William Ainsworth.

Auriol: or, The Elixir of Life



скачать книгу бесплатно

CHAPTER VIII
THE BARBER OF LONDON

Who has not heard of the Barber of London? His dwelling is in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn. It is needless to particularise the street, for everybody knows the shop; that is to say, every member of the legal profession, high or low. All, to the very judges themselves, have their hair cut, or their wigs dressed, by him. A pleasant fellow is Mr. Tuffnell Trigge – Figaro himself not pleasanter – and if you do not shave yourself – if you want a becoming flow imparted to your stubborn locks, or if you require a wig, I recommend you to the care of Mr. Tuffnell Trigge. Not only will he treat you well, but he will regale you with all the gossip of the court; he will give you the last funny thing of Mr. Serjeant Larkins; he will tell you how many briefs the great Mr. Skinner Fyne receives – what the Vice-Chancellor is doing; and you will own, on rising, that you have never spent a five minutes more agreeably. Besides, you are likely to see some noticeable characters, for Mr. Trigge's shop is quite a lounge. Perhaps you may find a young barrister who has just been "called," ordering his "first wig," and you may hear the prognostications of Mr. Trigge as to his future distinction. "Ah, sir," he will say, glancing at the stolid features of the young man, "you have quite the face of the Chief Justice – quite the face of the chief – I don't recollect him ordering his first wig – that was a little before my time; but I hope to live to see you chief, sir. Quite within your reach, if you choose to apply. Sure of it, sir – quite sure." Or you may see him attending to some grave master in Chancery, and listening with profound attention to his remarks; or screaming with laughter at the jokes of some smart special pleader; or talking of the theatres, the actors and actresses, to some young attorneys, or pupils in conveyancers' chambers; for those are the sort of customers in whom Mr. Trigge chiefly delights; with them, indeed, he is great, for it is by them he has been dubbed the Barber of London. His shop is also frequented by managing clerks, barristers' clerks, engrossing clerks, and others; but these are, for the most part, his private friends.

Mr. Trigge's shop is none of your spruce West End hair-cutting establishments, with magnificent mirrors on every side, in which you may see the back of your head, the front, and the side, all at once, with walls bedizened with glazed French paper, and with an ante-room full of bears'-grease, oils, creams, tooth-powders, and cut glass. No, it is a real barber's and hairdresser's shop, of the good old stamp, where you may get cut and curled for a shilling, and shaved for half the price.

True, the floor is not covered with a carpet. But what of that? It bears the imprint of innumerable customers, and is scattered over with their hair. In the window, there is an assortment of busts moulded in wax, exhibiting the triumphs of Mr. Trigge's art; and above these are several specimens of legal wigs.

On the little counter behind the window, amid large pots of pomade and bears'-grease, and the irons and brushes in constant use by the barber, are other bustos, done to the life, and for ever glancing amiably into the room. On the block is a judge's wig, which Mr. Trigge has just been dressing, and a little farther, on a higher block, is that of a counsel. On either side of the fireplace are portraits of Lord Eldon and Lord Lyndhurst. Some other portraits of pretty actresses are likewise to be seen. Against the counter rests a board, displaying the playbill of the evening; and near it is a large piece of emblematical crockery, indicating that bears'-grease may be had on the premises. Amongst Mr. Trigge's live-stock may be enumerated his favourite magpie, placed in a wicker cage in the window, which chatters incessantly, and knows everything, its master avouches, "as well as a Christian."

And now as to Mr. Tuffnell Trigge himself. He is very tall and very thin, and holds himself so upright that he loses not an inch of his stature. His head is large and his face long, with marked, if not very striking features, charged, it must be admitted, with a very self-satisfied expression. One cannot earn the appellation of the Barber of London without talent; and it is the consciousness of this talent that lends to Mr. Trigge's features their apparently conceited expression. A fringe of black whisker adorns his cheek and chin, and his black bristly hair is brushed back, so as to exhibit the prodigious expanse of his forehead. His eyebrows are elevated, as if in constant scorn.

The attire in which Mr. Trigge is ordinarily seen, consists of a black velvet waistcoat, and tight black continuations. These are protected by a white apron tied round his waist, with pockets to hold his scissors and combs; over all, he wears a short nankeen jacket, into the pockets of which his hands are constantly thrust when not otherwise employed. A black satin stock with a large bow encircles his throat, and his shirt is fastened by black enamel studs. Such is Mr. Tuffnell Trigge, yclept the Barber of London.

At the time of his introduction to the reader, Mr. Trigge had just advertised for an assistant, his present young man, Rutherford Watts, being about to leave him, and set up for himself in Canterbury. It was about two o'clock, and Mr. Trigge had just withdrawn into an inner room to take some refection, when, on returning, he found Watts occupied in cutting the hair of a middle-aged, sour-looking gentleman, who was seated before the fire. Mr. Trigge bowed to the sour-looking gentleman, and appeared ready to enter into conversation with him, but no notice being taken of his advances, he went and talked to his magpie.

While he was chattering to it, the sagacious bird screamed forth: "Pretty dear! – pretty dear!"

"Ah! what's that? Who is it?" cried Trigge.

"Pretty dear! – pretty dear!" reiterated the magpie.

Upon this, Trigge looked around, and saw a very singular little man enter the shop. He had somewhat the appearance of a groom, being clothed in a long grey coat, drab knees, and small top-boots. He had a large and remarkably projecting mouth, like that of a baboon, and a great shock head of black hair.

"Pretty dear! – pretty dear!" screamed the magpie.

"I see nothing pretty about him," thought Mr. Trigge. "What a strange little fellow! It would puzzle the Lord Chancellor himself to say what his age might be."

The little man took off his hat, and making a profound bow to the barber, unfolded the Times newspaper, which he carried under his arm, and held it up to Trigge.

"What do you want, my little friend, eh?" said the barber.

"High wages! – high wages!" screamed the magpie.

"Is this yours, sir?" replied the little man, pointing to an advertisement in the newspaper.

"Yes, yes, that's my advertisement, friend," replied Mr. Trigge. "But what of it?"

Before the little man could answer, a slight interruption occurred. While eyeing the new-comer, Watts neglected to draw forth the hot curling-irons, in consequence of which he burnt the sour-looking gentleman's forehead, and singed his hair.

"Take care, sir!" cried the gentleman furiously. "What the devil are you about?"

"Yes! take care, sir, as Judge Learmouth observes to a saucy witness," cried Trigge – "'take care, or I'll commit you!'"

"D – n Judge Learmouth!" cried the gentleman angrily. "If I were a judge, I'd hang such a careless fellow."

"Sarve him right!" screamed Mag – "sarve him right!"

"Beg pardon, sir," cried Watts. "I'll rectify you in a minute."

"Well, my little friend," observed Trigge, "and what may be your object in coming to me? as the great conveyancer, Mr. Plodwell, observes to his clients – what may be your object?"

"You want an assistant, don't you, sir?" rejoined the little man humbly.

"Do you apply on your own account, or on behalf of a friend?" asked Trigge.

"On my own," replied the little man.

"What are your qualifications?" demanded Trigge – "what are your qualifications?"

"I fancy I understand something of the business," replied the little man. "I was a perruquier myself, when wigs were more in fashion than they are now."

"Ha! indeed!" said Trigge, laughing. "That must have been in the last century – in Queen Anne's time – eh?"

"You have hit it exactly, sir," replied the little man. "It was in Queen Anne's time."

"Perhaps you recollect when wigs were first worn, my little Nestor?" cried Mr. Trigge.

"Perfectly," replied the little man. "French periwigs were first worn in Charles the Second's time."

"You saw 'em, of course?" cried the barber, with a sneer.

"I did," replied the little man quietly.

"Oh, he must be out of his mind," cried Trigge. "We shall have a commission de lunatico to issue here, as the Master of the Rolls would observe."

"I hope I may suit you, sir," said the little man.

"I don't think you will, my friend," replied Mr. Trigge; "I don't think you will. You don't seem to have a hand for hairdressing. Are you aware of the talent the art requires? Are you aware what it has cost me to earn the enviable title of the Barber of London? I'm as proud of that title as if I were – "

"Lord Chancellor! – Lord Chancellor!" screamed Mag.

"Precisely, Mag," said Mr. Trigge; "as if I were Lord Chancellor."

"Well, I'm sorry for it," said the little man disconsolately.

"Pretty dear!" screamed Mag; "pretty dear!"

"What a wonderful bird you have got!" said the sour-looking gentleman, rising and paying Mr. Trigge. "I declare its answers are quite appropriate."

"Ah! Mag is a clever creature, sir – that she is," replied the barber. "I gave a good deal for her."

"Little or nothing!" screamed Mag – "little or nothing!"

"What is your name, friend?" said the gentleman, addressing the little man, who still lingered in the shop.

"Why, sir, I've had many names in my time," he replied. "At one time I was called Flapdragon – at another, Old Parr – but my real name, I believe, is Morse – Gregory Morse."

"An Old Bailey answer," cried Mr. Trigge, shaking his head. "Flapdragon, alias Old Parr – alias Gregory Morse – alias – "

"Pretty dear!" screamed Mag.

"And you want a place?" demanded the sour-looking gentleman, eyeing him narrowly.

"Sadly," replied Morse.

"Well, then, follow me," said the gentleman, "and I'll see what can be done for you."

And they left the shop together.

CHAPTER IX
THE MOON IN THE FIRST QUARTER

In spite of his resolution to the contrary, Auriol found it impossible to resist the fascination of Ebba's society, and became a daily visitor at her father's house. Mr. Thorneycroft noticed the growing attachment between them with satisfaction. His great wish was to see his daughter united to the husband of her choice, and in the hope of smoothing the way, he let Auriol understand that he should give her a considerable marriage portion.

For the last few days a wonderful alteration had taken place in Auriol's manner, and he seemed to have shaken off altogether the cloud that had hitherto sat upon his spirits. Enchanted by the change, Ebba indulged in the most blissful anticipations of the future.

One evening they walked forth together, and almost unconsciously directed their steps towards the river. Lingering on its banks, they gazed on the full tide, admired the glorious sunset, and breathed over and over again those tender nothings so eloquent in lovers' ears.

"Oh! how different you are from what you were a week ago," said Ebba playfully. "Promise me not to indulge in any more of those gloomy fancies."

"I will not indulge in them if I can help it, rest assured, sweet Ebba," he replied. "But my spirits are not always under my control. I am surprised at my own cheerfulness this evening."

"I never felt so happy," she replied; "and the whole scene is in unison with my feelings. How soothing is the calm river flowing at our feet! – how tender is the warm sky, still flushed with red, though the sun has set! – And see, yonder hangs the crescent moon. She is in her first quarter."

"The moon in her first quarter!" cried Auriol, in a tone of anguish. "All then is over."

"What means this sudden change?" cried Ebba, frightened by his looks.

"Oh, Ebba," he replied, "I must leave you. I have allowed myself to dream of happiness too long. I am an accursed being, doomed only to bring misery upon those who love me. I warned you on the onset, but you would not believe me. Let me go, and perhaps it may not yet be too late to save you."

"Oh no, do not leave me!" cried Ebba. "I have no fear while you are with me."

"But you do not know the terrible fate I am linked to," he said. "This is the night when it will be accomplished."

"Your moody fancies do not alarm me as they used to do, dear Auriol," she rejoined, "because I know them to be the fruit of a diseased imagination. Come, let us continue our walk," she added, taking his arm kindly.

"Ebba," he cried, "I implore you to let me go! I have not the power to tear myself away unless you aid me."

"I'm glad to hear it," she rejoined, "for then I shall hold you fast."

"You know not what you do!" cried Auriol. "Release me! oh, release me!"

"In a few moments the fit will be passed," she rejoined. "Let us walk towards the abbey."

"It is in vain to struggle against fate," ejaculated Auriol despairingly.

And he suffered himself to be led in the direction proposed.

Ebba continued to talk, but her discourse fell upon a deaf ear, and at last she became silent too. In this way they proceeded along Millbank Street and Abingdon Street, until, turning off on the right, they found themselves before an old and partly-demolished building. By this time it had become quite dark, for the moon was hidden behind a rack of clouds, but a light was seen in the upper storey of the structure, occasioned, no doubt, by a fire within it, which gave a very picturesque effect to the broken outline of the walls.

Pausing for a moment to contemplate the ruin, Ebba expressed a wish to enter it. Auriol offered no opposition, and passing through an arched doorway, and ascending a short, spiral, stone staircase, they presently arrived at a roofless chamber, which it was evident, from the implements and rubbish lying about, was about to be razed to the ground. On one side there was a large arch, partly bricked up, through which opened a narrow doorway, though at some height from the ground. With this a plank communicated, while beneath it lay a great heap of stones, amongst which were some grotesque carved heads. In the centre of the chamber was a large square opening, like the mouth of a trap-door, from which the top of a ladder projected, and near it stood a flaming brazier, which had cast forth the glare seen from below. Over the ruinous walls on the right hung the crescent moon, now emerged from the cloud, and shedding a ghostly glimmer on the scene.

"What a strange place!" cried Ebba, gazing around with some apprehension. "It looks like a spot one reads of in romance. I wonder where that trap leads to?"

"Into the vault beneath, no doubt," replied Auriol. "But why did we come hither?"

As he spoke, there was a sound like mocking laughter, but whence arising it was difficult to say.

"Did you hear that sound?" cried Auriol.

"It was nothing but the echo of laughter from the street," she replied. "You alarm yourself without reason, Auriol."

"No, not without reason," he cried. "I am in the power of a terrible being, who seeks to destroy you, and I know that he is at hand. Listen to me, Ebba, and however strange my recital may appear, do not suppose it the ravings of a madman, but be assured it is the truth."

"Beware!" cried a deep voice, issuing apparently from the depths of the vault.

"Some one spoke," cried Ebba. "I begin to share your apprehensions. Let us quit this place."

"Come, then," said Auriol.

"Not so fast," cried a deep voice.

And they beheld the mysterious owner of the black cloak barring their passage out.

"Ebba, you are mine," cried the stranger. "Auriol has brought you to me."

"It is false!" cried Auriol. "I never will yield her to you."

"Remember your compact," rejoined the stranger, with a mocking laugh.

"Oh, Auriol!" cried Ebba, "I fear for your soul. You have not made a compact with this fiend?"

"He has," replied the stranger; "and by that compact you are surrendered to me."

And, as he spoke, he advanced towards her, and enveloping her in his cloak, her cries were instantly stifled.

"You shall not go!" cried Auriol, seizing him. "Release her, or I renounce you wholly."

"Fool!" cried the stranger, "since you provoke my wrath, take your doom."

And he stamped on the ground. At this signal an arm was thrust from the trap-door, and Auriol's hand was seized with an iron grasp.

While this took place, the stranger bore his lovely burden swiftly up the plank leading to the narrow doorway in the wall, and just as he was passing through it he pointed towards the sky, and shouted with a mocking smile to Auriol – "Behold! the moon is in her first quarter. My words are fulfilled!"

And he disappeared.

Auriol tried to disengage himself from the grasp imposed upon him in vain. Uttering ejaculations of rage and despair, he was dragged forcibly backwards into the vault.

CHAPTER X
THE STATUE AT CHARING CROSS

One morning, two persons took their way along Parliament Street and Whitehall, and, chatting as they walked, turned into the entrance of Spring Gardens, for the purpose of looking at the statue at Charing Cross. One of them was remarkable for his dwarfish stature and strange withered features. The other was a man of middle size, thin, rather elderly, and with a sharp countenance, the sourness of which was redeemed by a strong expression of benevolence. He was clad in a black coat, rather rusty, but well brushed, buttoned up to the chin, black tights, short drab gaiters, and wore a white neckcloth and spectacles.

Mr. Loftus (for so he was called) was a retired merchant, of moderate fortune, and lived in Abingdon Street. He was a bachelor, and therefore pleased himself; and being a bit of an antiquary, rambled about all day long in search of some object of interest. His walk, on the present occasion, was taken with that view.

"By Jove! what a noble statue that is, Morse!" cried Loftus, gazing at it. "The horse is magnificent – positively magnificent."

"I recollect when the spot was occupied by a gibbet, and when, in lieu of a statue, an effigy of the martyred monarch was placed there," replied Morse. "That was in the time of the Protectorate."

"You cannot get those dreams out of your head, Morse," said Loftus, smiling. "I wish I could persuade myself I had lived for two centuries and a half."

"Would you could have seen the ancient cross, which once stood there, erected by Edward the First to his beloved wife, 'Eleanor of Castile'!" said Morse, heedless of the other's remark. "It was much mutilated when I remember it; some of the pinnacles were broken, and the foliage defaced, but the statues of the queen were still standing in the recesses; and altogether the effect was beautiful."

"It must have been charming," observed Loftus, rubbing his hands; "and, though I like the statue, I would much rather have had the old Gothic cross. But how fortunate the former escaped destruction in Oliver Cromwell's time!"

"I can tell you how that came to pass, sir," replied Morse, "for I was assistant to John Rivers, the brazier, to whom the statue was sold."

"Ah! indeed!" exclaimed Loftus. "I have heard something of the story, but should like to have full particulars."

"You shall hear them, then," replied Morse. "Yon statue, which, as you know, was cast by Hubert le Sueur, in 1633, was ordered by Parliament to be sold and broken to pieces. Well, my master, John Rivers, being a stanch Royalist, though he did not dare to avow his principles, determined to preserve it from destruction. Accordingly, he offered a good round sum for it, and was declared the purchaser. But how to dispose of it was the difficulty? He could trust none of his men but me, whom he knew to be as hearty a hater of the Roundheads, and as loyal to the memory of our slaughtered sovereign, as himself. Well, we digged a great pit, secretly, in the cellar, whither the statue had been conveyed, and buried it. The job occupied us nearly a month; and during that time, my master collected together all the pieces of old brass he could procure. These he afterwards produced, and declared they were the fragments of the statue. But the cream of the jest was to come. He began to cast handles of knives and forks in brass, giving it out that they were made from the metal of the statue. And plenty of 'em he sold too, for the Cavaliers bought 'em as memorials of their martyred monarch, and the Roundheads as evidences of his fall. In this way he soon got back his outlay."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Loftus.

"Well, in due season came the Restoration," pursued Morse; "and my master made known to King Charles the Second the treasure he had kept concealed for him. It was digged forth, placed in its old position – but I forget whether the brazier was rewarded. I rather think not."



скачать книгу бесплатно

страницы: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16