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Then fools you were these women to forswear,
And who can sever love from charity?
ROSEDALE AND ITS TENANTS.
ABOUT ten years ago the sober monotony of the quiet country neighbourhood in which I have passed the greater part of my life, was enlivened by the erection of one of the prettiest cottages that ever sprang into existence in brick or on paper. All strangers go to see Rosedale, and few "cots of spruce gentility" are so well worth seeing. Fancy a low irregular white rough-cast building thatched with reeds, covered with roses, clematis, and passion-flowers, standing on a knoll of fine turf amidst flower-beds and shrubberies and magnificent elms, backed by an abrupt hill, and looking over lawny fields to a green common, which is intersected by a gay high road, dappled with ponds of water, and terminated by a pretty village edging off into rich woodlands: imagine this picture of a place tricked out with ornaments of all sorts, conservatories, roseries, rustic seats, American borders, Gothic dairies, Spanish hermitages, and flowers stuck as close as pins in a pincushion, with every thing, in short, that might best become the walls of an exhibition-room, or the back scene of a play conceive the interior adorned in a style of elegance still more fanciful, and it will hardly appear surprising that this "unique bijou," as unique bijou," as the advertisements call it, should seldom want a tenant. The rapid succession of these occupiers is the more extraordinary matter. Every body is willing to come to Rosedale, but nobody stays.
In the first place it has the original sin of most ornamented cottages, that of being built on the foundation and within the walls of a real labourer's dwelling; by which notable piece of economy the owner saved some thirty pounds at the expense of making half his rooms mere nutshells, and the whole house incurably damp-to say nothing of the inconvenience of the many apartments which were erected as after-thoughts, the addenda of the work, and are only to be come at by outside passages and French window-doors. Secondly, that necessary part of a two-story mansion, the staircase, was utterly forgotten by architect, proprietor, and builder, and never missed by any person, till, the ladder being one day taken away at the dinner-hour, an Irish labourer accidentally left behind was discovered by the workmen on his return perched like a bird on the top of the roof, he having taken the method of going up the chimney as the quickest way of getting down. This adventure occasioned a call for the staircase, which was at length inserted by the by, and is as much like a step-ladder in a dark corner as any thing well can be. Thirdly and lastly, this beautiful abode is
* This forgetfulness is not unexampled. A similar accident is said to have happened to Madame d'Arblay in the erection of a cottage built from the profits of her adini rable Camilla.
most thoroughly inconvenient and uncomfortable. In the winter one might have as much protection in the hollow of a tree,-cold, gusty, sleety, wet,-snow threatening from above like an avalanche,-water gushing up from below like a fountain,-a house of cardpaper would be the solider refuge; in the summer it is proportionably close and hot, giving little shade and no shelter; and all the year round it is overdone with frippery and finery, a toy-shop in action, a Brobdignagian babyhouse. Every room is in masquerade: the saloon Chinese, full of jars and mandarins and pagodas; the library Egyptian, all covered with hieroglyphics, and swarming with furniture, crocodiles, and sphynxes. Only think of a crocodile couch and a sphynx sofa! They sleep in Turkish tents, and dine in a Gothic chapel. Now English ladies and gentlemen in their everyday apparel look exceedingly out of place amongst such mummery. The costume won't do-it is not in keeping. Besides, the properties themselves are apt to get shifted from one scene to another, and all manner of anomalies are the consequence. The mitred chairs and screens of the chapel, so very upright and tall and carved and priestly, were mixed up oddly enough with the squat Chinese bonzes; whilst by some strange transposition a pair of nodding mandarins figured amongst the Egyptian monsters, and by the aid of their supernatural ugliness, really looked human. Then the room taken up by the various knicknackery, the unnamed and unnameable generation of gewgaws! It always seemed to me to require more housemaids than the house would hold. And the same with the garden. You are so begirt with garlands and festoons, flowers above and flowers below, that you walk about under a perpetual sense of trespass, of taking care, of doing mischief, now bobbing against a sweetbriar, in which rencontre you have the worst; now flapped against by a woodbine, to the discomfiture of both parties; now revenging all your wrongs by tripping up an unfortunate balsam;-bonnets, coatskirts, and flounces in equal peril! The very gardeners step gingerly, and tuck their aprons tightly round them before they venture into that fair demesne of theirs which is, so to say, overpeopled. In short, Rosedale is a place to look at rather than to live in-a fact which will be received without dispute by some scores of tenants, by the proprietor of the County Chronicle, who keeps the advertisement of this "matchless villa" constantly set, to his no small emolument, and by the neighbourhood at large, to whom the succession of new faces, new liveries, and new equipages driving about our rustic lanes, and sometimes occupying a very tasty pew in our village-church, has long supplied a source of conversation as constant and as various as the weather.
The first person who ascertained, by painful experiment, that Rosedale was uninhabitable, was the proprietor, a simple young man from the next town, who unluckily took it into his head that he had a taste for architecture, and landscape-gardening, and so forth; and falling into the hands of a London upholsterer and a country nurseryman, assisted by a scenepainter from one of the theatres, produced the effort of genius that I have endeavoured to describe. At the end of a month he found that nobody could live there; and with the advice of the nurseryman, the upholsterer, and the scene-painter, began to talk of improving and rebuilding and new-modelling; nay he actually went so far as to send for the bricklayer-but, fortunately for our man of taste, he had a wife, and she
and the bills stopped the complaints and the improvements, sent her spouse back to his roomy comfortable red-brick house in the marketplace at B-, drew up a flaming advertisement, and turned the grumbling occupant into a thriving landlord. Lucky for him was the day in which William Tasty, Esq. married Miss Bridget Smith, second daughter of Mr. Samuel Smith, attorney at law! And lucky for Mr. Samuel Smith was the hour in which he acquired a son-in-law, more profitable in the article of leases than the two lords to whom he acted as steward, both put together!
First on the list was a bride and bridegroom come to spend the first six months of their nuptials in this sweet retirement. They arrived towards the end of August with a great retinue of servants, horses, dogs, and carriages, well bedecked with bridal favours. The very pointers had white ribbons round their necks, so splendid was their rejoicing; and had each, as we were credibly informed, eaten a huge slice of wedding-cake when the happy couple returned from church. The bride, whom every body except myself called plain, and whom I thought pretty, had been a great heiress, and married for love the day she came of age. She was slight of form, and pale of complexion, with a profusion of brown hair, mild hazel eyes, a sweet smile, a soft voice, and an air of modesty that clung about her like a veil. I never saw a more loveable creature. He was dark and tall, and stout and bold, with an assured yet gentlemanly air, a loud voice, a confident manner, and a real passion for shooting. They stayed just a fortnight, during which time he contrived to get warned off half the manors in the neighbourhood, and cut down the finest elm on the lawn, one wet morning, to open a view of the high road. I hope the marriage has turned out happy, for she was a sweet gentle creature. I used to see her leaning over the gate, watching his return from shooting, with such a fond patience! And her bound to meet him when he did appear! And the pretty coaxing playfulness with which she patted and chided her rivals, the dogs! Oh I hope she is happy! but I fear, I fear.
Next succeeded a couple from India, before whom floated reports, golden and gorgeous as the clouds at sunset. Inexhaustible richesprofuse expenditure; tremendous ostentation; unheard-of luxury; ortolans; becaficos; French-beans at Christmas; green-peas at Easter; strawberries all the year round; a chariot and six; twelve black footmen; and parrots and monkeys beyond all count :-these were amongst the most moderate of the rumours that preceded them; and every idle person in the village was preparing to be a hanger-on, and every shopkeeper in B. on the look-out for a customer, when up drove a quietlooking old gentleman in a pony-cart, with a quiet-looking old lady at his side, and took possession, their retinue following in a hack postchaise. Whether the habits of this eastern Croesus corresponded with his modest debut or his magnificent reputation, we had not time to discover, although from certain indications I conceive that much might be said on both sides. They arrived in the middle of a fine October, while the China roses covered the walls, and the China asters and Dahlias, and fuscias and geraniums in full blow, gave a summer brilliancy to the lawn; but scarcely had a pair of superb Common Prayerbooks, bound in velvet, and a Bible with gold clasps entered in possession of the pew at church, before there "came a frost, a nipping frost,"
which turned the China asters and China roses brown, the Dahlias and geraniums black, and the nabob and nabobess blue. They disappeared the next day, and have never been seen or heard of since.
Then arrived a fox-hunting baronet, with a splendid stud and a splendid fortune. A young man, a single man, a handsome man! Every speculating mamma in the country fixed her eyes on Sir Robert for a son-in-law; papas were sent to call; brothers were enjoined to go out hunting and get acquainted; nay even the young ladies (I grieve to say it) shewed symptoms of condescension, which might almost have made their grandmothers start from their graves. But what could they do? The baronet, with the instinct of a determined bachelor, avoided a young lady as a sparrow does a hawk, and discovering this shyness, they followed their instinct as the hawk would do in a similar case, and pursued the coy bird. It was what sportsmen call a fine open season, which being translated, means every variety of wintry weather except frost,-dirty, foggy, sleety, wet; so such of our belles as looked well on horseback took the opportunity to ride to cover and see the hounds throw off, and such as shone more as pedestrians would take an early walk, exquisitely drest, for their health's sake, towards the general rendezvous. Still Sir Robert was immovable. He made no morning calls, accepted no invitations, spoke to no mortal till he had ascertained that there was neither sister, aunt, nor cousin in the He kept from every petticoat as if it contained the contagion of the plague, shunned ball-rooms and drawing-rooms as if they were pest-houses, and finally had the comfort of leaving Rosedale without having even bowed to a female during his stay. The final cause of his departure has been differently reported. Some hold that he was frightened away by Miss Anna Maria Simmons, who had nearly caused him to commit involuntary homicide (is that the word for killing a woman?) by crossing and recrossing before his hunter in Sallowfieldlane, thereby putting him in danger of a coroner's inquest; whilst others assert that Mr. Tasty happening to call one snowy day, found his tenant in dirty boots on the sphynx sofa, and a Newfoundland dog dripping with mud on the crocodile couch, and gave him warning on the spot. I regard this legend as altogether apocryphal, invented to save the credit of the house, by assuming that one of its many inhabitants was turned out contrary to his own wish. My faith goes entirely with the Anna Maria version of the history; the more so, as that gentle damsel was so inconsolable as to marry a former beau, a small squire of the neighbourhood, rather weatherbeaten, and not quite so young as he had been, within a month after she had the ill-luck not to be run over by Sir Robert.
However that may have been,' "there ensued a vacancy" in Rosedale, which was supplied the same week by a musical family, a travelling band, drums, trumpets, harps, pianos, violins, violincellos, tambourines and German-flutes-noise personified! an incarnation of din! The family consisted of three young ladies who practised regularly six hours a day, a governess who played on some instrument or other from morning till night, one fluting brother, one fiddling ditto, a violincelloing music-master, and a singing papa. The only quiet person amongst them, the "one poor halfpennyworth of bread to this monstrous quantity of sack," was the unfortunate mamma, sole listener, as
it seemed, of her innumerous choir. Oh how we pitied her! she was a sweet placid-looking woman, handsome, and younger in appearance than either of her daughters, with a fair open forehead, full dark eyes, lips that seemed waiting to smile, a deep yet cool colour, and a heavenly composure of countenance, resembling in features, expression, and complexion, the small Madonnas of Raphael. We never ceased to wonder at her happy serenity till we discovered that the good lady was deaf, which somewhat diminished the ardour of our admiration. How this enviable calamity befel her, I did not hear,—but of course that din ! The very jars and mandarins became cracked under the incessant vibration; I only wonder that the poor house did not break the drum of its ears, did not burst from its own report, like an overloaded gun. One could not see that unlucky habitation half a mile off without such a feeling of noise as comes over one in looking at Hogarth's Enraged Musician; to pass it was really dangerous. One stage-coach was overturned, and two postchaises and four ran away in consequence of these uproarious doings; and a sturdy old-fashioned squire, who rode a particularly anti-musical startlish blood-horse, began to talk of indicting Rosedale as a nuisance, when, just at the critical moment, its tenants had the good fortune to discover, that although the hermitage with its vaulted roof made a capital concert-room, yet that there was not space enough within doors for their several practisings, that the apartments were too small and the partitions too thin, so that concord was turned into discord, and harmonies went crossing each other all over the house-Mozart jostled by Rossini, and Handel put down by Weber. And away they went also.
Our next neighbours were two ladies, not sisters, except, as one of them said, in soul, kindred spirits determined to retire from the world and emulate, in this sweet retreat, the immortal friendship of the ladies of Llangollen. The names of our pair of friends were Brown and Green, Miss Letitia Brown and Miss Dorothea Green, commonly called Dolly. Both were of that unfortunate class of young ladies, whom the malicious world is apt to call old maids, both rich, both independent, and both in the fullest sense of the word Cockneys. Letitia was tall and lean and scraggy and yellow, dressing in an Arcadian sort of way, pretty much like a shepherdess without a crook, singing pastoral songs prodigiously out of tune, and talking in a deep voice, with much emphasis and astounding fluency, all sorts of sentimentalities all day long. Miss Dorothea, on the other hand, was short and plump, and roundfaced and ruddy, inclining to vulgarity, as Letitia to affectation, with a great love of dancing, a pleasant chuckling laugh, and a most agreeable habit of assentation. Juxtaposition laid the corner-stone of this immortal friendship, which had already lasted four months and a half, and, cemented by resemblance of situation and dissimilarity of character, really bade fair to continue some months longer. Both had been heartily tired of their previous situations; Letitia keeping house for a brother in Aldersgate-street, where she was overwhelmed with business, Dolly living with an aunt on Fish-street-hill, where she had nothing to do. Both had a passion for the country; Letitia, who, except one jaunt to Margate, had never been out of the sound of Bow-bells, that she might ruralise after the fashion of the poets, sit under trees, and gather roses all day long; Dolly, who, in spite of yearly trips to Paris and