Lord Scamperdale at Home

WE FEAR OUR FAIR FRIENDS will expect something gay from the above heading -- lamps and flambeaux outside, fiddlers, feathers, and flirters in. Nothing of the sort, fair ladies -- nothing of the sort. Lord Scamperdale ‘at home,’ simply means that his lordship was not out hunting, that he had got his dirty boots and breeches off, and dry tweeds and tartans on.

Lord Scamperdale was the eighth earl; and, according to the usual alternating course of great English families -- one generation living and the next starving -- it was his lordship’s turn to live; but the seventh earl having been rather unreasonable in the length of his lease, the present earl, who during the lifetime of his father was Lord Hardup, had contracted such parsimonious habits, that when he came into possession he could not shake them off; and but for the fortunate friendship of Abraham Brown, the village blacksmith, who had given his young idea a sporting turn, entering him with ferrets and rabbits, and so training him on with terriers and rat-catching, badger-baiting and otter-hunting, up to the noble sport of fox-hunting itself, in all probability his lordship would have been a regular miser. As it was, he did not spend a halfpenny upon anything but hunting; and his hunting, though well, was still economically done, costing him some couple of thousand a-year, to which, for the sake of euphony, Jack used to add an extra five hundred; ‘two thousand five underd a year, five-and-twenty underd a year,’ sounding better, as Jack thought, and more imposing, than a couple of thousand, or two thousand, a-year. There were few days on which Jack didn’t inform the field what the hounds cost his lordship, or rather what they didn’t cost him.

Woodmansterne, his lordship’s principal residence, was a fine place. It stood in an undulating park of 500 acres, with its church, and its lakes, and its heronry, and its decoy, and its racecourse, and its varied grasses of the choicest kinds, for feeding the numerous herds of deer, so well known at Temple Bar and Charing Cross as the Woodmansterne venison. The house was a modern edifice, built by the sixth earl, who, having been a ‘liver,’ had run himself aground by his enormous outlay on this Italian structure, which was just finished when he died. The fourth earl, who, we should have stated, was a ‘liver’ too, was a man of vertàu -- a great traveller and collector of coins, pictures, statues, marbles, and curiosities generally -- things that are very dear to buy, but oftentimes extremely cheap when sold; and, having collected a vast quantity from all parts of the world (no easy feat in those days), he made them heirlooms, and departed this life, leaving the next earl the pleasure of contemplating them. The fifth earl having duly starved through life, then made way for the sixth; who, finding such a quantity of valuables stowed away as he thought in rather a confined way, sent to London for a first-rate architect, Sir Thomas Squareall (who always posted with four horses), who forthwith pulled down the old brick-and-stone Elizabethan mansion, and built the present splendid Italian structure, of the finest polished stone, at an expense of -- furniture and all -- say £120,000; Sir Thomas’s estimates being £30,000. The seventh earl of course they starved; and the present lord, at the age of forty-three, found himself in possession of house, and coins, and curiosities; and, best of all, of some £90,000 in the funds, which had quietly rolled up during the latter part of his venerable parent’s existence. His lordship then took counsel with himself -- first, whether he should marry or remain single; secondly, whether he should live or starve. Having considered the subject with all the attention a limited allowance of brains permitted, he came to the resolution that the second proposition depended a good deal upon the first; ‘for,’ said he to himself, ‘if I marry, my lady, perhaps, may make me live; and therefore,’ said he, ‘perhaps I’d better remain single.’ At all events, he came to the determination not to marry in a hurry; and until he did, he felt there was no occasion for him to inconvenience himself by living. So he had the house put away in brown Holland, the carpets rolled up, the pictures covered, the statues shrouded in muslin, the cabinets of curiosities locked, the plate secured, the china closeted, and everything arranged with the greatest care against the time, which he put before him in the distance like a target, when he should marry and begin to live.

At first he gave two or three great dinners a-year, about the height of the fruit season, and when it was getting too ripe for carriage to London by the old coaches -- when a grand airing of the state-rooms used to take place, and ladies from all parts of the county used to sit shivering with their bare shoulders, all anxious for the honours of the head of the table. His lordship always held out that he was a marrying man; but even if he hadn’t they would have come all the same, an unmarried man being always clearly on the cards: and though he was stumpy, and clumsy, and ugly, with as little to say for himself as could well be conceived, they all agreed that he was a most engaging, attractive man -- quite a pattern of a

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