MR W. WELLINGTON HURST.
[MAGA. January 1846.]
It would probably puzzle Mr William Wellington
Hurst, as much as any man, to find out on what
grounds I placed him on the list of my College
friends; for certainly our intimacy was hardly sufficient
to warrant such a liberty; and he was one of
those happy individuals who would never have
suspected that it could be out of gratitude for much
amusement afforded me by sundry of his sayings
and doings. But so it is; and it happens, that
while the images of many others of my companions—very
worthy good sort of fellows, whom I saw
more or less of nearly every day—have vanished
from my memory, or only flit across occasionally,
like shadows, the full-length figure of Mr W. Wellington
Hurst, exactly as he turned out, after a
satisfactory toilet, in the patent boots and scarf of
many colours, stands fixed there like a daguerreotype—more
faithful than flattering.
My first introduction to him was by running him
down in a skiff, when I was steering the College
eight—not less to his astonishment than our own
gratification. It is (or used to be) perfectly allowable,
by the laws of the river, if, after due notice,
these small craft fail to get out of your way; but it
is not very easy to effect. However, in this instance,
we went clean over him, very neatly indeed.
The men helped him into our boat, just as his own
sunk from under him; and he accepted a seat by
my side in the stern-sheets, with many apologies
for being so wet, appearing considerably impressed
with a sense of my importance, and still more of my
politeness. When we reached Sandford, I prescribed
a stiff tumbler of hot brandy and water, and
advised him to run all the way home, to warm himself,
and avoid catching cold; and, from that time,
I believe he always looked upon me as a benefactor.
The claim, on my part, certainly rested on a very
small foundation originally; it was strengthened
afterwards by a less questionable act of patronage.
Like many other under-graduates of every man's
acquaintance in those days, Hurst laboured under
the delusion, that holding two sets of reins in a
very confused manner, and flourishing a long whip,
was driving; and that to get twenty miles out of
Oxford in a "team," without an upset, or an imposition
from the proctor, was an opus operatum of the
highest possible merit. To do him justice, he
laboured diligently in the only exercise which he
seemed to consider strictly academical—he spent
an hour every morning, standing upon a chair,
"catching flies," as he called it, and occasionally
flicking his scout, with a tandem whip; and practised
incessantly upon tin horns of all lengths, with
more zeal than melody, until he got the erysipelas
in his lower lip, and a hint of rustication from the
tutors. Yet he was more ambitious than successful.
His reputation on the road grew worse and
worse every day. He had a knack of shaving turnpike
gates, and cutting round corners on one wheel,
and getting his horses into every possible figure
but a straight line, which made every mile got over
without an accident almost a miracle. At last,
after taking a four-in-hand over a narrow bridge,
at the bottom of a hill, pretty much in the Olympic
fashion—all four abreast—men got rather shy of
any expeditions of the kind in his company. There
was little credit in it, and a good deal of danger.
First, he was reduced to soliciting the company of
freshmen, who were flattered by any proposal that
sounded fast. But they, too, grew shy, after one
or two ventures; and poor Hurst soon found a difficulty
in getting a companion at all. He was a
liberal fellow enough, and not pushed for a guinea
when his darling science was concerned: so he
used to offer to "sport the team" himself; but
even when he condescended to the additional self-devotion
of "standing a dinner and champagne,"
he found that the closest calculators among his
sporting acquaintance had as much regard for their
necks as their pockets.
To this inglorious position was his fame as a
charioteer reduced, when Horace Leicester and
myself, early in his third term, had determined
somewhat suddenly to go to see a steeple-chase
about twelve miles off, where Leicester had some
attraction besides the horses, in the shape of a
pretty cousin; (two, he told me, and bribed me
with the promise of an introduction to "the other,"
but she did not answer to sample at all.) We had
engaged a very nice mare and stanhope, which we
knew we could depend upon, when, the day before
the race, the chestnut was declared lame, and not a
presentable four-legged animal was to be hired in
Oxford. Hurst had engaged his favourite pair of
greys (which would really go very well with any
other driver) a week beforehand, but had been canvassing
the last batch of freshmen in vain for an
occupant of the vacant seat. A huge red-headed
north-country man, who had never seen a tandem
in his life, but who, as far as pluck went, would
have ridden postilion to Medea's dragons, was
listening with some apparent indecision to Hurst's
eloquence upon the delights of driving, just as we
came up after a last unsuccessful search through
the livery stables; and the pair were proceeding
out of college arm in arm, probably to look at
the greys, when Leicester, to my amusement,
stepped up with—"Hurst, who's going with you
"I—why, I hardly know yet; I think Sands
here will, if"——
"I'll go with you then, if you like; and if you've
got a cart, Hawthorne can come too, and it will be
If the university had announced their intention
of creating him a B.A. by diploma, without examination,
Hurst could hardly have looked more
surprised and delighted. Leicester, it should be
borne in mind, was one of the most popular men in
the college—a sort of arbiter elegantiarum in the
best set. Hurst knew very little of him, but was
no doubt highly flattered by his proposal. From
coaxing freshmen to come out by the bribe of paying
all expenses, to driving to B—— steeple-chase side
by side with Horace (my modesty forbids me to
include myself), was a step at once from the ridiculous
to the sublime of tandemizing. For this
advancement in life, he always, I fancy, considered
himself indebted to me, as I had originally introduced
him to Leicester's acquaintance; and when
we both accepted an invitation, which he delivered
himself of with some hesitation, to breakfast in his
rooms on the morning of the expedition, his joy and
gratitude appeared to know no bounds. It is not
usual, be it remembered, for a junior man in college
to ask a senior to a party from whom he has never
received an invitation himself; but hunting and
tandem-driving are apt occasionally to set ordinary
etiquette at defiance. "Don't ask a lot of men,
that's all—there's a good fellow," said Horace,
whose good-natured smile, and off-hand and really
winning manner, enabled him to carry off, occasionally,
a degree of impudence which would not
have been tolerated from others—"I hate a large
formal breakfast party of all things; it disgusts me
to see a score of men jostling each other over tough
"I asked Sands yesterday," apologised Hurst.
"I thought perhaps he would come out with me;
but I daresay I can put him off, if"——
"Oh! on no account whatever; you mean the
carroty freshman I saw you with just now? Have
him by all means; it will be quite refreshing to
meet any man so regularly green. So there will
be just four of us; eight o'clock, I suppose? it
won't do to be much later."
And Horace walked off, having thus arranged
matters to his own satisfaction and his host's. I
was an interested party in the business, however,
and had my own terms to make. "You've disposed
of me rather coolly," said I; "you don't
surely imagine that at my time of life I'm going
to trust my neck to that fellow's abominable
"Make your mind easy, Frank; William Wellington
sha'n't finger a riband."
"Nonsense, Leicester; you can't treat a man in
that kind of way—not to let him drive his own
team. Hurst is a bit of an ass, certainly; but you
can't with any decency first ask a man for a seat,
and then refuse to give him up the reins."
"Am I in the habit, sir, of doing things in the
very rude and ungentlemanly style you insinuate?"
And Horace looked at me with mock dignity for a
second or two, and then burst into a laugh. "Leave
it to me, Hawthorne, and I'll manage it to the satisfaction
of all parties: I'll promise you that Hurst
shall have a capital day's fun, and your valuable neck
shall be as safe as if you were tried by a Welsh jury."
With this indefinite assurance I was obliged to
be content; and accordingly, at half-past eight the
next morning, after a very correct breakfast, we
mounted the tandem-cart at the college back-gates,
got the leader hitched on, as usual, a mile out of
the city, for fear of proctors, and were bowling
merrily along, in the slight frost of an autumn
morning, towards B——. Leicester took the driving
first, by Hurst's special request, after one or
two polite but faint refusals, the latter sitting by
his side; while I occupied, for the present, the
queer little box which in those days was stuck on
behind, (the more modern carts, which hold four,
are an improvement introduced into the University
since my driving days). With wonderful gravity
and importance did Leicester commence his lectures
on the whip to his admiring companion: I almost
think he began in the approved style, with a slight
allusion to the Roman biga, and deduced the progress
of the noble science from Ericthonius down
to "Peyton and Ward." I have a lively recollection
of a comparison between Automedon of the
Homeric times, and "Black Will" of Oxford celebrity—the
latter being decided as only likely to be
less immortal, because there was no Homer among
the contemporary under-graduates. A good deal
was lost to me, no doubt, from my position behind;
but Hurst seemed to suck it all in with every disposition
to be edified. From the history of his
subject, Horace proceeded, in due course, to the
theory, from theory to facts, from facts to illustrations.
In the practical department, Horace, I suspect,
like many other lecturers, was on his weakest
ground; for his own driving partook of the general
"You throw the lash out so—you see—and bring
it back sharp, so—no, not so exactly—so—hang the
thing, I can't do it now; but that's the principle,
you understand—and then you take up your double
thong, so—pshaw, I did it very well just now—to
put it into the wheeler, so—ah, I missed it then,
but that's the way to do it."
He put me considerably in mind of a certain professor
of chemistry, whose lectures on light and heat
I once was rash enough to attend, who, after a long
dry disquisition which had nearly put us all to sleep,
used to arouse our attention to the "beautiful effects"
produced by certain combinations, which he would
proceed to illustrate, as he said, by a "little experiment."
But, somehow or other, these little experiments
always, or nearly always, failed: and after
the room had been darkened, perhaps, for five minutes
or so, in order to give the exhibition full effect,
the result would be, a fizz or two, a faint blue light,
and a stink, varying according to circumstances,
but always abominable. "It's very odd, John,"
the discomfited operator used to exclaim to his
assistant; "very odd; and we succeeded so well
this morning, too: it's most unaccountable: I'm
really very sorry, gentlemen, but I can assure you,
this very same experiment we tried to-day with the
most beautiful result; didn't we, John?" "We
did, sir," was John's invariably dutiful reply; and
so the audience took John's word for it, and the
experiment was considered to have been, virtually,
So we rattled on to the ground: Leicester occasionally
putting the reins into his companion's hand,
teaching him to perform some impossible movement
with his third finger, and directing his attention to
non-existent flies, which he professed to remove
from the leader, out of sheer compassion, with the
point of the whip.
"You are sure you wouldn't like to take the reins
now? Well, you'll drive home then, of course?
Hawthorne, will you try your hand now? Hurst's
going to take up the tooling when we come back."
"No, thank you," said I; "I won't interfere with
either of your performances."—"And if Hurst does
drive home," was my mental determination, expressed
to Leicester as far as a nod could do it,
There was no difficulty in finding out the localities:
the field in which the winning-flag was fixed
was not far from the turnpike road, and conspicuous
enough by the crowd already there collected. Of
course, pretty nearly all the sporting characters
among the gownsmen were there, the distance from
the University being so trifling. Mounted on that
seedy description of animal peculiar to Oxford livery-stables,
which can never by any possibility be mistaken
for anything but a hired affair, but will generally
go all day, and scramble through almost anything;
with showily mounted jockey-whips in their
hands, bad cigars (at two guineas a-pound) in their
mouths, bright blue scarfs, or something equivalent,
round their necks—their neat white cords and tops
(things which they did turn out well in Oxford)
being the only really sportsmanlike article about
them; flattering themselves they looked exceedingly
knowing, and, in nine cases out of ten, being
deceived therein most lamentably; clustered together
in groups of four or five, discussing the
merits of the horses, or listening, as to an oracle,
to the opinion of some Oxford horse-dealer, delivered
with insolent familiarity—here were the men
who drank out of a fox's head, and recounted imaginary
runs with the Heythrop. Happy was he
amongst them, and a positive hero for the day, who
could boast a speaking acquaintance with any of
those anomalous individuals, at present enshrouded
in great-coats, but soon to appear in all the varieties
of jockey costume, known by the style and title of
"gentlemen riders;" who could point out, confidentially,
to his admiring companions, "Jack
B——," and "Little M——," and announce, from
authority, how many ounces under weight one was
this morning, and how many blankets were put
upon the other the night before, to enable him to
come to the scales at all. Here and there, more
plainly dressed, moving about quickly on their
own thorough-breds, or talking to some neighbouring
squire who knew the ground, were the few
really sporting men belonging to the University;
who kept hunters in Oxford, simply because they
were used to keep them at home, and had been
brought up to look upon fox-hunting as their future
vocation. Lolling on their saddles, probably voting
it all a bore, were two or three tufts, and their
"tail;" and stuck into all sorts of vehicles, lawful
and unlawful, buggies, drags, and tandems, were
that ignoble herd, who, like myself, had come to
the steeple-chase, just because it was the most
convenient idleness at hand, and because other
men were going. There were all sorts of people
there besides, of course: carriages of all grades of
pretension, containing pretty bonnets and ugly
faces, in the usual proportion; "all the beauty and
fashion of the neighbourhood," nevertheless, as the
county paper assured us; and as I may venture to
add, from personal observation, a very fair share of
its disreputability and blackguardism besides.
After wandering for a short time among these
various groups, Leicester halted us at last in front
of one of those old-fashioned respectable-looking
barouches, which one now so seldom sees, in which
were seated a party, who turned out to consist of
an uncle and aunt, and the pair of cousins before
alluded to. Hurst and I were duly introduced; a
ceremony which, for my own part, I could have very
readily excused, when I discovered that the only
pair of eyes in the party worth mentioning bestowed
their glances almost exclusively on Horace, and any
attempt at cutting into the conversation in that
quarter was as hopeless, apparently, as ungracious.
Our friend's taste in the article of cousins was undeniably
correct; Flora Leicester was a most desirable
person to have for a cousin; very pretty,
very good-humoured, and (I am sure she was,
though I pretend to no experience of the fact) very
affectionate. If one could have put in any claim
of kindred, even in the third or fourth degree, it
would have been a case in which to stickle hard
for the full privileges of relationship. As matters
stood, it was trying enough to the sensibilities of
us unfortunate bystanders, whose cousins were
either ugly or at a distance; for the rest of our
new acquaintances were not interesting. The
younger sister was shy and insipid; the squire like
ninety-nine squires in every hundred; and the
lady-mother in a perpetual state of real or affected
nervous agitation, to which her own family were
happily insensible, but which taxed a stranger's
polite sympathies pretty heavily. Though constantly
in the habit, as she assured me, of accompanying
her husband to race-courses, and enjoying
the sport, she was always on the look-out for an accident,
and was always having, as she said, narrow
escapes; some indeed so very narrow, that, according
to her own account, they ought to have had,
by every rule of probability, fatal terminations. In
fact, her tone might have led one to believe that
she looked upon herself as an ill-used woman in
getting off so easily—at least she was exceedingly
angry when the younger daughter ventured to remark,
en pendant to one of her most thrilling adventures,
that "there was no great danger of an
upset when the wheel stuck fast." Not content
with putting her head out of the carriage every
five minutes, to see if her own well-trained bays
were standing quiet, as they always did, there was
not a restive horse or awkward rider on the ground
but attracted the good lady's ever watchful sense
of danger. "He'll be thrown! I'm sure he will!
foolish man, why don't he get off!" "Oh, oh!
there they go! they're off, those horrid horses!
they'll never stop 'em!" Such were the interjections,
accompanied with extraordinary shudderings
and drawings of the breath, with which Mrs John
Leicester, her eyes fixed on some distant point,
occasionally broke in upon the general conversation,
sometimes with a vehemence that startled
even her nephew and eldest daughter, though, to
do them justice, they paid very little attention to
any of us.
Just as I was meditating something desperate,
in order to relieve myself from the office of soother-general
of Mrs Leicester's imaginary terrors, and
to bring Flora's sunny face once more within my
line of vision (she had been turning the back of
her bonnet upon me perseveringly for the last ten
minutes), a general commotion gave us notice that
the horses were started, and the race begun. The
hill on which we were stationed was close to the
winning-post, and commanded a view of pretty
nearly the whole ground from the start. The race
was, I suppose, pretty nearly like other steeple-chases,
and there is the less need for me to describe
it, because a very full and particular account appeared
in the Bell's Life next ensuing. The principal
impressions which remain on my mind, are
of a very smart gentleman in black and crimson,
mounted on a very powerful bay, who seemed as if
he had been taking it easy, who came in first, and
after having been sufficiently admired by an innocent
public, myself among the number, as the
winner, turned out to have gone on the right hand
instead of the left of some flag or other, and to
have lost the race accordingly; and of a very
dirty-looking person, who arrived some minute or
two afterwards without a cap, whose jacket was
green and his horse grey, so far as the mud left
any colour visible, and who, to the great disappointment
of the ladies especially, turned out to be
the real hero after all.
We had made arrangements to have an independent
beefsteak together after the race, in preference
to joining the sporting ordinary announced
as usual on such occasions; but the squire insisted
on Leicester bringing us both to dine with his
party at five. After a few modest and conscientious
scruples on my part, at intruding on the hospitality
of comparative strangers, and a strong
private remonstrance from Hurst, on the impropriety
of sitting down to dinner with ladies in a
surtout and white cords, we accepted the invitation,
and betook ourselves to kill the intervening hour
or so as we best could.
"Well, Horace," said I, as Hurst went off to
make his apology for a toilette—"how are you
going to settle about the driving home?"
"Oh! never fear; I'll manage it: I have just
seen Miller and Fane; they've got a drag over here,
and there's lots of room inside; so they've promised
to take Hurst home with them, if we can
only manage to leave him behind: they are going
to dine here, and are sure not to go home till late;
and we must be off early, you know, because I
have some men coming to supper; so we'll leave
our friend behind, somehow or other. A painful
necessity, I admit; but it must be done, even if I
have to lock him up in the stable."
Leicester seemed to have more confidence in his
own resources than I had; but he was in too great
a state of excitement to listen to any demurrers of
mine on the point, and hurried us off to join his
friends. Ushered into the drawing-room A.1. of the
Saracen's Head, we found la bella Flora awaiting
us alone, the rest of the family being not as yet
visible. There was not the slightest necessity for
inquiring whether she felt fatigued, for she was
looking even more lovely than in the morning;
or whether she had been amused or not, for if the
steeple-chase had not delighted her, something else
had, for there was a radiant smile on her face which
could not be mistaken. Hurst was cut short
rather abruptly in a speech which appeared tending
towards a compliment, by Leicester's inquiring—"My
good fellow, have you seen the horses fed?"
"No, upon my word," said Hurst, "I"——
"Well, I have then; but I wish you would just
step across the yard, and see if that stupid ostler
has rubbed them dry, as I told him. You understand
those things, I know, Hurst—the fellows
won't humbug you very easily; as to Hawthorne, I
wouldn't trust him to see to anything of the sort.
Flora here knows more about a horse than he does."
Any compliment to Hurst's acuteness in the
matter of horse-flesh was sure to have its effect,
and he walked off with an air of some importance
to discharge his commission.
"Now, then," said Horace eagerly, "we have
got rid of him for ten minutes, which was all I
wanted; if you please, Flora dear, we must have
your cleverness to help us in a little difficulty."
"Indeed!" said Miss Leicester, colouring a little,
as her cousin, in his eagerness, seized her hand in
both of his—"what scrape have you got into now,
Horace, and how can I possibly help you?"
"Oh, I want you to hit upon some plan for keeping
that fellow Hurst here after we are gone."
"Upon my word!"
"Stay; you don't know what I mean. I'll tell
you why—if he drives home to Oxford, he'll infallibly
upset us; and drive he must if he goes home
with us, because, in fact, the team is his, and I
drove them all the way here, and it's his turn back,
"Then why, in the multitude of absurdities which
you Oxonians perpetrate—I beg your pardon, Mr
Hawthorne—but why need you have come out in
a tandem at all, with a man who can't drive?"
"Simply, Flora, because I had no other way of
coming at all."
"It was very absurd in us, Miss Leicester, I
allow," said I, "but you know what an attraction
a steeple-chase is, to your cousin especially; and
after having made up his mind to come—altogether,
you see, it would have been a disappointment"—(to
all parties, I had a mind to add, but I thought
the balance was on my side without it.)
"After all," said Horace, "I shouldn't care a
straw to run the chance, as far as I am concerned.
I dare say the horses will go home straight enough,
if he'll only let them: or if he wouldn't, I shouldn't
mind knocking him off the box at once—by accident;
but Frank here is rather particular, and I
promised him I would not let Hurst drive. I
thought once, if we had dined by ourselves, of persuading
him he was drunk, and sending him home
in a fly; but I am afraid, as matters stand, that
plea is hardly practicable."
"Could I persuade him to let you or Mr Hawthorne
drive, do you think?"
Horace looked at her as if he thought, as I dare
say he did, that his cousin Flora could, if she were
so minded, persuade a man to do anything; so I
was compelled, somewhat at the expense of my reputation
for gallantry, to assure them both, that if
Ulysses of old, among his various arts and accomplishments,
had piqued himself upon his tandem-driving,
his vanity would have stopped his ears
effectually, and the Syren might have sung herself
hoarse before he would have given up the reins.
"I'll give the Boots half-a-crown to steal his hat,"
said Horace, "and start while he is looking for it."
"Stay," said his cousin; "I dare say it may be
managed." But I thought she looked disappointed.
"Did you know we were all going to the B——
"No! really! what fun!"
"No fun for you; for you must start early, as you
said just now. The owners of the horses here
patronise a play, and they have made papa promise
to go, and so we must, I suppose, and"——
"Oh! we'll all go, of course," said Horace decidedly.—"You'll
stay and go, won't you, Hawthorne?"
"You forget your supper party," said I.
"Oh! hang it, they'll take care of themselves,
so long as the supper's there; they won't miss me
"Didn't I hear something of your being confined
to college after nine?"
"Ah, yes; I believe I am—but it won't matter
much for once; I'll call on the dean to-morrow, and
"No, no, Horace, that won't do; you and Mr
Hawthorne must go home like good boys," said
Flora, with a smile only half as merry as usual,
"and Mary and I will persuade Mr Hurst to stay
and go to the theatre with us."
"Oh! confound it!"—Horace began.
"Hush! here comes papa; remember this is my
arrangement; you ought to be very much obliged,
instead of beginning to swear in that way; I'm
sure Mr Hawthorne is very grateful to me for taking
so much interest in the question of his breaking
his neck, if you are not. Oh! papa," she continued,
"do you know that we shall lose all our
beaux to-night; they have some horrid supper
party to go back to, and we shall have to go to the
play by ourselves!"
Most of the Squire's sympathies were at this
moment absorbed in the fact that dinner was
already four minutes late, so that he had less to
spare for his daughter's disappointment than Mrs
Leicester, who on her arrival took up the lamentation
with all her heart. She attacked her nephew
at once upon the subject, whose replies were at first
wavering and evasive, till he caught Flora's eye,
and then he answered with a dogged sort of resolution,
exceedingly amusing to me who understood
his position, and at last got quite cross with his
aunt for persisting in her entreaties. I declared,
for my part, that I was dependent on Horace's
movements; that, if I could possibly have anticipated
the delightful evening which had awaited us,
every other arrangement should have given way,
&c. &c.; when Hurst's reappearance turned the
whole force of Mrs Leicester's persuasions upon
him, backed, too, as she was by both her daughters.
"Won't you stay, Mr Hurst? Must you go too?
Will you be so shabby as to leave us?" How
could any man stand it? William Wellington
Hurst could not, it was very plain. At first he
looked astonished; wondered why on earth we
couldn't all stay; then protested he couldn't think
of letting us go home by ourselves; a piece of self-devotion
which we at once desired might not be
thought of; then hesitated—he was meditating, no
doubt, on the delight of driving—how was he to
get home? the inglorious occupant of the inside of
a drag; or the solitary tenant of a fly (though I
suggested he might drive that if he pleased);
couldn't Leicester go home, and I and he follow
together? I put in a decided negative; he looked
from Mrs Leicester's anxious face to Flora's, and
surrendered at discretion. We were to start at
eight precisely in the tandem, and Miller and his
party, who were sure to wait for the play, were to
pick up Mr Wellington Hurst as a supernumerary
passenger at some hour unknown. And so we
went to dinner. Mrs Leicester marched off in triumph
with her new capture, as if fearful he might
give her the slip after all, and committed Flora to
my custody. I was charitable enough, however, in
consideration of all circumstances, to give up my
right of sitting next to her to Horace, and established
myself on the other side of the table, between
Mrs Leicester and her younger daughter;
and a hard post I had of it. Mary would not talk
at all, and her mamma would do nothing else; and
she was one of those pertinacious talkers, too, who,
not content with running on themselves, and leaving
you to put in an occasional interjection, inflict upon
you a cross-examination in its severest form, and
insist upon a definite and rational answer to every
question. However, availing myself of those legitimate
qualifications of a witness, an unlimited
amount of impudence, and a determination not to
criminate myself, I got on pretty tolerably. Who
did I think her daughter Flora like? I took the
opportunity of diligently examining that young
lady's features for about four minutes—not in the
least to her confusion, for she scarcely honoured
me with a glance the whole time—and then declared
the resemblance to mamma quite startling.
Mary? Oh, her father's eyes decidedly; upon
which the squire, whose pet she appeared to be—I
suppose it was the contrast between her quietness
and Mrs Leicester's incessant fidgetting that was
so delightful—laughed, and took wine with me.
Then she took up the subject of my private tastes
and habits. Was I fond of riding? Yes. Driving?
Pretty well. Reading? Very. Then she
considerately hoped that I did not read much by
candle-light—above all by an oil-lamp—it was very
injurious. I assured her that I would be cautious
for the future. Then she offered me a receipt for
eye-water, in case I suffered from weakness arising
from over-exertion of those organs;—declined, with
thanks. Hoped I did not read above twelve hours
a-day; some young men, she had heard, read sixteen,
which she considered as really inconsistent
with a due regard to health. I assured her that
our sentiments on that point perfectly coincided,
and that I had no tendency to excesses of that
kind. At last she began to institute inquiries about
certain under-graduates with whose families she
was acquainted; and the two or three names which
I recognised being hunting men, I referred her to
Hurst as quite au fait in the sporting circles of
Oxford, and succeeded in hooking them into a conversation
which effectually relieved me.
Leicester, as I could overhear, had been still
rather rebellious against going home before the
play was over, and was insisting that his being in
college by nine was not really material; nor did he
appear over-pleased, when, in answer to an appeal
from Flora, I said plainly, that the consequences of
his "knocking in" late, when under sentence of
strict confinement to the regular hour, might not be
pleasant—a fact, however, which he himself, though
with a very bad grace, was compelled to admit.
At last the time arrived for our party to separate:
Horace and I to return to Oxford, and the others to
adjourn to see Richard the Third performed at the
B—— theatre, under the distinguished patronage
of the members of the H—— Hunt. It was a
beautiful moonlight night, and as Hurst accompanied
us to the stable-yard to "start us," as he complacently
phrased it, it was clear that he was
suffering, like a great many unfortunate individuals
in public and private life, under an overweening
sense of his own importance. "You'll have an uncommon
pleasant drive of it; upon my word you
will," he remarked; "it wouldn't do for me to say
I would not stay, you know, as Miss Leicester—Mrs
Leicester, that is—seemed to make such a
point of it; but really"——
"Oh, come, Hurst," said I, "don't pretend to
say you've made any sacrifice in the matter; I
know you are quite delighted; I'm sure I should
have liked to stay of all things, only it would have
been uncivil to our friend here to send him home by
himself from his own party."
"Oh! hang it, I don't mean to call it a sacrifice;
I have no doubt I shall have a very pleasant
evening; only I wish we could all have stayed, and
driven home together afterwards."
"You may keep Hawthorne with you now, if you
like," said Horace, who was not in the best of tempers;
"I can take the horses home myself."
"No, no, that would be hardly fair," said I.
"Oh! no—off with you both," said Hurst; "stay,
Leicester, you'll find the grey go more pleasantly
if you drive him from the cheek; I'll alter it in a
"Have the goodness just to let them alone, my
good fellow; as I'm to drive, I prefer putting them
my own way, if you have no objection."
"Well, as you please; good-night."
"Miller's coming to my rooms when he gets
home; if you like to look in with him, you'll find
some supper, I dare say."
Horace continued rather sulky for the first few
miles, and only opened to anathematise, briefly but
comprehensively, steeple-chases, tandems, deans
and tutors, and "fellows like Hurst." I thought it
best to let him cool down a little; so, after this
ebullition, we rattled on in silence as long as his
first cigar lasted.
"Come," said I, as I gave him a light, "we got
rid of our friend's company pretty cleverly, thanks
to your cousin."
"Ay, I told you I'd take care of that; ha, ha!
poor Hurst! he little bargained, when he ordered
his team, how precious little driving he was to get
out of it; a strong instance of the vanity of human
expectations. I wish him joy of it, stuck up in
an old barn, as I suppose he is by this time, gaping
at a set of strolling players; how Flora will laugh
at him! I really shouldn't wonder if she were to
tell him, before the evening is over, how nicely he
has been humbugged, just for the fun of it!"
"At all events," said I, "I think we must have
a laugh at him to-night when he comes home;
though he's such a good-tempered fellow, it's rather
a shame, too."
It was very plain, however, that it was not quite
such a good joke to Master Horace himself as he
was trying to make out; and that, in point of fact,
he would have considerably preferred being seated,
as Hurst probably was at that moment, by his
pretty cousin's side in the B—— theatre, wherever
and whatever that might chance to be (even with
the full expectation of being laughed at afterwards),
to holding the reins of the best team that ever was
turned out of Oxford.
We reached Oxford just in time to hear the first
stroke of "Old Tom." By the time I joined Leicester
in his rooms, supper was ready, and most of
the party assembled. The sport of the day was
duly discussed; those who knew least about such
matters being proportionately the most noisy and
positive in giving their opinions. One young hero
of eighteen, fresh from Winchester, in all the importance
of a probationary Fellow of New College,
explained for our benefit, by the help of the forks
and salt-cellars, the line which the horses undoubtedly
ought to have taken, and which they did not
take; until one of his old schoolfellows, who was
present, was provoked to treat us to an anecdote of
the young gentleman's first appearance in the hunting-field—no
longer ago than the last term—when
he mistook the little rough Scotch terrier that
always accompanied ——'s pack for the fox, and
tally-ho'd him so lustily as to draw upon himself
sundry very energetic, but not very complimentary,
remarks from the well-known master of the hounds.
By degrees Leicester recovered his usual good-humour;
and supper passed over, and several songs
had been sung with the usual amount of applause
(except one very sentimental one which had no
chorus), and we had got pretty deep into punch and
politics, without Hurst's name having once been
mentioned by either of us. A knock at the oak,
and in walked Fane.
"So you're come back at last?" said Horace.
"Sit down, if you can find room. Allow me to introduce
your left-hand neighbour—Powell of Merton,—Fane,
one of our brightest ornaments; quite
the spes gregis we consider him; passed his little
go, and started a pink only last week; give him a
glass of punch. Perhaps you are not aware we've
been drinking your health. But, by the way, Fane,
where's our friend Wellington?"
"Who?" said Fane; "what on earth are you
"Wellington Hurst; didn't you bring him home
"Certainly not; didn't you bring him home?"
"No; Miller promised me he should have a seat
inside your drag, because we could not wait for
him; did you stay to the play?"
"Yes, and capital fun it was; by the way, the
last time I saw your friend Hurst was mounted up
in a red baise place that was railed off for the
patrons and patronesses, as they called them;
there he was in the front row, doing the civil to a
very odd-looking old dowager in bright blue velvet,
with a neck like an ostrich."
"Thank you," said Leicester, "that's my aunt."
"Well, on that ground, we'll drink her health,"
said Fane, whose coolness was proverbial. "There
was Hurst, however, sitting between her and an
uncommonly pretty girl, with dark hair and eyes,
dressed in—let me see"——
"Never mind; it was one of my cousins, I suppose,"
interposed Horace, who was engaged in
lighting a cigar at the candle, apparently with more
zeal than success.
"Well, we'll drink her health for her own sake,
if you have no particular objection. I've no doubt
the rest of the company will take my word for her
being the prettiest girl on the ground to-day;
Hurst would second me if he were here, for I never
saw a man making love more decidedly in my life."
"Stuff!" said Horace, pitching his cigar into
the fire; "pass that punch."
"What! jealous, Leicester?" said two or three
of the party—"preserved ground, eh?"
"Not at all, not at all," said Horace, trying with
a very bad grace to laugh off his evident annoyance;
"at all events, I don't consider Hurst a very
formidable poacher; but what I want to know is, how
he didn't come home with Miller and your party?"
"Miller said he was coming up directly, so you
can ask him; I really heard nothing of it. Hark,
there are steps coming up the staircase now."
It proved to be Miller himself, followed by the under-porter,
a good-tempered fellow, who was the factotum
of the under-graduates at late hours, when the
ordinary staff of servants had left college for the night.
"How are you, Leicester?" said he, as he walked
straight to the little pantry, or "scouts' room," immediately
opposite the door, which forms part of the
usual suite of college apartments; "come here, Bob."
"Where's Hurst?" was Horace's impatient query.
"Wait a bit," replied Miller from inside, where
he was rattling the plates in the course of investigating
the remains of the supper—he was not the
man to go to bed supperless after a twelve miles'
drive. "Here, Bob," he continued, as he emerged
at last with a cold fowl—"take this fellow down
with you, and grill him in no time; here's a lump
of butter—and Harvey's sauce—and—where do
you keep the pickled mushrooms, Leicester? here
they are—make a little gravy; and here, Bob—it's
a cold night—here's a glass of wine; now you'll
drink Mr Leicester's health, and vanish."
Bob drank the toast audibly, floored his tumbler
of port at two gulps, and departed.
"Now," said Horace, "do just tell me—what is become
of Hurst? how didn't you bring him home?"
"Confound it!" said Miller, as he looked into all
the jugs—"no whisky punch?"
"Oh, really I forgot it; here's bishop, and that
brandy punch is very good. But how didn't he
come home with you?"
"Forgot it!" soliloquised Miller pathetically.
"Forgot it? how the deuce came you to forget
it? and how will he come now?" rejoined Horace.
"How came you to forget it? I was talking
about the whisky punch," said Miller, as we all
roared with laughter. "I couldn't bring Hurst, you
know, if he wouldn't come. He left the playhouse
even before we did, with some ladies—and we came
away before it was over—so I sent up to tell him
we were going to start in ten minutes, and had a
place for him; and the Boots came down and said
they had just had supper in, and the gentleman
could not possibly come just yet. Well, I sent up
again, just as we were ready harnessed, and then he
threatened to kick Boots down stairs."
"What a puppy!" said Horace.
"I don't quite agree with you there: I don't pretend
to much sentiment myself, as you are all aware;
but with a lady and a supper in the case, I should
feel perfectly justified in kicking down stairs any
Boots that ever wore shoes, if he hinted at my
Miller's unusual enthusiasm amused us all except
Horace. "Gad," said he, at last, "I hope he won't
be able to get home to-night at all!" In this
friendly wish he was doomed to be disappointed.
It was now long past twelve o'clock; the out-college
members of the party had all taken their
leave; Miller and Fane, having finished their grilled
chicken at a little table in the corner, had now
drawn round the fire with the three or four of us who
remained, and there was a debate as to the expediency
of brewing more punch, when we heard a running
step in the Quadrangle, which presently began
to ascend the staircase in company with a not very
melodious voice, warbling in a style which bespoke
the owner's high state of satisfaction.
"Hush! that's Hurst to a certainty!"
"Queen of my soul, whose starlike eyes
Are all the light I seek"——
(Here came an audible stumble, as if our friend
were beginning his way down again involuntarily by
half-a-dozen steps at a time.) "Hallo! Leicester!
just lend us a candle, will you? The lamp is gone
out, and it's as dark as pitch; I've dropped my hat."
"Open the door, somebody," said Horace; and Hurst
was admitted. He looked rather confused at first, certainly;
for the sudden transition from outer darkness
into a small room lighted by a dozen wax candles made
him blink, and our first greeting consisting of "ha—ha's"
in different keys, was perhaps somewhat embarrassing;
but he recovered himself in a second.
"Well," said he, "how are you all? glad you got
home safe, Hawthorne; hope I didn't keep you waiting,
Miller? you got the start of me, all of you, coming
home; but really I spent an uncommon jolly evening."
"Glad to hear it," said Leicester, with a wink to us.
"Yes;—'pon my life; I don't know when I ever
spent so pleasant a one;" and, with a sort of
chuckle to himself, Hurst filled a glass of punch.
"What did you think of Richard the Third?" said I.
"Oh! hang the play! there might have been six
Richards in the field for all I can say: I was better
"Ay," said Fane, "I rather fancy you were."
"We had a very pleasant drive home," said I,
willing to effect a diversion in favour of Leicester,
who was puffing desperately at his cigar in a savage
kind of silence;—"and a capital supper afterwards;
I wish you had been with us."
"And I had a very jolly drive too: I got a gig, and
galloped nearly all the way; and a very good supper,
too, before I started; but I won't return your compliment;
we were a very snug party without you. Upon
my word, Leicester, your eldest cousin is one of the
very nicest girls I ever met: the sort of person you
get acquainted with at once, and so very lively and
good-humoured—no nonsense about her."
"I'll make a point of letting her know your good
opinion," replied Horace, in a tone conveying pretty
plainly a rebuke of such presumption. But it was
lost upon Hurst.
"Probably you need not trouble yourself," said
Fane: "I dare say he has let her know it himself
"No—really no"—said Hurst, as if deprecating
anything so decided; "but Miss Leicester is a very
nice girl; clever, I should say, decidedly; there's
a shade of—one can hardly call it rusticity—about
her manner; but I like it, myself—I like it."
"Do you?"—said Horace, very drily.
"Oh! a season in London would take all that
off." And Hurst began to quaver again—
"Queen of my soul, whose"—
"I'll tell you what," said Horace, rising, and
standing with his back to the fire, with his hands
under his coat-tails—"You may not be aware of
it, but you're rather drunk, Hurst."
"Drunk!" said Hurst; "no, that's quite a mistake;
three glasses, I think it was, of champagne at
supper; and you men have sat here drinking punch
all the evening; if anybody's drunk, it's not me."
Hurst's usually modest demeanour was certainly
so very much altered as to justify, in some measure,
Leicester's supposition; but I really believe Flora
Leicester's bright eyes had more to answer for in
that matter than the champagne, whether the said
three glasses were more or less.
However, as Horace's temper was evidently not
improving, Miller, Fane, and myself wished him good
night, and Hurst came with us. We got him into
Fane's rooms, and then extracted from him a full
history of the adventures of that delightful evening,
to our infinite amusement, and apparently to his own
immense satisfaction. It was evident that Miss
Flora Leicester had made an impression, of which
I do not give that young lady credit for being in
the least unconscious.
The impression, however, like many others of its
kind, soon wore off, I fancy; for the next time I
saw Mr Wellington Hurst, he had returned to his
usual frame of mind, and appeared quite modest
and deferential; but it will not perhaps surprise my
readers any more than it did myself, that Horace
was never fond of referring to our drive to the
steeple-chase at B——, and did not appear to appreciate,
as keenly as before, the trick we had
played Hurst in leaving him behind; while all the
after-reminiscences of the latter bore reference,
whenever it was possible, to his favourite date—"That
day when you and I and Leicester had that team to B—— together."