Page images

Suppose, signors, I should turn out to be some eccentric noble. man in disguise,-or odd fish of an amateur, collecting musical tribute to win a wager,—or, suppose

'Have done with thy supposes!' cried the impatient and satiricalnosed gentleman.

Or, suppose-Uncle Timothy! Here, with the quickness and adroitness of a practised mimic, the voice was changed in an instant, the coal-black wiry wig thrown off, the bushy imperial sent to look after the stray mustachios, the thread-bare camblet cloak and rusty beaver cast aside, and the chaffing, quaffing, loud-laughing laureat of Little Britain stood confessed under a stucco of red ochre !

'Was there ever such a mountebank varlet!' shouted the middleaged gentleman, holding fast his two sides. 'And d'ye think,' leering with the rich unctuous humour of Jack Falstaff,—' d'ye think I didn't know you?'

'As my Lad of the Castle did the true Prince!' replied Mr. Bosky. I followed close upon your skirts, and dogged you


Dogged me, puppy!'

'Mr. Moses, the old clothesman, provided my mendicant wardrobe, and mine host lent the harp, which belongs to an itinerant musician, who charms his parlour company with sweet sounds. I intended, dear Uncle Timothy, to surprise and please you.'

And in truth, Benjamin, (for 'tis useless to deny it,) thou hast done both. I am surprised and pleased! And drawing nearer, with a suppressed voice, he added, 'When sick and sorrowful, sing me that old harper's song. When unkindness and ingratitude have done their worst, and thou only art left to smoothe my pillow, and close my eyes, sing me that old harper's song!

"Twill make me pass the cup of anguish by,
Mix with the blest, nor know that I had died.'

The laureat of Little-Britain hurried out of the room, as he said, for water to wash the red paint off his face. But a flood of tears had well-nigh done that office ere he reached the spring.

'And you, Jacob Jollyboy, to plot against me in conjunction with my buffooning nephew, and that Israelitish tatterdemalion retailer of cast-off duds, Mr. Moses!' cried the satirical-nosed gentleman, labouring hard to conceal his emotion under a taking-to-task frown exceedingly imposing and ludicrous.

Mr. Jollyboy looked all confusion and cutlets. 'Where do you expect to go when you die?'

of the Clough and William of Cloudsley, the Wife lapt in a Morels Skin, the.Sak full of Nuez, Elynor Rumming, and the Nutbrown Maid.




"What should I rehearz heer, what a bunch of Ballets and Songs, all auncient; as Broom broom on hill, So Wo iz me begon, troly lo, Over a Whinny Meg, Hey ding a ding, Bony lass upon a green, My hony on gave me a bek, By a bank as I lay: and a hundred more he hath fair wrapt up in parchment, and bound with a whip cord. To stay ye no longer heerin, I dare say he hath as fair a library for theez sciencez, and as many goodly monuments both in prose and poetry, and at after noonz can talk az much without book, as ony inholder betwixt Brainford and Bagshot, what degree soever he be.'

'Where Uncle Timothy goes, and 'je suis content,' as the Frenchman said to not half so dainty a dish of smoking-hot Scotch collops as I have the honour to set before you.' And Mr. Jollyboy breathed, or rather puffed again.

Alas! alas!' groaned the middle-aged gentleman, the rogue's cramp sayings have infected even my taciturn host of the Tabard !' The cloth was laid as if by magic, and the odoriferous dish deposited.

'Soh! Bosky's himself again!' And the laureat,

Neat, trimly drest,
Fresh as a bridegroom,' and his face new wash'd,

entered, and with his usual urbanity did the honours of the suppertable.

The Scotch collops having been despatched with hearty good will, Uncle Timothy restricted our future libations to one single bowl. And mind, Benjamin, only one!' This was delivered with pecu. liar emphasis. Mr. Bosky bowed obedience to the behest; and, as a nod is as good as a wink, he nodded to Mr. Jollyboy, who took the hint and the order.

The bowl was brought in, brimming and beautiful, with roasted crabs hissing on its oily surface; and it was five good acts of a comedy to watch the features of Uncle Timothy. He first gazed at the bowl, then at the landlord, then at the laureat, then at us, and then at the bowl again!

'Pray, Mr. Jollyboy,' he inquired, 'call you this a bowl, or a cauldron ?'

Mr. Jollyboy solemnly deposed as to its being a real bowl; the identical bowl in which six little Jollyboys at sundry times and divers periods had been christened.


Is it your intention, Mr. Jollyboy, to christen us too? Let it be tipplers, then, mine host of the Tabard !'

'As to the christening, Uncle Timothy, that would be nothing very much out of order-seeing

That some great poet says, I'll take my oath,
Man is an infant, but of larger growth.


Besides,' argued Mr. Bosky, Socratically, the dimensions of the bowl were not in the record; and as I thought we should be too many for a halfcrown sneaker of punch—'

'You thought you would be too many for me! And so you have been. Sit down, Mr. Jollyboy, and help us out of this dilemma of your and Benjamin Bosky's brewing. Take a drop of your own physic.'

Mr. Jollyboy respectfully intimated he would rather do that than break his arm; and took his seat at the board accordingly.

But,' said Uncle Timothy, let us have the entire dramatis persone of the harper's interlude. We are minus his groom of the stole. Send our compliments over the way for Mr. Moses.'

Mr. Moses was summoned, and he sidled in with a very high stock, with broad pink stripes, and a very low bow-hoping de gentlemensh vash quite vell.'


'Still,' cried Mr. Bosky, we are not all mustered. The harp!'



And instantly the laureat with flying fingers touch'd the' wires. 'A song from uncle Timothy, for which the musical bells of St. Saviour's tell us there is just time.' He then struck the instrument to a lively tune, and the middle-aged gentleman sang with appropriate feeling,


'Old Tabard! those time-honoured timbers of thine,
Saw the pilgrims ride forth to St. Thomas's shrine;
When the good wife of Bath
Shed a light on their path,

And the squire told his tale of Cambuscan divine.
From his harem th' alarum shrill chanticleer crew,
And uprose thy host and his company too;
The knight rein'd his steed,
And a "Gentles, God speed!"
The pipes of the miller right merrily blew.
There shone on that morning a halo, a ray,
Old Tabard! round thee, that shall ne'er pass away;
When the famed Twenty-Nine

At the glorified shrine

Of their martyr went forth to repent and to pray.
Though ages have rolled since that bright April morn,
And the steps of the shrine holy palmers have worn,
As, weary and faint,

They kneeled to their saint

It still for all time shall in memory be borne.

Old Tabard! old Tabard! thy pilgrims are we!
What a beautiful shrine has the Bard made of thee!
When a ruin's thy roof,

And thy walls, massy proof

The ground they adorned ever hallowed shall be.'

[blocks in formation]




'BETTY!-Betty!' shrieked Mrs. Jenks at the top of her voice and the little staircase of a one-pair house, situated in a draught-board sort of square in the vicinity of Stepney- Betty, I say!'

'Yes, mum,' answered the girl, who was on her knees, sedulously employed in giving the narrow flight what Mrs. Jenks termed a 'lick and a promise.'

'What are you about?'

'A-finishing these stairs, mum,' replied Betty.

Bundle off with the "traps" directly, and slip off that blue apron in a jiffy; for, as I'm alive, there's them Browns just come out of the milk shop, and are making for the house. Provoking that they should drop in on a cleaning day, above all other days in the year. This comes o' asking people "any day!" And, I say, Betty.'

'Yes, mum.'

Show 'em into the parlour, d'ye hear; and say as your missus is a-dressing.'

Werry well, mum,' said Betty, and scuttled away, like a dry leaf before an autumnal wind.

Back to her bedroom rushed Mrs. Jenks, where her first care was to shake and arrange the curtains of the bed and windows, and to spread a snow-white Marseilles quilt over the bed. Next came forth her holiday cap, with its gay ribands, from a band-box; her bit o' black silk,' as she designated an useful gown, which had seen two or three years' service on great occasions, and been carefully reposing in lavender for the last three months; a pair of black silk hose, with cotton tops, shoes to match; and, lastly, a stiff-starched habitshirt.

With the celerity of lightning she reviewed her stock, when her smile of satisfaction at the display was suddenly checked, and with a trembling step and hand she rushed to the landing, and impatiently summoned her bustling handmaid, who was busily occupied in putting the 'things' to 'rights in the front parlour.'

'Betty, I say! Is the girl deaf?' stamping with rage.

'Here I am, mum.'

"My best "front," Betty!-in the parlour cupboard. Be quick! My goodness, if the people won't be here!'

Which parlour, mum?'

'The front.'

'In which parlour, mum?'

'You stupid fool!' exclaimed Mrs. Jenks; 'was ever and in the next moment she had flown down the short and narrow flight, and almost overturning the half-bewildered girl, brushed into the front parlour to execute her own errand. The door, however, was locked! This was really vexatious, for Mrs. Jenks was compelled to mount a chair, and snatch the key from the top of the lookingglass, and discover the secret hiding-place to the menial.

But there was no time for reflection; she pounced upon the long

oval box, which had only been returned that morning from the hair-dresser's; and had just scudded away to her dormitory when a vulgar rat-tat' at the street-door announced that her visiters had found out her number.


How tiresome, to be sure-dear me!' soliloquized Mrs. Jenks, as she persevered in her ablutions. That Mrs. Brown is such a prying creature too. She'll be poking her nose into every corner of the room, no doubt, and turning up the table-cover, I dessay, to look at the mahogany; and that lazy baggage has not black-leaded the stove for this month, I declare. Well, if people will pop in upon other people in this fashion, they must put up with what they find ; but it's very galling. Plague take the people !'

Notwithstanding all these troublesome reflections, she managed to throw on' her things in an unusually short space of time, although in her 'flurry' she put both her stockings on the wrong side outwards, bent sundry of her 'best mixed' pins, and snapped one tape in two.

Having at length completed her hasty toilet, and taken a last, satisfactory glance at the glass, she advanced to the head of the



'Yes, mum.'

'Didn't I hear a knock?' inquired Mrs. Jenks.

'It's Mr. and Mrs. Brown, mum.'

'It's on'y us,' said Mrs. B. from the parlour, for the thin partitions of this contract' house allowed every word of the colloquy to be overheard.


'Dear me ! (What a fool you are, Betty!) Do walk up, Mrs. Brown, dear, and take off your things. Don't stand upon any ceremony with an old friend."

Any money but ce-re-mony,' said Mr. Brown, who had been looking over the blinds, and admiring the rurality of the dustcovered trees in the Square,' accompanying his pleasant thoughts by whistling a popular air.


Mrs. Brown, who was of rather a dowdy' figure-in fact, a living illustration of It's as broad as it's long,'-now made her way up the creaking staircase, to the imminent danger of the slender one-inch square balustrades, with a whity-brown paper parcel, enclosing her best cap.

'Well, we threatened to drop in upon you, and here we are at last,' said Mrs. Brown.


'And I am so glad to see you, I'm sure,' replied Mrs. Jenks. So unexpected a pleasure. Come in.'

'How well you're looking, my dear,' remarked Mrs. Brown, and certainly, what with the 'flustration' of the varnish of yellow-soap, Mrs. Jenks' physiognomy did bear a strong resemblance to the ruddy flush of rude health. And really I do like your new house amazingly, the sitiwation is so werry pleasant.'


And hereupon the two ladies entered upon a discussion touching the domestic conveniences. Mrs. Jenks informing Mrs. Brown that there were four rooms, and a lean-to, forming a comfortable kitchen (twelve feet by six !) with such a delightful range; and a yard (five yards by four!) for drying the clothes in: and indeed every comfort and accommodation that a small family could reasonably desire: her

« PreviousContinue »