Tales of College Life/"Aeger;" or, Mistaken Identity/Chapter 3

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Tales of College Life by Cuthbert Bede
"Aeger;" or, Mistaken Identity
Chapter 3



Mr. Percial Wylde experienced otherwise than agreeable feelings when his father made his declaration of visiting Oxford; and he was too well acquainted with the paternal mode of decision to doubt that his father would practise what he preached. He knew very well that the Old Boy would at once take the rail to Oxford, and, on there being fully certified as to the imposition practised upon him, would probably cut off the pecuniary supplies from his hopeful son, even if he did not proceed to the extremity of "cutting him off with less than a shilling."

Now, as this proceeding, even in its mildest form, would be anything but agreeable to a young gentleman who had freely plunged into the most expensive habits of a University career, the thought of its being carried into execution filled Percie with alarm, and brought before his imagination a series of startling pictures, executed in the heaviest mental distemper, in which expelling Dons and threatening Duns stood forth in sternest colours. He saw at once that he must give up his cherished plan of spending the best part of the day in the society of Miss Fanny Douglas, and must betake himself to Oxford with all expedition. But yet, when he reflected that he was but a few hundred yards from the abode of the charmer, and that the Crescent lay not so very much out of his way to the railway-station, it was more than the weakness of poor human nature could bear, not to call in there for a few moments en route.

"It will never pay to go back without a look at Fanny," thought Percie, "after I 've taken all this trouble to see her. I must manage to get a sight of her by herself, and to keep out of the reach of the rest; for I daresay the Old Boy will be making inquiries after me, and the éclaircissement might be awkward. It is unfortunate enough as it is; but who 'd have thought of meeting him at Hyde-park Corner when he ought to have been safe in Shropshire. I wish now I had n't sent for that doctor's cheque; but the game had done once before, and I thought it would do again; and I was so hard up, that I did n't know which way to turn. I wish Fanny had got something like a fortune, because then the Old Boy would n't cut up so rough about her. Her governor goes at such a pace, that he must live quite up to his means; and he 'll scarcely be able to give Fanny a sou,—and that the Old Boy knows pretty well. Hinc illæ lachrymæ: hence his advocacy of Wilhelmina. I would n't take her if her gingerbread were doubly as thick in gilt! Dear Fanny is worth a dozen of her. I must go and see her. It would certainly be awkward if the Old Boy got to Oxford first, and found out my absence. I know that he would keep his word about me, and I should be cast into the den of Duns. I should have no money—Fanny would only have her father's blessing; and our marriage would be out of the question. Yet I think I shall have time to call in the Crescent. I know the Old Boy's habits well enough to make me feel sure that he 'll go and pay his bill at Morley's before he sets out for Oxford. This will delay him some time; so I can easily spare a few minutes for Fanny, and reach Oxford by an earlier train than the Old Boy. I 'll risk it. As I 'm an æger man, I can't do better than pay a visit to the doctor who will do me the most good."

So rapid is the process of thought, that, to arrive at the above decision was a far quicker thing in the performance than it is in the telling; and Percie had jumped into a Hansom, and been whirled to Wilton Crescent, before Mr. Wylde, senior, had reached St. James's Street.

A thundering knock and a rallying ring evoked a canary-coloured being, who, although six feet in his stockings, and blessed with undeniable whiskers, was yet affable and benignant. This condescending gentleman knew Percie well, and had, indeed, been moved to extreme affability by sundry and repeated tips administered to him by Percie, both in town, and also at his (or, at least, his master's—which was the same thing) country-seat in Shropshire. In consequence of this monetary relation that existed between them, the affable Canary looked with the eyes of encouragement upon the amatory passion displayed by Mr. Percival Wylde for Miss Fanny Douglas, and fostered it in a variety of ways—such as the transmission of billet-doux, and the retailing to Pinner, the maid, of various anecdotes, which served to place Mr. Percival Wylde in a favourable, if not heroic, light. These fragments of biography were collected by the affable Canary from his friends and neighbours in the servants'-hall of Mr. Wylde's establishment; and, having been properly spiced and seasoned by the faithful Pinner, were duly served up for Miss Fanny's entertainment during the several courses of that young lady's toilette.

As the young gentleman's love was encouraged by the young lady's mamma and papa—who were naturally anxious to secure a young man of position and property for their almost dowerless daughter,—and was opposed by Mr. Wylde alone, and that solely from pecuniary motives,—the whole band of Mr. Douglas's retainers headed by the affable Canary and the faithful Pinner (between whom, indeed, there were certain love passages, that led them to a sympathy with others in the same position), espoused the cause of the young lovers; and did not, as touching this subject, quarrel with, or bite their thumbs, at the retainers of the house of Wylde, after the fashion of the Capulet and Montague factions. The affable Canary, indeed, regarded the Juliet of his house with the most paternal feelings, speaking of her to his brother retainers, as "our eldest daughter"—as though she were a species of joint-stock property—and receiving her Romeo, and ushering him into her presence, with an air that seemed to express, "I give my consent—take her, and be happy."

On the present occasion, therefore, the affable Canary not only felt pleasure at opening the door to Romeo, but was also enabled to divine the object of Romeo's visit: a divination far more readily arrived at from a superficial study of the visitor's outward man, than if the internal anatomy of the victim had been consulted.

"The missis and master have just druv off to the Cristial Palliss at Siddynam, Sir," said the affable Canary, in reply to Romeo's inquiry as to who was at home; "and the young ladies is gone a hairin' in the park, with Mamselle and Pinner; but Miss Fanny is at 'ome, Sir, and is a writin' in the drawin' room by 'erself. I 'ope I see you well, Sir."

Quite well, thank you, Mr. Affable Canary, although I do happen to be Æger, so take up my card to Miss Douglas.

And the affable Canary takes a piece of pasteboard imprinted with the name of "Mr. Percival Wylde;" and that young gentleman, after desiring the Cabby to wait for him, trips up the stairs, softly singing a carmen triumphale.