« AnteriorContinuar »
doubly inieresting from the fact that the house was that occupied by the late Mr. Sadleir. One night the late Mr. Sadleir took tea in that dining-room, and, to the surprise of his butler, went out, having put into his pocket his own cream-jug. The next morning, you know, he was found dead on Hamp stead Heath, with the cream-jug lying by him, into which he poured the poison by which he died. The idea of the ghost of the late gentleman flitting about the room gave a strange interest to the banquet. , Can you fancy him taking his tea alone in the dining-room? He empties that cream-jug and puts it in his pocket; and then he opens yonder door, through which he is never to pass again. Now he crosses the ball: and hark! the hall-door shuts upon him, and his steps die away. They are gone into the night. They traverse the sleeping city. They lead him into the fields, where the gray morning is beginning to glimmer. He pours something from a bottle into a little silver jug. It touches his lips, the lying lips. Do they quiver a prayer ere that awful draught is swallowed? When the sun rises they are dumb.
I neither knew this unhappy man, nor his countrymanLaërtes let us call him—who is at present in exile, having been compelled to fly from remorseless creditors. Laërtes fled to America, where he earned his bread by his pen.
I own to having a kindly feeling towards this scapegrace, because, though an exile, he did not abuse the country whence he fled. I have heard that he went away taking no spoil with him, penniless almost; and on his voyage he made acquaintance with a certain Jew; and when he fell sick, at New York, this Jew befriended him, and gave him help and money out of his own store, which was but small. Now, after they had been awhile in the strange city, it happened that the poor Jew spent all his little money, and he too fell ill, and was in great penury. And now it was Laërtes who befriended that Ebrew Jew. He fee'd doctors; he fed and tended the sick and hungry.
Go to, Laërtes ! I know thee not. It may be thou art justly exul patriæ. But the Jew shall intercede for thee, thou not, let us trust, hopeless Christian sinner.
Another exile to the same shore I knew: who did not? Julius Cæsar hardly owed more money than Cucedicus : and, gracious powers ! Cucedicus, how did you manage to spend and owe so much ? All day he was at work for his clients; at night he was occupied in the Public Council. He neither had wife nor children. The rewards which he received for his orations were enough to maintain twenty rhetoricians. Night
after night I have seen him eating his frugal meal, consisting but of a fish, a small portion of mutton, and a small measure of Iberian or Trinacrian wine, largely diluted with the sparkling waters of Rhenish Gaul. And this was all he had ; and this man earned and paid away talents upon talents; and fled, owing who knows how many more! Does a man earn fifteen thousand pounds a year, toiling by day, talking by night, having horrible unrest in his bed, ghastly terrors at waking, seeing an officer lurking at every corner, a sword of justice for ever hang. ing over his head—and have for his sole diversion a newspaper, a lonely mutton-chop, and a little sherry and seltzer-water? In the German stories we read how men sell themselves toma certain Personage, and that Personage cheats them. He gives them wealth ; yes, but the gold pieces turn into worthless leaves. He sets them before splendid banquets; yes, but what an awful grin that black footman has who lifts up the dish-cover; and don't you smell a peculiar sulphurous odor in the dish? Faugh! take it away ; I can't eat. He promises them splendors and
triumphs. The conqueror's car rolls glittering through the · city, the multitude shout and huzza. Drive on, coachman.
Yes, but who is that hanging on behind the carriage? Is this the reward of eloquence, talents, industry? Is this the end of a life's labor? Don't you remember how, when the dragon was infesting the neighborhood of Babylon, the citizens used to walk dismally out of evenings, and look at the valleys round about strewed with the bones of the victims whom the monster had devoured? O insatiate brute, and most disgusting, brazen, and scaly reptile! Let us be thankful, children, that it has not gobbled us up too. Quick. Let us turn away, and pray that we may be kept out of the reach of his horrible maw, jaw, claw!
When I first came up to London, as innocent as Monsieur Gil Blas, I also fell in with some pretty acquaintances, found my way into several caverns, and delivered my purse to more than one gallant gentleman of the road. One I remember especially—one who never eased me personally of a single maravedi—one than whom I never met a bandit more gallant, courteous, and amiable. Rob me? Rolando feasted me; treated me to his dinner and his wine ; kept a generous table for his friends, and I know was most liberal to many of them. How well I remember one of his speculations! It was a great plan for smuggling tobacco. Revenue officers were to be bought off ; silent ships were to ply on the Thames ; cunning depôts were to be established, and hundreds of thousands of pounds to be made by the coup. How his kind eyes kindled as he propounded the scheme to me! How easy and certain it seemed! It might have succeeded : I can't say: but the bold and merry, the hearty and kindly Rolando came to grief-a little matter of imitated signatures occasioned a Bank pros ecution of Rolando the Brave. He walked about armed, and vowed he would never be taken alive : but taken he was ; tried, condemned, sentenced to perpetual banishment; and I heard that for some time he was universally popular in the colony which had the honor to possess him. What a song he could sing! 'Twas when the cup was sparkling before us, and heaven gave a portion of its blue, boys, blue, that I remember the song of Roland at the “ Old Piazza Coffee-house.” And now where is the “Old Piazza Coffee-house?” Where is Thebes ? where is Troy? where is the Colossus of Rhodes ? Ah, Rolando, Rolando! thou wert a gallant captain, a cheery, a handsome, a merry. At me thou never presentedst pistol. Thou badest the bumper of Burgundy fill, fill for me, giving those who preferred it Champagne. Cælum non animum, &c. Do you
think he has reformed now that he has crossed the sea, and changed the air? I have my own opinion. Howbeit, Rolando, thou wert a most kind and hospitable bandit. And I love not to think of thee with a chain at thy shin.
Do you know how all these memories of unfortunate men have come upon me? When they came to frighten me this morning by speaking of my robbed pears, my perforated garden wall, I was reading an article in the Saturday Review about Rupilius. I have sat near that young man at a public dinner, and beheld him in a gilded uniform. But yesterday he lived in splendor, had long hair, a flowing beard, a jewel at his neck, and a smart surtout. So attired, he stood but yesterday in court; and to-day he sits over a bowl of prison cocoa, with a shaved head, and in a felon's jerkin.
Tha' beard and head shaved, that gaudy deputy-lieutenant's coat exchanged for felon uniform, and your daily bottle of champagne for prison cocoa, my poor Rupilius, what a comfort it must be to have the business brought to an end! Champagne was the honorable gentleman's drink in the House of Commons dining-room, as I am informed. What uncommonly dry champagne that must have been! When we saw him outwardly happy, how miserable he must have been ! when we thought him prosperous, how dismally poor! When the great Mr. Harker, at the public dinners called out—“Gentlemen, charge your glasses, and please silence for the Honorable Member for Lambeth!” how that Honorable Member must have writhed inwardly! One day, when there was a talk of a gentleman's honor being questioned, Rupilius said, “ If any man doubted mine, I would knock him down." But that speech was in the way of business. The Spartan boy, who stole the fox, smiled while the beast was gnawing him under his cloak: I promise you Rupilius had some sharp fangs gnashing under his. We have sat at the same feast, I say: we have paid our contribution to the same charity. Ah! when I ask this day for my daily bread, I pray not to be led into temptation, and to be delivered from evil.
I ARRIVED by the night-mail packet from Dover. The passage had been rough, and the usual consequences had ensued. I was disinclined to travel farther that night on my road to Paris, and knew the Calais hotel of old as one of the cleanest, one of the dearest, one of the most comfortable hotels on the continent of Europe. There is no town more French than Calais. That charming old “Hôtel Dessein," with its court, its gardens, its lordly kitchen, its princely waiter--a gentleman of the old school, who has welcomed the finest company in Europehave long been known to me. I have read complaints in the Times, more than once, I think, that the Dessein bills are dear. A bottle of soda-water certainly costs-well, never mind how much. I remember as a boy, at the “Ship” at Dover (imperante Carolo Decimo), when, my place to London being paid, I had but 12s. left after a certain little Paris excursion (about which my benighted parents never knew anything), ordering for dinner a whiting, a beefsteak, and a glass of negus, and the bill was, dinner 75., glass of negus 25., waiter 6d., and only half a crown left, as I was a sinner, for the guard and coachman on the way to London! And I was a sinner. I had gone without leave. What a long, dreary, guilty forty hours' journey it was from Paris to Calais, I remember ! How did I come to think of this escapade, which occurred in the Easter vacation of the year 1830 ?. I always think of it when I am crossing to Calais. Guilt, sir, remains stamped on the memory, and I feel easier in my mind now that it is liberated of this old peccadillo. I met my college tutor only yesterday. We were travelling, and stopped at the same hotel. He had the very next room to mine. After he had gone into his apartment, having shaken me quite kindly by the hand, I felt inclined to knock at his door and say, “Doctor Bentley, I beg your pardon, but do you remember, when I was going down at the Easter vacation in 1830, you asked me where I was going to spend my vacation ? And I said, With my friend Slingsby, in Huntingdonshire, Well, sir, I grieve to have to confess that I told you a fib. I had got 201. and was going for a lark to Paris, where my friend Edwards was staying.” There, it is out. The Doctor will read it, for I did not wake him up after all to make my confession, but protest he shall have a copy of this Roundabout sent to him when he returns to his lodge.
They gave me a bedroom there; a very neat room on the first floor, looking into the pretty garden. The hotel must look pretty much as it did a hundred years ago when he visited it. I wonder whether he paid his bill ? Yes: his journey was just begun. He had borrowed or got the money somehow. Such a man would spend it liberally enough when he had it, give generously—nay, drop a tear over the fate of the poor fellow whom he relieved. I don't believe a word he says, but I never accused him of stinginess about money. That is a fault of much more virtuous people than he. Mr. Laurence is ready enough with his purse when there are anybody's guineas in it. Still when I went to bed in the room, in his room ; when I think how I admire, dislike, and have abused him, a certain dim feeling of apprehension filled my mind at the midnight hour. What if I should see his lean figure in the blacksatin breeches, his sinister smile, his long thin finger pointing to me in the moonlight (for I am in bed, and have popped my candle out), and he should say, “ You mistrust me, you hate me, do you? And you, don't you know how Jack, Tom, and Harry, your brother authors, hate you ?” I grin and laugh in the moonlight, in the midnight, in the silence. "O you ghost in blacksatin breeches and a wig! I like to be hated by some men,” I say. “I know men whose lives are a scheme, whose laughter is a conspiracy, whose smile means something else, whose hatred is a cloak, and I had rather these men should hate me than not."
“My good sir,” says he, with a ghastly grin on his leanface, " you have your wish.”
“ Après ? ” I say. “Please let me go to sleep. I sha'n't sleep any the worse because
* Because there are insects in the bed, and they sting you?" (This is only by way of illustration, my good sir; the animals