Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

After sitting up a whole night at play for thousands, with the most fashionable and profligate men of the time, amidst splendid rooms, gilt sophas, wax lights, and waiters attendant on his call, he would walk out about four in the morning, not towards home, but into Smithfield! to meet his own cattle, which were coming from Thaydon-hall, a farm of his in Essex. There would this same man, forgetful of the scenes he had just left, stand in the cold or rain, bartering with a carcase-butcher for a shilling! Sometimes when the cattle did not arrive at the hour expected, he would walk on in the mire to meet them; and, more than once, has gone on foot the whole way to his farm without stopping, which was seventeen miles from London, after sitting up the whole night.”

Mr. Elwes never rode in post-chaises. The horse's back was his carriage.--And upon this, with a hard boiled egg in his pocket-a scrap or two of bread, and no baggage-he would take the road, (the most turnpikeless road, as the Irish Orator would say,) and midway in his travel, would stop under some hedge where grass grew, and there, with a little water, would refresh himself and his luckless horse. He was at the very moment worth five hundred thousand pounds.

Before Sir Harvey died, Mr. Elwes lived at Marcham,but on the Baronet's death he took up his residence at Stoke, where, in spite of its ruinous state, the weather was better kept out than at Marcham. The house at Marcham was like a great filtering stone. Colonel Timms, a nephew of Mr. Elwes, has often mentioned the following anecdote respecting it.

“ A few days after he went thither, a great quantity of rain fell in the night-he had not been long in bed before he felt himself wet through ; and putting his hand out of the clothes, found the rain was dropping through the ceiling upon the bed-he got up and moved the będ; but he had not lain long before he found the same inconvenience. Again he got up, and again the rain came down. . At length, after pushing the bed quite round the room, he got into a corner where the ceiling was better secured, and he slept till morning. When he met his uncle at breakfast, he told him what had happened— Aye! aye!' said the old man, 'I don't mind it myself; but to those who do, that's a nice corner in the rain!" .

At Stoke, Mr. Elwes was guilty of a mild extravagance ; he took to keeping a pack of fox hounds, not fifty-two to the pack-merely a few famished, industrious dogs, that hunted well upon empty stomachs—but how did he keep them ?-by. servants, whippers-in, and huntsmen ?-No. He kept one man, who kept the hounds. And this famous fellow arose at four o'clock, milked the cows, watered the horses, and got his master's breakfast; then slipping on a green coat, he hurried into the stable, saddled the horses, and unkenneled the dogs. The

day over, he refreshed himself with rubbing down the horses, laying the cloth, milking the cow, and waiting at dinner. Then he fed the horses, then the dogs, and then he littered up the horses for the night. The horses, it will be seen, had their share of him. There is no account extant of his ever having eaten or drunk himself, and we rather think bis time would not allow of it. Elwes used to call him “ an idle dog !”—and that he“ wanted his wages for doing nothing.”

Our hero (when was a miser a hero before ?) bred his own hunters, and never broke them until they were six years old. The great Derby and St. Leger Races, which are run by threeyear-olds, would have fared very badly with Mr. Elwes. What grand, bold, bony colts, must his paddocks have contained ? It is on record, that he has been offered three hundred guineas for a hunter-a good price in those days. Could he refuse?

Occasionally he visited Newmarket, though it is said, that he did not take or lay the odds. One kindness, however, he was guilty of, which should not be overlooked. Lord Abingdon had made a match for 70001., which it was supposed he would be obliged to forfeit, from a scarcity of cash to make up the stake. The odds were in his favour. Mr. Elwes made an unsolicited offer of the money, which his Lordship accepted, and with which he won the race. On the day the match was run, Mr. Elwes rode to Newmarket,-mumbled a crushed old stale pancake on the heath-saw the sports, and returned home without any other refreshment. It was on this very day of selfdenial and fatigue, that he hazarded 70001. for a friend!

Mr. Elwes had two sons, whom he brought with him out of Berkshire, and for whom he appears to have had a respectable affection. Education he refused them, for it "put things into people's heads,” but he seems not to have been harsh, or extremely penurious towards them. His heart, indeed, was not steady, when it jostled against a shilling; but otherwise, it was a fairish specimen of a fatherly heart. One of his sons, while gathering grapes, fell from the ladder and hurt himself: The boy went to the village, and had himself blooded. When his father heard it, he was astounded. “Bled ! bled !” said the old man, “but what did you give ?” A shilling,” replied the boy ;-"Psha,” said the father, "you are a blockhead, never part with your blood !—It is easy to see what kind of blood was the dearest to him. Mr. Elwes would have written a good comment on that passage in Macbeth, describing the king after the murder, “ Here lay Duncan, his silver skin laced with his golden blood.

Offers of high interest, and speculations holding out extravagant successes, would often lure the thousands out of his

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

purse, never again to return! Thus, while he saved a shilling, lumps of money were falling away from him. He denied himself all personal comforts, and would rather walk about London in the rain, than venture into a coach in the severest weather. He would dry his drenched clothes by patiently hatching a warmth in them, for nothing could justify a fire. He would eat his food in the last state of putrefaction, rather than have a fresh joint; “ and he wore a wig for a fortnight,” says the Major, “ which I saw him pick out of a rut, in a lane, where we were riding." His wig was the cast-off scratch of a beggar! The first day he wore it, he had torn his brown coat, (no green thing) and had been obliged to go to the old clothes' well, the chest of Sir Jervaise; whence he selected a full dressed green velvet coat with slash sleeves; and he sat at dinner in this great garment, booted, and beggar-wigged, with his own silver hairs shining under the ragged, rusty scratch, and his face looking high satisfaction.

Where money did not meddle, he was a kind and indefatigable creature : the following instance of a miser's knighterrantry in the cause of two distressed damosels, is perhaps the most whimsical, and certainly the cheapest sally for the sex, that romantic history records. The Major is himself figurative when he speaks of it, for, in selecting the anecdote, he calls it, "plucking the sweet briar and the rose, from the weeds that overspread the garden.” This sentence must have flattered Mrs. "Wells's heart, and tickled the sentimentality of Miles Peter Andrewes !

“ When Mr. Elwes was at Marcham, two very ancient maiden ladies, in his neighbourhood, had, for some neglect, incurred the displeasure of the spiritual court, and were threatened with immediate “ excommunication.”—The whole import of the word they did not perfectly understand, but they had heard something about standing in a church, and a penance, and their ideas immediately ran upon a white sheet. They concluded, if they once got into that, it was all over with them; and as the excommunication was to take place the next day, away they hurried to Mr. Elwes, to know how they could make submission, and how the sentence might be prevented. No time was to be lost. Mr. Elwes did that which, fairly speaking, not one man in five thousand would have done ; he had his horse saddled, and putting, according to usual custom, a couple of hard eggs in his pocket, he set out for London that evening, and reached it early enough the next morning to notify the submission of the culprit damsels. Riding sixty miles in the night, to confer a favour upon two antiquated virgins, to whom he had no pariicular obligation, was really, what not one man in five thousand would have done : but where personal fatigue could serve, Mr. Elwes never spared it.

“ The ladies were so overjoyed-so thankful: So much trouble and expence, -- What returns could they make? To ease their consciences on this head, an old Irish gentleman, their neighbour, who knew Mr. Elwes's mode of travelling, wrote these words~" My Dears, is it ex. pence you are talking of? send him six-pence, and he gains two-pence by the journey."

We wonder whether Sir Gawaine, or Sir Bertram, or any other of the iron breeched knights of old, who went about poking their lances into people's eyes, to "succour distressed ladies,” ever thought of carrying a hard egg in their tin pockets. How much more fatigue they might have endured! What mighty feats might not the munching of a firm yellow yolk have led to! We read, indeed, that Don Quixote was repeatedly worsted by an undue attention to the victualling of his forces. Riding sixty miles for two old girls, who had weathered out a like number of years, is no bad proof of the merit of eggs...

Mr. Elwes was now enjoying a close rural life, when Lord Craven, who admired his honest character as' a' county magistrate, proposed bringing him into parliament for Berkshire. He possessed great property in houses in London, and occasionally he visited the metropolis to see how they went on.

“In possessions so large, of course it would happen that some of the houses were without a tenant; and, therefore, it was the custom of Mr. Elwes, whenever he went to London, to occupy any of these premises which might happen to be vacant. He had thus a new way of seeing London and its inhabitants-for he travelled in this manner from street to street; and when any body chose to take the house where he was, he was always ready to move into any other. He was frequently an itinerant for a night's lodging; and though master of above a hundred houses, he never wished to rest his head long in any he chose to call his own. A couple of beds, a couple of chairs, a. table, and an old woman, were all his furniture; and he moved them about at a minute's warning. Of all these moveables, the old woman was the only one that gave him trouble, for she was afflicted with a lameness that made it difficult to get her about quite so fast as he chose ; and then the colds she took were amazing; for sometimes she was in a small house in the Haymarket; at another in a great house in Portland-place; sometimes in a little room and a coal fire; at other times with a few chips, which the carpenters had left, in rooms of most splendid, but frigid dimensions, and with a little oiled paper in the windows for glass. In truth, she perfectly realized the words of the psalmist—for, though the old woman might not be wicked, she certainly was “ here to-day, and gone to-morrow.'”.

The account of this old woman's death is singularly curious. It was related by Colonel Timms, and is declared by Major Topbam to be strictly correct.

. “Mr. Elwes had come to town in his usual way, and taken up his abode in one of his houses that were empty. · Colonel Timms, who

wished much to see him, by some accident was informed that his uncle was in London ; but then how to find him was the difficulty. He enquired at all the usual places where it was probable he might be heard of: he went to Mr. Hoare's, his banker--to the Mount Coffee-house-but no tidings were to be heard of him. Not many days afterwards, however, he learnt from a person whom he met accidentally, that they had seen Mr. Elwes going into an uninhabited house in Great Marlborough- . street. This was some clue to Colonel Timms : and away he went thither. As the best mode of information, he got hold of a chairmanbut no intelligence could he gain of a gentleman called Mr. Elwes. Colonel Timms then described his person—but no gentleman had been seen. A pot-boy, however, recollected that he had seen a poor old man opening the door of the stable, and locking it after him : and from every description, it agreed with the person of old Mr. Elwes. Of course, Colonel Timms went to the house:-he knocked very loudly at the door-but no one answered. Some of the neighbours said they had seen such a man, but no answer could be obtained from the house. On this added information, however, Colonel Timms resolved to have the stable door opened, and a blacksmith was sent for—and they entered the house together. In the lower parts of it-all was shut and silent. On ascending the staircase, however, they heard the moans of a person, seeming in distress. They went to the chamber—and there, upon an old pallet bed, lay stretched out, seemingly in death, the figure of old Mr. Elwes. For some time he seemed insensible that any body was near him ; but on some cordials being administered by a neighbouring apothecary, who was sent for, he recovered enough to say. That he had, he believed, been ill for two or three days, and that there was an old woman in the house, but for some reason or other she had not been near him. That she had been ill herself, but that she had got well, he supposed, and gone away.

"On repairing to the garrets, they found the old woman—the companion of all his movements, and the partner of all his journeys stretched out lifeless on a rug upon the floor.-To all appearances, she had been dead about two days.

“ Thus died the servant; and thus would have died, but for the providential discovery of him by Colonel Timms, old Mr. Elwes, her master! And let politicians hold forth, after this, on the blessings of a • land of plenty. Let moralists reason on the proper uses of wealthand here shall they view an existing example which shall baffle all their theory. A mother, in Mrs. Meggot, who, possessing one hundred thousand pounds, starved herself to death:—and her son, who certainly was then worth half a million, nearly dying in his own house for want !”

On being elected member for Berkshire, he left Suffolk for Marcham,—and took with him his old wig and his fox-hounds!

-The latter he soon disposed of—for, finding his new engagements sufficient for the consumption of his time, he dissolved his parliament of beasts, and threw himself upon his country, He was now sixty years of age :-but active as a greyhound, and not much lustier. He still attended the races-and“ at the

« AnteriorContinuar »