Sketches by Seymour — Volume 03
Produced by David Widger
SKETCHES BY SEYMOUR
THE JOLLY ANGLERS.
On a grassy bank, beside a meandering stream, sat two gentlemen averaging forty years of age. The day was sultry, and, weary of casting their lines without effect, they had stuck their rods in the bank, and sought, in a well-filled basket of provisions and copious libations of bottled porter, to dissipate their disappointment.
"Ain't this jolly? and don't you like a day's fishing, Sam?"
"O! werry much, werry much," emphatically replied his friend, taking his pipe from his mouth.
"Ah! but some people don't know how to go a-fishinq, Sam; they are such fools."
"That's a werry good remark o' your'n," observed Sam; "I daresay as how hangling is werry delightful vhen the fishes vill bite; but vhen they von't, vhy they von't, and vot's the use o' complaining. Hangling is just like writing: for instance--you begins vith, 'I sends you this 'ere line hoping,' and they don't nibble; vell! that's just the same as not hanswering; and, as I takes it, there the correspondence ends!"
"Exactly; I'm quite o' your opinion," replied his companion, tossing off a bumper of Barclay's best; "I say, Sammy, we mustn't empty t'other bottle tho'."
"Cos, do you see, I'm just thinking ve shall vant a little porter to carry us home: for, by Jingo! I don't think as how either of us can toddle--that is respectably!"
"Nonsense! I'd hundertake to walk as straight as a harrow; on'y, I must confess, I should like to have a snooze a'ter my pipe; I'm used to it, d'ye see, and look for it as nat'rally as a babby does."
"Vell, but take t'other glass for a nightcap; for you know, Sammy, if you sleep vithout, you may catch cold: and, vhatever you do, don't snore, or you'll frighten the fish."
"Naughty fish!" replied Sammy, "they know they're naughty too, or else they voud'nt be so afear'd o' the rod!--here's your health;" and he tossed off the proffered bumper.
"Excuse me a-rising to return thanks," replied his friend, grasping Sammy's hand, and looking at him with that fixed and glassy gaze which indicates the happy state of inebriety, termed maudlin; "I know you're a sincere friend, and there ain't nobody as I value more: man and boy have I knowed you; you're unchanged! you're the same!! there ain't no difference!!! and I hope you may live many years to go a-fishing, and I may live to see it, Sammy. Yes, old boy, this here's one of them days that won't be forgotten: it's engraved on my memory deep as the words on a tombstone, 'Here he lies! Here he lies!'" he repeated with a hiccup, and rolled at full length across his dear friend.
Sammy, nearly as much overcome as his friend, lifted up his head, and sticking his hat upon it, knocked it over his eyes, and left him to repose; and, placing his own back against an accommodating tree, he dropped his pipe, and then followed the example of his companion.
After a few hours deep slumber, they awoke. The sun had gone down, and evening had already drawn her star-bespangled mantle over the scene of their festive sport.
Arousing themselves, they sought for their rods, and the remnants of their provisions, but they were all gone.
"My hey! Sammy, if somebody bas'nt taken advantage of us. My watch too has gone, I declare."
"And so's mine!" exclaimed Sammy, feeling his empty fob. "Vell, if this ain't a go, never trust me."
"I tell you vot it is, Sammy; some clever hartist or another has seen us sleeping, like the babes in the wood, and has drawn us at full length!"
What a mysterious being is the bill-sticker! How seldom does he make himself visible to the eyes of the people. Nay, I verily believe there are thousands in this great metropolis that never saw a specimen. We see the effect, but think not of the cause.
He must work at his vocation either at night or at early dawn, before the world is stirring.
That he is an industrious being, and sticks to business, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt, for every dead-wall is made lively by his operations, and every hoard a fund of information--in such type, too, that he who runs may read. What an indefatigable observer he must be; for there is scarcely a brick or board in city or suburb, however newly erected, in highway or byeway, but is speedily adorned by his handiwork --aye, and frequently too in defiance of the threatening--"BILL-STICKERS, BEWARE!"--staring him in the face. Like nature, he appears to abhor a vacuum. When we behold the gigantic size of some of the modern arches, we are almost led to suppose that the bill-sticker carries about his placards in a four-wheeled waggon, and that his paste-pot is a huge cauldron! How he contrives to paste and stick such an enormous sheet so neatly against the rugged side of a house, is really astonishing. Whether three or four stories high, the same precision is remarkable. We cannot but wonder at the dexterity of his practised hand: The union is as perfect as if Dan Hymen, the saffron-robed Joiner, had personally superintended the performance.
The wind is perhaps the only real enemy he has to fear. How his heart and his flimsy paper must flutter in the unruly gusts of a March wind! We only imagine him pasting up a "Sale of Horses," in a retired nook, and seeing his bill carried away on an eddy!
We once had the good fortune to witness a gusty freak of this kind. The bill-sticker had affixed a bill upon the hooks of his stick, displaying in prominent large characters--"SALE BY AUCTION--Mr. GEO. ROBINS--Capital Investment,"--and so forth, when a sudden whirlwind took the bill off the hooks, before it was stuck, and fairly enveloped the countenance of a dandy gentleman who happened at the moment to be turning the corner.
Such a "Capital Investment" was certainly ludicrous in the extreme.
The poor bill-sticker was rather alarmed, for he had never stuck a bill before on any front that was occupied.
He peeled the gentleman as quickly as possible, and stammered out an apology. The sufferer, however, swore he would prefer a bill against him at the ensuing sessions. Whether his threat was carried into execution, or he was satisfied with the damages already received, we know not.
There is a certain period of life beyond which the plastic mind of man becomes incapable of acquiring any new impressions. He merely elaborates and displays the stores he has garnered up in his youth. There are indeed some rare exceptions to the rule; but few, very few, can learn a language after the age of forty. 'Tis true that Cowper did not commence the composition of his delightful poems till he had attained that age; but then it must be remembered that he had previously passed a life of study and preparation, and that he merely gave the honey to the world which he had hived in his youth, bringing to the task a mind polished and matured by judgment and experience. But, generally speaking, we rather expect reason than rhyme from an elderly gentleman; and when the reverse is the case, the pursuit fits them as ridiculously as would a humming-top or a hoop. Yet there are many who, having passed a life in the sole occupation of making money--the most unpoetical of all avocations--that in their retirement entertain themselves with such fantastic pranks and antics, as only serve to amuse the lookers-on. A retired tradesman, it is true, may chase ennui and the 'taedium vitae,' by digging and planting in his kitchen-garden, or try his hand at rearing tulips and hyacinths; but if he vainly attempt any other art, or dabble in light literature or heavy philosophy, he is lost. Old Foozle was one of those who, having accumulated wealth, retire with their housekeepers to spend the remnant of their days in some suburban retreat, the monotony of whose life is varied by monthly trips to town to bring tea and grocery, or purchase some infallible remedy for their own gout, or their housekeeper's rheumatism. Unfortunately for his peace, Old Foozle accidentally dipped into a tattered tome of "Walton's Complete Angler;" and the vivid description of piscatorial pleasures therein set forth so won upon his mind, that he forthwith resolved to taste them. In vain were the remonstrances of his nurse, friend, and factotum. The experiment must be tried. Having more money than wit to spare, he presently supplied himself with reels and rods and tackle, landing-nets and gentle-boxes, and all the other necessary paraphernalia of the art.
Donning his best wig and spectacles, he sallied forth, defended from the weather by a short Spencer buttoned round his loins, and a pair of double-soled shoes and short gaiters. So eager was he to commence, that he no sooner espied a piece of water, than, with trembling hands, he put his rod together, and displayed his nets, laying his basket, gaping for the finny prey, on the margin of the placid waters. With eager gaze he watched his newly-varnished and many-coloured float, expecting every-moment to behold it sink, the inviting bait being prepared 'secundum artem.' He had certainly time for reflection, for his float had been cast at least an hour, and still remained stationary; from which he wisely augured that he was most certainly neither fishing in a running stream nor in troubled waters.
Presently a ragged urchin came sauntering along, and very leisurely seated himself upon a bank near the devoted angler. Curiosity is natural to youth, thought Foozle--how I shall make the lad wonder when I pull out a wriggling fish!
But still another weary hour passed, and the old gentleman's arms and loins began to ache from the novel and constrained posture in which he stood. He grew nervous and uneasy at the want of sport; and thinking that perhaps the little fellow was acquainted with the locality, he turned towards him, saying, in the blandest but still most indifferent tone he could assume, lest he should compromise his dignity by exposing his ignorance--
"I say, Jack, are there any fish in this pond?"
"There may be, sir," replied the boy, pulling his ragged forelock most deferentially, for Old Foozle had an awful churchwarden-like appearance; "there may be, but I should think they were weary small, 'cause there vos no vater in this here pond afore that there rain yesterday."
The sallow cheeks of the old angler were tinged with a ruddy glow, called up by the consciousness of his ridiculous position. Taking a penny from his pocket, he bade the boy go buy some cakes: and no sooner had he gallopped off, than the disappointed Waltonian hastily packed up his tackle, and turned his steps homeward; and this was the first and last essay of Old Foozle.
THE "CRACK-SHOTS." No. I.
A club, under the imposing style of the "Crack-Shots," met every Wednesday evening, during the season, at a house of public entertainment in the salubrious suburbs of London, known by the classical sign of the "Magpye and Stump." Besides a trim garden and a small close-shaven grass-plat in the rear (where elderly gentlemen found a cure for 'taedium vitae' and the rheumatism in a social game of bowls), there was a meadow of about five or six acres, wherein a target was erected for the especial benefit of the members of this celebrated club; we say celebrated, because, of all clubs that ever made a noise in the world, this bore away the palm-according to the reports in the neighbourhood. Emulation naturally caused excitement, and the extraordinary deeds they performed under its influence we should never have credited, had we not received the veracious testimony of--the members themselves.
After the trials of skill, they generally spent the evenings together.
Jack Saggers was the hero of the party; or perhaps he might be more appropriately termed the "great gun," and was invariably voted to the chair. He made speeches, which went off admirably; and he perpetrated puns which, like his Joe Manton, never missed fire, being unanimously voted admirable hits by the joyous assembly.
Their pleasures and their conversation might truly be said to be of a piece.
"Gentlemen"--said Jack, one evening rising upon his legs--"Do me the favour to charge. Are you all primed and loaded? I am about to propose the health of a gentleman, who is not only an honour to society at large, but to the 'Crack-Shots' in particular. Gentlemen, the mere mention of the name of Brother Sniggs--(hear! hear!)--I know will call forth a volley!--(Hear! hear!) Gentlemen, I give you the health of Brother Sniggs! make ready, present and fire!"
Up went the glasses, and down went the liquor in a trice, followed by three times three, Jack Saggers giving the time, and acting as "fugle-man."
Sniggs, nervously fingering his tumbler of "half and half," as if he wanted the spirit to begin, hemmed audibly, and
"Having three times shook his head To stir his wit, thus he said,"
"Gentlemen, I don't know how it is, but somehows the more a man has to say, the more he can't! I feel, for all the world, like a gun rammed tight and loaded to the muzzle, but without flint or priming----"
"Prime!" exclaimed Jack Saggers; and there was a general titter, and then he continued; "as we cannot let you off Sniggs, you most go on, you know."
"Gentlemen," resumed Sniggs, "I feel indeed so overloaded by the honors you have conferred on me, that I cannot find words to express my gratitude. I can only thank you, and express my sincere wish that your shots may always tell."
And he sat down amidst unbounded applause. "By no means a-miss!" cried Jack Saggers.
"A joke of mine, when I knocked down a bird the other morning," said Sniggs: "you must know I was out early, and had just brought down my bird, when leaping into the adjoining field to pick it up, a bird-catcher, who had spread his nets on the dewy grass, walked right up to me."
"I've a visper for you, Sir," says he, as cool as a cucumber; "I don't vish to be imperlite, but next time you shoots a bird vot I've brought to my call, I'll shoot you into a clay-pit, that's all!"
"And pray what did you say, Sniggs?" asked Jack Saggers. "Say?--nothing! but I looked unutterable things, and--shouldering my piece--walked off!"
THE "CRACK-SHOTS." No. II.
"Sniggs's rencontre with the bird-catcher reminds me of Tom Swivel's meeting with the Doctor," observed Smart.
"Make a report," cried Jack Saggers.
"Well, you must know, that I had lent him my piece for a day's shooting; and just as he was sauntering along by a dead wall near Hampstead, looking both ways at once for a quarry (for he has a particular squint), a stout gentleman in respectable black, and topped by a shovel-hat, happened to be coming in the opposite direction. With an expression of terror, the old gentleman drew himself up against the unyielding bricks, and authoritatively extending his walking-stick, addressed our sportsman in an angry tone, saying: 'How dare you carry a loaded gun pointed at people's viscera, you booby?' Now Tom is a booby, and no mistake, and so dropping his under jaw and staring at the reverend, he answered: 'I don't know vot you mean by a wiserar. I never shot a wiserar!'"
"Devilish good!" exclaimed Saggers; and, as a matter of course, everybody laughed.
Passing about the bottle, the club now became hilarious and noisy; when the hammer of the president rapped them to order, and knocked down Sniggs for a song, who, after humming over the tune to himself, struck up the following:
When the snow's on the ground and the trees are all bare, And rivers and gutters are turned into ice, The sportsman goes forth to shoot rabbit or hare, And gives them a taste of his skill in a trice. Bang! bang! goes his Joe, And the bird's fall like snow, And he bags all he kills in a trice.
CHORUS. Bang! bang! goes his Joe, And the bird's fall like snow, And he bags all he kills in a trice.
II. If he puts up a partridge or pheasant or duck, He marks him, and wings him, and brings him to earth; He let's nothing fly--but his piece--and good luck His bag fills with game and his bosom with mirth.
Bang! bang! goes his Joe, And the bird's fall like snow, And good sport fills his bosom with mirth.
CHORUS. Bang! bang! et. etc.
III. When at night he unbends and encounters his pals, How delighted he boasts of the sport he has had; While a kind of round game's on the board, and gals Are toasted in bumpers by every lad. And Jack, Jim, and Joe Give the maid chaste as snow That is true as a shot to her lad!
CHORUS. And Jack, Jim and Joe Give the maid chaste as snow That is true as a shot to her lad!
The customary applause having followed this vocal attempt of Sniggs, he was asked for a toast or a sentiment.
"Here's--'May the charitable man never know the want of--'shot.'" said Sniggs.
"Excellent!" exclaimed Saggers, approvingly; "By Jupiter Tonans, Sniggs, you're a true son of--a gun!"
THE "CRACK-SHOTS."--No. III.
"Sich a lark!" said Bill Sorrel, breaking abruptly in upon the noisy chorus, miscalled a general conversation; "sich a lark!"
"Where?" demanded Saggers.
"You've jist hit it," replied Sorrel, "for it vere worry near 'Vare vhere it happened. I'd gone hout hearly, you know, and had jist cotched sight of a bird a-vistling on a twig, and puttered the vords, 'I'll spile your singin', my tight 'un,' and levelled of my gun, ven a helderly gentleman, on t'other side of the bank vich vos atween me and the bird, pops up his powdered noddle in a jiffy, and goggling at me vith all his eyes, bawls pout in a tantivy of a fright, 'You need'nt be afear'd, sir,' says I, 'I aint a-haiming at you,' and vith that I pulls my trigger-bang! Vell, I lost my dicky! and ven I looks for the old 'un, by Jingo! I'd lost him too. So I mounts the bank vere he sot, but he vas'nt there; so I looks about, and hobserves a dry ditch at the foot, and cocking my eye along it, vhy, I'm blessed, if I did'nt see the old fellow a-scampering along as fast as his legs could carry him. Did'nt I laugh, ready to split--that's all!"
"I tell you what, Sorrel," said the president, with mock gravity, "I consider the whole affair, however ridiculous, most immoral and reprehensible. What, shall a crack-shot make a target of an elder? Never! Let us seek more appropriate butts for our barrels! You may perhaps look upon the whole as a piece of pleasantry but let me tell you that you ran a narrow chance of being indicted for a breach of the peace! And remember, that even shooting a deer may not prove so dear a shot as bringing down an old buck!"
This humorous reproof was applauded by a "bravo!" from the whole club.
Sorrel sang--small, and Sniggs sang another sporting ditty.
"Our next meeting," resumed Saggers, "is on Thursday next when the pigeon-match takes place for a silver-cup--the 'Crack Shots' against the 'Oriental Club.' I think we shall give them I taste of our quality,' although we do not intend that they shall lick us. The silver-cup is their own proposal. The contest being a pigeon-match, I humbly proposed, as an amendment, that the prize should be a tumbler--which I lost by a minority of three. In returning thanks, I took occasion to allude to their rejection of my proposition, and ironically thanked them for having cut my tumbler."
"Werry good!" shouted Sorrel.
"Admirable!" exclaimed Sniggs; and, rising with due solemnity, he proposed the health of the "worthy president," prefacing his speech with the modest avowal of his inability to do what he still persisted in doing and did.
"Brother Shots!" said Saggers, after the usual honours had been duly performed, "I am so unaccustomed to speaking (a laugh), that I rise with a feeling of timidity to thank you for the distinguished honour you have conferred on me. Praise, like wine, elevates a man, but it likewise thickens and obstructs his speech; therefore, without attempting any rhetorical flourish, I will simply say, I sincerely thank you all for the very handsome manner in which you have responded to the friendly wishes of Brother Sniggs; and, now as the hour of midnight is at hand, I bid you farewell. It is indeed difficult to part from such good company; but, although it is morally impossible there ever can be a division among such cordial friends, both drunk and sober may at least separate--in spirits, --and I trust we shall all meet again in health--Farewell!"
Old Doctor Spraggs! famed Doctor Spraggs! Was both well fee'd and fed, And, tho' no soldier, Doctor Spraggs Had for his country-bled.
His patients living far and wide He was compell'd to buy A horse; and found no trouble, for He'd got one in his eye!
He was a tall and bony steed And warranted to trot, And so he bought the trotter, and Of course four trotters got.
Quoth he: "In sunshine quick he bounds "Across the verdant plain, "And, e'en when showers fall, he proves "He--doesn't mind the rain!"
But, oh! one morn, when Doctor Spraggs Was trotting on his way, A field of sportsmen came in view, And made his courser neigh.
"Nay! you may neigh," quoth Doctor Spraggs, "But run not, I declare "I did not come to chase the fox, "I came to take the--air!"
But all in vain he tugg'd the rein, The steed would not be stay'd; The "Doctor's stuff" was shaken, and A tune the vials play'd.
For in his pockets he had stow'd Some physic for the sick; Anon, "crack" went the bottles all, And forma a "mixture" quick.
His hat and wig flew off, but still The reins he hugg'd and haul'd; And, tho' no cry the huntsmen heard, They saw the Doctor--bald!
They loudly laugh'd and cheer'd him on, While Spraggs, quite out of breath, Still gallopp'd on against his will, And came in at the death.
To see the Doctor riding thus To sportsmen was a treat, And loudly they applauded him-- (Tho' mounted) on his feat!
MORAL. Ye Doctors bold, of this proud land Of liberty and--fogs, No hunters ride, or you will go Like poor Spraggs--to the dogs!
SCENE IX. (b)
"Well, Bill, d'ye get any bites over there?" "No, but I'm afeard I shall, soon have one."
Two youths, by favour of their sponsors, bearing the aristocratic names of William and Joseph, started early one morning duly equipped, on piscatorial sport intent. They trudged gaily forward towards a neighbouring river, looking right and left, and around them, as sharp as two crows that have scented afar off the carcase of a defunct nag.
At length they arrived at a lofty wall, on the wrong side of which, musically meandered the stream they sought. After a deliberate consultation, the valiant William resolved to scale the impediment, and cast the line. Joseph prudently remained on the other side ready to catch the fish--his companion should throw to him! Presently an exclamation of "Oh! my!" attracted his attention.
"Have you got a bite?" eagerly demanded Joe.
"No! by gosh! but I think I shall soon!" cried Bill. Hereupon the expectant Joseph mounted, and seating himself upon the wall, beheld to his horror, Master Bill keeping a fierce bull-dog at bay with the butt end of his fishing-rod.
"Go it, Bill!" exclaimed Joe, "pitch into him and scramble up."
The dog ran at him.--Joe in his agitation fell from his position, while Bill threw his rod at the beast, made a desperate leap, and clutched the top of the wall with his hands.
"Egad! I've lost my seat," cried Joe, rolling upon the grass.
"And so have I!" roared Bill, scrambling in affright over the wall.
And true it was, that he who had not got a bite before, had got a bite--behind!
Bill anathematised the dog, but the ludicrous bereavement he had sustained made him laugh, in spite of his teeth!
Joe joined in his merriment.
"What a burning shame it is?" said he; "truly there ought to be breaches ready made in these walls, Bill, that one might escape, if not repair these damages."
"No matter," replied Bill, shaking his head, "I know the owner--he's a Member of Parliament. Stop till the next election, that's all."
"Why, what has that to do with it?" demanded Joe.
"Do with it," said Bill emphatically, "why, I'll canvass for the opposite party, to be sure."
"And what then?"
"Then I shall have the pleasure of serving him as his dog has served me. Yes! Joe, the M. P. will lose his seat to a dead certainty!"
THE POUTER AND THE DRAGON.
"Another pigeon! egad, I'm in luck's way this morning."
Round and red, through the morning fog The sun's bright face Shone, like some jolly toping dog Of Bacchus' race.
When Jenkins, with his gun and cur On sport intent, Through fields, and meadows, many fur-- --longs gaily went.
He popp'd at birds both great and small, But nothing hit; Or if he hit, they wouldn't fall-- No, not a bit!
"It's wery strange, I do declare; I never see! I go at sky-larks in the hair Or on a tree."
"It's all the same, they fly away Has I let fly-- The birds is frightened, I dare say, And vill not die."
"Vhy, here's a go! I hav'nt ramm'd In any shot; The birds must think I only shamm'd, And none have got."
"I'll undeceive 'em quickly now, I bet a crown; And whether fieldfare, tit, or crow, Vill bring 'em down."
And as he spake a pigeon flew Across his way-- Bang went his piece--and Jenkins slew The flutt'ring prey.
He bagg'd his game, and onward went, When to his view Another rose, by fortune sent To make up two.
He fired, and beheld it fall With inward glee, And for a minute 'neath a wall Stood gazing he.
When from behind, fierce, heavy blows Fell on his hat, And knock'd his beaver o'er his nose, And laid him flat.
"What for," cried Jenkins, "am I mill'd, Sir, like this ere?" "You villain, you, why you have kill'd My pouter rare."
The sturdy knave who struck him down With frown replied:-- "For which I'll make you pay a crown Nor be denied."
Poor Jenkins saw it was in vain To bandy words; So paid the cash and vow'd, again He'd not shoot birds--
At least of that same feather, lest For Pouter shot Some Dragon fierce should him molest-- And fled the spot.
THE PIC-NIC. No. I.
A merry holiday party, forming a tolerable boat-load, and well provided with baskets of provisions, were rowing along the beautiful and picturesque banks that fringe the river's side near Twickenham, eagerly looking out for a spot where they might enjoy their "pic-nic" to perfection.
"O! uncle, there's a romantic glade;--do let us land there!" exclaimed a beautiful girl of eighteen summers, to a respectable old gentleman in a broad brimmed beaver and spectacles.
"Just the thing, I declare," replied he--"the very spot--pull away, my lads--but dear me" continued he, as they neared the intended landing-place, "What have we here? What says the board?"
"PARTIES ARE NOT, ALLOWED TO LAND AND DINE HERE"
Oh! oh! very well; then we'll only land here, and dine a little further on"
"What a repulsive board"--cried the young lady--"I declare now I'm quite vex'd"--
"Never mind, Julia, we won't be bored by any board"--said the jocose old gentleman.
"I'm sure, uncle"--said one of the youths--"we don't require any board, for we provide ourselves."
"You're quite right, Master Dickey," said his uncle; "for we only came out for a lark, you know, and no lark requires more than a little turf for its entertainment; pull close to the bank, and let us land."
"Oh! but suppose," said the timid Julia, "the surly owner should pounce upon us, just as we are taking our wine?"
"Why then, my love," replied he, "we have only to abandon our wine, and, like sober members of the Temperance Society--take water."
Pulling the wherry close along side the grassy bank, and fastening it carefully to the stump of an old tree, the whole party landed.
"How soft and beautiful is the green-sward here," said the romantic Julia, indenting the yielding grass with her kid-covered tiny feet; "Does not a gentleman of the name of Nimrod sing the pleasure of the Turf?" said Emma: "I wonder if he ever felt it as we do?"
"Certainly not," replied Master Dickey, winking at his uncle; "for the blades of the Turf he describes, are neither so fresh nor so green as these; and the 'stakes' he mentions are rather different from those contained in our pigeon-pie."
"But I doubt, Dickey," said his uncle, "if his pen ever described a better race than the present company. The Jenkins's, let me tell you, come of a good stock, and sport some of the best blood in the country."
"Beautiful branches of a noble tree," exclaimed Master Dicky, "but, uncle, a hard row has made me rather peckish; let us spread the provender. I think there's an honest hand of pork yonder that is right worthy of a friendly grasp;--only see if, by a single touch of that magical hand, I'm not speedily transformed into a boat."
"What sort of a boat?" cried Julia. "A cutter, to be sure," replied Master Dicky, and laughing he ran off with his male companions to bring the provisions ashore.
Meanwhile the uncle and his niece selected a level spot beneath the umbrageous trees, and prepared for the unpacking of the edibles.
THE PIC-NIC. No. II
Notwithstanding the proverbial variety of the climate, there is no nation under the sun so fond of Pic-Nic parties as the English; and yet how seldom are their pleasant dreams of rural repasts in the open air fated to be realized!
However snugly they may pack the materials for the feast, the pack generally gets shuffled in the carriage, and consequently their promised pleasure proves anything but "without mixture without measure."
The jam-tarts are brought to light, and are found to have got a little jam too much. The bottles are cracked before their time, and the liberal supplies of pale sherry and old port are turned into a--little current.
They turn out their jar of ghirkins, and find them mixed, and all their store in a sad pickle.
The leg of mutton is the only thing that has stood in the general melee.
The plates are all dished, and the dishes only fit for a lunatic asylum, being all literally cracked.
Even the knives and forks are found to ride rusty on the occasion. The bread is become sop; and they have not even the satisfaction of getting salt to their porridge, for that is dissolved into briny tears.
Like the provisions, they find themselves uncomfortably hamper'd; for they generally chuse such a very retired spot, that there is nothing to be had for love or money in the neighbourhood, for all the shops are as distant as--ninety-ninth cousins!
However delightful the scenery may be, it is counterbalanced by the prospect of starvation.
Although on the borders of a stream abounding in fish, they have neither hook nor line; and even the young gentlemen who sing fail in a catch for want of the necessary bait. Their spirits are naturally damped by their disappointment, and their holiday garments by a summer shower; and though the ducks of the gentlemen take the water as favourably as possible, every white muslin presently assumes the appearance of a drab, and, becoming a little limp and dirty, looks as miserable as a lame beggar!
In fine, it is only a donkey or a goose that can reasonably expect to obtain a comfortable feed in a field. It may be very poetical to talk of "Nature's table-cloth of emerald verdure;" but depend on it, a damask one, spread over that full-grown vegetable--a mahogany table--is far preferable.
Giles was the eldest son and heir of Jeremiah Styles--a cultivator of the soil--who, losing his first wife, took unto himself, at the mature age of fifty, a second, called by the neighbours, by reason of the narrowness of her economy, and the slenderness of her body, Jeremiah's Spare-rib.
Giles was a "'cute" lad, and his appetite soon became, under his step-mother's management, as sharp as his wit; and although he continually complained of getting nothing but fat, when pork chanced to form a portion of her dietary, it was evident to all his acquaintance that he really got lean! His legs, indeed, became so slight, that many of his jocose companions amused themselves with striking at them with straws as he passed through the farmyard of a morning.
"Whoy, Giles!" remarked one of them, "thee calves ha' gone to grass, lad."
"Thee may say that, Jeames," replied Giles; "or d'ye see they did'nt find I green enough."
"I do think now, Giles," said James, "that Mother Styles do feed thee on nothing, and keeps her cat on the leavings."
"Noa, she don't," said Giles, "for we boath do get what we can catch, and nothing more. Whoy, now, what do you think, Jeames; last Saturday, if the old 'ooman did'nt sarve me out a dish o' biled horse-beans--"
"Horse-beans?" cried James; "lack-a-daisy me, and what did you do?"
"Whoy, just what a horse would ha' done, to be sure--"
"Noa--I kicked, and said 'Nay,' and so the old 'ooman put herself into a woundy passion wi' I. 'Not make a dinner of horsebeans, you dainty dog,' says she; 'I wish you may never have a worse.'--'Noa, mother,' says I, 'I hope I never shall.' And she did put herself into such a tantrum, to be sure--so I bolted; whereby, d'ye see, I saved my bacon, and the old 'ooman her beans. But it won't do. Jeames, I've a notion I shall go a recruit, and them I'm thinking I shall get into a reg'lar mess, and get shut of a reg'lar row."
"Dang it, it's too bad!" said the sympathising James; "and when do thee go?"
"Next March, to be sure," replied Giles, with a spirit which was natural to him--indeed, as to any artificial spirit, it was really foreign to his lips.
"But thee are such a scare-crow, Giles," said James; "thee are thin as a weasel."
"My drumsticks," answered he, smiling, "may recommend me to the band--mayhap--for I do think they'll beat anything."
"I don't like sogering neither," said James, thoughtfully. "Suppose the French make a hole in thee with a bagnet--"
"Whoy, then, I shall be 'sewed up,' thee know."
"That's mighty foine," replied James, shaking his head; "but I'd rather not, thank'ye."
"Oh! Jeames, a mother-in-law's a greater bore than a bagnet, depend on't; and it's my mind, it's better to die in a trench than afore an empty trencher--I'll list"
And with this unalterable determination, the half-starved, though still merry Giles, quitted his companion; and the following month, in pursuance of the resolve he had made, he enlisted in his Majesty's service. Fortunately for the youth, he received more billets than bullets, and consequently grew out of knowledge, although he obtained a world of information in his travels; and, at the expiration of the war, returned to his native village covered with laurels, and in the Joyment of the half-pay of a corporal, to which rank he had been promoted in consequence of his meritorious conduct in the Peninsula. His father was still living, but his step-nother was lying quietly in the church-yard.
"I hope, father," said the affectionate Giles, "that thee saw her buried in a deep grave, and laid a stone a-top of her?"
"I did, my son."
"Then I am happy," replied Giles.
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