Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

room, within that coop, and beneath that dried-up- visage, resided an active spirit, confirming, too, the remark of Madame de Stäel--that even in solitude the mind can be as energetic as on the throne of the Cæsars."

Mr. Gubbins, like unto his revered employer, endued himself in dark habiliments; but it was broadly manifest that Gabriel's coats had, on making their first début in the world, covered ampler and more distinguished backs, and that in his proprietorship they had undergone some declension of dignity. He had spent many long and weary years of toil in the place where we have presented him to our readers, and the consideration was seventy-five pounds per annum, with the further addenda of coals and candles, and on every Christmas-eve the donation of a Cheshire cheese and half a kilderkin of stout.

Gabriel had certain peculiarities of character as well as person. He always would write with an immensely long pen, and when he did take up that "mighty instrument of

" he felt the full force of his con

Little men,

sequence—it was to him what the huge claymore in Dumbarton Castle was to the stalwart warrior in days of yore, a weapon by which he could deal blows at a tolerable distance from his person.

Like his master, he was remarkably methodic, and his movements were ever ordered by a nice regularity. He treasured up all the cuttings and waste parchment, knew with marvellous instinct the precise pigeon-hole, tin-box, or other repository in which any mentioned document had been stored away during the previous twenty years, and could even put his hand upon Coke upon Littleton in the dark. He was, too, one of those solitary beings in the world, whose heart has never been warmed by domestic ties, and which have little or no sympathy for others.

He lived in two small rooms in an upper story in Cook's Court, and the only living things he had ever possessed, as companions, were canaries and bullfinches; the former of which he bred in no inconsiderable numbers, and the latter he purchased and taught to whistle. In these birds of song, he took

much delight, and with feathered fanciers he carried on a small trade of interesting merchandise. In the early spring, Gabriel might be seen busily watering a box or two of coffined mignonette, together with a few pots of other flowers, which, in summer, bloomed on the little balcony of his bedroom window; and these specimens of earth’s verdure, were the only few green things on which his eye, from one year to another, was wont to be fixed. In books he took little pleasure, but he did love to hear how matters went on in the political world, and for such gratification, he indulged in a three days' old morning paper, and every alternate night he smoked his pipe, and drank his pint of ale in the little parlour at the Turk's Head, which house of public entertainment was once honoured by the Literary Club.

Gabriel had not sufficient of the imaginative in his composition, to indulge in airy flights, and picture to his mental vision the great departed, who, in an age gone by, were wont to congregate in that very little parlour - he saw not the shades of old Johnson and Sir Joshua listening with his ear-trumpet; but he could chatter and hector on politics, point out the errors of the Cabinet, and whenever there was a legal question discussed by his evening compeers, his shrill voice rose to an octave, and he argued all opponents of opinion into veritable silence. Historians tell us that Louis XIV. was, during his lifetime, considered rather tall than otherwise-after death it was proved that he was below the ordinary stature! His stately carriage, erect bearing, and well supported air of importance had deceived every eye, and supplied the place of length of limb. Gabriel was one of those deceivers; not that he had the carriage of the Grand Monarque, but because he imitated the actions of more elongated forms, and on every occasion made the most of himself.

Between Mr. Clincher and Mr. Gubbins, there had grown up, through time, and the nature of me

little matters in which the latter's council had been sought-and on which the latter had soiled his fingers for his employer's interest—there had grown up, it is repeated, a sort of intimacy which, in the common course of things accorded not with their relative positions. Circumstances and personal considerations are apt at times to erase the landmarks of self-respect in social intercourse, which would otherwise stand out prominently for the maintenance of distinction. When such is the case, little acts of forwardness and impertinences are overlooked which would else have given umbrage, and mutual liberties are taken, which each is ready to forget and forgive.


In the various descriptions of business transacted in the previously described offices, Gabriel was ever importantly concerned. If a client wished to effect a loan, the clérk's ingenuity was availed to ferret out the financial condition of the borrower. By natural tact and long practise in such concerns, his perceptive faculties had become wonderfully acute; when once laid on the scent, he would track out the truth like a beagle, and from frequent success in his inquiries he plumed himself so much on this kind of ability, that he deemed it well-nigh impossible for any one



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »