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A PASSAGE FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
EPHRAIM COLLINS, ESQ.
“One more entry,” said I exultingly, one more entry, and”-here my thoughts became too extatic for utterance- and having debited Mr. Plumptree with his last purchase of indigo, I locked up the whole tribe of ledgers and day-books, and pocketed the key with the air of a man who had concluded some vast business, which ensured to him future leisure and ample means of enjoying it. My condition was not quite so enviable, but I had before me a week's absence from business, which I was determined to spend mhow, I had not exactly decided, but at all events in pleasure. I had been at some pains to keep clear of all positive engagements, in the hope of spending the greater part of the time in the society of one who for some three months previous had been the light of my eyes—the breath of my nostrils—the blood of my heart,--and whom I began to entertain thoughts of inviting to become bone of my bone, though nothing approaching to a formal declaration of my intentions had up to this period escaped me.
I had kept clear of all engagements, but I had two letters of invitation yet to dispose of which somewhat puzzled me. One from my aunt, Isabella, with whom I had always been an especial favourite, the other from my uncle Freeman, who had always treated me as one of his own children. I had seen neither since I left Hampshire ; and my aunt, kind soul, unmindful of the difference which balf a dozen years make in the tastes of a youth springing into manhood—especially in London-endeavoured to allure me to her quiet domicile, by a glowing description of the grapery and orchard! My uncle's letter afforded a striking contrast ; for, excepting the customary compliments from my cousins, it spoke of nothing but powder, percussion caps, and partridges. I entertained a high respect for both; and not knowing how to excuse myself, had postponed writing till the last moment, thinking that half an hour's head-ache, or ten minutes' bile might occur, to be magnified into reason sufficient for declining their kindness. I had reached the end of my tether, however, in perfect health, and was under the necessity of writiig what might be summed up into three lines of " regret,” two of " previous engagement,” and one of happiness at some future time.” Having con pleted which weighty matter, and made a few fastidious alterations in my toilette, I hurried to St. Paul's churchyard, and mounting the stage, was in due course deposited at Knightsbridge:
I need not point out the exact spot in Knightsbridge to which I bent my steps :- let it suffice, that I arrived at the door at which I had never knocked without a slight tremor, to be converted into pleasure or disappointment, according to my reception, by one of the inmates. I was admitted by the servant with that knowing half-smile-so fatal to half-crowns—which I had so often encountered, and without much ado found my way to the drawingroom. Every thing looked propitious for a tête-à-tête. The senior Man ons were absent on a visit—brother Tom had gone to the theatre-Emily and Panny were busy with their books--and Julia was seated at the piano-forte, from which I entreated her not to rise. With something very like the familiarity of an old friend, I took a seat close to the instrument, and the time passed pleasantly between Mozart and Rossini, till a lengthened dissertation on their respective merits by ome means got diverted into a channel far more interesting to myself, and, as I hoped, to Julia also. I was just verging on that state of mind in which young gentlemen are apt to do things ridiculous, when I was suddenly recalled to a sense of realities. I had been using all my eloquence to make apparent the necessity of herself, with her sisters and brother Tom joining me in an excursion on the following day, when, rising and taking her hand to render my persuasions more impressive,
I observed that her finger was illumined by a circle of brilliants; and av my arguments appeared to be by no means convincing, I ventured a digression upon the ring, intending to resume the main subject on the first favourable opportunity.
Pray, Miss Manton, excuse my impertinence- what a very handsome ring you have on your finger—and valuable, too, is it not ?”
“ It is very neat, she replied, “and valuable to me as a mark of affection from the donor."
“Oh, Julia,” said her youngest sister, Fanny, who had overheard at least this part of our conversation, “ do tell Mr. Collins what Mr. Hobday said when he placed it on your finger.”.
“ Nonsense, Fanny !" exclaimed Julia, in some trepidation, and blushing slightly.
“0, pray tell me,” said I, with as much gaiety as I could assume ; for the juxta-position of the name of Hobday, and the affection mentioned by Julia, did not strike upon my ear with peculiar harmony.
“ You must excuse my declining to do that, sir,” answered Julia in a tone which seemed to indicate that it was an affair with which I had no concern; and my spirits were reduced to gravity, and I began to ruminate.
At this moment the parent Mantons returned, and a coldness in their greetings, which I had never before experienced, confirmed the startling idea which had just flashed upon my mind,—that Julia was destined for another! I felt the muscles of my face contract forcibly-my countenance fell to the length of a Cremona—my heart beat a coffin-maker's tattoo upon my ribs—my tongue refused to do more than splutter-a dense November fog came over my eyes—and I should doubtless have sunk into the earth, only that the drawing-room had not a clay carpet, and I therefore resumed my seat upon the chair. Fortunately, my disorder was not observed ; and after sitting a few minutes in moody silence, I took a solemn leave.
I had arrived in the classic neighbourhood of Leicester-square, on my way home, and was crawling along, cursing my own folly for not being more explicit with Julia and her family, and debating the advantage which drowning possessed over hanging, and shooting over both, when my studies were interrupted by a hearty slap on the shoulder, and a familiar voice shouted in my ear,“ Why, Collins, what ails you that you won't answer a fellow when he speaks to you ?”
It was my boisterous friend Hampton, who, it appeared, had addressed me half a dozen times without effect. 1, of course, apologized ; and after talking some little time, al fresco, acceded to his proposition though not partial to such exhibitions—of taking a glass of. grog at an adjacent tavern. The room we were ushered into contained but one other guest_a rotund, benign looking, middle-aged gentleman-who immediately upon our entering paid for what he termed his “ finish” of brandy, hiccupped a good evening, and zigzagged his way out. My friend's volubility, and the grog, exercised so salutary an influence upon my nervous system, that by the time the second glass was disposed of, I was enabled to ask, with apparent indifference, if he was acquainted with Mr. Hobday ; to which inquiry I had the pleasure of receiving an answer in the affirmative, accompanied with the gratifying intelligence that he was a dashing spirited fellow, and quite irresistible among the women.
“ But, I'll introduce you," continued Hampton ; “ you'll be delighted with him-meet him to-morrow evening at my rooms—what do you say ?we'll have a steak and a glass of punch together ?”.
" I'd rather meet him," said I,“ in some snug meadow where I might put a bullet through his head, or be indebted to him for a similar kindness ?”
Why?" asked Hampton, in the utmost surprise. To which why-after several attempts at evasion-I was obliged to make replication the wherefore above narrated. “ You must be mistaken,” said he.
Impossible," I rejoined --" quite impossible!" A silence of some minutes ensued, during which I made a desperate at
tack upon the contents of my tumbler, and then in that peculiarly impressive manner induced by the use of such a stimulant, I resumed the subject.
" I ask you as a friend now, Hampton--what would you advise me to do ?”
Why, if I were you, I'd order in another glass, and
Nay, now, be serious.” “ Well, seriously, 'I would do so—and when you've finished that, you'll be in prime order to settle other matters ; but if the lady has determined to cut you, you may rest assured that shooting Jack Hobday will not postpone it for an instant.”
“ But what can I do?-Must I sit down
“ Fiddle-de-dee !-Win the lady if you can; if you cannot and are convinced that she is the only fine woman in the world, and that you cannot possibly survive the not gaining her, why then, you know,
you can fret
yourself into a consumption, or enter the navy as an admiral —
-or the army as a field-marshal; or, as you are a fine young man, you can consult the East India Company, perhaps they'll make you a nabob. But are you so devilishly smitten, Collins ?" “Sir," replied I, growing rather choleric, "I will not suffer you to
Now, don't be angry; how can I prescribe if I do not feel your pulse a little. You must try a dose of absence. Meet me on board the Eclipse tomorrow morning, and we'll talk over the matter more fully when we reach Ramsgate.”
Just at this juncture the waiter yawned audibly, and we departed—it was
Nor will she long abide :-
Defying wind and tide!
With murmured mystic song ;
And tell the loitrers on the shore
How gay she wends along.
And ruin overwhelm;
She answers to the helm.
She rides its regal waves !
They“ never will be slaves!”
roll the seas-
But still with giant speed
Oh well she earns her meed!
It is the destined shore !
Thankful the voyage is o'er.]
I arrived in town in no better humour than I left Ramsgate. Business of all kinds I felt to be a nuisance, and my leisure hours I contrived to fill up with most interesting street rows, till on the fourth evening I chanced to be rescued from the clutches of five ladies of the sister kingdom, whom I had managed to offend in passing through Drury-lane, by the hands of Tom Manton, who, when the affray was fairly ended, invited me with much cordiality to sup with him at home.
It was not without some hesitation I entered the dwelling of my lamented
løst one but I assumed as cheerful'an air as I could, and w greeted by Mr. Manton with
“ Ephraim! well, how are you? I thought you'd forgotten your old friends! Where have you been this —how long did you say it was,' turning to Julia, “ since Mr. Collins was here ?".
“Now, father, how can you tease one so?" she replied, and blushing deeply ran out of the room ; in a few minutes, however, she returned, usher. ing in a visitor--the same benevolent Pickwick-looking old gentleman whom I had met in the tavern near Leicester-square, and to whom I was imme. diately introduced-'twas Mr. Hobday! Need I say that
“A change came o'er the spirit of my dream” ? Words cannot describe the pleasurable feelings I experienced. Mr. Hobu day, it appeared, was the parent of my friend Hampton's dashing acquaintance of that name, and being both friend and jeweller to the family, had, in the latter capacity, furnished Julia, by the desire of her father, with the ring which had occasioned me so much uneasiness ; and on submitting it for approval, gave utterance to a pleasantry upon plain gold rings, which she declined to repeat in the determined manner before intimated.
The remainder of this part of my history may be readily imagined by the initiated in such matters ; but as some few may exist guiltless both of love and matrimony, I beg to refer them to the Morning Post newspaper for the first of the month, of which this is the twelfth anniversary, where they will find the catastrophe duly chronicled. They may likewise consult the regis ter-book of the parish of St. George, Hanover-square, if the Morning Post be not authority sufficient. April, 1837.
A LETTER FROM FRANCE IN 1771.
Calais, Saturday, August 17th, 1771. Dear M.—You will learn from my present address, that I have safely landed on the Gallic shores, having exchanged the comforts of roast beef for soup maigre; and John Bull's bon hommie for monsieur's gaietie de cæur. Whether for the better or the worse, time will show ; nous verrons, and here, my dear friend, let me premise, that had I not given you my promise, had I not, as Shylock says, “ a vow registered,” it is scarcely probable that I should have put pen to paper upon this occasion. Sailors are but indifferent scribes, and though accustomed to keeping the log, are not at all adepts at the diary; however, to my task, without further preamble.
Captain Philip Affleck (Mentor) and myself, (Telemachus), having resolved (like the two Greeks in Fenelon's charming tale) to set off upon our travels, not in search of Ulysses, though our errand was rather courtly, being that of a visit to the great king, departed from Will's Coffee house on Thursday last, at six o'clock, in a post-chaise and four; a delightful morning, the sun shining brightly, without a spot or cloud to cover its the air balmy and fresh, and all nature smiling and serene. We reached Dartford by eight, and Rochester by ten, where we ordered breakfast, and in the interim of its preparation, strolled past the ancient cathedral, with its curious time-worn entrance porch, up to the castle, whose massive strength has outstood the shock and wear of ages, and which, I think, might still be made a grand residence, if its owner would be at the expense of re-establishing it. As I looked from the open windows of what was once its grand range of apartments, being the third in height from the ground, and beheld the magnificent prospect spread out on all sides round me, I could not but reflect upon its former days of greatness; when armed bands of Knights, Squiros, and Rętainers, thronged its balls; and when the lord