« AnteriorContinua »
A quadrille had just commenced, and, seating himself near the dancers, the bewildered pedagogue looked in despair on the mazy movements. How on earth should his feet be guided through them! he had new shoes, too, (thanks to the major,) and they creaked horribly : the quadrille advanced, and Snibs became more and more confused; that simple romance was to him most complex.
That romance ! and is there, then, romance in a dance like this? There may be romance in Holbein's Dance of Death ; there may be romance in the dance of witches on Walpurgis' Night; there may be romance in the dance of fairies on the greensward ring; ronance even, perhaps, in the dance of Spanish peasants to sound of castanet ;-but a quadrille beneath the smoky chimney of a Richmond steamer, what romance can be contained in that?-it is in fact the representation by symbolic movements of the COURSE OF Love. If any doubt, to him let this explain :
In the opening figure are exhibited two opposed pairs of lovers, happy in themselves, devoted to each other, resisting all temptation ; the pairs advance; become intimately associated together; each remains faithful, and they pass on with unaltered attachment; then they occasionally meet each other, but no cause for jealousy arises, and, each gentleman occupying himself solely with his chosen lady, they dance about with one another to prove how well they are contented in themselves.
All this, however, is too good to last : the hottest water cools by standing, and, unless the flame that warms it be continually fed, love, that once bubbled over, will grow lukewarm and flat. In the second figure this is illustrated. Tired of her partner, the lady, but now so fond, cruelly deserts him and flirts in a most heartless manner with the lover over the way. At one time she will run to meet him, and then avoid and tantalize the equally faithless swain; while the deserted maiden loses no time in retaliating, by acting in a similar manner towards the slighted gentleman.
In the next figure matters assume a still darker aspect; the plot thickens, and the faithless lovers are at cross purposes. The gentleman over the way advances and offers his hand to the coquette, she passes on; thinks of the offer; and, in returning, grants him hers. The deserted ones, on either side, alarmed at so serious an appearance, grasp the remaining hands of their false ones to dissuade them from such a step : they are all long united in consultation, which happily ends in each reclaiming the lost favourite. Notwithstanding, however, that the afflicted swain had regained his own mistress, the charms of her opponent have touched his heart: to the dismay of the returned damsel he acts as faithlessly as she, and is reclaimed in a similar manner.
But not completely! The lady over the way, still touched, persuades lier suitor to visit their friends opposite : they go once, and, returning happily, he is ready to go once more, when, of her own accord, she suddenly deserts him, and he is compelled to return, heartstricken and desolate. The gentleman thus provided with two sweethearis cruelly advances to taunt his rival, who, all alone, is reduced to the necessity of making overtures of peace : the power of the dance
at this crisis vindicated by a graceful pas seul, which once more chains down the affection of the faithless one; they all unite in peace, and, the solo dancer returning with his lady, each couple makes demonstration of mutual happiness. Ladies' hearts, however, are much alike, and he who but now was blessed with two, finds himself deserted. By a repetition of the scene, Terpsichorean justice is executed previous to the final happiness.
To enhance the pleasures of quiet possession, before retiring with their lovers, the maidens coquette once more; and then, baving, according to the forms of society, evinced their mutual respect, respect so necessary to a happy alliance, they lovingly embrace, and totally wrapt up in each other, regardless of all else, launch off to a waltz tune, into the whirligig of matrimony: while less giddy couples walk away steadily and peaceably together.
All this I apprehend to be the meaning of the numerous evolutions which compose what is called the “ first set" of quadrilles, and it was on the developement of this story that Mr. Snibs looked, with bewilderment in his eye. The waltz was over,-time, in a steamer of short passage, must not be wasted; the harp and fiddle paused an instant, and struck up again : new sets were formed, and Mr. Snibs, rushing straight forwards, stood before a lady;-his courage failed him,-his words stuck in his throat; but she guessed his meaning, and rising, led him,-yes, led him,- to a vacant place.
The partner Mr. Snibs had chosen, or, to speak more correctly, the partner on which Mr. Snibs had stumbled, was a good tempered, stout old dame, who led him at once to the head of one of the sets. The harp and fiddle having performed the prelude to the ballet, away they started, and Mr. Spibs, seeing that motion was decidedly necessary, moved forthwith, and hopped about, he knew not how or whither, until the end of the figure; when he found himself in the middle of a set which was being performed at a distance of some yards from that to which he had been originally annexed : discovered and captured by his fair partner, he was brought back in triumph to his post.
“Do as I do, next time," whispered the lady.
So he did, and followed her about, closely mimicking every movement, to the amusement of the by-standers.
At length came the pastorale, covered with the execration of awk. ward gentlemen dancers from its invention downwards. Mr. Snibs had seen beautiful feats of agility performed in solo by the gentleman opposite, a little bow-legged tailor, and his turn came to emulate them. he outdid himself, and defied all competition. O, it would have gladdened the heart of him who foresaw the display of elegance that the pastorale was calculated to call forth, it would have gladdened that man's heart, could he have beheld the flounderiugs of Mr. Snibs !-he flew to the right; he flew to the left; he retreated backwards; he ran forwards; he sprang into the air; descending, his foot glanced over an apple-peel, and he fell prostrate upon the deck! Then ceased the music, the sounds of the twanging harp vibrated their last upon the ear; the fiddle ceased, and the nimble foot of the dancer was stayed. Around the form of the prostrate one is congregated the throng; the men crowd on all sides,-suppressed laughter
proceedeth from the lips of the scorner,-and the voice of condolence arises. Raise thyself, Snibs, and look around! blush not that thy feet have slipped on the decks of the steamer ! swear not at that apple-peel,-innocent agent of ill! nor at the hand that pared it from the ripe fruit of the tenant of the orchard! A voice proceeds from the rosy lips of his partner, its tones are tones of compassion,-“ Sir, are you hurt?" is the question. “Not much,” is the groan-impeded answer of the risen Snibs. She thrusts a card into his hand, and is lost among the separating throng.
“ That was an awkward accident,” said Tom Briton, following Snibs in his retreat to the cabin.
“Awkward ! Mr. Briton; I was doing it well, only that apple-peel,that, I won't swear, Mr. Briton."
“ Pray don't, Mr. Snibs; you dance better than I thought."
"I will tell you a secret, Mr. Briton ;-I always had a natural taste for dancing; considering I was never taught, I got on amazingly today; you've no idea how I enjoyed myself !”
“I perceived that you did,” said Tom,
“ Yes; if I only knew the steps and the figures,—but what matter's that! In dancing, Mr. Briton,-in dancing, if I may so express myself, I'm a child of nature! The rules of art, sir, will do for them as have "
“Excuse my interrupting you," - said Tom,“ but what card is that in your hand ? "
“What the lady gave me,-- Signor Vigenzo, Professor of Dancing, Charles Street, Mile End;'--she's his wife.”
“ Yes, and travels in these steamers, doubtless, on purpose to distribute her husband's cards among partners in the dance."
Such was the fact.
“Do you know, Mr. Snibs," said Tom, after a pause—“ do you know that I would advise you to take a few lessons.'
“Quite needless, Mr. Briton.”
“What I mean," said Tom, “ is, that your Dorothea passionately, admires dancing, -it is the readiest way to her heart:-50, if you were to learn some hornpipe, or— ".
“No use," replied Snibs, “I could do one out of my own head." “But, perhaps, she might not understand it."
“No matter, I would dance till she did. You have no idea what a nice dance I could invent! I feel it in me, the faculty, the power, the-the-manufactory.”.
" It is the curse of original inventors," said Tom Briton, “ that they seldom reap profit themselves ; they generally meet with neglect. Rather than initiate a dance, I would advise you, therefore, to learn one already established, -something popular, combining energetic action with grace of attitude,”
“ I see,” cried Mr. Snibs, “ I see !"
At this moment the boat stopped. “ Vauxhall !” cried a stentorian voice at the top of the stairs, “any passengers for Vauxhall ?"
“Yes," said Tom, “ we get out here."
There was no alternative; and, unwillingly quitting the delights of the Richmond steamer, Mr. Snibs soon stood with us upon the pier by Vauxhall Bridge. It was already dusk,-too late, as Tom observed, to “ do any business ;" and, having been deprived of our own lodgings, we retired for the night, with Snibs as our guest, to || seek shelter in the nearest hotel.
CHAPTER XI. Tom Briton.-Morning calls.- Orlando v. Snibs.-Literary Disclosures ;--- and
further Designs against the Heart of Tabitha Jones. He who meets with a man in the world, and has never seen him in the midst of his family, however intimate he may be, can boast only of half an acquaintance. I am desirous that my readers should be better acquainted with Tom Briton, and, for that purpose, now think it advisable to give some particulars of his domestic life. At the period of which I am writing I myself knew nothing of this, and it may be out of order to tell it here : on the score of order, however, as I am careless of censure, so I am not by any means solicitous of praise : what it is my desire the reader should know concerning my life, I tell him, and that whenever I think needful, or whenever it may occur to me, without much troubling my head concerning place or time.
Tom Briton never spoke to me of his family, and I pressed no questions, lest something of sad recollection might be called up. The facts, as I afterwards found, were these :—His father, descended of high family, and possessed of enormous wealth, was cursed with a miserly disposition He lived in the meanest part of London ; deprived himself even of necessaries ; living only in the consciousness of possession. Left with a sister one year younger than himself, at an early age, to the sole care of this parent, it seemed probable that the two children would grow in total ignorance; for it was beyond the stretch of their father's generosity to afford them means of instruction. And yet he loved them; he loved them too much,—for he loved them as his treasures, which, never parted from his sight, were never permitted to have intercourse with the world.
But, fortunately, unlike gold, the two children ate and drank: had they fasted, their father would have kept them for ever; but, as it was, when a near relative (an uncle) in Sussex offered to take them to his home, the offer was gladly accepted. By their uncle, the miser's children were petted and educated. Tom grew to a noble youth; his sister Mary became a beautiful and accomplished girl, the belle of the parish. Brother and sister were a handsome pair. At length the uncle died, leaving by will to his nephew five hundred a year, and the same to his niece at the death of her aunt, with whom she was to continue to live.
Tom, after a time, took lodgings in London-living for fun; but not for fun alone. Although five hundred a year was no large sum, he found it large enough to satisfy the dictates of a warm beart. Deeds of charity like Tom's, were not meant to be published ; one, however, that afterwards came to my knowledge, I cannot avoid mentioning. A poor relation (all men have poor relations), one who
had known better days, and had fallen with his family into undeserved poverty, wrote to old Briton for the loan of ten pounds. The letter came while Tom was with his father.
“Psha !" cried the old man, pushing it over to his son,-“ Lend money! lend money !-A poor man, too, with no security! Write, and tell him not to pester me!-I sha'n't waste paper myself on answering it.”
“ I will get rid of his importunity," said Tom.
And so he did. Journeying at once to the poor man's house, he offered the ten pounds, in his father's name, as a Christmas present (it was winter then): he remained some time, whiling the hours away with kind intercourse, and at length took leave. Soon after, in the leaves of an old Bible, one of the distressed family lighted on a treasure; they had taken it down to read for consolation, and were consoled with notes to the value of an hundred pounds. Tom had secretly placed them there; one fifth of his own annual income. Every year, but at different times, and in different places, to elude discovery, a similar treasure was found. These relations, though poor, were industrious; the means of applying labour thus found, they laboured with good heart and gained a little competence; then the annual God-send ceased, and the happy family blessed the unknown friend who had rescued them from misery; ay, and from death.
No wonder Tom Briton had a happy mind !- No wonder his laugh was so cheery, his step so light!
I feel that I am trenching on private matters, but I must plead templation :—the crime is committed, and now I'll go on with my story.
The sun had risen from his rosy bed; the cocks had crowed several times; the lark, -bah! I can't manage the sentiment! in short, then, it was morning again, and we were all out of bed. It was Friday morning (for, be it remembered, we spent only one night at Richmond) -Friday morning, then; breakfast was over; and the great bell of St. Paul's struck eleven. I mention St. Paul's, because it sounds well, although, I have no doubt, other clocks nearer at hand, down to the Dutch clock on our mantelpiece, struck eleven as well as their more exalted relative.
“Now," said Tom, “ with your permission, Mr. Snibs, and with your companionship, we'll make a few morning calls.”
" Where shall we go first ?" asked I.
The intended was on his legs in a minute ; and we were all on our way to visit the Misses Jones. We had but a very short distance to walk, and soon arrived at their dwelling. Entering, without ceremony, (for my father's wealth had raised us to the rank of privileged visiters,) we passed through the shop, and opening the parlour-door, found Tabitha alone, her hands covered with lather, busily engaged in -washing the monkey!
Orlando, who seemed to have been enjoying the operation, looked spitefully at the intruders, but not more spitetully than the lady, who found herself disturbed by three gentlemen,-one, too, a perfect stran