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FRASER'S MAGAZINE FOR DECEMBER, 1856,
AN ESSAY ON POPULARITY. BY A MANCHESTER MAN.
THE FRIENDS. AN EPISODE OF ITALIAN LIFE.
SKETCHES ON THE NORTH COAST. BY A NATURALIST.
No. VI. AND LAST-THE FAUNA OF THE FROST.
PAULI'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
THE NIGHT MAIL TRAIN IN INDIA.
THE MUNIMENT CHAMBER AT LOSELY PLACE.
SOME TALK ABOUT SCOTCH PECULIARITIES.
SONG OF THE BUCHANIERS.
WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST KNOW.
GLEANINGS FROM UHLAND. BY T. WESTWOOD.
THE DENISON CASE. A LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM THE REV. F. D.
POLITICS, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.
NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS.
The Editor of FRASER'S MAGAZINE does not undertake to return papers
that are sent to him for consideration.
A Tale of the War.
BY G. J. WHYTE MELVILLE, AUTHOR OF DIGBY GRAND,' &c.
THE OLD DESK.
OT one of my keys will fit it: the old desk has been laid aside for years, and is covered with dust and rust. We do not make such strong boxes nowadays, for brass hinges and secret drawers have given place to flimsy morocco and russian leather; so we clap a Bramah lock, that Bramah himself cannot pick, on a black bag that the veriest bungler can rip open in five seconds with a penknife, and entrust our notes, bank and otherwise, our valuables, and our secrets, to this faithless repository with a confidence that deserves to be respected. But in the days when George the Third was king, our substantial ancestors rejoiced in more substantial workmanship: so the old desk that I cannot succeed in unlocking, is of shining rosewood, clamped with brass, and I shall spoil it sadly with the mallet and the chisel.
What a medley it holds! Thank Heaven I am no speculative philosopher, or I might moralize for hours over its contents. First, out flies a withered leaf of geranium. It must have been dearly prized once, or it would never have been here; maybe it represented the hopes, the wealth, the all-in-all of two aching hearts : and they are dust and ashes now. To think that the flower should have outlasted them! the symbol less perishable than the faith! Then I come to a piece of much begrimed and yellow paper, carefully folded, and indorsed with a date,-a receipt for an embrocation warranted specific in all cases of bruises, sprains, or lumbago; next a gold pencil-case, with a head of Socrates for a seal;
VOL. LV. NO. CCCXXV.
lastly, much of that substance which is generated in all waste places, and which the vulgar call flue. How it comes there puzzles equally the naturalist and the philosopher; but you shall find it in empty corners, empty drawers, empty pockets, nay, we believe in its existence in the empty heads of our fellow-creatures.
In my thirst for acquisition, regardless of dusty fingers, I press the inner sides of the desk in hopes of discovering secret springs and hoarded repositories: so have poor men ere now found thousand-pound notes hid away in chinks and crannies, and straightway, giddy with the possession of boundless wealth, have gone to the Devil at a pace such as none but the beggar on horseback can command; so have old wills been fished out, and frauds discovered, and rightful heirs reestablished, and society in general disgusted, and all concerned made discontented and uncomfortableso shall I, perhaps-but the springs work, a false lid flies open, and I do discover a packet of letters, written on thin foreign paper, in the free straggling characters I remember so well. They are addressed to Sir H. Beverley, and the hand that penned them has been cold for years. So will yours and mine be some day, perhaps ere the flowers are out again; O beate Sexti! will you drink a glass less claret on that account? Buxom Mrs. Lalage, shall the dressmaker therefore put unbecoming trimmings in your bonnet? The 'shining hours' are few, and soon past; make the best of them, each