« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CAPTAIN DIGBY GRAND;
THE DANGEROUS CLASSES.'
A GUARDSMAN'S DUTY-A WOMAN OF THE WORLD AND A STARTLING RENCONTRE— PEERS AND PRIZE-FIGHTERS-THE ART OF SELF-DEFENCE AND THE DISCOMFITED NEGRO.
OF all sorts of soldiering, from the
dashing light dragoon to the scientific sapper and miner-from the staid and steady infantry-man to the flying bombardier,' as our distinguished horse- artillery are somewhat irreverently nick-named by their brethren of the sword,-of all these accomplished practitioners in the science of manslaughter, commend me to the Guards. Their discipline, though yielding to none in the exactitude with which it is carried out, weighs more lightly on officer and soldier than that of any other corps; their services it is unnecessary to mention, as it is well known that wherever glory is to be gained, wherever hard knocks are to be taken, and distinction to be won, the privilege of the Guards has ever been to woo honour in the thick of it. Their officers are perfect gentlemen, and thorough bons camarades; their stalwart privates are smart and steady in the field, as, considering the temptations of London, they are well conducted in barracks; and their non-commissioned officers, that vital third estate in the well-being of a regiment, are beyond all praise. When we combine with these essentials the advantages of being quartered in the metropolis of the world, in the very centre of civilization and refinement, we cannot wonder that a commission in the Guards is the grand desideratum to a young man wishing to enter life and the service through the same portal-is an object of emulation (not envy) to his brother-warriors in the rest of the British army.
But there are two sides to every question. Even a sovereign, unless it be one of those skilful deceptions with which unprincipled jokers toss for the score of a Greenwich dinnereven a sovereign has its reverse; and great as are the advantages of a London life-manifold as are the
benefits of what is emphatically called 'good society; yet, on the other hand, pleasure in the metropolis assumes her most alluring garb. Youth is seldom skilled in resistance to temptation. Money melts like snow before the sunbeam; debts accumulate like drifts in the storm; and we all know how soon a man involved becomes reckless-how soon recklessness merges in despair. Ambition, when restrained by principle, is a fine thing -emulation, in all matters of usefulness, is a fine thing. To the constant upward tendency of mankind, we owe the multiplying discoveries of science, the increasing prosperity of a nation. But all this may be carried too far. And who that watches with impartial eye the struggle going on around him-who that looks calmly on at his neighbour caring too much for these things,' will deny that society, in all its ranks, is irritated with the fevered desire of coping with that which is immediately above it-that the nobleman must imitate the sovereign, the gentry vie with the noble, the tradesman and the farmer ape the gentry; whilst the lower classes, divided by too wide a gulf to be able to compete with what they call well-to-do-people,' would, many of them, fain pull down to their own level those ranks to whose superior station they cannot themselves hope to rise? Let the reformation begin at the top-let the better educated and more reflective be content to do their duty in that state of life in which Providence has placed them,' and we shall hear less of public ruin and private destitution -we shall be spared the anomaly of gentlemen by birth being compelled to support the exigencies of their 'false position' by actions which their chivalrous ancestors would have blushed to own-we shall be told
no longer in the clubs, or on Heath, that the Hon. Mr. This is celebrated for his very sharp practice,' or the noble Lord That is a 'deuced ticklish fellow to deal with about money-matters.'
But no misgivings had I as I embarked triumphantly on the career before me, and walked down St. James's-street, in the pleasant consciousness that I was young, welldressed, and possessed, for my age, of considerable knowledge of the world. Sir Peregrine for once had exerted himself-my wishes were crowned, and I was an ensign and lieutenant in the Guards.
heads were bowed and taper fingers kissed to me as high-conditioned, good actioned horses whirled landau, brougham, and barouche along the clattering stones; and I lifted my hat in return with unabashed coxcombry, for Lady Overbearing had voted me good-looking, and said I made a capital bow. Wellwhiskered, portly roués nodded goodhumouredly to me from the baywindow of White's and the murky morning-room at Crockford's; for it was allowed that 'young Grand was a nice, gentlemanlike boy;' and that point being established, and his intention of ruining himself and family clearly ascertained, he might have committed all the crimes in the calendar, levanted, and robbed the mail, without suffering any diminution in the good opinion of these arbiters of their own world. Already had I been elected a member of Crockford's-already criticised the unpaid dinners, for which, on the principle of indirect taxation, the round room' up-stairs compensated so handsomely. Aye, and more than this, I was in the fair road to become one of the élite over the way. Two kind friends-a yachting marquis and a dropsical dandyhad persuaded me to face the dread ordeal of the ballot;' and had offered their services as proposer and seconder,'-good offices that, by the way, I have known filled by those who were themselves the very first to blackball the unsuspecting
Grand, why weren't you at the Opera last night? Rivolte was capital, and looking so pretty.'
Why, I dined with old St.
Heliers to meet Grandison, as I was to go on guard with him to-day. What a nice fellow he seems!-but not so fast as his brother, who might be his father, to all appearance.'
"Yes, Grandison is a fresh, younglooking fellow of his age; but then he was campaigning when his elder brother was playing the devil; and sitting up all night, and every night, with claret, whist, hot suppers, large cigars, and continual hazard, takes it out of a fellow more than all the fighting in Alison's History' or the Duke's Dispatches.' I dare say you had a cheery party there yesterday?" Very. And my lord would not let me go, but kept me to play whist in what he calls his boudoir. I had a very good night, for there was a light-haired fellow there, whose name I did not catch, that was innocent of the game as a new-born babe; and he would play so high, that I won a cool hundred of him. St. Heliers wanted to have 'lansquenet' after that, but the room was so full of cigar smoke, my unknown friend could not stand it, so I got home by three o'clock.'
Well, I wish I had had your luck. I swore I would not go to Crocky's, so I dropped in upon that brute Meadows for some supper after the Opera, and lost three hundred. There was a fellow in some line regiment there, who kept backing out, and won enormously. I think Meadows said his name was Levanter.'
'I know him,' said I, as a crowd of recollections came rushing upon me; and Hillingdon not caring to press the subject, the matter here dropped, and the conversation took some other turn. The relief is ready, sir,' said a tall, soldier-like corporal, as, with military respect, he entered the small, dingy apartment at St. James's, in which the above discourse was carried on. And I may take the opportunity of Hillingdon's absence in the performance of his duty as lieutenant of the Queen's Guard, to describe the brother-officers with whom I was associated in the pleasant task of keeping watch and ward at St. James's.
In the first place, then, to begin with the captain of the guard, who, it is hardly necessary to remark, holds the rank of a lieutenant-colonel
in the army. The Hon. D'Arcy Grandison was the beau-ideal, the very type of a thorough guardsman. Of noble birth and aristocratic bearing, the colonel was as distinguished for his high, unsullied sense of honour in the world as for his daring gallantry in the field. Respected at the Horse Guards, he was yet beloved by the ensign, and many a young man owes his preservation from vice and ruin to Grandison's friendly admonitions and bright example. Heir to Lord St. Heliers-and verily it must have been a strict entail that could preserve any reversion from that graspingroué-Grandison's scanty portion as a younger child had received no addition from his spendthrift brother; and he had risen by his own exertions and military success to the position which he now held. He had made a love-match with a lady of his own rank, but of no larger fortune; yet, with an increasing family, everything seemed to prosper with him. It was a noble sight to see that fine soldier-like man, with his Waterloo medal on his breast, walk into the Colour-court, accompanied by his lovely wife, and two or three beautiful children, to hear the band of the regiment, of which she was as proud as the colonel himself. The officers liked him, the men adored him; and if there was any person in the world for whom his selfish brother cared one snap of his fingers, I do believe it was D'Arcy. Such was the officer to whom I had been introduced the previous evening at Lord St. Heliers' table, and under whose command I carried the Queen's colours into the palace of St. James.
Hillingdon may be described in fewer words. Aquiet, good-tempered, and gentleman-like man, with abilities far above the average order, and which might have won him fame, had his circumstances obliged him to cultivate them. As it was, he possessed an easy fortune, which he was doing his best to destroy. Another victim to the fascination of play, that appeared the only pursuit which could prick him into excitement— the greatest of luxuries to an imperturbable disposition like poor Jack Hillingdon's. Alas! his eventual fate may be summed up in those few
words that have told the career and the catastrophe of many a bright intellect and many a kindly heartHe was a good fellow; but he was ruined by gambling.'
Of the others, D'Egville was young, conceited, and a beautiful dancer. Lord Maltby, unaffected, good-humoured, and a Yorkshireman-bored with ladies, but very happy at mess-rather uncouth in his manners, but a capital judge of a horse, and a most undeniable bruiser.
Strictly as the discipline of the Guards is carried on in all matters of real importance, it is not to be supposed that so essential a department as the commissariat can be neglected, and an excellent dinner furnished at St. James's daily for those officers whose duty demands their presence there, is an economical substitute with her Majesty's Government for officers' barracks, allowances of coals, candles, &c., for all of which this very well-cooked repast is, by a pleasant fiction, supposed to be a complete equivalent. Eight o'clock strikes as two of the Blues come clinking up from the Horse Guards to join the mess. There is one vacant seat at the colonel's disposal, and it is filled by a guest in plain clothes, of the mildest manners, and most unassuming deportment; and yet that quiet, old, grey-haired man is a majorgeneral, who led three forlorn-hopes in the Peninsula, and whose frame, scarred by sabre-cut and riddled by musket-shot, has withered beneath the burning sun of our Indian peninsula. I face the colonel, who takes the top of the table; and soon we are all engrossed in that lively and varied conversation so surely engendered by the good-fellowship of a mess.
Grand! a glass of wine.' Maltby, have you been to Jem Burn's lately? They tell me he has got a black fellow that is to come out a wonder.' Hillingdon, do you like your box at the Opera, as well as the one we had last season! How do you go to the Derby? Marygold can't win.' 'By-the-bye, I saw a horse at Tattersall's yesterday that Maltby ought to buy. Would he make a charger?' Such is the recitative going on amongst the younger portion of the company; whilst, at
the upper end of the table, the older officers are engaged in lively discussion on the merits of a newlyinvented shell, and the general is describing, almost in a whisper, the particulars of an exploit from which he was taken away for dead, and for which he received the Bath.'
Pleasantly the evening wears on, till, after a very temperate symposium, (for we are on guard,) the hoof of Napoleon's favourite charger, Marengo, set in gold, and converted into a gorgeous snuff-box, makes its rounds. Ten o'clock strikes. The general departs; the officers betake themselves to their respective guards; and Colonel Grandison, in cloak and bear-skin cap, proceeds to visit the different sentries.
Apollo does not always keep the bow strung to its utmost tension, nor are the clustering curls of the Guardsman- -a crop farmed by Willis with such protective careconstantly concealed beneath the frowning terrors of his bear-skin cap. The routine of military duty is pleasantly varied by the smiles of beauty, and wheeling evolutions in the field are gladly exchanged for the mazy dance. Ay, the hero of a hundred fights, the iron warrior of the age, is himself a ball-goer and a ball-giver; nor is a card for Apsley House the least coveted invitation amongst the gaieties of the season. Such was the pasteboard' that greeted my eyes on a well-covered breakfast-table in my comfortable lodgings in Park-street, and for one of those magnificent fetes I attired my person with the utmost care some few evenings afterwards. From the sombre inside of a box upon wheels, from the dusky street and the dirty crowd, the transformation was instantaneous to a blaze of light illumining the splendours of the warrior's palace. It was dazzling, but delightful; and I felt within me the butterfly nature that experiences a keen sense of pleasure from the mere contemplation of a mob of well-dressed, wellborn men and beautiful women, met together avowedly for the purpose of appearing to the best advantage-always premising, that the butterfly himself is part and parcel of such a pageant. Reflection is not a matter of hours in a dark VOL. XLV. NO. CCLXV.
room with a dry volume. communing may take place in a second of time, surrounded by all that can enchant the eye and excite the feelings. In the short interval that elapsed between leaving my carriage and entering the ball-room, during the putting on of one kidglove, and the translation of my unassuming name from mouth to mouth as Mr. Grand,' 'Mr. Brand,' 'Mr. Lang,' until ushered into the presence of our noble host, under the aristocratic title of Mr. Sam!' -in those few seconds I had time to say to myself, 'Digby, this is the life for you-this is the element in which you can really exist; for this be contented to sacrifice comfort, competence, friends, fortune, and self-respect.' I had not then applied the chemistry of experience to separate the metal from the alloythe test of time to recognise the true from the counterfeit. I was satisfied to take things and people as they were, nor trouble myself about that period which, sooner or later, overtakes us all, when we are startled to discover that we have lavished the worship of a life-time upon idols-that we are lonely and helpless at our need-because, forsooth, our gods are clay.'
What a pretty ball, my dear!' says fat Lady Trunnion to shaky Mrs. Marabout. How well dear Jane is looking-quite lovely, I declare. Has she been dancing much ?' How pleased she is to hear that Jane, who suffers from a lack of partners, poor girl! has not danced at all: so there is a better chance of Lady Trunnion's three, one of whom is pretty and the other two flirts.
How d'ye do, Mr. Grand. Mary! Mr. Grand, my daughter! I think you know Selina?' But Mr. Grand, though a young bird, is not to be caught by chaff, and bows himself away without requesting the honour for the next dance, as was intended by artful mamma.
Who is he?' whispers Mrs. Marabout to her next neighbour, chattering Lady Jay.
Sir Peregrine Grand's son-the eldest, my dear. Will be enormously rich, I fancy. Goodish-looking; but has got into a wild set.'
I know you are not weak enough to dance, Grand,' says Maltby, loung
ing up to me- at least, not without a reason; so come with me. Mrs. Man-trap has asked to be introduced to you. A great compliment, by Jove! She is not much in my line; but I want to get away to go to Jem Burn's; so having performed one good action, I shall cut my stick with an easy conscience.' these words, the good-natured peer brought me up to a particularly well-dressed lady, who, at the first glance, I could see was crêpéd, flounced,' and 'got up,' in a manner which left no doubt of her aspirations after universal conquest. Not withstanding a beautifully rounded figure-if it had a fault, somewhat too embonpoint for her height,-notwithstanding a merry blue eye, a saucy smile, a skin like alabaster, and a profusion of showery light hair, my first impression of Mrs. Man-trap was disappointment at those charms of which I had heard so much; and I whispered to Maltby, as we approached, Not half so handsome as I expected, but devilish well-dressed.' Little did I suspect the fascination which she exercised over all that came within range of her artillery. How low, in my ignorance, did I estimate the power of the sorceress. But I was doomed, like many a wiser man, to fall down and worship where I came only to gaze and criticise. Gradually and insensibly the charm stole over me. Lights were glittering and fairy forms were flitting around; beauty and perfume steeped my outward senses in enjoyment; and the brazen refrain of some waltz of Paradise' wafted ecstasy to my soul: and so I stood as one entranced, leaning over the chair of that witch in muslin, and sustaining my part in a conversation that became every moment more dangerous.
She don't care for him, the babybride!' said Mrs. Man-trap, speaking of a young couple who then passed us. Fresh from the nursery, and in all the first bloom of girlhood, depend upon it, she can spare no time from the world and its 'engagements' to waste upon her husband. She has not yet learnt to feel, poor child! And if her mamma had told her to marry a bishop, she would have liked him just as well. woman must have suffered, Mr.
Grand, before she can really love; and then if her attachment is fixed upon a boy-on one younger than herself, who is, day by day, making good his footing in that world which is gliding from her, she is deserving of pity indeed;' and the blue eyes looked up into mine, with a soft, pleading expression that was irresistible, the saucy features changed for an instant, as a shadow of deep thought stole over her brow, investing her with that sorrowing, chastened beauty which the hand of Time reserves for those who are no
longer in the early freshness of youth-rich amends for all the dimples and roses of laughing girlhood. What wonder that I forgot our acquaintanceship was but of three-quarters of an hour!-that I gave myself up to the delirious intoxication of my position! and shutting my eyes resolutely to all I had heard of the lady herself—a run-away match, a divorced husband, a brother shot in a duel, and a father who died of a broken heartthat I talked sentiment deep and devoted as her own; and vowed, in the despicable hypocrisy of my heart, that the love of a silly girl was unworthy of a man.' I spoke the last words in a somewhat louder tone than that in which our whispered conversation had previously been carried on, so much so as to cause a lady who was passing, to turn her head towards the impassioned speaker: with a thrill of shame and remorse amounting to agony I recognised the massive black hair, the pale and care-worn features of Zoë de GrandMartigny. Luckily, at that moment, I felt my arm touched by Colonel Grandison, who had come across the room to present me to his wife; and in the confusion of an introduction, my emotion escaped notice. resolved, however, to seek an interview with Zoë immediately, to ascertain why she was in England, and express to her my unaltered feelings; for, strange to say, that gentle, sorrowing face exercised the same power over me here in the midst of London's noblest revel, as beneath the silent moon and cloudless sky that look calmly down upon the turmoil of Niagara.
From room to room I bowed, and glided and edged my way upon the