« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
be a desirable match for Letitia, and and now I am speaking of one who she promptly determined that no re was nursed in the lap of prosperity, missness should stand in the way of and one to whom fortune had been her daughter's interest. Edinund was kind ; and yet it would seem as if, to accordingly invited frequently to the the young man, her smiles were as house, and Miss Letitia put in practice fatal as her frowns. If the young man all those little arts which are often, in whose companion is poverty, must bear similar instances, successful, but which, with the contempt of a heartless world, perhaps, in the present were unneces must endure that which David felt sary. 'Edmund, I believe, loved her long ago, when he said that “ bis soul with an ardent and enthusiastic admi- was exceedingly filled with the scoreration. I know that the casuists of ing of those that are at ease”—ab! love have said that it is easier for a there are trials of another kind around woman to win a lover than to retain the paths of the rich—the flatterer to him; but I, in my simplicity, as I lead astray—the seductions of pleasure watched Letitia's complicated move to entice—the sharper to entrap. ments, could not help thinking that it Edmund became intimate, I know was an unnecessary display of coquetry not how, with a young man of the to employ artifice towards one who name of Nolan.
Nolan was a man had already yielded to her the sponta- who, without a patrimony or any visible neous homage of a generous and con means of support, contrived to spend fiding heart.
money as if he were a man of fortune. But I am not about to present my He was unquestionably a man of some readers with the details of a fashion. talent, and in manner and address a able flirtation; and yet, in calling it so, perfect gentlemun. As a companion I am doing one of the parties injustice. he was almost fascinating : there was Edmund Connor loved, loved deeply; a brilliancy about his conversation that but then at least his love was not returned. made the time pass quickly in his It was a strange thing to see him thus society; and if you could forget that squandering all the young affections of which was but too manifest--that he his heart upon one who thought of was straining after display, and anxious them but as they affected her interest. to show off his own superiority, real It was strange to see the deep devo or fancied—you could noi have a more illa tion of his soul contrasted with the agreeable companion of an idle hour ; cold and calculating selfishness of her but he was nothing more.
With a who valued him not for what he was, vast deal of pretension, both to inforbut for what he possessed : it was a mation and originality, he knew little
, s picture that had the lights and shadows and he had thought still less. His of the human heart; it was just the information was all superficial, and bis development of the two great princi most pointed observations flippant ; ples that set all life in motion, and and though an assurance of manner actuate the generous or the prudent gained him, with all who knew bimo deeds of men. There was selfishness but little, the reputation of talent, as and feeling--romance and prudence. did an affectation of sentimentality, But we must soon turn another page that of a man of feeling—the more cu in Edmund's bistory, and we will find you knew of him, the more you dis. the next a darker one.
covered the shallowness of his intel“Give me neither poverty nor riches," lect and the hollowness of his heart. is an obsolete, but yet, perhaps, a wise He prided, or affected to pride himself prayer. I am not sure that fortune is
very much on his punctiliousness of an advantage to a young man.
honour—that monstrous anomaly, a last chapter I was called on to paint gambler's honour! for Nolan was a the ills of poverty-to describe a noble gambler; and unless report erred very *** spirit crushed by the influence of want far, it was the gambling-table that sup-a mighty heart made sick by that plied him with those sums which be hope that is long deferred--a proud spent, without having any legitimate mind smitten to the earth, and sinking means of procuring them.
Indeed his exhausted by its struggles with the constant attendance at the billiard-tables cruellest of all antagonists, WANT : where he was always seen playing for
large bets, was, even without the hints unwilling to comply with Edmund's rethat rumour spread of darker doings, quest : he laughed at me ; he said sufficient to justify the surmise, that that every thing in excess was vicious; he nearly, if not altogether, depended but I would not refuse to take a glass upon this comfortable and reputable of wine after dinner, because my great source for his support.
grandfather had died in a fit of drunWith this man Edmund contracted kenness. It night have been very an intimacy, and his new friend was natural in my father to have disliked not slow in introducing him to the billiard-playing ; but it was mere suemployments which formed the chief perstition in me to suppose that I occupation of his own time. He be- must be heir to all his aversions. My came his instructor in billiard playing, poor father bad not left me much else and Edmund made a progress that to be heir to. I suffered myself to be shewed him an apt pupil
. When he overcome by his argument, although, saw me, he was always full of accounts indeed, I was not convinced by his of his rapidly improving skill at the reasonings. I accompanied him to a game which he described, and I believe billiard-room which he had told me justly described, as most fascinating. had been just set up by a very honest
He liked it," he said, “ because it was man, and which he and Nolan had not a game of chance, and it combined determined to patronize, because it exercise with amusement. The prin- was quiet, and frequented by but few. ciples of the game, too, were strictly It was about an hour after nightfall, of scientific ; the rules that determined a lovely moonlight night in April, that the impulse and rebound of the balls, we went out together. I say I rememwere all matters of mathematical inves- ber well my feelings : the soft hize of tigation." I told him that I knew all the moonlight was shed upon the that, but that he might find them all in streets as we went along ; and I knew his books with less trouble and more not why, I fancied that its peacefulness, precision : at the time, I suspected as it seemed to slumber upon the flags that his devotion to the study was and the houses, was a reproach to me. rather that of a gambler than a inathe- I could not divest myself of the perinatician.
suasion that I was doing wrong-a I do not know whether I should persuasion which, perhaps, was altogerelate here a circumstance which oc ther disproportioned to the reality, at corred to myself. It is, perhaps, Jeast the apparent reality, of the occascarcely worth repeating; and yet, sion. But who can calculate the trifing as was the occurrence, it is one strange and unhidden emotions of the upon which I often have reflected with human heart? who will dare to say, gratitude to Providence. Our destiny that in the deep workings of the human often turns upon little things; and I spirit, starting as it does into mysterious cannot help thinking that the circum- emotion where nothing seems to call stance which I am about to relate, may them forth, there may not be a somehave been the means of saving me thing that communes with remote from a fate as dark as any that in these events, and unseen contingencies of pages I may describe. Persuaded by which there is no other indication Edmund's solicitations, I consented to than the mental disturbance that they accompany him to the billiard-table mysteriously excite ? one evening, and to learn to play. I We struck off - strect, and went remember well the feelings with which a short way down a narrow alley, I went. I had been brought up with which led us into a small square or a horror of billiard playing. An uncle court. The court was so small that of mine had devoted all his time to it the high houses altogether hid the Ghad become the best billiard player in moonlight ; and the upper stories of Europe—and had died a beggar. I the houses on the side fronting the believe my poor father would rather moon, throwing back her beams in a have seen his son a Jesuit or a rat- thousand lustrous and diamond-like catcher than a billiard player. It was reflections, from the panes of glass 10 wonder if I inherited or inbibed in the windows, formed a strange something of his aversion. I was very contrast with the deep shadow in
which the rest of the court was features increased to a malicious grin. wrapped. On the dark side of the * If you wish”—with another tremencourt there was a door standing open; dous imprecation—"to oblige a friend over it a candle placed in a glass recep- I'll save you the trouble.” tacle so dimmed with grease and dirt as “ And the devil a better instructor almost to render it opaque, or, at least, than yourself, captain, the gentleman to give it the appearance of a dark could get within the four walls of the lanthorn, shed down on the entrance a city," chimed in the little wretch whom dull and ambiguous light. Through I have already described as marker, this door we entered ; a short passage casting a peculiarly knowing look at with boarded sides, led to another the somewhat ambiguous personage door covered over with green baize. whom he thus addressed by the miliEdmund pushed this open, and my tary title of captain ; the other puffed eyes were dazzled with a strong, glare a larger volume of smoke from bis of light; and I found myself in the pipe, which he had duly returned to billiard-room.
his mouth, looked a peculiar look, and ; I remember still the appearance of made no reply. the room ; my own feelings magnified
It was, however, ultimately arranged everything into an importance that that for that night at least, I was not fixed it on my memory. At one end
to be handed over to the kind instrucof the room there was a fire-place ; tions of the captain: the marker volun- ? near this sat a little, ill-looking man, teered me a few pieces of advice; and who was to act as marker ; a large fire I was beginning, after a few strokes, to was burning in the grate ; an indivi- handle my cue with some adroitness
, ah dual stood with his back to it, appa, and to give the balls good smart24 rently wishing merely to pass time. I
blows. use the term individual, because his claims to the appellation of gentleman, asked the captain, addressing himself
“ Was Mr. Nolan here today, Jobn?" on the score of appearance, were some
to the marker. what ambiguous, as my readers will
" In faith he was, sir,” replied the presently perceive. I was surprised to other ; “it's a pity you were not here see him presently take his pipe out of
yourself ; we had a great pool just bis mouth and address Edmund most
before dinner time." familiarly. This drew my attention a little more to his dress. He wore a
“And how did Mr. Nolan get off ?"
asked Edmund. white hat, considerably dinged at one side ; a blue frock coat, in which
“Oh, what did he take off ?" said the whiteness of the seams had the other, in the Irishman's fashion of already caused an agreeable variega- answering a question. tion of its proper hue ; and a pair of “ Were they playing high ?" said white trousers, that is, with
Edmuud. colours diffused over a white ground,
“ No, not to say very high ; ten not long enough to conceal much of a shilling stakes, and crown lives. clumsy pair of boots that were burst Who were they ?" asked the caping at all their seams; these, with a tain, with a peculiar intonation and a formidable pair of mustachios and a half smile. party-coloured cravat, somewhat the
Augh! you don't know any of them, worse for wear, completed the contour captain," answered the marker, with a that presented itself to my narrow manner that affected peculiar innoscrutiny.
cence. Are you for a match tonight ?” I do not know whether it was that asked he, again taking the pipe out of I was too much interested in observing his mouth, and at the same time spit- this conversation, or that I was natuting on the floor.
rally awkward-indeed I believe I was No," answered Edmund; “ I am indulging my propensity to observe going to teach this gentleman to play.” character, and making some very phi
" To teach him!” said the other with losophical reflections--but just then, an oath, laying an emphasis on the in making a stroke at the ball, my word, and the habitual leer of his cue slipped, and to my consterna
tion, a long reef ran half-way across captain saw some indications of my the green cloth which covered the rising choler; for he added in a milder table.
and less sarcastic tone, “believe me, “Tare-an-ouns, sir!" cried the marker, sir, when you know the world as well " how did you do that ?"
as I do, you will never think it neces“D-n it, man,” cried Edmund, sary to offer a billiard marker more * could not you mind yourself?"
than he asks."
“At least, sir,” said I, meaning to * I think, sir," said the captain, sar
be very good-humoured, “ not to make castically, “ Mr. Connor's tuition does not tbrive with you."
any offer that I have not money to I heard a loud, although a sup A loud laugh ran round the room, pressed laugh, from two young men and the captain's discomfited Jook toll who had just entered the room, and me that I had unintentionally made a the whispered epithet of “spooney” hit : of the nature of it I am unfortusaluted my ears.
nately still ignorant; but it was evident “This is a terrible thing entirely," that the object of it was a little sore. said the marker, as he looked unmean The matter was ended, however, by ingly at the reef of my handiwork; “it Edmund lending me the two guineas, was an elegant new cloth;" and he which he did promptly enough. I began laying down the torn parts with paid dearly for my sport, and we left a cue which he carried in his hand.
As we passed through the * It will take another needle than boarded passage I have already menthat to sew it, Jack," said one of the tioned, I heard a loud burst of rude new-comers; and the whole company laughter, mingled occasionally with laughed, or affected to laugh, at' this oaths, and cries of " spooney."' I was sally, the wit of which I did not ex. glad when we were once more in the aetly understand.
still court, and more glad when I found Jack, however, took care that I myself again in the bustle of the should understand and feel its point :
street. And this was my first and last this he did effectually, by intimating essay at billiard playing. that I was to pay two guincas for
It seemed, however, as if having tearing the cloth, adding, “that by to the billiard-iable, I was to be re
paid thus dearly for my introduction rights I should pay three; but he quited by a more extensive acquaintwould not be hard on me.”
ance with its mysteries than is gene“Whatever the cloth costs, of course rally made in the course of a single I must pay,” said I, proudly pulling evening. It happened that Edmund myself up, with a dignity that I meant wished particularly to see Nolan, and to silence the jeers in which some of I accompanied him in quest of him. the company appeared disposed to Edmund said that we would be almost indulge.
sure to find him in another billiard. Two guineas, however, was the ulti- room in —-street, and thither accordmatum of Jack's demands ; and here ingly we directed our steps. It seemed was a new difficulty. I had not so altogether a much more respectable much about me ; this, of course, gave place than the one we had just left. rise to new sallies of wit on the part It was within a few feet of one of the of the knowing ones, who seemed dis- best streets in the city. We turned posed to retaliate on me for the mock down a lane, which I knew as leading dignity I had assumed the minute to the livery stables of one of the before.
fashionable hotels. Along one side of * Oh, Jack, you will trust the gentle. this lane ran a dead wall, the other was man for so much," said one of the new occupied with houses of an inferior comers.
description; a door opened just where " It was well, sir,” said the captain the dead wall joined the gable of the to me, “ that Jack did not close with house that fronted the street. your generous and very handsome tering this door, you went a little way offer of giving him more than he along a narrow passage inside the wall, asked.”
and a flight of stone steps conducted I felt my anger rising. I think the you up to large and spacious billiard
rooms. I well remember there were ing on the balls ; his eye lit up, and two small glass windows, perhaps I he seemed just about to make a stroke, should say peepholes, in the door, when a large, vulgar-looking man, who through which you could see what was sat in a corner, exclaimed passing inside. Edmund stopped an “ Five to one against the striker !" instant, as if to reconnoitre, and then Nolan paused, and looked still more we both went in.
attentively at the balls. There were a good many persons in “ Five to one against the striker!" the room. Nolan was engaged at play repeated the gentleman in the corner. with a stranger; the progress of the " I'll take you, sir," said Nolan, game appeared to excite very con- looking calmly round. siderable interest in the minds of the “Dune, sir !" said the other. spectators; and if I was to judge by “In pounds," said Nolan; and as Nolan's demeanor, he felt very anxious the other assented, the flush upon bis as to its result. His face was quite cheek kindled to a hectic brightness. Ausbed, although he had taken off his A murmur run round the room ; a tall, coat ; and every time when it came to fashionably dressed young man, who his adversary's turn to play, he rubbed was smoking a cigar, said, a bit of chalk to his cue with a violence Nolan, you are a fool.” that was, perhaps, the only symptom “ If you think so," said Nolan, “ I'll of agitation which he showed.
take you the same bet." Edmund and I took our seats upon “Done, by !" said the other; a bench that ran along the wall and and he pronounced the oath with a was allotted to the spectators. Nolan heartiness of intonation that made my took hardly any notice of our entrance. blood run cold. When we had been some minutes Nolan played, and I could underseated, he addressed some words to stand by ihe buzz of applause wbich Edmund, which I did not hear. I followed, that he had executed some soon, however, became sensible that very difficult stroke. He seemed inthis was
a particular match, upon spired by his bet-he gained rapidly which large "bets were depending upon the scores of his antagonist, and the Nolan had very much the worst of result of the game appeared still to be
His manner now became questionable. I felt myself take a visibly agitated; that of his opponent deep interest in his success. It is was perfectly cool. There was a pro- strange how ready we are to sympafound silence throughout the room, thize with the exertions of those who only broken by the shrill voice of the seem struggling against defeat. I dismarker as he told the game, and occa liked Nolan. If my feelings towards sionally a stamp on the floor and an him influenced me, it was to make me imprecation from Nolan, as he cursed wish to see him lose ; and yet I felt his bad luck, after having attempted rejoiced as each successive stroke some unsuccessful stroke.
diminished the majority of his antaThe stranger, who was a middle- gonist. At last they came to an aged, gentlemanly man, seemed now equality; they were within four of quite confident of success; and I soon counting game; it was the stranger's discovered that the spectators had a play, and Nolan shook his head as deeper interest in the game than that if all was lost. Not a word was of mere curiosity. In fact, they had spoken as the player aimed with all bet largely on the issue. Odds were the appearance of unerring certainty. now offered against Nolan : his oppo- Nolan's eye rested on his adversary's nent had just counted-I believe I cue; his lips were white- his eye should say scored — a considerable kindled up as the balls rolled away number of points. Nolan flung his from the stroke of his opponent cravat with vehemence from his neck, and, after many rollings, rested barmand seemed for a few minutes pondere less on the table.
*I deem it right to mention, for reasons which my readers will presently appreciate, that I believe these billiard-rooms are not now in existence. Some years since they were abandoned_indeed I believe the rooms were pulled dowoand a large, new hotel built upon the site.