Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/The science of matrimony - Part 3

Illustrated by John Leech.


Part 2

THE SCIENCE OF MATRIMONY.

(Continued from p. 364.)

MOUNTCHAUNCEY HOUSE.

When the young ladies were left alone, I am afraid they did not seriously devote themselves to the arithmetical problem propounded for their consideration by Miss Harriet Mountchauncey. Some few abortive attempts at the solution of the intricate question of how a family can be supported upon an expenditure of 1200l. per annum were indeed made, but there was an obvious tendency in the minds of these fair young creatures to postpone the Useful to the Beautiful, and a total oblivion of such vulgar items as “water-rates,” “rent,” “butchers’ bills,” and so on. Miss S. Tender was of opinion that it would be a good idea to increase her capital by keeping a Fashionable Circulating Library—a speculation from which, independently of the immediate commercial advantages on which she was surely entitled to calculate, she might hope for the collateral privilege of obtaining the earliest sight of the very newest Tales and Romances which issued from the Press; and, possibly, for the acquaintance of those ladies and gentlemen who delighted the human race by such outpourings of genius. Miss Sprott’s notion was, that it would be excellent fun to live in a caravan: a project which involved a total immunity from all vulgar disbursements, and released well nigh the whole of the available income for more pleasurable forms of expenditure. Miss O’Rourke, if driven to choose between a family residence and an Opera-Box, could not have a moment’s hesitation in electing for a sweet little retreat on the Pit Tier, just in face of the Royal Box. On the whole, there was possibly in all the estimates an over-allowance for dress, and a comparative ignoring of the claims of the Laundress and the Dairymaid.

One pupil only had kept apart from the sister-band during the very short time they devoted to the task imposed upon them by Miss Mountchauncey, and this one was little Lucy Trimmer, whose “hopeless simplicity of character”—as Miss H. M. had often told her, and as has before been mentioned—“would eventually prove her ruin.” It was quite in vain that the two ladies, whose system had won for them so widely-extended and so honourable a reputation, attempted to give that hardness and polish to her mind which could alone fit her for the struggle of life. She was detected more than once in making up some little nick-nacks for her young brother and sister, who were now on their way home from India, under the charge of their parents. They had been driven from their indigo-plantations in Bengal by the events of the great mutiny; and since she had heard of the proximate arrival of her own people, poor little Lucy had spent her time between laughing and crying—a proceeding so undignified, and for so trivial a cause—that it had brought down upon her head the most severe and cutting rebukes from her excellent instructress. I grieve to say, that, taking a guilty advantage of that lady’s absence, little Lucy had drawn from her breast a letter bearing the Bombay post-mark, for the purpose of perusing its contents for the 117th time. It only contained some nonsense about “my own darling child,” and “the long years since my pretty Lucy was taken from me,” and “thousands of kisses from your loving mother,” and other such trivial stuff, utterly unworthy the attention of any person of well-regulated mind. Miss H. M.’s step was heard on the stairs, so Lucy smuggled her literary treasure again into its place of deposit—a proceeding effected in a sly and ignoble manner by thrusting it well down under the little linen collar and blue ribbon which kept all things in their place. Miss Harriet Mountchauncey entered, introducing a gentleman—our old acquaintance—Mr. Brown.

“My loves,” said Miss Harriet, “young ladies—ahem!—I have taken the liberty of introducing to you a strange gentleman.”

The pupils looked up with a timid start, like fawns aware of the presence of their natural enemy.

“Yes, my sweet young friends, and I am fully conscious of the grave responsibilities I incur in taking such a step; but when I tell you that my reason for venturing to present Mr. Brown to your notice is, that Mr. Brown craves admission to your society, and to the advantages of Mountchauncey House, for three young ladies—his nieces—I am sure you will feel with me that I was not wholly unjustified in the course I adopted not without the maturest deliberation. When he has seen what he is about to see here, Mr. Brown will return to town more than ever satisfied with the result of his negotiations at Mountchauncey House.”

The six pupils made six stiff bows.

“And, now, Mr. Brown—be seated, sir—you would probably like to know something of the system which has earned for this establishment a reputation—as I trust—not altogether unmerited.”

“Certainly, madam, that was the object of my visit to Helmston.”

“Arrived, sir, at the point at which we are, I have no hesitation in furnishing you with the key of the Mountchauncey System. Before my time the usual plan was to keep such fair young beings as the lovely creatures you see around you in perfect ignorance of the ways of the world, where their great and decisive battle was to be fought. I adopt the very opposite course. I point out to them the pit-falls. I suggest the traps. No young lady ever left Mountchauncey House without being well aware of the great—the vast—the enormous—the impassable gulf which divides the Elder from the younger Son. Do you follow me, sir?”

“I do, madam,” replied Mr. Brown, with a shudder; “but I should have thought there might be danger in trusting such very edged tools into such very inexperienced hands.”

Miss Harriet Mountchauncey looked at him with a smile of commiseration.

“Not under my direction, sir. With a firm hand I draw the fangs from that painted serpent—man, and leave him to wriggle about the floor in his toothless insignificance for the instruction of my pupils. I exhaust the history of what is called a love-match—Phew!—to its last results. I show them the slim and whiskered Augustus of three-and-twenty—disagreeable, and forty. I have a trained and well disciplined staff at my command, some of whom are instructed to dun the heroine of one of these love-matches;—Phew!—for their little accounts. A housemaid of unparalleled insolence is kept in the establishment for the sole purpose of giving her notice, because three-quarters’ wages are due to her, and because no man-servant is kept. A room is maintained in a permanent state of squalor up-stairs which is her future home. It then becomes her duty to feed seven Sunday-school children, who have been kept purposely fasting for twenty-four hours on small and insufficient rations of cold mutton. The children cry, and ask for more—but they cannot have it. It is not there—more cold mutton does not exist for them. This is the moment I select for introducing the page of the establishment—do not be alarmed, sir—he is hideous and fifty! I have gone so far as to allow him to smoke a filthy pipe—and to drink a horrible glass of hot rum and water, with his clumsy feet on the hob in the pupil’s sacred presence—that I may say with full force—behold, my love, the destiny of The Poor Man’s Wife,—behold, and tremble!”

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A Little Drama. The Mountchauncey System.

“A sad picture indeed, madam; but does not sometimes mutual affection gild and sanctify even so sorrowful a spectacle as the one which you have so graphically delineated?”

“Never, sir, never—except in immoral works of fiction written for the express purpose of bringing curates, half-pay captains, starving barristers, and other such low wretches into vogue. But I have only shown you yet one side of the picture. When the misery of this foul apartment is at its height—a flyman, paid by the job (he is not on our permanent staff), is instructed to inflict upon the door of Mountchauncey House one of those long and sonorous salutations which announce the proximate advent of the wealthy—the happy—the aristocratic! A former fellow pupil at Mountchauncey House calls upon the miserable woman whose sufferings I have just described to you. Her dress is in the last style of fashion. In winter she wears an Indian shawl given to my sister, Miss Belinda Mountchauncey—to whom you will shortly have the honour of being presented, by our late uncle, Major-General Roger Mountchauncey, C.B.—she is accompanied by two children—her latest cherubs—in velvet tunics—one bears an ivory Noah’s Ark—the other a humming top in blue enamel. They enter the apartment of the Poor Man’s Wife whilst the Irish Housemaid is in the act of giving notice—and the husband is inflicting corporal chastisement upon one of the hungry and howling children, whilst the lady is hanging upon his arm, and imploring him to desist. The Rich Man’s Wife glides into the room like the glorious sun, with two beauteous satellites in attendance. She does not appear to notice the misery around her, but the Poor Man’s Wife feels that she has taken it in to the last potato-paring. She converses about her trials—Lady Boldathers has ignobly tricked her out of a box on the Grand Tier at the Opera, on which she had set her heart—Sir Eustace has spent so much at the last contest for the county, that she must deny herself a tiara of sapphires and diamonds which would have suited her complexion exactly. At the last Queen’s Ball, Lord Glittergarterville—the Gold Stick in waiting—did not pay her all the deference to which she was entitled—and Oh! but it was hard to be slighted by a Gold Stick; She then compliments her friend upon the healthy appearance of her children;—asks where she attends service?—for, after all, life with its vanities passes away like a shadow!—refers to the old happy days at Mountchauncey House, when they two had started in life upon equal terms;—gives a little tract of an elevating and soul-purifying character to each of the hungry, dirty children;—remembers that it is Opera Night,—and that Sir Eustace had requested her to meet him at Hunt and Roskell’s—it might be a surprise,—men are such odd creatures;—and so the Rich Man’s Wife glides out of the room to her jeweller’s—leaving the Poor Man’s Wife to the remains of the cold mutton, and her meditations. This is a general outline of the little drama which I cause to be rehearsed in fifty forms for the instruction of my pupils. What think you of the Mountchauncey system, Mr.—a—a—ahem—Brown?”

“I have no doubt, madam, that it is forcibly efficient—but under it I do not exactly see what is to become of the poor men.”

“They must remain, sir, in their odious insignificance, and go to sea, or fight the battles and do the dirty work of the country generally; unless, indeed, they have sufficient energy to take their coats off and go to the diggings, and bring back such a sum of money as any lady would consider it worth her while to spend for them.”

“But surely, madam, even with a view to the advancement of your amiable pupils in life, it is scarcely politic to announce boldly that their sole object is to contract a wealthy marriage?—for even the poor fools who have balances at their banker’s, and estates in land, are so ridiculous as to desire some small share of affection for their own sakes.”

“I waited for you there, sir. If I may say so without an abuse of speech, that consideration is the second key-note of my system. Miss Selina Tender, I am a half-pay Commander in the Navy—my name is Smith. I am leaning over your chair—my eye seeks yours in vain—I request you to breathe forth your soul in music.”

Miss Selina Tender (moving her head about in a discontented way). “Oh! I can’t sing to-night—my head aches; my throat is sore; I have been singing all the morning; I hate singing before strangers; I won’t!”

Miss Harriet Mountchauncey. “I am a Lincolnshire Baronet; age twenty-two—a long minority; slate-quarries in Wales—highly recommended by your estimable aunt—my hair is red—I am freckled—short and stout. I ask you if you can’t give us a song?”

Miss Selina Tender (with an inspired look).

“Ah! Sir John, I divined that you were a fellow enthusiast. Music is indeed the language of the soul. I never sing but to please one whose soul is touched with kindred fire. Yes! I will sing for you, but upon one condition—now mind, upon one condition,” (archly shaking her sweet finger at the slate-quarries, and making eyes), “that is, that you must turn over the leaves for me. Oh! what it is to me to spurn the earth in company with a kindred soul! Shall I begin with Beautiful Star?”

With these words, Miss Selina—giddy thing!—ran over to the piano, and delivered herself of the following inspired composition:—

The Beautiful Star.
(Cantabile e con molta simplicità.)


Beautiful Star! Beautiful Star!
Angel of Night, in thy radiant car
With none to love me how sad thy gaze,
Pour on my heart thy balmy rays!
Scenes that are brightest may charm awhile,
The world may woo me with heartless smile!
I am not loved here—so I love afar—
And my love is for thee, thou—Beautiful Star!

As I muse on the treasures of love I bear,
They are scatter’d like dreams on the perfumed air;
Shall my aching spirit ever know
Passion’s entrancing ebb and flow?
O yes! I could love—that must not be!—
Earth holds no rapture like that for me.
Let me pass to the world where Spirits are,
And my love be for thee, thou—Beautiful Star!

“Now, sir, what do you suppose would be the effect of that entrancing melody upon the soul of that young and aspiring Lincolnshire Baronet? Would he not, sir, feel that he was loved for his own sake, and that he must be a brute indeed, if, after having excited so maddening a passion in the virgin heart of a young, ingenuous girl, he was to refuse to crown her innocent flame? Every pupil who leaves Mountchauncey House is instructed how to play out a final card of this suit. A little extra bandoline gives a damp and sickly appearance to the hair—nothing is simpler than to bring the rest of the physiognomy into harmony with the once glossy, but now damp and faded tresses. When the gentleman is about to call upon his last visit, let the door be opened before he knocks—let the young lady be found in a darkened room, singing to herself in a disconsolate way some melancholy song. That expedient has never been known to fail, sir. A gentleman who owned a large river-frontage at Melbourne, and who had spent half his life beating bullocks with a big whip, was brought down upon his knees and to a sense of his situation by a little simple melody. He implored for forgiveness, and he was forgiven. He escaped from all the anxieties of life shortly afterwards, leaving his disconsolate widow his universal legatee and sole executrix.”

“Did he though, poor man!” said Mr. Brown. “But I presume, madam, you do not confine your pupils to the arts of poetry and music; you give muscle to their souls by enforcing upon them the study of the severer sciences?”

“Quite right, Mr. Brown, quite right. Though how a gentleman made the discovery! Well, well. You are quite right; dancing is the great corrective and tonic of the mind. You never yet heard of a professional dancer marring her fortune by the ill-timed indulgence of sentiment. Dancing, in fact, hardens the a-hems and the heart.”

“But, madam, just in the same way that it develops the a-hems, may it not also develop the heart?”

“No, no; certainly not. The a-hems are developed and hardened—the heart is contracted and hardened. There is the difference. Then at Mountchauncey House we practise the science of arithmetic in a very complete manner, and the young ladies are carefully instructed in the relative values of securities.

“I think these are the chief points which occupy our attention; and I can only assure you, sir, that the excellence of the Mountchauncey system is proved by the results. There is not an instance of a pupil from this establishment who has married otherwise than well.”

“That is all, madam, that I desired to know; and now nothing remains but that I should make a few inquiries of a more common-place, but still indispensable, nature.”

“You allude, sir, to commercial considerations? Those lie in the department of my sister, Miss Belinda Mountchauncey, to whom I will now do myself the honour of presenting you.”

With these words Miss H. M. rose; Mr. Brown bowed, and took his leave of the young ladies.

HAPPY JONES.

When Mr. Brown returned to his hotel from Mountchauncey House, he found a telegram conceived in these terms:

Knocker to Brown.

London—Helmston.

Happy Jones—communication—twins—come off at once. Be here to-day by 3.30 p.m. train. Immediate.

The telegram evidently required his instant presence in London—but where was Mr. Meek? When last seen, he was observed to be riding a tall chesnut horse in the direction of Putridcanonbury with five ladies—he the only gentleman of the party. He was riding in front between two ladies—three ladies behind constituted the rear guard. What was to be done? There was only half-an-hour until the departure of the train, and here was poor Meek cantering away towards destruction—surrounded by his natural enemies, and rather liking it than not. With the instant decision of a man of superior intellect, Mr. Brown determined that either Mr. Meek would return to the hotel, or he would not. He resolved to provide against either contingency. He called for pen, ink, and paper,—directed Boots to pack up his bag, and summon to the door the swiftest fly in Helmston—told the waiter to bring him his bill, and a glass of draught Bitter Ale, and set himself down to carry out the literary portion of his scheme. First, he would deal with the alternative that Mr. Meek would return to the hotel to dine off the joint at 5.30, as arranged. Here was the result:

The Britannia, Wednesday, 2.55 p.m.

Dear Meek,—I am summoned up to town by our mutual friend, Knocker, on business connected with a certain Mrs. Jones, which will not, as it seems, admit of any delay. I shall be down to-morrow by early train, but, at any rate, you will hear of me by telegraph. Meanwhile—rash and unguarded man!—what are you about? You are on the verge of a precipice. Beware! I have heard of the manner in which you are employing your morning. Do not put me off with vain pretexts to the effect that you are merely engaged in philosophic investigation. Meek! it is not so, and you know it! Dalilah was too much for Samson—a man of considerable energy. You are not a man of any energy at all—what can one Meek do against five Dalilahs? Tremble, and fly!

Here are my final directions. On receipt of this you will partake of a heavy dinner with as much Guinness’s Stout, and as little wine as may be. You will then betake yourself to the smoking-room of the Britannia, and remain there until 11.30 p.m. You will then be conducted by Boots—he is a man upon whom I can place reliance—to your bedchamber. At 7.45 a.m. Boots will call you—see you tubbed, shaved, dressed, and breakfasted. At 9 a.m. he will deposit you in a lively yawl—The Bounding Brothers, which will at once put out to sea, with, directions to lie off and on Helmston, until a particular signal is made from my bedroom-window in the upper storey of the Britannia; that signal will be the display of a pair of Top Boots. When you can make these out in a line with the tall chimney of Robb’s Bath, you are safe, and may land. I will be there.

Your affectionate friend,
David Brown.

P.S.—Wind and weather must not be taken into account. You would be safer on the Goodwins at half-ebb, with a strong gale from the S.W., than where you are.

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Beautiful Star. (See p. 414.)

This letter was sealed, directed to Josiah Meek, Esq., and entrusted to Boots. Mr. Brown guarded against the second contingency—namely, that Mr. Meek would not return to the hotel—by composing a short melo-dramatic, yet explicit advertisement, which was to be inserted the next dayin a prominent portion of the Helmston Shaver. Thus it ran:

J.M. is implored to return at once to his mourning friend D.B. All will be forgotten, and forgiven. A letter is lying for J.M. at the B. Beware! Beware!

Boots was instructed to carry this note at once to the office of the Helmston Shaver, and Mr. Brown jumped into the fly, which conveyed him to the railway station, and the train in due course deposited him mt the great terminus in London. Mr. Launcelot Knocker was waiting for his friend on the platform, and before he allowed him to speak a word, he crammed him into a Hansom cab, with the directions of St. John’s Wood Chapel—and double fare for speed. As the two friends were driving along, Mr. Knocker explained to Mr. Brown that the existence of the G. C. Club had in some mysterious manner—upon which point he did not attempt to offer any explanation—come to the knowledge of a certain Mr. Jones, resident at No. 3, Olive Branch Row, St. John’s Wood. This gentleman, as it appeared, was largely interested in the discussion of all matrimonial questions, but he was directly opposed to the doctrine of the G. C. Club. He placed—after a very long, and very convincing experience, the height of human felicity in Connubial Bliss. He was, in fact, the gentleman who had acted as “The Times” Correspondent, when the great question of how to support a family in comfort on the sum of 300l. per annum was under discussion, under the famous signature of Happy Jones. He was now happier than ever, as his family had largely increased since the date of the controversy, and requested that a Deputation from the Club would call upon him at his house, and the sooner, the better; as he, Mr. Jones, was in confident expectation of the occurrence of another interesting event. Let the G. C.’s, if they would avoid the reproach of unfounded scurrility and malice, come and witness with their own eyes the spectacle of an Englishman’s happiness!

The Hansom Cab soon reached York Place, and turned into St. John’s Wood Road. There was indeed something suggestive of family bliss in the little detached cottages, each of which stood apart in its little garden. A bachelor would not dare to thrust his unseasonable nose into a region so sacred to family joys. The pavement on either side was thronged with Perambulators. Whenever any of the little doors which afforded entrance to the little gardens were opened, you saw inside swarms of lovely children engaged in their blessed sports and pastimes. At one house there was standing a cart, which contained a huge Rocking Horse—with a ticket upon it of “A surprise for Freddy”—heavy, middle-aged gentlemen were drawing near to their blissful bowers—some bearing Noah’s Arks; some, paper bags containing Tops and Bottoms from Robb’s in St. Martin’s Lane—others, bottles of Dolby’s Cordial, a specific for children during Teething. The region was bright, sunshiny—and fresh. There was a twinny and prolific feeling in the air.

On—on! to No. 3, Olive Branch Row. There was no mistake about the house. On the front door, which opened into the road, a board was hanging out, with the inscription—

No Noise,
Push the Door!

When you did so, you found yourself in a garden which was divided off into little gardens with little labels denoting that the little patches were severally the property of—1, Jemmy; 2, Stephen; 3,Mary; 4, Jane; 5, Adolphus; 6, Sophy; 7, Louis Napoleon; 8, Catharine Ann; then there was a double patch, with the names of (9, 10,) WilhelminaTom; and, finally, 11, Richard. The brass knocker on the green door was tied up with a white kid glove. As the cab drove up a stout middle-aged gentleman was standing on the trottoir, in a suit of plaid dittos and a Panama hat, and was thrusting his fist energetically in the face of a Savoyard, who was grinding upon his organ just under Mr. Jones’s window the tune of “Il segreto per essere felice.” Although a man of benevolent appearance, he was now much excited, and was expressing a wish that Savoy might soon pass under the stern rule of the French Emperor, whose first act, as he trusted, would be a treaty with England for the extradition of Savoyards. As the gentlemen drove up, they inquired of him whether this were Mr. Jones’s residence.

“Yes, gentlemen, it is—I am Mr. Jones!”

“We are the G.C.s.”

“Welcome, gentlemen! but at what a moment you are come! Here, you scoundrel! here’s a shilling—and go to the devil! What a moment! nurse tells me we may look for twins.”

Mr. Jones introduced them into the garden, where he was surrounded by his eleven existing olive branches—two of them being offered to his paternal embrace by a deputy nurse. At this moment a stout friendly-looking female face was thrust out from the window up-stairs over the door amongst the passion-flowers.

“A boy! a boy, sir!”

“Hurrah!”

“A girl! a girl, sir!”

“A mistake?”

“No, sir!—twins.”

“Hurrah! Tell Mrs. Jones to keep it up.”

Mr. Jones added, after a pause (during which no fresh announcement was made): “And now, gentlemen, will you walk in, and hear from me how an Englishman with a numerous family can enjoy perfect felicity on 300l. a-year.”

THE INDIAN MAIL.

The sun was going down behind the Rock, as a thrill passed through the huge frame of the Asia, marking the first revolutions of the screw which was to impel the good ship through the waters of the Atlantic on the last stage of her homeward voyage.

The passengers on board were not numerous. The first northward rush of the refugees from the Indian Mutiny was long since over, and the return of the officers who had done their work had not yet commenced, for the little garrison in Lucknow was still unrelieved. It was a time of pause, not of doubt, for the crowning victory at Delhi had proved that of the Englishman’s Raj from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin the end was not yet. But there was still plenty of stern work to be done in any case, even if the hot fever fit of rebellion should subside as quickly as it had risen into frenzy. One of the minor results was that very few passengers were on board the Asia as she steamed away on the night of which we are speaking, from under the heavy shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar across the Bay of Algeçiras and out into the Straits.

The white houses of San Roque soon faded in distance. Ceuta, too, on the African coast, which had been so anxiously looked for on the run from Malta, was now shut out. The far distant peaks of the Atlas Range might still be seen bathed in the rays of the setting sun. In latitude thirty-six degrees, the twilight is but of short duration, and the night dews begin to fall heavily almost before the sun has disappeared. The Asia kept on her way, and before she was well abreast of Tangier, day had changed into night. Shoals of porpoises were playing about, casting up the phosphorescent water as they rolled and tumbled in their sport. When Cape Spartel marked the entrance to the great Atlantic, now and again from the bulwarks of the Asia whales might be seen, and as they rose, plunged, and dived, and the water broke in streams from their backs, you would have taken them for gigantic black wheels in revolution. As a contrast to the uncouth performances of these sea monsters, it was pleasant to watch the millions upon millions of small fry shooting about many feet below the surface of the water. Each one of the millions was like a tiny ray of silver light darting about in the depths of the sea, and the whole display like an exhibition of fireworks at the court of King Neptune for the amusement of the Ocean Nymphs.

Amongst the passengers was Mr. Samuel Trimmer, an indigo planter, from Bengal, accompanied by his wife and two children—a boy and girl respectively—with a native bearer and nurse, or Ayah. The eldest daughter, Lucy, was now a pupil at the celebrated Boarding School and Finishing Establishment kept by the Misses Mountchauncey at Helmston, of which we already know something. The district of Bughumpore, in which Mr. Trimmer had carried on his industrial operations, had been over-run by the mutineers, and the lives of the Trimmer family had only been saved by the attachment of one or two of the native servants to Mrs. Trimmer, and in last resort by the courage and resolution of the lady herself.

Mr. S. Trimmer was not what is called a bad man, nor had he originally been deficient in that ordinary amount of physical nerve and dash which incites men to face danger boldly when they cannot help themselves. The sun of Bengal, however, had baked his original gifts out of him, and left him stranded on the quicksands of the most overwhelming indolence which ever oppressed the soul even of an Anglo-Bengalee. Poor Mrs. Trimmer’s chief difficulty at the moment when she was called upon to save her children by effecting a timely retreat into the jungle, where they might await, in comparative safety, the advance of a small British detachment—of which they had received advice—was to induce her husband to put on his socks; he could not understand what all the fuss was about. He was quite sure the mutineers would never take the trouble to come all the way to Trimmerobad for the mere pleasure of cutting their throats: it was so confoundedly hot; after dinner now, in the cool of the evening, he might be induced to entertain the question; but really it was too much to expect of a hard-worked man like him to risk a sun-stroke in the full heat of the day, just because Mrs. Trimmer was always foreseeing and foretelling calamities which never happened. Of course it was a different thing at Meerut, at Delhi, at Cawnpore, at Lucknow. Had he been in any of the places named, Mr. Trimmer would cheerfully have recognised the presence of danger: he would have loaded his revolver, mounted his war-horse, and cried “Ha, ha!” in concert with that spirited animal—there where the braying of the trumpets was the loudest. Under existing circumstances, Mr. T.’s programme was—a nap, tiffin, a nap, a light dinner, forty winks, and a cool ride into the jungle. Had this little arrangement been acted upon, another wink might have been added to the conventional estimate of forty, and that forty-first wink might have been of some duration.

Mrs. Trimmer, who was a small, pale woman, who looked as if she had been overboiled, and who under all circumstances—save her general conduct of the business and the entire control of the family arrangements—was a quiet and submissive wife enough, now got up a little mutiny on her own account, and caused her lethargic husband to be carted off into the jungle with her other belongings. She had never intended nor wished to play so imperial a part in the concerns of Trimmer & Co.; but as years passed on, the conviction was gradually forced upon her mind that the huge mass of humanity to which she had sworn respect and obedience was little better than an emphatic impostor. The wife thereupon took the reins of government into her own hands, but in a quiet and unobtrusive way, leaving outsiders to the belief that she simply took charge of minor points of detail that Mr. Trimmer’s mind might be left undisturbed to evolve those mighty commercial projects with which his brain was overwhelmed in calm and undisturbed serenity. Mrs. T. even went so far, that she persuaded her large husband that he really was a very remarkable man, but that it would be mistaken economy to waste his gifts upon the petty vexations, and hopes, and disappointments of business, when, by a single prolific thought, he might strike out fresh channels running with liquid gold, or good bills at two months’ date.

So far of the antecedents of the Trimmer family. It is better just now not to meddle too much with the Trimmer Chronicles—even with that portion of them which may be regarded as black letter, and which referred to their Indian career. Let us get back to the deck of the Asia, and there we shall find Mr. Trimmer lying upon a pile of cushions; and, arguing from the absolute repose of his body, we may suppose that his mind is grappling with a commercial combination of a more abstruse kind than usual. The two children are playing on the deck, to the immense delight of the two native servants, and Mrs. Trimmer is quietly looking on; but her thoughts are with the little girl from whom she has now been separated for six years, and whom she is now so shortly to see again.

“I wonder, Samuel, if we shall find Lucy very tall? She must now be sixteen, and that is just the age at which girls shoot up.”

Mr. Trimmer gazed at her with a lack-lustre eye. Why would she disturb his calculations?

“Eh?—hum—yes—shouldn’t wonder, Martha—growing’s nearly the only thing in the world that doesn’t give one any trouble. What a trouble talking is. I wonder when this fatiguing journey—will be over—makes me quite ill to think—of that wretched engine bumping up and down; just wrap the shawl round my feet—there’s a good woman.”

Mrs. Trimmer did so. An old wizened civilian paused in his steady pacing of the quarter-deck to speak with her. The poor little woman discharged all her duties in so unobtrusive a manner, and kept the children so well out of mischief, that she had won for herself the respect of Mr. McDunner, who was not generally an admirer of the fair sex.

“In three days, madam, at furthest, we shall be at Southampton, and” (with a sly glance at the vast meditative form of Trimmer) “you will be relieved from all the anxieties of the journey.”

Mrs. Trimmer was not the woman to hold her peace when a slight was cast upon her husband, so she quietly replied:

“I shall be glad of it, sir, for my husband’s sake more than my own. Twenty years of hard work up-country in India have told upon him, and so it will be a glad day for me when he u in reach of proper advice, and is sheltered from the chill evenings of these northern climates. Hadn’t you better put an extra shawl round your chest, Mr. McDunner?”

The old civilian was very open to attentions of this kind, for he really had been badly hit in the liver, and he liked to talk about people’s insides, and their ailments, and all that sort of thing. So he began to descant upon the superior advantages of the climate of India, which, but for certain little drawbacks in the nature of hot seasons, sand-storms, liver complaints, &c., &c., constituted, in Mr. McD.’s opinion, an earthly Paradise, in which he would have loved to disport himself throughout the whole of his earthly career. The night, however, fell deeper on the great heaving Atlantic as they were conversing, and the time had come when the children must be put to bed, and then the passengers were to have their tea, and there was to be a little card-playing, and certain interviews with the steward connected with the subject of slight stimulants; and then the lights would be put out by authority, and the Asia would cut her way past Cape St. Vincent, and abreast of Lisbon, and so from Finisterre to Ushant; and then, in a few hours more, to the Isle of Wight, and the Southampton Water, and all old familiar faces, and sights, and sounds.

The real business was to get Mr. Trimmer on his legs, and fairly in motion.

“Hallo! you sailor—lend me a hand.”

That was the first stop, but the point—as cricketers would say—didn’t always come clean off the bat, for it would occasionally happen that the blue-jacket whose aid was invoked would give such a pull as would have materially aided in getting up the ship’s anchor. Then Mr. Trimmer would be shot unduly forwards, and would have to be brought to his bearings. When this was accomplished, he would stand for a few moments, smiling placidly, like an athlete who had just accomplished a serious gymnastic feat. Then he had to be set in motion, and persuaded to trust himself to the perils of the “companion”—and at this point mistakes would occur, if he was encountered on his downward passage by an ascending deputy-steward with a tray. Altogether, it was not a trifling matter to get Mr. Trimmer transferred from his couch on deck to the couch below, on which he was to resume his commercial calculations.

All this labour fell mainly upon Mrs. Trimmer’s shoulders, and very daintily and carefully she accomplished it—throwing round her vast husband a sort of placid halo of invalidism, and by the mere tenderness of her watchful eye checking any undue tendency to hilarity amongst the bystanders. Most of them were quite prepared for any practical joke upon the hard-thinking Indigo Planter, but no one would have dared to be guilty of disrespect to him in the presence of his wife. This evening, Mr. Trimmer’s transfer to the regions below was effected without further accident than a stoppage on the companion, which terminated in a dead lock between that gentleman and a certain Mrs. Duncan Mulligat, and in the signal discomfiture of the lady named.

So Mr. Trimmer was at length landed on his couch, and then his wife turned her attention to the two little children who were duly prepared under her own inspection for their night’s rest, and instructed by her to offer up their prayers for the big planter, and for sister Lucy, who was now waiting for them on the shores of England. An hour or two more passed away and there was silence in the chief saloon—broken only by the snore of an uncomfortable sleeper—and the Asia kept proudly on her way past St. Vincent towards the English coast.

How bright the night is in those southern seas—and how solemnly the great moon seems to hang just over one’s head; and when the evening dews have fallen, how warm the air is, as one paces the deck, with the sound of the rushing waters falling fitfully on the ear. Far as the eye can reach around, nothing but water—water—everywhere reflecting the myriad stars with which the firmament is studded. The Asia held steadily on her way, and below were the sleepers dreaming of their English homes.

The night was so fair, and the sea so calm, that with the exception of the helmsmen, who at long intervals relieved each other at the wheel, the duties of the vessel seemed to be carried on drowsily enough. All that was necessary was to let the Asia have her own way, and she would take the shortest cut to the Southampton Water.

All things were proceeding so quietly as this, and it might have been two hours past midnight, when a small puff of smoke ascended from the fore-part of the Asia. What could it be? The smoke became a jet, but still the occurrence did not seem to attract any attention—until, at last, the smoke caught the eye of the officer of the watch, who ran forward, and commanding silence, rushed below to see what was amiss. Before he returned many startled figures made their appearance on deck in the forward part of the vessel, and a cry was raised of—"Fire! Fire!”

The Asia was on fire—she was far out at sea—and not a sail was in sight.

Little Lucy Trimmer just then was fast asleep in her white nest at Mountchauncey House, and her hand was under the pillow resting on the letter with the Bombay post-mark. Gamma

(To be continued.)