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The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter7)

2006-08-28 16:04

  Chapter VII. In Which May Be Found Divers Rules and Maxims for the Art of Bowing

  "Now, by the Lord!" said Barnabas, stopping all at once, "forgetful fool that I am! I never bowed to her!" Therefore, being minded to repair so grave an omission, he turned sharp about, and came striding back again, and thus it befell that he presently espied the lace handkerchief fluttering from the bramble, and having extricated the delicate lace from the naturally reluctant thorns with a vast degree of care and trouble, he began to look about for the late owner. But search how he might, his efforts proved unavailing——Annersley Wood was empty save for himself. Having satisfied himself of the fact, Barnabas sighed again, thrust the handkerchief into his pocket, and once more set off upon his way.

  But now, as he went, he must needs remember his awkward stiffness when she had thanked him; he grew hot all over at the mere recollection, and, moreover, he had forgotten even to bow! But there again, was he quite sure that he could bow as a gentleman should? There were doubtless certain rules and maxims for the bow as there were for mathematics——various motions to be observed in the making of it, of which Barnabas confessed to himself his utter ignorance. What then was a bow? Hereupon, bethinking him of the book in his pocket, he drew it out, and turning to a certain page, began to study the "stiff-legged-gentleman" with a new and enthralled interest. Now over against this gentleman, that is to say, on the opposite page, he read these words:——

  "THE ART OF BOWING."

  "To know how, and when, and to whom to bow,is in itself an art. The bow is, indeed, an all-important accomplishment,——it is the 'Open Sesame' of the 'Polite World.' To bow gracefully, therefore, may be regarded as the most important part of a gentlemanly deportment."

  "Hum!" said Barnabas, beginning to frown at this; and yet, according to the title-page, these were the words of a "Person of Quality."

  "To bow gracefully,"——the Person of Quality chattered on,——"the feet should be primarily disposed as in the first position of dancing."

  Barnabas sighed, frowning still.

  "The left hand should be lifted airily and laid upon the bosom, the fingers kept elegantly spread. The head is now stooped forward, the body following easily from the hips, the right hand, at the same moment, being waved gracefully in the air. It is,moreover, very necessary that the expression of the features should assume as engaging an air as possible. The depth of the bow is to be regulated to the rank of the person saluted."

  And so forth and so on for two pages more.

  Barnabas sighed and shook his head hopelessly.

  "Ah!" said he, "under these circumstances it is perhaps just as well that I forgot to try. It would seem I should have bungled it quite shamefully. Who would have thought a thing so simple could become a thing so very complicated!" Saying which, he shut the book, and thrust it back into his pocket, and thus became aware of a certain very small handful of dainty lace and cambric, and took it out, and, looking at it, beheld again the diminutive stain, while there stole to his nostrils a perfume, faint and very sweet.

  "I wonder," said he to himself. "I wonder who she was——I might have asked her name but, fool that I am, I even forgot that!"

  Here Barnabas sighed, and, sighing, hid the handkerchief in his pocket.

  "And yet," he pursued, "had she told me her name, I should have been compelled to announce mine, and——Barnabas Barty——hum! somehow there is no suggestion about it of broad acres, or knightly ancestors; no, Barty will never do." Here Barnabas became very thoughtful. "Mortimer sounds better," said he, after a while, "or Mandeville. Then there's Neville, and Desborough, and Ravenswood——all very good names, and yet none of them seems quite suitable. Still I must have a name that is beyond all question!" And Barnabas walked on more thoughtful than ever. All at once he stopped, and clapped hand to thigh.

  "My mother's name, of course——Beverley; yes, it is an excellent name, and, since it was hers, I have more right to it than to any other. So Beverley it shall be——Barnabas Beverley——good!" Here Barnabas stopped and very gravely lifted his hat to his shadow.

  "Mr. Beverley," said he, "I salute you, your very humble obedient servant, Mr. Beverley, sir, God keep you!" Hereupon he put on his hat again, and fell into his swinging stride.

  "So," said he, "that point being settled it remains to master the intricacies of the bow." Saying which, he once more had recourse to the "priceless wollum," and walked on through the glory of the morning, with his eyes upon the valuable instructions of the "Person of Quality."

  Now, as he went, chancing to look up suddenly, he beheld a gate-post. A very ancient gate-post it was——a decrepit gate-post, worn and heavy with years, for it leaned far out from the perpendicular. And with his gaze upon this, Barnabas halted suddenly, clapped the book to his bosom, and raising his hat with an elegant flourish, bowed to that gnarled and withered piece of timber as though it had been an Archduke at the very least, or the loveliest lady in the land.

  "Ha! by Thor and Odin, what's all this?" cried a voice behind him. "I say what the devil's all this?"

  Turning sharp about, Barnabas beheld a shortish, broad-shouldered individual in a befrogged surtout and cords, something the worse for wear, who stood with his booted legs wide apart and stared at him from a handsome bronzed face, with a pair of round blue eyes; he held a broad-brimmed hat in his hand——the other, Barnabas noticed, was gone from the elbow.

  "Egad!" said he, staring at Barnabas with his blue eyes. "What's in the wind? I say, what the devil, sir——eh, sir?"

  Forthwith Barnabas beamed upon him, and swept him another bow almost as low as that he had bestowed upon the gate-post.

  "Sir," said he, hat gracefully flourished in the air, "your very humble obedient servant to command."

  "A humble obedient fiddlestick, sir!" retorted the new comer. "Pooh, sir!——I say dammit!——are ye mad, sir, to go bowing and scraping to a gate-post, as though it were an Admiral of the Fleet or Nelson himself——are ye mad or only drunk, sir? I say, what d' ye mean?"

  Here Barnabas put on his hat and opened the book.

  "Plainly, sir," he answered, "being overcome with a sudden desire to bow to something or other, I bowed to that gate-post in want of a worthier object; but now, seeing you arrive so very opportunely, I' 11 take the liberty of trying another. Oblige me by observing if my expression is sufficiently engaging," and with the words Barnabas bowed as elaborately as before.

  "Sink me!" exclaimed the one-armed individual, rounder of eye than ever, "the fellow's mad——stark, staring mad."

  "No, indeed, sir," smiled Barnabas, reassuringly, "but the book here——which I am given to understand is wholly infallible——says that to bow is the most important item of a gentlemanly equipment, and in the World of Fashion——"

  "In the World of Fashion, sir, there are no gentlemen left," his hearer broke in.

  "How, sir——?"

  "I say no, sir, no one. I say, damme, sir——"

  "But, sir——"

  "I say there are no gentlemen in the fashionable world——they are all blackguardly Bucks, cursed Corinthians, and mincing Macaronies nowadays, sir. Fashionable world——bah, sir!"

  "But, sir, is not the Prince himself——"

  "The Prince, sir!" Here the one-armed gentleman clapped on his hat and snorted, "The Prince is a——prince, sir; he's also an authority on sauce and shoe-buckles. Let us talk of something more interesting——yourself, for instance."

  Barnabas bowed.

  "Sir," said he, "my name is Barnabas——Barnabas Beverley."

  "Hum!" said the other, thoughtfully, "I remember a Beverley——a lieutenant under Hardy in the 'Agamemnon'——though, to be sure, he spelt his name with an 'l-e-y.'"

  "So do I, sir," said Barnabas.

  "Hum!"

  "Secondly, I am on my way to London."

  "London! Egad! here's another of 'em! London, of course——well?"

  "Where I hope to cut some figure in the——er——World of Fashion."

  "Fashion——Gog and Magog!——why not try drowning. 'T would be simpler and better for you in the long run. London! Fashion! in that hat, that coat, those——"

  "Sir," said Barnabas, flushing, "I have already——"

  "Fashion, eh? Why, then, you must cramp that chest into an abortion, all collar, tail, and buttons, and much too tight to breathe in; you must struggle into breeches tight enough to burst, and cram your feet into bepolished torments——"

  "But, sir," Barnabas ventured again, "surely the Prince himself is accountable for the prevailing fashion, and as you must know, he is said to be the First Gentleman in Europe and——"

  "Fiddle-de-dee and the devil, sir!——who says he is? A set of crawling sycophants, sir——a gang of young reprobates and bullies. First Gentleman in——I say pish, sir! I say bah! Don't I tell you that gentlemen went out o' fashion when Bucks came in? I say there isn't a gentleman left in England except perhaps one or two. This is the age of your swaggering, prize-fighting Corinthians. London swarms with 'em, Brighton's rank with 'em, yet they pervade even these solitudes, damme! I saw one of 'em only half an hour ago, limping out of a wood yonder. Ah! a polished, smiling rascal——a dangerous rogue! One of your sleepy libertines——one of your lucky gamblers——one of your conscienceless young reprobates equally ready to win your money, ruin your sister, or shoot you dead as the case may be, and all in the approved way of gallantry, sir; and, being all this, and consequently high in royal favor, he is become a very lion in the World of Fashion. Would you succeed, young sir, you must model yourself upon him as nearly as may be."

  "And he was limping, you say?" inquired Barnabas, thoughtfully.

  "And serve him right, sir——egad! I say damme! he should limp in irons to Botany Bay and stay there if I had my way."

  "Did you happen to notice the color of his coat?" inquired Barnabas again.

  "Ay, 't was green, sir; but what of it——have you seen him?"

  "I think I have, sir," said Barnabas, "if 't was a green coat he wore. Pray, sir, what might his name be?"

  "His name, sir, is Carnaby——Sir Mortimer Carnaby."

  "Sir Mortimer Carnaby!" said Barnabas, nodding his head.

  "And, sir," pursued his informant, regarding Barnabas from beneath his frowning brows, "since it is your ambition to cut a figure in the World of Fashion, your best course is to cultivate him, frequent his society as much as possible, act upon his counsel, and in six months, or less, I don't doubt you'll be as polished a young blackguard as any of 'em. Good morning, sir."

  Here the one-armed gentleman nodded and turned to enter the field.

  "Sir," said Barnabas, "one moment! Since you have been so obliging as to describe a Buck, will you tell me who and what in your estimation is a gentleman?"

  "A gentleman? Egad, sir! must I tell you that? No, I say I won't——the Bo'sun shall." Hereupon the speaker faced suddenly about and raised his voice: "Aft there!" he bellowed. "Pass the word for the Bo'sun——I say where's Bo'sun Jerry?"

  Immediately upon these words there came another roar surprisingly hoarse, deep, and near at hand.

  "Ay, ay, sir! here I be, Cap'n," the voice bellowed back. "Here I be, sir, my helm hard a-starboard, studden sails set, and all a-drawing alow and aloft, but making bad weather on it on account o' these here furrers and this here jury-mast o' mine, but I'll fetch up alongside in a couple o' tacks."

  Now glancing in the direction of the voice, Barnabas perceived a head and face that bobbed up and down on the opposite side of the hedge. A red face it was, a jovial, good-humored face, lit up with quick, bright eyes that twinkled from under a prodigious pair of eyebrows; a square honest face whose broad good nature beamed out from a mighty bush of curling whisker and pigtail, and was surmounted by a shining, glazed hat.

  Being come opposite to them, he paused to mop at his red face with a neckerchief of vivid hue, which done, he touched the brim of the glazed hat, and though separated from them by no more than the hedge and ditch, immediately let out another roar——for all the world as though he had been hailing the maintop of a Seventy-four in a gale of wind.

  "Here I be, Cap'n!" he bellowed, "studden sails set an' drawing, tho' obleeged to haul my wind, d'ye see, on account o' this here spar o' mine a-running foul o' the furrers." Having said the which, he advanced again with a heave to port and a lurch to starboard very like a ship in a heavy sea; this peculiarity of gait was explained as he hove into full view, for then Barnabas saw that his left leg was gone from the knee and had been replaced by a wooden one.

  "Bo'sun," said the Captain, indicating Barnabas, with a flap of his empty sleeve, "Bo'sun——favor me, I say oblige me by explaining to this young gentleman your opinion of a gentleman——I say tell him who you think is the First Gentleman in Europe!"

  The Bo'sun stared from Barnabas to the Captain and back again.

  "Begging your Honor's parding," said he, touching the brim of the glazed hat, "but surely nobody don't need to be told that 'ere?"

  "It would seem so, Jerry."

  "Why then, Cap'n——since you ax me, I should tell you——bold an' free like, as the First Gentleman in Europe——ah! or anywhere else——was Lord Nelson an' your Honor."

  As he spoke the Bo'sun stood up very straight despite his wooden leg, and when he touched his hat again, his very pigtail seemed straighter and stiffer than ever.

  "Young sir," said the Captain, regarding Barnabas from the corners of his eyes, "what d' ye say to that?"

  "Why," returned Barnabas, "now I come to think of it, I believe the Bo'sun is right."

  "Sir," nodded the Captain, "the Bo'sun generally is; my Bo'sun, sir, is as remarkable as that leg of his which he has contrived so that it will screw on or off——in sections sir——I mean the wooden one."

  "But," said Barnabas, beginning to stroke his chin in the argumentative way that was all his father's, "but, sir, I was meaning gentlemen yet living, and Lord Nelson, unfortunately, is dead."

  "Bo'sun," said the Captain, "what d' ye say to that?"

  "Why, Cap'n, axing the young gentleman's pardon, I beg leave to remark, or as you might say, ob-serve, as men like 'im don't die, they jest gets promoted, so to speak."

  "Very true, Jerry," nodded the Captain again, "they do, but go to a higher service, very true. And now, Bo'sun, the bread!"

  "Ay, ay, sir!" said the Bo'sun, and, taking the neat parcel the Captain held out, dropped it forthwith into the crown of the glazed hat.

  "Bo'sun, the meat! the young fool will be hungry by now, poor lad!"

  "Ay, ay, Cap'n!" And, the meat having disappeared into the same receptacle, the Bo'sun resumed his hat. Now turning to Barnabas, the Captain held out his hand.

  "Sir," said he, "I wish you good-by and a prosperous voyage, and may you find yourself too much a man ever to fall so low as 'fashion,'——I say dammit! The bread and meat, sir, are for a young fool who thinks, like yourself, that the World of Fashion is the world. By heaven, sir, I say by Gog and Magog! if I had a son with fashionable aspirations, I'd have him triced up to the triangles and flogged with the 'cat'——I say with the cat-o'-ninetails, sir, that is——no I wouldn't, besides I——never had a son——she——died, sir——and good-by!"

  "Stay," said Barnabas, "pray tell me to whom I am indebted for so much good instruction."

  "My name, sir, is Chumly——plain Chumly——spelt with a U and an M, sir; none of your olmondeleys for me, sir, and I beg you to know that I have no crest or monogram or coat of arms; there's neither or, azure, nor argent about me; I'm neither rampant, nor passant, nor even regardant. And I want none of your sables, ermines, bars, escallops, embattled fiddle-de-dees, or dencette tarradiddles, sir. I'm Chumly, Captain John Chumly, plain and without any fashionable varnish. Consequently, though I have commanded many good ships, sloops, frigates, and even one Seventy-four——"

  "The 'Bully-Sawyer,' Trafalgar!" added the Bo'sun.

  "Seeing I am only John Chumly, with a U and an M, I retire still a captain. Now, had I clapped in an olmondeley and the rest of the fashionable gewgaws, I should now be doubtless a Rear Admiral at the very least, for the polite world——the World of Fashion is rampant, sir, not to mention passant and regardant. So, if you would achieve a reputation among Persons of Quality nowadays——bow, sir, bow everywhere day in and day out——keep a supple back, young sir, and spell your name with as many unnecessary letters as you can. And as regards my idea of a gentleman, he is, I take it, a man——who is gentle——I say good morning, young sir." As he ended, the Captain took off his hat, with his remaining arm put it on again, and then reached out, suddenly, and clapped Barnabas upon the shoulder. "Here's wishing you a straight course, lad," said he with a smile, every whit as young and winning as that which curved the lips of Barnabas, "a fair course and a good, clean wind to blow all these fashionable fooleries out of your head. Good-by!" So he nodded, turned sharp about and went upon his way.

  Hereupon the Bo'sun shook his head, took off the glazed hat, stared into it, and putting it on again, turned and stumped along beside Barnabas.

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