Page images

6 I must say

“I hope so too,” said Reuben.

“ At all events, I trust it will not be called Barsac Square : that would never answer,” added the merchant, pronouncing the words “Barsac Square,” with an evident relish and enjoyment which showed that he coveted nothing so much as the honour and glory which he professed himself so anxious to avoid.

I trust so, too, Sir,” said Reuben.
“ But I trust it will,” said De Tabley, coming up:

6 Barsac Square sounds a thousand times better than Wyndham Square, but Medlicott would call everything Wyndham; Wyndham Square, Wyndham Terrace, Wyndham Lane, Wyndham everything.”

No, indeed,” said Reuben, mildly, “I should do no such thing; I am not so foolish.”

agree with Mr. Medlicott in this instance,” said Barsac; but though he agreed with Medlicott, he smiled upon De Tabley, and graciously conducted him to the refreshmentroom, leaving the too candid Reuben to shift for himself.

“What will you have ?” asked the merchant.
" What do you recommend ?” said De Tabley.

“Well, suppose we begin with the pâté de Perigord.” And he helped him handsomely.

A very good pie,” said De Tabley; “I should think Perigord must be a delightful place to live in, wherever it is.”

“Near Bordeaux," said Mr. Barsac; “ 'you have heard of the celebrated Talleyrand, Prince of Perigord.—So a glass of claret will be very proper along with it. That's the comet vintage; by-the-by, I should be glad if your uncle knew we had some of it left; it is a great favourite of his.”

“ I shall be writing to him to-morrow,” said De Tabley ; “I'll take care to mention it."

“Some ham and chicken ?" said the merchant: “I shall have some myself: and now,

if you please, let us take a glass of champagne together."

“ A very good notion,” said De Tabley; and when he had dispatched the ham and chicken, he returned the compliment, and proposed a glass of champagne to the merchant.

“You take champagne,” said Barsac; “I'll join you in a glass of dry sherry."

De Tabley laughed, and looked about him for Winning or Vigors to wink at. Barsac thought he was amused by the epithet “ dry” applied to the sherry, and gave him a little lecture


upon wines, to which the promising young gourmand listened with the gravest attention,-helping himself meanwhile, however, to a lobster salad within his reach. Hearing that there was such a wine as dry champagne as well as dry sherry, he was curious to taste it, but there happened to be none upon the table.

I dare say you have some in the cellar,” said De Tabley; and he pressed Barsac to such a degree, that he actually went to his cellars and brought forth a flask of dry champagne to gratify the curiosity of his impertinent guest, whose vanity made him pronounce a high panegyric upon it, though in truth he liked the sweet wine better.

Barsac soon saw the necessity of drawing De Tabley away from the temptation into which he had led him; and this was no easy matter to accomplish. At length he effected it, but not until the incorrigible young gourmand had returned to the sweet champagne, and was beginning again to ogle the Perigord.

“See what you lost by your simplicity, and I must say by your rudeness," he whispered Reuben, whom he immediately went in search of. “I thought Barsac Square just as absurd as you did, but I had the wit and good manners not to say so."

“ What did I lose ?” asked Reuben.

“Dry champagne," said De Tabley, with an air of great importance, “ though I confess I think the other pleasanter stuff; but the best of it was that I made the old cock go down to the cellar for it: he brought up a flask expressly for me. At the same time, I know very well he wanted me to recommend the wine to my uncle, who gets the house immense custom in the clubs he belongs to in London."

" Then all I lost was the dry champagne ?” said Reuben.

“Old Barsac gave me such a magnificent supper. I had ham and chicken, lobster salad, two goes at a Perigord pie. Perigord is a place in Bordeaux, famous for its pies; they are made by a celebrated fellow of the name of Tally-something: Tallyho, or Talleyrand, a prince—you may laugh, but Mr. Barsac himself

I had a magnificent supper; I have got a capital head."

“For wine,” said Reuben.

“Yes, for wine, as every great man ought to have,” replied De Tabley. “I have heard my uncle often say so; I wish you could hear the anecdotes he tells of Pitt, and Fox, and Lord Eldon, and all the most celebrated characters in English history.”

“ Not all,” said Reuben.

told me so.



“ All the jolly fellows,” said De Tabley.

Reuben said something disparaging of the pleasures of the bottle.

“Don't abuse wine in this house,” said De Tabley, perhaps you will never be invited again ; the Barsacs have an eye to the main chance, let me tell you, every one of them, even Pale Sherry herself, sentimental as she looks."

Reuben boiled with indignation. “I

can tell you more,” said the other, excited by the wine he had drunk; "you made a monstrous ass of yourself to-night, coming here with your hands full of books, as if it was the Philosophical Society. Everybody laughed at you, even Pale Sherry herself—I saw her; she would have preferred a bouquet of roses and pinks, I can tell you.”

Reuben was greatly provoked by these remarks, and would perhaps not have controlled his feelings sufficiently, if Winning had not fortunately approached at the moment, conducting Blanche to the refreshment-room. As Winning passed, he goodnaturedly proposed to Reuben to join them, remembering the Lent he had kept on a former occasion, and determined he now should have compensation. Seated between his considerate friend and the young lady he so greatly admired, Medlicott was in high spirits, and ended his evening with a good supper.




The following day, another chronicle of the gay doings at Mrs. Barsac's was faithfully dispatched to the Vicarage. Mrs. Medlicott was charmed by the attention paid to her son; but the Vicar recollected the Dean's observations, and wanted to know how balls and suppers were to be reconciled with the business of the school. Mrs. Medlicott wished her son to receive the education of a man of the world; her husband shrugged his shoulders, and said he had sent his son to school to Mr. Brough, not to Mrs. Barsac.

Reuben's correspondence with his mother recalls us for a few

wicked ways.

moments to Underwood opportunely, for we shall hear the Vicar giving old Hannah Hopkins an account of the Barsacs, which will help us to a better acquaintance with that worthy family. The reading of Reuben's letters was not always an affair of the strictest domestic privacy, which may serve as his excuse if he did not upon every occasion unbosom himself on paper, even to bis father and mother. Sometimes Mr. Pigwidgeon, the apothe cary, was invited to the reading of a letter from Hereford ; sometimes it was only Hannah and Mary Hopkins, or old Matthew Cox, the tobacconist. The Quakeresses were present when the letter arrived with the account of Mrs. Barsac's second fête, and Hannah was interested and inquisitive about the people who were so good to her old pupil. Possibly, though belonging to such an unworldly sect as the Quakers professedly are, and a woman who had even been a minister, and lifted up her voice in the Meeting, old Hannah had not thoroughly divested herself of all human sympathy and womanly concern in its gay doings and

There will still cling some little portion of earth about us all, even about the disciples of Fox and sisters of Mrs. Fry.

“I'll tell thee all I know, Hannah, and it's not much,” said the Vicar. He had fallen into the habit of thee-and-thou-ing it with his Quaker friends, without the least approach to mockery of their personal pronouns.

Hannah Hopkins was sitting rigidly perpendicular on a rustic seat in the garden, beneath a walnut-tree, knitting, as usual, most industriously. It was an employment she seldom intermitted during the day, except when she was eating her meals, or collecting flowers and grasses. Mary was not far off, knitting also. There was a little table near Hannah, with a plate of strawberries upon it, and Reuben's letter, which his mother had just been reading.

“I am ready to hear thee, friend Thomas," said the Quaker mother; “thou art always instructive or entertaining.”

“ Generally both, mother," said Mary, who was burning in secret to hear the promised revelations, notwithstanding the plainness of her bonnet.

The Vicar, thus complimented and encouraged, proceeded to say that the Barsacs were the people who understood the art so well of making pleasure and profit go hand in hand.

Merry and wise,” said Hannah.
Mrs. Barsac's system, the Vicar went on to state, was (as far


as he understood it), to give balls to marry her daughters, while her husband gave sumptuous dinners to advertise and recommend his wines. What would be extravagance with other people was thrift with the wine-merchant of Hereford. For every glass of champagne that sparkled at his board (here the Vicar digressed on the subject of champagne, to explain it to the Quakeresses), Mr. Barsac sold a flask, or perhaps a case of it. People had a decided interest in dealing with a wine-merchant who gave them handsome entertainments; it was an abatement in the price of the wines; in fact, a dinner was both an advertisement and a description of discount. The balls were more to advertise the daughters, an article of which Mrs. Barsac had a large stock on her hands, as her husband had wine in his vaults; but there was a great difference, said the Vicar, between the two commodities, for the older the wine grew it was the more in demand, whereas with the girls it was not precisely the same thing.

Here Mary Hopkins laughed. I believe it was the cautious way in which Mr. Medlicott put the distinction between women and wine that overset her gravity, but it was never very

difficult to do it.

“ Laugh and be fat,” said old Hannah, an injunction which she repeated a dozen times a day, and very superfluously, inasmuch as her daughter had already very dutifully complied with it.

“Well, Hannah,” said the Vicar, “ I have now told you what the world


of Mr. and Mrs. Barsac.” “ There are wheels within wheels,” said the old Quakeress, shaking her head horizontally several times.

“Dost thee believe all the world says, friend Thomas ?” said Mary, recovering her sobriety.

* The world, Mary, has a very lively fancy, and a very busy tongue,” said the Vicar. “My private opinion is that the Barsacs are very good-natured people, and if their good-nature and gaiety make them richer instead of poorer, I don't see that any body has a right to complain. For my own part, theirs is just the house where I should feel myself most comfortable, for I never could enjoy myself anywhere, when I had reason to think my friends were committing a folly, or involving themselves in difficulties to entertain me.”

“And I am sure,” added Mrs. Medlicott, “it is the purest good-nature to invite the boys, who neither buy Mr. Barsac's wine, nor are likely to propose for his daughters."

The truth was, however, that the attentions paid to Mr.

« PreviousContinue »