« AnteriorContinuar »
ladies' attire will be rather disarranged; one girl, who has evidently dressed rather hastily, is apparently dropping to pieces. A determined wall-flower, whose duty it has been to stand in the breach of an open door, has absolutely fallen asleep at his post. These are the vagaries which you will find at the fag-end of a London ball. Ill-conditioned young men have been known to ask if they can get beer on their way home. Probably you will depart in a close carriage, wrapped up in sables.
If you are much among the set, it is astonishing how much gossip that dance will cause for days to come. Gossip is just as prevalent in London as in the country; and let no cosmopolitan wisdom persuade you to the contrary. The only difference is, that in London they gossip in sets, not in houses—for you probably do not know your next-door neighbour; and in the country you do not gossip in sets, for your set is too widely scattered, but in all the houses of the little township gossip goes on.
You will find, to your amused astonishment, that at this particular dance an éclaircissement took place, or that some love-letters were surreptitiously handed in. If you have gone to a dance every night, or to two or three dances in the same night, you will not care to enter into the inner history of any particular ball. But I have rather got in mind the great mass of—not of the upper middle, but of the middle middle, to whom amusement is not the principal object of life.
I am sure my
clients will be all the better for such.
They will shake off day-dreams; they will know how other people think and talk ; they will see that the world is wider than their own square; they will not think every man in love who walks and talks with them. Society is the great thing that London has to offer, and it is pitiable to think that there are really many people who get none of it.
What contrasts there are in London nights! I sometimes stay in the crush-room of the opera, after the crush has subsided. It is a relief to get away from the heat to the balcony. But what a contrast it is to turn away from the gorgeous jewelled crowd, and to look up and down Bow Street ! observe a number of specimens of human misery; perhaps some of the metropolitan police dragging people a few yards down the street, to the police station of the court over which the senior London magistrate presides. While you are waiting for a carriage, you can take a turn in Covent Garden, and see the ragged little boys waiting to get into the baskets. Mr. Dion Boucicault has somewhere constructed a striking scene, where an opera-party meets some squalid personages who figure largely in his drama, just outside the Floral Hall. There is sometimes a passion in young fellows to see the darker and least-understood side of London life. : I knew an odd instance of this in an Oxford man, who had rather
, I the
-nce will do alent in mopolitan 1
only difle ot in hones t-door
in sest the houses will find
you have. I Tee dine
er into the
I hare 1 t of the hom amunt
am sure 21
more coin than brains.
He managed to find himself in one of the worst slums of London, and, in order to see it effectually, he proposed to some pickpocket cad to change raiment with him. The cad saw the obvious advantage of the arrangement, and immediately assented.
I suppose my young friend felt a gloomy, intense enjoyment in disguising himself as if he were a conspirator of historical importance, and realised the position of what may be achieved under a disguise. My friend got himself up as a rough, and revelled in the slums to his heart's content. At last he called a hansom, and knocked about promiscuously for an hour or so. The driver, who had been turning over in his mind the seedy appearance of his fare, suddenly drew up, and refused to move a step further until he had seen the colour of his money. My friend proceeded to put his hand into his pocket, when he suddenly recollected that he had left his purse in the raiment which he had handed over to the cad. With much difficulty he persuaded the sceptical and unhappy cabby to drive him to his quarters in Piccadilly. The waiter wondered hugely when he recognised a respectable customer in something like the attire of a sweep, and was asked to lend him 'five bob.' I hope my friend took a bath before retiring to rest, and asked the compassionate waiter not to brush, but to burn his clothes. He was quite right, however, in supposing that there is a dark reverse to
any bright picture of Winter Nights in London. That reverse side is generally brought before us very forcibly at this season of the year. And I trust my readers will remember the old Greek epigram, that Half is greater than the Whole; one meaning of which is, that if we take something of our substance for the poor, we shall really make it all the richer and more enduring.
Old Christmas Days.
THIS is Christmas Eve. I am an old man now,
living my quiet days not unhappily; surrounded, thank Heaven, with every kind of comfort, having come to a quiet port after stormful seas, with very much of what Shakespeare tells us should accompany old age—'as honour, love, obedience, troops of friends.' But I know that mine is the twilight of life, corresponding with this brief wintry twilight of Christmastide, and am content that the tender gracious darkness should in due season wrap me round. I find that I forget many things. I fail to remember all that law business which I had to attend to yesterday. I am not uneasy about it. My son John is a good man and a clever; and I have laid most worldly things on the shelf now. I do not care for politics and new books and fresh inventions, as I once did. It is very right that these things should be vigorously carried on in the busy roaring life around me, the murmur of which, afar off, sounds not unmusically to me. These things interested me once most deeply. But I have