Page images

little girl, a woman of the better sort of poor, in a condition rather above the squalid beings which we have been contemplating. It is not of toys, of nursery-books, of summer holydays; (fitting that age ;) of the promised sight, or play ; of praised sufficiency at school. It is of mangling and clearstarching, of the price of coals, or of potatoes. The questions of the child, that should be the very outpourings of curiosity in idleness, are marked with forecast and melancholy providence. It has come to be a woman-before it was a child. It has learned to go to market; it chaffers, it haggles, it envies, it murmurs: it is knowing, acute, sharpened; it never pratiles. Had we not reason to say, that the home of the very poor is no home?

There is yet another home, which we are constrained to deny to be one. It has a larder, which the home of the poor man wants; its fireside conveniences, of which the poor dream not. But with all this, it is no home. It is the house of the man that is infested with many visiters. May we be branded for the veriest churl, if we deny our heart io the many noble-hearted friends that at times exchange their dwelling for our poor roof! It is not of guests that we complain, but of endless, purposeless visitants; droppers in, as they are called. We sometimes wonder from what sky they fall. It is the very error of the position of our lodging; its horoscopy was ill calculated, being just situate in a medium -a plaguy suburban mid-space-fitted to catch idlers from town or country. We are older than we were, and age is easily put out of its way. We have fewer sands in our glass to reckon upon, and we cannot brook to see them drop in endlessly succeeding impertinences. At our time of life, to be alone sometimes is as needful as sleep. It is the refreshing sleep of the day. The growing infirmities of age manifest themselves in nothing more strongly, than in an inveterate dislike of interruption. The thing which we are doing, we wish to be permitted to do. We have neither much knowledge nor devices; but there are fewer in the place to which we hasten. We are not willingly put out of our way, even at a game of nine-pins. While youth was, we had vast reversions in time future; we are reduced to a present pittance, and obliged to economize in that article. We bleed away our moments now as hardly as our ducats. We cannot bear to have our thin wardrobe eaten and fretted into by moths. We are willing to barter our good time with a friend, who gives us in exchange his own. Herein is the distinction between the genuine guest and the visitant. This latter takes your good time, and gives you his bad in exchange. The guest ja domestic to you as your good cat or household bird ; the visitant is your fly, that flaps in at your window, and out again, leaving nothing but a sense of disturbance, and victuals spoiled. The inferior functions of life begin to move heavily. We cannot concoct our food with interruptions. Our chief meal, to be nutritive, must be solitary. With difficulty we can eat before a guest; and never understood what the relish of public feasting meant. Meats have no sapor, nor digestion fair play, in a crowd. The unexpected coming in of a visitant stops the machine. There is a punctual generation who time their calls to the precise commencement of your dining-hour --not to eat—but to see you eat. Our knife and fork drop instinctively, and we feel that we have swallowed our latest morsel. Others again show their genius, as we have said, in knocking the moment you have just sat down to a book. They have a peculiar compassionate sneer, with which they “ hope that they do not interrupt your studies.” Though they flutter off the next moment, to carry their impertinences to the nearest student that they can call their friend, the tone of the book is spoiled; we shut the leaves, and, with Dante's. lovers, read no more that day. It were well if the effect of intrusion were simply coextensive with its presence; but it mars all the good hours afterward. These scratches in appearance leave an orifice that closes not hastily.

“ It is a prostitution of the bravery of friendship," says worthy Bishop Taylor, “ to spend it upon impertinent people, who are, it may be, loads to their families, but can never ease my loads." This is the secret of their gaddings, their visits, and morning calls. They too have homes, which are—no homes.



“Good sir, or madam, as it may be—we most willingly embrace the offer of your friendship. We long have known your excellent qualities. We have wished to have you nearer to us; to hold you within the very innermost fold of our heart. We can have no reserve towards a person of your open and noble nature. The frankness of your humour suits us exactly. We have been long looking for such a friend. Quicklet us disburden our troubles into each other's bosom-let us

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

make our single joys shine by reduplication, But yap, yap, yap!--what is this confounded cur ? he has fastened his tooth, which is none of the bluntest, just in the fleshy part of my leg."

“It is my dog, sir. You must love him for my sake. Here, Test—Test—Test !" “ But he has bitten me.”

Ay, that he is apt to do, till you are better acquainted with him. I have had him three years. He never bites me.

Yap, yap, yap !“He is at it again.”

“Oh, sir, you must not kick him. He does not like to be kicked. I expect my dog to be treated with all the respect due to myself.”

“ But do you always take him out with you when you go a friendship-hunting ?"

“Invariably. 'Tis the sweetest, prettiest, best-conditioned animal. I call him my testthe touchstone by which I try a friend. No one can properly be said to love me who does not love him." - Excuse us, dear sir—or madam aforesaid-if upon

further consideration we are obliged to decline the otherwise invaluable offer of your friendship. We do not like dogs."

Mighty well, sir-you know the conditions—you may have worse offers. Come along, Test.”

The above dialogue is not so imaginary, but that, in the intercourse of life, we have had frequent occasions of breaking off an agreeable intimacy by reason of these canine appendages. They do not always come in the shape of dogs; they sometimes wear the more plausible and human character of kinsfolk, near acquaintances, my friend's friend, his partner, his wife, or his children. We could never yet form a friendship-not to speak of more delicate corresp ondence—however much to our taste, without the intervention of some third anomaly, some impertinent clog affixed to the relation—the understood dog in the proverb. The good things of life are not to be had singly, but come to us with a mixture; like a schoolboy's holyday, with a task affixed to the tail of it. What a delightful companion is ****, if he did not always bring his tall cousin with him! He seems to grow with him; like some of those double births, which we remember to have read of with such wonder and delight in the old “ Athenian Oracle,” where Swift commenced author by writing Pindaric Odes (what a beginning for him !) upon Sir William Temple. There is the picture of the brother, with the little brother peeping out at his shoulder; a species of fraternity which we have no name of kin close enough to

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

comprehend. When comes, poking in his head and shoulder into your room, as if to feel his entry, you think, surely you have now got him to yourself—what a three-hours' chat we shall have !—but, ever in the haunch of him, and be fore his diffident body is well disclosed in your apartment, ap pears the haunting shadow of the cousin, over-peering his modest kinsman, and sure to overlay the expecied good talk with his insufferable procerity of stature, and uncorresponding dwarfishness of observation. Misfortunes seldom come alone. 'Tis hard when a blessing comes accompanied. Cannot we like Sempronia, without sitting down to chess with her eternal brother? or know Sulpicia, without knowing all the round of her card-playing relations ? must my friend's brethren of necessity be mine also ? must we be hand and glove with Dick Selby the parson, or Jack Selby the calico-printer, because W. S., who is neither, but a ripe wii and a critic, has the misfortune to claim a common parentage with them? Let him lay down his brothers; and 'tis odds but we will cast him in a pair of ours (we have a superflux) to balance the concession. Let F. H. lay down his garrulous uncle; and Honorius dismiss his vapid wife, and superfluous establishment of six boys: things between boy and manhood—too ripe for play, too raw for conversation—that come in, impudently staring their father's old friend out of countenance; and will neither aid nor let alone the conference: that we may once more meet upon equal terms, as we were wont to do in the disengaged state of bachelorhood.

It is well if your friend or mistress be content with these canicular probations. Few young ladies but in this sense keep a dog. But when Rutilia hounds at you her tiger aunt; or Ruspina expects you to cherish and fondle her viper sister, whom she has preposterously taken into her bosom, to try stinging conclusions upon your constancy; they must not complain if the house be rather thin of suiters. Scylla must have broken off many excellent matches in her time, if she insisted


all that loved her loving her dogs also. An excellent story to this moral is told of Merry, of Della Cruscan memory. In tender youth, he loved and courted a modest appanage to the opera, in truth a dancer, who had won him by the artless contrast beiween her manners and situation. She seemed to him a native violet, that had been transplanted by some rude accident into that exotic and artificial hotbed. Nor, in truth, was she less genuine and sincere than she appeared to him. He wooed and won this fluwer. Only for appearance' sake, and for due honour to the bride's relations, she craved that she might have the attendance of


her friends and kindred at the approaching solemnity. The request was too amiable not to be conceded : and in this so, licitude for conciliating the good-will of mere relations, he found a presage of her superior attentions to himself, when the golden shaft should have killed the flock of all affections else.” The morning came : and at the Star and Garter, Richmond-the place appointed for the breakfasting-accompanied with one English friend, he impatiently awaited what re-enforcements the bride should bring to grace the

ceremony. A rich muster she had made. They came in six coachesthe whole corps du ballet-French, Italian, men and women. Monsieur De B., the famous pirouetter of the day, led his fair spouse, but craggy, from the banks of the Seine. The prima donna had sent her excuse. But the first and second buffa were there; and Signor Sc—, and Signora Ch-, and Madame V-, with a countless cavalcade besides of chorusers, figurantes, at the sight of whom Merry afterward declared, ihat " then for the first time it struck him seriously that he was about to marry-a dancer.” But there was no help for it. Besides, it was her day; these were, in fact, her friends and kinsfolk. The assemblage, though whimsical, was all very natural. But when the bride-handing out of the last coach a still more extraordinary figure than the rest-presented to him as her father-the gentleman that was to give her awayno less a person than Sigrior Delpini himself

with a sort of pride, as much as to say, See what I have brought to do us honiour!--the thought of so extraordinary a paternity quite overcame him; and slipping away under some pretence from the bride and her motley adherents, poor Merry took horse from the back yard to the nearest seacoast, from which, shipping himself to America, he shortly after consoled himself with a more congenial match in the person of Miss Brunton ; relieved from his intended clown father, and a bevy of painted buffas for bridemaids.



Ar what precise minute that little airy musician doffs his night-gear, and prepares to tune up his uniseasonable matins, we are not naturalists enough to determine. But for a mero

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »