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THE OLD ENGLISH SQUIRE.
BY THE HONOURABLE CHARLES STUART WORTLEY.
When the English people leave their own favoured country, they little know the miseries and wretchedness endured in others. With buoyant spirit and excited hope, they order post horses from Newman's, and drive off furiously to Dover, expecting to find a paradise; but, too often, it turns out to them to be a purgatory. There are a certain number of foolish individuals who run headlong in the train of others, and never judge for themselves, but, because a particular class think it fair and wise to abuse everything in England, and praise everything abroad, conceive they must do so also. Such persons never are at rest till they find themselves half shaken to death, by the French pavès; and well, or rather, ill, embarked in a continental tour.
Of this class of discontenteds, was our little, silly, but, I must acknowledge, beautiful and fascinating Ellen. She was the daughter-indeed, the only child of Singleton, Esq., of Hall, in the County of who was a gentleman of good fortune, and thoroughly English in his feelings and character; that is to say, a true Briton, manly, generous, frank, and high principled; devoted to his country, and equally so to his child, for whose happiness he would have sacrificed everything, even all his comforts. In his youth, he was all that a young gentleman should be; the constant servant of the fair sex, passionately fond of fox-hunting, and all manly pursuits, and loving to see himself surrounded by his friends and tenantry, both at his table, and in the field. With this disposition, it may easily be conceived he was the idol of his neighbourhood; a friend to the poor, and a bright example to the rich. No member was he of the tribe who preserve game solely for themselves, and two or three friends, in order that they may indulge in those un-English slaughters called battues; by which they risk the lives of their gamekeepers, and seduce half their peasantry to become vagabonds and poachers. But he was one who preserved foxes well, and subscribed handsomely to the hounds; one who considered the pleasures of those in his county and neighbourhood, rather than his own. Such a man, therefore, could not fail to be most popular, and have little wish to leave his own country. However, his daughter would compel him; and, consequently, they started for Dover on the 16th of October.
Our heroine did not allow her father to miss this opportunity of meeting all her wishes; and, therefore, persuaded him to permit her cousin Lionel to form one of the party. As children they had been brought up together, and an attachment, or rather a friendship, existed between them.
The presence of this youth was a great pleasure to Ellen, as well as a considerable assistance to Mr. Singleton, who hated the drudgery of managing the arrangements of the journey. His disgust, therefore, was excited when he landed at Calais, by the necessity of selecting one from amongst the innumerable cards of hotels which were forced into his hand; and the recommendations of which were droned into his ear, by the host of lacquies who infest the shore, the moment a steam packet arrives. There was the Hotel de l'Europe, Hotel de Londres (how he wished it was!) the Hotel de France, and many others, all equally incommodious and cold. However, the second, he chose for the sake of the name; and, after being spied and questioned at the Douane, as if they had been smugglers, they were allowed to proceed to their apartments, which were, au premier, gaudily furnished, but without a single comfortable seat. The old gentleman, therefore, after walking in vain from one room to the other, to find a chair somewhat similar to his arm one, at
Hall, sat down in dispair, exclaiming, “Oh! what is to become of me, if I have a fit of the gout?” His young companions, full of gaiety and good humour, tried to comfort him; and endeavoured to direct his attention to all the passing objects in the street.
But, in order to avoid the description of a hacknied tour, we must suppose our party to have arrived safely at Paris. During the route, however, many were the animadversions of old Mr. Singleton; who, appreciating the rapid strides made in his own country towards perfecting all communication and traffick, could not help feeling contempt for a nation, which, though so closely bordering on his own, and so often boasting of its liberal institutions and good government acquired by its many revolutions, should, to the present day, allow those huge masses of malconstructions to clamber along execrable roads, dragged by half-cleaned post horses harnessed with ropes, and ridden by postilions six feet high, in pigtails, and boots as heavy as, and of thicker material than, any of his smaller portmanteaus.
However, at Paris they arrived. The cracking of the whips through the streets amused the party, and enlivened the scene, and they drove to the Hotel de l'Europe, Rue de Rivoli. The weather was fine, the coffee good; and Mr. Singleton felt himself revived again. After staying a fortnight in this charming capital, where, it must be acknowledged, everything is gay and agreeable, they departed for the south, and arrived at Lyons. Ellen did not fail to remind her father that the town was celebrated for its manufactures in silks, and other portions of female dress. Mr. Singleton's wish, therefore, was to make a present to his lovely daughter; and immediately sent to the first shop to desire that specimens of its most beautiful productions should be brought to him.
The smart shopkeeper soon arrived, and entered the apartment with a profusion of all sorts of dresses, when Ellen's eyes sparkled with delight at so pleasing an exhibition. But the old gentleman indulged in very different feelings; for though he was most anxious to make his daughter a present, he could not tolerate the impertinent, off-hand manner of the shop-boy, who was not only dressed in the most extravagant style of dandyism, but indulged in the barbarous practice of spitting on the floor, after every sentence. Now, Mr. Singleton had possessed no previous knowledge of the existence of this disgusting habit, which, on the Continent, is permitted among even the highest classes; and having been himself born and bred among the best society of our more fastidious island, and utterly unaccustomed to witness practices so offensive, even in the lowest chimney-sweep of London, he could not restrain his indignation. Deliberately, therefore, taking the fellow by the collar, he kicked him out of the room, desiring him, in bad French, to take care whenever he presumed to enter the presence of an Englishman, to behave at least like a
civilised creature, and not in a way of which the very beasts, in England, would be ashamed.
That evening closed with a lecture upon manners. On the following morning, still in a sulky and discontented mood, Mr. Singleton resumed his journey, and at last reached Nice, when they entered unhappy and degenerated, but beautiful Italia. The sun was oppressively hot, the wind, coming from the snowy Alps, cuttingly cold. Neither the heat nor cold endured at each side of their hotel was objectionable to our youthful travellers, glowing with good health ; but, to poor Mr. Singleton, both were a sad punishment. On the southern side of the house, he was broiled and scorched by the sun; and when he ventured to expose himself to the cooler atmosphere of the northern side, all the horrors of his gout and rheumatism flashed upon his recollection.
He rose early the following morning, before his lovely Ellen was awake, in order that he might walk out and judge for himself of the pleasures and luxuries of the far-famed Nice; but on leaving his own apartment he saw, with no ordinary degree of disgust and indignation, a dirty half dressed man issuing from his daughter's bed-room. At first, it was with difficulty he could believe his eyes; but when he became convinced that a filthy fellow had actually ventured to enter his beloved child's chamber, he rushed at him like a tiger and attempted to dash him to the ground. The frotteur not having the remotest idea of the sensitive delicacy which influences an Englishmen in all that appertains to women, could not account for Mr. Singleton's attack upon him; and, though frightened and irresolute, made a considerable resistance.