« НазадПродовжити »
BRIEFS and PAPERS.
“I’ve been laundress to gentlemen of all ages in my time, sir, remarked Mrs. Flanagan, my laundress, this morning ; “but of them all, you, sir, when you fust come to live in the Temple, was the very youngest I ever “did " for." What the nature of the preceding conversation between Mrs. Flanagan and myself had been, and which had induced that excellent lady to make the above remark, it is not necessary for me to explain; but as she departed down-stairs, banging the outer door of my chambers after her, I found myself wondering how many years had really elapsed since I first became the occupant of the dingy set of chambers on the third floor of No. 5, Flag Court, Temple, which it has been my lot ever since to inhabit. As the result of my musings, I came to B
the conclusion that Mrs. Flanagan was right. I was very young when, a few weeks after having entered myself as a student on the boards of the Honourable Society of the Upper Temple, I presented myself at the treasury-office of that learned body, and besought the clerk to inform me whether there were any chambers then vacant. That official looked at me over his spectacles—doubtless thinking, like Mrs. Flanagan, that I was very young— before he replied that there were only two sets of chambers in the Inn then vacant. One, he remarked, was a handsome set on the first floor of Parchment Buildings (rent one hundred and fifty pounds a year), and which had just been vacated by Mr. Quibble, Q.C., upon his appointment as one of Her Majesty's judges. The other set which was on the third floor of No. 5, Flag Court, Temple (rent thirty-five pounds a year), had been recently occupied by Mr. Redtape, but had become vacant by the removal of that learned gentleman to another world.
Thinking that this last-named set of chambers might suit me, I requested the clerk to show me them. It was a dreary November afternoon—how well do I remember it!—as the clerk and I left the treasury-office, and set forth upon our quest. The fog which hung over London that day was so thick that all the gas-lamps were burning on the staircase of No. 5, Flag Court, and looked to me as the clerk and I slowly toiled upstairs like distant lighthouses seen through a fog. The clerk was a portly man and plethoric withal, so he eagerly seized hold of the opportunity of resting himself afforded by each landing-place; and by way of filling up these involuntary pauses, he discoursed to me about the owners of the names which I beheld painted up over each door. “Those rooms,” said he, “are Mr. Growler's. You know his great work, Growler on Effectment. Those chambers opposite to his, are Mr. Denhope's, the great parliamentary counsel. Ah,' remarked the clerk reflectively, “I remember him when he entered the Upper Temple—I took his entrance fees myself not twenty years ago—and now he's making 20,000l. a year.' On the floor above Mr. Denhope's rooms we found the name of Mr. Waltham painted up. ‘Yes,’ said the clerk admiringly, “he's a Honourable !—the Honourable Arthur Waltham, youngest son of Lord Manleytowers.-As for that gentleman,’ he continued doubtfully, pointing as he spoke to the name of a man who has since that time written one of the sweetest and tenderest poems in the English language, ‘I don't know much about him, but I’ve heard that he's a
literary character. However, concluded the clerk hopefully, “that mayn't be true !' With this we reached the third floor, and knocked at the door of the late Mr. Redtape's chambers. It was speedily opened, and we were forthwith confronted by Mrs. Flanagan. She was then a very portly widow of about fifty years of age. She was dressed in a seedy suit of black, and had a swollen red face, twinkling black eyes, and iron-gray hair. I trembled inwardly at the awfulness of her aspect as she showed the chambers to me, enlarging, as she did so, upon her own merit as a laundress, and upon the devoted care which she had always taken both of Mr. Redtape and of his household gods. I found that the chambers consisted of a moderate-sized sittingroom, an exceedingly small bedroom, and a third room so small and so ill contrived, that the only use it could be put to was that of a pantry. The furniture of the late Mr. Redtape still adorned the room, “and could be had,' I was volubly informed by Mrs. Flanagan, “at a most moderate price.” The ceiling of the sitting-room was black with smoke; the wainscoting of wood running round the walls had originally been painted green, but was now so stained by age and dirt as to be almost unrecognisable. As for the windows, they looked as though soap and water had never been
applied to them within the memory of man. The view out of the bedroom window comprised a horizon of chimney pots; whilst that from the sitting-room looked into the dingy quadrangle of Flag Court, on the opposite side of which I could dimly discern the lights of the houses looming through the fog. My heart sank within me as I gazed, and I inquired shudderingly of Mrs. Flanagan whether the late Mr. Redtape had died in these rooms. “O yes, sir, replied that excellent woman cheerfully; “he died here on this day fortnight. He made a sweet end, sir; nobody bein’ in the room with him but the priest and me. God rest his sowl ' ' To bring a long story to an end, I took the chambers. The Honourable Society of the Upper Temple very liberally repainted them from top to bottom ; and, declining Mrs. Flanagan's repeated entreaties to take Mr. Redtape's ramshackle furniture, I had the rooms refurnished after my own heart, and in them it has ever since been my lot to live—for I decline to state how many years. My experience of the life of a man in chambers in the Temple is, that though rough and uncomfortable in many respects, it is nevertheless far from being without its compensating advantages. It is amazing, for example, to find how much interest