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THE LAST MAN IN TOWN.
The last-the last-the last!
It was about the latter end of July last, when the dog- star reigned supreme, that I had assembled at my lodgs
ings the few of my intimates who yet remained in Town, to take their farewell dinner with me,-melancholy me, -condemned to pass the entire summer in London. It was ten o'clock,-we had wheeled the table, with all the apparatus for wine-drinking and fruit-eating, to the open window, and were lolling in summer luxuriance, some on the sofa, some with both feet on empty chairs, listening with composing indolence to the hum of voices and shuffling sound of promenaders in the street below, or reviving in each other's memories (since it was too hot for graver or more useful argument), the by-gone pleasures of the past season,--discussing the pretensions of one beauty, railing at the frowardness of another,—and each occasionally lifting his glass to his lips, the inward motion of which, and the ill-suppressed smile pro
claimed the homage he was doing to some all-perfect favourite of his own.
“ Come,” said I, putting round the last bottle of claret, as I saw my neighbour on the left, reach out his hand for a finishing glass of sherry:
One bumper at parting!-though many
Have circled the board since we met,
Remains to be crowned by us yet. The claret was drunk,- and drunk almost in silence; perhaps my friends were as sorry to leave London, as I was to remain in it by myself; I cannot say ;-however there was, shortly afterwards, a general move. One said he must go, as he was to mount the Shrewsbury at seven the next morning; another must superintend the packing of his new gun; another, of his travelling apparatus ; and the Stanhope of a fourth was waiting at my door, ready packed, to convey its master into the country, in the cool of the night.
The door closed upon the last, and I found myself alone in my room,- I may say, alone in London. “Ah,” said I, looking at my linen trowsers and speckled stockings, “I shall not want to change you to night.You may go to bed, Thomas (addressing the servant, who was clearing away the things), I shall not want a coach called. My hand mechanically tossed over the countless cards that covered the mantel-piece. They were all old, and coated with dust, and I do not think
had welcomed a new comer to enliven their company for a week past. I kicked my gun-case, which lay under the sofa, violently and passionately, as it put me in mind, that in another fortnight, grouse-shooting would begin, while I should be clerk -scolding and paper-signing in Somerset House.—“ Hang Somerset House!” I exclaimed, “ I would give up half my income for a poor three-months' holiday at this desolate Alexander - Selkirk - season of the year. Who would remain in London, when every soul one knows or cares about, has left it ;—when the dry, thirsty, dusty trees in the squares, mock you with a reminiscence of what they mean to represent! When the green of the park and the gardens is brown ; when even every tradesman that can get away, is gone; and my hair-dresser and his lady, as the shopman told me, are pleasuring at Ramsgate!' Who would be in London, when the Somertons (as the Morning Post of this very day says), are gone to Brighton! Who would be in London, when the Braces begin to morrow, and, oh! what a happy party will be collected in R- House! Who would be in London, I added, in a lowered and melancholy tone of voice, when Louisa is at — ! It will be long before I see her fair face and laughing eyes again; or if I do see her, it may be as the wife of that fox-hunting baronet in her neighbourhood. Ah! those days are gone, when, disdaining the busy throng of quadrillers, we occupied a corner sofa in the refreshment-room, and
“ loved the laughing hours away unheeding," although I cannot say, “ unheeded.” Those hours are flown, when Colinet's flageolet summoned us willingly to the waltz; or saw us, with a sigh, undraw the windowcurtains, and chide the “ envious streaks of the too early dawn;" and then prolong the fascinating round, in spite of mamma's watch, or papa's horses. No longer shall I walk my horse in the shady part of St. James's Park, under its grateful canopy of trees, till that dear bay mare appeared, with its still dearer and most graceful rider, a little pony-mounted brother, and a groom, the only, and the silent witnesses of my happiness. No longer shall I watch, for hours, at the Stanhope Gate, for the first glimpse of the well-known purple hammercloth; or leave the Park, with the delicious certainty that within five hours, at most, we should meet again ;again to sit on a retired sofa,-again to be summoned to the waltz,—again to chide the early dawn,-again to put mamma in a fuss, and keep papa's horses waiting,again to go through the tender ceremonies of shawling, --again to feel the returned gentle pressure of the hand as she mounted the carriage,- to look for a minute after the rolling wheels, till they turned the corner of the street, and then run, light-hearted, to my home, to sleep soundly,—yet dream sweetly, and in spite of what lovers say to the contrary, to go through the business of the next day with activity and spirit, which the pleasures of the next evening were once more so agreeably to relax.
Thus did I think aloud, as I lay upon the sofa, with no other light but the gas-lamp, which burned brightly beneath the open window; and though I am sure the gods never made me poetical, and I do not remember ever to have indulged in verse-making since I wrote some tolerable nonsense on my cousin's fan, I know not how long ago,-yet somehow the fit seized me, I clawed hold of a pencil and some paper, and actually found the following piece of folly on my table the next morning in my own hand-writing, or I could never have believed I had written it :
August is near, and London lonely,
Of all that 's gay bereft;
Are all that now are left.
Sams, Saunders, Ebers, Andrews, Hookham,
Bemoan their empty shops;
A single opera box.
Thy burnt-up turf, brown Kensington,
No gentle footstep marks;
That's seen in all the Parks.
Each shutter closed, each knocker still,-
A scanty population,
The death of Dissipation.