Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VII.

“Waltz, the comet, whiskers, and the new government illumi. nated heaven and earth, in all their glory, much about the same time; of these, the comet only has disappeared; the other three continue to astonish us still !”-Note by Printer's Devil to Lord Byron's " Waltz.

“Most men are slaves, because they cannot pronounce the monosyllable • No.'"-LORD ČLARENDON.

“ Lord Bath passed for one of the wisest men in England. • When one is in opposition,' said he, “it is very easy indeed to know what to say ; but when one is minister, it is difficult to know what not to say.""

DR. JOHNSON has observed, " that all the performances of the human heart, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance. It is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals. If a man were to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pickaxe, or of one impression of the spade, with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet these petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings."

Lord Melford was apparently of the same opinion; for, upon Cheveley's arrival at the Clarendon, he found a note from the premier, requesting him to call upon him at his house in street at his earliest conve. nience. “That would be never,” said Lord Cheveley, as he tossed the note aside; but this Lord Melford could not hear, and, if he had, he would not have heeded it; for he was at the time in a dilemma, from which it was necessary to extricate himself and his colleagues coute qu'il coute, and in doing so, if he could at the same time make a powerful proselyte in the person of Lord Cheveley, his position would be strengthened and his triumph be complete. Lord Denham, whose head was to the full as long and somewhat deeper than the premier's, and who was, moreover,

the cynosure of the radical party, had, as we have be. fore stated, immediately returned from the North on the demise of the king, and calculating upon his influence with a royal and illustrious lady, thought, as far as office went, that he would only have to choose and to accept; but, as two suns cannot shine in one hemisphere, neither can two paramount ambitions run amicably abreast in the same political race; consequently, while Lord Denham's great object was to remain at home and about court, it was equally Lord Melford's object to prevent his doing so. Something must be done ; but what? ay, there was the rub; but possessing, as he did, an abundance of prompt decision and courage, which in itself amounts to genius, and nine times out of ten makes to attempt and to succeed synonymous; and having, in his political game, first played the knave and then led the queen, a little more finessing was an easy and natural result, by which he might hope to secure all the honours to himself. Lord Denham's wish had been to succeed Lord Protocol as minister for foreign affairs; but Lord Protocol had no idea of being succeeded, nor in this instance was it Lord Melford's desire that he should ; there were the colonies going begging; if he could but get Lord Cheveley to accept of the governor-generalship, it would be a great point gained, because this would be so publicly coalescing with the Whigs; and Lord Denham, in the event of Lord Cheveley's being brought round, must be got back to St. Petersburgh, Vienna, or even sent to Ireland, as a pis aller ; but, unfortunately, Lord Cheveley, for reasons best known to himself, delayed so long in his journey from Venice, that he did not reach England till the middle of December.

Rebellions, like time and tide, wait for no man, and republican patriots like Lord Denham are equally impatient of any delay that thwarts their ambition-I beg pardon, their patriotic views. The colonial disturb ances were daily increasing, and Lord Denham was hourly giving the Melford administration 'unequivocal and alarming proofs of how deeply he felt and how much he resented their want of good faith and hollow conduct towards him ; in short, a crisis had arrived, and it was necessary to meet it, which Lord Melford did by going to Lord Denham, and saying it was her majesty's personal wish that he should accept the colo

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

nies, as there was no one else in whose zeal and abilities her majesty or her majesty's ministers could place sufficient confidence to trust with so important and arduous a mission.

“Thank God, this at least is settled,” thought Lord Melford, as he finished the complimentary peroration; he was therefore not a little taken aback when Lord Denham drew himself up to his full height, his saturnine face growing still darker, his determined mouth becoming more rigid, and his penetrating, flashing eyes piercing with a microscopic power into those of Lord Melford, as he coldly replied,

“Then, my lord, if it's her majesty's personal wish, it is worth asking as a personal favour."

“Oh, yes, certainly, of course," stammered Lord Melford ; "only it was to save time that I intimated her majesty's wishes,” laying great emphasis on the last word; “but," added he, looking at his watch, that grand resource of even prime ministers' when they are in a dilemma,“ I am going down to Windsor now; may I convey to her majesty your consent to her wishes ?"

“I can give but one answer,” replied Lord Denham, haughtily, as he placed his hand upon the bell," as soon as her majesty is graciously pleased to make known to me what are her wishes."

“ Spoken like yourself, my lord,” said Lord Melford, shaking his hand, apparently with the warmest friendship, as he hurried from the room to regain his carriage. " To Windsor," said he, flinging himself into the farther corner of it. Crack went the whips, and on flew the horses, but they did not fly half as fast as Lord Melford's thoughts. “D-n those Lucifer spirits," muttered the poco curante premier, pulling his under lip; " they give one more trouble than all the rest of the world put together. I wish the fellow was not so rich and independent; however, we are not troubled with many of the same genus, for most of our colleagues are such poor devils, both in purse and spirit, that they will take anything—but offence." Now the cause of his lordship's present embarras arose not so much from Lord Denham's restiffness, as from an anxiety touching the best method of making her majesty's wishes known to herself; and, when known, of getting her to convey them to Lord Denham; but as no one know better than the gallant premier that “ faint heart never won a fair

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

lady,” by the time he arrived at Windsor he was as brave as a lion. Being immediately admitted to the presence, he lost no time in illustrating Hobbes's definition of eloquence, viz., “the putting together of passionate words, and applying them to the passions and interests of the hearer;" and so well did he succeed, that in less than half an hour he had convinced her majesty, that Lord Denham's acceptance of the colonies was not only one of her principal wishes, but that it was requisite for the salvation of that part of her majesty's dominions; the next step was easy, and the youthful sovereign consented in her “most sweet voice" to write an autograph letter to Lord Denham, begging his acceptance of the mission, and flatteringly wording the request as a personal favour. A courier being despatched with this “consummation” that Lord Melford had so “devoutly wished,” his lordship remained to dinner, for he was of the same opinion as Epictetus, that "a table without music is little better than a manger; for music at meals is like a carbuncle set in gold, or the signet of an emerald highly burnished.” And in these our degenerate days, where is music at meals to be had except at the tables of majesty ? Alas! for the best organized human plans, they have still so much of the Hydra in them, that no sooner do we lop off one fitful head, than lo! another appears, and so it was in the present instance; for Lord Denham, not content with receiving her majesty's personal request, and being made acquainted with her wishes, which, as he loyally and gallantly assured her, “ to know was to obey," must needs, in his turn, demand a favour, that of being allowed to furnish the whole frais of the expedition from his own privy purse; the depth and subtilty of the re- . quest, which left Lord Denham perfectly unfettered as to any appointments he might in his turn make, was a source of much annoyance and embarrassment to Lord Melford at the time, but still more so at a subsequent period, when he found it expedient solemnly to deny all knowledge of the appointments of some most disreputable persons whom Lord Denham had enrolled among his suite at Lord Melford's especial solicitation. He nevertheless was “an honourable man, so are they all honourable men."

Now when Cheveley arrived in England, Lord Denham was in the thick of his preparations for his voyage

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

across the Atlantic; and although, some time before,
Lord Protocol had resolutely and angrily refused to
move one inch towards making way for Lord Denham,
yet so little did the innocent premier (himself now
« hushed and satiate" with good things) remember the
hungry cravings of human and political nature, that he
actually indulged the dream of Lord Protocol's resign-
ing, in a paroxysm of proselytism, for Lord Cheveley,
though he had selfishly refused to do so for Lord Den-
ham. Nor was this such a chimera after all, as Lord
Melford only judged by himself, and, therefore, knew
how much more the Whigs will do for their enemies
than their friends.

Thus stood matters when Lord Cheveley found Lord Melford's note. Awful as the moment is that 'severs us from the object we love, and insulates us, as it were, from all the living world, yet the temporary annihilation that accompanies it spares us for a while the acutest pangs of absence, till time has widened and consolidated the dreadful chasm in our existence, that we awaken to a full conviction of all its horrors, for it is not till then that we feel the hollow hours lagging slowly on, as though they would keep pace with our own decrepitude of heart, through which nothing glides but the vain shadows of the past! It was not, therefore, until he had actually left Italy, that Lord Cheveley felt his utter wretchedness and desolation : and London in December was not calculated to lessen it, as it only presents a pea-soup fog, which renders the necessary and natural process of respiration, almost what Dr. Johnson's idea of fine music ought to be, impossible! The solemn stillness, never broken but every second hour by the cry of “milk” or “muffins," and the roll of the solitary chariot-wheels of some peculiarly lucky doctor, while human beings are like the refugees in the Simplon, “ few and far between,” and those consisting of a few penny-a-liners required to be on the spot all the year round, for puffs, politics, and Daffy's Elixir: these, with some dozen dingy-looking knaves of clubs, who cannot breathe any atmosphere but White's, Brooks's, or the Athenæum, and some half dozen of the tail, their hats at the back of their heads, their hands in their pockets (where they have it all to themselves), and their faces hid in green worsted comfortables, looking very synonymous with their own favourite din

« PreviousContinue »