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of a former Sir Robert Sterling; but nobody could give me any accurate account of him, except that he had been a daily visitor of the club, ever since it was first founded.
As I was, however, acquainted with Lord Langston, and had now observed this friend of his for three months, I requested to be introduced to him.
“I will introduce you,” said Lord Langston, “ if
you wish it ; but I am not sure he will repay you. He is a bit of a humorist; and though, as you see, he lives in a daily crowd, he also, as you see, wishes to be as much aloof from it as he can.
Lord Langston, however, went up to him, and saying something in a low tone, I heard him reply, “ Certainly, any friend of yours.” Upon this the ceremony took place, and Lord Langston going away, Mr. Sterling and I were left alone.
I found him exceedingly well bred ; rather of the old school; and his conversation, as far as it went, was agreeable, and showed mind. It turned naturally on the club, which he said was exceedingly convenient for people of small fortune, but would be more agreeable if less heterogeneously composed. “ However," said he, “ we cannot have every thing; and any where I have very few friends."
I replied, I concluded that must be his own fault; at which he looked, as I thought, not displeased, but only bowed by way of answer.
This concluded our first day's acquaintance, which was renewed the next, and the next after that, till a sort of intimacy commenced, and we even dined and took coffee together-a thing (as he told me) he had not done with any body else, since he belonged to the club. Not only this, but he allowed me to be the companion of his daily walks round Hyde Park, or Kensington Gardens, which he said he had come to consider as his own, and which supplied him with all he wanted of country; so that now he never went there, except once a-year, for a week or so, to Langston Castle, the seat of his noble and excellent old friend.
This produced a conversation upon the family, with whom I supposed he must be intimate, and I asked him if he knew Lord Langston's sisters, Lady Valentine and Lady Lovel ? At this he gave a sigh, which I thought he tried to conceal, and said he had known them formerly, but he had not seen them for years.
added he, “ they are like the rest of us, old, changed, and worn out. But to think of their former bloom, and see their present wrinkles, would give me no pleasure.'
He sighed again, and not choosing to press him impertinently, I changed the conversation.
Our walks and dinners, and sometimes the company of Lord Langston, improved our intimacy; and at last he even asked me to take my cutlet in his chambers, near Pall-mall, where he unbent still more. Here once, when I observed upon the insulated life he led, though seemingly so acquainted with the world, he said, it was very true, he was acquainted with, but not formed for it; “which," added he, with a half smile, you will think extraordinary, , in an upstart like me."
“ Upstart !" cried I, with surprise ; “ can the son of Sir Robert Sterling, and the friend of Lord Langston, be an upstart ?"
“Aye, there it is," returned he. foolish titles give but false ideas of consequence, and lead to errors which I have often rued. Better for me, if my father had never been knighted, or never stirred from the muddy kennel where both he and I were born."
“ You raise my curiosity greatly,” said I, “but I will not be guilty of the impertinence of seeking to have it gratified.”
Why, to tell you the truth,” he replied, * I have often thought my history, totally barren as it is of a single incident to make it interesting,—on the contrary, a most absolute blank of above sixty years,—might yet furnish a very useful lesson to a number of young fools in the world, whom I see running the same career as I did, to end, I dare say, in the same failures. But you are not one of these."
This, far from allaying the desire I had to know more, only increased it, and so I fairly told hiin.
" The story,” said he, “ though of nothing, is too long for mere conversation ; and though I have quantities of notes, letters, and memorandums, yet are they in such confused heaps, that to digest them into an intelligible form would be beyond my own power, much more yours, even were you willing to take the trouble.
yet, as I say, the lesson it might give to many who want it, might be so useful, that I have sometimes thought of leaving it to the world when I die. It will disgrace me; but it would be the best amends I could make for
having abused so many opportunities, which I believe I may say I had, of being a very different person from what I am."
“ How shall I understand this?" I asked. " Is it that
and arrange these papers if I could ?"
“ Even so," he rejoined; “and I should myself be curious to see what sort of a figure I make in them ; though I am so little inclined to believe it can be any thing but ridiculous, that I have never had the courage hitherto to make the attempt myself.”
This soon led to an understanding between us. An escrutoire was unlocked, and a white leather bag of tolerable dimensions, and crowded with documents of all sorts, was placed at my disposal; Mr. Sterling absolutely blushing as he gave
them to me. I took them home, and shut myself up for a week, with no other companions; and the following pages are the fruits. They, indeed, contain a few, a very few animadversions of my own, which I could not help adding after Mr. Sterling's decease, and he had bequeathed them to me in full possession. But not a fact is altered, nor a reflection of his suppressed ; so that, whatever the picture may be, it is at least genuine.