Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“ You'd never get the women to drink it,” remarked Snipeton, very gravely.

“ 'Twould not be necessary, if man, the nobler animal--for as Mrs. Snipeton is not here, we can talk like philosophers " Snipeton grunted-“if man, the nobler animal, for we know he is, though it would not be right perhaps to say as much before the petticoats, <if man could make his own heart invulnerable, why, as for woman, she, might be as weak and as foolish as she pleased ; which, you must allow, is granting her much, Mr. Snipeton.?" And here the apothecary would have laughed very jovially, but his host looked grave, sad. .

“ It seems, Mr. Crossbone, you are no great friend to the women,” said Snipeton. “Yet you must allow, we owe them

į “Humph!” cried Crossbone in a prolonged note. He then hastily filled his glass : as hastily emptied it. . . .

16. You seem to dispute the debt?” said Snipeton, gallantly returning to the charge.

...“ Look here, Mr. Snipeton," cried Crossbone with the air of a man determined for once to clear his heart of something that tias long lain wriggling there—“ look here. The great charm of a bottle of wine after dinner between two friends is this: it enables them to talk like philosophers; and so that the servants don't hear, philosophy with a glass of good fruity port—and yours is capital, one tastes blood and fibre in it ;-+philosophy is a very pleasant sort of thing; but like that china shepherdess on the mantel-piece, it is much too fine and delicate for the outside world. No, no ; it is only to be properly enjoyed in a parlour ; snug and with the door shut.”

..". Very well. Perhaps it is. We were talking of our debts to woman. Go on,” said Snipeton.

“Our debts to woman. Well, to begin ; in the first place we call her an angel ; have called her an angel for thousands of years; and I take it---but mind, I speak as a philosopher I take it, that's a flam that should count as a good set-off on our side. Or I ask it, are men, the lords of the creation, to go on lying for nothing ?”.. It was plain that this wicked unbelief of Crossbone a little shocked his host, and therefore, as the bottle was nearly out, the apothecary felt that he must regain some of his ground. Whereupon he sought to give a jocular guise to his philosophy; to : make it, for the nonce, assume the comie mask. “Ha! ha!

Look here : you must allow that woman ought, as much as in her lies, to make this world quite a paradise for us, seeing that she lost us the original garden.” Snipeton just smiled. “Come, come,” cried the hilarious apothecary, "we talk as philosophers, and when all 's said and done about what we owe to woman, you must allow that we've a swinging balance against her.. Yes, yes ; you can't deny this : there's that little matter of the apple still to be settled for." .'"'Tis a debt of long standing,” said Snipeton' with a short laugh. :

“And therefore, as you know-nobody better ”-urged Crossbone " therefore it bears a heavy interest." So heavy, Mr. Snipeton--by-the-bye, the bottle 's out-so heavy they can never pay it. And so we mustn't be hard upon 'em, poor souls-no, wo mustn't be hard upon 'em ; but get what we can in small but' sweet instalments. för all I talk 'in this philosophic way-I was never hard upon 'em-dear little things in all my life.”

For a few minutes philosophy took breath, whilst wine, the frequent nutriment of that divine plant, as cultivated by Crossbone, was renewed. At length, the apothecary observed -" To serious business, Mr. Snipeton. Having had our little harmless laugh at the sex, let us speak of one who is its sweetest flower, and its brightest ornament. Need I name Mrs. Snipeton ?.".

The old man sighed ; moved uneasily in his chair ; and then with an effort began. "Mr. Crossbone, my friend - I cannot tell you-no words can tell you, how I love that woman.”

“I can imagine the case-very virulent indeed," said the apothecary. '" Late in life it's always so. Love with young men, I mean with very young men, is nothing ; a slight fever. Now, at mature time of life, it's little short of deadly typhus. Of course, I speak of love before marriage ; that is, love with all its fears and anxieties ; for wedlock 's a good febrifuge."

“I have struggled, fought with myself, to think--but you shall tell me yes, I will strengthen myself to hear the worst. Now, man,"--and $nipeton grasped the arms of his chair with an iron hold, and his breast heaved as he loudly uttered—"now, speak it.”

"Look you here, Mr. Snipetoni. Do you think me à stock, or' a stone, that I could sit here quietly and comfortably drinking your wine, if I couldn't give you hopea little hope in

return?

“A little hope !” groaned the old man.

“A man in my position, Mr. Snipeton—with glorious circumstances, as I have observed, opening upon him-cannot be too cautious. I should be sorry to compromise myself by desiring you to be too confident. Nevertheless, she is young, Mr. Snipeton ; and the spirit of youth does sometimes puzzle us. In such spirit then-strong as it is in her-I have the greatest faith.”

" You have !” exclaimed Snipeton, starting from his seat and seizing Crossbone's hand. “Save her and-and you shall be rich ; that is, you shall be well recompensed- very well. My good friend, you know not the misery it costs me to seem happy in her sight. I laugh and jest" --Crossbone looked doubtingly “ to cheat her of her melancholy ; yet”

" Yet she does not laugh and joke in return?" observed Crossbone. “ But she will no doubt she will."

“ And then, though I know her to be sick and suffering, she never complains ; but still assures me she is well-very well."

“ Dear soul! You ought to be a happy man--you ought but you won't. Can't you see that she won't confess to sickness because--kind creature !-she can't think of paining you ? She'd smile and say 'twas nothing — I know she would, if she were dying."

"For God's sake, speak not such a word," cried the old man, turning pale.

“She must die some day,” said Crossbone. “Though, to be sure, according to the course of nature, that is, if I save her-of which, indeed, to tell you truly, I have now no doubt-I will stake my reputation present and to come upon the matter"

“You give me life, youth,” exclaimed Snipeton, with sudden happiness.

* But I was about to say that, if saved, the chances are you may leave her yet young and blooming, behind you.” The old man's face darkened. It was a bitter thought that. Was there not some place in the East, where, when a husband died, his wife even through the torture of fire, followed him? This horrid thoughthow, poor man ! could he help it ? for reader, how know you what thought you shall next think?--this thought, we say, passed through Snipeton's brain. But Clarissa was no Hindoo wife. She might -as the prating doctor said she might be left, yes, to smile and be happy, and more, to award happiness to another on this earth, when her doating, passionately doating husband should have his

limbs composed in the grave. Again ; he might live these twenty years. And in twenty years that beautiful face would lose its look of youth—those eyes would burn with sobered light—that full scarlet lip be shrunk and faded. And then-yes, then he thought, he could resign her. In twenty years—perhaps in twenty years. With this cold comfort, he ventured to reply to the apothecary.

“ Never mind my life, that's nothing," he said. “All I think of is Clarissa ; and there is yet time—she is safe, you say?"

“It's very odd, very droll, that just now you should have named Bath--the Bath waters, you know,” smirked Crossbone.

“Wherefore odd—how droll ? I do not understand you.” And yet he had caught the meaning.

"She must go to Bath; she must drink the waters. Nothing's left but that," averred the apothecary.

I tell you, man, for these three months I cannot quit London. A world of money depends upon my stay.”

"And why should you budge? You don't want your wife, do you, at St. Mary Axe? She doesn't keep your books, eh?” Snipeton frowned, and bit his lip, and made no answer. Then Crossbone, his dignity strengthened by his host's wine, rose, “Mr. Snipeton," he said, “I have studied this case, studied it, sir, not only as a doctor but as a friend. I have now, sir, done my duty; I leave you as a husband and—I was about to say as a father, but that would be premature ; as a husband and a man to do yours. All I say is this : if your wife does not immediately remove to Bath,”—Crossbone paused.

“ Well," snarled Snipeton, defyingly, “and if she does not ?”

“In two months, sir-I give her two months—she 'll go to the church-yard."

“And so she may—so she shall,” exclaimed Snipeton, violently striking the table-his face blackening with ráge, his eyes lurid with passion. “So she shall. An honest grave and my name clear--I say, an honest grave, and a fair tombstone, with a fair reputation for the dead. Anything but that accursed Bath. Why, sir,”—and Snipeton, dilating with emotion, stalked towards the apothecary—“what do you think me?”

Now this question, in a somewhat dangerous manner tested Crossbone's sincerity. In sooth, it is at best a perilous interrogative, trying to the ingenuousness of a friend. Crossbone paused ; not that he had not an answer at the very tip of his tongue : an answer bubbling hot from that well of truth, his heart—and for that reason, it was not the answer to be rendered. He therefore looked duly astonished, and only asked-“Mr. Snipeton, what do you mean?”

“I tell you, man, I'd rather see her dead; a fair and bonest corpse than sepd her to that pest-place,” cried the husband....

**Pest-place! Really, Mr. Snipeton; this is a little too much to wipe off the reputation of a city—the reputation of hundreds of years too-in this manner. Reputation, sir,--that is, if it's good for anything-doesn't come up like a toadstool ; no, sir, the realthing's of slow growth. Bath a pest-place! Why, the very fountain of health.”

“ The pool of vice-the very slough of what you call fashion, And you think I'd send my wife there for health! And for what health? Why, I'll say she returned with glowing face and spark. ling eyes. What then? I should loathe her."

* Lord bless me !” exclaimed Crossbone.,

“Now, we are happy, very happy ; few wedded couples more so : very happy ”—and Snipeton ground the words beneath all the teeth he had, and looked furiously content. Crossbone starod at the writhing image of connubial love.

“ You certainly look happy-extraordinarily happy," drawled the apothecary.

“And whilst we live, will keep so. Therefore no Bath insects no May-flies, no June-bugs."

“ 'Tisn't the Bath season for 'em," put in the apotheeary. “ They 're all in London at this time."

“ All's one for that. I tell you what-here, Dorothy, another bottle of wine--I tell you what, Master Crossbone, as you say, we'll talk the matter over philosophically, I think that's it ; and therefore, no more words about Bath. Come, come, can there be a finer air than this ? ” cried the husband, rubbing his hands, and trying to laugh.

"My dear sir, the quality of the air is not the thing-it's the change that's the medicine. And then there's the waters"

“We have an excellent spring at Hampstead. Years ago I'm told the nobility used to come and drink it."

« Then, sir, the waters hadn't been analysed. Since then they've been found out : only fit for cattle, sir, and the lower orders. Never known now to agree with a person of gentility of stomachthat is, of true delicacy. And for the air, it's very good, certainly, just for the common purposes of life ; but as I say, it's not the

« AnteriorContinuar »