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THE HISTORY OF ST. GILES AND ST. JAMES.*
BY THE EDITOR.
CHAPTER XXIII. The borough of Liquorish possessed two barbers-only two. Happily, however, the number was sufficient to admit of deadly rivalry ; for let this truth never be forgotten—two can hate as well as twenty. Now, the hatred of Rasp and Flay welled up from their love of the same thing, the British Constitution. Mr. Rasp loved that elastic object with a tender and a reverential love ; he always approached its consideration with a fluttering soul-a sweet concern. The British Constitution was the apple of his eye—the core of his heart. He loved it beyond any other thing appertaining to this loveable earth. His wife— meek, injured woman !-has often considered herself slighted and despised by the libertine preference. “A married man with a family,” Mrs. Rasp would sometimes patiently observe, and sometimes not, “shouldn't trouble his head with such nonsense.” Occasionally, too, she would very much like to know what the Constitution, as they called it, had ever done for the poor? And when Rasp in moments of ale— has expressed himself perfectly willing, nay, rather anxious, to lose his head for the Constitution, his wife has only placidly remarked, “that it was more than he'd ever think of doing for her.”
Now, Flay loved the Constitution after a different fashion. It was a pretty object-very pretty, indeed ; very desirable, very
• Continued from p. 16, Vol. III. NO. XVI.–VOL. III.
essential for the happiness, or at least for the enjoyment of man. Flay loved the Constitution with a sort of oriental love ; it was the passion of the Great Turk for some fair stag-eyed slave; the affection of one who is the master, the owner, of the creature of his delights—the trading possessor of the lovely goods; and therefore, when it shall so please him, at perfect freedom to sell or truck, or bow-string, or put in a sack, or in any other way to turn the penny with, or dispose of the idol of his adoration. Yes : Flay thought the Constitution, like the flesh-and-blood pearl of a harem, might now be devouringly loved, and now be advantageously bartered. Where the man, living in the twilight obscurity of Liquorish, learned such principles, we know not. Certain it is, they were very far beyond his social condition.
We have now to task the indulgence of the reader to endeavour to remember that Mr. Tangle, dizzy and tremulous, quitted the Olive Branch, summoned to Lazarus Hall by his lordship. The wine still sang in his ears, and the evil spirits that men swallow as angels in their cups over-night, beat in Tangle's beating heart, and twitched his nerves, and seemed to turn his eyes into burningglasses, as he found himself in the street. And then came the loss of the gold upon his brain—came with a crash, stupifying, stunning, as though the metal itself had fallen upon that divine web-work of nerves — wherein Tangle's soul, spider-like, lurked for human flies - and smitten him out of life. And then his stomach seemed to hold within it one large nausea ; and he looked at the rosy children about him—the red-faced, laughing neighbours, and wondered what they were made of.
Nevertheless one thought like a star shone brightly through this fog of soul, for the said soul was much obscured by the winemists from the stomach-the thought of the barber. Tangle must be shaved. It had been one of the principles of his existence-one of the bundle of determinations with which he had set out on the pilgrimage of life or rather, this principle he had taken up at the twenty-mile stage--to suffer no man to take him by the nose save himself. In the vanity of his philosophy, he had believed that no blow of fortune could have rendered his hand unsteady at the morning razor ; and now, with the loss of the gold upon him, he shuddered at the thought of the sacrificial steel. In the disorder of his soul and the sickness of his stomach, he saw himself shaving ; and saw a very numerous family of imps laughing and winking in the glass—and pointing their fingers at his throat —and then grinning hard again—and nodding, and smacking their forked tongues, as revelling in the hope of a delicious tragedy. And Tangle-for we choose to give the whole truth Tangle did for a moment sympathise with those murder-hinting demons. It was weak-it was wicked ; but in another moment, the idea was sternly banished. For Tangle remembered that his life was insured ; and how very dreadful it would be, should he leave the world in a way to forfeit the policy! With these thoughts, Mr. Tangle entered the shop of Rasp. He entered and shrunk back. “ Come in, sir," cried the hospitable barber. “Here, Tim, finish this gentleman.” Saying this, Rasp instantly quitted the beard he was about to reap, for the chin of the new-comer. Tang'e looked about him, and felt himself a little wounded, somewhat disgraced by the meanness, the rustic poverty of the shop. He looked too at the man lathered to the eyes—the man consigned to Tim, Rasp's little boy, who quickly mounted a stool, that he might the better possess himself of the nose of the customer. Now, albeit the features of the man were very thickly masked by soap-suds, it was the instant conviction of Tangle that he saw coarse, dirty lineaments beneath ; and thereupon his pride started at the thought of losing his beard in such company. Had Tangle felt himself the prosperous man of yesterday, certainly he would as soon have offered his neck to the axe, as his chin to the self-same brush that had lathered the beard of that very vulgar man ; but adversity had chastised pride, and after a natural twinge or two, Tangle sank resignedly on the wooden chair, and with an all but smothered sigh, gave himself up to the barber. Certainly, he had never been shaved in such company ; but then-the thought was a great support to his independent spirit-nobody would know it.
(Nobody would know it! How much insult, injury—how many hard words, fierce threats—nay, how many tweakings of the nose might be borne by some forgiving souls, if nobody would know it ! What a balm, a salve, a plaster to the private hurt of a sort of hero may the hero find in the delicious truth that-nobody knows it! The nose does not burn, for nobody saw it pulled! It is the eye of the world looking on, that, like the concentrated rays of the sun, scorches it ; blisters it ; lights up such a fire within it, that nothing poorer than human blood can quench it! And all because everybody knows it !)
Tangle was reconciled to his humiliation—for it was nothing less to be handled in such a shop and by such a barber-by the belief that the world would remain in ignorance of the uncomfortable fact. And much, indeed, at the moment, did Tangle owe to ignorance. He knew that he was a crushed, despoiled, degraded being : he knew that with the box of gold he had lost his sense of self-respect. Compared to the Tangle of yesterday, he was no better than a Hottentot ; for he had lost his better part. This he knew : but, ignorant sufferer, he did not know that the maa seated in lathered companionship beside him was the midnight burglar, the robber of his more than peace, the felonious Tom Blast. Now, Mr. Blast himself immediately recognised the parliamentary agent ; but feeling that he had the advantage of having looked upon him when Tangle could not return the attention, the robber gazed very composedly through his lather : nay more, he was so tickled by the sudden advent of Tangle that, in the gaiety of his soul, he chuckled.
“If you please, sir, if you laugh,” said little Tim, “ I must cut you.”
“ The child has a hand as light as a butterfly " said the barber father to Blast-" but the boy's right ; he must cut you if you laugh. Steady, Tim.”
“ All right,” cried Blast, from his sonorous chest ; --and he stiffened the cords of his visage.
“Very odd, sir,” said Rasp, vigorously lathering Tangle, as though he was white-washing a dead wall—“very odd, sir ; when a man 's being shaved, what a little will make him laugh.-Never heard it properly accounted for, sir, did you ?”.
Tangle spoke not; but shivered out a long sigh, evidently provocative to the mirthful Blast, for little Tim again cried,— * If you please, sir, I must cut you."
“ Don't blame the child, sir ; that's all. Steady, Tim”said the barber, who again addressed himself to Tangle. “Glad to find there's no laugh in you, sir.” Tangle made no answer ; but again sighed as with the ague.
“ There! I knowd I should cut you !" cried Tim as Blast winced and the blood came from his cheek. “I knowd I should do it.”
The barber turned from Tangle to take a view of the mischief done upon Blast, gravely observing, as he eyed the blood—“ Not the child's fault, sir. Never cut before in his life ; never.”
“Well, it's no use a stifling it,” cried Blast ; and gently putting Tim aside, he flung himself back in the chair, and roared a laugh,