Puslapio vaizdai

meat for our supper, there was an abundant supply of it for others. Who these others may be"-here he shrugged his shoulders-" God knows; but it bodes us no good." "How came you to find that out?" remarked the bookseller.

"Oh! by the merest accident in the world," replied the other. "I happened to look in at the kitchen window, and saw two stout wenches preparing enough meat for ten individuals.".

"Were you seen?" asked his interrogator.

"I think not," he quickly answered, "but the maids exchanged such glances of intelligence that I should not be surprised if I was.”

"These people have certainly come down in the world since I was last here," said the steward, "but I did not expect to find it so poor a place, or I should—”

The words died on his lips, for Mary re-entered, bringing in what he had desired. She looked severely at the Italian.

"You had not a very good meal of it," said she, addressing him in a somewhat marked manner, "for although we had better provisions about the place than I could afford to give you, I was obliged to reserve them for the farm boys, whom I expect every moment from the fields; for you know," added she, turning to the steward, "farming is our chief occupation, and the Inn is merely a secondary branch of industry. Of course I could not think of deranging the poor people's usual repast, after a hard day's work, for chance visitors;" and, with any thing but a friendly smile, she withdrew.

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

'Sir, I was an old man and the father of a family," gravely replied the steward, "and therefore could take in Mary only the most fatherly interest. She was born not far from the Castle of Rantzau, and her parents, who were poor labourers, sent her early to service in the little inn of our village. Well do I remember the sensation she created on her arrival. Nothing was heard of but her beauty. In less than a week she obtained universally the cognomen by which I call her, and which she has kept to this day in our village; in a couple of weeks more the matrons of the place declared her to be a saucy, flippant girl, whose acquaintance they forbade their daughters, and prayed their sons to avoid. I, myself, saw no harm whatever about the girl-she was merry and free in her manners to be sure, but she would hand an old man like me his can of beer with as good a grace, and winning a smile, as if I had been the friskiest lad in the village. I must tell you that from Rantzau to the village it is a mere walk, and one which I was in the habit of taking almost every evening, for the space of many years. This walk always brought me to the neat, tidy little inn, kept by my friend the post-master, where I regularly smoked my pipe, and sipped my beer, in company with a few old tried friends, reading our newspaper, talking over the politics of the day, and discussing the then scandals of our village,

'You have been seen," observed the bookseller to the and those of our youth. A pleasant time we had of it— Italian, with a somewhat crest-fallen air. but, lack-a-day, our ranks are thinned since then-ah! where was I? Pretty Mary had not long been in the inn as chief maid-my old friend the post-master was dead, and his son, a lad I had dandled on my knee, had succeeded to the business, for his old mother knew no more about it than the cuckoo. It was as neat an esta

"She provides well for her people," replied the Italian; "I think few farm boys are better treated. I wish we were well out of this place; I disliked it from the very first, and everything since has added to my suspicions."

"I cannot bring myself to think there is any harm about it," said the steward, "I have known pretty Mary so long. True, neither she nor her circumstances seem improved of late, but yet I cannot share your doubts."

"Whence dates your acquaintance?" interrupted the Italian, putting back with his hand the proffered draught which the young German was tendering him, and fixing his quick eager glance upon the steward whilst he replied:

"It is a long story to tell, but if it amuses you to listen to it over your glass, I am quite ready to give it you." "Under the present circumstances, nothing can have more interest for us than an account of this woman. Pray begin-we are all ear."

The bookseller had by this time opened the pearl tobacco bag his Dorothea had wrought for him, and having drawn from his pocket his travelling pipe, he prepared to soothe his growing alarms, and possibly the tediousness of the tale, with the delight of the soporiferous herb, and echoed the wish of his neighbour.

"It is many years back-I should think about fifteen," began the steward, "when I first saw pretty Mary. You both smile, and shake your heads, at the epithet which, from habit, I still apply to her. She is faded now, and you cannot possibly imagine how truly she once deserved it. Ay, ay, I remember her well, with her bright eyes and rosy cheeks, white teeth and merry laugh, there was not a comelier or more buxom lassy in the whole village. She liked to be told she was pretty-and where's the

blishment as a man need to have; a snug inn it was— with well-filled cellars-five post-horses in the stable-a few postillions, who served as farm-boys at the same time. In short, nothing could be more complete. I must not forget to add that he likewise kept our only post-office. He was a good-looking, good-natured, obliging fellow as ever lived. May be he had one or two little follies, such as letting his moustachios grow, and wearing a green coat like my lord's chasseur, and that, too, after I had warned him against such apishness; but, on the whole, he was a good boy, and I loved him well, both for his father's sake and his own. I soon saw how matters stood between him and Mary. Ay, had she chosen it, she might have been the honest, happy wife of as thriving a lad as any we have in our parts. Not that Mary begrudged him her smiles or her soft looks, but at the bottom she loved another. The thing passed thus-the post-master's old mother, who had been very strict in her day-God assoilzie herHere goes to her memory, gentlemen!" So saying, the honest old steward emptied his glass, which had stood for some time untasted before him.

"Well, she would not hear of the match, and wished to turn pretty Mary out of the house, saying she was over light for the like of her son, and that if his wife were poor she should, at least, be honest. The boy did not believe her, and would have married Mary for all that, being much of my opinion, that she had too many admire

among the men to have the goodwill of the women. The | way, and the great mystery in which she tried to envelope

girl had consented, and the wedding was to take place very shortly, when a conversation he accidentally overheard in his own stables proved to him, that, had he concluded the affair, he would have been greatly duped, and that if it were any one's duty to repair the poor maiden's houour he certainly was not the person on whom this duty ought to devolve. The truth is, my good friends, her true affection was given to a squinting, red-haired postillion, by name Peter Stieber. He was as ill-favoured, and as illbehaved a man as ever I happened to see-very much addicted to drink and profligate habits, and the little we knew of him for he was not of our village, but came from a distant part of the country-made us dislike him every day more and more. Not so Mary. Her whole heart, it would seem, was bound up in this man, at least so her after behaviour would lead one to believe. The postmaster, who had already often thought of dismissing him for his dissolute habits and frequent and unaccountable absences, now hesitated no longer, and unceremoniously disturbing the téte-a-téle he had so opportunely overheard, he turned out Peter Stieber that very hour. But he could not find it in his heart to do the same by pretty Mary, however cruelly she had deceived him; for he well know such proceeding would at once complete her ruin in the village, that her many rivals would greatly joy in her shame, and repay her former scornful and sneering manner to them with every bitter insult they could think of. His goodness of heart triumphed, and so he left pretty Mary without a word of reproach; but the ensuing week found a gentle, prudent girl of the neighbourhood invested with all the honours of postmistress at the quiet, little Inn. Great, doubtless, was Mary's disappointment; and whether her proud spirit could not brook to obey where she once thought to command, or whether it was that the young wife was not without her jealousies about Mary and made her uncomfortable, or, it may be from some other cause, Mary soon after left the Inn, and removed to another in a neighbouring town. Affairs often brought me to her new residence. Here, although her beauty was still an object of remark, it did not excite the same heart-burnings and jealousies which it had occasioned in our village; and for a very simple reason. She no longer noticed the young men of the place, having evidently given up all hopes of an honourable establishment, and kept all her coquetries for chance travellers who put up at her master's house. It went on very well for a time but some of the better sort of visitors complained of her boldness and obtrusiveness, and her irregularities at last became such and so glaring that the innkeeper put her out of doors.

these absences—all this, I say, led me to conclude that Peter Stieber was not far off, that he still exercised an undue influence over poor Mary, and was the cause of many of her follies; nor was I far wrong, as you will soon perceive. A few years after pretty Mary's singular disappearance, the affairs of my Lord the Count of Rantzau brought me this way; and what was my surprise to find her the wedded wife of Peter Stieber, and mistress of a large and comfortable inn. I could not help suspecting Mary's beauty had somewhat contributed to the comforts I saw around them. That she was not quite reformed several circumstances led me to believe; and although Peter Stieber was more active than I had known him, I could easily perceive that he made a brutal husband, and a drunken, disobliging host; but Mary, poor soul, in spite of all her levity, seemed devotedly attached to him. Besides, she received me with so frank and cordial a welcome that I could not have harboured an unkind thought of her, nor did I choose to dwell too much upon her past existence."

"Have you performed this journey often?" inquired the bookseller.

"Never from that day to this," answered the steward; "and sad is the change that has taken place since then, both in the people and the objects around them. Pretty Mary's friendly smiles have disappeared with her beauty, and the whole concern seems to have gone to ruin. I dare say all this has been effected by Peter Stieber's evil propensities, and that sorrow and suffering have made of the poor girl what she now is."

[ocr errors]

Did you sleep here on that occasion?" again interrupted the bookseller.

"Ay, that did I, and spent a part of the next day here into the bargain, although the Count was anxiously expecting his monies-for I was bent on precisely the same errand as that which now takes me to F, but it was a gay time in this part of the country-it being Kirmess-and the Inn so crowded I could not have a private chamber for love or money, and was obliged to spend the night in the public room with numbers of other people, and they drank, and sang, and made themselves so merry, that I could not close my eyes all night. still I left the place with regret, and little dreamed 1 should ever find it so altered."


'How comes the woman by so accurate a knowledge of your journey and its object?" still persisted the inquisitive bookseller, shaking the ashes out of his expiring pipe, whilst the Italian continued to listen in silence, his large bright eyes gradually increasing in size and lustre as the steward's story came to a close, and evidently sharing the young German's curiosity.

"Pretty Mary, in the course of a couple of years, experienced precisely the same fate in several of the better "Why, Mary was born on the estate of the Count, and hostelries of the neighbouring towns and villages, and of course knows well the time at which we collect the disappeared all of a sudden from that part of the country. rents,-knows, too, pretty well to what they amount, and The poor girl had so lost herself, that none even of her did not fail, whilst at the inn of our village, to pick up past admirers thought it worth while to inquire into the some information about our affairs." Here the honest matter. I was one of those who, I believe, pitied her steward, having given due emphasis to the significant most sincerely. I must tell you that from the moment of plural, drew himself up with a great air of dignity and his dismissal by the Postmaster, Peter Stieber had never self-importance, looking from one face to another to enjoy been seen nor heard of more. Now, putting that together the effect it should have produced. But he was disapwith the complaints all Mary's successive masters made of pointed; the bookseller's countenance expressed nothing her, namely, that she was constantly absenting herself but perplexity and care, whilst the foreigner seemed lost without being able, or willing, to account for it in any | in abstraction,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"What on earth makes you look so moody, comrade?'' | that view of the case; and you, Sir," added he, turning ssid the old man, addressing his countryman. to the Italian, "a woman may be light and not criminal -Eh?"

Is it the recital of pretty Mary's misfortunes, or this evening's wretched accommodation ?" "I was reflecting," answered the bookseller, "on the very bad character which, from your own account, it would seem the people of this house deservedly enjoy, and how far it may be likely to affect us on the present occasion. The woman knows of a large sum being in the house, and there is no kirmess. I can tell you, however, much your vivid recollection of her once rosy cheeks and warm smiles may reassure you, I, who have seen nothing of either, feel anything but comorted by the story of her past life."

"It is strange," replied the steward, "I cannot take


"In my wanderings through the world, I have often found the one thing led to the other," replied the Italian with a smile that seemed but little in harmony with the subject in discussion and the words he uttered; "and if you, indeed, wish to know my candid opinion, which, after all, may not be useless to you, I think you had better frame your minds to that which will certainly take place: I mean a night attack, for which, however, gentlemen, if I understood you aright, during the course of our short acquaintance, you are both fully prepared." (To be Continued.)


THE Battle of Life is the fourth of Mr. Dickens's annual | that day's work, and that night's death and suffering! Many publications, The Christmas Carol, the first and the a lonely moon was bright upon the battle ground, and many a star kept mournful watch upon it, and many a wind best, has reached only a tenth edition, The Chimes was from every quarter of the earth blew over it, before the said to be inferior to its predecessor, and is up to the traces of the fight were worn away. They lurked and twelfth edition. The Cricket on the Hearth had the lingered for a long time, bet survived in little things, for worst character of the three, and has, therefore, attained Nature, far above the evil passions of men, soon recovered her serenity, and smiled upon the guilty battleits twenty-second edition. The facts merely show that ground as she had done before, when it was innocent. book-buyers and reviewers do not always entertain similar The larks sang high above it, the swallows skimmed and opinions. The latter class pretty generally asserted that dipped, and flitted to and fro, the shadows of the flying Mr. Dickens was living-so far as his Annuals were conclouds pursued each other swiftly, over grass, and corn, and turnip field, and wood, and over roof and churchcerned on his character-eating into his acquired lite-spire, in the nestling town, among the trees, away into rary capital, while the former have taken care that he should live upon his editions. No book of the past, or many previous issues, has been so successful as the Cricket. The author of Waverley never got off twentytwo editions of any of his works in twelve months-or two editions, on an average, per month. On the ratio of increase in the previous publications, the Battle of Life will run into forty-four editions; and, as one-half of our readers cannot reasonably expect their copies before the month of June, we may tell them its story in a few sentences. The little volume opens with meditations on a battle-field, quite in Mr. Dickens's style; and, as they are applicable to any other battle-field whatever, and very sensible observations, we quote them:

[ocr errors]

the bright distance on the borders of the sky and earth, where the red sunsets faded. Crops were sown and grew up, and were gathered in; the stream that had been crimsoned turned a watermill; men whistled at the plough; gleaners and haymakers were seen in quiet groups at work; sheep and oxen pastured; boys whooped and called, in fields, to scare away the birds; smoke rose from cottage chimneys; Sabbath bells rang peacefully ; old people lived and died; the timid creatures of the field, and simple flowers of the bush and garden, grew and withered in their destined turns ;-and all upon the fierce and bloody battle-ground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight. But there were deep green patches in the growing corn, at first, that people looked at awfully. Year after year they reappeared; and it was known, that, underneath those fertile spots, heaps of men and horses lay buried, indiscriminately, enriching the ground. The husbandmen

Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stal-who ploughed those places shrank from the great worms wart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day, when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower, formed by the Almighty hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup fill high with blood that day, and, shrinking, dropped. Many an insect, deriving its delicate colour from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying man, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground becarae a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools, collected in the prints of human feet and horses' hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field, when, coming up above the black line of distant rising-ground, softened and blurred at the edge by trees, she rose into the sky and looked upon the plain, strewn with upturned faces that had once at mothers' breasts sought mothers' eyes, or slumbered happily. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the secrets whispered afterwards upon the tainted wind that blew across the scene of

By Charles Dickens, L don: Br dbury & Evans.

abounding there; and the sheaves they yielded were,
for many a long year, called the Battle Sheaves,
and set apart; and no one ever knew a Battle Sheaf
to be among the last load at a Harvest Home. For
a long time, every furrow that was turned revealed
some fragments of the fight. For a long time, there
were wounded trees upon the battle-ground, and scraps
of hacked and broken fence and wall, where deadly
struggles had been made; and trampled parts where not
a blade would grow. For a long time, no village girl would
dress her hair or bosom with the sweetest flower from
that field of death; and after many a year had come and
gone, the berries growing there were still believed to leave
too deep a stain upon the hand that plucked them.
seasons in their course, however, though they passed as
lightly as the summer clouds themselves, obliterated, in
the lapse of time, even these remains of the old conflict;
and wore away much legendary traces of it as the neigh-
bouring people carried in their minds, until they dwindled
into old wives' tales, dimly remembered round the winter
fire, and waning every year. Where the wild flowers and
berries had so long remained upon the stem untouched
+ By M. A. Titmarsh. London: Chapman & Hall,


gardens arose, and houses were built, and children played | had fallen out; or had been picked out, perhaps, by the

at battles on the turf. The wounded trees had long ago made Christmas logs, and blazed and roared away. The deep green patches were no greener now than the memory of those who lay in dust below. The ploughshare still turned up, from time to time, some rusty bits of metal; but it was hard to say what use they had ever served, and those who found them wondered and disputed. An old dinted corslet and a helmet had been hanging in the church so long, that the same weak half-blind old man, who tried in vain to make them out above the whitewashed arch, had marvelled at them as a baby."

L The battle-field has no connexion whatever with the sub ject, except that, in years long subsequent to the fight, a village was built there; and in the village Doctor Jeddler dwelt with his daughters, Grace and Marion; his ward, Mr. Alfred Heathfield; and two servants, Mr. Britain and "Clemency." Dr. Jeddler's peculiarity was' that he thought life a kind of "joke," a "great farce," an opinion from which the young ladies and the ward very sensibly dissented. The tale opens with a breakfast in the orchard, on the morning when Dr. Jeddler is to de liver over such papers and property as belong to Mr. Alfred Heathfield at his majority, and the young gentleman is to commence his three years' travels. Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs being the Doctor's attorneys, are of course invited to the breakfast on the grass; and before the papers are all signed, sealed, and delivered, the reader will discover that Mr. Heathfield and Miss Marion Jeddler are upon peculiarly intimate terms; and that at the expiry of three years, on the return of Mr. Heath field, there will be another pleasant meeting in the old orchard. Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs-attornies though they be are enabled to discover this part of the transaction, but they hand over the papers. The coach comes up too soon, as usual in all such cases, and Mr. Heathfield having consigned Marion to the especial care of "Grace," goes forth into the world on the top of the stage. Years pass away on the battle-field, and another character is introduced into the tale, in a passage which we quote, as the best in the book:

"Snitchey and Craggs had a snug little office on the old Battle Ground, where they drove a snug little business, and fought a great many small pitched battles for a great many contending parties. Though it could hardly be said of these conflicts that they were running fightsfor in truth they generally proceeded at a snail's pacethe part the Firm had in them came so far within that general denomination, that now they took a shot at this Plaintiff, and now aimed a chop at that Defendant, now made a heavy charge at an estate in Chancery, and now had some light skirmishing among an irregular body of small debtors, just as the occasion served, and the enemy happened to present himself. The Gazette was an important and profitable feature in some of their fields, as well as in fields of greater renown; and in most of the actions wherein they showed their generalship, it was afterwards observed by the combatants that they had had great difficulty in making each other out, or in knowing with any degree of distinctness what they were about, in consequence of the vast amount of smoke by which they were surrounded.

"The offices of Messrs Snitchey and Craggs stood convenient with an open door, down two smooth steps in the market place: so that any angry farmer inclining towards hot water, might tumble into it at once. Their special council-chamber and hall of conference was an old back room up stairs, with a low dark ceiling, which seemed to be knitting its brows gloomily in the consideration of tangled points of law. It was furnished with some highbacked leathern chairs, garnished with great goggle-eyed brass nails, of which, every here and there, two or three

wandering thumbs and forefingers of bewildered clients. There was a framed print of a great judge in it, every curl in whose dreadful wig had made a man's hair stand on end. Bales of papers filled the dusty closets, shelves and tables; and round the wainscoat there were tiers of boxes, padlocked and fireproof, with people's names painted outside, which anxious visitors felt themselves, by a cruel enchantment, obliged to spell backwards and forwards, and to make anagrams of, while they sat, seeming to listen to Snitchey and Craggs, without comprehending one word of what they said.

In this office, nevertheless, Snitchey and Craggs made honey for their several hives. Here, sometimes, they would linger, of a fine evening, at the window of their council-chamber, overlooking the old battle-ground, and wonder (but that was generally at assize time, when much business had made them sentimental) at the folly of mankind, who couldn't always be at peace with one another, and go to law comfortably. Here days, and weeks, and montis, and years passed over them; their calendar, the gradually diminishing number of brass nails in the leathern chairs, and the increasing bulk of papers on the tables. Here nearly three years' flight had thinned the one and swelled the other, since the breakfast in the orchard; when they sat together in consultation at night. Not alone; but with a man of thirty, or about that time of life, negligently dressed, and somewhat haggard in the face, but well-made, well-attired, and well-looking, who sat in the arm chair of state, with one hand in his breast, and the other in his dishevelled hair, pondering moodily. Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs sat opposite each other at a neighbouring desk. One of the fire-proof boxes, unpadlocked and opened, was upon it; a part of its contents lay strewn upon the table, and the rest was then in course of passing through the hands of Mr. Snitchey, who brought it to the candle, document by document, looked at every paper singly as he produced it, shook his head and handed it to Mr. Craggs, who looked it over also, shook his head, and laid it down. Sometimes they would stop, and shaking their heads in concert look towards the abstracted client; and the name on the box being Michael Warden, Esquire, we may conclude, from these premises, that the name and the box were both his, and that the affairs of Michael Warden, Esquire, were in a bad way.

"That's all,' said Mr. Snitchey, turning up the last Really there's no other resource-no other res paper.


"All lost, spent, wasted, pawned, borrowed and sold, eh?' said the client, looking up.

66 6

All!' returned Mr. Snitchey. "Nothing else to be done, you say?' "Nothing at all.'

The client bit his nails and pondered again.

And I am not even personally safe in England ?You hold to that do you?"

[ocr errors]

"In no part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,' replied Mr. Snitchey.

**A mere prodigal son, with no father to go back to, no swine to keep, and no husks to share with them? Eh?' pursued the client, rocking one leg over the other, and searching the ground with his eyes.

"Mr. Snitchey coughed, as if to deprecate the being supposed to participate in any figurative illustration of a legal position. Mr. Craggs, as if to express that it was partnership view of the subject, also coughed.


[ocr errors]

Ruined at thirty! said the client. Humph!' "Not ruined, Mr. Warden,' returned Snitchey. Not so bad as that. You have done a good deal towards it, I must say; but you are not ruined; a little nursing"A little devil!' said the client. "Mr. Craggs,' said Snitchey, will you oblige me with a pinch of snuff? Thank you, Sir."

"As the imperturbable lawyer applied it to his nose, with great apparent relish and a perfect absorption of his attention in the proceeding, the client gradually broke into a smile, and looking up, said—

"You talk of nursing. How long nursing ?VE "How long nursing?' repeated Snitchey, dusting the snuff from his fingers, and making a slow calculation in

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

*** That,' retorted Mr. Snitchey, putting the papers slowly back into the cast iron box, there is no doubt about. No doubt about,' he repeated to himself, as he thoughtfully pursued his occupation.

"The lawyer, very likely, knew his man; at any rate, his dry, shrewd, whimsical manner had a favourable inflaence upon the client's moody state, and disposed him to be more free and unreserved. Or, perhaps, the client knew his man ; and had elicited such encouragement as he had received, to render some purpose he was about to disclose the more defensible in appearance. Gradually raising his head, he sat looking at his immovable adviser with a smile, which presently broke into a laugh.

[ocr errors]

**** After all,' he said, my iron-headed friend'-Mr. Snitchey pointed out his partner. Self, and excuse me-Craggs.'


"I beg Mr. Craggs's pardon,' said the client. all, my iron-headed friends,' he leaned forward in his chair, and dropped his voice a little, 'you don't know half my ruin yet."

"Mr. Snitchey stopped and stared at him, Mr. Craggs' also stared.

*** I am not only deep in debt,' said the client, but I am deep in

"Not in love?' cried Snitchey.

"Yes!" said the client, falling back in his chair and surveying the firm, with his hands in his pockets, "Deep in love.'

***Sir?' said Shitchey.

"And not with an heiress?'

"Not with an heiress.' "Nor a rich lady?'

"Nor a rich lady that I know of; except in beauty and merit.'

***A single lady, I trust?' said Mr. Snitchey, with great expression.'


"It's not one of Dr. Jeddler's daughters?' said Snitchey, suddenly squaring his elbows on his knees, and advancing his face at least a yard.

"Yes!' returned the client.

"Not his youngest daughter?' said Snitchey. "Yes,' returned the client.

"Mr. Craggs,' said Snitchey, much relieved, will you oblige me with another pinch of sunff? Thank you. I am happy to say it don't signify, Mr. Warden; she's engaged, sir, she's bespoken, My partner can corroborate me. We know the fact,'

"We know the fact,' repeated Craggs.


Why, so do I, perhaps,' returned the client quietly. 'What of that? Are you men of the world, and did you never hear of a woman changing her mind?'

There certainly have been actions for breach,' said Mr. Snitchey, brought against both spinsters and widows, but in the majority of cases-'

"Cases!' interposed the client impatiently. Don't talk to me of cases. The general precedent is in a much larger volume than any of your law books. Besides, do you think I have lived six weeks in the doctor's house for nothing?'

"I think, sir,' observed Mr. Snitchey, gravely addressing himself to his partner, "that of all the scrapes Mr. Warden's horses have brought him into, at one time and another-and they have been pretty numerous, and pretty expensive, as none know better than himself, and you and I-the worst scrape may turn out to be, if he talks in this way, his having been ever left by one of them at the Doctor's garden walk, with three broken ribs, a snapped collar-bone, and the Lord knows how many bruises! We didn't think so much of it at the time, when we knew he was going on well, under the Doctor's hands and roof; but it looks bad now, Sir. Bad! it looks very bad. Doctor Jeddler, too-our client, Mr. Craggs.'


Mr. Alfred Heathfield, too-a sort of client, Mr. Snitchey,' said Craggs.

"Mr. Michael Warden, too, a kind of client,' said the careless visiter,' and no bad one either-having played the fool for ten or twelve years. However, Mr. Michael Warden has sown his wild oats now-there's their crop in that box-and means to repent and be wise. And in proof of it, Mr. Michael Warden means, if he can, to marry Marion, the Doctor's lovely daughter, and to carry her away with him."

Really, Mr. Craggs,' Mr. Snitchey began. "Really, Mr. Snitchey, and Mr. Craggs, partners both,' said the client, interrupting him, you know your duty to your clients; and you know well enough, I am sure, that it is no part of it to interfere in a mere love affair, which I am obliged to confide to you. I am not going to carry the young lady off without her own consent. There's nothing illegal in it. I never was Mr. Heathfield's bosom friend; I violate no confidence of his. I love where he loves; and I mean to win where he would win, if I can.'

"He can't, Mr. Craggs,' said Snitchey, evidently anxious and discomfited; He can't do it, sir. She dotes on Mr. Alfred.'

"Does she?' returned the client.


"Mr. Craggs, she dotes on him, sir,' persisted Snitchey. 'I didn't live six weeks in the doctor's house for nothing; and I doubted that soon,' observed the client. would have doted on him, if her sister could have brought it about; but I watched them. Marion avoided his name, avoided the subject; shrank from the least allusion to it with evident distress.'

"Why should she, Mr. Craggs, you know? Why should she, sir? inquired Snitchey.

"I don't know why she should, though there are many likely reasons,' said the client, smiling at the attention and perplexity expressed in Mr. Snitchey's shining eye, and at his cautious way of carrying on the conversation and making himself informed upon the subject; but I know she does; she was very young when she made the engagement-if it may be called one, I am not sure even of thatand has repented of it, perhaps. Perhaps-it seems a foppish thing to say; but upon my soul, I don't mean it in that light-she may have fallen in love with me, as I have fallen in love with her.'


[ocr errors]

He, he Mr. Alfred, her old play-fellow, too, you remember, Mr. Craggs,' said Snitchey, with a disconcerted laugh; 'knew her almost from a baby.' Which makes it the more probable, that she may be tired of his idea,' calmly pursued the client,' and not indisposed to exchange it for the newer one of another lover, who presents himself (or is presented by his horse) under romantic circumstances; has the not unfavourable reputation-with a country girl-of having lived thoughtlessly and gaily without doing much harm to anybody; and who, for his youth and figure, and so forth-this may seem foppish again, but, upon my soul, I don't mean it in that light-might, perhaps, pass muster in a crowd with Mr. Alfred himself,'

"There was no gainsaying the last clause certainly; and Mr. Snitchey, glancing at him, thought so. There was something naturally graceful and pleasant in the very carelessness of his air. It seemed to suggest, of his comely face and well-knit figure, that they might be greatly better if he chose; and that, once roused and made earnest (but he never had been earnest yet), he could be

« AnkstesnisTęsti »