« ZurückWeiter »
Cologne, and begged me to stir the fire, and place the sofa cushions conveniently for his repose— was a fixture for the rest of the day; and as the story I did wait to hear was only the first of a series which he was in the habit of telling as regularly as the "Friar of Orders Grey" told his beads, I left the assembly, not without receiving a look from Harriet, too distinctly expressive of her feelings to be misunderstood.
I have merely noted these few trifling facts, because I very much fear that the total want of sympathy, which unfortunately exists between Cuthbert and all those with whom he must constantly associate while staying here, will some day exhibit itself in a positive and unequivocal manner. What is to happen when the three Falwassers come from school, I do not even venture to premise. They have never had the advantage of maternal care; and, from the extremely undefined character of Cuthbert's conversation and remarks touching them, I have not been able to form any just estimate of their character or qualities., Somehow I begin to think the scheme of admitting any relation, however near, as a constant resident in the establishment of a married couple, is at best but hazardous. Yet in my case it has been inevitable; but for Cuthbert I should not have had the house in which he desires to be an inmate. Besides, he wants cherishing; a man at his time of life, returned to a country the manners and habits of which are totally different from those of the distant empire in which he has passed the prime of his life, would be lost if left to himself. Friends he has few, relations none, except myself; and if ever a momentary doubt of the entire success of our menage at Ashmead does cross my mind, it is speedily dismissed by the recollection of how much I owe him, and how essential my attention to his wishes is to his comfort.
There were many points in Cuthbert's history upon which I should very much have liked to be enlightened; but my hopes and expectations were vain. All the important features of his past life seemed either to be studiously concealed from my sight, or to have escaped his own recollection. His random records consisted of nothing but frivolous anecdotes which appeared to float to and fro upon the surface of his mind, while the serious facts had sunk altogether "out of soundings."
I admit that I began to find Wells and his wife, and two or three other friends, getting fidgetty, and evincing much of dislike to be so overlaid—if I may use the expression—with poor Cuthbert,—who having, fortunately for himself, evinced a passion for chess, discovered that Mr. Sniggs, the apothecary, could place the pieces for him, and make the ordinary moves against him, suggested to the said Sniggs that he should be delighted to see him whenever his professional occupations permitted, and that there was always luncheon at half-past one, and so on.
This was quite right.—Why should not Cuthbert like chess?—Why should not he ask Sniggs? No reason why—except that Mrs. Wells always thought that the flower of her flock, Adelgitha, lost her life through want of skill on the part of this very Sniggs: and they were consequently the bitterest foes—Cuthbert and Sniggs the dearest friends. Sniggs not only played chess with him, and put the men all ready before they began, but having prescribed a sort of mawkish drink—a kind of sickly negus, powdered with " Mareschalle" nutmeg—compounded it for his friend, patient, and antagonist, and administered it secundum artem.
Sniggs literally did that, which many men, and even their observations, are said to do—he "smelt of the shop;" and when the atmosphere was heavy and the "scent lay," his entrance into the drawing-room, where Cuthbert, for the sake of making himself amiable, would sit, was the signal for the departure and dispersion of the little family coterie,—who were up like a covey of partridges on his arrival; alleging as a reason, that they were quite sure they should disturb the chess-players if they staid.
Sniggs was a character—in his way; he knew every thing that was going on in the neighbourhood. The proverb, as Ray has it, says,
"Children pick up words, as pigeons peas,
Sniggs collected indefatigably, but most disinterestedly retained nothing. What he picked up in one house he let fall in the next; and so served as a regular gazette for the whole community. This was a great resource for poor Cuthbert, who, to keep up the simile of the pigeons, was as happy as any squeaker in the world to be crammed after Sniggs's fashion, however coarsely the aliment was supplied.
"Set the men, Sniggs," said Cuthbert, when the coast was quite clear—" any news?"
"You play with the red," said Sniggs, arranging the pieces accordingly—" no, Sir, not much news. Miss Wobberly, the pretty girl with the flaxen hair, Sir—sits opposite to you at church— hear she is going to be married—sugar-baker in London—called there just now—stomach out of order—touch of dyspepsia—too many minced pies—quantity of bile in a minced pie, Sir—all meat, dirt, fat, plums, lemon-peel, and puff-paste. She'll be well by Tuesday—the mother a charming woman—asked me to dine Thursday—a little touch of erysipelas, not worth mentioning —pleasant creature. Wobberly a vulgar man—