« PreviousContinue »
quently displays itself in madmen, and men temporarily mad from drink, he cut a little slit with his penknife in the mattress, and into this thrust the bank-notes, crumpled into a small ball. Sim then went to bed, fell into a deep undreaming sleep, and forgot all that had occurred. When he rose next day he perceived from the money on his table that he had been playing-and with success. He sallied forth, and encountered an acquaintance, who congratulated him upon the large sum he had won. Sim denied lustily that he had won more than two or three-and-thirty pounds. His friend rejoined,
'I saw you, and if you won one shilling you won eight or nine hundred pounds.
Simon thought he was hoaxing him, and departed in a huff. But another and another acquaintance bade Sim joy of his winnings, so that he was at last forced into the conviction that he had won the money. But, if he had, he had lost it again. His pocket had been picked either at the hell, or in the street.
Thus was Corinth lost and won!"
Six months had passed away, and Simon still continued to occupy the same bedchamber in the Northumberland coffeehouse, which then stood in the Strand, nearly opposite the mansion of the Percies. Some procession was to pass. Sim's room was borrowed for the occasion, that the sittings at the window might be let, and the bed was taken down. In removing the mattress a housemaid discovered Sim's treasure (nearly seven hundred pounds), and the captain being a favoured lover, she restored it to him entire.
The relief was seasonable. Unfortunately, however, the greater part before long went as it had come, and no second miracle restored it to the loser. A drunken gambler may win once; but he is sure to be ruined in the long run. So was it with our hero. His love for indulging in potations pottle-deep increased, and his ill-success at play went on in proportion. He drank to drive away care. At last everything went-money, credit, standing in society, even hope itself departed. Then commenced the third phasis of his life. For a time he haunted the gaming-tables where he had lost his means of livelihood; he sunk to the rank and society of the hellites, sang when called upon, afterwards acted as a bonnet, and thus existed: but at last was banished even from hell. He now got drunk whenever he could; and whenever he did, was quarrelsome and abusive, and rarely refrained from especially assailing his friends and patrons, the hellites. At length the nuisance became so great, that they were compelled to drive him forth to prey at fortune.'
Nothing remained save his exquisite voice; but even this to another man would have been a fortune. Had he gone on the stage, he might have enjoyed comfort and independence. But, strange as it may seem, his pride revolted at the notion. Yet he had been whilst in the army a constant amateur performer; and there can be no donbt he might have succeeded. No! he preferred sinking into a sort of attendant at the night-taverns. From the proprietors of these he got a dinner (but he rarely cared to dine) or supper, and a couple of goes' of whiskey. No liquor came amiss to him; but he was an Irishman, and sufficiently patriotic to prefer the Irish manufac ture. In consideration of the entertainment afforded by 'mine host' he was to sing when called upon. It was the custom, moreover, for
anybody who wished to hear a particular song, such as The Tinker, The Chairman,' 'Love's young dream,' or the like, to treat the captain with a go. And thus he generally enjoyed as many tum. blers of punch as he could swallow betwixt evening and some six o'clock next morning. He was, likewise, continually receiving crowns, halfcrowns, and shillings, from those who knew him in former days. He made it, however, a rule to spend whatever money he chanced to receive, before he retired to what he was pleased to style his chaste and virtuous bed. His fancy was, whenever he had anything beyond a few pence-to treat others with the proceeds of the bounty conferred upon himself. He would go to the kitchen of the Constitution, and treat the hackney-coachmen to the full extent of his means, presiding with great dignity, and graciously conde scending to entertain his guests by singing after his best manner, and by his capital performances upon a violin borrowed for the occasion. At another time he would betake himself to the Harp-a house of call for the actors, supernumeraries of the theatres, sceneshifters, and so forth, and play Le véritable Amphytryon' for the benefit of these cattle.
A friend of mine one morning put this propensity to the test. A party of us adjourned from Offley's to an early breakfast-house in the neighbouring market, to see a queer chapter in human life, eat fresh eggs, and drink a decoction of roasted corn under the name of coffee. We had Sim with us. He was in high feather. He astonished the weak minds of the market-gardeners by singing
The Tinker,' with the whole of the trombone accompaniments, and slanged a Jew clothesman to admiration. Even the defeated Israelite was obliged, as he gave in, to admit, S'help me God! but you're a clever man!' We were all delighted with Simon, and one of our body presented him with a sovereign. We determined to watch what he did with it. We were not long in doubt: he made straight for Belshaw's gin palace, at the corner of James Street; and as we peeped in, we saw the captain taking a cropper' himself, and presiding over the distribution of croppers' round to a host of basket-women.
Sim's steadiest support was from a set of Irish students-at-law, some of whom are, now that wild youth's past,' distinguished scholars and advocates learned in the law, and some are numbered with the dead. These young men were contemporaries, or nearly so, at the Irish University, and they were, in good sooth, friends. There was but one heart and one purse among them. They were wild dogs, and as frolicsome and mischievous as monkeys. But they were great of heart, hated humbug and sycophancy, and loved each other's society passing well.
It may be well imagined that men of this sort took especial plea. sure in the convivial powers of the captain, and never left him, without a drop to wet his whistle.' But he was an individual whom beyond that it was impossible to serve. There was no use in giving him money; it was equally useless to give him clothes. Dress the old man from head to foot to-day, and you were charmed to see how thoroughly he resumed the air and appearance of a gentleman. Before two days, however, were over, every article, down to the boots, was under avuncular protection, and Sim in the old attire -the broken-down, indestructible military frock, and ragged trow. sers open to every wind from heaven.
During the last ten years of his life Simon's mode of life was systematic, though far from regular. He shunned utterly the garish eye of day, which suited neither his appearance nor his avocations. He rose by evening twilight, discarded breakfast as an idle ceremony, and mizzled down to the Constitution, where he perhaps looked at some dinner, but rarely, from want of appetite, partook of any; then set to at the whiskey-and-water, sad and silent for awhile; like a hedgehog, he never opened until he was wet but a sprinkling answered for his buoyant spirit. The two 'goes' sufficed to enable him s'orienter; and then he blazed out for the evening like the Figaro of Beaumarchais. He transferred himself from the Constitution to Offley's-thence to the Cider-cellarsthence, perhaps, to the Finish, until six o'clock in the morning. He divided a bed in a court off Great Russell Street, with a slater. He had to wait for his share of occupancy until the slater rose to his work. Then Simon turned in; and used to expatiate upon the advantage of being preceded by an animated warming-pan. Threepence a man they paid for their usufruct of this harbour of rest. Their threepence per diem constituted the whole of Sim's personal expenses. The generous public of the night-taverns provided him with everything else. And right good value he gave : he was a delicious singer alike of the Melodies, and of outrageously convivial songs. No man who ever heard the flowing melody
You boarding-school misses, who spend all your lives,' will ever forget his powers. Simon, whilst I knew him, was not alone a great artist, but he carried with him
The monumental pomp of age,'
and, fallen as he was, all who knew him could not refrain from regarding the poor monomaniac with the feelings' tender and true.' Latterly he was expelled from Offley's; and most unfairly, I must say. The captain was supping with some old Peninsulars. Offley took the opportunity of dunning him for an old debt. Sim consigned his soul to the usual keeping, and, strong in the countenanee of his military friends, offered to box Offley for the money. The old fellow was three parts screwed and the fourth sulky; the challenge was accepted; and the fight came off. The publican had all the best of it and did terrible execution on Sim's visage. The captain was upon the very point of being knocked into immortal smash,' when he bethought him of butting like a ram: he ran right into Offley's stomach, and completely disarranged its internal economy by the shock. Offley cast up his accounts in general, while by the same act he forfeited all claim to Sim's in particular, for he was much too busy to come to time. The vanquished had to be removed by his own waiters The victor triumphed, and great was the glorification thereof. But in the morning the mandate went forth, and Simon was for ever excluded from the Offleian mansion. He was seized with his last illness at the Cider-cellars. early in the morning; he was conveyed thence to the parish workhouse, where in a few hours he died. The men who would have spared no expense to procure him the best medical aid, knew nothing of his illness till he was no more. By those who knew him, one and all, it was felt.
'We better could have spared a better man.'
DIARY OF A DINING-OUT MAN.
BY ALBANY POYNTZ.
So, here we are in the season again.-Goodness be praised!— Those country houses take too much out of a man, in return for what he extracts from them. It is well enough in those where one has the ear of the house, as well as the run of the house,—remaining a fixture, while successive parties of guests appear and disappear; for the same bons-mots and good stories serve to amuse his Grace on Friday, which were tried upon the country-neighbour party with success, the preceding Monday, as inoculation was attempted upon criminals, before the royal family were submitted to the prick of the lancet. More particularly when the whole set has been renovated. It is a bore to have some single gentleman, or stationary souffre douleur cousin, on the watch for the point of every well-worn anecdote,-like people at a pantomime, familiar beforehand with the tricks.
Still, even when one makes a hit, the wear and tear of the thing is prodigious. One goes through the work of three dinners per diem;to wit, breakfast, luncheon and dinner, and all without refreshment! In town, one has the chance of the clubs and morning visits to brighten one; but in a country house, where one can only rub up per aid of the new works and periodicals lying on the table, or visits shared in common with the rest of the party, one must fall back on one's own resources,--and the effort is prodigious.
This is the third Christmas I have spent at K-- Park; and decidedly, I must provide for myself elsewhere next winter. Lord Kis such a bore, with his everlasting relations!-that eternal brother and sister-in-law, and the neighbours, Sir John and Lady Wiseacre, seem as completely established there, as the family plate; and it is too much to expect a man to do the agreeable, year after year, to the same people. I saw a smile exchanged between K—— and Lady Theresa, when I began my famous story about Perceval and Michael Angelo Taylor, as much as to say, ' WHAT AGAIN?'-And the Wiseacres, who are as rude as all the rest of the Shropshire squirearchy, told me in plain terms one morning at breakfast, on my attempting to hitch in poor Copley's capital pun about Vale Royal, that they had been circulating it all over the country ever since they heard it from my lips, five years ago!—
Rebuffs of that description are like a blow with a pole-axe. Next Christmas, I will try Yorkshire. Yorkshire is unbroken ground. They are hospitable people, with a good hearty, wholesome laugh at one's service, and a strong capacity for being amused. There is something exhilarating in a fresh audience of that description.
I am sadly afraid, meanwhile, that K Park was a failure !did not do what was expected of me, or what I expect of myself. Several of the dinners were flat as the turbot; and the Duke yawned fifty-four times during the two short days he was there. I saw Lord K-look at me reproachfully, as much as to insinuate that it was my fault; and I have no doubt he said to Lady Theresa, 'I would not have invited Prattles, if I had known how dull he was growing; whereas had not Lady Theresa and her husband been there, I should
have done wonders. Wilmot K is the dullest fellow breathing, and Lady Theresa's cold steadfast éye chills one like a nightmare! (Mem. to book a good story of Lady Theresa's English nursery. maid, who calls the 'nightmare' the coach-mare,'-having caught the word cauchemar from the French bonne.)
To return to K-Park. It would be the deuce and all if a rumour should transpire that our party was fiasco. I had been foolish enough to circulate, far and near, that I was going. It has always a respectable air to be engaged, Christmas after Christmas, to the same country house. Should those yawns of the Duke's, therefore, get into circu lation, the thing may cut me out of pleasant dinner-parties without end. As I mean decidedly to cut K- Park next year, I have a great mind to take the initiative, and proclaim that the party was a lost case. It will be laid to the Kennedys, who were there for the first time. For last Christmas, nothing could be more brilliant than we were; and I was so universally admitted to have been the life and soul of the party, that I was to be invited to all Lady Hunchback's dinners last season, solely on the strength of K-Park.
Yes! the Kennedys shall answer for it. They are vulgar, pushing people, trying everything that false finery will do, to climb into good company. It won't do. There is nothing in either of them congenial with the listless haut ton of the great world. I heard Lady Theresa whisper to the Duke one evening, 'I never saw one of Lord K's parties turn out so ill. Too much quince in the apple-pie -too many monkeys in the menagerie!-One keeps fancying that all those whom these people were invited to entertain, had sent excuses. We have got the chorus; but the soprano and prima donna are absent without leave.'
The Duke replied by one of his best executed yawns!-And after that, K expected one to be agreeable !—
Well!-no matter! Parliament has met and the dinners are beginning. No more country-house work till Easter, except for foxhunters; and to amuse them, heaven be thanked, no one ever dreams of inviting conversation men. The whipper-in suffices.
My first care at the commencement of the season is to look over my list, preparatory to sowing cards for the dinner-crop, and a mel. ancholy task it is!-two or three of my best dowagers are pretty sure to have dropped in the interval, as is the case this very year. There is old Lady Fivecourse, in Berkeley Square, whose cook was really a meritorious artist,-a fellow who will one day rank with the Udes and Francatelles. I called at the door the other day, to inquire what was become of him; and find that one of the executors has bribed him off to Ireland! This is a public loss. Besides which, the man himself is lost. Genius of that description requires an enlightened audience. The Irish are scarcely up to more than roast and boiled. It is throwing pearls before swine to give them such a man as Survilliers, who has glimpses of real inspiration.
I confess I had looked forward to many more pleasant dinner parties at Lady Fivecourse's. There was no more occasion for that woman to die!-though seventy-three, she was as strong as a seventy-four-(mem. book that!)-and might have lived to be a hundred. It was entirely her own doing. She would go dining out, when, with such a cook as Survilliers, it was her duty to dine at home. And then she called in a young apothecary, instead of adhering to Sir Thomas, who