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UNCLE OLIVER’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF.
My name is Oliver Oldcastle, and I was born as long ago as the grandfathers of most of the young people who are likely to read this little book. It is said that old people like to talk about themselves and the things that happened to them when they were young. If this be true, it is very probably the reason why I begin this book by talking about myself. But it seems to me very reasonable that, as I intend to conduct my readers into distant and strange countries, and shall often have occasion to say what I have done and what I have thought, I should begin my sayings by saying who I am. · I am an old man; and when I am without my wig I look quite as old as I am. Many old
gentlemen look ten or twenty years younger than they are; but it is not so with me-I am seventy-one, and I look seventy-one. The reason may be, that I have had many hardships to undergo and many troubles to bear, and hardships and troubles do not tend to make people look young
I ring my bell: [Enter John.] John, please to bring down my dressing-glass.- Very well; put it down on the opposite table. Now, my readers, I have had the glass brought down to see how I look, that I may describe myself to you; because I feel sure you will want to know, not only who “ Uncle Oliver” is, but what “ Uncle Oliver” looks like. Alas, alas! where is the curly head my mother used to pat so often and so kindly? I am old now, and wear a brown wig, made with the hair of other people, having but little hair left of my own, and that as white as snow; but I remember when all my head was covered with hair as black as the wing of a raven. My face is whitish-yellowish-brown all over, with not a bit of any other colour; and
the little flesh that is upon it hangs loose and looks soft. Certainly I am an old man. I am rather tall, but not too tall; I am rather thin, but not too thin, considering how old I am. I stoop a little, but not much, in walking; and I make use of a stick with an ivory head: formerly, I used to have a gold head to my stick, but I had so many sticks stolen for the sake of the gold, that I was driven to ivory, and now I find ivory softer and more pleasant than gold. But though I use a stick, I walk firmly and rather quickly for my years; and, altogether, I feel little of the infirmities of age, except when I try to eat the crust of my toast, or to buckle my own shoes, and in other such small matters. I think that if I were met in the street on a summer's day I might be taken for an aged clergyman or doctor. I wear black, with a white neckcloth, and a frill to my shirt; I have also small buckles at my knees and in my shoes; and I am seldom seen without a rose, or a sprig of geranium or mignonette in my button-hole. Now I hope I have so drawn my picture that the reader thinks he should know me if he were to meet with me; and if he does meet with me, let him speak to me-let him call me - Uncle Oliver," then I shall know that he has read this book, and that he knows me; and I shall not then fail to speak to him and shake him by the hand..
This is what I am. Now I will tell who I am.
I was the youngest of two sons of a gentleman who, not having sufficient property to provide as he wished for both, determined to give all to my elder brother, and to qualify me to do the best I could for myself. My father had a cousin who was a wealthy merchant in London, and this , person having happened to see me, made an offer which, when my father found that I had no objection, he accepted for me. So I went to London, and was taken to live in the house of this old gentleman, whose name was Winter. He proved to be so good a man, and so very kind to myself, that I soon began to look up to him with the utmost regard and respect; and I was never so proud or happy as when he gave me to understand that he was satisfied with my conduct in private life, and with my endeavours properly to discharge the duties he intrusted to me. Mr. Winter had only one child -a daughter, whose name was Mary; and as we were much in each other's company during several years, I at last began to wish that she, too, might be pleased with me, and so she was. It was a long time before I knew this; but I knew it at last, and then I was indeed very happy. But I was not always happy, because I could not help fearing that a time might soon come when she would marry, or something else would happen to prevent me from seeing her every day, and when I should no longer be able to speak with her, read with her, and walk with her, in the manner I did then.