Obrázky na stránke
[ocr errors]

larly disposed, either by their natural disposition,s their peculiar circumstances, or their advantageous positions, to take notice of the passing events of the district in which they lived.

Mrs. Jones was, as usual, the first to observe it and to communicate the “great fact” to her neighbours in confidential conversation. Mrs. Jones was indeed the safeguard of the region in which she lived. Nature had endowed her originally with more than a fair share of the great weakness of the fair sex, namely, curiosity, and this weakness was much strengthened by the peculiar circumstances of which Mrs. Jones (some, perhaps, would say) was the victim. For the last twenty years of her life, Mrs. Jones (now close on her sixty-fifth year) had been confined to her bedroom, some said by the rheumatism, others the gout, and others by a “general indisposition” to leave her apartment. Mrs. Jones was not, however, confined to her bed, for she was to be observed daily from sunset to sunrise seated at the window in winter and in the window during the summer months, gazing with most persevering tenacity on the wide expanse below. Her chamber was most admirably adapted for reconnoitring purposes, as it was situated at the turning of the road, and contained two windows, one of which looked towards the south and west, the other in a north-easterly direction. Mrs. Jones was thus enabled to take up her position as circumstances might require, and,“ skimming the horizon," take a careful survey of all that was going forward of a dangerous character.

Some of the neighbours wondered how Mrs. Jones could possibly sit so long at a window without occupation ; but these were unsophisticated people, who had no “idea ” of the endless variety of amusements which were daily presented to the visual organs and intellectual capacity of the Cerberus of Barnsbury Park. The whole was to her a living panorama moving constantly before her eyes and varying every moment, every hour, every day, and presenting incidents of everchanging hue, in each of which the indefatiguable Mrs. Jones took an intense interest. The poulterer's boy now passed before her, bearing upon his wooden tray a dressed hare and a trussed fowl. To common observers this would convey nothing but an individual of the genus homo" bearing a certain square made of wood on which rested two deceased animals preparing for mastication, but such are dull souls. Not so to the enthusiastic Mrs. Jones ; she saw in the figures before her, a ball a dinner party, a supper, a dance, flirtations, marriages,

births, &c., &c., &c. Where is he going to ? what can it be for? were her mental exclamations, followed up by physical exertions in search of a reply-she watched him from one window, pursued him round the corner, ran to the other, still kept the chase in view, and ran him to the earth at Mr. Frisky's hall-door, about twenty doors from hers on the opposite side of the way. Did she stop there? by no means; the disappearance of the defunct animals in the hands of the cook, and of the boy under the archway to play at pitch and toss, only opened up to her vivid imagination new scenes for contemplation, fresh food for thought.

What is Mr. Frisky going to give-is it to be a dinner or a supper? are there to be ladies there? or is it to be only a gentlemans' party? how many is he likely to have? where will the dinner or supper be laid out ? how can Mr. Frisky bear all this expense—this is his sixth party within three months, and he is only a clerk in the Bank, has a wife and four children, and keeps two servants ? are only a twentieth part of the interesting subjects opened up to Mrs. Jones' investigation for the ensuing week. Now is her vigilance on the alert, Mr. Frisky's door never escapes her eye, she watches it by day and dreams of it by night, and at the endof the week having concluded her observations, she completes her discovery. Asirloin of beef, a haunch of venison, a hamper of wine, and sundry other articles of consumption, followed the hare and trussed fowl—there is to be a dinner. Mrs. Wilson, the dress-maker, calls six times in two days—there are ladies to be there. Puff, the principal of the Barnsbury-Park band, calls twicethere will be music and a dance. Sundry long seats with cane bottoms, settle the affair--there will be supper also. Now comes the exciting moment, the day arrives, the hour has struck, the guests arrive, the gentlemen, the ladies, the horses, the cabs, the cabmen, the footmen, with a countless string of gazers, and Mrs. Jones is wrought up to a pitch of excitement not equalled by Jenny Lind herself at the opera.

Happily, a few days' quiet succeeds and Mrs. Jones recovers from her fatigue, when a new object springs up a wedding in the family of the Mugginges. Mrs. Jones is again launched on the ocean of discovery, and unravelling the mystery by a series of hieroglyhic figures. But for Mrs. Jones's laudable anxiety as to the financial department of her neighbours, her happiness would be complete.

Some of the neighbours looked upon Mrs. Jones as the guardian angel of Barnsbury Park, others as the greatest bore in its society; but this depended a good deal, as might be expected, on the effects produced on the several parties by her vigilance. To Mrs. Crisp, who keeps the Barnsbury-Park Seminary for Young Ladies, she has been of infinite service, having prevented, in one season, three elopements, and, of course, the loss of an equal number of pupils. The young ladies, on the contrary, look on her as their evil genius, and wish most devoutly that Mrs. Jones was removed to a better world as soon as possible ; she detects all their flirtations ; the delivery of a letter without being seen, except in the dark, is impossible ; and as to holding a conversation either over or through the paling, unobserved, they might as well undertake the discovery of the north-west passage, or the civilisation of the Caffres.

To the police force, Mrs. Jones is a dreadful nuisance, as she acts as a kind of perpetual inspector; her windows command a complete view of their beat; they cannot attempt a chat with a housemaid, or an intrigue with the cook, before sunset, as not less than three of the body have been detected by her, taking safe custody of the provisions of sundry respectable inhabitants in the neighbourhood. One of the force, an intelligent young man from Yorkshire, has suggested to his comrades the idea of representing her to the sanatory commission as a nuisance and so accomplishing her removal, but under what section of the sanatory act he would propose to include her has not yet appeared. That she is equally objectionable to the “ domestics” of Barnsbury Park may well be conceived, as all their movements from daylight to dark are as closely watched by her as if her very existence depended on her vigilance.

It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that malicious reports have been spread regarding Mrs. Jones's character. She has been represented as a government spy, one of the detective force, an agent for the electric telegraph, and even as a reporter for the papers, but these reports are without foundation.

Mrs. Jones was, therefore, the first to raise the particular excitement alluded to in Barnsbury Park; but as this was a daily occupation of hers, she would have commanded but little attention, but for the circumstance that a revolution had lately taken place on the continent and that it was apprehended by many that a similar attempt would be made by the disaffected in this country. Mrs. Jones had observed and duly reported that sundry large cases had been lately delivered in the neighbourhood, that she had traced some of them to the residence of Mr. Forbes, but that others having arrived at dusk she was unable to trace them; that many men with strange iron implements were also to be seen in the neighbourhood, some going to Mr. Forbes's house, some elsewhere, and that carts laden with ladders, planks, and ropes, passed her window frequently

This continued for six weeks, without coming to a conclusion, or allowing Mrs. Jones to arrive at a soinewhat similar state as to their destiny; she was, therefore, in a state of suspense not to be endured, and announced again and again that she was sure the Chartists were going to attack Barnsbury Park. Mrs. Jones was not at first believed ; but

perseverance does much, and by the end of the fifth week she had succeeded in raising an alarm in the neighbourhood at the serious aspect of matters. Some of the more timid applied to the police on the subject, others wrote to the Home Office, and some even talked of holding a public meeting, but none could make out the mystery ; the report had spread, had been believed, but none could trace it to its original source, or ascertain whether the report was well founded or not. Mrs. Jones had ushered the creature into life, and the busy minds of her neighbours had nurtured it into something like maturity.

The intended attack on Barnsbury Park became the subject of debate at the Apollo club held by the tradesmen of the neighbourhood at the Grapes public-house. At first, it was amusing, but at the end of the week was looked upon as a more serious business, Mr. Chunk, the butcher, spoke “ dreadfully” as to what he should do.

as to what he should do. Mr. Budd, the greengrocer

said he would “'nihilate them 'ere Chartists ; and Mr. Coffey, the grocer, spoke of “sarving them out in firstrate style” if they came, and volunteered the use of a pistol which had been in his family for the last fifty years. John Grubb, the chandler, a jolly old fellow, ridiculed the whole affair and laughed heartily at his neighbour's fears, telling them that “ he had lived there for the last forty years and never heard of such a thing afore."

Barnsbnry Park was in a state of excitement when the appearance of new characters on the scene began to relieve Mrs. Jones from her state of suspense and the inhabitants from the expected attack, and certain disclosures were made which revealed the mystery.


JANUARY, 1849,-NO. 1. VOL. XI.


As might be expected, Mrs. Jones kept strict watch and ward on the premises of Mr. and Mrs. Forbes ; not a being could enter or leave between sunrise and sunset, without her knowledge ; she was now engaged, as she fancied herself, in the cause of her country, and her vigilance was unceasing.

One day a hamper arrived, carried to the door by a suspicious-looking character, he entered the hall, but fortunately the door was left open. Mrs. Jones strained her eyes to the utmost, the hamper unpacked, the straw removed, and lo! a number of short black articles like hand grenades were brought. forth. The secret was discovered ; but with unexampled prudence she called her maid Betty to run and see what they were. Betty flew to inspect the dreadful instruments of destruction, when lo ! she discovered sundry bottles of wine ranged in the passage.

The wine was followed by sundry articles of a similarly destructive character, the destruction being, like Polonius at supper, on their own proper persons; and Mrs. Jones was at length relieved from her dreadful state of suspense. But her relief was only temporary; she had discovered that Mr. Forbes was not contemplating the reduction of Barnsbury Park to ashes, but merely the giving of an entertainment to some of his friends--but for whom was this entertainment? who shall be there ? now opened to her enquiring genius, and Mrs. Jones

on the rack." During all this time, Mr. and Mrs. Forbes were little aware of the sensation they were creating in Barnsbury Park, and never dreamed that their forthcoming entertainment had given rise to so many rumours and such dreadful anticipations. They contemplated, it is true, giving their friends and neighbours a surprise, but of a very different character from that which they had inflicted on thein ; hence the mystery which Mrs. Jones was unable to unveil for such a length of time, and hence the anticipated conflicts of the members of the Apollo club at the Grapes.

Mr. and Mrs. Forbes were about bringing their eldest daughter home from school; they were preparing, for her reception, a grand entertainment to their friends on the occasion; they had been repairing, painting, and papering their state-rooms, and were now preparing the more tangible neces. saries; but this they sought to accomplish in secret, without their neighbours knowing a word about it, so that they might burst upon them in all their glory, and astound them by the

was once more

« PredošláPokračovať »