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pelled to part with from the pressure of domestic misfortune or embarrassment; he had traps and baits lying in wait for the inevitable though long-deferred rencontre of customers whom bitter experience had rendered wary, and who had long ceased buying in the regular market; and he had collections snugly warehoused in half the large towns of the empire, waiting but the wished-for crisis of commercial prosperity to be catalogued and sold as the unique collection of some lately defunct connoisseur, removed to for convenience of sale.
Among the acres of what he called his gallery pictures was one with an area of some hundred square feet, upon which he had bestowed the names of Rubens and Snyders. It had hung for years upon hand, and was at length disposed of by the following ingenious ruse :-A gentleman who had appeared at different times desirous of treating for it-now negotiating an exchange, now chaffering for a cash price-hovering on the edge of a resolution, like Prior's malefactor on the gallows-cart-at length absented himself, and withdrawing on a visit to B, appeared to have relinquished the idea of dealing. Sapper, knowing that a picture-sale was shortly coming off in the town to which his dallying customer had flown, and knowing, too, that he could do as he chose with the auctioneer, who was an old chum, followed close upon the heels of the tardy bidder, taking the enormous picture with him. As the cunning rogue had calculated, the instincts of the would-be-buyer led him to the sale-room, where his astonishment was unbounded at beholding the picture he had so long coveted at length condemned to the hammer. On the following day, when the sale came on, Sapper, who had not shown his face in the town, lay ensconced in a snug box behind the fence over which the lots were consecutively hoisted, and here, concealed from view, he ran up the picture against the eager bidder to the full sum he had offered for it in London,
and bought it in against him in the name of an Irish nobleman. So soon as the doors were shut, the picture was again off to London, and the next day appeared in its usual place on the wall of the staircase. In a fortnight after the gentleman walks into the shop, exclaiming: "Ha, Sapper, so you have parted with the picture-you might as well have closed with my offer." "I don't understand you," said the other—“ I have parted with no picture that I know of which you had any inclination for."
"I mean the Rubens and Snyders," replied the gentleman; "it was sold at B about a fortnight ago, and fetched about what I offered for it. I must know, for I was there myself, and bid for it."
"I don't pretend to contradict you, sir," retorted Sapper; "all I know is, that the picture you speak of has never been out of my house, and, what is more, is not likely to go, unless I get my price for it. Now I think of it, there was a young fellow from B up here last summer, who gave me ten pounds for permission to copy it; and a capital copy he made had I known he was so good a hand I should not have let him do it for the money. You will find the picture in its place if you like to step and look at it."
Up walks the bewildered gentleman, and can scarcely believe his eyes at beholding the old favourite in its old place. Sapper follows with a sponge and water, and cleaning down the face of the painting, expresses his astonishment that any one should mistake a copy, however cleverly done, for such a fine work as that; adding, that if the copy brought so good a sum under the hammer, what must be the actual value of the original? The inference was inevitable, and the speedy result was the consummation of the purchase, not without some show of unwillingness on the part of Sapper, who appeared impressed with the notion that he was submitting to a tremendous sacrifice.
I cannot, nor need I, continue these details. I have said
enough to warn the unwary, and to arouse the watchfulness of the wise. Is it wonderful that the moral atmosphere in which I have lived, and moved, and had my being, should have had the effect upon my mind which I have described at the commencement of this paper? When connoisseurs and critics stand gasping with breathless raptures in contemplation of slimy mixtures of megilp and burned bones; when they solemnly invoke the shades of the mighty dead, and ejaculate their maudlin rhapsodies in reverential whispers, as though hushed to silence by the spirit of departed genius, in the presence of a rascally forgery perpetrated for a wage of thirty shillings-what marvel if one whom hunger and necessity have driven to deceit should lose all capacity for the proper appreciation of art or nature either, and should at last be able to look at both only through the prostituted means and materials which during a whole lifetime have been the daily instruments of deceit ?
What I would inculcate is not far to seek he who buys a picture should never speculate beyond his judgment; and if he would encourage living art, should do so in the studio of the artist.
FLOWERS IN LONDON.
THE love of nature is not to be trodden out of the human heart by the conventional forms and usages of the world. Amid the most matter-of-fact and even repulsive aspect of business, with all its turmoils and anxieties, its annoyances and discomforts, the idea of her simple grace and loveliness will intrude and claim a place and find a welcome. The contemplation of beauty is to the millions, who perhaps are but very partially conscious of the fact, a necessity of their lives; and a very benevolent necessity it is, for more reasons than we have space to mention-and for the reason especially that it prompts every right-minded man to harmonise his own conduct with the ideal which nature exhibits, and silently admonishes him that his actions, to be beautiful, must be good, and honest, and true. It is impossible to say to what extent the exquisite flowers that summer sheds in profusion around our path are our friends and benefactors. They speak a language that all understand, and love to listen to-coming, like angels of mercy, to deliver a message of peace; and dying, as we gaze upon them, to teach us how feeble and fragile are the loveliest and the brightest of all created things.
The universal love for flowers in this great metropolis is a passion that admits of no question, but the proof of which greets us daily in our walks. Even in the smoky resorts of the city, the choicest productions of the conservatory and the garden are visible, during the season, in every street, and almost every house. The very back-slums and abodes
of the poor are green with dusty mignonette or lanky geraniums without a blossom, lifting their tops towards the light of the sky; and if we walk into the suburbs, we find the residences of the comfortable classes brilliant with hues that are never spread on a painter's palette, or on the arch of the rainbow. In this respect the aspect of modern London differs immensely from what it was a generation back. Then, the myrtle (now almost an exploded plant), a few old-fashioned geraniums, and hyacinths in coloured glasses, with here and there a ranunculus, constituted nearly the whole of the portable garden which adorned the windowsills and balconies of our sires-or rather of their betterhalves-for at that time of day flowers were held to be beneath the notice of gentlemen. Now, so widely has an improved taste extended, that almost every new house of any pretensions to comfort has its conservatory appended to it, and a new class, or rather many new classes, of traders and dealers in flowers have risen up to meet the growing demand for them. Walking some time ago in a fashionable district at the West End of the town, we came suddenly in front of a spectacle transcending in beauty and brilliancy all that we had ever seen or imagined in floral luxuriance. It was a family residence about sixty feet in height, and not less than thirty in width, the entire street-front of which, from the roof to the pavement, was one enormous and magnificent bouquet. From the battlements to the kitchen-window, level with the road, the whole was a monster flower-stand, crammed in every part with the finest specimens which the horticultural art could produce of the productions of all climes, all growing in pots and arranged in shelves one above another, concealing the whole of the brickwork and nearly the whole of the windows of the mansion: their delicate odour filled the street.
The passion for flowers, of which the above remarkable demonstration is the greatest existing proof we happen to