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Wherein Guy May first foels the pleasures and pains of true love.
As I entered the private room of Mr. Nosyde he was arranging a parcel of recently endorsed deeds, three or four of them evidently fresh from the law-stationers.
“Mr. May,” said he—but first let me draw you the portrait of one of the most extraordinary and unfathomable characters it has ever been my chance to meet, or be connected with. He was very tall, standing full six feet high ; upwards his figure was decidedly good and striking, broad-shouldered, with his head well set on, but “ when I looked down at his feet"--but tbat's a fable. I have frequently longed to see them naked; if they were not cloven, they at least gave you
that impression ; he was certainly the worst walker that I ever saw move. His features were uncommonly handsome : a long, well-chiselled aristocratic nose; bright inquisitive eye, and well-formed mouth; his countenance was that of a well-bred person, with a pleasant encouraging expression, and he smiled on you most blandly, displaying at the same time an astonishingly white and fiue set of teeth; so perfect were they, that they irresistibly took up your chief attention, somehow they seemed to lay hold of you; add to this "a tongue that could weedle with the devil.” So plausible, and false, and fascinating was he in manner, that I am sure he would have won over even Old Nick himself. Take him for all in all, he was the rarest and most finished specimen of what I, who had been behind the scenes, consider a lawyer ought to be. He was dreaded and detested by the firm, and shunned by the whole body of clerks. His disposition and mind will discover themselves as we proceed.
"Mr. May,” said he, in his most patronising manner and tone, "I think I can trust you to get these leases executed. You know the form of attestation, of course, by this time, and you cannot I imagine possibly make a mistake. Besides, the names of the parties, and where to sign, are written in pencil on the indenture, so that you will have litile or no trouble about it. I have given you this job to do, as our client resides but a short distance out of your way home, besides it is a little opportunity to see how you can act by yourself.
My answer was of course merely the formal one, " that I was much obliged to him, and that I would see it was properly done."
After this, first showing me the deeds, and giving me some trifling further explanations, he touched a bell, and a subordinate clerk immediately packed them carefully in brown paper, and tied them up with that everlasting legal and ominous red-tape. He then retired, and I was about to follow suit, leases in hand, when Mr. Nosyde calling me back said
“ By the bye, May, I forgot to tell you that our client is a lady, a widow, and that she is particularly near-sighted, consequently should she require you to read any parts to her, you must do so. You had also better call on her this evening, and if not agreeable, or in the least troublesome to her to execute them at once, leave them and see it done in the morning at her own convenience.”
Perfectly understanding my commission, I bowed the bow of articled clerks and left the room. It being then very nearly the hour to quit for the day, I at once washed my hands, closed my desk, and walked off with my brown-paper bundle under my arm, which, bearing the official insignia of slothful red-tape, I felt no compunctions at carrying, it being just one of those parcels that are within the proscribed limits of what a gentleman may or may not be seen with in the streets.
Now, the residence of this old lady whose name was Jeffery, was situated in the country part of Old Brompton; indeed, at the time I write of, the whole of Brompton was one of the most picturesque spots imaginable. Filled with stately mansions and Elizabethan villas, it was the resort of the rich, the fashionable, and many of the aristocracy; it possessed that air of peaceful enjoyment, which our environs of London have now lost. This, too, has not been spared the cruel strides of bad taste in improvement. There are at present but few traces of its former glory. The building passion or rage, which ever you may in your vexation of spirit choose to term it, has so cut up and knocked down the whole romance of it that the locality defies recognition, and we of the old school who have passed many very happy hours amidst its green lanes, and well-treed parks and fields, cannot but shed a tear over the modern prostitution of its verdant and healthful acres. The very air, too, once so famous and sought after for its salubrity, pare, genial, and gentle as it was, has become smoked, high-dried, and dusty as Lundyfoot. One may well exclaim,
“ Thy glades forlorn, confess the tyrant's power.” Old Brompton has died of a Consumptive Hospital, sung out by a Swedish Nightingale. It is now looked upon but as the road which leads to lingering and sufferings.
On I trudged manfully but thoughtfully with my unsoiled deeds of prophetic intent for years to come. Many of my own misdeeds passed across my mind like warning shadows, and affected me with that sort of repentant humour which fits you to profit by any opportunity for turning over a new leaf which the grace of Providence may offer ; but coming good, unlike evil, seldom casts its shadows before. The gaieties of the scenes I passed through that day during my walk through the parks and streets thronged with fashion, had rather a depressing effect, and I turned my head in a contrary direction several times on observing the approach of certain acquaintances, with whom I had enjoyed those
“ wasted hours" which had already commenced to tell upon me their tale of woe. Nevertheless I held up my head, merely wondering in my mind, without attempting to foretell what would be my ultimate end in life; yielding in fact, to a not unpleasant and doubtful melancholy.
In this vacilating humour I arrived at the iron-gates of one of those ancient looking—for they were not really so-red-brick mansions in Brompton, remembered but by a few of us, the approach to which was down Cromwell Lane, then a secluded path with its hedge-rows and ditches, where lovers and the thoughtful could stroll and sigh or meditate undisturbed, and secure from the bustle of life. There was a large well-kept lawn before the house, with a broad gravel carriage-drive which led up to its portico. In the middle of this stood a remarkable cork-tree, its wide and dark spreading branches casting a gloom far around. A gaudy peacock screamed as I rang the bell, and a little dog barked at me, both signs of “ bad luck,” as the servant threw open the dull cold portal, which closed with a shook upon my fate.
“The lady was at home; would I walk in? would I be so good as to wait a few minutes in the dining-room?"
To all of which, as a matter of course, without paying the least attention, I answered in the affirmative. An unaccountable nervous feeling possessed me -my heart beat nosily-I could feel its pulsations, a sudden faintness with perspiration affected me most oppressively. I sat down and looked around for the sake of distraction, The hall I had observed as I entered was of good proportions, and though not elegantly, was solidly furnished, the panelling, chairs, and other acquisitions being of old carved oak. The room I was then in was spacious and plainly got up as dining rooms onght to be. The only ornament was a clock on the mantel-piece, and above it a full length portrait of an officer of Dragoons, in uniform, and standing by the side of his charger. Having nothing else to occupy me I crossed over to examine it more closely ; it was life size, and well executed. I was instantly struck by the surpassing beauty of the countenance; what a manly expression! I almost said aloud; what a noble bearing! what commanding eyes ! what determination of mouth! Why, thought I, if this is a true resemblance of a living man, he must surely have been some demi-god, some Grecian hero of the Trojan war. Looking at it again, I smiled
, I and came to the more natural conclusion that it was half painter's flattery and the rest gold lace.
Oh! yes, said I, it's nonsense, “fine feathers make fine birds ;" and I dare say were I decked out like that every one would admire me, and when dead some one would swear I was an Adonis, whilst others would turn up their noses at the mere mention of me. Stepping back to take a more distinct view of this British Hector, I stood thunderstruck at finding myself nearly treading on the toes of a charming young lady who had come unawares bebind me.
"Oh, pray don't let me disturb you,” she said in the most amiable and reassuring manner, " that is my dear papa, and I love to have him admired. He was so handsome, and so good. I can only just romember him ; but that is so like what he was that I dearly, dearly love it."
I am sure she did too, for she spoke so touchingly and from her heart; she then continued
“ Mamma requested me to tell you, sir, that if not too much trouble she would rather sign the leases 10-morrow, but that if you would be kind enough to read part of a particular one to her now, she would be much obliged to you. Perhaps you will be so good as to accompany me to the drawing-room."
If any one had seen me during the delivery of this pretty little speech, they would certainly never have recognised Guy May, the bold and dashing young rake of Chamber and Renelagh Orgies. I was perfectly transfixed, my legs were not by any means their own masters, and as to my hands and the brown-paper parcel they had become on such intimate terms that they were positively united in feeling. I had thrust my unconscious fingers through it in several places and torn the unresisting paper with such nervous energy, that had it not have been for the invincible routine of red-tape the contents of sheep-skin deeds must have rolled on to the hearth-rug.
Now, before we enter the presence of the mamma let me describe to you the cause of this strange effect. Miss Agnes Jeffery, although not partaking of her father's manly beauty (which by the way I never believed in) was one of the most amiable-looking and graceful girls I had ever beheld. Her hair was light-brown, or as novelists will insist upon calling it auburn. Her eyes were the tenderest and most angeliclooking it is possible to conceive or suffer under the gaze of; her face, too, was very attractive and pleasing, it was classical at every point, and full of admirable drawing. About her mouth hung a melancholy which created in you a feeling of affectionate sympathy towards lier, from a presentiment that her lot in life would not be a happy one. Withal you could not call her handsome or pretty, she was between the two ; still she would have been greatly admired every. where. Nothing could exceed in sweetness the tones of her voice, they would have melted the heart of the most hardened cynic. I had never heard anything so musical and winning, they were the talking notes of a love song. Her manners also impressed you with the goodness of her heart, she seemed all innocence, with frankness and generosity combined.
How then can it be wondered at that I, a novice amid such attractions, finding myself so unexpectedly and closely besieged by the sence of all that was captivating and irresistible, should have yielded up my vulgar passions and sentiments before the altar of virtue and purity, and owned myself vanquished and unmanned? We proceeded together to the drawing-room, and I partly recovered myself en route. Here all was magnificence and splendour, gilt glittered around me.
It was a complete example of the style Louis Quatorze. On first entering, it rather surprised and dazzled me, but I soon became accustomed to it and looked about with a criticising air. It would be a waste of time to describe in detail, as these sort of roomis differ but little one from another, suffice it to say it was admirably and expensively done, rich in the extreme. By the window, almost invisible, between the cushions of an easy, very easy arm-chair, reclined the remains of a very beautiful but not an aged lady: She was almost asleep, but as I approached and was presented to her by her daughter, she made an effort, and loant forward to greet me with the most polished welcome.
“ Is it Mr. Eager ?" she inquired.
“No, mamma," answered her daughter, “it is a young gentleman from Mr. Nosyde."
“What is your name, sir, pray,” she asked kindly.
“ Then, sir,” she exclaimed, with much energy of voice and manner, "you are about to enter a profession which I abhor from the bottom of my heart. I only hope,” she said, “ that you don't like it?"
This sort of cross-questioning rather put me on my mettle, and at once placed us all on good and familiar terms together. The old lady was truly in ecstacies when I told her my little history, or as much of it as was suited to ears polite, and when I ended by assuring her that I believed I should never either enter the profession or finish my time, she literally screeched with delight, called me to her, shook me by the hand, and insisted upon feeling my features.
This entertaining, and to me most important interview, introduced those amusements by which young hearts are made to sympathise with each other, and, if the spark of love lies dormant in either, they ignite the train which springs a mine of affections. And so it was in this instance, for after the business of reading some clauses in the leases was got over (and which at the time I considered as severe a punishment as could possibly have been inflicted on me), encouraged by Mrs. Jeffery, and tenderly pressed by me, Agnes played and sang some of those delightful ballads so melodious and touching. Thus the evening was passed in harmony and love, for Agnes and I were busy with our eyes and hearts; and I may truly say that from that moment there uprose between us an affection as sincere as it was pure and disinterested on both sides. Our families became intimate, and were often together, for who, who had once known Agnes, could help loving her ? At balls, theatres, and public places we were always seen together ; my sisters were as it were sisters to her and companions to her mother, who openly encouraged my visits, and held out to me hopes of the happiest nature. As for Agnes and I, we had long sworn eternal love and vowed never to marry any one else, although to wait until she had attained her majority we looked upon as an unbearable cruelty, for she was then only seventeen years of age and a ward in Chancery. This was a fearful crusher to both of us, but as there was no help for it, we bore it with the best grace we could. endeavours were to keep the knowledge of my visits from her guardian -who, indeed, was her uncle-Colonel Jeffery, an austere man by nature, and one of the strictest disciplinarians in the army, which is there considered as nothing but another name for a tyrant. As for my, self, I had become quite an altered man; all my bad habits and bad ideas had flown from me; and, excepting for my duties at the office, I should have been the happiest in the world : as it was, I shall always look back on these few months of youthful courtship as the very happiest moments of my life. However, the course of true love never