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THE

NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.

GILBERT GURNEY.
CHAPTER III.

As I cantered down towards Teddington, all the events of the preceding evening passed in review before me. I almost hoped that I had only had a frightful dream, and that the scene and proceedings at the playhouse were a\l images of a disordered brain—but the hope was vain; and already in the streets the playbills of the day negatively declared my defeat by announcing “Peeping Tom,” or “The Village Lawyer,” or some such ancient favourite, instead of a repetition of my doomed drama. Breakfast appears to me to have been destined for a solitary meal— nothing to me is less endurable than a breakfast party. I love the lengthened lounging meal made up of eating, drinking, and reading; but there is nothing social or sociable in its attributes; one cannot “hob-nob’’ in tea or coffee. Moreover, it is an ungraceful meal. Egg-eating and prawn-picking are not delicate performances; and, besides, a man when he is first up and just down, if he tries his mind and temper by a moral “spirit-level,” will find that breakfast-time is not the time for company or conversation. Most especially, then, was I disqualified for a public breakfast at my mother's on this particular day, with Miss Crab for a companion. I therefore resolved to call a halt at Richmond and take my matitunal meal at the Castle, an inn full of delightful associations in my mind, and where the coolness of the breeze and the fragrance of the flowers promised to moderate the fever into which I had fidgeted myself. I was, however, mistaken; for just as one of the waiters had arranged my table, and the huge urn, hissing and sputtering forth its steam and smoke, was put down, another officious varlet, with a smirk and bow, laid upon the cloth the “Morning Chronicle.” Little could he conceive the dread and apprehension with which I regarded the fatal sheet. New to the world and as thin-skinned as a Whig, I could not venture even to unfold the paper. I waited till the servants had retired, and then respectfully and fearfully lifted the front page and peeped into that part of the journal usually appropriated to “theatricals.” I saw the great word “theatricals” stare me in the face, and I hastily left my hold and closed the leaf with the haste and trepidation with which, in after years, I might have started back from the hiss of a snake or the growl of a tiger. At length, having fortified my courage by a sip of coffee, 1 again approached the dreaded page, and having with fingers as cold as ice opened the paper, read as follows:— “THEATRICAI.s.-Last night a new farce was acted at the Haymarket Theatre; as it was finally and decidedly condemned, any further notice of the absurd abortion would be superfluous.” Sept.—vol. xlii, No. clxv. B

After reading tie is short, pothy paragraph, I felt that sort of gratitude to the writer, which a culprit may be supposed to feel for an executioner who puts him speedily out of pain: there was no tedious process of strangulation in this—no roosting before a slow fire—the bolt was drawn and the spine of my vanity broken without any lingering preparation. I thought “absurd abortion” rather a strong term; but I was glad to find that my name had escaped either the knowledge or the notice of the critic. I felt comparatively calm and easy, not at the moment reflecting that there were more newspapers than one published in London. It was in this temper of mind that I heard—it was then past eleven o'clock—merry peals of laughter ringing by a company which, unperceived by me, had taken possession of the pavilion which opens on the terrace, before the house, and which appeared to be excited by some waggeries of which I could not exactly comprehend the nature or character. I never was a listener or an eave - opper ; but the most incurious person in the world will admit out nothing is so tantalizing as to hear laughter in an adjoining room without being aware of the cause, and nothing so worrying as to be treated with conversation through a wainscot which never rises above a sort of mumbling, grumbling noise, in sound something like what Colman, in his Preface to the “Iron Chest,” describes as the distinguishing characteristics of the late John Kemble's voice—“Flies in a bottle—frogs in a marsh– wind in a crevice—and the drone of a bagpipe.” I could not—fond as I then was of laughing—endure to hear mirth going on, and not somehow contrive to be a partaker and participator. I admit, therefore, that I protruded my head from my breakfast-room window to catch some clue to the gaiety of my noisy neighbours. “I wonder,” said one, whose voice sounded peculiarly familiar to me, “I wonder where the poor devil is to-day !” “Dangling on a beam in his garret by a silk pocket-handkerchief,” replied somebody, whose tone and accent I also thought I recognized. “No ;” rejoined a third, “his suspense was over last night—to be sure, my dear friend, the idea of bringing out that infernal farce!” “I did it to please the boy,” answered somebody. “I liked the fellow, and could not say no to the goose; but as for his farce, I admit it deserved to be condemned as much as anything I ever saw. The only hits in it I put in myself, but they were so overlaid by his own original twaddle, that they were lost to the million.” I felt the blood tingling in my ears and cheeks: the people were talking of me—I thought I could not be mistaken. “Well,” said one of the amiable ladies, who had acted as my bottle —smelling-bottle—holder the night before, “poor fellow, I pity him very much ; he may be foolish, and I think he is, but he is remarkably good natured.” “Perhaps,” said some odious person, “you presently will find out that he is good-looking.” A roar of laughter followed this, which had nearly killed me. “Saracen's Head l’” said one. “Buckhurst l” cried another. o “I suppose,” said a third, “he is gone to tell his mamma the history of his misfortunes.” “I believe she wrote the farce,” said a fourth,

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“Well, poor devil,” exclaimed the first speaker, “let us leave him alone—his business is done—I flatter myself the shine was taken out of him last night, and there’s an end ; so, what's to be done till dinnertime—Patience in a punt, or a drive to Hampton Court?” This speech, so surely indicative of a move, induced me suddenly to withdraw my head and make a retreat towards the front door, where I desired the waiter to bring my bill and order my servant to bring the horses to the door. Here, however, I was foiled, for scarcely had I made two knights’ moves over the chequered pavement of the hall, before I found myself surrounded by the gay party from the pavilion. Nothing could exceed their expressions of delight at finding me there; the poor devil hanging in his silk handkerchief, whom they had been abusing five minutes before, was suddenly converted into their dear friend and delightful Mr. Gurney. The groupe consisted of several of my theatrical friends, and, to my utter horror, they began condoling with me on the annihilation of my farce before the waiters and chambermaids, all of them declaring unanimously that it had been unfairly treated, and that it possessed the most unquestionable marks of great dramatic genius. I then did not know the world quite so well as I afterwards did; and when I saw the smile of friendship upon the countenances of these ladies and gentlemen, and felt the kind pressure of their proffered hands, I also felt assured that I had not been the subject of their conversation in the next room, but that some other man and some other drama had been so generally anathematized; and, perhaps, my ignorance was bliss, for seeing how extremely happy they were to meet me, and hearing how earnestly they pressed me to join their party, I countermanded my horses till the evening, and passed what, in the sequel, turned out to be a very entertaining day. It was agreed—and what would I not at that period of my life have agreed to?—that some of the party should fish,some walk, some row about, according to their several fancies, and that all should dine at the early hour of three; the reason for the adoption of a period so Gothic for such a meal being, that one or two of the party had to present themselves in the evening to the eyes of the admiring audience of the Haymarket Theatre. Among the groupe was a man, whose name was Daly—who, of all the people accounted sane and permitted to range the world keeperless, I hold to be the most decidedly mad. His conversation was full of droll conceits, mixed with a considerable degree of superior talent, and the strongest evidence of general acquirements and accomplishments. He appeared to be on terms of most familiar intimacy with all the members of our little community, and, by his observations and anecdotes, equally well known to persons of much higher consideration; but his description of himself to me, shortly after our introduction, savoured so very strongly of insanity—peculiar in its character, I admit—that I almost repented having, previously to hearing his autobiography, consented to send on my horses to Teddington, in order to accompany him to that village after the departure of the rest of the party to London, in a boat which he proposed to row himself up to Hampton Court, where, it appeared, he resided. ** - - “I hope,” said he, “that we shall be better acquainted, I dare say you think me an odd fish—I know I am one. My father, who is no more, was a most respectable man in his way—a sugar-baker in St. Mary Axe. I was destined to follow in his wake, and succeed to the business; however, I cut the treacle tubs at an early age—I saw no fun in firkins, and could not manage conviviality in canvass sleeves. D'ye ever read the ‘London Gazette P’” “Sometimes,” said I. “In that interesting paper,” said Daly, “I used to look twice a week to see the price of Muscovados. One hapless Saturday I saw my father's name along with the crush: the affair was done-settled; dad went through the usual ceremony, and came out of Guildhall as white as his own superfine lumps. Refreshed by his ruin, my exemplary parent soon afterwards bought a house in Berkeley-square, stood a contest for a county, and died rather richer than he started. “And you, I suppose, his heir 2" said I. “He had not much to leave,” replied my new friend. “He ran it rather fine towards the close of his career. My two sisters got their fortunes paid, but I came off with what we technically called the scrapings—four hundred a year, Sir, is the whole of my income; all my personal property I carry under my hat. Timber I have none—save my walking-stick; and as to land, except the mould in three geranium pots, which stand in my sitting-room window, I haven't an inch. Still, Mr. Gurney, although I have not a ducat in my purse,

‘Yet I’m in love, and pleased with ruin.

“I envy your philosophy and spirit,” said I. “You are right,” replied Daly; “fun is to me what ale was to Boniface; I sleep upon fun—I drink for fun—I talk for fun—I live upon fun; hence my addiction to our dear funny friends of to-day. They just suit me—they do nothing but laugh; they laugh with one when present, and at one when absent—but to me that is the fun.” I immediately thought of the “funny” observations upon myself, which I had overheard earlier in the day, pretty well assured that the voice of my new laughter-loving acquaintance had not been the least loud in the debate. “I admit myself fond of practical joking,” continued my friend. “I don’t mean in one's own particular circle; there it is dangerous; people are not always in the same humour—what they think uncommonly good fun one day, they will seriously resent as an insult the next. There’s no judging with certainty a man’s temper of mind, and it is not easy to ascertain how much melted butter a gentleman would like to have }. into his coat-pocket without kicking; I avoid that sort of thing, ut on the great scale I confess my addiction. Coming here yesterday evening, I stopped the chaise at the corner of Egham, to turn the finger-post at the corner half round—sent all the people bound for London to Chertsey, all the people destined for Egham to Windsor, and all the people destined for Windsor, to London—that's my way.” “Probably,” said I, “but not theirs. And do you often indulge yourself in these freaks?” “Perpetually,” replied Daly; “I’ve whipped off every knocker in Sloane-street three nights running—a hundred and ninety-four, exclusive of shops; and if ever the project of lighting London with smoke

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