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Detachments of domestics preceded them. Carriages came down by sea, and were brought over from Baymouth by horses which had previously arrived under the care of grooms and coachmen. One day the "Alacrity" coach brought down on its roof two large and melancholy men, who were dropped at the Park lodge with their trunks, and who were Messieurs Frederic and James, metropolitan footmen, who had no objection to the country, and brought with them state and other suits of the Clavering uniform.
On another day, the mail deposited at the gate a foreign gentleman, adorned with many ringlets and chains. He made a great riot at the lodge gate to the keeper's wife (who, being a West country woman, did not understand his English or his Gascon French), because there was no carriage in waiting to drive him to the house, a mile off, and because he could not walk entire leagues in his fatigued state and varnished boots. This was Monsieur Alcide Mirobolant, formerly Chef of his Highness the Due de Borodino, of H. Eminence Cardinal Beccafico, and at present Chef of the bouche of Sir Clavering, Baronet:—Monsieur Mirobolant's library, pictures, and piano, had arrived previously in charge of the intelligent young Englishman, his aide-de-camp. He was, moreover, aided by a professed female cook, likewise from London, who had inferior females under her orders.
He did not dine in the steward's room, but took his nutriment in solitude in his own apartments, where a female servant was affected to his private use. It was a grand sight to behold him in his dressing-gown composing a menu. He always sate down and played the piano for some time before. If interrupted, he remonstrated pathetically. Every great artist, he said, had need of solitude to perfectionate his works.
But we are advancing matters in the fulness of ourlove and respect for Monsieur Mirobolant, and bringing him prematurely on the stage.
The Chevalier Strong had a hand in the engagement of all the London domestics, and, indeed, seemed to be the master of the house. There were those among them who said he was the house-steward, only he dined with the family. Howbeit, he knew how to make himself respected, and two of by no means the least comfortable rooms of the house were assigned to his particular use.
He was walking upon the terrace finally upon the eventful day, when, amidst an immense jangling of bells from Clavering Church, where the flag was flying, an open carriage and one of those travelling chariots or family arks, which only English philo-progenitiveness could invent, drove rapidly with foaming horses through the Park gates, and up to the steps of the Hall. The two battans of the sculptured door flew open. Two superior officers in black, the large and melancholy gentlemen, now in livery with their hair in powder, the country menials engaged to aid them, were in waiting in the hall, and bowed like tall elms when autumn winds wail in the park. Through this avenue passed Sir Francis Clavering with a most unmoved face: Lady Clavering, with a pair of bright black eyes, and a good-humoured countenance, which waggled and nodded very graciously: Master Francis Clavering, who was holding his mamma's skirt (and who stopped the procession to look at the largest footman, whose appearance seemed to strike the young gentleman), and Miss Blandy, governess to Master Francis, and Miss Amory, her ladyship's daughter, giving her arm to Captain Strong. It was summer, but fires of welcome were crackling in the great hall chimney, and in the rooms which the family were to occupy.
Monsieur Mirobolant had looked at the procession from one of the lime-trees in the avenue. "Elle est la," he said, laying his jewelled hand on his richly-embroidered velvet waistcoat with glass buttons, "Je t'ai vue; je te benis, O ma sylphide, O mon ange!" and he dived into the thicket, and made his way back to his furnaces and saucepans.
The next Sunday the same party which had just made its appearance at Clavering Park, came and publicly took possession of the ancient pew in the church, where so many of the Baronet's ancestors had prayed, and were now kneeling in effigy. There was such a run to see the new folks, that the Low Church was deserted, to the disgust of its pastor; and as the state barouche, with the greys and coachman in silver wig, and solemn footmen, drew up at the old churchyard gate, there was such a crowd assembled there as had not been seen for many a long day. Captain Strong knew everybody, and saluted for all the company. The country people vowed my lady was not handsome, to be sure, but pronounced her to be uncommon fine dressed, as indeed she was—with the finest of shawls, the finest of pelisses, the brilliantest of bonnets and wreaths, and a power of rings, cameos, brooches, chains, bangles, and other nameless gimcracks; and ribbons of every breadth and colour of the rainbow flaming on her person. Miss Amory appeared meek in dove-colour, like a vestal virgin —while Master Francis was in the costume then prevalent of Eob Eoy Macgregor, a celebrated Highland outlaw. The Baronet was not more animated than ordinarily—there was a happy vacuity about him which enabled him to face a dinner, a death, a church, a marriage, with the same indifferent ease.
A pew for the Clavering servants was filled by these domestics, and the enraptured congregation saw the gentlemen from London with "vlower on their heeds," and the miraculous coachman with his silver wig, take their places in that pew so soon as his horses were put up at the Clavering Arms.
In the course of the service, Master Francis began to make such a yelling in the pew, that Frederic, the tallest of the footmen, was beckoned by his master, and rose and went and carried out Master Francis, who roared and beat him on the head, so that the powder flew round about, like clouds of incenHe. Nor was he pacified until placed on the box of the carriage, where he played at horses with John's whip.
"You see the little beggar's never been to church before, Miss Bell," the Baronet drawled out to a young lady who was visiting him; "no wonder he should make a row: I don't go in town neither, but I think it's right in the country to give a good example—and that sort of thing."
Miss Bell laughed and said, "The little boy had not given a particularly good example."
"Gad, I don't know," said the Baronet. "It ain't so bad, neither. Whenever he wants a thing, Frank always cwies, and whenever he cwies he gets it."
Here the child in question began to howl for a dish of sweetmeats on the luncheon table, and making a lunge across the table-cloth, upset a glass of wine over the best waistcoat of one of the guests present, Mr. Arthur Pendennis, who was greatly annoyed at being made to look foolish, and at having his spotless cambric shirt front blotched with wine.
"We do spoil him so," said Lady Clavering to Mrs. Pendennis, fondly gazing at the cherub, whose hands and face were now frothed over with the species of lather which is inserted in the confection called meringues a la creme.