« 前へ次へ »
mean to do, and defy the old earl, and the old devil, and all his works? Ah! you are soft as your own dough, Master White !”
“ Sir,” said the baker, sulkily, “ a'd wish ye to keep in mind, that gif a'm dough, an' soft yenoo, a may grow mair crusty than may please your chafts, if a'm but made het aneuch ; sae, a'd advise you to keep your jokes mair till yeresell. A say again what a said afore, an' that is, that possiteevely a wunna vote ava ;” and with that Mr. White abruptly left the smithy.
“ He's a poor spiritless fellow that,” said the haberdasher, after eying his retreating steps for some time, till he saw he was effectually out of all hearing. “ If all reformers were like him, indeed, what would become of the great cause ? Aweel, how goes the county, Farmer Black ?" continued he, now addressing a stoit young country-looking, man, who at this moment dismounted at the smithy door to have one of his horse's shoes fastened. “ How goes the reform cause in the county ? Is the reform candidate, Sir D-E-, sure of his election ?”
“ A'm thinkin' he's gey an' shưre,” replied the farmer, shortly. “ I'm sure you wish him well at all events ?” said the haberdasher. “ A’m no sayin' but a do,” briefly replied Farmer Black.
“Ay, ay,” said Mercer, “ many's the good bumper of punch that you and I drank together to the glorious cause of reform, on that market day, you remember, when you stopped to take a bit of chack of dinner with me, after buying so many gowns, and shawls, and ribbons for your mother and sisters—ay, and may-be for some other lass, too, for aught I know to the contrary. You know you sold your nowt well that day; and I'm bold to say I never beheld a finer show of beauty than your large hay-cart exhibited on the glorious day of the Juboli, stand. ing at the corner of the street ; when the old lady and the girls, all dressed in my new gowns and finery, were placed bolt upright in it, thick set together like so many pots of stock gillyflowers and marygolds, as I passed by you bearing the banner, with the painting of a loom upon it, surmounted by a trifling jew desprite of my own, (for I now and then rhyme a little, ye must know, if the murder must out)-surmounted, I say, by the words
When I set up my loom
Shall be that of Earl Grey." “ The banner was a vera bonnie flag, Maister Messer,” replied the farmer. “An' troth, when a saw ye carrying it, ye pat me in mind o’ ane o' ma ain stots routing awa wi' his tail straight up on end, when the puir beasts are fleggit wi' a flight o'clegs in a het summer day.”
“ Aweel, aweel,” said the haberdasher, rather dashed by this uncouth simile, and anxious to divert the attention of those present from it, “ I am sure you wish the worthy baronet, the representative of the cause of reform, every possible success.”
“ A'm no saying but a do,” replied the farmer.
“ Well," said the haberdasher, “he's sure of your vote at any rate, at the very first asking.”
“ We'll stop a wee till we see hoo the laird gangs,” answered the farmer.
• What has the laird to do with the matter?” demanded the haberdasher. “ If you pay him his rent you may laugh at the laird.”
“ Wha says that a dinna pay him his rent?” said the farmer, looking suspiciously over his shoulder, as he inserted his left toe into the stirrup, and threw his right leg over his beast. “ That may a' be true eneugh that ye say, yet, for a' that, ane may like to bide a wee gliff till ane sees hoo the laird gangs.”
“ Silly aver !” exclaimed Mercer, after Farmer Black had ridden away, “ that fellow has as little sense or spirit as the cart Bassie that bears him yonder. The fellow bawled about reform with the best of us; and, for all that, I do believe, that to keep the laird easy with him about some small arrear of rent, he will vote for Colonel E-, the anti-reform candidate, although it be against his very conscience. 'Pon my honour, such fellows are no more to be depended upon than a piece of cloth which has been rotted in the bleaching ! Surely, Mr Dallas, you'll be ashamed not to show more resolution than yon turnip-headed gaby ? Come, man, take a swatch from me; and make up your mind to vote, as I mean to do, for Mr. A- and the cause of reform, which we have both stuck to so long."
“ Na, na, Maister Messer, we'll no' be so rash-we'll just tak' a thought about it ;" and so, with a civil bow to the party, the grocer departed.
“ He ! he! he! there goes Dull Davie Dowlas !” exclaimed the haberdasher; “ depend upon it his thought has been taken already, and he is fairly tied by the leg. The Duke's commissioner has been with him, and deuce another raisin, or fig, or Stilton cheese from his shop will now be eaten within the doors of his Grace's mansion, if he does not give his vote to please the anti-reforming peer! But, let that pass : all men are not made of stuff strong enough to resist such friction as he has been exposed to. Gentlemen, you are strangers here; but I am proud to say you are no strangers to me ; for I had the honour of seeing you both on the hustings in Bruntsfield Links, on the grand day of the Juboli, at Edinburgh. You were pointed out to me by a friend as great and well-known reformers, and as able supporters of that valuable, and enlightened, and liberal, and rapidly-rising journal, Tait's Magazine ; and as such, as I reverenced you then, so I reverence you tenfold more now, that my own ears have heard you utter sentiments such as you have uttered. I see that some accident has happened to your carriage, which, though I regret it on your account, has been a great blessing to me, in giving me the honour of so much of your company and converse ; and if I can be of any use to you ?".
“ Sir," said one of us, we are much Aattered by your politeness. Our carriage has indeed met with a small accident, which you see is in the hands of Mr. Strongitharm, and which seems to be already so far in the way of being remedied, that the vehicle has at least been fully taken to pieces ; but our spring seems determined to verify the proverb, so very applicable to Scotch springs in general—I mean, that . Hope delayed maketh the heart sick ;' for, although my friend and I have been for these two hours back softly aspirating in the words of our native poet, Thomson,
•Come, gentle spring,' and probably with no less impatience than the tiresome dregs of a longprotracted winter had driven him to, yet there seems as yet to be but little chance of its speedily coming when we do call.'
“ Instead of standing hanging on your pins in this uncomfortable place here," said the haberdasher, “ like the unsaleable last year's ginghams in my shop, with all Strongitharm's hammers ringing in your ears, had you not better adjourn, as we used to say at our reform meetings. And now that the rain seems to be over, if you will venture to walk to my house, about eight or ten doors off, I shall be happy to take you in, as I take in Tait's Magazine, and to show you my back parlour ; where you will do me great honour by accepting a glass of wine, to drink success to the liberal cause here, and everywhere else."
To so kind an invitation as this, it was quite impossible to say nay; so, after giving the smith and our own man our final directions, we fol. lowed Mr. Mercer through his front and back shop, into his snug little parlour behind both, where we were introduced to his wife, a smiling well-favoured black-eyed bourgeoise, to whom he appeared to have been recently united. Wine and cakes being produced, Mercer himself was soon called by his business to the front shop, and we were left in comfortable chit-chat with the lady; who speedily showed herself, like most of the sensible women we have met with, to be a keen reformer.
Whilst thus agreeably engaged, we heard a sound in which the wellpractised ear never can be deceived; we mean the sound of patrician wheels. The coạch of a peer, it is true, has no more wheels than a common stage-coach has; nor has it any more horses. But there is a deep, decorous, dignified roll about such a carriage, that even when it is hid from our eyes, never fails to conjure up on our retina the fat coachman, or the two splash-looking postilions, and especially the two tall, handsome, lazy, cane-carrying footmen in the rumble behind. It is a sound very different, indeed, from the rapid rattle, and jingle, and cracking of a mail or other such coach ; even when that accursed horn is silent, which, unlike the happy horn of Oberon, is less calculated to conjure up pleasing delusions than to dissipate our celestial dreams of bliss, The partition between the parlour where we sat, and what was called the back shop, was thin ; and a pretty considerable window, with a cotton blind hanging over it, whilst it was intended to give a borrowed light to the back shop, very much contributed to facilitate the transmission of sound.
• That's the voice of the Countess of (-" whispered Mrs. Mercer to us ; she's a proper anti. I wish my goodman were well quit of her! for, reformer though he be, he has no chance at all with so designing and so persevering a woman as she is ; and depend upon it, she is not begging him into the back shop that way without some end of her own. Hist! Listen to what they are saying !" Thus tutored, we remained silent, by which means we were compelled to overhear the whole conversation ; though we must, at the same time, honestly con. fess, that, although we are not ladies, our curiosity to know the issue was so great, that we found it no very severe penance to be compelled to listen.
“ This way, my lady !-this way !" said the haberdasher.
“ Mercer !” drawled out a soft but haughty voice; “ I have hitherto been rather disposed to patronize you ; and one of the best proofs of this very good disposition towards you is, that which I recently exhibited by bringing my niece, the Marchioness of F, here to give you her patronage too. And now, in the same patronizing disposition, I come to desire you will give your vote, (for I understand that these levelling times have given you a vote)--I say, I come to desire you
will give your vote to my son-in-law Mr. B- -, who, notwithstanding all I can say to him, is obstinately determined to contaminate himself among the riff-raff members of that abominable sink, the Reform Parliament.”
“ Really, my lady,” stammered out the haberdasher, after what appeared to us to be a most ominous pause, “ I am deeply sensible of your ladyship’s patronage, and the patronage of your ladyship’s niece. I beg pardon, I mean the patronage of the most noble the Lady Mar. chioness of F
I feel all that your ladyship has so eloquently expressed. But, really, my lady, in times like the present, hem !-ahem in times like the present, I say—it is—it is very difficult, indeed, to say what to do."
“ What, Mr. Mercer !” exclaimed a new voice, pitched in a much higher key, which our prologa, Mrs. Mercer, at once informed us was that of the marchioness; “What, Mr. Mercer! can you have any doubt how to act in a case where the Countess of C- — where my aunt the Countess of C- condescends so far as to advise you?”
“ No, no, not exactly doubt, my lady marchioness,-not exactly doubt,” replied Mr. Mercer, in a subdued tone, betraying considerable trepidation; and, then, after a pause, during which he appeared to have somewhat collected himself, “ At all events, I cannot doubt that it must always be my duty to obey the smallest wishes of two ladies of rank, so high and noble, and especially of two such honoured patronesses as the Countess of C
and the Marchioness of FBut, really, noble ladies, in these times,—one's country,—something must be sacrificed for the good of one's country !” The last part of Mr. Mercer's speech was enunciated with an assumed firmness of voice as if he had twisted up the fiddle-reins of his nerves considerably above concert pitch. But the voice, that of the marchioness, which replied to him, was tuned a full octave above him.
“ A haberdasher talking of his country! There is the march of intel.. lect for you! There is reform with a vengeance ! why, I shall next expect to see your man of muslins and of ginghams keeping his French cook! Where can such people have learned to talk of their country ? But, indeed, when we have such Chancellors and Premiers as Brougham and Grey, who actually talk as if the common herd of the canaille were of the same blood, as well as flesh, as we of the Upper Ilouse, it is no wonder that we should have a haberdasher giving us a discourse upon his country, as if it were John Kemble himself arisen from the dead to perform the character of Cato of Utica !”
« Let me talk to him, my love !” drawled out the countess. “I shall not waste much time with him, I promise you, though I shall even condescend to reason with him. Mercer! you are an extremely foolish man ; a haberdasher, as my niece, Lady F-, says, has no business in the world with his country, except to live in it, and to pay its taxes. He should attend to his muslins, and his silks, and his counter, and all that ; but that he should interfere with politics, is a thing absolutely quite shocking. On the contrary, he should always be ready to listen to any lady of quality who deigns to patronize him, as I and my niece, the Marchioness of F-, patronize you, Mercer ; to show his gratitude to whom he should always be ready to vote as his patronesses bid him, through thick and through thin; but, as to politics, a haberdasher in a small borough like this should never have any thing to do with politics, and still less with his country. Then say at once that you will vote for my son-in-law, Mr. B, and don't be so rude do you hear, Mercer ? -as to give me any farther trouble.”
“I am sure, my lady,” stammered out the haberdasher, “ I am sure. my lady,–1–1–I do not know what to say. Your ladyship speaks —both your ladyships speak like members of the House of Com-I mean of the House of Lords—like Peers of Parliament, I should say. Any thing so eloquent I have never heard in my life before ; but, really-1-1-I do not know what to say."
“ But I know what you must say,” replied the shrill and impetuous Marchioness. “ You must pledge yourself to vote for Mr. B—and there's an end on't! What, sir, are two women of quality, such as my aunt and myself, to condescend thus to signify their pleasure to such a person as Mr. Mercer the haberdasher !” (“ Proud minx that she is !” was here parenthetically interjected by Mrs. Mercer; “ if the fellow has the spirit of a flea, he'll give her his mind.") “ Are we, I say, to condescend to lay our commands on any such person as you, and are they to be received with doubt and hesitation ? Reptile ! if you detain us longer with your doubts, you shall be crushed to the earth like a worm in our path !”
“ Hear the vixen !” exclaimed Mrs. Mercer. “ If I were he, I would give it to her in the deafest side of her head !"
“ Do not permit yourself to be excited thus, my love, by the folly of this weak, silly man,' said the drawling countess. “ He is a stubborn blockhead, to be sure, as all blockheads are. But I shall never allow such a person as he is, to rob me of my temper. I do not even allow my obstinate poodle to do that ; though, it must be confessed, he has more than once tried me pretty severely."
“ Ladies, ladies !” exclaimed Mercer, in a perturbed tone that spoke his extreme agitation. " Heaven knows I am the last man in the world that would think—nay, that would dream of offending you, but-butbut, really, what can a man do?”
“I say, with all the distinctness of utterance of which I am mistress,” continued the countess; “ and our family have always been remarkable for distinctness of utterance ; and, of all our family, no one has been more remarkable for that quality than myself ;-I say with all the distinctness of utterance of which I am mistress, give me your promise that you will vote for my son-in-law, Mr. B-, or I shall not only withdraw from you my patronage, and that of all the members of my family, but the Marchioness shall withdraw hers, and we shall blast the reputation of your goods, oppose their introduction by the influence of our superior ton, abolish the borough balls; and, finally, bring down a person who was a shopman with the so justly celebrated firm of Dyde and Scribe, to set up under our fostering surveillance in opposition to you; and you are, doubtless, sufficiently acquainted with the political economy of this paltry place, to know whether or not it has customers enough to make the new man rich, and to keep you from starving at the same time!”
“ Horrible old witch !" muttered Mrs. Mercer; " what a demon she is. Have a care of me! heard ye ever the like of her?”
“Ahem! Your ladyship deals rather hardly with me," said Mercer; “ or rather, I should say, you are pleased to, perhaps, just a little dis. posed to, it may be, to have some amusement at my expense. Butbut really, 'pon my honour, I am really much at a loss what to say.