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THE OCTOBER NUMBER
COLBURN'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
THE MILITARY RESOURCES OF RUSSIA.
SKETCH. BY CHARLES MITCHELL CHARLES.
REJECTED ARTICLES CANNOT BE RETURNED.
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
A ROMANCE OF CARLTON GARDENS.
BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.
A RED jacket and a birch-broom by day, a loose great-coat and a thick worsted comforter by night, a quick eye, a sharp ear, and a hoarse voice at all times, go a great way towards making up the individual whom the policemen, cabmen, and watermen of the West End consent to call by the name of “Gruffy."
But he has other characteristics which have made him well known to more distinguished patrons. The loss of an arm is only an external sign; Gruffy has that within which passeth show. No one in London can deliver a letter or convey a message more deftly than Gruffy. He is the prince of street-Mercuries, and, in the regular exercise of his vocation, a model of swiftness and discretion. His personal appearance is not, perhaps, very suggestive of the “delicate Ariel,” but he is almost as rapid in his movements, and unlike the tricksy spirit in that respect, he never grumbles. He has had plentiful cause, however, for grumbling during the forty years of existence by which he has been buffeted: but the ills of life seem to affect him little more than they do the castiron post at the street-corner against which he is in the habit of leaning. He quarrels with nothing, not even with the weather-on which account he may be looked upon as a pattern Englishman-because, as he observes, “ If it warn't for wet and dirt, how should I get a livin'?”
“Wot's the objick," says Gruffy, “ of fine wether to a pore feller like me? If it didn't never rain I should pretty soon have nuthin' to do ! Where'd be the use of crossin's ; wot ’ud become of birch-brooms? I mite as well chain mine up all day—as I doos sometimes when I goes of errins-agin this here post! Fine wether's only fit for oldin' ossesand there's a deal less o' that than there used to be. One never sees no idle wizzitin' gents about now; they've all gone to South Orstraly. Put the case, too, as it was auleys moonlite nites. I shouldn't have half the carridges to call; there wouldn't be no stoppin' the way wuth speakin' on; no Take care o' the weal, my lady ;' nuthin' o' the sort! Why, I've known a good, thick, yaller fogg-them as you may cut with a knife, and can't see thro' nohow-I've known sitch nites wuth a matter o'ten bob; ah, and more too, when parties has lost theirselves. I aint got no spite agin the farmers, but the 'arder the rain comes down the more I likes it ; then’s my 'arvest !"
Taking this practical view of the question, Gruffy shakes hands with foul weather. Exposure by day and night, the easterly winds of spring and the searching mists of winter, have somewhat damaged that tuneful organ, his voice, but he is reconciled to this too.
“ If it warn't for my woice,” he says, "nobody wouldn't know as I was Nov.-VOL. XCIX. NO. CCCXCV.
on the spot, when, p'raps, I was most wanted. Now they hears me. • There's Gruffy,' says they ; and then they're satisfied.”
Few people, of any condition, have a wider circle of acquaintance than Gruffy ; that is to say, he knows everybody, by sight, who is worth knowing, and a great many who are not. Living at the West End, his tendencies are, of course, aristocratic, though—not being proud-he can descend to the inferior classes. His sympathies, however, are chiefly with the great, and he has a habit, if people are not born to greatness, of thrusting it upon them.
“ Wycount” and “Rite Onnerable" are the titles he prefers bestowing ; and he appears to dwell upon the latter with as much satisfaction as Sir Giles Overreach himself. If he can have the opportunity of pointing out a cabinet minister to some stranger in London, who has just paid his footing-a country member of parliament, or some such innocent, we may suppose— Gruffy is happy for the day. During the latter part of Sir Robert Peel's life that statesman was an especial favourite with him. Now and then the question would be put to him, by some one who was aware of his predilection, if he knew the late Premier ?
“ Do I know Sir Robin Peel, sir ?" would Gruffy exclaim, “I should think I did. Why, sir, there now, just cast your eyes a little that waymore to your left, sir—you're a lookin' at the collum—there, that's Sir Robin Peel hisself, the tall, stout gent just a turnin' the corner by Drummonds---es-es-es-es— " Gruffy has a difficulty with this proper name; it sticks to him like a leech ; he can't shake it off. At last he gets rid of it with an effort, gasps for a few moments, and then slowly says: “Yes, sir, that's the Rite Onnerable Sir Robin Peel, Prime Minister, that is."
In or out of office it made no difference to Gruffy; he always called Sir Robert “ the Prime Minister,” attaching perhaps a peculiar significance to the word “prime."
Of all the London summers that had passed over Gruffy's head since first he called a coach or swept a crossing, the one that last went by was the most congenial he had ever known. As surely as the sun did not shine throughout the greater part of it, and as certainly as it poured cats and dogs every day, Gruffy went to bed wet through-and happy. The run upon him was perpetual ; his multifarious services were in constant demand, and he throve accordingly; so much so, that he began to feel uncomfortably well off.
“ Blest,” he was overheard to say to his friend Mr. Scowcroft, the Haymarket waterman, as they were taking a pot at “ The Anglesea" together “blest if I knows wot to do with my money!”
"I should inwest it, Gruffy,” replied he of the badge and leather-apron, gravely, “in Con-sols." '“What's Con-sols ?" asked Gruffy.
Mr. Scowcroft scratched his head as if he wasn't quite prepared with a satisfactory answer—a predicament which sometimes befals advicegivers; at last he said :
“ Con-sols has summot to do with corn." “ Oh!” ejaculated Gruffy.
“ And so," continued Mr. Scowcroft, rallying, “this here bein' about the wettest season as I've ever seen” (Gruffy nodded assent), “I should inwest in Con-sols and buy up corn ; it's safe to rise.”
The order of proceeding recommended by Mr. Scowcroft was rather roundabout, but the principle, in the abstract, was good.
“ Wot sort o'corn would you adwise ?” asked Gruffy.
“ Oats, in course," replied his friend ; “there aint no other kind as I knows of as London hosses can do their work on; beans aint to be named.”
The “Anglesea” beer and Mr. Scowcroft's suggestion working together gave birth in Gruffy's mind to a very pleasant series of daydreams, as he handled his broom that afternoon somewhat more mechanically than usual.
"I wonder how much corn,” he kept saying to himself—“how much corn,-and con-sols,” he added-for he seemed instinctively to feel that they represented the same thing, were joined together in holy matrimony, and could not be separated—“ I could buy for seven-pun’-ten and fourpence ha’penny!” that being the sum which he had temporarily “inwested” in the crown of his hat, wrapped up in a ragged red handkerchief. And then visions arose of his supplying all the cabs on the rank with hay as well as oats, and, how in time, he might make his fortune.
“ There was old Crocky,” he said, as he cast his eyes up the street where his daily pursuit called him, “he began, as I've heerd tell, upon a red errin', and see wot he was wuth afore he died.”
When once you begin to build castles in the air, it is impossible to say where you will stop. One thinks-having barely just enough to make both ends meet-how comfortably one could get on if “somebody” would leave one a thousand pounds. This is the first thought; but with money-ideal though it becomes the desire for more. A thousand pounds ? Yes; that is all very well : but why not a thousand a year? The unknown “somebody” might leave one as easily as the other. With a thousand a year-say two--or five, while you are about it—a countryhouse and some land-it might as well be a park, with deer in it-some ready money at the bankers'—a few railroad shares, and of course some funded property--why not twenty, or what if it were thirty or sixty thousand pounds? You see there is no limit; imagination has taken the bit between her teeth, and away you go, over everything; pulled up at last, though, by a double ditch and rail —a tap at the door: “Please, sir,” says the servant, “it's the water-rate-two quarters !" The old story of Alnaschar!
How far Gruffy had advanced in the unattainable land of Cocagne, we have no means of knowing, but wherever he had reached he was very rudely driven out of it, for in the midst of his speculations a cabriolet, driven by a gentleman, came hastily round the corner before he was aware of its approach, and the near wheel caught him on the shoulder, and sent him flying full-length on the pavement, his broom being whirled in one direction and his hat rolling in another. The gentleman, shocked at the accident, pulled up as quickly as he could, and jumped out to assist his victim, but before he could get to him, Gruffy, who luckily was only half-stunned, had recovered his legs. .« Vhere's my broom and my att ?” said he, rubbing the mud off his face and the sleeves of his red jacket.
The broom was brought by a bystander, but the bat was nowhere to be seen; somebody-the day-dream fiend, perhaps_had taken a fancy to it, and left a ragamuffin cap in exchange. As there were two or three
Darrow courts close to the spot where the accident occurred, the individual who made the exchange had found no difficulty in making off unperceived.
Gruffy cast a rapid glance at the crowd, to see if the hat had-by mistake-been transferred to any one else's head, but it was nowhere visible.
“ There goes seven-pun’-ten-and-fourpence-ha'penny-wuth o'corn and con-sols,” he ejaculated; “one comfort is, it aint left off rainin'!"
And this was all he said about the matter.
“ Are you much hurt, my poor fellow ?” inquired the owner of the cabriolet, now coming up.
“ Only a little shook, yer onner !" replied Gruffy, giving a pull to the peak of the cap which, in default of his own precious beaver, he now wore.
“ Wuss than that,” said one of the crowd; “I b'leeve he's lost all his munney!”
“'Taint no odds," said Gruffy; “I mite ’ave lost it a spekilatin'. People does.”
The gentleman's porte-monnaie was immediately in his hand.
“I've nothing more about me,” he said, pressing a couple of sovereigns into Gruffy's horny palm, “but here's my card. Can you read ? Very good. Call on me to-morrow morning at ten o'clock; the address is there. Now, take care of yourself, and don't get run over again !"
“ 'Three cheers for the gent !" shouted a baker's boy. “I s'pose Gruffy will stand sumthin' all round.”
“ You be blowed," said the benevolent character, who had already commiserated the crossing-sweeper ; “Gruffy 'ad better go home and rest his nerves. I'll see you part of the way at any rate, Gruffy !”
The speaker was as good as his word; he went with him to the nearest public-house, where he drank a glass of hot rum-and-water at Gruffy's expense, and then, finding that Gruffy was what he called “obsteamerus," took his leave.
When this accidental friend had retired, Gruffy took out the card, and spelt it over:
“ Sir 'Ennery Wernon--a nob at all ewents !-twenty-four, Vestburnterriss. He's a nice-spoken gent, and free-'anded. One pun’-nineteen,” continued Gruffy, counting his change as he paid the reckoning; “well, that's a good bit to begin with. I'm sorry tho' I lost the ankercher, and the att warn't a bad un! I akes a little; however, I s'pose I shall sleep it off."
In this philosophical frame of mind, Gruffy withdrew to his dormitory.
“ And what's your name, my man ?” asked Sir Henry Vernon, when at the appointed hour the crossing-sweeper stood again before him.
“My reg'lar name, yer onner-leastways the one as I was babtised is Campkin—that's to say, James Campkin. The last was my father's ; but the one as I'm auleys known by is Gruffy; folks gived it me, and I
“Well, then, Gruffy-as, I suppose, I too must call you,” said Sir Henry, “ before we speak of anything else, didn't I hear something yesterday about your having lost some money?"
It was a long time before Gruffy could be brought to answer this question. He evaded it; said there was no harm done; there he was, able to sweep and go of errands just the same; his honour had given