Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

shop ?”

can tell

“ Yours, of course," replied Mr. Puffington, bowing ; adding something about great public characters, which Soapey didn't understand, not being aware that he was one.

“I'll be down upon you, as the extinguisher said to the rushlight,” observed Mr. Soapey.

Do,said Mr. Puffington ; "come before the frost. Where are you staying now?"

“ I'm at Jawleyford's,” observed Soapey.

“Indeed !-Jawleyford's, are you?" repeated Mr. Puffington. “Good fellow, Jawleyford-gentleman, Jawleyford. How long do you stay?"

Why, I haven't made up my mind,” replied Soapey. “Have no thoughts of budging at present.”

Ah, well-good quarters," said Mr. Puffington, who now smelt a rat; “good quarters-nice girls-fine fortune-fine place, Jawleyford Court. Well, book me for the next visit,” added he. “I will,” said Soapey, “and no mistake. What do they call your Hanby House," replied Mr. Puffington; "Hanby House-any body

you where Hanby House is.” “I'll not forget," said Mr. Soapey, booking it in his mind, and eyeing his victim.

“ I'll show you a fine pack of hounds,” said Mr. Puffington; “far finer animals than those of old Scamperdale's—steady, true hunting hounds, that won't go a yard without a scent—none of your jealous, flashy, frantic devils, that will tear over half a township without one, and are always looking out for holloas' and assistance—"

Mr. Puffington was interrupted in the comparison he was about to draw between his lordship's hounds and his, by arriving at the Bolsover brick-fields, and seeing Jack and Blossomnose, horse in hand, running to and fro, while sundry countrymen blobbed about in the clayhole they had so recently occupied. Tom Washball, Mr. Wake, Mr. Fyle, Mr. Fossick, and several dark-coated horsemen and boys, were congregated around. Jack had lost his spectacles, and Blossomnose his whip, and the countrymen were diving for them.

“Not hurt, I hope?” said Mr. Puffington, in the most dandified tone of indifference, as he rode up to where Jack and Blossomnose were churning the water in their boots, stamping up and down, trying to get themselves warm.

“ Hurt be d-d!" replied Jack, who had a frightful squint, that turned his eyes inside out as it were, showing nothing but the whites, when he was in a passion : “ Hurt be d-d!” said he ; “ might have been drowned, for anything you'd have cared."

“I should have been sorry for that,” replied Mr. Puffington; adding, “ The Flat Hat Hunt could ill-afford to lose so useful and ornamental a member."

“I don't know what the Flat Hat Hunt can afford to lose," spluttered Jack, who hadn't got all the clay out of his mouth ; “but I know they can afford to do without the company of certain gentlemen who shall be nameless," said he, looking at Soapey and Puffington as he thought, but in reality showing nothing but the whites of his eyes.

"I told you so," said Puffington, jerking his head towards Jack, as Soapey and he turned their horses' heads to ride on ; " I told you so,"

repeated be; "that's a specimen of their style ;" adding, “They are the greatest set of ruffians under the sun.”

The new acquaintances then jogged on together as far as the cross roads at Stewkeley, when Puffington, having bound Soapey in his own recognizance to come to him when he left Jawleyford Court, pointed him out his way, and with a most hearty shake of the hands the friends parted.

CHAPTER XXVI.

LORD SCAMPERDALE AT HOME,

We fear our fair friends will expect something gay from the above heading-lamps and flambeaux outside, fiddlers, feathers, and flirters in. Nothing of the sort, fair ladies--nothing of the sort. Lord Scamperdale “at home," simply means that his lordship was not out hunting, that he had got his dirty boots and breeches off, and warm tartans, flannels, and worsteds on.

Lord Scamperdale-for we may observe that all noblemen are lords in the sporting world, except dukes, who are called dukes (“ Well, Duke, how are you ?”—and so), Lord Scamperdale, we say, was the eighth earl ; and, according to the usual alternating course of great English families -one generation living and the next starving—it was his lordship's turn. to live ; but the seventh earl having been rather unreasonable in the length of his lease, the present earl, who during the lifetime of his father was Lord Hardup, had contracted such parsimonious habits, that when he came into possession he could not shake them off; and but for the fortunate friendship of Abraham Brown, the village blacksmith, who had given his young idea a sporting turn, entering him with ferrets and rabbits, and so training him on with terriers and rat-catching, badgerbaiting and otter-hunting, up to the noble sport of foxhunting itself, in all probability his lordship would have been a regular miser. As it was, he did not spend a halfpenny upon anything but hunting ; and his huuting, though well, was still economically done, costing him some couple of thousand a-year, to which, for the sake of euphony, Jack used to add an extra five hundred ; "two thousand five underd a-year, fiveand-twenty underd a-year,” sounding better, as Jack thought, and more imposing, than “a couple of thousand, or two thousand, a-year.” There were few days on which Jack didn't inform the field what the hounds cost his lordship, or rather what they didn't cost him.

Woodmansterne, his lordship's principal residence, was a splendid place, the finest in the county. It stood in an undulating park of 800 acres, with its church, and its lake, and its heronry, and its decoy, and its race-course, and its varied grasses of the choicest kinds, for feeding the numerous herds of deer, so well known at Temple-bar and Charingcross as the Woodmansterne venison. The house was a modern edifice, built by the sixth earl, who, having been a "liver,” had run himself aground by his enormous outlay on this Italian structure, which was just finished when he died. The fourth earl, who, we should have stated, was a “liver” too, was a man of virtù -a great traveller and collector of coins, pictures, statues, marbles, and curiosities generally-things that

are very dear to buy, but oftentimes extremely cheap when sold; and, having collected a vast quantity from all parts of the world (no easy feat in those days), he made them heir-looms, and departed this life, leaving the next earl the pleasure of contemplating them. The fifth earl having duly starved through life, then made way for the sixth ; who, finding such a quantity of valuables stowed away as he thought in rather a confined way, sent to London for a first-rate architect, Sir Thomas Squareall (who always posted with four horses), who forth with pulled down the old brick-and-stone Elizabethan mansion, and built the present splendid Italian structure, of the finest polished stone, at an expense of-furniture and all say 120,0001. ; Sir Thomas's estimates being 30,0001. The seventh earl of course then starved ; and the present lord, at the age of forty-three, found himself in possession of house, and coins, and curiosities; and, best of all, of some 90,0001. in the funds, that had quietly rolled up during the latter part of his venerable parent's existence. His lordship then took counsel with himself-first, whether he should marry or remain single ; secondly, whether he should live or starve. Having considered the subject with all the attention a circumscribed allowance of brains permitted, he came to the resolution that the second proposition depended a good deal upon the first; “ for,” said he to himself, “if I marry, my lady, perhaps, may make me live ; and therefore," said he, “perhaps I'd better remain single.” At all events, he came to the determination not to marry in a hurry; and until he did, he felt there was no occasion for him to inconvenience himself by living. So he had the house put away in brown Holland, the carpets rolled up, the pictures covered, the statues shrouded in muslin, the cabinets of curiosities locked, the plate secured, the china closeted, and everything arranged with the greatest care against the time, which he put before him in the distance like a target, when he should marry and begin to live.

At first he gave two or three great dinners a-year, about the height of the fruit season, and when it was getting too ripe for carriage to London by the old coaches—when a grand airing of the state-rooms used to take place, and ladies from all parts of the county used to sit shivering with their bare shoulders, all anxious for the honours of the head of the table. His lordship always held out that he was a marrying man but hadn't they would have come all the same, an unmarried man being always clearly on the cards : and though he was stumpy, and clumsy, and ugly, with as little to say for himself as could well be conceived, they all agreed that he was a most engaging, attractive man-quite a pattern of a man. Even on horseback, and in his hunting clothes, in which he looked far the best, he was only a coarse, square, bull-headed looking man, with hard, dry, round, matter-of-fact features, that never look young, and yet somehow never get old. Indeed, barring the change from brown to grey of his short stubbly whiskers, which he trained with great care into a curve almost on to his cheek bone, he looked very little older at the period of which we are writing than he did a dozen years before, when he was Lord Hardup. These dozen years, however, had brought him down in his doings.

The dinners had gradually dwindled away altogether, and he had had all the large tablecloths and napkins rough dried and locked away against he got married ; an event that he seemed more anxious to provide for

;

even if he

the more unlikely it became. He had also abdicated the main body of the mansion, and taken up his quarters in what used to be the steward's room ; into which he could creep quietly by a side door opening from the outer entrance, and so save frequent exposure to the cold and damp of the large cathedral-like hall beyond. Through the steward's room, was what used to be the muniment room, which he converted into a bed-room for himself; and a little further along the passage was another small chamber, made out of what used to be the plate-room, whereof Jack, or whoever was in office, had the possession. All three rooms were furnished in the roughest, coarsest, homeliest way–his lordship wishing to keep all the good furniture against he married. The sitting-room, or parlour as his lordship called it, had an old grey drugget for a carpet, an old round black mahogany table on castors, that the last steward had ejected as too bad for him, four semicircular wooden-bottomed walnut smoking-chairs; an old spindle-shanked sideboard with very little middle, over which swung a few book-shelves, with the termination of their green strings surmounted by a couple of foxes' brushes. Small as the shelves were, they were larger than his lordship wanted-two books, one for Jack and one for himself, being all they contained ; while the other shelves were filled with hunting-horns, odd spurs, knots of whipcord, piles of halfpence, lucifer-match boxes, gun-charges, and such like miscellaneous articles.

His lordship’s fare was as rough as his furniture. He was a great admirer of tripe, cow-heel, and delicacies of that kind ; he had tripe twice a-week — boiled one day, fried another. He was also a great patron of beefsteaks, which he ate half raw, with slices of cold onion served in a saucer with water.

It was a beefsteak-and-batter-pudding day on which the foregoing run took place ; and his lordship and Jack having satisfied nature off their respective dishes—for they only had vegetables in common--and having finished off with some very strong Cheshire cheese, wheeled their chairs to the fire, while Bags the butler cleared the table and placed it between them. They were dressed in full suits of flaming large-checked red-andyellow tartans, the tartan of that noble clan the “ Stunners," with blackand-white Shetland hose and red slippers. His lordship and Jack had related their mutual adventures by sort of cross visits to each other's bedrooms while dressing ; and, dinner being announced by the time they were ready, they had fallen to, and applied themselves diligently to the victuals, and now very considerately unbuttoned their many-pocketed waistcoats and stuck out their legs, to give it a fair chance of digesting. They seldom spoke much until his lordship had had his nap, which he generally took immediately after dinner ; but on this particular night he sat bending forward in his chair, picking his teeth and looking at his toes, evidently ill at ease in his mind. Jack guessed the cause, but didn't say anything. Soapey Sponge, he thought, had beat him.

At length his lordship threw himself back in his chair, and stretching his little queer legs out before him, began to breathe thicker and thicker, till at last he got the melody up to a grunt. It was not the fine generous snore of a sleep that he usually enjoyed, but short, quick, fitful sort of broken naps, that generally terminated in spasmodic jerks of the arms or legs. These grew worse, till at last all four went at once, like the limbs of a Peter Waggey, when, throwing

himself forward with a violent effort, he awoke; and finding his horse was not a-top of him, as he thought, he gave vent to his feelings in the following ejaculations :

“Oh, Jack, I'm unhappy !" exclaimed he. " I'm distressed !" continued he. “ I'm wretched !” added he, slapping his knees. “ I'm perfectly miserable!he added, with a strong emphasis on the miserable.

“What's the matter?” asked Jack, who was half asleep himself.

“Oh, that Soapey Something !-he'll be the death of me!" observed his lordship

“I thought so," replied Jack; "what's the bitch been after now?"

“I dreamt he'd killed old Lablache-best hound I have," replied his lordship.

“Soapey be "grunted Jack.

“Ah, it's all very well for you to say Soapey be this' and 'Soapey be that,’ but I can tell you what, that fellow is going to be a very awkward customer-a very terrible thorn in my

side." Humph !" grunted Jack, who didn't see how.

“ There's mischief about that fellow,” continued his lordship, pouring himself out half a tumbler of gin, and filling it up with water. “ There's mischief about the fellow. I don't like his looks—I don't like his coatI don't like his boots—I don't like anything about him. I'd rather see the back of him than the front. He must be got rid of,” added his lordship.

“ Well, I did my best to-day, I'm sure," replied Jack. “I was deuced near wanting the patent coffin you were so good as to promise me.” “ You did your work well,replied his lordship; "you did

your

work well ; and

you
shall have

my
other
specs

till I can get you a new pair from town; and if you'll serve me again, I'll remember you in my will -- I'll leave you something handsome.”

“ I'm your man,” replied Jack.

“ I never was so bothered with a fellow in my life," observed his lordship. “ Captain Topsawyer was bad enough, and always pressed too close on the hounds, but he would pull up at a check ; but this rusty booted 'bomination seems to think the hounds are kept for him to ride over. He must be got rid of somehow,” repeated his lordship; for shall have no peace while he's here.”

“ If he's after either of the Jawley girls, that'll be bad to shake off," observed Jack.

“That's just the point,” replied his lordship, quaffing off his gin with the air of a man most thoroughly thirsty ; " that's just the point,” repeated he, setting down his tumbler. "I think, if he is, I could cook his goose

for him." “How so?" asked Jack, drinking off his glass.

Why, I'll tell you,” replied his lordship, replenishing his tumbler, and passing the old gilt-labelled blue bottle over to Jack ; " you see, old Frosty's a cunning old file, and picks up all the news and gossip of the country when he's out at exercise with the hounds, or in going to cover_knows everything !-who licks his wife, and whose wife licks him who's after such a girl, and so on ;-and he's found out somehow that this Mr. What's-his-name isn't the man of metal he's passing for.”

" “ Indeed!" exclaimed Jack, raising his eyebrows, and squinting his eyes inside out; Jack's opinion of a man being entirely regulated by his purse.

we

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »