Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

whispering, shivering and shaking, for such as cannot forget that it is freezing hard, and that they are but mortal men. On the other hand, when you stride along by the side of some half-frozen stream, and the snipes, as in the scene before us, rise close and quick, there is such a cracking, and banging and bagging, such capital exercise and such capital sport, that you feel no more of the weather than an Icelander would, and go on in a glow of excitement, gathering health, spirits, and game at every step. Suddenly, you come to some unjumpable brook, which, however, must be crossed, and nothing is left but to test the strength of its slippery surface-alas ! should it prove false and cold (perhaps too true an emblem to lady fair, who has trusted his even as he has its firmness) you then put all hope in the patent water-proof, and should that also fail, for even “respectable tradesmen” will occasionally over-do the “nothing like leather” adage, you still find one source of consolation left, as you tap the extra highabove-all proof mountain dew.

Then again, the man who can answer to “Who killed Jack Snipe?” has a kind of stamp put on his character; for whatever your "great guns," who can, without any trouble, mark the tail side of a fourpenny bit, blow the core out of a Ripston-pippin without injuring the flavour of the fruit, and own to other such William Tell-ish tricks, may say to the contrary, a snipe is a difficult bird to kill; and, as taking the 'Thames may give one a right to take the lead with hounds, or being up to cutting a figure of eight afford him a chance of cutting a figure on the Serpentine; so does the ability to pull down a snipe confer a “just cause to set up as

a shot.” Indeed, it is not everybody that can answer for the death of the almost “immortal Jack” (as the Sunday papers now feelingly allude to one Mr. Reeve, when declaring it quite wrong to put Wright in his place), or can anybody, after missing him once, answer to ever hitting him at all ?

“There— bang-bang-both barrels without effect, by jingo! that's the fifth time I have lost that dirty blackguard this day.”

Mark again!

Sure enough he has settled at the stump of the old pollard, and now you will be cool and kill him. Up you go, as steady as old Time; up he goes, quite in the same style; up too goes the gun, and just as you think you have blown him all to ribbons, he favours you with one of those very sudden, very peculiar twists, and, lo, it's Mark again !” a little below the mill dam.

You were not right at breakfast; your wife remarked at the time you didn't make half your usual meal, only three eggs and the third of a pork pie; no wonder then you feel faint and out of sorts, and a glass of ale with a crust at the miller's will be only putting you on fair terms for settling the hash of that braggadocio bird. Of course, it is only “ask and have," or showing yourself, merely a preliminary for showing the “gude-wife's” skill in baking and brewing; and “ now, hie on! Fan, old girl, for another chance at the enemy, if he hasn't thought better of it and decamped.”

Not he! don't flatter yourself with anything of that sort ; here he is, ready for shot the seventh, the next moment with t'other charge for shot the eighth, and then away he moves as deliberately as ever, his gallant bearing eliciting three rounds of applause from the miller and his men, who, confound the staring idiots! have witnessed the performance.

It now becomes a point of honour, and you continue priming and ramming, marking and d—ning, till the shot belt or the shades of evening cry, “hold, enough! when Jack Snipe leaves you to a pleasant walk home, with his curious companion of the bogs and marshes, the equally eccentric and unattainable Will-o'-the-wisp, to show a light and a safe road.

Isn't it rather an open question, after such a finis coronat opus, whether poor Fan is quite sure of a good supper at your hands; or “the infernal gun" of those usually minute particulars from your mouth as to its well-doing, on being consigned to the care of “ John ?”




" There is a tide in the affairs of men."


I ventured to bint to my friend Leatherlungs, as a commentary on the close of the information contained in the last chapter, that if he would eschew episode, and favour me with his personal confessions, his conversation would interest me infinitely more. He promised to act on the hint, but it will be seen he was very prone to lapse into details involving the doings of his cotemporaries. I learned from him that he began business in the fishmongery line, from which he retired, to become a fisher of men. Good a thing as he has contrived to make of the latter profession, his former line must have been tolerably profitable. As everybody may not be conversant with the compound interest of turbot, salmon, smelts, soles, and the finny family generally, an idea of the system may not be without instruction. I take my fishmonger, and duly install'him in a first-rate house in the parish of St. James's. His bills are settled, say once in three years. During the London season you set him down as doing a handsome stroke of business. That's the ruinous portion of the year to him. If my Lord A—'s weekly account is returned at half-a-dozen turbot, the odds are he has had three; if he's entered for a couple of Severn salmon, he has had one, depend upon it: ten dozen of smelts in the book cost a delivery of half the quantity, and though lobsters for sauce are miscellaneous enough, there must have been some lobsters supplied, or there could not conveniently have been any lobster-sauce. But out of the season fish do go off swimmingly. Every morning the fashionable caterer duly consults the arrivals in the Morning Post. He reads :-" The Duke of A- at his mansion in St. James's Square: his grace departed a few hours after his arrival for the continent." “Ah!” he soliloquizes, “ a little early dinner before he started, a chop and a slice of Hampshire salmon-say two pounds -five shillings a pound—Hampshire salmon never less than five shillings a pound : Jim, enter ten shillings to the Duke of A-for salmon." “ The Marquis of B

in Cleveland Row for a few days.”. He'll have a lobster sallad every day, at least he ought this hot autumn weather-and trout-he is fond of trout for breakfast. We'll call it four pair of lobsters, and a couple of brace of trout.” “This I call pushing a good stroke of trade," I observed. Leatherlungs either did not consider the remark worthy of comment, or he took it for a self-evident proposition; at all events, he went on with his narrative, or confession, or whatever his communication may be called.

But everything in life has its compensation, and getting good prices for fish that never were spawned is not all profit-according to the convention established between the purveyor and the intermediate contracting parties. As a general average, the house-steward, house-keeper, and butler charge the tradesman fifty per cent. for all articles admitted into the establishment under their control, which is never objected to. Occasionally they come it a little too strong; but there's no use in objecting under any circumstances : pay the discount, or let somebody else that's the maxim. Hard cases, to be sure, will occur, as, for instance, the following: When our St. James's Street friend was carrying on a roaring business—where the office of the Illustrated London News now stands—the butler of the Duke of — called on him one morning, and intimating that he had had a run of bad luck and worse cards at loo the previous night, requested the family fishmonger would do a slip of paper for him. Two months after date, pay to my order one hundred pounds sterling," drawn by John Nokes on Peter Styles, and accepted, all shipshape and no mistake. Crocky wouldn't have it. Money was mpossible just then—and such-like stale apologies. You should have seen the jowl of salmon that decorated the head of his Grace's table that night. Since the retiring of the waters after the flood the like of it had never been known. “What's this,” said the duke, about to swoon, as with one accord every perfumed pocket-handkerchief in the room leapt from its retreat, to the nose of its lord or lady," take it away before it breeds a pestilence.” The next day came a dory that might have been in Quin's larder when he died; then a turbot. I wont say a word descriptive of that creature, or you would never sit in company with one of its species during the rest of your natural life. Stinking fish soon commanded an enormous premium at Billingsgate -only let it be high-it could n't be too lofty ; something you might nose at Chamouni if it were on the summit of Mont Blanc-and price was no object with our butler. The duke, however, was one of the good old sort; could n't bear to change a tradesman; and so he bore, as long as nature could support it, such a bombardment of villanous smells as never before assailed a peer of the realm. At length he surrendered. “Tell the house-steward to change the fishmonger," he said, “and take away those dreadful smelts.” The following day his Grace had the moiety of a sturgeon for dinner, to which he might have invited the Pope, and his butler discharged every debt of honour he had in the world, besides sitting down to loo again with well-lined pockets.

All this, of course, I gathered from the Leg; and in reply to my strictures


the system, he continued in a strain half narrative, half soliloquy : .... To hear the old ladies in black leggings at Exeter Hall, you would conclude that all the knavery in the world centred in sporting men. Heaven help them ! they never think of their own game or its après. Ay, there will be the rub! They cannot accuse us of doing charity-through the nose; or of giving to the fatherless and the widow five shillings in the pound of the money we Mesmerise the public out of. Prejudice, however, is occasionally a wholesome instinct. For example, attorneys are not in good odour, which is a great blessing, only to be equalled by the recent course of transportation to which the gentlemen of that profession have been subjected. An attorney is a pestilent rogue, there is no doubt; but, to give him the benefit of anything like a saving clause, it is perhaps as much his misfortune as his peculiar taste.

To make him, you select a child of tender age, and depriving him of the course of education which inculcates into other youths generous principles, and teaches them the career of ancient and modern worthies, you stick him upon an office stool an auto da fe to rascalities of theory and practice which alone exist in those vipers of humanity-those slimy, slavering, venomous vermin, law clerks! And, moreover, the business, as regulated by act of Parliament, exposes him to soulsacrificing temptations. Why is he permitted to hold, under any pretence whatever, the moneys of his client? He sues A for B's debt, receives the amount, and pays it into his banker's to his own credit. This is a fraud as regards the spirit of dealing among

individuals of any other class engaged in business. But legal distinctions are odd things, and, as old Hardcastle, in 'She Stoops to Conquer,' says of young Marlow's manner, “This may be modern modesty, but it's very like old-fashioned impudence:” so of honesty as defined by the morality of our statutes—it uncommonly resembles swindling, according to common sense. Sometime since, Major General Wyndham intrusted his agent with a sum of £28,000 for a specific purpose ; instead of disposing of it according to his undertaking with his employer, he' put it to his account at his banker's,' which is, in plain English—he spent it for his own purposes. Now, being the General's agent or attorney, this appropriation only amounts to a breach of contract, or some such matter; whereas had he been his house-steward, it would have been a felony, and the perpetrator would have made an excursion to Norfolk Island for the term of his natural life.

“Class taste, class honour, class virtue, and class vice constituto the idiosyncracy of the present age. Count d'Orsay and Sir Charles

Wetherell may be instanced as specimens of the first a short time back dated : the Frenchman, with the properest trousers ever worn out of Arcadia, the John Bull unwaistbanded to an extent that would have astonished Boswell. Class honour needs no better illustration than that afforded by the trial in which the late Lord de Roos flourished so prominently. Here it was shown, beyond all danger or indictment for libel, that a peer who was a known cheat had been for years retained in the intimacy of those who were familiar with his roguery, and who actually went snacks in his larcenies, for several of those who played with him at cards, as his partners, admitted that they were aware of his practice of sauter la coupe and daily process of cheating. Yet class honour admits these gentlethese persons into society! What if legs had done these things.

“ Poor Berkeley Craven, a good fellow, but of the faith of modern chivalry, shot himself because he lost more on the Derby than he could pay.

He would have taken what he could not pay, and never have dreamt of the wrong, but being unable to do what he never thought would have been discovered, his honour could not brook the shame. After the suicide, those into whose hands his book fell found out that had he put it off for a couple of days all would have been right, as he would have won considerably by the Oaks. Here you have a true reading of that great axiom in morals as at present established, namely, that there is but one crime under the sun, and that is, being found out.' It would have been apparently as foul and dishonourable a thing as any man might do, to wager on a race more money than he could pay if he lost it; but the convenience of our times says 'no, provided he wins enough on some other event to enable him to square his book.

Here you see good name, high character, station, troops of friends, and all such worldly appliances, are contingent not upon conduct but chance. Surely all the world's a game, and all the men and women merely players.

"Perhaps I am not a good authority on virtue or vice-class,' or any other kind; but if ever I should set out, like the ancient philosopher, to look for a man even indifferent honest, it will certainly not be in the parish of St. James. Of course, in such a profession as mine, there are cruel rogues to be found, but by no means such as used to exist in the good times of the hells. Thirty years ago there were many men about town—of the high aristocracy I mean—who would lose their twenty thousand pounds at a sitting in a common house of play; now there is nothing of the sort going on. Then it was worth an adventurer's while to embark in his dreadful trade; and there were cavaliers who professed cards and dice that would have stopped at nothing. To my knowledge the Bosphorus is not the only river on which a gentleman has embarked for a water party in a sack. Very few of the hell keepers, however, made money, their expenses were so enormous; it cost them a fortune to get one set of persons into their houses, and a fortune to keep another set out. I never knew a player that was not eventually ruined.

“The dice beat Crockford-a man of uncommon natural fitness for the profession he adopted-and had he not used the turn of luck

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »