Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

you at home at nights, where all sober folks ought to be who have got wives.”

Mr. Pepys coloured, for Nelly's random-shot had very nearly hit the mark,-a propensity to quarrel with her husband's late hours and his fondness for gay company, being one of the attributes of his helpmate's character. He would not own it, however, but pleaded having business at his office, which had kept him wakeful with entangled accounts; and gently squeezing Mistress Nelly's round arm, though he would fain have pressed her rosy lips, he took his leave.

He did not, however, proceed direct to Whitehall, whither his duties called him, but, turning into a narrow street which led from Drury-lane towards the King's Theatre in Bridges-street, stopped at the door of a very mean-looking house and knocked for admission, glancing as he did so at the upper windows, apparently in the expectation of some one approaching them whom he was desirous to see. But in this hope he was disappointed, nor, until he had knocked several times, were there any indications of his summons having been heard. At last a heavy footstep descended the stairs, a bolt was withdrawn, the street-door was opened as far as a strong chain attached to a staple permitted: in the aperture Mr. Pepys beheld a grim-looking, unshaven man, with a grisly wet moustache and black matted hair, which straggled over his coarse flushed features, and suggested the idea, which the fellow's general appearance confirmed, that he had slept in his clothes, and been disturbed in the doubtful luxury of his morning draught. The physical disadvantages under which this gentleman, who might have been taken for a horse-jockey or a led captain, laboured, were heightened by the sinister expression of his countenance, at once cowardly and morose; and it was with an evident feeling of disgust that Mr. Pepys addressed him.

“A fine May morning, Mr. Knipp!" was the salutation with which he greeted the surly janitor, who evinced no disposition to open the door any wider, although he perfectly recognised the applicant for admission. “A fine May morning! How comes it that you are not out to see the merry dances of the milkmaids? The way is so thronged about the maypole in the Strand that there is no passing.”

" Humph !" growled the individual saluted as Mr. Knipp; “I'm not out because I'm here. I suppose,” he added with a sneer," it was the crowd that made you take this road to Whitehall.”

“Partly, Mr. Knipp, partly," returned Mr. Pepys, unwilling to be moved by the taunt, though he fully understood its meaning; “but chiefly that I might pray for fair Mistress Knipp's presence—and your own,” he contrived to bring out, after a momentary hesitation, " at a merry meeting at Foxhall this evening, and then to supper at Chatelin's, hard-by in Covent Garden. I doubt not but we shall have very good company."

All the while he spoke, Mr. Pepys kept an anxious eye on the staircase, of which where he stood he could just obtain a glimpse over the surly husband's shoulder; but he looked in vain; “ the sprightly baggage,” as he was wont to call Mistress Knipp, not making her appearance, though he had raised his voice beyond its usual pitch. The husband, in making answer, explained the cause of this. The fellow would readily snarl, but was afraid to bite. He disliked the persons who paid court to his wife-Mr. Pepys above all--but his spirit was too mean to deny himself the

tavern-pleasures which were a consequence of his going abroad with her in such society.

He did not know, he said, whether Mistress Knipp would be able to venture forth that evening. She had been at my Lord Brouncker's till a late hour~(he did not add that he had beaten her when she came home, in a fit of drunken jealousy)-was asleep then, but would presently have to rise and dress to go through her part in “ The Scornful Lady,” which was to be played at the King's Theatre that day, after dinner, when the Duke of Buckingdam, Sir Charles Sedley, Sir George Etheredge, and a knot of gallants beside, had promised to be there. For his part, he was sick of such gay doings and fine people, and thought of shutting up his wife in a convent, while he went abroad to the wars, the only place for a man of honour in times like these. Bnt if Mr. Pepys really intended to sup at Chatelin's that night, and meant to treat the company, he would think about it, perhaps, and let the jade be of the party; though, he added with an oath, it was no pleasure to him to waste the night in hearing squeaking fiddles and squalling women!

The sot told the truth in the last sentence, but not the whole truth, for he might have said he did not care how much of every night was wasted, as long as he had plenty of ale, and tobacco, and strong waters, and feasted at other people's expense; but Mr. Pepys was shrewd enough to see that the ruffian gave his consent to the proposed arrangement, however ungraciously, on the understanding that he was to be in free quarters. Perceiving also that it would be useless to parley any longer at the door in the hope of seeing Mistress Knipp herself, who was probably locked in her chamber, he saluted her husband with the grave courtesy which was habitual to him, and now bent his steps in good earnest towards Whitehall, where his friend and patron the Earl of Sandwich awaited him.

Our ancestors, in the time of Charles II., though not so ourselves under the rule of Victoria, were able to get through a tolerable amount of work, of one sort or another, in the course of the four-andtwenty hours; and, perhaps, for combining business with pleasure, or rather for devoting himself alternately to each, there was no man of his day who could accomplish more than Mr. Samuel Pepys. He had a good solid understanding, an aptitude for business, and a clear perception of the affairs entrusted to his management, so that his official utility was very generally recognised; while, on the other hand, a fondness for the amusements of the town, especially for “musique" and the theatres

a forward gallantry towards women, when his wife happened not to be by—and a strain of joviality which he was at little pains to repress when the time and place agreed, caused him to be welcome everywhere as a lover and promoter of mirth and good companionship.

For two or three hours on the morning in question, he was closely occupied in preparing his account of the expense and debt of the navy; and when the labour, or as much of it as was needful for the day, was accomplished, the man of pleasure again set forth to enjoy his holiday. He had not gone far from Whitehall before he was espied by his friend Sir William Pen, the comptroller of the navy, who was out airing in his coach, and invited Mr. Pepys to drive with him to the Park, 6 Tiburne way,” to see the crowds of holiday-makers, the most part afoot, but many in carriages ; and, conspicuous amongst the last, the notable Duchess of

66 fast” as

person inside it.

Newcastle, in a large black coach ornamented with silver instead of gold ; the curtains and all the ornaments being white, her footmen all in black velvet and silver, and she herself in a velvet cap and black just-aucorps, with her hair about her ears, a number of patches on her face, and her large bare neck without any jewel to adorn or lace to conceal it; her retinue, besides her own people, consisting of hundreds of girls and boys, who crowded round the coach to get a peep at the remarkable

The discourse between Sir William Pen and Mr. Pepys was a sample of that which prevails at the present day, and, most likely, has always prevailed: it began with politics and ended with scandal, though it was difficult at that time to dissociate the one from the other. The mismanagement of the Dutch war, the fear of invasion, the intrigues for place, the malversations of official personages, the king's expenses, the rapaciousness of Lady Castlemaine, the vulgarity of the Duchess of Albemarle; the going away from court of Mistress Stewart, and the rich jewels which the Duke of York had given her; the service of plate, worth 40001.

, wrung from the king by “his seventieth mistress abroad,” the Lady Byron ; the wit and plain speaking of Lacy the comedian, in the new play of “ The Change of Crownes, wherein the Court was so much abused for the selling of places and doing everything for money; the recent duel between the two Fieldings, in which one brother killed the other in a drunken quarrel ; the scandalous courses of the men of the town, and the gossip of the theatres, furnished matter enough for discussion during the drive. Wearying at length of the dust and noise of the Park, and more weary still of his companion, of whom he entertained the opinion that he was “ the most false fellow that ever was born of woman,” Mr. Pepys caused Sir William to set him down in Tiburne Lane; and, leaving the navy comptroller“ to parade in his new chariot,” proceeded on foot along Pickadilly, to seek his way home to dinner at

He had not proceeded far before he was accosted by Mr. Pechell, a gentleman of shabby-genteel appearance, with a very red nose, who, in spite of the protestations of Mr. Pepys that he was in much hurry, and greatly to his annoyance, persisted in walking with him till he reached Charing Cross. Mr. Pepys tried many times to shake him off, but in vain, till, passing by the Rummer Tavern, the sight of his friend's nose suggested to him the idea that a pottle of canary might serve his turn ; and Mr. Pechell being naturally nothing loth, they entered the tavern together, and there, though at more cost than was agreeable to the worthy Clerk of the Acts, who kept a close eye on his smallest disbursements, he managed to disembarrass himself of his good-natured but not very fashionable acquaintance.

In the course of his morning's peregrinations, several slight matters had occurred to ruffle the temper of Mr. Pepys: the insolent bearing of Mr. Knipp, and the disappointment at not seeing that individual's wife -- the perplexed state of the accounts at his office—the upstart grandeur of his colleague Sir William Pen-and finally, the mortification of being met in company with so red-nosed a man as Mr. Pechell, to say nothing of the extra charges incurred thereby, all contributed to heighten his ill-humour ; and it was in a frame of mind much less equable than usual that he took water at Whitehall stairs to return to the city. Nor were matters much mended when he came in sight of his own house in Seething-lane,

Oct.--VOL. LXXXVII, NO. CCCXLVI.

noon.

batch open ;

for there he found that his cook-maid, Luce, had left both the door and

which so vexed him that, meeting the offender in the entry, he actually gave her a kick and offered a blow at her, in an unlucky moment for his own reputation, for just as he did so the footboy of Sir William Pen, who lived close by on Tower-hill

, passed by and saw the act. The fellow made off, grinning, and left Mr. Pepys with the comfortable conviction that he would immediately go and tell the story at home.

Under these untoward circumstances Mr. Pepys prepared to join the family meal, for the proper enjoyment of which, we need scarcely say, equanimity of mind is quite as necessary as keenness of appetite.

CHAPTER II.

HOW MR. PEPYS WAS ANGRY, AND MRS. PEPYS JEALOUS ; IN CONSE

QUENCE OF WHICH HE GOES TO THE PLAY BY HIMSELF.

MR. Pepys was a man of strong likes and dislikes. Conscious of a certain infirmity of temper, he generally strove to put a restraint upon himself when anything went wrong with him ; but as he never dismissed a subject from his thoughts till he had spoken out upon it, this reticence only answered the purpose of "nursing his wrath to keep it warm.”

When only a girl of fifteen, and just emancipated from a convent, Mr. Pepys had fallen in love with and married pretty Elizabeth St. Michel, to whom he had now been united about twelve years. What our neighbours imply by the phrase la beauté du diable, expressed the nature of Mrs. Pepys' charms. She had been good-looking while young, —that is to say, she had a fresh complexion, good teeth, and tolerably regular features—but there was no animation in her countenance; and as she got older, this insipidity increased. Mr. Pepys was a worshipper of beauty after this fashion—that if he found not piquancy or variety at the shrine where his devotions ought to have been paid, he made a point of seeking them elsewhere. There was nothing to object to in the tame inexpressive face of his wife, save only that it was the essence of tameness and inexpressiveness ; and this perhaps, as much as his fondness for rare and curious books, was the reason why he used to kiss the bookseller's charming wife behind the shop door when he went to the New Exchange to make his purchases—the honest bibliopole being at that time absent.

But although Mr. Pepys could look with indifference on features that had lost their charm in his eyes, he was very particular in matters of costume, and there were certain female fashions which vexed him “mightily.” A"custom obtained in that day, as may be seen in the pictures of Lely and his rival Hales, of ladies wearing "fronts” of fair hair, no matter what the hue of their own, or what their natural complexions. Mrs. Pepys had fallen into this mode ; and whenever she wished to appear unusually smart, or it might be when she had some other motive in view, invariably made her appearance with a row of curls of the colour most obnoxious to her husband's fancy. If there was one thing that Mr. Pepys detested more than another, it was what he used spitefully to call his wife's “white locks,” and their appearance was a sure sigual for domestic broil.

On the day of which we are speaking, the “poor wretch" (as Mr. Pepys was irreverently in the habit of calling the partner of his bosom) came down to dinner in this objectionable headgear. She also had on a

black moyre waistcoat (being in second mourning), and a short petticoat, laced with silver lace "so basely,” as Mr. Pepys afterwards said, “he could not endure to see it.” At the first glance at the objects of his antipathy, her husband changed colour; he made no observation, however, and seated himself

, but fuming inwardly all the while, so that he began to eat his dinner in silence, telling Mrs. Pepys nothing of the sights he had seen, or of the strange appearance of the mad Duchess of Newcastle, which he knew she would gladly have listened to.

In the prime of life, in the fulness of health, and blest for the most part with a remarkably good appetite, Mr. Pepys held a good dinner in high estimation, and always loved to see one on his own table. He had his favourite dishes too, and when these were served à point, his satisfaction was unbounded: on the reverse of this picture it is not necessary to dwell. But on this occasion, the cookmaid Luce, as if she had laid herself out on that day specially to incur her master's displeasure, had shamefully neglected her duties. The “ powdered leg of pork,” in which Mr. Pepys so much delighted, was hard and salt; the roast meat was burnt and done to rags; and the asparagus, which he had himself bought that morning, paying eighteenpence for the same, was so over-boiled, that “the taste," as he said, was altogether naught.”

There are limits to human endurance; even Job himself would have complained sooner, if his wife, instead of egging him on to misconduct himself

, had set him down to a bad dinner. Mr. Pepys, perhaps, was not sorry for an excuse to discharge his pent-up passion, and delivered himself after this wise :

“ It seemeth strange, Mistress Pepys, that no order is taken with that slut, Luce, in preparing our meals. A dinner more foully contrived have I never seen; all is at waste and spoil: this dish over-salt, that overroast, and the rest cooked after the devil's fashion."

“ If it be Luce's fault, Mr. Pepys, take order with her yourself,” was the lady's meek reply; you are the master in your own house. A gentlewoman has many other matters to think of besides the superin-tendence of a vile scullion."

“ So I perceive, madam," retorted Mr. Pepys, fixing an angry glare on his wife's false curls; “ it is not enough that my dinner should be spoilt, but you must do your best to spoil the little beauty that God has given you by tiring yourself in those accursed white locks, which I verily hate and detest as I do the straight hair of a Puritan.”

Mrs. Pepys burst into tears; but drying them quickly by a sudden effort, which gave more animation to her countenance than it had displayed before, she hastily replied —

“ It is well for you, Mr. Pepys, to reproach me with lack of beauty when you get so much of it abroad. I suppose, to please you, I must make my

of that Jew's widow, Mistress Manuel, or of those player wenches, Pierce and Knipp, whom you are for ever keeping com

Mr. Pepys bent his fists with anger, as if he would have trounced his helpmate on the spot ; but he forbore to do so, and only made answer:

“ The women you name, madam, are as virtuous and respectable as any of my acquaintance. They have musical gifts which greatly please me, and therefore I frequent their company."

“ Indeed!" returned Mrs. Pepys, with a scorpful toss of the head ;

face a copy

pany with.”

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »