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to say nothing of an occasional stroll down the lane, and a ten minutes' turn in my garden before lunch. If this be not exercise, I know not what the word means; unless, indeed, you would have me jump over the chairs and tables, or play at leap frog or hop-scotch with my housekeeper!"
My dear Mr Waddilove, when I talk of exercise, I mean that you should take a good long walk every day-say, three or four miles-so that you may feel something like a wholesome, moderate fatigue."
"Three or four miles! You're jok ing-why, such an exertion would be my death! No, Thompson, prescribe any remedy but that. It is the very worst form in which martyrdom can develope itself."
"Well, if you will not be advised by me in this respect, at least go out more into society than you are in the habit of doing, which is in itself a sort of exercise, by the stimulus it gives to ".
"Right, doctor, so it is; and it is this conviction which has induced me to accept our mutual friend, Captain Capulet's invitation for to morrow. He is going to leave Caversham in a day or two for the sea-side, and has asked me to a farewell dinner. I doubt, however, whether I shall be able to go, so very indifferent is my health. The dyspeptic symptoms that I spoke to you of last week, have".
"Like all your other maladies, real or imaginary, their origin in want of exercise."
"Pshaw, doctor, you're a man of one idea-always harping on the same string!"
Finding further remonstrance useless, at least for the present, the apothecary, who was a shrewd man of the world, contented himself with giving his patient a few commonplace directions with regard to regimen, in order to keep up the appearance of paying attention to his case, and then took his leave, with a promise that he would look in again in a day or two.
Mr Miles Waddilove, as may be inferred from the above conversation, was a gentleman of lethargic, and somewhat hypochondriacal, temperament, and of studious and secluded habits. He was a bachelor, about forty-five years of age; was tolerably independent in circumstances; and resided in an old-fashioned red brick
building, with two clipped yews in front, which stood halfway down a shady lane that terminated in the London road, on the outskirts of the town of Reading. In person, Waddilove was of the middle height; he had a goodly, though not a preposterous paunch; and legs as sturdy as those which we so often see in the possession of a drayman. His face was a dead white, like plaster of Paris; he was bald as a turnip, and wore a wig ; and had a thick under-lip, which drooped over an expansive chin, one-half of which was always imbedded in a padded neckcloth.
All men have their peculiarities, and the one prominent feature in Miles's idiosyncrasy was his abhorrence of pedestrian exercise. For days together he never stirred outside his gates. Even to talk of walking roused his spleen, for it brought to mind a rash peripatetic experiment which he had been prevailed on to make in the year 1814, when he crawled upwards of four miles along the dusty high-road, under a blistering sun, in order to get a peep at the Allied Sovereigns on their way back to London from Oxford; and returned home with a face scorching hot, fingers swollen to the size of sausages, the stitch in his side, and the cramp in both legs! When, in addition to this peculiarity, I observe that Waddilove was a bit of an epicure, and addicted at times to absence of mind, I have said all that is necessary to prove that he was one of those quiet homespun characters, whom young ladies are apt to look on as oddities, and quiz as such.
Immediately on the apothecaryquitting him, Miles rang the bell for his housekeeper, and told her to hasten instantly into the town, and desire Toulmin's coach to be ready at the door next day at five o'clock, in order to convey him to Caversham, where his friend Capulet resided. As this vehicle was something of a curiosity, a passing mention of it may not be amiss. It was a sort of cross between a carriage and a hackney-coach of the olden time; its box was low and spacious; its ill-conditioned wheels stood out afar from its sides, like the red ears of a Yorkshire ostler; and its two ends, back and front, came down with a gradual slant inwards from the roof, which, instead of being flat, bellied out like the top crust of a
gooseberry pie. Being the only coach in Reading that was let out on hire on the principle of the London hackneycoach, it was generally known by the name of the "town-tub ;" and in its rickety motion, and, above all, in its extraordinary genius for upsetting, it had the rare merit of rivalling even an Irish post-chaise !
Punctual to the hour appointed, this eccentric vehicle drew up at Waddilove's door, who in a few minutes made his appearance, attired in all the finery of black shorts and silks, with his best bob-wig newly frizzed and powdered. He was in high glee at the idea of having escaped a hot dusty walk; and as the "town-tub" went clattering down Friar Street on its way to the neighbouring little village of Caversham, he kept humming the tune of "Old King Cole," which he always did when in good humour, and glancing every now and then, with visible satisfaction, at the magnificent clocks which ran halfway up his silk stockings.
He was thus pleasantly occupied, when suddenly, just as he had accomplished about a third of his journey, a loud crash was heard-off flew one of the wheels, and down came the coach on its side, right in the middle of the road! Fortunately Mr Waddilove, though not a little alarmed, sustained no injury from the catastrophe, and was promptly extricated by the cool and collected coachman, whom long experience had taught to look on an upset quite as a matter of course. On examining into the nature of the injuries sustained by the town-tub, it was found that it would take upwards of an hour to remedy them; and, as such a delay was not to be thought of under the circumstances, poor Miles, groaning bitterly, as a recollection of his walk in 1814 flashed across his mind, proceeded on his road on foot, this being the only chance he had left of reaching Caversham in time for dinner.
It was a dry, warm, autumn evening, with just enough wind to put the dust into a state of brisk activity-a special annoyance when one happens to be walking in full dress, and is anxious to wear a becoming aspect, as was just now the case with Waddilove, who lost much time in his various tackings and manoeuvrings to avoid the whirling clouds that beset him at certain turns and angles of the road.
NO, CCLXXXV, VOL. XLVI.
After plodding straight on for nearly half-an-hour, he reached that long, irregular, picturesque bridge which spans the Thames, there of imposing breadth, and leads direct into the village of Caversham. Arrived at this spot, he might have admiredfor few can behold it without admiration-the singular sylvan beauty of the landscape about him; the flowery meadows stretching for miles along the nearest bank of the river; the wooded uplands of the distant Mapledurham; and the rich autumn-tinted foliage of Caversham park, which shone with a thousand gorgeous colours in the setting sun; the broad reaches of the lake-like Thames, with the numerous cottage lawns and flower-gardens sloping down its edge; the straggling village at the foot of the bridge, and the high chalk cliffs immediately beyond it, planting their white feet in the stream, and redeeming, by their bold precipitous character, what might otherwise have seemed too tame in the landscape ;all this, Miles, had he been so disposed, might have regarded with just admiration: but his thoughts were otherwise occupied, dwelling with more complacency on the rich soups, juicy meats, and luscious wines that awaited him at his journey's end, and alone reconciled him to his unforeseen walk. The clock struck six as he turned off the bridge into the village. He halted. The last stroke rung like a knell in his ear. At that very moment the servants were bringing in the first course. He should then be too late for the soup and fish! Horrid anticipation! Nevertheless, there was still> a faint chance; and, buoyed up by this reflection, he quickened his pace almost to a trot, but had yet to toil through the village and up the hill that rises beyond it, ere he could reach the desired haven.
At length he arrived at his friend's house, and the first agreeable mo ment he had known since his ejection from the town-tub was, when he rang the garden-bell, and saw an old female servant hurrying down the gravelwalk to answer the summons.
"Is dinner on table?" he enquired in tremulous accents, that betrayed the great interest he took in the question.
"Dinner!" replied the old dame, who was rather hard of hearing-“did you say dinner, sir?"
"Why, how the woman stares! To be sure I did. I'm one of your master's guests; so, let me in-quick; I'm quite late enough as it is. Do you hear, woman?-let me in, I say!"
"Bless your heart, I daren't do no such a thing, for it's directly against orders. Says my master to me, no later ago than yesterday-Betty, says he"
"I tell you again, woman, I'm one of the party engaged to dine here today!" exclaimed Miles, in a loud tone of voice intended to bear down all opposition.
I know nothing about that," replied Betty; "all I know is that master had a large dinner-party yesterday, and that this morning all the family set out for Southampton, where they mean to spend the autumn."
Poor Waddilove looked the very picture of despair as he heard these words; and, hastily fumbling about in his pockets, drew forth, after a close search, his friend's note of invitation, read it, and found his worst suspicions confirmed. True, he had been invited to a dinner-party at Captain Capulet's; but he had mistaken the day, and arrived just twenty-four hours too late!
When he had somewhat recovered the shock of this discovery, he entreated, in most moving terms, that Betty would at least let him in, and allow him to rest for a few minutes while he collected his scattered thoughts. But the old woman would not hear of such a proposal; she had received strict orders, she said, to "let no strangers in whatsomever," and it was as much as her place was worth to act " contrary wise."
"But I am no stranger, but, on the contrary, one of your master's oldest friends," insisted Miles.
"That's not my look-out," rejoined the unmoved Betty; "my orders is positive, to let no strangers in while the family's away; and you're a stranger to me, sir- -uncommon strange, to be sure!" she added in an under-tone, at the same time casting a sly suspicious glance at Waddilove's sullen visage and dust-soiled habiliments; after which she gave a brisk tug at the garden-gate, to assure herself that it was fast locked, and then made the best of her way back into the house.
Miles was now in a state of very grievous perplexity; for not only had
he lost his dinner, but his bed also, on which he always reckoned when invited to a party at the captain's. His first impulse was to return home immediately; but as this involved the necessity of a walk of upwards of four miles-there being no suitable conveyance to be procured at Caversham-he shrunk with dismay from the idea. Next he thought of taking his chance of a meal and a bed at the village alehouse; but as he passed it, the fumes of mingled gin, beer, and tobacco, issuing from the open window of the low-roofed parlour, assailed him so powerfully, that hot, jaded, and hungry as he was, he had not the heart to venture in. At last he recollected that, about a mile or two further on, past Caversham Park, there dwelt a rich, elderly, single lady,, whom he had occasionally met at Captain Capulet's, and who had shown no unwillingness to cultivate his acquaintance. He had not seen this ancient dame for two years, nor would he have remembered her addressperhaps not even her name-had not his memory just now been quickened by his necessities. Hoping that here at length he might get a dinner and a ride home in the lady's carriage, Waddilove trudged on with renewed spirit, just halting for a few minutes when he reached the great gates of the park, in order to brush the dust from his shoes and stockings with some large dockleaves that grew under the palings.
By this time the sun had set ;—a silver mist began to steam up from the broad valley of the Thames, the gnats rose by thousands, forming a sort of cloud just above the hedges, and the humming cockchafer "made wing for the elms and horse-chestnut trees that flung their shadows far beyond the footpath, imparting a refreshing coolness to Miles's fevered frame, who, considering his sedentary habits, held up with remarkable perseverance, in the hope that he might reach his fair friend's house before nightfall. he toiled on in vain; for not a single habitation of any sort was visible, the road-which, so far as he could see, ran straight as an arrow-being bordered on one side by hedges, and on the other by the long range of the park palings. Here was a dilemma ! How should he act? Ask his way? There was not a human being in sight to whom he could apply for informa
tion. Go back? In that case he would lose his last chance of procuring refreshment and a ride home. Go forward? Yes, this was his sole remaining alternative, to which he was the more disposed from the incessant promptings of the gastric juice, whose hints became every moment more significant, till at last he was compelled, as his only means of satisfying hunger, to halt and pluck the blackberries that grew thickly in the hedge, and those well-known Berkshire sloes, from which so much of our "old crusted port wine" is manufactured. Striking illustration of the caprice of fortune! A middle-aged epicure standing on tiptoe, like a schoolboy, to snatch an impromptu meal from some dusty shrubs in a high-road! When Miles had gathered a handful or more of this unsophisticated fruit, he sat down on a hillock that jutted out on the pathway, to eat, and if possible digest, it; but had scarcely finished his meal, when he was annoyed by an intolerable itching in his legs, and hastily jumping up, found-unhappy wretch! -that he had been sitting down upon an ant's nest!
While he was brushing off these pestilent insects, who evinced a keen sense of injury by stinging him in a hundred places, a man came jogging along the road on a cart-horse, and humming the plaintive air of " Bob and Joan." On enquiring of this warbling clodhopper the nearest way to Myrtle Lodge-the name of the ancient spinster's residence-Miles was told that he must go straight on for about a quarter of a mile, and then take the first turning on the right, which was a bypath leading up to the lodge. Having walked what he conceived to be this distance, he came, not to the path in question, but to an isolated cottage; and, on making a second enquiry of a young woman who was standing in the doorway, received for answer that he had still half a mile further to go! Delightful intelligence to a man whose tight shoes are constantly impressing his nervous system with an acute consciousness of corns! Perseverance, however, be the difficulties what they may, never fails to carry its point; and, in the fulness of time, Waddilove reached the lodge; but what words shall express his consternation and disgust when he saw, posted in large printed
letters in the unfurnished front parlour," THIS HOUSE TO LET!"
Heart-stricken by this last calamity, Miles slowly and abstractedly set out on his return to Caversham, determined no longer to give in to the prejudices of his fastidious olfactories, but halt at the public-house, which he now regretted having passed with such disdain, make the most of whatever fare might be placed before him, and even pass the night there so effectually had fatigue and hunger subdued his sense of gentility. But even this last sorry resource was denied him; for, on turning again into the high-road, absorbed in painful reverie, he took the wrong direction, so that, instead of retracing his course back to Caversham, he was momently placing himself at a greater distance from it. He did not discover his error-his notions of locality being of a very confused, parsonAdams-like, character-till he found himself advanced upwards of a hundred yards upon a large tract of moorland. He instantly hurried back, but, was again doomed to disappointment; for, just at the commencement of the common, three roads met, and for the life of him he could not make out which was the one he had just left. As well, however, as he could judge by the faint glimmer that still lingered in the west, the three ran in nearly parallel lines; so, concluding that each would lead to Caversham with but little difference in point of distance, he took the central road, and followed its course for nearly a mile, when, darkness coming on, he soon got off the track, and stumbled upon some marshy ground which sucked in his pumps at every third or fourth step he took, occasioning him as much annoyance as if he had been walking in damp weather over a ploughed field.
Waddilove was now quite desperate; and as he went floundering on, cursing the inexorable destiny that thus forced him, like M. Von Wodenblock in the tale, to " keep moving" whether he would or not, the cramp, brought on by fatigue, began to tie double-knots in the calf of each leg, while his stomach rumbled so exceedingly, from the joint effects of hunger and the tart fruit which he had swallowed, as to impress him with the humiliating conviction that he was just becoming a-roarer ! His walk to see the Miserable man! allied sovereigns was a mere lounge
compared to this. All sorts of grim imaginings beset him. Apoplexy haunted him like a spectre; and the freshening wind, as it swept across the unsheltered moor, seemed redolent of agues and rheumatisms. What enor mous sin had he committed, that he should be thus visited with a severer punishment than if he had been sent to pick oakum at the tread-mill! Had he violated all the decencies of social life, or so far sported with the sacred interests of truth as to call Joseph Hume a statesman, then, indeed, he might have anticipated a stern retributive visitation. But he had done nothing of the sort; but, on the contrary, had always strictly fulfilled his duties as a man and a citizen, and held it as an axiom that Joseph was by no means a Solon. And yet here he was-he whose anti-peripatetic prejudices were the strongest in his nature, and the constant theme of remark among his friends-wandering alone at nightfall on a moor, in silk stockings and pumps, thawing like a prize-ox in the dog days, and with no chance of bettering his condition until daybreak, supposing he should survive till then-or, at any rate, till the moon should rise, supposing that there was a moon! It was a cruel, an unprecedented case, and might have given a serious shock to his faith in a superintending Providence, had not his train of indignant meditation been seasonably diverted by his making a false step, and plumping down upon a smooth, dry mound. Too tired to get up again, and more than half persuaded that it was all over with him, and that he should be found a corpse before the morning, Miles threw himself at full length along this mound, and in a few minutes was fast asleep, and wandering through the land of dreams; now fancying that he was Captain Barclay, and walking for a wager a thousand miles in a thousand hours; and now, that he was Harlequin, and, as such, compelled not only to walk but to frisk through a pantomime, without stopping, for three mortal hours!
It was now nearly nine o'clock; the risen moon shone like a tempered sun, except when the clouds, driven by a fresh south-wind, swept across her orb; and by her light two men might be scen making their way over the common towards the mound whereon Miles lay sleeping. From their dress,
and still more from the hang-dog expression of their faces, it was evident that they were confirmed scapegoats
choice samples of a breed such as may be found in almost every country village; fellows who get drunk whenever they can; steal whatever they can lay their hands on; are at home in the stocks; familiar with the flavour of horse-ponds and the sharp discipline of the cat's-tail; and want nothing but opportunity to ensure their promotion to the gallows. Both these vagrant geniuses were attired in a costume whose uncommon raggedness approached to the picturesque. One wore a grey beaver hat, and a great-coat which reached to his ankles, and was patched in twenty different places; the other had no hat at all; but then, to make amends for this defect, his yellow shirttail stuck out behind through a fissure in his small clothes, in the gracefullest and most natural manner possible. As this precious couple drew near the slumbering Waddilove, whose nap had by this time lasted upwards of an hour, a sudden movement that he made with his legs, accompanied by a deep groan (as if, in the character of Harlequin, he was just going to take a reluctant leap head-foremost through a window), attracted their notice, and, hastening up, they gazed for a minute or so, in expressive silence, on the sleeper, who lay on his side with his head buried in his arms.
At length one whispered the other, "I say, Jack, this is a rum go, this is; there's been some of the family at work here, I take it."
"No, no," replied his com-rogue, stooping down and gently turning Miles on his back-"it's no affair of that natur; the cove's not been queered, he's only lushy, and as fast as a church
I'm blest if he ain't."
"Vy, then, I'm a-thinking, Jack," resumed the first speaker, laying his forefinger beside his : 66 nose, as it would be but right and proper in us to take care of the gemman's watch and seals for him, for it's wery clear as he can't take care on 'em his-self."
"No more he can't, Bill," replied the other, with a grin of intelligence ; "he's as helpless as a babby."
"Vy, then, here goes, Jack :" and so saying, the one scamp knelt down, and dexterously drew out Miles's gold watch, with its massive chain and seals; while the other ransacked his breeches