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dren in the same state of affluence and comfort which they had hitherto enjoyed, and by-and-by he should realise fortunes for them, andmin the mean time he had five pounds.
Our poor gentleman in black wended homewards: the house seemed sadly dismal, do what he would to think otherwise. The poor
children looked pale and forlorn, the rooms dusty and littered. The servants had neglected their toilets, and in general they wore dresses that fitted without a wrinkle, and caps trimmed with whole webs of ribbon. Bythe-by, it is rather a curious coincidence that the maid-servants of bachelors and widowers are always peculiarly addicted to smart caps —there is no accounting for the fact, but such is the case.
Yet now these same servant-maids looked as slatternly and dismal as though they were “helps” to the scolding mother of ten crying children. The rooms were all disordered, the furniture disarranged, and the man in the back parlour, with his dirty face and high-low boots, looked perfectly villanous. Altogether it was a sad home to come to, instead of a cheerful hearth and welcoming smiles ; so the poor gentleman in black could only sigh, and kiss all the children, and tell them he was going into the country for just two days, and when he came back he should bring them a sack of pears, and half a dozen new frocks, and a very beautiful little dog for a pet-perhaps it should be an Italian greyhound or perhaps a King Charles's beauty, but at any rate it should be a great little beauty of some sort; but that above all he should be sure to send the disagreeable dirty man away out of the back parlour, and then they were all to be happier than ever ; upon which assurances the children began to be happy already, and after giving him a good many dozen kisses, went half cheerily to bed, and then the gentleman in black divided his five pound note into a two and three pounds portion, giving the latter to his inoping housekeeper for present expenditure, and keeping the former for his own princely travelling expenses. Mr. Meredith rose at six the following morning, if it may
be said that a man can get up who has not previously gone to bed. To speak with critical exactness, however, he had thrown himself on the outside of his coverlet, meaning to be as miserable as possible all night; but some way or another, after lying about five minutes, he began to believe all that he had promised the children as faithfully as they believed him, and in about five minutes more he was as sound asleep as the happiest man alive, dreaming that he had a home so full of ingots of gold that the beams were breaking down, and the great exertions he made to prop up the edifice just enabled him to wake at the proper time, and after making his toilet, and putting clean linen in his carpet bag, he descended; but early as it was, his housekeeper had got him a cup of coffee and an egg waiting for him, which service, though voluntarily performed, was yet accompanied by looks as cross as though it had been enforced. Mr. Meredith would have declined the proposed courtesy, but as the choice had not been proposed, and it was out of the kindliness of his own nature to reject the kindness of another, he swallowed the coffee and the egg, and rendered as many thanks as if the entertainment had been a perfect gratuity, conferred on a way-side beggar; and then set off to *
go to Bath."
servant, in the mean time, sitting down and shedding a few tears, after she had followed him with her eyes out of the street.
So back again to the sphere of those kind and benignant philanthropists went our hero. There stood the coach all ready, the aristocracy of course going inside and the canaille on the out, composed, as usual, of the customary complement of very respectable, plain, substantial, ladies, in very respectable old-fashioned cloaks, and poke straw bonnets, and double-soled boots, and some young girls, in tawdry head-gear and dirty blond caps, and tumbled flowers, and faded silk cloaks, made in the newest-but-one fashion, and wearing the trophies of many a splash of metropolitan mud. There was a great fuss to get the substantial ladies into the inside, and the more fragile nymphs on to the out: but perhaps we are wrong in marking the line between the select interior and the vulgar exterior, for all the ladies who mounted the roof and got into the basket of that particular coach, took care to acquaint every individual in turn that they preferred travelling in that manner, that they might see the country, or else that their health did not allow them to endure the narrow internal limits, or that the inside places were all taken, &c., &c.; all which assurances, coming from head-quarters, everybody was bound to believe.
The gentleman in black took his place on the coachbox, and having paid the required stipend for packing his luggage, though he did not happen to have any, that of course not being a fee, and after paying the remainder of his fare, was suffered to turn up his collar and button up his coat, and be as cold and as miserable as he pleased, the coachman not having yet assumed his official duties, but being, in the mean time, at a preparatory school in the neighbourhood, learning to keep out the morning air ; but at last all the young ladies and the old ladies and the young gentlemen and the old gentlemen, were settled in the inside and on the outside to their heart's satisfaction, or, whether they were or not, the time was come that they ought to have been, and up the coachman got, having well fortified himself
, and smack went the whip, and round went the wheels, and off went the company's coach and the company's horses in most magnificent style.
And the coachman !--ah, the coachman deserves an entire paragraph in his honour--he is worth a whole zoological garden, for he condenses in himself the surliness of fifty bears at the least. O, my dear reader, if you do not wish to be turned into stone by the eyelight of one of these monsters, never travel with a coachman who is to have no fees. No fees! O pray take warning, for he will certainly turn ogre and devour you! He is cheated out of his birthright, swindled out of his time-out-of-mind right, and he looks at you like a muzzled bear, ready to spring upon you, and give you a hug! But if your dark fate should throw you into his moving den, be sure, under no impulse of curiosity or exigence of circumstance, to ask him a question --if you do, he will certainly burst his muzzle, and bite your head off.
The coach made no stoppages longer than two minutes and a half, or at the most three minutes, on the road, and these little hinderances were occasioned by the necessity the driver found to alight at every tolerable inn on the way-side to take some of the water of life, just to keep up the necessary impetus for driving ; but as he was very zealous in this needful duty, and had, besides, acquired such skilfulness by practice, that it was proved by computation on a stop-watch that he could lift his hand to his head in half a second less than any other man on the road, it was presumed that these little delays, in reality, more than redeemed themselves by the increase of energy in the driver, which he contrived to communicate to his horses by means of some electric communication running from his hand to the extreme end of his whip, and which was instantly understood by animals of even the lowest capacity. Saving and excepting these delays, or rather, we should say, these accelerations, the coach made no demur till it arrived at the Half-way House. Here all was animationeverybody in the coach was out in a moment, and everybody that was on the coach was down in a moment, and out came a lady in a moment, and quite a lady too, with spectacles and gloves, and so soft, and so sweet ? and she was so very kind as to come to see all the boxes and band-boxes, and baskets, and bundles, weighed in a huge pair of scales, and what was much more, to take all the half-pence and pence that came by way of mulct over and above the very liberal weight allowed by the “ New Company's Coach” per head; and in the mean time some of the passengers just went in, and looked at a dinner that was set out for their inspection, and a few had the temerity to taste, but the greater part had no appetite so early in the day, and could not think of dining at such a vulgar hour; and these being chiefly the external passengers, were all quite ready to take their places again the moment the luggage was repacked, and a new coachman on the box; and then the few insides, who had just accomplished a third mouthful by way of taste, were pushed most reluctantly in, grumbling intolerably, and then slash went the whip, and round went the wheels, and off again.
Gorgeously did that autumn sun sink into its rest as that “ New Company's Coach" approached the city, attended by hosts of glittering clouds, robed in cloth of gold, and sparkling with the light of the sapphire and the ruby. The hill-sides clothed in their living green, the trees still wrapped in their summer garb, the white stone houses dotted over a hundred gentle eminences, and the fair city, cradled in the valley, seeming as if made a home for the happy—a home for the heart—if place may be such. Yes / no doubt it is a very fine thing to "
ath!” But, as the poor coach came nearer, the sun, with his long train of gorgeous clouds, departed—the sky went into mourning and a thousand lights sparkled up out of the depths of the valley, marking out the dwelling-places of man, which, however, were only gas-lights, and by the time the vehicle stopped in the city the gentleman in black had lost sight of all the poetry of the place, and knew only that he was alone in a strange town, without a friend, with very
money, and on a particularly disagreeable errand.
He entered the inn, and received just that portion of attention and respect which a passenger and his carpet-bag, travelling outside of the “ New Company's Coach,” had a right to expect; but he, poor foolish man! thought to have had a little more. He ordered tea, and having been as genteel in his ideas as the other “outsides,” who
could not be so vulgar as to dine at one, determined, maugre his economical arrangements with himself, to luxuriate on a rasher of ham. The tea came with the disrespect of clumsy cut loaf, and ham that had done duty before, boiled as a side-dish at a forgotten dinner somewhere about three weeks back. The gentleman in black remembered having caught a glimpse of a guant bone in the tempting larder window as he turned up the stairs, but he did not opine that his rasher, which he could have fitted on it, ought to be doubly good, because it was doubly cooked; but as no part of his previous education had ever qualified him to scold, he only sent the whole service away, and being grievously fatigued, betook himself to an early bed.
In the morning our hero rose in renovated spirits. The beams of a bright sun danced gaily through his chamber window. In all other places the season was autumn, at Bath it was only spring. It was impossible to despair when everything looked so joyous; so Mr. Meredith yielded to the impulses of his own sanguine nature, and felt as if he had completed the most desirable arrangements in the world for his future prosperity; and on the strength of these arrangements partook of a breakfast about as sumptuous as his previous tea, and then commenced his hopeful journey to Miss Garvan's residence; but as he turned his back on St. Michael's, and his face towards the old cathedral clock, he found it was still too early to intrude on a lady's privacy; so, instead of posting like the mail, he walked leisurely on, and looked a little about him as he went.
Now we think that in a work of this grave character we ought not to omit a few profound observations, that we are sure would enrich a county history. First, then, the gentleman in black was amazingly struck by the number of names on the doors preceded by the title of “Mrs.,” which made him conclude that all the widows in the neighbouring counties congregated here his next observation was, that the people of Bath never clean their door-steps, or at least that the use of hearthstone was unknown-his next, that all the empty houses had the word “void,” printed in the largest possible type, stuck up in the windows, a most important remark~his next, that the people are drawn about the streets in their own easy chairs—his next, that the pigs are all black, and the butchers all women-his next two observations proved alike his profoundness, and that he was a domestic manthat cats are unknown in the whole city, and that the people are remarkably fond of the colour of yellow.
The gentleman in black made these deep, sage, grave, profound, and erudite remarks, as he traversed that portion of the town which separated his inn from the point of country where Miss Garvan resided. He began to ascend a hill-side, and then turned to look upon the congregated dwellings he was leaving: again the poetry of the place arose: a city of white stone embosomed among the hills, the flowing Avon winding through the midst. The gentleman in black thought the world a very beautiful world, and that it was a very great pity that anybody should be miserable in it.
Our pedestrian toiled up the hill, inquiring as he went about all the Wicks and Combes he came near, until at last a scene of quiet beauty opened before him, and the Combe he sought was found. An ivied
church—a quiet churchyard—a mansion embosomed in wood, sloping lawns, terrace walks, and blooming gardens. On the one hand orchards of abundant produce, on the other the little smiling village, in front, spreading below into a deeper valley, the city of white stone, surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills.
Our traveller paused with an admiring gaze. Surely it was a spot made for happiness. If this were Miss Garvan's residence, he was sure she must be amiable. No one could live in such a heaven without being an angel.
Then came à remembrance of certain reports, which said that a certain lady was crooked, and cross, and passionate, and avaricious, &c. &c. &c. ; but, no, he would not believe it-he saw that such things were wholly impossible from the very aspect of the place.
So then he had only to satisfy himself as to the verity of her residence, and he hailed a rustic-looking man who was near him on the road.
know Miss Garvan ?” 66 Yes, sur.” 6 Does she live in that house ?" “ Yes, sur.” 6 And she is—hum_ha—that is, she is a very kind lady ?"
“ She be kind ! why, who have been a-telling you that l'exclaimed the man, in a sort of startled amazement.
“ She is, is she not ?" resumed the gentleman in black, startled in his turn; for he had persisted in believing that Miss Garvan was really a lady of profound feeling—" she is, is she not ?"
“ O yes, sure !” replied the man, with so peculiar a twist of the mouth and expression of the eye, as sufficiently answered the poor gentleman in black.
This little incident greatly disconcerted him. What if he had been too sanguine ! What if he were now wasting the time which he ought to have been spending at home in concerting some more efficient ways and means! But, no; Miss Garvan was a woman : he never knew a woman unkind : he would trust to her nature still.
So the gentleman in black opened a little wicket which led by a winding footpath up the hill-side to the house, leaving the broader avenue to the right, pondering as he went how best to propitiate the lady of the mansion. He had not passed under the shadow of a dozen trees before he came in sight of a lady sitting on a rustic garden chair, coquetting the tassel of her parasol with a beautiful little Italian greyhound, who was jumping and gambolling round her in paroxysms of delight. The lady was neither young nor beautiful, and she was remarkably ill dressed, that is, well dressed in quality, but quite without care and taste; as women dress who have neither hope nor desire to please men: her complexion had rather a jaundiced shade, and the expression of her countenance was evidently one of suspicion and discontent: and yet she was leaning over her little dog with a face beaming with as much love as though the little animal had been a darling child. This forced Mr. Meredith to say to himself, “ What a pity to see such affection misplaced! I wish she had something better to love."