Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

in twenty-thwee, at the end of my gwandfather's time." And Sir Francis and Captain Strong, for such was the style and title of Sir Francis's friend, passed out of the hall into the reception-rooms, leaving the discomfited Mrs. Blenkinsop to disappear by a side-door which led to her apartments, now the only habitable rooms in the long-uninhabited mansion.

It was a place so big that no tenant could afford to live in it; and Sir Francis and his friend walked through room after room, admiring their vastness and dreary and deserted grandeur. On the right of the hall door were the saloons and drawing-rooms, and on the other side the oak room, the parlor, the grand dining-room, the library, where Pen had found books in old days. Round three sides of the hall ran a gallery, by which, and corresponding passages, the chief bedrooms were approached, and of which many were of stately proportions and exhibited marks of splendor. On the second story was a labyrinth of little discomfortable garrets, destined for the attendants of the great folks who inhabited the mansion in the days when it was first built: and I do not know any more cheering mark of the increased philanthropy of our own times, than to contrast our domestic architecture with that of our ancestors, and to see how much better servants and poor are cared for at present, than in times when my lord and my lady slept under gold canopies, and their servants lay above them in quarters not so airy or so clean as stables are now.

Up and down the house the two gentlemen wandered, the owner of the mansion being very silent and resigned about the pleasure of possessing it; whereas the Captain, his friend, examined the premises with so much interest and eagerness that you would have

thought he was the master, and the other the indifferent spectator of the place. “I see capabilities in itcapabilities in it, sir,” cried the Captain. “Gad, sir, leave it to me, and I'll make it the pride of the country, at a small expense. What a theatre we can have in the library here, the curtains between the columns which divide the room! What a famous room for a galop ! — it will hold the whole shire. We'll hang the morning parlor with the tapestry in your second salon in the Rue de Grenelle, and furnish the oak room with the Moyen-age cabinets and the armor. Armor looks splendid against black oak, and there's a Venice glass in the Quai Voltaire, which will suit that high mantel-piece to an inch, sir. The long saloon, white and crimson, of course; the drawing-room yellow satin; and the little drawing-room light blue, with lace over - hey?"

“I recollect my old governor caning me in that little room,” Sir Francis said sententiously; "he always hated me, my old governor."

“ Chintz is the dodge, I suppose, for my lady's rooms — the suite in the landing, to the south, the bedroom, the sitting-room, and the dressing-room. We'll throw a conservatory out, over the balcony. Where will you have your rooms ? "

“Put mine in the north wing," said the Baronet, with a yawn, "and out of the reach of Miss Amory's confounded piano. I can't bear it. She's scweeching from morning till night.”

The captain burst out laughing. He settled the whole further arrangements of the house in the course of their walk through it; and, the promenade ended, they went into the steward's room, now inhabited by Mrs. Blenkinsop, and where Mr. Tatham was sitting poring over a plan of the estate, and the old house

keeper had prepared a collation in honor of her lord and master. Then they inspected the kitchen and stables, about both of which Sir Francis was rather interested, and Captain Strong was for examining the gardens; but the Baronet said, “D— the gardens, and that sort of thing !” and finally he drove away from the house as unconcernedly as he had entered it; and that night the people of Clavering learned that Sir Francis Clavering had paid a visit to the Park, and was coming to live in the county. When this fact came to be known at Chatteris, all the folks in the place were set in commotion: High Church and Low Church, half-pay captains and old maids and dowagers, sporting squireens of the vicinage, farmers, tradesmen, and factory people—all the population in and round about the little place. The news was brought to Fairoaks, and received by the ladies there, and by Mr. Pen, with some excitement. “Mrs. Pybus says there is a very pretty girl in the family, Arthur,” Laura said, who was as kind and thoughtful upon this point as women generally are: “a Miss Amory, Lady Clavering's daughter by her first marriage. Of course, you will fall in love with her as soon as she arrives.” Helen cried out, “Don’t talk nonsense, Laura.” Pen laughed, and said, “Well, there is the young Sir Francis for you.” “He is but four years old,” Miss Laura replied. “But I shall console myself with that handsome officer, Sir Francis's friend. He was at church last Sunday, in the Clavering pew, and his mustachios were beautiful.” Indeed the number of Sir Francis's family (whereof the members have all been mentioned in the above vol. Ix. —21

paragraphs) was pretty soon known in the town, and everything else, as nearly as human industry and ingenuity could calculate, regarding his household. The Park avenue and grounds were dotted now with town folks of the summer evenings, who made their way up to the great house, peered about the premises, and criticised the improvements which were taking place there. Loads upon loads of furniture arrived in numberless vans from Chatteris and London; and numerous as the vans were, there was not one but Captain Glanders knew what it contained, and escorted the baggage up to the Park House.

He and Captain Edward Strong had formed an intimate acquaintance by this time. The younger Captain occupied those very lodgings at Clavering, which the peaceful Smirke had previously tenanted, and was deep in the good graces of Madame Fribsby, his landlady; and of the whole town, indeed. The Captain was splendid in person and raiment; fresh-colored, blue-eyed, black-whiskered, broad-chested, athletic a slight tendency to fulness did not take away from the comeliness of his jolly figure - a braver soldier never presented a broader chest to the enemy. As he strode down Clavering High Street, his hat on one side, his cane clanking on the pavement, or waving round him in the execution of military cuts and solda. tesque manœuvres --- his jolly laughter ringing through the otherwise silent street — he was as welcome as sunshine to the place, and a comfort to every inhabitant in it.

On the first market-day he knew every pretty girl in the market: he joked with all the women; had a word with the farmers about their stock, and dined at the Agricultural Ordinary at the Clavering Arms, where he set them all dying with laughter by his fun

and jokes. “Tu be sure he be a vine feller, tu be sure that he be," was the universal opinion of the gentlemen in top-boots. He shook hands with a score of them, as they rode out of the inn-yard on their old nags, waving his hat to them splendidly as he smoked his cigar in the inn-gate. In the course of the evening he was free of the landlady's bar, knew what rent the landlord paid, how many acres he farmed, how much malt he put in his strong beer; and whether he ever run in a little brandy unexcised by kings from Baymouth, or the fishing villages along the coast.

He had tried to live at the great house first; but it was so dull he could n't stand it. “I am a creature born for society," he told Captain Glanders. “I'm down here to see Clavering's house set in order; for between ourselves, Frank has no, energy, sir, no energy; he's not the chest for it, sir (and he threw out his own trunk as he spoke); but I must have social intercourse. Old Mrs. Blenkinshop goes to bed at seven, and takes Polly with her. There was nobody but me and the Ghost for the first two nights at the great house, and I own it, sir, I like company. Most old soldiers do."

Glanders asked Strong where he had served ? Captain Strong curled his mustache, and said with a laugh, that the other might almost ask where he had not served. “I began, sir, as cadet of Hungarian Uhlans, and when the war of Greek independence broke out, quitted that service in consequence of a quarrel with my governor, and was one of seven who escaped from Missolonghi, and was blown up in one of Botzaris's fire-ships, at the age of seventeen. I'll show you my Cross of the Redeemer, if you 'll come over to my lodgings and take a glass of grog with me,

« ZurückWeiter »