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THE BEST BAT IN THE SCHOOL.
“It is the best bat in the school. I call it Mercandotti, for its shape. Look at its face; run your hand over the plane. It is smoother than a looking-glass. I was a month suiting myself; and I chose it out of a hundred. I would not part with it for its weight in gold; and that exquisite knot !- lovelier, to me, than a beauty's dimple. You may fancy how that drives. I hit a ball yesterday from this very spot to the wickets in the upper shooting fields; six runs clear, and I scarcely touched it. Hodgson said it was not the first time a Ball had been wonderfully struck by Mercandotti. There is not such another piece of wood in England. Collyer would give his ears for it, and that would be a long price, as Golightly says. Do take it in your hand, Courtenay; but, plague on you clumsy knuckles ! you
know as much of a bat, as a Hottentot of the longitude, or a guinea-pig of the German flute."
So spoke the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant ; the “decus columenque" that day of his Dame's Eleven; proud of the red silk that girded his loins, and the white hose that decorated his ancles; proud of his undisputed prowess, and of his anticipated victory; but prouder far of the possession of this masterpiece of Nature's and Thompson's workshop, than which no pearl was ever more preciousno phænix more unique. As he spoke, a bail dropped. The Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant walked smilingly to the vacant wicket. What elegance in his attitude! What ease in his motions! Keep that little colleger out of the way; for we shall have the ball walking this road presently. Three to one on Ragueneau's! Now!- There was a moment's pause of anxious suspense: the long fag rubbed his hands, and drew up his shirt-sleeve; the wicket-keeper stooped expectantly over the bails; the bowler trotted "leisurely up to the bowling-crease, and off went the ball upon its successive errands ;-from the hand of the bowler to the exquisite knot in the hat of the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant; from the said exquisite knot to the unerring fingers of the crouching long nips; and from those fingers up into the blue firmament of heaven, with the velocity of a sky-rocket.' What a mistake! How did he manage it? His feet slipped, or the ball was twisted, or the sun dazzled him.' It could not be the fault of the bat! It is the best bat in the school.
A week afterwards I met my talented and enthusiastic friend crawling to absence through the playing fields, as tired as a post-horse, and as hot as a salamander, with many applauding associates on his right and on his left, who' exhibited to him certain pencilled scrawls, on which he gazed with flushed and feverish delight. He had kept his wicket up two hours, and made a score of seventy-three. “I may thank my bat for it," quoth he, shouldering it as Hercules might have shouldered his club, it is the best bat in the school.” Alas, for the instability of human affections! The exquisite knot had been superseded. Mercandotti had been sold for half price; and the Honourable: FEBRUARY, 1829.
Ernest Adolphus Volant was again to be eloquent, and again to be envied; he had still the best bat in the school.
I believe I was a tolerably good-natured boy. I am sure I was always willing to acquiesce in the estimation my companions set upon their treasures, because they were generally sạch that I felt myself a vastly inadequate judge of their actual value. But the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant was exorbitant in the frequency and the variety of his drafts upon my sympathy. He turned off five hockeysticks in a fortnight; and each in its turn was unrivalled. He wore seven waistcoats in a week, and each, for its brief day, was as' single in its beauty as the rainbow. In May, Milward's shoes were unequalled; in June, Ingalton's were divine. He lounged in Poet's Walk, over a duodecimo, and it was the sweetest edition that ever went into a waistcoat pocket; he pored in his study over a folio, and there was no other copy extant but Lord Spencer's, and the mutilated one at Heidelberg. At Easter there were portraits hanging round his room; Titian never painted their equal: at Michaelmas, landscapes had occupied their place; Claude would have owned himself outdone. The colt they were breaking for him in Leicestershire, the detonator he had bespoken of Charles Moore, the fishing-rod which had come from Bermuda, the flageolet he had won at the raffle,—they were all, for a short season, perfection : he had always “ the best bat in the school.”
The same whimsical propensity followed him through life. Four years after we had made our last voyage to Monkey Island, in " the best skiff that ever was built,” I found him exhibiting himself in Hyde Park, on “ the best horse that ever was mounted." A minute was sufficient for the compliments of our reciprocal recognition; and the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant launched out forthwith into a rhapsody on the merits of the proud animal he bestrode. “Kremlin, got by Smolensko, out of my uncle's old mare. Do you know any thing of a horse ? Look at his shoulder. Upon my honour, it is a model for a sculptor. And feel how he is ribbed up; not a pin loose here; knit together like a ship's planks; trots fourteen miles an hour without turning a hair, and carries fifteen stone up to any hounds in England. I hate your smart dressy creatures, as slender as a greyhound, and as tender as a gazelle, that look as if they had been stabled in a drawing-room, and taken their turn with the poodle in my lady's lap. I like to have plenty of bone under me. If this horse had been properly ridden, Courtenay, he would have won the hunters' stakes at our place in a canter. He has not a leg that is not worth a hundred pounds. Seriously, I think there is not such another horse in the kingdom.”
But before a month had gone by, the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant was ambling down the ride, in a pair of stirrups far more nearly approaching terra firma, than those in which his illustrious feet had been reclining, while he held forth on the excellencies of Kremlin. “Oh, yes !” he said, when I enquired after “the best horse in England, “ Kremlin is a magnificent animal; but then, after all, his proper place is with the hounds. One might as well wear one's scarlet in a ball-room as ride Kremlin in the Park. And so I have bought Mrs. Davenant's Bijou, and a perfect Bijou she is :-throws out her little legs like an opera dancer, and tosses her head as if she knew that her neck is irresistible. You will not find such another mane and tail in all London. Mrs. Davenant's own maid used to put both up in papers every night of the week. She is quite a Love." And so the Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant trotted off on a smart dressy creature, as slender as a greyhound, and as tender as a gazelle, that looked as if it had been stabled in a drawing-room, and taken its turn with the poodle in my lady's lap."
An analysis of the opinions of my eccentric friend would be an entertaining thing. “ The best situation in town” has been found successively in nearly every street between the Regent's Park and St. James's Square : "the best carriage for a bachelor” has gone to-day on two wheels and to-morrow on four: “ the best servant in Christendom” has been turned off within my own knowledge for insolence, for intoxication, for riding his master's horse, and for wearing his master's inexplicables : and "the best fellow in the world” has been at various periods deep in philosophy, and deep in debt-a frequenter of the fives' court, and a dancer of quadrilles--a tory, and a republican -a prebendary, and a papist-a drawer of dry pleadings, and a singer of sentimental serenades. If I had acted upon Volant's advices I should have been to-day subscribing to every club, and taking in every newspaper ; I should have been imbibing the fluids of nine wine merchants, and covering my outward man with the broad cloth of thirteen tailors.
It is a pity that Volant has been prevented by indolence, a doting mother, and four thousand a-year, from applying his energies to the attainment of any professional distinction. In a variety of courses he might have commanded success. A cause might have come into court stained and spotted with every conceivable infamy, with effrontery for its crest, falsehood for its arms, and perjuries for its supporters; but if Volant had been charged with the advocacy of it, his delighted eye would have winked at every deficiency, and slumbered at every fault; in his sight weakness would have sprung up into strength, deformity would have faded into beauty, impossibility would have been sobered into fact. Every plaintiff, in his shewing, would have been wronged irreparably; every defendant would have been as unsullied as snow, His would have been the most irreproachable of declarations, his the most impregnable of pleas. The reporters might have tittered, the bar might have smiled, the bench might have shaken its heads : nothing would have persuaded him that he was beaten. He would have thought the battle won, when his lines were forced on all points ; he would have deemed the house secure, when the timbers were cracking under his feet. It would have been delicious, when his strongest objection had been overruled, when his clearest argument had been stopped, when his stoutest witness had broken down, to see him adjusting his gown with a self-satisfied air, and concluding with all the emphasis of anticipated triumph, " that is my case, my lord."
Or if he had coveted senatorial fame, what a space would he have filled in the political hemisphere! If he had introduced a turnpike bill, the house would have forgotten Emancipation for a time: if he had moved the committal of a printer, Europe would have gazed as upon the arrest of a peer of the realm. The minister he supported would have been the most virtuous of statesmen, when both houses had voted his impeachment; the gentlemen he represented would have been the most conscientious of constituents, when they had sold him their voices at five per cent. over the market price.
Destiny ordered it otherwise. One day, in that sultry season of the year, when fevers and flirtations come to their crisis, and matrimony and hydrophobia scare you at every corner, I happened to call at his rooms in Regent-Street, at about that time in the afternoon which the fashionable world calls daybreak. He was sitting with his chocolate before him, habited only in his robe-de-chambre; but the folds of that gorgeous drapery seemed to me composed in a more studied negligence than was their wont; and the dark curls upon his fine forehead were arranged in a more scrupulous disorder. I saw at a glance that some revolution was breaking out in the state of my poor friend's mind; and when I found a broken fan on the mantel-piece, and a withered rosebud on the sofa, Walker's Lexicon open on the writing-table, and an unfinished stanza reposing in the toast-rack, I was no longer in doubt as to its nature—The Honourable Ernest Adolphus Volant was seriously in love.
It was not to be wondered at that his mistress was the loveliest being of her sex, nor that he told me so fourteen times in the following week. Her father was a German prince, the proprietor of seven leagues of vineyard, five ruined castles, and three hundred flocks of sheep. She had light hair, blue eyes, and a profound knowledge of metaphysics ; she sang like a syren, and her name was Adelinda.
I spent a few months abroad. When I returned, he was married to the loveliest being of her sex, and had sent me fifty notes to inform me of the fact, and beseech me to visit him at Volant Hall with the requisite quantity of sympathy and congratulation. I went, and was introduced in form. Her father was a country clergyman; the proprietor of seven acres of glebe, five broken arm-chairs, and three hundred manuscript discourses; she had dark hair, black eyes, and a fond love of poetry: she danced like a wood-nymph, and her name was Mary
He has lived since his marriage a very quiet life, rarely visiting the inetropolis, and devoting his exertions most indefatigably to the comfort of his tenantry, and the improvement of his estate. Volant Hall
deliciously situated in the best county in England. If you go thither, you must go prepared with the tone, or at least with the countenance, of approbation and wonder. He gives you of course, mutton, such as no other pasture fattens, and ale, such as no other cellar brews. The stream that runs through his park supplies him with trout of unprecedented beauty and delicacy; and he could detect a partridge that had feasted in his woods, amidst the bewildering confusion of a Lord Mayor's banquet. You must look at his conservatory: no other was ever constructed on the same principle. You must handle his plough: he himself has obtained a patent for the invention. Everything, within doors and without, has wherewithal to attract and astonish,—the melon and the magnolia, the stable and the dairy, the mounting of his mother's spectacles, and the music of his
wife's piano. He has few pictures; but they are the masterpieces of the best masters. He has only one statue; but he assures you it is Canova's chef-d'æuvre. The last time I was with him he had a theme to descant upon which made his eloquence more than usually impassioned. An heir was just born to the Volant acres. An ox was roasted and a barrel pierced in every meadow: the noise of fiddles was incessant for a week, and the expenditure of powder would have lasted a Lord High Admiral for a twelvemonth. It was allowed by all the country that there never was so sweet a child as little Adolphus.
Among his acquaintance, who have little toleration for any foibles but their own, Volant is pretty generally voted a bore.
Of course, our pinery is not like Mr. Volant's," says Lady Framboise ; " he is prating from morning to night of his fires and his flues. We have taken some pains; and we pay a ruinous sum to our gardener.-—But we never talk about it."
The deuce take that fellow Volant,” says Mr. Crayon ; “ does he fancy no one has a Correggio but himself? I have one that cost me two thousand guineas; and I would not part with it for double the sum.—But I never talk about it.”
That boy, Volant,” says old Sir Andrew Chalkstone,“ is so delighted to find himself the father of another boy, that, by Jove, he can speak of nothing else. Now I have a little thing in a cradle too: a fine boy, they tell me, and vastly like his father.—But I never talk about it."
Well; well! Let a man be obliging to his neighbours, and merciful to his tenants; an upright citizen, and an affectionate friend ;-and there is one Judge who will not condemn him for having “ the best bat in the school!"
ON THE ARMOUR IN THE TOWER.
Letter from Dr. Meyrick, on the Armour in the Tower, to the
Proprietors of the “ LONDON MAGAZINE." GENTLEMEN,
The very handsome and flattering manner in which my proceedings at the Tower of London have been mentioned in your well-written Magazine, induces me thus to make my acknowledgments of the civility. There are some points on which your correspondent wishes “ to know the rights.” I will therefore endeavour to afford information where he does not appear to be fully satisfied. He is of course aware that I have had nothing to do with that renovated mass of falsehood termed “ the Spanish Armoury," and the reason is, that I am well convinced the collection contains not one atom that belonged to the Armada. Hentzner, who visited the Tower and Greenwich in 1598, found nothing to commemorate that expedition; and the only thing which met the eyes of the commissioners specially appointed to report on all that could be found of the stores at these two places, after