Imágenes de páginas

were at college, and the immense letters you wrote to each other? How often do you write, now that postage costs nothing? There is the age of blossoms and sweet budding green: the age of

generous summer; the autumn when the leaves drop ; and then winter, shivering and bare. Quick, children, and sit at

my feet: for they are cold, very cold : and it seems as if neither wine nor worsted will warm 'em.

In this past year's diary is there any dismal day noted in which you have lost a friend? In mine there is. I do not mean by death. Those who are gone, you have. Those who departed loving you, love you still; and you love them always. They are not really gone, those dear hearts and true; they are only gone into the next rooin: and you will presently get up and follow them, and yonder door will close upon you, and you will be no more seen. As I am in this cheerful mood, I will tell you a fine and touching story of a doctor which I heard lately. About two years since there was, in our or some other city, a famous doctor, into whose consulting-room crowds came daily, so that they might be healed. Now this doctor had a suspicion that there was something vitally wrong with himself, and he went to consult another famous physician at Dublin, or' it may be at Edinburgh. And he of Edinburgh punched his comrade's sides ; and listened at his heart and lungs; and felt his pulse, I suppose; and looked at his tongue; and when he had done, Doctor London said to Doctor Edinburgh,

• Doctor, how long have I to live?” And Doctor Edinburgh said to Doctor London, “ Doctor, you may last a year.”

Then Doctor London came home, knowing that what Doctor Edinburgh said was true. And he made up his accounts, with man and heaven, I trust. And he visited his patients as usual. And he went about healing, and cheering, and soothing and doctoring; and thousands of sick people were benefited by him. And he said not a word to his family at home; but lived amongst them cheerful and tender, and calm, and loving ; though he knew the night was at hand when he should see them and work no more.

And it was winter time, and they came and told him that some man at a distance very sick, but very rich - wanted him; and, though Doctor London knew that he was himself at death's door, he went to the sick man; for he knew the large fee would be good for his children after him. And he died ; and his family never knew until he was gone, that he had been long aware of the inevitable doom.

This is a cheerful caro! for Christmas, is it not? You see,

in regard to these Roundabout discourses, I never know whether they are to be merry or dismal. My hobby has the bit in his mouth ; goes his own way; and sometimes trots through a park, and sometimes paces by a cemetery. Two days since came the printer's little emissary, with a note saying, "We are waiting for the Roundabout Paper ! A Roundabout Paper about what or whom? How stale it has become, that printed jollity about Christmas! Carols, and wassail-bowls, and holly, and mistletoe, and yule-logs de commande — what heaps of these have we not had for years past! Well, year after year the season comes. Come frost, come thaw, come snow, come rain, year


year my neighbor the parson has to make his sermons. They are getting together the bonbons, iced cakes, Christmas trees at Fortnum and Mason's now. The genii of the theatres are composing the Christmas pantomime, which our young folks will see and note anon in their little diaries.

And now, brethren, may I conclude this discourse with an extract out of that great diary, the newspaper? I read it but yesterday, and it has mingled with all my thoughts since then. Here are the two paragraphs, which appeared following each other:

• Mr. R., the Advocate-General of Calcutta, has been appointed to the post of Legislative Member of the Council of the Governor-General.”

“ Sir R. S., Agent to the Governor-General for Central India, died on the 29th of October, of bronchitis.”

These two men, whose different fates are recorded in two paragraphs and half a dozen lines of the same newspaper, were sisters' sons. In one of the stories by the present writer, a man is described tottering “ up the steps of the ghaut,” having just parted with his child, whom he is despatching to England from India. I wrote this, remembering in long, long distant days, such a ghaut, or river-stair, at Calcutta ; and a day when, down those steps, to a boat which was in waiting, came two children, whose mothers remained on the shore. One of those ladies was never to see her boy more ; and he, too, is just dead in India, 66 of bronchitis, on the 29th October.” We were first-cousins ; had been little playmates and friends from the time of our birth ; and the first house in London to which I was taken, was that of our aunt, the mother of his Honor the Member of Council. His Honor was even then a gentleman of the long robe, being, in truth, a baby in arms. We Indian children were consigned to a school of which our deluded parents had heard a favorable report, but which was governed by a horrible little tyrant, who

made our young lives so miserable that I remember kneeling by my little bed of a night, and saying, Pray God, I may dream of my mother!” Thence we went to a public school ; and my cousin to Addiscombe and to India.

“ For thirty-two years,” the paper says, “ Sir Richmond Shakespear faithfully and devotedly served the Government of India, and during that period but once visited England, for a few months and on public duty. In his military capacity he saw much service, was present in eight general engagements, and was badly wounded in the last. In 1840, when a young lieutenant, he had the rare good fortune to be the means of rescuing from almost hopeless slavery in Khiva 416 subjects of the Emperor of Russia ; and, but two years later, greatly contributed to the happy recovery of our own prisoners from a similar fate in Cabul. Throughout his career this officer was ever ready and zealous for the public service, and freely risked life and liberty in the discharge of his duties. Lord Canning, to mark his high sense of Sir Richmond Shakespear's public services, had lately offered him the Chief Commissionership of Mysore, which he had accepted, and was about to undertake, when death terminated his career.”

When he came to London the cousins and playfellows of early Indian days met once again, and shook hands.

“ Can I do anything for you?” I remember the kind fellow asking. He was always asking that question : of all kinsmen; of all widows and orphans; of all the poor; of young men who might need his purse or his service. I saw a young officer yesterday to whom the first words Sir Richmond Shakespear wrote on his arrival in India were, “Can I do anything for you?” His purse was at the command of all. His kind hand was always open. It was a gracious fate which sent him to rescue widows and captives. Where could they have had a champion more chivalrous, a protector more loving and tender?

I write down his name in my little book, among those of others dearly loved, who, too, have been summoned hence. And so we meet and part; we struggle and succeed ; or we fail and drop unknown on the way.

As we leave the fond mother's knee, the rough trials of childhood and boyhood begin ; and then manhood is upon us, and the battle of life, with its chances, perils, wounds, defeats, distinctions. And Fort William guns are saluting in one man's honor, * while the troops are firing the last volleys over the other's grave over the grave of the brave, the gentle, the faithful Christian soldier.

* W. R. obiit March 22, 1862.


Most of us tell old stories in our families. The wife and children laugh for the hundredth time at the joke. The old servants (though old servants are fewer every day) nod and smile a recognition at the well-known anecdote. 6 Don't tell that story of Grouse in the gun-room,” says Diggory to Mr. Hardcastle in the play, or I must laugh." As we twaddle, and grow old and forgetful, we may tell an old story; or, out of mere benevolence, and a wish to amuse a friend when conversation is flagging, disinter a Joe Miller now and then; but the practice is not quite honest, and entails a certain necessity of hypocrisy on story hearers and tellers. It is a sad thing, to think that a man with what you call a fund of anecdote is a humbug, more or less amiable and pleasant. What right have I to tell my 66 Grouse in the gun-room

over and over in the presence of my wife, mother, mother-in-law, sons, daughters, old footman or parlor-maid, confidential clerk, curate, or what not? I smirk and go through the history, giving my admirable imitations of the characters introduced : I mimic Jones's grin, Hobbs's squint, Brown's stammer, Grady's brogue, Sandy's Scotch accent, to the best of my power: and the family part of my audience laughs good-humoredly. Perhaps the stranger, for whose amusement the performance is given, is amused by it and laughs too. But this practice continued is not moral. This self-indulgence on your part, my dear Paterfamilias, is weak, vain not to say culpable. I can imagine many a worthy man, who begins unguardedly to read this page, and comes to the present sentence, lying back in his chair, thinking of that story which he has told innocently for fifty years, and rather piteously owning to himself, “ Weil, well, it is wrong; I have no right to call on my poor wife to laugh, my daughters to affect to be amused, by that old, old jest of mine. And they would have gone on laughing, and they would have pretended to be amused, to their dying day, if this man had not flung his damper over our hilarity.” I lay down the pen, and think, “ Are there any old stories which I still tell myself in the bosom of my family? Have I any Grouse in my gun-room?'” If there are such, it is because my memory fails; not because I want applause, and wantonly repeat myself. You see, men with the so-called fund of anecdote will not repeat the same story to the same individual ; but they do think that, on a new party, the repetition of a joke ever so old may be honorably tried. I meet men walking the London street, bearing the best reputation, men of anecdotal powers :I know such, who very likely will read this, and say, “ Hang the fellow, he means me!And so I do. No— no man ought to tell an anecdote more than thrice, let us say, unless he is sure he is speaking only to give pleasure to his hearers — unless he feels that it is not a mere desire for praise which makes him open his jaws.

And is it not with writers as with raconteurs ? Ought they not to have their ingenuous modesty ? May authors tell old stories, and how many times over? When I come to look at a place which I have visited any time these twenty or thirty years, I recall not the place merely, but the sensations I had at first seeing it, and which are quite different to my feelings to-day. That first day at Calais ; the voices of the women crying out at night, as the vessel came alongside the pier ; the supper at Quillacq's and the flavor of the cutlets and wine ; the red-calico canopy under which I slept; the tiled floor, and the fresh smell of the sheets ; the wonderful postilion in his jack-boots and pigtail ; - all return with perfect clearness to my mind, and I am seeing them, and not the objects which are actually under my eyes. Here is Calais. Yonder is that commissioner I have known this score of years. Here are the women screaming and bustling over the baggage; the people at the passport-barrier who take your papers. My good people, I hardly see you.

You no more interest me than a dozen orange-women in Covent-Garden, or a shop book-keeper in Oxford Street. But you make me think of a time when you were indeed wonderful to behold — when the little French soldiers wore white cockades in their shakos — when the diligence was forty hours going to Paris ; and the great-booted postilion, as surveyed by youthful eyes from the coupé, with his jurons, his ends of rope for the harness, and his clubbed pigtail, was a wonderful being, and productive of endless amusement.

You young folks don't remember the apple-girls who used to follow the diligence up the hill beyond Boulogne, and the delights of the jolly road? In making continental journeys with young folks, an oldster may be very quiet, and, to outward appearance, melancholy; but really he has gone back to the days of his youth, and he is seventeen or eighteen years of age (as the case may be), and is amusing himself with all his might. He is noting the horses as they come squealing out of the post

« AnteriorContinuar »