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* Take care, Smith !' said the old gentleman, with a mock gravity. · These medical gentlemen are very insinuating.'
"Oh, lauk, sir! I'm not afeard of his insinivations—not I. She ain't no lamb to be run away vith,' replied the porter; and chuckling at the conceit of the old gentleman, he quitted the room, no doubt to retail the joke to the gentlemen of the outer office.
* Excuse this interruption, sir,' said the old gentleman. 'But Smith is an old and valued servant; man and boy he has served the house above forty years, and is a sort of privileged person in the establishment. i'll be bound he would not be tempted to quit the firm for an alderman's gown.'
I expressed my pleasure, and quoted some common-places about fidelity and long service, concluding with my real conviction, that good masters make good servants, meaning to pay him a compliment.
I agree with you, sir, on that point,' replied he, and thank you for the intended compliment; but I am not one of the firm. I am merely their confidential clerk. My name is Josiah Thorley at your service.'
Yes, sir,' continued he, 'for five-and-twenty years I have occupied this room in that capacity.'
"And a very comfortable room it is,' said I ; but the prospect, I think, is rather melancholy,' pointing at the small churchyard which was visible through and came close up to the broad window.
• Melancholy !' replied he. “Why, my dear sir, that little patch of green is as pleasant in my sight as a turf to a lark! As Milton says, “the mind is its own place ;" and you cannot imagine the infinite delight I take in that confined view, or the pleasant materials for meditation which it supplies. And then to hear the pealing of the church-organ breaking through the quiet of this place is so soothing, and breathes such a calm and holy spirit, that it is truly enviable.'
* Really, Mr. Thorley,' said I, surprised to find so much poetical enthusiasm in the narrow confines of an office, you are to be envied the possession of such pleasant thoughts and feelings.'
And yet am I rather diffident of expressing them,' replied he ; ' for I have met with more ridicule than sympathy. But I am like a bird in a cage, upon whom these rays of poetry fall like the glimpses of the sun, and cheer me in the prison to which my occu. pation dooms me. At the same time I must confess that time and habit have at last so moulded my mind to this limited sphere of action, that liberty would now be irksome to me, and, as the poet sings, “I would not, if I could, be free."' "And that there is wisdom in that resolve experience teaches us,'I remarked. •Among a thousand instances that could be cited there is none more conclusive than the example of the amiable Charles Lamb, who was all his life pining to be free from the thraldom of business; and, when at last heat. tained his object he discovered that he had only been pursuing a delusive phantom of the imagination, and candidly confessed his error.'
'Good, kind-hearted Elia!' exclaimed Thorley; 'with what delight I used to devour his contributions in the London Magazine. Sir,' continued he emphatically, 'I once had the honour of being
in the company of that extraordinary man. I shall never forget it. Esteeming his writings as I did, you may readily conceive the gratification I felt. It was at a dinner-party given by my friend Mat Clapham. There was an unassuming quietness in his manner, and a quaintness of expression, accompanied with a hesitation in his speech that at first precluded him from taking that prominent position which is generally usurped by the lion' of a party. In fact, our lamb was one of those lions whose roar is more like that of a 'sucking dove' than the king of the forest. When the conversation warmed into life he became very facetious, and the puns he perpetrated, although of an order peculiar to himself
, created infi. nite amusement among the guests. For example, handing up his plate for gravy, he asked the hostess to 'liquidate him ;' and again, on the cover being taken from a dish of early peas, a gentleman asking him if they were not quite a treat ? he answered, "Yes, sir, quite a treat.y of pease !' as a German would say. A lady inquiring what were the articles of war ? he seriously answered, "Guns, swords, trumpets, and drums ! Helping one of the guests to a wood. cock, ‘I've given you a better half, sir,' said he.—'You've favoured me,' replied the gentleman._Don't mention it,' said Lamb; and then added in his hesitating manner, I-I charge you, sir; for, you see, I've sent you the bill with it! A stout gentleman, just arrived from India was discoursing very volubly upon a tiger hunt, in which, of course, he had been personally engaged, when Lamb whispered his host, Your fat Indian friend is really Indy-fat-igable.' When we joined the ladies in the drawing-room my friend's daughter was exhibiting some beautiful drawings, and discoursing with all the fervour of a horticulturist upon anemones, grandifloras, china asters, &c. Very pretty,' said Lamb, peeping over her shoulder. Now, pray do tell us, Mr. Lamb, which among the flowers is your favourite ?' said she. “The rose, the lily, or the modest violet, or perhaps Apollo's devoted worshipper, the sunflower, as you are a poet ??— My dear young lady,' said he, 'I have no doubt your choice is the result of fancy, while mine may be said to be a mere matter of taste; for of all the flowers that are grown I prefer—'—Which ??— A cauliflower, my dear,' replied he, with a gravity which set all the expectant auditors in a roar. But both my memory and my language fail to do justice to his humour; the cold repetition of his words is like collecting spent-shot after they have been flattened against a stone wall."
After a world of discourse upon literary matters, I expressed my pleasure in having made his acquaintance, and, with a flattering invitation to repeat my visit, I shook hands with the old man, and departed.
Subsequently, upon a more intimate knowledge of each other, Mr. Thorley confessed to me, sub rosâ, that he had committed author. ship, although he had never appeared in print; and one evening, when all the gentlemen of the establishment had departed, and no one but Smith, the porter, remained to close the office, he cautiously unlocked n drawer in his writing-table, and drew forth an Old Ledger, bound in russia, and carefully locked.
* This is my album,' said he, smiling. “Don't be startled by its external appearance ; for, such is the force of habit, I don't think I could collect my ideas, and register them in a volume of any other
form ; besides, it bears the semblance of business; and, being interleaved with blotting-paper, should I be interrupted in the entry of my lucubrations, I have only to close the book, and there it lies on my desk in its hypocritical garb, without creating any suspicion of its contents-for I am sensibly alive to ridicule ; and, should any of the gentlemen of the firm suspect me of being an author, I should probably not only lose my authority, but these worthy matter-offact men of business would infallibly “write me down an ass,”—so incompatible are the pursuits of literature and commerce generally considered by the world. That this is a vulgar error I am convinced, for the composition of these trifles has merely been the innocent recreation of my leisure hours. Like Æsop I may truly say, these are my “game of marbles,” which I have played after the sterner duties of the day have been fulfilled.'
Having committed the Old Ledger to my custody, with strict injunctions not to breathe a syllable to a living soul of its contents, or the author, I perused the strange volume, marking those pieces which appeared fit for publication, and upon returning it expressed a wish that he would give it to the public, offering at the same time to illustrate it; but the old clerk instinctively shuddered at the idea of submitting his labours to such an ordeal.
“No,' said he ; I wrote them solely for my own recreation ; but when I am gone, should you still entertain a favourable opinion of them, you are at liberty to publish them. I will bequeath the volume to you as a legacy.' : The worthy old man now sleeps quietly in that same churchyard, wherein while living he found so much matter for meditation, and I now present to the public those papers, the composition of which gave so much harmless pleasure to the author, and with the sincere wish that my readers may at least derive some portion of that pleasure in the perusal, I humbly submit my editorial labours to their favourable notice.
ALFRED CROW QUILL.
THE OLD LEDGER,-No. I.
THE GREY MARE.
Every little place in the country has its great man, who stands as conspicuously among the smaller folk as a pear tree in the midst of a plantation of cabbages.
Mr. Josiah Greene had by his extraordinary tact and ability obtained this enviable pre-eminence in the town of B—. He was a tall, brown, bony, gawky man, measuring about six feet in his stockings, with sharp, angular features, illuminated with a pair of penetrating grey eyes; although the precise colour of his optics was a matter of dispute among the ladies, arising from the reflection of his green spectacles.
He usually wore a slouching drab hat, turned up with green, a *pudding neckcloth, encompassing his long, skinny neck; his sober suit was large and ill-fitting, and his drab gaiters hung loosely upon his calfless legs. A pair of wide, easy, lack-lustre shoes completed his attire. His literary pursuits were peculiar, but not uncommon; devouring with avidity the miscellaneous hotch.potch' of newspapers and magazines, and was reported to know everything.' He was in the enjoyment of a tolerable income, and was respectfully called by his inferiors 'Squire,' whilst his familiars dubbed him
Doctor,' although he had really no more pretensions to the M.D. than he had to the D.D.
Having lately 'taken' to geology, he might be daily seen in the neighbourhood with his bag and hammer, Macadamizing the unoffending pebbles with all the assiduity of a parish-pauper labouring for his eightpence per diem.
In this harmless pursuit he had accumulated materials almost sufficient to pave a carriage-sweep.
His establishment was upon a very economical scale, consisting of one 'girl,' (as he termed her, although poor Mary had long since passed her fortieth summer,) and an occasional man, who served him in the double capacity of groom and gardener; for, albeit, Mr. Josiah Greene had no horse, he possessed a 'mare,' which in point of bone was matchless; such a square head, and straight neck, and angles enough for the illustration of a whole book of trigonometry. Indeed his grey mare was very like a wooden one animated ; and, in point of flesh, the dogs in the neighbourhood had in truth but a sorry prospect.
But her worth and virtues outweighed, in the Doctor's mind, her deplorable want of personal beauty ; for he was frequently heard to declare that she was so safe and sure-footed, and withal so docile that he could guide her with a pack-thread; and then, as for starting or shying, it was a perfect insult to her general propriety of conduct to imagine her capable of freaks so unbecoming in one of her condition !
Though not far advanced in years, “Mimmy' (so called by her sponsors,) was 'grey,' with tail and ears uncropped, in all the length and luxuriance of their natural beauty.
In his habits Josiah himself was perfectly mechanical, dividing his time, like a musician, into thirds. The morning was usually devot. ed latterly to geological pursuits; his afternoon to riding, whilst
his evenings were customarily spent at one or other of his acquaintances'.
With the males he smoked his coal-pipe, and quaffed homebrewed, and discussed the business and affairs of the parish or the county. In elections he became an orator, although his warm and eloquent harangues were confined to the circle in which he revolved.
He was a staunch Tory in his politics, and successfully brought over the whole clique' to his way of thinking, notwithstanding the opposition of the village-lawyer, who was a red-hot radical, and nightly held forth in the tap.room of the principal, and indeed only inn of the place; but who failed from his want of character in making any converts, except amongst the lowest class, who, fortunately for the safety of the country, as Greene asserted, had no voice, albeit they were loud and liberal enough in their applause of the lawyer's levelling opinions.
With the female portion of the community Josiah was a great favourite, for he had a 'world of small-talk,' and could, moreover, join in all their snug cribbage and whist parties, and was ever ready to give his opinion as well of muslins, chintzes, or silks, as of flower. roots. And then, he had such taste' that his judgment was as infallibly taken in ribands as in politics.
His tame lionism,' however, was doomed to suffer a partial eclipse. Two dashing youths froin college came to spend a few days at the residence of a maiden aunt in the village ; and the novelty and brilliancy of their vivacious conversation threw Josiah completely into the shade, and the great leader-the Paganini of the little coterie—was compelled to play second fiddle. Notwith. standing his boasted philosophy, he could not refrain from exhibiting evident symptoms of uneasiness, and, like a carp thrown suddenly out of his natural element, he opened his mouth, and gasped, and said nothing !
If his personal consequence was diminished, his character, too, at this juncture, was assailed by suspicions of the most flagrant and unseemly conduct. Scandal was busy with his name, and he began to suffer from the coldness and neglect of his former associates.
As usual, detraction only uttered her blighting inuendos in the most inaudible whispers, giving him no chance of reply or justifica. tion; and he consequently only felt the effect without suspecting the true cause, and—he hammered away more furiously than ever at the stones in the neighbourhood.
"Well, Mary,' said old Andrews, the groom-gardener, twirling a potato-dibble in his hand, and hanging over the half-door which led into her sanctum, the kitchen.
Well, Master Andrews,' said Mary, resting awhile from her labours, for she was trying hard to restore the • shine' to a smoked saucepan, which time and her industry had united to deprive of its • tin.”
* It's main hot, Mary,' continued Andrews; and this 'tatoo planting's dry work.
Will thee have a drink, Andrews ?' "Why, thank ye, I don't care much if I do,' replied he. • I've nothing but the weak small.'