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POTTS, FISH, AND LUMLEY;
A TALE OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE.
It was on a Sunday afternoon, in toe middle of March, 18- when a young man, of diminutive dimensions, planted himself at the corner of one of the principal streets in the busy and populous city of Under all the circumstances of the case, this seemed a most singular proceeding. A fine May morning, as is common in March, had given place to a December aftervoon; and a keen, raw, north-east wind admi. rably calculated to perform the part of a rough razor,
blustered and bellowed along the melancholy street, sweeping it of every vestige of humanity gifted with sense enough to know that a warm fireside was comfortable, and pence enough to procure one. An old apple-woman, seated by the borders of the swollen kennel, and a hungry dog gnawing at a bone, were the only substances endowed with vitality perceptible, except the young man who had located himself in such an apparently unnatural situation. His appearance was pitiable in the extreme. Seduced by the flattering appearunce of the morning, when the sun shone and the southern breeze blew, he had thoughtlessly arrayed his limbs in the gay garniture of spring, and the consequence was that there he stood, exposed to all the assaults of a raw, chill, unfeeling north-easter, in a new peagreen coat, nankeen trowsers, and pale-complexioned waistcoat with a delicate sprig, lemon coloured gloves and white silk stockings. His face, as a natural consequence of such a costume, in such a situation, in such weather, exhibited a sample of the varied hues of the rainbow, though it can scarcely be added “ blent into beauty.” · Pale, pale was his cheek,” or rather pipeclay-coloured, blue were his lips; while his nose, which was of a fiery red at the base, deepened, through all the intermediate shades, into concentrated purple at the extremity, His hair and whiskers, which were of a bright scarlet, formed a striking fringe or border to his unhappy looking countenance. He wore his hat on one side of his head, at about an angle of seventy-five degrees, which in warmer weather, and under more favourable auspices, might impart a sprightly air to the wearer; just now, however, it was most incongruous when coupled with the utter misery and desolation of the sum total of his personal appearance. There is little more to be added, except that he was within a fraction of four feet ten- inches in heiglit, that he kept a shop for the retail of tobacco and fancy snuffs, and that his name was Thomas Maximilian Potts.
But wherefore stood he there? “ That is the question." The sympathetic hearts of my readers will readily anticipate the answer-he was in love. Yes, fondly, passionately, and, we may say for a man of his size, overwhelmingly in love. That little body, slight and trivial as it appeared, contained a heart -to correspond; and that heart had long been in the possession (figuratively) of Miss Julia Smith, only daughter and sole heiress of Mr. Smith, the eminent biscuit-baker, who resided in the second house round the identical corner at which Potts had stationed himself.
The case stood thus. He had been invited by the fair Julia to tea, and, as he fondly hoped, to a tête-à-tête, that afternoon. He hastened (in the expressive phraseology usual on such occasions) on the wings of love to keep the appointment, when lo ! just as he arrived at the door, his eyes were blasted (figuratively also) by the sight of his hated rival, James Fish, chemist and druggist, entering his bower of bliss. He shrunk back as if a creditor had crossed his path ; but trustig it might only be a casual call, waited patiently in his deplorable situation for the reissuing and final exit of the abhorred Fish. But the shades of evening fell deeper and deeper, the drizzling rain came down thicker and thicker, the wind blew keener and keener—" Poor Tom was a-cold !” The component parts of his body shook and trembled like the autumnal leaves in the November blast-his eyes distilled drops of liquid crystal, and, in the copious language of Wordsworth, his teeth, like those of Master Henry Gill,
“ Evermore went chatter, chatter,
Chatter, chatter, chatter, still." But there is a limit to human endurance-so he went and rapped at the door, and was forthwith ushered into the parlour.
“ Bless me! how late you are, Mr. Potts,” exclaimed Julia ; “ but do take a seat near the fire,” added she, in a sympathizing tone, as she took cognizance of the frigid, rigid condition of her unhappy suitor.
The scene which presented itself to the eyes of Potts was (with one exception) extremely revivifying. Everything spoke of warmth and comfort. The apartment was small, snug, and double-carpeted; and curtains were drawn close, the dull, dreary twilight excluded; and brightly and cheerfully burnt the fire in the grate, before which, half-buried in the wool of the hearth-rug, reclined the fattest of poodles. Al one side of the fire sat the contented and oleaginous biscuit-maker, Mr. Smith, in his accustomed state of semi-somnolency; at the other, Frank Lumley, a good-looking, good-tempered, rattlepated coz of Julia's ; while in the centre was placed the vile Fish. The fair Julia herself was busied in preparing the steaming beverage which cheers“ but not intoxicates ;” and while it is getting ready, we may as well at once introduce the company.
And first, of Fish, who was in truth a most extraordinary piece of flesh. In altitude he approximated to seven feet, and the various extremities of his person corresponded to his altitude. His mouth, teeth, lips, nose and eyes, were on the most unlimited scale, and as for his chin, there was no end to it. His hands, had he ever had the bad fortune to have been apprehended on a charge of pocket-picking, if allowed to have been produced in evidence, would have ensured his acquittal by any jury in christendom ; indeed, the idea of their going into an ordinary pocket was absurd ; while his two feet were fully equivalent to three, thus giving the lie at once to that standard of measurement which dogmatically asserts that twelve inches make one foot. Yet with all those weighty helps—those extraordinary appendages, the sum total of the man was nothing ; in fact, he never weighed more than one hundred pounds in the heaviest day of his existence. To in part account for this, it must be taken into consideration, that his columnar body was shrunk, sapless, and of small and equal circumference in all its parts ; his neck. scraggy and crane-like, could scarcely be accounted anything as regarded weight; whilst his legs, which were really very long, fell off about the calf, but gradually thickened as they approached the knees and ankles, so that the old woman who was in the habit of knitting his hose, used to make an extra charge in consequence of having to narrow the loops at this portion of his anatomy, instead of widening them. All this rendered Fish peculiarly ill adapted for tempestuous weather; for carrying his head so high, the wind naturally took a powerful hold of him, and though his extensive feet prevented his being blown over, yet his weak, flexible body swayed and bent and bowed to every blast, like the boughs of a sapling willow. A cast-off coat of his was preserved as a curiosity in the lodge of the tailors' society of his native town; and it is a well-known fact, that during a severe fit of influenza under which he laboured, no less than seven eminent surgeons were secretly negotiating with the sexton of his parish church
for the reversion of his most extraordinary constructed corpus ; but he lived, and science wept as he recovered. In mind and temper Fish was as mild as milk; one of the most simple, kind-hearted, inoffensive creatures that ever breathed. He followed Mr. Coleridge's advice and loved, with a temperate love, “ all things both great and small,” even that smallest of things, his rival, Thomas Maximilian Potts, tobacconist.
Smith (the eminent biscuit-baker) was exactly the reverse of Fish in personal endowments. He was a short, pursy man, “ scant of breath,” and as fat as a pig. In venturing a wa. ger on which of the various disorders “which flesh is heir to" was eventually the most likely to terminate the career of Mr. Smith, you might have backed apoplexy against the field. He was a man of few words ; indeed his conversational powers were limited, in consequence of having devoted his faculties early in life solely to the absorbing study of biscuit-baking, by which he had made a fortune. He had no thirst for knowledge or information, or indeed anything excepting punch ; so that he did little else than saunter about the doors in fine weather ; doze by the fire in foul ; smoke, tipple, read the news. papers, and give his assent to whatever Julia proposed.
Julia herself was as merry, hearty, pretty a little girl as a reasonable man could desire, with cherry cheeks, fair complexion, hazel eyes, auburn hair, ten thousand pounds, and the sweetest little mouth in the town. She was of the middle height, neatly moulded, of a comfortahle plumpness, yet without inberitiug from her father the slightest tendency to undue obesity. Pleasant in manner, cheerful in temper, quick-witted, light-hearted, and of the loving and loveable age of nineteen, it was altogether a shame that Miss Julia Smith continued Miss Julia Smith. Whether she had ultimately to become Potts or Fish--but it is wrong to anticipate.
Her cousin, Frank Lumley, was, as has already been observed, a good-looking, good-hearted, frank, spirited young fellow, whom every body liked, and yet whom every body prophesied would never do good, in consequence of a singular deficiency in his intellectual qualifications, namely, an utter inability to calculate the value of money, although clerk to his uncle, the rich banker, who prudently kept Master Frank's salary as low as possible, on the ground that there would be o the less thrown away.” Poor was Frank, and poor was he likely to remain, a circumstance, however, which did not seem to give him the slightest uneasiness.
In far less time than it has taken to introduce the company, they had brought the tea-slopping to a termination ; and the weak, warm-water implements being removed, the conversation, under the cheering influence of Julia's eyes, became brisk and animated. True, Master Francis said little, rose suddenly from his chair, sat suddenly down again, crossed, uncrossed, and recrossed his legs, regulated the fire and candles, patted the poodle, and performed all those evolutions proper to people not over and above comfortable ; but Fish, who was deeply scientific, lectured away most innocently to Julia about sulphur-baths, medicinal springs, gases-oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen-acids, alkalies, and so on to the end of the chapter; while Potts, who was a kind of literary creature, being a soiler of commonplace-books, a scribbler of patriotic paragraphs, and president of a debating nuisance, kept chattering away at an amazing rate about Byron, Scott, Shakspeare, and the Ladies' Magazine. Julia sat in the middle, listening complacently, dividing her smiles equally, and occasionally inquiring of Francis, “ if there was anything the matter with him ?”.
But the conversation, from literary and scientific, suddenly took a personal turn. Fish had inadvertantly made some disparaging allusion to littleness as connected with the human form, whereupon Maximilian became wroth and indignant exceedingly. He proceeded to assert that there had never been a lengthy poet, painter, player, or even warrior, of any eminence (he was a little ill-informed wretch, that Potts,)
that extraordinary height, in fact, debased the intellectual • faculties--that all great men, from Alexander to himself, had
been little ones—winding up, in a magnificent manner, with that quotation which every man under five feet four inches, has at his tongue's end
“ Were I as tall to reach the pole,
Or grasp the ocean in a span,
The mind's the standard of the man !" This furious piece of declamation was followed by an indescribable sound between a groan and a grumble from the emi. nent and recumbent biscuit-baker, who arose from his chair, (hook himself, inquired the clock, said he felt inclined to sleep, she had done nothing else for the last three hours,) wished the company a good night, and waddled off to beil.
Mr. Lumley also showed an inclination to depart, and Fish and Potts reluctantly followed his example. Julia condescendingly volunteered to show them the door.
"Good night, Miss Smith,” said Fish, with a mournfully