Page images
PDF
EPUB

smiling and smirking exactly as we used to do at church, appeared Julia —my Julia—'twas, indeed, Miss Sniggs. My heart jumped into my mouth in a moment, and filled it so completely that there was no room for the tongue to move. Indeed, I believe there was no room for it in the mouth at all, and that it hung out like a dog's in the hot days of July. How I panted to be sure! for you will observe that Hoskins was a capital steersman; and always when we rowed out I held the oars and he the helm ; but whether my panting proceeded most from the exertion of rowing against tide, or from seeing Julia so unexpectedly, I cannot, at this distance of time, exactly remember. The silence lasted for some time, and nothing was to be heard but the prodigiously loud kisses that Hoskins kept constantly impressing on the palm of his hand. At last I pulled my tongue within my lips.

“ 'Heavens !" I cried, 'that's my Julia !!

Your Julia!' says Hosky—which ? the old lady in the cotton shawl, straw bonnet, and dingy-coloured gown?'

No, no; the angel looking over her shoulder in the pink silk scarf -the old one's the housekeeper.'

“That's she, is it?' said Hosky. 'And a devilish nice angel she is too. Then, my dear Teddy, that alters the whole business; but here we are ashore, my boy. Give me the oars; you stay in the boat and I'll jump to land and keep her steady.'

Saying this, Hosky-fine active fellow-tossed the two oars ashore, and leaped himself to land ; but, instead of keeping the boat steady by the rope in the bow, what do you think he did ?-I must really have some brandy-and-water. Why, he gave the boat an infernal kick with his prodigiously long leg, and holloaed after me as the tide caught hold of the Naiad--that was its name, Sir--and ran off with it like a runaway hunter.

Pleasant voyage to you, Teddy! I hope to tell you some news of the fair Julia when you come back.'

“What could I do, Sir? Nothing. I swore a little; but it did me no good. Every minute the tide seemed to go faster and faster ; and the boat, being left entirely to itself—for, you remember, Hosky threw the oars ashore-tossed and tumbled so horribly among the little short waves, sometimes turning its side, sometimes its stern, that I began very rapidly to become sick. In the mean time Hosky joined the party on the cliff: I saw him lift off his hat as if he had been a prince; Í saw my bright brass buttons glancing in the sun : I saw him put his hand in my breeches pocket and pull out my fives! Gracious Heavens ! fancy my feelings ! And just as I had to turn aside to conceal the emotion that the unusual jerking of the boat had produced in my interior, I caught a glimpse of the party winding slowly up the landslip -Hosky between the two ladies, and Julia leaning on his arm!"

“ It was very awkward, Sir,” I said, as the stranger endeavoured to bury his recollections in another bumper ; “but, of course, you explained everything on your return ?”

Return, Sir! I never returned : at least it was fourteen years before I came back again. The tide, Sir, I tell you, was running like Eclipse, and I was as sick as a dog. I lay down, Sir, at the bottom of the boat, I raged—I raved-I swore ; and, at last, when evening came on I was in the middle of the sea, half mad with sickness and vexation; and, at last, I fell asleep. I wakened, Sir, perishing with hunger and thirstmy tongue gets parched when I think of it-fill up, Sir-and I feel as if I had no dinner—do you allow a Welsh rabbit at this club, Sir?-but what was I to do? I was still weltering in the pathless deep, and expected every moment to be run down by a ship or swallowed up by a whale. Nothing would do, Sir. I shut my eyes and tried to sleep again. At last I was fairly awakened by a thwack across the shoulders with the flat end of an oar—'twas daylight, Sir: I saw several little boats all round me, and a place before me which I imagined was St. Helen's. 'Hallo! my boy,' I cried to the huge fellow, dressed in a hairy cap, who had the oar uplifted in act to fall again, don't strike so hard, but lend me a couple of oars and I'll give you half a guinea when we get to the Salutation.' By heavens, Sir, I never was so surprised in my life. I had fallen among a fleet of French fishermen, and the little town I had fancied was St. Helen's was Dieppe. Nice fellow Hoskins was to play me such a trick! Napoleon and all the marshals, I suppose, were deucedly alarmed at such an invasion, for they clapped me into prison directly; and there I was, Sir-only imagine my condition-till the year eighteen hundred and fifteen. This happened, Sir, in eighteen hundred and one. There was, I, Sir, kept in close confinement : little to eat; nothing to drink; not a soul to speak tofor I never could pick up the language; and all because I went to the Isle of Wight to recover my good spirits, and lent money to a friend."

" And what did you do when you came back, Sir ?”

“Ate beefsteaks and drank porter the first half year without a moment's intermission night and day. At the end of that time I went into St. Dunstan's, and shed a few tears over my mother's grave. She had died of a fit of appoplexy and a broken heart about a year after my disappearance; and the sight of the old pulpit and the pew where I had had such fun, laughing to Julia, in my younger days, brought the whole scene back into my memory; but no, it had never left it: I thought of her incessantly, and wondered what had become of her. If she is still Miss Sniggs, thought I, all may be well yet; but how was I to hear of her? Her old father. had died, or the trade in Water-lane had been sold; for he was nowhere to be found in the Directory. I then tried to find out Hoskins: I went carefully to the Fleet and the King's Bench as the most likely places to discover him; but he was not there. I looked back at all the cases before the magistrates, and all the convictions at the Old Bailey : he was nowhere to be found. Years and years passed on, and the search was still useless; when, at last—your glass is empty, Sir—the appalling truth burst upon me: I was a ruined man, Sir-happiness destroyed for life, and the pleasures of Hope a liber expurgatus-Miss Sniggs was married! The way I discovered it was this : it had struck me very forcibly that a pilgrimage to the scene of my misery would be a pleasing occupation for a man of my musing and melancholy turn of mind. I mounted once more, Sir, the Portsmouth coach ; crossed over to Ryde; jumped into one of the open flies that are always kept ready at the pier; traversed the island, and arrived at the old place—the dear little cottage where I had smoked so many pipes with Hosky, the Crab and Lobster. The whole journey took but nine hours—think of that, Sir. Fleet-street at nine in the morning, Bonchurch at six at night: but there I was, Sir, after an absence of more than five-and-twenty years. Wyld, the landlord, Sir, had no idea I was an old friend with a new face, or rather with a face newly done up—for I had neither red nose nor wrinkles when I had seen him last. Ah! 'twas indeed a melancholy retrospection; but the prawns were charming as ever, and the scenery-no, not improved, that's impossible—but just the same as when I left it. How I rambled all that evening till it was time for supper! What news I heard from my host !-a town built at Ventnor; a castle built at Steephill; a fairy palace built at East End; villas rising like poetical dreams every week upon Bonchurch. Ah! thought I, as I tumbled into bed, why the deuce shouldn't I build a villa? Next morning I revisited the Landslip-fatal spot—and determined to rear my modest mansion on some gentle promontory commanding the whole scene. When once I resolve on a thing, Sir, 'tis always more than half done already. A gentleman of the name of Page, a builder at Ventnor, showed me all the grounds. We agreed about terms. Such a heavenly place I chose ! just under the jutting cliff, two hundred and fifty feet high, buried amidst a profusion of plants of all scent and flow'rs of every hue;' and that very day I had fifteen men employed in clearing out the foundation. When I was standing superintending their operations I was delighted-petrified, I own, at the same time to see a gentleman and lady approaching me from behind a clump of magnificent magnolias, at that moment in full bloom. The gentleman seemed about three or four-and-twenty years old; the lady-fair as the first that fell of womankind-about eighteen. What a nice pleasant fellow was the gentleman! what a charming creature was the wife! Who do you think they were, Sir ?—Let me propose their healths in a bumper--the bottle's done. Why they were the Marquis and Marchioness of Marylebone. They were living in the upper cottage-a fascinating couple ! In a few minutes we were as intimate as possible--real marquises are always so good-humoredthey invited me to dine with them that day. I went. Pretty little dinner-soup, fish, lamb, and a pudding-quite rural, you perceive ; and, after a few turns of the wine, I began to tell the marquis and his lady she staid with us all the time-the story of my misfortune. Gracious Powers! in the most pathetic part of all, her ladyship went into a fita positive, veritable, bona fide fit! Thank Heaven ! 'twas only of laughter. The marquis nearly burst, Sir-he had to unbutton his waistcoat. I paused; I looked at the beaming face of the marchioness —what splendid white teeth she has! The reddened face and swelled eyes of the marquis ! I could not understand it. Her ladyship was the first to speak.

“How delighted,' she cried, ‘mamma will be to see you! Oh, we have heard the story a hundred times from papa!

"Mamma-papa!' I exclaimed. “Your ladyslip is very goodmay I ask

My good Sir,' said the marquis, 'are you not aware that that lady was Miss Hoskins, the daughter of your old friend ?'

« « And her mother, my Lord Marquis ?' " Miss Sniggs?

“Do you hear that, Sir? The marquis actually looked at me with a smile upon his face when he told me that most diabolical fact.

"So Hoskins married my Julia!' I exclaimed, in my despair ; 'got

all the old gentleman's money; has a marquis for his son-in-law—and all these things ought to have happened to me--would have happened to me, no doubt, if I had never gone to the island, or lent twenty pounds to a friend! Madam,' said I to the marchioness, 'I am enraged more than ever against your father when I perceive he has robbed me of so fair and exquisite a daughter. She laughed. But,' I continued,

nothing is left for me but to bury myself in this desert, and mourn over the unluckiness of my destiny.'

“ You shall do no such thing,' said the marquis; 'we shall all come down and see you when your new house is finished. Captain Hoskins and my fair mother-in-law will accompany us; he is adding a new wing to Harridon Lodge, and will be delighted to leave his work-people.'

“« Well, then, my Lord," I said, 'twill be ready by October. I have ordered the cellar to be finished first, and wrote off this morning to old Giberne, in Broad-street, to stock me with good wine ; and if you do come I will do all I can to make you happy.'

“. Will you take us out in a boat ?' inquired the marchioness, with a malicious smile.

«« No, I'm but I never swear; or, if I do, I will have an extra couple of oars chained to the thwarts.'

“ If you can come down and join us, Sir, about the 10th of October, I shall be delighted. I am but a silent hypochondriac ; but I will do everything to make it pleasant for you. Are you fond of shell-fish, Sir ? Bathing ? Sailing ? Shooting? Riding? Driving? We have them all, Sir; but my grief is getting the better of me again, Sir-I must ring for another bottle.”

While the stranger was giving his orders to William, and ordering in a couple of lobsters for supper, I took the opportunity of following the example that had been given me by his friend, the mercer from Cornhill, and getting, very quietly, possession of my hat and stick, I wended my way home. If he persists in wishing to be a member of the Whitechapel Athenæum I will black-ball him to a certainty. Strangers are not allowed to pay for anything they eat or drink; and I found, next day, a bill scored up against me—the mercer having cautioned them that he would not be responsible—for two bottles of port, three glasses of brandy-and-water, fourteen cigars, two lobsters, and six dozen pandores-in all thirty-two shillings and sixpence. I am going to propose, at the next general meeting, that no member be permitted to bring a friend, or, if he does bring him, that he shall be answerable for his expenses.

RECORDS OF A STAGE VETERAN.

Laurence Sterne.—GARRICK lived for many years in Southampton-street (at the house now known as Eastey's Hotel, exactly opposite Tavistockstreet): there is a painful recollection connected with that building. Poor Sterne, a very little time before his death, being in a state of destitution, bent his steps thither to borrow 5l. of the Roscius; it was evening. On arriving at the house he heard music, and knew that Garrick had a party; he was not habited for such a scene; he heard the merry laugh within, and, gently replacing the uplifted knocker, turned away to struggle with his wants as he might. We never feel our miseries so keenly as when thus contrasted with the merriment and enjoyment of others; then, and then only, does the sufferer realise Wordsworth's picture :

“And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,

And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food." Payment of Debts.-L--s, a country actor was notorious for his disregard of the laws of meum and tuum; even when in comparatively opulent circumstances he never paid anything without the intervention of John Doe and Richard Roe. A friend once endeavoured to persuade him of the folly as well as injustice of this. “Sir," said L., with Johnsonian gravity, “whether a man owe anything or not, is a matter of opinion: no man can possibly be a judge in his own cause; therefore no sensible man should pay anything without taking the opinion of twelve indifferent persons upon the merits of the case.”

One of the most curious instances of the authenticity and fulfilment of a prophecy occurred in the case of an actor named Lyon, who enjoyed considerable celebrity for his amazing memory. (He once studied a newspaper, advertisements and all, from one day to the next, and was perfect to a line.) A gipsy in Thirsk, Yorkshire, told him “ to take no heed, for the Lord had built him a strong house to dwell in for ever.” Some years before his death he was committed to the Fleet prison, where he ended his days.

Talma and Shakspeare.—The French are at present presenting a series of dramas of which our actors are made the heroes. Pieces called “Kean," “Mrs. Siddons," are already out; they abound in the most absurd fictions. Just after the peace of 1814, I remember seeing Talma act in a trifle called “Sbakspeare Amoureux," in which the well-known story of sweet Willy's supplanting Burbage in an appointment with a lady, was introduced. Talma, of course, played the Bard of Avon.

John Richardson, the Showman.-Richardson was an extraordinary man: without education he made his way; was destitute of neither knowledge nor humour; and though he could not, by rule, execute a common sum in multiplication, was, in reality, an able arithmetician. A few specimens of his humour may not be unamusing.

When Mr. Macready, who is a perfect gentleman and a finished scholar, came out (1816) old Richardson was asked if he had seen the aspirant. “No, Muster,” said the Showman, “I knows nothing about him : in fact he's some wagabon as no un knows; one of them chaps as an't had any

« PreviousContinue »