« PreviousContinue »
ful society, from which Dr. Black, the smart rather faded, but still pleasing, and sufficiently young physician, and Mr. White, the keen, dependent on her mother's life-income, to find sharp, clever Jawyer, and Mr. Brown, the in Mr. Knight's large fortune, to say nothing! spruce curate of the parish, and even Mr. of his excellent qualities, an adequate comGreen, the portly vicar, were excluded. I pensation for his want of beauty. It was al." did not so much wonder at their admiring Mr. liogether a most suitable match, and so proKnight for his ugliness, which was so gro- nounced by the world at large, with the solitesque and remarkable, as to be really prepos- tary exception of Mrs. Patience, who, though sessing—it was worth one's while to see any thus effectually secured from the attentions of thing so complete in its way; but I did a her imputed admirer, by no means relished the i little marvel at his constancy to this bevy of means by which this desirable end had been belles, for, strange and uncouth as the man accomplished. She sneered at the bride, was, there was an occasional touch of slyness abused the bridegroom, found fault with the and humour about him, and a perpetual flow bride-cake, and finally withdrew herself enof rough kindness, which, joined with his tirely from her former associates, a secession large property, would easily have gained him by which, it may be presumed, her own comthe entré into more amusing circles. Perhaps fort was more affected than theirs. he liked to be the sole object of attention to She now began to complain of solitude, and six ladies, albeit somewhat past their prime; to talk of taking a niece to reside with her, a perhaps he found amusement in quizzing them commodity of which there was no lack in the -he was wicked enough sometimes to war- family. Her elder brother had several daughrant the supposition ; perhaps-for mixed mo- ters, and desired nothing better than to see one! tives are commonly the truest in that strangely of them adopted by Mrs. Patience. Three of compounded biped man-a little of both might these young ladies came successively on trial influence him; or perhaps a third, and still -pretty lively girls, so alike, that I scarcely niore powerful inducement, might lurk behind remember them apart, can hardly assign to as yet unsuspected.-Certain it is, that every them a separate individuality, except that, evening he was found in that fair circle, cor- perhaps, Miss Jane might be the tallest, and dially welcomed by all its members except Miss Gertrude might sing the best. In one my godmamma. She, to be sure, minced and particular, the resemblance was most striking, primmed, and tossed her head, and thought their sincere wish to get turned out of favour they should have been better without him; and sent home again. No wonder ! A dismal and although she admitted him to the privi- life it must have seemed to them, used to the lege of visiting at her house, to the coffee, liberty and gaiety of a large country house, the green tea, the chit-chat, the rubber, the full of brothers, and sisters, and friends, a cake and the liqueur, she carefully refrained quiet indulgent mother, a hearty hospitable from honouring with her presence, the annual father, riding, and singing, and parties and party at his country farm, where all the other balls ; a doleful contrast it must have seemed ladies resorted to drink syllabub, and eat to them, poor things, to sit all day in that strawberries and cream; pertinaciously re- nicely furnished parlour, where the very chairs fused to let him drive her out airing in his seemed to know their places, reading aloud handsome open carriage, and even went so some grave, dull book, or working their fingers far as to order her footman not to let him in to the bone, (Mrs. Patience could not bear to when she was alone.
see young people idle,) walking just one mile Besides her aversion to mankind in general, out and one mile in, on the London road; dinan aversion as fierce and active as it was ing tête-a-tête in all the state of two courses groundless, she had unluckily, from having and removes; playing all the evening at backbeen assailed by two or three offers, obviously gammon, most unlucky if they won, and going! mercenary, imbibed a most unfounded suspi- to bed just as the clock struck ten! No woncion of the whole sex; and now seldom looked der that they exerted all their ingenuity to at a man without fancying that she detected make themselves disagreeable; and as that is in him an incipient lover; sharing, in this re- an attempt in which people who set about it spect, though from a reverse motive, the com- with a thorough good-will, are pretty certain mon delusion of the pretty and the young. to succeed, they were discarded, according to She certainly suspected Mr. Knight of matri- their wishes, with all convenient dispatch. monial intentions towards her fair self, and as Miss Jemima was cashiered for reading certainly suspected him wrongfully. Mr. novels, contrary to the statutes made and proKnight had no such design; and contrived vided-Belinda, the delightful Belinda, sealed most effectually to prove his innocence, one her fate. Miss Gertrude was dismissed for fair morning, by espousing Miss Harden, on catching cold, and flirting with the apothecary, whom, as she sat dutifully netting by the side a young and handsome son of Galen, who of her mamma, at one corner of the card was also turned off for the same offence. Miss table, I had myself observed him to cast very Jane's particular act of delict has slipt my frequent and significant glances. Miss Har- memory, but she went too. There was some den was a genteel woman of six-and-thirty, talk of sending little Miss Augusta, the young
est of the family, but she, poor child ! never | unsuccessful enough—a lamp being a sort of made her appearance. She was her father's machine that never will submit to female difavourite, and probably begged off; and they rection; a woman might as well attempt to had by this time discovered at the Hall, that manage a steam engine. The luminary in their young lasses had been used to too much question was particularly refractory. It had freedom to find the air of Chapel Street agree four burners, which never, for the three nights with them. The only one we ever saw again which she continued in office, were all in acwas Miss Jemima, who, having refused a rich tion together. Some sent forth long tongues baronet, a good deal older than herself, for no of flame, like those which issue from the crabetter reason than not liking him, was sent to ter of a volcano, giving token of the crash her aunt's on a visit of penitence; a sort of that was to follow ; some popped outright, house of correction - an honourable banish- without warning; and some again languished, ment. I believe in my heart that the fair cul- and died away, leaving behind them a most prit would have preferred the Tread-Mill or unsavoury odour. At last the restive lamp Botany Bay, had she her choice; but there was abandoned to the butler, and light restored was no appeal from the lettre de cachet which to the drawing-room; and had Miss Patience had consigned her to Mrs. Patience's care and taken a lesson from this misadventure, all admonitions, so she took refuge in a dumb re- might have gone well. sentment. I never saw any one so inveterately But Miss Patience was not of a temperament sullen in my life. One whole week she re- to profit by her own errors. She went on from mained in this condition, abiding, as best she bad to worse; disobliged Flora by plunging might, her aunt's never-ending lectures, and her in the wash-tub, to the great improvement the intolerable ennui of the house, during a of her complexion; made an eternal enemy foggy November. The next, the rejected lover of Daphne, by a fruitless attempt to silence arrived at the door, and was admitted ; and her most noisy tongue; and, finally, lectured before she had been three weeks in Chapel Mrs. Patience herself for scolding about noStreet, Sir Thomas escorted her home as his thing. In short, she was a reformer, honest, intended bride. They were right in their cal. zealous, uncompromising, and indiscreet, as culations; rather than have passed the winter ever wore petticoats. She had in her head with Mrs. Patience, the fair Jemima would the beau ideal of a perfect domestic governhave married her grandfather.
ment, and would be satisfied with nothing Another niece now made her appearance, less. She could not let well alone. So that who, from circumstances and situation, seemed she had not been a month in that well-ordered peculiarly fitted for the permanent companion and orderly house, before her exertions had and heiress-the orphan daughter of a younger thrown every thing into complete disorder; brother, lately deceased, who had left this only the servants were in rebellion, the furniture child but slenderly provided for. Miss Pa- topsy-turvy; and the lady, who found herself tience (for she was her aunt's namesake) was likely to be in a situation of that dynasty of a young woman of two-and-twenty, brought French kings who reigned under a maire du up in a remote parsonage, without the advan-palais, in a very justifiable passion. This tage of any female to direct her education, rightful anger, was, however, more moderately and considerably more unformed and unpol- expressed than had usually happened with isbed than one is accustomed to see a young Mrs. Patience's causeless indignation. The lady in this accomplished age. She was a aunt remonstrated, indeed, and threatened ; good deal like her aunt in person-far more but the niece would not stay. She was as than comported with beauty-large-boned and unbending as an oak-tree; rejected all comred-haired, and looking at least ten years older promise ; spurned at all concession; abjured than she really was. Ten years older, too, all rich relations; and returned to board at a she was in disposition; staid, sober, thought- farm-house in her old neighbourhood. After ful, discreet; would no more have read a novel this contumacy, her name was never heard in or flirted with an apothecary, than Mrs. Pa- Chapel Street; and for some time the post of tience herself.
companion remained vacant, Aunt and niece seemed made for each other. Ai length Mrs. Patience began to break, But somehow they did not do together. One visibly and rapidly, as the very healthy osten does not quite know why-perhaps because do, affording so affecting a contrast with their they were too much alike. They were both former strength. In her the decline was great managers; but Miss Patience had been merely bodily; neither the mind nor the used to a lower range of household cares, and temper had undergone any change ; but her tormented mistress and servants by unneces- increasing feebleness induced her medical atsary savings and superfluous honesty. Then tendants to recommend that some one should she was too useful; would make the tea, be provided to sit with her constantly; and would snuff the candles, would keep the keys; as she protested vehemently against any faraffronted the housekeeper by offering to make ther trial of nieces, the object was sought the pastry, and the butler by taking under her through the medium of an advertisement, and care the argand lamp; which last exploit was ' appeared to be completely attained when it produced Miss Steele. How Miss Steele , bands of haymakers which enliven the meashould have failed to please, still astonishes (dows; and that the primroses, which begin to me. Pliant, soothing, cheerful, mild, with a unfold their pale stars by the side of the green wonderful command of countenance and of lanes, bear marks of the slow and weary temper, a smiling aspect, a soft voice, a per- female processions, the gangs of tired yet petual habit of assentation, and such a power talkative bean-setters, who defile twice a day over the very brute beasts, that Flora would through the intricate mazes of our cross-counget up to meet her, and Daphne would wag try roads. These are general associations, as her tail at her approach-a compliment which well known and as universally recognized as that illustrious pug never paid before to wo- the union of mince-pies and Christmas. I man. Every heart in Chapel Street did Miss have one, more private and peculiar, one, perSteele win, except the invulnerable heart of haps, the more strongly impressed on my mind, Mrs. Patience. She felt the falseness. The because the impression may be almost conhoney cloyed; and before two months were fined to myself. The full flush' of violets over, Miss Steele had followed the pieces. which, about the middle of March, seldom
After this her decline was rapid, and her fails to perfume the whole earth, always latter days much tormented by legacy-hunters. brings to my recollection one solitary and A spendthrift nephew besieged her in a morn- silent coadjutor of the husbandman's labours, ing—a miserly cousin came to lose his six- as unlike a violet as possible-Isaac Bint, the pences to her at backgammon of an afternoon mole-catcher. La subtle attorney and an oily physician had I used to meet him every spring, when we each an eye to her hoards, if only in the form lived at our old house, whose park-like padof an executorship; and her old butler, and dock, with its finely-elumped oaks and elms, still older housekeeper, already rich by their and its richly-timbered hedge-rows, edging savings in her service, married, that they into wild, rude, and solemn fir-plantations, might share together the expected spoil. She dark, and rough, and hoary, formed for so died, and disappointed them all. Three wills many years my constant and favourite walk. were found. In the first, she divided her Here, especially under the great horse-chestwhole fortune between Flora and Daphne, nut, and where the bank rose high and naked and their offspring, under the direction of six above the lane, crowned only with a tuft of trustees. In the second, she made the Coun- golden broom; here the sweetest and prettiest ty-hospital her heir. In the third, the legal of wild flowers, whose very name hath a and effectual will, after formally disinheriting charm, grew like a carpet under one's feet, the rest of her relations, she bequeathed her enamelling the young green grass with their whole estate, real and personal, to her honest white and purple blossoms, and loading the niece Patience Wither, as a reward for her air with their delicious fragrance; here I used independence. And never was property bet- to come almost every morning, during the vioter bestowed; for Patience the Second added let-tide: and here almost every morning I was all that was wanting to the will of Patience sure to meet Isaac Bint. the First; supplied every legacy of charity. I think that he fixed himself the more firmand of kindness; provided for the old servants ly in my memory by his singular discrepancy and the old pets, and had sufficient left to with the beauty and cheerfulness of the secure her own comfort with a man as upright scenery and the season. Isaac is a tall, lean, and as downright as herself. They are the gloomy personage, with whom the clock of most English couple of my acquaintance, and life seems to stand still. He has looked sixtythe happiest. Long may they continue so ! five for these last twenty years, although his And all this happiness is owing to the natural dark hair and beard, and firm manly stride, right-mindedness and sturdy perception of cha almost contradict the evidence of his supken racter of my cross godmamma.
cheeks and deeply-lined forehead. The stride is awful: he hath the stalk of a ghost. His whole air and demeanour savour of one that comes from under-ground. His appearance is
“ of the earth, earthy." His clothes, hands, THE MOLE-CATCHER. and face, are of the colour of the mould in
which he delves. The little round traps There are no more delightful or unfailing which hang behind him over one shoulder, as associations than those afforded by the various well as the strings of dead moles which emoperations of the husbandman, and the changes bellish the other, are encrusted with dirt like on the fair face of nature. We all know that a tomb-stone; and the staff which he plunges busy troops of reapers come with the yellow into the little hillocks, by which he traces the corn; whilst the yellow leaf brings a no less course of his small quarry, returns a hollow busy train of ploughmen and seedsmen pre- sound, as if tapping on the lid of a coffin. paring the ground for fresh harvests; that Images of the church-yard come, one does woodbines and wild roses, flaunting in the not know how, with his presence. Indeed he blossomy hedge-rows, give token of the gay does officiate as assistant to the sexton in his
capacity of grave-digger, chosen, as it should the owner be solitary, his demesne is suffiseem, from a natural fitness ; a fine sense of ciently populous. A long row of bee-hives congruity in good Joseph Reed, the function extends along the warmest side of the garden ary in question, who felt, without knowing for Isaac's honey is celebrated far and near ; why, that, of all men in the parish, Isaac a pig occupies a commodious sty, at one corBint was best fitted to that solemn office. ner; and large flocks of ducks and geese (for
His remarkable gift of silence adds much which the Penge, whose glades are intersected to the impression produced by his remarkable by water, is famous) are generally waiting figure. I don't think that I ever heard him round a back gate leading to a spacious shed, speak three words in my life. An approach far larger than Isaac's own cottage, which of that bony hand to that earthy leather cap serves for their feeding and roosting-place. was the greatest effort of courtesy that my The great tameness of all these creaturesdaily salutations could extort from him. For for the ducks and geese flutter round him the this silence, Isaac has reasons good. He moment he approaches, and the very pig folhath a reputation to support. His words are lows him like a dog-gives no equivocal testoo precious to be wasted. Our mole-catcher, timony of the kindness of our mole-catcher's ragged as he looks, is the wise man of the nature. A circumstance of recent occurrence village, the oracle of the village-inn, foresees puts his humanity beyond doubt. the weather, charms away agues, tells for- Amongst the probable causes of Isaac's tunes by the stars, and writes notes upon the dislike to women, may be reckoned the fact almanac-turning and twisting about the pre- of his living in a female neighbourhood (for dictions after a fashion so ingenious, that it is the Penge is almost peopled with duck-reara moot point which is oftenest wrong-Isaac ers and goose-crammers of the duck and Bint, or Francis Moore. In one eminent in- goose gender) and being himself exceedingly stance, our friend was, however, eminently unpopular amongst the fair poultry-feeders of right. He had the good luck to prophesy, that watery vicinity. He beat them at their before sundry witnesses--some of them sober own weapons; produced at Midsummer geese -in the tap-room of the Bell-he then sitting, fit for Michaelmas; and raised ducks so prepipe in mouth, on the settle at the right-hand cocious, that the gardeners complained of side of the fire, whilst Jacob Frost occupied them as forerunning their vegetable accomthe left ;-he had the good fortune to foretell, paniments; and “panting peas toiled after on New Year's Day 1812, the downfall of them in vain," In short the Naïads of the Napoleon Bonaparte-a piece of soothsayer- Penge had the mortification to find themship which has established his reputation, selves driven out of B- market by an inand dumfounded all doubters and cavillers ever terloper, and that interloper a man, who had since; but which would certainly have been no right to possess any skill in an accomplishmore striking if he had not annually uttered ment so exclusively feminine as duck-rearing; the same prediction, from the same place, from and being no ways inferior in another female the time the aforesaid Napoleon became first accomplishment, called scolding, to their sisconsul. But the small circumstance is en- ter-nymphs of Billingsgate, they set up a tirely overlooked by Isaac and his admirers, clamour and a cackle which might rival the and they believe in him, and he believes in din of their own gooseries at feeding-time, the stars, more firmly than ever.
and would inevitably have frightened from the Our mole-catcher is, as might be conjec- field any competitor less impenetrable than tured, an old bachelor. Your married man our hero. But Isaac is not a man to shrink hath more of this world about him -- is less, from so small an evil as female objurgation. so to say, planet-struck. A thorough old He stalked through it all in mute disdainbachelor is Isaac, a contemner and maligner looking now at his mole-traps, and now at of the sex, a complete and decided woman- the stars — pretending not to hear, and very hater. Female frailty is the only subject on probably not hearing. At first this scorn, which he hath ever been known to dilate; he more provoking than any retort, only excited will not even charm away their agues, or tell his enemies to fresh attacks; but one cannot their fortunes, and, indeed, holds them to be be always answering another person's silence. unworthy the notice of the stars.
The flame which had blazed so fiercely, at No woman contaminates his household. last burnt itself out, and peace reigned once He lives on the edge of a pretty bit of wood- more in the green alleys of Penge-wood. land scenery, called the Penge, in a snug cot- One, however, of his adversaries-his neartage of two rooms, of his own building, sur-est neighbour-still remained unsilenced. rounded by a garden cribbed from the waste, Margery Grover was a very old and poor well fenced with quickset, and well stocked woman, whom age and disease had bent alwith fruit trees, herbs, and flowers. One most to the earth; shaken by palsy, pinched! large apple-tree extends over the roof-a pretty by penury, and soured by misfortune-a mov. ! bit of colour when in blossom, contrasteding bundle of misery and rags. Two centuwith the thatch of the little dwelling, and re-ries ago she would have been burnt for a lieved by the dark wood behind. Although I witch ; now she starved and grumbled on the
parish allowance; trying to eke out a scanty but those who know the careful ways to which subsistence on the dubious profits gained by necessity trains cottage children, would deem the produce of two geese and a lame gander, credible; and Margery, a woman of strong once the unmolested tenants of a greenish passions, strong prejudices, and strong affecpool, situate right between her dwelling and tions, who had lived in and for the desolate Isaac's, but whose watery dominion had been boy, felt the approach of death embittered by invaded by his flourishing colony.
the certainty that the work-house, always the This was the cause of feud ; and although scene of her dread and loathing, would be the Isaac would willingly, from a mingled sense only refuge for the poor orphan. of justice and of pity, have yielded the point Death, however, came on visibly and rapidto the poor old creature, especially as ponds ly; and she sent for the overseer to beseech are there almost as plentiful as blackberries, him to put Harry to board in some decent cotyet it was not so easy to control the habits and tage; she could not die in peace until he had inclinations of their feathered subjects, who promised; the fear of the innocent child's all peļversely fancied that particular pool; and being contaminated by wicked boys and godvarious accidents and skirmishes occurred, in less women preyed upon her soul; she imwhich the ill-fed and weak birds of Margeryplored, she conjured. The overseer, a kind had generally the worst of the fray. One of but timid man, hesitated, and was beginning her early goslings was drowned—an accident a puzzled speech about the bench and the which may happen even to water-fowl; and vestry, when another voice was heard from the her lame gander, a sort of pet with the poor door of the cottage. old woman, injured in his well leg; and Mar- “Margery," said our friend Isaac, “will gery vented curses as bitter as those of Sycorax: you trust Harry to me? I am a poor man, to and Isaac, certainly the most superstitious be sure ; but between earning and saving, personage in the parish- the most thorough there 'll be enough for me and little Harry. believer in his own gifts and predictions- 'Tis as good a boy as ever lived, and I'll try was fain to nail a horse-shoe on his door for to keep him so. Trust him to me, and I'll be the defence of his property, and to wear one a father to him. I can't say more." of his own ague charms about his neck for his “God bless thee, Isaac Bint! God bless personal protection.
thee!" was all poor Margery could reply. Poor old Margery! A hard winter came; They were the last words she ever spoke. and the feeble, tottering creature shook in the And little Harry is living with our good molefrosty air like an aspen-leaf; and the hovel in catcher, and is growing plump and rosy; and which she dwelt-for nothing could prevail Margery's other pet, the lame gander, lives on her to try the shelter of the work-house and thrives with them too. shook like herself at every blast. She was not quite alone either in the world or in her poor hut: husband, children, and grandchildren had passed away; but one young and innocent being, a great-grandson, the last of her de MADEMOISELLE THERESE. scendants, remaining a helpless dependant on one almost as helpless as himself.
1 One of the prettiest dwellings in our neighLittle Harry Grover was a shrunken, stunted bourhood, is the Lime Cottage at Burleyboy, of five years old ; tattered and squalid, Hatch. It consists of a small low-browed like his grandame, and, at first sight, presented habitation, so entirely covered with jessamine, almost as miserable a specimen of childhood, honeysuckle, passion-flowers, and china-roses, as Margery herself did of age. There was as to resemble a bower, and is placed in the even a likeness between them; although the centre of a large garden, - turf and flowers fierce blue eye of Margery had in the boy a before, vegetables and fruit trees behind, mild appealing look, which entirely changed backed by a superb orchard, and surrounded the whole expression of the countenance. A by a quickset hedge, so thick, and close, and gentle and peaceful boy was Harry, and, above regular, as to form an impregnable defence to all, a useful. It was wonderful how many the territory which it encloses-a thorny ramears of corn in the autumn, and sticks in the part, a living and growing chevaux-de-frise. winter, his little hands could pick up! how On either side of the next gravel-walk, which well he could make a fire, and boil the kettle, leads from the outer gate to the door of the and sweep the hearth, and cram the goslings! cottage, stand the large and beautiful trees to Never was a handier boy or a trustier; and which it owes its name; spreading their strong, when the united effects of cold, and age and broad shadow over the turf beneath, and send. rheumatism confined poor Margery to her poor ing, on a summer afternoon, their rich, spicy bed, the child continued to perform his accus. fragrance half across the irregular village tomed offices; fetching the money from the green, dappled with wood and water, and gay vestry, buying the loaf at the baker's, keep- with sheep, cattle, and children, which divides ing house, and nursing the sick woman, with them, at the distance of a quarter of a mile, a kindness and thoughtfulness, which none from the little hamlet of Burley, its venerable