Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]



“Well, then, you'll have money, which is very easy to count,” replied the pertinacious Mrs. Dooey, determined to bring him to book.

"Why, I have money, certainly,” said Charles, after a long pause, during which he sat working at the hat-lining, and wondering at the unexpected turn things were taking! “I have money, to be sure, peated he.

“ In the funds, I suppose ?" observed Mrs. Dooey, adding, “I hope you've nothin' to do with railway shares ; Mr. D. would never have any thing to do with a railway speckilator. Hates them as I do a Puseyite."

"No," replied Charles, “ my money's in Drummond's ?”

“ Exactly so," replied Mrs. Dooey, “ I told you you'd have money ; Drummond's is a good house to have it in, too-dare


it'll return you eight per cent. Is it all there?” asked she.

Yes,” replied Charles ; “except what I've got in my pocket.” “ Well, and how much is there at Drummond's ?" inquired she, coming to the point without further circumlocution.

“ Why, my quarter's allowance is just due,” replied Charles, twisting and cracking away at the lining, “I suppose it will be in-seventy-five pounds,” added he, with a desperate wrench at the lining.

Mrs. Dooey knew all this, though Mrs. Dumps had kindly magnified the allowance into six hundred a-year.

“ Then your herryditaments, wordly goods, and so on are in expectation, not down on the nail,” observed Mrs. Dooey.

“I don't know of any hereditaments, or any thing beyond my allowance,” replied Charles.

“Well, but who gives you your allowance ; who pays it into Drummond's ?” asked Mrs. Dooey.

“My uncle,-my uncle Brown, of Craven Street," replied Charles. “ What is he?" asked Mrs. Dooey. “Nothing that I know of,” replied Charles. “What! has he no place of business ?”

No, not that I know of,” was the answer. “ No brass-plate with · Brown' upon it, or office-bell, or nothin' of that sort on the door in Craven Street ?" continued Mrs. Dooey.

“No,” said Charles.
“Then he'll be rich," suggested Mrs. Dooey.

“I don't know,” replied Charles, thinking he didn't look as if he was.

“Does he powder his footman?" inquired Mrs. Dooey, powder being one of her insignias of wealth.

“ He has no footman to powder," was the answer. “Just a butler, perhaps ?” observed Mrs. Dooey. “No,” replied Charles, “ he has no man-servant at all.” “Waited upon by a woman, is he?" said she. “ The people of the lodgings do all that he wants," replied Charles.

Had not Mrs. Dooey heard that there was something mysterious in the connexion between the uncle and nephew,-indeed, that there was something mysterious about the uncle himself; she would have closed the inquiry, but having ordered the dinner, and having nothing particular to do, she thought she might as well go on with it. “ Your uncle, in course,

feelins with respect to my

darter?" observed Mrs. Dooey, after a pause.

[ocr errors]

Why, no; he doesn't,” stammered Charles, giving a finishing twist to the lining, which had the effect of placing it entirely in his hand.

“Oh, dear; but I wouldn't advise you to do nothin' so important without consultin' him," replied Mrs. Dooey; "matrimony, of all engagements, is the most serious and solemn, and, in the beautiful language of the ceremony itself, should not be undertaken rashly or unadvisedly.”

Charles looked blank, for Mrs. Dooey was reversing the position he thought to occupy—was sending him to ask for a fortune, instead of going the victorious gainer of one.

“ I would really advise you, as a friend, to consult him before you say another word to any body; it's only what a person standin' in the situation he does by you has a right to expect.”

“ I will—I will,” hesitated Charles ; “but you know it was no use speaking to him before I knew Maria would have me.'

" True,” replied Mrs. Dooey; "true,-- but now that that point is settled, I wouldn't lose another moment in apprisin' him. Indeed, if I was you, I'd start off directly, and tell him all about it; make a clean breast on the subject, for, believe me, nothin' of this sort never prospers, unless there's most perfect candour and honesty on both sides."

“W-e-ll,” drawled Charles, quite nonplussed.

“And ask him, in course,” continued Mrs. Dooey, thinking, perhaps, she had not been explicit enough, " and ask hin, in course, exactly how you stand with him ; I means in regard to money matters, for, believe ine, the matrimony is a much more expensive amusement, if I may apply a term of such levity to so honourable a state,-a much more expensive amusement,” repeated she, with an emphasis, “ than boys and girls, that's to say, young people, generally suppose; however, now I think we understand each other perfectly,” continued she, as she saw the effect of the last recommendation on the silk lining of the hat, which now followed the leather.

“Well, I'll ask my uncle, certainly,” stammered he,-"certainly ask my uncle-ask my uncle, certainly; but with regard to the expensethat's to say, with reference to getting married I should suppose—it's just my own idea, of course- but I should think, that will all depend upon how it's done—I mean to say, whether we give a great deal of cake away, and all that sort of thing."

Oh, my dear sir!" snapped Mrs. Dooey, vexed at having so much simplicity to contend with, "it's not the expense of the weddin' day that I'm talkin' of,—it's not the expense of the weddin' day, that's a very small matter in the bill of life ; besides, no one with the slightest pretension to gentility thinks of givin' cake ; it's the expense of housekeepin' —the expense of horse-keepin', carriages, hay, horses—the expenses of progeny- the education—the accomplishments--the playin' the harpthe milliner's bills, the balls, the concerts, that runs away with the money; to say nothin' of boys smokin' cigars, rowin' boats, boxin' their tutors, gallopin' races, Ayin' kites ; that's to say, drawin' bills of exchange, outrunnin' the constable, playin' hell and Jemmy, as Mr. D. says, when he thanks his stars he hasn't any." “ Tommy," interposed Charles, with an emphasis.

Ay, Tommy's the term,” assented Mrs. Dooey, in the same strain, adding, with a significant nod, “ I see you know all about it. Well, now," continued she, summing up, "ali these things require caution, forethought, and calkilation, and must be done before, as they can't be done after. So now let me advise you to go and see your uncle, and ask him what he'll do for you—that's to say how much money he'll give you, where his herryditaments lie, and make yourself generally master of his affairs, so as to be able to answer Mr. Dooey satisfactorily. I makes no doubt,” continued she, “ you'll find all right and satisfactory. I means to say that you'll find your uncle quite agreeable and ready to do every thing generous and handsome. I'm sure he'll

agree with me, that there's nothin' like young men marryin' betimes—it keeps them out of no end of mischief. I make no doubt that you are a most proper young man, and I shall be most happy to have you for a son-in-law ; but then it's a duty I owe to my darter, not to let her affections be engaged until all the

preliminaries are arranged-in short, until I know," she would have added, “ what you have”—but thinking that might be coming it rather too strong, she rounded it off with that the union will be agreeable to your friends."

So saying, she extended her motherly hand, and ringing the bell, transferred him to the footman instead of to her daughter.


O my prophetic soul, my uncle !

NOTWITHSTANDING Mrs. Dooey's predictions, Charles sought the afternoon train that was to convey him to his uncle, with feelings of any thing but confidence. Indeed, Mrs. Dooey's avowed expectations, that that honoured individual would do all that was handsome, tendered rather to depress than encourage him, for in the first place Charles doubted the uncle's ability to do more for him than he was then doing, and secondly, he could not but feel that without something more, he had a very poor chance of gaining his lady-love--at all events, of getting dear Mrs. Dooey's consent to their marriage.

He got his ticket at the Glauberend railway station, and took his place in the corner of one of the softly-cushioned, splendidly furnished railway carriages, with very different feelings to those with which he responded to Moley's summons to come down. He felt in a state of complete bewilderment—as if he had compressed the troubles, cares, and excitements of a life-time into a single day. In the multiplicity of thoughts and fears that crowded on his mind, he hardly knew where to begin to sort his ideas.

The old straw-bottomed stage coaches, slow, tiresome, and tedious as they were, had one negative recommendation—that of promoting methodical reflection. A man shut up in one of those abominations for twenty or thirty hours at a stretch, had ample time to try a question in every point of view, and consider a subject in all its bearings. We make no doubt that many a weighty matter has been discussed, and many a strong resolve formed, in those cramped conveyances. A railway train affords nothing of this sort. It is all slide, glide, oily and smooth, none of those joltings, shakings, rattlings, and variations of pace that tend to the collision of ideas, and consequent unravelment of the tangled skein of the mind. Charles had hardly got the thread ends of his ideas drawn out and arranged under the heads of “Amelia," “ Mamma," “ Uncle," and so on, ere the shrill wild whistle was followed by an easy glide into the London station, and the general delivery of the inhabitants of the flying villages on to the platform.

There are few more difficult cards to play than those of the expectant heir. The natural heir, the “ father's own son,” as the nurses say, is easy enough. The sire sees reflected in the son the past image of himself, and even if the son does play “hell and Jemmy,” as Mrs. Dooey said, the likeness may be none the less faithful on that account. But the doubtful heir, the distant relative, these are the cards whose difficulty increases as the web of relationship becomes more attenuated.

A London evening was closing in as a patent “ Handsom" with Charles Summerley ensconced in one corner, rumbled along the now silent Strand. The great tide of population that fills it throughout the day had ceased to flow. and had been succeeded by a race who didn't seem as if they had much to do.

Seedy gentlemen eyeing shirt collars and fronts in hosiers' windows, amorous youths of the early closing movement staring at pastry-cooks' pretty assistants, and peripatetic newsmongers reading the papers in the publishers' windows. The only perceptible activity was in the playbill boys persecuting carriage windows, fülly persuaded that the inmates were all bound for the theatre, and a nimble, gaslight-man, who was up and down his ladder, leaving traces of his visit in a glow-worm sort of light all along his line.

At length the cab stopped at the end of Craven Street, and Charles having escaped the usual wrangle by giving the driver a sovereign in mistake for a shilling, which the lynx-eyed Jehu having detected, drove off at a pace that while it awoke Charles to the fact, left all chance of recovery quite out of the question. With mingled feelings of vexation and fear he turned down the dread street.

With houses as with people, there are some that are strikingly repugnant-houses that look as if they never knew an owner's care save perhaps the care of that most careless of all caretakers—the Court of Chanceryhouses that look as if they had been bought by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for street improvements, but that somehow never came down. There is generally one or two such in every street, and which serve to keep their less dirty neighbours in countenance.

66 Talk of our house, indeed!" exclaims Mr. Clartey, “ I'm sure our house is a perfect picture compared to Mrs. Snooks's over the way.'

The uncle’s was one of the dirtiest of the dirty. The door was low and the passage sunk, the house was high and narrow, three windows in width, whose begrimed sashes had long been innocent of paint, and upon whose dull panes of shabby glass the very rain drops hung in great leechlike stains. The bricks and mortar partook of the general unhealthiness of the whole, and had a dull drab, crumbling sort of look. The once white door post of the old black door, was plentifully studded with bells of different sorts and patterns, stuck carelessly in without regard to order or appearance-some were labelled with the names of the apartments to which they belonged, “parlour bell,” “ first floor front," and so on, while others had the occupiers' names, "Thos. Jones, Engraver and Copper-plate Printer;" “ Ephraim Levi, Merchant Tailor-Wardrobes Purchased;" “ Thomas Smith, Music-Master,” &c.— There was no John Brown. .

" Is my uncle in ?" asked Charles of a wretched slip-shod dirty bundle of rags in the shape of an any-aged female who responded to his gentle tinkle of the area bell.

“Step in, sir,” said she, quite gaily, agreeably surprised at finding a smart young man, instead of a weary match woman or pincushion-selling beggar, as she expected.

She receded along the dark passage, and leaning over the stair bannisters, screamed out,

“ Mrs. G! Mrs. G! is old B. in ? is old B. in?" “Don't know,” responded a voice from below. “Who wants him ?”

"The young gent as calls," replied the questioner. “ Never mind," continued she, addressing Charles in the passage, “ I'll run up and see."

Accordingly she went bounding up the narrow, winding, intricate staircase, three steps at a time, and was presently heard saluting a door at the top of the house with a loud single knock. Charles stood with a palpitating heart, almost hoping he may not be in.

A low “ Who's there?" sounded all the way down the stairs, and might have saved the maid-of-all-work the trouble of shouting “Cone hup, sir ! come hup!"

Charles was now “in for it," and the full force of his situation flushed upon him. He knew nothing of the individual he was about to address on so interesting and delicate a subject ; he knew nothing of his ideas, views, or opinions on the matter of matrimony, above all he doubted his ability to serve him eveu if he had the will ; slowly and demurely he paced up the close ill-ventilated staircase, wishing most heartily that he was coming down again.

At last he stood before the dread door-a low crooked black one made in the commonest way, and of the thinest wood, with a common iron latch handle-Charles's gentle tap was answered by the saine

" Who's there?” as he heard down stairs.

“Me-Charles-your nephew, sir,” gasped Charles, almost in as big a fright as he was when Mrs. Dooey was overnauling him.

"Come in, my man,” replied the voice, and placing his thumb on the latch, Charles lifted it up and opened the door.

It was a back room with a single window looking against a dead brick wall two or three yards off, and the old man had just lighted a niserable mould candle with a lucifer match, which still smelt through the apartment. Fire there was none. The room was low and angular, evidently forming a corner of the house, and the ceiling was of unequal height towards the centre, looking as though, small as it was, it had once been two. A ragged, faded, green and drab Scotch carpet occupied the middle of the uneven floor, leaving a spacious margin of dirty dry rotten-looking boards on the side that was not occupied with a formidable pile of tin and other boxes of capacious size and various make. The furniture consisted of three rush-bottomed, and two very frail-looking cane-chairs, a dull oval table, on which stood a little ink bottle with a couple of stumps of well-begrimed pens alongside.

The slender mould had gained such an ascendency over the darkness as Charles entered, as to show the dim outline of a low curtainless bed through the open door beyond.

Well, my man, and what's brought you here at this time of night?” asked Brown, Aourishing the block-tin candlestick about so as to throw the light upon the enterer. Brown had so far made preparations for bed

« ZurückWeiter »