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Title: Ten Thousand a-Year. Volume 1.
Author: Warren, Samuel, 1807-1877
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ten Thousand a-Year. Volume 1." ***

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       *       *       *       *       *

            TEN THOUSAND A-YEAR.

     [Illustration: Portrait of the author.]

            TEN THOUSAND A-YEAR.

                     BY

            SAMUEL WARREN, F.R.S.

                   VOL. I.

                   BOSTON:
          LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
                    1900.

             University Press:
       John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

       *       *       *       *       *

                  To Emily,

  A LITTLE BLUE-EYED LAUGHING IMAGE OF PURITY
                 AND HAPPINESS,

          _THESE VOLUMES ARE INSCRIBED_

  AS A SLIGHT MEMORIAL OF A FATHER'S AFFECTION
             FOR AN ONLY DAUGHTER.

  _October_, 1841.

       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

The author provided thirty-three notes to the text. They are indicated
by numbers in square brackets, as[12]. The notes themselves are at the
end of the document. To find note number 12, search for "Note 12".

In this Unicode edition, the oe-ligature (œ, unicode #339) is used
at many points, and tow phrases in Greek characters appear in the Notes.
All other text is ASCII (ISO-8859-1).

Four typographical errors were corrected in transcription: Gamman for
Gammon, p. 169; possisible for possible, p. 195; familarly for
familiarly, p. 250; and possesssion for possession, p. 402.



PUBLISHERS' PREFACE.


The fact that a well-printed edition of this notable story has not been
in print either in England or America since its original publication in
1841 is a sufficient reason for the present edition.

It includes the valuable notes in which the author elucidated the "many
legal topics contained in the work, enabling the non-professional reader
to understand more easily the somewhat complex and elaborate _plot_ of
the story."

Of the story itself it is hardly necessary to speak. Always deservedly
popular, it has been widely read for nearly fifty years in England and
America, has been translated into French and German, and has only
required to be presented in a pleasing form, with readable type and good
paper, to insure it the circulation which it deserves.

Boston, 1889.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.


The Author of this Work begs gratefully to express his conviction that
no small share of any success which it may have met with, is
attributable to the circumstance of its having had the advantage of an
introduction to the public through the medium of _Blackwood's
Magazine_--a distinguished periodical, to which he feels it an honor to
have been, for a time, a contributor.

One word, only, he ventures to offer, with reference to the general
character and tendency of "TEN THOUSAND A-YEAR." He has occasionally
observed it spoken of as "an amusing and laughable" story; but he cannot
help thinking that no one will so characterize it, who may take the
trouble of reading it throughout, and be capable of comprehending its
scope and object. Whatever may be its defects of execution, it has been
written in a grave and earnest spirit; with no attempt whatever to
render it acceptable to _mere_ novel-readers; but with a steadfast view
to that development and illustration, whether humorously or otherwise,
of principles, of character, and of conduct, which the author had
proposed to himself from the first, in the hope that he might secure
the approbation of persons of sober, independent, and experienced
judgment.

Literature is not the author's profession. Having been led, by special
circumstances only, to commence writing this work, he found it
impossible to go on, without sacrificing to it a large portion of the
time usually allotted to repose, at some little cost both of health and
spirits. This was, however, indispensable, in order to prevent its
interference with his professional avocations. It has been written,
also, under certain other considerable disadvantages--which may account
for several imperfections in it during its original appearance. The
periodical interval of leisure which his profession allows him, has
enabled the author, however, to give that revision to the whole, which
may render it worthier of the public favor. He is greatly gratified by
the reception which it has already met with, both at home and abroad;
and in taking a final and a reluctant leave of the public, ventures to
express a hope, that this work may prove to be an addition, however
small and humble, to the stock of healthy English literature.

LONDON, _October_ 1841.

     For the beautiful verses entitled "PEACE," (at page 266, Vol. I.)
     the author is indebted to a friend--(W. S.)



CONTENTS TO VOL. I.


 CHAP.                                                               PAGE

    I.  While Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse adorns his outer man, the
        reader gets a glimpse of his inner man, such as it is.--A
        sincere friend; a wonderful advertisement; an important
        epistle.--A snake approaches an ape; which signifies Mr.
        Gammon's introduction to Titmouse                               1

   II.  Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, and Mr. Titmouse; who astonishes
        them with a taste of his quality.--Huckaback chooses to call
        upon Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, to stir them up; and what it
        led to                                                         47

  III.  Great lawyers come on the scene; a glimpse of daylight; a
        very moving letter.--Titmouse and Huckaback think it right
        to go to church; and the former receives a lesson on
        landlord-and-tenant law, from Mrs. Squallop                    94

   IV.  A vision of beauty unseen by Mr. Titmouse; who is in the
        midnight of despair and writes a letter which startles Mr.
        Quirk.--How Gammon used to wind round Quirk; and the subtle
        means he took to find out what Titmouse was about             137

    V.  Gammon tackling Tag-rag.--Satin Lodge, and its refined
        inmates, who all pay their duty to Titmouse; and he very
        nearly falls in love with Miss Tag-rag.
        Cyanochaitanthropopoion                                       181

   VI.  Damascus Cream; Tetaragmenon Abracadabra; Titmouse's levee
        at Closet Court; Mr. Tag-rag's entertainment to him at Satin
        Lodge; and its disgusting issue                               222

  VII.  The reader is now introduced to quite a different set of
        people, in Grosvenor Street, and falls in love with Kate
        Aubrey.--Christmas in the country; Yatton; Madam Aubrey; the
        Reverend Dr. Tatham; and old Blind Bess                       252

 VIII.  Two strange creatures are seen at Yatton by Mr. Aubrey and
        his sister; and a hand-grenade is thrown, unseen, at the
        feet of the latter.--Country life; Yatton; Fotheringham; the
        two beauties; and an angel beset by an imp                    297

   IX.  The explosion of the hand-grenade; shattered hopes and
        happiness.--A winter evening's gossip at the Aubrey Arms,
        among Yatton villagers, and its grievous interruption         332

    X.  Gammon _versus_ Tag-rag; and Snap _cum_ Titmouse,
        introducing him to life in London--of one sort.--The feast
        of reason and the flow of soul at Alibi House; Mr. Quirk's
        banquet to Titmouse, who is overcome by it.--Titmouse seems
        to hesitate between Miss Quirk and Kate Aubrey                372

   XI.  Suffering; dignity; tenderness; resignation                   415

  XII.  How the great flaw was discovered in Mr. Aubrey's title; but
        a terrible hitch occurs in the proceedings of his opponents   431

 XIII.  Madam Aubrey's death and burial; Gammon smitten with the
        sight of Kate Aubrey's beauty; and a great battle takes
        place at the York assizes for Yatton                          454

        Notes                                                         507



CHAPTER I.


About ten o'clock one Sunday morning, in the month of July 18--, the
dazzling sunbeams, which had for several hours irradiated a little
dismal back attic in one of the closest courts adjoining Oxford Street,
in London, and stimulated with their intensity the closed eyelids of a
young man--one TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE--lying in bed, at length awoke him. He
rubbed his eyes for some time, to relieve himself from the irritation
occasioned by the sudden glare they encountered; and yawned and
stretched his limbs with a heavy sense of weariness, as though his sleep
had not refreshed him. He presently cast his eyes towards the heap of
clothes lying huddled together on the backless chair by the bedside,
where he had hastily flung them about an hour after midnight; at which
time he had returned from a great draper's shop in Oxford Street, where
he served as a shopman, and where he had nearly dropped asleep, after a
long day's work, in the act of putting up the shutters. He could hardly
keep his eyes open while he undressed, short as was the time required to
do so; and on dropping exhausted into bed, there he had continued, in
deep unbroken slumber, till the moment of his being presented to the
reader.--He lay for several minutes, stretching, yawning, and sighing,
occasionally casting an irresolute glance towards the tiny fireplace,
where lay a modicum of wood and coal, with a tinder-box and a match or
two placed upon the hob, so that he could easily light his fire for the
purposes of shaving, and breakfasting. He stepped at length lazily out
of bed, and when he felt his feet, again yawned and stretched himself.
Then he lit his fire, placed his bit of a kettle on the top of it, and
returned to bed, where he lay with his eye fixed on the fire, watching
the crackling blaze insinuate itself through the wood and coal. Once,
however, it began to fail, so he had to get up and assist it, by
blowing, and bits of paper; and it seemed in so precarious a state that
he determined not again to lie down, but sit on the bedside: as he did,
with his arms folded, ready to resume operations if necessary. In this
posture he remained for some time, watching his little fire, and
listlessly listening to the discordant jangling of innumerable
church-bells, clamorously calling the citizens to their devotions. The
current of thoughts passing through his mind, was something like the
following:--

"Heigho!--Lud, Lud!--Dull as ditch water!--This is my only holiday, yet
I don't seem to enjoy it!--for I feel knocked up with my week's work! (A
yawn.) What a life mine is, to be sure! Here am I, in my
eight-and-twentieth year, and for four long years have been one of the
shopmen at Tag-rag & Co.'s, slaving from half-past seven o'clock in the
morning till nine at night, and all for a salary of thirty-five pounds
a-year, and my board! And Mr. Tag-rag--eugh! what a beast!--is always
telling me how high he's raised my salary!! Thirty-five pounds a-year is
all I have for lodging, and turning out like a gentleman! 'Pon my soul!
it _can't_ last; for sometimes I feel getting desperate--such strange
thoughts come into my mind!--Seven shillings a-week do I pay for _this_
cursed hole--(he uttered these words with a bitter emphasis, accompanied
by a disgustful look round the little room)--that one couldn't swing a
cat in without touching the four sides!--Last winter three of our gents
(_i. e._ his fellow-shopmen) came to tea with me one Sunday night; and
bitter cold as it was, we four made this cussed dog-hole so hot, we were
obliged to open the window!--And as for accommodation--I recollect I had
to borrow two nasty chairs from the people below, who on the next Sunday
borrowed my only decanter, in return, and, hang them, cracked it!--Curse
me, say I, if this life is worth having! It's all the very vanity of
vanities--as it's said somewhere in the Bible--and no mistake! Fag, fag,
fag, all one's days, and--what for? Thirty-five pounds a-year, and '_no
advance!_' (Here occurred a pause and revery, from which he was roused
by the clangor of the church-bells.) Bah, bells! ring away till you're
all cracked!--Now do you think _I'm_ going to be mewed up in church on
this the only day out of the seven I've got to sweeten myself in, and
sniff fresh air? A precious joke that would be! (A yawn.) Whew!--after
all, I'd almost as lieve sit here; for what's the use of my going out?
Everybody I see out is happy, excepting me, and the poor chaps that are
like me!--Everybody laughs when they see me, and know that I'm only a
tallow-faced counter-jumper--I know that's the odious name we gents go
by!--for whom it's no use to go out--for one day in seven can't give one
a bloom! Oh, Lord! what's the use of being good-looking, as _some_ chaps
say I am?"--Here he instinctively passed his left hand through a
profusion of sandy-colored hair, and cast an eye towards the bit of
fractured looking-glass which hung against the wall, and had, by
faithfully representing to him a by no means ugly set of features
(despite the dismal hue of his hair) whenever he chose to appeal to it,
afforded him more enjoyment than any other object in the world, for
years. "Ah, by Jove! many and many's the fine gal I've done my best to
attract the notice of, while I was serving her in the shop--that is,
when I've seen her get out of a carriage! There has been luck to many a
chap like me, in the same line of speculation: look at Tom Tarnish--how
did he get Miss Twang, the rich pianoforte-maker's daughter?--and _now_
he's cut the shop, and lives at Hackney, like a regular gentleman! Ah!
that _was_ a stroke! But somehow it hasn't answered with _me_ yet; the
gals don't take! How I have set my eyes to be sure, and ogled
them!--_All_ of them don't seem to dislike the thing--and sometimes
they'll smile, in a sort of way that says I'm safe--but it's been no use
yet, not a bit of it!--My eyes! catch me, by the way, ever nodding again
to a lady on the Sunday, that had smiled when I stared at her while
serving her in the shop--after what happened to me a month or two ago in
the Park! Didn't I feel like damaged goods, just then? But it's no
matter, women are so different at different times!--Very likely I
mismanaged the thing. By the way, what a precious puppy of a chap the
fellow was that came up to her at the time she stepped out of her
carriage to walk a bit! As for good looks--cut me to ribbons (another
glance at the glass) no; I a'n't afraid _there_,
neither--but--heigho!--I suppose he was, as they say, born with a golden
spoon in his mouth, and had never so many a thousand a-year, to make up
to him for never so few brains! He was uncommon well-dressed, though, I
must own. What trousers!--they stuck so natural to him, he might have
been born in them. And his waistcoat, and satin stock--what an air! And
yet, his figure was nothing _very_ out of the way! His gloves, as white
as snow; I've no doubt he wears a pair of them a-day--my stars! that's
three-and-sixpence a-day; for don't I know what _they_ cost?--Whew! if I
had but the cash to carry on that sort of thing!--And when he'd seen
her into her carriage--the horse he got on!--and what a tip-top
groom--that chap's wages, I'll answer for it, were equal to my salary!
(Here was another pause.) Now, just for the fun of the thing, only
suppose luck was to befall _me_! Say that somebody was to leave me lots
of cash--many thousands a-year, or something in that line! My stars!
wouldn't I go it with the best of them! (Another long pause.) Gad, I
really should hardly know how to begin to spend it!--I think, by the
way, I'd buy a _title_ to set off with--for what won't money buy? The
thing's often done; there was a great pawn-broker in the city, the other
day, made a baronet of, all for his money--and why shouldn't I?" He grew
a little heated with the progress of his reflections, clasping his hands
with involuntary energy, as he stretched them out to their fullest
extent, to give effect to a very hearty yawn. "Lord, only think how it
would sound!--

     "SIR TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, BARONET;" or, "LORD TITMOUSE!!"

"The very first place I'd go to, after I'd got my title, and was rigged
out in Tight-fit's tip-top, should be--our cursed shop! to buy a dozen
or two pair of white kid. Ah, ha! What a flutter there would be among
the poor pale devils as were standing, just as ever, behind the
counters, at Tag-rag and Co.'s when my carriage drew up, and I stepped,
a tip-top swell, into the shop. Tag-rag would come and attend to me
himself! No, he wouldn't--pride wouldn't let him. I don't know, though:
what wouldn't he do to turn a penny, and make two and nine-pence into
three and a penny? I shouldn't _quite_ come Captain Stiff over him, I
think, just at first; but I should treat him with a kind of an air, too,
as if--hem! 'Pon my life! how delightful! (A sigh and a pause.) Yes, I
should often come to the shop. Gad, it would be half the fun of my
fortune! How they would envy me, to be sure! How one should enjoy it! I
wouldn't think of _marrying_ till--and yet I won't say either; if I got
among some of them out-and-outers--those first-rate articles--that lady,
for instance, the other day in the Park--I should like to see her cut me
as she did, with ten thousand a-year in my pocket! Why, she'd be running
after _me_!--or there's no truth in novels, which I'm sure there's often
a great deal in. Oh, of course, I might marry whom I pleased! Who
couldn't be got with ten thousand a-year? (Another pause.) I think I
should go abroad to Russia directly; for they tell me there's a man
lives there who could dye this cussed hair of mine any color I
liked--and--egad! I'd come home as black as a crow, and hold up my head
as high as any of them! While I was about it, I'd have a touch at my
eyebrows"---- Crash here went all his castle-building, at the sound of
his tea-kettle, hissing, whizzing, sputtering, in the agonies of boiling
over; as if the intolerable heat of the fire had driven desperate the
poor creature placed upon it, which instinctively tried thus to
extinguish the cause of its anguish. Having taken it off, and placed it
upon the hob, and put on the fire a tiny fragment of fresh coal, he
began to make preparations for shaving, by pouring some of the hot water
into an old tea-cup, which was presently to serve for the purposes of
breakfast. Then he spread out a bit of crumpled whity-brown paper, in
which had been folded up a couple of cigars, bought over-night for the
Sunday's special enjoyment--and as to which, if he supposed they had
come from any place beyond the four seas, I imagine him to have been
slightly mistaken. He placed this bit of paper on the little
mantel-piece; drew his solitary well-worn razor several times across the
palm of his left hand; dipped his brush, worn, within half an inch, to
the stump, into the hot water; presently passed it over so much of his
face as he intended to shave; then rubbed on the damp surface a bit of
yellow soap--and in less than five minutes Mr. Titmouse was a shaved
man. But mark--don't suppose that he had performed an extensive
operation. One would have thought him anxious to get rid of as much as
possible of his abominable sandy-colored hair. Quite the contrary! Every
hair of his spreading whiskers was sacred from the touch of steel; and a
bushy crop of hair stretched underneath his chin, coming curled out on
each side of it, above his stock, like two little horns or tusks. An
imperial--_i. e._ a dirt-colored tuft of hair, permitted to grow
perpendicularly down the under-lip of puppies--and a pair of promising
mustaches, poor Mr. Titmouse had been compelled to sacrifice some time
before, to the tyrannical whimsies of his vulgar employer, Mr. Tag-rag,
who imagined them not to be exactly suitable appendages for
counter-jumpers. Thus will it be seen that the space shaved over on this
occasion was somewhat circumscribed. This operation over, he took out of
his trunk an old dirty-looking pomatum pot. A modicum of its contents,
extracted on the tips of his two forefingers, he stroked carefully into
his eyebrows; then spreading some on the palms of his hands, he rubbed
it vigorously into his stubborn hair and whiskers for some quarter of an
hour; afterwards combing and brushing his hair into half a dozen
different dispositions--so fastidious in that matter was Mr. Titmouse.
Then he dipped the end of a towel into a little water, and twisting it
round his right forefinger, passed it gently over his face, carefully
avoiding his eyebrows, and the hair at the top, sides, and bottom of his
face, which he then wiped with a dry corner of the towel; and no farther
did Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse think it necessary to carry his ablutions.
Had he, however, been able to "see himself as others saw him," in
respect of those neglected regions which lay somewhere behind and
beneath his ears, he might not, possibly, have thought it superfluous to
irrigate them with a little soap and water; but, after all, he knew
best; it might have given him cold: and besides, his hair was very thick
and long behind, and might perhaps conceal anything that was unsightly.
Then Mr. Titmouse drew from underneath the bed a bottle of "incomparable
blacking," and a couple of brushes; with great labor and skill polishing
his boots up to a wonderful degree of brilliancy. Having replaced his
blacking implements under the bed and washed his hands, he devoted a few
moments to boiling about three tea-spoonfuls of coffee, (as it was
styled on the paper from which he took, and in which he had bought,
it--whereas it was, in fact, _chiccory_.) Then he drew forth from his
trunk a calico shirt, with linen wristbands and collar, which had been
worn only twice--_i. e._ on the preceding two Sundays--since its last
washing--and put it on, taking great care not to rumple a very showy
front, containing three rows of frills; in the middle one of which he
stuck three "studs," connected together with two little gilt chains,
looking exceedingly stylish--especially when coupled with a span-new
satin stock, which he next buckled round his neck. Having put on his
bright boots, (without, I am really sorry to say, any stockings,) he
carefully insinuated his legs into a pair of white trousers, for the
first time since their last washing; and what with his short straps and
high braces, they were so tight that you would have feared their
bursting if he should have sat down hastily. I am almost afraid that I
shall hardly be believed; but it is a fact, that the next thing he did
was to attach a pair of spurs to his boots:--but, to be sure, it was not
_impossible_ that he might intend to ride during the day. Then he put on
a queer kind of under-waistcoat, which in fact was only a roll-collar of
rather faded pea-green silk, and designed to set off a very fine
flowered damson-colored silk waistcoat; over which he drew a massive
mosaic-gold chain, (to purchase which he had sold a serviceable silver
watch,) which had been carefully wrapped up in cotton wool; from which
soft depository, also, he drew HIS RING, (those must have been sharp
eyes which could tell, at a distance, and in a hurry, that it was not
diamond,) which he placed on the stumpy little finger of his red and
thick right hand--and contemplated its sparkle with exquisite
satisfaction. Having proceeded thus far with his toilet, he sat down to
his breakfast, spreading upon his lap the shirt which he had taken off,
to preserve his white trousers from spot or stain--his thoughts
alternating between his late waking vision and his purposes for the day.
He had no butter, having used the last on the preceding morning; so he
was fain to put up with dry bread--and very dry and teeth-trying it was,
poor fellow--but his eye lit on his ring! Having swallowed two cups of
his _quasi_-coffee, (eugh! such stuff!) he resumed his toilet, by
drawing out of his other trunk his blue surtout, with embossed silk
buttons and velvet collar, and an outside pocket in the left breast.
Having smoothed down a few creases, he put it on:--then, before his
little vulgar fraction of a looking-glass, he stood twitching about the
collar, and sleeves, and front, so as to make them sit well; concluding
with a careful elongation of the wristbands of his shirt, so as to show
their whiteness gracefully beyond the cuff of his coat-sleeve--and he
succeeded in producing a sort of white boundary line between the blue of
his coat-sleeve and the red of his hand. At that useful member he could
not help looking with a sigh, as he had often done before--for it was
not a handsome hand. It was broad and red, and the fingers were thick
and stumpy, with very coarse deep wrinkles at every joint. His nails
also were flat and shapeless; and he used to be continually gnawing
them till he had succeeded in getting them down to the quick--and they
were a sight to set one's teeth on edge. Then he extracted from the
first-mentioned trunk a white pocket handkerchief--an exemplary one,
that had gone through four Sundays' show, (not _use_, be it understood,)
and yet was capable of exhibition again. A pair of sky-colored kid
gloves next made their appearance: which, however, showed such barefaced
marks of former service as rendered indispensable a ten minutes' rubbing
with bread-crumbs. His Sunday hat, carefully covered with silver-paper,
was next gently removed from its well-worn box--ah, how lightly and
delicately did he pass his smoothing hand round its glossy surface!
Lastly, he took down a thin black cane, with a gilt head, and full brown
tassel, from a peg behind the door--and his toilet was complete. Laying
down his cane for a moment, he passed his hands again through his hair,
arranging it so as to fall nicely on each side beneath his hat, which he
then placed upon his head, with an elegant inclination towards the left
side. He was really not bad-looking, in spite of his sandy-colored hair.
His forehead, to be sure, was contracted, and his eyes were of a very
light color, and a trifle too protuberant; but his mouth was rather
well-formed, and being seldom closed, exhibited very beautiful teeth;
and his nose was of that description which generally passes for a Roman
nose. His countenance wore generally a smile, and was expressive
of--self-satisfaction: and surely any expression is better than none at
all. As for there being the slightest trace of _intellect_ in it, I
should be misleading the reader if I were to say anything of the sort.
In height, he was about five feet and a quarter of an inch, _in his
boots_, and he was rather strongly set, with a little tendency to round
shoulders:--but his limbs were pliant, and his motions nimble.

Here you have, then, Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse to the life--certainly no
more than an average sample of his kind; but as he is to go through a
considerable variety of situation and circumstance, I thought you would
like to have him as distinctly before your mind's eye as it was in my
power to present him.--Well--he put his hat on, as I have said; buttoned
the lowest two buttons of his surtout, and stuck his white pocket
handkerchief into the outside pocket in front, as already mentioned,
anxiously disposing it so as to let a little appear above the edge of
the pocket, with a sort of careful carelessness--a graceful contrast to
the blue; drew on his gloves; took his cane in his hand; drained the
last sad remnant of infusion of chiccory in his coffee-cup; and, the sun
shining in the full splendor of a July noon, and promising a glorious
day, forth sallied this poor fellow, an Oxford Street Adonis, going
forth conquering and to conquer! Petty finery without, a pinched and
stinted stomach within; a case of Back _versus_ Belly, (as the lawyers
would have it,) the plaintiff winning in a canter! Forth sallied, I say,
Mr. Titmouse, as also, doubtless, sallied forth that day some five or
six thousand similar personages, down the narrow, creaking, close
staircase, which he had no sooner quitted than he heard exclaimed from
an opposite window, "My eyes! _a'n't_ that a swell!" He felt how true
the observation was, and that at that moment he was somewhat out of his
element; so he hurried on, and soon reached that great broad
disheartening street, apostrophized by the celebrated Opium-Eater,[1]
with bitter feeling, as--"Oxford Street!--stony-hearted stepmother! Thou
that listenest to the sighs of orphans, and drinkest the tears of
children!" Here, though his spirits were not just then very buoyant, our
poor little dandy breathed more freely than when he was passing through
the wretched crowded court (Closet Court) which he had just quitted. He
passed and met hundreds who, like himself, seemed released for a
precious day's interval from miserable confinement and slavery during
the week; but there were not very many of them who could vie with him in
elegance of appearance--and that was indeed a luxurious reflection! Who
could do justice to the air with which he strutted along! He felt as
happy, poor soul, in his little ostentation, as his Corinthian rival in
tip-top turn-out, after twice as long, and as anxious, and fifty times
as expensive, preparations for effective public display! Nay, _my_ poor
swell was in some respects greatly the superior of such an one as I have
alluded to. Mr. Titmouse _did_, to a great degree, bedizen his back--but
at the expense of his belly; whereas, the Corinthian exquisite, too
often taking advantage of station and influence, recklessly both pampers
his luxurious appetite within, and decorates his person without, at the
expense of innumerable heart-aching creditors. I do not mean, however,
to claim any real merit for Mr. Titmouse on this score, because I am not
sure how he would act if he were to become possessed of his magnificent
rival's means and opportunities for the perpetration of gentlemanly
frauds on a splendid scale.--But we shall perhaps see by and by.

Mr. Titmouse walked along with leisurely step; for haste and
perspiration were vulgar, and he had the day before him. Observe, now,
the careless glance of self-satisfaction with which he occasionally
regards his bright boots, with their martial appendage, giving out a
faint clinking sound as he heavily treads the broad flags; his spotless
trousers, his tight surtout, and the tip of white handkerchief peeping
_accidentally_ out in front! A pleasant sight it was to behold him in a
chance rencontre with some one genteel enough to be recognized--as he
stood, resting on his left leg; his left arm stuck upon his hip; his
right leg easily bent outwards; his right hand lightly holding his ebon
cane, with the gilt head of which he occasionally tapped his teeth; and
his eyes, half closed, scrutinizing the face and figure of each "_pretty
gal_" as she passed, and to whom he had a delicious consciousness that
he appeared an object of interest! This was indeed HAPPINESS, as far as
his forlorn condition could admit of his enjoying happiness.--He had no
particular object in view. A tiff over-night with two of his shopmates,
had broken off a party which they had agreed the Sunday preceding in
forming, to go that day to Greenwich; and this trifling circumstance had
a little soured his temper, depressed as had been his spirits before. He
resolved, on consideration, to walk straight on, and dine somewhere a
little way out of town, by way of passing the time till four o'clock, at
which hour he intended to make his appearance in Hyde Park, "to see the
swells and the fashions," which was his favorite Sunday occupation.

His condition was, indeed, forlorn in the extreme. To say nothing of his
_prospects_ in life--what was his present condition? A shopman with
thirty-five pounds a-year, out of which he had to find his clothing,
washing, lodging, and all other incidental expenses--the chief item of
his board--such as it was--being found him by his employers! He was five
weeks in arrear to his landlady--a corpulent old termagant, whom nothing
could have induced him to risk offending, but his overmastering love of
finery; for I grieve to say, that this deficiency had been occasioned by
his purchase of the ring he then wore with so much pride! How he had
contrived to pacify her--lie upon lie he must have had recourse to--I
know not. He was indebted also to his poor washerwoman in five or six
shillings for at least a quarter's washing; and owed five times that
amount to a little old tailor, who, with huge spectacles on his nose,
turned up to him, out of a little cupboard which he occupied in Closet
Court, and which Titmouse had to pass whenever he went to or from his
lodgings, a lean, sallow, wrinkled face, imploring him to "settle his
small account." All the cash in hand which he had to meet contingencies
between that day and quarter-day, which was six weeks off, was about
twenty-six shillings, of which he had taken one for the present day's
expenses!

Revolving these somewhat disheartening matters in his mind, he passed
easily and leisurely along the whole length of Oxford Street. No one
could have judged from his dressy appearance, the constant smirk on his
face, and his confident air, how very miserable that poor little dandy
was; but three-fourths of his misery were really occasioned by the
impossibility he felt of his ever being able to indulge in his
propensities for finery and display. Nothing better had he to occupy his
few thoughts. He had had only a plain mercantile education, as it is
called, _i. e._ reading, writing, and arithmetic; beyond an exceedingly
moderate acquaintance with these, he knew nothing whatever; not having
read anything except a few inferior novels, and plays, and sporting
newspapers. Deplorable, however, as were his circumstances--

    "Hope springs eternal in the human breast."

And probably, in common with most who are miserable from straitened
circumstances, he often conceived, and secretly relied upon, the
possibility of some unexpected and accidental change for the better. He
had heard and read of extraordinary cases of LUCK. Why might he not be
one of the LUCKY? A rich girl might fall in love with him--that was,
poor fellow! in his consideration, one of the least unlikely ways of
luck's advent; or some one might leave him money; or he might win a
prize in the lottery;--all these, and other accidental modes of getting
rich, frequently occurred to the well-regulated mind of Mr. Tittlebat
Titmouse; but he never once thought of one thing, viz. of determined,
unwearying industry, perseverance, and integrity in the way of his
business, conducing to such a result!

Is his case a solitary one?--Dear reader, _you_ may be unlike poor
Tittlebat Titmouse in every respect except _one_!

On he walked towards Bayswater; and finding that it was yet early, and
considering that the farther he went from town the better prospect there
would be of his being able, with little sacrifice of appearances, to get
a dinner consistent with the means he carried about with him, viz. one
shilling, he pursued his way a mile or two beyond Bayswater; and, sure
enough, came at length upon a nice little public-house on the roadside,
called the Square-toes Arms. Very tired, and very dusty, he first sat
down in a small back room to rest himself; and took the opportunity to
call for a clothes-brush and shoe-brush, to relieve his clothes and
boots from the heavy dust upon them. Having thus attended to his outer
man, as far as circumstances would permit, he bethought himself of his
inner man, whose cravings he presently satisfied with a pretty
substantial mutton-pie and a pint of porter. This fare, together with a
penny (which he felt _forced_ to give) to the little girl who waited on
him, cost him tenpence; and then, having somewhat refreshed himself, he
began to think of returning to town. Having lit one of his two cigars,
he sallied forth, puffing along with an air of quiet enjoyment. Dinner,
however humble, seldom fails, especially when accompanied by a fair
draught of tolerable porter, in some considerable degree to tranquillize
the animal spirits; and that soothing effect began soon to be
experienced by Mr. Titmouse. The sedative _cause_ he erroneously
considered to be the cigar he was smoking; whereas in fact the only
tobacco he had imbibed was from the porter. But, however that might be,
he certainly returned towards town in a calmer and more cheerful humor
than that in which he had quitted it an hour or two before.

As he approached Cumberland Gate, it was about half-past five; and the
Park might be said to be at its _acme_ of fashion, as far as that could
be indicated by a sluggish stream of carriages, three and four
abreast--coroneted panels in abundance--noble and well-known equestrians
of both sexes, in troops--and some hundreds of pedestrians of the same
description. So continuous was the throng of carriages and horsemen,
that Titmouse did not find it the easiest matter in the world to dart
across to the footpath in the inner circle. That, however, he presently
safely accomplished, encountering no more serious mischance than the
muttered "D--n your eyes!" of a haughty groom, between whom and his
master Mr. Titmouse had presumed to intervene. What a crowd of elegant
women, many of them young and beautiful, (who but such, to be sure,
would have become, or been allowed to become, pedestrians in the Park?)
he encountered, as he slowly sauntered on, all of them obsequiously
attended by brilliant beaux! Lords and ladies were here manifestly as
plentiful as plebeians in Oxford Street. What an enchanted ground!--How
delicious this soft crush and flutter of aristocracy! Poor Titmouse felt
at once an intense pleasure, and a withering consciousness of his utter
insignificance. Many a sigh of dissatisfaction and envy escaped him; yet
he stepped along with a tolerably assured air, looking everybody he met
straight in the face, and occasionally twirling about his little cane
with an air which seemed to say--"Whatever opinion _you_ may form of me,
I have a very good opinion of myself." Indeed, was he not as much a
man--an Englishman--as the best of them? What was the real difference
between Count Do-'em-all and Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse? Only that the Count
had dark hair and whiskers, and owed more money than Mr. Titmouse's
creditors could be persuaded to allow _him_ to owe! Would to
Heaven--thought Titmouse--that any _one_ tailor would patronize _him_ as
half a dozen had patronized the Count! If pretty ladies of quality did
not disdain a walking advertisement of a few first-rate tailors, like
the Count, why should they turn up their noses at an assistant in an
extensive wholesale and retail establishment in Oxford Street,
conversant with the qualities and prices of the most beautiful articles
of female attire? Yet alas, they _did_ so!---- He sighed heavily.
Leaning against the railing in a studied attitude, and eying wistfully
each gay and fashionable equipage, with its often lovely, and sometimes
haughty enclosure, as it rolled slowly past him, Mr. Titmouse became
more and more convinced of a great practical truth, viz. that the only
real distinction between mankind was that effected by money. Want of
money alone had placed him in his present abject position. Abject
indeed! By the great folk, who were passing him on all sides, he felt,
well-dressed as he believed himself to be, that he was no more noticed
than as if he had been an ant, a blue-bottle fly, or a black beetle! He
looked, and sighed--sighed, and looked--looked, and sighed again, in a
kind of agony of vain longing. While his only day in the week for
breathing fresh air, and appearing like a gentleman in the world, was
rapidly drawing to a close, and he was beginning to think of returning
to the dog-hole he had crawled out of in the morning, and to the shop
for the rest of the week; the great, and gay, and happy folk he was
looking at, were thinking of driving home to dress for their grand
dinners, and to lay out every kind of fine amusement for the ensuing
week: and that, moreover, was the sort of life they led every day in
the week! He heaved a profound sigh. At that moment a superb cab, with a
gentleman in it dressed in great elegance, and with very keen dark eyes,
and striking nose and whiskers, came up with a cab of still more
exquisite structure and appointments, and at which Titmouse gazed with
unutterable feelings of envy--in which sat a young man, evidently of
consequence; very handsome, with splendid mustaches; perfectly
well-dressed; holding the reins and whip gracefully in hands glistening
in straw-colored kid gloves--and between the two gentlemen ensued the
following low-toned colloquy, which it were to be wished that every such
sighing simpleton (as Titmouse must, I fear, by this time appear to the
reader) could have overheard.

"Ah, Fitz!" said the former-mentioned gentleman to the latter, who
suddenly reddened when he perceived who had addressed him. The manner of
the speaker was execrably familiar and presumptuous--but how could the
embarrassed _swell_ help himself?--"When did you return to town?"

"Last night only"----

"Enjoyed yourself, I hope?"

"Pretty well--but--I--suppose you"----

"Sorry for it," interrupted the first speaker in a lower tone,
perceiving the vexation of his companion; "but can't help it, you know."

"When?"

"To-morrow at nine. Monstrous sorry for it--'pon my soul, you really
must look sharp, Fitz, or the thing won't go on much longer."

"Must it be, really?" inquired the other, biting his lips--at that
moment kissing his hand to a very beautiful girl, who slowly passed him
in a coroneted chariot--"must it really be, Joe?" he repeated, turning
towards his companion a pale and bitterly chagrined countenance.

"Poz, 'pon my life. Cage clean, however, and not very full--just at
present"----

"Would not _Wednesday_!"--inquired the other, leaning forward towards
the former speaker's cab, and whispering with an air of intense
earnestness. "The fact is, I've engagements at C----'s on Monday and
Tuesday nights with one or two country cousins, and I _may_ be in a
condition--eh? you understand?"

His companion shook his head distrustfully.

"Upon my word and honor as a gentleman, it's the fact!" said the other,
in a low vehement tone.

"Then--say Wednesday, nine o'clock, A. M. You understand? No mistake,
Fitz!" replied his companion, looking him steadily in the face as he
spoke.

"None--honor!"--After a pause--"Who is it?"

His companion took a slip of paper out of his pocket, and in a whisper
read from it--"Cab, harness, &c., £297, 10s."

"A villain! It's been of only three years' standing," interrupted the
other, in an indignant mutter.

"Between ourselves, he _is_ rather a sharp hand. Then, I'm sorry to say
there's a Detainer or two I have had a hint of"----

The swell uttered an execration which I dare not convey to paper--his
face distorted with an expression of mingled disgust, vexation, and
hatred; and adding, "Wednesday--nine"--drove off, a picture of tranquil
enjoyment.

I need hardly say that _he_ was a fashionable young spendthrift, and the
other a sheriff's officer of the first water--the genteelest _beak_ that
ever was known or heard of--who had been on the look-out for him several
days, and with whom the happy youngster was doomed to spend some
considerable time at a cheerful residence in Chancery Lane, bleeding
gold at every pore the while:--his only chance of avoiding which, was,
as he had truly hinted, an honorable attempt on the purses of two
hospitable country cousins, in the meanwhile, at C----'s! And if he did
not succeed in that enterprise, so that he _must_ go to cage, he lost
the only chance he had for some time of securing an exemption from such
annoyance, by entering Parliament to protect the liberties of the
people--an eloquent and resolute champion of freedom in trade, religion,
and everything else; and an abolitionist of everything, including,
especially, negro slavery and imprisonment for debt[2]--two execrable
violations of the natural rights of mankind.

But I have, for several minutes, lost sight of the admiring Titmouse.

"Why," thought he, "am _I_ thus spited by fortune?--The only thing she's
given _me_ is--nothing!--_D--n everything!_" exclaimed Mr. Titmouse
aloud, at the same time starting off, to the infinite astonishment of an
old peer, who had been for some minutes standing leaning against the
railing, close beside him; who was master of a magnificent fortune,
"with all appliances and means to boot;" with a fine grown-up family,
his eldest son and heir having just gained a Double First, and promising
wonders; possessing many mansions in different parts of England; a
reputation for exquisite taste and accomplishment; and being the
representative of one of the oldest families in England; but who at that
moment loathed everything and everybody, including himself, because the
minister had the day before intimated to him that he could not give him
a vacant ribbon, for which he had applied, unless he could command two
more votes in the Lower House, and which at present his lordship saw no
earthly means of doing. Yes, the Earl of Cheviotdale and Mr. Tittlebat
Titmouse were both miserable men; both had been hardly dealt with by
fortune; both were greatly to be pitied; and both quitted the Park,
about the same time, with a decided misanthropic tendency.

Mr. Titmouse walked along Piccadilly with a truly chopfallen and
disconsolate air. He very nearly felt dissatisfied even with his
personal appearance! Dress as he would, no one seemed to care a curse
for him; and, to his momentarily jaundiced eye, he seemed equipped in
only second-hand and shabby finery; and then he was really such a _poor_
devil!--Do not, however, let the reader suppose that this was an unusual
mood with Mr. Titmouse. No such thing. Like the Irishman who "married a
wife for to make him _un-aisy_;" and also not unlike the moth that
_will_ haunt the brightness which is her destruction; so poor Titmouse,
Sunday after Sunday, dressed himself out as elaborately as he had done
on the present occasion, and then always betook himself to the scene he
had just again witnessed, and which had once again excited only those
feelings of envy, bitterness, and despair, which I have been describing,
and which, on every such occasion, he experienced with, if possible,
increased intensity.

What to do with himself till it should be time to return to his
cheerless lodgings he did not exactly know; so he loitered along at a
snail's pace. He stood for some time staring at the passengers, their
luggage, and the coaches they were ascending and alighting from, and
listening to the strange medley of coachmens', guards', and porters'
vociferations, and passengers' greetings and leave-takings--always to be
observed at the White Horse Cellar. Then he passed along, till a street
row, near the Haymarket, attracted his attention and interested his
feelings; for it ended in a regular set-to between two watermen attached
to the adjoining coach-stand. Here he conceived himself looking on with
the easy air of a swell; and the ordinary penalty (paying for his
footing) was attempted to be exacted from him; but he had nothing to be
picked out of any of his pockets except that under his very nose, and
which contained his white handkerchief! This over, he struck into
Leicester Square, where, (he was in luck that night,) hurrying up to
another crowd at the farther end, he found a man preaching with infinite
energy. Mr. Titmouse looked on, and listened for two or three minutes
with apparent interest; and then, with a countenance in which pity
struggled with contempt, muttered, loud enough to be heard by all near
him, "poor devil!" and walked off. He had not proceeded many steps,
before it occurred to him that a friend--one Robert Huckaback, much such
another one as himself--lived in one of the narrow, dingy streets in the
neighborhood. He determined to take the chances of his being at home,
and if so, of spending the remainder of the evening with him.
Huckaback's quarters were in the same ambitious proximity to heaven as
his own; the only difference being, that they were a trifle cheaper and
larger. He answered the door himself, having only the moment before
returned from _his_ Sunday's excursion,--_i. e._ the Jack Straw's Castle
Tea-Gardens, at Highgate, where, in company with several of his friends,
he had "spent a jolly afternoon." He ordered in a glass of negus from
the adjoining public-house, after some discussion, which ended in an
agreement that he should stand treat that night, and Titmouse on the
ensuing Sunday night. As soon as the negus had arrived, accompanied by
two sea-biscuits, which looked so hard and hopeless that they would have
made the nerves thrill within the teeth of him that meditated attempting
to masticate them, the candle was lit; Huckaback handed a cigar to his
friend; and both began to puff away, and chatter pleasantly concerning
the many events and scenes of the day.

"Anything stirring in to-day's 'Flash?'" inquired Titmouse, as his eye
caught sight of a copy of that able and interesting Sunday newspaper,
the "SUNDAY FLASH," which Huckaback had hired for the evening from the
news-shop on the ground-floor of his lodgings.

Mr. Huckaback removed his cigar from his mouth, and holding it between
the first and second fingers of his right hand, in a knowing style, with
closed eyes and inflated cheeks, very slowly ejected the smoke which he
had last inhaled, and rose and got the paper from the top of the
drawers.

"Here's a mark of a beastly porter-pot that's been set upon it, by all
that's holy! It's been at the public-house! Too bad of Mrs. Coggs to
send it me up in this state!" said he, handling it as though its touch
were contamination.--(He was to pay only a halfpenny for the perusal of
it.) "Faugh! how it stinks!"

"What a horrid beast she must be!" exclaimed Titmouse, after, in like
manner as his friend, expelling his mouthful of smoke. "But, since
better can't be had, let's hear what news is in it. Demmee! it's the
only paper published, in my opinion, that's worth reading!--Any fights
astirring?"

"Haven't come to them yet; give a man _time_, Titty!" replied Huckaback,
fixing his feet on another chair, and drawing the candle closer to the
paper. "It says, by the way, that the Duke of Dunderhead is certainly
making up to Mrs. Thumps, the rich cheesemonger's widow;--a precious
good hit that, isn't it? You know the Duke's as poor as a rat!"

"Oh! _that's_ no news. It's been in the papers for I don't know how
long. Egad, 't will quite set him up--and no mistake. Seen the Duke
ever?"

"Ye--es! Oh, several times!" replied Huckaback. This was a lie, and
Huckaback knew that it was.

"Deuced good-looking, I suppose?"

"Why--middling; I should say middling. Know _some_ that needn't fear to
compare with _him_--eh! Tit?"--and Huckaback winked archly at his
friend, meaning him, however, to consider the words as applicable to the
speaker.

"Ah, ha, ha!--a pretty joke! But come, that's a good chap!--You can't be
reading both of those two sheets at once--give us the other sheet, and
set the candle right betwixt us!--Come, fair's the word among _gents_,
you know!"

Huckaback thus appealed to, did as his friend requested; and the two
gentlemen read and smoked for some minutes in silence.

"Well--I shall spell over the advertisements now," said Titmouse, very
emphatically; "there's a pretty lot of them--and I've read everything
else--(though precious little there is, _here_ besides!)--So, here
goes!--One _may_ hear of a prime situation, you know--and I'm quite sick
of Tag-rag!"

Another interval of silence ensued. Huckaback was deep in the ghastly
but instructive details of a trial for murder; and Titmouse, after
having glanced listlessly over the entertaining first sheet of
advertisements, was on the point of laying down his half of the paper,
when he suddenly started in his chair, turned very pale, and stammered--

"Hollo!--hollo, Hucky!--Why"----

"What's the matter, Tit?--eh?" inquired Huckaback, greatly astonished.

For a moment Titmouse made no answer, but, dropping his cigar, fixed his
eyes intently on the paper, which began to rustle in his trembling
hands. What occasioned this outbreak, with its subsequent agitation, was
the following advertisement, which appeared in the most conspicuous part
of the "SUNDAY FLASH:"--

     "NEXT OF KIN--Important.--The next of kin, if any such there be, of
     GABRIEL TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, formerly of WHITEHAVEN, cordwainer, and
     who died somewhere about the year 1793, in London, may hear of
     something of the GREATEST POSSIBLE IMPORTANCE to himself, or
     herself, or themselves, by immediately communicating with Messrs.
     QUIRK, GAMMON, and SNAP, Solicitors, Saffron Hill. No time is to be
     lost. 9th July 18--.--_The third advertisement._"

"By George! Here _is_ a go!" exclaimed Huckaback, almost as much
flustered as Titmouse over whose shoulder he had hastily read the above
paragraph.

"We aren't dreaming, Hucky--are we?" inquired Titmouse, faintly, his
eyes still glued to the newspaper.

"No--by George! Never was either of us fellows so precious wide awake in
our lives before! that I'll answer for!" Titmouse sat still, and turned
paler even than before.

"Read it up, Huck!--Let's hear how it _sounds_, and then we shall
believe it!" said he, handing the paper to his friend.

Huckaback read it aloud.

"It sounds like something, don't it?" inquired Titmouse, tremulously,
his color a little returning.

"Uncommon!--If this isn't _something_, then there's nothing in anything
any more!" replied Huckaback, solemnly, at the same time emphatically
slapping the table.

"No!--'Pon my soul! but do you really think so?" said Titmouse, seeking
still further confirmation than he had yet derived from his senses of
sight and hearing.

"I do, by jingo!" repeated Huckaback--"What a go it is!--Well, my poor
old mother used to say, 'depend on it, wonders never _will_ cease;' and
curse me if she ever said a truer word!"

Titmouse again read over the advertisement; and then picking up and
relighting his fragment of cigar, puffed earnestly in silence for some
moments.

"Such things never happens to such a poor devil of a chap as me!"
exclaimed Huckaback, with a sigh.

"What _is_ in the wind, I wonder?" muttered Titmouse. "Who
knows--hem!--who knows?--But now, _really_"---- he paused, and once more
read over the pregnant paragraph.--"It can't--no, curse me, it _can't_
be"---- he added, looking very serious.

"What, Tit? _What_ can't be?" interrupted Huckaback, eagerly.

"Why, I've been thinking--but what do _you_ think, eh?--it can't
_hardly_ be a cursed hoax of the chaps in the premises at Tag-rag's?"

"Bo!--Is there any of 'em flush enough of money to do the thing? And how
should they think it would ever come to be seen by you?--Then, besides,
there isn't a chap among them that could come up to the composing a
piece of composition like that--no, not for all a whole year's
salary--there isn't, by George! You and I couldn't do it, and, of
course, _they_ couldn't!"

"Ah! I don't know," said Titmouse, doubtfully. "But--honor!--do you
really now think there's anything in it?"

"I do--I'm blowed if I don't, Tit!" was the sententious answer.

"Tol de rol, de rol, de rol, de rol--diddl'em--daddl'em--bang!" almost
shouted Titmouse, jumping up, snapping his fingers, and dancing about in
a wild ecstasy, which lasted for nearly a minute.

"Give me your hand, Hucky," said he presently, almost breathless. "If I
_am_ a made man--tol de rol, lol de rol, lol de rol, lol!--you see,
Huck!--if I don't give you the handsomest breastpin you ever saw? No
paste! real diamond!--Hurrah! I will, by jingo!"

Huckaback grasped and squeezed his hand. "We've always been friends,
Tit--haven't we?" said he, affectionately.

"My room won't hold me to-night!" continued Titmouse; "I'm sure it
won't. I feel as if I was, as you may say, swelling all over. I'll walk
the streets all night: I couldn't sleep a wink for the life of me! I'll
walk about till the shop opens. Oh, faugh! how nasty! Confound the shop,
and Tag-rag, and everything and everybody in it! Thirty-five pounds a
year? See if I won't spend as much in cigars the first month!"

"Cigars! Is that your go? Now, _I_ should take lessons in boxing, to
begin with. It's a deuced high thing, you may depend upon it, and you
can't be fit company for swells without it, Tit! You can't, by Jove!"

"Whatever you like, whatever you like, Hucky!" cried Titmouse--adding,
in a sort of ecstasy, "I'm sorry to say it, but how _precious_ lucky
that my father and mother's dead, and that I'm an only
child--too-ra-laddy, too-ra-laddy!" Here he took such a sudden leap,
that I am sorry to say he split his trousers very awkwardly, and that
sobered him for a moment, while they made arrangements for cobbling it
up as well as might be, with a needle and thread which Huckaback always
had by him.

"We're rather jumping in the dark a-bit, aren't we, Tit?" inquired
Huckaback, while his companion was repairing the breach. "Let's look
what it all means--here it is." He read it all aloud again--"'_greatest
possible importance_!'--what _can it_ mean? Why the deuce couldn't they
speak out plainly?"

"What! in a newspaper? Lord, Hucky! how many Titmouses would start up on
all sides, if there isn't some already indeed! I wonder what '_greatest
possible importance_' can mean, now!"

"Some one's left you an awful lot of money, of course"----

"It's too good to be true"----

"Or you may have made a _smite_; you a'n't such a bad-looking fellow,
when you're dressed as you are now--you a'n't indeed, Titty!" Mr.
Titmouse was quite flustered with the mere supposition, and also looked
as sheepish as his features would admit of.

"E-e-e-eh, Hucky! how ve-ry silly you are!" he simpered.

"Or you may be found out heir to some great property, and all that kind
of thing.--But when do you intend to go to Messrs. What's-their-name? I
should say, the sooner the better. Come, you've stitched them trousers
well enough, now; they'll hold you till you get home, (you do brace up
uncommon tight!) and I'd take off my straps, if I was you. Why shouldn't
we go to these gents now? Ah, here they are--Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and
Snap, solicitors."

"I wonder if they're great men? Did you ever hear of them before?"

"Haven't I! Their names is always in this same paper; they are every day
getting people off out of all kinds of scrapes--they're the chaps _I_
should nat'rally go to if I anyhow got wrong--ahem!"

"But, my dear fellow--_Saffron Hill!_--Low that--devilish low, 'pon my
soul! Never was near it in my life."

"But they live there to be near the thieves. Lud, the thieves couldn't
do without 'em! But what's that to you! You know 'a very dirty ugly toad
has often got a jewel in his belly,' so Shakspeare or some one says.
Isn't it enough for _you_, Tit, if they can make good their
advertisement? Let's off, Tit--let's off, I say; for you mayn't be able
to get there to-morrow--your employers!"----

"My employers! Do you think, Hucky, I'm going back to business after
this?"

"Come, come, Titty--not so fast--suppose it all turns out moonshine,
after all"--quoth Huckaback, seriously.

"Lord, but I _won't_ suppose anything of the sort! It makes me sick to
think of nothing coming of it!--Let's go off at once, and see what's to
be done!"

So Huckaback put the newspaper into his pocket, blew out the candle, and
the two started on their important errand. It was well that their means
had been too limited to allow of their indulging to a greater extent
than a glass of port-wine negus (that was the name under which they had
drunk the "_publican's_ port"--_i. e._ a warm sweetened decoction of oak
bark, logwood shavings, and a little brandy) between them; otherwise,
excited as were the feelings of each of them by the discovery of the
evening, they must in all probability have been guilty of some piece of
extravagance in the streets. As it was, they talked very loudly as they
went along, and in a tone of conversation pitched perhaps a little too
high for their present circumstances, however in unison it might be with
the expected circumstances of _one_ of them.

In due time they reached the residence of which they were in search. It
was a large house, greatly superior to all its dingy neighbors; and on a
bright brass plate, a yard long at least, and a foot wide, stood the
awe-inspiring words, "QUIRK, GAMMON, & SNAP, SOLICITORS."

"Now, Tit," whispered Huckaback, after they had paused for a second or
two--"now for it--pluck up a sperrit--ring!"

"I--I--'pon my life--I feel all of a sudden uncommon funky--I think that
last cigar of yours wasn't"----

"Stuff, Tit--ring! ring away! Faint heart never wins!"

"Well, it _must_ be done: so--here goes at any rate!" he replied; and
with a short nervous jerk, he caused a startling clatter within, which
was so distinctly audible without, that both of them instinctively
_hemmed_, as if to drown the noise which was so much greater than they
had expected. In a very few moments they heard some one undoing the
fastenings of the door, and the gentlemen looked at one another with an
expression of mingled expectation and apprehension. A little old woman
at length, with a candle in her hand, retaining the heavy door-chain in
its fastening, peered round the edge of the door at them.

"Who are you?" she exclaimed crustily.

"Is this Messrs.--What is it, Huck?--Oh! Messrs. Quirk & Co.'s?"
inquired Titmouse, tapping the end of his cane against his chin, with a
desperate effort to appear at his ease.

"Why, where's your eyes?" she replied angrily, "I should think you might
have seen what was wrote on this here plate--it's large enough, one
should have thought, to be read by them as _can_ read--Is your's Newgate
business? Because if----"

"We want--Give us the paper, Hucky"--he added, addressing his companion,
who produced it in a moment; and Titmouse would have proceeded to
possess the old lady of all his little heart, when she cut him short by
saying snappishly--"They aren't none on 'em in; nor never is on
Sundays--so you'll just call to-morrow if you wants 'em. What's your
names?"

"Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse," answered that gentleman, with a very
particular emphasis on every syllable.

"Mr. _who_?" exclaimed the old woman, opening her eyes very wide, and
raising her hand to the back of her ear. Mr. Titmouse repeated his name
more loudly and distinctly.

"Tippetytippety--what's that?"

"No, no!" exclaimed Titmouse, peevishly; "I said, Mr. Tit-el-bat
Tit-mouse!--will that suit you?"

"Tick-a-tick-a-tick?--Well, gracious! if ever I heard such a name.
Oh!--I see!--you're making a fool of me! Get off, or I'll call a
constable in!--Get along with you, you couple of jail-birds! Is this the
way"----

"I tell you," interposed Mr. Huckaback, angrily, "that this gentleman's
name is Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse; and you'd better take care what you're
at, old woman, for we've come on business of _wital consequence_!"

"I dare say it'll keep, then, till to-morrow," tartly added the old
woman.

The friends consulted for a moment, and then Titmouse asked if he might
come in and write a letter to Messrs. Quirk and Co.

"No indeed!" said she; "how do I know who you are? There's a
public-house close by, where you may write what you like, and bring it
here, and they'll get it the first thing in the morning. So that's what
you may take away with you!"--with which the complaisant old janitrix
shut the door in their faces.

"Huck, 'pon my life, I am afraid there's nothing in it," said Titmouse,
despondingly, to his friend--both of them remaining rooted to the spot.

"Oudacious old toad!" muttered Huckaback, very indignantly.

"Hucky--I'm _sure_ there's nothing in it!" exclaimed Titmouse, after a
long pause, looking earnestly at his friend, hoping to draw from him a
contrary opinion.

"I--I own I don't half like the looks of it," replied Huckaback, putting
his newspaper into his pocket again; "but we'll try if we can't write a
letter to sound 'em, and so far take the old creature's advice. Here's
the public-house she told us of. Come, let's see what's to be done!"

Titmouse, greatly depressed, followed his friend; and they soon provided
themselves with two glasses of stout, and after a little difficulty,
with implements for writing. That they made good use of their time and
materials, let the following epistle prove. It was their joint
composition, and here is an exact copy of it:--


               "_To Messrs._ QUIRK, GAMMON _and_ SNAP.

     "SIR,

     "Your Names being Put In an Advertisement in This present _Sunday
     Flash_, Newspaper of To Day's Date, Mr. T. T. Begs To inform Your
     respectable House I feel Uncommon anxious To speak with them On
     This _truly interesting subject_, seeing It mentions The Name Of
     Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse, which Two last Names Of That Deceased
     Person _my Own Name Is_, which can _Any_ Day (As soon As Possible)
     call and _prove_ To you, By telling you The Same, _truly_. He being
     Engaged in Business During the week Very close, (for The Present,)
     I hope that If they Have Anything particular To say To Him, they
     will write To me without The least Delay, and please address T. T.,
     At Tag-rag and Co.'s, No. 375, Oxford Street, Post-Paid, which will
     ensure Its Being duly Taken In By my Employers, and am,

                                         "Gents,
                                             "Your's to Command,
                                                   "TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE.

     "P. S.--My Friend, which Is With me writing This, (Mr. Robert
     Huckaback,) can prove who I am If necessiated so to do.

     "N. B.--Shall have no objections to do the Liberal Thing if
     anything suitable Turns Up Of It.
                                                                "T. T.
                                           "(_Sunday Evening, 9/7/18--._

     "Forgot to Say, am The only Child of my Honored Parents, one of
     which (my Mother) Died; before I knew them In Lawful Wedloc, and
     Was 27 last Birth Day, Never having Seen your Advertisement Till
     This Night, w^h, if Necessary _can Prove_.)"

This perspicuous and truly elegant performance having been thrice
subjected to the critical examination of the friends, (the paragraph
concerning Huckaback having been inserted at the instance of that
gentleman, who wished to be mixed up from the beginning with so
promising an affair,) was then folded up, and directed to "Messrs. Quirk
and Co.," a great straggling wet wafer having been first put upon it. It
was safely deposited, a few minutes afterwards, with the old lady at
Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's; and then the two West-End gentlemen
hastened away from that truly plebeian part of the town! Under three
different gas-lights did they stop, take out the newspaper, and spell
over the advertisement; by which ingenious processes they at length
succeeded in satisfying themselves that there _was_ something in it--a
fact of which, upon the old woman shutting the door in their faces, it
may be recollected they had had grievous misgivings. They parted,
however, with a considerable abatement of the excitement with which they
had set out on their voyage of discovery.

Mr. Titmouse did not, on reaching his room, take off and lay aside his
precious Sunday apparel with his accustomed care and deliberation. On
the contrary, he peeled it off, as it were, and threw himself on the bed
as quickly as possible, in order that he might calmly revolve the
immense event of the day in his little mind, which it had agitated like
a stone thrown into a stagnant pool by the roadside. Oh, how restless
was he!--not more so could he have been had he lain between horse-hair
sheets. He repeatedly got up and walked about two or three little steps,
which were all that his room admitted of. At the very first peep of
daylight he started out of bed, got out of his pocket the newspaper
which Huckaback had lent him, strove to decipher the advertisement, and
then sank into bed again--but not to sleep, till four or five o'clock;
having nevertheless to rise at half-past six, to resume his detested
duties at Tag-rag and Co.'s, whose shop he assisted in opening at seven
o'clock, as usual. When he and his shopmates were sitting together at
breakfast, he could not for the life of him help letting out a little,
vaguely and mysteriously, about "something that _might_ happen in the
course of the day;" and thereby succeeded in satisfying his experienced
companions that he expected the visit of a policeman, for some _row_ he
had been concerned in over-night.--Well:--eight, nine, ten o'clock wore
away heavily, and nothing transpired, alas! to vary the monotonous
duties in which Mr. Titmouse was engaged; bale after bale, and package
after package, he took down and put up again, at the bidding of pretty,
capricious customers; silk, satin, bombazines, crapes, muslins, ribbons,
gloves, he assisted in displaying, disposing of, or replacing as usual;
but it was clear that his powerful understanding could no longer settle
itself, as before, upon his responsible and arduous duties. Every other
minute he cast a feverish furtive glance towards the door. He almost
dropped, at one time, as a postman crossed from the opposite side of the
street, as if to enter their shop--then passing on immediately, however,
to the next door. Not a person, in short, entered the premises, whom he
did not scrutinize narrowly and anxiously, but in vain. No--buying and
selling was the order of the day, as usual!--Eleven o'clock struck, and
he sighed. "You don't seem well," said a pretty young woman, to whom,
in a somewhat absent manner, he was exhibiting and describing the
qualities of some cambric. "Oh--ye--es, uncommon!" he replied; "never
better, ma'am, than when so well employed!" accompanying the latter
words with what he conceived to be a very arch, but which was in fact a
very impudent, look at his fair customer. At that moment a voice called
out to him from the farther end of the shop, near the door--"Titmouse!
Wanted!"

"Coming!" he shouted, turning as white as the cambric he held in his
hands--which became suddenly cold; while his heart went thump, thump, as
he hastily exclaimed to the astonished lady, "Excuse me, ma'am, if you
please--Jones," addressing the shopman next him, "will you attend to
this lady?" and he hastened whither he had been called, amid a prevalent
grin and "hem!" from his companions on each side, as he passed along the
shop, till he reached the spot where stood the stranger who had inquired
for him. He was of a slight and gentlemanly figure, above the average
height. His countenance was very striking: he was dressed with
simplicity--somewhat carelessly perhaps; and appeared somewhere about
thirty-six or thirty-seven years of age. He bowed slightly as Titmouse
approached him, and an air of very serious surprise came over his
expressive countenance.

"Mr. Titmouse?" he inquired blandly.

"Ye-e-s, sir, at your service," replied Titmouse, trembling
involuntarily all over. The stranger again slightly inclined towards
him, and--still more slightly--touched his hat; fixing on him, at the
same time, an inquisitive penetrating eye, which really abashed, or
rather perhaps alarmed him.

"You left--you favored us by leaving--a note at our office last night,
sir, addressed to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap?" he inquired,
lowering his voice to a whisper.

"Yes, sir, hoping it was no"----

"Pray, Mr. Titmouse, can we be alone for about five or ten minutes?"

"I--I--don't exactly know, _here_, sir; I'm afraid--against the rules of
the house--but I'll ask. Here _is_ Mr. Tag-rag.--May I step into the
cloak-room with this gentleman for a few minutes, sir?" he continued,
addressing his imperious employer, who, with a pen behind his right ear,
his left hand in his breeches pocket, and his right hand impatiently
tweedling about his watch-seals, had followed Titmouse, on hearing him
inquired for in the manner I have described, and stood at a yard or
two's distance, eying the two with a truculent dissatisfied look,
wondering what on earth any one _could_ want with one of _his_ young
men.

As Mr. Tag-rag will be rather a prominent figure on my canvas, I may as
well here give the reader a slight preparatory sketch of that gentleman.
He was about fifty-two years old; a great tyrant in his little way; a
compound of ignorance, selfishness, cant, and conceit. He knew nothing
on earth except the price of his goods, and how to make the most of his
business. He was of middle size, with a tendency to corpulence; and
almost invariably wore a black coat and waistcoat, a white neck
handkerchief very primly tied, and gray trousers. He had a dull, gray
eye, with white eyelashes, and no eyebrows; a forehead which seemed
ashamed of his face, it retreated so far and so abruptly back from it;
his face was pretty deeply pitted with the small-pox; his nose--or
rather semblance of a nose--consisted of two great nostrils looking at
you--as it were, impudently--out of the middle of his face; there was a
perfect level space from cheek-bone to cheek-bone; his gray whiskers,
trimly and closely cut, came in points to each corner of his mouth,
which was large, shapeless, and sensual-looking. This may serve, for
the present, to give you an idea of the man who had contrived to excite
towards himself the hatred and contempt of everybody over whom he had
any control--with whom in fact he had anything to do.

"You know quite well, sir, we never allow anything of the sort," was his
short reply, in a very disagreeable tone and manner, to Titmouse's
modest request.

"May I beg the favor of a few minutes' private conversation with Mr.
Titmouse," said the stranger, politely, "on a matter of the last
importance to him? My name, sir, is Gammon, and I am a solicitor of the
firm of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap"----

"Why, sir," answered Tag-rag, somewhat cowed by the calm and
gentlemanly, but at the same time decisive manner of Mr. Gammon--"it's
really very inconvenient, and decidedly against the rules of the house,
for any of my young men to be absent on business of their own during
_my_ business hours; but--I suppose--what must be must be--I'll give him
ten minutes--and he'd better not stay longer," he subjoined
fiercely--looking significantly first at his watch, and then at
Titmouse. "It's only for the sake of my other young men, you know, sir.
In a large establishment like ours, we're obliged, you know, sir," &c.
&c. &c., he added, in a low cringing tone, deprecatory of the
contemptuous air with which he _felt_ that Mr. Gammon was regarding him.

That gentleman, with a slight bow, and a sarcastic smile, presently
quitted the shop, accompanied by Titmouse, who scarce knew whether his
head or heels were uppermost.

"How far do you live from this place, Mr. Titmouse?" inquired Mr.
Gammon, as soon as they had got into the street.

"Not four minutes' walk, sir; but--hem!"--he was flustered at the idea
of showing so eminent a person into his wretched room--"Suppose we were
to step into this tavern here, sir--I dare say they have a room at our
service"----

"Pray, allow me to ask, Mr. Titmouse--have you any private
papers--family writings, or things of that sort, at your rooms?"

Titmouse seemed considering.

"I--I think I have, sir," he replied--"one or two--but they're of no
consequence."

"Are you a _judge_ on that point, Mr. Titmouse?" inquired Mr. Gammon,
with a smile; "pray let us, my dear sir, at once proceed to your
rooms--time is very short and valuable. I should vastly like to look at
these same insignificant papers of yours!"

In less than two minutes' further time, Mr. Gammon was sitting at
Titmouse's little rickety round table, at his lodgings, with a sheet of
paper before him, and a small pencil-case in his hand, asking him a
number of questions concerning his birth and family connections, and
taking down his answers very carefully. Mr. Titmouse was surprised at
the gentleman's knowledge of the family history of the Titmouses. As for
papers, &c., Mr. Titmouse succeeded in producing four or five old
letters and memoranda from the bottom of his trunk, and one or two
entries, in faded ink, on the fly-leaf of a Bible of his father's, which
he did not recollect having opened before for very many years, and of
which said entries, till pressed on the subject by Mr. Gammon, he had
been hardly aware of even the existence. With these several documents
Mr. Gammon was so much struck that he proposed to take them away with
him, for better and more leisurely examination, and safer custody, at
their office; but Mr. Titmouse significantly hinted at his very recent
acquaintance with Mr. Gammon, who, he intimated, was at liberty to come
and make exact copies of them whenever he pleased, in his (Mr.
Titmouse's) presence.

"Oh, certainly--yes," replied Mr. Gammon, slightly coloring at the
distrust implied by this observation; "I applaud your caution, Mr.
Titmouse. By all means keep these documents, and most carefully;
because, (I do not say that they _are_,) but it is quite possible that
they may become rather valuable--to _you_."

"Thank you, sir; and now, hoping you'll excuse the liberty," said
Titmouse, with a very anxious air, "I should most uncommonly like to
know what all this means--what is to turn up out of it all?"

"The law, my dear sir, is proverbially uncertain"----

"Oh, Lord! but the law can surely give one a _hint_"----

"_The law never hints_," interrupted Mr. Gammon, impressively, with a
bland smile.

"Well then, how did you come, sir, to know that there ever was such a
person as Mr. Gabriel Titmouse, my father? And what can come from _him_,
seeing he was only a bit of a shoemaker--unless he's _heir_ to
something?"

"Ah, yes--exactly; those are very interesting questions, Mr.
Titmouse--very!"----

"Yes, sir; and them and many more I was going to ask long ago, but I saw
you were"----

"Sir, I perceive that we have positively been absent from your place of
business nearly an hour--your employers will be getting rather
impatient."

"Meaning no offence, sir--bother _their_ impatience! _I'm_ impatient, I
assure you, to know what all this means. Come, sir, 'pon my life I've
told _you_ everything! It isn't quite fair!"

"Why, certainly, you see, Mr. Titmouse," said Gammon, with an agreeable
smile--(it was that smile of his which had been the making of Mr.
Gammon)--"it is only candid in me to acknowledge that your curiosity is
perfectly reasonable, and your frankness very obliging; and I see no
difficulty in admitting at once, that _I have_ had a--motive"----

"Yes, sir--and all that--_I_ know, sir,"--hastily interrupted Titmouse,
but without irritating or disturbing the placid speaker.

"And that we waited with some anxiety for the result of our
advertisement."

"Ah, you can't escape from _that_, you know, sir!" interposed Titmouse,
with a confident air.

"But it is a maxim with us, my dear sir, never to be premature in
anything, especially when it may be--very prejudicial; you've really no
idea, my dear Mr. Titmouse, of the world of mischief that is often done
by precipitancy in legal matters; and in the present stage of the
business--the _present_ stage, my dear sir--I really do see it necessary
not to--do anything premature, and without consulting my partners."

"Lord, sir!" exclaimed Titmouse, getting more and more irritated and
impatient as he reflected on the length of his absence from Tag-rag &
Co.'s.

"I quite feel for your anxiety--so perfectly natural"----

"Oh, dear sir! if you'd only tell me the _least bit_"----

"If, my dear sir, I were to disclose just now the exact object we had in
inserting that advertisement in the papers"----

"How did you come to know of it at all, sir? Come, there can't be any
harm in _that_ anyhow"----

"Not the least, my dear sir. It was in the course of business--in the
course of business."

"Is it money that's been left me--or--anything of that sort?"

"It quite pains me, I assure you, Mr. Titmouse, to suppose that our
having put this advertisement into the papers may have misled you, and
excited false hopes--I think, by the way"--added Gammon, suddenly, as
something occurred to him of their previous conversation, which he was
not quite sure of--"you told me that that Bible had been given you by
your father."

"Oh yes, sir! yes--- no doubt of it; surely _that_ can't signify, seeing
he's dead, and I'm his only son?" asked Titmouse, quickly and eagerly.

"Oh, 'tis only a circumstance--a mere circumstance; but in business, you
know, Mr. Titmouse, every little helps--and you really, by the way, have
no recollection of your mother, Mr. Titmouse?"

"No, sir, I said so! And--meaning no offence, sir--I can't abide being
put off in this kind of way,--I must own!--See what I have told
you--you've told _me_ nothing at all. I hope you haven't been only
making me a cat's-paw of? 'Pon my soul, I _hate_ being made a cat's-paw
of, sir!"

"Good heavens, Mr. Titmouse! how can you imagine it? Matters in some
degree connected with one or two former members of your family, are at
this moment the object of some little of our anxiety"----

"Not meaning it rudely, sir--please to tell me at once, plainly, am I to
be the better for anything you're now about, or was that advertisement
all fudge?"

"That may or may not be, sir," answered Mr. Gammon, in the same
imperturbable manner, drawing on his gloves, and rising from his chair.
"In justice to yourself, and other parties concerned"----

"Oh! is anybody to _share_ in it?" exclaimed Titmouse, alarmedly.

"I am sure," said Gammon, smiling, "that you will give us credit for
consulting your best interests, if they should prove to be in any degree
concerned in our present inquiries! We should, in that event, sincerely
desire to advance them. But--it is _really_," looking at his watch,
"upwards of an hour since we quitted your place of business--I fear I
shall get into disgrace with that respectable gentleman, your employer.
Will you favor us with a call at our office to-morrow night, when the
business of the day is over? When do you quit at night?"

"About half-past nine o'clock, sir; but really--to-morrow night!
Couldn't I come to-night, sir?"

"Not to-night, I fear, my dear sir. We have a very important engagement.
Let us say to-morrow night, at a quarter past ten--shall we say that
hour?" inquired Mr. Gammon, with an imperative smile.

"Well, sir, if not before--yes--I'll be with you. But I _must_ say"----
quoth Titmouse, with a sulky disconcerted air.

"Good-day, Mr. Titmouse," said Mr. Gammon--they were by this time in
Oxford Street again.--"Good-day, my dear sir--good-day--to-morrow night,
as soon after ten as possible--eh? Good-by."

This was all that Mr. Titmouse could get out of Mr. Gammon, who, hailing
a coach off the stand beside them, got in, and it was soon making its
way eastward. What a miserable mixture of doubts, hopes, and fears, had
he left Titmouse! He felt as if he were a squeezed orange; he had told
everything he knew about himself, and got nothing in return out of the
smooth, imperturbable, impenetrable Mr. Gammon, but empty
civilities.--"Lord, Lord!" thought Titmouse, as Mr. Gammon's coach
turned the corner; "what would I give to know half about it that that
gent knows! But Mr. Tag-rag! by Jove! what _will_ he say? It's struck
twelve. I've been more than an hour away--and he gave me ten minutes!
Sha'n't I catch it?"

And he did. Almost the very first person whom he met, on entering the
shop, was his respected employer; who, plucking his watch out of his
fob, and looking furiously at it, motioned the trembling Titmouse to
follow him to the farther end of the long shop, where there happened to
be then no customers.

"Is this your ten minutes, sir, eh?"

"I am sorry"----

"Where may you have been, sir, all this while?"

"With that gentleman, sir, and I really did not know"----

"You didn't know, sir! Who cares what you know, or don't know? _This_,
at any rate, you know--that you ought to have been back fifty-five
minutes ago, sir. You do, sir! Isn't your time my property, sir? Don't I
pay for it, sir? An hour!--in the middle of the day! I've not had such a
thing happen this five years! I'll stop it out of your salary, sir."

Titmouse did not attempt to interrupt him.

"And pray what have you been gossiping about, sir, in this disgraceful
manner?"

"Something that he wanted to say to me, sir."

"You low puppy!--do you suppose I don't see your impertinence? I
_insist_, sir, on knowing what all this gossiping with that fellow has
been about?"

"Then you _won't_ know, sir, that's flat!" replied Titmouse, doggedly;
returning to his usual station behind the counter.

"I _sha'n't_!!" exclaimed Mr. Tag-rag, almost aghast at the presumption
of his inferior.

"No, sir, you _sha'n't_ know a single word about it."

"Sha'n't know a single word about it! Vastly good, sir!!--Do you know
whom you're talking to, sir? Do you really know in whose presence you
are, sir?" inquired Mr. Tag-rag, nearly trembling with rage.

"Mr. Tag-rag, I presume, of the firm of Tag-rag and Co.," replied
Titmouse, looking him full in the face.--One or two of his companions
near him, almost turned pale at the audacity he was displaying.

"And who are _you_, sir, that dare to presume to bandy words with ME,
sir?" inquired Tag-rag, his deeply pitted face having turned quite
white, and his whole body quivering with rage.

"Tittlebat Titmouse, at your service," was the answer, in a glib tone,
and with a sufficiently saucy air; for Titmouse then felt that he had
passed the Rubicon.

"You heard that, I hope?" inquired Tag-rag, with forced calmness, of a
pale-faced young man, the nearest to him.

"Ye--es, sir," was the meekly reluctant answer.

"This day month you leave, sir!" said Mr. Tag-rag, solemnly--as if
conscious that he was passing a sort of sentence of death upon the
presumptuous delinquent.

"Very well, Mr. Tag-rag--anything that pleases you pleases your humble
servant. I _will_ go this day month, and welcome--I've long wished--and
now, p'r'aps," he added significantly--"it's rather convenient than
otherwise"----

"Then you _sha'n't_ leave, sir," said Tag-rag, furiously.

"But I will, sir. You've given me warning; and, if you haven't, now I
give _you_ warning," replied Titmouse; turning, however, very pale, and
experiencing a certain sudden sinking of the heart--for this was a
serious and most unlooked-for event, and for a while put out of his head
all the agitating thoughts of the last few hours. Poor Titmouse had
enough to bear--what with the delicate raillery and banter of his
refined companions for the rest of the day, find the galling tyranny of
Mr. Tag-rag, (who dogged him about all day, setting him about the most
menial and troublesome offices he could, and constantly saying
mortifying things to him before customers,) and the state of miserable
suspense in which Mr. Gammon had thought fit to leave him; I say that
surely all this was enough for him to bear without having to encounter
at night, as he did, on his return to his lodgings, his blustering
landlady, who vowed that if she sold him out and out she would be put
off no longer--and his pertinacious and melancholy tailor, who, with
sallow unshaven face, told him of five children at home, all ill of the
small-pox, and his wife in an hospital--and he _implored_ a payment on
account. This sufferer succeeded in squeezing out of Titmouse seven
shillings on account, and his landlady extorted ten; which staved off a
distress--direful word!--for some week or two longer; and so they left
him in the possession of eight shillings or so, to last till next
quarter-day--six weeks off! He sighed heavily, barred his door, and sat
down opposite his little table, on which was nothing but a solitary thin
candle, and on which his eyes rested unconsciously, till the stench of
it, burning right down into the socket, roused him from his wretched
revery. Then he unlocked his box, and took out his Bible and the papers
which had been produced to Mr. Gammon, and gazed at them with intense
but useless scrutiny. Unable to conjecture what bearing they could have
upon himself or his fortunes, he hastily replaced them in his box, threw
off his clothes, and flung himself on his bed, to pass a far more dismal
night than he had known for years.

He ran the gantlet at Messrs. Tag-rag and Co.'s all Tuesday as he had
done on the day preceding. One should have supposed that when his
companions beheld him persecuted by their common tyrant, whom they all
equally hated, they would have made common cause with their suffering
companion, or at all events given no countenance to his persecution; yet
it was far otherwise. Without stopping to analyze the feeling which
produced it, (and which the moderately reflective reader may easily
analyze for himself if so disposed,) I am grieved to have to say, that
when all the young men saw that Tag-rag would be gratified by their
_cutting_ poor Titmouse, who, with all his little vanities, fooleries,
and even selfishness, had never personally offended or injured any of
them--they did cut him; and, when Tag-rag observed it, his miserable
mind was unspeakably gratified with what they had done: and he spoke to
all of them with unusual blandness; to the sinner, Titmouse, with
augmented bitterness and sternness.



CHAPTER II.


A few minutes after ten o'clock that night, a gentle ringing at the bell
of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's office, announced the arrival of
poor Titmouse. The door was quickly opened by a very fashionably dressed
clerk, who seemed in the act of quitting for the night.

"Ah--Mr. Titmouse, I presume?" he inquired, with a kind of deference in
his manner to which Titmouse had never been accustomed.

"The same, sir--Tittlebat Titmouse."

"Oh! allow me, sir, to show you in to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; I
know they're expecting to see you. It's not often they're here so late!
Walk in, sir"---- With this he led the way to an inner room, and opening
a green-baize door in the farther side of it, announced and showed in
Mr. Titmouse, and left him--sufficiently flustered. Three gentlemen were
sitting at a large table, on which he saw, by the strong but
circumscribed light of two shaded candlesticks, were lying a great
number of papers and parchments. The three gentlemen rose when he
entered, Mr. Quirk and Mr. Snap involuntarily starting on first catching
sight of the figure of Titmouse: Mr. Gammon came and shook hands with
him.

"Mr. Titmouse," said he, with a very polite air, "let me introduce you
to Mr. Quirk"--(This was the senior partner, a short, stout elderly
gentleman, dressed in black, with a shining bald crown fringed with
white hair, and sharp black eyes, and who looked very earnestly, nay,
with even a kind of dismay, at him)--"and Mr. Snap"--(This was the
junior partner, having recently been promoted to be such after ten
years' service in the office, as managing clerk: he was about thirty,
particularly well dressed, slight, active, and with a face like a
terrier--_so_ hard, sharp, and wiry!) Of Mr. Gammon himself, I have
already given the reader a slight notion. He appeared altogether a
different style of person from both his partners. He was of most
gentlemanly person and bearing--and at once acute, cautious, and
insinuating--with a certain something about the eye, which had from the
first made Titmouse feel uneasy on looking at him.

"A seat, sir," said Mr. Quirk, rising, and placing a chair for him, on
which he sat down, they resuming theirs.

"You are punctual, Mr. Titmouse!" exclaimed Mr. Gammon, kindly; "more so
than, I fear, you were yesterday, after our long interview, eh? Pray
what did that worthy person, Mr. Rag-bag--or whatever his name is--say
on your return?"

"Say, gents?"--(he tried to clear his throat, for he spoke somewhat more
thickly, and his heart beat more perceptibly than usual)--"Meaning no
offence--I'm ruined by it, and no mistake."

"Ruined! I'm sorry to hear it," interposed Mr. Gammon, with a concerned
air.

"I am, indeed, sir. Such a towering rage as he has been in ever since;
and he's given me warning to go on the 10th of next month." He thought
he observed a faint smile flit over the faces of all three. "He has,
indeed!"

"Dear me, Mr. Titmouse!--Did he allege any reason for dismissing you?"
keenly inquired Mr. Quirk.

"Yes, sir"----

"What might it have been?"

"Stopping out longer than I was allowed, and refusing to tell him what
this gentleman and I had been talking about."

"Don't think that'll do; sure it won't!" briskly exclaimed Mr. Snap; "no
just cause of dismissal that," and he jumped up, whisked down a book
from the shelves behind him, and eagerly turned over the leaves.

"Never mind that now, Mr. Snap," said Mr. Quirk, rather petulantly;
"surely we have other matters to talk about to-night!"

"Asking pardon, sir, but I think it _does_ matter to me, sir,"
interposed Titmouse; "for on the 10th of next month I'm a beggar--being
next door to it _now_."

"Not quite, we trust," said Mr. Gammon, with a benignant smile.

"But Mr. Tag-rag said he'd make me as good as one."

"That's evidence to show malice," again eagerly interjected Mr. Snap,
who was a second time tartly rebuffed by Mr. Quirk; even Mr. Gammon
turning towards him with a surprised--"Really, Mr. Snap!"

"So Mr. Tag-rag said he'd make you a beggar?" inquired Mr. Quirk.

"He vowed he would, sir!--He did, as true as the gospel, sir!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Quirk and Mr. Gammon--but such a laugh!--not
careless or hearty, but subdued, and with a dash of deference in it.
"Well--it perhaps _may_ not signify much, by that time;" said Mr. Quirk,
and laughed again, followed by the soft laugh of Mr. Gammon, and a kind
of sharp quick sound, like a bark, from Mr. Snap.

"But, gents, you'll excuse me if I say I think it _does_ signify to
_me_, and a'n't any laughing matter, by any means!" quoth Titmouse,
earnestly, and coloring with anger. "Without being rude, I'd rather come
to business, if there's any to be done, without so much laughing at
one."

"Laughing at you! my dear sir,--no, no!" exclaimed all three in a
breath--"laughing _with_ you," said Mr. Quirk!--"By the time you
mention, you may perhaps be able to laugh at Mr. Rag-bag, and everybody
else, for"----

[--"No use mincing matters?" he whispered, in a low tone, to Mr. Gammon,
who nodded, but in apparently very reluctant acquiescence, and fixed his
eyes earnestly on Titmouse.]

"I really think we are warranted, sir, in preparing you to expect by
that time--that is, you will understand, sir, if our efforts are
successful in your behalf, and if you yield yourself implicitly in all
things to our guidance--_that is absolutely essential_--a prospect--we
say at present, you will observe, _only_ a prospect--of a surprising and
splendid change in your circumstances!" Titmouse began to tremble
violently, his heart beat rapidly, and his hands were bedewed with a
cold moisture.

"I hear, gents," said he, thickly; and he also heard a faint ringing in
his ears.

"It's not impossible, sir, in plain English," continued Mr. Quirk,
himself growing a little excited with the important communication which
trembled on the tip of his tongue, "that you may at no distant time (if
you really turn out to be the person we are in search of) be put into
possession of an estate of somewhere about Ten Thousand a-year"----

The words seemed to have struck Titmouse blind--as he saw nothing for
some moments; then everything appeared to be swimming around him, and he
felt a sort of faintness or sickness stealing over him. They had hardly
been prepared for their communication's affecting their little visitor
so powerfully. Mr. Snap hastened out, and in again, with a glass of
water; and the earnest attentions of the three soon restored Mr.
Titmouse to his senses. It was a good while, however, before he could
appreciate the little conversation which they now and then addressed to
him, or estimate the full importance of the astounding intelligence
which Mr. Quirk had just communicated, "Beg pardon--but may I make free
to ask for a little brandy and cold water, gents? I feel all over in a
kind of tremble," said he, some little time afterwards.

"Yes--by all means, Mr. Titmouse," replied Mr. Quirk--"Mr. Snap, will
you be kind enough to order Betty to bring in a glass of cold brandy and
water from the Jolly Thieves, next door?"--Snap shot out, gave the
order, and returned in a trice. The old woman in a few minutes' time
followed, with a large tumbler of dark brandy and water, quite hot, for
which Mr. Gammon apologized, but Mr. Titmouse said he preferred it
so--and soon addressed himself to the inspiriting mixture. It quickly
manifested its influence, reassuring him wonderfully. As he sat sipping
it, Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap being engaged in an earnest
conversation, of which he could not comprehend a word, he had leisure to
look about him, and observed that there was lying before them a large
sheet of paper, at which they all of them often and earnestly looked,
filled with marks, so--

[Illustration:
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]

with writing at the ends of each of them, and round and square figures.
When he saw them all bending over and scrutinizing this mysterious
object, it puzzled him (and many a better head than his has a pedigree
puzzled before) sorely, and he began to suspect it was a sort of
conjuring paper!--

"I hope, gents, that paper's all right--eh?" said he, supported by the
brandy, which he had nearly finished. They turned towards him with a
smile of momentary surprise, and then--

"We hope so--a vast deal depends on it," said Mr. Quirk, looking over
his glasses at Titmouse. Now what _he_ had hinted at, as far as he could
venture to do so, was a thought that glanced across his as yet unsettled
brain, that there might have been invoked more than _mere earthly
assistance_; but he prudently pressed the matter no farther--that was
all Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's look-out; _he_ had been no party
to anything of the sort, nor would he knowingly. He also observed the
same sheets of paper written all over, which Mr. Gammon had filled up at
his (Titmouse's) room, the night before; and several new, and
old-looking, papers and parchments. Sometimes they addressed questions
to him, but found it somewhat difficult to keep his attention up to
anything that was said to him for the wild visions which were chasing
one another through his heated brain; the passage of which said visions
was not a little accelerated by the large tumbler of brandy and water
which he had just taken.

"Then, in point of fact," said Mr. Quirk, as Messrs. Gammon and Snap
simultaneously sat down, after having been for some time standing poring
over the paper before Mr. Quirk. "This Tittlebat Titmouse's title must
have accrued in 18--. That's the point--eh, Gammon?"

"Precisely so," said Mr. Gammon, calmly.

"To be sure," confidently added Snap; who having devoted himself
exclusively all his life to the sharpest practice of the criminal law,
knew about as much of real property law as a snipe--but it would not
have done to appear ignorant, or taking no part in the matter, in the
presence of the heir-at-law, and the future great client of the House.

"Well, Mr. Titmouse," at length said Mr. Quirk, with a sort of grunt,
laying aside his glasses--"if _you_ turn out to be the Titmouse we have
been speaking of, you are likely, through our immense exertions, to
become one of the luckiest men that ever lived! We may be mistaken, but
it appears to us that we shall by and by be able to put you into
possession of a very fine estate in Yorkshire, worth some £10,000 or
£12,000 a-year at the least!"

"You--don't--say--so!" exclaimed Titmouse, elevating his hands and
opening his eyes with amazement--"Oh, gents, I do believe we're all
dreaming! Is it all true, indeed?"

"It is, Mr. Titmouse--and we are very proud and happy indeed to be the
honored instruments of establishing your rights, my dear sir," said Mr.
Gammon, in a most impressive manner.

"Then all the money that's been spent this ten or twelve years has been
_my_ money, has it?"

"_If_ we are right, it is undoubtedly as you say," answered Mr. Quirk,
giving a quick apprehensive glance at Mr. Gammon.

"Then there'll be a jolly reckoning for some one, shortly--eh? My
stars!"

"My dear Mr. Titmouse," said Mr. Gammon, gravely, "you have no more than
a just regard for your own interests. There _will_ be a reckoning, and a
very terrible one ere long, for somebody--but we've a vast deal to go
through, and a vast deal of money to be spent, before we come to discuss
_that_ matter! Only let us have the unspeakable happiness of seeing you
once fairly in possession of your estates, and our office shall know no
rest till you have got all you may be entitled to--even to the
uttermost farthing!"

"Oh, never fear our letting them rest!" said Mr. Quirk, judiciously
accommodating himself to the taste and apprehension of his excited
auditor--"Those that must give up the goose, must give up the giblets
also--ha, ha, ha!" Messrs. Gammon and Snap echoed the laugh, duly
tickled with the joke of the head of the firm.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Titmouse, immensely excited by the conjoint
influence of the brandy, and the news of the night; "capital! capital!
hurrah! Such goings on there will be! You're all of the right sort,
gents, I see! 'Pon my life, law for ever! There's _nothing_ like it!
Let's all shake hands, gents! Come, if you please, all together! all
friends to-night!" And the little fellow grasped each of the three
readily-proffered right hands of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, with
an energy that was likely to make all the high contracting parties to
that quadruple alliance, remember its ratification.

"And is it all a _ready-money_ affair, gents?--or _rent_, and all _that_
kind of thing?" he inquired, after many eloquent expressions of delight.

"Why, almost entirely the latter," answered Mr. Quirk, "except the
accumulations."

"Then, 'pon my soul--I'm a great landlord, am I?"

"Indeed, my dear Mr. Titmouse, you are--(that is, unless we have made a
blunder such as--I will say--our house is not _often_ in the habit of
making)--and have two very fine houses, one in town and the other in the
country."

"Capital! delightful! I'll live in both of them--we'll have _such_
goings on!--And is it _quite_ up to the mark of £10,000 a-year?"

"We really entertain no doubt at present that it is"----

"And such as that I can spend all of it, every year?"

"Certainly--no doubt of it--not the least. The rents are paid with most
exemplary punctuality--at least," added Mr. Gammon, with a captivating,
an irresistible smile, and taking him affectionately by the hand--"at
least they _will_ be, as soon as we have them fairly in _our_
management."

"Oh, _you're_ to get it all in for me, are you?" he inquired briskly.
The three partners bowed, with the most deprecatingly-disinterested air
in the world; intimating that, for _his_ sake, they were ready to take
upon themselves even _that_ troublesome responsibility.

"Capital! couldn't be better! couldn't be better! Ah, ha, ha--you've
catched the goose, and must bring me its eggs. Ah, ha, ha! a touch in
_your_ line, old gent!" said he, slapping Mr. Quirk's knee.

"Ha, ha, ha! excellent! ah, ha, ha!" laughed the three partners at the
wit of their new client. Mr. Titmouse joined them, and snapped his
fingers in the air. Then he added suddenly--

"Lord--by the way--I've just thought of Tag-rag and Company's--I seem as
if I hadn't seen or heard of those gents for Lord knows how long! Only
fancy old Tag-rag making me a beggar on the 10th of next month--ha, ha,
ha!--I sha'n't see _that_ infernal hole any more, anyhow!"

["There!" whispered Mr. Gammon, suddenly and apprehensively, in the ear
of Mr. Quirk, "you hear that? A little wretch! We have been perfectly
insane in going so far already with him! Is not this what I
predicted?"--"I don't care," said Mr. Quirk, stubbornly. "Who first
found it out, Mr. Gammon? and who's to be at the expense and
responsibility? Pshaw! I know what I'm about--_I'll_ make him knuckle
down--never fear me! Caleb Quirk a'n't a man to be trifled with!"]

"_That_," continued Titmouse, snapping his fingers with an air of
defiance--"for Mr. Tag-rag! _That_ for Mother Squallop--Ah, ha, gents!
It won't do to go back to that--eugh!--eh? will it?--you know what I
mean! Fancy Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse--or Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse,
_Esquire_--standing behind"----

The partners looked rather blank at this unexpected sally.

"We would venture to suggest, Mr. Titmouse," said Mr. Gammon, seriously,
"the _absolute necessity_ there is for everything on your part, and our
parts, to go on as quietly as before, for a little time to come: to be
safe and successful, my dear sir, we must be very--very _secret_."

"Oh, I see, gents! I see; mum--mum's the word, for the present! But, I
_must_ say, if there is any one whom I want to hear of it, sooner than
another, it's"----

"Rag-bag and Co., I suppose! ha, ha, ha!" interrupted Mr. Gammon, his
partners echoing his gentle laugh.

"Ha, ha, ha! Cuss the cats--that's it--ha, ha, ha!" echoed Mr. Titmouse;
who, getting up out of his chair, could not resist capering to and fro,
sticking his hands on his hips, in something of the attitude of a
hornpipe dancer, whistling and humming by turns, and indulging in
various other wild antics.

"And now, gents--excuse me, but, to do a bit of business--when am I to
_begin_ scattering the shiners, eh?" he inquired, interrupting a
low-toned, but somewhat vehement conversation, between the two senior
partners; while Snap sat silently eying him like a terrier a rat coming
within his reach!

"Oh, of course, sir!" replied Mr. Gammon, rather coldly,
"very--considerable--delay is unavoidable. All we have done, as yet, is
to discover that, as far as we are advised, and can judge, you will turn
out to be the right owner; but--as we've already intimated--very
extensive and expensive operations must be immediately commenced, before
you can be put into possession. There are some who won't be persuaded to
_part_ with £10,000 a-year, Mr. Titmouse, for the mere asking!" added
Mr. Gammon, with an anxious and bitter smile.

"The devil there are! _Who_ are they that want to keep me any longer out
of what's my own?--what's justly mine? Eh? I want to know! Haven't they
kept me out long enough?--hang 'em! Put 'em in prison directly--don't
spare 'em--the villains!"

"They'll probably, ere long, find their way in that direction--for how,"
replied Mr. Quirk, "he's ever to make up, poor devil, the mesne
profits"----

"_Mean_ profits?--is that all you call them, gents? 'Pon my life, it's
rogue's money--villain's profits! So don't spare him--d--n him!--he's
robbed the fatherless, which I am, and an orphan. Keep me out of what's
mine, indeed! Curse me if he shall, though!"

"My dear Mr. Titmouse," said Gammon, very gravely, "we are getting on
too fast--dreadfully too fast. It will never do, matters of such immense
importance as these cannot be hurried on, or talked of, in this way"----

"I like that, sir!--I do, by Jove!"--exclaimed Titmouse, scornfully.

"You will really, if you go on in this wild way, Mr. Titmouse, make us
regret the trouble we have taken in the affair, and especially the
promptness with which we have communicated to you the extent of your
_possible_ good fortune."

"Beg pardon, I'm sure, gents, but mean no offence: am monstrous obliged
to you for what you've done for me--but, by Jove, it's taken me rather
a-back, I own, to hear that I'm to be kept so long out of it all! Why
can't you offer him, whoever he is that has my property, a slapping sum
to go out at once? Gents, I'll own to you I'm most uncommon low--never
so low in my life--devilish low! Done up, and yet it seems a'n't to get
what's justly mine! What am I to do in the meanwhile? Consider _that_,
gents!"

"You are rather excited just now, Mr. Titmouse," said Mr. Quirk,
seriously; "suppose we now break up, and resume our conversation
to-morrow, when we are all in better and calmer trim?"

"No, sir, thanking you all the same; but I think we'd better go on with
it now," replied Titmouse, impetuously. "Do you think I can stoop to go
back to that nasty, beastly shop, and stand behind that odious
counter?--I'd almost as lieve go to the gallows!"

"Our _decided_ opinion, Mr. Titmouse," said Mr. Quirk, emphatically--his
other partners getting graver and graver in their looks--"that is, if
our opinion is worth offering"----

"That, by Jove! remains to be seen," said Titmouse, with a pettish shake
of the head.

"Well, such as it is, we offer it you; and it is, that for many reasons
you must continue, for a little while longer, in your present
situation"----

"What! own Tag-rag for my master--and I worth £10,000 a-year?"
interrupted Titmouse, furiously.

"My dear sir, you've not _got_ it yet," said Mr. Quirk, with a very
bitter smile.

"Do you think you'd have told me what you have, if you weren't sure that
I _should_, though? No, no! you've gone too far, by Jove!--but I shall
burst, I shall! Me to go on as before!--they use me worse and worse
every day. Gents, you'll excuse me--I hope you will; but business is
business, gents--it is; and if you won't do mine, I must look out for
them that will--'pon my soul, I must, and"--If Mr. Titmouse could have
seen, or having seen, appreciated, the looks which the three partners
interchanged, on hearing this absurd, ungrateful, and insolent speech of
his--the expression that flitted across their shrewd faces; that was, of
intense contempt for him, hardly overmastered and concealed by a vivid
perception of their own interest, which was, of course, to _manage_, to
soothe, to conciliate him!

How the reptile propensities of his mean nature had thriven beneath the
sudden sunshine of unexpected prosperity!--See already his selfishness,
truculence, rapacity, in full play!

"So, gents," said he, after a long and keen expostulation with them on
the same subject, "I'm really to go to-morrow morning to Tag-rag and
Co.'s, and go on with the cursed life I led there to-day, all as if
nothing had happened--ha, ha, ha!--I do so like that!"

"In your present humor, Mr. Titmouse, it would be in vain to discuss the
matter," said Mr. Quirk, sternly. "Again I tell you that the course we
have recommended is, in our opinion, the proper one; excuse me if I add,
that you are entirely in our hands--and if I ask you--what _can_ you do
but adopt our advice?"

"Why, hang me if I won't employ somebody else--that's flat! S' elp me,
Heaven, I will! So, good-night, gents; you'll find that Tittlebat
Titmouse isn't to be trifled with!" So saying, Mr. Titmouse clapped his
hat on his head, bounced out of the room, and, no attempt being made to
stop him, he was in the street in a twinkling.

Mr. Gammon gazed at Mr. Quirk with a look, the significance of which the
astounded old gentleman thoroughly understood--'twas compounded of
triumph, reproach, and apprehension.

"Did you ever see such a little beast!" exclaimed Mr. Quirk, with an air
of disgust, turning to Mr. Snap.

"Beggar on horseback!" exclaimed Snap, with a bitter sneer.

"It won't do, however," said Mr. Quirk, with a most chagrined and
apprehensive air, "for him to go at large in his present frame of
mind--he may ruin the thing altogether"----

"As good as £500 a-year out of the way of the office," quoth Snap.

"It cannot be helped _now_," said Mr. Gammon, with a sigh of vexation,
turning to Mr. Quirk, and seizing his hat--"he must be managed--so I'll
go after him instantly, and bring him back at all hazards; and we must
really try and do something for him in the meanwhile, to keep him quiet
till the thing's brought a little into train." So out went after
Titmouse, Mr. Gammon, from whose lips dropped persuasion sweeter than
honey;[3] and I should not be surprised if he were to succeed in
bringing back that little stubborn piece of conceited stupidity.

As soon as Mr. Titmouse heard the street door shut after him with a kind
of _bang_, he snapped his fingers once or twice, by way of letting off a
little of the inflammable air that was in him, and muttered, "Pretty
chaps those, upon my soul!" said he, disdainfully. "I'll expose them
all! I'll apply to the lord-mayor--they're a pack of swindlers, they
are! This is the way they treat _me_, who've got a title to £10,000
a-year! To be sure"--He stood still for a moment--and another
moment--and another--and then dismay came quickly over him; for the
thought suddenly occurred to his partially obfuscated intellect--what
_hold_ had he got on Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap?--what _could_ he
do?--or rather, what HAD he done?

Ah--the golden vision of the last few hours was fading away
momentarily, like a dream! Each second of his deep and rapid reflection,
rendered more impetuous his desire and determination to return and make
his peace with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. By submission for the
present, he could get the whip-hand of them hereafter! He was in the act
of turning round towards the office, when Mr. Gammon gently laid his
hand upon the shoulder of his repentant client.

"Mr. Titmouse! my dear sir," said Mr. Gammon, softly, "what is the
matter with you? How could we so misunderstand each other?"

Titmouse's small cunning was on the _qui vive_, and he saw and followed
up his advantage. "I am going," said he, in a resolute tone, "to speak
to some one else in the morning."

"Ah, to be sure!" replied Mr. Gammon, with a smile of utter
unconcern--"I supposed as much--'tis a matter which of course, however,
signifies nothing to any one--but yourself. You will take any steps, my
dear sir, that occur to you, and act as you may be advised!"

"Monstrous kind of you, 'pon my life! to come and give me such good
advice!" exclaimed Titmouse, with a sneer--but consciously baffled.

"Oh, don't mention it!" said Gammon, coolly; "I came out of pure
good-nature, to assure you that our office, notwithstanding what has
passed, entertains not the slightest personal ill feeling towards you,
in thus throwing off our hands a fearfully expensive, and most harassing
enterprise--which we have feared from the first had been too rashly
undertaken"----

"Hem!" exclaimed Titmouse, involuntarily, once or twice.

"So good-night, Mr. Titmouse--good-night! God bless you! and think
hereafter of all this as a mere idle dream--as far as _we_ are
concerned!" Mr. Gammon, in the act of returning to the door, extended
his hand to Mr. Titmouse, whom he instantly perceived to be melting
rapidly.

"Why, sir," quoth Titmouse, with a mixture of embarrassment and alarm,
"if I thought you all meant the correct thing--hem! I say, the _correct_
thing by me--I shouldn't so much mind a little disappointment for the
time; but you must own, Mr. Gammon, it is very hard being kept out of
one's own so long--honor, now! isn't it?"

"True, very true, Mr. Titmouse. Very hard it is, indeed, to bear, and we
all felt deeply for you, and would have set everything in train"----

"_Would have!_ oh my stars!"----

"Yes, my dear Mr. Titmouse, we _would_ have done it, and believed we
could have brought you through every difficulty--over every obstacle,
prodigious though they are, and almost innumerable."

"Why--you--don't--hardly--quite--mean to say you've given it all
up?--What, already! 'Pon my life! Oh Lord!" exclaimed Titmouse, in
evident trepidation.

Mr. Gammon had triumphed over Mr. Titmouse! whom, nothing loath, he
brought back, in two minutes' time, into the room which Titmouse had
just before so insolently quitted. Mr. Quirk and Mr. Snap had now
_their_ parts to perform in the little scene which they had determined
on enacting. They were in the act of locking up desks and drawers,
evidently on the move, and received Mr. Titmouse with an air of cold
surprise.

"Mr. Titmouse again!" exclaimed Mr. Quirk, taking his gloves out of his
hat. "Back again!--This, sir, is quite an unexpected honor!"

"Leave anything behind?" inquired Mr. Snap, affecting to look about
him--"don't _see_ anything"----

"Oh no, sir! No, sir!" exclaimed Titmouse, with eager anxiety. "This
gent, Mr. Gammon, and I, have made it all up, gents! I'm not angry any
more--not the least, 'pon my soul I'm not--and quite forgive you--and no
mistake!"

"_Angry!_--_Forgive!!_ Mr. Titmouse!" echoed Mr. Quirk, with an air
sternly ironical. "We are under great obligations to you for your
forbearance!"

"Oh, come, gents!" said Titmouse, more and more disturbed, "I _was_ too
warm, I dare say, and--and--I ask your pardon, all of you, gents! I
won't say another word if you'll but buckle to business again--quite
exactly in your own way--because you see"----

"It's growing _very_ late," said Mr. Quirk, coldly, and looking at his
watch; "however, after what you have said, probably at some future time,
when we've _leisure_ to look into the thing"----

Poor Titmouse was near dropping on his knees, in mingled agony and
fright.

"May I be allowed to say," interposed the bland voice of Mr. Gammon,
anxiously addressing himself to Mr. Quirk, "that Mr. Titmouse a few
minutes ago assured me, outside there, that if you, as the head of the
firm, could only be persuaded to permit our house to take up his case
again"----

"I did--I did indeed, gents! so help me----!" interrupted Mr. Titmouse,
eagerly backing with an oath the ready lie of Mr. Gammon.

Mr. Quirk, with a stern countenance, drew his hand across his chin
musingly, and stood silently for a few moments, apparently irresolute.

"Well," said he at length, but very coldly, "since that is so, probably
we may be induced to resume our heavy labors in your behalf; and if you
will favor us with a call to-morrow night, at the same hour, we may
have, by that time, made up our minds as to the course we shall think
fit to adopt."

"Lord, sir, I'll be here as the clock strikes, and as meek as a mouse;
and pray, have it all your own way for the future, gents--do!"--cried
Titmouse, clasping his hands together on his breast.

"Good-night, sir--good-night!" exclaimed the partners,
stiffly--motioning him towards the door.

"Good-night, gents!" said Titmouse, bowing very low, and feeling himself
at the same time being--bowed _out_! As he passed out of the room, he
cast a lingering look at their three frigid faces, as if they were
angels sternly shutting him out from Paradise. What misery was his, as
he walked slowly homeward, with much the same feelings (now that the
fumes of the brandy had somewhat evaporated, and the reaction of
excitement was coming on, aggravated by a recollection of the desperate
check he had received) as those of a sick and troubled man, who,
suddenly roused out of a delicious dream, drops into wretched reality,
as it were out of a fairyland, which, with all its dear innumerable
delights, is melting overhead into thin air--disappearing, _forever_!

Closet Court had never looked so odious to him as it did on his return
from this memorable interview. Dreadfully distressed and harassed, he
flung himself on his bed for a moment, directly he had shut his door,
intending presently to rise and undress; but Sleep, having got him
prostrate, secured her victory. She waved her black wand over him,
and--he awoke not completely till about eight o'clock in the morning. A
second long-drawn sigh was preparing to follow its predecessor, when he
heard the clock strike eight, and sprang off the bed in a fright; for he
ought to have been at the shop an hour before. Dashing a little water
into his face, and scarce staying to wipe it off, he ran down-stairs,
through the court, and along the street, never stopping till he had
found his way into--almost the very arms of the dreaded Mr. Tag-rag;
who, rarely making his appearance till about half-past nine, had, as the
deuce would have it, happened to come down an hour and a half earlier
than usual on that particular morning, the only one out of several
hundreds on which Titmouse had been more than ten minutes beyond his
time.

"Yours ve-ry respectfully, Mr. Titmouse--Thomas Tag-rag!" exclaimed that
personage, with mock solemnity, bowing formally to his astounded and
breathless shopman.

"I--I--beg your pardon, sir; but I wasn't very well, and overslept
myself," stammered Titmouse.

"Ne-ver mind, Mr. Titmouse! ne-ver mind!--it don't much signify, as it
happens," interrupted Mr. Tag-rag, bitterly; "you've just got an hour
and a half to take this piece of silk, with my compliments, to Messrs.
Shuttle and Weaver, in Dirt Street, Spitalfields, and ask them if they
aren't ashamed to send it to a West-end house like mine; and bring back
a better piece instead of it! D' ye _hear_, sir?"

"Yes, sir--but--am I to go before my breakfast, sir?"

"Did I say a word about breakfast, sir? You heard my orders, sir; you
can attend to them or not, Mr. Titmouse, as you please!"

Off trotted Titmouse _instanter_, without his breakfast; and so Tag-rag
gained one object he had had in view. Titmouse found this rather trying:
a four-mile walk before him, with no inconsiderable load under his arm;
having, moreover, had nothing to eat since the preceding evening, when
he had partaken of a delicate repast of thick slices of bread, smeared
slightly over with somewhat high-flavored salt butter, and moistened
with a most astringent decoction of _quasi_ tea-leaves sweetened with
brown sugar, and discolored with sky-blue milk. He had not even a
farthing about him wherewith to buy a penny roll! As he went
disconsolately along, so many doubts and fears buzzed impetuously about
him, that they completely darkened his little soul, and bewildered his
petty understanding. _Ten Thousand a-Year!_--it could never be meant for
the like of _him_! He soon worked himself into a conviction that the
whole thing was infinitely too good to be true; the affair was
desperate; it had been all moonshine; for some cunning purpose or
another, Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, had been--ah, here he was
within a few yards of their residence, the scene of last night's tragic
transactions! As he passed Saffron Hill, he paused, looked up towards
the blessed abode,

    "Where centred all his hopes and fears,"--

uttered a profound sigh, and passed slowly on towards Smithfield. The
words "_Quirk, Gammon, and Snap_," seemed to be written over every
shop-window which he passed--their images filled his mind's eye. What
could they be at? They had been all very polite and friendly at
first--and of their own seeking: but he had affronted them. How coldly
and proudly they had parted with him over-night, although they had
professed themselves reconciled to him! It was evident that they would
stand no nonsense--they were great lawyers; so he must (if they really
would allow him to see them again) eat humble pie cheerfully till he had
got all that they had to give him. How he dreaded the coming night!
Perhaps they intended civilly to tell him that, since seeing him, they
would have nothing more to do with him; they would get the estate for
themselves, or some one else who would be more manageable! They had
taken care to tell him nothing at all about the nature of his
pretensions to this grand fortune. Oh, how crafty they were--they had
it all their own way!--But what, after all, had he really done? The
estates were his, if they were really in earnest--his and no one's else;
and why should he be kept out of them at their will and pleasure?
Suppose he were to say he would give them all he was entitled to for
£20,000 down, in cash? Oh no; on second thoughts, that would be only two
years' income! But on the other hand--he dared hardly even propose it to
his thoughts--still, suppose it _should_ really all turn out true!
Goodness gracious!--that day two months he might be riding about in his
carriage in the Parks, and poor devils looking on at _him_, as he now
looked on all those who now rode there. There he would be, holding up
his head with the best of them, instead of slaving as he was that
moment, carrying about that cursed bundle--ough! how he shrunk with
disgust as he changed its position, to relieve his aching right arm! Why
was his mouth to be stopped--why might he not tell his shopmates? What
would he not give for the luxury of telling it to the odious Tag-rag? If
he _were_ to do so, Mr. Tag-rag, he was sure, would ask him to dinner
the very next Sunday, at his country house at Clapham!--Ah,
ha!--Thoughts such as these so occupied his mind, that he did not for a
long while observe that he was walking at a rapid rate towards the
Mile-end road, having left Whitechapel church nearly half a mile behind
him! The possible master of £10,000 a-year was nearly dropping with
fatigue, and sudden apprehension of the storm he should have to
encounter when he first saw Mr. Tag-rag after so unduly prolonged an
absence on his errand. He was detained for a cruel length of time at
Messrs. Shuttle and Weaver's; who, not having the exact kind of silk
required by their imperious customer at that moment on their premises,
had some difficulty in obtaining it, after having sent for it to one or
two neighboring manufactories; by which means it came to pass that it
was two o'clock before Titmouse, completely exhausted, had returned to
Tag-rag and Company's. The gentlemen of the shop had finished their
dinners.

"Go up-stairs and get your dinner, sir!" exclaimed Tag-rag, sternly,
after having received Messrs. Shuttle and Weaver's obsequious message of
apologies and hopes.

Titmouse having laid down his heavy bundle on the counter, went
up-stairs hungry enough, and found himself the sole occupant of the long
close-smelling room in which his companions had been recently dining.
His dinner was presently brought to him by a slatternly slipshod
servant-girl. It was in an uncovered basin, which appeared to contain
nothing but the leavings of his companions--a savory intermixture of
cold potatoes, broken meat, (chiefly bits of fat and gristle,) a little
hot water having been thrown over it to make it appear warm and
fresh--(faugh!) His plate (with a small pinch of salt upon it) had not
been cleaned after its recent use, but evidently only hastily smeared
over with a greasy towel, as also seemed his knife and fork, which, in
their disgusting state, he was fain to put up with--the table-cloth on
which he might have wiped them, having been removed. A hunch of bread
that seemed to have been tossing about in the pan for days, and half a
pint of turbid table-beer, completed the fare set before him; opposite
which he sat for some minutes, too much occupied with his reflections to
commence his repast. He was in the act of scooping out of the basin some
of its inviting contents, when--"Titmouse!" exclaimed the voice of one
of his shopmates, peering in at him through the half-opened door, "Mr.
Tag-rag wants you! He says you've had plenty of time to finish your
dinner!"

"Oh, tell him, then, I'm only just beginning my dinner--eugh! such as it
is," replied Titmouse, sulkily.

In a few minutes' time Mr. Tag-rag himself entered the room, stuttering
with fury--"How much longer, sir, may it be your pleasure to spend over
your dinner, eh?"

"Not another moment, sir," answered Titmouse, looking with unaffected
loathing and disgust at the savory victuals before him; "if you'll only
allow me a few minutes to go home and buy a penny roll instead of all
this"----

"Ve--ry good, sir! Ve--ry parti--cu--larly good, Mr. Titmouse," replied
Tag-rag, with ill-subdued rage; "anything else that I can make a
_leetle_ memorandum of--against the day of--your leaving us?"

This hint of twofold terror, _i. e._ of withholding on the ground of
misconduct the wretched balance of salary which might be then due to
him, and of also giving him a damning character--dispelled the small
remains of Titmouse's appetite, and he rose to return to the shop,
involuntarily clutching his fist as he brushed close past the tyrant
Tag-rag on the stairs, whom he would have been delighted to pitch down
head-foremost. If he _had_ done so, none of his fellow-slaves below, in
spite of their present sycophancy towards Tag-rag, would have shown any
particular alacrity in picking up their common oppressor. Poor Tittlebat
resumed his old situation behind the counter; but how different his
present, from his former air and manner! With his pen occasionally
peeping pertly out of his bushy hair over his right ear, and his
yard-measure in his hand, no one, till the previous Monday morning, had
been more cheerful, smirking, and nimble than Tittlebat Titmouse: alas,
how chopfallen now! None of his companions could make him out, or guess
what was in the wind; so they very justly concluded that he had been
doing something dreadfully disgraceful, the extent of which was known to
Tag-rag and himself alone. Their jeers and banter were giving place to
cold distrustful looks, which were far more trying to bear. How he
longed to be able to burst upon their astounded minds with the pent-up
intelligence that was silently racking and splitting his little bosom!
But if he did--the terrible firm of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap--Oh! the
very thought of them glued his lips together. There was _one_, however,
of whom he might surely make a confidant--the excellent Huckaback, with
whom he had had no opportunity of communicating since Sunday night. That
gentleman was as close a prisoner at the establishment of DIAPER and
SARSENET, in Tottenham-court Road, as Titmouse at Messrs. Tag-rag's, of
which said establishment he was, by the way, quite as great an ornament
as Titmouse of Messrs. Tag-rag's. They were of about the same height,
and equals in vulgar puppyism of manners, dress, and appearance; but
Titmouse was certainly the better-looking. With equal conceit apparent
in their faces, that of Huckaback, square, flat, and sallow, had an
expression of ineffable impudence, made a lady shudder, and a gentleman
feel a tingling sensation in his right toe. About his small black eyes
there was a glimmer of low cunning;--but he is not of sufficient
importance to be painted any further. When Titmouse left the shop that
night, a little after nine, he hurried to his lodgings, to make himself
as imposing in his appearance before Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, as
his time and means would admit of. Behold, on a table lay a letter from
Huckaback. It was written in a flourishing mercantile hand; and here is
a _verbatim_ copy of it:


     "DEAR TIT,

     "Hope you are well, which is what I can only middling say in
     respect of me. Such a row with my governors as I have had to-day! I
     thought that as I had been in the House near upon Eighteen Months
     at £25 per annum, I might nat'rally ask for £30 a-year (which is
     what my Predecessor had) when, would you believe it, Mr. Sharpeye
     (who is going to be taken in as a Partner,) to whom I named the
     thing, ris up in rage against me, and I were had up into the
     counting-house, where both the governors was, and they gave it me
     in such a way that you never saw nor heard of; but it wasn't all on
     their own side, as you know me too well to think of. You would have
     thought I had been a-going to rob the house. They said I was most
     oudacious, and all that, and ungrateful, and what would I have
     next? Mr. Diaper said times was come to such a pitch!! since when
     he was first in the business, for salaries, says he, is ris to
     double, and not half the work done that was, and no
     gratitude--(cursed old curmudgeon!) He said if I left them just
     now, I might whistle for a character, except one that I should not
     like; but if he don't mind I'll give him a touch of law about
     that--which brings me to what happened to-day with _our_ lawyers,
     Titty, the people at Saffron Hill, whom I thought I would call in
     on to-day, being near the neighborhood with some light goods, to
     see how affairs was getting on, and stir them up a bit"--

This almost took Titmouse's breath away----

     --"feeling most _interested_ on your account, as you know, dear
     Tit, I do. I said I wanted to speak to one of the gentlemen on
     business of wital importance; whereat I was quickly shown into a
     room where two gents was sitting. Having put down my parcel for a
     minute on the table, I said I was a very partic'lar friend of
     yours, and had called in to see how things went on about the
     advertisement; whereat you never saw in your life how struck they
     looked, and stared at one another in speechless silence, till they
     said to me, what concerned me about the business? or something of
     that nature, but in such a way that _ris_ a _rage_ in me directly,
     all for your sake, (for I did not like the looks of things;) and
     says I, I said, we would let them know we were not to be
     _gammoned_; whereat up rose the youngest of the two, and ringing
     the bell, he says to a tight-laced young gentleman with a pen
     behind his ear, 'Show this fellow to the door,' which I was at
     once; but, in doing so, let out a little of my mind to them.
     They're no better than they should be, you see if they are; but
     when we touch the property, we'll show them who is their masters,
     which consoles me. Good-by, keep your sperrits up, and I will call
     and tell you more about it on Sunday. So farewell (I write this at
     Mr. Sharpeye's desk, who is coming down from dinner directly, the
     beast!)--Your true friend,
                                                        "R. HUCKABACK.

     "P. S.--Met a young Jew last night with a lot of prime cigars, and
     (knowing he _must_ have stole them--betwixt you, and I, and the
     Post--they looked so good at the price,) I bought one shilling's
     worth for me, and two shillings' worth for you, your salary being
     higher, and to say nothing of your chances."

All that part of the foregoing letter which related to its gifted
writer's interview with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, Titmouse read
in a kind of spasm--he could not draw a breath, and felt a choking
sensation coming over him. After a while, "I may spare myself," thought
he, "the trouble of rigging out--Huckaback has done my business for me
with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap!--Mine will only be a walk in
vain!" And this cursed call of Huckaback's, too, to have happened after
what had occurred last night between Titmouse and them!! and so urgently
as he had been enjoined to keep the matter to himself! Of course,
Huckaback would seem to have been sent by him; seeing he appeared to
have assumed the hectoring tone which Titmouse had tried so vainly
over-night, and now so bitterly repented of; and he had no doubt grossly
insulted the arbiters of Titmouse's destiny, (for he knew Huckaback's
impudence)--he had even said that he (Titmouse) would not be GAMMONED by
them! But time was pressing--the experiment must be made; and with a
beating heart he scrambled into a change of clothes--bottling up his
wrath against the unconscious Huckaback till he should see that worthy.
In a miserable state of mind he set off soon after for Saffron Hill at a
quick pace, which soon became a trot, and often sharpened into a
downright run. He saw, heard, and thought of nothing, as he hurried
along Oxford Street and Holborn, but Quirk, Gammon, Snap, and Huckaback,
and the reception which the last-mentioned gentleman might have secured
for him--if, indeed, he was to be received at all. The magical words,
_Ten Thousand a-year_, had not disappeared from the field of his
troubled vision; but how faintly and dimly they shone!--like the
Pleiades coldly glistening through intervening mists far off--oh! at
what a stupendous, immeasurable, and hopeless distance! Imagine those
stars gazed at by the anguished and despairing eyes of the bereaved
lover, madly believing one of them to contain HER who has just departed
from his arms, and from this world, and you may form a notion of the
agonizing feelings--the absorbed contemplation of one dear, dazzling,
but distant object, experienced on this occasion by Mr. Titmouse. No,
no; I don't mean seriously to pretend that so grand a thought as this
_could_ be entertained by his little optics intellectual; you might as
well suppose the tiny eye of a black beetle to be scanning the vague,
fanciful, and mysterious figure and proportions of Orion, or a kangaroo
to be perusing and pondering over the immortal _Principia_. I repeat,
that I have no desire of the sort, and am determined not again foolishly
to attempt fine writing, which I now perceive to be entirely out of my
line. In language more befitting me and my subject, I may be allowed to
say that there is no getting the contents of a quart into a pint pot;
that Titmouse's mind was a half-pint--and it was brim-full. All the
while that I have been going on thus, however, Titmouse was hurrying
down Holborn at a rattling rate. When at length he had reached Saffron
Hill, he was in a bath of perspiration. His face was quite red; he
breathed hard; his heart beat violently; he had got a stitch in his
side; and he could not get his gloves on his hot and swollen hands. He
stood for a moment with his hat off, wiping his reeking forehead, and
endeavoring to recover himself a little, before entering the dreaded
presence to which he had been hastening. He even fancied for a moment
that his eyes gave out sparks of light. While thus pausing, St. Andrew's
Church struck ten, half electrifying Titmouse, who bolted up Saffron
Hill, and was soon standing opposite the door. How the sight of it smote
him, as it reminded him of the way in which, on the preceding night, he
had bounced out of it! But that could not now be helped; so _ring_ went
the bell; as softly, however, as he could; for he recollected that it
was a very loud bell, and he did not wish to offend. He stood for some
time, and nobody answered. He waited for nearly two minutes, and
trembled, assailed by a thousand vague fears. He might not, however,
have rung loudly enough--so--again, a little louder, did he venture to
ring. Again he waited. There seemed something threatening in the great
brass plate on the door, out of which "QUIRK, GAMMON, AND SNAP" appeared
to look at him ominously. While he thought of it, by the way, there was
something very serious and stern in all their faces--he wondered that he
had not noticed it before. What a drunken beast he had been to go on in
their presence as he had! thought he; then Huckaback's image flitted
across his disturbed fancy. "Ah!" thought he, "that's the thing!--that's
it, depend upon it: this door will never be opened to _me_ again--he's
done for me!" He breathed faster, clinched his fist, and involuntarily
raised it in a menacing way, when he heard himself addressed--"Oh! dear
me, sir, I _hope_ I haven't kept you waiting," said the old woman whom
he had before seen, fumbling in her pocket for the door-key. She had
been evidently out shopping, having a plate in her left hand, over which
her apron was partially thrown. "Hope you've not been ringing long,
sir!"

"Oh dear! no ma'am," replied Titmouse, with anxious civility, and a
truly miserable smile--"Afraid I may have kept _them_ waiting," he
added, almost dreading to hear the answer.

"Oh no, sir, not at all--they've all been gone since a little after
nine; but there's a letter I was to give you!" She opened the door;
Titmouse nearly dropping with fright. "I'll get it for you, sir--let me
see, where did I put it?--Oh, in the clerk's room, I think." Titmouse
followed her in. "Dear me--where can it be?" she continued, peering
about, and then snuffing the long wick of the candle, which she had left
burning for the last quarter of an hour, during her absence. "I _hope_
none of the clerks has put it away in mistake! Well, it isn't _here_,
anyhow."

"Perhaps, ma'am, it's in their _own_ room," suggested Titmouse, in a
faint tone.

"Oh, p'r'aps it is!" she replied. "We'll go and see"--and she led the
way, followed closely by Titmouse, who caught his breath spasmodically
as he passed the green-baize door. Yes, there was the room--the scene of
last night was transacted there, and came crowding over his
recollection--there was the green-shaded candlestick--the table covered
with papers--an arm-chair near it, in which, probably, Mr. Quirk had
been sitting only an hour before to write the letter they were now in
quest of, and which might be to forbid him their presence forever! How
dreary and deserted the room looked, thought he as he peered about it in
search of the dreaded letter!

"Oh, here it is!--well, I never!--who could have put it here, now? I'm
sure I didn't. Let me see--it was, no doubt"--said the old woman,
holding the letter in one hand and putting the other to her head.

"Never mind, ma'am," said Titmouse, stretching his hand towards
her--"now we've got it, it don't much signify." She gave it to him.
"Seem _particularly_ anxious for me to get it--did they, ma'am?" he
inquired, with a strong effort to appear unconcerned--the dreaded letter
quite quivering, the while, in his fingers.

"No, sir--Mr. Quirk only said I was to give it you when you called.
B'lieve they sent it to you, but the clerk said he couldn't find your
place out; by the way, (excuse me, sir,) but yours _is_ a funny name!
How I heard 'em laughing at it, to be sure! What makes people give such
queer names? Would you like to read it here, sir?--you're welcome."

"No, thank you, ma'am--it's of not the _least_ consequence," he replied,
with a desperate air; and tossing it with attempted carelessness into
his hat, which he put on his head, he very civilly wished her
good-night, and departed--very nearly inclined to sickness, or
faintness, or something of the sort, which the fresh air might perhaps
dispel. He quickly espied a lamp at a corner, which promised to afford
him an uninterrupted opportunity of inspecting his letter. He took it
out of his hat. It was addressed--simply, "Mr. Titmouse, _Cocking_
Court, Oxford Street," (which accounted, perhaps, for the clerk's having
been unable to find it;) and having been opened with trembling
eagerness, thus it read:--

     "Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, present their compliments to Mr.
     Titmouse, and are anxious to save him the trouble of his intended
     visit this evening.

     "They exceedingly regret that obstacles (which it is to be hoped,
     however, may not prove _ultimately_ insurmountable) exist in the
     way of their prosecuting their intended inquiries on behalf of Mr.
     Titmouse.

     "Since their last night's interview with him, circumstances, which
     they could not have foreseen, and over which they have no control,
     have occurred, which render it unnecessary for Mr. T. to give
     himself any more anxiety in the affair--at least, not until he
     shall have heard from Messrs. Q. G. and S.

     "If anything of importance _should_ hereafter transpire, it is not
     improbable that Mr. T. may hear from them.

     "They were favored, this afternoon, with a visit from Mr. T.'s
     friend--a Mr. Hucklebottom."

     "_Saffron Hill, Wednesday Evening, 12th July 18--._"

When poor Titmouse had finished reading over this vague, frigid, and
disheartening note a second time, a convulsive sob or two pierced his
bosom, indicative of its being indeed swollen with sorrow; and at
length, overcome by his feelings, he cried bitterly--not checked even by
the occasional exclamations of one or two passers-by. He could not at
all control himself. He felt as if he could have almost relieved
himself, by banging his head against the wall! A tumultuous feeling of
mingled grief and despair prevented his thoughts, for a long while, from
settling on any one idea or object. At length, when the violence of the
storm had somewhat abated, on concluding a third perusal of the
death-warrant to all his hopes, which he held in his hand, his eye lit
upon the strange word which was intended to designate his friend
Huckaback; and it instantly changed both the kind of his feelings, and
the current in which they had been rushing. Grief became rage; and the
stream foamed in quite a new direction--namely, towards Huckaback. That
accursed fellow he considered to be the sole cause of the direful
disaster which had befallen him. He utterly lost sight of one
circumstance, which one might have imagined likely to have occurred to
his thoughts at such a time--viz. his own offensive and insolent
behavior over-night to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. Yet so it
was:--yes, upon the devoted (but unconscious) head of Huckaback, was the
lightning rage of Tittlebat Titmouse doomed to descend. The fire that
was thus quickly kindled within, soon dried up the source of his tears.
He crammed the letter into his pocket, and started off at once in the
direction of Leicester Square, breathing rage at every step--_viresque
acquirens eundo_. His hands kept convulsively clinching together as he
pelted along. Hotter and hotter became his rage as he neared the
residence of Huckaback. When he had reached it, he sprang up-stairs;
knocked at his _quondam_ friend's door; and on the instant of its
being--doubtless somewhat surprisedly--opened by Huckaback, who was
undressing, Titmouse sprang towards him, let fly a goodly number of
violent blows upon his face and breast--and down fell Huckaback upon the
bed behind him, insensible, and bleeding profusely from his nose.

"There! there!"--gasped Titmouse, breathless and exhausted, discharging
a volley of oaths and opprobrious epithets at the victim of his fury.
"Do it again! You will, won't you? _You'll_ go--and meddle again in
other people's--you---- cu-cu-cursed officious"--but his rage was
spent--the paroxysm was over; the silent and bleeding figure of
Huckaback was before his eyes; and he gazed at him, terror-stricken.
What had he done! He sank down on the bed beside Huckaback--then started
up, wringing his hands, and staring at him in an ecstasy of remorse and
fright. It was rather singular that the noise of such an assault should
have roused no one to inquire into it; but so it was. Frightened almost
out of his bewildered senses, he closed and bolted the door; and
addressed himself, as well as he was able, to the recovering of
Huckaback. After propping him up, and splashing cold water into his
face, Titmouse at length discovered symptoms of restoration to
consciousness, which he anxiously endeavored to accelerate, by putting
to the lips of the slowly-reviving victim of his violence some cold
water, in a tea-cup. He swallowed a little; and soon afterwards, opening
his eyes, stared on Titmouse with a dull eye and bewildered air.

"What's been the matter?" at length he faintly inquired.

"Oh, Hucky! so glad to hear you speak again. It's I--I--Titty! I did it!
Strike me, Hucky, as soon as you're well enough! Do--kick me--anything
you choose! I won't hinder you!" cried Titmouse, sinking on his knees,
and clasping his hands together, as he perceived Huckaback rapidly
reviving.

"Why, what _is_ the matter?" repeated that gentleman, with a wondering
air, raising his hand to his nose, from which the blood was still
trickling. The fact is, that he had lost his senses, probably from the
suddenness, rather than the violence of the injuries which he had
received.

"I did it all--yes, I did!" continued Titmouse, gazing on him with a
look of agony and remorse.

"Why, I can't be awake--I can't!" said Huckaback, rubbing his eyes, and
then staring at his wet and blood-stained shirt-front and hands.

"Oh yes, you are--you are!" groaned Titmouse; "and I'm going _mad_ as
fast as I can! Do what you like to me! Kick me if you please! Call in a
constable! Send me to jail! Say I came to rob you--anything--blow me if
I care what becomes of me!"

"Why, what _does_ all this jabber mean, Titmouse?" inquired Huckaback,
sternly, and apparently meditating reprisals.

"Oh, yes, I see! Now you _are_ going to give it me! but I won't stir. So
hit away, Hucky."

"Why--are you mad?" inquired Huckaback, grasping him by the collar
rather roughly.

"Yes, quite! Mad!--ruined!--gone to the devil all at once!"

"And what if you are? What did it matter to _me_? What brought you
here?" continued Huckaback, in a tone of increasing vehemence. "What
have I done to offend you? How _dare_ you come _here_? And at this time
of night, too? Eh?"

"What, indeed! Oh lud, oh lud, oh lud! Kick me, I say--strike me! You'll
do me good, and bring me to my senses. _Me_ to do all this to you! And
we've been such precious good friends always. I'm a brute, Hucky--I've
been mad, stark mad, Hucky--and that's all I can say!"

Huckaback stared at him more and more; and began at length to suspect
how matters stood--namely, that the Sunday's incident had turned
Titmouse's head--he having also, no doubt, heard some desperate bad news
during the day, smashing all his hopes. A mixture of emotions kept
Huckaback silent.
Astonishment--apprehension--doubt--pride--pique--resentment. He had been
_struck_--his blood had been drawn--by the man there before him on his
knees, formerly his friend; now, he supposed, a madman.

"Why, curse me, Titmouse, if I can make up my mind what to do to you!"
he exclaimed, "I--I suppose you are going mad, or gone mad, and I must
forgive you. But get away with you--out with you, or--or--I'll call
in"----

"Forgive me--forgive me, dear Hucky! Don't send me away--I shall go and
drown myself if you do."

"What the d--l do I care if you do? You'd much better have gone and done
it before you came here. Nay, be off and do it _now_, instead of
blubbering here in this way."

"Go on! go on!--it's doing me good--the worse the better!" sobbed
Titmouse.

"Come, come," said Huckaback, roughly, "none of this noise here. I'm
tired of it!"

"But, pray, don't send me away from you. I shall go straight to the
devil if you do! I've no friend but you, Hucky. Yet I've been such a
villain to you!--But it quite put the devil into me, when all of a
sudden I found it was _you_."

"Me!--Why, what _are_ you after?" interrupted Huckaback, with an air of
angry wonder.

"Oh dear, dear!" groaned Titmouse; "if I've been a brute to you, which
is quite true, _you've_ been the _ruin_ of me, clean! I'm clean done
for, Huck. Cleaned out! You've done my business for me; knocked it all
on the head!--I sha'n't never hear any more of it--they've said as much
in their letter--they say you called to-day"----

Huckaback now began to have a glimmering notion of his having been, in
some considerable degree, connected with the mischief of the day--an
unconscious agent in it. He audibly drew in his breath, as it were, as
he more and more distinctly recollected his visit to Messrs. Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap; and adverted more particularly to his _threats_,
uttered, too, in Titmouse's name, and as if by his authority. Whew! here
was a kettle of fish.

Now, strange and unaccountable as, at first thought, it may appear, the
very circumstance which one should have thought calculated to assuage
his resentment against Titmouse--namely, that he had really _injured_
Titmouse most seriously, (if not indeed irreparably,) and so _provoked_
the drubbing which had just been administered to him--had quite the
contrary effect. Paradoxical as it may seem, matter of clear mitigation
was at once converted into matter of aggravation. Were the feelings
which Huckaback then experienced, akin to that which often produces
hatred of a person whom one has injured? May it be thus accounted for?
That there is a secret satisfaction in the mere consciousness of being a
sufferer--a martyr--and that, too, in the presence of a person whom one
perceives to be aware that he has wantonly injured one; that one's
bruised spirit is soothed by the sight of his remorse--by the
consciousness that he is punishing himself infinitely more severely than
_we_ could punish him; and of the claim one has obtained to the
_sympathy_ of everybody who sees, or may hear of one's sufferings, (that
rich and grateful balm to injured feeling.) But when, as in the case of
Huckaback, feelings of this description (in a coarse and small way, to
be sure, according to his kind) were suddenly encountered by a
consciousness of his having _deserved_ his sufferings; when the martyr
felt himself quickly sinking into the culprit and offender; when, I say,
Huckaback felt an involuntary consciousness that the gross indignities
which Titmouse had just inflicted on him, had been justified by the
provocation--nay, had been far less than his mischievous and impudent
interference had deserved;--and when feelings of this sort, moreover,
were sharpened by a certain tingling sense of physical pain from the
blows which he had received--the result was, that the sleeping lion of
Huckaback's courage was very nearly awakening.

"_I've half a mind, Titmouse_"--said Huckaback, knitting his brows,
fixing his eyes, and appearing inclined to raise his arm. There was an
ominous pause for a moment or two, during which Titmouse's feelings also
underwent a slight alteration. His allusion to Huckaback's ruinous
insult to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, unconsciously converted his
remorse into rage, which it rather, perhaps, resuscitated. Titmouse rose
from his knees. "Ah!" said he, in quite an altered tone, "you _may_ look
fierce! you may!--you'd better strike me, Huckaback--do! Finish the
mischief you've begun this day! Hit away--you're quite safe"--and he
secretly prepared himself for the mischief which--did not come. "You
_have_ ruined me! you have, Huckaback!" he continued with increasing
vehemence; "and I shall be cutting my throat--nay," striking his fist on
the table, "I will!"

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Huckaback, apprehensively. "No, Titmouse,
don't--don't think of it; it will all come right yet, depend on't; you
see if it don't!"

"Oh, no, it's all done for--it's all up with me!"

"But _what's_ been done?--let us hear," said Huckaback, as he passed a
wet towel to and fro over his ensanguined features. It was by this time
clear that the storm which had for some time given out only a few faint
fitful flashes or flickerings in the distance, had passed away.
Titmouse, with many grievous sighs, took out the letter which had
produced the paroxysms I have been describing, and read it aloud. "And
only see how they've spelled your name, Huckaback--look!" he added,
handing his friend the letter.

"How _partic'lar_ vulgar!" exclaimed Huckaback, with a contemptuous air,
which, overspreading his features, half-closed as was his left eye, and
swollen as were his cheek and nose, would have made him a queer object
to one who had leisure to observe such matters. "And so _this_ is all
they say of _me_," he continued. "How do you come to know that I've been
doing you mischief? All I did was just to look in, as respectful as
possible, to ask how you was, and they very civilly told me you was very
well, and we parted"----

"Nay, now, that's a lie, Huckaback, and you know it!" interrupted
Titmouse.

"It's true, so help me----!" vehemently asseverated Huckaback.

"Why, perhaps you'll deny that you wrote and told me all you said,"
interrupted Titmouse, indignantly, feeling in his pocket for Huckaback's
letter, which that worthy had at the moment quite forgotten having sent,
and on being reminded of it, he certainly seemed rather nonplussed.
"Oh--ay, if you mean _that_--hem!"--he stammered.

"Come, you _know_ you're a liar, Huck--but it's no good now: liar or no
liar, it's all over."

"The pot and kettle, anyhow, Tit, as far as that goes--hem!--but let's
spell over this letter; we haven't studied it yet; I'm a hand, rather,
at getting at what's said in a letter!--Come"--and they drew their
chairs together, Huckaback reading over the letter slowly, alone;
Titmouse's eyes travelling incessantly from his friend's countenance to
the letter, and so back again, to gather what might be the effect of its
perusal.

"There's a glimpse of daylight yet, Titty!" said Huckaback, as he
concluded reading it.

"No! But is there really? Do tell me, Hucky"----

"Why, first and foremost, how uncommon polite they are, (except that
they haven't manners enough to spell my name right)"----

"Really--and so they are!" exclaimed Titmouse, rather elatedly.

"And then, you see, there's another thing--if they'd meant to give the
thing the go-by altogether, what could have been easier than to say
so?--but they haven't said anything of the sort, so they don't _mean_ to
give it all up!"

"Lord, Huck! what would I give for such a head as yours! What you say is
quite true," said Titmouse, still more cheerfully.

"To be sure, they do say there's an _obstacle_--an obstacle, you
see--nay, it's obstacles, which is several, and that"---- Titmouse's
face fell.

"But they say again, that it's--it's--curse their big words--they say
it's--to be got over in time."

"Well--that's something, isn't it?"

"To be sure it is; and a'n't anything better than nothing? But then,
again, here's a stone in the other pocket--they say there's a
_circumstance_!--don't you hate circumstances, Titty?--I do."

"So do I!--What does it mean? I've often heard--isn't it a _thing_? And
that may be--anything."

"Oh, there's a great dif--hem! And they go on to say it's happened since
you was there"----

"Curse me, then, if that don't mean _you_, Huckaback!" interrupted
Titmouse, with returning anger.

"No, that can't be it; they said they'd no control over the
circumstance;--now they _had_ over me; for they ordered me to the door,
and I went; a'n't that so, Titty?--Lord, how my eye _does_ smart, to be
sure!"

"And don't I smart all over, inside and out, if it comes to that?"
inquired Titmouse, dolefully.

"There's nothing particular in the rest of the letter--only uncommon
civil, and saying if anything turns up you shall hear."

"_I_ could make that out myself--so there's nothing in that"--said
Titmouse, quickly.

"Well--if it _is_ all over--what a pity! Such things as we could have
done, Titty, if we'd got the thing--eh?"

Titmouse groaned at this glimpse of the heaven he seemed shut out of
forever.

"Can't you find anything--nothing at all comfortable-like, in the
letter?" he inquired with a deep sigh.

Huckaback again took up the letter and spelled it over.

"Well," said he, striving to give himself an appearance of thinking,
"there's something in it that, after all, I don't seem quite to get to
the bottom of--they've seemingly taken a deal of pains with it!"

[And undoubtedly it _was_ a document which had been pretty well
considered by its framers before being sent out; though, probably, they
had hardly anticipated its being so soon afterwards subjected to the
scrutiny of such acute intellects as were now engaged upon it.]

"And then, again, you know they're lawyers; and do _they_ ever write
anything that hasn't got more in it than anybody can find out? These
gents that wrote this, they're a trick too keen for the thieves
even--and how can _we_--hem!--but I wonder if that fat, old, bald-headed
gent, with sharp eyes, was Mr. Quirk"----

"To be sure it was," interrupted Titmouse, with a half shudder.

"Was it? Well, then, I'd advise Old Nick to look sharp before he tackles
that old gent, that's all!"

"Give me Mr. Gammon for my money," said Titmouse, sighing, "such an
_uncommon_ gentlemanlike gent--he's quite taken to me"----

"Ah, that, I suppose, was him with the black velvet waistcoat, and
pretty white hands! But _he_ can look stern, too, Tit! You should have
seen him ring, when--hem!--But what was I saying about the letter? Don't
you see they say they'll be sure to write if anything turns up?"

"So they do, to be sure! Well--I'd forgot that!" interrupted Titmouse,
brightening up.

"Then, isn't there their advertisement in the _Flash_? They hadn't their
eye on anything when they put it there, I dare say!--They can't get out
of _that_, anyhow!"

"I begin to feel all of a sweat, Hucky; I'm sure there's something in
the wind yet!" said Titmouse, drawing nearer still to his comforter.
"And more than that--would they have said half they did to me last
night"----

"Eh! hollo, by the way! I've not heard of what went on last night! So
you went to 'em? Well--tell us all that happened--and nothing but the
truth, be _sure_ you don't; come, Titty!" said Huckaback, snuffing the
candle, and then turning eagerly to his companion.

"Well--they'd such a number of queer-looking papers before them, some
with old German-text writing, and others with zigzag marks--and they
were so uncommon polite--they all three got up as I went in, and made me
bows, one after the other, and said, 'Yours most obediently, Mr.
Titmouse,' and a great many more such things."

"Well--and then?"

"Why, Hucky, so help me----! and 'pon my soul, that old gent, Mr. Quirk,
told me"--Titmouse's voice trembled at the recollection--"he says, 'Sir,
you're the real owner of Ten Thousand a-year, and no mistake!'"

"Lawks!" ejaculated Huckaback, opening wider and wider his eyes and ears
as his friend went on.

"'And a title--a _lord_, or something of that sort--and you've a great
many country seats; and there's been £10,000 a-year saving up for you
ever since you was born--and heaps of interest besides!'--'pon my soul
he did!"

"Lord, Tit! you take my breath away," gasped Huckaback, his eyes fixed
intently on his friend's face.

"Yes; and they said I might marry the most beautifulest woman that ever
my eyes saw, for the asking."

"You'll forget poor Bob Huckaback, Tit!" murmured his friend,
despondingly.

"Not I, Huckaback--if I get my rights, and you know how to behave
yourself!"

"Have you been to Tag-rag's to-day, after hearing all this?"

[The thermometer seemed to have been here plunged out of hot water into
cold--Titmouse was down at zero in a trice.]

"Oh!--that's it! 'Tis all gone again! What a fool I am! We've clean
forgot this cursed letter--and that leads me to the end of what took
place last night. That cursed shop was what we split on!"

"Split on _the shop_! eh? What's the meaning of that?" inquired
Huckaback, with eager anxiety.

"Why, that's the thing," continued Titmouse, in a faltering tone, and
with a depressed look--"That was what I wanted to know myself; for they
said I'd better go back!! So I said, 'Gents,' said I, 'I'll be---- if
I'll go back to the shop any more;' and I snapped my fingers at
them--so! (for you know what a chap I am when my blood's up.) And they
all turned gashly pale--they did, upon my life--you never saw anything
like it! And one of them said then, in a humble way, 'Wouldn't I please
to go back to the shop, just for a day or two, till things is got to
rights a bit.' 'Not a day nor a minute!' says I, in an immense rage. 'We
think you'd better, really,' said they. 'Then,' says I, 'if that's your
plan, curse me if I won't cut with you all, and I'll employ some one
else!' and--would you believe me?--out I went, bang! into the street!!"

"You _did_, Tit!!" echoed Huckaback, aghast.

"They shouldn't have given me so much brandy and water as they did; I
didn't well know what I was about, what with the news and the spirits!"

"And you went into the street?" inquired Huckaback, with a kind of
horror.

"I did, by Jove, Hucky!"

"They'd given you the sperrits to see what kind of chap you'd be if you
got the property--only to try you, depend on it!"

"Lord! I--I dare say they did!" exclaimed Titmouse, elevating his head
with sudden amazement, totally forgetting that same brandy and water he
had asked for--"and me never to think of it at the time."

"Now are you quite sure you wasn't in a _dream_ last night, all the
while?"

"Oh, dear, I wish I had been--I do, indeed, Hucky!"

"Well--you went into the street--what then?" inquired Huckaback, with a
sigh of exhausted attention.

"Why, when I'd got there, I could have bitten my tongue off, as one may
suppose; but, just as I was a-turning to go in again, who should come up
to me but Mr. Gammon, saying, he humbly hoped there was no offence."

"Oh, glorious! So it was all set right again, then--eh?"

"Why--I--I can't quite exactly say that much, either--but--when I went
back, (being obligated by Mr. Gammon being so pressing,) the other two
was sitting as pale as death; and though Mr. Gammon and me went on our
knees to the old gent, it wasn't any use for a long time; and all that
he could be got to say was, that perhaps I might look in again
to-night--(but they first made me swear a solemn oath on the Bible never
to tell any one anything about the fortune)--and then--you went,
Huckaback, and you did the business; they of course concluding I'd sent
you!"

"Oh, bother! that can't be. Don't you see how civilly they speak of me
in their letter? They're afraid of me, you may depend on it. By the way,
Tit, how much did you promise to come down, if you got the thing?"

"_Come down!_--I--really--by Jove, I didn't think of such a thing!
No--I'm sure I didn't"--answered Titmouse, as if new light had burst in
upon him.

"Why, Tit, I never see'd such a goose! That's it, depend upon it--it's
the whole thing! That's what they're driving at, in the note!--Why, Tit,
where _was_ your wits? D' ye think such gents as them--great lawyers,
too--will work for nothing?--You must write at once and tell them you
will come down handsome--say a couple of hundreds, besides
expenses--Gad! 'twill set you on your pins again, Titty!--Rot me! now I
think of it, if I didn't dream last night that you was a Member of
Parliament or something of that sort."

"A member of Parliament! And so I shall, if all this turns up well--I
shall be _that_ at least!" replied Titmouse, exultingly.

"You see if my dream don't come true! You see, Titty, I'm _always_
a-thinking of you, day and night. Never was two fellows that was such
close friends as we was from the very beginning of knowing each other!"

[They had been acquainted with each other about half a year.]

"Hucky, what a cruel scamp I was to behave to you in the way I
did--curse me, if I couldn't cry to see your eye bunged up in that way!"

"Pho! dear Titty, I knew you loved me all the while"--whined Huckaback,
"and meant no harm; you wasn't yourself when you did it--and besides, I
deserved ten times more! If you had killed me I should have liked you as
much as ever!"

"Give us your hand, Hucky! Let's forgive one another!" cried Titmouse,
excitedly; and their hands were quickly locked together.

"If we don't mismanage the thing, we shall be all right yet, Titty; but
you won't do anything without speaking to _me_ first--will you, Titty?"

"The thoughts of it all going right again is enough to set me wild,
Hucky--But what shall we do to set the thing going again?"

"_Quarter past one!_" quivered the voice of the paralytic watchman
beneath, startling the friends out of their exciting colloquy; his
warning being at the same time silently seconded by the long-wicked
candle, burning within half an inch of its socket. They hastily agreed
that Titmouse should immediately write to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and
Snap, a proper [_i. e._ a most abject] letter, solemnly pledging himself
to obey their injunctions in everything for the future, and offering
them a handsome reward for their exertions, if successful.

"Well--good-night, Huck! good-night," said Titmouse, rising. "I'm not
the least sleepy--I sha'n't sleep a wink all night long! I shall sit up
to write my letter--you haven't got a sheet of paper here, by the
way?--I've used all mine." [That was, he had, some months before, bought
a sheet to write a letter, and had so used it.]

Huckaback produced a sheet, somewhat crumpled, from a drawer. "I'd give
a hundred if I had them!" said he; "I sha'n't care a straw for the
hiding I've got to-night--though I'm a _leetle_ sore after it, too--and
what the deuce am I to say to-morrow to Messrs. Diaper"----

"Oh, you can't hardly be at a loss for a lie that'll suit _them_,
surely!--So good-night, Hucky--good-night!"

Huckaback wrung his friend's hand, and was in a moment or two alone.
"Haven't my fingers been itching all the while to be at the fellow!"
exclaimed he, as he shut the door. "But, somehow, I've got too soft a
sperrit, and can't bear to hurt any one;--and then--if the chap gets his
£10,000 a-year--why--hem! Titty a'n't such a bad fellow, in the main,
after all."

If Titmouse had been many degrees higher in the grade of society, _he
would still have met with his Huckaback_;--a trifle more polished,
perhaps, but hardly more quick-sighted or effective than, in his way, had
been the vulgar being he had just quitted.

Titmouse hastened homeward. How it was he knew not; but the feelings of
elation with which he had quitted Huckaback did not last long; they
rapidly sank, in the cold night-air, lower and lower, the farther he got
from Leicester Square. He tried to recollect _what it was_ that had made
him take so very different a view of his affairs from that with which he
had entered Huckaback's room. He had still a vague impression that they
were not desperate; that Huckaback had told him so, _and somehow proved
it_; but how he now knew not--he could not recollect. As Huckaback had
gone on from time to time, Titmouse's little mind seemed to himself to
comprehend and appreciate what was being said, and to gather
encouragement from it; but _now_--consume it!--he stopped--rubbed his
forehead--what the deuce WAS it? By the time that he had reached his own
door, he felt in as deplorable and despairing a humor as ever. He sat
down to write his letter at once; but, after many vain efforts to
express his meaning--his feelings being not in the least degree relieved
by the many oaths he uttered--he at length furiously dashed his pen,
point-wise, upon the table, and thereby destroyed the only implement of
the sort which he possessed. Then he tore, rather than pulled off, his
clothes; blew out his candle with a furious _puff_; and threw himself on
his bed--but in so doing banged the back of his head against the back of
the bed--and which of the two suffered more, for some time after,
probably Mr. Titmouse was best able to tell.

Hath, then--oh, Titmouse! fated to undergo much!--the blind jade
Fortune, in her mad vagaries--she, the goddess whom thou hast so long
foolishly worshipped--at length cast her sportful eye upon thee, and
singled thee out to become the envy of millions of admiring fools, by
reason of the pranks she will presently make thee exhibit for her
amusement? If this be indeed, as at present it promises, her intent, she
truly, to me calmly watching her movements, appears resolved first to
wreak her spite upon thee to the uttermost, and make thee pass through
intense sufferings! Oh me! Oh me! Alas!



CHAPTER III.


The means by which Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, became possessed of
the important information which had put them into motion, as we have
seen, to find out by advertisement one yet unknown to them, it will not
be necessary for some time to explain. Theirs was a keen house, truly,
and dealing principally in the criminal line of business; and they would
not, one may be sure, have lightly committed themselves to their present
extent, namely, in inserting such an advertisement in the newspapers,
and, above all, going so far in their disclosures to Titmouse. Their
prudence in the latter step, however, was very questionable to
themselves even; and they immediately afterwards deplored together the
precipitation with which Mr. Quirk had communicated to Titmouse the
nature and extent of his possible good fortune. It was Mr. Quirk's own
doing, however, and done after as much expostulation as the cautious
Gammon could venture to use. I say they had not _lightly_ taken up the
affair; they had not "acted unadvisedly." They were fortified, first, by
the opinion of Mr. MORTMAIN, an able and experienced conveyancer, who
thus wound up an abstrusely learned opinion on the voluminous "case"
which had been submitted to him:--

     "...Under all these circumstances, and assuming as above, I am
     decidedly of opinion that the title to the estates in question is
     at this moment not in their present possessor, (who represents the
     younger branch of the Dreddlington family,) but in the descendants
     of Stephen Dreddlington, through the female line; which brings us
     to Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse. This person, however, seems not to
     have been at all aware of the existence of his rights, or he could
     hardly have been concerned in the pecuniary arrangements mentioned
     at fol. 33 of the case. Probably something may be heard of his heir
     by making careful inquiry in the neighborhood where he was last
     heard of, and issuing advertisements for his heir-at-law; care, of
     course, being taken not to be so specific in the terms of such
     advertisements as to attract the notice of A. B., (the party now in
     possession.) If such person should, by the means above suggested,
     be discovered, I advise proceedings to be commenced forthwith,
     under the advice of some gentleman of experience at the common-law
     bar.
                                                      "MOULDY MORTMAIN.
     "_Lincoln's Inn, January_ 19, 18--."

This was sufficiently gratifying to the "house;" but, to make assurance
doubly sure, before embarking in so harassing and expensive an
enterprise--one which lay a good deal, too, without the sphere of their
practice, which as already mentioned, was chiefly in criminal law--the
same _case_ (without Mr. Mortmain's opinion) was laid before a young
conveyancer, who, having much less business than Mr. Mortmain, would, it
was thought, "look into the case fully," though receiving only one-third
of the fee which had been paid to Mr. Mortmain. And Mr. FUSSY
FRANKPLEDGE--that was his name--_did_ "look into the case fully;" and in
doing so, turned over two-thirds of his little library;--and also
gleaned--by note and verbally--the opinions upon the subject of some
half-dozen of his "learned friends;" to say nothing of the magnificent
air with which he indoctrinated his eager and confiding pupils upon the
subject. At length his imp of a clerk bore the precious result of his
master's labors to Saffron Hill, in the shape of an "opinion," three
times as long as, and indescribably more difficult to understand than,
the opinion of Mr. Mortmain; and which if it demonstrated anything
beyond the prodigious _cram_ which had been undergone by its writer for
the purpose of producing it, demonstrated this--namely, that neither the
party indicated by Mr. Mortmain, nor the one then actually in
possession, had any more right to the estate than the aforesaid Mr.
Frankpledge; but that the happy individual so entitled was some third
person. Messrs. Quirk and Gammon, a good deal flustered hereat, hummed
and hawed on perusing these contradictory opinions of counsel learned in
the law; and the usual and proper result followed--_i. e._ a
"CONSULTATION," which was to solder up all the differences between Mr.
Mortmain and Mr. Frankpledge, or, at all events, strike out some light
which might guide their clients on their adventurous way.

Now, Mr. Mortmain had been Mr. Quirk's conveyancer (whenever such a
functionary's services had been required) for about twenty years; and
Quirk was ready to suffer death in defence of any opinion of Mr.
Mortmain. Mr. Gammon swore by Frankpledge, who had been at school with
him, and was a "rising man." Mortmain belonged to the old
school--Frankpledge steered by the new lights. The former could point to
some forty cases in the Law Reports, which had been ruled in conformity
with his previously given opinion, and some twenty which had been
overruled thereby; the latter gentleman, although he had been only five
years in practice, had written an _opinion_ which had led to a
suit--which had ended in a difference of opinion between the Court of
King's Bench and the Common Pleas; the credit of having done which was,
however, some time afterward, a little bit tarnished by the decision of
a Court of Error, without hearing the other side, _against_ the opinion
of Mr. Frankpledge. But----

Mr. Frankpledge quoted _so_ many cases, and went to the bottom of
everything, and gave so much for his money--and was _so_ civil!--

Well, the consultation came off, at length, at Mr. Mortmain's chambers,
at eight o'clock in the evening. A few minutes before that hour, Messrs.
Quirk and Gammon were to be seen in the clerk's room, in civil
conversation with that prim functionary, who explained to them that _he_
did all Mr. Mortmain's drafting--pupils were _so_ idle; that Mr.
Mortmain did not score out much of what he (the aforesaid clerk) had
drawn; that he noted up Mr. Mortmain's new cases for him in the reports,
Mr. M. having so little time; and that the other day the Vice-Chancellor
called on Mr. Mortmain--with several other matters of that sort,
calculated to enhance the importance of Mr. Mortmain; who, as the clerk
was asking Mr. Gammon, in a good-natured way, how long Mr. Frankpledge
had been in practice, and where his chambers were--made his appearance,
with a cheerful look and a bustling gait, having just walked down from
his house in Queen's Square, with a comfortable bottle of old port on
board. Shortly afterwards Mr. Frankpledge arrived, followed by his
little clerk, bending beneath two bags of books, (unconscious bearer of
as much law as had well-nigh split thousands of learned heads, and
broken tens of thousands of hearts, in the making of, being destined to
have a similar but far greater effect in the applying of,) and the
consultation began.

As Frankpledge entered, he could not help casting a sheep's eye towards
a table that glistened with _such_ an array of "papers," (a tasteful
arrangement of Mr. Mortmain's clerk before every consultation;) and down
sat the two conveyancers and the two attorneys. I devoutly wish I had
time to describe the scene at length; but greater events are pressing
upon me. The two conveyancers fenced with one another for some time very
guardedly and good-humoredly: pleasant was it to observe the conscious
condescension of Mortmain, the anxious energy and volubility of
Frankpledge. When Mr. Mortmain said anything that seemed weighty or
pointed, Quirk looked with an elated air, a quick triumphant glance, at
Gammon; who, in his turn, whenever Mr. Frankpledge quoted an "old case"
from Bendloe, Godbolt, or the Year Books, (which, having always piqued
himself on his almost exclusive acquaintance with the modern cases, he
made a point of doing,) gazed at Quirk with a smile of placid
superiority. Mr. Frankpledge talked almost the whole time; Mr. Mortmain,
immovable in the view of the case which he had taken in his "opinion,"
listened with an attentive, good-natured air, ruminating pleasantly the
while upon the quality of the port he had been drinking, (the first of
the bin which he had tasted,) and upon the decision which the Chancellor
might come to on a case brought into court on his advice, and which had
been argued that afternoon. At last Frankpledge unwittingly fell foul of
a favorite crotchet of Mortmain's--and at it they went, hammer and
tongs, for nearly twenty minutes, (it had nothing whatever to do with
the case they were consulting upon.) In the end, Mortmain of course
adhered to his points, and Frankpledge intrenched himself in his books;
each slightly yielded to the views of the other on immaterial points,
(or what would have appeared the use of the consultation?) but did that
which both had resolved upon doing from the first, _i. e._ sticking to
his original opinion. Both had talked an amazing deal of deep law, which
had at least one effect, viz. it fairly drowned both Quirk and Gammon,
who, as they went home, with not (it must be owned) the clearest
perceptions in the world of what had been going on, (though, before
going to the consultation, each had really known something about the
case,) stood each stoutly by his conveyancer's opinion, each protesting
that he had never been once misled--Quirk by Mortmain, or Gammon by
Frankpledge--and each resolved to give _his_ man more of the
conveyancing business of the house than he had before. I grieve to add,
that they parted that night with a trifle less of cordiality than had
been their wont. In the morning, however, this little irritation had
passed away; and they agreed, before giving up the case, to take the
final opinion of Mr. TRESAYLE--the great Mr. Tresayle. He was, indeed, a
wonderful conveyancer--a perfect miracle of real-property law-learning.
He had had such an enormous practice for forty-five years, that for the
last ten he had never put his nose out of chambers for pure want of
time, and at last of inclination; and had been so conversant with Norman
French and law Latin, in the old English letter, that he had almost
entirely forgotten how to write the modern English character. His
opinions made their appearance in three different kinds of handwriting.
First, one that none but he and his old clerk could make out; secondly,
one that none but he himself could read; and thirdly, one that neither
he, nor his clerk, nor any one on earth, could decipher. The use of any
one of these styles depended on--the difficulty of the case to be
answered. If it were an easy one, the answer was very judiciously put
into No. I.; if rather difficult, it, of course, went into No. II.; and
if exceedingly difficult, (and also important,) it was very properly
thrown into No. III.; being a question that really ought not to have
been asked, and did not deserve an answer. The fruit within these
uncouth shells, however, was precious. Mr. Tresayle's law was supreme
over everybody's else. It was currently reported that Lord Eldon even
(who was himself slightly acquainted with such subjects) reverently
deferred to the authority of Mr. Tresayle; and would lie winking and
knitting his shaggy eyebrows half the night, if he thought that Mr.
Tresayle's opinion on a case, and his own, differed. This was the great
authority to whom, as in the last resort, Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and
Snap resolved to appeal. To his chambers they, within a day or two after
their consultation at Mr. Mortmain's, despatched their case, (making no
mention of the opinion which had been previously taken,) with a highly
respectable fee, and a special compliment to his clerk, hoping to hear
from that awful quarter within a month--which was the earliest average
period within which Mr. Tresayle's opinions found their way to his
patient but anxious clients. It came at length, with a note from Mr.
Prim, his clerk, intimating that they would find him, _i. e._ the
aforesaid Mr. Prim, at his chambers the next morning, prepared to
explain the opinion to them; having just had it read over to him by Mr.
Tresayle, for it proved to be in No. II. The opinion occupied about two
pages; and the handwriting bore a strong resemblance to Chinese or
Arabic, with a quaint intermixture of the uncial Greek character--it was
impossible to contemplate it without a certain feeling of awe! In vain
did old Quirk squint at it, from all corners, for nearly a couple of
hours, (having first called in the assistance of a friend of his, an old
attorney of upwards of fifty years' standing;) nay--even Mr. Gammon,
foiled at length, could not for the life of him refrain from a soft
curse or two. Neither of them could make anything of it--(as for Snap,
they never showed it to him; it was not within his province--_i. e._ the
Insolvent Debtors' Court, the Old Bailey, the Clerkenwell Sessions, the
Police Offices, the inferior business of the Common Law Courts, and the
worrying of the clerks of the office--a department in which he was
perfection itself.)

To their great delight, Mr. Tresayle took Mr. Mortmain's view of the
case. Nothing could be more terse, perspicuous, and conclusive than the
great man's opinion. Mr. Quirk was in raptures, and that very day sent
to procure an engraving of Mr. Tresayle, which had lately come out, for
which he paid 5s., and ordered it to be framed and hung up in his own
room, where already grinned a quaint resemblance, in black profile, of
Mr. Mortmain, cheek by jowl with that of a notorious traitor who had
been hanged in spite of Mr. Quirk's best exertions. In special
good-humor, he assured Mr. Gammon, (who was plainly somewhat crestfallen
about Mr. Frankpledge,) that everybody must have a beginning; that even
he himself (Mr. Quirk) had been once only a beginner.

Once fairly on the scent, Messrs. Quirk and Gammon soon began, secretly
but energetically, to push their inquiries in all directions. They
discovered that Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse, having spent the chief
portion of his blissful days as a cobbler at Whitehaven, had died in
London, somewhere about the year 1793. At this point they stood for a
long while, in spite of two advertisements, to which they had been
driven with the greatest reluctance, for fear of attracting the
attention of those most interested in thwarting their efforts. Even that
part of the affair had been managed somewhat skilfully. It was a stroke
of Mr. Gammon's to advertise not for "Heir-at-Law," but "_Next of Kin_,"
as the reader has seen. The former might have challenged the notice of
unfriendly curiosity, which the latter was hardly calculated to attract.
At length--at the "third time of asking"--up turned Tittlebat Titmouse,
in the way which we have seen. His relationship with Mr. Gabriel
Tittlebat Titmouse was indisputable; in fact, he was (to adopt his own
words) that "deceased person's" son and heir-at-law.

The reader may guess the chagrin and disgust of Mr. Gammon at the
appearance, manners, and character of the person whom he fully believed,
on first seeing him at Messrs. Tag-rag's, to be the rightful owner of
the fine estates held by one who, as against Mr. Titmouse, had no more
real title to them than had Mr. Tag-rag; and for whom their house was to
undertake the very grave risk and expense of instituting such
proceedings as would be requisite to place Mr. Titmouse in the position
which they believed him entitled to occupy--having to encounter a hot
and desperate opposition at every point, from those who had nine-tenths
of the law--to wit, _possession_--on their side, on which they stood as
upon a rock; and with immense means for carrying on the war defensive.
That Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap did not contemplate undertaking all
this, without having calculated upon its proving well worthy their
while, was only reasonable. They were going voluntarily to become the
means of conferring immense benefits upon one who was a total stranger
to them--who had not a penny to spend upon the prosecution of his own
rights. Setting aside certain difficulties which collected themselves
into two awkward words, MAINTENANCE and CHAMPERTY, and stared them in
the face whenever they contemplated any obvious method of securing the
just reward of their enterprise and toils--setting aside all this, I
say, it might turn out, only after a ruinous expenditure had been
incurred, that the high authorities which had sanctioned their
proceedings in point of law, had expressed their favorable opinions on a
state of facts, which, however satisfactorily they looked on paper,
could not be substantiated, if keenly sifted, and determinedly resisted.
All this, too--all their time, labor, and money, to go for nothing--on
behalf of a vulgar, selfish, ignorant, presumptuous, ungrateful puppy,
like Titmouse!--Well indeed, therefore, might Mr. Gammon, as we have
seen he did, give himself and partners a forty-eight hours' interval,
between his interview with Titmouse and formal introduction of him to
the firm, in which to consider their position and mode of procedure. The
taste of his quality which that first interview afforded them all--so
far surpassing all that the bitter description of him given to them by
Mr. Gammon had prepared them for--filled the partners with inexpressible
disgust, and would have induced them to throw up the whole affair--so
getting rid both of it, and of him, together. But then, on the other
hand, there were certain very great advantages, both of a professional
and even directly pecuniary kind, which it would have been madness
indeed for any office lightly to throw away. It was really, after all,
an unequal struggle between feeling and interest. If they should succeed
in unseating the present wrongful possessor of a very splendid property,
and putting in his place the rightful owner, by means alone of their own
professional ability, perseverance, and heavy pecuniary outlay, (a
fearful consideration, truly, but Mr. Quirk had scraped together some
thirty thousand pounds!) what recompense could be too great for such
resplendent services? To say nothing of the _éclat_ which it would gain
for their office, in the profession and in the world at large, and the
substantial and permanent advantages to the firm, if, as they ought to
be, they were intrusted with the general management of the property by
the new and inexperienced and confiding owner--ay, but there was the
rub! What a disheartening and disgusting specimen of such new owner had
disclosed itself to their anxiously expecting but soon recoiling
eyes--always, however, making due allowances for one or two cheering
indications, on Mr. Titmouse's part, of a certain rapacious and
litigious humor, which might hereafter right pleasantly and profitably
occupy their energies! Their professional position, and their interests
had long made them sharp observers; but when did ever before low and
disgusting qualities force themselves into revolting prominence, as
those of Mr. Titmouse had done, in the very moment of an expected
display of the better feelings of human nature--such as enthusiastic
gratitude? They had, in their time, had to deal with some pleasant
specimens of humanity, to be sure; but when with any more odious and
impracticable than Tittlebat Titmouse threatened to prove himself? What
hold could they get upon such a character as his? Beneath all his
coarseness and weakness, there was a glimmer of low cunning which might
suffice to keep their superior and practised astuteness at its full
stretch. These were difficulties, cheerless enough in the contemplation,
truly; but, nevertheless, the partners could not bear the idea of
escaping from them by throwing up the affair altogether. Then came the
question--How were they to manage Mr. Titmouse?--how acquire an early
and firm hold of him, so as to convert him into a _capital client_? His
fears and his interests were obviously the engines with which their
experienced hands were to work; and several long and most anxious
consultations had Messrs. Quirk and Gammon had on this important matter.
The first great question with them was--To what extent, and when, they
should acquaint him with the nature of his expectations.

Gammon was for keeping him comparatively in the dark, till success was
within reach: during that interval, (which might be a long one,) by
alternately stimulating his hopes and fears; by habituating him to an
entire dependence on them; by persuading him of the prodigious extent of
their exertions and sacrifices on his behalf--they _might_ do something;
mould him into a shape fit for their purposes, and persuade him that his
affairs must needs go to ruin but in their hands. Something like this
was the scheme of the cautious, acute, and placid Gammon. Mr. Quirk,
however, (with whom, as will be hereafter shown, had originated the
whole discovery,) thought thus:--tell the fellow at once the whole
extent of what we can do for him, viz. turn a half-starving
linen-draper's shopman into the owner of £10,000 a-year, and of a great
store of ready money. This will, in a manner, stun him into submission,
and make him at once and for all what we want him to be. He will
immediately fall prostrate with reverent gratitude--looking at us,
moreover, as three gods, who, at our will, can shut him out of heaven.
"_That's_ the way to bring down your bird," said Mr. Quirk; and Mr.
Quirk had been forty years in practice--had made the business what it
was--still held half of it in his own hands, (two-thirds of the
remaining half being Gammon's, and the residue Snap's:) and Gammon,
moreover, had a very distinct perception that the funds for carrying on
the war would come out of the tolerably well-stored pockets of the
august head of the firm. So, after a long discussion, he openly yielded
his opinion to that of Mr. Quirk--cherishing, however, a very warm
respect for it in his own bosom. As for Snap, that distinguished member
of the firm was very little consulted in the matter; which had not yet
been brought to that stage where his powerful energies could come into
play. He had of course, however, heard a good deal of what was going on;
and knew that ere long there would be the copying out and serving of the
Lord knows how many copies of declarations in ejectment, motions against
the casual ejector, and so forth--so far at least as he was "up to" all
those quaint and anomalous proceedings. It had, therefore, been at
length agreed that the communication to Titmouse, on his first
interview, of the full extent of his splendid expectations, should
depend upon the discretion of Mr. Quirk. The reader has seen the
unexpected turn which matters took upon that important occasion; and if
it proved Quirk's policy to be somewhat inferior in point of discretion
and long-sightedness to that of Gammon, still it must be owned that the
latter had cause to admire the rapid generalship with which Mr. Quirk
had obviated the consequences of his false move--not ill seconded by
Snap. What could have been more judicious than his reception of
Titmouse, on the occasion of his being led in again by the subtle
Gammon?

The next and greatest matter was, how to obtain any hold upon such a
person as Titmouse had shown himself, so as to secure to themselves, in
the event of success, the remuneration to which they considered
themselves entitled. Was it so perfectly clear that, if he felt disposed
to resist it, they could compel him to pay the mere amount of their bill
of costs?

Suppose he should turn round upon them, and have their BILL TAXED--Mr.
Quirk grunted with fright at the bare thought. Then there was a slapping
_quiddam honorarium_ extra--undoubtedly for _that_ they must, they
feared, trust to the honor and gratitude of Mr. Titmouse; and a pretty
taste of the quality of that animal they had already experienced! Such a
disposition as _his_, to have to rely upon for the prompt settlement of
a bill of thousands of pounds of costs! and, besides that, to have it to
look to for the payment of at least some five or perhaps ten thousand
pounds _douceur_--nay, and this was not all. Mr. Quirk had, as well as
Mr. Gammon, cast many an anxious eye on the following passages from
_Blackstone's Commentaries_:--

     "MAINTENANCE is an officious intermeddling in a suit that no way
     belongs to one, by 'maintaining' or assisting either party with
     money, or otherwise, to prosecute or defend it.... It is an offence
     against public justice, as it keeps alive strife and contention,
     and perverts the remedial process of the law into an engine of
     oppression.... The punishment by common law is fine and
     imprisonment, and by statute 32 Hen. VIII. c. 9, a forfeiture of
     £10!

     "CHAMPERTY--(_campi partitio_)--is a species of Maintenance, and
     punished in the same manner; being a bargain with a plaintiff or
     defendant '_campum partiri_,' to divide the land, or other matter
     sued for, between them, if they prevail at law; whereupon the
     champertor is to carry on the suit at his own expense.... These
     pests of civil society, that are perpetually endeavoring to disturb
     the repose of their neighbors, and officiously interfering in other
     men's quarrels, even at the hazard of their own fortunes, were
     severely animadverted on by the Roman law; and they were punished
     by the forfeiture of a third part of their goods, and perpetual
     infamy."[4]

These were pleasant passages surely!----

Many were the conversations and consultations which the partners had had
with Messrs. Mortmain and Frankpledge respectively, upon the interesting
question, whether there were any mode of at once securing themselves
against the ingratitude of Titmouse, and protecting themselves against
the penalties of the law. It made old Mr. Quirk's bald head, even, flush
all over whenever he thought of their bill being taxed, or contemplated
himself the inmate of a prison, (above all, at his advanced time of
life,) with mournful leisure to meditate upon the misdeeds that had sent
him thither, to which profitable exercise the legislature would have
specially stimulated him by a certain _fine_ above mentioned. As for
Gammon, he knew there _must_ be a way of doing the thing somehow or
another; for his friend Frankpledge felt infinitely less difficulty in
the way than Mortmain, whom he considered a timid and old-fashioned
practitioner. The courts, said Mr. Frankpledge, were now setting their
faces strongly against the doctrine of Maintenance, as being founded on
a bygone state of things: _cessante ratione cessat et ipsa lex_, was his
favorite maxim. There was no wrong without a remedy, he said; and was
there not a _wrong_ in the case of a poor man wrongfully deprived of his
own? And how could this be _remedied_, if the old law of Maintenance
stood like a bugbear in the way of humane and spirited practitioners?
Was no one to be at liberty to take up the cause of the oppressed,
encouraged by the prospect of an ample recompense? It might be said,
perhaps--let the claimant sue _in formâ pauperis_: but then he must
swear that he is not worth five pounds; and a man may not be able to
take that oath, and yet be unequal to the commencement of a suit
requiring the outlay of thousands. Moreover, a pretty prospect it was
for such a suitor, (_in formâ pauperis_,) if he should happen to be
nonsuited--to be "put to his election, whether to be whipped or pay the
costs."[5] Thus reasoned within himself that astute person, Mr.
Frankpledge; and at length satisfied himself that he had framed an
instrument which would "meet the case"--that "would hold water." To the
best of my recollection, it was a BOND, conditioned to pay the sum of
ten thousand pounds to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, within two
months of Titmouse's being put into possession of the rents and profits
of the estate in question. The _condition_ of that bond was, as its
framer believed, drawn in a masterly manner; and his draft was lying
before Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, on the Wednesday morning,
(_i. e._ the day after Titmouse's interview with them,) and had
succeeded at length in exciting the approbation of Mr. Quirk himself;
when--whew!--down came a note from Mr. Frankpledge, to the effect that,
"since preparing the draft bond," he had "had reason _slightly to
modify_ his original opinion," owing to his "having lit upon a LATE
CASE," in which an instrument precisely similar to the one which he had
prepared for his admiring clients, had been held "totally ineffectual
and void both at law and in equity." I say, Mr. Frankpledge's note was
to that effect; for so ingeniously had he framed it--so effectually
concealed his retreat beneath a little cloud of contradictory
authorities, like as the ink-fish, they say, eludeth its pursuers--that
his clients cursed the law, not their draftsman; and, moreover, by
prudently withholding the _name_ of the "late case," he, at all events
for a while, had prevented their observing that it was _senior_ to some
eight or ten cases which (indefatigable man!) he had culled for them out
of the legal garden, and arrayed on the back of his draft. Slightly
disconcerted were Messrs. Quirk and Gammon, it may be believed, at this
new view of the "result of the authorities." "Mortmain is always right!"
said Quirk, looking hard at Gammon; who observed simply that one day
Frankpledge would be as old as Mortmain then was--by which time (thought
he) I also know where--please God--_you_ will be, my old friend, if
there's any truth in the Scriptures! In this pleasant frame of mind were
the partners, when the impudent apparition of Huckaback presented
itself, in the manner which has been described. Huckaback's commentary
upon the disgusting text of Titmouse over-night, (as a lawyer would say,
in analogy to a well-known term, "Coke upon Littleton,") produced an
effect upon their minds which may be easily imagined. It was while their
minds were under these two soothing influences, _i. e._ of the insolence
of Huckaback and the vacillation of Frankpledge, that Mr. Gammon had
penned the note to Titmouse, (surely, under the circumstances, one of
extraordinary temper and forbearance,) which had occasioned him the
agonies I have been attempting faintly to describe;--and that Quirk,
summoning Snap into the room, had requested him to give orders for
denial to Titmouse if he should again make his appearance at the office;
which injunction Snap forthwith delivered in the clerk's room, in a tone
and manner that were a very model of the _imperative mood_.

A day or two afterwards, Mr. Quirk, (who was a man that stuck like a
limpet to a rock to any point which occurred to him,) in poring over
that page in the fourth volume of _Blackstone's Commentaries_, where
were to be found the passages which have been already quoted, (and which
both Quirk and Gammon had long had off by heart,) as he sat one day at
dinner, at home, whither he had taken the volume in question, fancied he
had at last hit upon a notable crotchet, which, the more he thought of,
the more he was struck with; determining to pay a visit in the morning
to Mr. Mortmain. The spark of light that had twinkled till it kindled in
the tinder of his mind, was struck by his hard head out of the following
sentence of the text in question:--

     "A man _may_, however, maintain the suit of his near kinsman,
     servant, or POOR NEIGHBOR, out of _charity and compassion_, with
     impunity; _otherwise_, the punishment is," &c. &c.[6]

Now, it seemed to Mr. Quirk, that the words which I have placed in
italics and small capitals, met the case of poor Tittlebat Titmouse
exactly. He stuck to that view of the case, till he _almost_ began to
think that he really had a kind of a sort of a charity and compassion
for poor Tittlebat--kept out of his rights--tyrannized over by a vulgar
draper in Oxford Street--where, too, no doubt, he was half
starved.--"It's a great blessing that one's got the means--and the
inclination, to serve one's poor neighbors"--thought Quirk, as he
swallowed glass after glass of the _wine that maketh glad the heart of
man_--and also _softens_ it;--for the more he drank, the more and more
pitiful became his mood--the more sensitive was he to compassionate
suggestions; and by the time that he had finished the decanter, he was
all but in tears! These virtuous feelings brought their own reward,
too--for, from time to time, they conjured up, as it were, the faint
rainbow image of a bond conditioned for the payment of TEN THOUSAND
POUNDS!

To change the metaphor a little--by the time that old Quirk had reached
his office in the morning, the heated iron had cooled. If his heart
_had_ retained any of the maudlin softness of the preceding evening, the
following pathetic letter from Titmouse might have made a very deep
impression upon it, and fixed him, in the benevolent and disinterested
mind of the old lawyer, as indeed his "poor neighbor." The following is
an exact copy of that lucid and eloquent composition. It had been
written by Mr. Titmouse, all out of his own head; and with his own hand
had he left it at the office, at a late hour on the preceding evening.


                 "_To Messrs._ QUERK, GAMON, _and_ SNAPE.

     "GENTS,

     "Y^r Esteem'd Favor lies now before Me, which _must Say_ have Given
     me Much Concern, seeing I Thought it was All Made up betwixt us
     That was of Such an _Unpleasant Nature_ on Tuesday night (ultimo)
     w^h I most humbly Own (and Acknowledge) was all alone and
     _intirely_ of My Own Fault, and Not in the Least Your's which
     behaved to me, Must say, In the most Respectful and superior manner
     that was possible to think Of, for I truly Say I never was In the
     Company of Such Imminent and Superior Gents before In my Life w^h
     will take my Oath sincerely Of, Gents. Please to consider the
     Brandy (w^h _do_ think _was Uncommon Stiff_) such a flustrum As I
     was In before, to, w^h was Evident to All of Us there then
     Assemblid and very natral like to be the Case Seeing I have nevir
     known what Peas of Mind was since I behaved in Such a _Oudacious_
     way w^h truly was the case I can't Deny to Such Gents as Yourselfs
     that were doing me such Good Fortune And Kindness to me as it would
     Be a Dreadful _sin and shame_ (such as Trust I can never be Guilty
     of) to be (w^h am not) and never Can Be insensible Of, Gents do
     Consider all this Favorably because of my humble Amends w^h I here
     Make with the greatest Trouble in my Mind that I have Had Ever
     Since, it was all of the Sperrits I Tooke w^h made me Go On at such
     a Rate w^h was always (beg to Assure y^r most resp^e house) the
     Case Since my birth when I took Sperrits never so little Since I
     had the Meazles when I was 3 Years Old as I Well Recollect and hope
     it will be Born in Mind what is Often Said, and I'm Sure I've read
     it Somewhere Else that People that Is Drunk Always speaks the
     _Direct Contrarywise_ of their True and Real Thoughts. (w^h am
     Certain never was any Thing Truer in my case) so as I get the Money
     or What not, do whatever you Like w^h are quite welcome to Do if
     you please, and No questions Asked, don't Mind saying by The Way It
     shall Be As Good as £200 note in The way of your resp^e House if I
     Get the Estate of w^h am much in Want of. Mr. Gamon (w^h is the
     most Upright gent that ever I came across in All my Life) will tell
     you that I Was Quite Cut up when he came After me in that kind Way
     and told him Then how I loved y^r Respect^e House and would do all
     In My power to Serve You, which see if I Don't, I was in Such a
     rage with that Fellow (He's only in a _Situation_ in Tottenham C^t
     Road) Huckaback which is his true name it was an _oudacious_ thing,
     and have given him such a Precious Good hiding last Night as you
     never saw when on his Bendid Knees He asked the pardon of your
     Respectable House, say^g nothing of Me w^h w^d not allow because I
     said I would Not Forgive Him because he had not injured me: But
     you, w^h I wonder at his _Impudence_ in Calling on Professional
     Gents like you, if I get the Estate shall never cease to Think well
     of you and mean While how full of Trouble I am _Often Thinking Of
     Death_ which is the End of Every Thing And then in that Case who
     will the Property Go to Seeing I Leave never a Brother or Sister
     Behind me. And Therefore Them That w^d Get it I Feel Sure of w^d
     Not do So well by you (if You will Only believe Me) So Gents. This
     is All at present That I will Make so Bold to trouble you With
     About my Unhappy Affairs Only to say That am _used_ most
     Intolerably Bad now In The Shop quite Tyranicall And Mr. Tag-Rag as
     Set Them All Against Me and I shall Never Get Another Situat^n for
     want of a Char^r which he will give me say^g noth^g at Present of
     the Sort of Victules w^h give me Now to Eat Since Monday last, For
     Which am Sure the Devil must have Come In to That Gentleman (Mr.
     Tag-rag, he was only himself in a Situation in Holborn once, gett^g
     the Business by marry^g the widow w^h wonder At for he is nothing
     Particular to Look At.) I am y^rs

     Humbly to Command Till Death (always Humbly Begging pardon for the
     bad Conduct w^h was guilty of when In Liquor Especially On an Empty
     Stomach, Having Taken Nothing all that Day excepting what I could
     not Eat,)

                             "Your's most Resp^y
                                                  "TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE.

     "P. S. Will Bring That young Man with Tears In his Eyes to Beg y^r
     pardon Over again If You Like w^h will Solemnly Swear if Required
     That he did It all of His _own_ Head And that Have given It him For
     it in the Way That is Written Above And humbly Trust You Will make
     Me So happy Once more by writing To Me (if it is only a Line) To
     say You Have Thought No more of it T. T. No. 9 Closet C^t. Oxford
     Street. 14/7/18--"

This exquisitely-skilful epistle might indeed have brought tears into
Mr. Quirk's eyes, if he had been _used_ to the melting mood, which he
was not; having never been seen actually to shed a tear but once--when
five-sixths of his little bill of costs (£196, 15s. 4d.) were taxed off
in an auction on a Bill of Exchange for £13.[7] As it was, he tweedled
the letter about in his hands for about five minutes, in a musing mood,
and then stepped with it into Mr. Gammon's room. That gentleman took the
letter with an air of curiosity, and read it over; at every sentence (if
indeed a sentence there was in it) bursting into soft laughter.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he laughed on concluding it--"a comical gentleman, Mr.
Titmouse, upon my honor!"

"Funny--isn't it rather?" interposed Mr. Quirk, standing with his hands
fumbling about in his breeches pockets.

"What a crawling despicable little rascal!--ha, ha, ha!"

"Why--I don't quite say that, either," said Quirk, doubtingly--"I--don't
exactly look at it in _that_ light!"

"My dear sir!" exclaimed Gammon, leaning back in his chair, and laughing
rather heartily, (at least for him.)

"You can't leave off that laugh of yours," said Quirk, a little tartly;
"but I must say I don't see anything in the letter to laugh at so
particularly. It is written in a most respectful manner, and shows a
proper feeling towards the House!"

"Ay! see how he speaks of _me_!" interrupted Gammon, with such a
smile!--

"And doesn't he speak so of me? and all of us?"

"He'll let the house tread on him till he can tread on the house, I dare
say."

"But you must own, Mr. Gammon, it shows we've licked him into shape a
bit--eh?"

"Oh, it's a little vile creeping reptile now, and so it will be to the
end of the chapter--of our proceedings; and when we've _done_
everything--really, Mr. Quirk! if one _were_ apt to lose one's temper,
it would be to see such a _thing_ as that put into possession of such a
fortune."

"That may be, Mr. Gammon; but I really--hem!--trust--I've--a higher
feeling!--To right--the injured"---- He could get no farther.

"Hem!" exclaimed Gammon.

The partners smiled at one another. A touch, or an attempted touch at
_disinterestedness_!--and at Quirk's time of life!

"But he's now in a humor for _training_, at all events--isn't he?"
exclaimed Quirk--"we've something now to go to work upon--gradually."

"Isn't that a leaf out of my book, Mr. Quirk?--isn't that exactly
what"----

"Well, well--what does it signify?" interrupted Quirk, rather
petulantly--"I've got a crotchet that'll do for us, yet, about the
matter of law, and make all right and tight--so I'm going to Mortmain."

"I've got a little idea of my own of that sort, Mr. Quirk," said
Gammon--"I've got an extract from Co-Litt--. I can't imagine how either
of them could have missed it; and, as Frankpledge dines with me to-day,
we shall talk it all over. But, by the way, Mr. Quirk, I should say,
with all deference, that we'll take no more notice of this fellow till
we've got some screw tight enough"----

"Why--all that may be very well; but you see, Gammon, the fellow seems
the real heir, after all--and if _he_ don't get it, _no one can_; and if
_he_ don't--_we_ don't! eh?"

"There's a very great deal of force in that observation, Mr. Quirk--it
gives one another view of the subject!"--said Gammon,
emphatically:--and, tolerably well pleased with one another, they
parted. If Quirk might be compared to an old file, Gammon was the
_oil_!--so they got on, in the main, very well together. It hardly
signifies what was the result of their interviews with their two
conveyancers. The two partners met the next morning on ordinary
business; and as each made no allusions whatever to the "crotchet" of
the day before, it may be safely inferred that each had been satisfied
by his conveyancer of having found out a mare's nest.

"I think, by the way," said Mr. Gammon to Mr. Quirk, before they parted
on the previous evening, "it may be as well, all things considered, to
acknowledge the receipt of the fellow's note--eh?--_Can't_ do any harm,
you know, and civility costs nothing--hem!"

"The very thing I was thinking of," replied Quirk, as he always did, on
hearing any suggestion from Mr. Gammon. So by that night's post was
despatched (post-paid) the following note to Mr. Titmouse:--

     "Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap have the pleasure of acknowledging
     the receipt of Mr. Titmouse's polite letter of last night's date;
     and earnestly beg that he will not distress himself about the
     little incident that occurred at their office on Tuesday night, and
     which they assure him they have quite forgotten. They made all
     allowances, however their feelings suffered at the time. They beg
     Mr. T. will give them credit for not losing sight of his interests,
     to the best of their ability; obstructed as they are, however, by
     numerous serious difficulties. If they should be hereafter
     overcome, he may rest assured of their promptly communicating with
     him; and till then they trust Mr. T. will not inconvenience himself
     by calling on, or writing to them.

     _Saffron Hill, 15th July 18--._

     "P. S.--Messrs. Q. G. and S. regret to hear that any unpleasantness
     has arisen (Gammon could hardly write for laughing) between Mr.
     Titmouse and his friend Mr. Hicklebagle, who, they assure him,
     manifested a very warm interest in behalf of Mr. T., and conducted
     himself with the greatest propriety on the occasion of his calling
     upon Messrs. Q. G. and S. They happened at that moment to be
     engaged in matters of the highest importance; which will, they
     trust, explain any appearance of abruptness they might have
     exhibited towards that gentleman. Perhaps Mr. Titmouse will be so
     obliging as to intimate as much to Mr. Hickerbag."

There was an obvious reason for this polite allusion to Huckaback.
Gammon thought it very possible that that gentleman might be in Mr.
Titmouse's confidence, and exercise a powerful influence over him
hereafter; and that influence Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap might find
it well worth their while to secure beforehand.

The moment that Titmouse, with breathless haste, had read over this
mollifying document, which being directed to his lodgings correctly, he
obtained as soon as he had got home, after quitting Mr. Tag-rag, about
ten o'clock, he hastened to his friend Huckaback. That gentleman (who
seemed now virtually recognized by Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap as
Titmouse's confidant) shook his head ominously, exclaiming--"Blarny,
blarny!" and a bitter sneer settled on his disagreeable features, till
he had read down to the postscript; the perusal of which effected a
sudden change in his feelings. He declared, with a great oath, that
Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap were "perfect gentlemen," and would "do
the right thing after all--Titmouse might depend upon it;" an assurance
which greatly cheered Titmouse, to whose keen discernment it never once
occurred to refer Huckaback's altered tone to the right cause, viz. the
lubricating quality of the postscript; and since Titmouse did not allude
to it, no more did Mr. Huckaback, although his own double misnomer stuck
not a little in his throat. So effectual, indeed, had been that most
skilful postscript upon the party at whom it had been aimed, that he
exerted himself unceasingly to revive Titmouse's confidence in Messrs.
Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; and so far succeeded, that Titmouse returned to
his lodgings at a late hour, a somewhat happier, if not a _wiser_ man
than he had left them. By the time, however, that he had got into bed,
having once more spelled over the note in question, he felt as
despondent as ever, and thought that Huckaback had not known what he had
been talking about. He also adverted to an _apparently_ careless
allusion by Huckaback to the injuries which had been inflicted upon him
by Titmouse on the Wednesday night: and which, by the way, Huckaback
determined it should be no fault of his if Titmouse easily forgot! He
hardly knew why--but he disliked this particularly.--Whom had he,
however, in the world, but Huckaback? In company with him alone,
Titmouse felt that his pent-up feelings could discharge themselves.
Huckaback had certainly a wonderful knack of keeping up Titmouse's
spirits, whatever cause he fancied he might really have for depression.
In short, he longed for the Sunday morning, ushering in a day of rest
and sympathy. Titmouse would indeed then have to look back upon an
agitating and miserable week, what with the dismal upsetting of his
hopes in the manner I have described, and the tyrannical treatment which
he had experienced at Tag-rag and Co.'s. His tormentor there, however,
began at length, in some degree, to relax his _active_ exertions against
Titmouse, simply because of the exertion requisite for keeping them up.
He attributed the pallid cheek and depressed manner of Titmouse entirely
to the discipline which had been inflicted upon him at the shop; and was
gratified at perceiving that all his other young men seemed, especially
in his presence, to have imbibed his hatred of Titmouse. What produced
in Tag-rag this hatred of Titmouse? Simply what had taken place on the
Monday. Mr. Tag-rag's dignity and power had been doggedly set at nought
by one of his shopmen, who had since refused to make the least
submission, or offer any kind of apology. Such conduct struck at the
root of subordination in his great establishment. Again, there is
perhaps nothing in the world so calculated to enrage a petty and vulgar
mind to the highest pitch of malignity, as the cool persevering defiance
of an inferior, whom it strives to _despise_, while it is only _hating_,
feeling at the same time such to be the case. Tag-rag now and then, when
he looked towards Titmouse, as he stood behind the counter, felt as
though he could have killed the little ape. Titmouse attempted once or
twice, during the week, to obtain a situation elsewhere, but in vain.
He could expect no character from Tag-rag; and when the 10th of August
should have arrived, what was to become of him? These were the kind of
thoughts often passing through his mind during the Sunday, which he and
Huckaback spent together in unceasing conversation on the one absorbing
event of the last week. Titmouse, poor little puppy, had dressed himself
with just as much care as usual; but as he was giving the finishing
touches at his toilet, pumping up grievous sighs every half minute, the
sum of his reflections might be stated in the miserable significance of
a quaint saying of Poor Richard's--"How hard is it to make an empty sack
stand upright!"

Although the sun shone as vividly and beautifully as on the preceding
Sunday, to Titmouse's saddened eye there seemed a sort of gloom
everywhere. Up and down the Park he and Huckaback walked, towards the
close of the afternoon; but Titmouse had not so elastic a strut as
before. He felt empty and sinking. Everybody seemed to know what a sad
pretender he was: and the friends quitted the magic circle much earlier
than had been usual with Titmouse. What with the fatigue of a long day's
saunter, the vexation of having had but a hasty, inferior, and
unrefreshing meal, which did not deserve the name of dinner, and their
unpleasant thoughts, both seemed depressed as they walked along the
streets. At length they arrived at the open doors of a gloomy-looking
building, into which two or three sad and prim-looking people were
entering. After walking a few paces past the door--"Do you know, Huck,"
said Titmouse, stopping, "I've often thought that--that--there's
something in _Religion_."

"To be sure there is, for those that like it--who doubts it? It's all
very well in its place, no doubt," replied Huckaback, with much
surprise, which increased, as he felt himself being slowly swayed round
towards the building in question. "But what of that?"

"Oh, nothing; but--hem! hem!" replied Titmouse, sinking his voice to a
whisper--"a touch of--religion--eh?--would not be so much amiss, just
now! I feel--uncommon inclined that way, somehow, 'pon my soul!"

"Religion's all very well, Titty, dear!--for them that has much to be
thankful for; but devil take me! what have either you or me to be"----

"But, Huck--how do you know but we might _get_ something to be thankful
for, by praying?--I've often heard of great things in that
line--but--_do_ come in with me, Huck!"

Huckaback stood for a moment irresolute, twirling about his cane, and
looking rather distastefully towards the dingy building. "It won't
answer," said he, faintly. Titmouse drew him nearer; but he suddenly
started back.--"No! oh, 'tis only a meeting-house, Tit! Curse
Dissenters, how I hate 'em! Isn't your precious governor one in that
line? Give _me_ a regular-like, respectable church, with a proper
steeple, and parson, and prayers, and an organ, and all that!"

Titmouse secretly acknowledged the force of these observations; and the
intelligent and piously disposed couple, with perhaps a just, but
certainly a somewhat sudden regard for orthodoxy, were not long before
they had found their way into a church where evening service was being
performed. They ascended the gallery stair; and seeing no reason to be
ashamed of being at church, down they both went, with loud clattering
steps and a bold air, into the very central seat (which happened to be
vacant) in the front of the gallery. Titmouse paid a most exemplary
attention to what was going on, kneeling, sitting, and standing with
exact propriety, in the proper places; joining audibly in the responses,
and keeping his eyes pretty steadily on the prayer-book, which he found
lying there. He even rebuked Huckaback for whispering (during one of the
most solemn parts of the service) that "there was an uncommon pretty gal
in the next pew!"--He thought that the clergyman was a remarkable fine
preacher, and said some things that he _must_ have meant for him,
Titmouse, in particular!

"Curse me, Hucky!" said he, heatedly, as soon as they had quitted the
church, and were fairly in the street--"Curse me if--if--ever I felt so
comfortable-like in my mind before, as I do now--see if I don't go again
next Sunday!"

"Lord, Tit, you don't _really_ mean--eh?--it's deuced dull work!"

"Hang me if I don't, though! and if anything should come of it--if I
_do_ but get the estate--(I wonder, now, where _Mr. Gammon_ goes to
church. I should like to know!--I'd go there regularly)--But if I _do_
get the thing--you see if I don't"----

"Ah, I don't know; it's not much use praying for money, Tit; I've tried
it myself, once or twice, but it didn't answer!"

"I'll take my oath you was staring at the gals all the while, Hucky!"

"Ah, Titty!" exclaimed Huckaback, and winked his eye, and put the tip of
his forefinger to the tip of his nose, and laughed.

Titmouse continued in what he doubtless imagined to be a devout frame of
mind, for several minutes after quitting the church. But close by the
aforesaid church, the devil had a thriving little establishment, in the
shape of a cigar-shop; in which a showily-dressed young Jewess sat
behind the counter, right underneath a glaring gas-light--with a narrow
stripe of greasy black velvet across her forehead, and long ringlets
resting on her shoulders--bandying slang with two or three other such
creatures as Titmouse and Huckaback. Our friends entered and purchased a
cigar a-piece, which they lit on the spot; and after each of them had
exchanged an impudent wink with the Jewess, out they went, puffing
away--all the remains of their piety! When they had come to the end of
their cigars they parted, each speeding homeward. Titmouse, on reaching
his lodgings, sank into profound depression. He felt an awful conviction
that his visit to the cigar-shop had entirely spoiled the effect of his
previous attendance at the church; and that, if so disposed, (and it
served him right,) he might now sit and whistle for his ten thousand
a-year. Thoughts such as these drove him nearly distracted. If, indeed,
he had foreseen having to go through such another week as the one just
over, I think it not impossible that before the arrival of the ensuing
Sunday, he might have afforded a little employment to that ancient and
gloomy functionary, a coroner, and his jury. At that time, however,
inquests of this sort were matter-of-fact and melancholy affairs enough;
which I doubt not would have been rather a _dissuasive_ from suicide, in
the estimation of one who might be supposed ambitious of the _éclat_ of
a modern inquest; where, indeed, such strange antics are played by
certain new performers as would suffice to revive the corpse, (if it
were a corpse that had ever had a spark of sense or spirit in it,) and
make it kick the coroner out of the room.[8] But to one of so high an
ambition as Tittlebat Titmouse, how delightful would it not have been,
to anticipate becoming (what had been quite impracticable during life)
the object of public attention after his death--by means of a flaming
dissertation by the coroner on his own zeal and spirit--the nature and
extent of his rights, powers, and duties;--when high doctors are
brow-beaten, the laws set at defiance, and public decency plucked by the
beard, and the torn and bleeding hearts of surviving relatives still
further agonized by an exposure, all quivering under the recent stroke,
to the gaping vulgar! Indeed, I sometimes think that the object of
certain coroners, now-a-days, is twofold; first, public--to disgust
people with suicide, by showing what horrid proceedings will take place
over their carcasses; and secondly, private--to get the means of
studying anatomy by _post mortems_, which the said coroner never could
procure in his own practice; which enables us to account for some things
one has lately seen, viz. that if a man come to his death by means of a
wagon crushing his legs, the coroner institutes an exact examination of
the structure of the _lungs_ and _heart_. I take it to be getting now
into a rule--the propriety whereof, some people think, cannot be
doubted--namely, that bodies ought now to be opened only to prove that
they ought not to have been opened; an inquest must be held, in order to
demonstrate that it need not have been held, except that certain fees
thereby find their way into the pocket of the aforesaid coroner, which
would otherwise not have done so. In short, such a coroner as I have in
my eye may be compared to a great ape squatting on a corpse, furiously
chattering and spitting at all around it; and I am glad that it hath at
last had wit enough first to _shut the door_ before proceeding to its
horrid tricks.

Touching, by the way, the _moral_ of suicide, it is a way which some
have of _cutting_ the Gordian knot of the difficulties of life; which
having been done, possibly the very first thing made manifest to the
spirit, after taking its mad leap into the dark may be--how very easily
the said knot might have been UNTIED; nay, that it was _on the very
point_ of being untied, if the impatient spirit had stayed only a moment
longer!

I said it was not _impossible_ that Mr. Titmouse might, under the
circumstances alluded to, have done the deed which has called forth the
above natural and profound reflections; but, upon the whole, it is
hardly _probable_; for he knew that by doing so he would (first)
irreparably injure society, by depriving it of an enlightened and
invaluable member; (secondly,) inflict great indignity on his precious
body, of which, during life, he had always taken the most affectionate
care, by consigning it to burial in a cross-road, at night-time, with a
stake run through it,[9] and moreover peril the little soul that had
just leaped out of it, by not having any burial-service said over his
aforesaid remains; and (lastly) lose all chance of enjoying Ten Thousand
a-Year--at least upon the earth. I own I was a little startled (as I
dare say was the pensive reader) at a passage of mournful significance
in Mr. Titmouse's last letter to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap,
viz.--"How full of trouble I am, _often thinking of death_, which is the
end of everything;" but on carefully considering the context, I am
disposed to think that the whole was only an astute device of
Titmouse's, either to rouse the fears, or stimulate the feelings, or
excite the hopes of the three arbiters of his destiny to whom it was
addressed. Mr. Gammon, he thought, might be thereby moved to pity; while
Mr. Quirk would probably be operated upon by fears, lest the sad
contingency pointed at might deprive the house of one who would richly
repay their exertions; and by hopes of indefinite advantage, if they
could by any means prevent its happening. That these gentlemen really
_did_ keenly scrutinize, and carefully weigh every expression in that
letter, ridiculous as it was, and contemptible as, I fear, it showed its
writer to be, is certain; but it did not occur to them to compare with
it the spirit, at least, and intention of their own answer to it. Did
the latter document contain less cunning and insincerity, because it was
couched in somewhat superior phraseology? They could conceal their
selfish and over-reaching designs, while poor Titmouse exposed all his
little mean-mindedness and hypocrisy, simply because he had not learned
how to conceal it effectually. 'Twas indeed a battle for the very same
object, but between unequal combatants. Each was trying to _take in_ the
other. If Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap despised and loathed the man
to whom they exhibited such anxious courtesy, Titmouse hated and feared
those whom his interests compelled him for a while to conciliate. Was
there, in fact, a pin to choose between them--except perhaps that
Titmouse was, in a manner, excused by his necessities? But, in the mean
while--to proceed--his circumstances were becoming utterly desperate. He
continued to endure great suffering at Mr. Tag-rag's during the day--the
constant butt of the ridicule and insult of his amiable companions, and
the victim of his employer's vile and vulgar spirit of hatred and
oppression. His spirit, (such as it was,) in short, was very nearly
broken. Though he seized every opportunity that offered, to inquire for
another situation, he was unsuccessful; for all whom he applied to,
spoke of the _strict character_ they should require, "before taking a
new hand into their establishment." His occupation at nights, after
quitting the shop, was twofold only--either to call upon Huckaback,
(whose sympathy, however, he was exhausting rapidly,) or solace his
feelings by walking down to Saffron Hill, and lingering about the closed
office of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap--there was a kind of
gratification even in that! He once or twice felt flustered even on
catching a glimpse of the old housekeeper returning home with a pint of
porter in her hand. How he would have rejoiced to get into her good
graces, and accompany her into even the kitchen--when he would be on the
premises, at least, and conversing with one of the establishment, of
those who he believed could, with a stroke of their pens, turn this
wilderness of a world into a paradise for him! But he dared not make
any overtures in that quarter, for fear of their getting to the notice
of the dreaded Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap.

At length, no more than three or four shillings stood between him and
utter destitution; and the only person in the world to whom he could
apply for even the most trivial assistance, was Huckaback--whom,
however, he knew to be really little better off than himself; and whom,
moreover, he felt to be treating him more and more coldly, as the week
wore on, without his hearing of any the least tidings from Saffron Hill.
Huckaback evidently felt now scarcely any interest or pleasure in the
visits of his melancholy friend, and was plainly disinclined to talk
about his affairs. At length he quite turned up his nose with disgust,
whenever Titmouse took out the well-worn note of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon,
and Snap, (which was almost dropping in pieces with being constantly
carried about in his pocket, taken in and out, and folded and unfolded,)
for the purpose of conning over its contents, as if there might yet
linger in it some hitherto undiscovered source of consolation. Poor
Titmouse, therefore, looked at it on every such occasion with as eager
and vivid an interest as ever; but it was glanced at by Huckaback with a
half-averted eye, and a cold drawling, yawning "Ya--a--as--I
see--I--dare--say!" While his impressions of Titmouse's bright prospects
were thus being rapidly effaced, his smarting recollections of the
drubbing he had received became more distinct and frequent, his feelings
of resentment more lively, nor the less so, because the expression of
them had been stifled, (while he had considered the star of Titmouse to
be in the ascendant,) till the time for setting them into motion and
action, had gone by. In fact, the presence of Titmouse, suggesting such
thoughts and recollections, became intolerable to Huckaback; and
Titmouse's perceptions (dull as they naturally were, but a little
quickened by recent suffering) gave him more and more distinct notice of
this circumstance, at the precise time when he meditated applying for
the loan of a few shillings. These feelings made him as humble towards
Huckaback, and as tolerant of his increasing rudeness and ill-humor, as
he felt abject towards Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; for, unless he
could succeed in wringing some trifling loan from Huckaback, (if he
really had it in his power to advance him _anything_,) Titmouse really
could not conjecture what was to become of him. Various faint but
unadroit hints and feelers of his had been thrown away upon Huckaback,
who did not, or would not, comprehend them. At length, however, a sudden
and fearful pressure compelled poor Titmouse to speak out. Gripe, the
collector, called one morning for the poor's rates due from Mrs.
Squallop, and drained her of almost every penny of ready money which she
had by her. This threw the good woman upon her resources to replenish
her empty pocket--and down she came upon Titmouse--or rather, up she
went to him; for his heart sank within him, one night on his return from
the shop, having only just taken off his hat and lit his candle, as he
heard the fat old termagant's well-known heavy step ascending the
stairs, and approaching nearer and nearer to his door. Her loud
imperative single knock vibrated through his very heart.

"Oh, Mrs. Squallop! How d'ye do, Mrs. Squallop?" commenced Titmouse,
faintly, when he had opened the door; "Won't you take a chair?" with
trepidation offering to the panting dame almost the only chair he had.

"No--I a'n't come to stay, Mr. Titmouse, because, d'ye see, in coorse
you've got a pound, _at least_, ready for me, as you promised long
ago--and never more welcome; there's old Gripe been here to-day, and had
his hodious rates--(drat the poor, say I! them as can't work should
starve!--rates is a robbery!)--but howsomdever he's cleaned _me_ out
to-day; so, in coorse, I come up to _you_. Got it, Mr. Titmouse?"

"I--I--I--'pon my life, Mrs. Squallop, I'm uncommon sorry"----

"Oh, bother your sorrow, Mr. Titmouse!--out with the needful, for I
can't stop palavering here."

"I--I can't, so help me----!" gasped Titmouse, with the calmness of
desperation.

"You can't! And marry, sir, why not, may I make bold to ask?" inquired
Mrs. Squallop, after a moment's pause, striving to choke down her rage.

"P'r'aps you can get blood out of a stone, Mrs. Squallop; it's what _I_
can't," replied Titmouse, striving to screw his courage up to the
sticking place, to encounter one who was plainly bent upon mischief.
"I've got two shillings--there they are," throwing them on the table;
"and cuss me if I've another rap in the world; there, ma'am! take 'em,
do; and drive me desperate!"

"You're a liar, then, that's flat!" exclaimed Mrs. Squallop, slapping
her hand upon the table, with a violence that made the candle quiver on
it, and almost fall down. "_You_ have the _himperance_," said she,
sticking her arms akimbo, and commencing the address she had been
preparing in her own mind ever since Mr. Gripe had quitted her house,
"to stand there and tell me you've got nothing in the world but them
_two shillings_! Heugh! Out on you, you oudacious fellow!--you
jack-a-dandy! _You_ tell me you haven't got more than them two
shillings, and yet turns out every Sunday morning of your life like a
lord, with your pins, and your rings, and your chains, and your fine
coat, and your gloves, and your spurs, and your dandy cane--ough! you
whipper-snapper! You're a cheat--you're a swindler, jack-a-dandy! You're
the contempt of the whole court, you are--you jack-a-dandy! You've got
all my rent on your back, and so you've had every Sunday for three
months, you cheat!--you low fellow!--you ungrateful chap! You're
a-robbing the widow and fatherless! Look at me, and my six fatherless
children down there, you good-for-nothing, nasty, proud puppy!--eugh! it
makes me sick to see you. _You_ dress yourself out like my lord mayor!
You've bought a gold chain with my rent, you rascally cheat! _You_ dress
yourself out?--Ha, ha!--you're a nasty, mean-looking, humpty-dumpty,
carroty-headed"----

"You'd better not say _that_ again, Mrs. Squallop," quoth Titmouse, with
a fierce glance.

"Not say it again!--ha, ha! Hoighty-toighty, carroty-haired
jack-a-dandy!--Why, you hop-o-my-thumb! d'ye think I won't say whatever
I choose, and in my own house, and to a man that can't pay his rent?
You're a Titmouse by name and by nature; there a'n't a cockroach
crawling in our kitchen that a'n't more harmless than you!--You're a
himperant cheat, and dandy, and knave, and a liar, and a red-haired
rascal--and _that_ in your teeth! (snapping her fingers.) Ough! Your
name stinks in the court. You're a-taking of everybody in as will trust
you to a penny's amount. There's poor old Cox, the tailor, with a sick
wife and children, whom you've cheated this many months, all of his not
having sperrit to summons you! But _I'll_ set him upon you; you see if I
don't--and I'll have my own, too, or I wouldn't give _that_ for the
laws!" shouted Mrs. Squallop, again furiously snapping her fingers in
his face; and then pausing for breath after her eloquent invective.

"Now, what _is_ the use," said Titmouse, gently, being completely
cowed--"now, what good _can_ it do to go on in this way, Mrs. Squallop?"

"Missus me no missus, Mr. Titmouse, but pay me my rent, you
jack-a-dandy! You've got my rent on your back, and on your little
finger; and I'll have it off you before I've done with you, I warrant
you. I'm your landlady, and I'll sell you up; I'll have old Thumbscrew
here the first thing in the morning, and distrain everything, and you,
too, you jackdaw, if any one would buy you, which they won't! I'll have
my rent at last: I've been too easy with you, you ungrateful chap; for,
mark, even Gripe this morning says, 'Haven't you a gentleman lodger up
above? get him to pay you your own,' says he; and so I will. I'm sick of
all this, and I'll have my rights! Here's my son, Jem, a far
better-looking chap than you, though he _hasn't_ got hair like a sandy
mop all under his chin, and he's obligated for to work from one week's
end to another, in a paper cap and fustian jacket; and you--you painted
jackanapes! But now I have got you, and I'll turn you inside out, though
I know there's nothing in you! But I'll try to get at your fine coats,
and spurs, and trousers, your chains and pins, and make something of
them before I've done with you, you jack-a-dandy!"--and the virago shook
her fist at him, looking as though she had not yet uttered even half
that was in her heart towards him.

[Alas, alas, unhappy Titmouse, much-enduring son of sorrow! I perceive
that you now feel the sharpness of an angry female tongue; and indeed to
me, not in the least approving of the many coarse and heart-splitting
expressions which she uses, it seems, nevertheless, that she hath not
gone exceeding far off the mark in much that she hath said; for, in
truth, in your conduct there is not a little that to me, piteously
inclined towards you as I am, yet appeareth obnoxious to the edge of
this woman's reproaches. But think not, O bewildered and
not-with-sufficient-distinctness-discerning-the-nature-of-things
Titmouse! that she hath only a sharp and bitter tongue. In this woman
behold a mother, and it may be that she will soften before you, who
have plainly, as I hear, neither father nor mother. Oh me!]

Poor Titmouse trembled violently; his lips quivered; and the long
pent-up tears forced their way at length over his eyelids, and fell fast
down his cheeks.

"Ah, you may well cry!--you may! But it's too late!--it's my turn to cry
now! Don't you think that I feel for my own flesh and blood, which is my
six children? And isn't what's mine theirs? And aren't you keeping the
fatherless out of their own? It's too bad of you--it is! and you know it
is," continued Mrs. Squallop, vehemently.

"_They've_ got a mother--a kind--good--mother--to take--care of them,"
sobbed Titmouse; "but there's been no one in the--the--world that cares
a straw for _me_--this twenty--years!" He fairly wept aloud.

"Well, then, more's the pity for _you_. If you had, they wouldn't have
let you make such a puppy of yourself--and at your landlady's expense,
too. You know you're a fool," said Mrs. Squallop, dropping her voice a
little; for she was a MOTHER, after all, and she knew that what poor
Titmouse had just stated was quite true. She tried hard to feed the fire
of her wrath, by forcing into her thoughts every aggravating topic
against Titmouse that she could think of; but it became every moment
harder and harder to do so, for she was consciously softening rapidly
towards the weeping and miserable little object, on whom she had been
heaping such violent and bitter abuse. He was a great fool, to be
sure--he was very fond of fine clothes--- he knew no better--he had,
however, paid his rent well enough till lately--he was a very quiet,
well-disposed lodger, for all _she_ had known--he had given her
youngest, child a pear not long ago. Really, thought Mrs. Squallop, I
may have gone a _leetle_ too far.

"Come--it a'n't no use crying in this way," she began in an altered
tone. "It won't put money into your pocket, nor my rent into mine. You
know you've wronged me, and I _must_ be paid," she added, but in a still
lower tone. She tried to cough away a certain rising disagreeable
sensation about her throat; for Titmouse, having turned his back to hide
the extent of his emotions, seemed half-choked with suppressed sobs.

"So you won't speak a word--not a word--to the woman you've injured so
much?" inquired Mrs. Squallop, trying to assume a harsh tone; but her
eyes were a little obstructed with tears.

"I--I--_can't_ speak," sobbed Titmouse--"I--I feel ready to drop into a
cold early grave!--everybody hates me"--here he paused; and for some
moments neither of them spoke. "I've been kept on my legs the whole day
about the town by Mr. Tag-rag, and had no dinner. I--I--wish I was
_dead_! I do!--you may take all I have--here it is," continued Titmouse,
with his foot pushing towards Mrs. Squallop the old hair trunk that
contained all his little finery. "I sha'n't want them much longer, for
I'm turned out of my situation."

This was too much for Mrs. Squallop, and she was obliged to wipe her
full eyes with the corner of her apron, without saying a word. Her heart
smote her for the misery she had inflicted on one who seemed quite
broken down. Pity suddenly flew, fluttering his wings--soft dove!--into
her heart, and put to flight in an instant all her enraged feelings.
"Come, Mr. Titmouse," said she, in quite an altered tone, "never mind
_me_; I'm a plain-spoken woman enough, I dare say--and often say more
than I mean--for I know I a'n't over particular when my blood's
up--but--lord!--I--I wouldn't hurt a hair of your head, poor chap!--for
all I've said--no, not for double the rent you owe me. Come! don't go
on so, Mr. Titmouse--what's the use?--it's all quite--over--I'm _so_
sorry--Lud! if I had _really_ thought"--she almost sobbed--"you'd been
so--so--why, I'd have waited till to-morrow night before I'd said a
word. But, Mr. Titmouse, since you haven't had any dinner, won't you
have a mouthful of something--a bit of bread and cheese I--I'll soon
fetch you up a bit, and a drop of beer--we've just had it in for our
suppers."

"No, thank you--I can't--I can't eat!" sobbed Titmouse.

"Oh, bother it, but you _shall_! I'll go down and fetch it up in half a
minute, as sure as my name's Squallop!" And out of the room and
down-stairs she bustled, glad of a moment to recover herself.

"Lord-a-mercy!" said she, on entering her room, to her eldest daughter
and a neighbor who had just come in to supper--and while she hastily cut
a thick hunch of bread, and a good slice of cheese--"there I've been
a-rating that poor little chap, up at the top room, (my dandy lodger,
you know,) like anything--and I really don't think he's had a morsel of
victuals in his belly this precious day; and I've made him cry, poor
soul! as if his heart would break. Pour us out half a pint of that beer,
Sally--a _good_ half pint, mind!--I'm going to take it up-stairs
directly. I've gone a deal too far with him, I do think; but it's all of
that nasty old Gripe; I've been wrong all the day through it! How I hate
the sight of old Gripe! What _hodious_ looking people they do get to
collect the rates and taxes, to be sure!--Poor chap," she continued, as
she wiped out a plate with her apron, and put into it the bread and
cheese, together with a knife--"he offered me a chair when I went in, so
uncommon civil-like, it took a good while before I could get myself into
the humor to _give it_ him as I wanted. And he's no father nor mother,
(half of which has happened to _you_, Sal, and the rest will happen one
of these days, you know--so you mind me while you have me!) and he's not
such a very bad lodger, after all, though he _does_ get a little
behind-hand now and then, and though he turns out every Sunday like a
lord, poor fool--as your poor dear father used to say, 'with a shining
back and empty belly.'"

"But that's no reason why honest people should be kept out of their own,
to feed his pride," interposed her neighbor, a skinny old widow, who had
never had chick nor child, and was always behind-hand with her own rent;
but whose effects were not worth distraining upon. "I'd get hold of some
of his fine crincum-crancums and gimcracks, for security like, if I was
you. I would, indeed."

"Why--no, poor soul--I don't hardly like: he's a vain creature, and puts
everything he can on his back, to be sure; but he a'n't quite a _rogue_,
neither."

"Ah, ha, Mrs. Squallop--you're such a simple soul!--Won't my fine
gentleman make off with his finery after to-night?"

"Well, I shouldn't have thought it! To be sure he may! Really, there
_can't_ be much harm in asking him (in a proper kind of way) to deposit
one of his fine things with me, by way of security--that ring of his,
you know--eh?--Well, I'll _try_ it anyhow," said Mrs. Squallop, as she
set off up-stairs.

"I know what _I_ should do, if so be he was a lodger of _mine_, that's
all," said her visitor, significantly, (as Mrs. Squallop quitted the
room,) vexed to find her supper so considerably and unexpectedly
diminished, especially as to the pot of porter, which she strongly
suspected would not be replenished.

"There," said Mrs. Squallop, setting down on the table what she had
brought for Titmouse, "there's a bit of supper for you; and you're
welcome to it, I'm sure, Mr. Titmouse."

"Thank you, thank you--I can't eat," said he, casting, however, upon the
victuals a hungry eye, which belied what he said, while in his heart he
longed to be left alone with them for about three minutes.

"Come, don't be ashamed--fall to work--it's good wholesome victuals,"
said she, lifting the table near to the edge of the bed, on the side of
which he was sitting, and taking up the two shillings lying on the
table--"and capital good beer, I warrant me; you'll sleep like a top
after it."

"You're uncommon kind, Mrs. Squallop; but I sha'n't get a wink of sleep
to-night for thinking"----

"Oh, bother your thinking! Let me begin to see you eat a bit. Well, I
suppose you don't like to eat and drink before me, so I'll go." [Here
arose a sudden conflict in the good woman's mind, whether or not she
would act on the suggestion which had been put into her head
down-stairs. She was on the point of yielding to the impulse of her own
good-natured, though coarse feelings; but at last--] "I--I--dare say,
Mr. Titmouse, you mean what's right and straightforward," she stammered.

"Yes, Mrs. Squallop--you may keep those two shillings; they're the last
farthing I have left in the whole world."

"No--hem!--hem!--ahem! I was just suddenly a-thinking--now can't you
guess, Mr. Titmouse?"

"What, Mrs. Squallop?" inquired Titmouse, meekly but anxiously.

"Why--suppose now--if it were only to raise ten shillings with old
Balls, round the corner, on one of those fine things of yours--your
ring, say!" [Titmouse's heart sank within him.] "Well, well--never
mind--don't fear," said Mrs. Squallop, observing him suddenly turn pale
again. "I--I only thought--but never mind! it don't signify--good-night!
we can talk about that to-morrow--good-night--a good night's rest to
you, Mr. Titmouse!" and the next moment he heard her heavy step
descending the stairs. Some little time elapsed before he could recover
from the agitation into which he had been thrown by her last proposal;
but within five minutes of her quitting the room, there stood before
him, on the table, an _empty_ plate and jug.



CHAPTER IV.


"The beast! the fat old toad!" thought he, the instant that he had
finished masticating what had been supplied to him by real charity and
good-nature--"the vulgar wretch!--the nasty canting old hypocrite!--I
saw what she was driving at all the while!--she had her eye on my
ring!--She'd have me pawn it at old Balls's--ha, ha!--Catch me! that's
all!--Seven shillings a-week for this nasty hole!--I'll be bound I pay
nearly half the rent of the whole house--the old cormorant!--out of what
she gets from me! How I hate her! More than half my salary goes into her
greasy pocket! Cuss me if I couldn't have kicked her
down-stairs--porter, bread and cheese, and all--while she was standing
canting there!--A snivelling old beldam!--Pawn my ring!!--Lord!!"--Here
he began to undress. "Ha! I'm up to her; she'll be coming here
to-morrow, with that devil Thumbscrew, to distrain, I'll be sworn.
Well--I'll take care of _these_ anyhow;" and, kneeling down and
unlocking his trunk, he took out of it his guard-chain, breast-pin,
studs, and ring, carefully folded them up in paper, and depositing them
in his trousers' pockets, resolved that henceforth their nightly
resting-place should be--under his pillow; while during the day they
should accompany his person whithersoever he went. Next he bethought
himself of the two or three important papers to which Mr. Gammon had
referred; and, with tremulous eagerness, read them over once or twice,
but without being able to extract from them the slightest clew to their
real character and bearing. Then he folded them up in a half sheet of
writing-paper, which he proceeded to stitch carefully beneath the lining
of his waistcoat; after which he blew out his slim candle, and with a
heavy sigh got into bed. For some moments after he had blown out the
candle did the image of it remain on his aching and excited retina; and
just so long did the thoughts of _ten thousand a-year_ dwell on his
fancy, fading, however, quickly away amid the thickening gloom of
doubts, and fears, and miseries, which oppressed him. There he lies,
stretched on his bed, a wretched figure, lying on his breast, his head
buried beneath his feverish arms. Anon, he turns round upon his back,
stretches his wearied limbs to their uttermost, folds his arms on his
breast, then buries them beneath the pillow, under his head. Now he
turns on his right side, then on his left--presently he starts up, and
with muttered curse shakes his little pillow, flinging it down angrily.
He cannot sleep--he cannot rest--he cannot keep still. Bursting with
irritability, he gets out of bed, and steps to the window, which opening
wide, a slight gush of fresh air cools his hot face for a moment or two.
His wearied eye looks upward and beholds the moon shining overhead in
cold splendor, turning the clouds to gold as they flit past her, and
shedding a softened lustre upon the tiled roofs and irregular
chimney-pots--the only objects visible to him. No sound is heard, but
occasionally the dismal cry of disappointed cat, the querulous voice of
the watchman, and the echo of the rumbling hubbub of Oxford Street. O
miserable Titmouse! of what avail is it for thee thus to fix thy
sorrowful lack-lustre eye upon the cold Queen of Night!

       *       *       *       *       *

At that moment there happened to be also gazing at the same glorious
object, but at some two hundred miles' distance from London, a very
different person, with very different feelings, and in very different
circumstances. It was one of the angels of the earth--a pure-hearted and
very beautiful girl; who, after a day of peaceful, innocent, and
charitable employment, and having just quitted the piano, where her
exquisite strains had soothed and delighted the feelings of her brother,
harassed with political anxieties, had retired to her chamber for the
night. A few moments before she was presented to the reader, she had
extinguished her taper, and dismissed her maid without her having
discharged more than half her accustomed duties--telling her that she
should finish undressing by the light of the moon, which then poured her
soft radiance into every corner of the spacious but old-fashioned
chamber. Then she drew her chair to the window-recess, and pushing open
the window, sat before it, only partially undressed as she was, her hair
dishevelled, her head leaning on her hand, gazing upon the scenery
before her with tranquil admiration. Silence reigned absolutely. Not a
sound issued from the ancient groves, which spread far and wide on all
sides of the fine old mansion in which she dwelt--solemn solitudes, nor
yet less soothing than solemn! Was not the solitude enhanced by a
glimpse she caught of a restless fawn, glancing in the distance across
the avenue, as he silently changed the tree under which he slept?--Then
the gentle breeze would enter her window, laden with sweet scents of
which he had just been rifling the coy flowers beneath, in their dewy
repose, tended and petted during the day by her own delicate
hand!--Beautiful moon!--cold and chaste in thy skyey palace, studded
with brilliant and innumerable gems, and shedding down thy rich and
tender radiance upon this lovely seclusion--was there upon the whole
earth a more exquisite countenance then turned towards thee than
hers?--Wrap thy white robe, dearest Kate, closer round thy fair bosom,
lest the amorous night-breeze do thee hurt, for he groweth giddy with
the sight of thy charms! Thy rich tresses, half-uncurled, are growing
damp--- so it is time that thy blue eyes should seek repose. Hie thee,
then, my love!--to yon antique couch, with its quaint carvings and satin
draperies dimly visible in the dusky shade, inviting thee to sleep: and
having first bent in cheerful reverence before thy Maker--to bed!--to
bed!--sweet Kate, nothing disturbing thy serene slumbers, or agitating
that beautiful bosom.--Hush! hush!--now she sleeps! It is well that
thine eyes are closed in sleep; for BEHOLD--see!--the brightness without
is disappearing; sadness and gloom are settling on the face of nature;
the tranquil night is changing her aspect; clouds are gathering, winds
are moaning; the moon is gone:--but sleep on, sweet Kate--sleep on,
dreaming not of dark days before thee--Oh, that thou couldst sleep on
till the brightness returned!

       *       *       *       *       *

After having stood thus leaning against the window for nearly half an
hour, Titmouse, heavily sighing, returned to bed--but there he tossed
about in wretched restlessness till nearly four o'clock in the morning.
If he now and then sank into forgetfulness for a while, it was only to
be harassed by the dreadful image of Mrs. Squallop, shouting at him,
tearing his hair, cuffing him, flinging a pot of porter in his face,
opening his boxes, tossing his clothes about, taking out his invaluable
ornaments; by Tag-rag kicking him out of the shop; and Messrs. Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap dashing past him in a fine carriage, with six horses,
and paying no attention to him as he ran shouting and breathless after
him; Huckaback following, kicking and pinching him behind. These were
the few little bits of different colored glass in a mental kaleidoscope,
which, turned capriciously round, produced those innumerable fantastic
combinations out of the simple and ordinary events of the day, which we
call _dreams_--tricks of the wild sisters Fancy, when sober Reason has
left her seat for a while. But this is fitter for the Royal Society than
the bedroom of Tittlebat Titmouse; and I beg the reader's pardon.

About six o'clock, Titmouse rose and dressed himself; and, slipping
noiselessly and swiftly down-stairs, and out of the court, in order to
avoid all possibility of encountering his landlady or his tailor, soon
found himself in Oxford Street. Not many people were stirring there. One
or two men who passed him were smoking their morning's pipe, with a
half-awakened air, as if they had only just got out of a snug bed, in
which they always slept every moment that they lay upon it. Titmouse
almost envied them! What a squalid figure he looked, as he paced up and
down, till at length he saw the porter of Messrs. Tag-rag & Co. opening
the shop-door. He soon entered it, and commenced another jocund day in
that delightful establishment. The amiable Mr. Tag-rag continued
unaltered.

"You're at liberty to take yourself off, sir, this very day--this
moment, sir; and a good riddance," said he, bitterly, during the course
of the day, after demanding of Titmouse how he dared to give himself
such sullen airs; "and then we shall see how charming easy it is for
gents like you to get another sitiwation, sir! Your looks and manner is
quite a recommendation, sir! If I was you, sir, I'd raise my terms!
You're worth double what I give, sir!" Titmouse made no reply. "What do
you mean, sir, by not answering me--eh, sir?" suddenly demanded Mr.
Tag-rag, with a look of fury.

"I don't know what you'd have me say, sir. What am I to say, sir?"
inquired Titmouse, with a sigh.

"What, indeed! I should like to catch you! Say, indeed! Only say a
word--and out you go, neck and crop. Attend to that old lady coming in,
sir. And mind, sir, I've got my eye on you!" Titmouse did as he was bid;
and Tag-rag, a bland smile suddenly beaming on his attractive features,
hurried down towards the door, to receive some lady-customers, whom he
observed alighting from a carriage; and at that moment you would have
sworn that he was one of the kindest-hearted sweetest-tempered men in
the world.

When at length _this_ day had come to a close, Titmouse, instead of
repairing to his lodgings, set off, with a heavy heart, to pay a visit
to his excellent friend Huckaback, whom he knew to have received his
quarter's salary the day before, and from whom he faintly hoped to
succeed in extorting some trifling loan. "If you want to learn the value
of money, _try to borrow some_," says Poor Richard--and Titmouse was now
going to learn that useful but bitter lesson. Oh, how disheartening was
Mr. Huckaback's reception of him! That gentleman, in answering the
modest knock of Titmouse, suspecting who was his visitor, opened the
door but a little way, and in that little way, with his hand on the
latch, he stood, with a plainly repulsive look.

"Oh! it's you, Titmouse, is it?" he commenced coldly.

"Yes. I--I just want to speak a word to you--only a word or two, Hucky,
if you aren't busy?"

"Why, I was just going to go--but what d'ye want, Titmouse?" he inquired
in a freezing manner, not stirring from where he stood.

"_Let_ me come inside a minute," implored Titmouse, feeling as if his
little heart were really dropping out of him: and, in a most ungracious
manner, Huckaback motioned him in.

"Well," commenced Huckaback, with a chilling distrustful look.

"Why, Huck, I know you're a good-natured chap--you _couldn't_, just for
a short time, lend me ten shill"----

"No, curse me if I can: and that's flat!" briskly interrupted Huckaback,
finding his worst suspicions confirmed.

"Why, Hucky, wasn't you only yesterday paid your salary?"

"Well!--suppose I was?--what then? You're a monstrous cool hand,
Titmouse! I never!! So I'm to lend to you, when I'm starving myself!
I've received such a lot, too, haven't I?"

"I thought we'd always been friends, Hucky," said Titmouse, faintly;
"and so we shouldn't mind helping one another a bit! Don't you remember,
I once lent you half-a-crown?"

"Half-a-crown!--and that's nine months ago!"

"Do, Hucky, do lend me a few shillings. 'Pon my soul, I've not a
sixpence in the whole world."

"Ha, ha! A pretty chap to borrow! You can pay so well! By George,
Titmouse, you're a cool hand!"

"If you won't lend me, I must starve."

"Go to _my uncle's_." [Titmouse groaned aloud.] "Well--and why not? What
of that?" continued Huckaback, sharply and bitterly. "I dare say it
wouldn't be the first time you've done such a trick no more than me.
I've been obligated to do it. Why shouldn't you? A'n't there that ring?"

"Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! that's just what Mrs. Squallop said last night!"

"Whew! _She's_ down on you, is she? And you have the face to come to
me!! _You_--that's a-going to be sold up, come to borrow! Lord, that's
good, anyhow! A queer use that to make of one's friends;--it's a taking
them in, I say!"

"Oh, Huck, Huck, if you only knew what a poor devil"----

"Yes, that's what I was a-saying; but it a'n't 'poor devils' one lends
money to so easily, I warrant me; though you _a'n't_ such a poor
devil--you're only shamming! Where's your guard-chain, your studs, your
breast-pin, your ring, and all that? Sell 'em! if not, anyhow, _pawn_
'em. Can't eat your cake and have it; fine back must have empty belly
with us sort of chaps."

"If you'll only be so uncommon kind as to lend me--this once--ten
shillings," continued Titmouse, in an imploring tone, "I'll bind myself,
by a solemn oath, to pay you the very first moment I get what's due to
me from Tag-rag & Co."---- Here he was almost choked by the sudden
recollection that he had next to nothing to receive.

"You've some property in the MOON, too, that's coming to you, you know!"
said Huckaback, with an insulting sneer.

"I know what you're driving at," said poor Titmouse; and he continued
eagerly, "and if anything _should_ ever come up from Messrs. Quirk,
Gam"----

"Yough! Faugh! Pish! Stuff!" burst out Huckaback, in a tone of contempt
and disgust; "_never_ thought there was anything in it, and now _know_
it! It's all my eye, and all that! You've been only humbugging me all
this while!"

"Oh, Hucky, Hucky! You don't say so!" groaned Titmouse, bursting into
tears; "you did not _always_ say so."

"It's enough that I say it _now_, then; will that do?" interrupted
Huckaback, impetuously.

"Oh, Lord, Lord! what is to become of me?" cried Titmouse, with a face
full of anguish.

[At this moment, the following was the course of thought passing through
the mind of Mr. Huckaback:--It is not _certain_ that nothing will come
of the fellow's affair with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. It was
hardly likely that they would have gone as far as Titmouse represented,
(lawyers as they were), unless they had seen very substantial grounds
for doing so. Besides, even though Titmouse might not get ten thousand
a-year, he might yet succeed in obtaining a very splendid sum of money:
and if he (Huckaback) could but get a little slice out of it, Titmouse
was now nearly desperate, and would promise anything; and if he could
but be wheedled into giving anything in writing--Well, thought
Huckaback, I'll try it however!]

"Ah, Titmouse, you're civil enough _now_, and would _promise_ anything,"
said Huckaback, appearing to hesitate; "but supposing I were to do what
you want, when you got your money you'd forget everything about it"----

"Forget my promise! Dear Hucky! only try me--do try me but once, that's
all! 'Pon my precious life, ten shillings is worth more to me now than a
hundred pounds may be by-and-by."

"Ay, so you say _now_; but d'ye mean to tell me, that in case I _was_
now to advance you ten shillings out of my small salary," continued
Huckaback, apparently carelessly, "you'd, for instance, pay me a hundred
pounds out of your thousands?"

"Oh, Lord! only you try me--do try me!" said Titmouse, eagerly.

"Oh, I dare say!" interrupted Huckaback, smiling incredulously, and
chinking some money in his trousers pocket. Titmouse heard it, and (as
the phrase is) his teeth watered; and he immediately swore such a
tremendous oath as I dare not set down in writing, that if Huckaback
would that evening lend him ten shillings, Titmouse would give him one
hundred pounds out of the very first moneys he got from the estate.

"Ten shillings is a slapping slice out of my little salary--I shall
have, by George, to go without lots of things I'd intended getting; it's
really worth ten pounds to me, just now."

"Why, dear Hucky! 'pon my life, 't is worth a hundred to _me_! Mrs.
Squallop will sell me out, bag and baggage, if I don't give her
something to-morrow!"

"Well, if I really thought--hem!--would you mind giving me, now, a bit
of black and white for it--just (as one might say) to show you was in
earnest?"

"I'll do anything you like; only let me feel the ten shillings in my
fingers!"

"Well, no sooner said than done, if you're a man of your word," said
Huckaback, in a trice producing a bit of paper, and a pen and ink. "So,
only just for the fun of it; but--Lord! what stuff!--I'm only bargaining
for a hundred pounds of moonshine. Ha, ha! I shall never see the color
of your money, not I; so I may as well say two hundred when I'm about
it, as one hundred"----

"Why, hem! Two hundred, Huck, _is_ rather a large figure; one hundred's
odds enough, I'm sure!" quoth Titmouse, meekly.

"P'r'aps, Tit, you forget the _licking_ you gave me the other day," said
Huckaback, with sudden sternness. "Suppose I was to go to an attorney,
and get the law of you, what a sight of damages I should have--three
hundred pounds at least!"

Titmouse appeared even yet hesitating.

"Well, then!" said Huckaback, flinging down his pen, "suppose I have
them damages yet"----

"Come, come, Hucky, 't is all past and gone, all that"--

"Is it? Well, I never! I shall never be again the same man I was before
that 'ere licking. I've a sort of a--a--of a--feeling inside, as if--my
breast was--I shall carry it to my grave--curse me if I sha'n't!"

[It never once occurred to Titmouse, not having his friend Mr. Gammon at
his elbow, that the plaintiff in the action of _Huckaback v. Titmouse_
might have been slightly at a loss for a _witness_ of the assault; but
something quite as good in its way--a heaven-sent suggestion--_did_
occur to him.]

"Ah," said Titmouse, suddenly, "that's true; and uncommon sorry am I;
but still, a hundred pounds is a hundred pounds, and a large sum for the
use of ten shillings, and a licking; but never you think it's all
moonshine about my business with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap! I
didn't intend to have said a word--but--you should only have heard what
_I've_ heard to-day from those gents; hem! but I won't split _again_
either!" he added mysteriously.

"Eh? What? Heard from those gents at Saffron Hill?" interrupted
Huckaback, briskly; "come, Titty, out with it--out with it; no secrets
between friends, Titty!"

"No, I'll be hanged if I do--I won't spoil it all again; and now, since
I've let out as much, which I didn't mean to do, I'll tell you something
else--ten shillings is no use to me, I must have a pound."

"Titty, Titty!" exclaimed Huckaback, with unaffected concern.

"And I won't give more than fifty for it when I get my property
either"---- [Huckaback whistled aloud, and with a significant air
buttoned up the pocket which contained the money; intimating that now
the negotiation was all at an end, for that Titmouse's new terms were
quite out of the question;] "for I know where I can get twenty pounds
easily, only I liked to come to a _friend_ first."

"You aren't behaving much like a friend to one as has always been a fast
friend of yours, Titty! _A pound!_--I haven't got it to part with,
that's flat; so, if that's really your lowest figure, why, you must even
go to your other friend, and leave poor Hucky!"

"Well, I don't mind saying only ten shillings," quoth Titmouse, fearing
that he had been going on _rather_ too fast.

"Ah, that's something reasonable-like, Titty! and to meet you like a
friend, I'll take fifty pounds instead of a hundred; but you won't
object now to--you know--a deposit; that ring of yours--well, well! it
don't signify, since it goes against you; so now, here goes, a bit of
paper for ten shillings, ha, ha!" and taking a pen, after a pause, in
which he called to mind as much of the phraseology of money securities
as he could, he drew up the following stringent document, which I give
_verbatim et literatim_:--

     "_Know all Men_ That you are bound to _Mr. R. Huckaback_ Promising
     the Bearer (on _Demand_) To Pay Fifty Pounds in cash out of the
     estate, _if you Get it_. (Value received.)

     "(Witness,) 22d July 18--.

     "R. HUCKABACK."

"There, Titty--if you're an honest man, and would do as you would be
done by," said Huckaback, after signing his own name as above, handing
the pen to Titmouse, "sign that; just to show your honor, like--for in
course--bating the ten shillings I've lent you--I sha'n't ever come on
you for the money--get as much as you may."

A blessed thought occurred to poor Titmouse in his extremity, viz. that
there was _no stamp_ on the above instrument, (and he had never seen a
promissory-note or bill of exchange without one;) and he signed it
instantly, with many fervent expressions of gratitude. Huckaback
received the valuable security with apparently a careless air; and after
cramming it into his pocket, as if it had been in reality only a bit of
waste paper, counted out ten shillings into the eager hand of Titmouse;
who, having thus most unexpectedly succeeded in his mission, soon
afterwards departed--each of this pair of worthies fancying that he had
succeeded in cheating the other. Huckaback, having very cordially shaken
Titmouse by the hand, heartily damned him upon shutting the door on him;
and then anxiously perused and re-perused his "security," wondering
whether it was possible for Titmouse at any time thereafter to evade it,
and considering by what means he could acquaint himself with the
progress of Titmouse's affairs. The latter gentleman, as he hurried
homeward, dwelt for a long while upon only one thought--how fortunate
was the omission of his friend to have a stamp upon his security! When
and where, thought he, was it that he had heard that nothing would do
without a stamp? However, he had got the ten shillings safe; and
Huckaback might wait for his fifty pounds till--but in the meanwhile he,
Titmouse, seemed to stand a fair chance of going to the dogs; the ten
shillings, which he had just obtained with so much difficulty, were to
find their way immediately into the pockets of his landlady, whom it
might pacify for a day or two, and to what quarter was he now to look
for the smallest assistance? What was to become of him? Titmouse was a
miserable fool; but thoughts such as these, in such circumstances as
his, would have forced themselves into the mind of even a fool! How
could he avoid--oh, horrid thought!--soon parting with, or at least
pawning, his ring and his other precious trinkets? He burst into a
perspiration at the mere thought of seeing them hanging ticketed for
sale in the window of old Balls! As he slowly ascended the stairs which
led to his apartment, he felt as if he were following some unseen
conductor to a dungeon.

He was not aware that all this while, although he heard nothing from
them, he occupied almost exclusively the thoughts of those distinguished
practitioners in the law, Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. They, in
common with Huckaback, had an intense desire to share in his anticipated
good fortune, and determined to do so according to their opportunities.
The excellent Huckaback (a model of an usurer on a small scale) had
promptly and adroitly seized hold of the very first opportunity that
presented itself, for securing a little return hereafter for the ten
shillings, with which he had so generously parted when he could so ill
afford it; while Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap were racking their
brains, and from time to time, those of Messrs. Mortmain and
Frankpledge, to discover some instrument strong and large enough to cut
a fat slice for themselves out of the fortune they were endeavoring, for
that purpose, to put within the reach of Mr. Titmouse. A rule of three
mode of stating the matter would be thus: as the inconvenience of
Huckaback's parting with his ten shillings and his waiver of damages for
a very cruel assault, were to his contingent gain, hereafter, of fifty
pounds; so were Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's risk, exertions,
outlay, and benefit conferred on Titmouse, to their contingent gain of
ten thousand pounds. The principal point of difference between them
was--as to the mode of _securing_ their future recompense; in which it
may have been observed by the attentive reader, with respect to the
precipitancy of Huckaback and the hesitating caution of Messrs. Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap, that--"_thus fools_" (_e. g._ Huckaback) "_rushed in
where angels_" (_i. e._ Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap) "_feared to
tread_." Let me not, however, for a moment, insinuate that both these
parties were actuated by only one motive, _i. e._ to make a prey of this
little monkey _millionnaire_ that was to be. 'Tis true that Huckaback
appears to have driven rather a hard bargain with his distressed friend,
(and almost every one who, being similarly situated, has occasion for
such services as Titmouse sought from Huckaback, will find himself
called upon to pay, in one way or another, pretty nearly the same price
for them;) but it was attended with one good effect;--for the specific
interest in Titmouse's future prosperity, acquired by Huckaback,
quickened the latter gentleman's energies and sharpened his wits in the
service of his friend. But for this, indeed, it is probable that Mr.
Huckaback's door would have become as hopelessly closed against Titmouse
as was that of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. Some two or three nights
after the little transaction between the two friends which I have been
describing, Huckaback called upon Titmouse, and after greeting him
rather cordially, told him that he had come to put him up to a trick
upon the Saffron Hill people, that would tickle them into a little
activity in his affairs. The trick was--the sending a letter to those
gentlemen calculated to--but why attempt to characterize it? I have the
original document lying before me, which was sent by Titmouse the very
next morning to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; and here follows a
_verbatim_ copy of it:--

                                   "_No. 9, Closet Court, Oxford Street._

     "_To Messrs._ QUERK & CO.

     "Gents,--Am Sorry _to_ Trouble You, But Being _Drove quite
     desperate_ at my Troubles (which have bro^t me to my Last Penny a
     Week ago) and Mrs. Squallop my Landlady w^d distrain on Me only
     that There Is nothing to distrain on, Am Determined to Go Abroad in
     a Week's Time, and shall Never come Any More back again with Great
     Grief w^h Is What I now Write To tell You Of (Hoping you will
     please Take No notice of It) So Need give Yourselves No Further
     Concern with my Concerns Seeing The Estate is Not To Be Had and Am
     Sorry you Sh^d Have Had so Much trouble with My Affairs w^h c^d not
     Help. Sh^d have Much liked The Thing, only it Was Not worth
     Stopping For, or Would, but Since It Was not God's Will be Done
     _which it Will_. Hav^g raised a Trifle On my Future Prospects (w^h
     am Certain There is Nothing In) from a _True Friend_" [need it be
     guessed at whose instance these words had found their way into the
     letter?] "w^h was certainly uncommon inconvenient to That Person
     But He w^d do Anything to Do me good As he says Am going to raise A
     Little More from a Gent That does _Things of That Nature_ w^h will
     help me with Expense in Going Abroad (which place I Never mean to
     Return from.) Have fixed for the 10th To Go on w^h Day Shall Take
     leave Of Mr. Tag-rag (who on my Return Shall be glad to See Buried
     or in the Workhouse.) Have wrote This letter Only to Save Y^r
     Respectable Selves trouble w^h Trust You w^d not have Taken.

           "And Remain,
                                 "Gents,
                      "Y^r humble Unworthy servant,
                                                     "T. TITMOUSE.

     "_P. S._--Hope you will Particularly Remember me to Mr. Gamon. What
     is to become of me, know nothing, being so troubled. Am Humbly
     Determined not to employ any Gents in This matter except y^r most
     Respectable House, and sh^d be most Truly Sorry to Go Abroad wh^h
     _am really Often thinking of in Earnest_. Unless something Speedily
     Turns Up, favorable, T. T.--Sh^d like (By the way) to know if you
     sh^d be so Disposed what y^r resp^e house w^d take for my Chances
     Down (_Out and out_) In a Round Sum (_Ready money_). And hope if
     they Write It will be by Next Post or Shall be Gone Abroad."

Old Mr. Quirk, as soon as he had finished the perusal of this skilful
document, started, a little disturbed, from his seat, and bustled into
Mr. Gammon's room with Mr. Titmouse's open letter in his
hand.--"Gammon," said he, "just cast your eye over this, will you?
Really, we must look after Titmouse, or, by Jove! he'll be gone!" Mr.
Gammon took the letter rather eagerly, read deliberately through it, and
then looked up at his fidgety partner, who stood anxiously eying him,
and smiled.

"Well, Gammon, I really think--eh? Don't you"----

"Upon my word, Mr. Quirk, this nearly equals his last letter; and it
also seems to have produced on you the effect desired by its gifted
writer!"

"Well, Gammon, and what of that? Because my heart don't happen to be
_quite_ a piece of flint, you're always"--

"You might have been a far wealthier man than you are but for that soft
heart of yours, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, with a bland smile.(!)

"I know I might, Gammon--I know it. I thank my God I'm not so keen after
business that I can't feel for this poor soul--really, his state's quite
deplorable."

"Then, my dear sir, put your hand into your pocket at once, as I was
suggesting last night, and allow him a weekly sum."

"A--hem! hem! Gammon"--said Quirk, sitting down, thrusting his hands
into his waistcoat pockets, and looking very earnestly at Gammon.

"Well, then," replied that gentleman, shrugging his shoulders, in answer
to the mute appeal--"write and say you _won't_--'tis soon done, and so
the matter ends."

"Why, Gammon, you see, if he goes abroad," said Quirk, after a long
pause--"we lose him forever."

"Pho!--go abroad! He's too much for you, Mr. Quirk--he is indeed, ha,
ha!"

"You're fond of a laugh at my expense, Gammon; it's quite pleasant--you
can't think how I like that laugh of yours!"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Quirk--but you really misunderstand me; I was
laughing only at the absurd inconsistency of the fellow: he's a most
transparent little fool, and takes _us_ for such. Go abroad! Ridiculous
pretence!--In his precious postscript he undoes all--he says he is only
often _thinking_ of going--- pshaw!--That the wretch is in great
distress, is very probable; but it must go hard with him before he
either commits suicide or goes abroad, I warrant him: I've no fears on
_that_ score--but there _is_ a point in the letter that may be worth
considering--I mean the fellow's hint about borrowing money on his
prospects."

"Yes, to be sure--the very thing that struck _me_." [Gammon faintly
smiled.] "I never thought much about the _other_ part of the letter--all
stuff about going abroad--pho!--But to be sure, if he's trying to raise
money, he may get into keen hands.--Do you really think he _has_ been
trying on anything of the sort?"

"Oh no--of course it's only a little lie of his--or he must have found
out some greater fool than himself, which I had not supposed possible.
But however that may be, I really think, Mr. Quirk, it's high time that
we should take some decided step."

"Well,--yes, it may be," said Quirk, slowly--"and I must say that
Mortmain encouraged me a good deal the day before yesterday."

"Well, and you know what Mr. Frankpledge"----

"Oh, as to Frankpledge--hem!"

"What of Mr. Frankpledge, Mr. Quirk?" inquired Gammon, rather tartly.

"There! there!--Always the way--but what does it signify? Come, come,
Gammon, we know each other too well to quarrel!--I don't mean anything
disrespectful to Mr. Frankpledge, but when Mortmain has been one's
conveyancer these twenty years, and never once--hem!--but, however, he
tells me that we are now standing on sure ground, or that he don't know
what sure ground is, and sees no objection to our even taking
preliminary steps in the matter, which indeed I begin to think it high
time to do!--And as for securing ourselves in respect of any advances to
Titmouse--he suggests our taking a bond, conditioned--say, for the
payment of £500 or £1,000 on demand, under cover of which one might
advance him, you know, just such sums as, and when we pleased; one could
stop when one thought fit; one could begin with three or four pounds
a-week, and increase as his prospects improved--eh!"

"You know _I've_ no objection to such an arrangement; but consider, Mr.
Quirk, we must have patience; it will take a long while to get our
verdict, you know, and perhaps as long to _secure_ it afterwards; and
this horrid little wretch all the while on our hands; what the deuce to
do with him, I really don't know!"

"Humph, humph!" grunted Quirk, looking very earnestly and uneasily at
Gammon.

"And what I chiefly fear is this,--suppose he should get dissatisfied
with the amount of our advances, and, knowing the state and prospects of
the cause, should _then_ turn restive?"

"Ay, confound it, Gammon, all that should be looked to, shouldn't it?"
interrupted Quirk, with an exceedingly chagrined air. "I always like to
look a long way a-head!"

"To be sure," continued Gammon, thoughtfully; "by that time he may have
got substantial friends about him, whom he could persuade to become
security to us for further and past advances."

"Nay, now you name the thing, Gammon; it was what I was thinking of only
the other day:" he dropped his voice--"Isn't there one or two of our own
clients, hem!"----

"Why, certainly, there's old Fang; I don't think it impossible he might
be induced to do a little usury--it's all he lives for, Mr. Quirk; and
the security is good in reality, though perhaps not exactly marketable."

"Nay; but, on second thoughts, why not do it myself, if anything _can_
be made of it?"

"That, however, will be for future consideration. In the mean time, we'd
better send for Titmouse, and manage him a little more--discreetly, eh?
We did not exactly hit it off last time, did we, Mr. Quirk?" said
Gammon, smiling rather sarcastically. "We must keep him at Tag-rag's, if
the thing _can_ be done for the present, at all events."

"To be sure; he couldn't then come buzzing about us, like a gad-fly;
he'd drive us mad in a week, I'm sure."

"Oh, I'd rather give up everything than submit to it. It can't be
difficult for us, I should think, to bind him to our own terms--to put a
bridle in the ass's mouth? Let us say that we insist on his signing an
undertaking to act implicitly according to our directions in
everything."

"Ay, to be sure; on pain of our instantly turning him to the right
about. I fancy it will _do_ now! It was just what I was thinking of!"

"And, now, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, with as much of peremptoriness in
his tone as he could venture upon to Mr. Quirk, "you really must do me
the favor to leave the management of this little wretch to me. You see,
he seems to have taken--Heaven save the mark!--a fancy to me, poor
fool!--and--and--it must be owned we miscarried sadly, the other night,
on a certain grand occasion--eh?"

Quirk shook his head dissentingly.

"Well, then," continued Gammon, "upon one thing I am fixedly determined;
one or the other of us shall undertake Titmouse, solely and singly.
Pray, for Heaven's sake, tackle him yourself--a disagreeable duty! You
know, my dear sir, how invariably I leave everything of real importance
and difficulty to your very superior tact and experience; but _this_
little matter--pshaw!"

"Come, come, Gammon, that's a drop of sweet oil"--

Quirk might well say so, for he felt its softening, smoothing effects
already.

"Upon my word and honor, Mr. Quirk, I'm in earnest. Pshaw!--and you must
know it. I know you too well, my dear sir, to attempt to"----

"Certainly," quoth Quirk, smiling shrewdly, "I must say, those must get
up _very_ early that can find Caleb Quirk napping."--Gammon felt at that
moment that for several years _he_ must have been a very early riser!
And so the matter was arranged in the manner which Gammon had from the
first wished and determined upon, _i. e._ that Mr. Titmouse should be
left entirely to his management; and, after some little discussion as to
the time and manner of the meditated advances, the partners parted. On
entering his own room, Quirk, closing his door, stood for some time
leaning against the side of the window, with his hands in his pockets,
and his eyes instinctively resting on his banker's book, which lay on
the table. He was in a very brown study, the subject on which his
thoughts were busied, being the prudence or imprudence of leaving
Titmouse thus in the hands of Gammon. It might be all very well for
Quirk to _assert_ his self-confidence when in Gammon's presence; but he
did not really feel it. He never left Gammon after any little difference
of opinion, however friendly, without a secret suspicion that somehow or
another Gammon had been too much for him, and always gained his purposes
without giving Quirk any handle of dissatisfaction. In fact, Quirk was
thoroughly afraid of Gammon, and Gammon knew it. In the present
instance, an undefinable but increasing suspicion and discomfort forced
him presently back again into Gammon's room.

"I say, Gammon, you understand, eh?--_Fair play_, you know," he
commenced, with a shy embarrassed air, ill concealed under a forced
smile.

"Pray, Mr. Quirk, what may be your meaning?" inquired Gammon, with
unusual tartness, with an astonished air, and blushing violently, which
was not surprising; for ever since Quirk had quitted him, Gammon's
thoughts had been occupied with only one question, viz. how he should go
to work with Titmouse to satisfy him that he (Gammon) was the only
member of the firm that had a real disinterested regard for him, and so
acquire a valuable control over him! Thus occupied, the observation of
Quirk had completely taken Gammon aback; and he lost his presence of
mind, of course in such case his _temper_ quickly following. "Will you
favor me, Mr. Quirk, with an explanation of your extraordinarily absurd
and offensive observation?" said he, reddening more and more as he
looked at Mr. Quirk.

"You're a queer hand, Gammon," replied Quirk, with almost an equally
surprised and embarrassed air, for he could not resist a sort of
conviction that Gammon had fathomed what had been passing in his mind.

"What did you mean, Mr. Quirk, by your singular observation just now?"
said Gammon, calmly, having recovered his presence of mind.

"Mean? Why, that--we're _both_ queer hands, Gammon, ha, ha, ha!"
answered Quirk, with an anxious laugh.

"I shall leave Titmouse entirely--_entirely_, Mr. Quirk, in your hands;
I will have nothing henceforth whatever to do with him. I am quite sick
of him and his concerns already; I cannot bring myself to undertake such
an affair, and that was what I was thinking of,--when"----

"Eh? indeed! Well, to be sure! Only think!" said Quirk, dropping his
voice, looking to see that the two doors were shut, and resuming the
chair which he had lately quitted, "What do you think has been occurring
to _me_ in my own room, just now? Whether it would suit us better to
throw this monkey overboard, put ourselves confidentially in
communication with the party in possession, and tell him that--hem!--for
a--eh? You understand--eh? a con-si-de-ra-tion--a _suitable_
con-si-de-ra-tion!"

"Mr. Quirk! Heavens!" Gammon was really amazed.

"Well? You needn't open your eyes so very wide, Mr. Gammon--why
shouldn't it be done? You know we wouldn't be satisfied with a trifle,
of course. But suppose he'd agreed to buy our silence with four or five
thousand pounds, really, it's well worth considering! Upon my soul,
Gammon, it _is_ a hard thing on him when one makes the case one's
own!--no fault of his, and it is very hard for him to turn out, and for
such a--eugh!--such a wretch as Titmouse; you'd feel it yourself,
Gammon, if you were in his place, and I'm sure you'd think that four or
five thous"----

"But is not Titmouse our POOR NEIGHBOR?" said Gammon, with a sly smile.

"Why, _that's_ only one way of looking at it, Gammon! Perhaps the man we
are going to eject does a vast deal of good with the property; certainly
he bears a very high name in the county--and fancy Titmouse with ten
thousand a-year!"----

"Mr. Quirk, Mr. Quirk, it's not to be thought of for a moment--not for a
moment," interrupted Gammon, seriously, and even somewhat
peremptorily--"nothing should persuade _me_ to be any party to such"----

At this moment Snap burst into the room with a heated appearance, and a
chagrined air----

"_Pitch_ v. _Grub_----" he commenced breathlessly--

[This was a little pet action of poor Snap's: it was for slander
uttered by the defendant (an hostler) against the plaintiff, (a waterman
on a coach stand,) charging the plaintiff with having _the mange_, on
account of which a woman refused to marry him.]

"Pitch v. Grub--just been tried at Guildhall. Witness bang up to the
mark--words and special damage proved; slapping speech from Sergeant
Shout. Verdict for plaintiff--but only one farthing damages; and Lord
Widdrington said, as the jury had given one farthing for damages, _he_
would give him another for costs,[10] and that would make a halfpenny;
on which the defendant's attorney tendered me--a halfpenny on the spot.
Laughter in court--move for new trial first day of next term, and tip
his lordship a rattler in the next Sunday's _Flash_!"

"Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, sternly, "once for all, if this sort of low
business is to go on, I'll leave the firm, come what will!" [It
flickered across his mind that Titmouse would be a capital client to
start with on his own account.] "I protest our names will quite stink in
the profession."

"Good, Mr. Gammon, good!" interposed Snap, warmly; "your little action
for the usury penalties the other day came off so uncommon well! the
judge's compliment to you was _so_ nice"----

"Let me tell you, Mr. Snap," interrupted Gammon, reddening----

"Pho! Come! Can't be helped--fortune of the war,"--interrupted the head
of the firm,--"there's only one thing to be looked to,--_Is Pitch
solvent?_--of course we've security for costs out of pocket--eh, Snap?"

Now the fact was, that poor Snap had picked up Pitch at one of the
police offices, and, in his zeal for business, had undertaken his case
on pure speculation, relying on the apparent strength of the plaintiff's
case--Pitch being only a waterman attached to a coach stand. When,
therefore, the very ominous question of Mr. Quirk met Snap's ear, he
suddenly happened (at least, he chose to appear to think so) to hear
himself called for from the clerk's room, and bolted out of Mr. Gammon's
room rather unceremoniously.

"Snap will be the ruin of the firm, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, with an air
of disgust. "But I really must get on with the brief I'm drawing; so,
Mr. Quirk, we can talk about Titmouse to-morrow!"

The brief he was drawing up was for a defendant who was going to nonsuit
the plaintiff, (a man with a large family, who had kindly lent the
defendant a considerable sum of money,) solely because of the _want of a
stamp_.

Quirk differed in opinion with Gammon, and, as he resumed his seat at
his desk, he could not help writing the words, "_Quirk and Snap_," and
thinking how well such a firm would sound and work--for Snap was verily
a chip of the old block!

There will probably never be wanting those who will join in abusing and
ridiculing attorneys and solicitors. Why? In almost every action at law,
or suit in equity, or proceeding which may, or may not, lead to one,
each client conceives a natural dislike for his opponent's attorney or
solicitor. _If the plaintiff succeeds_, he hates the defendant's
attorney for putting him (the said plaintiff) to so much expense, and
causing him so much vexation and danger; and, when he comes to settle
with his own attorney, there is not a little heart-burning in looking at
his bill of costs, however reasonable. _If the plaintiff fails_, of
course it is through the ignorance and unskilfulness of his attorney or
solicitor! and he hates almost equally his own, and his opponent's
attorney!--Precisely so is it with a successful or unsuccessful
_defendant_. In fact, an attorney or solicitor is almost always obliged
to be acting _adversely to some one_ of whom he at once makes an enemy;
for an attorney's weapons must necessarily be pointed almost invariably
at our pockets! He is necessarily, also, called into action in cases
when all the worst passions of our nature--our hatred and revenge, and
our self-interest--are set in motion. Consider the mischief which might
be constantly done on a grand scale in society, if the vast majority of
attorneys and solicitors were not honorable, and able men! Conceive
them, for a moment, disposed everywhere to stir up litigation, by
availing themselves of their perfect acquaintance with almost all men's
circumstances--artfully inflaming irritable and vindictive clients,
kindling, instead of stifling, family dissensions, and fomenting public
strife--why, were they to do only a hundredth part of what it is thus in
their power to do, our courts of justice would soon be doubled, together
with the number of our judges, counsel, and attorneys; new jails must be
built to hold the ruined litigants--and the insolvent court enlarged,
and in constant session throughout the year.

But not _all_ of this body of honorable and valuable men are entitled to
this tribute of praise. There are a few QUIRKS, several GAMMONS, and
many SNAPS, in the profession of the law--men whose characters and
doings often make fools visit the sins of individuals upon the whole
species; nay, there are far worse, as I have heard--but I must return to
my narrative.

On Friday night, the 28th July 18--, the state of Mr. Titmouse's affairs
was this; he owed his landlady £1, 9s.; his washerwoman, 6s.; his
tailor, £1, 8s.--in all, three guineas; besides 10s. to Huckaback, (for
Tittlebat's notion was, that on repayment at any time of 10s., Huckaback
would be bound to deliver up to him the document or voucher which he had
given that gentleman,) and a weekly accruing rent of 7s. to his
landlady, besides some very small sums for coffee, (alias chiccory,)
tea, bread, and butter, &c. To meet these serious liabilities, he had
literally--_not one farthing_.

On returning to his lodgings that night, he found a line from
Thumbscrew, his landlady's broker, informing him that, unless by ten
o'clock on the next morning his arrears of rent were paid, he should
distrain, and she would also give him notice to quit at the end of the
week; that nothing could induce her to give him further time. He sat
down in dismay on reading this threatening document; and, in sitting
down, his eye fell on a bit of paper lying on the floor, which must have
been thrust under the door. From the marks on it, it was evident that he
must have trod upon it in entering. It proved to be a summons from the
Court of Requests, for £1, 8s. due to Job Cox, his tailor. He deposited
it mechanically on the table; and for a minute he dared hardly breathe.

This seemed something really like a _crisis_.

After a silent agony of half an hour's duration, he rose trembling from
his chair, blew out his candle, and, in a few minutes' time, might have
been seen standing with a pale and troubled face before the window of
old Balls, the pawnbroker, peering through the suspended
articles--watches, sugar-tongs, rings, brooches, spoons, pins,
bracelets, knives and forks, seals, chains, &c.--to see whether any one
else than old Balls were within. Having at length watched out a very
pale and wretched-looking woman, Titmouse entered to take her place; and
after interchanging a few faltering words with the white-haired and
hard-hearted old pawnbroker, produced his guard-chain, his breast-pin,
and his ring, and obtained three pounds two shillings and sixpence on
the security of them.

With this sum he slunk out of the shop, and calling on Cox, his tailor,
paid his trembling old creditor the full amount of his claim (£1, 8s.)
together with 4s., the expense of the summons--simply asking for a
receipt, without uttering another word, for he felt almost choked. In
the same way he dealt with Mrs. Squallop, his landlady--not uttering one
word in reply to her profuse and voluble apologies, but pressing his
lips between his teeth till the blood came from them, while his little
heart seemed splitting within him. Then he walked up-stairs, with a
desperate air--having just eighteen pence in his pocket--_all his
ornaments gone_--his washerwoman yet unpaid--his rent going on--several
other little matters unsettled; and the 10th of August approaching, when
he expected to be dismissed penniless from Mr. Tag-rag's and thrown on
his own resources for subsistence. When he had regained his room, and
having shut the door, had re-seated himself at his table, he felt for a
moment as if he could have yelled. Starvation and Despair, two fiends,
seemed sitting beside him in shadowy ghastliness, chilling and palsying
him--petrifying his heart within him. WHAT WAS HE TO DO? Why had he been
born? Why was he so much more persecuted and miserable than any one
else? Visions of his ring, his breast-pin, his studs, stuck in a bit of
card, with their price written above them, and hanging exposed to his
view in old Balls' window, almost frenzied him. Thoughts such as these
at length began to suggest others of a dreadful nature.... The means
were at that instant within his reach.... A sharp knock at the door
startled him out of the stupor into which he was sinking. He listened
for a moment as if he were not certain that the sound was a real one.
There seemed a ton-weight upon his heart, which a mighty sigh could lift
for an instant, but not remove; and he was in the act of heaving a
second such sigh, as he languidly opened the door--expecting to
encounter Mr. Thumbscrew, or some of his myrmidons, who might not know
of his recent settlement with his landlady.

"Is this Mr.--Tit--Titmouse's?" inquired a genteel-looking young man.

"Yes," replied Titmouse, sadly.

"Are you Mr. Titmouse?"

"Yes," he replied, more faintly than before.

"Oh--I have brought you, sir, a letter from Mr. Gammon, of the firm of
Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, solicitors, Saffron Hill," said the stranger,
unconscious that his words shot a flash of light into a little abyss of
grief and despair before him. "He begged me to give this letter into
your own hands, and said he hoped you'd send him an answer by the first
morning's post."

"Yes--oh--I see--certainly--to be sure--with pleasure--how is Mr.
Gammon?--uncommon kind of him--very humble respects to him--take care to
answer it," stammered Titmouse, in a breath, hardly knowing whether he
were standing on his head or his heels, and not quite certain where he
was.

"Good-evening, sir," replied the stranger, evidently a little surprised
at Titmouse's manner, and withdrew. Titmouse shut his door. With
prodigious trepidation of hand and flutter of spirits, he opened the
letter--an enclosure meeting his eyes in the shape of a bank-note.

"Oh Lord!" he murmured, turning white as the sheet of paper he held.
Then the letter dropped from his hand, and he stood as if stupefied for
some moments; but presently rapture darted through him; a five-pound
bank-note was in his hand, and it had been enclosed in the following
letter:--

                                  "_35, Thavies' Inn, 29th July 18--._

     "MY DEAR MR. TITMOUSE,

     "Your last note addressed to our firm, has given me the greatest
     pain, and I hasten, on my return from the country, to forward you
     the enclosed trifle, out of my own personal resources--and I
     sincerely hope it will be of temporary service to you. May I beg
     the favor of your company on Sunday evening next, at seven o'clock,
     to take a glass of wine with me? I shall be quite alone and
     disengaged, and may have it in my power to make you some important
     communications, concerning matters in which, I assure you, I feel a
     very deep interest on your account. Begging the favor of an early
     answer to-morrow morning, I trust you will believe me, ever, my
     dear sir, your most faithful humble servant,
                                                         "OILY GAMMON.

     "TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, ESQ."

The first balmy drop of the long-expected golden shower had at length
fallen upon the panting Titmouse. How polite--nay, how affectionate and
respectful--was the note of Mr. Gammon! and, for the first time in his
life, he saw himself addressed

                       "TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, ESQUIRE."

If his room had been large enough to admit of it, he would have skipped
round it again and again in his frantic ecstasy. Having read over
several times the blessed letter of Mr. Gammon, he hastily folded it up,
crumpled up the bank-note in his hand, clapped his hat on his head, blew
out his candle, rushed down-stairs as if a mad dog were at his heels,
and in three or four minutes' time might have been seen standing
breathless before old Balls, whom he had almost electrified by asking,
with an eager and joyous air, for a return of the articles which he had
only an hour before pawned with him; at the same time laying down the
duplicates and the bank-note. The latter, old Balls scrutinized with
most anxious exactness, and even suspicion--but it seemed perfectly
unexceptionable; so he re-delivered to Titmouse his precious ornaments,
and the change out of his note, _minus_ a trifling sum for interest.
Titmouse then started off at top speed to Huckaback; but it suddenly
occurring to him as possible that that gentleman, on hearing of his
good fortune, might look for an immediate repayment of the ten
shillings he had recently lent to Titmouse, he stopped
short--paused--and returned home. There he had hardly been seated a
moment, when down he pelted again, to buy a sheet of paper and a wafer
or two, to write his letter to Mr. Gammon; which having obtained, he
returned at the same speed, almost overturning his fat landlady, who
looked after him as though he were a mad cat scampering up and
down-stairs, and fearing that he had gone suddenly crazy. The note he
wrote to Mr. Gammon was so exceedingly extravagant, that, candid as I
have (I trust) hitherto shown myself in the delineation of Mr.
Titmouse's character, I cannot bring myself to give the aforesaid letter
to the reader--making all allowances for the extraordinary excitement of
its writer.

Sleep, that night and morning, found and left Mr. Titmouse the assured
exulting master of TEN THOUSAND A-YEAR. Of this fact, the oftener he
read Mr. Gammon's letter, the stronger became his convictions. 'Twas
undoubtedly rather a large inference from small premises; but it secured
him unspeakable happiness, _for a time_, at a possible cost of future
disappointment and misery, which he did not pause to consider. The fact
is that logic (according to Dr. Watts, but not according to Dr.
Whateley, _the right use of reason_) is not a practical art. No one
regards it in actual life; observe, therefore, folks on all hands
constantly acting like Tittlebat Titmouse in the case before us. His
_conclusion_ was--that he had become the certain master of ten thousand
a-year; his _premises_ were--what the reader has seen. I do not,
however, mean to say, that if the reader be a youth hot from Oxford, he
may not be able to prove, by a very refined and ingenious argument, that
Titmouse was, in what he did above, a fine natural logician; for I
recollect that some great philosopher hath demonstrated, by a famous
argument, that there is NOTHING ANYWHERE: and no one that I have heard
of, hath ever been able to prove the contrary.

By six o'clock the next morning, Titmouse had, with his own hand,
dropped his answer into the letter-box upon the door of Mr. Gammon's
chambers in Thavies' Inn; in which answer he had, with numerous
expressions of profound respect and gratitude, accepted Mr. Gammon's
polite invitation. A very happy man felt Titmouse as he returned to
Oxford Street; entering Messrs. Tag-rag's premises with alacrity, just
as they were being opened, and volunteering his assistance in numerous
things beyond his usual province, with singular briskness and energy; as
if conscious that by doing so he was greatly gratifying Messrs. Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap, whose wishes upon the subject he knew. He displayed
such unwonted cheerfulness and patient good-nature throughout the day,
that one of his companions, a serious youth, in a white neckerchief,
black clothes, and with a blessed countenance--the only professing pious
person in the establishment--took an occasion to ask him, in a
mysterious whisper, "whether he had not got _converted_:" and whether he
would, at six o'clock in the morning, accompany the speaker to a room in
the neighborhood, where he (the youth aforesaid) was going to conduct an
exhortation and prayer meeting! Titmouse refused--but not without a few
qualms; for luck certainly seemed to be smiling on him, and he felt that
he ought to be grateful for it; but then, he at length reflected, the
proper place for that sort of thing would be a regular _church_--to
which he accordingly resolved to go. This change of manners Tag-rag,
however, looked upon as assumed only to affront _him_; seeing nothing
but impertinence and defiance in all that Titmouse did--as if the nearer
Titmouse got to the end of his bondage--_i. e._ the 10th of August--the
lighter-hearted he grew! Titmouse resolved religiously to keep his own
counsel; to avoid even--at all events for the present--communicating
with Huckaback.

On the ensuing Sunday he rose very early, and took nearly twice as long
a time as usual to dress--by reason of his often falling into many
delicious and momentarily intoxicating reveries. By eleven o'clock he
might have been seen entering the gallery of St. Andrew's Church,
Holborn; where he considered that doubtless Mr. Gammon, who lived in the
neighborhood, might have a seat. He asked three or four pew-openers,
both below and above stairs, if they knew which was Mr. Gammon's
pew--Mr. Gammon of Thavies' Inn; not dreaming of presumptuously going to
the pew, but of sitting in some place which commanded a view of it. Mr.
Gammon, I need hardly say, was quite unknown there--no one had ever
heard of such a person; nevertheless Titmouse, (albeit a little galled
at being, in spite of his elegant appearance, slipped into a back seat
in the gallery,) remained to the close of the service--but his thoughts
wandered grievously the whole time. Having quitted the church in a
buoyant humor, he sauntered in the direction of Hyde Park. How soon
might he become, instead of a mere spectator as heretofore, a partaker
in its glories! The dawn of the day of fortune was on his long-benighted
soul; and he could hardly subdue his excited feelings. Having eaten
nothing but a couple of biscuits during the day, as the clock struck
seven he made his punctual appearance at Mr. Gammon's, with a pair of
span-new white kid gloves on; and somewhat flurried, was speedily
ushered, by a comfortable-looking elderly female servant, into Mr.
Gammon's room. Mr. Titmouse was dressed just as he had been when first
presented to the reader, sallying forth into Oxford Street. Mr. Gammon,
who was sitting reading the _Sunday Flash_ at a table on which stood a
couple of decanters, several wine-glasses, and one or two dishes of
fruit, rose and received his distinguished visitor with the most
delightful affability.

"I am most happy, Mr. Titmouse, to see you in this friendly way," said
he, shaking him cordially by the hand.

"Oh, don't name it, sir!" quoth Titmouse, rather indistinctly, and
hastily running his hand through his hair.

"I've nothing, you see, to offer you but a little fruit and a glass of
fair port or sherry. You see I am a very quiet man on Sundays!"

"Particular fond of _them_, sir," replied Titmouse, endeavoring to clear
his throat; for in spite of a strong effort to appear at his ease, he
was unsuccessful; so that, when Gammon's keen eye glanced at the
bedizened figure of his guest, a bitter smile passed over his face,
without having been observed by Titmouse. "_This_," thought he, as his
eye passed from the ring glittering on the little finger of the right
hand, to the studs and breast-pin in the shirt-front, and thence to the
guard-chain glaring entirely outside a damson-colored satin waistcoat,
and the spotless white glove which yet glistened on the left hand--"This
is the writer of the dismal epistle of the other day, announcing his
desperation and destitution!"

"Your health, Mr. Titmouse!--help yourself!" said Mr. Gammon, in a
cheerful and cordial tone; Titmouse pouring out a glass only
three-quarters full, raised it to his lips with a slightly tremulous
hand, and returned Mr. Gammon's salutation. When had Titmouse tasted a
glass of wine before? a reflection occurring not only to himself, but
also to Gammon, to whom it was a circumstance that might be serviceable.

"You see, Mr. Titmouse, mine's only a small bachelor's establishment,
and I cannot put my old servant out of the way by having my friends to
dinner"--[quite forgetting that the day before he had entertained at
least six friends, including Mr. Frankpledge--but, the idea of going
through a dinner _with Mr. Titmouse_!]

And now, O inexperienced Titmouse! unacquainted with the potent
qualities of wine, I warn you to be cautious how you drink many glasses,
for you cannot calculate the effect which they will have upon you; and,
indeed, methinks that with this man you have a game to play which will
not admit of much wine being drunk. Be you, therefore, on your guard;
for wine is like a strong serpent, who will creep unperceivedly into
your empty head, and coil himself up therein, until at length he begins
to move about--and all things are as nought to you!

"Oh, sir, 'pon my honor, beg you won't name it--all one to me,
sir!--Beautiful wine this, sir."

"Pretty fair, I think--certainly rather old;--but what fruit will you
take--raspberries or cherries?"

"Why--a--I've so lately dined," replied Titmouse, alluding to the brace
of biscuits on which he had luxuriated several hours before. He would
have preferred the cherries, but did not feel quite at his ease how to
dispose of the _stones_ nicely--gracefully--so he took a very few
raspberries upon his plate, and ate them slowly, and with a modest and
timid air.

"Well, Mr. Titmouse," commenced Gammon, with an air of concern, "I was
really much distressed by your last letter!"

"Uncommon glad to hear it, sir--knew you would, sir--you're so
kind-hearted;--all quite true, sir!"

"I had no idea that you were reduced to such straits," said Gammon, in a
sympathizing tone, but settling his eye involuntarily on the ring of
Titmouse.

"Quite dreadful, sir--'pon my soul, dreadful; and such usage at Mr.
Tag-rag's!"

"But you mustn't think of going abroad--away from all your friends, Mr.
Titmouse."

"_Abroad_, sir!" interrupted Titmouse, with anxious but subdued
eagerness; "never thought of such a thing!"

"Oh! I--I thought"----

"There isn't a word of truth in it, sir; and if you've heard so, it must
have been from that oudacious fellow that called on you--he's _such_ a
liar--if you knew him as well as I do, sir!" said Titmouse, with a
confident air, quite losing sight of his piteous letter to Messrs.
Quirk, Gammon, and Snap--"No, sir--shall stay, and stick to friends that
stick to me."

"Take another glass of wine, Mr. Titmouse," interrupted Gammon,
cordially, and Titmouse obeyed him; but while he was pouring it out, a
sudden recollection of his letter flashing across his mind, satisfied
him that he stood detected in a flat lie before Mr. Gammon, and he
blushed scarlet.

"Do you like the sherry?" inquired Gammon, perfectly aware of what was
passing through the little mind of his guest, and wishing to divert his
thoughts. Titmouse answered in the affirmative: and proceeded to pour
forth such a number of apologies for his own behavior at Saffron Hill,
and that of Huckaback on the subsequent occasion, as Gammon found it
difficult to stop, over and over again assuring him that all had been
entirely forgiven and even forgotten. When Titmouse came to the
remittance of the five pounds----

"Don't mention it, my dear sir," interrupted Gammon, very blandly; "it
gave me, I assure you, far greater satisfaction to send it, than you to
receive it. I hope it has a little relieved you?"

"I think so, sir! I was, 'pon my life, on my very last legs."

"When things come to the worst, they often mend, Mr. Titmouse! I told
Mr. Quirk (who, to do him justice, came at last into my views) that,
however premature, and perhaps imprudent it might be in us to go so far,
I could not help relieving your present necessities, even out of my own
resources."

[Oh, Gammon, Gammon!]

"How very uncommon kind of you, sir!" exclaimed Titmouse.

"Not in the least, my dear sir--(pray fill another glass, Mr. Titmouse!)
You see Mr. Quirk is quite a man of business--and our profession too
often affords instances of persons whose hearts contract as their purses
expand, Mr. Titmouse--ha! ha! Indeed, those who make their money as hard
as Mr. Quirk, are apt to be slow at parting with it, and _very_
suspicious!"

"Well, I hope no offence, sir; but really I thought as much, directly I
saw that old gent."

"Ah--but _now_ he is embarked, heart and soul, in the affair."

"No! _Is_ he really, sir?" inquired Titmouse, eagerly.

"That is," replied Gammon, quickly, "so long as I am at his elbow,
urging him on--for he wants some one who--hem! In fact, my dear sir,
ever since I had the good fortune to make the discovery, which happily
brought us acquainted with each other, Mr. Titmouse," [it was old Quirk,
as the reader will by and by find, who had made the discovery, and
Gammon had for a long time thrown cold water on it,] "I have been doing
all I could with him, and I trust I may say, have at last got the thing
into shape."

"I'll take my oath, sir," said Titmouse, excitedly, "I never was so much
struck with any one in all my born days as I was with you, sir, when you
first came to my emp--to Mr. Tag-rag's, sir--Lord, sir, how uncommon
sharp you seemed!" Gammon smiled with a deprecating air, and sipped his
wine in silence; but there was great sweetness in the expression of his
countenance. Poor Titmouse's doubts, hopes, and fears, were rapidly
being sublimed into a _reverence_ for Gammon....

"I certainly quite agree with Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, presently, "that
the difficulties in our way are of the most serious description. To
speak, for an instant only, of the risks we ourselves incur
personally--would you believe it, my dear Mr. Titmouse?--in such a
disgraceful state are our laws, that we can't gratify our feelings by
taking up your cause, without rendering ourselves liable to imprisonment
for Heaven knows how long, and a fine that would be ruin itself, if we
should be found out!"

Titmouse continued silent, his wine-glass in his hand arrested in its
way to his mouth; which, together with his eyes, was opened to its
widest extent, as he stared with a kind of terror upon Mr.
Gammon.--"_Are_ we, then, unreasonable, my dear sir, in entreating you
to be cautious--nay, in insisting on your compliance with our wishes, in
all that we shall deem prudent and necessary, when not only your own
best interests, but our characters, liberties, and fortunes are staked
on the issue of this great enterprise? I am sure," continued Gammon,
with great emotion, "you will feel for us, Mr. Titmouse. I see you do!"
Gammon put his hand over his eyes, in order, apparently, to conceal his
emotion, but really to observe what effect he had produced upon
Titmouse. The conjoint influence of Gammon's wine and eloquence not a
little agitated Titmouse, in whose eyes stood tears.

"I'll do anything--anything, sir," Titmouse almost sobbed.

"Oh! all we wish is to be allowed to serve you effectually; and to
enable us to do that"----

"Tell me to get into a soot-bag, and lie hid in a coal-hole, and see if
I won't do it!"

"What! a coal-hole? Would you, then, even stop at Tag-rag and Co.'s?"

"Ye-e-e-e-s, sir--hem! hem! That is, till the _tenth_ of next month,
when my time's up."

"Ah!--ay!--oh, I understand! Another glass, Mr. Titmouse," said Gammon,
pouring himself out some more wine; and observing, while Titmouse
followed his example, that there was an unsteadiness in his motions of a
very different description from that which he had exhibited at the
commencement of the evening--at the same time wondering what the deuce
they should do with him after the _tenth_ of August.

"You see, _I_ have the utmost confidence in you, and had so from the
first happy moment when we met; but Mr. Quirk is rather sus--In short to
prevent misunderstanding (as he says,) Mr. Quirk is anxious that you
should give a _written_ promise." (Titmouse looked eagerly about for
writing materials.) "No, not now, but in a day or two's time. I confess,
my dear Mr. Titmouse, if _I_ might have decided on the matter, I should
have been satisfied with your verbal promise; but I must say, Mr.
Quirk's gray hairs seem to have made him quite--eh! you understand?
Don't you think so, Mr. Titmouse?"

"To be sure! 'pon my honor, Mr. Gammon!" replied Titmouse; not very
distinctly understanding, however, what he was so energetically
assenting to.

"I dare say you wonder why we wish you to stop a few months longer at
your present hiding-place at Tag-rag's?"

"_Can't_, possibly!--after the tenth of next month, sir," replied
Titmouse, eagerly.

"But as soon as we begin to fire off our guns against the enemy--Lord,
my dear sir, if they could only find out, you know, where to get at
you--you would never live to enjoy your ten thousand a-year! They'd
either poison or kidnap you--get you out of the way, unless you keep out
of _their_ way: and if you will but consent to keep snug at Tag-rag's
for a while, who'd suspect where you was? We could easily arrange with
your friend Tag-rag that you should"----

"My stars! I'd give something to hear you tell Tag-rag--why, I wonder
what he'll do!"

"Make you very comfortable, and let you have your own way in
everything--that you may rely upon!"

"Go to the play, for instance, whenever I want, and do all that sort of
thing?"

"Nay, try! anything! And as for money, I've persuaded Mr. Quirk to
consent to our advancing you a certain sum per week, from the present
time, while the cause is going on,"--(Titmouse's heart began to beat
fast,)--"in order to place you above absolute inconvenience; and when
you consider the awful sums we shall have to disburse--cash out of
pocket--(the tongues of counsel, you know, are set on gold springs, and
only gold keys open their lips!)--for court-fees, and a thousand other
indispensable matters, I should candidly say that four thousand pounds
of hard cash out of pocket, advanced by our firm in your case, would be
the very lowest." (Titmouse stared at him with an expression of stupid
wonder.) "Yes--four thousand pounds, Mr. Titmouse, at the very
least--the _very_ least." Again he paused, keenly scrutinizing
Titmouse's features by the light of the candles, which just then were
brought in. "You seem surprised, Mr. Titmouse."

"Why--why--where's all the money to come from, sir?" exclaimed Titmouse,
aghast.

"Ah! that is indeed a fearful question,"--replied Gammon, with a very
serious air; "but at my request, our firm has agreed to make the
necessary advances; and also (for _I_ could not bear the sight of your
distress, Mr. Titmouse!) to supply your necessities liberally in the
mean time, as I was saying."

"Won't you take another glass of wine, Mr. Gammon?" suddenly inquired
Titmouse, with a confident air.

"With all my heart, Mr. Titmouse! I'm delighted that you approve of it.
I paid enough for it, I can warrant you."

"Cuss me if ever I tasted such wine! Uncommon! Come--no heel-taps, Mr.
Gammon--here goes--let's drink--success to the affair!"

"With all my heart, my dear sir--with all my heart. Success to the
thing--amen!" and Gammon drained his glass; so did Titmouse. "Ah! Mr.
Titmouse, you'll soon have wine enough to float a frigate--and indeed
what not--with ten thousand a-year?"

"And all the back-rents, you know--ha, ha!"

"Yes--to be sure!--the back-rents! The sweetest estate that is to be
found in all Yorkshire! Gracious, Mr. Titmouse!" continued Gammon, with
an excited air--"What may you not do? Go where you like--do what you
like--get into Parliament--marry some lovely woman of high rank!"

"Lord, Mr. Gammon!--you a'n't dreaming? Nor I? But now, in course, _you_
must be paid handsome for your trouble!--Only say how much--Name your
sum! What you please! You only get me all you've said--and I'll"----

"For my part, I wish to rely entirely on your mere word of honor.
Between gentlemen, you know--my dear sir"----

"You only try me, sir."

"But you see, Mr. Quirk's getting old, and naturally is anxious to
provide for those whom he will leave behind him--and so Mr. Snap agreed
with him--two to one against me, Mr. Titmouse--of course they carried
the day--two to one."

"Never mind that!--only say the figure, sir!" cried Titmouse, eagerly.

"A single year's income, only--ten thousand pounds will hardly"----

"Ten thousand pounds! By jingo, but that _is_ a slice out of the cake!
Oh, Lord!" quoth Titmouse, looking aghast.

"A mere crumb, my dear sir!--a trifle! Why, _we_ are going to give _you_
that sum at least every year--and indeed it was suggested to our firm,
that unless you gave us at least a sum of twenty-five thousand
pounds--in fact, we were recommended to look out for some other heir."

"Oh dear! oh Mr. Gammon," cried Titmouse, hastily--"it's not to be
thought of, sir."

"So I said; and as for throwing it up--to be sure we shall have
ourselves to borrow large sums to carry on the war--and unless we have
your bond for at least ten thousand pounds, we cannot raise a farthing."

"Well--curse me, if you sha'n't do what you like!--Give me your hand,
and do what you like, Mr. Gammon!"

"Thank you, Mr. Titmouse! How I like a glass of wine with a friend in
this quiet way!--you'll always find me rejoiced to show"----

"Your hand! By George--Didn't I take a liking to you from the first? But
to speak my mind a bit--as for Mr. Quirk--excuse me--but he's a
cur--cur--cur--mudg--mudg--mudg--eon--hem!"

"Hope you've not been so imprudent, my dear Titmouse," threw in Mr.
Gammon, rather anxiously, "as to borrow money--eh?"

"Devil knows, and devil cares! No stamp, I know--bang up to the
mark"--here he winked an eye, and put his finger to his nose--"wide
awake--Huck--uck--uck--uck! how his name sti--sticks. Your hand, Mr.
Gammon--here--this, this way--what are you bobbing your head about for?
Ah, ha!--The floor--'pon my life!--how funny--it's like being at
sea--up, down--oh dear!"--he clapped his hand to his head.

[Pythagoras has finely observed, that a man is not to be considered dead
drunk till he lies on the floor, and stretches out his arms and legs to
prevent his going lower.]

See-saw, see-saw, up and down, up and down, went everything about him.
Now he felt sinking through the floor, then gently rising towards the
ceiling. Mr. Gammon seemed getting into a mist, and waving about the
candles in it. Mr. Titmouse's head swam; his chair seemed to be resting
on the waves of the sea.

"I'm afraid the room's rather close, Mr. Titmouse," hastily observed
Gammon, perceiving from Titmouse's sudden paleness and silence, but too
evident symptoms that his powerful intellect was for a while paralyzed.
Gammon started to the window and opened it. Paler, however, and paler
became Titmouse. Gammon's game was up much sooner than he had calculated
on.

"Mrs. Brown! Mrs. Brown!" he called out, opening the sitting-room
door--"order a coach instantly, and tell Tomkins"--that was the inn
porter--"to get his son ready to go home with this gentleman--he's not
very well." He was quickly obeyed. It was, in truth, "_all up_" with
Titmouse--at least for a while.

As soon as Gammon had thus got rid of his distinguished guest, he
ordered the table to be cleared of the glasses, and tea to be ready
within half an hour. He then walked out to enjoy the cool evening; on
returning, sat pleasantly sipping his tea, now and then dipping into
the edifying columns of the _Sunday Flash_, but oftener ruminating upon
his recent conversation with Titmouse, and speculating upon certain
possible results to himself personally; and a little after eleven
o'clock, that good man, at peace with all the world--calm and
serene--retired to repose. He had that night rather a singular dream; it
was of a snake encircling a monkey, as if in gentle and playful embrace.
Suddenly tightening its folds, a crackling sound was heard; the writhing
coils were then slowly unwound--and, with a shudder, he beheld the
monster licking over the motionless figure, till it was covered with a
viscid slime. Then the serpent began to devour his prey; and, when
gorged and helpless, behold, it was immediately fallen upon by two other
snakes. To his disturbed fancy, there was a dim resemblance between
their heads and those of Quirk and Snap--they all three became
intertwisted together--and writhed and struggled till they fell over the
edge of a dark and frightful precipice--he woke--thank God! it was only
a dream.



CHAPTER V.


When, after his return from Mr. Gammon's chambers, at Thavies' Inn,
Titmouse woke at an early hour in the morning, he was laboring under the
ordinary effects of unaccustomed inebriety. His lips were perfectly
parched; his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth; there was a horrid
weight pressing on his aching eyes, and upon his throbbing head. His
pillow seemed undulating beneath him, and everything swimming around
him; but when, to crown the whole, he was roused from a momentary nap by
the insupportable--the loathed importunities of Mrs. Squallop, that he
would just sit up and partake of three thick rounds of hot buttered
toast, and a great basin of smoking tea, which would do him _so_ much
good, and settle his stomach--at all events, if he'd only have a
thimbleful of gin in it--poor Titmouse was fairly overcome!... He lay in
bed all that day, during which he underwent very severe sufferings; and
it was not till towards night that he began to have anything like a
distinct recollection of the events of the evening which he had spent
with Mr. Gammon; who, by the way, had sent one of the clerks, during the
afternoon, to inquire after him. He did not get out of bed on the
Tuesday till past twelve o'clock, when, in a very rickety condition, he
made his appearance at the shop of Messrs. Tag-rag and Co.; on
approaching which he felt a sudden faintness, arising from mingled
apprehension and disgust.

"What are you doing here, sir?--You're no longer in my employment, sir,"
exclaimed Tag-rag, attempting to speak calmly, as he hurried down the
shop, white with rage, to meet Titmouse, and planted himself right in
the way of his languid and pallid shopman.

"Sir!"--faintly exclaimed Titmouse, with his hat in his hand.

"Very much obliged, sir--very! by the offer of your valuable services,"
said Tag-rag. "But--_that's_ the way out again,
sir--that!--there!--good-morning, sir--good-morning, sir!--that's the
way out"--and he egged on Titmouse, till he had got him fairly into the
street--with infinite difficulty restraining himself from giving the
extruded sinner a parting kick! Titmouse stood for a moment before the
door, trembling and aghast, looking in a bewildered manner at the shop:
but Tag-rag again making his appearance, Titmouse slowly walked away and
returned to his lodgings. Oh that Mr. Gammon had witnessed the
scene--thought he--and so have been satisfied that it had been Tag-rag
who had put an end to his service, not he himself who had quitted it!

The next day, about the same hour, Mr. Gammon made his appearance at the
establishment from which Titmouse had been expelled so summarily, and
inquired for Mr. Tag-rag, who presently presented himself--and
recognizing Mr. Gammon, whose presence naturally suggested the previous
day's transaction with Titmouse, changed color a little.

"What did you please to want, sir?" inquired Mr. Tag-rag, with a
would-be resolute air, twirling round his watch-key with some energy.

"Only a few minutes' conversation, sir, if you please," said Mr. Gammon,
with such a significant manner as a little disturbed Mr. Tag-rag; who,
with an ill-supported sneer, bowed very low, and led the way to his own
little room. Having closed the door, he, with an exceedingly civil air,
begged Mr. Gammon to be seated; and then occupied the chair opposite to
him, and awaited the issue with ill-disguised anxiety.

"I am _very_ sorry, Mr. Tag-rag," commenced Gammon, in his usual elegant
and feeling manner, "that any misunderstanding should have arisen
between you and Mr. Titmouse!"

"You're a lawyer, sir, I suppose?" Mr. Gammon bowed. "Then you must
know, sir, that there are always two sides to a quarrel," said Mr.
Tag-rag, anxiously.

"Yes--you are right, Mr. Tag-rag; and, having already heard Mr.
Titmouse's version, may I be favored with _your_ account of your reasons
for discharging him? For he tells us that yesterday you dismissed him
suddenly from your employment, without giving him any warn"----

"So I did, sir; and what of that?" inquired Tag-rag, tossing his head
with a sudden air of defiance. "Things are come to a pretty pass indeed,
when a man at the head of such an establishment as mine, can't dismiss a
drunken, idle, impertinent--abusive vagabond." Here Mr. Gammon somewhat
significantly took out his tablets--as if to note down the language of
his companion.

"Do you seriously," inquired Mr. Gammon, "charge him with being such a
character, and can you _prove_ your charges, Mr. Tag-rag?"

"Prove 'em! yes, sir, a hundred times over; so will all my young men!"
replied Tag-rag, vehemently.

"And in a court of justice, Mr. Tag-rag?" said Mr. Gammon, emphatically.

"Oh! he is going to _law_, is he? Ah, ha! Bless my soul!--So _that's_
why you're come here--ah, ha!--when you can make a silk purse out of a
sow's ear, you may get your bill out of Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse!--ha, ha,
ha!" laughed Tag-rag, hoping thereby to conceal how much he was really
startled.

"Well--that's _our_ look-out, Mr. Tag-rag: to Mr. Titmouse, his
character is as valuable as Mr. Tag-rag's is to him. In short, Mr.
Titmouse has placed himself in our hands, and we are resolved to go on
with the case, if it cost us a hundred pounds--we are indeed, Mr.
Tag-rag."

"Why--he's not a penny in the world to go to law with!" exclaimed
Tag-rag, with an air of mingled wonder, scorn, and alarm.

"But you forget, Mr. Tag-rag, that if Mr. Titmouse's account of the
business should turn out to be correct, it will be _your_ pocket that
must pay all the expenses, amounting probably to twenty times the sum
which the law may award to him!"

"_Law_, sir?--It's not justice!--I hate law.--Give me common sense and
common honesty!" said Mr. Tag-rag, with a little agitation.

"Both of them would condemn your conduct, Mr. Tag-rag; for I have heard
a full account of what Mr. Titmouse has suffered at your hands--of the
cause of your sudden warning to him, and your still more sudden
dismissal of yesterday. Oh, Mr. Tag-rag! upon my honor, it won't do--not
for a moment--and should you go on, rely upon what I tell you, that it
will cost you dear."

"And suppose, sir," said Tag-rag, in a would-be contemptuous tone--"I
should have witnesses to prove all I've said--which of us will look
funny _then_, sir?"

"Which, indeed! However, since that is your humor, I can only assure you
that it is very possible we may be, by the time of the trial, possessed
of some evidence which will surprise you: and that Mr. Titmouse defies
you to prove any misconduct on his part. We have, in short, taken up his
cause, and, as you may perhaps find by and by, to your cost, we shall
not easily let it drop."

"I mean no offence, sir," said Tag-rag, in a mitigated tone; "but I
must say, that ever since _you_ first came here, Titmouse has been quite
another person. He seems not to know who I am, nor to care either--and
he's perfectly unbearable."

"My dear sir, what has he _said_ or _done_?--that, you know, is what you
must be prepared to prove, when you come into court!"

"Well, sir! and which of us is likely to be best off for
witnesses?--Think of that, sir--I've eighteen young men"----

"We shall chance that, sir," replied Gammon, shrugging his shoulders,
and smiling very bitterly; "but again, I ask, what did you dismiss him
for? and, sir, I request a plain, straightforward answer."

"What did I dismiss him for?--Haven't I eyes and ears?--First and
foremost, he's the most odious-mannered fellow I ever came near--and--he
hadn't a shirt to his back when I first took him--the ungrateful
wretch!--Sir, it's at any rate not against the law, I suppose, to _hate_
a man;--and if it isn't, how I HATE Titmouse!"

"Mr. Tag-rag"--said Gammon, lowering his voice, and looking very
earnestly at his companion--"can I say a word to you in confidence--the
strictest confidence?"

"What's it about, sir?" inquired Tag-rag, somewhat apprehensively.

"I dare say you may have felt, perhaps, rather surprised at the interest
which I--in fact our office, the office of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, in
Saffron Hill--appear to have taken in Mr. Titmouse."

"Why, sir, it's _your_ look-out to see how you're to be paid for what
you're doing--and I dare say lawyers generally keep a pretty sharp
look-out in that direction!"

Gammon smiled, and continued--"It may, perhaps, a little surprise you,
Mr. Tag-rag, to hear that your present (ought I to say, your _late_?)
shopman, Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse, is at this moment probably the very
luckiest man--and one among the richest, too--in this kingdom."

"Why--you don't mean to say he's drawn a prize in the
lottery?"--exclaimed Tag-rag, pricking up his ears, and manifestly
changing color.

"Pho! my dear sir, _that_ is a mere bagatelle compared with the good
fortune which has just fallen to his lot. I solemnly assure you, that I
believe it will very shortly turn out that he is at this moment the
undoubted owner of an estate worth at least ten thousand a-year, besides
a vast accumulation of ready money!"

"Ten thousand a-year, sir!--My Titmouse!--Tittlebat Titmouse!--Ten
thousand a-year! it's quite impossible!" faltered Tag-rag, after a
pause, having gone as pale as death.

"I have as little doubt of the fact, however, sir, as I have that you
yesterday turned him out of doors, Mr. Tag-rag!"

"But"--said Mr. Tag-rag, in a low tone--"who could have dreamed it?--How
was--_really_, Mr. Gammon!--how _was_ I to know it?"

"That's the fact, however," said Gammon, shrugging his shoulders.
Tag-rag wriggled about in his chair, put his hands in and out of his
pockets, scratched his head, and continued staring open-mouthed at the
bearer of such astounding intelligence. "Perhaps, however, all this is
meant as a joke, sir,"--said he--"And if so--it's--it's--a very"----

"It's one of his solicitors who were fortunate enough to make the
discovery, that tells you, sir," interrupted Gammon, calmly. "I repeat
what I have already told you, Mr. Tag-rag, that an estate of ten
thousand a-year is the very least"----

"Why, that's two hundred thousand pounds, sir!"--exclaimed Tag-rag, with
an awe-struck air.

"At the very least"----

"Lord, Mr. Gammon!--Excuse me, sir, but how _did_ you find it out?"

"Mere accident--a mere accidental discovery, sir, in the course of other
professional inquiries!"

"And does Mr. Titmouse know it?"

"Ever since the day, Mr. Tag-rag, after that on which I called on him
here!" replied Gammon, pointedly.

"You--don't--say--so!"--exclaimed Tag-rag, and then continued silent for
nearly half a minute, evidently amazed beyond all power of expression.

"Well,"--at length he observed--"I _will_ say this--with all his few
faults--he's the most amiable young gentleman--the _very amiablest_
young gentleman I--ever--came near. I always thought there was something
uncommon superior-like in his looks."

"Yes--I think he _is_ of rather an amiable turn," observed Gammon, with
an expressive smile--"very gentlemanlike--and so intelligent"----

"Intelligent! Mr. Gammon! you should only have known him as I have known
him!--Well, to be sure!--Lord! His only fault was, that he was above his
business; but when one comes to think of it, how could it be otherwise?
From the time I first clapped eyes on him--I--I--knew he was--a superior
article--quite superior--you know what I mean, sir?--he couldn't help
it, of course!--to be sure--he never was much liked by the other young
men; but that was jealousy!--all jealousy; I saw that all the while."
Here he looked at the door, and added in a very low tone, "Many
sleepless nights has their bad treatment of Mr. Titmouse cost me!--Even
I, now and then, used to look and speak sharply to him--just to keep
him, as it were, down to the mark of the others--he was so uncommon
handsome and genteel in his manner, sir. I remember telling my good lady
the very first day he came to me, that he was a gentleman born--or ought
to have been one."

Now, do you suppose, acute reader, that Mr. Tag-rag was insincere in all
this? By no means. He spoke the real dictates of his heart, unaware of
the sudden change which had taken place in his feelings. It certainly
has an ugly look of improbability--but it was the _nature of the beast_;
his eye suddenly caught a glimpse of the golden calf, and he
instinctively fell down and worshipped it. "Well--at all events," said
Mr. Gammon, scarcely able to keep a serious expression on his
face--"though he's not lived much like a gentleman hitherto, yet he will
live for the future like a _very great gentleman_--and spend his money
like one, too."

"I--I--dare say--- he will!--I wonder how he _will_ get through a
quarter of it!--what do _you_ think he'll do, sir?"

"Heaven only knows--he may very shortly do just what he likes! Go into
the House of Commons, or--perhaps--have a peerage given him"----

"Lord, sir!--I feel as if I shouldn't be quite right again for the rest
of the day!--I own to you, sir, that all yesterday and to-day I've been
on the point of going to Mr. Titmouse's lodgings to apologize
for--for---- Good gracious me! one can't take it all in at once--Ten
thousand a-year!--Many a lord hasn't got more--some not half as much,
I'll be bound!--Dear me, what will he do!--Well, one thing I'm _sure_
of--he'll never have a truer friend than plain Thomas Tag-rag, though
I've not always been a-flattering him--I respected him too much!--The
many little things I've borne with in Titmouse, that in any one else I'd
have--But why didn't he tell me, sir? We should have understood one
another in a moment."--Here he paused abruptly; for his breath seemed
suddenly taken away, as he reviewed the series of indignities which he
had latterly inflicted on Titmouse--the kind of life which that amiable
young gentleman had led in his establishment.

Never had the keen Gammon enjoyed anything more exquisitely than the
scene which I have been describing. To a man of his practical sagacity
in the affairs of life, and knowledge of human nature, nothing could
appear more ludicrously contemptible than the conduct of poor Tag-rag.
How differently are the minds of men constituted! How Gammon despised
Tag-rag! And what opinion has the acute reader by this time formed of
Gammon?

"_Now_, may I take for granted, Mr. Tag-rag, that we understand each
other?" inquired Gammon.

"Yes, sir," replied Tag-rag, meekly. "But do you think Mr. Titmouse will
ever forgive or forget the little misunderstanding we've lately had? If
I could but explain to him how I have been acting a part towards
him--all for his good!"

"You may have opportunities for doing so, if you are really so disposed,
Mr. Tag-rag; for I have something seriously to propose to you.
Circumstances render it desirable that for some little time this
important affair should be kept as quiet as possible; and it is Mr.
Titmouse's wish and ours--as his confidential professional
advisers--that for some few months he should continue in your
establishment, and apparently in your service as before."

"In my service!--my service!" interrupted Tag-rag, opening his eyes to
their utmost. "I sha'n't know how to behave in my own premises! Have a
man with ten thousand a-year behind my counter, sir? I might as well
have the Lord Mayor! Sir, it can't--it can't be. Now, if Mr. Titmouse
chose to become a _partner_ in the house--ay, there might be something
in that--he needn't have any trouble--be only a sleeping partner."
Tag-rag warmed with the thought. "Really, sir, that wouldn't be so much
amiss--would it?" Gammon assured him that it was out of the question;
and gave him some of the reasons for the proposal which he (Mr. Gammon)
had been making. While Gammon fancied that Tag-rag was paying profound
attention to what he was saying, Tag-rag's thoughts had shot far ahead.
He had an only child--a daughter, about twenty years old--Miss Tabitha
Tag-rag; and the delightful possibility of her by-and-by becoming MRS.
TITMOUSE, put her aspiring parent into a perspiration. Into the proposal
just made by Mr. Gammon, Tag-rag fell with great eagerness, which he
attempted to conceal--for what innumerable opportunities would it not
afford him for bringing about the desire of his heart--for throwing the
lovely young couple into each other's way,--endearing them to each
other! Oh, delightful! It really looked almost as if it had been
determined by the powers above that the thing should come to pass! If
Mr. Titmouse did not dine with him, Mrs. and Miss Tag-rag, at Satin
Lodge, Clapham, on the very next Sunday, it should, Tag-rag resolved, be
owing to no fault of _his_.--

Mr. Gammon having arranged everything exactly as he had desired, and
having again enjoined Mr. Tag-rag to absolute secrecy, took his
departure. Mr. Tag-rag, in his excitement, thrust out his hand, and
grasped that of Gammon, which was extended towards him somewhat coldly
and reluctantly. Tag-rag attended him with extreme obsequiousness to the
door; and on his departure, walked back rapidly to his own room, and sat
down for nearly half an hour in a sort of turbid but delicious revery.
Abruptly rising, at length, he clapped his hat on his head, and saying,
as he passed along the shop, that he should soon be back, hurried out
to call upon his future son-in-law, full of affectionate anxiety
concerning his health--and vowing within himself, that henceforth it
should be the study of his life to make his daughter and Titmouse happy!
There could be no doubt of the reality of the event just communicated to
him by Mr. Gammon; for he was one of a well-known firm of solicitors; he
had had an interview on "important business" with Titmouse a fortnight
before, and that _could_ have been nothing but the prodigious event just
communicated to himself. Such things had happened to others--why not to
Tittlebat Titmouse? In short, Tag-rag had no doubt on the matter; and
his heart really yearned towards Titmouse.

Finding that gentleman not at home, Mr. Tag-rag left a most particularly
civil message, half a dozen times repeated, with Mrs. Squallop (to whom
also he was specially civil,) to the effect that he, Mr. Tag-rag, would
be only too happy to see Mr. Titmouse at No. 375, Oxford Street,
whenever it might suit his convenience; that Mr. Tag-rag had something
very particular to say to him about the unpleasant and
_unaccountable_[!] occurrence of yesterday; that Mr. Tag-rag was most
deeply concerned to hear of Mr. Titmouse's indisposition, and anxious to
learn from himself that he had recovered, &c. &c. &c.;--all which,
together with one or two other little matters, which Mrs. Squallop could
not help putting together, satisfied that shrewd lady that "something
was in the wind about Mr. Titmouse;" and made her reflect rather
anxiously on one or two violent scenes she had had with him, and which
_she_ was now ready entirely to forget and forgive. Having thus done all
that at present was in his power to forward the affair, the anxious and
excited Tag-rag returned to his shop; on entering which, one Lutestring,
his principal young man, eagerly apprised him of a claim which he had,
as he imagined, only the moment before, established to the thanks of
Mr. Tag-rag, by having "bundled off, neck and crop, that hodious
Titmouse," who, about five minutes before, had, it seemed, had the
"impudence" to present himself at the shop-door, and walk in as if
nothing had happened!! [Titmouse had so presented himself in consequence
of a call from Mr. Gammon, immediately after his interview with
Tag-rag.]

"You--ordered--Mr. Titmouse--off!!" exclaimed Tag-rag, starting back
aghast, and almost petrifying his voluble and officious assistant.

"Of course, sir," at length exclaimed that person, meekly--"after what
happened yester"----

"Who authorized you, Mr. Lutestring?" inquired Tag-rag, striving to
choke down the rage rising within him.

"Why, sir, I _really_ supposed that"----

"You supposed!! You're a meddling, impertinent, disgusting"---- Suddenly
his face was overspread with smiles, as three or four elegantly dressed
customers entered, whom he received with profuse obeisances. But when
their backs were turned, he directed a lightning look towards
Lutestring, and retreated once more to his room, to meditate on the
agitating events of the last hour. The extraordinary alteration in Mr.
Tag-rag's behavior was attributed by his shopmen to his having been
frightened out of his wits by the threats of Titmouse's lawyer--for such
it was clear the stranger was; and more than one of them stored it up in
their minds as a useful precedent against some future occasion.

Twice afterwards during the day did Tag-rag call at Mr. Titmouse's
lodgings--but in vain; and on returning the third time he felt not a
little disquieted. He determined, however, to call the first thing on
the ensuing morning; if he should then fail of seeing Mr. Titmouse, he
was resolved to go to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap--and besides,
address a very affectionate letter to Mr. Titmouse. How totally changed
had become all his feelings towards that gentleman within the last few
hours. The more that Tag-rag reflected on Titmouse's conduct, the more
he saw in it to approve of. How steady and regular had he been in his
habits! how civil and obliging! how patient of rebuke! how pleasing in
his manners to the customers! Surely, surely, thought Tag-rag, Titmouse
can't have been four long years in my employ without getting a--sort of
a--feeling--of attachment to me--he'd have left long ago if he hadn't!
It was true there _had_ now and then been tiffs between them; but who
could agree always? Even Mrs. Tag-rag and he, when they were courting,
often fell out with one another!--Tag-rag was now ready to forget and
forgive all--he had never meant any harm to Titmouse. He believed that
poor Tittlebat was an orphan, unhappy soul! alone in the wide
world--_now_ he would become the prey of designing strangers and
adventurers. Tag-rag did not like the appearance of Gammon. No doubt
that person would try and ingratiate himself as much as possible with
Titmouse! Then Titmouse was remarkably good-looking. "I wonder what
Tabby will think of him when she sees him!" How anxious Tittlebat must
be to see her--_his_ daughter! How could Tag-rag make Tittlebat's stay
at his premises (for he could not bring himself to believe that on the
morrow he could not set all right, and disavow the abominable conduct of
Lutestring) agreeable and delightful? He would discharge the first of
his young men that did not show Titmouse proper respect.--What low
lodgings poor Tittlebat lived in!--Why could he not take up his quarters
at Satin Lodge? They always had a nice spare bedroom. Ah! _that_ would
be a stroke! How Tabby could endear herself to him! What a number of
things Mrs. Tag-rag could do to make him comfortable!

About seven o'clock Tag-rag quitted his premises in Oxford Street, for
his country house; and, occupied with these and similar delightful and
anxious thoughts and speculations, hurried along Oxford Street on his
way to the Clapham stage, without thinking of his umbrella, though it
rained fast. When he had taken his place on the coach-box, beside old
Crack, (as he had done almost every night for years,) he was so
unusually silent that Crack naturally thought his best passenger was
going to become bankrupt, or compound with his creditors, or do
something in that line, shortly. Mr. Tag-rag could hardly keep his
temper at the slow pace old Crack was driving at--just when Mr. Tag-rag
would have wished to gallop the whole way. Never had he descended with
so much briskness, as when the coach at length drew up before the little
green gate, which opened on the tidy little gravel walk, which led up to
the little green wooden porch, which sheltered the little door which
admitted you into little Satin Lodge. As Tag-rag stood for a moment
wiping his wet shoes upon the mat, he could not help observing, for the
first time, by the inward light of ten thousand a-year, how _uncommon_
narrow the passage was; and thinking that Satin Lodge would never _do_,
when he should be the father-in-law of a man worth ten thousand
a-year--but he could easily let that house then, and take a large one.
As he hung his hat upon the peg, the perilous insolence of Lutestring
occurred to him; and he deposited such a prodigious, but half-suppressed
execration upon that gentleman's name, as must have sunk a far more
buoyant sinner many fathoms deeper than usual into a certain hot and
deep place that shall be nameless.

Mrs. and Miss Tag-rag were sitting in the front parlor, intending to
take tea as soon as Mr. Tag-rag should have arrived. It was not a large
room, but sweetly furnished, according to the taste of the owners. There
was only one window, and it had a flaunting white summer curtain. The
walls were ornamented with three pictures, in ponderous gilt frames,
being portraits of Mr., Mrs., and Miss Tag-rag; and I do not feel
disposed to say more concerning these pictures, than that in each of
them the _dress_ was done with elaborate exactness--the _faces_ seeming
to have been painted in, for the purpose of setting off and completing
the picture of the dress. The skinny little Miss Tag-rag sat at the
worn-out, jingling pianoforte, causing it to utter--oh, horrid and
doleful sound!--"_The Battle of Prague_." Mrs. Tag-rag, a fat, showily
dressed woman of about fifty, her cap having a prodigious number of
artificial flowers in it, sat reading a profitable volume, entitled
"_Groans from the Bottomless Pit to Awaken Sleeping Sinners_," by (as he
was pleased to dignify himself) _the Rev._ DISMAL HORROR--a very rousing
young dissenting preacher lately come into that neighborhood, and who
had almost frightened into fits half the women and children, and one or
two old men, of his congregation; giving out, among several similarly
cheering intimations, that they must all necessarily be damned unless
they immediately set about making themselves as miserable as possible in
this world. Only the Sunday before, he had pointed out, with awful force
and distinctness, how cards and novels were the devil's traps to catch
souls; and balls and theatres short and easy cuts to----!

He had proved to his trembling female hearers, in effect, that there was
only one way to heaven, _i. e._ through his chapel; that the only safe
mode of spending their time on earth was reading such blessed works as
that which he had just published, and going daily to prayer-meetings.
When, however, a Sunday or two before, he had the assurance to preach a
funeral sermon, to "improve the death"--such being his impressive
phrase--of a Miss Snooks, (who had kept a circulating library in the
neighborhood, but had not been a member of his congregation;) and who,
having been to the theatre on the Thursday night, was taken ill of a
bowel attack on the Friday, and was a "_lifeless corpse_ when the next
Sabbath dawned"--you might have heard a beetle sneeze within any of the
walls, all over the crowded chapel. Two-thirds of the women present,
struck with the awful judgment upon the deceased Miss Snooks, inwardly
made solemn vows never again to enter the accursed walls of a theatre or
concert-room;[11] many determined no longer to subscribe to the
circulating library, ruining their precious souls with light and amusing
reading; and almost all resolved forthwith to become active members of a
sort of religious tract society, which "dear Mr. Horror" had just
established in the neighborhood, for the purpose of giving the sick and
starving poor _spiritual_ food, in the shape of tracts, (chiefly written
by himself,) which might "wean their affections away from this vain
world," and "fix them on better things," rejoicing, in the meanwhile, in
the bitter pangs of destitution--and able to bear them! All this sort of
thing Mr. Horror possibly imagined to be calculated to advance the cause
of real religion! In short, he had created a sort of spiritual fever
about the place which was then just at its height in worthy Mrs.
Tag-rag.

"Well, Dolly, how are you to-night?" inquired Tag-rag, with unusual
briskness, on entering the room.

"Tolerable, thank you, Tag," replied Mrs. Tag-rag, mournfully, with a
sigh, closing the cheerful volume she had been perusing--it having been
recommended the preceding Sunday from the pulpit by its pious and gifted
author, to be read and prayed over every day by every member of his
congregation!

"And how are _you_, Tabby?" said Tag-rag, addressing his daughter. "Come
and kiss me, you little slut--come!"

"No, I sha'n't, pa! Do let me go on with my practising," said Miss
Tag-rag--and twang! twang! went those infernal keys.

"D' ye hear, Tab? Come and kiss me, you little minx"----

"Really, pa, how provoking--just as I am in the middle of the _Cries of
the Wounded_! I sha'n't--that's flat."

The doting parent could not, however, be denied; so he stepped to the
piano, put his arm around his dutiful daughter's neck, kissed her
fondly, and then stood for a moment behind her, admiring her brilliant
execution of The _Trumpet of Victory_. Having changed his coat, and put
on an old pair of shoes, Mr. Tag-rag was comfortable for the evening.

"Tabby plays wonderful well, Dolly, don't she?" said Tag-rag, as the
tea-things were being brought in, by way of beginning a conversation,
while he drew his chair nearer to his wife.

"Ah! I'd a deal rather see her reading something serious--for life is
short, Tag, and eternity's long."

"Botheration!--Stuff!--Tut!" exclaimed Tag-rag!

"You may find it out one day, my dear, when, alas! it's too late"--

"I'll tell you what, Dolly," said Tag-rag, angrily, "you're doing a
great deal too much in this line of business--my house is getting like a
Methodist meeting-house. I can't bear it--I can't! What the deuce is
come to you all in these parts, lately?" Mr. Tag-rag, I should apprise
the reader, had been induced, some three years before, to quit the
Church of England and take up with Mr. Dismal Horror; but his zeal had
by no means kept pace with that of his wife.

"Ah, Tag-rag," replied his wife, with a sigh, "I can only pray for
you--I can do no more"----

"Oh!" exclaimed Tag-rag, with an air of desperate disgust, thrusting his
hands into his pockets, and stretching his legs to their utmost extent
under the table. "I'll tell you what, Mrs. T." he added after a while,
"I like religion well enough--but too much of it no one can stand. Too
much of one thing is good for nothing; you may choke a dog with
pudding;--I sha'n't renew my sittings at Mr. Horror's."

"Oh, dear, dear pa, do! That's a love of a pa!" interposed Miss Tag-rag,
twirling round on her music-stool. "All Clapham's running after
him--he's quite the rage! There's the Dugginses, the Pips, the Jones,
the Maggots,--and, really, Mr. Horror does preach such dreadful things,
it's quite delightful to look round and see all the people with their
eyes and mouths wide open--and ours is such a good pew for seeing--and
Mr. Horror is such a bee--yeautiful preacher--isn't he, ma?"

"Yes, love, he is--but I wish I could see you profit by him, and
preparing for death"----

"Why, ma, how _can_ you go on in that ridiculous way? You know I'm not
twenty yet, however old you and pa may be!"

"Well, well! poor Tabby!" here Mrs. Tag-rag's voice faltered--"a day
will come, when"----

"Play me the _Devil among the Tailors_, or _Copenhagen Waltz_, or
something of that sort, Tabby," said her father, furiously, "or I shall
be sick!--I can't bear it! Curse Mr. Hor"----

"Well!--Oh, my!!--I never!--Mr. Tag-rag!" exclaimed his astounded wife.

"Play away, Tab, or I'll go and sit in the kitchen! They're cheerful
_there_! The next time I come across Mr. Horror, if I don't give him a
bit of my mind"--here he paused, and slapped his hand with much energy
upon the table. Mrs. Tag-rag wiped her eyes, sighed, and resumed her
book. Miss Tag-rag began to make tea, her papa gradually forgetting his
rage, as he fixed his dull gray eyes fondly on the pert skinny
countenance of his daughter.

"By the way, Tag," exclaimed Mrs. Tag-rag, suddenly, but in the same
mournful tone, addressing her husband, "you haven't of course forgot the
flowers for my new bonnet?"

"Never once thought of it," replied Tag-rag, doggedly.

"You haven't! Good gracious! what am I to go to chapel in next Sunday?"
she exclaimed with sudden alarm, closing her book, "and our seat in the
very front of the gallery!--bless me! I shall have a hundred eyes on
me!"

"Now that you're coming down a bit, and dropped out of the clouds--or
p'r'aps I should say--come up from beneath!--Dolly," said her husband,
much relieved, "I'll tell you a bit of news that will, I fancy,
rather"----

"Come! what is it, Tag?" she inquired with a sort of languid curiosity.

"What should you say of a chance of a certain somebody" (here he looked
unutterable things at his daughter) "that shall be nameless, becoming
mistress of ten thousand a-year?"

"Why"--Mrs. Tag-rag changed color--"has any one fallen in love with
Tab?"

"What should you say, Mrs. T., of our Tab marrying a man with ten
thousand a-year? There's for you! Isn't _that_ better than all your
rel---- hem!"

"Oh, Tag, don't say that; but"--here she hastily turned down the leaf of
_Groans from the Bottomless Pit_, and tossed that inestimable work upon
the sofa--"do tell me, lovey! what _are_ you talking about?"

"What indeed, Dolly!--I'm going to have him here to dinner next
Sunday."

Miss Tag-rag having been listening with breathless eagerness to this
little colloquy between her prudent and amiable parents, unconscious of
what she was about, poured almost all the contents of the tea-pot into
the sugar-basin, instead of her papa's and mamma's tea-cups.

"Have _who_, dear Tag?" inquired Mrs. Tag-rag, impatiently.

"Who? why whom but my Tittlebat Titmouse!! You've seen him, and heard me
speak of him often, you know"----

"What!--_that_ odious, nasty"----

"Hush, hush!" involuntarily exclaimed Tag-rag, with an apprehensive
air--"That's all past and gone--I was always a little too hard on him.
Well, anyhow, he's turned up all of a sudden master of ten thousand
a-year. He has indeed--may this piece of toast choke me if he hasn't!"

Mrs. Tag-rag and her daughter sat in speechless wonder.

"Where did he see Tab, Taggy?" inquired at length Mrs. Tag-rag.

"Oh--I--I--why--you see--I don't exactly think _that_ signifies so
much--he _will_ see her, you know, next Sunday."

"So, then, he's positively coming?" inquired Mrs. Tag-rag, with a
fluttered air.

"Y--e--s--I've no doubt."--(I'll discharge Lutestring to-morrow, thought
Tag-rag, with a sharp inward spasm.)

"But aren't we counting our chickens, Taggy, before they're hatched? If
Titmouse is all of a sudden become such a catch, he'll be snapped up in
a minute, you know, of course"----

"Why, you see, Dolly--we're first in the market, I'm sure of that--his
attorney tells me he's to be kept quite snug and quiet under my care
for months, and see no one"----

"My gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Tag-rag, holding up both her hands--"if
_that_ don't look like a special interposition of Providence, now"----

"So _I_ thought, Tabby, while Mr. Gammon was telling me!" replied her
husband.

"Ah, Tag, there are many of 'em, if we were only to be on the look-out
for them!" said Mrs. Tag-rag, excitedly.

"I _do_ see it all! It's designed by Providence to get them soon
together! When once Mr. Titmouse gets sight of Tabby, and gets into her
company--eh! Tab, lovey! _you'll_ do the rest, hem!" said Tag-rag,
fondly.

"La, pa! how you _do_ go on!" simpered Miss Tag-rag.

"You must do your part, Tab," said her father--"we'll do ours. He'll
bite, you may depend on it, if you manage well!"

"What sort of a looking young man is he, dear pa?" inquired Miss
Tag-rag, blushing, and her heart fluttering very fast.

"Oh, you _must_ have seen him, sweetest"----

"How should I ever notice any one of the lots of young men at the shop,
pa?--I don't at all know him."

"Well--he's the handsomest, most genteel-looking young fellow I ever
came across; he's long been an ornament to my establishment, for his
good looks and civil and obliging manners--quite a treasure! You should
have seen how he _took_ with the ladies of rank always!"----

"Dear me," interrupted Mrs. Tag-rag, anxiously addressing her daughter,
"I hope, Tabby, that Miss Nix will send home your lilac-colored frock by
next Sunday!"

"If she _don't_, ma, I'll take care she never makes anything more for
_me_, that's poz!" replied Miss Tag-rag, earnestly.

"We'll call there to-morrow, love, and hurry her on," said her mother;
and from that moment until eleven o'clock, when the amiable and
interesting trio retired to rest, nothing was talked of but the charming
Titmouse, and the good fortune he so richly deserved, and how long the
courtship was likely to last. Mrs. Tag-rag, who, for the last month or
so, had always remained on her knees before getting into bed, for at
least ten minutes, on this eventful evening compressed her prayers, I
regret to say, into one minute and a half's time, (as for Tag-rag, a
hardened heathen, for all he had taken to hearing Mr. Horror, he always
tumbled prayerless into bed, the moment he was undressed;) while, for
once in a way, Miss Tag-rag, having taken only five minutes to put her
hair into papers, popped into bed directly she had blown the candle out,
without saying _any_ prayers--or even thinking of finishing the novel
which lay under her pillow, and which she had got on the sly from the
circulating library of the late Miss Snooks. For several hours she lay
in a delicious revery, imagining herself become Mrs. Tittlebat Titmouse,
riding about Clapham in a handsome carriage, going to the play every
night; and what would the three Miss Knippses say when they heard of
it?--they'd burst. And such a handsome man, too!

She sank, at length, into unconsciousness, amid a soft confusion of
glistening white satin--favors--bridesmaids--Mrs. Tittlebat
Tit--Tit--Tit--Tit--mouse.

Titmouse, about half-past nine o'clock on the ensuing morning, was
sitting in his little room in a somewhat troubled humor, musing on many
things, and little imagining the intense interest he had excited in the
feelings of the amiable occupants of Satin Lodge, when a knock at his
door startled him out of his revery. Guess his amazement to see, on
opening it, Mr. Tag-rag!

"Your most obedient, sir," commenced that gentleman, in a subdued and
obsequious manner, plucking off his hat the instant that he saw
Titmouse. "I hope you're better, sir!--Been very uneasy, sir, about
you."

"Please to walk in, sir," replied Titmouse, not a little flustered--"I'm
better, sir, thank you."

"Happy to hear it, sir?--But am also come to offer humble apologies for
the rudeness of that upstart that was so rude to you yesterday, at my
premises--know whom I mean, eh?--Lutestring--I shall get rid of him, I
do think"----

"Thank you, sir---- But--but--when I was in your employ"----

"_Was_ in my employ!" interrupted Tag-rag, with a sigh, gazing earnestly
at him--"It's no use trying to hide it any longer! I've all along seen
you was a world too good for--in fact, quite above your situation in
_my_ poor shop! I _may_ have been wrong, Mr. Titmouse," he continued
diffidently, as he placed himself on what seemed the only chair in the
room, (Titmouse sitting on a common wooden stool)--"but I did it for the
best--eh?--don't you understand me, Mr. Titmouse?" Titmouse continued
looking on the floor incredulously, sheepishly, and somewhat sullenly.

"Very much obliged, sir," at length he answered--"but must say you've
rather a funny way of showing it, sir. Look at the sort of life you've
led me for this"----

"Ah! knew you'd say so! But I can lay my hand on my heart, Mr. Titmouse,
and declare to God--I can, indeed, Mr. Titmouse"---- Titmouse preserved
a very embarrassing silence.--"_See_ I'm out of your good
books--But--won't you forget and forgive, Mr. Titmouse? I _meant_ well.
Nay, I humbly beg forgiveness for everything you've not liked in me. Can
I say more? Come, Mr. Titmouse, you've a noble nature, and I ask
forgiveness!" cried Tag-rag, softly and earnestly: you would have
thought that his life depended on his success in what he was doing!

"You--you ought to do it before the whole shop, if you're in earnest,"
replied Titmouse, a little relenting--"for they've all seen your goings
on."

"Them!--the brutes!--the vulgar fellows, eugh!--you and I, Mr. Titmouse,
are a _leetle_ above such cattle as them! D' ye think we ought to mind
what _servants_ say?--Only you say the word, and I make a clean sweep of
'em all; you shall have the premises to yourself, Mr. Titmouse, within
an hour after any of those chaps shows you the least glimmer of
disrespect."

"Ah! I don't know--you've used me most uncommon bad, 'pon my soul!--far
worse than they have--you've nearly broke my heart, sir! You have!"

"Well, my womankind at home are right, after all! They told me all along
I was going the wrong way to work, when I said how I tried to keep your
pride down, and prevent you from having your head turned by knowing your
good looks! Over and over again, my little girl has said, with tears in
her dear eyes, 'you'll break his spirit, dear papa--if he _is_ handsome,
wasn't it God that made him so?'" The little frostwork which Titmouse
had thrown around his heart, began to melt like snow under sunbeams.
"Ah, Mr. Titmouse, Mr. Titmouse! the women are always right, and _we're_
always wrong," continued Tag-rag, earnestly, perceiving his advantage.
"Upon my soul I could kick myself for my stupidity, and cruelty too!"

"Ah, I should think so! No one knows what I've suffered! And now," added
Titmouse, suddenly, "that I'm--I suppose you've heard it all,
sir?--what's in the wind--and all that?"

"Yes, sir--Mr. Gammon (that most respectable gentleman) and I have had
a long talk yesterday about you, in which he did certainly tell me
everything--nothing like confidence, Mr. Titmouse, when gentleman meets
gentleman, you know! Oh, Lord! the news is really delightful!
delightful!"

"_Isn't_ it, sir?" eagerly interrupted Titmouse, his eyes glistening
with sudden rapture.

"Ah! ten thous--I _must_ shake hands with you, my dear Mr. Titmouse;"
quoth Tag-rag, with affectionate excitement--and, for the first time in
their lives, their hands touched, Tag-rag squeezing that of Titmouse
with energetic cordiality; while he added, with a little emotion in his
tone--"Thomas Tag-rag may be a plain-spoken and wrong-headed man, Mr.
Titmouse--but he's a warm heart, I assure you!"

"And did Mr. Gammon tell you _all_, sir?" eagerly interrupted Titmouse.

"Everything--everything; quite confidential, I assure you, for he saw
the interest I felt in you!"

"And did he say about my--hem!--eh? my stopping a few weeks longer with
you?" inquired Titmouse, chagrin overspreading his features.

"I think he did, indeed, Mr. Titmouse! He's quite bent on it, sir! And
so would any true friend of yours be--because you see!"--here he dropped
his voice, and looked very mysteriously at Titmouse--"in short I quite
agree with Mr. Gammon!"

"Do you indeed, sir?" exclaimed Titmouse, with rather an uneasy look.

"I do, i' faith! Why, they'd give thousands and thousands to get you out
of the way--and what's _money_ to _them_? But they must look very sharp
that get at you in the premises of Thomas Tag-rag, I warrant
'em!--Talking of that, ah, ha!--it _will_ be a funny thing to see you,
Mr. Titmouse--Squire Titmouse--ah, ha, ha!"

"You won't hardly expect me to go out with _goods_, I suppose, sir?"
inquired Titmouse, somewhat anxiously.

"Ha, ha, ha!--Ha, ha, ha!--Might as well ask me if I'd clean that beast
Lutestring's shoes! No, no, my dear Mr. Titmouse, you and I have done
with each other as master and servant; it's only as friends that we know
each other now!--You may say and do whatever you like, and come and go
when and where you like!--It's true it will make my other hands rather
jealous, and get me into trouble; but what do I care? Suppose they _do_
all give me warning for your sake? Let 'em go, say I!" He snapped his
fingers with an air of defiance. "_Your_ looks and manners would keep a
shop full of customers--one Titmouse is worth a hundred of them."

"'Pon my soul, you speak most uncommon gentleman-like, sir, certainly!"
said Titmouse, with a little excitement--"and if you'd only
_always_--but that's all past and gone; and I've no objections to say at
once, that all the articles I may want in your line I'll have at your
establishment, pay cash down, and ask for no discount. And I'll send all
my friends, for, in course, sir, you know I shall have lots of them!"

"Don't forget your oldest, your truest, your humblest friend, Mr.
Titmouse," said Tag-rag, with a cringing air.

"That I won't!" replied Titmouse, heatedly.

[It flashed across his mind that a true and old friend would be only too
happy to do him some such trifling service as to lend him a ten-pound
note.]

"Hem!--Now, _are_ you such a friend, Mr. Tag-rag?" cried he, sheepishly.

"Am I?--Can you doubt me? Try me! See what I would not do for you!
Friend, indeed!" and he looked quite fondly at Titmouse.

"Well, I believe you; sir! And the fact is, a--a--a--you see, Mr.
Tag-rag, though all this heap of money's _coming_ to me, I'm precious
low just _now_"----

"Ye--e--e--s, Mr. Titmouse," quoth Tag-rag, anxiously; his dull gray eye
fixed on that of Titmouse steadfastly.

"Well--if you've a mind to prove your words, Mr. Tag-rag, and don't mind
advancing me a ten-pound note"----

"Hem!" involuntarily uttered Tag-rag, so suddenly and violently, that it
made Titmouse start. Then Tag-rag's face flushed over; he twirled about
his watch-key rapidly, and wriggled about in his chair with visible
agitation.

"Oh, you aren't going to do it! If so, you'd better say it at once,"
quoth Titmouse, rather cavalierly.

"Why--_was_ ever anything so unfortunate?" stammered Tag-rag. "That
cursed lot of French goods I bought only yesterday, to be paid for this
very morning--and it will drain me of every penny!"

"Ah--yes! True! Well, it don't much signify," said Titmouse, carelessly,
running his hand through his bushy hair. "In fact, I needn't have
bothered an old friend at all, now I think of it--Mr. Gammon says he's
my banker to any amount. I beg pardon, I'm sure"----

Tag-rag was in a horrid dilemma. He felt so flustered by the suddenness
and seriousness of the thing, that he could not see his way plain in any
direction.

"Let me see," at length he stammered; and pulling a ready-reckoner out
of his pocket, he affected to be consulting it, as if to ascertain
merely the state of his banker's account, but really desiring a few
moments' time to collect his thoughts. 'Twas in vain, however; nothing
occurred to him; he saw no way of escape; his old friend the devil
deserted him for a moment--supplying him with no ready lie to meet the
exigency. He must, he feared, cash up! "Well," said he--"it certainly
_is_ rather unfortunate, just at this precise moment; but I'll step to
the shop, and see how my ready-money matters stand. It sha'n't be a
trifle, Mr. Titmouse, that shall stand between us. But--if I _should_ be
hard run--perhaps--eh? Would a five-pound note do?"

"Why--a--a--certainly, if it wouldn't suit you to advance the ten"----

"I dare say," interrupted Tag-rag, a trifle relieved, "I shall be able
to accommodate you _so_ far. Perhaps you'll step on to the shop
presently, and then we can talk over matters!--By the way, did you ever
see anything so odd? forgot the main thing! _Do_ come and take your
mutton with me at Clapham next Sunday--my womankind will be quite
delighted. Nay, 'tis _their_ invitation--ha, ha!"

"You're uncommon polite," replied Titmouse, coloring with pleasure. Here
seemed the first pale primrose of the coming spring--an invitation to
Satin Lodge!

"The politeness--the favor--will be yours, Mr. Titmouse! I'm uncommon
proud of your coming! We shall be quite alone! have you all to
ourselves; only me, my wife, and daughter--an only child, Mr.
Titmouse--_such_ a child! She's really often said to me, 'I
wonder'--but,---- I won't make you vain, eh? _Shall_ I call it a
fixture?"

"'Pon my life, Mr. Tag-rag, you're monstrous uncommon polite. It's true,
I was going to dine with Mr. Gammon"----

"Oh! pho! (I mean no disrespect, mind!) he's only a bachelor--_I've_ got
ladies in the case, and all that--eh, Mr. Titmouse? and a _young_ one!"

"Well, thank you, sir. Since you're so pressing"----

"That's it! An engagement, poz!--Satin Lodge--for Sunday next," said
Tag-rag, rising and looking at his watch. "Time for me to be off. See
you soon at the shop? Soon arrange that little matter of business, eh?
You understand? Good-by! good-by!" and shaking Titmouse cordially by the
hand, Tag-rag took his departure. As he hurried on to his shop, he felt
in a most painful perplexity about this loan of five pounds. It was
truly like squeezing five drops of blood out of his heart. But what was
to be done? Could he offend Titmouse? Where was he to stop, if he once
began? Dare he ask for security? Suppose the whole affair should after
all turn into smoke?

Now, consider the folly of Tag-rag. Here was he in all this terrible
pucker about advancing _five pounds_ on the strength of prospects and
chances which he had deemed safe for adventuring _his daughter_
upon--her, the only object on earth, except money, that he regarded with
anything like sincere affection. How was this? The splendor of the
future possible good fortune of his daughter, might, perhaps, have
dazzled and confused his perceptions. Then, again, _that_ was a _remote_
contingent venture; but this sudden appeal to his pocket--the demand of
an immediate outlay and venture--was an instant pressure, and he felt it
severely. Immediate profit was everything to Tag-rag--'twas his very
life's blood! He was, in truth, a _tradesman to his heart's core_. If he
could have seen the immediate _quid pro quo_, or could, at all events,
have got, if only by way of earnest, as it were, a bit of poor
Titmouse's heart, and locked it up in his desk, he would not have cared
so much; it would have been a little in his line;--but here was a
FIVE-POUND NOTE going out forthwith, and nothing immediate, visible,
palpable, replacing it. Oh! Titmouse had unconsciously pulled Tag-rag's
very heart-strings!

Observe, discriminating reader, that there is all the difference in the
world between a TRADESMAN and a MERCHANT; and, moreover, that it is not
every _tradesman_ that is a Tag-rag.

All these considerations combined to keep Tag-rag in a perfect fever of
doubt and anxiety, which several hearty curses (I regret to say) failed
in effectually relieving. By the time, however, that Titmouse had made
his appearance at Mr. Tag-rag's shop, with a sufficiently sheepish air,
and was beginning to run the gantlet of grinning contempt from the
"_gents_" on each side of the shop, Tag-rag had determined on the course
he should pursue in the very embarrassing matter above referred to. To
the inexpressible amazement of all present, he bolted out of a little
counting-house or side-room, hastened to meet Titmouse with outstretched
hand and cordial speech, drew him into his little room, and shut the
door. There Tag-rag informed his flurried young friend that he had made
arrangements (with a little inconvenience, which, however, between
friends, signified nothing) for lending Titmouse five pounds.

"And, as life's uncertain, my dear Mr. Titmouse," said Tag-rag, as
Titmouse, with ill-disguised ecstasy, put the five-pound note into his
pocket--"even between the dearest friends--eh? Understand? It's not
_you_ I fear, nor you me, because we've confidence in each other. But if
anything should happen, those we leave behind us"---- Here he took out
of his desk an "I. O. U. £5," ready drawn up and dated--"a mere slip--a
word or two--is satisfaction to both of us."

"Oh yes, sir! yes, sir!--anything!" said Titmouse; and hastily taking
the pen proffered him, signed his name, on which Tag-rag felt a little
relieved. Lutestring was then summoned into the room, and thus (not a
little to his disgust and astonishment) addressed by his imperious
employer: "Mr. Lutestring, you will have the goodness to see that Mr.
Titmouse, while he may do me the honor to condescend to be here, is
treated by every person in my establishment with the utmost possible
respect. Whoever treats this gentleman with the slightest disrespect
isn't any longer a servant of mine. D' ye hear me, Mr. Lutestring?"
added Tag-rag, sternly, observing a very significant glance of mingled
hatred and wonder which Lutestring directed towards Titmouse. "D' ye
hear me, sir?"

"Oh, yes, sir! yes, sir! your orders shall be attended to," he replied
in as insolent a tone as he could venture upon, leaving the room with a
half audible whistle of contempt, while a grin overspread his features.
Within five minutes he had filled, the mind of every shopman in the
establishment with feelings of mingled wonder, hatred, and fear towards
Titmouse. What, thought they, could have happened? What was Mr. Tag-rag
about? This was all of a piece with his rage at Lutestring the day
before. "Cuss Titmouse! and Tag-rag too!" said or thought every one of
them!

Titmouse, for the remainder of the day, felt, as may be imagined, but
little at his ease; for--to say nothing of his insuperable repugnance to
the discharge of any of his former duties--his uneasiness under the
oppressive civilities of Mr. Tag-rag; and the evident disgust towards
him entertained by his companions; many most important considerations
arising out of recent and coming events--his altering
circumstances--were momentarily forcing themselves upon his attention.
The first of these was his _hair_; for Heaven seemed to have suddenly
given him the long-coveted means of changing its detested hue; and the
next was _an eyeglass_, without which, he had long felt his appearance
and appointments to be painfully incomplete. Early in the afternoon,
therefore, on the readily admitted plea of important business, he
obtained the permission of the obsequious Mr. Tag-rag to depart for the
day; and instantly directed his steps to the well-known shop of a
fashionable perfumer and perruquier, in Bond Street--well-known to
those, at least, who were in the habit of glancing at the enticing
advertisements in the newspapers. Having watched through the window till
the coast was clear, (for he felt a natural delicacy in asking for a
hair-dye before people who could in an instant perceive his urgent
occasion for it,) he entered the shop, where a well-dressed gentleman
was sitting behind the counter reading. He was handsome; and his
elaborately curled hair was of a heavenly black (so at least Titmouse
considered it) which was better than a thousand printed advertisements
of the celebrated fluid which formed the chief commodity there vended.
Titmouse with a little hesitation, asked this gentleman what was the
price of their article "for turning _light_ hair black"--and was
answered--"only seven and sixpence for the smaller-sized bottle." One
was in a twinkling placed upon the counter, where it lay like a
miniature mummy, swathed, as it were, in manifold advertisements.
"You'll find the fullest directions within, and testimonials from the
highest nobility to the wonderful efficacy of the
'CYANOCHAITANTHROPOPOION.'"[12]

"_Sure_ it will do, sir?" inquired Titmouse, anxiously.

"Is _my_ hair dark enough to your taste, sir?" said the gentleman, with
a calm and bland manner--"because I owe it entirely to this invaluable
specific."

"Do you, indeed, sir?" inquired Titmouse: adding with a sigh, "but,
between ourselves, look at mine!"--and, lifting off his hat for a
moment, he exhibited a great crop of bushy, carroty hair.

"Whew! rather ugly that, sir!"--exclaimed the gentleman, looking very
serious--"What a curse it is to be born with such hair, isn't it?"

"'Pon my life I think so, sir!" answered Titmouse, mournfully; "and do
you really say, sir, that this what's-its-name turned _yours_ of that
beautiful black?"

"Think? 'Pon my honor, sir,--certain; no mistake, I assure you! I was
fretting myself into my grave about the color of my hair! Why, sir,
there was a nobleman in here (I don't like to mention names) the other
day, with a head that seemed as if it had been dipped into water, and
then powdered with brick-dust; but--I assure you, the
Cyanochaitanthropopoion was too much for it--it turned black in a very
short time. You should have seen his lordship's ecstasy--[the speaker
saw that Titmouse would swallow anything; so he went on with a confident
air]--and in a month's time he had married a beautiful woman whom he had
loved from a child, but who had vowed she could never bring herself to
marry a man with such a head of hair."

"How long does it take to do all this, sir?" interrupted Titmouse,
eagerly, with a beating heart.

"Sometimes two--sometimes three days. In four days' time, I'll answer
for it, your most intimate friend would not know you. My wife did not
know me for a long while, and wouldn't let me salute her--ha, ha!" Here
another customer entered; and Titmouse, laying down the five-pound note
he had squeezed out of Tag-rag, put the wonder-working bottle into his
pocket, and on receiving his change, departed, bursting with eagerness
to try the effects of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion. Within half an hour's
time he might have been seen driving a hard bargain with a pawnbroker
for a massive-looking eyeglass, upon which, as it hung suspended in the
window, he had for months cast a longing eye; and he eventually
purchased it (his eyesight, I need hardly say, was perfect) for only
fifteen shillings. After taking a hearty dinner in a little dusky
eating-house in Rupert Street, frequented by fashionable-looking
foreigners, with splendid heads of curling hair and mustaches, he
hastened home, eager to commence the grand experiment. Fortunately, he
was undisturbed that evening. Having lit his candle, and locked his
door, with tremulous fingers he opened the papers enveloping the little
bottle; and glancing over their contents, got so inflamed with the
numberless instances of its efficacy, detailed in brief but glowing
terms--as--the "Duke of....--the Countess of....--the Earl of, &c. &c.
&c. &c.--the lovely Miss----, the celebrated Sir Little Bull's-eye, (who
was so gratified that he allowed his name to be used)--all of whom, from
having hair of the reddest possible description, were now possessed of
raven-hued locks"--that he threw down the paper, and hurriedly got the
cork out of the bottle. Having turned up his coat-cuffs, he commenced
the application of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion, rubbing it into his
hair, eyebrows, and whiskers, with all the energy he was capable of, for
upwards of half an hour. Then he read over again every syllable on the
papers in which the bottle had been wrapped; and about eleven o'clock,
having given sundry curious glances at the glass, got into bed, full of
exciting hopes and delightful anxieties concerning the success of the
great experiment he was trying. He could not sleep for several hours. He
dreamed a rapturous dream--that he bowed to a gentleman with coal-black
hair, whom he fancied he had seen before--and suddenly discovered that
he was only looking at _himself_ in a glass!!--This awoke him. Up he
jumped--sprang to his little glass breathlessly--but ah! merciful
Heavens! he almost dropped down dead! His hair was perfectly
_green_--there could be no mistake about it. He stood staring in the
glass in speechless horror, his eyes and mouth distended to their
utmost, for several minutes. Then he threw himself on the bed, and felt
fainting. Out he presently jumped again, in a kind of ecstasy--rubbed
his hair desperately and wildly about--again looked into the
glass--there it was, rougher than before; but eyebrows, whiskers, and
head--all were, if anything, of a more vivid and brilliant green.
Despair came over him. What had all his past troubles been to
this?--what was to become of him? He got into bed again, and burst into
a perspiration. Two or three times he got into and out of bed, to look
at himself--on each occasion deriving only more terrible confirmation
than before, of the disaster which had befallen him. After lying still
for some minutes, he got out of bed, and kneeling down, tried to say his
prayers; but it was in vain--and he rose half choked. It was plain he
must have his head shaved, and wear a wig, which would be making an old
man of him at once. Getting more and more disturbed in his mind, he
dressed himself, half determined on starting off to Bond Street, and
breaking every pane of glass in the shop window of the infernal impostor
who had sold him the liquid which had so frightfully disfigured him. As
he stood thus irresolute, he heard the step of Mrs. Squallop approaching
his door, and recollected that he had ordered her to bring up his
tea-kettle about that time. Having no time to take his clothes off, he
thought the best thing he could do, would be, to pop into bed again,
draw his nightcap down to his ears and eyebrows, pretend to be asleep,
and, turning his back towards the door, have a chance of escaping the
observation of his landlady. No sooner thought of, than done. Into bed
he jumped, and drew the clothes over him--not aware, however, that in
his hurry he had left his legs, with boots and trousers on, exposed to
view--an unusual spectacle to his landlady, who had, in fact, scarcely
ever known him in bed at so late an hour before. He lay as still as a
mouse. Mrs. Squallop, after glancing with surprise at his legs,
happening to direct her eyes towards the window, beheld a small bottle
standing there--only half of whose dark contents were remaining. Oh
gracious!--of course it must be POISON, and Mr. Titmouse must be
dead!--In a sudden fright she dropped the kettle, plucked the clothes
off the trembling Titmouse, and cried out--"Oh, Mr. Titmouse! Mr.
Titmouse! what _have_ you been"----

"Well, ma'am, what the devil do you mean? How dare you"---- commenced
Titmouse, suddenly sitting up, and looking furiously at Mrs. Squallop.
An inconceivably strange and horrid figure he looked. He had all his day
clothes on; a white cotton nightcap was drawn down to his very eyes,
like a man going to be hanged; his face was very pale, and his whiskers
were of a bright green color.

"Lard a-mighty!" exclaimed Mrs. Squallop, faintly, the moment that this
strange apparition had presented itself; and sinking on the chair, she
pointed with a dismayed air to the ominous-looking object standing on
the window shelf. Titmouse thence inferred that she had found out the
true state of the case. "Well--_isn't_ it an infernal shame, Mrs.
Squallop?" said he, getting off the bed; and, plucking off his nightcap,
he exhibited the full extent of his misfortune. "What d'ye think of
_that_!" he exclaimed, staring wildly at her. Mrs. Squallop gave a faint
shriek, turned her head aside, and motioned him away.

"I shall go mad--I SHALL!" cried Titmouse, tearing his green hair.

"Oh Lord!--oh Lord!" groaned Mrs. Squallop, evidently expecting him to
leap upon her. Presently, however, she a little recovered her presence
of mind; and Titmouse, stuttering with fury, explained to her what had
taken place. As he went on, Mrs. Squallop became less and less able to
control herself, and at length burst into a fit of convulsive laughter,
and sat holding her hands to her fat shaking sides, and appearing likely
to tumble off her chair. Titmouse was almost on the point of striking
her! At length, however, the fit went off; and wiping her eyes, she
expressed the greatest commiseration for him, and proposed to go down
and fetch up some soft soap and flannel, and try what "a good hearty
wash would do." Scarce sooner said than done--but, alas, in vain! Scrub,
scrub--lather, lather, did they both; but, the instant that the
soap-suds had been washed off, there was the head as green as ever!

"Oh, murder, murder! what _am_ I to do, Mrs. Squallop?" groaned
Titmouse, having taken another look at himself in the glass.

"Why--really I'd be off to a police-office, and have 'em all taken up,
if as how I was _you!_" quoth Mrs. Squallop.

"No--See if I don't take that bottle, and make the fellow that sold it
me swallow what's left--and I'll smash in his shop front besides!"

"Oh, you won't--you mustn't--not on no account! Stop at home a bit, and
be quiet; it may go off with all this washing, in the course of the day.
Soft soap is an uncommon strong thing for getting colors
out--but--a--a--excuse me now, Mr. Titmouse"--said Mrs. Squallop,
seriously--"why wasn't you satisfied with the hair God Almighty had
given you? D' ye think He didn't know a deal better than you what was
best for you? I'm blest if I don't think this is a judgment on you, when
one comes to consider!"

"What's the use of your standing preaching to me in this way, Mrs.
Squallop?" said Titmouse, first with amazement, and then with fury in
his manner--"A'n't I half mad without it? Judgment or no
judgment--where's the harm of my wanting black hair any more than black
trousers? That a'n't _your own_ hair, Mrs. Squallop--you're as gray as a
badger underneath--'pon my soul! I've often remarked it--I _have_, 'pon
my soul!"

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Himperance!" furiously exclaimed Mrs. Squallop,
"you're a liar! And you deserve what you've got! It _is_ a judgment, and
I hope it will stick by you--so take _that_ for your sauce, you vulgar
fellow!" (snapping her fingers at him.) "Get rid of your green hair if
you can! It's only carrot _tops_ instead of carrot _roots_--and some
likes one, some the other--ha! ha! ha!"

"I'll tell you what, Mrs. Squ"---- he commenced, but she had gone,
having slammed to the door behind her with all her force; and Titmouse
was left alone in a half frantic state, in which he continued for nearly
two hours. Once again he read over the atrocious puffs which had
over-night inflated him to such a degree, and he now saw that they were
all lies. This is a sample of them:

     "This divine fluid (as it was enthusiastically styled to the
     inventor, by the lovely Duchess of Dunderwhistle) possesses the
     inestimable and astonishing quality of changing hair, of whatever
     color, to a dazzling jet-black; at the same time imparting to it a
     rich glossy appearance, which wonderfully contributes to the
     imposing _tout-ensemble_ presented by those who use it. That
     well-known ornament of the circle of fashion, the young and lovely
     Mrs. Fitzfrippery, owned to the proprietor that to this surprising
     fluid it was that she was indebted for those unrivalled raven
     ringlets which attracted the eyes of envying and admiring crowds,"
     and so forth.

A little farther on:--

     "This exquisite effect is not _in all cases_ produced
     instantaneously; much will of course depend (as the celebrated M.
     Dupuytren, of the Hôtel Dieu, at Paris, informed the inventor) on
     the physical idiosyncrasy of the party using it, with reference to
     the constituent particles of the coloring matter constituting the
     fluid in the capillary vessels. Often a single application suffices
     to change the most hopeless-looking head of red hair to as deep a
     black; but, not unfrequently, the hair _passes through intermediate
     shades and tints_--all, however, ultimately settling into a deep
     and permanent black."

This passage not a little revived the drooping spirits of Titmouse.
Accidentally, however, an asterisk at the last word in the above
sentence, directed his eye to a note at the bottom of the page, printed
in such minute type as would have baffled any but the strongest sight
and most determined eye to read, and which said note was the
following:--

     "Though cases _do_, undoubtedly, occasionally occur, in which the
     native inherent indestructible qualities of the hair defy all
     attempts at change or even modification, and resist even _this_
     potent remedy: of which, however, in all his experience" (the
     wonderful specific has been invented for about _six months_) "the
     inventor has known but very few instances."

But to this exceedingly select class of unfortunate incurables, poor
Titmouse, alas! entertained a dismal suspicion that _he_ belonged.

"Look, sir! Look! Only look here what your cussed stuff has done to my
hair!" said Titmouse, on presenting himself soon after to the gentleman
who had sold him the infernal liquid; and, taking off his hat, exposed
his green hair. The gentleman, however, did not appear at all surprised,
or discomposed.

"Ah--yes! I see--I see. You're in the intermediate stage. It differs in
different people"----

"Differs, sir! I'm going mad! I look like a green monkey--Cuss me if I
don't!"

"In _me_, now," replied the gentleman, with a matter-of-fact air, "the
color was a strong _yellow_. But have you read the explanations that are
given in the wrapper?"

"Read 'em?" echoed Titmouse, furiously--"I should think so? Much good
they do _me_! Sir, you're a humbug!--an impostor! I'm a sight to be seen
for the rest of my life! Look at me, sir! Eyebrows, whiskers, and all!"

"_Rather_ a singular appearance, just at present, I must own," said the
gentleman, his face turning suddenly red all over with the violent
effort he was making to prevent an explosion of laughter. He soon,
however, recovered himself, and added coolly--"If you'll only
persevere"----

"Persevere be d----d!" interrupted Titmouse, violently clapping his hat
on his head, "I'll teach you to _persevere_ in taking in the public!
I'll have a warrant out against you in no time!"

"Oh, my dear sir, I'm accustomed to all this!" said the gentleman,
coolly.

"The--devil--you--are!" gasped Titmouse, quite aghast.

"Oh, often--often, while the liquid is performing the first stage of the
change; but, in a day or two afterwards, the parties generally come back
smiling into my shop, with heads as black as crows!"

"No! But really--do they, sir?" interrupted Titmouse, drawing a long
breath.

"Hundreds, I may say thousands, my dear sir! And one lady gave me a
picture of herself, in her black hair, to make up for her abuse of me
when it was in a puce color--Fact, honor!"

"But do you recollect any one's hair turning _green_, and then getting
black?" inquired Titmouse, with trembling anxiety.

"Recollect any? Fifty at least. For instance, there was Lord Albert
Addlehead--but why should I mention names? I know hundreds! But
everything is honor and confidential _here_!"

"And did Lord what's-his-name's hair grow green, and then black; and was
it at first as light as mine?"

"His hair was redder, and in consequence it became greener, and now is
blacker than ever yours will be."

"Well, if I and my landlady have this morning used an ounce, we've used
a quarter of a pound of soft soap in"----

"Soft soap!--soft soap!" cried out the gentleman, with an air of sudden
alarm--"That explains all," (he forgot how well it had been already
explained by him.) "By Heavens, sir!--soft soap! You may have ruined
your hair forever!" Titmouse opened his eyes and mouth with a start of
terror, it not occurring to his astute mind that the intolerable green
had preceded, not followed, the use of the soft soap. "Go home, my dear
sir! God bless you--go home, as you value your hair; take this small
bottle of DAMASCUS CREAM, and rub it in before it's too late; and then
use the remainder of the"----

"Then you don't think it's already too late?" inquired Titmouse,
faintly; and, having been assured to the contrary--having asked the
price of the Damascus cream, which was "_only_ three-and-sixpence,"
(stamp included)--he purchased and paid for it with a rueful air, and
took his departure. He sneaked homeward along the streets with the air
of a pickpocket, fearful that every one he met was an officer who had
his eye on him. He was not, in fact, very far off the mark; for many a
person smiled, and stared, and turned round to look at him as he went
along.



CHAPTER VI.


Titmouse slunk up-stairs to his room in a sad state of depression, and
spent the next hour in rubbing into his hair the Damascus cream. He
rubbed till he could hardly hold his arms up any longer, from sheer
fatigue. Having risen at length to mark, from the glass, the progress he
had made, he found that the only result of his persevering exertions had
been to give a greasy shining appearance to the hair, which remained
green as ever. With a half-uttered groan he sank down upon a chair, and
fell into a sort of abstraction, which was interrupted by a sharp knock
at his door. Titmouse started up, trembled, and stood for a moment or
two irresolute, glancing fearfully at the glass; and then, opening the
door, let in--Mr. Gammon, who started back a pace or two, as if he had
been shot, on catching sight of the strange figure of Titmouse. It was
useless for Gammon to try to check his laughter; so, leaning against the
door-post, he yielded to the impulse, and laughed without intermission
for nearly a couple of minutes. Titmouse felt desperately angry, but
feared to show it; and the timid, rueful, lackadaisical air with which
he regarded the dreaded Mr. Gammon, only prolonged and aggravated the
agonies of that gentleman. When at length he had a little recovered
himself, holding his left hand to his side, with an exhausted air, he
entered the little apartment, and asked Titmouse what in the name of
heaven he had been doing to himself: "_Without this_" (in the absurd
slang of the lawyers) that he suspected most vehemently, all the while,
what Titmouse had been about; but he wished to hear Titmouse's own
account of the matter!--Titmouse, not daring to hesitate,
complied--Gammon listening in an agony of suppressed laughter. He looked
as little at Titmouse as he could, and was growing a trifle more sedate,
when Titmouse, in a truly lamentable tone, inquired, "What's the good,
Mr. Gammon, of ten thousand a-year with such a horrid head of hair as
this?" On hearing which Gammon jumped off his chair, started to the
window, and laughed for one or two minutes without ceasing. This was too
much for Titmouse, who presently cried aloud in a lamentable manner; and
Gammon, suddenly ceasing his laughter, turned round and apologized in
the most earnest manner; after which he uttered an abundance of sympathy
for the sufferings which "he deplored being unable to alleviate." He
even restrained himself when Titmouse again and again asked if he could
not "have the law" of the man who had so imposed on him. Gammon diverted
the thoughts of his suffering client, by taking from his pocket some
very imposing packages of paper, tied round with red tape. From time to
time, however, he almost split his nose with efforts to restrain his
laughter, on catching a fresh glimpse of poor Titmouse's emerald hair.
Mr. Gammon was a man of business, however; and in the midst of all this
distracting excitement, contrived to get Titmouse's signature to sundry
papers of no little consequence; among others, first, to a bond
conditioned for the payment of £500; secondly, another for
£10,000;--both to Caleb Quirk, gentleman; and lastly, an agreement (of
which he gave Titmouse _an alleged_ copy) by which Titmouse, in
consideration of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap using their best
exertions to put him in possession of the estate, &c. &c., bound himself
to conform to their wishes in everything, on pain of their instantly
throwing up the whole affair, looking out for another heir at law (!)
and issuing execution forthwith against Titmouse for all expenses
incurred under his retainer. I said that Gammon gave his confiding
client an _alleged_ copy of this agreement;--it was not a real copy, for
certain stipulations appeared in each, which were not intended to appear
_in_ the other, for reasons which were perfectly satisfactory
to--Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. When Gammon had got to this point,
he thought it the fitting opportunity for producing a second five-pound
note. He did so, and put Titmouse thereby into an ecstasy, which pushed
out of his head for a while all recollection of what had happened to the
outside of it. He had at that moment nearly eleven pounds in hard cash.
Gammon easily obtained from him an account of his little money
transactions with Huckaback--of which, however, all he could tell
was--that for ten shillings down, he had given a written engagement to
pay fifty pounds on getting the estate. Of this Gammon made a careful
memorandum, explaining to Titmouse the atrocious villany of
Huckaback--and, in short, that if he (Titmouse) did not look very
sharply about him, he would be robbed right and left; so that it was of
the utmost consequence to him early to learn how to distinguish between
false and true friends. Gammon went on to assure him that the instrument
which he had given to Huckaback, was probably, in point of law, not
worth a farthing, on the ground of its being both fraudulent and
usurious; and intimated something, which Titmouse did not very
distinctly comprehend, about the efficacy of a bill in equity for a
_discovery_; which--merely to expose villany--at a very insignificant
expense, (not exceeding £100,) would enable the plaintiff in equity to
put the defendant in equity, (_i. e._ Huckaback,) in the way of
declaring, on his solemn oath, that he had advanced the full sum of £50;
and having obtained this important and satisfactory result, Titmouse
would have the opportunity of disproving the statement of
Huckaback--_if he could_: which of course he could not. By this process,
however, a little profitable employment would have been afforded to a
certain distinguished firm in Saffron Hill--and that was _something_--to
Gammon.

"But, by the way, talking of money," said Titmouse, suddenly, "you can't
think how surprising handsome Mr. Tag-rag has behaved to me!"

"Indeed, my dear sir!" exclaimed Gammon, with real curiosity, "what has
he done?"

"Advanced to me five pounds--all of his own head!"

"Are you serious, Mr. Titmouse?" inquired Gammon.

Titmouse produced the change which he had obtained for Tag-rag's
five-pound note, minus only the prices of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion,
the Damascus cream, and the eyeglass. Gammon merely stroked his chin in
a thoughtful manner. So occupied, indeed, was he with his reflections,
that though his eye was fixed on the ludicrous figure of Titmouse, which
so shortly before had occasioned him such paroxysms of laughter, he did
not feel the least inclination even to a smile. Tag-rag advance Titmouse
five pounds! A-hem!--Throwing as much smiling indifference into his
manner as was possible, he asked Titmouse the particulars of so strange
a transaction. Titmouse answered (how truly the reader can judge) that
Mr. Tag-rag had, in the very handsomest way, volunteered the loan of
five pounds; and moreover offered him any further sum he might require!

"What a charming change, Mr. Titmouse!" exclaimed Gammon, with a
watchful eye and anxious smile.

"Most delightful, 'pon my soul!"

"Rather sudden, too!--eh?--Mr. Titmouse?"

"Why--no--no; I should say, 'pon my life, certainly not. The fact is,
we've long misunderstood each other. He's had an uncommon good opinion
of me all the while--people _have_ tried to set him against me; but it's
no use, he's found them out--he told me so! And he's not only said, but
_done_ the handsome thing! He's turned up, by Jove, a trump all of a
sudden--though it's long looked an ugly card, to be sure!"

"Ha, ha, ha!--very!--how curious!" exclaimed Mr. Gammon, mechanically;
revolving several important matters in his mind.

"I'm going, too, to dine at Satin Lodge, Mr. Tag-rag's country house,
next Sunday."

"Indeed! It will be quite a change for you, Mr. Titmouse!"

"Yes, it will, by Jove; and--a--a--what's more--there's--hem!--you
understand?"

"Go on, I beg, my dear Mr. Titmouse"----

"There's a lady in the case--not that she's _said_ anything; but a nod's
as good as a wink to a blind horse--eh? Mr. Gammon?"

"I should think so--Miss Tag-rag will have money, of course?"

"You've hit it! Lots! But I've not made up my mind."

[I'd better undeceive this poor devil at once, as to this sordid wretch
Tag-rag, (thought Gammon,) otherwise the cunning old rogue may get a
very mischievous hold upon him! And a _lady in the case_! The old scamp
has a daughter! Whew! this will never do! The sooner I enlighten my
young friend the better--though at a little risk.]

"It's very important to be able to tell who are real and who false
friends, as I was saying just now, my dear Titmouse," said Gammon,
seriously.

"I think so. Now look for instance, there's that fellow Huckaback. I
should say _he_"----

"Pho! pho! my dear sir, a mere beetle--he's not worth thinking of, one
way or the other. But can't you guess another sham friend, who has
changed so suddenly?"

"Do you mean Mr. Tag-rag--eh?"

"I mention no names; but it's rather odd, that when I am speaking of
hollow-hearted friends, _you_ should at once name Mr. Tag-rag--ah, ha,
Mr. Titmouse!"

"The proof of the pudding--handsome is that handsome does; and I've got
£5 of his money, at any rate."

"Of course he took no _security_ for such a trifle, between such _very_
close friends?"

"Oh--why--now you mention it--But 'twas only a line--one line--a mere
_mem._ betwixt two gents--and I noticed it had no stamp!"

"I guessed as much, my dear sir," interrupted Gammon, calmly, with a
significant smile--"Tag-rag and Huckaback are quite on a par--a brace of
worthies--ah, ha, ha! My dear Titmouse, you are too honest and
confiding!"

"What keen eyes you lawyers have to be sure! Well--I never"--said
Titmouse, looking very grave--for he was evidently somewhat staggered.
"I--I--must say," he presently added, looking gratefully at Gammon, "I
think I _do_ now know of a true friend, that sent me two five-pound
notes, and never asked for any security."

"My dear sir, you really pain me by alluding to such a matter!"

[Oh, Gammon, is not this too bad? What are the papers which you know are
now in your pocket, signed only this very evening by Titmouse?]

"You are not a match for Tag-rag, Mr. Titmouse; because he was _made_
for a tradesman--you are not. Do you think he would have parted with his
£5 but for value received? Oh, Tag-rag! Tag-rag!"

"I--I really begin to think, Mr. Gammon--'pon my soul, I do think you're
right."

"Think!--why--for a man of your acuteness--how could he imagine you
could forget the long course of insult and tyranny which you have
endured under him: that he should change all of a sudden--just now,
when"----

"Ay, by Jove! just when I'm coming into my property," interrupted
Titmouse, quickly.

"To be sure--to be sure! just now, I say, to make this sudden change!
Bah! bah!"

"I hate Tag-rag, and always did. Now he's trying to take me in, just as
he does everybody; but I've found him out; I won't lay out a penny with
him!"

"Would you, do you think, ever have seen the inside of Satin Lodge, if
you hadn't"----

"Why, I don't know; I really think--hem!"

"_Would_ you, my dear sir?--But now a scheme occurs to me--a very
amusing idea indeed! Ah, ha, ha!--Shall I tell you a way of proving to
his own face how insincere and interested he is towards you? Go to
dinner by all means, eat his good things, hear all that the whole set of
them have to say, and just before you go, (it will require you to have
your wits about you,) pretend, with a long face, that our affair is all
a bottle of smoke: say that Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap have told
you the day before that they had made a horrid mistake, and you were the
wrong man"----

"'Pon my life, I--I--really," stammered Titmouse "daren't--I couldn't--I
couldn't keep it up--he'd half kill me. Besides, there will be Miss
Tag-rag--it would be the death of her, I know."

"Miss Tag-rag! Gracious Heavens! What on earth can you have to do with
_her_? _You_--why, if you really succeed in getting this fine property,
she might make a very suitable wife for one of your grooms--ah,
ha!--But for _you_--absurd!"

"Ah! I don't know--she may be a devilish fine girl, and the old fellow
will have a tolerable penny to leave her--and a bird in the hand--eh?
Besides, I know what she's all along thought--hem!--but that doesn't
signify."

"Pho! pho! Ridiculous! Ha, ha, ha! Fancy Miss Tag-rag Mrs. Titmouse!
Your eldest son--ah, ha, ha! Tag-rag Titmouse, Esq. Delightful! Your
honored father a draper in Oxford Street!" All this might be very
clever, but it did not seem to _tell_ upon Titmouse, whose little heart
had been reached by a cunning hint of Tag-rag's concerning his
daughter's flattering estimate of Titmouse's personal appearance. The
reason why Gammon attacked so seriously a matter which appeared so
chimerical and preposterous, was this--that according to his present
plan, Titmouse was to remain for some considerable while at Tag-rag's,
and might, with his utter weakness of character, be worked upon by
Tag-rag and his daughter, and get inveigled into an engagement which
might be productive hereafter of no little embarrassment. Gammon
succeeded, however, at length, in obtaining Titmouse's promise to adopt
his suggestion, and thereby discover the true nature of the feelings
entertained towards him at Satin Lodge. He shook Titmouse energetically
by the hand, and left him perfectly certain that if there was one person
in the world worthy of his esteem, and even reverence, that person was
OILY GAMMON, ESQ.

As he bent his steps towards Saffron Hill, he reflected rather anxiously
on several matters which had occurred to him during the interview which
I have just described. On reaching the office, he was presently closeted
with Mr. Quirk, to whom, first and foremost, he exhibited and delivered
the documents to which he had obtained Titmouse's signature, and which,
the reader will allow me to assure him, were of a somewhat different
texture from a certain legal instrument or security which I laid before
him some little time ago.

"Now, Gammon," said the old gentleman, as soon as he had locked up in
his safe the above-mentioned documents--"Now, Gammon, I think we may be
up and at 'em; load our guns, and blaze away," and he rubbed his hands.

"Perhaps so, Mr. Quirk," replied Gammon; "but we must, for no earthly
consideration, be premature in our operations! Let me, by the way, tell
you one or two little matters that have just happened to
Titmouse!"--Then he told Mr. Quirk of the effects which had followed the
use of the potent Cyanochaitanthropopoion, at which old Quirk almost
laughed himself into fits. When, however, Gammon, with a serious air,
mentioned the name of Miss Tag-rag, and his grave suspicions concerning
her, Quirk bounced up out of his chair, almost startling Gammon out of
_his_. If Mr. Quirk had just been told that his banker had broken, he
could scarce have shown more emotion.

The fact was, that he, too, had a DAUGHTER--an only child--Miss
Quirk--whom he had destined to become Mrs. Titmouse.

"A designing old villain!" he exclaimed at length, and Gammon agreed
with him; but strange to say, with all his acuteness, never adverted to
the real cause of Quirk's sudden and vehement exclamation. When Gammon
told him of the manner in which he had opened Titmouse's eyes to the
knavery of Tag-rag, and the expedient he had suggested for its complete
demonstration to Titmouse, Quirk could have worshipped Gammon, and could
not help rising and shaking him very energetically by the hand, much to
his astonishment. After a long consultation, they determined to look
out fresh lodgings for Titmouse, and remove him presently altogether
from the company and influence of Tag-rag. Some time after they had
parted, Mr. Quirk came with an eager air into Mr. Gammon's room, with a
most important suggestion; viz. whether it would not be possible for
them to get Tag-rag to _become a surety_ to them, by and by, on behalf
of Titmouse? Gammon was delighted!--He heartily commended Mr. Quirk's
sagacity, and promised to turn it about in his thoughts very carefully.
Not having been let entirely into Quirk's policy, (of which the reader
has, however, just had a glimpse,) Mr. Gammon did not see the
difficulties which kept Quirk awake almost all that night; viz. how to
protect Titmouse from the machinations of Tag-rag and his daughter, and
yet keep Tag-rag sufficiently interested in, and intimate with,
Titmouse, to entertain, by and by, the idea of becoming surety for him
to them, the said Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; and--withal--how to
manage Titmouse all the while, so as to forward their objects, and also
that of turning his attention towards Miss Quirk; all this formed really
rather a difficult problem!--Quirk looked down on Tag-rag with honest
indignation, as a mean and mercenary fellow, whose unprincipled schemes,
thank Heaven! he already saw through, and from which he resolved to
rescue his innocent and confiding client, who was made for better
things--_to wit, Miss Quirk_.

When Titmouse rose the next morning, (Saturday,) behold--he found his
hair had become of a variously shaded purple or violet color!
Astonishment and apprehension by turns possessed him, as he stared into
the glass, at this unlooked-for change of color; and hastily dressing
himself, after swallowing a very slight breakfast, off he went once more
to the scientific establishment in Bond Street, to which he had been
indebted for his recent delightful experiences. The distinguished
inventor and proprietor of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion was behind the
counter as usual--calm and confident as ever.

"Ah! I see--as I said! as I said!" quoth he, with a sort of glee in his
manner. "Isn't it?--coming round quicker than usual--Really, I'm selling
more of the article than I can possibly make."

"Well,"--at length said Titmouse, as soon as he had recovered from the
surprise occasioned by the sudden volubility with which he had been
assailed on entering--"then _is_ it really going on tolerable well?"
taking off his hat, and looking anxiously into a glass that hung close
by.

"_Tolerable_ well, my dear sir! Delightful! Perfect! Couldn't be better!
If you'd studied the thing, you'd know, sir, that purple is the middle
color between green and black. Indeed, black's only purple and green
mixed, which explains the whole thing!" Titmouse listened with infinite
satisfaction to this unanswerable and truly philosophical account of the
matter.

"Remember, sir--my hair is to come like yours--eh? you recollect, sir?
Honor--that was the bargain, you know!"

"I have very little doubt of it, sir--nay, I am certain of it, knowing
it by experience."

[The scamp had been hired expressly for the purpose of lying thus in
support of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion; his own hair being a _natural_
black.]

"I'm going to a grand dinner to-morrow, sir," said Titmouse, "with some
devilish great people at the west end of the town--eh? you understand?
will it do by that time? Would give a trifle to get my hair a shade
darker by that time--for--hem!--most lovely gal--eh? you understand the
thing?--devilish anxious, and all that sort of thing, you know!"

"Yes--I do," replied the gentleman of the shop, in a confidential tone;
and opening one of the glass doors behind him, took out a bottle
considerably larger than the first, and handed it to Titmouse. "This,"
said he, "will complete the thing; it combines chemically with the
purple particles, and the result is--generally arrived at in about two
days' time"----

"But it will do _something_ in a night's time--eh!--surely."

"I should think so! But here it is--it is called the TETARAGMENON
ABRACADABRA."

"What a name!" exclaimed Titmouse, with a kind of awe. "'Pon honor, it
almost takes one's breath away"----

"It will do more, sir; it will take your red hair away! By the way, only
the day before yesterday, a lady of high rank, (between ourselves, Lady
Caroline Carrot,) whose red hair always seemed as if it would have set
her bonnet in a blaze--ha, ha!--came here, after two days' use of the
Cyanochaitanthropopoion, and one day's use of this Tetaragmenon
Abracadabra--and asked me if I knew her. Upon my soul I did not, till
she solemnly assured me she was really Lady Caroline!"

"_How_ much is it?" eagerly inquired Titmouse, thrusting his hand into
his pocket, with no little excitement.

"Only nine-and-sixpence."

"Oh, my stars, what a price! Nine-and-six"----

"Ah, but would you have believed it, sir? This extraordinary fluid cost
a great German chemist his whole life to bring to perfection; and it
contains expensive materials from all the four corners of the world!
It's ruined the proprietor long ago!"

"That may be--but really--I've laid out a large figure with you, sir,
this day or two! Couldn't you say eight sh"----

"We never abate, sir; it's not _our_ style of doing business," replied
the gentleman, in a manner that quite overawed poor Titmouse, who at
once bought this, the third abomination; not a little depressed,
however, at the heavy prices which he had paid for the three bottles,
and the uncertainty he felt as to the ultimate issue. That night he was
so well satisfied with the progress which he was making with his hair,
(for, by candle light, it really looked much darker than could have been
expected,) that he resolved--at all events for the present--to leave
well alone; or at the utmost, to try the effects of the Tetaragmenon
Abracadabra only upon his eyebrows and whiskers. Into them he rubbed the
new specific; which, on the bottle being opened, surprised him in two
respects: first, it was perfectly colorless; secondly, it had a most
infernal smell. It was, however, no use hesitating: he had bought and
paid for it; and the papers in which it was folded gave an account of
its success that was really irresistible and unquestionable. Away,
therefore, he rubbed; and when he had finished, got into bed, in humble
hope as to the result, which would be disclosed by the morning's light.
But, alas! would you have believed it? When he looked at himself in the
glass, about six o'clock on the ensuing morning, (at which hour he
awoke,) I protest it is a fact, that his eyebrows and whiskers were as
white as snow; which, combined with the purple color of the hair on his
head, rendered him one of the most astounding objects (in human shape)
the eye of man had ever beheld. There was the wisdom of age seated in
his white eyebrows and whiskers, unspeakable youthful folly in his
features, and a purple crown of WONDER on his head.

Really, it seemed as if the devil were wreaking his spite on Mr.
Titmouse; nay, perhaps it was the devil himself who had served him with
the bottles in Bond Street. Or was it a mere ordinary servant of the
devil--some greedy, impudent, unprincipled speculator, who, desirous of
acting on the approved maxim--_Fiat experimentum in corpore vili_--had
pitched on Titmouse (seeing the sort of person he was) as a godsend,
quite reckless what effect might be produced on his hair, so as the
stuff were paid for, and its effects noted? It might possibly have been
sport to the gentleman of the shop, but it was near proving death to
poor Titmouse, who might possibly have resolved on throwing himself out
of the window, only that he saw it was not big enough for a baby to get
through. He turned aghast at the monstrous object which his little glass
presented to him; and sank down upon the bed with the feeling that he
was now fit for death. As before, Mrs. Squallop made her appearance with
his kettle for breakfast. He was sitting at the table dressed, and with
his arms folded, with a reckless air, not at all caring to conceal the
new and still more frightful change which he had undergone since she saw
him last. Mrs. Squallop stared at him for a second or two in silence;
then, stepping back out of the room, suddenly drew to the door, and
stood outside, laughing vehemently.

"I'll kick you down-stairs!" shouted Titmouse, rushing to the door pale
with fury, and pulling it open.

"Mr.--Mr.--Titmouse, you'll be the death of me--you will--you will!"
gasped Mrs. Squallop, almost black in the face, and the water running
out of the kettle, which she was unconsciously holding aslant. After a
while, however, they got reconciled. Mrs. Squallop had fancied he had
been but rubbing chalk on his eyebrows and whiskers; and seemed
dismayed, indeed, on hearing the true state of the case. He implored her
to send out for a small bottle of ink; but as it was Sunday morning none
could be got;--she knew that no one in the court used ink, and she
teased him to try a little _blacking_! He did--but it was useless!--He
sat for an hour or two, in an ecstasy of grief and rage. What would he
now have given never to have meddled with the hair which Heaven had
thought fit to send him into the world with? Alas, with what mournful
force Mrs. Squallop's words again and again recurred to him! To say that
he ate breakfast would be scarcely correct. He drank a single cup of
cocoa, and ate a small fragment of roll, and then put away his breakfast
things on the window shelf. If he had been in the humor to go to church,
how could he? He would have been turned out as an object involuntarily
exciting everybody to laughter!

Yet, poor soul, in this extremity of misery, he was not utterly
neglected; for he had that morning quite a little levee. First came Mr.
Snap, who, having quite as keen and clear an eye for his own interest as
his senior partners, had early seen how capable was an acquaintance with
Titmouse of being turned to his (Snap's) great advantage. He had come,
therefore, dressed very stylishly, to do a little bit of toadying on the
sly, (on his own exclusive account;) and had brought with him, for the
edification of Titmouse, a copy of that day's _Sunday Flash_, which
contained a long account of a bloody fight between Birmingham Bigbones
and London Littlego, for £500 a-side, (sixty rounds had been fought,
both men killed, and their seconds had bolted to Boulogne.) Poor Snap,
however, though he had come with the best intentions, and the most
anxious wish to evince profound respect for the future master of ten
thousand a-year, was quite taken by storm by the very first glimpse he
got of Titmouse, and could not for a long while recover himself. He had
come to ask Titmouse to dine with him at a tavern in the Strand, where
there was to be capital singing in the evening; and also to accompany
him, on the ensuing morning, to the Old Bailey, to hear "a most
interesting trial" for bigamy, in which Snap was concerned for the
prisoner--a miscreant, who had been married to five living women!! Snap
conceived (and very justly) that it would give Titmouse a striking idea
of his (Snap's) importance, to see him so much, and apparently so
familiarly concerned with well-known counsel. In his own terse and
quaint way, he was explaining to Titmouse the various remedies he had
against the Bond Street impostor, both by indictment and action on the
case, nay, (getting a little, however, beyond his depth,) he assured the
eager Titmouse, that a bill of discovery would lie in equity, to
ascertain what the Tetaragmenon Abracadabra was composed of, with a view
to his preferring an indictment against its owner, when his learned
display was interrupted by a double knock, and--oh, mercy on us!--enter
Mr. Gammon. Whether he or Snap felt more disconcerted, I cannot say; but
Snap _looked_ the most confused and sneaking. Each told the other a lie,
in as easy, good-natured a way as he could assume, concerning the object
of his visit to Titmouse. Thus they were going on, when--another
knock--and, "Is this Mr. Titmouse's?" inquired a voice, which brought a
little color into the face of both Gammon and Snap; for it was
absolutely old Quirk, who bustled breathless into the room, on his first
visit, and seemed completely confounded by the sight of both his
partners. What with this, and the amazing appearance presented by
Titmouse, Mr. Quirk was so overwhelmed that he scarce spoke a syllable.
Each of the three partners felt (in his own way) exquisite
embarrassment. Huckaback, some time afterwards, made his appearance; but
_him_ Titmouse unceremoniously dismissed in a twinkling, in spite of a
vehement remonstrance. Behold, however, presently another arrival--Mr.
Tag-rag!! who had come to announce that his carriage (_i. e._ a queer,
rickety, little one-horse chaise, with a tallow-faced boy in it, in
faded livery) was waiting to convey Mr. Titmouse to Satin Lodge, and
take him a long drive in the country! Each of these four worthies could
have spit in the other's face: first, for _detecting_, and secondly, for
_rivalling_ him in his schemes upon Titmouse. A few minutes after the
arrival of Tag-rag, Gammon, half-choked with disgust, and despising
himself even more than he despised his fellow-visitors, slunk off,
followed almost immediately by Quirk, who was dying to consult him on
this new aspect of affairs which had presented itself. Snap (who ever
since the arrival of Messrs. Quirk and Gammon had felt like an ape on
hot irons) very shortly followed in the footsteps of his partners,
having made no engagement whatever with Titmouse; and thus the
enterprising and determined Tag-rag was left master of the field. He had
in fact come to _do business_, and business he determined to do. As for
Gammon, during the short time he had stayed, how he had endeared himself
to Titmouse, by explaining, not aware that Titmouse had confessed all to
Snap, the singular change in the color of his hair to have been
occasioned simply by the intense mental anxiety through which he had
lately passed! The touching anecdotes he told of sufferers, whose hair a
single night's agony had changed to all the colors of the rainbow!
Though Tag-rag outstayed all his fellow-visitors, in the manner which
has been described, he could not prevail upon Titmouse to accompany him
in his "carriage," for Titmouse pleaded a pressing engagement, (_i. e._
a desperate attempt he purposed making to obtain some _ink_,) but
pledged himself to make his appearance at Satin Lodge at the appointed
hour (half-past three or four o'clock.) Away, therefore, drove Tag-rag,
delighted that Satin Lodge would so soon contain so resplendent a
visitor--indignant at the cringing, sycophantic attentions of Messrs.
Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, against whom he resolved to put Titmouse on his
guard, and infinitely astonished at the extraordinary change which had
taken place in the color of Titmouse's hair. Partly influenced by the
explanation which Gammon had given of the phenomenon, Tag-rag resigned
himself to feelings of simple wonder. Titmouse was doubtless passing
through stages of physical transmogrification, corresponding with the
marvellous change that was taking place in his circumstances; and for
all he (Tag-rag) knew, other and more extraordinary changes were going
on; Titmouse might be growing at the rate of half an inch a-day, and
soon stand before him a man more than six feet high! Considerations such
as these invested Titmouse with intense and overpowering interest in the
estimation of Tag-rag; _how_ could he make enough of him at Satin Lodge
that day? If ever that hardened sinner felt inclined to utter an inward
prayer, it was as he drove home that day--that Heaven would array his
daughter in angel hues to the eyes of Titmouse!

My friend Tittlebat made his appearance at the gate of Satin Lodge, at
about a quarter to four o'clock. Good gracious, how he had dressed
himself out! So as very considerably to exceed his appearance when first
presented to the reader.

Miss Tag-rag had been before her glass ever since the instant of her
return from chapel, up to within ten minutes' time of Titmouse's
arrival. An hour and a half at least had she bestowed on her hair,
disposing it in little corkscrew and somewhat scanty curls, which quite
glistened in bear's grease, hanging on each side of a pair of lean and
sallow cheeks. The color which ought to have distributed itself over her
cheeks, in roseate delicacy, had, two or three years before, thought fit
to collect itself into the tip of her sharp little nose. Her small gray
eyes beamed with the gentle and attractive expression perceptible in her
father's; and her projecting under lip reminded everybody of that
delicate feature in her mother. She was very short, and her figure
rather skinny and angular. She wore her lilac-colored frock; her waist
being pinched in to a degree which made you think of a fit of the colic
when you looked at her--and gave you a dim vision of a coroner's inquest
on a case of death by tight lacing! A long red sash, tied in a most
elaborate bow, gave a very brilliant air to her dress generally. She had
a thin gold chain round her neck, and wore long white gloves; her left
hand holding her pocket-handkerchief, which she had so suffused with
bergamot that it scented the whole room. Mrs. Tag-rag had made herself
very splendid, in a red silk gown and staring head-dress; in fact, she
seemed _on fire_. As for Mr. Tag-rag, whenever he was dressed in his
Sunday clothes, he looked the model of a dissenting minister; witness
his black coat, waistcoat and trousers, and primly tied white
neckerchief, with no shirt-collar visible. For some quarter of an hour
had this interesting trio been standing at their parlor window, in
anxious expectation of Titmouse's arrival; their only amusement being
the numberless dusty stage-coaches driving every five minutes close past
their gate, (which was about ten yards from their house,) at once
enlivening and ruralizing the scene. Oh, that poor laburnum--laden with
dust, drooping with drought, and evidently in the very last stage of a
decline--that was planted beside the little gate! Tag-rag spoke of
cutting it down; but Mrs. and Miss Tag-rag begged its life a little
longer, because none of their neighbors had one!--and then _that_
subject dropped. How was it that though both the ladies had sat under a
thundering discourse from Mr. Dismal Horror that morning--they had never
once since thought or spoken of him or his sermon--never even opened his
exhilarating "_Groans_"? The reason was plain. They thought of Titmouse,
who was bringing "airs from heaven;" while Horror brought only "blasts
from----!" and _those_ they had every day in the week, (his sermons on
the Sunday, his "_Groans_" on the weekday.) At length Miss Tag-rag's
little heart fluttered violently, for her papa told her that Titmouse
was coming up the road--and so he was. Not dreaming that he could be
seen, he stood beside the gate for a moment, under the melancholy
laburnum; and, taking a dirty-looking silk handkerchief out of his hat,
slapped it vigorously about his boots, (from which circumstance it may
be inferred that he had walked,) and replaced it in his hat. Then he
unbuttoned his surtout, adjusted it nicely, and disposed his chain and
eyeglass just so as to let the tip only of the latter be seen peeping
out of his waistcoat; twitched up his shirt-collar, plucked down his
wristbands, drew the tip of a white pocket handkerchief out of the
pocket in the breast of his surtout, pulled a white glove halfway on his
left hand; and having thus given the finishing touches to his toilet,
opened the gate, and--Tittlebat Titmouse, Esquire, the great guest of
the day, for the first time in his life (swinging a little ebony cane
about with careless grace) entered the domain of Mr. Tag-rag.

The little performance I have been describing, though every bit of it
passing under the eyes of Tag-rag, his wife, and his daughter, had not
excited a smile; their anxious feelings were too deep to be reached or
stirred by light emotions. Miss Tag-rag turned very pale and trembled.

"La, pa!" said she, faintly, "how could you say he'd got white eyebrows
and whiskers? Why--they're a beautiful _black_!"

Tag-rag was speechless: the fact was so--for Titmouse had fortunately
succeeded in obtaining a little bottle of ink, which he had applied with
great effect. As Titmouse approached the house, (Tag-rag hurrying out to
open the door for him,) he saw the two ladies standing at the windows.
Off went his hat, and out dropped the dusty silk handkerchief, not a
little disconcerting him for the moment. Tag-rag, however, soon
occupied his attention at the door with anxious civilities, shaking him
by the hand, hanging up his hat and stick for him, and then introducing
him to the sitting-room. The ladies received him with the most profound
courtesies, which Titmouse returned with a quick embarrassed bow, and an
indistinct--"Hope you're well, mem?"

If they had had presence of mind enough to observe it, the purple color
of Titmouse's hair must have surprised them not a little; all _they_
could see standing before them, however, was--the angelic owner of ten
thousand a-year.

The only person tolerably at his ease, and he _only_ tolerably, was Mr.
Tag-rag; and he asked his guest----

"Wash your hands, Titmouse, before dinner?" But Titmouse said he had
washed them before he had come out. [The day was hot, and he had walked
five miles at a slapping pace.] In a few minutes, however, he felt a
little more assured; it being impossible for him not to perceive the
awful deference with which he was treated.

"Seen the _Sunday Flash_, mem?" he presently inquired, very modestly,
addressing Mrs. Tag-rag.

"I--I--that is--not _to-day_," she replied, coloring.

"Vastly amusing, isn't it?" interposed Tag-rag, to prevent mischief--for
he knew his wife would as soon have taken a cockatrice into her hand.

"Ye--e--s," replied Titmouse, who had not even glanced at the copy which
Snap had brought him. "An uncommon good fight between Birmingham
Big"----

Tag-rag saw his wife getting redder and redder. "No news stirring about
things in general, is there?" said he, with a desperate attempt at a
diversion.

"Not that I have heard," replied Titmouse. Soon he got a little farther,
and said how cheerful the stages going past must make the house. Tag-rag
agreed with him. Then there was a little pause. None of the party knew
exactly which way to look, nor in what posture to sit. Faint "hems" were
occasionally heard. In short, no one felt _at home_.

"Been to church, mem, this morning, mem?" timidly inquired Titmouse of
Miss Tag-rag--the first time of his daring to address her.

"Yes, sir," she replied, faintly coloring, casting her eyes to the
ground, and suddenly putting her hand into that of her mother--with
_such_ an innocent, engaging simplicity--like a timid fawn lying as
close as possible to its dam![13]

"We always go to _chapel_, sir," said Mrs. Tag-rag, confidently, in
spite of a deadly look from her husband; "the _gospel_ a'n't preached in
the Church of England! We sit under Mr. Horror--a heavenly preacher!
You've heard of Mr. Horror?"

"Yes, mem! Oh, yes! Capital preacher!" replied Titmouse, who of course
(being a true churchman) had never in his life heard of Mr. Horror, or
any other dissenter.

"When _will_ dinner be ready, Mrs. T.?" inquired Tag-rag, abruptly, and
with a very perceptible dash of sternness in his tone; but dinner was
announced the very next moment. He took his wife's arm, and in doing so,
gave it a sudden vehement pressure, which, coupled with a furious
glance, explained to her the extent to which she had incurred his anger!

Titmouse's offered arm the timid Miss Tag-rag scarcely touched with the
tip of her finger, as she walked beside him to dinner. He soon got
tolerably composed and cheerful at dinner, (which, contrary to their
usual custom--which was to have a cheerless _cold_ dinner on the
Sabbath--consisted of a little piece of nice roast beef, with plenty of
horse-radish, Yorkshire pudding, a boiled fowl, a plum-pudding made by
Mrs. Tag-rag, and custards which had been superintended by Miss Tag-rag
herself,) and, to oblige his hospitable host and hostess, ate till he
was near bursting. Miss Tag-rag, though really very hungry, could be
prevailed upon to take only a very small slice of beef and a quarter of
a custard, and drank a third of a glass of quasi sherry (_i. e._ Cape
wine) after dinner. She never once spoke, except in hurried answers, to
her papa and mamma; and sitting exactly opposite Titmouse, (with a big
plate of greens and a boiled fowl between them,) was continually
coloring whenever their eyes happened to encounter one another, on which
occasions, hers would suddenly drop, as if overpowered by the brilliance
of his. Titmouse began to love her very fast. After the ladies had
withdrawn, you should have heard the way in which Tag-rag went on with
Titmouse!--I can liken the two to nothing but an old fat spider and a
little fly.

    "Will you come into my parlor?
    Said the spider to the fly;"

--in the old song: and it might have been well for Titmouse to have
answered, in the language of the aforesaid fly:--

    "No, thank you, sir, I really feel
    No curiosity."

Titmouse, however, swallowed with equal facility Mr. Tag-rag's hard port
and his soft blarney; but _all_ fools have large swallows. When, at
length, Tag-rag with exquisite skill and delicacy alluded to the
painfully evident embarrassment of his "poor Tabby," and said he had
"all of a sudden found out what had been so long the matter with her,"
[ay, even this went down,] and hemmed, and winked his eye, and drained
his glass, Titmouse began to get flustered, blushed, and hoped Mr.
Tag-rag would soon "join the ladies." They did so, Tag-rag stopping
behind for a few moments to lock up the wine and the remains of the
fruit, not wishing to subject the servant-boy to temptation by the rare
opportunity afforded by fruit left on the table. Miss Tag-rag presided
over the tea-things. There were muffins, and crumpets, and reeking-hot
buttered toast; and hospitable Mrs. Tag-rag would hear of no denial,
"things had been _got_, and must be _eat_," she thought within herself;
so poor Titmouse, after a most desperate resistance, was obliged to
swallow a round of toast, half a muffin, an entire crumpet, and four
cups of hot tea; after which _they_ felt that _he_ must feel
comfortable; but he, alas, in fact, experienced a very painful degree of
turgidity, and a miserable conviction that he should be able neither to
eat nor drink anything more for the remainder of the week!

After the tea-things had been removed, Tag-rag, directing Titmouse's
attention to the piano, which was open, (with some music on it, ready to
be played from,) asked him whether he liked music. Titmouse, with great
eagerness, hoped Miss T. would give them some music; and she, after
holding out a long and vigorous siege, at length asked her papa what it
should be.

"_The Battle of Prague_," said her papa.

"_Before Jehovah's awful throne_, my dear!" hastily and anxiously
interposed her mamma.

"The Battle," sternly repeated her papa.

"It's Sunday night, Mr. T.," meekly rejoined his wife.

"Which will you have, Mr. Titmouse?" inquired Tag-rag, with _The Battle
of Prague_ written in every feature of his face. Titmouse almost burst
into a state of perspiration.

"A little of both, sir, if you please."

"Well," replied Tag-rag, slightly relaxing, "that will do. Split the
difference--eh? Come, Tab, down with you. Titmouse, will you turn over
the music for my little girl?"

Titmouse rose, and having sheepishly taken his station beside Miss
Tag-rag, the performances commenced with _Before Jehovah's awful
throne_! But mercy upon us! at what a rate she rattled over that "pious
air!" If its respectable composer (whoever he may be) had been present,
he must have gone into a fit; but there was no help for it--the heart of
the lovely performer was in _The Battle of Prague_, to which she
presently did most ample justice. So much were her feelings engaged in
that sublime composition, that the bursting of one of the
strings--twang! in the middle of the "_cannonading_" did not at all
disturb her; and, as soon as she had finished the exquisite "finale,"
Titmouse was in such a tumult of excitement, from a variety of causes,
that he could have shed tears. Though he had never once turned over at
the right place, Miss Tag-rag thanked him for his services with a smile
of infinite sweetness. Titmouse vowed he had never heard such splendid
music--begged for more: and away went Miss Tag-rag, hurried away by her
excitement. Rondo after rondo, march after march, she rattled over for
at least half an hour upon those hideous jingling keys; at the end of
which old Tag-rag suddenly kissed her with passionate fondness. Though
Mrs. Tag-rag was horrified at the impiety of all this, she kept a very
anxious eye on the young couple, and interchanged with her husband,
every now and then, very significant looks. Shortly after nine, spirits,
wine, and hot and cold water, were brought in. At the sight of them
Titmouse looked alarmed--for he knew that he must take something more,
though he would have freely given five shillings to be excused--for he
felt as if he could not hold another drop! But it was in vain.
_Willy-nilly_, a glass of gin and water stood soon before him; he
protested he could not touch it unless Miss Tag-rag would "take
something"--whereupon, with a blush, she "thought she _would_" take a
wine-glassful of sherry and water. This was provided her. Then Tag-rag
mixed a tumbler of port-wine negus for Mrs. Tag-rag, and a great glass
of mahogany-colored brandy and water for himself; and then he looked
round the elegant little apartment, and felt perfectly happy. As
Titmouse advanced with his gin and water, his spirits got higher and
higher, and his tongue more fluent. He once or twice dropped the "Mr."
when addressing Tag-rag; several times smiled, and once even winked at
the embarrassed Miss Tag-rag. Mr. Tag-rag saw it, and could not control
himself--for he had got to the end of his first glass of brandy and
water, and (a most unusual procedure with _him_) mixed himself a second
quite _as_ strong as the former.

"Tab! ah, Tab! what _has_ been the matter with you all these months?"
said he, chucking her under the chin--and then he winked his eye at her
and then at Titmouse.

"Papa!" exclaimed Miss Tag-rag, looking down, and blushing up to her
very temples.

"Ah, Titmouse--Titmouse--give me your hand," said Tag-rag; "you'll
forget us all when you're a great man--but we shall always remember
you!"

"You're very good--very!" said Titmouse, cordially returning the
pressure of Tag-rag's hand. At that instant it suddenly occurred to him
to adopt the suggestion of Mr. Gammon. Tag-rag was going on very fast,
indeed, about the disinterested nature of his feelings towards Titmouse;
towards whom, he said, he had always felt just as he did at that
moment--'twas in vain to deny it.

"I'm sure your conduct shows it, sir," commenced Titmouse, feeling a
shudder like that with which a timid bather approaches the margin of the
cold stream. "I could have taken my oath, sir, that when you had heard
what has happened, you would have refused to let me come into your
house!"----

"Ah, ha!--that's _rather_ an odd idea, too!" said Tag-rag, with
good-humored jocularity. "If I felt a true friendship for you as plain
Titmouse, it's so likely I should have _cut_ you just when--ahem! My
dear sir! It was _I_ that thought _you_ wouldn't have come into _my_
house! A likely thing, indeed!"

Titmouse was puzzled. His perceptions, never very quick or clear, were
now undoubtedly somewhat obfuscated with what he had been drinking. In
short, he did not understand that Tag-rag had not understood _him_; and
felt rather baffled.

"What surprising ups and downs there are in life, Mr. Titmouse!" said
Mrs. Tag-rag, respectfully--"they're all sent from above, you may depend
upon it, to _try_ us! No one knows how they'd behave, if as how (in a
manner) they were turned upside down."

"I--I hope, mem, I haven't done anything to show that _I_"----

"Oh! my dear Titmouse," anxiously interrupted Tag-rag, inwardly cursing
his wife, who, finding she always went wrong in her husband's eyes
whenever she spoke a word, determined for the future to stick to her
negus--"The fact is, there's a Mr. Horror here that's for sending all
decent people to----. He's filled my wife there with all sorts of----
nay, if she isn't bursting with cant--so never mind her! _You_ done
anything wrong! I _will_ say this for you--you always was a pattern of
modesty and propriety--your hand, my dear Titmouse!"

"Well--I'm a happy man again," resumed Titmouse, resolved now to go on
with his adventure. "And when did they tell you of it, sir?"

"Oh, a few days ago--a week ago," replied Tag-rag, trying to recollect.

"Why--why--sir--a'n't you mistaken?" inquired Titmouse, with a
depressed, but at the same time a surprised air. "It only happened this
morning, after you left"----

"Eh?--eh?--ah, ha!--What _do_ you mean, Mr. Titmouse?" interrupted
Tag-rag, with a faint attempt at a smile. Mrs. Tag-rag and Miss Tag-rag
also turned exceedingly startled faces towards Titmouse, who felt as if
a house were going to fall down on him.

"Why, sir," he began to cry, (an attempt which was greatly aided by the
maudlin condition to which drink had reduced him,) "till to-day, I
thought I was heir to ten thousand a-year, and it seems I'm not; it's
all a mistake of those cursed people at Saffron Hill!"

Tag-rag's face changed visibly, and showed the desperate shock he had
just sustained. His inward agony was forcing out on his slanting
forehead a dew of perspiration.

"What--a--capital--joke--Mr.--Titmouse--ah, ha!"--he gasped, hastily
passing his handkerchief over his forehead. Titmouse, though greatly
alarmed, stood to his gun pretty steadily.

"I--I wish it was a joke! It's been no joke to _me_, sir. There's
another Tittlebat Titmouse, it seems, in Shoreditch, that's the
right"----

"Who told you this, sir? Pho, I don't--I can't believe it," said
Tag-rag, in a voice tremulous between suppressed rage and fear.

"Too true, though, 'pon my life! It _is_, so help me----!" in the most
earnest and solemn manner.

"How dare you swear before ladies, sir? You're insulting them, sir!"
cried Tag-rag, trembling with rage. "And in _my_ presence, too, sir?
You're not a gentleman!" He suddenly dropped his voice, and in a
trembling and almost beseeching manner, asked Titmouse whether he was
really joking or serious.

"Never more serious in my life, sir; and enough to make me so, sir!"
replied Titmouse, in a lamentable manner.

"You really mean, then, to tell me it's all a mistake, then--and that
you're no more than what you always were?" inquired Tag-rag, with a
desperate attempt to speak calmly.

"Oh yes, sir! Yes!" cried Titmouse, mournfully; "and if you'll only be
so kind as to let me serve you as I used--I'll serve you faithfully! You
know it was no fault of _mine_, sir! They _would_ tell me it was so!"

'Tis impossible to conceive a more disgusting expression than the
repulsive features of Tag-rag wore at that moment, while he gazed in
ominous and agitated silence at Titmouse. His lips quivered, and he
seemed incapable of speaking.

"Oh, ma, I do feel _so_ ill!" faintly exclaimed Miss Tag-rag, turning
deadly pale. Titmouse was on the verge of dropping on his knees and
confessing the trick, greatly agitated at the effect unexpectedly
produced on Miss Tag-rag; when Tag-rag's heavy hand was suddenly placed
on his shoulder, and he whispered in a fierce undertone--"You're an
impostor, sir!" which arrested Titmouse, and made something like a MAN
of him. He was a fearful fool, but he did not want for mere _pluck_; and
now it was roused. Mrs. Tag-rag exclaimed, "Oh, you _shocking_ scamp!"
as she passed Titmouse, with much agitation, and led her daughter out of
the room.

"Then an impostor, sir, a'n't fit company for _you_, of course, sir!"
said Titmouse, rising, and trembling with mingled apprehension and
anger.

"Pay me my five-pound note!" almost shouted Tag-rag, furiously
tightening the grasp by which he held Titmouse's collar.

"Well, sir, and I will, if you'll only take your hand off! Hollo,
sir--What the de---- Leave go, sir! Hands off! Are you going to murder
me? I'll pay you, and done with you, sir," stammered Titmouse:--when a
faint scream was heard, plainly from Miss Tag-rag, overhead, and in
hysterics. Then the seething caldron boiled over. "You _infernal_
scoundrel!" exclaimed Tag-rag, almost choked with fury; and suddenly
seizing Titmouse by the collar, scarce giving him time, in passing, to
get hold of his hat and stick, he urged him along through the passage,
down the gravel walk, threw open the gate, thrust him furiously through
it, and sent after him such a blast of execration, as was almost strong
enough to drive him a hundred yards down the road! Titmouse did not
fully recover his breath or his senses for a long while afterwards. When
he did, the first thing he experienced, was a dreadful disposition
towards sickness; but gradually overcoming it, he felt an inclination to
fall down on his knees in the open road, and worship the sagacious and
admirable GAMMON, who had so exactly predicted what had come to pass!

And now, Mr. Titmouse, for some little time I have done with you.
Away!--give room to your betters. But don't think that I have yet
"rifled _all_ your sweetness," or am _yet_ about to "fling you like a
noisome weed away."



CHAPTER VII.


While the lofty door of a house in Grosvenor Street was yet quivering
under the shock of a previously announced dinner-arrival, one of the two
servants standing behind a carriage which approached from the direction
of Piccadilly, slipped off, and in a twinkling, with a
thun-thun-thunder-under-under, thunder-runder-runder, thun-thun-thun!
and a shrill thrilling _Whir-r-r_ of the bell, announced the arrival of
the Duke of----, the last guest. It was a large and plain carriage, but
perfectly well known; and before the door of the house at which it had
drawn up had been opened, displaying some four or five servants standing
in the hall, in simple but elegant liveries, some half-dozen passengers
had stopped to see get out of the carriage an elderly, middle-sized man,
with a somewhat spare figure, dressed in plain black clothes, with
iron-gray hair, and a countenance which, once seen, was not to be
forgotten. That was a great man; one, the like of whom many previous
centuries had not seen; whose name shot terror into the hearts of all
the enemies of old England all over the world, and fond pride and
admiration into the hearts of his fellow-countrymen.

"A quarter to eleven!" he said, in a quiet tone, to the servant who was
holding open the carriage door--while the bystanders took off their
hats; a courtesy which he acknowledged, as he slowly stepped across the
pavement, by touching his hat in a mechanical sort of way with his
forefinger. The house-door then closed upon him; the handful of
onlookers passed away; off rolled the empty carriage, and all without
was quiet as before. The house was that of Mr. Aubrey, one of the
members for the borough of YATTON, in Yorkshire--a man of rapidly rising
importance in Parliament. Surely his was a pleasant position--that of an
independent country gentleman, a member of one of the most ancient noble
families in England, with a clear unencumbered rent-roll of ten thousand
a-year, and already, in only his thirty-fourth year, the spokesman of
his class, and promising to become one of the ablest debaters in the
House! Parliament having been assembled, in consequence of a particular
emergency, at a much earlier period than usual, the House of Commons, in
which Mr. Aubrey had the evening before delivered a well-timed and
powerful speech, had adjourned for the Christmas recess, the House of
Lords being about to follow its example that evening: an important
division, however, being first expected to take place at a late hour.
Mr. Aubrey was warmly complimented on his success by several of the
select and brilliant circle then assembled; and who were all in high
spirits--on account of a considerable triumph just obtained by their
party, and to which Mr. Aubrey was assured, by even the Duke of----, his
exertions had certainly not a little contributed. While his Grace was
energetically intimating to Mr. Aubrey his opinion to this effect, there
were two lovely women listening to him with intense eagerness--they were
the wife and sister of Mr. Aubrey. The former was a very interesting and
handsome woman--with raven hair, and a complexion of dazzling
fairness--of nearly eight-and-twenty; the latter was a very beautiful
girl, somewhere between twenty and twenty-one. Both were dressed with
the utmost simplicity and elegance. Mrs. Aubrey, most dotingly fond of
her husband, and a blooming young mother of two as charming children as
were to be met with in a day's walk all over both the parks, was, in
character and manners, all pliancy and gentleness; while about Miss
Aubrey there was a dash of spirit which gave an infinite zest to her
beauty. Her blue eyes beamed with the richest expression of feeling--in
short, Catherine Aubrey was, both in face and figure, a downright
English beauty; and she knew--truth must be told--that such she appeared
to the Great Duke, whose cold aquiline eye she often _felt_ to be
settled upon her with satisfaction. The fact was that he had penetrated
at a first glance beneath the mere surface of an arch, sweet, and
winning manner, and detected a certain strength of character in Miss
Aubrey which gave him more than usual interest in her, and spread over
his iron-cast features a pleasant expression, relaxing their sternness.
It might indeed be said, that before her, in his person,

    "Grim-visaged war had smooth'd his wrinkled front."

'Twas a subject for a painter, that delicate and blooming girl, her
auburn hair hanging in careless grace on each side of her white
forehead, while her eyes,

    "That might have sooth'd a tiger's rage,
    Or thaw'd the cold heart of a conqueror,"

were fixed with absorbed interest on the stern and rigid countenance
which she reflected had been, as it were, a thousand times darkened with
the smoke of the grisly battle-field. But I must not forget that there
are others in the room; and among them, standing at a little distance,
is Lord De la Zouch, one of Mr. Aubrey's neighbors in Yorkshire.
Apparently he is listening to a brother peer talking to him very
earnestly about the expected division; but Lord De la Zouch's eye is
fixed on you, lovely Kate--and how little can you imagine what is
passing through his mind! It has just occurred to him that his sudden
arrangement for young Delamere--his only son and heir, come up the day
before from Oxford--to call for him about half-past ten, and take his
place in Mrs. Aubrey's drawing-room, while Lord De la Zouch goes down to
the House--may be attended with certain consequences! He is in truth
speculating on the effect of your beauty bursting suddenly on his
son--who has not seen you for nearly two years! all this gives him
anxiety--but not painful anxiety--for, dear Kate, he knows that your
forehead would wear the ancient coronet of the De la Zouches with grace
and dignity. But Delamere is as yet too young--and if he gets the image
of Catherine Aubrey into his head, it will, fears his father, instantly
cast into the shade and displace all the stern visages of those old
geometers, poets, orators, historians, philosophers, and statesmen, who
ought, in Lord De la Zouch's and his son's tutor's judgment, to occupy
exclusively the head of the aforesaid Delamere for some five years to
come. That youngster--happy fellow!--frank, high-spirited, and
enthusiastic--and handsome to boot--was heir to an ancient title and
very great estates; all that his father had considered in looking out
for an alliance was--youth, health, beauty, blood--here they all
were;--and _fortune_ too--bah! what did it signify to his son--but at
any rate 'twas not to be thought of for some years.

"Suppose," said he, aloud, though in a musing manner, "one were to
say--twenty-four"----

"_Twenty-four!_" echoed his companion, with amazement; "my dear De la
Zouch, what the deuce do you mean? _Eighty_-four at the very lowest!"

"Eh? what? oh--yes of course--I should say ninety--I mean--hem!--_they_
will muster about twenty-four only."

"Ah--I beg your pardon!--_there_ you're right, I dare say."--Here the
announcement of dinner put an end to the colloquy of the two statesmen.
Lord De la Zouch led down Miss Aubrey with an air of the most delicate
and cordial courtesy; and felt almost disposed, in the heat of the
moment, to tell her that he had arranged all in his own mind--that if
_she_ willed it, she had _his_ hearty consent to become the future Lady
De la Zouch. He was himself the eleventh who had come to the title in
direct descent from father to son; 'twas a point he was not a little
nervous and anxious about--he detested collateral succession--and he
made himself infinitely agreeable to Miss Aubrey as he sat beside her at
dinner! The Duke of---- sat on the right hand side of Mrs. Aubrey,
seemingly in high spirits, and she appeared proud enough of her
supporter. It was a delightful dinner-party, elegant without
ostentation, and select without pretence of exclusiveness. All were
cheerful and animated, not merely on account of the over-night's
parliamentary victory, which I have already alluded to, but also in
contemplation of the coming Christmas; how, and where, and with whom
each was to spend that "righte merrie season," being the chief topic of
conversation. As there was nothing peculiar in the dinner, and as I have
no turn for describing such matters in detail--the clatter of plate, the
jingling of silver, the sparkling of wines, and so forth--I shall
request the reader to imagine himself led by me quietly out of the
dining-room into the library--thus escaping from all the bustle and
hubbub attendant upon such an entertainment as is going on in front of
the house. We shall be alone in the library--here it is; we enter it,
and shut the door. 'Tis a spacious room, all the sides covered with
books, of which Mr. Aubrey is a great collector--and the clear red fire
(which we must presently replenish, or it will go out) is shedding a
subdued ruddy light on all the objects in the room, very favorable for
our purpose. The ample table is covered with books and papers; and
there is an antique-looking arm-chair drawn opposite to the fire, in
which Mr. Aubrey has been indulging in a long revery till the moment of
quitting it to go and dress for dinner. This chair I shall sit in
myself; you may draw out from the recess for yourself one of two little
sloping easy-chairs, which have been placed there by Mrs. and Miss
Aubrey for their own sole use, considering that they are excellent
judges of the period at which Mr. Aubrey has been long enough alone, and
at which they should come in and gossip with him. We may as well draw
the dusky green curtains across the window, through which the moon
shines at present rather too brightly.--So now, after coaxing up the
fire, I will proceed to tell you a little bit of pleasant family
history.

The Aubreys are a Yorkshire family--the younger branch of the ancient
and noble family of the Dreddlingtons. Their residence, YATTON, is in
the north-eastern part of the county, not above fifteen or twenty miles
from the sea. The hall is one of those old structures, the sight of
which throws you back a couple of centuries in our English history. It
stands in a park, crowded with trees, many of them of great age and
size, and under which two or three hundred head of deer perform their
capricious and graceful gambols. In approaching from London, you strike
off from the great north road into a broad by-way; after going down
which for about a mile, you come to a straggling little village called
Yatton, at the farther extremity of which stands a little aged gray
church, with a tall thin spire; an immense yew-tree, with a kind of
friendly gloom, overshadowing, in the little churchyard, nearly half the
graves. Rather in the rear of the church is the vicarage-house, snug and
sheltered by a line of fir-trees. After walking on about eighty yards,
you come to high park-gates, and see a lodge just within, on the left
hand side, sheltered by an elm-tree. Having passed through these gates,
you wind your way for about two-thirds of a mile along a gravel walk,
among the thickening trees, till you come to a ponderous old crumbling
looking red brick gateway of the time of Henry VII., with one or two
deeply set stone windows in the turrets, and mouldering stone-capped
battlements peeping through high-climbing ivy. There is an old
escutcheon immediately over the point of the arch; and as you pass
underneath, if you look up, you can plainly see the groove of the old
portcullis still remaining. Having passed under this castellated
remnant, you enter a kind of court formed by a high wall completely
covered with ivy, running along in a line from the right hand turret of
the gateway till it joins the house. Along its course are a number of
yew-trees. In the centre of the open space is a quaintly disposed
grass-plot, dotted about with stunted box, and in the centre of that
stands a weather-beaten stone sundial.

The house itself is a large irregular pile of dull red brickwork, with
great stacks of chimneys in the rear; the body of the building has
evidently been erected at different times. Some part is evidently in the
style of Queen Elizabeth's reign, another in that of Queen Anne; and it
is plain that on the site of the present structure has formerly stood a
castle. There are, indeed, traces of the old moat still visible round
the rear of the house. One of the ancient towers, with small deep stone
windows, still remains, giving its venerable support to the right hand
extremity of the building, as you stand with your face to the door. The
long frontage of the house consists of two huge masses of dusky-red
brickwork, (you can hardly call them _wings_,) connected together by a
lower building in the centre, which contains the hall. There are three
or four rows of long thin deep windows, with heavy-looking wooden
sashes. The high-pitched roof is of red tiles, and has deep projecting
eaves, forming, in fact, a bold wooden cornice running along the whole
length of the building, which is some two or three stories high. At the
left extremity stands a clump of ancient cedars of Lebanon, feathering
in evergreen beauty down to the ground. The hall is large and lofty; the
floor is of polished oak, almost the whole of which is covered with
thick matting; it is wainscoted all round with black oak; some seven or
eight full-length pictures, evidently of considerable antiquity, being
let into the panels. Quaint figures these are to be sure; and if they
resembled the ancestors of the Aubrey family, those ancestors must have
been singular and startling persons! The faces are quite white and
staring--all as if in wonder; and they have such long thin legs! some of
them ending in sharp-pointed shoes. On each side of the ample fireplace
stands a figure in full armor; and there are also ranged along the wall
old helmets, cuirasses, swords, lances, battle-axes, and cross-bows, the
very idea of wearing, wielding, and handling which, makes your arms
ache, while you exclaim, "they _must_ have been giants in those days!"
On one side of this hall, a door opens into the dining-room, beyond
which is the library; on the other side a door leads you into a noble
room, now called the drawing-room, where stands a very fine organ. Out
of both the dining-room and drawing-room you pass up a staircase
contained in an old square tower; two sides of each of them, opening on
the quadrangle, lead into a gallery running round it, and into which all
the bed-rooms open.

But I need not go into further detail. Altogether it is truly a fine old
mansion. Its only constant occupant is Mrs. Aubrey, the mother of Mr.
Aubrey, in whose library we are now seated. She is a widow, having
survived her husband, who twice was one of the county members, about
fifteen years. Mr. Aubrey is her first-born child, Miss Aubrey her last;
four intervening children rest prematurely in the grave--and the grief
and suffering consequent upon all these bereavements have sadly shaken
her constitution, and made her, both in actual health, and in
appearance, at least ten years older than she really is--for she has, in
point of fact, not long since entered her sixtieth year. What a blessed
life she leads at Yatton! Her serene and cheerful temper makes every one
happy about her; and her charity is unbounded, but dispensed with a just
discrimination. One way or another, almost a fourth of the village are
direct pensioners upon her bounty. You have only to mention the name of
Madam Aubrey, the lady of Yatton, to witness involuntary homage paid to
her virtues. Her word is law; and well indeed it may be. While Mr.
Aubrey, her husband, was, to the last, somewhat stern in his temper and
reserved in his habits, bearing withal a spotless and lofty character,
_she_ was always what she still is, meek, gentle, accessible,
charitable, and pious. On his death she withdrew from the world, and has
ever since resided at Yatton--never having quitted it for a single day.
There are in the vicinity one or two stately families, with ancient
name, sounding title, and great possessions; but for ten miles round
Yatton, old Madam Aubrey, the squire's mother, is the name that is
enshrined in people's kindliest and most grateful feelings, and receives
their readiest homage. 'Tis perhaps a very small matter to mention, but
there is at the hall an old white mare, Peggy, that for these twenty
years, in all weathers, hath been the bearer of Madam's bounty.
Thousands of times hath she carried Jacob Jones (now a pensioned
servant, whose hair is as white as Peggy's) all over the estate, and
also oft beyond it, with comfortable matters for the sick and poor. Most
commonly there are a couple of stone bottles filled with cowslip,
currant, ginger, or elderberry wine, slung before him over the well-worn
saddle--to the carrying of which Peggy has got so accustomed, that she
does not go comfortably without them. She has so fallen into the habits
of old Jones, who is an inveterate gossip, (Madam having helped to make
him such by the numerous inquiries she makes of him every morning as to
every one in the village and on the estate, and which inquiries he
_must_ have the means of answering,) that, slowly as she jogs along, if
ever she meets or is overtaken by any one, she stops of her own accord,
as if to hear what they and her rider have to say to one another. She is
a great favorite with all, and gets a mouthful of hay or grass at every
place she stops at, either from the children or the old people. When
poor Peggy comes to die, (and she is getting feeble, now,) she will be
missed by all the folk round Yatton! Madam Aubrey, growing, I am sorry
to say, less able to exert herself, does not go about as much as she
used, betaking herself, therefore, oftener and oftener, to the old
family coach; and when she is going to drive about the neighborhood, you
may almost always see it stop at the vicarage for old Dr. Tatham, who
generally accompanies her. On these occasions she always has in the
carriage a black velvet bag containing Testaments and Prayer-books,
which are principally distributed as rewards to those whom the parson
can recommend as deserving of them. For these five-and-twenty years she
has never missed giving a copy of each to every child in the village and
on the estate, on its being confirmed; and the old lady looks round very
keenly every Sunday, from her pew, to see that these Bibles and
Prayer-books are reverently used. I could go on for an hour and longer,
telling you these and other such matters of this exemplary lady; but we
shall by and by have some opportunities of seeing and knowing more of
her personally. Her features are delicate, and have been very handsome;
and in manner she is very calm, and quiet, and dignified. She looks all
that you would expect from what I have told you. The briskness of youth,
the sedate firmness of middle-age, have years since given place, as you
will see with some pain, to the feebleness produced by ill health and
mental suffering--for she mourned grievously after those whom she had
lost! Oh! how she dotes upon her surviving son and daughter! And are
they not worthy of such a mother?

Mr. Aubrey is in his thirty-fourth year; and inherits the mental
qualities of both his parents--the demeanor and person of his father. He
has a reserve which is not cynical, but only diffident; yet it gives
him, at least at first sight, and till you have become familiar with his
features, which are of a cast at once refined and aristocratic, yet full
of goodness--an air of hauteur, which is very--very far from his real
nature. He has in truth the soft heart and benignant temper of his
mother, joined with the masculine firmness of character which belonged
to his father; which, however, is in danger of being seriously impaired
by _inaction_. Sensitive he is, perhaps to a fault. There is a tone of
melancholy in his composition, which has probably increased upon him
from his severe studies, ever since his youth. He is a man of superior
intellect; a capital scholar; took the highest honor at Oxford: and has
since justified the expectations which were then entertained of him. He
has made several really valuable contributions to historic
literature--indeed, I think he is even now engaged upon some researches
calculated to throw much light upon the obscure origin of several of our
political institutions. He has entered upon _politics_ with
uncommon--perhaps with an excessive--ardor. I think he is likely to make
an eminent figure in Parliament; for he is a man of very clear head,
very patient, of business-like habits, ready in debate, and, moreover,
has at once an impressive and engaging delivery as a public speaker. He
is generous and charitable as his admirable mother, and careless, even
to a fault, of his pecuniary interests. He is a man of perfect
simplicity and purity of character. Above all, his virtues are the
virtues which have been sublimed by Christianity--as it were, the cold
embers of morality warmed into religion. He stands happily equidistant
from infidelity and fanaticism. He has looked for light from above, and
has heard a voice saying, "_This_ is the way, walk thou in it." His
piety is the real source of that happy consistent dignity, and content,
and firmness, which have earned him the respect of all who know him, and
will bear him through whatever may befall him. He who standeth upon this
rock cannot be moved, perhaps not even touched, by the surges of worldly
reverses--of difficulty and distress! In manner Mr. Aubrey is calm and
gentlemanlike; in person he is rather above the middle height, and of
slight make. From the way in which his clothes hang about him, a certain
sharpness at his shoulders catching the eye of an observer--you would
feel an anxiety about his health, which would be increased by hearing of
the mortality in his family; and your thoughts are perhaps pointed in
the same direction, by a glance at his long, thin, delicate, white
hands. His countenance has a serene manliness about it when in repose,
and great acuteness and vivacity when animated. His hair, not very full,
is black as jet, his forehead ample and marked; and his eyes are the
exponents of perfect sincerity and acuteness.

Mr. Aubrey has been married about six years; 'twas a case of love at
first sight. Chance (so to speak) threw him in the way of Agnes St.
Clair, within a few weeks after she had been bereaved of her only
parent, Colonel St. Clair, a man of old but impoverished family, who
fell in the Peninsular war. Had he lived only a month or two longer, he
would have succeeded to a considerable estate; as it was, he left his
only child comparatively penniless; but Heaven had endowed her with
personal beauty, with a lovely disposition, and superior understanding.
It was not till after a long and anxious wooing, backed by the cordial
entreaties of Mrs. Aubrey, that Miss St. Clair consented to become the
wife of a man, who, to this hour, loves her with all the passionate
ardor with which she had first inspired him. And richly she deserves his
love! She does, indeed, dote upon him; she studies, or rather, perhaps,
anticipates his every wish; in short, had the whole sex been searched
for one calculated to make happy the morbidly fastidious Aubrey, the
choice must surely have fallen on Miss St. Clair; a woman whose temper,
whose tastes, and whose manners were at once in delicate and harmonizing
unison and contrast with his own. She has hitherto brought him but two
children--and those very beautiful children, too--a boy between four and
five years old, and a girl about two years old. If I were to hint my own
impressions, I should say there was a probability---- be that, however,
as it may, 't is an affair we have nothing to do with at present.

Of Catherine Aubrey you had a momentary moonlight glimpse at a former
period of this history;[14] and you have seen her this evening under
other, and perhaps not less interesting circumstances. Now, where have
you beheld a more exquisite specimen of budding womanhood? but I feel
that I shall get extravagant if I begin to dwell upon her charms. You
have seen her--judge for yourself; but you do not _know_ her as I do;
and I shall tell you that her personal beauty is but a faint emblem of
the beauties of her mind and character. She is Aubrey's youngest--now
his only sister; and he cherishes her with the tenderest and fondest
affection. Neither he, nor his mother--with whom she spends her time
alternately--can bear to part with her for ever so short an interval.
She is the gay, romping playmate of the little Aubreys; the demure
secretary and treasurer of her mother. I say _demure_, for there is a
sly humor and archness in Kate's composition, which flickers about even
her gravest moods. She is calculated equally for the seclusion of Yatton
and the splendid atmosphere of Almack's; but for the latter she seems at
present to have little inclination. Kate is a girl of decided character,
of strong sense, of high principle; all of which are irradiated, not
overborne, by her sparkling vivacity of temperament. She has real
talent; and her mind has been trained, and her tastes directed, with
affectionate skill and vigilance by her gifted brother. She has many
accomplishments; but the only one I shall choose here to name is--music.
_She_ was one to sing and play before a man of the most fastidious taste
and genius! I defy any man to hear the rich tones of Miss Aubrey's voice
without feeling his heart moved. Music is with her a matter not of _art_
but of _feeling_--of passionate feeling; but hark!--hush!--surely--yes,
that is Miss Aubrey's voice--yes, that is her clear and brilliant touch;
the ladies have ascended to the drawing-room, and we must presently
follow them. How time has passed! I had a great deal more to tell you
about the family, but we must take some other opportunity.

Yes, it _is_ Miss Aubrey, playing on the new and superb piano given by
her brother last week to Mrs. Aubrey. Do you see with what a careless
grace and ease she is giving a very sweet but difficult composition of
Haydn? The lady who is standing by her to turn over her music, is the
celebrated Countess of Lydsdale. She is still young and beautiful; but
beside Miss Aubrey she presents a somewhat painful contrast! 'T is all
the difference between an artificial and a natural flower. Poor Lady
Lydsdale! you are not happy with all your fashion and splendor; the
glitter of your diamonds cannot compensate for the loss of the sparkling
spirits of a younger day; they pale their ineffectual fires beside the
fresh and joyous spirit of Catherine Aubrey! You sigh----

"Now, I'll sing you quite a new thing," said Miss Aubrey, starting up,
and turning over her portfolio till she came to a sheet of paper, on
which were some verses in her own handwriting, and with which she sat
down again before the piano: "The words were written by my brother, and
I have found an old air that exactly suits them!" Here her fingers,
wandering lightly and softly over the keys, gave forth a beautiful
symphony in the minor; after which, with a rich and soft voice, she sang
the following:--

    PEACE.

    I.

        Where, O where
      Hath gentle PEACE found rest?
    Builds she in bower of lady fair?--
    But LOVE--he hath possession there;
      Not long is _she_ the guest.

    II.

        Sits she crown'd
      Beneath a pictured dome?
    But there AMBITION keeps his ground,
    And Fear and Envy skulk around;
      _This_ cannot be her home.

    III.

        Will she hide
      In scholar's pensive cell?
    But _he_ already hath his bride:
    Him MELANCHOLY sits beside--
      With her she may not dwell.

    IV.

        Now and then,
      Peace, wandering, lays her head
    On regal couch, in captive's den--
    But nowhere finds she rest with men,
      Or only with the dead!

To these words, trembling on the beautiful lips of Miss Aubrey, was
listening an unperceived auditor, with eyes devouring her every feature,
and ears absorbing every tone of her thrilling voice. It was young
Delamere, who had, only a moment or two before Miss Aubrey had commenced
singing the above lines, alighted from his father's carriage, which was
then waiting at the door to carry off Lord De la Zouch to the House of
Lords. Arrested by the rich voice of the singer, he stopped short before
he had entered the drawing-room in which she sat, and stepping to a
corner where he was hid from view, though he could distinctly see Miss
Aubrey, there he remained as if rooted to the spot. He, too, had a soul
for music; and the exquisite manner in which Miss Aubrey gave the last
verse, called up before his excited fancy the vivid image of a dove
fluttering with agitated uncertainty over the sea of human life; even
like the dove over the waters enveloping the earth in olden time. The
mournful minor into which she threw the last two lines, excited a heart
susceptible of the liveliest emotions to a degree which it required some
effort to control, and almost a tear to relieve. When Miss Aubrey had
quitted the piano, Mrs. Aubrey followed, and gave a very delicate sonata
from Haydn. Then sat down Lady Lydsdale, and dashed off, in an
exceedingly brilliant style, a _scena_ from the new opera, which quickly
reduced the excited feelings of Delamere to a pitch admitting of his
presenting himself! While this lowering process was going on, Delamere
took down a small volume from a tasteful little cabinet of books
immediately behind him. It was Spenser's _Faery Queen_. He found many
pencil-marks, evidently made by a light female hand; and turning to the
fly-leaf, beheld the name of "_Catherine Aubrey_." His heart fluttered;
he turned towards the piano, and beheld the graceful figure of Miss
Aubrey standing beside Lady Lydsdale, in an attitude of delighted
earnestness--for her ladyship was undoubtedly a very brilliant
performer--totally unconscious of the admiring eye which was fixed upon
her. After gazing at her for some moments, he gently pressed the
autograph to his lips; and solemnly vowed within himself, in the most
deliberate manner possible, that if he could not marry Kate Aubrey, he
would never marry anybody; he would, moreover, quit England forever; and
deposit a broken heart in a foreign grave--and so forth. Thus calmly
resolved--or rather to such a resolution did his thoughts tend--that
sedate person, the Honorable Geoffrey Lovel Delamere. He was a
high-spirited, frank-hearted fellow; and, like a good-natured fool, whom
bitter knowledge of the world has not cooled down into contempt for a
very considerable portion of it, trusted and loved almost every one whom
he saw. At that moment there was only one person in the whole world that
he hated, viz. the miserable individual--if any such there were--who
might have happened to forestall him in the affections of Miss Aubrey.
The bare idea made his breath come and go quickly, and his cheek flush.
Why, he felt that he had a sort of _right_ to Miss Aubrey's heart; for
had they not been born, and had they not lived almost all their lives,
within a few miles of each other? Had they not often played
together?--were not their family estates almost contiguous?--Delamere
advanced into the room, assuming as unconcerned an air as he could; but
he felt not a little tried when Miss Aubrey, on seeing him, gayly and
frankly extended her hand to him, supposing him to have only the moment
before entered the house. Poor Delamere's hand slightly quivered as he
felt it clasping the soft lilied fingers of her whom he had thus
resolved to make his wife: what would he not have given to have carried
them to his lips! Now, if I were to say that in the course of that
evening, Miss Aubrey did not form a kind--of a sort--of a faint--notion
of the possible state of matters with young Delamere, I should not be
treating the reader with that eminent degree of candor for which I think
he, or she, is at present disposed to give me credit. But Kate was
deeply skilled in human nature, and promptly settled the matter by one
very just reflection, viz. that Delamere was, in contemplation of law, a
mere _infant_--_i. e._ he wanted yet several weeks of twenty-one! and,
therefore, that it was not likely that, &c. &c. &c. And,
besides--pooh!--pooh!--'t is a mere _boy_, at College--how
ridiculous!--So she gave herself no trouble about the affair; exhibited
no symptoms of caution or coyness, but conducted herself just as if he
had not been present.

He was a handsome young fellow, too!----

During the evening, Mr. Delamere took an opportunity of asking Miss
Aubrey who wrote the verses to which he pointed, as they lay on the
piano. The handwriting, she said, was hers, but the verses were composed
by her brother. He asked for the copy, with a slight trepidation. She
readily gave it to him--he receiving it with (as he supposed) a mighty
unconcerned air. He read it over that night, before getting into bed, at
least six times; and it was the very first thing he looked at on getting
out of bed in the morning. Now Miss Aubrey certainly wrote an elegant
hand--but as for _character_, of course it had none. He could scarcely
have distinguished it from the writing of any of his cousins or
friends;--How should he? All women are taught the same hard, angular,
uniform style--but good, bad, or indifferent, this was _Kate Aubrey's_
handwriting--and her pretty hand had rested on the paper while
writing--that was enough. He resolved to turn the verses into every kind
of Greek and Latin metre he knew of--

In short, that here was a "course of true love" _opened_, seems pretty
evident: but whether it will "run smooth" is another matter.

Their guests having at length departed, Mr. Aubrey, his wife, and
sister, soon afterwards rose to retire. He went, very sleepy, straight
to his dressing-room; they to the nursery--(a constant and laudable
custom with them)--to see how the children were going on, as far as
could be learned from the drowsy attendants of the aforesaid children.
Little Aubrey would have reminded you of one of the exquisite sketches
of children's heads by Reynolds or Lawrence, as he lay breathing
imperceptibly, with his rich flowing hair spread upon the pillow, in
which his face was partly hid, and his arms stretched out. Mrs. Aubrey
put her finger into one of his hands, which was half open, and which
closed as it were instinctively upon it, with a gentle pressure.
"Look--only look--Kate!" softly whispered Mrs. Aubrey. Miss Aubrey
leaned forward and kissed his little cheek with an ardor which almost
awoke him. After a glance at a tiny head partly visible above the
clothes, in an adjoining bed, and looking like a rosebud almost entirely
hid among the leaves, they withdrew.

"The little loves!--how one's heart thrills with looking at them!" said
Miss Aubrey as they descended. "Kate!" whispered Mrs. Aubrey, with an
arch smile, as they stood at their respective chamber doors, which
adjoined, "Mr. Delamere is improved--is not he?--Ah, Kate! Kate!--I
understand!"

"Agnes, how can you"--hastily answered Miss Aubrey, with cheeks suddenly
crimsoned. "I never heard such nonsense"----

"Night, night, Kate! think over it!" said Mrs. Aubrey, and kissing her
beautiful sister-in-law, the next moment the blooming wife had entered
her bedroom. Miss Aubrey slipped into her dressing-room, where Harriet,
her maid, was sitting asleep before the fire. Her lovely mistress did
not for a few minutes awake her; but placing her candlestick on the
toilet table, stood in a musing attitude.

"It's so perfectly _ridiculous_" at length she said aloud; and up
started her maid. Within half an hour Miss Aubrey was in bed, but by no
means asleep!

The next morning, about eleven o'clock, Mr. Aubrey was seated in the
library, in momentary expectation of his letters; and a few moments
before the postman's _rat-tat_ was heard, Mrs. and Miss Aubrey made
their appearance, as was their wont, in expectation of anything which
might have upon the cover, in addition to the address--

     "CHARLES AUBREY, ESQ., M. P.," &c. &c. &c.,

the words, "Mrs. Aubrey," or "Miss Aubrey," in the corner. In addition
to this, 'twas not an unpleasant thing to skim over the contents of
_his_ letters! as one by one he opened them, and laid them aside; for
both these fair creatures were daughters of Eve, and inherited a
_little_ of her curiosity. Mr. Aubrey was always somewhat nervous and
fidgety on such occasions, and wished them gone; but they only laughed
at him, so he was fain to put up with them. On this morning there were
more than Mr. Aubrey's usual number of letters; and in casting her eye
over them, Mrs. Aubrey suddenly took up one that challenged attention;
it bore a black seal, had a deep black bordering, and bore the frank of
Lord Alkmond, at whose house in Shropshire they had for months been
engaged to spend the ensuing Christmas, and were intending to set off on
their visit the very next day. The ominous missive was soon torn open;
it was from Lord Alkmond himself, who in a few hurried lines announced
the sudden death of his brother; so that there was an end of their visit
to the Priory.

"Well!" exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, calmly, rising after a pause, and standing
with his back to the fire, in a musing posture.

"Has he left any family, Charles?" inquired Mrs. Aubrey, with a sigh,
her eyes still fixed on the letter.

"I--I really don't know--poor fellow! We lose a vote for Fellington--we
shall, to a certainty," he added, with an air of chagrin visibly
stealing over his features.

"How politics harden the heart, Charles! Just at _this_ moment to
be"---- quoth Mrs. Aubrey.

"It _is_ too bad, Agnes, I own--but you see," said Mr. Aubrey,
affectionately; suddenly, however, he broke off--"stay, I don't know
either, for there's the Grassingham interest come into the field since
the last"----

"Charles, I do really almost think," exclaimed Mrs. Aubrey with sudden
emotion, stepping to his side, and throwing her arms round him
affectionately, "that if _I_ were to die, I should be forgotten in a
fortnight if the House were sitting"----

"How _can_ you say such things, my love?" inquired Mr. Aubrey, kissing
her forehead.

"When Agnes was born, you know," she murmured inarticulately. Her
husband folded her tenderly in his arms in silence. On the occasion she
alluded to, he had nearly lost her; and they both had reason to expect
that another similar season of peril was not _very_ distant.

"Now, Charles, you _can't_ escape," said Miss Aubrey, presently,
assuming a cheerful tone; "now for dear old Yatton!"----

"Yes, Yatton! Positively you must!" added Mrs. Aubrey, smiling through
her tears.

"What! Go to Yatton?" said Mr. Aubrey, shaking his head and smiling.
"Nonsense! I--i--t ca--n't--be--done!--Why, we must set off to-morrow!
They've had no warning!"

"What warning does mamma require, Charles?" inquired his sister,
eagerly. "Isn't the dear old place always in apple-pie order?"

"How you love the 'dear old place,' Kate!" exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, in such
an affectionate tone as brought his sister in an instant to his side, to
urge on her suit; and there stood the lord of Yatton embraced by these
two beautiful women, his own heart (_inter nos_) seconding every word
they uttered.

"How my mother would stare!" said he at length, irresolutely, looking
from one to the other, and smiling at their eagerness.

"What a bustle everything will be in!" exclaimed Kate. "I fancy I'm
there already! The great blazing fires--the holly and mistletoe. We must
all go, Charles--children and all!"

"Why, really, I hardly know"---- said Mr. Aubrey, hesitatingly.

"Oh! _I've_ settled it all," quoth Kate, seeing that she had gained her
point, and resolved to press her advantage, "and, what's more, we've no
time to lose; this is Tuesday,--Christmas-day is Saturday--we must of
course stop a night on the way; but hadn't we better have Griffiths in,
to arrange all?" Mr. Aubrey laughed--and--rang the bell.

"Request Mr. Griffiths to come to me," said he to the servant who
answered the summons.

Within a very few minutes that respectable functionary had made his
appearance and received his instructions. The march to Shropshire was
countermanded--and hey! for Yatton!--for which they were to start the
next day about noon. Mr. Griffiths' first step was to pack off Sam, Mr.
Aubrey's groom, by the Tally-ho, the first coach to York, starting at
two o'clock that very day, with letters announcing the immediate arrival
of the family. These orders were received by Sam, (who had been born and
bred at Yatton,) while he was bestowing, with vehement sibilation, his
customary civilities on a favorite mare of his master's. Down dropped
his currycomb; he jumped into the air; snapped his fingers; then he
threw his arms round Jenny, and tickled her under the chin. "Dang it,"
said he, as he threw her another feed of oats, "I wish thee were going
wi' me--dang'd if I don't!" Then he hastily made himself "a _bit_ tidy;"
presented himself very respectfully before Mr. Griffiths, to receive the
wherewithal to pay his fare; and having obtained it, off he scampered to
the Bull and Mouth, as if it had been a neck-and-neck race between him
and all London, which should get down to Yorkshire first. A little after
one o'clock, his packet of letters was delivered to him; and within
another hour Sam was to be seen (quite comfortable, with a draught of
spiced ale given him by the cook, to make his hasty dinner "sit well")
on the top of the Tally-ho, rattling rapidly along the great north road.

"Come, Kate," said Mrs. Aubrey, entering Miss Aubrey's room, where she
was giving directions to her maid, "I've ordered the carriage to be at
the door as soon as it can be got ready; we must go off to
Coutts'--see!" She held in her hand two slips of paper, one of which she
gave Miss Aubrey. 'Twas a check for one hundred pounds--her brother's
usual Christmas-box--"and then we've a quantity of little matters to
buy this afternoon. Come, Kate, quick! quick!"

Now, poor Kate had spent nearly all her money, which circumstance,
connected with another that I shall shortly mention, had given her not a
little concern. At her earnest request, her brother had, about a year
before, built her a nice little school, capable of containing some
eighteen or twenty girls, on a slip of land between the vicarage and the
park wall of Yatton, and old Mrs. Aubrey and her daughter found a
resident schoolmistress, and, in fact, supported the little
establishment, which, at the time I am speaking of, contained some
seventeen or eighteen of the villagers' younger children. Miss Aubrey
took a prodigious interest in this little school, scarce a day passing
without her visiting it when she was at Yatton; and what Kate wanted,
was the luxury of giving a Christmas present to both mistress and
scholars. That, however, she would have had some difficulty in effecting
but for this her brother's timely present, which had quite set her heart
at ease. On their return, the carriage was crowded with the things they
had been purchasing--articles of clothing for the feebler old villagers;
work-boxes, samplers, books, testaments, prayer-books, &c. &c. &c., for
the school; the sight of which, I can assure the reader, made Kate far
happier than if they had been the costliest articles of dress and
jewelry.

The next day was a very pleasant one for travelling--"frosty, but
kindly." About one o'clock there might have been seen standing before
the door the roomy yellow family carriage, with four post-horses. All
was in travelling trim. In the rumble sat Mr. Aubrey's valet and Mrs.
Aubrey's maid--Miss Aubrey's, and one of the nursery-maids, going down
by the coach which had carried Sam--the Tally-ho. The coach-box was
piled up with that sort of luggage which, by its lightness and bulk,
denotes lady-travelling: inside were Mrs. and Miss Aubrey muffled in
furs, shawls, and pelisses; a nursery-maid, with little Master and Miss
Aubrey, equally well protected from the cold; and the vacant seat
awaited Mr. Aubrey, who at length made his appearance, having been
engaged till the latest moment in giving and repeating specific
instructions concerning the forwarding of his letters and papers. As
soon as he had taken his place, and all had been snugly disposed within,
the steps were doubled up, the door was closed, the windows were drawn
up--crack! crack! went the whips of the two postilions, and away rolled
the carriage over the dry hard pavement.

"Now that's what I calls doing it _uncommon_ comfortable," said a
pot-boy to one of the footmen at an adjoining house, where he was
delivering the porter for the servants' dinner; "how _werry_ nice and
snug them two looks in the rumble behind!"

"_We_ goes to-morrow," carelessly replied the gentleman whom he had
addressed.

"It's a fine thing to be gentlefolk," said the boy, taking up his
pot-board.

"Pretty well--but one tires of it in time!" drawled the footman,
twitching up his shirt-collar.

On drawing up to the posting-house, which was within about forty miles
of Yatton, the Aubreys found a carriage and four just ready to start,
after changing horses; and whose should this prove to be, but Lord De la
Zouch's, containing himself, his lady, and his son, Mr. Delamere! His
lordship and his son both alighted on accidentally discovering who had
overtaken them; and coming up to Mr. Aubrey's carriage windows,
exchanged surprised and cordial greetings with its occupants--whom Lord
De la Zouch imagined to have been by this time on their way to
Shropshire. Mr. Delamere manifested a surprising eagerness about the
welfare of little Agnes Aubrey, who happened to be lying fast asleep in
Miss Aubrey's lap; but the evening was fast advancing, and both the
travelling parties had yet before them a considerable portion of their
journey. After a hasty promise on the part of each to dine with the
other, before returning to town for the season--a promise which _Mr.
Delamere_ at all events resolved should not be lost sight of--they
parted. 'Twas eight o'clock before Mr. Aubrey's eye, which had been for
some time on the look-out, caught sight of Yatton woods; and when it
did, his heart yearned towards them. The moon shone brightly and
cheerily, and it was pleasant to listen to the quickening clattering
tramp of the horses upon the dry hard highway, as the travellers rapidly
neared a spot endeared to them by every early and tender association.
When they had got within half a mile of the village, they overtook the
worthy vicar, who had mounted his nag, and had been out on the road to
meet the expected comers, for an hour before. Mr. Aubrey roused Mrs.
Aubrey from her nap, to point out Dr. Tatham, who by that time was
cantering along beside the open window. 'Twas refreshing to see the
cheerful old man--who looked as ruddy and hearty as ever.

"God bless you all! All well?" he exclaimed, riding close to the window.

"Yes; but how is my mother?" inquired Mr. Aubrey.

"High spirits--high spirits! Was with her this afternoon! Have not seen
her better for years! So surprised! Ah! here's an old friend--Hector!"

"Bow-wow-wow-wow! Bow--Bow-wow!"

"Papa! papa!" exclaimed the voice of little Charles, struggling to get
on his father's lap to look out of the window, "that is Hector! I know
it is! He is come to see _me_! I want to look at him."

Mr. Aubrey lifted him up as he desired, and a huge black-and-white
Newfoundland dog almost leaped up to the window, at sight of him
clapping his little hands, as if in eager recognition, and then
scampered and bounded about in all directions, barking most
boisterously, to the infinite delight of little Aubrey. This messenger
had been sent on by Sam, the groom; who, having been on the look-out for
the travellers for some time, the moment he had caught sight of the
carriage, pelted down the village through the park, at top speed, up to
the Hall, there to communicate the good news of their safe arrival. The
travellers thought that the village had never looked so pretty and
picturesque before. The sound of the carriage dashing through it, called
all the cottagers to their doors, where they stood bowing and
courtesying. It soon reached the park-gates, which were thrown wide open
in readiness for its entrance. As they passed the church, they heard its
little bells ringing a merry peal to welcome their arrival. Its faint
chimes went to their very hearts.

"My darling Agnes, here we are again in the old place," said Mr. Aubrey,
in a joyous tone, affectionately kissing Mrs. Aubrey and his sister, as,
after having wound their way up the park at almost a gallop, they heard
themselves rattling over the stone pavement immediately under the old
turreted gateway. On approaching it, they saw lights glancing about in
the Hall windows; and before they had drawn up, the great door was
thrown open, and several servants (one or two of them gray-headed) made
their appearance, eager to release the travellers from their long
confinement. A great wood fire was crackling and blazing in the ample
fireplace in the hall opposite the door, casting a right pleasant and
cheerful light over the various antique objects ranged round the walls;
but the object on which Mr. Aubrey's eye instantly settled was the
venerable figure of his mother, standing beside the fireplace with one
or two female attendants. The moment that the carriage door was opened,
he stepped quickly out, (nearly tumbling, by the way, over Hector, who
appeared to think that the carriage door had been opened only to enable
him to jump into it, which he prepared to do.)

"God bless you, Madam!" said Mr. Aubrey, tenderly, as he received his
mother's fervent but silent greeting, and imagined that the arms folded
round him were somewhat feebler than when he had last felt them
embracing him! With similar affection was the good old lady received by
her daughter and daughter-in-law.

"Where is my pony, grandmamma?" quoth little Aubrey, running up to her,
(he had been kept quiet, from time to time, during the last eighty miles
or so, by the mention of the aforesaid pony, which had been sent to the
Hall as a present to him some weeks before.) "Where is it? I want to see
my little pony directly! Mamma says you have got a little pony for me
with a long tail; I _must_ see it before I go to bed; I must, indeed--is
it in the stable?"

"You shall see it in the morning, my darling--the very first thing,"
said Mrs. Aubrey, fervently kissing her beautiful little grandson, while
tears of joy and pride ran down her cheek. She then pressed her lips on
the delicate but flushed cheek of little Agnes, who was fast asleep; and
as soon as they had been conducted towards their nursery, Mrs. Aubrey,
followed by her children, led the way to the dining-room--the dear
delightful old dining-room, in which all of them had passed so many
happy hours of their lives. It was large and lofty; and two antique
branch silver candlesticks, standing on sconces upon each side of a
strange old straggling carved mantelpiece of inlaid oak, aided by the
blaze given out by two immense logs of wood burning beneath, thoroughly
illuminated it. The walls were oak-panelled, containing many pictures,
several of them of great value; and the floor also was of polished oak,
over the centre of which, however, was spread a thick richly-colored
Turkey carpet. Opposite the door was a large mullioned bay-window, then,
however, concealed behind an ample flowing crimson curtain. On the
farther side of the fireplace stood a high-backed and roomy armchair,
almost covered With Kate's embroidery, and in which Mrs. Aubrey had
evidently, as usual, been sitting till the moment of their arrival--for
on a small ebony table beside it lay her spectacles, and an open volume.
Nearly fronting the fireplace was a recess, in which stood an
exquisitely carved black ebony cabinet, inlaid with white and red ivory.
This, Miss Aubrey claimed as her own, and had appropriated it to her own
purposes ever since she was seven years old. "You dear old thing!" said
she, throwing open the folding-doors--"Everything just as I left it!
Really, dear mamma, I could skip about the room for joy! I wish Charles
would never leave Yatton again!"

"It's rather lonely, my love, when _none_ of you are with me," said Mrs.
Aubrey. "I feel getting older"----

"Dearest mamma," interrupted Miss Aubrey, quickly, and embracing her
mother, "_I_ won't leave you again! I'm quite tired of town--I am
indeed!"

Though fires were lit in their several dressing-rooms, of which they
were more than once reminded by their respective attendants, they all
remained seated before the fire in carriage costume, (except that Kate
had thrown aside her bonnet, her half-uncurled tresses hanging in
negligent profusion over her thickly-furred pelisse,) eagerly conversing
about the little incidents of their journey, and the events which had
transpired at Yatton since they had quitted it. At length, however, they
retired to perform the refreshing duties of the dressing-room, before
sitting down to supper. Of that comfortable meal, within twenty minutes'
time or so, they partook with a hearty relish. What mortal, however
delicate, could resist the fare set before them--the plump capon, the
delicious grilled ham, the poached eggs, the floury potatoes, home-baked
bread, white and brown--custards, mince-pies, home-brewed ale, as soft
as milk, as clear as amber--mulled claret--and so forth? The travellers
had evidently never relished anything more, to the infinite delight of
old Mrs. Aubrey; who observing, soon afterwards, irrepressible symptoms
of fatigue and drowsiness, ordered them all off to bed--Kate sleeping in
the same chamber in which she was sitting when the reader was permitted
to catch a moonlight glimpse of her.

They did not make their appearance the next morning till after nine
o'clock, Mrs. Aubrey having read prayers before the assembled servants,
as usual, nearly an hour before--a duty her son always performed when at
the Hall; but on this occasion he had overslept himself. He found his
mother in the breakfast-room, where she was soon joined by her daughter
and daughter-in-law, all of them being in high health and spirits. Just
as they were finishing breakfast, little Aubrey burst into the room in a
perfect ecstasy--for old Jones had taken him round to the stables, and
shown him the little pony which had been recently presented to him. He
had heard it neigh--had seen its long tail--had patted its neck--had
seen it eat--and now his vehement prayer was, that his papa, and mamma,
and Kate would immediately go and see it, and take his little sister
also.

Breakfast over, they separated. Old Mrs. Aubrey went to her own room to
be attended by her housekeeper; the other two ladies retired to their
rooms--Kate principally engaged in arranging her presents for her little
scholars: and Mr. Aubrey repaired to his library--as delightful an old
snuggery as the most studious recluse could desire--where he was
presently attended by his bailiff. He found that everything was going on
as he could have wished. With one or two exceptions, his rents were
paid most punctually; the farms and lands kept in capital condition. To
be sure an incorrigible old poacher had been giving a little trouble, as
usual, and stood committed for trial at the ensuing Spring Assizes; and
a few trivial trespasses had been committed in search of firewood, and
other small matters; which, after having been detailed with great
minuteness by his zealous and vigilant bailiff, were despatched by Mr.
Aubrey with a "pooh, pooh!"--Then there was Gregory, who held the
smallest farm on the estate, at its southern extremity--he was three
quarters' rent in arrear--but he had a sick wife and seven children--so
he was at once forgiven all that was due, and also what would become
due, on the ensuing quarter-day.--"In fact," said Mr. Aubrey, "don't ask
him for any more rent. I'm sure the poor fellow will pay when he's
able."

Some rents were to be raised; others lowered; and some half dozen of the
poorer cottages were to be forthwith put into good repair, at Mr.
Aubrey's expense. The two oxen had been sent, on the preceding
afternoon, from the home farm to the butcher's, to be distributed on
Christmas eve among the poorer villagers, according to orders brought
down from town by Sam the day before. Thus was Mr. Aubrey engaged for an
hour or two, till luncheon time, when good Dr. Tatham made his welcome
appearance, having been engaged most of the morning in touching up an
old Christmas sermon.

He had been vicar of Yatton for about thirty years, having been
presented to it by the late Mr. Aubrey, with whom he had been intimate
at college. He was a delightful specimen of a country parson. Cheerful,
unaffected, and good-natured, there was a dash of quaintness or
roughness about his manners, that reminded you of the crust in very fine
old port. He had been a widower, and childless, for fifteen years. His
parish had been ever since his family, whom he still watched over with
an affectionate vigilance. He was respected and beloved by all. Almost
every man, woman, and child that had died in Yatton, during nearly
thirty years, had departed with the sound of his kind and solemn voice
in their ears. He claimed a sort of personal acquaintance with almost
all the gravestones in his little churchyard; he knew the names of all
who slept beneath them; and when he looked at those gravestones, his
conscience bore him witness, that he had done his duty by the dust of
whom they spoke. He was at the bedside of a sick person almost as soon,
and as often, as the doctor--no matter what sort of weather, or at what
hour of the day or night. Methinks I see him now, bustling about the
village, with healthy ruddy cheek, a clear, cheerful eye, hair white as
snow! with a small stout figure, clothed in a suit of somewhat rusty
black, (knee-breeches and gaiters all round the year,) and with a small
shovel-hat. No one lives in the vicarage with him but an elderly woman,
his housekeeper, and her husband, whose chief business is to look after
the doctor's old mare and the little garden; in which I have often seen
him and his master, with his coat off, digging for an hour or two
together. He rises at five in the winter, and four in the summer, being
occupied till breakfast with his studies; for he was an excellent
scholar, and has not forgotten, in the zealous discharge of his sacred
duties, the pursuits of literature and philosophy, in which he had
gained no inconsiderable distinction in his youth. He derives a very
moderate income from his living; but it is even more than sufficient for
his necessities. Ever since Mr. Aubrey's devotion to politics has
carried him away from Yatton for a considerable portion of each year,
Dr. Tatham has been the right hand counsellor of old Mrs. Aubrey, in all
her pious and charitable plans and purposes. Every New-year's day, there
come from the Hall to the vicarage six dozen of fine old port wine--a
present from Mrs. Aubrey; but the little doctor (though he never tells
her so) scarce drinks six bottles of them in a year. Two dozen of them
go, within a few days' time, to a poor brother parson in an adjoining
parish, who, with his wife and three children--all in feeble health--can
hardly keep body and soul together, and who, but for this generous
brother, would not probably taste wine throughout the year, except on
certain occasions when the very humblest may moisten their poor lips
with wine--I mean the SACRAMENT--the sublime and solemn festival given
by One who doth not forget the poor and destitute, however in their
misery they may sometimes think to the contrary!--The remainder of his
little present Dr. Tatham distributes in small quantities among such of
his parishioners as may require it, and may not happen to have come
under the immediate notice of Mrs. Aubrey. Dr. Tatham has known Mr.
Aubrey ever since he was about five years old. 'Twas the doctor that
first taught him Greek and Latin; and, up to his going to college, gave
him the frequent advantage of his learned experience.--But surely I have
gone into a very long digression, and must return.

While Miss Aubrey, accompanied by her sister-in-law, and followed by a
servant carrying a great bag, filled with articles brought from London
the day before, went to the school which I have before mentioned, in
order to distribute her prizes and presents, Mr. Aubrey and Dr. Tatham
set off on a walk through the village.

"I must really do something for that old steeple of yours, Doctor," said
Mr. Aubrey, looking up, and shading his eyes with his hands, as, arm in
arm, they approached the church; "it looks crumbling away in many
parts!"

"If you'd only send a couple of masons to repair the _porch_, and make
it weather-tight, it would satisfy me for some years to come," said the
doctor, with exceeding earnestness.

"Well--we'll look at it," replied Aubrey; and, turning aside, they
entered the little churchyard.

"How I love this old yew-tree!" he exclaimed, as they passed under it;
"it casts a kind of tender gloom around that always makes me pensive,
not to say melancholy!" A sigh escaped him, as his eye glanced at the
family vault, which was almost in the centre of the shade, where lay his
father, three brothers, and a sister, and where, in the course of
nature, a few short years would see the precious remains of his mother
deposited. But the doctor who had hastened forward alone for a moment,
finding the church door open, called out to Mr. Aubrey, who soon stood
within the porch. It certainly required a little repairing, which Mr.
Aubrey said should be looked to immediately. "See--we're all preparing
for to-morrow," said Dr. Tatham, leading the way into the little church,
where the grizzle-headed clerk was busy decorating the old-fashioned
pulpit, reading-desk, and altar-piece, with the cheerful emblems of the
season.

"I never see these," said the doctor, taking up one of the sprigs of
mistletoe lying on a form beside them, "but I think of your own
Christmas verses, Mr. Aubrey, when you were younger and fresher than you
now are--don't you recollect them?"

"Oh--pooh!" quoth Aubrey, somewhat hastily.

"But I remember them," rejoined the doctor; and he began with great
emphasis and solemnity--

    "Hail! silvery, modest mistletoe,
    Wreath'd round winter's brow of snow,
    Clinging so chastely, tenderly:
    Hail holly, darkly, richly green,
    Whose crimson berries blush between
    Thy prickly foliage, modestly.
    Ye winter-flowers, bloom sweet and fair,
    Though Nature's garden else be bare--
    Ye vernal glistening emblems, meet
    To twine a Christmas coronet!"

"That will do, Doctor," interrupted Aubrey, smiling--"what a memory you
have for trifles!"

"Peggy! Peggy!--you're sadly overdoing it," said the doctor, hastily,
calling out to the sexton's wife, who was busy at work in the squire's
pew--a large square pew in the nave, near the pulpit. "Why, do you want
to hide the squire's family from the congregation? You're putting quite
a holly hedge all round!"

"Please you, sir," quoth Peggy, "I've got so much I don't know where to
put it--so, in course, I put it here!"

"Then," said the doctor, with a smile, looking round the church, "let
Jonas get up and stick some of it into those old hatchments; and,"
looking up at the clerk, busy at work in the pulpit, "don't you put
quite so much up there into my candlesticks!"

With this the parson and the squire took their departure. As they passed
slowly up the village, which already wore a sort of holiday aspect, they
met on all hands with a cordial, respectful, and affectionate greeting.
The quiet little public-house turned out some four or five stout steady
fellows--all tenants of Mr. Aubrey's--with their pipes in their hands,
and who took off their hats, and bowed very low. Mr. Aubrey went up and
entered into conversation with them for some minutes. Their families and
farms, he found, were well and thriving. There was quite a little crowd
of women about the shop of Nick Steele, the butcher, who, with an extra
hand to help him, was giving out the second ox which had been sent from
the Hall, to the persons whose names had been given in to him from Mrs.
Aubrey. Farther on, some were cleaning their little windows, others
sweeping their floors, and sprinkling sand over them; most were
displaying holly and mistletoe in their windows, and over their
mantelpieces. Everywhere, in short, was to be seen that air of quiet
preparation for the solemnly-cheerful morrow, which fills a thoughtful
English observer with feelings of pensive but exquisite satisfaction.

Mr. Aubrey returned home towards dusk, cheered and enlivened by his
walk. His sudden plunge into the simplicity and comparative solitude of
country life--and that country Yatton--had quite refreshed his feelings,
and given a tone to his spirits. Of course Dr. Tatham was to dine at the
Hall on the morrow; if he did not, indeed, it would have been for the
first time during the last five-and-twenty years!

Christmas eve passed pleasantly and quietly enough at the Hall. After
dinner the merry little ones were introduced, and their prattle and
romps occupied an hour right joyously. As soon as, smothered with
kisses, they had been dismissed to bed, old Mrs. Aubrey composed
herself, in her great chair, to her usual after-dinner's nap; while her
son, his wife, and sister, sitting fronting the fire--a decanter or two,
and a few wine-glasses and dessert, remaining on the table behind
them--sat conversing in a subdued tone, now listening to the wind
roaring in the chimney--a sound which not a little enhanced their sense
of comfort--then criticising the disposition of the evergreens with
which the room was plenteously decorated, and laying out their movements
during the ensuing fortnight. Mrs. Aubrey and Kate were, with
affectionate earnestness, contrasting to Aubrey the peaceful pleasures
of a country life with the restless excitement and endless anxieties of
a London political life, to which they saw him more and more addicting
himself; he all the while playfully parrying their attacks, but
secretly acknowledging the truth and force of what they said,
when--hark!--a novel sound from without, which roused the old lady from
her nap. What do you think, dear reader, it was? The voices of very
little girls singing what seemed to be a Christmas hymn: yes, they
caught the words--

    "Hark! the herald angels sing.
    Glory to the new-born king;
    Peace on earth and mercy mild"--

"Why, surely--it must be your little school-girls," said old Mrs.
Aubrey, looking at her daughter, and listening.

"I do believe it is!" quoth Kate, her eyes suddenly filling with tears,
as she sat eagerly inclining her ear towards the window.

"They must be standing on the grass-plot just before the window," said
Mr. Aubrey: the tiny voices were thrilling his very heart within him.
His sensitive nature might have been compared to a delicate Æolian harp
which gave forth, with the slightest breath of accident or
circumstance,--

    "The still, sad music of humanity."

In a few moments he was almost in tears--the sounds were so unlike the
fierce and turbulent cries of political warfare to which his ears had
been latterly accustomed! The more the poor children sang, the more was
he affected. Kate's tears fell fast, for she had been in an excited mood
before this little incident occurred. "Do you hear, mamma," said she,
"the voice of the poor little thing that was last taken into the school?
The little darling!" Kate tried to smile away her emotion; but 'twas in
vain. Mr. Aubrey gently drew aside the curtain, and pulled up the
central blind--and there, headed by their matron, stood the little
singers exposed to view, some eighteen in number, ranged in a row on the
grass, all in snug gray woollen hoods effectually protecting them from
the cold. The oldest seemed not more than ten or twelve years old, while
the younger ones could not be more than five or six. They seemed all
singing from their very hearts. Aubrey stood looking at them with very
deep interest.

As soon as they had finished their hymn, they were conducted into the
housekeeper's room, according to orders sent for that purpose, from Mrs.
Aubrey, and each of them received a little present of money, besides a
full glass of Mrs. Jackson's choicest raisin wine, and a currant bun;
Kate slipping half-a-guinea into the hand of their mistress, to whose
wish to afford gratification to the inmates of the Hall was entirely
owing the little incident which had so pleased and surprised them. "A
happy Christmas to you, dear papa and mamma!" said little Aubrey, about
eight o'clock the next morning, pushing aside the curtains, and trying
to clamber up on the high bed where Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey were still
asleep--soon, however, they were awakened by the dear welcome voice! The
morning promised a beautiful day. The air, though cold, was clear; and
the branches of the trees visible from their windows, were all covered
with hoar-frost, which seemed to line them as if with silver fringe. The
little bells of Yatton church were ringing a merry peal; but how
different in tone and strength from the clangor of the London
church-bells!--Christmas was indeed at last arrived--and cheerful were
the greetings of those who soon after met at the bountiful breakfast
table. Old Mrs. Aubrey was going to church with them--in fact, not even
a domestic who could be possibly spared, was to be left at home. By the
time that the carriage, with the fat and lazy-looking gray horses, was
at the Hall door, the sun had burst out in beauty from an almost
cloudless sky. The three ladies rode alone; Aubrey preferring to walk,
accompanied by his little son, as the ground was dry and hard, and the
distance very short. A troop of some twelve or fourteen servants, male
and female, presently followed; and then came Mr. Aubrey, leading along
the heir of Yatton--a boy of whom he might well be proud, as the future
possessor of his name, his fortune, and his honors. When he had reached
the church, the carriage was returning home. Almost the whole
congregation stood collected before the church door, to see the squire's
family enter; and reverent were the courtesies and bows with which old
Mrs. Aubrey and her lovely companions were received. Very soon after
they had taken their places, Mr. Aubrey and his son made their
appearance; objects they were of the deepest interest, as they passed
along to their pew. A few minutes afterwards little Dr. Tatham entered
the church in his surplice, (which he almost always put on at home,)
with a face, composed and serious to be sure, but yet overspread with an
expression even more bland and benignant than usual. He knew there was
not a soul among the little crowd around him that did not really love
him, and that did not know how heartily he returned their love. All eyes
were of course on the squire's pew. Mrs. Aubrey was looking well--her
daughter and daughter-in-law were thought by all to be by far the most
beautiful women in the world--what must people think of them in London?
Mr. Aubrey looked, they thought, pleased and happy, but rather paler,
and even a little thinner; and as for the "_little_ squire," with his
bright eyes, his rosy cheeks, his arch smile, his curling auburn
hair--and so like his father and mother--he was the pride of Yatton!

Dr. Tatham read prayers, as he always did; with great distinctness and
deliberation, so that everybody in the church, young and old, could
catch every syllable; and he preached, considerately enough, a very
short sermon--pithy, homely, and affectionate. He reminded them that he
was then preaching his thirty-first Christmas-day sermon from that
pulpit! The service and the sacrament over, none of the congregation
moved from their places till the occupants of the squire's pew had
quitted it; but as soon as they had got outside of the door, the good
people poured out after them, and almost lined the way from the church
door to the gate at which the carriage stood, receiving and answering a
hundred kind inquiries concerning themselves, their families, and their
circumstances.

Mr. Aubrey stayed behind, desirous of taking another little ramble with
Dr. Tatham through the village, for the day was indeed bright and
beautiful, and the occasion inspiriting. There was not a villager within
four or five miles of the Hall who did not sit down that day to a
comfortable little relishing dinner, at least one-third of them being
indebted for it directly to the bounty of the Aubreys. As soon as Dr.
Tatham had taken off his gown, he accompanied Mr. Aubrey in cheerful
mood, in the briskest spirits. 'T was delightful to see the smoke come
curling out of every chimney, while few folk were visible out of doors;
whence you reasonably concluded that they were all housed, and preparing
for, or partaking of, their roast-beef and plum-pudding! Now and then
the bustling wife would show her heated red face at the door, and
hastily courtesy as they passed, then returning to dish up her little
dinner.

"Ah, ha; Mr. Aubrey!--isn't such a day as this worth a whole year in
town?" exclaimed Dr. Tatham.

"Both have their peculiar advantages, Doctor; the pleasure of the
contrast would be lost if"----

"Contrast! Believe me, in the language of the poet Virgil"----

"Ah! how goes on old blind Bess, Doctor?" interrupted Aubrey, as they
approached the smallest cottage in the village--in fact the very last.

"She's just the same as she has been these last twenty years. Shall we
look in on the old creature?"

"With all my heart. I hope, poor soul! that _she_ has not been
overlooked on this festive occasion."

"Trust Mrs. Aubrey for that! I'll answer for it, we shall find old Bess
as happy, in her way, as she can be."

This was a stone blind old woman, who had been bedridden for the last
twenty years. She had certainly passed her hundredth year--some said two
or three years before--and had lived in her present little cottage for
nearly half a century, having grown out of the recollection of almost
all the inhabitants of the village. She had long been a pensioner of
Mrs. Aubrey's, by whom alone, indeed, she was supported. Her great age,
her singular appearance, and a certain rambling way of talking that she
had, had long earned her the reputation, in the village, of being able
to say strange things; and one or two of the old gossips knew of things
coming to pass according to what--poor old soul--she had predicted!

Dr. Tatham gently pushed open the door. The cottage consisted, in fact,
of but one room, and that a very small one, and lit by only one little
window. The floor was clean, and evidently just fresh sanded. On a
wooden stool, opposite a fireplace, on which a small saucepan was
placed, sat a girl about twelve years old, (a daughter of the woman who
lived nearest,) crumbling some bread into a basin, with some broth in
it. On a narrow bed against the wall, opposite the window, was to be
seen the somewhat remarkable figure of the solitary old tenant of the
cottage. She was sitting up, resting against the pillow, which was
placed on end against the wall. She was evidently a very tall woman;
and her long, brown, wrinkled, shrivelled face, with prominent
cheekbones and bushy white eyebrows, betokened the possession, in
earlier days, of a most masculine expression of features. Her hair,
white as snow, was gathered back from her forehead, under a spreading
plain white cap; and her sightless eyes, wide open, stared forward with
a startling and somewhat sinister expression. She was wrapped round in a
clean white bedgown; and her long thin arms lay straight before her on
the outside of the bedclothes. Her lips were moving, as if she were
talking to herself.

"She's a strange-looking object, indeed!" exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, as he
and Dr. Tatham stood watching her for a few moments in silence.

"Dame! dame!" said the doctor, loudly, approaching her bedside, "how are
you to-day? It's Christmas-day--I wish you a merry Christmas."

"Ay, ay--merry, merry!" echoed the old woman, with a half-groan. "More
the merrier! I've seen a hundred and nine of them!"

"You seem comfortable enough, dame," said Mr. Aubrey, kindly. "I hope
you _are_?"

"They won't give me my broth--my broth," said she, peevishly.

"It's coming, granny," called out the shrill voice of the girl sitting
before the fire, quickening her motions.

"Here's the squire come to see you, dame, and he wishes you a happy
Christmas," said Dr. Tatham, loudly.

"What! the squire? Alive yet? Ah, well-a-day! well-a-day!" said she, in
a feeble, mournful tone, slowly rubbing together her long, skinny,
wrinkled hands, on the backs of which the veins stood out like knotted
whipcord. She repeated the last words several times, in a truly doleful
tone, gently shaking her head.

"Granny's been very sad, sir, to-day, and cried two or three times,"
said the little girl, stirring about the hot broth.

"Poor squire! doth he not look sad?" inquired the old woman.

"Why should I, dame? What have I to fear?" said Mr. Aubrey, somewhat
quickly.

"Merry in the Hall! all, merry! merry! But no one has heard it except
old blind Bess. Where's the squire?" she added, suddenly turning full
towards the spot where they were standing--and her face seemed whitened
with emotion. Her staring eyes were settled on Mr. Aubrey's face, as if
she saw him distinctly, and were reading his very soul.

"Here I am, dame," said he, with a great deal of curiosity, to say the
least of it.

"Give me your hand, Squire," said she, stretching out her left arm, and
working about her talon-like fingers, as if in eagerness to grasp Mr.
Aubrey's hand, which he gave her.

"Never fear! never, never! Happy in the Hall! I see all! How long"----

"Why, dame, this is truly a very pleasant greeting of yours," interposed
Dr. Tatham, with a smile.

"Short and bitter! long and sweet! Put your trust in God, Squire."

"I hope I do, granny," replied Mr. Aubrey, seriously.

"I see! I hear!--my broth! my broth!--where is it?"

"Here it is, granny," said the girl--"It's all ready!"

"Good-day, dame," said Mr. Aubrey, gently disengaging his hand from
hers; and before they had left the cottage, she began to swallow very
greedily the broth with which the little girl fed her.

"This is the sort of way in which this old superannuated creature has
frightened one or two of"----

"Is it indeed?" inquired Mr. Aubrey, with a sort of mechanical smile.
Dr. Tatham saw that he was in a somewhat serious humor.

"She's alarmed _you_, I protest!--I protest she has!" exclaimed the
doctor, with a slight laugh, as they walked along. Now, he knew the
disposition and character of Aubrey intimately; and was well aware of a
certain tendency which he had to superstition.

"My dear doctor, I assure you that you are mistaken--I am indeed not
_alarmed_--but at the same time I will tell you something not a little
singular. Would you believe that a month or two ago, when in town, I
dreamed that I heard some one uttering something very much like the
words which we have just heard from this old woman?"

"Ah! ha, ha!" laughed the doctor; and, after a second or two's pause,
Aubrey, as if ashamed of what he had said, echoed the laugh, and their
conversation passed on to political topics, which kept them engaged for
the remainder of their walk, Mr. Aubrey quitting his companion at the
door of the vicarage, to be rejoined by him at five o'clock, the dinner
hour at the Hall. As Mr. Aubrey walked along the park, the shades of
evening casting a deepening gloom around him, his thoughts involuntarily
recurred to the cottage of old blind Bess, and he felt vague
apprehensions flitting with darkening shade across his mind. Though he
was hardly weak enough to attach any definite meaning or importance to
the gibberish he had heard, it still had left an unpleasant
_impression_, and he was vexed at feeling a wish that the
incident--trifling as he was willing to believe it--should not be
mentioned by Dr. Tatham at the Hall; and still more was he excited when
he recollected that he had _purposely abstained_ from requesting the
good doctor not to do so. All this undoubtedly implied that the matter
had occupied Mr. Aubrey's thoughts to a greater extent than he secretly
relished. On reaching, however, the Hall door, this brief pressure on
his feelings quickly ceased; for on entering, he saw Mrs. Aubrey, his
sister, and his two children, at high romps together in the hall, and he
heartily joined in them.



CHAPTER VIII.


By five o'clock the little party were seated at the cheerful
dinner-table, glistening with the old family plate and that kind of
fare, at once substantial and luxurious, which befitted the occasion.
Old Mrs. Aubrey, in her simple white turban and black velvet dress,
presided with a kind of dignified cheerfulness which was delightful to
see. Kate had contrived to make herself look more lovely even than
usual, wearing a dress of dark blue satin, tastefully trimmed with
blonde, and which exquisitely comported with her beautiful complexion.
Oh that Delamere had been sitting opposite to, or beside her! The more
matured proportions of her blooming sister-in-law appeared to infinite
advantage in a rich green velvet dress, while a superb diamond glistened
with subdued lustre in her beautiful bosom. She wore no ornaments in her
dark hair, which was, as indeed might be said of Kate, "when unadorned,
adorned the most." The gray-headed old butler, (as brisk as his choicest
champagne,) and the two steady-looking old family servants, going about
their business with quiet celerity--the delicious air of antique
elegance around them--the sense of profound seclusion--of remoteness
from the exciting hubbub of the world--in every respect this was a
Christmas dinner after one's own heart! Oh the merry and dear old
Yatton! And as if there were not loveliness enough already in the room,
behold the door suddenly pushed open, as soon as the dessert is arrayed
on the table, and run up to his gay and laughing mother, her little son,
his ample snowy collar resting gracefully on his crimson velvet dress.
'Tis her hope and pride--her first-born--the little squire; but where is
his sister?--where is Agnes? 'Tis even as Charles says--she fell asleep
in the very act of being dressed, and they were obliged to put her to
bed; so Charles is alone in his glory. You may well fold your delicate
white arm around him, mamma!--

His little gold cup is nearly filled to join in the first toast: are you
all--dear little circle!--are you all ready? The worthy doctor has
poured old Mrs. Aubrey's, and young Mrs. Aubrey's, and Kate's glass full
up to the brim:--"_Our next Christmas!_" quoth he, cheerily elevating
his glass.

Yes, your next Christmas! The vigilant eye of Dr. Tatham alone perceived
a faint change of color in Mr. Aubrey's cheek as the words were uttered;
and his eye wandered for an instant, as if tracing across the room the
image of old blind Bess; but 'twas gone in a moment; Aubrey was soon in
much higher spirits than usual. Well he might be. How could man be
placed in happier circumstances than he was? As soon as the three ladies
had withdrawn, together with little Aubrey, the doctor and Mr. Aubrey
drew their chairs before the fire, and enjoyed a long hour's pleasant
conversation, on matters domestic and political. As to the latter, the
doctor and the squire were stout Tories; and a speech which Aubrey had
lately delivered in the House, on the Catholic claims, had raised him to
a pitch of eminence in the doctor's estimation, where Aubrey had very
few men in the country to keep him company. The doctor here got on very
fast indeed; and was just assuring the squire that he saw dark days in
store for Old England from the machinations of the Papists; and that,
for his part, he should rejoice to "seal his testimony with his blood,"
and would go to the stake not only without flinching, but
rejoicing--(all which I verily believe _he_ verily believed he would
have done) and coveting the crown of martyrdom--when Aubrey caught the
sound of his sister playing on the organ, a noble instrument, which a
year or two before, at her urgent request, he had purchased and placed
in the drawing-room, whither he and the doctor at once repaired. 'Twas a
spacious and lofty room, well calculated for the splendid instrument
which occupied the large recess fronting the door. Miss Aubrey was
playing Handel, and with an exquisite perception of his matchless power
and beauty. Hark! did you ever hear the grand yet simple recitative she
is now commencing?

     "_In the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from
     the East to Jerusalem,_

     "_Saying--Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have
     seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him._"

The doctor officiated as chaplain that evening. The room was almost
filled with servants, many of whose looks very plainly showed the merry
doings which must have been going on in the servants' hall. Some could
scarce keep their eyes open; one or two sat winking at each other! and
others were fairly asleep, and snoring! Under the circumstances,
therefore, the doctor, with much judgment, read very short prayers, and
immediately afterwards took his departure for his snug little vicarage.
The moon shone brightly, the air was clear and bracing, and he felt as
blithe as a bird as he walked homeward!

The next morning, which proved as fine as the preceding, Mr. Aubrey was
detained in-doors with his letters, and one or two other little matters
of business in his library, till luncheon time. "What say you, Kate, to
a ride round the country?" said he, on taking his seat. Kate was
delighted; and forthwith the horses were ordered to be got ready as soon
as possible.

"You must not mind a little rough riding, Kate, by the way," said
Aubrey; "for we shall have to get over some ugly places!--I'm going to
meet Waters at the end of the avenue, about that old sycamore--we must
have it down at last."

"Oh no, Charles, no; I thought we had settled that last year!" replied
Kate, earnestly.

"Pho! if it had not been for you, Kate, it would have been down two
years ago at least. Its hour is come at last; 'tis indeed, so no
pouting! It is injuring the other trees; and, besides, it spoils the
prospect from the left wing of the house."

"'Tis only Waters that puts all these things into your head, Charles,
and I shall let him know _my_ opinion on the subject when I see him!
Mamma, haven't _you_ a word to say for the old"----

But Mr. Aubrey, not deeming it discreet to await the new force which was
being brought against him, started off to inspect a newly purchased
horse, just brought to the stables.

Kate, who really became everything, looked charming in her blue
riding-habit and hat, sitting on her horse with infinite ease and grace;
in fact, a capital horsewoman. The exercise soon brought a rich bloom
upon her cheek; and as she cantered along the road by the side of her
brother, no one could have met them without being almost startled at her
beauty. Just as they had dropped into an easy walk--

"Charles," said she, observing two horsemen approaching them, "who can
these be? Heavens! did you ever see such figures? And how they ride!"

"Why, certainly," replied her brother, smiling, "they look a brace of
arrant Cockneys! Ah, ha!--what can they be doing in _these_ parts?"

"Dear me, what puppies!" exclaimed Miss Aubrey, lowering her voice as
they neared the persons she spoke of.

"They _are_ certainly a most extraordinary couple! Who _can_ they be?"
said Mr. Aubrey, a smile forcing itself into his features. One of the
gentlemen thus referred to, was dressed in a light blue surtout, with
the tip of a white pocket-handkerchief seen peeping out of a pocket in
the front of it. His hat, with scarce any brim to it, was stuck aslant
on the top of a bushy head of queer-colored hair. His shirt-collar was
turned down completely over his stock, displaying a great quantity of
dirt-colored hair under his chin; while a pair of mustaches, of the same
color, were sprouting upon his upper lip, and a perpendicular tuft
depended from his under lip. A quizzing-glass was stuck in his right
eye, and in his hand he carried a whip with a shining silver head. The
other was almost equally distinguished by the elegance of his
appearance. He had a glossy hat, a purple-colored velvet waistcoat, two
pins connected by little chains in his stock, a bottle-green surtout,
sky-blue trousers, and a most splendid riding-whip. In short, who should
these be but our old friends, Messrs. Titmouse and Snap? Whoever they
might be--and whatever their other accomplishments, it was plain that
they were perfect novices on horseback; and their horses had every
appearance of having been much fretted and worried by their riders. To
the surprise of Mr. Aubrey and his sister, these two personages
attempted to rein in as they neared, and evidently intended to speak to
them.

"Pray--a--sir, will you, sir, tell us," commenced Titmouse, with a
desperate attempt to appear at his ease, as he tried to make his horse
stand still for a moment--"isn't there a place called--called"--here his
horse, whose sides were constantly being galled by the spurs of its
unconscious rider, began to back a little; then to go on one side, and,
in Titmouse's fright, his glass dropped from his eye, and he seized hold
of the pommel. Nevertheless, to show the lady how completely he was at
his ease all the while, he levelled a great many oaths and curses at the
unfortunate eyes and soul of his wayward brute; who, however, not in the
least moved by them, but infinitely disliking the spurs of its rider and
the twisting round of its mouth by the reins, seemed more and more
inclined for mischief, and backed close up to the edge of the ditch.

"I'm afraid, sir," said Mr. Aubrey, kindly and very earnestly, "you are
not much accustomed to riding. Will you permit _me_"----

"Oh, yes--ye--ye--s, sir, I _am_ though,--uncommon--whee-o-uy!
whuoy!"--(then a fresh volley of oaths.) "Oh, dear, 'pon my soul--ho! my
eyes!--what--what _is_ he going to do! Snap! Snap!"--'T was, however,
quite in vain to call on _that_ gentleman for assistance; for he had
grown as pale as death, on finding that his own brute seemed strongly
disposed to follow the infernal example (or rather, as it were, the
_converse_ of it) of the other, and was particularly inclined to rear up
on its hind-legs. The very first motion of that sort brought Snap's
heart (not large enough, perhaps, to choke him) into his mouth.
Titmouse's beast, in the mean while, suddenly wheeled round; and
throwing its hind feet into the air, sent its terrified rider flying
head over heels into the very middle of the hedge, from which he dropped
into the soft wet ditch on the road-side. Both Mr. Aubrey and his groom
immediately dismounted, and secured the horse, who, having got rid of
its ridiculous rider, stood perfectly quiet. Titmouse proved to be more
frightened than hurt. His hat was crushed flat on his head, and half the
left side of his face covered with mud--as, indeed, were his clothes all
the way down. The groom (almost splitting with laughter) helped him on
his horse again; and as Mr. and Miss Aubrey were setting off--"I think,
sir," said the former, politely, "you were inquiring for some place?"

"Yes, sir," quoth Snap. "Isn't there a place called Ya--Yat--Yat--(be
quiet, you brute!)--Yatton about here?"

"Yes, sir--straight on," replied Mr. Aubrey. Miss Aubrey hastily threw
her veil over her face, to conceal her laughter, urging on her horse;
and she and her brother were soon out of sight of the strangers.

"I say, Snap," quoth Titmouse, when he had in a measure cleansed
himself, and they had both got a little composed, "see that lovely gal?"

"Fine gal--devilish fine!" replied Snap.

"I'm blessed if I don't think--'pon my life, I believe we've met
before!"

"Didn't seem to know you though!"---- quoth Snap, somewhat dryly.

"Ah! you don't know--How uncommon infernal unfortunate to happen just at
the moment when"---- Titmouse became silent; for all of a sudden he
recollected when and where, and under what circumstances he had seen
Miss Aubrey before, and which his vanity would not allow of his telling
Snap. The fact was, that she had once accompanied her sister-in-law to
Messrs. Tag-rag and Company's, to purchase some small matter of mercery.
Titmouse had served them; and his absurdity of manner and personal
appearance had provoked a smile, which Titmouse a little misconstrued;
for when, a Sunday or two afterwards, he met her in the Park, the little
fool actually had the presumption to nod to her--she having not the
slightest notion who the little wretch might be--and of course not
having, on the present occasion, the least recollection of him. The
reader will recollect that this incident made a deep impression on the
mind of Mr. Titmouse.

The coincidence was really not a little singular--but to return to Mr.
Aubrey and his sister. After riding a mile or two farther up the road,
they leaped over a very low mound or fence, which formed the extreme
boundary of that part of the estate, and having passed through a couple
of fields, they entered the eastern extremity of that fine avenue of
elms, at the higher end of which stood Kate's favorite tree, and also
Waters and his under-bailiff--who looked to her like a couple of
executioners, only awaiting the fiat of her brother. The sun shone
brightly upon the doomed sycamore--"the axe was laid at its root." As
they rode up the avenue, Kate begged very hard for mercy; but for once
her brother seemed obdurate--the tree, he said, _must_ come down--'t was
all nonsense to think of leaving it standing any longer!--

"Remember, Charles," said she, passionately, as they drew up, "how we've
all of us romped and sported under it! Poor papa also"----

"See, Kate, how rotten it is," said her brother; and riding close to it,
with his whip he snapped off two or three of its feeble silvery-gray
branches--"it's high time for it to come down."

"It fills the grass all round with little branches, sir, whenever
there's the least breath of wind," said Waters.

"It won't hardly hold a crow's weight on the topmost branches, sir,"
added Dickons, the under-bailiff, very modestly.

"Had it any leaves last summer?" inquired Mr. Aubrey.

"I don't think, sir," replied Waters, "it had a hundred all over it!"

"Really, Kate," said her brother, "'t is such a melancholy, unsightly
object, when seen from any part of the Hall"--turning round on his horse
to look at the rear of the Hall, which was at about two hundred yards'
distance. "It looks such an old withered thing among the fresh green
trees around it--'t is quite a painful contrast." Kate had gently urged
on her horse while her brother was speaking, till she was close beside
him. "Charles," said she, in a low whisper, "does not it remind you a
little of poor old mamma, with her gray hairs, among her children and
grandchildren? _She_ is not out of place among us--is she?" Her eyes
filled with tears. So did her brother's.

"Dearest Kate," said he, with emotion, affectionately grasping her
little hand, "you have triumphed! The old tree shall never be cut down
in my time! Waters, let the tree stand; and if anything _is_ to be done
to it--let the greatest possible _care_ be taken of it." Miss Aubrey
turned her head aside to conceal her emotion. Had they been alone, she
would have flung her arms round her brother's neck.

"If I were to speak my mind, sir," said the compliant Waters, seeing the
turn things were taking, "I should say, with our young lady, the old
tree's quite a kind of ornament in this here situation, and (as one
might say) it sets off the rest." [It was he who had been worrying Mr.
Aubrey for these last three years to have it cut down!]

"Well," replied Mr. Aubrey, "however that may be, let me hear no more of
cutting it down--Ah! what does old Jolter want here?" said he, observing
an old tenant of that name, almost bent double with age, hobbling
towards them. He was wrapped up in a coarse thick blue coat; his hair
was long and white; his eyes dim and glassy with age.

"I don't know, sir--I'll go and see," said Waters.

"What's the matter, Jolter?" he inquired, stepping forward to meet him.

"Nothing much, sir," replied the old man, feebly, and panting, taking
off his hat, and bowing very low towards Mr. and Miss Aubrey.

"Put your hat on, my old friend," said Mr. Aubrey, kindly.

"I only come to bring you this bit of paper, sir, if you please," said
the old man, addressing Waters. "You said, a while ago, as how I was
always to bring you papers that were left with me; and this"--taking one
out of his pocket--"was left with me only about an hour ago. It's
seemingly a lawyer's paper, and was left by an uncommon gay young chap.
He asked me my name, and then he looked at the paper, and read it all
over to me, but I couldn't make anything of it."

"What is it?" inquired Mr. Aubrey, as Waters cast his eye over a sheet
of paper, partly printed and partly written.

"Why, it seems the old story, sir--that slip of waste land, sir. Mr.
Tomkins is at it again, sir."

"Well, if he chooses to spend his money in that way, I can't help it,"
said Mr. Aubrey, with a smile. "Let me look at the paper." He did so.
"Yes, it seems the same kind of thing as before. Well," handing it back,
"send it to Mr. Parkinson, and tell him to look to it; and, at all
events, take care that poor old Jolter comes to no trouble by the
business. How's the old wife, Jacob?"

"She's dreadful bad with rheumatis, sir; but the stuff that Madam sends
her does her a woundy deal of good, sir, in her inside."

"Well, we must try if we can't send you some more; and, harkee, if the
goodwife doesn't get better soon, send us up word to the Hall, and we'll
have the doctor call on her. Now, Kate, let us away homeward." And they
were soon out of sight.

I do not intend to deal so unceremoniously or summarily as Mr. Aubrey
did, with the document which had been brought to his notice by Jolter,
then handed over to Waters, and by him, according to orders, transmitted
the next day to Mr. Parkinson, Mr. Aubrey's attorney. It was what is
called a "DECLARATION IN EJECTMENT;" touching which, in order to throw a
ray or two of light upon a document which will make no small figure in
this history, I shall try to give the reader a little information on the
point; and hope that a little attention to what now follows, will be
repaid in due time. Here beginneth a little lecture on law.

If _Jones_ claim a _debt_, or _goods_, or _damages_, from _Smith_, one
should think that, if he went to law, the action would be entitled
"Jones _versus_ Smith;" and so it is. But behold, if it be LAND which is
claimed by Jones from Smith, the style and name of the cause stand
thus:--"DOE, on the demise of Jones, _versus_ ROE." Instead, therefore,
of Jones and Smith fighting out the matter in their own proper names,
they set up a couple of puppets, (called "John Doe" and "Richard Roe,")
who fall upon one another in a very quaint fashion, after the manner of
Punch and Judy. John Doe pretends to be the real plaintiff, and Richard
Roe the real defendant. John Doe says that the land which Richard Roe
has, is his, (the said John Doe's,) because _Jones_ (the real plaintiff)
gave him a lease of it; and _Jones_ is then called "the lessor of the
plaintiff." John Doe further says that one Richard Roe, (who calls
himself by the very significant and expressive name of a "_Casual
Ejector_,") came and turned him out, and so John Doe brings his action
against Richard Roe. 'Tis a fact, that whenever land is sought to be
recovered in England, this anomalous and farcical proceeding must be
adopted.[15] It is the duty of the _real_ plaintiff (Jones) to serve on
the _real_ defendant (Smith) a copy of the queer document which I shall
proceed to lay before the reader; and also to append to it an
affectionate note, intimating the serious consequences which will ensue
upon inattention or contumacy. The "Declaration," then, which had been
served upon old Jolter, was in the words, letters, and figures
following--that is to say:--

     "IN THE KING'S BENCH.
                                 "Michaelmas Term, the---- of King----.

     "YORKSHIRE, to-wit--Richard Roe was attached to answer John Doe of
     a plea wherefore the said Richard Roe, with force and arms, &c.,
     entered into two messuages, two dwelling-houses, two cottages, two
     stables, two out-houses, two yards, two gardens, two orchards,
     twenty acres of land covered with water, twenty acres of arable
     land, twenty acres of pasture land, and twenty acres of other land,
     with the appurtenances, situated in _Yatton_, in the county of
     York, which TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, Esquire, had demised to the said
     John Doe for a term which is not yet expired, and ejected him from
     his said farm, and other wrongs to the said John Doe there did, to
     the great damage of the said John Doe, and against the peace of our
     Lord the King, &c.; and Thereupon the said John Doe, by OILY
     GAMMON, his attorney, complains,--

     "That whereas the said TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE, on the --th day of
     August, in the year of our Lord 18--, at Yatton aforesaid, in the
     county aforesaid, had demised the same tenements, with the
     appurtenances, to the said John Doe, to have and to hold the same
     to the said John Doe and his assigns thenceforth, for and during,
     and unto the full end and term of twenty years thence next ensuing,
     and fully to be completed and ended: By virtue of which said
     demise, the said John Doe entered into the said tenements, with the
     appurtenances, and became and was thereof possessed for the said
     term, so to him thereof granted as aforesaid. And the said John Doe
     being so thereof possessed, the said Richard Roe afterwards,
     to-wit, on the day and year aforesaid, at the parish aforesaid, in
     the county aforesaid, with force and arms, that is to say with
     swords, staves, and knives, &c., entered into the said tenements,
     with the appurtenances, which the said TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE had
     demised to the said John Doe in manner and for the term aforesaid,
     which is not yet expired, and ejected the said John Doe out of his
     said farm; and other wrongs to the said John Doe then and there
     did, to the great damage of the said John Doe, and against the
     peace of our said Lord the now King. Wherefore the said John Doe
     saith that he is injured, and hath sustained damage to the value of
     £50, and therefore he brings his suit, &c.

     "SQUEAL, for the Plaintiff.  { Pledges of   } John Den.
     GROWL, for the Defendant.    { Prosecution. } Richard Fenn.

     "MR. JACOB JOLTER,

     "I am informed that you are in possession of, or claim title to,
     the premises in this Declaration of Ejectment mentioned, or to some
     part thereof: And I, being sued in this action as a _casual
     ejector_ only, and having no claim or title to the same, do advise
     you to appear, next Hilary term, in His Majesty's Court of King's
     Bench at Westminster, by some attorney of that Court; and then and
     there, by a rule to be made of the same Court, to cause yourself to
     be made defendant in my stead; otherwise, I shall suffer judgment
     to be entered against me by default, and you will be turned out of
     possession.

                           "Your loving friend,
                                                           RICHARD ROE.
     "Dated this 8th day of December 18--."[16]

You may regard the above document in the light of a deadly and
destructive missile, thrown by an unperceived enemy into a peaceful
citadel; attracting no particular notice from the innocent unsuspecting
inhabitants--among whom, nevertheless, it presently explodes, and all is
terror, death, and ruin.

Mr. Parkinson, Mr. Aubrey's solicitor, who resided at Grilston, the
post-town nearest to Yatton, from which it was distant about six or
seven miles, was sitting on the evening of Tuesday the 28th December
18--, in his office, nearly finishing a letter to his London agents,
Messrs. Runnington and Company--one of the most eminent firms in the
profession--and which he was desirous of despatching by that night's
mail. Among other papers which have come into my hands in connection
with this history, I have happened to light on the letter which he was
writing; and as it is not long, and affords a specimen of the way in
which business is carried on between town and country attorneys and
solicitors, here followeth a copy of it:--

                                                "Grilston, 28th Dec. 18--.

     "DEAR SIRS,

                              "_Re Middleton_.

     "Have you got the marriage-settlements between these parties ready?
     If so, please send them as soon as possible; for both the lady's
     and gentleman's friends are (as usual in such cases) very pressing
     for them.

                          "_Puddinghead_ v. _Quickwit_.

     "Plaintiff bought a horse of defendant in November last, 'warranted
     sound,' and paid for it on the spot £64. A week afterwards, his
     attention was accidentally drawn to the animal's head; and to his
     infinite surprise, he discovered that the left eye was a _glass
     eye_, so closely resembling the other in color, that the difference
     could not be discovered except on a very close examination. I have
     seen it myself, and it is indeed wonderfully well done. My
     countrymen are certainly pretty sharp hands in such matters--but
     this beats everything I ever heard of. Surely this is a breach of
     the warranty? Or is it to be considered a _patent_ defect, which
     would not be within the warranty?[17]--Please take pleader's
     opinion, and particularly as to whether the horse could be brought
     into court to be viewed by the court and jury, which would have a
     great effect. If your pleader thinks the action will lie, let him
     draw declaration, _venue_--Lancashire (for my client would have no
     chance with a Yorkshire jury,) if you think the _venue_ is
     transitory, and that defendant would not be successful on a motion
     to change it. _Qu._--Is the man who sold the horse to defendant a
     _competent[18] witness_ for the plaintiff, to prove that, when he
     sold it to defendant, it had but one eye, and that on this account
     the horse was sold for less?

                        "_Mule_ v. _Stott_.

     "I cannot get these parties to come to an amicable settlement. You
     may remember, from the two former actions, that it is for damages
     on account of two geese of defendant having been found trespassing
     on a few yards of a field belonging to the plaintiff. Defendant now
     contends that he is entitled to common, _pour cause de vicinage_.
     _Qu._--Can this be shown under Not Guilty, or must it be pleaded
     specially?--About two years ago, by the way, a pig belonging to
     plaintiff got into defendant's flower-garden, and did at least £3
     worth of damage--Can this be in any way set off against the present
     action? There is no hope of avoiding a third trial, as the parties
     are now more exasperated against each other than ever, and the
     expense (as at least fifteen witnesses will be called on each side)
     will amount to upwards of £250. You had better retain Mr.
     Cacklegander.

                    "_Re Lords Oldacre and De la Zouch._

     "Are the deeds herein engrossed? As it is a matter of magnitude,
     and the foundation of extensive and permanent family arrangements,
     pray let the greatest care be taken to secure accuracy. Please take
     special care of the stamps"----

Thus far had the worthy writer proceeded with his letter, when Waters
made his appearance, delivering to him the declaration in ejectment
which had been served upon old Jolter, and also the instructions
concerning it which had been given by Mr. Aubrey. After Mr. Parkinson
had asked particularly concerning Mr. Aubrey's health, and what had
brought him so suddenly to Yatton, he cast his eye hastily over the
"Declaration"--and at once and contemptuously came to the same
conclusion concerning it which had been arrived at by Waters and Mr.
Aubrey, viz. that it was another little arrow out of the quiver of the
litigious Mr. Tomkins. As soon as Waters had left, Mr. Parkinson thus
proceeded to conclude his letter:--

                    "_Doe dem. Titmouse_ v. _Roe_.

     "I enclose you Declaration herein, served yesterday. No doubt it is
     the disputed slip of waste land adjoining the cottage of old Jacob
     Jolter, a tenant of Mr. Aubrey of Yatton, that is sought to be
     recovered. I am quite sick of this petty annoyance, as also is Mr.
     Aubrey, who is now down here. Please call on Messrs. Quirk, Gammon,
     and Snap, of Saffron Hill, and settle the matter finally, on the
     best terms you can; it being Mr. Aubrey's wish that old Jolter (who
     is very feeble and timid) should suffer no inconvenience. I observe
     a new lessor of the plaintiff, with a very singular name. I suppose
     it is the name of some prior holder of the acre or two of property
     at present held by Mr. Tomkins.

     "Hoping soon to hear from you, (particularly about the
     marriage-settlement,) I am,

                               "Dear Sirs,
                "(With all the compliments of the season,)
                              "Yours truly,
                                                      "JAMES PARKINSON.
     "MESSRS. RUNNINGTON & CO.

     "P. S.--The oysters and codfish came to hand in excellent order,
     for which please accept my best thanks.

     "I shall remit you in a day or two £100 on account."

This letter, lying among some twenty or thirty similar ones on Mr.
Runnington's table, on the morning of its arrival in town, was opened in
its turn; and then, in like manner, with most of the others, handed over
to the managing clerk, in order that he might inquire into and report
upon the state of the various matters of business referred to. As to the
last item (_Doe dem. Titmouse_ v. _Roe_) in Mr. Parkinson's letter,
there seemed no particular reason for hurrying; so two or three days had
elapsed before Mr. Runnington, having some little casual business to
transact with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, bethought himself of
looking at his Diary, to see if there were not something else that he
had to do with that very sharp "house." Putting, therefore, the
Declaration in _Doe d. Titmouse_ v. _Roe_ into his pocket, it was not
long before he was to be seen at the office in Saffron Hill--and in the
very room in it which had been the scene of several memorable interviews
between Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse and Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. I
shall not detail what transpired on that occasion between Mr.
Runnington, and Messrs. Quirk and Gammon, with whom he was closeted for
nearly an hour. On quitting the office his cheek was flushed, and his
manner somewhat excited. After walking a little way in a moody manner
and with slow step, he suddenly jumped into a hackney-coach, and within
a quarter of an hour's time had secured an inside place in the Tally-ho
coach, which started for York at two o'clock that afternoon--much
doubting within himself, the while, whether he ought not to have set off
at once in a post-chaise and four. He then made one or two calls in the
Temple; and, hurrying home to the office, made hasty arrangements for
his sudden journey into Yorkshire. He was a calm and experienced man--in
fact, a first-rate man of business; and you may be assured that this
rapid and decisive movement of his had been the result of some very
startling disclosure made to him by Messrs. Quirk and Gammon.

Now, let us glide back to the delightful solitude which we reluctantly
quitted so short a time ago.

Mr. Aubrey was a studious and ambitious man; and in acceding so readily
to the wishes of his wife and sister, to spend the Christmas recess at
Yatton, had been not a little influenced by one consideration, which he
had not thought it worth while to mention--namely, that it would afford
him an opportunity of addressing himself with effect to a very important
and complicated question, which was to be brought before the House
shortly after its reassembling, and of which he then knew,
comparatively speaking, nothing at all. For this purpose he had had a
quantity of Parliamentary papers, &c. &c. &c., packed up and sent down
by coach; and he quite gloated over the prospect of their being duly
deposited upon his table, in the tranquil leisure of his library, at
Yatton. But quietly as he supposed all this to have been managed, Mrs.
Aubrey and Kate had a most accurate knowledge of his movements, and
resolved within themselves, (being therein comforted and assisted by old
Mrs. Aubrey,) that, as at their instances Mr. Aubrey had come down to
Yatton, so they would take care that he should have not merely nominal,
but real holidays. Unless he thought fit to rise at an early hour in the
morning, (which Mrs. Aubrey, junior, took upon herself to say _she_
would take care should never be the case,) it was decreed that he should
not be allowed to waste more than two hours a-day alone in his library.
'T was therefore in vain for him to sit at breakfast with eye aslant and
thought-laden brow, as if meditating a long day's seclusion; somehow or
another, he never got above an hour to himself. He was often momentarily
petulant on these occasions, and soon saw through the designs of his
enemies; but he so heartily and tenderly loved them--so thoroughly
appreciated the affection which dictated their little manœuvres--that
he soon surrendered at discretion, and, in fact, placed himself almost
entirely at their mercy; resolving to make up for lost time on his
return to town, and earnestly hoping that the interests of the nation
would not suffer in the mean while! In short, the ladies of Yatton had
agreed on their line of operations: that almost every night of their
stay in the country should be devoted either to entertaining or visiting
their neighbors; and as a preparatory movement, that the days (weather
permitting) should be occupied with exercise in the open air; in making
"morning" calls on neighbors at several miles' distance from the Hall
and from each other; and from which they generally returned only in time
enough to dress for dinner. As soon, indeed, as the _York True Blue_
(the leading county paper) had announced the arrival at Yatton of
"Charles Aubrey, Esq., M. P., and his family, for the Christmas recess,"
the efforts of Mrs. and Miss Aubrey were most powerfully seconded by a
constant succession of visitors--by

    "Troops of friends,"

as the lodge-keeper could have testified; for he and his buxom wife were
continually opening and shutting the great gates. On the Monday after
Christmas-day, (_i. e._ the day but one following,) came cantering up to
the Hall Lord De la Zouch and Mr. Delamere, of course staying to
luncheon and bearing a most pressing invitation from Lady De la Zouch,
zealously backed by themselves, for the Aubreys to join a large party at
Fotheringham Castle on New-Year's Eve. This was accepted--a day and a
night were thus gone at a swoop. The same thing happened with the
Oldfields, their nearest neighbors; with Sir Percival Pickering at
Luddington Court, where was a superb new picture-gallery to be
critically inspected by Mr. Aubrey--the Earl of Oldacre, a college
friend of Mr. Aubrey's--the venerable Lady Stratton, the earliest friend
and schoolfellow of old Mrs. Aubrey, and so forth. Then Kate had several
visits to pay on her own account; and being fond of horseback, but not
of riding about the country with only a groom in attendance, her brother
_must_ accompany her on these occasions. The first week of their stay in
the country was devoted to visiting their neighbors and friends in the
way I have stated; the next was to be spent in receiving them at Yatton,
during which time the old Hall was to ring with merry hospitality.

Then there was a little world of other matters to occupy Mr. Aubrey's
attention, and which naturally crowded upon him, living so little as he
had latterly lived at Yatton. He often had a kind of levee of his
humbler neighbors, tenants, and constituents; and on these occasions his
real goodness of nature, his simplicity, his patience, his forbearance,
his sweetness of temper, his benevolence, shone conspicuous. With all
these more endearing qualities, there was yet a placid dignity about him
which would have chilled undue familiarity, and repelled
presumption--had they ventured to manifest themselves. He had here no
motive or occasion for ostentation, or, as it is called,
popularity-hunting. In a sense it might be said of him, that he was
"monarch of all he surveyed." It is true, he was member for the
borough--an honor, however, for which he was indebted to the natural
influence of his commanding position--one which left him his own master,
not converting him into a paltry delegate, handcuffed by pledges on
public questions, and laden with injunctions concerning petty local
interests only--liable, moreover, to be called to an account at any
moment by ignorant and insolent demagogues--but a member of Parliament
training to become a statesman, possessed of a free-will, and therefore
capable of independent and enlightened deliberations; placed by his
fortune above the reach of temptation--but I shall not go any farther,
for the portraiture of a member of Parliament of those days suggests
such a humiliating and bitter contrast, that I shall not ruffle either
my own or my reader's temper by sketching one of modern days. On the
occasions I have been alluding to, Mr. Aubrey was not only condescending
and generous, but practically acute and discriminating; qualities of
his, these latter, so well known, however, as to leave him at length
scarce any opportunities of exercising them. His quiet but decisive
interference put an end to many local unpleasantnesses and annoyances,
and caused his increasing absence from Yatton to be very deeply
regretted. Was a lad or a wench taking to idle and dissolute courses? A
kind, or, as the occasion required, a stern expostulation of his--for he
was a justice of the peace moreover--brought them to their senses. He
had a very happy knack of reasoning and laughing quarrelsome neighbors
into reconciliation and good-humor. He had a keen eye after the
practical details of agriculture; was equally quick at detecting an
inconvenience, and appreciating--sometimes even suggesting--a remedy;
and had, on several occasions, brought such knowledge to bear very
effectively upon discussions in Parliament. His constituents, few in
number undoubtedly, and humble, were quite satisfied with, and proud of,
their member; and his unexpected appearance diffused among them real and
general satisfaction. As a landlord, he was beloved by his numerous
tenantry; and well he might--for never was there so easy and liberal a
landlord: he might at any time have increased his rental by £1,500 or
£2,000 a-year, as his steward frequently intimated to him--but in vain.
"Ten thousand a-year," would say Mr. Aubrey, "is far more than my
necessities require--it affords me and my family every luxury that I can
conceive of; and its magnitude reminds me constantly that hereafter I
shall be called upon to give a very strict and solemn account of _my_
stewardship." I would my space could admit of my completing, as it ought
to be completed, this portraiture of a true Christian gentleman!

As he rode up to the Hare and Hounds Inn, at Grilston, one morning, to
transact some little business, and also to look in on the Farmers' Club,
which was then holding one of its fortnightly meetings, (every one
touching his hat and bowing to him on each side of the long street, as
he slowly passed up it,) he perceived that his horse limped on one
foot. On dismounting, therefore, he stopped to see what was the matter,
while his groom took up the foot to examine it.

"Dey-vilish fine horse!" exclaimed the voice of one standing close
beside him, and in a tone of most disagreeable confidence. The
exclamation was addressed to Mr. Aubrey; who, on turning to the speaker,
beheld a young man--('twas, in fact, Titmouse)--dressed in a style of
the most extravagant absurdity. One hand was stuck into the hinder
pocket of a stylish top-coat, (the everlasting tip of a white
pocket-handkerchief glistening at the mouth of his breast-pocket;) the
other held a cigar to his mouth, from which, as he addressed Mr. Aubrey
with an air of signal assurance, he slowly expelled the smoke which he
had inhaled. Mr. Aubrey turned towards him with a cold and surprised
air, without replying; at the same time wondering where he had seen the
ridiculous object before.

"The horses in these parts ar'n't to be compared with them at
London--eh, sir?" quoth Titmouse, approaching closer to Mr. Aubrey and
his groom, to see what the latter was doing--who, on hearing Titmouse's
last sally, gave him a very significant look.

"I'm afraid the people here won't relish your remarks, sir!" replied Mr.
Aubrey, calmly--hardly able to forbear a smile; at the same time, with
an astonished air, scanning the figure of his companion from head to
foot.

"Who cares?" inquired Titmouse, with a very energetic oath. At this
moment up came a farmer, who, observing Mr. Aubrey, made him a very low
bow. Mr. Aubrey's attention being at the moment occupied with Titmouse,
he did not observe the salutation; not so with Titmouse, who, conceiving
it to have been directed to himself, acknowledged it by taking off his
hat with great grace! Mr. Aubrey presently entered the house, having
ordered his groom to bring back the horse in an hour's time.

"Pray," said he, mildly, to the landlady, "who is that person smoking
the cigar outside?"

"Why, sir," she replied, "he's a Mr. _Brown_; and has another with him
here--who's going up to London by this afternoon's coach--this one stays
behind a day or two longer. They're queer people, sir. Such dandies! Do
nothing but smoke, and drink brandy and water, sir; only that t' other
writes a good deal."

"Well, I wish you would remind him," said Mr. Aubrey, smiling, "that, if
he thinks fit to speak to _me_ again, or in my presence, I am a
magistrate, and have the power of fining him five shillings for every
oath he utters."

"What! sir," quoth she, reverently--"has he been speaking to _you_?
Well, I never!! He's the most forward little upstart I ever see'd!" said
she, dropping her voice; "and the sooner he takes himself off from here
the better; for he's always winking at the maids and talking impudence
to them. I'se box his ears, I warrant him, one of these times!" Mr.
Aubrey smiled, and went up-stairs.

"There don't seem to be _much_ wrong," quoth Titmouse to the groom, with
a condescending air, as soon as Mr. Aubrey had entered the house.

"Much you know about it, I don't guess!" quoth Sam, with a contemptuous
smile.

"Who's your master, fellow?" inquired Titmouse, knocking off the ashes
from the tip of his cigar.

"A gentleman. What's _yours_?"

"Curse your impudence, you vagabond"---- The words were hardly out of
his mouth before Sam, with a slight tap of his hand, had knocked
Titmouse's glossy hat off his head, and Titmouse's purple-hued hair
stood exposed to view, provoking the jeers and laughter of one or two
bystanders. Titmouse appeared about to strike the groom; who, hastily
giving the bridles of his horses into the hands of an hostler, threw
himself into boxing attitude; and being a clean, tight-built, stout
young fellow, looked a very formidable object, as he came squaring
nearer and nearer to the dismayed Titmouse; and on behalf of the
outraged honor of all the horses of Yorkshire, was just going to let fly
his _one-two_, when a sharp tapping at the bow-window overhead startled
him for a moment, interrupting his war-like demonstrations; and, on
casting up his eyes, he beheld the threatening figure of his master, who
was shaking his whip at him. He dropped his guard, touched his hat very
humbly, and resumed his horses' bridles; muttering, however, to
Titmouse, "If thou'rt a man, come down into t' yard, and I'll mak thee
think a horse kicked thee, a liar as thou art!"

"Who's that gentleman gone up-stairs?" inquired Titmouse of the
landlady, after he had sneaked into the inn.

"Squire Aubrey of Yatton," she replied tartly. Titmouse's face,
previously very pale, flushed all over. "Ay, ay," she continued
sharply--"thou _must_ be chattering to the grand folks, and thou'st
nearly put thy foot into 't at last, I can tell thee; for that's a
magistrate, and thou'st been a-swearing afore him." Titmouse smiled
rather faintly; and entering the parlor, affected to be engaged with a
county newspaper; and he remained very quiet for upwards of an hour, not
venturing out of the room till he had seen off Mr. Aubrey and his
formidable Sam.

It was the hunting season; but Mr. Aubrey, though he had as fine horses
as were to be found in the county, and which were always at the service
of his friends, partly from want of inclination, and partly from the
delicacy of his constitution, never shared in the sports of the field.
Now and then, however, he rode to cover, to see the hounds throw off,
and exchange greetings with a great number of his friends and
neighbors, on such occasions collected together. This he did, the
morning after that on which he had visited Grilston, accompanied, at
their earnest entreaty, by Mrs. Aubrey and Kate. I am not painting
angels, but describing frail human nature; and truth forces me to say,
that Kate had a kind of a notion that on such occasions she did not
appear to disadvantage. I protest I love her not the less for it! Is
there a beautiful woman under the sun who is not really aware of her
charms, and of the effect they produce upon our sex? Pooh! I never will
believe to the contrary. In Kate's composition this ingredient was but
an imperceptible alloy in virgin gold. Now, how was it that she came to
think of this hunting appointment? I do not exactly know; but I
recollect that when Lord De la Zouch last called at Yatton, he happened
to mention it at lunch, and to say that he and one Geoffrey Lovel
Delamere---- but however that may be, behold, on a bright Thursday
morning, Aubrey and his two lovely companions made their welcome
appearance at the field, superbly mounted, and most cordially greeted by
all present. Miss Aubrey attracted universal admiration; but there was
one handsome youngster, his well-formed figure showing to great
advantage in his new pink and leathers, who made a point of challenging
her special notice, and in doing so, attracting that of all his envious
fellow-sportsmen; and that was Delamere. He seemed, indeed, infinitely
more taken up with the little party from Yatton than with the serious
business of the day. His horse, however, had an eye to business; and
with erect ears, catching the first welcome signal sooner than the
gallant person who sat upon it, sprang off like lightning and would have
left its abstracted _rider_ behind, had he not been a first-rate
"_seat_." In fact, Kate herself was not sufficiently on her guard; and
her eager filly suddenly put in requisition all her rider's little and
skill to rein her in--which having done, Kate's eye looked rather
anxiously after her late companion, who, however, had already cleared
the first hedge, and was fast making up to the scattering scarlet crowd.
Oh, the bright exhilarating scene!

"Heigh ho--Agnes!" said Kate, with a slight sigh, as soon as Delamere
had disappeared--"I was very nearly off."

"So was somebody else, Kate!" said Mrs. Aubrey, with a sly smile.

"This is a very cool contrivance of yours, Kate,--- bringing us here
this morning," said her brother, rather gravely.

"What _do_ you mean, Charles?" she inquired, slightly reddening. He
good-naturedly tapped her shoulder with his whip, laughed, urged his
horse into a canter, and they were all soon on their way to General
Grim's, an old friend of the late Mr. Aubrey's.

The party assembled on New-Year's Eve at Fotheringham Castle, the
magnificent residence of Lord De la Zouch, was numerous and brilliant.
The Aubreys arrived about five o'clock; and on emerging from their
respective apartments into the drawing-room, soon after the welcome
sound of the dinner bell--Mr. Aubrey leading in his lovely wife,
followed shortly afterwards by his beautiful sister--they attracted
general attention. He himself looked handsome, for the brisk country air
had brought out a glow upon his too frequently pallid
countenance--pallid with the unwholesome atmosphere, the late hours, the
wasting excitement of the House of Commons; and his smile was cheerful,
his eye bright and penetrating. Nothing makes such quick triumphant way
in English society, as the promise of speedy political distinction. It
will supply to its happy possessor the want of family and fortune--it
rapidly melts away all distinctions. The obscure but eloquent commoner
finds himself suddenly standing in the rarefied atmosphere of privilege
and exclusiveness--the familiar equal, often the conscious superior, of
the haughtiest peer of the realm. A single successful speech in the
House of Commons, opens before its utterer the shining doors of fashion
and greatness as if by magic. It is as it were POWER stepping into its
palace, welcomed by gay crowds of eager, obsequious expectants. Who
would not press forward to grasp in anxious welcome the hand which, in a
few short years, may dispense the glittering baubles sighed after by the
great, and the more substantial patronage of office--which may point
public opinion in any direction? But, to go no farther, what if to all
this be added a previous position in society, such as that occupied by
Mr. Aubrey! There were several very fine women, married and single, in
that splendid drawing-room; but there were two girls, in very different
styles of beauty, who were soon allowed by all present to carry off the
palm between them--I mean Miss Aubrey and Lady Caroline Caversham, the
only daughter of the Marchioness of Redborough, both of whom were on a
visit at the castle of some duration. Lady Caroline and Miss Aubrey were
of about the same age, and dressed almost exactly alike, viz. in white
satin; only Lady Caroline wore a brilliant diamond necklace, whereas
Kate had chosen to wear not a single ornament.

Lady Caroline was a trifle the taller, and had a very stately carriage.
Her hair was black as jet--her features were refined and delicate; but
they wore a very cold, haughty expression. After a glance at her
half-closed eyes, and the swan-like curve of her snowy neck, you
unconsciously withdrew from her, as from an inaccessible beauty. The
more you looked at her, the more she satisfied your critical scrutiny;
but your _feelings_ went not out towards her--they were, in a manner,
chilled and repulsed. Look, now, at our own Kate Aubrey--nay, never
fear to place her beside yon supercilious divinity--look at her, and
your _heart_ acknowledges her loveliness; your soul thrills at sight of
her bewitching blue eyes--eyes now sparkling with excitement, then
languishing with softness, in accordance with the varying emotions of a
sensitive nature--a most susceptible heart. How her sunny curls
harmonize with the delicacy and richness of her complexion! Her figure,
observe, is, of the two, a trifle fuller than her rival's--stay, don't
let your admiring eyes settle so intently upon her budding form, or you
will confuse Kate--turn away, or she will shrink from you like the
sensitive plant! Lady Caroline seems the exquisite but frigid production
of a skilful statuary, who had caught a divinity in the very act of
disdainfully setting her foot for the first time upon this poor earth of
ours; but Kate is a living and breathing beauty--as it were, fresh from
the hand of God himself!

Kate was very affectionately greeted by Lady De la Zouch, a lofty and
dignified woman of about fifty; so also by Lord De la Zouch; but when
young Delamere welcomed her with a palpable embarrassment of manner, a
more brilliant color stole into her cheek, and a keen observer might
have noticed a little, rapid, undulating motion in her bosom, which told
of some inward emotion. And a keen observer Kate at that moment had in
her beautiful rival; from whose cheek, as that of Kate deepened in its
roseate bloom, faded away the color entirely, leaving it the hue of the
lily. Her drooping eyelids could scarcely conceal the glances of alarm
and anger which she darted at her plainly successful rival in the
affections of the future Lord De la Zouch. Kate was quickly aware of
this state of matters; and it required no little self-control to appear
_un_aware of it. Delamere took her down to dinner, and seated himself
beside her, and paid her such pointed attentions as at length really
distressed her; and she was quite relieved when the time came for the
ladies to withdraw. That she had not a secret yearning towards Delamere,
the frequent companion of her early days, I cannot assert, because I
know it would be contrary to the fact. Circumstances had kept him on the
Continent for more than a year between the period of his quitting Eton
and going to Oxford, where another twelve-month had slipped away without
his visiting Yorkshire: thus two years had elapsed--and behold Kate had
become a woman and he a man! They had mutual predispositions towards
each other, and 'twas mere accident which of them first manifested
symptoms of fondness for the other--the same result must have followed,
namely, (to use a great word,) reciprocation. Lord and Lady De la Zouch
idolized their son, and were old and very firm friends of the Aubrey
family; and, if Delamere really formed an attachment to one of Miss
Aubrey's beauty, accomplishments, talent, amiability, and ancient
family--why should he not be gratified? Kate, whether she would or not,
was set down to the piano, Lady Caroline accompanying her on the
harp--on which she usually performed with mingled skill and grace; but
on the present occasion, both the fair performers found fault with their
instruments--then with themselves--and presently gave up the attempt in
despair. But when, at a later period of the evening, Kate's spirits had
been a little exhilarated with dancing, and she sat down, at Lord De la
Zouch's request, and gave that exquisite song from the _Tempest_--"Where
the bee sucks"--all the witchery of her voice and manner had returned;
and as for Delamere, he would have given the world to marry her that
minute, and so forever extinguish the hopes of--as he imagined--two or
three nascent competitors for the beautiful prize then present.

That Kate was good as beautiful, the following little incident, which
happened to her on the ensuing evening, will show. There was a girl in
the village at Yatton, about sixteen or seventeen years old, called
Phœbe Williams; a very pretty girl, and who had spent about two years
at the Hall as a laundry-maid, but had been obliged, some few months
before the time I am speaking of, to return to her parents in the
village, ill of a decline. She had been a sweet-tempered girl in her
situation, and all her fellow-servants felt great interest in her, as
also did Miss Aubrey. Mrs. Aubrey sent her daily jellies, sago, and
other such matters, suitable for the poor girl's condition; and about a
quarter of an hour after her return from Fotheringham, Miss Aubrey,
finding one of the female servants about to set off with some of the
above-mentioned articles, and hearing that poor Phœbe was getting
rapidly worse, instead of retiring to her room to undress, slipped on an
additional shawl, and resolved to accompany the servant to the village.
She said not a word to either her mother, her sister-in-law, or her
brother; but simply left word with her maid whither she was going, and
that she should quickly return. It was snowing smartly when Kate set
off; but she cared not, hurried on by the impulse of kindness, which led
her to pay perhaps a last visit to the humble sufferer. She walked
alongside of the elderly female servant, asking her a number of
questions about Phœbe, and her sorrowing father and mother. It was
nearly dark as they quitted the Park gates, and snowing, if anything,
faster than when they had left the Hall. Kate, wrapping her shawl still
closer round her slender figure, her face being pretty well protected by
her veil, hurried on, and they soon reached Williams' cottage. Its
humble tenants were, as may be imagined, not a little surprised at her
appearance at such an hour and in such inclement weather, and so
apparently unattended. Poor Phœbe, worn to a shadow, was sitting
opposite the fire, in a little wooden armchair, and propped up by a
pillow. She trembled, and her lips moved on seeing Miss Aubrey, who,
sitting down on a stool beside her, after laying aside her snow-whitened
shawl and bonnet, spoke to her in the most gentle and soothing strain
imaginable. What a contrast in their two figures! 'T would have been no
violent stretch of imagination to say, that Catherine Aubrey at that
moment looked like a ministering angel sent to comfort the wretched
sufferer in her extremity. Phœbe's father and mother stood on each
side of the little fireplace, gazing with tearful eyes upon their only
child, soon about to depart from them forever. The poor girl was indeed
a touching object. She had been very pretty, but now her face was white
and wofully emaciated--the dread impress of consumption was upon it. Her
wasted fingers were clasped together on her lap, holding between them a
little handkerchief, with which, evidently with great effort, she
occasionally wiped the dampness from her face.

"You're very good, ma'am," she whispered, "to come to see me, and so
late. They say it's a sad cold night."

"I heard, Phœbe, that you were not so well, and I thought I would
just step along with Margaret, who has brought you some more jelly. Did
you like the last!"

"Y-e-s, ma'am," she replied hesitatingly; "but it's _very_ hard for me
to swallow anything now, my throat feels so sore." Here her mother shook
her head and looked aside; for the doctor had only that morning
explained to her the nature of the distressing symptom to which her
daughter was alluding--as evidencing the very last stage of her fatal
disorder.

"I'm very sorry to hear you say so, Phœbe," replied Miss Aubrey. "Do
you think there's anything else that Mrs. Jackson could make for you?"

"No, ma'am, thank you; I feel it's no use trying to swallow anything
more," said poor Phœbe, faintly.

"While there's life," whispered Miss Aubrey, in a subdued, hesitating
tone, "there's hope--_they say_." Phœbe shook her head mournfully.

"Don't stop long, dear lady--it's getting very late for you to be out
alone. Father will go"----

"Never mind me, Phœbe--I can take care of myself. I hope you mind
what good Dr. Tatham says to you? You know this sickness is from God,
Phœbe. He knows what is best for his creatures."

"Thank God, ma'am, I think I feel resigned. I know it is God's will; but
I'm very sorry for poor father and mother--they'll be so lone like when
they don't see Phœbe about." Her father gazed intently at her, and
the tears ran trickling down his cheeks; her mother put her apron before
her face, and shook her head in silent anguish. Miss Aubrey did not
speak for a few moments. "I see you have been reading the prayer-book
mamma gave you when you were at the Hall," said she at length, observing
the little volume lying open on Phœbe's lap.

"Yes, ma'am--I was _trying_; but somehow lately, I can't read, for
there's a kind of mist comes over my eyes, and I can't see."

"That's weakness, Phœbe," said Miss Aubrey, quickly but tremulously.

"May I make bold, ma'am," commenced Phœbe, languidly, after a
hesitating pause, "to ask _you_ to read the little psalm I was trying to
read a while ago? I should so like to hear _you_."

"I'll try, Phœbe," said Miss Aubrey, taking the book, which was open
at the sixth psalm. 'Twas a severe trial, for her feelings were not a
little excited already. But how could she refuse the dying girl? So Miss
Aubrey began a little indistinctly, in a very low tone, and with
frequent pauses; for the tears every now and then quite obscured her
sight. She managed, however, to get as far as the sixth verse, which was
thus:--

     _"I am weary of my groaning: every night wash I my bed, and water
     my couch with tears: My beauty is gone for very trouble."_

Here Kate's voice suddenly stopped. She buried her face for a moment or
two in her handkerchief, and said hastily, "I can't read any more,
Phœbe!" Every one in the little room was in tears except poor
Phœbe, who seemed past that.

"It's time for me to go, now, Phœbe. We'll send some one early in the
morning to know how you are," said Miss Aubrey, rising and putting on
her bonnet and shawl. She contrived to beckon Phœbe's mother to the
back of the room, and silently slipped a couple of guineas into her
hands; for she knew the mournful occasion there would soon be for such
assistance! She then left, peremptorily declining the attendance of
Phœbe's father--saying that it _must_ be dark when she could not find
the way to the Hall, which was almost in a straight line from the
cottage, and little more than a quarter of a mile off. It was very much
darker, and it still snowed, though not so thickly as when she had come.
She and Margaret walked side by side, at a quick pace, talking together
about poor Phœbe. Just as she was approaching the extremity of the
village, nearest the park--

"Ah! my lovely gals!" exclaimed a voice, in a low but most offensive
tone--"alone? How uncommon"--Miss Aubrey for a moment seemed
thunderstruck at so sudden and unprecedented an occurrence: then she
hurried on with a beating heart, whispering to Margaret to keep close to
her, and not to be alarmed. The speaker, however, kept pace with them.

"Lovely gals!--wish I'd an umbrella, my angels!--Take my arm? Ah! Pretty
gals!"

"Who _are_ you, sir?" at length exclaimed Kate, spiritedly, suddenly
stopping, and turning to the rude speaker.

[Who else should it be but Tittlebat Titmouse!] "Who am I? Ah, ha!
Lovely gals! one that loves the pretty gals!"

"Do you know, fellow, who I am?" inquired Miss Aubrey, indignantly,
flinging aside her veil, and disclosing her beautiful face, white as
death, but indistinctly visible in the darkness, to her insolent
assailant.

"No, 'pon my soul, no; but lovely gal! lovely gal!--'pon my life,
spirited gal!--do you no harm! Take my arm?"----

"Wretch! ruffian! How dare you insult a lady in this manner? Do you know
who I am? My name, sir, is Aubrey--I am Miss Aubrey of the Hall! Do not
think"----

Titmouse felt as if he were on the point of dropping down dead at that
moment, with amazement and terror; and when Miss Aubrey's servant
screamed out at the top of her voice, "Help!--help, there!" Titmouse,
without uttering a syllable more, took to his heels, just as the door of
a cottage, at only a few yards' distance, opened, and out rushed a
strapping farmer, shouting--"Hey! what be t' matter?" You may guess his
amazement on discovering Miss Aubrey, and his fury at learning the cause
of her alarm. Out of doors he pelted, without his hat, uttering a volley
of fearful imprecations, and calling on the unseen miscreant to come
forward; for whom it was lucky that he had time to escape from a pair of
fists that in a minute or two would have beaten his little carcass into
a jelly! Miss Aubrey was so overcome by the shock she had suffered, that
but for a glass of water she might have fainted. As soon as she had a
little recovered from her agitation, she set off home, accompanied by
Margaret, and followed very closely by the farmer, with a tremendous
knotted stick under his arm--(he wanted to have taken his
double-barrelled gun)--and thus she soon reached the Hall, not a little
tired and agitated. This little incident, however, she kept to herself,
and enjoined her two attendants to do the same; for she knew the
distress it would have occasioned those whom she loved. As it was she
was somewhat sharply rebuked by her mother and brother, who had just
sent two servants out in quest of her, and whom it was singular that she
should have missed. This is not the place to give an account of the
eccentric movements of our friend Titmouse; still there can be no harm
in my just mentioning that the sight of Miss Aubrey on horseback had
half maddened the little fool; her image had never been effaced from his
memory since the occasion on which, as already explained, he had first
seen her; and as soon as he had ascertained, through Snap's inquiries,
who she was, he became more frenzied in the matter than before, because
he thought he now saw a probability of obtaining her. "If, like
children," says Edmund Burke, "we will cry for the moon, why, like
children, we must--_cry on_." Whether this was not something like the
position of Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse, in his passion for CATHERINE AUBREY,
the reader can judge. He had unbosomed himself in the matter to his
confidential adviser, Mr. Snap; who, having accomplished his errand, had
the day before returned to town, very much against his will, leaving
Titmouse behind, to bring about, by his own delicate and skilful
management, an union between himself, as the future lord of Yatton, and
the beautiful sister of its present occupant.



CHAPTER IX.


Mr. Aubrey and Kate, some day or two after the strange occurrence
narrated in the last chapter, were sitting together playing at chess,
about eight o'clock in the evening; Dr. Tatham and Mrs. Aubrey, junior,
looking on with much interest; old Mrs. Aubrey being engaged in writing.
Mr. Aubrey was sadly an overmatch for poor Kate--he being in fact a
first-rate player; and her soft white hand had been hovering over the
three or four chessmen she had left, uncertain which of them to move,
for nearly two minutes, her chin resting on the other hand, and her face
wearing a very puzzled expression. "Come, Kate," said every now and then
her brother, with that calm victorious smile which at such a moment
would have tried any but so sweet a temper as his sister's. "If _I_ were
you, Miss Aubrey," was perpetually exclaiming Dr. Tatham, knowing as
much about the game the while as the little Blenheim spaniel lying
asleep at Miss Aubrey's feet. "Oh dear!" said Kate, at length, with a
sigh, "I really don't see how to escape"----

"Who can that be?" exclaimed Mrs. Aubrey, looking up and listening to
the sound of carriage wheels.

"Never mind," said her husband, who was interested in the game--"come,
come, Kate." A few minutes afterwards a servant made his appearance, and
coming up to Mr. Aubrey, told him that Mr. Parkinson and another
gentleman had called, and were waiting in the library to speak to him on
business.

"What can they want at this hour?" exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, absently,
intently watching an anticipated move of his sister's, which would have
decided the game in his favor. At length she made her long-meditated
descent--but in quite an unexpected quarter.

"Checkmate!" she exclaimed with infinite glee.

"Ah!" cried he, rising with a slightly surprised and chagrined air, "I'm
ruined! Now, try your hand on Dr. Tatham, while I go and speak to these
people. I wonder what can possibly have brought them here. Oh, I see--I
see; 'tis probably about Miss Evelyn's marriage-settlement--I'm to be
one of her trustees." With this he left the room, and presently entered
the library, where were two gentlemen, one of whom, a stranger, was in
the act of pulling off his great-coat. It was Mr. Runnington; a tall,
thin, elderly man, with short gray hair--of gentlemanly appearance--his
countenance bespeaking the calm, acute, clear-headed man of business.
The other was Mr. Parkinson; a thoroughly respectable,
substantial-looking, hard-headed family solicitor and country attorney.

"Mr. Runnington, my London agent, sir," said he to Mr. Aubrey, as the
latter entered. Mr. Aubrey bowed.

"Pray, gentlemen, be seated," he replied with his usual urbanity of
manner, taking a chair beside them.

"Why, Mr. Parkinson, you look very serious--both of you. What is the
matter?" he inquired surprisedly.

"Mr. Runnington, sir, has arrived, most unexpectedly to me," replied Mr.
Parkinson, "only an hour or two ago, from London, on business of the
last importance to you."

"_To me!_--well, what is it? Pray, say at once what it is--I am all
attention," said Mr. Aubrey, anxiously.

"Do you happen," commenced Mr. Parkinson, very nervously, "to remember
sending Waters to me on Monday or Tuesday last, with a paper which had
been served by some one on old Jolter?"

"Certainly," replied Mr. Aubrey, after a moment's consideration.

"Mr. Runnington's errand is connected with that document," said Mr.
Parkinson, and paused.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, apparently a little relieved. "I assure
you, gentlemen, you very greatly over-estimate the importance I attach
to anything that such a troublesome person as Mr. Tomkins can do, if I
am right in supposing that it is he who--Well, then, what _is_ the
matter?" he inquired quickly, observing Mr. Parkinson shake his head,
and interchange a grave look with Mr. Runnington; "you cannot think, Mr.
Parkinson, how you will oblige me by being explicit."

"This paper," said Mr. Runnington, holding up that which Mr. Aubrey at
once identified as the one on which he had cast his eye upon its being
handed to him by Waters, "is a Declaration in Ejectment, with which Mr.
Tomkins has nothing whatever to do. It is served virtually on _you_, and
YOU are the real defendant."

"So I apprehend that I was in the former trumpery action!" replied Mr.
Aubrey, smiling.

"Do you recollect, sir," said Mr. Parkinson, with a trepidation which he
could not conceal, "several years ago, some serious conversation which
you and I had together on the state of your title--when I was preparing
your marriage-settlements?"

Mr. Aubrey started, and his face was suddenly blanched.

"The matters which we then discussed have suddenly acquired fearful
importance. This paper occasions us, on your account, the profoundest
anxiety." Mr. Aubrey continued silent, gazing on Mr. Parkinson with
intensity.

"Supposing, from a hasty glance at it, and from the message accompanying
it, that it was merely another action of Tomkins's about the slip of
waste land attached to Jolter's cottage, I sent up to London to my
agents, Messrs. Runnington, requesting them to call on the plaintiff's
attorneys, and settle the action. He did so; and--perhaps you will
explain the rest," said Mr. Parkinson, with visible trepidation, to Mr.
Runnington.

"Certainly," said that gentleman, with a serious air, but much more
calmly and firmly than Mr. Parkinson had spoken. "I called accordingly,
early yesterday morning, on Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap--they are a
very well--but not enviably--known firm in the profession; and in a few
minutes my misconception of the nature of the business which I had
called to arrange, was set right. In short"---- he paused, as if
distressed at the intelligence which he was about to communicate.

"Oh, pray, pray go on, sir!" said Mr. Aubrey, in a low tone.

"I am no stranger, sir, to your firmness of character; but I shall have
to tax it, I fear, to its uttermost. To come at once to the point--they
told me that I might undoubtedly _settle_ the matter, if you would
consent to give up immediate possession of _the whole Yatton estate_,
and account for the mesne profits to their client, the right heir--as
they contend--a Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse." Mr. Aubrey leaned back in his
chair, overcome, for an instant, by this astounding intelligence; and
all three of them preserved silence for more than a minute. Mr.
Runnington was a man of a very feeling heart. In the course of his great
practice he had had to encounter many distressing scenes; but probably
none of them had equalled that in which, at the earnest entreaty of Mr.
Parkinson, who distrusted his own self-possession, he now bore a leading
part. The two attorneys interchanged frequent looks of deep sympathy for
their unfortunate client, who seemed as if stunned by the intelligence
they had brought him.

"I felt it my duty to lose not an instant in coming down to Yatton,"
resumed Mr. Runnington, observing Mr. Aubrey's eye again directed
inquiringly towards him; "for Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap are very
dangerous people to deal with, and must be encountered promptly, and
with the greatest possible caution. The moment that I had left them, I
hastened to the Temple, to retain for you Mr. Subtle, the leader of the
Northern Circuit; but they had been beforehand with me, and retained him
nearly three months ago, together with another eminent king's counsel on
the circuit. Under these circumstances, I lost no time in giving a
special retainer to the Attorney-General, in which I trust I have done
right, and in retaining as junior a gentleman whom I consider to be
incomparably the ablest and most experienced lawyer on the circuit."

"Did they say anything concerning the nature of their client's title?"
inquired Mr. Aubrey, after some expressions of amazement and dismay.

"Very little--I might say, nothing. If they had been _never_ so precise,
of course I should have distrusted every word they said. They certainly
mentioned that they had had the first conveyancing opinions in the
kingdom, which concurred in favor of their client; that they had been
for months prepared at all points, and accident only had delayed their
commencing proceedings till now."

"Did you make any inquiries as to who the claimant was?" inquired Mr.
Aubrey.

"Yes; but all I could learn was, that they had discovered him by mere
accident; and that he was at present in very obscure and distressed
circumstances. I tried to discover by what means they proposed to
commence and carry on so expensive a contest; but they smiled
significantly, and were silent." Another long pause ensued, during which
Mr. Aubrey was evidently silently struggling with very agitating
emotions.

"What is the meaning of their affecting to seek the recovery of only
one insignificant portion of the property?" he inquired.

"It is their own choice--it may be from considerations of mere
convenience. The title, however, by which they may succeed in obtaining
what they at present go for, will avail to recover every acre of the
estate, and the present action will consequently decide everything!"

"And suppose the worst--that they are successful," said Mr. Aubrey,
after they had conversed a good deal, and very anxiously, on the subject
of a presumed infirmity in Mr. Aubrey's title, which had been pointed
out to him in general terms by Mr. Parkinson, on the occasion already
adverted to--"what is to be said about the rental which I have been
receiving all this time--ten thousand a-year?" inquired Mr. Aubrey,
looking as if he dreaded to hear his question answered.

"Oh! that's quite an after consideration--let us first fight the
battle," said Mr. Runnington.

"I beg, sir, that you will withhold nothing from me," said Mr. Aubrey.
"To what extent shall I be liable?"

Mr. Runnington paused.

"I am afraid that _all_ the mesne profits, as they are called, which you
have received"--commenced Mr. Parkinson----

"No, no," interrupted Mr. Runnington; "I have been turning that matter
over in my mind, and I think that the statute of limitations will bar
all but the last six years"----

"Why, _that_ will be sixty thousand pounds!" interrupted Mr. Aubrey,
with a look of sudden despair. "Gracious Heavens, that is perfectly
frightful!--frightful! If I lose Yatton, I shall not have a place to put
my head in--not one farthing to support myself with! And yet to have to
make up _sixty thousand pounds_!" The perspiration bedewed his forehead,
and his eye was laden with alarm and agony. He slowly rose from his
chair and bolted the door, that they might not, at such an agitating
moment, be surprised or disturbed by any of the servants or the family.

"I suppose," said he, in a faint and tremulous tone, "that if this claim
succeed, my mother also will share my fate"----

They shook their heads in silence.

"Permit me to suggest," said Mr. Runnington, in a tone of the most
respectful sympathy, "that sufficient for the day is the evil thereof."

"But the NIGHT follows!" said Mr. Aubrey, with a visible tremor; and his
voice made the hearts of his companions thrill within them. "I have a
fearful misgiving as to the issue of these proceedings! I ought not to
have neglected the matter pointed out to me by Mr. Parkinson on my
marriage! I feel as if I had been culpably lying by ever since!--But I
really did not attach to it the importance it deserved: I never, indeed,
distinctly appreciated the nature of what was then mentioned to me!"

"A thousand pities that a _fine_ was not _levied_, is it not?" said Mr.
Runnington, turning with a sigh to Mr. Parkinson.

"Ay, indeed it is!" replied that gentleman--and they spoke together for
some time, and very earnestly, concerning the nature and efficacy of
such a measure, which they explained to Mr. Aubrey.

"It comes to this," said he, "that in all probability, I and my family
are at this moment"--he shuddered--"trespassers at Yatton!"

"That, Mr. Aubrey," said Mr. Parkinson, earnestly, "remains to be
proved! We really are getting on far too fast. A person who heard us
might suppose that the jury had already returned a verdict against
us--that judgment had been signed--and that the sheriff was coming in
the morning to execute the writ of possession in favor of our opponent."
This was well meant by the speaker; but surely it was like talking of
the machinery of the ghastly guillotine to the wretch in shivering
expectation of suffering by it on the morrow. An involuntary shudder ran
through Mr. Aubrey. "Sixty thousand pounds!" he exclaimed, rising and
walking to and fro. "Why, I am ruined beyond all redemption! How can I
ever satisfy it?" Again he paced the room several times, in silent
agony. Presently he resumed his seat. "I have, for these several days
past, had a strange sense of impending calamity," said he, more
calmly--"I have been equally unable to account for, or get rid of it. It
may be an intimation from Heaven; I bow to its will!"

"We must remember," said Mr. Runnington, "that '_possession is
nine-tenths of the law_;' which means, that your mere possession will
entitle you to retain it against all the world, till a stronger title
than yours to the right of possession be made out. You stand on a
mountain; and it is for your adversary to displace you, not by showing
merely that you have no real title, but that _he has_. If he could prove
all your title-deeds to be merely waste paper--that in fact you have no
more title to Yatton than I have--he would not, if he were to stop
there, have advanced his own case an inch; he must _first_ establish in
himself a clear and independent title; so that you are entirely on the
defensive; and rely upon it, that though never so many screws may be
loose, so acute and profound a lawyer as the Attorney-General will
impose every difficulty on our opponents"----

"Nay, but God forbid that any unconscientious advantage should be taken
on my behalf!" said Mr. Aubrey. Mr. Runnington and Mr. Parkinson both
opened their eyes pretty wide at this sally; the latter could not at
first understand why _everything_ should not be fair in war; the former
saw and appreciated the nobility of soul which had dictated the
exclamation.

"I suppose the affair will soon become public," said Mr. Aubrey, with an
air of profound depression, after much further conversation.

"Your position in the county, your eminence in public life, the
singularity of the case, and the magnitude of the stake--all are
circumstances undoubtedly calculated soon to urge the affair before the
notice of the public," said Mr. Runnington.

"What disastrous intelligence to break to my family!" exclaimed Mr.
Aubrey, tremulously. "With what fearful suddenness it has burst upon us!
But something, I suppose," he presently added with forced calmness,
"must be done immediately?"

"Undoubtedly," replied Mr. Runnington. "Mr. Parkinson and I will
immediately proceed to examine your title-deeds, the greater portion of
which are, I understand, here in the Hall, and the rest at Mr.
Parkinson's; and prepare, without delay, a case for the opinion of the
Attorney-General, and also of the most eminent conveyancers of the
kingdom. Who, by the way," said Mr. Runnington, addressing Mr.
Parkinson--"who was the conveyancer that had the abstracts before him,
on preparing Mr. Aubrey's marriage-settlement?"

"Oh, you are alluding to the '_Opinion_' I mentioned to you this
evening?" inquired Mr. Parkinson. "I have it at my house, and will show
it you in the morning. The doubt he expressed on one or two points gave
me, I recollect, no little uneasiness--as _you_ may remember, Mr.
Aubrey."

"I certainly do," he replied with a profound sigh; "but though what you
said reminded me of something or other that I had heard when a mere boy,
I thought no more of it. I think you also told me that the gentleman
who wrote the opinion was a nervous, fidgety man, always raising
difficulties in his clients' titles--and one way or another, the thing
never gave me any concern--scarcely ever even occurred to my thoughts,
till to-day! What infatuation has been mine!--But you will take a little
refreshment, gentlemen, after your journey?" said Mr. Aubrey, suddenly,
glad of the opportunity it would afford him of reviving his own
exhausted spirits by a little wine, before returning to the
drawing-room. He swallowed several glasses of wine without their
producing any immediately perceptible effect; and the bearers of the
direful intelligence just communicated to the reader, after a promise by
Mr. Aubrey to drive over to Grilston early in the morning, and bring
with him such of his title-deeds as were then at the Hall, took their
departure; leaving him outwardly calmer, but with a fearful oppression
at his heart. He made a powerful effort to control his feelings, so as
to conceal, for a while at least, the dreadful occurrence of the
evening. His countenance and constrained manner, however; on re-entering
the drawing-room, which his mother, attended by Kate, had quitted for
her bedroom--somewhat alarmed Mrs. Aubrey; but he easily quieted
her--poor soul!--by saying that he certainly _had_ been
annoyed--"excessively annoyed"--at a communication just made to him;
"and which might, in fact, prevent his sitting again for Yatton." "Oh,
_that's_ the cause of your long stay? There, Doctor, am I not right?"
said Mrs. Aubrey, appealing to Dr. Tatham. "Did I not tell you that this
was something connected with politics? Oh, dearest Charles--I do _hate_
politics! Give _me_ a quiet home!" A pang shot through Mr. Aubrey's
heart; but he felt that he had, for the present, succeeded in his
object.

Mr. Aubrey's distracted mind was indeed, as it were, buffeted about
that night on a dark sea of trouble; while the beloved being beside him
lay sleeping peacefully, all unconscious of the rising storm! Many
times, during that dismal night, would he have risen from his bed to
seek a momentary relief by walking to and fro, but that he feared
disturbing her, and disclosing the extent and depth of his distress. It
was nearly five o'clock in the morning before he at length sank into
sleep; and of one thing I can assure the reader, that however that
excellent man might have shrunk--and shrink he did--from the sufferings
which seemed in store, not for himself only, but for those who were far
dearer to him than life itself, he did not give way to one repining or
rebellious thought. On the contrary, his real frame of mind, on that
trying occasion, may be discovered in one short prayer, which his
agonized soul was more than once on the point of expressing aloud in
words--"Oh, my God! in my prosperity I have endeavored always to
acknowledge thee; forsake not me and mine in our adversity!"

At an early hour in the morning Mr. Aubrey's carriage drew up at Mr.
Parkinson's door; and he brought with him, as he had promised, a great
number of title-deeds and family documents. On these, as well as on many
others which were in Mr. Parkinson's custody, that gentleman and Mr.
Runnington were anxiously engaged during almost every minute of that day
and the ensuing one; at the close of which, they had between them drawn
up the rough draft of a case, with which Mr. Runnington set off for town
by the mail; undertaking to lay it immediately before the
Attorney-General, and also before one or two of the most eminent
conveyancers of the day, effectually commended to their best and
earliest attention. He pledged himself to transmit their opinions, by
the very first mail, to Mr. Parkinson; and both of those gentlemen
immediately set about active preparations for defending the ejectment.
The "eminent conveyancer" fixed upon by Messrs. Runnington and Parkinson
was Mr. Tresayle, whose clerk, however, on looking into the papers,
presently carried them back to Messrs. Runnington, with the startling
information that Mr. Tresayle had, a few months before, "advised on the
other side!" The next person whom Mr. Runnington thought of,
was--singularly enough--Mr. Mortmain, who, on account of his eminence,
was occasionally employed, in heavy matters, by the firm. _His_ clerk,
also, on the ensuing morning returned the papers, assigning a similar
reason to that which had been given by Mr. Tresayle's clerk! All this
formed a direful corroboration, truly, of Messrs. Quirk and Gammon's
assurance to Mr. Runnington, that they had "had the first conveyancing
opinions in the kingdom;" and evidenced the formidable scale on which
their operations were being conducted. There were, however, other
"eminent conveyancers" besides the two above mentioned; and in the hands
of Mr. Mansfield, who, with a less extended reputation, but an equal
practice, was a far abler man, and a much higher style of conveyancer,
than Mr. Mortmain, Mr. Runnington left his client's interests with the
utmost confidence. Not satisfied with this, he laid the case also before
Mr. Crystal, the junior whom he had already retained in the cause--a man
whose lucid understanding was not ill indicated by his name. Though his
manner in court was not particularly forcible or attractive, he was an
invaluable acquisition in an important cause. To law he had for some
twenty years applied himself with unwearying energy; and he consequently
became a ready, accurate, and thorough lawyer, equal to all the
practical exigencies of his profession. He brought his knowledge to bear
on every point presented to him, with beautiful precision. He was
equally quick and cautious--artful to a degree--But I shall have other
opportunities of describing him; since on him, as on every working
junior, will devolve the real conduct of the defendant's case in the
memorable action of _Doe on the demise of Titmouse_ v. _Roe_.

As Mr. Aubrey was driving home from the visit to Mr. Parkinson, which I
have just above mentioned, he stopped his carriage and alighted, on
entering the village, because he saw Dr. Tatham coming out of Williams's
cottage, where he had been paying a visit to poor dying Phœbe.

The little doctor was plunthering on, ankle-deep in snow, towards the
vicarage, when Mr. Aubrey (who had sent home his carriage with word that
he should presently follow) came up with him, and greeting him with
unusual fervor, said that he would accompany him to the vicarage.

"You are in very great trouble, my dear friend," said the doctor,
seriously--"I saw it plainly last night; but of course I said nothing.
Come in with me! Let us talk freely with one another; for, _as iron
sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend_. Is it not
so?"

"It is indeed, my dear doctor," replied Mr. Aubrey, suddenly softened by
the affectionate simplicity of the doctor's manner. How much the good
doctor was shocked by the communication which Mr. Aubrey presently made
to him, the reader may easily imagine. He even shed tears, on beholding
the forced calmness with which Mr. Aubrey depicted the gloomy prospect
that was before him. The venerable pastor led the subdued mind of his
companion to those sources of consolation and support which a true
Christian cannot approach in vain. Upon his bruised and bleeding
feelings were poured the balm of true religious consolation; and Mr.
Aubrey quitted his revered companion with a far firmer tone of mind than
that with which he had entered the vicarage. But as soon as he had
passed through the park gates, the sudden reflection that he was
probably no longer the proprietor of the dear old familiar objects that
met his eye at every step, almost overpowered him, and he walked several
times up and down the avenue, before he had recovered a due degree of
self-possession.

On entering the Hall, he was informed that one of the tenants, Peter
Johnson, had been sitting in the servants' hall for nearly two hours,
waiting to see him. Mr. Aubrey repaired at once to the library, and
desired the man to be shown in. This Johnson had been for some
twenty-five years a tenant of a considerable farm on the estate; had
scarcely ever been behind-hand with his rent; and had always been
considered one of the most exemplary persons in the whole neighborhood.
He had now, poor fellow, got into trouble indeed: for he had, a year or
two before, been persuaded to become security for his brother-in-law, a
tax-collector; and had, alas! the day before, been called upon to pay
the three hundred pounds in which he stood bound--his worthless
brother-in-law having absconded with nearly £1,000 of the public money.
Poor Johnson, who had a large family to support, was in deep
tribulation, bowed down with grief and shame; and after a sleepless
night, had at length ventured down to Yatton, with a desperate boldness,
to ask its benevolent owner to advance him £200 towards the money, to
save himself from being cast into prison. Mr. Aubrey heard this sad
story to the end, without one single interruption; though to a more
practised observer than the troubled old farmer, the workings of Mr.
Aubrey's countenance, from time to time, must have told his inward
agitation. "I lend this poor soul £200!" thought he, "who am penniless
myself! Shall I not be really acting as _his_ dishonest relative has
been acting, and making free with money which belongs to another?"

"I assure you, my worthy friend," said he at length, with a little
agitation of manner, "that I have just now a very serious call upon
me--or you know how gladly I would have complied with your request."

"Oh, sir, have mercy on me! I've an ailing wife and seven children to
support," said poor Johnson, wringing his hands.

"Can't I do anything with the Government?"----

"No, sir; I'm told they're so mighty angry with my rascally brother,
they'll listen to nobody! It's a hard matter for me to keep things
straight at home without this, sir, I've so many mouths to fill; and if
they take me off to prison, Lord! Lord! what's to become of us all?"

Mr. Aubrey's lip quivered. Johnson fell on his knees, and the tears ran
down his cheeks. "I've never asked a living man for money before, sir;
and if you'll only lend it me, God Almighty will bless you and yours;
you'll save us all from ruin; I'll work day and night to pay it back
again!"

"Rise--rise, Johnson," said Mr. Aubrey, with emotion. "You shall have
the money, my friend, if you will call to-morrow," he added with a deep
sigh, after a moment's hesitation.

He was as good as his word.[19]

Had Mr. Aubrey been naturally of a cheerful and vivacious turn, the
contrast now afforded by his gloomy manner must have alarmed his family.
As it was, however, the contrast was not so strong and marked as to be
attended with that effect, especially as he exerted himself to the
utmost to conceal his distress. That _something_ had gone wrong, he
freely acknowledged; and as he spoke of it always in connection with
political topics, he succeeded in parrying their questions, and checking
suspicion. But, whenever they were all collected together, could he not
justly compare them to a happy group, unconscious that they stood on a
mine which was on the eve of being fired?

About a week afterwards, namely, on the 12th of January, arrived little
Charles's birthday, when he became five years old; and Kate had for some
days been moving heaven and earth to get up a juvenile ball in honor of
the occasion. After divers urgent despatches, and considerable riding
and driving about, she succeeded in persuading the parents of some eight
or ten children--two little daughters, for instance, of the Earl of
Oldacre (beautiful creatures they were, to be sure)--little Master and
the two Miss Bertons, the children of one of the county members--Sir
Harry Oldfield, an orphan of about five years of age, the infant owner
of a magnificent estate--and two or three little girls beside--to send
them all--cold as was the weather--to Yatton, for a day and a night,
with their governesses and attendants.

'Twas a charming little affair! It went off brilliantly, as the phrase
is, and repaid all Kate's exertions. She, her mother, and brother, and
sister, all dined at the same table, at a very early hour, with the
merry little guests, who, (with a laughable crowd of attendants behind
them, to be sure) behaved remarkably well on the occasion. Sir Harry (a
little thing about Charles's age--the black ribbon round his waist, and
also the half-mourning dress worn by his maid, who stood behind him,
showed how recent was the event which had made him an orphan) proposed
little Aubrey's health, in (I must own) a somewhat stiff speech,
demurely dictated to him by Kate, who sat between him and her beautiful
little nephew. She then performed the same office for Charles, who stood
on a chair while delivering his eloquent acknowledgment of the toast.

[Oh! that anguished brow of thine, Aubrey, (thank God it is
unobserved!) but it tells _me_ that the iron is entering thy soul!]

And the moment that he had done--Kate folding her arms around him and
kissing him--down they all jumped, and, a merry throng, scampered off to
the drawing-room, (followed by Kate,) where blind-man's buff, husbands
and wives, and divers other little games, kept them in constant
enjoyment. After tea, they were to have dancing--Kate mistress of the
ceremonies--and it was quite laughable to see how perpetually she was
foiled in her efforts to form the little sets. The girls were orderly
enough--but their wild little partners were quite uncontrollable! The
instant they were placed, and Kate had gone to the instrument and struck
off a bar or two--ah!--what a scrambling little crowd was to be seen
wildly jumping and laughing, and chattering and singing! Over and over
again she formed them into sets, with the like results. But at length a
young lady, one of their governesses, took Miss Aubrey's place at the
piano, leaving the latter to superintend the performances in person. She
at length succeeded in getting up something like a country-dance, led
off by Charles and little Lady Anne Cherville, the eldest daughter of
the Earl of Oldacre, a beautiful child of about five years old, and who,
judging from appearances, bade fair in due time to become another Lady
Caroline Caversham. You would have laughed outright to watch the
coquettish airs which this little creature gave herself with Charles,
whom yet she evidently could not bear to see dancing with another.

"Now _I_ shall dance with somebody else!" he exclaimed, suddenly
quitting Lady Anne, and snatching hold of a sweet little thing, Miss
Berton, standing modestly beside him. The discarded beauty walked with a
stately air, and a swelling heart, towards Mrs. Aubrey, who sat beside
her husband on the sofa; and on reaching her, stood for a few moments
silently watching her fickle partner busily and gayly engaged with her
successor--Then she burst into tears.

"Charles!" called out Mrs. Aubrey; who had watched the whole affair, and
could hardly keep her countenance--"come hither directly, Charles!"

"Yes, mamma!" he exclaimed--quite unaware of the serious aspect which
things were assuming--and without quitting the dance, where he was (as
his jealous mistress too plainly saw, for, despite her grief, her eye
seemed to follow all his motions) skipping about with infinite glee with
a _third_ partner--a laughing sister of her for whom he had quitted Lady
Anne.

"Do you hear your mamma, Charles!" said Mr. Aubrey, somewhat
peremptorily; and in an instant his little son, all flushed and
breathless, was at his side.

"Well, dear papa!" said he, keeping his eye fixed on the merry throng he
had just quitted, and where his deserted partner was skipping about
alone.

"What have you been doing to Lady Anne, Charles?" said his father.

"Nothing, dear papa!" he replied, still wistfully eying the dancers.

"You know you left me, and went to dance with Miss Berton; you did,
Charles!" said the offended beauty, sobbing.

"That is not behaving like a little gentleman, Charles," said his
father. The tears came to the child's eyes.

"I'm _very_ sorry, dear papa, I _will_ dance with her."

"No, not now," said Lady Anne, haughtily.

"Oh, pooh! pooh!--kiss and be friends," said Mrs. Aubrey, laughing, "and
go and dance as prettily as you were doing before." Little Aubrey put
his arms around Lady Anne, kissed her, and away they both started to the
dance again. While the latter part of this scene was going on, Mr.
Aubrey's eye caught the figure of a servant who simply made his
appearance at the door and then retired, (for such had been Mr. Aubrey's
orders, in the event of any messenger arriving from Grilston.) Hastily
whispering that he should speedily return, he left the room. In the hall
stood a clerk from Mr. Parkinson; and on seeing Mr. Aubrey, he took out
a packet and retired--Mr. Aubrey, with evident trepidation, repairing to
his library. With a nervous hand he broke the seal, and found the
following letter from Mr. Parkinson, with three other enclosures:--

                                            "_Grilston, 12th Jan. 18--._
     "MY DEAR SIR,

     "I have only just received, and at once forward to you, copies of
     the three opinions given by the Attorney-General, Mr. Mansfield,
     and Mr. Crystal. I lament to find that they are all of a
     discouraging character. They were given by their respective writers
     without any of them having had any opportunity of conferring
     together--all the three cases having been laid before them at the
     same time: yet you will observe that each of them has hit upon
     precisely the same point, viz. that the descendants of Geoffrey
     Dreddlington had no right to succeed to the inheritance till there
     was a failure of the heirs of Stephen Dreddlington. If, therefore,
     our discreditable opponents should have unhappily contrived to
     ferret out some person satisfying that designation, (I cannot
     conjecture how they can ever have got upon the scent,) I really
     fear (it is no use disguising matters) we must prepare for a very
     serious struggle. I have been quietly pushing my inquiries in all
     directions, with a view to obtaining a clew to the case intended to
     be set up against us, and which you will find very shrewdly guessed
     at by the Attorney-General. _Nor am I the only party_, I find, in
     the field, who has been making pointed inquiries in your
     neighborhood; but of this more when we meet to-morrow.

                                "I remain,
                                           "Yours most respectfully,
                                                          "J. PARKINSON.
     "CHARLES AUBREY, ESQ., M. P. &c. &c. &c."

Having read this letter, Mr. Aubrey sank back in his chair, and remained
motionless for more than a quarter of an hour. At length he roused
himself, and read over the opinions; the effect of which--as far as he
could comprehend their technicalities--he found had been but too
correctly given by Mr. Parkinson. Some suggestions and inquiries put by
the acute and experienced Mr. Crystal, suddenly revived recollections of
one or two incidents even of his boyish days, long forgotten, but which,
as he reflected upon them, began to reappear to his mind's eye with
sickening distinctness. Wave after wave of apprehension and agony passed
over him, chilling and benumbing his heart within him; so that, when his
little son came some time afterwards running up to him, with a message
from his mamma, that she hoped he could come back to see them all play
at snap-dragon before they went to bed, he replied mechanically, hardly
seeming sensible even of the presence of the laughing and breathless
boy, who quickly scampered back again. At length, with a groan that came
from the depths of his heart, Mr. Aubrey rose and walked to and fro,
sensible of the necessity of exertion, and preparing himself, in some
degree, for encountering his mother, his wife, and his sister. Taking up
his candle, he hastened to his dressing-room, where he hoped, by the aid
of refreshing ablutions, to succeed in effacing at least the stronger of
those traces of suffering which his glass displayed to him, as it
reflected the image of his agitated countenance. A sudden recollection
of the critical and delicate situation of his idolized wife, glanced
through his heart like a keen arrow. He sank upon the sofa, and,
clasping his hands, looked indeed forlorn. Presently the door was pushed
hastily but gently open; and, first looking in to see that it was really
he of whom she was in search, in rushed Mrs. Aubrey, pale and agitated,
having been alarmed by his long-continued absence from the
drawing-room, and the look of the servant, from whom she had learned
that his master had been for some time gone up-stairs.

"Charles! my love! my sweet love!" she exclaimed, rushing in, sitting
down beside him, and casting her arms round his neck. Overcome by the
suddenness of her appearance and movements, for a moment he spoke not.

"For mercy's sake--as you love me!--tell me, dearest Charles, what has
happened!" she gasped, kissing him fervently.

"Nothing--love--nothing," he replied; but his look belied his speech.

"Oh! am not I your wife, dearest? Charles, I shall really go distracted
if you do not tell me what has happened!--I know that
something--something dreadful"--He put his arm round her waist, and drew
her tenderly towards him. He felt her heart beating violently. He kissed
her cold forehead, but spoke not.

"Come, dearest!--my own Charles!--let me share your sorrows," said she,
in a thrilling voice. "Cannot you trust your Agnes? Has not Heaven
_sent_ me to share your anxieties and griefs?"

"I love you, Agnes! ay, perhaps more than ever man loved woman!" he
faltered, as he felt her arms folding him in closer and closer embrace;
and she gazed at him with wild agitation, expecting presently to hear of
some fearful catastrophe.

"I cannot bear this much longer, dearest--I feel I cannot," said she,
rather faintly. "_What_ has happened? What, that you dare not tell _me_?
I can bear anything, while I have you and my children! You have been
unhappy--you have been wretched, Charles, for many days past. I have
felt that you were!--I will not part with you till I know all!"

"You soon _must_ know all, my sweet love; and I take Heaven to witness,
that it is principally on your account, and that of my children, that
I---- in fact, I did not wish any of you to have known it till"----

"You--are never going--_to fight a duel_?" she gasped, turning white as
death.

"Oh! no, no, Agnes! I solemnly assure you! If I could have brought
myself to engage in such an unhallowed affair, would _this_ scene ever
first have occurred? No, no, my own love! Must I then tell you of the
misfortune that has overtaken us?" His words somewhat restored her, but
she continued to gaze at him in mute and breathless apprehension. "Let
me then conceal nothing, Agnes--they are bringing an action against me,
which, if successful, may cause us all to quit Yatton--and it may be,
forever."

"Oh, Charles!" she murmured, her eyes riveted upon his, while she
unconsciously moved still nearer to him and trembled. Her head drooped
upon his shoulder.

"Why is this?" she whispered, after a pause.

"Let us, dearest, talk of it another time. I have now told you what you
asked me."--He poured her out a glass of water. Having drank a little,
she appeared revived.

"Is all lost?--And--_why_? Do, my own Charles--let me know really the
worst!"

"We are young, my Agnes! and have the world before us! Health and
integrity are better than riches! You and our little loves--_the
children which God has given us_--are _my_ riches," said he, gazing at
her with unspeakable tenderness. "Even should it be the will of Heaven
that this affair should go against us--so long as they cannot separate
us from each other, they cannot _really_ hurt us!" She suddenly kissed
him with frantic energy, and an hysteric smile gleamed over her pallid
excited features.

"Calm yourself, Agnes!--calm yourself, for my sake!--as you love me!"
His voice quivered. "Oh, how very weak and foolish I have been to yield
to"----

"No, no, no!" she gasped, evidently laboring with hysteric oppression.
"Hush!" said she, suddenly starting, and wildly leaning forward towards
the door which opened into the gallery leading to the various bedrooms.
He listened--the MOTHER'S ear had been quick and true. He presently
heard the sound of many children's voices approaching: they were the
little party, accompanied by Kate, and their attendants, on their way to
bed; and little Charles's voice was loudest, and his laugh the merriest,
of them all. A dreadful smile gleamed on Mrs. Aubrey's face; her hand
grasped her husband's with convulsive pressure; and she suddenly sank,
rigid and senseless, upon the sofa. He seemed for a moment stunned at
the sight of her motionless figure. Soon, however, recovering his
presence of mind, he rang the bell, and one or two female attendants
quickly appeared, by whose joint assistance Mrs. Aubrey was carried to
her bed in the adjoining room, where, by the use of the ordinary
remedies, she was, after a brief interval, restored to consciousness.
Her first languid look was towards Mr. Aubrey, whose hand she slowly
raised to her lips. She tried to throw a smile over her wan
features--but 't was in vain; and, after a few heavy and half-choking
sobs, her overcharged feelings found relief in a flood of tears. Full of
the liveliest apprehensions as to the effect of this violent emotion
upon her, in her critical condition, he remained with her for some time,
pouring into her ear every soothing and tender expression he could think
of. He at length succeeded in bringing her into a somewhat more tranquil
state than he could have expected. He strictly enjoined the attendants,
who had not quitted their lady's chamber, and whose alarmed and
inquisitive looks he had noticed for some time with anxiety, to preserve
silence concerning what they had so unexpectedly witnessed, adding,
that something unfortunate had happened, of which they would hear but
too soon.

"Are you going to tell Kate?" whispered Mrs. Aubrey, sorrowfully.
"Surely, love, _you_ have suffered enough through _my_ weakness. Wait
till to-morrow. Let her--poor girl!--have a _few_ more happy hours!"

"No, Agnes--it was my own weakness which caused me to be surprised into
this premature disclosure to you. And now I _must_ meet her again
to-night, and I cannot control either my features, or my feelings. Yes,
poor Kate, she must know all to-night! I shall not be long absent,
Agnes." And directing her maid to remain with her till he returned, he
withdrew, and with slow step and heavy heart descended to the library;
preparing himself for another heart-breaking scene--plunging another
innocent and joyous creature into misery, which he believed to be
inevitable. Having looked into the drawing-room as he passed it, and
seen no one there--his mother having, as usual, retired at a very early
hour--he rang his library bell, and desired Miss Aubrey's maid to
request her mistress to come down to him there, as soon as she should be
at leisure. He was glad that the only light in the room was that given
out by the fire, which was not very bright, and so would in some degree
shield his features from, at all events, immediate scrutiny. His heart
ached as, shortly afterwards, he heard Kate's light step crossing the
hall. When she entered, her eyes sparkled with vivacity, and a smile was
on her beauteous cheek. Her dress was slightly disordered, and her hair
half uncurled--the results of her sport with the little ones whom she
had been seeing to bed.

"What merry little things, to be sure!" she commenced laughingly--"I
could not get them to lie still a moment--popping their little heads in
and out of the clothes. A fine time I shall have of it, by-and-by, with
Sir Harry! for he is to be _my_ tiny little bed-fellow, and I dare say I
shall not sleep a wink all night!--Why, Charles, how very--_very_ grave
you look!" she added, quickly observing his eye fixed moodily upon her.

"'Tis you who are so very gay," he replied, endeavoring to smile. "I
want to speak to you, dear Kate," he commenced affectionately--at the
same time rising and closing the door--"on a serious matter. I have
received some letters to-night"----

Kate colored suddenly and violently, and her heart beat; but, sweet
soul! she was mistaken--very, very far off the mark her troubled brother
was aiming at. "And, relying on your strength of mind, I have resolved
to put you at once in possession of what I myself know. Can you bear bad
news well, Kate?"

She turned very pale, and drawing her chair nearer to her brother, said,
"Do not keep me in suspense, Charles--I can bear anything but
suspense--that _is_ dreadful! What has happened? Oh dear," she added,
with sudden alarm, "where are mamma and Agnes?" She started to her feet.

"I assure you they are both well, Kate. My mother is now doubtless
asleep, and as well as she ever was; Agnes is in her bedroom--certainly
much distressed at the news which I am going"----

"Oh why, Charles, did you tell _anything_ distressing to _her_?"
exclaimed Miss Aubrey, with an alarmed air.

"We came together by surprise, Kate! Perhaps, too, it would have been
worse to have kept her in suspense; but she is recovering!--I shall soon
return to her. And now, my dear Kate--I know your strong sense and
spirit--a very great calamity hangs over us. Let you and me," he grasped
her hands affectionately, "stand it steadily, and support those who
cannot!"

"Let me at once know all, Charles. See if I do not bear it as becomes
your sister," said she, with forced calmness.

"If it should become necessary for all of us to retire into
obscurity--into humble obscurity, dear Kate--how do you think you could
bear it?"

"If it will be an honorable obscurity--nay, 'tis quite impossible it can
be a _dis_honorable obscurity," said Miss Aubrey, with a momentary flash
of energy.

"Never, never, Kate! The Aubreys may lose everything on earth but the
jewel HONOR, and love for one another!"

"Let me know all, Charles: I see that something or other shocking has
happened," said Miss Aubrey, in a low tone, with a look of the deepest
apprehension.

"I will tell you the worst, Kate--- a strange claim is set up--by one I
never heard of--to the whole of the property we now enjoy!"

Miss Aubrey started, and the slight color that remained faded entirely
from her cheek. Both were silent for very nearly a minute.

"But is it a _true_ claim, Charles?" she inquired, faintly.

"That remains to be proved. I will, however, disguise nothing from
you--I have woful apprehensions"----

"Do you mean to say that Yatton _is not ours_?" inquired Miss Aubrey,
catching her breath.

"So, alas! my dearest Kate, it is said!"

Miss Aubrey looked bewildered, and pressed her hand to her forehead.

"How shocking!--shocking!--shocking!" she gasped--"What is to become of
mamma?"

"God Almighty will not desert her in her old age. He will desert none of
us, if we only trust in him," said her brother.

Miss Aubrey remained gazing at him intently, and continued perfectly
motionless.

"Must we then all leave Yatton?" said she, faintly, after a while.

"If this claim succeeds--but we shall leave it _together_, Kate."

She threw her arms around his neck, and wept bitterly.

"Hush, hush, Kate!" said he, perceiving the increasing violence of her
emotions, "restrain your feelings for the sake of my mother--and Agnes."

His words had the desired effect: the poor girl made a desperate effort.
Unclasping her arms from her brother's neck, she sat down in her chair,
breathing hard, and pressing her hand upon her heart. After a few
minutes' pause, she said faintly, "I am better now. Do tell me more,
Charles! Let me have something to _think_ about--only don't say anything
about--about--mamma and Agnes!" In spite of herself a visible shudder
ran through her frame.

"It seems, Kate," said he, with all the calmness he could assume--"at
least they are trying to prove--that our branch of the family has
succeeded to the property prematurely--that there is living an heir of
the elder branch--that his case has been taken up by powerful friends;
and--let me tell you the worst at once--even the lawyers consulted by
Mr. Parkinson on my behalf, take a most alarming view of the
possibilities of the case that may be brought against us"----

"But is mamma provided for?" whispered Miss Aubrey, almost
inarticulately. "When I look at her again, I shall drop at her feet
insensible!"

"No, no, Kate, you won't! Heaven will give you strength," said her
brother, in a tremulous voice. "Remember, my only sister--my dearest
Kate! you must support _me_ in my trouble, as I will support you--we
will try to support each other"----

"We will--we will!" interrupted Miss Aubrey--instantly checking,
however, her rising excitement.

"You bear it bravely, my noble girl!" said Mr. Aubrey, fondly, after a
brief interval of silence.

She turned from him her head, and moved her hand--in deprecation of
expressions which might utterly unnerve her. Then she convulsively
clasped her hands over her forehead; and, after a minute or two, turned
towards him with tears in her eyes, but tranquillized features. The
struggle had been dreadful, though brief--her noble spirit had recovered
itself.

----'T was like some fair bark, in mortal conflict with the black and
boiling waters and howling hurricane; long quivering on the brink of
destruction, but at last outliving the storm, righting itself, and
suddenly gliding into safe and tranquil waters!----

The distressed brother and sister sat conversing for a long time,
frequently in tears, but with infinitely greater calmness and firmness
than could have been expected. They agreed that Dr. Tatham should very
early in the morning be sent for, and implored to take upon himself the
bitter duty of breaking the matter as gradually and safely as possible
to Mrs. Aubrey; its effects upon whom, her children anticipated with the
most vivid apprehension. They both considered that an event of such
publicity and importance could not possibly remain long unknown to her,
and that it was, on the whole, better that the dreaded communication
should be got over as soon as possible. They then retired--Kate to a
sleepless pillow, and her brother to spend a greater portion of the
night in attempts to soothe and console his suffering wife; each of them
having first knelt in humble reverence, and poured forth the breathings
of a stricken and bleeding heart, before Him who hath declared that he
is ever present to HEAR and to ANSWER prayer.

Ah! who can tell what a day or an hour may bring forth?

       *       *       *       *       *

"It won't kindle--not a bit on't--it's green and full o' sap. Go out,
and get us a log that's dry and old, George--and let's try to have a bit
of a blaze in t'ould chimney, this bitter night," said Isaac Tonson, the
gamekeeper at Yatton, to the good-natured landlord of the Aubrey Arms,
the little--and only--inn of the village. The suggestion was instantly
attended to.

"How Peter's a-feathering of his geese to-night, to be sure!" exclaimed
the landlord on his return, shaking the snow off his coat, and laying on
the fire a great dry old log of wood, which seemed very acceptable to
the hungry flames, for they licked it cordially the moment it was placed
among them, and there was very soon given out a cheerful blaze. 'T was a
snug room. The brick floor was covered with fresh sand; and on a few
stools and benches, with a table in the middle, on which stood a large
can and ale-glasses, with a plate of tobacco, sat some half-dozen men,
enjoying their pipe and glass. In the chimney corner sat Thomas Dickons,
the faithful under-bailiff of Mr. Aubrey, a big broad-shouldered,
middle-aged man, with a hard-featured face and a phlegmatic air. In the
opposite corner sat the little grizzle-headed clerk and sexton, old
Hallelujah--(as he was called, but his real name was Jonas Higgs.)
Beside him sat Pumpkin, the gardener at the Hall, a very frequent guest
at the Aubrey Arms o' nights--always attended by Hector, the large
Newfoundland dog already spoken of, and who was now lying stretched on
the floor at Pumpkin's feet, his nose resting on his fore feet, and his
eyes, with great gravity, watching the motions of a skittish kitten
under the table. Opposite to him sat Tonson the gamekeeper--a thin,
wiry, beetle-browed fellow, with eyes like a ferret; and there were
also, one or two farmers, who lived in the village.

"Let's ha' another can o' ale, afore ye sit down," said Tonson, "we can
do with another half gallon, I'm thinking!" This order also was quickly
attended to; and then the landlord, having seen to the door, fastened
the shutters close, and stirred the crackling fire, took his place on a
vacant stool, and resumed his pipe.

"So she do take a very long grave, Jonas?" inquired Dickons of the
sexton, after some little pause.

"Ay, Mr. Dickons, a' think she do, t'ould girl! I always thought she
would--I used to measure her (as one may say) in my mind, whenever I saw
her! 'Tis a reg'lar _man's_ size, I warrant you; and when parson saw it,
a' said, he thought 'twere too big; but I axed his pardon, and said I
hadn't been sexton for thirty years without knowing my business--he,
he!"

"I suppose, Jonas, you mun ha' seen her walking about i' t' village, in
your time!--_Were_ she such a big-looking woman?" inquired Pumpkin, as
he shook the ashes out of his pipe, and replenished it.

"Forty year ago I did use to see her--she were then an old woman, wi'
white hair, and leaned on a stick--I never thought she'd a' lasted so
long," replied Higgs, emptying his glass.

"She've had a pretty long spell on't," quoth Dickons, after slowly
emptying his mouth of smoke.

"A hundred and two," replied the sexton; "so saith her coffin-plate--a'
see'd it to-day."

"What were her name?" inquired Tonson--"_I_ never knew her by any name
but Blind Bess."

"Her name be _Elizabeth Crabtree_ on the coffin," replied Higgs; "and
she be to be buried to-morrow."

"She were a strange old woman," said Hazel, one of the farmers, as he
took down one of the oatcakes hanging overhead; and breaking off a
piece, held it with the tongs before the fire to toast, and then put it
into his ale.

"Ay, she were," quoth Pumpkin; "I wonder what she thinks o' such things
_now_--maybe--God forgive me!--she's paying dear for her tricks!"

"Tut, Pumpkin," said Tonson, "let t'ould creature rest in her grave,
where she's going to, peaceably!"

"Ay, Master Tonson," quoth the clerk, in his reading-desk twang--"THERE
_be no knowledge_, _nor wisdom_, _nor device_!"

"'Tis very odd," observed Pumpkin, "but this dog that's lying at my feet
never could a' bear going past her cottage late o' nights--hang me if he
could; and the night she died--Lord! you should have heard the howl
Hector gave--and a' didn't then know she were gone--it's as true as the
gospel--it _is_--actually!"

"No! but were't _really_ so?" inquired Dickons--several of the others
taking their pipes out of their mouths, and looking earnestly at
Pumpkin.

"I didn't half like it, I can tell you," quoth Pumpkin.

"Ha, ha, ha!--ha, ha!" laughed the gamekeeper--

"Ay, marry, you may laugh," quoth Pumpkin, "but I'll stake half-a-gallon
o' ale you daren't go by yourself to the cottage where she's
lying--_now_, mind--i' the dark."

"_I'll_ do it," quoth Higgs, eagerly, preparing to lay down his pipe.

"No, no--_thou'rt_ quite used to dead folk--'tis quite in thy line!"
replied Pumpkin--and, after a little faint drollery, silence ensued for
some moments.

"Bess dropped off sudden like, at the last, didn't she?" inquired the
landlord.

"She went out, as, they say, like the snuff of a candle," replied
Jobbins, one of the farmers; "no one were with her but my Missis at the
time. The night afore, she had took to the rattles all of a sudden. My
Sall (that's _done for_ her, this long time, by Madam's orders,) says
old Bess were a good deal shaken by a chap from London, which cam' down
about a week afore Christmas."

"Ay, ay," quoth one, "I've heard o' that--what was it?--what passed
atwixt them?"

"Why, a' don't well know--but he seemed to know summat about t'ould
girl's connections, and he had a book, and wrote down something, and he
axed her, so Sall do tell me, such a many things about old people, and
things that are long gone by!"

"What were the use on't?" inquired Dickons; "for Bess hath been silly
this ten years, to my sartin knowledge."

"Why, a' couldn't tell. He seemed very 'quisitive, too, about t'ould
creature's Bible and prayer-book (she kept them in that ould bag of
hers)--and Sall said she had talked a good deal to the chap in her
mumbling way, and seemed to know some folk he asked her about. And Sall
saith she hath been, in a manner, dismal ever since, and often a-crying
and talking to herself."

"I've heard," said the landlord, "that squire and parson were wi' her on
Christmas-day--and that she talked a deal o' strange things, and that
the squire did seem, as it were, _struck_ a little, you know--struck,
like!"

"Why, so my Sall do say; but it may be all her own head," replied
Jobbins.

Here a pause took place.

"Madam," said the sexton, "hath given orders for an uncommon decent
burying to-morrow."

"Well, a' never thought any wrong of ould Bess, for my part," said
one--and another--and another; and they smoked their pipes for some
short time in silence.

"Talking o' strangers from London," said the sexton, presently--"who do
know anything o' them two chaps that were at church last Sunday? Two
such peacock chaps I never see'd afore in _my_ time--and grinning all
sarvice-time! the heathen!"

"Ay, I'll tell you something of 'em," said Hazel--a big broad-shouldered
farmer, who plucked his pipe out of his mouth with sudden
energy--"They're a brace o' good ones, to be sure, ha, ha! Some week or
ten days ago, as I were a-coming across the field leading into the lane
behind the church, I see'd these same two chaps, and on coming nearer,
(they not seeing me for the hedge,) Lord bless me! would you believe
it?--if they wasn't a-teasing my daughter Jenny, that were coming along
wi' some physic from the doctor for my old woman! One of 'em seemed
a-going to put his arm round her neck and t' other came close to her on
t' other side, a-talking to her and pushing her about." Here a young
farmer, who had but seldom spoken, took his pipe out of his mouth, and
exclaiming, "Lord bless me!" sat listening with his mouth wide open.
"Well," continued the former, "a' came into the road behind 'em, without
their seeing me; and"--(here he stretched out a thick, rigid, muscular
arm, and clinched his teeth)--"a' got hold of each by the collar, and
one of 'em I shook about, and gave him a kick i' the breech that sent
him spinning a yard or two on the road, he clapping his hand behind him,
and crying, to be sure--'You'll smart for this--a good hundred pound
damages!' or summat o' that sort. T' other dropped on his knees, and
begged for mercy; so a' just spit in his face, and flung him under
t' hedge, telling him if he stirred till I were out o' sight, I'd crack
his skull for him; and so I would!" Here the wrathful speaker pushed his
pipe again between his lips, and began puffing away with great energy;
while he who had appeared to take so great an interest in the story, and
who was the very man who had flown to the rescue of Miss Aubrey, when
she seemed on the point of being similarly treated, told that
circumstance exactly as it occurred, amid the silent but excited wonder
of those present--all of whom, at its close, uttered vehement
execrations, and intimated the summary and savage punishment which the
cowardly rascal would have experienced at the hands of each and every
one of them, had they come across him.

"I reckon," said the landlord, as soon as the swell had a little
subsided, "they must be the two chaps that put up here, some time ago,
for an hour or so. You should ha' seen 'em get on and off the
saddle--that's all! Why, a' laughed outright! The chap with the hair
under his chin got on upon the wrong side, and t'other seemed as if he
thought his beast would a' _bit_ him!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed all.

"I thought they'd a' both got a fall before they'd gone a dozen yards!"

"They've taken a strange fancy to my churchyard," said the sexton,
setting down his glass, and then preparing to fill his pipe again;
"they've been looking about among 'em--among t'ould gravestones, up
behind t'ould yew-tree yonder; and one of them writ something, now and
then, in a book; so they're book-writers, in coorse!"

"That's scholars, I reckon," quoth Dickons; "but rot the larning of such
chaps as them!"

"I wonder if they'll put a picture o' the Hall in their book," quoth the
sexton. "They axed a many questions about the people up there,
especially about the squire's father, and some ould folk, whose names I
knew when they spoke of 'em--but I hadn't heard o' them for this forty
year. And one of 'em (he were the shortest, and such a chap, to be
sure!--just like the monkey that were dressed i' man's clothes, last
Grilston fair) talked uncommon fine about young _Miss_"----

"If _I'd_ a' heard him tak' her name into his dirty mouth, his teeth
should a' gone after it!" said Tonson.

"Lord! he didn't say any harm--only silly like--and t' other seemed now
and then not to like his going on so. The little one said Miss were a
lovely gal, or something like that--and hoped they'd become by-and-by
better friends--ah, ha!"

"What! wi' that chap?" said Pumpkin--and he looked as if he were
meditating putting the little sexton up the chimney, for the mere naming
of such a thing.

"I reckon they're fro' London, and brought toon tricks wi' 'em--for I
never heard o' such goings on as theirs down _here_ afore," said Tonson.

"One of 'em--him that axed me all the questions, and wrote i' t' book,
seemed a sharp enough chap in his way; but I can't say much for the
little one," said Higgs. "Lud, I couldn't hardly look in his face for
laughing, he seemed such a fool!--He had a riding-whip wi' a silver
head, and stood smacking his legs (you should ha' seen how tight his
clothes was on his legs--I warrant you, Tim Timpkins never see'd such a
thing, I'll be sworn) all the while, as if a' liked to hear the sound of
it."

"If I'd a' been beside him," said Hazel, "I'd a' saved him that
trouble--only I'd a' laid it into _another_ part of him!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" they laughed--and presently passed on to other matters.

"Hath the squire been doing much lately in Parliament?" inquired the
sexton, of Dickons.

"Why, yes--he's trying hard to get that new road made from Harkley
bridge to Hilton."

"Ah, that would save a good four mile, if a' could manage it!" said one
of the farmers.

"I hear the Papists are trying to get the upper hand again--which the
Lud forbid!" said the sexton, after another pause.

"The squire hath lately made a speech in that matter, that hath finished
them," said Dickons, in a grave and authoritative tone.

"What would they be after?" inquired the landlord of Dickons, of whom,
in common with all present, he thought great things. "They _say_ they
wants nothing but what's their own, and liberty, and that like"----

"If thou wert a shepherd, Master Higgs," replied Dickons, "and wert to
be asked by ten or a dozen wolves to let them in among thy flock of
sheep, they saying how quiet and kind they would be to 'em--would'st let
'em in, or keep 'em out?--eh?"

"Ay, ay--that be it--'tis as true as gospel!" said the clerk.

"So you a'n't to have that old sycamore down, after all, Master
Dickons?" inquired Tonson, after a pause in the conversation.

"No; Miss hath carried the day against the squire and Mr. Waters; and
there stands the old tree, and it hath to be looked to better than ever
it were afore!"

"Why hath Miss taken such a fancy to it? 'Tis an old crazy thing!"

"If thou hadst been there when she did beg, as I may say, its life,"
replied Dickons, with a little energy--"and hadst seen her, and heard
her voice, that be as smooth as cream, thou would'st never have
forgotten it, I can tell thee!"

"There isn't a more beautiful lady i' t' county, I reckon, than the
squire's sister?" inquired the sexton.

"No, nor in all England: if there be, I'll lay down twenty pounds!"

"And where's to be found a young lady that do go about i' t' village
like she?--She were wi' Phœbe Williams t'other night, all through the
snow, and i' t' dark."

"If I'd only laid hands on that chap!" interrupted the young farmer, her
rescuer.

"I wonder she do not choose some one to be married to, up in London,"
said the landlord.

"She'll be having some delicate high quality chap, I reckon, one o'
these fine days," said Hazel.

"She will be a dainty dish, truly, for whomever God gives her to," quoth
Dickons.

"Ay, she will," said more than one, in an earnest tone.

"Now, to my mind," said Tonson, "saving your presence, Master Dickons, I
know not but young Madam be more to my taste; she be in a manner
somewhat fuller--plumper-like, and her skin be _so_ white, and her hair
as black as a raven's."

"There's not another two such women to be found in the whole world,"
said Dickons, authoritatively. Here Hector suddenly rose up, and went to
the door, where he stood snuffing in an inquisitive manner.

"Now, what do that dog hear, I wonder?" quoth Pumpkin, curiously,
stooping forward.

"Blind Bess," replied Tonson, winking his eye, and laughing. Presently
there was a sharp rapping at the door; which the landlord opened, and
let in one of the servants from the Hall, his clothes white with snow,
his face nearly as white, with manifest agitation.

"Why, man, what's the matter?" inquired Dickons, startled by the man's
appearance. "Art frightened at anything?"

"Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!" he commenced.

"What is it, man? Art drunk?--or mad?--or frightened? Take a drop o'
drink," said Tonson. But the man refused it.

"Oh, Lord!--There's woful work at the Hall!"

"What's the matter?" cried all at once, rising and standing round the
new-comer.

"If thou be'st drunk, John," said Dickons, sternly, "there's a way of
sobering thee--mind that."

"Oh, Master Dickons, I don't know what's come to me, for grief and
fright! The squire, they do say, and all of us, are to be turned out o'
Yatton!"

"_What!_" exclaimed all in a breath.

"There's some one else lays claim to it. We must all go! Oh, Lud! oh,
Lud!" No one spoke for a while; and consternation was written on every
face.

"Sit thee down here, John," said Dickons at length, "and let us hear
what thou hast to say--or thou wilt have us all be going up in a body to
the Hall."

Having forced on him part of a glass of ale, he began,--"There hath been
plainly mischief brewing, _somewhere_, this many days, as I could tell
by the troubled face o' t' squire; but he kept it to himself. Lawyer
Parkinson and another have been latterly coming in chaises from London;
and last night the squire got a letter that seems to have finished all.
Such trouble there were last night wi' t' squire, and young Madam and
Miss! And to-day the parson came, and were a long while alone with old
Madam, who hath since had a stroke, or a fit, or something of that like,
(the doctors have been there all day from Grilston,) and likewise young
Madam hath taken to her bed, and is ill. Oh, Lud! oh, Lud! Such work
there be going on!"

"And what of the squire and Miss?" inquired some one, after all had
maintained a long silence.

"Oh, 't would break your heart to see them," said the man, dolefully:
"they be both pale as death: he so dreadful sorrowful, but quiet, like,
and she now and then wringing her hands, and both of them going from the
bedroom of old Madam to young Madam's. Nay, an' there had been half a
dozen deaths i' t' house, it could not be worse. Neither the squire or
Miss hath touched food the whole day!"

There was, in truth, not a dry eye in the room, nor one whose voice did
not seem somewhat obstructed with his emotions.

"Who _told_ thee all this about the squire's losing the estate?"
inquired Dickons, with mingled trepidation and sternness.

"We heard of it but an hour or so agone. Mr. Parkinson (it seems by the
squire's orders) told Mr. Waters, and he told it to us; saying as how it
was useless to keep such a thing secret, and that we might as well all
know the occasion of so much trouble."

"Who's to ha' it then, instead of the squire?" at length inquired
Tonson, in a voice half choked with rage and grief.

"Lord only knows at present. But whoever 'tis, there isn't one of us
sarvents but will go with the squire and his--if it be even to prison,
_that_ I can tell ye!"

"I'm Squire _Aubrey's_ gamekeeper," quoth Tonson, his eye kindling as
his countenance darkened, "and no one's else! It shall go hard if any
one else here hath a game"--

"But if there's law in the land, sure the justice must be wi'
t' squire--he and his family have had it so long?" said one of the
farmers.

"I'll tell you what, masters," said Pumpkin, mysteriously, "I shall be
somewhat better pleased when Jonas here hath got that old creature Bess
safe underground!"

"Blind Bess?" exclaimed Tonson, with a very serious, not to say
disturbed, countenance. "I wonder--sure! sure! _that_ ould witch can
have had no hand in all this---- eh?"----

"Poor old soul, not she! There be no such things as witches
now-a-days," exclaimed Jonas. "Not she, I warrant me! She hath been ever
befriended by the squire's family. _She_ do it!"

"The sooner we get that old woman underground, for all that, the better,
say I!" quoth Tonson, significantly.

"The parson hath a choice sermon on 'The Flying away of Riches,'" said
Higgs, in a quaint, sad manner; "'tis to be hoped that he'll preach from
it next Sunday!"----

Soon after this, the little party dispersed, each oppressed with greater
grief and amazement than he had ever known before. Bad news flies
swiftly--and that which had just come from the Hall, within a very few
hours of its having been told at the Aubrey Arms, had spread grief and
consternation among high and low for many miles round Yatton.



CHAPTER X.


Would you have believed it? Notwithstanding all that had happened
between Titmouse and Tag-rag, they positively got reconciled to one
another--a triumphant result of the astute policy of Mr. Gammon. As soon
as he had heard Titmouse's infuriated account of his ignominious
expulsion from Satin Lodge, he burst into a fit of hearty but gentle
laughter, which at length subsided into an inward chuckle which lasted
the rest of the day; and was occasioned, first, by gratification at the
impression which his own sagacity had evidently produced upon the
powerful mind of Titmouse; secondly, by an exquisite appreciation of the
mingled meanness and stupidity of Tag-rag. I do not mean it to be
understood, that Titmouse had given Mr. Gammon such a terse and clear
account of the matter as I imagine myself to have given to the reader;
but still he told quite enough to put Mr. Gammon in full possession of
the true state of the case. Good: but then--instantly reflected
Gammon--what are we now to do with Titmouse?--where was that troublesome
little ape to be caged, till it suited the purposes of his proprietors
(as Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap might surely be called, for they had
caught him, however they might fail to tame him) to let him loose upon
society, to amuse and astonish it by his antics?--That was the question
occupying the thoughts of Mr. Gammon, while his calm, clear, gray eye
was fixed upon Titmouse, apparently very attentive to what he was
saying. That gentleman had first told the story of his wrongs to Snap,
who instantly, rubbing his hands, suggested an indictment at the
Clerkenwell sessions--an idea which infinitely delighted Titmouse, but
was somewhat sternly "pooh-poohed!" by Mr. Gammon as soon as he heard of
it,--Snap thereat shrugging his shoulders with a disconcerted air, but a
bitter sneer upon his sharp, hard face. Like many men of little but
active minds, early drilled to particular and petty callings, Snap was
equal to the mechanical conduct of business--the mere working of the
machinery--but, as the phrase is, could never see an inch beyond his
nose. Every little conjuncture of circumstances which admitted of
litigation, at once suggested its _expediency_, without reference to
other considerations, or connection with, or subordination to, any
general purpose or plan of action. A creature of small impulses, he had
no idea of foregoing a momentary advantage to secure an ulterior object
of importance--which, in fact, he could not keep for a moment before his
thoughts, so as to have any influence on his movements. What a different
man, now, was Gammon!

To speak after the manner of physiologists, several of my
characters--Titmouse, Tag-rag, (with his amiable wife and daughter,)
Huckaback, Snap, and old Quirk himself--may be looked on as reptiles of
a low order in the scale of being, whose simple structures almost one
dash of the knife would suffice to lay thoroughly open. Gammon, however,
I look upon as of a much higher order; possessing a far more complicated
structure, adapted to the discharge of superior functions; and who,
consequently, requireth a more careful dissection. But let it not be
supposed that I have yet done with _any_ of my characters.

Gammon saw that Tag-rag, under proper management, might be made very
useful. He was a _moneyed man_; a selfish man; and, after his sort, an
ambitious man. He had an only child, a daughter, and if Titmouse and he
could only be by any means once more brought together, and a firm
friendship cemented between them, Gammon saw several very profitable
uses to which such an intimacy might be turned, in the happening of any
of several contemplated contingencies. In the event, for instance, of
larger outlays of money being required than suited the convenience of
the firm--could not Tag-rag be easily brought to accommodate his future
son-in-law of £10,000 a-year? Suppose that, after all, their case should
break down and all their pains, exertions, and expenditure be utterly
thrown away! Now, if Tag-rag could be quietly brought, some fine day, to
the point of either making an actual advance, or becoming security for
Titmouse--ah! that would do--- that _would_ do, said both Quirk and
Gammon. But then Titmouse was a very unsafe instrument--an incalculable
fool, and might commit himself too far!

"You forget, Gammon," said old Mr. Quirk, "I don't fear this girl of
Tag-rag's--because only let Titmouse see--hem," he suddenly paused, and
looked a little confused.

"To be sure--I see," replied Gammon, quietly, and the thing passed off.
"If either Miss Quirk or Miss Tag-rag becomes Mrs. Titmouse," thought
he, "I am not the man I take myself for."

A few days after Titmouse's expulsion from Satin Lodge, without his
having ever gone near Tag-rag's premises in Oxford Street, or in short,
seen or heard anything about him, or any one connected with him,
Titmouse removed to small but very respectable lodgings in the
neighborhood of Hatton Garden, provided for him by Mr. Quirk. Mrs.
Squallop was quite affected while she took leave of Titmouse, who gave
her son a penny to take his two boxes down-stairs to the hackney-coach
drawn up opposite to the entrance of Closet Court.

"I've always felt like a mother towards you, sir, in my humble way,"
said Mrs. Squallop, in a very respectful manner, and courtesying
profoundly.

"A--I've not got any--a--change by me, my good woman," said Titmouse,
with a fine air, as he drew on his white kid glove.

"Lord, Mr. Titmouse!" said the woman, almost bursting into tears, "I
wasn't asking for money, neither for me nor mine--only one can't help,
as it were, feeling at parting with an old lodger, you know, sir"--

"Ah--ya--as--and all that! Well, my good woman, good-day, good-day!"
quoth Titmouse, with an air of languid indifference.

"Good-by, sir--God bless you, sir, now you're going to be a rich
man!--Excuse me, sir."--And she seized his hand and shook it.

"You're a--devilish--impudent--woman--'pon my soul!" exclaimed Titmouse,
his features filled with amazement at the presumption of which she had
been guilty; and he strode down the stairs with an air of offended
dignity.

"Well--I never!--_That_ for you, you little brute," exclaimed Mrs.
Squallop, snapping her fingers as soon as she had heard his last step on
the stairs--"Kind or cruel, it's all one to you!--You're a nasty
jackanapes, only fit to stand in a tailor's window to show his
clothes--and I'll be sworn you'll come to no good in the end, please
God! Let you be _rich_ as you may, you'll always be the fool you always
was!"

Had the good woman been familiar with the Night Thoughts of Dr. Young,
she might have expressed herself somewhat tersely in a line of his--

    "Pygmies are pygmies still, though perched on Alps."

And, by the way, who can read the next line--

    "And pyramids are pyramids in vales,"

without thinking for a moment, with a kind of proud sympathy, of certain
_other_ characters in this history? Well! but let us pass on.

The day after that on which Mr. Gammon had had a long interview with
Titmouse, at the new lodgings of the latter,--when, after a very skilful
effort, he had succeeded in reconciling Titmouse to a renewal of his
acquaintance with Tag-rag, upon that gentleman's making a complete and
abject apology for his late monstrous conduct,--Mr. Gammon wended his
way towards Oxford Street, and soon introduced himself once more to Mr.
Tag-rag, who was standing leaning against one of the counters in his
shop in a musing position, with a pen behind his ear, and his hands in
his breeches' pockets. Ten days had elapsed since he had expelled the
little impostor Titmouse from Satin Lodge, and during that interval he
had neither seen nor heard anything whatever of him. On now catching the
first glimpse of Mr. Gammon, he started from his musing posture, not a
little disconcerted, and agitation overspread his coarse deeply-pitted
face with a tallowy hue. What was in the wind? Mr. Gammon coming to him,
so long after what had occurred! Mr. Gammon who, having found out his
error, had discarded Titmouse! Tag-rag had a mortal dread of Gammon, who
seemed to him to glide like a dangerous snake into the shop, so quietly,
and _so deadly_! There was something so calm and imperturbable in his
demeanor, so blandly crafty, so ominously gentle and soft in the tone of
his voice, so penetrating in his eye, and he could throw such an
infernal smile over his features! Tag-rag might be likened to the
animal, suddenly shuddering as he perceives the glistening folds of the
rattlesnake noiselessly moving towards, or around him, in the long
grass. One glimpse of his blasting beauty of hue, and--Horror! all is
over.

If the splendid bubble of Titmouse's fortune _had_ burst in the manner
which he had represented, why Gammon here now? thought Tag-rag. It was
with, in truth, a very poor show of contempt and defiance, that, in
answer to the bland salutation of Gammon, Tag-rag led the way down the
shop into the little room which had been the scene of such an
extraordinary communication concerning Titmouse on a former occasion.

Gammon commenced, in a mild tone, with a very startling representation
of the criminal liability which Tag-rag had incurred by his wanton
outrage upon Mr. Titmouse; his own guest, in violation of all the laws
of hospitality. Tag-rag furiously alleged the imposition which had been
practised on him by Titmouse; but seemed quite collapsed when Gammon
assured him that that circumstance would not afford him the slightest
justification. Having satisfied Tag-rag that he was entirely at the
mercy of Titmouse, who might subject him to both fine and imprisonment,
Mr. Gammon proceeded to open his eyes to their widest stare of
amazement, by assuring him that Titmouse had been hoaxing him, and that
he was really in the dazzling position in which he had been first
represented by Gammon to Tag-rag; that every week brought him nearer to
the full and uncontrolled enjoyment of an estate in Yorkshire, worth
£10,000 a-year at the very lowest; that it was becoming an object of
increasing anxiety to them (Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap) to keep him
out of the hands of money-lenders, who, as usual in such cases, had
already scented out their victim, and so forth. Tag-rag turned very
white, and felt sick at heart in the midst of all his wonder. Oh, and
his daughter had lost the golden prize! and through _his_ misconduct! He
could have sunk into the cellar!--Mr. Gammon declared that he could not
account for the singular conduct of Mr. Titmouse on the melancholy
occasion in question, except by referring it to the excellent wines
which he had too freely partaken of at Satin Lodge, added (said Gammon,
with an exquisite expression of features which perfectly fascinated
Tag-rag) to a "certain tenderer influence" which had fairly laid
prostrate the faculties of the young and enthusiastic Titmouse; that
there could be no doubt of his real motive in the conduct alluded to,
namely, a desire to test the sincerity and disinterestedness of a
"certain person's" attachment before he let all his fond and passionate
feelings go out towards her--[At this point the perspiration burst from
every pore in the devoted body of Tag-rag]--and that no one could
deplore the unexpected issue of his little experiment so much as now did
Titmouse.

Tag-rag really, for a moment, scarcely knew where he was, who was with
him, nor whether he stood on his head or his heels, so delightful and
entirely unexpected was the issue of Mr. Gammon's visit. As soon as his
faculties had somewhat recovered themselves from their temporary
confusion, almost breathless, he assured Gammon that no event in the
whole course of his life had occasioned him such poignant regret as his
treatment of Titmouse on the occasion in question; that he had
undoubtedly followed unwittingly (he was ashamed to own) the example of
Titmouse, and drank far more than his usual quantity of wine; besides
which he had undoubtedly noticed, as had Mrs. T., the state of things
between Mr. Titmouse and his daughter--talking of whom, by the way, he
could assure Mr. Gammon that both Mrs. and Miss T. had been ill ever
since that unfortunate evening, and had never ceased to condemn
his--Tag-rag's--monstrous conduct on that occasion. As for Miss T., she
was growing thinner and thinner every day, and he thought he must send
her to the country for a short time: in fact--poor girl!--she was
plainly pining away!

To all this Mr. Gammon listened with a calm, delightful, sympathizing
look, which quite transported Tag-rag, and satisfied him that Mr. Gammon
implicitly believed every word that was being said to him. But when he
proceeded to assure Tag-rag that this visit of his had been undertaken
at the earnest instance of Mr. Titmouse himself, (who, by the way, had
removed to lodgings which would do for the present, so as they were only
near to their office, for the purpose of frequent communication on
matters of business between him and their firm,) who had urged Mr.
Gammon to tender the olive branch, in the devout hope that it might be
accepted--Tag-rag's excitement knew scarce any bounds; and he could
almost have started into the shop, and given orders to his shopmen to
shut up shop half an hour earlier for the rest of the week! Mr. Gammon
wrote down Titmouse's direction, and handing it to Mr. Tag-rag, assured
him that a call from him would be gratefully received by Mr. Titmouse.
"There's no accounting for these things, Mr. Tag-rag--is there?" said
Mr. Gammon, with an arch smile, as he prepared to depart--Tag-rag
squeezing his hands with painful energy as Gammon bade him adieu,
declaring that "he should not be himself for the rest of the day" and
bowing the aforesaid Mr. Gammon down the shop with as profound an
obsequiousness as if he had been the Lord High Chancellor, or even the
Lord Mayor. As soon as Gammon had got fairly into the street, and to a
safe distance, he burst into little gentle paroxysms of laughter, every
now and then, which lasted him till he had regained his office in
Saffron Hill.

The motive so boldly and skilfully suggested by Gammon to Tag-rag, as
that impelling Titmouse to seek a reconciliation with him, was greedily
credited by Tag-rag. 'Tis certainly very easy for a man to believe what
he wishes to be true. Was it _very_ improbable that Tag-rag, loving only
one object on earth, (next to money, which indeed he really did love
with the best and holiest energies of his nature,) namely, his daughter;
and believing her to be possessed of qualities calculated to excite
every one's love--should believe that she had inspired Titmouse with the
passion of which he had just been hearing--a passion which was consuming
him--which could not be quenched by even the gross outrage which---- but
faugh! _that_ Tag-rag shuddered to think of. He clapped his hat on his
head, and started off to Titmouse's lodgings, and fortunately caught
that gentleman just as he was going out to dine at a neighboring tavern.
If Tag-rag had been a keen observer, he could hardly have failed to
discover aversion towards himself written in every feature and gesture
of Titmouse; and also the difficulty which he experienced in concealing
his feelings. But his eagerness overbore everything; and took Titmouse
quite by storm. Before Tag-rag had done with him, he had obliterated
every trace of resentment in his little friend's bosom. Thoroughly as
Gammon thought he had armed Titmouse against the encounter--indeed, at
all points--'twas of no avail. Tag-rag poured such a monstrous quantity
of flummery down the gaping mouth and insatiate throat of the little
animal, as at length produced its desired effect. Few can resist
flattery, however coarsely administered; but as for Titmouse, he felt
the delicious fluid softly insinuating itself into every crevice of his
little nature, for which it seemed, indeed, to have a peculiar affinity;
'twas a balm, 'twas an opiate soothing his wounded pride, lubricating
all his inner man; nay, flooding it, so as at length to extinguish
entirely the very small glimmering spark of discernment which nature had
lit in him. "To be fore_warned_, is to be fore_armed_," says the
proverb; but it was not verified in the present instance. Titmouse would
have dined at Satin Lodge on the very next Sunday, in accordance with
the pressing invitations of Tag-rag, but that he happened to recollect
having engaged himself to dine on that evening with Mr. Quirk, at his
residence in Camberwell--ALIBI HOUSE. As I have already intimated in a
previous part of this history, that most respectable old gentleman, Mr.
Quirk, with the shrewdness natural to him, and which had been quickened
by his great experience, had soon seen through the ill-contrived and
worse-concealed designs upon Titmouse of Mr. Tag-rag; and justly
considered that the surest method of rendering them abortive would be to
familiarize Titmouse with a superior style of things, such as was to be
found at Alibi House--and a more lovely and attractive object for his
best affections in Miss Quirk--Dora Quirk--the lustre of whose charms
and accomplishments there could be no doubt, he thought, would instantly
efface the image of that poor, feeble, vulgar creature, Miss Tag-rag;
for such old Quirk knew her to be, though he had, in fact, never for a
moment set eyes upon her. Mr. Tag-rag looked rather blank at hearing of
the grand party there was to be at Alibi House, and that Titmouse was to
be introduced to the only daughter of Mr. Quirk, and could not for the
life of him abstain from dropping something, vague and indistinct to be
sure, about "entrapping unsuspecting innocence," and "interested
attentions," and other similar expressions--all of which, however, were
lost upon Titmouse. Tapping with an auctioneer's hammer on a block of
granite, would make about as much impression upon it as will hint,
innuendo, or suggestion, upon a blockhead. So it was with Titmouse. He
promised to dine at Satin Lodge on the Sunday after the ensuing
one--with which poor Mr. Tag-rag was obliged to depart content; having
been unable to get Titmouse up to Clapham on either of the intervening
evenings, on which, he told Mr. Tag-rag, he was particularly engaged
with an intimate friend--"in fact, one of HIS SOLICITORS;" and Tag-rag
left him after shaking him by the hand with the utmost cordiality and
energy. He instantly conceived a lively hatred of old Mr. Quirk and his
daughter, who seemed taking so unfair an advantage. What, however, could
be done? Many times during his interview did he anxiously turn about in
his mind the expediency of proffering to lend or give Titmouse a
five-pound note, of which he had one or two in his pocket-book; but
no--'twas too much for human nature--he _could_ not bring himself to it;
and quitted Titmouse as rich a man as he had entered that gentleman's
lodgings.

The "intimate friend" to whom Titmouse alluded as having engaged himself
to dinner with him, was, in fact, Mr. Snap; who had early evinced a
great partiality for him, and lost no opportunity of contributing to his
enjoyment. Snap was a sharp-sighted person, and quickly detected many
qualities in Titmouse, kindred to his own. He sincerely commiserated
Titmouse's situation, than which, could anything be more lonely and
desolate? Was he to sit night after night in the lengthening nights of
autumn and winter, with not a soul to speak to, not a book to read,
(that was at least interesting or worth reading;) nothing, in short, to
occupy his attention? "No," said Snap to himself; "I will do as I would
be done by; I will come and draw him out of his dull hole; I will show
him life--I will give him an early insight into the habits and practices
of the great world, in which he is so soon to cut a leading figure! I
will early familiarize him with the gayest and most exciting modes of
London life!" The very first taste of this cup of pleasure was
exquisitely relished by Titmouse; and he felt a proportionate gratitude
to him whose kind hand had first raised it to his lips. Scenes of which
he had heretofore only heard and read--after which he had often sighed
and yearned, were now opening daily before him, limited as were his
means; and he felt perfectly happy. When Snap had finished the day's
labors of the office, from which he was generally released about eight
or nine o'clock in the evening, he would repair to his lodgings, and
decorate himself for the night's display; after which, either he would
go to Titmouse, or Titmouse come to him, as might have been previously
agreed upon between them; and then,--

    "The _town_ was all before them, where to choose!"

Sometimes they would, arm in arm, each with his cigar in his mouth,
saunter, for hours together, along the leading streets and
thoroughfares, making acute observations and deep reflections upon the
ever-moving and motley scenes around them. Most frequently, however,
they would repair, at half-price, to the theatres; for Snap had the
means of securing almost a constant supply of "orders" from the
underlings of the theatres, and also from reporters to the _Sunday
Flash_, (with which Messrs. Quirk and Gammon were connected,) and other
newspapers. Ah, 'twas a glorious sight to see these two gentlemen
saunter into a vacant box, conscious that the eyes of two-thirds of the
house were fixed upon them in admiration, and conducting themselves
accordingly--as swells of the first water! One such night
counterbalanced, in Titmouse's estimation, a whole year of his previous
obscurity and wretchedness! The theatre over, they would repair to some
cloudy tavern, full of noise and smoke, and the glare of
gaslight--redolent of the fragrant fumes of tobacco, gin, and porter,
intermingled with the tempting odors of smoking kidneys, mutton-chops,
beefsteaks, oysters, stewed cheese, toasted cheese, Welsh rabbits; where
those who are chained to the desk and the counter during the day, revel
in the license of the hour, and eat, and drink, and smoke to the highest
point either of excitement or stupefaction, and enter into all the
slang of the day--of the turf, the ring, the cockpit, the theatres--and
shake their sides at comic songs. To enter one of these places when the
theatre was over, was a luxury indeed to Titmouse; figged out in his
very uttermost best, with satin stock and double breastpins; his glossy
hat cocked on one side of his head, his tight blue surtout, with the
snowy handkerchief elegantly drooping out of the breast-pocket;
straw-colored kid gloves, tight trousers, and shining boots; his ebony
silver-headed cane held carelessly under his arm! To walk into the
middle of the room with a sort of haughty ease and indifference, or
nonchalance; and after deliberately scanning, through his eye-glass,
every box, with its occupants, at length drop into a vacant nook, and
with a languid air summon the bustling waiter to receive his commands,
was ecstasy! The circumstance of his almost always accompanying Snap on
these occasions, who was held in great awe by the waiters, to whom his
professional celebrity was well known, (for there was scarce an
interesting, a dreadful, or a nasty scene at any of the police-offices,
in which Snap's name did not figure in the newspapers as "appearing on
behalf of the prisoner,") got Titmouse almost an equal share of
consideration, and aided the effect produced by his own commanding
appearance. As for Snap, whenever he was asked who his companion was, he
would whisper in a very significant tone and manner--"Devilish high
chap!" From these places they would repair, not unfrequently, to certain
other scenes of nightly London life, which, I thank God! the virtuous
reader can form no notion of, though they are, strange to say, winked
at, if not patronized by the police and magistracy, till the metropolis
is choked with them. Thus would Snap and Titmouse pleasantly pass away
their time till one, two, three, and often four o'clock in the morning;
at which hours they would, with many yawns, skulk homewards through the
deserted and silent streets, their clothes redolent of tobacco smoke,
their stomachs overcharged, their heads often muddled, swimming, and
throbbing with their multifarious potations--having thus spent a "_jolly
night_," and "_seen life_." 'T was thus that Snap greatly endeared
himself to Titmouse, and secretly (for he enjoined upon Titmouse, as the
condition of their continuance, strict secrecy on the subject of these
nocturnal adventures) stole a march upon his older competitors for the
good opinion of Titmouse--Messrs. Quirk, Tag-rag, and even the astute
and experienced Gammon himself. Such doings as these required, however,
as may easily be believed, some slight augmentations of the allowance
made to Titmouse by Messrs. Quirk and Gammon; and it was fortunate that
Snap was in a condition, having a few hundreds at his command, to supply
the necessities of Titmouse, receiving with a careless air, on the
occasion of such advances, small slips of paper by way of
acknowledgments; some on stamped paper, others on unstamped
paper,--promissory notes, and I. O. U's. Inasmuch, however, as Snap was
not always possessed of a stamp on the occasion of a sudden advance, and
having asked the opinion of his pleader (a sharp fellow who had been
articled at the same time as himself to Messrs. Quirk and Gammon) as to
whether an instrument in this form, "I. O. U. so much--_with interest_,"
would be available without a stamp, and being informed that it was a
very doubtful point, Snap ingeniously met the difficulty by quietly
adding to the principal what might become due in respect of interest:
_e. g._ if £5 were lent, the acknowledgment would stand for £15--these
little slips of paper being generally signed by Titmouse in moments of
extreme exhilaration, when he never thought of scrutinizing anything
that his friend Snap would lay before him. For the honor of Snap, I
must say that I hardly think he deliberately purposed to perpetuate the
fraud which such a transaction appears to amount to; all he wanted
was--so he satisfied himself at least--to have it in his power to
recover the full amount of principal _really_ advanced, with interest,
on one or other of these various securities, and hold the surplus as
trustee for Titmouse. If, for instance, any unfortunate difference
should hereafter arise between himself and Titmouse, and he should
refuse to recognize his pecuniary obligations to Snap, the latter
gentleman would be provided with short and easy proofs of his demands
against him. 'T was thus, I say, that Snap rendered himself
indispensable to Titmouse, whom he bound to him by every tie of
gratitude; so that, in short, they became sworn friends.

I will always say for Gammon, that, whatever might have been his motive,
he strenuously endeavored to urge upon Titmouse the necessity of
acquiring, at all events, a smattering of the elements of useful
education. Beyond an acquaintance with the petty operations of
arithmetic requisite for counter-transactions, I will venture to say
that poor Titmouse had no serviceable knowledge of any kind. Mr. Gammon
repeatedly pressed him to put himself under competent teachers of the
ordinary branches of education; but Titmouse as often evaded him, and at
length flatly refused to do anything of the kind. He promised, however,
to read such books as Mr. Gammon might recommend; who thereupon sent him
several: but a book before Titmouse was much the same as a plate of
sawdust before a hungry man. Mr. Gammon, himself a man of considerable
acquirements, soon saw the true state of the case, and gave up his
attempts in despair and disgust. Not that he ever suffered Titmouse to
perceive the faintest indication of such feelings towards him; on the
contrary, Gammon ever exhibited the same bland and benignant demeanor,
consulting his wishes in everything, and striving to instil into him
feelings of love, tempered by respect, as towards the most powerful--the
only real, disinterested friend he had! To a very great extent he
succeeded.

Titmouse spent several hours in preparing for an effective first
appearance at the dinner-table at Alibi House. Since dining at Satin
Lodge, he had considerably increased his wardrobe both in quantity and
style. He now sported a pair of tight black trousers, with pumps and
gossamer silk stockings. He wore a crimson velvet waistcoat, with a
bright blue satin under-waistcoat, a shirt-frill standing out somewhat
fiercely at right angles with his breast, and a brown dress-coat cut in
the extreme of the fashion, the long tails coming to a point just about
the backs of his knees. His hair (its purple hue still pretty distinctly
perceptible) was disposed with great elegance. He had discarded
mustaches; but had a very promising imperial. The hair underneath his
chin came out curling on each side of it, above his stock, like two
little tufts or horns. Over his waistcoat he wore his mosaic gold
watch-guard, and a broad black watered ribbon, to which was attached his
eye-glass--in fact, if he had dressed himself in order to sit to a
miniature painter for his likeness, he could not have taken greater
pains, or secured a more successful result. The only points about his
appearance with which he was at all dissatisfied, were his hair--which
was not yet the thing which he hoped in due time to see it--his thick
red stumpy hands, and his round shoulders. The last matter gave him
considerable concern, for he felt that it seriously interfered with a
graceful carriage; and that the defect in his figure had been, after
all, not in the least remedied by the prodigious padding of his coat.
His protuberant eyes, of very light hue, had an expression entirely
harmonizing with that of his open mouth; and both together, quite
independently of his dress, carriage, and demeanor--(there is nothing
like being candid)--gave you the image of a--complete fool. Having at
length carefully adjusted his hat on his head, and drawn on his white
kid gloves, he enveloped himself in a stylish cloak, with long black
silk tassels, which had been lent to him by Snap; and about four
o'clock, forth sallied Mr. Titmouse, carefully picking his way, in quest
of the first coach that could convey him to Alibi House, or as near to
it as might be. He soon found one, and, conscious that his appearance
was far too splendid for an outside place, got inside. All the way
along, his heart was in a little flutter of vanity, excitement, and
expectation. He was going to be introduced to Miss Quirk--and probably,
also, to several people of great consequence--as the heir apparent to
£10,000 a-year! Two very respectable female passengers, his companions,
he never once deigned to interchange, a syllable with. Four or five
times did he put his head out of the window, calling out in a loud
peremptory tone--"Mind, coachman--Alibi House--Mr. Quirk's--Alibi
House--Do you hear, demme?" After which he would sink back into the seat
with a magnificent air, as if he had not been used to give himself so
much trouble. The coach at length stopped. "Hallibi Ouse, sir," said the
coachman, in a most respectful tone--"this is Mr. Quirk's, sir."
Titmouse stepped out, dropped eighteenpence into the man's hand, and
opening the gate, found himself in a straight and narrow gravel walk, of
about twenty yards in length, with little obstinate-looking stunted
shrubs on each side. 'T was generally known, among Mr. Quirk's friends,
by the name of "the _Rope-walk_." Titmouse might have entered before as
fine-looking a house, but only to deliver a bundle of drapery or
hosiery: never before had he entered such an one in the reality of
guest. It was, in fact, a fair-sized house, at least treble that of
Satin Lodge, and had a far more stylish appearance. When Titmouse pulled
the bell, the door was quickly plucked open by a big footman, with showy
shoulder-knot and a pair of splendid red plush breeches, who soon
disposed of Titmouse's cloak and hat, and led the way to the
drawing-room, before our friend, with a sudden palpitation of the heart,
had had a moment's time even to run his hands through his hair.

"Your name, sir?" inquired the man, suddenly pausing--with his hand upon
the handle of the door.

"Mr. Titmouse!"

"I--_beg_ your pardon, sir; _what_ name?"

Titmouse clearing his throat repeated his name--open went the door,
and--"Mr. Ticklemouse," said the servant, very loudly and
distinctly--ushering in Titmouse; on whom the door was the next instant
closed. He felt amazingly flustered--and he would have been still more
so, if he could have been made aware of the titter which pervaded the
fourteen or twenty people assembled in the room, occasioned by the droll
misnomer of the servant, and the exquisitely ridiculous appearance of
poor Titmouse. Mr. Quirk, dressed in black, with knee breeches and silk
stockings, immediately bustled up to him, shook him cordially by the
hand, and led him up to the assembled guests. "My daughter--Miss Quirk;
Mrs. Alderman Addlehead; Mrs. Deputy Diddle-daddle; Mrs. Alias, my
sister;--Mr. Alderman Addlehead; Mr. Deputy Diddle-daddle; Mr. Bluster;
Mr. Slang; Mr. Hug; Mr. Flaw; Mr. Viper; Mr. Ghastly; Mr. Gammon you
know." Miss Quirk was about four or five and twenty--a fat young lady,
with flaxen hair curled formally all over her head and down to her
shoulders; so that she very much resembled one of those great wax dolls
seen in bazaars and shop windows. Her complexion was beautifully fair;
her eyes were small; her face was quite round and fat. From the
die-away manner in which she moved her head, and the languid tone of her
voice, it was obvious that she was a very sentimental young lady. She
was dressed in white, and wore a massive gold chain--her fat arms being
half covered with long kid gloves. She was sitting on the sofa, from
which she did not rise when Titmouse was introduced to her--and the
moment afterwards, hid her face behind the album which had been lying on
her knee, and which she had been showing to the ladies on each side of
her; for, in fact, neither she nor any one else could, without the
greatest difficulty, refrain from laughing at the monkeyfied appearance
of Titmouse. The alderman was a stout, stupid little man--a fussy old
prig--with small angry-looking black eyes, and a short red nose; as for
his head, it seemed as though he had just smeared some sticky fluid over
it, and then dipped it into a flour-tub, so thickly laden was it with
powder. Mr. Deputy Diddle-daddle was tall and thin, and serious and slow
of speech, with the solemn composure of an undertaker. Mr. Bluster was a
great Old Bailey barrister, about fifty years old, the leader constantly
employed by Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; and was making at least a
thousand a-year. He had an amazingly truculent-looking countenance,
coarse to a degree, and his voice matched it; but on occasions like the
present--_i. e._ in elegant society--he would fain drop the successful
terrors of his manner, and appear the mild, dignified gentleman. He
therefore spoke in a very soft, cringing way, with an anxious smile; but
his bold insolent eye and coarse mouth--what could disguise or mitigate
their expression? Here he was, playing the great man; making himself,
however, most particularly agreeable to Messrs. Quirk and Gammon. Slang
was of the same school; fat, vulgar, confident, and empty; telling
obscene jokes and stories, in a deep bass voice. He sang a good song,
too--particularly of that class which required the absence of
ladies--and of _gentlemen_. Hug (Mr. Toady Hug) was also a barrister; a
glib little Jewish-looking fellow, creeping into considerable criminal
practice. He was a sneaking backbiter, and had a blood-hound scent after
an attorney. See him, for instance, at this moment, in close and eager
conversation with Mr. Flaw, who, rely upon it, will give him a brief
before the week is over. Viper was the editor of the _Sunday Flash_; a
cold, venomous little creature. He was a philosopher--and of opinion
that everything was wrong--moral, physical, intellectual, and social;
that there was really no such thing, or at least ought not to be, as
religion; and, as to political rights, that everybody was equal, and if
any were uppermost, all ought to be! He had failed in business twice,
and disreputably; then had become an Unitarian parson; but, having
seduced a young female member of his congregation, he was expelled from
his pulpit. An action being brought against him by the mother of his
victim, and heavy damages obtained, he attempted to take the benefit of
the Insolvent Debtors' Act--but, on account of Miss----, was remanded
for eighteen months. That period he employed in writing a shockingly
blasphemous work, for which he was prosecuted, and sentenced to a heavy
fine and imprisonment. On being released from prison, saturated with
gall and bitterness against all mankind, he took to political writing of
a very violent character, and was at length picked up, half starved, by
his present patron, Mr. Quirk, and made editor of the _Sunday Flash_. Is
not all this history written in his sallow, sinister-eyed,
bitter-expressioned countenance? Woe to him who gets into a discussion
with Viper! There were one or two others present, particularly a Mr.
Ghastly, a third-rate tragic actor, with a tremendous mouth, only one
eye, and a very hungry look. He never spoke, because no one spoke to
him, for his clothes seemed rather rusty black. The only man of
gentlemanlike appearance in the room was Mr. Gammon; and he took an
early opportunity of engaging poor Titmouse in conversation, and setting
him comparatively at his ease--a thing which was attempted by old
Quirky, but in such a fidgety-fussy way as served only to fluster
Titmouse the more. Mr. Quirk gave a dinner-party of this sort regularly
every Sunday; and they formed the happiest moments of his
life--occasions on which he _felt_ that he had achieved success in
life--on which he banished from his thoughts the responsible and
dignified anxieties of his profession; and, surrounded by a select
circle of choice spirits, such as were thus collected together, partook
joyously of the

    "Feast of reason, and the flow of soul."

"This is a very beautiful picture, Mr. Titmouse, isn't it?" said Gammon,
leading him to the farther corner of the drawing-room, where hung a
small picture, with a sort of curtain of black gauze before it. Gammon
lifted it up; and Titmouse beheld a picture of a man suspended from the
gallows, his hands tied with cords before him, his head forced aside,
and covered down to the chin with a white nightcap. 'Twas done with
sickening fidelity; and Titmouse gazed at it with a shudder. "Charming
thing, isn't it?" said Gammon, with a very expressive smile.

"Y--e--e--s," replied Titmouse, his eyes glued to the horrid object.

"Very striking thing, that--a'n't it?" quoth Quirk, bustling up to them;
"'twas painted for me by a first-rate artist, whose brother I _very
nearly_ saved from the gallows! _Like_ such things?" he inquired with a
matter-of-fact air, drawing down the black gauze.

"Yes, sir, uncommon--most uncommon!" quoth Titmouse, shuddering.

"Well, I'll show you something most particular interesting! Heard of
Gilderoy, that was hanged for forgery? Gad, my daughter's got a brooch
with a lock of his hair in it, which he gave me himself--a client of
mine; within an ace of getting him off--flaw in the indictment--found it
out myself--did, by gad! Come along, and I'll get Dora to show it to
you!" and, putting Titmouse's arm in his, and desirous of withdrawing
him from Gammon, he led him up to the interesting young lady.

"Dora," said Mr. Quirk--"just show my friend Titmouse that brooch of
yours, with Gilderoy's hair."

"Oh, my dear papa, 't is such a melancholy thing!" said she, at the same
time detaching it from her dress, and handing it to her papa, who,
holding it in his hands, gave Titmouse, and one or two others who stood
beside, a very interesting account of the last hours of the deceased
Gilderoy.

"He was _very_ handsome, papa, wasn't he?" inquired Miss Quirk, with a
sigh, and a very pensive air.

"Wasn't bad-looking; but good looks and the condemned cell don't long
agree together, _I_ can tell you!--Had many"----

"Ah, papa!" exclaimed Miss Quirk, in a mournful tone, and, leaning back
in the sofa, raised her handkerchief to her eyes.

"You are too sensitive, my love!" whispered her aunt, Mrs. Alias,
squeezing the hand of her niece, who, struggling against her feelings,
presently revived.

"We were looking just now," said Mr. Hug, addressing Mr. Quirk, "at a
very interesting addition to Miss Quirk's splendid album--that letter of
Grizzlegut."

"Ah, very striking! Value it beyond everything! Shall never forget
Grizzlegut! Very nearly got him off! 'T was an '&c.' that nearly saved
his life, through being omitted in the indictment. 'Fore gad, we thought
we'd got 'em!"

They were alluding to an autograph letter which had been addressed to
Mr. Quirk by Grizzlegut, (who had been executed for high treason a few
weeks before,) the night before he suffered. He was a blood-stained
scoundrel of the deepest dye, and ought to have been hanged and
quartered half a dozen times.

"Will you read it aloud, Mr. Hug?" inquired Miss Quirk; and the
barrister, with solemn emphasis, read the following remarkable
document:--

                                          "_Condemned Cell, Newgate,_
                                    _Sunday night, half-past 11 o'clock,_
                                                _30th April, 18--._

     "SIR,

     "At this awful moment, when this world is closing rapidly upon me
     and my fellow-sufferers, and the sounds of the wretches putting up
     the Grim Gallows are audible to my listening ears, and on the
     morrow the most horrible death that _malicious tyrants_ can inflict
     awaits me, my soul being calm and full of fortitude, and beating
     responsive to the call of GLORIOUS LIBERTY, I feel prouder than the
     King upon his throne. I feel that I have done much to secure the
     liberties of my _injured country_.

              'For Liberty, glorious Liberty,
               Who 'd fear to die?'

     Many thanks to you, sir, for your truly indefatigable efforts on my
     behalf, and the constant exercise of a skill that nearly secured us
     a _Glorious Acquittal_. What a Flame we would have raised in
     England! That should have _blasted_ the enemies of True Freedom. I
     go to Hereafter (if, indeed, there be a hereafter), as we shall
     soon know, not with my soul _crammed with Priestcraft_, but a Bold
     Briton, having laid down my life for my country, knowing that
     _Future Ages_ will do me Justice.

     "Adieu, Tyrants, adieu! Do your worst!! My soul defies you!!!

            "I am, Sir,
              "Your humble, obliged, and
                "undismayed servant,
                    "ARTHUR GRIZZLEGUT

     "To CALEB QUIRK, ESQ.

              "'Tyrants grim,
              Will, on the morrow, cut me limb from limb:--
              While Liberty looks on with terrible eye,
              And says, _I will avenge him by-and-by_.'

                    "ARTHUR GRIZZLEGUT."

The reading of the above produced a great sensation. "That man's name
will be enrolled among the Sidneys and the Hampdens of his country!"
said Viper, with a grim and excited air. "That letter deserves to be
carved on a golden tablet! The last four lines are sublime! They are
worthy of Milton! He was a martyr to principles that are silently and
rapidly making their way in this country!"--How much farther he would
have gone on in this strain, seeing no one present had resolution enough
to differ with or interrupt him, even if they had been so disposed, I
know not; but fortunately dinner was announced--a sound which startled
old Quirk out of a posture of intense attention to Viper, and evident
admiration of his sentiments. He gave his arm with an air of prodigious
politeness to the gaunt Mrs. Alderman Addlehead, whose distinguished
lord led down Miss Quirk--and the rest followed in no particular
order--Titmouse arm in arm with Gammon, who took care to place him next
to himself (Gammon). It was really a dashing sort of dinner--such,
indeed, as Mr. Quirk had long been celebrated for. Titmouse had never
seen anything like it, and was quite bewildered--particularly at the
number of differently shaped and colored glasses, &c. &c. &c,
appropriated to his individual use! He kept a constant eye on the
movements of Gammon, and did whatever he did (the two appearing moved by
the same set of springs), and was thus saved not a few embarrassments
and annoyances. What chiefly struck his attention was a prodigious
number of dishes, great and small, as if half a dozen dinners had been
crowded into one; the rapidity with which they were changed, and plates
removed, in constant succession; the incessant invitations to take wine,
flying about during the whole of dinner. For a considerable while he was
too much flurried to enjoy himself; but a few glasses of champagne
succeeded in elevating his spirits to the proper pitch--and (had he not
been checked) would soon have driven them far beyond it. Almost
everybody, except the great folk at the very top of the table, asked him
to take wine; and on every such occasion he filled his glass. In fact
Gammon, recollecting a scene at his own chamber, soon perceived that,
unless he interfered, Titmouse would be drunk long before dinner was
over. That gentleman had not imagined the earth to contain so exquisite
a drink as champagne; and he could have fallen down and worshipped it,
as it came fizzing and flashing out of the bottle. Gammon earnestly
assured him that he would be ill if he drank so much--that many eyes
were upon him--and that it was not the custom to do more than merely sip
from his wine-glass when challenging or challenged. But Titmouse had
taken a considerably greater quantity on board, before Gammon thus
interfered, than that gentleman was aware of; and began to get very
confident and voluble. Guess the progress he had made, when he called
out with a confident air--"Mr. Alderman! Your health!"--whether more to
that great man's astonishment, or disgust, I cannot undertake to say:
but after a steady stare for a moment or two at Titmouse, "Oh! I shall
be very happy, indeed, _Mr. Gammon_," he called out, looking at the
latter gentleman, and drinking with _him_. That signified nothing,
however, to Titmouse, who, indeed, did not see anything at all pointed
or unusual, and nodding confidently to the alderman, gulped down his
wine as eagerly as before.

"Cool puppy, that, Miss Quirk, must say," snuffled the offended
alderman, to Miss Quirk.

"He's young, dear Mr. Alderman," said she, sweetly and mildly--"and when
you consider the immense fortune he is coming into--ten thousand a-year,
my papa says"----

"That don't make him less a puppy--nor a brute," interrupted the ruffled
alderman, still more indignant; for his own forty thousand pounds, the
source of all his social eminence, sank into insignificance at the sound
of the splendid income just about to drop into the lap of Titmouse. Mr.
Bluster, who headed the table on Miss Quirk's left hand side, and who
felt that he _ought_ to be, but knew that in the presence of the
alderman he _was_ not, the great man of the day, observing the
irritation under which his rival was suffering, resolved to augment it
as much as possible: wherefore he immediately raised his threatening
double-glasses to his eyes, and in a tone of ostentatious condescension,
looking down the table to Titmouse, called out, "Mr. Titmash--may I have
the honor of drinking wine with you?"

"Ya--as, brother Bumptious," replied Titmouse, (who could never bear to
hear his name mispronounced,) and raised _his_ glass to his eye; "was
just going to ask _you_!" All this was done in such a loud and impudent
tone and manner, as made Gammon still more uneasy for his young
companion. But his sally had been received by the company as a very
smart retort, and produced a roar of laughter, every one being glad to
see Mr. Bluster snubbed, who bore it in silent dignity, though his face
showed his chagrin and astonishment; and he very heartily agreed, for
once in his life, with the worshipful person opposite to him, in his
estimate of our friend Titmouse. "Mr. Titmouse! Mr. Titmouse! my
daughter wonders you won't take wine with her," said Mr. Quirk, in a low
tone--"will you join us? we're going to take a glass of champagne."

"Oh! 'pon my life--delighted"--quoth Titmouse.

"Dora, my dear! Mr. Titmouse will take wine with you!--Jack," (to the
servant,) "fill Miss Quirk's and Mr. Titmouse's glasses to the brim."

"Oh no! _dearest_ papa---- gracious!" she exclaimed, removing her glass.

"Pho! pho!--nonsense--the first time of asking, you know, ah, ha!"

"Well! If it _must_ be," and with what a graceful inclination--with what
a sly searching glance, and fascinating smile, did she exchange
courtesies with Titmouse! He felt disposed to take wine with her a
second time immediately; but Gammon restrained him. Mr. Toady Hug,
having become acquainted with the brilliant prospects of Titmouse,
earnestly desired to exert his little talents to do the agreeable, and
ingratiate himself with Mr. Titmouse; but there was a counteracting
force in another direction--viz. the attorney, Mr. Flaw, who had the
greatest practice at the Clerkenwell sessions; who sat beside him and
received his most respectful and incessant attentions; Hug speaking ever
to him in a low confidential whisper, constantly casting a furtive
glance towards Bluster and Slang, to see whether they were observing
him. In "strict confidence" he assured Mr. Flaw how his case, the other
day, might have been won, if such and such a course had been adopted,
"which would have been the line _he_" (Hug) "would have taken;" and
which he explained with anxious energy. "I must say, (but don't mention
it!) that Mr. Flip regularly threw the case away--no doubt of it! By
the way, what became of that burglary case of yours, on Friday, Mr.
Flaw? Uncommonly interesting case!"

"Found guilty, poor fellows!"

"You don't say so?"

"Fact, by Jove, though!"

"How _could_ Mr. Gobble have lost that verdict? I assure you I would
have bet ten to one on your getting a verdict; for I read over your
brief as it lay beside me, and upon my honor, Mr. Flaw, it was most
admirably got up. Everything depends on the brief"----

"Glad you thought so, sir," replied Flaw, wondering how it was that he
had never before thought of giving a brief to Mr. Hug.

"It's a great mistake of counsel," quoth Hug, earnestly--"not to pay the
utmost attention to their briefs! For my part," he continued in a lower
tone, "I make a point of reading every syllable in _my_ brief, however
long it is!"

"It's the only way, depend on it, sir. We attorneys, you know, see and
know so much of the case, conversing confidentially with the
prisoners"----

"Ay, and beyond that--Your practical suggestions, my dear sir, are
often---- Now, for instance, in the brief I was alluding to, there was,
I recollect--one most--uncommonly acute suggestion"----

"Sir--you're uncommonly flattering! Am particularly obliged to you! May
I ask, what it was that struck you?"--inquired the attorney, briskly,
his countenance showing the progress of Hug's lubricating process.

"Oh--why--a--a--hem!" stammered Hug, somewhat nonplussed--(for his
little fiction had been accepted as a fact!) "No; it would hardly be
fair to Gobble, and I'm sorry indeed"----

"Well, well--it can't be helped _now_--but I must say that once or twice
latterly I've thought, myself, that Mr. Gobble has rather---- By the
way, Mr. Hug, shall you be in town this week, till the end of the
sessions?"

"Ye--e--s!" hastily whispered Hug, after glancing guiltily towards his
brethren, who, though they did not seem to do so, were really watching
him with ill-subdued fury.

"I'm happy to hear it!--You've heard of Aaron Doodle, who was committed
for that burglary at----? Well, I defend him, and shall be happy to give
you the brief. Do you lead Mr. Dolt?" Hug nodded. "Then he will be your
junior. Where are your chambers, Mr. Hug?"

"No. 4, Cant Court, Gray's Inn. When, my dear sir, does the case come
on?"

"Thursday--perhaps Wednesday."

"Then _do_ come and breakfast with me," quoth Hug, in a whisper--"and we
can talk it over, you know, so nicely together!"

"Sir, you're _very_ polite. I will do myself the pleasure"--replied Mr.
Flaw--- and good-naturedly took wine with Mr. Hug.

This little stroke of business over, the disengaged couple were at
liberty to attend to the general conversation of the table. Mr. Bluster
and Mr. Slang kept the company in almost a constant roar, with
descriptions of scenes in court, in which _they_ had, of course, been
the principal actors; and according to their own accounts they must have
been wonderful fellows. Such botherers of judges--particularly aldermen
and police magistrates!--Such bafflers and browbeaters of
witnesses!--Such bamboozlers of juries!

You should have seen the sneering countenance of Hug all the while. He
never once smiled or laughed at the brilliant sallies of his brethren,
and did his best to prevent his new patron, Mr. Flaw, from doing
so--constantly putting his hand before his mouth, and whispering into
Mr. Flaw's ear at the very point of the joke or story--and the smile
would disappear from the countenance of Mr. Flaw.

The alderman laughed till the tears ran out of his little eyes, which he
constantly wiped with his napkin! Amid the general laughter and
excitement, Miss Quirk, leaning her chin on her hand, her elbow resting
on the table, several times directed soft, languishing looks towards
Titmouse, unobserved by any one but himself; and they were not entirely
unsuccessful, although Titmouse was wonderfully taken with the stories
of the two counsellors, and believed them to be two of the greatest men
he had ever seen or heard of, and at the head of their profession.

"'Pon my soul--I hope, sir, you'll have those two gents in _my_ case?"
said he, earnestly, to Gammon.

"Unfortunately, your case will not come on in their courts," said
Gammon, with a very expressive smile.

"Why, can't it come on where I choose?--or when you like?" inquired
Titmouse, surprisedly.

Mr. Quirk had been soured during the whole of dinner, for he had
anxiously desired to have Titmouse sit beside him at the bottom of the
table; but in the little hubbub attendant upon coming down to dinner and
taking places, Titmouse slipped out of sight for a minute; and when all
were placed, Quirk's enraged eye perceived him seated in the middle of
the table, beside Gammon. Gammon _always_ got hold of Titmouse!--Old
Quirk could have flung a decanter at his head.--In his own house!--at
his own table! Always anticipating and circumventing him.

"Mr. Quirk, I don't think we've taken a glass of wine together yet, have
we?" said Gammon, blandly and cordially, at the same time pouring one
out for himself. He perfectly well knew what was annoying his respected
partner, whose look of quaint embarrassment, when so suddenly assailed,
infinitely amused him. "Catch me asking you here again, Master Gammon,"
thought Quirk, "with Titmouse!" The reason why Mr. Snap had not been
asked was, that Quirk had some slight cause to suspect his having
presumptuously conceived the notion of paying his addresses to Miss
Quirk--a thing at any time not particularly palatable to Mr. Quirk; but
in the present conjuncture of circumstances quite out of the question,
and intolerable even in idea. Snap was not slow in guessing the reason
of his exclusion, which had greatly mortified, and also not a little
alarmed him. As far as he could venture, he had, during the week,
endeavored to "set" Titmouse "against" Miss Quirk, by such faint
disparaging remarks and insinuations as he dared venture upon with so
difficult a subject as Titmouse, whom he at the same time inflamed by
representations of the splendid matches he might very soon command among
the highest women of the land. By these means Snap had, to a certain
extent, succeeded; but the few melting glances which had fallen upon
Titmouse's sensitive bosom from the eyes of Miss Quirk, were beginning
to operate a slight change in his feelings. The old alderman, on an
intimation that the "ladies were going to withdraw," laid violent hands
on Miss Quirk, (he was a "privileged" old fool,) and insisted on her
singing his favorite song--"_My Friend and Pitcher_"!! His request was
so warmly seconded by the rest of the company--Titmouse loud and eager
as any--that she was fain to comply. She sang with some sweetness, and
much self-possession; and carried Titmouse's feelings along with her
from the beginning, as Gammon, who was watching him, perceived.

"Most uncommon lovely gal, isn't she?" whispered Titmouse, with great
vivacity.

"Very!" replied Gammon, dryly, with a slight smile.

"Shall I call out _encore_? A'n't that the word? 'pon my soul, most
lovely gal! She _must_ sing it again!"

"No, no--she wishes to go--'tis not usual: she will sing it for you, I
dare say, this evening, if you ask her."

"Well--most charming gal!--Lovely!"----

"Have patience, my dear Titmouse," said Gammon, in a low whisper, "in a
few months' time you'll soon be thrown into much higher life than even
_this_--among _really_ beautiful, and rich, and accomplished
women"--[and, _thought_ Gammon, you'll resemble a monkey that has found
his way into a rich tulip-bed!]

"Fancy that girl Tag-rag standing beside Miss Quirk!" whispered
Titmouse, scornfully.

"Ha, ha!" gently laughed Gammon--"both of them, in their way, are very
worthy persons; but"--Here the ladies withdrew. 'Twas no part of
Gammon's schemes, that Titmouse should become the son-in-law of either
Quirk or Tag-rag. Mr. Gammon had formed already, vastly different plans
for him!

As soon as Quirk had taken the head of the table, and the gentlemen
drawn together, the bottles were pushed round very briskly, accompanied
by no fewer than three different sorts of snuff-boxes, all belonging to
Mr. Quirk--all of them presents from grateful Old Bailey clients! One
was a huge affair, of Botany Bay wood, with a very flaming inscription
on the inside of the lid; from which it appeared that its amiable
donors, who were trying the effect of a change of climate on their moral
health at the expense of a grateful country, owed their valuable lives
to the professional skill and exertions of "Caleb Quirk, Esq." In short,
the other two were trophies of a similar description, of which their
possessor was very justly not a little proud; and as he saw Titmouse
admiring them, it occurred to him as very possible that, within a short
time, he should be in possession of a magnificent _gold_ snuff-box, in
acknowledgment of the services he should have rendered to his
distinguished guest and client. Titmouse was in the highest possible
spirits. This, his first glimpse into high life, equalled all his
expectations. Round and round went the bottles--crack went joke after
joke. Slang sang song upon song, of, however, so very coarse and broad a
character as infinitely disgusted Gammon, and apparently shocked the
alderman;--though I greatly distrust that old sinner's sincerity in the
matter. Then Ghastly's performances commenced. Poor fellow! he exerted
himself to the utmost to earn the good dinner he had just devoured; but
when he was in the very middle of one of his most impassioned
scenes--undoubtedly "tearing a passion to rags,"--Mr. Quirk interrupted
impatiently--"Come, come, Ghastly, we've had enough of _that_ sort of
thing--it don't suit--d'ye see--at all!--Lord bless us!--don't _roar_
so, man!"

Poor Ghastly instantly resumed his seat, with a chagrined and melancholy
air.

"Give us something funny," snuffled the alderman.

"Let's have the chorus of Pigs and Ducks," said Quirk; "you do that
_remarkable_ well. I could fancy the animals were running, and
squealing, and quacking all about the room!" The actor respectfully did
as he was desired, commencing with a sigh, and was much applauded. At
length Gammon happened to get into a discussion with Mr. Bluster upon
some point connected with the Habeas Corpus Act, in which our friend
Gammon, who never got heated in discussion, and was very accurate in
whatever he knew, had glaringly the best of it. His calm, smiling
self-possession almost drove poor Bluster frantic. The less he knew, of
course the louder he talked, the more vehement and positive he became;
at length offering a _bet_ that there was no such thing as a writ of
_Habeas Corpus_ before the time of Charles II.;[20] at which Gammon
bowed, smiled, and closed the discussion. While engaged in it, he had of
course been unable to keep his eye upon Titmouse, who drank,
consequently, claret, port, sherry, and madeira, like a little fish,
never letting the decanter pass him. Every one about him filled his
glass every time--why should not he?

Hug sat next to Viper; feared him, and avoided discussion with him; for,
though they agreed in the lowest Radical politics, they had a personal
antipathy each to the other. In spite of their wishes, they at length
got entangled in a very virulent controversy, and said so many insulting
things to each other, that the rest of the company, who had for some
time been amused, got at length--not disgusted--but alarmed, for the
possible results--fully expecting the exchange of a brace of
wine-glasses against each other's heads! Mr. Quirk therefore interfered.

"Bravo! bravo! bravo!" he exclaimed, as Viper concluded a most envenomed
passage, "that will do, Viper--whip it into the next _Flash_--'t will be
a capital leader! It will produce a sensation! And in the mean time,
gentlemen, let me request you to fill your glasses--bumpers--for I have
a toast to propose, in which you'll all feel interested when you hear
who's the subject of it. It is a gentleman who is likely soon to be
elevated to a station which Nature has formed him--hem! hem!--to
adorn"----

"Mr. Quirk's proposing your health, Titmouse!" whispered Gammon to his
companion, who, having been very restless for some time, had at length
become quite silent--his head resting on his hand, his elbow on the
table--his eyes languidly half open, and his face exceedingly pale.
Gammon saw that he was, in truth, in an exceedingly ticklish condition.

"I--wish--you'd--let me--go out--I'm devilish ill"--said Titmouse,
faintly. Gammon made a signal to Quirk, who instantly ceased his speech;
and coming down to Titmouse, he and Gammon hastily led that gentleman
out of the room and into the nearest bed-chamber, where he began to be
very ill indeed, and so continued for several hours. Old Quirk, who was
a long-headed man, was delighted by this occurrence; for he saw that if
he insisted on Titmouse's being put to bed, and passing the night--and
perhaps the next day--at Alibi House, it would enable Miss Quirk to
bring her attractions to bear upon him effectively, by exhibiting those
delicate and endearing attentions which are so soothing and indeed
necessary to an invalid. Titmouse continued desperately indisposed
during the whole of the night; and, early in the morning, it was thought
advisable to send for a medical man, who pronounced Titmouse to be in
danger of a bilious fever, and to require rest and care and medical
attendance for some days to come. This was rather "too much of a good
thing" for old Quirk; but there was no remedy. Foreseeing that Titmouse
would be thrown constantly, for some little time to come, into Miss
Quirk's company, her prudent parent enjoined upon Mrs. Alias, his
sister, the necessity of impressing on his daughter's mind the great
uncertainty which, after all, existed as to Titmouse's prospects; and
the consequent necessity there was for her to regulate her conduct with
a view to either failure or success--to keep her affections, as it were,
in abeyance. But the fact was, that Miss Quirk had so often heard the
subject of Titmouse's brilliant expectations talked of by her father,
and knew so well his habitual prudence and caution, that she looked upon
Titmouse's speedy possession of ten thousand a-year as a matter almost
of certainty. She was a girl of some natural shrewdness, but of an early
inclination to maudlin sentimentality. Had she been blest with the
vigilant and affectionate care of a mother as she grew up, (that parent
having died when Miss Quirk was but a child,) and been thrown among a
set of people different from those who constantly visited at Alibi
House--and of whom a very _favorable_ specimen has been laid before the
reader--Miss Quirk might really have become a very sensible and
agreeable girl. As it was, her manners had contracted a certain
coarseness, which at length overspread her whole character; and the
selfish and mercenary motives by which she could not fail to perceive
all her father's conduct regulated, gradually infected herself. She
resolved, therefore, to be governed by the considerations so urgently
pressed upon her by both her father and her aunt.

It was several days before Titmouse was allowed, by his medical man, to
quit his bedroom; and it is impossible for any woman not to be touched
by the sight of a sudden change effected in a man's appearance by severe
indisposition and suffering, even be that man so poor a creature as
Titmouse. He was very pale, and considerably reduced by the serious
nature of the attack, and of the powerful treatment with which it had
been encountered. When he made his first appearance before Miss Quirk,
one afternoon, with somewhat feeble gait, and a languid air which
mitigated, if it did not obliterate, the foolish and conceited
expression of his features, she really regarded him with something akin
to interest; and, though she might hardly have owned it even to herself,
his expected good fortune invested him with a sort of subdued radiance.
_Ten thousand a-year_!--Miss Quirk's heart fluttered! By the time that
he was well enough to take his departure, she had, at his request, read
over to him nearly half of that truly interesting work,--the Newgate
Calendar; she had sung to him and played to him whatever he asked her;
and, in short, she felt that if she could but be certain that he would
gain his great lawsuit, and step into ten thousand a-year, she could
_love_ him. She insisted, on the day of his quitting Alibi House, that
he should write in her album; and he very readily complied. It was
nearly ten minutes before he could get a pen to suit him. At length he
succeeded, and left the following interesting memento of himself in the
very centre of a fresh page:--

    "Tittlebat Titmouse Is My name,
        England Is My Nation,
    London Is My dwelling-Place,
        And Christ Is My Salvation.
                  "TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE,
                      "halibi lodge."

Miss Quirk turned pale with astonishment and vexation on seeing this
elegant and striking addition to her album. Titmouse, on the contrary,
looked at it with no little pride; for having had a capital pen, and his
heart being in his task, he had produced what he conceived to be a very
superior specimen of penmanship: in fact, the signature was by far the
best he had ever written. When he had gone, Miss Quirk was twenty times
on the point of tearing out the leaf which had been so dismally
disfigured; but on her father coming home in the evening, he laughed
heartily--"and as to tearing it out," said he, "let us first see which
way the verdict goes!"

Titmouse became, after this, a pretty frequent visitor at Alibi House;
growing more and more attached to Miss Quirk, who, however, conducted
herself towards him with much judgment. His inscription on her album had
done a vast deal towards cooling down the ardor with which she had been
disposed to regard even the future owner of ten thousand a-year. Poor
Snap seemed to have lost all chance, being treated with greater coldness
by Miss Quirk on every succeeding visit to Alibi House. At this he was
sorely discomfited; for she would have whatever money her father might
die possessed of, besides a commanding interest in the partnership
business. 'T was a difficult thing for him to preserve his temper under
such circumstances, in his close intimacy with Titmouse, who had so
grievously interfered with his prospects.

The indisposition I have been mentioning, prevented Titmouse from paying
his promised visit to Satin Lodge. On returning to his lodgings from
Alibi House, he found that Tag-rag had either called or sent every day
to inquire after him with the most affectionate anxiety; and one or two
notes lying on his table apprised him of the lively distress which the
ladies of Satin Lodge were enduring on his account, and implored him to
lose not a moment in communicating the state of his health, and
personally assuring them of his safety. Though the image of Miss Quirk
was continually before his eyes, Titmouse, nevertheless, had cunning
enough not to drop the slightest hint to the Tag-rags of the true state
of his feelings. Whenever any inquiry, with ill-disguised anxiety, was
made by Mrs. Tag-rag concerning Alibi House and its inmates, Titmouse
would, to be sure, mention Miss Quirk, but in such a careless and
slighting way as gave great consolation and encouragement to Tag-rag,
his wife, and daughter. "Miss Quirk," he said, "was well enough--but
devilish fat!"--When at Mr. Quirk's, he spoke somewhat unreservedly of
the amiable inmates of Satin Lodge. These two mansions were almost the
only private residences visited by Titmouse, who spent his time much in
the way which I have already described. How he got through his _days_ I
can hardly tell. At his lodgings he got up very late, and went to bed
very late. He never read anything excepting occasionally a song-book
lent him by Snap, or a novel, or some such book as "Boxiana," from the
circulating library, and the _Sunday Flash_. Dawdling over his dress and
his breakfast, then whistling and humming and looking out of the window,
took up so much of every day as he passed at his lodgings. The rest was
spent in idling about the town, looking in at shop windows, and now and
then going to some petty exhibition--as of sparring, cock-fighting, etc.
When evening came, he was generally joined by Snap, when they would
spend the night together in the manner I have already described. As
often as he dared, he called at Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's office
at Saffron Hill, worrying them not a little by inquiries concerning the
state of his affairs, and the cause of the delay in commencing
proceedings. As for Huckaback, by the way, Titmouse cut him entirely;
saying that he was a devilish low fellow, and it was no use knowing him.
He made many desperate efforts, both personally and by letter, to renew
his acquaintance with Titmouse, but in vain. I may as well mention, by
the way, that as soon as Snap got scent of the little money transaction
between his friend and Huckaback, he called upon the latter, and
tendering him twelve shillings, demanded up the document which he had
extorted from Titmouse. Huckaback held out obstinately for some
time--but Snap was too much for him, and talked in such a formidable
strain about an indictment for a conspiracy (!) and fraud, that
Huckaback at length consented, on receiving twelve shillings, to deliver
up the document to Snap, on condition of Snap's destroying it on the
spot. This was done, and so ended all intercourse--at least on this side
of the grave--between Titmouse (as far, at least, as _his_ intentions
went) and Huckaback.

The sum allowed by Messrs. Quirk and Gammon to Titmouse, was amply
sufficient to have kept him in comfort; but it never would have enabled
him to lead the kind of life which I have described--and he would
certainly have got very awkwardly involved, had it not been for the
kindness of Snap in advancing him, from time to time, such sums as his
exigencies required. In fact, matters went on as quietly and smoothly as
possible for several months--till about the middle of November; when an
event occurred which seemed to threaten the total demolition of all his
hopes and expectations.

He had not seen or heard from Messrs. Quirk or Gammon for nearly a
fortnight; Snap he had not seen for nearly a week. At length he ventured
to make his appearance at Saffron Hill, and was received with a
startling coldness--a stern abruptness of manner--which frightened him
out of his wits. All the three partners were alike--as for Snap, the
contrast between his present and his former manner, was perfectly
shocking: he seemed quite another person. The fact was, that the full
statement of Titmouse's claims had been laid before Mr. Subtle, the
leading counsel retained in his behalf, for his opinion on the case
generally, before actually commencing proceedings; and the partners were
indeed thunderstruck on receiving that opinion; for Mr. Subtle pointed
out a radical deficiency of proof in a matter which, as soon as their
attention was thus pointedly called to it, Messrs. Quirk and Gammon were
amazed at their having overlooked, and still more at its having escaped
the notice of Mr. Tresayle, Mr. Mortmain, and Mr. Frankpledge. Mr. Quirk
hurried with the opinion to the first two of these gentlemen; and after
a long interview with each, they owned their fears that Mr. Subtle was
right, and that the defect seemed incurable; but they easily satisfied
their agitated clients, that _they_--the aforesaid Messrs. Tresayle and
Mortmain--had been guilty of neither oversight nor ignorance, inasmuch
as the matter in question was one of _evidence_ only--one which a _nisi
prius_ lawyer, with a full detail of "proofs" before him, could hardly
fail to light upon--but which, it would be found, had been _assumed_,
and _taken for granted_, in the cases laid before conveyancers. They
promised, however, to turn it over in their minds, and to let Messrs.
Quirk and Gammon know if anything occurred to vary their impression. A
week elapsed, however, and Mr. Tresayle and Mr. Mortmain preserved an
ominous silence. As for Frankpledge, he had a knack, somehow or another,
of always coming to the conclusion wished and hoped for by his clients;
and, after prodigious pains, he wrote a very long opinion, to show that
there was nothing in the objection. Neither Mr. Quirk nor Mr. Gammon
could understand the process by which Mr. Frankpledge arrived at such a
result; but, in despair, they laid his opinion before Mr. Subtle, in the
shape of a further "Case for his Opinion." It was in a few days' time
returned to them, with only a line or two--thus:--

     "I see no reason whatever to depart from the view I have already
     taken of this case.--J. S."

Here was something like a dead lock, indeed!

"We're _done_, Gammon!" said Quirk, with a dismayed air. Gammon seemed
lost, and made no answer.

"Does anything--eh?" quoth Quirk, with a troubled air. "_Any_thing occur
to you? Gammon, I _will_ say this for you--you're a long-headed fellow!"
Still Gammon spoke not.

"Gammon! Gammon! I really believe--ah?--you--you--begin to see
something--don't you?"

"_It's to be_ DONE, Mr. Quirk!" said Gammon, at length, with a grave and
apprehensive look, and a cheek which had suddenly grown pale.

"Eh? how? Oh, I see!--Know what you mean, Gammon," replied Quirk, with a
hurried whisper, glancing at both doors to see that they were safe.

"We must resume our intercourse with Titmouse, and let matters go on as
before," said Gammon, with a very anxious, but, at the same time, a
determined air.

"I--I wonder if what has occurred to _you_ is what has occurred to me?"
inquired Quirk, in an eager whisper.

"Pooh! pooh! Mr. Quirk."

"Gammon, dear Gammon, no mystery! You know I have a very deep stake in
this matter!"

"So have I, Mr. Quirk," replied Gammon, with a sigh. "However"--Here the
partners put their heads close together, and whispered to each other in
a low, earnest tone, for some minutes. Quirk rose from his seat, and
took two or three turns about the room in silence, Gammon watching him
calmly.

To his inexpressible relief and joy, within a few hours of the happening
of the above colloquy, Titmouse found himself placed on precisely his
former footing with Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap.

In order to bring on the cause for trial at the next spring assizes, it
was necessary that the declaration in ejectment should be served on the
tenant in possession before Hilary term; and, in a matter of such
magnitude, it was deemed expedient that Snap should proceed to
Yorkshire, and personally effect the service in question. In
consequence, also, of some very important suggestions as to the
evidence, given by the junior in the cause, (Mr. Lynx,) it was arranged
that Snap should go down about a week before the time fixed upon for
effecting the service, and make quietly certain minute inquiries in the
neighborhood of Yatton. As soon as Titmouse had heard of this
movement--that Snap was going direct to Yatton, the scene of his,
Titmouse's, future greatness--he made the most pertinacious and vehement
entreaties to Messrs. Quirk and Gammon to be allowed to accompany him,
even going down on his knees. There was no resisting this; but they
exacted from him a solemn pledge that he would place himself entirely at
the disposal of Mr. Snap; go under some feigned name, and, in short,
neither say nor do anything tending to disclose their real character or
errand.

Snap and Titmouse established themselves at the Hare and Hounds Inn at
Grilston; and the former immediately began, cautiously and quietly, to
collect such evidence as he could discover. One of the first persons to
whom he went was old Blind Bess. His many pressing questions at length
stirred up in the old woman's mind faint confused recollections of
long-forgotten names, persons, places, scenes, and associations, thereby
producing an agitation not easily to be got rid of, and which had by no
means subsided when Dr. Tatham and Mr. Aubrey paid her the Christmas-day
visit, which has been described.



CHAPTER XI.


The reader has had, already, pretty distinct indications of the manner
in which Titmouse and Snap conducted themselves during their stay in
Yorkshire; and which, I fear, have not tended to raise either of these
gentlemen in the reader's estimation. Titmouse manifested a very natural
anxiety to see the present occupants of Yatton; and it was with infinite
difficulty that Snap could prevent him from sneaking about in the
immediate neighborhood of the Hall, with the hope of seeing them. His
first encounter with Mr. and Miss Aubrey was entirely accidental, as the
reader may remember; and when he found that the lady on horseback near
Yatton, and the lady whom he had striven to attract the notice of in
Hyde Park, were one and the same beautiful woman, and that that
beautiful woman was neither more nor less than the sister of the present
owner of Yatton--the marvellous discovery created a mighty pother in his
little feelings. The blaze of Kate Aubrey's beauty in an instant
consumed the images both of Tabitha Tag-rag and Dora Quirk. It even for
a while outshone the splendors of ten thousand a-year: such is the
inexpressible and incalculable power of woman's beauty over everything
in the shape of man--over even so despicable a sample of him, as
Tittlebat Titmouse.

While putting in practice some of those abominable tricks to which,
under Snap's tutelage, Titmouse had become accustomed in walking the
streets of London, and from which even the rough handling they had got
from farmer Hazel could not turn him, Titmouse at length, as has been
seen, most unwittingly fell foul of that fair creature, Catherine Aubrey
herself; who seemed truly like an angelic messenger, returning from her
errand of sympathy and mercy, and suddenly beset by a little imp of
darkness. When Titmouse discovered who was the object of his audacious
and revolting advances, his soul (such as it was) seemed petrified
within him; and it was fortunate that the shriek of Miss Aubrey's
attendant at length startled him into a recollection of a pair of heels,
to which he was that evening indebted for an escape from a most
murderous cudgelling, which might have been attended with one effect not
contemplated by him who inflicted it, (so profoundly in the dark are we
as to the causes and consequences of human actions;) viz. the retention
of the Aubreys in the possession of Yatton! Titmouse ran for nearly half
a mile on the high-road towards Grilston, without stopping. He dared not
venture to return to Yatton, with the sound of the lusty farmer's voice
in his ears, to get back from the Aubrey Arms the horse which had
brought him that afternoon from Grilston, to which place, therefore, he
walked on, through the snow and darkness; reaching his inn in a perfect
panic, from which, at length, a tumbler of stiff brandy and water, with
two or three cigars, somewhat relieved him. Forgetful of the solemn
pledge which he had given to Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, not to
disclose his name or errand, and it never once occurring to him that if
he would but keep his own counsel, Miss Aubrey could never identify
_him_ with the ruffian who had assailed her; Titmouse spent the interval
between eight and twelve o'clock, at which latter hour the coach by
which he had resolved to return to London would pass through Grilston,
in inditing the following letter to Miss Aubrey:--

                                        "_Grilston, January 6th, 18--._
     "HONORED MISS,

     "Hoping No Offence Will Be Taken where None is meant, (_which am
     Sure of_,) This I send To say Who I Am which, Is the Right And True
     Owner of Yatton which You Enjoy Amongst You All At This present
     (Till The Law Give it to _Me_) Which It quickly Will, and No
     Mistake, And which It Ought to Have done When I were First born And
     Before Y^r Respect^e. Family ever Came into it, And All which Y^r
     hon^d. Brother Have so unlawfully Got Possession Of must Come Back
     to Them Whose Due It is w^h Is myself as will be Soon prov^d. And
     w^h am most truely Sorry Of _on your own Acc^t_. (Meaning (hon^d.
     Miss) you Alone) as Sure As Yatton is Intirely Mine So My Heart Is
     _yours_ and No Longer my Own Ever since I Saw You first as Can
     Easily prove but w^h doubtless You Have forgot Seeing You Never
     New, because (as Mr. Gammon, My Solliciter And a Very Great Lawyer,
     says) _Cases Alter Circumstances_, what Can I say More Than that I
     Love you _Most Amazing_ Such As Never Thought Myself Capable of
     Doing Before and w^h cannot help Ever Since I First saw your most
     _Lovely_ and _Divine_ and _striking_ Face w^h have Stuck In my Mind
     Ever Since Day and Night Sleeping and Waking I will Take my Oath
     Never Of Having Lov'd Any one Else, Though (must Say) have Had a
     Wonderful Many _Offers_ From Females of _The Highest Rank_ Since my
     Truely Wonderful Good fortune got Talked About every Where but have
     _Refused Them All_ for _y^r sake_, And Would All the World But you.
     When I Saw You on Horseback It was All my Sudden confusion In
     Seeing you (the Other Gent. was One of my Resp^e Solicitors) w^h
     Threw Me off in that Ridiculous Way w^h was a Great Mortification
     And made My brute Of A horse _go on so_, For I Remembered You and
     was Wonderful struck _with Your Improv'd Appearance_ (As that Same
     Gent. can Testify) And you was (Hon^d. Miss) Quite Wrong _To
     Night_ when You Spoke so Uncommon Angry To Me, seeing If I Had Only
     Known What Female It Was (meaning _yourself which I respect So_)
     out so Late Alone I should Have spoke quite Different So hope You
     Will think Nothing More Of that Truely _Unpleasant Event_ Now
     (Hon^d. Madam) What I have to say Is if You will Please to
     Condescend To Yield To My Desire We Can Live Most uncommon
     Comfortable at Yatton Together w^h Place shall Have Great Pleasure
     (if _you_ please) in _Marrying You From_ and I may (_perhaps_) Do
     Something handsome for y^r. respectable Brother and Family, w^h can
     Often Come to see us And Live in the Neighborhood, if You Refuse
     me, Will not say What shall Happen to _Those_ which (am Told) _Owe
     me a Precious Long Figure_ w^h May (_perhaps_) Make a Handsome
     Abatement in, if You And I _Hit it_.

     "Hoping You Will Forget What Have So Much Griev^d. me, And Write
     p^t. return of Post,

          "Am,
            "hon^d. Miss
        "Y^r. most Loving & Devoted Servant
            "(Till Death)
              TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE.
       "PARTICULAR Private."

This exquisitely constructed document its accomplished writer sealed
twice, and then left, together with sixpence, in the hands of the
landlady of the Hare and Hounds, to be delivered at Yatton Hall the
first thing in the morning. The good woman, however--having no
particular wish to oblige such a strange puppy, whom she was only too
glad to get rid of, and having moreover a good deal to attend to--laid
the letter aside on the chimney-piece, and entirely lost sight of it for
nearly a fortnight. Shortly after the lamentable tidings concerning the
impending misfortunes of the Aubrey family had been communicated to the
inhabitants of Grilston, she forwarded the letter, (little dreaming of
the character in which its writer was likely, erelong, to reappear at
Grilston,) together with one or two others, a day or two after Miss
Aubrey had had the interview with her brother which I have described to
the reader; but it lay unnoticed by any one--above all, by the sweet
sufferer whose name was indicated on it--among a great number of
miscellaneous letters and papers which had been suffered to accumulate
on the library table.

Mr. Aubrey entered the library one morning, alone, for the purpose of
attending to many matters which had been long neglected. He was
evidently thinner: his face was pale, and his manner dejected: still
there was about him an air of calmness and resolution. Through the
richly-pictured old stained-glass window, the mottled sunbeams were
streaming in a kind of tender radiance upon the dear familiar objects
around him. All was silent. Having drawn his chair to the table, on
which was lying a confused heap of letters and papers, he felt a
momentary repugnance to enter upon the task which he had assigned to
himself; and rose and walked slowly for some time up and down the room,
with folded arms, uttering occasionally profound sighs. At length he
resumed his seat, and commenced the disheartening task of opening the
many letters before him. One of the earliest that came to his hand was
from Peter Johnson--the old tenant to whom he had lent the sum of two
hundred pounds, and it was full of fervent expressions of gratitude and
respect; Mr. Aubrey's heart ached as he read them. Then came a letter, a
fortnight old, bearing the frank of Lord C----, the Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs. He opened it and read:--

                                        "_Whitehall, 16th January, 18--._

     "My DEAR AUBREY,

     "You will remember that Lord ----'s motion stands for the 28th. We
     all venture to calculate upon receiving your powerful support in
     the debate. We expect to be much pressed with the Duke of ----'s
     affair, which you handled shortly before the recess with such
     signal ability and success. When you return to town, you must
     expect a renewal of certain offers, which I most sincerely trust,
     for the benefit of the public service, will not be _again_
     declined.

                                       "Ever yours faithfully,
                                              "C----.
                                     "(Private and confidential.)
     "CHARLES AUBREY, Esq. M. P."

Mr. Aubrey laid down the letter calmly, as soon as he had read it; and
leaning back in his chair, seemed lost in thought for several minutes.
Presently he reapplied himself to his task, and opened and glanced over
a great many letters; the contents of several of which occasioned him
deep emotion. Some were from persons in distress whom he had assisted,
and who implored a continuance of his aid; others were from ardent
political friends--some sanguine, others desponding--concerning the
prospects of the session. Two or three hinted that it was everywhere
reported that he had been offered one of the under secretaryships, and
had declined; but that it was, at the king's desire, to be pressed upon
him. Many letters were on private, and still more on county, business;
and with one of them he was engaged when a servant entered with one of
that morning's county newspapers. Tired with his task, Mr. Aubrey rose
from his chair as the servant gave him the paper; and, standing before
the fire, unfolded the _Yorkshire Stingo_, and glanced listlessly over
its miscellaneous contents. At length his eye lit upon the following
paragraph:--

     "The rumors so deeply affecting a member for a certain borough in
     this county, and to which we alluded in our last paper but one,
     turn out to be well founded. A claimant has started up to the very
     large estates at present held by the gentleman in question; and we
     are much misinformed if the ensuing spring assizes will not effect
     a considerable change in the representation of the borough alluded
     to, by relieving it from the Tory thraldom under which it has been
     so long oppressed. We have no wish to bear hard upon a falling man;
     and, therefore, shall make no comment upon the state of mind in
     which that person may be presumed to be, who must be conscious of
     having been so long enjoying the just rights of others. Some
     extraordinary disclosures may be looked for when the trial comes
     on. We have heard from a quarter on which we are disposed to place
     reliance, that the claimant is a gentleman of decided Whig
     principles, and who will prove a valuable accession to the Liberal
     cause."[21]

Mr. Aubrey was certainly somewhat shocked by brutality such as this; but
on Miss Aubrey's entering the room, he quietly folded up the paper and
laid it aside, fearful lest his sister's feelings should be pierced by
the coarse and cruel paragraph which it contained. It had, in fact, been
concocted in London, in the office of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap;
who were, as before stated, interested in the _Sunday Flash_, which was
in some sort connected, through the relationship of the editors, with
the _Yorkshire Stingo_. The idea had been suggested by Gammon, by way of
attempting to enlist the _political_ feeling of a portion of the county,
in favor of their client.

"Here are several letters for _you_, Kate," said her brother, picking
out several of them. The very first she took up, it having attracted her
attention by the double seal, and the vulgar style of the handwriting,
was that from Titmouse, which has just been laid before the reader. With
much surprise she opened the letter, her brother being similarly engaged
with his own; and her face getting gradually paler and paler as she went
on, at length she flung it on the floor with a passionate air, and burst
into tears. Her brother, with astonishment, exclaimed--"Dear Kate, what
is it?" and he rose and stooped to pick up the letter.

"Don't--don't, Charles!" she cried, putting her foot upon it, and
flinging her arms round his neck. "It is an audacious letter--a vulgar,
a cruel letter, dear Charles!" Her emotion increased as her thoughts
recurred to the heartless paragraph concerning her brother with which
the letter concluded. "I could have overlooked everything but _that_,"
said she, unwittingly. With gentle force he succeeded in getting hold
of the painfully ridiculous and contemptible effusion. He attempted
faintly to smile several times as he went on.

"Don't--don't, dearest Charles!" said she, passionately. "I can't bear
it!--Don't smile!--It's very far from your heart; you do it only to
assure _me_!"

Here Mr. Aubrey read the paragraph concerning himself. His face turned a
little paler than before, and his lips quivered with suppressed emotion.
"He is evidently a _very_ foolish fellow!" he exclaimed, walking towards
the window, with his back to his sister, whom he did not wish to see how
much he was affected by so petty an incident.

"What does he allude to, Kate, when he talks of your having spoken
angrily to him, and that he did not know you?" he inquired, after a few
moments' pause, returning to her.

"Oh, dear!--I am so _grieved_ that you should have noticed it--but since
you ask I will not deceive you!" and she told him the disgusting
occurrence alluded to in the letter. Mr. Aubrey drew himself up
unconsciously as Kate went on, and she perceived him becoming still
paler than before, and _felt_ the kindling anger of his eye.

"Forget it--forget it, dearest Charles!--So despicable a being is really
not worth a thought," said Kate, with increasing anxiety; for she had
never in her life before witnessed her brother the subject of such
powerful emotions as then made rigid his slender frame. At length
drawing a long breath--

"It is fortunate for him, Kate," said he, calmly, "that _he_ is not a
gentleman, and that I _endeavor to be_--a Christian." She flung her arms
round him, exclaiming, "There spoke my own noble brother!"

"I shall preserve this letter as a curiosity, Kate," said he, presently,
and with a faint smile, and a pointed significance of manner, which
arrested his sister's attention, he added,--"It is rather singular, but
some time before you came in, I opened a letter in which your name is
mentioned--I cannot say in a _similar_ manner, and yet--in short, it is
from Lord De la Zouch, enclosing one"----

Miss Aubrey suddenly blushed scarlet, and trembled violently.

"Don't be agitated, my dear Kate, the enclosure is from Lady De la
Zouch; and if it be in the same strain of kindness that pervades Lord De
la Zouch's letter to _me_"----

"I would rather that _you_ opened and read it, Charles"--she faltered,
sinking into a chair.

"Come, come, dear Kate--play the woman!" said her brother, with an
affectionate air--"To say that there is nothing in these letters that I
believe will interest you--very deeply gratify and interest your
feelings--would be"----

"I know--I--I--suspect--I"---- faltered Miss Aubrey, with much
agitation--"I shall return."

"Then you shall take these letters with you, and read, or not read them,
as you like," said her brother, putting them into her hand with a fond
and sorrowful smile, which soon, however, flitted away--and, leading her
to the door, he was once more alone; and, after a brief interval of
revery, he wrote answers to such of the many letters before him as he
considered earliest to require them.

Notwithstanding the judgment and tenderness with which Dr. Tatham
discharged the very serious duty which, at the entreaty of his afflicted
friends, he had undertaken, of breaking to Mrs. Aubrey the calamity with
which she and her family were menaced, the effects of the disclosure had
been most disastrous. They occasioned an attack of paralysis; and Mr.
Aubrey, who had long been awaiting the issue, in sickening suspense, in
an adjoining room, was hastily summoned in to behold a mournful and
heart-rending spectacle. His venerable mother--she who had given him
life, at the mortal peril of her own; she whom he cherished with
unutterable tenderness and reverence; she who doted upon him as upon the
light of her eyes; from whose dear lips he had never heard a word of
unkindness or severity; whose heart had never known an impulse but of
gentle, noble, unbounded generosity towards all around her--this
idolized being now lay suddenly prostrated and blighted before him----

Poor Aubrey yielded to his long and violent agony, in the presence of
her who could apparently no longer hear or see, or be sensible of what
was passing in the chamber.

"My son," said Dr. Tatham, after the first burst of his friend's grief
was over, and he knelt down beside his mother with her hand grasped in
his, "despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his
correction:

"For whom the Lord loveth, he correcteth, even as a father the son in
whom he delighteth.

"The Lord will not cast off forever;

"But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the
multitude of his mercies.

"For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."

It was with great difficulty that Dr. Tatham could render himself
audible while uttering these soothing and solemn passages of Scripture
in the ear of his distracted friend, beside whom he knelt.

Mrs. Aubrey had suffered a paralytic seizure, and lay motionless and
insensible; her features slightly disfigured, but partially concealed
beneath her long silvery gray hair, which had, in the suddenness of the
fit, strayed from beneath her cap.

"But what am I about?" at length exclaimed Mr. Aubrey, with a languid
and alarmed air--"has medical assistance"----

"Dr. Goddart and Mr. Whately are both sent for by several servants, and
will doubtless be very quickly here," replied Dr. Tatham; and while he
yet spoke, Mr. Whately--who, when hastened on by the servant who had
been sent for him, was entering the park on a visit to young Mrs.
Aubrey, who was also seriously ill and in peculiarly critical
circumstances--entered the room, and immediately resorted to the
necessary measures. Soon afterwards, also, Dr. Goddart arrived; but
alas, how little could they do for the venerable sufferer!

During the next, and for many ensuing days, the lodge was assailed by
very many anxious and sympathizing inquirers, who were answered by
Waters, whom Mr. Aubrey--oppressed by the number of friends who hurried
up to the Hall, and insisted upon seeing him to ascertain the extent to
which the dreadful rumors were correct--had stationed there during the
day to afford the requisite information. The Hall was pervaded by a
gloom which could be _felt_. Every servant had a woe-begone look, and
moved about as if a funeral were stirring. Little Charles and Agnes,
almost imprisoned in their nursery, seemed quite puzzled and confused at
the strange unusual seriousness, and quietness, and melancholy faces
everywhere about them. Kate romped not with them as had been her wont;
but would constantly burst into tears as she held them on her knee or in
her arms, trying to evade the continual questioning of Charles. "I think
it will be time for _me_ to cry too, by-and-by!" said he to her one day,
with an air half in jest and half in earnest, that made poor Kate's
tears flow afresh. Sleepless nights and days of sorrow soon told upon
her appearance. Her glorious buoyancy of spirits, which erewhile, as it
were, had filled the whole Hall with gladness--where were they now? Ah,
me! the rich bloom had disappeared from her beautiful cheek; but her
high spirit, though oppressed, was not broken, and she stood firmly and
calmly amid the scowling skies and lowering tempests. You fancied you
saw her auburn tresses stirred upon her pale but calm brow by the breath
of the approaching storm; and that she also felt it, but trembled not,
gazing on it with a bright and steadfast eye. Her _heart_ might be,
indeed, bruised and shaken; but her _spirit_ was, ay, unconquerable. My
glorious Kate, how my heart goes forth towards you!

And thou, her brother, who art of kindred spirit; who art supported by
philosophy, and exalted by religion, so that thy constancy cannot be
shaken or overthrown by the black and ominous swell of trouble which is
increasing and closing around thee, I know that thou wilt outlive the
storm--and yet it rocks thee!

A month or two may see thee and thine expelled from Old Yatton, and not
merely having lost everything, but with a liability to thy successor
which will hang round thy neck like a millstone. What, indeed, is to
become of you all? Whither will you go? And your suffering mother,
should she indeed survive so long, is her precious form to be borne away
from Yatton?

Around thee stand those who, if thou fallest, will perish--and that thou
knowest; around thy calm, sorrowful, but erect figure, are a melancholy
group--thy afflicted mother--the wife of thy bosom--thy two little
children--thy brave and beautiful sister--Yet think not, Misfortune!
that over this man thou art about to achieve thy accustomed triumphs.
Here, behold, thou hast a MAN to contend with; nay, more, a CHRISTIAN
MAN, who hath calmly girded up his loins against the coming fight!

'Twas Sabbath evening, some five weeks or so after the happening of the
mournful events above commemorated, and Kate, having spent, as usual,
several hours keeping watch beside the silent and motionless figure of
her mother, had quitted the chamber for a brief interval, thinking to
relieve her oppressed spirits by walking, for a little while, up and
down the long gallery. Having slowly paced backwards and forwards once
or twice, she rested against the little oriel window at the farthest
extremity of the gallery, and gazed with saddened eye upon the setting
sun, till at length, in calm grandeur, it disappeared beneath the
horizon. 'Twas to Kate a solemn and mournful sign; especially followed
as it was by the deepening shadows and gloom of evening. She sighed, and
with her hands crossed on her bosom, gazed, with a tearful eye, into the
darkening sky, where glittered the brilliant evening star. Thus she
remained, a thousand pensive and tender thoughts passing through her
mind, till the increasing chills of evening warned her to retire. "I
will go," said she to herself, as she walked slowly along, "and try to
play the evening hymn--I may not have _many_ more opportunities!" With
this view, she gently opened the drawing-room door, and, glancing
around, found that she should be alone. The fire gave the only light.
She opened the organ with a sigh, and then sat down before it for some
minutes without touching the keys. At length she struck them very
gently, as if fearful of disturbing those who, she soon recollected,
were too distant to hear her. Ah! how many associations were stirred up
as she played over the simple and solemn air! At length, in a low and
rather tremulous voice, she began--

    "Soon will the evening star, with silver ray,
    Shed its mild radiance o'er the sacred day;
    Resume we, then, ere night and silence reign,
    The rites which holiness and heaven ordain"----

She sang the last line somewhat indistinctly; and, overcome by a flood
of tender recollections, ceased playing; then, leaning her head upon her
hand, she shed tears. At length she resumed--

    "Here humbly let us hope our Maker's smile
    Will crown with sweet success our earthly toil--
    And here, on each returning Sabbath, join"----

Here poor Kate's voice quivered--and after one or two ineffectual
attempts to sing the next line, she sobbed, and ceased playing. She
remained for several minutes, her face buried in her handkerchief,
shedding tears. At length, "I'll play the last verse," thought she, "and
then sit down before the fire, and read over the evening service,"
(feeling for her little prayer-book,) "before I return to poor mamma!"
With a firmer hand and voice she proceeded--

    "Father of Heaven! in whom our hopes confide,
    Whose power defends us, and whose precepts guide--
    In life our guardian, and in death our friend,
    Glory supreme be thine, till time shall end."

She played and sang these lines with a kind of solemn energy; and she
felt as if a ray of heavenly light had trembled for a moment upon her
upturned eye. She had not been, as she had supposed, alone; in the
farthest corner of the room had been all the while sitting her
brother--too exquisitely touched by the simplicity and goodness of his
sweet sister, to apprise her of his presence. Several times his feelings
had nearly overpowered him; and as she concluded, he arose from his
chair, and approaching her, after her first surprise was over,--"Heaven
bless you, dear Kate!" said he, taking her hands in his own. Neither of
them spoke for a few moments.

"I could not have sung a line, or played, if I had known that you were
here," said she, tremulously.

"I thought so, Kate, and therefore I remained silent"--

"I don't think I shall ever have heart to play again!" she replied--they
were both silent.

"Be assured, Kate, that submission to the will of God," said Mr. Aubrey,
as (he with his arm round his sister) they walked slowly to and fro, "is
the great lesson to be learned from the troubles of life; and for that
purpose they are sent. Let us bear up awhile; the waters will not go
over our heads!"

"I hope not," replied his sister, faintly, and in tears. "How did you
leave Agnes, Charles?"

"She was asleep; she is still very feeble"---- Here the door was
suddenly opened, and Miss Aubrey's maid entered hastily, exclaiming,
"Are you here, ma'am?--or sir?"

"Here we are," they replied, hurrying towards her; "what is the matter?"

"Oh, Madam is _talking_! She began speaking all of a sudden. She did,
indeed, sir. She's talking, and"---- continued the girl, almost
breathless.

"My mother talking!" exclaimed Aubrey, with an amazed air.

"Oh yes, sir! she is--she is, indeed!"

Miss Aubrey sank into her brother's arms, overcome for a moment with the
sudden and surprising intelligence.

"Rouse yourself, Kate!" he exclaimed with animation; "did I not tell you
that Heaven would not forget us? But I must hasten up-stairs, to hear
the joyful sounds with my own ears--and do you follow as soon as you
can." Leaving her in the care of her maid, he hastened out of the room,
and was soon at the door of his mother's chamber. He stood for a moment
in the doorway, and his straining ears caught the gentle tones of his
mother's voice, speaking in a low but cheerful tone. His knees trembled
beneath him with joyful excitement. Fearful of trusting himself in her
presence till he had become calmer, he noiselessly sank on the nearest
chair, with beating heart and straining ear--ay, every tone of that dear
voice thrilled through his heart. But I shall not torture myself or my
reader by dwelling upon the scene which ensued. Alas! the venerable
sufferer's tongue was indeed loosed;--but reason had fled! He
listened--he distinguished her words. She supposed that all her
children--dead and alive--were romping about her; she spoke of him and
his sister as she had spoken to them twenty years ago!

As soon as he had made this woful discovery, overwhelmed with grief, he
staggered out of the room; and motioning his sister, who was entering,
into an adjoining apartment, communicated to her, with great agitation,
the lamentable condition of their mother.



CHAPTER XII.


The chief corner-stone suddenly found wanting in the glittering fabric
of Mr. Titmouse's fortune, so that, to the eyes of its startled
architects, Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, it seemed momentarily
threatening to tumble about their ears, was a certain piece of evidence
which, being a matter-of-fact man, I should like to explain to the
reader, before we get on any farther. In order, however, to do this
effectually, I must go back to an earlier period in the history than has
been yet called to his attention. I make no doubt, that by the
superficial and impatient _novel_-reader, certain portions of what has
gone before, and which could not fail of attracting the attention of
long-headed people, as not likely to have been thrown in for nothing,
(and therefore requiring to be borne in mind with a view to subsequent
explanation,) have been entirely overlooked or forgotten. However this
may be, I can fancy that the sort of reader whom I have in my eye, as
one whose curiosity it is worth some pains to excite, and sustain, has
more than once asked himself the following question, viz.--

How did Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, first come to be acquainted
with the precarious tenure by which Mr. Aubrey held the Yatton
property?--Why, it chanced in this wise.

Mr. Parkinson of Grilston, who has been already introduced to the
reader, had succeeded to his father's first-rate business as a country
attorney and solicitor in Yorkshire. He was a highly honorable,
painstaking man, and deservedly enjoyed the entire confidence of all
his numerous and influential clients. Some twelve years before the
period at which this history commences, he had, from pure kindness,
taken into his service an orphan boy of the name of Steggars, at first
merely as a sort of errand-boy, and to look after the office. He soon,
however, displayed so much sharpness, and acquitted himself so
creditably in anything that he happened to be concerned in, a little
above the run of his ordinary duties, that in the course of a year or
two he became a sort of clerk, and sat and wrote at the desk it had
formerly been his sole province to dust. Higher and higher did he rise,
in process of time, in his master's estimation; and at length became
quite a _factotum_--as such, acquainted with the whole course of
business that passed through the office. Many interesting matters
connected with the circumstances and connections of the neighboring
nobility and gentry were thus constantly brought under his notice, and
now and then set him thinking whether the knowledge thus acquired could
not, in some way, and at some time or another, be turned to his own
advantage; for I am sorry to say that he was utterly unworthy of the
kindness and confidence of Mr. Parkinson, who little thought that in
Steggars he had to deal with--a rogue in grain. Such being his
character, and such his opportunities, this worthy had long made a
practice of minuting down, from time to time, anything of interest or
importance in the affairs of his betrayed master's clients--even
laboriously copying long documents, when he thought them of importance
enough for his purpose, and had the opportunity of doing so without
attracting the attention of Mr. Parkinson. He thus silently acquired a
mass of information which might have enabled him to occasion great
annoyance, and even inflict serious injury; and the precise object he
had in view, was either to force himself, hereafter, into partnership
with his employer, (provided he could get regularly introduced into the
profession,) or even compel his master's clients to receive him into
their confidence, adversely to Mr. Parkinson; and make it worth his
while to keep the secrets of which he had become possessed. So careful
ought to be, and indeed generally are, attorneys and solicitors, as to
the characters of those whom they thus receive into their employ. On the
occasion of Mr. Aubrey's intended marriage with Miss St. Clair, with a
view to the very liberal settlements which he contemplated, a full
"Abstract" of his "Title" was laid by Mr. Parkinson before his
conveyancer, in order to advise, and to prepare the necessary
instruments. Owing to inquiries suggested by the conveyancer, additional
statements were laid before him; and produced an opinion of a somewhat
unsatisfactory description, from which I shall lay before the reader the
following paragraph:--

     "...There seems no reason for supposing that any descendant of
     Stephen Dreddlington is now in existence;[22] still, _as it is by
     no means physically impossible that such a person may be in esse_,
     it would unquestionably be most important to the security of Mr.
     Aubrey's title, to establish clearly the validity of the conveyance
     by way of mortgage, executed by Harry Dreddlington, and which was
     afterwards assigned to Geoffrey Dreddlington on his paying off the
     money borrowed by his deceased uncle; since the descent of Mr.
     Aubrey from Geoffrey Dreddlington would, in that event, clothe him
     with an indefeasible title at law, by virtue of that deed; and any
     equitable rights which were originally outstanding, would be barred
     by lapse of time. But the difficulty occurring to my mind on this
     part of the case is, that unless Harry Dreddlington, who executed
     that deed of mortgage, survived his father, (a point on which I am
     surprised that I am furnished with no information,) the deed itself
     would have been mere waste parchment, as in reality the conveyance
     of a person who _never had any interest_ in the Yatton
     property--and, of course, neither Geoffrey Dreddlington, nor his
     descendant, Mr. Aubrey, could derive any right whatever under such
     an instrument. In that case, such a contingency as I have above
     hinted at--I mean the existence of any legitimate descendant of
     Stephen Dreddlington--_might have a most serious effect upon the
     rights of Mr. Aubrey_."

Now every line of this opinion, and also even of the Abstract of Title
upon which it was written, did this quicksighted young scoundrel copy
out, and deposit, as a great prize, in his desk, among other similar
notes and memoranda,--little wotting his master, the while, of what his
clerk was doing. Some year or two afterwards, the relationship
subsisting between Mr. Parkinson and his clerk Steggars, was suddenly
determined by a somewhat untoward event; viz. by the latter's decamping
with the sum of £700 sterling, being the amount of money due on a
mortgage which he had been sent to receive from a client of Mr.
Parkinson's. Steggars fled for it--but first having bethought himself of
the documents to which I have been alluding, and which he carried with
him to London. Hot pursuit was made after the enterprising Mr. Steggars,
who was taken into custody two or three days after his arrival in town,
while he was walking about the streets, with the whole of the sum which
he had embezzled, _minus_ a few pounds, upon his person, in bank-notes.
He was quickly deposited in Newgate. His natural sagacity assured him
that his case was rather an ugly one; but hope did not desert him.

"Well, my kiddy," said Grasp, the grim-visaged, gray-headed turnkey, as
soon as he had ushered Steggars into his snug little quarters; "here you
are, you see--isn't you?"

"I think I am," replied Steggars, with a sigh.

"Well--and if you want to have a chance of not going across the water
afore your time, you'll get yourself _defended_, and the sooner the
better, d'ye see. There's _Quirk_, _Gammon_, and _Snap_--my eyes! how
they _do_ thin this here place of ours, to be sure! The only thing is to
get 'em soon; 'cause, ye see, they're so run after. Shall I send them to
you?"

Steggars answered eagerly in the affirmative. In order to account for
this spontaneous good-nature on the part of Grasp, I must explain that
old Mr. Quirk had for years secured a highly respectable criminal
practice, by having in his interest most of the officers attached to the
police-offices and Newgate. He gave, in fact, systematic gratuities to
these gentry, in order to get their recommendations to the persecuted
individuals who came into their power. Very shortly after Grasp's
messenger had reached Saffron Hill, with the intelligence that "there
was _something new in the trap_," old Quirk bustled down to Newgate, and
was introduced to Steggars, with whom he was closeted for some time. He
took a lively interest in his new client, to whose narrative of his
flight and capture he listened in a very kind and sympathizing way,
lamenting the severity of the late statute applicable to the case;[23]
and promised to do for him whatever his little skill and experience
_could_ do. He hinted however, that, as Mr. Steggars must be aware, a
_little_ ready money would be required, in order to fee counsel--whereat
Steggars looked very dismal indeed, and knowing the state of his
exchequer, imagined himself already on shipboard, on his way to Botany
Bay. Old Mr. Quirk asked him if he had no friends who would raise a
trifle for a "chum in trouble,"--and on Mr. Steggars answering in the
negative, he observed the enthusiasm of the respectable old gentleman
visibly and rapidly cooling down.

"But I'll tell you what, sir," said poor Steggars, suddenly, "if I
haven't money, I may have _money's worth_ at my command;--I've a little
box, that's at my lodging, which those that catched me knew nothing
of--and in which there is a trifle or two about the families and
fortunes of some of the first folk in the best part of Yorkshire, that
would be precious well worth looking after, to those who know how to
follow up such matters."

Old Quirk hereat pricked up his ears, and asked his young friend how he
got possessed of such secrets.

"Oh fie! fie!" said he, gently, as soon as Steggars had told him the
practices of which I have already put the reader in possession.

"Ah--you may say fie! fie! if you like," quoth Steggars, earnestly; "but
the thing is, not how they were come by, but what can be done with them,
now they're got. For example, there's a certain member of parliament in
Yorkshire, that, high as he may hold his head, has no more right to the
estates that yield him a good ten thousand a-year than I have, but keeps
some folk out of their own, that could pay some other folk a round sum
to be put in the way of getting their own;" and that--intimated the
suffering captive--was only _one_ of the good things he knew of. Here
old Quirk rubbed his chin, hemmed, fidgeted about in his seat, took off
his glasses, wiped them, replaced them; and presently went through that
ceremony again. He then said that he had had the honor of being
concerned for a great number of gentlemen in Mr. Steggars' "present
embarrassed circumstances," but who had always been able to command at
least a five-pound note, at starting, to run a heat for liberty.

"Come, come, old gentleman," quoth Steggars, earnestly, "I don't want to
go over the water before my time, if I can help it, I assure you; and I
see you know the value of what I've got! Such a gentleman as you can
turn every bit of paper I have in my box into a fifty-pound note."

"All this is moonshine, my young friend," said old Quirk, in an
irresolute tone and manner.

"Ah! is it, though? To be able to tell the owner of a fat ten thousand
a-year, that you can spring a mine under his feet at any
moment--eh?--and no one ever know how you came by your knowledge. And if
they wouldn't do what was handsome, couldn't you _get the right
heir_--and wouldn't _that_--Lord! it would make the fortunes of
half-a-dozen of the first houses in the profession!" Old Quirk got a
little excited.

"But mind, sir--you see"--said Steggars, "if I get off, I'm not to be
cut out of the thing altogether--eh? I shall look to be taken into your
employ, and dealt handsomely by"----

"Oh Lord!" exclaimed Quirk, involuntarily--adding quickly, "Yes, yes! to
be sure! only fair; but let us first get you out of your present
difficulty, you know!" Steggars, having first exacted from him a written
promise to use his utmost exertions on his (Steggars') behalf, and
secure him the services of two of the most eminent Old Bailey
counsel--viz. Mr. Bluster and Mr. Slang--gave Mr. Quirk the number of
the house where the precious box was, and a written order to the
landlord to deliver it up to the bearer: after which Mr. Quirk shook him
cordially by the hand, and having quitted the prison, made his way
straight to the house in question, and succeeded in obtaining what he
asked for. He faithfully performed his agreement, with Steggars; for he
retained both Bluster and Slang for him, and got up their briefs with
care: but, alas! although these eminent men exerted all their great
powers, they succeeded not in either bothering the judge, bamboozling
the jury, or browbeating the witnesses, (the principal one of whom was
Mr. Parkinson;) Steggars was found guilty and sentenced to be
transported for fourteen years.[24] Enraged at this issue, he sent a
message the next day to Mr. Quirk, requesting a visit from him. When he
arrived, Steggars, in a very violent tone, demanded that his papers
should be returned to him. 'Twas in vain that Mr. Quirk explained to him
again and again his interesting position with reference to his goods,
chattels, and effects--_i. e._ that, as a convicted felon, he had no
further concern with them, and might dismiss all anxiety on that score
from his mind. Steggars hereat got more furious than before, and
intimated plainly the course he should feel it his duty to pursue--viz.
that, if the papers in question were not given up to him as he desired,
he should at once write off to his late employer, Mr. Parkinson, and
acknowledge how much more he (Steggars) had wronged that gentleman and
his clients, than he supposed of. Old Quirk very feelingly represented
to him that he was at liberty to do anything that he thought calculated
to relieve his excited feelings: and then Mr. Quirk took a final
farewell of his client, wishing him health and happiness.

"I say, Grasp!" said he, in a whisper, to that grim functionary, as soon
as he had secured poor Steggars in his cell, "that bird is a little
ruffled just now--isn't he, think you?"

"Lud, sir, that's the nat'ralist thing in the world, considering"----

"Well--if he should want a letter taken to any one, whatever he may say
to the contrary, you'll send it on to Saffron Hill--eh? Understand?--He
may be injuring himself, you know;" and old Quirk with one hand clasped
the huge arm of Grasp in a familiar way, and with the forefinger of the
other touched his own nose, and then winked his eye.

"All right!" quoth Grasp, and they parted. Within a very few hours'
time, Mr. Quirk received, by the hand of a trusty messenger, from Grasp,
a letter written by Steggars to Mr. Parkinson; a long and eloquent
letter, to the purport and effect which Steggars had intimated. Mr.
Quirk read it with much satisfaction, for it disclosed a truly penitent
feeling, and a desire to undo as much mischief as the writer had done.
He (Mr. Quirk) was not in the least exasperated by certain very plain
terms in which his own name was mentioned; but making all due
allowances, quietly put the letter in the fire as soon as he had read
it. In due time Mr. Steggars, whose health had suffered from close
confinement, caught frequent whiffs of the fresh sea-breeze, having set
out, under most favorable auspices, for Botany Bay; to which distant but
happy place, he had been thus fortunate in early securing an
"_appointment_" for so considerable a portion of his life.

Such, then, were the miserable means by which Mr. Quirk became
acquainted with the exact state of Mr. Aubrey's title; on first becoming
apprised of which, Mr. Gammon either felt, or affected, great repugnance
to taking any part in the affair. He appeared to suffer himself, at
length, however, to be over-persuaded by Quirk into acquiescence; and,
that point gained--having ends in view of which Mr. Quirk had not the
least conception, and which, in fact, had but suddenly occurred to Mr.
Gammon himself--worked his materials with a caution, skill, energy, and
perseverance, which soon led to important results. Guided by the
suggestions of acute and experienced counsel, after much pains and
considerable expense, they had succeeded in discovering that precious
specimen of humanity, Tittlebat Titmouse, who hath already figured so
prominently in this history. When they came to set down on paper the
result of all their researches and inquiries, in order to submit it in
the shape of a case for the opinion of Mr. Mortmain and Mr. Frankpledge,
in the manner described in a former part of this history, it looked
perfect _on paper_, as many a faulty pedigree and abstract of title had
looked before, and will yet look. It was quite possible for even Mr.
Tresayle himself to overlook the defect which had been pointed out by
Mr. Subtle. That which is stated to a conveyancer, as _a fact_--any
particular event, for instance, as of a death, a birth, or a marriage,
at a particular time or place, which the very nature of the case renders
highly probable--he is warranted in assuming to be so. But when the same
statement comes--with quite a different object--under the experienced
eye of a _nisi prius_ lawyer, who knows that he will have to _prove_ his
case, step by step, the aspect of things is soon changed. "De non
_apparentibus_, et de non _existentibus_," saith the law, "eadem est
ratio." The first practitioner in the common law, before whom the case
came, in its roughest and earliest form, in order that he might "lick it
into shape," and "advise generally" preparatory to its "being laid
before counsel," was Mr. Traverse, a young pleader, whom Messrs. Quirk
and Gammon were disposed to take by the hand. He wrote a very showy, but
superficial and delusive opinion; and put the intended _protégé_ of his
clients, as it were by a kind of hop, step, and jump, into possession of
the Yatton estates. Quirk was quite delighted on reading it; but Gammon
shook his head with a somewhat sarcastic smile, and said he would at
once prepare a case for the opinion of Mr. Lynx, whom he had pitched
upon as the junior counsel in any proceedings which might be instituted
in a court of law. Lynx (of whom I shall speak hereafter) was an
experienced, hard-headed, vigilant, and accurate lawyer; the very man
for such a case, requiring, as it did, most patient and minute
examination. With an eye fitted

    "To inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven,"

he _crawled_, as it were, over a case; and thus, even as one can imagine
that a beetle creeping over the floor of St. Paul's, would detect minute
flaws and fissures invisible to the eye of Sir Christopher Wren himself,
spied out defects which much nobler optics would have overlooked. To
come to plain matter-of-fact, however, I have beside me the original
opinion written by Mr. Lynx; and shall treat the reader to a taste of
it--giving him sufficient to enable him to appreciate the very ticklish
position of affairs with Mr. Titmouse. To make it not altogether
unintelligible, let us suppose the state of the pedigree to be something
like this, (as far as concerns our present purpose:)--

                   (Dreddlington.)
                          |
             +------------+-----------+
             |                        |
  (Harry Dreddlington.)   (Charles Dreddlington.)
                                      |
                      +---------------+--------------+
                      |                              |
          (Stephen Dreddlington.)      (Geoffrey Dreddlington.)
                      |                              |
            =====================           =======================
          (A female descendant             (A female descendant marries
       marries _Gabriel Tittlebat_             CHARLES AUBREY, Esq.,
         Titmouse_, through whom                father of the present
           TITTLEBAT TITMOUSE                       possessor.)
                  claims.)

Be pleased now, unlearned reader, to bear in mind that "_Dreddlington_"
at the top of the above table, is the common ancestor, having two sons,
the elder "_Harry Dreddlington_," the younger "_Charles Dreddlington_;"
the latter having, in like manner, two sons, "_Stephen Dreddlington_"
the elder son, and "_Geoffrey Dreddlington_" the younger son; that Mr.
Aubrey, at present in possession, claims under "_Geoffrey
Dreddlington_." Now it will be incumbent on Mr. Titmouse, in the first
instance, to establish in himself a clear, independent, legal, and
possessory title to the estates; it being sufficient for Mr. Aubrey,
(possession being nine-tenths of the law), to falsify Titmouse's proofs,
or show them defective--"because," saith a very learned sergeant, who
hath writ a text-book upon the Action of Ejectment, "the plaintiff in an
action of ejectment must recover upon the strength of his own title, not
the weakness of his adversary's."[25]

Now, _rebus sic stantibus_, behold the astute Lynx advising (inter alia)
in manner following; that is to say--

"It appears clear that the lessor of the plaintiff (_i. e._ Tittlebat
Titmouse) will be able to prove that Dreddlington (the common ancestor)
was seised of the estate at Yatton in the year 1740; that he had two
sons, Harry and Charles, the former of whom, after a life of
dissipation, appears to have died without issue; and that from the
latter (Charles) are descended Stephen, the ancestor of the lessor of
the plaintiff, and Geoffrey, the ancestor of the defendant. Assuming,
therefore, that the descent of the lessor of the plaintiff from Stephen
can be made out, as there appears every reason to expect, [on this point
Lynx had written two brief pages,] a clear _primâ facie_ case will have
been established on the part of the lessor of the plaintiff. As,
however, it is suspected that Harry Dreddlington executed a conveyance
in fee of the property, in order to secure the loan contracted by him
from Aaron Moses, it will be extremely important to ascertain, and, if
possible, procure satisfactory evidence that the decease of Harry
Dreddlington occurred before the period at which, by his father's death,
that conveyance could have become operative upon the property: since it
is obvious that, should he have survived his father, _that instrument,
being outstanding_, may form a complete answer to the case of the
lessor of the plaintiff.[26] The danger will be obviously increased
should the debt to Aaron Moses prove to have been paid off, (as it is
stated was rumored to have been the fact,) by Geoffrey Dreddlington, the
younger son of Charles Dreddlington; for, should that turn out to be the
case, he would probably have taken a conveyance to himself, or to
trustees for his benefit, from Aaron Moses--which being in the power of
the defendant, Mr. Aubrey, would enable him to make out a title to the
property, paramount to that now attempted to be set up on behalf of Mr.
Titmouse. Every possible exertion, therefore, should be made to
ascertain the precise period of the death of Harry Dreddlington. The
registries of the various parishes in which the family may have at any
time resided should be carefully searched; and an examination made in
the churches and churchyards, of all tombstones, escutcheons, etc.,
belonging, or supposed to belong, to the Dreddlington family, and by
which any light can be thrown upon this most important point. It appears
clear that Dreddlington (the common ancestor) died on the 7th August,
1742:--the question, therefore, simply is, _whether the death of his
eldest son (Harry) took place prior or subsequent to that period_. It is
to be feared that the defendant may be in possession of some better and
more direct evidence on this point than is attainable by the lessor of
the plaintiff. The natural presumption would certainly seem to be that
the son, being the younger and stronger man, was the survivor."[27]

The above-mentioned opinion of Mr. Lynx, together with that of Mr.
Subtle entirely corroborating it, (and which was alluded to in a late
chapter of this history,[28]) and a pedigree, were lying on the table,
one day, at the office at Saffron Hill, before the anxious and perplexed
partners, Messrs. Quirk and Gammon.

Gammon was looking attentively, and with a very chagrined air, at the
pedigree; and Quirk was looking at Gammon.

"Now, Gammon," said the former, "just let me see again where the exact
hitch is--eh? You'll think me perhaps infernally stupid, but--curse me
if I can see it!"

"See it, my dear sir? Here, _here_!" replied Gammon, with sudden
impatience, putting his finger two or three times to the words "_Harry
D._"

"Lord bless us! Don't be so sharp with one, Gammon! I know as well as
you that that's _about_ where the crack is; but what is the precise
thing we're in want of, eh?"

"Proof, my dear sir," replied Gammon, somewhat impatiently, but with a
smile, "of the death of Harry Dreddlington some time--no matter
when--previous to the 7th August, 1742; and in default thereof, Mr.
Quirk, we are all flat on our backs, and had better never have stirred
in the business!"

"You know, Gammon, you're better _up_ in these matters than I--(because
I've not been able to turn my particular attention to 'em since I first
began business)--so just tell me, in a word, what good's to be got by
showing that fellow to have died in his father's lifetime?"

"You don't show your usual acuteness, Mr. Quirk," replied Gammon,
blandly. "It is to make waste paper of that confounded conveyance which
he executed, and which Mr. Aubrey doubtless has, and with which he may,
at a stroke, cut the ground from under our feet!"

"The very thought makes one feel quite funny--don't it, Gammon?" quoth
Quirk, with a flustered air.

"It may well do so, Mr. Quirk. Now we _are_ fairly embarked in a cause
where success will be attended with so many splendid results, Mr.
Quirk--though I'm sure you'll always bear me out in saying how very
unwilling I was to take advantage of the villany of that miscreant
Steg--hem"----

"Gammon, Gammon, you're always harking back to that--I'm tired of
hearing on't!" interrupted Quirk, angrily, but with an embarrassed air.

"Well, now we're in it," said Gammon, with a sigh, and shrugging his
shoulders, "I don't see why we should allow ourselves to be baffled by
trifles. The plain question is, undoubtedly, whether we are to stand
still--_or go on_." Mr. Quirk gazed at Mr. Gammon with an anxious and
puzzled look.

"How d'ye make out--in a legal way, you know, Gammon--_when_ a man
died--I mean, of a _natural_ death?" somewhat mysteriously inquired
Quirk, who was familiar enough with the means of proving the exact hour
of certain _violent_ deaths at Debtor's Door.

"Oh! there are various methods of doing so, my dear sir," replied
Gammon, carelessly. "Entries in family Bibles and
prayer-books--registers--tombstones--ay, by the way, AN OLD TOMBSTONE,"
continued Gammon, musingly, "that would settle the business!"

"An old tombstone!" echoed Quirk, briskly, but suddenly dropping his
voice. "Lord, Gammon, so it would! That's an _idea_!--I call that a
decided idea, Gammon. 'Twould be the very thing!"

"The very thing!" repeated Gammon, pointedly. They remained silent for
some moments.

"Snap could not have looked about him sharply enough when he was down at
Yatton--could he, Gammon?" at length observed Quirk, in a low tone,
flushing all over as he uttered the last words, and felt Gammon's cold
gray eye settled on him like that of a snake.

"He could not, indeed, my dear sir," replied Gammon, while Quirk
continued gazing earnestly at him, now and then wriggling about in his
chair, rubbing his chin, and drumming with his fingers on the
table.--"And now that you've suggested the thing, [oh, Gammon!
Gammon]--it's not to be wondered at!--You know, it would have been an
old tombstone--a sort of fragment of a tombstone, perhaps--so deeply
sunk in the ground, probably, as easily to have escaped observation.
Eh?--Does not it strike _you_ so, Mr. Quirk?" All this was said by
Gammon in a musing manner, and in a very low tone of voice; and he was
delighted to find his words sinking into the eager and fertile mind of
his companion.

"Ah, Gammon!" exclaimed Quirk, with a sound of partly a sigh, and partly
a whistle, (the former being the exponent of the _true_ state of his
feelings, _i. e._ anxiety--the latter of what he wished to _appear_ the
state of his feelings, _i. e._ indifference.)

"Yes, Mr. Quirk?"

"You're a deep devil, Gammon--I _will_ say that for you!" replied Quirk,
glancing towards each door, and, as it were, unconsciously drawing his
chair a little closer to that of Gammon.

"Nay, my dear sir!" said Gammon, with a deferential and deprecating
smile, "you give me credit for an acuteness I feel I do not possess! If,
indeed, I had not had _your_ sagacity to rely upon, ever since I have
had the honor of being connected with you in business---- ah, Mr. Quirk,
you know you lead--I follow"----

"Gammon, Gammon!" interrupted Quirk, with an uncomfortable, but still a
mollified air, "Come--your name's _Oily_"----

"In moments like these, Mr. Quirk, I say nothing that I do not feel,"
interrupted Gammon, gravely, putting to his nose the least modicum of
snuff which he could take with the tip of his finger out of the huge box
of Mr. Quirk, who, just then, was thrusting immense pinches, every half
minute, up his nostrils.

"It will cost a great deal of money to find that same tombstone,
Gammon!" said Quirk, in almost a whisper, and paused, looking intently
at Gammon.

"I think this is a different kind of snuff from that which you usually
take, Mr. Quirk, isn't it?" inquired Gammon, as he inserted the tips of
his fingers a second time into the mechanically proffered box of Mr.
Quirk.

"The same--the same," replied Quirk, hastily.

"You are a man better fitted for serious emergencies, Mr. Quirk, than
any man I ever came near," said Gammon, deferentially; "I perceive that
you have hit the nail on the head, as indeed you _always_ do!"

"Tut! Stuff, Gammon; you're every bit as good a hand as I am!" replied
Quirk, with an evident mixture of pleasure and embarrassment. Gammon
smiled, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders.

"'Tis that practical sagacity of yours, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon--"you
know it as well as I can tell you--that has raised you to your present
professional eminence!" He paused, and looked very sincerely at his
senior partner.

"Well, I must own I think I _do_ know a trick or two," quoth Quirk, with
a sort of _grunt_ of gratification.

"Ay, and further, there are _some_ clever men who never can keep their
own counsel; but are like a hen that has just laid an egg, and directly
she has risen, goes foolishly cackling about everywhere, and then her
egg is taken away; but _you_"----

"Ha, ha!" laughed Quirk; "that's _devilish_ good, Gammon!--Capital! Gad,
I think I see the hen! Ha, ha!"

"Ha, ha!" echoed Gammon, gently. "But to be serious, Mr. Quirk; what I
was going to say was, that I thoroughly appreciate your admirable
caution in not confiding to any one--no, not even to me--the exact
means by which you intend to extricate us from our present dilemma."
Here Quirk got very fidgety, and twirled his watch-key violently.

"Hem! But--hem! Ay--a--a," he grunted, looking with an uneasy air at his
calm astute companion; "I didn't mean so much as all _that_, either,
Gammon; for two heads, in my opinion, are better than one. You _must_
own that, Gammon!" said he, not at all relishing the heavy burden of
responsibility which he felt that Gammon was about to devolve upon his
(Quirk's) shoulders exclusively.

"'Tis undoubtedly rather a serious business on which we are now
entering," said Gammon; "and I have always admired a saying which you
years ago told me of that great man Machiavel"----

[Oh, Gammon! Gammon! You well know that poor old Mr. Quirk never heard
of the name of that same Machiavel till this moment!]--

"That 'when great affairs are stirring, a master-move should be confined
to the master-mind that projects it.' I understand! I see! I will not,
therefore, inquire into the precise means by which I am satisfied you
will make it appear, in due time (while I am engaged getting up the
subordinate, but very harassing details of the general case), that
_Harry Dreddlington died_ BEFORE _the 7th of August, 1742_." Here,
taking out his watch, he suddenly added--"Bless me, Mr. Quirk, how time
passes!--Two o'clock! I ought to have been at Messrs. Gregson's a
quarter of an hour ago."

"Stop--a moment or two can't signify! It--it," said Quirk, hesitatingly,
"it was _you_, wasn't it, that thought of the tombstone?"

"I, my dear Mr. Quirk"--interrupted Gammon, with a look of astonishment
and deference.

"Come, come--honor among thieves, you know, Gammon!" said Quirk, trying
to laugh.

"No--it shall never be said that I attempted to take the credit of"----
commenced Gammon; when a clerk entering, put an end to the colloquy
between the partners, each of whom, presently, was sitting alone in his
own room--for Gammon found that he was too late to think of keeping his
engagement with Messrs. Gregson; if indeed he had ever made any--which,
in fact, he had _not_. Mr. Quirk sat in a musing posture for nearly half
an hour after he and Gammon had separated. "Gammon _is_ a deep one! I'll
be shot if ever there was his equal," said Quirk to himself, at length;
and starting off his chair, with his hands crossed behind him, he walked
softly to and fro. "I know what he's driving at--though he thought I
didn't! He'd let me scratch my hands in getting the blackberries, and
then he'd come smiling in to eat 'em! But--share and share alike--share
profit, share danger, master Gammon;--you may find that Caleb Quirk is a
match for Oily Gammon--I'll have you in for it, one way or another!"
Here occurred a long pause in his thoughts, "Really I doubt the thing's
growing unmanageable--the prize can't be worth the risk!--_Risk_,
indeed--'fore gad--it's neither more nor less than"---- Here a certain
picture hanging, covered with black crape, in the drawing-room at Alibi
House, seemed to have glided down from its station, and to be hanging
close before his eyes, with the crape drawn aside--a ghastly object---
eugh! He shuddered, and involuntarily closed his eyes. "How devilish odd
that I should just _now_ have happened to think of it!" he inwardly
exclaimed, sinking into his chair in a sort of cold sweat.

"D--n the picture!" at length said he aloud--getting more and more
flustered--"I'll burn it! It sha'n't disgrace my drawing-room any
longer!" Here Quirk almost fancied that some busy little fiend sat
squatting before the grisly picture, writing the words "CALEB QUIRK" at
the bottom of it; and a sort of sickness came over him for a moment.
Presently he started up, and took down one of several well-worn
dingy-looking books standing on the shelves--a volume of Burns' Justice.
Resuming his seat, he put on his glasses, and with a little trepidation
turned to the head "Forgery," and glanced over it, divided as it was
into two great heads--"Forgery at _Common Law_, and Forgery _by
Statute_," with many able observations of the learned compiler, and
important "_cases_" cited. At length his eye lit upon a paragraph which
seemed suddenly to draw his heart up into his throat, producing a
sensation which made him involuntarily clap his hand upon his neck.

"Oh, Gammon!!" he muttered, drawing off his glasses, sinking back in his
chair, and looking towards the door which opened into Gammon's room;
extending at the same time, in that direction, his right arm, and
shaking his fist. "You _precious_ villain!--I've an uncommon
inclination," at length thought he, "to go down slap to Yorkshire--say
nothing to anybody--make peace with the enemy, and knock up the whole
thing!--For a couple of thousand pounds--a trifle to the Aubreys, I'm
sure. Were _I_ in his place, I shouldn't grudge it; and why should
he?--By Jove," he got a little heated--"that _would_ be, as Gammon has
it, a master-move! and confined, egad! to the master-mind that thought
of it!--Why should he ever know of the way in which the thing blew
up?--Really, 'twould be worth half the money to _do_ Gammon so hollow
for once--by George it would!--Gammon, that would slip Caleb Quirk's
neck so slyly into the halter, indeed!"

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, suddenly re-entering the
room after about an hour's absence, during which he too had, like his
senior partner, been revolving many things in his mind--"it has occurred
to me, that I had better immediately go down to Yatton, _alone_."

Hereat Mr. Quirk opened both his eyes and his mouth to their very
widest; got very red in the face; and stared at his placid partner with
a mingled expression of fear and wonder. "Hang me, Gammon!" at length he
exclaimed desperately, slapping his fist upon the table--"if I don't
think you're the very devil himself!"--and he sank back in his chair,
verily believing, in the momentary confusion of his thoughts, that what
had been passing through his mind was known to Gammon; or that what had
been passing through his (Quirk's) mind, had also been occurring to
Gammon, who had resolved upon being beforehand in putting his purposes
into execution. Gammon was at first completely confounded by Quirk's
reception of him, and stood for a few moments, with his hands elevated,
in silence. Then he approached the table, and his eye caught the
well-thumbed volume of Burns' Justice, open at the head "FORGERY!" and
the quicksighted Gammon saw how matters stood at a glance--the process
by which the result he had just witnessed had been arrived at.

"Well, Mr. Quirk, what new vagary now?" he inquired with an air of
smiling curiosity.

"Vagary be----!" growled old Quirk, sullenly, without moving in his
chair.

Gammon stood for a moment or two eying him with a keen scrutiny. "What!"
at length he inquired good-humoredly, "do you then really grudge me any
share in the little enterprise?"

"Eh?" quickly interrupted Quirk, pricking up his ears. "Do you intend to
play _Mackivel_! eh? What must you go down alone to Yatton for, Gammon?"
continued Quirk, anxiously.

"Why, simply as a sort of pioneer--to reconnoitre the churchyard--eh? I
thought it might have been of service; but if"--

"Gammon, Gammon, your hand! I understand," replied Quirk, evidently
vastly relieved--most cordially shaking the cold hand of Gammon.

"But understand, Mr. Quirk," said he, in a very peremptory manner, "no
one upon earth is to know of my visit to Yatton except yourself."

He received a solemn pledge to that effect; and presently the partners
separated, a little better satisfied with each other. Though not a word
passed between them for several days afterwards on the topic chiefly
discussed during the interview above described, the reader may easily
imagine that neither of them dropped it from his thoughts. Mr. Quirk,
shortly afterwards, paid one or two visits to the neighborhood of
Houndsditch, (a perfect hotbed of clients to the firm,) where resided
two or three gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion, who had been placed,
from time to time, under considerable obligations by the firm of Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap, in respect of professional services rendered both to
themselves and to their friends. One of them, in particular, had a
painful consciousness that it was in old Mr. Quirk's power at any time
by a whisper to place his--the aforesaid Israelite's--neck in an
unsightly noose which every now and then might be seen dangling from a
beam opposite Debtor's Door, Newgate, about eight o'clock in the
morning; him, therefore, every consideration of interest and of
gratitude combined to render subservient to the reasonable wishes of Mr.
Quirk. He was a most ingenious little fellow, and had a great taste for
the imitative arts--so strong in fact, that it had once or twice placed
him in some jeopardy with the Goths and Vandals of the law; who
characterized the noble art in which he excelled, by a very ugly and
formidable word, and annexed the most barbarous penalties to its
practice. What passed between him and old Quirk on the occasion of their
interviews, I know not; but one afternoon, the latter, on returning to
his office, without saying anything to anybody, having bolted the door,
took out of his pocket several little pieces of paper, containing pretty
little picturesque devices of a fragmentary character, with antique
letters and figures on them--crumbling pieces of stone, some looking
more and some less sunk in the ground, and overgrown with grass;
possibly they were designs for ornaments to be added to that tasteful
structure, Alibi House--possibly intended to grace Miss Quirk's album.
However this might be, after he had looked at them, and carefully
compared them one with another, for some time, he folded them up in a
sheet of paper, sealed it--with certainly not the steadiest hand in the
world--and then deposited it in an iron safe.



CHAPTER XIII.


Yatton, the recovery of which was the object of these secret and
formidable movements and preparations, not to say machinations, was all
this while the scene of deep affliction. The lamentable condition of his
mother plunged Mr. Aubrey, his wife, and sister, into profounder grief
than had been occasioned by the calamity which menaced them all in
common. Had he been alone, he would have encountered the sudden storm of
adversity with unshrinking, nay, cheerful firmness; but could it be so,
when he had ever before him those whose ruin was involved in his
own?--Poor Mrs. Aubrey, his wife, having been two or three weeks
confined to her bed, during which time certain fond hopes of her husband
had been blighted, was almost overpowered, when, languid and feeble,
supported by Mr. Aubrey and Kate, she first entered the bedroom of the
venerable sufferer. What a difference, indeed, was there between the
appearance of all of them at that moment, and on the Christmas day when,
a happy group, they were cheerfully enjoying the festivities of the
season! Kate was now pale, and somewhat thinner; her beautiful features
exhibited a careworn expression; yet there was a serene lustre in her
blue eye, and a composed resolution in her air, which bespoke the
superiority of her soul. What had it not cost her to bear with any
semblance of self-possession, or fortitude, the sad spectacle now
presented by her mother! What a tender and vigilant nurse was she, to
one who could no longer be sensible of, or appreciate her attentions!
How that sweet girl humored all her venerated and suffering parent's
little eccentricities and occasional excitement, and accommodated
herself to every varying phasis of her mental malady! She had so
schooled her sensibilities and feelings, as to be able to maintain
perfect cheerfulness and composure in her mother's presence, on
occasions which forced her brother to turn aside with an eye of
agony--overcome by some touching speech or wayward action of the
unconscious sufferer, who constantly imagined herself, poor soul! to be
living over again her early married life; and that in her little
grandchildren she beheld Mr. Aubrey and Kate as in their childhood! She
would gently chide Mr. Aubrey, her husband, for his prolonged absence,
asking many times a day whether he had returned from London. Every
morning old Jacob Jones was shown into her chamber, at the hour at which
he had been accustomed, in happier days, to attend upon her. The
faithful old man's eyes would be blinded with tears, and his voice
choked, as he was asked how Peggy got over her yesterday's journey; and
listened to questions, messages, and directions, which had been familiar
to him twenty years before, about villagers and tenants who had long
lain mouldering in their humble graves--their way thither cheered and
smoothed by Mrs. Aubrey's Christian charity and benevolence! 'Twas a
touching sight to see her two beautiful grandchildren, in whose company
she delighted, brought, with a timorous and half-reluctant air, into her
presence. How strange must have seemed to them the cheerfulness of the
motionless figure always lying in the bed; a cheerfulness which, though
gentle as gentle could be, yet sufficed not to assure the little things,
or set them at their ease. Though her mild features ever smiled upon
them, still 'twas from a prostrate figure, which never moved, and was
always surrounded by mournful persons, with sorrowful constraint in
their countenances and gestures! Charles would stand watching her, with
apprehensive eye--the finger of one hand raised to his lip, while his
other retained the hand which had brought him in, as if fearful of its
quitting hold of him; the few words he could be brought to speak were in
a subdued tone and hurried utterance;--and when, having been lifted up
to kiss his grandmamma, he and his sister were taken out of the chamber,
their little breasts would heave a sigh which showed how sensibly they
were relieved from their recent constraint!

How wofully changed was everything in the once cheerful old Hall! Mr.
Aubrey sitting in the library, intently engaged upon books and
papers--Mrs. Aubrey and Kate now and then, arm in arm, walking slowly up
and down the galleries, or one of the rooms, or the hall, not with their
former sprightly gayety, but pensive, and often in tears, and then
returning to the chamber of their suffering parent. All this was sad
work, indeed, and seemed, as it were, to herald coming desolation!

But little variation occurred, for several weeks, in the condition of
Mrs. Aubrey, except that she grew visibly feebler. One morning, however,
about six weeks after her seizure, from certain symptoms, the medical
men intimated their opinion that some important change was on the eve of
taking place, for which they prepared the family. She had been very
restless during the night. After frequent intervals of uneasy sleep, she
would awake with evident surprise and bewilderment. Sometimes a peculiar
smile would flit over her emaciated features; at others, they would be
overcast with gloom, and she would seem struggling to suppress tears.
Her voice, too, when she spoke, was feeble and tremulous; and she would
sigh, and shake her head mournfully. Old Jacob Jones, not being
introduced at the accustomed hour, she asked for him. When he made his
appearance, she gazed at him for a moment or two, with a perplexed eye,
exclaiming, "Jacob! Jacob! is it you?" in a very low tone; and then she
closed her eyes, apparently falling asleep. Thus passed the day; her
daughter and daughter-in-law sitting on either side of the bed, where
they had so long kept their anxious and affectionate vigils--Mr. Aubrey
sitting at the foot of the bed--and Dr. Goddart and Mr. Whately in
frequent attendance. Towards the evening, Dr. Tatham also, as had been
his daily custom through her illness, appeared, and in a low tone read
over the service for the visitation of the sick. Shortly afterwards Mr.
Aubrey was obliged to quit the chamber, in order to attend to some very
pressing matters of business; and he had been engaged for nearly an
hour, intending almost every moment to return to his mother's chamber,
when Dr. Tatham entered, as Mr. Aubrey was subscribing his name to a
letter, and, with a little earnestness, said--"Come, my friend, let us
return to your mother; methinks she is on the eve of some decisive
change: the issue is with God!" Within a very few moments they were both
at the bedside of Mrs. Aubrey. A large chamber-lamp, standing on a table
at the farther end of the room, diffused a soft light, rendering visible
at a glance the silent and sad group collected round the bed, all with
their eyes directed towards the venerable figure who lay upon it. Mr.
Aubrey sat beside his wife close to his mother; and taking her white
emaciated hand into his own, gently raised it to his lips. She seemed
dozing: but his action appeared to rouse her for a moment. Presently she
fixed her eye upon him--its expression, the while, slowly but
perceptibly changing, and exciting strange feelings within him. He
trembled, and removed not his eye from hers. He turned very pale--for
the whole expression of his mother's countenance, which was turned full
towards him, was changing. Through the clouded windows of the falling
fabric, behold! its long-imprisoned tenant, THE SOUL, had arisen from
its torpor, and was looking at him. Reason was re-appearing. It was,
indeed, his mother, and _in her right mind_, that was gazing at him. He
scarcely breathed. At length surprise and apprehension yielded before a
gush of tenderness and love. With what an unutterable look was his
mother at that moment regarding him! His lip quivered--his eye
overflowed--and, as he felt her fingers very gently compressing his own,
his tears fell down. Gently leaning forward, he kissed her cheek, and
sank on one knee beside the bed.

"Is it you, my son?" said she, in a very low tone, but in _her own_
voice, and it stirred up instantly a thousand fond recollections, almost
overpowering him. He kissed her hand with fervent energy, but spoke not.
She continued gazing at him with mingled solemnity and fondness. Her eye
seemed brightening as it remained fixed upon him. Again she spoke, in a
very low but clear voice--every thrilling word being heard by all around
her: "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken,
or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the
cistern,--Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the
spirit shall return unto God who gave it." It would be in vain to
attempt to describe the manner in which these words were spoken; and
which fell upon those who heard them as though they were listening to
one from the dead.

"My mother!--my mother!" at length faltered Aubrey.

"God bless thee, my son!" said she, solemnly. "And Catherine, my
daughter--God bless thee"---- she presently added, gently turning round
her head towards the quarter whence a stifled sob issued from Miss
Aubrey, who rose, trembling, and leaning over, kissed her mother.
"Agnes, are you here--and your little ones?--God bless"---- Her voice
got fainter, and her eyes closed. Mr. Whately gave her a few drops of
ether, and she presently revived.

"God hath been very good to you, Madam," said Dr. Tatham, observing her
eye fixed upon him, "to restore you thus to your children."

"I have been long absent--long!--I wake, my children, but to bid you
farewell, forever, upon earth."

"Say not so, my mother--my precious mother!" exclaimed her son, in vain
endeavoring to suppress his emotions.

"I do, my son! Weep not for me; I am old, and am summoned away from
among you"--She ceased, as if from exhaustion; and no one spoke for some
minutes.

"It may be that God hath roused me, as it were, from the dead, to
comfort my sorrowful children with words of hope," said Mrs. Aubrey,
with much more power and distinctness than before. "Hope ye, then, in
God; for ye shall yet praise him who is the health of your countenance,
and your God!"

"We will remember, my mother, your words!" faltered her son.

"Yes, my son--if days of darkness be at hand"--She ceased. Again Mr.
Whately placed to her white lips a glass with some reviving
fluid--looking ominously at Mr. Aubrey, as he found that she continued
insensible. Miss Aubrey sobbed audibly; indeed all present were
powerfully affected. Again Mrs. Aubrey revived, and swallowed a few
drops of wine and water. A heavenly serenity diffused itself over her
emaciated features.

"We shall meet again, my loves!--I can no longer see you with the eyes
of"--Mr. Whately observing a sudden change, came nearer to her.

"Peace! peace!" she murmured almost inarticulately. A dead silence
ensued, interrupted only by smothered sobs. Her children sank on their
knees, and buried their faces in their hands, trembling.

Mr. Whately made a silent signal to Dr. Tatham, that life had
ceased--that the beloved spirit had passed away. "The Lord gave, and the
Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!" said Dr. Tatham,
with tremulous solemnity. Mrs. Aubrey and Miss Aubrey, no longer able to
restrain their feelings, wept bitterly; and overpowered with grief, were
supported out of the room by Dr. Tatham and Mr. Aubrey.

As soon as it was known that this venerable lady was no more, universal
reverence was testified for her memory, and sympathy for the afflicted
survivors, by even those, high and low, in the remoter parts of the
neighborhood who had no personal acquaintance with the family. Two or
three days afterwards, the undertaker, who had received orders from Mr.
Aubrey to provide a simple and inexpensive funeral, submitted to him a
list of more than thirty names of the nobility and gentry of the
country, who had sent to him to know whether it would be agreeable to
the family for them to be allowed to attend Mrs. Aubrey's remains to the
grave. After much consideration, Mr. Aubrey accepted this spontaneous
tribute of respect to the memory of his mother. 'Twas a memorable and
melancholy day on which the interment took place--one never to be
forgotten at Yatton. What can be more chilling than the gloomy bustle of
a great funeral, especially in the country; and when the deceased is one
whose memory is enshrined in the holiest feelings of all who knew her?
What person was there, for miles around, who could not speak of the
courtesies, the charities, the goodness of Madam Aubrey?

     "_When the ear heard her, then it blessed her; and when the eye saw
     her, it gave witness to her:_

     _"Because she delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless,
     and him that had none to help him_.

     _"The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon her, and
     she caused the widow's heart to sing for joy_.

     _"She was eyes to the blind, and feet was she to the lame_.

     _"She was a mother to the poor_."----

Pale as death, the chief mourner, wrapped in his black cloak, is
stepping into the mourning-coach. No one speaks to him; his face is
buried in his handkerchief; his heart seems breaking. He thinks of her
whose dear dust is before him;--then of the beloved beings whom he has
left alone in their agony till his return--his wife and sister. The
procession is moving slowly on--long, silent rows of the tenantry and
villagers, old and young, male and female--not a dry eye among them, nor
a syllable spoken--stand on each side of the way; no sound heard but of
horses' feet, and wheels crushing along the wet gravel--for the day is
most gloomy and inclement. As they quit the gates, carriage after
carriage follows in the rear; and the sorrowful crowd increases around
them. Many have in their hands the Bibles and prayer-books which had
been given them by her who now lies in yonder hearse; and a few can
recollect the day when the late lord of Yatton led her along from the
church to the Hall, his young and blooming bride--in pride and joy--and
they are now going to lay her beside him again! They are met at the
entrance of the little churchyard, by good Dr. Tatham, in his surplice,
bareheaded, and with book in hand; with full eye and quivering lip he
slowly precedes the body into the church. His voice frequently trembles,
and sometimes he pauses while reading the service. Now they are standing
bareheaded at the vault's mouth--the last sad rites are being performed;
and probably, as is thinking the chief mourner, over the last of his
race who will rest in that tomb!

Long after the solemn ceremony was over, the little churchyard remained
filled with mournful groups of villagers and tenants, who pressed
forward to the dark mouth of the vault, to take their last look at the
coffin which contained the remains of her whose memory would live long
in all their hearts. "Ah, dear old Madam," quoth Jonas Higgs to himself,
as he finished his dreary day's labors, by temporarily closing up the
mouth of the vault, "they might have turned thee, by-and-by, out of
yonder Hall, but they shall not touch thee _here_!"

Thus died, and was buried, Madam Aubrey; _and she is not yet forgotten_.

How desolate seemed the Hall, the next morning, to the bereaved inmates,
as, dressed in deep mourning, they met at the cheerless breakfast-table!
Aubrey kissed his wife and sister--who could hardly answer his brief
inquiries. The gloom occasioned throughout the Hall, for the last ten
days, by the windows being constantly darkened--now that the blinds were
drawn up--had given way to a staring light and distinctness, which
almost startled and offended the eyes of those whose hearts were dark
with sorrow as ever. Every object reminded them of the absence of
_one_--whose chair stood empty in its accustomed place. There, also, was
her Bible, on the little round table near the window! The mourners
seemed relieved by the entrance, by-and-by, of the children; but they
also were in mourning! Let us, however, withdraw from this scene of
suffering, where every object, every recollection, every association,
causes the wounded heart to bleed afresh.

Great troubles seem coming upon them; and now that _they have buried
their dead out of their sight_, and when time shall have begun to pour
his balm into their present smarting wounds, I doubt not that they will
look those troubles in the face, calmly and with fortitude, not
forgetful of the last words of her for whom they now mourn so bitterly,
and whom, beloved and venerable being! God hath mercifully taken away
from evil days that are to come.

After much consideration, they resolved to go, on the ensuing Sunday
morning, to church, where neither Mrs. Aubrey nor Kate had been since
the illness of her mother. The little church was crowded; almost every
one present, besides wearing a saddened countenance, exhibited some
outward mark of respect, in their dress--some badge of mourning--such as
their little means admitted of. The pulpit and reading-desk were hung in
black, as also was Mr. Aubrey's pew--an object of deep interest to the
congregation, who expected to see at least _some_ member of the family
at the Hall. They were not disappointed. A little before Dr. Tatham took
his place in the reading-desk, the well-known sound of the
family-carriage wheels was heard as it drew up before the gate; and
presently Mr. Aubrey appeared at the church door, with his wife and
sister on either arm; all of them, of course, in the deepest
mourning--Mrs. and Miss Aubrey's countenances concealed beneath their
long crape veils. For some time after taking their seats, they seemed
oppressed with emotion, evidently weeping. Mr. Aubrey, however,
exhibited great composure, though his countenance bore traces of the
suffering he had undergone. Mrs. Aubrey seldom rose from her seat; but
Kate stood up, from time to time, with the rest of the congregation; her
white handkerchief, however, might have been seen frequently raised to
her eyes, beneath her black veil. As the service went on, she seemed to
have struggled with some success against her feelings. To relieve
herself for a moment from its oppressive closeness, she gently drew
aside her veil; and thus, for a few minutes, exhibited a countenance
which, though pale and agitated, was inexpressibly beautiful. She could
not, however, long bear to face a congregation, every one of whom she
felt to be looking on her, and those beside her, with affectionate
sympathy; and rather quickly drew down her veil, without again removing
it. There was one person present, on whom the brief glimpse of her
beauty had produced a sudden, deep, and indelible impression. As he
gazed at her, the color gradually deserted his cheek; and his eye
remained fixed upon her, even after she had drawn down her veil. He
experienced emotions such as he had never known before. _So that was
Miss Aubrey!_

Mr. Gammon--for he it was, and he had gone thither under the expectation
of seeing, for the first time, some of the Aubrey family--generally
passed for a cold-blooded person; and in fact few men living had more
control over their feelings, or more systematically checked any
manifestations of them; but there was something in the person and
circumstances of Miss Aubrey--for by a hurried inquiry of the person
next to him he learned that it was she--which excited new feelings in
him. Her slightest motion his eye watched with intense eagerness; and
faint half-formed schemes, purposes, and hopes, passed in rapid
confusion through his mind, as he foresaw that circumstances would
hereafter arise by means of which--

"Good heavens! how very--_very_ beautiful she is!" said he to himself,
as, the service over, her graceful figure, following her brother and his
wife with slow sad step, approached the pew in which he was standing, on
her way to the door. He felt a sort of cold shudder as her black dress
rustled past, actually touching him. What was he doing and meditating
against that lovely being? And for whom--disgusting reptile!--for
Titmouse? He almost blushed from a conflict of emotions, as he followed
almost immediately after Miss Aubrey, never losing sight of her till
her brother, having handed her into the carriage, got in after her, and
they drove off towards the Hall.

The reader will not be at a loss to account for the presence of Mr.
Gammon on this occasion, nor to connect it with an impending trial at
the approaching York assizes. As he walked back to Grilston to his
solitary dinner, he was lost in thought; and on arriving at the inn,
repaired at once to his room, where he found a copy of the _Sunday
Flash_, which had, according to orders, been sent to him from town,
under his assumed name, "Gibson." He ate but little, and that
mechanically; and seemed to feel, for once, little or no interest in his
newspaper. He had never paid the least attention to the _eulogia_ upon
Miss Aubrey of the idiot Titmouse, nor of Snap, of whom he entertained
but a very little higher opinion than of Titmouse. One thing was clear,
that from that moment Miss Aubrey formed a new element in Mr. Gammon's
calculations; and for aught I know, may occasion very different results
from those originally contemplated by that calm and crafty person.

As it proved a moonlight night, he resolved at once to set about the
important business which had brought him into Yorkshire; and for that
purpose set off about eight o'clock on his walk to Yatton. About ten
o'clock he might have been seen gliding noiselessly into the churchyard,
like a dangerous snake. The moon continued to shine--and at intervals
with brightness sufficient for his purpose, which was simply to
reconnoitre, as closely as possible, the little sequestered locality--to
ascertain what it might contain, and _what were its capabilities_. At
length he approached the old yew-tree, against the huge trunk of which
he leaned with folded arms, apparently in a revery. Hearing a noise as
of some one opening the gate by which he had entered, he glided farther
into the gloom behind him; and turning his head in the direction whence
the sound came, he beheld some one entering the churchyard. His heart
beat quickly; and he suspected that he had been watched: yet there was
surely no harm in being seen, at ten o'clock at night, looking about him
in a country churchyard!--It was a gentleman who entered, dressed in
deep mourning; and Gammon quickly recognized in him Mr. Aubrey--the
brother of her whose beautiful image still shone before his mind's eye.
What could he be wanting there?--at that time of night? Gammon was not
kept long in doubt; for the stranger slowly bent his steps towards a
large high tomb, in fact the central object, next to the yew-tree, in
the churchyard--and stood gazing at it in silence for some time.

"That is, no doubt, where Mrs. Aubrey was buried the other day," thought
Gammon, watching the movements of the stranger, who presently raised his
handkerchief to his eyes, and for some moments seemed indulging in great
grief. Gammon distinctly heard the sound of deep sighing. "He must have
been very fond of her," thought Gammon. "Well, if we succeed, the
excellent old lady will have escaped a great deal of trouble--that's
all! _If we succeed_," he inwardly repeated after a long pause! That
reminded him of what he had for a few moments lost sight of, namely, his
own object in coming thither; and he felt a sudden chill of remorse,
which increased upon him till he almost trembled, as his eye continued
fixed on Mr. Aubrey, and he thought also of Miss Aubrey--and the
misery--the utter ruin into which he was seeking to plunge them
both--the unhallowed means which they--which--if
necessary--he--contemplated resorting to for that purpose.

Gammon's condition was becoming every moment more serious; for VIRTUE,
in the shape of Miss Aubrey, began to shine momentarily in more and more
radiant loveliness before him--and he almost felt an inclination to
sacrifice every person connected with the enterprise in which he was
engaged, if it would give him a chance of winning the favor of Miss
Aubrey. Presently, however, Mr. Aubrey, evidently heaving a deep sigh,
bent his steps slowly back towards the old gate, and quitted the
churchyard. Gammon watched his figure out of sight, and then, for the
first time since Mr. Aubrey's appearance, breathed freely. Relieved from
the pressure of his presence, Gammon began to take calmer and juster
views of his position; and he reflected, that if he pushed on the
present affair to a successful issue, he should be much more likely,
than by prematurely ending it, to gain his objects. He therefore resumed
his survey of the scene around him; and which presented appearances
highly satisfactory, judging from the expression which now and then
animated his countenance. At length he wandered round to the other end
of the church, where a crumbling wall, half covered with ivy, indicated
that there had formerly stood some building apparently of earlier date
than the church. Such was the fact. Gammon soon found himself standing
in a sort of enclosure, which had once been the site of an old chapel.
And here he had not been long making his observations, before he
achieved a discovery of so extraordinary a nature; one so unlikely,
under the circumstances, to have happened; one so calculated to baffle
ordinary calculations concerning the course of events, that the reader
may well disbelieve what I am going to tell him, and treat it as
absurdly improbable. In short, not to keep him in suspense, Gammon
positively discovered evidence of the death of Harry Dreddlington in his
father's lifetime; by means of just such a looking tombstone as he had
long imaged to himself; and as he had resolved that old Quirk should
have got prepared, before the cause came into court. He almost stumbled
over it. 'Twas an old slanting stone, scarcely a foot above the ground,
partly covered with moss, and partly hid by rubbish and long damp grass.
The moon shone brightly enough to enable Gammon, kneeling down, to
decipher, beyond all doubt, what was requisite to establish that part of
the case which had been wanting. For a moment or two he was disposed to
imagine that he was dreaming. When, at length, he took out pencil and
paper, his hands trembled so much that he felt some difficulty in making
an exact copy of the inestimable inscription. Having done this, he drew
a long breath as he replaced the pencil and paper in his pocket-book,
and almost fancied he heard a whispering sound in the air--"Verdict for
the plaintiff." Quitting the churchyard, he walked back to Grilston at a
much quicker rate than that at which he had come, his discovery having
wonderfully elated him, and pushed all other thoughts entirely out of
his mind. But, thought he, doubtless the other side are aware of the
existence of this tombstone--they can hardly be supposed ignorant of it;
they must have looked up their evidence as well as we--and their
attention has been challenged to the existence or non-existence of proof
of the time of the death of Harry Dreddlington:--well--if they are aware
of it, they know that it cuts the ground from under them, and turns
their conveyance, on which, doubtless, they are relying, into waste
paper; if they are _not_, and are under the impression that that deed is
valid and effectual, our proof will fall on them like a thunderbolt.
"Gad,"--he held his breath, and stopped in the middle of the road--"how
immensely important is this little piece of evidence! Why, if they knew
of it--why in Heaven's name is it there still? What easier than to have
got rid of it?--why, they may still: what can that stupid fellow
Parkinson have been about? Yet, is it because it has become
unimportant, on account of their being in possession of other evidence?
What _can_ they have to set against so plain a case as ours is, with
this evidence? Gad, I'll not lose one day's time; but I'll have half a
dozen competent witnesses to inspect, and speak to that same tombstone
in court." Such were some of the thoughts which passed through his mind
as he hastened homeward; and on his arrival, late as it was--only the
yawning hostler having sat up to let him in--he wrote off a letter to
Mr. Quirk, and made it into a parcel to go by the mail in the morning,
acquainting him with the amazing discovery which he had just made, and
urging Mr. Quirk to set about getting up the briefs, for the trial,
without delay; he himself--Gammon--purposing to stop at Grilston a day
or two longer, to complete one or two other arrangements of an important
nature. As soon as Mr. Quirk had read this letter, he devoutly thanked
God for his goodness; and, hurrying to his strong-box, unlocked it, took
out a small sealed packet, and committed it to the flames.

Mr. Aubrey, as soon as he had recovered from the first shock occasioned
by Mr. Parkinson's communication of the proceedings against him, set
about acquainting himself, as minutely as he could, with the true state
of the case. He had requested that gentleman to obtain from one of the
counsel in London, Mr. Crystal, a full account of the case for his--Mr.
Aubrey's--own guidance; and on obtaining a remarkably clear and luminous
statement, and also consulting the various authorities cited in it--such
at least as could be supplied to him by Mr. Parkinson--the vigorous
practical understanding of Mr. Aubrey, aided by his patient application,
soon mastered the whole case, and enabled him to appreciate his perilous
position. Since he could derive no title through the conveyance of Harry
Dreddlington (which had been got in by Geoffrey Dreddlington,) owing to
the death of the former in his father's lifetime,[29] as he (Mr.
Aubrey) understood from his advisers could be easily proved by the
present claimant of the property; the right of accession of Geoffrey
Dreddlington's descendants depended entirely upon the fact whether or
not Stephen Dreddlington had really died without issue; and as to that,
certain anxious and extensive inquiries instituted by Messrs. Runnington
and Mr. Parkinson, in pursuance of the suggestions of their able and
experienced counsel, had led them to entertain serious doubts concerning
the right of Geoffrey's descendants to have entered into possession. By
what means his opponents had obtained their clew to the state of his
title, neither Mr. Aubrey nor any of his advisers could frame a
plausible conjecture. It was certainly possible that Stephen
Dreddlington, who was known to have been a man, like his uncle Harry, of
wild and eccentric habits, and to have been supposed to leave no issue,
might have married privately some woman of inferior station, and left
issue by her, who, living in obscurity, and at a distance from the seat
of the family property, could have no opportunity of inquiring into or
ascertaining their position with reference to the estates, till some
acute and enterprising attorneys, like Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap,
happening to get hold of them, and family papers in their possession,
had taken up their case. When, with impressions such as these, Mr.
Aubrey perused and re-perused the opinions of the conveyancer given on
the occasion of his (Mr. Aubrey's) marriage, he was confounded at the
supineness and indifference which he had even twice exhibited, and felt
disposed now greatly to overvalue the importance of every adverse
circumstance. The boldness, again, and systematic energy with which the
case of the claimant was prosecuted, and the eminent legal opinions
which were alleged, and with every appearance of truth, to concur in his
favor, afforded additional grounds for rational apprehension. He looked
the danger, however, full in the face, and as far as lay in his power,
as a conscientious man, prepared for the evil day which might so soon
come upon him. Certain extensive and somewhat costly alterations which
he had been on the point of commencing at Yatton, he abandoned. But for
the earnest interference of friends, he would at once have given up his
establishment in Grosvenor Street, and applied for the Chiltern
Hundreds, in order to retire from political life. Considering the
possibility of his soon being declared the wrongful holder of the
property, he contracted his expenditure as far as he could, without
challenging unnecessary public attention; and paid into his banker's
hands all his Christmas rents, sacredly resolving to abstain from
drawing out one farthing of what might soon be proved to belong to
another. At every point occurred the dreadful question--if I am declared
never to have been the rightful owner of the property, how am I to
discharge my frightful liabilities to him who is? Mr. Aubrey had nothing
except the Yatton property. He had but an insignificant sum in the
funds; Mrs. Aubrey's settlement was out of lands at Yatton, as also was
the little income bequeathed to Kate by her father. Could anything be
conceived more dreadful, under these circumstances, than the mere
danger--the slightest probability--of their being deprived of
Yatton?--and with a debt of at the very least SIXTY THOUSAND POUNDS, due
to him who had been wrongfully kept out of his property? That was the
millstone which seemed to drag them all to the bottom. Against _that_,
what could the kindness of the most generous friends, what could his own
most desperate exertions, avail? All this had poor Aubrey constantly
before his eyes, together with--his wife, his children, his sister. What
was to become of _them_? It was long before the real nature and extent
of his danger became known among his friends and neighbors. When,
however, they were made aware of it, an extraordinary interest and
sympathy were excited throughout almost the whole county. Whenever his
attorney, Mr. Parkinson, appeared in public, he was besieged by most
anxious inquiries concerning his distinguished client, whose manly
modesty and fortitude, under the pressure of his sudden and almost
unprecedented difficulty and peril, endeared him more than ever to all
who had an opportunity of appreciating his position. With what intense
and absorbing interest were the ensuing assizes looked for!---- At
length they arrived.

The ancient city of York exhibited, on the commission day of the spring
assizes for the year 18--, the usual scene of animation and excitement.
The High Sheriff, attended by an imposing retinue, went out to meet the
judges, and escorted them, amid the shrill clangor of trumpets, to the
Castle, where the commission was opened with the usual formalities. The
judges were Lord Widdrington, the Lord Chief-Justice of the King's
Bench, and Mr. Justice Grayley, a puisne judge of the same court--both
admirable lawyers. The former was possessed of the more powerful
intellect. He was what may be called a great scientific lawyer,
referring everything to _principle_, as extracted from precedent. Mr.
Justice Grayley was almost unrivalled in his knowledge of the _details_
of the law; his governing maxim being _ita lex scripta_. Here his
knowledge was equally minute and accurate, and most readily applied to
every case brought before him. Never sat there upon the bench a more
painstaking judge--one more anxious to do right equally in great things
as in small. Both were men of rigid integrity: 'tis a glorious thing to
be able to challenge the inquiry--when, for centuries, have other than
men of rigid integrity sat upon the English Bench? Lord Widdrington,
however, in temper was stern, arbitrary, and overbearing, and his
manners were disfigured not a little by coarseness; while his companion
was a man of exemplary amiability, affability, and forbearance. Lord
Widdrington presided at the Civil Court, (in which, of course, would
come on the important cause in which we are interested,) and Mr. Justice
Grayley in the Criminal Court.

Soon after the sitting of the court, on the ensuing morning--"Will your
Lordship allow me," rose and inquired the sleek, smiling, and portly Mr.
Subtle, dead silence prevailing as soon as he had mentioned the name of
the cause about which he was inquiring, "to mention a cause of _Doe on
the demise of Titmouse v. Jolter_--a special jury cause, in which there
are a great many witnesses to be examined on both sides--and to ask that
a day may be fixed for it to come on?"

"Whom do you appear for, Mr. Subtle?" inquired his Lordship.

"For the plaintiff, my Lord."

"And who appears for the defendant?"

"The Attorney-General leads for the defendant, my Lord," replied Mr.
Sterling, who, with Mr. Crystal, was also retained for the defendant.

"Well, perhaps you can agree between yourselves upon a day, and in the
mean time similar arrangements may be made for any other special jury
causes that may require it." After due consultation, Monday week was
agreed upon by the parties, and fixed by his Lordship, for the trial of
the cause.--During the Sunday preceding it, York was crowded with
persons of the highest distinction from all parts of the county, who
felt interested in the result of the great cause of the assizes. About
mid-day a dusty travelling carriage and four dashed into the streets
from the London road, and drove up to the principal inn; it contained
the Attorney-General (who just finished reading his brief as he entered
York) and his clerk. The Attorney-General was a man of striking and
highly intellectual countenance; but he looked, on alighting, somewhat
fatigued with his long journey. He was a man of extraordinary natural
talents, and also a first-rate lawyer--one whose right to take the
woolsack, whenever it should become vacant, was recognized by all the
profession. His professional celebrity, and his coming down "_special_"
on the present occasion, added to the circumstance of his being well
known to be a personal friend of his client, Mr. Aubrey--whence it might
be inferred that his great powers would be exerted to their utmost--was
well calculated to enhance the interest, if that were possible, of the
occasion which had brought him down at so great an expense, and to
sustain so heavy a responsibility as the conduct of a cause of such
magnitude as this.

He came to lead against a formidable opponent. Mr. Subtle was the leader
of the Northern circuit, a man of matchless tact and practical sagacity,
and consummately skilful in the conduct of a cause. The only thing _he_
ever looked at, was THE VERDICT; to the gaining of which he directed all
his energies, and sacrificed every other consideration. As for display,
he despised it. A _speech_, as such, was his aversion. He entered into a
friendly, but exquisitely crafty _conversation_ with the jury; for he
was so quick at perceiving the effect of his address on the mind of each
of the twelve, and dexterous in accommodating himself to what he had
detected to be the passing mood of each, that they individually felt as
if they were all the while reasoning with, and being convinced by him.
His placid, smiling, handsome countenance, his gentlemanly bearing and
insinuating address, full of good-natured cheerful confidence in his
cause, were irresistible. He flattered, he soothed, he fascinated the
jury, producing an impression upon their minds which they often felt
indignant at his opponent's attempting to efface. In fact, as a _nisi
prius_ leader he was unrivalled, as well in stating as in arguing a
case, as well in examining as cross-examining a witness. It required no
little practical experience to form an adequate estimate of Mr. Subtle's
skill in the management of a cause; for he did everything with such a
smiling, careless, unconcerned air, equally in the great pinch and
strain of a case, as in the pettiest details, that you would be apt to
suspect that none but the easiest and most straightforward cases fell to
his lot!

Titmouse, Titmouse, methinks the fates favored you in assigning to you
Mr. Subtle!

Next came Mr. QUICKSILVER, who had received what may be called a
_muffling_ retainer. What a contrast was he to Mr. Subtle! Reckless,
rhetorical, eloquent, ready, witty--possessing a vast extent of general
knowledge, but rather slenderly furnished with law--he presented to the
jury, _himself_--not his client, or his client's case; infinitely more
anxious to make a splendid figure in public, than to secure, by watchful
activity, the interests of his clients. Why, then, was such a man
retained in the cause? 'Twas a fancy of Quirk's, a vast political
admirer of Quicksilver's, who had made one or two most splendid speeches
for him in libel cases brought against the _Sunday Flash_. Gammon most
earnestly expostulated, but Quirk was inexorable; and himself carried
his retainer to Mr. Quicksilver. Gammon, however, was somewhat consoled
by the reflection, that this wild elephant would be, in a manner, held
in check by Mr. Subtle and Mr. Lynx, who, he hoped, would prevent any
serious mischief from happening. Lynx possessed the qualities which his
name would suggest to you. I have partly described him already. He was a
man of minute accuracy; and "got up" every case in which he was engaged
as if his life had depended on the result. Nothing escaped him. He kept
his mind constantly even with the current of the cause. He was a man to
_steer_ a leader, if ever that leader should get, for an instant, on the
wrong tack, or be uncertain as to his course. His suggestion and
interference--rare, indeed, with such a man as Mr. Subtle, incessant
with Mr. Quicksilver--were always worth attending to, and consequently
received with deference.

For Mr. Aubrey also was retained a formidable "BAR." Mr.
Attorney-General was a man much superior, in point of intellect and
legal knowledge, to Mr. Subtle. His mind was distinguished by its
tranquil power. He had a rare and invaluable faculty of arraying before
his mind's eye all the facts and bearings of the most intricate case,
and contemplating them, as it were, not successively, but
simultaneously. His perception was quick as light; and, at the same
time--rare, most rare accompaniment!--his judgment sound, his memory
signally retentive. Inferior, possibly, to Mr. Subtle in rapid and
delicate appreciation of momentary advantages, he was sagacious, where
Mr. Subtle was only ingenious. Mr. Attorney-General had as much weight
with the judge as Mr. Subtle with the jury. With the former there was a
candor and straightforwardness--a dignified simplicity--which insensibly
won the confidence of the judge; who, on the other hand, felt himself
obliged to be ever on his guard against the slippery sophistries of Mr.
Subtle, whom he thus got to regard with constant suspicion.

Mr. STERLING, the second counsel for the defendant, was a king's
counsel, and a rival of Mr. Subtle upon the circuit. He was a man of
great power; and, on important occasions, no man at the bar could acquit
himself with more distinction. As a speaker, he was eloquent and
impressive, perhaps deficient in vivacity; but he was a man of clear
and powerful intellect; prompt in seizing the bearings of a case; a
capital lawyer; and possessing, even on the most trying occasions,
imperturbable self-possession.

Mr. CRYSTAL, with some faults of manner and bearing, was an honorable
high-minded man; clear-sighted and strong-headed; an accurate and ready
lawyer; vigilant and acute.

See, then, the combatants in this memorable encounter; for
_Titmouse_--Mr. SUBTLE, Mr. QUICKSILVER, Mr. LYNX; for _Mr. Aubrey_--Mr.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL, Mr. STERLING, Mr. CRYSTAL.

The consultation of each party was long and anxious.

About eight o'clock on the Sunday evening, at Mr. Subtle's lodgings,
Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, accompanied by Mr. Mortmain, whom they
had brought down to watch the case, made their appearance shortly after
Mr. Quicksilver and Mr. Lynx.

"Our case seems complete, _now_" said Mr. Subtle, casting a penetrating
and most significant glance at Messrs. Quirk and Gammon, and then at his
juniors, to whom, before the arrival of their clients and Mr. Mortmain,
he had been mentioning the essential link which, a month before, he had
pointed out as missing, and the marvellous good fortune by which they
had been able to supply it at the eleventh hour.

"That tombstone's a godsend, Subtle, isn't it?" said Quicksilver, with a
grim smile. Lynx neither smiled nor spoke. He was a very matter-of-fact
person. So as the case came out clear and nice in court, he cared about
nothing more; at that moment he felt that he should be _functus
officio_!--But whatever might be the insinuation or suspicion implied in
the observation of Mr. Subtle, the reader must, by this time, be well
aware how little it was warranted by the facts.[30]

"I shall open it very quietly," said Mr. Subtle, putting into his pocket
his penknife, with which he had been paring his nails, while Mr.
Quicksilver had been talking very fast. "What do you think, Mr. Lynx?
Had I better allude boldly to the conveyance executed by Harry
Dreddlington, and which becomes useless as soon as we prove his death in
his father's lifetime?"

"Ah! there's that blessed tombstone again," interposed Quicksilver, with
a sarcastic smile.

--"Or," resumed Mr. Subtle, "content myself with barely making out our
pedigree, and let the conveyance of Harry Dreddlington come from the
other side?"

"I think, perhaps, that the latter would be the quieter and safer
course," replied Lynx.

"By the way, gentlemen," said Mr. Subtle, suddenly, addressing Messrs.
Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, "how do we come to know anything about the
mortgage executed by Harry Dreddlington?"

"Oh! _that_ you know," replied Quirk, quickly, "we first got scent of in
Mr."---- Here he paused suddenly, and turned quite red.

"It was suggested," said Gammon, calmly, "by one of the gentlemen whose
opinions we have taken in the case--I forget by whom--that, from some
recital, it was probable that there existed such an instrument; and that
put us on making inquiry."

"Nothing more likely," added Mortmain, "than that it, or an abstract, or
minute of it, should get into Stephen Dreddlington's hands!"

"Ah! well! well!" said Mr. Subtle, shrugging his shoulders,--"I must say
there's rather an air of mystery about the case. But--about that
tombstone--what sort of witnesses will speak"----

"Will the evidence be requisite," inquired Lynx, "in the plaintiff's
case? All _we_ shall have to do will be to prove the fact that Harry
died without issue, of which there's satisfactory evidence; and as to
the _time_ of his death, that will become material only if _they_ put in
the conveyance of Harry."

"True--true; ah! I'll turn that over in my mind. Rely upon it, I'll give
Mr. Attorney-General as little to lay hold of as possible. Thank you,
Lynx, for the hint. Now, gentlemen," said he, turning to Messrs. Quirk,
Gammon, and Snap, "one other question--What _kind of looking_ people are
the witnesses who prove the later steps of the pedigree of Mr. Titmouse?
Respectable? eh?--You know a good deal will depend on the credit which
they may obtain with the jury!"

"They're very decent creditable persons, you will find, sir," said
Gammon.

"Good, good. Who struck the special jury?"

"We did, sir."

"Well, I must say that was a _very_ prudent step for _you_ to take!
considering the rank in life and circumstances of the respective
parties! However, to be sure, if _you_ didn't, they would--so--well;
good-night, gentlemen, good-night." So the consultation broke up; and
Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap returned home to their inn in a very
serious and anxious mood.

"You're a marvellous prudent person, Mr. Quirk," said Gammon, in a
somewhat fierce whisper, as they walked along, "I suppose you would have
gone on to explain the little matter of Steggars, and so have had our
briefs thrown at our heads"----

"Well, well," grunted Quirk, "that _was_ a slip!" Here they reached
their inn. Titmouse was staying there; and in Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and
Snap's absence, he had got very drunk, and was quarrelling under the
archway with "Boots;" so they ordered him to bed, they themselves
sitting up till a very late hour in the morning.

The consultation at the Attorney-General's had taken place about three
o'clock in the afternoon, within an hour after his arrival; and had been
attended by Messrs. Sterling, Crystal, and Mansfield--by Mr. Runnington,
and Mr. Parkinson, and by Mr. Aubrey, whom the Attorney-General received
with the most earnest expressions of sympathy and friendship; listening
to every question and every observation of his with the utmost
deference.

"It would be both idle and unkind to disguise from you, Aubrey," said
he, "that our position is somewhat precarious. It depends entirely on
the chance we may have of breaking down the plaintiff's case; for we
have but a slender one of our own. I suppose they can bring proof of the
death of Harry Dreddlington in his father's lifetime?"

"Oh yes, sir!" answered Mr. Parkinson, "there is an old tombstone behind
Yatton church which establishes that fact beyond all doubt: and a week
or two ago no fewer than five or six persons have been carefully
inspecting it; doubtless they will be called as witnesses to-morrow."

"I feared as much. Then are ours no more than watching briefs. Depend
upon it, they would not have carried on the affair with so high a hand
if they had not pretty firm ground under foot! Messrs. Quirk, Gammon,
and Snap are tolerably well known in town--not _over_-scrupulous, eh,
Mr. Runnington?"

"Indeed, Mr. Attorney, you are right. I don't doubt they are prepared to
go all lengths."

"Well, we'll sift their evidence pretty closely, at any rate. So you
really have reason to fear, as you intimated when you entered the room,
that they have valid evidence of Stephen Dreddlington having left
issue?"

"Mr. Snap told me," said Mr. Parkinson, "this morning, that they would
prove issue of Stephen Dreddlington, and issue of that issue, as clean
as a whistle--that was his phrase."

"Ay, ay--but we mustn't take all for gospel that _he_ would say,"
replied the Attorney-General, smiling sarcastically.

"They've got two houses filled with witnesses, I understand," said Mr.
Runnington.

"Do they seem Yorkshire people, or strangers?"

"Why, most of them that I have seen," replied Parkinson, "seem
strangers."

"Ah, they will prove, I suppose," said the Attorney-General, "the later
steps of the pedigree, when Stephen Dreddlington married at a distance
from his native county."

They then entered into a very full and minute examination of the case;
after which,--"Well," said the Attorney-General, evidently fatigued with
his long journey, and rising from his chair, "we must trust to what will
turn up in the chapter of accidents to-morrow. I shall be expected to
dine with the bar to-day," he added; "but immediately after dinner--say
at half-past seven o'clock, I shall be here and at your service, if
anything should be required." Then the consultation broke up. Mr. Aubrey
had, at their earnest entreaty, brought Mrs. Aubrey and Kate from
Yatton, on Saturday; for they declared themselves unable to bear the
dreadful suspense in which they should be left at Yatton. Yielding,
therefore, to these their very reasonable wishes, he had engaged private
lodgings at the outskirts of the town. On quitting the consultation,
which, without at the same time affecting over-strictness, he had
regretted being fixed for Sunday--but the necessity of the case appeared
to warrant it--he repaired to the magnificent MINSTER, where the evening
prayers were being read, and where were Mrs. Aubrey and Kate. The
prayers were being chanted as he entered; and he was conducted to a
stall nearly opposite to where those whom he loved so fondly were
standing. The psalms allotted for the evening were those in which the
royal sufferer, David, was pouring forth the deepest sorrows of his
heart; and their appropriateness to Mr. Aubrey's state of mind, added to
the effect produced by the melting melody in which they were conveyed to
his ears, excited in him, and, he perceived, also in those opposite, the
deepest emotion. The glorious pile was beginning to grow dusky with the
stealing shadows of evening; and the solemn and sublime strains of the
organ, during the playing of the anthem, filled those present, who had
any pretensions to sensibility, with mingled feelings of tenderness and
awe. Those in whom we are so deeply interested, felt at once subdued and
elevated; and as they quitted the darkening fabric, through which the
pealing tones of the organ were yet reverberating, they could not help
inquiring, should they ever enter it again,--and in what altered
circumstances might it be?

To return, however--though it is, indeed, like descending from the holy
mountain into the bustle and hubbub of the city at its foot--Mr.
Parkinson, being most unexpectedly, and as he felt it unfortunately,
summoned to Grilston that afternoon, in order to send up some deeds of a
distinguished client to London, for the purpose of immediately effecting
a mortgage, set off in a post-chaise, at top-speed, in a very unenviable
frame of mind; and by seven o'clock was seated in his office at
Grilston, busily turning over a great number of deeds and papers, in a
large tin case, with the words "Right Honorable the Earl of Yelverton"
painted on the outside. Having turned over almost everything inside, and
found all that he wanted, he was going to toss back again all the deeds
which were not requisite for his immediate purpose, when he happened to
see one lying at the very bottom which he had not before observed. It
was not a large, but an old deed--and he took it up and hastily examined
it.

We have seen a piece of unexpected good-fortune on the part of Gammon
and his client; and the reader will not be disappointed at finding
something of a similar kind befalling Mr. Aubrey, even at the eleventh
hour. Mr. Parkinson's journey, which he had execrated a hundred times
over as he came down, produced a discovery which made him tremble all
over with agitation and delighted excitement, and begin to look upon it
as almost owing to an interference of Providence. The deed which he
looked at, bore an indorsement of the name of "_Dreddlington_." After a
hasty glance over its contents, he tried to recollect by what accident a
document, belonging to Mr. Aubrey, could have found its way into the box
containing Lord Yelverton's deeds; and it at length occurred to him
that, some time before, Mr. Aubrey had proposed advancing several
thousand pounds to Lord Yelverton, on mortgage of a small portion of his
Lordship's property--but which negotiation had afterwards been broken
off; that Mr. Aubrey's title-deeds happened to be at the same time open
and loose in his office--and he recollected having considerable trouble
in separating the respective documents which had got mixed together.
This one, after all, had been by some accident overlooked, till it
turned up in this most timely and extraordinary manner! Having hastily
effected the object which had brought him back to Grilston, he ordered a
post-chaise and four, and within a quarter of an hour was thundering
back, at top-speed, on his way to York, which, the horses reeking and
foaming, he reached a little after ten o'clock. He jumped out, with the
precious deed in his pocket, the instant that his chaise-door was
opened, and ran off, without saying more than--"I'm gone to the
Attorney-General's." This was heard by many passers-by and persons
standing round; and it spread far and wide that something of the utmost
importance had transpired, with reference to the great ejectment cause
of Mr. Aubrey. Soon afterwards, messengers and clerks, belonging to Mr.
Runnington and Mr. Parkinson, were to be seen running to and fro,
summoning Mr. Sterling, Mr. Crystal, Mr. Mansfield, and also Mr. Aubrey,
to a second consultation at the Attorney-General's. About eleven o'clock
they were all assembled. The deed which had occasioned all this
excitement, was one calculated indeed to produce that effect; and it
filled the minds of all present with astonishment and delight. It was,
in a word, a DEED OF CONFIRMATION by OLD DREDDLINGTON, the father of
Harry Dreddlington, of the conveyance by the latter to Geoffrey
Dreddlington, who, in the manner already mentioned to the reader, had
got an assignment of that conveyance to himself. After the
Attorney-General had satisfied himself as to the account to be given of
the deed--the custody whence it came, namely, the attorney for the
defendant; Mr. Parkinson undertaking to swear, without any hesitation,
that whatever deeds of Mr. Aubrey's he possessed, he had taken from the
muniment room at Yatton--the second consultation broke up. Mr. Aubrey,
on hearing the nature and effect of the instrument explained by the
Attorney-General and Mr. Mansfield--all his counsel, in short,
concurring in opinion as to the triumphant effect which this instrument
would produce on the morrow--may be pardoned for regarding it, in the
excitement of the moment, as almost a direct interference of Providence.

A few minutes before nine o'clock on the ensuing morning, the occasional
shrill blasts of the trumpets announced that the judges were on their
way to the Castle, the approaches to which were crowded with carriages
and pedestrians of a highly respectable appearance. As the Castle clock
finished striking nine, Lord Widdrington, in a short wig and plain
black silk gown,[31] took his seat, and the swearing of the special jury
commenced. The court was crowded almost to suffocation; all the chief
places being filled with persons of distinction in the county. The
benches on each side of the judge were occupied by ladies,
who--especially the Countess of Oldacre and Lady De la Zouch--evinced a
painful degree of anxiety and excitement in their countenances and
demeanor. The bar also mustered in great force; the crown court being
quite deserted, although "a great murder case" was going on there. The
civil court was on the present occasion the point of attraction, not
only on account of the interesting nature of the case to be tried, but
of the keen contest expected between the Attorney-General and Mr.
Subtle. The former, as he entered--his commanding features gazed at by
many an anxious eye with hope, and a feeling that on his skill and
learning depended that day the destination of the Yatton property--bowed
to the judge, and then nodded and shook hands with several of the
counsel nearest to him; then he sat down, and his clerk having opened
his bags, and taken out his huge brief, he began turning over its leaves
with a calm and attentive air, occasionally conversing with his juniors.
Every one present observed that the defendant's counsel and attorneys
wore the confident looks of winning men; while their opponents,
quick-sighted enough, also observed the circumstance, and looked, on
that account alone, a shade more anxious than when they had entered the
court. Mr. Subtle requested Gammon, whose ability he had soon detected,
to sit immediately beneath him; next to Gammon sat Quirk; then Snap; and
beside him Mr. Titmouse, with a staring sky-blue flowered silk
handkerchief round his neck, a gaudy waistcoat, a tight surtout, and
white kid gloves. He looked exceedingly pale, and dared hardly
interchange a word with even Snap, who was just as irritable and
excited as his senior partners. It was quickly known all over the court
which was Titmouse! Mr. Aubrey scarcely showed himself in court all day,
though he stood at the door near the bench, and could hear all that
passed; Lord De la Zouch and one or two other personal friends standing
with him, engaged, from time to time, in anxious conversation.

The jury having been sworn, Mr. Lynx rose, and in a few hurried
sentences, to the lay audience utterly unintelligible, intimated the
nature of the pleadings in the cause. The Attorney-General then in a low
tone requested that all the witnesses might leave the court.[32] As soon
as the little disturbance occasioned by this move had ceased, Mr. Subtle
rose, and in a low but distinct tone said, "May it please your
Lordship--Gentlemen of the Jury,--In this cause I have the honor to
appear before you as counsel for the plaintiff; and it now becomes my
duty to state as briefly as I can, the nature of his case. It is
impossible, gentlemen, that we should not be aware of the unusual
interest excited by this cause; and which may be accounted for by the
very large estates in this county which are sought this day to be
transferred to a comparative stranger, from the family who have long
enjoyed them, and of whom I am anxious to say everything respectful; for
you will very soon find that the name on the record is that of only the
nominal defendant; and although all that is _professed_ to be this day
sought to be recovered is a very trifling portion of the property, your
verdict will undoubtedly in effect decide the question as to the true
ownership and enjoyment of the large estates now held by the gentleman
who is the substantial defendant--I mean Mr. Aubrey, the member of
Parliament for the borough of Yatton; for whatever answer he might make
to an action brought to recover his whole estate, he must make upon the
present occasion." Aware of the watchful and formidable opponent who
would in due time answer him, and also of being himself entitled to the
general reply--to the last word--Mr. Subtle proceeded to state the
nature of the plaintiff's case with the utmost brevity and clearness.
Scarcely any sound was heard but that of the pens of the short-hand
writers, and of the counsel taking their notes. Mr. Subtle, having
handed up two or three copies of the pedigree which he held in his hand
to the judge, the jury, and his opponents, pointed out with distinctness
and precision every link in the chain of evidence which he intended to
lay before the jury; and having done this--having presented as few
salient points of attack to his opponent as he possibly could--he sat
down, professing his entire ignorance of what case could be set up in
answer to that which he had opened. He had not been on his legs quite
half an hour; and when he ceased--how he had disappointed every one
present, except the judge and the bar! Instead of a speech apparently
befitting so great an occasion--impressive and eloquent--here had been a
brief dry statement of a few uninteresting facts--of dates, of births,
deaths, marriages, registers, entries, inscriptions, deeds,
wills--without a single touch of feeling, or ray of eloquence. The
momentary feeling of disappointment in the audience, however--almost all
of whom, it may easily be believed, were in the interest of the
Aubreys--quickly yielded to one of satisfaction and relief; as they
thought they might regard so meagre a speech as heralding as meagre a
case. As soon as he had sat down, Mr. Quicksilver rose and called the
first witness. "We're safe!" said the Attorney-General to Mr. Sterling
and Mr. Crystal, with his hand before his mouth, and with the very
faintest whisper that could be audible to those whom he addressed; and
the witness having been sworn, they all resumed their seats and their
writing. The first and the subsequent witness established one or two
preliminary and formal points--the Attorney-General scarcely rising to
put a question to them. The third witness was examined by Mr. Subtle
with apparent unconcern, but really with exquisite anxiety. From the
earnestness and attention with which the words of the witness were
watched and taken down by both the judge and the counsel, who knew
somewhat better than the audience where the strain of the case
commenced, it must have appeared to the latter, that either Mr. Subtle
under-estimated, or his opponents over-estimated, the value of the
evidence now in process of being extracted by Mr. Subtle, in short,
easy, pointed questions, and with a bland and smiling countenance.

"Not so fast, sir," gruffly interposed Lord Widdrington, addressing the
witness.

"Take time, Mr. Jones," said Mr. Subtle, kindly, fearful of ruffling or
discomposing an important witness. The Attorney-General rose to
cross-examine; pressed him quietly but closely; varied the shape of his
questions; now he soothed, then he startled by his sternness; but sat
down, evidently having produced no impression. Thus it was with one or
two succeeding witnesses; the Attorney-General, on each occasion,
resuming his seat after his abortive efforts with perfect composure. At
length, however, by a very admirable and well-sustained fire of
cross-questioning, he completely demolished a material witness; and the
hopes of all interested in behalf of his clients rose high. Mr. Subtle,
who had been all the while paring his nails, and from time to time
smiling with a careless air, (though you might as safely have touched a
tigress suckling her cubs as attempted at that moment to disturb him, so
absorbed was he in intense anxiety,) believing that he could establish
the same facts by another and, as he thought, a better witness, did not
re-examine; but calling that other, with an air of nonchalance,
succeeded in extracting from him all that the former had failed in;
baffling all the attempts of the Attorney-General to affect his credit.
At length, another witness being in the box,--

"I object, my Lord, to that question," said Mr. Attorney-General, as Mr.
Subtle, amid many indifferent and apparently irrelevant questions,
quietly slipped in one of the greatest possible importance and advantage
to him--had it been answered as he desired. 'T was quite delightful to
see the Attorney-General and his experienced and watchful juniors all
rise at one and the same instant: showing how vain were the tricks and
ingenuity of their sly opponent. Mr. Attorney-General stated his
objection briefly and pointedly; Mr. Subtle answered him, followed by
Quicksilver and Lynx; and then Mr. Attorney-General replied, with great
force and clearness. This keen encounter of their wits over--

"I shall allow the question to be put," said Lord Widdrington, after a
pause--"But I have great doubts as to its propriety. I will therefore
take a note of Mr. Attorney-General's objection." Four or five similar
conflicts arose during the course of the plaintiff's case:--now
concerning the competency of a witness--then as to the admissibility of
a document, or the propriety of a particular question. On each of these
occasions there were displayed on both sides consummate logical skill
and acuteness, especially by the two leaders. Distinctions, the most
delicate and subtle, were suggested with suddenness, and as promptly
encountered; the most artful manœuvres to secure dangerous admissions
resorted to, and baffled; the most recondite principles of evidence
brought to bear with admirable readiness on both sides. To deal with
them, required, indeed, the practised, penetrating, and powerful
intellect of Lord Widdrington. Some points he disposed of promptly to
the satisfaction of both parties; on others he hesitated, and at length
reserved them. Though none but the more experienced and able members of
the bar could in the least degree enter into and appreciate the nature
of these conflicts, they were watched with untiring attention and
eagerness by all present, both ladies and gentlemen--by the lowly and
the distinguished. And though the intensity of the feelings of all was
manifest by a mere glimpse round the court, yet any momentary display of
eccentricity on the part of a witness, or of petulance or repartee on
the part of counsel, would occasion a momentary merriment which, in
point of fact, served only as a sort of _relief_ to the strained
feelings of the audience, and instantly disappeared. The tombstone part
of the case was got through easily; scarcely any attempt being made on
the part of Mr. Aubrey's counsel to resist or interfere with it. But the
great--the hottest part of the fight--occurred at that point of the
case, where Titmouse's descent from Stephen Dreddlington was sought to
be established. This gentleman, who had been a very wild person, whose
movements were very difficult to be traced or accounted for, had entered
the navy, and ultimately died at sea, as had always been imagined,
single and childless. It was proved, however, that so far from such
being the case, he had married a person at Portsmouth, of inferior
station, and that by her he had a daughter, only two years before his
death. Both mother and daughter, after undergoing great privation, and
no notice being taken of the mother by any of her late husband's family,
removed to the house of a humble and distant relative in Cumberland,
where the mother afterwards died, leaving her daughter only fifteen
years old. When she grew up, she lived in some menial capacity in
Cumberland, and ultimately married one Gabriel Tittlebat Titmouse; who,
after living for some years a cordwainer at Whitehaven, found his way to
Grilston, in Yorkshire, in the neighborhood of which town he had lived
for some years in very humble circumstances. There he had married; and
about two years afterwards his wife died, leaving a son--our friend
Tittlebat Titmouse. Both of them afterwards came to London: where, in
four or five years' time, the father died, leaving the little Titmouse
to flutter and hop about in the wide world as best he could. During the
whole of this part of the case, Mr. Gammon had evinced deep anxiety; and
at a particular point--perhaps the crisis--his agitation was excessive;
yet it was almost entirely concealed by his remarkable self-control. The
little documentary evidence of which Gammon, at his first interview with
Titmouse, found him possessed, proved at the trial, as Gammon had
foreseen, of great importance. The evidence in support of this part of
the case, and which it took till two o'clock on the ensuing afternoon to
get through, was subjected to a most determined and skilful opposition
by the Attorney-General, but in vain. The case had been got up with the
utmost care, under the excellent management of Lynx; and Mr. Subtle's
consummate tact and ability brought it, at length, fully and distinctly
out before the jury.

"That, my Lord," said he, as he sat down after re-examining his last
witness, "is the case on the part of the plaintiff." On this the judge
and jury withdrew, for a short time, to obtain refreshment. During their
absence, the Attorney-General, Mr. Sterling, Mr. Crystal, and Mr.
Mansfield, might have been seen, with their heads all laid close
together, engaged in anxious consultation--a group gazed at by the eager
eyes of many a spectator, whose beating heart wished their cause
godspeed. The Attorney-General then withdrew for a few moments, also to
seek refreshment; and returning at the same time with the judge, after a
moment's pause rose, bowed to the judge, then to the jury, and opened
the defendant's case. His manner was calm and impressive; his person was
dignified; and his clear, distinct voice fell on the listening ear like
the sound of silver. After a graceful allusion to the distinguished
character of his friend and client, Mr. Aubrey, (to whose eminent
position in the House of Commons he bore his personal testimony,) to the
magnitude of the interests now at stake, and the extraordinary nature of
the claim set up, he proceeded: "On every account, therefore, I feel
sensible, gentlemen, to an unusual and most painful extent, of the very
great responsibility now resting upon my learned friends and myself;
lest any miscarriage of mine should prejudice in any degree the
important interests committed to us, or impair the strength of the case
which I am about to submit to you on the part of Mr. Aubrey; a case
which, I assure you, unless some extraordinary mischance should befall
us, will, I believe, annihilate that which, with so much pains, so much
tact, and so much ability, has just been laid before you by my learned
friend Mr. Subtle; and establish the defendant in the safe possession of
that large property which is the subject of the present most
extraordinary and unexpected litigation. But, gentlemen, before
proceeding so far as that, it is fitting that I should call your
attention to the nature of the case set up on the part of the plaintiff,
and the sort of evidence by which it has been attempted to be supported;
and I am very sanguine of being successful in showing you that the
plaintiff's witnesses are not entitled to the credit to which they lay
claim; and, consequently, that there is no case made out for the
defendant to answer." He then entered into a rigorous analysis of the
plaintiff's evidence, contrasting each conflicting portion with the
other, with singular cogency; and commenting with powerful severity upon
the demeanor and character of many of the witnesses. On proceeding, at
length, to open the case of the defendant--"And here, gentlemen," said
he, "I am reminded of the observation with which my learned friend
concluded--that he was entirely ignorant of the case which we meant to
set up in answer to that which he had opened on the part of the
plaintiff. Gentlemen, it would have been curious, indeed, had it been
otherwise--had my friend's penetrating eye been able to inspect the
contents of my client's strong-box--and so become acquainted with the
evidence on which he rests his title to the property now in dispute. My
learned friend has, however, succeeded in entitling himself to
information on that point; and he shall have it--and to his heart's
content." Here Mr. Subtle cast a glance of smiling incredulity towards
the jury, and defiance towards the Attorney-General. He took his pen
into his hand, however, and his juniors looked very anxious.
"Gentlemen," continued the Attorney-General, "I am ready to concede to
my learned friend every inch of the case which he has been endeavoring
to make out; that he has completely established his pedigree.--At all
events, I am ready to concede this for the purpose of the case which is
now under discussion before you." He then mentioned the conveyance by
Harry Dreddlington of all his interest----"You forget that he died in
his father's lifetime, Mr. Attorney-General," interposed Mr. Subtle,
with a placid smile, and the air of a man who is suddenly relieved from
a vast pressure of anxiety.

"Not a bit of it, gentlemen, not a bit of it--'tis a part of my case. My
learned friend is quite right; Harry Dreddlington _did_ die in his
father's lifetime:--but"---- Here Mr. Subtle gazed at the
Attorney-General with unaffected curiosity; and when the latter came to
mention "the _Deed of Confirmation_ by THE FATHER of Harry
Dreddlington," an acute observer might have observed a slight change of
color in Mr. Subtle. Lynx looked at the Attorney-General as if he
expected every instant to receive a musket-ball in his breast!

"What, '_confirm_' a NULLITY, Mr. Attorney-General?" interrupted Mr.
Subtle, laying down his pen with a smile of derision; but a moment or
two afterwards, "Mr. Mortmain," said he, in a hasty whisper, "what do
you think of this? Tell me--in four words"--Mortmain, his eye glued to
the face of the Attorney-General the while, muttered hastily something
about "_operating as a new grant_--_as a new conveyance_."

"Pshaw! I mean what's the _answer_ to the Attorney-General?" muttered
Mr. Subtle, impatiently; but his countenance preserved its expression of
smiling nonchalance. "You will oblige me, Mr. Mortmain," he by-and-by
whispered in a quiet but peremptory tone, "by giving your utmost
attention to the question as to the effect of this deed--so that I may
shape my objection to it properly when it is tendered in evidence. If it
really have the legal effect attributed to it, and which I suspect it
really to have, we may as well shut up our briefs. I _thought_ there
must be some such cursed point or other in the background!"

Gammon saw the real state of Mr. Subtle's mind, and his cheek turned
pale, but he preserved a smile on his countenance, as he sat with his
arms folded. Quirk eyed him with undisguised agitation, scarce daring to
look up at Mr. Subtle. Titmouse, seeing a little dismay in his camp,
turned very white and cold, and sat still, scarce daring to breathe;
while Snap looked like a terrier consciously going to have its teeth
pulled out!

At length the Attorney-General, after stating that, in addition to the
case which he had intimated, as resting mainly on the deed of
confirmation, he should proceed to prove the pedigree of Mr. Aubrey, sat
down, having spoken about two hours and a half, expressing his
conviction that when the defendant's evidence should have been closed,
the jury, under his Lordship's direction, would return a verdict for the
defendant; and that, too, without leaving the jury-box, where, by their
long and patient attention, they had so honorably acquitted themselves
of the important duty imposed upon them by the constitution.

"James Parkinson!" exclaimed Mr. Sterling, quietly but distinctly, as
the Attorney-General sat down. "You are the attorney for the defendant?"
inquired Mr. Sterling, as soon as the witness had been sworn. "Do you
produce a conveyance between Harry Dreddlington and Moses Aaron?" &c.
(specifying it.) It was proved and put in, without much opposition. So
also was another--the assignment from Moses Aaron to Geoffrey
Dreddlington.

"Do you also produce a deed between Harry Dreddlington the elder and
Geoffrey Dreddlington?" and he mentioned the date and names of all the
parties to the deed of confirmation. Mr. Parkinson handed in the
important document.

"Stay, stay; where did you get that deed, Mr. Parkinson?" inquired Mr.
Subtle, sharply, extending his hand for the deed.

"From my office at Grilston, where I keep many of Mr. Aubrey's
title-deeds."

"When did you bring it hither?"

"About ten o'clock last night, for the purpose of this trial."

"How long has it been at your office?"

"Ever since I fetched it, a year or two ago, with other deeds from the
muniment room of Yatton Hall."

"How long have you been solicitor to Mr. Aubrey?"

"For this ten years; and my father was solicitor to his father for
twenty-five years."

"Will you swear that this deed was in your office before the
proceedings in this action were brought to your notice?"

"I have not the slightest doubt in the world."

"That does not satisfy me, sir. Will you _swear_ that it was?"

"I _will_, sir," replied Mr. Parkinson, firmly. "It never attracted any
more notice from me than any other of Mr. Aubrey's deeds, till my
attention was drawn to it in consequence of these proceedings."

"Has any one access to Mr. Aubrey's deeds at your office but yourself?"

"None that I know of; I keep all the deeds of my clients which are at my
office, in their respective boxes; and allow no one access to them,
except under my immediate notice, and in my presence."

Then Mr. Subtle sat down.

"My Lord, we now propose to put in this deed," said the
Attorney-General, unfolding it.

"Allow me to look at it, Mr. Attorney," said Mr. Subtle. It was handed
to him; and he, his juniors, and Mr. Mortmain, rising up, were engaged
most anxiously in scrutinizing it for some minutes. Mortmain having
looked at the stamp, sat down, and opening his bag, hastily drew out an
old well-worn volume which contained all the stamp acts that had ever
been passed from the time of William the Third, when, I believe, the
first of those blessings was conferred upon this country. First he
looked at the deed--then at his book--then at the deed again; and at
length might be seen, with earnest gestures, putting Mr. Subtle in
possession of some opinion which he had formed on the subject. "My
Lord," said Mr. Subtle, after a pause, "I object to this instrument
being received in evidence, on account of the insufficiency of the
stamp." This produced quite a sensation in court. Mr. Subtle then
proceeded to mention the character of the stamp affixed to the deed,
and read the act which was in force at the time that the deed bore date;
and, after a few additional observations, sat down, and was followed by
Mr. Quicksilver and Mr. Lynx. Then arose the Attorney-General, having in
the mean time carefully looked at the act of Parliament, and submitted
to his Lordship that the stamp was sufficient; being followed by his
juniors. Mr. Subtle replied at some length.

"I certainly entertain some difficulty on the point," said his Lordship,
"and will mention the matter to my brother Grayley." Taking with him the
deed, and Mr. Mortmain's copy of the stamp acts, his Lordship left the
court, and was absent a quarter of an hour--half an hour--three quarters
of an hour; and at length returned.

"I have consulted," said his Lordship, as soon as he had taken his seat
amid the profoundest silence, "my brother Grayley, and we have very
fully considered the point. My brother happens, fortunately, to have by
him a manuscript note of a case in which he was counsel, about eighteen
years ago, and in which the exact point arose which exists in the
present case." He then read out of a thick manuscript book, which he had
brought with him from Mr. Justice Grayley, the particulars of the case
alluded to, and which were certainly almost precisely similar to those
then before the court. In the case referred to, the stamp had been held
sufficient; and so, his Lordship and his brother Grayley were of
opinion, was the stamp in the deed then before him. The cloud which had
settled upon the countenances of the Attorney-General and his party,
here flitted over to, and settled upon, those of his opponents. "Your
Lordship will perhaps take a note of the objection," said Mr. Subtle,
somewhat chagrined. Lord Widdrington nodded, and immediately made the
requisite entry in his notes.

"_Now_, then, we propose to put in and read this deed," said the
Attorney-General, with a smile of suppressed triumph, holding out his
hand towards Mr. Lynx, who was scrutinizing it very eagerly--"I presume
my learned friend will require only the operative parts to be
read"--here Lynx, with some excitement, called his leader's attention to
something which had occurred to him in the deed: up got Quicksilver and
Mortmain; and presently--

"Not quite so fast, Mr. Attorney, if you please," said Mr. Subtle, with
a little elation of manner--"I have another, and I apprehend a clearly
fatal objection to the admissibility of this deed, till my learned
friend shall have accounted for an ERASURE"----

"Erasure!" echoed the Attorney-General, with much surprise--"Allow me to
see the deed;" and he took it with an incredulous smile, which, however,
disappeared as he looked more and more closely at the instrument; Mr.
Sterling, Mr. Crystal, and Mr. Mansfield also looking extremely serious.

"I've hit them _now_," said Mr. Subtle to those behind him, as he leaned
back, and looked with no little triumph at his opponents--"_Was_ there
ever anything so lucky in this world before?" From what apparently
inadequate and trifling causes often flow great results! The plain fact
of the case was merely this. The attorney's clerk, in copying out the
deed, which was one of considerable length, had written eight or ten
words by mistake; and fearing to exasperate his master, by rendering
necessary a new deed and stamp, and occasioning trouble and delay, had
neatly scratched out the erroneous words, and over the erasure written
the correct ones. As he was the party who was intrusted with seeing to
and witnessing the execution of the instrument, he of course took no
notice of the alteration, and--see the result! The ownership of an
estate of ten thousand a-year about to turn upon the effect of this
erasure!

"Hand me up the deed," said the judge; and inspected it minutely for a
minute or two, holding it up, once or twice, to the light.

"Has any one a magnifying-glass in court?" inquired the
Attorney-General, with a look of increasing anxiety. No one happened to
have one.

"Is it necessary, Mr. Attorney?" said Lord Widdrington, handing down the
instrument to him with an ominous look.

"Well--you object, of course, Mr. Subtle--as I understand you--that this
deed is void, on account of an erasure in a material part of it?"
inquired Lord Widdrington.

"That is my objection, my Lord," said Mr. Subtle, sitting down.

"Now, Mr. Attorney," continued the judge, turning to the
Attorney-General, prepared to take a note of any observations which he
might offer. The spectators--the whole court--were aware that the great
crisis of the case had arrived; and there was a sickening silence. The
Attorney-General, with perfect calmness and self-possession, immediately
addressed the court in answer to this very critical and unexpected
objection. That there _was_ an erasure, which, owing to the hurry with
which the instrument had been examined, had been overlooked, was
indisputable. The Attorney-General's argument was, first, that the
erasure was in a part not material; secondly, that even if in a material
part of the deed, it would not be avoided, but the alteration would be
presumed to have taken place before the execution of the deed.[33] It
was easy to see that he spoke with the air of a man who argues _contra
spem_. What he said, however, was pertinent and forcible; the same might
be said of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Crystal; but they were all plainly
_gravelled_. Mr. Subtle replied with cruel cogency.

"Well," said Lord Widdrington, when Mr. Subtle had concluded, "I own I
feel scarcely any doubt upon the matter; but as it is certainly of the
greatest possible importance in the present case, I will just see how it
strikes my brother Grayley." With this he took the deed in his hand and
quitted the court. He touched Mr. Aubrey, in passing to his private
room, holding the deed before him! After an absence of about ten
minutes, Lord Widdrington returned.

"Silence! silence there!" bawled the crier; and the bustle had soon
subsided into profound silence.

"I think, and my brother Grayley agrees with me," said Lord Widdrington,
"that I ought not to receive this deed in evidence, unless the erasure
occurring in an essential part of it be first accounted for. Unless,
therefore, you are prepared, Mr. Attorney, with any evidence of that
kind, I shall not receive the deed." The Attorney-General bowed, in
silence, to his Lordship.

There was a faint buzz all over the court--a buzz of excitement,
anxiety, and disappointment; during which the Attorney-General consulted
for a moment or two with his juniors.

"Undoubtedly, my Lord," said he at length, "we are not prepared with any
evidence to explain a circumstance which has taken us entirely by
surprise. After this length of time, my Lord, of course"----

"Certainly--it is a great misfortune for the parties--a great
misfortune. Of course you tender the deed in evidence?" he continued,
taking a note.

"We do, my Lord, certainly," replied the Attorney-General; and sitting
down, he and his juniors took a note of the decision; Lord Widdrington
and the Attorney-General's opponents doing the same.

You should have seen the faces of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, as
they looked at Mr. Parkinson, with an agitated air, returning the
rejected deed to the bag from which it had been lately taken with so
confident and triumphant an air!--The remainder of the case, which had
been opened by the Attorney-General on behalf of Mr. Aubrey, was then
proceeded with; but in spite of all their assumed calmness, the
disappointment and distress of his counsel were perceptible to all. They
were now dejected--they felt that the cause was lost, unless some
extraordinary good fortune should yet befall them. They were not long in
establishing the descent of Mr. Aubrey from Geoffrey Dreddlington. It
was necessary to do so; for grievously as they had been disappointed in
failing to establish the title paramount, founded upon the deed of
confirmation of Mr. Aubrey, it was yet an important question for the
jury, whether they believed the evidence adduced by the plaintiff to
show title in himself.

"That, my Lord, is the defendant's case," said the Attorney-General as
his last witness left the box; and Mr. Subtle then rose to reply. He
felt how unpopular was his cause; that almost every countenance around
him bore a hostile expression. Privately, he loathed his case, when he
saw the sort of person for whom he was struggling. All his sympathies
(he was a very proud, haughty man) were on behalf of Mr. Aubrey, whom by
name and reputation he well knew, and with whom he had often sat in the
House of Commons. Now, conspicuous before him, sat his little
monkey-client, Titmouse--a ridiculous object; and calculated, if there
were any scope for the influence of prejudice, to ruin his own cause by
the exhibition of himself before the jury. That was the vulgar idiot who
was to turn the admirable Aubreys out of Yatton, and send them beggared
into the world! But Mr. Subtle was a high-minded English advocate; and
if he had seen Miss Aubrey in all her loveliness, and knew that her
_all_ depended upon the success of his exertions, he could hardly have
exerted himself more strenuously than he did on the present occasion.
And such, at length, was the effect which that exquisitely skilful
advocate produced, in his address to the jury, that he began to bring
about a change in the feelings of most around him; even the eye of
scornful beauty began to direct fewer glances of indignation and disgust
upon Titmouse, as Mr. Subtle's irresistible rhetoric drew upon their
sympathies in that young gentleman's behalf. "My learned friend, the
Attorney-General, gentlemen, dropped one or two expressions of a
somewhat disparaging tendency," said Mr. Subtle, "in alluding to my
client, Mr. Titmouse; and shadowed forth a disadvantageous contrast
between the obscure and ignorant plaintiff, and the gifted defendant.
Good heavens, gentlemen! and is my humble client's misfortune to become
his fault? If he be obscure and ignorant, unacquainted with the usages
of society, deprived of the blessings of a superior education--if he
have contracted vulgarity, _whose fault is it_?--Who has occasioned it?
Who plunged him and his parents before him into an unjust poverty and
obscurity, from which Providence is about this day to rescue him, and
put him in possession of his own? Gentlemen, if topics like these must
be introduced into this case, I ask you _who is accountable_ for the
present condition of my unfortunate client? Is he, or are those who have
been, perhaps unconsciously, but still unjustly, so long revelling in
the wealth which is his? Gentlemen, in the name of everything that is
manly and generous, I challenge your sympathy, your commiseration, for
my client." Here Titmouse, who had been staring open-mouthed for some
time at his eloquent advocate, and could be kept quiet no longer by the
most vehement efforts of Messrs. Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, rose up in an
excited manner, exclaiming, "Bravo! bravo, bravo, sir! 'Pon my life,
capital! It's quite true--bravo! bravo!" His astounded advocate paused
at this unprecedented interruption. "Take the puppy out of court, sir,
or I will not utter one word more," said he, in a fierce whisper to Mr.
Gammon.

"Who is that? Leave the court, sir! Your conduct is most indecent, sir!
I have a great mind to commit you, sir!" said Lord Widdrington,
directing an awful look down to the offender, who had turned of a
ghastly whiteness.

"Have mercy upon me, my Lord! I'll never do it again," he groaned,
clasping his hands, and verily believing that Lord Widdrington was going
to take the estate away from him.

Snap at length succeeded in getting him out of court, and after the
excitement occasioned by this irregular interruption had subsided, Mr.
Subtle resumed:--

"Gentlemen," said he, in a low tone, "I perceive that you are moved by
this little incident; and it is characteristic of your superior
feelings. Inferior persons, destitute of sensibility or refinement,
might have smiled at eccentricities, which occasion gentlemen like
yourselves only feelings of greater commiseration. I protest,
gentlemen"---- his voice trembled for a moment, but he soon resumed his
self-possession; and, after a long and admirable address, sat down,
confident of the verdict.

"If we lose the verdict, sir," said he, bending down and whispering into
the ear of Gammon, "we may thank that execrable little puppy for it."
Gammon changed color, but made no reply.

Lord Widdrington then commenced summing up the case to the jury with his
usual care and perspicacity. Nothing could be more beautiful than the
ease with which he extricated the facts of the case from the meshes in
which they had been alternately involved by Mr. Subtle and the
Attorney-General. As soon as he had explained to them the general
principles of law applicable to the case, he placed before them the
facts proved by the plaintiff, and then the answer of the defendant:
every one in court trembling for the result, if the jury should take the
same view which he felt compelled himself to take. The judge suggested
that they should retire to consider the case, taking with them the
pedigrees which had been handed in to them; and added that, if they
should require his assistance, he should remain in his private room for
an hour or two. Both judge and jury then retired, it being about eight
o'clock. Candles were lit in the court, which continued crowded to
suffocation. Few doubted which way the verdict would go. Fatigued as
must have been most of the spectators with a two days' confinement and
excitement,--ladies as well as gentlemen,--scarce a person thought of
quitting before the verdict had been pronounced. After an hour and a
half's absence, a cry was heard from the bailiff in whose charge the
jury had retired--"Clear the way for the jury;" and one or two officers,
with their wands, obeyed the directions. As the jury were re-entering
their box, struggling with a little difficulty through the crowd, Lord
Widdrington resumed his seat upon the bench.

"Gentlemen of the jury, have the goodness," said the associate, "to
answer to your names.--_Sir Godolphin Fitzherbert_"---- and, while their
names were thus called over, all the counsel took their pens, and,
turning over their briefs with an air of anxiety, prepared to indorse on
them the verdict. As soon as all the jurymen had answered, a profound
silence ensued.

"Gentlemen of the jury," inquired the associate, "are you agreed upon
your verdict? Do you find for the plaintiff, or for the defendant?"

"FOR THE PLAINTIFF," replied the foreman; on which the officer, amid a
kind of blank dismayed silence, making at the same time some
hieroglyphics upon the record, muttered--"_Verdict for the
Plaintiff.--Damages, one shilling. Costs, forty shillings_;" while
another functionary bawled out, amid the increasing buzz in the court,
"Have the goodness to wait, gentlemen of the jury. You will be paid
immediately." Whereupon, to the disgust and indignation of the unlearned
spectators, and the astonishment of some of the gentlemen of the jury
themselves--many of them the very first men of the county--Snap jumped
up on the form, pulled out his purse with an air of wild exultation, and
proceeded to remunerate Sir Godolphin Fitzherbert and his companions
with the sum of two guineas each. Proclamation was then made, and the
court adjourned till the next morning.



NOTES.


Note 1. Page 11.

Thomas De Quincey--a man whose genius and diversified and profound
acquirements constitute him one of the most remarkable men of the age;
and the book quoted in the text is worthy of him.


Note 2. Page 20.

The legislature hath since shown many indications of agreement with the
opinion of my unhappy swell: having lately abolished arrest on _mesne_
process altogether, as affording creditors too serious a chance of
preventing the escape of a fraudulent debtor; and having still more
recently made a step towards the abolition of arrest on _final_ process!
[1844.]


Note 3. Page 60.

Τοῡ καὶ ἀπὸ γλώσσης μέλιτος γλυκίων ῥέεν αὐή.


Note 4. Page 107.

_Blackstone's Commentaries_, vol. iv. pp. 134-5.


Note 5. Page 108.

_Blackstone_, vol. iii. p. 400, where it is stated, however, that "that
practice is now disused."


Note 6. Page 110.

_Blackstone's Commentaries_, vol. iv. p. 135.


Note 7. Page 113.

By a very recent statute (6 and 7 Vict. c. 73, §§ 37, 43)--passed in
1843--salutary alterations have been made in the law regulating the
taxation of the bills of attorneys and solicitors. Except "under special
circumstances," a client cannot now have his attorney's or solicitor's
bill taxed, after the lapse of twelve months since it was delivered. If
as much as one-sixth of the bill be struck off, the attorney or
solicitor must pay the costs of the operation; if less than one-sixth,
the client will have that satisfaction.


Note 8. Page 122.

This was written about the year 1838-9.


Note 9. Page 124.

This mode of treating the remains of a _felo de se_ was (on the 8th July
1823) abolished by Act of Parliament (stat. 4 Geo. IV). The remains of a
_felo de se_ are ordered by that act to be buried privately in the
churchyard, but without the performance of any rites of Christian
burial. The Prayer-book also prohibits the "office for the burial of the
dead from being used for any that have laid violent hands upon
themselves."


Note 10. Page 160.

I suppose myself to be alluding here to a very oppressive statute,
passed to clip the wings of such gentlemen as Mr. Snap, by which it is
enacted that, in actions for slander, if the jury find a verdict under
forty shillings, _e. g._ as in the case in the text, for one farthing,
the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover from the defendant only as
much costs as damages, _i. e._ another farthing; a provision which has
made many a poor pettifogger sneak out of court with a flea in his ear.
Since this was written, a still more stringent statute hath been made,
which, 'tis to be hoped, will put down the nuisance.


Note 11. Page 196.

"Can the author of Ten Thousand a-Year," asked some anonymous person
during its original appearance--"point out any class of Dissenters who
allow their members to frequent theatres?" The author believes that this
is the case with Unitarians--and also with many of the members of other
Dissenting congregations--especially the younger members of even the
stanchest Dissenting families.


Note 12. Page 212.

This fearful-looking word, I wish to inform my lady-readers, is an
original and monstrous amalgamation of three or four Greek
words--κυανο-χαιτ-ανθρωπο-ποιων--denoting a fluid "_which can render the
human hair black_." Whenever a barber or perfumer determines on trying
to puff off some villanous imposition of this sort, strange to say, he
goes to some starving scholar, and gives him half-a-crown to coin a word
like the above; one which shall be equally unintelligible and
unpronounceable, and therefore attractive and popular.


Note 13. Page 243.

    "Vitas hinnuleo me similis, Chloë,
    Quærenti pavidam----
    Matrem.
    ---- et corde et genibus tremit."--Hor. i. 23.


Note 14. Page 264.

See _ante_, p. 138.


Note 15. Page 307.

So much curiosity has been excited among lay readers in this country and
in America, and also among professional persons in France and Germany,
as to the real nature of the species of action mentioned in the text,
that the author is induced here to give some further account of a matter
which enters so considerably into the construction of this story. The
action of Ejectment is described with minute accuracy in the text; has
been in existence for at least five hundred years, (_i. e._ since the
close of Edward II., or beginning of Edward III., A. D. 1327;) and its
venerable but tortuous fiction has been scarcely even touched by the
"amending hand," which lately (1834) cut away so many cumbrous,
complicated, and _quasi_ obsolete portions of the law of action, (see
Stat. 3 and 4 Will. 4, c. 27, § 36.) The progress of this action is
calculated to throw much light on some of our early history and
jurisprudence. See an interesting sketch of it in the first chapter of
Mr. Sergeant Adams' Treatise on Ejectment. It was resorted to for the
purpose of escaping from the other dilatory, intricate, and expensive
modes of recovering landed property anciently in existence. The
following is the description given of it by Lord Mansfield--and is
equally terse and correct, and applicable to the present mode of
procedure. "An EJECTMENT is an ingenious _fiction_ for the Trial of
Titles to the possession of Land. In _form_ it is a trick between two,
to dispossess a third by a sham suit and judgment. The artifice would be
criminal, unless the _Court_ converted it into a _fair_ trial with the
_proper_ party. The control the Court have over the judgment against the
Casual Ejector, enables them to put any _terms_ upon the plaintiff which
are _just_. He was soon ordered to give _notice_ to the _tenant in
possession_. When the tenant in possession _asked_ to be admitted
defendant, the Court was enabled to add CONDITIONS; and therefore
obliged him to _allow_ the fiction, and go to Trial on the _real
merits_."--(_Fair Claim_ v. _Sham Title_,[*] 3 Burr. 1294.) This action
is now, in effect, the only direct common-law remedy for the recovery of
land in England and Ireland; in many of the United States of America the
action of Ejectment is retained--"with its harmless, and--as matter of
history--curious and amusing English fictions."--(4 _Kent's Comment_. p.
70, note _e_:) but in New York, the action of Ejectment is "stripped of
all its fictitious parts."--(_Id. ib._)

[*] These fantastical names are now almost invariably abandoned for
those of "John Doe" and "Richard Roe."


Note 16. Page 309.

_Blackstone's Commentaries_, vol. iii. App. pp. ix. x.


Note 17. Page 310.

"A warranty will not extend to guard against defects which are plainly
and obviously the object of one's senses: as if a horse be warranted
perfect, and wants either a _tail_, or an _ear_: unless the buyer in
this case be blind."--3 _Blackst. Comm_. 166.


Note 18. Page 310.

On the 22d August, 1843, (since the publication of this work,) a brief
but most important statute (6 and 7 Vict. c. 85) was enacted, "for
improving the Law of Evidence"--the chief object of which was, to remove
all such difficulties as that which formed the subject of Mr.
Parkinson's inquiries. Witnesses are now no longer "incompetent" to give
evidence by reason of _crime_ or of any _interest_ which they may have
in, or in respect of, the subject-matter of the action.


Note 19. Page 346.

Whether Mr. Aubrey was _justified_ in doing this, under his
circumstances, is a question which the author has seen, and heard,
several times keenly discussed. It is surprising how much may be said on
both sides of the question, by ingenious casuists.


Note 20. Page 405.

For this glorious and inestimable safeguard of the liberty of the
subject, we are indebted to the ancient common law of England,
strengthened from time to time by the legislature, and now made secure
against the insidious encroachments of tyranny. The chief statute passed
with this view is known as _The Habeas Corpus Act_ (31 Car. II. c. 2),
and "has been incorporated into the jurisprudence of every state in the
Union" in America.--STORY, _Commentaries on the Constitution of the U.
S._, vol. iii. p. 208.

"It is a very common mistake," says Mr. Hallam, and the Lord
Chief-Justice of the Queen's Bench had occasion, during Michaelmas Term
1844, publicly to make a similar observation, "not only among
foreigners, but many from whom some knowledge of our constitutional laws
might be expected, that the statute of Charles II. enlarged in a great
degree our liberties, and forms a sort of epoch in their history; but
though a very beneficial enactment, it introduced no new principle, nor
conferred any right upon the subject.... It was not to bestow an
immunity from arbitrary imprisonment, which is abundantly provided in
Magna Charta (if, indeed, not much more ancient,) that the statute of
Charles II. was enacted; but to cut off the abuses by which the
government's lust of power, and the servile subtlety of crown lawyers,
had impaired so fundamental a privilege."--3 HALL. _Const. Hist._, pp.
16, 17.


Note 21. Page 421.

The general character of the Newspaper Press, both in London and the
country, has so greatly improved of late years, as (with a very few
despicable exceptions) to render the appearance now-a-days, of such a
paragraph as that in the text, exceedingly rare. The Press is now, in
most instances, presided over by educated and gifted _gentlemen_. It was
far otherwise in 18--(the period named in the text.)


Note 22. Page 433.

Before perusing this opinion, the reader should refer to the pedigree,
_post_ 441; without which the opinion will not be fully understood.


Note 23. Page 435.

See the note on page 437.


Note 24. Page 437.

Till within a few years before the period in question, the law of
England regarded the act done by Mr. Steggars as amounting only to a
_breach of trust_, and consequently subjecting him to no _criminal_
liability; on the ground that the £700 _never having been actually in
his master's possession_, could not be the subject of a _felonious
taking_. The alarming consequences of this doctrine led to the passing
of stat. 39 Geo. III. c. 85, [passed on the 12th July 1799,] which
declared such an act of embezzlement to be felony, punishable with
fourteen years' transportation: this was lately repealed, but re-enacted
by stat. 7 and 8, Geo. IV. c. 29, § 47, [passed on the 21st June, 1827,]
on the occasion of consolidating that branch of the criminal law.--See 4
COLERIDGE'S _Blackst. Comment._ p. 231 (_note_).


Note 25. Page 442.

The popular maxim that "possession is nine-tenths of the law," is
founded on the salutary and reasonable doctrine of the law, that the
party _in possession_ of property is presumed to be the owner until the
contrary shall have been proved. Consider how intolerable, and, in fact,
destructive of civil society would be an opposite rule--if every one in
the enjoyment of property were liable to be called upon to explain to
any one challenging his right, how that right had been acquired! By the
operation of the rule laid down in the text, a defendant in ejectment
may (except in the case of landlord and tenant) always defeat the
action, simply by showing the real title to be in _some third
party_--without showing that the defendant holds possession with the
consent, or under the authority of the real owner.--(_Roe_ v. _Harvey_,
4 Burr. 2484; _Doe_ v. _Barber_, 2 T. R. 749.) The defendant's evidence
is thus altogether confined to falsifying his adversary's proofs, or
rebutting the presumptions which arise out of them.--ADAMS _on
Ejectment_, p. 319.--(3d Ed.)


Note 26. Page 443.

See the note to Vol. II., Chapter V.


Note 27. Page 443.

Lynx is here glancing at a rule of the Roman law on a point of great
difficulty, interest, and importance--_i. e._ where two persons above
the age of puberty perished by the same accident, the younger was
presumed to have been the survivor; but if one was _under_ the age of
puberty, the other was presumed to have been the survivor.--(Dig. lib.
34, tit. 5, §§ 9, 22, 23.) It is very curious to see how this question
is dealt with in modern times. The _Code Civile_ (in France) adjusts the
presumption to specific periods of life. If those who perished were all
under 15 years of age, the eldest is presumed to have survived; if all
above 60 years, the youngest. If some under 15, and others above 60, the
former shall be presumed to have survived. If all were between 15 and 60
years of age, the male, (when the ages are equal, or within a year of
being so) shall be presumed the survivor. If of the same sex, that
presumption shall be admitted which opens the succession in the order of
nature--of course the younger being presumed to have survived the
elder.--(_Code Civ_. §§ 720-722.) It has been objected, that, though
these rules are generally equitable, they are imperfect: for a man above
sixty ought surely to be held to have survived a mere infant; and no
provision is made for the case of persons under 15, and under 60 years
of age perishing together. By the _Mohammedan law of India_, "when
relations perish together, it is to be presumed that they all died at
the same moment, and the heir of each immediately succeeds." The
difficulty of the case arises, of course, from the circumstance of there
being no evidence whatever as to the _actual fact_ of survivorship. Our
English law has not adopted any definite rule on the subject, but leans
in favor of the survivorship of the party possessed of the property in
dispute; and _some_ regard seems to be had to the probability of the
survivorship of the stronger party. Several very interesting cases of
this kind have arisen in this country; and, generally speaking, our
courts appear to have required some evidence of the _fact_. A singular
case occurred in Queen Elizabeth's time, (1596.) Father and son were
hanged at the same time, in one cart; being joint tenants of property,
which, on their death, was to go to the _son's_ heirs. According to one
report (Noy) the _father's_ feet were seen moving after the son's
death; but other witnesses swore to the son's "shaking his legs" after
his father's death. This the jury believed; found that the son survived;
and his widow was therefore held entitled to her dower!--(_Broughton_ v.
_Randall_, Cro. El., p. 502.)


Note 28. Page 443.

Chapter X., _ante_, p. 411.


Note 29. Page 470.

See the note prefixed to Chapter V. Vol. II., for a full explanation of
the above, and another important legal topic introduced into this work.


Note 30. Page 477.

Not many years ago, the fate of an important case turned upon the
existence of a tombstone: and a forged one was produced in court!--The
validity of a great Peerage case is at this moment depending upon the
genuineness of one of these dumb and gloomy witnesses. [1844.]


Note 31. Page 485.

When the Judges of Assize preside in the _Crown_ side (_i. e_. in the
Criminal Court,) they wear their scarlet and ermine robes, and
full-bottomed wigs.


Note 32. Page 486.

This is a step often taken in trials of importance, when the counsel for
either party apprehends danger to his client, from his opponent's
witnesses remaining in court and hearing all the evidence which they are
afterwards called to contradict. Either counsel has a _right_ thus to
exclude witnesses. The Court usually, in such cases, orders all the
witnesses to withdraw.


Note 33. Page 499.

See, for a discussion of this point, the preliminary note to Vol. II.
ch. v.

END OF VOL. I.





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