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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
THE RICHEST COMMONER IN ENGLAND.
OUR HERO, TOM ROCKET-HIS APPEARANCE AT GLAUBEREND. WHEN Tom Rocket returned from France, he was in the hey-day of youth, and in full possession of all the doubtful accomplishments of that delightful country. In addition to the usual modicum of French picked up at cafés and street corners in Paris, a year and a half's intercourse with the many eminent Greek professors, with which Boulogne and several of the minor towns abound, had so polished up his intellect, that he was as quick and as keen as a well-set razor.
coarseness of person, or gaucherie of manner, too, with which he set out, had been wholly removed, and Tom stepped on shore, at the luggage-searching town of Folkstone, from the “ Pacquet-boat a vapeur” (Captain Napoleon Parlezvous, master), a very good-looking Englishman slightly Frenchified.
In person, he was above the middle height, five feet ten or eleven, strongly—but not coarsely-made, with a face that, with a very little alteration, would have been not only handsome but somewhat aristocratic. The trifling defect that prevented this happy combination, though apparent at the first glance, gradually died away, especially in the excitement of conversation, until even the fastidious among the young
ladies allowed that he was a well-looking man,” while the men, with their usual candour, said, that "he wasn't a bad-looking fellow.” Some qualified their approbation by saying, that he wouldn't be a bad-looking fellow if it wasn't for the vulgar expression of his mouth ;" others," that the man was well enough if he would only shave himself,” a censure on the luxuriance of his elaborately curled whiskers--a censure that many
have passed, and but few have profited by. His hair, as well as his whiskers, was jet black, and curly ; indeed, his head and shoulders would have made a very good bust for a hair-dresser's window. He had a perfectly oval face, a lofty forehead ; large well-fringed black eyes with good eyebrows, a Roman nose, below which a deep blue shaving line showed his marked abstinence in not cultivating moustaches on such promising ground, and ought to have saved him from the censure of the un-Esau’d. The mouth, as we said before, was the defective feature, and yet there was nothing to find fault with in either his lips, his teeth, or his chin—a grand jury of sculptors could not have found a true bill against any of them for its own particular delinquencies; but, taking it as a whole, there was an upturned, or rather twisted, sort of tendency that gave a somewhat vulgar, not to say repulsive, cast to the whole.
As in his toute-ensemble he was not only nearly good-looking, but nearly gentlemanly-looking too, so in his manner there was what might March.-VOL. LXXXII. NO. cccxxvii.
have passed for ease, were it not apparently constrained. He always seemed to think that people were looking at him, and to be wondering what they were saying. Still
, take him as a whole, he was a very passmuster man, and it would all depend upon the eyes with which a beholder regarded him, whether the little drawbacks we have named would be noticed or not. Ladies are certainly wonderfully accommodating both in the matter of looks and of age. There is scarcely a defect—we had almost said a deformity—that they cannot get over ; while, with regard to age, they just treat a man like a clock, put him backward or forward to suit their own time.
We take it most of our readers are acquainted with the beautiful town of Glauberend, a watering-place as popular with the old as it is disliked by the young. Glauberend, like many of its class, is situated in one of the healthiest and most picturesque parts of England; the beautiful woods and waters, hills and dales, presenting as great a contrast to London life as any one could wish, though, to appreciate these sort of places to the full, a person should be frequently passing from one to the other, so that the beauties and peculiarities of each may be constantly striking on the mind. This feat, thanks to the introduction of railways, is now of easy accomplishment, and places that are without the luxury of them, very soon find that the celebrity of their waters cannot compete with the celerity of travelling.
Glauberend is a striking instance of this; for though Dr. Granville, in his “Spas of England," speaks of its innocent, sparkling waters, as kindly as he could, still, even the benefit of his approbation had passed away, and, before the formation of the Glauberend branch of the railway, many of its nice, white stucco, view-commanding villas and terrace-houses, were getting deserted, in favour of less picturesque places that had railroads near them. Since the opening of the line, the current has been in the other direction ; houses and streets have sprung up so rapidly, that many of the waistcoat-filling citizens, deprived of what they call their “rural felicity," have threatened to look out for places that are not so overgrown,
Our fair friends who have followed us thus far, will easily understand why what was popular with their papas would be unpalatable to them. In truth, watering-places —inland ones particularly — are but sorry places for young ladies. Not but that there are plenty of men, but they are not of the right sort, and though young ladies may have no objection to keep their hands in by an occasional Airtation with a cousin, a collegian, or a youth waiting for his commission, still, all flirtation and no firish is but a poor prospect.
The genius of English youth does not run to English wateringplaces. If men have money, they go abroad, or they buy yachts and cruise about, if they are not grouse-shooting in Scotland, the mention of which amusement reminds us that we may as well be dating and getting on with our story.
Hyde Park had got quite through its suit of suinmer livery ; the once bright green was sun-burnt into a dusty drab, and the water was the only fresh-looking thing about the place. To speak of the falling-off of equipage would carry the reader back to remote times, for the decline has been gradual during the last twenty years, until one end of a season is just as shabby as the other. What a change has taken place within the last twenty or five-and-twenty years in the matter of turn-out;
from striving who should be smartest, people seem to be trying who shall be shabbiest. Who does not remember the double and triple line of carriages that used to block the drive between Grosvenor Gate and Hyde Park Comer on a Sunday afternoon ; the gigantic footmen rendered still larger by their richly-laced cocked-hats; the neckless, plethoric coachmen, nodding in their three-cornered ones, as they sat in stateliveries, on their rich hammer-cloths, looking for all the world as if they indented them with their own weight?
Instead of all that, instead of the finest horses, the richest liveries, the best shaped, best built, best turned-out carriages in the world, what have we now? Since Count d'Orsay took it into his head to promenade with an umbrella, we have a long line of pedestrians, lolling over the rails between Apsley House and the Serpentine, eyeing a string of Broughams and pianoforte-case-looking Clarences, interspersed here and there with a pair of horse carriage, or a jingling mail phaëton.
What, in former times, would have been looked upon as a merely ordinary turn-out, creates a sensation ; and a carriage with a couple of footmen is something surprising. France and England, or rather Paris and London, have gradually changed places in the matter of equipage, and people who want to see real smartness—perhaps slightly overdone-must go to Paris.
But we digress. At the period when our hero, Mr. Rocket, dawned a splendid meteor, at Glauberend, every person that could manage it, had got out of town. Window-shutters were closed in all directions, from the richly carved and gilded ones of the west, to the plain white ones of the east.
Where lately revelry and white satin slippers predominated, brown holland and old newspapers prevailed. The very lodging-house keepers put the “ lets” in their windows with a dejected sort of air, that as good as said, it's hardly worth while being at the trouble. Half the steady housekeepers, left in charge of town-houses, were interfering with their trade by taking in lodgers on the sly. The clubs and hotels were as good as closed, or rather they would have been better if they had been closed, for the waiters wanted to go to Margate or Gravesend, and the hotels were not paying their lighting expenses.
The bathing and watering-places were swarming. Glauberend, among the rest, had its full share of most“ respectable carriage company,” as the lodging-house people described it ; that is to say, a great many family people, and of course a great many young ladies, who, in the dearth of legitimate beaux, flirted with each other's brothers-a step one degree better than dancing with each other.
We grieve to say that the negative recommendation of the place was in full vigour, and though there were a vast number of dangerous, there were scarcely any troublesome danglers ; few that a mamma could not dispose of herself without referring to the higher powers. The place, therefore, kept its charm for the old gentlemen. They came hot from London on a Saturday afternoon to vegetate for two or three days at a time, and as they were not bothered with overhauling any volunteering sons-in-law, they concluded that music, worsted-work, and drawing, the usual prescriptions for keeping girls out of mischief, -occupied the young ladies in their absence.
Only those who have experienced the lamentable paucity of“ desirables” at these sort of places, can appreciate the sensation that was caused by
the appearance of a youth, with all the outward appurtenances of independence, at the well-known princely hotel, the "Imperial.” People who have nothing whatever to do but kill time and watch each other's movements, see and hear things amazingly fast, and sundry trusty Abigails whispered into their young ladies' ears, hints of the arrival of a most “andsome young gentleman” the morning after his arrival. The first indication of his presence was a couple of saddle horses, taking those little backward and forward turns so indicative of unpunctuality,—so unlike the orderly routine of the three red ink columns headed £. s. d. These were in charge of a diminutive groom, in a dark coat and waistcoat, with well cleaned and well put on boots and leathers, and a smart little cockade, perched half
way above the crown of his hat. A cynic might have taken exception to the freshness of the turn-out, there not being a single thing, from the hat on the lad's head down to the shoes on the horses' feet, that were not spic and span new. New bridles, new saddles, new boots, new breeches, new whips, new belt, while the pulpy condition of the horses, showed that they had been eating more bran than beans. A cynic, we say, might have taken exception to all this, and most likely some ill-natured men would; but the ladies, God bless them, don't dive so deep into equestrian propriety, and if the horses' heads are small, the manes silky, the tails flowing, and the pasterns spidery, they are content to take all the rest for granted. Besides, things must be new some time, and if a man has been vegetating abroad, what is so likely as that he will have to get a complete new rig-out on his return.
“ The Imperial,” standing in the centre of the town, looking like the parent of the whole, the horses could not pursue their limited peregrinations without being seen by all; and, coming out about the time that the old ladies generally turned out for their daily drive, four miles out and back, divers were the conjectures that their appearance conjured up.
Some old ladies merely gave a sort of half start, and then a shuffle on their seats ; others looked intently at the lad in charge of the horses ; while from sundry full and fair lips, whose owners sat with their backs to the horses, escaped exclamations such as “ There's an arrival !” “Who can that be, I wonder !" with regrets that they had not stayed behind
Our friend Rocket, however, took it very quietly, and the horses had a good hour's exercise before the house. ere he condescended to join them.
When, however, he did appear at the princely portals of the hotel it was clear that he was considered" somebody” within. Mr. Bloater, the landlord, flew to one of the mahogany folding-doors himself, the head waiter took the other, while a queer, shaggy-looking fellow flourished a duster, and exclaimed, “Bring me lor's orses, Tom, bring me lor's orses!"
Having mounted the pursey bay in an easy negligé sort of way the reins dangling on the horse's neck and the toe of one foot playing sportively with the stirrup, he sauntered quietly along the east-end of the clustering houses called the town, and passing the crescents, terraces, obelisks, and villas scattered promiscuously around, at length entered upon the Priory Road, whose lofty flowering limes on either side imparted fragrance to the air and coolness to the ride. It was a lovely day. The country was still in the full luxuriance of summer, not even the sycamore giving the slightest indication of decline. The corn-fields were alive with reapers, the second crop of clover bloomed strong and vigorously on the ground, the whole country teemed with warm and unwonted plenty.
The sun was so hot overhead that some of the carriages did not venture beyond the shade formed by the rows of limes, and curious it was watching the Autter and evolutions of the gay parasols in those that did as our hero passed himself in review. Could a looker-on have seen into the minds as well as into the carriages of many, we doubt not he would have found exultation in those who had, and disappointment in those who had not, their best bonnets on.
Our hero, though recently from France, did not indulge in any of the tigerish forms, or rather no forms of costume, of that ill-dressed nation, and with the exception of a silk hat and one of those extraordinary crossbar ties, resembling the things farmers put upon truant geese to prevent their getting under gates, called, we believe, a “ Joinville,” his costume was entirely English. Some might have thought him a turn overdressed—that his well-starched wristbands might as well have been under as over the cuff of his blue frock-coat- that his shirt-front was too elaborately worked, and a doubt might have been raised as to the genuineness of the brilliants forming the buttons of his light fancy waistcoat, these are men's objections, and not worth attending to. Ladies are much more lenient, especially in the matter of costume, and as long as a man is wholly unappropriated he need never be afraid of much detraction from them.
It is in moments like these that a man appears to advantage, when he stands fairly and impartially before the women's eyes, open to all and influenced by none.
Great then are his merits! No admonitory caution is used at home, no insidious whisper vented abroad, all join in extolling him to the skies, or if a captious word disturbs the placid joy of so serene an hour, it is Mrs. Somebody exclaiming against Mrs. Somebody else's gross indelicacy in making such advances to the stranger. Still, if the stranger holds his own, stands aloof from the contending parties, their spleen will be vented on each other, and he will sail triumphantly through.
The rashness of some women in rushing into matches is only to be equalled by the boldness of their “ backings out” when they find they “won't do," or that they can get any thing better.
Glauberend was full of affectionate mammas-mammas who, to each other, could not “ bear the idea of parting with the dear girls,” and yet were ready to foist them upon any one they could get to take them. Ít were needless recounting the number of ladies who inwardly resolved that our hero's appearance was a dispensation of Providence in their especial favour, or yet the number of managing matrons, who immediately proceeded to make arrangements for the appropriation of the prize according to the peculiar claims and exigencies of the particulur members of their families, because, as we are not going to write an account of all the sayings and doings of all the claimants, it is about time we were drawing out those more fortunate charmers who had our hero's consent, as well as their own, for “thinking of him," as they say.
CHAPTER II. THE DOOEYS—THE SERVANTS' HOP—MISS LUCY GREEN, AND MONSIEUR
JEAN DE LA TOUR,
First and foremost we may mention Mrs. and the Miss Dooeys, not because they were the first to make our friend's acquaintance, but because chance-the god of love-or whoever people attribute their luck to-or