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jealous,—all mistrusting me,-all grinding their teeth, or muttering between them,
Quo teneam vultus mutantem Protea nodo?
And then, on coming in to breakfast-ten minutes later than the rest of the party,—to observe the number of chairs pushed aside to make way for me ;--the number of faces blushing the invitation they dared not speak ;—the number of eyes cast down on their tea-cup or muffin when I had deigned to make my election, in order to conceal their looks of mortification or despair !—The manæuvres, too, when there were meets on the lawn ;-the stratagems to be crossing the hall when I had talked of being home early from shooting !-
And now,-my place at breakfast was regularly assigned by the butler near the fire, and out of the way of draughts; and when I took it, every woman of them looking me smilingly in the face, and asking me how I had slept,feeling as little delicacy on the subject as in alluding to the sleep of the spaniel on the hearth-rug !-As to meeting me in the hall, if some stray girl or graceful matron did occasionally rush towards me and lay her hands detainingly on the arm of my shooting jacket, it was sure to be to ask whether Frank Walsinyham had had good sport, or whether I had left Chippenham near the house ? — So far from finding occasion for concealing my face at night behind the Morning Herald, a bijou almanack would have secured all the blushes likely to be called into my cheeks by the Parthian darts of those retreating beauties !
All this, however, at least consolidated the commodiousness of my country quarters. I excited no jealousies,–I created no dissatisfactions. I was asked from house to house. One invitation foretold another, and one engagement certified another.-I glided in like a shadow.-I amalgamated like a medium tint with old or young; and thus perhaps enjoyed the summum bonum of middle-aged human felicity.
But alas! the greatness of my reputation stood my foe.—People would not let me subside quietly into innocuousness. The young fellows kept reminding me that it was absurd to degenerate into the slippered pantaloon, so long as one boasted such a leg for a boot;and would persist in calling me “old fellow !" a term of endearment never hazarded to fellows really old.
After all, perhaps I had no right to withdraw myself so early from active service. Potentates who abdicate prematurely, are apt to yearn in their retreat after the sceptre they have renounced. It was too soon for egotism; “ Jouir, c'est la sagesse, faire jouir, c'est la vertu ;” and let the Instruction Publique say what it might to the contrary, I was always virtuously inclined.
In consideration, therefore, of my duty towards the public,—the fairer moiety of course, the other half can take care of itself,I resolved, if no longer worthy to frisk as a call fine, inasmuch as she is singularly coarse. Her name was Marcia; and like her namesake she " towered above her sex;" but though the premises were alarming, the giantess subsided into a pocket Venus the moment I betook myself to arithmetic and un-common sense for admeasurement of her charms.
The virtuous Marcia, was not a person to be had for asking for.—She had been asked for too often not to suspect that, in this unproposing age, the adoration to which she was perpetually subjected was that of the Molten Calf.—Suspicion, however, (and “snspicion's at the best a coward's virtue,") did not tend to improve either her temper or complexion. Even her bloom was redolent of Lombard Street; and though
Lurida præteræa fiunt quæcunque tuentur
it is not pleasant to see one's rose blush like a primrose, or the chick of one's heart look like a guinea chick ; though by the way, Messrs. Del
croix and Atkinson might perhaps inform one the variety of shades of complexion compassable by the pin-money appropriate to ten thousand a-year.
It was not, however, the complexion of the heiress that put me so much to the blush. – Though her
free from vulgar assumption, there was a frigid calculating self-estimation about her,-a sort of if- from - ten-thousand-a-year-you-take-tenthousand-a-year kind of process perpetually going on in her mind, that deadened its better faculties. But for the ten thousand a-year, I suppose one should have troubled oneself little about her faculties, dead or alive; but
Inde faces ardent, veniunt a dote Sagittæ.
She reminded me of the rock called the Ara Bacchi, in the bed of the Rhine, which one salutes with respect because visible only when the river is low, the season dry, and the vintage promising.- People were glad to see