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with his golden repeater in his hand-he looked anxiously round the office, and then in turn at each of the three clerks. Mr. Phipps sighed, Mr. Trent shook his head, and Mr. Grimble shrugged up his shoulders.
"Not here yet?"
"Nor won't be," muttered Mr. Grimble.
"What odds will you lay about it?" whispered the giddy Mr. Trent.
"The office-clock is rather fast," stammered out Mr. Phipps.
"No-it is exact by my time," said the Secretary, and he held out his watch for inspection.
"He was always punctual to a minute," observed Mr. Grimble. "Always. I fear, gentlemen, we must apply for a war-"
The Secretary paused, for he heard the sound of a foot at the door, which hastily opened, and in walked Mr. Pryme!!!
An apparition could scarcely have caused a greater trepidation. The Secretary hurriedly thrust his repeater into his breeches-pocket. Mr. Grimble retreated to his own desk-Mr. Phipps stood stock-still, with his eyes and mouth wide open-while Mr. Trent, though he was a loser on the event, burst into a loud laugh.
"I am afraid, gentlemen," said Mr. Pryme, looking very foolish and stammering, "I am afraid that my-my-my ridiculous behaviour yesterday has caused you some-some-uneasiness-on my account." No answer.
"The truth is I was excessively anxious and nervous—and agitated -very agitated indeed!"
Very," from Mr. Trent.
The little florid man coloured up till his round, shiny bald head was as scarlet as a love-apple.
"The truth is--after so many disappointments-I did not like to mention the thing-the affair-till it was quite certain-till it was all over-for fear-for fear of being quizzed. The truth is the truth is-"
"Take time," Mr. Pryme, said the Secretary.
"Why, then, sir-the truth is-after fifteen years-I'm a Fathera happy Father, sir-a fine chopping boy, gentlemen-and Mrs. P. is as charming-that's to say, as well-as can be expected!"
A VERY SO-SO CHARACTER.
"I TAKE it for granted," said Mrs. Wiggins, inquiring as to the character of a certain humble companion, "that she is temperate, conversible, and willing to make herself agreeable?"
"Quite," replied Mrs. Figgins. Indeed, I never knew a young person so sober, so sociable, and so solicitous to please."
"ALL SORTS OF LITTLE ATTENTIONS."
BY LAMAN BLANCHARD, ESQ.
MANAGER (at rehearsal).-Now, Mr. Wewitzer, I wish you would pay a little
WEWITZER.-So I do, sir, as little as I can.
MAN is a streaky animal-fat vices and lean virtues.
One of our very leanest takes the shape of an anxiety to humour people's whims, and feed their vanity, and gratify that spirit of exaction which, when it once begins, never knows where to stop, by paying them all sorts of little attentions.
It may be said that social life is made up of them; that the exercise of the affections, the sympathies, the courtesies, is but the continual rendering of all sorts of little attentions. True; and animal life is but so many puffs of breath, as ocean is but so many drops of water, and the national debt so many half-farthings.
To set up as professor of the charities and affections by practising only the little attentions, is like paying off the debt a small, coin or two at a time.
We are not to include in the catalogue of those who exact the little attentions, persons who are borne down by age and its infirmities. Here they are essential, and to be rendered with alacrity. The weak man feels the tide of life ebbing away, he begins almost to count the drops, and he requires hour by hour some token of kindness, some manifestation of sympathy, some proof that he is yet lingering among his kind, and not already the worm's perquisite ere the coffin comes. His potations of brandy have subsided into thin weak draughts, and he wants a relish to them. He has need of some good soul to remind him feelingly that it is time to take his gruel. The thought for him thus shown sweetens the tasteless cup. Small attentions are all that he is now capable of receiving. The hand that would aid his tottering steps must be very gentle-a strong service would overthrow what it intended to sustain.
But the not less common infirmities of disposition and temper are very different matters. We speak of persons who, with all their brisk, vigorous and conscious faculties upon them, imperatively demand that the faculties of others shall be perpetually racked to provide petty pleasures for them. Whosoever would possess the privilege of their friendship, their goodwill, their acquaintance, must be content to pay tribute; but that is not the worst of it-they must be content to be always at hand, and ready to pay, every minute, a small instalment of the full daily amount. The tribute is as nothing, compared with the mode of paying it.
There is no compounding with them by offering a huge service down, at a great personal sacrifice, in lieu of the little attentions. They are too independent to incur a large obligation. They simply require of you what seems to cost you nothing-all sorts of little attentions. In vain would you cut off a pound of your flesh to oblige them; they Jan.-VOL. LXVII. NO. CCLXV.
merely desire to have it, just the "fiftieth part of one poor scruple" at a time-and you insult them by proposing to strip your breast, all at once, of a full pound avoirdupois.
The most restless, arbitrary and irritating of all duns are, proverbially, those whose accounts are despicably small. If the sum be hardly worth asking for, be sure that the creditor is terribly active and cruelly in earnest. The man who owes a good five thousand pounds is respectfully asked for it perhaps once in the year; but the forlorn wight who is indebted in the lawful sum of five shillings, is worried for it before he is up, and after he has gone to bed; as he goes out, and as he comes home; he is hunted from the first floor to the garret, and from the garret to the attic window of the next house: until, perchance, the persecuted debtor is driven to the desperate expedient of borrowing the five shillings,-and spending it at the public-house to comfort himself.
So with the debts of affection, of charity, and of courtesy which we all owe one to another. Those who have the heaviest claims upon us are slowest to assert them. If we owe to one a good round turn he does not go on persecuting us till we have accomplished it; the man whose friendship would be poorly requited by the sacrifice of our right hand, never once asks us to cut it off. But those to whom we are indebted only in the most trifling amounts, are duns the most indefatigable. The beggarly account must not be a minute overdue. Morality certainly requires a new Society for the Relief of Small Debtors.
Why did the amiable Fanny A., after an eternal constancy of six months, discard her devoted adorer, "the wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best" of dragoon captains? No, not the discreetest, either. He was discarded because, although he had travelled a good hundred miles for the sole purpose of escorting her to a ball, he never once thought of getting her an ice until three minutes after she had secretly felt a desire for one; and she might have remained uniced (except about the heart) for three minutes longer, had she not resolutely demanded strawberry or cream, by remarking with great moral courage, "It's rather warm!"
Why did the sensible, open-hearted Mr. B. forget to insert his nephew's name in his will, but because his nephew, lighting an Havannah and tossing the cigar-case on the table upon the help-yourself principle, omitted the verbal invitation, "Won't you try one?" Because too, when he arrived late at night in town, he went direct to an inn, instead of knocking the family out of their beds to inquire after their health, of which he had heard the day before. And because, when he had presided over the cod-fish at dinner, to the satisfaction of the guests, he left not an atom of the sound for his aunt, and not a vestige of the liver for his uncle. Why does the pretty, frank-minded Mrs. C. complain (in all the confidential circles of society) of being wedded to a rough-mannered, harsh, unaffectionate man? Because her husband is seldom in readiness to hold her pet pup for five minutes while she rummages for her scents? Because he never pays her the compliment of asking her to accompany him to some place, whither, he knows, for some approved reason, she will decline going. Because, when he is totally ignorant of the merits, whether as respects make or material, of the new bonnet, he positively refuses, from that simple cause, to give any opinion. And because, when she has twice remarked, "How very fine the morning
is," he still sits reading on as though he did not hear her; until she rises with hurt feelings, and an offended yet forgiving air, saying,
"Well, I did think you would have asked me to take an airing!" He then drops his book, and tells her that if he had only known she wished it, he would have proposed it with pleasure.
"But it is not now too late?"
Oh, yes it is.
"She could have no enjoyment in the gayest drive, the pleasantest walk, if it were not his choice, his proposal."
But he does not propose-there is nothing affectionate, nothing attentive, in his disposition.
Why does the philosopher D. rail at all womankind, as born fools who have no passion but for finery, and no ear but for fops? Simply because, while he was discoursing one night in a gay assembly upon the doctrine of Abstract Ideas, the lovely lady who sat next to him, permitted those sparkling sinners, her eyes, to rest for a few seconds admiringly on her new bracelet, and then gave up her little ears for several minutes to the fine manly voice of a handsome young singer pleading at the piano for her soul's pity, with
Love in her eyes sits playing.
And why did the great poet E., after having condescended to take up his abode for eight long months at Milk-and-Honey Hall, indulge himself by writing a libel upon its hospitable owner? Because, by some extraordinary omission, when he was at last taking his departure, he was not entreated to prolong his visit.
"It was not that I wanted to stop, or would have stopped," he explains; "but you know one expects these little attentions."
Why does Lady F. sneer at her friend the baronet as an underbred person, a creature with none but the lowest ideas, and one who borrows his cook from the Freemasons'-tavern? Because on a certain occasion he omitted to lead her ladyship down to dinner, and having first asked Lady G. what she thought of the new ballet, insolently addressed, in the second place, the same silly question to her! The man, as she protests, is incapable of paying proper attentions.
And why does good Mrs. H. treat poor J., her husband's particular intimate, with such marked coldness, endeavouring to exclude him from the family-board where he has ever been welcomed, and denouncing him as a monster without a heart, who would heave no sigh if they were all in their graves to-morrow? Because, as she declares, he chose, at that dreadful period when they all had the scarletina, to be out of town, sent no letter, came again on their recovery, and patted the children on the head, but without making a single inquiry into the particulars of their alarming illness, and even turning away, as she was beginning to expatiate upon; the subject to a perfect stranger, to listen to some stupid details about the last tragedy, or the new tariff.
Why is K., the infallible prophet, so confident in his prediction that such-and-such a theatre will go to ruin, and how is it that he dilates with pleasure upon the certainty of its failure? It is because he did not succeed in securing a private box for his family, gratis, on a particular evening. He likes little attentions.
What is the secret of L.'s present opinion of M.'s genius-of its palpable decline of the pitiable wreck of his mind, as manifested in his last new romance, which the rest of the world considers to be his masterpiece. The critic did not receive a presentation copy of the work until it had been published three weeks, and then he found that a rival's name had been complimentarily quoted at the head of one of the chapters, with no mention of his own.
"I have read every line that man has written," is his complaint, "I have spent many happy nights and days feasting upon the compositions he has sent me, but I observe he rarely pays me any little attentions in return!"
Why, moreover, does the plain-faced, plain-mannered merchant N., keep his veteran clerk, poor old O., at such constant drudgery, on such niggardly pay, while the youngsters around him get sly presents, good-humoured pinches of the ear, and hints of pensions to come? Because, long years since, on first entering into his service, O. happened to take the plain man at his word. Squeezing himself respectfully into a corner to let the merchant pass, offering at the same time to take his wet umbrella and to hang up his hat, the little attentions of the clerk were rebuked.
"Never mind me," said the plain man, "don't waste time in compliment."
And from that moment O. stuck to business. He never dropped his busy pen to put a stray pair of gloves of his master's into the righthand pocket of the great-coat, or to set out a dripping umbrella that it might be in readiness at four. He never jumped from his high stool to open the counting-house door for the plain merchant, nor sprang after him to the step of his gig to hand the brown-paper parcel, running back to the inner room to see whether the clear-sighted man had not left his spectacles. He never deserted his duty for an instant to peep needlessly at his master's tire on a raw day, or to snuff his candles on a dark one, or to hang his damp gaiters on the fender, or to shut the door when he had the rheumatism, or to move a packet of goods which was not in his way, or to volunteer the information that his watch was a minute too fast by St. Paul's. He fulfilled the injunctions of the plain man, and never paid him any little attentions. He only paid attention to the plain man's business.
But poor O. made a great mistake when he took his master at his word. The plain, proud merchant N. did not at all relish the omission of the flattering personalities. Secretly, he never begrudged the time lost to business in the act of lifting the hat, and making a respectful bow, and squeezing into a corner to make way for the hereditary lord of many ledgers. The great passion of his heart was a love of the little attentions. He never understood an act of high devotion, and he was the better able, not indeed to comprehend, but to feel the convenience, of the low servilities.
The plain man never liked any body the better, but every body the worse, for assenting to his own proposition, and recognising his plainness. He would allow nobody to treat him with profound deference and respect, without a protest against the vanity of such customs, and the ruinous waste of time spent in empty compliments; but he never