Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

6

,Ꭹou

dismally we all tried to be funny, and what a set of dreary spoons we all looked like !"

“My dear Phil.,” replied the monk, as he replenished his glass, "you know I am always jolly and happy in your company, for every body says that Phil. Pemberton is the pleasantest fellow in the world. You can't expect me to be such a trump card as you are.”

“Well, I don't know; you might have made a better knave, I suspect, not a bad one at the odd trick, hey?”.

“Now, for my part," resumed the monk, who did not appear to relish these innuendoes, “ I think it was a very fair masquerade. Some of the characters were capitally supported, but none so well as yours.”

“Oh! no wonder, for practice makes perfect, and I have been playing the fool all my life. And you were quite at home in the monk, Peter, for nothing was requisite but to look solemn and sly, but there was a defect in your costume. "In what respect, pr'ythee?"

May I be as frank with you as the Irishman was with the Yankee ?"

Yes, but I don't know the story." "It's old enough, too. Why they were riding together, and came in sight of a gallows, whereupon says the Yankee, pointing towards it, thinking to jeer his companion, Paddy, if every man had his deserts, where would be at this moment? Sure, I'd be riding alone,' was the reply."

"Capital ! capital! he ! ha! But what has this to do with my dress as a Cordelier ?”

“Nothing further, my dear Peter, than to suggest to me, that if every man had his deserts, the

rope
that is now round

your

waist would occupy a higher position.” “Ah, ha, capital !. What a wag you

are !
you

will crack your jokes even upon your best friends."

" Aye, and sometimes upon my worst. We both of us supported our characters well enough, and I don't think any one would have suspected that we were a couple of lawyer's clerks. If old Evans, our worthy employer, had himself been present, he would hardly have recognised my face, bedizened as it was with red ochre and white paint.”

“I recommended you to wear a mask, as I did. I never run any unnecessary risk.”

“Hang it! I hate a mask! there's something cowardly in it."

“Pasteboard can't be worse than the flesh and blood mask that every body wears. Look at the long-faced fellows in a mourning.coach, trying to seem miserable, while some of them are laughing in their hearts.”

“What, old Truepenny! can you quote Latin ? I have pretty well forgotten mine, and yet methinks I recolleet whence you stole your idea. Isn't it Persius who says Heredis fletus sub persona risus est,' the weeping of an heir is laughter under a mask.”

"I never heard of Persius, and I don't know a word of Latin, except those that are employed in our law proceedings. There, as in every thing else, you have a prodigious advantage over me. My father, a poor bookbinder, could not afford to give me such a good education as you have received."

“But you had a father, while I may almost call myself an orphan from my birth, for my mother, as I am told, died when I was an infant, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

though I have reason to suspect that I have a father living, aye, and in good circumstances, too, I have never seen him. A good education do you call it ? What! to be continually left at school during the holidays, never to have had a home, never to have known relations or friends, to have my head crammed and my heart left empty, my faculties forced and my affection uncultivated, and in this unprepared state to be dropped in a lawyer's office, in the middle of London, without guide or adviser, and so left to sink or swim, as the Fates, or rather my own passions and follies might decide ; do you call this half tuition and whole abandonment a good education? I don't see how a young fellow could well have a worse.

“What! is this the merry and fast-going Phil. Pemberton ? It's well you have taken off your cap and bells, for you're getting wise and sentimental. I know you have talents enough to talk in any style, but I never thought to hear you preach a sermon, at the Finish too, and after a masquerade, and over such prime liquor."

The speaker filled his own rummer to the brim, and then pushed the empty can to his companion, who resumed,

“ Lookye, Peter, I can be as devil-may-careish in general as the most rollicking cove in London, but it makes me serious, in spite of myself, when I think of the heartless way in which I have been treated, and the lonesome condition in which I am left. If I drink, and rake, and run into debt, 'tis to drown care, and run away from myself. I must be dissipated or desolate, and I prefer the former.

“Come, come, Phil., this is hardly doing justice to your situation, for you have a good salary, besides the large tips you get now and then from your mysterious friend, old Kirby.”

“ Mysterious indeed, for I can neither ferret out of him whence they come, nor why they are given to me, though I cannot help surmising that I have a father' somewhere, who does not choose to recognise me, though he sends me this occasional assistance.”

“ You're as unlike that yellow old weazle as a handsome chap could wish to be, but is it not possible that—"

“ Absurd! he's a regular skin-flint; besides, he hates me because I pester him with questions, and has often said, that if it depended upon him, I shouldn't have a farthing beyond my salary.”

“ Didn't he bring you fifty pounds five weeks ago ?"

“ Yes; but he hadn't been near me before for eight months, so it was pretty well bespoken beforehand.”

“ Not all, not all, surely you've some left." “ Five or six sovereigns, perhaps.”

“ That's lucky, for I want to borrow three for a very particular purpose, and knowing your kindness to your friends, I depended upon your assistance."

“ Well, there they are, my good fellow. Mind you add them to the old score-not the tickets and supper at the masquerade; I agreed to stand treat for that-but I'm a poor accountant, except in adding to my debts and deducting from my

income.” " A thousand thanks, my dear Phil., you really are a capital fellow; every one says so ; and you may depend on my repaying you this littlo loan in some shape or other.”

“ If it makes no difference to you, I should like to have it as much as

possible in the shape of three sovereigns. Ha! the can's empty, I see, and there goes my last cigar, so we may as well be jogging, or I shall get another scolding for being after my time at the office. I tried Charles Lamb's joke upon old Evans by telling him I made up for being so late in the morning by going away so much earlier at night; but the old brute has no soul for humour, except ill-humour, and threatened to discharge me if I didn't keep better hours.”

“I am always five or ten minutes before the time.”

“ Aye, you're a regular sly old dodger; you needn't tell me that ; but I'll make a wager with you nevertheless. I'll bet you half-a-sovereign you won't object to my paying the bill.”

“ I never lay bets ; besides what signifies between friends. I can pay next time, you know. Indeed, I would do so now, only you said you would clear all scores, and you're so punctilious about keeping your word.” “ And well I may, for I can't take yours ;

know

you

well. Come, come, old dodger, no more humbug ; I understand you. Waiter ! there's the damage. Now we'll be off.”

Stop a moment, Phil., till I have fastened this loose cowl. You know I am always catching cold in my

head." “ No wonder, for you are always going out without any thing in it.”

Ha, ha! an old joke, but capital, though it was made at my expense.”

Any thing at your expense must be a new joke to me; dance where we may, I generally have to pay the piper."

You like to do so, dear Phil., or I shouldn't allow it."

A cab had been called, and the Merry Andrew and the Cordelier were driven to their respective lodgings just as St. Andrew's clock was striking four.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER II.

THOUGH weak-minded in resisting any temptation to pleasant indulgence, and far from wise in his general conduct, Philip Pemberton was no fool. He spoke truly when he told Crawley that he understood him; and if he suffered the fellow to impose upon him in various ways, he was never deceived as to his mean and sordid motives ; nor was he blind to his penurious habits, and intense selfishness. It may seem strange that he should form an intimacy with a man whom he did not scruple to designate as a miser and a humbug; but Philip had no relations, no home, no evening occupations, except in such places of entertainment as his dissipated turn required, and his moderate means could command. True, he belonged to a club called “The Owls,” consisting mostly of fellow clerks, who assembled once a fortnight to wind up the night at the Finish ; but his habits at these symposia only rendered Crawley the more necessary to him as a hanger-on. Over such an assemblage, most of whom wished to be outrageously jocular, but none of whom knew how, it was not difficult for a merry and well-educated man like Philip to obtain ascendancy, and become a Triton among the minnows. Always ready to sing a comic song, or relate a droll anecdote, enriched by a happy talent for mimicry, he was installed as the recognised wag of the party, and successfully exerted himself to preserve

the reputation he had acquired. But this mental dram-drinking had its reaction, and like more distinguished wits who, after setting the table in a roar, have crawled to their homes to mope and be miserable, he found that he constantly needed some fresh excitement to prevent the recurrence of desponding thoughts. To a certain extent Crawley supplied the desideratum by becoming his ready comrade whenever he wanted to indulge in any low dissipation, and a butt at which he might safely launch his poor jokes and his unsparing ridicule, useful exercises as so many rehearsals for the club. There was even a pleasure in paying for this sorry gratification, as he invariably did, for as he had a vague but hitherto unsupported impression that he was better born than his companions-as he knew himself to be better educated, and to possess a less narrow income than the majority—he thought it incumbent upon him to enact the gentleman, even in the humble sphere we have been describing, though his means were far from warranting the smallest extravagance.

Naturally of a domestic turn, for his dissipated habits were the result of circumstances rather than of disposition, he endeavoured to impart to his humble lodging the appearance of a home, by furnishing it with expensive comforts, and even luxuries, which frequently involved him in pecuniary difficulties ; while for his unclaimed affections he found a recipient in a large poodle-dog, to which he was singularly attached. As this animal had an important influence on the ultimate fate of his master, we shall take permission to state that he was not only one of the largest, but one of the most sagacious of his class, a fact which any phrenologist would have surmised from his unusually elevated forehead, and intelligent look. Stationing himself at the open window when his owner was expected home, he seemed to know the hour by intuition, he would nod to him familiarly as soon as he came in sight, and, scampering down stairs, would bark impatiently, till the opening of the door enabled him to leap into his arms, to be patted and fondled. Some of his almost innumerablo tricks were turned to good account, for, at a certain sign, he would fly at a visitor as if he would tear him to pieces, an alarming demonstration which often cleared the room of an importunate dun. Philip himself, from being so constantly attended by his four-footed friend in his evening wanderings, obtained the flattering distinction of being known to cabmen and tavern waiters as “the gemman that belonged to that ere clever poodle.”

From the club meetings he was never absent, and when his master was called upon for a song, he would erect himself on his hind legs, place his forepaws on the table, and look up in his face with a nod and an expression that unmistakeably said “do, there's a good fellow.” At its conclusion he thumped the board as vehemently with his approving paw as others with their fist ; sympathising with every roar of laughter, and occasioning its frequent renewal by distending his jaws and emitting canine cachinations of an almost hysterical heartiness. To this comical quadruped his owner had facetiously given the name of “Unicorn,” because he had only got one ear, th other having been cut off by a butcher's boy, whom he had injudiciously attacked for insisting on pay ment of a biii.

From the reckless mode of life we have been describing, it may easily be imagined that Philip's pecuniary embarrassments kept constantly increasing. Twice had he been arrested, and bailed out by his tailor, an

old man who had taken a fancy to him, from his light-hearted manner and waggish discourse, even though he was unable to pay him more than half his bill. Perhaps the creditor was a conscientious Snip, and deemed this a fair profit. Such, indeed, was the fascination of Philip's face, combined with his merry nonsensical rattling, that several tradesmen gave him more credit than they would have granted to a more solvent person, thus placing temptations in his way, which he wanted courage to resist.

His circumstances at length became desperate ; ruin, fresh arrests, and inevitable dismissal from the office, seemed to be hanging over his head; and in this forlorn posture of affairs, he invited Crawley to his lodgings, that he might consult with him as to the best course to be adopted. The growl of the poodle, who could never be civil to the coming visitant, announced his approach, when Philip's melodious voice began to sing, in a jocund strain, that seemed to mock at melancholy,–

“ There's a difference, I ween,
'Twixt a beggar and a queen,

And I'll tell you the reason why,
A queen cannot stagger,
Nor get drunk, like a beggar,

And that's all the difference, say I." “ In the name of wonder,” said his friend, “why are you carolling this vulgar old ditty at such a time as this ?”

“ Because I myself am a beggar, utterly bankrupt, cleaned out, have played my last card, and yet, perhaps I am not so beggarly as some that are better off, for they want what, they have, while I have only lost what I had. Honest Peter!—I beg your pardon--Peter, I mean, as you were once in a special pleader's office, you ought to know that there are differences that resemble, and resemblances that differ. For instance, an old aunt of mine once asked me the difference between a Scotch writer to the signet and an English lawyer. The same,' said I, as between a crocodile and an alligator, which, under varying designations, form the same beast of prey. So is there a material distinction between a highwayman and a physician, though it only consists in the change of a conjunction ; for the one says, your money or your

life;' while the other says, “your money and your life.' So, again, you and I are both lawyer's clerks, but we wear our rue with a difference, for you are a save-all while I am a spend-all; you always keep--"

“Come, come, Phil.,” interposed his visitant, who feared some impending sarcasm, "all this bantering and nonsense is sadly misplaced, if your plight is so desperate as you state, and I dare say it is, for I always told you that you were galloping along the road to ruin."

“You may have croaked now and then, but your Brekekekex-koax never prevented your travelling with me when there was any thing to be got by the journey. If I had ever been rich, I shouldn't mind being embarrassed, for a fortune, like a cannon-ball, will go on for some time after it is spent ; but when a paltry pittance, like mine, has been forestalled, a fellow is bowled out, stumped, finished, and that is precisely my case.

Don't wag your tail, Unicorn, and shake your head, and look at me so encouragingly. I tell you the game's up.”

“ Your four-footed friend again shakes his bead.” “Stop, Crawley ! love me, love my dog. No slander ; don't call him

« ZurückWeiter »