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since Mrs Stafford's arrival. Her amuse me; in vain did he tie the muse was still prolific, but it was wheel of a post-chaise, which had no longer the panegyric of the house drawn up at a door in the village, to of Bullwinkle that formed its exclu- one of the legs of an adjacent fruit sive theme. The Baronet was no stall, and occasion in consequence a longer its object; all the poetic ar most ludicrous subversion of the tillery of the fair Sappho was le fragile fabric on the sudden movevelled at my mother. She sung of ment of the vehicle, to the utter the delightful union of two sensitive consternation of a profane old applesouls, and the charms of female woman, who loaded the unknown friendship. My mother smiled. She malefactor with execrations; in vain changed her strain to a recapitulą, did he even exercise bis humour on tion of all Mrs Stafford's good qua- my own person, putting drugs of a lities, attributing to her the excess cathartic quality into my soup, or of every virtue under the sun. My removing the linch-pins from a pomother frowned. She shifted her ny - chaise which I was fond of ground once more. The subject driving about the grounds, and alike of her lays and her discourse thereby occasioning me an unex. was now the praises and merits of pected descent from my triumphal the gallant soldier, who, amidst dan- car, accomplished with far more of gers, difficulties, and death, still precipitation than grace-still I was thought with fondness on the only 80 weak as to remain insensible to object of his affections, and panted his merit, and even to look upon for the hour when, his perilous du- these sprightly sallies with some deties all fulfilled, the pains of ab- gree of anger. I have little doubt sence should be more than balanced but I must have appeared to him a by the transports of a joyful return very dull dog, and should in all proto the embraces of his beloved. My bability have soon incurred his sus mother's flint began to melt, and an preme contempt, but for an event affection for me as violent as instanwhich, I have reason to imagine, taneous, which seized the good lady changed in some degree the nature. the moment I was introduced to her, of his feelings towards me. completed her conquest; she “had The last accounts from Spain bad never seen so fine or so engaging a stated the approximation of the two boy;" and before the day was over, contending armies, and the public Mrs Stafford hesitated not to affirm journals did not hesitate to speculate that “Miss Pyefinch was really a on the probability of an approaching very sensible woman, and possessed engagement. These conjectures de one of the best hearts in the world.” rived much additional strength from
Sir Oliver whistled and left the the contents of private despatches, room, muttering something in an and, among others, of letters received under-tone, which, from the only by my mother from her husband, monosyllable that could be distinct- who, from his situation on Lord Jy heard, related in all likelihood to 's staff, had good grounds for a female greyhound that followed supposing such a circumstance to be him out of the parlour.
very likely to take place. My moDespite the encomia with which I ther's anxiety was, of course, exwas overwhelmed by ber, I cannot treme; nor could I fail to partake of say that the manners of my new the same feelings, when one mornfriend made a very favourable im- ing, the rest of the family being alpression upon me; nay, I must own ready assembled at breakfast, my that with respect to my cousin cousin Nicholas, who was usually Nicholas, (whom, by the way, I have later than any other of the party, en. too long neglected,) my temper was tered the room. even more fastidious. In vain did His countenance, unlike its usual that facetious young gentleman ex- expression, was serious, and even hibit some of the choicest specimens solemn; his step slow and hesitating, of his wit for my entertainment; in with a degree of disorder visible in yain were the most jocose feats of his whole demeanour. Ile took bis practical ingenuity, feats which con- seat at the table in silence, and began vulsed all the grooms and footmen to occupy himself with his tea-cup, with laughter, brought forward to bending down his head, as if with the intention of shading his face from the paper. My cousin immediately comobservation of the company. My plied with the requisition, and prouncle at this moment enquired for duced it from his pocket; saying the newspaper, the invariable con- coolly, as he put it into bis father's comitant of his breakfast, and was hand, that “ he was sorry to see his answered by the butler that he had aunt so discomposed, as his uncle placed it on the table as usual, before Stafford might not after all be killed, any of the family had come down, or even wounded, as his name cerexcept Mr Bullwinkle, whom he tainly was not in the list of either the thought he had seen engaged in its one or the other." perusal.
“ Not in the list!” roared Sir Oli“ And, pray, Mr Nick, what have ver. “Then what did you mean, you you done with it?” cried Sir Oliver. young rascal, by alarming us all in « I did not know you had been up so this manner ?" and stood with an early.”
expression of countenance in which “Done with it, sir ?" stammered joy, surprise, and anger, were most my cousin,-“ Nothing, sir,—that is, ludicrously commingled; while I, as nothing particular. I bave left it in the conviction that my ingenious cou. my room, I dare say; I can fetch it, sin had merely been once more inif you wish me, sir,—that is-but, dulging his taste for pleasantry flashperhaps, you will like to read it after ed upon my mind, sprang forward in breakfast?”—and his eye glanced the beat of my indignation, and with significantly towards my mother. a tolerably well-directed blow of my
Its expression was not to be mis- arm levelled that jocose young gentaken. She caught the alarm in- tleman with the floor. stantly, and risiog from her chair, A yell, shrill and piercing as that wbile her trembling limbs scarce suf. of the fabled mandrake when torn by ficed to bear her weight, and her face the hand of violence from its parent turned ashy pale, exclaimed, “There earth, accompanied his prostration, is news from Spain! I am sure of it and the ill-concealed triumph which -and Stafford is killed !”
had begun to sparkle in his eye at Her words were electrical, and a the success of his stratagem, gave simultaneous conviction of their way to a strong appearance of distruth blanched every cheek.
gust at this forcible appeal to his “ Killed !” returned my cousin feelings. But Sir Oliver, with all his Nicholas—“ No, my dear aunt—that partiality for bis heir, was at this mois, I hope not; but there has been an ment too angry to take up his cause, action, a severe one, and it is as well and ordered him instantly out of the to be prepared”
room, while I hurried off to console Mrs Stafford's worst fears were my mother with the intelligence that confirmed; she fainted, and was car the fears she had been so cruelly subried from the room. In the confusion jected to were altogether groundless, of the moment, no one thought of and that the affair, to use a frequent enquiring into the sad particulars of and favourite phrase of my cousin the disaster that had overwhelmed Nicholas, was * nothing but a jolly us. Sir Oliver first asked the ques. good hoax from beginning to end." tion, and demanded to see the fatal
CHAP. III. I FOUND my mother still suffering his safety entirely groundless, should severely under the impression that prove too much for her agitated the blood of her beloved husband mind, and plunge her perhaps into a had miogled with that of many of his situation still more to be dreaded brave countrymen in crimsoning the than that state of insensibility from plains of Talavera. Painful as it was which she was now beginning slowly to witness her distress, I almost to emerge. Fortunately, while I was dreaded to inform her that she had yet meditating on the best method of been imposed upon, lest the sudden conveying the happy news to her transition from despair to extreme with the caution it required, Dr joy, on finding her apprehensions for Drench was ushered into the apartment. The worthy old butler, on within the four walls of Underdown seeing the condition in which his Hall, except upon professional emermistress had been borne from the gencies. He had by this time, after breakfast parlour, bad hurried un- infinite care and pains, succeeded in bidden in search of that gentleman's rearing another pigtail to a size and assistance, and had luckily found longitude nearly coequal with those bim at his own house, scarce a hun, of its lamented predecessor, and was dred yards distant from the avenue therefore, not without reason, espeleading to the Hall, in the very act of cially apprehensive lest the scissors mounting his galloway in order to of my cousin Nicholas, scarcely less pay a visit to a patient. Of course fatal than those of the Parcæ, might no persuasion was necessary, under once more subject this his “dulce the circumstances, to induce bim to decus” to the unpleasant ceremony alter his route for the present; and, of a divorce. Despite, therefore, the having stored his pockets with a pro. Circæan allurements of a fine haunch fusion of the usual restoratives, a of forest mutton, his favourite joint, very few minutes brought him to Dr Drench shook me cordially by Mrs Stafford's bed-side. Taking him the hand, bowed to Sir Oliver and aside to the window, I, iu as few the Captain, and quitted the house. words as possible, recounted to him My uncle, whose love and regard the cause of my mother's sudden in- for his sister was, perhaps, greater disposition, together with the real now than at any former period of state of the case, the assurance of his life, was truly rejoiced to find which would, I was persuaded, prove that no seriously ill effects were the most effectual remedy for her likely to ensue from what, now his disorder, and leaving it to his dis- apprehensions were allayed, he again cretion to announce the glad tidings began to consider as a pardonable, in the manner most befitting the oce though somewbat too lively an ebulcasion, I retired from the room. The lition of youthful vivacity; he had worthy doctor, not being blessed even begun to explain to the Capwith a very keen relish for the ridicu- tain, for the five hundredth time, lous, was at first a good deal shocked what a desideratum it was that “a at my narration, and, in the sim- boy should have a little mischief in plicity of his heart, cursed my cousin him ;” the Captain, in no wise reNicholas for “a mischievous young laxing from bis customary taciturnicub,” but then, it may be observed ty, was very composedly occupying in palliation, that he was but a plain himself in arranging the men upon man, with very little taste for hu. the backgammon board, neither asmour. By his care and skill, how. senting nor demurring to the propoever, together with the judicious sition he had so often heard laid way in which he communicated to down by his host before; and I, in his patient, after a free use of the that restless, fidgety state of mind lancet, the information which had which one feels when subsiding agiindeed nearly again overwhelmed tation has not yet quite supk into her, such beneficial effects were pro- composure, was endeavouring to duced as to warrant him, on joining divert the unpleasant current of my us in the parlour below, in holding thoughts, by turning over the leaves out the strongest hopes that no ole of the last novel, brought by Miss terior consequences of a more seri. Kitty Pyetinch from the circulating ous nature would attend the execu- library at Underdown, when a strange tion of my cousin's frolic.
medley of voices and confusion of Sir Oliver pressed the doctor sounds, portending some new calastrongly to stay and partake of our mity, and proceeding from the outfamily dinner ; this invitation, how. ward hall, arrested my attention, ever, frankly as it was proffered, he caused even the imperturbable Capthought fit most positively to de- tain to raise his eyes from his game, cline. Indeed, ever since the sure and drew from Sir Oliver Bull. reptitious abduction of his queue, winkle the abrupt exclamation, which had taken place on the me- « What the devil's that!” morable occasion of the party for The sounds evidently and rapidly merly mentioned, he had been ra- approached ; in a few seconds the ther shy of committing his person parlour door flew open, and a figure, which, by its general outline, only to his stature, it was manifestly from could be recognised as that of sheer inability, and not from any Drench, occupied the vacant space, want of inclination; his spuff-colourwhile the background of the picture ed coat, black silk waistcoat, and was filled up by an assemblage of kerseymeres, no longer boasted that bundry domestics, bearing clothes, unsullied purity in all the pride of brushes, and rubbers of various de- which they had quitted Underdown scriptions, and exhibiting a set of Hall, not half an hour before; a thick countenances, in every one of which, incrustation of dark blue mud, agreerespect, and a strong inclination to ably relieved by spots of the most risibility, manifestly contended for vivid crimson, now covered them the mastery.
with plastic tenacity, rendering their The unexpected appearance of original tints scarcely discernible by such a pbenomenon excited scarcely the most microscopic eye. Nor had less surprise and astonishment in my the visage of the unfortunate genown mind than in that of Sir Oliver, tleman escaped much better, since, who stood gazing on the apparition but for the sanguine current which with symptoms of the most undisflowed down the lower part of his guised amazement, till a voice, bro- face in a double stream, he might ken by passion, and impeded by the not unaptly have been compared to mud, which filled the mouth of the the “ Man with the Iron Mask," so speaker, stammered out
completely had the aforesaid incrus** Look here, Sir Oliver! I beg tation adapted itself to the contour you will look here-this is another of his features. If Pope's assertion of the tricks of your precious son be correct, when, following Ariosto, Nicholas-his behaviour is unbear, he pronounces that all things lost on able, he is a pest to the whole neigh- earth are treasured in the moon, the bourhood, Sir Oliver.”
Doctor's well-brushed beaver was, " Why, what on earth is all this in all probability, by this time safely about? What is the matter, my good laid up in that poetic repository, for friend?”
below it was unquestionably no“Matter?- the devil's the matter- where to be found; its place, howalmost dislocating my neck's the mat- ever, was supplied by a cap of the ter. I am a plain man, Sir Oliver”- same adhesive material as decorated No one who looked in poor Drench's his face and habiliments, affording face could gainsay the assertion- strong presumptive evidence that “ I am a plain man, and I now tell whatever portion of his person had you plainly, that if you do not curb first emerged from the ditch he had that young man's propensity to mis. 80 lately evacuated, his head had at chief, some time or other he will all events taken precedence on his come to be hanged-only see what entry into it. His pig.tail too, that a pickle I am in!”
cherished object of his fondest af. The last sentence was uttered in a fection, to guard whose sacred hairs lachrymose whine, so different from from the remotest chance of violathe highly-raised tone in which the tion, he had so reluctantly declined former part of the invective had been the Baronet's proffered cheer, stogd pronounced, that my uncle, who had forth no longer a splendid specimen begun to bristle at hearing the lineal of the skill of Humphrey Williams, heir of Sir Roger de Bullwinkle con- sole friseur to the village of Undersigned thus unceremoniously to the down, but now exhibited indeed a superintendence of Mr Ketch, was melancholy resemblance to the real immediately mollified, and his atten. appendage of that unclean animal, tion being thus pointedly attracted from which it had metaphorically to the rueful appearance exhibited derived its designation. by the Doctor, his anger was forth- Rueful, indeed, was the aspect of with subdued. Dr Drench was a the worthy disciple of Galen, as he little punchy figure of a man, stand- bore the scrutinizing gaze of Sir Oliing about five feet nothing, plump ver, who found it very convenient at and round as a pill; he was placed the same time to bave recourse to a opposite to Sir Oliver, dilating his family snuff-box usually carried about height to the very utmost, and if he bis person; a mode of proceeding did not on this occasion add a cubit in which he was imitated by the Cap
tain, who now for the first time broke sober a gelding as any in the three silence to request the favour of a kingdoms, instantly evinced his sense pinch from the well-known tabatière, of the degradation to which he had after which a more specific enquiry been subjected by violent and rewas instituted into the predisposing peated calcitrations of no common and proximate causes of Dr Drench's altitude, and in every direction. Bedisaster.
coming every moment more eager The cause was but too soon made to relieve himself from so disgracemanifest. My cousin Nicholas had ful and inconvenient an adjunct as encountered the Doctor at the Hall that which now encumbered and door on his return; and had stopped annoyed his rear, he at length took him to make enquiries respecting the resolution of starting off at score, the health of his patient, whose in- and soon deviated so much from his disposition he vehemently deplored, usually rectilinear mode of progresas well as that a silly joke of his own sion as to convey his unfortunate should have produced it. For this rider to the edge of a large sewer, he declared he should never be able into which all the filth and drainings to forgive himself, although it had of the Hall stables, with other not never entered his imagination that less noisome concomitants, eventuthe trick could have been attended ally flowed. Here, on the very with consequences 80 alarming. brink of this abyss, an unlucky curTouched by his remorse, the good vet, describing an angle of forty-five Doctor comforted him with the in- degrees, dismounted the hapless formation that, if nothing occurred equestrian, and precipitated him head to produce a relapse, his aunt would foremost into the centre of the “ vast not, he trusted, be so serious a suf- profound.” ferer as he had at first feared, and But for the groom, who had seized the opportunity to read his brought the Doctor his horse, and young penitent a short but energetic witnessed the whole of the foregoing lecture on the folly and wicked- scene, poor Dr Drench would proness (so he expressed himself) of bably have encountered a fate comthus terrifying, or even inconvenien- pared with which the pot altogether cing others, merely to gratify a silly dissimilar end of the “Young princes and mischievous propensity. My murther'd in the Tower" might cousin Nicholas listened to these have been esteemed a merciful diswell-intended and well-delivered pensation, since, whether we subobservations with the profoundest scribe to Walpole's “ doubts" or not, attention; he beaved a sigh at their there is no reason to imagine that the conclusion, and with a becoming means employed for their suffocation gravity assented to their justice, at were attended by that "rank comthe same time volunteering a pro pound of villanous smells” which mise that this offence should be his served in the present case to heighten last. Pleased with the effect of his the catastrophe. By his assistance own oratory, and nothing doubting the sufferer was, with some difficulty, that the contrition of the youthful extricated from the imminent peril offender was, for the moment at in which he was plunged, and was least, sincere, Dr Drench put one reconducted to the Hall, whither be foot into the stirrup attached to his once more repaired for the double galloway, which a groom had now purpose of complaint and depuria. led out, and throwing bis leg over tion. the saddle, failed to remark that his These particulars were, with some proselyte had taken the opportunity little trouble, at length collected afforded by his back being turned from the soiled lips of the indignant for the nonce, to introduce a large Doctor, and confirmed by the sup. thistle beneath the tail of the qua. plementary attestation of the servant druped on whose back he had now who observed the transaction, and attained Bo perilous an elevation. whose levity in giving his evidence The effect was obvious and imme. (the fellow absolutely grinned) drew diate : utterly unaccustomed to any down upon him a well-merited reapplication of a similar description, buke from the Court. A summons and highly resenting the indignity was instantly despatched, commandthus offered to his person, Jack, as ing the immediate attendance of the