« PreviousContinue »
"I alluded to Surrey and Kent," said Mr. Dockwrath.
"They're uncommonly miscellaneous in Surrey and Kent," said Kantwise. "There's no doubt in the world about that."
"If the gentleman meaus to say that he's come in here because he didn't know the custom of the country, I've no more to say, of course," said Moulder. "And in that case, I, for one, shall be very happy if the gentleman can make himself comfortable in this room as a stranger, and I may say guest—paying his own shot, of course."
"And as for me, I shall be delighted," said Kantwise. "I never did like too much exclusiveness. What's the use of bottling one's self up? that's what I always say. Besides, there's no charity in it. We gents as are always on the road should show a little charity to them as ain't so well accustomed to the work."
At this allusion to charity Mr. Moulder snuffled through his nose to show his great disgust, but he made no further answer. Mr. Dockwrath, who was determined not to yield, but who had nothing to gain by further fighting, bowed his head, and declared that he felt very much obliged. Whether or no there was any touch of irony in his tone, Mr. Moulder's ears were not fine enough to discover. So they now sat round the fire together, the attorney still keeping his seat in the middle. And then Mr. Moulder ordered his little bit of steak with his tea. "With the gravy in it, James," he said, solemnly. "And a bit of fat, and a few slices of onion— thin mind, put on raw, not with all the taste fried out; and tell the cook if she don't do it as it should be done, I'll be down into the kitchen and do it myself. You'll join me, Kantwise, eh?"
"Well, I think not; I dined at three, you know."
"Dined at three! What of that? a dinner at three won't last a man forever. You might as well join me."
"No, I think not. Have you got such a thing as a nice red herring in the house, James?"
"Get one round the corner, Sir."
"Do, there's a good fellow; and I'll take it for a relish with my tea. I'm not so fond of your solids three times a day. They heat the blood too much."
"Bother," grunted Moulder; and then they went to their evening meal, over which we will not disturb them. The steak, we may presume, was cooked aright, as Mr. Moulder did not visit the kitchen, and Mr. Kantwise no doubt made good play with his unsubstantial dainty, as he spoke no further till his meal was altogether finished.
"Did you ever hear any thing of that Mr. Mason who lives near Bradford?" asked Mr. Kantwise, addressing himself to Mr. Moulder, as soon as the things had been cleared from the table, and that latter gentleman had been furnished with a pipe and a supply of cold without.
"I remember his father when I was a boy,"
said Moulder, not troubling himself to take his pipe from his mouth. ''Mason and Martock in the Old Jewry—very good people they were too."
"He's decently well off now, I suppose, isn't he?" said Kantwise, turning away his face, and looking at his companion out of the corners of his eyes.
"I suppose he is. That place thereby the road-side is all his own, I take it. Have you been at him with some of your rusty, rickety tables and chairs?"
"Mr. Moulder, you forget that there is a gentleman here who won't understand that you're at your jokes. I was doing business at Groby Park, but I found the party uncommon hard to deal with."
"Didn't complete the transaction?"
"Well, no, not exactly; but I intend to call again. He's close enough himself, is Mr. Mason. But his lady, Mrs. M.! Lord love you, Mr. Moulder, that is a woman!"
"She is, is she? As for me I never have none of these private dealings. It don't suit my book at all; nor it ain't what I've been accustomed to. If a man's wholesale, let him be wholesale." And then, having enunciated this excellent opinion with much energy, he took a long pull at his brandy-and-water.
"Very old-fashioned, Mr. Moulder," said Kantwise, looking round the corner, then shutting his eyes and shaking his head.
"Maybe," said Moulder, "and yet none the worse for that. I call it hawking and peddling, that going round the country with your goods on your back. It ain't trade." And then there was a lull in the conversation, Mr. Kantwise, who was a very religious gentleman, having closed his eyes, and being occupied with some internal anathema against Mr. Moulder.
"Begging your pardon, Sir, I think you were talking about one Mr. Mason who lives in these parts," said Dockwrath.
"Exactly. Joseph Mason, Esq., of Groby Park," said Mr. Kantwise, now turning his face upon the attorney.
"I suppose I shall be likely to find him at home to-morrow, if I call?"
"Certainly, Sir, certainly; leastwise I should say so. Any personal acquaintance with Mr. Mason, Sir? If so, I meant nothing offensive by my allusion to the lady, Sir; nothing at all, I can assure you."
"The lady's nothing to me, Sir, nor the gentleman either; only that I have a little business with him."
"Shall be very happy to join you in a gig, Sir, to-morrow, as far as Groby Park; or fly, if more convenient. I shall only take a few patterns with me, and they're no weight at all; none in tho least, Sir. They go on behind, and you wouldn't know it, Sir." To this, however, Mr. Dockwrath would not assent. As he wanted to see Mr. Mason very specially, he should go early, and preferred going by himself.
"No offeuse, I hope," said Mr. Kantwise.
"None in the least," said Mr. Dockwrath."And if you would allow me, Sir, to have the pleasure of showing you a few of my patterns, I'm sure I should be delighted." This he said, observing that Mr. Moulder was sitting over his empty glass with the pipe in his hand and his eyes fast closed. "I think, Sir, I could show you an article that would please you very much. You see, Sir, that new ideas are coming in every day, and wood, Sir, is altogether going out—altogether going out as regards furniture. In another twenty years, Sir, there won't be such a thing as a wooden table in the country, unless with some poor person that can't afford to refurnish. Believe me, Sir, iron's the thing nowadays."
"And Indian rubber," said Dockwrath. "Yes, Indian rubber's wonderful too. Are you in that line, Sir?" "Well, no; not exactly.""It's not like iron, Sir. You can't make a dinner-table for fourteen people out of Indian rubber that will shut up into a box 3—6 by 2—4 deep, and 2—6 broad. Why, Sir, I can let you have a set of drawing-room furniture for fifteen ten that you've never seen equaled in wood for three times the money; ornamented in the tastiest way, Sir, and fit for any lady's drawingroom or boodoor. The ladies of quality are all getting them now for their boodoors. There's three tables, eight chairs, easy rocking-chair, musie-stand, stool to match, and pair of standup screens, all gilt in real Louey catorse; and it goes in three boxes 4—2 by 2—1 and 2—3. Think of that, Sir. For fifteen ten and the boxes in." Then there was a pause, after which Mr. Kantwise added, "If ready money, the carriage paid." And then he turned his head very much away, and looked back very hard at his expected customer.
"I'm afraid the articles are not in my line," said Mr. Dockwrath.
"It's the tastiest present for a gentleman to make to his lady that has come out since—since those sort of things have come out at all. You'll let me show you the articles, Sir. It will give me the sineerest pleasure." And Mr. Kantwise proposed to leave the room in order that he might introduce the three boxes in question.
"They would not be at all in my way," said Mr. Dockwrath.
"The trouble would be nothing," said Mr. Kantwise, "and it gives me the greatest pleasure to make them known when I find any one who can appreciate such undoubted luxuries;" and so saying Mr. Kantwise skipped out of the room, and soon returned with James and Boots, each of the three bearing on his shoulder a deal box nearly as big as a coffin, all of which were deposited in different parts of the room. Mr. Moulder in the mean time snored heavily, his head falling on to his breast every now and again. But nevertheless he held fast by his pipe.
Mr. Kantwise skipped about the room with wonderful agility, unfastening the boxes, and
taking out the contents, while Joe the boots and James the waiter stood by assisting. They had never yet seen the glories of these chairs and tables, and were therefore not unwilling to be present. It was singular to see how ready Mr. Kantwise was at the work, how recklessly he threw aside the whitey-brown paper in which the various pieces of painted iron were enveloped, and with what a practiced hand he put together one article after another. First there was a round loo-table, not quite so large in its circumference as some people might think desirable, but, nevertheless, a round loo-table. The pedestal with its three claws was all together. With a knowing touch Mr. Kantwise separated the bottom of what looked like a yellow stick, and, lo! there were three legs, which he placed carefully on the ground. Then a small bar was screwed on to the top, and over the bar was screwed the leaf, or table itself, which consisted of three pieces unfolding with hinges. These, when the screw had been duly fastened in the centre, opened out upon the bar, and there was the table complete.
It was certainly a "tasty" article, and the pride with which Mr. Kantwise glanced back at it was quite delightful. The top of the table was blue, with a red bird of paradise in the middle; and the edges of the table, to the breadth of a couple of inches, were yellow. The pillar also was yellow, as were the three legs. "It's the real Louey catorse," said Mr. Kantwise, stooping down to go on with table number two, which was, as he described it, a "chess," having the proper number of blue and light-pink squares marked upon it; but this also had been made Louey catorse with reference to its legs and edges. The third table was a "sofa," of proper shape, but rather small in size. Then, one after another, he brought forth and screwed up the chairs, stools, and sundry screens, and within a quarter of an hour he had put up the whole set complete. The red bird of paradise and the blue ground appeared on all, as did also the yellow legs and edgings which gave to them their peculiarly fashionable character. "There," said Mr. Kantwise, looking at them with fond admiration, "I don't mind giving a personal guarantee that there's nothing equal to that for the money either in England or in France."
"They are very nice," said Mr. Dockwrath. When a man has had produced before him for his own and sole delectation any article or articles, how can he avoid eulogium? Mr. Dockwrath found himself obliged to pause, and almost feared that he should find himself obliged to buy.
"Nice! I should rather think they are," said Mr. Kantwise, becoming triumphant; "and for fifteen ten, delivered, boxes included. There's nothing like iron, Sir, nothing; you may take my word for that. They're so strong, you know. Look here, Sir." And then Mr. Kantwise, takfing two of the pieces of whitey-brown paper which had been laid aside, carefully spread one on the centre of the round table, and the other on the seat of one of the chairs. Then lightly poising loo-table. And if she did, you would not like to adventure it yourself. But look at this for strength," and he waved his arms abroad, still keeping his feet skillfully together in the same exact position.
At that moment Mr. Moulder awoke. "So you've got your iron traps out, have you?" said he. "What; you're there, are you? Upon my word I'd sooner you than me."
"I certainly should not like to see you up here, Mr. Moulder. I doubt whether even this table would bear five-and-twenty stone. Joe, lend me your shoulder, there's a good fellow." And then Mr. Kantwise, bearing very lightly on the chair, descended to the ground without accident.
"Now, that's what I call gammon," said Moulder.
"What is gammon, Mr. Moulder?" said the other, beginning to be angry.
"It's all gammon. The chairs and tables is gammon, and so is the stools and the screens."
"Mr. Moulder, I didn't call your tea and coffee and brandy gammon."
"You can't; and you wouldn't do any harm if you did. Hubbies and Grease are too well known in Yorkshire for you to hurt them. But as for all that show-off and gimerack-work, I tell you fairly it ain't what I call trade, and it ain't fit for a commercial room. It's gammon, gammon, gammon! James, give me a bed-candle." And so Mr. Moulder took himself off to bed.
"I think I'll go too," said Mr. Dockwrath.
"Youlll let me put you up the set, eh?" said Mr. Kantwise.
"Well, I'll think about it," said the attorney. "I'll not just give you an answer to-night. Good-night, Sir; I'm very much obliged to you." And he too went, leaving Mr. Kantwise to repack his chairs and tables with the assistance of James the waiter.
THE MASONS OF QROBY PARK.
Gbobt Park is about seven miles from Leeds, in the direction of Bradford, and thither on the morning after the scene described in the last chapter Mr. Dockwrath was driven in one of the gigs belonging to the Bull Inu. The park itself is spacious, but is flat and uninteresting, being surrounded by a thin belt of new-looking fir-trees, and containing but very little old or handsome timber. There are on the high road two very important lodges, between which is a large ornamented gate, and from thence an excellent road leads to the mansion, situated in the very middle of the domain. The house is Greek in its style of architecture—at least so the owner says; and if a portico with a pediment and seven Ionic columns makes a house Greek, the house in Groby Park undoubtedly is Greek.
Here lived Mr. and Mrs. Mason, the three
Misses Mason, and occasionally the two young Messrs. Mason; for the master of Groby Park was blessed with five children. He himself was a big, broad, heavy-browed man, in whose composition there was nothing of tenderness, nothing of poetry, and nothing of taste; but I can not say that he was on the whole a bad man. He was just in his dealings, or at any rate endeavored to be so. He strove hard to do his duty as a county magistrate against very adverse circumstances. He endeavored to enable his tenants and laborers to live. He was severe to his children, and was not loved by them; but nevertheless they were dear to him, and he endeavored to do his duty by them. The wife of his bosom was not a pleasant woman, but nevertheless he did his duty by her; that is, he neither deserted her, nor beat her, nor locked her up. I am not sure that he would not have been justified in doing one of these three things, or even all the three; for Mrs. Mason, of Groby Park, was not a pleasant woman.
But yet he was a bad man in that he could never forget and never forgive. His mind and heart were equally harsh and hard and inflexible. He was a man who considered that it behooved him as a man to resent all injuries, and to have his pound of flesh in all cases. In his inner thoughts he had ever boasted to himself that he had paid all men all that he owed. He had, so he thought, injured no one in any of the relations of life. His tradesmen got their money regularly. He answered every man's letter. He exacted nothing from any man for which he did not pay. He never ill-used a servant either by bad language or by overwork. He never amused himself, but devoted his whole time to duties. Ho would fain even have been hospitable, could he have gotten his neighbors to come to him and have induced his wife to put upon the table sufficient food for them to eat.
Such being his virtues, what right had any one to injure him? When he got from his grocer adulterated coffee—he analyzed the coffee, as his half-brother had done the guano — he would have flayed the man alive if the law would have allowed him. Had he not paid the man monthly, giving him the best price as though for the best article? When he was taken in with a warranty for a horse, he pursued the culprit to the uttermost. Maid-servants who would not come from their bedrooms at six o'clock he would himself disturb while enjoying their stolen slumbers. From his children he exacted all titles of respect, because he had a right to them. He wanted nothing that belonged to any one else, but he could not endure that aught should be kept from him which he believed to be his own. It may be imagined, therefore, in what light he esteemed Lady Mason and her son, and how he regarded their residence at Orley Farm, seeing that he firmly believed that Orley Farm was his own, if all the truth were known.
I have already hinted that Mrs. Mason was not a delightful woman. She had been a beauty, and still imagined that she had not lost all