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Though this was uttered in a tone of sincerity, I own I did not like it. I thought it was said protectingly, and more politely than suited my downright disposition. I was, however, relieved, when with more heartiness, he asked me to breakfast with him the next morning, in order, as he said, to talk over old Crackenthorpe and his milkmaid daughters. I was in hopes he would have added something of one who was any thing but a milkmaid, and I was about to inquire after Bertha ; but my heart failed, my tongue refused its office, and we parted, he to regain his gay companions, I to revolve, in my way home, the thousand thoughts, some agreeable, some doubtful, occasioned by this interview.
The approaching dusk gave a tinge to this frame of mind, not altogether unpleasing, but of a sombre hue, and the tolling of Tom, that greatest of curfews, sending all stragglers home to their colleges, wound up my feelings with appropriate solemnity.
I had now food for meditation quite enough to employ and prolong my waking hours. However, set off by his sense of his own consequence, and the influence he seemed to enjoy with his fine friends, it was evident that Hastings had not forgotten me, and could not be estranged from a man whom he had asked to breakfast.
My tutor's surmise, therefore, as to his finery was palpably wrong. Of finery indeed he was guiltless, for, as I have said, he was too proud to be merely fine.
Shall I bere disguise my own silly finery or vanity, call it what you will (it was not worthy the name of pride), when the next day, on going to my appointment, I said, in a tone of self-consequence, to my
friend the porter when he let me in, “ I am going to breakfast with Mr. Hastings.” Fool that I was, I took pleasure in the janitor's bow at these words, for it made me think that he had altered his opinion of me, and perhaps of my whole college. So much for the philosophy of eighteen.
This nonsense, however, soon passed away, thanks to Fothergill and my own sense of independence, and I mention it because in relating the facts of my life, I mean not to cancel its follies.
When I joined my friend, however, the elegance of his rooms, and the recherche of his breakfast, reminded me much, and almost painfully, of the grandeur which had for the first time made me feel my own littleness at Foljambe Park.
Had Hastings, indeed, been the only one concerned in this, I perhaps should not have minded it. gard to him, I felt like a real brother, or rather like the Hidalgo of Castile, whose saying I always so much admired—“ I am as good a gentleman as the king, only not so rich ;” and this, without referring to the blood of the Clifford's, but merely from a conviction that may belong to every one who feels his mind to be the abode of honour, and is a gentleman, whatever his condition. The superiority, therefore, of Hastings, in his rooms, and his table equipage, and an imposing French valet, in a laced livery, whom for a certain buoyant vivacity in his attentions, he likened to, and called by the name of, La Fleur-all these were of little consequence to my happiness; but the thought of Bertha, conjoined with that superiority, made me sigh.
Hastings, however, interested me for his own sake. He was decidedly handsome-tall, like his father,
and, like him, of a most aristocratic manner, which had grown greatly upon him since he commenced man ; only it was less dignified, from being younger, and of a liveliness which led him into something like flippancy and love of ridicule, acquired at Eton, and by no means repressed by his college.
In this, as I afterwards discovered, Hastings was much abetted by his friend, Lord Albany, and both were fierce in keeping parvenus at a distance. With such he was never familiar, though, in the spirit of youth, he did not disdain what they both called
roasting a quiz” wherever they found him.
These, indeed, were after discoveries, for I must say that, in regard to myself at this meeting, nothing seemed more genuine than the manner in which he opened himself to me as his early friend and schoolfellow, accompanied, however, as we shall see, with both fastidiousness and levity, which denoted any thing but the sober seriousness of thought and feeling upon which our early friendship had been seemingly founded.
Sedbergh, and its great master, and young mistresses (whose bony ankles and red elbows were not forgotten, any more than their father's enthusiasm for schoolmasters), gave ample scope to his powers of ridicule.
I own, though I laughed at his sallies, I could not help, at the same time, being struck with that change from the softer and more natural tone of conversation in which Hastings had seemed once so glad to indulge. I endeavoured to recall this tone; talked of the great elm before the school-house door, under whose shade we had read together, and of the secluded lanes, where we had walked and plucked
blackberries together, and where we had vowed eternal friendship to one another. I also particularly (and I own designedly) reminded him of his generous opinions at that time, on the equalizing nature of friendship in general, and how he laughed at all worldy distinctions.
A curling sort of smile played round his mouth when he replied to this ebullition, “ My dear Cliff, (for so be used to call me) I perceive you have preserved all your charming simplicity; and all you have recalled was certainly very delightful at the time, and would be so again, if we were again in Crim Tartary ; (so he now called our northern village). But this, like many other things, is one of the has beens.'”
This startled me, and I now began to think, not pleasantly, that my tutor might be in the right.
“ The world,” Hastings continued, “is the world, and a strange one it is, as you will find when, like me, you have been six months here. I can scarcely ask you what you think of it now, on only three or four days' acquaintance, and that among those strange animals you have chosen to herd with at Queen's.”
66 Herd with ! Animals !” exclaimed I, with emphasis, for I did not like the expressions.
“O! I cry you mercy,” said he, “ for I perceive I have called up all the blood of the De Cliffords; but I beg to assure your lordship, that I meant no disparagement to your dignity, or that of Queen Phillippa either.”*
This allusion to my school sobriquet rather annoyed me, but as I thought it mere rattle, and not,
Phillippa, Queen of Edward III., was the foundress of Queen's College, and thence the name.
I hoped, intended to offend, I forgave'it. In fact, it was jealousy alone that made me take the umbrage I did. Had he not been Hastings, or the brother of Bertha, I should have laughed at it as heartily as himself.
Hastings had, however, another advantage over me, exclusive of his superior condition, and near connection with her who engrossed and exercised all my feelings. He seemed deeply initiated in all the mysteries of this new sphere, which I had just entered ; and talked freely and quizzingly of tutors, and even of heads of houses; which to me seemed almost treason. Then as to their females, whom he quizzed too, to my astonishment (as he had the evening before seemed to be engrossed by them) he called them mere pretty fools; apes of higher models, whom they could never reach; in fact (as he styled them), mere Brummagem Duchesses.
Little indeed do these ladies, who perhaps have verses daily made to their eyebrows, and for whose smile there is often contention, know the liberties that are taken with them, by those very danglers whose attentions most excite their ambition, perhaps their affection. For they do so for mere amusement, in a place where they look in vain for their equals, and after professing themselves their admirers, laugh at, despise, and leave them.
When I expressed my surprise at this satire against persons with whom he had appeared so occupied, he laughed it off with a nonchalance which I almost envied, while I blamed it.
My dear fellow,” said he, “ what can we do? These are but the sportive tricks for which, and to court an amorous looking-glass,' the bloody and