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of the most ordinary description, such as foreigners complain of as being the staple matter of our casual conversation. But when all is said and done, it is certainly very convenient to be able to tell your neighbour for the hour, that it pours of rain, though he is perhaps dripping wet, and can certainly see it with his eyes; or that it is stinging cold, when the thermometer is some degrees below freezing-point, —if you have nothing else to B&f, a contingency that may befol the most talkee-talkee man that ever played a fantasia on the English alphabet. So, perhaps, Cyril was not so very foolish, when inducting himself into a great coat and a plaid, he said, by way of breaking silence, "It is a very miserable day!" And Mr. Hattenbury gravely answered, "Yes! it is raining fast, or rather thethuj," which indeed it was, rattling right merrily against the window-panes. Cyril was feeling 1111wontedly depressed; all the novelty of his life in town had had full time to pass away; what his enemy had said about his being wearied of his occupation was extremely true, and just then all about him seemed flat, stale, and most unprofitable.
He was especially tired and sad that evening; his work hadjibeen perplexing; it had rained so h avily at noon he had not been able to leave the office, and he had lunched on stale, burnt penny buns, of which the Mercury of the establishment had fetched in a supply, at one o'clock, from the nearest pastrycooks. He had made no friends in London; towards none of the people of his boarding-house at Pimlico had he seriously inclined; he was feeling very tired, sick at heart, hopeless, and friendless. "Going home" when office hours were over was a mere pretence with him, for he had but the choice of two evils,—spending his evening in the solitude of his own chamber, or listening to the vapid conversation of the other boarders in Mrs. Matthews' drawing-room. What a change, after the intellectual and happy converse at Forest Range'. Instead of Lady
Ashburner, calm, and sweet, and motherly, was Mrs. Matthews, very motherly indeed, according to her own setting forth, but snubbing her meek, short-statured husband— she was all but a giantess, and a very bony one—and telegraphing to her buxom, highly accomplished daughter, the charming Miss Angelina, to use her own poetical simile, "the last rosebud on the parent stem." And instead of the beautiful, highly-bred Elizabeth, his own beloved one, and the sisterly, nobleminded Agnes, were the daughter of his hostess, the aforesaid Angelina, commonly called " Angey," and Miss Adeline Matilda Grundison, a sentimental damsel of some thirty summers; and they were both of them in love with Cyril Denham, and hated each other accordingly, though they called each other "dear," and practised loud duets upon a woody, stuffy, utterly untuneablc pianoforte. And for the broadshouldered, genial Sir John, every inch an Englishman, and a model country gentleman, half scholar, half agriculturist, and altogether kind, honest, and honourable, was the miserable little Mr. Matthews, cringing, and asking people abjectly to "take a bit of cheese," and sitting as it were on sufferance at the foot of his own table, and smiling with an agonized expression under the withering sarcasm of that delightful woman, his wedded wife, or the sharp rejoinders of that smart but unfihal young maiden, the blooming Angelina,—" the Rose of Pimlico," as a former boarder, who went away very much in debt, had elegantly dubbed her. Perhaps he thought that compliments would pay for bed and board, for beef and mutton and pudding, for vegetables and breakfasts, and for pots of stout. Well, they did not. Mrs. Matthews, unreasonably, perhaps, objected to so unsubstantial a mode of settling bills, and she took legal measures to obtain more current coin, and finally ruined the unfortunate youth who had sung her daughter's praises, and had done his best to ruin himself, so successfully that only the last straw was needed to break the camel's back. It did break, and Mrs. Matthews never got her money, and immediately conceived the notion that all literary men were rogues, and all literary women no better than they dught to be, which, of course, means a great deal worse than any woman ought to be.
Such was the atmosphere in which for nine months, with the intervals of that Penrhoe sojourn, the farewell to Monkswood, when Mrs. Denham died, and the Christmastide at Forest Range, Cyril had lived when , office hours were over. One does not wonder that, contrasting past and present, his heart was sometimes very heavy. He was preparing, as I said, to go forth through the sleety storm to this ungenial home, when Mr. Rattenbury, slowly -drawing on his gloves, said, "I am going to have a cab, Mr. Dcnliam ; it is too wet for an omnibus to-night, will you drive with me?"
It was the first little bit of friendliness that Mr. Rattenbury hud ever profferred. and Cyril could do nothing else than gratefully accept it. He would have taken a cab on his own account; he had never dreamed of making the twelfth passenger in a steaming omnibus, with umbrellas dripping all around him, wet overcoats Happing in his face, perhaps a stray muddy crinoline sweeping across his knees, and certainly plenty of damp, strong -smelling straw beneath his feet. What Mr. Rattenbury held to be a luxury, allowable upon occasion, Cyril called a common necessary of existence. Mr. Rattenbury's extravagance was the younger man's economy. It is difficult utterly and abruptly to change one's habits and ideas at twentyfour.
Cyril knew that his own way and Iris companion's were identical, yet they never journeyed in one omnibus, Mr. Rattenbury's chosen vehicle taking him "all the way," and Cyril's stopping short at Pimlico. He made up his mind, therefore, to return the compliment in some other style whenever opportunity occurred, and thanking Mr. Rattenbury for his courtesy, he made haste to be ready to set forth. What a dreary
evening it was. the streets swumming with that insufferable compound which is neither mud nor water, but unmitigated slush, the air heavy with smoke, and cloud, and mist, the summits of the clock-tower and the Victoria-tower lost in the brumous vapour rolling upwards from the Thames, the abbey black and spectral looming drearily through the fast-falling rain and snow, and the cold enough to chill one's very marrow.
Very little was said by either gentleman as the cab rolled on its way, only Cyril once or twice shrugged his shoulders, and called the present state of tilings out of doors, " the quintessence of misery, trebly distilled; " adding. " and what it will be in-doors I cannot say. dreary and monotonous enough to tempt one back into the outer world, in search of some adventure, just pour passer U temps!"
"Your boarding-house is not agreeable'!" asked Rattenbury, with the air of a man who feels he must say something, but cares very little whether he receives a rejoinder or not. It was evidently quite a matter of indifference to him whether Cyril's present quarters were a sort of terrestrial inferno, or a mundane paradise. "No!" answered Cyril, and then, correcting himself, "I cannot say it is exactly disagreeable, it is simply vulgar, stupid, hollow, and pretentious. I dare say the accommodation is not worse than that of similar establishments, and I might change without improving matters."
"Come home with me to-iught." cried Rattenbury, suddenly. Cyril was as much astonished as if Big Ben and his cliimes had suddenly struck up "Pop goes the Weasel." He would quite as soon have expected an invitation from the cabman as from his gloomy office-chum, who shut himself up in the shell of his taciturn reserve as pertinaciously as any crustaceous, individual from an armadillo to a cockle. Indeed, some of the juniors had irreverently named him, "Our bivalve!" and others had solemnly declared that he was qualifying for La Trappei— "a very proper place," echoed one of the impertinent juniors, for a Rattenbury! But Cyril was destined to be astonished to a still greater extent, " for," his companion added, "we are very quiet people, but Mrs. Rattenbury will be glad to welcome any friend of mine!"
"Lo! there is a Mrs. Rattenbnry," thought Cyril, "the oyster has a wife, perhaps some children, also." But he accepted the invitation as frankly as it was given; he really was thankful to escape from Mrs." Matthews' dinner-table, and he had, moreover, some curiosity to behold Rattenbury in what penny-aliners would term " the bosom of his family.'" So, instead of stopping the cab at the end of the dreary little street, crammed in behind its grander neighbours, in which Mrs. Matthews' family (she never called the people under her roof boarders, that was" so vulgar," Angelina said), in which her family took reflection, recreation, and repose, they drove straight on to Pibroch Place, so named by an enthusiastic Scotchman, an exile from the land of cakes and heather.
And there, sure enough, they found Mrs. Rattenbury, a pretty little woman with flowing brown ringletB and very white hands, and she seemed very glad to see her husband, and two sturdy urchins in pinafores came tearing down the stairs, at the imminent risk of breaking their fat necks, to leap upon "papa," and din into his ears all that had transpired in Pibroch Place since the morning. "And whose him t" quoth the eldest hope of the house of Rattenbury, who rejoiced in the pet name of " Toodhtms," though he had been christened Edwin, touching Cyril while M Hpoke. Papa explained, and Toodluins was desired to shake hands, which he did very gallantly, pavely adding, as the ceremony was concluded; "I like you!" at which ingenuous confession Mrs. Rattenbury went into ecstacies, and l»attenbury laughed till the tears stood in his eyes. Yes, he really could laugh! Surely there were two Kattcnburies, the one who sat at a desk, and looked grim and stem
in Parliament-street, and the other who made glad the heart of wife and children in Pibroch Place. Cyril passed a very pleasant evening, and Mrs. Rattenbury played for him a few charming little airs, and sang, "I love the merry merry sunshine,1' and in another ballad coolly informed her audience that her heart "was over the sea," a fact which Cyril took the liberty of doubting, since her heart was evidently in Pibroch Place, one part of it in her cozy little drawingroom, and the other in that upper story, where Toodlums and Jack and their baby-sister were already asleep, or undergoing that species of torture known to children as "being put to bed!"
And Rattenbury himself, though a slow, grave talker, had a great deal to say, and all he said was sensible and kind, though now and then, as he discoursed on various topics, the cynical smile twisted the corners of his really handsome mouth, and there was a little sarcasm in his tone when he spoke of certain men and certain measures of which he disapproved. That he could utter very trenchant, withering sentences, Cyril knew quite well, but he did not know, and he had not suspected till that evening that Rattenbury was a very clever man, a profound thinker, a good talker, and certainly well read. They discussed all kinds of subjects, and Cyril, from the natural transparency of his character, quickly made his host master of nearly all his opinions, sentiments, and foibles. A more truthful, ingenuous nature, frank almost to simplicity, Mr. Rattenbury had never encountered, and he liked Cyril, and determined to be his friend.
Yes! it was really the pleasantest evening Cyril had spent since the commencement of his London life; and Minnie Rattenbury, though not exactly of the stamp of the well-born, highbred woman to which he had chiefly been accustomed, was quite the lady, with her gentle voice and pleasant ways, and pretty matronly airs; and then, her scallopped oysters were irresistible. And the little supper was elegantly served, and there was no vulgar
ostentation, no spurious genteel observances to disgust the man who had taken his seat hitherto with the upper ten thousand. All was neatness, simplicity, and order, and a cordial, unaffected hospitality.
Cyril began to think it must be a very pleasant and comfortable thing to go home really, not to a boardinghouse, but to a fireside of one's very own. When would he reach that happy goal of his desires? When would he come back from Westminster and find his beautiful, stately Elizabeth all smiles and tenderness, and all his own waiting to reecive him. But then Elizabeth could not live in Pibroch Place ; she ought to be the mistress of a Hyde Park mansion: aye, and she should be. He would strain every sinew, he ' would toil day and night, he would make himself a name, he would achieve a reputation ; for irhut he did not precisely know. Well! for diplomacy, or for literature, probably for both.
And he went back to Pimlico in the very best of spirits, telling himself that Rattenbury was a good fellow after all, yes. an excellent fellow, and his wife a charming little creature, and even Toodlums came in for his share of approbation. He sat up very late, reading "Chitty's Practice of the Law," which he had borrowed from a friendly barrister, for, as he told himself, it would be quite as well to be "up" in everything—certainly well up in the law, if it were only for the sake of the novels he meant some day to write, to the world's admiring wonder and his own great gain.
Mrs. Matthews' Family.
Two months passed quietly away after that visit to Pibroch Place, which proved to be the forerunner of many others, and Cyril became quite the family friend, and struck up a tremendous intimacy with Toodlums, who reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart, and believed "Undo Cillill," as he chose
to call him, to be the most wonderful, magnificent, and delightful creature in all the world. It did Cyril good, that quiet, homely intercourse with a simple-minded, true-hearted woman, and a merry little lad, who used to watch his coming from the barred nursery windows, and shout with honest joy when he beheld the well-known face and form. For as the spring crept on, Cyril's heart was very sore; he was longing for the greenwood paths and breezy downs of his own beloved Southamslxire—the unwonted confinement, the hard winter, and all the trouble and sorrow that it brought had affected his health; he was not ill, but he was nervous and languid, and haunted with feverish dreams of the pleasant country about Forest Range, and longings for the briny odour of the tossing waves of Southam water. Well, in another week those yearnings of his would be satisfied, for he was going down to Forest Range, that the private understanding between himself and his Elizabeth might become a recognised engagement. And yet his heart was sore and heavy, though why he scarcely knew.
The secret of his uneasiness really lay in the coldness and unfrequency of Miss Ashburcier's letters; he could not find any definite fault with them ; they were pleasant and natural, and in some sort acknowledged his claims, but there was it something in them far from satisfactory; they were more and more sisterly, and less and less loverlike, and never once did they recur to the 'period, now so close at hand, when the days of their probation would be ended, and they would be publicly recognised as a betrothed pair. Had Elizabethforgotten that the first week in May was to bring him to Forest Range, in the character of her affianced husband? Presently he began to ask if she had forgotten his very existence, for there came a complete hiatal, a blank and dreary time, during which no word of hers travelled from Southamshire to Pinihco. Had she really forgotten her life-long friend; was she changed? Miserable question, and miserable state of things that made the question necessary. Or was it only the native delicacy of her character that shrank from seeming to take the initiative at so critical a period? Yes! that was it. Fool that he was not to have thought of it before. So rare a creature as Elizabeth, though frank and most impulsive, would naturally retire into reserve and undemonstrativenessjust now—just now, when they were free to part for ever, or to clasp each other's hands in sacred trothplight that should last for aye. And so he laid the flattering unction to his soul. Poor Cyril! oh! poor Cyril!
It was a hot April afternoon: it had been one of those days when summer seems coming on us all at once; and the fire was let out in Mrs. Matthews' drawing-room, and the ladies of the " family" were fain to don the lighter fabrics for their evening toilet. Let me describe the circle, the very people with whom Cyril consorted day by day after business hours, unless he found his way to Pibroch Place.
Mrs. Matthews we have alluded to—mighty in frame, tall, broad, sinewy and bony, strong-minded, and, upon occasion, loud-voiced—a lady who evidently (let ns only whisper it) wore the masculine habiliments which constitute the headship of the house; and Mr. Matthews, lean and little, with lank jaw, small, meaningless nose, and deprecating glance, as if he were be gging pardon of society generally for showing his face therein; and Miss Angelina, who nightly looked at the moon and stars when they were visible in the firmament of Piralico, and at the chimney-pots when they were not, and sighed— "Oh, Cyril, Cyril! idol of my soul!" —while the unconscious idol was in his own room, probably writing romantic letters to Miss Ashburner, and sometimes Platonic notes to Agnes Craven, or else reading "Chitty," or "Macaulay," or trying his own unfledged pen in stanzas that might be immortal; or thinking about his lost ancestral home of Monkswood.of that quiet grave in the
chancel of St. Croix, of the cathedral at Soutlichester, of Minnie Rattenbury and her funny little Toodlums, of everything and everybody before the charming Angelina, who wu apostrophizing him in faulty English not many yards away. Poor Angelina! in vain thou braidest and frizzest thy auburn locks; in vain thou usest "Bloom de Ninon," hoping to tone down the roseate splendours of thy chubby cheeks; in vain thoa battiest with thy freckles; in vain thou wearest choice array of many colours, and deckest thyself daily for the dinner-table; for he whom thou adorest is insensible to thy charms, and regards thee no more than he regards the chairs and tables of the establishment—nay, not half so much as he regards the soup (I mean the postage), and the entrees, and the entremets, and the piece de resistance*, as Angelina always calls the hash, and rice blanc-mange, and round of beef, or leg of mutton, which grace the family board from day to day. The callous, insensate, insensible Cyril actually believes thee to be in love with young Gregory, a junior clerk in a foreign office, and a fellow boarder, or rather member of the "family."
Young Gregory is disposed of in a very few words: he is harmless, conceited, and rather pretty, of moderately amiable disposition, given to fall violently in love with popular actresses and prima donnas, and likes to be considered "fast," though, happily for his parents' peace of mind, in their home far away among the Yorkshire hills, his fastness is a mere pretence; he is too mild, too modest, for all his amusing selfassertion—too well principled to plunge into the horrible vortex of crime and inevitable misery which really being "fast" implies! But of Cyril he is furiously jealous.
Next, we must consider Mr. and Mrs. Battelbringor, said to be of German origin, that is, Mr. Battolbringer is, his lady was a " maid of Kent." And now, as a matron of Pimlioo, she affects literary tastes, raves about art, shakes her head, and tells you in confidence she is "nne femme inwmprise;" she doe»