« AnteriorContinuar »
ing a down pour; and all the signs of the earth testified to the foregone deluge that had already confined us to the house until our patience was worn to a thread. Heavy drops fell from the eaves, the trees in the park were dripping from every bough, the fallen leaves under the trees dank with moisture, the grass as wet as if it grew in a ford, the gravel walks soft and plashy, the carriage drives no better than mud.
In short it was the very dismallest weather that ever answered to the name of " a fine open day;" and our sportsmen accordingly had all sallied forth to enjoy it, some to join Sir John's hounds, some to a great coursing meeting at Streatley.
As we stood at the windows bemoaning our imprisonment, we saw that the drizzle was fast settling into steady rain, and that there was no more chance of a ride on horseback, or a drive in an open carriage, than of the exhilarating walk which is the proper exercise of Christmas. All the pets about the park sympathised in our afflictions. The deer dropped off to their closest covert ; the pied peacock, usually so stately and so dignified as he trailed his spotted train after him, when he came to the terrace to tap at the window for his dole of cake, actually sneaked away, when summoned, in pure shame at his draggled tail; the swans looked wet through. The whole party seemed chilled and dismal, and I was secretly
meditating a retreat to my mother's dressing-room, to enjoy in quiet a certain volume of “Causes Célèbres,” which I had abstracted from the library for my own private solace, when everybody was startled by a proposal of the only gentleman left at home; a young barrister, who had had sufficient courage to confess his indifference to field sports, and who now, observing on the ennui that seemed to have seized upon the party, offered to use his best efforts to enliven us by reading aloud-by reading a law-book. Fancy the exclamations at a medicine so singularly ill-adapted to the disease ! For my own part, I was not so much astonished. I suspected that the young gentleman had got hold of another volume of my dearly beloved “Causes Célèbres,” and was about to minister to our discontent by reading a French Trial. But the rest of the party laughed and exclaimed, and were already so much aroused by the proposal, that the cure might be said to be more than half accomplished, before our learned teacher opened the pages of “ The Pleader's Guide."
I wish I could communicate to my extracts the zest that his selections derived from his admirable reading, and from the humorous manner in which he expounded the mystery of the legal phrases, which I shall do my best to avoid, not to overtask my reader's ingenuity.
It is an old lawyer instructing a young one :
"But chiefly thou, dear Job, my friend,
old to twenty,
of a Pleader's lore,
Have, at his rooms, by special favour,
To draw the aforesaid pleas again.” Then he favours his pupil with a bit of his own history, which seems to me capital :
“Whoe'er has drawn a special plea,
Has heard of old Tom Tewksbury;
* The Purification of the Virgin Mary is one of the return days of Hilary Term.
Nor in my book of common-place