صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

The cheque was accordingly drawn, and when he had taken leave hastily, although with somewhat more affection than usual, he proceeded to the banker's without delay.

CHAPTER XLIV.

In which the venerable gentleman appears just on the verge.

As Amelia had conjectured, the constant applications of the tradesmen for the settlement of their accounts formed the principal topic of conversa. tion among the servants. They felt perfectly sure that the establishment was about to be broken up; and as the gentle Joanna conceived it to be her duty to relate all the particulars to her venerable friend, the day was named for the consummation of their bliss exactly three hours after Stanley had made the heart of poor Amelia glad by placing the entire hundred pounds in her hand to be appropriated to the purposes for which it was obtained.

It may also be stated as a remarkable coincidence, that Bob—whose spirits were governed by Amelia as absolutely as the thermometer is gorerned by the air, was on that very evening unusually gay. He had been to the banker's with his master; he had seen his mistress on his return; he had seen her twice, and well knew by the joyful expression of her countenance that a favourable change had taken place.

When, therefore, he entered the kitchen in which the blooming Joanna and her venerable friend were sitting tête-à-tite with very great affection, he exclaimed in the joy of his heart, Now I don't care a dump! It's all right! I know it is by missis! Blest if I mind standing a couple of pots of arf-and-arf!

Vot ! 'ave you got yer vages ?' inquired the venerable gentleman.

“No; but I shall get 'em, safe. But that ain't what I look at. I warn't even thinking of them. I know it's all right now with master; that 's all I care for. I know it by missis's looks. I'll bet ten to one on it, brandies and waters. She can't deceive me.'

• Looks is werry deceptive,' observed the venerable gentleman. 'It's a werry old sayin', and a true un, that you mustn't take people by their looks.

"Oh, but missis is one which can't be mistaken. Let me look in her face, and I know what's o'clock. I can tell in an instant. There ain't a ha'p'orth of any mistake about her.'

But ain't you got nothink else in this case to go by ?

“Yes ; but that, and nothing else, would be plenty for me. But there is something else. We went out about four o'clock all in a hurry, and drove to old missis's house. Well, master went in with his tail very lowI never see a man much more downer in the mouth ; but he hadn't been there long, before he came out, and pelted right down to the banker's. Well, I knew there was something rayther extra in the wind, so I watched him ; and when he came out, p'raps he warn't a little altered! I never see such a change in a man in my life! Well, he got in, and cut back; and when he pulled up at the door missis was on the quivy, as the

French says, at the window; and the mirit she sees him I knew how it was. I could tell, I'd oath it. And when I went up just now, the whole thing was as clear to me as chrystial.'

Well, I only hope your words may come true,' said Joanna.

“I'm right for a million. I'll lay any odds. It's the Monument to a Molehill.:

'I knowed a young ooman,' observed the venerable gentleman, assuming that profoundly philosophical expression which he invariably wore when about to illustrate any particular point by analogy,-'I knowed a young ooman- —and a werry nice young ooman she vos-vịch vos in a decline. Werry well. For a matter of more than three 'ear she vos a-goin', and a-goin', and a-goin' gradual ; but she never for all that believed she vos a-goin', although she vos terrible thin, and looked as pale as any sheet of vite paper. She voodn't believe it, cos she alvays had a appetite, and vood alvays be a-eatin' from mornin' till night, in the most onsatisfyin' manner you ever 'eared tell on. Werry well. Now, ven her flesh vos vasted nigh hall off her bones, and she looked like a skeleton kivered vith kid, and hevery soul as looked at her thought that go she must, she all at vunce had the most beautifullest colour as ever vos seen upon a peach! She looked like an angel as she sit all in vite; and as her little tiny fingers vos a-playin' vith her curles, she vos asmilin' as sweetly as if her little sisters in heaven vos a-visperin' to her softly, “Hope—still hope !" And I remember,' continued the venerable gentleman, as he wiped away a tear, which the vivid recollection of this scene had called forth, — I remember one sanguine friend, vich loved her, exclaiming ven he seed this ’ere colour in her cheeks, “ Now she's alí right ? vot a favourable change! Blessed be God, she'll get over it now!" But vot vos it? Natur' blushing to part so pure a soul from a body so fair; nothing else! In an hour after that exclamation vos uttered, she died. Werry well. Now this seems to me to be a case werry similar; the pockets of your master is got the same complaint; havin’ overrun the constable, his means has been long in a decline; and although he may jist now be suddenly flush and you may, in sconseqvence, vishin' him vell, feel yourself justifiable in offerin' to bet any hods it's all right, it strikes me forcible that this here flush is on'y a sign that the whole 'stablishment's jist on the p’int of goin' to pot. That's my sentiments. I hope I may be wrong; but that's jist vot strikes me. I shall be werry sorry, mind yer, to ear it, cos I do think your master's a trump; vile your missis, accordin' to all accounts, is a werry good sort.

‘She is a regular good ’un! cried Bob. ‘A out-and-outer! I never see her feller yet; and nothing would hurt my sentiments so much as to see your blessed words come true; for I'm sure that if anything rotten was to go for to occur, she'd break her heart.' Vell

, I hope I may be wrong. But I 'spose you know Joanna's agoin' to give vornin'

"Well, she may if she likes, in course; but I won't: I'd stop with 'em it it wos on'y for my vittles.'

'She is not,' rejoined the venerable gentleman, 'a-goin' to give vornin' cos she don't git her vages, but in sconseqvence of other circumstantials.'

[ocr errors]

• Oh, that there's the day o' the month, is it ? cried Bob, who saw Joanna blush at the moment, and look very archly, while the venerable gentleman chuckled, and drove his fingers into Bob's ribs, and rubbed his hands with great glee. 'I see! Well, I wish you joy with all my heart. In course I stand godfather to the first ?'

* Robert,' cried Joanna, with a most roguish look. 'Lor! how can you go on so ?'

“Oh! but I expect it; and if it's a heir, I'll make him a present of a new hat to begin life with. But when is it to be ?!

Vy, as a mutual friend to both,' replied the venerable gentleman, 've don't mind telling of you, cos ve vant you to give avay the bride-hif you'll do us the honner?'

* In course! Oh, yes! You do me proud! Well ?'

"Well, then, Joanna gives vornin' to-morrow; ve shall be arskt for the fust time in church next Sunday ; and as she vill leave on the ninth of next month, the job's to be jobbed on the tenth.'

* Bravo! cried Bob. "The time's drawin' very near! How do you mean to

pass the day? Vy, ve don't think it's vuth vile to make much fuss : ve think that that, under all circumstantials, may be dispensed vith; but ve mean to enjoy ourselves, you know. Ve mean to be jolly. No expense shall be spared. Ve'll ’ave everythink comfortable and reg'lar, you know.'

· Well, all I can say is, I hope you'll be happy.'

Safe!' replied the venerable gentleman with much ardour; when, turning to his betrothed, he added, Can there be hany doubt about it ?'

* Not the least, dear,' replied Joanna, with a most winning smile. I am sure we shall be happy.

'I should think so ! cried the venerable gentleman. Vot is there to perwent it? I don't mean to say I'm so young as I vos p'raps, twenty Pear ago, but vot o' that? The constitution's the p'int! If that's sound and reg'lar, vy vot's the hods ?' But

you don't look old in my eye, by no means,' observed the affectionate Joanna.

* Don't I ? returned the venerable gentleman, with one of his most fascinating smiles. "You're a rogue !-I know you're a rogue, and there's no mistake of any sort about you. Howsever," he added, "looks isn't the p'int: the great and grand thing is the glorious constitution; and, as mine's as sound as a apple, it makes no hods about the hage.'

Joanna agreed with him perfectly, of course ; and, as he shortly after this took leave of his beloved, Bob accompanied him to the nearest public house, with a view of talking matters over in private.

Here Stanley's affairs were again freely canvassed ; but, although Bob endeavoured to make things appear as bright as possible, his venerable friend adhered still to the opinion he had expressed - an opinion, the perfect correctness of which was on the following morning, by an act of consummate villany, proved.

[ocr errors]

THE STAGE-COACHMAN ABROAD.

BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.

The winter of 1838, which visited England with such severity in the month of January, set in much earlier in the north of Germany; and the middle of December, 1837, found the waters of the Elbe encumbered with great quantities of floating ice, which threatened every day to close the navigation of the river. After a sojourn of some months in that part of Europe, I arrived at length at Hamburg during the week of public festivity which announces Christmas. The gaiety which pervaded this bustling city, contrasting forcibly with the dulness of the German towns through which I had recently passed, was almost a sufficient inducement to devote a week to the amusements of Hamburg ; but the state of the river, and the prospect of an overland journey to Amsterdam in the month of December, were considerations of greater weight, and, accordingly, I secured my berth in the John Bull steamer, which was to sail early the next morning, though, at the time I did so, I was in doubt whether my baggage—from which I was separated by the agreeable stagecoach regulations in this part of the world—would arrive in time to allow of my departure.

Although every minute usually appears an hour when we are in expectation, there was no tedium throughout that day; the Jungfernstieg, with its numerous cafés and crowds of people, the fairs in the streets, the attractive shops, where Persia and Russia combined to furnish Christmas comforts, and the novelty of a large city, all offered the means of making the time pass quickly. The table-d’hôte at the Hôtel de Bellevue (where, by the way, they pride themselves on their mock-turtle soup,) was very good, but very dull

, there being only three persons at dinner in a salon capable of holding sixty; and I was glad to be released from it, especially as the arrival of my baggage was at length announced. To order a carriage to be ready at ten o'clock to convey me to the dock-yard, -to change some German coin for English, in which transaction (of course) the waiter cheated me,-and then to wander through the city as chance directed, were all that remained for me; and, having witnessed the humours of the Weihnachts Feste' of Hamburg, I returned to the Bellevue in time for my drosky, and set out for the steamboat. In about half an hour, after paying all the tolls,—which are numerous and heavy,-I found myself on the quay, bargaining with a boatman, who undertook to transport me on board for something more than the usual consideration. The augmented price was, however, well earned ; for the quantity of ice in the stream rendered our voyage in search of the steamer something like (though at humble distance) an attempt to discover the northwest passage, so often were we compelled to try back in search of clear water, and so necessary was it to avoid collision with the miniature icebergs. At last we reached the John Bull; and I was not sorry to find myself in a warm cabin, with everything safely stowed away, and my meissen pipe diffusing its fragrance in a very satisfactory manner.

Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, I was not the last to get on board; but before midnight a large party had assembled. Of these some disappeared to seek their berths, but one group of six or seven-who I afterwards found were pilots going down to Cuxhaven-seemed resolved to make a night of it; and, as they had no berths to go to, they resorted to cards, schiedam, and cigars, to kill the time in the most agreeable manner. At length, when they became too noisy to make it any longer pleasant to remain in their company, I too went below, and by the aid of the dim lamp swinging above the dressing-table in the lower cabin, succeeded at last in finding my roosting-place.

The cabin of a packet when its inmates have retired to bed, presents a singular aspect of confusion: portmanteaus, bags, and hat-boxes strew the floor; great-coats, dressing-cases, travelling-caps, and handkerchiefs, cover the tables and chairs; while here and there an upright boot appears to stand the only sentinel over the scattered property. Nor is the berth itself much more attractive : a hard, wiry bolster, that will not accommodate itself to one's head, a counterpane too short, very thin blankets, and a kind of odour that seems to hint that the last occupant was not a very good sailor,--these accompaniments do not make one's berth a bed of down, nor cause instantaneous forgetsulness. But even if the couch afforded all the necessary appliances—which it did not--sleep that night would have been a stranger to my eyes, for the individual in the next berth was one of those obnoxious sleepers who, themselves buried in temporary forgetfulness, have noses that make their hearers wish their rest eternal. I do not know whether I am particularly fastidious; most men have their peculiarities, not to say aversions; and mine—the chiefest is a man who snores. There is no noise like it; a copper-smith, a caulker, a cooper, are loud in the exercise of their respective callings, but these subside into silence before the nose of the snorer ; a knife-grinder's wheel, or a bagpipe, are bad enough, in all conscience, but they are melodious in comparison ; in short, of all the distressing sounds invented since the world became out of joint,' snoring, in my opinion, is the worst.

My neighbour, whose head rested at my feet, was a proficient in the black art, as it deserves to be called. Long, loud, and deep were his intonations, and such, also, were my maledictions as the noises forced their way through the thin partition that divided us, galvanizing me, as it were, from toe to top. In vain I plied my heels against the board behind which lay the offending organ ; a momentary cessation was all that ensued,-a deceitful lull, to be followed by a tempest of snorting more raging than before. Once I succeeded in producing a calm by jerking into the berth a heavy pair of top-boots, which I grasped convulsively from the floor ; at another, a vessel of Britannia-metal, despatched on the same errand, elicited a disturbed grunt, a pause, and then the noise broke forth again, so that at length I gave up the contest in despair, and resigned myself to my fate. To one whose nerves are at all irritable, there is no torment like the infliction of snoring. As the Marquis says, in the 'Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes, Je le trouve détestable, morbleu ! détestable, du dernier d'testable, ce qu'on appelle d'testable !' and there I lay heaping coals of imaginary fire on the head of the offender, not by any mental promise of forbearance, but by devising what bitter things I would say when confronted next day with the luckless snorer.

In the midst of my direst thoughts I fell asleep.

« السابقةمتابعة »