The further adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford under-graduate/Chapter 12
MR. VERDANT GREEN AND HIS FRIENDS ENJOY THE COMMEMORATION.
The Commemoration had come; and, among the people who were drawn to the sight from all parts of the country, the Warwickshire coach landed in Oxford our friends Mr. Green, his two eldest daughters, and the Rector—for all of whom Charles Larkyns had secured very comfortable lodgings in Oriel Street.
The weather was of the finest; and the beautiful city of colleges looked at its best. While the Rector met with old friends, and heard his son's praises, and renewed his acquaintance with his old haunts of study, Mr. Green again lionised Oxford in a much more comfortable and satisfactory manner than he had previously done at the heels of a professional guide. As for the young ladies, they were charmed with everything; for they had never before been in an University town, and all things had the fascination of novelty. Great were the luncheons held in Mr. Verdant Green's and Charles Larkyns' rooms; musical was the laughter that floated merrily through the grave old quads of Brazenface; happy were the two hearts that held converse with each other in those cool cloisters and shady gardens. How a few flounces and bright girlish smiles can change the aspect of the sternest homes of knowledge! How sunlight can be brought into the gloomiest nooks of learning by the beams that irradiate happy girlish faces, where the light of love and truth shines out clear and joyous! How the appearance of the Commemoration week is influenced in a way thus described by one of Oxonia's poets:—
"Peace! for in the gay procession brighter forms are borne along—
Fairer scholars, pleasure-beaming, float amid the classic throng.
Blither laughter's ringing music fills the haunts of men awhile,
And the sternest priests of knowledge blush beneath a maiden's smile.
Maidens teach a softer science—laughing Love his pinions dips,
Hush'd to hear fantastic whispers murmur'd from a pedant's lips.
Oh, believe it, throbbing pulses flutter under folds of starch,
And the Dons are human-hearted if the ladies' smiles be arch."
Thanks to the influence of Charles Larkyns and his father, the party were enabled to see all that was to be seen during the Commemoration week. On the Saturday night they went to the amateur concert at the Town Hall, in aid of which, strange to say, Mr. Bouncer's proffer of his big drum had been declined. On the Sunday they went, in the morning, to St. Mary's to hear the Bampton lecture; and, in the afternoon, to the magnificent choral service at New College. In the evening they attended the customary "Show Sunday" promenade in Christ Church Broad Walk, where, under the delicious cool of the luxuriant foliage, they met all the rank, beauty, and fashion that were assembled in Oxford; and where, until Tom "tolled the hour for retiring," they threaded their way amid a miscellaneous crowd of Dons and Doctors, and Tufts and Heads of Houses,—
With prudes for Proctors, dowagers for Deans,
And bright girl-graduates with their golden hair.
On the Monday they had a party to Woodstock and Blenheim; and in the evening went, on the Brazenface barge, to see the procession of boats, where the Misses Green had the satisfaction to see their brother pulling in one of the fifteen torpids that followed immediately in the wake of the other boats. They concluded the evening's entertainments in a most satisfactory manner, by going to the ball at the Town Hall.
Indeed, the way the two young ladies worked was worthy of all credit, and proved them to be possessed of the most vigorous constitutions; for, although they danced till an early hour in the morning, they not only, on the next day, went to the anniversary sermon for the Radcliffe, and after that to the horticultural show in the Botanical Gardens, and after that to the concert in the Sheldonian Theatre, but—as though they had not had enough to fatigue them already—they must, forsooth—Brazenface being one of the ball-giving colleges—wind up the night by accepting the polite invitation of Mr. Verdant Green and Mr. Charles Larkyns to a ball given in their college hall. And how many polkas these young ladies danced, and how many waltzes they waltzed, and how many ices they consumed, and how many too susceptible partners they drove to the verge of desperation, it would be improper, if not impossible, to say.
But, however much they might have been fagged by their exertions of feet and features, it is certain that, by ten of the clock the next morning, they appeared, quite fresh and charming to the view, in the ladies' gallery in the theatre. There—after the proceedings had been opened by the undergraduates in their peculiar way, and by the vice-chancellor in his peculiar way—and, after the degrees had been conferred, and the public orator had delivered an oration in a tongue not understanded of the people, our friends from Warwickshire had the delight of beholding Mr. Charles Larkyns ascend the rostrums to deliver, in their proper order, the Latin Essay and the English Verse. He had chosen his friend Verdant to be his prompter; so that the well-known "giglamps" of our hero formed, as it were, a very focus of attraction: but it was well for Mr. Charles Larkyns that he was possessed of self-control and a good memory, for Mr. Verdant Green was far too nervous
to have prompted him in any efficient manner. We may be sure, that in all that bevy of fair women, at least one pair of bright eyes kindled with rapture, and one heart beat with exulting joy, when the deafening cheers that followed the poet's description of the moon, the sea, and woman's love (the three ingredients which are apparently necessary for the sweetening of all prize poems), rang through the theatre and made its walls re-echo to the shouting. And we may be sure that, when it was all over, and when the Commemoration had come to an end, Charles Larkyns felt rewarded for all his hours of labour by the deep love garnered up in his heart by the trustful affection of one who had become as dear to him as life itself!
It was one morning after they had all returned to the Manor Green that our hero said to his friend, "How I do wish that this day week were come!"
"I dare say you do," replied the friend; "and I dare say that the pretty Patty is wishing the same wish." Upon which Mr. Verdant Green not only laughed but blushed!
For it seemed that he, together with his sisters, Mr. Charles Larkyns, and Mr. Bouncer, were about to pay a long-vacation visit to Honeywood Hall, in the county of Northumberland; and the young man was naturally looking forward to it with all the ardour of a first and consuming passion.