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" LOCUS EST ET PLURIBUS UMBRIS,"
IN TWO VOLUMES.
L E A & B L AN C HAR D.
Eccoti, benigno lettore, un parto di poche sere, che se ben nato di notte, non è pero aborto di tenebre ; ma si farà conoscere figlio d'Apollo, con qualche raggio di Parnasso. — NICOLINI.
Get money, - money still,
Blessed be they who, for the benefit of the younger brotherhood of this glorious and favoured island (cheers from the Treasury benches !) keep open house at their country seats from Christmas till Easter.
That year, and many years succeeding and preceding, did I manage to get rid of myself at the cost of my own time and the venison of my noble friends, the Earl of B-, and the Duke of A and so forth, to whom it was essential during the hunting season that their dinner table should be surrounded by well-known faces, reflecting honour and glory upon their fare and fair. — Blessed, I say again, be they who, at a season of the year when other capitals concentrate their population for social en. joyment, -defying frost or rain in crowded theatres, or brilliant ball-rooms, whose blazing illumination supplies the deficiencies of sunshine, - offer premiums for the encouragement of attempts at sociability in some isolated castle, posted like a dunce in disgrace, for example sake, on the top of a hill; where people, eat, drink, hunt, and shoot, at ihe expense of their entertainer, repaying him on their return to town by filling the clubs with attestations of the merits of their entertainment. I really do not believe
it cost either the Duke or Earl much more than twenty thousand a year a piece, to have it said in London that their country house was not a bore.
I had now progressed to the time of life when one becomes conscious that such masters of country seats deserve well of their country. —No longer young enough to be put off by the groom of the chambers with a smoky room, or dressing-room near the offices within sound of smoke-jacks, or smell of Jacks who smoke, — no longer young enough to be made a target for the attacks of pretty women or witty men, - no longer an object for practical jokes, or practical earnest, I had progressed into one of the walking gentlemen of such parties. — I was Cecil, — there to be amused, not to be amusing; — Cecil, whose arrival tooked well - in the newspapers,
CEcil, with his own particular room, - his own particular chair, — his own particular vintage, — the protégé of stewards, butlers, and housekeepers ; - the Mr. Danby against whose arrival a particular buck was set apart by the gamekeeper ; – the Mr. Danby who enjoyed among the housemaids the privilege of a certain number of extra jugs of hot water per diem; and during whose stay the breakfast bell, per connivance of the servants' hall, was rung half an hour later than usual.
All this was pleasant enough. My club seemed to tour it out of town with me, in my easy chaise. Still, one must not hope to cumuler les bénéfices dans ce bas monde ; and I admit that, if sure of a better bed-room and calmer repose under its curtains, I was by no means so certain of depriving the pillows of others of their rest, as in the times when I was put up among the cubs of Bachelor's gallery:
Well do I remember how every night when the female kind had shut up their work-boxes, and were retiring from the drawing-room, the last look cast from the door by one or more of that bevy of fair faces, invariably singled me out, like a dear from the herd; -- and delightful it was to snatch up a book or newspaper, to conceal my observations and emotions from the brothers, lovers, husbands, around me; all 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 manœuvres, 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 allud. ing 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 Walsingham 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 checks 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 innocuous
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