Obrázky stránek
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

It had no power of joy to fly by day,
Nor part in the large lordship of the light;
But in a secret moon-beholden way
Had all its will of dreams and pleasant night,
And all the love and life that sleepers may;
But such life's triumph as men waking may

It might not have to feed its faint delight
Between the stars by night and sun by day,

Shut up with green leaves and a little light; Because its way was as a lost star's way,

A world's not wholly known of day or night. All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of night Made it all music that such minstrels may, And all they had they gave it of delight;

But in the full face of the fire of day What place shall be for any starry light,

What part of heaven in all the wide sun's way? Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the way,

Watched as a nursling of the large-eyed night, And sought no strength nor knowledge of the day, Nor closer touch conclusive of delight, Normightier joy nor truer than dreamers may,

Nor more of song than they, nor more of light. For who sleeps once and sees the secret light

Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer way Between the rise and rest of day and night,

Shall care no more to fare as all men may, But he his place of pain or of delight,

There shall he dwell, beholding night as day. Song, have thy day and take thy fill of light

Before the night be fallen across thy way; Sing while he may, man hath no long delight.






[ocr errors]

MARKET BASING, in Holmshire, there are five or six good houses that were built, some of them eighty, some of them a hundred years ago in a word, before the town was what it is. They stood there when the linendrapers, grocers, and silversmiths lived over

their shops in the main streets, and not in pretentious villas of unenduring stucco scattered along the Hunslope-road, as they do For in those honest days, strange to say, a shopkeeper kept his shop, and wasn't a bit ashamed of it. And these old houses are tenanted now by persons of the same class as those who occupied them when their bricks were new and red. The one by the church is Lawyer Battiscombe's. It was his grandfather's before him. That house a hundred yards nearer the middle of the town is Mr. Francis Melliship's; and a mile in Oxford-street and twenty perches in Market Basing mean about the same thing-for in these small towns, a house five steps from your door is in an out-of-the-way place it requires an effort to reach. Read the legend in dingy, gilt relief letters over the door-they were much stared at when first put up, being a novelty from London-MELLISHIP, MORTIBOY, & Co. Melliship's Bank, for there is no Mortiboy in it now. Mortiboy's Bank is at the other end of the street, by the postoffice. In many ways, the two banks are


NO. 210.

wide as the Poles apart. At the other end of the town, in Derngate, is another of these old houses. Here lives Mr. Richard Matthew Mortiboy, by the courtesy of Market Basing-when addressing him in writing -styled esquire, but commonly spoken of as Ready-money Mortiboy.

The reason why, I will tell you presently. The blinds of two of these houses, from garret to kitchen, are drawn down, and the shutters farthest from the door pushed to.

But at the house in Derngate, the shutters next the door on either side are closed, and two mutes, with vulgar faces and crapecovered broomsticks, stand on the steps.

Susan Mortiboy is dead, and is about to be buried in St. Giles's Church; and the mutes stand at her brother's door-one on the right hand, and one on the left, arrayed in funereal trappings, bearing the insignia of their order.

Sentinels of honour, to tell us that the Commander-in-Chief, Death, has himself entered the house, and receives the homage of Respectability, his humble servant in this wise.

Outside, it is cold January frost: inside, in the parlour, are the mourners. They have a good fire, and are as comfortable as decency on such occasions will allow. Ready-money Mortiboy's parlour is a gaunt, cold room, with long, narrow windows, wire blinds, horsehair chairs, a horsehair sofa, red moreen curtains, and a round table with a red cover reaching to the floor. A decanter of sherry and eight glasses are on it.

The company assembled have not had any of the sherry, but sit looking at it. If one catches another's eye, the one instantly pretends to be intensely occupied with the ceiling, the pictures, the fire, the street view, anything but the sherry. Till, as by a spell, the one's eyes dwell again on the decanter, are caught in the act, and revert with guilty speed to the street view, pictures, fire, ceiling, anything but the sherry.

Mr. Richard Matthew Mortiboy, the chief mourner, stands with his back to the fireplace. He sighs occasionally with creditable emphasis. He intends his ejaculations to be taken for expressions of grief: they really tell of weariness, and a heartfelt wish that it was all over.

He is sixty-three years old, tall, baldheaded, and of spare frame. His black clothes he was married in the coat-fit him so tightly that, until you are very well

[ocr errors]

used to his appearance, your mind would wander into useless speculations as to the ways and means by which he can get into his suits; and once in, can ever get out again.

But those who know old Ready-money well have discovered that he is one of those human eels who can wriggle out of anything they can wriggle into.

Lydia Heathcote, his niece, sits with the Bible open at the Book of Leviticus, looking at her uncle.

She is his next-of-kin now Susan, his sister, is dead, and old Mortiboy is a millionaire.

Honest John Heathcote, her husband, sits next her. The farmer is the only personage in the company who does not take his eyes off the decanter of wine when he is caught looking at it. He does not think it exactly,

but he feels that it is the only pleasant object in the room, and stares straight at it accordingly.

The family lawyer, Benjamin Battiscombe, fills the easy chair.

The family doctor, Mr. Kerby, is expected every minute.

Mr. Hopgood, mayor of Market Basing, and linendraper, is present in person, out of respect for the family, in his official capacity of undertaker. His face wears an aspect of melancholy solemnity only one shade less deep than that he puts on for a county magnate, deceased-undertaken by Hopgood, Son, & Pywell.

George Ghrimes, as Mr. Mortiboy's confidential and managing clerk, and the friend and agent of Susan Mortiboy, deceased, is present.

And in this goodly company there is one real mourner, Mrs. Heathcote's daughter Lucy, whose gentle hand smoothed the last pillow of Susan Mortiboy, her aunt.

"Put out to be drunk, I suppose," grunted John Heathcote, with his brown hand on the decanter, to his wife in an undertone. Then aloud, "Shall I give you a glass of sherry, Lydia ?"

Mrs. Heathcote objected, but took it. The ice thus broken, a glass was filled for everybody but the chief mourner.

Up to this time there was no conversation, but its place was to some extent supplied by the tolling of St. Giles's bass bell.

B-ong!-B-ong!-B-ong!-at intervals of

half a minute.

Mr. Mortiboy broke the silence. "What are we waiting for?" he asked with the impatience of weariness. "We are waiting for Mr. Francis Melliship and Mr. Kerby," said the Mayor.

"Oh-h-h," sighed the chief mourner, with a look of resignation.

"Francis Melliship all over-eh, Uncle Richard?" said Mrs. Heathcote, feeling her way. "He always is behind at everything. I've often heard my poor mother say that, when you married his sister Emily, he kept you all waiting a quarter of an hour before he came to church to give her away. Ha! ha! ha!"—quickly suppressed: it was a funeral.

But her uncle looked angry at this mention of his marriage to Miss Melliship, and Lydia Heathcote saw her mistake before he growled out in reply

"Mr. Melliship's cavalier proceedings in private life have not come under my notice for years."

"How long is it since he has been in your house?" asked John Heathcote, bluntly.


A dozen years, I suppose," said Lydia. "I'll tell you," said Mr. Mortiboy. "He hasn't been here since my poor wife was buried-sixteen years ago last April."

OMNES: "Ah!"

Lucy Heathcote: "Poor dear aunt—I remember her very well, though I was but a little child. She always brought something over to Hunslope for Grace and me whenever she came to see us. I recollect her little boxes of sweets, and I have got two of her dolls now. Poor Aunt Emily!"

Mrs. Heathcote: "Ah, poor thing!" Mr. Mortiboy: "She was like all the Melliships since the days of Methuselah-always giving something to somebody that was none the better for being made a fool of, Loo, my girl."

In this particular way, Lucy's granduncle Mortiboy had never made a fool of his niece. "We are all older since then," said John Heathcote, who was a slow thinker.

"Mr. Melliship affronted me in a way I shall never forget-though I hope I have forgiven him," said Mr. Mortiboy. He was one of that numerous class of homuncules that think ill, yet speak well.

"Why not be friends, then? I like to see a family all friendly, for my part." "That is a worthy sentiment, sir," said the lawyer. It was the first opportunity he had had of creeping into the conversation.

"Nobody would ever quarrel with you, John," said his wife, half reproachfully. "And I quarrel with nobody."

"If they let you alone," said Mr. Mortiboy; "but I was slighted, John. Gooddear me, here is the hearse!" He pulled out his watch. "Ah! I thought as muchwe are due at the church now."

"Shall we send round for Francis Melliship, uncle ?"

"No, Lydia," said her uncle, with severe irony. "We all of us dance attendance on Mr. Francis Melliship: everybody in Market Basing always has done, since I've known it."

"Don't be hard on a man behind his back," began the farmer.

Mrs. Heathcote shot a glance at him from her dark eyes that meant "How dare you oppose Uncle Mortiboy?"--but her husband did not choose to see it. He went on, regardless of consequences. "I've always respected Mr. Melliship. I hope I always shall. And I wish he came to Hunslope oftener than he does."

His wife pinched him viciously. Hers was a difficult part to play. She was very friendly, in her way, with the family at the other bank; but she was Ready-money Mortiboy's nearest of kin.

My brother-in-law," said Mr. Mortiboy, in tones of satire, "is dressing himself with more than his usual care"-then, in one gruff blast-"and Francis Melliship is the greatest Peacock in Market Basing! I-hate-Peacockery in man or woman!"

Mrs. Heathcote smoothed her crape demurely. She loved it: I don't mean the crape-Dress.

"Farmer-like-eh, John?-for you and me. We are not going to begin Peacocking, I think."

The Mayor's chief assistant now entered with a mournful bow, and proceeded to decorate the chief mourner with a long crape scarf. The chief mourner resented


Holding up the scarf, he said, looking at the man

"What is the meaning of this gewgaw?" "A scarf, sir-quite usual-at all respectable funerals."

"Always worn, sir," said the Mayor.

"I never wore one before," said Mr. Mortiboy, testily. "I should have stopped the affair at hatbands and gloves, I think. Plain, but respectable. I hate show. Poor

Susan, too, never cared for ostentation. Mr.

"I left the matter to Mr. Hopgood, sir.
He knows better than I do what to do."
"Always our practice, sir," said the Mayor.
"Well, well. Come, put it on then. As
they're made, we must have them, I sup-
pose. Poor Susan!"

The old man looked mournfully askant at the great crape rosette at his hip, and at the ends of the scarf dangling about his knees.

He shook his head, and, taking from his pocket a sad-coloured silk handkerchief full of holes, he wiped his eyes, but not of tears. There was only one loss Mr. Mortiboy would have shed tears over-the loss of money. At sight of his grief, all the company were affected likewise in different degrees. Lucy Heathcote was by his side in an instant. She kissed the old man. At this he wiped his eyes again.

"I have lost all-all-that-were near to me-now," he said.

"Not all, Uncle Richard," put in Mrs. Heathcote, meekly, and hiding her face in turn in her handkerchief.

But the old man never noticed her ruption. He went on

an old man. We spent three hundred-at
least, Susan did-trying to-find Dick."
"He was a great trouble to you, sir," said
the lawyer, who had got Dick Mortiboy out
of some nasty scrapes.

"The pocket-money that-boy-had"-
here he nearly cried in earnest-"that his
aunt Susan gave him. If it was not speak-
ing ill of the dead," said Mr. Mortiboy, "I
should say-Susan-spoilt him. She always
sided with him against his father. Ah! I've
said hundreds of times, 'My boy, Lightly
lightly go.' He thought nothing of
the money he spent. I did not want him
to be a spoilt Peacock. She gave him a gold
watch and chain the day he was ten years
old. I never had one till my father died. I
wanted him to be like Me. But-it-wasn't
to be. People said, 'What you've been all
your life getting 'll soon be spent after
you're gone, M-o-rtiboy-""

Mrs. Heathcote groaned at this picture, and looked hard at her uncle.

"After you are-gone-M-o-o-rtiboy.' I used to hope he'd grow up, and alter his ways, and be fond of business, and all that. and—all But no! Dick's dead-my boy's deadinter-and-and-I never recollect being separated from Susan before."

"There was Emily-gone-taken from me just -as-we knew each other well-"

"Oh!-oh!-oh!-oh!" sobbed Lydia Heathcote. She had despised poor Mrs. Mortiboy all her life, said every sharp thing she could think of about her behind her back, and would not have called her back again to Market Basing for worlds.

"And Dick-my son-my son! I loved that boy-if-ever-I loved anything-"

His father had turned him out of the house one night-years ago, neck and crop. "-Goes and runs away from me-and-❘ I'm left alone-now-Susan's-"

He looked up towards the bed-room above.

"Not alone, uncle, dear," said Lucy, in a sweet voice. This young thing loved the old hunks himself, and not his money.

The others hung on his words, for he was the greatest man in the town.

Market Basing, town and people, belonged to him-almost.

"Wife dead and gone from me." He wiped the unsubstantial tears from his eyes again. "Son dead-and-buried-who knows where? Susan-Susan-gone! I'm

"Poor thing! she was such an invalid," said Mrs. Heathcote, soothingly.

The old man stared at her, but went on without noticing his niece's interruption.

"Ah-h, I couldn't have said it then, I dare say I couldn't, but I could say it now if I only had-my-boy-Dick-again, ‘Let him spend it if he likes.' I could say—when people said to me, 'Mr. Mortiboy, your money will all be spent'-I could say, 'From-all-my-heart.""

It was quite a physiological curiosity, this heart of his, that he spoke of so feelingly. It was such a very little one.

"I could say from all my heart, 'Well, if those that have the spending of it have as much pleasure in spending it as I have had in getting it'" (here Mrs. Heathcote smoothed her dress, and solemnly shook her head, as if there could be no pleasure. to her in spending old Ready-money's hoards; at the same time, she listened with all her ears)—“I'm a satisfied man.""

"You can't take yours out of the world with you, any more than anybody else can, I suppose," said Mr. Heathcote.

"John!!" whispered his wife, in a key of the strongest remonstrance.

« PředchozíPokračovat »