Various.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

. (page 4 of 23)
Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 4 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the lady who was the ten-year man at Cambridge, or the commandant of the
Boggleton yeomanry; but few besides a Welshman would have learned,
without a smile, that "Mrs Jones the officer" was the relict of the late
tide-waiter at Glyndewi, or that the quiet, modest little daughter of
the town-clerk of B - - was known to her intimates as "Miss Jones the
lawyer." Luckily our friend the Tiger was a bachelor; it would have
been alarming to a nervous stranger at the Glyndewi ball, upon enquiring
the name of the young lady with red hair and cat's eyes, to have been
introduced incontinently to "Miss Jones the tiger."

The Tiger himself was a well-disposed animal; somewhat given to solitary
prowling, like his namesakes in a state of nature, but of most
untiger-like and facetious humour. He generally marched into Glyndewi
after an early breakfast, and from that time until he returned to his
"mutton" at five, might be seen majestically stalking up and down the
extreme edge of the terrace, looking at the fishing-boats, and
shaking - _not_ his tail, for, as all stout gentlemen seem to think it
their duty to do by the sea-side, he wore a round jacket. From the time
that we began our new pursuits, he took to us amazingly - called us his
"dear lads" - offered bets to any amount that we should beat the
B - - Cutter Club, and protested that he never saw finer bowling at
Lord's than Hanmer's.

Branling was in delight. He had found a man who would smoke with him all
day, (report said, indeed, that the Tiger regularly went to sleep with a
cheroot in his mouth,) and he had the superintending of "the boat,"
which was his thought from morning to night. A light gig, that had once
belonged to the custom-house, was polished and painted under his special
directions, (often did we sigh for one of King's worst "fours!") and the
fishermen marvelled at such precocious nautical talent.

None of these, however - great events as they were in our hitherto
monotonous sojourn - were the "crowning mercy" of the Glyndewi regatta.
Hitherto the sunshine of bright eyes, and the breath of balmy lips, had
been almost as much unknown to us as if we had been still within the
monastic walls of Oxford. We had dined in a body at our friend the
surgeon's: he was a bachelor. We had been invited by two's and three's
at a time to a Welsh squire's in the neighbourhood, who had two maiden
sisters, and a fat, good-humoured wife. Captain Phillips had given us a
spread more than once at Craig-y-gerron, and, of course, some of us (I
was not so fortunate) had handed in the Misses Phillips to dinner; but
the greater part of the time from six till eleven (at which hour Hanmer
always ordered out our "_trap_") was too pleasantly occupied in
discussing the captain's port and claret, and laughing at his jokes, to
induce us to give much time or attention to the ladies in the
drawing-room. If some of my fair readers exclaim against this stoic (or
rather epicurean) indifference, it may gratify their injured vanity to
know, that in the sequel some of us paid for it.

The Phillipses came down in full force, the day before the regatta; they
were engaged to lunch with us, and, as it was the first time that the
ladies of the party had honoured us with a visit, we spared no pains to
make our entertainment somewhat more _recherché_ than was our wont. It
was then that I first discovered that Clara Phillips was beautiful. I am
not going to describe her now; I never could have described her. All I
knew, and all I remember, was, that for a long time afterwards I formed
my standard of what a woman ought to be, by unconscious comparison with
what she was. What colour her eyes were, was a question among us at the
time. Willingham swore they were grey; Dawson insisted that they were
hazel; Branling, to whom they referred the point, was inclined to think
there was, "something green" in them. But that they were eyes of no
common expression, all of us were agreed. I think at least half the
party were more than half in love with her when that race-week was over.
In one sense it was not her fault if we were; for a girl more thoroughly
free from every species of coquetry, and with less of that pitiful
ambition of making conquests, which is the curse of half the sex, it was
impossible to meet with. But she was to blame for it too, in another
way; for to know her, and not love her, would have been a reproach to
any man. Lively and good-humoured, with an unaffected buoyancy of
spirits, interesting herself in all that passed around her, and
unconscious of the interest she herself excited, no wonder that she
seemed to us like an angel sent to cheer us in our house of bondage. Of
her own family she was deservedly the darling; even Dick Phillips, whom
three successive tutors had given up in despair, became the most docile
of pupils under his sister Clara; accustomed early to join her brothers
in all out-door sports, she was an excellent horsewoman, a fearless
sailor, and an untiring explorer of mountains and waterfalls, without
losing her naturally feminine character, or becoming in any degree a
hoyden or a romp. She sang the sweet national airs of Wales with a voice
whose richness of tone was only second to its power of expression. She
did every thing with the air of one who, while delighting others, is
conscious only of delighting herself; and never seeking admiration,
received it as gracefully as it was ungrudgingly bestowed.

If there is one form of taking exercise which I really hate, it is what
people call dancing. I am passionately fond of music; but why people
should conceive it necessary to shuffle about in all varieties of
awkwardness, in order to enjoy it to their satisfaction, has been, is,
and probably will ever be, beyond my comprehension. It is all very well
for young ladies on the look-out for husbands to affect a fondness for
dancing: in the first place, some women dance gracefully, and even
elegantly, and show themselves off undoubtedly to advantage; (if any
exhibition on a woman's part be an advantage;) then it gives an excuse
for whispering, and squeezing of hands, and stealing flowers, and a
thousand nameless skirmishings preparatory to what they are endeavouring
to bring about - an engagement; but for a man to be fond of shuffling and
twirling himself out of the dignity of step which nature gave
him - picking his way through a quadrille, like a goose upon hot bricks,
or gyrating like a bad tee-totum in what English fashionables are
pleased to term a "valse," I never see a man thus occupied, without a
fervent desire to kick him. "What a Goth!" I hear a fair reader of
eighteen, prettily ejaculate - "thank Heaven, that all men have not such
barbarous ideas! Why, I would go fifty miles to a good ball!" Be not
alarmed, my dear young lady; give me but a moment to thank Providence,
in my turn, that you are neither my sister nor my daughter, and will
promise you, that you shall never be my wife.

On the Saturday night then, I made Gordon and Willingham both very
cross, and caught Sydney Dawson's eye looking over his spectacles with
supreme contempt, when I declared my decided intention of staying at
home the night of the ball. Even the Reverend Robert Hanmer, who was
going himself, was annoyed when Gordon told him of what he called my
wilfulness, having a notion that it was decidedly disrespectful in any
of us, either to go when he did _not_, or to decline going, when he
_did_.

On the Tuesday morning, I sent to B - - for white kids. Gordon looked
astonished, Hanmer was glad that I had "taken his advice," and
Willingham laughed outright; he had overheard Clara Phillips ask me to
dance with her. Men _are_ like green gooseberries - very green ones;
women _do_ make fools of them, and a comparatively small proportion of
sugar, in the shape of flattery, is sufficient.

Two days before the regatta, there marched into Mrs Jenkins's open
doorway, a bewildered looking gentleman, shaking off the dust from his
feet in testimony of having had a long walk, and enquiring for Hanmer.
Gwenny, with her natural grace, trotted up stairs before him, put her
head in at the "drawing-room" door, (she seemed always conscious that
the less one saw of her person the better,) and having announced
briefly, but emphatically, "a gentlemans," retreated. Hanmer had puzzled
himself and me, by an attempt to explain a passage which Aristotle, of
course, would have put in plainer language, if he had known what he
meant himself - but modern philosophers are kind enough to help him out
occasionally - when the entrance of the gentleman in dust cut the Gordian
knot, and saved the Stagyrite from the disgrace of having a pretty bit
of esoteric abstruseness translated into common sense.

(What a blessing would it be for Dr - - , and Professor - - , if they
might be allowed to mystify their readers in Greek! though, to do them
justice, they have turned the Queen's English to good account for that
purpose, and have produced passages which first-class men, at an
Athenian University, might possibly construe, but which the whole board
of sophists might be defied to explain.)

The _deus ex machinâ_ - the gentleman on, or rather off the tramp - who
arrived thus opportunely, was no less a person than the Reverend George
Plympton, Fellow of Oriel, &c. &c. &c. He was an intimate friend of our
worthy tutor's; if the friendship between Oxford dons can be called
intimacy. They compared the merits of their respective college cooks
three or four times a term, and contended for the superior vintage of
the common-room port. They played whist together; walked arm-in-arm
round Christchurch meadow; and knew the names of all the old incumbents
in each other's college-list, and the value of the respective livings.
Mr Plympton and a friend had been making a walking tour of North Wales;
that is, they walked about five miles, stared at a mountain, or a fall,
or an old castle, as per guide-book, and then coached it to the next
point, when the said book set down that "the Black Dog was an excellent
inn," or that "travellers would find every accommodation at Mrs Price's
of the Wynnstay Arms." Knowing that Hanmer was to be found at Glyndewi,
Mr Plympton left his friend at B - - , where the salmon was
unexceptionable, and had completed the most arduous day's walk in his
journal, nearly thirteen miles, in a state of dust and heat far from
agreeable to a stoutish gentleman of forty, who usually looked as spruce
as if he came out of a band-box. Hanmer and he seemed really glad to see
each other. On those "oxless" shores, where, as Byron says, "beef was
rare," though

"Goat's flesh there was, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,"

the tender reminiscences of far-off Gaude days and Bursary dinners, that
must have arisen in the hearts of each, were enough to make their
meeting almost an affecting one. Hanmer must have blushed, I think,
though far from his wont, when he asked Mr Plympton if he could feed
with us at four upon - hashed mutton! (We consumed nearly a sheep per
week, and exhausted our stock of culinary ideas, as well as our
landlady's patience, in trying to vary the forms in which it was to
appear; not having taken the precaution, as some Cambridge men did at
B - - s one vacation, to bespeak a French cook at a rather higher salary
than the mathematical tutor's.[A]) Probably, however, Mr Plympton's
unusual walk made him more anxious about the quantity than the quality
of his diet, for he not only attacked the mutton like an Etonian, but
announced his intention of staying with us over the ball, if a bed was
to be had, and sending to B - - for his decorations. He was introduced
in due form to the Phillipses the next day, and in the number and
elegance of his bows, almost eclipsed Mr Sydney Dawson, whom Clara never
ceased to recommend to her brothers as an example of politeness.

Bright dawned the morning of the 20th of August, the first of the "three
glorious days" of Glyndewi. As people came to these races really for
amusement, the breakfast was fixed for the very unfashionable hour of
ten, in order not to interfere with the main business of the day - the
regatta. Before half-past, the tables at the Mynysnewydd Arms were
filled with what the _ - - shire Herald_ termed "a galaxy of beauty and
fashion." But every one seemed well aware, that there were far more
substantial attractions present, meant to fill not the tables only, but
the guests. The breakfast was by no means a matter of form. People had
evidently come with more serious intentions, than merely to display new
bonnets, and trifle with grapes and peaches. Sea-air gives a whet to
even a lady's appetite, and if the performances that morning were any
criterion of the effects of that of Glyndewi, the new Poor Law
Commissioners, in forming their scale of allowances, must really have
reported it a "special case." The fair Cambrians, in short, played very
respectable knives and forks - made no bones - or rather nothing but
bones - of the chickens, and ate kippered salmon like Catholics. You
caught a bright eye gazing in your direction with evident
interest - "Would you have the kindness to cut that pasty before you for
a lady?" You almost overheard a tender whisper from the gentleman
opposite to the pretty girl beside him. She blushes and gently
remonstrates. Again his lip almost touches her cheek in earnest
persuasion - yes! she is consenting - to another _little_ slice of ham! As
for the jolly Welsh squires themselves, and their strapping
heirs-apparent, (you remember that six-foot-four man surely, number six
of the Jesus boat) - now that the ladies have really done, and the
waiters have brought in the relays of brandered chickens and
fresh-caught salmon, which mine host, who has had some experience of his
customers, has most liberally provided - they set to work in earnest.
They have been only politely trifling hitherto with the wing of a fowl
or so, to keep the ladies' company. But now, as old Captain Phillips, at
the head of the table, cuts a slice and a joke alternately, and the
Tiger at the bottom begins to let out his carnivorous propensities, one
gets to have an idea what breakfast means. "Let me advise you, my dear
Mr Dawson - as a friend - you'll excuse an old stager - if you have no
particular wish to starve yourself - you've had nothing yet but two cups
of tea - to help yourself, and let your neighbours do the same. You may
keep on cutting Vauxhall shavings for those three young Lloyds till
Michaelmas; pass the ham down to them, and hand me those devilled
kidneys."

"Tea? no; thank you; I took a cup yesterday, and haven't been myself
since. Waiter! don't you see this tankard's empty?"

"Consume you, Dick Phillips! I left two birds in that pie five minutes
back, and you've cleared it out!"

"Diawl, John Jones, I was a fool to look into a tankard after you!"

Every thing has an end, and so the breakfast had at last; and we
followed the ladies to the terrace to watch the sailing for the ladies'
challenge cup. By the help of a glass we could see three yachts, with
about half-a-mile between each, endeavouring to get round a small boat
with a man and a flag in it, which, as the wind was about the worst they
could have had for the purpose, seemed no easy matter. There was no
great interest in straining one's eyes after them, so I found out the
Phillipses, and having told Dawson, who was escorting Clara, that Hanmer
was looking for him to make out the list of "the eleven," I was very
sorry indeed when the sound of a gun announced that the Hon. H.
Chouser's Firefly had won the cup, and that the other two yachts might
be expected in the course of half-an-hour. Nobody waited for them, of
course. The herring boats, after a considerable deal of what I concluded
from the emphasis to be swearing in Welch, in which, however, Captain
Phillips, who was umpire, seemed to have decidedly the advantage in
variety of terms and power of voice, were pronounced "ready," and
started by gunfire accordingly. A rare start they made of it. The great
ambition of every man among them seemed to be to prevent the boats next
in the line from starting at all. It was a general fouling match, and
the jabbering was terrific. At last, the two outside boats, having the
advantage of a clear berth on one side, got away, and made a pretty race
of it, followed by such of the rest as could by degrees extricate
themselves from the mêlée.

But now was to come our turn. Laden with all manner of good wishes, we
hoisted a bit of dark-blue silk for the honour of Oxford, and spurted
under the terrace to our starting-place. The only boat entered against
us was the Dolphin, containing three stout gentlemen and a thin one,
members of the B - - Cutter Club, who evidently looked upon pulling as
no joke. Branling gave us a steady stroke, and Cotton of Balliol steered
us admirably; the rest did as well as they could. The old boys had a
very pretty boat - ours was a tub - but we beat them. They gave us a
stern-chase for the first hundred yards, for I cut a crab at starting;
but we had plenty of pluck, and came in winners by a length. Of course
we were the favourites - the "Dolphins" were all but one married - and
hearty were the congratulations with which we were greeted on landing.
Clara Phillips' eyes had a most dangerous light in them, as she shook
hands with our noble captain, who was in a terrible hurry, however, to
get away, and hunting every where for "that d - - d Dawson," who had
promised to have Bill Thomas in readiness with "the lush." So I was
compelled to stay with her and give an account of the race, which she
perfectly understood, and be soundly scolded by the prettiest lips in
the world for my awkwardness, which she declared she never could have
forgiven if it had lost the race.

"You will come to the ball, then, Mr Hawthorne?"

"Am I not to dance with you?"

"Yes, if you behave well, and don't tease Mr Sydney Dawson: he is a
great favourite of mine, and took great care of me this morning at
breakfast."

"Well, then, for your sake, Miss Phillips, I will be particularly civil
to him; but I assure you, Dawson is like the fox that took a pride in
being hunted; he considers our persecution of him as the strongest
evidence of his own superiority; and if you seriously undertake to
patronize him he will become positively unbearable."

The regatta over, we retired to make a hurried dinner, and to dress for
the ball. This, with some of our party, was a serious business.
Willingham and Dawson were going in fancy dresses. The former was an
admirable personification of Dick Turpin, standing upwards of six feet,
and broadly built, and becoming his picturesque costume as if it were
his everyday suit, he strutted before Mrs Jenkins's best glass, which
Hanmer charitably gave up for his accommodation, with a pardonable
vanity. Dawson had got a lancer's uniform from his London tailor; but
how to get into it was a puzzle; it was delightful to see his attempts
to unravel the gorgeous mysteries which were occupying every available
spot in his dingy bedroom. The shako was the main stumbling-block. Being
unfortunately rather small, it was no easy matter to keep it on his head
at all; and how to dispose of the cap-lines was beyond our united
wisdom. "Go without it, man," said Branling: "people don't want hats in
a ballroom. You can never dance with that thing on your head."

"Oh, but the head-dress is always worn at a fancy-ball, you know, and I
can take it off if I like to dance."

At last, the idea struck us of employing the five or six yards of gold
cord that had so puzzled us, in securing shako and plume in a
perpendicular position. This at length accomplished, by dint of keeping
himself scrupulously upright, Mr Sydney Dawson majestically walked down
stairs.


CHAPTER III.

Now, there happened to be at that time residing in Glyndewi an old lady,
"of the name and cousinage" of Phillips, who, though an old maid, was
one of those unhappily rare individuals who do not think it necessary to
rail against those amusements which they are no longer in a situation to
enjoy. She was neither as young, nor as rich, nor as light-hearted, as
she had been; but it was difficult to imagine that she could ever have
been more truly cheerful and happy than she seemed now. So, instead of
cutting short every sally of youthful spirits, and every dream of
youthful happiness, by sagacious hints of cares and troubles to come,
she rather lent her aid to further every innocent enjoyment among her
younger friends; feeling, as she said, that the only pity was, that
young hearts grew old so soon. The consequence was, that instead of
exacting a forced deference from her many nephews and nieces, (so are
first cousins' children called in Wales,) she was really loved and
esteemed by them all, and while she never wished to deprive them of an
hour's enjoyment, they would willingly give up a pleasant party at any
time to spend an evening with the old lady, and enliven her solitude
with the sounds she best loved - the music of youthful voices.

All among her acquaintance, therefore, who were going to the ball in
fancy costume, had promised to call upon her, whether in or out of their
way, to "show themselves," willing to make her a partaker, as far as
they could, of the amusement of the evening. Captain Phillips had asked
us if we would oblige him, and gratify a kind old woman, by allowing him
to introduce us in our fancy dresses. I had none, and therefore did not
form part of the exhibition; but Dick Turpin and the cornet of lancers,
with Branling in a full hunting costume, (which always formed part of
his travelling baggage,) walked some fifty yards to the old lady's
lodgings. Mr Plympton, always polite, accepted Captain Phillips's
invitation to be introduced at the same time. Now Mr Plympton, as was
before recorded, was a remarkably dapper personage; wore hair powder, a
formidably tall and stiff white "choker," and upon all occasions of
ceremony, black shorts and silks, with gold buckles. Remarkably upright
and somewhat pompous in his gait, and abominating the free-and-easy
manners of the modern school, his bow would have graced the court of
Versailles, and his step was a subdued minuet. Equipped with somewhat
more than his wonted care, the rev. junior bursar of Oriel was
introduced into Mrs Phillips's little drawing-room, accompanying, and
strongly contrasting with, three gentlemen in scarlet and gold.
Hurriedly did the good old lady seize her spectacles, and rising to
receive her guests with a delighted curtsy, scan curiously for a few
moments Turpin's athletic proportions, and the fox-hunter's
close-fitting leathers and tops. As for Dawson, he stood like the
clear-complexioned and magnificently-whiskered officer, who silently
invites the stranger to enter the doors of Madame Tussaud's wax
exhibition; not daring to bow for fear of losing his beloved shako, but
turning his head from side to side as slowly, and far less naturally,
than the waxen gentleman aforementioned. All, in their several ways,
were worthy of admiration, and all did she seem to admire; but it was
when her eye rested at last on the less showy, but equally
characteristic figure in black, who stood bowing his acknowledgments of
the honour of the interview, with an _empressement_ which fully made up
for Dawson's forced _hauteur_ - that her whole countenance glistened with
intense appreciation of the joke, and the very spectacles danced with
glee. Again did she make the stranger her most gracious curtsy; again
did Mr Plympton, as strongly as a bow could do it, declare how entirely
he was at her service: he essayed to speak, but before a word escaped
his lips, the old lady fairly burst out into a hearty laugh, clapped her
hands, and shouted to his astonished ears, "Capital, capital! do it
again! oh, do it again!" For a moment the consternation depicted upon Mr
Plympton's countenance at this remarkable reception, extended to the
whole of his companions; but the extraordinary sounds which proceeded
from Captain Phillips, in the vain attempt to stifle the laugh that was
nearly choking him, were too much for the gravity of even the
polite Mr Dawson; and it was amidst the violent application of
pocket-handkerchiefs in all possible ways, that the captain stepped
forward with the somewhat tardy announcement, "My dear aunt, allow me to
present the Rev. Mr Plympton, Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College." This
was accompanied by a wink and an attempt at a frown, intended to convey
the strongest reprobation of the old lady's proceedings; but which, upon
the features of the good captain, whose risible muscles were still


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 4 of 23)