Page images
PDF
EPUB

The time had now arrived when the supper was announced, so called by the" Butler," but to which Wells wished never to give a specific name. The moment Mrs. Wells whispered the soft intention to Captain Cavendish Lorimer, he appeared quite delighted ; again offered her his arm, and again led her to the room which we seemed scarcely to have quitted. I again took Fanny.

“ Isn't he delightful ?" whispered she.
“ Rather better than Merman,” said I.'

“Merman!” said she; and that was all she said; but the tone and manner settled it.

“Isn't he capital ?” said Sniggs, who brought up the rear. “ Capital, indeed,” said I.

And on we walked : and there I saw the fac-simile of the never-to-beforgotten table—everything nice and snug-grilled fowl-broiled bones

oysters--potted things of sorts--pickles and other condiments, and the huge set of case bottles, all as usual ; and again Wells was agreeable, the Captain delighted, Sniggs in better spirits, Fanny happy, her mother gay and cheerful, and everything couleur de rose.

Having despatched the edible part of the banquet, in came the huge reservoir of hot water, tumblers, sugar, lemons, and every device conducive to innocent conviviality, when the slightest possible hitch in our merriment occurred,

“What shall I give you, Captain Lorimer?” said Wells.
" What is in those bottles ?" asked the Captain.
“ That,” said Wells," is cherry brandy.

"Oh!" said the Captain, bowing somewhat reverentially to the bottle, " that is rather beyond me. I suppose, Mr. Sniggs (addressing the unhappy apothecary who sat next him), you dou't recommend cherry brandy by way of a cure to your patients ?".

No, no,” said Sniggs, falteringly, “ certainly not.” And a dead silence followed. What Captain Cavendish Lorimer could have thought of the effect his innocent and playful question produced I do not presume to surmise; but it effectually damped poor Sniggs, who, with the proverbial appropriativeness of small people, fancied the allusion personal to himself, and could not divest himself of the idea that the calamity which had befallen gunpowder Tom had formed a subject of conversation before he arrived, and that in all probability he had been invited on purpose to be affronted. This littleness in little minds, which I have before noticed, and which is so well illustrated by Scrub in the “ Beaux Stratagem,” he could not conquer, and, consequently, rolled himself up in his shell, and said nothing.

To Wells this unsociability was no matter of regret, as it gave him an opportunity of rattling away in his best style; and, when I saw the smoking kettle arrive, and the vast display for the "Spirit-mingling," I said to myself," now is my respectable connexion in his glory.”.

Soon after this, and when Captain Cavendish Lorimer, who to all the softer and more polished attributes of an agreeable companion, appeared to me to add a turn for conviviality, which in another twenty years, perhaps, may be considered wholly incompatible with grace and elegance, had filled his glass, the sound of wheels announced the arrival of the carriage, bringing home Bessy, and which was to carry me home. Fanny heard it as well as I, and I never saw anxiety and perturbation more strongly marked on a countenance than in her's the moment it

upon me.

struck upon her ears. The certainty that she had caught a heart, or that she should catch it, if nothing intervened to break the present link of the snare, was suddenly marred by the dread of Bessy's appearance in the dinner-parlour, where the social board was spread. i saw that she felt something decisive must be done to prevent the possibility of the young beauty's intrusion to the probable demolition of all she had done during the course of the evening in the siege upon Captain Cavendish Lorimer's admiration and affection. She was ready for action in a moment, and, jumping up, said to her mother in an audible whisper “ Hadn't I better go and see if dear Bessy would like to come and take some wine and water ?

Mamma was going in a straightforward way to desire her to sit down, for that Bessy would not come in; but Wells, apprehending the real cause of Fan's solicitation to be the desire of“ making assurance doubly sure," and unequivocally preventing the irruption, nodded his head somewhat significantly at his better half, and said, “ No, no, let her go and see,” which accordingly she did.

And then did I not hear the pattering of feet over head along the passages to the bed-rooms, and did it not remind me of the deciding night of my life; and did not Captain Cavendish Lorimer look surprised at the mimic thunder which rolled over his head ? “Ah!” thought I, "little do you fancy the effect which that, to you mysterious noise, has

Wells saw that the Captain's attention had been roused by the sound, and forthwith enlightened him on the subject, by remarking that in houses of that age and construction it was scarcely possible to stir without being heard, adding, that the present move was occasioned by the return home of one of his little girls from her sister's.

In the pause which Fanny's departure seemed to have caused in the conversation, and which Sniggs, whatever he did with his glass, did not seem at all inclined to fill up, Mrs. Wells, by way of making talk, expressed a hope that Captain Cavendish Lorimer found the rooms at Hickson's tolerably convenient.

“ Why, pretty well,” said the Captain, smiling; "I cannot say much for them; but it does not signify, for the short time I shall occupy

them. “Short time ?” said Wells, in a tone of surprise, and I thought of disappointment, “ I thought you were fixed here for some time.”

So I am,” said the Captain, “ but not there. I want more space, and my father's exceeding liberality enables me to do as I like; for, although he insists on my following up my profession, and being a soldier for good and all, to the end of the chapter, his allowances are on a scale calculated to soften down all the little rubs and désagrémens incidental to a military life when they are to be overcome. No; I was looking at a very nice place about a quarter of a mile further down the river which I saw was to be let—a white house—with remarkably good stabling, which is a great point with me. I forget what they call it.”

“ Slatfords ?” said Mr. Wells, hesitatingly.

“ That is the name," said the Captain. “ There is one room, a bowwindowed room, the view from which, in the summer, must beautiful."

“But, surely," said Wells, “ that will be more of a house than you want, Captain Lorimer ?”.

“ No," said the Captain, " I don't think so. I expect Mrs. Lorimer

[ocr errors]

and the children here in a week or ten days, and I must get some place for them ready for their arrival.”

The effect which these words produced upon the assembled party was something marvellous ; it seemed as if sudden paralysis had seized the Rector and his wife--they sat, for the moment, transfixed. Sniggs looked at me--the Captain did not seem to notice the scene, and Wells was too much a man of the world to retain his fixed position more than an instant.

“Oh!" said the Rector, playfully, “I did not know you were a Benedick, Captain ; this is delightful—a family like yours will be indeed an acquisition in our quiet neighbourhood --umph-only think.” Yes,”

,” said Captain Cavendish I.orimer, “ I have been married four years, and am the venerable parent of two daughters and a son.”

“Well, to be sure !” said Mrs. Wells, recollecting the useless display of dinner, dessert, the pompous pillar, and all the rest of it, not to speak of her husband's cordial greetings, and her daughter's winning smiles.

In the midst of this embarras, Fanny returned, having evidently been re-touching her curls, re-smoothing her eyebrows, and rebiting her lips, and, resuming her seat, informed me that Bessy declined our offer of wine and water, and was gone to bed.

“ She might just as well have come in here,” said Mamma. “ She's tired, Ma," said Fan. “ Poor girl," said Wells. “ Pray, Captain Lorimer," said Fanny, “may I ask a great favour?" “ It is granted already, Miss Wells," said the Captain. Will you

let me keep your beautiful drawings for an hour or two to-morrow to show them to my sister? I have been talking of them to her, and she is so anxious

“ Oh! pray keep them as long as you like," said the Captain. " I must, however, leave my talisman in your custody too ;” saying which the Captain once more drew from his finger the mystic ring, and handed it to his fair friend.

Wells saw the game poor Fanny was playing, and felt very anxious to put a stop to it, since it could be played to no end. “ Pray," said the Rector, " what do they ask for Slatfords ?”

Two hundred a-year furnished," said the Captain, “ if taken by the year, and five guineas a week by the week, and for the spring or summer.

I don't think it dear." “ What!” said Fanny, who, in the true spirit of castle-building, saw the great comfort and convenience of a residence so near the Rectory, also mixed up in her mind with a vision of something she could scarcely tell what. Are you going to take Slatfords, Captain Lorimer ?” “ I think so," said the Captain.“ I was very much pleased with it.”

But, I suppose,” said Wells, “ you would hardly venture without Mrs. Lorimer's concurrence ?"

“ Oh! I assure you," said the Captain, “ I have no great fears of Fanny's difference of opinion.”

This observation of her father's, and the Captain's answer, and the name of Fanny, puzzled my poor sister-in-law more than anything that had preceded it. She knew, by experience, how rapidly he made up marriages, and the time and place which he generally selected for the performance, and as the dénouement had occurred during a very short absence on her part, she was perfectly bewildered.

uld be no

" What do you mean by Mrs. Lorimer ?” said Fanny, looking very archly at the Captain.

" Why, my dear,” said Wells, “ Captain Lorimer is married, and expects his lady and family here next week; and, naturally enough, wants to find a house fit to receive them.”

Fanny was not so good an actress as her father. There doubt, whatever, as to what was passing in her mind at that moment; indeed, I was rejoiced to find that she kept her place and position at table, for I was very apprehensive of a scene, in order to avoid which, as much as possible, I announced the necessity of my getting home-it was growing late--and cold for the horses, and so on ; upon which the Captain looking at his watch, started from his seat, and declared that he did not think it had been eleven o'clock, instead of nearly one; and then began the ceremony of leave-taking, and cloak hunting, and all the rest of it, which ended, the Captain and Sniggs walked off to their separate destinations, and I remained for a few minutes behind the scenes after the performance was over, and when the actors appeared in their natural character.

“Well,” said my mother-in-law, “who would have thought that that young man was married, and had a family?”

“ Odd enough,” said Wells. It never occurred to me to ask the question.” “ The Captain enjoyed himself,” said I.

I don't believe he is a Captain,” said Fanny. “ Being a LightBob, he wears wings, so one can't tell.

I admired my sister-in-law's military knowledge.
“He is very handsome,” said Mrs. 'Wells.
“ La, Ma,” said Fanny; “ what, with that long nose !"

“ His nose is not longer," said Wells, “ than it was before dinner, Fanny, and then you thought him remarkably handsome ; but you must mind and send back the drawings after Bessy has seen them.'

“ Oh! hang his drawings !” said Fanny. “ Bessy don't want to see them; besides, she can draw better herself-they are odious things.”

“ And his singing ?” said I. “ His voice is well enough," said Fanny; “ but that is not what I call singing." “ In short,” said Wells," he is a very odious fellow.” • No, I don't mean that, Pa,” said Fanny.

" What I mean is--he “ Married,” said I. "Come, Fanny, that's the truth.”

“ Well, I know it is the truth,” said Fanny; "he is married, and who cares ?

“Never mind,” said Wells, “ let us get to bed : we have had a very pleasant day, and have made a very pleasant acquaintance, and so good night to all." “ Good night, Gilbert,” said Fanny.

“ All I think is, that it is very foolish for officers in the army to marry so young.--Good night! love to Harriet."

And go brake we up this sederunt. I honestly confess that I was not altogether sorry to find my worthy father-in-law caught in his own trap, after having baited it so sumptuously for Captain Cavendish Lorimer,

-is

ALGIERS IN THE SPRING OF 1837.

[ocr errors]

as his

Religion is perpetually performing its mysterious wonders. The most obstinate sceptic would be obliged to admit its yet operative magic power, if he had occasion to observe the votaries of Islam, among whom wonders have not ceased, because among them still prevails a living faith. What other earthly power would else be capable of controlling these barbarian hordes, who acknowledge no ruler and no laws, and who are free as the lion in their deserts ? The marabout speaks to them of the commandments of the Koran, and the yell of battle ceases; the Arab, panting for revenge, reconciles himself with his mortal enemy professing the same creed, restores the property of which he had plundered him, and presents to the mosque the silver coins which he loves

very eyes. He, the rude, wild barbarian, becomes melancholy, poetic, when the discourse of the priest leads him to the prophet, and to the world promised by him beyond the grave.

I have passed a singular time in this singular country-I mean the thirty days of Ramadan, that religious solemnity, during which the orthodox Mussulman prays more fervently than ever, and abstains from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan, at Algiers, exhibited to me a series of scenes such as I had never before witnessed. The commencement of it is announced here by the firing of one hundred and one guns. A great number of lamps are immediately lighted up on the minarets of the mosque, and the marabout screams forth in prayer the praise of the Creator. Hereupon all is still in the city; Moors and Arabs softly mutter their praise; while the French, not comprehending a sentiment to which they have long been strangers, gaze at the devout groups with curiosity and astonishment. For thirty successive days the same spectacle was renewed every evening. As soon as the sun had sunk behind the Atlas, a gun was fired, upon which the Moors fell greedily upon their victuals, which had long stood ready for them, but which not a creature durst touch before this signal. I witnessed a remarkable instance of the conscientious observance of this religious ceremony. In my excursions into the interior of the country, I had once taken a Biskari into my service for some days. By an unlucky accident we lost our provisions, and had to pass twenty-four hours without any food whatever, in the eastern district of the plain of Metidschad. When we reached Algiers again, it was early in the morning. I paid my Biskari, and hastened to breakfast. An hour afterwards, I saw him again cowering in a corner of the harbour. I asked him if he had had anything to eat: he gravely shook his head, saying, Allah amehrsalm

God commands me to fast!” He waited with empty stomach, and bread in the hood of his bernoose till evening. No doubt he was suffering severely from hunger; but nothing could have induced him to satisfy the cravings of his appetite. The moment the gun fired, he snatched the bread from his hood, and devoured it with the greediness of a ravenous beast.

When the Moors have eaten their frugal meal, and swallowed a cup of coffee, they repair in crowds to the mosques, the minarets and interiors of which are lighted up all night. I like the Moors for not denying Christians admittance to their mosques; they merely require them

« PreviousContinue »