[ Transcriber's Note:
Inconsistent hyphenation and spacing of abbreviations have been retained as in the original. Corrections of spelling and punctuation are listed at the end of this file. ]
F. C. BURNAND,
AUTHOR OF "HAPPY THOUGHTS," "MORE HAPPY THOUGHTS," "OUT OF TOWN," &c.
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR
BOSTON: ROBERTS BROTHERS. 1872.
THE IDEA—ADVICE—TITLE—PLAN—ON PAPER—SUGGESTION—COST—BOODELS —OLD FRIENDS—JENKYNS SOAMES—DESIGNS—STAIRCASES—BAYS— OBJECTIONS—ORDER OF ARCHITECTURE—STABLES—PRICE—GIVEN UP— CAZELL'S IDEA 1
NOTIONS—GUIDE WANTED—BLACKMEER—CHILVERN—HIS ELEMENT—VIEWS— OBSERVATIONS—DISCUSSIONS—FISHING—TROUT—SHROPSHIRE—THE LAKE— THE SOLITARY CASTLE—HERMITS—GAMES—DIFFERENCES—AT THE HOUSE 13
WITHIN—THE HOUSEKEEPER—WINDOWS—INFORMATION—THE ORIEL—VIEW— FLOOR—MILBURD'S INQUIRY—TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT—MATERIAL—AN EXAMPLE —CRONE—POOR—MEDITATIONS—THE FRESCO—TAPESTRY—ARMOUR—MICE— RATS—THE GHOST 19
ALONE—THE SECRET DOOR—UNSOCIABILITY—THE PICTURE—GRIM THOUGHTS— ONE CHEERFUL IDEA—MELON—HIDING—CRUEL JOKES—SPIRAL—ANGLES— ASSASSINS—WHITE LADY—A COMFORT—NERVES—THE DOOR—A GROWL—SNIFFS —A FOLLOWER—REASONING—SAD THOUGHTS—OUT AT LAST 24
ON THE ROOF—DOWN AGAIN—FURTHER INSPECTION—VARIETY—ELIZABETHAN— NORMAN—COLOUR—RAYS—FILTERED—CUI BONO?—SUGGESTION—PLAY IN STORE—THE STABLES—PREVIOUS TENANTS—GOOD INTENTIONS—NAME 31
CHOOSING A PARTY.
ROOMS—DECISION—ODD MEN—RETURN—ARRANGEMENTS—THEORIES— OBJECTIONS—PROPOSITIONS—ELECTIONS—THE LADIES—WHO'S HOST?— GUESTS—HOSTESS—MORE PROPOSALS—GRANDMOTHERS—AUNTS—HALF-SISTERS —SISTERHOOD PROPOSED—GRAND IDEA—CHAPERONS—TERMS—IDEAL—A PROFESSION—A DEFECT—OR ADVANTAGE—ADDITIONAL ATTRACTIONS—OLD MAN —DULNESS—THEATRICAL—PLANS—THE PRESIDENT—EXPLANATION—IDEA 36
THE NEW ORDER.
A BROTHERHOOD—SIMPLICITY—A DIFFICULTY MET—ILLUSTRATIONS— PROCEEDINGS—INTERVIEW—QUESTION—ANSWER—MODELS—PETITS FRERES— TERMS—RULES AND REGULATIONS—THE SCHEME DISMISSED—THE LIST SETTLED 44
A MORNING DISCUSSION.
ON DEAFNESS—ESCAPES—BUTTONHOLED—A DISCUSSION—MORNING LOST—RAGE —DESPAIR 53
A WET DAY.
RAIN—THE MEDFORDS—CONVERSATION—A PROPOSAL—ACCEPTED—THE TRICK— THE LECTURE 60
OUT OF AN ALBUM—ON LOSS OF PATIENCE—MRS. FRIMMELY'S SUGGESTION—A DAY-DANCE 71
A NIGHT SURPRISE 78
OUR LIBRARY—BUSTS—DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS—MELANCHOLY—GUESSES— SOAMES—MRS. BOODELS AGAIN—MILBURD—HIS JOKE—A NUISANCE 80
MUSIC—MEDFORD—MILBURD'S SONG—CONSEQUENCE—OPINIONS—NOTE— COMPLIMENTS—EPIGRAM—THE DAMP FIREWORK 84
OUR POSTAL ARRANGEMENTS 88
MRS. BOODELS—BOODELS—HIS GRANDMOTHER'S OBSERVATION—HER FATE SEALED—THE COMEDY—HER DEPOSITION—NEW PROPOSAL—AWKWARD— MILBURD'S RELATION—INVITATION—THE DINNER HOUR—RECOMMENDATION— DECISION 91
FRESH ARRIVALS—DESCRIPTION—A HISTORY 95
SUNDAY—SUNDAY REASONS—A CHAMBER DIALOGUE 108
MORE SUNDAY THOUGHTS—IN MY ROOM—A TELEGRAM—IMPOSSIBILITIES— INTERRUPTION 116
THE PROSAIC GENTLEMAN.
A WALK WITH SIGNOR REGNIATI 120
A SUNDAY CONVERSATION 123
COMMENCEMENT OF MY SAYINGS FOR SUNDAYS 130
THE PROGRAMME—THE FARCE 136
AFTER THE PERFORMANCE, CONVERSATION COMMENCES 181
CHILVERN'S BALLAD—THE MORAL 191
IN AND OUT—BEFORE THE FIRE—MEDITATIONS—SURPRISES—HAPPY THOUGHTS —AWAKENINGS—SLUMBERS—BELL-PULLS—BOOTS—VALET—DIFFICULTIES— MRS. REGNIATI—WHAT'S ON THE TAPIS?—MATCH-MAKING—CUPID 198
AT DINNER—WEIGHT—WATCHING—JOKES—PROTEST—AWKWARD SITUATION—AN ANNOUNCEMENT—INQUIRY—ARRIVAL—PRACTICAL JOKES 206
FIFTH WEEK—DIFFICULTIES—HINTS—BOODELS' SECRET—ARRIVAL OF JIMMY LAYDER—A CHANGE—PRACTICAL JOKES—PLAYING THE FOOL—DRESSING UP— MORE JOKES—CHEMICAL LECTURE—EXPERIMENTS—RESULTS—OPEN WINDOWS— COLDS—DEPARTURES—SMALL BY DEGREES—BEAUTIFULLY LESS—THE SHILLING AND THE TUMBLER—BOODELS' LAST—TWO'S COMPANY—CONCLUSION 209
HAPPY THOUGHT HALL.
THE IDEA—ADVICE—TITLE—PLAN—ON PAPER—SUGGESTION—COST—BOODELS— OLD FRIENDS—JENKYNS SOAMES—DESIGNS—STAIRCASES—BAYS—OBJECTIONS— ORDER OF ARCHITECTURE—STABLES—PRICE—GIVEN UP—CAZELL'S IDEA.
Happy Thought.—To get a country house for the winter. To fill it with friends. To have one wing for bachelors. Another wing for maidens with chaperons. To have the Nave, as it were, of the house, for the married people.
"I'll tell you what you ought to do," says Cazell to me. "You ought to build a nice little snuggery in the country."
I object to the cost.
"Cost? Bah! that's nothing. You can always get a Building Society," says he, enthusiastically, "to advance you any sum."
I ask how these Building Societies proceed.
"Simply enough," says Cazell, who invariably knows everything about anything, only if you act on his information and go wrong, he generally denies warmly afterwards that "he ever said such a thing." "Simply enough," he continues. "You go to the Society, you give 'em some security,—any security will do, and you could get that easily enough." I nod cheerfully, more to encourage him to proceed, than from any feeling of certainty as to the means of obtaining the security. Then, having, satisfactorily to himself, disposed of this difficulty, he continues:—"Well, your security in this case would be your title-deeds of the house and land."
"Then," he goes on, as if he'd been accustomed to do this sort of thing every day, "you say how much you want. Then they ask you" (it's becoming quite dramatic), "where's your house? You say .... wherever it is, you know." Cazell puts it in this way, as impressing upon me that before the Building Society I must tell the truth and not pretend to them that my house is in Bedfordshire, for example, when it isn't. "Well," he resumes, "then they ask you what sort of a house do you intend to build? Then, you lay your plan before them."
Happy Thought.—The Plan of my House.
"They examine it, that is, their architect does ... they inquire about the land ... and then they decide, whether they'll buy it for you, or not."
("Not" I should think, but I don't say so.)
"Then," he goes on. "You make the purchase, and hand over the title-deeds. Pay them a rent and a per-centage every year until the whole is paid off, when it becomes yours."
"In fact," I put it, bluffly, to him, "I can build a house without having any money; I mean, by getting the money from the Building Society?"
"Precisely. Any day."
I hesitate. It really is—if Cazell is correct—much better than hiring a house ... or taking lodgings. And what does Cazell think the cost will be?
"Well," says he, "put it at L2,000, the outside." I reflect that the inside, too, will be a considerable expense. "A good, strong house. Why, I knew a fellow build one for L1,500. Just what you want. Then, there's the ground—say at another two. And there you are. Four thousand altogether. Well, you'd pay 'em a mere rent for that, and so much tacked on, which would, each time, reduce the principal. And when you pay your last year of rent and interest, it ought to have come down to a five-pound note."
This is admirable. What a glorious society is the Building Society ... if Cazell is only right.
I will draw out plans at once.
Will he come down with me, somewhere, and choose the land?
"Certainly. Why not try Kent?" he asks. I have no objection to Kent. "But," I suggest, "wouldn't it be better, first, to settle the sort of thing wanted?"
Happy Thought.—Put it down on paper.
A billiard-room, absolute necessity.
"Bath-room," adds Milburd, to whom, on his accidentally looking in, we appeal for assistance.
Happy Thought.—"While I am about it" (as Milburd says), "why not a Turkish bath?" In the house. Excellent!
What after this?
Milburd suggests smoking-room, and library. Yes. That's all.
Not all: Milburd thinks that a Racquet Court wouldn't be bad, and while I am about it, it would be scarcely any more expense, to have a Tennis Court; and, by the way, a positive saving to utilise the outside walls of both, for Fives.
Query. Won't this cost too much?
"The question is," says Boodels (he has been recently improving his own house), "What is your limit?"
"No, I argue, let's see what an imaginary house will cost, and then I'll have so much of it as I want. Say," I put it, "a house is to cost two thousand——"
"Can't be done for the money," says Boodels, positively.
This is rather damping, but, on consideration, it's just what Boodels would say in anybody's case, except his own.
I pass over his opinion and continue.
"For argument's sake, let's say the house costs four thousand——" (This I feel sounds very pleasant, but what will the Building Society say, and how about the security? These, however, are details for subsequent consideration. One thing at a time: and these extras rather hamper one's ideas. So I say L4,000, and leave it at that.)
"More," says Boodels, "but you might do it for that."
I repeat "For argument's sake." Formula admitted.
Well then, I suppose it to cost four thousand, I can only spend two thousand. Very good, I'll only have, as it were, two thousand pounds' worth of house.
"Half a house, in fact," says Milburd.
This is not the way to put it, but I am, I feel, right, somehow.
I appeal to my friend Jenkyns Soames, who is writing a book on Scientific Economy.
He replies that mine is correct, in theory, if taken from a certain point of view. We admit that this is a sensible way of putting it. And are, generally, satisfied.
"There's one thing I must have," I remember, aloud, as I sit down to draw a first plan, "my Study."
On this plan every room is en suite.
"How about your staircases," says Boodels, "and your kitchen, eh?"
I observe that this is only a commencement. That my object is to remember everything gradually, and so omit nothing.
Happy Thought.—Only one floor and one flight of stairs.
Here I find the library has been forgotten.
Add on the library in dots; like a railway map.
"How do you get there from the study?" asks Milburd.
"Why, by doors, through the dining-room."
"Awkward," suggests Boodels.
"No; I don't think so."
"How do you light your study?" asks Cazell.
Happy Thought.—From above.
"Then," says Milburd, as if there was an end of the whole thing, "you lose a bed-room by that, and another over the billiard-room."
Happy Thought.—Bring study more forward and light it by big window in front. (I do so in dots.)
Milburd says: "Throw out a bay."
This is his invariable resource.
I throw out a bay-window (also in dots) and then we survey it carefully.
Happy Thought.—To have an In-door Amusement Hall for Wet Weather.
"Will your Amusement hall be the Hall?"
"Well ... Yes."
"Then the front door will be ...?"
I indicate in dots the front door, and the drive.
"Precisely," says Boodels, "and just as you're in the middle of a game of something, up comes a party to call; you can't say you're not at home, and the servants can't open the door while the ball, or whatever it is, is flying about."
True ... Then ... bring it more forward. Or make a new plan.
"Then the bath-room's forgotten," says Milburd. Add it in dots to tennis court.
Then over every room there'll be a bed-room and dressing-room. So that'll be a good house.
"What style?" asks Cazell.
"Elizabethan, decidedly," I reply. They think not.
"Gothic's useful," says Boodels.
"Italian's better," observes Milburd.
"Something between the two," suggests Cazell.
Twelve rooms below, twelve above. Stables outside, added subsequently.
Happy Thought.—Submit this to Chilvern, my architectural friend.
I say, Estimate it roughly.
He does it, after a day or so.
Rough Estimate. About L8,000.
"That," I say, a little staggered, "is rather over the mark than under it, eh?"
"Over? No," he replies, "Under. I mean, of course, to have everything done well, thoroughly well. Of course," says he, "there are men who will run you up a house in a few weeks and charge you about L4,000. But what's the result? Why you're always repairing, and it costs you, in the end, double what you'd have paid for having it thoroughly well done at first."
I ask how long the building would take? Chilvern is of opinion that it would be six months at the least.
Then I say I'll give it up. I wanted it for Christmas.
Then the notion of the party must be abandoned.
Happy Thought.—An abandoned party! Dreadful character.
Boodels says he's sorry for that, as he can't go into his own house just now, it being under repair.
Cazell suddenly exclaims, "I tell you what we ought to do!" We listen. He goes on. "We ought to take a house for the Winter Season, the lot of us together, and then ask our own friends."
Boodels observes, that, if we agree to this, he will supply some servants, as his are doing nothing. Chilvern can tell us where there's a place to be let. Just what we want, about an hour's train from town. Queer old mansion, a bit out of trim, he tells us, in fact he was going to have had the job of restoring it, only the people suddenly left; but he'd put that to rights. Would we go and look at it?
Carried nem. con.
NOTIONS—GUIDE WANTED—BLACKMEER—CHILVERN—HIS ELEMENT—VIEWS— OBSERVATIONS—DISCUSSIONS—FISHING—TROUT—SHROPSHIRE—THE LAKE— THE SOLITARY CASTLE—HERMITS—GAMES—DIFFERENCES—AT THE HOUSE.
We go down. Hertfordshire. I find on inquiry that there is no Guide to this county. Black ignores it, Murray knows nothing about it, and Bradshaw is silent on the subject.
Happy Thought.—While at Our Mansion write a Guide to Hertfordshire.
Arrived at the station we inquire for Blackmeer Hall. Six or seven miles to drive. I ask if this distance isn't against it? I am met by the unanimous answer, "Not at all."
Chilvern points out the beauties of the road as we go along. We become silent, not liking to have things perpetually pushed under our notice, as if we couldn't see them for ourselves.
"There's a fine bit," he says, pointing to a gate. We nod. "Aren't the colours of the trees lovely?" he asks. We agree with him. For the sake of argument, I observe that I've seen finer. "Where?" he inquires. I don't know at this moment where, but, being on my mettle, I am certain that I have seen finer.
Happy Thought.—In Derbyshire.
He pooh-poohs the notion of Derbyshire. Then he continues giving us bits of useful information, like a disjointed lecture.
"There's a tree for you!" he exclaims. Then, "There's a queer old roof, eh?" No notice being taken of this, he continues, "Fine beech that!" "Beautiful view, isn't it?" Presently, "Just look at the sky now!" and so on.
Cazell begins to resent it, so does Boodels.
Chilvern says, pointing left and right, "Ah, these fields are the place for mushrooms."
Boodels says that his own fields in Essex are better.
"Not better than this," says Chilvern.
Boodels returns that they are, and that he, Boodels, ought to know.
Chilvern pauses to allow the subject to stand and cool, as it were; then he begins again.
"That's a fine cow there. This is a great place for cows. It's where all the celebrated cheeses are made."
"Ah, my dear fellow," cries Boodels, "you should see the cows in Gloucestershire. They are cows."
Cazell agrees with him, but caps it with, "Yes, but I'll tell you what you ought to do," to Chilvern: "you ought to go to the Scilly Islands, and see the cows there."
Milburd says if it's a question of going to islands, why not to the Isle of Wight and see Cowes there? I laugh, slightly; as it doesn't do to encourage Milburd too much. The others, who are warming with their conversation, treat the joke with silent contempt.
"There's a larch for you," cries Chilvern, in admiration of a gigantic fir-tree.
"That!" exclaims Cazell. "My dear fellow"—whenever he is getting nettled in discussion, he always becomes excessively affectionate in his terms—"My dear fellow, you ought to go to Surrey to see the larches, and the firs." Boodels observes in a chilly sort of way that he doesn't care for larches, or firs.
In order to divert the stream of their conversation, I remark that I have no doubt there's some capital trout fishing about here. I say this on crossing a bridge.
"Ah!" says Chilvern, "see the trout in Somersetshire. My! Why in some places you could catch twenty, with as many flies, all at once."
Cazell tops this without a pause; he says, "Ah! if you want trout you should go to Shropshire. I never saw such a place for trout. You've only got to put your hand down, and you can take them asleep in the ditches."
Milburd exclaims incredulously, "Oh yes," meaning, "Oh no."
"My dear boy," says Cazell, emphatically, "I assure you it's a known thing. Tell a Shropshire man about trout in any other county, and he'll laugh in your face."
Except for politeness, we feel, all of us, a strong inclination to act like the ideal Shropshire man, under the present circumstances.
We enter an avenue.
The driver tells us we are approaching the house. We pass a large pond partially concealed by trees. In the centre there is an island with a sort of small ruined castle on it. It is, as it were, a Castle for One.
Happy Thought.—Sort of place where a Hermit could play Solitaire. And get excited over it. Who invented Solitaire? If it was a Hermit, why didn't the eminent ascetic continue the idea and write a book of games?
Happy Thought.—To call it "Games for Hermits."
Milburd exclaims, "Stunning place for fireworks. We might do the storming of the Fortress there."
Happy Thought.—"Good place," say, "for a retired study."
Cazell says, "I tell you what we ought to do with that; make it into spare rooms. A castle for single gentlemen. They could cross in a boat at night."
Chilvern is of opinion it ought to be restored, and made a gem of architectural design.
Boodels says, if anything, he should like it to be an observatory, or, on second thoughts, a large aquarium.
Cazell says at once, "If you want to see an aquarium you should go to Havre."
Chilvern returns that there's a better one at Boulogne.
Milburd caps this by quoting the one at the Crystal Palace.
Cazell observes quickly that the place for curious marine specimens is Bakstorf in Central Russia.
"You've never been to Central Russia," says Milburd, superciliously. Professing to have travelled considerably himself, he doesn't like the idea of anyone having done the same.
"I wish," exclaims Cazell, using a formula of his own, "I wish I had as many sovereigns as I've been in Central Russia."
This appears conclusive, and, if it isn't, here we are at the House. Blackmeer Hall. Elizabethan, apparently.
WITHIN—THE HOUSEKEEPER—WINDOWS—INFORMATION—THE ORIEL—VIEW— FLOOR—MILBURD'S INQUIRY—TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT—MATERIAL—AN EXAMPLE —CRONE—POOR—MEDITATIONS—THE FRESCO—TAPESTRY—ARMOUR—MICE—RATS —THE GHOST.
An old woman curtseys, and ushers our party into the Hall itself, which is lofty and spacious, but in a mildewy condition.
The floor is partly stone partly tiles, as if the original designer had been, in his day, uncertain whether to make a roof of it, or not.
A fine old chimney, with a hearth for logs, and dogs, is at one end, and reminds me of retainers, deer hounds, oxen roasted whole, and Christmas revels in the olden time.
The windows are diamond-paned. To open in compartments.
The old woman tells us that this was rebuilt in fifteen hundred and fifty-two, and then she shows us into the drawing-room.
This is a fine apartment with an Oriel window, giving on to a lawn of rank and tangled grass. Beyond this chaos of green, is a well timbered covert, dense as a small black forest.
The distance between the trees becoming greater to the left of the plantation, we obtain a glimpse of the lake which we passed on our road.
There is another grand fire-place in this room. The wainscot wants patching up, and so does the parqueted floor.
The old woman tells us that "they say as Queen Elizabeth was once here."
Milburd asks seriously, "Do you recollect her, ma'am?"
The crone wags her head and replies "that it was afore her time."
Mentioning the word Crone to Boodels, I ask him what relation it bears to 'Cronie.' "'Cronie,' almost obsolete now, means 'a familiar friend,'" I explain to him. He says thank you, and supposes that the two words have nothing in common except sound.
The notion being in fact part of my scheme for Typical Developments (Vol. XIII. Part I. "On sounds of words and their relation to one another"), I offer him my idea on the subject.
He asks, "What is it?"
Happy Thought.—"Crone" is the feminine of "Cronie." "Cronie" is an old friend, "Crone" is an old friend's old wife. Which sounds like a sentence in one of my German Exercises. "The Old wife of the Old friend met the Lion in the garden."
Boodels says "Pooh!" If he doesn't understand a thing at once he dismisses it with "pooh." As I ascend the wide oak staircase, with room enough for eight people abreast on every step, I reflect on the foolishness of a man saying "pooh," hastily. How many great schemes might anyone nip in the bud by one "pooh." What marvellous inventions, apparently ridiculous in their commencing idea, would be at once knocked on the head by a single "pooh." The rising Artist has an infant design for some immense historical Fresco. He comes—I see him, as it were, coming to Boodels to confide in him. "I mean," says he, "to show Peter the Great in the right-hand corner, and Peter the Hermit in another, with Peter Martyr somewhere else, ... in fact, I see an immense historical subject of all the Celebrated Peters .... Then why not offer it to St. Peter's at Rome, and why not ...?" "Pooh!" says Boodels, and the artist perhaps goes off and drowns himself, or goes into business and so is lost to the World. If I'd listened to Boodels' "Pooh," I should never have got on so far as I have with my work on Typical Developments. I hope to be remembered by this.
Milburd is calling me. Everyone in ecstasies. What wonderful old chambers. Oak panels, diamond panes. Remains of tapestry, containing probably a fine collection of moths. Old rusty armour on the walls. Strange out-of-the-way staircases leading to postern-doors and offices.
Chilvern observes that it all wants doing up, and commences making plans and notes in a book, which he takes from his pocket, in company with a small ivory two-foot rule.
"Plenty of mice," says Cazell, looking at the old woman for corroboration.
"Yes, in winter-time," she says.
"And rats?" inquires Milburd.
"I've met 'em on the stairs," replies the old lady, quite cheerfully.
"Ghosts, too?" suggests Boodels. [He has become somewhat melancholy of late and says that he is studying the phenomena of "Unconscious Cerebration," which Milburd explains is only a name for thinking of nothing without knowing it. Boodels, in consequence, thinks Milburd a mere buffoon.]
"Well, my husband," she answers in a matter-of-fact way, "my husband, he see the Ghost... I think it were last Christmas twelvemonth."
"The Ghost!" exclaims Boodels, much interested.
"Yes, the White Lady," says the old woman as pleasantly as possible. "There's the marks on the floor of the stain where she was murdered. There! that gentleman's standing on it."
Good gracious! so I am. A dull sort of mulberry-coloured stain. "It won't wash out," she goes on. "I've tried it. And it won't plane out, as they've tried that. And so," she finishes with a sniff, "there it is."
ALONE—THE SECRET DOOR—UNSOCIABILITY—THE PICTURE—GRIM THOUGHTS— ONE CHEERFUL IDEA—MELON—HIDING—CRUEL JOKES—SPIRAL—ANGLES— ASSASSINS—WHITE LADY—A COMFORT—NERVES—THE DOOR—A GROWL—SNIFFS —A FOLLOWER—REASONING—SAD THOUGHTS—OUT AT LAST.
Every one is silent for a minute, and then we smile at the absurd idea of there being a ghost about. I linger for a few seconds after the others. They go out on to the landing. When I leave the room I pass out there too. They are all gone. I catch sight of a small door, in the panelling, on my right at the end of this corridor, closing quickly. They are gone evidently to visit some other quarter of the house. They might have stopped for me. Very unsociable. One seems to hear every footfall in this house. And even when you're not speaking, your thoughts appear to find an echo, and to be repeated aloud. In this short narrow gallery, there is an old picture of a man in a Spanish dress, holding a melon in his hand. His eyes follow me. Curious effect. I stop for a moment. They are fixed on me. Remember some story about this somewhere, when it turned out that there was a man concealed, who came out to murder people at night, living happily behind the picture in the day-time. Cheer myself up by thinking that if Milburd had seen this picture he'd have named it "The Meloncolic Man."
Odd. I don't hear their voices. They can't be playing me any trick, and hiding. If there is a thing I detest, if there is one thing above another absolutely and positively wicked and reprehensible, it is hiding behind a door or a curtain ... or in fact behind anything ... and then popping out on you suddenly. Heard of a boy to whom this was done, and he remained an idiot for the rest of his life.
Happy Thought.—To look cautiously at the corners. To open the small door quietly, and say, "Ah!" ... No. No one there. All gone down. A dark narrow winding staircase (lighted only by loopholes), so that one is perpetually going round angles and might come upon anyone, or anyone upon you, without any sort of preparation. I can quite understand assassins coming down on their victim, or up on their victim, or up and down, simultaneously, on their victim, in one of these old places. Assassins in the olden time. I wonder if it's true about the White Lady? The old woman's husband was not a bit frightened of her, so she says. Perhaps he had come home rather tipsy, and mistook some shadow in the moonlight for a ghost.
My eyes are fast becoming accustomed to this obscurity.
Happy Thought.—There are no such things as ghosts.
On the whole, I'd rather meet a ghost, than a rat, or a blackbeetle, or a burglar.
The diminishing scale, of what I would rather not meet in a narrow staircase at night, is, the burglar, rat, blackbeetle, ghost.
I hear something moving... below or above...
I look cautiously back round the last corner...
Happy Thought.—To shout out, "Hi! you fellows!" Shouting would frighten a burglar, or a rat, but would have no effect on a blackbeetle, or a ghost.
No answer. I descend a few more steps. Something seems to be coming down behind me. Almost in my footsteps, and at my pace. Ah! of course, echo. But why wasn't there an echo when I shouted?... I will go on quicker. I'm not a bit nervous, only the sooner I'm out of this, the better. At last a door. Thick, solid, iron-barred, and nail-studded door. Where's the handle? None. Yes, an iron knob. It won't be turned. It won't be twisted. It's locked; or, if not, fastened somehow. No; a faint light is admitted through the keyhole, and by putting my eye to it, I can see a stone passage on the other side. Perhaps the old woman has locked this by accident. And perhaps they are not far off. I shake it. A deep, low savage growl follows this, and I hear within two inches of my toes, a series of jerky and inquisitive sniffs. The sniffs say, as it were, "There's no doubt about it, I know you're there;" the growl adds, "Show yourself, and I pin you."
Happy Thought.—Go upstairs again and return by the other door.
Hope nobody, while I am mounting the steps again, will open the door and let the dog up here for a run, or to "see who it is," in a professional way.
No. Up—up—up. Excelsior. I seem to be climbing double the number of steps, in going up, to what I did in coming down. My eyes too, after the keyhole, have not yet become re-accustomed to the light. I pause. I could almost swear that somebody, two steps lower down behind me, stopped at the same instant.
Is there anyone playing the fool? Is it Milburd? I'll chance it, and ask. I say, "Milburd?" cautiously. No. Not a sound. I own to being a little nervous. Someone—Boodels, I think—once said that fine natures were always nervous.
Happy Thought.—When nervous, reason with yourself quietly.
I say, to myself, reasoning, this is not fright: this is not cowardice: it's simply nervousness. You wouldn't (this addressed to myself) be afraid of meeting a ... a ... for instance ... say ... a ghost ... no. Why should you? You've never injured a ghost that you know of, and why should a ghost hurt you? Besides ... nonsense ... there are no ghosts ... and as to burglars ... the house doesn't belong to us yet, and so if I meet one, there'd be no necessity to struggle ... on the contrary, I might be jocosely polite; I might say, "Make yourself at home; you've as much right here as I have." .... But, on second thoughts, no one would, or could, come here to rob this place. It's empty......
Odd. I cannot find the door I came in at. I thought that when I entered by it, I stepped on to a landing, but I suppose that it is only a door in the wall, and opens simply on to a step of the stairs.
Perhaps this is an unfrequented staircase. One might be locked up here, and remain here, for anything that the old woman, or her husband, would know about it.
If one was locked away here, or anywhere, for how long would it remain a secret?
When one has been absent from town for instance, for months, and then returns, nobody knows whether you've been in your own room all the time, or in Kamschatka. They say, "Hallo! how d'ye do? How are you? Where have you been this age?" They've never inquired. They've got on very well without you. Important matters, too, which "absolutely demand your presence," as the letter says, which you find on your table six months afterwards, settle themselves without your interference.
The story of the Mistletoe Bough, where a young lady hides herself in an oak chest, and is never heard of for years (in fact never at all until her bones were found with her dress and wreath,) is not so very improbable.
Suppose the old woman forgot this staircase, suppose my party went off thinking that I was playing them some trick; supposing they stick to that belief for four days, what should I do?... I don't know. I could howl, and shout. That's all.
What chance of being discovered have I, except by a tradesman wanting his quarter's account settled very badly and being determined upon hunting me up wherever I was.
A door at last! And light and fresh air through the chinks. It opens easily, and I am on the leads of the roof.
With a of the surrounding country. I breathe freely once more. Now the question is how to get down again.
ON THE ROOF—DOWN AGAIN—FURTHER INSPECTION—VARIETY—ELIZABETHAN— NORMAN—COLOUR—RAYS—FILTERED—CUI BONO?—SUGGESTION—PLAY IN STORE —THE STABLES—PREVIOUS TENANTS—GOOD INTENTIONS—NAME.
Just as I am asking myself this, I meet Chilvern on the roof. He is examining the chimneys. The others are below choosing their rooms. It appears that no one has been up the narrow staircase except myself. He shows me a different way down.
We take another turn over the house. This time more observantly. Various orders of architecture. Chilvern, as an architect, makes a professional joke. He says, "The best order of architecture is an order to build an unlimited number of houses."
Happy Thought.—Who was the first scientific builder? Answer.—Noah, when he invented arky-tecture. (N.B. This will do for a Sunday conundrum.)
Part of it is very old, (the staircase and tower part where I've been), and wall of the yard at the back, overgrown with ivy, shows the remains of a genuine Norman arch.
Another quarter is decidedly Elizabethan, while a long and well proportioned music room,—of which the walls and ceiling, once evidently covered with paintings, are now dirty, damp, and exhibiting, here and there, patches of colour not yet entirely faded,—is decidedly Italian.
Of this apartment, the crone can tell us nothing. She never recollects it inhabited. We undo the huge shutters for ourselves, and bring down a cloud of dust and cobwebs.
The rays of light, bursting violently, as it were, into the darkness—become—after once passing the square panes, or where there are no panes, the framework—suddenly impure, and in need of a patent filter before they are fit for use.
Chilvern admires the proportions, and asks what we'll make, of this room?
Happy Thought.—A Theatre. Nothing more evident; nothing easier.
I notice that both Boodels and Milburd catch at this idea. From which I fancy, knowing from experience Boodels' turn for poetry, that they have got, ready for production, what they will call, "little things of their own that they've just knocked off."
Almost wish I hadn't suggested it. But if they've got something to act, so have I. If they do theirs, they must let mine be done.
Settled, that it is to be a theatre.
Odd that no one part of the house seems finished. Saxons started it; Normans got tired of it; Tudors touched it up; Annians added to it.
Happy Thought.—(Alliterative, on the plan of "A was an Apple pie.")
Saxons started it: Normans nurtured it: Tudors touched it up: Annians added to it; Georgians joiced it: Victorians vamped it.
"Joice," I explain, is a term derived from building; "to joice, i. e. to make joices to the floors." Chilvern says, "Pooh!" To "vamp" is equal, in musical language, to "scamp" or to dodge up. The last owner evidently has done this.
Happy Thought.—Good name for a Spanish speculative builder—Don Vampa di Scampo. Evidently an architect of Chateaux d'Espagne.
We visit the stables. The gates are magnificent, two lions sit on their tails, and guard shields on two huge pillars. After this effort, the owner seems to have got tired of the place and left it.
We notice this of every room, of various doors, of many windows.
Successive tenants have commenced with great ideas, which have, so to speak, vanished in perspective.
Boodels becomes melancholy. He says, "I should call this 'The House of Good Intentions.'"
I point out that these we are going to perfect and utilise.
A brilliant idea strikes me. I say—
Happy Thought.—Let us call it, "Happy-Thought Hall." I add that this will look well on the top of note-paper.
CHOOSING A PARTY.
ROOMS—DECISION—ODD MEN—RETURN—ARRANGEMENTS—THEORIES—OBJECTION —PROPOSITIONS—ELECTIONS—THE LADIES—WHO'S HOST?—GUESTS—HOSTESS —MORE PROPOSALS—GRANDMOTHERS—AUNTS—HALFSISTERS—SISTERHOOD PROPOSED—GRAND IDEA—CHAPERONS—TERMS—IDEAL—A PROFESSION—A DEFECT—OR ADVANTAGE—ADDITIONAL ATTRACTIONS—OLD MAN—DULNESS— THEATRICAL—PLANS—THE PRESIDENT—EXPLANATION—IDEA.
There are, it appears, sixteen bed-rooms in the house, independently of servants' rooms.
The question is, How shall we decide?
Happy Thought.—Toss up.
We do so. The "odd man" to toss again, and so on. I am the last odd man. Boodels chooses the room with the stain on the floor. He says he prefers it.
We drive back to Station. Thoughtful and sleepy journey.
Chilvern is to arrange all details as to fitting up and furnishing. This, he says, he can do, inexpensively and artistically, in a couple of weeks' time.
Milburd points out clearly to us that the old woman in charge evidently doesn't want to be turned out, and so invented the ghost. We all think it highly probable, except Boodels, who says he doesn't see why there shouldn't be a ghost. We don't dispute it.
The next thing is to make up a party. Cazell tells us "what we ought to do." "We ought," he says, "to form ourselves into a committee, and ask so many people."
We meet in the evening to choose our party. Rather difficult to propose personal friends, whom every one of us will like. We agree that we must be outspoken, and if we don't like a guest proposed, we must say so, and, as it were, blackball him.
Or her?—This remark leads to the question, Are there to be any ladies? Boodels says decidedly, Yes.
Chilvern, putting it artistically, says, "We want a bit of colour in a house like that."
Cazell wants to know who is to be the host. Boodels proposes me.
I accept the position; but what am I exactly? that's what I must clearly understand.
Milburd explains—a sort of president of a Domestic Republic.
Very good. Then how about the ladies?
Chilvern says we must have a hostess. We all suppose, doubtfully, that we must. I ask, Won't that interfere with our arrangements?
Boodels replies, that "we can't have any arrangements without a hostess." He says, after some consideration, that he has got a Grandmother who might be useful. Chilvern, deferentially, proposes an Aunt of his own, but does not, as it were, press her upon us, on account of some infirmities of temper. I've got a half-sister who was a widow about the time I was born, and if she's not in India ....
On the whole we think that if Boodels would have no objection to his grandmother coming.....
"Not in the least," says Boodels. "I think she can stand a fortnight of it or so."
Carried nem. con. Boodels' grandmother to be lent for three weeks, and to be returned safely.
Happy Thought (to suggest to ladies).—Why shouldn't there be a sisterhood of chaperons? Let somebody start it. "Oh!" says a young lady, "I can't go there wherever it is, because I can't go alone, and I haven't got a chaperon."
Now carry out the idea. The young lady goes to The Home (this sort of establishment is always a Home—possibly because people to be hired are never not at home),—well, she goes to the Home, sees the lady superioress or manageress, who asks her what sort of a chaperon she wants. She doesn't exactly know; but say, age about 50, cheerful disposition, polished manners.
Good. Down comes photograph book.
Young lady inspects chaperons and selects one.
She comes downstairs. "Is she," asks the lady manageress, "to be dressed for evening or for day, a fete or for what?"
Well then, that's all settled.
Terms, so much an hour, and something for herself. What the French call a pour boire.
This is a genuinely good idea, and one to be adopted, I am sure. What an excellent profession for ladies of good family and education, of a certain age, and an uncertain income.
They might form a Social Beguinage, on the model of the one at Ghent. No vows. All sorts of dresses. All sorts of feeding. Respectable address. And a Home.
Boodels' grandmother, it turns out, is deaf.
Here again what a recommendation for a chaperon! and how very few employments are open to deaf people. No harmless, bodily ailment would disqualify, except a violent cold and sneezing.
A chaperon with a song: useful. Consider this idea in futuro. Put it down and assist the others in our list.
We ought to make our company a good salad.
I propose my friend, Jenkyns Soames.
Jenkyns Soames is a scientific man.
"We mustn't be dull," says Boodels, which I feel is covertly an objection to my friend.
Chilvern says that he thinks we ought to have an old man.
Well, ... he hesitates, then says, politely, that with all young ones, won't Mrs. Boodels be rather dull?
(Happy Thought.—Old man for Mrs. Boodels, to talk to her through her ear-trumpet.)
Boodels says, "Oh, no! his grandmother's never dull."
Milburd observes, that this choosing is like making up characters for a play. He takes in a theatrical newspaper, and proposes that we should set down what we want, after the style in which the managers frame their advertisements.
Wanted.—A First Old Man. Also A Leading Heavy.
He proposes "Byrton—Captain Byrton. He was in a dragoon regiment."
Happy Thought.—Good for "Leading Heavy."
Milburd's man is Byrton. Mine is Soames. I have an instinctive dislike to Byrton, I don't know why, perhaps because I perceive a certain amount of feeling against Soames.
Boodels' Proposal.—That we should meet once a week to determine whose invitations should be renewed, and whose conge should be given.
As President I say, "Well, but I can't tell our guests that they must go."
Cazell strikes in, "I tell you what we ought to do—only ask everyone for a week, and then, if we like them, we can ask 'em to stop on."
Agreed.—That we take these matters into weekly consideration.
Milburd wishes to know who is to order dinner every day.
Happy Thought.—Take it in turn, and I'll begin as President.
Boodels, when this has been agreed to, says that we ought to have good dogs about and outside a large house like that.
I tell them that there is one—a very fierce beast.
Boodels says he's sure I must be mistaken, as they went all over the house, and there was only a little snarling, growling puppy making darts at a mouse, or a rat, which he saw moving behind some door which was locked.
[Happy Thought.—Keep the facts to myself. Only a Puppy! and I thought it was a mastiff! [Good name, by the way, for a novel—Only a Puppy.] If I'd shaken that door again, then they could have let me out.]
We've all got dogs, except myself. I have, I say, my eye on a dog. I remember some one promising me a clever poodle a year ago. Will think who it was, and call on him.
Cazell is of opinion that we ought to wear some peculiar sort of dress, and call ourselves by some name.
Happy Thought.—Why not be an Order?
Someone is just going to speak, when I beg his pardon, and say, "Look here!" I am
THE NEW ORDER.
A BROTHERHOOD—SIMPLICITY—A DIFFICULTY MET—ILLUSTRATIONS— PROCEEDINGS—INTERVIEW—QUESTION—ANSWER—MODELS—PETITS FRERES— TERMS—RULES AND REGULATIONS—THE SCHEME DISMISSED—THE LIST SETTLED.
Apropos of the Home for Chaperons.
The Happy Thought.—Why not start a new Brotherhood?
A social and sociable one. An order.
"What do I mean?" asks Milburd.
Simplest thing possible.
Hosts are so often in want of some one to "fill up." A guest disappoints them at the last hour, and where are they to get another?
"Well," says Boodles, "how is another to be got?"
Easily: if, in a central situation, there were a House, a large House, where male guests of all sorts could be obtained.
I explain myself more clearly.
A lady says, "Oh dear! Our ball will be overdone with ladies. I mean, we've got plenty of gentlemen, but—I don't know what's the matter with the young men now-a-days, hardly any of them dance."
If my Happy Thought is carried out, why here's her remedy.
Down she goes to the Home. Rings. Enters. Sees the Brother Superior, or Manager.
"What sort of young men do you want?"
"Well, specially for dancing, and generally effective."
Good. Here is the very thing to suit you. "We've got only three of these in, as there's such a demand just now for this article, during the season."
"Very well. Send them at ten."
"With pleasure, and if any of the dancing brothers come in, they shall be forwarded to you later in the evening."
Terms, so much an hour. Supper ad lib. included. Breakages not allowed as discount. Any complaints as to inebriety, serious and compromising flirting, or of laziness, to be made to the manager or brother superior.
I would call this Order,
THE LITTLE BROTHERS OF THE RICH.
There should be no vows, and the rules to be strictly observed should be:—
1. To live in community, the House being supported by the labour of the Brothers, who shall receive a certain allowance, each one, per annum, out of the profits.
2. Always to be ready to fulfil engagements, whether for dancing parties, dinner parties, or other social gatherings.
3. The Serious Brothers will devote their time only to such literature as suits their professional duties.
4. The Sprightly, or dining-out Brothers, shall pass, monthly, an examination in good stories, anecdotes, and bons mots.
5. The Musical Brothers must be up in all new songs, and arrangements shall be made with publishers for Singing Brothers and Playing Brothers to receive a fair percentage on sale of pieces (indirectly).
6. The General Utility Brothers must be up in anecdotes and jokes, play a little, sing a little, sport a little, and do everything more or less, so as to make themselves indispensable to country houses where there are large gatherings.
7. The Theatrical Brothers must be perfect companions for amateurs, and know all about charades and extempore costumes.
Any Brother found dining, or doing anything, at his own expense, to be immediately dismissed.
I submit this scheme to the civilised world, hoping to meet a Want of the 19th century.
Boodels says that, practically, a Cricketing Eleven means something of this sort, being, generally speaking, merely a society organised for the purpose of staying at other people's houses free of charge.
Cazell wishes to know if we are going to waste our time in talking nonsense, or are we going to settle about our guests?
The question, I say, is whether my proposal is nonsense or not.
Chilvern hopes we'll make out our list.
Jenkyns Soames settled. Byrton ditto. Old Mrs. Boodels.
Happy Thought (on seeing these pictures).—To ask Boodels' grandmother "then."
Milburd votes for asking the Chertons. Capital girls, he says, and appeals to Boodels. Boodels opines that—yes, they are very nice girls.
"No humbug about them," says Milburd.
With this recommendation we put down the Chertons.
Miss Adelaide and Miss Bella.
Boodels says that, as they often go on a visit to his grandmother, she can bring them both.
Boodels lends us a butler. Pious, with a turn for hymns in the pantry. Milburd brings a valet. A sociable creature, with an inclination to be affable, and join in the conversation round the dinner-table.
Milburd presents us with a groom, whose wife cooks. The groom himself has waited at table occasionally. At first he says "Woa" to the vegetables and the sauces. He cannons against the butler, and tells the dogs to "get out, carn't yer!" After a few days he is in good training.
Byrton brings a soldier-servant who will only attend to his master.
The Chertons have a ladies' maid, who affects the latest fashion, but is a failure in gloves.
Mrs. Boodels' maid is an elderly female. The vinegar in the kitchen salad.
We engage, on her recommendation, a housemaid, and a charwoman of irreproachable antecedents.
Chilvern, who gives himself a holiday, brings his clerk, a sharp little fellow of sixteen, to clean the boots, and render himself generally useful. The first day he was impudent to Mrs. Boodels' maid, and was thrashed by Byrton's servant. He is now quiet and subservient.
A MORNING DISCUSSION.
ON DEAFNESS—ESCAPES—BUTTONHOLED—A DISCUSSION—MORNING LOST—RAGE —DESPAIR.
"Deaf people are very happy," says Boodels, thoughtfully.
"Perhaps," replies the Professor of Scientific Economy; "a deaf person can gain no information from conversation."
"Who does?" asks Bella, pertly.
"Who finds mushrooms in a field?" asks Chilvern, who has been engaged in this lately.
"Give it up," says Milburd. That's the worst of Milburd, when a conversation is beginning to promise some results, he nips it in the bud with the frost of his nonsense.
Bella asks what Mr. Chilvern was going to say. He has nearly forgotten, but recalls it to his mind, on Cazell repeating the word mushrooms.
"Ah, yes," says Chilvern, evidently feeling that the brilliancy of his simile has been taken off by the interruption. "I was going to say a propos of Miss Bella's remark about no one gaining any information from conversation——"
"I didn't say that, Mr. Chilvern."
No, of course not. We all side with Miss Bella.
Chilvern nowhere. "Ah, well," he says, "I thought you did."
"And if I had?" asks Miss Bella, triumphantly.
"Eh!—well, if you had—" Chilvern meditates, and then answers, "—if you had, why then I was going to say that ...." here he breaks off and finishes, "—well, it doesn't matter now, but it was very good when I first thought of it."
He disappears, i.e., from a conversational point of view, in our laughter. He is extinguished.
"What's he saying?" asks Mrs. Boodels.
Milburd takes up the trumpet. "He says," shouts Milburd, it being quite unnecessary to shout, "that he's a very clever fellow."
"Ah," says Mrs. Boodels. "Mr. Chilvern's always joking."
"I never said anything of the sort," says the injured Chilvern to her, defending himself through the ear-trumpet.
"Ah," observes Mrs. Boodels, perfectly satisfied. "I was sure he never could have said that." Then she considers for a few seconds. After this she remarks, "Cleverness, is not one of his strong points."
Whereupon she smiles amiably. Chilvern walks to the window.
"We were saying," says the Professor, who evidently has a whole three-volume lecture ready for us, "that deaf people are happy. Now I controvert that opinion. To be deaf, is not a blessing."
"Then," says Milburd, "a person who is deaf, is not a blessed old man, or old woman, as the case may be."
"You misapprehend me, my dear Milburd. What I would say about deafness, is this—" (exit BELLA, quietly,)—"is this—that the loss of the sense of hearing——"
"Is seldom the loss of hearing sense," interrupts Boodels, at the door.
"To a certain extent," continues the Professor, who has Milburd, now, as it were, in his grasp. "Boodels, although putting it lightly, was right. Sense is uncommon—"
"'Specially common sense," I observe. Being my first remark for some time. But I like the Professor; and his philosophic views have an interest for me that they evidently do not possess for natures which will be always butterflying about.
"You are right," says the Professor turning to me, whereupon Milburd rises quietly, and gets to the door. (Exit MILBURD.) "But common sense, though, I admit, wrongly designated, does not convey to us a positive pleasure. The question, which we are considering—namely, whether to be deaf, is a happiness or not—should be treated in the Socratic method, and the whole reasoning reduced to the simplest syllogisms."
Through the window, I see Bella going out with Milburd. Adelaide is with Boodels. Chilvern is pointing at me: they are all laughing. I smile to them, and at them, as much as to say, "Bless you! I'm with you in spirit, but the Professor has my body." Byrton I see meeting them. He has his driving coat on. Hang it, they're going for some excursion without me.
Thoughts while the Professor is talking on the pleasures of deafness.—Where are they going to? Why didn't they tell me? I think Bella might have given me some notion. If she's with Milburd, won't he make fun of me? Is he trying to cut me out, or not? If "yes," it's deuced unfair of him. Bella doesn't look back, or make any sign to me to come. If I joined them now, should I be de trop? No. How can I? It's all our party generally. They disappear into the shrubbery.
Professor suddenly asks me, "That you'll admit, I suppose."
Happy Thought.—(As I haven't heard a single word of what he's been saying, to reply guardedly), "Well, to a certain extent, perhaps—but—" then I pause, and frown, as if considering it, whatever it is.
The Professor is lost in amazement. "But," he exclaims, "you must admit that. By what theory of approximation can you show that we do not attain to such perfectibility of number; unless you would say, as I have heard advanced by the Budengen school, that the expression is but a formula adapted to our human experience."
I wonder to myself what point he is arguing with me. His subject was Deafness.
Happy Thought.—(In order to find out where he's got to in his lecture, ask him). "Yes, but how does this tell upon Deafness."
"I will show you; but it is impossible to discuss conclusions unless we settle our premisses." [I hear the trap in the stable yard and Byrton woa-woaing. Bother!] "Will you bring some deep objection to a premiss which is fundamental ...."
I beg his pardon, which premiss?
Happy Thought.—Better find out what he is talking about, then differ from him point blank, and leave the room.
Happy Thought.—Pair off. Same idea as that excellent parliamentary arrangement, when you agree to differ with another member, for a whole session, on every question, and then go away and enjoy yourself.
"The premiss," repeats the Professor, "that you would not admit just now. I do not say," he adds—[I hear the wheels. Can I jump up and say, "Excuse me!" and run out. I could if I was a young lady, or an elderly one. But a man can't do it, specially as President, or Host, without being rude]—"that you had not good grounds, but what are those grounds?" Here he plants his binocle on his nose, leans back and stares at me.
Good Heavens! If I hadn't differed from him, or, I mean, if I'd only understood what the——
Happy Thought.—(To ask seriously), "Re-state, exactly, the premiss I disputed." [I'm sure to catch a glimpse of the trap and horses as they drive past the lake. Hang the Professor!]
"Simply," says he, "in putting the first premiss, I used the old formula, viz., that the point in question was as clear as that two and two make four."
"Good Heavens! have I been disputing that with you?" I almost shout.
"What else?" he asks, astonished.
"Why ... I ..." I really cannot speak, I am so annoyed. I've lost a whole morning, and whole day, perhaps, and a jolly party, and—and—and—
"What's the matter?" asks Mrs. Boodels, handing her instrument of torture to the Professor. "What does he say?"
"He says—" commences the Professor ....
Je me sauve! (Exit myself, hurriedly.) I rush to the stable.
"James! Where are they gone?"
"They said, sir, as they were gone to the meet. 'Ounds is out near 'ere."
A WET DAY.
RAIN—THE MEDFORDS—CONVERSATION—A PROPOSAL—ACCEPTED—THE TRICK— THE LECTURE.
Provoking! "I do believe," says Miss Adelaide Cherton, "it's literally set in for rain."
Mrs. Boodels, without troubling herself to raise her ear-trumpet, smiles blandly and proceeds with her knitting.
Happy Thought. A deaf person can always talk to herself, and obtain a hearing.
Miss Bella exclaims, "Oh, what shall we do if it rains?"
Whereupon Miss Medford observes that the gentlemen will amuse us.
[Miss Medford is an addition to our party. She was brought by Mrs. Orby Frimmely, and Mr. Frimmely subsequently came down with her brother Alfred Medford, a celebrated musical amateur, "of the nobility's concerts." "A very interesting looking young man," Mrs. Boodels observes aloud when he arrives, but she is a little afraid of him on finding that he can do a conjuring trick. He only has one.]
I continue reading the newspaper. I determine to withdraw presently to my own room, where I shall lock myself in and ....
Happy Thought for Wet Day. Write letters. Jenkyns Soames observes that he shall devote his day to correcting his great work on Scientific Economy for the press. Mrs. Orby Frimmely says, that "it's wonderful to her, how Mr. Soames thinks of all the clever things he writes."
Soames remarks upon this, modestly, that "he has made the one subject his study, and all his thoughts are given to its development."
Mrs. Boodels requests that the Professor's last observation may be repeated to her.
Solo on the Ear-trumpet by Miss Medford. Milburd strolls in, then Boodels. Mrs. Boodels suddenly informs everyone that she is deeply interested in Mr. Soames' work, and, as it is a wet day, will he read some of it aloud to amuse us?
The ladies look at one another and smile. Mrs. Orby Frimmely exclaims, "Oh do," and laughs.
Milburd says it's just the thing to while away a happy hour, and instances the Polytechnic as being his favourite place of amusement in London.
Mr. Soames replies to this that the Polytechnic and himself are different institutions.
"All right," says Milburd; "go ahead!" Whereupon Milburd rushes into the library. Silence during his absence. It is broken by Medford asking Boodels if he's ever seen the trick with the shilling in the tumbler? Boodels replies that he has, but would like to see it again. Medford is just producing his shilling when the Professor returns. The Professor, who has been searching for something in his note book, now asks if they (the ladies) really wish to hear some of his new book.
"Oh! do!" enthusiastically everybody.
"I will fetch it down," says the Professor, much pleased, and leaves the room.
Medford holds up the shilling and says, "You see this shilling." Boodels begs his pardon for a minute, and, referring to the Professor, asks, "I say, haven't we let ourselves into too much of a good thing?"
Mrs. Frimmely observes "that it'll be something to do."
Miss Adelaide says, "I hate lectures."
Miss Bella strikes in with, "Well, if he bores, we can ask him questions."
It appears that he's going to have a lively time of it.
Milburd re-enters; he has arranged the library, and begs us to "Walk up!" as if it were a show.
Medford observes that there will be time before the lecture begins to show his conjuring trick with the shilling.
Cazell interrupts him with the gong from the hall, and Chilvern plays a march on the piano. Medford pockets his shilling and observes that "he'll do it afterwards."
The Professor appears on the scene. He requests that there may be no Tomfoolery.
I say to him, "No, of course not," as I really do wish Milburd would show some consideration, and treat the matter seriously.
Milburd apologises for his fun, and we attend the Professor to the library. There we find a black board, a glass of water, and a piece of chalk.
"I propose," commences the Professor, "dealing with the Pleasures of Wealth." "Brayvo!" from Milburd. Immediately frowned down by everybody.
"I have reduced the calculation to a simple formula, intelligible to all intellects of more or less cultivation."
Medford asks me in a whisper if I do know his trick with a shilling. I return "hush" and look serious.
Winks between Byrton and Chilvern.
Catching the Professor's eye, Chilvern looks suddenly solemn and deeply interested. It is a pity that they will go on being buffoons.
"The study of algebra suggests the mode of treatment."
Wry face made by Mrs. Frimmely.
Mrs. Boodels is seated, placidly, with her ear-trumpet raised and on her lips a smile of calm contentment, from which we subsequently infer that she doesn't catch one word.
"As the wealth so the Pleasure. [Here he draws on his slate. Milburd inquires, 'What's that?' but is hushed down.]
"As x : 2 :: b : 5.
"The product of the extremes equals the product of the Means, and as long as this sum in proportion is observed, Ruin is impossible.
"* The key here is that b = L1,000,000.
5x = 2b
* x = 2b/5
= 2,000,000/5 = L400,000.
"Not a bad sum per annum," says the Professor, smiling, in order to throw a little pleasantry into the matter, which is becoming a trifle heavy. Mrs. Boodels asleep. "Though I thought it was more when I commenced the equation.
"I will now," he says, "write down a text."
[Watches out .... a yawn from Cazell .... ladies restless.]
"To Give is a Wealthy Pleasure.
"And on this I make what I call 'suggestions.'
"The poor man has it in his power to cause the Rich great pleasure.
"Let I stand for me."
("Impossible," interrupts Milburd, sotto voce. Our Philosophic Lecturer takes no notice. He is rising with his subject).
"Let us say 'I is poor.'"
Miss Bella says, "Excuse me a moment," and vanishes. Wish I could get out.
"Let all I's rich friends subscribe according to their means from L5 upwards.
"Result, easily attained, L5,000.
"Say that eighty people subscribed L62 10s. apiece. Are there not eighty people in London, Manchester, and Liverpool who could do this and not miss it so much as I should miss a farthing put by accident into a Church plate—of course I mean by mistake for half a sovereign.
"But how could such a mistake arise? you would say."
(We wouldn't, but he couldn't tell that.)
"Why simply because I never give less in Church than half a sovereign. Ergo, I never give in Church unless I have half a sovereign in my pocket. But I never have half a sovereign in my pocket."
[Smiles from everyone, and applause from Milburd, towards whom the Professor looks appealingly, as much as to say, "There, I can be just as funny as you, only without Tomfoolery."]
"Ergo ... cela va sans dire.
"So, you see, eighty people could make 'I' happy.
[Medford is practising his trick with a shilling by himself.]
"Which is equivalent to saying that eighty people could make me happy.
"And 'I' has it, you observe, in his power to make eighty people happy by accepting the subscription."
Note, which I suggest to the Professor. Should this ever meet the eye of Baron Rothschild, let him remember, that by his single act, he can attain to the happiness of eighty people.
"If any of you, here present, happen to be acquainted with the Baron, and will introduce me to him, it will be, I am sure, a step in the interests of humanity generally, and not without its beneficial results to individuals particularly." ("Hear! hear!")
. . . . . . .
With this bit of Practicality the lecture concludes.
He tells me, in confidence, that he finished quickly because he felt he was "above his audience."
Milburd subsequently offers to introduce the Professor to Baron Rothschild "for a consideration."
* * *
No one, as yet has found any of the pleasures of Poverty.
Some one says "Absence of Income-tax." This is met with Absence of Income. Solution rejected.
* * *
We found afterwards on our Scientific Lecturer's table MSS. of
"Letters to Rothschild" by a Professor of Scientific Economy.
One commences thus:—
You will doubtless be surprised at hearing from an humble individual who has nothing but his Scheme of Personal Scientific Economy, and his unblemished character, to recommend him to your notice.
I am getting up a subscription for myself. This sounds, put shortly, egotistical. On the contrary, it is Cosmopolitanly Philanthropical. If I am enabled to teach my doctrines for nothing, I shall, then, be slave to no man, no, not even to myself, as represented by my own necessities. May I head the list with a sum worthy your munificence and perfectly Oriental wealth? Yes. I hear you say 'yes.' I knew it. I shall put your Lordship down for L20,000, and will be careful to send you a receipt for the money. Business is business.
* * *
Perhaps one day the Professor of Scientific Economy will publish his "Letters to Baron Rothschild." But I don't think there will ever appear a very voluminous collection of "Letters of Baron R. to Mr. Jenkyns Soames."
Milburd asks him "what he should say were the pleasures of poverty."
The Professor considers.
We all consider.
The Professor wishing to do everything methodically, writes on the slate in large type THE PLEASURES OF POVERTY.
FIRST Pleasure ......
. . . . . . . . .
Then he pauses. Then he speaks. "On thorough consideration, I am convinced that Poverty has no pleasures.
"If any, they are peculiar.
"They are Grim Pleasures.
"One grim Pleasure of Poverty is talking about ourselves."
"A very poor subject," observes Miss Medford.
After a silence, during which I am just on the point of saying something, but don't, the Professor adds,
"No. We try very hard, but can not see any pleasure in Poverty."
OUT OF AN ALBUM—ON LOSS OF PATIENCE—MRS. FRIMMELY's SUGGESTION—A DAY-DANCE.
Query—What shall we do?
We lounge over the room undecidedly. Mrs. Boodels thinks it's still raining. Pouring. Miss Bella says, "What a bother!" Miss Medford remembers having heard a problem worthy the Professor's attention. We pause in our indecision, and she reads from her album.
What circumstance most justifies loss of patience?
The Professor of Scientific Economy replies, a smoky chimney.
* He explains that he is thinking of a bitterly cold day in winter when he wanted to sit in his study, and write a treatise on the Amount of change to be obtained out of a Roman Denarius, B.C. 108. On this occasion his chimney would smoke, and he had to sit with the door and window open. Then the smoke choked him; next, the draught gave him cold; then his fingers became frozen; finally, his feet were like icicles in refrigerating stockings. After standing this for about two hours, he could not help saying.......
Evidently a case where the Recording Angel would not even chance a blot.
Happy Thought.—What a mess that book will be in. Perhaps illegible!!
* * *
Miss Adelaide Cherton thinks that to find a wasp inside the only peach on the wall was most provoking.
Byrton's Opinion. Hot coffee over your new cords on a "show-meet" day.
It strikes me that to come on shore after taking a swim in the river, and not to be able to find your clothes, is a circumstance quite justifying loss of patience.
Apropos of this, Chilvern says he recollects a fellow—Smith, a friend of his—bathing, and when he came out he couldn't find his clothes. So, as some people were coming along the bank, Smith retired to the stream, and Chilvern went to search for the habiliments. The fact was, that Smith had gone down with the stream, and his clothes had been consequently left a mile behind.
Chilvern found the clothes, then returned, but couldn't find Smith.
The current had taken him down stream another mile.
So it might have gone on; had not the river been a tidal one (or worked on some peculiar principles, which Chilvern doesn't explain)—and, the stream changing, back brought Smith with it, and then he was happy,—only with a cold for ever after.
Mrs. Boodels being informed of the discussion through her ear-trumpet, said that losing a thimble was quite sufficient to justify any loss of patience.
The gentlemen present observe, that they have no doubt it is so, but they have had no experience.
Milburd thinks that the button off your collar, or, losing your stud, at the last moment, is the most trying thing.
Bella Cherton, after walking to the window several times and seeing no sign of fine weather, says, "I'll tell you what I consider most justifies loss of patience."
"What?" we inquire.
"Sitting here!" she replied.
Note. This sort of reply rather throws a damper over efforts to be genial. Mrs. Boodels wishes it to be repeated to her through the trumpet. Damper through the ear trumpet.
Mrs. Orby Frimmely says, that trying to get through your favourite valse with a bad partner... Ah!
Mrs. O. F.'s Happy Thought. "By the way, as it is so wet, why not have a dance? Mr. Medford can play."
Seconded by Byrton, and supported by the ladies.
Adjournment to Drawing-Room. Odd. We suddenly fall into our ball-room manners. Talking to partners quietly. Going out to get cool,—on the stairs.
Byrton is dancing with Mrs. Orby Frimmely. Mr. Orby Frimmely being engaged in town is not here.
Byrton is certainly very much struck, in fact he says so; and shows it. However, he is always being struck, always saying so, always showing it, and ... that's all.
Jenkyns Soames has retired to his room; probably to write to Rothschild.
Chilvern is Miss Cherton's partner.
Milburd is Miss Bella's.
I don't dance. I debate with myself whether I can or not. I used to. In a waltz for instance, I know two steps out of three. The third is where I fail. Dances change so. My waltz is the Deux temps, for the simple reason that the Deux temps does also for the galop, that is, it does for my galop.
I flatter myself on my galop. Here, so to speak, I am at home. If Medford can only play a galop, and if Miss Bella will give up Milburd, or Milburd give her up, why je suis son homme. I am her man.
Medford will do a galop, he says; and immediately before I have time to ask if Bella—if Miss Bella ... he strikes into it and the dancers change their step, and are whirling round and round, then up and down. I can't stop them. As the opera books say, "Rage! Madness! Despair!"
I catch her eye.
She understands, I am sure.
She will ...
If she does ...
She stops, making some excuse to Milburd and looking at me. (Aha! Milburd! you think yourself such a lady killer, that a .. this to myself, thinkingly).
Happy Thought.—To go up to her and say, "You promised me."
I do it.
"Did I?" she says.
Milburd gives in, unexpectedly, and relinquishes her.
Aha! we are off! Round and round ... carpet rather bad to dance on ... up and down ... I feel that we are just skirting chairs, and that another inch will bring down the fire-irons——we put on the pace ... I haven't danced for ... well, for some considerable time ... we nearly come bang against the piano ... my fault .. beg pardon ... but we won't stop ...
"Oh no!" says Bella ... and we don't stop.
A little quieter, just to, as it were, regain consciousness, for everything is becoming blurred—(jerky sentences while dancing) ... "It's more difficult ... to steer when ... there are a few ... than when ..." "Yes," says Miss Bella, who quite understands. (Myself tenderly.) "Do you ... like dancing?" ... "Yes," ... (whirl round, up and down ... then) ... "This dance?" ... What? ... (whirl round just to get the steam up again for the question, and put it sotto voce, finding myself close to her ear—such a pretty little ear—made to be whispered into). "Do you like this dance?" ... "Very much." (My heart is fluttering nervously, like a stray bird under a skylight) ... "With anyone?" ... (No answer ... My question means do you prefer ME to dance with, and not only to dance with, but ...)
The music ceases. Medford is tired. We all thank him.
If it hadn't been for the gong ...
But at all events the wet morning is over.
A NIGHT SURPRISE.
Boodels and Milburd knock at my door at 2.30 a.m., after I've been asleep two hours, and wake me up to tell me that they had thought of a Pleasure of Poverty: it was, Milburd said,
To think that you can't be worse off, while you hope that others may.
I say .. "Oh ... don't bother—I mean—yes—capital ... go to ... bed," and turning round, try to sleep again.
The Deputation thanks me and withdraws.
"What an idiotic thing to do," I say to myself .... "What a foolish thing" .... getting more wakeful ... "What a cruel thing .... Hang it! it's positively selfish ... it's" ... turning for the fifth time, and my pillow becoming as hot as a blister ... "Confound Boodels ... and Milburd ... it's all his doing, I know" ... sitting up in bed.
It occurs to me that counting one hundred and forty backwards, and then getting out and drinking a glass of water, is a capital way of inducing sleep ...
Odd, but in Milburd and Boodels coming to rouse me at this time, I find a solution to the other question that we had occupied part of our morning in discussing.
What circumstance justifies loss of patience?
Why, loss of sleep.
OUR LIBRARY—BUSTS—DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS—MELANCHOLY—GUESSES— SOAMES—MRS. BOODELS AGAIN—MILBURD—HIS JOKE—A NUISANCE.
Of all the melancholy objects of Art Busts are the most so.
Do you want a sensation of Miserable Melancholy?
Off to a dusty library of bookshelves, chiefly empty, and the remainder having an occasional medical treatise in the original Latin, with diagrams of the human frame, no fire, rain pouring, damp mist over the landscape, no pens, ink, or even paper to tear up into fanciful shapes, and nothing for company except busts of celebrated people, looking like the upper part of the ghosts of half-washed chimney-sweepers.
After a time, they only resemble one thing, a collection of several homicidal criminals.
Sit before a bust, any bust, under the above circumstances.
You wonder to what you would have condemned this hideous creature had he been brought up, in his lifetime, before you, as a magistrate.
On every feature is stamped Ruffian. This man must have been hung, were there any justice in the world.
No. This bust is of the late venerable and excellent Archbishop Snuffler.
Is it possible. And all these other savage-looking creatures?... "Are," says my informant in the damp library who only comes in for a minute, "Archbishops, Bishops, celebrated Philanthropists, Doctors, and men of science."
And here they are perched up aloft, like overgrown cherubs, whose wings have been taken off by some surgical operation.
Happy Thought.—If you want to be revenged on somebody, and don't mind expense, have his portrait painted with all his defects glaringly rendered, and present it, as a mark of esteem, to his family.
On his fiftieth birthday give him a bust of himself to be placed in his hall. Depend upon it you've punished him.
Jenkyns Soames, our Professor of Scientific Economy, was talking of the Zoological Gardens.
"I dispute," says he, "the fact of the Hyaena laughing."
"Why? Solvitur ambulando, or rather non ambulando, for I've stood in front of his cage for half an hour, and I've never seen him laugh once."
This was repeated to Mrs. Boodels.
"Yes," says she, "that's very probable. But when Mr. Jenkyns went away * *"
Milburd tried to cap this by asking as a conundrum "why the Hyaena wouldn't laugh in your face?"——
As Mrs. Boodels rose, the ladies had to go out too, so no one stopped for the answer. He caught me alone in a corner and told me what it was. I think he said that it was because the Hyaena was an Hy-brid animal. He explained that he meant "high-bred."
Happy Thought.—To say, "Oh, that's very old." This has the same effect on a conundrum-maker as the most brilliant repartee.
Unless it leads him to come to you three times a day ever afterwards, with fresh ones, all hot as it were from the baker's, and ask you perpetually, "Well, is this old?"
MUSIC—MEDFORD—MILBURD'S SONG—CONSEQUENCE—OPINIONS—NOTE— COMPLIMENTS—EPIGRAM—THE DAMP FIREWORK.
Milburd asks Medford to accompany him in a "little thing of his own." The ladies have taken their turn at the piano, and Medford himself has favoured us with half an hour's worth of his unpublished compositions. Milburd announces his song as "A WAITING GAME."
(Suggested by "A Dreary Lot is Mine.")
A waiting game is mine, Fair maid, A waiting game is mine; One day I shall not be afraid To ask, then hear "I'm thine!" And when that word I've spoo-o-ken, Ere yet I am quite grey, Ne'er will it, dear, be bro-o-o-ken For ever and a day!
Mrs. Boodels wants to know if he won't kindly sing it to her through her ear-trumpet. He promises to do so, one day when they are alone.
A waiting game is mine, fair maid, A waiting game is mine, I'll stay until my debts are paid, The contract then I'll sign. Unless you've fifty thousand pounds, To bring me as a dower, If so .... those are sufficient grounds For wedding—now—this hour.
Nobody asks him to sing again. Mrs. Frimmely says, "She only cares for French songs. English comic songs," she adds, "are so vulgar." Settler for Milburd. Glad of it.
After this Milburd says he's got another; a better one.
We say, sing it to-morrow.
Happy Thought (expressed in a complimentary manner).—A good song, like yours, is better for keeping.
Note to Myself.
The age for compliments is gone. The courtly and polished Abbe, who would have said the above epigrammatically when it would have been considered remarkably witty, has passed away. No one believes in compliment. It has no currency, except done in a most commonplace way. But the epigrammatic compliment, the well-prepared impromptu, the careful rehearsed inspiration, is out of date. Now-a-days there are no wits, and no appreciation of The Wits. Conversation is damped by a bon-mot. An awful silence follows the most brilliant jeu de mot, as sombre as the darkness after a forked flash, or as the gardens at the Crystal Palace after the last bouquet of fireworks.
Conversation is like a boot. When damped it loses its polish.
[The above remarks occasioned by no one having taken any notice of my epigram, and Milburd only replying to it by saying, "Oh! bosh!"]
I've just tried to draw a firework in my pocket-book. It doesn't exactly express my idea. But is a very good sketch of a joke which has failed.
This evening I am melancholy.
OUR POSTAL ARRANGEMENTS.
Knock at the door.
Complaints made to the President of Happy-Thought Hall of the non-delivery or late delivery of letters, and newspapers.
I promise to see to it.
"George," I say to our servant, "let me see the postman when he comes." George grins, says Yes. Exit George.
Why does he grin?
Half an hour after this I am in the yard. I hear a shrill piping voice. It says, "It carnt b' elped n'ow. 'Taint no farlt o' mine. It's them at th' office as is irregylar. I says to them, I do, allus; come now, I says, you ain't to your time, I says, which you carnt say to me all the years as I've been up-a-down on this road, summer nor winter, and no one never lost nothin' nor complainin'. Tell the gendlemun fromme as——" here I step in, and interrupt an old woman talking. I ask. "Has the postman come?"
The old woman with a bag bobs a curtsey, and says,
And so she is; and has "carried the bag"—only without the dishonesty of a Judas—for the last twenty years. Wonderful old lady. About seventy, and walks twelve miles, at least, in all weathers, every day of her life.
A little girl, her granddaughter, walks by her side, and a sharp terrier accompanies the pair.
Poor old woman! blind.
I am disarmed.
The little girl informs me that "it's the folks at the post office as is wrong."
"Good-bye old Martha, and here's a Christmas-box for you."
"Ar, thank'ee kindly, sir."
MRS. BOODELS—BOODELS—HIS GRANDMOTHER'S OBSERVATION—HER FATE SEALED—THE COMEDY—HER DEPOSITION—NEW PROPOSAL—AWKWARD—MILBURD'S RELATION—INVITATION—THE DINNER HOUR—RECOMMENDATION—DECISION.
Being deaf, Mrs. Boodels has, as our friend Captain Byrton expresses it, six to four the best of us. Repartees through an ear-trumpet lose their sting. And then you can't in politeness, and in all respect, sting an old lady of seventy-five.
The other evening Boodels says, blushingly, that some of his friends tell him that he is just the man to write a comedy.
This is repeated to his grandmother through the trumpet.
"Yes," she says, quietly; "I've heard John's friends say that he can write a comedy, and I've heard 'em add that they hope he won't."
* * *
Since this we've not heard any more of Boodels' comedy. I rather think that he's got it all ready to read to us.
Next morning after this observation of Mrs. Boodels, her grandson comes with Milburd to my room.
Boodels says he thinks his grandmother's a little too old for the work.
I reply that we all like her, and that she's a charming old lady.
Boodels says, rather testily, of course she's all that, but we want some one more sprightly, and having to repeat everything to her through the trumpet is tedious.
We own that we should not have liked to have been the first to hazard this objection, but as he has made it himself, why we perhaps on the whole agree with him rather than not.
Boodels is satisfied with this craftily qualified assent.
"The old girl," he says,—(odd, how she's suddenly come down in his estimation—down to "old girl")—"has told me this morning that the late hours are beginning to tell upon her, and she wants to dine earlier!"
Ah! there we are touched nearly. Alter the dinner hour! Never!
"She's accustomed at home, you see," continues her grandfilial relation, "to dine at one o'clock or thereabouts, and tea at six."
Nursery hours! we couldn't think of it.
"Of course not," returns Boodels; "so I said to her .... She was rather huffed at the idea of my calling them 'nursery hours,' and wanted to know if I meant that she was in her second childhood. In fact," says Boodels, blurting it all out, "there's been a row, and the old girl threatened to take away the Chertons."
"Pooh!" from both of us.
"But if she goes—" commences Boodels, who has a strict and severe sense of propriety.
"If she does," cries Milburd, "look here! I've got it." He subdues his excitement, and proceeds, "I've a letter from the Regniatis."
"Regniatis! let's see," considers Boodels. "They're relations of yours?"
"Yes. Count Regniati, an Italian, and the jolliest fellow in the world"—he adds this as a set-off against his nationality, which may, he evidently thinks, suggest secret societies, daggers, carbonari—"married my Aunt. The Chertons are also some sort of distant connection. At least they often stay with Madame. So that she'll be their chaperone. I'm sure you'll like 'em immensely," he adds, "and the Signor, my uncle, is first-rate." We decide. Abdication of Mrs. Boodels and enthronement of the Regniati dynasty.
"Good," exclaims Boodels. "Then I'll tell my grandmother to-day. I don't want to do anything unpleasant"—we agree with him, such a feeling does him honour—"and I'll take the opportunity of her wanting to go up to an aurist to congedier her. After all the old lady will be much happier away, and I'll tell her that we shall be so glad to see her whenever she likes to turn up again, that is, if the Hall is still going on."
We admit that nothing could be more courtly, more diplomatic than this.
Milburd is to invite his Uncle and Aunt. And that's settled.
FRESH ARRIVALS—DESCRIPTION—A HISTORY.
Mrs. Boodles is deposed and retires, vice Madame Regniati promoted.
Madame Regniati arrives alone. "The Signor," as his nephew Milburd always affectionately terms him, "has not come by the same train."
"It is just like Mr. Regniati," observes Madame, severely. "He said he'd leave me to look after the luggage. Mr. Regniati has no notion of even looking after himself. Probably he has lost himself. My luggage has come with me. I have his ticket, and I know he has no money, as he has spent his allowance this week. When Mr. Regniati has found himself once more, I have no doubt he will appear."
All this she delivers in disjointed sentences, with a little pause or a cough between each. She speaks without any action, and generally statuesquely. She prides herself evidently on her classicality. She is more the antique Roman than the English dame. It was this, Milburd, in smoking-room confidence, informs us, that first inspired her with a liking for Mr. Regniati, whom she met in Rome. Mr. Regniati was then a sculptor, and might have gained, ultimately, a considerable reputation, if his good-natured indolence, and his social qualities, had not, in the end, proved too much for his undoubted talent. Being possessed of small private means, he would probably have remained an amateur, seeing, not only without a particle of envy, but with a smile of positive encouragement, others far less able than himself, pass him on the road of art, and occupy pedestals which ought to have been his. One evening meeting Miss Milburd at an artistic reunion, she overheard him express his admiration of her classical lineaments. Being mistress of her own fortunes, and of her own fortune, she simply determined to many Mr. Regniati; and did so. She foresaw his future greatness. She looked forward to his name being enrolled among those whom art has made illustrious. She was doomed to disappointment.
Transplanted to British soil, the Signor found himself a gentleman at large. He abandoned the chisel for the gun, and prided himself upon becoming a sportsman and an agriculturist. From the moment of his being thus thoroughly acclimatised, Madame Regniati gave him up, so to speak, then and there, as a bad job. The Signor's private means were not anything like enough to supply his peculiarly English tastes, and his wife would not "fritter her money away," she said, "in pigsties."
So she decided upon giving up their rural retreat which she had chosen for the purpose of affording Mr. Regniati every opportunity of communing with nature, and took him up to London. Here she obtained a small house, with a studio, built out at the back by its previous artistic occupant, where she fondly hoped Mr. Regniati would once more devote himself to the study of the fine arts.
Her husband now appeared to be inclined towards her way of thinking. The more, because his funds were in her hands, and she "allowanced" him.
He commenced a group, several sizes larger than life, of The Judgment of Paris.
The process was slow, and, apparently, far from inexpensive. Moreover it was excessively fatiguing, and Madame, proud of her husband's design, and sanguine as to his future, willingly permitted the Signor to take occasional relaxation in the country.
He was obliged to come to her from time to time for money. The allowance was insufficient.
This gradually aroused her suspicions. She had permitted the introduction of living models to the studio, out of regard for the necessities of art, but it was her invariable custom to bring her work thither, while Mr. Regniati was engaged in modelling from nature. He was seldom out of her sight, nor did he, indeed, appear at all anxious to be other than most eager for her companionship, except on the holiday occasions, when he sought invigoration in the country. Then he represented that he loved solitude, and generally selected a time when Madame was too indisposed even to offer to join him in his excursion.
Madame became, in fact, jealous.
Being a woman of deeds, not words, she determined to ascertain the truth, before she startled the Signor with the expression of a suspicion.
The Signor asked her for money. She gave it to him cheerfully, regretted that her rheumatism was so bad as to confine her to her room, begged him to stay away until he felt quite restored and able to go on with Minerva's toes (he had got so far with the three goddesses, but, having commenced with the toes, this was not much as representing the labour of nearly a year and a half), and wished him good-bye.
The Signor went to Dunby Dale, a small, out-of-the-way village in Hampshire, totally unaware of being closely followed by Madame's maid, who gave the information, and then by Madame herself.
The Signor was traced to a small farm-house, beautifully situated, and in the most perfect order.
He was welcomed, respectfully, at the door by a fresh-looking, buxom country wench.
The following conversation was overheard.
[The Signor's English is far from perfect.
He divides every syllable, more Italiano, and talks not unmusically in rather a high key. Most of his conversation is, as it were, written for a tenor, and he strains at it like a low baritone. Figurez-vous a portly gentleman, brown as walnut juice, dark black hair, moustache and beard. Teeth flashing and brilliant, like a set of impromptu epigrams in the mouth of a wit. Laughing lips, and eyes beaming with good-nature. Height five feet seven. Voila le Signor Regniati.]
"Ah! Mar-ree!"—this was to Mary the maid who had received him. "You look all rose and pink. And 'ow does my leet-tel Clo-teel-da? She is vell, I 'ope?"
"She gets on beautiful, sir," was the answer. "She's thrivin' wonderful."
"Oh!" exclaimed the Signor, lighting up, and evidently intensely delighted. "I am so glad. I come avays to see 'er. Tell me," he continued, becoming suddenly serious, "'ave she 'ad 'er bart?" [The Signor almost sings his sentences. He went up the scale to the verb "'ad," and took a turn down again three notes to the noun "bart," which, by the way, was his way of pronouncing "bath."]
"Every day, sir," replied the maid, cheerfully, "and her skin looks as white as a young infant's."
Again the Signor was in ecstasies.
"Come!" he cried, "let us go an' see 'er."
A good deal of the Signor's conversation resembles easy lessons in one syllable for beginners. His "let us go and see 'er," was delivered with a slight halt between each word, like a child in a state of doubt over a column in a spelling book.
They went into the house, and out, by the back way.
Madame Regniati soon discovered the worst. When the Signor had gone, she called at the house herself, and found that the Signor rented a lodging of the farmer, and, kept a pig.
Though forced to give up the country, he could not deny himself this agricultural pleasure. His first pig had won a prize, and the farmer showed Mrs. Regniati the account of the Cattle Show in a local paper, with Mr. Regniati exhibiting under the name of "Tomkins," and then, in the fulness of his heart, he brought out a silver medal, tied to a blue riband and preserved in a case of morocco leather, on which was inscribed that this represented the second prize for pigs awarded by the Judges to Mr. Regniati, as "Tomkins," for the sow Selina, and then followed date, place, and other particulars.
After this discovery there was an arrangement. Mr. Regniati was allowed a small farm-house in the country, on condition of his not wasting money upon it, and only taking to it as a recreation, while the greater portion of his time he would be, henceforth, in honour bound to dedicate to his Art.
The Signor accepted these terms.
In six years' time he had got as far as the third pair of knees,—Juno's,—and had obtained the first prize for pigs, and the second for bullocks, at a County Show.
This success lured him on to his ruin. At the expiration of ten years, Venus had a head on her shoulders, and he had almost lost his own. There had been years of disease among the cattle, insects in the turnips, and rottenness in the heart of his mangels; his expenses had become enormous, the Inspector of Nuisances had complained of the state of the drains round and about his farm, his oxen had strayed, two bulls had got loose and had maimed several people for life, whom he had to pension as long as they were unable to work,—and their inability to work appeared to increase with the duration of the pension. In fact Mr. Regniati's model farm promised to eventuate in a gigantic failure. At this crisis Madame stepped in and saved the citadel.