A READING PARTY IN THE LONG VACATION.

[MAGA. August 1843.]


CHAPTER I.

Every one who knows Oxford, and a good many besides, must have heard of certain periodical migrations of the younger members of that learned university into distant and retired parts of her Majesty’s dominions, which (on the “lucus a non lucendo” principle) are called and known by the name of Reading Parties. Some half-dozen undergraduates, in peril of the coming examination, form themselves into a joint-stock cramming company; take £30 or £40 shares in a private tutor; pitch their camp in some Dan or Beersheba which has a reputation for dulness; and, like other joint-stock companies, humbug the public, and sometimes themselves, into the belief that they are “doing business.” For these classical bubbles, the long vacation is the usual season, and Wales one of the favourite localities; and certainly, putting “Reading” out of the question, three fine summer months might be worse spent, than in climbing the mountains, and whipping the trout-streams, of that romantic land. Many a quiet sea-side town, or picturesque fishing-village, might be mentioned, which owes no little of its summer gaiety, and perhaps something of its prosperity, to the annual visit of “the Oxonians:” many a fair girl has been indebted for the most piquant flirtation of the season to the “gens togata,” who were reading at the little watering-place to which fate and papa had carried her for the race-week or the hunt-ball: and whatever the effect of these voluntary rustications upon the class lists in Oxford, they certainly have procured for the parties occasionally a very high “provincial celebrity.” I know that when we beat our retreat from summer quarters at Glyndewi in 18—, the sighs of our late partners were positively heart-rending, and the blank faces of the deserted billiard-marker and solitary livery-stable groom haunt me to this day.

I had been endeavouring, by hard reading for the last three months, to work up the arrears of three years of college idleness, when my evil genius himself, in the likeness of George Gordon of Trinity, persuaded me to put the finishing-touch to my education, by joining a party who were going down to Glyndewi, in ——shire, “really to read.” In an unguarded moment I consented; packed up books enough to last me for five years, reading at the rate of twenty-four hours per day, wrote to the governor announcing my virtuous intention, and was formally introduced to the Rev. Mr Hanmer, Gordon’s tutor, as one of his “cubs” for the long vacation.

Six of us there were to be; a very mixed party, and not well mixed—a social chaos. We had an exquisite from St Mary Hall, a pea-coated Brazen-nose boatman, a philosophical water-drinker and union-debater from Baliol, and a two-bottle man from Christ Church. When we first met, it was like oil and water; it seemed as if we might be churned together for a century, and never coalesce: but in time, like punch-making, it turned out that the very heterogeneousness of the ingredients was the zest of the compound.

I had never heard of such a place as Glyndewi, nor had I an idea how to get there. Gordon and Hanmer were gone already; so I packed myself on the top of the Shrewsbury mail, as the direct communication between Oxford and North Wales, and there became acquainted with No. 2 of my fellows in transportation (for, except Gordon and myself, we were all utter strangers to each other). “I say, Hawkins, let’s feel those ribbons a bit, will you?” quoth the occupant of the box-seat to our respectable Jehu. “Can’t indeed, sir, with these hosses: it’s as much as ever I can do to hold this here near leader.” This was satisfactory. Risking one’s neck in a tandem was all very well—a part of the regular course of an Oxford education; but amateur drivers of stage coaches I had always a prejudice against: let gentlemen keep their own four-in-hands, and upset themselves and families, as they have an undeniable right to do—but not the public. I looked at the first speaker; at his pea-jacket, that is, which was all I could see of him: Oxford decidedly. His cigar was Oxford too, by the villanous smell of it. He took the coachman’s implied distrust of his professional experience good-humouredly enough, proffered him his cigar-case, and entered into a discussion on the near leader’s moral and physical qualities. “I’ll trouble you for a light, if you please,” said I. He turned round, we stuck the ends of our cigars together, and puffed into each other’s faces for about a minute (my cigars were dampish), as grave as North American Indians. “Thank you,” said I, as the interesting ceremony was concluded, and our acquaintance begun. We got into conversation, when it appeared that he too was bound for the undiscovered shores of Glyndewi, and that we were therefore likely to be companions for the next three months. He was an off-hand, good-humoured fellow; drank brandy-and-water, treated the coachman, and professed an acquaintance with bar-maids in general, and pretty ones in particular, on our line of road. He was going up for a class, he supposed, he said; the governor had taken a “second below the line” himself, and insisted upon his emulating the paternal distinction; d——d nonsense, he said, in his opinion: except that the governor had a couple of harriers with Greek names, he did not see that his classics were of any use to him; and no doubt but that Hylax and Phryne would run just as well if they had been called Stormer and Merry Lass. However, he must rub up all his old Eton books this “long,” and get old Hanmer to lay it on thick. Such was Mr Branling of Brazen-nose.

At Shrewsbury, we were saluted with the intelligence, “Coach dines here, gentlemen.” We found a couple of fowls that the coach might probably have dined upon, and digested with other articles—in the hind boot; to human stomachs they seemed impracticable. We employed the allotted ten minutes upon a leg of mutton, and ascended again to our stations on the roof; and here was an addition to our party. Externally, it consisted of a mackintosh and a fur cap: in the very short interval between the turned-down flap of the one and the turned-up collar of the other, were a pair of grey glass spectacles, and part of a nose. So far we had no very sufficient premises from which to draw conclusions, whether or not he were “one of us.” But there were internal evidences; an odour of Bouquet de Roi, or some such villanous compound, nearly overpowering the fragrance of some genuine weed which I had supplied my pea-coated friend with in the place of his Oxford “Havannahs;” a short cough occasionally, as though the smoke of the said weed were not altogether “the perfume of the lips he loved;” and a resolute taciturnity. What was he? It is a lamentable fact, that an Oxford undergraduate does not invariably look the gentleman. He vibrates between the fashionable assurance of a London swindler and the modest diffidence of an overgrown schoolboy. There is usually a degree of unfinishedness about him. He seems to be assuming a character: unlike the glorious Burschenschaft of Germany, he has no character of his own. However, for want of more profitable occupation, we set to work in earnest to discover who our fellow-traveller really was; and by a series of somewhat American conversational inquiries, we at last fished out that he was going into ——shire, like ourselves—nay, in answer to a direct question on the subject, that he hoped to meet Hanmer of Trinity at Glyndewi. But no further information could we get: our new friend was reserved. Mr Branling and I had commenced intimacy already. “My name is Branling of Brazen-nose;” “and mine Hawthorne of ——;” was our concise introduction. But our companion was the pink of Oxford correctness on this point. He thanked the porter for putting his luggage up; called me “Sir,” till he found I was an Oxford man; and had we travelled for a month together, would rather have requested the coachman to introduce us, than be guilty of any such barbarism as to introduce himself. So by degrees our intimacy, instead of warming, waxed cold. As night drew on, and the fire of cigars from Branling, self, and coachman became more deadly, the fur cap was drawn still closer over the ears, the mackintosh crept up higher, and we lost sight of all but the outline of the spectacles.

The abominable twitter of the sparrows in the hedgerows gave notice of the break of day—to travellers the most dismal of all hours, in my opinion—when I awoke from the comfortable nap into which I had fallen since the last change of horses. For some time we alternately dozed, tumbled against each other, begged pardon, and awoke; till at last the sun broke out gloriously as we drove into the cheerful little town of B——.

A good breakfast set us all to rights, and made even our friend in the mackintosh talkative. He came out most in the character of tea-maker (an office, by the way, which he filled to the general satisfaction of his constituents during our stay in North Wales). We found out that he was a St Mary Hall man, with a duplicate name: Mr Sydney Dawson, as the cards on his multifarious luggage set forth: that he was an aspirant for “anything he could get” in the way of honours (humble aspiration as it seemed, it was not destined to be gratified, for he got nothing). He thought he might find some shooting and fishing in Wales, so had brought with him a gun-case and a setter; though his pretensions to sportsmanship proved to be rather of the cockney order. For three months he was the happily unconscious butt of our party, and yet never but once was his good-humour seriously interrupted.

From B—— to Glyndewi we had been told we must make our way as we could: and a council of war, which included boots and the waiter, ended in the arrival of the owner of one of the herring-boats, of which there were several under “the terrace.” “Was you wish to go to Glyndewi, gentlemen? I shall take you so quick as any way; she is capital wind, and you shall have fine sail.” A man who could speak such undeniable English was in himself a treasure; for an ineffectual attempt at a bargain for some lobsters (even with a “Welsh interpreter” in our hands) had warned us that there were in this Christian country unknown tongues which would have puzzled even the Rev. Edward Irving. So the bargain was struck: in half an hour ourselves and traps were alongside the boat: and after waiting ten minutes for the embarkation of Mr Sydney Dawson and his dog Sholto, who seemed to have an abhorrence of sea-voyages, Branling at last hauled in the latter in the last agonies of strangulation, and his master having tumbled in over him, to the detriment of a pair of clean whites and a cerulean waistcoat, we—i. e. the rest of us—set sail for Glyndewi in high spirits.

Our boatmen were intelligent fellows, and very anxious to display their little stock of English. They knew Mr Hanmer well, they said—he had been at Glyndewi the summer before; he was “nice free gentleman;” and they guessed immediately the object of our pilgrimage: Glyndewi was “very much for learning;” did not gentlemen from Oxford College, and gentlemen from Cambridge College, all come there? We warned him not on any account to couple us in his mind with “Cambridge gentlemen:” we were quite a distinct species, we assured him. (They had beaten us that year in the eight-oar match on the Thames.) But there seemed no sufficient reason for disabusing their minds of the notion that this influx of students was owing to something classical in the air of Glyndewi; indeed, supposing this theory to be wrong, it was no easy matter to substitute a sounder one. In what did the superiority of Mrs Jenkins’s smoky parlour at Glyndewi consist, for the purposes of reading for a degree, compared with my pleasant rooms looking into —— gardens at Oxford, or the governor’s snug library at home? It is an abstruse question. Parents and guardians, indeed, whose part upon the stage of life, as upon the theatrical stage, consists principally in submitting to be more or less humbugged, attribute surprising effects to a fancied absence of all amusements, with a mill-horse round of Greek, Latin, and logic, early rising, and walks in the country with a pocket Horace. From my own experience of reading parties, I should select as their peculiar characteristics a tendency to hats and caps of such remarkable shapes as, if once sported in the college quadrangle, would be the subject of a common-room instanter; and, among some individuals (whom we may call the peripatetic philosophers of the party) a predilection for seedy shooting-coats and short pipes, with which they perambulate the neighbourhood to the marvel of the aboriginal inhabitants; while those whom we may class with the stoics, display a preference for dressing-gowns and meerschaums, and confine themselves principally to the doorways and open windows of their respective lodgings. How far these “helps to knowledge”—for which Oxford certainly does not afford equal facilities—conduce to the required first or second class, is a question I do not feel competent to decide; but if reading-parties do succeed, the secret of their success may at least as probably lie in these hitherto unregarded phenomena.

Five hours of a fair wind brought us to Glyndewi. Here we found Hanmer and Gordon, who had taken a house for the party, and seemed already domesticated. I cannot say that we were royally lodged: the rooms were low, and the terms high; but as no one thought of taking lodgings at Glyndewi in the winter, and the rats consequently lived in them rent-free for six months, it was but fair somebody should pay: and we did. “Attendance” we had into the bargain. Now, attendance at a lodging-house has been defined to be, the privilege of ringing your bell as often as you please, provided you do not expect any one to answer it. But the bell-ropes in Mrs Jenkins’s parlours being only ornamental appendages, our privilege was confined to calling upon the landing-place for a red-headed female, who, when she did come, which was seldom, was terrible to look upon, and could only be conversed with by pantomime.

To do Mrs Jenkins and “Gwenny” justice, they were scrupulously clean in everything but their own persons, which, the latter’s especially, seemed to have monopolised the dirt of the whole establishment. College bedrooms are not luxurious affairs, so we were not inclined to be captious on that head; and we slept soundly, and awoke with a determination to make our first voyage of discovery in a charitable spirit.

The result of our morning’s stroll was the unanimous conclusion that Glyndewi was a rising place. It did not seem inclined to rise all at once though; but in patches here and there, with a quarter of a mile or so between, like what we read of the great sea-serpent. (I fear this individual is no more; this matter-of-fact age has been the death of him.) There were two long streets—one parallel to the quay (or, as the more refined call it, “the terrace”), and the other at right angles to it. The first was Herring Street—the second Goose Street. At least such were the ancient names, which I give for the benefit of antiquarian readers. Since the then Princess Victoria visited B——, the loyalty of the Glyndewi people had changed “Herring” into “Victoria;” and her royal consort has since had the equivocal compliment paid him of transmuting “Goose Street” into “Albert Buildings.” I trust it will not be considered disloyal to say, that the original sponsors—the geese and the herrings—seem to me to have been somewhat hardly used; having done more for their namesakes than, as far as I can learn, their royal successors even promised.

Glyndewi was rising, however, in more respects than in the matter of taste in nomenclature. Tall houses, all front and windows, were stuck up here and there; sometimes with a low fisherman’s cottage between them, whose sinking roof and bulging walls looked as if, like the frog in the fable, it had burst in the vain attempt to rival its majestic neighbour. At one end stood a large hotel with a small business, and an empty billiard-room; at the other, a wall six inches high marked the spot where subscription-rooms were to be built for the accommodation of visitors and the public generally, as set forth in the prospectus, as soon as the visitors and the public chose to find the money. Nearly the whole of the village was the property of a gentleman who had built the hotel and billiard-room, and run up a few lodging-houses on a speculation, which seemed at best a doubtful one, of making it in time a fashionable watering-place.

Glyndewi had been recommended to us as a quiet place. It was quiet—horribly quiet. Not the quiet of green fields and deep woods, the charm of country life; but the quiet of a teetotal supper-party, or a college in vacation. “Just the place for reading: no gaiety—no temptations.” So I had written to tell the governor, in the ardour of my setting forth as one of a “reading-party:” alas! it was a fatal mistake. Had it been an ordinarily cheerful place, I think one or two of us could and would have read there; as it was, our whole wits were set to work to enliven its dulness. It took us as long to invent an amusement, as would have sufficed elsewhere for getting tired of half-a-dozen different dissipations. The very reason which made us fix upon it as a place to read in, proved in our case the source of unmitigated idleness. “No temptations,” indeed! there were no temptations—the only temptation I felt there was to hang or drown myself, and there was not a tree six feet high within as many miles, and the Dewi was a river “darkly, deeply, beautifully”—muddy; it would have been smothering rather. We should not have staid to the end of the first month, had it not been for very shame; but to run away from a reading-party would have been a joke against us for ever. So from the time we got up in the morning, until we climbed Mrs Jenkins’s domestic tread-mill again at night, the one question was, what should we do with ourselves? Walk? there were the A—— and B—— roads—three miles of sand and dust either way. Before us was the bay—behind the ——shire mountains, up which one might walk some sixteen miles (in the month of July), and get the same view from each successive point you reached: viz., a hill before you, which you thought must be the top at last, and Glyndewi—of which we knew the number of houses, and the number of windows in each—behind. Ride then?—the two hacks kept by mine host of the Mynysnewydd Arms deserve a history to themselves. Rosinante would have been ashamed to be seen grazing in the same field with such caricatures of his race. There was a board upon a house a few doors off, announcing that “pleasure and other boats” were to be let on hire. All the boats that we were acquainted with must have been the “other” ones—for they smelled of herrings, sailed at about the pace of a couple of freshmen in a “two-oar,” and gave very pretty exercise—to those who were fond of it—in baling. As for reading, we were like the performers at a travelling theatre—always “going to begin.”

Branling, indeed, did once shut himself up in his bedroom, as we afterwards ascertained, with a box of cigars and a black and tan terrier, and read for three weeks on end in the peculiar atmosphere thus created. Willingham of Christ Church, and myself, had what was called the dining-room in common, and proceeded so far on the third day after our arrival, as to lay out a very imposing spread of books upon all the tables; and there it remained in evidence of our good intentions, until the first time we were called upon to do the honours of an extempore luncheon. Unfortunately, from the very first, Willingham and myself were set down by Hanmer as the idle men of the party; this sort of prophetical discrimination, which tutors at Oxford are very much in the habit of priding themselves upon, tends, like other prophecies, to work its own fulfilment. Did a civil Welshman favour us with a call? “Show him in to Mr Hawthorne and Mr Willingham; I dare say they are not very busy”—quoth our Jupiter tonans from on high in the dining-room, where he held his court; and accordingly in he came. We had Stilton and bottled porter in charge for these occasions from the common stock; but the honours of all these visits were exclusively our own, as far as house-room went. In dropped the rest of the party, one by one. Hanmer himself pitched the Ethics into a corner to make room, as he said, for substantials, the froth of bottled Guinness damped the eloquence of Cicero, and Branling having twisted up my analysis of the last-read chapter into a light for his cigar, there was an end of our morning’s work. How could we read? That was what we always said, and there was some truth in it.

Mr Branling’s reading fit was soon over too; and having cursed the natives for barbarians, because there was not a pack of harriers within ten miles, which confirmed him in the opinion he had always expressed of their utter want of civilisation (for, as he justly remarked, not one in a dozen could even speak decent English), he waited impatiently for September, when he had got leave from some Mr Williams or Jones—I never remembered which—to shoot over a considerable range about Glyndewi.

But with the 20th of August a change came o’er the spirit of our dream. Hitherto we had seen little of any of the neighbouring families, excepting that of a Captain George Phillips, who, living only three miles off, on the bank of the river, and having three sons and two daughters, and keeping a pretty yacht, had given us a dinner-party or two, and a pleasant day’s sail. Capital fellows were the young Phillipses: Nature’s gentlemen; unsophisticated, hearty Welshmen; lads from sixteen to twenty. Down they used to come in a most dangerous little craft of their own, which went by the name of the “Coroner’s Inquest,” to smoke cigars, (against which the Captain had published an interdict at home), and question us about Oxford larks, and tell us in return stories of wild-fowl shooting, otter-hunting, and salmon-fishing, in all which they were proficient.

Our establishment was not an imposing one, but of them we made no strangers. Once they came, I remember, self-invited to dinner, in a most unfortunate state of our larder. The weekly half sheep had not arrived from B——; to get anything in Glyndewi, beyond the native luxuries of bacon and herrings, was hopeless; and our dinner happened to be a leash of fowls, of which we had just purchased a live supply. Mrs Glasse would have been in despair; we took it coolly; to the three boiled fowls at top, we added three roast ditto at bottom, and by unanimous consent of both guests and entertainers, a more excellent dinner was never put on table.

But the 20th of August the day of the Glyndewi regatta!—that must have a chapter to itself.

CHAPTER II.

When a dull place like Glyndewi does undertake to be gay, it seldom does things by halves. Ordinary doses of excitement fail to meet the urgency of the case. It was the fashion, it appeared, for all the country families of any pretensions to ton, and not a few of the idlers from the neighbouring watering-places, to be at Glyndewi for the race-week. And as far as the programme of amusements went, certainly the committee (consisting of the resident surgeon, the non-resident proprietor of the “hotel,” &c., and a retired major in the H.E.I.C.’s service, called by his familiars by the endearing name of “Tiger Jones”) had made a spirited attempt to meet the demand. A public breakfast, and a regatta, and a ball—a “Full Dress and Fancy Ball,” the advertisement said, on the 20th; a Horse-Race and an Ordinary on the 21st; a Cricket Match, if possible, and any extra fun which the Visitors’ own genius might strike out on the following days.

The little bay of Glyndewi was not a bad place for a boat-race on a small scale. The “terrace” commanded the whole of it; there were plenty of herring-boats, about equally matched in sailing deficiencies, ready and willing to “run”—i. e. creep—for the prizes; and an honourable member of the Yacht Club, who for some years past, for reasons which it was said his creditors could explain, had found it more convenient to keep his season at B—— than at Cowes, always paid the stewards the compliment of carrying off the “Ladies’ Challenge Cup.”

The two or three years’ experience which the Glyndewi people had lately gained of the nature and habits of “the Oxonians,” made them an article in great demand on these occasions. Mammas and daughters agreed in looking upon us as undeniable partners in the ball-room, while the sporting men booked us as safe for getting up a creditable four-oar, with a strong probability of finding a light-weight willing to risk his neck and reputation at a hurdle-race. Certain it is, that from the time the races began to be seriously talked about, we began to feel ourselves invested with additional importance. “Tiger Jones” (who occupied a snug little box about a mile out of Glyndewi, where he lived upon cheroots and brandy-and-water) called, was exceedingly polite, apologised for not inviting us to dinner—a thing he declared impossible in his quarters—hoped we would call some day and take a lunch with him, spoke with rapture of the capital crew which “the gentlemen who were studying here last summer” had made up, and which ran away from all competitors, and expressed a fervent hope that we should do likewise.

The sporting surgeon (of course he had called upon us long ago) redoubled his attentions, begged that if any of us were cricketers we would endeavour to aid him in getting up a “Glyndewi eleven” against the “Strangers,” and fixed himself upon me as an invaluable acquisition, when he found I had actually once played in a match against Marylebone. (I did not tell him that the total score of my innings was “one.”) Would I, then, at once take the drilling of as many recruits as he could get together? And would Mr Willingham and Mr Gordon, who “used to play at school,” get up their practice again? (It wanted about a fortnight to the races.) The result of this, and sundry other interviews, was, that Branling at length found a vent for the vis inertiæ in putting us all, with the exception of Mr Sydney Dawson, whom he declared to be so stiff in the back that he had no hope of him, into training for a four-oar; and the surgeon and myself set off in his gig for B——, to purchase materials for cricket.

It is true that our respected tutor did look more than usually grave, and shook his head with a meaning almost as voluminous as Lord Burleigh’s, when informed of our new line of study. Rowing he declared to be a most absurd expenditure of time and strength; he never could see the fun of men breaking blood-vessels, and getting plucked for their degree, for the honour of “the Trinity Boat.” But the cricket touched him on the raw. He was an old Etonian, and had in his time been a good player; and was now as active as any stout gentleman of seven-and-thirty, who had been twelve years a steady admirer of bursary dinners and common-room port. So, after some decent scruples on his part, and some well-timed compliments touching his physical abilities on ours (he was much vainer of the muscle of his arm than of his high reputation as a scholar), we succeeded in drawing from him a sort of promise, that if we were so foolish as to get up a match, he would try whether he had forgot all about bowling.

For the next fortnight, therefore, we had occupation enough cut out for us. Branling was unmerciful in his practice on the river; and considering that two of us had never pulled an oar but in the slowest of “Torpids,” we improved surprisingly under his tuition. The cricket, too, was quite a new era in our existence. Dawson (we told him that the “Sydney” must be kept for Sundays) was a perfect fund of amusement in his zealous practice. He knew as much about the matter as a cow might, and was rather less active. But if perseverance could have made a cricketer, he would have turned out a first-rate one. Not content with two or three hours of it every fine evening, when we all sallied down to the marsh, followed by every idler in Glyndewi, he used to disappear occasionally in the mornings, and for some days puzzled us as to where and how he disposed of himself. We had engaged, in our corporate capacity, the services of a most original retainer, who cleaned boots, fetched the beer, ate the cold mutton, and made himself otherwise useful when required. He was amphibious in his habits, having been a herring-fisher the best part of his life; but being a martyr to the rheumatism, which occasionally screwed him up into indescribable forms, had betaken himself to earning a precarious subsistence as he could on shore. It was not often that we required his services between breakfast and luncheon, but one morning, after having despatched Gwenny in all directions to hunt for Bill Thomas in vain, we at at last elicited from her that “maybe she was gone with Mr Dawson.” Then it came out, to our infinite amusement, that Dawson was in the habit, occasionally, of impressing our factotum Bill to carry bat, stumps, and ball down to the marsh, and there commencing private practice on his own account.

Mr Sydney Dawson and Bill Thomas—the sublime and the ridiculous—amalgamating at cricket, was far too good a joke to lose; so we got Hanmer to cut his lecture short, and come down with us to the scene of action. From the cover of a sand-bank, we had a view of all that was going on in the plain below. There was our friend at the wicket, with his coat off, and the grey spectacles on, in an attitude which it must have taken him some study to accomplish, and Bill, with the ball in his hand, vociferating “Plaiy.” A ragged urchin behind the wicket, attempting to bag the balls as Dawson missed them in what had once been a hat, and Sholto looking on with an air of mystification, completed the picture.

“That’s too slow,” said Sydney, as Bill, after some awful contortions, at length delivered himself of what he called a cast. “Diawl!” said Bill, sotto voce, as he again got possession of the ball. “That’s too high,” was the complaint, as, with an extraordinary kind of jerk, it flew some yards over the batsman’s head, and took what remained of the crown out of the little lazzaroni’s hat behind. “Diawl!” quoth Bill again, apologetically. “She got too much way on her that time.” Bill was generally pretty wide of his mark, and great appeared to be the satisfaction of all parties when Dawson contrived to make a hit, and Sholto and the boy set off after the ball, while the striker leaned with elegant nonchalance upon his bat, and Bill mopped his face, and gave vent to a complimentary variety of “Diawl.” It was really a pity to interrupt the performance; but we did at last. Bill looked rather ashamed of his share in the business when he saw “Mishtar,” as he called Hanmer; but Dawson’s self-complacency and good-humour carried him through everything. “By Jove,” said Willingham to him, “no wonder you improve in your style of play; Bill has no bad notion of bowling, has he?” “Why, no; he does very well for practice; and he is to have half-a-crown if he gets me out.” “Bowl at his legs, Bill,” said Willingham aside, “he’s out, you know, if you hit them.” “Nay,” said Bill, with a desponding shake of the head, “she squat ’n hard on the knee now just, and made ’n proper savage, but I wasn’t get nothing for that.”

Positively we did more in the way of reading after the boating and the cricket began, than while we continued in a state of vagrant idleness, without a fixed amusement of any kind. In the first place, it was necessary to conciliate Hanmer by some show of industry in the morning, in order to keep him in good humour for the cricket in the evening; for he was decidedly the main hope of our having anything like a decent eleven. Secondly, the Phillipses took to dining early at home, and coming to practice with us in the evening, instead of dropping down the river every breezy morning, and either idling in our rooms, or beguiling us out mackerel-fishing or flapper-shooting in their boat. And thirdly, it became absolutely necessary that we should do something, if class lists and examiners had any real existence, and were not mere bugbears invented by “alma mater” to instil a wholesome terror into her unruly progeny. Really, when one compared our actual progress with the Augean labour which was to be gone through, it required a large amount of faith to believe that we were all “going up for honours in October.”

We spent a very pleasant morning at Llyn-eiros, the den of “Tiger Jones.” He obtained this somewhat appalling sobriquet from a habit of spinning yarns, more marvellous than his unwarlike neighbours were accustomed to, of the dangers encountered in his Indian sports; and one in particular, of an extraordinary combat between his “chokedar” and a tiger—whether the gist of the story lay in the tiger’s eating the chokedar, or the chokedar eating the tiger, I am not sure—I rather think the latter. However, in Wales one is always glad to have some distinguishing appellation to prefix to the name of Jones. If a man’s godfathers and godmothers have the forethought to christen him “Mountstewart Jones,” or “Fitzhardinge Jones” (I knew such instances of cognominal anticlimax), then it was all very well—no mistake about the individuality of such fortunate people. But “Tom Joneses” and “Bob Joneses” were no individuals at all. They were classes, and large classes; and had to be again distinguished into “Little Bob Joneses” and “Long Bob Joneses.” Or if there happened to be nothing sufficiently characteristic in the personal appearance of the rival Joneses, then was he fortunate who had no less complimentary additions to his style and title than what might be derived from the name of his location, or the nature of his engagements. These honours were often hereditary—nay, sometimes descended in the female line. We hear occasionally, in England, of “Mrs Doctor Smith,” and “Mrs Major Brown;” and absurd as it is, one does comprehend by intuition that it was the gentleman and not the lady who was the ten-year man at Cambridge, or the commandant of the Boggleton yeomanry; but few besides a Welshman would have learned, without a smile, that “Mrs Jones the officer” was the relict of the late tide-waiter at Glyndewi, or that the quiet, modest little daughter of the town-clerk of B—— was known to her intimates as “Miss Jones the lawyer.” Luckily our friend the Tiger was a bachelor; it would have been alarming to a nervous stranger at the Glyndewi ball, upon inquiring the name of the young lady with red hair and cat’s eyes, to have been introduced incontinently to “Miss Jones the tiger.”

The Tiger himself was a well-disposed animal; somewhat given to solitary prowling, like his namesakes in a state of nature, but of most untigerlike and facetious humour. He generally marched into Glyndewi after an early breakfast, and from that time until he returned to his “mutton” at five, might be seen majestically stalking up and down the extreme edge of the terrace, looking at the fishing-boats, and shaking—not his tail, for, as all stout gentlemen seemed to think it their duty to do by the sea-side, he wore a round jacket. From the time that we began our new pursuits, he took to us amazingly—called us his “dear lads”—offered bets to any amount that we should beat the B—— Cutter Club, and protested that he never saw finer bowling at Lord’s than Hanmer’s.

Branling was in delight. He had found a man who would smoke with him all day (report said, indeed, that the Tiger regularly went to sleep with a cheroot in his mouth), and he had the superintending of “the boat,” which was his thought from morning to night. A light gig, that had once belonged to the custom-house, was polished and painted under his special directions (often did we sigh for one of King’s worst “fours!”) and the fishermen marvelled at such precocious nautical talent.

None of these, however—great events as they were in our hitherto monotonous sojourn—were the “crowning mercy” of the Glyndewi regatta. Hitherto the sunshine of bright eyes, and the breath of balmy lips, had been almost as much unknown to us as if we had been still within the monastic walls of Oxford. We had dined in a body at our friend the surgeon’s: he was a bachelor. We had been invited by twos and threes at a time to a Welsh squire’s in the neighbourhood, who had two maiden sisters, and a fat, good-humoured wife. Captain Phillips had given us a spread more than once at Craig-y-gerron, and, of course, some of us (I was not so fortunate) had handed in the Misses Phillips to dinner; but the greater part of the time from six till eleven (at which hour Hanmer always ordered out our “trap”) was too pleasantly occupied in discussing the captain’s port and claret, and laughing at his jokes, to induce us to give much time or attention to the ladies in the drawing-room. If some of my fair readers exclaim against this stoic (or rather epicurean) indifference, it may gratify their injured vanity to know, that in the sequel some of us paid for it.

The Phillipses came down in full force the day before the regatta; they were engaged to lunch with us, and, as it was the first time that the ladies of the party had honoured us with a visit, we spared no pains to make our entertainment somewhat more recherché than was our wont. It was then that I first discovered that Clara Phillips was beautiful. I am not going to describe her now; I never could have described her. All I knew, and all I remember, was, that for a long time afterwards I formed my standard of what a woman ought to be, by unconscious comparison with what she was. What colour her eyes were, was a question among us at the time. Willingham swore they were grey; Dawson insisted that they were hazel; Branling, to whom they referred the point, was inclined to think there was “something green” in them. But that they were eyes of no common expression, all of us were agreed. I think at least half the party were more than half in love with her when that race-week was over. In one sense it was not her fault if we were; for a girl more thoroughly free from every species of coquetry, and with less of that pitiful ambition of making conquests, which is the curse of half the sex, it was impossible to meet with. But she was to blame for it too, in another way; for to know her, and not love her, would have been a reproach to any man. Lively and good-humoured, with an unaffected buoyancy of spirits, interesting herself in all that passed around her, and unconscious of the interest she herself excited, no wonder that she seemed to us like an angel sent to cheer us in our house of bondage. Of her own family she was deservedly the darling; even Dick Phillips, whom three successive tutors had given up in despair, became the most docile of pupils under his sister Clara. Accustomed early to join her brothers in all out-door sports, she was an excellent horsewoman, a fearless sailor, and an untiring explorer of mountains and waterfalls, without losing her naturally feminine character, or becoming in any degree a hoiden or a romp. She sang the sweet national airs of Wales with a voice whose richness of tone was only second to its power of expression. She did everything with the air of one who, while delighting others, is conscious only of delighting herself; and never seeking admiration, received it as gracefully as it was ungrudgingly bestowed.

If there is one form of taking exercise which I really hate, it is what people call dancing. I am passionately fond of music; but why people should conceive it necessary to shuffle about in all varieties of awkwardness, in order to enjoy it to their satisfaction, has been, is, and probably will ever be, beyond my comprehension. It is all very well for young ladies on the look-out for husbands to affect a fondness for dancing: in the first place, some women dance gracefully, and even elegantly, and show themselves off undoubtedly to advantage (if any exhibition on a woman’s part be an advantage); then it gives an excuse for whispering, and squeezing of hands, and stealing flowers, and a thousand nameless skirmishings preparatory to what they are endeavouring to bring about—an engagement; but for a man to be fond of shuffling and twirling himself out of the dignity of step which nature gave him—picking his way through a quadrille, like a goose upon hot bricks, or gyrating like a bad tee-totum in what English fashionables are pleased to term a “valse,” I never see a man thus occupied, without a fervent desire to kick him. “What a Goth!” I hear a fair reader of eighteen, prettily ejaculate—“thank Heaven, that all men have not such barbarous ideas! Why, I would go fifty miles to a good ball!” Be not alarmed, my dear young lady; give me but a moment to thank Providence, in my turn, that you are neither my sister nor my daughter, and I will promise you that you shall never be my wife.

On the Saturday night, then, I made Gordon and Willingham both very cross, and caught Sydney Dawson’s eye looking over his spectacles with supreme contempt, when I declared my decided intention of staying at home the night of the ball. Even the Reverend Robert Hanmer, who was going himself, was annoyed when Gordon told him of what he called my wilfulness, having a notion that it was decidedly disrespectful in any of us, either to go when he did not, or to decline going when he did.

On the Tuesday morning, I sent to B—— for white kids. Gordon looked astonished, Hanmer was glad that I had “taken his advice,” and Willingham laughed outright; he had overheard Clara Phillips ask me to dance with her. Men are like green gooseberries—very green ones; women do make fools of them, and a comparatively small proportion of sugar, in the shape of flattery, is sufficient.

Two days before the regatta, there marched into Mrs Jenkins’s open doorway, a bewildered-looking gentleman, shaking off the dust from his feet in testimony of having had a long walk, and inquiring for Hanmer. Gwenny, with her natural grace, trotted up-stairs before him, put her head in at the “drawing-room” door (she seemed always conscious that the less one saw of her person the better), and having announced briefly, but emphatically, “a gentlemans,” retreated. Hanmer had puzzled himself and me by an attempt to explain a passage which Aristotle, of course, would have put in plainer language if he had known what he meant himself—but modern philosophers are kind enough to help him out occasionally—when the entrance of the gentleman in dust cut the Gordian knot, and saved the Stagyrite from the disgrace of having a pretty bit of esoteric abstruseness translated into common sense.

(What a blessing would it be for Dr ——, and Professor ——, if they might be allowed to mystify their readers in Greek! though, to do them justice, they have turned the Queen’s English to good account for that purpose, and have produced passages which first-class men, at an Athenian university, might possibly construe, but which the whole board of sophists might be defied to explain.)

The deus ex machinâ—the gentleman on, or rather off the tramp—who arrived thus opportunely, was no less a person than the Reverend George Plympton, Fellow of Oriel, &c. &c. &c. He was an intimate friend of our worthy tutor’s; if the friendship between Oxford dons can be called intimacy. They compared the merits of their respective college cooks three or four times a term, and contended for the superior vintage of the common-room port. They played whist together; walked arm-in-arm round Christ Church meadow; and knew the names of all the old incumbents in each other’s college-list, and the value of the respective livings. Mr Plympton and a friend had been making a walking tour of North Wales; that is, they walked about five miles, stared at a mountain, or a fall, or an old castle, as per guide-book, and then coached it to the next point, when the said book set down that “the Black Dog was an excellent inn,” or that “travellers would find every accommodation at Mrs Price’s of the Wynnstay Arms.” Knowing that Hanmer was to be found at Glyndewi, Mr Plympton left his friend at B——, where the salmon was unexceptionable, and had completed the most arduous day’s walk in his journal, nearly thirteen miles, in a state of dust and heat far from agreeable to a stoutish gentleman of forty, who usually looked as spruce as if he came out of a band-box. Hanmer and he seemed really glad to see each other. On those “oxless” shores, where, as Byron says, “beef was rare,” though

“Goat’s flesh there was, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,”

the tender reminiscences of far-off Gaude days and Bursary dinners, that must have arisen in the hearts of each, were enough to make their meeting almost an affecting one. Hanmer must have blushed, I think, though far from his wont, when he asked Mr Plympton if he could feed with us at four upon—hashed mutton! (We consumed nearly a sheep per week, and exhausted our stock of culinary ideas, as well as our landlady’s patience, in trying to vary the forms in which it was to appear; not having taken the precaution, as some Cambridge men did at B—— one vacation, to bespeak a French cook at a rather higher salary than the mathematical tutor’s.) Probably, however, Mr Plympton’s unusual walk made him more anxious about the quantity than the quality of his diet, for he not only attacked the mutton like an Etonian, but announced his intention of staying with us over the ball, if a bed was to be had, and sending to B—— for his decorations. He was introduced in due form to the Phillipses the next day, and in the number and elegance of his bows, almost eclipsed Mr Sydney Dawson, whom Clara never ceased to recommend to her brothers as an example of politeness.

Bright dawned the morning of the 20th of August, the first of the “three glorious days” of Glyndewi. As people came to these races really for amusement, the breakfast was fixed for the very unfashionable hour of ten, in order not to interfere with the main business of the day—the regatta. Before half-past, the tables at the Mynysnewydd Arms were filled with what the ——shire Herald termed “a galaxy of beauty and fashion.” But every one seemed well aware that there were far more substantial attractions present, meant to fill not the tables only, but the guests. The breakfast was by no means a matter of form. People had evidently come with more serious intentions than merely to display new bonnets, and trifle with grapes and peaches. Sea-air gives a whet to even a lady’s appetite, and if the performances that morning were any criterion of the effects of that of Glyndewi, the new Poor Law Commissioners, in forming their scale of allowances, must really have reported it a “special case.” The fair Cambrians, in short, played very respectable knives and forks—made no bones—or rather nothing but bones—of the chickens, and ate kippered salmon like Catholics. You caught a bright eye gazing in your direction with evident interest—“Would you have the kindness to cut that pasty before you for a lady?” You almost overheard a tender whisper from the gentleman opposite to the pretty girl beside him. She blushes and gently remonstrates. Again his lip almost touches her cheek in earnest persuasion—yes! she is consenting—to another little slice of ham! As for the jolly Welsh squires themselves, and their strapping heirs-apparent (you remember that six-foot-four man surely, number six of the Jesus boat)—now that the ladies have really done, and the waiters have brought in the relays of brandered chickens and fresh-caught salmon, which mine host, who has had some experience of his customers, has most liberally provided—they set to work in earnest. They have been only politely trifling hitherto with the wing of a fowl or so, to keep the ladies company. But now, as old Captain Phillips, at the head of the table, cuts a slice and a joke alternately, and the Tiger at the bottom begins to let out his carnivorous propensities, one gets to have an idea what breakfast means. “Let me advise you, my dear Mr Dawson—as a friend—you’ll excuse an old stager—if you have no particular wish to starve yourself—you’ve had nothing yet but two cups of tea—to help yourself, and let your neighbours do the same. You may keep on cutting Vauxhall shavings for those three young Lloyds till Michaelmas; pass the ham down to them, and hand me those devilled kidneys.”

“Tea? no; thank you; I took a cup yesterday, and haven’t been myself since. Waiter! don’t you see this tankard’s empty?”

“Consume you, Dick Phillips! I left two birds in that pie five minutes back, and you’ve cleared it out!”

“Diawl, John Jones, I was a fool to look into a tankard after you!”

Everything has an end, and so the breakfast had at last; and we followed the ladies to the terrace to watch the sailing for the ladies’ challenge cup. By the help of a glass we could see three yachts, with about half a mile between each, endeavouring to get round a small boat with a man and a flag in it, which, as the wind was about the worst they could have had for the purpose, seemed no easy matter. There was no great interest in straining one’s eyes after them, so I found out the Phillipses, and having told Dawson, who was escorting Clara, that Hanmer was looking for him to make out the list of “the eleven,” I was very sorry indeed when the sound of a gun announced that the Hon. H. Chouser’s Firefly had won the cup, and that the other two yachts might be expected in the course of half an hour. Nobody waited for them, of course. The herring-boats, after a considerable deal of what I concluded from the emphasis to be swearing in Welsh, in which, however, Captain Phillips, who was umpire, seemed to have decidedly the advantage in variety of terms and power of voice, were pronounced “ready,” and started by gun-fire accordingly. A rare start they made of it. The great ambition of every man among them seemed to be to prevent the boats next in the line from starting at all. It was a general fouling-match, and the jabbering was terrific. At last, the two outside boats, having the advantage of a clear berth on one side, got away, and made a pretty race of it, followed by such of the rest as could by degrees extricate themselves from the mêlée.

But now was to come our turn. Laden with all manner of good wishes, we hoisted a bit of dark-blue silk for the honour of Oxford, and spurted under the terrace to our starting-place. The only boat entered against us was the Dolphin, containing three stout gentlemen and a thin one, members of the B—— Cutter Club, who evidently looked upon pulling as no joke. Branling gave us a steady stroke, and Cotton of Baliol steered us admirably; the rest did as well as they could. The old boys had a very pretty boat—ours was a tub—but we beat them. They gave us a stern-chase for the first hundred yards, for I cut a crab at starting; but we had plenty of pluck, and came in winners by a length. Of course we were the favourites—the “Dolphins” were all but one married—and hearty were the congratulations with which we were greeted on landing. Clara Phillips’s eyes had a most dangerous light in them, as she shook hands with our noble captain, who was in a terrible hurry, however, to get away, and hunting everywhere for “that d——d Dawson,” who had promised to have Bill Thomas in readiness with “the lush.” So I was compelled to stay with her and give an account of the race, which she perfectly understood, and be soundly scolded by the prettiest lips in the world for my awkwardness, which she declared she never could have forgiven if it had lost the race.

“You will come to the ball, then, Mr Hawthorne?”

“Am I not to dance with you?”

“Yes, if you behave well, and don’t tease Mr Sydney Dawson: he is a great favourite of mine, and took great care of me this morning at breakfast.”

“Well, then, for your sake, Miss Phillips, I will be particularly civil to him; but I assure you, Dawson is like the fox that took a pride in being hunted; he considers our persecution of him as the strongest evidence of his own superiority; and if you seriously undertake to patronise him, he will become positively unbearable.”

The regatta over, we retired to make a hurried dinner, and to dress for the ball. This, with some of our party, was a serious business. Willingham and Dawson were going in fancy dresses. The former was an admirable personification of Dick Turpin, standing upwards of six feet, and broadly built; and becoming his picturesque costume as if it were his everyday suit, he strutted before Mrs Jenkins’s best glass, which Hanmer charitably gave up for his accommodation, with a pardonable vanity. Dawson had got a lancer’s uniform from his London tailor; but how to get into it was a puzzle; it was delightful to see his attempts to unravel the gorgeous mysteries which were occupying every available spot in his dingy bedroom. The shako was the main stumbling-block. Being unfortunately rather small, it was no easy matter to keep it on his head at all; and how to dispose of the cap-lines was beyond our united wisdom. “Go without it, man,” said Branling: “people don’t want hats in a ball-room. You can never dance with that thing on your head.”

“Oh, but the head-dress is always worn at a fancy-ball, you know, and I can take it off if I like to dance.”

At last the idea struck us of employing the five or six yards of gold cord that had so puzzled us, in securing shako and plume in a perpendicular position. This at length accomplished, by dint of keeping himself scrupulously upright, Mr Sydney Dawson majestically walked down stairs.

CHAPTER III.

Now, there happened to be at that time residing in Glyndewi an old lady, “of the name and cousinage” of Phillips, who, though an old maid, was one of those unhappily rare individuals who do not think it necessary to rail against those amusements which they are no longer in a situation to enjoy. She was neither as young, nor as rich, nor as light-hearted, as she had been; but it was difficult to imagine that she could ever have been more truly cheerful and happy than she seemed now. So, instead of cutting short every sally of youthful spirits, and every dream of youthful happiness, by sagacious hints of cares and troubles to come, she rather lent her aid to further every innocent enjoyment among her younger friends; feeling, as she said, that the only pity was that young hearts grew old so soon. The consequence was, that, instead of exacting a forced deference from her many nephews and nieces (so are first cousins’ children called in Wales), she was really loved and esteemed by them all; and while she never wished to deprive them of an hour’s enjoyment, they would willingly give up a pleasant party at any time to spend an evening with the old lady, and enliven her solitude with the sounds she best loved—the music of youthful voices.

All among her acquaintance, therefore, who were going to the ball in fancy costume, had promised to call upon her, whether in or out of their way, to “show themselves,” willing to make her a partaker, as far as they could, of the amusement of the evening. Captain Phillips had asked us if we would oblige him, and gratify a kind old woman, by allowing him to introduce us in our fancy dresses. I had none, and therefore did not form part of the exhibition; but Dick Turpin and the cornet of lancers, with Branling in a full hunting-costume (which always formed part of his travelling baggage), walked some fifty yards to the old lady’s lodgings. Mr Plympton, always polite, accepted Captain Phillips’s invitation to be introduced at the same time. Now Mr Plympton, as was before recorded, was a remarkably dapper personage; wore hair-powder, a formidably tall and stiff white “choker,” and upon all occasions of ceremony, black shorts and silks, with gold buckles. Remarkably upright and somewhat pompous in his gait, and abominating the free-and-easy manners of the modern school, his bow would have graced the court of Versailles, and his step was a subdued minuet. Equipped with somewhat more than his wonted care, the rev. junior bursar of Oriel was introduced into Mrs Phillips’s little drawing-room, accompanying, and strongly contrasting with, three gentlemen in scarlet and gold. Hurriedly did the good old lady seize her spectacles, and rising to receive her guests with a delighted curtsy, scan curiously for a few moments Turpin’s athletic proportions, and the fox-hunter’s close-fitting leathers and tops. As for Dawson, he stood like the clear-complexioned and magnificently-whiskered officer, who silently invites the stranger to enter the doors of Madame Tussaud’s wax exhibition; not daring to bow for fear of losing his beloved shako, but turning his head from side to side as slowly, and far less naturally, than the waxen gentleman aforementioned. All, in their several ways, were worthy of admiration, and all did she seem to admire; but it was when her eye rested at last on the less showy, but equally characteristic figure in black, who stood bowing his acknowledgments of the honour of the interview, with an empressement which fully made up for Dawson’s forced hauteur—that her whole countenance glistened with intense appreciation of the joke, and the very spectacles danced with glee. Again did she make the stranger her most gracious curtsy; again did Mr Plympton, as strongly as a bow could do it, declare how entirely he was at her service: he essayed to speak, but before a word escaped his lips, the old lady fairly burst out into a hearty laugh, clapped her hands, and shouted to his astonished ears, “Capital, capital! do it again! oh, do it again!” For a moment the consternation depicted upon Mr Plympton’s countenance at this remarkable reception, extended to the whole of his companions; but the extraordinary sounds which proceeded from Captain Phillips, in the vain attempt to stifle the laugh that was nearly choking him, were too much for the gravity of even the polite Mr Dawson; and it was amidst the violent application of pocket-handkerchiefs in all possible ways, that the captain stepped forward with the somewhat tardy announcement, “My dear aunt, allow me to present the Rev. Mr Plympton, Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College.” This was accompanied by a wink and an attempt at a frown, intended to convey the strongest reprobation of the old lady’s proceedings; but which, upon the features of the good captain, whose risible muscles were still rebellious, had anything but a serious effect. “Indeed!” said she, curtsying yet more profoundly in return for another bow. “How do you do, sir? Oh, he is beautiful, isn’t he?” half-aside to Willingham, who was swallowing as much as he could of the butt of his whip. Poor Mr Plympton looked aghast at the compliment. Branling fairly turned his back, and burst from the room, nearly upsetting Hanmer and myself; who, having waited below some time for our party to join us, had made our way up-stairs to ascertain the cause of the unusual noises which reached us from the open door of the drawing-room. Dawson was shaking with reckless disregard of the safety of his head-dress, and the captain in an agony between his natural relish for a joke and his real good-breeding. “Aunt Martha, this is a clergyman, a friend of Mr Hanmer’s, who is on a visit here, and whom I introduce to you, because I know you will like him.” Mr Plympton commenced a fresh series of bows, in which there was, perhaps, less gallantry and more dignity than usual, looking all the time as comfortable as a gentleman might do who was debating with himself whether the probabilities, as regarded the old lady’s next movements, lay on the side of kissing or scratching. Mrs Martha Phillips herself commenced an incoherent apology about “expecting to see four young gentlemen in fancy dresses;” and Hanmer and the captain tried all they could to laugh off a contretemps, which to explain was impossible. What the old lady took Mr Plympton for, and what Mr Plympton thought of her, were questions which, so far as I know, no one ventured to ask. He left Glyndewi the next morning; but the joke, after furnishing us with a never-failing fund of ludicrous reminiscence for the rest of our stay, followed him to the Oriel common-room, and was an era in the dulness of that respectable symposium.

Dancing had begun in good earnest when we arrived at the ball-room. There was the usual motley assemblage of costumes of all nations under the sun, and some which the sun, when he put down the impudence of the wax-lights upon his return the next morning, must have marvelled to behold. Childish as it may be called, a fancy-ball is certainly, for the first half-hour at all events, an amusing scene. Willingham and myself stood a little inside the doorway for some moments, he enjoying the admiring glances which his fine figure and picturesque costume were well calculated to call forth, and I vainly endeavouring to make out Clara’s figure amidst the gay dresses and well-grown proportions of the pretty Cambrians who flitted past. Sounds of expostulation and entreaty, mingled with a laugh which we knew to be Branling’s, in the passage outside, disturbed both our meditations, and at last induced me to turn my eyes unwillingly to the open door. Branling was leaning against it in a fit of uncontrollable mirth, and beckoned us earnestly to join him. Outside stood Dawson, stamping with vexation, and endeavouring to undo the complex machinery which had hitherto secured his shako in an erect position. He was in the unfortunate predicament of Dr S——’s candelabrum, which, presented to him as a testimony of respect from his grateful pupils, was found by many feet too large to be introduced into any room in the Dr’s comparatively humble habitation, and stood for some time in the manufacturer’s show-room in testimony of the fact, that public acknowledgments of merit are sometimes made on too large a scale. Architects who give measurements for ordinary doorways, do not contemplate such emergencies as testimonial candelabrums or irremovable caps and plumes; and the door of the Glyndewi ball-room had no notion of accommodating a lancer in full dress, who could not even be civil enough to take off his hat. So there stood our friend, impatient to display his uniform, and unwilling to lessen the effect of his first appearance by doffing so important a part of his costume: to get through the door, in the rigid inflexibility of head and neck which he had hitherto maintained, was a manifest impossibility. Branling had suggested his staying outside, and he would undertake to bring people to look at him; but Dawson, for some unaccountable reason, was usually suspicious of advice from that quarter; so he “stooped to conquer,” and lost all. The shako tumbled from its precarious perch, and hung ignobly suspended by the cap-lines. A lancer with a pair of grey spectacles, and a shako hanging round his neck, would have been a very fancy dress indeed: so he was endeavouring, at the risk of choking himself, to disentangle, by main force, the complication of knots which we had woven with some dim hope of the result. In vain did we exhort him to take it patiently, and remind him how preposterous it was to expect, that what had taken our united ingenuity half an hour to arrange “to please him,” could be undone in a minute. “Cut the cursed things, can’t you?” implored he. No one had a knife. “I do believe, Branling, you are tying that knot tighter: I had much rather not have your assistance.” Branling protested his innocence. At last we did release him, and he entered the room with a look most appropriately crest-fallen, shako in hand, solacing himself by displaying its glories as well as could be effected by judicious changes of its position.

I soon found Clara, looking more radiantly beautiful than ever I had seen her, in a sweet dress of Stuart tartan. I had to make my apologies, which were most sincerely penitent ones, for not being in time to claim my privilege of dancing the first quadrille with her. She smiled at my evident earnestness, and good-humouredly added, that the next would be a much more pleasant dance, as the room was now beginning to fill. It was a pleasant dance, as she said; and the waltz that followed still more delightful; and then Clara, with a blush and a laugh, declined my pressing entreaties until after supper at all events. I refused her good-natured offer of an introduction to “that pretty girl in blue,” or any other among the stars of the night; and sat down, or leant against the wall, almost unconsciously watching her light step, and sternly resisting all attempts on the part of my acquaintances to persuade me to dance again. Of course, all the dancing characters among our party were Clara’s partners in succession; and both Gordon and Dawson, who came to ask what had put me into the sulks, were loud in their encomiums on her beauty and fascination; even Branling, no very devoted admirer of the sex (he saw too much of them, he said, having four presentable sisters), allowed that she was “the right sort of girl;” but it was not until I saw her stand up with Willingham, and marked his evident admiration of her, and heard the remarks freely made around me, that they were the handsomest couple in the room, that I felt a twinge of what I would hardly allow to myself was jealousy: when, however, after the dance, they passed me in laughing conversation, evidently in high good-humour with each other, and too much occupied to notice any one else, I began to wonder I had never before found out what a conceited puppy Willingham was, and set down poor Clara as an arrant flirt. But I was in a variable mood, it seemed, and a feather—or, what some may say is even lighter, a woman’s word—was enough to turn me. So when I found myself, by some irresistible attraction, drawn next to her again at supper, and heard her sweet voice, and saw what I interpreted into a smile of welcome, as she made room for me beside her, I forgave her all past offences, and was perfectly happy for the next hour; nay, even condescended to challenge Willingham to a glass of soi-disant champagne. The Tiger, who was, according to annual custom, displaying the tarnished uniform of the 3d Madras N.I., and illustrating his tremendous stories of the siege of Overabad, or some such place, by attacks on all the edibles in his neighbourhood, gave me a look of intelligence as he requested I would “do him the honour,” and shook his whiskers with some meaning which I did not think it necessary to inquire into. What was it to him if I chose to confine my attentions to my undoubtedly pretty neighbour? No one could dispute my taste, at all events; for Clara Phillips was a universal favourite, though I had remarked that none of the numerous “eligible young men” in the room appeared about her in the character of a dangler. She was engaged to Willingham for the waltz next after supper, and I felt queerish again, till she willingly agreed to dance the next set with me, on condition that I would oblige her so far as to ask a friend of hers to be my partner in the mean time. “She is a very nice girl, Mr Hawthorne, though, perhaps, not one of the belles of the room, and has danced but twice this evening, and it will be so kind in you to ask her—only don’t do it upon my introduction, but let Major Jones introduce you as if at your own request.” Let no one say that vanity, jealousy, and all those petty arts by which woman wrongs her better nature, are the rank growth necessarily engendered by the vitiated air of a ball-room; rooted on the same soil, warmed by the same sunshine, fed by the same shower, one plant shall bear the antidote and one the poison: one kind and gentle nature shall find exercise for all its sweetest qualities in those very scenes which, in another, shall foster nothing but heartless coquetry or unfeminine display. Never did Clara seem so lovely in mind and person as when she drew upon her own attractions to give pleasure to her less gifted friend; and, I suppose, I must have thrown into the tone of my reply something of what I felt; for she blushed, uttered a hasty “I thank you,” and told Willingham it was time to take their places. I sought and obtained the introduction, and endeavoured, for Clara’s sake, to be an agreeable partner to the quiet little girl beside me. One subject of conversation, at all events, we hit upon, where we seemed both at home; and if I felt some hesitation in saying all I thought of Clara, my companion had none, but told me how much everybody loved her, and how much she deserved to be loved. It was really so much easier to draw my fair partner out on this point than any other, that I excused myself for being so eager a listener; and, when we parted, to show my gratitude in what I conceived the most agreeable way, I begged permission to introduce Mr Sydney Dawson, and thus provided her with what, I dare say, she considered a most enviable partner. I had told Dawson she was a very clever girl (he was fond of what he called “talented women,” and had a delusive notion that he was himself a genius): he had the impertinence to tell me afterwards he found her rather stupid; I ought, perhaps, to have given him the key-note. During the dance which followed, I remember I was silent and distrait; and when it was over, and Clara told me she was positively engaged for more sets than she should dance again, I left the ball-room, and wandered feverishly along the quay to our lodgings. I remember persuading myself, by a syllogistic process, that I was not in love, and dreaming that I was anxiously reading the class-list, in which it seemed unaccountable that my name should be omitted, till I discovered, on a second perusal, that just about the centre of the first class, where “Hawthorne, Franciscus, e. Coll——” ought to have come in, stood in large type the name of “Clara Phillips.”

The races, which occupied the morning of the next day, were as stupid as country races usually are, except that the Welshmen had rather more noise about it. The guttural shouts and yells from the throats of tenants and other dependants, as the “mishtua’s” horse won or lost, and the extraordinary terms in which they endeavoured to encourage the riders, were amusing even to a stranger, though one lost the point of the various sallies which kept the course in one continued roar. As to the running, everybody—that is, all the sporting world—knew perfectly well, long before the horses started, which was to win; that appearing to be the result of some private arrangement between the parties interested, while the “racing” was for the benefit of the strangers and the ladies. Those of the latter who had fathers, or brothers, or, above all, lovers, among the knowing ones, won divers pairs of gloves on the occasion, while those who were not so fortunate, lost them.

I fancied that Clara was not in her usual spirits on the race-course, and she pleaded a headache as an excuse to her sister for ordering the carriage to drive home long before the “sport” was over. If I had thought the said sport stupid before, it did not improve in attraction after her departure; and, when the jumping in sacks, and climbing up poles, and other calisthenic exercises began, feeling a growing disgust for “things in general,” I resisted the invitation of a mamma and three daughters, to join themselves and Mr Dawson in masticating some sandwiches which looked very much like “relics of joy” from last night’s supper, and sauntered home, and sat an hour over a cigar and a chapter of ethics. As the clock struck five, remembering that the Ordinary hour was six, I called at the Phillips’ lodgings to inquire for Clara. She was out walking with her sister; so I returned to dress in a placid frame of mind, confident that I should meet her at dinner.

For it was an Ordinary for ladies as well as gentlemen. A jovial Welsh baronet sat at the head of the table, with the two ladies of highest “consideration”—the county member’s wife and the would-have-been member’s daughter—on his right and left; nobody thought of politics at the Glyndewi regatta. Clara was there; but she was escorted into the room by some odious man, who, in virtue of having been made high-sheriff by mistake, sat next Miss Anti-reform on the chairman’s left. The natives were civil enough to marshal us pretty high up by right of strangership, but still I was barely near enough to drink wine with her.

If a man wants a good dinner, a hearty laugh, an opportunity of singing songs and speech-making, and can put up with indifferent wine, let him go to the race Ordinary at Glyndewi next year, if it still be among the things which time has spared. There was nothing like stiffness or formality: people came there for amusement, and they knew that the only way to get it was to make it for themselves. There seemed to be fun enough for half-a-dozen of the common run of such dinners, even while the ladies remained. It was, as Hanmer called it, an extra-ordinary. But it was when the ladies had retired, and Hanmer and a few of the “steady ones” had followed them, and those who remained closed up around the chairman, and cigars and genuine whisky began to supersede the questionable port and sherry, and the “Vice” requested permission to call on a gentleman for a song, that we began to fancy ourselves within the walls of some hitherto unknown college, where the “levelling system” had mixed up fellows and undergraduates in one common supper-party, and the portly principal himself rejoiced in the office of “arbiter bibendi.” Shall I confess it? I forgot even Clara in the uproarious mirth that followed. Two of the young Phillipses were admirable singers, and drew forth the hearty applause of the whole company. We got Dawson to make a speech, in which he waxed poetical touching the “flowers of Cambria,” and drew down thunders of applause by a Latin quotation, which every one took that means of showing that they understood. I obtained almost unconsciously an immortal reputation by a species of flattery to which the Welsh are most open. I had learnt, after no little application, a Welsh toast—a happy specimen of the language; it was but three words, but they were truly cabalistic. No sooner had I, after a “neat and appropriate” preface, uttered my triple Shibboleth (it ended in rag, and signified “Wales, Welshmen, and Welshwomen”), than the whole party rose, and cheered at me till I felt positively modest. My pronunciation, I believe, was perfect, (a woman’s lips and an angel’s voice had taught it to me): and it was indeed the Open Sesame to their hearts and feelings. I became at once the intimate friend of all who could get near enough to offer me their houses, their horses, their dogs—I have no doubt, had I given a hint at the moment, I might have had any one of their daughters. “Would I come and pay a visit at Abergwrnant before I left the neighbourhood? Only twenty-five miles, and a coach from B——!” “Would I, before the shooting began, come to Craig-y-bwldrwn, and stay over the first fortnight in September?” I could have quartered myself, and two or three friends, in a dozen places for a month at a time. And, let me do justice to the warm hospitality of North Wales—these invitations were renewed in the morning: and were I ever to visit those shores again, I should have no fear of their having been yet forgotten.

Captain Phillips had told us that, when we left the table, “the girls” would have some coffee for us, if not too late; and Willingham and myself, having taken a turn or two in the moonlight to get rid of the excitement of the evening, bent our steps in that direction. There were about as many persons assembled as the little drawing-room would hold, and Clara, having forgotten her headache, and looking as lovely as ever, was seated at a wretched piano, endeavouring to accompany herself in her favourite songs. Willingham and myself stood by, and our repeated requests for some of those melodies which, unknown to us before, we had learnt from her singing to admire beyond all the fashionable trash of the day, were gratified with untiring good-nature. Somehow I thought that she avoided my eye, and answered my remarks with less than her usual archness and vivacity. I could bear it on this evening less than ever; a hair will turn the scale; and I had just been, half ludicrously, half seriously, affected by Welsh nationality. One cannot help warming towards a community which are so warm-hearted among themselves. Visions of I know not what—love and a living, Clara and a cottage—were floating dreamlike before my eyes; and I felt as if borne along by a current whose direction might be dangerous, but which it was misery to resist. Willingham had turned away a minute to hunt for some missing book, which contained one of his favourites; and, leaning over her with my finger pointing to the words which she had just been singing, I said something about there being always a fear in happiness such as I had lately been enjoying, lest it might not last. For a moment she met my earnest look, and coloured violently; and then fixing her eyes on the music before her, she said quickly, “Mr Hawthorne, I thought you had a higher opinion of me than to make me pretty speeches; I have a great dislike to them.” I began to protest warmly against any intention of mere compliment, when the return of Willingham with his song prevented any renewal of the subject. I was annoyed and silent, and detected a tremor in her voice while she sang the words, and saw her cheek paler than usual. The instant the song was over, she complained with a smile of being tired, and, without a look at either of us, joined a party who were noisily recounting the events of the race-course. Nor could I again that evening obtain a moment’s conversation with her. She spoke to me, indeed, and very kindly; but once only did I catch her eye, when I was speaking to some one else—the glance was rapidly withdrawn, but it seemed rather sorrowful than cold.

I was busy with Hanmer the next morning before breakfast, when Dick Phillips made his appearance, and informed us that the “strangers” had made up an eleven for the cricket match, and that we were to play at ten. He was a sort of live circular, despatched to get all parties in readiness.

“Oh! I have something for you from Clara,” said he to me, as he was leaving; “the words of a song she promised you, I believe.”

I opened the sealed envelope, saw that it was not a song, and left Hanmer somewhat abruptly. When I was alone, I read the following:—

Dear Mr Hawthorne,—Possibly you may have been told that I have, before now, done things which people call strange—that is, contrary to some arbitrary notions which are to supersede our natural sense of right and wrong. But never, until now, did I follow the dictates of my own feelings in opposition to conventional rules, with the painful uncertainty as to the propriety of such a course, which I now feel. And if I had less confidence than I have in your honour and your kindness, or less esteem for your character, or less anxiety for your happiness, I would not write to you now. But I feel that, if you are what I wish to believe you, it is right that you should be at once undeceived as to my position. Others should have done it, perhaps—it would have spared me much. Whether your attentions to me are in sport or earnest, they must cease. I have no right to listen to such words as yours last night—my heart and hand are engaged to one who deserves better from me than the levity which alone could have placed me in the position from which I thus painfully extricate myself. For any fault on my part, I thus make bitter atonement. I wish you health and happiness, and now let this save us both from further misunderstanding.

“C.”

Again and again did I read these words. Not one woman in a hundred would have ventured on such a step. And for what? to save me from the mortification of a rejection? It could be nothing else. How easy for a man of heartless gallantry to have written a cool note in reply, disclaiming “any aspiration after the honour implied,” and placing the warm-hearted writer in the predicament of having declined attentions never meant to be serious! But I felt how kindly, how gently, I had been treated—the worst of it was, I loved her better than ever. I wrote some incoherent words in reply, sufficiently expressive of my bitter disappointment, and my admiration of her conduct; and then I felt “that my occupation was gone.” She whom I had so loved to look upon, I trembled now to see. I had no mind to break my heart; but I felt that time and change were necessary to prevent it. Above all, Glyndewi was no place for me to forget her in.

In the midst of my painful reflections on all the happy hours of the past week, Gordon and Willingham broke in upon me with high matter for consultation relative to the match. In vain did I plead sudden illness, and inability to play: they declared it would knock the whole thing on the head, for Hanmer would be sure to turn sulky, and there was an end of the eleven; and they looked so really chagrined at my continued refusals, that at length I conquered my selfishness (I had had a lesson in that), and, though really feeling indisposed for any exertion, went down with them to the ground. I was in momentary dread of seeing Clara arrive (for all the world was to be there), and felt nervous and low-spirited. The strangers’ eleven was a better one than we expected, and they put our men out pretty fast. Hanmer got most unfortunately run out after a splendid hit, and begged me to go in and “do something,” I took my place mechanically, and lost my wicket to the first ball. We made a wretched score, and the strangers went in exultingly. In spite of Hanmer’s steady bowling, they got runs pretty fast; and an easy catch came into my hands just as Clara appeared on the ground, and I lost all consciousness of what I was about. Again the same opportunity offered, and again my eyes were wandering among the tents. Hanmer got annoyed, and said something not over civil: I was vexed myself that my carelessness should be the cause of disappointment twice, and yet more than half-inclined to quarrel with Branling, whom I overheard muttering about my “cursed awkwardness.” We were left in a fearful minority at the close of the first innings, when we retired to dinner. The Glyndewi party and their friends were evidently disappointed. I tried to avoid Clara; but could not keep far from her. At last she came up with one of her brothers, spoke and shook hands with me, said that her brother had told her I was not well, and that she feared I ought not to have played at all. “I wish you could have beat them, Mr Hawthorne—I had bet that you would; perhaps you will feel better after dinner; those kind of headaches soon wear off,” she added with a smile and a kind look, which I understood as she meant it. I walked into the tent where we were to dine: I sat next a little man on the opposite side, an Englishman, one of their best players, as active as a monkey, who had caught out three of our men in succession. He talked big about his play, criticised Willingham’s batting, which was really pretty, and ended by discussing Clara Phillips, who was, he said, “a demned fine girl, but too much of her.” I disliked his flippancy before, but now my disgust to him was supreme. I asked the odds against us, and took them freely. There was champagne before me, and I drank it in tumblers. I did what even in my undergraduate days was rarely my habit—I drank till I was considerably excited. Hanmer saw it, and got the match resumed at once to save me, as he afterwards said, “from making a fool of myself.” I insisted, in spite of his advice, “to cool myself,” upon going in first. My flippant acquaintance of the dinner-table stood point, and I knew, if I could but see the ball, and not see more than one, that I could occasionally “hit square” to some purpose. I had the luck to catch the first ball just on the rise, and it cut my friend point off his legs as if he had been shot. He limped off the ground, and we were troubled with him no more. I hit as I never did before, or shall again. At first I played wild, but as I got cool, and my sight became steady, I felt quite at home. The bowlers got tired, and Dick Phillips, who had no science, but the strength of a unicorn, was in with me half-an-hour, slashing in all directions. In short, the tide turned, and the match ended in our favour.

I was quite sober, and free from all excitement, when I joined Clara, for the last time, after the game was over. “I am so glad you played so well,” said she; “if you are but as successful at Oxford as you have been at the boat-race and the cricket, you will have no reason to be disappointed: your career here has been one course of victory.” “Not altogether, Miss Phillips: the prize I shall leave behind me when I quit Glyndewi to-morrow, is worth more than all that I can gain.” “Mr Hawthorne,” said she kindly, “one victory is in your own power, and you will soon gain it, and be happy—the victory over yourself.”

I made some excuse to Hanmer about letters from home, to account for my sudden departure. How the party got on after I left them, and what was the final result of our “reading,” is no part of my tale; but I fear the reader will search the class-lists of 18— in vain for the names of Mr Hanmer’s pupils.