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Contents of this Volume

_My English Acquaintance._ _By F. Hardman, Esq._

_The Murderer's Last Night._ _By T. Doubleday, Esq._

_Narration of Certain Uncommon Things that did formerly
happen to me, Herbert Willis, B.D._

_The Wags_

_The Wet Wooing: A Narrative of '98_






[_MAGA._ FEBRUARY 1848.]

"I believe I have the pleasure of seeing Mr ----," said a voice in
English, as I paused for a moment, my breakfast concluded, before the
door of a Palais Royal coffee-house, planning the disposal of my day.

I looked at the person who thus addressed me; and, although I pique
myself on rarely forgetting the face of an acquaintance, in this
instance my memory was completely at fault. But for his knowledge of
my name, I should have concluded my interlocutor mistaken as to my
identity. I was at least as much surprised at the perfectly good
English he spoke, as at having my acquaintance claimed by a person of
his profession and rank. He was a young man of about five-and-twenty,
attired in the handsome and well-fitting undress of a sergeant of
French light dragoons. His brown hair curled short and crisp from
under his smart green forage-cap, cavalierly placed upon one side of
his head; his clear blue eyes contrasted with the tawny colour of his
cheek, a tint for which it was evidently indebted to sun and weather;
his face was clean shaven, save and except small well-trimmed
mustaches and a chin-tuft. Altogether, he was as pretty a model of a
light cavalryman as I remember to have seen: square in the shoulder,
slender in the hip, well limbed, lithe and muscular. His carriage was
soldierly, without the exaggerated stiffness and swagger commonly
found amongst non-commissioned officers of dragoons; and altogether he
had a gentlemanly air which, I doubt not, would have made itself as
visible under the coarse drugget of a private soldier, as beneath the
garb of finer materials and more careful cut, which, in his capacity
of _maréchal des logis_, or sergeant, it was permitted him to wear.
But my admiration of this pretty model of a man-at-arms did not assist
me to recognise him, although, whilst gazing at him, and especially
when he slightly smiled at my visible embarrassment, his features
seemed not totally unfamiliar to me. I looked, I have no doubt,
considerably puzzled. The stranger came to my assistance.

"I see you do not remember me," he said. "Not above four years since
we met, if so much; but four years, an African sun, and a French
uniform, have made a change. I met you in Warwickshire, at George
Clinton's. I have seen you once or twice since; but I think the last
time we spoke was when cantering over Harleigh Downs. My name is Frank

I immediately recollected my man. About four summers previously,
whilst on a flying visit at a country house, I had formed a slight
acquaintance with Mr Frank Oakley, who had then just come of age, and
into possession--by the death of his father, which had occurred a
twelvemonth previously--of a few thousand pounds. The interest of this
sum, which would have been an agreeable and sufficient addition to a
subaltern's pay or curate's stipend, or which would have enabled a
struggling barrister to bide his briefs, was altogether insufficient
to supply the wants and caprices of an idler, especially such an idler
as Oakley. Master Francis was what young gentlemen fresh from school
or at college, sucking ensigns, precocious templars, _et id genus
omne_, are accustomed to call a "fast" man; the said fastness not
referring, as Johnson's dictionary teaches us it might do, to any
particular strength or firmness of character, but merely to the
singular rapidity with which such persons get through their money and
into debt. At the time I speak of, Oakley was going his fastest--that
is to say, spending the utmost amount of coin, for the least possible
value; indeed he could hardly have run madder riot with his moderate
patrimony, had he cast his sovereigns into bullets and made
pipe-lights of his bank-notes. But verily, he had his reward in the
open-mouthed admiration of three or four younkers of his own standing,
then assembled at Harleigh Hall, who looked up to him as something
between a hero and an oracle; and in the encouraging familiarity and
approval of one or two gentlemen of maturer age, who swore he was a
fine fellow, and proved they thought so by winning bets of him at
billiards, and by selling him horses that would have fetched "twice
the money at Tattersall's," with other bargains of an equally
advantageous description. Although we were four days in the same
house, meeting each evening at dinner, and occasionally riding and
walking in the same group, our acquaintance continued of the very
slightest description, and I took my departure without anything
approaching to intimacy having sprung up between us. Amongst the large
party of visitors at the Hall, were not wanting persons of tastes more
suited to my own than those of Oakley and his little knot of
flatterers and admirers; and he, on his part, was far too much taken
up with his newly-inherited fortune--which he evidently considered
inexhaustible--with planning amusements, and inhaling adulatory
incense, to pay attention to a man whom, as full fifteen years his
senior, he doubtless set down as an old fellow, a "slow coach," and
perhaps even as a member of that distinguished corporation known as
the "Fogie Club." So that when we met in London, during the ensuing
season, occasionally in the street and once or twice in a ballroom, a
slight bow or word of recognition was all that passed between us. I
could perceive, however, that Oakley still kept up the rapid pace at
which he had started, and lived, with a few hundreds a-year, as if he
had possessed as many thousands. The proximity of my quiet club to the
fashionable and expensive one into which he had obtained admission,
gave me many opportunities of observing his proceedings, and those
opportunities, in my capacity of a student of human nature, I did not
neglect. I had marked his career and ultimate fate in my mind, and was
curious to see my predictions verified, although I sincerely wished
they might not be, for they were anything but favourable to the
welfare of Oakley, who, in spite of his follies, had generous and
manly qualities. His prodigality was not of that purely egotistical
description most commonly found in spendthrifts of his class. He would
give a lavish alms to a whining beggar, as freely as he would throw
away a handful of gold on some folly of the moment or extravagant
debauch; and I had heard an old one-armed soldier, who sometimes held
his horse at the club door, utter blessings, when he had ridden out
of hearing, on his kind heart and open hand. These and similar little
traits that came under my notice, made me regret to see him going post
to perdition. That he was doing so, I could not for one moment doubt.
His extravagance knew no limit, and in six months he must have got
through as many years' income. Wherever pleasure was to be had, no
matter at what price, Oakley was to be seen.--Upon a revenue overrated
at five hundred a-year, he kept half a dozen horses, a cab, and a
strange nondescript vehicle, made after an eccentric design of his
own, and which everybody turned to look at, as he drove down
Piccadilly of an afternoon, on his way to the Park. He had his stall
at the opera, of course, and an elegant set of apartments in the most
expensive street in London, where he gave suppers and dinners of
extravagant delicacy to thirsty friends and greedy _danseuses_. The
former showed their gratitude for his good cheer by winning his money
at cards; the latter evinced their affection by carrying off the
costly nicknacks that strewed his rooms, and by taking his diamond
shirt-pins to fasten their shawls. In short, he regularly delivered
himself over to the harpies. In addition to these minor drafts upon
his exchequer, came others of a more serious nature. He played high,
and never refused a bet. Like many silly young men (and some silly old
ones), he had a blind veneration for rank, and held that a lord could
do no wrong. Even a baronetcy conferred a certain degree of
infallibility in his eyes. No amount of respectable affidavits would
have convinced him that if Lord Rufus Slam, who not unfrequently
condescended to win a cool fifty of him at écarté, did not turn the
king each time he dealt, it was only because he despised so hackneyed
a swindle, and had other ways of securing the game, equally nefarious
but less palpable. Neither would it have been possible to persuade him
that Sir Tantivy Martingale, "that prime fellow and thorough
sportsman," as Frank admiringly and confidingly styled him, was
capable of taking his bet upon a horse which he, the aforesaid Sir
Tantivy, had just made "safe to lose." In short, poor Oakley, who,
during his father's lifetime, had been little, if at all, in London,
thought himself excessively knowing and fully up to all the wiles and
snares of the metropolis. In reality he was exceedingly raw, was
victimised accordingly, and, at the end of a few months in town, found
himself minus a sum that brought reflection, I suspect, even to his
giddy head. I conjectured so, at least, when, at the end of the
season, I encountered him on a Boulogne steamer, looking fagged and
out of spirits. It was only a year since we had met at Harleigh Hall,
but that year had told upon him. Dissipation had driven the flush of
health from his cheek, and his youthful brow was already care-loaded.
I spoke to him, and made an attempt to converse; but he seemed sulky
and unwilling; and, on reaching Boulogne, I lost sight of him. After a
short tour, I went to winter at Paris, and there I frequently saw him.
He had forgotten, apparently, the annoyances that weighed on him when
he left London, and was again the gayest of the gay; living as if his
purse were bottomless, and his _Gibus_ the wishing cap of Fortunatus.
Nothing was too hot or too strong for him: rated a "fast man" in
England, in France he was held a _viveur enragé_.

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