Page images

Indolence; and I'll trouble you to that Daddy Bungo had to put his make up three thousand dollars to mark to a letter directing the Torbuy your own freedom, else Jake onto lawyer to sell off his stock ; and Juba will have the letting-out and, till the money was paid, he and of all the horses in Toronto. It ain't Indolence were handsomely boarded no use your making a row about it, by the Judge at the rate of two dolfor I know to a cent what you're lars a-day. Now, that's what I call worth in the world, and I reckon I smartness. I guess you'll allow that am unkimmon liberal in not piling no Britisher ever born could hold a you altogether. Daddy Bungo kif candle to Haman S. Walker, who, å nigger ever can be a Christian, you besides a handsome subscription, ought to remember me in your pray- got a black wife and a span of horses, ers.'

and sold them both, and his father“The upshot of the matter was, in-law into the bargain.”



Parliament met at last; and every; or even abandoned, their legitimate thing betokened most busy and business pursuits, to rush headlong animated session. Not only was it into the tempting field of speculation; known that public measures of vast proprietors in embarrassed circumimportance, and likely to provoke stances burdened their lands to the vehement opposition, were to be pro- utmost available extent, in order that pounded, but never in the recollection they might take part in the game; of the oldest solicitor had there been all ordinary topics of conversation, such an accumulation of private busi- even in the politer circles, were ness as was now thrust upon both merged into discussions upon the Houses, and which threatened to value of shares, the prospects of conchange the

whole character of the legis- flicting lines, and the probabilities of lative body, by converting it into an an enormous premium ; even the fair aggregate of permanent committees. sex did not escape the infection, for Enterprise had for many months been ladies of high rank and position running riot ; and the result was a placed themselves in direct comperfect avalanche of bills that struck munication with sharebrokers, and terror into the hearts of the officials. bought and sold in the market more Nor were they of a kind that could recklessly and greedily than their be easily adjusted or disposed of, like lords. No such revival of the worthe ancient road-bills, which passed ship of Mammon had been known almost as a matter of form ; for now, since the days when the ingenious

; company was arrayed against com- Mr Law inflated his gigantic Missispany in fierce and deadly antagonism sippi bubble. --each projected line had at least one One symptom of this excitement direct competitor ; and then, beyond was the universal recklessness which the question of comparative advan- was displayed. It seemed as if men tage of route, lay the claims of the could not bide at home, but were sturdy land-owners, many of whom prompted by some irresistible imwere determined that their fields pulse to rush from place to place, should remain as sacred from the like so many evil spirits doomed to whistle of the locomotive, as are, at perpetual wandering. Their anxiety this day, the sterile wastes of Pales- was too great to allow of their sitting tine.

still. They dashed over the face of The men of the younger generation, the country on visionary errands and whose memories do not reach so far quests. You could never calculate back, can hardly credit the intensity upon finding a speculator by his own of the excitement which then prevail. fireside. Either he had gone off at ed, not in London only, but through- a moment's notice to transact busiout the whole empire. The tone of ness with a broker in some distant society seemed to be completely city, or he had been summoned to changed. Many entirely neglected, attend a meeting of the local provisional board, or he had levanted the market price of iron is low, and without confiding the object of his have reason to expect a speedy rise, journey even to the wife of his am I a gambler because I effect á bosom. Some fellows actually took time bargain to the extent of some a pride in assuming the manner of thousand tons, whereon, if my anticonspirators. If you chanced to ask cipations are correct, I shall realise a them whither they were going, or handsome sum by way of difference ? where they had been, they would Is it gambling if I buy scrip at five purse up their mouths, wink with one shillings premium, in the confident eye, look ineffably mysterious, but expectation that I shall be able to vouchsafe no direct reply ; wishing sell it at twenty? I don't pretend to you thereby to understand that they furnish an answer to these queries ; were “deep files,” conversant with as I merely venture to suggest them. many wrinkles as seamed the fore- Far be it from me to arouse the head of Methuselah, and actively wrath of Lombard Street by giving engaged in a plot too intricate and an offensive name to what may be momentous to be revealed.

a blameless commercial operation. London in particular, as the grand We are told upon high authority, focus of speculation, the seat of the and experience confirms it, that there august tribunal that ruled the des- is little certainty in the affairs of tinies of railways, was crowded with this world. If so, there must be a strangers from all parts of the coun- great deal of chance; and certainly try. Some were there as conductors, it would be hard to denounce the managers, and promoters of the new calculation of chances as a sin. schemes; others as witnesses to their Had I known much at that time merits; others as mere scrip-holders, about the mode of dealing in the to watch and profit by the alterna- share - market, I daresay I would tions of the market. Westminster have acted like my neighbours; but was choked with the influx. You I was an entire novice-knew nocould hardly elbow your way through thing of the merits of competing the lobbies which led to the com- lines, and, moreover, was too well mittee-rooms of the House of Com- aware of the difficulty of getting mons; and as to forcing an entrance money to hazard what little I had into one of those dens where a smart upon a precarious venture. But as contest was going on, you might quite I continued day after day to frequent as rationally have tried to squeeze Westminster (the weary work which yourself

into the Black Hole of Cal- I had undertaken at the suggestion cutta. Vanity Fair itself could not of Sir George Smoothly being wellhave exhibited a scene of more bustle, nigh completed), I gradually picked throng, and excitement.

up a deal of information which I was That I had not yielded in any de- called upon to use in a manner that gree to the mania of the day, was was wholly unexpected. perhaps the result rather of accident I have already alluded more than than of rigid principle. It is true once to my journalist connection, that I had an innate horror of gam- which of course brought me into frebling in the usual sense of the term, quent contact with the editor of the and that no inducement would have paper - a grave uncommunicative led me to enter the door of a gaming- man rejoicing in the name of Wilkins, house, or even to take a hand at brag. who, whatever might be his opinion But the consciences of men, especi- of the abilities of the several memally when avarice is whispering in bers of his staff, made a point of their ear, are remarkably elastic;

and abstaining from all expression either it is not difficult to find some plau- of encouragement or censure. It sible excuse for doing that which certainly was not agreeable to work umps with our inclina on. Plain, under the superintendence of a unvarnished gambling with cards or gentleman practising such rigid redice, we all denounce, or affect to do serve; for praise, as all authors 80; but how when the transaction know, even though it be sparingly assumes a mercantile form or charac- administered, is a very great incenter? If I know, for example, that tive; and nó man likes to see his

article received with mere tacit ac- ed


all the luxuries and comquiescence, just as if it were an ex- forts that ingenuity could suggest tract from a speech or a quotation and great wealth procure; and if from a published volume. But, with the descendant of the Tuscan LuWilkins, method was all in all. He , cumons, who, more than any other was, like one of the old Austrian man of his day, understood aesthetigenerals, fond of discipline and cal luxury, could have been sumparade-a thorough martinet, but moned from the shades below to incapable of awakening the enthu- look upon this English paradise, siasm of his followers; and it often assuredly he would have returned to was a matter of wonder to me how the company of his darling Horace the paper, under his superintendence, in the Elysian fields with some feelshould continue as it did to prosper. ings of envy, and more of regret that, But I soon began to suspect, from in aiming almost at regal magpifivarious little incidents which oc- cence, he bad overlooked the subtle curred, that though Mr Wilkins combinations which insure the most stood forth as the ostensible editor, perfect comfort. sharper wits than his were engaged I was cordially welcomed by Mr in the direction. I knew that the Osborne, who was waiting my apchief proprietor was a Mr Osborne, proach - a gentleman apparently a man of large fortune, who had once above sixty, with a clear quick grey been a solicitor, but had long retired eye, aquiline nose, and features that from practice; and, if fame belied betokened uncommon vivacity of him not, few shrewder men of busi- disposition. He was arrayed in a ness were to be found in the shrewd- country garb, shooting-jacket, gaiters, est capital of Europe. I had never and a low-crowned white hat, and seen this gentleman, nor, so far as I carried under his arm one of those can remember, had Mr Wilkins ever old-fashioned implements called, I spoken of him to me; so that I was believe, spuds, with which tidy prosomewhat surprised at finding, one prietors of pleasure - grounds are day in my rooms, a very polite note armed for the extirpation of dockfrom Mr Osborne requesting me to weed and dandelions. He hurried pay him a visit at his country place, me into the house, introduced me to about five miles out of town, early his wife and daughter, the former a on the ensuing Saturday, and remain plain, sensible, unaffected woman, over until the Monday following the latter a remarkably pretty bruAlthough no reference was made in nette, with sparkling eyes and a the billet to business, I could not profusion of jetty ringlets-pressed doubt that Mr Osborne desired to me to take some luncheon, with a see me for an especial purpose ; and, glass of choice old Madeira, remarkaccordingly, I was a little impatient ing, however, that he dined punctuuntil the appointed day arrived. ally at six, and then carried me forth

Mr Osborne's country-seat was not to take a survey of his grounds. As one of those flimsy boxes which city a general rule, I am not fond of surmen are so fond of rearing for the rendering myself for a whole foreenjoyment of their weekly holiday. noon to the tender mercies of my It was a handsome mansion, taste- host, who, if he happens to have a fully designed and carefully built, strong agricultural bias, rarely fails with slopes of well-shaven turf, a to abuse the advantage given him spacious garden rich in vineries and by his situation. If he happens to forcing-houses; a sheet of water of be building new farm premises, you no despicable size, well stocked with are expected to stumble through aldermanic carp; a “wilderness,” with quantities of rough stones and smok. fine old trees, containing an incipi. ing. lime-heaps for the purpose of ent rookery; and some pleasant fields, gazing at a few unfinished walls, then green with the bright emerald or you must climb up frightful ladhues of spring. It was just the sort ders to scaffoldings, and walk with of villa for a London Maecenas, who, tottering steps across shaky gang, not coveting much extent of domain ways, in mortal dread lest you should wished to concentrate within a limit- share the fate of Eutychus. Next


follows the colloquy with the con- evincing much quickness of intellect tractor, compared with which those and power of ready comprehension, of Erasmus are lively, and then you as also an amount of dry humour, are taken to see fields of wheat, and which would have made him a forbeans, and turnips, and mangold- midable antagonist in a conversawurzel, upon each of which you, as a tional skirmish. Not a word, howcourteous guest, must bestow an elo- ever, did he utter relative to business, quent eulogium. Well for you if he or my connection with his paper, or does not go farther; for some coun- anything pertaining to journalism ; try gentlemen, who are possessed by so that, but for my previous knowthe demon of breeding, do not hesi- ledge of the fact, I never would have tate to decoy their unsuspecting visit- suspected him of being largely interors into fields tenanted by vicious- ested in the success of one of the looking oxen, or even bulls—huge most influential of the London daily clumsy brutes that snort, and stare, journals. and stamp, and switch their tails, On returning from our stroll, which while Cincinnatus dwells delightedly had been so much prolonged as to on their points and symmetry, some- trench upon the half-hour dedicated times even exhorting his timorous to the cares of the toilet, we sate auditor to feel the ribs of the mon- down to an elegant and most resters,-than which a request to pull cherché repast, Mr Osborne being the whiskers of a royal Bengal tiger one of those sages who esteem gourin a menagerie would not be one whit mandise as an important branch of more atrocious and unreasonable. the fine arts, to be wooed and cul

But it is a very different thing tivated by every man with the slightwhen you are asked to accompany est pretension towards refinement. your host on a round of inspection As, beyond myself, no stranger was of objects which are really beautiful; present, the party was a very cheerand such undeniably were the gar- ful one. Miss Osborne, who inherited dens and grounds of Mr Osborne. much of her father's sprightliness, No expense had been spared in lay- was willing to amuse and ready to be ing them out; and what is there amused; the old gentleman was in that wealth cannot command in high good - humour; mamma kind England ?

and conversable; and under such in"It is too early yet for out-of-door fluences I shook off diffidence, and plants,” said my entertainer. But strove to make myself agreeable. you must come back in summer, After the ladies had retired, Mr when the roses are in bloom. I flat- Osborne desired the servants to place ter myself they are worthy of Gulis- a small round table near the fire, tan. “But meanwhile, let me show ensconced himself in an easy-chair, you the conservatories. M'Farren, and declared his intention of making my Scotch gardener, would never himself comfortable for the evening. forgive me if I did not call your at- Help yourself to claret, Mr Sintention to the heaths, which are the clair,” said he: “it is old Chateau very pride of his existence." The Latour, the proper drink for a young boast was a justifiable one, for I man and a Caledonian. As for me doubt whether even Kew Gardens who am an ancient Londoner, I could show a finer collection.

must stick to port, even at the risk Mr Osborne, however, did not lose of gout, whereof 'I feel occasional much time in descanting on the twinges. And now let us have a merits of his own possessions. He word or two on business. I should rambled from subject to subject with tell you that I had a double motive an alacrity that was truly wonderful. in asking you here. In the first He never dwelt long upon any one place, I wished to become acquainted topic, and rarely expressed any opi- with you personally, which we shall nion of his own; trying rather, as I now consider to be a fait accompli. thought, to bring out, by way of In the second place, I should like to question, what knowledge might be know what your views and engagein me.

But his retorts and casual ments are, because I think it possible remarks were shrewd and apposite, that, unless you have formed some

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

decided ulterior scheme of your own, an order for the entire suppression we may make an arrangement that of Chalcedon. But Montresor was shall be mutually advantageous. well provided for: he has now a fat Have you any objection to tell me rectory in Surrey.” candidly how you are situated ?” “Knowing that, sir, I presume you

I “None whatever, sir. I have no- are not ignorant of my farther conthing to conceal; and even if there nection with the paper.” were circumstances which I should “Of course I am not. I know the hesitate to communicate to a casual name of every man who has blotted acquaintance, Mr Osborne's character paper in our service. You began by for honour is too well known to- sending us foreign news, and more

“I understand ! Prettily said, recently you have been engaged in though a little too rhetorical. Nay, the reviewing department. But I don't blush, my lad—I do not doubt hear from Wilkins that your conyour sincerity, but I have a strong tributions of late have been rather objection to rounded sentences, espe- scanty. How is that ?” cially when they convey a compli- "Why, sir, much of my time has ment, except in leaders, where, I been occupied in preparing a docuadmit, they are quite appropriate. ment upon a somewhat intricate and Now then let us talk after what the difficult public question." Oxford men call the Socratic method “What !- do you mean to bring out that is, I ask, you answer ; it a pamphlet?" saves a world of trouble. Do you By no means, sir. This is a task agree?"

that I have undertaken for a friend." "Certainly,” said I, entering some- “That must be a very good friend what into the humour of the man, for whom you are willing to make and yet a little abashed by the slight such a sacrifice—that is, unless you rap on the knuckles which he had expect some corresponding advanadministered. “Not another com- tage,” said Mr Osborne. “The inpliment shall you hear from me this tellectual labour of a month at your night, except that which I now pay time of life is a gift that borders on to the excellence of your claret.” prodigality. May I ask if your friend

“I fear you are a regular dodger, is a politician ?". sir,” said Mr Osborne,“ and that you “I told you, Mr Osborne, that I have an eye towards a second bottle. would speak without reserve. His But you are not singular in your pre- name is Sir George Smoothly, memference. A fortnight ago three quarts ber for Effingham.” of that nectar from the Dalilah “Whew! Smoothly again !" cried Bordeaux barely sufficed to quench Mr Osborne. “This, unless I misthe thirst of a Cabinet minister who take much, is a new case of crimping. is held up to the whole world as a And pray, Mr Sinclair, how did you pattern of abstemiousness. But to happen to fall in with Sir George?" the point. You began your connec- "I met him on the Continent, sir; tion with us, as nearly as I can re- and afterwards, for a day or two, last member, about three years ago ?” Christmas, in the country."

“True, sir. I was indebted for “And he was very polite and civil, my introduction to Mr Montresor, told you he took a deep interest in with whom I became acquainted at your welfare, hinted that he had Vienna."

some little interest with the Govern" Ay - Montresor. I remember ment, and so forth? Was it not so ?” him well. He was a clever writer, “You must be well acquainted with dash, energy, and so forth ; and with him, Mr Osborne ; for such his articles told well with the High- certainly was his language." Church party, though they were “Oh, I know him very well—that somewhat too learned for the million. is, I know all about him-rather He had an ugly trick of always more, perhaps, than he is aware of. quoting the decisions of the Council And what next ?” of Chalcedon. It became a positive “That, Mr Osborne, I do not connuisance, and brought the paper into sider myself at liberty to mention. ridicule.' I was compelled to issue I see plainly that your opinion of Sir

« PreviousContinue »