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companion half-a-year behind the events of the day; to whom everything, from heavy politics to trifling gossip, must be unfolded and explained ; and who, for want of animal spirits, is as flat as a glass of stale soda-water. For a mere acquaintance, accepted only for purposes of mutual entertainment, has no right to be a bore; and if a bore, is dealt with accordingly.
There were moments, indeed, when Woolston, smarting under neglect and privation, felt inclined to forestal the future affluence awaiting him, by a post-obit levy; of sufficient amount, to convince the world that eventual prosperity would enable him to repay its courtesies, or return it scorn for scorn. But prudence prevailed. He had always promised himself to succeed to an estate unencumbered by any act of profligacy or prodigality : and he would not secede from his principle. He would
He would go bearing Maria must content herself to turn the old silk gown so long her Sunday best. He was almost proud of his own seedy coat. As to the coal-merchant's bill, it should be paid by instalments. Another
year, however, found him less hearty, and far less philosophical. Though his income was punctually paid by his father's banker, it was unaccompanied by a word of comment, or overture of kindness ; and Sir Harry, like a stag-horned tree, seemed deeper rooted by every additional year. It appeared to invigorate the constitution of the vindictive old man, to know that by the prolongation of his days, he could still punish his son. The grim face of poverty, meanwhile, was acquiring new features at Maple Hill. The little boy proved an ailing child. The air of the weedy villa did not agree with him; and a suburban apothecary, unable to fortify, per force of pharmacopæia, the little fellow's infirm constitution, suggested sea-bathing as indispensable.
Ten weeks at Brighton added something considerable to the quarter's expenses. But they also produced something so nearly resembling
bloom on the pale cheeks of the sickly child, that, early in the following spring, the prescription was renewed. And as the scanty professional engagements of John Woolston, “ promising more hereafter,” rendered it hazardous for him to absent himself from town, his wife was forced to submit to a temporary separation.
It was one of those cold, rainy, backward springs, which suggest a wish that winter would retain its own rough name, in order that one might be on one's guard against its harshness. After a few severe colds, produced by trudging homewards in the mud because no place was to be had in the omnibus, poor Woolston, as much out of sorts with the elements as King Lear, placed a placard of “To be Let Furnished” on the top of his garden wall, and a terse advertisement to the same effect in the “Supplement to the Times :” and proceeded to establish himself in his chambers in the Temple, till the return of his family.
But unluckily, the place proved as little at
tractive to the public as to its master, and hung heavy on his hands. Nothing seemed to go well with him. Domestic care rendered him listless in his profession. Few people like to entrust their business to a man who seems incapable of managing his own. If it be true that “nothing succeeds like success,” nothing is so unsuccessful as mischance.
One day, in passing Hoare's banking-house, as he was sauntering along the Strand, he was run against by a spruce, well-dressed man, rushing across the pavement to an equally well-varnished cais; who, on pausing to apologize, proved to be his brother-in-law, Gerald Molyneux.
An affectation of surprise and a few civil inquiries after Mrs. Woolston and the children, were indispensable ; though the Honourable Gerald had evidently little inclination to be seen talking to a man who owed so little to his tailor except his bill.
And when they had shaken hands, and shaken each other off, while John Woolston proceeded
moodily to his Temple dinner, the fashionable husband of his sister Emma was shrugging his shoulders at the quizzicality of the distressed family man.
* By the time old Woolston drops, of which he seems to have no thoughts at present, mused he, as he drove back to his bright little Belgravian home, “ John will have become an irretrievable snob. All's up with poor John! That wretched match has crushed him, root and branch. And I'm really sorry for it. The October shooting at Harrals is far from despicable. And if John had turned out what he ought, and modernised the system of the house, a month or so in the year, there, might have been a pleasant resource to us."
It did not occur to him, meanwhile, that a cheerful dinner might be acceptable to the brother-in-law who had informed him that his family was at Ramsgate. Even if it had, he would have been puzzled to supply it; for he lived a life of surface, not unusual with Honourable