ページの画像
PDF
ePub

you make

ance every moment, in an atmosphere of black satin and mölle fleurs. Now, go on with your vocabulary of compliments; do you suppose one woman can find no pleasanter occupation for herself and her cavalier servante than talking about another? But first, who are you, whence come you, and what's your business ?”

" The unworthy kinsman of a most honoured gentleman, the host of this poor hospitality—from my father's hall— pleasure ! “Pithy and to the purpose. Shall

any stay amongst us? ?"

Cela depend! If there is any faith to be put in appearances, it is probable.

“Ah! a young speculator in the billing and cooing line. Well, if you have enterprise enough you will succeed here; observe, they drive business of that sort rather briskly in these parts."

The spouter of this liberal libretto was a lady, of whom I had heard during my visits to the Irish metropolis as a belle somewhat passé, but with a reputation as a light o' love, fresh and blooming as it was 'ere her summers told a score. She is still in the flesh, and still haunts the alleys and temples of the Baiæ of Cotswold—the ghost indeed of her former self, but still not quite invisible—though of her countenance no more remains to be seen than the tip of her nose. This modern instance of the axiom, “truth is stranger than fiction,” was a beauty in her youth. As she advanced in years, that invidious attack of epicenity-a copious harvest of the chin-began to manifest itself, whereupon the sufferer set up gorgets to her caps, which for a time successfully " masked” the natural chevaux-de-frise. As her autumn progressed, the stubble bristled beyond all bounds, and nothing remained but to muzzle the enemy with a counterscarp. To this end, eschewing day-lighi, she is now only to be seen visiting the glimpses of the moon in a helmet whose visor is never up-a turban, whose folds leave no portion of the face divine visible, as has been said, but the apex of the proboscis.

You can't lend your ear courteously to the nonsense of a nymph of two score and ten (that is I can't, not having been vouchsafed an equal grace), particularly when you have something else in your head-to say nothing of your heart. While my ancient Aphrodite was skimming the ocean of small talk, drawn by those loves and graces which form the band called amour propre, my spirit was sorely troubled within me; and, after watching the entrance doors till my brain reeled, I passed into the farther room, without the courage to cast a look behind.

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread;
And, having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a fearful fiend

Doth close behind him tread. This was not attended with much improved comfort; for, in the chamber I removed to, was old Longueville, looking monstrously lackadaisical, and evidently anticipating an arrival as anxiously as I did myself, though obviously not with similar feelings.

He was seated in an easy chair-the very tableau of a sexagenarian beau, and which the Lord Ogleby of its most finished representative might stand in such relation of comparison as the daubs of -- and — - to the best productions of Reynolds or Lawrence. He regarded me as I approached; and though his eye was uneasy, it wanted none of its habitual kindness. But how easy it is to detect there is something to conceal, or turn aside, where the speech avoids familiar subjects or homely and accustomed allusions !

“ Hyde,” he spake, “ for a vicious youth, one sees considerable virtue in thy fashion of attire— tis chaste, and purity is the beauty of holiness. Where dost buy thy blacking ?”

“That grace is of our varlet, uncle kind. All praise that visions of virtue still float around thy venerable " Brutus :"*" Hyperion curls !" Dost bake thy wigs at home?''

“Apropos of hair, what was that Irish woman with the beard ogling and whispering you about? Beware of her: she's a female Saturn, that desires to devour every male adult that comes in her way. Hyde, what was the anthopophagus instilling into thine ear?"

“Something about a Circe in sables that is expected here. Lo! the portal opens- enter enchantress.”

My uncle's face caught my eye as I turned it on the party that came laughing onwards, and the expression was full of varied emotion, which I could not avoid observing, though I stayed not to analyze it. The leader of this hilarious band was one likely-for the moment, at least-to be the cynosure of any circle she might enter. She was a ripe Hebe, of some seventeen summers, with golden tresses, eyes of amethyst, and cheeks like the sunny segment of the peach. Though so young, her person, which was the perfection of womanly symmetry, partook of the character of the Venus genetrix: its stately luxuriousness rendered more striking by the slim and rather diminutive figures of the two young men, who were her companions. One of these was her brother: the other

Poor Fanny Hseldom has so fair a flower been transplanted from its happy fatherland to wither so soon, and so sadly! The bright girl passed with the step of an antelope towards the seat from which my uncle arose, as she Aung the boon caress of her round rich arms on the hands held out to welcome her. O Zeno, Zeno! well was it for thine immortality, that thy lot was cast in Athens, instead of the neighbourhood of the Montpellier Spa!

While this reception was in progress, a note arrived, whose contents were evidently not relished by the master of the festival. Nevertheless he bated no jot of gentle courtesy ; but, bestirring himself vigorously, he set several tables in battle array—at least, those who beleaguered them upon active freebooting-and, at the same time, instigated a Mrs. O'somebody to pound music out of a piano. Anon, to the air of “the Wind that shakes the Barley," began, in much earnest,

"change sides and down the middle---poussette, and right and left:" the Milesians being a people equally distinguished for physical as for moral (or immoral) agitation. Being, by the vicissitudes of the «lance, thrown into juxtaposition with the hirsute Hibernian before mentioned, I asked, whether the late comer, with the violet eyes, might be the ravisher to whom she adverted ?

-m !

“ No," she answered, “ this divinity is, as they say, more the Proserpina than the Cytherea of our modern mythology: the real Paphian Queen has got the spleen, or some other lady-like epidemic, and wont descend to-night. But don't break your heart. I suppose you remain among us till to-morrow, and conseqnently may be certain to encounter the etheriality within these walls, or see them razed to the foundation. “This widow's the sun of our system””-and she lummed the refrain of the ballad in the School for Scandal, slightly parodying the words.

You have selected your illustration from a characteristic source,” I observed.

“So there really is something in you: miracles will never cease ! Sheridan and a Shropshire squire on visiting terms! Is it possible this precocious youth comprehends my heathen moods—the active and passive of my pagan pantheism? Oh! it's high time I should faint! A la bonne heure, here comes the Wind that shakes the Barley ;' how reviving !"—so saying, she set sail . down the middle and up again'—"yout!” — no, not youth — wriggles astern, and wrinkles at the prow.

After a copious exhibition of rich wines and cordials the guests went their ways, and so did those who remained—but, as it struck me, neither the uncle nor nephew to repose; at all events, I can answer for one of the twain. As it was probably not one of Maher's saints' days, he was in my rooin when I returned, disposing it for my comfort. He made some observation, to which I suppose I gave a practical reply, for as he limped away he muttered, “talk of a horse's heels! never saw a baste let out so spiteful as that-never did, by J-, never, that's a fact.”

I had liardly shaken off a most uncomfortable vision of the night, “which was not all a dream,” when a letter was put into my hands that filled me with alarm. It was from old Morain, and the news it contained of my father allowed not a moment's longer absence from his side. Having communicated its contents to my uncle, who was greatly moved at them, he ordered post horses instantly to his carriage, and in an hour from its receipt I was on my way to Tewkesbury. As we parted he gave some reason for not accompanying me, which seemed little satisfactory to himself; as for me, I neither heard nor cared to hear it, for my heart had anticipated its journey.

"The squire's a bed, sir," the old butler observed, as I alighted at the door, where he had stood watching for my arrival from the moment he thought there was a probability of it. “ He went to bed at his usual time, and made no mention of being out of sorts, but his hour is come. He does not know I sent for you, so account for your return in the best way you can when you ineet—it had better be in the breakfast-room to-inorrow, as I think, sir.”

It was a clear frosty morning, and I had been anxiously expecting my father for some time.

was out, and the crimson walls and hangings of the room in which I sat, filled it, as it were, with a warm and ruddy atmosphere, when the door opened and he entered. My presence did not appear to strike him as extraordinary; he merely said, “Good day, my boy Hyde, how pleasantly the morning comes in !" and took his seat at

The sun

the upper end of the table, a deep rosy tint encompassing the spot on which his chair stood.

Prepared as I was for some great change, my very soul died at the spectral contrast before me. Prudence, discretion, self-restraint, all yielded to it; and, in the agony of my terror, I exclaimed, “Oh, my father, what is this—what has come upon you?-you look like a statue."

He turned a marble glance on me - had the celestial spark already departed? Presently we placed him on his bed, and watched him sleep into the grave! Call it phantasy, foolishness, if you will; but I cannot the less think the spirit had left its tenement of clay before we met for our last greeting: when the soul has set, may not the twilight of existence still flicker around us; as, when the sun--the life of nature-disappears, its rays still linger tó soothe us into night?

The inheritance to which I had succeeded was in a much more embarrassed state than my worst anticipations permitted me to suppose. My father, indeed, was a strict tenant for life, but for that reason his incumbrances were more ruinous than they could have been, could he have mortgaged every acre entailed upon his son. He had borrowed money to large amounts, for what purpose there was no means of ascertaining; and as the risk was great, because heavy insurances were to be kept up, the premiums were of course exorbitant. Still, however contracteu, I resolved every creditor should be satisfied to the utmost farthing: my father had pledged himself to it when living, and death is not an acquittance of honour. He was a fond father, and a faithful of heart—the good old man for whom I wore the livery of death; but how different had it been with me if his head had turned on what would be, rather than his imagination on what might! Was his a rare delusion-an isolated beguiling? Answer me, ye who teach your children ambition for emulation ; to seek gold before a good na.ne; to look abroad for condition rather than at home for content. My position was at this time one of infinitely greater perplexity than it would have been had I been reared to less aspiring prospects. With the many charges affecting it-in honour, if not in honesty, and my mother's fortune to boot-the estate of B— was literally a barren heritage, to say notliing of the charges that would arise out of keeping the “old house at home" over my head. The twelve hundred pounds a year which nominally accruel from it might be taken at £800 realized de fucto. Of this my mother took the half at one swoop; while the mere interest of my father's debts would swallow £300 more. Thus was I to support the character of a country gentleman with a flourishing fortune at his bank, a dozen servants, a stable of horses, a kennel of dogs, a domain employing another dozen of labourers, and to give a couple of dinneis a week to my neighbours, besides having two of the six spare rooms always occupied by friends—out of a net income of one hundred per annum. This is no extreme case; it has its parallels in every county in England at this hour. What, but this state of position upon pressure, could have fostered the growth, in this christian land, of a society of moral Thugs--those unclean beasts of civilization, the jakes-fed jackals of the law ?

7

NOTITIA VENATICA.

BY R. T. VYNER, ESQ.

In offering these practical remarks on fox-hunting to the public, I hope the reader will be charitable enough to indulge what may be called the parental fondness of the writer, while humbly introducing this child of his authorship for their perusal, which is a kind of record of not only other men's actions, but also of some of the happiest moments of his life. That part of the contents of these

pages

have formerly appeared before the world in the shape of a book, is a truth well known to some of the sporting readers of the day; nevertheless, that book has become out of print from the great success with which the sale of the first edition was attended; moreover, it was what might be termed an expensive work, brought out at a vast deal of trouble, and elegantly illustrated; and consequently, from its high figure, not within the reach of all the rising generation of sportsmen, who might be induced to seek either amusement or information in searching through its pages. At the earnest request then of many and sincere friends, and with the greatest respect and gratitude to the public, for the kind way in which the work has been supported by its great sale, and by the cheering manner in which it has been spoken of by those reviewers who have condescended to notice it in their critiques on the subject, I am resolved, prompted as I am by the allurements of applause, to send it forth once more before the world. A subject so extensive and worthy of investigation, I could have wished to be taken in hand by some person better qualified than myself. For my own part, I have had but little experience in authorship; but, having been in the habit of keeping a pack of fox-hounds, I have enjoyed many favourable opportunities of making myself fully acquainted with

a knowledge of the various branches of the science gained by such an occupation; and I have neglected no opportunity of deriving what information I could from those incidents which circumstances have thrown in my way: fully compensated shall I be if one single instance should occur, of either amusement or information being derived from a perusal of this my undertaking,

Among the numerous authors who have written upon those subjects under the unassuming title of Sporting, many have not only been well received, but have obtained a very exalted place in the scale of literature. Confining ourselves, however, to the subject in question --namely, fox-hunting-since the days of the immortal Beckford, none have treated it in that practical manner which so national an amuse

с

« 前へ次へ »