Imatges de pÓgina
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stance, the bill of fare of a certain very dashing establishment, not a hundred miles from the Duke of York's column, it is asserted, contains the following choice of expenses :

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but this may be a piece of mauvaise plaisantarie.

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My moral spring, the seed-time of my wild oats, however, fell not in days when Yorkshire squires, or the breeders of Welch flannel, or Highland kine, contributed an annual stipend to support the mob of gentlemen who live at ease, and do more of nothing than any other race under the moon. Dinners from oysters to ice at three shillings a-head, and champagne as cheap as bottled stout, were things unknown a score of years ago, when youths of spirit fed as lavishly as Lucullus, and slaked their thirst as regardless of expense as Cleopatra when she drank to Antony. As will be supposed, I was at this epoch up to the chin in difficulties-a little more, and my head would

have been absolutely under water. In fact, I had got into the worst set that a young man can by any possibility fall in with.

The most careless lounger through the paths of life, if he do not altogether shut his eyes to character, will observe that nature, in amalgamating the instinct of shabbiness with our tendencies, has bestowed upon it the property of expansion in the ratio of the condition of those subjects in which it exists. Among the six millions of the Creator's image that exhibit the dignity of the human species, and its power of accommodation to a vegetable diet in that modern Eden which poets call the Emerald Isle, it is very doubtful that a real specimen of the sterling stingy is in existence. Search the environs of London, such suburban villages as Clapham, Tulse Hill, Sydenham, and the like; and here and there, in some retired citizen with his plum in the threeand-a-half per cents., or quaker practising mortification after a fashion that a Sybarite might envy, you may haply detect cases of prominent meanness; but for first-rate samples of the eminently beggarly-for genuine specimens of the superlatively sordid-seek among the cadets of rank. The law of primogeniture having set up a golden calf in each aristocratic household, nature supplies, in the junior branches, a service of brazen penates. Now, there are two species of paltriness: there is the niggardliness of the mere miser who sets out a dinner for his friends of eggs and turnips, borrowed from his neighbour's garden and hen-roost, eking out his family supper with the shells and parings of the same, which stinginess is occasionally allied to a capacity for a good deed or generous impulse; and there is the more deeply steeped meanness of the selfish libertine, who stakes fame, conduct, character, even life, to escape honourable exertion, while he insures dishonourable luxury.

In thus implying low motives, with their consequences, to high people, I broach no doctrine whose origin is personal spleen or damage. I pity rather than scorn those who set up for gentlemen without the tools; and, though I confess to more than one palpable aristocratic hit, I cannot call to mind any noble friend who did more than borrow my money, which everybody cannot say for him or herself.

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But I have known a member of parliament enact the sharper on the turf-one of an estate higher do that in the yachting line which men call swindling; while I was taught what the perfection of "a dirty fellow" is, by one who certainly did not hold that title by courtesy. My own career, at this time, augured ill for the health of my sire's pockets, my sagacity never contemplating a problem so intricate as an expenditure confined within the limits of my own. That I associated with those who spent largely was to me a necessity that I should do likewise.

The upshot of all this, and of that conclave so virtuously addressed to my benefit, recorded in the last chapter, was my father's urgent commands, backed by the proposals of Uncle Tom, that I should at once give up the commodities of my vagabond town life and betake myself forthwith to domain, in the sporting county of Leicester; where, under pretence of field-pleasures, I was to nibble a second time at the matrimonial bait. In describing my sposa that was to be, Uncle Tom waxed eloquent. Using many endearing terms to lure my roving fancy to the point at issue, he harangued enough of charming country simplicity, domestic affections, dignity of carriage, principle, and decorum, and a well-regulated mind, to make one, less astute than I, surmise that he was to be wedded to a Gorgon. However, endowing her with the cardinal virtues and thirty thousand pounds, he wound up with "the finest girl in the county.' An approving grunt from my progenitor attested his satisfaction with the item of the thirty thousands. Both looked at me with visages indicative of belief that such charms, united, were never obnoxious to objection. They say youth is disinterested: I deem it to be more selfish than maturity. It is only lavish of that which costs nothing; the gold obtained without care, is as easily parted from; but it is impatient of a day, an hour, a minute snatched from its pleasures; avid of these, it grudges the price to be paid for them; thence its tendency to incur debts it cannot defray. I was certainly rather less, than more, immaculate than the youths of my standing. Thirty thousand pounds though in the three per cents. (backed by my uncle's liberal provision for past and future liabilities) were a desirable acquisition to a spendthrift who reckoned champagne (the fashionable wine of the day) and opera-boxes among the necessaries of life; and yet did I, no whit dazzled by the catalogue raisonnée of Miss Mary Turville's perfections, look as steadily my aversion to this wedding project as Bertram said it in the motto to my chapter. We feel, before we define our feelings. It was not, however, the holy state that I eschewed; it was the destruction of the most concealed, and therefore the most cherished of my ambitions. It was that in my wildest hours a soft and fairy vision would flit across my memory, and imprint on it, ere it vanished, a gracious promise for the future. Vague and indefinite were my hopes; for "In many mortal forms I rashly sought

The shadow of that idol of my thought." Yet, warring with my other and better nature, and often successfully interposing between me and folly, were those vestal visitants endeared to me as harbingers of a possible hereafter-of which Charlotte, loving and beloved, was the presiding deity. I gave, nevertheless, the lie to

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my visage and intention by the following dutiful reply to the family speeches, addressed more particularly to my father:-" Very well, sir, when am I to be off?"

"The day after to-morrow, my dear boy, if that jumps with your humour, my dear boy," he repeated with glistening eyes, giving my hand at the same time an affectionate squeeze in the delight of this unlooked-for assent.

"Very fine," quoth I to myself; and aloud-" Shall I make Maher my avant-courier, sir?"

"Certainly, certainly," replied my father, although he was far from seeing the necessity.

Here Uncle Tom signalised himself by thrusting into my hand a cheque for a hundred pounds.

At the specified time we reached that delicious part of Charnwood Forest inhabited by the Turvilles. "Is not this a blessed retreat for your latter days, you lucky dog?" remarked Uncle Tom as we drove through the lodge-gates.

"A well-chosen spot for a week's hunting," was my temperate answer as we traversed a heathy wilderness. Our host was a totally different creature from that I had supposed my uncle's fidus Achates. For the picture drawn by my imagination of a humorist like himself, I had to substitute that of a quick man of the world, of constitutional easiness of access and temper, somewhat restrained by a strong leaven of family pride. For this the best judges gave him carte-blanche (his ancestor in direct line having come in with the Conqueror). The term old family always delights me (as though a rich and long-titled family were older than that of the most obscure individual in this work-o'-day world). It is the darling sin of pitiful human nature to value gifts We are uplifted above our extraneous of merit beyond others. fellow-creatures for that our predecessor sacked a castle, butchered a generation, and divided the profit therefrom between himself and suzerain! or an usurer's money-bags purchase half a county, and lo, his son's son is a prince! There is another guess sort of gentilitygenius be praised for its definition

"Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit

Do give thee five-fold blazen."

The lady of Beaulieu Turville was endowed with as much pride, and lacked the good temper of her husband; their family consisted of two daughters, co-heiresses the elder was plain, unaffected, pleasing, and about to be married; the younger, infinitely better-looking, was a bold, dashing, lively sort of a girl, whose discourse stopped short of the masculine, in that she had not adopted the then prevailing fashion of oaths. The unsophisticated maiden of Uncle Tom's panegyric was, in fact, a true growth of the soil, an inbred and thorough sportswoman, who knew as much of the stable, and as little of domestic affairs, as her father's groom. She also evinced a shrewd sense of her own importance as an heiress by that decision of tone Maher and manner which is the grave of interest in a woman. had prepared me for the character of my intended, but not for the gullibility of my respectable relative. I made my toilet an important item of that day's procedure. I was bestowed in a very re

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