IN WHICH MR. WALKER SHOWS GREAT PRUDENCE AND FORBEARANCE.
The describing of all these persons does not advance Morgiana's story much. But, perhaps, some country readers are not acquainted with the class of persons by whose printed opinions they are guided, and are simple enough to imagine that mere merit will make a reputation on the stage or elsewhere. The making of a theatrical success is a much more complicated and curious thing than such persons fancy it to be. Immense are the pains taken to get a good word from Mr. This of the Star, or Mr. That of the Courier, to propitiate the favour of the critic of the day, and get the editors of the metropolis into a good humour,--above all, to have the name of the person to be puffed perpetually before the public. Artists cannot be advertised like Macassar oil or blacking, and they want it to the full as much; hence endless ingenuity must be practised in order to keep the popular attention awake. Suppose a great actor moves from London to Windsor, the Brentford Champion must state that "Yesterday Mr. Blazes and suite passed rapidly through our city; the celebrated comedian is engaged, we hear, at Windsor, to give some of his inimitable readings of our great national bard to the MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AUDIENCE in the realm." This piece of intelligence the Hammersmith Observer will question the next week, as thus:--"A contemporary, the Brentford Champion, says that Blazes is engaged to give Shakspearian readings at Windsor to "the most illustrious audience in the realm." We question this fact very much. We would, indeed, that it were true; but the MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AUDIENCE in the realm prefer FOREIGN melodies to THE NATIVE WOOD-NOTES WILD of the sweet song-bird of Avon. Mr. Blazes is simply gone to Eton, where his son, Master Massinger Blazes, is suffering, we regret to hear, under a severe attack of the chicken-pox. This complaint (incident to youth) has raged, we understand, with frightful virulence in Eton School."
And if, after the above paragraphs, some London paper chooses to attack the folly of the provincial press, which talks of Mr. Blazes, and chronicles his movements, as if he were a crowned head, what harm is done? Blazes can write in his own name to the London journal, and say that it is not HIS fault if provincial journals choose to chronicle his movements, and that he was far from wishing that the afflictions of those who are dear to him should form the subject of public comment, and be held up to public ridicule. "We had no intention of hurting the feelings of an estimable public servant," writes the editor; "and our remarks on the chicken-pox were general, not personal. We sincerely trust that Master Massinger Blazes has recovered from that complaint, and that he may pass through the measles, the whooping-cough, the fourth form, and all other diseases to which youth is subject, with comfort to himself, and credit to his parents and teachers." At his next appearance on the stage after this controversy, a British public calls for Blazes three times after the play; and somehow there is sure to be someone with a laurel-wreath in a stage-box, who flings that chaplet at the inspired artist's feet.
I don't know how it was, but before the debut of Morgiana, the English press began to heave and throb in a convulsive manner, as if indicative of the near birth of some great thing. For instance, you read in one paper,--
"Anecdote of Karl Maria Von Weber.--When the author of 'Oberon' was in England, he was invited by a noble duke to dinner, and some of the most celebrated of our artists were assembled to meet him. The signal being given to descend to the salle-a-manger, the German composer was invited by his noble host (a bachelor) to lead the way. 'Is it not the fashion in your country,' said he, simply, 'for the man of the first eminence to take the first place? Here is one whose genius entitles him to be first ANYWHERE.' And, so saying, he pointed to our admirable English composer, Sir George Thrum. The two musicians were friends to the last, and Sir George has still the identical piece of rosin which the author of the 'Freischutz' gave him."--The Moon (morning paper), June 2.
"George III. a composer.--Sir George Thrum has in his possession the score of an air, the words from 'Samson Agonistes,' an autograph of the late revered monarch. We hear that that excellent composer has in store for us not only an opera, but a pupil, with whose transcendent merits the elite of our aristocracy are already familiar."--Ibid., June 5.
"Music with a Vengeance.--The march to the sound of which the 49th and 75th regiments rushed up the breach of Badajoz was the celebrated air from 'Britons Alarmed; or, The Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom,' by our famous English composer, Sir George Thrum. Marshal Davoust said that the French line never stood when that air was performed to the charge of the bayonet. We hear the veteran musician has an opera now about to appear, and have no doubt that Old England will now, as then, show its superiority over ALL foreign opponents."--Albion.
"We have been accused of preferring the produit of the etranger to the talent of our own native shores; but those who speak so, little know us. We are fanatici per la musica wherever it be, and welcome merit dans chaque pays du monde. What do we say? Le merite n'a point de pays, as Napoleon said; and Sir George Thrum (Chevalier de l'Ordre de l'Elephant et Chateau de Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel,) is a maestro whose fame appartient a l'Europe.
"We have just heard the lovely eleve, whose rare qualities the Cavaliere has brought to perfection,--we have heard THE RAVENSWING (pourquoi cacher un nom que demain un monde va saluer?), and a creature more beautiful and gifted never bloomed before dans nos climats. She sang the delicious duet of the 'Nabucodonosore,' with Count Pizzicato, with a bellezza, a grandezza, a raggio, that excited in the bosom of the audience a corresponding furore: her scherzando was exquisite, though we confess we thought the concluding fioritura in the passage in Y flat a leetle, a very leetle sforzata. Surely the words,
'Giorno d'orrore, Delire, dolore, Nabucodonosore,'
should be given andante, and not con strepito: but this is a faute bien legere in the midst of such unrivalled excellence, and only mentioned here that we may have SOMETHING to criticise.
"We hear that the enterprising impresario of one of the royal theatres has made an engagement with the Diva; and, if we have a regret, it is that she should be compelled to sing in the unfortunate language of our rude northern clime, which does not preter itself near so well to the bocca of the cantatrice as do the mellifluous accents of the Lingua Toscana, the langue par excellence of song.
"The Ravenswing's voice is a magnificent contra-basso of nine octaves," etc.--Flowers of Fashion, June 10.
"Old Thrum, the composer, is bringing out an opera and a pupil. The opera is good, the pupil first-rate. The opera will do much more than compete with the infernal twaddle and disgusting slip-slop of Donizetti, and the milk-and-water fools who imitate him: it will (and we ask the readers of the Tomahawk, were we EVER mistaken?) surpass all these; it is GOOD, of downright English stuff. The airs are fresh and pleasing, the choruses large and noble, the instrumentation solid and rich, the music is carefully written. We wish old Thrum and his opera well.
"His pupil is a SURE CARD, a splendid woman, and a splendid singer. She is so handsome that she might sing as much out of tune as Miss Ligonier, and the public would forgive her; and sings so well, that were she as ugly as the aforesaid Ligonier, the audience would listen to her. The Ravenswing, that is her fantastical theatrical name (her real name is the same with that of a notorious scoundrel in the Fleet, who invented the Panama swindle, the Pontine Marshes' swindle, the Soap swindle--HOW ARE YOU OFF FOR SOAP NOW, Mr. W-lk-r?)--the Ravenswing, we say, will do. Slang has engaged her at thirty guineas per week, and she appears next month in Thrum's opera, of which the words are written by a great ass with some talent--we mean Mr. Mulligan.
"There is a foreign fool in the Flowers of Fashion who is doing his best to disgust the public by his filthy flattery. It is enough to make one sick. Why is the foreign beast not kicked out of the paper?"--The Tomahawk, June 17.
The first three "anecdotes" were supplied by Mulligan to his paper, with many others which need not here be repeated: he kept them up with amazing energy and variety. Anecdotes of Sir George Thrum met you unexpectedly in queer corners of country papers: puffs of the English school of music appeared perpetually in "Notices to Correspondents" in the Sunday prints, some of which Mr. Slang commanded, and in others over which the indefatigable Mulligan had a control. This youth was the soul of the little conspiracy for raising Morgiana into fame: and humble as he is, and great and respectable as is Sir George Thrum, it is my belief that the Ravenswing would never have been the Ravenswing she is but for the ingenuity and energy of the honest Hibernian reporter.
It is only the business of the great man who writes the leading articles which appear in the large type of the daily papers to compose those astonishing pieces of eloquence; the other parts of the paper are left to the ingenuity of the sub-editor, whose duty it is to select paragraphs, reject or receive horrid accidents, police reports, etc.; with which, occupied as he is in the exercise of his tremendous functions, the editor himself cannot be expected to meddle. The fate of Europe is his province; the rise and fall of empires, and the great questions of State demand the editor's attention: the humble puff, the paragraph about the last murder, or the state of the crops, or the sewers in Chancery Lane, is confided to the care of the sub; and it is curious to see what a prodigious number of Irishmen exist among the sub-editors of London. When the Liberator enumerates the services of his countrymen, how the battle of Fontenoy was won by the Irish Brigade, how the battle of Waterloo would have been lost but for the Irish regiments, and enumerates other acts for which we are indebted to Milesian heroism and genius--he ought at least to mention the Irish brigade of the press, and the amazing services they do to this country.
The truth is, the Irish reporters and soldiers appear to do their duty right well; and my friend Mr. Mulligan is one of the former. Having the interests of his opera and the Ravenswing strongly at heart, and being amongst his brethren an exceedingly popular fellow, he managed matters so that never a day passed but some paragraph appeared somewhere regarding the new singer, in whom, for their countryman's sake, all his brothers and sub-editors felt an interest.
These puffs, destined to make known to all the world the merits of the Ravenswing, of course had an effect upon a gentleman very closely connected with that lady, the respectable prisoner in the Fleet, Captain Walker. As long as he received his weekly two guineas from Mr. Woolsey, and the occasional half-crowns which his wife could spare in her almost daily visits to him, he had never troubled himself to inquire what her pursuits were, and had allowed her (though the worthy woman longed with all her might to betray herself) to keep her secret. He was far from thinking, indeed, that his wife would prove such a treasure to him.
But when the voice of fame and the columns of the public journals brought him each day some new story regarding the merits, genius, and beauty of the Ravenswing; when rumours reached him that she was the favourite pupil of Sir George Thrum; when she brought him five guineas after singing at the "Philharmonic" (other five the good soul had spent in purchasing some smart new cockades, hats, cloaks, and laces, for her little son); when, finally, it was said that Slang, the great manager, offered her an engagement at thirty guineas per week, Mr. Walker became exceedingly interested in his wife's proceedings, of which he demanded from her the fullest explanation.
Using his marital authority, he absolutely forbade Mrs. Walker's appearance on the public stage; he wrote to Sir George Thrum a letter expressive of his highest indignation that negotiations so important should ever have been commenced without his authorisation; and he wrote to his dear Slang (for these gentlemen were very intimate, and in the course of his transactions as an agent Mr. W. had had many dealings with Mr. S.) asking his dear Slang whether the latter thought his friend Walker would be so green as to allow his wife to appear on the stage, and he remain in prison with all his debts on his head?
And it was a curious thing now to behold how eager those very creditors who but yesterday (and with perfect correctness) had denounced Mr. Walker as a swindler; who had refused to come to any composition with him, and had sworn never to release him; how they on a sudden became quite eager to come to an arrangement with him, and offered, nay, begged and prayed him to go free,--only giving them his own and Mrs. Walker's acknowledgment of their debt, with a promise that a part of the lady's salary should be devoted to the payment of the claim.
"The lady's salary!" said Mr. Walker, indignantly, to these gentlemen and their attorneys. "Do you suppose I will allow Mrs. Walker to go on the stage?--do you suppose I am such a fool as to sign bills to the full amount of these claims against me, when in a few months more I can walk out of prison without paying a shilling? Gentlemen, you take Howard Walker for an idiot. I like the Fleet, and rather than pay I'll stay here for these ten years."
In other words, it was the Captain's determination to make some advantageous bargain for himself with his creditors and the gentlemen who were interested in bringing forward Mrs. Walker on the stage. And who can say that in so determining he did not act with laudable prudence and justice?
"You do not, surely, consider, my very dear sir, that half the amount of Mrs. Walker's salaries is too much for my immense trouble and pains in teaching her?" cried Sir George Thrum (who, in reply to Walker's note, thought it most prudent to wait personally on that gentleman). "Remember that I am the first master in England; that I have the best interest in England; that I can bring her out at the Palace, and at every concert and musical festival in England; that I am obliged to teach her every single note that she utters; and that without me she could no more sing a song than her little baby could walk without its nurse."
"I believe about half what you say," said Mr. Walker.
"My dear Captain Walker! would you question my integrity? Who was it that made Mrs. Millington's fortune,--the celebrated Mrs. Millington, who has now got a hundred thousand pounds? Who was it that brought out the finest tenor in Europe, Poppleton? Ask the musical world, ask those great artists themselves, and they will tell you they owe their reputation, their fortune, to Sir George Thrum."
"It is very likely," replied the Captain, coolly. "You ARE a good master, I dare say, Sir George; but I am not going to article Mrs. Walker to you for three years, and sign her articles in the Fleet. Mrs. Walker shan't sing till I'm a free man, that's flat: if I stay here till you're dead she shan't."
"Gracious powers, sir!" exclaimed Sir George, "do you expect me to pay your debts?"
"Yes, old boy," answered the Captain, "and to give me something handsome in hand, too; and that's my ultimatum: and so I wish you good morning, for I'm engaged to play a match at tennis below."
This little interview exceedingly frightened the worthy knight, who went home to his lady in a delirious state of alarm occasioned by the audacity of Captain Walker.
Mr. Slang's interview with him was scarcely more satisfactory. He owed, he said, four thousand pounds. His creditors might be brought to compound for five shillings in the pound. He would not consent to allow his wife to make a single engagement until the creditors were satisfied, and until he had a handsome sum in hand to begin the world with. "Unless my wife comes out, you'll be in the Gazette yourself, you know you will. So you may take her or leave her, as you think fit."
"Let her sing one night as a trial," said Mr. Slang.
"If she sings one night, the creditors will want their money in full," replied the Captain. "I shan't let her labour, poor thing, for the profit of those scoundrels!" added the prisoner, with much feeling. And Slang left him with a much greater respect for Walker than he had ever before possessed. He was struck with the gallantry of the man who could triumph over misfortunes, nay, make misfortune itself an engine of good luck.
Mrs. Walker was instructed instantly to have a severe sore throat. The journals in Mr. Slang's interest deplored this illness pathetically; while the papers in the interest of the opposition theatre magnified it with great malice. "The new singer," said one, "the great wonder which Slang promised us, is as hoarse as a RAVEN!" "Doctor Thorax pronounces," wrote another paper, "that the quinsy, which has suddenly prostrated Mrs. Ravenswing, whose singing at the Philharmonic, previous to her appearance at the 'T.R-----,' excited so much applause, has destroyed the lady's voice for ever. We luckily need no other prima donna, when that place, as nightly thousands acknowledge, is held by Miss Ligonier." The Looker-on said, "That although some well-informed contemporaries had declared Mrs. W. Ravenswing's complaint to be a quinsy, others, on whose authority they could equally rely, had pronounced it to be a consumption. At all events, she was in an exceedingly dangerous state; from which, though we do not expect, we heartily trust she may recover. Opinions differ as to the merits of this lady, some saying that she was altogether inferior to Miss Ligonier, while other connoisseurs declare the latter lady to be by no means so accomplished a person. This point, we fear," continued the Looker-on, "can never now be settled; unless, which we fear is improbable, Mrs. Ravenswing should ever so far recover as to be able to make her debut; and even then, the new singer will not have a fair chance unless her voice and strength shall be fully restored. This information, which we have from exclusive resources, may be relied on," concluded the Looker-on, "as authentic."
It was Mr. Walker himself, that artful and audacious Fleet prisoner, who concocted those very paragraphs against his wife's health which appeared in the journals of the Ligonier party. The partisans of that lady were delighted, the creditors of Mr. Walker astounded, at reading them. Even Sir George Thrum was taken in, and came to the Fleet prison in considerable alarm.
"Mum's the word, my good sir!" said Mr. Walker. "Now is the time to make arrangements with the creditors."
Well, these arrangements were finally made. It does not matter how many shillings in the pound satisfied the rapacious creditors of Morgiana's husband. But it is certain that her voice returned to her all of a sudden upon the Captain's release. The papers of the Mulligan faction again trumpeted her perfections; the agreement with Mr. Slang was concluded; that with Sir George Thrum the great composer satisfactorily arranged; and the new opera underlined in immense capitals in the bills, and put in rehearsal with immense expenditure on the part of the scene-painter and costumier.
Need we tell with what triumphant success the "Brigand's Bride" was received? All the Irish sub-editors the next morning took care to have such an account of it as made Miss Ligonier and Baroski die with envy. All the reporters who could spare time were in the boxes to support their friend's work. All the journeymen tailors of the establishment of Linsey, Woolsey, and Co. had pit tickets given to them, and applauded with all their might. All Mr. Walker's friends of the "Regent Club" lined the side-boxes with white kid gloves; and in a little box by themselves sat Mrs. Crump and Mr. Woolsey, a great deal too much agitated to applaud--so agitated, that Woolsey even forgot to fling down the bouquet he had brought for the Ravenswing.
But there was no lack of those horticultural ornaments. The theatre servants wheeled away a wheelbarrow-full (which were flung on the stage the next night over again); and Morgiana, blushing, panting, weeping, was led off by Mr. Poppleton, the eminent tenor, who had crowned her with one of the most conspicuous of the chaplets.
Here she flew to her husband, and flung her arms round his neck. He was flirting behind the side-scenes with Mademoiselle Flicflac, who had been dancing in the divertissement; and was probably the only man in the theatre of those who witnessed the embrace that did not care for it. Even Slang was affected, and said with perfect sincerity that he wished he had been in Walker's place. The manager's fortune was made, at least for the season. He acknowledged so much to Walker, who took a week's salary for his wife in advance that very night.
There was, as usual, a grand supper in the green-room. The terrible Mr. Bludyer appeared in a new coat of the well-known Woolsey cut, and the little tailor himself and Mrs. Crump were not the least happy of the party. But when the Ravenswing took Woolsey's hand, and said she never would have been there but for him, Mr. Walker looked very grave, and hinted to her that she must not, in her position, encourage the attentions of persons in that rank of life. "I shall pay," said he, proudly, "every farthing that is owing to Mr. Woolsey, and shall employ him for the future. But you understand, my love, that one cannot at one's own table receive one's own tailor."
Slang proposed Morgiana's health in a tremendous speech, which elicited cheers, and laughter, and sobs, such as only managers have the art of drawing from the theatrical gentlemen and ladies in their employ. It was observed, especially among the chorus-singers at the bottom of the table, that their emotion was intense. They had a meeting the next day and voted a piece of plate to Adolphus Slang, Esquire, for his eminent services in the cause of the drama.
Walker returned thanks for his lady. That was, he said, the proudest moment of his life. He was proud to think that he had educated her for the stage, happy to think that his sufferings had not been in vain, and that his exertions in her behalf were crowned with full success. In her name and his own he thanked the company, and sat down, and was once more particularly attentive to Mademoiselle Flicflac.
Then came an oration from Sir George Thrum, in reply to Slang's toast to HIM. It was very much to the same effect as the speech by Walker, the two gentlemen attributing to themselves individually the merit of bringing out Mrs. Walker. He concluded by stating that he should always hold Mrs. Walker as the daughter of his heart, and to the last moment of his life should love and cherish her. It is certain that Sir George was exceedingly elated that night, and would have been scolded by his lady on his return home, but for the triumph of the evening.
Mulligan's speech of thanks, as author of the "Brigand's Bride," was, it must be confessed, extremely tedious. It seemed there would be no end to it; when he got upon the subject of Ireland especially, which somehow was found to be intimately connected with the interests of music and the theatre. Even the choristers pooh-poohed this speech, coming though it did from the successful author, whose songs of wine, love, and battle, they had been repeating that night.
The "Brigand's Bride" ran for many nights. Its choruses were tuned on the organs of the day. Morgiana's airs, "The Rose upon my Balcony" and the "Lightning on the Cataract" (recitative and scena) were on everybody's lips, and brought so many guineas to Sir George Thrum that he was encouraged to have his portrait engraved, which still may be seen in the music-shops. Not many persons, I believe, bought proof impressions of the plate, price two guineas; whereas, on the contrary, all the young clerks in banks, and all the FAST young men of the universities, had pictures of the Ravenswing in their apartments--as Biondetta (the brigand's bride), as Zelyma (in the "Nuptials of Benares"), as Barbareska (in the "Mine of Tobolsk"), and in all her famous characters. In the latter she disguises herself as a Uhlan, in order to save her father, who is in prison; and the Ravenswing looked so fascinating in this costume in pantaloons and yellow boots, that Slang was for having her instantly in Captain Macheath, whence arose their quarrel.
She was replaced at Slang's theatre by Snooks, the rhinoceros-tamer, with his breed of wild buffaloes. Their success was immense. Slang gave a supper, at which all the company burst into tears; and assembling in the green-room next day, they, as usual, voted a piece of plate to Adolphus Slang, Esquire, for his eminent services to the drama.
In the Captain Macheath dispute Mr. Walker would have had his wife yield; but on this point, and for once, she disobeyed her husband and left the theatre. And when Walker cursed her (according to his wont) for her abominable selfishness and disregard of his property, she burst into tears and said she had spent but twenty guineas on herself and baby during the year, that her theatrical dressmaker's bills were yet unpaid, and that she had never asked him how much he spent on that odious French figurante.
All this was true, except about the French figurante. Walker, as the lord and master, received all Morgiana's earnings, and spent them as a gentleman should. He gave very neat dinners at a cottage in Regent's Park (Mr. and Mrs. Walker lived at Green Street, Grosvenor Square), he played a good deal at the "Regent;" but as to the French figurante, it must be confessed, that Mrs. Walker was in a sad error: THAT lady and the Captain had parted long ago; it was Madame Dolores de Tras-os-Montes who inhabited the cottage in St. John's Wood now.
But if some little errors of this kind might be attributable to the Captain, on the other hand, when his wife was in the provinces, he was the most attentive of husbands; made all her bargains, and received every shilling before he would permit her to sing a note. Thus he prevented her from being cheated, as a person of her easy temper doubtless would have been, by designing managers and needy concert-givers. They always travelled with four horses; and Walker was adored in every one of the principal hotels in England. The waiters flew at his bell. The chambermaids were afraid he was a sad naughty man, and thought his wife no such great beauty; the landlords preferred him to any duke. HE never looked at their bills, not he! In fact his income was at least four thousand a year for some years of his life.
Master Woolsey Walker was put to Doctor Wapshot's seminary, whence, after many disputes on the Doctor's part as to getting his half-year's accounts paid, and after much complaint of ill-treatment on the little boy's side, he was withdrawn, and placed under the care of the Reverend Mr. Swishtail, at Turnham Green; where all his bills are paid by his godfather, now the head of the firm of Woolsey and Co.
As a gentleman, Mr. Walker still declines to see him; but he has not, as far as I have heard, paid the sums of money which he threatened to refund; and, as he is seldom at home the worthy tailor can come to Green Street at his leisure. He and Mrs. Crump, and Mrs. Walker often take the omnibus to Brentford, and a cake with them to little Woolsey at school; to whom the tailor says he will leave every shilling of his property.
The Walkers have no other children; but when she takes her airing in the Park she always turns away at the sight of a low phaeton, in which sits a woman with rouged cheeks, and a great number of overdressed children and a French bonne, whose name, I am given to understand, is Madame Dolores de Tras-os-Montes. Madame de Tras-os-Montes always puts a great gold glass to her eye as the Ravenswing's carriage passes, and looks into it with a sneer. The two coachmen used always to exchange queer winks at each other in the ring, until Madame de Tras-os-Montes lately adopted a tremendous chasseur, with huge whiskers and a green and gold livery; since which time the formerly named gentlemen do not recognise each other.
The Ravenswing's life is one of perpetual triumph on the stage; and, as every one of the fashionable men about town have been in love with her, you may fancy what a pretty character she has. Lady Thrum would die sooner than speak to that unhappy young woman; and, in fact, the Thrums have a new pupil, who is a siren without the dangerous qualities of one, who has the person of Venus, and the mind of a Muse, and who is coming out at one of the theatres immediately. Baroski says, "De liddle Rafenschwing is just as font of me as effer!" People are very shy about receiving her in society; and when she goes to sing at a concert, Miss Prim starts up and skurries off in a state of the greatest alarm, lest "that person" should speak to her.
Walker is voted a good, easy, rattling, gentlemanly fellow, and nobody's enemy but his own. His wife, they say, is dreadfully extravagant: and, indeed, since his marriage, and in spite of his wife's large income, he has been in the Bench several times; but she signs some bills and he comes out again, and is as gay and genial as ever. All mercantile speculations he has wisely long since given up; he likes to throw a main of an evening, as I have said, and to take his couple of bottles at dinner. On Friday he attends at the theatre for his wife's salary, and transacts no other business during the week. He grows exceedingly stout, dyes his hair, and has a bloated purple look about the nose and cheeks, very different from that which first charmed the heart of Morgiana.
By the way, Eglantine has been turned out of the Bower of Bloom, and now keeps a shop at Tunbridge Wells. Going down thither last year without a razor, I asked a fat seedy man lolling in a faded nankeen jacket at the door of a tawdry little shop in the Pantiles, to shave me. He said in reply, "Sir, I do not practise in that branch of the profession!" and turned back into the little shop. It was Archibald Eglantine. But in the wreck of his fortunes he still has his captain's uniform, and his grand cross of the order of the Castle and Falcon of Panama.
* * * * * * *
G. Fitz-Boodle, Esq., to O. Yorke, Esq.
ZUM TRIERISCHEN HOP, COBLENZ: July 10, 1843.
MY DEAR YORKE,
The story of the Ravenswing was written a long time since, and I never could account for the bad taste of the publishers of the metropolis who refused it an insertion in their various magazines. This fact would never have been alluded to but for the following circumstance:--
Only yesterday, as I was dining at this excellent hotel, I remarked a bald-headed gentleman in a blue coat and brass buttons, who looked like a colonel on half-pay, and by his side a lady and a little boy of twelve, whom the gentleman was cramming with an amazing quantity of cherries and cakes. A stout old dame in a wonderful cap and ribands was seated by the lady's side, and it was easy to see they were English, and I thought I had already made their acquaintance elsewhere.
The younger of the ladies at last made a bow with an accompanying blush.
"Surely," said I, "I have the honour of speaking to Mrs. Ravenswing?"
"Mrs. Woolsey, sir," said the gentleman; "my wife has long since left the stage:" and at this the old lady in the wonderful cap trod on my toes very severely, and nodded her head and all her ribands in a most mysterious way. Presently the two ladies rose and left the table, the elder declaring that she heard the baby crying.
"Woolsey, my dear, go with your mamma," said Mr. Woolsey, patting the boy on the head. The young gentleman obeyed the command, carrying off a plate of macaroons with him.
"Your son is a fine boy, sir," said I.
"My step-son, sir," answered Mr. Woolsey; and added, in a louder voice, "I knew you, Mr. Fitz-Boodle, at once, but did not mention your name for fear of agitating my wife. She don't like to have the memory of old times renewed, sir; her former husband, whom you know, Captain Walker, made her very unhappy. He died in America, sir, of this, I fear" (pointing to the bottle), "and Mrs. W. quitted the stage a year before I quitted business. Are you going on to Wiesbaden?"
They went off in their carriage that evening, the boy on the box making great efforts to blow out of the postilion's tasselled horn.
I am glad that poor Morgiana is happy at last, and hasten to inform you of the fact. I am going to visit the old haunts of my youth at Pumpernickel. Adieu.
* * * * * * * * * * * *