F. C. BURNAND
F. C. BURNAND
Whether it will be a Happy Thought to write a preface to any book, big or little, is a general question which will, I suppose, remain forever undecided: the jury, composed partly of writers, partly of readers, being unable to agree upon a unanimous verdict. It seems to me that there is the same difficulty as to Apologies. Not does it facilitate the matter to write a preface which shall be an apology, or to call that an apology which ought simply to be a preface. Let me put it down, then, as a Happy Thought to call these few lines in advance an Introduction. An Introduction! But, ladies and gentlemen, for we have met before, you require no introduction—Mr. Punch has already appeared as the Third party. We (not the editorial “we,” but you and I, my good readers, confidentially, if it so please you) will, then, consider the introduction over; we know one another, and I am inclined to be communicative. These Happy Thoughts were commenced by the side viii of a delicious river (from which position I was driven by perpetual barge-ropes and horses), were continued in the lovely gardens of two counties (one being less famous for wasps and hornets than the other), and in the course of a year, grew gradually into their present shape.
Impressed by the river and the gardens, I had originally noted down my jottings as “Happy Thoughts collected in Happy Hours,” and intended merely a few chapters of observations, not on men but insects, a method of teaching by illustration of which I need hardly say I am not the originator, who indeed had fair warrant for noting it down as a Very Happy Thought. Somewhere about the third or fourth chapter this idea was abandoned entirely.
You see, I had as it were made my balloon, filled it with gas, labelled it as just stated, and then wanted it to go in one particular direction. Not a bit of it. My insect arrangements held the car down to the earth with strongest cable power, and, as the wind wouldn’t change, I determined, as a Happy Thought, to accommodate myself to the wind. Having settled, therefore, my probable course and the most likely point of descent, I cut my ropes, and away we went, sailing easily until my first Haven was in view. Which first Haven is the Finis of this series of Happy Thoughts; for it will be seen that ix these Happy Thoughts end with the Happy Thinker’s marriage. Is there any covert satire in this? On my word, no; as you shall see if in the course of time I can put before you the Happy Thoughts of my ideal Jotter, in the character of Benedick, the married man.
So far together you and I, who have met before. Do I not know you will give me a hearty welcome, coming with, as it were, letters of credit from an old friend whom you have known for some years over and above a quarter of a century?
Now, will you introduce me to your friends here, ladies and gentlemen, whom, before now, I have not had the pleasure of meeting? Delighted, I am sure. One word. Do not expect too much from this little volume, which, for its size alone, not its merit, might form one of the four volumes of the Idler’s Breviary for the four quarters of the year. Can we put another quarter into next leap year, my lady, and name it the fifth volume? Remembering, sir, whose works received this title, you will mark well that I claim rank among them for this volume by reason of its size,—its size only, nothing more.
Nor, my dear sir, must you, as a new acquaintance, expect to find any new Pensées among these pages: assuredly you will be disappointed. I do not put them down as Deep Thoughts; nor Night Thoughts. They x are, assuming such situations as our Jotter finds himself placed in, just such thoughts as would happily occur to ninety-nine out of a hundred of us when acting upon the impulse of the moment. For instance: suppose Jones and Robinson go over a gate into a field, when they suddenly come upon a mad bull also suddenly coming upon them. They escape. Let us examine the separate jottings in their minds’ note-books: don’t you think they would run thus?—
Jones’s Note. Saw mad bull. Happy Thought. Get back over the gate again.
Robinson’s Note. Saw mad bull. Happy Thought. Get back over gate again.
Jones’s Note. Happy Thought. Get over before Robinson.
Robinson’s Note. Happy Thought. Get over before Jones.
This may not be heroic, but I fancy it’s true “for a’ that.” Moreover you’ve got the whole anecdote before you in four Happy Thoughts.
After all, in such cases, we are not heroic. The hundredth is: not number one.
So, my new acquaintances, you now know what to expect in these Happy Thoughts, which leave much to the reader’s imagination, and everything else to his good-will.xi
|THOUGHTS IN TOWN.—THOUGHTS IN COUNTRY.—WASPS.—ON THE GRASS||1|
|IN THE COUNTRY.—THOUGHTS ON FLIES.—BATS.—PET ANIMALS||9|
|ON GHOSTS.—ON RATS.—ON GEESE.—GAME COCKS.—THE FERRET||11|
|COMMENCEMENT OF MY GREAT WORK.—BY THE RIVER.—THE SOLITARY IN THE PUNT.—BARGES.—EARWIGS.—THE RETREAT||15|
|ON DIBBLING AND SNIGGLING||22|
|PROSPECT OF FEUDAL CASTLE.—BOODELS’S FIRST APPEARANCE.—AN OLD FRIEND.—THE EXACT TIME.—ARRIVAL AT BOODELS WITH BOODELS OF BOODELS||27|
|xii CHAPTER VII.|
|CHEZ BOODELS OF BOODELS.—LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC EVENING.—FIRST APPEARANCE OF MILBURD.—BOODELS’S POETRY||35|
|STILL CHEZ BOODELS.—THE DOGS.—PROCEEDING WITH TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTS.—ON INDISTINCT NOTES||43|
|ON POCKET-BOOKS.—PROGRESS OF TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTS.—INTERRUPTIONS||51|
|CHEZ BOODELS.—AFTER-DINNER SIESTA.—A PRIVATE READING.—A NIGHT WITH THE DOGS.—REPARTEEISM.—LEAVING BOODELS||59|
|FROM THE LONDON TERMINUS TO CHOPFORD STATION, AND FARTHER THAN THAT||68|
|SLUMBOROUGH FOR CHOPFORD.—RAILWAY SUGGESTIONS.—OFFICIALS.—CARRIAGE FOR FURZE LODGE.—A LIVE DUKE||74|
|NOTES WRITTEN DOWN SOON AFTER MY ARRIVAL AT FRASER’S.—I MEET SOME YOUNG LADIES.—CROQUET.—CHILDREN||84|
|xiii CHAPTER XIV.|
|DINNER-PARTY AT FRASER’S.—THE GENERAL.—I OBLIGE THE COMPANY WITH A SONG||94|
|STILL AT FRASER’S.—PROGRESS OF THE GREAT WORK.—I THINK OF THE YOUNGER MISS SYMPERSON.—NIGHT THOUGHTS.—INTERVIEW WITH A COUNTRY POLICEMAN||105|
|AT FRASER’S.—I HAVE A -A-TÊTE WITH FRIDOLINE AND LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY.—A STRANGE ANNOUNCEMENT||113|
|I RECEIVE A SUMMONS.—A CONSULTATION.—I LEAVE FURZE COTTAGE ON IMPORTANT BUSINESS||122|
|STILL ON URGENT PRIVATE AFFAIRS.—A JUVENILE SOLICITOR.—I DINE WITH MILBURD, AND SPEND A CONVIVIAL EVENING||129|
|NEXT MORNING.—THE BIRDS.—LONDON STREETS.—AN INVITATION.—THEATRE.—A MUSIC HALL.—A LUNCHEON.—A SERMON||138|
|xiv CHAPTER XX.|
|MONDAY IN MY HOTEL.—OUT OF IT AT THE HAIRCUTTER’S.—THE TELEGRAM.—OFF TO BOVOR.—I ARRIVE AT BECKENHURST||146|
|EN ROUTE FOR THE CASTLE.—THOUGHTS ON THE STARS.—A COMMUNICATIVE DRIVER||153|
|BOVOR CASTLE.—THE DRAWBRIDGE.—THE RECEPTION.SUPPER.—THE HAUNTED ROOM||162|
|BOVOR.—THE HAUNTED ROOM.—ROUGHING IT||170|
|BOVOR IN THE EARLY MORNING.—MEDIÆVAL NOTIONS.—BREAKFAST.—A PUZZLE||179|
|WORK AT BOVOR.—THE WEATHER.—PROSPECTS.—LUNCHEON||188|
|AT BOVOR.—PLAY A GREAT GAME OF WHIST||196|
|FINISHING THE RUBBER.—NEW GAME.—CONVERSATION||204|
|xv CHAPTER XXVIII.|
|THE WEATHER.—I WORK IN ANNE BOLEYN’S ROOM.—REPARTEES PROGRESSING.—I MEET A STRANGER||212|
|I LEAVE BOVOR.—IN LONDON.—TOUJOURS MILBURD.—WE GO TO THE THEATRE.—I AM INTRODUCED TO A CELEBRATED CHARACTER.—BRIGHTON.—THE GRANDEST HOTEL||219|
|SUNDAY AT BRIGHTON.—AN UNSOCIABLE COMPANION.—MY NEIGHBORS IN THE HOTEL.—WE LEAVE FOR LONDON||227|
|AN INTERVIEW WITH A WATCH-DOG.—A SURPRISE||232|
|I GET RIGGED OUT.—MY FIRST BON-MOT HERE.—DINNER.—MY PARTNER FROM NOVA SCOTIA.—MUSIC||236|
|REPARTEE PRACTICE.—MISS PELLINGLE WITH ROUSSEAU’S DREAM.—FRIDOLINE.—AN INTERRUPTION||242|
|I AM DRESSED UP.—REHEARSAL IN THE KITCHEN.—PERFORMANCE IN DRAWING-ROOM.—FIASCO.—FAMILY PRAYERS.—ARRANGEMENTS FOR A RIDE||250|
|xvi CHAPTER XXXV.|
|THE RIDE.—I PREPARE TO GO OUT WITH THE DISHLING PACK||260|
|I MOUNT MY GALLANT CHESTNUT.—THOUGHTS ON RIDING.—ANTIGROPELOS.—THE TROT.—THE CANTER.—THE GALLOP.—HUNTING||266|
|I URGE ON MY GALLANT CHESTNUT.—A DREADFUL SITUATION.—THE STAGGERS.—A HAPPY RELEASE||277|
|I AM DRIVEN HOME.—THE RETURN.—DELICIOUS HALF-HOUR BEFORE DINNER||284|
|DRESSING IN A HURRY.—I MAKE LOVE AT DINNER.—AN APPOINTMENT.—“BEGINNING OF THE END”||289|
|END OF THE BEGINNING.—MATCHED.—I HAVE AN INTERVIEW WITH MY MOTHER.—I AM MARRIED||295|
THOUGHTS IN TOWN.—THOUGHTS IN COUNTRY.—WASPS.—ON THE GRASS.
How delightful it must be to live in the country! On such a day as this, 85° in the shade, one would have all the windows looking on to the lawn open during dinner, luncheon, and breakfast. Go out and throw bread to gold-fish in a pond. There must be gold-fish. In the hottest part of the day lie out on the grass with a book, or go to sleep sub tegmine fagi. Or pull one’s self in a boat, very gently, to a shady, cool nook, beneath the boughs of a drooping tree, and there lie down, read, and smoke the soothing pipe.
Happy Thought.—Croquet when it is cooler: or feed the gold-fish. The more I think of it, the more certain I am that no country-house is perfect without gold-fish. A visit to the farm, in the early morn, or in the evening. How 2 sweet to have a favorite pig, or a goose, or geese, or a cow, a favorite cow, which would feed out of your hand, and lay eggs—I mean give milk every morning for breakfast. What a charming picture! Then how picturesque is the elegant swan upon the peaceful lake! How cool appear the carp and the pike, and how lazily will even the little ducks waddle down to their accustomed pond! And how interesting, now, to watch the gold-fish! I have thought of it again, and conclude that there must be gold-fish. And at night, calm, serene, and peaceful. The moon—the tranquil moon—sheds her gentle beams upon the [Happy Thought.—“Shedding a beam”; try it in a poem.] One can open one’s bedroom window, and sniff the dying fragrancy of the honeysuckle still lingering on the scarce-moving breeze. O delightful thoughts, on this the hottest day of June in London! Yes! to the country! away! To the gold-fish!
Happy Thought.—“An old Elizabethan House far away in the country to let, at a low rent, furnished, for the summer months. Pond, farm, &c.” Pond! and gold-fish!
A Decision.—Mine, by all that’s ancient and rustic, on this hottest day in June! I take it that I shall like it. Happy Thought for epigram, Like it, take it.
Note.—I am there. All is ready for me.
And there are gold-fish in a small pond!
There is a cow: and a pigsty with pigs.
And a farm-yard with cocks and hens.
There are peacocks too.3
Happy Thought.—Farewell business, work, and hot days in London.
* * * * *
Another Happy Thought.—I shall take down a fly-rod, and some biscuits for the gold-fish. * * * * I am there.
Note.—As hot as it was in London. Hotter; 95° in the shade, that is, in what they call the shade. All the windows open, of course, looking on to the lawn. Cooler in-doors than out, except when one has to jump up and throw books at wasps, which happens at intervals of five minutes, varied by every one—every one means my mother, my maiden aunt, her companion, Miss Jinsey, and a country friend—taking up poker, shovel, tongs, paper-knife, or anti-macassar against a hornet. Hot work! I thought there were no wasps in June. Country friend staying with us says, “O, ain’t there!” and gives me particulars to the following effect:—
Every wasp that flies about in the early summer is a Queen Wasp; she is double the size of other Wasps, and has twice the sting.
Happy Thought.—If we had two of the windows looking on the lawn closed, we might abate the nuisance.
Note.—In doing this, we shut in a Queen Wasp. It was knocked down with an anti-macassar, and is supposed to be either in that useful piece of crochet-work, or on the floor, crawling about. We are all sitting with our feet on the 4 sofas or chairs, and the anti-macassar has been thrown out of window. Country friend rather thinks, by its size, that it was a hornet, and tells us that when he knew the Elizabethan House in old Soanso’s time, it was “quite celebrated for hornets.” I ask him why he hadn’t mentioned this when I was taking the house, partly by his recommendation. He says, “O, what’s it matter? Who cares about a hornet?” I reply, “Yes, of course, that’s true; but still they are nasty things,” and he then gives me the following particulars:—
At this time of the year every Hornet is a Queen Hornet.
They have treble the sting of an ordinary Hornet.
Three Hornets will kill a horse.
Hornets sting after they are dead.
One once killed a man
(name unknown), but not quite sure that it wasn’t in this very place, i. e. the grounds of the Elizabethan House. Here we have all the windows shut.
Happy Thought.—If your windows are shut, you can always, in the country, lie down out of doors. On the grass, and read, and smoke. Of course this doesn’t apply to my mother, my maiden aunt, and Miss Jinsey. Country friend and self place seats for them.
Note.—It is difficult to get into a comfortable position on the grass. One so easily becomes cramped. It is difficult, if there is the slightest breeze, to read a newspaper, 5 or to keep a place in a book. You can’t read lying on your back. If you lie on your left side, you’ve pins and needles in your left arm; if on your right, in your right arm. Sleep is the only remedy; that you may do, on your back, if you can only get your head comfortably placed. A great point is gained when you determine that you are comfortable. A buzzing—I am disturbed by a wasp: settled down again. More wasps—no, hornet!—Queen hornet! All rise to receive her: she is gone. We settle ourselves again. Bumble-bees, or Humble-bees, we now notice, are not afraid of coming quite close to your ears. Humble-bees are supposed not to sting. There are plenty of ants about: “Plenty,” says our country friend; “regular good place for ants.” He adds that these reddish-black ants are peculiar to this part of the country (meaning my Elizabethan House and grounds) and do bite like winking. We all get up; it is a balance of comfort.
In-doors.—Wasps and hornets, if they can get in: shut windows and heat.
Out-of-doors.—Wasps, hornets, bumbles and humbles, ants, and many other curious insects, including odd flies with long bodies: but, fresh air.
Happy Thought.—The Lake—not the pond where the gold-fish are, but the lake. At this suggestion my aunt retires; so does Miss Jinsey. My mother will remain where she is and watch us. It’ll be delicious: once in the shade. How elegant and peaceful the white swans look as they sit basking and winking in the noonday sun.6
The swans are between me and the boat. I can’t get at it without disturbing the Swans. I wish I had some bread to throw to them, or the biscuits for the gold-fish.
They hiss savagely on my approach. They do not move but hiss. I never knew this before. If they move at all, they seem to evince a disposition to run at one. Country friend says, “O yes, savage fellows—Swans,” and gives me these particulars:—
A blow from a Swan’s wing will break a man’s leg.
A Swan once pulled a Boy out of a boat, and held him under water till he was nearly drowned.
Swans are always vicious, unless they know you.
Even when they know you, they are uncertain-tempered.
Hot work getting into the boat. Blazing sun. Row quickly to get into shade. Hotter than ever after rowing quickly. Some difficulty in getting underneath the trees. What strength there is in a small branch if it comes suddenly against you! I had no idea that it would knock one right back in the boat with one’s head against the rudder. Country friend says, “O, didn’t I know that?” and picks my hat out of the water.
Happy Thought.—This promises comfort. Now for a pipe: tobacco will keep off the little flies and insects. Unfortunately the fusees have fallen into the water. A nuisance; and we’ve left our books on the bank. Still, with the exception of the very small flies, which, I fancy, bite 7 (“Bite!” my country friend would think they could bite, rather: they do too) we might be very comfortable.
Another Happy Thought.—The flies have left off. This is peaceful and delicious, and—
A splash! What was it? Country friend points out to me a great big rat close to the boat. Good heavens! He shows me another on the bank. Should they jump into our boat! Let us pull off at once. Where to? Anywhere where there are no rats. Friend says it would be a difficult thing to find out that place on the lake. Then there are many rats here? “Many!”—he informs me that “it,” meaning the lake in the grounds of the Elizabethan House, “is celebrated for rats.” Nothing I detest so much. We will row to shore.
Note.—In hot weather in the country it is difficult to know when to dine.
Happy Thought.—Dine in the heat of the day. Two o’clock. My aunt agrees; so does Miss Jinsey. My mother is doubtful on the point.
Note.—Early dinner, sure to produce indigestion; and the windows must be closed on account of the wasps and hornets. And what are you to do afterwards? I answer, feed the gold-fish. Friend says, “Pooh, bother the goldfish.”
Another Happy Thought.—Dine at four.
Query by Every One.—Then when are we to lunch? Poser. But why not a biscuit, and then you can feed the gold-fish?8
Happy Thought.—Dine at six, no wasps then, and windows open.
Objection (by my aunt, seconded by Miss Jinsey).—But you lose the cool of the evening out-of-doors.
Happy Thought.—Split the difference, and say five. Then, what is one to do (is the objection by my mother) from two till five? I don’t know—feed the gold-fish. Five is settled.9
IN THE COUNTRY.—THOUGHTS ON FLIES.—BATS.—PET ANIMALS.
Very Happy Thought.—We are still in our Elizabethan House. Every one languid or irritable, or both, from the heat.
Happy Thought at 7.30 P. M.—We’ll have tea out of doors. On a rustic table: sit on rustic chairs, made of twisted wood with knots in it. Theatrical friend from town says, “Like the opening of an opera—chorus—happy Peasants.” I like a fellow from town to enliven us. Tea soon gets cold out of doors. [Mem. Get some other sort of rustic chairs; all very well for ladies; no comfort for men in twisted wood with knots in it.] Lots of little creatures appear in the air: not gnats?
Happy Thought.—Let’s stroll up that walk and smell the delicious Honeysuckle. * * * * Curious! something’s biting one’s hands and neck. Country friend says, “Ah, then it’ll be a fine day to-morrow; these little stinging flies always come out when it’s going to be a fine day to-morrow.” He gives me the following facts:—
Small flies in the evening bite any one who’s fresh to the country.10
They quite disfigured one man once by biting him.
They are not poisonous.
They are all about the honeysuckle and the bushes.
Noticed the bats for the first time. Country friend tells me “it” (the Elizabethan House and grounds) is famous for bats. You can catch’em with a net. I say, “Indeed, can you really?” and we go in-doors. Hate bats: friend gives me a few facts as to bats.
Bats in some parts of the country will settle in your hair. (N. B. Never go out without a cap at night.)
Bats can bite ferociously when they like. “They’re nasty things,” he adds, “to tackle.” (N. B. Never tackle a bat.)
Happy Thought in-doors.—To-morrow visit the farm; see the cow and the pigs. “How jolly it would be,” I say to my aunt, who agrees with me, substituting “pleasant” for “jolly,” in which amended form Miss Jinsey expresses her opinion,—“how jolly it would be to have a pet cow, and pet pigs, and pet ducks, and everything to feed out of your hand, and come up when you call!” The ladies say, “Charming! and a dear little pet lamb.” Country friend says, “Dirty little beasts, pet lambs.” Everybody says, “He’s got no heart.” I suggest that one might train the gold-fish. Friend says, “How?” I say, “Anyhow,—with biscuit.” The conversation turns on training animals generally, and we conclude that all it wants is “an eye.” We then talk about Van Amburgh.
Conclusion.—Any animal can be trained by the eye.11
ON GHOSTS.—ON RATS.—ON GEESE.—GAME COCKS.—THE FERRET.
Happy Thought.—Early to bed, and up with the lark. Charming old Elizabethan House with old passages and old oak. Conversation turns upon ghosts. No one believes in ghosts. Are there any here? Country friend tells us about a haunted house in the neighborhood. He’ll show it us. [N. B. It’s very stupid to talk about these sort of things, because it frightens the ladies.]
11.30. Bed-time; windows open; no moon. The idea of believing in ghosts! If one did, this is just the sort of place where they might come; I like lots of light at night. There’s something on the wall; a shadow. I don’t know what fear is, but my nerves are a little unstrung by the heat; or, perhaps, as it has been ninety in the shade, my imagination is heated. No: it’s a bat!
Let me see, a bat is a nasty thing to tackle. If I shut the windows he can’t get out; if I leave’em open other bats may come in. There is another—no, a moth. Hate moths; I can’t sleep with a bat in the room. I’ve heard they suck the breath of infants (or cats do that?).
Happy Thought.—Called in my country friend. I said, “Such fun! here’s a bat.” As if I enjoyed it.12
Another Happy Thought.—I stand just outside the door to look in and direct him while he’s catching the bat. Country friend says, “He’s a curious specimen: very rare”: I hope so, sincerely. Shut the windows: bed. * * * * Queer noises: scrambling and thumping. Not bats again: it must be in the room. Mice? hate mice. It can’t be rats? * * * * There’s no doubt about it, rats: detest rats. Suppose one should jump on my bed! Country friend, whom I ask next day, says, “O, didn’t I know? ‘It’” (the old Elizabethan House) “is almost eaten up with rats.” He gives me the following facts;—
Swarms of rats are in the wainscots. “Good gracious!” from my mother.
They can’t come out. General satisfaction.
They do come out in the scullery. Maiden aunt tells Miss Jinsey to ring the bell and order scullery door to be kept shut.
On the top of the cellar-steps they’ve been seen as large as rabbits. (N. B. Avoid top of cellar-stairs.)
They come in the winter into a house, stop for the spring and early summer, and go out again at harvest-time. (N. B. Wish it was harvest-time.)
Their bite is poisonous.
A few rats will kill a man.
Happy Thought.—Fresh eggs for breakfast, early in the morning. Charming! Sleep interfered with by bats, rats, and moths, but a regular country breakfast is the thing to set one up. Fresh eggs! * * * * Very sorry, no eggs: footman 13 says that under-gardener tells him the rats have sucked all the eggs and killed ten chickens.
Happy Thought.—Send for Ratcatcher at once. Friend and self say, “What fun! and have a rat hunt!” Country friend adds, “Take care they don’t get up your trousers.” Miss Jinsey makes some remark about “petticoats,” but is stopped by my aunt.
Happy Thought.—I shall enjoy the sport if I see it from a window.
Happy Thought, on the lawn, looking at the Gold-fish.—How horribly hot it must be in London! Go and lounge over the peaceful farm. I never knew that pigs got savage and ran at one. Country friend says “You ought never to bolt from a cow, or she’s sure to run after you.” I explain that I had no intention of bolting until she did run after me. Farm-laborer says he had two minds about telling us the beast was vicious when he saw us gentlemen going in. What idiots farm-laborers are! Very hot running. Country friend gives me this fact about geese,—
Geese will bite your shins dreadfully if they get hold of you.
It seems to me that the Peaceful Farm is full of savage animals. We go to the Hen-house: the fowls, at all events, won’t hurt me. Country friend says he’s not so sure of that, and gives me this fact,—14
Game Cocks can’t be depended on.
They’ll fly at you, and peck your eyes as soon as look at you.
The Ratcatcher has come. I shall see the Ratting from a window. * * * * Ratcatcher has lost his ferret; he thinks it must have run into the house.
Happy Thought.—Have my bedroom door shut at once. My mother, my aunt, and Miss Jinsey have all locked themselves up in their bedrooms until that “horrid man,” the Ratcatcher, has gone.
The Ratcatcher manages to kill three rats, which I believe he brought with him, and charges us for the loss of his ferret.
For a week afterwards the ferret is always being expected to reappear. My aunt and Miss Jinsey look under all the chairs and sofas three times a day. My mother never ventures about alone.
Happy Thought.—Search my bed well every night. Awful thing if the ferret were hidden underneath the clothes. After ten days we are obliged to leave. Unhealthy to stop, ferret and rats having fought it out, and died together in the wainscot.
Happy Thought.—Took Elizabethan House by the week. Leave immediately. Wonder how next tenant will like it.15
COMMENCEMENT OF MY GREAT WORK.—BY THE RIVER.—THE SOLITARY IN THE PUNT.—BARGES.—EARWIGS.—THE RETREAT.
Happy Thoughts.—I have now hit upon a very happy thought. Being in need of quiet, in order to commence my great work on “Typical Developments,” I have found a charming retreat on the banks of the Thames, somewhere about Twickenham, or Teddington, or Richmond, or Kingston, and all that part. Capital fishing here. In punts, with a man, and worms; average sport, one tittlebat in ten hours.
First Happy Day.—Charming; perfect quiet. See a man in punt, fishing. Ask him how long he had been there. He says, “Three hours.” Caught anything? “Nothing.” He is quite cheerful. Full of happy thoughts, and commence my Typical Developments. In the evening catch an earwig; not a bit frightened of him. The pincers in an earwig’s tail don’t bite.
To bed early. Leave the man fishing; his man with the bait asleep. Been there all day? “Yes.” Caught anything? “Nothing.” Quite contented.
Second Happy Day.—Up early. Same man in punt, still fishing; new man with bait. Ask him how long he has been there. “All night.” Caught anything? “Nothing.” 16 Not at all irritable. * * * * Kill two earwigs in my bath. Sit in my parlor to write.
Before me is my little lawn: at the foot of the lawn runs the river.
9 A. M.—I commence my Typical Developments, and note the fact, keeping by me this journal of observation in case anything turns up. Something has turned up: an earwig. Distracting for a moment, but now defunct. All is peace. I walk down the lawn. Caught anything? “Nothing.” His voice is, I fancy, getting weaker. I am meditating, and my soul is rising to sublime heights. * * * * A Barge is passing slowly, towed by horses against a strong stream, while the happy bargeman trudges cheerily along; and other happy bargemen, with their wives and children, loll lazily on deck. (The fishing punt has suddenly disappeared.) Ah! how easily may we float against the stream of life, if we are towed! How sweet it is to— A Barge has stuck on the shallows.
Scientific Note.—How distinctly water conveys sound! I can hear every word that happy bargeman on the opposite shore says, as if I were at his elbow. He is using language of a fearful description to his horses. The other bargeman has lifted himself up (he was on his back kicking his legs in the air on deck) to remonstrate. His remonstrances are couched in still stronger language, and include the man and the beasts. Woman (his wife I should say) interferes with a view to peacemaking. Her soothing words are more forcible than those of the two men, and include them both with the beasts. The children have also joined in, and are abusing 17 the bargeman (their father, as I gather) on shore. My gardener tells me they’ll probably stick here till the tide turns. I ask him if it often happens. He tells me, “O, it’s a great place for barges.” My sister and two ladies in the drawing-room (also facing the lawn) have closed their windows. Typical Developments shall have a chapter on the “Ideal Bargeman.” To write is impossible at present A request has been forwarded to me from the drawing-room to the effect that I would step in and kill an earwig or two. I step in and kill five. Ladies in hysterics. The punt has reappeared: he only put in for more bait. Caught anything? “Nothing.” Had a bite? “Once, I think.” He is calm, but not in any way triumphant.
Evening.—Tide turned. Barge gone. They swore till the last moment. From my lawn I attempted to reason with them. I called them “my good men,” and tried to cajole them. Their immediate reply was of an evasive character. I again attempted to reason with them. Out of their next reply I distinguished only one word which was not positively an oath. Even as it stood, apart from its context, it wasn’t a nice word, and my negotiations came to an end. Went back to my parlor and killed earwigs.
Night.—Man in punt still fishing. He informs me that he doesn’t think this a very good place for sport. Caught anything? “Nothing.” He is going somewhere else. I find that I can write at night. No noise. I discover for the first time that I’ve got a neighbor who looks at the Moon and Jupiter every night through a large telescope. He asks me would I like to step in and see Jupiter? * * * * 18 I have stepped in and seen Jupiter (who gave us some difficulty in getting himself into a focus) until my head aches. He has a machine for stopping the earth’s motion while we look at Jupiter. It is very convenient, as you can’t get a good look at Jupiter while the earth is going round.
Happy Thought.—To call my astronomical acquaintance “Joshua.” I do. He doesn’t like it. No writing to-night. During my absence, five moths, attracted by the gas-light, and at least a hundred small green flies, have perished miserably on my MS. paper and books. * * * * Screams from the ladies’ bedroom. Off. * * * * Maid-servant up!!! Lights!! “Would I mind stepping in and killing an earwig?” Bed. I open my window and gaze on the placid stream. Why, there’s a punt; and a man in it: fishing. He has returned. Caught anything? “Nothing.” Good night. “Good night.”
Third Happy Day.—Five earwigs in bath, drowned. Fine day for Typical Developments. Man and punt gone; at least I don’t see them. Commenced Chapter 1st. * * * * Dear me! Music on the water. A large barge with a pleasure party. They’re dancing the Lancers. The gardener says, in reply to my question about the frequent recurrence of these merry-makings, “O yes, it’s a great place for pleasure parties and moosic. They comes up in summer about three or four at a time; all a playin’ of different toons. Quite gay like. The Maria Jane brings up parties every day with a band.” The Maria Jane is the name of the pleasure barge. Bah! I will overcome this 19 nervousness. I will abstract myself from passing barges and music, and concentrate myself upon—tiddledy tiddledy rum ti tum—that’s the bowing figure in the Lancers—hang the bowing figure!—Let me concentrate myself upon—with a tiddledy tiddledy rum ti tum. It’s difficult to remember the Lancers. The barge has passed. Now for Typical Developments.—Message from my aunt, “Would I step in and kill an earwig in the work-box?” * * * * A steamer! I didn’t know steamers were allowed here. “O yes,” the gardener says, “it’s a great place for steamers. They brings up school-children for feasts.” They do with a vengeance; the children are shouting and holloaing, their masters and mistresses are issuing orders for landing; thank goodness, on the opposite bank. They’ve got a band too. “No,” the gardener explains, “it’s not their band I hear, that belongs to the Benefit Societies’ Club, as has just come up in the other steamer behind.” The other steamer! They’re dancing the Lancers too. I must concentrate myself; let me see, where was I? Typical Developments. Chap. 1. Tiddledy tiddledy rum ti tum, with my tiddledy tiddledy rum tum tum and my tiddledy, tiddledy, that’s the bowing figure, now they’re bowing—and finish, yes, tiddledy tiddledy rum ti tum. The Lancers is rather fun. * * * * Good Heavens! I find myself unconsciously practising steps and doing a figure. I must concentrate myself.
Afternoon.—Barges and swearing. Pleasure boat with band, and party dancing Lancers, for the fourth time. Return of all the boats, steamers, and barges; they stop 20 opposite, out of a mistaken complimentary feeling on their part, and play (for a change) the Lancers, Tiddledy tiddledy rum ti tum. Becoming a little wild, I dance by myself on the lawn. The maid comes out “Would I step in and kill an earwig?” With pleasure—bowing figure—and my tiddledy iddledy rum ti tum.
Night.—The turmoil has all passed. I walk down the lawn and gaze on the calmly flowing river. Is it possible? There is the punt and the man, fishing. He’d been a little higher up. Caught anything? “Nothing.” Gardener informs me that people often come out for a week’s fishing. I suppose he’s come out for a week’s fishing. Neighbor over the hedge asks me, “Would I like to have a look at Jupiter?” I say I won’t trouble him. He says no trouble, just get the focus, stop the earth’s motion, and there you are. He does get the focus, stops the earth’s motion with his instrument, and, consequently, there I am. I leave my Typical Developments, Chap. 1. * * * * Looking through the telescope makes one’s head ache. We did have some brandy-and-water. Sha’n’t stop up so late again. Cocks begin to crow here at midnight. It’s quite light at midnight. I can’t concentrate myself like the man in the punt. Caught anything? “Nothing.” Good night. “Good night.”
Fourth and Fifth Happy Days.—Typical Developments, Chap. 1. Man in punt disappeared. Lancers, tiddledy iddledy rum ti tum from 11 A. M. till 2 P. M. School feasts 2 till 5. Earwigs to be killed every other half-hour. Cheering from Odd Fellows and Mutual Benevolent Societies. 21 Barges at all hours and strong language. Festive people on opposite shore howling and fighting up till past midnight. Gardener says, “O yes, it’s a great place for all that sort of thing.” Disturbed in the evening by Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon, which have got something remarkable the matter with them. Accounted for, perhaps, by the machine for checking the earth’s motion being a little out of order.
Happy Thought.—I have found a more charming “Retreat” on the banks of the Thames, i. e. to retreat altogether. Have heard of an old Feudal Castle to be let. Shall go there. Sha’n’t take my mother, nor my aunt, and, of course, not Miss Jinsey.
Happy Thought.—To be alone. Moat and remote; put that into Typical Developments, Chap. 1. We have packed up everything. I open my note-book of memoranda to see if I’ve left anything behind. I walk down the lawn to see if I’ve left anything behind there. Yes! there he is. The man in the punt, still fishing. He says he’s been a little lower down. Any sport? “None.” Caught anything here? “Nothing.” Good by. “Good by.” And so I go away and leave him behind.22
ON DIBBLING AND SNIGGLING.
Surprising! I couldn’t get that man in a punt out of my head, so I found in my notebook a few mems about fishing. It is there recorded as a—
Happy Thought, that I would stop at a small house near a running stream for a few days, on my road to the Feudal Castle, which is, I hear, to let. There is a meadow between my lodging and the river. It is a fishing village, and the natives generally wear high boots, so as to be ready to go into the water in pursuit of their favorite amusement and business at any hour. I believe they sleep in their boots.
First Morning, after breakfast.—Put on my landlord’s big boots and walk in the meadow. Man in a small boat fishing; ask him civilly what he’s doing. He answers, without taking his eye off his hook, and, being disturbed, he answers gruffly, “Dibbling for chub.”
I watch him dibbling. Dibbling appears to consist in sitting still in a boat and holding a rod with the line not touching the water. A fish to be caught by dibbling must be a fool, as he has to come four inches nearly out of the water in order to get at the bait. Luxurious fish they must 23 be too! epicures of fish, for the bait is a bumble, or humble, bee. The moral effect on a Dibbler is to make him uncommonly sulky. All the villagers dibble, and are all more or less sulky.
End of First Hour of watching the man dibbling for chub.—Man never spoke; no fish. He is still dibbling.
End of Second Hour.—I have been watching him; one chub came to the surface. He wasn’t to be dibbled; man still dibbling.
End of Third Hour.—I fancy I’ve been asleep; the man faded away from me gradually. I am awake, and he is still dibbling for chub.
End of Fourth Hour.—I begin to feel hungry. I ask him if he’s going to leave off for luncheon; he shakes his head once, and goes on dibbling. Much dibbling would soon fill Hanwell.
Fifth Hour.—I have had luncheon and sherry; I come down the meadow in the landlord’s boots. Man still dibbling; no chub. I think I will amuse him with a joke, which I have prepared at luncheon. I say, jocosely, “What the dibble are you doing?” He answers, without taking his eye away from his line, “I’ll punch your’ed, if you ain’t quiet.” I try to explain that it was only a joke, and beg him not to be angry. He says, “I’ll let you know if I’m angry or not”; but he goes on dibbling, and I say no more.
Eighth Hour.—I have been asleep again; it is getting damp. Man still dibbling. I ask him politely if there is any chance of catching a chub to-day. He says, “Not 24 while you sit there chattering.” Whereupon I rise (which is more than the fish do) and wish him a very good night. At ten o’clock I notice him in the clear moonlight still dibbling. Up and down the stream there are dibblers. To-morrow I shall dibble.
To-morrow.—I am divided between two suggestions. A man, interested in me as far as letting his boat out goes, says, “Go out a dibbling for chub?” The landlord, disinterested, says, “Sniggle.” I ask, “Sniggle for chub?” He pities me, and answers, “No, sniggle for eels.” So I am divided; dibbling for chub, or sniggling for eels: that is the question. The man with a boat settles it, like a Solomon. “Dibble,” says he, “by day: sniggle,” says he, “by night.” That’s his notion of life. It gives me an idea for a song. The fisherman’s chant:—
O, the Fisherman is a happy wight!
He dibbles by day, and he sniggles by night
He trolls for fish, and he trolls his lay,—
He sniggles by night, and he dibbles by day.
O, who so merry as he!
On the river or the sea!
Eels, and higgling
Over the price
Of a nice
Of fish, twice
As much as it ought to be.
Let me request Mr. Arthur Sullivan to put a little old English music to this, and if he’ll bring a piano on board 25 the gallant punt, I’ll sing it for him, anywhere he likes to mention, on the river Thames.
O the Fisherman is a happy man!
He dibbles and sniggles, and fills his can!
With a sharpened hook and a sharper eye
He sniggles and dibbles for what comes by.
O, who so merry as he!
On the river or the sea!
Chub, and quibbling
Over the price
Of a nice
Of fish, twice
As much as it ought to be.
They tell me chub are good eating, when caught by dibbling. The village children are all fed upon it; in fact, I guessed as much, from noting their chubby faces. (N. B. Nobody, here, sees a joke. I try some jokes on the landlord. I tried the song on the landlord: he liked it very much, and demanded it three times. N. B. I’ve since found out that he’s a trifle deaf in one ear, and the other has got no notion of tune. He was under the impression that I had been singing God Save the Queen.)
Third Day.—In bed: having been out all yesterday dibbling, and all night sniggling. Caught nothing, except (the landlord knows this joke and always laughs at it) a violent cold. I have no books, and no papers. I shall compose my epitaph:—26
“Here lies a Sniggler and a Dibbler.
Hooked it at last.”
Then a few lines on a Shakespearian model might come in,—
To sniggle or to dibble, that’s the question!
Whether to bait a hook with worm or bumble,
Or take up arms of any sea, some trouble
To fish, and then home send’em. To fly—to whip—
To moor and tie my boat up by the end
To any wooden post, or natural rock
We may be near to, on a Preservation
Devoutly to be fished. To fly—to whip—
To whip! perchance two bream;—and there’s the chub!
The Doctor has just come in to say my head must be kept cool. He allows me to write this note, and then I must take a soporific. Farewell, a long farewell, to all my dibbling and sniggling! Good night.
Postscriptum. I reopen my dairy (that’s rather funny, because I mean “diary”) to say that I’ve been able to go out in the garden in a Bath chair. I asked what I could do to amuse myself for an hour in the Bath chair. The landlord said, “Dabble for trout.” What extraordinary lives these people lead! The Boots was out all last night, sniggling. Whether he was successful or not, I do not know, as he was discharged on his return.
Happy Thought.—What would a Boots go out sniggling with? Boot-hooks. Doctor says my head must be kept cool.27
PROSPECT OF FEUDAL CASTLE.—BOODELS’S FIRST APPEARANCE.—AN OLD FRIEND.—THE EXACT TIME.—ARRIVAL AT BOODELS WITH BOODELS OF BOODELS.
Happy Thought.—To take that old Feudal Castle which is to be let for one month, to see how I like it. I have written about it, and the answer is “two months with the shooting.” I may certainly note it down as a happy thought that I have agreed to the terms, including the shooting. The next thing is a gun. I must ask what sort of guns are used now. That’ll do in a week or two; I think I’ll get a Whitworth or a Needle.
Happy Thought.—To pack up at once and leave the dibbling and sniggling country. * * * * [Besides my portmanteaus I carry a rug, an umbrella, a fishing-rod, a stick, a great-coat, and a writing-case.] * * * * Having done so, I am overtaken, on my road, by the discharged Boots with a Telegram (I find I had forgotten to tip the Boots), to say that the present family are going to stop in the Feudal Castle for a fortnight longer; so I must defer my tenancy. I don’t think I can return and dibble. A happy thought just at this time occurs to a friend, whom I meet at the Popham Road Station. He says, “Come down with me to 28 Boodels,” the name of his little place in the country, “and we’ll have some fun.” I reply, “With pleasure, what fun?” He answers, “O, lots of things: drag the pond.” I see that he is enthusiastic upon the subject, so I rub my hands, clap them together, and cry, “Capital,—the very thing: nothing I should enjoy more: by all means, drag the pond.” We will be off by this train. My friend, who appears much troubled at the loss of a watch-key, here asks “What’s the exact time?” I put down my rod, my umbrella, rug, greatcoat, and writing-case, unbutton my frock-coat, and tell him “2.15.” Just as I’m doing this he sees the station clock, and begs pardon for having troubled me. I say, “O, no matter,” and button up my frock-coat again.
* * * * *
(N. B.—As I find that at the end of a day it is difficult to keep my diary of “Happy Thoughts” satisfactorily, I now take down jottings as I go along. My friends think that I am collecting materials for my great work on “Typical Developments,” which I commenced in Twickenhamshire. I smile, and say “Ah!”)
Meet old Merrival, whom I haven’t seen for ever so long. Merrival says, “Hallo! you here?” as if, in the ordinary course of things, he had expected to meet somebody else. I answer candidly, though without much point, “Yes, here I am!” He says, “Well, and how have you been this long time?” by which he means an interval of ten years. I give him a condensed report, and reply, “O, pretty well, thanks!” and ask him how he’s been, in a tone which 29 might convey the notion that I shouldn’t be surprised at hearing that he had had the measles, scarlet fever, whooping-cough, chicken-pox, and a series of minor illnesses. He answers carelessly, looking out of the window, “O, much the same as ever”; and I haven’t an idea what he means. After a pause, during which Old Merrival regards with curiosity my friend from Boodels, who is fast asleep, with his leg over the arm of the seat, looking like the letter “V” in a quaint vignette, I hit upon a
Happy Thought.—I ask after his brother Tommy, who went into the Army.
My friend says, “Haven’t you heard?” I reply “No,” pleasantly, expecting to find Tommy made a Lieutenant-General. It turns out that the mention of Tommy is unpleasant: he has not been heard of since he went out to hunt alligators in a bush. I wish I’d not been so confoundedly inquisitive. A damp has fallen on our spirits.
Old Merrival presently attempts a change in the conversation by inquiring where I’m going. I tell him “Boodels.” He says, “Oh! where they had the fever so bad at the beginning of the year.” I inform him that “I don’t think that’s Boodels.” He says, “O, I’m wrong. Boodels is where all those burglaries took place. By the way,” he adds, musingly, “they’ve never caught the fellows.” I pretend to attribute no importance to the news, but I don’t like it. I tell him, in order to show him that Boodels is not entirely given up to burglary, that “we’re going to have some fun there.” He says, as I did, “What fun?” I reply, 30 as if that was something like a joke, “Drag the pond.” He doesn’t seem to take much account of this, and rather snubs my notion of pleasure by remarking, inquiringly, “Slightly slow work, isn’t it?” I reply, sticking up for it, “O no! capital fun.” The train stops at Hincham, and he gets out. He says, from the platform, “Very glad to have seen you again”; I return, “so am I him.” He adds, as a happy thought, just as the train is moving, “If you’re coming by this way at any time, look us up, will you?” I answer that I’ll be sure to do so, and wonder how he’d like me to look him up at 1 A. M. He nods, and adds, “Don’t forget!” I say (with my head out of the window), “I won’t.” He turns away, and shows his ticket to the station-master, with whom I see him, the next second, in conversation, and then we leave each other for, perhaps, another ten years. This idea tending to melancholy, I shake off the remembrance of Merrival, and begin to doze. Hereupon, my friend Boodels wakes up, and says, “Hallo! where are we, eh?” being under the impression that we’ve passed the station. He informs me that he has been asleep. He wants now to know the exact time. I rouse myself with much trouble, and tell him, adding, that I am now going to follow his example, and doze. He says, “You can’t; we’re just there.” Whereupon I shake myself, fold up my rug, exchange my travelling-cap for my hat, take down with considerable difficulty my umbrella, stick, and fishing-rod, from the net above, strap up my writing-case, stuff my newspapers inconveniently into my great-coat pocket—31
Happy Thought.—I must learn the art of folding a newspaper into a portable form—
—button up my frock-coat, and, having forgotten what time I said it was just now, unbutton it to look at my watch, rebutton it, place my writing-case, umbrella, fishing-rod, and so forth, on the seat, in order to put on my gloves, take all the newspapers out of my great-coat pockets, with a view to finding my gloves, which, however, are in the breast-pocket of my frock-coat, where I had put them in mistake for my pocket-handkerchief, button my coat for the third time, put on my gloves, take my writing-case and rug, fishing-rod, and umbrella, in my hands again, my great-coat over my arm, and sit as if meditating a sudden spring out of the carriage-window on the first opportunity, when Boodels (of Boodels) who has suddenly found his watch-key, wants to know “the exact time.” I pretend to guess it. He says, “No! do look, as I want to set my watch.” I lay down, for the third time, my rod, umbrella, stick, writing-case, rug, and greatcoat, and unbutton my frock-coat, also for the third time, take out my watch, and tell him “,” with perhaps a little irritability of manner. He doesn’t say, “Thank you!” but sets to work winding up his watch. By the time I have my umbrella, great-coat, rod, writing-case, rug, and stick in my hands, and on my arms, for the fourth time (it seems the fiftieth), he inquires, “Did I say 3.30 or 3.36?” I reply, “3.30; but that now it may be 3.35.” He puts his watch to his ear, looks at it, appears satisfied, and pockets it. The train stops opposite a small platform. Low, flat country all round. “Boodels?” I ask. No; it’s where they take the tickets.32
Take the tickets? O, that entails laying down my umbrella, stick, writing-case, fishing-rod, and rug for the fifth time, unbuttoning my coat, and feeling for the ticket. Ultimately, after much anxiety, I find it, with my latch-key, which appear, both together, to have made a hole for themselves in my waistcoat-pocket, and gone on a burrowing excursion into the lining. Thank goodness, I get rid of the ticket at last. Not at all: the man only snips it with a pair of champagne-wire clippers, and goes on. It appears that we are half an hour from Boodels. I won’t put my ticket into my waistcoat-pocket again, because of the nuisance of unbuttoning, &c. The question is, for such a short time, is it worth while to undo one’s rug, exchange hat for travelling cap, take off one’s gloves, unbutton one’s coat for the sixth time, and be comfortable? I get as far as taking off my gloves, when my friend says, “It’s no good doing that, we’re just there.” So it is. We are before our time. Boodels at last; and what the deuce I’ve done with my ticket, since it was snipped, I’m hanged if I know. Friend says, “You put it into your waistcoat-pocket again.” I am positive I did not. I unbutton my coat for the seventh time and don’t find it. My friend is more positive than ever that it’s in my waistcoat-pocket. I unbutton again for the eighth time, and find it with my watch. How it got there I don’t know, as I assure the guard and my friend, “I never by any chance put a ticket in my
Happy Thought.—To have a separate pocket made for tickets. But where?33
Happy Thought.—To have separate pockets made for everything.
Happy Thought.—That here we are at Boodels. His groom not here. He wants to know the exact time. I refer him (being buttoned up myself) to his own watch. He says, “It’s stopped again, he can’t make it out.” I have just put down my fishing-rod, umbrella, writing-case, and rug, on the platform, and am unbuttoning my coat, when friend says, “O, don’t bother, here’s the station-master will tell us,” who does so, and I button up my coat for the eighth time.
The groom arrives, with pony trap. The groom says while we’re driving that the pond can’t be dragged before the day after to-morrow. My friend is satisfied. So am I. So’s the groom. I say to the groom, affably, who is sitting with his arms folded regarding the country superciliously, “It’s good fun dragging a pond, eh?” He answers shortly, “Yes, sir,” as if he thought I was taking a liberty in addressing him.
Happy Thought.—Always ingratiate yourself with servants: talk to grooms about horses, if you can. Here we are at Boodels. It turns out, on arriving at the House, that the time at Boodels is different from either London time or railway time, and, therefore, just as I am going up stairs to my room, my friend asks me for the exact time. I place my rug, umbrella, coat, fishing-rod, stick, and writing-case, on the hall table for the tenth and last time, and tell him 4.30. Whereupon he goes off and sets the big clock in the 34 hall, the musical clock on the stairs, the little clock in the dining-room, the timepieces in the bedrooms, while the butler disappears, and is heard telling the cook all about it, when a whirling noise comes from the pantry and the kitchen. The Groom goes off to set the clock over the stable door; the Gardener walks down to the sun-dial; the Footman returns looking at his own watch. I follow him up stairs to my room. Before he is out of the room I find myself asking him the time, and referring to my own watch. He should say (diffidently) that it’s “about twenty minutes to five.” I correct him, and give him the exact time. He withdraws thankfully, and I remain standing opposite the window, meditatively, with my watch in my hand, ready to give any one the exact time. * * * * Knock at the door: “Dinner is at half past six to-day.” Very well, thank you. “Could I give Master the exact time, as his watch’ave stop again.”
Happy Thought.—I send him the watch bodily; and calmly commence dressing for my first dinner at Boodels.35
CHEZ BOODELS OF BOODELS.—LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC EVENING.—FIRST APPEARANCE OF MILBURD.—BOODELS’S POETRY.
Dined with Boodels (of Boodels) alone. Nothing so conducive to Happy Thoughts as a good dinner. Had it. Boodels (to whom I have imparted the fact of my being engaged upon my grand work entitled Typical Developments) says, “Well, old boy, I’m glad to have an evening together. We’ll have a regular literary and scientific conversation. Hey?” I say, “By all means!” and we adjourn, it being a little chilly outside, to the study. Boodels (of Boodels) is a bachelor, and enjoys literary ease. He says that I shall be perfectly quiet here, no one shall disturb me, and that I can get on with my work on Typical Whatshisnames (being corrected, he says yes, he means “Developments”) as fast as I like. He adds, that there’ll be lots of fun besides. I find he means dragging the pond. I say, out of compliment to him, that I am looking forward to this; and he seems pleased. He lights a cigar, and we then enjoy literary conversation,—that is, I read to him my manuscript materials for my work. Just as I am commencing, he asks me for the exact time, as at nine o’clock he has a friend coming in. I 36 tell him it’s past that now, whereupon he says, “Perhaps he won’t come: it’s only Milburd, who lives in the next place; he won’t disturb us,” and finishes by asking me to “go on, old fellow!” I go on accordingly.
Happy Thought.—It’s a rare thing to find any one possessed of the faculty of appreciation. Boodels has it. Boodels is a very good fellow. I don’t know any one for whom I would do more than I would for Boodels. There are very few to whom I’d read my manuscript materials for Typical Developments,—very few; but I don’t mind reading them to Boodels. It isn’t every one to whom I’d say “Now, my dear fellow, pray tell me any fault that strikes you: do.” But I say it to Boodels, because Boodels is not a fool.
9h. 5m. P. M.—Note. I shall time myself in reading this first chapter. Now. “Typical Developments, Book I., Chap. 1. In the earliest—” Boodels stops me. I have asked him to stop me whenever anything strikes him. Something has struck him. “Why do I call it Typical Developments?” Why? Well, because,—in fact,—I explain, that opens up a large question. He will see, I inform him, as I go on. He says, “O, I only asked.” I thank him for asking, and tell him that that’s exactly what I want him to do. He replies, “Yes, he thought I liked that.” I say, “Yes, I do.” The lamp wants trimming, and Boodels rings for the butler. There is silence for a few moments, because one can’t read while a butler is trimming a lamp. The butler says, “He thinks that’ll do now, 37 sir.” Boodels says, “Yes, that’ll do.” I say, “O yes, that’ll do capitally” (N. B. Always be on good terms with the butler), and, the butler having retired, I recommence. “Typi—”
Happy Thought.—Must time the reading. Let’s see. 9.20 P. M. “Typical Developments, Book I., Chap. 1. In the earliest—” (correct this with pencil to “very earliest”). “In the very earliest—” Boodels pushes a cigar towards me without speaking. No, thank you, not while reading. “In the very earliest—” I don’t know: yes, I will just light a cigar. Let’s see the exact time—9.27. Now we begin fairly.
“In the very earliest and darkest ages of our ancient earth—”
Happy Thought. Stop, to alter “ancient” to “old” with a pencil. Read it to Boodels. “Ages of our old earth.” How does he like it? He is dubious. If he doesn’t like it, why not say so. Well, he thinks he doesn’t like it. “Ancient”’s better? I ask. On the whole, yes, he thinks, “ancient”’s better.
Happy Thought.—Alter “old” to “ancient” with a pencil. I respect Boodels because he speaks his mind; if he doesn’t like a thing he says so. “Won’t I,” he asks, “have a pen and ink?” No, thanks! I’d better. Well, then, I will. If I’d known that this would have entailed ringing for the butler, who had to fill the inkstand and find 38 a pen, I’d have been perfectly satisfied as I was with the pencil.
“Now, then, old fellow, fire away!” says Boodels, who is lighting another cigar. Mine is out. “Better light it,” says Boodels, “it’s more sociable.” Well, then, I will. No matches. Bell. Butler: who explains that he told James, the footman, to see that the box was filled every Thursday. Bell. Footman: corroborates Butler, but says, “Anne must have taken them away by mistake when she cleared.” Explanation satisfactory. Matches are produced. Butler remains (officiously—who the deuce wants to have his cigar lighted by a butler?) to light the cigars. Butler leaves us. “Fine weeds these, hey?” says Boodels. They are. “Fire away, old boy, will you?” says Boodels, as if I’d been making the interruptions.
Exact time, 9.50. Boodels doesn’t think Milburd will drop in at this time. “However, if he does,” he explains again, “he needn’t disturb us.” He needn’t, but it’s very probable that, if he comes, he will. “Fire away, old fellow! it’s getting late.”
9.57.—I am firing away. “In the very earliest and darkest ages of our ancient earth, before even the Grand Primeval forests—” Boodels interrupts me, and says that comes from Longfellow. I protest. He says, “No, no, you’re right; I was thinking of something else. Go on.” I go on—“the Grand Primeval forests could boast the promise of an incipient bud—” Boodels (who is a little too captious sometimes) wants to know “what I mean by ‘forests boast the promise’? Why ‘boast’?” I tell 39 him he’ll see as we go on. He returns, “All right: fire away!”
I shirk “boast,” and continue—“an incipient bud, there existed in the inexhaustible self-inexhausting Possible, innumerable types—” Here Boodels suggests what a capital idea it would be for me to give a Public Reading. Safe to do. Take enormously.
Happy Thought.—To give a Public Reading. What of? I can’t help asking, though. “Wouldn’t it p’raps be a little slow?” Boodels, on consideration, says, “Yes, it might be, without a piano; but, of course, I’d have a piano; and a panorama; or, he’s got it, wigs!” “Wigs,” he thinks, would make the thing go first-rate. “I might, he fancies, give it here, in the large room at the inn, and see how it went.” I object, “O no, that wouldn’t do.” Boodels is serious, “He can’t see—why not?” Well, because—. “Well, never mind; fire away, old boy.” I fire away. Exact time, 10.15. “—hausting Possible, innumerable types.” I’ve got it. “—innumerable types, of which the first generating ideas having a bearing upon—” Here Milburd drops in. With an eyeglass and a pipe. He’s afraid he disturbs us. “Not in the least,” from Boodels. “O no, not at all; not the slightest,” from me. What’ll he take? Well, nothing, thank you; he’s only just dined. “Tea?” Are we going to have tea? “Always have tea now,” says Boodels. “You’ll have tea” (to me). Of course, just the thing. “And we’ll read afterwards, eh?” Bell. Butler. Orders. Boodels explains to 40 Milburd that I was reading my work on “Typical Developments” to him. Milburd says, “O yes, very nice. Yes,” as if it was jam, and goes on to observe that “he’d only come round to know about dragging the pond.” Bell. Butler. Butler uncertain as to to-morrow’s arrangements. Footman with tea. Difficulties with window-shutters between footman and butler. Complicated by the assistance of Boodels. Further complications arising from Milburd “lending a hand.” Departure of butler and footman. We sit down. Milburd’s afraid he’s disturbed us; would I go on with the “Biblical Elephants”? (This fellow’s a fool. Biblical elephants! Idiot.) I correct him. He laughs stupidly, and says it would have been funny if it had been elephants. Boodels says, “Yes, it would.” (N. B. I am astonished at Boodels.) I remark that I fear my paper won’t much interest him (meaning the man with eyeglass, Milburd). He replies, “O yes, it will. Jolly. He likes being read to like winking.” He seems a hearty fellow, after all. Shall I begin where I left off? or from the beginning? Milburd replies, “Let’s have all we can for the money; the beginning.” Very well. “In the very earliest and darkest ages of—.” Milburd begs my pardon one moment. Has Boodels heard that the niggers are at the Inn to-morrow; the Christy’s, or something, with an entertainment. He tells us the word “darkest” in my MS. had put it into his head. He begs pardon, will I go on, as he must be off soon? “—ages of our ancient earth, before even—.” Butler, without being called, with footman to clear away. Then footman alone with the chamber candles.41
Eleven o’clock. “Not eleven?” says Milburd. Boodels had no idea it was so late. “Past eleven, sir,” observes the butler. Boodels refers to me for the exact time. I say “11.10.” Milburd, through his eyeglass, “makes it,” he says, “11.15.” The footman, at the door, appeals to the hall clock, which’as struck just as he came in. We all go to the hall. Milburd says, “Ah, he makes it 11.17.” We all make it our own time, and Milburd says he s’poses he’ll hear in the morning about dragging the pond. P’raps he’ll drop in. Not into the pond. “Ha, ha!” (Hate a fellow who laughs at his own jokes.) Good night! good night! “Nuisance to be interrupted,” says Boodels, going up stairs. “I’m very much interested in it. Good night!”
Happy Thought.—I’ll go to my room, and read it over to myself with a view to corrections. Now * * * *
11.35.—A knock at my door. Boodels in a dressing-gown. “Come to hear some more Typical Developments?” I ask, smiling. No. With some diffidence he produces a manuscript, and tells me he wants my opinion on a little thing of his own—a—in fact—poem, which he thinks of sending to the Piccadillytanty Magazine. Of course, I shall be delighted. Didn’t know he wrote? “O yes, often.” It isn’t long, I suppose? “O no—merely thrown off.”
12.—Middle of his reading. (N. B. I never can follow poetry when I hear it read to me for the first time.)
12.15.—Still reading. (Note. That last line rather pretty.) Still reading. I’ve lost the thread.42
12.45.—Still reading. I’ve asked him “to read those last few lines over again,” in order to show that I am interested.
1 A. M.—Still reading. He is my host.
1.20.—Still reading. I say something feebly about that’s not being quite so good as the last. I make this note too. I don’t know what I’m saying.
2.—I think he’s begun another. I don’t recollect him finishing the other.
3.—He says reproachfully, “Why, you’re asleep!” I reply, “No, no! merely just closing my eyes.” He wants to know which I like the best. It appears he’s read ten of his little compositions. I say, “I don’t quite know; I think the third’s the best,” and get into bed. He observes, “Ah, you can’t judge all at once; you must hear them again. Good night, old boy!” And the exact time is 3.20. O my head!43
STILL CHEZ BOODELS.—THE DOGS.—PROCEEDING WITH TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTS.—ON INDISTINCT NOTES.
At Boodels. The morning after the literary conversation already recorded. Second day at Boodels. 6.30 A. M. exact time. It’s wonderful to me how Boodels (of Boodels) manages to get up at half past six in the morning, after going to bed at 3.20. He does do it, with a horn, too, which he comes to my bedside and blows (his idea of hearty fun!) and with dogs, which he brings into one’s room. I didn’t see the animals last night; now I do. I don’t like them,—at least in my bedroom. There’s one Skye, a black-and-tan, a pug, and an undecided terrier. He explains that two of’em always sleep in his room, and he then makes them jump on my bed.
Happy Thought.—Always lock your bedroom door, on account of sleep-walkers. I recollect a story of a monk stabbing a mattress, and somebody going mad afterwards, which shows how necessary it is to lock the door of your cell. At all events, it keeps out any one with a horn, and dogs.
6.35.—Boodels says (while dogs are scampering about), 44 “Lovely morning, old boy,” and pulls up my blinds. I like to find out it’s a lovely morning for myself, and pull up my own blinds, or else I get a headache. The undecided terrier and the pug are growling at what they can see of me above the counterpane. I try (playfully, of course, because Boodels is my host) to kick them off, but they only snap at my toes. Boodels says, “They think they’re rats. Ah, they’re as sensible as Christians, when they know you.” They don’t know me, however, and go on taking my toes for rats.
6.35 to 6.45.—Boodels says, “We’ll have a little air, eh?” and opens both windows. He says, “There, that’s better.” I reply, “Yes, that’s better,” and turn on my side, trying to imagine, by shutting my eyes, that Boodels, with dogs, is not in the room.
Happy Thought (made in my note-book suddenly under the clothes. Always have note-book under my pillow, while collecting materials).—“Poodles” rhymes to “Boodels.”
He then says, examining his horn, “This is how they get you up in Switzerland”; and then he blows it, by way of illustration. He says, “That wouldn’t come in badly in an entertainment, would it?” He suggests that it would come in capitally when I give a public reading. At this point, the voice of James, the footman, summons the dogs below. Rush—scamper—rush—avalanche of dogs heard tumbling down stairs.
Boodels says, “James always feeds’em.” I reply, sleepily, “Very kind.” Boodels says, “What?” I answer, rather 45 louder, that “it’s very kind,” and keep my eyes shut Boodels won’t take a hint. He goes on—“Look at this horn! ain’t it a rum un?” and I am obliged to open my eyes again. I ask him, feebly, where he got it. Boodels says, “What?” (I begin to think he’s deaf.) And I have to repeat, “Where did you get it?” He then begins a story about a fellow in Switzerland, who, &c., which I lose about the middle, and am recalled to consciousness by his shaking the pillow, and saying, “Hi, hi! You’re asleep!” I explain, as if hurt by the insinuation, “No, only thinking.” Whereupon Boodels says, “Ought to think about getting up.” [This is what he calls being happy at a repartee. I find he rather prides himself on this.] “Breakfast in half an hour?” I say, “Yes, in half an hour,” lazily. He is silent for a minute. I doze. He then says, “What?” And I repeat, more lazily, to show him I’ve no idea of getting up yet awhile, “Yes, in half an hour.” Boodels goes away. I doze. He reappears, to ask me some question which begins, “O, do you think that—” But he changes his mind, and says, “Ah, well, it doesn’t matter!” adding, in a tone of remonstrance, “You’re not getting up!” and disappears again, leaving, as I afterwards found, the door open.
I doze. * * * * Something in my room. I look, inquiringly, over the side of the bed. A bull-dog, alone! White, with bandy legs, a black muzzle, and showing his teeth: what a fancier, I believe, would call a beauty. Don’t know how to treat bull-dogs. Wish Boodels would shut the door when he goes out. I look at the dog. The dog doesn’t stir, but 46 twitches his nostrils up and down. I never saw a dog do that before. I say to myself, in order to inspirit myself “He can’t make me out.” I really don’t like to get up while he’s there.
Happy Thought.—To keep my eye on him, sternly. He keeps his eye more sternly on me. Failure.
Happy Thought.—To pat the bedclothes and say “Poor old boy, then! Did um, a poor old fellow, then! a leetle manikin, then; a poo’ little chappy man, then,”—and other endearing expressions: his eye still on me unflinchingly. Then in a laudatory tone, “He was a fine dog, then, he was!” and encouragingly, “Old boy, then! old fellow!” His eye is mistrustful; bull-dogs never growl when they’re going to fly at you: he doesn’t growl.
Happy Thought.—If you hit a bull-dog over the front legs, he’s done. If not, I suppose you’re done. [This for my chapter, in Typical Developments, on “Nature’s Defences.”] If you wound a lion in his fore paw, he’ll come up to you. On second thought, p’r’aps, he’d come up to you if you didn’t. Bull-dogs always spring at your throat. If in bed, you can avoid that by getting under the clothes.
Happy Thought.—One ought always to have a bell by the bed in case of robbers, and a pistol.
7.45.—The dog has been here for a quarter of an hour, and I can’t get up. Willks, the butler, appears with my 47 clothes and hot water. The dog welcomes him,—so do I, gratefully. He says, “Got Grip up here with you, sir? He don’t hoffen make friends with strangers.” I say, without explanation, “Fine dog, that,” as if I’d had him brought to my room to be admired. Willks, the butler, informs me that “Master wouldn’t take forty pounds for that dog, sir”; and I say, with surprise, “Wouldn’t he?” Butler repeats, “No, sir, not forty pounds,—he’s been offered thirty.” Whereupon, finding I’ve been on a wrong tack (N. B. Never be on a wrong tack with the butler), I observe, knowingly, as if I was making a bargain, “Ah, I should have thought about thirty,—not more, though.” Butler says, “Yes, sir. Master could get that,” and I answer, positively, “O yes, of course,” which impresses the butler with the notion that I’d give it myself any day of the week. Think the butler likes me better after this: because if I’d give thirty pounds for a dog, what would I give to a Butler?
I calculate upon getting ten minutes more in bed. “What’s the exact time?” The butler has a watch, and is ready. “8.10” “Exact?” “Exact.” “Then” (by way of a further delay) “bring my clothes, please.” They are here. “O, well” (last attempt), “my boots.” Been here some time. Then I must get up, that’s all. That is all, and I get up. Breakfast. Milburd has sent in to know if we drag the pond to-day. Boodels consults Willks. “What does he say, eh?” Willks consults the footman, and the footman says the gardener has been to see a man in the village about it, and it can’t be managed to-day. All 48 the dogs are at our breakfast, whining for bits, and scratching at my trousers to attract attention.
Happy Thought.—Politic to feed strange dogs. Specially the bull-dog.
Terrier still vicious. Boodels says, “O, he’ll soon know you.” I hope he will. I hate a dog who follows you, and then flies at your legs. Boodels says, “Well, if we don’t drag the pond, you’d like to get on with your work, eh?” With Typical Developments? Certainly: very much. Boodels is fond of literature, and says that I can go to my room, and sha’n’t be disturbed all day. I observe, I should like to get to work at once. Just 9.30: capital time. I show him that I can do a good deal to Chapter 1 between 9.30 and 1. He is glad to hear it; and I tell him that, if he likes, I’ll read what I’ve done to him in the evening. He says he should like that. I say, “I won’t, if it bores you.” He answers, “Bore me! I should be delighted!” I tell him I like reading out aloud to an appreciative friend, because he can give advice. He says “Yes,” rather quickly, and proposes one turn, just as far as the pond, before I sit down to work. I think I ought to get to work; but how far is the pond? “Not a hundred yards, or so.” Very well; just one turn, and then in. “With a cigar?” Well, p’raps, a very mild cigar. We are at the garden door.
9.40.—Excellent time. Still at the garden door. The butler and the footman have been looking for Boodels’s little stick with a notch in it. Boodels says “It’s very extraordinary 49 they can’t leave that stick alone.” That being found (in Boodels’s bedroom, by the way), we want the matches. Butler thought they were in the study. Footman (who is followed everywhere by all the dogs while clearing away) recollects seeing them there last night. Thinks Anne, the housemaid, must have taken them. Will ask her. Boodels says, “It’s very extraordinary they can’t leave the matches alone.” Anne, from a distance,—voice only heard,—says she ain’t touched them ever since they were put back last night. Being appealed to before the footman and butler, I say, “I think I recollect them in the study,”—trying to corroborate everybody. Subsequently, Willks finds them in Boodels’s bedroom.
10.—Now, then, for one turn, and then in to work hard at my MS. Willks asks Boodels, “Will he speak to the cook about dinner?” “O yes,” Boodels answers, “or you won’t get any dinner.” This to me, good-humoredly. I laugh (stupid joke, really), and say, “Well, make haste!” While he’s away, I think of the first sentence I’ll write when I get in, so as not to waste time. “In the very earliest and darkest ages of our ancient earth,—” when Boodels comes back quickly to know if I like turbot. Yes, I don’t care. Because there’s a man come with turbot. “One can’t get,” he explains, “fish regularly in the country.” I answer, “O, anything.” He says I’d better come and see the turbot. He’s no judge. I protest, “No more am I.” But he thinks, at all events, I’d better see’em. I assent, “Very well.” He says, “What?” (He must be deaf sometimes.) I explain that I only said “Very well.” 50 We go to the turbot man. The cook is already there. We are joined by the butler. The footman looks in. Boodels asks him if he thinks they’re good. He replies, “Yes, sir, looks very nice,” and refers to the butler. The butler is a little uncertain at first, but decides for the turbot. I say, “Yes, I think very nice.” The housemaid, passing by, stops for a moment with her broom, and says nothing. Cook feels them, and weighs them in her hand. We are all silent, meditating. Turbot settled on. When I get back to the hall, it is 10.45. Boodels says, “Now, one turn to the pond, and back, just to freshen you up.” I say, “Very well, and then I must get to work.”
Happy Thought.—While walking I needn’t waste time: make notes.
N. B. For the benefit of note-takers, I insert this. Always make your notes as full as possible; if not, much trouble is caused. Thus, with my notes, when I came in—
First Valuable Note in Book.—“Snails—why—who”—What the dickens was it I thought about snails? Snails, let me see. Quarter of an hour lost over this: give it up. Try next valuable note—“Ogygia—seen—Philip—but wasn’t.” Ogygia: what was it made me think of that? Philip! I recollect saying something about Philip, very good, to Boodels. He laughed: that was the thing, he said, ought to be in some magazine. Can’t remember it. Try next valuable note: “Floreate hues—Firkins—why not?” Can’t make it out.
Happy Thought.—Always to make full notes in future.51
ON POCKET-BOOKS.—PROGRESS OF TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTS.—INTERRUPTIONS.
Happy Thought.—I find that, generally speaking, materials for the lives of remarkable men are found in their pocket-books. Shall use pocket-books in future. By the way, Milburd spoils Boodels. I regret it, but he does. Boodels used to sit for hours either listening to me reading my manuscripts to him, or enjoying my conversation. Now he doesn’t, and has taken to personal remarks, which he calls repartee (hate it), and he and Milburd play at Clown and Pantaloon in the passage. It’s really waste of life and talents. * * * * Talking of that, let me get to work.
11 o’clock, A. M.—By the exact time, which I have just given Boodels from the top of the stairs. Ought to have begun at nine. Good room for writing my Typical Developments in. View of a lawn. No noise. Boodels said I should be undisturbed, and quite alone. I like that in Boodels: he is considerate, when he sees you are in earnest. Delightful morning: just enough breeze to cause a sigh through the trees. N. B. Mustn’t forget “breeze” and “trees” when I write a serenade. [Mentioned this idea, subsequently, on a lovely moonlight night, to Milburd, who immediately made a hideous grimace, and said, “Yah! yah! yah! Ho!” with a sort of steam-engine whistle, 52 “Niggar! are you dar? Bolly golly black man, boo!” and then he and Boodels both laughed. What at? I pitied them. Boodels is really losing all sense of poetry. Milburd said that my saying “serenade” had suggested the Ethiopian Serenaders to him.]
* * * * *
To work. Typical Developments, Book I., Volume I., Section 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1. “In the very earliest and darkest ages of our ancient earth, before even the Grand Primeval forests could boast the promise of an incipient bud, there existed in the inexhaustible self-inexhausting Possible, innumerable types, of which the first generating ideas having a bearing upon the forms of the Future, were at that moment in too embryotic a condition for beneficial production.” Good. I think that’s good,—very good. I’m getting into the swing. My ideas flow. Paragraph No. 2. Now. “Man at once possible and impossi—” Knock at the door: nuisance: pretend not to hear it. “And impossi—” Knock. “Come in,” I say, very pleasantly. It is Willks, the butler, diffidently. “O, sir, Master thinks he left his cigar-case here.” I haven’t seen it, and I don’t rise to look. The butler says, “No, he don’t see it,” begs pardon, and retires. I hear Boodels on the landing, saying, “It’s very odd they can’t leave my cigar-case alone!” The slightest interruption gets you out of the swing of ideas. I must try back again. “Man at once possible and—” Knock at the door. “Come in.” Boodels puts his head in, and sings, “Who’s dat a-knocking at de door?” as if that placed the interruption in a more sociable point of view. It only reminds me of that idiot, 53 Milburd. I think Milburd copies Boodels, or Boodels Milburd. Whichever it is, I hate an imitation. However, he explains that he wouldn’t disturb me without knocking first, as if he’d have disturbed me more by not knocking. I look as pleasant as possible; he wants my advice, he says. I am flattered; though if he didn’t come to me, his old friend, for advice in a difficult matter, to whom should he go? Not Milburd. He commences by asking, “How are you getting on, eh?” and I answer, “O, pretty well,” when Willks returns with the cigar-case, which has, it appears, been (as usual) found in Boodels’s bedroom. As Boodels after this seems inclined to wander, I bring him back to the point by asking what he was going to say to me. Boodels waits a minute, looking out of window, and then says, “What?” (He is getting deaf. If he gets very deaf, I shall go away.) I repeat my question. He replies, “O yes; look here. Do you think I ought to give the man who came about dragging the pond a shilling, or not?” I try to interest myself in the question. “Well,” I say, dubiously, “what’s he done?” “Well,” explains Boodels, “he hasn’t exactly done much; but he’s been up to the pond, and examined it, and so forth, you know.” I say, decisively, to show that I’m a man of business, “O yes, give him a shilling,” and take up my pen again, by way of a hint to Boodels. “It’s rather too much to give him, eh, for merely looking at a pond?” objects Boodels. I return, settling to write again, “O no!” as if I generally gave double that sum. “What?” says Boodels. (He must be deaf.) I explain that I only said, “O no.” “‘O no!’ 54 What?” he asks, rather testily. I think he’s in a nasty temper: you never know a man well till you stay with him. Happy Thought that. I lay down my pen. “Well,” I explain, mildly, because it’s no use having a row with Boodels about this confounded pond, “I mean if the man has come to—to—or if he merely—why—that is, if the fellow—” I own I am wandering. Boodels notices it, and says, with some tinge of annoyance in his tone, “I came to ask your advice; I really thought you might have attended to me for one minute. You can’t be so busy as all that.” I feel hurt. Some people are easily moved to tears. A little more, and I should be moved to tears. As he is going out of the door (he’s hurt, too), he turns back, somewhat mollified, and asks me, “I say, if I give him a shilling, to-morrow, when he comes with the net, it will do, eh?” I say, enthusiastically, “Yes, that’ll do,—the very thing!” which only elicits from Boodels a “What?” and I have to repeat, encouragingly, “Yes, that’s the idea! A shilling to-morrow,—capital!” Boodels leaves me, and as he does so I feel a sort of pity for Boodels, I don’t know why, and then become sensible of a beast of a fly on my neck. Bother! Missed him! By the way, when you do miss a fly, can’t you hurt your ear tremendously! It’s a buzzing fly. I’ll get a book, and smash him. * * * * I have got a book, but I haven’t smashed him; at least, I don’t think so. * * * * I hate uncertainty as to whether you’ve killed an insect, or not. They turn up afterwards with three legs and one wing—a sort of Chelsea pensioner of an insect—in uncomfortable places. Think I had him 55 there. No. Had the ink, though. That’ll be a nuisance. Ink always hangs about the side of your little finger, and smears itself all about your papers after you think it’s all been dried up with care. Bless it! inked my light trousers conspicuously. Inked my wristband. Inked everything within reach. Brute of a fly! * * * *
Paragraph No. 2. “Man at once possible and impossible”—let me see—“man at once poss—” Knock at the door; I wish I could abstract myself. Knock again: appearance of Boodels’s head. “Only me, Sambo!” says Boodels. (What a fool Boodels is getting! but I laugh, because he’s my host; I shouldn’t if it was that donkey Milburd. For my part I don’t believe that black people go about grinning out “yah, yah,” and asking each other riddles and “gibbing’em up” like Boodels and Milburd do; or else where are the Missionaries? Happy Thought that.) Boodels comes in and says, kindly and seriously, “I wouldn’t disturb you, old boy, without first knocking, cos I know how busy you are.” I thank him, and say it doesn’t matter. “It’s very near luncheon-time,” says Boodels. Good heavens! and I’ve only written six lines. It appears that he came up to tell me this, and to ask if I’d like to lunch later, say at two. By all means. “What?” asks Boodels. (How provoking it is to hear a fellow always saying “what?”) I explain that I only said, “Yes, by all means,” and add, inadvertently, “as the old Duke of Cambridge used to say in Church.” “O, what’s that?” inquires Boodels, and I have to tell him the story, beginning “O, it was only that the old Duke once,” &c., and it doesn’t 56 come out well after all; besides, when I finish, it appears that Boodels knew it, only he thought it was something else.
Happy Thought.—To get up a few stories to tell well. Makes you popular in country houses. I find that every one knows this one about the old Duke of Cambridge. Willks, the butler, announces Mr. Milburd and another gentleman down stairs, just when Boodels had begun to recollect a story. Lucky, very. “Who is the other gentleman?” He didn’t catch the name, but Mr. Milburd has come to see about the pond. Boodels, wondering “who the other fellow is,” leaves, reminding me, “lunch at two.” Thank goodness! for the next hour, if there is an hour,—no, three quarters,—I shall be at peace.
Let me get into the swing again: now then. Read over first few lines. * * * * Good. Now: Paragraph 2. “Man at once possible and impossible was by his original destination—” Odd sound, now, as if people were creeping about on tiptoe outside my door. It is impossible to write when you’ve a nervous feeling of people hovering about you. Let me abstract myself. “Man at once possible—” Knock at the door. “Come in.” A tall gentleman appears in a shooting-suit, with very long light beard, reddish mustachios, and a slouching white hat in his hand. With him, Boodels. I have never seen the tall gentleman before: I rise. Boodels apologizes: “I told Captain,” name I don’t catch, “that we mustn’t disturb you, but he said as he’s going away almost immediately” (by the way, he was here the whole afternoon and then missed his train) “he’d like 57 to—” Here Boodels looks at the Captain, and that gentleman, evidently feeling that his opportunity has been thrust upon him rather too suddenly, pulls at his mustache, and says, with a short, jerky, nervous laugh, “Ya-ya, ya-as, ya, ya,” not unlike that Milburd’s boasted negro delineations, only that it’s natural. “You-ar-don’t r-remember me?” No, I don’t remember him. I try to, feeling that I ought to remember him. I smile and shake my head. I haven’t even the faintest recollection. He is somewhat taken aback by this non-recognition; I don’t wonder at it, seeing that I hear, afterwards, how, when he thought I was miles away, he had exclaimed on hearing my name, “Know him! I should think so. Ah, I should like to see him again.” He looks at me, almost imploringly. Boodels looks anyhow, and the tall man says, half defiantly, “My name’s Cawker.” His face bothered me, but his face and his name together have knocked me over.
Feeling that something hearty is expected of me, I say, radiantly, “O, of course, Cawker! How are you?” In fact, I am very nearly overdoing it upon the spot, and calling him Old Cawker. We shake hands heartily, and I suppose, to myself, that in the course of conversation he’ll let out where the dickens I’ve seen him before. Cawker laughs very nervously. “Ya-a-a—haven’t-a-a—seen you (he puts a for o very often, I notice, but this doesn’t recall him to my memory)—“far an age.” Then he laughs, and so does Boodels. Why? I answer steadily, “No, not since—” and I leave him to fill up the blank, which he does, unsatisfactorily, with a laugh. There we stop. After 58 a while, Captain Cawker, who has been staring at my papers, says cleverly, “Writing something, eh?” and laughs. I reply that I am writing something, “Yes.” He answers, “Ah, ya-a-as—not much in my line, writing.” I say, “No? Indeed?” flatteringly, to give him the idea that he might do it if he liked. Boodels comes to the rescue. It appears Cawker and I were schoolfellows. Ah, I know now. He used to be hated, and called “Snobby” Cawker, but I don’t remind him of this. “You’re so altered,” I tell him. “Ya-a-a-as,” he returns, conceitedly, stroking his red mustache, “Ya-a-a-as. You’re not. I recollect him” (here he turns to Boodels, and talks of me) “at school.” Here I begin to be interested. “He was a little, short, pudgy, fat fellow, all suetty.” I am obliged to laugh; but when he’s gone, I’ll tell Boodels that we used to call him “Snobby” Cawker at school. I wish I hadn’t said he was altered.
Boodels cuts in. “Well, come along, we mustn’t delay Cawker (who is a Captain too! Snobby Cawker a Captain? how the Army must be going down!) says, “Ya-as—leave him to his writing, ya-a-as,” and laughs. I feel as if I could give up writing there and then, and be transported for merely one kick at Cawker. Boodels wants Cawker to come and take a turn before lunch.
Happy Thought.—As I haven’t been able to get on with Typical Developments this morning, I’ll pretend to go to bed early, and work to-night. And as I only came here to see a little life, that is, I mean, see the pond dragged, if it isn’t dragged the day after to-morrow, I go. Luncheon bell.59
CHEZ BOODELS.—AFTER-DINNER SIESTA.—A PRIVATE READING.—A NIGHT WITH THE DOGS.—REPARTEEISM.—LEAVING BOODELS.
On this evening I will retire to my room early, to work at Typical Developments, Book I., Volume I., Section 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 2. I feel that if I don’t do it now, while I am in the vein, I never shall.
9.30 P. M.—We are alone, Boodels (of Boodels) and I, in the study. I shall leave Boodels, unless he drags the pond to-morrow, because that’s what I came down for. Boodels praises Milburd in his absence, as if he was disparaging me. I don’t like the tone. Shall leave Boodels unless he drags the pond to-morrow.
I am now sitting with my note-book in my hand, so as not to waste my time, watching Boodels. Boodels is apparently going to sleep in his arm-chair. Good. When Boodels is asleep, I shall retire very quietly to my room. It’s a bad habit, that of Boodels’s, sleeping after dinner. He is only dozing; if I move, he’ll wake. I’ll pretend to read; but I’ll watch. I am going to think, so as not to waste time. Can’t fix my thoughts. Something flits through my brain about Mesopotamia,—then fire-irons,—then cockles,—then—
* * * * *
I’ve been asleep. Boodels has gone.60
11 P. M.—Another evening passed, and no Typical Developments done. Willks, the butler, appears with my bed candle, and says that his master is smoking a cigar up stairs. I’ll just say “good night” to him, and then to work—to work in the silent night—at Typical Developments, Volume I., Book I., Section 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 2.
I find Boodels on a sofa, with all his dogs. They jump up and bark at me; all except the bull-dog, who creeps round me, smelling my calves.
This noise makes Boodels quite lively. He says, “O, don’t go to bed yet.” I plead “work.” He says, “Bring it in here.” Sha’n’t I disturb him? “Not in the least: he’d like it; wants to hear how I’m getting on.” I like Boodels when you’ve got him alone; he’s himself then. Evil Milburds corrupt good Boodels. I think of this while I fetch my MS. My paper is spread out: pens, ink, all ready.
My last sentence where I left off commences, “Man at once possible and impossible—” I stick there. Boodels is petting the dogs, and it distracts me. Seeing that it has this effect, Boodels considerately tells the dogs to lie down, and then he smokes solemnly. Somehow, this distracts me more than ever. I feel a strong desire to talk. I must get myself into the swing. Would Boodels mind my reading aloud just to get myself into the swing? “No: he’d like it immensely.”
Happy Thought.—Always try to interest your host.
I tell him that I consider him as representing a section 61 of the public, and I should like to have his opinion. “Candidly?” he asks. “Candidly,” I answer, “as a friend.” He says, “Very well; fire away.” I fire away. I read what I’ve done. * * * * Well, how does he like it? “Candidly?” he asks. Yes, of course. Well, then, he doesn’t like it at all. He doesn’t set up for a judge, he admits. I should think not. Boodels a judge of this sort of thing? Good heavens! I tell him that I don’t think he understands it. He answers, rather techily, “Very likely not.” I ask what passage he finds fault with? He answers that “he dislikes the idea.” I say, “Hang it! dislike the idea! That’s confoundedly illogical.” He replies, that he’s not a logician; and if he’d known I would have got so angry on hearing an honest opinion, why— “Angry! No, dash it! I’m not angry; because there’s nothing I like to hear better than an honest opinion; but I mean to say that if he dislikes this of mine, why, he wouldn’t care about Buckle’s History of Civilization, or Darwin’s ‘Book’” (I forget the name, so I call it “book”), “or Hume, or old Jeremy Bentham” (I like saying “old Jeremy,” it sounds familiar), “or the ancient metaphysical writers” (I think this will shake him a little), “or, in fact, any of those fellows.” I didn’t want to say “fellows,” feeling that it rather lowered the tone of my argument. Boodels rejoins, sharply, “Good heavens! you don’t mean to say you put yourself on a par with Darwin, and Buckle, and Bentham!” I don’t say I do. He says, “What?” I repeat, loudly, “I don’t say I do.” He takes me up—he is very nasty to-night, “Do, indeed! I should think not.” He adds, that he 62 doesn’t know what I mean by Typical Developments, and he supposes that I don’t either. I repress myself,—he is my host,—and luckily recollecting a repartee of Sheridan’s, or some one’s, which I’ve used successfully on several occasions, I say, with quiet satire, “My dear fellow, I can’t find you books and brains too.” Having said it, it strikes me that I hadn’t got the repartee quite right. Boodels returns, “Find brains for me! You must have sufficient difficulty in providing yourself with that article.” [N. B. On calm consideration, this is such an evident reply that I don’t think I could have got my repartee right. If I did say it right, why didn’t some one make that reply to Sheridan?
Happy Thought.—The wits of whom we hear so much were not such very sharp fellows, after all. For Typical Developments, Chapter XIII., when I get to it.]
Silence. Can’t see the answer to Boodels’s repartee. There must be one. Boodels takes his candle to go to bed. We shake hands. He’s a good fellow, after all, only he oughtn’t to talk about what he doesn’t understand. I regret, to myself, while shaking hands, that I can’t think of an answer to Boodels’s repartee. Something about “his not having any brains” would do it, but I can’t see my way. He makes a discovery. We’ve been talking so much, he’s quite forgotten to ring for Willks to take the dogs away. All servants in bed now. The pug always sleeps in his (Boodels’s) room, but the bull-dog and the terrier ought to be outside. I propose letting’em out. It 63 appears we can’t without disturbing the entire household in order to get the keys.
A happy thought, as he calls it, strikes Boodels. “He will take the pug and the terrier to his room, and I shall take the bull-dog and the Skye to mine.” He says, “It’s better than disturbing the whole household.” I don’t think so, but, under the circumstances, won’t make an objection. I hope the bull-dog will settle the matter for himself by refusing to follow me. This difficulty is obviated by Boodels carrying him. Boodels wishes me “good night,” and retires with his pug and the terrier.
12.30.—I am alone. The bull-dog and the Skye have not moved from the door. The Skye is sniffing, and the bull is watching me, mistrustfully. I’ll take no notice of them, but put on my dressing-gown, and sit down to write. While brushing my hair, I wish, for the fourth time, that I’d thought of an answer to Boodels’s repartee about brains.
Now for an hour’s quiet work. * * * * Both dogs have taken to sniffing, or whining, alternately. This’ll drive me distracted. I don’t like to turn them out in the passage, Boodels is so particular about his dogs. P’r’aps they’ll tire themselves out. Let me write. “Man, at once possible and impossible, took his origin from the pulverization of hitherto conflicting natural particles. Man was developed, slowly, among the ruins of a mammoth world, to rule the brute creation, to make the tawny lion bend before his iron will, to—” That infernal bull-dog has got on the bed; just on the part where the sheet is turned down,—in fact, where I get in. He is disposing himself for sleep. If the bull-dog 64 sleeps there, I don’t. I’ll wait till he’s asleep, and shake him off suddenly. I’ll bide my time. Let me see. “Man—to rule—to make the tawny lion bend before his iron will, to—subdue, by the mesmeric authority of his intelligent eye, the stupendous elephant, the” (leave a blank for a good epithet here) “rhinoceros, the untamed denizen of the Primeval Jungle, the—” The bull-dog is asleep. I approach the bed on tiptoe. He knows it, the beast; and growls, without taking the trouble to open his eyes! I retire to my chair. How am I to get into bed?
Happy Thought.—To open the door. Hang Boodels, I can’t help it if he likes it or not; they must go into the passage. I shall leave this to morrow. * * * * The scheme has succeeded,—they’ve gone. In the distance I hear them scratching at Boodels’s door and whining. To bed. Happy Thought.—Turn the key first. * * * * Savage knock: Boodels in a rage: why the deuce can’t I keep the dogs. Row: I won’t open the door. Wish for the fifth time that I could think of an answer to his repartee about brains: it would have just come in now. I shall certainly go to-morrow: Boodels is rude.
Next Morning.—First post: two letters. In consequence of my not deciding to take the Old Feudal Castle with the shooting, the landlord has let it, and the shooting, separately, to my friend Childers and a party. I know Childers, but not the party: will write to him. A Feudal Castle must be so calm and retired. And then the moat and the bastions! charming. The other letter is from Mrs. 65 Plyte Fraser. An invitation to Furze Lodge. “We shall be so delighted to see you, and I dare say you will be able to pick up some character here: our neighborhood abounds in curiosities.” Clever woman. After all, one must have female society. To see much of Boodels and Milburd, Cawker and dogs, has a very deteriorating effect on one’s mind. I’ll accept Mrs. Fraser’s note, at once: in fact, telegraph, and go to-day.
Happy Thought.—Tip the butler: he’s really been very civil, so has the footman. So has every one: tip every one. Difficult thing to do neatly. One ought to make some pretence about it: say, for instance, to the butler, “Here’s half a sovereign for you to buy ribbons,” or shoes, or neckties, or something. I have tipped them,—awkwardly, I’m aware: they took it condescendingly. Boodels is sulky today; Milburd looks in to know about dragging the pond; Boodels doesn’t know. I should like to try Sheridan’s repartee on Milburd, and see what he says. The Fly has come. Boodels doesn’t say he’ll be glad to see me again. Milburd makes an ass of himself by pretending to embrace me and then cry bitterly.
Happy Thought.—Never ask a friend’s opinion on one’s original MS. Leads to difficulties.
Happy Thought in Railway Carriage.—I’ve thought of the answer to Boodels’s repartee. When he said that about “my not being able to find him in brains,” I ought to have 66 said, “Brains! don’t talk of what you know nothing about.” That would have done him; I wish I was quicker at thinking of these things. I must practise repartee.
Happy Thought.—Having nothing to do in the carriage, I’ll begin practising repartee with myself, in my note-book.
Let’s suppose cases. 1st Hypothesis. Some one says to me, “What a fool you are!” Now, what’s the repartee for that? I don’t know what I should say exactly. There must be an answer to it of some sort. To return “Not such a fool as you are” sounds rather weak; at least it isn’t the brilliant style of repartee that I want to have at my fingers’ ends. I’ll try it on somebody presently, and see what he says. Better try it on a boy; some sharp lad, not too big.
Suppose another. 2nd Hypothesis. Some one says to me, “Why, you’ve got no more brains than a cat.” What should I reply to that. Something about “cat”; I don’t quite see what, but that’s the line of thought for the repartee to that. Odd, how slow I am at this sort of thing: I must practise.
Happy Thought.—As I can’t see any little boy, I’ll try “What a fool you are!” on some sharp-looking railway porter, just as we’re moving away from the next station. * * * * Now * * * * I have tried it: I thought we were moving on, but we were only taking on fresh carriages or something, and came back to the same place. The man, a herculean porter, was at my window again in a second, very 67 angry. “If I’d come out there” (he meant on the platform), “he’d show me if he was a fool or not.” He got quite a crowd round the door. I couldn’t give him a shilling, because every one was looking. The Station-master came up for my name and address. I tried to explain that it was merely a sort of witticism, but the policeman, with the Station-master, said it was wilfully provoking an assault. The porter wouldn’t take an apology. I have left my card. This doesn’t help me with repartees: I must think’em out for myself.
London Terminus.—To another station on my road to Mrs. Fraser’s. Repartee with cabman about fare. Cabman had the best of it in strong language. He finished up by crying out, at the top of his voice, “Call yourself a man! Why, I’m blanked if I ain’t seen a better man than you made out of blanky tea-leaves!” There was a shout of laughter from every one at this, and he drove off before I could get up a repartee. There must be one to this. I’ll get a good one, and be ready with it. Off by train again.68
FROM THE LONDON TERMINUS TO CHOPFORD STATION, AND FARTHER THAN THAT.
Chopford is the station for Furze Lodge or Cottage, or Furze Heath Lodge or Cottage. I’ve lost the address, but recollect that whatever else it is or isn’t, it’s certainly Furze something or other.
Happy Thought.—To buy a little book for addresses only, and keep it in my pocket. Or have a pocket made for it. That reminds me I was going to have a special pocket made for railway tickets.
Luggage to be labelled “Chopford,” immediately. Porter says it’s no good labelling it immediately, as the train doesn’t go for two hours. It appears that only the very slowest trains, which have nothing better to do, stop at Chopford. But I say, “There’s one at twelve.” “Was one at twelve,” he corrects me, adding, that “if he’d known as I was going by the Chopford train when I was talking to the cabman, he’d a told me as there warn’t time to spare.” It was trying; that confounded repartee lost me the train. A policeman says, affably, “Late, sir! Very unfortunate, sir. There’s a nice refreshment-room for waitin’ in, sir,” and he offers to conduct me thither. I know what he means. He wants a glass of beer. I hate 69 such sycophancy. I reply, sternly, “No! I don’t want the infernal refreshment-room. I want the train.” A Hansom cabman (impudent fellows those Hansom cabmen, because they’re so high up) says, jocosely, “Have a ride, sir? it’ll cool your temper.” I should like to have had something ready for that. That’s what I want,—ready wit. I must get some ready. Good subject, by the way, for a chapter in Typical Developments, Book VI., Vol. III., Ch. 10, Par. 1, when I come to it; heading, “Ready Wit. Its Origin. In Use among the Ancients. Examples in Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Life.”
Happy Thought.—Might compile a small Handbook of Repartees for Travellers.’Twould make a most useful pocket-companion, with marginal references to Typical Developments.
Happy Thought.—Kill two books with one pen.
Happy Thought.—I’ll have plenty of marginal references in my book. I like them. I’ll arrange this Handbook of Repartees alphabetically. Thus, A: What comes under A? Armorer. Well, there you are, repartee for an armorer. Also (so as to be quite fair), repartee to be said to an armorer. B. What’s B? Baker. Butcher. Repartee for baker or to baker; ditto for butcher or to butcher. C stands for cook. Capital little manual for cooks and housekeepers in conversation with tradesmen. There might be permutations and combinations with bakers and butchers and cooks. This opens up a large subject. Will try a little 70 book specially for notes on repartees, to put in my pocket. Might have a pocket made on purpose for it: also for railway tickets and addresses.
Nearly two hours to wait at the Terminus. My life seems to be cast among railway officials. Dull work waiting: no man with a note-book can be dull: I am, though. I might as well have remained at Boodels as waste my time here. Perhaps if I had stopped he’d have dragged the pond. On second thoughts, it was better to come away when I did. Never stop too long at a friend’s, or they won’t regret your leaving. I dare say Boodels misses me. Don’t know, though; dare say he doesn’t. I think he’d miss me if it wasn’t for Milburd: Milburd’s an ass. Time goes very slowly at a station.
Happy Thought on seeing the Book-stall.—One can pick up a great deal of knowledge from desultory reading. Take out the last new books as if you were going to buy them; read a page here and there. You can get an idea of most of them in ten minutes; at least, enough for ordinary conversation. For instance, when Mrs. Fraser, who reads everything (well-informed woman, Mrs. Fraser), says to me, “Have you read Felix Holt?” I am able to reply, “Well, I’ve not had time to go right through it,” having, in point of fact, read not more than three pages in the first volume, in consequence of the stall-keeper’s becoming rather annoyed at my taking down ten books one after another without buying. I sha’n’t tell Mrs. Fraser this. Some one at dinner will suppose that “Of course, you’ve read Sir Samuel Baker’s book,” and I am enabled to reply, “Well, 71 um, not all of it,” as if I’d only got one chapter more to finish. This is an age of cheap literature. Mine is, perhaps, the cheapest form of acquiring superficial knowledge. Happy Thought.—Go and see a train off. They won’t let me on to the platform without a ticket. * * * * Been doing nothing for the last quarter of an hour. Happy Thought.—Go and see a train come in: might pick up character. Can’t: too much noise. Back to book-stall. Man objects to my taking any more volumes down, and suggests his terms of subscription. I have not pacified him by the purchase of a penny paper. Dull work even with a note-book.
Happy Thought.—I don’t know much about locomotives. Will go and talk to a stoker. I walk up (having eluded the official, at the wicket, on the pretence of seeing a friend off by this train) to an engine. On it are two dirty men: I don’t know which is the stoker. Say, the dirtier. Happy Thought.—To open the conversation by making some remark about steam. I say to him, “It’s a wonderful invention.” One grins at me, and the other winks, knowingly. Odd, this levity in stokers; that is, if they’re both stokers. Whistle—shriek: they are off. The train passes me. I feel inclined to wave my hand to the passengers. A funny man in the second-class nods familiarly to me and says, “How’s the Missus, and the shop, eh?” Guards on platform laugh: I’ve nothing to say. A repartee ought to have flashed out of my mouth, like an electric spark; but it didn’t. Gone—I am lonely again. The Guards are telling other Guards what the second-class man said to me: they enjoy it—I don’t. Wish I was at Boodels. * * * * 72 Been doing nothing for another quarter of an hour. Other trains starting and arriving. Happy Thought.—Take some luncheon. Inspecting the refreshment counter I note pork-pies whole, pork-pies in halves, flies, pork-pies in quarters, with parsley, Bath buns, plain buns, more flies, ham sandwiches, two blue-bottles, acidulated drops (what sort of passengers refresh themselves with acidulated drops?), cuts of chickens and sprigs of parsley, flies, salad in little plates, pickled something in the fish line, cakes with currants, crowds of flies. Indecision. * * * * Wasted another quarter of an hour. Young women behind the counter sewing, and stopping to giggle. More indecision. Happy Thought.—Ask for Abernethy biscuit: this leads to a request for ginger-beer.
Both together lead me to wish that I hadn’t asked for either. I should think they keep their ginger-beer near an oven. * * * * Another quarter of an hour gone. I wish I’d stopped at Boodels. At all events, being here insures me against all hurry and bustle when my train does start. It suddenly occurs to me that I’ve never been inside St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey. There’s another three quarters of an hour good. Which shall I go to? One ought to see these things. * * * * P’r’aps I’d better leave it for another day. Indecision. The comfort is, that here I am in plenty of time for my Chopford train. * * * * Another quarter of an hour gone. Horrid ginger-beer that was. * * * * I suddenly find that it’s just ten minutes to two, when my Chopford train starts. Hurry. Get my luggage. As much rushing about as if I’d only just arrived, and was late. Porter fetches somebody else’s luggage out of the Parcels’ Room. 73 Rush to the train. In the carriage with five other people. Guard looks in. “All here for Pennington and Tutcombe?” Happy Thought.—To correct him, rather funnily, by saying, “I am ‘all here’ for Chopford.” His reply is startling,—“The Chopford train’s on the other side.” I am conscious of not coming out of the carriage well. I wish I hadn’t been funny at first; or wish I could have kept it up when getting out, so that the people might miss me when I’d gone! One ought to have good things ready for these occasions. Must get some up.
At last fairly off for Chopford. After all it’s just as well I didn’t sleep at Boodels. Horrid ginger-beer that was. Boodels used to give us capital luncheons. I rather enjoyed myself at Boodels. It’s impossible to make notes in a train. On referring to some I made the other day, all the letters appear to be “w”’s and “y”’s straggling about I’ll get my MSS. out of my desk and look over them. “Man at once possible and impossible,” Vol. I., Book I., Section 1, Ch. 1, Paragraph No. 2. * * * * I’m tired: never can sleep in a train. * * * * Am awoke by somebody getting in. He begs pardon for disturbing me. I say, “O, not at all.” Shriek—whistle: on we go. “Beautiful country, this,” observes my companion: I assent. Happy Thought.—Ask where we are. He replies, “This is all the Chopford country.” Lucky I awoke. “The next station is Chopford?” I inquire. “O no,” he answers, “where we stopped just now. I got in at Chopford.”
Confound it, I wished to goodness I’d stopped at Boodels.74
SLUMBOROUGH FOR CHOPFORD.—RAILWAY SUGGESTIONS.—OFFICIALS.—CARRIAGE FOR FURZE LODGE.—A LIVE DUKE.
My lot, as I have before remarked, seems to be cast among railway officials. I am obliged to get out at Slumborough, and I have to go back to Chopford, which we passed while I was asleep.
Memorandum for suggestion to Railway Authorities.—At any station, if the guards see a passenger asleep, they ought to wake him. Or there might be—a very Happy Thought this—there might be a set of officials, called Shakers, attached to every train, whose duty, whenever it stopped, should be to go into all the carriages, shake any one they might find asleep, and ask him where he’s going.
Happy and Poetical Thought.—Female shakers might wake the gentlemen, and win gloves. No shaker to be eligible over six-and-twenty.
It’s an out-of-the-way place, is Slumborough station. No one to talk to. Let me observe. There’s a porter, who is always whistling; an impulsive Station-master, who won’t be stopped to be spoken to, he’s so busy; a potato-garden, 75 a small neat cottage, three broken, helpless-looking trucks, the commencement of an unfinished line, with the ends of its rails turning upwards towards the sky, as if that had been their destination. I may note down as a
Happy Thought.—That this is a sort of Tower of Babel line. When this idea comes to be developed, Vol. IV., Book VIII., Chap. 1, Typical Developments, it will be very poetical. Odd, how full of poetry I am to-day. This is the second poetical thought I’ve had within the last half-hour.
Happy Thought.—Ask the porter, in order to get at statistics, “How many trains pass here in a day?” He stops his whistle, about four bars from the end of the tune, I should say, and answers, “If you look at the time-table, it’s all up there,” and then he starts a fresh tune. An express passes, and I wonder if there’s any one I know in it. The porter takes another turn at the truck, and then strolls into the potato-garden, and kicks the potatoes. P’r’aps this is the process of gardening in this part of the country. (“Agriculture,” Typical Developments, Vol. III., Book VI.) I should like to talk to the Station-master. I go inside. Office shut up. Behind the partition I hear the scratching of a pen and rustling of paper. He is then, probably, hard at work. While I am thinking this, the door in the partition opens, and he comes out briskly. I say to him, “Can you tell He replies, impulsively, “Yes, there’s the time-table,” and goes out on the platform. In a minute he is back again, as brisk as ever. I address him, 76 “Will the train—” He replies, with his hand on the brass knob of his door, “Office open five minutes before train comes,” and disappears. More scratching of pen and rustling of paper within. There is a large clock with an impressive tick. I compare my watch with it, and, though I arrive at no conclusion on the subject, feel satisfied at having done something.
In the Waiting-Room.—Dreary. Wonder if Boodels’s butler packed up my sponge? Hate uncertainty in these matters, but don’t like to unpack in the station. I’ll go into the office, and see if my portmanteau is there. No. Where? Of course taken out at Chopford. I shall see it there, at least I hope so. The pigeon-hole suddenly opens, and the Station-master appears. Now’s the time for conversation, and picking up character and materials. I have several questions to ask him. I say, “I want to know first—” He catches me up impulsively, “First, where for?” “Chopford,” I answer, and before I can explain the accident which has brought me to Slumborough, he has dashed at a blue ticket, thumped it in one machine, banged it in another, and has produced it cut, printed, double-stamped, and all complete for authorizing me to go to Chopford. “One and a penny,” says he. I explain that “I don’t want it, because—” He listens to nothing more, but sits down at his desk, pounces upon a large book, which he opens and shoves aside, then seizes a pen, and begins adding up something on one sheet of paper and putting down the result on another. While he is engaged in this, I see the telegraphic needles working. He is too absorbed to 77 notice it.’T will be only kindness on my part to direct his attention to it. I say, “Do you know, sir,—” He is up in an instant, with a pen behind his ear. He evidently doesn’t recognize me. “Eh, First? where for?” I can’t help saying, “Yes, Chopford; but—” when he dashes as before at the stamping-machines, and produces, like a conjuring trick, another ticket for Chopford. That’s two tickets for Chopford, and a third I’ve got in my pocket. I tell him I don’t want it, and am adding, “I don’t know if you observed the telegraph-needles—” when he sits down, evidently in a temper, growling something about, “if you want to play the fool, go somewhere else.” I’d say something sharp if he wasn’t at work, but I never like disturbing a man at work. Stop, I might ask him, it wouldn’t take a second, how far it is from Chopford to Furze. I approach the pigeon-hole; I say, mildly, “If you would oblige me, sir, for one second—” He is up again more impulsively than ever. “One, Second. Thought you said First,” and before I can point out his mistake he has banged, thumped, and produced for the third time a ticket to Chopford, only now he says, “Tenpence,” that being the reduction on Second class. I am really afraid of making him very violent, so I buy the ticket. What a sad thing to have such a temper, and be a station-master!
The Train arrives.—Hurrah! For Chopford at last. Now do the Frasers live at Furze Lodge or Cottage?
Chopford Station.—Get out Official receives my ticket Very nearly getting into a difficulty with him, as I have tendered my Second-class ticket from Slumborough to Chopford, 78 and he saw me get out of the First-class carriage. * * * * What an agony it puts one in not to be able to find the proper ticket. * * * * Right at last. I’ve often said I must have a regular pocket made for tickets, and so I must. Luggage here. No name on it, but labelled Chopford. I am going to Furze Lodge, I tell him: because if it isn’t Furze Lodge and is Furze Cottage he’ll correct me. The official is most civil. “Furze Lodge, O, of course.” The Frasers are evidently well known, and highly respected. “The carriage for Furze Lodge is waiting, sir, to take you. Here’s the footman.” He takes me up to a tall menial in a handsome livery and a cockade. (I note that the Frasers are going it.) The menial touches his hat, on the Station-master introducing me politely as “the gentleman for Furze.” A porter puts my luggage into the carriage, and I put myself in after it. The coachman touches his hat on seeing me, the footman bangs the door, the Station-master salutes me, the porter interests himself in my welfare to inquire if I’ve got everything, which simply means sixpence for himself. (Note for travelling. Always carry threepenny bits.)
My spirits rise. Such a carriage! Damask lining: softest cushions. I suppose Fraser is a Deputy-Lieutenant or something, or else why should the servants wear cockades? It can’t be to impose upon the country people. No, Fraser’s above that. He is not a snob.
We enter Furze gates. Pretty little lodge at the gate. Old woman comes out and bobs a courtesy to me. Nice old woman. I bow to her and smile. For a moment I imagine myself the Prince of Wales. It must be very tiring to go 79 on bowing and smiling: but gratifying. Deer in the park. Old timber.
Happy Thought.—I must get up my sketching again, and practice trees. Splendid oaks. Chestnuts. Cows. Two laborers: or peasants. What’s the difference between laborer and peasant? One’s real, and the other poetical. (Query this in Vol. IV., Typical Developments.) They touch their hats respectfully to me. I return, graciously. Feel like George the Fourth in that picture of him on the sofa. More gates. What a delicious place Fraser has! Knowing him and his wife only in town, where they take lodgings for a month in the season, I had no idea he was so wealthy. (N. B. Never judge a man by his merely taking lodgings in London for the season.)
An artistically planted flower-garden. A lawn, like a soft green carpet without a wrinkle in it, laid out for Croquet exclusively. On it is a Croquet party. They are in fancy costumes; from which I gather it is a Croquet Club. Charming! I shall enjoy this. Mrs. Plyte Fraser, too, is such a nice person. All clever people here, I’ll be bound, or they wouldn’t do this sort of thing; because there is originality about it. Delightful; simply delightful! I think I see Fraser and Mrs. Fraser among the party. I wave my hand. I feel exhilarated. I shout, “How are you? how are you?” Meaning Fraser, who of course can’t answer at that distance, but will take the inquiry for what it’s meant. I like being hearty with people.
Here we are at the door of Furze Lodge. A gray-headed 80 butler descends, solemnly; he is like a clergyman, indeed, for the matter of that, an archbishop. Livery opens the carriage door. The archbishop stands on the steps as if about to impart a benediction. I should like to kneel to him.
Happy Thought.—If I do get up my sketching, I’ll draw a picture of Hospitality in the Olden Time. Arrival of Pilgrims at the Archbishop’s.
More livery servants. Fraser must be very rich. (I have time to make a note or two while they are engaged with my luggage.) The butler tells the servants “The Blue Room,” and I think of Fatima and Baron Abomelique. (N. B. Another subject for a sketch.) I see my packages being carried up the grand old oaken staircase adorned with portraits of Fraser’s ancestors, all with very white hands and pointed finger-tips. This is just the place I like. Beautiful!!! I address the butler for the first time, having given my hat, coat, and umbrella to a livery, who has disappeared with them. In an off-hand manner, in order to show that I am accustomed to all this grandeur, and am quite one of the family, I ask him, “Are they in?” He replies, benignly, “I was to show you to the study, sir, directly you came.” I answer, “O, very well,” and then inquire, also in an off-hand manner, “Who’s in the Croquet ground?” The butler calmly replies, “There’s Lord Adolphus, sir, and Lady Adela, they only came down this morning; there’s Mr. Aylmer, Captain Doodley, Miss Ascutt, Colonel Lyne, Lady Tulkorne and Miss , and 81 the family, sir. His Grace hasn’t been able to go out, sir, for three days.” I had no idea the Frasers did this sort of thing. What a letter I shall write to old Boodels about the place! He’ll be precious glad to get me back again to Boodels, thinking I’ll introduce him to the Frasers. But I won’t, or perhaps I will, and astonish him. That vulgar fellow Milburd wouldn’t get on here. I note this while in a library, where the butler has left me, while he prepares his master for my coming. From what the butler says I fancy poor Fraser has got the gout. “The gout,” the reverend domestic has casually observed, “does make an invalid very irritable.” He returns and motions me towards a door artfully concealed from view by sham book-shelves. I enter, prepared to say, “Well, old boy, I’m sorry to see you like this,” when the butler announces me softly, so softly that I cannot hear what he says, to the invalid, who is in a large comfortable chair, swathed in flannels. The room is partially darkened, and I see that noisy heartiness is out of the question.
I go up to him. “Well, Doctor,” says he, groaningly, “glad you’ve come.” Fancy of his to call me doctor, I suppose. What a change: Fraser’s voice is quite altered. Happy Thought.—To reply, “Well, I hope I shall be a good doctor to you, old fellow. Cheer you up a bit.”
He turns round sharply and almost fiercely. “Who the ——?” * * * *
It isn’t Fraser; and I’ve never seen his face before in my life.
* * * * *82
I have been shown out. There is a very simple explanation, and this is it. The Frasers live at Furze Cottage, but at Furze Lodge resides his Grace the Duke of Slumborough, who is now suffering from a complicated gout, and to whom I have just been presented. * * * *
His Grace, being irritable, won’t listen to apologies. The butler, who is the major domo of the establishment, receives his dismissal on the spot. * * * * I don’t exactly know what to do. The butler is still in the study with his Grace, and I am in the library. As all the doors, I now observe, are concealed by sham book-shelves, the general effect is that there are no doors at all. When I do get out, how shall I obtain my luggage from the Blue Room? How can I face the butler? No more Archbishop’s benediction. Subject for sketch, Archbishop Cursing Pilgrims: companion picture to the other. Very uncomfortable. How can I defend my presence in the library to the Duchess if she comes? Dreadful! I must (as I have said often before) get an address book, and write them all down. When I get out of this infernal hole I will. I thought the Frasers couldn’t live here. * * * *
Happy Thought.—Out at last. Son of the family found me. Introduces himself; Lord Heath. Has heard of the mistake. My luggage is all down and put into pony chaise. Will I take anything before I go? Mr. Fraser’s cottage is not far from here, he says, a pretty place. In fact, it is on his father’s estate. His father, the Duke, has been ill for some time; it makes him very irritable. Yes. Hope I’ll enjoy myself at Furze Cottage. Good by. I am driven off 83 by a groom in a small pony carriage, which is just large enough to hold us and my luggage. I am conscious of the eyes of the Croquet party. I don’t wave my hand this time. The pony is very slow. Lord Heath has joined his friends. I hear them laughing. I feel savage with the aristocracy generally. I could be a Democrat, if it wasn’t for the groom by my side, who is inclined to treat me flippantly. Silence and Thought. We drive out of the Lodge Gate. The old woman doesn’t courtesy. Sycophant!84
NOTES WRITTEN DOWN SOON AFTER MY ARRIVAL AT FRASER’S.—I MEET SOME YOUNG LADIES.—CROQUET.—CHILDREN.
The groom who took me in the pony carriage was not quite certain which was Furze Cottage. After going up a considerable hill, we came to a door which seemed to appear suddenly out of a plantation. There was nothing outside to indicate that it belonged to the Frasers or anybody else. Here I find notes made on the spot.
Pretty place, if Fraser’s or any one’s. Honeysuckles, creepers, and crawlers all over the wall.
Happy Thought.—Must learn the names of plants. Typical Developments, Vol. VII., to be entirely devoted to Floriculture.
See a small window: a child appears at it. I call out to him, is this Mr. Fraser’s? Whereupon he makes faces at me. Little idiot. I repeat my question, and he repeats his faces. I threaten him, when he suddenly disappears, having, as I hope, tumbled off a chair. If this is the Frasers’, they have children, or, at all events, one child, who makes faces at visitors. I don’t like this.85
Why the groom, on seeing the child, should say, “O yes, this is Furze Cottage,” I don’t know: on looking again at the window I catch sight of a comely nursery-maid, and from certain indications on her countenance I am inclined to think that the groom is upon, at all events, winking terms with the domestic. The groom gets out to ring the bell while I hold the reins. I am glad when he has rung, and is at the pony’s head.
Happy Thought.—Must practise my driving.
A youngish butler opens the door, he lacks the stateliness of the archbishop at Furze Lodge, but he is dapper and genial; and a butler should be genial. Wishing to do things well for the sake of the Frasers, and with a view to reading the Duke’s groom the useful lesson that a menial mustn’t despise any one who may happen to be shown out of a nobleman’s house, I give him half a crown. I watch the effect upon him. None, visibly. Turning suddenly, a few seconds afterwards, I am confident I saw him with the half-crown in his right eye, pretending to ogle the nurserymaid at the window. Analyzing this act subsequently, (with a view to materials for chapter on “Human Nature,”) I find in it ingratitude, immorality, and tomfoolery. [Query. Why Tom-foolery? Why not Henry-foolery or John-foolery? Must think over this, and startle the world when I’ve found it out.]
Happy Thought.—That groom’s a Lothario. Who was Lothario? Useful thing to get a history of him. Everybody 86 is hearty at Fraser’s. The butler and the footman are hearty. They get out my luggage heartily. They hang up my hat, on a peg in the hall, heartily. The butler, putting down my hat-box, “thinks that that’s all,” heartily. The footman thinks yes, that that is all, very heartily. They smile at one another and breathe, heartily. I begin to feel hearty myself. The load of the aristocracy is off me, now that the Duke’s groom (much worse than the Duke as oppressing me, until I saw him with my coin in his right eye) is gone. I notice that there are about ten pairs of little shoes, and hoops, and hoopsticks in the hall. The Frasers have evidently a large family. Didn’t know this before. Mrs. Plyte Fraser comes in from the garden. She talks in italics, most heartily. “So glad to see me: so delighted: so sorry if I hadn’t come: should never have forgiven me: never. You’ll have a cup of tea? We’re just come in to have tea: and a chat: so long since we’ve had a chat.” Mrs. Fraser then gives some directions about Master Adolphus coming down to dinner, and the others to dessert. Very large family, I’m afraid. Asking for Fraser, I am told he is arranging a bin. I like Mrs. Plyte Fraser. She is thoroughly appreciative. She is fond of literature, specially of the higher walks in which I am engaged, and she interests herself in what interests me. I shall get her to give me an opinion on the first Chapter of Typical Developments. A clever woman’s opinion is worth a great deal; and then, of course, she represents a class. Now my mistake in appealing at all to Boodels was, that he didn’t represent anybody.87
Odd question for Mrs. Fraser to put to me, almost directly we are in the drawing-room, “So you’re not married yet?” I laugh, and reply, “No, I’m not married yet,” having, in fact, no other answer ready. She returns, knowingly, “Well, we’ll see what we can do for you.” I smile, but I don’t quite like this style of conversation. Analyzing it, subsequently, for materials for chapter on “Human Nature,” I find in it frivolity and curiosity. I take this opportunity, while we are sipping our tea, of informing Mrs. Fraser how hard at work I am on Typical Developments. She says, “O, she should like to see it so much! I must read it to her”; and adds slyly, “I’m sure it’s romantic; I do like anything really romantic.”
She is so enthusiastic on the subject that I don’t feel inclined to explain that it has nothing to do with romance, but say dubiously, as if I hadn’t quite made up my mind about it, “Well, no, not perhaps exactly romantic, that is, in the sense you mean.” She was at me in a moment, she is so quick, “Romantic in another sense? I don’t quite understand.” Being unable to put it in a clearer light, I say, smiling mysteriously, “You shall see,” which pacifies her for the time.
Happy Thought.—I’ll throw in a little romantic touch here and there before I read it to her. Perhaps it would improve it: on consideration, I don’t quite see how.
Here three young ladies join us. The Misses Symperson and Miss Florelly. I wish Mrs. Fraser wouldn’t introduce me as “a gentleman of whose literary fame you’ve often 88 heard, I’ve no doubt.” It is so awkward when people don’t know anything about you. This was the case with the Sympersons and Miss Florelly: rather stupid girls, except the second Miss Symperson. There’s a something about her which attracts me. Why? When Mrs. Fraser makes the introductory speech above recorded, I laugh and say, “O no, no, no!” as if their ignorance of me was just pardonable, and that’s all.
Happy Thought.—I must get something published at once, because, then, when you are introduced as above, you can refer to some work or other that every one knows something about. But if you’re introduced as a gentleman of great literary fame, and on being asked what you’ve written are obliged to reply “nothing,” it makes one look so foolish. I don’t say “nothing,” I qualify it; I reply, “I have published nothing, though I have written a great deal,” and then I depreciate publication as merely a gratification of personal vanity. [Happy Thought.—Wonder if Mr. Bradshaw is introduced as the author of the celebrated Railway Guide?] This was what I said to Miss Harding, who is another young lady at the Frasers’, supposed to be very clever and very sharp, and asked, I find, on my account. Miss Harding replies, “Gratification of personal vanity! then Milton, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, Bacon, Chaucer, simply gratified their vanity? for they all published. You surely can’t mean that?” I do not mean that, or at least I didn’t expect to be taken up so quickly, and wish to goodness she wouldn’t talk so loud, as Mrs. Fraser and every 89 one in the room is listening. I feel that I am placed on my mettle: by a girl only eighteen too! I reply, “No, they were not vain,—and when I said that publication was a gratification of vanity, I did not suppose for one minute you would understand it literally.” Every one, I see, is satisfied with this answer: she is not. “If not literally,” she returns, “how do you mean it,—metaphorically?” I reply, seeing that everybody is waiting for me to crush her, “Well, you see, you must analyze the motives which prompt a man of high cultivation and lofty, soul-stirring aspirations to—” Here Plyte Fraser himself comes in, from the wine-cellar. He dusts himself, and shakes hands with me apologetically, “Glad to see you—don’t let me interrupt you.” I say, “No, no, not at all.” “Ah,” says he to Miss Harding, “you get him to sing to you ‘The Little Pig jumped over the Wall.’ It’s capital,—he does the squeak, and everything.” Miss Harding raises her eyebrows, and I protest I don’t sing now,—that I’ve given it up. Plyte Fraser insists: “You’ll give it us this evening,—squeak and all,—and we’ll have the children down to hear it.” Here he slaps me gently on the back. He’s stopped too long in the wine-cellar; a little tasting is a dangerous thing. I must take the first opportunity I can of explaining to Fraser that I am not a buffoon.
Mrs. Fraser and the other ladies are in the garden. One of the boy Frasers, nine years old, is there. I don’t know how many children they have: on inspection, I don’t think this is the one who made faces at me from the window. We join them. At any other time I should have disdained 90 croquet, but a man who does the pig and the squeak (confound Fraser’s memory!) cannot affect to be above simple lawn sport like croquet. Miss Florelly says to me sweetly during the game, “O, I do hope you’ll sing that song about the pig. Mr. Fraser says you wrote it yourself. It’s wonderful to me how you can think of such clever things.” Here’s a reputation: not as the author of Typical Developments, but the writer of “The Little Pig jumped,” who sings it, and does the squeak himself! When shall I be known in my true character? When will my lofty aspirations be recognized? I think all this in a corner of the croquet ground, and I find myself frowning horribly.
Here I am called upon to push a ball through a hoop: I fail. The boy Fraser says, “You can’t play as well as I can,” and is told not to be rude. Miss Harding not only laughs at me, but hits me (I mean my ball) to the other end of the ground. The boy Fraser then alters his remark, “You can’t play as well as Miss Harding, you can’t.” I say, with a dash of sentiment, wishing to be friends with her, “You’ve sent me a long way off, Miss Harding,” and she replies, curtly, “Yes, terrible, isn’t it?” The boy Fraser, whom I begin to detest, says, “You can’t run as fast as I can.” I nod to him pleasantly, to propitiate the boy, but he only asks, “What do you mean by that?” and imitates me. I have to run across the ground: I am conscious of not appearing to advantage when running. I wish that croquet had never been invented: I feel that I am scowling again: it strains me to smile. Now at Boodels’s one wasn’t bothered to play at croquet with women 91 and children. I must explain to Mrs. Fraser that I want to have as much time as possible to myself for writing, and I can’t be playing croquet all day. Fraser himself doesn’t play, and I’m the only man here. He looks into the ground for one minute, and says, “Hullo, getting on all right?” I reply, smilingly, “O yes, all right,” and he disappears into the cellar again, I believe, as the next time I see him is in the hall, with a couple of cobwebby bottles in his hands. Bell: thank heaven: dinner-time. The worst of being the only man with five ladies is that one has to pick up all the croquet-balls, put the mallets back in the box, draw the stumps, and carry the whole lot of things into the house. The boy Fraser refuses to assist me, and says, “Pick’em up yourself.” Nice child, this! I should like to pinch him, or box his ears; but I’m afraid, he’d make such a noise.
Happy Thought while dressing for Dinner.—To tell Fraser quietly that I don’t care about croquet, and then he’ll get me out of it another time. Hope there’s not a party at dinner. Hope he’s forgotten all about asking me to sing “The Little Pig.” * * * * Lost a stud. Can’t find it anywhere. This is annoying. Hate going down hot and uncomfortable to dinner. Ring bell. Footman, after some delay, answers it. He brings up hot water (which I’ve had before) and announces that dinner will be ready in five minutes. We both look for the stud. He thinks his master has a set, though he don’t generally wear’em. While he is gone, I find that the stud is missing which fastens my 92 collar. Ring the bell again. This causes another bell to ring. Hate giving trouble in a strange house. Little boy Fraser comes to the door as the butler enters with more hot water. The horrid boy makes remarks on my dress. I tell the domestic my difficulty. Master doesn’t wear studs, it appears. The boy Fraser is overhauling the things on my table. I ask him to leave my comb alone, and he goes to the brushes. The footman (with more hot water, not knowing the butler was there) says the Maid would pin it on, if that would do? That must do. The boy Fraser is putting hair-oil on my clean pocket-handkerchief. He thinks it’s scent. Another minute and the Maid appears. Shall she sew on a button? “Is there time?” I ask. “Well, she’ll try,” she answers, and goes for the button. I implore the boy Fraser, who is now trying on my boots, to go away. He won’t. The dinner-bell rings. Now I’m keeping them waiting. Boy Fraser informs me that he’s coming down to dessert. Maid returns. What a time sewing takes! Painful attitude it is to stand in, with your head in the air, and trying all the while to see what a mischievous child is doing with your watch. Done at last. White tie won’t come right. Dash it, let it come wrong. Rush down to the drawing-room. Obliged to leave horrid boy in my room. I stop on the stairs. Forgotten my watch. Run up again. Rescue it from boy, who was going to examine the works with the aid of my gold pin. Luckily one of his nurses appears. I leave them to fight it out, and rush down stairs again. At drawing-room door, standing on mat to button my waistcoat, which, in my 93 hurry, I had left undone. Door opens. Every one is coming out.
Happy Thought.—Always be careful to finish dressing before one makes a public appearance. Apologies from Master and Mistress of the house. Large party; all paired, except myself and a youth from school, about fourteen years old, in jackets. I don’t know him at all, but he wants to be sportive, and says, “I s’pose you’ll take me in.” I snub him. I think the servants are laughing at something he’s doing. Hate boys of this age. It was a smaller one than this who made faces at me from the window.
Dinner.—Seated: next to the Lady of the House. Miss Harding on the other side. I mentally note, as not at all a happy thought, that if there’s anything to carve I shall have to do it. I hope the old gentleman on the other side of Mrs. Fraser will offer first. She introduces us across. He is an American general. On being told by Mrs. Fraser of my literary fame, he only says, “O, indeed!” and appears surprised. I wish she wouldn’t say anything about it. I have my pocket-book ready for short-hand notes, as he’ll be full of information. Dinner goes on.94
DINNER PARTY AT FRASER’S.—THE GENERAL.—I OBLIGE THE COMPANY WITH A SONG.
At Dinner. In consequence of having to listen to several whispered observations on the company present from Mrs. Plyte Fraser, who tells me who every one is, and how clever they all are, I find myself left alone, eating fish. I make three picks at my fish and finish. The butler and footman are both in the room, but neither will catch my eye, and I can’t get my plate removed. The coachman, who comes in to wait occasionally, and is very hot and uncomfortable all the time, does catch my eye, and sees me pointing to my plate. He looks in a frightened manner at me, as though begging me not to ask him to do anything on his own account. He is evidently debating with himself whether he oughtn’t to tell the butler that I’m making signs. I should say that this coachman is snubbed by the others. His rule for waiting appears to be, when in doubt play the lobster sauce; which he hands with everything.
Mrs. Fraser whispers to me to draw the American General out. “He was in the war,” she says, behind her fan. I say, “O, indeed!” and commence the process of drawing out. It’s a difficult art. The first question is everything. I ask 95 him, diffidently, “How he liked the war?” Before he can reply, Mrs. Fraser informs the company, as if she were exhibiting the military hero, “Ah! General Duncammon was in all the great engagements—” The General shuts his eyes and nods towards a salt-cellar. “He knew,” she continues, still exhibiting him, “all the leading men there—” The General looks round the table cautiously, to see, perhaps, if anybody else did,—“and he was in the very centre of the battle, where he received a dreadful sabre wound, at—at—” she looks for assistance to the General, who seems rather more staggered than he probably did in the battle, and Plyte Fraser, from the top of the table, supplies, “.” “Bull’s Run,” repeats Mrs. Fraser to the General, as if challenging him to contradict it if he dares. “General Duncammon’s property,” she goes on, still lecturing on him as a kind of mechanical wax-work figure, “was all—all—all—dear me, what’s the word I want?” She turns to me abruptly. I don’t know. The General doesn’t know. Perhaps he never had any property. Everybody being appealed to, separately, “has the word on the tip of his tongue!” “You,” says Mrs. Fraser to me, “of course have quite a storehouse of words. I never can imagine an author without a perfect magazine of words. It must be so delightful always to be able to say what you want, you know. Now what is the word I’m waiting for? You know when a man has all his property taken by Government—taken away—not ‘compromised’—no—dear me—” All eyes are upon me. Of course I know. Boldly, but with a nervous feeling that I’m not quite right yet, 96 I say, “Sequestered,” and lean back in my chair, somewhat hot.
Mrs. Fraser adopts it “Sequestered by Government.” Miss Harding goes into a fit of laughing. I see the mistake, so does Mrs. Fraser, so does every one. Every one laughs. They all think it’s my joke, and Mrs. Fraser taps me on the hand with her fan, and explains to the General, “sequestered, you know, for sequestrated.” Every one laughs again, except Miss Harding, who, Mrs. Fraser keeps whispering to me, is “such a clever girl, so well read. Draw her out.” She won’t be drawn out any more than the General. The party, I subsequently find, has been asked expressly to meet me, and the Frasers do their best to give everything a literary turn. Odd; I don’t feel a bit brilliant this evening. Very disappointing this must be to the guests. I can’t even talk to Miss Harding. In consequence of what is expected of me, I can’t stoop to talk about the weather, or what any one’s “been doing to-day.” After the haunch of venison, I am going to begin to Miss Harding about “the Human Mind in its several aspects,” when she says, “I thought you authors were full of conversation and sparkling wit.” It’s rather rude of her, but Mrs. Fraser shouldn’t lead her to expect so much. I can only say, “Did you?” As an afterthought I ask “Why?”
She replies, “Well, one reads of the meetings of such men as Sheridan, Burke, Grattan, Dr. Johnson, and they seem to have said witty things every moment.” I feel that 97 I am called upon to defend the literary character for esprit in the present day. I reply, “Well you see,” deliberately, “it’s so different now, it’s in fact more—” I am interrupted by a gentleman, on the other side, in a white waistcoat and iron-gray whiskers, “No wits nowadays,” he says. “Why, I recollect Coleridge, Count D’Orsay, Scott, Southey, and Tommy Moore, with old Maginn, sir, at one table. Then, sir, there was poor Hook, and Mathews, and Yates. I’m talking of a time before you were born or thought of—” He says this as if he’d done something clever in being born when he was, and as if I’d made an entire mistake in choosing my time for an existence. Every one is attending to the gentleman in the white waistcoat, who defies contradiction, because all his stories are of a time before any one at the table “was born or thought of.” It’s very annoying that there should ever have been such a period.
Happy Thought.—In Chap. 10, Book IX. of Typical Developments, “The Vanity of Existence.” From literature he gets to the Drama. He seems to remember every actor. According to him, no one ever did anything in literature or art without asking his advice. His name is Brounton, and he speaks of himself in the third person as Harry. I try to speak to Miss Harding, but she is listening to a story from Brounton about “Old Mathews.” “You didn’t know old Mathews,” he says to Fraser, who humbly admits he didn’t. “Ah, I recollect, before he ever thought of giving his entertainment, his coming to me and 98 saying, ‘Harry, my boy,’—he always called me Harry,—‘Harry, my boy,’ says he, ‘I’d give a hundred pounds to be able to sing and speak like you.’ ‘I wish I could lend it you, Matty,’ I said to him,—I used to call him Matty,—‘but Harry Brounton wouldn’t part with his musical ear for—’” Here a diversion is created by the entrance of the children. I see the one who made faces at me from the window. Ugly boy. The child who would bother me when I was dressing is between Mrs. Fraser and myself. I give him grapes and fruit to propitiate him: great point to make friends with juveniles. He whispers to me presently, “You don’t know what me and Conny’s done.” I say, cheerfully, “No, I can’t guess.” He whispers, “We’ve been playing at going out of town with your box.” I should like to pinch him. He continues, whispering, “I say, it’s in your room, you know: we got such a lot of things in it.” I don’t like to tell Mrs. Fraser, who says, “There, Dolly, don’t be troublesome.” I am distracted. The boy on the side of Mrs. Fraser (he was the nuisance in the croquet ground), says, pointing at me; “O, he’s got such a funny hat,” and is immediately silenced. I should like to hear more about this hat. I ask Dolly, who whispers, “the nurse took it away from him, cos she said that he’d hurt himself.” The little Frasers have evidently been smashing my gibus. The ladies rise, and the children go with them. “You won’t stop long,” says Mrs. Fraser, persuasively. “No, no,” answers Fraser. “Because I’ve allowed the children to sit up on purpose,” continues Mrs. Fraser, looking at me. “All right,” returns Fraser; 99 “we’ll just have one glass of wine, and then we’ll come into the drawing-room; and,”—smiling upon me,—“he’ll give us ‘The Little Pig jumped,’ with the squeak and all.”
I find that all the guests have been asked expressly to hear me sing this: I also find that there are a great many people coming in the evening for the same special purpose. I haven’t done it for years. Fraser seems to think that any man who writes is merely a buffoon. I only wonder that he doesn’t ask me to dance a saraband for the amusement of his friends. I am astonished at Mrs. Fraser. I tell Fraser I’ve forgotten the song. He won’t hear of it: he says, “You’ll remember it as you go on.” I say, I can’t get on without a good accompaniment. He returns that the elder Miss Symperson plays admirably. Every one says, “O, you must sing.” The American General, who speaks for the first time, now says, “He’s come ten miles to hear it.” Brounton supposes “I don’t recollect Old Mathews at Home?” I don’t, and he has me at a disadvantage.
He goes on to ask me if I accompany myself. No, I don’t. “Ah!” says he, “I recollect Theodore Hook sitting down to the piano and dashing off a song and an accompaniment impromptu. You don’t improvise?” he asks me. I am obliged to own frankly that I do not, but in the tone of one who could if he liked. “Ah,” he goes on, “you should hear the Italian Improvisatori! Ever been to Italy?” No, I haven’t: he has, and again I am at a disadvantage. “Ah,” he exclaims, “that is something like improvisation: such fire and humor,—more than in the 100 French. Of course, you know all Béranger’s songs by heart?” Before I have time to say that I know a few, he is off again. “Ah! the French comic songs are so light and sparkling. No English comic song can touch them,—and then, where are your singers?” I wish to goodness he’d not been asked to hear “The Little Pig.” Going out of the dining-room, Fraser says to me, “Capital fellow, Brounton, isn’t he?—so amusing.” If I don’t admit it, Fraser will think me envious and ill-natured; so I say heartily, “Brounton! very amusing fellow,—great fun,”—and we are in the drawing-room.
Here I find all the people who have been invited in the evening. I should like to be taken ill. The children are at me at once. “Ma says you’re to sing.” Little brutes! The elder Miss Symperson, who will be happy to play for me, is seated near the piano. She is half a head taller than I am, and peculiarly elegant and ladylike. My last chance is trying to frighten her out of accompanying me. I tell her the tune is difficult to catch. Will I hum it to her? I hum it to her. In humming it is difficult to choose any words but “rum tum tum,” and very difficult to convey a right notion of the tune. Two children standing by the piano give their version of it. I say, “hush” to them, and lose the tune. Miss Symperson does catch it, and chooses a key for me. Fraser, thinking the song is beginning, says, “Silence,” and interrupts Brounton in a loud story about his remembering “Old Mathews singing a song about a pig,—he was inimitable, Mathews was,”—when I have to explain that we’re not ready to begin yet. The 101 conversation is resumed: Mrs. Fraser seats herself on an ottoman with her two very youngest children, who are fidgety, near the piano; the two others insist on standing just in front of me by the piano. Miss Harding takes a small chair quite close to me; by her sits a Captain someone, who has come in the evening with his sister. I feel that she despises buffoonery, but if the Pig-song is to be anything at all, it must be done with a good deal of facial expression. The Captain is evidently joking with her at my expense. Don’t know him, but hate him: because it’s very ungentlemanly and unfair to laugh at you, just when you’re going to sing a comic song. I tell Fraser, apologetically, that I really am afraid I shall break down. Brounton says, “Never mind—improvise.” Miss Symperson says, “Shall I begin?” I answer, “If you please,” and she plays what she thinks is the air. I am obliged to stop her, and say that it’s not quite correct. This makes a hitch to begin with. Brounton says something about a tuning-fork, and every one laughs except the Captain, who is talking in a low tone to Miss Harding. Mrs. Fraser’s youngest child on her lap, says: “Ma, why—doo—de—” Hush! Miss Symperson, in not a particularly good temper, plays it again. More like a march than a comic song, but I don’t like to tell her so. I begin:—
“A little pig lived on the best of straw,
And the idea flashes across my mind what an ass I’m making of myself. At the “hee-haw,” the pianist has to do six notes up and down, like a donkey braying. This is 102 one of the points of the song. Miss Symperson doesn’t do it. I hear, afterwards, that she thought it vulgar, and omitted it purposely. I go on:—
“Lillibullero, lillibullero, lillibullero,
My daddy’s a bonny wee man.”
I feel it is idiotic. Miss Symperson plays a bar too much. She didn’t know I finished there. I beg she won’t apologize. Next verse:—
“This little pig’s mother she was the old sow,
Ow, ow, ow, and Shandiddleow.”
I feel it’s more idiotic than ever. Here I see Miss Harding exchanging glances with the Captain, and Mrs. Fraser with several ladies; they raise their eyebrows and look grim. I suddenly recollect I’ve got some rather broad verses coming. The idea also occurs to me for the first time that when Fraser did hear me sing it, years ago, it was amongst a party of bachelors after supper. I go on with lillibullero, and have half a mind to give it up altogether:—
“The Farmer’s wife went out for a walk,
Walk, ork, ork, and shandiddle lork.
‘I fancy,’ says she, ‘a slice of good pork.’”
This I used to do, I remember, with a wink and making a face like a clown. I risk it. I feel I don’t do it with spirit, and nobody laughs. I see Brounton whisper behind his hand to the American General, and I am sure that he’s “seen old Mathews do this very thing,” or something of 103 that sort. Getting desperate, I make more hideous faces in the Lillibullero chorus. Miss Harding looks down; the ladies regard one another curiously,—I believe they think I’ve had too much wine; the ugly boy, by the piano, begins to imitate my faces, and the youngest in arms bursts into a violent fit of tears. Miss Symperson stops. The child won’t be comforted. Mrs. Fraser tells the wretched little brat that “the gentleman won’t make any more ugly faces, he won’t.” And, turning to me, asks me to sing without the grimaces: “They can’t,” she argues, “be a necessity”; and Fraser reminds me, reprovingly, that when I sang it before, I didn’t make those faces. I have half a mind to ask him (being rather nettled) what faces I did make? The result is, however, to set the two boys off making faces at their little sisters, for which they are very nearly being ordered off to bed instantly. Miss Symperson asks me, “Shall I go on?” I say, despondently, “Yes, if you please, we may as well.”
“The farmer’s wife was fond of a freak,
Eak, eak, eak, and shandiddleleak,
And she made the little pig squeak, squeak, squeak.”
Here used to follow the imitation. I think it better not to do it now, and I am proceeding with the next verse, when Fraser says, “Halloa! I say, do the squeak.” I tell him I can’t, I don’t feel up to it. He says, “O, do try.” I hear Miss Harding say, “O, do try.” The Captain, too, remarks (I see his eye) “He hopes I’ll try,” and Brounton hopes the same thing, and then tells something about Hook (probably) behind his hand to the General. I say, “Very 104 well,” and yield. I begin squeaking: I shut my eyes and squeak: I open them and squeak. I try it four times, but am obliged to own publicly “that there is no fun in it unless you’re in cue for it.” No one seems in cue for it. The children begin squeaking, and are packed off to bed. People begin to resume the conversation. I say to Fraser I don’t think there’s any use in going on with the song? He answers, “O yes, do—do by all means.” But as he is not by any means enthusiastic about it, I thank Miss Symperson, who acknowledges it very stiffly and coldly, and cuts me for the remainder of the evening. Brounton comes up and tells me loudly, “That he remembers old Mathews doing that song, or something exactly like it, years ago; it was admirable.” Miss Florelly asks me quietly, “If I’d written many songs.” I disown the authorship of the pig. The Captain sings a sentimental ballad about “Meet me where the Flow’ret droops” to Miss Harding’s accompaniment, and every one is charmed.
Happy Thought.—Bed-time. I’ll never sing again as long as I live.
In my Room.—My shirts, brushes, combs, ties, opera-hat, fire-irons, boots, collars, sponges, and everything, have been thrown anyhow into my portmanteau. Who the—
O, I recollect: this is what that horrid little wretch meant, when he told me, at dessert, that he and his sister had been playing at packing up in my room.
I wish I was back at Boodels’s. I dare say they’re dragging the pond, and enjoying themselves. I don’t think I shall stop here any longer.105
STILL AT FRASER’S.—PROGRESS OF THE GREAT WORK.—I THINK OF THE YOUNGER MISS SYMPERSON.—NIGHT THOUGHTS.—INTERVIEW WITH A COUNTRY POLICEMAN.
Happy Thought.—To stop here as long as I can. I don’t get on with Typical Developments. Have hardly made a note for three days, except about the Sympersons: they live in the neighborhood. Mrs. Fraser likes the Younger Miss Symperson, Miss Fridoline, very much. I have had to escort her a good deal: she can talk sensibly. I have consulted her on several subjects in Typical Developments. She understands me, and is not a mere fritterling. No one has asked me again to sing “The Little Pig,” and Mrs. Fraser is now more impressed with the serious and deeper-toned side of my character. I reproached old Fraser with making me appear a buffoon. He owned his mistake, and said I was not a buffoon: we are as good friends as ever. In fact, to humor him, I offered to sing “The Little Pig” the other night when no one was here, feeling in the vein. They were delighted at the proposal, but feared it would wake the children: so I didn’t.
The above is a brief résumé for the last few days up to to-night.106
Happy Thought.—I’ve not left my present address anywhere, so business can’t call me away. I am in the humor for the pen. Now: the moon is shining: the sweet autumn moon. I think of Fridoline Symperson.
Happy Thought: Midnight.—If I open my window I shall see the Sympersons’ carriage pass here on their road home: she will be inside, and how it will delight her to see me watching for her. Not in my dressing-gown, though: my dark shooting-coat. I sit down to Typical Developments. Can’t do it. I feel poetical: inspired. My pen. A poem,—I feel it; coming. I will dash it off,—
“Ah, fairest! whose dear eyes—”
“Dear eyes” suddenly strikes me as too nautical. Odd thing inspiration is: it’s almost oozing away now. I will fix it:—
“Ah, fairest, whose blest form,
Calm as pale Dian’s orb—”
Wheels: I am at the window with a palpitating heart. No—yes—no! A cart, a wanderer’s cart; a houseless pedler, maybe. Whoever he is, he’s very intoxicated, and calls me “Old Cockywax,” which gets a laugh from another miserable creature, invisible. This is not the Sympersons. * * * *
“Ah, fairest Fridoline, whose—”
I don’t think I ought to introduce her name into the first line. Strange: inspiration has ceased.107
Happy Thought.—Will write her a song. To the window. I say rapturously, “O Moon,” but nothing comes of it, except that my eyes begin to water. How quiet and still! Not a soul stirring: not even a patrol. One o’clock: why, this house might be broken into, over and over again, without a patrol. Carriage-wheels! louder, louder, louder,—less loud,—faint, fainter, fainter—it has taken a turning—not the Sympersons. * * * * I look at myself in the glass: I am pale. Am I going to be ill? * * * * Yes, I shall be ill: given up. Fridoline will rush into the room. I shall then confess my concealed passion; so will she. I expire in her arms, or am about to expire, when the crisis passes, and I suddenly get quite well: then we are married. Happy thoughts, all the above. There are tears in my eyes: I call myself a fool. A minute afterwards I find myself shaking my head, pointlessly, at the moon.
Happy Thought.—To write a novel on this subject. Might make notes for it now.
Half past One.—No patrol,—how very dangerous: I shall certainly call Fraser’s attention to this. * * * * Yes, Mrs. Fraser asked me when I first arrived, “If I was still a bachelor?” She likes Fridoline Symperson, and talks to me of her. How happy the Frasers are! ah, how delightful to retire— * * * * Wheels? no, * * * * to retire into married literary ease. Little secluded cottage, honeysuckles up the trellis, sort of church-porch before the door, myself writing at a window opening on to a beautiful lawn, my wife sitting knitting on a small stool. I write a bit, then read 108 it to her; she smiles and encourages me. I write another paragraph, and then read that to her; she smiles and encourages me again. So we go on: reading, writing, smiling, and encouraging. Then, in my old age, when my name shall be known everywhere in connection with Typical Developments, I shall sit in the porch, gray hair falling on to my shoulders, my hands patting the little children’s heads, while I strew fresh flowers every morning, before breakfast, over a little white stone in the churchyard, whereon is inscribed but two words, in old English characters, “My Fridoline.” I see it all: tears dim my eyes: I’m feverish.
Two o’clock, A. M.—Odd that there should be no police. I will mention it in the morning.
I wonder with whom she is dancing? Is she dancing with that fellow, Talboots? I wish I had spoken to her yesterday, when I walked twice past their house, waiting for an opportunity to go in. I saw her in the garden, and only bowed; agony.
Happy Thought.—Call to-morrow, and ask how she is after the party.
She told me she wished she hadn’t got to go. Has she told any one else the same thing? Or is it because I am not going to be there. I wonder if she has one passing thought for me. Yes, I believe in sympathy; in that strange electrical bond of union which binds two hearts together. There will be fools who talk nonsense to her; she hates that vapid frivolity. To-morrow I will call on 109 her. The Frasers won’t mind it; Mrs. Fraser understands me. I’m afraid it will look too pointed, though. I wish I had gone in yesterday when I saw her in the garden. I went there on purpose, yet I only bowed and walked on. Fool! thrice-sodden fool! * * * * All this sort of thing is very bad for calm writing.
Three o’clock.—No wheels. There, I’ve sat here for three hours and not seen a sign of a watchman or a policeman. I shall certainly call Fraser’s attention to the absence of the patrol. He will complain to the inspector. The air is getting chilly. * * * * How a sneeze relieves one’s head. I can smile now: what at? I don’t know. The roll of wheels—the spanking trot of fast horses—lights—it is the Sympersons’ carriage! They mustn’t see me at the window: I withdraw on one side. * * * * It has passed: what an ass I was not to stand at the window, and wave, or perhaps kiss, my hand. I dare say she was looking out; she might have been? I wish it would come over again. There’s a ledge in front of my window, by stepping up there, I can see them turning into their own gates: I do it. The candle gutters out. I am on the leads. Ah, Fridoline! dear Fridoline! No, the gates must have been open, as they’ve driven in, and vanished. Ah, Fridoline! my sweetest dreams . . . . . Somebody moving below; in the road. A voice, “Hallo!” Probably another drunken creature (degrading vice of the country!). I will get in again, and not encourage him in his coarseness. A light shines about me vividly. What is it? From below. The same rough voice says, “Hallo! what are you up to 110 there?” It is the patrol. I say quietly from the leads, “’S-s-s-h, it’s all right.” He won’t believe it, and says he’ll soon make it all right. I tell him I’m stopping in the house. He wants to know “What I’m doing up there, then?” I answer, “Nothing.” “I thought so,” he says. “You just come down.” He adds, “Or else he’ll very soon know the reason why,” threateningly. I assure him that he’s wrong. He is getting very angry, and tells me, “He’ll soon let me know if he’s wrong or not.” I own to him candidly that appearances are against me, but that I came out there to look after the Sympersons’ carriage. I wish him to understand that it’s only a joke. These country police are so officious; always in the way.
Happy Thought.—To throw him sixpence. He is indignant. I implore him not to be a fool. He now loses his temper entirely, and says, “He’ll soon let me know who’s the fool.” I tell him, in as soft a whisper as can be audible from the leads, to call in the morning and I’ll settle it. I point out to him (hearing a window opening somewhere) that he’s disturbing the house. He says, “He means to,” the idiot! and rings the gate-bell violently. I get into my room and close the window. I hear Mrs. Fraser screaming “Is it fire?” Fraser growling, the children crying, and the servants moving about below.
Happy Thought.—If I explain, I shall look such a fool, and Fraser will be in such a rage. Will tell him when it’s all blown over.111
Happy Thought.—Jump into bed. Fraser, butler, footman, with pokers, tongs, and shovels, enter in a tumult. In the distance I hear the maids and Mrs. Fraser all more or less hysterical.
Happy Thought.—I ask, “What’s the matter?” They all say, in a muddle, “Man—broke in,—p’liceman saw him.” I haven’t seen him: no. Patrol, from outside, says he hasn’t come back again. One of the maids shrieks, and they all rush out, thinking some one’s caught sight of him on the stairs. I try to pacify them: I tell Mrs. Fraser, in the distance, on account of the costume, that it must have been the patrol’s fancy. I begin to wish I’d explained everything at first. The butler, who now returns from conversing with the policeman, describes the burglar as dressed in a short sort of dark coat, and details the substance of my remarks to him (the policeman) from the leads. “He said as he was a lookin’ after Mister Symperson’s carriage.” Fraser at once convicts the burglar as a liar, “Because,” as he informs me, “the Sympersons’ carriage hasn’t been out this evening, in consequence of their not going to the ball.”
3.30.—Every one announces the impossibility of going to bed again. The coachman can’t make out why the dog didn’t bark. With the groom he searches the grounds. Every one goes about searching everywhere, and coming upon each other suddenly round sharp corners; frightening one another, as if it was a game. Fraser pops out of his room every other five minutes on some false alarm, to ask 112 me “If I heard anything, then?” or to say, nervously, “Who’s there?” when the answer generally is, “It’s only me, sir,” from the butler or the footman, who appear to be running away from Fraser, or catching each other, like blindman’s-buff. An al fresco game of the same kind is being played in the grounds by the groom, the coachman, and the policeman. The prevailing idea among the females is, that there is a man in the store-cupboard: the strictest search will not convince them to the contrary.
The butler spends the remainder of the night on the plate-chest, with a poker in his hand. The footman sits at the top of the servants’ stairs, and alarms the entire household, for a second time, by falling asleep, and tumbling down half a dozen steps. After this he is all brown paper, vinegar, and groans; but heroically at his post, at the bottom of the stairs where he fell, with a poker. Every one seems to have got a poker.
Happy Thought.—Sha’n’t say anything about inattention of police, or they’ll find I was at my window. O Fridoline! Bed,—sleep.113
AT FRASER’S.—I HAVE A TÊTE-A-TÊTE WITH FRIDOLINE, AND LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY.—A STRANGE ANNOUNCEMENT.
There is no one up: except the servants. Fraser is in the wine-cellar, as usual; some samples have just arrived from town, and two cases. Miss Fridoline calls, while I am at work on Typical Developments. I can see her arrive from my room. She is talking to the footman, who, from his rubbing his left shoulder very often, is evidently telling her about his having fallen down stairs, and last night’s affair generally.
Happy Thought.—To let her see me at my window.
I wonder if she did see me. I ought to have looked at her. She’s gone in. I really must work. Ch. 4, Vol. I., “On the Varieties of Inanimate Nature.” I sit down to write. Hearing a door slam, I jump up again. It is not Miss Fridoline. To work. “Philosophers, in every age, have directed their attention to the—” A rustling in the passage by my door. I look out quietly. It is the housemaid, who, not having got over her fright of last night, screams on seeing me. The household, being generally 114 nervous this morning, is immediately disturbed. The matter is explained unsatisfactorily, because Mrs. Fraser begs I’ll be more quiet, and I return, rather annoyed (it is annoying to be misunderstood), to Typical Developments. “Philosophers, in every age, have directed their attention to the possibilities of the power inherent in mere particles. The calm mind of inductive science, undisturbed by—” It is Miss Fridoline. I hear her saying, “Yes, Mrs. Fraser, I’ll get them for you.” She passes my door, and descends the staircase. Shall I? I will. Typical Developments can wait.
Happy Thought.—Brush my hair, and settle my tie.
We meet in the hall. She is going to the hot-house to get some grapes for “poor Mrs. Fraser.” I say, “I’m going in that direction, myself,” and then look at her with a smile intended to be full of meaning. On repeating, afterwards, the same smile to myself in the looking-glass, the meaning doesn’t appear sufficiently distinct and definite. But then it is difficult to look tenderly at one’s self in a looking-glass.
Happy Thought.—Try the effect in the glass, before, not afterwards, another time.
We are walking along the gravel path, about two feet apart from one another.
She is humming a tune. I feel that all my conversational powers have entirely deserted me. She says, “I’m sure it’s boring you very much to walk with me. I really can 115 go alone, I assure you.” I feel taken aback by the remark: somehow, with all my knowledge of human nature, it isn’t what I had expected her to say. I should like to come out with something now which would clinch matters. I reply, “O no, I’m not bored,” which, I feel, implies that I am only saying so out of politeness. After this, it seems that my power of speech has entirely deserted me. If I talked at all, I should like it to be on very serious subjects. It strikes me that if there was a third person here, I could be brilliant. We enter another path. Miss Fridoline remarks, laughingly, that I don’t talk. Again I have no answer ready. I can’t make out where my answers have gone to. I am sure she knows what my feelings are towards her, and she oughtn’t to laugh. I’m afraid, after all, she is frivolous. I ask her “What we shall talk about?” She says, “O, you must start a subject.” Something, I don’t know what, suggests, as a subject, “Beetles.” I can’t put it down as a happy thought.
Happy Thought.—The art of talking to anyone with whom you are secretly in love is included in the power of making repartees.
She is evidently getting tired of me. She wants to know if I haven’t any stories to tell her. No, I haven’t. “Dear me!” she returns, “I thought you would be such an amusing companion. I thought you’d have a fund of anecdotes.” So I have: somewhere. I defend myself by saying, “I didn’t come out to tell anecdotes.” I am obliged to laugh after this speech, as I am conscious of its having a certain 116 amount of surliness in its tone. “Didn’t you?” is her reply. “You don’t expect me to do it.” I feel I am becoming cross: I tell her that “I don’t want any one to do A little more and we shall quarrel. She suggests, “Well, you can sing me a comic song, then? I’m sure you must know numbers of songs.” This is an allusion to “The Little Pig squeaked.” I don’t like it. The idea of walking about with the girl whom you secretly love, and doing nothing but sing comic songs to her! I brood over this, and am silent. I make up my mind to lead up to the subject nearest my heart, on the next opportunity. We turn up another gravel path. She observes that she’s “afraid I’m not well.” Is this an opportunity? No: I’ll wait for a better. I tell her that I’m not very well this morning, in order to excite her compassion. “Then,” she says, “don’t fatigue yourself to walk with me.” The time has come: I pump up my voice with difficulty, through a very hot throat. When it does come out, it sounds as if I’d been eating a pound of nuts, with the husks on, and was talking under a blanket I say, “I can’t feel fatigued,” here I clear my throat, but am still under the blanket, “while walking with you.” And I clear my throat again.
Happy Thought.—Not to clear your throat in the middle of a speech. Ineffective.
She apparently hasn’t heard my observation, as she remarks, immediately, “What a beautiful place this is!” I answer, coming a little way out of the blanket, but hotter than ever, “You didn’t hear what I said?” She asks, 117 “What, just now?” I answer, “Yes.” Her reply is, “that she did hear it: but why?” I don’t know “why.”
Happy Thought.—Always have some fixed attitude for one’s hands. To pocket them looks careless when you’re talking to some one you really like.
I try to explain “why.” I say, pointedly, with my wide-awake well shading my eyes, “I don’t think you understand me.” I am getting to the point. She returns, that “she didn’t know there was anything particular to understand.” Not seeing my way to an explanation, I say, “Oh!” in a tone of disappointment. She suggests that we had better make haste to get to the grape-house, as poor Mrs. Fraser is waiting. I say nothing, but quicken my pace despairingly. She commences another topic. “What a very nice person Mrs. Fraser is!” Not caring to talk about Mrs. Fraser, I feel inclined to depreciate her. I say, sourly, “‘Nice!’ I hate that phrase.” Well, then, Miss Fridoline will substitute “so agreeable and kind, and so lively”; adding, “I like lively people.” I am aware this is a cut at me. Feeling hurt, I can’t help saying, “I’m afraid I’m not lively.” She returns, “No; you do not seem very lively this morning.”
Happy Thought.—Never give anybody an opening to make a cutting remark.
“One cannot always be lively,” I answer, bitterly, “and playing the fool. Women, I suppose, are fond of that sort of thing.” “Thank you,” says Miss Symperson, “I didn’t know I was fond of playing the fool.” “I didn’t say that,” 118 I explain. “I give you credit, Miss Fridoline, for appreciating thoughts of a more serious character.” I should like to talk to her about my Typical Developments. While I am thinking how I shall begin, she asks me, “Are you generally so dull?” I see the opportunity. I answer, “No, not always; but—” (here I made the plunge) “with you I can’t help it.” She interrupts me, “O, then, with any one else you’d be lively and cheerful? That’s a nice compliment.”
Happy Thought.—Never come out without a pocket-handkerchief. When you’re talking with any one you really care about, it’s a very difficult thing to use a pocket-handkerchief with anything like grace. You can’t say, “I love you!” with your nose hidden. I find it; but wait for an opportunity. If we come to a narrow path, where I can walk behind her, I’ll use it then.
We turn a corner, and come suddenly upon the children. “Dear little things!” cries Miss Fridoline. She takes the baby from the nurse. I look on, morosely. The ugly boy is there making faces at me. I think I could strangle them all. Miss Fridoline shows me the baby, and asks me if it isn’t a pretty little darling? I smile on it, and say, “Charming!”
Happy Thought.—Always take care what one says of children before the nurses. They may tell Mrs. Fraser. One of the children, a sharp little girl, who ranks between the ugly boy and his younger brother, begs to be allowed to 119 walk with “Friddy.” Nurse says, “She’ll be a nuisance to Miss Fridoline,” who replies, “O no,—not at all; do let her come; I’ll take care of her.” I agree with the nurse, but keep it to myself, and say, gratuitously, “I always get on well with children.” The child says, “Come on, Friddy.” How I should like to call her “Friddy”! Away we walk towards the hot-house,—she, I, and the sharp little girl. The sharp little girl begins pleasantly. She says to Fridoline, “I say, Friddy, we don’t want him with us, do we?” meaning me. I should like to box her ears. I say, “O yes, you do, though,” and smile. She continues, “O, you’ve a great stupid, you are; we don’t want you.” Miss Fridoline laughs. I laugh too; such a laugh! I tell the child, hoping to stop her sharpness, “You mustn’t be rude.” Whereupon she cries out, “You’re Mister Pigsqueaker, you are; that’s what we all call you, Mister Pigsqueaker!” Miss Fridoline is laughing: the child is encouraged, and goes on, crying out, “Wee wee, wee, Mister Piggysqueaker!” I should like to duck her in a pond. Miss Fridoline says, “Hush, Edith!” but not with authority; and the child, who can’t be very sharp, as she’s only got this one idea of fun, goes on in a sort of variation on the theme, “Piggy, wiggy, squeaker. Mister Piggywiggysqueaker.” She is beneath notice; I will address my conversation, over her head and intelligence, to Miss Fridoline. I begin, “Do you believe in sympathies springing up between two beings for the first time?” Miss Fridoline pauses to reflect. I have touched the chord. The odious little brat cries out to me, “I say, when are you going away?” I tell her, 120 condescendingly, that I do not know, and ask her if she wouldn’t be very sorry to lose me? Her reply is not in keeping with my assertion that I get on very well with children: it is, “No, I shall be very glad. You’re a Mister Piggysqueaker.” The child has picked this name up from somebody else. Perhaps from the nurses; perhaps from Mrs. Fraser. Perhaps the whole household calls me Mister Piggysqueaker. It’s impossible to make love in this character. I almost wish I’d never come down. That was the beauty of Boodels’s place: there were no horrid children about; and one couldn’t fall in love with Milburd.
In the Hot-House.—The gardener gives us some beautiful peaches. Miss Fridoline offers me one. I accept it from her, and begin to eat it. The infernal child says, “O, what a mouth!” I wonder if my mouth is so very large. Children often speak the truth unintentionally. I must be careful how I open it when laughing. I take the opportunity afforded by the necessity of wiping my hands to use my pocket-handkerchief. The child gets hold of the other end and tries to pull it away from me. Miss Fridoline does not reprove her. Tenderness is out of the question. I loiter behind with the gardener, and hear him talk about mushrooms. I could almost weep on his shoulder. I suppose I must look unhappy, as he observes, “He thought that peach as I was eating warn’t a very ripe un.” He takes me to the mushroom-house. It is damp and tomby. I feel that I have nothing to live for, and should like to stop here among the mushrooms. Epitaph: “Here lies Mr. Piggysqueaker, among the Mushrooms.” The gardener is 121 waiting for me, with the key in his hand. I come out. Miss Fridoline and the abominable child have disappeared. I return to the house. I will leave this place to-morrow. I ask where Mr. Fraser is. I want male society. He is in the cellar arranging a bin. He always is, during the day-time, in the cellar. To my work: I have been wasting my time. I will go to-morrow morning. I sit down to work. The butler enters. He looks very serious. “A policeman,” he informs me, “wants to see me.” A policeman! It can’t be that window affair last night. “Show him in.”122
I RECEIVE A SUMMONS.—A CONSULTATION.—I LEAVE FURZE COTTAGE ON IMPORTANT BUSINESS.
A policeman to see me: show him in. Hitherto a policeman has been considered by me as a bugbear for children and a terror to the lower orders. He is shown in, and is evidently not at his ease. I try to think of historical examples of anybody receiving the officers of justice in a dignified manner. I ask him, blandly, “Well, policeman, what’s the matter?” He replies, “This here,” and hands me this printed paper:—
“Whereas you have this day been charged upon oath before the undersigned, one of the Magistrates of the Police Court of the town of Dornton, sitting at the Town Hall of Dornton, in the county of Dampshire, and within the Boddington Police District, for that you, on the 16th day of September instant, at the parish of Little Boddington, in the county of Dampshire, and within the said district, did unlawfully assault and threaten and beat one George Cornelius Pennefather, whereby the said George Cornelius Pennefather goes in fear for his life.
“These are therefore to command you, in her Majesty’s name, to be and appear before me, on the 1st of October next, at 11 o’clock in the forenoon, at the Police Court aforesaid, or before such other Magistrate of the said Police Court as may then be there, to answer to the said charge, and to be further dealt with according to law.
“Given under my hand and seal,” &c., &c.
“Morgan Jambs Bullyer.”
Good Heavens! Where’s Dornton? Where’s Boddington? Who on earth is George Cornelius Pennefather? I tell the official, then and there, that I never beat, or assaulted, or threatened, any one. He says, “He ain’t got nothing to do with it; it’s forwarded from the other county district.” He adds, as a formula, that “anythink as I say now is safe to be used agen me at my trial,” and goes out with the butler. “In her Majesty’s name!” I wish I was a Magistrate.
Happy Thought.—Refer to my diary. It was on that day, I find, that I tried to get the repartee out of the railway porter, and there was a disturbance in the Station. I suppose the porter’s name is Pennefather. Why, I’d forgotten all about it: Pennefather hadn’t, though. He’s been going about in fear for his life ever since; Pennefather must be a fool. “To be further dealt with according to law.” Don’t understand it. I’ll run down to see what Fraser says to it.
Happy Thought.—N. B. Anyhow, consult a solicitor.
Fraser’s in the cellar, arranging his bins, as usual. From the top of the stairs I shout, “I say, Fraser!” and then his voice comes up suddenly from the cellar, “Hallo!” like a ventriloquist’s. I say to him, still from the top of the cellar steps, “What shall I do in this case?” He answers, “Is there another up there?” being under the impression that I am alluding to wine.
I explain, coming down five steps to do so, and Fraser 124 listens while putting away some curious old Madeira. When I’ve finished, I ask him what I shall do? He replies immediately, “Dine at six, sharp.” “Yes,” I say, “and after dinner I’ll go up by the last train to town, and see my solicitor in the morning.”
Fraser agrees with me, and as I come up the stairs, Captain Talboots and a Mr. Minchin, who was at the party the other night, come to make a call of ceremony. Mrs. Fraser can’t receive them, being still unwell, so I call down to Fraser, and announce them. He replies, from below, just like the ventriloquist’s man in a cellar, “All right, I’ll come up directly.” I tell Talboots about the summons. He is bellicose, and says, “If he was me, hanged if he’d pay any attention to it. Blessed if he wouldn’t go and punch the infernal Magistrate’s head.” I point out to him that this would hardly clear me of a charge of assault.
Happy Thought.—Note, while I think of it. I will take lessons in boxing: capital exercise. Gives you such a quick good eye: and such a bad eye occasionally. See about it, after my solicitor.
Minchin, who is a young barrister, wants to hear the case in full. Fraser joins us, and listens, with Talboots, like a couple of jurymen. Minchin appears in several characters, during my story; but first, as the judge, with his hands in his pockets, his legs apart, and his head very much on one side, like a raven. I feel, while I am telling it, that I am making an excellent case for the porter. In attempting to be unprejudiced, I catch myself knocking over my own 125 defence and strengthening Pennefather’s position. On finishing, I don’t seem to have put matters in a very brilliant light, as far as I’m concerned. Fraser and Talboots look to Minchin. Minchin, in the character of prosecutor’s counsel, examines me, as if on my oath. On the whole, I begin to wish I hadn’t mentioned anything about it to Minchin.
Happy Thought.—In recounting your own grievances never try to be unprejudiced. No one gives you credit for candor.
“Now,” says Minchin, for the prosecution this time, “Did you, or did you not, strike this railway official?” I hesitate, and Minchin repeats the question emphatically. I answer, “No, I did not strike him.” Minchin repeats, as if to show Fraser and Talboots what a clever chap he was to get that admission from me. “No, you did not strike him,” and then goes on, evidently enjoying it, “And now, sir, let me ask you, did you or did you not touch him?” I admit I did. Minchin is calmly triumphant, repeating, “You did,” whereat Fraser and Talboots, in their impersonation of jurymen, shake their heads. Minchin continues, “Did you or did you not call this railway official a fool?” I can’t help it, I’m obliged to admit that I did. Jury dead against me. Minchin now as the judge, having evidently abandoned any idea of appearance as counsel for the defence, sums up carefully. Somehow or another Minchin’s opinion suddenly appears most valuable to me, and I listen anxiously.126
Minchin says: “You touched him; lightly or heavily, no matter; the fact stands that you touched him. If you had no weapon in your hand, yet you touched him. The porter was an unarmed man; you own that you had an umbrella, and you are not sure that you did not touch him with that.” I shake my head. “Be that as it may, you touched him, and that touch was an incitement to him to riot. It is no defence to say, ‘I touched him gently on the shoulder.’ The question is, whether you could have touched him roughly in the position you were placed in, that is, from the window of the railway carriage? But the law deals with intentions, and judges of the intentions both by words and deeds. Now, you accompanied this blow” (I deprecate the use of “blow,” and he substitutes “touch,” as if it really didn’t make any difference)—“you accompanied this blow, or touch, with the opprobrious epithet of ‘Fool.’ Now the law having regard to the liberty of the subject, and being no respecter of persons, will not allow any man to go about, touching, or blowing, his fellow-citizens, lightly or heavily, and calling them fools. No,” continues Minchin, discarding the Judge, and appearing finally as a private friend, “I’m afraid it’s a nasty case.” I own I think so too. I put it thus, “If he says I did, and I can’t say I didn’t, what defence am I to make?” I don’t see. Minchin considers: Fraser is perplexed. Captain Talboots says, with a laugh, “O, you sing ‘The Little Pig squeaked’ to the Magistrate, and he’ll let you off.” His levity is ill-timed. They smile out of compliment, but the joke is a failure. Minchin says, “Well, he must be off.” Talboots 127 says, “He must be off too.” Talboots has nothing new to suggest; he can only repeat, “Punch the Magistrate’s head.”
Happy Thought —They are off.
Dinner, 6.—Melancholy. Fraser thinks it good taste to joke about “the prisoner sat down to his usual meal, of which he partook heartily.” On my telling him how much I have enjoyed my stay here, hoping that he’d re-invite me (O Fridoline!) he replies, jocosely, “The prisoner expressed himself sincerely grateful to Mr. Jonas, the Governor of Newgate, for all his kindness.” My train goes at nine; at half past eight I hear music in the drawing-room. I find out that it’s Miss Fridoline, who’s been dining up stairs with Mrs. Fraser. A fly at the door. Captain Talboots arrives with his cornet-à-piston: he and Miss Fridoline are going to practise a duet. He offers me his fly to take me to the station: I am obliged to accept it.
I go in, drearily, to wish Miss Fridoline good by. She says, “O, are you going so soon?” I have no reply ready, except “Yes, I’m going now.” Whereupon she returns my adieu with the addition of wishing me a pleasant journey. As I am stepping into my fly, I hear the piano and cornopean in a duet, “Yes, we together,” from Norma. If I could run back, burst into the room, jump on Talboots’s back, and cram his cornopean down his throat, I would do it. He might summon me, if he liked, I should soon become used to that. Drive on: he drives on. Furze Cottage is a thing of the past.128
Happy Thought, or rather Unhappy Thought.—An opportunity missed. When Fridoline said to me, “Are you going away so soon?” I ought to have returned impressively, “Soon! I am glad to hear, that, since I have been here, the time has flown so fast. It will appear like an age to me before I see you again. For,” and here I should have taken her hand, and if neither Talboots, nor Fraser, nor the butler were looking, I might have kissed it fervently, saying, as I relinquished it, “Fridoline, I love you!” Then, unable to utter anything more, I should have got into my fly comfortably, and she would have staggered to the sofa, put one hand on the back and another on her heart, like the lady in Millais’s picture of “Broken Vows.” Happy Thought. Suggest this to an artist. View of me stepping into a fly in the distance. I wish I could have those minutes over again. I wonder if I should really do what I think I should. I should like to drive back and try it. No,—it can’t be.
Happy Thought.—To prepare one’s self for occasions of this sort. I’ll suppose cases as I go up in the train.
Nine o’clock.—Off to London: Addio, Fridoline and Furze.129
STILL ON URGENT PRIVATE AFFAIRS.—A JUVENILE SOLICITOR.—I DINE WITH MILBURD, AND SPEND A CONVIVIAL EVENING.
Going up in the Train by Night.—I intend to call on my solicitor about this assault affair directly I get to town. Think I’d better dismiss all thoughts of it from my mind. Will read paper. Can’t. Light in carriage so bad. At the first station I want to get out to complain to Guard. Can’t: carriage locked. Passenger gets in with his own key, and brings with him a private railway lamp: most useful. Other passengers get in: all got keys and lamps. If we go on like this we shall bring our own cushions. Last man did get in with a cushion. The next thing will be to bring your own carriage.
Happy Thought.—To buy a railway lamp.
Can’t sleep, on account of the blaze of light in my eyes from lamp opposite. Arrive in town late. Go to solicitor’s. Shut up. To hotel. Get up early to-morrow. I see that I’m chalked up on a blackboard. 89. 7.30. The Boots is satisfied: another Boots coming by accidentally is satisfied. Waiter assures me, on my inquiring anxiously, that if I gave the Boots my instructions, it would be all right.130
Difficult to get to sleep. Noise, after quiet of country, terrific.
Happy Thought.—Central hotels bad for going to sleep in. Do for men of business, though, who want to be up early in the morning. Bed.
Morning.—Not called: had to ring the bell to tell them to call me. Boots says he didn’t know I wanted to be called, didn’t see it on the blackboard. A different Boots. I refer him to the other Boots for confirmation; in fact, to the other pair of Boots. He doesn’t know them: he alludes to them disdainfully, as the Night Porters.
Happy Thought.—Small hotel’s best: where the Boots and Night Porters are on friendly terms. Do it next time.
I’m very late. They bring me number ninety’s boots; and number seventy-five’s breakfast, which I don’t like. More delay. Off at last to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. To Seel’s, my solicitor’s.
On the door is a brass plate with Mr. Seel above, and Mr. Percival Seel below. Who Mr. Percival is I do not know; probably Seel’s son just come into the business. I knock and ring.
The clerk is a small boy with a large forehead, ready for all the law that’s coming into it one of these days, curly hair which won’t lie down under any pressure of pomatum, and large eyes, which wander all over me.
On being asked if Mr. Seel is within, he replies, “No, he’s not,” in an uncertain sort of manner, which leads me 131 to suppose that he is. I give him my card. He looks at it, and then at me, as if unable to trace any connection between my name and my appearance.
Happy Thought.—I note that to be brought up in a lawyer’s office makes boys suspicious. He evidently doesn’t believe either me or my card.
Boy says, “He’s not in”: but he adds, “you can see Mr. Percival, if you like.” He speaks of them as if they were a show. I ask who Mr. Percival is, and he replies that he’s Mr. Seel, Junior, which he evidently thinks is a more dignified form of description than calling him Mr. Seel’s son. I consider. Well, yes, I will see Mr. Seel, Junior. I am shown suddenly into Mr. Seel, Junior’s, room. Mr. Seel, Junior, is very much junior to Mr. Seel, Senior.
He offers me a seat timidly. He says, awkwardly, that he believes my business is with his father. I say yes, but I suppose he’ll do as well. He evidently detects some hesitation in my tone, as he answers boldly, and, to my thinking, defiantly (as though if his father did come in he didn’t care), that, “O yes, it would be precisely the same thing.”
I tell him it’s a very simple case, whereat I fancy he seems more at his ease. I suppose he can advise me. He replies, “O yes, of course.” But he doesn’t inspire me with confidence. I tell him, to reassure him, I’ve known his father some years, which seems to make him uncomfortable. I tell my story very carefully. When I’ve finished, 132 he asks me to tell it again. I do. At his special request, I tell it once more, with (I can’t help it) variations, which puzzle him. I ask him what I shall do. He appears confused, and thinks; at last, he says, “Well, you see, I’ve only lately come into the office, and—” (here he laughs nervously) “I can’t exactly advise you—without—without—um—” (here he loses his theme, but recovers himself) “without, in fact, consulting my father.” Then I’d better see his father? “Yes,” he says, diffidently, “if you please.” I say I will, whereat he is much relieved, and, so to speak, breathes again. I must see his father to-night—most important—at eleven. I suggest, at all events, that, having spent one hour with him in painstaking narration, Mr. Percival may put the case before his father. I don’t believe he has understood a word of what I’ve been saying, as he replies, “No, you’d much better do it yourself.”
Happy Thought.—What a dreadful thing it would be to have an idiot solicitor!
Eleven to-night, punctually! Eleven. Special appointment. I note it down. Good by.
Happy Thought.—Nothing to do in London. Dismiss all thoughts of Pennefather’s assault from my mind. How shall I amuse myself? Go to Charing Cross. Stand for ten minutes waiting to cross the road. Don’t know why I should cross at all, having no object in reaching the other side, except to come back again. I came up to be very busy with my solicitor, and here I am with nothing to do. I stroll into Bow Street.133
Happy Thought.—Visit the Police Court, and get up the forms and ceremonies, so that when I have to appear, if I ever have, before a Magistrate, I may know when it’s my turn to speak, and when to be silent. Go into what I take to be the Police Court. Am asked what I want by two policemen. They are civil, but suspicious. I won’t go in: I will dismiss all these thoughts from my mind. I find myself continually dismissing these thoughts.
Drop into my club. Letter waiting for me from Childers at the Feudal Castle. Will I come down when I like, only telegraph. I will, when this business is over. This business—no, I said I would dismiss these thoughts from my mind, and I will. But I must answer him. Not necessarily. I can wait, until I know if I am free to . . . . Dismiss thoughts again for the third time within ten minutes.
In St. James’s Street. Somebody slaps me on the back and says “Hallo! What brings you to town?” It is Milburd. I dislike Milburd at Boodels’s, but when you meet him in town, and can’t get any one else to talk to, he’s not a bad fellow. I wish he wouldn’t think slapping on the back a sign of heartiness. He tells me afterwards that he considers “slapping a fellow suddenly on the back, when he doesn’t know who the deuce it is,” a first-rate practical joke. I don’t think it first-rate. “Well,” he puts it, “not bad.” I state my general objection to all practical jokes. He agrees with me, excepting slapping on the back. I give in on this point, not liking to be obstinate, and suffer for it, as he’s always, being with me for two hours in the day, trying to take me by surprise. I tell him my case. He 134 sympathizes. He is not a bad fellow when you know him. He says, “Look here,” I avoid his slap, and he goes on somewhat disappointed, “come and dine with me this evening. Dismiss all thoughts of your trial,”—I don’t like his way of speaking of it, but his idea is the same as mine about dismissing the thoughts,—“and spend a quiet evening. I’ll give you dinner at my club.” I tell him that I’m not in the humor for a dinner-party. He informs me that it’s no dinner-party, only Byrton of the Fusileers. I repeat, “O, only Byrton of the Fusileers,” as if his presence was nothing at all; though I’ve never seen him in my life. Milburd says, “Yes, that’s all: say 6.30 Bradshaw.”
Happy Thought.—Always note down engagements. I am noting this. Milburd (he is an ass sometimes) says “Good by, old boy,” and slaps me on the shoulder. I am inclined to be annoyed, but he laughs, and cries out, “Another practical joke, eh?” so I can’t be angry. Besides, he has asked me to dinner.
He comes back for one minute, to ask me “if I think that bonneting a fellow, knocking a hat right over his eyes, is a good practical joke, eh?” I treat the notion with contempt, as beneath such a man as Milburd. I think this is the best way of stopping him, by representing such conduct as unworthy of him, or, if I don’t, he might crush mine in: he’s just the sort of fellow to do it. “Full of animal spirits,” his friends say. It’s a nuisance if you’re not full of animal spirits at the same time. Go to my hotel. Unpack writing materials. Try to do something in Typical Developments 135 about “Spirits of Animals.” Think of Fridoline. Think if this matter ends happily . . . . Dismiss all thoughts of this sort from my mind. Doze. Hot water. Dress to go to Milburd’s Club.
He introduces me to Byrton of the Fusileers. He is friends with me in five minutes, and is telling us in a half-whisper, with his head well forward towards the soup-tureen, something “which of course,” he knows “won’t go beyond this table.”
Byrton can tell us curious circumstances about every one. If we talk of the Great Mogul, he is ready with a curious circumstance about him, of course entre nous! Milburd and I are perpetually swearing ourselves to secrecy all through the dinner. Trying to note down (privately outside the door) one of his remarkable anecdotes, names excepted, I find myself making rather a muddle of his confidences.
Happy Thought.—Capital wine, Moselle: sparkling. Not so strong as champagne.
We dispute this point, and try champagne. I note down the name of the wine-merchant. Byrton tells us something rather curious about him. It is decided that we shall return to the Moselle. I must keep my head clear, having to see my solicitor at eleven. Milburd says, “O, don’t think about that, now. We will have some more Moselle, or champagne.” [On referring to my notes in the morning, which I made as opportunities occurred outside the door, I find the names of several wine-merchants put down 136 as “Mr. Moselle,” and “Mr. Champagne Sparkling,” and I don’t know quite what I meant] The dinner goes on. So does the Moselle.
Happy Thought.—Ask for Moselle at my club. Ask Milburd and Byrton to dine with me. [Referring to notes in the morning can’t make out date.]
They accept. We accept to dine also with Byrton; don’t know when. The room is getting hot. The next bottle of Champagne wants more icing. Capital wine Champagne: so’s Moselle. We are all telling good stories in confidence, hoping they’ll go no farther than that table, like Byrton. I am telling good stories: and it seems to me that we are all talking together, or else some one is speaking very loud. Liquors. I say, must go s’lic’tor. Not time yet. Dismiss thoughts. Fine Port.
Happy Thought.—Lay-in-stock-port. We’re talking Theol’gy. Byrton is telling us something cur’ous’bout Arch’shop Cranbury. I say it’s not Cranbury. Milburd agrees—me. What’s it then? Byrton wants—know. “Arch’shop,” I tell him, “of Crantierbrarry.” Smoking-room. Don’t like going up stairs. Come down’gain. Time go s’lic’tor. Cab.
Happy Thought in Cab.—’Stake t’king port a’f’er Mamselle: mean M’selle. Think I’ve had’nough. Sh’ like biscuit: and water. Very soon at s’lic’tor’s. Very. Seel Sen’r in. Come talk: ser’ous mat’r:’sault. Seel wants-know 137 pericklers. I’ve f’gott’n p’ricklers: ask Pen’fath’r. He thinks I’d bet’r call morn’g. Very hot in’s room. While tell’ng p’ricklers refer’n notes . . . . sleepy . . . . .
Hotel.—Think it’s’tel. S’lic’tor still here: somehow. Can’t make him un’stand. Stupid. * * * * So’s the waiter * * * * Stupid . . . . won’t un’stand * * * * very sleepy. * * * * The weather * * * * odd weather * * * * trouble undressin’.
Happ’ Th’ght. —Go to bed in my boots. * * * *138
NEXT MORNING.—THE BIRDS.—LONDON STREETS.—AN INVITATION.—THEATRE.—A MUSIC HALL.—A LUNCHEON.—A SERMON.
Don’t know how I got to bed last night. Odd that I should forget to wind up my watch. I find, from my notes of the previous evening, that I did go to see my solicitor. Can’t tell from them, as they’re so indistinctly written, whether he advised me. I think he advised me to go to bed. Don’t feel at all well to-day. It’s the weather: and when the weather is unhealthy, it doesn’t do to mix Champagne, Sherry, Moselle, and Port. Horrid weather. Might write a short chapter in Vol. VI. of Typical Developments, “On Influences.”
I am rather hazy as to what I did to my solicitor last night. I hope I didn’t hurt him. I have got some sort of notion that I wanted him to dance. However, he’s a man of the world, and knows that, if it’s at all unhealthy weather, or if you are a little out of order, or not quite the thing, one so easily gets upset by a single glass of wine, and then you become excited in conversation, and do some stupid things which in cold blood you would not do. Of course, in cold blood one would not dance with one’s solicitor.139
Happy Thought.—Better call on him, and make it all right. Bring him some game from the country. Sort of little attention he’d like.
Happy Thought.—Buy the game as I go along. Grouse. Without telling him a positive untruth, I will give him to understand that I shot them myself.
With Mr. Seel, Senior.—He hears my story. No allusion to last night, except on my part. He appears to have forgotten it entirely. I wonder if he’d been dining too. I’ve got a great mind to ask him whether he wanted to dance with me, or I with him. I won’t. He says he’ll settle this assault case and Pennefather into the bargain. Finding that this is an easy matter, I suggest retaliation. Can’t I bring an action against the Company? He asks, what for? I tell him that I suppose he knows this better than I do. I’m to hear from him in a couple of days; this is Saturday—say Monday evening. Conversation. I tell him where I’ve been. He asks me if I’ve had any shooting yet? I say “No.” Remembering the birds in the passage, I add, “Nothing to speak of.” On leaving, I present him with the grouse. He remarks, that he didn’t understand me to say I’d been to the moors. I tell him that I haven’t; and he replies, “O, indeed!” and smiles.
Happy Thought.—The study of law engenders a habit of suspicion. But I ought to have asked, when I bought the game, where these sort of things are shot. I thought all birds got into turnip-fields: and turnip-fields are everywhere. 140 Seel asks me if the birds are very shy this year. I answer, in an offhand manner, “No, not very shy: at least, I didn’t find’em so,” as if they made an exception in my case, as, indeed, they might have done if I’d had a gun. I must take up shooting and hunting this winter. Can’t help thinking of Fridoline. I should like to appear before her one morning in a red coat, buckskin breeches, and brown tops, and wave my hand to her as I gallop away on my bright chestnut.
Happy Thought.—Buy a horse for the winter: not too high.
Nothing to do in London. Walk about. Inspect small streets near Leicester Square. Useful to know London. One street smells as if all the inhabitants were preparing to dine off onions. Walk about. Think I’ll get my hair cut. Stop to look at a wheel turning round in a shop window. Feel myself fascinated by it. Small crowd looking on. Every one apparently fascinated. Wonder what the other people see in it. Ask a respectable elderly person what it’s for. He doesn’t know. I ask another. He laughs, and doesn’t know. Now, I’ll go and get my hair cut. Walk on. See another crowd round another window. Wait until I can work myself to the front. In the shop window is a small jet of water, which takes up a little gilt ball with it as it rises. Every one appears pleased. Nobody offers to go in and buy it. Having seen it for four minutes, I experience no sort of inclination towards walking into the shop to purchase it. Strange, after seeing this, 141 I feel depressed. Stop to look at a man with a bird-whistle.
Happy Thought.—Get my hair cut. Meet Chesterton. Haven’t seen Chesterton for years. He has lately become a clergyman. Quite lately. His manner is subdued and gentle, and I should think he intends it to be winning. He asks me, sorrowfully, to lunch with him to-morrow (Sunday). I accept. He informs me that two friends of his, whom I know, are coming—Huxley and Wright. They are coming to hear him preach his first sermon, in the afternoon, after luncheon. He must leave me now, he says, having to write his discourse. He smiles sadly and seems to glide away. Too late to have my hair cut to-day. Something to do for Monday.
Saturday Evening.—Dinner alone at the Club. Don’t know anybody. Read newspaper: that is, try to. Find myself reading the same lines over and over again. Afterwards, I write to my solicitor, and ask how he’s getting on. Don’t know what to do with myself. Will go to the theatre. Come in at the end of a farce. Comic man in red check trousers is saying, “So, after all, Maria, it was not you.” Roars of laughter. Allusion to a bracelet. More laughter. Wonder what it was about. Ask a gentleman sitting next me. He informs me that it’s just over. I say I know that, but he is sulky, and goes out as the curtain comes down. I don’t think he treads upon my toes by accident. Wish I hadn’t come. In the lobby I meet Milburd. Capital man to fall in with in town. Knows everybody.
As a piece of news he tells me that “Old Boodels is going 142 to drag the pond next Monday. What do I say to coming down.” I reply, “Yes, by all means, but,” not to make myself too cheap, “I’m afraid I’ve got an engagement.” I own I can manage to put it off. I don’t tell him that it’s only to have my hair cut, which I forgot to-day. Capital. Not having a bill, I ask him to point out any celebrities. He asks me do I know Phelps. I do by reputation. Odd, until Milburd showed him to me, I had always thought he was a tragedian, and here he is with a red nose and a red wig, dancing a sort of double shuffle, and singing something about being “a magnificent brick, my boys, my boys, for I”—meaning himself, Mr. Phelps—“I’m a magnificent brick!” As Milburd has heard it all before, and as I’ve not long to stay in town, I ask him to take me somewhere. We go to a Music Hall. Miss Emily Montacute is obliging the company with another song. She has a weak voice, but does a great deal with her right eye, and her hand. The audience, who are taking refreshments and tobacco, join in the choruses enthusiastically, being principally incited thereto by the chairman, who applauds everything by hammering upon the table, and announces, after every song, good or bad, encored or not encored, that Mister, or Miss, or Mrs., as the case may be, “will sing again.” He amuses me. No one else does. The chairman recognizes Milburd on his entering, and condescends to wink at him as he passes to his seat. Immediately after this he raps sharply, as though to recall himself to a sense of his dignified position. A man comes on in an absurd dress with a tall hat, and sings something about “his, or her, being a cruel deceiver, 143 with his (the singer’s) diddlecum doddlecum doddlecum doodlecum diddlecum day.” The tune is catching, and I find myself humming it. Milburd, who doesn’t at all understand the depth of my character, suggests that I should turn my Typical Developments into a Comic Song, and do it at a Music Hall, with a good chorus. He says, “Look here, capital idea, chorus, ‘with my Typical Typical Typical Typical toodlecum ti.’” I smile, but do not encourage him. We leave: I with a headache. Before parting, I inform him of my engagement to-morrow with the Rev. Edward Chesterton. It appears that Milburd knows him. I tell him that it’s on the occasion of his first sermon. Milburd cries out, “What a lark! I’ll come,”—and then sings, “with my Typical Typical Typical toodlecum”—but here I stop him, and say, not priggishly, that it’s not a thing to joke about. To which he replies, “No, this here ain’t a Comic Song, am it?” We part good friends (with the exception that I don’t like his going on singing with my Typical toodlecum), which is all very well for once and away; but palls upon you very soon. Though on the whole I wish I’d not told him about Chesterton.
Happy Thought.—Go to bed.
Sunday.—Luncheon with Chesterton. Rather heavy, being his dinner. Huxley and Wright are old College friends of his. Their reminiscences are hardly fitted to the occasion, being of Beefsteak Club dinners, wild drives to Newmarket, Loo parties, and one great one about bonneting the porter of Chesterton’s College. Chesterton is evidently 144 uncomfortable. After luncheon, which finishes about 2.30, they smoke. Chesterton leaves us for half an hour, begging we’ll make ourselves at home. Milburd drops in and soon makes himself at home. I try to draw their attention to serious topics. Milburd, who will make a jest of everything, calls them “Serious Toothpicks”; and the two others, who are becoming stupid and sleepy, laugh at him. The Rev. Chesterton returns. “Will we come now?” he asks sadly, as if he was taking us all to instant execution, with benefit of clergy. We will. He is delighted, he says, to see Milburd. Will he too come and hear his poor efforts? Milburd answers that he means to encore him if it’s very good. Poor Chesterton smiles with melancholy sweetness. He evidently means to be winning.
Happy Thought.—To get a comfortable seat in the corner of the pew. Away from Milburd.
Four o’clock.—Note-book. Milburd is seated next to me. The three very decorous. Chesterton is in the pulpit. I miss the text, because Milburd will make such a noise blowing his nose, and the two others cough. People settling themselves. I think Chesterton is nervous. He looks towards us, and Milburd jogs me with his elbow. I frown. Sermon proceeding. Small boy in front of me keeps looking round. Frown at him. Shake my head reprovingly. Boy laughs. His mother angry. Boy cries, and points at me. Chesterton sees it, but goes on: is annoyed. Milburd snores. I am afraid of pinching him. Huxley, who is in the right-hand corner, has succumbed to drowsiness, and is 145 suddenly awoke by his head coming sharply against the back of the pew. Wright, who has been opening and shutting his eyes for the last five minutes, gives way at last and falls against Milburd. They are falling against one another like cards that won’t stand upright. I wish I could appear as if they didn’t belong to my party. Boy is looking round at us and grinning. His mother, I fancy, must be deeply interested in the discourse, as she doesn’t take any notice of him. I try to avoid his eye.
Happy Thought.—I will close my eyes to prevent distractions, and listen critically to Chesterton’s sermon. I note down a good passage. * * * * I am roused by the general movement of the congregation, and Milburd whispering to me, “O, how you have been snoring!”
We meet Chesterton coming out of the vestry and greet him with “Excellent! first-rate! just the right length!” He seems pleased. Wright wants him to publish it. So does Huxley. Milburd turns to me and suggests that I might throw in a chorus “With my typical, typical, typical,” &c., which notion I repudiate.
Happy Thought.—Don’t think I shall go down with Milburd to drag the pond at Boodels. Doesn’t do to see too much of Milburd. Sha’n’t be at home when he calls, and if Seel sends to say Assault case settled, I shall run down at once to the Feudal Castle.
Happy Thought.—Hair cut on Monday. No dragging ponds.146
MONDAY IN MY HOTEL.—OUT OF IT AT THE HAIRCUTTER’S.—THE TELEGRAM.—OFF TO BOVOR.—I ARRIVE AT BECKENHURST.
Dull: no news from solicitor. Send up porter with note to Seel to ask how’s the matter going on? Lonely place a hotel when you don’t know anybody.
Happy Thought.—Go to the bar and ask for letters.
Happy Thought.—To ask for letters at a hotel gives you some importance. No letters: didn’t expect any. Porter returns: Seel not in. No answer: provoking. Go and write a Chapter for Vol. VIII. Typical Developments, on “Loneliness in Crowds.” Think the idea’s been done before: will ask some one. Won’t write just now. Happy Thought.—Go and have my hair cut.
Man who cuts it wishes to know, insinuatingly, whether I use their Bohemian Balsam. I don’t like hurting his feelings, but am obliged to say that I do not. He can recommend it strongly, he says, and wishes to “put up a pot for me.” I say no, not to-day. I feel that I am in his hands, and if he presses it very much, I’m done. He supposes, 147 as a matter of course, that I am never without their Chloride of Caranthus. I answer, in an off-hand way, that I haven’t used any of it lately, though I don’t add that I’ve never heard of it before. Shall he put me up a couple of bottles? I take time to consider: as if this was a difficult matter to decide. I answer after a few minutes. “Well—no—not to-day,” whereupon he proposes sending it to me in any part of the country.
Happy Thought.—To tell him that I don’t like the Chloride of Caranthus: that will settle it. I tell him: it doesn’t settle it. He is astonished to hear this from me, and says, “Indeed! dear me!” quite pityingly. I wonder if he’s taken in. He tries to flatter me by pretending that he recollects how I like my hair cut. “Not very short, I think,” he says. Humbug: I’ve never been here before. He tells me that some gentlemen do prefer the Gelatinium; perhaps, he inquires, that is my case, perhaps I prefer the Gelatinium. On my saying, dubiously, “No,” he proposes putting up a bottle of each to try.
Happy Thought.—Always be decided in speaking to a hairdresser. Say boldly that you don’t use any of these things, or that you don’t want anything at present.
I casually praise a brush whirled about my head by machinery, and he offers to put that up for me, machinery and all, I suppose. Nothing easier, he explains. Will I have my head washed? I answer, “Yes,” adding inadvertently, “I have not had that done for some weeks.” He 148 seizes upon the admission, and deduces from it that I have none of their Savonian . I have not. He says decidedly that he will put me up a couple of bottles. He is actually going to give the order when I call out, “No, I won’t.” A little more and I should lose my temper altogether. He’s afraid that I don’t use their Gelissiton Sphixiad for my whiskers and mustache. He says this in a tone implying that I may expect them to drop off at once if I don’t adopt his remedy. I despise myself for getting cross with a hairdresser; but one is entirely in his power. You can’t jump up and run away with the apron sort of thing round your neck. He is very officious in assisting me with my coat and waistcoat: his hands are greasy, but I don’t like to hurt his feelings. Won’t I have any soaps, brushes, combs? can’t he put up any little thing for me? toilet bottles? Eau-de-cologne, scents? Then he concludes, with “Nothing more to-day?” Whereupon I reply, as blandly as I can, “No, thank you, nothing more to-day.” He bows me out.
Happy Thought.—Won’t go there again. Ought to go to a dentist’s. Sha’n’t. It hurts; and I might be laid up with a swelled face.
Back to hotel. Send message up to solicitor. Ask for letters again. None. Porter returns. No answer from solicitor. Odd. Think I’ll write to Fraser. In his letter send a passage to Miss Fridoline. Can’t send her “my love.” “Kind regards” is what you would send to an elderly lady. I’ll put it generally, thus: “Remember me 149 to all at Furze.” Send up to solicitor’s, for the third time to-day. Think I’ll take a walk. As I go out, ask for letters. None. I appear surprised and puzzled. Don’t think the Manageress is taken in. Solicitor sends answer:—“All right. You can go away. Send me your address, in case of an accident. Pennefather withdraws.”
I am in high spirits. Hang Pennefather!
Happy Thought.—Go down to Bovor Castle at once. Change of scene. Telegraph—“Coming down. Last train. Dine in town. No answer.”
Splendid invention, telegraphing. So easily done. I send a line: in an hour’s time Childers will get it: will order a trap to meet me by last train: prepare supper, fire, bed for me: and everything will be ready for my arrival.
Dine at my Hotel.—Notice character. Patronizing headwaiter, who keeps on catching my eye. Officious waiter, who will insist upon bringing every course before I want it, and receiving everything before I’ve quite done. One man dining alone smiles on every one, as if he’d be ready to drink or eat with any one at a moment’s notice. Another bestows his umbrella carefully away in a corner at his elbow, as though there was some chance of its raining during dinnertime, in which case he would be prepared. A third calls the waiters by their Christian names, and gets served quicker than any one; whereat others (myself included) are scowling. The head-waiter whispers to him the best cuts, and keeps him alive to the arrival of the hottest joint. There is another unfortunate man, who sits down at the same time as myself, and apparently asks for everything they haven’t got, 150 and is only beginning his fish as I am finishing my dinner. Cab. To Station.
Happy Thought.—When I return to town, to learn boxing. To give an impertinent cabman one on the nose, or in the eye, would beat repartees all to nothing. As it is, I have to give him sixpence over his fare to avoid a row.
Ticket for Beckenhurst. Nearest station for Bovor Castle. No sleeping this time.
Bright night. Carriage shaky. Hope my luggage is all right. It suddenly flashes across me that I don’t remember packing up my sponge. Wish I could get at my portmanteau, and see. No good, by the way, if I could.
Beckenhurst.—Luckily some one in the carriage tells me it’s Beckenhurst, or I should have missed it. Get out. Very cold. I’ve got two portmanteaus, a bag, a writing-desk, and a dressing-case. I tell this to the guard, who whistles, and the train is off. I find my luggage on the platform. Station-master asks for my ticket. I give it him. Porter asks me where I’m going to. I say “Bovor Castle,” with a feeling that there’s something wrong. On the contrary, all right. Station-master says, politely, “O, you’re the gentleman who telegraphed from town to say he’d be down by last train.” I am, I reply graciously. Station-master runs off to look after two or three other tickets.
To telegraph was a Happy Thought indeed. The telegram (I say to myself) has arrived: old Childers has evidently sent a trap for me, prepared supper, and all I’ve to do is to drive to as quickly as possible, and enjoy myself. Good fellow, old Childers. The train is 151 half an hour late, but that doesn’t matter, as the telegram has arrived. Station-master returns. I am curious to know how quickly that telegraphic message travelled. “When,” I ask him, in the greatest good-humor, “did you get it here?” “Well,” replies the Station-master, “the fact is, the line was a little out of order.” “Ah, I see, it didn’t come as quickly as usual; well, at all events, it came.” “O yes,” continues the Station-master, slowly, “it came; but they sent it to Brighton first.” “To Brighton!” I exclaim. “Why?” The Station-master says he doesn’t know why to Brighton, as they needn’t have done that. “Well,” I ask, “when did you get it, then?” [I think to myself it is a wonderful thing this telegraphing: here a message goes by mistake fifty or sixty miles out of the way, and it makes hardly any difference after all. Wonderful!] He answers, “Well, sir, it didn’t come till very late.” I begin to be nervous. “But,” I inquired, “you sent it on to Mr. Childers, at Bovor?” “Well, no, I didn’t,” he replies. “Not!” I exclaim. “But, good heavens! here I’ve come from London on purpose to—to—to—to go to Bovor—” I am aware of the climax not being powerful, but proceed, angrily, “—and had settled everything—and—hang it—I telegraphed on purpose that there might be no inconvenience. Why on earth didn’t you send it on?”
“Well, sir,” says the Station-master, deprecatingly, “it wouldn’t have been any use, as you’d have been there before the telegram.” “What!” I exclaim. He explains, “The message only arrived ten minutes before you came down.” He adds that his porter walking wouldn’t get to Bovor, which is four miles off, as soon as I should driving, 152 and therefore he didn’t send it: he then begins to recapitulate the circumstances of the line being wrong, message going to Brighton, when I cut him short. “I shall complain of this,” I say, wishing to frighten him. He isn’t a bit frightened, and agrees with me. He says, “Yes, there ought to be a complaint about it.” “To whom?” I ask, producing my pocket-book. Well, to the London Telegraph Office, he thinks. It shall be done. I make a great note, “To the Manager of the Telegraph Office—To Complain—Brighton,” and return the memorandum to my pocket.
What’s the time? Eleven. Why, they’ll all be in bed. The Station-master thinks it not improbable. Shall I go over there? The porter can get me a fly: in five minutes. He does so: in a quarter of an hour. “If,” I ask the Station-master, who has sat down to work, and has quite forgotten me, “I do go to Bovor, and can’t get into the Castle, I suppose I can get a bed in the village?” “What village?” he asks. Well, I mean in Bovor village. “O,” he says, “there’s no Bovor village, there’s only the Castle; it’s a good four miles from here.” “Well, then, I must return to Beckenhurst, if I want a bed.” “Yes, that’s it,” he says, adding, “there’s a fairish inn at Beckenhurst.”
Shall I stop at Beckenhurst, and go on in the morning? I am undecided. The fly arrives. The porter decides me by placing my luggage in the boot. It isn’t a fly at all, it is a sort of dog-cart, and I have to sit next to the driver. It is very cold. It is very dark, after coming out of the Station. Brightish night. We start for Bovor Castle.153
EN ROUTE FOR THE CASTLE.—THOUGHTS ON THE STARS.—A COMMUNICATIVE DRIVER.
Get into the gig, and leave the Station. Very cold. At first starting it seems a brightish night. Getting away from the Station (where the gas is on, which is all the difference), it is pitch dark.
Happy Thought.—I think of the word “pitch,” and hold on by the rail at the side of my seat. Feels unsafe. Always feel unsafe when being driven.
Happy Thought.—What must others feel when I’m driving them?
Recollect I once did drive some one through a lane, in Devonshire, in the dark. I say “some one”: I now forget who he was, as I never saw him again. Drove him and every one up against a wall, which I thought was the continuation of the road. Recollect driving once again in Devonshire, after dinner, by moonlight. We walked the horse, so as to be particularly careful. Drove him up a bank, which I thought wasn’t a bank, and upset everybody, with a boot full of rabbits which we’d shot, and three 154 guns. Didn’t drive again in Devonshire, except once more in broad daylight, when I tried to turn a corner very neatly. I recollect, on that occasion, one fellow went into a green mud pond, and was laid up for three weeks, and the other fellow disappeared over a hedge, and said he wasn’t hurt much. The driver always falls easier than the others; at least I did.
I wish I hadn’t recollected all these things.
Happy Thought.—Unfasten the apron, so as to be ready.
Talk to the man in order to give him confidence, and not to let him think I’m afraid. I observe to him, “It’s very dark.” He observes, “No, it ain’t,” which doesn’t promise well for a sustained conversation. I think we’re turning a corner, by the feeling of being at some sort of an angle with the hand-rail, but I can’t see. Whatever it is, we’re safe again and (I think) on a straight road.
The horse stumbles. I suggest he’d better “hold him up.” Hate careless driving, specially in the dark. Man, who is well wrapped up, replies from behind a high coat-collar and comforter, and from beneath a hat (which three things are all I can see of him), “He’s all right.” Man is sulky: perhaps been called out of bed to drive me to Bovor Castle, and doesn’t like it. I shouldn’t.
Happy Thought.—Be kindly towards him. Hint at the possibility of his having a warm drink on the road, if he’ll only drive carefully.155
Happier Thought.—To give it him at the end of the journey, not at the beginning. He might get excited.
In a dark, narrow lane. I say, as pleasantly as possible, “Nasty place, this; can’t pass many things here,” by which I mean to convey that if any other vehicle was meeting us, one of the two would be in the ditch. He admits, with reserve, “No, there ain’t much room.” He doesn’t seem to know what he should do if another vehicle comes. I wonder (to myself) if I could jump into the hedge. Something is coming. No. Yes. No. Horse stumbles again. I laugh, and, not liking to give advice to a professional driver, say, “He wants a little holding up, eh?” Man replies, gruffly, “No, he don’t.” From his tone I gather that he won’t take advice. Stars are appearing, as it seems to me.
Happy Thought.—Looking at the stars (it is clearer now), I remember how African travellers in the deserts, or jungles, or prairies, or somewhere where nobody is, except occasional lions and tigers, guide themselves by the stars. Wonder how they do it. M. Du Chaillu in his book says he did it. I suppose it requires a thorough knowledge of the Heavenly Bodies. At present the only Heavenly Body I know is the Great Bear; which, by the way, is about as much like a bear as—as—say a poker. [That’s where I fail, in simile.] If I looked at the Great Bear, I wonder where I should get to at last. In other directions, too, you see other stars and lights. This would be very puzzling. Sailors steer by the stars. It must be very difficult to find which way to turn at sea. First turning 156 to the left, we’ll say, for instance, takes you to America. Well, that can’t be easy to find at any time,—specially at night. At least, I’ve always thought so, looking at it from Brighton.
These thoughts distract me from my present danger. I don’t know that there is any danger, but I feel as if there was. Horse stumbles. Man informs me that “we’re going down a rather steep hill.” Odd, I don’t know it. But why doesn’t he “hold him up”? I ask. He replies, “He doesn’t want any holding up.” He says, he knows the horse well enough. So do I by this time: a beast. Driving on. Another corner. The driver is rather rash at corners, but steady in the straight road. I feel I should like to say to him, “Don’t try to drive so dashingly.” But perhaps it will only irritate him.
I want to pull his right rein when he’s going round a left-hand corner. Perhaps I make matters worse by interference.
Shall be glad when this is over.
“Where,” I ask, “is the Castle?” He answers, “O, that ain’t here: this is Beckenhurst, this is.” “Well,” I say, “we’ve come two miles, and the Station was Beckenhurst.” He corrects me, with, evidently, the clear knowledge of a native, “No, that’s Beckenhurst Station: this is Beckenhurst village.”
“What, all this?” I ask, alluding to the distance we’ve already travelled. He informs me, with his whip pointing straight forward, and then from left to right, at the hedges, “Yes, all this: Bovor’s a matter of four mile from here.”157
I tell him that they said it was only four miles from Beckenhurst Station: which notion seems to amuse him behind his collar and comforter, and under his hat.
Happy Thought.—These country people never know what distance is: therefore, he may be wrong. Yes, but wrong which way? Is it more or less than four miles? I ought to have asked at the Station how much a mile the fly charges here. This is just one of those occasions when I want presence of mind. I think of these things, just like my repartees and similes, a quarter of an hour after I ought to have said them.
Happy Thought.—To pretend I know the road: then, he won’t impose on me. I do recollect having been in this neighborhood, or at all events in Kent, when I was a child. I observe, with decision, “O, it’s not more than four miles.” It doesn’t seem to make very much difference, to him, so perhaps they charge here by the hour. I don’t like to ask him to drive fast; and yet if he dawdles for the sake of running up a bill, I sha’n’t get to Castle until, perhaps, one o’clock in the morning, when every one’s fast asleep.
Unhappy Thought.—Supposing I can’t get in? Because, hang it, as my telegram has not arrived, they don’t expect me. If I do get in, p’r’aps they won’t have got a bed. House full, perhaps. I put this case to the driver, and add, “I suppose (as a matter of course) that I can easily get a bed at the Hotel.” He asks, gruffly, “What Hotel?” 158 I say, “Why, at Bovor.” This amuses him under his wrapper, as before, and he observes, presently, “There ain’t no Hotel.” I think he’s stickling for names, and putting too fine a point (so to speak) upon it; so I explain that when I say Hotel, I mean village Inn. He answers me, displaying some little petulance; “There ain’t no village”: adding, as a consequence, “and there ain’t no Inn.” “No Inn!” I exclaim. I hardly like asking, after this, if there is a Castle. Supposing it should be only a practical joke of Childers? Impossible.
“If the worst comes to the worst,” I say, “I can get a bed at the hotel at Beckenhurst, then?” He is doubtful about this, as they’re sure to be closed, being so late.
Happy Thought.—This flyman comes from some stables; the stables belong to an Inn, of course. I put this to him, thus, that “if the worst does come to the worst, I can get a bed at his Inn.” He extinguishes all hope in this quarter by telling me that “his master only lets out horses and flys.”
I hope to goodness Childers will be up. He used to be a great fellow in town for sitting up late. Perhaps in the country he goes to bed early.
Happy Thought.—Dismiss anxiety, and obtain information about the country from the driver.
I ask him about the crops. He doesn’t know much about crops. “Any floods?” I inquire. He’s not heard of any.159
Happy Thought.—Get some statistics from him about Cattle Plague. I ask him “if he’s had much Cattle Plague here.” He is angry and returns that he hasn’t had no Cattle Plague. He thinks I’m laughing at him. These country people are very techy. I tell him, politely, that I don’t mean that he’s had the Cattle Plague (though he’s ass enough for anything, but I don’t say this), but I want to know has it been bad here. He hasn’t heard as it has.
Perhaps he’s got some information about the antiquities of the county. No, he hasn’t. “Bovor Castle’s very old,” I suggest, to draw him out. He supposes as it is. I ask, “How old?” He don’t know; but it’s been there ever so long. “Is he acquainted with Mr. Childers?” No, he ain’t.
He won’t be drawn out. It is lighter now. The moon shines. Delightful night to arrive at an old Feudal Castle. I imagine to myself a grand entrance: Gothic or Norman arches: [Happy Thought. Get up my architecture.] a fine old bridge, a large massive gate, with an iron rod at the side, which moves a deep-toned bell on the arrival of a guest. Or, perhaps, a horn hung up outside, wherewith to summon the warder. Shall read Ivanhoe again. We go down hill.
We are in a lane full of ruts: there is no doubt about that. He informs me “We’re just there.” It is past twelve o’clock.
I can’t see the Castle; perhaps it will burst upon me presently in the full light of the pale romantic moon. It doesn’t, 160 however, and my driver pulls up at an old wooden five-barred gate leading into a field.
“Here’s Bovor Castle,” says he, as we stop short; and he looks over his comforter at me as much as to say, “And what are you going to do now?”
I don’t know. I only see a common gate leading into a sloshy field.
“Can’t we get nearer to the Castle than this?” I ask, not seeing the Castle at all anywhere.
It appears we can’t, as the Castle is in a sort of hollow. It is surrounded by a moat, and there’s no getting up to it driving, nor even on foot, if the drawbridge is up.
Happy Thought.—To write a chapter in Typical Developments on the idiocy and thoughtlessness of our Norman ancestors. I wonder if they ever arrived late at night and couldn’t get in. I will descend.
Happy Thought.—To doubt the honesty of this country driver. If I descend, he may drive off with my luggage; and I shall never see him again. In fact, as he has been behind his wrapper, coat-collar, and underneath his hat, I haven’t seen him yet, and couldn’t swear to him in a Court of Law.
Happy Thought.—To make him get down and drag my luggage out, while I stand at the horse’s head. Good. But what’s next? Here’s my portmanteau, box, desk, bag, hat-box, rugs, dressing-case, and how am I to get up, or down, to Bovor Castle?161
Happy Thought.—He shall take them on, and I’ll remain with the horse. He doesn’t like the idea, and mistrusts my stopping with his gig and horse. These apparently simple bumpkins are full of low cunning. Capital subject for a chapter in Typical Developments. He opens the gate, and carries my portmanteau across the field. Following him with my eyes, I gradually become aware of a building in the distance, across apparently two fields, by moonlight. Not my idea, at present, of Bovor Castle.
If Childers is not up, and I have to carry all these things back, and then drive about Kent during the night looking for a bed, it will be pleasant.
Happy Thought.—Childers shall get up. What a surprise for him!
Luggage still being carried. Half past midnight.162
BOVOR CASTLE.—THE DRAWBRIDGE.—THE RECEPTION.—SUPPER.—THE HAUNTED ROOM.
What inconvenient places these old castles are! This Bovor Castle is in a splendid state of preservation: one of the few, I believe, with a drawbridge. The drawbridge, when I arrive, is up for the night. I wish Childers was up for the night. No bell. No knocker. No horn. Nothing.
Happy Thought.—Tell the flyman to shout.
He says if he shouts it will frighten the horse. I must shout, and he must run back and tie his horse up: then return and shout. In his absence I walk along the side of the moat, to see if there’s any way of crossing without the bridge. None.
It’s very solemn and gray in the moonlight, and mysterious and dark out of it. I feel as if I’d come to release Mary, Queen of Scots. I see a punt moored to the opposite bank: Mary, Queen of Scots, again.
I see the places where they used to pour hot lead out on to the people below.
Hope Childers isn’t hiding, and going to have any practical jokes.163
Flyman returns. I tell him to shout.
Happy Thought.—A man can’t shout with any energy in cold blood. The shouting of a hireling cannot be so hearty as that of the person interested.
I tell him to shout louder. He asks, “what name he shall shout?” I tell him “Childers.” He begins, “Hi, Childers! Chil-ders!” I don’t like hearing him behave so familiarly, but won’t stop him, in order to insert the “Mister,” or perhaps he won’t shout any more. I fancy he takes a secret pleasure in calling the present owner of the castle “Childers.”
He says he can’t do it any louder. Absurd! A flyman, and can’t shout!
I begin, “Childers!” I take a turn of two minutes. There’s no echo; no effect of any sort, except a growing sense of hopeless desolation. The flyman is sitting on a portmanteau, and beginning to doze. “Chil-ders! Chil-ders! Childers!”
I can’t believe they’re all asleep. They hear me, and won’t get up. It’s cruel. “Chil-ders, hi!! Hi!!!” He may not be at home. Somebody must hear.
Happy Thought.—Make the flyman shout with me.
Duet—“Childers! Hi! Hi! Chil-ders! Hi!” I don’t like leaving off for a minute, but we are obliged to do so for want of breath, the hireling giving in first.
Happy Thought.—Throw a stone at a window. Glazier less expensive than driving to a hotel.164
We look for a stone. Flyman says he should like to break a window or two. I tell him there’s no necessity for that. Can’t find a stone. Can’t throw grass.
Shout once more. Wish we’d not left off shouting, to look for stones; as, if we had roused them, they’ll all have gone to sleep again.
Wish I was in London—in bed. Wish I’d asked for an answer to my telegram. Wish all this while I shout.
A light behind a red curtain at a window. A voice, which comes in as a pleasant relief to ours, says, “Hallo!” A stupid thing to say, by the way. I shout, “Hallo, Childers!” He answers, “Who’s that?” That settles the question: it is Childers. I tell him that I am here. He exclaims, “You! By Jove, all right!” and disappears, light and all. I wonder if he’s glad to see me! I wonder what he’s saying now!
The flyman suddenly becomes more respectful, I fancy; he had evidently begun to think that I didn’t know any one at Bovor Castle.
Noise on the other side of the gate. Unbarring.
Childers is there in a dressing-gown, with a lantern, like Guy Fawkes. He cries out, “Stop a minute, and I’ll let down the drawbridge,” as if I was going to attempt crossing over without it.
It is down: he works it with one hand. He says, “O yes, it was no good calling the maid to do it. They’re all in bed.” Flyman crosses with the luggage. I pay him, standing under the portcullis: he grumbles, and I pay him again. I stop to admire the romantic scene. Childers says “Yes, deuced cold, though. See it better to-morrow 165 morning.” He closes the gate, and leaves the drawbridge down. He tells me he was asleep when I arrived.
Happy Thought.—Praise the place as much as possible to put him in a good humor. Wish I could recollect if he’s got a family or not, I’d ask after them. Ought to recollect all these sort of things before calling on anybody. Safe question to ask him, “All well at home?” only it sounds as if he had just arrived, not I. His reply is, “All quite well,” and I wonder to myself whether there is a Mrs. Childers. I’ve only known Childers as a bachelor in town. I don’t recollect his mentioning Mrs. Childers then.
We cross a court-yard, which reminds me of being in a small college, and coming home late. In fact I can’t help expecting to see plenty of lights, and hear jovial voices. Neither.
He asks me, doubtfully, if I won’t take any supper. I say, “No, my dear fellow; don’t let me put you to any trouble.” By which I want him to understand that I’m very hungry, and had expected to find chickens, champagne, and salad awaiting my arrival. He replies, “O, no trouble in the least. As you don’t want any, you’d like to go to bed at once.” I say, “Yes, at once!”
Happy Thought.—Never travel without biscuits. Makes you independent. So do matches and soap.
A noise in the passage. Two men come in loudly. One, who, I should say, sleeps in his spectacles, has evidently 166 had his trousers, slippers, and shooting-coat close by his bedside. The other has only been able to lay hold of the two first articles. They rush in, shake me by the hand heartily, and say “How d’ye do, old fellow?” I respond as energetically, “How d’ye do? How are you?”
Happy Thought.—I have certainly never seen either of them before. They are asleep, I think.
They insist on shaking hands again. They then look at one another and laugh. I laugh. Childers laughs. We all laugh. We then sit down, and there is a pause.
Happy Thought.—I say, cheerfully, “Well, I’ve kept my promise. Here I am.”
The short man in spectacles laughs as if he were going to make an observation, but doesn’t. The taller man smiles thoughtfully at the candle. I am almost positive they are asleep. Childers observes, “that he didn’t expect me so late,” but adds, “that he’s deuced pleased to see me.” The short man in spectacles leans forward to shake hands with me again, and laughs. The taller has evidently expended all his energy at first, and is fast asleep upright in his chair. More noise; another man enters in a sort of barbarian costume, consisting of knickerbockers, a railway rug, and a Scotch cap. He says, “he thought the orchard was being robbed:—he’d loaded his gun, and looked out.”
Happy Thought.—Narrow escape this!167
Seeing me, he says, cheerfully, “How d’ye do?” I respond equally cheerfully, and we all laugh again, including the tall man, who wakes up to do it, and then resumes his dozing.
I suppose they don’t introduce people at Bovor. Wonder if they’re brothers or cousins, or only friends. Must take care what I say.
Short man in spectacles inquires for something to drink. Childers, addressing him as “Bobby,” tells him he can’t want anything at that hour. It appears, however, that he can, and does. The taller man also wakes up at the mention of something to drink; and the barbarian, who has now lighted a pipe at the solitary candle, is struck with the idea as a good one.
They all know where everything is to be found. Bobby says he wouldn’t mind something to eat. Tall man, becoming more wakeful every minute, suggests “cheese,” and, as an afterthought, “bread.” The barbarian, taking a kindly view of my case, asks me to join him in a pipe, and wait till Childers brings in some cold pie. This (with the exception of the pipe) is thoughtful. I take to the barbarian.
Happy Thought.—Note for Typical Developments. The short cut to a man’s heart is through the stomach.
Every one is gone to get something. There is an air of hospitality about them all that I like. But I can’t make out whether they are all Childerses, or friends, or cousins. Each one seems to be the host.168
Childers returns alone, with a cold pie and a plate.
Happy Thought.—To ask him, now he’s alone, who the other fellows are. He is surprised. “What, don’t I know them?” No. O, then he’ll tell me. The short one, in spectacles, is Bob Englefield, the dramatist Don’t I know him?
Happy Thought.—Say (in order not to offend him), “I’ve heard the name somewhere.”
“The tall one,” he continues, “is a very rising fellow,—. Jack Stenton.” I ask, “Rising? in what way?” Childers replies: “O, in every way: philosophy, and that sort of thing.” Then adds, as if this wasn’t enough to determine his character, “Writes for several reviews.”
Happy Thought.—Best thing to say is, “Does he, indeed?” which I say accordingly.
The barbarian in the rug is Poss Felmyr. “Old Poss is writing a novel down here,” he tells me. All I can say is, “Is he, indeed?” again.
I remark that they’ve all got familiar Christian names,—Bobby, Jack, Mat (Childers is “Mat,” I find), and Poss.
“Why Poss?” Nobody knows: they’ve always called him so.
Happy Thought.—I like these sort of names. They’re terms of affection among men. I never had a name of this sort. I wish these fellows would call me “Poss,” or something. 169 I like this style of thing: no women; all men, clever, brilliant, literary, and artistic.
I give out this sentiment over the pie:
Childers says, “O, my wife’s here.” I say, “O, indeed!” and try to explain away my remark by saying, “Ah! that’s a different thing.”
They smoke, eat, and drink all at once.
I make a good supper off pie, cheese, and cold brandy-and-water.
The next question which occurs to the party is, “Where shall we put him?” meaning me.
I say, politely, anywhere. Hope (to myself sincerely) that it will be a comfortable room.
Bobby jumps up, and says, “He’s got it.”
We regard him inquiringly.
He looks round at us and says, “How about the Haunted Room?”
I repeat (I am aware, feebly), “The Haunted Room?” and smile. Of course I don’t believe in ghosts. Pooh!170
BOVOR.—THE HAUNTED ROOM.—ROUGHING IT.
“Of course I don’t mind a haunted room?” Of course not.
I announce, as a curious feet, that I never was in one. Somebody says, “No? really!” as if I was quite an exception to the general rule.
Happy Thought.—Try to test them by saying, “You’ve not seen a ghost?”
They admit they’ve not; “But, perhaps,” Childers says, “he’ll be more polite to visitors.” Have I had all I want? Childers wants to know. Yes. We retire from the dining-room in procession, Bobby first, Childers last, myself just before Childers.
It is a very old house. Tiles on the floor in some parts. Can’t see the advantage of tiles: perhaps they thought they were going to build roofs, and changed their minds.
We pass through a large hall with a splendid old fireplace. Enormous chimney. [Note for Typical Developments. Look up authorities about the Mediæval Sweep.]. There is an oak screen at one end.
My candle (they know their way about without any), though not particularly brilliant, puts everything else in the shade.171
I can’t help exclaiming, having an eye for the picturesque, “Charming, delightful old place!”
Childers replies, “Yes. Wants doing up.”
“Doing up!” I exclaim. “O no.”
“Ah,” says he, “you don’t know it. Rats and damp. Come along to bed.”
Somebody says “Hallo!” from above. It startles me. Whether it is the shadows or the candle, or the family boots all in a row, I don’t know, but I am nervous. Childers points Bobby’s face out to me, high up, looking out of a little window in the screen. I dare say an ancestor put it down as a “Happy Thought” to have a window in the screen. Idiot!
I stumble up the glorious old oak stairs. My candle only shows me the next step each time. The shadows which I make by moving the light about look exactly like rats. These stairs twist so. Ancestors could never have walked straight.
Happy Thought.—Winding staircases originated by inebriated architects.
Happy Thought.—To ask if there are any black beetles.
No. None. Except in the hall through which we’ve just passed. I stumble up three more stairs and some loose tiles. Did ancestors have carpets?
Happy Thought.—Look out in some Useful Knowledge Dictionary. “Carpets. When introduced into England? By whom?”172
Happy Thought.—Probably by the Turks. Rhubarb and carpets might have come over together. Turkey in both instances.
We are on an old landing. I ask, jocularly, whose ghost it’s supposed to be that haunts my room.
Childers doesn’t know. Jack Stenton (the rising philosopher) does. He informs us, “Old woman burnt.”
I say, “Oh?” inquiringly. “Old woman burnt, eh?” and meditate on it. I don’t know what I think about it. But I do think. We all stop to think.
“Let’s get in,” I suggest. They say, “Let’s do so.”
Childers stops on a stair to say, he hopes I’m prepared to rough it a little, as he didn’t expect me.
I tell him I like roughing it. Wonder (to myself) what his idea of roughing it is. I knew a man whose idea of roughing it in the country was to have a villa in a park, a French cook, and a valet. He used to tell me he would be perfectly content with homely fare: his idea of homely fare was potage à la reine, mullet, ortolans and woodcocks. Hope Childers calls this roughing it. Childers stops suddenly, and looks at Bob Englefield, the dramatist in spectacles. A notion has struck him. He says, “I don’t know how we’ll make you a bed, though.” This promises to result in roughing it.
I am ready with a manly reply, “O, I can sleep anywhere.”
Happy Thought.—To qualify this by adding, “for one night.”
Bob Englefield, who has a ready invention, says, “O, I’ve got a rug.”173
Stenton, the reviewer, who appears more thoughtful, perhaps because he’s sleepier than the others, says, in a deep voice, “Sheets.”
Happy Thought.—Lessen the roughing-it process as much as possible. Say, decidedly, “Yes, sheets.”
Childers doesn’t know where the sheets are.
Poss Felmyr asks, “How about a pillow?”
With the same view as before, I second this inquiry.
Bob Englefield has it. “The sofa cushion.”
Carried nem. con., and I brighten up.
Bob Englefield has it again. “There are two sheets in his room for him to-morrow.”
I say, “Don’t bother on my account,” politely. Childers replies, cheerily, “O, we’ll dodge it somehow,” and I look forward to roughing it. We are obliged to bring all my luggage up, as I can’t recollect in which thing my sponge is.
Happy Thought (noted down while resting with carpetbag on stairs).—How easily a man becomes accustomed to hardships! When I return home I’ll take to visiting prisons and workhouses in disguise, like Mrs. Fry and the Casual gentleman who wrote the workhouse articles. Splendid subjects for Typical Developments, “Human Miseries,” Vol. XI.
Some one (the novelist, I think,) says he’ll lend me a towel. Each one will give something, like the three witches in Macbeth. They all say, “Here’s a lark!” and run off 174 to collect the materials. Childers gets the sofa cushion, and we make for my room. Luggage on a landing.
In my Room.—This is, I am informed, the Haunted Chamber, where the old woman was burnt. Odd; as I remark there is no fireplace. Bob Englefield, Jack Stenton, and Old Poss are making my bed. It is one of those iron unfolding things which is intended for a chair and a bed.
Childers apologizes for its being a little cranky, and Old Poss tells me I must take care, when I am lying down, to lean more on the left than the right side, or it will give way.
They enjoy making the bed. I fancy they laugh because they think it’ll be uncomfortable. It appears none of them have ever done such a thing before. Poss Felmyr says he recollects making apple-pie beds at school. I’ll examine mine when they’re gone.
Happy Thought.—Every man ought to be able to sew his own buttons on, and make beds, if necessary. If I ever have a family they shall learn all these things.
The bed is made, and, as they are all immensely pleased, I thank them, and they retire, hoping I’ll find it all right, and adding, that “if the Ghost comes, I’d better throw the sofa cushion at her.”
I do hope that there are not going to be any practical jokes. I recollect hearing of a man becoming an idiot when a practical joke about a ghost was played on him.175
Happy Thought.—To wind up my watch while I think of it.
Childers walks to the window.
“I’m afraid,” he says, apologetically, “that the window doesn’t fasten very well.”
I say, “O, never mind,” implying that there’s no necessity to send for a plumber and glazier at this time of night on my account.
“But,” he explains, “it’s a tumble-down old place.”
I tell him I like this sort of thing amazingly. He expresses himself glad to hear it.
“Am I quite comfortable?” is his last inquiry.
I look round at the truckle-bed, at my bag, at the towels, and reply that I am, cheerily. I have a misgiving that I shall want something when he’s gone.
Happy Thought.—To ask where the bell is.
There’s no bell: what fellows our ancestors were! [When were bells invented, and by whom first used in private castles? Typical Developments, Book X., Vol. XII.]
The servants sleep on the other side of the castle, where the children are. [Note. Childers’s children: ask after them.]
“If I want anything, I can call to the other fellows,” I suggest.
“Yes, you can,” Childers admits, jocularly, “but,” he adds, “they won’t hear you.” It is an oddly built place; every one appears to be sleeping in “another passage,” with a staircase all to himself.176
I make the best of it, and say, cheerfully, “O, I sha’n’t want anything till morning.”
“Then that’s all right,” returns Childers. He comes back to tell me that if I want a bath in the morning, Englefield’s got it.
I thank him. When he’s gone I remember that I don’t know where Englefield’s room is. He comes back once more to tell me that the door doesn’t fasten very well. He wishes he could give me a better room. “My dear fellow,” I say, “capital—excellent—the very thing I like. So quaint,” I add.
“Well,” he says, “it is a quaint little place; better than a great uncomfortable modern room.”
I don’t answer this. Somehow I don’t like his praising the room. He ought to have left that to the visitor. Childers wants tact. He hopes I shall sleep comfortably, and laughingly trusts I won’t see any ghosts.
I reply, I’ll tell him all about the ghost in the morning. I remember (as he says good night) a story of this sort in Washington Irving, I think, where a man jested about telling them in the morning about a ghost and was haunted. I think his hair turned white, and he saw a picture roll its eyes, and the top of the bed came down: I forget exactly; but it’s not the sort of thing to remember just as you’re going to bed in a strange place. He is gone, and I quite forgot to ask him about Englefield’s bath. How my presence of mind deserts me!
Happy Thought.—Brush my hair.177
Very dull and lonely here. My face in the glass looks spectral; not like it does in other glasses. I feel as if some one was going to look over my shoulder. Shake this off. Make notes. Analyze my nervousness for a chapter in Typical Developments.
Oak panels. No fireplace. Wind is getting up.
Happy Thought.—Early wind getting up as I’m going to bed.
Joke this. Laugh to myself. Look in the glass. In the glass I appear like a dull photograph. Window blown open. No blind. As Childers says, it does not fasten well: as a matter of fact.
Wind getting up more than ever. Rain too. Casement windows begin to rattle.
Happy Thought.—Fasten the window-latch with my rug-strap. Done.
Rats in the wall, I think. Can’t come out. Manage to latch my door. Very cold and damp feeling. Think of Fridoline Symperson. Fancy some one’s coming in. A sense of desertion and loneliness comes over me. Note it down, and, having done so, feel it less. Horrid candle and no snuffers.
Happy Thought.—Put my note-book and candle by bedside on my portmanteau, and jump into bed quickly. Do it.
Truckle-bed gives. They’ve managed to make the bed 178 so that I get more blanket than sheet. The sheet seems to be chiefly round the pillow. Try to pull it down. Worse. Leave bad alone. Will read in bed. Remember some one saying it’s dangerous. Suddenly think of the woman burnt; p’r’aps from reading in bed. Casement rattles. Rug-strap won’t hold. * * * * Window blown open. Shall I get out, and shut it? Think over this.
No; more healthy to let the air in, as there’s no fireplace. * * * * Let me give myself up to romance. This is a feudal castle. * * * * This is a feudal castle. * * * * I don’t get beyond this idea. Feudal castle. Feudal castle. Barons. Childers’s children. * * * * See Mrs. Childers to-morrow. * * * * Wonder what she’s like? Wind * * * * Violent gusts * * * * Candle out. Long wick and sparks all over the place. Old woman burnt.179
BOVOR IN THE EARLY MORNING.—MEDIÆVAL NOTIONS.—
Happy Thought.—No ghost after all: and they call this a haunted room. I don’t believe in the old woman who was burnt to death here, unless (as a Happy Thought) they burnt her ghost into the bargain. Note for Vol. XI. of Typical Developments, “On Popular
Always wake early in the country, and always expect a nice bright morning in the country. Looking at the weather from my bed, I should say it drizzles. I don’t hear anybody getting up. My clothes and boots have not been taken: it must be very early or very late. My watch is on the table,—can’t see it from here. It must be very early,—I’ll lie in bed and think. * * * * Odd: I was quite awake a minute ago. * * * * I’ll take my note-book and arrange some work for the day. * * * * Put note-book on pillow. * * * * Write down heading Notes for Typical Developments, Vol. IX. * * * * which is all I find on the page when I wake up again with a galvanic start. Noise in court-yard below; jump out; it must be late now.
Frost and damp on the glass: window open: it looks on to the court-yard. Here, in mediæval times, assembled pilgrims, 180 retainers, falconers, barons, knights, ladies, mitred abbots, pages, dogs in leashes, and good-looking young men coming of age on the steps.
“By my halidome! gadso!” quoth the shorter of the two knights, over whose fair head some twenty-five summers had shed their something or other, I forget what now.
Ah, I wish I’d lived then! On thinking over it, why? Chiefly, I think, because they said “By my halidome,” and “zooks” and “the merry maskins,” and, generally, because it was “the olden time.” Ours will be the olden time one of these days. Perhaps this very room will be exhibited as the place where the author of Typical Developments slept. I wish this would happen while I’m alive, though: how it would surprise my relations!
Happy Thought.—Surprise my relations.
I will. Get on with Typical Developments as quickly as possible. I feel now that I can do it. I will dress at once: no more delay. I wish to goodness I could get my clothes brushed; and boots.
Happy Thought.—Picture of Norman Baron preparing for the chase. Hang it, where’s the bath?
Look out of window: drizzle over. Dull: housemaid kneeling in a crinoline cleaning steps of portcullis archway. Who cleaned the steps in mediæval times? Look up, subject: Housemaids, when first introduced? A bumpkin of a boy stands under the archway, cleaning boots. He leaves off to draw up the portcullis, being thereto summoned by 181 the baker with the rolls, and I hear a voice say, Muffins, outside.
Happy Thought.—Muffins. Buttered.
I say, “Hallo!” All three below puzzled: perhaps they can’t see me. Put my head out: boy laughs,—so does the baker. The maid, still kneeling, sits on her heels, and smiles too. I think (from this distance) she sniffs: cold morning. I say, “I want my boots cleaned, please.” The baker, who evidently doesn’t wish to be mixed up with the matter at all, looks at the boy. The boy replies, “Yes, sir,” takes the bearings of my room, cleverly deducing the locality of my body from putting this and that together. This being the head, and that the window.
He shuffles towards a side doorway in the quadrangle. The baker says something of an amatory character to the housemaid, at least so I imagine from her tossing her head in an “Ah,-yes,-I-dare-say” sort of style, as she resumes her work, while the gay young baker walks across the quadrangle, disappearing, after one look back at the housemaid at a small side-door. Demoralizing life a baker’s or a butcher’s, if he has to call at many houses every day. Might call them butterfly tradesmen, sipping the sweets from every— Come in. Boot-boy. He will also take my clothes. Mary, he explains, however, brushes them. Will he be good enough to ask Mr. Englefield if he’ll let me have the bath? He will be good enough, and goes.
Happy Thought.—“Conferring on the boy the order of 182 the bath.” I’ll say this at breakfast. Must manage to introduce it neatly. Sheridan used to arrange a lot of good things before he went out to dinner (I don’t know if he said any good things at breakfast) and lead up to them. Note it down, or I shall forget it. If you don’t note it down, it’s a nuisance to bother yourself all day with trying to recollect what that good thing was you thought of in the morning. Knock: come in. Boy and bath, with Mr. Englefield’s compliments. Dressing * * * * Dress anyhow in the country. Can’t: ladies.
Happy Thoughts while Dressing.—One ought to have a secretary in one’s room to write things down while one is dressing. I hum tunes when brushing my hair, which are really very good, if some one could only catch them and fix them on paper at the moment. I wonder how many composers are lost to the world through this: I’m certain I could do an oratorio. Hum one, I mean: I can’t write it, or play it. Oratorios are not effective with one finger on the piano. I find that, on trying to pick out on the piano any original composition, I lose the tune before I can hit upon the notes. Also find that what I thought was original some one has heard before. I think I might have been a composer if I’d never heard anybody else’s tunes. As to arranging a piece for an orchestra, that would be easy enough, as I can imitate most instruments with my mouth, which would show any practical musician what effect I want, and then he’d do it.
Boy comes for Englefield’s bath. I ask, “Is any one 183 down?” and am told, “O yes, sir; Mrs. Childers is breakfastin’.”
I wish they’d ring a bell, or send up to one’s room. Now for Mrs. Childers.
Awkward stairs—find my way—came through this hall last night. There’s the screen—here’s the door. No. Suddenly find myself in the court-yard. See warm-looking room in right corner of quadrangle: see breakfast-table: a lady eating, and a man’s back, seated, and, by the movement of his elbows, eating.
They see me: I must look unconcerned, as if I was up and taking the air, without any idea that breakfast is going on. The window is opened by Stenton, the rising philosopher, who says, “Good morning.” I ask him “How he is?” and he replies, “Come in at this door, here—breakfast is quite ready.”
The philosopher is dressed in knickerbockers and a shooting-coat, and has his hair cut like a Vandyke child. This strikes me as original. I like the idea. Now I shall see what Mrs. Childers is like. Walk in briskly and smilingly. Be agreeable. Show her that, though I do write on deep and serious subjects, yet there is a lighter and brighter side to my nature.
In the Breakfast-Room.—There are two ladies, one is making the tea, the other the chocolate and coffee. It is a round table, so there is no top or bottom. Which is Mrs. Childers? Childers is not down. The philosopher, Stenton, has to introduce me to them, which he does in a stupid fashion of his own, by merely mentioning my name to them, 184 and not theirs to me. Which is Mrs. Childers? They are both blondes, and very nearly of an age. Will I have tea? I will, thanks. Muffin? with hesitation—yes, thanks. O (chocolate-lady hands them), pray don’t: O, thanks, thanks. O (to tea-lady, who hands tea), thanks. Will I have some fish or some broiled ham? Mustn’t be too long considering: I say in a hurry, “Ham, please,”—meant fish. O, thanks, thanks. To the philosopher for the butter, to the chocolate-lady for the mustard, and to the tea-lady for the pepper. Thanks, thanks, thanks. Then to the three collectively for everything, “O, thanks.” I should like to say something brilliant now at once, but here I am, flustered by a muffin.
Happy Thought while eating Muffin.—They’re twins: sisters. Still, this doesn’t tell me which is Mrs. Childers, and I want to ask after the children.
“Am I looking for anything?” No: thanks. I am, though, but can’t make out what it is; that’s where my want of presence of mind bothers me. O, it’s a small knife: on sideboard. “O, don’t move,” (to every one) “thanks, thanks.” Note. Must get out of this habit of saying “Thanks”: it’s nervousness, not gratitude. Besides, “Thank you” is more graceful. Will I have any more tea? If you please. Finding that this wish of mine involves ringing a bell, fresh hot water, and trouble generally, I say, “No—no—please don’t; I’d rather have chocolate. Thanks. I prefer, I assure you, I prefer chocolate.” Tea-lady smiles, and says, “I’m sorry there 185 is no chocolate.” It turns out to be cocoa. I meant (I say) cocoa: all the same—cocoa and chocolate. Thanks. Philosopher Stenton says, “No, it isn’t,—quite different.” I don’t want a discussion before ladies, so I merely observe, smilingly, that it doesn’t matter. Thanks. I think I’ve ingratiated myself so far with whichever is Mrs. Childers.
Tea-lady observes, “Mat will want some tea directly he comes down.”
Happy Thought.—Mat is Childers,—this is Mrs. Childers. I say, relying upon this, “This is a very quaint old place, Mrs. Childers.” Having said it, I think it was a little rude; ought to have thought of that before speaking: that’s just like me,—me to the ground, in fact. The ladies smile, the philosopher smiles, so do I, but am uncomfortable. I won’t try names again, or remarks on where your host lives: it is rude.
Childers appears: he calls tea-lady Nelly, which makes me think I was right, until he addresses the chocolate-lady as Ally,—which unsettles me. I can’t keep up conversation without names. Besides, I want to ask after the children. Englefield arrives, very lively, and nodding at me, and is called Bobby by every one. Poss Felmyr (they all call him Poss, and he calls the ladies Ally and Nelly, so there’s no rule) comes down shivering, and rubbing his hands; he nods at me encouragingly; they all nod at me, as they come in, encouragingly, as much as to say, “Don’t be frightened,—it’s all right.” I find myself I don’t know why, nodding back in the same style, as much as to 186 assure them, “Yes, here I am, all right, not a bit frightened”; but I’m sure I shouldn’t be doing this if I only knew which was Mrs. Childers. It’s like being ignorant of a language. They are all Bob, Mat, Ally, Nelly, Poss, and Jack to one another. They can’t be all Childerses of various kinds and relationships.
The philosopher solves the difficulty: he asks Mat “How Mrs. Childers is this morning?” To which Childers replies, “Pretty well,” and that “she’s coming down.”
Perhaps, then, Ally and Nelly are two Miss Childerses. I won’t hazard this in conversation, though. They might be any of the other fellows’ sisters, as they are all Christian names to one another. Breakfast finished, but all waiting for Mrs. Childers. Children with nurses in the court-yard.
Childers, in character of papa, looks out of window. Fair-haired child, very pretty, runs up.
“What a fine boy,” I remark, to please Childers.
There is a smile. “Girl,” Childers explains. At that moment I dislike the child. [Analyzing this feeling for Typical Developments subsequently, I ascertain it to be the result of humbled pride. I had said the girl was a boy, and he was a girl. Chapter on “Insight into Character.”]
Nurses call children off, “like a huntsman and dogs.” I say this to Childers, by way of a sharp simile, which will be appreciated by clever men. I fancy I’m saying rude things this morning. I wish Mrs. Childers would appear, and I should be on safe ground again.
The door opens; it is Mrs. Childers. Elderly lady,—old 187 enough to be Mat’s mother. I talk to her at once about her children. She smiles graciously: all smile. Bob Englefield bursts out into a guffaw, and says he can’t help it. Mat Childers explains,—“not his wife, his mother.”
Bob Englefield shouts out, “O, haven’t you got a chance for a compliment.” I laugh foolishly, I feel it’s foolishly, and say, “Yes, I have.” But the only thing I can think of is something about “a man not being able to marry his grandmother,” which I don’t say, thank goodness. But where is my repartee? That’s where I fail. What ought I to have said? A quarter of an hour after, I shall think of it: provoking. However, I now find that the tea-lady is the Mrs. Childers.
Happy Thought.—Difficulty of relationship settled. Get particulars from Stenton.188
WORK AT BOVOR.—THE WEATHER.—PROSPECTS.—LUNCHEON.
Getting Stenton, the philosopher, alone by the window, I find it all out. Mrs. Childers is Childers’s mother, yes, of course. I say “Yes, of course,” as if I’d known it for years. Nelly is Mrs. Matthew Childers. “Yes,” I say, “and the other is her sister.” I am wrong. Ally is no relation: Ally is Mrs. Felmyr. O, now I see it all: Poss Felmyr is Mrs. Felmyr’s husband. Stenton further explains: Bob Englefield is Poss Felmyr’s brother-in-law, and Nelly is his, Stenton’s, the philosopher’s, sister. She was a Miss Stenton, and the other was a Miss Englefield, and that Mrs. Felmyr is a very old friend of Mrs. Mat, and Mrs. Childers has known her from a child, and he and Bob were children together, and so was Mat and Old Poss, who has been brought up abroad, “and so they get on,” he says, continuing what he calls his explanation, “very well together, more like brothers and sisters.” “And mothers,” I suggest, thinking of Childers’s mother. Childers coming up at this moment seems grave; perhaps he thinks I was sneering at his mother. I wouldn’t sneer at a mother for anything.
Happy Thought.—Not to say anything about it now; ask 189 him quietly afterwards if he thought I was insulting his mother, and then explain that I wasn’t. Good fellow, Mat.
“What would I like to do?” they want to know. Anything, I return. The ladies have gone to their household duties. Bob Englefield is busy this morning, hard at work at a five-act drama. He won’t tell me what it is about. Stenton informs me that it’s about Anne Boleyn and Henry the Eighth: scene laid here, in Bovor Castle. Stenton is also hard at work: an article for a weekly review. Childers whispers to me The Saturday. Stenton is evidently a superior man. May I ask what he is writing for that periodical. He smiles mysteriously: shakes his head, and says, “O no, no. Mat’s joking.” I see by his manner that he does write for the S. R. Will ask him all about it afterwards. Mat tells me apart that Stenton’s doing an article on “Henry the Eighth and Mediævalism,”—in fact, about Bovor.
Happy Thought.—Write for the Saturday Review: they needn’t put it in, but I can smile and shake my head. I wonder if the contributors to that paper know one another by sight? or by any masonic signs? If they do I should be found out. I wish I could find out Stenton.
Poss Felmyr says, looking at his watch, that he had no idea it was so late, and must get to work. What work? His novel. May I ask what’s the story? He can’t say: send me a copy when published. Englefield tells me, apart, that it’s to be called Bovor, and is about Henry the Eighth and Cardinal Wiseman—he means Wolsey.190
Mat Childers must get to work too. What, he at work? I say with surprise. All laugh except Childers, who, I think, doesn’t seem pleased at my remark. Poss Felmyr takes me aside immediately afterwards, and asked me didn’t I know that Mat was engaged on a grand historical picture for next year’s Academy? I didn’t, I wish I had: in fact, I didn’t know he painted. What? didn’t I hear last season about the row and the A. R. A.’s? It won’t do to go on being ignorant of these sort of things, so I say, “O, that,” as if he’d brought it all, vividly, to my recollection now.
Happy Thought.—Get an almanac or something, and see who’s President of the Academy. Ought to know these things.
It seems that Mat is an injured man, academically speaking. I will condole with him, if he likes it. What is the subject of his picture? I ask him. Historical, he says. They are none of them willing to enter fully into their subjects. Felmyr takes me aside and informs me that Mat is painting Bovor Castle in the Olden Time, and is portraying Anne Boleyn playing on the dulcimer to Henry the Eighth.
Being asked what I’m going to do, I reply, as they’re all so busy, I’ve got plenty of work to do, and commence giving a brief outline of Typical Developments, its scope, subject, and object. This is to impress them, and to show them that I am not a mere idle lounger, but an artist, one of themselves. They are not much interested in my work.191
Happy Thought.—The Future: I’ll astonish them. One day they’ll be cringing to me for a copy of Typical Developments.
Mat wants to know, if, before I go to work, I’d like to see the Castle. I should, but don’t let me take him away from his work. Not in the least: they’ll all show me over. We take umbrellas (it is raining) and look at the moat. The moat is swollen and has risen. If it goes on like this, says Mat, the baker will have to come in a punt. The water will be over the drawbridge and into the Castle. They show me the piggery; there are no pigs. And the orchard; no apples to speak of. They show me a fine old room with painted panelled ceiling and side gallery. Englefield, who, Mat informs me, is an authority on these matters, says that this was the old Chapel. We (none of us) think it could have been the chapel, because of the fireplace. Then, says Englefield, positively, it was the Refectory. Refectories, says Mat Childers, were only in monasteries. I chime in, “Yes, only in monasteries.” Englefield is positive that it must have been the chapel or the refectory, or, after some consideration, the armory. “But,” objects Poss, “they wouldn’t have had that sort of window.” Englefield says, “Why not?” which is treated as an absurd question; whereupon he suggests that it’s the Hall. “No,” says Stenton, “the other’s the Hall.” They all agree with Stenton, “O yes, the other’s the Hall.” I say, “Yes, I think the other’s the Hall,” meaning the place I came through last night, where Bob Englefield looked through a window in the screen at me. Englefield, after 192 looking at the chamber for a minute longer, says with certainty, “This was two rooms once,” and we leave him there regarding the chamber sorrowfully.
Mat then takes us up winding stone stairs to top of tower. I think, while going up, what’s the best way of coming down again without feeling giddy: sideways, like a horse down hill. On the roof. I always thought castle roofs were flat, and that warders with Carbonels (am not sure of the word, so won’t say it) walked up and down. This castle roof is like any roof on an ordinary second-rate London house; very disappointing. In fact, but for the name of the thing, it is simply being “on the leads.” There is no view, as Bovor lies in a valley, and is hemmed in by hills. If they were snow mountains it would be grand, but they’re only spongy-looking green hills. There are no gargoyles to discharge the rain. I want to know which is a bastion? Englefield, who is an authority on all these subjects, as he is getting them up for his historical drama, doesn’t know what a bastion is, but shows me a gable. I want to know where the Donjon Keep is? It appears it hasn’t got one. What a castle! Englefield, however, says that it’s one of the few in England that have a barbican. “Don’t I know what a barbican is?” “Well, we can’t see it from here, but it’s a—sort of—it’s difficult,” he says, “to describe exactly, but surely I must know what a barbican is.” I answer, “Of course, I’ve seen one often enough; but I don’t exactly know what it is.” With this answer he seems satisfied, as he merely returns, “O, of course you do,” and volunteers no further explanation about the barbican.193
Happy Thought.—There’s a barbican in London, somewhere. Where? Wonder if I’ve seen it? If not, go and see it.
“Some of the passages, here,” says Englefield, as we descend, “are beautifully corbelled.” I am getting tired; I hate sight-seeing, and having knowledge thrust on me, so I merely reply, “Yes, beautiful,” and nearly fall down the winding stairs. Bob Englefield, on the drawbridge, shows me what he calls a first-rate idea for a scene. Troops pouring out from under the Norman arch, enemy coming down on them from the heights; the fair Thingummy, Alice, Anyone, he says, a prisoner, waving her hand from the turret, while the tyrant is below ready to despatch her. “Good that,” he says, appealing to me, “and original, eh?” I say, “Yes, very original.” But on consideration I suggest to him diffidently, “Isn’t it a little like Blue-Beard?” He says, “O, if you turn everything into ridicule—why—.” I think he’s annoyed. We meet Mat, Jack Stenton, and Poss. They’ve none of them been to work yet; they all say they must go, at once, as it’s getting so late. Mat asks Englefield if he’s shown me the machicolated battlements. Bob says no, rather sulkily. Odd, he can’t get over Blue-Beard. I say I don’t care about machicolated battlements. Well, we’ll leave them till to-morrow. By all means—till to-morrow. They say they are going to work in earnest now, till luncheon-time. One hour.
Happy Thought.—Write some letters. Ask when the post goes out.194
Childers says, “O, not till night,” that is, he explains, not the regular post. From which I gather that there is an irregular post which goes out in the day. I am right; the irregular post is the butcher. He comes from Beckenhurst, and, to oblige us, will post any letters before 2 P. M. at Beckenhurst. The only thing against the butcher is, that he’s rather uncertain on account of his pockets. If my letter is not very important I’d better send it by the usual post. If it was very important I certainly shouldn’t intrust it to the butcher. There’s no sort of necessity for my letter to go by an early post, but the fact that there is only a late one seems to cause me a great deal of inconvenience. Why? Analyze this feeling for Vol. XII. Typical Developments, Sec. 2, Par. 3.
We meet at luncheon-time: it is still raining. The ladies regret that we’re running into winter, because there’s no more croquet. Mrs. Mat Childers says if the rain continues the feudal castle will be swamped. Mrs. Felmyr says she’ll be glad to get back to town; it’s so damp. Poss Felmyr says, “Pooh! they came down to rough it.” Childers sides with him. There’s a row threatening: awkward for a visitor. Mrs. Childers asks me if I think it’s fair to keep her down in this dismal place all the season, and only to return to town when nobody’s there? I feel that Childers’s happiness in private life will materially depend upon my answer, but I can’t help agreeing with Mrs. Childers. If I knew her better I wouldn’t, as I hold with Mat’s view of the case,—picturesque feudal castle, rustic scenery, versus town house and right-angled streets. I shall explain to Childers afterwards that I only said it to please his wife. [When I 195 do tell him afterwards, he says, testily, that “he can’t understand how a man can be such a humbug,” having evidently had a scene with Mrs. Childers in consequence of my observation.]
Poss wants to know if I’d take a walk in the rain. For exercise, I will. Stenton stops at home to do something with some photographs he’s been taking. When he’s not writing for a review, he’s always going in and out of the back kitchen with wooden frames, glasses, and slips of damp paper. When there’s a sun he holds glasses up to it. He shows me views of Bovor, and portraits on damp glass, with a backing of coat-sleeve. He says I can’t see them now. He’s right. When in the back kitchen, which is a dark place, one may just catch a glimpse of him stirring up wet photographs in a large red pie-dish. [His pictures are always “getting on,” or “coming out very well,” but they don’t come out of the pie-dish, at least while I’m here.] He offers to take one of me.
Happy Thought.—To be taken with MS. of Typical Developments in my hand.
Happy Thought.—To get an expression on my face which shall be neither a scowl nor a grin. To be taken to-morrow. Walk now—in the rain.
Happy Thought.—When difficulty occurs between husband and wife (as between Mat and Mrs. Childers to-day), and they make me referee by implication, to invent an anecdote indirectly bearing upon the case, and tell it. It gives all three breathing-time.196
AT BOVOR.—PLAY A GREAT GAME OF WHIST.
Evening after dinner. On the moat in a punt with Englefield. Dark night: cold: damp: romantic but for this. Englefield says, abruptly, “Capital point.” I ask here, what? He replies, “Two fellows, one the Villain, the other Injured Innocence, in punt: real water easily done on the stage. Villain suddenly knocks Injured Innocence into the water: he sinks: is caught in the weeds below: never rises again. Or, on second thought, isn’t drowned, but turns up somehow in the last Act.” I own it a good idea, and propose going in-doors, as I see Mrs. Childers making tea.
In-doors.—Stenton, the philosopher, says, “Tea is an incentive. So much tea is found in every man’s brain.” Poss says it ought to be a caution to anybody not to use hot water to his face, or he might turn his head into a teapot. I’m sorry Poss turns this interesting theme into ridicule, as I like hearing Stenton’s conversation. He has a deep bass voice which is very impressive. There is a pause. Considering that we are all more or less clever here, it is wonderful how dull we are. I suppose that the truth is we avoid merely frivolous and commonplace topics. Englefield, who is a nuisance sometimes, suddenly looks at 197 me, and asks me “to say something funny.” I’m glad they know nothing of the Pig-squeaking song.
I smile on him pityingly. Childers says, “Come, you’re last from town, haven’t you got any good stories?” This poses me: I know fellows who could recollect a hundred. I know fellows, merely superficial, shallow men, who are never silent, who have a story or a joke for everything. I consider, “Let me see”: I try to think of one. The beginnings of twenty stories occur to me mistily. Also the commencement of riddles as far as “Why is a—,” or “When is a—,” I’ve got some noted down in my pocket-book, if I could only get out of the room and refer to it quietly in the passage. I can’t take it out before everybody; that’s the worst of an artificial memory.
Happy Thought.—To read two pages of Macmillan’s Jest Book every morning while dressing, committing at least one story to memory.
Childers proposes “Whist.” I never feel certain of myself at whist: I point to the fact that there are four without me. Poss Felmyr says if I’ll sit down he’ll cut in presently. “I play?” I reply, “Yes, a little.” I am Stenton’s partner: Englefield and Childers are against us. Sixpenny points, shilling on the rub. Stenton says to me, “You’ll score.” Scoring always puzzles me. I know it’s done with half a crown, a shilling, a sixpence, and a silver candlestick. Sometimes one bit of money is under the candlestick, sometimes two.198
Happy Thought.—To watch Englefield scoring: soon pick it up again.
First Rubber.—Stenton deals: Childers is first hand, I’m second. Hearts trumps: the Queen. It’s wonderful how quick they are in arranging their cards. After I’ve sorted all mine carefully, I find a trump among the clubs. Having placed him in his position on the right of my hand, I find a stupid Three of Clubs among the spades: settled him. Lastly, a King of Diamonds upside down, which seems to entirely disconcert me; put him right. Englefield says, “Come, be quick”: Stenton tells me “not to hurry myself.” I say I’m quite ready, and wonder to myself what Childers will lead.
Childers leads the Queen of Clubs. I consider for a moment what is the duty of second hand; the word “finessing” occurs to me here. I can’t recollect if putting on a three of the same suit is finessing: put on the three, and look at my partner to see how he likes it. He is watching the table. Englefield lets it go, my partner lets it go; the trick is Childers’s. I feel that somehow it’s lost through my fault. His lead again: spades. This takes me so by surprise that I have to rearrange my hand, as the spades have got into a lump. I have two spades, an ace and a five. Let me see, “If I play the five I—” I can’t see the consequence. “If I play the ace it must win unless it’s trumped.” Stenton says in a deep voice, “Play away.” The three look from one to the other. Being flustered, I play the ace: the trick is mine. I wish it wasn’t, as I have to lead. I’d give something if I might consult Poss, 199 who is behind me, or my partner. All the cards look ready for playing, yet I don’t like to disturb them. Let me think what’s been played already. Stenton asks me, “If I’d like to look at the last trick?” As this will give me time, and them the idea that I am following out my own peculiar tactics, I embrace the offer. Childers displays the last trick. I look at it. I say “Thank you,” and he shuts it up again. Immediately afterwards I can’t recollect what the cards were in that trick: if I did it wouldn’t help me. They are becoming impatient.
About this time somebody’s Queen of Diamonds is taken. I wasn’t watching how the trick went, but I am almost certain it was fatal to the Queen of Diamonds: that’s to say, if it was the Queen of Diamonds; but I don’t like to ask. The next trick, which is something in spades, trumped by Englefield, I pass as of not much importance. Stenton growls, “Didn’t I see that he’d got no more spades in his hand.” No, I own I didn’t. Stenton, who is not an encouraging partner, grunts to himself. In a subsequent round, I having lost a trick by leading spades, Stenton calls out, “Why, didn’t you see they were trumping spades?” I defend myself; I say I did see him, Englefield, trump one spade, but I thought that he hadn’t any more trumps. I say this as if I’d been reckoning the cards as they’ve been played.
Happy Thought.—Try to reckon them, and play by system next rubber.
I keep my trumps back till the last; they’ll come out and 200 astonish them. They do come out, and astonish me. Being taken by surprise, I put on my king when I ought to have played the knave, and both surrender to the ace and queen. I say, “Dear me, how odd!” I think I hear Stenton saying sarcastically in an undertone, “O yes; confoundedly odd.” I try to explain, and he interrupts me at the end of the last deal but two by saying testily, “It’s no use talking, if you attend, we may just save the odd.”
Happy Thought.—Save the odd.
My friend, the Queen of Diamonds, who, I thought, had been played, and taken by some one or other at a very early period of the game, suddenly reappears out of my partner’s hand, as if she was part of a conjuring trick. Second hand can’t follow suit and can’t trump. I think I see what he intends me to do here. I’ve a trump and a small club. “When in doubt,” I recollect the infallible rule, “play a trump.” I don’t think any one expected this trump. Good play.
Happy Thought.—Trump. I look up diffidently; my partner laughs, so do the others. My partner’s is not a pleasant laugh. I can’t help asking, “Why? isn’t that right: it’s ours?” “O yes,” says my partner, sarcastically, “it is ours.” “Only,” explains little Bob Englefield, “you’ve trumped your partner’s best card.”
I try again to explain that by my computation, the Queen of Diamonds had been played a long time ago. My partner won’t listen to reason. He replies, “You might have seen 201 that it wasn’t.” I return, “Well, it couldn’t be helped, we’ll win the game yet.” This I add to encourage him, though, if it depends on me, I honestly (to myself) don’t think we shall. Happy Thought.—After all, we do get the odd trick. Stenton ought to be in a better humor, but he isn’t; he says “The odd! we ought to have been three.” Englefield asks me how honors are? I don’t know. Stenton says, “Why, you (meaning me) had two in your own hand.” “O yes, I had.” I’d forgotten it. “Honors easy,” says Stenton to me. I agree with him. Now I’ve got to score with this confounded shilling, sixpence, half-crown, and a candlestick.
Happy Thought.—Ask Bob how he scores generally.
He replies, “O, the usual way,” and as he doesn’t illustrate his meaning, his reply is of no use to me whatever. How can I find out without showing them that I don’t know?
Happy Thought (while Childers deals).—Pretend to forget to score till next time. Englefield will have to do it, perhaps, next time, then watch Englefield. Just as I’m arranging my cards from right to left—
Happy Thought.—To alternate the colors black and red, beginning this time with black (right) as spades are trumps. Also to arrange them in their rank and order of precedence. Ace on the right, if I’ve got one—yes—king next, queen 202 next,—and the hand begins to look very pretty. I can quite imagine Whist being a fascinating game,—Stenton reminds me that I’ve forgotten to mark “one up.”
Happy Thought.—Put sixpence by itself on my left hand. Stenton asks “What’s that for?”
Happy Thought.—To say it’s the way I always mark.
Stenton says, “O, go on.” I look round to see what we’re waiting for, and Englefield answers me, “Go on, it’s you; you’re first hand.” I beg their pardon. I must play some card or other and finish arranging my hand during the round. Anything will do to begin with. Here’s a Two of Spades, a little one, on my left hand; throw him out.
“Hallo!” cries Englefield, second hand, “trumps are coming out early.” I quite forgot spades were trumps; that comes of that horrid little card being on the left instead of the right.
Happy Thought.—Not to show my mistake: nod at Englefield, and intimate that he’ll see what’s coming.
So, by the way, will my partner. In a polite moment I accept another cup of tea. I don’t want it, and have to put it by the half-crown, shilling, and candlestick on the whist-table, where I’m afraid of knocking it over, and am obliged to let it get quite cold as I have to attend to the game.
Happening to be taking a spoonful, with my eyes anxiously 203 on the cards, when my turn comes, Stenton says, “Do play, never mind your tea.” Whist brutalizes Stenton: what a pity!
Happy Thought.—Send this game, as a problem, to a Sporting Paper.
Happy Thought.—Why not write generally for Sporting papers?
Stenton says, “Do play!” I do.
Happy Thought.—Write a Treatise on Whist, so as to teach myself the game.204
FINISHING THE RUBBER.—NEW GAME.—CONVERSATION.
We finish a second game, and Stenton says, “We win a single.” This I am to score: having some vague idea on the subject, I hide my half-crown under the candlestick. When our adversaries subsequently win a double, and there is some dispute about what we’ve done before, I forget my half-crown under the candlestick, until asked rather angrily by Stenton if I didn’t mark the single, when I am reminded by Poss Felmyr that I secreted the half-crown. This I produce triumphantly as a proof of a single.
Happy Thought.—Buy Hoyle’s Laws of Whist. Every one ought to know how to mark up a single and a double.
I get very tired of whist after the second round of the third game. Wish I could feel faint, so that Poss Felmyr might take my place; or have a violent fit of sneezing which would compel me to leave the room.
Happy Thought.—If you give your mind to it, you can sneeze sometimes. I talk about draughts and sneezing, while Englefield deals. Englefield says, apropos of sneezing, that he knew a man who always caught a severe cold whenever he ate a walnut. If a fact: curious.205
Old Mrs. Childers has woke up (she has been dozing by the fire with her knitting on the ground) and begins “to take notice,” as they say of babies. She will talk to me: I can’t attend to her and trumps at the same time. I think she says that she supposes I’ve a great deal of practice in whist-playing at the Clubs. I say, “Yes; I mean, beg her pardon, no,” and Stenton asks me, before taking up the trick, if I haven’t got a heart, that being the suit I had to follow. I reply, “No,” and my answer appears to disturb the game. On hearts coming up three hands afterwards, I find a two of that suit, which, being sticky, had clung to a Knave of Diamonds.
Happy Thought.—“Heart clinging to Diamonds”; love yielding to the influence of wealth; or by the way, vice versa, but good idea, somehow. Won’t say it out, or they’ll discover my revoke.
Happy Thought.—Keep the two until the end of the game, and throw it down among the rubbish at the end. I suppose the last cards which players always dash down don’t count, and mine will go with them unobserved.
Happy Thought.—One act of duplicity necessitates another, just as one card will not stand upright by itself without another to support it. [Put this into “Moral Inversions,” forming heading of Chapter 10, Book VI., Vol. XII. of Typical Developments. Must note this down to-night.]206
The game is finishing. Luckily, our opponents have it all their own way, and suddenly, much to my surprise and relief, they show their hands and win, we only having made one trick.
Happy Thought.—Poss Felmyr takes my place.
On reckoning up I find that somehow or other I’ve lost half a crown more than I expected. You can lose a good deal at sixpenny points. Stenton, who hears this remark made to Mrs. Childers, observes, “Depends how you play.” I do not retort, as I am fearful about the subject of revoking coming up. Moral Query.—Was what I did with my Two of Hearts dishonesty or nervousness? Wouldn’t it lead to cheating, to false dice, and ultimately to the Old Bailey? I put these questions to myself while eating a delicate piece of bread-and-butter handed to me by Mrs. Felmyr. I smile and thank her, even while these thoughts are in my bosom. Ah, Bob Englefield has no such stage for his dramas as the human bosom, no curtain that hides half as much from the spectators as a single-breasted waistcoat. More tea, thank you, yes.
Happy Thought.—Single-breasted waistcoat! Ah, who is single-breasted? Is that the fashion! [Note all this down in cipher in my book, “Moral Inversion” chapter, Typical Developments.]
I pick up old Mrs. Childers’s knitting. I take this opportunity of saying, jocosely, that I suppose that’s what ladies call “dropping a stitch.” No one hears it, except the old 207 lady, who doesn’t understand it. I shall repeat this another day when they’re not playing cards, or talking together, as the ladies are.
Happy Thought.—To tell it as one of Sheridan’s good things. Then they’ll laugh.
Old Mrs. Childers says she thinks the moat’s rising, and that the baker will have to come over in the punt. Childers, at the table, says, “Nonsense, mother.” She appeals to me as to whether it isn’t damp, and whether the rain won’t make the moat rise? And do I think, from what I’ve seen of it, that the punt is safe for the baker? Yes, I do think so. She observes that I’m too young to have rheumatism, or suffer from cold in the ears. I don’t know why I should feel offended at the old lady’s remark, but I do. I feel inclined to say (rudely, if she wasn’t so old) that I’m not too young, and have had the rheumatics: the latter proudly. She dares say I don’t remember the flood there was in Leicestershire in 1812! No, I don’t: “Was it bad?” I ask—not that I care, but I like to be respectful to old ladies. “Ah!” she replies, shaking her head slowly at the fire, as if it was its fault. I get nothing more out of her.
Mrs. Childers is working something for the children. Mrs. Poss asks about a peculiar sort of trimming for her dress. Mrs. Childers stops to explain, and point her remarks with the scissors. They are deep in congenial subjects, and don’t mind me. No more does old Mrs. Childers, who has dropped her knitting, and is asleep again, quite upright, in her chair.208
Happy Thought.—To ask the ladies to play on the piano.
It will disturb the game, Mrs. Childers thinks. Two of the players seem of the same opinion, but they’re losing, I discover. The two others are smiling, and would like a tune to enliven them. Childers calls out “Mother!” loudly, which makes the old lady wake with a start, and on finding that the moat has not risen and that the baker hasn’t come in the punt (“which she was dreaming of, curious enough,” she says), she begs Mat not to call like that again, and I pick up her knitting for her. She thanks me, and asks if I recollect the great floods in Leicestershire in 1812. I reply, as I did before, that I don’t. It leads to no information. Wonder how old she is?
She rises, and thinks, my dears, that it is time for Bedfordshire, which is her little joke; she gives it us every night at exactly the same time, and in exactly the same manner. It always commands a laugh. The ladies didn’t know it was so late, and put up their work, hoping I’ll excuse them not playing this evening. They’re afraid I’ve found it very dull.
Happy Thought.—To say, “More dull when you’re away.” Just stopped in time, and turned it off with a laugh and a good night. I must have looked as if I was going to say something, as Mrs. Poss says, “What?” and I reply, “O, nothing,” vaguely, and she laughs, and I laugh, and Mrs. Childers laughs, and says good night laughing, and old Mrs. Childers smiles and repeats her joke about Bedfordshire, which she evidently thinks we are all still 209 laughing at, and this makes us all laugh again, and Stenton and Englefield, who, having lost, are fondly clinging to the whist-table, laugh as well, and saying good night becomes quite a hysterically comic piece of work, so much so that I wonder we don’t all sit down in our chairs, or on the carpet (old Mrs. Childers on the carpet!) and have convulsions: and all this because I didn’t say what I was going to say. They didn’t laugh when I did make a really good joke this evening.
The ladies have gone. “Now,” says Childers, “how about pipes and grogs?” Carried nem. con. Englefield proposes we stop whist and play Bolerum. What is Bolerum? Doesn’t any one know? Childers knows, it appears; he and Englefield will show it us: and to begin with, he and Englefield (this, they say, will simplify matters) will keep the bank.
The game, they explain, is very simple: so it appears. In fact its simplicity hardly seems to be its great charm to those who do not happen to be the bank. The players back their sixpences against the bank, and the bank wins. Childers calls it “a pretty game.”
“One, two, three, four,—bank wins,” cries Englefield; “pay up!” And we give him sixpence apiece.
“One, two, three, four, five,—bank again,” cries Childers; “tizzies round,” by which he means that we are again to subscribe sixpence apiece. Poss says, after five times of this, that he doesn’t see it. Stenton, the philosopher, taking a mathematical view of it, attempts to show how many chances there are in the players’ favor, 210 but ends in demonstrating clearly that it is at least a hundred to one on the bank each time. This argument occupies a quarter of an hour, and three pieces of note paper, which Stenton covers with algebraic signs. Childers still sticks to it, that “it’s a pretty game.” We admit that it is very pretty, but we get up from the table. What game shall we play? We decide (and sixpences are at the bottom of our decision), “None.”
“Quite cold,” observes Stenton. We gather in front of the fire.
Poss suddenly wonders that I’ve not yet seen the ghost in my room. Childers says “Ah,” and then we all stare at the fire, wondering at nothing: silence.
Childers turns quietly to Englefield, and inquires, “if he knows Jimmy Flewter?” Englefield does. Childers asks “if he heard about his row with Menzies?” Englefield, with his pipe in his mouth, and embracing his knee, nods assent. “It’s settled,” says Childers, and stares at the fire again. “Foolish of him,” observes Poss. “Very,” says Stenton, in his deep bass. It would be rude to ask who Flewter is, but this sort of conversation is very irritating.
Childers anticipates me by saying, “You don’t know Jimmy Flewter?” I do not, but signify I am ready to hear anything to his advantage or disadvantage for the sake of conversation.
“Ah, then,” returns Childers, “you wouldn’t enjoy the story.”
“Must know the man,” puts in Stenton, “to enjoy the 211 story.” Poss assents, and smiles as if at a reminiscence. They all chuckle to themselves. I wish I had a story to chuckle over to myself. I wish I knew Flewter.
“Seen my lord, to-day?” asks Englefield of Childers. Wonder who “My lord” is.
“No, comes to-morrow,” is the answer.
“Paint?” asks Poss. “Sketch,” answers Childers.
“Odd fish,” observes Bob Englefield, putting on his spectacles to wind up his watch. “Very,” says Poss. We knock out our ashes, and, finishing our grog, go to bed.
Happy Thought.—Shall find out who “My lord” is tomorrow. Hang Flewter! Rain, violent: no ghost. Room seems darker. Window troublesome. Think of Fridoline. Wish it was Valentine’s day, I’d send her a sonnet. Too sleepy to think of it now. * * * * Jimmy Flewter. * * * *212
THE WEATHER.—I WORK IN ANNE BOLEYN’S ROOM.—REPARTEES PROGRESSING.—I MEET A STRANGER.
Another rainy day. They are all at work: Childers at his picture, Stenton at his articles, and stirring up his dish of photographs; Poss Felmyr at his novel, Bob Englefield at his drama.
Happy Thought.—Work at my handbook of repartees: quite forgotten it for a long time. Childers tells me that the room in which I am writing was Anne Boleyn’s boudoir. He leaves me to meditate upon this. What reflections do not occur to one’s mind? * * * * What reflections do? * * * * “This,” I remind myself, “was Anne Boleyn’s boudoir. Here,” I say to myself, standing by the window, “she looked out of the window.” I feel a gentle melancholy stealing over me. “In this cupboard,” here I stand by a small cupboard in the oak panel, “she perhaps kept her—her—” I open it and find a piece of string, a screw, and a broken saucer,—these things suggest nothing particular, so I alter my sentence to “Here she kept something or other.” How difficult to be enthusiastic: you can’t force it. I know men who, if they were shut up in 213 this room, would overflow with poetry. Why don’t I? I don’t know. Why is it that the only thought that forcibly presents itself to me is, “Why didn’t she have a fireplace here?”
Happy Thought.—Feel just in the humor to write repartees. According to my original notes, take them alphabetically. It will be a useful volume, I am convinced, to a large number of people. To make a beginning, I arrange my paper. Now—
Abbot. What to say to an Abbot.—
By the way we must start with the hypothesis, in every case, of the person having made some observation to you demanding a repartee. The way to arrange this clearly would be thus:—
Name of person.—Hyp. What he says to you. Rep. What you’ll say to him.
Very well then.
Abbot. Hyp. Here’s the difficulty, what would an Abbot say to you?
Englefield looks in for a minute to ask me how I’m getting on generally, and I consult him. I ask him what I can put down an Abbot as saying. He replies that I’m wrong in beginning with Abbot, as Abbé, alphabetically, comes before Abbot.
Happy Thought.—Do French repartees. Make a separate book of it. Very useful to tourists. Or why not translate them into all languages? Easily done with a dictionary 214 and grammar; and friends from a distance would assist.
Happy Thought.—And why not illustrate it? Capital. Englefield says this is a good idea. Abbé offers an opportunity for a French repartee. See how it works. We must have a hypothesis. For instance, Englefield points out that the Abbé must first be rude.
I explain that according to my developed idea, it will be between a French Abbé and an Englishman, or a Frenchman, or a German, or a Spaniard, or an Ojibeway, as the case might be.
Wonder what the Ojibeway would say? Englefield suggests, “he’d tomahawk the Abbé.”
Let us suppose an out-of-the-way case. “The essence of surprise is wit,” I remind Englefield. I wonder if this is an original idea of mine. On thinking it over I find I mean, “The essence of wit is surprise,” however, it doesn’t matter, as Bob Englefield answers, “Yes.” “Hypothetical Case:—An English tourist comes to an abbey in France. The Abbé won’t admit him. The Abbé is rude, and says out of the window, ‘Allez au diable, vous gros Anglais, vous!’ The repartee is ready to hand, ‘Vous êtes un autre.’” This would shut up the Abbé completely.
In England there is, I think, only one Abbot, who lives in Leicestershire, and people would hardly go out of their way for the sake of making repartees to him. Besides, I believe he is a Trappist, and bound by vows not to speak to anybody. As it would lead to complications to draw up separate directions for “Repartees to be reparteed to persons 215 who won’t speak to you,” I shall not consider his and any similar cases. Now what’s the next word, alphabetically? There’s nobody beginning with Abe. Except Abel. But that’s out of the question. Take Academician. “Hypothesis: Academician says to you, ‘What a conceited donkey you are!’” Then you’d say as a repartee, “This Academician does but estimate the character of any other individual than himself by the knowledge he already appears to possess of his own.” I read this with emphasis to Englefield, who considers it, he says, “crushing, certainly, but too Johnsonian.” I ask Stenton his opinion. He replies that “if any fellow said it to him, he’d knock his head off.” I attempt to turn the conversation by wondering how it would sound in Spanish. Poss Felmyr, who has been in Spain, observes that if I said such a thing to a Spaniard, he’d have a stiletto into me like one o’clock.
These criticisms are rather against the publication of my book of repartees. When you come to proceed with it, it offers many difficulties. For instance, what to say to an Accountant, to an Acrobat, to an Aeronaut, to an Armorer, and so on through the letter A, because so much depends upon what they’ve said to you. But, in a general way, I shall arrange it like a conversation book, and my readers must take their chance.
Happy Thought.—Send it to Bradbury, Evans, & Co. to publish.
Notes for the Book.
In B we have Repartee to a Baker, a Beadle, a Buccaneer.216
C. To a Corn-cutter, and a Coal-whipper.
D. What to say to a Dragoon, to a Dragoman, &c. E is awkward. F includes Funny Fellow, and Fool, and Footman. Also a Fakeer; though I don’t see the reply to a Fakeer.
I shall leave it for to-day.
Happy Thought.—Why not say the same thing to every one? If it’s a good one,’twould tell equally well on an Abbot, a Buccaneer, or a Footman.
Going through the hall I meet a common-looking dirty man, with a sort of portfolio under his arm, and carrying a box. One of the travelling pedlers who go about the country, and into any houses they find open, on pretence of selling something. I ask him what he wants here. He answers that he wants nothing. Then I tell him he’d better go. He observes that I am perhaps unaware to whom I am speaking.
Happy Thought.—Under letter P, Repartee to a Pedler. Can’t think of one now. I show him the door.
The butcher brings a letter for me. It is from old Johnny Byng, who wants me to come to his bachelor establishment, and keep Christmas with him before he goes to France: if I will, I am to come at once, or he shall ask the Swiltons. Don’t like the Swiltons; at least, I mean, if we were at Byng’s together; he always gives Mr. and Mrs. Swilton the best room, and is always so confidential with Swilton; and then Mrs. Swilton, becoming the lady in the bachelor’s house. 217 is so confoundedly patronizing to me. In fact, it is staying at the Swiltons’, not Byng’s. So I shall go at once, and prevent the Swiltons.
I announce this at luncheon. They are all so sorry I am going. Mr. Childers says, “You haven’t been out in the punt to catch jack in the moat!” “You haven’t sat for your photograph,” says Stenton. “We were to have had a good walk together,” cries Englefield. “You mustn’t go,” says Poss. Mrs. Poss sweetly hopes there’s no necessity for my leaving them. Mrs. Childers observes, “It’s awkward too, as she’d promised Lord Starling to bring their guest with them to-morrow to dinner.” “Very kind of her,” I say, though I don’t like being “brought” in this manner.
The “brought friend” is coldly welcome for the evening, and they never speak to him afterwards. Still I shouldn’t mind knowing Lord Starling. Mrs. Childers tells me, “O, you’d be charmed with them. Lady Starling is such a good, kind person.” “Not at all stuck up,” puts in Mrs. Poss. “Ah,” says Mrs. Childers, “you haven’t known’em so long as we have,” by which she meant to say to Mrs. Poss, “Don’t you talk about the aristocracy: it was through us you knew anything about them.”
Childers, foreseeing unpleasantness, interposes with, “My lord was here this morning. I thought he would be.” “O Mat,” says Mrs. Childers, “I hope you asked his lordship in to lunch.” “I did,” returns Mat, “but he wouldn’t come.” I feel glad of this; and so I’m sure does Mrs. Poss, who is only in her morning dress. She says, however, 218 taking a small radish, “I suppose the Duchess expects him.” A Duchess! I should like to stay over this party, and then go to old Johnny Byng’s. I’d astonish Byng.
“I think,” I say for the sake of conversation, “I know Lord Starling.” [Analyzing the feeling that prompts this observation, I find it would come under the head of Natural Attraction to Magnates.] Mrs. Childers regards me with interest. “Funny little chap,” says Childers. “He was here to sketch this morning. He’d his old paint-box, which belonged to his great-grandmother, and a remarkably antique portfolio.” “A box and a portfolio?” I repeat, as it occurs to me that I’ve seen something of the kind within the last hour. “Yes,” says Stenton, in his bass voice, the deeper for his having just lunched, “and such a slouch wide-awake and old greasy coat.” “And ragged gaiters,” adds Englefield. “Looks,” says Poss, “like the Wandering Jew: a wandering Jew pedler.” “Yes,” returns Childers, who is at the window, “He’s only just now going off in his dog-cart.” I join Childers.
“Is that Lord Starling?” I ask.
“Yes,” answers Childers. “You wouldn’t think, to look at him, that he is the owner of this Castle and all the property about here.”
I shouldn’t, and, what is more, I hadn’t; for the gentleman in the dog-cart is the Pedler to whom I made my practical repartee of showing the door. His own door!
Happy Thought.—Go to Byng’s.219
I LEAVE BOVOR.—IN LONDON.—TOUJOURS MILBURD.—WE GO TO THE THEATRE.—I AM INTRODUCED TO A CELEBRATED CHARACTER.—BRIGHTON.—THE GRANDEST HOTEL.
Happy Thought.—I’ve stopped here, but the rain hasn’t. I shall say this as Sheridan’s, or Dean Swift’s.
The butcher orders a fly from Beckenhurst, and the fly fetches me from Bovor. Old Mrs. Childers regrets my departure, but says, to cheer me, that she dares say they’ll all be driven home by the moat rising.
Happy Thought.—I shall be driven home by the fly.
Happy Thought.—Say this. They laughed.
Happy Thought.—Send it to Punch. Say so. Englefield suggests, “Why not write for Punch?” Stenton, the philosopher says, “Yes, write for Punch regularly, and they’ll send it you regularly.” (Stupid joke, after mine.) Poss Felmyr shakes hands warmly and apologizes for the rain.220
Mrs. Poss says good by, and I feel that I almost sneak out of the drawing-room. I wish I could say something by which they’d remember me. The ladies (I see them from outside) have composed themselves before the fire, and are intent on their books. I came into this place like a lion, I leave it like a lamb. Artistically speaking, a conversationalist ought to come in like a lamb and go out like a lion. When Childers and the others have carried my luggage to the gate, I beg they won’t trouble themselves. They say it doesn’t matter, as it doesn’t now.
In the Fly.—I look out of window. They have all disappeared, as if they were tired of me: no waving of hands, no cheers. In old feudal days there’d have been some hearty stirrup-cup ceremonies. Dreary: windows of fly up. See nothing: cold, raw, damp. Christmas-time coming on fast. I should like to send Fridoline Symperson a present, just to hint the state of my affections. What can I send? Christmas-time only suggests turkeys and sausages. Get out my MSS. and make notes. * * * * By the time I have found my MSS., which had been scrunched up by the maid in among the boots, I find we are at Beckenhurst. Ticket, to town: Station-master, smiling, asks me if I ever did anything about that telegram. I recollect now I’d threatened to write to the Times, I reply, “Ah, they’ll hear about it yet,” as if my vengeance had only been dozing.
London.—Ought at this season of the year to take some Christmas present down to old Byng. Besides, it’s his birthday. He’ll be just as glad to see me without it. (I shouldn’t, on my birthday.) There’s not going to be any 221 party of ladies, or he wouldn’t have asked me; but we shall spend a quiet Christmas-time together, with cosey chats over the past: yes, we’re very old friends. However, I’ll just walk through the streets, and have a look at the shops. The difficulty is, I can’t tell what Byng would like.
The Haymarket—A pony runs away, traces broken. Crossing-sweeper knocked down.
Happy Thought.—Step into a shop.
Shopman says, “Spirited little animal that, sir.” I return carelessly, “Yes, nice little fellow; might easily have been stopped, if they’d had any sense.” I am quitting the shop feeling that I have perfectly requited the shopkeeper for the temporary refuge by giving him my opinion on the subject, when I feel a tremendous slap on the back, and a voice, which I do not at once recognize, says, “Hallo, old boy! practical joke, eh?” It is Milburd.
He is buying the hottest pickles he can find (it is an Italian warehouse we are in) to take down to Byng as a birthday present. We are both going to the same place. Together? Together: he will call for me.
Happy Thought.—This diminishes cab-fare. I won’t have any change, that shall be my practical joke on him.
A Night in Town.—Milburd and I go to the theatre. Milburd has got a voice like a Centaur. (I think I mean Stentor. N. B. Who was Stentor? Look him out.) People are annoyed. He begins by taking seats which turn out not to belong to him, and then the people come in and there’s a row in the dress circle.222
Happy Thought.—Step quickly into the lobby. Milburd, coming out, angrily says, “he’d have knocked that fellow’s head off for two pins.” I try to pacify him. I say, “What’s the use of getting into a row? It never does any good.” I feel it wouldn’t as far as I’m concerned. Milburd insists that the pair of us would have licked the lot, and wants to catch them coming out. I say, “No!” decidedly, to this. I’d rather not catch them coming out. He goes on to observe that “he should like to punch his head.” I agree with him there: I should like to.
Happy Thought (for the twentieth time).—Learn boxing.
Happy Thought.—Go to Evans’s.
Milburd takes me there. I’ve often heard of this place, yet never been there till now. Much pleased. Excellent glee-singing. Milburd, who evidently does know London very well, introduces me to an elderly, kindly gentleman, whom he calls Mr. Green, and whispers to me, “You know Green, don’t you?” I don’t. The kindly gentleman, who is, I fancy, looking for some seat where he has left his hat, for he is walking about without it, shakes hands impressively with Milburd, “and hopes that all are well round his (Milburd’s) fireside.”
This hearty old English greeting Milburd meets, I think, somewhat irreverently by replying, “Thanks, yes. All well round the fireside. Poker a little bent with age, tongs as active as ever, shovel rather lazy.” Whereat Mr. Green smiles, pats him on the arm, and takes snuff, deprecating 223 such levity. Milburd says, “O, I must have heard of Green.”
Happy Thoughts—Green, of course, aeronaut.
Happy Thought.—Ask him all about balloons.
I engage him in conversation. Has he been up in a balloon lately? He smiles, takes snuff, and nods his head as if he knew all about it, but couldn’t answer just now. I ask him if he’s not afraid of going up so high. His reply to this is, that I will have my joke. He leaves us. Milburd explains that he is the revered proprietor, and tells me a long story concerning the ancient fame of this great supping-place.
We sup most comfortably at the café end; as Milburd inartistically puts it, “quite undisturbed by the singing.” He, however, knows it all by heart; I do not. Ladies, he informs me, view the scene from the gallery, veiled and behind gratings, as in St. Peter’s.
Saturday.—Don’t feel well. Milburd proposes that we sha’n’t go to Byng’s till Monday.
Happy Thought.—Run down to Brighton: freshen us up for the week. Milburd says, “Yes, by all means; where shall we stay?” Anywhere.
Happy Thought.—The Grand Hotel.
Very well: cold day in train. Draughts in carriages: shivering. Colder as we approach Brighton. Milburd, who 224 is a red-faced, hearty chap, says, rubbing his hands, “This will freshen you up, my boy,—this will make your hair curl.” If there is any one thing more than another that sets me against a place it is to be told that “it will set me up,” or “it’ll make my hair curl.” I point out that it’s beginning to rain. Milburd replies, “O no,—sea-mist,” as if sea-mist was healthy: why can’t he own it is rain? I express myself to the effect that it is raw, to which Milburd returns, being in boisterous animal spirits, “Cook it” I wish I hadn’t come with him, he’s so unsympathetic. He can’t understand what it is for any one to have a pain across his shoulders and a headache. I’ve explained my symptoms to him several times. I assure him that he is quite wrong in saying that I eat too much, and I am getting too fat.
Terminus: damp fly, rattling windows. Brighton looks windy, foggy, damp, drizzly, wretched. Grand Hotel: very grand. An official, in a uniform something between the dress of a railway guard and a musician in a superior itinerant German band, receives us. He is the Head Porter. We are shown into the lofty and spacious hall. We see dinners going on in the Coffee-room. Even Milburd is awed. I have a sort of notion that a gorgeous man in livery will presently request us to walk up and His Grand Royal Highness will receive us.
Happy Thought.—Hotel for giants. In corridors seven-leagued boots put out to be brushed.
In the vast galleried hall, Milburd, luggage, and self, 225 guarded by a boy in buttons. Solitary individuals come down stairs, look at us suspiciously, and go out. Waiters pass and repass us, all suspiciously. Opposite sits an elegant lady in a box, or bar.
Happy Thought.—Ask her for rooms.
She has been waiting for this, and is prepared for us. She gives us tickets, numbered, as if we were going to a show. Seems to me suggestive of wax-works.
Milburd says, “We will go up by the lift.” A gloomy porter with an embarrassed manner shows us into the lift. It is a dismal place, and after Milburd has tried a joke, which is as much a failure as a squib on a wet pavement, not even making the lift-porter smile, we subside into gloominess.
Happy Thought.—Diving-bells: Polytechnic: also, old ascending-room, Colosseum.
(Note. During the three days I am at the hotel, I have either seen the lift-porter starting from the ground-floor when I have been going out, or arriving at one of the upper stories, after I have walked up the stairs; I’ve never caught him descending, nor got him when I wanted him.)
We emerge from the lift, on to the third gallery—helpless. Milburd knows all about it, and finds the chamber-maid. Rooms comfortable,—very, but with two mysterious draughts which make me sneeze. Milburd orders dinner in the Coffee-room.226
Happy Thought (during the fish course).—Harvey discovered the circulation of the sauce.
After dinner, into the smoking-room. “Why should a smoking-room, nowadays, be rendered purposely uncomfortable? Why should it be the only apartment where easy-chairs, divans, cheerful paper, are unknown? Why, in a most luxurious hotel, should there be a smoking-room which is cheerless by day, and dingy by night?” Milburd asks me these questions pettishly, and describes the sort of room he would have. Warm and cheery, small tables, lamps, not gas, chess-boards, bookcases well filled, newspapers; writing-tables, with supply of writing materials laid on; good fires in winter throughout the day, and let the room have a good view from its windows.
Pouring with rain—and we came here for a change!227
SUNDAY AT BRIGHTON.—AN UNSOCIABLE COMPANION.—MY NEIGHBORS IN THE HOTEL.—WE LEAVE FOR LONDON.
Happy Thought.—Sunday afternoon; walk on the parade. Wonder how the pleasure-boatmen get a living in the winter. Apparently by talking together in groups, with their hands in their pockets, and smoking pipes without any tobacco.
Every one looks very bright and blooming, and every one is making the most of the dry weather, as if they were trying to get the best of a time-bargain with the fresh sea-air. What a nuisance wind is,—what a nuisance a hat is!
Happy Thought—My wide-awake.
Milburd won’t walk with me while I’ve got that thing on, he says. I won’t give in, so we pass one another, idiotically, on the parade. Think I see the Mackenzies coming,—pretty girls: wish I’d got on my hat. They bow and look astonished: walk up the Parade. See Mr. and Mrs. Breemer; they recognize me. Walk down, see the Mackenzies for the second time. Don’t know whether to bow again, or not: they smile. I smile: I wonder what we mean? Hope they’ll go off the Parade this time. 228 Walk up,—see the Breemers coming. How very awkward this is: can’t bow again,—will look another way. I do, until I come quite up to them, and then, turning suddenly, am flustered. Mr. Breemer nods, and I nod, but don’t know whether to take off my hat this time to Mrs. Breemer; I wish these things were settled by law. We pass on. Walk down: the Mackenzies again.
Happy Thought.—Turn before they come up.
I do so, won’t they think it rude? Can’t help it, it’s done; and here are the Breemers. I nodded last time, what shall I do this? Wink jocosely? no sense in that, they’ll set me down for a buffoon.
Happy Thought.—Sit down with my face to the sea.
Wonder whether the Breemers have gone,—and the Mackenzies. Look cautiously round. Enjoyment is out of the question, with the Breemers and Mackenzies perpetually meeting one. I feel as if they were saying every time they see me, “Here’s Thingummy again, don’t take any notice of him,” and if you once think yourself shunned you can’t enjoy anything. I feel that I’m spoiling the Breemers’ and Mackenzies’ day at Brighton, and they must feel that they are interfering with my enjoyment.
Happy Thought.—The Pariah at Brighton.
Rain settles the question,—back to hotel. What shall I do? What can I do? * * * * Rain. * * * *229
Happy Thought.—Write letters. Think to whom I haven’t written for ages: great opportunity. Write to some relations whom I haven’t spoken to for years, and ask how they’ve been this long time, and why they never write. They’ll like the attention. * * * *
By the way, Milburd isn’t much of a companion. He comes in and says he’s been chatting with the Tetheringtons, and couldn’t get away. When he’s been away for any time he always excuses himself by saying he’d been “chatting.” He wishes I wouldn’t wear that old-fashioned wide-awake. “The Tetheringtons noticed it,” he tells me; also, that “every one was remarking it.” I ask him, quietly, “Who’s every one?” and he answers, “O, lots of people.” I tell him that I am above that sort of thing, and do not care for the world. I ask him if he told them that I was a friend of his. He answers that he did, but added, “that I was slightly cracked.” I am annoyed. I sha’n’t go anywhere with Milburd again. After dinner Milburd goes away to “chat” with the Tetheringtons again, and I read all the weekly papers through, including the advertisements.
Bedroom.—In the next room on my left to me is a whistling gentleman. In the room above me is a stamping gentleman; and somewhere about, perhaps the next room on my right, is a declaiming gentleman. At night the declaiming gentleman has a good turn of it, while the stamping gentleman only walks about a quarter of a mile over my head. The declaiming gentleman is very impressive for nearly an hour, when he subsides all at once and utterly, 230 as if in the middle of a speech he had been suddenly knocked on the head, and put into bed speechless.
The whistling gentleman has the morning to himself. He wakes himself with a whistle, he whistles himself (operatically) out of bed. He whistles, spasmodically, amid splashings. He whistles a waltz while brushing his hair violently; I hear the brushes. He whistles a polka in gasps, from which I conclude he is pulling on tight boots. He whistles and jingles things together sounding like half-crowns and boot-hooks; and faintly whistles himself out of his room (March from Norma, with variations) and down the passage.
The stamping man has during this stamped himself out of bed. Judging from the sounds, he must perform all the operations of his toilet by forced marches. I should say he walks a mile before breakfast.
The declaiming gentleman is not oratorical in the morning. I think he is packing: I hear paper rustling, and, after a time, sounds as of dragging heavy weights about the room. His struggles with one obstinate portmanteau are awful. He has got it up against the wall now, and is kicking it. Pause: he is panting and groaning. A bell: the Boots comes: they are both struggling with the portmanteau. All is quiet: the door opens. I look out and see the conqueror walking down the passage in triumph, followed by the Boots with the captive portmanteau, bound and strapped, on his shoulder.
By the way, Milburd, returning at about two o’clock in the morning, wakes me up to ask me if I’m asleep, 231 and to inform me that he’s sorry he’s been away so long, but he’s been chatting with the Tetheringtons.
Breakfast.—Milburd not back from his bath. Being late, I am the only person at breakfast in this enormous coffee-room. Waiters in a corner laughing; fancy it is at me. Should like to order them to instant execution. A Chief of the waiters enters, and reviews a line regiment of cold beef, cold mutton, cold chickens, tongue, ham, and cold pork on a sideboard. Satisfied with his inspection, he retires. A gentleman comes in to breakfast; looks at me as much as to say, “Confound it, sir, what do you mean by being here?”
I return his look of contempt and scorn. He sits in full view of the sea, and eats his dry toast with a puzzled air, as if he was tasting it as a sample, occasionally turning quickly towards the window as if expecting some one to come in by it suddenly.
Milburd, from his bath, with his hair very wet and neatly parted. He complains of my breakfasting without him, and turns up his nose at my chop and egg. He explains his absence by telling me that he was “having a chat with the man at the baths.” He’s always chatting. I shall not come out with Milburd again.
Off to London, and then down to old Johnny Byng’s.232
AN INTERVIEW WITH A .—A SURPRISE.
My practical joke. No change. Milburd has to pay the cab; after which he has no change, only a check, and I have to pay the railway fares for both. So ends my practical joke.
Very cold travelling.
Happy Thought.—Sixpence to guard. Hot-water bottle.
Jolly place to go to is Byng’s. One needn’t (I say) take down dress-clothes; no ladies or dinner-parties. You can go down as you are. “As I am” means a light-colored shooting-coat, waistcoat to match, and warm, comfortable trousers, rather old, and a trifle shabby perhaps, but, as Milburd says, “anything will do for the country in winter.”
We reach the station. No flies. We stamp up and down for half an hour warming our feet. It is half past five, he dines at half past six. However, no dressing; hot water and dine as we are. Milburd tells me he always dresses for dinner for comfort’s sake, and adds, “that it’s always safer to bring your evening clothes with you when you’re going on a visit.” I reply, “O, I don’t know.” No fly. No porter to send. If Milburd will watch the luggage, I, who know the country and where the Inn is, will walk on and get a fly sent down to him.233
I do so. Fly is ready. I’ll walk on to the house. Another practical joke of mine. Milburd will have to pay the fly. If he has no change, the butler will have to do it, and Milburd must settle with him. I know the short cut, and can go in by the yard door.
Brisk walk. Up a lane. See the lights.
Think I hear Milburd’s fly quite in the distance. Great fun. I’ll be there before him, and then what good trick can we play on him?
Here’s the yard door. Open! no bell needed. It’s very dangerous to keep a door like this so unguarded. There ought to be a dog or trap.
Happy Thought.—I’ll tell Byng he ought to have a dog.
There is a dog. An inch more to his chain, and he’d have pinned me: how dangerous! I must creep along, keeping close to the wall. He is plunging and barking wildly in front of me: I can just see his form. I hear the fly driving up by the front way: I wish I’d come by that The dog is still plunging, dashing, and barking.
Happy Thought.—To say “Poor old boy, then,—poor old man!”
He is growling, which is more dangerous. I try a tone of the deepest compassion, “Poor old fellow, then; poor old chap!”
He is trying to break his chain: if he breaks his chain, I am done. Shall I call for help? it’s so absurd to call for help. I am in an angle of the wall; if I move to the door 234 where I came in he can reach me; if I move off along the wall he can reach me. I don’t exactly see where he can’t reach me. “Poor fellow,—poor boy!” He is literally furious!
Happy Thought.—Climb the wall.
I try climbing the wall: if I fall back, he’s safe to catch me. Any movement on my part sends him wild: how wonderful it is that they have not been attracted in-doors by his noise.
“Poor old boy!” I hear him shaking his kennel with rage. He will have a convulsion, go mad, and break the chain. If I ever get out of this, I swear I’ll never try a short cut to a house again. At last a light. The cook at the door,—the kitchen door. “What do I want?” she asks. I reply, “O, nothing, I was just walking in the short way, and the old dog doesn’t quite know me.” The butler luckily appears, he addresses me by name, and orders, with authority, Growler to get down, which Growler does, sulkily.
I say, as if he was leaving me pleasantly, “Poor old boy!—sharp dog that.” It’s a bad example to let people see you’re at all afraid of an animal. He growls from his kennel, and we enter the house.
Mr. Milburd has arrived, and my luggage. Will I go into the drawing-room? there’s tea in the drawing-room, as we don’t dine till seven to-day. I take off my wraps with a feeling of being at home. Old Byng comes out to greet me. He says, “I’ve got a surprise for you.” I wish I’d got a 235 surprise for him, it’s his birthday. “Many happy returns,” I give him heartily. He says, “Such a surprise. I knew you wouldn’t come if there were ladies.” What does he mean? We walk to the drawing-room. I follow him: I am prepared to have a good laugh at Milburd about paying the fly, and then—
Ladies! six ladies!! all seated round the fire taking tea. Milburd standing on the rug, a young man on a small chair, an elderly gentleman deep in a book. Six ladies!!!
Unhappy Thought.—No dress-clothes.
I am introduced, vaguely. I don’t hear any one’s name, and try to give a different sort of bow to each, which fails. After the introduction, silence. My host goes and talks to elderly lady with worsted.
Happy Thought.—Look at photograph-book on table. Quite a refuge for the conversationally destitute is a photograph-book. Think I’ll speak to elderly gentleman; what about?
Happy Thought.—Ask him how the weather’s been here. As he says, “I beg pardon, what?” the door opens, a seventh lady enters,—Miss Fridoline Symperson!!! No evening dress-clothes!236
I GET RIGGED OUT.—MY FIRST BON-MOT HERE.—DINNER.—MY PARTNER FROM NOVA SCOTIA.—MUSIC.
Bell sounds for dressing. There are, I subsequently discover, bells to prepare us for every meal, and a gong when the meal is ready. The first bell, sounding one hour before dinner, merely indicates that another bell is coming in half an hour’s time, which, when it sounds, means that there’s one more bell to inform the household that time’s up, and then the boom of the gong puts all further chances out of the question, finishing the preparatory process with the decision of an auctioneer’s hammer knocking down “gone!”
In Johnny Byng’s house everything is done with military precision. The ladies say to one another, “Well, I suppose we must go up now,” for every one makes a point of not knowing which bell it is,—uncertainty on this subject being an invariable excuse for lateness at dinner or luncheon,—and I take Johnny Byng aside, and explain to him that, as I thought there were no ladies there, I had brought no dress-clothes. He says, “It doesn’t matter, p’r’aps I can rig you out for to-night, and to-morrow you can send up to town.”
The rigging-out results in a black velveteen shooting-coat 237 and waistcoat to match. With a black tie I feel myself in full dress. I always find somebody else’s clothes suit me better than my own. Byng has a pair of patent leather boots by him that no one else can wear. The very things for me: more comfortable than any I’ve ever had made for myself.
Happy Thought.—Say jokingly to Byng, “I shall keep these boots.” He laughs and doesn’t say no. Shall let the servant pack’em up when I go.
Happy Thought on hearing Gong.—“Walk up, walk up, just a-going to begin.” Say it: not a success as a joke. Milburd tells me afterwards that the ladies thought it rather vulgar. Sha’n’t say it again.
Drawing-room. Ladies all in full grand toilet. I feel inclined to apologize, but getting near Fridoline Symperson (who is superior to mere outward show, and looks lovely with her silky golden hair—it used to be darker—and thin dark eyebrows) I tell her how I abominate evening dress, and what a comfort it is to be in an easy velveteen coat. “I wonder,” I add, “why every one doesn’t adopt the fashion.” Milburd, who overhears my observation, asks me loudly, “if I ever heard of the monkey who had lost his tail. You know,” he continues, seeing he has got an audience, (Note. A man who talks loudly and authoritatively before women can always get an audience, specially in the few minutes before dinner. Typical Developments. Chapter 238 on “Superficiality,” Book X. Vol. XIV.,) “the monkey who lost his own tail told every one that it was the more comfortable fashion to go without one!”
Miss Fridoline laughs. Every one is amused. Is there impiety in wishing that the power of brilliant repartee could be obtained by fasting, humiliation, and a short stay in a desert?
Happy Thought.—Desert: Leicester Square. I think this: how well it would have come out in conversation. I hesitate, as they might think it vulgar.
Byng, who is the courtly host, introduces me to a Miss Pellingle. [I don’t catch her name until the following morning.]
Happy Thought.—Why should not introductions be managed with visiting-cards?
Being introduced to her, I am on the point of asking her if she is engaged for the next dance (my fun), when the gong sounds again, and she says that she supposes it must be for dinner. Butler announces “dinner” to us, having just announced it to himself on the gong in the hall. Byng leads with elderly lady, who crackles as she moves, with bugles and spangles on a black dress. The middle-aged gentleman, I find, belongs to her, and both together are some sort of relations of Johnny Byng’s. All here are, I discover, more or less related to Byng, only, as he has no brothers or sisters, you have to get at their relationship by tracing marriages and intermarriages in connection with Byng’s whole-uncle 239 William and his half-aunt Sarah, which he tries to explain to me late at night.
Happy Thought.—I say to him jestingly, “If Dick’s uncle was Tom’s son, what relation was,” and so forth. He is annoyed. (Query, vulgar?)
Dinner.—As I pass Byng, he whispers hurriedly, alluding to my partner, “She’s been to Nova Scotia. Draw her out.” After twice placing a leg of my chair on my partner’s dress, and once on that of the lady on my left, we wedge ourselves in. I begin to laugh about these little difficulties; and, seeing Miss Pellingle look serious, I find I have been jocose while Byng (behind a lot of flowers where I couldn’t see him) was saying grace.
Happy Thought.—Exert myself as a conversationalist, and try to draw her out about Nova Scotia. Begin with “So you’ve been to Nova Scotia?” She replies, “Yes, she has.” I feel inclined to ask, “Well, and how are they?” which I know would be stupid. (Query, vulgar?) I should like to commence instructing her about Nova Scotia. I wish Byng had told me before dressing for dinner: he’s got a good library here.
Happy Thought.—Draw her out in a general way by asking, “And what sort of a place is Nova Scotia?” This I put rather frowningly, as if I’d received contradictory accounts about it which had deterred me from going there.
She answers, “Which part?”240
Happy Thought.—To shrug my shoulders and reply, “O, any part,” leaving it to her. She begins something about Halifax (Halifax I remember, of course, and a song commencing, “A captain bold in Halifax”; don’t mention it, might be vulgar), when we hear a noise as of a band tuning outside the window. Byng explains that, being his birthday, the band from Dishling (Byng’s village)—
“And,” puts in the butler, with the air of a man who knows what good music is, “the band from Bogley”—
Byng adopts the butler’s amendment, “The bands from Dishling and Bogley come to play during dinner.”
Milburd makes a wry face. The united musicians commence (in the dark outside) an overture. We listen. Byng’s half-aunt pretends to be interested, and asks, after a few bars, “Dear me, what’s that out of?”
I think. We all think.
Except Milburd, who exclaims, “Out of? Why, out of tune, I should say.” All laugh. Milburd, I suppose, is one of those wags who “set the table in a roar.” Pooh! Vulgar.
Miss Pellingle turns to me and observes, “That was very funny, wasn’t it?”
Happy Thought.—To reply, deprecatingly, “Yes: funny, but old.”
The bands from Bogley and Dishling get through the overture to William Tell. Dishling got through it first, I think.
Happy Thought (which has probably occurred to the 241 leader of the united Dishling and Bogley Bands).—When there’s a difficulty, beat the drum.
Another Happy Thought (which probably has also occurred to the leader).—Ophicleide covers a multitude of sins.
Byng goes out to address them. He likes playing, as it were, the “Ould Squire among his Happy Tenantry,” or “The Rightful Lord of the Manor welcomed Home.” The manor consists of a lawn in front, a garden at the back, and a yard with the dog in it. The united bands, being treated to two bottles of wine, offer to play for the rest of the night. Offer declined. Milburd says, “There wouldn’t be much rest of the night if they did.” Table in a roar again. I smile: or they’d think me envious.
Happy Thought.—Funny, but not new.
Ladies retire. Fridoline, passing me, observes, “You seemed very much interested in Nova Scotia.”
She has gone before I can reply. Is it possible that * * Is she * * * I wonder * * because * * * if I only thought that she * * * I should like to know if she meant * * * or was it merely * * * * and yet * * *
Happy Thought.—I will.242
REPARTEE PRACTICE.—MISS PELLINGLE WITH ROUSSEAU’S DREAM.—FRIDOLINE.—AN INTERRUPTION.
Going to the Drawing-room.
Old Mr. Symperson, Fridoline’s father, has been telling very ancient stories. So has Byng’s whole-uncle.
Happy Thought.—Laugh at all old Symperson’s stories and jokes. It is difficult to show him that not a word of his is lost upon me, as there are five between us. Byng’s whole-uncle, encouraged by this, tells a long story, and looks to me for a laugh. No.
Happy Thought.—Smile as if it wasn’t bad, but not to be mentioned in the same breath with anything of Old Symperson’s.
Milburd (hang him!) interrupts these elderly gentlemen (he has no reverence, not a bit), and tells a funny story. Old Symperson is convulsed, and asks Byng, audibly, who Milburd is.
I wish I could make him ask something about me.
Happy Thought.—Picture him to myself, in his study with his slippers on, giving his consent.243
I get close to him in leaving the room. He whispers something to me jocosely, as Byng opens the drawing-room door. I don’t hear it.
Happy Thought.—Laugh. Note.—You can enter a drawing-room easier if you laugh as you walk in.
The whole-uncle enters the room sideways, being engaged in explaining details of the cocoa-nut trade (I think) to a resigned middle-aged person with a wandering eye. Byng is receiving “many happy returns” from guests who have come in for the evening. Old Mr. Symperson is being spoken to sharply, I imagine, from Mrs. Symperson’s rigid smile, on the subject of something which “he knows never agrees with him.” Milburd is, in a second, with Fridoline.
Miss Pellingle is expecting, no doubt, that I am going to ask her for some trifles from Nova Scotia. I avoid her.
Happy Thought.—Look at Byng’s birthday presents arranged on the table. Think Fridoline looks at me? Am I wasting my time? I think I must be, as Byng comes up and asks me if I am fond of pictures. I should like to say, “No: hate’em.” What I do say is, “Yes: very.” I knew the result. Photograph-book: seen it before dinner.
Watch Milburd and Fridoline. Try to catch her eye and express a great deal. Catch his; and he winks. He is what he calls “having a chat” with Miss Fridoline.
All are conversationally engaged except myself. I hate 244 all the people in the Photograph-book. Shut it. Byng is ready at once for me. Am I fond of ferns?
Happy Thought.—To say “No!” boldly.
“You’d like these though, I think,” he returns. “Miss Fridoline arranged a book of’em for me for my birthday.” I say, “Oh!” This would have led to conversation, but I will be consistent in saying, “I don’t like ferns.” [Note for Typical Developments, Chap. 2, Book XIII., Par. 6. “Monosyllabic Pride: false.”]
I take a seat near the ottoman where she and Milburd are sitting. Difficult to join suddenly in a conversation. Hunting subject. She expects me to say something, I am sure. Feel hot. Feel that my hair and tie want adjustment. Cough as if I was going to sing. Milburd (idiot) says he hopes I feel better after that. I smile to show that I consider him a privileged fool. Wonder if my smile does convey this idea. Try it in the glass at bedtime.
Will touch him sharply.
Happy Thought.—Say pointedly, “How often it happens that a person who is always making jokes can’t take one himself!”
He is ready (I admit his readiness) with a repartee. “You ought,” he says to me, “to take jokes from any one very well.” I know I do. Miss Fridoline asks why? I think he’s going to pay a tribute to my good-nature! Not a bit of it. He says, “He finds it very easy to take jokes from other people: it saves making them for himself.”245
Happy Thought.—Note for Repartee.—What I ought to have said. “Then, sir,” (Johnsonian style,) “I will make a jest at your expense.”
[Odd; it is past midnight as I put this down. It strikes me after the candle’s out, and just as I am turning on my sleeping side. By the light of the fire I record it. If this conversation ever recurs I shall be prepared.
Another Happy Thought.—Wake Milburd, and say it to him now.
Would if I knew his room. Bed again. Think I’ve thought of something else. Out of bed again. Light. Odd: striking the lucifer has put it (whatever it was) out of my head. Bed again; strange.]
Miss Pellingle is kind enough to play the piano. While she is performing, I can talk to Fridoline.
Miss Pellingle having to pass me on her road to the instrument, I am obliged to rise.
Happy Thought.—Say, “You’re going to play something? That’s charming.”
She drops her fan, and I pick it up. She is already preparing for action at the instrument when I return the fan. Byng whispers to me, “Thanks, old fellow! You know all about music: turn over for her, will you? Clever girl! Think I’ve told you she’d been to Nova Scotia, eh?” And he leaves me at the piano’s side. If there was a boat starting for Nova Scotia now, I’d willingly pay for her ticket, and Byng should see her off.
Happy Thought.—To look helplessly towards Fridoline, 246 as much as to say, “See how I am placed! I don’t want to be here: I wish to be by you.” Why did Miss Pellingle leave Nova Scotia?
She doesn’t seem in the least interested.
Miss Pellingle commences “Rousseau’s Dream,” with variations. Beautiful melody, by itself first, clear and distinct. Only the slightest possible intimation of the coming variations given by one little note which is not in the original air.
Perhaps arranged for performance in Nova Scotia.
Happy Thought.—Turn over.
“No, not yet, thank you.” Too early.
A peculiarly harmonized version of the air announces the approach of variations. Two notes at a time instead of one. The “Dream,” still to be distinguished. Miss Pellingle jerks her eye at me.
Happy Thought.—Turn over.
Beg pardon: two pages. Miss Pellingle’s right hand now swoops down on the country occupied by the left, finds part of the tune there, and plays it. Left hand makes a revengeful raid into right-hand country, bringing its part of the tune up there, and trying to divert the enemy’s attention from the bass.
They meet in the middle. Scrimmage. Tune utterly lost.
Happy Thought.—Turn over.247
Too late. Steam on: hurried nod of thanks. Now again. The right hand, it seems, has left some of the tune in the left hand’s country, which the latter finds, and tries to produce. Right hand comes out with bass accompaniment in the treble, and left hand gives in. Both meet for the second time. Scrimmage.
Happy Thought.—Between two hands “Rousseau’s Dream” falls to the ground.
Now the air tries to break out between alternate notes, like a prisoner behind bars. Then we have a variation entirely bass.
Happy Thought.—Rousseau snoring.
Then a scampering up, a meeting with the right hand, a scampering down, and a leap off one note into space. Then both in the middle, wobbling; then down into the bass again.
Happy Thought.—Rousseau after a heavy supper.
A plaintive variation.—Rousseau in pain.
General idea of Rousseau vainly trying to catch the air in his own dream.
Light strain: Mazourka time.—Rousseau kicking in his sleep.
Grand finishing up; festival style, as if Rousseau had got out of bed, asked all his friends suddenly to a party, and was dancing in his dressing-gown. I call it, impulsively, by a248
Happy Thought.—“Rousseau’s Nightmare.”
All over. Miss Pellingle is sorry to have troubled me: I am sorry she did. Wish she’d go and play it to the Nova-Scotians. I leave her abruptly, seeing Milburd has quitted his place and Miss Fridoline is alone. I sit down by her. (Note. I ought to have spoken first and sat afterwards.)
Happy Thought.—Say “I’ve been trying to speak to you all the evening.” (Very hot and choky.)
She replies, “Indeed?” I say, “Yes.” Think I’ll say that I wanted to explain my conduct to her: think I won’t.
Happy Thought.—“Hope you’re going to stop here some time?”
I explain that I don’t mean on the ottoman, but in the house. “O, then,” she says, “not on the ottoman.” That was rude of me; accordingly, I explain again. My explanations resemble Miss Pellingle’s variations, and, I feel, mystify the subject considerably. I tell her I am so delighted to meet her again. I am going to say that I hope she is delighted at seeing me.
Happy Thought.—Better not say it: think it.
Want a general subject for conversation.
Happy Thought (after a pause).—Her mother.
Say what a nice old lady her mother is. Said it. I wish I hadn’t, it’s so absurd to compliment a person on having 249 a mother. Say I didn’t know her father before to-night: stupid this. She says, “I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you when you visit our part of the world again,”—meaning Plyte Fraser’s part of the world.
Happy Thought.—Express rapturous hope. Hint that there may be obstacles. “What obstacles?” Now to begin: allude first to interchange of sympathies, then to friendship, then to—
Byng begs pardon. He wants to speak to me. He and Milburd have got some fun, he says. The evening’s dull, and we must do something cheerful at Christmas-time. Byng mentions charades, and dressing up.
Milburd suggests “wax-works.” Byng asks “How?” Milburd explains that I am to be the wax-work figure, and that he will put me in different positions and lecture on me. I am, he says, to be dressed up and treated, in fact, like a lay-figure.
Before Fridoline? No.
Happy Thought.—Say we’ll do this to-morrow night with more preparation.
Byng says we must do something now, and, as a preparatory step, we all three leave the room.250
I AM DRESSED UP.—REHEARSAL IN THE KITCHEN.—PERFORMANCE IN DRAWING-ROOM.—FIASCO.—FAMILY PRAYERS.—ARRANGEMENTS FOR A RIDE.
Byng takes Milburd and myself aside. “What Christmassy sort of thing,” asks Byng, “can we do to amuse them?” Milburd suggests charades. I think we can’t get them up. Milburd says, “Get’em up in a second. Cork a pair of mustachios and flour your face.” I admit this is all very well, but we want scenery. Byng doubtful. Milburd pooh-poohs scenery, and says, “There are folding-doors in the drawing-room; and chairs and table-cloths. Only want a word.” We can’t think of a word.
Happy Thought.—Get a dictionary.
We try A. Abaft. Milburd says that’s it.
Happy Thought.—I say, on board ship in the back drawing-room. Milburd catches the idea. First syllable: A. Byng asks “How?” So do I. Milburd explains; “A: cockneyism for Hay: some one makes A when the sun shines.” Byng interrupts with a question as to how the sun is to be done. Milburd says, “O, imagine the 251 sun.” Baft. Let’s see how’s Baft to be done. Silence. Puzzler.
Happy Thought.—Try something else.
Byng says that once when he was in a country house he dressed up as a monk, and frightened a lot of people. We laugh. Byng suggests that that wouldn’t be bad fun. His half-aunt is easily taken in.
Happy Thought.—Dress up and frighten his half-aunt.
Byng’s got it. He’ll get the dress. I enter into the proposition. Prefer talking to Fridoline. Milburd shall disarm suspicion by going back to the drawing-room and saying, that a great friend of Byng’s has just arrived from Germany, and that Byng is receiving him. Milburd undertakes this part of the business. Byng says (to me) “Come along: I’ll dress you up.” I object. Byng says, “It’s like Mummers in the olden time.” I never could see the fun of Mummers in the olden time. I suggest that Milburd is better at this sort of thing, and I’ll go back to the drawing-room and disarm suspicion. Byng is obstinate: he says it will spoil everything if I don’t dress up. Milburd points out what capital fun it will be. “No one,” he says, “will know you.” Perhaps not: but where’s the fun?
Happy Thought.—Do it another night.
They won’t. Do it now. Byng appears annoyed: he thought I should enjoy this sort of thing. I say, “So I do: no one more,” only I can’t help imagining that Fridoline 252 will think me an idiot. It is settled. Milburd goes down stairs. Byng takes me to a lumber-room. I am to represent his friend just arrived from Germany. After rummaging in some boxes and closets, he produces a large cocked hat with feathers, a hussar’s jacket, a pair of cavalier breeches, pink stockings, russet boots, and a monk’s cloak with a cowl. He is delighted. Whom am I to represent?
Happy Thought (which strikes Byng).—Represent eccentric friend from Germany. He must be a very eccentric friend to come in such a dress. I point out that it can’t take any one in: not even his half-aunt. He says it will. His half-aunt must be remarkably weak.
When I’ve got on the stockings and boots, I protest against the breeches. “Spoil the whole thing if you don’t put on the breeches,” says Byng. I am dressed. I say, “I can’t go down like this.” Byng’s got it again. What?
Happy Thought (second which strikes Byng).—False nose. Red paint.
Stop! He hasn’t got any red paint.
Happy Thought.—What a blessing! A new idea strikes him. Pink tooth-powder will do just as well: and lip-salve.
He won’t let me look in the glass until he has finished with me. When he’s done, I see myself, and protest again. He says, “Nonsense: it’s capital: he will just see if the road’s clear, and then we’ll go down stairs.” He leaves me.253
Happy Thought (while alone).—Undress before he comes back.
First Reflection in glass: What an ass I do look! Second Reflection, What an idiot I was to let them dress me up! Resolution, Never do it again. If I had got to act a regular part, with words written, I shouldn’t mind; or even in a charade; or if every one was dressed up as well; or if Milburd or some one else was dressed up; but this is so stupid! If I don’t go on with it, Old Byng will be annoyed, and won’t ask me again, and Byng’s is a very jolly place to stay at. If I’d known that there were people here, and this sort of thing was going to happen, I shouldn’t have come. I shouldn’t mind it so much if Fridoline wasn’t here. I can’t go and sit by her, and talk to her seriously, with a false nose, burnt cork, pink tooth-powder, and red lip-salve on my face. I won’t go. [Analyzing this feeling afterwards, with a view to Chap. 8, Book X. Typical Developments, I conclude it to be a phase of False Pride.]
Byng returns: radiant I follow him, dismally, down the back stairs. We are not, it appears, going into the drawing-room. Byng opens a door. The kitchen. The cook, two housemaids, and a footman, engaged on some meal. They rise; uncomfortably. Byng says, “Mrs. Wallett” (addressing the cook), “here’s a gentleman from Germany.” Whereat the cook and the two housemaids giggle awkwardly. They’re not taken in: not a bit. They pretend to be amused, to please Byng. Doesn’t Byng see through such toadyism? The footman smiles superciliously, and I feel that none of them will ever respect me again. The butler 254 enters: he is sufficiently condescending to pronounce it very good. Cook evidently feeling it necessary to make some sort of observation, says, “Well, she shouldn’t ha’ known me; she shouldn’t,” which the housemaids echo. They are all bored. Footman patronizingly, as if he could have acted the part better himself—[Happy Thought (which occurs to me in the kitchen). Wish we had dressed up the footman.]—observes to his master, “The gentleman doesn’t talk, sir.” Impudent fellow: I know he’ll be insolent to me, after this, as long as I’m here. Great mistake of Byng’s. Byng explains that I (in my character of eccentric friend from Germany) only speak German; and asks me, Sprarkenzee Dytch? which he considers to be the language.
Happy Thought.—Yah. Also Mynheer.
I do wish (behind my false nose and tooth-powder) that I could be funny. I feel that if in this dress I could do something clever, I should have the best of it. As it is I’m a sort of tame monkey led about by Byng. I ought to go out of the kitchen funnily: I don’t. Rather sneak out, after Byng. I’m sure the servants hate me: I wish Byng hadn’t disturbed them at their meal.
Happy Thought.—Say to Byng, in the passage, “I don’t think there’s much fun to be got out of this.” He replies, “Nonsense; must frighten my aunt.”
I would give ten pounds if Fridoline were, at this moment, in the next county. Suppose she should think I’d been drinking!255
We are in the drawing-room. Fridoline is singing and playing. Milburd is waiting on her. The elderly people are engaged in conversation, or dozing. The younger are playing the race-game with counters and dice, and some are looking over pictures. Four elders, Mr. and Mrs. Symperson, the half-aunt and whole-uncle, are at whist. “They are enjoying themselves,” I say to Byng, “why disturb them?”
Byng is inexorable.
Happy Thought.—Go back and undress before they see me.
Byng introduces me loudly, “Herr Von Downyvassel from Germany.” Every one is interrupted: every one is, more or less, obliged to laugh. I see it at once: I am a bore. Byng takes me up to his half-aunt at whist; she is not frightened, but only says, “What a dreadful creature!” and the four players laugh once out of compliment to Byng, and go on with their game again. Milburd ought to help me: he won’t. He doesn’t even take any notice of me. Miss Fridoline merely turns her head and continues her Italian song. Byng, having failed in frightening his half-aunt, leaves me, and goes to find some book of pictures for Miss Pellingle. What am I to do? Dance? Sing? I think I hear one of the party engaged at the race-game say, “What stupid nonsense!” I should like to dress him up. I’d rub the red powder into him.
Gong sounds. For what?
The butler enters and whispers the elders, who rise 256 sedately. The guests begin leaving the room gravely: I am following. Milburd asks me if I’m coming as I am. Coming where? Don’t I know? Family Prayers. Byng is very strict, and whenever there’s a clergyman in the house, he has Family Prayers. The whole-uncle, I discover, is a Reverend. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but you wouldn’t know me, now, to look at me. In my false nose, dragoon jacket, tooth-powder, and lip-salve, I am a heathen. They want a missionary for me. Thinking deeply, what can mere outward adornment matter? The dress is nothing,—and yet—
They are at prayers. I am not. An outcast in a Tom-fool’s dress. I think I now see why the clergy object to the stage.
Happy Thought.—Go to bed.
I resume my dress. It would be cowardice to go to bed. I wait for them to come to the smoking-room. They come in, ladies and all, after prayers, remarkably fresh and cheerful. Conversation general: no allusion to my dressing up.
Getting near Fridoline I refer to it She owns she thought it stupid: I tell her, so did I. She hopes it will be a fine day to-morrow. So do I. “Can’t we,” I suggest, “take a walk?” I want to say “together,” thereby intimating that I want no other companions. She replies, “Or a ride,” adding enthusiastically, “Do ride; you do, of course.” “I do,” I tell her; “but regret that I can’t get a horse.” This presents no difficulty to her. Mr. Byng lends her one 257 of his. Byng says, “Yes, Milburd has the chestnut, I ride the bay, and I can get a very good one for you,” to me, “from Brett’s stables in the village.” “That,” cries Fridoline, “will be delightful!”
I say to her rapturously, that I look forward to it with pleasure. So I do as far as going with her is concerned. But I feel obliged to explain to her that I haven’t ridden for some time. She tells me that she hasn’t ridden for some time, either. This consoles me to a certain degree: but I mean years, she only means months. She tells me, sotto voce, that Byng is not a fast goer, so he and Milburd may ride together, and that we’ll (she and I) have a good gallop.
Happy Thought.—Alone with her! Galloping through the woods! Only, after a time, wouldn’t she be alone without me?
Happy Thought.—Talk about hunting,—stiff countries,—fences,—brooks. [Thank goodness, no hunting here!]
She is all life and animation, and anxious for to-morrow’s ride with me. I’d rather it was a drive than a ride. “She likes,” she says, “riding’cross country.” She is sorry that we shall only have roads here.
Happy Thought.—Roads! hooray! Twenty to one against falling off on a road.
Happy Thought.—Say, “Ah, pity there’s no’cross country.” I mean for her.258
Ladies now retire. Milburd wants to be officious, but she takes her candlestick from me. She looks to me for a light from the gas. I look at her, and find (when she draws my attention to it) that I am holding the flame about an inch away from the wick. I detain her hand for one second. I just—
Happy Thought.—Sympathetic electricity. Write a chapter this evening in Typical Developments.
Her last words, “Mind you see about your horse the first thing to-morrow: I should be so disappointed if you didn’t get it.”
I will get it. Ride—anywhere—everywhere! For her,—and with her! Still I do wish it was riding in a carriage.
When I return to the smoking-room, Byng observes that he didn’t know I cared about riding.
Happy Thought.—To say, “O yes, very much, only don’t often get the chance.” This will prepare them for seeing me a little awkward, as if I was out of practice.
Do I hunt?
“No,” I return carelessly. “Not much. I’ve given it up for a long time.”
Happy Thought.—Not to say that I only went out once years ago, and couldn’t find the hounds. Gave it up after this.
Milburd gives us anecdotes of his horses: so does Byng. I come away with this general impression about horses, derived from their conversation:—259
1stly. “If you know something about it, you can buy a horse for next to nothing; one you can ride, drive, and hunt, and be invaluable to you.”
2ndly. “That it’s cheaper to keep a horse than not.”
3rdly. “That I certainly ought to have a horse.”
So to bed.260
THE RIDE.—I PREPARE TO GO OUT WITH THE DISHLING PACK.
Diary and Notes for “Typical Developments.”—Byng’s place is curiously situated. Some people say it’s in one county, some in another. Three maps have it. So that even Geography fails in this case. Byng himself is uncertain, but has a leaning towards Hampshire, as savoring of the Forest (which is within a hundred miles or so) and of old families. The Telegraphic, Guide and the Postal Guide differ as to the locality. Among its disadvantages may be reckoned the fact that you can get to Byng’s by five different lines of rail from London, each one presenting some few lesser, some few greater, inconveniences. On one line you go through as far as Stopford, then wait for the half past ten from Thistleborough, which, being an opposition, makes itself as disagreeable as possible, arriving late, snobbishly, to show its consequence, going beyond its mark, shunting backwards, grunting forwards, coquetting with the platform, frightening the passengers who are taking refreshment, and, in short, behaving generally in a very ill-conditioned manner. On another line to Byng’s, you change three times; but you get there, on the whole, quicker than by the Stopford 261 Junction one. By this train you may calculate upon some difficulty with your luggage. On a third you only change once, and then you are taken away in an apparently totally contrary direction to that in which you want to go. This causes anxiety, references to guide-books, searching questions of guards and porters as to what the name of the next station is (checking them by Bradshaw), and as to the time of arrival at one’s destination. The fourth has only two trains in the day which stop at Byng’s station. If you want to go down to Byng’s either very early in the morning or very late at night, you can’t do better than go by line No. 4. The fifth is uncertain, slow, safe, and only stops if you give notice previously to the guard,—which regulation you discover after you’ve passed Byng’s station. I note all these things, because in Typical Developments, Vol. XI., Book XVI., when I come to touch upon Geography and Geology, I shall be then able to offer to the world some theories on the probabilities of iron veins, coal strata, and chalk rock in this part of England. For this part unites in itself the peculiarities of the low marsh of Essex, the gravelly soil of Surrey, the woods of Hampshire, the rich meadows of Kent, the plains of Leicestershire, and the downs of Sussex. And all this I note down, having much leisure, and being very tired, but dreadfully wakeful at night, after a day with the Dishling Harriers. And I note it down for reasons as above stated, and also to account to myself for the varied country through which I have passed.—Diary.
Morning.—Down to breakfast. Earlier than usual. 262 Half-aunt making tea. Milburd, as I enter, is asking, “how far it is.”
Byng replies, “A mere trot over.”
Happy Thought.—Fridoline looking as bright as Aurora.
Happy Thought.—Don’t say it: keep it to myself. Aurora sounds like a roarer and the ladies mightn’t like it.
“So soon?” I ask. Don’t I know? “No, I don’t.” “O,” says Byng, “we’ve found out that the Dishling pack meets near here this morning, and so we’re going to have a run with them.”
Happy Thought.—Have a run without me.
“I suppose he hasn’t been able to get a horse for me?” I ask this with a tinge of regret in my voice. If he says he hasn’t been able, I shall be sorry; if he says he has—why, I feel I must take my chance.
Happy Thought.—Lots of people ride, and never have an accident.
“Hasn’t he?” he returns, heartily. His groom (confound him!) has been up and down the village since five o’clock, and has hit upon a very good one—about sixteen one—well up to my weight. “Carry you, in fact,” says Milburd, “like a child.” “I suppose he’s not a hunter, is he?”
Happy Thought.—If he’s not a hunter, of course I sha’n’t risk him over fences and ditches.263
My doubts are set at rest by the groom, who enters at that moment. He informs me that “The old mare was reg’lar hunted by Mr. Parsons, and with you (me) on his back, sir, she’ll go over anything a’most” She’ll go, but will I?
Fridoline exclaims, “O, how delicious! Shall we have much jumping? It is such fun!”
Milburd appears to know the country. “It’s all very easy,” he says. “Into one field, pop out again,” (this is his description,) “into another, over a hedge, little ditch, gallop across the open, little brook (nothing to speak of), sheep-hurdle, and then perhaps we may get a clear burst away on the
“I don’t care about downs: there’s no jumping there!” says Fridoline.
Happy Thought.—Keep on the downs.
I notice, on their rising from the table, that Milburd is in tops and breeches, and that Byng is in breeches and black boots. Both wear spurs.
Happy Thought.—I can’t hunt as I am.
The whole-uncle (who is not going—the coward!) says it won’t matter,—there’s little or no riding required with harriers. He pretends to wish he could join us,—old humbug! I wish he could. I should like to see him popping out of one field into another over a hedge.
Byng has been considering. He has got by him an old pair of cords, but no boots.264
Happy Thought.—Can’t hunt without boots. Great nuisance. Better give it up. Don’t stop for me.
A Happy Thought occurs to Milburd.—Patent leggings, fasten with springs. Antigropelos.
I try them on. They do fit me; at least I imagine so (meaning the hunting-breeches), though, never having worn hunting-breeches before, I’ve got a sort of idea that they’re not quite the thing. So very tight in the knee. His leggings are patent antigropelos, which go over my stockings and boots. When I am dressed I walk down stairs, or rather waddle down stairs, and can’t help remarking that “This is just the sort of dress for riding in,” or, by the way, for sitting in; but walking is out of the question. [I wonder if they do fit.]
Fridoline who looks so bewitching in her habit that I could fall down on my knees and offer her my hand at once—(my knees! I don’t think they do fit; and I question whether this costume exhibits the symmetry of form so well as the modern style),—Fridoline says that I look quite military. (She means it as a compliment, but it isn’t; because I want to look sportsmanlike.) In antigropelos, if like anything, I resemble the Great Napoleon from the knees. Milburd says I’m not unlike the master of the ring in a French circus. I can’t help feeling that I am something like that, or, as I said before, the Great Napoleon. Milburd remarks I ought to have spurs. I object to spurs. I feel that without spurs I’m tolerably safe; but if there’s a question of a spill, spurs will settle it. That’s my feeling 265 about spurs. I only say, “O, don’t trouble yourself.” Byng is going to fetch them: “I can get on just as well without spurs.” The groom says, “She won’t want spurs,” which awakens me to the fact of the beast being now at the hall-door. A bright chestnut, very tall, broad, and swishing its tail; with a habit of looking back without turning its head (which movement is unnatural), as if to see if any one is getting up. I ask “Is this mine?” I feel it is. It is. I can’t help saying jocosely, as a reminder to others to excuse any shortcomings in horsemanship on my part, “I haven’t ridden for ever so long; I’m afraid I shall be rather stiff.” If stiffness is all I’ve to fear, I don’t care. I wish we were coming home instead of starting. “Will I help Fridoline up?” I will; if only to cut out Milburd and not lose an opportunity. What a difficult thing it is to help a lady on to her horse! After several attempts I am obliged to give in.
Happy Thought.—I must practise this somewhere. Private lesson in a riding-school. I feel I’ve fallen in her estimation. I feel I’m no longer the bold dragoon to her. I apologize for my feebleness. She says it doesn’t matter. Misery! to fail and be feeble before the woman you adore.266
I MOUNT MY GALLANT CHESTNUT.—THOUGHTS ON RIDING.—ANTIGROPELOS.—THE TROT.—THE CANTER.—THE GALLOP.—HUNTING.
So, this is the horse from Brett’s stables in the village, which they talked about last night. I shouldn’t have had it if Mr. Parsons, who always rides it with the Harriers, “hadn’t come rather a nasty cropper” at Deepford Mill, and won’t be able to go out again for a fortnight. The groom thinks I’m in luck. Hope so. It was off this horse that poor Parsons “came a nasty cropper.” Miss Pellingle, on the doorstep, says, “What a pretty creature!” and observes that she’s always heard chestnuts are so fiery. I return “Indeed!” carelessly, as if I possessed Mr. Rarey’s The whole-uncle (from a window) suggests that “perhaps you’d rather have a roast chestnut.” People laugh. Groom laughs. At me.
Happy Thought.—“How ill gray hairs become a fool and jester.” Shakespeare, I think. What happy thoughts Shakespeare had. So applicable to a stupid old idiot. Keep this to myself.267
Mounting.—I don’t know any work on equestrianism which adequately deals with the difficulty of equalizing the length of stirrups. You don’t find out that one leg is longer than the other, until you get on horseback for the first time after several years. The right is longer than the left. Having removed that inconvenience, the left is longer than the right. One hole up will do it. “One down?” asks the groom. I mean one down.
Happy Thought (just in time).—No; I mean up.
Groom stands in front of me, as if I was a picture. Placing no further reliance on my own judgment, I ask him, “if it’s all right now.” He says “Yes,” decidedly. From subsequent experience, I believe he makes the answer merely to save himself trouble. Byng, on horseback, curvetting, cries “Come along!” If mine curvets or caracoles where shall I be? Perhaps the brute caracoled or curvetted at Deepford Mill, when poor Parsons “came” that “nasty cropper.”
Happy Thought.—Sport in the olden time. Hawking. People generally sat still, in one place, watching a hawk. Not much exercise, perhaps, but safe. Why don’t they revive hawking?
Milburd wants to know if I’m going to be all day. Fridoline’s horse is restive; the other two are restive. I wish they weren’t. Mine wants to be restive: if he goes on suddenly, I go off.268
Happy Thought.—If I do come a nasty cropper like Parsons, I hope I shall do it alone, or before strangers only.
Happy Thought, —The mane.
I like being comfortable before I start. Stop one minute. One hole higher up on the right. The whole-uncle, who is watching the start—[Old coward! he daren’t even come off the doorstep, and has asked me once if I won’t “take some jumping-powder.” He’d be sorry for his fun if I was borne home on a stretcher after a “nasty cropper.” I almost wish I was, just to give him a lesson.—I mean if I wasn’t hurt.]—says, “Aren’t those girths rather loose?” The groom sees it for the first time. He begins tightening them. Horse doesn’t like it. “Woo! poor fellow! good old man, I mean good old woman, then.” Horse puts back its ears, and tries to make himself into a sort of arch. I don’t know what happens when a horse puts back its ears.
Happy Thought.—Ask Milburd.
He answers “Kicks.” Ah! I know what happens if he kicks. That would be the time for the nasty cropper. This expression will hang about my memory. “All right now?” Quite. Still wrong about the stirrups: one dangling, the other lifting my knee up; but won’t say anything more, or Fridoline may think me a nuisance.
Two reins. Groom says, “She goes easy on the snaffle. Pulls a little at first; but you needn’t hold her.” I shall, 269 though. Trotting, I am told, is her “great pace.” The reins are confused. One ought to be white, the other black, to distinguish them. Forget which fingers you put them in. Mustn’t let the groom see this.
Happy Thought.—Take’em up carelessly, anyhow. Watch Byng.
We are walking. My horse very quiet. Footman runs after me. Idiot, to come up abruptly; enough to frighten any horse. If you’re not on your guard, you come off so easily. “Here’s a whip.” “O, thank you.” Right hand for whip, and left for reins, like Byng? Or, left hand for whip and right for reins, like Milburd? Or, both in one hand, like Fridoline? Walking gently. As we go along Milburd points out nice little fences, which “your beast would hop over.”—Yes, by herself.
Happy Thought.—Like riding. Fresh air exhilarating. Shall buy a horse. N. B.—Shall buy a horse which will walk as fast as other horses; not jog. Irritating to jog. If I check him, he jerks his head, and hops. Fridoline calls him “showy.” Wonder if, to a spectator, I’m showy! Passing by a village grocer’s.
Happy Thought.—See myself in the window. Not bad; but hardly “showy.” Antigropelos effective.
Happy Thought.—If I stay long here, buy a saddle, and stirrups my own length. My weight, when he jogs, is too much on one stirrup.270
Fridoline asks, “Isn’t this delightful?” I say, “Charming.” Milburd talks of riding as a science. He says, “The great thing in leaping is to keep your equilibrium.”
Happy Thought.—The pummel.
“Shall we trot on?” If we don’t push along, Byng says we shall never reach Pounder’s Barrow, where the Harriers meet. As it is, we shall probably be too late.
Happy Thought.—Plenty of time. Needn’t go too fast. Tire the horses.
My left antigropelo has come undone. The spring is weak. I can’t get at it. My horse never will go the same pace as the others. The groom said his great pace was trotting. He is trotting, and it is a great pace; not so much for speed as for height. He trots as if all his joints were loose. His tail appears to be a little loose in the socket, and keeps whisking round and round, judging from the sound. I go up and down, and from side to side.
Happy Thought.—Are people ever sea-sick from riding?
No scientific riding here! Can’t get my equilibrium. Ought to have had a string for my hat. Cram it on. I think, from the horse’s habit of looking back sideways, that he’s seen the loose antigropelo, and it has frightened him. He breaks into a gallop. It feels as if he was always stumping on one leg. He changes his leg, which unsettles me. He changes his legs every minute. Wish I could change mine for a pair of strong ones in comfortable boots 271 and breeches. Thank Heaven, I didn’t have spurs! Hope I sha’n’t drop my whip. This antigropelo will bring me off, sooner or later, I know it will.
End of the lane. The three in front. I wish they’d stop. Mine would stop then. We trot again—suddenly. Painful.
Happy Thought.—“Let’s look at the view.”
Byng cries, “Hang the view!—here’s a beautiful bit of turf for a canter.” We break (my horse and I) into a canter. He breaks into the canter sooner than I do, as I’ve not quite finished my trot. I wish it was a military saddle, with bags before and behind. A soldier can’t come off. If the antigropelo goes at the other spring, I shall lose it altogether. Horse pulls; wants to pass them all. Hat getting loose; antigropelo flapping.
Happy Thought.—Squash my hat down anyhow, tight.
The fresh air catches my nose. I feel as if I’d a violent cold. There’s no comfort in riding at other people’s pace. I wish they’d stop. It’s very unkind of them. They might as well. I should stop for them. What a beast this is for pulling! I can’t make him feel.
Happy Thought.—If I ride again, have a short coat made, without tails.
Everything about me seems to be flapping in the wind; like a scarecrow. Fridoline doesn’t see me. What an uncomfortable thing a hard note-book is in a tail-coat pocket, when cantering and bumping.272
Happy Thought.—End of canter. Thank Heavens! he (or she) stops when the others stop.
Fridoline looks round and laughs. She is in high spirits. In an attempt to wave my whip to her with my right hand, I nearly come that nasty cropper on the left side. Righted myself by the mane quietly. What would a horse be without a mane?
Happy Thought.—The hard road. Walk. Fasten my antigropelo. Tear it at the top by trying the spring excitedly.
Before talking to her, I settle my hat and tie; also manage my pocket-handkerchief. Feel that I’ve got a red nose, and don’t look as “showy” as I did. On the common we fall in with the Harriers, and men on horseback, in green coats.
Byng knows several people, and introduces them to Miss Fridoline. He doesn’t introduce me to any one. We pass through a gate, into a ploughed field. The dogs are scenting, or something. I see a rabbit. If I recollect rightly, one ought to cry out, “Holloa!” or “Gone away!” or “Yoicks!” If I do, we shall all be galloping about, and hunting.
Happy Thought.—Better not say anything about it. It’s the dogs’ business.
The dogs find something. Every one begins cantering. Just as I am settling my hat, and putting my handkerchief into my pocket, my horse breaks into a canter. Spring of 273 antigropelo out again. It is a long field, and I see we are all getting towards a hedge. The dogs disappear. Green-coat men disappear over the hedge. I suddenly think of poor Parsons and the nasty cropper.
Happy Thought.—Stop my horse: violently.
Our heads meet. Hat nearly off. Everybody jumps the hedge. Perhaps my horse won’t do it. If I only had spurs, I might take him at it. Some one gets a fall. He’s on his own horse. If he falls, I shall. He didn’t hurt himself.
Happy Thought.—You can fall and not hurt yourself. I thought you always broke your neck, or leg.
Happy Thought—Any gap?
None. Old gentleman, on a heavy gray, says, “No good going after them. I know the country.” Take his advice. If I lose the sport, blame him.
Happy Thought.—Hares double: therefore (logically) the hare will come back.
Happy Thought.—Stop in the field.
Try to fasten antigropelo: tear it more. Trot round quietly. I’m getting well into my seat now. Shouldn’t mind taking him at the hedge. Too late, as they’ll be back directly. I explain to old gentleman who knows the country, that “I don’t like leaping hired horses, or I should have 274 taken him at that hedge.” Old gentleman thinks I’m quite right. So do I. They come back: the hare first. I see him and cut at him with my whip. Old gentleman very angry. I try to laugh it off. With the dogs I ride through the gate. Capital fun. The hare is caught in a ditch by the roadside. Old gentleman still angry. I am told afterwards that he’s one of the old school of sportsmen, who, I suppose, don’t cut at hares with a whip.
Happy Thought.—I am in at the death. Say “Tally ho!” to myself.
Happy Thought.—Ask for the brush. If I get it, present it to Fridoline.
Milburd laughs, and says he supposes I want a hare-brush.
It is a great thing to possess quick perceptive faculties. I see at once that a hare has no brush, and treat the matter as my own joke. [Note for Typical Developments, Book XVI., “Perception of the Ridiculous.”]
After looking about for another hare for half an hour, my blood is not so much up as it was. We are “Away” again. The hare makes for the hill. We are galloping. I wish I’d had my stirrups put right before I started. A shirt-button has broken, and I feel my collar rucking up; my tie working round. I cram my hat on again. There’s something hard projecting out of the saddle, that hurts my knees. Woa! He does pull. I think we’ve leapt something; a ditch. If so, I can ride better than I thought. What pleasure can a 275 horse have in following the hounds at this pace! Woa, woa! My stirrup-straps are flying; my antigropelos on both sides have come undone; my breeches pinch my knees; my hat wants cramming on again. In doing this I drop a rein. I clutch at it. I feel I am pulling the martingale. Stop for a minute; I am so tired. No one will stop.
Happy Thought (at full gallop).—“You Gentlemen of England who live at home at ease, how little do you think upon” the dangers of this infernal hunting.
Byng’s whole-uncle is at home, reading his Times. Up a hill at a rush. Down a hill. Wind rushing at me. It makes me gasp like going into a cold bath. Think my shirt-collar has come undone on one side.
Happy Thought (which flashes across me).—Mazeppa. “Again he urges on his wild career!” Mazeppa was tied on, though: I’m not.
I shall lose the antigropelos. Down a hill. Up a hill slowly. The horse is walking, apparently, right out of his saddle. Will he miss me?
Happy Thought.—I shall come off over his tail.
I have an indistinct idea of horsemen careering all about me. I wish some one would stop my horse. Suddenly we all stop. I cannon against the old gentleman on the gray. Apology. He is very angry; says, “I might have killed him.” Pooh!276
Happy Thought.—If this is hunting, it isn’t so difficult, after all. But what’s the pleasure?
The hounds are scenting again. Stupid countryman says he’s seen a hare about here. Delight of everybody. All these big men, horses, and dogs after a timid hare! Why doesn’t the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals interfere? I thought they always shot hares. The dogs have got their tails up, and are whining. They are unhappy. If they find a hare they give that countryman a shilling.
Happy Thought.—Shall write to old Boodels, and tell him I’m going out with the hounds every day. Wish I was at home in an arm-chair. I’ve not come the “nasty cropper” as yet; but the day’s not over.277
I URGE ON MY GALLANT CHESTNUT.—A DREADFUL SITUATION.—THE STAGGERS.—A HAPPY RELEASE.
Ask a countryman to fasten my antigropelos. Sixpence. Can he alter my stirrups? He does; not satisfactorily. The hounds make a noise, and before the countryman has finished my stirrups we are off. Nearly off altogether. I sha’n’t come out again. Up another hill. This is part of the down country. My horse is beginning to get tired. He’ll go quieter. Every one passes me. Get on! get up! Tchk! He is panting. Get on! tchk! I feel excited. I should like to be on a long way ahead, in full cry, taking brooks, fences, and ditches. Get on! Get along, will you? tchk! What an obstinate brute! I think I could take him over that first hedge now. I find my legs kicking him. It has no effect. First tchking, then kicking! I’d give something to be at home. Dropped my rein; in getting it up, dropped my whip. Some people standing about won’t see it. Horses and hounds a long way on. I think Milburd or Byng, as I’m his guest, might have stopped for me. Very selfish.
Happy Thought.—Get off and pick it up.278
If I get off I shall have to get up again. Perhaps he won’t stand still. I am all alone; every one has disappeared, except a few pedestrians who have been watching the sport from the top of this hill. Hate these sort of idle people who only come out to see accidents and laugh at any one if he can’t get on. I haven’t got the slightest idea as to where I am. What county? How far from Byng’s? The horse seems to me to be trembling, probably from excitement. He stretches his head out. What power a horse has in his head, he nearly pulled me off. He shakes himself violently. Very uncomfortable. Perhaps he’s rousing himself for another effort. I have seen a “Magic Donkey” (I think) of pasteboard, in the shop windows; when the string is loose, the head and tail fall. It occurs to me that my horse is, at this minute, like the Magic Donkey with the string loose.
Happy Thought.—Get off.
He is quivering in both his front legs. I feel it like a running current of mild electric shocks. Get out my notebook. The beast seems to be giving at the knees. I don’t know much about horses, but instinct tells me he’s going to lie down. Wonder if he’s ever been in a circus?
Happy Thought.—Get off at once.
Off. Just in time. He nearly falls. He is shivering and quivering all over. Poor fellow! Woa, my man, woa, then, poo’ fellow! I have got hold of his bridle at the bit. His eyes are glaring at me. What the deuce is the matter with the beast?279
Happy Thought.—Is he going mad!!!
He pulls his head away from me—he jerks back: he pulls me after him. I try to draw him towards me: he jerks back more and more. His bit’s coming out of his mouth. Is he going to rear? or kick? or plunge? or bite me? What is the matter with him? Is there such a thing as a lunatic asylum for horses?
Happy Thought.—Ask some one to hold him.
Two pedestrians come towards me cautiously, an elderly man in yellow gaiters, and a respectable person in black. Horse snorts wildly, grunts, glares, shivers, jerks himself back; I can’t hold on much longer. If he runs away he’ll become a wild horse on the downs, and I shall have to pay for him. Hold on. Apparently he’s trying to run away backwards.
Happy Thought.—Say to man in gaiters, very civilly, “Would you mind holding my horse while I pick up my whip,” as if there was nothing the matter. He shakes his head, grins, and keeps at a distance. In his opinion, the horse has got the staggers.
The staggers! Good heavens! I ask him, “Do they last long?”
“Long time, generally,” he answers. “Will he fall?” I ask. “Most likely,” he answers. “Then,” I ask him, angrily, “why the deuce he stands there doing nothing? Why doesn’t he get a doctor? If he’ll hold the beast for a minute, I’ll run to the village for a doctor.”280
He says, “There ain’t no village nearer than Radsfort, six miles from here.” Then I’ll run six miles, if he’ll only hold my horse. He won’t,—obstinate fool: then what’s he standing looking at me for, and doing nothing? He says he’s as much right to be on the downs as I have. The horse is getting worse: he nearly falls. Ho! hold up. He holds up convulsively, but shows an inclination to fall on his side and roll down the hill. I haven’t got the smallest idea what I should do if he rolled down the hill.
Happy Thought (which strikes the Person in black).—Loosen his girths.
Happy Thought (which strikes me).—Do it yourself.
He won’t—the coward. He says he’s afraid he’ll kick. Kick! he won’t kick, I tell him. I think I should feel the same if I was in his place. I urge him to the work, explaining that I would do it myself, if I wasn’t holding his head. He makes short nervous darts at the horse’s girths, keeping his eye on his nearer hind leg. I encourage him, and say, “Bravo, capital!” as if he was a bull-fighter. He loosens one girth. Do the other: he won’t.
Horse still shivering. Now he is dragging away from me, and trying to get down hill backwards, harder than ever. “Staggers” are like hysterics. What do you do to people in hysterics? Cold water, vinegar,—hit them on the palms of their hands. Man behind a hedge, about a hundred yards distant, who has been looking on in safety, halloes out some advice unintelligibly. Why doesn’t he 281 come close up? I shout back irritably, “What?” He repeats, evidently advice, but unintelligible. It sounds like, “If you arshy-booshy-marnsy-goggo (unintelligible), you’ll soon make him balshybalshy (unintelligible), and then you can easily causheycoosheycaushey.” Why on earth can’t he speak plainly?
I can only return irritably and excitedly shouting to him, “Wha-a-at? What do you say?” He walks off in the opposite direction. I ask, “Who is that man?” Nobody knows. I should like to have him taken up and flogged. No change in the horse’s symptoms. Where are Byng, Milburd, and the rest? They must have missed me. I think they might have come back. I say, bitterly, “Friendship!” Confound the horse, and the Harriers, and everybody. Here, hold up!
Another man comes up. Tall and thin, he stands with the other two, and stares as if it was an exhibition. If there is one thing that makes me angry, it is idiots staring, helplessly. The last idiot who has come up has something to say on the subject. The horse is shaking, gasping; I know he’ll fall. If he falls, I’ve heard cabmen say in London, “sit on his head.”
Prospect.—Sitting on his head, in the middle of the bleak downs, until somebody comes who knows all about the staggers. If no one comes, sit on his head all night!!!
Happy Thought (which suddenly occurs to the last comer).—Cut his tongue.
What good’ll that do? “Relieve him,” he replies. Then 282 do it. He says he won’t undertake the responsibility. He has got a penknife, and I may cut the tongue, if I like. Cut his tongue! doesn’t the man see I’m holding his head,—I can’t do everything. He replies by mentioning some vein in the horse’s tongue, which, if cut, instantly cures the staggers. It appears on inquiry that he doesn’t know where the vein is. What helpless fools these country people are! I thought country people knew all about horses!—What are they doing on the downs? Nothing. Fools: I hate people who merely lounge about. Will any one of them get a doctor? As I ask this, the horse nearly falls. A plough-boy arrives.
Happy Thought.—He shall hold the horse.
I ask him: he grins: what an ass! I command him imperiously to hold the horse. He says, in his dialect, that he can’t. “Why not?” I ask; “what on earth can he be doing?” He replies, “Moind’nruks.” “What?” I bellow at him. “Moind’nruks.” His reply is interpreted to me by the yellow gaiters—the boy is “minding rooks.” The boy grins and shows me an enormous horse-pistol with cap on, pointed, under his arm, at me. The idea of trusting such an imbecile with a pistol! “Turn it the other way,” he grins. “’T ain’t loaded.” He explains that they only give him a cap,—no powder. “Never mind, turn it the other way.”
Happy Thought.—If the long thin man will hold my horse while I go to Radsfort, I will give him half a sovereign. 283 I offer this diffidently, because he is such a respectable-looking person.
Respectable-looking person closes with the offer immediately. Yellow gaiters and man in black propose to show me where the village is: for money. Is this the noble English character that we read of in the villages of our happy land! Mercenary, dastardly, griping, gaping fools and cowards who’ve been delighting themselves with my miseries for the last hour, merely to trade upon them at the last.
Long man holds the horse. The beast just as bad as ever. Don’t care now: got rid of him. Feel that all the responsibility is on the long man. Wonder what the long man will do if he falls on his side. It’s worth ten shillings to be free.
Miserable work walking. Beginning to rain.
Man on horseback coming towards me.
Happy Thought.—Byng’s groom. I can imagine the delight of a shipwrecked man on a desert island on seeing somebody he knows rowing towards him. He has come back to look for me. He is on his master’s horse, and the ladies and his master are in the pony trap in the road just below. The ladies!
Happy Thought.—Be driven home. Soft cushions: rugs.284
I AM DRIVEN HOME.—THE RETURN.—DELICIOUS HALF-HOUR BEFORE DINNER.
The ladies in the trap are the half-aunt and old Mrs. Symperson.
Happy Thought.—Be very attentive to old Mrs. Symperson. Give her my hand when she gets out. Make her feel she can’t do without me as a son-in-law. Perhaps, afterwards, I might have to make her feel that I can do without her as a mother-in-law. I don’t think so, though: nice old lady, and a little deaf.
Driving home I am very bitter against Brett, who could send out a horse with the staggers.
Happy Thought.—The staggers might take something off the expense of hiring.
In the carriage the ladies say he oughtn’t to charge me anything: I agree with them, but feel that Brett’s opinion will be different. Not sure, if I was Brett, if I shouldn’t charge more. I shall, I say, call and blow Brett up severely.
[When I do call, two days afterwards, Brett asks me how I liked the mare. I say, “Well enough, if she hadn’t got 285 the He is not surprised, and makes no apology. While receipting my bill, ht pauses to observe that “if I’d ha’ lost that chestnut it would ha’ been a matter of a hundred pounds out of my pocket,” as if it would have been a matter of a hundred pounds out of my pocket.
Happy Thought.—Say, “Would it, indeed?” and look at my watch,—gives a notion of being pressed for time. Won’t discuss this question of a hundred pounds any further. Go.
“Will I hunt with the Croxley to-morrow?” he wants to know. “He’s got just the thing to suit me: I can throw my leg over her and try her now.” I haven’t time: I should like to hunt with the Croxley immensely. “Nice fencing country, and a brook or two.” Very sorry can’t,—let him know when I’ll hunt again. Good morning, Mr. Brett. I’m sure he regrets not having charged me extra for the staggers.]
In the Pony Trap, driving home.—The half-aunt expresses her wonder that gentlemen can find pleasure in such a dangerous pastime as hunting. I smile, as much as to convey the idea, “Yes, you’re right, but we are such daring dogs.” I don’t say this, because I think Byng knows I didn’t go over the first hedge, Mrs. Symperson is of opinion that married men oughtn’t to risk their lives. I agree.
Happy Thought.—Always agree with Mrs. Symperson.
Say pointedly, “When I am married I shall never hunt again, but settle down comfortably somewhere.” At the 286 present moment I can’t fancy settling down comfortably anywhere. Don’t say this: feel it. I do feel it.
Happy Thought.—To say to her mother that Miss Fridoline seems to enjoy being on horseback. Praise her appearance.
Say she is very like her mamma. [Byng tells me afterwards that this sounded fulsome. Must take care not to be fulsome.] Mrs. Symperson says, “she was very fond of riding when she was young.” I reply, “that I should think so.” By the way, I shouldn’t think so if she wasn’t Fridoline’s mamma. She is pleased.
Byng, flicking the pony, asks me if I feel pretty fresh. Before the half-aunt and Mrs. Symperson I can’t say more than that I am pretty fresh, considering I haven’t ridden for years.
“Stiff?” asks Byng. I am surprised at Byng: such a question! “Loins?” continues Byng. I am astonished at Byng: before Mrs. Symperson too! I reply “No,” as if I hadn’t any loins.
[Note for “Reticence of Politeness.” Typical Developments, Vol. XX. Book LI., Par. m.]
Driving up to the house. Butler, servants, whole-uncle, and Mr. Symperson out to meet us.
Happy Thought.—Subject for picture, Return from the Chase. Wave my hand to them, as if I’d just come up triumphantly, after flying over five-barred gates and stiff fences. Wish I knew if Byng had or had not seen me in the first field. Painful getting out of the trap. Quite forgot 287 to give my arm to Mrs. Symperson. The whole-uncle asks if we’ve had good sport. I answer, deprecatingly, “Pretty well,” to give the old coward who’s been in his arm-chair all day an idea that it’s not the sort of sport I’ve been accustomed to; as, indeed, it is not.
Mrs. Symperson notices that I walk lame. From a fall? She is anxious. I say, “No, not from a fall.” Fridoline, who has entered the hall, expresses her anxiety too. I almost wish it had been a fall. If I say “stiffness,” it will flatten the excitement.
Happy Thought.—To say, “O no, nothing at all,” and smile. They’ll think I’ve been over a precipice, and am bearing it heroically.
In my room.—Warm bath, at Byng’s suggestion, before dinner. Looking in the glass; I am an object. Collar nowhere. Tie anywhere, and anyhow.
Happy Thought.—Scarf, next time I ride; with a pin in it.
My face is such a curious color, a muddy yellow. Wish I’d come up to my room at once, instead of stopping in the hall. How different to when I started. Meditate on this, before the glass; “So in life, we set out gayly and briskly (as I did on the chestnut), we go on—we go on—odd:—lost the simile.” The footman comes in with hot water. He is familiar, in consequence of that dressing up as a German friend the other day. He says, “I suppose you ain’t much accustomed to riding a-horseback, sir?” I should like to put him on a wild Arab in a desert: hate 288 familiarity. Tell him to call me in time for dressing. He is now going to sound the first gong. That’s an hour before dinner.
Happy Thought.—Cup of tea. Toast? suggested by footman. Amendment adopted.
How delicious (in bath) is this dreaminess. All dangers of the day past and gone. I feel, triumphantly, that I have seen a hare killed. I should like to hunt every day. At least, I should like to enjoy a bath, tea and toast like this, every day.
Happy Thought.—When I go up to town again practise leaping in hunting-grounds, so much a lesson. Don’t believe Dick Turpin, on Black Bess, ever cleared a turnpike-gate.
Happy Thought.—I could clear a turnpike-gate—with a ticket. Wish I’d said this in conversation: brilliant: needn’t have said anything else for a whole evening. Note it down when I’m out of my bath. Read a book recommended by Fridoline, with her name in it. Novel. Read Fridoline’s name again. Drowsy. If I don’t take care I shall be asleep. * * * *
Happy Thought.—Dressing-gown: arm-chair. Plenty of time before dinner—delicious drowsiness. * * * * Footman enters: I have been asleep. Referring to my watch, same time as when I was in my bath: stopped. They’ve begun dinner.
Happy Thought.—Say, “I’ll be down directly.”289
DRESSING IN A HURRY.—I MAKE LOVE AT DINNER.—AN APPOINTMENT.—“BEGINNING OF THE END.”
They have sent my evening clothes. Show how different I look to when Fridoline last saw me, in mud and those abominable antigropelos. Ought to be able to dress in ten minutes. Heroes in novels, Walter Scott’s or James’s, always do it, with armor too. Tubs unknown to men in armor, unless they took it in breastplates and sponged over a cuirass. Then how about towels afterwards?—interesting subject opened up. Wish I hadn’t opened it up now as footman comes in to say, “Fish just on, sir.” Note down the above for Typical Developments—chase—armor—towels. * * * * Wonder if I shall recollect what this means.
Just ready. Bother—no dress boots. Of course, when in a hurry I can only see those infernal antigropelos lying about. My bell is not attended to—and, hang it, no white ties.
Happy Thought.—Byng’s white ties.
Bell again: wish some one would answer it, I should have been down by now. Just like those servants,—don’t like to ring again—must. Hard: it is a rope-bell. Old-fashioned 290 thing—breaks. What shall I do now if they don’t come? They don’t come: I do nothing.
Happy Thought.—Stand on the drawers and pull at the wire. After a hard day’s riding it isn’t easy to climb about. When I am on the drawers the footman comes in. I feel as if I ought to apologize for being so impetuous. Without any explanation I say, “Dress boots: and will he get me one of his master’s ties?” This last request sounds unprincipled. He returns with my boots. Master hasn’t got any: he’s wearing his last.
Happy Thought (which strikes the footman).—He will lend me one of his, if it will do.
Don’t like to refuse. Thanks, yes. He gets it. As folded it is about double the thickness of my waistcoat. Very long. Difficulties. After first attempt, the ends stick out straight three inches on each side. Methodist preacher. Try it double: result in appearance, gentleman with mumps. Third attempt, tie it in very broad bow, so as to absorb the length. Result, comic nigger who does the bones. Altogether a sort of entertainment. Tie becoming creased and limp.
Happy Thought.—Not in a bow at all. Once round, and hide the ends.
At the last moment it strikes me I want shaving.
Happy Thought.—No one will notice it.291
General feeling of untidiness somehow; but a strong sense of comfort in no longer wearing breeches and antigropelos.
Entrance into Dining-room.—Awkward. Apologize. Byng cuts it short. As I am going to my seat I find I’ve left my pocket-handkerchief up stairs. Uncomfortable.
Dinner.—Place left for me next to Fridoline.
Happy Thought.—Explain why I was late to Fridoline. Opens a conversation.
They are at the Third Course; but have kept soup and fish for me. Wish they hadn’t. Can’t refuse it.
Happy Thought (say it in my sporting character).—Hard work catching up people over a soup and fish course, after giving them up to beef. “There,” says Fridoline, “you mustn’t try to talk.” I look round at her. (Soup on my shirt front.) Not talk? Not to her? Then doesn’t she, I ask, wish me to—(wipe it off quickly)—“Now then, don’t be shy,” cries Milburd to me. I nod and smile at him. Where are my repartees? I should like to be a Pasha for just one minute. I’d wave my hand, and the butler and footman should throw a sack over Milburd’s head, and then drop him into the Bosphorus. He is so rude and thoughtless.
[Happy Thought (when I am going to bed).—I know what I ought to have said to Milburd when he said “Don’t be shy.” I ought to have said something about his setting 292 the pattern, or that he shouldn’t have all the modesty to himself. This isn’t the sharp form in which the repartee should come, but it’s the crude idea. Note it in my book, and work it up. Sheridan did it, and was brilliant at repartees.]
After the beef I do talk to Fridoline. I don’t know exactly what I say. I think once I say I hope her father likes me; I praise her mother. She advises me to make great friends with her mother. I will. I hope that I shall see her after she leaves here. She hopes so too. I hope so again, because, really, I shall be quite lonely,—I don’t mean lonely, I mean, melancholy, without her,—I mean, after she’s gone. Feeling, perhaps, that I have gone a little too far, I laugh. The laugh spoils the whole effect She will think I am not in earnest: she’ll think I’m a mere flirter.
Happy Thought.—To impress this upon her. Ask her, “You think I am not in earnest?”
She asks, “In earnest—about what?” This disconcerts me. I don’t like to say, “About loving you,” because there’s a pause in the general conversation, and we two are the only ones talking. The pause began when she asked “About what?” as if every one was anxious to hear my reply. I laugh again, arrange my fork and knife, and cast a glance round to see if any one’s listening. I catch Mrs. Symperson’s eye—for one minute: she looks away instantly.
Happy Thought.—Ask Fridoline if her mother won’t 293 be angry with her about our talking together so much. (This is nearer the mark, though I put it diffidently.)
O no, her mother is never angry with her.
Happy Thought.—To say, “Who could be?” She replies that her papa can. Here the subject is at an end, as I can’t abuse her father. Silence between us. Milburd telling some story, making old Symperson laugh; every one laughing. Feel awkward, being out of it, Fridoline will think I’m dull and stupid. Must go on talking: can’t start a subject. Tell her that I am in earnest, once more. Expatiate on sympathies. I hope, in a very undertone, to which she inclines to listen, that she will let me talk to her this evening. I know what I mean, and am uncomfortably and hotly aware that I don’t put it so intelligibly as I could wish. She replies, “Of course you may.” “Ah, but I mean I wish you’d let me see more of you, be more with you—” She wishes I would not be so foolish, there’s Mr. Milburd and papa looking this way. The half-aunt is putting on her gloves, and going to nod to the ladies.
I am going to lose her. As she is preparing to rise she wants to know if I’ve seen Mr. Byng’s conservatory lighted up. I’ve not,—can I see it now? Yes, she’ll show it me, but I mustn’t stop long over the wine. One look. Byng says something to her as she goes out. I hope he hasn’t put me out of her head.
Happy Thought.—No. She half turns at the door. Half catches my eye.294
Happy Thought.—The Conservatory.
Conversation turns on Free-masonry. Milburd relates stories of masons knowing one another anywhere. Byng tells how a French mason met a Chinese mason in battle, and didn’t kill him. The whole-uncle says he recollects a curious case, but, on trying to recall details, fails; but, anyhow, it is admitted on all hands that to be a mason is a great thing when abroad, or in difficulties anywhere.
Happy Thought.—In difficulties anywhere: then be a mason before I go out hunting again. Wonder if any of those men who were looking on at my horse in his staggers were masons. Perhaps they were all making the signs, and I didn’t know it. Wish I’d been one. Ask all about it.
Fridoline will expect me. Awkward to leave the table. Getting fidgety. Laugh at old Symperson’s stories. He’s telling me one now which detains me.
Happy Thought.—Left my pocket-handkerchief up stairs. Go for it.
Promise to return: only my handkerchief.
END OF THE BEGINNING.—MATCHED.—I HAVE AN INTERVIEW WITH MY MOTHER.—I AM MARRIED.
Poetical and Happy Thought.—“We met,’t was in a crowd, and I thought she would shun me”: but she didn’t.
We are all alone: in the Conservatory. I don’t know what I am talking about. My slightest sentences are intended by me to be pregnant with tender meaning. She doesn’t see it. I say I could stop here (in the Conservatory) forever. Of course “with you” is to be understood. She answers laughingly that she couldn’t. “With you.” I say it (Nuisance, when I want a soft tone, I only get a gruff whisper.) “Had we not better return to the drawing-room?” she suggests. A few minutes more.
Happy Thought.—Call the Conservatory a Paradise.
Wish I hadn’t, as in calmer moments I reject the simile. “Will you give me that flower?” I don’t know its name. She gives it to me.
Happy Thought.—Detain her hand.296
Happier Thought.—She doesn’t withdraw it.
Happy Thought.—“Fridoline!” I have her permission to call her Fridoline. * * * *
Happy Thoughts! Happy Thoughts!! Happy Thoughts!!!
I think I am speaking: she speaks: we speak together. A pause. O for one Happy Thought now. * * * *
“May I?” Her head is turned away from me: slightly. She does not move. “I may?”
Happy Thought.—I do.
We really must go back to the drawing-room. She will return first. I will follow presently. “Once more, before we separate?”
Happy Thought.—Once more!
She is gone. I am alone, among the geraniums, in the Conservatory.
I can only say, “Dear girl,” in confidence to the geraniums. It seems I have nothing else to say. I am stupefied. I will go out into the garden. Cold night: refreshing. Smile at the stars. Is it all over at last? Odd: stars beautiful. Everything is lovely.
Happy Thought.—Go in and brush my hair.
Enter the drawing-room. Feel as if I was coming in with a secret. Fridoline at the piano. Milburd wants to know rudely enough where the dickens I’ve been to. I despise him now. He is harmless.297
Happy Thought.—Talk to old Mrs. Symperson.
Fridoline, having finished playing, comes to sit down by her mamma. Old Mr. Symperson is dozing over a book. I should like to kneel down with Fridoline before them at once, pull his book away to wake him up, and say she is mine. I am so full of indistinct Happy Thoughts that I find it very difficult to keep up a conversation. She asks me to look over that dear old photograph-book again, with her. Milburd wants to join us: she sends him away.
At night in my room.—Try to write Typical Developments. Can’t. Everything’s Fridoline. Try to make notes: all Fridoline. Can’t get to sleep. Relight my candle. Wonder how asking the parents’ consent is done. Must do it. Put out my candle. Fridoline. * * * *
Morning.—We are down before anybody else, and out in the garden. How easy it is to talk now! We have got one common object in view. Apropos, here comes Milburd. Fridoline sends him in-doors for her garden-hat. Poor Milburd! As to parents’ consent, Fridoline must tell mamma at once. No difficulties; they’re so fond of her. I am independent of every one: even my mother. Should like to introduce Fridoline to my mother. * * * *
1st Day.—Old Symperson procrastinates: Mrs. Symperson our friend and ally.
2nd Day.—Old Symperson bothered. Why can’t he say “Yes,” and have done with it?
3rd Day.—Mrs. Symperson says that her husband is going to cut short their stay at Byng’s. What does this mean?298
4th Day.—Byng tells me that old Symperson has been talking to him about me. I confide in Byng. Byng agrees with me. “Why doesn’t the old boy” (meaning old Mr. Symperson) “say yes, and have done with it?”
Byng has great weight with old Mr. Symperson.
End of the Week.—Old Mr. Symperson says “Yes,” and has done with it.
Mrs. Symperson begins to deprecate any haste. Mr. and Mrs. Symperson having both said “yes,” do not seem to have done with it at all. Isn’t it sudden? Do we know our own minds?
This is infectious. I find Fridoline asking me, “Are you certain you know your own mind?” “Certain!” I exclaim. I can only exclaim, having no words equal to the occasion.
“Will you always love me? Never be sorry for” * * * *
Happy Thought.—Prevent her saying any more for the present.
Being released, she says, “But seriously—”
Happy Thought.—Another penalty.
No more doubts.
Happy Thought.—Go and buy presents for different people. Write to my mother. Fridoline says I must go and see her. The Sympersons, when I leave, will go home. Then I am to come with my mother, and spend a week or so with them.
Happy Thought.—Romeo and Juliet. “To part is such 299 sweet sorrow that”—forget the rest,—but think it’s something about not going home till morning? Don’t care what it is now. Hang Typical Developments. Bother note-books.
My mother is a dear old lady. She is much given to tears. She always cries when she sees me; she always has done so ever since I can recollect, and she invariably cries when I go away. If I talk to her on any subject for more than a quarter of an hour, she is sure to cry. I find her at home, and well. She is delighted to see me, and, of course, cries. Where have I been? What have I been doing? I tell her that I have been enjoying myself very much lately, and, as to health, have never been better. This intelligence sends her off again, and she weeps copiously. When she is calm again, I open the important subject, gradually, so as not to startle her. Had I told her that I had been ordered off to instant execution she couldn’t have been more overcome. It brings back her happiest days; old memories; loving young faces; kindly words; trustful looks; passed away, gone. We are silent: gazing on the fire. I follow her in her retrospect. I am the last of all to her. A portrait hangs upon the wall: I have often, as a boy, heard her say how strong the likeness is between us. From it she turns to me and takes my hand in hers.
“My dearest mother!”
She has done with retrospect, and is looking trustfully into the future.
“God bless you, my dear. I am sure you have chosen well: I hope you will be very happy.”
* * * * *300
Happy Thought.—Solicitor (Seel and Seel, Junior, who is becoming quite a man of business) done with altogether. Everything settled. My mother has taken to Fridoline immensely, and Fridoline to her. Old Boodels writes to say he’ll be delighted to be best man on the occasion, and has actually postponed the dragging of his pond, which was to have been done on the very day of my wedding.
Mr. and Mrs. Plyte Fraser are coming.
Milburd, it is arranged, is to be very funny at the breakfast. This intelligence makes him very stupid for the next few days.
Happy Thought.—Have my hair cut.
Happy Thought.—My things have come home from the tailor’s in time. Also the boots.
Happy Thought.—Look over the Marriage Service. Get it up so as to know when to say “I will” and “I do,” or whatever it is.
Happy Thought.—The ring.
It is arranged that we take a tour on the Continent for six weeks. At the end of that time the old folks will join us. Where?
Byng will join us there too; so will Milburd. Boodels would, only about that time he’s asked a few friends down 301 to drag the pond, and “He can’t,” he says, “very well put them off again? Can he?”
In the summer we shall come back to England. Little place on the Thames, where I tell Fridoline I’ll teach her to sniggle for eels, and, when she’s tired of that, she shall dibble.
Happy Thought.—Summer night: under the placid moon: together: in a punt: dibbling.
Happy Thought.—Take the cottage before I leave England. We go down, a party of us, and visit the little cottage, next door to the astronomer’s, who used to tell me all about Jupiter, and stop the earth’s motion. He may stop it altogether, if he likes, now. What do I care?
Fridoline and I walk in the garden, while the old folks manage the business for us.
At the end of the garden runs the river higher than usual, it being winter-time. There are two strong poles stemming the tide and fixed by a chain to the bank.
Between them is fastened a punt. In it sits a man wrapped up; he is fishing. He turns his left eye towards us; we recognize each other at a glance. I have but one question for him:—
Back comes his answer as of old,
It is half a year since I last saw him in the same place, in the same punt, with the same rod, and the same answer. 302 I wonder if he is married? Or going to be? No, he’ll never catch anybody: or be caught.
Fridoline is charmed with the place. So am I. So are we all.
The day after to-morrow is coming.
The Day.—Wake up. Something’s going to happen. What? I know: I’m going to be married. Hope I haven’t overslept myself. Bother breakfast. Hope nothing will drop on my trousers. Byng and Milburd come in with stupid old jokes about “the wretched man partook of a hearty meal,” “the wretched man thanked Mr. Jonas, the governor of the jail, for all his kindness,” and pretend to treat me as a condemned criminal. It’s an old joke of Fraser’s, and I tell Byng I’ve heard it done before, as I did when the summons came. Everybody supernaturally cool for half an hour. Everybody suddenly in a hurry, and becoming doubtful as to the time “by their watches.”
The Church. I can hardly see any one, at least to distinguish them. If left to myself I should find myself leading a Bridesmaid to the altar. Every one appears to be dressed like every one else. All gloves and flowers. Gentlemen in difficulties with their hats. I laugh at something somebody says: I oughtn’t to laugh. Nobody seems to recollect that we are in a church, or rather in the vestry. The Clergyman, a youngish-looking man, but middle-aged, dashes himself suddenly into a long surplice, and looks round defiantly, as much as to say, “Come on, I’m ready for any number of you.” The Clerk says something to him 303 in a whisper, and he replies also in a whisper. An idea crosses my mind that the Clerk is starting some objection to the ceremony at the last moment. It is all right, however. The Clerk takes charge of me; I surrender myself to him, as also, very mildly, do Byng and Milburd.
This is the last thing I notice.
The Clergyman is saying something to me at the rails. I don’t know what I am saying to the Clergyman. I brought a book, but somebody’s taken it, or it’s in my hat. I am helpless; the Clergyman does with me just what he likes: tells me what to say, and I say it; tells me what to do and I do it, and go on doing it, with a vague sense of annoyance at seeing Byng’s hat on the cushion, and at feeling that Byng is no sort of help to me in an emergency of this sort. The ceremony is disturbed by suppressed sobs. It is my mother, in a pew. Old Mr. Symperson doesn’t refuse (as I had some idea he would at the last moment) to give Fridoline away to me, and so I take her “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, till death us do part,” and as nobody steps out (I had vaguely expected that something of this sort would happen at the last moment) to stop the proceedings, I and Fridoline are man and wife.
I HAVE A TÊTE-À-TÊTE WITH FRIDOLINE
text has TETE-À-TÊTE
THE DRAWBRIDGE.—THE RECEPTION.—SUPPER
dash after RECEPTION missing at line break
sheds her gentle beams upon the scene—
text has scene- with hyphen for dash
in old Soanso’s time
[In the original Punch publications, all names were printed in small capitals. This line, and Van Amburgh at the end of the next chapter, are the sole survivors.]
[Isaac van Amburgh was one of the world’s first lion tamers, possibly even the first. He died in 1865 of natural causes.]
take out my watch, and tell him “3.30,”
text has 3 30
“I never by any chance put a ticket in my watch-pocket.”
close quote missing
“Ya-a-a—haven’t-a-a—seen you far—”
“Well, come along, we must n’t delay you.”
close quote missing (both)
He will take the pug and the terrier to his room, and I shall take the bull-dog and the Skye to mine.
italicized as shown: expected emphasis “his room . . . mine”
I say to him, “Can you tell me—”
single for double close quote
“One, Second. Thought you said One First,”
text has you said “One
Mr. Aylmer, Captain Doodley, Miss Ascutt, Colonel Lyne, Lady Tulkorne and Miss Græme
much worse than the Duke himself, as oppressing me
Plyte Fraser, from the top of the table, supplies, “Bull’s Run.” “Bull’s Run,” repeats Mrs. Fraser to the General
I tell her that “I don’t want any one to do it.”
close quote missing
like the lady in Millais’s picture of “Broken Vows.”
[The picture is really by Calderon. I don’t know if this is a mistake or a joke.]
I have none of their Savonian Bruilliantine.
all I’ve to do is to drive to Bovor as quickly as possible
text has Bover
I sha’n’t get to Bovor Castle until, perhaps, one o’clock
text has Bover
Note for Vol. XI. of Typical Developments, “On Popular Superstitions.”
close quote missing
Ask Bob Englefield how he scores generally.
text has Englefied
AN INTERVIEW WITH A WATCH-DOG
text has WATCH DOG (hyphen supplied from Table of Contents)
and then perhaps we may get a clear burst away on the downs.”
close quote missing
as if I possessed Mr. Rarey’s secret.
text has secret, with , for .
if she hadn’t got the staggers.”
close quote missing
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.