Imatges de pÓgina
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afternoon, I had had no opportunity of paying my devoirs to the lady ; indeed, the first announcement I received of her existence was from my housekeeper-whom I had brought with me from my late curacy, rather because she would not part with me than from any strong attachment of my own to her service--informing me at breakfast on the Sunday morning that the servant whom she found in the house had informed her that the late rector was always in the habit of taking lunch at the “ house," between the two services, and dining there after the afternoon service was concluded. Poor old Mrs. Bull was then thrown into a painful state of quan, dary as to the propriety of providing any dinner for the master, arguing that she and her companion could comfortably dine from some mysterious piece of pork, with the frequent mention of which delicious provender she had in old times been accustomed to season her discourse; indeed, I think she had always lived upon pork; it was a kind of necessary to her existence, and appeared to bound all her desires in her own gastronomic line, adding that the steaks which she had the care to provide on the previous evening expressly for my dinner, would be much more tender the next day. I thought on the Monday when I eat them, that if they had been less tender on the Sunday, they must have been very tough. However, this difficulty was soon disposed of, by my giving directions for the steaks to be preserved till we discovered if the same invitation should be extended to me as to my predecessor.

I am thus particular in describing all these little matters to the reader, as I consider that day to have been one of the most, if not the most important in my life, and every movement of that day is as strongly impressed on my memory as if it had all occurred but yesterday.

Mrs. Bull was right : in the vestry, before service, the clerk came to me with—“Madam Cullender's compliments, and would you take lunch with her?" This polite invitation I accepted, and had the opportunity a few minutes after of seeing seated in the large pew of the church, in high state, with a very large prayer-book before her, and a very large hassock beneath her, my future hostess herself,

I will not make any mention of the service itself; all the congregation seemed very attentive, and I hope that some who came that day for the first time from mere curiosity, have still continued to attend, actuated by some better motive.

When I returned to the vestry the clerk informed me that the lady's carriage was waiting for me to take my seat therein, and I soon found myself seated by the side of the obliging widow. Mrs. Cullender's

carriage was à rather remarkable piece of construction; it was like Mr. Pecksniff's chair, which I think is described as like a pig with a tumour fastened behind a small, very small, pony chaise ; so, as the lady and I sat behind, we quite looked

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over the head of Joseph, the staid man who drove the old horse, a steed who, if there be any corresponding proportion between the two parts of a very well-known proverb, ought to have been very, very sure. Joseph, when seen seated, and particularly in a back view, might have been taken for a high-bred footman of respectable standing in first-rate society, but the sight of his legs destroyed the illusion; they betrayed many a tale of hard out-door workthe barn, the garden, the pig-sty, and perhaps the plough. It is an odd thing, but countrymen never have good legs , in short, Joseph could be called rather a useful than an elegant appendage to a family

Slowly we journeyed on in the carriage till we arrived at the house. By the by, till I grew bold by practice, I was always expecting the vehicle to come suddenly apart in the middle, and leave the hinder part stationary in the road, while Joseph on the pony.chaise division would proceed complacently and innocently

We were soon seated at luncheon together, tête-à-tête, she all kindness and condescending affability, I full of respectful politeness, just tempered with that degree of grave demeanour which I think becoming to the office of a clergyman..

I may as well here give a short description of Mrs. Cullender. She was that sort of woman whom you can most easily describe negatively.' She was not fat, she was not thin ; she was not badlooking, she was not handsome ; she was not learned, she was not ignorant ; in short-but I hate a pun-she was a knotty point to describe.

One affirmative I thought I did discover, and I fancy, too, from all after experience, that I was right-she was rather highminded. She was perfectly aware that she was the chief inhabitant in the parish, indeed that she centred in herself all the interest of the gentry in that part of the country; she knew the importance of her position, and she acted up to it. But let me draw that day to a close. The afternoon service finished, I was again honoured with an invitation, and had the honour of being introduced to the little surgeon and his wife, who joined us at her dinner table. All went pleasantly between us, and when I returned to my rectory at night I almost felt it desolate, nor could I entirely derive the same source of consolation and rejoicing that my good old Mrs. Bull did, when she remarked to me, that there was some good; came from dining out, for I still had my beefsteaks left for to

And thus ended my first Sunday at my parish, and almost my first introduction into the allurements of ladies' society. And so months passed away, and at length I began to discover, and it was a discovery that filled me with alarming, surprise, that my quiet home had but few charms left for me, and that I never felt so well pleased as when up at the house," in the company of Mirs. Cula

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lender. She was so gracious-more than gracious, at times almost affectionate, that my behaviour began insensibly to partake of the same character. She even once or twice, under very favourable circumstances for that kind of disclosure, hinted that I must tind my solitary home very dull, and that I must feel the want of many comforts seldom to be met with in a bachelor's abode. I fully concurred in what she said, as indeed I had even begun to feel the truth of her statements, and I can hardly say, but I fancy I once or twice went so far as to say that if I could find any onebeing of course a fit and proper person--willing to become the partner of a country clergyman, I should gladly hail such an opportunity. But to this manifestation of my feelings no response was ever given, nor could I wonder; whatever my feelings might be to Mrs. Cullender, I could plainly see that her importance in the village could receive no advancement from any alliance with myself; indeed it would rather appear that it would be deteriorating to her present standing. I have said she was high-minded, and how could I expect that she could surrender the euphonious title of Mrs. Cullender for the doubtful dignity of becoming the wife of Mr. Smith ? Smith, alas! is such a common name. And thus

my hopes of bliss—for I confess that I did begin to fancy myself most unfortunate-were damped, and I almost began to avoid appearing at the house more than was necessary to prevent appearing rude ; and I fancy that my melancholy must have become apparent to others, for one evening Mr. Sparkins the surgeon, having unexpectedly dropped in upon me, something like the following conversation took place between us. I forgot to mention that latterly I had observed that there had appeared to subsist between this gentleman and Mrs. Cullender a strange degree of confidence. After half an hour spent in casual conversation, he remarked that my spirits did not seem as good as they had formerly been.

" I'm sure, my dear sir,” added he, “ that you have something preying upon your mind; perhaps I can guess what it is, perhaps I cannot : make me your confidant, I may be able to help you.

It was in vain that I denied that anything extraordinary affected me; he continued to press me very closely, and at last fatly asked me if I did not entertain some affection for Mrs. Cullender.

“Why, my good sir," said he, “all the village talks about it; some even say the whole affair is definitely settled."

This information completely astounded me; the bare idea that my feelings and actions had been canvassed by my parishioners all this time, and I completely ignorant of it, was intensely annoying.

“My good Mr. Sparkins," said I ; “supposing that you were correct; supposing, for the sake of argument only, mind, that I really had some tender regard towards the lady, what could I do ? what possible chance do I possess of her accepting me for a husband ? I'd have asked her to become mine," "continued I, warming with my subject, and quite forgetting that I had made the supposition merely for the sake of argument, “ a thousand times before this but I dreaded, and justly too, I think, an immediate refusal."

" Bravo, my good sir," said the surgeon, “now you speak out like a man, and now let me see if I can help you. What you say is quite correct, and at present I confess I should doubt the success of your offer ; I have heard her talk in the highest terms of you, but yet you must have noticed her weakness; she is proud, and it would require some resolution for her to give up her present position in the village. Mr. and Mrs. Smith will hardly do after Madam Cullender; but stop, sir ; I have a plan, and if you

take my advice and adopt it, I'll bet you— by the by you don't bet --but I'll stake my reputation that in a month she will be yours. Take your Doctor's Degree, my dear sir-Dr. Julius Šmith. By Jove, that must do, I know it will,” said the little man, who really did seem to take some positive interest in the matter.

I will not give the conversation that followed ; suffice it to say, that I made up my mind to adopt Mr. Sparkins's advice; in accordance to which the next morning found me in the widow's drawingroom, dressed with more scrupulous exactness than I usually employed.

Madam,” said I, in what I wished to be rather a solemn voice, "I am going up to Cambridge for a few days to take my degree of Doctor of Divinity; I must be there I find by the day after tomorrow, so shall start this evening."

The shot told; I saw it in her eyes, as with a soft voice she answered,

"You will not be away long, will you ? we shall so miss you.”

I fancied this hardly strong enough yet to venture on a proposal, 80 I said,

“Why, Mrs. Cullender, there are no sick at present in the parish, and I do not know who will particularly miss me, except, perchance, my old housekeeper, Mrs. Bull. Ah! no;" here i sighed; "there is but little sympathy with bachelors.”

“Then why be one, my dear Mr. Smith,” said the dear creature, with a blush mantling on her cheek.

That was enough. Half an hour after I was sitting on the sofa with Mrs. Cullender by my side, all quite comfortably settled, and We were making all arrangements for our proceedings after I should return from Cambridge.

Oh! a sharp fellow was little Mr. Sparkins, but I have since fancied once or twice that he had some stronger ground to act upon than a mere conjecture of his own. And this is why I took my Doctor's Degree.

CHAPTER II.

HOW I GOT IT. Having waited on the road to pay a short visit to an old col. lege friend whom I had not seen for many years, but who I nevertheless knew would feel interested in hearing of my present plans, I did not reach Cambridge till late on the evening following the day of my leaving my parish.

The old town seemed quite strange to me after so many years' absence, but I speedily got installed in comfortable quarters at the Eagle, where, by the by, if alone, I should recommend all my gentlemen readers to locate themselves; though I should be inclined to believe that the pleasant private rooms in the Bull Hotel, looking over that most renowned Trampington Street, would be preferred by most ladies. To tell the truth, when I first reached Cambridge I wished myself back again in my parish. No one but an old Cambridge man can tell or imagine the feelings which come rushing and flooding in upon you when you visit that scene of these young years of your former life. Whether they look back to follies and extravagancies, wild, reckless deeds and revelries, or to the quiet, steady progress of the striving, persevering student, with perhaps but few pleasures, but certainly with but few pains-all, I should think, must revisit Cambridge, with some feelings of melancholy. Everything must be viewed under such a different aspect; there are no longer the same friends about youthey are scattered abroad to experience the world's vicissitudes; and you yourself have been tasting, too, of life sufficiently to show you that all is not gold that glitters, and that you must be often deceived before you can have confidence in your wisdom. I did not intend to be drawn into this strain of moralizing; I do not know how it is, but I do sometimes give way to trains of thought to which I formerly was not accustomed. Perhaps it is sermonwriting brings on the habit; but no, it was not so before I was married. Ah! and that brings me back to my narrative of how I got my doctor's degree. My first act was to discover what were the duties I had to perform in order to attain my object; and really when I heard them I fancied them extremely formidable. My greatest difficulty was about a Latin sermon, or, as they call it, a concio ad clericum, which I found I had to preach before the University in St. Mary's church. Now I, in my best days, had never been very great in Latin ; it had never as a language been my forte, and certainly the composition of it had always been to me the most difficult part of the study; and here had I now to

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