« PreviousContinue »
"Oh, that there's the day o' the month, is it?' cried Bob, who saw Joanna blush at the moment, and look very archly, while the venerable gentleman chuckled, and drove his fingers into Bob's ribs, and rubbed his hands with great glee. 'I see! Well, I wish you joy with all my heart. In course I stand godfather to the first ?'
* Robert,' cried Joanna, with a most roguish look. 'Lor! how can you go on so ?'
“Oh! but I expect it; and if it's a heir, I'll make him a present of a new hat to begin life with. But when is it to be?'
Vy, as a mutual friend to both,' replied the venerable gentleman, 've don't mind telling of you, cos ve vant you to give avay the bride-hif you'll do us the honner ?
'In course! Oh, yes! You do me proud! Well ?'
"Well, then, Joanna gives vornin' to-morrow; ve shall be arskt for the fust time in church next Sunday ; and as she vill leave on the ninth of next month, the job's to be jobbed on the tenth.'
* Bravo! cried Bob. “The time's drawin' very near! How do you mean to pass the day ?'
“Vy, ve don't think it's vuth vile to make much fuss : ve think that that, under all circumstantials, may be dispensed with ; but ve mean to enjoy ourselves, you know. Ve mean to be jolly. No expense shall be spared. Ve'll ’ave everythink comfortable and regʻlar, you know.'
. Well, all I can say is, I hope you'll be happy.'
“Safe!' replied the venerable gentleman with much ardour; when, turning to his betrothed, he added, Can there be bany doubt about it ?'
Not the least, dear,' replied Joanna, with a most winning smile. "I am sure we shall be happy.
'I should think so ! cried the venerable gentleman. Vot is there to perwent it? I don't mean to say I'm so young as I vos p'raps twenty Pear ago, but vot o' that? The constitution's the p'int! If that's sound and reg'lar, vy vot's the hods ?' • But
you don't look old in my eye, by no means,' observed the affectionate Joanna.
· Don't I ? returned the venerable gentleman, with one of his most fascinating smiles. "You're a rogue ! I know you're a rogue, and there's no mistake of any sort about you. Howsever," he added, looks isn't the p'int: the great and grand thing is the glorious constitution; and, as mine's as sound as a apple, it makes no hods about the hage.'
Joanna agreed with him perfectly, of course ; and, as he shortly after this took leave of his beloved, Bob accompanied him to the nearest public house, with a view of talking matters over in private.
Here Stanley's affairs were again freely canvassed; but, although Bob endeavoured to make things appear as bright as possible, his venerable friend adhered still to the opinion he had expressed – an opinion, the pertect correctness of which was on the following morning, by an act of consummate villany, proved.
THE STAGE-COACHMAN ABROAD.
BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.
The winter of 1838, which visited England with such severity in the month of January, set in much earlier in the north of Germany; and the middle of December, 1837, found the waters of the Elbe encumbered with great quantities of floating ice, which threatened every day to close the navigation of the river. After a sojourn of some months in that part of Europe, I arrived at length at Hamburg during the week of public festivity which announces Christmas. The gaiety which pervaded this bustling city, contrasting forcibly with the dulness of the German towns through which I had recently passed, was almost a sufficient inducement to devote a week to the amusements of Hamburg ; but the state of the river, and the prospect of an overland journey to Amsterdam in the month of December, were considerations of greater weight, and, accordingly, I secured my berth in the John Bull steamer, which was to sail early the next morning, though, at the time I did so, I was in doubt whether my baggage—from which I was separated by the agreeable stagecoach regulations in this part of the world—would arrive in time to allow of my departure.
Although every minute usually appears an hour when we are in expectation, there was no tedium throughout that day; the Jungfernstieg, with its numerous cafés and crowds of people, the fairs in the streets, the attractive shops, where Persia and Russia combined to furnish Christmas comforts, and the novelty of a large city, all offered the means of making the time pass quickly. The table-d'hôte at the Hôtel de Bellevue (where, by the way, they pride themselves on their mock-turtle soup,) was very good, but very duls, there being only three persons at dinner in a salon capable of holding sixty ; and I was glad to be released from it, especially as the arrival of my baggage was at length announced. To order a carriage to be ready at ten o'clock to convey me to the dock-yard,—to change some German coin for English, in which transaction (of course) the waiter cheated me, -and then to wander through the city as chance directed, were all that remained for me; and, having witnessed the humours of the Weihnachts Feste' of Hamburg, I returned to the Bellevue in time for my drosky, and set out for the steamboat. In about half an hour, after paying all the tolls,—which are numerous and heavy-I found myself on the quay, bargaining with a boatman, who undertook to transport me on board for something more than the usual consideration, The augmented price was, however, well earned; for the quantity of ice in the stream rendered our voyage in search of the steamer something like (though at humble distance) an attempt to discover the northwest passage, so often were we compelled to try back in search of clear water, and so necessary was it to avoid collision with the miniature icebergs. At last we reached the John Bull; and I was not sorry to find myself in a warm cabin, with everything safely stowed away, and my meissen pipe diffusing its fragrance in a very satisfactory manner.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, I was not the last to get on board ; but before midnight a large party had assembled. Of these some disappeared to seek their berths, but one group of six or seven-who I afterwards found were pilots going down to Cuxhaven-seemed resolved to make a night of it; and, as they had no berths to go to, they resorted to cards, schiedam, and cigars, to kill the time in the most agreeable manner. At length, when they became too noisy to make it any longer pleasant to remain in their company, I too went below, and by the aid of the dim lamp swinging above the dressing-table in the lower cabin, succeeded at last in finding my roasting-place.
The cabin of a packet when its inmates have retired to bed, presents a singular aspect of confusion : portmanteaus, bags, and hat-boxes strew the floor; great-coats, dressing.cases, travelling-caps, and handkerchiets, cover the tables and chairs; while here and there an upright boot appears to stand the only sentinel over the scattered property. Nor is the berth itself much more attractive : a hard, wiry bolster, that will not accommodate itself to one's head, a counterpane too short, very thin blankets, and a kind of odour that seems to hint that the last occupant was not a very good sailor,----these accompaniments do not make one's berth a bed of down, nor cause instantaneous forgetfulness. But even if the couch afforded all the necessary appliances—which it did not-sleep that night would have been a stranger to my eyes, for the individual in the next berth was one of those obnoxious sleepers who, themselves buried in temporary forgetfulness, have noses that make their hearers wish their rest eternal. I do not know whether I am particularly fastidious; most men have their peculiarities, not to say aversions ; and mine—the chiefestis a man who snores. There is no noise like it; a copper-smith, a caulker, a cooper, are loud in the exercise of their respective callings, but these subside into silence before the nose of the snorer ; a knife-grinder's wheel, or a bagpipe, are bad enough, in all conscience, but they are melodious in comparison ; in short, of all the distressing sounds invented since the world became out of joint,' snoring, in my opinion, is the worst.
My neighbour, whose head rested at my feet, was a proficient in the black art, as it deserves to be called. Long, loud, and deep were his intonations, and such, also, were my maledictions as the noises forced their way through the thin partition that divided us, galvanizing me, as it were, from toe to top. In vain I plied my heels against the board behind which lay the offending organ; a momentary cessation was all that ensued,—a deceitful lull, to be followed by a tempest of snorting more raging than before. Once I succeeded in producing a calm by jerking into the berth a heavy pair of top-boots, which I grasped convulsively from the floor; at another, a vessel of Britannia-metal, despatched on the same errand, elicited a disturbed grunt, a pause, and then the noise broke forth again, so that at length I gave up the contest in despair, and resigned myself to my fate. To one whose nerves are at all irritable, there is no torment like the infliction of snoring. As the Marquis says, in the Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes,' Je le trouve détestable, morbleu ! détestable, du dernier d’testable, ce qu'on appelle d'testable!' and there I lay heaping coals of imaginary fire on the head of the offender, not by any mental promise of forbearance, but by devising what bitter things I would say when confronted next day with the luckless sporer. In the midst of my direst thoughts I fell asleep.
The first thing when I awoke in the morning was to call to mind, though with subdued feeling, the annoyance to which I had been subject ed the night before. The lamp still burnt in the cabin. But the daylight which struggled through the companion, or some other oblique entrance, diminished the general obscurity, and enabled me to distinguish objects with rather more facility than I had done before. As I drew back the curtain of my berth, my vision was greeted by the sight of a stout individual, in his shirt-sleeves, sitting at the table directly opposite, the upper half of whose face wore the rosy hue which nature had laid on, or brandy superinduced, while the lower expanse was covered with a sheet of foaming lather, the daily curse of manhood being then in its course of fulfilment. Disguised as the features were which I thus beheld, there was something familiar in their expression, which seemed to remind me that I had seen them before ; and an instinctive sense at the same time assured me that in the midst of that placia countenance I gazed upon the bulbous nose which had wrought me so much discomfort. I have said that sleep had turned away the sharp edge of my wrath, and Christianity coming to my aid, reminded me that, if I gave vent to invective against a shaving man, I might probably cause him to cut his throat ; I therefore waited in a mood of grim complacence till the process was accomplished. In proportion as the flakes of soap disappeared before the razor, the features of the shaver became more familiar to me; and when the deed was done, I felt convinced that I saw an old acquaintance, though of what place or date I could not remember. Modifying my intentions in consequence, I addressed the unknown in a tone rather of sarcasm than positive offence.
"You sleep soundly, sir,' said I,—very soundly; I wonder you contrived to wake.'
'For the matter o' that,' replied the culprit, 'I do sleep pretty sound when I goes off ; it takes a deal to wake me.'
“So I should imagine, for I tried hard enough last night.'
Wot did you want wi' me? inquired my nocturnal aversion, rubbing his face down with a jack-towel, as if he was grooming a horse ; 'Wot might be your pleasure, sir, if I may make so bold ?'
Why, nothing at present,' I answered, 'unless you snore as loud when you are awake as you do when you're asleep. What I wanted with you last night was to stop the infernal noise you were making.'
• I'm wery sorry, sir, to disoblige any one, let alone a gen'l'm'n in a forrin' land, tho' I believe we're pretty much the same now as if we was on British ground, -but snorin''s an 'abit quite as much as fits is, and when it comes, why there's no stoppin' on it; one might just as well try to stop a runaway team by puttin' on the skid.?
' I'm sorry to hear you say so,' I replied, as a new light began to break in on me; but I think you might prevent it by a little resolution.'
Wot's the use o' resolution if you're not a wolluntary hagent? As I said before, snorin''s jist like fits, and I've seen enuff o'them. Wy, once wen I was a-drivin' over Nettlebed-Hill, a woman as sat behind me, was took wi' fits, and werry bad 'uns they wos. Well, if it hadn't a-been for a gen'l'm'n 'at was on the box heside me, and held her tight by the knee to prevent her from rollin' off the cutch, what would a' bin the consequence ? Wot could I a' done, I ask you, if that 'ere woman had had them there fits, if I'd a' bin alone on that 'ere box, with them there
hosses? Why, she must have tumbled off in stirricks, and got killed ? Do you think she'd a' done that if resolootion could have prewented it? And so I says o' snorin'.'
You speak of Nettlebed,' I observed: 'I think I must have seen you before somewhere in that part of the country.'
Werry likely you have, sir. There's many as knows me wot I don't call to mind; but if so be as you have seen me—it ain't werry impossible but it wos atop of the Oxford Tellygraft, as I've a-driv now for the last nine year.'
Exactly! I exclaimed; that's the very place. I sat beside you once, two or three years ago, between Oxford and Henley, and you gave me an account of an expedition of yours to Antwerp.'
“Ah! I've a-told that 'ere story to a good many gen'l'm'n ; let me see, I think I do remember your face, too, sir, now your nightcap's off. Warn't I a-drivin' a grey team out o' Oxford and warn't it werry wet weather about that time?'
'I know it rained very hard, but I forget the colour of the horses.'
Well, now, do you know, sir, that's wot I never forgets,-leastways, I always remembers ewents by the team as I drives. Ah! that 'ere near leader wos a prime one. He came down one day though, on a heap of stones, and broke both his knees, and I was forced to part wi' him.'
How far my friend's reminiscences would have extended I know not; but, being more curious to know what brought him aboard the John Bull at Hamburg than to learn the fate of his horses, I turned the current of his thoughts to the present.
But,' said I, “how comes it that I find you so far from home at this season of the year, and in such a country as the one we are leaving?
•Why, sir," he answered, “that 'ere is the curos part of the story. I've been on a sort of hembassy, as I may say ; leastways, I was employed on a werry delicate ondertaking, wot couldn't a' been confided to everybody: I've been hactin' as state-cutchman to the King of Hanover, and conducted his stud from England.'
• How came that to pass ?? I inquired.
• Why, sir, tho' I've a-bin drivin' most principally on the Oxford road, I warn't unbeknown about the Pallis, and down at Kew, and Booshy, and Windsor, and one of my arnts is married to the Dook's—that is, the King's head cutchman ; so, as my principles was reg'lar conserwative, and bisness was slack, I accepted the hoffer of bringin' over his Majesty's hosses to this here country, where I've been a-stayin' till sich time as I'd taught them Jarmans how to drive. They're good ones at breaking-in of ridin'-hosses, and sets capital ; but, as to drivin', I'm blest if they can do that by no manner o' means. Why, if a hoss was to kick both legs over the pole, they'd go on a-drivin' as if nothin' had happened,—I've seen 'em do it; and, as to keepin' of a team well in hand, they doesn't know wot it means."
* Well, I hope they have profited by your example and experience. I should like to know how you got on while you were in Hanover ; but it's time to dress, and after breakfast we'll talk it over. I am very glad to have met you again.'
The same by you, sir,' rejoined my friend, who by this time was completely apparelled; and with your leave, sir, I'll go up and see