The autumn of 18—was as uncomfortable and triste a season as I have ever known; commerce and crops alike looked down—respectable prophets of Tory tendencies shook their heads with redoubled vigor and gloomy but intense satisfaction at the near approach of that total ruin they had so often foretold; and the unfortunate devils of starving mechanics, unable to solve the problem of depression, were raising shindies by way of relieving their minds. Under these circumstances, it pleased the Horse Guards, in the plenitude of their power and inhumanity, to banish Her Majesty's —— Regiment of Light Dragoons to an infernal region of smoke and "sansculottism" situated in the west of England, and known to mortals as the wealthy and busy town of Carrington.
Here then were we hurried at the very beginning of grouse shooting, from first-rate quarters in North Britain.
Terrible was the change which came o'er all our spirits; every thing was against us; I do not believe I ever saw such rain. Byron talks about "nature's tear drops,"—she gave us a shower bath! The effect of all this may be imagined. I am certain it was that fatal quarter confirmed our Major in the deep rooted love for "Kingston's old port," which finally cut him off at 65, while pretty little Mrs. Pemberton, the paymaster's wife, no longer guided in the way she should go, by fashion and the aristocracy, fell from the right path into a meeting house, and eloped with the preacher! But our rulers care little for our morals.
Au commencement, the rich manufacturers were very civil, and gave us some most enormous dinners. Their daughters, pretty girls enough, we found tolerable, as women must always be, even under the most distressing circumstances; but we had nothing to talk of to them. It was so confounding to try conversation with girls who had not a single subject in common with you; who looked on sporting as loss of time, and to whom all one's allusions, illustrations, and even good stories were an unknown tongue. Their brothers were "very awful," as Sammy Spectre says; and, when we asked the fellows to mess, they got so brutally drunk, and talked such stupid slang, we were thoroughly disgusted; so when the first terror of burnt mills and broken windows was passed, and the respectable cotton spinners, taking time to breathe, collected their scattered faculties, and remembered their dislike to the military, we were most ready to dispense with their society, and our communications were soon almost totally cut off.
Such was our position towards the beginning of September, when one morning, as I was forgetting my misfortunes in Alison's Account of the Vendean War, which in all probability I should have never read but for our unlucky change of quarters, Tom Ashley broke into my room, exclaiming, "Keep your books for a dernier ressort my dear fellow! Come along and get your tickets."
"For what," said I peevishly, for I am capable of acknowledging an author's magic sometimes.
"No humbug! You do not mean to say you have not read the placards announcing the Festival in the New Music Hall? Grisi, Mario, and all the rest of them. A grand mass in G, and something still grander in Z?"
"No! I know nothing about it."
"Well, know it now! There are to be three days' hard work. Sacred and scientific in the morning; profane and light in the evening; to wind up with a fancy and full dress ball on Thursday."
"Well, it is something to do, so I am à vos ordres, mon cher," said I, taking my hat.
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