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CHAPTER XXIV.

OF THE ADVICE GIVEN BY MR. FOTHERGILL TO MR.

BOSTOCK, AND HOW IT WAS RELISHED.

Yet do I fear thy nature ;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To take the readiest way.

SHAKSPEARE.—Macbeth. “The evening," continued Fothergill's memoir, Snow drew to a conclusion. The total absorption of his guests by Lady Cherubina, or by one another, to his own utter exclusion, was not less disgusting than remarkable. On one or two occasions he advanced from his sofa to the favoured circle, but soon returned, for nobody spoke to him, or if he spoke himself, nobody listened. He had no key to their mystifications ; he had not, as La Bruyère says, "leurs usages, leur jargon, et leurs mots de rire.' They seemed to be engaged in the mysteries of the Bona Dea, and when he approached, looked upon him as profane.

“Once, when he only spoke to propose to the young lord, Lord Gayhurst's son, to shew him a particular beat the next day, where the game promised to be plentiful, he was cut short by the youthful aristocrat's coldly thanking him, but begging he would not

trouble himself, as he had himself already settled it all with the keepers.

“Bostock returned to his couch evidently hurt; and as I was shocked with this insolence, it was a relief to me, as well as to him, when we all retired for the night.

" It is inconceivable how I felt for him under these mortifications. I thought of them all night, indignant at his wife for allowing, if she did not promote them, and at himself for submitting to them as he did. I wished, nay thought, to expostulate with him ; but not only I feared the thing was gone too far to be remedied, but I had no right to meddle, and I dreaded the character of a meddler.

66 The next day, however, without incurring this reproach, he of his own motion opened the whole subject, and gave me ample opportunity to tell him what I had observed, and what I thought; for he very frankly asked my advice upon his case. I saw after breakfast that he endeavoured to get me alone; a thing by no means difficult, with the disposition which all his guests seemed to have to indulge us ; so when he proposed to shew me a temple he had built at the end of a long shrubbery walk, no one interposed to prevent our being a tête à tête.

“In our way, Bostock fairly confessed the uneasiness of his situation, which he feared was too obvious to have escaped me. He said this in a low tone, interrupted every minute by examining whether any one was within ear-shot : but having now entered the temple and locked the door, he grew bolder, looking,

however, again up and down the walk which the windows commanded, to see that the coast was clear. He then began his meditated confidence pretty nearly as follows:

6. Yes, my good friend, you must have seen, without any confession of mine, that I am in the happy state of not being master of my own house. As for the company by whom I am inundated and devoured, they are out of the question ; I am scarcely recognised by them as more, if so much, as Lady Cherubina's major domo; and as to being her husband, it seems out of their thoughts, as well it may, since it never seems to be in those of Lady Cherubina herself. These guests, then, (often twenty in number), being first, second, or third cousins, or very intimate and dear friends of my lady, think they do me honour enough in passing the shooting season, or riding my horses for me after the hounds; for which they do allow me to sit at the head of my own table, though they scarcely think me worth speaking to when there. Yet while they eat my venison and drink my claret, they wonder that Lady Cherubina, with her fortune (her fortune, mind you), should not have a more regular supply of turtle, such as Sir John Pamper always has in Leicestershire.

“All this time to address me as master of the house, or to suppose we have any common topics of conversation, never seems to enter their contemplation.

“«So much for my guests,' continued he, which I should not much mind, but that their example contaminates even my servants, none of whom, except the helpers in the stables, and what they call the odd

d of obeying out Lady Chen keeper she

men in the yards, condescend to take orders from me. It was but yesterday that I told the butler I would not allow claret in the steward's room, and the fellow, instead of obeying, had the impudence to say, “ Very well, Sir, I will consult Lady Cherubina about it." As to my lady's maid, and a housekeeper she brought with her from Brandon, before them I dare not say my soul 's my own.'

« « All this astonishes me,' said I, particularly this last ; for whatever thraldom you may be in, with a wife whom your love alone might make you unwilling to oppose, to be afraid of these menials—your own menials, too—is beyond my comprehension.'

6. Perhaps so,' replied he, but be assured in their opinion I am a mere upstart. Their talk is all of Brandon Hall, and the nobility who lived there for ages, before canals, and wharfs, and barges were known. My lord, his lordship, and my lady and her ladyship, are never off their tongues; not from any particular respect for them, but from very great respect for themselves, since every time they give them their titles they elevate their own dignity. It was but the other day, having occasion to look at something in. the housekeeper's-room, the lady president there, with fury on her brow, began to talk at me; telling me in terms, that neither Lord Brandon, nor his father before him, demeaned himself so as to come into her apartment.

66. Why did you not discharge her instantly?' asked I.

666 Alas!' said he, you know not what it is to be

married, not merely to a person whom you love, but to one who, being so much superior to you in rank and family, feels both her superior consequence, and how much she has let herself down in joining her fate to yours. To discharge therefore an old, though insolent, servant, attached to her family before she was born, would baffle even your resolution to accomplish, and is, in fact, impossible.'

« • I see not why,' said I, • if the case required it.'

“ • It would occasion a breach,' returned he,' and expose me to open reproaches, and perpetual innuendoes, the last more difficult to bear than the first, though both most annoying to my peace.

“ You have then experienced these innuendoes ?'

“My dear friend,' said he, “there is no disguising the truth; indeed, to reveal it, and ask your counsel upon it, was one of my great objects in begging you to come to see me. It was pretty obvious to me, when I married Lady Cherubina, that I was taken upon sufferance, at least by her family; and though I believe I possessed her affection at first, and she seemed grateful for the absolute dominion I gave her over myself and fortune, I soon found that her consciousness of her cloth of gold was incompatible with any respect for my cloth of frieze. But alas ! this is by no means the worst.

“He then, in increased agitation, with deep sighs, and even tears, after much hesitation, whispered in my ear, though no one was near us

6. You will scarcely believe it, but she will not now allow me to enter her boudoir.'

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