Imágenes de páginas

lance, shield, knight, feathers, horse and all ? O horror, hor. ror! Next day, round the monster's cave, there lie a few bones more. You, who wish to keep yours in your skins, be thankful that you are not called upon to go out and fight dragons. Be grateful that they don't sally out and swallow you. Keep a wise distance from their caves, lest you pay too dearly for approaching them. Remember that years passed, and whole districts were ravaged, before the warrior came who was able to cope with the devouring monster. When that knight does make his appearance, with all my heart let us go out and welcome him with our best songs, huzzas, and laurel wreaths, and eagerly recognize his valor and victory. But he comes only seldom. Countless knights were slain before St. George won the battle. In the battle of life are we all going to try for the honors of championship? If we can do our duty, if we can keep our place pretty honorably through the combat, let us say, Laus Deo! at the end of it, as the firing ceases, and the night falls over the field.

The old were middle-aged, the elderly were in their prime, then, thirty years since, when yon royal George was still fighting the dragon. As for you, my pretty lass, with your saucy hat and golden tresses tumbled in your net, and you, my spruce young gentleman in your mandarin's cap (the young folks at the country-place where I am staying are so attired), your parents were unknown to each other, and wore short frocks and short jackets, at the date of this five-shilling piece. Only to-day I met a dog-cart crammed with children-children with mustaches and mandarin caps--children with saucy hats and hairnets-children in short frocks and knickerbockers (surely the prettiest boy's dress that has appeared these hundred years) children from twenty years of age to six; and father, with mother by his side, driving in front—and on father's countenance I saw that very laugh which I remember perfectly in the time when this crown-piece was coined—in his time, in King George's time, when we were school-boys seated on the same form. The smile was just as broad, as bright, as jolly, as I remember it in the past—unforgotten, though not seen or thought of, for how many decades of years, and quite and instantly familiar, though so long out of sight.

Any contemporary of that coin who takes it up and reads the inscription round the laurelled head, “Georgius IV. Britanniarum Rex. Fid: Def. 1823,” if he will but look steadily enough at the round, and utter the proper incantation. I dare say may conjure back his life there. Look well, my elderly friend, and tell me what you see? First, I see a Sultan, with hair, beautiful hair, and a crown of laurels round his head, and his name is Georgius Rex. Fid. Def., and so on. Now the Sultan has disappeared ; and what is that I see? A boy,-a boy in a jacket. He is at a desk; he has great books before him, Latin and Greek books and dictionaries. Yet, but behind the great books, which he pretends to read, is a little one, with pictures, which he is really reading. It is-yes, I can read now-it is the “ Heart of Mid Lothian,” by the author of “Waverley "--or, no, it is “ Life in London, or the adventures of Corinthian Tom, Jeremiah Hawthorn, and their friend Bob Logic,” by Pierce Egan; and it has pictures-oh, such funny pictures! As he reads, there comes behind the boy, a man, a dervish, in a black gown, like a woman, and a black square cap, and he has a book in each hand, and he seizes the boy who is reading the picture book, and lays his head upon one of his books, and smacks i with the other. The boy makes faces, and so that picture disappears.

Now the boy has grown bigger. He has got on a black gown and cap, something like the dervish. He is at a table, with ever so many bottles on it, and fruit, and tobacco ; and other young dervishes come in. They seem as if they were singing. To them enters an old moollah, he takes down their names, and orders them all to go to bed. What is this ? a carriage, with four beautiful horses all galloping—a man in red is blowing a trumpet. Many young men are on the carriageone of them is driving the horses. Surely they won't drive into that?- -ah ! they have all disappeared. And now I see one of the young men alone. He is walking in a street--a dark street-p.esently a light comes to a window. There is the shadow of a lady who passes. He stands there till the light goes out.

Now he is in a room scribbling on a piece of paper, and kissing a miniature every now and then. They seem to be lines each pretty much of a length. I can read heart, smart, dart; Mary, fairy; Cupid, stupid; true, you; and never mind what more.

Bah! it is bosh. Now see, he has got a gown on again, and a wig of white hair on his head, and he is sitting with other dervishes in a great room full of them, and on a throne in the middle is an old Sultan in scarlet, sitting before a desk, and he wears a wig too—and the young man gets up and speaks to him. And now what is here? He is in a room with ever so many children, and the miniature hanging up: Can it be a likeness of that woman who is sitting before that copper urn, with a silver vase in her hand, from which she is pouring hot liquor into cups ? Was she ever a fairy? She is as fat as a hippopotamus now. He is sitting on a divan by the fire. He has a paper on his knees.

Read the name of the paper. It is the Superfine Review. It inclines to think that Mr. Dickens is not a true gentleman, that Mr. Thackeray is not a true gentleman, and that when the one is pert and the other is arch, we, the gentlemen of the Superfine Review, think, and think rightly, that we have some cause to be indignant. The great cause why modern humor and modern sentimentalism repel us, is that they are unwarrantably familiar, Now, Mr. Sterne, the Superfiné Reviewer thinks, " was a true sentimentalist, because he was above all things a true gentleman.” The flattering inference is obvious : let us be thankful for having an elegant moralist watching over us, and learn, if not too old, to imitate his highbred politeness and catch his unobtrusive grace. If we are unwarrantably familiar, we know who is not. If we repel by pertness, we know who never does. If our language offends, we know whose is always modest. O pity! The vision has disappeared off the silver, the images of youth and the past are vanishing away! We who have lived' before railways were made, belong to another world. In how many hours could the Prince of Wales drive from Brighton to London, with a light carriage built expressly, and relays of horses longing to gallop the next stage? Do you remember Sir Somebody, the coachman of the Age, who took our half-crown so affably? It was only yesterday; but what a gulf between now and then ! Then was the old world. Stage coaches, more or less swift, ridinghorses, pack-horses, highwaymen, knights in armor, Norman invaders, Roman legions, Druids, Ancient Britons painted blue, and so forth—all these belong to the old period. I will concede a halt in the midst of it, and allow that gunpowder and printing tended to modernize the world. But your railroad starts the new era, and we of a certain age belong to the new time and the old one. We are of the time of chivalry as well as the Black Prince or Sir Walter Manny. We are of the age of steam. We have stepped out of the old world on to Brunel's” vast deck, and across the waters ingens patet tellus. Towards what' new continent are we wending ? to what new laws, new manners, new politics, vast new expanses of liberties unknown as yet, or only surmised ? I used to know a man who had invented a flying-machine. “Sir,” he would say, “give me but five hundred pounds, and I will make it. It is so simple of construction that I tremble daily lest some other person should light upon and patent my discovery.” Perhaps faith was want

[ocr errors]

ing ; perhaps the five hundred pounds. He is dead, and somebody else must make the flying-machine. But that will only be a step forward on the journey already begun since we quitted the old world. There it lies on the other side of yonder embankments. You young folks have never seen it; and Waterloo is to you no more than Agincourt, and George IV. than Sardanapalus. We elderly people have lived in that præ-railroad world, which has passed into limbo and vanished from under us. I tell you it was firm under our feet once, and not long ago. They have raised those railroad embankments up, and shut off the old world that was behind them. Climb up that bank on which the irons are laid, and look to the other side—it is gone. There is no other side. Try and catch yesterday. Where is it? Here is a Times newspaper, dated Monday 26th, and this is Tuesday 27th. Suppose you deny there was such a day as yesterday?

We who lived before railways, and survive out of the ancient world, are like Father Noah and his family out of the ark. The children will gather round and say to us patriarchs, “Tel) us, grandpapa, about the old world." And we shall mumble our old stories ; and we shall drop off one by one; and there will be fewer and fewer of us, and these very old and feeble. There will be but ten pre-railroadites left: then three—then two—then one—then o! If the hippopotamus had the least sensibility (of which I cannot trace any signs either in his hide or his face); I think he would go. down to the bottom of his tank, and never come up again. Does he not see that he belongs to bygone ages, and that his great hulking barrel of a body is out of place in these times? What has he in common with the brisk young life surrounding him? In the watches of the night, when the keepers are asleep, when the birds are on one leg, when even the little armadillo is quiet, and the monkeys have ceased their chatter-he, I mean the hippopotamus, and the elephant, and the long-necked giraffe, perhaps may lay their heads together and have a colloquy about the great silent antediluvian world which they remember, where mighty monsters floundered through the ooze, crocodiles basked on the banks, and dragons darted out of the caves and waters before men were made to slay them. We who lived before railways are antediluvians—we must pass away. We are growing scarcer every day; and old-old-very old relicts of the times when George was still fighting the Dragon.

Not long since, a company of horse-riders paid a visit to our watering-place. We went to see them, and I bethought me that young Walter Juvenis, who was in the place, might like also to witness the performance. A pantomime is not always amusing to persons who have attained a certain age ; but a boy at a pantomime is always amused and amusing, and to see his pleasure is good for most hypochondriacs.

We sent to Walter's mother, requesting that he might join us, and the kind lady replied that the boy had already been at the morning performance of the equestrians, but was most eager to go in the evening likewise. And go he did ; and laughed at all Mr. Merryman's remarks, though he remembered them with remarkable accuracy and insisted upon waiting to the very end of the fun, and was only induced to retire just before its conclusion by representations that the ladies of the party would be incommoded if they were to wait and undergo the rush and trample of the crowd round about. When this fact was pointed out to him, he yielded at once, though with a heavy heart, his eyes looking longingly towards the ring as we retreated out of the booth. We were scarcely clear of the place, when we heard “God save the Queen," played by the equestrian band, the signal that all was over. Our companion entertained us with scraps of the dialogue on our way homeprecious crumbs of wit which he had brought away from that feast. He laughed over them again as we walked under the stars. He has them now, and takes them out of the pocket of his memory, and crunches a bit, and relishes it with a sentimental tenderness, too, for he is, no doubt, back at school by this time; the holidays are over; and Doctor Birch's young friends have reassembled.

Queer jokes, which caused a thousand simple mouths to grin! As the jaded Merryman uttered them to the old gentleman with the whip, some of the old folks in the audience, I dare say, indulged in reflections of their own. There was one joke-I utterly forget it—but it began with Merryman saying what he had for dinner. He had mutton for dinner, at one o'clock, after which " he had to come to business.And then came the point. Walter Juvenis, Esq., Rev. Doctor Birch's, Market Rodborough, if you read this, will you please send me a line, and let me know what was the joke Mr. Merryman made about having his dinner? You remember well enough. But do I want to know? Suppose a boy takes a favorite, long-cherished lump of cake out of his pocket, and offer you a bite ? Merci ! The fact is I don't care much about knowing that joke of Mr. Merryman's.

But whilst he was talking about his dinner, and his mutton,

« AnteriorContinuar »