« AnteriorContinuar »
mous attack, that George-the George—the superlative George, proceeded to and arrived at, the Amershams'. Never was greater trouble bestowed in turning out a dandy to the best advantage than on that morning-everything he wore was plain and simple, but taking the word in all its acceptations “ exquisite." His efforts had certainly succeeded, for he made a sensation when he was presented to Mrs. Amersham, far and away beyond that which, according to his own diary, the immortal Pepys created in church the first day he wore his new perriwig.
“Nov. 8th.-To church, where I found that my coming in a perriwig did not prove so strange as I was afraid it would—for I thought that all the church would presently have cast their eyes on me.”
If so, and it promised to be unpleasant, why did the worthy Pepys wear the perriwig ?-certes, whatever Mr. George Grindle wore, pro duced a very favourable effect upon Mrs. Amersham, who, as yet know. ing nothing of his mind and manners, except by hearsay, gave him at first sight the precedence of his brother as to personal appearance.
A man of the world, like George Grindle, is not apt to be slow at comprehending the language of looks, even if they are carefully restrained and moderated. He knew at a glance that Mrs. Amersham thought well of his personal appearance, and endeavoured to express (which with his tact and facilities was not very difficult) that she had impressed him with the most favourable opinions of herself, in which, by the use of the “devotional” which he could so well assume, mingled the highest possible deference and respect.
The relative power of male personal and mental attractions over female minds, has been so frequently the subject of extensive and important discussion, that it may scarcely be worth while to open the question here. The Duke of Buckingham says,
“ Plainness and truth gain more a generous heart,
Than all the crooked subtleties of art." But Buckingham was then speaking of female beauty, or rather the want of it, and speaking truly and justly, for mere regularity of features or countenance, however dazzling for the moment or the hour, have not the power to gain the affections.
“ A world of things must curiously be sought,
A world of things must be together brought,
Through a discerning eye-true love.” It was once remarked by a leading contemporary critic, that as a novelist proceeds in his literary career, if he be well and carefully watched he advances the age of his hero, the lover and loveable hero of his work, in due proportion with his own progress through life, and that he depicts as youthful and ardent after twenty years writing the sort of gentleman whom, when he first started as an author, he would have set down rather as an amiable parent of his heroine, than a devoted suitor. So might we suppose that the authorities derivable from writers on the subject of the relative powers of personal beauty, and intellectual qualities, may be quoted from the works of that class of authors, who, as regarded their appearance, came under Foote's description of one of his farcical heroines (which we have often before quoted with great pleasure) — “Plain but genteel, like a Wedgewood teapot:" but this is not the case ; for the majority of those who have treated the subject, happen, according at least to the evidence of their “effigies” handed down to us, to have been exceedingly welllooking persons.
Probably it might have been from personal experience even these recorded their opinions and feelings ; certain it is, that on the first blush-not of Mr. George Grindle, for blushing was not his foiblebut upon the first appearance of that worthy, Mrs. Amersham was prepossessed in his favour: and although still admitting her regard for his brother Frank, she began to think Jane somewhat “particular," if not capricious, in having, as the phrase goes, set herself so completely against him.
But all this was illusion. At first sight, and for a short time, the counterfeit coin may deceive the uninformed ; let it get its fair proportion of “ wear and tear,” in a purse of genuine money, and the simple contact will soon destroy its superficial splendour. George was all that could be expected, or even desired in society, for the first two or three hours of one's association with him; but as he became more familiarised with his associates, and began to feel the advantage he had gained over them, the tone and style of his conversation changed, and guarded as he was by all the efforts of his conventional good-breeding, he too distinctly proved that, with a certain smattering of knowledge and smartness of manner, he was not calculated to attract, and still less to retain, a heart like that of Jane Bruff.
Yet there was, in point of fact, more in George Grindle than he would permit you to think. He affected a sort of childish manner of speaking, and talked, as we have already seen, in a phraseology peculiar to a certain, and certainly not the best, clique; and although there were a quaintness and oddity in its style, when adopted by a welllooking a gentleman,” which was attractive at first, it grew tiresome by constant practice, as must and will do everything in society which is not founded upon natural impulses, and expressed in a natural way.
Mr. Amersham did the honours with all the amenity of a well-bred host; but he, having perhaps had greater experience in the school of which Mr. George Grindle was a disciple, did by no means, even in the outset, participate in his wife's approbation of their newly-arrived visiter.
One thing struck both the master and mistress of the house; indeed it was too evident to escape the notice of the most cursory observerthe evident desire of both George and Jane not to be left to themselves -not to be indulged in any of those delightful tête-à-têtes for which real lovers long, and which Mrs. Amersham, when she proposed enlarging their party, was so anxious to secure to them. If any opportunity occurred, of which an ardent swain would not have lost a moment in availing himself, George lingered behind; if ever Jane found herself many
at such a distance from Emma as to render the approach of George alone, possible, she fled to her friend as if for protection. Jane's decided repugnance to the match if not actually to the man, might easily account for the one—but for the other?-did ever anything like feeling for the poor deserted Nelly strike through George's heart?
These are questions which we cannot pretend to answer, but thus much we can see—that a less ominous progress towards matrimony has rarely been exhibited to mortal eyes than this of Mr. George Grindle and Miss Jane Bruff, and yet the result is inevitable.
It has been aptly remarked in a very clever review, which does not appear to be still continued, that the author, or rather the narrator of the details which the reader is now perusing, takes frequent occasion in all the preceding histories which he has published, to work out his characters or bring about his dénouements at, or after dinner. Nothing can be more just or true than the axiom that no man knows himself. I was not conscious of this peculiarity until it was thus pointed out to me by a stranger. The moment it was noticed I looked back at as
iny narratives” as I could lay hold of at the time, and sure enough every important event occurs at “ dinner" or “supper." I have before noticed this just conclusion, and I have defended it, as I must again, upon the plain and undeniable fact, that it is at and after dinner or supper (more especially when the supper comes late, after a ball) that all the pleasurable business of society is transacted, and that the bashful Englishman and the timid Englishwoman are never so much more at their ease than when they are sitting round a table; and moreover, that the table in question, whether one eats and drinks or not, is, and must be, the point de réunion of every circle every day in the week, whether in London or in a country-house. There seems to be no such great objection (neither does my good-natured critic make any) to its being the scene of action. But whether it be so or not, I cannot helpit, for after trying to fix Mr. George Grindle somewhere at Amersham's, I found it impossible, until in a true English spirit I caught him sitting with Amersham“ after dinner,” when the ladies had retired, and their tête-d-téte was only broken in upon by one visiter, “a quiet, gentlemanly man,” who seldom spoke, but who happening to have a set of remarkably white teeth, smiled perpetually upon those who did. In willingness to dance with a dowdy if asked, and to pass the wine when told, he was beyond price. He was one of Mrs. Amersham's tame men—was greatly patronised in the family by Miles Blackmore, and aithough he had been exceedingly intimate with Jane Bruff at other times, was so well trained as to know that he must not so inuch as look at her on that particular day.
The character of a “quiet, gentlemanly man" which in general society is equivalent to that of a remarkably' stupid person, had been acquired by this Mr. Danbury in consequence not only of his practical obedience to all orders issued to him by ladies in the regulation of their parties and privileges, but by his implicit acquiescence in everything That was or could be said by anybody about anything, in any place or at any time. There was a gentle lassitude in his manner which indicated that the trouble of opposing or contradicting any human being would annihilate him, and so he was an universal favourite wherever he went.
“ Uncommon nice place you have got here," said George to Amersham. “ I took the liberty of running my eye over the stables. Capitally done-boxes beautiful, and some pretty considerably nice nags in them.”
“ Two or three of them, I believe, belong to my friend Danbury," said Amersham.
“Two,” said Danbury, without moving a muscle or opening his teeth, one the grey I bought at Tattersall’s. Gave sixty guineas for him, and wouldn't take double the price; the chesnut I got of Miles Blackmore.”
Now what it was-whether Miles Blackmore did possess some superhuman influence, or whether he had either consciously or unconsciously contrived to altain a power over his associates which they appeared to admit, one cannot exactly say; but certain it is, that the tone and manner in which the gallant, gay Mr. Danbury mentioned the name of the man from whom he had purchased his chesnut horse, were such as to lead the hearer to infer that however excellent might be the qualities of the grey which he had bought at Tattersall's, the simple fact that the chesnut had been Miles Blackmore's was enough at once to stamp its superior value, without any further observation or remark.
Upon this special occasion the mention of the name of Miles Blackmore appeared to cause more than the usual sensation. Danbury quoted him as an authority,” but the instant the name passed his lips a sort of electric shock seemed simultaneously to shake Amersham and George Grindle. Amersham's eye glanced upon George, he being conscious that he had written to Miles Blackmore, to inquire into the real truth of the history of the lady at Versailles; and George Grindle's eyes glanced instantaneously upon Amersham, because he was conscious that Miles Blackmore knew a great deal more of the “ state of the case” than he should like to have known where he then was. The effects of this double consciousness were not seen by Danbury, who followed up his remark upon Miles Blackmore by inquiring from Amersham whether he had heard from him lately.
It would be difficult to decide which of his companions was the more embarrassed by this very simple and natural question,-Amersham, aware that he had written to him to make the most delicate and important inquiries upon a most important and delicate subject-or George Grindle wholly ignorant that any such step had been taken, still perfectly conscious that the gentleman in question knew enough to overthrow his plans as regarded Jane Bruff. So the result of the question was a sort of “ dead lock” as Sheridan calls it. Amersham looked attentively at George Grindle-George Grindle fixed his eyes on Amerslam, and the dandy Danbury not exactly knowing what the real effect was which had been produced by the mention of his friend's name, looked altogether astounded.
“Capital fellow, Miles Blackmore," said Danbury; “ as high principled a man as breathes, and the best judge of a horse I know.”
“ You can't praise him too highly," said Amersham; adding, as he addressed himself to George Grindle, “ Do you happen to know our friend ?"
Now this was a very puzzling question, and one which under all the circumstances was very difficult for Mr. George Grindle to answer. To
admit that he did know him would, as he apprehended, be to lead the conversation to the details of how he met him, when he met him, and where he met him, therefore it appeared most prudent to George to deny any knowledge of him beyond believing that he had seen him « about."
“ I wrote to him,” said Amersham, “ a day or two ago. In fact, I wanted him to come over to us, but he seems quite in love with Paris."
“Or with somebody in it,” said Danbury. George Grindle felt exceedingly uncomfortable. He was conscious of flushing up—he could hardly account for the sensation—but so it was.
“No,” said Amersham,“ my friend Miles does not strike me as particularly susceptible-his chief attraction in Paris is the Louvre. His devotion to art is remarkable, and being an artist himself, I believe he employs a good deal of his time copying the old masters.”
So did Nelly. It was there, and by those means that she had acquired the proficiency which in the warmth of her affection for George she had offered to turn to account for his sake when he spoke of his pecuniary difficulties. The rapid transit of the railroad brought Versailles close to Paris, and with her mother and poor Tiney for companions, she occupied her time and mind—which, poor dear girl, required occupation-by working at her easel in the gallery. It must not be denied that whenever such circumstances, or the associations of other days were incidentally brought to his mind, George was considerably affected, and perhaps if he had known how intently Amersham's eyes were fixed upon his countenance during the conversation relative to France, he would have exhibited stronger signs of consciousness and agitation than he did, for so completely was Miles Blackmore mixed up in his thoughts with Nelly, whom he knew he was betraying, and with Tiney, who perhaps was on his death-bed or dead, that with all the nonchalance for which he was eminently celebrated, he scarcely knew whether he was sitting at table, or whether he should be able to keep his seat many minutes longer; in fact he was not under any circumstances prepared to find that his travelling acquaintance was, as he appeared to be, the enfant de famille at Amersham's, the very last house, under the circumstances, in which he could have wished to find him thus domesticated.
“Strange enough," said the dandy, “talking of the Louvre, nobody knows anything about how it came to be ; some fellow kept horses and hounds there, but that's a deuce of a long time ago. It's a capital lounge now.
And here, one word as to the Louvre, which the Napoleonite French will persist in telling one was " built" by Bonaparte. Everybody knows, except those who are instructed by these odd French gentlemen, that Louis XIV., having resolved to complete the palace, first employed his chief architect Levau ; but Colbert took a prejudice against his plans, and invited all the architects of Paris to send in designs: they were accordingly sent in and exhibited, but only one of them satisfied the connoisseurs to whom they were submitted, and that was from the pencil of a physician, Claude Perrault. However, even that did not meet the expectations either of Colbert or his master;