« AnteriorContinuar »
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
CARTE blanche had been given a week before to the talented clubmaster of the Hyperion, the most exclusive club, as every one knows, in Belgravia. The resources of the Gunters of the day had been taxed to the utmost. The flowers of July had been gathered from many conservatories to grace the feast which, on the 25th of December, 1859, was to achieve the renown of the club-master. As to the wines, the sum expended by the club-master under the educated direction of Sir Philip Warden, the giver of the feast, would have kept a married clerk, with his customary family of three boys and two girls, for at least six months. That, however, was a view of the subject which did not occur either to Sir Philip or the club-master. Sir Philip's object was to give a feast worthy of the memorable fact of the coming of age of his ward, Algernon Darcy; and as to the club-master, his reputation as the Hyperion of club-masters was at stake, and expense was no object.
The day had arrived, but as it was only half-past seven on the evening of the said 25th of December, we have still half an hour before we sit down to dinner to tell something of Sir Philip and his ward.
And, first, of the latter, as on the present occasion the more important personage. Algernon Darcy, who has just this day attained. twenty-one, was an orphan, whose father died full lieutenant in her Majesty's -th Regiment of Foot. Up to this memorable day, Algernon, since the loss of his father (his mother had previously died) had depended on Sir Philip's generosity, or apparently, considering the way in which it had been doled out, on his charity; for although it was undeniably true that Lieutenant Darcy had left only his sword and a few hundred pounds of debt, the utmost his credit would permit him to borrow, Sir Philip had the reputation of being January-VOL. VII., NO. XXXVII.
enormously rich and generous. Of this latter quality he had shown little or nothing in his conduct to Darcy. It might, indeed, be said that there was no positive call on him to provide for the lieutenant's son. But the lieutenant had been an old and very intimate friend of Sir Philip's, and had made it his dying request that he should take care of his delicate boy; and as Sir Philip had accepted the charge, and had no children of his own, nor any prospect of having any, those who knew of the circumstance, and who knew Sir Philip, regarded it as a virtual adoption-a conclusion rather corroborated by what Sir Philip had been heard to say when the wishes of the poor lieutenant were communicated to him.
It therefore took people by surprise when, instead of sending the boy, who was then about twelve years of age, to any of the leading public schools, he had selected the obscure grammar-school in the small town of Norton for the education of his ward, whom he boarded with one of the curates of the town for the not very magnificent remuneration of thirty pounds a year, which, with the very moderate school fees, the expense of his clothing, and ten shillings a quarter as pocket money, was all that young Darcy had hitherto cost the wealthy baronet.
Darcy was generous as a prince, like most boys and men who have nothing to be generous withal; "and the smallness of his pocket-money had suggested to him many gloomy contemplations of fate and destiny, and the partiality of Providence; and as he grew up the dependent position in which he found himself placed became exceedingly distasteful. It was the more painful from the chill manner which, on two or three occasions, on which he had seen his unknown supporter-for Sir Philip kept the boy in ignorance of his name the baronet had condescended to speak to him. But, after all, Darcy was blessed with a light, buoyant spirit, the consequence, perhaps, of the perfect health and vigour he enjoyed. Fond of study, ambitious of success in his class, and in general easily achieving it, his life had hitherto been a very happy one. He entered heart and soul into novels and romances; and what in itself was equivalent to a fortune, he had just discovered that new world which Sir Walter Scott, the Columbus of literature, had, half-a-century ago, opened up to worn-out Europe. Shakespeare, also, was not unloved.
Anyhow, Darcy was happy at Norton, notwithstanding his dependance and poverty-happier, perhaps, than he was afterwards in any part of his career-happier, certainly, than during that part of it on which, unknown to himself, he was about to enter. He knew he was dependent, that he had neither father nor mother, brother or sister, only a guardian who did not love him, and whom he
feared; but he was laying up those stores of knowledge which boys think are to conquer fortune. He was conscious of talent, and, so far as he knew, capable of success.
But how did it happen that Sir Philip had given such magnificent orders for an entertainment to one towards whom he had hitherto been so niggardly a patron? It is in bad taste, and decidedly impolitic, to open a narrative by a strikingly romantic incident; but, at the risk of anticipating interest, and at once satisfying the sensational appetite on which so much of the success of a story depends, we will gratify our readers' curiosity by a story very like one in the "Arabian Nights."
Poor Lieutenant Darcy, that many-shifted man whose life had consisted mainly in the substitution of one creditor for another, who had never been able to get beyond £500 in debt, and who had never been worth twenty shillings since he had expended his patrimony in the purchase of his outfit, had a maternal.uncle who had neglected his niece, Mrs. Darcy, all her life, had quarrelled with the lieutenant's father, with the lieutenant himself, and with the rest of the human race; but as generally happens with people of so amiable a disposition, had amassed a large sum of money. As we will hear no more in this narrative of this venerable gentleman, it is perfectly unnecessary to go into detail as to the way in which he made his half a million. No one, indeed, could exactly account for it. It took every one at the time by surprise; but when it is known that Mr. Alder (such was his name) was an army contractor during the war with the French (a class of men whom Wellington was always recommending should be hanged) that he was a miser all his life, and not by any means over-scrupulous-it will be seen that the surprise of the world arose more from not having seen, during Mr. Alder's lifetime, any of the external signs of wealth, than from any want of opportunities on his part, and certainly not from any want of the peculiar money-making intellect, which, often dissociated from abilities, and consisting of an amalgam of stolid stupidity and luck, makes the best of opportunities.
Let us, therefore, after raising our hat to the memory of a very rich man, leave the ci-devant contractor and miser. All the interest he has to the reader is that he is dead, and that two or three days before he died he had destroyed a will leaving all his fortune to the Hospital for Incurable Idiots of the Pollitarian persuasion; for the contractor was'a man of great religious profession, and a very great supporter of the Pollitarian creed, and, moreover, a notable man among the leading men of the congregation to whom his benevolent post-mortem intentions were well known, and admitted as a sufficient excuse for his sturdy refusal to contribute during his lifetime to any charitable object whatever. It is impossible to exaggerate the vir