Page images


a skeleton of wood and brick. The ground all round about was strewed over with blocks of stone, piles of bricks, timber, iron, railings, and a thousand other things of the same kind; but none of these obstructions impeded the Dean's progress; he strode over and through them all, making Blanche follow, or rather pulling her along after him, without the least consideration either for her shoes or her ankles, the latter of which were really now and then in danger from the spikes of the railings, and the points of pick

Reuben was very angry, but could do nothing to help her, though he showed by his looks amusingly enough how eager he was to do so. But Blanche herself was very good-humoured about it, and so was her sister the brunette, who was compelled to traverse every inch of the same rough ground in company with her father and uncle, whose complaisance to the Dean would have supported them through much more dirt and many more difficulties than they actually had to go through. Their trials, however, were only commenced, for as soon as Dr. Wyndham reached the house which was in a comparatively advanced state, he insisted on the merchant and the schoolmaster accompanying him through it from top to bottom, a journey which was one of not a little hazard, as a great deal of it had to be performed along rafters over which the flooring was not complete, and up and down inclined planes formed of loose boards, which at present represented the staircases. The Dean's activity was surprising ; none of the masons or carpenters could have done what he did with more self-pssession, and he never ceased talking the whole time, alterpately lecturing upon the principles of ventilation and sewerage, and ridiculing Barsac and Mr. Brough, who were scrambling reluctantly after him, with imminent risk to their limbs at every step. When, at length, this perilous survey was over, it was diverting to observe the annoyance of both at the state in which their clothes were with the mortar, dust, and whitewash ; Mr. Brough was in the worst pickle, for he was the awkwardest climber, and besides he was dressed, as usual, in a complete suit of the newest and glossiest black, looking as if he had been polished all over with Day and Martin. Reuben goodnaturedly assisted in restoring his preceptor to his original lustre, and Blanche performed the same little service for the Dean when he came forth, but he had suffered much less than the others, because he had been so much more agile.

He now seated himself on a square block of Portland stone, and the rest followed his example, some sitting on other blocks,

Mr. Brough on an inverted wheelbarrow, which he first carefally dusted with his handkerchief.

" This will be the finest square in England," said the Dean, 66 when it is finished.”

“ That it will, sir,” said Barsac.
“ That it certainly will,” said Mr. Brough.
“Of course I don't include London,” said the Dean.

“Of course not,” said Barsac and his brother-in-law together.

Barsac," said the Dean, “this square was my idea, not

[ocr errors]


“For which reason,” said the inerchant, “it must be called after you, sir.”

“ No," said the Dean; "and to prevent any more argument on that point, I now christen it Barsac Square, and we must consider how to adorn the centre of it. What is your opinion ?" This was addressed to Blanche, who sat on the next block to him.

“ A fountain, sir, would be pretty,” she replied.

“ Fountains are very well in some climates,” said the Dean, “ but the skies of ours afford us water enough without artificial supplies.”

“ A just and happy observation," said the schoolmaster on the wheelbarrow, in a timid tone, but hoping to be heard by the object of his slavish veneration.

“The square, sir, was your idea," said Barsac, " and therefore I don't think any thing would be so appropriate, if I might venture to offer a suggestion, as a statue of the Very Reverend Dean Wyndham."

Colossal,” added Mr. Brough as before.

“Mr. Brough,” said the Dean abruptly, now that the schoolmaster had forced himself on his notice, “ you were not at church to-day. That was wrong, Mr. Brough; doubly wrong, for as an individual, you neglected the duty

of attending divine service, and, as a preceptor, you set an example of the same neglect to your scholars; you, of all men, are bound to be scrupulous in these matters ; you are in loco parentis; you should not only have been present yourself

, but you should have come at the head of all your pupils and assistants. You must not be offended with me for speaking to you plainly on a subject so important. hope and trust you do not make a practice of turning your back upon the Church."


Mr. Brough was in the greatest state of excitement during this speech, wriggling on the wheelbarrow as if he was frying, and every moment jumping up and endeavouring, but all in vain, to get in a single word; for a single word would have shown the Dean that his accusation was most unjust, and his lecture most uncalled-for. The Dean's loud, fluent, and commanding mode of speaking overbore all attempts at interruption, so that the pedagogue was exactly in the same predicament in which he had formerly put Reuben, by harranguing him on intemperance at the ball, while the poor fellow was actually supperless. And when at last the Dean came to a pause, and Mr. Brough was allowed to defend himself, the former made him very slight amends for the wrong he had done him.

“I am very glad to hear it,” he said, in the driest way, as again he took Blanche under his mighty wing, and announced that it was time to return to dinner.

At dinner Reuben sat next to Blanche, but his grandfather sat on the other side, and, as usual, kept the conversation exclusively to himself. When at the second course Mrs. Barsac recommended some dish to Reuben, the Dean said she was cockering him too much; when he was a boy he never had such delicacies.

Mr. Barsac shortly after asked Reuben to take wine.
“ Wine too! what does a schoolboy want with wine ?"

“One glass of sherry, Dean, will do no harm. Pale or brown, Master Med:icott?" Reuben was crimson; he fancied it was an indirect way

Mr. Barsac took to discover which of his daughters he preferred. In bis confusion, however, he made the wrong answer

, and said brown, when he meant pale. This utterly discomforted him, and he sat silent and abashed the rest of the dinner.

Barsac was carving a duck. The Dean told him he knew nothing of carving fowl; that few people did but himself, and ordered a servant to bring the dish to him. He certainly carved better than Barsac, as far as it depended on strength; but he lopped the wings and legs from the duck with so much energy, that he sprinkled Blanche's dress all over with gravy.

Blanche bore it with great equanimity, but Reuben was very much incensed, and again had occasion to admire the delicacy with which she refrained from appearing annoyed by any part of his grandfather's behaviour.

When the ladies had retired, Reuben did not wait for one of

He was

his grandfather's hints, but followed them very soon. now compensated for his annoyances at dinner, and had more discourse with Blanche than he had ever yet had an opportunity of enjoying. Mrs. Barsac and her other daughters were present, but they were reading, and took little part in the conversation. After some time Blanche fixed her earnest eyes on Reuben, and smiling said she had a great favor to ask him; but she hoped he would not hesitate to refuse her if she was going to trespass upon him too much.

“I know so well what Blanche is going to say,” said one of her sisters aside to the other, looking up from her book.

“So do I,” said Mrs. Barsac, also aside.

How Reuben was agitated at the thought of Blanche asking him to do her a favour! What would he not do for those persuasive eyes?

The favour was this,—to sit for his picture. Blanche, as we have already mentioned, was an amateur portrait painter; she took pretty good likenesses in water-colors, and when a face particularly pleased her, she felt an irresistible inclination to reproduce its features with her pencil. 6 Now

very candid with me," she repeated, looking intently into the face of the handsome bashful boy, studying its lines and favours with the license of an artist, to whom beauty is only a theory.

“ Blanche," said Mrs. Barsac, beckoning to her daughter,
Blanche went to her mother.

Are you sure, my dear, the Dean will be pleased ? I very much question it."

Reuben only imperfectly caught what was said. Blanche returned to him with a thoughtful expression, and, after sitting silent for a moment, with the tip of her finger to her lips, she suddenly brightened again, and said, with the air of a woman settling a point which she has authority to settle

“The Dean shall know nothing at all about it.”

“ It is very kind of Mr. Medlicott to sit for you,” said Mrs. Barsac; “I hope he has not promised out of mere politeness.”

Blanche had no doubt that Reuben was dealing sincerely with her; and as to Reuben himself, his protestations to the same effect were amusingly eager. In fact he was delirious with joy, which nothing happened to interrupt for the remainder of the evening.

you must be




The first sitting took place the very next day. There cannot be a more delicate or perilous situation,-one trembles to think of it. Boyhood sitting to Beauty for his picture! The proximity, the artistic licence we spoke of just now, the opportunities of conversing both with the lips and the eyes, the necessity the fair painter is under of continually settling and resettling her patient's attitude and position, often the tie of his handkerchief, the fall of his collar, or the arrangement of his hair ; all these, and twenty more little circumstances and incidents of amateur portraitpainting, have a manifest tendency to promote that relative state of the sentiments and feelings, which possibly may yet be brought under the dominion of science, and proved to be nothing more than an invisible play of some species of galvanic fluid, between a pair of hearts under certain conditions of Paphian electricity.

Of the two, however, Blanche was the most practical and business-like upon an occasion when the temptations to be sentimental are so very numerous. Nothing could be cooler or more professional than the liberties she took with Reuben to place him in the proper light, to dispose his draperies for picturesque effect, and establish that sort of animated repose and speaking silence in his features, which she hoped to succeed in transferring to the carton before her. The subject himself was all in a tumult during the preliminaries, which the artist arranged without the slightest flutter of the pulse or loss of self-possession. Reuben often wondered afcerwards how Blanche Barsac made such a good likeness of him as she managed to do in a few sittings ; so difficult a task it must have been to catch the lines of a face, the owner of which was all the time in a state of such nervous excitement, and whose colour was for ever coming and going, with a decided tendency, however, to settle into a perpetual blush.

Conversation is of enormous service on such occasions. Blanche never talked so much as when she was painting, and she forced Reuben to talk too, asking him a thousand questions about his mother, his friends, his studies, his plans, and many a thing besides. They had been so long without seeing him ; where had he been? Was it his fault, or was it theirs ? When had he

« PreviousContinue »