after staring at a white wall for an entire day, you would be very easily persuaded that any picture is winking, or even stepping down from its frame. Positively, I saw my own cousin, Captain Dillon, one morning, with his senses turned so topsy-turvy, that he was made to believe the pianoforte to be a bay-horse. He took up the off fore-leg to see if it were spavined, and he mistook all the chairs for dogs.” “Then, perhaps, if we were all thoroughly biologized, I might mistake my cousin Iona for a sensible man!” said Lady Anne archly, “and think him almost handsome.” “That is rather beyond the powers of biology. If I were biologized very strongly myself, perhaps I might learn to think you a very polite well-bred cousin, only too partial to your own relations,” replied Lord Iona, laughing, while Lady Anne made him a curtsey more than half a yard deep. “I know of old your admiration of me ever since you advised me to be done in wax-work for the Chamber of Horrors' " “I did ' What an atrocious calumny. You certainly have an indefinite degree of invention. On the day I could use such language, I must have been carrying a basket at Billingsgate; but you often delight in putting me out of temper, and putting me in again. I do remember your being very angry at my saying you had a manager-of-thetheatre air, and in revenge you called me the bluest of blue stockings.” “How very ill-natured! I must have meant Miss Turton. Malvolio himself was not more vain of his yellow stockings cross-gartered, than Miss Turton that hers are blue. Ah! Miss Turton, I was just remarking that you have a splendid foot and ankle for showing blue stockings to advantage. How often you used to say that a new book is to you more enlivening than a glass of champagne . " “Not now,” said Miss Turton, assuming a learned look. “Modern authors only chatter light and evanescent nonsense ! I read, generally, the very oldest books"— “Or perhaps no books at all! There is nothing in them now that you do not know already. Like Sixtus the Fifth, having gained your point you may fling away your crutches. You might write a book yourself, Miss Turton; there would be many worse, I dare say. You could describe with the accuracy of a daguerréotype what young ladies ought to be.” “Yes, and what young gentlemen ought not to be. I dislike excessively when they are satirical, idle, fond of dogs, of hunting, of racing ”— “If you are aiming at me, that is a failure! I never can be fond of racing till it is contrived that every horse shall win. Miss Turton, you are often as troublesome to me as a hair in my pen. You are quite a moral Quixote to-night, tilting against all my little windmills of errors.” “Well, Iona,” said Lady Anne, “if mirth and motion prolong life, you will see us all out! Your whole existence is like a brilliant rondeau. You may be as long lived and as merry at a hundred

as that respectable individual old Parr, who must have been a most inconvenient member of society to his next heirs, as he outlaughed and outlived them all!”

“So shall I, and write everybody's memoirs. I shall immediately advertise myself as Biographer General to all those who keep diaries ‘for no eye but their own. I shall promise that no injunction of the author, never to let it be read, shall be in the slightest degree attended to; but engage faithfully to publish every line, in spite of the very strongest prohibitions. I shall also be ready for an engagement as “importunate friend' to any one anxious to be urged into publishing against his will.”

“ Some clever men aim at the great seal,' observed Beatrice, “but your office will be the very reverse of that, as you are to break the seal of secrecy


every case.” Certainly! It is meant to be broken. How many value fame more than life! Such men live all their lives, with their own autobiography in view, and seem to think, even on their death-beds, ‘Now the last act of this public tragedy, in which I am chief performer, has come to an end! I have advanced to this final point amidst thunders of applause ; let me finish the scene with spirit. My memoirs will go down to posterity; therefore, I must think what should be said in my last hour to edify all around, and to be admired by posterity.””

Lord Iona was absently touching the notes of a piano beside him, and producing a most discordant attempt at “God save the Queen,” when Beatrice

laughingly said, “We must not be too complimentary on your music, in case of making you vain.” “Never fear ! You and all the world have a special spite against me never to appreciate my merits; but though I am the favourite of Nature and Fortune, who have rivalled each other which shall endow me most, and though the fairies have added all their choicest gifts, yet you see I am not vain l’’ “No l that is very evident,” replied Beatrice in a tone of lively sarcasm. “As for Dame Fortune, even when her eyes are unbandaged, she has but one contemptible gift to bestow, and I despise money”— “I abhor it,” exclaimed Lord Iona, determined not to be outdone. “I would not pick up a purse of gold if I saw one on the floor! I always get rid of my income as fast as possible. You have no idea what generous things I do, or at least wish . to do.” “That is an easy way of being generous which some people have invented,” observed Beatrice. “A friend of mine, with only one hundred a-year, who is spare in everything but words, is constantly telling me how shamefully shabby she considers the conduct of all rich people. She declares that she would give me a hundred pounds for my charity school if she could afford it, and I am expected to be as thankful as if she did, and to laugh at the poor contracted notions of her sister, who with the same income lately sent me an honesthearted ready-money subscription of five pounds.”

“Well, if the first thought herself superlatively generous, we all live upon some happy delusion or other, and no thanks to those who open our eyes to any disagreeable truths,” replied Lord Iona, assuming an attitude of graceful meditation. “I know several persons, mere talking machines, who speak so amiably on every occasion, that one never finds out in such a hurricane of professions if they do nothing either liberal or generous. It is a capital plan, and very cheap! How good-natured we all are in our remarks to-night on the world in general, and our friends in particular !

What spirits were theirs, what wit and what whim,
Now breaking a jest, and now breaking a limb,--
Now wrangling and grumbling, to keep up the ball-
Now teasing and vexing, yet laughing at all !!


« VorigeDoorgaan »