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Voice of humanity! whose stirring cry
The day is done-the weary sun hath set-
C. E. N.
A SKETCH FROM NATURE.
It was to the late Captain Chronic, R.N., I am indebted for the pleasure of being but very slightly acquainted with Richard Doleful, Esquire. The father of Dick had, during the Captain's long and frequent absences on service, acted as his agent and factotum : receiving his pay and his prize-money, managing his disbursements, and investing the annual surplus to the best advantage; and I incline to attribute to old Chronic's kindly and grateful remembrance of the father, rather than to any personal regard for the son, his tolerance of the latter as the almost daily visiter at his house. Dick's “ good friends” are " sorry to admit" that there are many bad points about him; his “ best friends” compassionate him into the possession of ten times more: hence it may be inferred that Dick, upon the whole, is a much better person than the best of his friends. Yet even I, who do not presume to be his friend, consequently have no motive for speaking in his disparagement, must allow him to be a very unpleasant fellow. Now, as the term “ unpleasant fellow” may be variously interpreted, I would have it distinctly understood that I do not mean to accuse him of ever having thrashed his grandmother, or kicked his father down stairs, or poisoned a child, or set fire to a barn, or burked a female young, beautiful, and virtuous, or encouraged an organ-grinder or a Scotch bagpiper to make a hideous noise under his window, or, in short, of any enormous wickedness; I mean—and whether his case may be rendered better or worse by the explanation, must depend upon individual taste-I mean only that he is a bore.
For the last three years of his life, the Captain, whose health was gradually declining under the effects of an uncured and incurable wound in the side, had scarcely ever quitted his house; and for a considerable portion of that period he was unable, without assistance, to move from his sofa. In addition to his sufferings from his glorious wound, he was subject to the occasional attacks of inglorious gout, and of three visits a day from Dick Doleful. Under such a complication of ailments, his case, buth by his friends and his physicians, had long been considered hopeless. Indeed the Captain himself seemed aware of the fatal character of the last-named malady; and more than once expressed an opinion, that if he could be relieved from that, he had strength and stamina sufficient to conquer the others. I paid him a visit one day, and entered his room just as Mr. Doleful was leaving it. Doleful sighed audibly, shook his head, muttered “ Our poor dear friend !” and withdrew. This, from any other person, I should have construed into a hint that our “poor dear friend” was at his last gasp; but being acquainted with Mr. Doleful's ways, I approached the Captain as usual, shook his hand cordially, and, in a cheerful tone, inquired how he was getting on.
“Ah, my dear fellow,” said he, at the same time slowly lifting his head from the sofa-cushion, “ I'm glad to see you ; it does me good; you ask me how I do, and you look, and you speak as if you thought there was some life in me. But that Mr. Doleful-! Here he comes, Sir, three times a day; walks into the room on tiptoe, as if he thought I hadn't nerve to bear the creaking of a shoe; touches the tip of one of my fingers as if a cordial grasp would shatter me to atoms; and says, 'Well, how d’ye do now, Captain ?' with such a look, and in such a tone-! it always sounds to my ears, What! ar'n't you dead yet, Captain ?' Then he sits down in that chair; speaks three words in two hours, and that in a whisper; pulls a long face; squeezes out a tear-his dismal undertaker-countenance lowering over me all the while! I'm not a nervous man, but,"; and here he rose from his sofa, struck a blow on a table which made every article upon it spin, and roared out in a voice loud enough to be heard from stem to stern of his old seventyfour, the Thunderer:" I'm not a nervous man; but d-n me if he doesn't sometimes make me fancy I'm riding in a hearse to my own funeral, with him following as chief mourner. I shall die of him one of these days," added he emphatically, “ I know I shall."
“He is not exactly the companion for an invalid,” said I: “the cheerful address of a friend, and his assuring smile, are important auxiliaries to the labours of the physician ; whilst, on the contrary, the
" Aye, aye; the bore of such visits as his! They would make a sound man sick, and hasten a sick man to the grave. And, then, that face of his! I couldn't help saying to him the other day, that when I shot away the figure-head of the French frigate, La Larmoyeuse, I should have liked to have his to stick up in its place.”
“ It is evident his visits are irksome and injurious to you. Why, then, do you encourage them ?”
" I don't encourage them, and if he had any feeling he would perceive I don't ; but bores have no feeling. Besides, I can't altogether help myself. His father was useful to me; he managed my money-matters at home when I was afloat-a kind of work I never could have done for myself—and so well, too, that I consider my present independence as of his creating. Remembering this, I could not decently toss the son out of window, do you think I could ? Eh ?”
My honest opinion upon the matter being one which might have put the Captain to some trouble at his next interview with the gentleman in question, I suppressed it, and merely observed, “ Mr. Doleful has told me how useful his father was to you."
“Aye, and so he tells everybody, and so he reminds me as often as I see him, and that's a bore. Now, I am not an ungrateful man, and am as little likely as any one to forget a friend, or a friend's son; but every time this king of the Dismals reminds me of my obligation, I consider the debt of gratitude as somewhat diminished : so that if I live much longer, the score will be entirely rubbed out, and then, d-nme, but I will toss him out of window.”
After a momentary pause the Captain resumed:
“ Then, there's another bore of his. We take physic because we are obliged to take it; it isn't that we like it, you know ; nobody does, that ever I heard of. Now, he fancies that I can't relish my medicine from any hands but his, and he will stand by whilst I take my pills, and my draughts, and my powders. Ipecacuanha and Dick Doleful! Faugh! two doses at once! Will you believe it, my dear fellow? the two ideas are so connected in my mind that I never see physic without thinking of Dick Doleful, nor Dick Doleful without thinking of physic. I must own I don't like him the better for it, and that he might perceive. But, as I said before, bores have no feeling-they have no perceptions—they
have no one faculty in nature but the faculty of boring the very soul out of your body.”
Seeing me take a book from amongst several which lay on the table, he continued: “Aye; there's Mr. Dick again! I send him to get books to amuse me, and that's what he brings. Pretty lively reading for a sick man, eh? Nice things to keep up one's drooping spirits? There's 'Reflections on Death, Dodd's 'Prison Thoughts, the 'Deathbed Companion,'' Hell: a Vision.' I must have a fine natural constitution to live through all this !”
I took my leave of the invalid, and, at the street-door, met Dr. Druggem, his physician, and his surgeon, Sir Slashley Cutmore, who were about to visit him. I mentioned that I had just left their patient, suffer. ing under considerable irritation, caused by the unwelcome interference or Doleful; and ventured to express an opinion that a hint ought to be given to the latter, of the desirableness of diminishing both the length and the frequency of his visits to the Captain.
"Hint, Sir?” said Druggem; "a hint won't do. Slight aperients will have no effect in this case: I am for administering a powerful cathartic :--this Mr. Doleful must be carried off at once-forbid the house, Sir."
“ I am quite of Dr. Druggem's opinion,” said Sir Slashley; "the Captain must instantly submit to the operation; he must consent to the immediate amputation of that Mr. Doleful, or I'll not answer for his life a week.”
The next day Mr. Doleful favoured me with a visit.
"I call,” said he,“ to lament with you the unhappy state of our poor dear friend,'" arid he burst into a tear.
Now, as I knew that the state of“ our poor dear friend” was no worse then than the day before, I interrupted his pathetics, by telling him that I was not in a lamenting mood ; and, rather unceremoniously, added that it was the opinion of his medical advisers, that the state of " our poor dear friend” might be considerably improved if he, Mr. Doleful, would be less frequent in his visits, and if, when he did call upon w our poor dear friend,” he would assume a livelier countenance.
“Well !--Bless my soul! this is unexpected- very unexpected. I-! Me-! The son of his friend-his best friend! Why—though I say it, had it not been for my poor departed father-[And here he burst into another tear-1 I say, had it not been for my poor father, the Captain might, at this moment, have been — Well; no matter-but Me!-how very odd! I, who sacrifice myself for the poor dear sufferer! with him, morning, noon, and night, though it afflicts me to see him-as he must perceive : he must observe how I grieve at his sufferings-he must notice how much I feel for him. Why, dear me! What interest can I have in devoting myself to him ? Thank Heaven I AM NOT A LEGACY-HUNTER.”
This voluntary and uncalled-for abnegation of a dirty motive, placed Mr. Doleful before me in a new light. Till that moment the suspicion of his being incited by any prospect of gain to bore “our pour dear friend” to death, had never entered my mind.
Captain Chronic lived on for a twelvemonth, during the whole of which, excepting the very last week, Dick Doleful, spite of remonstrance and entreaty, continued to inflict upon him his three visits per diem. A week before his death, the Captain, who till then had occupied a sofa, took to his bed; and feeling his case to be hopeless, and conscious that he had not many days to live, he desired that his only two relations, a nephew and a niece, might be sent for, and that they alone should attend him to the last. Dick, greatly to his astonishment, thus excluded from the bed-chamber, still continued his daily three visits to the drawing-room. Upon the last of these occasions, so vehemently did he insist upon seeing his “ poor dear friend,” that, without asking the Captain's permission, he was allowed to enter his bed-room. The opening of the door awoke the Captain from a gentle slumber into which he had just before fallen. Perceiving Dick, he uttered a faint groan. Dick approached the bed-side, as usual on tip-toe; as usual he softly pressed the tip of the Captain's fore-finger; squeezed out the usual tribute of one tear; and with the usual undertaker look, and in the usual dismal tone, he said, “Well, how d'ye do now, Captain ?" The Captain faintly articulated, “Dick, Dick, you've done it at last!” fell back upon his pillow, and expired !
At about ten o'clock on the same morning, Dick Doleful, looking very like an undertaker's mute, called upon me. He was dressed in black and had a deep crape round his hat. “The dear departed !” was all he uttered.
“Is it all over with the poor Captain, Mr. Doleful ?”
“He's gone! Thank heaven I was with the dear departed at his last moments. If ever there was an angel upon earth ---! so good, so kind, so honourable, so everything a man ought to be. Thank heaven I did my duty towards the dear departed. This loss will be the death of me. I haven't the heart to say more to you; besides, the will of the dear departed will be opened at twelve, and it is proper that some disinterested friend should be present at the reading. Good morning. Oh! the dear departed! But he's gone where he will get his deserts.”
At about two o'clock Mr. Doleful was again announced. I observed that his hat was dismantled of the ensign of mourning, which it had so ostentatiously exhibited but a few hours before. He took a seat, remained silent for several minutes, and then burst into a flood of real, legitimate tears.
“Be composed, my dear Sir," said I; “recollect your grief is unavailing: it will not recal to life the dear departed.”
“The departed be d-d!” exclaimed he, starting in a rage from his chair. “Thank heaven I am not a legacy-hunter, nevertheless I did expect You know what I did for the old scoundrel, you know what time I sacrificed to him, you know how I have watched the hour and minute for giving the old rascal his filthy physic, and yet --! I repeat it, I am not a legacy-hunter; but I put it to you, Sir, as a man of sense, as a man of the world, as a man of honour, hadn't I a right to expect, a perfect right to expect -- What should you have thought, Sir ? I merely ask how much should you have thought ?”
“ Why, perhaps, a thousand pounds."
“Of course—to be sure-I am anything but an interested man; and had he left me that, I should have been satisfied.”
“How much, then, has he left you ?"
“Why, even that would have served as a token of his gratitude; it isn't as money I should have valued it: or had he left me fifty pounds