Imatges de pàgina

boots. I asked who it was, and a man told me it was poor Rosa : those Jack-in-the-greens are always poor. Hark!" The song of a melodious voice proceeded from the adjacent copse:

“ Trust not his sighs,

Nor his vows believe;
Though thou be faithful,

Man will deceive!” As I live," cried Mr. Snibs, “ there she is ! That's the Jack-inthe-green !"

Suddenly the numbers changed, and the melody of wild mirth streamed forth :

“ Merry, merry, merry the lonely maid !
Merry, merry, merry she he betrayed !
The stricken is merry, the striker is sad;

The false one must mourn, yet the victim is glad !" Then came a clear and prolonged laugh-musical, indeed, yet so cold, so hollow and mirthless, that my blood chilled as it died away in the distance, while the singer retreated among the trees.

“ On my life," said Mr. Snibs, “ there's nothing good in Ashbrook : who ever heard such a lack-a-daisical Jack-in-the-green ?"

“ What else is wrong?” inquired I.

“ What else !-everything. Look, now, 'tis dusk, and there's not a gas-lamp in the village !-Confound the boots ! how they pinch! Not a gas-lamp, on my honour! There's no water company, and all the people go to one pump. Then there's not a tile in the whole place, and the roads are neither paved nor Macadamized.”

“ Is that all ?”

“ All ! and enough too !--but there is more; look at the trees, how they stop circulation of air! look at the hedges, how they want clipping! and positively they lay linen to dry on those hedges, as bad as if in London, we were to hang it over our brick walls ;-- just reflect how barbarous that would be ! How do you feel ?"

“ How do I feel !"

“ Yes; a'n't you hungry? There will be a tray of eatables at nine o'clock; it will take me half an hour to get home with these confounded boots ; so it's no use for me to sit on this stile any longer."

Having made these sagacious calculations, and having arrived at this self-evident conclusion, Mr. Snibs descended from his seat, and hobbled by my side to Atherley cottage.

“ Well, Mr. Snibs,” said Major Crust,“ have you found your shoe?

“ I have not."
“ I thought you had been to fish for it."

“ I have not." Mr. Snibs looked very wrathful, as he dashed forth these majestic replies.

“O fatal loss! O dire distress !" shouted the author youth, “ When you get a new pair, sir," said the major, “pray put them both in my pocket; an odd one is not worth having."

“ Union alone, great Mars will bless," continued the incipient poet. “ Have you been to order a new pair ?" asked Dr. Stickler.

“I have not," replied Mr. Snibs ;-—" I am going to bed !" And, casting around a glance of fire almost powerful enough to fry the cold fowl on which his hungry eye last rested, he stalked from the room, deaf even to the dissuasive clatter of knives and forks that Tom Briton most maliciously caused to assail bis ears.

Notwithstanding the ire of Mr. Snibs, the remainder of the evening passed pleasantly away. I told Tom Briton how I had found our old friend Eustace, and gave a glowing account of the happiness he seemed to enjoy; thereby calling down upon myself a considerable scolding for having presumed to see, and even to visit him, without imparting my knowledge to our common friend (who, however, at the time I met Eustáce, was very busily occupied in tormenting Doctor Stickler): having defended myself from the charge of selfishness, I was proceeding to other matters, when the author youth, who had been seated beside Anne Atherley, rose to speak to some one at a distance; thereupon, with the greatest apparent carelessness, my heart beating the while, I, by perfect accident, took possession of his chair. Entering, then, into conversation with my new neighbour, I soon monopolized her attention and, (for I am now happily in a state to speak for her also,) we were soon both of us as delighted as the first taste of love could make us. Tom Briton discovered whither I had fled, and took good care, according to established custom, to remind me of the circumstance, whenever afterwards it was his gracious will and pleasure to feel in a bantering mood.

I do not know what charm it was that Tom carried about with him ; and yet, although he, in turn, tormented every body, he generally contrived to make it appear that it was he alone who sympathized with their sufferings. His victims knew him to be mischievous, yet each in his own case blindly imagined Tom Briton to be “ a particular friend,” who would not for the world turn him to ridicule, but rather condoled with him on the sportive propensities of some enemy unknown. Thus, although Tom was the sole cause of Mr. Sniba's misfortunes, that injured worthy, far from regarding him as such, looked upon him as a kindred spirit, a friend to whose sympathizing gaze he might disclose the secrets of a confiding soul.

Ay, truly, the soul of Snibs was confiding ; his heart was soft ; doomed by a thankless profession to spend his days in the society of thoughtless boys, in the daily endurance of juvenile scorn, what wonder that he now poured his hidden thoughts into any ear that would attend ?- What wonder at the nature of the communication which he made the following morning to Tom Briton, the universal condoler?

" Mr. Briton,” said Snibs, as they walked together, (Tom was then going to visit Eustace Weston), “ Mr. Briton, I feel that I can rely upon your still maintaining the character –

"Certainly, certainly, Mr. Snibs," said Tom, with a grave face, but "a smile in his eye.”

Mr. Snibs remained silent, in doubt how to continue.

“Mr. Briton," said he, at length, “ my happiness is at stake-Do you know my age ?-I see you don't.-Well, sir, would you believe it-it's fifty! I am fifty years of age, sir, and I am not in love ! N. $.- VOL. vi.

2 p

“ I never heard,” remarked Tom,“ that not being in love made people unhappy."

" It does me, sir-it does me!- I am very miserable I have been a drudge for fifty years, and, in all that time, have had no chance of putting an end to my trouble by marriage. You, sir, are of the age to understand these matters.--Mr. Briton, I feel years growing upon me,- matters are desperate !-something must be done !"

“ Have you never been in the society of ladies ?”

“ Yes, yes ; I've examined lots :—but, that's the thing, you see the best I know, is only a seventy pounder!”

“ Do you take them by weight ?" cried Tom, in surprise; “ if so, certainly you have a very light set of acquaintance !"

“ Pounds sterling," explained Snibs, with a sigh.

“Oho!" said Tom, "] understand now, your anxiety to get married.”

“ Just so. Can you help me on in any way? If you knew, Mr. Briton, the pains I have taken, if you knew the anxiety-the misery, -0,0!-I wish I was in love."

“ You will undertake to fall in love," said Tom, “ if I show you a woman of property?"

“ Won't I ?" replied Snibs.
“ Though she be ugly ?”
“What's the odds ?" replied the philosophic bachelor.
" If she be a vixen ?”
" I'll be her match !"

“ Then I have a lady that will exactly suit you :- I will assist your endeavours; you must come to London with me, and, for the present, I give you the name to cherish :- Dorothea Jones.”

“ How much is she worth ?" inquired the cautious Snibs.
“ A few thousands."
Dear creature !-Is she a widdy?"
" No; a maid."
“ And what's her age ?”
“ More than fifty."
“ Do you think I stand a chance ?"

“With my assistance,” replied Tom,“ success is certain. Are you still with Dr. Pitchitin ?" .

“ Dr. Pitchitin went off to Australia, and I keep his school, but it's fell off sadly. I'm so glad I'm in love ! Dorothea !-when we're domesticated, I'll call her Dolly :--Mrs. Dolly Snibs !"

The delighted usher pressed Tom's hand in silenl gratitude, as he drew this simple and affecting picture of future conjugal felicity.

From the first moment of seeing Mr. Snibs, Tom had concluded, in his own mind, the match here decided upon; and it was with no small delight, that he found the readiness with which his intentions were met half way. Meanwhile, in London, other matters required arrangement, and, although bound by a certain spell to Richmond, I felt anxious to learn how my father's affairs were progressing; old Atherley's pressing invitation to prolong our stay was, therefore, declined; and, with a promise to continue our acquaintance, (that I most joyfully gave,) we took leave of Atherley Cottage, and its kind,

hospitable inmates, to embark with Mr. Snibs, on board the Richmond steamer.

Hallowed to the almost exclusive service of the votaries of pleasure La delightful place is that Richmond steamer! It was towards evening when we trod its boards, and the pic-nic parties were returning to their homes. Empty hampers were piled upon the deck.-0, with what pleasure had those hampers once been packed, with what eagerness had they been unpacked !-but they were not all empty : snugly ensconced in one corner of the boat, was a stout old dame, with her daughter, and her daughter's husband, and her daughter's two children, and the old dame found some pleasant cordial yet lurking in the hamper that crowned the circle; and the dame's daughter, and the dame's daughter's husband, were hob-nobbing together very happily, with something they seemed to enjoy; and the little children were eating plum-cake, lump after lump, with an energy perfectly alarming. But, try as they would, this cake, beyond a certain point, would not pack more closely : the little darlings could eat no more ; and the remaining favours were generously dispensed to the other children on board. Then every little urchin, and there were not a few, was running about for the next half hour, bearing in its hand a huge slice of moist plum cake, at which it nibbled perpetually. I could not look at cake for a fortnight afterwards! Then there was a young man with a little blue cloth cap, beneath which his hair twirled forth, and blue jacket and bright buttons, and his arms majestically folded, pacing the decks like a real admiral, as his fond mother, who sat near, declared to her neighbours he should one day be ;-he looked very fierce, and there seemed a fire in his eye that saidAlthough we are going all the way to London, I shan't be sea-sick ! Over the cabin window reclined three or four elegant young gentlemen, with cigars in their mouths, trying to make believe that they liked the taste of smoke, although every body could see it half choked them; they were dressed in exquisite taste, and regaled themselves with biscuits and brandy and water,-I beg their pardon! they did not use anything so vulgar as water,-brandy and soda-water. Near these, a less aspiring knot were making a luncheon, dinner, or tea,--I know not which they call these steam-boat meals,-on bottled porter and bread and cheese : it was hot weather, and the cheese looked very greasy: I would almost have preferred eating the plum-cake. Moreover, there were languid ladies, who ate captain's biscuit with the greatest gentility, breaking off from a small mass a delicate fragment, holding it lightly with the thumb and ring-finger of the right hand, the other fingers extended, inclining the head a little to the right and backwards, drooping the eyelids, slowly opening the lips, and still more slowly inserting the morsel, which it took half an hour to swallow. There were hoyden girls pulling everybody to pieces, and tumbling over your legs every two minutes ; and there were lover couples very happy, the gentlemen bringing seats for the ladies, and the ladies sitting so gracefully, and looking so charming,-only the dense smoke from the chimney caused many blacks to fall, and they all looked rather sooty. We had scarcely started from Richmond, before Mr. Snibs was missed; I went in search of him down stairs into the cabin, and there I found him,-happy. At a number of tables, parties, smaller or larger, were seated at tea; the smell of shrimps in the whole cabin was abominable ;- for shrimps are a maritime accompaniment to the tea-table, and therefore in great request among the Thames packet travellers. Mr. Snibs was drinking tea, and eating bread and butter furiously.


“Only fifteen-pence," cried he, “come along !" “I feel no inclination," replied I.

“ Ah !” replied Snibs, “the rolls are so nice, I couldn't resist !Nice shrimps, a'nt they ?

“ How do you know? You have none."

“No; they're too expensive. I go by the smell. It's a great luxury to take tea in a shrimpy room !"

There was a shuffling of feet above and the tuning of a harp and fiddle. Tom Briton descended with mischief in his eye, and took his seat beside Snibs.

“ They're going to dance," said Tom.

“ Are they?" replied Snibs, carelessly, at the same time finishing his roll :-" Waiter! another roll !- More butter !” He then put five or six lumps of sugar into his empty cup, preparatory to pouring out the tea.

“You do not usually take so much sugar," said I.

“ No," replied Snibs, in a confidential tone, “but,-I'll tell you what,-it's all in for the money, and it's pity to leave any, you know !" Another roll was brought and laid siege to. “Mr. Briton, won't you take tea too ?”

“No, I thank you, Mr. Snibs ; but have you heard a new regulation ?"

“ No; what?"

“ To encourage dancing for the amusement of passengers, any gentleman who takes part in more than five quadrilles will have his fare returned.”

Parsimony was one of Snib's virtues.

“What's that you say?-Fare returned !-Nonsense !-besides, I can't dance."

“Of course not: I did not expect you would," said Tom; " ] merely told you this as a piece of information.”

“ I don't know, though,-"

“O, Mr. Snibs, for you to dance would, of course, be absurd ;-do not attempt such a thing !-really

Mr. Snibs had at first suspected a trick, but Tom's tone answered its purpose in utterly disarming all suspicion.

"I'll dance," cried he.

“ Pray, Mr. Snibs, do not make yourself ridiculous! This arrangement is not intended for such as you. You are unused to dancing ;unfit, -really

“ You think I can't dance !-I'll show you l-Eighteen pence, remember! Let me finish this roll and I'll join in the next quadrille!"

Full of tea and rolls and fixed intentions, Mr. Snibs shortly bore bis ponderous form up the cabin-stairs, and stood with us by his side on deck.

« AnteriorContinua »