图书图片
PDF
ePub

regiment about to join the campaign. We were both several times in action, and acquitted ourselves with courage and credit ; but as soon as peace was proclaimed I left the profession of a sailor, and looked out for a drier berth ashore. My brother, on the contrary, followed up his duty to his country, and went to India, where he had greater occasions for distinguishing himself, which he did in such a marked manner that he was shortly raised from the ranks and presented with a commission, and returned to England, having retired with a considerable fortune."

At this point in his narrative we drew up to change horses, and he ceased speaking, at the same time he drew down bis white cotton cap over the whole of his face, and then threw himself into the darkest part of his seat; his sharp features, showing a ghastly outline through the cap, gave him the appearance of a culprit who had suffered the extreme penalty of the law. What a nice companion, I reflected, for a wedding trip! Thank goodness, Agnes slept on in total ignorance of our disagreeable fellow-passenger. Immediately that we were set going again he started up wildly, and, adjusting his head.gear, caught up the thread of his life with much vivacity :

Young gentleman," he began, “I hope you remember where I left off? because I now come to that which concerns my opinion of matrimony, and the disappointments with which that holy alliance is frequently attended.”

As he paused, I naturally assured him that I did, and that I was much interested in the whole subject of his career.

“ Then, sir," he continued, “ I will tell it you in as few words as I can, for I must leave you at the next stage. After quitting the navy, chance took me to Bristol, where, without loss of time, I sought employment as a clerk ; the most contemptible and woree treated situation you can fill in life. My capital hand-writing had already served me, as through that alone and my knowledge of arithmetic, I had been engaged as the captain's, the master's, the purser's, and even the doctor's clerk whilst on board a man-of-war, and thereby been saved much of the ordinary seamen's duties and labours. I soon tumbled into a place at a sugar-refiners ; wages sixteen shillings per week. For want of a better, I stuck to it, and whilst there made the acquaintance of a young lady, a governess and Sunday-school teacher. She was blessed with all the charms that could win the affections, beauty, sense, virtue, and amiability of disposition. We soon loved each other to distraction, and kept company' together, which means that we walked out together, vowed together, and talked over our chances of making ' a home together, and getting married together. Alas! there appeared no hope of accomplishing the two last parts of our dreamy existence. Still we lived on, 'hoping against hope,' but our positious never improved, and our means did not increase with time. Thus five years passed in torture ; she prudent and thoughtful, I in despair and misery ; nevertheless we continued faithful and loving to the last. One morning about this time my master sent me to London, to take the place of a clerk in a large house, who had died. He said he had long had his eye on me for promotion ; that I had shown considerable ability, that after sufficient time I should return to him in a different character, and, in fact, that it was entirely for my advantage

that I was going. My beloved and I parted tenderly and in tears, and with all those renewals of lovers' pledges of affection, which are accredits to sincerity and deep feeling. My prospects were vastly improved, and I arrived in the metropolis happier and more cheerful than I expected after the separation. Two months flew by, our correspondence had been regular, and of the warmest nature. Suddenly it ceased. I became alarmed and impatient. I wrote but without effect; no answer arrived. In a few days, unable longer to control my maddening uncertainty, I quitted the office, and got back the same night to Bristol. Imagine my state when I learnt that she had eloped with a middleaged, wealthy, retired, tallow merchant, and was gone to Gretna. Revenge and hatred at once took possession of me; how to gratify my bitterness I knew not ; how lo execute my direful passions, I could not imagine, for I had not the means, or the coolness to carry out any settled plans. Now to be brief, for we shall presently stop again. Amongst my acquaintances was a widow lady of about five-and-forty, and of course very much my senior ; she was supposed to be worth & large independent income, and, from the way she was besieged and tormented by a host of poor relations, I put it down that she certainly was. She had shown me upon several occasions unmistakable instances of her esteem and regard; to her, in the course of complaining, my fate directed me; I told her everything, I fairly unbosomed myself to her.

My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs ;
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd
That heaven had made her such a man.'

In less than a week we had left her hangers-on in the lurch, and were on the high road to Scotland. A few days afterwards we also were married at Gretna. This, sir, was the mode I selected for my pitiful and ever-to-be-regretted and repented-of revenge and contempt for my first, last, and lost true-love. My disgust on coming to my senses again—for I own I had been partially drunk for some time previously -is beyond the power of words to express. I literally abhorred the sight of her, and thoroughly despised myself for the mean act I had committed. I felt ashamed to be seen with her, and could scarcely make up my mind to appear in public. Finding it impossible for me to take her where we should be recognised, I proposed that we should proceed to Scarborough. Poor devil ! she would have followed me there or anywhere else on foot. So to Scarborough we went. My choosing that place of all others is and always will be to me a mystery of unfathomable depth. However, to cut a long story short, we had not been a great length of time at that delightful and then unfrequented seaside promenade, when by some fatality, equally unaccountable, I was drawn to visit a chemist's. A lady in deep mourning was on the step, and I helped to open the door for her. Whether I went to purchase poison or not I cannot now remember; but a more wretched life than I led with my bride it were impossible to imagine or invent. I certainly contemplated suicide more than once, and should soon, but for what directly happened, undoubtedly have committed that terrible act. On entering the shop, the lady was already seated, and had raised

[ocr errors]

her thick, crape veil whilst conversing with the assistant. I perceived that she was a widow-young, pale, and evidently suffering, Politeness made me keep at a respectful distance. Turning round to leave, having settled her orders, I again stooped to take the handle of the door. She had not then replaced her veil ; consequently, we were placed face to face. Oh! the agony of that scream-it pierced me to the heart! She was in the act of falling, but I caught her in my arms—it was my lost and ever-loved one! From that moment I never returned home !" This extraordinary visitor at the repetition of this scene was greatly agitated.

“ How strange !" said I, mildly, for fear of exasperating him, “ it seems that you were destined to meet after all. Well, marriages, they say, are made in heaven."

“ No, no, no! For God's sake, don't say that," he exclaimed. There are more made by the devil than are dreamt of in our philosophy. But time at last sets all things even.' My rich wite, without much difficulty, backed by money and interest, soon obtained a divorce, and ultimately found a third husband more to her fancy, and better suited to her propensities, in a handsome, Herculean, brawny boatman. They indulged themselves to their heart's content, and both died mad within a year afterwards. My beloved one, who I quickly discovered had been forced to run away with the retired tallow-merchant, he having a fancy for that style of wedding as rather a fashionable and fast proceeding, had the good luck to lose him in a fit, brought on by overexcitement within three weeks afterwards. He had settled on her a handsome fortune. Her love for me had never ceased a moment, neither had her true affection in the least degree diminished, and in the end we were united. Our happiness was of short duration—I could not expect otherwise. We had both erred. Besides, runanay matches never turn out wellnever ! I don't know a single instance to the contrary.”

The mail, I could tell, from its decreasing speed, the rattle of the bars, and the summons of the horn, was gradually stopping.

“ Thank you," renewed this hideous and alarmingly excitable croaker, “ this is my destination ; but I am too late-my brother is dead; he died an hour ago. Good night! we shall meet again."

"Not, if I know it," I mentally promised myself.

At this he opened the door, and jumped out. I flew to the window - he had vanished. “Guard !" I shouted, “in heaven's name, who and what was that?”

“I hope, sir,” said the official, as he hurried towards me, touching his hat, "you have not been annoyed.”

“I have, though,” I sharply replied, “most deucediy. Who is it?"

“I wish you'd have told me before," he answered, rather humbled ; “I'd have soon settled him. It's only Mad Jack Sanders—the Gretna Ghost.' He is usually very civil. He is a rich old fellow, and pays through the nose for a ride."

“Well, den him and you too! Don't let anyone else in," I indignantly replied, as I drew up the window with a bang.

THE PIGSKINS IN FOREIGN LANDS.

CHAP. I.

PIGGY'S YOUNGER DAYS. Some of the sayings and doings of Captain Pigskin, the elder, the illustrious father of this our own Piggy, the younger—though, by-thebye, he is now well nigh fifty years of age-were, if I recollect aright, many years since brought to the notice of the public, under the title of * Pigskin's Sporting Career ;" or, “ The Sports and Pleasures of Captain Pigskin," of Heatherbank Hall, N.B., in Maga.

As was his worthy sire, so is the son, a first-rate sportsman, in his own opinion at least, if not precisely so in that of his many friends, among whom he is decidedly popular ; moreover, in his youthful days, when he stood 9st 6lb, in his boots, with the power, after a few severe walks in flannel, of getting himself down several pounds, he has been known to win many a flat race, at least so he asserts. Be it so, it is neither courteous nor just to contradict the assortion of any man, certainly not so good a neighbour as Piggy the younger may most justly be considered.

Practically, were I put into a witness-box, I should boldly assert, he was neither a good shot nor a good rider; nevertheless, he is a thorough sportsman at heart, who revels in country pursuits, and loves his neighbour as himself; in fact, he is generous, hospitable, a true-hearted friend, a good husband, and an honest gentleman. What can I say more?

Our Piggy, thus briefly described, glories in the position of only son to a Scottish Lowland laird, who possessed a tract of land, of moderate rental, say fifteen hundred per annum ; but fifteen hundred per annum to a Lowland laird, when Piggy was in his teens, might fairly be counted a valuable inheritance. Considering that his good mother died after bringing him into the world, and all his early years were spent with an indulgent father, whose life was passed in sporting and agricultural pursuits, giving and receiving hospitably from his immediate neighbours, with an occasional visit to the south, for the Derby and Ascot, it may reasonably be conceived that our hero did not gain much knowledge of the world beyond the limits of his heathered home. Thus, from his boyhood, otter-hunting, salmon-fishing, and all field sports became a passion, out-door life in fact, with little of in-door learning.

At length, however, the interference of a kind friend induced Piggy the elder to listen to reason, and send his precious boy to school, where he might have learnt much, for he was by no means without quickness; but what he gained there was lost during his holidays, when books were cast to the wind, and fishing-tackle, guns, and ponies came into request; add to which a word to Dad, who always dreaded his boy's absence, secured a week if not a fortnight over the time of returning to school.

In due time, however, he was sent to Harrow, where during two years, the association of boys at his own age brushed away, in a great measure, the rough, though amiable manners of the young Lowlanders ; and ere he left Piggy, became the friend of many whose worldly position and education far exceeded his own. Not that he was of a bad stock, far from it; and I do not say it unkindly when I add that I scarcely ever heard of a Scotchman who was not of a good breed in his own idea—at all events that of Piggy was as good as many who declare their ancestors came over with William The Conqueror, the honour of which ancestry is a riddle to one of a pure Saxon blood.

On one occasion when Piggy the elder, according to his wonted delight, went to the Derby, he then and there met with an old friend, the member for his county, when, after mutual greetings—for Piggy senior was a popular man—the following conversation took place :“ What do you intend to do with that fine lad of yours

?Do with him?" replied Piggy, “why endeavour to bring him up as an honest man, and a good sportsman. After me he has all that I have, quite sufficient to keep him as a gentleman, and something to spare.

“ Admitted,” responded the M.P.; " but surely you do not intend him to pass his life shooting grouse in the autumn, fishing in the sumwer, and hunting away the winter.”

“ Well, not precisely; and yet he might do worse ; his disposition is most amiable, and I never found him untruthful."

“ Fine qualities, very fine!” said the member, “ desirable in every class of life. Still, a lad like young Piggy, who will hereafter belong, as it were, to the county, requires a little worldly tact and experience call them polish and manly bearing if you will—and a run to the Continent with my boy and a decent tutor will expand his mind, and make a man of him."

Now, at the period of which I write, a Lowland laird, who had scarcely ever been beyond London-aye, and many an English lord, however unjustly looked on our gallant neigbbours, beyond the white cliffs of Albion, as utterly ignorant of all fine qualities.

Italians and Spaniards wero simply brigands, Germans beer-drinking louts, Polish counts swindlers, and the rest of Europe more or less savages, and the idea of his beloved Piggy boy learning any virtue on the Continent was repugnant to the elder Piggy's feelings. Nevertheless, he was not the man to be led away by his own feelings, or hasty in his decisions ; and so he replied, “ your suggestion is most kind, and I will give it my best consideration. There is no one I should like my boy to be on terms of friendship better than with your son, and I will think over it well.”

“ Think over it! Yes; you will think over it till you determine not to part with the lad. But the horses are about to start, so let us see the race.”

When the Elder Piggy recrossed the Scottish border, and calmly viewed the matter, after a considerable delay and many a severe struggle, he at length agreed that little Piggy, young McGregor, and an Oxford B.A. should go forth on their travels; meanwbile I cannot say precisely whether the B.A. was of the High or Low church. People were content when Piggy was a lad to serve God without the slightest con.

« 上一页继续 »