Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

him, as if presenting a new barrier against escape, which seemed to engage his speculations to the exclusion of everything else.

"After a long pause, ' Tell Mrs Knowlea,' said Sir, II ugh, looking benevolently towards the butler, whilst his eyes watered, and the colour in his checks was something heightened, 'that she has been rather too bountiful with her seasoning in the soup.'

"' Certainly, Sir Hugh; but I had informed Mrs Knowles, Sir Hugh, that her ladyship, on Tuesday last, thought the vermicelli rather insipid.'

"* Excellent Roland,' interrupted her ladyship, 'you recollect my most trifling wishes.'

"• They are our law, my lady;' and, at the signal, all the grey-headed liverymen bowed in token of their sympathy.

"' Extremes,' observed Sir Hugh, with a smile, 'are generally pernicious. And so, my good Lady Rodolpha, I have been a martyr in your cause; your ladyship cannot do less than assuage my torments by a glass of Madeira.'

"' God forbid,' returned the gracious lady, 'that I should ever be the occasion of torment to my ever-indulgent Sir Hugh. But I flatter myself, if your present sufferings can be so easily relieved, they have not been very excruciating. Am I not a saucy creature, Sir Hugh?'"

This speaking in parables is really beautiful!

"• You are all excellence, and arc never more endeared to me than when your lady, ship suffers your little playfulness of fancy to animate our happy domestic circle.— Good Roland, a glass of old Madeira to your excellent lady.'"

There's no resisting this—we must positivelytrythestyleourselves. "Excellent What's-your-navne, a small glass of warm brandy and water—(we dtink)—Why, you first-born of Satan ! did we bid you bring it us boiling hot ?"—But, to continue,—

"' You have forgiven good Mrs Knowles, my best of friends,' said Lady Rodolpha, with one of her most winning smiles, * for her bountiful extreme."

"' Sweetly engaging Lady Rodolpha! had .1 really cause of offence, your ladyship's happy mode of intercession would make me forget it, in the admiration of a talent so peculiarly your own.'

"• Kind Sir Hugh !—you will make me Tain.'

"' No one has more reason—no one is less likely to become so than Lady Rodolpha de Lacy.'

'"I declare, Sir Hugh, you make me blnoh'

"* For a naughty world, excellent woman, but never for yourself. AVorthy Roland,' turning to the butler, ' tell Mrs

Knowles that her soap is like all she does —she is indeed a most excellent person.'

"' You are the most charitable—Sir Hugh,' said her ladyship, in a subdued tone of voice.

"' It is my humble effort to be so—it is the duty of us all to be so. Tell her, good Roland, that her soup is admirable; but add, as from yourself, that perhaps ir would suit the taste of Lady Rodolpha and myself better, were it, in future, less highly seasoned.'

"' I shall, Sir Hugh—What a master!' was added, in a half whisper to Mrs Polson, who stood retired—and was seconded by a bend, as before, from every one of the grey-headed circle hi worsted lace."

Sir Hugh continues to be tedious, and makes an observation touching "the moral virtues." Percy, at the same moment, asks Lady llodolpha for " some trout—before it is cold." Miss Gertrude smiles, and Lady Hodolpha requests the cause.

"' Why, dear mamma—I really am ashamed of myself—I was only thinking of Percy's interruption."

"' Mirier Percy, now, if you please, my excellent Gertrude.

-• The girl blushed again!

"' Say on, sweet innocence,' said Sir Hugh, in an encouraging tone—for a subject once introduced was never suffered to die a natural death.

"• Only, sir, I was struck by the odd circumstance of Mr Percy'

"• What have I done, Gertrude ?' asked Percy, looking up from his plate.

(The cause of action—the trout— having ceased, no doubt, to be de ex~ isteniibus-)

"' M'ui Gertrude, Mr Percy Rycott, is about to inform us,' observed Lady Rodolpha, drawing herself up in form.

"' Merely,' continued the hesitating girl, ' that he should think of the full being cold, just as papa was talking of— talking of—moral virtues."

"' I beg pardon,' said Percy; ' but I thought Sir Hugh had been scolding the cook for putting too much pepper in the soup.'

"' I—I scold! Mr Percy Rycott!'

"' Sir Hugh Ferebeede Lacy scold his domestics !' exclaimed her ladyship, with a look of utter dismay.

A sudden convulsive movement agitated the whole line of domestics.

"' It is clear that my good young friend,' observed Sir Hugh, 'did not pay very particular attention to the few observations which the occasion appeared to require."

"' The transition from soup to fish was natural," ?aid Perry, laughing, in the obvious desire to avoid any farther explanation.

"' I should rather have said artificial, my good -Mr Percy, as it is habit only which —'

"• Habit is second nature you know,

Sir Hugh; and therefore'

"' I must not be interrupted, Mi Percy'"

And the bare thought of such a heresy so startles the servant who is changing Sir Hugh's plate, that he lets it fall, and disposes the contents orer his master's laced waistcoat.

"The poor man apologized and trembled. Mr Butler pushed the man with some rudeness from the post of honour, and frowned on him whilst he applied his napkin to the part affected.

"• It's no matter,' observed Sir Hugh, collecting all his benevolence of manner (which appeared to be necessary on the occasion) ; ' Good Hit-hard did not intend it.' "' No, indeed, your honour, Sir Hugh.' "«I am perfectly assured of that—Go, my worthy Richard, you had better retire; you seem much agitated.'

"' Such a clumsy fellow !* muttered the steward.

"• Such a master!' repeated the butler.

"' God bless him !' whispered the liveried semi-chorus.

"' The Dresden set, too!' exclaimed Mr Poison, the steward, in a louder and more emphatic tone of voice."

This last fact almost ruffles the pile of her ladyship's velvet; but she observes that—

"' Good Richard must not have his mind disturbed by that reflection.'

"' Heavenly, considerate being!' cried Sir.Hugh, who stood in the act of being rubbed down, like one of his own longtailed coach hones, by his zealous grooms. 'Thou

"• Mittreu of thytclf, though china

fall!'"

This quotation is out of its place. Sir Hugh is perfectly serious in all his commendations of Lady Rodolpha, and would be shocked at the very idea of a joke upon such a subject. Even the spilling of the soup, however, cannot break the thread of the worthy baronet's reflections; and he is getting back to the analysis of'" the moral virtues," when the sound of a carriage, under the windows, makes a diversion .in Percy's favour. This is Grandison de Lacy—returned from his travels. The servants are drawn up, in form, in the avenue; and the dinner party adjourns to receive him, at the entrance of the great hall.

There was ample time, as well as space, to afford the worthy host and hostess a full opportunity of making their observations upon the person and appearance of Mr Grandison de Lacy.

"' The excellent youth still preserves the dignified deportment of the family,'' observed the Baronet complacently to hU lady.

"• Ingenuous Grandison !—But what, my good Sir Hugh, has the beloved child of my heart tied round his neck?'

"' It's a Belcher,' interrupted Percy, thrusting his head forward.

"' 31r Percy Rycott!—we are not accustomed to'

"' Good heavens!' exclaimed Lady Rodolpha, ' he walks lame—I trust no accident—*

"• Harborfr no fears, my too sensitive Lady Rodolpha,' said Sir Hugh, soothingly.

•* ' His eyes seem affected, papa,' whispered Miss Gertrude. 'Grandison never used a glass before he left England.*

"' None of the Grandisons were nearsighted,' said her ladyship, who had also observed that he was eyeing everything and every person through his glass. But there was no more time for observation, the hero approached."

He appears, accompanied by a friend, and looking a good deal like a puppy.

"Towards the end of the line," (of ser. vants) '• a cherry-cheeked dairy-maid attracted his eye, whom he patted under the chin; and, turning to his companion, observed, " a fine Cumberland pippin, upon my soul, Birty!'

"Sir Hugh and Lady Rodolpha absolutely started, in defiance of the habitual rigidity of their muscles; but they felt that it was not intended for their ears; and suddenly regaining their self-possession, graciously advanced a few steps, hand in hand, towards their son.

"' My beloved Grandison 1' cried her ladyship, with a tearful eye.

"'Welcome, most excellent son, to the hall of thy fathers!' said Sir Hugh.

•- • Hah !' looking at them through his glass—' My father, and my lady mother here too!' shaking both with a listless cordiality by the hands, which bad been extended for him to kiss upon his bended knees !—' Delighted to see you—am upon my honour—not a day older—who should think of seeing you in the hall among this omnium gatlterem—taken by surprise; 'pon my soul.

"' Where should we be. Air Granduon de Lacy, but in our proper station?' de» manded Sir Hugh, with no slight accession to the austere formality of his manners.

"' Peg pardon — quite forgot—you keep up the antiquated forma still—hey, my very best of fathers!'

"Sir Hugh was thrown out.—• You do not, Mr Grandison, seem to recollect your sister Gertrude!'

"' Gertrude!—is that fine girl my sister Gertrude ?—may I die if I should have suspected—three years have done wonders.'

"' Indeed they have,' sighed Sir Hugh —and Lady Rodolpha sighed like a triple echo.

"' Come, my girl—give me a kiss—T like old customs sometimes.'

"« These are not the customs of Lacy Royal,' observed Sir Hugh, in a tone which proved that his equanimity was not quite proof against unexpected assaults; 'but,' recollecting himself, he added, 'we had better adjourn, with the permission of your best of mothers, to the Oak Parlour.'"

They do adjourn to " the Oak Parlour;" and there our author, to carry on his action, takes (right or wrong,) the first means that happen to present themselves. Grandison de Lacy—who is afterwards to "do amiable" in the book—outrages, without the slightest reason, the feelings of all his family; and insults his old play-mate Percy,— who leaves the house upon the instant!

The next chapter is full of (not very original) night adventure. Percy, halting at an inn half way between Lacy Royal and Wolston Worthy, wanders about in the dark, and falls into a house occupied by smugglers. He is wounded almost to the death— hears strange things from the gipsy, Alice Halpin—is saved by a " Ghost," who turns out to be his oldest acquaintance— and attains, grievously battered, into the fair hands of Miss Bellenden.

The second volume opens with a visit (again) from our friend Dr Drizzlethwaite. Before Mr Percy sent for him to Miss Bellenden—now, Miss Bellenden sends for him to Mr Percy.

The Doctor arrives (it being very early in the morning) without having made his toilet; and he shaves himself at the sick man's bedside—using the French governess's flounced petticoat by way of dressing gown.—Medical men near town use Packwood's patent razor,—which enables them to shave on horseback, as they come along.—The story then, for about two hundred pages, grows very intricate indeed. Mr Rycott, going to Miss Bellenden's to fetch his son home,

Vol. XV"

meets with a Mrs Wigram (the ci devout Judy Mallory, who was transported for filching our hero from his nursery;) and Mrs Mallory (as she had done at the Old Bailey) again claims Percy for her child. This strange issue is eventually tried at law, and Mrs Wigram is successful. Mr Rycott ia broken-hearted, and would compromise j but Percy (now Mallory) becomes heroic. Miss Bellenden owns her passion for him ; but he renounces both love and fortune; and starting for London, to enter himself for the Bar,—takes leave of his long supposed father.

The parting interview between Percy and Mr Rycott is a fair example of our author's talents for serious writing; but it is long, and we must limit our extract from it almost to a single passage.

The question is as to our hero's marriage with Miss Bellenden. He alleges his poverty, and refuses to let Mr Rycott remove the obstacle. It is Mr Rycott here who replies—

"'By Jove ! sir, I will be obeyed. Not now—not now—you have it all your own way, and I cannot, must not, deny that you are right; but my time may come, nay, shall come—yes, sirrah, when these old bones are whitening in their gravewhen my caprices, and my whims, and my fancies, are consigned to the vault of all the Capulets.'

"' Heaven, in its mercy, long avert the day!'

"' I believe you love me, Percy;'—and again the old man was softened. 'I will not press you; you have much to contend with. It is a heavy, cruel reverse, and you bear it better, far better, than your poor deserted father;' and he grasped the hands of Percy, whilst he attempted to raise his eyes to his face. ' I have run riot so long, Percy, and commanded others until 1 have no command over myself. Go, whilst I am able to part with you. You, Percy, my beloved boy,'—and he paused tremulously, « are no longer my son; but'——and he seemed at once animated by a new spirit equally remote from querulousness and impetuosity, as he solemnly rose from his chair, and pressed the youth in his arms, 'but you are my Heir !—Speak not, object not—what I have, or may have, in this world, was destined to you from the hour I hoped—I thought—I possessed a son. Not an act, not a word, not a thought from your cradle to this hour, has cast a shade over your claims to my affection. Do not speak to me ; I cannot bear it. On E

this point I am absolute, and I have a right to be so. There is not, on the wide surface of the globe, a being who has a claim upon my property, much less upon my affection, except yourself. Not a word for once there is virtue in despotism.'"

The chief fault of this separation is, that there seems very little reason why it should take place. Percy Mallory, however, goes to London, recommended to Mr Clement Dossiter, attorney at law, of Chancery Lane; and he becomes acquainted with Mr Dossiter's son, Mr Clarendon Dossiter, who lays a plan for plundering him at the gaming-table. The intrigue is at last frustrated by the interference of Grandison de Lacy, who now appears as a dashing, but an intelligent and respectable young man.

Modish parties have been hacked out, over and over again, as subjects among novel writers; but De Lacy's cabriolet is the first of those vehicles (we believe) that has been described in point.

"His (Percy's) surprises were not destined to end here; for, when fairly landed on the outside of the threshold, instead of a carriage, which he concluded would be either a chariot or a coach, he perceived drawn up to the side of the pavement, a non-descript vehicle, which appeared, at first sight, like a French bonnet in mourning.

"' In with you, Percy,' cried De Lacy, pointing to the machine. 'Birtwhistle, you must walk,' and the shadow lost its grade in departing from its substance."

Mr Birtwhistle is a sort of hanger on; not a true Toady (though he is called one) toDe Lacy, whom the author afterwards, most unexpectedly, marries to Miss Gertrude.

"' In with you, Percy,' said De Lacy.

"' In !—how?"

"« Thus,' replied he, ducking his own head under the leathern pent-house, whilst one servant stood at the horse's head, who was fidgetting and plunging amid the tumult about him; and another held down the front, or apron, as he dived into the vehicle. Dexterously seizing the reins, he held out his spare hand as a guide to Percy, to place him by his side. Seeing the disposition of the horse, the latter was perfectly aware, that to hesitate was to be lost; and, trusting to his pilot, he made the leap in the dark, and found himself, in two seconds, fast bound, and locked in a sort of band-box, or rather pillory, where the head and hands of the charioteer only were visible above board; and, if the mob

of rival contenders by whom they were surrounded, had been at liberty to bestow as much manual as oral filth upon the 'Gemman sarvey,' and his ' Frenchy go cait,' their position would have been still more appropriate; for, be it known, that this was the first spring in which the French discoveries in comfort and carriage-building had been translated into English in the form of 'noddies,* or, more technically speaking, 'cabriolets,' as dandy conveyances to operas and parties."

In the third volume, our author, at great length, allows his plot to thicken ; but, when it comes to the business of unravelling, he takes us up very short indeed.

Vapid found 'the last line' the devil, and so does the author of Percy Mallory. But Vapid refused to " put in anything," and so does not the author of Percy Mallory.

A certain " Lord Harweden" is introduced upon the stage, who happens to be Mr Rycott of Cumberland's brother ; and, in the supposed son of Lord Harweden, (a weak lad, called " Lord Brandon,") Percy fancies he discovers Mr Rycott s real son, whom he himself for so many years represented. Here is one incident, sufficient, of itself, to fill half a dozen volumes with perplexity; but the author of Pen Owen goes on.

Lord Brandon is killed in a fray at a gambling-house. Lord Harweden confesses that the deceased was not his son ; opens a story of his having a daughter, (who can be no other than Miss Bellenden,) confined (the Lord alone can tell why) in a mad-house; and sends off Percy (whom he has made his confidant) to liberate and protect her. Now, this is furious driving, without much respect to posts or corners; but " over shoes,—over boots," seems the perpetrator of Percy Mallory's motto.

Lord Harweden dies—" the people do nothing but die at Tadcaster !" and Mr Rycott succeeds to his title and estate. Lord Brandon is ascertained to have been the mysterious son of Judy Mallory, and Percy belongs again to his original reputed parents I Then there is mercy for the rogues of the piece, and marriage for the young people !—One or two caitiffs more are transported—just to match the end of the book with the beginning!—And the author concludes with an apology for the intricacy of his tale, observing. that the true is not always the probable; which position, as regards the "true," may be perfectly sound ; but the probability of falsehood should certainly be invariable.

We have used up our allowance of room for selection; and the diffuse style in which the author of Percy Mallory succeeds best, would make short extracts unavailing. There are many admirable things in the last volume, mixed with a great deal that is slovenly. The scene in which Percy, by Dossiter's contrivance, is taken for a madman, is one of the best hits in the book. Dr Beekerdyke, the lunatic professor, is very happily touched indeed. We feel sure, through all his solemnity, that he has a strait waistcoat in his pocket. And, indeed, the whole scene in which he questions and cross-examines his supposed patient, shews so much acquaintance with the etiquette of Bedlam, that we are not sure that our author is not a mad doctor himself.

But be he what he may—and if he were even a mad man, much less a mad-doctor, we should on that score raise no objection to him—he has talent, and a vast deal of talent, if he would but take the trouble to make

the best use of it. His present work is better, upon the whole, than Pen Owen; but its faults (and they are not few) are pretty generally of the same character. In both novels, the great charm lies unquestionably in the display of a very extraordinary measure of practical shrewdness and knowledge of life. In addition to this, Pen Owen had a strong spice of political, and this book has a strong spice of romantic interest. The author appears to be gaining skill as to the management of fable; although we are far from wishing him to believe that he is not still much below what he might make himself as to this point. In that and other minor matters he may and must improve; we certainly can scarcely hope to see him better than he is already in regard to certain qualifications of a much higher order—qualifications in which he certainly is not surpassed by any living author, in any style whatever—the charming idiomatic character of his language—the native flow of his wit—his keen satire and thorough acquaintance with man, as man exists in the 19th century, and more especially as he exists in London.

SEA-SIDE SKETCHES.

No. III.

A Day at Hurst Castle.

Yet once more, azure ocean, and once more,
Ye lighted headlands, and thou stretching shore,
Down on the beauties of your scenes we cast
A tender look

Bowles.

A Fine day's lounge on the seashore is as high a treat as can be imagined for all young persons, to whom it is either a novelty or an indulgence, some space removed out of their everyday reach. During my early years, I was in the latter predicament; the beach, which stretches from a point opposite to the west end of the Isle of Wight on to Dorsetshire, being at the distance of a few miles from my abode; it was, indeed, easily within a ride; and, after I had entered my teens, come-at-able by me in a walk, provided that I put my best foot foremost, and stepped out stoutly; but then this was no proper prelude to the sort of enjoyment I have been speaking of.

Such a day as I mean, must begin with an uninterrupted morning, spent in idling beneath the sun—" One long summer's day of indolence and mirth," is the postulate of the gratification;— to have nothing to do of more moment than to pelt the tenth wave, which is the largest, though some say the ninth, some the seventh,—well, it shall be allowable to bring that knotty point, and that only, under discussion;—to ramble, as humour urges, along this selvidge of nature's web;—now laboriously to plod your way in the loose shingle above, that rattles and rolls under your tread, as if you were on the roof of a house where the tiles are loose;—now to pace, and be almost

« ZurückWeiter »