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ican author,” tittered Lady Stepastray, slightly pressing Mr. Spoonbill's arm as an admonition to be more civil.
“Yes, yes,” said Mr. Snobguess, winking his right eye and wagging his head, without taking any further notice of the introduction; " you're provided for, fast enough, sir, and those may laugh that win.”
Upon entering the dining-room, Lady Stepastray contrived to place herself on one side of Lord Cheveley, while Mr. Spoonbill sat on her right hand; and, much to his annoyance, Mr. Snobguess planted himself on his right. But, with the best intentions in the world upon the part of Lady Stepastray, Lady Florence made her. self so agreeable to Cheveley, as her chief conversa. tion consisted in praising and asking questions about “dear” Lady de Clifford, that poor Lady Stepastray was fain to content herself with “ taste, Shakspeare, highlife, the music-glasses,” and Mr. Spoonbill.
“Well!” said Mr. Snobguess, looking round the table, “if this aint for all the world like a Turkish bazar."
66 How so?" simpered Lady Stepastray.
“ Why, because there's something of every think; there's gold plate enough for half a dozen Delhi merchants; then the fruit growing, as it were, out of the table; and the meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables, that keep continually coming round, to say nothink of the ladies, whom I guess are as much slaves in England as in Turkey, makes it eg-zacly a Turkish bazar.”
“Yes, yes, what a very original idea!” said Lady Stepastray, crossing her hands and looking admiringly up into Mr. Snobguess's face; “I do hope you'll put that in your book.”
“I'll make a note of it, sure-ly," replied Snobguess. But the word "book" seemed to awaken some remembrance; for, immediately after, he conveyed something from his coat-pocket under his napkin ; and a sort of rumbling, rustling noise commenced, which excited Mr. Spoonbill's curiosity. Ever and anon he cast a wistful glance towards Mr. Snobguess's lap; at length he thought he perceived a small book! and he did perceive one, for that very morning, preparatory to his visit to Campfield, Mr. Snobguess had expended a shilling upon a book called “Etiquette for Gentlemen !" and, with an ingenuity peculiar to genius, he was now filling up the insterstices of time by discussing mutton and manners at one and the same moment.
Shortly after the discovery of the book, Mr. Spoonbill observed that Mr. Snobguess's head kept bobbing and ducking at a tremendous rate; the fact was, the plateau was very large, as it consisted of a copy of the bronze horses at Monte Cavallo, and this intercepted his view of the people on the opposite side of the table, among whom was Lady Sudbury. But at length, catching a glimpse of her, he held up a wineglass, against which he jingled a fork, the better to call attention, as he roared out, in a loud voice, “ The pleasure of wine with you, my lady." It was with difficulty that every one suppressed their laughter, while Lady Sudbury seemed almost too much surprised to bow an acknowledgment of Mr. Snobguess's polite attention !" which he was about to extend to Lady Stepastray, when Mr. Spoonbill, turning to her at the same moment to conceal his laughter, prevented her seeing or returning Mr. Snobguess's nod; whereupon he exclained, theatrically, giving Mr. Spoonbill a dig in the side,
6. You give me most egregious indignity.""
At this Mr. Spoonbill, who was half inclined to resent such undesired or undeserved familiarity, turned quickly round; but, thinking better of it, answered from the same play,
6. Ay, with all my heart; and thou art worthy of it.'”
After this Mr. Snobguess became too much interested in his dinner to talk any more; and the conversation between Lady Stepastray and Mr. Spoonbill turning upon pictures, and the latter happening to say he should much like to see a very fine Annibal Caracci that he understood had been recently added to the gallery at Cheveley Place, Lord Cheveley introduced himself by saying he should be happy to show it to him any day he would come over to Cheveley. Mr. Spoonbill thanked him, and, as he did so, thought he had seen his face somewhere before, but had not the slightest suspicion that he was indebted to his defence of Lady de Clifford at the Athenæum for Lord Cheveley's evideni good-will towards him. So little do any of us know the motives, or shades of motives, that actuate persons in society in their conduct towards us; often origina. ting in ourselves, and taking their tone from the word or look we may have hazarded for or against them, at times and places long since forgotten by us.
In the evening Lady Stepastray was determined to
appropriate Lord Cheveley to herself; and when some of the party had sat down to cards, and others had re. paired to the music gallery, she seated herself beside him, and gracefully crossing her hands, as was her wont, mewed out a mingled lament and panegyric upon the late Lord Cheveley.
“Yes, yes, my dear Lord Cheveley," she began, “your uncle died in such a thorough-bred way, so like a gentleman, as he had lived. Do you know he had been reading my book, ' The Old Road to Ruin,' and he said to his man, “Zounds, I have torn a leaf out of Lady Stepastray's book : get it rebound;' and he sank back and died."
“I'm not surprised,” said Cheveley, with a mingled feeling of contempt and disgust, that made him order his carriage as the servant took Lady Stepastray's teacup.
The night was clear and cold, and the sky gemmed with stars, that looked brighter and farther from the earth than usual; before he reached home, Cheveley had decided in his own mind that, since his return to England, he had only met two persons worth knowing: Lady Florence Lindley and Mr. Spoonbill.
“Parvum parva decent.” "Take an old woman and roast her well,
And baste her well with cheese,
Take her in the next morning,
Nursery Anthology. : "Talking of age,” says one of our Sir Oracles, “ the longer women live the younger they grow. I know ladies who six years ago rated at thirty-five, and who now stand at twenty-nine. It is next to iinpossible for a woman to get over forty. This is the 'pons asinorum' at which the sex invariably stick. The only person I ever met with who confessed she had passed this barrier, was an old lady of eighty; but then her great-grandson was a lad of eighteen."
It was towards the end of February; the De Cliffords had been in England about a month, and Fanny and Saville were to be married in a fortnight; after which
time Lady de Clifford had received notice that she was to go down to Grimstone, for Lord de Clifford had entered into a new “ liaison.” He seemed to have a predilection for governesses, for Mademoiselle d'Antoville's successor was a Devonshire woman, who had kept a school at Sidmouth; but, what was exceedingly convenient, her brother was a low writer for the press, which, while it secured puffing on the one hand, also guarantied the suppression of all disagreeable truths on the other, and enabled Lord de Clifford to give whatever colouring he pleased to his own actions; besides, having many plans to organize prior to the next election, every day convinced him more and more of the expediency and truth of his exemplary parent's assertion, that he would be much freer and better living song gorsong.” Owing to Fanny's marriage, he was unable to carry this point as soon as he could have wished; but, the day after that event, everything was arranged for Lady de Clifford's departure.
It was a cold, gloomy morning in February; Lord de Clifford had been closeted for a long time in the library with Miles Datchet, who at length left the house, looking agitated and thoughtful beyond measure, to the infinite surprise of the servants, who had always seen and thought him the merriest soul living. Shortly after, Lord de Clifford also went out; but his head was higher, and his step, if possible, more pompous than usual.
In the drawing-room were assembled Fanny, Saville, and Herbert Grimstone, who, however, was yawning over the fire, preparatory to his going down to his mother's in Bruton-street, with whom he had a little business, from which he hoped to reap sterling benefit. The fact was, that some literary cronies of his had requested him to procure Lady de Clifford's picture and that of her child for the “ Book of Beauty," or the “Gems,” or the something of beauty ; upon which Herbert had informed them that his brother detested any. thing like publicity for his wife, but that, if they would insert a portrait of his mother instead, this would greatly oblige them, and he would take care to get the book additionally puffed when it came out. Mr. Snobguess had also read him a glowing panegyric upon Lady do Clifford and her sister from his book, in which he had declared they were “ exceeding fine women, and would even be thought such in New York.” Herbert pressed
his hand, thanked him with tears in his eyes, and said that nothing could give him, individually, more pleasure than to hear his sister-in-law's praises, but that he knew his brother's rooted aversion to having any public mention made of his wife ; if, therefore, Mr. Snobguess could obliterate the passage, and, without taking up more room in his valuable work, transfer the eulogium to the dowager, encircling the whole with a comparison about the mother of the Gracchi, and hint that they, the Gracchi (* Anglice,' Grimstones), derived all their extraordinary talents from her, it would be much more acceptable, and he and his brother would be happy to do anything for Mr. Snobguess in return. “You understand, my dear sir," continued Herbert, in a filial and affectionate voice, “I would not ask you to allude to us or our humble talents, whatever they may be, but on my mother's account; and to please her is my brother's and my constant study.”
Mr. Snobguess declared that he was cruel dutiful, and that it did him uncommon credit; and that, though he was sorry to leave the other ladies out, as he had considered them quite the go! the alteration should be made.
Now it was to impart this intelligence to his mother, and to accompany her to Chalon's to sit for her portrait, that Mr. Herbert Grimstone was refreshing himself over the fire with a few invigorating yawns previous to his departure for Bruton-street : pushing his hat back, and stretching his arms above his head for the third time, he exclaimed, as if in answer to his own thoughts,
“Pon my soul, I don't know what they're about; I can't conceive why they don't do something for me and De Clifford! I hear Denham is devilishly discontented out there, too."
Though this speech was evidently a soliloquy, and not addressed to him, Saville replied, “Why, you can hardly expect great advancement just yet; you must go a step beyond Timbuctoo, and write a book proving, or, rather, arguing, that the height of virtue consists in breaking every commandment; or else, what is better, do it; for that, nowadays, is the surest stepping-stone to literary or political advancement; let me see-unfortunately, you have no wife, nor children, nor sisters. I have it,' cried Saville, in a Eurika tone; “ go off with your mother.”