. Indeed, it is full time that I were betaking [Pg 30]myself to the hotel, unless you will honour me so far as to introduce me to Miss Binkie.”

“Deil a bit o’ you gangs to the hotel to-night!” replied the hospitable Provost. “You bide where you are to denner and bed, and we’ll hae a comfortable crack over matters in the evening. Maggie! come ben, lass, and speak to Mr Dunshunner.”

Miss Binkie, who I am strongly of opinion was all the while conscious of the presence of a stranger, now entered from the adjoining room. She was really a pretty girl—tall, with lively sparkling eyes, and a profusion of dark hair, which she wore in the somewhat exploded shape of ringlets. I was not prepared for such an apparition, and I daresay stammered as I paid my compliments.

Margaret Binkie, however, had no sort of mauvaise honte about her. She had received her final polish in a Glasgow boarding-school, and did decided credit to the seminary in which the operation had been performed. At all events, she was the reverse of shy; for in less than a quarter of an hour we were rattling away as though we had been acquainted from childhood; and, to say the truth, I found myself getting into something like a strong flirtation. Old Binkie grinned a delighted smile, and went out to superintend the decanting of a bottle of port.

I need not, I think, expatiate upon the dinner which followed. The hotch-potch was unexceptionable, [Pg 31]the salmon curdy, and the lamb roasted without a fault; and if the red-armed Hebe who attended was somewhat awkward in her motions, she was at least zealous to a degree. The Provost got into high feather, and kept plying me perpetually with wine. When the cloth was removed, he drank with all formality to my success; and as Margaret Binkie, with a laugh, did due honour to the toast, I could not do less than indulge in a little flight of fancy as I proposed the ladies, and, in connection with them, the Flower of Dreepdaily—a sentiment which was acknowledged with a blush.

After Miss Binkie retired, the Provost grew more and more convivial. He would not enter into business, but regaled me with numerous anecdotes of his past exploits, and of the lives and conversation of his compatriots in the Town Council—some of whom appeared, from his description, to be very facetious individuals indeed. More particularly, he dwelt upon the good qualities and importance of a certain Mr Thomas Gills, better known to his friends and kinsfolk by the sobriquet of Toddy Tam, and recommended me by all means to cultivate the acquaintance of that personage. But, however otherwise loquacious, nothing would persuade the Provost to launch out upon the subject of the Clique. He really seemed to entertain as profound a terror of that body as ever Huguenot did of the Inquisition, and he cut me short at last by ejaculating—

[Pg 32]

“Sae nae mair on’t, Mr Dunshunner—sae nae mair on’t! It’s ill talking on thae things. Ye dinna ken what the Clique is, nor whaur it is. But this I ken, that they are everywhere, and a’ aboot us; they hear everything that passes in this house, and I whiles suspect that Mysie, the servant lass, is naething else than are o’ them in petticoats!”

More than this I could not elicit. After we had finished a considerable quantum of port, we adjourned to the drawing-room, and, tea over, Miss Binkie sang to me several of her own songs, whilst the Provost snored upon the sofa. Both the songs and the singer were clever, the situation was interesting, and, somehow or other, I found my fingers more than once in contact with Maggie’s, as I turned over the leaves of the music.

At last the Provost rose, with a stertoracious grunt. I thought this might be the signal for retiring to rest; but such were not the habits of Dreepdaily. Salt herrings and finnan-haddocks were produced along with the hot water and accompaniments; and I presume it was rather late before my host conducted me to my chamber. If I dreamed at all that night, it must have been of Margaret Binkie.

[Pg 33]


The next morning, whilst dressing, I heard a blithe voice carolling on the stair. It was the orison of Margaret Binkie as she descended to the breakfast-room. I listened and caught the following verses:—

“O haud away frae me,” she said,
“I pray you let me be!
Hae you the shares ye held, my lord,
What time ye courted me?

“’Tis woman’s weird to luve and pine,
And man’s is to forget:
Hold you the shares, Lord James,” she said,
“Or hae ye sold them yet?”

“My York Extensions, bought at par,
I sold at seven pund prem.—
And, O my heart is sair to think
I had nae mair of them!”

“That is really a remarkable girl!” thought I, as I stropped my razor. “Such genius, such animation, and such a thorough knowledge of the market! She would make a splendid wife for a railway director.”

“Come away, Mr Dunshunner,” said the Provost, as I entered the parlour. “I hope ye are yaup, for ye have a lang day’s wark before ye.”

“I am sure it would be an agreeable one, sir, if [Pg 34]accompanied with such sweet music as I heard this morning. Pardon me, Miss Binkie, but you really are a perfect Sappho.”

“You are too good, I am sure, Mr Dunshunner. Will you take tea or coffee?”

“Maggie,” said the Provost, “I maun put a stop to that skirling—it’s well eneuch for the night, but the morning is the time for business. Mr Dunshunner, I’ve been thinking over this job of ours, and here is a bit listie of the maist influential persons in Dreepdaily, that you maun positeevely see this day. They wad be affronted if they kenned ye were here without calling on them. Noo, mark me,—I dinna just say that ony o’ them is the folk ye ken o’, but it’s no ava unlikely; sae ye maun even use yer ain discretion. Tak an auld man’s word for it, and aye put your best fit foremost.”

I acquiesced in the justice of the suggestion, although I was really unconscious which foot deserved the precedence. The Provost continued—

“Just ae word mair. Promising is a cheap thing, and ye needna be very sparing of it. If onybody speaks to ye about a gaugership, or a place in the Customs or the Post-office, just gie ye a bit wink, tak out your note-book, and make a mark wi’ the keelavine pen. It aye looks weel, and gangs as far as a downright promise. Deny or refuse naebody. Let them think that ye can do everything wi’ the Ministry; and if there should happen to be a whaup [Pg 35]in the rape, let them even find it out theirsells. Tell them that ye stand up for Dreepdaily, and its auld charter, and the Whig constitution, and liberal principles. Maist feck o’ them disna ken what liberal principles is, but they like the word. I whiles think that liberal principles means saying muckle and doing naething, but you needna tell them that. The Whigs are lang-headed chiells, and they hae had the sense to claim a’ the liberality for themsells, ever since the days o’ the Reform Bill.”

Such and suchlike were the valuable maxims which Provost Binkie instilled into my mind during the progress of breakfast. I must say they made a strong impression upon me; and any candidate who may hereafter come forward for the representation of a Scottish burgh, on principles similar to my own, would do well to peruse and remember them.

At length I rose to go.

“Do I carry your good wishes along with me, Miss Binkie, on my canvass?”

“Most cordially, Mr Dunshunner; I shall be perfectly miserable until I learn your success. I can assure you of my support, and earnestly wish I was an elector.”

“Enviable would be the Member of Parliament who could represent so charming a constituency!”

“Oh, Mr Dunshunner!”

Directed by the Provost’s list, I set forth in [Pg 36]search of my constituency. The first elector whose shop I entered was a draper of the name M’Auslan. I found him in the midst of his tartans.

“Mr M’Auslan, I presume?”

“Ay,” was the curt response.

“Allow me to introduce myself, sir. My name is Dunshunner.”


“You are probably aware, sir, that I am a candidate for the representation of these burghs?”


“I hope and trust, Mr M’Auslan, that my principles are such as meet with your approbation?”


“I am a friend, sir, to civil and religious liberty,—to Dreepdaily and its charter,—to the old Whig constitution of 1688,—and to the true interests of the people.”


“Confound the fellow!” thought I, “was there ever such an insensate block? I must bring him to the point at once. Mr M’Auslan,” I continued in a very insinuating tone, “such being my sentiments, may I venture to calculate on your support?”

“There’s twa words to that bargain,” replied M’Auslan, departing from monosyllables.

“Any further explanation that may be required, I am sure will readily—”

“It’s nae use.”

[Pg 37]

“How?” said I, a good deal alarmed. “Is it possible you are already pledged?”


“Then what objection——”

“I made nane. I see ye dinna ken us here. The pear’s no ripe yet.”

“What pear?” asked I, astonished at this horticultural allusion.

“Hark ye,” said M’Auslan, looking stealthily around him, and for the first time exhibiting some marks of intelligence in his features—“Hark ye,—hae ye seen Toddy Tam yet?”

“Mr Gills? Not yet. I am just going to wait upon him; but Provost Binkie has promised me his support.”

“Wha cares for Provost Binkie! Gang to Toddy Tam.”

Not one other word could I extract from the oracular M’Auslan; so, like a pilgrim, I turned my face towards Mecca, and sallied forth in quest of this all-important personage. On my way, however, I entered the house of another voter, one Shanks, a member of the Town-Council, from whom I received equally unsatisfactory replies. He, like M’Auslan, pointed steadily towards Toddy Tam. Now, who and what was the individual who, by the common consent of his townsmen, had earned so honourable an epithet?

Mr Thomas Gills had at one time been a clerk in [Pg 38]the office of the departed Linklater. His function was not strictly legal, nor confined to the copying of processes: it had a broader and wider scope, and was exercised in a more congenial manner. In short, Mr Gills was a kind of provider for the establishment. His duties were to hunt out business; which he achieved to a miracle by frequenting every possible public-house, and wringing from them, amidst their cups, the stories of the wrongs of his compotators. Wo to the wight who sate down for an afternoon’s conviviality with Toddy Tam! Before the mixing of the fourth tumbler, the ingenious Gills was sure to elicit some hardship or grievance, for which benignant Themis could give redress; and rare, indeed, was the occurrence of the evening on which he did not capture some additional clients. He would even go the length of treating his victim, when inordinately shy, until the fatal mandate was given, and retraction utterly impossible.

Such decided business talents, of course, were not overlooked by the sagacious Laurence Linklater. Gills enjoyed a large salary, the greater moiety of which he consumed in alcoholic experiments; and shortly before the decease of his patron, he was promoted to the lucrative and easy office of some county registrarship. He now began to cultivate conviviality for its own especial sake. It was no longer dangerous to drink with him; for though, from habit, he continued to poke into grievances, he [Pg 39]never, on the following morning, pursued the subject further. But what was most remarkable about Toddy Tam was, his independence. He never truckled to dictation from any quarter; but, whilst Binkie and the rest were in fear and terror of the Clique, he openly defied that body, and dared them to do their worst. He was the only man in Dreepdaily who ventured to say that Tom Gritt was right in the motion he had made; and he further added, that if he, Thomas Gills, had been in the Town-Council, the worthy and patriotic baker should not have wanted a seconder. This was considered a very daring speech, and one likely to draw down the vengeance of the unrelenting junta: but the thunder slept in the cloud, and Mr Gills enjoyed himself as before.

I found him in his back parlour, in company with a very rosy individual. Although it was not yet noon, a case-bottle and glasses were on the table, and the whole apartment stunk abominably with the fumes of whisky.

“Sit in, Mr Dunshunner, sit in!” said Toddy Tam, in a tone of great cordiality, after I had effected my introduction. “Ye’ll no hae had your morning yet? Lass, bring in a clean glass for the gentleman.”

“I hope you will excuse me, Mr Gills. I really never do—”

“Hoots—nonsense! Ye maun be neighbour-like, [Pg 40]ye ken—we a’ expect it at Dreepdaily.” And so saying, Toddy Tam poured me out a full glass of spirits. I had as lieve have swallowed ink, but I was forced to constrain myself and bolt it.

“Ay, and so ye are coming round to us as a candidate, are ye? What d’ye think o’ that, Mr Thamson—hae ye read Mr Dunshunner’s address?”

The rubicund individual chuckled, leered, and rose to go, but Toddy Tam laid a heavy hand upon his shoulder.

“Sit ye down man,” he said; “I’ve naething to say to Mr Dunshunner that the hail warld may not hear, nor him to me neither, I hope.”

“Certainly not,” said I; “and I really should feel it as a great obligation if Mr Thomson would be kind enough to remain.”

“That’s right, lad!” shouted Gills. “Nae hole-and-corner work for me! A’ fair and abune board, and the deil fly away with the Clique!”

Had Thomson been an ordinary man, he probably would have grown pale at this daring objurgation: as it was, he fidgetted in his chair, and his face became a shade more crimson.

“Weel, now,” continued Toddy Tam, “let us hear what Mr Dunshunner has got to say for himsel’. There’s naething like hearing opinions before we put ony questions.”

Thus adjured, I went through the whole of my political confession of faith, laying, of course, due [Pg 41]stress upon the great and glorious Revolution of 1688, and my devotion to the cause of liberality. Toddy Tam and his companion heard me to the end without interruption.

“Gude—sae far gude, Mr Dunshunner,” said Gills. “I see little to objeck to in your general principles; but for a’ that I’m no going to pledge mysel’ until I ken mair o’ ye. I hope, sir, that ye’re using nae underhand influence—that there has been nae communings with the Clique, a body that I perfeckly abominate? Dreepdaily shall never be made a pocket burrow, so long as Thomas Gills has any influence in it.”

I assured Mr Gills, what was the naked truth, that I had no knowledge whatever of the Clique.

“Ye see, Mr Dunshunner,” continued Toddy Tam, “we are a gey and independent sort of people here, and we want to be independently represented. My gude friend, Mr Thamson here, can tell you that I have had a sair fecht against secret influence, and I am amaist feared that some men like the Provost owe me a grudge for it. He’s a pawkie loon, the Provost, and kens brawly how to play his cards.”

“He’s a’ that!” ejaculated Thomson.

“But I dinna care a snuff of tobacco for the haill of the Town-Council, or the Clique. Give me a man of perfeck independence, and I’ll support him. I voted for the last member sair against my conscience, [Pg 42]for he was put up by the Clique, and never came near us: but I hope better things frae you, Mr Dunshunner, if you should happen to be returned. Mind, I don’t say that I am going to support ye—I maun think about it: but if ye are a good man and a true, and no a nominee, I dare say that both my gude freend Thamson, and mysell, will no objeck to lend you a helping-hand.”

This was all I could extract from Toddy Tam, and, though favourable, it was far from being satisfactory. There was a want, from some cause or another, of that cordial support which I had been led to anticipate; and I almost felt half inclined to abandon the enterprise altogether. However, after having issued my address, this would have looked like cowardice. I therefore diligently prosecuted my canvass, and contrived, in the course of the day, to encounter a great portion of the electors. Very few pledged themselves. Some surly independents refused point-blank, alleging that they did not intend to vote at all: others declined to promise, until they should know how Toddy Tam and other magnates were likely to go. My only pledges were from the sworn retainers of the Provost.

“Well, Mr Dunshunner, what success?” cried Miss Margaret Binkie, as I returned rather jaded from my circuit. “I hope you have found all the Dreepdaily people quite favourable?”

“Why no, Miss Binkie, not quite so much so as [Pg 43]I could desire. Your townsmen here seem uncommonly slow in making up their minds to anything.”

“Oh, that is always their way. I have heard Papa say that the same thing took place at last election, and that nobody declared for Mr Whistlerigg until the very evening before the nomination. So you see you must not lose heart.”

“If my visit to Dreepdaily should have no other result, Miss Binkie, I shall always esteem it one of the most fortunate passages of my life, since it has given me the privilege of your acquaintance.”

“Oh, Mr Dunshunner! How can you speak so? I am afraid you are a great flatterer!” replied Miss Binkie, pulling at the same time a sprig of geranium to pieces. “But you look tired—pray take a glass of wine.”

“By no means, Miss Binkie. A word from you is a sufficient cordial. Happy geranium!” said I, picking up the petals.

Now I know very well that all this sort of thing is wrong, and that a man has no business to begin flirtations if he cannot see his way to the end of them. At the same time, I hold the individual who dislikes flirtations to be a fool; and sometimes they are utterly irresistible.

“Now, Mr Dunshunner, I do beg you won’t! Pray sit down on the sofa, for I am sure you are tired; and if you like to listen, I shall sing you a little ballad I have composed to-day.”

[Pg 44]

“I would rather hear you sing than an angel,” said I; “but pray do not debar me the privilege of standing by your side.”

“Just as you please;” and Margaret began to rattle away on the harpsichord.

“O whaur hae ye been, Augustus, my son?
O whaur hae ye been, my winsome young man?
I hae been to the voters—Mither, mak my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ canvassing, and fain wad lay me doun.

O whaur are your plumpers, Augustus, my son?
O whaur are your split votes, my winsome young man?
They are sold to the Clique—Mither, mak my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ canvassing, and fain wad lay me doun.

O I fear ye are cheated, Augustus, my son,
O I fear ye are done for, my winsome young man!
‘I hae been to my true love——’”

I could stand this no longer.

“Charming, cruel girl!” cried I, dropping on one knee,—“why will you thus sport with my feelings? Where else should I seek for my true love but here?”

I don’t know what might have been the sequel of the scene, had not my good genius, in the shape of Mysie the servant girl, at this moment burst into the apartment. Miss Binkie with great presence of mind dropped her handkerchief, which afforded me an excellent excuse for recovering my erect position.

Mysie was the bearer of a billet, addressed to myself, and marked “private and particular.” I opened it and read as follows:—

[Pg 45]

Sir—Some of those who are well disposed towards you have arranged to meet this night, and are desirous of a private interview, at which full and mutual explanations may be given. It may be right to mention to you that the question of the currency will form the basis of any political arrangement; and it is expected that you will then be prepared to state explicitly your views with regard to bullion. Something more than pledges upon this subject will be required.

“As this meeting will be a strictly private one, the utmost secresy must be observed. Be on the bridge at eleven o’clock this night, and you will be conducted to the appointed place. Do not fail, as you value your own interest.—Yours, &c.

Shell Out.

“Who brought this letter, Mysie?” said I, considerably flustered at its contents.

“A laddie. He said there was nae answer, and ran awa’.”

“No bad news, I hope, Mr Dunshunner?” said Margaret timidly.

I looked at Miss Binkie. Her eye was still sparkling, and her cheek flushed. She evidently was annoyed at the interruption, and expected a renewal of the conversation. But I felt that I had gone quite far enough, if not a little beyond the line of prudence. It is easy to make a declaration, [Pg 46]but remarkably difficult to back out of it; and I began to think that, upon the whole, I had been a little too precipitate. On the plea, therefore, of business, I emerged into the open air; and, during a walk of a couple of miles, held secret communing with myself.

“Here you are again, Dunshunner, my fine fellow, putting your foot into it as usual! If it had not been for the arrival of the servant, you would have been an engaged man at this moment, and saddled with a father-in-law in the shape of a vender of molasses. Besides, it is my private opinion that you don’t care sixpence about the girl. But it is the old story. This is the third time since Christmas that you have been on the point of committing matrimony; and if you don’t look sharp after yourself, you will be sold an especial bargain! Now, frankly and fairly, do you not acknowledge yourself to be an idiot?”

I did. Men are generally very candid and open in their confessions to themselves; and the glaring absurdity of my conduct was admitted without any hesitation. I resolved to mend my ways accordingly, and to eschew for the future all tête-à-têtes with the too fascinating Maggie Binkie. That point disposed of, I returned to the mysterious missive. To say the truth, I did not much like it. Had these been the days of Burking, I should have entertained some slight personal apprehension; [Pg 47]but as there was no such danger, I regarded it either as a hoax, or as some electioneering ruse, the purpose of which I could not fathom. However, as it is never wise to throw away any chance, I determined to keep the appointment; and, if a meeting really were held, to give the best explanations in my power to my correspondent, Mr Shell Out, and his friends. In this mood of mind I returned to the Provost’s dwelling.

The dinner that day was not so joyous as before. Old Binkie questioned me very closely as to the result of my visits, and seemed chagrined that Toddy Tam had not been more definite in his promises of support.

“Ye maun hae Tam,” said the Provost. “He disna like the Clique—I hope naebody’s listening—nor the Clique him; but he stands weel wi’ the Independents, and the Seceders will go wi’ him to a man. We canna afford to lose Gills. I’ll send ower for him, and see if we canna talk him into reason. Haith, though, we’ll need mair whisky, for Tam requires an unco deal of slockening!”

Tam, however, proved to be from home, and therefore the Provost and I were left to our accustomed duet. He complained grievously of my abstemiousness, which for divers reasons I thought it prudent to observe. An extra tumbler might again have made Miss Binkie a cherub in my eyes.

[Pg 48]

I am afraid that the young lady thought me a very changeable person. When the Provost fell asleep, she allowed the conversation to languish, until it reached that awful degree of pause which usually precedes the popping of the question. But this time I was on my guard, and held out with heroic stubbornness. I did not even launch out upon the subject of poetry, which Maggie rather cleverly introduced; for there is a decided affinity between the gay science and the tender passion, and it is difficult to preserve indifference when quoting from the “Loves of the Angels.” I thought it safer to try metaphysics. It is not easy to extract an amorous avowal, even by implication, from a discourse upon the theory of consciousness; and I flatter myself that Kant, if he could have heard me that evening, would have returned home with some novel lights upon the subject. Miss Binkie seemed to think that I might have selected a more congenial theme; for she presently exhibited symptoms of pettishness, took up a book, and applied herself diligently to the perusal of a popular treatise upon knitting.

Shortly afterwards, the Provost awoke, and his daughter took occasion to retire. She held out her hand to me with rather a reproachful look, but, though sorely tempted, I did not indulge in a squeeze.

“That’s a fine lassie—a very fine lassie!” remarked [Pg 49]the Provost, as he severed a Welsh rabbit into twain. “Ye are no a family man yet, Mr Dunshunner, and ye maybe canna comprehend what a comfort she has been to me. I’m auld now, and a thocht failing; but it is a great relief to me to ken that, when I am in my grave, Maggie winna be tocherless. I’ve laid up a braw nest-egg for her ower at the bank yonder.”

I of course coincided in the praise of Miss Binkie, but showed so little curiosity as to the contents of the indicated egg, that the Provost thought proper to enlighten me, and hinted at eight thousand pounds. It is my positive belief that the worthy man expected an immediate proposal: if so, he was pretty egregiously mistaken. I could not, however, afford, at this particular crisis, to offend him, and accordingly stuck to generals. As the hour of meeting was approaching, I thought it necessary to acquaint him with the message I had received, in order to account for my exit at so unseasonable a time.

“It’s verra odd,” said the Provost,—“verra odd! A’ Dreepdaily should be in their beds by this time, and I canna think there could be a meeting without me hearing of it. It’s just the reverse o’ constitutional to keep folk trailing aboot the toun at this time o’ nicht, and the brig is a queer place for a tryst.”

“You do not surely apprehend, Mr Binkie, that there is any danger?”

[Pg 50]

“No just that, but you’ll no be the waur o’ a stick. Ony gait, I’ll send to Saunders Caup, the toun-officer, to be on the look-out. If ony body offers to harm ye, be sure ye cry out, and Saunders will be up in a crack. He’s as stieve as steel, and an auld Waterloo man.”

As a considerable number of years has elapsed since the last great European conflict, I confess that my confidence in the capabilities of Mr Caup, as an ally, was inferior to my belief in his prowess. I therefore declined the proposal, but accepted the weapon; and, after a valedictory tumbler with my host, emerged into the darkened street.


Francis Osbaldistone, when he encountered the famous Rob Roy by night, was in all probability, notwithstanding Sir Walter’s assertion to the contrary, in a very tolerable state of trepidation. At least I know that I was, as I neared the bridge of Dreepdaily. It was a nasty night of wind and rain, and not a soul was stirring in the street—the surface of which did little credit to the industry of the paving department, judging from the number of dubs in which I found involuntary accommodation. As I floundered along through the mire, I breathed anything but benedictions on the mysterious Shell [Pg 51]Out, who was the cause of my midnight wandering.

Just as I reached the bridge, beneath which the river was roaring rather uncomfortably, a ragged-looking figure started out from an entry. A solitary lamp, suspended from above, gave me a full view of this personage, who resembled an animated scarecrow.

He stared me full in the face, and then muttered, with a wink and a leer,—

“Was ye seekin’ for ony body the nicht? Eh wow, man, but it’s cauld!”

“Who may you be, my friend?” said I, edging off from my unpromising acquaintance.

“Wha may I be?” replied the other: “that’s a gude ane! Gosh, d’ye no ken me? Au’m Geordie Dowie, the town bauldy, that’s as weel kent as the Provost hissell!”

To say the truth, Geordie was a very truculent-looking character to be an innocent. However, imbeciles of this description are usually harmless.

“And what have you got to say to me, Geordie?”

“If ye’re the man I think ye are,
And ye’re name begins wi’ a D,
Just tak ye tae yer soople shanks,
And tramp alang wi’ me,”

quavered the idiot, who, like many others, had a natural turn for poetry.

[Pg 52]

“And where are we going to, Geordie, my man?” said I in a soothing voice.

“Ye’ll find that when we get there,” replied the bauldy.

“Hey the bonnie gill-stoup!
Ho the bonnie gill-stoup!
Gie me walth o’ barley bree,
And leeze me on the gill-stoup!”

“But you can at least tell me who sent you here, Geordie?” said I, anxious for further information before intrusting myself to such erratic guidance.

He of the gill-stoups lifted up his voice and sang—

“Cam’ ye by Tweedside,
Or cam’ ye by Flodden?
Met ye the deil
On the braes o’ Culloden?

“Three imps o’ darkness
I saw in a neuk,
Riving the red-coats,
And roasting the Deuk.

“Quo’ ane o’ them—‘Geordie,
Gae down to the brig,
I’m yaup for my supper,
And fetch us a Whig.’

“Ha! ha! ha! Hoo d’ye like that, my man? Queer freends ye’ve gotten noo, and ye’ll need a lang spoon to sup kail wi’ them. But come awa’. I canna stand here the haill nicht listening to your havers.”

Although the hint conveyed by Mr Dowie’s [Pg 53]ingenious verses was rather of an alarming nature, I made up my mind at once to run all risks and follow him. Geordie strode on, selecting apparently the most unfrequented lanes, and making, as I anxiously observed, for a remote part of the suburbs. Nor was his voice silent during our progress, for he kept regaling me with a series of snatches, which, being for the most part of a supernatural and diabolical tendency, did not much contribute towards the restoration of my equanimity. At length he paused before a small house, the access to which was by a downward flight of steps.

“Ay—this is the place!” he muttered. “I ken it weel. It’s no just bad the whusky that they sell, but they needna put sae muckle water intil’t.”

So saying, he descended the stair. I followed. There was no light in the passage, but the idiot went forward, stumbling and groping in the dark. I saw a bright ray streaming through a crevice, and three distinct knocks were given.

“Come in, whaever ye are!” said a bluff voice: and I entered a low apartment, in which the candles looked yellow through a fog of tobacco-smoke. Three men were seated at a deal table, covered with the implements of national conviviality; and to my intense astonishment none of the three were strangers to me. I at once recognised the features of the taciturn M’Auslan, the wary Shanks, and the independent Mr Thomas Gills.

[Pg 54]

“There’s the man ye wanted,” said Geordie Dowie, slapping me familiarly on the shoulder.—“Whaur’s the dram ye promised me?

“In Campbelltown my luve was born,
Her mither in Glen Turrit!
But Ferintosh is the place for me,
For that’s the strangest speerit!”

“Haud yer clavering tongue, ye common village!” said Toddy Tam. “Wad ye bring in the neebourhood on us? M’Auslan, gie the body his dram, and then see him out of the door. We manna be interfered wi’ in our cracks.”

M’Auslan obeyed. A large glass of alcohol was given to my guide, who swallowed it with a sigh of pleasure.

“Eh, man! that’s gude and strang! It’s no ilka whusky that’ll mak Geordie Dowie pech. Fair fa’ yer face, my bonny M’Auslan! could you no just gi’e us anither?”

“Pit him out!” said the remorseless Gills. “It’s just extraordinar how fond the creature is o’ drink!” and Geordie was forcibly ejected, after an ineffectual clutch at the bottle.

“Sit ye down, Mr Dunshunner,” said Toddy Tam, addressing himself to me; “sit ye down, and mix yoursel’ a tumbler. I daresay now ye was a little surprised at the note ye got this morning, eh?”

[Pg 55]

“Why, certainly, Mr Gills, I did not anticipate the pleasure——”

“Ay, I kenned ye wad wonder at it. But ilka place has its ain way o’ doing business, and this is ours—quiet and cozy, ye see. I’se warrant, too, ye thocht M’Auslan a queer ane because he wadna speak out?”

I laughed dubiously towards M’Auslan, who responded with the austerest of possible grins.

“And Shanks, too,” continued Toddy Tam; “Shanks wadna speak out neither. They’re auld-farrant hands baith o’ them, Mr Dunshunner, and they didna like to promise ony thing without me. We three aye gang thegither.”

“I hope, then, Mr Gills, that I may calculate upon your support and that of your friends. My views upon the currency——”

“Ay! that’s speaking out at ance. Hoo muckle?”

“Ay! hoo muckle?” interposed M’Auslan, with a glistening eye.

“I really do not understand you, gentlemen.”

“Troth, then, ye’re slow at the uptak,” remarked Gills, after a meaning pause. “I see we maun be clear and conceese. Hark ye, Mr Dunshunner,—wha do ye think we are?”

“Three most respectable gentlemen, for whom I have the highest possible regard.”

“Hoots!—nonsense! D’ye no ken?”

“No,” was my puzzled response.

[Pg 56]

“Weel, then,” said Toddy Tam, advancing his lips to my ear, and pouring forth an alcoholic whisper—“we three can do mair than ye think o’—It’s huz that is the Clique!”

I recoiled in perfect amazement, and gazed in succession upon the countenances of the three compatriots. Yes—there could be no doubt about it—I was in the presence of the tremendous junta of Dreepdaily; the veil of Isis had been lifted up, and the principal figure upon the pedestal was the magnanimous and independent Gills. Always a worshipper of genius, I began to entertain a feeling little short of veneration towards Toddy Tam. The admirable manner in which he had contrived to conceal his real power from the public—his assumed indignation and horror of the Clique—and his hold over all classes of the electors, demonstrated him at once to be a consummate master of the political art. Machiavelli could not have devised a subtler stratagem than Gills.

“That’s just the plain truth o’ the matter,” observed Shanks, who had hitherto remained silent. “We three is the Clique, and we hae the representation o’ the burrow in our hands. Now, to speak to the point, if we put our names down on your Committee, you carry the election, and we’re ready to come to an understanding upon fair and liberal grounds.”

And we did come to an understanding upon [Pg 57]grounds which might be justly characterised as fair on the one side, and certainly liberal on the other. There was of course some little discussion as to the lengths I was expected to go in financial matters; and it was even hinted that, with regard to bullion, the Honourable Mr Pozzlethwaite might possibly entertain as enlarged views as myself. However, we fortunately succeeded in adjusting all our differences. I not only promised to give the weight of my name to a bill, but exhibited, upon the spot, a draft which met with the cordial approbation of my friends, and which indeed was so satisfactory that they did not offer to return it.

“That’s a’ right then,” said Toddy Tam, inserting the last-mentioned document in a greasy pocket-book. “Our names go down on your Committy, and the election is as gude as won!”

An eldritch laugh at a little window, which communicated with the street, at this moment electrified the speaker. There was a glimpse of a human face seen through the dingy pane.

A loud oath burst from the lips of Toddy Thomas.

“Some deevil has been watching us!” he cried. “Rin, M’Auslan, rin for your life, and grip him afore he can turn the corner! I wad not for a thousand pund that this nicht’s wark were to get wind!”

M’Auslan rushed, as desired; but all his efforts were ineffectual. The fugitive, whoever he was, [Pg 58]had very prudently dived into the darkness, and the draper returned without his victim.

“What is to be done?” said I. “It strikes me, gentlemen, that this may turn out to be a very unpleasant business.”

“Nae fears—nae fears!” said Toddy Tam, looking, however, the reverse of comfortable. “It will hae been some callant trying to fley us, that’s a’. But, mind ye—no a word o’ this to ony living human being, and aboon a’ to Provost Binkie. I’ve keepit him for four years in the dark, and it never wad do to show the cat the road to the kirn!”

I acquiesced in the precautionary arrangement, and we parted; Toddy Tam and his friends having, by this time, disposed of all the surplus fluid. It was very late before I reached the Provost’s dwelling.

I suppose that next morning I had overslept myself; for, when I awoke, I heard Miss Binkie in full operation at the piano. This time, however, she was not singing alone, for a male voice was audible in conjunction with hers.

“It would be an amazing consolation to me if somebody would carry off that girl!” thought I, as I proceeded with my toilet. “I made a deuced fool of myself to her yesterday; and, to say the truth, I don’t very well know how to look her in the face!”

However, there was no help for it, so I proceeded [Pg 59]down-stairs. The first individual I recognised in the breakfast parlour was M’Corkindale. He was engaged in singing, along with Miss Binkie, some idiotical catch about a couple of albino mice.

“Bob!” cried I, “my dear Bob, I am delighted to see you;—what on earth has brought you here?”

“A gig and a foundered mare,” replied the matter-of-fact M’Corkindale. “The fact is, that I was anxious to hear about your canvass; and, as there was nothing to do in Glasgow—by the way, Dunshunner, the banks have put on the screw again—I resolved to satisfy my own curiosity in person. I arrived this morning, and Miss Binkie has been kind enough to ask me to stay breakfast.”

“I am sure both papa and I are always happy to see Mr M’Corkindale,” said Margaret impressively.

“I am afraid,” said I, “that I have interrupted your music: I did not know, M’Corkindale, that you were so eminent a performer.”

“I hold with Aristotle,” replied Bob modestly, “that music and political economy are at the head of all the sciences. But it is very seldom that one can meet with so accomplished a partner as Miss Binkie.”

“Oh, ho,” thought I. But here the entrance of the Provost diverted the conversation, and we all sat down to breakfast. Old Binkie was evidently dying to know the result of my interview on the [Pg 60]previous evening, but I was determined to keep him in the dark. Bob fed like an ogre, and made prodigious efforts to be polite.

After breakfast, on the pretext of business we went out for a walk. The economist lighted his cigar.

“Snug quarters these, Dunshunner, at the Provost’s.”

“Very. But, Bob, things are looking rather well here. I had a negotiation last night which has as good as settled the business.”

“I am very glad to hear it.—Nice girl, Miss Binkie; very pretty eyes, and a good foot and ankle.”

“An unexceptionable instep. What do you think!—I have actually discovered the Clique at last.”

“You don’t say so! Do you think old Binkie has saved money?”

“I am sure he has. I look upon Dreepdaily as pretty safe now; and I propose going over this afternoon to Drouthielaw. What would you recommend?”

“I think you are quite right; but somebody should stay here to look after your interests. There is no depending upon these fellows. I’ll tell you what—while you are at Drouthielaw I shall remain here, and occupy your quarters. The Committee will require some man of business to drill them in, and I don’t care if I spare you the time.”

[Pg 61]

I highly applauded this generous resolution; at the same time I was not altogether blind to the motive. Bob, though an excellent fellow in the main, did not usually sacrifice himself to his friends, and I began to suspect that Maggie Binkie—with whom, by the way, he had some previous acquaintance—was somehow or other connected with his enthusiasm. As matters stood, I of course entertained no objection: on the contrary, I thought it no breach of confidence to repeat the history of the nest-egg.

Bob pricked up his ears.

“Indeed!” said he; “that is a fair figure as times go; and to judge from appearances, the stock in trade must be valuable.”

“Cargoes of sugar,” said I, “oceans of rum, and no end whatever of molasses!”

“A very creditable chairman, indeed, for your Committee, Dunshunner,” replied Bob. “Then I presume you agree that I should stay here, whilst you prosecute your canvass?”

I assented, and we returned to the house. In the course of the forenoon the list of my Committee was published, and, to the great joy of the Provost, the names of Thomas Gill, Alexander M’Auslan, and Simon Shanks appeared. He could not, for the life of him, understand how they had all come forward so readily. A meeting of my friends was afterwards held, at which I delivered a short harangue [Pg 62]upon the constitution of 1688, which seemed to give general satisfaction; and before I left the room, I had the pleasure of seeing the Committee organised, with Bob officiating as secretary. It was the opinion of every one that Pozzlethwaite had not a chance. I then partook of a light luncheon, and after bidding farewell to Miss Binkie, who, on the whole, seemed to take matters very coolly, I drove off for Drouthielaw. I need not relate my adventures in that respectable burgh. They were devoid of anything like interest, and not quite so satisfactory in their result as I could have wished. However, the name of Gills was known even at that distance, and his views had considerable weight with some of the religious denominations. So far as I was concerned, I had no sinecure of it. It cost me three nights’ hard drinking to conciliate the leaders of the Anabaptists, and at least three more before the chiefs of the Antinomians would surrender. As to the Old Light gentry, I gave them up in despair, for I could not hope to have survived the consequences of so serious a conflict.


Parliament was at length dissolved; the new writs were issued, and the day of nomination fixed for the Dreepdaily burghs. For a time it appeared [Pg 63]to myself, and indeed to almost every one else, that my return was perfectly secure. Provost Binkie was in great glory, and the faces of the unknown Clique were positively radiant with satisfaction. But a storm was brewing in another quarter, upon which we had not previously calculated.

The Honourable Mr Pozzlethwaite, my opponent, had fixed his headquarters in Drouthielaw, and to all appearance was making very little progress in Dreepdaily. Indeed, in no sense of the word could Pozzlethwaite be said to be popular. He was a middle-aged man, as blind as a bat, and, in order to cure the defect, he ornamented his visage with an immense pair of green spectacles, which, it may be easily conceived, did not add to the beauty of his appearance. In speech he was slow and verbose, in manner awkward, in matter almost wholly unintelligible. He professed principles which he said were precisely the same as those advocated by the late Jeremy Bentham; and certainly, if he was correct in this, I do not regret that my parents omitted to bring me up at the feet of the utilitarian Gamaliel. In short, Paul was prosy to a degree, had not an atom of animation in his whole composition, and could no more have carried a crowd along with him than he could have supported Atlas upon his shoulders. A portion, however, of philosophic weavers, and a certain section of the Seceders, had declared in his favour; [Pg 64]and, moreover, it was just possible that he might gain the suffrages of some of the Conservatives. Kittleweem, the Tory burgh, had hitherto preserved the appearance of strict neutrality. I had attempted to address the electors of that place, but I found that the hatred of Dreepdaily and of its Clique was more powerful than my eloquence; and, somehow or other, the benighted savages did not comprehend the merits of the Revolution Settlement of 1688, and were as violently national as the Celtic race before the invention of trews. Kittleweem had equipped half a regiment for Prince Charles in the Forty-five, and still piqued itself on its stanch Episcopacy. A Whig, therefore, could hardly expect to be popular in such a den of prejudice. By the advice of M’Corkindale, I abstained from any further efforts, which might possibly have tended to exasperate the electors, and left Kittleweem to itself, in the hope that it would maintain an armed neutrality.

And so it probably might have done, but for an unexpected occurrence. Two days before the nomination, a new candidate appeared on the field. Sholto Douglas was the representative of one of the oldest branches of his distinguished name, and the race to which he more immediately belonged had ever been foremost in the ranks of Scottish chivalry and patriotism. In fact, no family had suffered more from their attachment to the cause of legitimacy [Pg 65]than the Douglases of Inveriachan. Forfeiture after forfeiture had cut down their broad lands to a narrow estate, and but for an unexpected Indian legacy, the present heir would have been marching as a subaltern in a foot regiment. But a large importation of rupees had infused new life and spirit into the bosom of Sholto Douglas. Young, eager, and enthusiastic, he determined to rescue himself from obscurity; and the present state of the Dreepdaily burghs appeared to offer a most tempting opportunity. Douglas was, of course, Conservative to the backbone; but, more than that, he openly proclaimed himself a friend of the people, and a supporter of the rights of labour.

“Confound the fellow!” said Bob M’Corkindale to me, the morning after Sholto’s address had been placarded through the burghs, “who would have thought of an attack of this kind from such a quarter? Have you seen his manifesto, Dunshunner?”

“Yes—here it is in the Patriot. The editor, however, gives him it soundly in the leading article. I like his dogmatic style and wholesale denunciation of the Tories.”

“I’ll tell you what it is, though—I look upon this as anything but a joke. Douglas is evidently not a man to stand upon old aristocratic pretensions. He has got the right sow by the ear this time, and, had he started a little earlier, might have roused the national spirit to a very unpleasant [Pg 66]pitch. You observe what he says about Scotland, the neglect of her local interests, and the manner in which she has been treated, with reference to Ireland?”

“I do. And you will be pleased to recollect that but for yourself, something of the same kind would have appeared in my address.”

“If you mean that as a reproach, Dunshunner, you are wrong. How was it possible to have started you as a Whig upon patriotic principles?”

“Well—that’s true enough. At the same time, I cannot help wishing that we had said a word or two about the interests to the north of the Tweed.”

“What is done cannot be undone. We must now stick by the Revolution settlement.”

“Do you know, Bob, I think we have given them quite enough of that same settlement already. Those fellows at Kittleweem laughed in my face the last time that I talked about it, and I am rather afraid that it won’t go down on the hustings.”

“Try the sanitary condition of the towns, then, and universal conciliation to Ireland,” replied the Economist. “I have given orders to hire two hundred Paddies, who have come over for the harvest, at a shilling a-head, and of course you may depend upon their voices, and also their shillelahs, if needful. I think we should have a row. It would be a great matter to make Douglas unpopular; and, with [Pg 67]a movement of my little finger, I could turn out a whole legion of navigators.”

“No, Bob, you had better not. It is just possible they might make a mistake, and shy brickbats at the wrong candidate. It will be safer, I think, to leave the mob to itself: at the same time, we shall not be the worse for the Tipperary demonstration. And how looks the canvass?”

“Tolerably well, but not perfectly secure. The Clique has done its very best, but at the same time there is undeniably a growing feeling against it. Many people grumble about its dominion, and are fools enough to say that they have a right to think for themselves.”

“Could you not circulate a report that Pozzlethwaite is the man of the Clique?”

“The idea is ingenious, but I fear it would hardly work. Dreepdaily is well known to be the headquarters of the confederation, and the name of Provost Binkie is inseparably connected with it.”

“By the way, M’Corkindale, it struck me that you looked rather sweet upon Miss Binkie last evening.”

“I did. In fact I popped the question,” replied Robert calmly.

“Indeed! Were you accepted?”

“Conditionally. If we gain the election, she becomes Mrs M’Corkindale—if we lose, I suppose I [Pg 68]shall have to return to Glasgow in a state of celibacy.”

“A curious contract, certainly! Well, Bob, since your success is involved in mine, we must fight a desperate battle.”

“I wish, though, that Mr Sholto Douglas had been kind enough to keep out of the way,” observed M’Corkindale.

The morning of the day appointed for the nomination dawned upon the people of Dreepdaily with more than usual splendour. For once, there was no mist upon the surrounding hills, and the sky was clear as sapphire. I rose early to study my speech, which had received the finishing touches from M’Corkindale on the evening before; and I flatter myself it was as pretty a piece of Whig rhetoric as ever was spouted from a hustings. Toddy Tam, indeed, had objected, upon seeing a draft, that “there was nae banes intil’t;” but the political economist was considered by the Committee a superior authority on such subjects to Gills. After having carefully conned it over, I went down-stairs, where the whole party were already assembled. A large blue and yellow flag, with the inscription, “Dunshunner and the Good Cause!” was hung out from the window, to the intense delight of a gang of urchins, who testified to the popularity of the candidate by ceaseless vociferation to “pour out.” The wall opposite, however, [Pg 69]bore some memoranda of an opposite tendency, for I could see some large placards, newly pasted up, on which the words, “Electors of Dreepdaily! you are sold by the Clique!” were conspicuous in enormous capitals. I heard, too, something like a ballad chanted, in which my name seemed to be coupled, irreverently, with that of the independent Gills.

Provost Binkie—who, in common with the rest of the company, wore upon his bosom an enormous blue and buff cockade, prepared by the fair hands of his daughter—saluted me with great cordiality. I ought to observe that the Provost had been kept as much as possible in the dark regarding the actual results of the canvass. He was to propose me, and it was thought that his nerves would be more steady if he came forward under the positive conviction of success.

“This is a great day, Mr Dunshunner—a grand day for Dreepdaily,” he said. “A day, if I may sae speak, o’ triumph and rejoicing! The news o’ this will run frae one end o’ the land to the ither—for the een o’ a’ Scotland is fixed on Dreepdaily, and the stench auld Whig principles is sure to prevail, even like a mighty river that rins down in spate to the sea!”

I justly concluded that this figure of speech formed part of the address to the electors which for the two last days had been simmering in the brain of the [Pg 70]worthy magistrate, along with the fumes of the potations he had imbibed, as incentives to the extraordinary effort. Of course I took care to appear to participate in his enthusiasm. My mind, however, was very far from being thoroughly at ease.

As twelve o’clock, which was the hour of nomination, drew near, there was a great muster at my committee-room. The band of the Independent Tee-totallers, who to a man were in my interest, was in attendance. They had been well primed with ginger cordial, and were obstreperous to a gratifying degree.

Toddy Tam came up to me with a face of the colour of carnation.

“I think it richt to tell ye, Mr Dunshunner, that there will be a bit o’ a bleeze ower yonder at the hustings. The Kittleweem folk hae come through in squads, and Lord Hartside’s tenantry have marched in a body, wi’ Sholto Douglas’s colours flying.”

“And the Drouthielaw fellows—what has become of them?”

“Od, they’re no wi’ us either—they’re just savage at the Clique! Gudesake, Mr Dunshunner, tak care, and dinna say a word aboot huz. I intend mysell to denounce the body, and may be that will do us gude.”

I highly approved of Mr Gills’ determination, and as the time had now come, we formed in column, [Pg 71]and marched towards the hustings with the tee-total band in front, playing a very lugubrious imitation of “Glorious Apollo.”

The other candidates had already taken their places. The moment I was visible to the audience, I was assailed by a volley of yells, among which, cries of “Doun wi’ the Clique!”—“Wha bought them?”—“Nae nominee!”—“We’ve had eneuch o’ the Whigs!” et cetera, were distinctly audible. This was not at all the kind of reception I had bargained for;—however, there was nothing for it but to put on a smiling face, and I reciprocated courtesies as well as I could with both of my honourable opponents.

During the reading of the writ and the Bribery Act, there was a deal of joking, which I presume was intended to be good-humoured. At the same time there could be no doubt that it was distinctly personal. I heard my name associated with epithets of anything but an endearing description, and, to say the truth, if choice had been granted, I would far rather have been at Jericho than in the front of the hustings at Dreepdaily. A man must be, indeed, intrepid, and conscious of a good cause, who can oppose himself without blenching to the objurgation of an excited mob.

The Honourable Paul Pozzlethwaite, on account of his having been the earliest candidate in the field, was first proposed by a town-councillor of Drouthielaw. [Pg 72]This part of the ceremony appeared to excite but little interest, the hooting and cheering being pretty equally distributed.

It was now our turn.

“Gang forrard, Provost, and be sure ye speak oot!” said Toddy Tam; and Mr Binkie advanced accordingly.

Thereupon such a row commenced as I never had witnessed before. Yelling is a faint word to express the sounds of that storm of extraordinary wrath which descended upon the head of the devoted Provost. “Clique! Clique!” resounded on every side, and myriads of eyes, ferocious as those of the wildcat, were bent scowlingly on my worthy proposer. In vain did he gesticulate—in vain implore. The voice of Demosthenes—nay, the deep bass of Stentor himself—could not have been heard amidst that infernal uproar; so that, after working his arms for a time like the limbs of a telegraph, and exerting himself until he became absolutely swart in the face, Binkie was fain to give it up, and retired amidst a whirlwind of abuse.

“May the deil fly awa’ wi’ the hail pack o’ them!” said he, almost blubbering with excitement and indignation. “Wha wad ever hae thocht to have seen the like o’ this? and huz, too, that gied them the Reform Bill! Try your hand at them, Tam, for my heart’s amaist broken!”

The bluff independent character of Mr Gills, [Pg 73]and his reputed purity from all taint of the Clique, operated considerably in his favour. He advanced amidst general cheering, and cries of “Noo for Toddy Tam!” “Let’s hear Mr Gills!” and the like; and as he tossed his hat aside and clenched his brawny fist, he really looked the incarnation of a sturdy and independent elector. His style, too, was decidedly popular—

“Listen tae me!” he said, “and let the brawlin’, braggin’, bletherin’ idiwits frae Drouthielaw haud their lang clavering tongues, and no keep rowtin’ like a herd o’ senseless nowte! (Great cheering from Dreepdaily and Kittleweem—considerable disapprobation from Drouthielaw.) I ken them weel, the auld haverils! (cheers.) But you, my freends, that I have dwalt wi’ for twenty years, is it possible that ye can believe for one moment that I wad submit to be dictated to by a Clique? (Cries of “No! no!” “It’s no you, Tam!” and confusion.) No me? I dinna thank ye for that! Wull ony man daur to say to my face, that I ever colleagued wi’ a pack that wad buy and sell the haill of us as readily as ye can deal wi’ sheep’s-heads in the public market? (Laughter.) Div ye think that if Mr Dunshunner was ony way mixed up wi’ that gang, I wad be here this day tae second him? Div ye think——”

Here Mr Gills met with a singular interruption. A remarkable figure attired in a red coat and cocked-hat, [Pg 74]at one time probably the property of a civic officer, and who had been observed for some time bobbing about in front of the hustings, was now elevated upon the shoulders of a yeoman, and displayed to the delighted spectators the features of Geordie Dowie.

“Ay, Toddy Tam, are ye there, man?” cried Geordie with a malignant grin. “What was you and the Clique doin’ at Nanse Finlayson’s on Friday nicht?”

“What was it, Geordie? What was it?” cried a hundred voices.

“Am I to be interrupted by a natural?” cried Gills, looking, however, considerably flushed in the face.

“What hae ye dune wi’ the notes, Tam, that the lang chield up by there gied ye? And whaur’s your freends, Shanks and M’Auslan? See that ye steek close the window neist time, ma man!” cried Geordie with demoniac ferocity.

This was quite enough for the mob, who seldom require any excuse for a display of their hereditary privileges. A perfect hurricane of hissing and of yelling arose, and Gills, though he fought like a hero, was at last forced to retire from the contest. Had Geordie Dowie’s windpipe been within his grasp at that moment, I would not have insured for any amount the life of the perfidious spy.

Sholto Douglas was proposed and seconded amidst [Pg 75]great cheering, and then Pozzlethwaite rose to speak. I do not very well recollect what he said, for I had quite enough to do in thinking about myself; and the Honourable Paul would have conferred a material obligation upon me, if he had talked for an hour longer. At length my turn came.

“Electors of Dreepdaily!”—

That was the whole of my speech—at least the whole of it that was audible to any one human being. Humboldt, if I recollect right, talks in one of his travels of having somewhere encountered a mountain composed of millions of entangled snakes, whose hissing might have equalled that of the transformed legions of Pandemonium. I wish Humboldt, for the sake of scientific comparison, could have been upon the hustings that day! Certain I am, that the sibilation did not leave my ears for a fortnight afterwards, and even now, in my slumbers, I am haunted by a wilderness of asps! However, at the urgent entreaty of M’Corkindale, I went on for about ten minutes, though I was quivering in every limb, and as pale as a ghost; and in order that the public might not lose the benefit of my sentiments, I concluded by handing a copy of my speech, interlarded with fictitious cheers, to the reporter for the Dreepdaily Patriot. That document may still be seen by the curious in the columns of that impartial newspaper.

[Pg 76]

I will state this for Sholto Douglas, that he behaved like a perfect gentleman. There was in his speech no triumph over the discomfiture which the other candidates had received; on the contrary, he rather rebuked the audience for not having listened to us with greater patience. He then went on with his oration. I need hardly say it was a national one, and it was most enthusiastically cheered.

All that I need mention about the show of hands is, that it was not by any means hollow in my favour.

That afternoon we were not quite so lively in the Committee-room as usual. The serenity of Messrs Gills, M’Auslan, and Shanks,—and, perhaps, I may add of myself—was a good deal shaken by the intelligence that a broadside with the tempting title of “Full and Particular Account of an Interview between the Clique and Mr Dunshunner, held at Nanse Finlayson’s Tavern, on Friday last, and how they came to terms. By an Eyewitness,” was circulating like wildfire through the streets. To have been beaten by a Douglas was nothing, but to have been so artfully entrapped by an imbecile!

Provost Binkie, too, was dull and dissatisfied. The reception he had met with in his native town was no doubt a severe mortification, but the feeling that he had been used as a catspaw and instrument of the Clique, was, I suspected, uppermost in his mind. Poor man! We had great difficulty that evening in bringing him to his sixth tumbler.

[Pg 77]

Even M’Corkindale was hipped. I own I was surprised at this, for I knew of old the indefatigable spirit and keen energy of my friend, and I thought that, with such a stake as he had in the contest, he would even have redoubled his exertions. Such, however, was not the case.

I pass over the proceedings at the poll. From a very early hour it became perfectly evident that my chance was utterly gone; and, indeed, had it been possible, I should have left Dreepdaily before the close. At four o’clock the numbers stood thus:—

Douglas, 94 63 192
Pozzlethwaite, 59 73   21
Dunshunner, 72 19    7
Majority for Douglas, 196

We had an affecting scene in the Committee-room. Gills, who had been drinking all day, shed copious floods of tears; Shanks was disconsolate; and M’Auslan refused to be comforted. Of course I gave the usual pledge, that on the very first opportunity I should come forward again to reassert the independence of the burghs, now infamously sacrificed to a Conservative; but the cheering at this announcement was of the very faintest description, and I doubt whether any one believed me. Two hours afterwards I was miles away from Dreepdaily.

[Pg 78]

I have since had letters from that place, which inform me that the Clique is utterly discomfited; that for some days the component members of it might be seen wandering through the streets, and pouring their husky sorrows into the ears of every stray listener whom they could find, until they became a positive nuisance. My best champion, however, was the editor of the Patriot. That noble and dauntless individual continued for weeks afterwards to pour forth Jeremiads upon my defeat, and stigmatised my opponents and their supporters as knaves, miscreants, and nincompoops. I was, he maintained, the victim of a base conspiracy, and the degraded town of Dreepdaily would never be able thereafter to rear its polluted head in the Convention of Royal Burghs.

Whilst these things were going on in Dreepdaily, I was closeted with M’Corkindale in Glasgow.

“So, then, you have lost your election,” said he.

“And you have lost your wife.”

“Neither of the two accidents appear to me irreparable,” replied Robert.

“How so? Do you still think of Miss Binkie?”

“By no means. I made some little inquiry the day before the election, and discovered that a certain nest-egg was enormously exaggerated, if not altogether fictitious.”

“Well, Bob, there is certainly nobody like yourself for getting information.”

[Pg 79]

“I do my best. May I inquire into the nature of your future movements?”

“I have not yet made up my mind. These election matters put everything else out of one’s head. Let me see—August is approaching, and I half promised the Captain of M’Alcohol to spend a few weeks with him at his shooting-quarters.”

“Are you aware, Dunshunner, that one of your bills falls due at the Gorbals Bank upon Tuesday next?”

“Mercy upon me, Bob! I had forgotten all about it.”

I did not go to the Highlands after all. The fatigue and exertion we had undergone rendered it quite indispensable that my friend Robert and I should relax a little. Accordingly we have both embarked for a short run upon the Continent.

12th August 1847.

[Pg 80]



[MAGA. February 1829.]

Take down from your shelves, gentle reader, your folio edition of Johnson’s Dictionary,—or, if you possess Todd’s edition of Johnson, take down his four ponderous quartos; turn over every leaf, read every word from A to Z, and then confess, that in the whole vocabulary there are not any two words which awaken in your heart such a crowd of mixed and directly opposite emotions as the two which now stare you in the face—FIRST and LAST! In the abstract, they embrace the whole round of our existence: in the detail, all its brightest hopes, its noblest enjoyments, and its most cherished recollections; all its loftiest enterprises, and all its smiles and tears; its pangs of guilt, its virtuous principles, its trials, its sorrows, and its rewards. They give you the dawn and the close of life, the beginning and the end of its countless busy scenes. They are the two extremities of a path which, be it long, or be it short, no man [Pg 81]sees at one and the same moment. Happy would it be for us, sometimes, if we could—if we could behold the end of a course of action as certainly as we do the beginning; but oftener, far oftener, would it be our curse and torment, unless, with the foresight or foreknowledge, we had the power to avert the end.

But let me not anticipate my own intentions, which are to portray, in a few sketches, the links that hold together the first and last of the most momentous periods and undertakings of our lives; to trace the dawn, progress, and decline of many of the best feelings and motives of our nature; to touch, with a pensive colouring, the contrasts they present; to stimulate honourable enterprises by the examples they furnish; and to amuse by the form in which the truths they supply are embodied. I shall begin with a subject not exactly falling within the legitimate scope of my design, but it will serve as an appropriate introduction, and I shall call it


Twelve friends, much about the same age, and fixed by their pursuits, their family connections, and other local interests, as permanent inhabitants of the metropolis, agreed, one day when they were drinking their wine at the Star and Garter at Richmond, to institute an annual dinner among themselves, [Pg 82]under the following regulations: That they should dine alternately at each other’s houses on the first and last day of the year; that the first bottle of wine uncorked at the first dinner, should be recorked and put away, to be drunk by him who should be the last of their number; that they should never admit a new member; that, when one died, eleven should meet, and when another died, ten should meet, and so on; and that, when only one remained, he should, on those two days, dine by himself, and sit the usual hours at his solitary table; but the first time he so dined alone, lest it should be the only one, he should then uncork the first bottle, and, in the first glass, drink to the memory of all who were gone.

There was something original and whimsical in the idea, and it was eagerly embraced. They were all in the prime of life, closely attached by reciprocal friendship, fond of social enjoyments, and looked forward to their future meetings with unalloyed anticipations of pleasure. The only thought, indeed, that could have darkened those anticipations was one not very likely to intrude itself at that moment, that of the hapless wight who was destined to uncork the first bottle at his lonely repast.

It was high summer when this frolic compact was entered into; and as their pleasure-yacht skimmed along the dark bosom of the Thames, on their return to London, they talked of nothing but [Pg 83]their first and last feasts of ensuing years. Their imaginations ran riot with a thousand gay predictions of festive merriment. They wantoned in conjectures of what changes time would operate; joked each other upon their appearance, when they should meet,—some hobbling upon crutches after a severe fit of the gout,—others poking about with purblind eyes, which even spectacles could hardly enable to distinguish the alderman’s walk in a haunch of venison—some with portly round bellies and tidy little brown wigs, and others decently dressed out in a new suit of mourning for the death of a great-granddaughter or a great-great-grandson. Palsies, wrinkles, toothless gums, stiff hams, and poker knees, were bandied about in sallies of exuberant mirth, and appropriated, first to one and then to another, as a group of merry children would have distributed golden palaces, flying chariots, diamond tables, and chairs of solid pearl, under the fancied possession of a magician’s wand, which could transform plain brick, and timber, and humble mahogany, into such costly treasures.

“As for you, George,” exclaimed one of the twelve, addressing his brother-in-law, “I expect I shall see you as dry, withered, and shrunken, as an old eel-skin, you mere outside of a man!” and he accompanied the words with a hearty slap on the shoulder.

George Fortescue was leaning carelessly over the [Pg 84]side of the yacht, laughing the loudest of any at the conversation which had been carried on. The sudden manual salutation of his brother-in-law threw him off his balance, and in a moment he was overboard. They heard the heavy splash of his fall, before they could be said to have seen him fall. The yacht was proceeding swiftly along; but it was instantly stopped.

The utmost consternation now prevailed. It was nearly dark, but Fortescue was known to be an excellent swimmer, and, startling as the accident was, they felt certain he would regain the vessel. They could not see him. They listened. They heard the sound of his hands and feet. They hailed him. An answer was returned, but in a faint gurgling voice, and the exclamation “Oh God!” struck upon their ears. In an instant two or three, who were expert swimmers, plunged into the river, and swam towards the spot whence the exclamation had proceeded. One of them was within an arm’s length of Fortescue: he saw him; he was struggling and buffeting the water; before he could be reached, he went down, and his distracted friend beheld the eddying circles of the wave just over the spot where he had sunk. He dived after him, and touched the bottom; but the tide must have drifted the body onwards, for it could not be found!

They proceeded to one of the nearest stations where drags were kept, and having procured the [Pg 85]necessary apparatus, they returned to the fatal spot. After the lapse of above an hour, they succeeded in raising the lifeless body of their lost friend. All the usual remedies were employed for restoring suspended animation; but in vain; and they now pursued the remainder of their course to London in mournful silence, with the corpse of him who had commenced the day of pleasure with them in the fulness of health, of spirits, and of life! Amid their severer grief, they could not but reflect how soon one of the joyous twelve had slipped out of the little festive circle.

The months rolled on, and cold December came with all its cheering round of kindly greetings and merry hospitalities; and with it came a softened recollection of the fate of poor Fortescue; eleven of the twelve assembled on the last day of the year, and it was impossible not to feel their loss as they sat down to dinner. The very irregularity of the table, five on one side, and only four on the other, forced the melancholy event upon their memory.

There are few sorrows so stubborn as to resist the united influence of wine, a circle of select friends, and a season of prescriptive gaiety. Even those pinching troubles of life, which come home to a man’s own bosom, will light up a smile, in such moments, at the beaming countenances and jocund looks of all the rest of the world; while your mere sympathetic or sentimental distress gives way, like [Pg 86]the inconsolable affliction of a widow of twenty closely besieged by a lover of thirty.

A decorous sigh or two, a few becoming ejaculations, and an instructive observation upon the uncertainty of life, made up the sum of tender posthumous “offerings to the manes of poor George Fortescue,” as they proceeded to discharge the more important duties for which they had met. By the time the third glass of champagne had gone round, in addition to sundry potations of fine old hock, and “capital madeira,” they had ceased to discover anything so very pathetic in the inequality of the two sides of the table, or so melancholy in their crippled number of eleven.

The rest of the evening passed off to their hearts’ content. Conversation was briskly kept up amid the usual fire of pun, repartee, anecdote, politics, toasts, healths, jokes, broad laughter, erudite disquisitions upon the vintage of the wines they were drinking, and an occasional song. Towards twelve o’clock, when it might be observed that they emptied their glasses with less symptoms of palating the quality of what they quaffed, and filled them again with less anxiety as to which bottle or decanter they laid hold of, they gradually waxed moral and tender; sensibility began to ooze out; “Poor George Fortescue!” was once more remembered; those who could count, sighed to think there were only eleven of them; and those who [Pg 87]could see, felt the tears come into their eyes, as they dimly noted the inequality of the two sides of the table. They all agreed, at parting, however, that they had never passed such a happy day, congratulated each other upon having instituted so delightful a meeting, and promised to be punctual to their appointment the ensuing evening, when they were to celebrate the new-year, whose entrance they had welcomed in bumpers of claret, as the watchman bawled “past twelve!” beneath the window.

They met accordingly; and their gaiety was without any alloy or drawback. It was only the first time of their assembling after the death of “poor George Fortescue,” that made the recollection of it painful; for, though but a few hours had intervened, they now took their seats at the table as if eleven had been their original number, and as if all were there that had been ever expected to be there.

It is thus in everything. The first time a man enters a prison—the first book an author writes—the first painting an artist executes—the first battle a general wins—nay, the first time a rogue is hanged (for a rotten rope may provide a second performance, even of that ceremony, with all its singleness of character), differ inconceivably from their first repetition. There is a charm, a spell, a novelty, a freshness, a delight, inseparable from the [Pg 88]first experience (hanging always excepted, be it remembered), which no art or circumstance can impart to the second. And it is the same in all the darker traits of life. There is a degree of poignancy and anguish in the first assaults of sorrow, which is never found afterwards. Ask the weeping widow, who, “like Niobe all tears,” follows her fifth husband to the grave, and she will tell you that the first time she performed that melancholy office, it was with at least five times more lamentations than when she last discharged it. In every case, it is simply that the first fine edge of our feelings has been taken off, and that it can never be restored.

Several years had elapsed, and our eleven friends kept up their double anniversaries, as they might aptly enough be called, with scarcely any perceptible change. But, alas! there came one dinner at last, which was darkened by a calamity they never expected to witness, for on that very day their friend, companion, brother almost, was hanged! Yes! Stephen Rowland, the wit, the oracle, the life of their little circle, had, on the morning of that day, forfeited his life upon a public scaffold, for having made one single stroke of his pen in a wrong place. In other words, a bill of exchange which passed into his hands for £700 passed out of them for £1700; he having drawn the important little prefix to the hundreds, and the bill being paid at the banker’s without examining the words of it. The [Pg 89]forgery was discovered,—brought home to Rowland,—and though the greatest interest was used to obtain a remission of the fatal penalty (the particular female favourite of the prime-minister himself interfering), poor Stephen Rowland was hanged. Everybody pitied him; and nobody could tell why he did it. He was not poor; he was not a gambler; he was not a speculator; but phrenology settled it. The organ of acquisitiveness was discovered in his head, after his execution, as large as a pigeon’s egg. He could not help it.

It would be injustice to the ten to say, that even wine, friendship, and a merry season, could dispel the gloom which pervaded this dinner. It was agreed beforehand that they should not allude to the distressing and melancholy theme; and having thus interdicted the only thing which really occupied all their thoughts, the natural consequence was, that silent contemplation took the place of dismal discourse, and they separated long before midnight. An embarrassing restraint, indeed, pervaded the little conversation which grew up at intervals. The champagne was not in good order, but no one liked to complain of its being ropy. A beautiful painting of Vandyke which was in the room, became a topic of discussion. They who thought it was hung in a bad place, shrunk from saying so; and not one ventured to speak of the execution of that great master. Their host was [Pg 90]having the front of his house repaired, and at any other time he would have cautioned them, when they went away, as the night was very dark, to take care of the scaffold; but no, they might have stumbled right and left before he would have pronounced that word, or told them not to break their necks. One, in particular, even abstained from using his customary phrase, “this is a drop of good wine;” and another forbore to congratulate the friend who sat next him, and who had been married since he last saw him, because he was accustomed on such occasions to employ figurative language and talk of the holy noose of wedlock.

Some fifteen years had now glided away since the fate of poor Rowland, and the ten remained; but the stealing hand of time had written sundry changes in most legible characters. Raven locks had become grizzled—two or three heads had not as many locks altogether as may be reckoned in a walk of half a mile along the Regent’s Canal—one was actually covered with a brown wig—the crow’s-feet were visible in the corner of the eye—good old port and warm madeira carried it against hock, claret, red burgundy, and champagne—stews, hashes, and ragouts, grew into favour—crusts were rarely called for to relish the cheese after dinner—conversation was less boisterous, and it turned chiefly upon politics and the state of the funds, or the value of landed property—apologies were made for [Pg 91]coming in thick shoes and warm stockings—the doors and windows were more carefully provided with list and sand-bags—the fire more in request—and a quiet game of whist filled up the hours that were wont to be devoted to drinking, singing, and riotous merriment. Two rubbers, a cup of coffee, and at home by eleven o’clock, was the usual cry, when the fifth or sixth glass had gone round after the removal of the cloth. At parting, too, there was now a long ceremony in the hall, buttoning up great-coats, tying on woollen comforters, fixing silk handkerchiefs over the mouth and up to the ears, and grasping sturdy walking-canes to support unsteady feet.

Their fiftieth anniversary came, and death had indeed been busy. One had been killed by the overturning of the mail, in which he had taken his place in order to be present at the dinner, having purchased an estate in Monmouthshire, and retired thither with his family. Another had undergone the terrific operation for the stone, and expired beneath the knife—a third had yielded up a broken spirit two years after the loss of an only-surviving and beloved daughter—a fourth was carried off in a few days by a cholera morbus—a fifth had breathed his last the very morning he obtained a judgment in his favour by the Lord Chancellor, which had cost him his last shilling nearly to get, and which, after a litigation of eighteen years, declared him [Pg 92]the rightful possessor of ten thousand a-year—ten minutes after he was no more. A sixth had perished by the hand of a midnight assassin, who broke into his house for plunder, and sacrificed the owner of it, as he grasped convulsively a bundle of Exchequer bills, which the robber was drawing from beneath his pillow, where he knew they were every night placed for better security.

Four little old men, of withered appearance and decrepit walk, with cracked voices, and dim, rayless eyes, sat down, by the mercy of Heaven (as they themselves tremulously declared), to celebrate, for the fiftieth time, the first day of the year—to observe the frolic compact which, half a century before, they had entered into at the Star and Garter at Richmond! Eight were in their graves! The four that remained stood upon its confines. Yet they chirped cheerily over their glass, though they could scarcely carry it to their lips, if more than half full; and cracked their jokes, though they articulated their words with difficulty, and heard each other with still greater difficulty. They mumbled, they chattered, they laughed (if a sort of strangled wheezing might be called a laugh); and when the wines sent their icy blood in warmer pulse through their veins, they talked of their past as if it were but a yesterday that had slipped by them,—and of their future, as if it were a busy century that lay before them.

[Pg 93]

They were just the number for a quiet rubber of whist; and for three successive years they sat down to one. The fourth came, and then their rubber was played with an open dummy; a fifth, and whist was no longer practicable; two could play only at cribbage, and cribbage was the game. But it was little more than the mockery of play. Their palsied hands could hardly hold, or their fading sight distinguish, the cards, while their torpid faculties made them doze between each deal.

At length came the LAST dinner; and the survivor of the twelve, upon whose head fourscore and ten winters had showered their snow, ate his solitary meal. It so chanced that it was in his house, and at his table, they had celebrated the first. In his cellar, too, had remained, for eight-and-fifty years, the bottle they had then uncorked, recorked, and which he was that day to uncork again. It stood beside him. With a feeble and reluctant grasp he took the “frail memorial” of a youthful vow; and for a moment memory was faithful to her office. She threw open the long vista of buried years; and his heart travelled through them all;—their lusty and blithesome spring—their bright and fervid summer—their ripe and temperate autumn—their chill, but not too frozen winter. He saw, as in a mirror, how, one by one, the laughing companions of that merry hour at Richmond, had dropped into eternity. He [Pg 94]felt all the loneliness of his condition (for he had eschewed marriage, and in the veins of no living creature ran a drop of blood whose source was in his own); and as he drained the glass which he had filled, “to the memory of those who were gone,” the tears slowly trickled down the deep furrows of his aged face.

He had thus fulfilled one part of his vow, and he prepared himself to discharge the other, by sitting the usual number of hours at his desolate table. With a heavy heart he resigned himself to the gloom of his own thoughts—a lethargic sleep stole over him—his head fell upon his bosom—confused images crowded into his mind—he babbled to himself—was silent—and when his servant entered the room, alarmed by a noise which he heard, he found his master stretched upon the carpet at the foot of the easy-chair, out of which he had slipped in an apoplectic fit. He never spoke again, nor once opened his eyes, though the vital spark was not extinct till the following day. And this was the LAST DINNER.

[Pg 1]



[MAGA. September 1853.]

The close of the theatrical year, which in France occurs in early spring, annually brings to Paris a throng of actors and actresses, the disorganised elements of provincial companies, who repair to the capital to contract engagements for the new season. Paris is the grand centre to which all dramatic stars converge—the great bazaar where managers recruit their troops for the summer campaign. In bad weather the mart for this human merchandise is at an obscure coffee-house near the Rue St Honoré; when the sun shines, the place of meeting is in the garden of the Palais Royal. There, pacing to and fro beneath the lime-trees, the high contracting parties pursue their negotiations and make their bargains. It is the theatrical Exchange, the histrionic Bourse. There the conversation and the company are alike curious. Many are the strange discussions and original anecdotes that there are heard; many the odd figures there paraded. Tragedians,[Pg 2] comedians, singers, men and women, young and old, flock thither in quest of fortune and a good engagement. The threadbare coats of some say little in favour of recent success or present prosperity; but only hear them speak, and you are at once convinced that they have no need of broadcloth who are so amply covered with laurels. It is delightful to hear them talk of their triumphs, of the storms of applause, the rapturous bravos, the boundless enthusiasm, of the audiences they lately delighted. Their brows are oppressed with the weight of their bays. The south mourns their loss; if they go west, the north will be envious and inconsolable. As to themselves—north, south, east, or west—they care little to which point of the compass the breeze of their destiny may waft them. Thorough gypsies in their habits, accustomed to make the best of the passing hour, and to take small care for the future so long as the present is provided for, like soldiers they heed not the name of the town so long as the quarters be good.

It was a fine morning in April. The sun shone brightly, and, amongst the numerous loungers in the garden of the Palais Royal were several groups of actors. The season was already far advanced; all the companies were formed, and those players who had not secured an engagement had but a poor chance of finding one. Their anxiety was legible upon their countenances. A man of about fifty [Pg 3]years of age walked to and fro, a newspaper in his hand, and to him, when he passed near them, the actors bowed—respectfully and hopefully. A quick glance was his acknowledgment of their salutation, and then his eyes reverted to his paper, as if it deeply interested him. When he was out of hearing, the actors, who had assumed their most picturesque attitudes to attract his attention, and who beheld their labour lost, vented their ill-humour.

“Balthasar is mighty proud,” said one; “he has not a word to say to us.”

“Perhaps he does not want anybody,” remarked another; “I think he has no theatre this year.”

“That would be odd. They say he is a clever manager.”

“He may best prove his cleverness by keeping aloof. It is so difficult nowadays to do good in the provinces. The public is so fastidious! the authorities are so shabby, so unwilling to put their hands in their pockets. Ah, my dear fellow, our art is sadly fallen!”

Whilst the discontented actors bemoaned themselves, Balthasar eagerly accosted a young man who just then entered the garden by the passage of the Perron. The coffehouse-keepers had already begun to put out tables under the tender foliage. The two men sat down at one of them.

“Well, Florival,” said the manager, “does my offer suit you? Will you make one of us? I was [Pg 4]glad to hear you had broken off with Ricardin. With your qualifications you ought to have an engagement in Paris, or at least at a first-rate provincial theatre. But you are young, and, as you know, managers prefer actors of greater experience and established reputation. Your parts are generally taken by youths of five-and-forty, with wrinkles and grey hairs, but well versed in the traditions of the stage—with damaged voices but an excellent style. My brother managers are greedy of great names; yours still has to become known—as yet, you have but your talent to recommend you. I will content myself with that; content yourself with what I offer you. Times are bad, the season is advanced, engagements are hard to find. Many of your comrades have gone to try their luck beyond seas. We have not so far to go; we shall scarcely overstep the boundary of our ungrateful country. Germany invites us; it is a pleasant land, and Rhine wine is not to be disdained. I will tell you how the thing came about. For many years past I have managed theatres in the eastern departments, in Alsatia and Lorraine. Last summer, having a little leisure, I made an excursion to Baden-Baden. As usual, it was crowded with fashionables. One rubbed shoulders with princes and trod upon highnesses’ toes; one could not walk twenty yards without meeting a sovereign. All these crowned heads, kings, grand-dukes, electors, mingled easily [Pg 5]and affably with the throng of visitors. Etiquette is banished from the baths of Baden, where, without laying aside their titles, great personages enjoy the liberty and advantages of an incognito. At the time of my visit, a company of very indifferent German actors were playing, two or three times a-week, in the little theatre. They played to empty benches, and must have starved but for the assistance afforded them by the directors of the gambling-tables. I often went to their performances, and, amongst the scanty spectators, I soon remarked one who was as assiduous as myself. A gentleman, very plainly dressed, but of agreeable countenance and aristocratic appearance, invariably occupied the same stall, and seemed to enjoy the performance, which proved that he was easily pleased. One night he addressed to me some remark with respect to the play then acting; we got into conversation on the subject of dramatic art; he saw that I was specially competent on that topic, and after the theatre he asked me to take refreshment with him. I accepted. At midnight we parted, and, as I was going home, I met a gambler whom I slightly knew. ‘I congratulate you,’ he said; ‘you have friends in high places!’ He alluded to the gentleman with whom I had passed the evening, and who I now learned was no less a personage than his Serene Highness Prince Leopold, sovereign ruler of the Grand Duchy of Niesenstein. I [Pg 6]had had the honour of passing a whole evening in familiar intercourse with a crowned head. Next day, walking in the park, I met his highness. I made a low bow and kept at a respectful distance, but the Grand Duke came up to me and asked me to walk with him. Before accepting, I thought it right to inform him who I was. ‘I guessed as much,’ said the Prince. ‘From one or two things that last night escaped you, I made no doubt you were a theatrical manager.’ And by a gesture he renewed his invitation to accompany him. In a long conversation he informed me of his intention to establish a French theatre in his capital, for the performance of comedy, drama, vaudeville, and comic operas. He was then building a large theatre, which would be ready by the end of the winter, and he offered me its management on very advantageous terms. I had no plans in France for the present year, and the offer was too good to be refused. The Grand Duke guaranteed my expenses and a gratuity, and there was a chance of very large profits. I hesitated not a moment; we exchanged promises, and the affair was concluded.

“According to our agreement, I am to be at Karlstadt, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Niesenstein, in the first week in May. There is no time to lose. My company is almost complete, but there are still some important gaps to fill. Amongst others, I want a lover, a light comedian, and a first [Pg 7]singer. I reckon upon you to fill these important posts.”

“I am quite willing,” replied the actor, “but there is still an obstacle. You must know, my dear Balthasar, that I am deeply in love—seriously, this time—and I broke off with Ricardin solely because he would not engage her to whom I am attached.”

“Oho! she is an actress?”

“Two years upon the stage; a lovely girl, full of grace and talent, and with a charming voice. The Opera Comique has not a singer to compare with her.”

“And she is disengaged?”

“Yes, my dear fellow; strange though it seems, and by a combination of circumstances which it were tedious to detail, the fascinating Delia is still without an engagement. And I give you notice that henceforward I attach myself to her steps: where she goes, I go; I will perform upon no boards which she does not tread. I am determined to win her heart, and make her my wife.”

“Very good!” cried Balthasar, rising from his seat; “tell me the address of this prodigy: I run, I fly, I make every sacrifice; and we will start to-morrow.”

People were quite right in saying that Balthasar was a clever manager. None better knew how to deal with actors, often capricious and difficult to [Pg 8]guide. He possessed skill, taste, and tact. One hour after the conversation in the garden of the Palais Royal, he had obtained the signatures of Delia and Florival, two excellent acquisitions, destined to do him infinite honour in Germany. That night his little company was complete, and the next day, after a good dinner, it started for Strasburg. It was composed as follows:

Balthasar, manager, was to play the old men, and take the heavy business.

Florival was the leading man, the lover, and the first singer.

Rigolet was the low comedian, and took the parts usually played by Arnal and Bouffé.

Similor was to perform the valets in Molière’s comedies, and eccentric low comedy characters.

Anselmo was the walking gentleman.

Lebel led the band.

Miss Delia was to display her charms and talents as prima donna, and in genteel comedy.

Miss Foligny was the singing chambermaid.

Miss Alice was the walking lady, and made herself generally useful.

Finally, Madame Pastorale, the duenna of the company, was to perform the old women, and look after the young ones.

Although so few, the company trusted to atone by zeal and industry for numerical deficiency. It would be easy to find, in the capital of the Grand [Pg 9]Duchy, persons capable of filling mute parts, and, in most plays, a few unimportant characters might be suppressed.

The travellers reached Strasburg without adventure worthy of note. There Balthasar allowed them six-and-thirty hours’ repose, and took advantage of the halt to write to the Grand Duke Leopold, and inform him of his approaching arrival; then they again started, crossed the Rhine at Kehl, and in thirty hours, after traversing several small German states, reached the frontier of the Grand Duchy of Niesenstein, and stopped at a little village called Krusthal. From this village to the capital the distance was only four leagues, but means of conveyance were wanting. There was but a single stagecoach on that line of road; it would not leave Krusthal for two days, and it held but six persons. No other vehicles were to be had; it was necessary to wait, and the necessity was anything but pleasant. The actors made wry faces at the prospect of passing forty-eight hours in a wretched village. The only persons who easily made up their minds to the wearisome delay were Delia and Florival. The first singer was desperately in love, and the prima donna was not insensible to his delicate attentions and tender discourse.

Balthasar, the most impatient and persevering of all, went out to explore the village. In an hour’s time he returned in triumph to his friends, in [Pg 10]a light cart drawn by a strong horse. Unfortunately the cart held but two persons.

“I will set out alone,” said Balthasar. “On reaching Karlstadt, I will go to the Grand Duke, explain our position, and I have no doubt he will immediately send carriages to convey you to his capital.”

These consolatory words were received with loud cheers by the actors. The driver, a peasant lad, cracked his whip, and the stout Mecklenburg horse set out at a small trot. Upon the way, Balthasar questioned his guide as to the extent, resources, and prosperity of the Grand Duchy, but could obtain no satisfactory reply; the young peasant was profoundly ignorant upon all these subjects. The four leagues were got over in something less than three hours, which is rather rapid travelling for Germany. It was nearly dark when Balthasar entered Karlstadt. The shops were shut, and there were few persons in the streets; people are early in their habits in the happy lands on the Rhine’s right bank. Presently the cart stopped before a good-sized house.

“You told me to take you to our prince’s palace,” said the driver, “and here it is.” Balthasar alighted and entered the dwelling, unchallenged and unimpeded by the sentry who paced lazily up and down in its front. In the entrance-hall the manager met a porter, who bowed gravely to him as he passed; [Pg 11]he walked on and passed through an empty anteroom. In the first apartment, appropriated to gentlemen-in-waiting, aides-de-camp, equerries, and other dignitaries of various degree, he found nobody; in a second saloon, lighted by a dim and smoky lamp, was an old gentleman, dressed in black, with powdered hair, who rose slowly at his entrance, looked at him with surprise, and inquired his pleasure.

“I wish to see his Serene Highness, the Grand Duke Leopold,” replied Balthasar.

“The prince does not grant audiences at this hour,” the old gentleman dryly answered.

“His Highness expects me,” was the confident reply of Balthasar.

“That is another thing. I will inquire if it be his Highness’s pleasure to receive you. Whom shall I announce?”

“The manager of the Court theatre.”

The gentleman bowed, and left Balthasar alone. The pertinacious manager already began to doubt the success of his audacity, when he heard the Grand Duke’s voice, saying, “Show him in.”

He entered. The sovereign of Niesenstein was alone, seated in a large arm-chair, at a table covered with a green cloth, upon which were a confused medley of letters and newspapers, an inkstand, a tobacco-bag, two wax-lights, a sugar-basin, a sword, a plate, gloves, a bottle, books, and a goblet of [Pg 12]Bohemian glass, artistically engraved. His Highness was engrossed in a thoroughly national occupation; he was smoking one of those long pipes which Germans rarely lay aside except to eat or to sleep.

The manager of the Court theatre bowed thrice, as if he had been advancing to the foot-lights to address the public; then he stood still and silent, awaiting the prince’s pleasure. But, although he said nothing, his countenance was so expressive that the Grand Duke answered him.

“Yes,” he said, “here you are. I recollect you perfectly, and I have not forgotten our agreement. But you come at a very unfortunate moment, my dear sir!”

“I crave your Highness’s pardon if I have chosen an improper hour to seek an audience,” replied Balthasar with another bow.

“It is not the hour that I am thinking of,” answered the prince quickly. “Would that were all! See, here is your letter; I was just now reading it, and regretting that, instead of writing to me only three days ago, when you were half-way here, you had not done so two or three weeks before starting.”

“I did wrong.”

“More so than you think; for, had you sooner warned me, I would have spared you a useless journey.”

“Useless!” exclaimed Balthasar aghast. “Has your Highness changed your mind?”

[Pg 13]

“Not at all; I am still passionately fond of the drama, and should be delighted to have a French theatre here. As far as that goes, my ideas and tastes are in no way altered since last summer; but, unfortunately, I am unable to satisfy them. Look here,” continued the prince, rising from his arm-chair. He took Balthasar’s arm and led him to a window: “I told you, last year, that I was building a magnificent theatre in my capital.”

“Your Highness did tell me so.”

“Well, look yonder, on the other side of the square; there the theatre is!”

“Your Highness, I see nothing but an open space; a building commenced, and as yet scarcely risen above the foundation.”

“Precisely so; that is the theatre.”

“Your Highness told me it would be completed before the end of winter.”

“I did not then foresee that I should have to stop the works for want of cash to pay the workmen. Such is my present position. If I have no theatre ready to receive you, and if I cannot take you and your company into my pay, it is because I have not the means. The coffers of the State and my privy purse are alike empty. You are astounded!—Adversity respects nobody—not even Grand Dukes. But I support its assaults with philosophy: try to follow my example; and, by way of a beginning, take a chair and a pipe, fill [Pg 14]yourself a glass of wine, and drink to the return of my prosperity. Since you suffer for my misfortunes, I owe you an explanation. Although I never had much order in my expenditure, I had every reason, at the time I first met with you, to believe my finances in a flourishing condition. It was not until the commencement of the present year that I discovered the contrary to be the case. Last year was a bad one; hail ruined our crops, and money was hard to get in. The salaries of my household were in arrear, and my officers murmured. For the first time I ordered a statement of my affairs to be laid before me, and I found that ever since my accession I had been exceeding my revenue. My first act of sovereignty had been a considerable diminution of the taxes paid to my predecessors. Hence the evil, which had annually augmented, and now I am ruined, loaded with debts, and without means of repairing the disaster. My privy-councillors certainly proposed a way; it was to double the taxes, raise extraordinary contributions—to squeeze my subjects, in short. A fine plan, indeed! to make the poor pay for my improvidence and disorder! Such things may occur in other States, but they shall not occur in mine. Justice before everything. I prefer enduring my difficulties to making my subjects suffer.”

“Excellent prince!” exclaimed Balthasar, touched [Pg 15]by these generous sentiments. The Grand Duke smiled.

“Do you turn flatterer?” he said. “Beware! it is an arduous post, and you will have none to help you. I have no longer wherewith to pay flatterers; my courtiers have fled. You have seen the emptiness of my anterooms; you met neither chamberlain nor equerry upon your entrance. All those gentlemen have given in their resignations. The civil and military officers of my house, secretaries, aides-de-camp, and others, left me, because I could no longer pay them their wages. I am alone; a few faithful and patient servants are all that remain, and the most important personage of my court is now honest Sigismund, my old valet-de-chambre.”

These last words were spoken in a melancholy tone, which pained Balthasar. The eyes of the honest manager glistened. The Grand Duke detected his sympathy.

“Do not pity me,” he said with a smile. “It is no sorrow to me to have got rid of a wearisome etiquette, and, at the same time, of a pack of spies and hypocrites, by whom I was formerly from morning till night beset.”

The cheerful frankness of the Grand Duke’s manner forbade doubt of his sincerity. Balthasar congratulated him on his courage.

[Pg 16]

“I need it more than you think!” replied Leopold, “and I cannot answer for having enough to support the blows that threaten me. The desertion of my courtiers would be nothing did I owe it only to the bad state of my finances: as soon as I found myself in funds again I could buy others or take back the old ones, and amuse myself by putting my foot upon their servile necks. Then they would be as humble as now they are insolent. But their defection is an omen of other dangers. As the diplomatists say, clouds are at the political horizon. Poverty alone would not have sufficed to clear my palace of men who are as greedy of honours as they are of money; they would have waited for better days; their vanity would have consoled their avarice. If they fled, it was because they felt the ground shake beneath their feet, and because they are in league with my enemies. I cannot shut my eyes to impending dangers. I am on bad terms with Austria; Metternich looks askance at me; at Vienna I am considered too liberal, too popular: they say that I set a bad example; they reproach me with cheap government, and with not making my subjects sufficiently feel the yoke. Thus do they accumulate pretexts for playing me a scurvy trick. One of my cousins, a colonel in the Austrian service, covets my Grand Duchy. Although I say grand, it is but ten leagues long and eight leagues broad: but such as it is, it suits me; I am accustomed [Pg 17]to it, I have the habit of ruling it, and I should miss it were I deprived of it. My cousin has the audacity to dispute my incontestable rights; this is a mere pretext for litigation, but he has carried the case before the Aulic Council, and notwithstanding the excellence of my right I still may lose my cause, for I have no money wherewith to enlighten my judges. My enemies are powerful, treason surrounds me; they try to take advantage of my financial embarrassments, first to make me bankrupt and then to depose me. In this critical conjuncture, I should be only too delighted to have a company of players to divert my thoughts from my troubles—but I have neither theatre nor money. So it is impossible for me to keep you, my dear manager, and, believe me, I am as grieved at it as you can be. All I can do is to give you, out of the little I have left, a small indemnity to cover your travelling expenses and take you back to France. Come and see me to-morrow morning; we will settle this matter, and you shall take your leave.”

Balthasar’s attention and sympathy had been so completely engrossed by the Grand Duke’s misfortunes, and by his revelations of his political and financial difficulties, that his own troubles had quite gone out of his thoughts. When he quitted the palace they came back upon him like a thunder-cloud. How was he to satisfy the actors, whom he had brought two hundred leagues away from Paris? [Pg 18]What could he say to them, how appease them? The unhappy manager passed a miserable night. At daybreak he rose and went out into the open air, to calm his agitation and seek a mode of extrication from his difficulties. During a two hours’ walk he had abundant time to visit every corner of Karlstadt, and to admire the beauties of that celebrated capital. He found it an elegant town, with wide straight streets cutting completely across it, so that he could see through it at a glance. The houses were pretty and uniform, and the windows were provided with small indiscreet mirrors, which reflected the passers-by and transported the street into the drawing-room, so that the worthy Karlstadters could satisfy their curiosity without quitting their easy chairs. An innocent recreation, much affected by German burghers. As regarded trade and manufactures, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Niesenstein did not seem to be very much occupied with either. It was anything but a bustling city; luxury had made but little progress there; and its prosperity was due chiefly to the moderate desires and phlegmatic philosophy of its inhabitants.

In such a country a company of actors had no chance of a livelihood. There is nothing for it but to return to France, thought Balthasar, after making the circuit of the city: then he looked at his watch, and, deeming the hour suitable, he took the road to [Pg 19]the palace, which he entered with as little ceremony as upon the preceding evening. The faithful Sigismund, doing duty as gentleman-in-waiting, received him as an old acquaintance, and forthwith ushered him into the Grand Duke’s presence. His Highness seemed more depressed than upon the previous day. He was pacing the room with long strides, his eyes cast down, his arms folded. In his hand he held papers, whose perusal it apparently was that had thus discomposed him. For some moments he said nothing; then he suddenly stopped before Balthasar.

“You find me less calm,” he said, “than I was last night. I have just received unpleasant news. I am heartily sick of these perpetual vexations, and gladly would I resign this poor sovereignty, this crown of thorns they seek to snatch from me, did not honour command me to maintain to the last my legitimate rights. Yes,” vehemently exclaimed the Grand Duke, “at this moment a tranquil existence is all I covet, and I would willingly give up my Grand Duchy, my title, my crown, to live quietly at Paris, as a private gentleman, upon thirty thousand francs a-year.”

“I believe so, indeed!” cried Balthasar, who, in his wildest dreams of fortune, had never dared aspire so high. His artless exclamation made the prince smile. It needed but a trifle to dissipate his vexation, and to restore that upper current of easy good [Pg 20]temper which habitually floated upon the surface of his character.

“You think,” he gaily cried, “that some, in my place, would be satisfied with less, and that thirty thousand francs a-year, with independence and the pleasures of Paris, compose a lot more enviable than the government of all the Grand Duchies in the world. My own experience tells me that you are right; for, ten years ago, when I was but hereditary prince, I passed six months at Paris, rich, independent, careless; and memory declares those to have been the happiest days of my life.”

“Well! if you were to sell all you have, could you not realise that fortune? Besides, the cousin, of whom you did me the honour to speak to me yesterday, would probably gladly insure you an income if you yielded him your place here. But will your Highness permit me to speak plainly?”

“By all means.”

“The tranquil existence of a private gentleman would doubtless have many charms for you, and you say so in all sincerity of heart; but, upon the other hand, you set store by your crown, though you may not admit it to yourself. In a moment of annoyance it is easy to exaggerate the charms of tranquillity, and the pleasures of private life; but a throne, however rickety, is a seat which none willingly quit. That is my opinion, formed at the dramatic school: it is perhaps a reminiscence of [Pg 21]some old part, but truth is sometimes found upon the stage. Since, therefore, all things considered, to stay where you are is that which best becomes you, you ought——But I crave your Highness’s pardon, I am perhaps speaking too freely——”

“Speak on, my dear manager, freely and fearlessly; I listen to you with pleasure. I ought, you were about to say?——”

“Instead of abandoning yourself to despair and poetry, instead of contenting yourself with succumbing nobly, like some ancient Roman, you ought boldly to combat the peril. Circumstances are favourable; you have neither ministers nor state-councillors to mislead you, and embarrass your plans. Strong in your good right, and in your subjects’ love, it is impossible you should not find means of retrieving your finances and strengthening your position.”

“There is but one means, and that is—a good marriage.”

“Excellent! I had not thought of it. You are a bachelor! A good marriage is salvation. It is thus that great houses, menaced with ruin, regain their former splendour. You must marry an heiress, the only daughter of some rich banker.”

“You forget—it would be derogatory. I am free from such prejudices, but what would Austria say if I thus condescended? It would be another charge to bring against me. And then a banker’s millions would not suffice; I must ally myself with a powerful [Pg 22]family, whose influence will strengthen mine. Only a few days ago, I thought such an alliance within my grasp. A neighbouring prince, Maximilian of Hanau, who is in high favour at Vienna, has a sister to marry. The Princess Wilhelmina is young, handsome, amiable, and rich; I have already entered upon the preliminaries of a matrimonial negotiation, but two despatches, received this morning, destroy all my hopes. Hence the low spirits in which you find me.”

“Perhaps,” said Balthasar, “your Highness too easily gives way to discouragement.”

“Judge for yourself. I have a rival, the Elector of Saxe-Tolpelhausen; his territories are less considerable than mine, but he is more solidly established in his little electorate than I am in my grand-duchy.”

“Pardon me, your Highness; I saw the Elector of Saxe-Tolpelhausen last year at Baden-Baden, and, without flattery, he cannot for an instant be compared with your Highness. You are hardly thirty, and he is more than forty; you have a good figure, he is heavy, clumsy, and ill-made; your countenance is noble and agreeable, his common and displeasing; your hair is light brown, his bright red. The Princess Wilhelmina is sure to prefer you.”

“Perhaps so, if she were asked; but she is in the power of her august brother, who will marry her to whom he pleases.”

[Pg 23]

“That must be prevented.”


“By winning the young lady’s affections. Love has so many resources. Every day one sees marriages for money broken off, and replaced by marriages for love.”

“Yes, one sees that in plays——”

“Which afford excellent lessons.”

“For people of a certain class, but not for princes.”

“Why not make the attempt? If I dared advise you, it would be to set out to-morrow, and pay a visit to the Prince of Hanau.”

“Unnecessary. To see the prince and his sister, I need not stir hence. One of these despatches announces their early arrival at Karlstadt. They are on their way hither. On their return from a journey into Prussia, they pass through my territories and pause in my capital, inviting themselves as my guests for two or three days. Their visit is my ruin. What will they think of me when they find me alone, deserted, in my empty palace? Do you suppose the Princess will be tempted to share my dismal solitude? Last year she went to Saxe-Tolpelhausen. The Elector entertained her well, and made his court agreeable. He could place chamberlains and aides-de-camp at her orders, could give concerts, balls, and festivals. But I—what can I do? What a humiliation! And, that no affront may be spared to me, my rival proposes negotiating [Pg 24]his marriage at my own court! Nothing less, it seems, will satisfy him! He has just sent me an ambassador, Baron Pippinstir, deputed, he writes, to conclude a commercial treaty which will be extremely advantageous to me. The treaty is but a pretext. The Baron’s true mission is to the Prince of Hanau. The meeting is skilfully contrived, for the secret and unostentatious conclusion of the matrimonial treaty. This is what I am condemned to witness! I must endure this outrage and mortification, and display, before the prince and his sister, my misery and poverty. I would do anything to avoid such shame!”

“Means might, perhaps, be found,” said Balthasar, after a moment’s reflection.

“Means? Speak, and whatever they be, I adopt them.”

“The plan is a bold one!” continued Balthasar, speaking half to the Grand Duke and half to himself, as if pondering and weighing a project.

“No matter! I will risk everything.”

“You would like to conceal your real position, to re-people this palace, to have a court?”


“Do you think the courtiers who have deserted you would return?”

“Never. Did I not tell you they are sold to my enemies?”

[Pg 25]

“Could you not select others from the higher class of your subjects?”

“Impossible! There are very few gentlemen amongst my subjects. Ah! if a court could be got up at a day’s notice! though it were to be composed of the humblest citizens of Karlstadt——”

“I have better than that to offer you.”

You have? And whom do you offer?” cried Duke Leopold, greatly astonished.

“My actors.”

“What! you would have me make up a court of your actors?”

“Yes, your Highness, and you could not do better. Observe that my actors are accustomed to play all manner of parts, and that they will be perfectly at their ease when performing those of noblemen and high officials. I answer for their talent, discretion, and probity. As soon as your illustrious guests have departed, and you no longer need their services, they shall resign their posts. Bear in mind that you have no other alternative. Time is short, danger at your door, hesitation is destruction.”

“But, if such a trick were discovered!——”

“A mere supposition, a chimerical fear. On the other hand, if you do not run the risk I propose, your ruin is certain.”

The Grand Duke was easily persuaded. Careless [Pg 26]and easy-going, he yet was not wanting in determination, nor in a certain love of hazardous enterprises. He remembered that fortune is said to favour the bold, and his desperate position increased his courage. With joyful intrepidity he accepted and adopted Balthasar’s scheme.

“Bravo!” cried the manager; “you shall have no cause to repent. You behold in me a sample of your future courtiers; and since honours and dignities are to be distributed, it is with me, if you please, that we will begin. In this request I act up to the spirit of my part. A courtier should always be asking for something, should lose no opportunity, and should profit by his rivals’ absence to obtain the best place. I entreat your Highness to have the goodness to name me prime minister.”

“Granted!” gaily replied the prince. “Your Excellency may immediately enter upon your functions.”

“My Excellency will not fail to do so, and begins by requesting your signature to a few decrees I am about to draw up. But in the first place, your Highness must be so good as to answer two or three questions, that I may understand the position of affairs. A new-comer in a country, and a novice in a minister’s office, has need of instruction. If it became necessary to enforce your commands, have you the means of so doing?”


[Pg 27]

“Your Highness has soldiers?”

“A regiment.”

“How many men?”

“One hundred and twenty, besides the musicians.”

“Are they obedient, devoted?”

“Passive obedience, unbounded devotion; soldiers and officers would die for me to the last man.”

“It is their duty. Another question: Have you a prison in your dominions?”


“I mean a good prison, strong and well-guarded, with thick walls, solid bars, stern and incorruptible jailors?”

“I have every reason to believe that the Castle of Zwingenberg combines all those requisites. The fact is, I have made very little use of it; but it was built by a man who understood such matters—by my father’s great-grandfather, Rudolph the Inflexible.”

“A fine surname for a sovereign! Your Inflexible ancestor, I am very sure, never lacked either cash or courtiers. Your Highness has perhaps done wrong to leave the state-prison untenanted. A prison requires to be inhabited, like any other building; and the first act of the authority with which you have been pleased to invest me, will be a salutary measure of incarceration. I presume the [Pg 28]Castle of Zwingenberg will accommodate a score of prisoners?”

“What! you are going to imprison twenty persons?”

“More or less. I do not yet know the exact number of the persons who composed your late court. They it is whom I propose lodging within the lofty walls constructed by the Inflexible Rudolph. The measure is indispensable.”

“But it is illegal!”

“I crave your Highness’s pardon; you use a word I do not understand. It seems to me that, in every good German government, that which is absolutely necessary is necessarily legal. That is my policy. Moreover, as prime minister, I am responsible. What would you have more? It is plain that, if we leave your courtiers their liberty, it will be impossible to perform our comedy; they will betray us. Therefore the welfare of the state imperatively demands their imprisonment. Besides, you yourself have said that they are traitors, and therefore they deserve punishment. For your own safety’s sake, for the success of your project—which will insure the happiness of your subjects—write the names, sign the order, and inflict upon the deserters the lenient chastisement of a week’s captivity.”

The Grand Duke wrote the names and signed several orders, which were forthwith intrusted to [Pg 29]the most active and determined officers of the regiment, with instructions to make the arrests at once, and to take their prisoners to the Castle of Zwingenberg, at three quarters of a league from Karlstadt.

“All that now remains to be done is to send for your new court,” said Balthasar. “Has your Highness carriages?”

“Certainly! a berlin, a barouche, and a cabriolet.”

“And horses?”

“Six draught and two saddle.”

“I take the barouche, the berlin, and four horses; I go to Krusthal, put my actors up to their parts, and bring them here this evening. We instal ourselves in the palace, and shall be at once at your Highness’s orders.”

“Very good; but, before going, write an answer to Baron Pippinstir, who asks an audience.”

“Two lines, very dry and official, putting him off till to-morrow. We must be under arms to receive him.... Here is the note written, but how shall I sign it? The name of Balthasar is not very suitable to a German Excellency.”

“True, you must have another name, and a title; I create you Count Lipandorf.”

“Thanks, your Highness. I will bear the title nobly, and restore it to you faithfully, with my seals of office, when the comedy is played out.”

[Pg 30]

Count Lipandorf signed the letter, which Sigismund was ordered to take to Baron Pippinstir; then he started for Krusthal.

Next morning, the Grand Duke Leopold held a levee, which was attended by all the officers of his new court. And as soon as he was dressed he received the ladies with infinite grace and affability.

Ladies and officers were attired in their most elegant theatrical costumes; the Grand Duke appeared greatly satisfied with their bearing and manners. The first compliments over, there came a general distribution of titles and offices.

The lover, Florival, was appointed aide-de-camp to the Grand Duke, colonel of hussars, and Count Reinsburg.

Rigolet, the low comedian, was named grand chamberlain, and Baron Fidibus.

Similor, who performed the valets, was master of the horse and Baron Kockemburg.

Anselmo, walking gentleman, was promoted to be gentleman in waiting and Chevalier Grillenfanger.

The leader of the band, Lebel, was appointed superintendant of the music and amusements of the court, with the title of Chevalier Arpeggio.

The prima donna, Miss Delia, was created Countess of Rosenthal, an interesting orphan, whose dowry was to be the hereditary office of first lady of honour to the future Grand Duchess.

[Pg 31]

Miss Foligny, the singing chambermaid, was appointed widow of a general and Baroness Allenzau.

Miss Alice, walking lady, became Miss Fidibus, daughter of the chamberlain, and a rich heiress.

Finally, the duenna, Madame Pastorale, was called to the responsible station of mistress of the robes and governess of the maids of honour, under the imposing title of Baroness Schicklick.

The new dignitaries received decorations in proportion to their rank. Count Balthasar von Lipandorf, prime minister, had two stars and three grand crosses. The aide-de-camp, Florival von Reinsberg, fastened five crosses upon the breast of his hussar jacket.

The parts duly distributed and learned, there was a rehearsal, which went off excellently well. The Grand Duke deigned to superintend the getting up of the piece, and to give the actors a few useful hints.

Prince Maximilian of Hanau and his august sister were expected that evening. Time was precious. Pending their arrival, and by way of practising his court, the Grand Duke gave audience to the ambassador from Saxe-Tolpelhausen.

Baron Pippinstir was ushered into the Hall of the Throne. He had asked permission to present his wife at the same time as his credentials, and that favour had been granted him.

At sight of the diplomatist, the new courtiers, as [Pg 32]yet unaccustomed to rigid decorum, had difficulty in keeping their countenances. The Baron was a man of fifty, prodigiously tall, singularly thin, abundantly powdered, with legs like hop-poles, clad in knee breeches and white silk stockings. A long slender pigtail danced upon his flexible back. He had a face like a bird of prey—little round eyes, a receding chin, and an enormous hooked nose. It was scarcely possible to look at him without laughing, especially when one saw him for the first time. His apple-green coat glittered with a profusion of embroidery. His chest being too narrow to admit of a horizontal development of his decorations, he wore them in two columns, extending from his collar to his waist. When he approached the Grand Duke, with a self-satisfied simper and a jaunty air, his sword by his side, his cocked hat under his arm, nothing was wanting to complete the caricature.

The Baroness Pippinstir was a total contrast to her husband. She was a pretty little woman of five-and-twenty, as plump as a partridge, with a lively eye, a nice figure, and an engaging smile. There was mischief in her glance, seduction in her dimples, and the rose’s tint upon her cheeks. Her dress was the only ridiculous thing about her. To come to court, the little Baroness had put on all the finery she could muster; she sailed into the hall under a cloud of ribbons, sparkling with jewels and fluttering with plumes—the loftiest of which, however, [Pg 33]scarcely reached to the shoulder of her lanky spouse.

Completely identifying himself with his part of prime minister, Balthasar, as soon as this oddly-assorted pair appeared, decided upon his plan of campaign. His natural penetration told him the diplomatist’s weak point. He felt that the Baron, who was old and ugly, must be jealous of his wife, who was young and pretty. He was not mistaken. Pippinstir was as jealous as a tiger-cat. Recently married, the meagre diplomatist had not dared to leave his wife at Saxe-Tolpelhausen, for fear of accidents; he would not lose sight of her, and had brought her to Karlstadt in the arrogant belief that danger vanished in his presence.

After exchanging a few diplomatic phrases with the ambassador, Balthasar took Colonel Florival aside and gave him secret instructions. The dashing officer passed his hand through his richly-curling locks, adjusted his splendid pelisse, and approached Baroness Pippinstir. The ambassadress received him graciously; the handsome colonel had already attracted her attention, and soon she was delighted with his wit and gallant speeches. Florival did not lack imagination, and his memory was stored with well-turned phrases and sentimental tirades, borrowed from stage-plays. He spoke half from inspiration, half from memory, and he was listened to with favour.

[Pg 34]

The conversation was carried on in French—for the best of reasons.

“It is the custom here,” said the Grand Duke to the ambassador; “French is the only language spoken in this palace; it is a regulation I had some difficulty in enforcing, and I was at last obliged to decree that a heavy penalty should be paid for every German word spoken by a person attached to my court. That proved effectual, and you will not easily catch any of these ladies and gentlemen tripping. My prime minister, Count Balthasar von Lipandorf, is the only one who is permitted occasionally to speak his native language.”

Balthasar, who had long managed theatres in Alsace and Lorraine, spoke German like a Frankfort brewer.

Meanwhile, Baron Pippinstir’s uneasiness was extreme. Whilst his wife conversed in a low voice with the young and fascinating aide-de-camp, the pitiless prime minister held his arm tight, and explained at great length his views with respect to the famous commercial treaty. Caught in his own snare, the unlucky diplomatist was in agony; he fidgeted to get away, his countenance expressed grievous uneasiness, his lean legs were convulsively agitated. But in vain did he endeavour to abridge his torments; the remorseless Balthasar relinquished not his prey.

Sigismund, promoted to be steward of the household, [Pg 35]announced dinner. The ambassador and his lady had been invited to dine, as well as all the courtiers. The aide-de-camp was placed next to the Baroness, the Baron at the other end of the table. The torture was prolonged. Florival continued to whisper soft nonsense to the fair and well-pleased Pippinstir. The diplomatist could not eat.

There was another person present whom Florival’s flirtation annoyed, and that person was Delia, Countess of Rosenthal. After dinner, Balthasar, whom nothing escaped, took her aside.

“You know very well,” said the minister, “that he is only acting a part in a comedy. Should you feel hurt if he declared his love upon the stage, to one of your comrades? Here it is the same thing; all this is but a play; when the curtain falls, he will return to you.”

A courier announced that the Prince of Hanau and his sister were within a league of Karlstadt. The Grand Duke, attended by Count Reinsberg and some officers, went to meet them. It was dark when the illustrious guests reached the palace; they passed through the great saloon, where the whole court was assembled to receive them, and retired at once to their apartments.

“The game is fairly begun,” said the Grand Duke to his prime minister; “and now, may heaven help us!”

“Fear nothing,” replied Balthasar. “The [Pg 36]glimpse I caught of Prince Maximilian’s physiognomy satisfied me that everything will pass off perfectly well, and without exciting the least suspicion. As to Baron Pippinstir, he is already blind with jealousy, and Florival will give him so much to do, that he will have no time to attend to his master’s business. Things look well.”

Next morning, the Prince and Princess of Hanau were welcomed, on awakening, by a serenade from the regimental band. The weather was beautiful; the Grand Duke proposed an excursion out of town; he was glad of an opportunity to show his guests the best features of his duchy—a delightful country, and many picturesque points of view, much prized and sketched by German landscape-painters. The proposal agreed to, the party set out, in carriages and on horseback, for the old Castle of Rauberzell—magnificent ruins, dating from the middle ages, and famous far and wide. At a short distance from the castle, which lifted its grey turrets upon the summit of a wooded hill, the Princess Wilhelmina expressed a wish to walk the remainder of the way. Everybody followed her example. The Grand Duke offered her his arm; the Prince gave his to the Countess Delia von Rosenthal; and, at a sign from Balthasar, Baroness Pastorale von Schicklick took possession of Baron Pippinstir; whilst the smiling Baroness accepted Florival’s escort. The young people walked at a brisk pace. [Pg 37]The unfortunate Baron would gladly have availed himself of his long legs to keep up with his coquettish wife; but the duenna, portly and ponderous, hung upon his arm, checked his ardour, and detained him in the rear. Respect for the mistress of the robes forbade rebellion or complaint.

Amidst the ruins of the venerable castle, the distinguished party found a table spread with an elegant collation. It was an agreeable surprise, and the Grand Duke had all the credit of an idea suggested to him by his prime minister.

The whole day was passed in rambling through the beautiful forest of Rauberzell. The Princess was charming; nothing could exceed the high-breeding of the courtiers, or the fascination and elegance of the ladies; and Prince Maximilian warmly congratulated the Grand Duke on having a court composed of such agreeable and accomplished persons. Baroness Pippinstir declared, in a moment of enthusiasm, that the court of Saxe-Tolpelhausen was not to compare with that of Niesenstein. She could hardly have said anything more completely at variance with the object of her husband’s mission. The Baron was near fainting.

Like not a few of her countrywomen, the Princess Wilhelmina had a strong predilection for Parisian fashions. She admired everything that came from France; she spoke French perfectly, and greatly approved the Grand Duke’s decree, forbidding any [Pg 38]other language to be spoken at his court. Moreover, there was nothing extraordinary in such a regulation; French is the language of all the northern courts. But she was greatly tickled at the notion of a fine being inflicted for a single German word. She amused herself by trying to catch some of the Grand Duke’s courtiers transgressing in this respect. Her labour was completely lost.

That evening, at the palace, when conversation began to languish, the Chevalier Arpeggio sat down to the piano, and the Countess Delia von Rosenthal sang an air out of the last new opera. The guests were enchanted with her performance. Prince Maximilian had been extremely attentive to the Countess during their excursion; the young actress’s grace and beauty had captivated him, and the charm of her voice completed his subjugation. Passionately fond of music, every note she sang went to his very heart. When she had finished one song, he petitioned for another. The amiable prima donna sang a duet with the aide-de-camp Florival von Reinsberg, and then, being further entreated, a trio, in which Similor—master of the horse, barytone, and Baron von Kockemburg—took a part.

Here our actors were at home, and their success was complete. Deviating from his usual reserve, Prince Maximilian did not disguise his delight; [Pg 39]and the imprudent little Baroness Pippinstir declared that, with such a beautiful tenor voice, an aide-de-camp might aspire to anything. A cemetery on a wet day is a cheerful sight, compared to the Baron’s countenance when he heard these words.

Upon the morrow, a hunting-party was the order of the day. In the evening there was a dance. It had been proposed to invite the principal families of the metropolis of Niesenstein, but the Prince and Princess begged that the circle might not be increased.

“We are four ladies,” said the Princess, glancing at the prima donna, the singing chambermaid, and the walking lady, “it is enough for a quadrille.”

There was no lack of gentlemen. There was the Grand Duke, the aide-de-camp, the grand chamberlain, the master of the horse, the gentleman-in-waiting, and Prince Maximilian’s aide-de-camp, Count Darius von Sturmhaube, who appeared greatly smitten by the charms of the widowed Baroness Allenzau.

“I am sorry my court is not more numerous,” said the Grand Duke, “but, within the last three days, I have been compelled to diminish it by one-half.”

“How so?” inquired Prince Maximilian.

“A dozen courtiers,” replied the Grand Duke Leopold, “whom I had loaded with favours, dared [Pg 40]conspire against me, in favour of a certain cousin of mine at Vienna. I discovered the plot, and the plotters are now in the dungeons of my good fortress of Zwingenberg.”

“Well done!” cried the Prince; “I like such energy and vigour. And to think that people taxed you with weakness of character! How we princes are deceived and calumniated.”

The Grand Duke cast a grateful glance at Balthasar. That able minister by this time felt himself as much at his ease in his new office as if he had held it all his life; he even began to suspect that the government of a grand-duchy is a much easier matter than the management of a company of actors. Incessantly engrossed by his master’s interests, he manœuvred to bring about the marriage which was to give the Grand Duke happiness, wealth, and safety; but, notwithstanding his skill, notwithstanding the torments with which he had filled the jealous soul of Pippinstir, the ambassador devoted the scanty moments of repose his wife left him to furthering the object of his mission. The alliance with Saxe-Tolpelhausen was pleasing to Prince Maximilian; it offered him various advantages: the extinction of an old law-suit between the two states, the cession of a large extent of territory, and, finally, the commercial treaty, which the perfidious Baron had brought to the court of Niesenstein, with a view of concluding [Pg 41]it in favour of the principality of Hanau. Invested with unlimited powers, the diplomatist was ready to insert in the contract almost any conditions Prince Maximilian chose to dictate to him.

It is necessary here to remark that the Elector of Saxe-Tolpelhausen was desperately in love with the Princess Wilhelmina.

It was evident that the Baron would carry the day, if the prime minister did not hit upon some scheme to destroy his credit or force him to retreat. Balthasar, fertile in expedients, was teaching Florival his part in the palace garden, when Prince Maximilian met him, and requested a moment’s private conversation.

“I am at your Highness’s orders,” respectfully replied the minister.

“I will go straight to the point, Count Lipandorf,” the Prince began. “I married my late wife, a princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, from political motives. She has left me three sons. I now intend to marry again; but this time I need not sacrifice myself to state considerations, and I am determined to consult my heart alone.”

“If your Highness does me the honour to consult me, I have merely to say that you are perfectly justified in acting as you propose. After once sacrificing himself to his people’s happiness, a prince has surely a right to think a little of his own.”

[Pg 42]

“Exactly my opinion! Count, I will tell you a secret. I am in love with Miss von Rosenthal.”

“Miss Delia?”

“Yes, sir; with Miss Delia, Countess of Rosenthal; and, what is more, I will tell you that I know everything.”

“What may it be that your Highness knows?”

“I know who she is.”


“It was a great secret!”

“And how came your Highness to discover it?”

“The Grand Duke revealed it to me.”

“I might have guessed as much!”

“He alone could do so, and I rejoice that I addressed myself directly to him. At first, when I questioned him concerning the young Countess’s family, he ill concealed his embarrassment: her position struck me as strange; young, beautiful, and alone in the world, without relatives or guardians—all that seemed to me singular, if not suspicious. I trembled, as the possibility of an intrigue flashed upon me; but the Grand Duke, to dissipate my unfounded suspicion, told me all.”

“And what is your Highness’s decision?... After such a revelation——”

“It in no way changes my intentions. I shall marry the lady.”

“Marry her?... But no, your Highness jests.”

[Pg 43]

“Count Lipandorf, I never jest. What is there, then, so strange in my determination? The Grand Duke’s father was romantic, and of a roving disposition; in the course of his life he contracted several left-handed alliances—Miss von Rosenthal is the issue of one of those unions. I care not for the illegitimacy of her birth; she is of noble blood of a princely race—that is all I require.”

“Yes,” replied Balthasar, who had concealed his surprise and kept his countenance, as became an experienced statesman and consummate comedian—“Yes, I now understand; and I think as you do. Your Highness has the talent of bringing everybody over to your way of thinking.”

“The greatest piece of good fortune,” continued the Prince, “is that the mother remained unknown: she is dead, and there is no trace of family on that side.”

“As your Highness says, it is very fortunate. And doubtless the Grand Duke is informed of your august intentions with respect to the proposed marriage?”

“No; I have as yet said nothing either to him or to the Countess. I reckon upon you, my dear Count, to make my offer, to whose acceptance I trust there will not be the slightest obstacle. I give you the rest of the day to arrange everything. I will write to Miss von Rosenthal; I hope to receive from her own lips the assurance of my [Pg 44]happiness, and I will beg her to bring me her answer herself, this evening, in the summer-house in the park. Lover-like, you see—a rendezvous, a mysterious interview! But come, Count Lipandorf, lose no time; a double tie shall bind me to your sovereign. We will sign, at one and the same time, my marriage-contract and his. On that condition alone will I grant him my sister’s hand; otherwise I treat, this very evening, with the envoy from Saxe-Tolpelhausen.”

A quarter of an hour after Prince Maximilian had made this overture, Balthasar and Delia were closeted with the Grand Duke.

What was to be done? The Prince of Hanau was noted for his obstinacy. He would have excellent reasons to oppose to all objections. To confess the deception that had been practised upon him was equivalent to a total and eternal rupture. But, upon the other hand, to leave him in his error, to suffer him to marry an actress! it was a serious matter. If ever he discovered the truth, it would be enough to raise the entire German Confederation against the Grand Duke of Niesenstein.

“What is my prime minister’s opinion?” asked the Grand Duke.

“A prompt retreat. Delia must instantly quit the town; we will devise an explanation of her sudden departure.”

[Pg 45]

“Yes; and this evening Prince Maximilian will sign his sister’s marriage-contract with the Elector of Saxe-Tolpelhausen. My opinion is, that we have advanced too far to retreat. If the prince ever discovers the truth, he will be the person most interested to conceal it. Besides, Miss Delia is an orphan—she has neither parents nor family. I adopt her—I acknowledge her as my sister.”

“Your Highness’s goodness and condescension——” lisped the pretty prima donna.

“You agree with me, do you not, Miss Delia?” continued the Grand Duke. “You are resolved to seize the good fortune thus offered, and to risk the consequences?”

“Yes, your Highness.”

The ladies will make allowance for Delia’s faithlessness to Florival. How few female heads would not be turned by the prospect of wearing a crown! The heart’s voice is sometimes mute in presence of such brilliant temptations. Besides, was not Florival faithless? Who could say whither he might be led in the course of the tender scenes he acted with the Baroness Pippinstir? Prince Maximilian was neither young nor handsome, but he offered a throne. Not only an actress, but many a high-born dame, might possibly, in such circumstances, forget her love, and think only of her ambition.

To her credit be it said, Delia did not yield without some reluctance to the Grand Duke’s arguments, [Pg 46]which Balthasar backed with all his eloquence; but she ended by agreeing to the interview with Prince Maximilian.

“I accept,” she resolutely exclaimed; “I shall be sovereign Princess of Hanau.”

“And I,” cried the Grand Duke, “shall marry Princess Wilhelmina, and, this very evening, poor Pippinstir, disconcerted and defeated, will go back to Saxe-Tolpelhausen.”

“He would have done that in any case,” said Balthasar; “for, this evening, Florival was to have run away with his wife.”

“That is carrying things rather far,” Delia remarked.

“Such a scandal is unnecessary,” added the Grand Duke.

Whilst awaiting the hour of her rendezvous with the Prince, Delia, pensive and agitated, was walking in the park, when she came suddenly upon Florival, who seemed as much discomposed as herself. In spite of her newly-born ideas of grandeur, she felt a pain at her heart. With a forced smile, and in a tone of reproach and irony, she greeted her former lover.

“A pleasant journey to you, Colonel Florival,” she said.

“I may wish you the same,” replied Florival; “for doubtless you will soon set out for the principality of Hanau!”

[Pg 47]

“Before long, no doubt.”

“You admit it, then?”

“Where is the harm? The wife must follow her husband—a princess must reign in her dominions.”

“Princess! What do you mean? Wife! In what ridiculous promises have they induced you to confide?”

Florival’s offensive doubts were dissipated by the formal explanation which Delia took malicious pleasure in giving him. A touching scene ensued; the lovers, who had both gone astray for a moment, felt their former flame burn all the more ardently for its partial and temporary extinction. Pardon was mutually asked and granted, and ambitious dreams fled before a burst of affection.

“You shall see whether I love you or not,” said Florival to Delia. “Yonder comes Baron Pippinstir; I will take him into the summer-house; a closet is there, where you can hide yourself to hear what passes, and then you shall decide my fate.”

Delia went into the summer-house, and hid herself in the closet. There she overheard the following conversation:—

“What have you to say to me, Colonel?” asked the Baron.

“I wish to speak to your Excellency of an affair that deeply concerns you.”

“I am all attention; but I beg you to be brief; I am expected elsewhere.”

[Pg 48]

“So am I.”

“I must go to the prime minister, to return him this draught of a commercial treaty, which I cannot accept.”

“And I must go to the rendezvous given me in this letter.”

“The Baroness’s writing!”

“Yes, Baron. Your wife has done me the honour to write to me. We set out together to-night; the Baroness is waiting for me in a post-chaise.”

“And it is to me you dare acknowledge this abominable project?”

“I am less generous than you think. You cannot but be aware that, owing to an irregularity in your marriage-contract, nothing would be easier than to get it annulled. This we will have done; we then obtain a divorce, and I marry the Baroness. You will, of course, have to hand me over her dowry—a million of florins—composing, if I do not mistake, your entire fortune.”

The Baron, more dead than alive, sank into an arm-chair. He was struck speechless.

“We might, perhaps, make some arrangement, Baron,” continued Florival. “I am not particularly bent upon becoming your wife’s second husband.”

“Ah, sir!” cried the ambassador, “you restore me to life!”

“Yes, but I will not restore you the Baroness, except on certain conditions.”

[Pg 49]

“Speak! What do you demand?”

“First, that treaty of commerce, which you must sign just as Count Lipandorf has drawn it up.”

“I consent to do so.”

“That is not all; you shall take my place at the rendezvous, get into the post-chaise, and run away with your wife; but first you must sit down at this table and write a letter, in due diplomatic form, to Prince Maximilian, informing him that, finding it impossible to accept his stipulations, you are compelled to decline, in your sovereign’s name, the honour of his august alliance.”

“But, Colonel, remember that my instructions——”

“Very well, fulfil them exactly; be a dutiful ambassador and a miserable husband, ruined, without wife and without dowry. You will never have such another chance, Baron! A pretty wife and a million of florins do not fall to a man’s lot twice in his life. But I must take my leave of you. I am keeping the Baroness waiting.”

“I will go to her.... Give me paper, a pen, and be so good as to dictate. I am so agitated——”

The Baron really was in a dreadful fluster. The letter written, and the treaty signed, Florival told his Excellency where he would find the post-chaise.

“One thing more you must promise me,” said the young man, “and that is, that you will behave [Pg 50]like a gentleman to your wife, and not scold her over-much. Remember the flaw in the contract. She may find somebody else in whose favour to cancel the document. Suitors will not be wanting.”

“What need of a promise?” replied the poor Baron. “You know very well that my wife does what she likes with me. I shall have to explain my conduct, and ask her pardon.”

Pippinstir departed. Delia left her hiding-place, and held out her hand to Florival.

“You have behaved well,” she said.

“That is more than the Baroness will say.”

“She deserves the lesson. It is your turn to go into the closet and listen; the Prince will be here directly.”

“I hear his footsteps.” And Florival was quickly concealed.

“Charming Countess!” said the prince on entering. “I come to know my fate.”

“What does your Highness mean?” said Delia, pretending not to understand him.

“How can you ask? Has not the Grand Duke spoken to you?”

“No, your Highness.”

“Nor the prime minister?”

“Not a word. When I received your letter, I was on the point of asking you for a private interview. I have a favour—a service—to implore of your Highness.”

[Pg 51]

“It is granted before it is asked. I place my whole influence and power at your feet, charming Countess.”

“A thousand thanks, illustrious prince. You have already shown me so much kindness, that I venture to ask you to make a communication to my brother, the Grand Duke, which I dare not make myself. I want you to inform him that I have been for three months privately married to Count Reinsberg.”

“Good heavens!” cried Maximilian, falling into the arm-chair in which Pippinstir had recently reclined. On recovering from the shock, the prince rose again to his feet.

“’Tis well, madam,” he said, in a faint voice. “’Tis well!”

And he left the summer-house.

After reading Baron Pippinstir’s letter, Prince Maximilian fell a-thinking. It was not the Grand Duke’s fault if the Countess of Rosenthal did not ascend the throne of Hanau. There was an insurmountable obstacle. Then the precipitate departure of the ambassador of Saxe-Tolpelhausen was an affront which demanded instant vengeance. And the Grand Duke Leopold was a most estimable sovereign, skilful, energetic, and blessed with wise councillors; the Princess Wilhelmina liked him, and thought nothing could compare, for pleasantness, with his lively court, where all the men were amiable, [Pg 52]and all the women charming. These various motives duly weighed, the Prince made up his mind, and next day was signed the marriage-contract of the Grand Duke of Niesenstein and the Princess Wilhelmina of Hanau.

Three days later the marriage itself was celebrated.

The play was played out.

The actors had performed their parts with wit, intelligence, and a noble disinterestedness. They took their leave of the Grand Duke, leaving him with a rich and pretty wife, a powerful brother-in-law, a serviceable alliance, and a commercial treaty which could not fail to replenish his treasury.

Embassies, special missions, banishment, were alleged to the Grand Duchess as the causes of their departure. Then an amnesty was published on the occasion of the marriage; the gates of the fortress of Zwingenberg opened, and the former courtiers resumed their respective posts.

The reviving fortunes of the Grand Duke were a sure guarantee of their fidelity.

[Pg 53]


[MAGA. August 1829.]

At the foot of the long range of the Mendip hills, standeth a village, which, for obvious reasons, we shall conceal the precise locality of, by bestowing thereon the appellation of Stockwell. It lieth in a nook, or indentation, of the mountain; and its population may be said, in more than one sense of the word, to be extremely dense, being confined within narrow limits by rocky and sterile ground, and a brawling stream, which ever and anon assumes the aspect of an impetuous river, and then dwindles away into a plaything for the little boys to hop over. The principal trade of the Stockwellites is in coals, which certain of the industrious operative natives sedulously employ themselves in extracting from our mother earth, while others are engaged in conveying the “black diamonds” to various adjacent towns, in carts of sundry shapes and dimensions. The horses engaged in this traffic are of the Rosinante species, and, too often, literally raw-boned; insomuch, that it is sometimes a grievous sight to see them tugging, and a woful thing [Pg 54]to hear their masters swearing, when mounting a steep ascent with one of the aforesaid loads.

Wherever a civilised people dwell, there must be trade; and, consequently, Stockwell hath its various artisans, who ply, each in his vocation, to supply the wants of others; and, moreover, it hath its inn, or public house, a place of no small importance, having for its sign a swinging creaking board, whereon is emblazoned the effigy of a roaring, red, and rampant Lion. High towering above the said Lion, are the branches of a solitary elm, the foot of which is encircled by a seat, especially convenient for those guests whose taste it is to “blow a cloud” in the open air; and it is of two individuals, who were much given thereon to enjoy their “otium cum dignitate,” that we are about to speak.

George Syms had long enjoyed a monopoly in the shoemaking and cobbling line (though latterly two oppositionists had started against him), and Peter Brown was a man well to do in the world, being “the man wot” shod the raw-boned horses before mentioned, “him and his father, and grandfather,” as the parish-clerk said, “for time immemorial.” These two worthies were regaling themselves, as was their wonted custom, each with his pint, upon a small table, which was placed, for their accommodation, before the said bench. It was a fine evening in the last autumn; and we could say a great deal about the beautiful tints which the beams of [Pg 55]the setting sun shed upon the hills’ side, and undulating distant outline, and how the clouds appeared of a fiery red, and, anon, of a pale yellow, had we leisure for description; but neither George Syms nor Peter Brown heeded these matters, and our present business is with them.

They had discussed all the village news—the last half of the last pipe had been puffed in silence, and they were reduced to the dilemma wherein many a brace of intimate friends have found themselves—they had nothing to talk about. Each had observed three times that it was very hot, and each had responded three times—“Yes, it is.” They were at a perfect stand-still—they shook out the ashes from their pipes, and yawned simultaneously. They felt that indulgence, however grateful, is apt to cloy, even under the elm-tree, and the red rampant lion. But, as Doctor Watts says,

“Satan finds some mischief still,
For idle hands to do,”

and they agreed to have “another pint,” which Sally, who was ever ready at their bidding, brought forthwith, and then they endeavoured to rally; but the effort was vain—the thread of conversation was broken, and they could not connect it, and so they sipped and yawned, till Peter Brown observed, “It is getting dark.”—“Ay,” replied George Syms.

At this moment an elderly stranger, of a shabby-genteel appearance, approached the Lion, and inquired [Pg 56]the road to an adjoining village. “You are late, sir,” said George Syms.—“Yes,” replied the stranger, “I am;” and he threw himself on the bench, and took off his hat, and wiped his forehead, and observed, that it was very sultry, and he was quite tired.—“This is a good house,” said Peter Brown; “and if you are not obliged to go on, I wouldn’t if I were you.”—“It makes little difference to me,” replied the stranger; “and so, as I find myself in good company, here goes!” and he began to call about him, notwithstanding his shabby appearance, with the air of one who has money in his pocket to pay his way.—“Three make good company,” observed Peter Brown.—“Ay, ay,” said the stranger. “Holla there! bring me another pint! This walk has made me confoundedly thirsty. You may as well make it a pot—and be quick!”

Messrs Brown and Syms were greatly pleased with this additional guest at their symposium; and the trio sat and talked of the wind, and the weather, and the roads, and the coal trade, and drank and smoked to their hearts’ content, till again time began to hang heavy, and then the stranger asked the two friends, if ever they played at teetotum.—“Play at what?” asked Peter Brown.—“Play at what?” inquired George Syms.—“At tee-to-tum,” replied the stranger, gravely taking a pair of spectacles from one pocket of his waistcoat, and the [Pg 57]machine in question from the other. “It is an excellent game, I assure you. Rare sport, my masters!” and he forthwith began to spin his teetotum upon the table, to the no small diversion of George Syms and Peter Brown, who opined that the potent ale of the ramping Red Lion had done its office. “Only see how the little fellow runs about!” cried the stranger, in apparent ecstasy. “Holla, there! Bring a lantern! There he goes, round and round—and now he’s asleep—and now he begins to reel—wiggle waggle—down he tumbles! What colour, for a shilling?”—“I don’t understand the game,” said Peter Brown.—“Nor I, neither,” quoth George Syms; “but it seems easy enough to learn.”—“Oh, ho!” said the stranger; “you think so, do you? But, let me tell you, that there’s a great deal more in it than you imagine. There he is, you see, with as many sides as a modern politician, and as many colours as an Algerine. Come, let us have a game! This is the way!” and he again set the teetotum in motion, and capered about in exceeding glee.—“He, he, he!” uttered George Syms; and “Ha, ha, ha!” exclaimed Peter Brown; and, being wonderfully tickled with the oddity of the thing, they were easily persuaded by the stranger just to take a game together for five minutes, while he stood by as umpire, with a stop-watch in his hand.

Nothing can be much easier than spinning a teetotum, [Pg 58]yet our two Stockwellites could scarcely manage the thing for laughing; but the stranger stood by, with spectacles on nose, looking alternately at his watch and the table, with as much serious interest as though he had been witnessing, and was bound to furnish, a report of a prize-fight, or a debate in the House of Commons.

When precisely five minutes had elapsed, although it was Peter Brown’s spin, and the teetotum was yet going its rounds, and George Syms had called out yellow, the old gentleman demurely took it from the table and put it in his pocket; and then, returning his watch to his fob, walked away into the Red Lion, without saying so much as good-night. The two friends looked at each other in surprise, and then indulged in a very loud and hearty fit of laughter; and then paid their reckoning, and went away, exceedingly merry, which they would not have been, had they understood properly what they had been doing.

In the meanwhile the stranger had entered the house, and began to be “very funny” with Mrs Philpot, the landlady of the Red Lion, and Sally, the purveyor of beer to the guests thereof; and he found it not very difficult to persuade them likewise to take a game at teetotum for five minutes, which he terminated in the same unceremonious way as that under the tree, and then desired to be shown the room wherein he was to sleep. Mrs Philpot [Pg 59]immediately, contrary to her usual custom, jumped up with great alacrity, lighted a candle, and conducted her guest to his apartment; while Sally, contrary to her usual custom, reclined herself in her mistress’s great arm-chair, yawned three or four times, and then exclaimed, “Heigho! it’s getting very late! I wish my husband would come home!”

Now, although we have a very mean opinion of those who cannot keep a secret of importance, we are not fond of useless mysteries, and therefore think proper to tell the reader that the teetotum in question had the peculiar property of causing those who played therewith to lose all remembrance of their former character, and to adopt that of their antagonists in the game. During the process of spinning, the personal identity of the two players was completely changed. Now, on the evening of this memorable day, Jacob Philpot, the landlord of the rampant Red Lion, had spent a few convivial hours with mine host of the Blue Boar, a house on the road-side, about two miles from Stockwell; and the two publicans had discussed the ale, grog, and tobacco in the manner customary with Britons, whose insignia are roaring rampant red lions, green dragons, blue boars, &c. Therefore, when Jacob came home, he began to call about him, with the air of one who purposeth that his arrival shall be no secret; and very agreeably surprised was he when Mrs Philpot ran out from the [Pg 60]house, and assisted him to dismount, for Jacob was somewhat rotund; and yet more did he marvel when, instead of haranguing him in a loud voice (as she had whilom done on similar occasions, greatly to his discomfiture), she good-humouredly said that she would lead his nag to the stable, and then go and call Philip the ostler. “Humph!” said the host of the Lion, leaning with his back against the door-post, “after a calm comes a storm. She’ll make up for this presently, I’ll warrant.” But Mrs Philpot put up the horse, and called Philip, and then returned in peace and quietness, and attempted to pass into the house, without uttering a word to her lord and master.

“What’s the matter with you, my dear?” asked Jacob Philpot; “a’n’t you well?”—“Yes, sir,” replied Mrs Philpot, “very well, I thank you. But pray take away your leg, and let me go into the house.”—“But didn’t you think I was very late?” asked Jacob.—“Oh! I don’t know,” replied Mrs Philpot; “when gentlemen get together, they don’t think how time goes.” Poor Jacob was quite delighted, and, as it was dusk, and by no means, as he conceived, a scandalous proceeding, he forthwith put one arm round Mrs Philpot’s neck, and stole a kiss, whereat she said, “Oh dear me! how could you think of doing such a thing?” and immediately squeezed herself past him, and ran into the house, where Sally sat, in the arm-chair before mentioned, [Pg 61]with a handkerchief over her head, pretending to be asleep.

“Come, my dear,” said Jacob to his wife, “I’m glad to see you in such good-humour. You shall make me a glass of rum and water, and take some of it yourself.”—“I must go into the back kitchen for some water, then,” replied his wife, and away she ran, and Jacob followed her, marvelling still more at her unusual alacrity. “My dear,” quoth he, “I am sorry to give you so much trouble,” and again he put his arm round her neck. “La, sir!” she cried, “if you don’t let me go, I’ll call out, I declare.”—“He, he—ha, ha!” said Jacob; “call out! that’s a good one, however! a man’s wife calling out because her husband’s a-going to kiss her!”—“What do you mean?” asked Mrs Philpot; “I’m sure it’s a shame to use a poor girl so!”—“A poor girl!” exclaimed the landlord, “ahem! was once, mayhap.”—“I don’t value your insinivations that,” said Mrs Philpot, snapping her fingers; “I wonder what you take me for!”—“So ho!” thought her spouse, “she’s come to herself now; I thought it was all a sham; but I’ll coax her a bit;” so he fell in with her apparent whim, and called her a good girl; but still she resisted his advances, and asked him what he took her for. “Take you for!” cried Jacob, “why, for my own dear Sally to be sure, so don’t make any more fuss.”—“I have a great mind to run out of [Pg 62]the house,” said she, “and never enter it any more.”

This threat gave no sort of alarm to Jacob, but it somewhat tickled his fancy, and he indulged himself in a very hearty laugh, at the end of which he good-humouredly told her to go to bed, and he would follow her presently, as soon as he had looked after his horse, and pulled off his boots. This proposition was no sooner made, than the good man’s ears were suddenly grasped from behind, and his head was shaken and twisted about, as though it had been the purpose of the assailant to wrench it from his shoulders. Mrs Philpot instantly made her escape from the kitchen, leaving her spouse in the hands of the enraged Sally, who, under the influence of the teetotum delusion, was firmly persuaded that she was justly inflicting wholesome discipline upon her husband, whom she had, as she conceived, caught in the act of making love to the maid. Sally was active and strong, and Jacob Philpot was, as before hinted, somewhat obese, and, withal, not in excellent “wind;” consequently it was some time ere he could disengage himself; and then he stood panting and blowing, and utterly lost in astonishment, while Sally saluted him with divers appellations, which it would not be seemly here to set down.

When Jacob did find his tongue, however, he answered her much in the same style; and added, [Pg 63]that he had a great mind to lay a stick about her back. “What! strike a woman! Eh—would you, you coward?” and immediately she darted forward, and, as she termed it, put her mark upon him with her nails, whereby his rubicund countenance was greatly disfigured, and his patience entirely exhausted: but Sally was too nimble, and made her escape up-stairs. So the landlord of the Red Lion, having got rid of the two mad or drunken women, very philosophically resolved to sit down for half an hour by himself, to think over the business, while he took his “night-cap.” He had scarcely brewed the ingredients, when he was roused by a rap at the window; and, in answer to his inquiry of “who’s there?” he recognised the voice of his neighbour, George Syms, and, of course, immediately admitted him; for George was a good customer, and, consequently, welcome at all hours. “My good friend,” said Syms, “I daresay you are surprised to see me here at this time of night; but I can’t get into my own house. My wife is drunk, I believe.”—“And so is mine,” quoth the landlord; “so, sit you down and make yourself comfortable. Hang me if I think I’ll go to bed to-night!” “No more will I,” said Syms; “I’ve got a job to do early in the morning, and then I shall be ready for it.” So the two friends sat down, and had scarcely begun to enjoy themselves, when another rap was heard at the window, and mine host recognised the [Pg 64]voice of Peter Brown, who came with the same complaint against his wife, and was easily persuaded to join the party, each declaring that the women must have contrived to meet, during their absence from home, and all get fuddled together. Matters went on pleasantly enough for some time, while they continued to rail against the women; but, when that subject was exhausted, George Syms, the shoemaker, began to talk about shoeing horses; and Peter Brown, the blacksmith, averred that he could make a pair of jockey boots with any man for fifty miles round. The host of the rampant Red Lion considered these things at first as a sort of joke, which he had no doubt, from such good customers, was exceedingly good, though he could not exactly comprehend it; but when Peter Brown answered to the name of George Syms, and George Syms responded to that of Peter Brown, he was somewhat more bewildered, and could not help thinking that his guests had drunk quite enough. He, however, satisfied himself with the reflection that that was no business of his, and that “a man must live by his trade.” With the exception of these apparent occasional cross purposes, conversation went on as well as could be expected under existing circumstances; and the three unfortunate husbands sat and talked, and drank, and smoked, till tired nature cried, “Hold, enough!”

In the meanwhile, Mrs George Syms, who had [Pg 65]been much scandalised at the appearance of Peter Brown beneath her bedroom window, whereinto he vehemently solicited admittance, altogether in the most public and unblushing manner; she, poor soul! lay for an hour much disturbed in her mind, and pondering on the extreme impropriety of Mr Brown’s conduct, and its probable consequences. She then began to wonder where her own goodman could be staying so late; and after much tossing and tumbling to and fro, being withal a woman of a warm imagination, she discerned in her mind’s eye divers scenes which might probably be then acting, and in which George Syms appeared to be taking a part that did not at all meet her approbation. Accordingly she arose, and throwing her garments about her with a degree of elegant negligence for which the ladies of Stockwell have long been celebrated, she incontinently went to the house of Peter Brown, at whose bedroom window she perceived a head. With the intuitive knowledge of costume possessed by ladies in general, she instantly, through the murky night, discovered that the cap on the said head was of the female gender; and therefore boldly went up thereunto and said, “Mrs Brown, have you seen anything of my husband?”—“What!” exclaimed Mrs Brown, “haven’t you seen him? Well, I’d have you see after him pretty quickly, for he was here, just where you stand now, more than two hours ago, talking all [Pg 66]manner of nonsense to me, and calling me his dear Betsy, so that I was quite ashamed of him! But, howsomever, you needn’t be uneasy about me, for you know I wouldn’t do anything improper on no account. But have you seen anything of my Peter?”—“I believe I have,” replied Mrs Syms, and immediately related the scandalous conduct of the smith beneath her window; and then the two ladies agreed to sally forth in search of their two “worthless, good-for-nothing, drunken husbands.”

Now it is a custom with those who get their living by carrying coal, when they are about to convey it to any considerable distance, to commence their journey at such an hour as to reach the first turnpike a little after midnight, that they may be enabled to go out and return home within the twenty-four hours, and thus save the expense of the toll, which they would otherwise have to pay twice. This is the secret of those apparently lazy fellows whom the Bath ladies and dandies sometimes view with horror and surprise, sleeping in the day-time, in, on, or under carts, benches, or waggons. It hath been our lot, when in the city of waters, to hear certain of these theoretical “political economists” remark somewhat harshly on this mode of taking a siesta. We should recommend them henceforth to attend to the advice of Peter Pindar, and—

[Pg 67]

“Mind what they read in godly books,
And not take people by their looks;”

for they would not be pleased to be judged in that manner themselves; and the poor fellows in question have generally been travelling all night, not in a mail-coach, but walking over rough roads, and assisting their weary and overworked cavalry up and down a succession of steep hills.

In consequence of this practice, the two forsaken matrons encountered Moses Brown, a first cousin of Peter’s, who had just despatched his waggoner on a commercial enterprise of the description just alluded to. Moses had heard voices as he passed the Lion; and being somewhat of a curious turn, had discovered, partly by listening, and partly by the aid of certain cracks, holes, and ill-fitting joints in the shutters, who the gentlemen were whose goodwill and pleasure it was “to vex the dull ear of night” with their untimely mirth. Moses, moreover, was a meek man, and professed to be extremely sorry for the two good women who had two such roaring, rattling blades for their husbands: for, by this time, the bacchanalians, having exhausted their conversational powers, had commenced a series of songs. So, under his guidance, the ladies reconnoitred the drunken trio through the cracks, holes, and ill-fitting joints aforesaid.

Poor George Syms was by this time regularly “done up,” and dozing in his chair; but Peter [Pg 68]Brown, the smith, was still in his glory, and singing in no small voice a certain song, which was by no means fitting to be chanted in the ear of his spouse. As for Jacob Philpot, the landlord, he sat erect in his chair with the dogged resolution of a man who feels that he is at his post, and is determined to be “no starter.” At this moment Sally made her appearance in the room, in the same sort of dishabille as that worn by the ladies at the window, and commenced a very unceremonious harangue to George Syms and Peter Brown, telling them that they ought to be ashamed of themselves not to have been at home hours ago; “as for this fellow,” said she, giving poor Philpot a tremendous box on the ear, “I’ll make him remember it, I’ll warrant.” Jacob hereupon arose in great wrath; but ere he could ascertain precisely the exact centre of gravity, Sally settled his position by another cuff, which made his eyes twinkle, and sent him reeling back into his seat. Seeing these things, the ladies without began, as fox-hunters say, to “give tongue,” and vociferously demanded admittance; whereupon Mrs Philpot put her head out from a window above, and told them that she would be down and let them in in a minute, and that it was a great pity gentlemen should ever get too much beer: and then she popped in her head, and in less than the stipulated time, ran down stairs and opened the street door; and so the wives [Pg 69]were admitted to their delinquent husbands; but meek Moses Brown went his way, having a wife at home, and having no desire to abide the storm which he saw was coming.

Peter Brown was, as we said before, in high feather; and therefore, when he saw Mrs Syms, whom he (acting under the teetotum delusion) mistook for the wife of his own particular bosom, he gaily accosted her, “Ah, old girl!—Is it you? What! you’ve come to your senses, eh? slept it off, I suppose. Well, well; never mind! Forgive and forget, I say. I never saw you so before, I will say that for you, however. So give us a buss, old girl! and let us go home;” and without ceremony he began to suit the action to the word, whereupon the real Mrs Brown flew to Mrs Syms’ assistance, and by hanging round Peter’s neck, enabled her friend to escape. Mrs Syms, immediately she was released, began to shake up her drowsy George, who, immediately he opened his eyes, scarcely knowing where he was, marvelled much to find himself thus handled by, as he supposed, his neighbour’s wife; but with the maudlin cunning of a drunken man, he thought it was an excellent joke, and therefore threw his arms round her, and began to hug her with a wondrous and unusual degree of fondness, whereby the poor woman was much affected, and called him her dear George, and said she knew it was not his fault, but [Pg 70]“all along of that brute,” pointing to Peter Brown, that he had drunk himself into such a state. “Come along, my dear,” she concluded, “let us go and leave him—I don’t care if I never see him any more.”

The exasperation of Peter Brown, at seeing and hearing, as he imagined, his own wife act and speak in this shameful manner before his face, may be “more easily imagined than described;” but his genuine wife, who belonged, as he conceived, to the drunken man, hung so close about his neck that he found it impossible to escape. George Syms, however, was utterly unable to rise, and sat, with an idiot-like simper upon his face, as if giving himself up to a pleasing delusion, while his wife was patting, and coaxing, and wheedling him in every way, to induce him to get upon his legs and try to go home. At length, as he vacantly stared about, he caught a glimpse of Mrs Brown, whom, to save repetition, we may as well call his teetotum wife, hanging about his neighbour’s neck. This sight effectually roused him, and before Mrs Syms was aware of his intention, he started up and ran furiously at Peter Brown, who received him much in the manner that might be expected, with a salutation in “the bread-basket,” which sent him reeling on the floor. As a matter of course, Mrs Syms took the part of her fallen husband, and put her mark upon Mr Peter Brown; and, as a matter of course, Mrs Peter Brown [Pg 71]took the part of her spouse, and commenced an attack on Mrs Syms.

In the meanwhile Sally had not been idle. After chastening Jacob Philpot to her heart’s content, she, with the assistance of Mrs Philpot and Philip the hostler, who was much astonished to hear her “order the mistress about,” conveyed him up-stairs, where he was deposited, as he was, upon a spare bed, to “take his chance,” as she said, “and sleep off his drunken fit.” Sally then returned to the scene of strife, and desired the “company” to go about their business, for she should not allow anything more to be “called for” that night. Having said this with an air of authority, she left the room; and though Mrs Syms and Mrs Brown were greatly surprised thereat, they said nothing, inasmuch as they were somewhat ashamed of their own appearance, and had matters of more importance than Sally’s eccentricity to think of, as Mrs Syms had been cruelly wounded in her new shawl, which she had imprudently thrown over her shoulders; and the left side of the lace on Mrs Brown’s cap had been torn away in the recent conflict. Mrs Philpot, enacting her part as the teetotum Sally of the night, besought the ladies to go home, and leave the gentlemen to sleep where they were—i.e. upon the floor—till the morning: for Peter Brown, notwithstanding the noise he had made, was as incapable of standing as the quieter George Syms. So the [Pg 72]women dragged them into separate corners of the room, placed pillows under their heads, and threw a blanket over each, and then left them to repose. The two disconsolate wives each forthwith departed to her own lonely pillow, leaving Mrs Philpot particularly puzzled at the deference with which they had treated her, by calling her “Madam,” as if she was mistress of the house.

Leaving them all to their slumbers, we must now say a word or two about the teetotum, the properties of which were to change people’s characters, spinning the mind of one man or woman into the body of another. The duration of the delusion, caused by this droll game of the old gentleman’s, depended upon the length of time spent in the diversion; and five minutes was the specific period for causing it to last till the next sunrise or sunset after the change had been effected. Therefore, when the morning came, Mrs Philpot and Sally, and Peter Brown and George Syms, all came to their senses. The two latter went quietly home, with aching heads and very confused recollections of the preceding evening; and shortly after their departure Mrs Philpot awoke in great astonishment at finding herself in the garret; and Sally was equally surprised, and much alarmed, at finding herself in her mistress’s room, from which she hastened in quick time, leaving all things in due order.

The elderly stranger made his appearance soon [Pg 73]after, and appeared to have brushed up his shabby-genteel clothes, for he really looked much more respectable than on the preceding evening. He ordered his breakfast, and sat down thereto very quietly, and asked for the newspaper, and pulled out his spectacles, and began to con the politics of the day much at his ease, no one having the least suspicion that he and his teetotum had been the cause of all the uproar at the Red Lion. In due time the landlord made his appearance, with sundry marks of violence upon his jolly countenance, and, after due obeisance made to his respectable-looking guest, took the liberty of telling his spouse that he should insist upon her sending Sally away, for that he had never been so mauled since he was born; but Mrs Philpot told him that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and she was very glad the girl had spirit enough to protect herself, and that she wouldn’t part with her on any account. She then referred to what had passed in the back kitchen, taking to herself the credit of having inflicted that punishment which had been administered by the hands of Sally.

Jacob Philpot was now more than ever convinced that his wife had been paying her respects to a huge stone bottle of rum which stood in the closet; and he “made bold” to tell her his thoughts, whereat Mrs Philpot thought fit to put herself into a tremendous passion, although she could not help fearing [Pg 74]that, perhaps, she might have taken a drop too much of something, for she was unable, in any other manner, to account for having slept in the garret.

The elderly stranger now took upon himself to recommend mutual forgiveness, and stated that it was really quite pardonable for any one to take a little too much of such very excellent ale as that at the Red Lion. “For my own part,” said he, “I don’t know whether I didn’t get a trifle beyond the mark myself last night. But I hope, madam, I did not annoy you.”

“Oh dear, no, not at all, sir,” replied Mrs Philpot, whose good-humour was restored at this compliment paid to the good cheer of the Lion; “you were exceedingly pleasant, I assure you—just enough to make you funny: we had a hearty laugh about the teetotum, you know.”—“Ah!” said the stranger, “I guess how it was then. I always introduce the teetotum when I want to be merry.”

Jacob Philpot expressed a wish to understand the game, and after spinning it two or three times, proposed to take his chance, for five minutes, with the stranger; but the latter, laughing heartily, would by no means agree with the proposition, and declared that it would be downright cheating, as he was an overmatch for any beginner. “However,” he continued, “as soon as any of your neighbours come in, I’ll put you in the way of it, and we’ll have some of your ale now, just to pass [Pg 75]the time. It will do neither of us any harm after last night’s affair, and I want to have some talk with you about the coal trade.”

They accordingly sat down together, and the stranger displayed considerable knowledge in the science of mining; and Jacob was so much delighted with his companion, that an hour or two slipped away, as he said, “in no time;” and then there was heard the sound of a horse’s feet at the door, and a somewhat authoritative hillo!

“It is our parson,” said Jacob, starting up, and he ran to the door to inquire what might be his reverence’s pleasure. “Good morning,” said the Reverend Mr Stanhope. “I’m going over to dine with our club at the Old Boar, and I want you just to cast your eye on those fellows in my home close; you can see them out of your parlour window.”—“Yes, to be sure, sir,” replied Jacob.—“Hem!” quoth Mr Stanhope, “have you anybody indoors?”—“Yes, sir, we have,” replied Jacob, “a strange gentleman, who seems to know a pretty deal about mining and them sort of things. I think he’s some great person in disguise; he seems regularly edicated—up to everything,” “Eh, ah! a great person in disguise!” exclaimed Mr Stanhope. “I’ll just step in a minute. It seems as if there was a shower coming over, and I’m in no hurry, and it is not worth while to get wet through for the sake of a few minutes.” So he alighted from his [Pg 76]horse, soliloquising to himself, “Perhaps the Lord Chancellor! Who knows? However, I shall take care to show my principles;” and straightway he went into the house, and was most respectfully saluted by the elderly stranger; and they entered into a conversation upon the standing English topics of weather, wind, crops, and the coal trade; and Mr Stanhope contrived to introduce therein sundry unkind things against the Pope and all his followers; and avowed himself a stanch “church-and-king” man, and spake enthusiastically of our “glorious constitution,” and lauded divers individuals then in power, but more particularly those who studied the true interests of the Church, by seeking out and preferring men of merit and talent to fill vacant benefices. The stranger thereat smiled significantly, as though he could, if he felt disposed, say something to the purpose; and Mr Stanhope felt more inclined than ever to think the landlord might have conjectured very near the truth, and, consequently, redoubled his efforts to make the agreeable, professing his regret at being obliged to dine out that day, &c. The stranger politely thanked him for his consideration, and stated that he was never at a loss for employment, and that he was then rambling, for a few days, to relax his mind from the fatigues of an overwhelming mass of important business, to which his duty compelled him to attend early and late. “Perhaps,” [Pg 77]he continued, “you will smile when I tell you that I am now engaged in a series of experiments relative to the power of the centrifugal force, and its capacity of overcoming various degrees of friction.” (Here he produced the teetotum.) “You perceive the different surfaces of the under edge of this little thing. The outside, you see, is all of ivory, but indented in various ways; and yet I have not been able to decide whether the roughest or smoothest more frequently arrest its motions. The colours, of course, are merely indications. Here is my register,” and he produced a book, wherein divers abstruse mathematical calculations were apparent. “I always prefer other people to spin it, as then I obtain a variety of impelling power. Perhaps you will do me the favour just to twirl it round a few times alternately with the landlord? Two make a fairer experiment than one. Just for five minutes. I’ll not trouble you a moment longer, I promise you.”—“Hem!” thought Mr Stanhope.

“Learned men, now and then,
Have very strange vagaries!”

However, he commenced spinning the teetotum, turn and turn with Jacob Philpot, who was highly delighted both with the drollery of the thing, and the honour of playing with the parson of the parish, and laughed most immoderately, while the stranger stood by, looking at his stop-watch as demurely as on the preceding evening, until the five minutes [Pg 78]had expired; and then, in the middle of the Rev. Mr Stanhope’s spin, he took up the little toy and put it into his pocket.

Jacob Philpot immediately arose, and shook the stranger warmly by the hand, and told him that he should be happy to see him whenever he came that way again; and then nodding to Mr Stanhope and the landlady, went out at the front door, mounted the horse that stood there, and rode away. “Where’s the fellow going?” cried Mrs Philpot; “Hillo! Jacob, I say!”—“Well, mother,” said the Reverend Mr Stanhope, “what’s the matter now?” but Mrs Philpot had reached the front of the house, and continued to shout “Hillo! hillo, come back, I tell you!”—“That woman is always doing some strange thing or other,” observed Mr Stanhope to the stranger. “What on earth can possess her to go calling after the parson in that manner?”—“I declare he’s rode off with Squire Jones’s horse,” cried Mrs Philpot, re-entering the house. “To be sure he has,” said Mr Stanhope; “he borrowed it on purpose to go to the Old Boar.”—“Did he?” exclaimed the landlady; “and without telling me a word about it! But I’ll Old Boar him, I promise you!”—“Don’t make such a fool of yourself, mother,” said the parson; “it can’t signify twopence to you where he goes.”—“Can’t it?” rejoined Mrs Philpot. “I’ll tell you what, your worship——”—“Don’t worship me, woman,” exclaimed the teetotum landlord [Pg 79]parson; “worship! what nonsense now! Why, you’ve been taking your drops again this morning, I think. Worship, indeed! To be sure, I did once, like a fool, promise to worship you; but if my time was to come over again, I know what——But, never mind now—don’t you see it’s twelve o’clock? Come, quick, let us have what there is to eat, and then we’ll have a comfortable pipe under the tree. What say you, sir?”—“With all my heart,” replied the elderly stranger. Mrs Philpot could make nothing of the parson’s speech about worshipping her; but the order for something to eat was very distinct; and though she felt much surprised thereat, as well as at the proposed smoking under the tree, she, nevertheless, was much gratified that so unusual an order should be given on that particular day, as she had a somewhat better dinner than usual, namely, a leg of mutton upon the spit. Therefore she bustled about with exceeding goodwill, and Sally spread a clean cloth upon the table in the little parlour for the parson and the strange old gentleman; and when the mutton was placed upon the table, the latter hoped they should have the pleasure of Mrs Philpot’s company; but she looked somewhat doubtfully till the parson said, “Come, come, mother, don’t make a bother about it; sit down, can’t you, when the gentleman bids you.” Therefore she smoothed her apron and made one at the dinner-table, and conducted herself [Pg 80]with so much precision that the teetotum parson looked upon her with considerable surprise, while she regarded him with no less, inasmuch as he talked in a very unclerical manner; and, among other strange things, swore that his wife was as “drunk as blazes” the night before, and winked at her, and behaved altogether in a style very unbecoming a minister in his own parish.

At one o’clock there was a great sensation caused in the village of Stockwell, by the appearance of their reverend pastor and the elderly stranger, sitting on the bench which went round the tree, which stood before the sign of the roaring rampant Red Lion, each with a long pipe in his mouth, blowing clouds, which would not have disgraced the most inveterate smoker of the “black diamond” fraternity, and ever and anon moistening their clay with “heavy wet,” from tankards placed upon a small table, which Mrs Philpot had provided for their accommodation. The little boys and girls first approached within a respectful distance, and then ran away giggling to tell their companions; and they told their mothers, who came and peeped likewise; and many were diverted, and many were scandalised at the sight: yet the parson seemed to care for none of these things, but cracked his joke, and sipped his ale, and smoked his pipe, with as much easy nonchalance as if he had been in his own arm-chair at the rectory. Yet it must be confessed [Pg 81]that now and then there was a sort of equivocal remark made by him, as though he had some faint recollection of his former profession, although he evinced not the smallest sense of shame at the change which had been wrought in him. Indeed this trifling imperfection in the change of identity appears to have attended such transformations in general, and might have arisen from the individual bodies retaining their own clothes (for the mere fashion of dress hath a great influence on some minds), or, perhaps, because a profession or trade, with the habits thereof, cannot be entirely shaken off, nor a new one perfectly learned, by spinning a teetotum for five minutes. The time had now arrived when George Syms, the shoemaker, and Peter Brown, the blacksmith, were accustomed to take their “pint and pipe after dinner,” and greatly were they surprised to see their places so occupied; and not a little was their astonishment increased, when the parson lifted up his voice, and ordered Sally to bring out a couple of chairs, and then shook them both warmly by the hand, and welcomed them by the affectionate appellation of “My hearties!” He then winked, and in an under-tone began to sing—

“Though I’m tied to a crusty old woman,
Much given to scolding and jealousy,
I know that the case is too common,
And so I will ogle each girl I see.
Tol de rol, lol, &c.

[Pg 82]

“Come, my lads!” he resumed, “sit you down, and clap half a yard of clay into your mouths.” The two worthy artisans looked at each other significantly, or rather insignificantly, for they knew not what to think, and did as they were bid. “Come, why don’t you talk?” said the teetotum parson landlord, after a short silence. “You’re as dull as a couple of tom-cats with their ears cut off—talk, man, talk—there’s no doing nothing without talking.” This last part of his speech seemed more particularly addressed to Peter Brown, who, albeit a man of a sound head, and well skilled in such matters as appertained unto iron and the coal trade, had not been much in the habit of mixing with the clergy: therefore he felt, for a moment, as he said, “non-plushed;” but fortunately he recollected the Catholic question, about which most people were then talking, and which everybody professed to understand. Therefore, he forthwith introduced the subject; and being well aware of the parson’s bias, and having, moreover, been told that he had written a pamphlet; therefore (though, to do Peter Brown justice, he was not accustomed to read such publications) he scrupled not to give his opinion very freely, and concluded by taking up his pint and drinking a very unchristianlike malediction against the Pope. George Syms followed on the same side, and concluded in the same manner, adding thereunto, “Your good healths, gemmen.”[Pg 83]—“What a pack of nonsense!” exclaimed the parson. “I should like to know what harm the Pope can do us! I tell you what, my lads, it’s all my eye and Betty Martin. Live and let live, I say. So long as I can get a good living, I don’t care the toss of a halfpenny who’s uppermost. For my part, I’d as soon live at the sign of the Mitre as the Lion, or mount the cardinal’s hat for that matter, if I thought I could get anything by it. Look at home, say I. The Pope’s an old woman, and so are they that are afraid of him.” The elderly stranger here seemed highly delighted, and cried “Bravo!” and clapped the speaker on the back, and said, “That’s your sort! Go it, my hearty!” But Peter Brown, who was one of the sturdy English old-fashioned school, and did not approve of hot and cold being blown out of the same mouth, took the liberty of telling the parson, in a very unceremonious way, that he seemed to have changed his opinions very suddenly. “Not I,” said the other; “I was always of the same way of thinking.”—“Then words have no meaning,” observed George Syms, angrily, “for I heard you myself. You talked as loud about the wickedness of ’mancipation as ever I heard a man in my life, no longer ago than last Sunday.”—“Then I must have been drunk—that’s all I can say about the business,” replied the other, coolly; and he began to fill his pipe with the utmost nonchalance, as though it was a matter of course. [Pg 84]Such apparently scandalous conduct was, however, too much for the unsophisticated George Syms and Peter Brown, who simultaneously threw down their reckoning, and, much to their credit, left the turncoat reprobate parson to the company of the elderly gentleman.

If we were to relate half the whimsical consequences of the teetotum tricks of this strange personage, we might fill volumes; but as it is not our intention to allow the detail to swell even into one, we must hastily sketch the proceedings of poor Jacob Philpot after he left the Red Lion to dine with sundry of the gentry and clergy at the Old Boar, in his new capacity of an ecclesiastic, in the outward form of a somewhat negligently-dressed landlord. He was accosted on the road by divers of his coal-carrying neighbours with a degree of familiarity which was exceedingly mortifying to his feelings. One told him to be home in time to take part of a gallon of ale that he had won of neighbour Smith; a second reminded him that to-morrow was club-night at the Nag’s Head; and a third asked him where he had stolen his horse. At length he arrived, much out of humour, at the Old Boar, an inn of a very different description from the Red Lion, being a posting-house of no inconsiderable magnitude, wherein that day was to be holden the symposium of certain grandees of the adjacent country, as before hinted.

[Pg 85]

The landlord, who happened to be standing at the door, was somewhat surprised at the formal manner with which Jacob Philpot greeted him and gave his horse into the charge of the hostler; but as he knew him only by sight, and had many things to attend to, he went his way without making any remark, and thus, unwittingly, increased the irritation of Jacob’s new teetotum sensitive feelings. “Are any of the gentlemen come yet?” asked Jacob, haughtily, of one of the waiters. “What gentlemen?” quoth the waiter. “Any of them,” said Jacob—“Mr Wiggins, Doctor White, or Captain Pole?” At this moment a carriage drove up to the door, and the bells all began ringing, and the waiters ran to see who had arrived, and Jacob Philpot was left unheeded. “This is very strange conduct!” observed he; “I never met with such incivility in my life! One would think I was a dog!” Scarcely had this soliloquy terminated, when a lady, who had alighted from the carriage (leaving the gentleman who came with her to give some orders about the luggage), entered the inn, and was greatly surprised to find her delicate hand seized by the horny grasp of the landlord of the Red Lion, who addressed her as “Dear Mrs Wilkins,” and vowed he was quite delighted at the unexpected pleasure of seeing her, and hoped the worthy rector was well, and all the dear little darlings. Mrs Wilkins disengaged her hand as [Pg 86]quickly as possible, and made her escape into a room, the door of which was held open for her admittance by the waiter; and then the worthy rector made his appearance, followed by one of the “little darlings,” whom Jacob Philpot, in the joy of his heart at finding himself once more among friends, snatched up in his arms, and thereby produced a bellowing which instantly brought the alarmed mother from her retreat. “What is that frightful man doing with the child?” she cried, and Jacob, who could scarcely believe his ears, was immediately deprived of his burden, while his particular friend, the worthy rector, looked upon him with a cold and vacant stare, and then retired into his room with his wife and the little darling, and Jacob was once more left to his own cogitations. “I see it!” he exclaimed, after a short pause, “I see it! This is the reward of rectitude of principle! This is the reward of undeviating and inflexible firmness of purpose! He has read my unanswerable pamphlet! I always thought there was a laxity of principle about him!” So Jacob forthwith walked into the open air to cool himself, and strolled round the garden of the inn, and meditated upon divers important subjects; and thus he passed his time till the hour of dinner, though he could not but keep occasionally wondering that some of his friends did not come down to meet him, since they must have seen him walking in the [Pg 87]garden. His patience, however, was at length exhausted, and his appetite was exceedingly clamorous, partly, perhaps, because his outward man had been used to dine at the plebeian hour of noon, while his inward man made a point of never taking anything more than a biscuit and a glass of wine between breakfast and five o’clock; and even that little modicum had been omitted on this fatal day, in consequence of the incivility of the people of the inn. “The dinner hour was five precisely,” said he, looking at his watch, “and now it is half-past—but I’ll wait a little longer. It’s a bad plan to hurry them. It puts the cook out of humour, and then all goes wrong.” Therefore he waited a little longer; that is to say, till the calls of absolute hunger became quite ungovernable, and then he went into the house, where the odour of delicate viands was quite provoking; so he followed the guidance of his nose and arrived in the large dining-room, where he found, to his great surprise and mortification, that the company were assembled, and the work of destruction had been going on for some time, as the second course had just been placed on the table. Jacob felt that the neglect with which he had been treated was “enough to make a parson swear;” and perhaps he would have sworn, but that he had no time to spare; and therefore, as all the seats at the upper end of the table were engaged, he deposited himself [Pg 88]on a vacant chair about the centre, between two gentlemen with whom he had no acquaintance, and, spreading his napkin in his lap, demanded of a waiter what fish had gone out. The man replied only by a stare and a smile—a line of conduct which was by no means surprising, seeing that the most stylish part of Philpot’s dress was, without dispute, the napkin aforesaid. For the rest, it was unlike the garb of the strange gentleman, inasmuch as that, though possibly entitled to the epithet shabby, it could not be termed genteel. “What’s the fellow gaping at?” cried Jacob, in an angry voice; “go and tell your master that I want to speak to him directly. I don’t understand such treatment. Tell him to come immediately! Do you hear?”

The loud tone in which this was spoken aroused the attention of the company; and most of them cast a look of inquiry, first at the speaker and then round the table, as if to discern by whom the strange gentleman in the scarlet-and-yellow plush waistcoat and the dirty shirt might be patronised; but there were others who recognised the landlord of the Red Lion at Stockwell. The whole, however, were somewhat startled when he addressed them as follows:—“Really, gentlemen, I must say that a joke may be carried too far; and if it was not for my cloth” (here he handled the napkin), “I declare I don’t know how I might act. I have been [Pg 89]walking in the garden for these two hours, and you must have seen me. And now you stare at me as if you didn’t know me! Really, gentlemen, it is too bad! I love a joke as well as any man, and can take one too; but, as I said before, a joke may be carried too far.”—“I think so too,” said the landlord of the Old Boar, tapping him on the shoulder; “so come along, and don’t make a fool of yourself here.”—“Fellow!” cried Jacob, rising in great wrath, “go your ways! Be off, I tell you! Mr Chairman, we have known each other now for a good many years, and you must be convinced that I can take a joke as well as any man; but human nature can endure this no longer. Mr Wiggins! Captain Pole! my good friend Doctor White! I appeal to you!” Here the gentlemen named looked especially astounded. “What! can it be possible that you have all agreed to cut me! Oh, no! I will not believe that political differences of opinion can run quite so high. Come—let us have no more of this nonsense!”—“No, no, we’ve had quite enough of it,” said the landlord of the Old Boar, pulling the chair from beneath the last speaker, who was consequently obliged again to be upon his legs, while there came, from various parts of the table, cries of “Chair! chair! Turn him out!”—“Man!” roared the teetotum parsonified landlord of the Red Lion, to the landlord of the Old Boar—“Man! you shall repent of this! If it wasn’t [Pg 90]for my cloth, I’d soon——.”—“Come, give me the cloth!” said the other, snatching away the napkin, which Jacob had buttoned in his waistcoat, and thereby causing that garment to fly open and expose more of dirty linen and skin than is usually sported at a dinner-party. Poor Philpot’s rage had now reached its acme, and he again appealed to the chairman by name. “Colonel Martin!” said he, “can you sit by and see me used thus? I am sure you will not pretend that you don’t know me!”—“Not I,” replied the chairman; “I know you well enough, and a confounded impudent fellow you are. I’ll tell you what, my lad, next time you apply for a licence, you shall hear of this.” The landlord of the Old Boar was withal a kind-hearted man; and as he well knew that the loss of its licence would be ruin to the rampant Red Lion and all concerned therewith, he was determined that poor Philpot should be saved from destruction in spite of his teeth; therefore, without further ceremony, he, being a muscular man, laid violent hands upon the said Jacob, and, with the assistance of his waiters, conveyed him out of the room, in despite of much struggling, and sundry interjections concerning his “cloth.” When they had deposited him safely in an arm-chair in “the bar,” the landlady, who had frequently seen him before in his proper character—that of a civil man—who “knew his place” in society, very kindly offered [Pg 91]him a cup of tea; and the landlord asked how he could think of making such a fool of himself; and the waiter, whom he had accosted on first entering the house, vouched for his not having had anything to eat or drink; whereupon they spoke of the remains of a turbot which had just come down-stairs, and a haunch of venison that was to follow. It is a sad thing to have a mind and body that are no match for each other. Jacob’s outward man would have been highly gratified at the exhibition of these things, but the spirit of the parson was too mighty within, and spurned every offer, and the body was compelled to obey. So the horse that was borrowed of the squire was ordered out, and Jacob Philpot mounted and rode on his way in excessive irritation, growling vehemently at the insult and indignity which had been committed against the “cloth” in general, and his own person in particular.

“The sun sunk beneath the horizon,” as novelists say, when Jacob Philpot entered the village of Stockwell, and, as if waking from a dream, he suddenly started, and was much surprised to find himself on horseback; for the last thing that he recollected was going up-stairs at his own house, and composing himself for a nap, that he might be ready to join neighbour Scroggins and Dick Smith, when they came in the evening to drink the gallon of ale lost by the latter. “And, my eyes!” said he, “if I haven’t got the squire’s horse that the [Pg 92]parson borrowed this morning. Well—it’s very odd! however, the ride has done me a deal of good, for I feel as if I hadn’t had anything all day, and yet I did pretty well too at the leg of mutton at dinner.” Mrs Philpot received her lord and nominal master in no very gracious mood, and said she should like to know where he had been riding. “That’s more than I can tell you,” replied Jacob; “however, I know I’m as hungry as a greyhound, though I never made a better dinner in my life.”—“More shame for you,” said Mrs Philpot; “I wish the Old Boar was a thousand miles off.”—“What’s the woman talking about?” quoth Jacob. “Eh! what! at it again, I suppose,” and he pointed to the closet containing the rum bottle. “Hush!” cried Mrs Philpot, “here’s the parson coming down-stairs!”—“The parson!” exclaimed Jacob; “what’s he been doing up-stairs, I should like to know?”—“He has been to take a nap on mistress’s bed,” said Sally. “The dickens he has! This is a pretty story,” quoth Jacob. “How could I help it?” asked Mrs Philpot; “you should stay at home and look after your own business, and not go ramshackling about the country. You shan’t hear the last of the Old Boar just yet, I promise you.” To avoid the threatened storm, and satisfy the calls of hunger, Jacob made off to the larder, and commenced an attack upon the leg of mutton.

At this moment the Reverend Mr Stanhope [Pg 93]opened the little door at the foot of the stairs. On waking, and finding himself upon a bed, he had concluded that he must have fainted in consequence of the agitation of mind produced by the gross insults which he had suffered, or perhaps from the effects of hunger. Great, therefore, was his surprise to find himself at the Red Lion in his own parish; and the first questions he asked of Mrs Philpot were how and when he had been brought there. “La, sir!” said the landlady, “you went up-stairs of your own accord, after you were tired of smoking under the tree.”—“Smoking under the tree, woman!” exclaimed Mr Stanhope; “what are you talking about? Do you recollect whom you are speaking to?” “Ay, marry, do I,” replied the sensitive Mrs Philpot; “and you told Sally to call you when Scroggins and Smith came for their gallon of ale, as you meant to join the party.”

The Reverend Mr Stanhope straightway took up his hat, put it upon his head, and stalked with indignant dignity out of the house, opining that the poor woman was in her cups; and meditated, as he walked home, on the extraordinary affairs of the day. But his troubles were not yet ended, for the report of his public jollification had reached his own household; and John, his trusty man-servant, had been despatched to the Red Lion, and had ascertained that his master was really gone to bed in a state very unfit for a clergyman to be seen in. [Pg 94]Some remarkably goodnatured friends had been to condole with Mrs Stanhope upon the extraordinary proceedings of her goodman, and to say how much they were shocked, and what a pity it was, and wondering what the bishop would think of it, and divers other equally amiable and consolatory reflections and notes of admiration. Now Mrs Stanhope, though she had much of the “milk of human kindness” in her composition, had withal a sufficient portion of “tartaric acid” mingled therewith. Therefore, when her beer-drinking husband made his appearance, he found her in a state of effervescence. “Mary,” said he, “I am extremely fatigued. I have been exposed to-day to a series of insults, such as I could not have imagined it possible for any one to offer me.”—“Nor anybody else,” replied Mrs Stanhope; “but you are rightly served, and I am glad of it. Who could have supposed that you, the minister of a parish!—Faugh! how filthily you smell of tobacco! I vow I cannot endure to be in the room with you!” and she arose and left the divine to himself, in exceeding great perplexity. However, being a man who loved to do all things in order, he remembered that he had not dined, so he rang the bell and gave the needful instructions, thinking it best to satisfy nature first, and then endeavour to ascertain the cause of his beloved Mary’s acidity. His appetite was gone, but that he attributed to having fasted too long, a practice very [Pg 95]unusual with him; however, he picked a bit here and there, and then indulged himself with a bottle of his oldest port, which he had about half consumed, and somewhat recovered his spirits, ere his dear Mary made her reappearance, and told him that she was perfectly astonished at his conduct. And well might she say so, for now, the wine, which he had been drinking with unusual rapidity, thinking, good easy man, that he had taken nothing all day, began to have a very visible effect upon a body already saturated with strong ale. He declared that he cared not a fig for the good opinion of any gentleman in the county, that he would always act and speak according to his principles, and filled a bumper to the health of the Lord Chancellor, and drank sundry more exceedingly loyal toasts, and told his astonished spouse, that he should not be surprised if he was very soon to be made a Dean or a Bishop; and as for the people at the Old Boar, he saw through their conduct—it was all envy, which doth “merit as its shade pursue.” The good lady justly deemed it folly to waste her oratory upon a man in such a state, and reserved her powers for the next morning; and Mr Stanhope reeled to bed that night in a condition which, to do him justice, he had never before exhibited under his own roof.

The next morning, Mrs Stanhope and her daughter Sophy, a promising young lady about ten years [Pg 96]old, of the hoyden class, were at breakfast, when the elderly stranger called at the rectory, and expressed great concern on being told that Mr S. was somewhat indisposed, and had not yet made his appearance. He said that his business was of very little importance, and merely concerned some geological inquiries which he was prosecuting in the vicinity; but Mrs Stanhope, who had the names of all the ologies by heart, and loved occasionally to talk thereof, persuaded him to wait a short time, little dreaming of the consequence; for the wily old gentleman began to romp with Miss Sophy, and, after a while, produced his teetotum, and, in short, so contrived it, that the mother and daughter played together therewith for five minutes. He then politely took his leave, promising to call again; and Mrs Stanhope bobbed him a curtsy, and Sophia assured him that Mr S. would be extremely happy to afford him every assistance in his scientific researches. When the worthy divine at length made his appearance in the breakfast parlour, strangely puzzled as to the extreme feverishness and languor which oppressed him, he found Sophy sitting gravely in an arm-chair, reading a treatise on craniology. It was a pleasant thing for him to see her read anything, but he could not help expressing his surprise by observing, “I should think that book a little above your comprehension, my dear.”—“Indeed! sir,” was the reply; and the [Pg 97]little girl laid down the volume, and sat erect in her chair, and thus continued: “I should think, Mr Nicodemus Stanhope, that after the specimen of good sense and propriety of conduct, which you were pleased to exhibit yesterday, it scarcely becomes you to pretend to estimate the comprehension of others.” “My dear,” said the astonished divine, “this is very strange language! You forget whom you are speaking to!”—“Not at all,” replied the child. “I know my place, if you don’t know yours, and am determined to speak my mind.” If anything could add to the Reverend Mr Nicodemus Stanhope’s surprise, it was the sound of his wife’s voice in the garden, calling to his man John to stand out of the way, or she should run over him. Poor John, who was tying up some of her favourite flowers, got out of her way accordingly in quick time, and the next moment his mistress rushed by, trundling a hoop, hallooing and laughing, and highly enjoying his apparent dismay. Throughout that day, it may be imagined that the reverend gentleman’s philosophy was sorely tried; but we are compelled, by want of room, to leave the particulars of his botheration to the reader’s imagination.

We are sorry to say that these were not the only metamorphoses which the mischievous old gentleman wrought in the village of Stockwell. There was a game of teetotum played between a sergeant of dragoons, who had retired upon his well-earned [Pg 98]pension, and a baker, who happened likewise to be the renter of a small patch of land adjoining the village. The veteran, with that indistinctness of character before mentioned, shouldered the peel, and took it to the field, and used it for loading and spreading manure, so that it was never afterwards fit for any but dirty work. Then, just to show that he was not afraid of anybody, he cut a gap in the hedge of a small field of wheat which had just been reaped, and was standing in sheaves, and thereby gave admittance to a neighbouring bull, who amused himself greatly by tossing the said sheaves; but more particularly those which were set apart as tithes, against which he appeared to have a particular spite, throwing them high into the air, and then bellowing and treading them under foot. But—we must come to a close. Suffice it to say, that the village of Stockwell was long in a state of confusion in consequence of these games; for the mischief which was done during the period of delusion, ended not, like the delusion itself, with the rising or setting of the sun.

Having now related as many particulars of these strange occurrences as our limits will permit, we have merely to state the effect which they produced upon ourselves. Whenever we have since beheld servants aping the conduct of their masters or mistresses, tradesmen wasting their time and money at taverns, clergymen forgetful of the dignity [Pg 99]and sacred character of their profession, publicans imagining themselves fit for preachers, children calling their parents to account for their conduct, matrons acting the hoyden, and other incongruities—whenever we witness these and the like occurrences, we conclude that the actors therein have been playing a game with the Old Gentleman’s Teetotum.

“Woe to us when we lose the watery wall!”

[MAGA. September 1823.]

If e’er that dreadful hour should come—but God avert the day!—
When England’s glorious flag must bend, and yield old Ocean’s sway;
When foreign ships shall o’er that deep, where she is empress, lord;
When the cross of red from boltsprit-head is hewn by foreign sword;
When foreign foot her quarterdeck with proud stride treads along;
When her peaceful ships meet haughty check from hail of foreign tongue;—
One prayer, one only prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

If ever other prince than ours wield sceptre o’er that main,
Where Howard, Blake, and Frobisher, the Armada smote of Spain;
[Pg 100]Where Blake, in Cromwell’s iron sway, swept tempest-like the seas,
From North to South, from East to West, resistless as the breeze;
Where Russell bent great Louis’ power, which bent before to none,
And crushed his arm of naval strength, and dimmed his Rising Sun—
One prayer, one only prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

If ever other keel than ours triumphant plough that brine,
Where Rodney met the Count de Grasse, and broke the Frenchman’s line,
Where Howe, upon the first of June, met the Jacobins in fight,
And with Old England’s loud huzzas broke down their godless might;
Where Jervis at St Vincent’s felled the Spaniards’ lofty tiers,
Where Duncan won at Camperdown, and Exmouth at Algiers—
One prayer, one only prayer, is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

But oh! what agony it were, when we should think on thee,
The flower of all the Admirals that ever trod the sea!
I shall not name thy honoured name—but if the white-cliffed Isle
Which reared the Lion of the deep, the Hero of the Nile,
Him who, ’neath Copenhagen’s self, o’erthrew the faithless Dane,
Who died at glorious Trafalgar, o’er-vanquished France and Spain,
Should yield her power, one prayer is mine—that, ere is seen that sight,
Ere there be warning of that woe, I may be whelmed in night!

[Pg 1]



[MAGA. August 1846.]


Have you any idea who that fresh gentleman-commoner is?” said I to Savile, who was sitting next to me at dinner, one day soon after the beginning of term. We had not usually in the college above three or four of that privileged class, so that any addition to their table attracted more attention than the arrival of the vulgar herd of freshmen to fill up the vacancies at our own. Unless one of them had choked himself with his mutton, or taken some equally decided mode of making himself an object of public interest, scarcely any man of “old standing” would have even inquired his name.

“Is he one of our men?” said Savile, as he scrutinised the party in question. “I thought he had been a stranger dining with some of them. Murray, [Pg 2]you know the history of every man who comes up, I believe—who is he?”

“His name is Russell,” replied the authority referred to; “Charles Wynderbie Russell; his father’s a banker in the city: Russell and Smith, you know, —— Street.”

“Ay, I dare say,” said Savile; “one of your rich tradesmen; they always come up as gentlemen-commoners, to show that they have lots of money: it makes me wonder how any man of decent family ever condescends to put on a silk gown.” Savile was the younger son of a poor baronet, thirteenth in descent, and affected considerable contempt for any other kind of distinction.

“Oh!” continued Murray, “this man is by no means of a bad family: his father comes of one of the oldest houses in Dorsetshire, and his mother, you know, is one of the Wynderbies of Wynderbie Court—a niece of Lord De Staveley’s.”

I know!” said Savile; “nay, I never heard of Wynderbie Court in my life; but I dare say you know, which is quite sufficient. Really, Murray, you might make a good speculation by publishing a genealogical list of the undergraduate members of the university—birth, parentage, family connections, governors’ present incomes, probable expectations, &c. &c. It would sell capitally among the tradesmen—they’d know exactly when it was safe to give credit. You could call it A Guide to Duns.”

[Pg 3]

“Or a History of the Un-landed Gentry,” suggested I.

“Well, he is a very gentlemanlike-looking fellow, that Mr Russell, banker or not,” said Savile, as the unconscious subject of our conversation left the hall; “I wonder who knows him?”

The same question might have been asked a week—a month after this conversation, without eliciting any very satisfactory answer. With the exception of Murray’s genealogical information—the correctness of which was never doubted for a moment, though how or where he obtained this and similar pieces of history, was a point on which he kept up an amusing mystery—Russell was a man of whom no one appeared to know anything at all. The other gentlemen-commoners had, I believe, all called upon him, as a matter of courtesy to one of their own limited mess; but in almost every case it had merely amounted to an exchange of cards. He was either out of his rooms, or “sporting oak;” and “Mr C. W. Russell,” on a bit of pasteboard, had invariably appeared in the note-box of the party for whom the honour was intended, on their return from their afternoon’s walk or ride. Invitations to two or three wine-parties had followed, and been civilly declined. It was at one of these meetings that he again became the subject of conversation. We were a large party, at a man of the name of Tichborne’s rooms, when some one mentioned having met “the Hermit,” as [Pg 4]they called him, taking a solitary walk about three miles out of Oxford the day before.

“Oh, you mean Russell,” said Tichborne: “well, I was going to tell you, I called on him again this morning, and found him in his rooms. In fact, I almost followed him in after lecture; for I confess I had some little curiosity to find out what he was made of!”

“And did you find out?”—“What sort of a fellow is he?” asked half-a-dozen voices at once; for, to say the truth, the curiosity which Tichborne had just confessed had been pretty generally felt, even among those who usually affected a dignified disregard of all matters concerning the nature and habits of freshmen.

“I sat with him for about twenty minutes; indeed, I should have staid longer, for I rather liked the lad; but he seemed anxious to get rid of me. I can’t make him out at all, though. I wanted him to come here to-night, but he positively would not, though he didn’t pretend to have any other engagement: he said he never, or seldom, drank wine.”

“Not drink wine!” interrupted Savile. “I always said he was some low fellow!”

“I have known some low fellows drink their skins full of wine, though; especially at other men’s expense,” said Tichborne, who was evidently not pleased with the remark; “and Russell is not a low fellow by any means.”

“Well, well,” replied Savile, whose good-humour [Pg 5]was imperturbable—“if you say so, there’s an end of it: all I mean to say is, I can’t conceive any man not drinking wine, unless for the simple reason that he prefers brandy-and-water, and that I do call low. However, you’ll excuse my helping myself to another glass of this particularly good claret, Tichborne, though it is at your expense: indeed, the only use of you gentlemen-commoners, that I am aware of, is to give us a taste of the senior common-room wine now and then. They do manage to get it good there, certainly. I wish they would give out a few dozens as prizes at collections; it would do us a great deal more good than a Russia-leather book with the college arms on it. I don’t know that I shouldn’t take to reading in that case.”

“Drink a dozen of it, old fellow, if you can,” said Tichborne. “But really I am sorry we couldn’t get Russell here this evening; I think he would be rather an acquisition, if he could be drawn out. As to his not drinking wine, that’s a matter of taste; and he is not very likely to corrupt the good old principles of the college on that point. But he must please himself.”

“What does he do with himself?” said one of the party—“read?”

“Why he didn’t talk about reading, as most of our literary freshmen do, which might perhaps lead one to suppose he really was something of a scholar; still, I doubt if he is what you call a reading man; [Pg 6]I know he belongs to the Thucydides lecture, and I have never seen him there but once.”

“Ah!” said Savile, with a sigh, “that’s another privilege of yours I had forgotten, which is rather enviable; you can cut lectures when you like, without getting a thundering imposition. Where does this man Russell live?”

“He has taken those large rooms that Sykes used to have, and fitted up in such style; they were vacant, you remember, the last two terms; I had some thought of moving into them myself, but they were confoundedly expensive, and I didn’t think it worth while. They cost Sykes I don’t know how much, in painting and papering, and are full of all sorts of couches, and easy-chairs, and so forth. And this man seems to have got two or three good paintings into them; and, altogether, they are now the best rooms in college, by far.”

“Does he mean to hunt?” asked another.

“No, I fancy not,” replied our host: “though he spoke as if he knew something about it; but he said he had no horses in Oxford.”

“Nor anywhere else, I’ll be bound; he’s a precious slow coach, you may depend upon it.” And with this decisive remark, Mr Russell and his affairs were dismissed for the time.

A year passed away, and still, at the end of that time—(a long time it seemed in those days)—Russell was as much a stranger in college as ever. [Pg 7]He had begun to be regarded as a rather mysterious person. Hardly two men in the college agreed in their estimate of his character. Some said he was a natural son—the acknowledged heir to a large fortune, but too proud to mix in society, under the consciousness of a dishonoured birth. But this suspicion was indignantly refuted by Murray, as much on behalf of his own genealogical accuracy, as for Russell’s legitimacy—he was undoubtedly the true and lawful son and heir of Mr Russell the banker, of —— Street. Others said he was poor; but his father was reputed to be the most wealthy partner in a wealthy firm, and was known to have a considerable estate in the west of England. There were not wanting those who said he was “eccentric”—in the largest sense of the term. Yet his manners and conduct, as far as they came within notice, were correct, regular, and gentlemanly beyond criticism. There was nothing about him which could fairly incur even the minor charge of being odd. He dressed well, though very plainly; would converse freely enough, upon any subject, with the few men who, from sitting at the same table, or attending the same lectures, had formed a doubtful sort of acquaintance with him; and always showed great good sense, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a courtesy, and at the same time perfect dignity of manner, which effectually prevented any attempt to penetrate, by jest or direct question, the [Pg 8]reserve in which he had chosen to enclose himself. All invitations he steadily refused; even to the extent of sending an excuse to the deans’ and tutors’ breakfast parties, to their ineffable disgust. Whether he read hard, or not, was equally a secret. He was regular in his attendance at chapel, and particularly attentive to the service; a fact which by no means tended to lower him in men’s estimation, though in those days more remarkable than, happily, it would be now. At lectures, indeed, he was not equally exemplary, either as to attendance or behaviour; he was often absent when asked a question, and not always accurate when he replied; and occasionally declined translating a passage which came to his turn, on the ground of not having read it. Yet his scholarship, if not always strictly accurate, had a degree of elegance which betokened both talent and reading; and his taste was evidently naturally good, and classical literature a subject of interest to him. Altogether, it rather piqued the vanity of those who saw most of him, that he would give them no opportunity of seeing more; and many affected to sneer at him, as a “muff,” who would have been exceedingly flattered by his personal acquaintance. Only one associate did Charles Russell appear to have in the university; and this was a little greenish-haired man in a scholar’s gown, a perfect contrast to himself in appearance, whose name or college no man knew, though some professed [Pg 9]to recognise him as a Bible-clerk of one of the smallest and most obscure of the halls.

Attempts were made to pump out of his scout some information as to how Russell passed his time: for, with the exception of a daily walk, sometimes with the companion above mentioned, but much oftener alone, and his having been seen once or twice in a skiff on the river, he appeared rarely to quit his own rooms. Scouts are usually pretty communicative of all they know—and sometimes a great deal more—about the affairs of their many masters; and they are not inclined in general to hold a very high opinion of those among “their gentlemen” who, like Russell, are behindhand in the matter of wine and supper-parties—their own perquisites suffering thereby. But Job Allen was a scout of a thousand. His honesty and integrity made him quite the rara avis of his class—i.e., a white swan amongst a flock of black ones. Though really, since I have left the university, and been condemned to house-keeping, and have seen the peculation and perquisite-hunting existing pretty nearly in the same proportion amongst ordinary servants—and the higher you go in society the worse it seems to be—without a tittle of the activity and cleverness displayed by a good college scout, who provides supper and etceteras for an extemporary party of twenty or so at an hour’s notice, without starting a difficulty or giving vent [Pg 10]to a grumble, or neglecting any one of his other multifarious duties (further than perhaps borrowing for the service of the said supper some hard-reading freshman’s whole stock of knives, and leaving him to spread his nocturnal bread and butter with his fingers); since I have been led to compare this with the fuss and fidget caused in a “well-regulated family” among one’s own lazy vagabonds, by having an extra horse to clean, or by a couple of friends arriving unexpectedly to dinner, when they all stare at you as if you were expecting impossibilities, I have pretty well come to the conclusion, that college servants, like hedgehogs, are a grossly calumniated race of animals—wrongfully accused of getting their living by picking and stealing, whereas they are in fact rather more honest than the average of their neighbours. It is to be hoped that, like the hedgehogs, they enjoy a compensation in having too thick skins to be over-sensitive. At all events, Job Allen was an honest fellow. He had been known to expostulate with some of his more reckless masters upon the absurdities of their goings-on; and had more than once had a commons of bread flung at his head, when taking the opportunity of symptoms of repentance, in an evident disrelish for breakfast, to hint at the slow but inevitable approach of “degree-day.” Cold chickens from the evening’s supper-party had made a miraculous reappearance [Pg 11]at next morning’s lunch or breakfast; half-consumed bottles of port seemed, under his auspices, to lead charmed lives. No wonder, then, there was very little information about the private affairs of Russell to be got out of Job Allen. He had but a very poor talent for gossip, and none at all for invention. “Mr Russell’s a very nice, quiet sort of gentleman, sir, and keeps his-self pretty much to his-self.” This was Job’s account of him; and, to curious inquirers, it was provoking both for its meagreness and its truth. “Who’s his friend in the rusty gown, Job?”—“I thinks, sir, his name’s Smith.” “Is Mr Russell going up for a class, Job?”—“I can’t say indeed, sir.” “Does he read hard?”—“Not over-hard, I think, sir.” “Does he sit up late, Job?”—“Not over-late, sir.” If there was anything to tell, it was evident Job would neither commit himself nor his master.

Russell’s conduct was certainly uncommon. If he had been the son of a poor man, dependent for his future livelihood on his own exertions, eking out the scanty allowance ill-spared by his friends by the help of a scholarship or exhibition, and avoiding society as leading to necessary expense, his position would have been understood, and even, in spite of the prejudices of youthful extravagance, commended. Or if he had been a hard-reading man from choice—or a stupid man—or a “saint”—no one would have troubled themselves about [Pg 12]him or his proceedings. But Russell was a gentleman-commoner, and a man who had evidently seen something of the world; a rich man, and apparently by no means of the character fitted for a recluse. He had dined once with the principal, and the two or three men who had met him there were considerably surprised at the easy gracefulness of his manners, and his information upon many points usually beyond the range of undergraduates: at his own table in hall, too, he never affected any reserve, although, perhaps from a consciousness of having virtually declined any intimacy with his companions, he seldom originated any conversation. It might have been assumed, indeed, that he despised the society into which he was thrown, but that his bearing, so far from being haughty, or even cold, was occasionally marked by apparent dejection. There was also, at times, a breaking out as it were of the natural spirits of youth, checked almost abruptly; and once or twice he had betrayed an interest in, and a knowledge of, field-sports and ordinary amusements, which for the moment made his hearers fancy, as Tichborne said, that he was “coming out.” But if, as at first often happened, such conversations led to a proposal for a gallop with the harriers, or a ride the next afternoon, or a match at billiards, or even an invitation to a quiet breakfast-party—the refusal, though always courteous—and sometimes it was fancied unwilling—was always [Pg 13]decided. And living day by day within reach of that close companionship which similarity of age, pursuits, and tastes, strengthened by daily intercourse, was cementing all around him, Charles Russell, in his twentieth year, in a position to choose his own society, and qualified to shine in it, seemed to have deliberately adopted the life of a recluse.

There were some, indeed, who accounted for his behaviour on the ground of stinginess; and it was an opinion somewhat strengthened by one or two trifling facts. When the subscription-list for the college boat was handed to him, he put his name down for the minimum of one guinea, though Charley White, our secretary, with the happy union of impudence and “soft sawder” for which he was remarkable, delicately drew his attention to the fact, that no other gentleman-commoner had given less than five. Still it was not very intelligible that a man who wished to save his pocket, should choose to pay double fees for the privilege of wearing a velvet cap and silk gown, and rent the most expensive set of rooms in the college.

It happened that I returned one night somewhat late from a friend’s rooms out of college, and had the satisfaction to find that my scout, in an unusually careful mood, had shut my outer “oak,” which had a spring lock, of which I never by any chance carried the key. It was too late to send for the rascal to open it, and I was just planning [Pg 14]the possibility of effecting an entrance at the window by means of the porter’s ladder, when the light in Russell’s room caught my eye, and I remembered that, in the days of their former occupant, our keys used to correspond, very much to our mutual convenience. It was no very great intrusion, even towards one in the morning, to ask a man to lend you his door key, when the alternative seemed to be spending the night in the quadrangle: so I walked up his staircase, knocked, was admitted, and stated my business with all proper apologies. The key was produced most graciously, and down I went again—unluckily two steps at a time. My foot slipped, and one grand rattle brought me to the bottom: not head first, but feet first, which possibly is not quite so dangerous, but any gentleman who has tried it will agree with me that it is sufficiently unpleasant. I was dreadfully shaken; and when I tried to get up, found it no easy matter. Russell, I suppose, heard the fall, for he was by my side by the time I had collected my ideas. I felt as if I had skinned myself at slight intervals all down one side; but the worst of it was a sprained ankle. How we got up-stairs again I have no recollection; but when a glass of brandy had brought me to a little, I found myself in an easy-chair, with my foot on a stool, shivering and shaking like a wet puppy. I staid there a fortnight (not in the chair, reader, [Pg 15]but in the rooms); and so it was I became intimately acquainted with Charles Russell. His kindness and attention to me were excessive; I wished of course to be moved to my own rooms at once, but he would not hear of it; and as I found every wriggle and twist which I gave quite sufficiently painful, I acceded to my surgeon’s advice to remain where I was.

It was not a very pleasant mode of introduction for either party. Very few men’s acquaintance is worth the pains of bumping all the way down-stairs and spraining an ankle for: and for a gentleman who voluntarily confines himself to his own apartment and avoids society, to have another party chummed in upon him perforce, day and night, sitting in an arm-chair, with a suppressed groan occasionally, and an abominable smell of hartshorn—is, to say the least of it, not the happiest mode of hinting to him the evils of solitude. Whether it was that the one of us, compelled thus against his will to play the host, was anxious to show he was no churl by nature, and the other, feeling himself necessarily in a great degree an intruder and a bore, put forth more zealously any redeeming social qualities he might possess; be this as it might, within that fortnight Russell and I became sincere friends.

I found him, as I had expected, a most agreeable and gentlemanlike companion, clever and well informed, [Pg 16]and with a higher tone and more settled principles than are common to his age and position. But strongly contrasted with his usually cheerful manner, were sudden intervals of abstraction approaching to gloominess. In him, it was evidently not the result of caprice, far less of anything approaching to affectation. I watched him closely, partly from interest, partly because I had little else to do, and became convinced that there was some latent cause of grief or anxiety at work. Once in particular, after the receipt of some letters (they were always opened hurriedly, and apparently with a painful interest), he was so visibly discomposed and depressed in spirits, that I ventured to express a hope that they had contained no distressing intelligence. Russell seemed embarrassed at having betrayed any unusual emotion, and answered in the negative; adding, that “he knew he was subject to the blues occasionally”—and I felt I could say no more. But I suppose I did not look convinced; for catching my eyes fixed on him soon afterwards, he shook my hand and said, “Something has vexed me—I cannot tell you what; but I won’t think about it again now.”

One evening, towards the close of my imprisonment, after a long and pleasant talk over our usual sober wind-up of a cup of coffee, some recent publication, tasteful, but rather expensive, was mentioned, which Russell expressed a wish to see. I [Pg 17]put the natural question to a man in his position who could appreciate the book, and to whom a few pounds were no consideration—why did he not order it? He coloured slightly, and after a moment’s hesitation hurriedly replied, “Because I cannot afford it.” I felt a little awkwardness as to what to say next; for the style of everything round me betrayed a lavish disregard of expense, and yet the remark did not at all bear the tone of a jest. Probably Russell understood what was passing in my mind; for presently, without looking at me, he went on: “Yes, you may well think it a pitiful economy to grudge five guineas for a book like that, and indulge one’s-self in such pompous mummery as we have here;” and he pushed down with his foot a massive and beautiful silver coffee-pot, engraved with half-a-dozen quarterings of arms, which, in spite of a remonstrance from me, had been blackening before the fire to keep its contents warm. “Never mind it,” he continued, as I in vain put out my hand to save it from falling—“it won’t be damaged; it will fetch just as much per ounce; and I really cannot afford to buy an inferior article.” Russell’s behaviour up to this moment had been rational enough, but at the moment a suspicion crossed my mind that “eccentricity,” as applied to his case, might possibly, as in some other cases, be merely an euphonism for something worse. However, I picked up the coffee-pot, and [Pg 18]said nothing. “You must think me very strange, Hawthorne; I quite forgot myself at the moment; but if you choose to be trusted with a secret, which will be no secret long, I will tell you what will perhaps surprise you with regard to my own position, though I really have no right to trouble you with my confidences.” I disclaimed any wish to assume the right of inquiring into private matters, but at the same time expressed, as I sincerely felt, an interest in what was evidently a weight on my companion’s mind. “Well, to say the truth,” continued Russell, “I think it will be a relief to me to tell you how I stand. I know that I have often felt of late that I am acting a daily lie here, to all the men about me; passing, doubtless, for a rich man, when in truth, for aught I know, I and all my family are beggars at this moment.” He stopped, walked to the window, and returned. “I am surrounded here by luxuries which have little right within a college’s walls; I occupy a distinctive position which you and others are supposed not to be able to afford; I never can mix with any of you, without, as it were, carrying with me everywhere the superscription written—‘This is a rich man.’ And yet, with all this outward show, I may be a debtor to your charity for my bread to-morrow. You are astonished, Hawthorne; of course you are. I am not thus playing the hypocrite willingly, believe me. Had I only my own comfort, and my [Pg 19]own feelings to consult, I would take my name off the college books to-morrow. How I bear the life I lead, I scarcely know.”

“But tell me,” said I, “as you have told me so much, what is the secret of all this?”

“I will; I was going to explain. My only motive for concealment, my only reason for even wishing you to keep my counsel, is, because the character and prospects of others are concerned. My father, as I dare say you are aware, is pretty well known as the head of the firm of Russell and Smith: he passes for a rich man, of course; he was a rich man, I believe, once; and I, his only son and heir—brought up as I was to look upon money as a plaything—I was sent to college of course as a gentleman-commoner. I knew nothing, as a lad, of my father’s affairs: there were fools enough to tell me he was rich, and that I had nothing to do but to spend his money—and I did spend it—ay, too much of it—yet not so much, perhaps, as I might. Not since I came here, Hawthorne; oh no!—not since I found out that it was neither his nor mine to spend—I have not been so bad as that, thank God. And if ever man could atone, by suffering, for the thoughtlessness and extravagance of early days, I have well-nigh paid my penalty in full already. I told you, I entered here as a gentleman-commoner; my father came down to Oxford with me, chose my rooms, sent down this furniture [Pg 20]and these paintings from town—thank Heaven, I never knew what they cost—ordered a couple of hunters and a groom for me—those I stopped from coming down—and, in fact, made every preparation for me to commence my career with credit as the heir-apparent to a large fortune. Some suspicions that all was not right had crossed my mind before: certain conversations between my father and cold-looking men of business, not meant for my ear, and very imperfectly understood—for it appeared to be my father’s object to keep me totally ignorant of all the mysteries of banking—an increasing tendency on his part to grumble over petty expenses which implied ready payment, with an ostentatious profusion in show and entertainments—many slight circumstances put together had given me a sort of vague alarm at times, which I shook off, as often as it recurred, like a disagreeable dream. A week after I entered college, a letter from my only sister opened my eyes to the truth. What I had feared was a temporary embarrassment—a disagreeable necessity for retrenchment, or, at the worst, a stoppage of payment, and a respectable bankruptcy, which would injure no one but the creditors. What she spoke of was absolute ruin, poverty, and, what was worse, disgrace. It came upon me very suddenly—but I bore it. I am not going to enter into particulars about family matters to you, Hawthorne—you would not wish [Pg 21]it, I know; let me only say, my sister Mary is an angel, and my father a weak-minded man—I will hope, not intentionally a dishonest one. But I have learnt enough to know that there are embarrassments from which he can never extricate himself with honour, and that every month, every week, that he persists in maintaining a useless struggle will only add misery to misery in the end. How long it may go on no one can say—but the end must come. My own first impulse was, of course, to leave this place at once, and so, at all events, to avoid additional expenses: but my father would not hear of it. I went to him, told him what I knew, though not how I had heard it, and drew from him a sort of confession that he had made some unfortunate speculations. But ‘only let us keep up appearances’—those were his words—a little while, and all would be right again, he assured me. I made no pretence of believing him; but, Hawthorne, when he offered to go on his knees to me—and I his only son—and promised to retrench in every possible method that would not betray his motives, if I would but remain at college to take my degree—‘to keep up appearances’—what could I do?”

“Plainly,” said I, “you did right: I do not see that you had any alternative. Nor have you any right to throw away your future prospects. Your father’s unfortunate embarrassments are no disgrace to you.”

[Pg 22]

“So said my sister. I knew her advice must be right, and I consented to remain here. You know I lead no life of self-indulgence; and the necessary expenses, even as a gentleman-commoner, are less than you would suppose, unless you had tried matters as closely as I have.”

“And with your talents—” said I.

“My talents! I am conscious of but one talent at present: the faculty of feeling acutely the miserable position into which I have been forced. No, if you mean that I am to gain any sort of distinction by hard reading, it is simply what I cannot do. Depend upon it, Hawthorne, a man must have a mind tolerably at ease to put forth any mental exertion to good purpose. If this crash were once over, and I were reduced to my proper level in society—which will, I suppose, be pretty nearly that of a pauper—then I think I could work for my bread either with head or hands: but in this wretchedly false position, here I sit bitterly, day after day, with books open before me perhaps, but with no heart to read, and no memory but for one thing. You know my secret now, Hawthorne, and it has been truly a relief to me to unburden my mind to some one here. I am very much alone, indeed; and it is not at all my nature to be solitary: if you will come and see me sometimes, now that you know all, it will be a real kindness. It is no great pleasure, I assure you,” he continued, smiling, “to be [Pg 23]called odd, and selfish, and stingy, by those of one’s own age, as I feel I must be called; but it is much better than to lead the life I might lead—spending money which is not mine, and accustoming myself to luxuries, when I may soon have to depend on charity even for necessaries. For my own comfort, it might be better, as I said before, that the crisis came at once: still, if I remain here until I am qualified for some profession, by which I may one day be able to support my sister—that is the hope I feed on—why, then, this sort of existence may be endured.”

Russell had at least no reason to complain of having disclosed his mind to a careless listener. I was moved almost to tears at his story: but, stronger than all other feelings, was admiration of his principles and character. I felt that some of us had almost done him irreverence in venturing to discuss him so lightly as we had often done. How little we know the hearts of others, and how readily we prate about “seeing through” a man, when in truth what we see is but a surface, and the image conveyed to our mind from it but the reflection of ourselves!

My intimacy with Russell, so strangely commenced, had thus rapidly and unexpectedly taken the character of that close connection which exists between those who have one secret and engrossing interest confined to themselves alone. We were [Pg 24]now more constantly together, perhaps, than any two men in college: and many were the jokes I had to endure in consequence. Very few of my old companions had ventured to carry their attentions to me, while laid up in Russell’s rooms, beyond an occasional call at the door to know how I was going on; and when I got back to my old quarters, and had refused one or two invitations on the plea of having Russell coming to spend a quiet evening with me, their astonishment and disgust were expressed pretty unequivocally, and they affected to call us “the exclusives.” However, Russell was a man who, if he made few friends, gave no excuse for enemies; and, in time, my intimacy with him, and occasional withdrawals from general college society in consequence, came to be regarded as a pardonable weakness—unaccountable, but past all help—a subject on which the would-be wisest of my friends shook their heads and said nothing.

I think this new connection was of advantage to both parties. To myself it certainly was. I date the small gleams of good sense and sobermindedness which broke in upon my character at that critical period of life, solely from my intercourse with Charles Russell. He, on the other hand, had suffered greatly from the want of that sympathy and support which the strongest mind at times stands as much in need of as the weakest, and which in his peculiar position could only be purchased [Pg 25]by an unreserved confidence. From any premeditated explanation he would have shrunk; nor would he ever, as he himself confessed, have made the avowal he did to me, had it not escaped him by a momentary impulse. But, having made it, he seemed a happier man. His reading, which before had been desultory and interrupted, was now taken up in earnest: and idly inclined as I was myself, I became, with the pseudo sort of generosity not uncommon at that age, so much more anxious for his future success than my own, that, in order to encourage him, I used to go to his rooms to read with him, and we had many a hard morning’s work together.

We were very seldom interrupted by visitors: almost the only one was that unknown and unprepossessing friend of Russell’s who has been mentioned before—his own contradictory in almost every respect. Very uncouth and dirty-looking he was, and stuttered terribly—rather, it seemed, from diffidence than from any natural defect. He showed some surprise on the first two or three occasions in which he encountered me, and made an immediate attempt to back out of the room again: and though Russell invariably recalled him, and showed an evident anxiety to treat him with every consideration, he never appeared at his ease for a moment, and made his escape as soon as possible. Russell always fixed a time for seeing [Pg 26]him again—usually the next day; and there was evidently some object in these interviews, into which, as it was no concern of mine, I never inquired particularly, as I had already been intrusted with a confidence rather unusual as the result of a few weeks’ acquaintance; and on the subject of his friend—“poor Smith,” as he called him—Russell did not seem disposed to be communicative.

Time wore on, and brought round the Christmas vacation. I thought it due to myself, as all young men do, to get up to town for a week or two if possible; and being lucky enough to have an old aunt occupying a very dark house, much too large for her, and who, being rather a prosy personage, a little deaf, and very opinionated, and therefore not a special object of attraction to her relations (her property was merely a life-interest), was very glad to get any one to come and see her—I determined to pay a visit, in which the score of obligations would be pretty equally balanced on both sides. On the one hand, the tête-à-tête dinners with the old lady, and her constant catechising about Oxford, were a decided bore to me; while it required some forbearance on her part to endure an inmate who constantly rushed into the drawing-room without wiping his boots, who had no taste for old china, and against whom the dear dog Petto had an unaccountable but decided antipathy. [Pg 27](Poor dog! I fear he was ungrateful: I used to devil sponge biscuit internally for him after dinner, kept a snuff-box more for his use than my own, and prolonged his life, I feel confident, at least twelve months from apoplexy, by pulling hairs out of his tail with a pair of tweezers whenever he went to sleep.) On the other hand, my aunt had good wine, and I used to praise it; which was agreeable to both parties. She got me pleasant invitations, and was enabled herself to make her appearance in society with a live nephew in her suite, who in her eyes (I confess, reader, old aunts are partial) was a very eligible young man. So my visit, on the whole, was mutually agreeable and advantageous. I had my mornings to myself, gratifying the dowager occasionally by a drive with her in the afternoon; and we had sufficient engagements for our evenings to make each other’s sole society rather an unusual infliction. It is astonishing how much such an arrangement tends to keep people the best friends in the world.

I had attended my respectable relation one evening (or rather she had attended me, for I believe she went more for my sake than her own) to a large evening party, which was a ball in everything but the name. Nearly all in the rooms were strangers to me; but I had plenty of introductions, and the night wore on pleasantly enough. I saw a dozen pretty faces I had never seen before, and [Pg 28]was scarcely likely to see again—the proportion of ugly ones I forbear to mention—and was prepared to bear the meeting and the parting with equal philosophy, when the sight of one very familiar face brought different scenes to my mind. Standing within half-a-dozen steps of me, and in close conversation with a lady, of whom I could see little besides a cluster of dark curls, was Ormiston, one of our college tutors, and one of the most universally popular men in Oxford. It would be wrong to say I was surprised to see him there or anywhere else, for his roll of acquaintance was most extensive, embracing all ranks and degrees; but I was very glad to see him, and made an almost involuntary dart forward in his direction. He saw me, smiled, and put out his hand, but did not seem inclined to enter into any conversation. I was turning away, when a sudden movement gave me a full view of the face of the lady to whom he had been talking. It was a countenance of that pale, clear, intellectual beauty, with a shade of sadness about the mouth, which one so seldom sees but in a picture, but which, when seen, haunts the imagination and the memory rather than excites passionate admiration. The eyes met mine, and, quite by accident, for the thoughts were evidently pre-occupied, retained for some moments the same fixed gaze with which I almost as unconsciously was regarding them. There was something in the [Pg 29]features which seemed not altogether unknown to me; and I was beginning to speculate on the possibility of any small heroine of my boyish admiration having shot up into such sweet womanhood—such changes soon occur—when the eyes became conscious, and the head was rapidly turned away. I lost her a moment afterwards in the crowd, and although I watched the whole of the time we remained, with an interest that amused myself, I could not see her again. She must have left the party early.

So strong became the impression on my mind that it was a face I had known before, and so fruitless and tantalising were my efforts to give it “a local habitation and a name”—that I determined at last to question my aunt upon the subject, though quite aware of the imputation that would follow. The worst of it was, I had so few tangible marks and tokens by which to identify my interesting unknown. However, at breakfast next morning, I opened ground at once, in answer to my hostess’s remark that the rooms had been very full.

“Yes, they were: I wanted very much, my dear aunt, to have asked you the names of all the people; but you really were so much engaged, I had no opportunity.”

“Ah! if you had come and sat by me, I could have told you all about them; but there were some very odd people there, too.”

[Pg 30]

“There was one rather interesting-looking girl I did not see dancing much—tallish, with pearl earrings.”

“Where was she sitting? how was she dressed?”

I had only seen her standing; I never noticed—I hardly think I could have seen—even the colour of her dress.

“Not know how she was dressed? My dear Frank, how strange!”

“All young ladies dress alike now, aunt; there’s really not much distinction; they seemed all black and white to me.”

“Certainly the balls don’t look half so gay as they used to do: a little colour gives cheerfulness, I think.” (The good old lady herself had worn crimson satin and a suite of chrysolites—if her theory were correct, she was enough to have spread a glow over the whole company.) “But let me see;—tall, with pearls, you say; dark hair and eyes?”


“You must mean Lucy Fielding.”

“Nonsense, my dear ma’am—I beg a thousand pardons; but I was introduced to Miss Fielding, and danced with her—she squints.”

“My dear Frank, don’t say such a thing!—she will have half the Strathinnis property when she comes of age. But let me see again. Had she a white rose in her hair?”

[Pg 31]

“She had, I think; or something like it.”

“It might have been Lord Dunham’s youngest daughter, who has just come out—she was there for an hour or so?”

“No, no, aunt: I know her by sight too—a pale gawky thing, with an arm and hand like a prize-fighter’s—oh no!”

“Upon my word, my dear nephew, you young men give yourselves abominable airs: I call her a very fine young woman, and I have no doubt she will marry well, though she hasn’t much fortune. Was it Miss Cassilis, then?—white tulle over satin, looped with roses, with gold sprigs”——

“And freckles to match: why, she’s as old as”——; I felt myself on dangerous ground, and filled up the hiatus, I fear not very happily, by looking full at my aunt.

“Not so very old, indeed, my dear: she refused a very good offer last season: she cannot possibly be above”——

“Oh! spare the particulars, pray, my dear ma’am; but you could not have seen the girl I mean: I don’t think she staid after supper: I looked everywhere for her to ask who she was, but she must have been gone.”

“Really! I wish I could help you,” said my aunt with a very insinuating smile.

“Oh,” said I, “what made me anxious to know who she was at the time, was simply that I saw [Pg 32]her talking to an old friend of mine, whom you know something of, I believe; did you not meet Mr Ormiston somewhere last winter?”

“Mr Ormiston! oh, I saw him there last night! and now I know who you mean; it must have been Mary Russell, of course; she did wear pearls, and plain white muslin.”

“Russell!—what Russells are they?”

“Russell the banker’s daughter; I suppose nobody knows how many thousands she’ll have; but she is a very odd girl. Mr Ormiston is rather committed in that quarter, I fancy. Ah, he’s a very gentlemanly man, certainly, and an old friend of the family; but that match would never do. Why, he must be ten years older than she is, in the first place, and hasn’t a penny that I know of except his fellowship. No, no; she refused Sir John Maynard last winter, with a clear twelve thousand a-year; and angry enough her papa was about that, everybody says, though he never contradicts her; but she never will venture upon such a silly thing as a match with Mr Ormiston.”

“Won’t she?” said I mechanically, not having had time to collect my thoughts exactly.

“To be sure she won’t,” replied my aunt rather sharply. It certainly struck me that Mary Russell, from what her brother had told me, was a person very likely to show some little disregard of any conventional notions of what was, or what was not [Pg 33]desirable in the matter of matrimony; but at the same time I inclined to agree with my aunt, that it was not very probable she would become Mrs Ormiston; indeed, I doubted any very serious intentions on his part. Fellows of colleges are usually somewhat lavish of admiration and attentions; but, as many young ladies know, very difficult to bring to book. Ormiston was certainly not a man to be influenced by the fortune which the banker’s daughter might reasonably be credited with; if anything made the matter seem serious, it was that his opinion of the sex in general—as thrown out in an occasional hint or sarcasm—seemed to border on a supercilious contempt.

I did not meet Miss Russell again during my short stay in town; but two or three days after this conversation, in turning the corner of the street, I came suddenly upon Ormiston. I used to flatter myself with being rather a favourite of his—not from any conscious merit on my part, unless that, during the year of his deanship, when summoned before him for any small atrocities, and called to account for them, I never took up his time or my own by any of the usual somewhat questionable excuses, but awaited my fate, whether “imposition” or reprimand, in silence—a plan which, with him, answered very well, and saved occasionally some straining of conscience on one side, and credulity on the other. I tried it with [Pg 34]his successor, who decided that I was contumacious, because, the first time I was absent from chapel, in reply to his interrogations I answered nothing, and upon his persevering, told him that I had been at a very late supper-party the night before. I think, then, I was rather a favourite of Ormiston’s. To say that he was a favourite of mine would be saying very little; for there could have been scarcely a man in college, of any degree of respectability, who would not have been ready to say the same. No man had a higher regard for the due maintenance of discipline, or his own dignity, and the reputation of the college; yet nowhere among the seniors could the undergraduate find a more judicious or a kinder friend. He had the art of mixing with them occasionally with all the unreservedness of an equal, without for a moment endangering the respect due to his position. There was no man you could ask a favour of—even if it infringed a little upon the strictness of college regulations—so readily as Ormiston; and no one appeared to retain more thoroughly some of his boyish tastes and recollections. He subscribed his five guineas to the boat, even after a majority of the fellows had induced our good old Principal, whose annual appearance at the river-side to cheer her at the races had seemed almost a part of his office, to promulgate a decree to the purport that boat-racing was [Pg 35]immoral, and that no man engaged therein should find favour in the sight of the authorities. Yet, at the same time, Ormiston could give grave advice when needed; and give it in such a manner, that the most thoughtless among us received it as from a friend. And whenever he did administer a few words of pointed rebuke—and he did not spare it when any really discreditable conduct came under his notice—they fell the more heavily upon the delinquent, because the public sympathy was sure to be on the side of the judge. The art of governing young men is a difficult one, no doubt; but it is surprising that so few take any pains to acquire it. There were very few Ormistons, in my time, in the high places in Oxford.

On that morning, however, Ormiston met me with evident embarrassment, if not with coolness. He started when he first saw me, and, had there been a chance of doing so with decency, looked as if he would have pretended not to recognise me. But we were too near for that, and our eyes met at once. I was really very glad to see him, and not at all inclined to be content with the short “How d’ye do?” so unlike his usual cordial greetings, with which he was endeavouring to hurry on; and there was a little curiosity afloat among my other feelings. So I fairly stopped him with a few of the usual inquiries, as to how long he had been in [Pg 36]town, &c., and then plunged at once into the affair of the ball at which we had last met. He interrupted me at once.

“By the way,” said he, “have you heard of poor Russell’s business?”

I actually shuddered, for I scarcely knew what was to follow. As composedly as I could, I simply said, “No.”

“His father is ruined, they say—absolutely ruined. I suppose that is no secret by this time, at all events. He cannot possibly pay even a shilling in the pound.”

“I’m very sorry indeed to hear it,” was all I could say.

“But do you know, Hawthorne,” continued Ormiston, taking my arm with something like his old manner, and no longer showing any anxiety to cut short our interview, “I am afraid this is not the worst of it. There is a report in the city this morning, I was told, that Mr Russell’s character is implicated by some rather unbusinesslike transactions. I believe you are a friend of poor Russell’s, and for that reason I mention it to you in confidence. He may not be aware of it; but the rumour is, that his father dare not show himself again here: that he has left England I know to be a fact.”

“And his daughter?—Miss Russell?” I asked involuntarily—“his children, I mean—where are they?”

[Pg 37]

I thought Ormiston’s colour heightened; but he was not a man to show much visible emotion. “Charles Russell and his sister are still in London,” he replied; “I have just seen them. They know their father has left for the Continent; I hope they do not know all the reasons. I am very sincerely sorry for young Russell; it will be a heavy blow to him, and I fear he will find his circumstances bitterly changed. Of course he will have to leave Oxford.”

“I suppose so,” said I; “no one can feel more for him than I do. It was well, perhaps, that this did not happen in term time.”

“It has spared him some mortification, certainly. You will see him, perhaps, before you leave town; he will take it kind. And if you have any influence with him—(he will be inclined to listen just now to you, perhaps, more than to me; being more of his own age, he will give you credit for entering into his feelings)—do try and dissuade him from forming any wild schemes, to which he seems rather inclined. He has some kind friends, no doubt; and remember, if there is anything in which I can be of use to him, he shall have my aid even to the half of my kingdom—that is, my tutorship.”

And with a smile and tone which seemed a mixture of jest and earnest, Mr Ormiston wished me good-morning. He was to leave for Oxford that night.

[Pg 38]

Of Russell’s address in town I was up to this moment ignorant, but resolved to find it out, and see him before my return to the University. The next morning, however, a note arrived from him, containing a simple request that I would call. I found him at the place from which he wrote—one of those dull quiet streets that lead out of the Strand—in very humble lodgings; his father’s private establishment having been given up, it appeared, immediately. The moment we met, I saw at once, as I expected, that the blow which to Ormiston had naturally seemed so terrible a one—no less than the loss, to a young man, of the wealth, rank, and prospects in life to which he had been taught to look forward—had been, in fact, to Russell a merciful relief. The failure of that long-celebrated and trusted house, which was causing in the public mind, according to the papers, so much “consternation” and “excitement,” was to him a consummation long foreseen, and scarcely dreaded. It was only the shadow of wealth and happiness which he had lost now; its substance had vanished long since. And the conscious hollowness and hypocrisy, as he called it, of his late position, had been a far more bitter trial to a mind like his, than any which could result from its exposure. He was one to hail with joy any change which brought him back to truth and reality, no matter how rude and sudden the revulsion.

[Pg 39]

He met me with a smile; a really honest, almost a light-hearted smile. “It is come at last, Hawthorne; perhaps it would be wrong, or I feel as if I could say, thank God. There is but one point which touches me at all; what do they say about my father?” I told him—fortunately, my acquaintance lying but little among men of business, I could tell him so honestly—that I had heard nothing stated to his discredit.

“Well, well; but they will soon. Oh! Hawthorne; the utter misery, the curse that money-making brings with it! That joining house to house, and field to field, how it corrupts all the better part of a man’s nature! I vow to you, I believe my father would have been an honest man if he had but been a poor one! If he had never had anything to do with interest tables, and had but spent his capital, instead of trying to double and redouble it! One thing I have to thank him for; that he never would suffer me to imbibe any taste for business; he knew the evil and the pollution money-handling brings with it—I am sure he did; he encouraged me, I fear, in extravagance; but I bless him that he never encouraged me in covetousness.”

He grew a little calmer by degrees, and we sat down and took counsel as to his future plans. He was not, of course, without friends, and had already had many offers of assistance for himself and his [Pg 40]sister; but his heart appeared, for the present, firmly bent upon independence. Much to my surprise, he decided on returning at once to Oxford, and reading for his degree. His sister had some little property settled upon her—some hundred and fifty pounds a-year; and this she had insisted on devoting to this purpose.

“I love her too well,” said Russell, “to refuse her: and trifling as this sum is,—I remember the time when I should have thought it little to keep me in gloves and handkerchiefs—yet, with management, it will be more than I shall spend in Oxford. Of course, I play the gentleman-commoner no longer; I shall descend to the plain stuff gown.”

“You’ll go to a hall, of course?” said I; for I concluded he would at least avoid the mortification of so palpable a confession of reduced circumstances as this degradation of rank in his old college would be.

“I can see no occasion for it; that is, if they will allow me to change; I have done nothing to be ashamed of, and shall be much happier than I was before. I only strike my false colours; and you know they were never carried willingly.”

I did not attempt to dissuade him, and soon after rose to take my leave.

“I cannot ask my sister to see you now,” he said, as we shook hands: “she is not equal to it. But some other time, I hope”——

[Pg 41]

“At any other time, I shall be most proud of the introduction. By the way, have you seen Ormiston? He met me this morning, and sent some kind messages, to offer any service in his power.”

“He did, did he?”

“Yes; and, depend upon it, he will do all he can for you in college; you don’t know him very well, I think; but I am sure he takes an interest in you now, at all events,” I continued, “and no man is a more sincere and zealous friend.”

“I beg your pardon, Hawthorne, but I fancy I do know Mr Ormiston very well.”

“Oh! I remember, there seemed some coolness between you, because you never would accept his invitations. Ormiston thought you were too proud to dine with him; and then his pride, which he has his share of, took fire. But that misunderstanding must be all over now.”

“My dear Hawthorne, I believe Mr Ormiston and I understand each other perfectly. Good-morning; I am sorry to seem abrupt, but I have a host of things, not the most agreeable, to attend to.”

It seemed quite evident that there was some little prejudice on Russell’s part against Ormiston. Possibly he did not like his attentions to his sister. But that was no business of mine, and I knew the other too well to doubt his earnest wish to aid and encourage a man of Russell’s high principles, and [Pg 42]in his unfortunate position. None of us always know our best friends.

The step which Russell had resolved on taking was, of course, an unusual one. Even the college authorities strongly advised him to remove his name to the books of one of the halls, where he would enter comparatively as a stranger, and where his altered position would not entail so many painful feelings. Every facility was offered him of doing so at one of them where a relative of our Principal’s was the head, and even a saving in expense might thus be effected. But this evident kindness and consideration on their part, only confirmed him in the resolution of remaining where he was. He met their representations with the graceful reply, that he had an attachment to the college which did not depend upon the rank he held in it, and that he trusted he should not be turned out of two homes at once. Even the heart of the splenetic little vice-principal was moved by this genuine tribute to the venerable walls, which to him, as his mistress’s girdle to the poet, encircled all he loved, or hoped, or cared for; and had the date been some century earlier—in those remarkable times when a certain fellow was said to have owed his election into that body to a wondrous knack he had at compounding sherry-posset—it is probable Charles Russell would have stepped into a fellowship by special license at once.

[Pg 43]

He had harder work before him, however, and he set stoutly to it. He got permission to lodge out of college—a privilege quite unusual, and apparently without any sufficient object in his case. A day or two after his return, he begged me to go with him to see the rooms he had taken: and I was surprised to find that although small, and not in a good part of the town, they were furnished in a style by no means, I thought, in accordance with the strict economy I knew him to be practising in every other respect. They contained, on a small scale, all the appointments of a lady’s drawing-room. It was soon explained. His sister was coming to live with him. “We are but two, now,” said Russell in explanation; “and though poor Mary has been offered what might have been a comfortable home elsewhere, which perhaps would have been more prudent, we both thought, why should we be separated? As to these little things you see, they are nearly all hers: we offered them to the creditors, but even the lawyers would not touch them: and here Mary and I shall live. Very strange, you think, for her to be here in Oxford with no one to take care of her but me; but she does not mind that, and we shall be together. However, Hawthorne, we shall keep a dragon: there is an old housekeeper who would not be turned off, and she comes down with Mary, and may pass for her aunt, if that’s all; so don’t, pray, be shocked at us.”

[Pg 44]

And so the old housekeeper did come down, and Mary with her; and under such guardianship, a brother and an old servant, was that fair girl installed within the perilous precincts of the University of Oxford; perilous in more senses than one, as many a speculative and disappointed mamma can testify, whose daughters, brought to market at the annual “show” at commemoration, have left uncaught those dons of dignity, and heirs-apparent of property, whom they ought to have caught, and caught those well-dressed and good-looking, but undesirable young men, whom they ought not to have caught. Mary Russell, however, was in little peril herself, and, as little as she could help it, an occasion of peril to others. Seldom did she move out from her humble abode, except for an early morning walk with her brother, or sometimes leaning on the arm of her old domestic, so plainly dressed that you might have mistaken her for her daughter, and wondered how those intensely expressive features, and queen-like graces, should have been bestowed by nature on one so humble. Many a thoughtful student, pacing slowly the parks or Christchurch meadow after early chapel, book in hand, cheating himself into the vain idea that he was taking a healthful walk, and roused by the flutter of approaching female dress, and unwillingly looking up to avoid the possible and unwelcome collision with a smirking nurse-maid and an unresisting [Pg 45]baby—has met those eyes, and spoilt his reading for the morning; or has paused in the running tour of Headington hill, or Magdalen walk (by which he was endeavouring to cram his whole allotted animal exercise for the day into an hour), as that sweet vision crossed his path, and wondered in his heart by what happy tie of relationship, or still dearer claim, his fellow-undergraduate had secured to himself so lovely a companion; and has tried in vain, over his solitary breakfast, to rid himself of the heterodox notion which would still creep in upon his thoughts, that in the world there might be, after all, things better worth living and working for, prizes more valuable—and perhaps not harder to win—than a first class, and living impersonations of the beautiful which Aristotle had unaccountably left out. Forgive me, dear reader, if I seem to be somewhat sentimental: I am not, and I honestly believe I never was, in love with Mary Russell; I am not—I fear I never was or shall be—much of a reading man or an early riser; but I will confess, it would have been a great inducement to me to adopt such habits, if I could have insured such pleasant company in my morning walks.

To the general world of Oxford, for a long time, I have no doubt the very existence of such a jewel within it was unknown; for at the hours when liberated tutors and idle undergraduates are wont to walk abroad, Mary was sitting, hid within a little [Pg 46]ambush of geraniums, either busy at her work, or helping—as she loved to fancy she helped him—her brother at his studies. Few men, I believe, ever worked harder than Russell did in his last year. With the exception of the occasional early walk, and the necessary attendance at chapel and lecture, he read hard nearly the whole day; and I always attributed the fact of his being able to do so with comparatively little effort, and no injury to his health, to his having such a sweet face always present, to turn his eyes upon, when wearied with a page of Greek, and such a kind voice always ready to speak or to be silent.

It was not for want of access to any other society that Mary Russell spent her time so constantly with her brother. The Principal, with his usual kind-heartedness, had insisted—a thing he seldom did—upon his lady making her acquaintance; and though Mrs Meredith, who plumed herself much upon her dignity, had made some show of resistance at first to calling upon a young lady who was living in lodgings by herself in one of the most out-of-the-way streets in Oxford, yet, after her first interview with Miss Russell, so much did her sweetness of manner win upon Mrs Principal’s fancy—or perhaps it will be doing that lady but justice to say, so much did her more than orphan unprotectedness and changed fortunes soften the woman’s heart that beat beneath that formidable exterior of [Pg 47]silk and ceremony, that before the first ten minutes of what had been intended as a very condescending and very formal call were over, she had been offered a seat in Mrs Meredith’s official pew in St Mary’s; the pattern of a mysterious bag, which that good lady carried everywhere about with her, it was believed for no other purpose; and an airing the next day behind the fat old greys, which their affectionate coachman—in commemoration of his master’s having purchased them at the time he held that dignity—always called by the name of the “Vice-Chancellors.” Possibly an absurd incident, which Mary related with great glee to her brother and myself, had helped to thaw the ice in which “our governess” usually encased herself. When the little girl belonging to the lodgings opened the door to these dignified visitors, upon being informed that Miss Russell was at home, the Principal gave the name simply as “Dr and Mrs Meredith:” which, not appearing to his more pompous half at all calculated to convey a due impression of the honour conveyed by the visit, she corrected him, and in a tone quite audible—as indeed every word of the conversation had been—up the half-dozen steep stairs which led to the little drawing-room, gave out “the Master of —— and lady, if you please.” The word “master” was quite within the comprehension of the little domestic, and dropping an additional courtesy of respect to an office which [Pg 48]reminded her of her catechism and the Sunday school, she selected the appropriate feminine from her own vocabulary, and threw open the door with “the master and mistress of ——, if you please, Miss.” Dr Meredith laughed, as he entered, so heartily, that even Mary could not help smiling, and the “mistress,” seeing the odds against her, smiled too. An acquaintance begun in such good humour, could hardly assume a very formal character; and, in fact, had Mary Russell not resolutely declined all society, Mrs Meredith would have felt rather a pleasure in patronising her. But both her straitened means and the painful circumstances of her position—her father already spoken of almost as a criminal—led her to court strict retirement; while she clung with redoubled affection to her brother. He, on his part, seemed to have improved in health and spirits since his change of fortunes; the apparent haughtiness and coldness with which many had charged him before, had quite vanished; he showed no embarrassment, far less any consciousness of degradation, in his conversation with any of his old messmates at the gentlemen-commoners’ table; and, though his communication with the college was but comparatively slight, nearly all his time being spent in his lodgings, he was becoming quite a popular character.

Meanwhile, a change of a different kind seemed to be coming over Ormiston. It was remarked, [Pg 49]even by those not much given to observation, that his lectures, which were once considered endurable, even by idle men, from his happy talent of remark and illustration, were fast becoming as dull and uninteresting as the common run of all such business. Moreover, he had been in the habit of giving, occasionally, capital dinners, invitations to which were sent out frequently and widely among the young men of his own college; these ceased almost entirely; or, when they occurred, had but the shadow of their former joyousness. Even some of the fellows were known to have remarked that Ormiston was much altered lately; some said he was engaged to be married—a misfortune which would account for any imaginable eccentricities; but one of the best of the college livings falling vacant about the time, and, on its refusal by the two senior fellows, coming within Ormiston’s acceptance, and being passed by him, tended very much to do away with any suspicion of that kind.

Between him and Russell there was an evident coolness, though noticed by few men but myself; yet Ormiston always spoke most kindly of him, while on Russell’s part there seemed to be a feeling almost approaching to bitterness, ill concealed, whenever the tutor became the subject of conversation. I pressed him once or twice upon the subject, but he always affected to misunderstand me, or laughed off any sarcastic remark he might have [Pg 50]made, as meaning nothing; so that at last the name was seldom mentioned between us, and almost the only point on which we differed seemed to be our estimation of Ormiston.


It was the last night of the boat-races. All Oxford, town and gown, was on the move between Iffley and Christchurch meadow. The reading man had left his ethics only half understood, the rowing man his bottle more than half finished, to enjoy as beautiful a summer evening as ever gladdened the banks of Isis. One continued heterogeneous living stream was pouring on from St “Ole’s” to King’s barge, and thence across the river in punts, down to the starting-place by the lasher. One moment your tailor puffed a cigar in your face, and the next, just as you made some critical remark to your companion on the pretty girl you just passed, and turned round to catch a second glimpse of her, you trod on the toes of your college tutor. The contest that evening was of more than ordinary interest. The new Oriel boat, a London-built clipper, an innovation in those days, had bumped its other competitor easily in the previous race, and only Christchurch now stood between her and the head of the river. And would they, could [Pg 51]they, bump Christchurch to-night? That was the question to which, for the time being, the coming examination and the coming St Leger both gave way. Christchurch, that had not been bumped for ten years before—whose old blue and white flag stuck at the top of the mast as if it had been nailed there—whose motto on the river had so long been “Nulli secundus?” It was an important question, and the Christchurch men evidently thought so. Steersman and pullers had been summoned up from the country, as soon as that impertinent new boat had begun to show symptoms of being a dangerous antagonist, by the rapid progress she was making from the bottom towards the head of the racing-boats. The old heroes of bygone contests were enlisted again, like the Roman legionaries, to fight the battles of their vexillum, the little three-cornered bit of blue-and-white silk before mentioned; and the whole betting society of Oxford were divided into two great parties, the Oriel and the Christchurch,—the supporters of the old, or of the new dynasty of eight oars.

Never was signal more impatiently waited for than the pistol-shot which was to set the boats in motion that night. Hark! “Gentlemen, are—you—ready?” “No, no!” shouts some umpire, dissatisfied with the position of his own boat at the moment. “Gentlemen, are—you—ready?” Again “No, no, no!” How provoking! Christchurch and Oriel [Pg 52]both beautifully placed, and that provoking Exeter, or Worcester, or some boat that no one but its own crew takes the slightest interest in to-night, right across the river! And it will be getting dusk soon. Once more—and even Wyatt, the starter, is getting impatient—“Are you ready?” Still a cry of “No, no,” from some crew who evidently never will be satisfied. But there goes the pistol. They’re off, by all that’s glorious! “Now Oriel!” “Now Christchurch!” Hurrah! beautifully are both boats pulled—how they lash along the water! Oriel gains evidently! But they have not got into their speed yet, and the light boat has the best of it at starting. “Hurrah, Oriel, it’s all your own way!” “Now, Christchurch, away with her!” Scarcely is an eye turned on the boats behind; and, indeed, the two first are going fast away from them. They reach the Gut, and at the turn Oriel presses her rival hard. The cheers are deafening; bets are three to one. She must bump her! “Now, Christchurch, go to work in the straight water!” Never did a crew pull so well, and never at such a disadvantage. Their boat is a tub compared with the Oriel. See how she buries her bow at every stroke. Hurrah, Christchurch! The old boat for ever! Those last three strokes gained a yard on Oriel! She holds her own still! Away they go, those old steady practised oars, with that long slashing stroke, and the strength and pluck begins [Pg 53]to tell. Well pulled, Oriel! Now for it! Not an oar out of time, but as true together as a set of teeth! But it won’t do! Still Christchurch, by sheer dint of muscle, keeps her distance, and the old flag floats triumphant yet another year.

Nearly hustled to death in the rush up with the racing boats, I panted into the stern sheets of a four-oar lying under the bank, in which I saw Leicester and some others of my acquaintance. “Well, Horace,” said I, “what do you think of Christchurch now?” (I had sufficient Tory principle about me at all times to be a zealous supporter of the “old cause,” even in the matter of boat-racing.) “How are your bets upon the London clipper, eh?” “Lost, by Jove,” said he; “but Oriel ought to have done it to-night; why, they bumped all the other boats easily, and Christchurch was not so much better; but it was the old oars coming up from the country that did it. But what on earth is all that rush about up by the barges? They surely are not going to fight it out after all?”

Something had evidently occurred which was causing great confusion; the cheering a moment before had been deafening from the partisans of Christchurch, as the victorious crew, pale and exhausted with the prodigious efforts they had made, mustered their last strength to throw their oars aloft in triumph, and then slowly, one by one, ascended into the house-boat which formed their [Pg 54]floating dressing-room; it had now suddenly ceased, and confused shouts and murmurs, rather of alarm than of triumph, were heard instead: men were running to and fro on both banks of the river, but the crowd both in the boats on the river and on shore made it impossible for us to see what was going on. We scrambled up the bank, and were making for the scene of action, when one of the river-officials ran hastily by in the direction of Iffley.

“What’s the matter, Jack?”

“Punt gone down, sir,” he replied without stopping; “going for the drags.”

“Anybody drowning?” we shouted after him.

“Don’t know how many was in her, sir,” sung out Jack in the distance. We ran on. The confusion was terrible; every one was anxious to be of use, and more likely therefore to increase the danger. The punt which had sunk had been, as usual on such occasions, overloaded with men, some of whom had soon made good their footing on the neighbouring barges; others were still clinging to their sides, or by their endeavours to raise themselves into some of the light wherries and four oars, which, with more zeal than prudence, were crowding to their assistance, were evidently bringing a new risk upon themselves and their rescuers. Two of the last of the racing eights, too, coming up to the winning-post at the moment of the accident, and endeavouring [Pg 55]vainly to back water in time, had run into each other, and lay helplessly across the channel, adding to the confusion, and preventing the approach of more efficient aid to the parties in the water. For some minutes it seemed that the disaster must infallibly extend itself. One boat, whose crew had incautiously crowded too much to one side, in their eagerness to aid one of the sufferers in his struggles to get on board, had already been upset, though fortunately not in the deepest water, so that the men, with a little assistance, easily got on shore. Hundreds were vociferating orders and advice, which few could hear, and none attended to. The most effectual aid that had been rendered was the launching of two large planks from the University barge, with ropes attached to them, which several of those who had been immersed succeeded in reaching, and so were towed safely ashore. Still, however, several were seen struggling in the water, two or three with evidently relaxing efforts; and the unfortunate punt, which had righted and come up again, though full of water, had two of her late passengers clinging to her gunwale, and thus barely keeping their heads above the water’s edge. The watermen had done their utmost to be of service, but the University men crowded so rashly into every punt that put off to the aid of their companions, that their efforts would have been comparatively abortive, had not one of the pro-proctors [Pg 56]jumped into one, with two steady hands, and authoritatively ordering every man back who attempted to accompany him, reached the middle of the river, and having rescued those who were in most imminent danger, succeeded in clearing a sufficient space round the spot to enable the drags to be used (for it was quite uncertain whether there might not still be some individuals missing). Loud cheers from each bank followed this very sensible and seasonable exercise of authority; another boat, by this example, was enabled to disencumber herself of superfluous hands, and by their united exertions all who could be seen in the water were soon picked up and placed in safety. When the excitement had in some degree subsided, there followed a suspense which was even more painful, as the drags were slowly moved again and again across the spot where the accident had taken place. Happily our alarm proved groundless. One body was recovered, not an University man, and in his case the means promptly used to restore animation were successful. But it was not until late in the evening that the search was given up, and even the next morning it was a sensible relief to hear that no college had found any of its members missing.

I returned to my rooms as soon as all reasonable apprehension of a fatal result had subsided, though before the men had left off dragging; and was somewhat surprised, and at first amused, to recognise, [Pg 57]sitting before the fire in the disguise of my own dressing-gown and slippers, Charles Russell.

“Hah! Russell, what brings you here at this time of night?” said I; “however, I’m very glad to see you.”

“Well, I’m not sorry to find myself here, I can tell you; I have been in a less comfortable place to-night.”

“What do you mean?” said I, as a suspicion of the truth flashed upon me—“Surely”——

“I have been in the water, that’s all,” replied Russell quietly; “don’t be alarmed, my good fellow, I’m all right now. John has made me quite at home here, you see. We found your clothes a pretty good fit, got up a capital fire at last, and I was only waiting for you to have some brandy-and-water. Now, don’t look so horrified, pray.”

In spite of his good spirits, I thought he looked pale; and I was somewhat shocked at the danger he had been in—more so from the suddenness of the information.

“Why,” said I, as I began to recall the circumstance, “Leicester and I came up not two minutes after it happened, and watched nearly every man that was got out. You could not have been in the water long then, I hope?”

“Nay, as to that,” said Russell, “it seemed long enough to me, I can tell you, though I don’t recollect all of it. I got underneath a punt or something, [Pg 58]which prevented my coming up as soon as I ought.”

“How did you get out at last?”

“Why, that I don’t quite remember; I found myself on the walk by King’s barge; but they had to turn me upside down, I fancy, to empty me. I’ll take that brandy by itself, Hawthorne, for I think I have the necessary quantity of water stowed away already.”

“Good heavens! don’t joke about it; why, what an escape you must have had!”

“Well, seriously then, Hawthorne, I have had a very narrow escape, for which I am very thankful; but I don’t want to alarm any one about it, for fear it should reach my sister’s ears, which I very much wish to avoid, for the present at all events. So I came up to your rooms here as soon as I could walk. Luckily, John saw me down at the water, so I came up with him, and got rid of a good many civil people who offered their assistance; and I have sent down to the lodgings to tell Mary I have staid to supper with you; so I shall get home quietly, and she will know nothing about this business. Fortunately, she is not in the way of hearing much Oxford gossip, poor girl!”

Russell sat with me about an hour, and then, as he said he felt very comfortable, I walked home with him to the door of his lodgings, where I wished him good night, and returned.

[Pg 59]

I had intended to have paid him an early visit the next morning; but somehow I was lazier than usual, and had scarcely bolted my commons in time to get to lecture. This over, I was returning to my rooms, when my scout met me.

“Oh, sir,” said he, “Mr Smith has just been here, and wanted to see you, he said, particular.”

Mr Smith? Of all the gentlemen there might be of that name in Oxford, I thought I had not the honour of a personal acquaintance with one.

“Mr Russell’s Mr Smith, sir,” explained John: “the little gentleman as used to come to his rooms so often.”

I walked up the staircase, ruminating within myself what possible business “poor Smith” could have with me, of whom he had usually appeared to entertain a degree of dread. Something to do with Russell, probably. And I had half resolved to take the opportunity to call upon him, and try to make out who and what he was, and how he and Russell came to be so intimately acquainted. I had scarcely stuck old Herodotus back into his place on the shelf, however, when there came a gentle tap at the door, and the little Bible-clerk made his appearance. All diffidence and shyness had wholly vanished from his manner. There was an earnest expression in his countenance which struck me even before he spoke. I had scarcely time to utter the most commonplace civility, when, without [Pg 60]attempt at explanation or apology, he broke out with—“Oh, Mr Hawthorne, have you seen Russell this morning?”

“No,” said I, thinking he might possibly have heard some false report of the late accident—“but he was in my rooms last night, and none the worse for his wetting.”

“Oh, yes, yes! I know that; but pray, come down and see him now—he is very, very ill, I fear.”

“You don’t mean it? What on earth is the matter?”

“Oh! he has been in a high fever all last night! and they say he is worse this morning—Dr Wilson and Mr Lane are both with him—and poor Miss Russell!—he does not know her—not know his sister; and oh, Mr Hawthorne, he must be very ill! and they won’t let me go to him!”

And poor Smith threw himself into a chair, and fairly burst into tears.

I was very much distressed too: but, at the moment, I really believe I felt more pity for the poor lad before me, than even apprehension for my friend Russell. I went up to him, shook his hand, and begged him to compose himself. Delirium, I assured him—and tried hard to assure myself—was the usual concomitant of fever, and not at all alarming. Russell had taken a chill, no doubt, from the unlucky business of the last evening, but there could not be much danger in so short a time. [Pg 61]“And now, Smith,” said I, “just take a glass of wine, and you and I will go down together, and I dare say we shall find him better by this time.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you,” he replied; “you are very kind—very kind indeed—no wine, thank you—I could not drink it: but oh! if they would only let me see him! And poor Miss Russell! and no one to attend to him but her!—but will you come down now directly?”

My own anxiety was not less than his, and in a very few minutes we were at the door of Russell’s lodgings. The answer to our inquiries was, that he was in much the same state, and that he was to be kept perfectly quiet; the old housekeeper was in tears; and although she said Dr Wilson told them he hoped there would be a change for the better soon, it was evident that poor Russell was at present in imminent danger.

I sent up my compliments to Miss Russell to offer my services in any way in which they could be made available; but nothing short of the most intimate acquaintance could have justified any attempt to see her at present, and we left the house. I thought I should never have got Smith from the door; he seemed thoroughly overcome. I begged him to come with me back to my rooms—a Bible-clerk has seldom too many friends in the University, and it seemed cruel to leave him by himself in such evident distress of mind. Attached as I was to [Pg 62]Russell myself, his undisguised grief really touched me, and almost made me reproach myself with being comparatively unfeeling. At any other time, I fear it might have annoyed me to encounter as I did the inquisitive looks of some of my friends, as I entered the college gates arm-in-arm with my newly-found and somewhat strange-looking acquaintance. As it was, the only feeling that arose in my mind was a degree of indignation that any man should venture to throw a supercilious glance at him; and if I longed to replace his shabby and ill-cut coat by something more gentlemanly in appearance, it was for his sake, and not my own.

And now it was that, for the first time, I learnt the connection that existed between the Bible-clerk and the quondam gentleman-commoner. Smith’s father had been for many years a confidential clerk in Mr Russell’s bank; for Mr Russell’s bank it was solely, the Smith who had been one of the original partners having died some two generations back, though the name of the firm, as is not unusual, had been continued without alteration. The clerk was a poor relation, in some distant degree, of the some-time partner: his father, too, had been a clerk before him. By strict carefulness, he had saved some little money during his many years of hard work: and this, by special favour on the part of Mr Russell, he had been allowed to invest in the bank capital, and thereby to receive a higher rate of [Pg 63]interest for it than he could otherwise have obtained. The elder Smith’s great ambition—indeed it was his only ambition—for the prosperity of the bank itself he looked upon as a law of nature, which did not admit of the feeling of hope, as being a fixed and immutable certainty—his ambition was to bring up his son as a gentleman. Mr Russell would have given him a stool and a desk, and he might have aspired hereafter to his father’s situation, which would have assured him £250 per annum. But somehow the father did not wish the son to tread in his own steps. Perhaps the close confinement, and unrefreshing relaxations of a London clerk, had weighed heavily upon his own youthful spirits: perhaps he was anxious to spare the son of his old age—for, like a prudent man, he had not married until late in life—from the unwholesome toils of the counting-house, varied only too often by the still less wholesome dissipation of the evening. At all events, his visions for him were not of annually increasing salaries, and future independence: of probable partnerships, and possible lord-mayoralties; but of some cottage among green trees, far away in the quiet country, where, even as a country parson, people would touch their hats to him as they did to Mr Russell himself, and where, when the time should come for superannuation and a pension—the house had always behaved liberally to its old servants—his own last days might be happily [Pg 64]spent in listening to his son’s sermons, and smoking his pipe—if such a thing were lawful—in the porch of the parsonage. So while the principal was carefully training his heir to enact the fashionable man at Oxford, and in due time to take his place among the squires of England, and shunning, as if with a kind of remorseful conscience, to make him a sharer in his own contaminating speculations; the humble official too, but from far purer motives, was endeavouring in his degree, perhaps unconsciously, to deliver his boy from the snares of Mammon. And when Charles Russell was sent to the University, many were the inquiries which Smith’s anxious parent made, among knowing friends, about the expenses and advantages of an Oxford education. And various, according to each individual’s sanguine or saturnine temperament, were the answers he obtained, and tending rather to his bewilderment than information. One intimate acquaintance assured him, that the necessary expenses of an undergraduate need not exceed a hundred pounds per annum: another—he was somewhat of a sporting character—did not believe any young man could do the thing like a gentleman under five. So Mr Smith would probably have given up his darling project for his son in despair, if he had not fortunately thought of consulting Mr Russell himself upon the point; and that gentleman, though somewhat surprised at his clerk’s [Pg 65]aspiring notions, good-naturedly solved the difficulty as to ways and means, by procuring for his son a Bible-clerk’s appointment at one of the Halls, upon which he could support himself respectably, with comparatively little pecuniary help from his friends. With his connections and interest, it was no great stretch of friendly exertion in behalf of an old and trusted servant; but to the Smiths, father and son, both the munificence which designed such a favour, and the influence which could secure it, tended to strengthen if possible their previous conviction that the power and the bounty of the house of Russell came within a few degrees of omnipotence. Even now, when recent events had so fearfully shaken them from this delusion; when the father’s well-earned savings had disappeared in the general wreck with the hoards of wealthier creditors, and the son was left almost wholly dependent on the slender proceeds of his humble office; even now, as he told me the circumstances just mentioned, regret at the ruined fortunes of his benefactors seemed in a great measure to overpower every personal feeling. In the case of the younger Russell, indeed, this gratitude was not misplaced. No sooner was he aware of the critical situation of his father’s affairs, and the probability of their involving all connected with him, than, even in the midst of his own harassing anxieties, he turned his attention to the prospects of the young Bible-clerk, [Pg 66]whose means of support, already sufficiently narrow, were likely to be further straitened in the event of a bankruptcy of the firm. His natural good-nature had led him to take some little notice of young Smith on his first entrance at the University, and he knew his merits as a scholar to be very indifferent. The obscure suburban boarding-school at which he had been educated, in spite of its high-sounding name—“Minerva House,” I believe—was no very sufficient preparation for Oxford. Where the Greek and the washing are both extras at three guineas per annum, one clean shirt in the week, and one lesson in Delectus, are perhaps as much as can reasonably be expected. Poor Smith had, indeed, a fearful amount of up-hill work, to qualify himself even for his “little-go.” Charles Russell, not less to his surprise than to his unbounded gratitude, inasmuch as he was wholly ignorant of his motives for taking so much trouble, undertook to assist and direct him in his reading: and Smith, when he had got over his first diffidence, having a good share of plain natural sense, and hereditary habits of plodding, made more rapid progress than might have been expected. The frequent visits to Russell’s rooms, whose charitable object neither I nor any one else could have guessed, had resulted in a very safe pass through his first formidable ordeal, and he seemed now to have little fear of eventual success for his degree, with a strong [Pg 67]probability of being privileged to starve upon a curacy thereafter. But for Russell’s aid, he would, in all likelihood, have been remanded from his first examination back to his father’s desk, to the bitter mortification of the old man at the time, and to become an additional burden to him on the loss at once of his situation and his little capital.

Poor Smith! it was no wonder that, at the conclusion of his story, interrupted constantly by broken expressions of gratitude, he wrung his hands, and called Charles Russell the only friend he had in the world. “And, oh! if he were to die! Do you think he will die?”

I assured him I hoped and trusted not; and with the view of relieving his and my own suspense, though it was little more than an hour since we had left his lodgings, we went down again to make inquiries. The street door was open, and so was that of the landlady’s little parlour, so we walked in at once. She shook her head in reply to our inquiries. “Dr Wilson has been up-stairs with him, sir, for the last hour nearly, and he has sent twice to the druggist’s for some things, and I fancy he’s no better at all events.”

“How is Miss Russell?” I inquired.

“Oh, sir, she don’t take on much—not at all, as I may say; but she don’t speak to nobody, and she don’t take nothing: twice I have carried her up some tea, poor thing, and she just tasted it because [Pg 68]I begged her, and she wouldn’t refuse me, I know—but, poor dear young lady! it is very hard upon her, and she all alone like.”

“Will you take up my compliments—Mr Hawthorne—and ask if I can be of any possible service?” said I, scarce knowing what to say or do. Poor girl! she was indeed to be pitied; her father ruined, disgraced, and a fugitive from the law; his only son—the heir of such proud hopes and expectations once—lying between life and death; her only brother, her only counsellor and protector, now unable to recognise or to speak to her—and she so unused to sorrow or hardship, obliged to struggle on alone, and exert herself to meet the thousand wants and cares of illness, with the added bitterness of poverty.

The answer to my message was brought back by the old housekeeper, Mrs Saunders. She shook her head, said her young mistress was very much obliged, and would be glad if I would call and see her brother to-morrow, when she hoped he would be better. “But oh, sir!” she added, “he will never be better any more! I know the doctors don’t think so, but I can’t tell her, poor thing—I try to keep her up, sir; but I do wish some of her own friends were here—she won’t write to anybody, and I don’t know the directions”—and she stopped, for her tears were almost convulsing her.

I could not remain to witness misery which I [Pg 69]could do nothing to relieve; so I took Smith by the arm—for he stood by the door half-stupified—and proceeded back towards college. He had to mark the roll at his own chapel that evening; so we parted at the top of the street, after I had made him promise to come to breakfast with me in the morning. Russell’s illness cast a universal gloom over the college that evening; and when the answer to our last message, sent down as late as we could venture to do, was still unfavourable, it was with anxious anticipation that we awaited any change which the morrow might bring.

The next day passed, and still Russell remained in the same state. He was in a high fever, and either perfectly unconscious of all around him, or talking in that incoherent and yet earnest strain, which is more painful to those who have to listen to and to soothe it than even the total prostration of the reason. No one was allowed to see him; and his professional attendants, though they held out hopes founded on his youth and good constitution, acknowledged that every present symptom was most unfavourable.

The earliest intelligence on the third morning was, that the patient had passed a very bad night, and was much the same; but in the course of an hour or two afterwards, a message came to me to say that Mr Russell would be glad to see me. I rushed, rather than ran, down to his lodgings, in a [Pg 70]perfect exultation of hope, and was so breathless with haste and excitement when I arrived there, that I was obliged to pause a few moments to calm myself before I raised the carefully muffled knocker. My joy was damped at once by poor Mrs Saunders’ mournful countenance.

“Your master is better, I hope—is he not?” said I.

“I am afraid not, sir; but he is very quiet now: and he knew his poor dear sister; and then he asked if any one had been to see him, and we mentioned you, sir; and then he said he should like to see you very much, and so Miss made bold to send to you—if you please to wait, sir, I’ll tell her you are here.”

In a few moments she returned—Miss Russell would see me if I would walk up.

I followed her into the little drawing-room, and there, very calm and very pale, sat Mary Russell. Though her brother and myself had now so long been constant companions, I had seen but very little of her; on the very few evenings I had spent with Russell at his lodgings she had merely appeared to make tea for us, had joined but little in the conversation, and retired almost before the table was cleared. In her position, this behaviour seemed but natural; and as, in spite of the attraction of her beauty, there was a shade of that haughtiness and distance of manner which we had all at first fancied in her brother, I had begun to feel a respectful [Pg 71]kind of admiration for Mary Russell, tinged, I may now venture to admit—I was barely twenty at the time—with a slight degree of awe. Her very misfortunes threw over her a sort of sanctity. She was too beautiful not to rivet the gaze, too noble and too womanly in her devotion to her brother not to touch the affections, but too cold and silent—almost as it seemed too sad—to love. Her brother seldom spoke of her; but when he did, it was in a tone which showed—what he did not care to conceal—his deep affection and anxious care for her; he watched her every look and movement whenever she was present; and if his love erred in any point, it was, that it seemed possible it might be even too sensitive and jealous for her own happiness.

The blinds were drawn close down, and the little room was very dark; yet I could see at a glance the work which anguish had wrought upon her in the last two days, and, though no tears were to be seen now, they had left their traces only too plainly. She did not rise, or trust herself to speak; but she held out her hand to me as if we had been friends from childhood. And if thorough sympathy, and mutual confidence, and true but pure affection, make such friendship, then surely we became so from that moment. I never thought Mary Russell cold again; yet I did not dream of loving her; she was my sister in everything but the name.

[Pg 72]

I broke the silence of our painful meeting—painful as it was, yet not without that inward throb of pleasure which always attends the awakening of hidden sympathies. What I said I forget; what does one, or can one say, at such moments, but words utterly meaningless, so far as they affect to be an expression of what we feel? The hearts understand each other without language, and with that we must be content.

“He knew me a little while ago,” said Mary Russell at last; “and asked for you; and I knew you would be kind enough to come directly if I sent.”

“Surely it must be a favourable symptom, this return of consciousness?”

“We will hope so: yes, I thought it was; and oh! how glad I was! But Dr Wilson does not say much, and I fear he thinks him weaker. I will go now and tell him you are come.”

“You can see him now if you please,” she said when she returned; “he seems perfectly sensible still; and when I said you were here, he looked quite delighted.” She turned away, and, for the first time, her emotion mastered her.

I followed her into her brother’s room. He did not look so ill as I expected; but I saw with great anxiety, as I drew nearer his bed, that his face was still flushed with fever, and his eye looked wild and excited. He was evidently, however, at present [Pg 73]free from delirium, and recognised me at once. His sister begged him not to speak much, or ask questions, reminding him of the physician’s strict injunctions with regard to quiet.

“Dr Wilson forgets, my love, that it is as necessary at least for the mind to be quiet as the tongue,” said Russell with an attempt to smile; and then, after a pause, he added, as he took my hand, “I wanted to see you, Hawthorne; I know I am in very great danger; and, once more, I want to trouble you with a confidence. Nay, nothing very important; and pray, don’t ask me, as I see you are going to do, not to tire myself with talking: I know what I am going to say, and will try to say it very shortly; but thinking is at least as bad for me as speaking.” He paused again from weakness; Miss Russell had left the room. I made no reply. He half rose, and pointed to a writing-desk on a small table, with keys in the lock. I moved towards it, and opened it, as I understood his gestures; and brought to him, at his request, a small bundle of letters, from which he selected one, and gave it me to read. It was a banker’s letter, dated some months back, acknowledging the receipt of three hundred pounds to Russell’s credit, and enclosing the following note:—

Sir,—Messrs —— are directed to inform you of the sum of £300 placed to your credit. You [Pg 74]will be wrongly advised if you scruple to use it. If at any time you are enabled, and desire it, it may be repaid through the same channel.

One of your Father’s Creditors.

“I have never touched it,” said Russell, as I folded up the note.

“I should have feared you would not,” said I.

“But now,” he proceeded, “now things seem changed with me. I shall want money—Mary will; and I shall draw upon this unseen charity; ay, and gratefully. Poor Mary!”

“You are quite right, my dear Russell,” said I, eager to interrupt a train of thought which I saw would be too much for him. “I will manage all that for you, and you shall give me the necessary authority till you get well again yourself,” I added in a tone meant to be cheerful.

He took no notice of my remark. “I fear,” said he, “I have not been a wise counsellor to my poor sister. She had kind offers from more than one of our friends, and might have had a home more suited to her than this has been, and I allowed her to choose to sacrifice all her own prospects to mine!”

He turned his face away, and I knew that one painful thought besides was in his mind—that they had been solely dependent on her little income for his support at the University since his father’s failure.

[Pg 75]

“Russell,” said I gently, “this conversation can surely do no good; why distress yourself and me unnecessarily? Come, I shall leave you now, or your sister will scold me. Pray, for all our sakes, try to sleep; you know how desirable it is, and how much stress Dr Wilson has laid upon your being kept perfectly calm and quiet.”

“I will, Hawthorne, I will try; but oh, I have so much to think of!”

Distressed and anxious, I could only take my leave of him for the present, feeling how much there was, indeed, in his circumstances to make rest even more necessary, and more difficult to obtain, for the mind than for the body.

I had returned to the sitting-room, and was endeavouring to give as hopeful answers as I could to Miss Russell’s anxious inquiries as to what I thought of her brother, when a card was brought up, with a message that Mr Ormiston was below, and “would be very glad if he could see Miss Russell for a few moments, at any hour she would mention, in the course of the day.”

Ormiston! I started, I really did not know why. Miss Russell started also, visibly; did she know why? Her back was turned to me at the moment; she had moved, perhaps intentionally, the moment the message became intelligible, so that I had no opportunity of watching the effect it produced, which I confess I had an irrepressible anxiety to [Pg 76]do. She was silent until I felt my position becoming awkward: I was rising to take leave, which perhaps would have made hers even more so, when, half turning round towards me, with a tone and gesture almost of command, she said, “Stay!” and then, in reply to the servant, who was still waiting, “Ask Mr Ormiston to walk up.”

I felt the few moments of expectation which ensued to be insufferably embarrassing. I tried to persuade myself it was my own folly to think them so. Why should Ormiston not call at the Russells, under such circumstances? As college tutor, he stood almost in the relation of a natural guardian to Russell; had he not at least as much right to assume the privilege of a friend of the family as I had, with the additional argument, that he was likely to be much more useful in that capacity? He had known them longer, at all events, and any little coolness between the brother and himself was not a matter, I felt persuaded, to be remembered by him at such a moment, or to induce any false punctilio which might stand in the way of his offering his sympathy and assistance when required. But the impression on my mind was strong—stronger, perhaps, than any facts within my knowledge fairly warranted—that between Ormiston and Mary Russell there either was, or had been, some feeling which, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged—whether reciprocal or on one side only—whether [Pg 77]crushed by any of those thousand crosses to which such feelings, fragile as they are precious, are liable, or only repressed by circumstances and awaiting its development—would make their meeting under such circumstances not that of ordinary acquaintances. And once again I rose, and would have gone; but again Mary Russell’s sweet voice—and this time it was an accent of almost piteous entreaty, so melted and subdued were its tones, as if her spirit was failing her—begged me to remain—“I have something—something to consult you about—my brother.”

She stopped, for Ormiston’s step was at the door. I had naturally—not from any ungenerous curiosity to scan her feelings—raised my eyes to her countenance while she spoke to me, and could not but mark that her emotion amounted almost to agony. Ormiston entered: whatever his feelings were, he concealed them well; not so readily, however, could he suppress his evident astonishment, and almost as evident vexation, when he first noticed my presence: an actor in the drama for whose appearance he was manifestly unprepared. He approached Miss Russell, who never moved, with some words of ordinary salutation, but uttered in a low and earnest tone, and offered his hand, which she took at once, without any audible reply. Then turning to me, he asked if Russell were any better? I answered somewhat indefinitely, and Miss Russell, to whom he [Pg 78]turned as for a reply, shook her head, and, sinking into a chair, hid her face in her hands. Ormiston took a seat close by her, and after a pause of a moment said,

“I trust your very natural anxiety for your brother makes you inclined to anticipate more danger than really exists, Miss Russell: but I have to explain my own intrusion upon you at such a moment”—and he gave me a glance which was meant to be searching—“I called by the particular request of the Principal, Dr Meredith.”

Miss Russell could venture upon no answer, and he went on, speaking somewhat hurriedly and with embarrassment.

“Mrs Meredith has been from home some days, and the Principal himself has the gout severely; he feared you might think it unkind their not having called, and he begged me to be his deputy. Indeed he insisted on my seeing you in person, to express his very sincere concern for your brother’s illness, and to beg that you will so far honour him—consider him sufficiently your friend, he said—as to send to his house for anything which Russell could either want or fancy, which, in lodgings, there might be some difficulty in finding at hand. In one respect, Miss Russell,” continued Ormiston in somewhat a more cheerful tone, “your brother is fortunate in not being laid up within the college walls; we are not very good nurses there, as Hawthorne [Pg 79]can tell you, though we do what we can; yet I much fear this watching and anxiety have been too much for you.”

Her tears began to flow freely; there was nothing in Ormiston’s words, but their tone implied deep feeling. Yet who, however indifferent, could look upon her helpless situation, and not be moved? I walked to the window, feeling terribly out of place where I was, yet uncertain whether to go or stay: for my own personal comfort, I would sooner have faced the collected anger of a whole common-room, called to investigate my particular misdemeanours; but to take leave at this moment seemed as awkward as to stay; besides, had not Miss Russell appeared almost imploringly anxious for me to spare her a tête-à-tête?

“My poor brother is very, very ill, Mr Ormiston,” she said at last, raising her face, from which every trace of colour had again disappeared, and which seemed now as calm as ever. “Will you thank Dr Meredith for me, and say I will without hesitation avail myself of his most kind offers, if anything should occur to make his assistance necessary.”

“I can be of no use myself in any way?” said Ormiston with some hesitation.

“I thank you, no,” she replied; and then, as if conscious that her tone was cold, she added—“You are very kind: Mr Hawthorne was good enough to say the same. Every one is very kind to us, indeed; [Pg 80]but”—and here she stopped again, her emotion threatening to master her; and Ormiston and myself simultaneously took our leave.

Preoccupied as my mind had been by anxiety on Russell’s account, it did not prevent a feeling of awkwardness when I found myself alone with Mr Ormiston outside the door of his lodgings. It was impossible to devise any excuse at the moment for turning off in a different direction, as I felt very much inclined to do; for the little street in which he lived was not much of a thoroughfare. The natural route for both of us to take was that which led towards the High Street, for a few hundred steps the other way would have brought us out into the country, where it is not usual for either tutors or undergraduates to promenade in cap and gown, as they do, to the great admiration of the rustics, in our sister university. We walked on together, therefore, feeling—I will answer at least for one of us—that it would be an especial relief just then to meet the greatest bore with whom we had any pretence of a speaking acquaintance, or pass any shop in which we could frame the most threadbare excuse of having business, to cut short the embarrassment of each other’s company. After quitting any scene in which deep feelings have been displayed, and in which our own have been not slightly interested, it is painful to feel called upon to make any comment on what has passed; [Pg 81]we feel ashamed to do so in the strain and tone which would betray our own emotion, and we have not the heart to do so carelessly or indifferently. I should have felt this, even had I been sure that Ormiston’s feelings towards Mary Russell had been nothing more than my own; whereas, in fact, I was almost sure of the contrary; in which case it was possible that, in his eyes, my own locus standi in that quarter, surprised as I had been in an apparently very confidential interview, might seem to require some explanation which would be indelicate to ask for directly, and which it might not mend matters if I were to give indirectly without being asked. So we proceeded some paces up the little quiet street, gravely and silently, neither of us speaking a word. At last Ormiston asked me if I had seen Russell, and how I thought him? adding, without waiting for a reply, “Dr Wilson, I fear from what he told me, thinks but badly of him.”

“I am very sorry to hear you say so,” I replied; and then ventured to remark how very wretched it would be for his sister in the event of his growing worse, to be left at such a time so utterly helpless and alone.

He was silent for some moments. “Some of her friends,” he said at last, “ought to come down; she must have friends, I know, who would come if they were sent for. I wish Mrs Meredith were returned—she might advise her.”

[Pg 82]

He spoke rather in a soliloquy than as addressing me, and I did not feel called upon to make any answer. The next moment we arrived at the turn of the street, and, by what seemed a mutual impulse, wished each other good morning.

I went straight down to Smith’s rooms, at ——Hall, to get him to come and dine with me; for I pitied the poor fellow’s forlorn condition, and considered myself in some degree bound to supply Russell’s place towards him. A Bible-clerk’s position in the University is always more or less one of mortification and constraint. It is true that the same academical degree, the same honours—if he can obtain them—the same position in after life—all the solid advantages of a University education, are open to him, as to other men; but, so long as his undergraduateship lasts, he stands in a very different position from other men, and he feels it—feels it, too, through three or four of those years of life when such feelings are most acute, and when that strength of mind which is the only antidote—which can measure men by themselves and not by their accidents—is not as yet matured either in himself or in the society of which he becomes a member. If, indeed, he be a decidedly clever man, and has the opportunity early in his career of showing himself to be such, then there is good sense and good feeling enough—let us say, to the honour of the University, there is sufficient of that [Pg 83]true esprit du corps, a real consciousness of the great objects for which men are thus brought together—to insure the acknowledgment from all but the most unworthy of its members, that a scholar is always a gentleman. But if he be a man of only moderate abilities, and known only as a Bible-clerk, then, the more he is of a gentleman by birth and education, the more painful does his position generally become. There are not above two or three in residence in most colleges, and their society is confined almost wholly to themselves. Some old schoolfellow, indeed, or some man who “knows him at home,” holding an independent rank in college, may occasionally venture upon the condescension of asking him to wine—even to meet a friend or two with whom he can take such a liberty; and even then, the gnawing consciousness that he is considered an inferior—though not treated as such—makes it a questionable act of kindness. Among the two or three of his own table, one is the son of a college butler, another has been for years usher at a preparatory school; he treats them with civility, they treat him with deference; but they have no tastes or feelings in common. At an age, therefore, which most of all seeks and requires companionship, he has no companions; and the period of life which should be the most joyous, becomes to him almost a purgatory. Of course the radical and the leveller will [Pg 84]say at once, “Ay, this comes of your aristocratic distinctions; they ought not to be allowed in universities at all.” Not so: it comes of human nature; the distinction between a dependent and an independent position will always be felt in all societies, mark it outwardly as little as you will. Humiliation, more or less, is a penalty which poverty must always pay. These humbler offices in the University were founded by a charity as wise as benevolent, which has afforded to hundreds of men of talent, but of humble means, an education equal to that of the highest noble in the land, and, in consequence, a position and usefulness in after life which otherwise they could never have hoped for. And if the somewhat servile tenure by which they are held (which in late years has in most colleges been very much relaxed) were wholly done away with, there is reason to fear the charity of the founders would be liable to continual abuse, by their being bestowed upon many who required no such assistance. As it is, this occurs too often; and it is much to be desired that the same regulations were followed in their distribution throughout the University, which some colleges have long most properly adopted: namely, that the appointment should be bestowed on the successful candidate after examination, strict regard being had to the circumstances of all the parties before they are allowed to offer themselves. It [Pg 85]would make their position far more definite and respectable, because all would then be considered honourable to a certain degree, as being the reward of merit; instead of which, too often, they are convenient items of patronage in the hands of the Principal and Fellows, the nomination to them depending on private interest, which, by no means insuring the nominee’s being a gentleman by birth, while it is wholly careless of his being a scholar by education, tends to lower the general standing of the order in the University.

This struck me forcibly in Smith’s case. Poor fellow! with an excellent heart and a great deal of sound common sense, he had neither the breeding nor the talent to make a gentleman of. I doubt if an university education was any real boon to him. It insured him four years of hard work—harder, perhaps, than if he had sat at a desk all the time—without the society of any of his own class and habits, and with the prospect of very little remuneration ultimately. I think he might have been very happy in his own sphere, and I do not see how he could be happy at Oxford. And whether he or the world in general ever profited much by the B.A. which he eventually attached to his name, is a point at least doubtful.

I could not get him to come and dine with me in my own college. He knew his own position, as it seemed, and was not ashamed of it; in fact, in his [Pg 86]case, it could not involve any consciousness of degradation; and I am sure his only reason for refusing my invitations of that kind was, that he thought it possible my dignity might be compromised by so open an association with him. He would come over to my rooms in the evening to tea, he said; and he came accordingly. When I told him in the morning that Russell had inquired very kindly after him, he was much affected; but it had evidently been a comfort to him to feel that he was not forgotten, and during the hour or two which we spent together in the evening, he seemed much more cheerful.

“Perhaps they will let me see him to-morrow, if he is better?” he said, with an appealing look to me. I assured him I would mention his wish to Russell, and his countenance at once brightened up, as if he thought only his presence were needed to insure our friend’s recovery.

But the next morning all our hopes were dashed again; delirium had returned, as had been feared, and the feverish symptoms seemed to gain strength rather than abate. Bleeding and other usual remedies had been had recourse to already to a perilous extent, and in Russell’s present reduced state, no further treatment of the kind could be ventured upon. “All we can do now, sir,” said Dr Wilson, “is little more than to let nature take her course. I have known such cases recover.” I did not ask to [Pg 87]see Mary Russell that day; for what could I have answered to her fears and inquiries? But I thought of Ormiston’s words; surely she ought to have some friend—some one of her own family, or some known and tried companion of her own sex, would surely come to her at a moment’s notice, did they but know of her trying situation. If—if her brother were to die—she surely would not be left here among strangers, quite alone? Yet I much feared, from what had escaped him at our last interview, that they had both incurred the charge of wilfulness in refusing offers of assistance at the time of their father’s disgrace and flight, and that having, contrary to the advice of their friends, and perhaps imprudently, taken the step they had done in coming to Oxford, Mary Russell, with something of her brother’s spirit, had made up her mind now, however heavy and unforeseen the blow that was to fall, to suffer all in solitude and silence. For Ormiston, too, I felt with an interest and intensity that was hourly increasing. I met him after morning chapel, and though he appeared intentionally to avoid any conversation with me, I knew by his countenance that he had heard the unfavourable news of the morning; and it could be no common emotion that had left its visible trace upon features usually so calm and impassible.

From thoughts of this nature, indulged in the not very appropriate locality of the centre of the quadrangle, [Pg 88]I was roused by the good-humoured voice of Mrs Meredith—“our governess,” as we used to call her—who, with the Doctor himself, was just then entering the college, and found me right in the line of her movements towards the door of “the lodgings.” I was not until that moment aware of her return, and altogether was considerably startled as she addressed me with—“Oh! how do you do, Mr Hawthorne? You young gentlemen don’t take care of yourselves, you see, when I am away—I am so sorry to hear this about poor Mr Russell. Is he so very ill? Dr Meredith is just going to see him.”

I coloured up, I dare say, for it was a trick I was given to in those days, and, in the confusion, replied rather to my own thoughts than to Mrs Meredith’s question.

“Mrs Meredith! I really beg your pardon,” I first stammered out as a very necessary apology, for I had nearly stumbled over her—“May I say how very glad I am you are returned, on Miss Russell’s account—I am sure”——

“Really, Mr Hawthorne, it is very natural I suppose, but you gentlemen seem to expend your whole sympathy upon the young lady, and forget the brother altogether! Mr Ormiston actually took the trouble to write to me about her”——

“My dear!” interposed the Principal.

“Nay, Dr Meredith, see how guilty Mr Hawthorne looks! and as to Mr Ormiston”—— “Well, [Pg 89]never mind” (the Doctor was visibly checking his lady’s volubility), “I love the poor dear girl so much myself, that I am really grieved to the heart for her. I shall go down and see her directly, and make her keep up her spirits. Dr Wilson is apt to make out all the bad symptoms he can—I shall try if I can cure Mr Russell myself, after all; a little proper nursing in those cases is worth a whole staff of doctors—and, as to this poor girl, what can she know about it? I dare say she sits crying her eyes out, poor thing, and doing nothing—I’ll see about it. Why, I wouldn’t lose Mr Russell from the college for half the young men in it—would I, Dr Meredith?”

I bowed, and they passed on. Mrs Principal, if somewhat pompous occasionally, was a kind-hearted woman. I believe an hour scarcely elapsed after her return to Oxford, before she was in Russell’s lodgings, ordering everything about as coolly as if it were in her own house, and all but insisting on seeing the patient and prescribing herself for him, in spite of all professional injunctions to the contrary. The delirium passed off again, and though it left Russell sensibly weaker, so weak, that when I next was admitted to see him with Smith, he could do little more than feebly grasp our hands, yet the fever was evidently abated; and in the course of the next day, whether it was to be attributed to the remedies originally used, or to his own youth and [Pg 90]good constitution, or to Mrs Meredith’s experienced directions in the way of nursing, and the cheerful spirit which that good lady, in spite of a little fussiness, succeeded generally in producing around her, there was a decided promise of amendment, which happily each succeeding hour tended gradually to fulfil. Ormiston had been unremitting in his inquiries; but I believe had never since sought an interview either with the brother or sister. I took advantage of the first conversation Russell was able to hold with me, to mention how very sincerely I believed him to have felt the interest he expressed. A moment afterwards I felt almost sorry I had mentioned the name—it was the first time I had done so during Russell’s illness. He almost started up in bed, and his face glowed again with more than the flush of fever, as he caught up my words.

“Sincere, did you say? Ormiston sincere! You don’t know the man as I do. Inquired here, did he? What right has he to intrude his”——

“Hush, my dear Russell,” I interposed, really almost alarmed at his violence. “Pray, don’t excite yourself—I think you do him great injustice; but we will drop the subject, if you please.”

“I tell you, Hawthorne, if you knew all, you would despise him as much as I do.”

It is foolish to argue with an invalid—but really even my friendship for Russell would not allow me to bear in silence an attack so unjustifiable, as it [Pg 91]seemed to me, on the character of a man who had every claim to my gratitude and respect. I replied therefore somewhat incautiously, that perhaps I did know a little more than Russell suspected.

He stared at me with a look of bewilderment. “What do you know?” he asked quickly.

It was too late to hesitate or retract. I had started an unfortunate subject; but I knew Russell too well to endeavour now to mislead him. “I have no right perhaps to say I know anything; but I have gathered from Ormiston’s manner, that he has very strong reasons for the anxiety he has shown on your account. I will not say more.”

“And how do you know this? Has Mr Ormiston dared”——

“No, no, Russell,” said I, earnestly; “see how unjust you are, in this instance.” I wished to say something to calm him, and it would have been worse than useless to say anything but the truth. I saw he guessed to what I alluded; and I gave him briefly my reasons for what I thought, not concealing the interview with his sister, at which I had unintentionally been present.

It was a very painful scene. When he first understood that Ormiston had sought the meeting, his temper, usually calm, but perhaps now tried by such long hours of pain and heaviness, broke out with bitter expressions against both. I told him, shortly and warmly, that such remarks towards his [Pg 92]sister were unmanly and unkind; and then he cried, like a chidden and penitent child, till his remorse was as painful to look upon as his passion. “Mary! my own Mary! even you, Hawthorne, know and feel her value better than I do! I for whom she has borne so much.”

“I am much mistaken,” said I, “if Ormiston has not learned to appreciate her even yet more truly. And why not?”

“Leave me now,” he said; “I am not strong enough to talk; but if you wish to know what cause I have to speak as I have done of your friend Ormiston, you shall hear again.”

So exhausted did he seem by the excess of feeling which I had so unfortunately called forth, that I would not see him again for some days, contenting myself with learning that no relapse had taken place, and that he was still progressing rapidly towards recovery.

I had an invitation to visit my aunt again during the Easter vacation, which had already commenced, and had only been prevented from leaving Oxford by Russell’s alarming state. As soon, therefore, as all danger was pronounced over, I prepared to go up to town at once, and my next visit to Russell was in fact to wish him good-by for two or three weeks. He was already sitting up, and fast regaining strength. He complained of having seen so little of me lately, and asked me if I had seen his sister. [Pg 93]“I had not noticed it until the last few days,” he said—“illness makes one selfish, I suppose; but I think Mary looks thin and ill—very different from what she did a month back.”

But watching and anxiety, as I told him, were not unlikely to produce that effect; and I advised him strongly to take her somewhere for a few weeks for change of air and scene. “It will do you both good,” I said; “and you can draw another £50 from your unknown friend for that purpose; it cannot be better applied, and I should not hesitate for a moment.”

“I would not,” he replied, “if I wanted money; but I do not. Do you know that Dr Wilson would take no fee whatever from Mary during the whole of his attendance; and when I asked him to name some sufficient remuneration, assuring him I could afford it, he said he would never forgive me if I ever mentioned the subject again. So what remains of the fifty you drew for me, will amply suffice for a little trip somewhere for us. And I quite agree with you in thinking it desirable, on every account, that Mary should move from Oxford—perhaps altogether—for one reason, to be out of the way of a friend of yours.”


“Yes, Ormiston; he called here again since I saw you, and wished to see me; but I declined the honour. Possibly,” he added bitterly, “as we [Pg 94]have succeeded in keeping out of jail here, he thinks Mary has grown rich again.” And then he went on to tell me how, in the days of his father’s reputed wealth, Ormiston had been a constant visitor at their house in town, and how his attentions to his sister had even attracted his father’s attention, and led to his name being mentioned as likely to make an excellent match with the rich banker’s daughter. “My father did not like it,” he said, “for he had higher views for her, as was perhaps excusable—though I doubt if he would have refused Mary anything. I did not like it for another reason: because I knew all the time how matters really stood, and that any man who looked for wealth with my sister would in the end be miserably disappointed. What Mary’s own feelings were, and what actually passed between her and Ormiston, I never asked; but she knew my views on the subject, and would, I am certain, never have accepted any man under the circumstances in which she was placed, and which she could not explain. I did hope and believe, however, then, that there was sufficient high principle about Ormiston to save Mary from any risk of throwing away her heart upon a man who would desert her upon a change of fortune. I think he loved her at the time—as well as such men as he can love any one; but from the moment the crash came—Ormiston, you know, was in town at the time—there was an end of [Pg 95]everything. It was an opportunity for a man to show feeling if he had any; and though I do not affect much romance, I almost think that in such a case even an ordinary heart might have been warmed into devotion; but Ormiston—cold, cautious, calculating as he is—I could almost have laughed at the sudden change that came over him when he heard the news. He pretended, indeed, great interest for us, and certainly did seem cut up about it; but he had not committed himself, I conclude, and took care to retreat in time. Thank Heaven! even if Mary did ever care for him, she is not the girl to break her heart for a man who proves so unworthy of her regard. But why he should insist on inflicting his visits upon us now, is what I cannot make out; and what I will not endure.”

I listened with grief and surprise. I knew well that not even the strong prejudice which I believed Russell to have always felt against Ormiston, would tempt him to be guilty of misrepresentation; and, again, I gave him credit for too much penetration to have been easily deceived. Yet I could not bring myself all at once to think so ill of Ormiston. He had always been considered in pecuniary matters liberal almost to a fault; that he really loved Mary Russell, I felt more than ever persuaded; and, at my age, it was hard to believe that a few thousand pounds could affect any man’s decision in such a point, even for a moment. Why, the very [Pg 96]fact of her being poor and friendless was enough to make one fall in love with such a girl at once! So when Russell, after watching the effect of his disclosure, misconstruing my silence, proceeded to ask somewhat triumphantly—“Now, what say you of Mr Ormiston?”—I answered at once, that I was strongly convinced there was a mistake.

“Ay,” rejoined he with a sneering laugh; “on Ormiston’s part, you mean; decidedly there was.”

“I mean,” said I, “there has been some misunderstanding, which time may yet explain: I do not, and will not believe him capable of what you impute to him. Did you ever ask your sister for a full and unreserved explanation of what has passed between them?”

“Never; but I know that she has shunned all intercourse with him as carefully as I have, and that his recently renewed civilities have given her nothing but pain.” My own observation certainly tended to confirm this; so, changing the subject—for it was one on which I had scarce any right to give an opinion, still less offer advice, I asked whether I could do anything for him in town; and, after exchanging a cordial good-by with Miss Russell, in whose appearance I was sorry to see strong confirmation of her brother’s fears for her health, I took my leave, and the next morning saw me on the top of “The Age,” on my way to town.

There I received a letter from my father, in [Pg 97]which he desired me to take the opportunity of calling upon his attorney, Mr Rushton, in order to have some leases and other papers read and explained to me, chiefly matters of form, but which would require my signature upon my coming of age. It concluded with the following PS.:—

“I was sorry to hear of your friend’s illness, and trust he will now do very well. Bring him down with you at Christmas, if you can. I hear, by the way, there is a Miss Russell in the case—a very fascinating young lady, whom you never mention at all—a fact which your mother, who is up to all those things, says is very suspicious. All I can say is, if she is as good a girl as her mother was before her—I knew her well once—you may bring her down with you too, if you like.”

How very unlucky it is that the home authorities seldom approve of any little affairs of the kind except those of which one is perfectly innocent! Now, if I had been in love with Mary Russell, the governor would, in the nature of things, have felt it his duty to be disagreeable.

I put off the little business my father alluded to day after day, to make way for more pleasant engagements, until my stay in town was drawing to a close. Letters from Russell informed me of his having left Oxford for Southampton, where he was reading hard, and getting quite stout; but he spoke of his sister’s health in a tone that alarmed me, [Pg 98]though he evidently was trying to persuade himself that a few weeks’ sea-air would quite restore it. At last I devoted a morning to call on Mr Rushton, whom I found at home, though professing, as all lawyers do, to be full of business. He made my acquaintance as politely as if I had been the heir-expectant of an earldom, instead of the very moderate amount of acres which had escaped sale and subdivision in the Hawthorne family. In fact, he seemed a very good sort of fellow, and we ran over the parchments together very amicably—I almost suspected he was cheating me, he seemed so very friendly, but therein I did him wrong.

“And now, my dear sir,” continued he, as we shut up the last of them, “will you dine with me to-day? Let me see; I fear I can’t say before seven, for I have a great deal of work to get through. Some bankruptcy business, about which I have taken some trouble,” he continued, rubbing his hands, “and which we shall manage pretty well in the end, I fancy. By the way, it concerns some friends of yours, too: is not Mr Ormiston of your college? Ay, I thought he was; he is two thousand pounds richer than he fancied himself yesterday.”

“Really?” said I, somewhat interested; “how, may I ask?”

“Why, you see, when Russell’s bank broke—bad business that—we all thought the first dividend—tenpence-halfpenny [Pg 99]in the pound, I believe it was—would be the final one: however, there are some foreign securities which, when they first came into the hands of the assignees, were considered of no value at all, but have gone up wonderfully in the market just of late; so that we have delayed finally closing accounts till we could sell them to such advantage as will leave some tolerable pickings for the creditors after all.”

“Had Ormiston money in Mr Russell’s bank, then, at the time?”

“Oh, yes: something like eight thousand pounds: not all his own, though: five thousand he had in trust for some nieces of his, which he had unluckily just sold out of the funds, and placed with Russell, while he was engaged in making arrangements for a more profitable investment; the rest was his own.”

“He lost it all, then?”

“All but somewhere about three hundred pounds, as it appeared at the time. What an excellent fellow he is! You know him well, I dare say. They tell me that he pays the interest regularly to his nieces for their money out of his own income still.”

I made no answer to Mr Rushton at the moment, for a communication so wholly unexpected had awakened a new set of ideas, which I was busily following out in my mind. I seemed to hold in my hands the clue to a good deal of misunderstanding and unhappiness. My determination was soon [Pg 100]taken to go to Southampton, see Russell at once, and tell him what I had just heard, and of which I had no doubt he had hitherto been as ignorant as myself. I was rather induced to take this course, as I felt persuaded that Miss Russell’s health was suffering rather from mental than bodily causes; and, in such a case, a great deal of mischief is done in a short time. I would leave town at once.

My purse was in the usual state of an undergraduate’s at the close of a visit to London; so, following up the train of my own reflections, I turned suddenly upon Mr Rushton, who was again absorbed in his papers, and had possibly forgotten my presence altogether, and attacked him with—

“My dear sir, can you lend me ten pounds?”

“Certainly,” said Mr Rushton, taking off his spectacles, and feeling in his pockets, at the same time looking at me with some little curiosity—“certainly—with great pleasure.”

“I beg your pardon for taking such a liberty,” said I, apologetically; “but I find I must leave town to-night.”

“To-night!” said the lawyer, looking still more inquiringly at me; “I thought you were to dine with me?”

“I cannot exactly explain to you at this moment, sir, my reasons; but I have reasons, and I think sufficient ones, though they have suddenly occurred to me.”

[Pg 101]

I pocketed the money, leaving Mr Rushton to speculate on the eccentricities of Oxonians as he pleased, and a couple of hours found me seated on the Southampton mail.

The Russells were surprised at my sudden descent upon them, but welcomed me cordially; and even Mary’s pale face did not prevent my being in excellent spirits. As soon as I could speak to Russell by himself, I told him what I had heard from Mr Rushton.

He never interrupted me, but his emotion was evident. When he did speak, it was in an altered and humbled voice.

“I never inquired,” he said, “who my father’s creditors were—perhaps I ought to have done so; but I thought the knowledge could only pain me. I see it all now; how unjust, how ungrateful I have been! Poor Mary!”

We sat down, and talked over those points in Ormiston’s conduct, upon which Russell had put so unfavourable a construction. It was quite evident, that a man who could act with so much liberality and self-denial towards others, could have had no interested motives in his conduct with regard to Mary Russell; and her brother was now as eager to express his confidence in Ormiston’s honour and integrity, as he was before hasty in misjudging him.

Where all parties are eager for explanation, matters [Pg 102]are soon explained. Russell had an interview with his sister, which brought her to the breakfast table the next morning with blushing cheeks and brightened eyes. Her misgivings, if she had any, were easily set at rest. He then wrote to Ormiston a letter full of generous apologies and expressions of his high admiration of his conduct, which was answered by that gentleman in person by return of post. How Mary Russell and he met, or what they said, must ever be a secret, for no one was present but themselves. But all embarrassment was soon over, and we were a very happy party for the short time we remained at Southampton together; for, feeling that my share in the matter was at an end—a share which I contemplated with some little self-complacency—I speedily took my departure.

If I have not made Ormiston’s conduct appear in as clear colours to the reader as it did to ourselves, I can only add, that the late misunderstanding seemed a painful subject to all parties, and that the mutual explanations were rather understood than expressed. The anonymous payment to Russell’s credit at the bank was no longer a mystery: it was the poor remains of the College Tutor’s little fortune, chiefly the savings of his years of office—the bulk of which had been lost through the fault of the father—generously devoted to meet the necessities of the son. That he would have offered Mary Russell his heart and hand at once [Pg 103]when she was poor, as he hesitated to do when she was rich, none of us for a moment doubted, had not his own embarrassments, caused by the failure of the bank, and the consequent claims of his orphan nieces, to replace whose little income he had contracted all his own expenses, made him hesitate to involve the woman he loved in an imprudent marriage.

They were married, however, very soon—and still imprudently the world said, and my good aunt among the rest; for, instead of waiting an indefinite time for a good college living to fall in, Ormiston took the first that offered, a small vicarage of £300 a-year, intending to add to his income by taking pupils. However, fortune sometimes loves to have a laugh at the prudent ones, and put to the rout all their wise prognostications; for, during Ormiston’s “year of grace”—while he still virtually held his fellowship, though he had accepted the living—our worthy old Principal died somewhat suddenly, and regret at his loss only gave way to the universal joy of every individual in the college (except, I suppose, any disappointed aspirants), when Mr Ormiston was elected almost unanimously to the vacant dignity.

Mr Russell the elder has never returned to England. On the mind of such a man, after the first blow, and the loss of his position in the world, the [Pg 104]disgrace attached to his name had comparatively little effect. He lives in some small town in France, having contrived, with his known clever management, to keep himself in comfortable circumstances; and his best friends can only strive to forget his existence, rather than wish for his return. His son and daughter pay him occasional visits, for their affection survives his disgrace and forgets his errors. Charles Russell took a first class, after delaying his examination a couple of terms, owing to his illness, and is now a barrister, with a reputation for talent, but as yet very little business. However, as I hear the city authorities have had the impudence to seize some of the college plate in discharge of a disputed claim for rates, and that Russell is retained as one of the counsel in an action of replevin, I trust he will begin a prosperous career, by contributing to win the cause for the “gown.”

I spent a month with Dr and Mrs Ormiston at their vicarage in the country, before the former entered upon his official residence as Principal; and can assure the reader that, in spite of ten—it may be more—years of difference in age, they are the happiest couple I ever saw. I may almost say, the only happy couple I ever saw, most of my married acquaintance appearing at the best only contented couples, not drawing their happiness so exclusively from each other as suits my notion of [Pg 105]what such a tie ought to be. Of course, I do not take my own matrimonial experience into account; the same principle of justice which forbids a man to give evidence in his own favour, humanely excusing him from making any admission which may criminate himself. Mrs Ormiston is as beautiful, as amiable, as ever, and has lost all the reserve and sadness which, in her maiden days, overshadowed her charms; and so sincere was and is my admiration of her person and character, and so warmly was I in the habit of expressing it, that I really believe my dilating upon her attractions used to make Mrs. Francis Hawthorne somewhat jealous, until she had the happiness to make her acquaintance, and settled the point by falling in love with the lady herself.

[Pg 106]



[MAGA. October 1824.]

AirEveleen’s Bower.


Mr Bubb was a Whig orator, also a Soap Laborator,
For everything’s new christen’d in the present day;
He was follow’d and adored by the Common Council board,
And lived quite genteel with a one-horse chay.


Mrs Bubb was gay and free, fair, fat, and forty-three,
And blooming as a peony in buxom May;
The toast she long had been of Farringdon-Within,
And fill’d the better-half of the one-horse chay.


Mrs Bubb said to her Lord, “You can well, Bubb, afford
Whate’er a Common Council man in prudence may;
We’ve no brats to plague our lives, and the soap concern it thrives,
So let’s have a trip to Brighton in the one-horse chay.

[Pg 107]


“We’ll view the pier and shipping, and enjoy many dipping,
And walk for a stomach in our best array;
I longs more nor I can utter, for shrimps and bread and butter,
And an airing on the Steyne in the one-horse chay.


“We’ve a right to spare for nought that for money can be bought,
So to get matters ready, Bubb, do you trudge away;
To my dear Lord Mayor I’ll walk, just to get a bit of talk
And an imitation shawl for the one-horse chay.”


Mr Bubb said to his wife, “Now I think upon’t, my life
’Tis three weeks at least to next boiling-day;
The dog-days are set in, and London’s growing thin,
So I’ll order out old Nobbs and the one-horse chay.”


Now Nobbs, it must be told, was rather fat and old,
His colour it was white, and it had been grey;
He was round as a pot, and when soundly whipt would trot
Full five miles an hour in the one-horse chay.


When at Brighton they were housed, and had stuffed and caroused,
O’er a bowl of rack punch, Mr Bubb did say,
“I’ve ascertain’d, my dear, the mode of dipping here
From the ostler, who is cleaning up my one-horse chay.

[Pg 108]


“You’re shut up in a box, ill convenient as the stocks,
And eighteenpence a-time are obliged for to pay;
Court corruption here, say I, makes everything so high,
And I wish I had come without my one-horse chay.”


“As I hope,” says she, “to thrive, ’tis flaying folks alive,
The King and them extortioners are leagued, I say;
’Tis encouraging of such for to go to pay so much,
So we’ll set them at defiance with our one-horse chay.


“Old Nobbs, I am sartin, may be trusted gig or cart in,
He takes every matter in an easy way;
He’ll stand like a post, while we dabble on the coast,
And return back to dress in our one-horse chay.”


So out they drove, all drest so gaily in their best,
And finding, in their rambles, a snug little bay,
They uncased at their leisure, paddled out to take their pleasure,
And left everything behind in the one-horse chay.


But while, so snugly sure that all things were secure,
They flounced about like porpoises or whales at play,
Some young unlucky imps, who prowl’d about for shrimps,
Stole up to reconnoitre the one-horse chay.


Old Nobbs, in quiet mood, was sleeping as he stood
(He might possibly be dreaming of his corn or hay);
Not a foot did he wag, so they whipt out every rag,
And gutted the contents of the one-horse chay.

[Pg 109]


When our pair were soused enough, and returned in their buff,
Oh, there was the vengeance and old Nick to pay!
Madam shriek’d in consternation, Mr Bubb he swore——!
To find the empty state of the one-horse chay.


“If I live,” said she, “I swear, I’ll consult my dear Lord Mayor,
And a fine on this vagabond town he shall lay;
But the gallows thieves, so tricky, hasn’t left me e’en a dicky,
And I shall catch my death in the one-horse chay.”


“Come, bundle in with me, we must squeeze for once,” says he,
“And manage this here business the best we may;
We’ve no other step to choose, nor a moment must we lose,
Or the tide will float us off in our one-horse chay.”


So noses, sides, and knees, all together did they squeeze,
And, pack’d in little compass, they trotted it away,
As dismal as two dummies, head and hands stuck out like mummies
From beneath the little apron of the one-horse chay.


The Steyne was in a throng, as they jogg’d it along,
Madam hadn’t been so put to it for many a day;
Her pleasure it was damped, and her person somewhat cramped,
Doubled up beneath the apron of the one-horse chay.

[Pg 110]


“Oh would that I were laid,” Mr Bubb in sorrow said,
“In a broad-wheeled waggon, well covered with hay!
I’m sick of sporting smart, and would take a tilted cart
In exchange for this bauble of a one-horse chay.


“I’d give half my riches for my worst pair of breeches,
Or the apron that I wore last boiling-day;
They would wrap my arms and shoulders from these impudent beholders,
And allow me to whip on in my one-horse chay.”


Mr Bubb ge-hupped in vain, and strove to jerk the rein,
Nobbs felt he had his option to work or play,
So he wouldn’t mend his pace, though they’d fain have run a race,
To escape the merry gazers at the one-horse chay.


Now, good people, laugh your fill, and fancy if you will
(For I’m fairly out of breath, and have said my say),
The trouble and the rout, to wrap and get them out,
When they drove to their lodgings in their one-horse chay.


The day was swelt’ring warm, so they took no cold or harm,
And o’er a smoking lunch soon forgot their dismay;
But, fearing Brighton mobs, started off at night with Nobbs,
To a snugger watering-place, in the one-horse chay.


Transcriber’s Note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters’ errors; otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the authors’ words and intent.

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