Thirty Years Since / or The Ruined Family

Produced by Charles Bowen from Page scans provided by
Google Books, (Public Library, Long Island City, N.Y.

Transcriber’s Notes:
1. Page scans provided by Google Books,
https://books.google.com/books?id=OAQiAAAAMAAJ
(Public Library, Long Island City, N.Y.)

2. “This work was published many years ago anonymously, and received the name of ‘Delaware; or, The ruined family.'”–Introd., p. [v], to London, 1848, ed.

THIRTY YEARS SINCE;

OR,

THE RUINED FAMILY.

A Tale.

BY

G. P. R. JAMES, ESQ.,

AUTHOR OF
“A WHIM, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES,” “GOWRIE,” “SIR THEODORE BROUGHTON,”
“BEAUCHAMP,” “LAST OF THE FAIRIES,” “MARGARET GRAHAM,” ETC., ETC.

NEW-YORK:
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
329 & 331 PEARL STREET,
FRANKLIN SQUARE.

1860.

THIRTY YEARS SINCE:
OR,
THE RUINED FAMILY.

CHAPTER I.

Most cities are hateful; and, without any disposition to “babble about green fields,” it must be owned that each is more or less detestable. Nevertheless, among them all, there is none to be compared, as a whole, to London–none which comprehends within itself, from various causes, so much of the sublime in every sort. Whether we consider its giant immensity of expanse–the wonderful intricacy of its internal structure–the miraculous harmony of its discrepant parts–the grand amalgamation of its different orders, classes, states, pursuits, professions–the mighty aggregate of hopes, wishes, endeavors, joys, successes, fears, pangs, disappointments, crimes, and punishments, that it contains–its relative influence on the world at large–or the vehement pulse with which that “mighty heart” sends the flood of circulation through this beautiful land–we shall find that that most wonderful microcosm well deserves the epithet _sublime_.

To view it rightly–if we wish to view it with the eye of a philosopher–we should choose, perhaps, the hour which is chosen by the most magnificent and extraordinary of modern poets, and gaze upon it when the sun is just beginning to pour his first red beams through the dim and loaded air, when that vast desert of brick and mortar, that interminable wilderness of spires and chimneys, looks more wide and endless, and solemn, than when the eye is distracted by myriads of mites that creep about it in the risen day.

It may be asked, perhaps, who is there that ever saw it at that hour, except the red-armed housemaid washing the morning step, and letting in the industrious thief, to steal the greatcoats from the hall; or the dull muffin-man, who goes tinkling his early bell through the misty streets of the wintry morning? Granted, that neither of these–nor the sellers of early purl–nor the venders of saloop and cocoa–nor Covent Garden market-women–nor the late returners from the _finish_–nor he who starts up from the doorway, where he has passed the wretched night, to recommence the day’s career of crime, and danger, and sorrow–can look upon the vast hive in which they dwell with over-refined feelings; and, perhaps, to them may come home unhappy Shelley’s forcible line–

“Hell is a city very much like London!”

The valetudinarian, too, who wakes with nervous punctuality to swallow down the morning draught, prescribed by courtly Henry’s bitter-covering skill, may curse the cats that, perched upon the tiles, salute their lady-loves with most discordant cries, and keep him from repose; and with all the virulence of Despréaux, may exclaim upon the many hateful sounds of a town morning. But, besides all these, there are sometimes persons who, rising five hours before their usual time, come forth in all the freshness of the early day, stimulated by the vast effort that roused them from their beds, proud of a successful endeavor to get up, and excited by the novelty of the circumstance and the scene, and who rush on, admiring all the beauties as they go to take their places in the gay stage-coach.

Fully double the extent of ancient Athens, in its days of greatest splendor–at least, if the calculation of Aristides be correct–London lies in circuit more than one day’s journey, and many a day’s journey may be taken in the interior, without ever threading the same streets. It would not matter much, therefore, in what corner of the town was placed the coach-office whence, at an early hour of every lawful day, set forth a smart-looking vehicle, drawn by four fiery bays, for a distant town in —-shire; but nevertheless, as it may be a satisfaction to the reader’s mind, it is but fair to state, that the aforesaid four-inside light coach took its departure daily from that wild scene of bustle and confusion, which, within the last century or two, has usurped the site of what a modern writer of ancient romance terms “the sweet little village of Charing,” and which is now popularly called the Golden Cross, Charing Cross.

As the things that were, are now no more, and even three short years have made sad havoc amidst the brick antiquities of dear Pall Mall, it may not be amiss more particularly to commemorate the appearance–at the time our tale commences–of that agglomeration of street-corners, Charing Cross, from which–on account, I suppose, of its beautiful vagueness–all rogues and insolvent debtors were wont to date their letters. But this commemoration had best be given in describing the effect of the whole upon a young and unsophisticated mind.

From a place that they call a hotel, in Piccadilly–think of a man taking up his abode at a hotel in Piccadilly!–but he knew no better–from a hotel, in Piccadilly, at about half-past five o’clock, on the morning of the last day of August, one thousand eight hundred and something, set out a hackney coach, containing within its sphere of rotten wood, and rusty leather, a small portmanteau on the front seat, and the portmanteau’s master on the other. He was a well-made youth, of about five-and-twenty years of age, with firm, graceful, and yet powerful limbs, and a fresh, clear complexion–not villainous red and white, but one general tone of florid health. His eye was blue and bright, and the clustering curls of fair hair–as pure Saxon as Sharon Turner’s last new book–might have looked somewhat girlish, had it not been for the manly features and the free, dauntless look that they overshadowed. At the same time, be it remarked that there was something of melancholy, if not of gloom, in his aspect; but that did not prevent him–after the chambermaid had been satisfied, and the waiter had been paid, and boots had had his fees, and the porter had claimed more than his due, and, in short, all the exactions of an inn had been played off upon him in succession–that did not prevent him, when fairly rolling away toward the top of the Haymarket, from gazing out upon the scene around him with a sufficient degree of open-eyed curiosity to make the waterman stick his tongue into his cheek and mentally denominate him “_a raw_.”

It may be necessary to inform the unlearned reader, that the sun rises, in the end of August, a few minutes after five in the morning, and at the time I speak of the great luminary was pouring a flood of radiance through the loaded air of the vast city, filling the long empty perspective of the streets with the golden mistiness of the morning light. Closed within the dull boards which defend the precious wares of many a careful tradesman from the cosmopolite fingers of the liberal Many, the shops exhibited nothing but the names and occupations of their various owners; but the wide streets, with all their irregular buildings, in the broad light and shade, were not without beauty of their own peculiar kind, distinct from all the mighty associations connected with their existence.

The coach rolled at the statute pace along Piccadilly, unobstructed by any thing, and, indeed, unencountered by any thing but two slow market carts, wending heavily toward Covent Garden, and another fac-simile of itself, just overcoming–in order to take up some other early passenger–the _vis inertiæ_ which had held it on the straw-littered stand for the last hour. In the Haymarket, however, the progression was more difficult; for there already had congregated many a loaded cart, the drivers of which, as usual, had, with skillful zeal, contrived to place them as a regular fortification, obstructing every step of the way. Gin and purl, too, were reeking up to the sky from the various temples of the rosy god that line the west side of the street; and, amidst the bargainings of some early dealers, and the pæans of the gin-drinkers, no one attended to the objurgations of the embarrassed coachmen. Nevertheless, all these difficulties were at length removed by one means or another; and Cockspur-street opened wide before the traveler, exposing at the end, black with the smoke of fires innumerable, the famous statue and the girthless horse. On one side, wide and open, lay Whitehall, with all those offices, whence many a time has issued the destiny of the world; on the other hand, dark and dingy, wound away the Strand, with the house of the Percys maintaining still the last aspect of a feudal dwelling to be found in London. The King’s Mews, on which a violating hand had hardly yet been laid, occupied all the space to the left; and the flaming ensign of the Golden Cross, stuck up in front of a tall, narrow-fronted house, told that the place of many coaches was before the traveler’s eyes.

He found, on alighting, that he had arrived at least ten minutes before the time; and after having been cheated, as usual, by the hackney-coachman, and gazed about the dull, desolate yard, shut in by the high houses round, in the far shadows of which stood two or three red, blue, and yellow vehicles, all unpacked and unhorsed, he once more sauntered out through the low-browed arch which gave admission to the court, and amused himself with the wider scene exhibited by the street.

At that hour, one-half of Murillo’s pictures find living representatives in the streets of London; and when the young traveler had moralized for a minute or two on some groups of beggar-boys playing round the statue–had marked the sage and solemn pace with which an elderly waterman brought forth his breakfast to a coachman on the stand–and had listened to the Solon-like sayings of each upon the weather and the state of the nation–he was looking back to see whether the coming of the coach was hopeless, when the rushing noise of rapid wheels caught his ear, and he turned his eyes in the direction of the sound.

If people would but remark, they would find that they have presentiments of little events a thousand times more often than they have presentiments of great ones; and the feeling of the gallant Nelson was not more strong, that the sun of Trafalgar was the last that was destined to shine upon his glory, than was at that moment the conviction of the young traveler that those rolling wheels were about to bring him a companion for the stage-coach. Nor, let me tell you, gentle reader, is it a matter of small importance, who is to be brought in such close contact with one for the next ten hours. What is life but a chain of those brief portions of eternity which man calls hours, so inseparably linked together that the first and the last, and every link throughout the series, have a mutual dependence and connection with each other! Oh, let no one despise an hour! It is fully enough to change dynasties, and overthrow empires–to make or mar a fortune–to win high renown, or stain a noble name–to end our being, or to fix our destiny here and hereafter, in time and through eternity. So awful a thing is one hour–ay, one moment of active being!

The companion of the three hundred and sixty-fifth part of one out of seventy years, is a person to whom we may well attach some importance; and the young traveler looked with no small eagerness to see who was about to fill that station in relation to himself. The first thing that his eyes fell upon, as he turned round, was a dark-brown cabriolet, whirled along with the speed of lightning, by a tall bay horse, full of blood and action, and covered with harness, which, though somewhat elaborate and evidently costly, was guarded by scrupulous good taste from being gaudy. Behind the vehicle appeared a smart, active boy in groom’s apparel, but with no distinctive livery to designate him as the tiger of Colonel this, or the Earl of that, though a cockade in his hat told that his master pretended either to military or naval rank. Where the young traveler stood, the appearance of the driver was not to be discerned; but, from the style of the whole turn-out, he began to doubt that his anticipations in regard to their approaching companionship were fallacious, when, dashing up to the pavement, the horse was suddenly drawn up, the groom sprang to the head, and the person within at length made his appearance.

He was a young man of about seven-and-twenty, tall, and rather gracefully than strongly made; but still with a breadth of chest, and a sort of firm setting on his feet, which spoke a greater degree of personal strength than appeared at a casual glance. His clothes were all of that peculiar cut which combines the most decided adherence to the prevailing fashion, with a very slight touch of its extravagance. Every thing, however, in the whole of his apparel, was in good keeping, as the painters call it; and though the colors that appeared therein were such as no one but a man of rank and station in society would have dared to wear, the general hue of the whole was dark.

“He’s a dandy!” thought the young traveler, with a somewhat contemptuous curl of the lip, as the other descended from the cabriolet; but the moment after, hearing him bid the boy tell Swainson not to forget to give Brutus a ball on Wednesday night–and to walk Miss Liddy for an hour twice every day in the park, he concluded that he was a gentleman horse-jockey–a thing, in his unsophisticated ideas, equally detestable with a dandy. Scarcely had he come to this conclusion–and his conclusions, be it remarked, were formed very quickly–when the stranger strode rapidly past him. The cabriolet drove away, and its owner, with a quantity of glossy black hair escaping from under his hat, and mingling with whiskers more glossy still–entered the inn-yard, and proceeded to the coach-office.

The other traveler followed, in hopes of seeing some signs of approaching departure; and, as he did so, he heard the reply of the book-keeper to something which the owner of the cabriolet had asked. “No room outside, sir;–very sorry, indeed–got our full number,”–he had got three more, by the way–“plenty of room inside. That ‘ere gentleman’s going inside, ’cause he can’t get room out.”

“Well, inside be it then,” replied the other.

The book-keeper began to write. “What name, sir?”

“Burrel!” replied the stranger.

“Any luggage?”

“None,” answered Burrel.

“One pound, ten shillings, and sixpence, sir, if you please!” said the book-keeper; and, as Burrel paid the money, the coachman’s cry of “Now, gentlemen, if you please!” sounded through the yard.

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |... 5 ... | Single Page