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the black fir-trees that belt the lawn, and Missy in the blue sash vanishes to the nursery; the room darkens in the twilight; the stars appear in the heaven and the tips of the cigars glow in the balcony ; she sings song after song, in accents soft and low, tender and melodious we are never tired of hearing ber. Indeed, Bob, I can hear her still the stars of those calm nights still shine in my memory, and I have been humming one of her tunes with my pen in my mouth, to the surprise of Mr. Dodder, who is writing at the opposite side of the table, and wondering at the lackadaisical expression which pervades my venerable mug.
You will naturally argue from the above pathetic passage, that I was greatly smitten by Mrs. Nightingale (as we will call this lady, if you will permit me). You are right, sir. For what is an amiable woman made, but that we should fall in love with her? I do not mean to say that you are to lose your sleep, or give up your dinner, or make yourself unhappy in her absence; but when the sun shines (and it is not too hot) I like to bask in it: when the bird sings, to listen: and to admire that which is admirable with an honest and hearty enjoyment. There were a half-dozen men at the period of which I speak who wore Mrs. Nightingale's colors, and we used to be invited down from London of a Saturday and Sunday, to Thornwood, by the hospitable host and hostess there, and it seemed like going back to school, when we came away by the coach of a Monday morning: we talked of her all the way back to London, to separate upon our various callings when we got into the smoky city. Salvator Rodgers, the painter, went to his easel; Woodward, the barrister, to his chambers ; Piper, the doctor, to bis patient (for he then had only one), and so forth. Fate called us each to his business, and has sent us upon many a distant errand since that day. But from that day to this, whenever we meet, the remembrance of the holidays at Thornwood has been always a bond of union between us : and we have always had Mrs. Nightingale's colors put away amongst the cherished relics of old times.
N. was a West India merchant, and his property went to the bad. He died at Jamaica. Thornwood was let to other · people, who knew us not. ' The widow with a small jointure retired, and educated her daughter abroad. We had not heard of her for years and years, nor until she came to town about a legacy a few weeks since.
In those years and years what changes have taken place ! Sir Salvator Rodgers is a Member of the Royal Academy ;
Woodward, the barrister, has made a fortune at the Bar; and in seeing Dr. Piper in his barouche, as he rolls about Belgravia and May Fair, you at once know what a man of importance he has become.
On last Monday week, sir, I received a letter in a delicate female handwriting, with which I was not acquainted, and which Miss Flora, the landlady's daughter, condescended to bring me, saying that it had been left at the door by two ladies in a brougham.
- Why did you not let them come up stairs?” said I in a rage, after reading the note.
" We don't know what sort of people goes about in broughams,” said Miss Flora, with a toss of her head ; “We don't want no ladies in our house.” And she flung her impertinence out of the room.
The note was signed Frances Nightingale, — whereas our Nightingale's name was Louisa. But this Frances was no other than the little thing in the large blue sash, whom we remembered at Thornwood ever so many years ago. The writer declared that she recollected me quite well, that her mamma was most anxious to see an old friend, and that they had apartments at No. 166 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, wbither I hastened off to pay my respects to Mrs. Nightingale.
When I entered the room, a tall and beautiful young woman with blue eyes, and a serene and majestic air, came up to shake hands with me: and I beheld in her, without in the least recognizing, the little Fanny of the blue sash. Mamma came out of the adjoining apartment presently. We had not met since — since all sorts of events had occurred — her voice was not a little agitated. Here was that fair creature whom we had admired so. Sir, I shall not say whether she was altered or not. The tones of her voice were as sweet and kind as ever; and we talked about Miss Fanny as a subject in common between us, and I admired the growth and beauty of the young lady, though I did not mind telling her to her face at which to be sure the girl was delighted), that she never in my eyes would be half so pretty as her mother.
Well, sir, upon this day arrangements were made for the dinner which took place on Wednesday last, and to the remembrance of which I determined to consecrate this present page.
It so happened that everybody was in town of the old set of whom I have made mention, and everybody was disengaged. Sir Salvator Rodgers (who has become such a swell since he was knighted and got the cordon of the order of the George and
Blue Boar of Russia, that we like to laugh at him a little,) made his appearance at eight o'clock, and was perfectly natural and affable. Woodward, the lawyer, forgot his abominable law and his money about which he is always thinking: and finally, Dr. Piper, of whom we despaired because his wife is mortally jealous of every lady whom he attends, and will hardly let him dine out of her sight, had pleaded Lady Rackstraw's situation as a reason for not going down to Wimbledon Common till night — and so we six had a meeting.
The door was opened to us by a maid, who looked us hard in the face as we went up stairs, and who was no other than little Fanny's nurse in former days, come like us to visit her old mistress. We all knew her except Woodward, the lawyer, and all shook hands with her except him. Constant study had driven her out of the lawyer's memory. I don't think he ever cared for Mrs. Nightingale as much as the rest of us did, or indeed that it is in the nature of that learned man to care for any but one learned person.
And what do you think, sir, this dear and faithful widow had done to make us welcome? She remembered the dishes that we used to like ever so long ago, and she had every man's favorite dish for him. Rodgers used to have a passion for herrings — there they were ; the lawyer, who has an enormous appetite, which he gratifies at other people's expense, had a shoulder of mutton and onion sauce, which the lean and hungry man devoured almost entirely: mine did not come till the second course it was baked plum-pudding - I was affected when I saw it, sir — I choked almost when I ate it. Piper made a beautiful little speech, and made an ice compound, for which he was famous, and we drank it just as we used to drink it in old tiines, and to the health of the widow.
How should we have had this dinner, how could we all have assembled together again, if everybody had not been out of town, and everybody had not been disengaged? Just for one evening, the scattered members of an old circle of friendship returned and met round the old table again - round this little green island we moor for the night at least, to-morrow we part company, and each man for himself sails over the ingens æquor.
Since I wrote the above, I find that everybody really is gone away. The widow left town on Friday. I have been on my round just now, and have been met at every step by closed shutters and the faces of unfamiliar charwomen. No. 9 is gone to Malvern. No. 37, 15, 25, 48, and 36A, are gone to Scotland. The solitude of the Club begins to be unbearable, and I found Muggins this morning preparing a mysterious apparatus of travelling boot-trees, and dusting the portmanteaus.
If you are not getting on well with the Kickleburys at Homburg I recommend you to go to Spa. Mrs. Nightingale is going thither, and will be at the Hôtel d'Orange; where you inay use my name and present yourself to her; and I may hint to you in confidence that Miss Fanny will have a very pretty little fortune.
ON A LADY IN AN OPERA-BOX.
Going the other night to the Conservatoire at Paris, where there was a magnificent assemblage of rank and fashion gathered together to hear the delightful performance of Madame Sontag, the friend who conferred upon me the polite favor of a ticket to the stalls, also pointed out to me who were the most remarkable personages round about us. There were ambassadors, politicians, and gentlemen, military and literary; there were beauties, French, Russian, and English: there were old ladies who had been beauties once, and who, by the help of a little distance and politeness (and if you didn't use your opera-glass, which is a cruel detector of paint and wrinkles), looked young and handsome still: and plenty of old bucks in the stalls and boxes, well wigged, well gloved, and brilliantly waistcoated, very obsequious to the ladies, and satisfied with themselves and the world.
Up in the second tier of boxes I saw a very stout, jolly, good-humored-looking lady, whose head-dress and ringlets and general appurtenances were unmistakably English - and whom, were you to meet her at Timbuctoo, or in the Seraglio of the Grand Sultan amongst a bevy of beauties collected from all the countries of the earth, one would instantly know to be a British female. I do not mean to say that, were I the Padishah, I would select that moon-faced houri out of all the lovely society, and make her the Empress or Grand Signora of my dominions ; but simply that there is a character about our countrywomen which leads one to know, recognize, and admire, and wonder at them among all women of all tongues and countries. We have our British Lion; we have our Britannia ruling the waves : we have our British female — the most respectable, the most remarkable, of the women of this world. And now we have come to the woman who gives the subject, though she is not herself the subject, of these present remarks.
As I looked at her with that fond curiosity and silent pleasure and wonder which she (I mean the Great-British Female) always inspires in my mind, watching her smiles, her ways and motions, her allurements and attractive gestures — her head bobbing to this friend whom she recognized in the stalls - her jolly fat hand wagging a welcome to that acquaintance in a neighboring box — my friend and guide for the evening caught her eye, and made her a respectful bow, and said to me with a look of much meaning, “ That is Mrs. Trotter-Walker.” And from that minute I forgot Madame Sontag, and thought only of Mrs. T.-W.
“So that,” said I, “is Mrs. Trotter-Walker! You have touched a chord in my heart. You have brought back old times to my memory, and made me recall some of the griefs and disappointments of my early days.”
Hold your tongue, man!” says Tom, my friend. “ Listen to the Sontag; how divinely she is singing! how fresh her voice is still !
I looked up at Mrs. Walker all the time with unabated interest. “ Madam,” thought I, “ you look to he as kind and good-natured a person as eyes ever lighted upon. The way in which you are smiling to that young dandy with the double eyeglass, and the empressement with which he returns the salute, show that your friends are persons of rank and elegance, and that you are esteemed by them -- giving them, as I am sure from your kind appearance you do, good dinners and pleasant balls. But I wonder what would you think if you knew that I was looking at you? I behold you for the first time: there are a hundred pretty young girls in the house, whom an amateur of mere beauty would examine with much greater satisfaction than he would naturally bestow upon a lady whose prime is past ; and yet the sight of you interests me and tickles me, so to speak, and my eyeglass can't remove itself from the contemplation of your honest face.”
What is it that interests me so? What do you suppose interests a man the most in this life? Himself, to be sure. It is at himself he is looking through his opera-glass — himself who is concerned, or he would not be watching you so keenly. And now let me confess why it is that the lady in the upper box excites me so, and why I say, “ That is Mrs. Trotter-Walker, is it?” with an air of such deep interest.