Chapter 42

Francis Ardry - That won’t do, sir - Observe my gestures - I think you improve - Better than politics - Delightful young Frenchwoman - A burning shame - Magnificent impudence - Paunch - Voltaire - Lump of sugar.

OCCASIONALLY I called on Francis Ardry. This young gentleman resided in handsome apartments in the neighbourhood of a fashionable square, kept a livery servant, and, upon the whole, lived in very good style. Going to see him one day, between one and two, I was informed by the servant that his master was engaged for the moment, but that, if I pleased to wait a few minutes, I should find him at liberty. Having told the man that I had no objection, he conducted me into a small apartment which served as antechamber to a drawing-room; the door of this last being half open, I could see Francis Ardry at the farther end, speechifying and gesticulating in a very impressive manner. The servant, in some confusion, was hastening to close the door; but, ere he could effect his purpose, Francis Ardry, who had caught a glimpse of me, exclaimed, ‘Come in - come in by all means’; and then proceeded, as before, speechifying and gesticulating. Filled with some surprise, I obeyed his summons.

On entering the room I perceived another individual, to whom Francis Ardry appeared to be addressing himself; this other was a short spare man of about sixty; his hair was of badger gray, and his face was covered with wrinkles - without vouchsafing me a look, he kept his eye, which was black and lustrous, fixed full on Francis Ardry, as if paying the deepest attention to his discourse. All of a sudden, however, he cried with a sharp, cracked voice, ‘That won’t do, sir; that won’t do - more vehemence - your argument is at present particularly weak; therefore, more vehemence - you must confuse them, stun them, stultify them, sir’; and, at each of these injunctions, he struck the back of his right hand sharply against the palm of the left. ‘Good, sir - good!’ he occasionally uttered, in the same sharp, cracked tone, as the voice of Francis Ardry became more and more vehement. ‘Infinitely good!’ he exclaimed, as Francis Ardry raised his voice to the highest pitch; ‘and now, sir, abate; let the tempest of vehemence decline - gradually, sir; not too fast. Good, sir - very good!’ as the voice of Francis Ardry declined gradually in vehemence. ‘And now a little pathos, sir - try them with a little pathos. That won’t do, sir - that won’t do,’ - as Francis Ardry made an attempt to become pathetic, - ‘that will never pass for pathos - with tones and gesture of that description you will never redress the wrongs of your country. Now, sir, observe my gestures, and pay attention to the tone of my voice, sir.’

Thereupon, making use of nearly the same terms which Francis Ardry had employed, the individual in black uttered several sentences in tones and with gestures which were intended to express a considerable degree of pathos, though it is possible that some people would have thought both the one and the other highly ludicrous. After a pause, Francis Ardry recommenced imitating the tones and the gestures of his monitor in the most admirable manner. Before he had proceeded far, however, he burst into a fit of laughter, in which I should, perhaps, have joined, provided it were ever my wont to laugh. ‘Ha, ha!’ said the other, good-humouredly, ‘you are laughing at me. Well, well, I merely wished to give you a hint; but you saw very well what I meant; upon the whole I think you improve. But I must now go, having two other pupils to visit before four.’

Then taking from the table a kind of three-cornered hat, and a cane headed with amber, he shook Francis Ardry by the hand; and, after glancing at me for a moment, made me a half bow, attended with a strange grimace, and departed.

‘Who is that gentleman?’ said I to Francis Ardry, as soon as were alone.

‘Oh, that is - ‘ said Frank, smiling, ‘the gentleman who gives me lessons in elocution.’

‘And what need have you of elocution?’

‘Oh, I merely obey the commands of my guardians,’ said Francis, ‘who insist that I should, with the assistance of -, qualify myself for Parliament; for which they do me the honour to suppose that I have some natural talent. I dare not disobey them; for, at the present moment, I have particular reasons for wishing to keep on good terms with them.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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