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LONDON SOCIETY.

SOCIETY.

FEBRUARY, 186 4.

TOM PROBUS AND HIS VALENTINES :

BEING A ROMANTIC EPISODE FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF

JACK EASEL, ESQUIRE.

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F any additional and thoroughly matrimony. A youthful bachelor,

were wanting to dine well at his club, or en ville, among many which have from time must dine expensively; while if he to time been adduced to deter relies on the culinary resources of his young gentlemen from entering pre- landlady in any ordinary lodgings, maturely into the connubial state, I he will probably have to alternate believe it would be embodied in between pink beefsteaks and carthe consideration of breakfast. Re- bonized chops. The crisply-roasted garding dinners, I should say a joint, and cunning réchauffés into man gained rather than lost by which it may be transformed-the

VOL. V.-NO. XXVII.

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subtly - prepared hash — the sa- Bass or attempted to light a cigar voury curry, and all the delicious now after breakfast!) Ah! those metamorphoses of which roast beef days—those hap--well, let us say and boiled mutton are capable, will those good-for-nothing, idle days are be unknown to him, to say nothing gone and past, never to return; and of that pleasant companionship if I recur to them in the following without which wine and walnuts pages, it is but-dear Mrs. Browne are as things of nought.

—to show what a blessed change But breakfast is a different mat- you have wrought in the habits and ter. Experience has taught me manners of the partner of your that, as far as my married friends choice. are concerned, in proportion to the It was on the 14th of February, potency of domestic affection there eighteen hundred and something will always be a diminution in the more, that I was bidden to breakstrength of tea. I am of course fast with Tom Probus, then of Berutterly unable to account for this ners Street, Oxford Street, in the phenomenon; but that it is a fact, county of Middlesex, gentleman, I call upon any disinterested bache- and close to the celebrated institulor to deny. There is something, tion of that name. Probus had moreover, in the presence of the chosen this locality in consequence gentler sex strangely antagonistic of his being daily engaged in that to the consumption of solid food species of pedestrianism known as at 9 A.M. Why a gentleman who, hospital-walking, and which, in while single, considered devilled point of fact, taking the length of kidneys or grilled drumsticks indis- each bed into consideration, does pensable to the morning repast involve a tolerable amount of exershould, directly he turns Benedict, cise. He had just passed the Colsuffer such a falling off in his appe- lege of Surgeons with great éclattite as to induce him to be perfectly that is to say, he had satisfied the content with an egg, is also another Examiners of his intimate acquaintmystery which I never could ex- ance with the name and situation plain. Whether it is that the wed- of every bone, nerve, and muscle in ding breakfast is such an elaborate the human frame, concerning which and costly affair as to render re- he chanced to be questioned, to say trenchment in all subsequent break- nothing of having translated offfasts positively necessary, or whether hand the very page of the Georgics the simplicity of ladies' appetites which he had mastered with a crib makes a man ashamed of his own, the night before. The only mistake are questions which I will not take he made (in demonstrating with the upon myself to answer; but one os humerus upside down) he turned fact is patent, viz., that the ordinary to such excellent account by bematutinal meal is an institution of coming convulsed with laughter at and belonging to bachelorhood, and Professor M'Carver's venerable joke properly recognized in no other about the funny bone, that the bluncondition of social life. Perhaps der (an egregious one, as I am inMr. Browne, who, as the French say, formed) was overlooked, and he left

ranged himself' ten years back, the room in high favour with the may, as he reads these pages, recal great anatomist. with a sigh the freedom of those So, elated by success, he had early feasts with which 'Bell's Life' asked his two most intimate friends and smoking grills are so insepa- Planter (once of Corpus), then readrably associatel-may quaff again ing law in Brick Court, Temple, in imagination the tankard of pale and myself, to what he called a ale which passed from hand to hand 'blow-out' at 11 A.M. the morning -may rekindle at the lamp of Me- after his examination. Probus inmory that once-loved cutty pipe habited the second floor at Mrs. from which so many rings of smoke Croker's lodgings. The drawingascended high into the morning air. room floor, consisting of three small (Gracious powers! what would Mrs. rooms en suite, was occupied by a B. say if he called for a bottle of young lady and her brother, the

latter being, as Mrs. Croker kindly church; and Tom had privately informed us, engaged in a mer- confided to me that he was on that cantile 'ouse in the City, and de- occasion so struck with her beauty parted thither every morning in a that he felt compelled to retreat to Natlas bus at nine o'clock. As for the landing (full eight steps below) the parlours, they were rented by to make room for her. It appears an accommodating literary gentle that this act of politeness on his man, who spent the greater part of part was acknowledged by such a his time at the Museum, and thus gracious smile and such a graceful enabled Mrs. Croker to use them for bow that they captivated Mr. Probus the reception of her own personal on the spot; and thenceforth he acquaintance between the hours of raved about her to such an extent ten and four.

that my only wonder is how he It is a proverbial fact that in ever managed to pull through his London you know nothing of your examination. next-door neighbour; and I believe However, pull through he did, such is the general apathy and want and we met, as I have said, the next of inquisitiveness on the part of the morning at his lodgings to congraBritish public that the same rule tulate him. When Planter and I obtains among the inmates of metro- knocked at No. 199, Berners Street, politan lodging-houses. Probus had the door was opened by Susan, a not sought to cultivate the parlours. female domestic of some personal The parlours had reposed no con- attractions, with whom that gentlefidence in Probus. If they had man was in the habit of joking in a been separated by the diameter of manner which, it must be confessed, this terrestrial sphere instead of a ill befitted one who had entered on flight or two of stairs, they could such a learned and serious profeshardly have been more ignorant of sion as the law. each other's habits. When either Thus it happened that when we of these gentlemen was expected to had reached the first landing, and be out late in the evening (not, by- Susan, in deprecation of some slight the-way, an unfrequent occurrence familiarities which I need not parwith Probus), good Mrs. Croker ticularize, was exclaiming, sotto voce, placed his bedroom candlestick on "Git along with yer nonsense, do, the rickety shelf which was dig- Mr. Planter! ha' done, now;' the nified with the name of a hall-table. sudden opening of the drawing-room The parlour's candlestick was door caused that gentleman some brass one, with an extinguisher. confusion, and involved his dropThat assigned to Mr. Probus was of ping an umbrella with deliberate stone china, without an extinguisher. purpose, in order to pick it up Such were the individualities which again, which feat he accomplished characterized their mutual recog- with such readily-assumed and nition; and if the parlours had de- superhuman gravity, that I verily parted to found a colony in Jericho, believe if Mr. Pollaky himself had or taken up a permanent residence been emerging from the drawingin Bath, Mr. Probus would not have room at that moment for the express been in the least affected.

purpose of a Private Inquiry, he But the drawing-rooms were dif- would have detected nothing unusual ferently situated, not only with re- in the young lawyer's manner. spect to floors, but in regard to Susan,' said some one, in a very Tom's interest. Miss Webster, the sweet and feminine voice, behind the young lady to whom I have already door. alluded, was young and pretty. • Yes, miss,' said Susan, with just Tom had caught transient glimpses the faintest trace of a blush on her of her through half-open doors, or features, but with an air of the at the window, as he walked up intensest propriety. Berners Street. Once, indeed, they 'I shall have some letters for you had actually met on the stairs as to post in about ten minutes. I'll she was descending with her brother leave them on the table outside.' on a Sunday morning to go to *Very well, Miss,' answered Susan,

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hastily dusting that article with her Pretty name, isn't it?-pretty girl, apron by way of preparation; and a too, for that matter,' mused Mr. minute afterwards she had niounted Planter, as if concocting some to the second floor, ushered us into scheme. •Didn't you tell me old Tom's front room, and tapped at his Probus was rather sweet in that bed-room door to announce our ar- quarter?' rival.

* Hush!' said I; whatever I told • Good morning, old boy, roared you was in confidence. Besides, he Planter through the keyhole. "How has never even spoken to her.' d'ye find yourself after last night's • More's the pity,' replied Planter, exertions—as young ladies say to tossing about Tom's books and their hostess the day after a hop?' newspapers, as if in search of some

* All right, old fellow,' shouted thing; more's the pity. I only Mr. Probus, in accents which ap- wish I'd had the chance. Lots of peared to proceed from the bottom tin, too, hasn't she ? Hang it, of a washing-basin, and accompa- where is the nied by a great slopping of water. I believe they are both pretty * Right as a trivet!' continued Tom well off,' I answered, and was just

his time apparently from behind about to repeat what Probus had a towel). 'I'll be in directly. Have heard from Mrs. Croker, viz., that a pipe. There's some capital bird's- Miss Webster had lately joined her eye on the mantelpiece. Is that brother in town, in consequence of Easel with you ? Hurray! We'll some business arrangements renhave some breakfast in ten minutes. dered necessary by a large and unI say, Susan! Sooosan! Confound expected legacy, when I heard Tom that gal.' Here followed a violent bawling for me to come into his ringing of his bed-room bell, and room. certain instructions about a raised One would naturally bave suppie and other domestic matters, posed that Mr. Probus, after the during which Planter walked to the interesting event of the previous window, whistling a popular air. night, would have been eager to

* Good gracious, what a lot of let- communicate the details of his sucters the postmen bring to this dis- cess; but no, not a word about the trict!' said he, at length, watching examination or his good luck. His one of those functionaries in the thoughts were full of the adorable street below.

Miss Webster, and he availed him: I dare say; and everywhere else self of the only opportunity which this morning, said I. Have you he knew he could have in private forgotten the day?

with me to ask my advice. What Day?' said Planter. Why, let was he to do? He was the most me see. Tuesday, the uth, spar- miserable fellow, he vowed, in existring match between the White

He couldn't call on her, of chapel Bruiser and Pimlico Pet; course, and the brother was only at Wednesday, the 12th, old Grimsby's home in the evening, when he had benefit at Drury Lane; 13th, yester- no opportunity of making their day, rat-fight at-why, by Jove ! acquaintance. it's the 14th—it's Valentine's Day! We talked the matter over for I say, can't we turn it to some some few minutes together; and, account-get up an excitement of finding poor Probus very much some sort?

We really ought to smitten, I promised him to consider do something, you know, on the what could be done and let him strength of old Tom's success,' con- know the result of my deliberations. tinued Mr. Planter, dancing about . Thank you,' said Tom, and I'll the room in exuberant spirits. 'By- follow your advice, old fellow, whatthe-way, what's the name of that ever it is; but for goodness' sake little party on the drawing-room don't say a word to Planter. He's floor?'

so horribly indiscreet, you see; and ' If you mean Miss Webster'

besides, I know he would chaff me I began.

awfully. * Ah! Webster; that's the name. At this juncture, and feeling that

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I had already betrayed poor Tom's I have seldom heard equalled. It confidence in this unfortunate direc- is not given to every man to sustain tion, I confess that I was seized a rapid dialogue during breakfast, with a violent fit of coughing, which nor with ordinary people would it of course precluded the necessity at all become a desirable accomof a reply, and then we went in to plishment; but the more Mr. Planter breakfast.

ate the more he talked; and the Halloa! where's Planter ?' cried more he talked the greater seemed Tom.

to be the necessity of satisfying his • Where indeed ?' said I. 'I left appetite.

appetite. He was just tapping the him here just now.'

shell of his third egg, after having Pleasir, Mr. Planter have just consumed all the available chops gone out to fetch some cigars of a within his reach with about a pint petticlar sort, sir, which he says and a half of coffee, and was just you can only buy at one shop in entering on his thirteenth anecdote, London, and that's round the corner when we heard a knock at the door, in Hoxford Street, sir; and he says and in walked Mrs. Croker, Tom's would you mind beginning your landlady. brexfas, sir, and he'll be hack in half Mrs. Croker at the best of times a minute,' said Susan, who had just is not an attractive-looking person; entered the room laden with co- but at any hour of the forenoon, mestibles.

before she has (as Susan puts it) • Extraordinary fellow that Planter cleaned herself — in her morning is,' said Tom. Why couldn't he deshabille, I say, of yellow gown smoke my manillas? He was only with black spots, dingy cap and wig saying the other day how good they awry, she is really an unpleasant were.

spectacle; and there was something Very odd,' said I, not without particularly disgreeable, we thought, some misgivings about Mr. P.'s ab- in her manner that morning as she sence.

marched up to Probus and put a . Well, it's no use waiting for letter in his hand. him,' said Probus. Will you pour 'Halloa! What's this?' said Tom, out the coffee? and let me give you turning the letter over. • Did this some steak while it's hot.'

come by post, Mrs. Croker? Here's Capital steak — capital coffee. a stamp upon it—but nocapital eggs-bread-butter-every- Mrs. Croker shook her head very thing. We were just going to at- slowly — mysteriously - I thought tack a pigeon pie, when in rushed even malevolently, as she repliedPlanter.

No, Mr. Probis, it have not come • You're a nice sort of fellow, you by post, though it do bear a queen's are,' cried Probus, 'to come to ’ead, and no doubt were intended breakfast with a man and then bowl for the post.

The artfulness of off, just as the things are coming some people cannot deceive me, up, to buy weeds.

I'll tell you

Mr. Probis, which their pence might what, it's my belief that, Well as well have been in their pockets at there-never mind-pitch into that the present moment. Mark me!' pâté, and make up for lost time.' With these mysterious words she

Mr. Planter murmured out some- left the room. thing which seemed to be intended • What on earth does the woman for an apology, and then burst out mean?' said Probus, hastily breaking into an incontrollable fit of laughter; but as this was his ordinary means I never shall forget the various of getting out of a difficulty, we took changes which passed over Tom's no notice of it. He certainly did face as he read the letter. He bemake up for. lost time, and indeed came pink and white by turns. He we all succeeded in making an ex- rose from the table. He walked to cellent breakfast; enlivened by our the window. He tried to whistle, volatile friend's conversation, which but broke down miserably before he for fertility of subject, rapidity of was half way through the · Young delivery, and powers of endurance, man from the Country.'

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