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about at noon-tide for some decent house, where we might go in, and produce our store-only paying for the ale that you must call for—and speculate upon the looks of the landlady, and whether she was likely to allow us a table-clothand wish for such another honest hostess, as Izaak Walton has described many a one on the pleasant banks of the Lea, when he went a fishing--and sometimes they would prove obliging enough, and sometimes they would look grudgingly upon usbut we had cheerful looks still for one another, and would eat our plain food savorily, scarcely grudging Piscator his Trout Hall? Now,—when we go out a day's pleasuring, which is seldom moreover, we ride part of the way—and go into a fine inn, and order the best of dinners, never debating the expense—which, after all, never has half the relish of those chance country snaps, when we were at the mercy of uncertain usage, and a precarious welcome.”
“You are too proud to see a play anywhere now but in the pit. Do you remember where it was we used to sit, when we saw the Battle of Hexham, and the Surrender of Calais, and Bannister and Mrs. Bland in the Children in the Wood—when we squeezed out our shillings a-piece to sit three or four times in a season in the one-shilling gallery-where you felt all the time that you ought not to have brought me—and more strongly I felt obligation to you for having brought me--and the pleasure was the better for a little shame—and when the curtain drew up, what cared we for our place in the house, or what
mattered it where we were sitting, when our thoughts were with Rosalind in Arden, or with Viola at the Court of Illyria ? You used to say, that the Gallery was the best place of all for enjoy. ing a play socially-that the relish of such exhibitions must be in proportion to the infrequency of going—that the company we met there, not being in general readers of plays, were obliged to attend the more, and did attend, to what was going on, on the stage-because a word lost would have been a chasm, which it was impossible for them to fill up. With such reflections we consoled our pride then--and I appeal to you, whether, as a woman, I met generally with less attention and accommodation, than I have done since in more expensive situations in the house? The getting in indeed, and the crowding up those inconvenient staircases, was bad enough,—but there was still a law of civility to woman recognised to quite as great an extent as we ever found in the other passages—and how a little difficulty overcome heightened the snug seat, and the play, afterwards ! Now we can only pay our money and walk in. You cannot see, you say, in the galleries now. sure we saw, and heard too, well enough thenbut sight, and all, I think, is gone with our poverty.'
“There was pleasure in eating strawberries, before they became quite common-in the first dish of peas, while they were yet dear-to have them for a nice supper, a treat.
What treat can we have now? If we were to treat ourselves now --that is, to have dainties a little above our means,
it would be selfish and wicked. It is the very little more that we allow ourselves beyond what the actual poor can get at, that makes what I call a treat-when two people living together, as we have done, now and then indulge themselves in a cheap luxury, which both like ; while each apologises, and is willing to take both halves of the blame to his single share. I see no harm in people making much of themselves in that sense of the word. It may give them a hint how to make much of others. But now-what I mean by the wordwe never do make much of ourselves. None but the poor can do it. I do not mean the veriest poor of all, but persons as we were, just above poverty.
“I know what you were going to say, that it is mighty pleasant at the end of the year to make all meet,--and much ado we used to have every Thirtyfirst Night of December to account for our exceedings-many a long face did you make over your puzzled accounts, and in contriving to make it out how we had spent so much—or that we had not spent so much-or that it was impossible we should spend so much next year_and still we found our slender capital decreasing—but then, betwixt ways, and projects, and compromises of one sort or another, and talk of curtailing this charge, and doing without that for the future-and the hope that youth brings, and laughing spirits (in which you were never poor till now) we pocketed up our loss, and in conclusion, with “ lusty brimmers ” (as you used to quote it out of hearty cheerful Mr. Cotton, as you called him), we used to welcome in the “coming guest.” Now we have no reckoning at
all at the end of the old year-no flattering promises about the new year doing better for us.”
Bridget is so sparing of her speech on most occasions, that when she gets into a rhetorical vein, I am careful how I interrupt it. I could not help, however, smiling at the phantom of wealth which her dear imagination had conjured up out of a clear income of poor-hundred pounds a year. “It is true we were happier when we were poorer, but we were also younger, my cousin. I am afraid we must put up with the excess, for if we were to shake the superflux into the sea, we should not much mend ourselves. That we had much to struggle with, as we grew up together, we have reason to be most thankful. It strengthened, and knit our compact closer. We could never have been what we have been to each other, if we had always had the sufficiency which you now complain of. The resisting power-those natural dilations of the youthful spirit, which circumstances cannot straiten—with us are long since passed away. Competence to age is supplementary youth, a sorry supplement indeed, I fear the best that is to be had. We must ride, where we formerly walked : live better, and lie softer—and shall be wise to do so-than we had means to do in those good old days you speak of. Yet could those days return-could
you and I once more walk our thirty miles a-day-could Bannister and Mrs. Bland again be young, and you and I be young to see them—could the good old one-shilling gallery days return-they are dreams, my cousin, now—but could you and I at this moment, instead of this
quiet argument, by our well-carpeted fire-side, sitting on this luxurious sofa—be once more struggling up those inconvenient stair cases, pushed about, and squeezed, and elbowed by the poorest rabble of poor gallery scramblers--could I once more hear those anxious shrieks of yours—and the delicious Thank God, we are safe, which always followed when the topmost stair, conquered, let in the first light of the whole cheerful theatre down beneath us“I know not the fathom line that ever touched a descent so deep as I would be willing to bury more wealth in than Croesus had, or the great Jew R is supposed to have, to purchase it. And now do just look at that merry little Chinese waiter holding an umbrella, big enough for a bedtester, over the head of that pretty insipid halfMadona-ish chit of a lady in that very blue summer house."