3337923Eugene Aram — Book 4, Chapter II.Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer



"This way of talking of his very much enlivens the conversation among us of a more sedate turn."—Spectator, No. 3.

Walter found, while he made search himself, that it was no easy matter, in so large a county as Yorkshire, to obtain even the preliminary particulars, viz. the place of residence, and the name of the Colonel from India whose dying gift his father had left the house of the worthy Courtland, to claim and receive. But the moment he committed the inquiry to the care of an active and intelligent lawyer, the case seemed to brighten up prodigiously; and Walter was shortly informed that a Colonel Elmore, who had been in India, had died in the year 17—; that by a reference to his will it appeared that he had left to Daniel Clarke the sum of a thousand pounds, and the house in which he resided before his death, the latter being merely leasehold at a high rent, was specified in the will to be of small value: it was situated in the outskirts of Knaresborough. It was also discovered that a Mr. Jonas Elmore, the only surviving executor of the will, and a distant relation of the deceased Colonel's, lived about fifty miles from York, and could, in all probability, better than any one, afford Walter those farther particulars of which he was so desirous to be informed. Walter immediately proposed to his lawyer to accompany him to this gentleman's house; but it so happened that the lawyer could not, for three or four days, leave his business at York, and Walter, exceedingly impatient to proceed on the intelligence thus granted him, and disliking the meagre information obtained from letters, when a personal interview could be obtained, resolved himself to repair to Mr. Jonas Elmore's without farther delay; and behold, therefore, our worthy Corporal and his master again mounted, and commencing a new journey.

The Corporal, always fond of adventure, was in high spirits.

"See, Sir," said he to his master, patting with great affection the neck of his steed, "See, Sir, how brisk the creturs are; what a deal of good their long rest at York city's done'em. Ah, your honour, what a fine town that ere be!—yet," added the Corporal, with an air of great superiority, "it gives you no notion of Lunnun, like—on the faith of a man, no!"

"Well, Bunting, perhaps we may be in London within a month hence."

"And afore we gets there, your honour,—no offence,—but should like to give you some advice; 'tis ticklish place, that Lunnun, and though you be by no manner of means deficient in genus, yet, Sir, you be young, and I be—"

"Old,—true, Bunting," added Walter very gravely.

"Augh—bother! old, Sir, old, Sir!—A man in the prime of life,—hair coal black, (bating a few grey ones that have had, since twenty—care, and military service, Sir,)—carriage straight,—teeth strong,—not an ail in the world, bating the rheumatics—is not old, Sir,—not by no manner of means,—baugh!"

"You are very right, Bunting; when I said old, I meant experienced. I assure you I shall be very grateful for your advice; and suppose, while we walk our horses up this hill, you begin lecture the first. London's a fruitful subject. All you can say on it won't be soon exhausted."

"Ah, may well say that," replied the Corporal, exceedingly flattered with the permission he had obtained, "and any thing my poor wit can suggest, quite at your honour's sarvice—ehem!— hem! You must know by Lunnun, I means the world, and by the world means Lunnun,—know one—know t'other. But 'tis not them as affects to be most knowing as be so at bottom. Begging your honour's pardon, I thinks gentlefolks what lives only with gentlefolks, and call themselves men of the world, be often no wiser nor Pagan creturs, and live in a gentile darkness."

"The true knowledge of the world," said Walter, "is only then for the Corporals of the Forty-second,—eh, Bunting?"

"As to that, Sir," quoth the Corporal, "'tis not being of this calling or of that calling that helps one on; 'tis an inborn sort of genus the talent of obsarving, and growing wise by obsarving. One picks up crumb here, crumb there: but if one has not good digestion, Lord, what sinnifies a feast?—Healthy man thrives on a 'tatoe, sickly looks pale on a haunch. You sees, your honour, as I said afore, I was own sarvant to Colonel Dysart; he was a Lord's nephy, a very gay gentleman, and great hand with the ladies,—not a man more in the world;—so I had the opportunity of larning what's what among the best set; at his honour's expense, too,—augh! To my mind, Sir, there is not a place from which a man has a better view of things than the bit carpet behind a gentleman's chair. The gentleman eats, and talks, and swears, and jests, and plays cards and makes love, and tries to cheat, and is cheated, and his man stands behind with his eyes and ears open,—augh!"

"One should go to service to learn diplomacy, I see," said Walter, greatly amused.

"Does not know what 'plomacy be, Sir, but knows it would be better for many a young master nor all the Colleges;—would not be so many bubbles if my Lord could take a turn now and then with John. A-well, Sir!—how I used to laugh in my sleeve like, when I saw my master, who was thought the knowingest gentleman about Court, taken in every day smack afore my face. There was one lady whom he had tried hard, as he thought, to get away from her husband; and he used to be so mighty pleased at every glance from her brown eyes—and be d—d to them!—and so careful the husband should not see—so pluming himself on his discretion here, and his conquest there,—when, Lord bless you, it was all settled 'twixt man and wife aforehand! And while the Colonel laughed at the cuckold, the cuckold laughed at the dupe. For you sees, Sir, as how the Colonel was a rich man, and the jewels as he bought for the lady went half into the husband's pocket—he! he!—That's the way of the world, Sir,—that's the way of the world!"

"Upon my word, you draw a very bad picture of the world: you colour highly; and, by the way, I observe that whenever you find any man committing a roguish action, instead of calling him a scoundrel, you show those great teeth of yours, and chuckle out 'A man of the world! a man of the world!'"

"To be sure, your honour; the proper name, too. 'Tis your green-horns who fly into a passion, and use hard words. You see, Sir, there's one thing we larn afore all other things in the world—to butter bread. Knowledge of others, means only the knowledge which side bread's buttered. In short, Sir, the wiser grow, the more take care of oursels. Some persons make a mistake, and, in trying to take care of themsels, run neck into halter—baugh! they are not rascals—they are would-be men of the world. Others be more prudent, (for, as I said afore, Sir, discretion is a pair of stirrups;) they be the true men of the world."

"I should have thought," said Walter, "that the knowledge of the world might be that knowledge which preserves us from being cheated, but not that which enables us to cheat."

"Augh!" quoth the Corporal, with that sort of smile with which you see an old philosopher put down a sounding error from the lips of a young disciple who flatters himself he has uttered something prodigiously fine,—"Augh! and did not I tell you, t'other day, to look at the professions, your honour? What would a laryer be if he did not know how to cheat a witness and humbug a jury?—knows he is lying,—why is he lying? for love of his fees, or his fame like, which gets fees;—Augh! is not that cheating others?—The doctor, too, Master Fillgrave, for instance?—"

"Say no more of doctors; I abandon them to your satire, without a word."

"The lying knaves! Don't they say one's well when one's ill—ill when one's well?—profess to know what don't know?—thrust solemn phizzes into every abomination, as if larning lay hid in a—? and all for their neighbours' money, or their own reputation, which makes money—augh! In short, Sir—look where will, impossible to see so much cheating allowed, praised, encouraged, and feel very angry with a cheat who has only made a mistake. But when I sees a man butter his bread carefully—knife steady—butter thick, and hungry fellows looking on and licking chops—mothers stopping their brats—'See, child—respectable man—how thick his bread's buttered!—pull off your hat to him:'—When I sees that, my heart warms: there's the true man of the world—augh!"

"Well, Bunting," said Walter, laughing, "though you are thus lenient to those unfortunate gentlemen whom others call rogues, and thus laudatory of gentlemen who are at best discreetly selfish, I suppose you admit the possibility of virtue, and your heart warms as much when you see a man of worth as when you see a man of the world?"

"Why, you knows, your honour," answered the Corporal, "so far as vartue's concerned, there's a deal in constitution; but as for knowledge of the world, one gets it oneself!"

"I don't wonder, Bunting—as your opinion of women is much the same as your opinion of men—that you are still unmarried."

"Augh! but your honour mistakes!—I am no mice-and-trope. Men are neither one thing nor t'other—neither good nor bad. A prudent parson has nothing to fear from 'em—nor a foolish one any thing to gain—baugh! As to the women creturs, your honour, as I said, vartue's a deal in the constitution. Would not ask what a lassie's mind be—nor what her eddycation;—but see what her habits be, that's all—habits and constitution all one—play into one another's hands."

"And what sort of signs, Bunting, would you mostly esteem in a lady?"

"First place, Sir—woman I'd marry, must not mope when alone!—must be able to 'muse herself; must be easily 'mused. That's a great sign, Sir, of an innocent mind, to be tickled with straws. Besides, employments keeps 'em out of harm's way. Second place, should obsarve, if she was very fond of places, your honour—sorry to move—that's a sure sign she won't tire easily; but that if she like you now from fancy, she'll like you by and by from custom. Thirdly, your honour, she should not be avarse to dress—a leaning that way shows she has a desire to please: people who don't care about pleasing, always sullen. Fourthly, she must bear to be crossed—I'd be quite sure that she might be contradicted, without mumping or storming;—'cause then, you knows, your honour, if she wanted any thing expensive—need not give it—augh! Fifthly, must not be over religious, your honour; they pyehouse she-creturs always thinks themsels so much better nor we men;—don't understand our language and ways, your honour: they wants us not only to belave, but to tremble—bother!"

"I like your description well enough, on the whole," said Walter, "and when I look out for a wife, I shall come to you for advice."

"Your honour may have it already—Miss Ellinor's jist the thing."

Walter turned away his head, and told Bunting, with great show of indignation, not to be a fool.

The Corporal, who was not quite certain of his ground here, but who knew that Madeline, at all events, was going to be married to Aram, and deemed it, therefore, quite useless to waste any praise upon her, thought that a few random shots of eulogium were worth throwing away on a chance, and consequently continued.

"Augh, your honour—'tis not 'cause I have eyes, that I be's a fool. Miss Ellinor and your honour be only cousins, to be sure; but more like brother and sister, nor any thing else. Howsomever, she's a rare cretur, whoever gets her has a face that puts one in good-humour with the world, if one sees it first thing in the morning—'tis as good as the sun in July—augh! But, as I was saying, your honour—'bout the women—creturs in general——"

"Enough of them, Bunting; let us suppose you have been so fortunate as to find one to suit you—how would you woo her? Of course, there are certain secrets of courtship, which you will not hesitate to impart to one, who, like me, wants such assistance from art—much more than you can do, who are so bountifully favoured by Nature."

"As to Nature," replied the Corporal, with considerable modesty, for he never disputed the truth of the compliment—"'tis not 'cause a man be six feet without's shoes, that he's any nearer to lady's heart. Sir, I will own to you, howsomever it makes 'gainst your honour and myself, for that matter—that don't think one is a bit more lucky with the ladies for being so handsome! 'Tis all very well with them ere willing ones, your honour—caught at a glance; but as for the better sort, one's beauty's all bother! Why, Sir, when we see some of the most fortunatest men among she-creturs—what poor little minnikens they be! One's a dwarf—another knock-kneed—a third squints—and a fourth might be shown for a hape! Neither, Sir, is it your soft, insinivating, die-away youths, as seem at first so seductive; they do very well for lovers, your honour; but then it's always rejected ones! Neither, your honour, does the art of succeeding with the ladies 'quire all those finniken, nimini-pinimi's, flourishes, and maxims, and saws, which the Colonel, my old master, and the great gentlefolks, as be knowing, call the art of love—baugh! The whole science, Sir, consists in these two rules—'Ask soon, and ask often.'"

"There seems no great difficulty in them, Bunting."

"Not to us who has gumption, Sir; but then there is summut in the manner of axing—one can't be too hot—can't flatter too much—and, above all, one must never take a refusal. There, Sir, now—if you takes my advice—may break the peace of all the husbands in Lunnun—bother—whaugh!"

"My uncle little knows what a praiseworthy tutor he has secured me in you, Bunting," said Walter, laughing: "And now, while the road is so good, let us make the most of it."

As they had set out late in the day, and the Corporal was fearful of another attack from a hedge, he resolved, that about evening, one of the horses should be seized with a sudden lameness, (which he effected by slily inserting a stone between the shoe and the hoof,) that required immediate attention and a night's rest; so that it was not till the early noon of the next day that our travellers entered the village in which Mr. Jonas Elmore resided.

It was a soft, tranquil day, though one of the very last in October; for the reader will remember that Time had not stood still during Walter's submission to the care of Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, and his subsequent journey and researches.

The sun-light rested on a broad patch of green heath, covered with furze, and around it were scattered the cottages and farm-houses of the little village. On the other side, as Walter descended the gentle hill that led into this remote hamlet, wide and flat meadows, interspersed with several fresh and shaded ponds, stretched away towards a belt of rich woodland gorgeous with the melancholy pomp by which the "regal year" seeks to veil its decay. Among these meadows you might now see groups of cattle quietly grazing, or standing half hid in the still and sheltered pools. Still farther, crossing to the woods, a solitary sportsman walked careless on, surrounded by some half a dozen spaniels, and the shrill small tongue of one younger straggler of the canine crew, who had broke indecorously from the rest, and already entered the wood, might be just heard, softened down by the distance, into a wild, cheery sound, that animated, without disturbing, the serenity of the scene.

"After all," said Walter aloud, "the scholar was right—there is nothing like the country!"

"Be them Verses in the Psalms, Sir?" said the Corporal, who was close behind.

"No, Bunting; but they were written by one who, if I recollect right, set the Psalms to verse:[1] I hope they meet with your approbation?"

"Indeed, Sir, and no—since they ben't in the Psalms, one has no right to think about 'em at all."

"And why, Mr. Critic?"

"'Cause what's the use of security, if one's innocent, and does not mean to take advantage of it—baugh! One does not lock the door for nothing, your honour!"

"You shall enlarge on that honest doctrine of yours another time; meanwhile, call that shepherd, and ask the way to Mr. Elmore's."

The Corporal obeyed, and found that a clump of trees, at the farther corner of the waste land, was the grove that surrounded Mr. Elmore's house; a short canter across the heath brought them to a white gate, and having passed this, a comfortable brick mansion of moderate size stood before them.