« PreviousContinue »
“That's it," said Daly; " now you have hit it--no man can have any business in a pleasure-boat. Good day, Sir. That's all.”
1 confess I was a good deal shocked at this mode of terminating the colloquy. However, no ill consequences arose; the fat man went his way and so did we, and in a few minutes more, embarked in Daly's
pleasure”-boat, in which I felt, according to his dictum, I had no business whatever.
Richmond, which looks, every time one sees it, as if it were dressed to look lovely for that particular day, was smiling in all its radiance and gaiety; the velvet meadows of Twickenham, studded with noble trees, looked greener and cooler than ever; and my friend began to perform that incomprehensibly agreeable exercise of pulling up against the stream, when all at once a thought seemed to flash into his mind, and a look of regret sadden his countenance; the expression was too distinct to be mistaken or disregarded.
“What,” said I,“ what is the matter? have you left anything behind?"
“No," said he, laughing," but if I had thought of it, we would not have come away so soon from Richmond; and I would have shown you some sport in Cockney-catching."
" What do you mean?” asked innocent I.
“A trick specially my own," replied Daly, “to be played with the greatest success between the grounds of Sion and Kew Gardens. Thus:In the dusk of the evening-I prescribe scientifically—take a strong line, fix him to a peg on the bank of Sion, carry him across the river, and fix him to another peg in the bank at Kew; strain him tight, and then retire to watch the effect. Tide running down, presently comes a Cockney pair, the man flirting and pulling, the lady sitting and smiling ; when they reach the chosen spot, the tight line catches the Cockney Corydon on the back of his head, and tumbles him forward at the feet of his Phyllis; in a twinkling, the same effect is produced on the lady, with this single simple difference, that the cord catches her under the chin, and tumbles her backward. In the confusion of the moment, tide ebbing fast, the happy couple are swept down the stream ; and having, after a few minutes, set themselves to rights again, begin to wonder what has happened, and of course never think of trying back against tide to ascertain the cause ; which, however, if they did, would assist them little, for the moment you have caught your couple you cast off the line from the peg, and the cause of the mischief disappears from the sight-probatum est."
“That seems rather a serious joke," said I.
“ Umph!” replied Daly; “ perhaps you would prefer keeping the line, but for my part I am not particular.”
This he certainly need not have mentioned. Every moment added fresh evidence to the fearful fact; I was yet unprepared for what was to
“I wish,” said my friend, as he plied the oar, " that we had stayed a little longer at Richmond. I think one more bottle of claret, tête-à-tête, would have been vastly agreeable.”
“I should not have disliked it myself,” said I. "Is it impossible to repair the mischief ?-is there no agreeable retreat on these shores, in which we may solace ourselves for our imprudence ?"
“No,” said my friend : “ the Eel-pie House is a wretched hole-the
jnns at Twickenham are all inland-there is nothing marine short of the Toy, and we are to part long before I reach that much-loved spot.”'
“ Then," said I, we must make up our minds to the evil, and bear it as well as we can."
At this moment we were under the bank of a beautiful garden, upon which opened a spacious bow-windowed dinner-room, flanked by an extensive conservatory. Within the circle of the window was placed a table, whereon stood bottles and decanters, rising, as it were, from amidst a cornucopia of the choicest fruits, Around this table were seated a highly respectable family; a portly gentleman whose " cheeks and chin gave ample evidence that such refections were his custom always in the afternoon," and near him a lady, evidently his better, if not his larger half-on either side bloomed two young creatures, evidently the daughters of the well-fed pair. Our appearance, although the lawn was some twenty or thirty yards wide, had caught their attention, as their respective forms and figures had attracted our notice.
“There," said I, " this scene is exhibited to us by our evil genius, to tantalize us with the prospect of what we may not enjoy."
“ You are wrong," said Daly,“ quite wrong-be quiet-beautiful girls, cool wine, and agreeable society, are worth making a dash for. These girls will we become acquainted with—that society we will join-those wines will we imbibe.”
“Do you know them ?” said I.
“Never saw them by any chance in my life," said Daly; " but here goes—the thing is settled-arranged—done. Have you a pocket-book and a pencil about you ? if you have, lend them to me ; say nothing, and I will manage the rest.
Assent to all I say, and stay in the boat till we are invited to partake of the collation."
“But, my dear Sir," said I
“Mum,” said Daly, at the same moment pulling the head of his funny" chock block," as the sailors say, into the bank of the garden. I sat in amazement, doubting what he was about to do, and what I should do myself. The first thing I saw was my friend pacing in measured steps along the front of the terrace. He then affected to write down something in my book—then he stopped-raised his hand to his eyes, as if to make an horizon in order to obtain a level—then noted something more—and then began to pace the ground afresh.
“ Bring the staff out of the boat,” said he to me, with an air of command, which was so extremely well assumed, that I scarcely knew whether he were in joke or in earnest. I obeyed, and landed with the staff. Without any further ceremony, he stuck the pole into the lawn, a measure which, as he whispered to me, while in the act of taking it, he felt assured would bring things to a crisis.
Sure enough, after a certain ringing of the dinner-room bell, which we heard, and which conveyed to Daly's mind a conviction that he had created a sensation, a butler, bien poudré, in a blue coat, white waistcoat, and black et ceteras, followed at a properly-graduated distance by a strapping footman, in a blue and scarlet livery, were seen approaching. I thought the next step would be our sudden and unceremonious expulsion from the Eden we had trespassed upon-not so my friend, who continued pacing, and measuring, and “jotting down,” until the minister for the home department was at his elbow.
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen," said the butler,“ but-my master's
compliments, begs to know what your pleasure is here it is not usual for strangers to land-and
“ Like the man in the boat, Sir,” said Daly, “ only quite the reverse. I am not here for my pleasure-business calls me here-duty, Sirduty. Here, Mr. Higgins, carry the staff to that stump."
These words were addressed to me, and I, completely infatuated— fascinated, like the bird by the rattle-snake-did as I was told, not daring to rebel, lest a denouement might ensue, which would eclater in our being jointly and severally kicked into the river, in which case, from the very little, or rather the very great deal, which I had seen of my companion during our short acquaintance, I felt perfectly certain that I should sink, and he would swim, and that while I was foundering in all the agonies of ignominy and disgrace, he would be capering and flourishing with the two pretty girls in the dining-room, laying all the blame of the affair upon my most incompetent shoulders, and cracking his jokes upon the tyro who had so blunderingly botched the business.
The butler, who found that he made very little impression upon Daly, seemed inclined to come after me, which, as I had not the slightest idea of the game my companion was playing, nor the faintest notion what he expected to be the result, alarmed me considerably. Daly was too much on the alert to permit me to be cross-questioned.
Sir," said he to the butler," present my compliments to your master, and make my humble apologies for the liberty I am obliged to take. I am the surveyor of the Grand Junction Paddington Canal, and an Act of Parliament is just about to be applied for, to construct and cut a branch from the basin at Brentford, into the river Thames, near this point. A great deal depends upon my decision as to the line it will take, and I should not have ventured to land without apprizing your master of my business, but that no time is to be lost, as my plan for the cut must be ready for the committee to-morrow.” “ Cut a canal through my master's grounds, Sir ?" said the butler.
Right through,” said Daly, poking the fore-finger of his right hand very nearly into the butler's left eye ; " and what I am now so particular about is, I am most anxious that the line should not take down the corner of the conservatory,
“ Dear me, Sir," said the man, my mistress would go mad at the idea. Will you just wait, Sir, while I speak to Sir Timothy ?"
Certainly,” said he,“ and assure him-assure Sir Timothy—that I will do all I can to preserve the elevation of his house; for, as it all depends upon my opinion, I shall of course be extremely scrupulous how I decide."
“I am sure, Sir," said the astounded and mollified butler, “Sir Timothy will be greatly obliged to you. I'll be back directly, Sir."
Saying which the butler returned to the house, and giving a significant look to the strapping footman, with the grenadier shoulders and balustrade legs, which seemed to imply that he need not kick us into the water till he had consulted his master, the fellow followed him, which afforded me an opportunity of asking my volatile friend what the deuce he was at, “ Leave me alone,” said he
• Women and wine compare su well,
They run in a perfect parallel.' I am the Company's surveyor, and having surveyed this company, I
mean to be made a participator in those good things of which they seem to be in full possession. Yes, Mr. Gurney, as King Arthur says-
“It is our royal will and pleasure to be drunk,
And this, our friend, shall be as drunk as we.' Who knows but we may make an agreeable and permanent acquaintance with this interesting family!"
“ But,” said I, " you don't even know their name.” “ You are in error,” replied Daly," the man's name is known to me.” “ Then perhaps you are known to him,” said I.
“ That is a non sequitur,” said Daly; " I knew nothing of him before I landed here—now I am au fait-my friend in the powder and sticking plasters calls his master Sir Timothy. There are hundreds of Sir Timothys; but what do I do upon hearing this little distinctive appellation, but glance my eye to the livery button of the lacquey—and what do I see there? a serpent issuing from and piercing a garb or gerb. The crest is unique-ergo, my new acquaintance is neither more nor less than Sir Timothy Dod."
“ Why,” said I, “ you are, like myself, a bit of a herald, too !" " Exactly,” replied Daly,“ in my composition are
• Arts with arms contending.' I am a bit of everything; but somehow or another my accomplishments are so jumbled, and each so minute in itself, that they are patched together in my mind like the squares of a harlequin's jacket, only to make their master ridiculous. Here, however, comes Sir Timothy himself. You are my clerk-keep the staff and the joke up; and you shall be repaid with some of Tim's very best chateau margot, or I'm an ass.”
*" Good day, Sir," said Sir Timothy, somewhat warmed with the intelligence given him by the butler and the exertion of trotting himself across his lawn. “ My servant tells me that you are here for the purpose of deciding upon the line of some new branch of the Paddington Canal ;—it is very extraordinary I never should have heard of it !”
“You ought, Sir Timothy,” said Daly, “ to have been apprized of it, Do you understand much of ground-plans, Sir Timothy ?”
“No, Sir; very little indeed,” replied the worthy Knight.
“ So much the better," I heard Daly distinctly say, for he could not resist an impulse. If you will just cast your eye over this paper,
I will endeavour to explain, Sir. A, there you see ;-A is your house, Sir Timothy ; B is the conservatory; C is the river,—that perhaps you will think strange ?”
“No, Sir," said Sir Timothy,“ not at all."
“ Then, Sir, D, E, F, and G are the points, you see, from which I take the direct line from the bridge at Brentford ; and thus you perceive, that, drawing that line to the corner of Twickenham churchyard, where the embouchure is to be --"
“The what, Sir?” said Sir Timothy.
“ The mouth, Sir,—the entrance to the new branch. The canal will clip your conservatory of about eighteen feet diagonally, and leave it deprived of its original dimensions somewhat in the shape of a cockedhat box. You see-so, Sir,-H, I, K.”
“ I give you my honour, Sir," said Sir Timothy, “such a thing would drive Lady Dod mad !''
“ I admit it would be a dreadful cut,” said Daly; " and then the
noise of the bargemen, and the barge-horses close under the bed-room windows,-clanking chains,-horrible oaths,-disgusting language
“My daughters bed-rooms are at that end of the house,” said Sir Timothy. “What am I to do, Sir ? What interest can I make ? Are the magistrates--are the-"
“No, Sir,” said Daly, with a face of the most imperturbable gravity; “all that is unavailing. The decision as to the line rests with me; and, as I said to Mr. Higgins, my assistant,- Higgins,” continued he, calling me to him, “let me present you to Sir Timothy Dod,- I said to Higgins, what a pity to disturb the Dods,—what a cut at their comforts ;—it goes against my heart to send in the plan, but the line is so decidedly the shortest.
Ah, Sir!' says Higgins to me, ' but do consider the conservatory.""
“ I'm sure, Sir,” said Sir Timothy, extending his hand to me, “ I feel very grateful for your kindness. It would be a sad thing; and must the decision be made so soon ?”
Immediately, Sir,” said Daly: "but I am afraid we are keeping you out here in the open air without your hat. I am afraid you may catch cold.”
Oh, no, Sir,” said Sir Timothy; « don't mind that. Perhaps, gentlemen, you would do me the kindness to walk in. The servant shall take care of your boat. I will introduce you to Lady Dod, she must try what her influence can effect, and I am sure you have the disposition to serve us. Here, Philip, James, George, some of you, come and make this boat fast, and stay down by her while the gentlemen stop. Let me show you the way, gentlemen.”
I never shall forget the look which Daly gave me as we followed the respectable knight to his lady and family,—the triumphant chuckle of his countenance, the daring laugh in his eyes; while I, who only saw in the success of the design the beginning of a signal defeat, scarce knew whether I was walking on my head or my heels: resistance or remonstrance was equally vain under the circumstances, and in a few minutes we found ourselves in the presence of Lady Dod and her daughters, breathing an atmosphere redolent with the fumes of the departed dinner, and the still remaining fruit and wine. I never was so abashed in my life. My friend, on the contrary, seemed perfectly at home; and, placing himself beside her Ladyship, made a sign for me to occupy a vacant seat between the young ladies. Never did I see two more lovely girls. It has frequently been a serious matter of deliberation with me, whether it is more advantageous to be next neighbour, or vis-à-vis, to an object of attraction, such as either of these girls was. I sat between them, like Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, in the profane and theatrical monument which some superannuated or careless Dean of other days has permitted to disgrace and desecrate the walls of Westminster Abbey. Augusta Dod was a brunette, with countenance full of express sion and intelligence. Fanny Dod a blonde, with melting blue eyes, and a pair of lips that, spite of my feigned occupation, I could not help gazing at in a manner of which I believe I ought to have been ashamed. The young
witches very soon saw the effect of their fascination, and i could see, in the sparkle of Augusta's brilliant orbs, and the intellectual, but saucy expression of her mouth, that they triumphed in “ astonishing the native,” even in the shape of a surveyor's clerk.
The courtesy of Sir Timothy, the sweetness of my Lady, and the con