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Title: Sketches by Boz, illustrative of everyday life and every-day people
Author: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
Language: English
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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.

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Transcribed from the 1903 Chapman and Hall edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                             SKETCHES BY BOZ


                      Illustrative of Every-Day Life
                           and Every-Day People

                                * * * * *

                            By CHARLES DICKENS

                                * * * * *

           _With Illustrations by George Cruickshank and Phiz_

                                * * * * *

                       LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LD.
                    NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                                   1903



PREFACE


The whole of these Sketches were written and published, one by one, when
I was a very young man.  They were collected and republished while I was
still a very young man; and sent into the world with all their
imperfections (a good many) on their heads.

They comprise my first attempts at authorship—with the exception of
certain tragedies achieved at the mature age of eight or ten, and
represented with great applause to overflowing nurseries.  I am conscious
of their often being extremely crude and ill-considered, and bearing
obvious marks of haste and inexperience; particularly in that section of
the present volume which is comprised under the general head of Tales.

But as this collection is not originated now, and was very leniently and
favourably received when it was first made, I have not felt it right
either to remodel or expunge, beyond a few words and phrases here and
there.



OUR PARISH


CHAPTER I—THE BEADLE.  THE PARISH ENGINE.  THE SCHOOLMASTER


How much is conveyed in those two short words—‘The Parish!’  And with how
many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes,
too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they
associated!  A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just
manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to
day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature,
and can take no heed of the future.  His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day
passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter
for himself, and is summoned by—the parish.  His goods are distrained,
his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which
his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her.  What can he do?  To
whom is he to apply for relief?  To private charity?  To benevolent
individuals?  Certainly not—there is his parish.  There are the parish
vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers,
the parish beadle.  Excellent institutions, and gentle, kind-hearted men.
The woman dies—she is buried by the parish.  The children have no
protector—they are taken care of by the parish.  The man first neglects,
and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when
distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained,
a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

The parish beadle is one of the most, perhaps _the_ most, important
member of the local administration.  He is not so well off as the
churchwardens, certainly, nor is he so learned as the vestry-clerk, nor
does he order things quite so much his own way as either of them.  But
his power is very great, notwithstanding; and the dignity of his office
is never impaired by the absence of efforts on his part to maintain it.
The beadle of our parish is a splendid fellow.  It is quite delightful to
hear him, as he explains the state of the existing poor laws to the deaf
old women in the board-room passage on business nights; and to hear what
he said to the senior churchwarden, and what the senior churchwarden said
to him; and what ‘we’ (the beadle and the other gentlemen) came to the
determination of doing.  A miserable-looking woman is called into the
boardroom, and represents a case of extreme destitution, affecting
herself—a widow, with six small children.  ‘Where do you live?’ inquires
one of the overseers.  ‘I rents a two-pair back, gentlemen, at Mrs.
Brown’s, Number 3, Little King William’s-alley, which has lived there
this fifteen year, and knows me to be very hard-working and industrious,
and when my poor husband was alive, gentlemen, as died in the
hospital’—‘Well, well,’ interrupts the overseer, taking a note of the
address, ‘I’ll send Simmons, the beadle, to-morrow morning, to ascertain
whether your story is correct; and if so, I suppose you must have an
order into the House—Simmons, go to this woman’s the first thing
to-morrow morning, will you?’  Simmons bows assent, and ushers the woman
out.  Her previous admiration of ‘the board’ (who all sit behind great
books, and with their hats on) fades into nothing before her respect for
her lace-trimmed conductor; and her account of what has passed inside,
increases—if that be possible—the marks of respect, shown by the
assembled crowd, to that solemn functionary.  As to taking out a summons,
it’s quite a hopeless case if Simmons attends it, on behalf of the
parish.  He knows all the titles of the Lord Mayor by heart; states the
case without a single stammer: and it is even reported that on one
occasion he ventured to make a joke, which the Lord Mayor’s head footman
(who happened to be present) afterwards told an intimate friend,
confidentially, was almost equal to one of Mr. Hobler’s.

See him again on Sunday in his state-coat and cocked-hat, with a
large-headed staff for show in his left hand, and a small cane for use in
his right.  How pompously he marshals the children into their places! and
how demurely the little urchins look at him askance as he surveys them
when they are all seated, with a glare of the eye peculiar to beadles!
The churchwardens and overseers being duly installed in their curtained
pews, he seats himself on a mahogany bracket, erected expressly for him
at the top of the aisle, and divides his attention between his
prayer-book and the boys.  Suddenly, just at the commencement of the
communion service, when the whole congregation is hushed into a profound
silence, broken only by the voice of the officiating clergyman, a penny
is heard to ring on the stone floor of the aisle with astounding
clearness.  Observe the generalship of the beadle.  His involuntary look
of horror is instantly changed into one of perfect indifference, as if he
were the only person present who had not heard the noise.  The artifice
succeeds.  After putting forth his right leg now and then, as a feeler,
the victim who dropped the money ventures to make one or two distinct
dives after it; and the beadle, gliding softly round, salutes his little
round head, when it again appears above the seat, with divers double
knocks, administered with the cane before noticed, to the intense delight
of three young men in an adjacent pew, who cough violently at intervals
until the conclusion of the sermon.

Such are a few traits of the importance and gravity of a parish beadle—a
gravity which has never been disturbed in any case that has come under
our observation, except when the services of that particularly useful
machine, a parish fire-engine, are required: then indeed all is bustle.
Two little boys run to the beadle as fast as their legs will carry them,
and report from their own personal observation that some neighbouring
chimney is on fire; the engine is hastily got out, and a plentiful supply
of boys being obtained, and harnessed to it with ropes, away they rattle
over the pavement, the beadle, running—we do not exaggerate—running at
the side, until they arrive at some house, smelling strongly of soot, at
the door of which the beadle knocks with considerable gravity for
half-an-hour.  No attention being paid to these manual applications, and
the turn-cock having turned on the water, the engine turns off amidst the
shouts of the boys; it pulls up once more at the work-house, and the
beadle ‘pulls up’ the unfortunate householder next day, for the amount of
his legal reward.  We never saw a parish engine at a regular fire but
once.  It came up in gallant style—three miles and a half an hour, at
least; there was a capital supply of water, and it was first on the spot.
Bang went the pumps—the people cheered—the beadle perspired profusely;
but it was unfortunately discovered, just as they were going to put the
fire out, that nobody understood the process by which the engine was
filled with water; and that eighteen boys, and a man, had exhausted
themselves in pumping for twenty minutes, without producing the slightest
effect!

The personages next in importance to the beadle, are the master of the
workhouse and the parish schoolmaster.  The vestry-clerk, as everybody
knows, is a short, pudgy little man, in black, with a thick gold
watch-chain of considerable length, terminating in two large seals and a
key.  He is an attorney, and generally in a bustle; at no time more so,
than when he is hurrying to some parochial meeting, with his gloves
crumpled up in one hand, and a large red book under the other arm.  As to
the churchwardens and overseers, we exclude them altogether, because all
we know of them is, that they are usually respectable tradesmen, who wear
hats with brims inclined to flatness, and who occasionally testify in
gilt letters on a blue ground, in some conspicuous part of the church, to
the important fact of a gallery having being enlarged and beautified, or
an organ rebuilt.

The master of the workhouse is not, in our parish—nor is he usually in
any other—one of that class of men the better part of whose existence has
passed away, and who drag out the remainder in some inferior situation,
with just enough thought of the past, to feel degraded by, and
discontented with the present.  We are unable to guess precisely to our
own satisfaction what station the man can have occupied before; we should
think he had been an inferior sort of attorney’s clerk, or else the
master of a national school—whatever he was, it is clear his present
position is a change for the better.  His income is small certainly, as
the rusty black coat and threadbare velvet collar demonstrate: but then
he lives free of house-rent, has a limited allowance of coals and
candles, and an almost unlimited allowance of authority in his petty
kingdom.  He is a tall, thin, bony man; always wears shoes and black
cotton stockings with his surtout; and eyes you, as you pass his
parlour-window, as if he wished you were a pauper, just to give you a
specimen of his power.  He is an admirable specimen of a small tyrant:
morose, brutish, and ill-tempered; bullying to his inferiors, cringing to
his superiors, and jealous of the influence and authority of the beadle.

Our schoolmaster is just the very reverse of this amiable official.  He
has been one of those men one occasionally hears of, on whom misfortune
seems to have set her mark; nothing he ever did, or was concerned in,
appears to have prospered.  A rich old relation who had brought him up,
and openly announced his intention of providing for him, left him
10,000_l._ in his will, and revoked the bequest in a codicil.  Thus
unexpectedly reduced to the necessity of providing for himself, he
procured a situation in a public office.  The young clerks below him,
died off as if there were a plague among them; but the old fellows over
his head, for the reversion of whose places he was anxiously waiting,
lived on and on, as if they were immortal.  He speculated and lost.  He
speculated again and won—but never got his money.  His talents were
great; his disposition, easy, generous and liberal.  His friends profited
by the one, and abused the other.  Loss succeeded loss; misfortune
crowded on misfortune; each successive day brought him nearer the verge
of hopeless penury, and the quondam friends who had been warmest in their
professions, grew strangely cold and indifferent.  He had children whom
he loved, and a wife on whom he doted.  The former turned their backs on
him; the latter died broken-hearted.  He went with the stream—it had ever
been his failing, and he had not courage sufficient to bear up against so
many shocks—he had never cared for himself, and the only being who had
cared for him, in his poverty and distress, was spared to him no longer.
It was at this period that he applied for parochial relief.  Some
kind-hearted man who had known him in happier times, chanced to be
churchwarden that year, and through his interest he was appointed to his
present situation.

He is an old man now.  Of the many who once crowded round him in all the
hollow friendship of boon-companionship, some have died, some have fallen
like himself, some have prospered—all have forgotten him.  Time and
misfortune have mercifully been permitted to impair his memory, and use
has habituated him to his present condition.  Meek, uncomplaining, and
zealous in the discharge of his duties, he has been allowed to hold his
situation long beyond the usual period; and he will no doubt continue to
hold it, until infirmity renders him incapable, or death releases him.
As the grey-headed old man feebly paces up and down the sunny side of the
little court-yard between school hours, it would be difficult, indeed,
for the most intimate of his former friends to recognise their once gay
and happy associate, in the person of the Pauper Schoolmaster.



CHAPTER II—THE CURATE.  THE OLD LADY.  THE HALF-PAY CAPTAIN


We commenced our last chapter with the beadle of our parish, because we
are deeply sensible of the importance and dignity of his office.  We will
begin the present, with the clergyman.  Our curate is a young gentleman
of such prepossessing appearance, and fascinating manners, that within
one month after his first appearance in the parish, half the young-lady
inhabitants were melancholy with religion, and the other half, desponding
with love.  Never were so many young ladies seen in our parish church on
Sunday before; and never had the little round angels’ faces on Mr.
Tomkins’s monument in the side aisle, beheld such devotion on earth as
they all exhibited.  He was about five-and-twenty when he first came to
astonish the parishioners.  He parted his hair on the centre of his
forehead in the form of a Norman arch, wore a brilliant of the first
water on the fourth finger of his left hand (which he always applied to
his left cheek when he read prayers), and had a deep sepulchral voice of
unusual solemnity.  Innumerable were the calls made by prudent mammas on
our new curate, and innumerable the invitations with which he was
assailed, and which, to do him justice, he readily accepted.  If his
manner in the pulpit had created an impression in his favour, the
sensation was increased tenfold, by his appearance in private circles.
Pews in the immediate vicinity of the pulpit or reading-desk rose in
value; sittings in the centre aisle were at a premium: an inch of room in
the front row of the gallery could not be procured for love or money; and
some people even went so far as to assert, that the three Miss Browns,
who had an obscure family pew just behind the churchwardens’, were
detected, one Sunday, in the free seats by the communion-table, actually
lying in wait for the curate as he passed to the vestry!  He began to
preach extempore sermons, and even grave papas caught the infection.  He
got out of bed at half-past twelve o’clock one winter’s night, to
half-baptise a washerwoman’s child in a slop-basin, and the gratitude of
the parishioners knew no bounds—the very churchwardens grew generous, and
insisted on the parish defraying the expense of the watch-box on wheels,
which the new curate had ordered for himself, to perform the funeral
service in, in wet weather.  He sent three pints of gruel and a quarter
of a pound of tea to a poor woman who had been brought to bed of four
small children, all at once—the parish were charmed.  He got up a
subscription for her—the woman’s fortune was made.  He spoke for one hour
and twenty-five minutes, at an anti-slavery meeting at the Goat and
Boots—the enthusiasm was at its height.  A proposal was set on foot for
presenting the curate with a piece of plate, as a mark of esteem for his
valuable services rendered to the parish.  The list of subscriptions was
filled up in no time; the contest was, not who should escape the
contribution, but who should be the foremost to subscribe.  A splendid
silver inkstand was made, and engraved with an appropriate inscription;
the curate was invited to a public breakfast, at the before-mentioned
Goat and Boots; the inkstand was presented in a neat speech by Mr.
Gubbins, the ex-churchwarden, and acknowledged by the curate in terms
which drew tears into the eyes of all present—the very waiters were
melted.

One would have supposed that, by this time, the theme of universal
admiration was lifted to the very pinnacle of popularity.  No such thing.
The curate began to cough; four fits of coughing one morning between the
Litany and the Epistle, and five in the afternoon service.  Here was a
discovery—the curate was consumptive.  How interestingly melancholy!  If
the young ladies were energetic before, their sympathy and solicitude now
knew no bounds.  Such a man as the curate—such a dear—such a perfect
love—to be consumptive!  It was too much.  Anonymous presents of
black-currant jam, and lozenges, elastic waistcoats, bosom friends, and
warm stockings, poured in upon the curate until he was as completely
fitted out with winter clothing, as if he were on the verge of an
expedition to the North Pole: verbal bulletins of the state of his health
were circulated throughout the parish half-a-dozen times a day; and the
curate was in the very zenith of his popularity.

About this period, a change came over the spirit of the parish.  A very
quiet, respectable, dozing old gentleman, who had officiated in our
chapel-of-ease for twelve years previously, died one fine morning,
without having given any notice whatever of his intention.  This
circumstance gave rise to counter-sensation the first; and the arrival of
his successor occasioned counter-sensation the second.  He was a pale,
thin, cadaverous man, with large black eyes, and long straggling black
hair: his dress was slovenly in the extreme, his manner ungainly, his
doctrines startling; in short, he was in every respect the antipodes of
the curate.  Crowds of our female parishioners flocked to hear him; at
first, because he was _so_ odd-looking, then because his face was _so_
expressive, then because he preached _so_ well; and at last, because they
really thought that, after all, there was something about him which it
was quite impossible to describe.  As to the curate, he was all very
well; but certainly, after all, there was no denying that—that—in short,
the curate wasn’t a novelty, and the other clergyman was.  The
inconstancy of public opinion is proverbial: the congregation migrated
one by one.  The curate coughed till he was black in the face—it was in
vain.  He respired with difficulty—it was equally ineffectual in
awakening sympathy.  Seats are once again to be had in any part of our
parish church, and the chapel-of-ease is going to be enlarged, as it is
crowded to suffocation every Sunday!

The best known and most respected among our parishioners, is an old lady,
who resided in our parish long before our name was registered in the list
of baptisms.  Our parish is a suburban one, and the old lady lives in a
neat row of houses in the most airy and pleasant part of it.  The house
is her own; and it, and everything about it, except the old lady herself,
who looks a little older than she did ten years ago, is in just the same
state as when the old gentleman was living.  The little front parlour,
which is the old lady’s ordinary sitting-room, is a perfect picture of
quiet neatness; the carpet is covered with brown Holland, the glass and
picture-frames are carefully enveloped in yellow muslin; the table-covers
are never taken off, except when the leaves are turpentined and
bees’-waxed, an operation which is regularly commenced every other
morning at half-past nine o’clock—and the little nicknacks are always
arranged in precisely the same manner.  The greater part of these are
presents from little girls whose parents live in the same row; but some
of them, such as the two old-fashioned watches (which never keep the same
time, one being always a quarter of an hour too slow, and the other a
quarter of an hour too fast), the little picture of the Princess
Charlotte and Prince Leopold as they appeared in the Royal Box at Drury
Lane Theatre, and others of the same class, have been in the old lady’s
possession for many years.  Here the old lady sits with her spectacles
on, busily engaged in needlework—near the window in summer time; and if
she sees you coming up the steps, and you happen to be a favourite, she
trots out to open the street-door for you before you knock, and as you
must be fatigued after that hot walk, insists on your swallowing two
glasses of sherry before you exert yourself by talking.  If you call in
the evening you will find her cheerful, but rather more serious than
usual, with an open Bible on the table, before her, of which ‘Sarah,’ who
is just as neat and methodical as her mistress, regularly reads two or
three chapters in the parlour aloud.

The old lady sees scarcely any company, except the little girls before
noticed, each of whom has always a regular fixed day for a periodical
tea-drinking with her, to which the child looks forward as the greatest
treat of its existence.  She seldom visits at a greater distance than the
next door but one on either side; and when she drinks tea here, Sarah
runs out first and knocks a double-knock, to prevent the possibility of
her ‘Missis’s’ catching cold by having to wait at the door.  She is very
scrupulous in returning these little invitations, and when she asks Mr.
and Mrs. So-and-so, to meet Mr. and Mrs. Somebody-else, Sarah and she
dust the urn, and the best china tea-service, and the Pope Joan board;
and the visitors are received in the drawing-room in great state.  She
has but few relations, and they are scattered about in different parts of
the country, and she seldom sees them.  She has a son in India, whom she
always describes to you as a fine, handsome fellow—so like the profile of
his poor dear father over the sideboard, but the old lady adds, with a
mournful shake of the head, that he has always been one of her greatest
trials; and that indeed he once almost broke her heart; but it pleased
God to enable her to get the better of it, and she would prefer your
never mentioning the subject to her again.  She has a great number of
pensioners: and on Saturday, after she comes back from market, there is a
regular levee of old men and women in the passage, waiting for their
weekly gratuity.  Her name always heads the list of any benevolent
subscriptions, and hers are always the most liberal donations to the
Winter Coal and Soup Distribution Society.  She subscribed twenty pounds
towards the erection of an organ in our parish church, and was so
overcome the first Sunday the children sang to it, that she was obliged
to be carried out by the pew-opener.  Her entrance into church on Sunday
is always the signal for a little bustle in the side aisle, occasioned by
a general rise among the poor people, who bow and curtsey until the
pew-opener has ushered the old lady into her accustomed seat, dropped a
respectful curtsey, and shut the door: and the same ceremony is repeated
on her leaving church, when she walks home with the family next door but
one, and talks about the sermon all the way, invariably opening the
conversation by asking the youngest boy where the text was.

Thus, with the annual variation of a trip to some quiet place on the
sea-coast, passes the old lady’s life.  It has rolled on in the same
unvarying and benevolent course for many years now, and must at no
distant period be brought to its final close.  She looks forward to its
termination, with calmness and without apprehension.  She has everything
to hope and nothing to fear.

A very different personage, but one who has rendered himself very
conspicuous in our parish, is one of the old lady’s next-door neighbours.
He is an old naval officer on half-pay, and his bluff and unceremonious
behaviour disturbs the old lady’s domestic economy, not a little.  In the
first place, he _will_ smoke cigars in the front court, and when he wants
something to drink with them—which is by no means an uncommon
circumstance—he lifts up the old lady’s knocker with his walking-stick,
and demands to have a glass of table ale, handed over the rails.  In
addition to this cool proceeding, he is a bit of a Jack of all trades, or
to use his own words, ‘a regular Robinson Crusoe;’ and nothing delights
him better than to experimentalise on the old lady’s property.  One
morning he got up early, and planted three or four roots of full-grown
marigolds in every bed of her front garden, to the inconceivable
astonishment of the old lady, who actually thought when she got up and
looked out of the window, that it was some strange eruption which had
come out in the night.  Another time he took to pieces the eight-day
clock on the front landing, under pretence of cleaning the works, which
he put together again, by some undiscovered process, in so wonderful a
manner, that the large hand has done nothing but trip up the little one
ever since.  Then he took to breeding silk-worms, which he _would_ bring
in two or three times a day, in little paper boxes, to show the old lady,
generally dropping a worm or two at every visit.  The consequence was,
that one morning a very stout silk-worm was discovered in the act of
walking up-stairs—probably with the view of inquiring after his friends,
for, on further inspection, it appeared that some of his companions had
already found their way to every room in the house.  The old lady went to
the seaside in despair, and during her absence he completely effaced the
name from her brass door-plate, in his attempts to polish it with
aqua-fortis.

But all this is nothing to his seditious conduct in public life.  He
attends every vestry meeting that is held; always opposes the constituted
authorities of the parish, denounces the profligacy of the churchwardens,
contests legal points against the vestry-clerk, will make the
tax-gatherer call for his money till he won’t call any longer, and then
he sends it: finds fault with the sermon every Sunday, says that the
organist ought to be ashamed of himself, offers to back himself for any
amount to sing the psalms better than all the children put together, male
and female; and, in short, conducts himself in the most turbulent and
uproarious manner.  The worst of it is, that having a high regard for the
old lady, he wants to make her a convert to his views, and therefore
walks into her little parlour with his newspaper in his hand, and talks
violent politics by the hour.  He is a charitable, open-hearted old
fellow at bottom, after all; so, although he puts the old lady a little
out occasionally, they agree very well in the main, and she laughs as
much at each feat of his handiwork when it is all over, as anybody else.



CHAPTER III—THE FOUR SISTERS


The row of houses in which the old lady and her troublesome neighbour
reside, comprises, beyond all doubt, a greater number of characters
within its circumscribed limits, than all the rest of the parish put
together.  As we cannot, consistently with our present plan, however,
extend the number of our parochial sketches beyond six, it will be better
perhaps, to select the most peculiar, and to introduce them at once
without further preface.

The four Miss Willises, then, settled in our parish thirteen years ago.
It is a melancholy reflection that the old adage, ‘time and tide wait for
no man,’ applies with equal force to the fairer portion of the creation;
and willingly would we conceal the fact, that even thirteen years ago the
Miss Willises were far from juvenile.  Our duty as faithful parochial
chroniclers, however, is paramount to every other consideration, and we
are bound to state, that thirteen years since, the authorities in
matrimonial cases, considered the youngest Miss Willis in a very
precarious state, while the eldest sister was positively given over, as
being far beyond all human hope.  Well, the Miss Willises took a lease of
the house; it was fresh painted and papered from top to bottom: the paint
inside was all wainscoted, the marble all cleaned, the old grates taken
down, and register-stoves, you could see to dress by, put up; four trees
were planted in the back garden, several small baskets of gravel
sprinkled over the front one, vans of elegant furniture arrived, spring
blinds were fitted to the windows, carpenters who had been employed in
the various preparations, alterations, and repairs, made confidential
statements to the different maid-servants in the row, relative to the
magnificent scale on which the Miss Willises were commencing; the
maid-servants told their ‘Missises,’ the Missises told their friends, and
vague rumours were circulated throughout the parish, that No. 25, in
Gordon-place, had been taken by four maiden ladies of immense property.

At last, the Miss Willises moved in; and then the ‘calling’ began.  The
house was the perfection of neatness—so were the four Miss Willises.
Everything was formal, stiff, and cold—so were the four Miss Willises.
Not a single chair of the whole set was ever seen out of its place—not a
single Miss Willis of the whole four was ever seen out of hers.  There
they always sat, in the same places, doing precisely the same things at
the same hour.  The eldest Miss Willis used to knit, the second to draw,
the two others to play duets on the piano.  They seemed to have no
separate existence, but to have made up their minds just to winter
through life together.  They were three long graces in drapery, with the
addition, like a school-dinner, of another long grace afterwards—the
three fates with another sister—the Siamese twins multiplied by two.  The
eldest Miss Willis grew bilious—the four Miss Willises grew bilious
immediately.  The eldest Miss Willis grew ill-tempered and religious—the
four Miss Willises were ill-tempered and religious directly.  Whatever
the eldest did, the others did, and whatever anybody else did, they all
disapproved of; and thus they vegetated—living in Polar harmony among
themselves, and, as they sometimes went out, or saw company ‘in a
quiet-way’ at home, occasionally icing the neighbours.  Three years
passed over in this way, when an unlooked for and extraordinary
phenomenon occurred.  The Miss Willises showed symptoms of summer, the
frost gradually broke up; a complete thaw took place.  Was it possible?
one of the four Miss Willises was going to be married!

Now, where on earth the husband came from, by what feelings the poor man
could have been actuated, or by what process of reasoning the four Miss
Willises succeeded in persuading themselves that it was possible for a
man to marry one of them, without marrying them all, are questions too
profound for us to resolve: certain it is, however, that the visits of
Mr. Robinson (a gentleman in a public office, with a good salary and a
little property of his own, besides) were received—that the four Miss
Willises were courted in due form by the said Mr Robinson—that the
neighbours were perfectly frantic in their anxiety to discover which of
the four Miss Willises was the fortunate fair, and that the difficulty
they experienced in solving the problem was not at all lessened by the
announcement of the eldest Miss Willis,—‘_We_ are going to marry Mr.
Robinson.’

It was very extraordinary.  They were so completely identified, the one
with the other, that the curiosity of the whole row—even of the old lady
herself—was roused almost beyond endurance.  The subject was discussed at
every little card-table and tea-drinking.  The old gentleman of silk-worm
notoriety did not hesitate to express his decided opinion that Mr.
Robinson was of Eastern descent, and contemplated marrying the whole
family at once; and the row, generally, shook their heads with
considerable gravity, and declared the business to be very mysterious.
They hoped it might all end well;—it certainly had a very singular
appearance, but still it would be uncharitable to express any opinion
without good grounds to go upon, and certainly the Miss Willises were
_quite_ old enough to judge for themselves, and to be sure people ought
to know their own business best, and so forth.

At last, one fine morning, at a quarter before eight o’clock, A.M., two
glass-coaches drove up to the Miss Willises’ door, at which Mr. Robinson
had arrived in a cab ten minutes before, dressed in a light-blue coat and
double-milled kersey pantaloons, white neckerchief, pumps, and
dress-gloves, his manner denoting, as appeared from the evidence of the
housemaid at No. 23, who was sweeping the door-steps at the time, a
considerable degree of nervous excitement.  It was also hastily reported
on the same testimony, that the cook who opened the door, wore a large
white bow of unusual dimensions, in a much smarter head-dress than the
regulation cap to which the Miss Willises invariably restricted the
somewhat excursive tastes of female servants in general.

The intelligence spread rapidly from house to house.  It was quite clear
that the eventful morning had at length arrived; the whole row stationed
themselves behind their first and second floor blinds, and waited the
result in breathless expectation.

At last the Miss Willises’ door opened; the door of the first glass-coach
did the same.  Two gentlemen, and a pair of ladies to correspond—friends
of the family, no doubt; up went the steps, bang went the door, off went
the first class-coach, and up came the second.

The street door opened again; the excitement of the whole row
increased—Mr. Robinson and the eldest Miss Willis.  ‘I thought so,’ said
the lady at No. 19; ‘I always said it was _Miss_ Willis!’—‘Well, I
never!’ ejaculated the young lady at No. 18 to the young lady at No.
17.—‘Did you ever, dear!’ responded the young lady at No. 17 to the young
lady at No. 18.  ‘It’s too ridiculous!’ exclaimed a spinster of an
_un_certain age, at No. 16, joining in the conversation.  But who shall
portray the astonishment of Gordon-place, when Mr. Robinson handed in
_all_ the Miss Willises, one after the other, and then squeezed himself
into an acute angle of the glass-coach, which forthwith proceeded at a
brisk pace, after the other glass-coach, which other glass-coach had
itself proceeded, at a brisk pace, in the direction of the parish church!
Who shall depict the perplexity of the clergyman, when _all_ the Miss
Willises knelt down at the communion-table, and repeated the responses
incidental to the marriage service in an audible voice—or who shall
describe the confusion which prevailed, when—even after the difficulties
thus occasioned had been adjusted—_all_ the Miss Willises went into
hysterics at the conclusion of the ceremony, until the sacred edifice
resounded with their united wailings!

As the four sisters and Mr. Robinson continued to occupy the same house
after this memorable occasion, and as the married sister, whoever she
was, never appeared in public without the other three, we are not quite
clear that the neighbours ever would have discovered the real Mrs.
Robinson, but for a circumstance of the most gratifying description,
which _will_ happen occasionally in the best-regulated families.  Three
quarter-days elapsed, and the row, on whom a new light appeared to have
been bursting for some time, began to speak with a sort of implied
confidence on the subject, and to wonder how Mrs. Robinson—the youngest
Miss Willis that was—got on; and servants might be seen running up the
steps, about nine or ten o’clock every morning, with ‘Missis’s
compliments, and wishes to know how Mrs. Robinson finds herself this
morning?’  And the answer always was, ‘Mrs. Robinson’s compliments, and
she’s in very good spirits, and doesn’t find herself any worse.’  The
piano was heard no longer, the knitting-needles were laid aside, drawing
was neglected, and mantua-making and millinery, on the smallest scale
imaginable, appeared to have become the favourite amusement of the whole
family.  The parlour wasn’t quite as tidy as it used to be, and if you
called in the morning, you would see lying on a table, with an old
newspaper carelessly thrown over them, two or three particularly small
caps, rather larger than if they had been made for a moderate-sized doll,
with a small piece of lace, in the shape of a horse-shoe, let in behind:
or perhaps a white robe, not very large in circumference, but very much
out of proportion in point of length, with a little tucker round the top,
and a frill round the bottom; and once when we called, we saw a long
white roller, with a kind of blue margin down each side, the probable use
of which, we were at a loss to conjecture.  Then we fancied that Dr.
Dawson, the surgeon, &c., who displays a large lamp with a different
colour in every pane of glass, at the corner of the row, began to be
knocked up at night oftener than he used to be; and once we were very
much alarmed by hearing a hackney-coach stop at Mrs. Robinson’s door, at
half-past two o’clock in the morning, out of which there emerged a fat
old woman, in a cloak and night-cap, with a bundle in one hand, and a
pair of pattens in the other, who looked as if she had been suddenly
knocked up out of bed for some very special purpose.

When we got up in the morning we saw that the knocker was tied up in an
old white kid glove; and we, in our innocence (we were in a state of
bachelorship then), wondered what on earth it all meant, until we heard
the eldest Miss Willis, _in propriâ personâ_ say, with great dignity, in
answer to the next inquiry, ‘_My_ compliments, and Mrs. Robinson’s doing
as well as can be expected, and the little girl thrives wonderfully.’
And then, in common with the rest of the row, our curiosity was
satisfied, and we began to wonder it had never occurred to us what the
matter was, before.



CHAPTER IV—THE ELECTION FOR BEADLE


A great event has recently occurred in our parish.  A contest of
paramount interest has just terminated; a parochial convulsion has taken
place.  It has been succeeded by a glorious triumph, which the country—or
at least the parish—it is all the same—will long remember.  We have had
an election; an election for beadle.  The supporters of the old beadle
system have been defeated in their stronghold, and the advocates of the
great new beadle principles have achieved a proud victory.

Our parish, which, like all other parishes, is a little world of its own,
has long been divided into two parties, whose contentions, slumbering for
a while, have never failed to burst forth with unabated vigour, on any
occasion on which they could by possibility be renewed.  Watching-rates,
lighting-rates, paving-rates, sewer’s-rates, church-rates,
poor’s-rates—all sorts of rates, have been in their turns the subjects of
a grand struggle; and as to questions of patronage, the asperity and
determination with which they have been contested is scarcely credible.

The leader of the official party—the steady advocate of the
churchwardens, and the unflinching supporter of the overseers—is an old
gentleman who lives in our row.  He owns some half a dozen houses in it,
and always walks on the opposite side of the way, so that he may be able
to take in a view of the whole of his property at once.  He is a tall,
thin, bony man, with an interrogative nose, and little restless perking
eyes, which appear to have been given him for the sole purpose of peeping
into other people’s affairs with.  He is deeply impressed with the
importance of our parish business, and prides himself, not a little, on
his style of addressing the parishioners in vestry assembled.  His views
are rather confined than extensive; his principles more narrow than
liberal.  He has been heard to declaim very loudly in favour of the
liberty of the press, and advocates the repeal of the stamp duty on
newspapers, because the daily journals who now have a monopoly of the
public, never give _verbatim_ reports of vestry meetings.  He would not
appear egotistical for the world, but at the same time he must say, that
there are _speeches_—that celebrated speech of his own, on the emoluments
of the sexton, and the duties of the office, for instance—which might be
communicated to the public, greatly to their improvement and advantage.

His great opponent in public life is Captain Purday, the old naval
officer on half-pay, to whom we have already introduced our readers.  The
captain being a determined opponent of the constituted authorities,
whoever they may chance to be, and our other friend being their steady
supporter, with an equal disregard of their individual merits, it will
readily be supposed, that occasions for their coming into direct
collision are neither few nor far between.  They divided the vestry
fourteen times on a motion for heating the church with warm water instead
of coals: and made speeches about liberty and expenditure, and
prodigality and hot water, which threw the whole parish into a state of
excitement.  Then the captain, when he was on the visiting committee, and
his opponent overseer, brought forward certain distinct and specific
charges relative to the management of the workhouse, boldly expressed his
total want of confidence in the existing authorities, and moved for ‘a
copy of the recipe by which the paupers’ soup was prepared, together with
any documents relating thereto.’  This the overseer steadily resisted; he
fortified himself by precedent, appealed to the established usage, and
declined to produce the papers, on the ground of the injury that would be
done to the public service, if documents of a strictly private nature,
passing between the master of the workhouse and the cook, were to be thus
dragged to light on the motion of any individual member of the vestry.
The motion was lost by a majority of two; and then the captain, who never
allows himself to be defeated, moved for a committee of inquiry into the
whole subject.  The affair grew serious: the question was discussed at
meeting after meeting, and vestry after vestry; speeches were made,
attacks repudiated, personal defiances exchanged, explanations received,
and the greatest excitement prevailed, until at last, just as the
question was going to be finally decided, the vestry found that somehow
or other, they had become entangled in a point of form, from which it was
impossible to escape with propriety.  So, the motion was dropped, and
everybody looked extremely important, and seemed quite satisfied with the
meritorious nature of the whole proceeding.

This was the state of affairs in our parish a week or two since, when
Simmons, the beadle, suddenly died.  The lamented deceased had
over-exerted himself, a day or two previously, in conveying an aged
female, highly intoxicated, to the strong room of the work-house.  The
excitement thus occasioned, added to a severe cold, which this
indefatigable officer had caught in his capacity of director of the
parish engine, by inadvertently playing over himself instead of a fire,
proved too much for a constitution already enfeebled by age; and the
intelligence was conveyed to the Board one evening that Simmons had died,
and left his respects.

The breath was scarcely out of the body of the deceased functionary, when
the field was filled with competitors for the vacant office, each of whom
rested his claims to public support, entirely on the number and extent of
his family, as if the office of beadle were originally instituted as an
encouragement for the propagation of the human species.  ‘Bung for
Beadle.  Five small children!’—‘Hopkins for Beadle.  Seven small
children!!’—‘Timkins for Beadle.  Nine small children!!!’  Such were the
placards in large black letters on a white ground, which were plentifully
pasted on the walls, and posted in the windows of the principal shops.
Timkins’s success was considered certain: several mothers of families
half promised their votes, and the nine small children would have run
over the course, but for the production of another placard, announcing
the appearance of a still more meritorious candidate.  ‘Spruggins for
Beadle.  Ten small children (two of them twins), and a wife!!!’  There
was no resisting this; ten small children would have been almost
irresistible in themselves, without the twins, but the touching
parenthesis about that interesting production of nature, and the still
more touching allusion to Mrs. Spruggins, must ensure success.  Spruggins
was the favourite at once, and the appearance of his lady, as she went
about to solicit votes (which encouraged confident hopes of a still
further addition to the house of Spruggins at no remote period),
increased the general prepossession in his favour.  The other candidates,
Bung alone excepted, resigned in despair.  The day of election was fixed;
and the canvass proceeded with briskness and perseverance on both sides.

The members of the vestry could not be supposed to escape the contagious
excitement inseparable from the occasion.  The majority of the lady
inhabitants of the parish declared at once for Spruggins; and the
_quondam_ overseer took the same side, on the ground that men with large
families always had been elected to the office, and that although he must
admit, that, in other respects, Spruggins was the least qualified
candidate of the two, still it was an old practice, and he saw no reason
why an old practice should be departed from.  This was enough for the
captain.  He immediately sided with Bung, canvassed for him personally in
all directions, wrote squibs on Spruggins, and got his butcher to skewer
them up on conspicuous joints in his shop-front; frightened his
neighbour, the old lady, into a palpitation of the heart, by his awful
denunciations of Spruggins’s party; and bounced in and out, and up and
down, and backwards and forwards, until all the sober inhabitants of the
parish thought it inevitable that he must die of a brain fever, long
before the election began.

The day of election arrived.  It was no longer an individual struggle,
but a party contest between the ins and outs.  The question was, whether
the withering influence of the overseers, the domination of the
churchwardens, and the blighting despotism of the vestry-clerk, should be
allowed to render the election of beadle a form—a nullity: whether they
should impose a vestry-elected beadle on the parish, to do their bidding
and forward their views, or whether the parishioners, fearlessly
asserting their undoubted rights, should elect an independent beadle of
their own.

The nomination was fixed to take place in the vestry, but so great was
the throng of anxious spectators, that it was found necessary to adjourn
to the church, where the ceremony commenced with due solemnity.  The
appearance of the churchwardens and overseers, and the ex-churchwardens
and ex-overseers, with Spruggins in the rear, excited general attention.
Spruggins was a little thin man, in rusty black, with a long pale face,
and a countenance expressive of care and fatigue, which might either be
attributed to the extent of his family or the anxiety of his feelings.
His opponent appeared in a cast-off coat of the captain’s—a blue coat
with bright buttons; white trousers, and that description of shoes
familiarly known by the appellation of ‘high-lows.’  There was a serenity
in the open countenance of Bung—a kind of moral dignity in his confident
air—an ‘I wish you may get it’ sort of expression in his eye—which
infused animation into his supporters, and evidently dispirited his
opponents.

The ex-churchwarden rose to propose Thomas Spruggins for beadle.  He had
known him long.  He had had his eye upon him closely for years; he had
watched him with twofold vigilance for months.  (A parishioner here
suggested that this might be termed ‘taking a double sight,’ but the
observation was drowned in loud cries of ‘Order!’)  He would repeat that
he had had his eye upon him for years, and this he would say, that a more
well-conducted, a more well-behaved, a more sober, a more quiet man, with
a more well-regulated mind, he had never met with.  A man with a larger
family he had never known (cheers).  The parish required a man who could
be depended on (‘Hear!’ from the Spruggins side, answered by ironical
cheers from the Bung party).  Such a man he now proposed (‘No,’ ‘Yes’).
He would not allude to individuals (the ex-churchwarden continued, in the
celebrated negative style adopted by great speakers).  He would not
advert to a gentleman who had once held a high rank in the service of his
majesty; he would not say, that that gentleman was no gentleman; he would
not assert, that that man was no man; he would not say, that he was a
turbulent parishioner; he would not say, that he had grossly misbehaved
himself, not only on this, but on all former occasions; he would not say,
that he was one of those discontented and treasonable spirits, who
carried confusion and disorder wherever they went; he would not say, that
he harboured in his heart envy, and hatred, and malice, and all
uncharitableness.  No!  He wished to have everything comfortable and
pleasant, and therefore, he would say—nothing about him (cheers).

The captain replied in a similar parliamentary style.  He would not say,
he was astonished at the speech they had just heard; he would not say, he
was disgusted (cheers).  He would not retort the epithets which had been
hurled against him (renewed cheering); he would not allude to men once in
office, but now happily out of it, who had mismanaged the workhouse,
ground the paupers, diluted the beer, slack-baked the bread, boned the
meat, heightened the work, and lowered the soup (tremendous cheers).  He
would not ask what such men deserved (a voice, ‘Nothing a-day, and find
themselves!’).  He would not say, that one burst of general indignation
should drive them from the parish they polluted with their presence
(‘Give it him!’).  He would not allude to the unfortunate man who had
been proposed—he would not say, as the vestry’s tool, but as Beadle.  He
would not advert to that individual’s family; he would not say, that nine
children, twins, and a wife, were very bad examples for pauper imitation
(loud cheers).  He would not advert in detail to the qualifications of
Bung.  The man stood before him, and he would not say in his presence,
what he might be disposed to say of him, if he were absent.  (Here Mr.
Bung telegraphed to a friend near him, under cover of his hat, by
contracting his left eye, and applying his right thumb to the tip of his
nose).  It had been objected to Bung that he had only five children
(‘Hear, hear!’ from the opposition).  Well; he had yet to learn that the
legislature had affixed any precise amount of infantine qualification to
the office of beadle; but taking it for granted that an extensive family
were a great requisite, he entreated them to look to facts, and compare
_data_, about which there could be no mistake.  Bung was 35 years of age.
Spruggins—of whom he wished to speak with all possible respect—was 50.
Was it not more than possible—was it not very probable—that by the time
Bung attained the latter age, he might see around him a family, even
exceeding in number and extent, that to which Spruggins at present laid
claim (deafening cheers and waving of handkerchiefs)?  The captain
concluded, amidst loud applause, by calling upon the parishioners to
sound the tocsin, rush to the poll, free themselves from dictation, or be
slaves for ever.

On the following day the polling began, and we never have had such a
bustle in our parish since we got up our famous anti-slavery petition,
which was such an important one, that the House of Commons ordered it to
be printed, on the motion of the member for the district.  The captain
engaged two hackney-coaches and a cab for Bung’s people—the cab for the
drunken voters, and the two coaches for the old ladies, the greater
portion of whom, owing to the captain’s impetuosity, were driven up to
the poll and home again, before they recovered from their flurry
sufficiently to know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been
doing.  The opposite party wholly neglected these precautions, and the
consequence was, that a great many ladies who were walking leisurely up
to the church—for it was a very hot day—to vote for Spruggins, were
artfully decoyed into the coaches, and voted for Bung.  The captain’s
arguments, too, had produced considerable effect: the attempted influence
of the vestry produced a greater.  A threat of exclusive dealing was
clearly established against the vestry-clerk—a case of heartless and
profligate atrocity.  It appeared that the delinquent had been in the
habit of purchasing six penn’orth of muffins, weekly, from an old woman
who rents a small house in the parish, and resides among the original
settlers; on her last weekly visit, a message was conveyed to her through
the medium of the cook, couched in mysterious terms, but indicating with
sufficient clearness, that the vestry-clerk’s appetite for muffins, in
future, depended entirely on her vote on the beadleship.  This was
sufficient: the stream had been turning previously, and the impulse thus
administered directed its final course.  The Bung party ordered one
shilling’s-worth of muffins weekly for the remainder of the old woman’s
natural life; the parishioners were loud in their exclamations; and the
fate of Spruggins was sealed.

It was in vain that the twins were exhibited in dresses of the same
pattern, and night-caps, to match, at the church door: the boy in Mrs.
Spruggins’s right arm, and the girl in her left—even Mrs. Spruggins
herself failed to be an object of sympathy any longer.  The majority
attained by Bung on the gross poll was four hundred and twenty-eight, and
the cause of the parishioners triumphed.



CHAPTER V—THE BROKER’S MAN


The excitement of the late election has subsided, and our parish being
once again restored to a state of comparative tranquillity, we are
enabled to devote our attention to those parishioners who take little
share in our party contests or in the turmoil and bustle of public life.
And we feel sincere pleasure in acknowledging here, that in collecting
materials for this task we have been greatly assisted by Mr. Bung
himself, who has imposed on us a debt of obligation which we fear we can
never repay.  The life of this gentleman has been one of a very chequered
description: he has undergone transitions—not from grave to gay, for he
never was grave—not from lively to severe, for severity forms no part of
his disposition; his fluctuations have been between poverty in the
extreme, and poverty modified, or, to use his own emphatic language,
‘between nothing to eat and just half enough.’  He is not, as he forcibly
remarks, ‘one of those fortunate men who, if they were to dive under one
side of a barge stark-naked, would come up on the other with a new suit
of clothes on, and a ticket for soup in the waistcoat-pocket:’ neither is
he one of those, whose spirit has been broken beyond redemption by
misfortune and want.  He is just one of the careless, good-for-nothing,
happy fellows, who float, cork-like, on the surface, for the world to
play at hockey with: knocked here, and there, and everywhere: now to the
right, then to the left, again up in the air, and anon to the bottom, but
always reappearing and bounding with the stream buoyantly and merrily
along.  Some few months before he was prevailed upon to stand a contested
election for the office of beadle, necessity attached him to the service
of a broker; and on the opportunities he here acquired of ascertaining
the condition of most of the poorer inhabitants of the parish, his
patron, the captain, first grounded his claims to public support.  Chance
threw the man in our way a short time since.  We were, in the first
instance, attracted by his prepossessing impudence at the election; we
were not surprised, on further acquaintance, to find him a shrewd,
knowing fellow, with no inconsiderable power of observation; and, after
conversing with him a little, were somewhat struck (as we dare say our
readers have frequently been in other cases) with the power some men seem
to have, not only of sympathising with, but to all appearance of
understanding feelings to which they themselves are entire strangers.  We
had been expressing to the new functionary our surprise that he should
ever have served in the capacity to which we have just adverted, when we
gradually led him into one or two professional anecdotes.  As we are
induced to think, on reflection, that they will tell better in nearly his
own words, than with any attempted embellishments of ours, we will at
once entitle them.

                           MR BUNG’S NARRATIVE

‘It’s very true, as you say, sir,’ Mr. Bung commenced, ‘that a broker’s
man’s is not a life to be envied; and in course you know as well as I do,
though you don’t say it, that people hate and scout ’em because they’re
the ministers of wretchedness, like, to poor people.  But what could I
do, sir?  The thing was no worse because I did it, instead of somebody
else; and if putting me in possession of a house would put me in
possession of three and sixpence a day, and levying a distress on another
man’s goods would relieve my distress and that of my family, it can’t be
expected but what I’d take the job and go through with it.  I never liked
it, God knows; I always looked out for something else, and the moment I
got other work to do, I left it.  If there is anything wrong in being the
agent in such matters—not the principal, mind you—I’m sure the business,
to a beginner like I was, at all events, carries its own punishment along
with it.  I wished again and again that the people would only blow me up,
or pitch into me—that I wouldn’t have minded, it’s all in my way; but
it’s the being shut up by yourself in one room for five days, without so
much as an old newspaper to look at, or anything to see out o’ the winder
but the roofs and chimneys at the back of the house, or anything to
listen to, but the ticking, perhaps, of an old Dutch clock, the sobbing
of the missis, now and then, the low talking of friends in the next room,
who speak in whispers, lest “the man” should overhear them, or perhaps
the occasional opening of the door, as a child peeps in to look at you,
and then runs half-frightened away—it’s all this, that makes you feel
sneaking somehow, and ashamed of yourself; and then, if it’s wintertime,
they just give you fire enough to make you think you’d like more, and
bring in your grub as if they wished it ’ud choke you—as I dare say they
do, for the matter of that, most heartily.  If they’re very civil, they
make you up a bed in the room at night, and if they don’t, your master
sends one in for you; but there you are, without being washed or shaved
all the time, shunned by everybody, and spoken to by no one, unless some
one comes in at dinner-time, and asks you whether you want any more, in a
tone as much to say, “I hope you don’t,” or, in the evening, to inquire
whether you wouldn’t rather have a candle, after you’ve been sitting in
the dark half the night.  When I was left in this way, I used to sit,
think, think, thinking, till I felt as lonesome as a kitten in a
wash-house copper with the lid on; but I believe the old brokers’ men who
are regularly trained to it, never think at all.  I have heard some on
’em say, indeed, that they don’t know how!

‘I put in a good many distresses in my time (continued Mr. Bung), and in
course I wasn’t long in finding, that some people are not as much to be
pitied as others are, and that people with good incomes who get into
difficulties, which they keep patching up day after day and week after
week, get so used to these sort of things in time, that at last they come
scarcely to feel them at all.  I remember the very first place I was put
in possession of, was a gentleman’s house in this parish here, that
everybody would suppose couldn’t help having money if he tried.  I went
with old Fixem, my old master, ’bout half arter eight in the morning;
rang the area-bell; servant in livery opened the door: “Governor at
home?”—“Yes, he is,” says the man; “but he’s breakfasting just now.”
“Never mind,” says Fixem, “just you tell him there’s a gentleman here, as
wants to speak to him partickler.”  So the servant he opens his eyes, and
stares about him all ways—looking for the gentleman, as it struck me, for
I don’t think anybody but a man as was stone-blind would mistake Fixem
for one; and as for me, I was as seedy as a cheap cowcumber.  Hows’ever,
he turns round, and goes to the breakfast-parlour, which was a little
snug sort of room at the end of the passage, and Fixem (as we always did
in that profession), without waiting to be announced, walks in arter him,
and before the servant could get out, “Please, sir, here’s a man as wants
to speak to you,” looks in at the door as familiar and pleasant as may
be.  “Who the devil are you, and how dare you walk into a gentleman’s
house without leave?” says the master, as fierce as a bull in fits.  “My
name,” says Fixem, winking to the master to send the servant away, and
putting the warrant into his hands folded up like a note, “My name’s
Smith,” says he, “and I called from Johnson’s about that business of
Thompson’s.”—“Oh,” says the other, quite down on him directly, “How _is_
Thompson?” says he; “Pray sit down, Mr. Smith: John, leave the room.”
Out went the servant; and the gentleman and Fixem looked at one another
till they couldn’t look any longer, and then they varied the amusements
by looking at me, who had been standing on the mat all this time.
“Hundred and fifty pounds, I see,” said the gentleman at last.  “Hundred
and fifty pound,” said Fixem, “besides cost of levy, sheriff’s poundage,
and all other incidental expenses.”—“Um,” says the gentleman, “I shan’t
be able to settle this before to-morrow afternoon.”—“Very sorry; but I
shall be obliged to leave my man here till then,” replies Fixem,
pretending to look very miserable over it.  “That’s very unfort’nate,”
says the gentleman, “for I have got a large party here to-night, and I’m
ruined if those fellows of mine get an inkling of the matter—just step
here, Mr. Smith,” says he, after a short pause.  So Fixem walks with him
up to the window, and after a good deal of whispering, and a little
chinking of suverins, and looking at me, he comes back and says, “Bung,
you’re a handy fellow, and very honest I know.  This gentleman wants an
assistant to clean the plate and wait at table to-day, and if you’re not
particularly engaged,” says old Fixem, grinning like mad, and shoving a
couple of suverins into my hand, “he’ll be very glad to avail himself of
your services.”  Well, I laughed: and the gentleman laughed, and we all
laughed; and I went home and cleaned myself, leaving Fixem there, and
when I went back, Fixem went away, and I polished up the plate, and
waited at table, and gammoned the servants, and nobody had the least idea
I was in possession, though it very nearly came out after all; for one of
the last gentlemen who remained, came down-stairs into the hall where I
was sitting pretty late at night, and putting half-a-crown into my hand,
says, “Here, my man,” says he, “run and get me a coach, will you?”  I
thought it was a do, to get me out of the house, and was just going to
say so, sulkily enough, when the gentleman (who was up to everything)
came running down-stairs, as if he was in great anxiety.  “Bung,” says
he, pretending to be in a consuming passion.  “Sir,” says I.  “Why the
devil an’t you looking after that plate?”—“I was just going to send him
for a coach for me,” says the other gentleman.  “And I was just a-going
to say,” says I—“Anybody else, my dear fellow,” interrupts the master of
the house, pushing me down the passage to get out of the way—“anybody
else; but I have put this man in possession of all the plate and
valuables, and I cannot allow him on any consideration whatever, to leave
the house.  Bung, you scoundrel, go and count those forks in the
breakfast-parlour instantly.”  You may be sure I went laughing pretty
hearty when I found it was all right.  The money was paid next day, with
the addition of something else for myself, and that was the best job that
I (and I suspect old Fixem too) ever got in that line.

‘But this is the bright side of the picture, sir, after all,’ resumed Mr.
Bung, laying aside the knowing look and flash air, with which he had
repeated the previous anecdote—‘and I’m sorry to say, it’s the side one
sees very, very seldom, in comparison with the dark one.  The civility
which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none; and
there’s a consolation even in being able to patch up one difficulty, to
make way for another, to which very poor people are strangers.  I was
once put into a house down George’s-yard—that little dirty court at the
back of the gas-works; and I never shall forget the misery of them
people, dear me!  It was a distress for half a year’s rent—two pound ten,
I think.  There was only two rooms in the house, and as there was no
passage, the lodgers up-stairs always went through the room of the people
of the house, as they passed in and out; and every time they did
so—which, on the average, was about four times every quarter of an
hour—they blowed up quite frightful: for their things had been seized
too, and included in the inventory.  There was a little piece of enclosed
dust in front of the house, with a cinder-path leading up to the door,
and an open rain-water butt on one side.  A dirty striped curtain, on a
very slack string, hung in the window, and a little triangular bit of
broken looking-glass rested on the sill inside.  I suppose it was meant
for the people’s use, but their appearance was so wretched, and so
miserable, that I’m certain they never could have plucked up courage to
look themselves in the face a second time, if they survived the fright of
doing so once.  There was two or three chairs, that might have been
worth, in their best days, from eightpence to a shilling a-piece; a small
deal table, an old corner cupboard with nothing in it, and one of those
bedsteads which turn up half way, and leave the bottom legs sticking out
for you to knock your head against, or hang your hat upon; no bed, no
bedding.  There was an old sack, by way of rug, before the fireplace, and
four or five children were grovelling about, among the sand on the floor.
The execution was only put in, to get ’em out of the house, for there was
nothing to take to pay the expenses; and here I stopped for three days,
though that was a mere form too: for, in course, I knew, and we all knew,
they could never pay the money.  In one of the chairs, by the side of the
place where the fire ought to have been, was an old ’ooman—the ugliest
and dirtiest I ever see—who sat rocking herself backwards and forwards,
backwards and forwards, without once stopping, except for an instant now
and then, to clasp together the withered hands which, with these
exceptions, she kept constantly rubbing upon her knees, just raising and
depressing her fingers convulsively, in time to the rocking of the chair.
On the other side sat the mother with an infant in her arms, which cried
till it cried itself to sleep, and when it ’woke, cried till it cried
itself off again.  The old ’ooman’s voice I never heard: she seemed
completely stupefied; and as to the mother’s, it would have been better
if she had been so too, for misery had changed her to a devil.  If you
had heard how she cursed the little naked children as was rolling on the
floor, and seen how savagely she struck the infant when it cried with
hunger, you’d have shuddered as much as I did.  There they remained all
the time: the children ate a morsel of bread once or twice, and I gave
’em best part of the dinners my missis brought me, but the woman ate
nothing; they never even laid on the bedstead, nor was the room swept or
cleaned all the time.  The neighbours were all too poor themselves to
take any notice of ’em, but from what I could make out from the abuse of
the woman up-stairs, it seemed the husband had been transported a few
weeks before.  When the time was up, the landlord and old Fixem too, got
rather frightened about the family, and so they made a stir about it, and
had ’em taken to the workhouse.  They sent the sick couch for the old
’ooman, and Simmons took the children away at night.  The old ’ooman went
into the infirmary, and very soon died.  The children are all in the
house to this day, and very comfortable they are in comparison.  As to
the mother, there was no taming her at all.  She had been a quiet,
hard-working woman, I believe, but her misery had actually drove her
wild; so after she had been sent to the house of correction half-a-dozen
times, for throwing inkstands at the overseers, blaspheming the
churchwardens, and smashing everybody as come near her, she burst a
blood-vessel one mornin’, and died too; and a happy release it was, both
for herself and the old paupers, male and female, which she used to tip
over in all directions, as if they were so many skittles, and she the
ball.

‘Now this was bad enough,’ resumed Mr. Bung, taking a half-step towards
the door, as if to intimate that he had nearly concluded.  ‘This was bad
enough, but there was a sort of quiet misery—if you understand what I
mean by that, sir—about a lady at one house I was put into, as touched me
a good deal more.  It doesn’t matter where it was exactly: indeed, I’d
rather not say, but it was the same sort o’ job.  I went with Fixem in
the usual way—there was a year’s rent in arrear; a very small
servant-girl opened the door, and three or four fine-looking little
children was in the front parlour we were shown into, which was very
clean, but very scantily furnished, much like the children themselves.
“Bung,” says Fixem to me, in a low voice, when we were left alone for a
minute, “I know something about this here family, and my opinion is, it’s
no go.”  “Do you think they can’t settle?” says I, quite anxiously; for I
liked the looks of them children.  Fixem shook his head, and was just
about to reply, when the door opened, and in come a lady, as white as
ever I see any one in my days, except about the eyes, which were red with
crying.  She walked in, as firm as I could have done; shut the door
carefully after her, and sat herself down with a face as composed as if
it was made of stone.  “What is the matter, gentlemen?” says she, in a
surprisin’ steady voice.  “_Is_ this an execution?”  “It is, mum,” says
Fixem.  The lady looked at him as steady as ever: she didn’t seem to have
understood him.  “It is, mum,” says Fixem again; “this is my warrant of
distress, mum,” says he, handing it over as polite as if it was a
newspaper which had been bespoke arter the next gentleman.

‘The lady’s lip trembled as she took the printed paper.  She cast her eye
over it, and old Fixem began to explain the form, but saw she wasn’t
reading it, plain enough, poor thing.  “Oh, my God!” says she, suddenly
a-bursting out crying, letting the warrant fall, and hiding her face in
her hands.  “Oh, my God! what will become of us!”  The noise she made,
brought in a young lady of about nineteen or twenty, who, I suppose, had
been a-listening at the door, and who had got a little boy in her arms:
she sat him down in the lady’s lap, without speaking, and she hugged the
poor little fellow to her bosom, and cried over him, till even old Fixem
put on his blue spectacles to hide the two tears, that was a-trickling
down, one on each side of his dirty face.  “Now, dear ma,” says the young
lady, “you know how much you have borne.  For all our sakes—for pa’s
sake,” says she, “don’t give way to this!”—“No, no, I won’t!” says the
lady, gathering herself up, hastily, and drying her eyes; “I am very
foolish, but I’m better now—much better.”  And then she roused herself
up, went with us into every room while we took the inventory, opened all
the drawers of her own accord, sorted the children’s little clothes to
make the work easier; and, except doing everything in a strange sort of
hurry, seemed as calm and composed as if nothing had happened.  When we
came down-stairs again, she hesitated a minute or two, and at last says,
“Gentlemen,” says she, “I am afraid I have done wrong, and perhaps it may
bring you into trouble.  I secreted just now,” she says, “the only
trinket I have left in the world—here it is.”  So she lays down on the
table a little miniature mounted in gold.  “It’s a miniature,” she says,
“of my poor dear father!  I little thought once, that I should ever thank
God for depriving me of the original, but I do, and have done for years
back, most fervently.  Take it away, sir,” she says, “it’s a face that
never turned from me in sickness and distress, and I can hardly bear to
turn from it now, when, God knows, I suffer both in no ordinary degree.”
I couldn’t say nothing, but I raised my head from the inventory which I
was filling up, and looked at Fixem; the old fellow nodded to me
significantly, so I ran my pen through the “_Mini_” I had just written,
and left the miniature on the table.

‘Well, sir, to make short of a long story, I was left in possession, and
in possession I remained; and though I was an ignorant man, and the
master of the house a clever one, I saw what he never did, but what he
would give worlds now (if he had ’em) to have seen in time.  I saw, sir,
that his wife was wasting away, beneath cares of which she never
complained, and griefs she never told.  I saw that she was dying before
his eyes; I knew that one exertion from him might have saved her, but he
never made it.  I don’t blame him: I don’t think he _could_ rouse
himself.  She had so long anticipated all his wishes, and acted for him,
that he was a lost man when left to himself.  I used to think when I
caught sight of her, in the clothes she used to wear, which looked shabby
even upon her, and would have been scarcely decent on any one else, that
if I was a gentleman it would wring my very heart to see the woman that
was a smart and merry girl when I courted her, so altered through her
love for me.  Bitter cold and damp weather it was, yet, though her dress
was thin, and her shoes none of the best, during the whole three days,
from morning to night, she was out of doors running about to try and
raise the money.  The money _was_ raised and the execution was paid out.
The whole family crowded into the room where I was, when the money
arrived.  The father was quite happy as the inconvenience was removed—I
dare say he didn’t know how; the children looked merry and cheerful
again; the eldest girl was bustling about, making preparations for the
first comfortable meal they had had since the distress was put in; and
the mother looked pleased to see them all so.  But if ever I saw death in
a woman’s face, I saw it in hers that night.

‘I was right, sir,’ continued Mr. Bung, hurriedly passing his coat-sleeve
over his face; ‘the family grew more prosperous, and good fortune
arrived.  But it was too late.  Those children are motherless now, and
their father would give up all he has since gained—house, home, goods,
money: all that he has, or ever can have, to restore the wife he has
lost.’



CHAPTER VI—THE LADIES’ SOCIETIES


Our Parish is very prolific in ladies’ charitable institutions.  In
winter, when wet feet are common, and colds not scarce, we have the
ladies’ soup distribution society, the ladies’ coal distribution society,
and the ladies’ blanket distribution society; in summer, when stone
fruits flourish and stomach aches prevail, we have the ladies’
dispensary, and the ladies’ sick visitation committee; and all the year
round we have the ladies’ child’s examination society, the ladies’ bible
and prayer-book circulation society, and the ladies’ childbed-linen
monthly loan society.  The two latter are decidedly the most important;
whether they are productive of more benefit than the rest, it is not for
us to say, but we can take upon ourselves to affirm, with the utmost
solemnity, that they create a greater stir and more bustle, than all the
others put together.

We should be disposed to affirm, on the first blush of the matter, that
the bible and prayer-book society is not so popular as the childbed-linen
society; the bible and prayer-book society has, however, considerably
increased in importance within the last year or two, having derived some
adventitious aid from the factious opposition of the child’s examination
society; which factious opposition originated in manner following:—When
the young curate was popular, and all the unmarried ladies in the parish
took a serious turn, the charity children all at once became objects of
peculiar and especial interest.  The three Miss Browns (enthusiastic
admirers of the curate) taught, and exercised, and examined, and
re-examined the unfortunate children, until the boys grew pale, and the
girls consumptive with study and fatigue.  The three Miss Browns stood it
out very well, because they relieved each other; but the children, having
no relief at all, exhibited decided symptoms of weariness and care.  The
unthinking part of the parishioners laughed at all this, but the more
reflective portion of the inhabitants abstained from expressing any
opinion on the subject until that of the curate had been clearly
ascertained.

The opportunity was not long wanting.  The curate preached a charity
sermon on behalf of the charity school, and in the charity sermon
aforesaid, expatiated in glowing terms on the praiseworthy and
indefatigable exertions of certain estimable individuals.  Sobs were
heard to issue from the three Miss Browns’ pew; the pew-opener of the
division was seen to hurry down the centre aisle to the vestry door, and
to return immediately, bearing a glass of water in her hand.  A low
moaning ensued; two more pew-openers rushed to the spot, and the three
Miss Browns, each supported by a pew-opener, were led out of the church,
and led in again after the lapse of five minutes with white
pocket-handkerchiefs to their eyes, as if they had been attending a
funeral in the churchyard adjoining.  If any doubt had for a moment
existed, as to whom the allusion was intended to apply, it was at once
removed.  The wish to enlighten the charity children became universal,
and the three Miss Browns were unanimously besought to divide the school
into classes, and to assign each class to the superintendence of two
young ladies.

A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a little patronage is more
so; the three Miss Browns appointed all the old maids, and carefully
excluded the young ones.  Maiden aunts triumphed, mammas were reduced to
the lowest depths of despair, and there is no telling in what act of
violence the general indignation against the three Miss Browns might have
vented itself, had not a perfectly providential occurrence changed the
tide of public feeling.  Mrs. Johnson Parker, the mother of seven
extremely fine girls—all unmarried—hastily reported to several other
mammas of several other unmarried families, that five old men, six old
women, and children innumerable, in the free seats near her pew, were in
the habit of coming to church every Sunday, without either bible or
prayer-book.  Was this to be borne in a civilised country?  Could such
things be tolerated in a Christian land?  Never!  A ladies’ bible and
prayer-book distribution society was instantly formed: president, Mrs.
Johnson Parker; treasurers, auditors, and secretary, the Misses Johnson
Parker: subscriptions were entered into, books were bought, all the
free-seat people provided therewith, and when the first lesson was given
out, on the first Sunday succeeding these events, there was such a
dropping of books, and rustling of leaves, that it was morally impossible
to hear one word of the service for five minutes afterwards.

The three Miss Browns, and their party, saw the approaching danger, and
endeavoured to avert it by ridicule and sarcasm.  Neither the old men nor
the old women could read their books, now they had got them, said the
three Miss Browns.  Never mind; they could learn, replied Mrs. Johnson
Parker.  The children couldn’t read either, suggested the three Miss
Browns.  No matter; they could be taught, retorted Mrs. Johnson Parker.
A balance of parties took place.  The Miss Browns publicly
examined—popular feeling inclined to the child’s examination society.
The Miss Johnson Parkers publicly distributed—a reaction took place in
favour of the prayer-book distribution.  A feather would have turned the
scale, and a feather did turn it.  A missionary returned from the West
Indies; he was to be presented to the Dissenters’ Missionary Society on
his marriage with a wealthy widow.  Overtures were made to the Dissenters
by the Johnson Parkers.  Their object was the same, and why not have a
joint meeting of the two societies?  The proposition was accepted.  The
meeting was duly heralded by public announcement, and the room was
crowded to suffocation.  The Missionary appeared on the platform; he was
hailed with enthusiasm.  He repeated a dialogue he had heard between two
negroes, behind a hedge, on the subject of distribution societies; the
approbation was tumultuous.  He gave an imitation of the two negroes in
broken English; the roof was rent with applause.  From that period we
date (with one trifling exception) a daily increase in the popularity of
the distribution society, and an increase of popularity, which the feeble
and impotent opposition of the examination party, has only tended to
augment.

Now, the great points about the childbed-linen monthly loan society are,
that it is less dependent on the fluctuations of public opinion than
either the distribution or the child’s examination; and that, come what
may, there is never any lack of objects on which to exercise its
benevolence.  Our parish is a very populous one, and, if anything,
contributes, we should be disposed to say, rather more than its due share
to the aggregate amount of births in the metropolis and its environs.
The consequence is, that the monthly loan society flourishes, and invests
its members with a most enviable amount of bustling patronage.  The
society (whose only notion of dividing time, would appear to be its
allotment into months) holds monthly tea-drinkings, at which the monthly
report is received, a secretary elected for the month ensuing, and such
of the monthly boxes as may not happen to be out on loan for the month,
carefully examined.

We were never present at one of these meetings, from all of which it is
scarcely necessary to say, gentlemen are carefully excluded; but Mr. Bung
has been called before the board once or twice, and we have his authority
for stating, that its proceedings are conducted with great order and
regularity: not more than four members being allowed to speak at one time
on any pretence whatever.  The regular committee is composed exclusively
of married ladies, but a vast number of young unmarried ladies of from
eighteen to twenty-five years of age, respectively, are admitted as
honorary members, partly because they are very useful in replenishing the
boxes, and visiting the confined; partly because it is highly desirable
that they should be initiated, at an early period, into the more serious
and matronly duties of after-life; and partly, because prudent mammas
have not unfrequently been known to turn this circumstance to wonderfully
good account in matrimonial speculations.

In addition to the loan of the monthly boxes (which are always painted
blue, with the name of the society in large white letters on the lid),
the society dispense occasional grants of beef-tea, and a composition of
warm beer, spice, eggs, and sugar, commonly known by the name of
‘candle,’ to its patients.  And here again the services of the honorary
members are called into requisition, and most cheerfully conceded.
Deputations of twos or threes are sent out to visit the patients, and on
these occasions there is such a tasting of candle and beef-tea, such a
stirring about of little messes in tiny saucepans on the hob, such a
dressing and undressing of infants, such a tying, and folding, and
pinning; such a nursing and warming of little legs and feet before the
fire, such a delightful confusion of talking and cooking, bustle,
importance, and officiousness, as never can be enjoyed in its full extent
but on similar occasions.

In rivalry of these two institutions, and as a last expiring effort to
acquire parochial popularity, the child’s examination people determined,
the other day, on having a grand public examination of the pupils; and
the large school-room of the national seminary was, by and with the
consent of the parish authorities, devoted to the purpose.  Invitation
circulars were forwarded to all the principal parishioners, including, of
course, the heads of the other two societies, for whose especial behoof
and edification the display was intended; and a large audience was
confidently anticipated on the occasion.  The floor was carefully
scrubbed the day before, under the immediate superintendence of the three
Miss Browns; forms were placed across the room for the accommodation of
the visitors, specimens in writing were carefully selected, and as
carefully patched and touched up, until they astonished the children who
had written them, rather more than the company who read them; sums in
compound addition were rehearsed and re-rehearsed until all the children
had the totals by heart; and the preparations altogether were on the most
laborious and most comprehensive scale.  The morning arrived: the
children were yellow-soaped and flannelled, and towelled, till their
faces shone again; every pupil’s hair was carefully combed into his or
her eyes, as the case might be; the girls were adorned with snow-white
tippets, and caps bound round the head by a single purple ribbon: the
necks of the elder boys were fixed into collars of startling dimensions.

The doors were thrown open, and the Misses Brown and Co. were discovered
in plain white muslin dresses, and caps of the same—the child’s
examination uniform.  The room filled: the greetings of the company were
loud and cordial.  The distributionists trembled, for their popularity
was at stake.  The eldest boy fell forward, and delivered a propitiatory
address from behind his collar.  It was from the pen of Mr. Henry Brown;
the applause was universal, and the Johnson Parkers were aghast.  The
examination proceeded with success, and terminated in triumph.  The
child’s examination society gained a momentary victory, and the Johnson
Parkers retreated in despair.

A secret council of the distributionists was held that night, with Mrs.
Johnson Parker in the chair, to consider of the best means of recovering
the ground they had lost in the favour of the parish.  What could be
done?  Another meeting!  Alas! who was to attend it?  The Missionary
would not do twice; and the slaves were emancipated.  A bold step must be
taken.  The parish must be astonished in some way or other; but no one
was able to suggest what the step should be.  At length, a very old lady
was heard to mumble, in indistinct tones, ‘Exeter Hall.’  A sudden light
broke in upon the meeting.  It was unanimously resolved, that a
deputation of old ladies should wait upon a celebrated orator, imploring
his assistance, and the favour of a speech; and the deputation should
also wait on two or three other imbecile old women, not resident in the
parish, and entreat their attendance.  The application was successful,
the meeting was held; the orator (an Irishman) came.  He talked of green
isles—other shores—vast Atlantic—bosom of the deep—Christian
charity—blood and extermination—mercy in hearts—arms in hands—altars and
homes—household gods.  He wiped his eyes, he blew his nose, and he quoted
Latin.  The effect was tremendous—the Latin was a decided hit.  Nobody
knew exactly what it was about, but everybody knew it must be affecting,
because even the orator was overcome.  The popularity of the distribution
society among the ladies of our parish is unprecedented; and the child’s
examination is going fast to decay.



CHAPTER VII—OUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOUR


We are very fond of speculating as we walk through a street, on the
character and pursuits of the people who inhabit it; and nothing so
materially assists us in these speculations as the appearance of the
house doors.  The various expressions of the human countenance afford a
beautiful and interesting study; but there is something in the
physiognomy of street-door knockers, almost as characteristic, and nearly
as infallible.  Whenever we visit a man for the first time, we
contemplate the features of his knocker with the greatest curiosity, for
we well know, that between the man and his knocker, there will inevitably
be a greater or less degree of resemblance and sympathy.

For instance, there is one description of knocker that used to be common
enough, but which is fast passing away—a large round one, with the jolly
face of a convivial lion smiling blandly at you, as you twist the sides
of your hair into a curl or pull up your shirt-collar while you are
waiting for the door to be opened; we never saw that knocker on the door
of a churlish man—so far as our experience is concerned, it invariably
bespoke hospitality and another bottle.

No man ever saw this knocker on the door of a small attorney or
bill-broker; they always patronise the other lion; a heavy
ferocious-looking fellow, with a countenance expressive of savage
stupidity—a sort of grand master among the knockers, and a great
favourite with the selfish and brutal.

Then there is a little pert Egyptian knocker, with a long thin face, a
pinched-up nose, and a very sharp chin; he is most in vogue with your
government-office people, in light drabs and starched cravats; little
spare, priggish men, who are perfectly satisfied with their own opinions,
and consider themselves of paramount importance.

We were greatly troubled a few years ago, by the innovation of a new kind
of knocker, without any face at all, composed of a wreath depending from
a hand or small truncheon.  A little trouble and attention, however,
enabled us to overcome this difficulty, and to reconcile the new system
to our favourite theory.  You will invariably find this knocker on the
doors of cold and formal people, who always ask you why you _don’t_ come,
and never say _do_.

Everybody knows the brass knocker is common to suburban villas, and
extensive boarding-schools; and having noticed this genus we have
recapitulated all the most prominent and strongly-defined species.

Some phrenologists affirm, that the agitation of a man’s brain by
different passions, produces corresponding developments in the form of
his skull.  Do not let us be understood as pushing our theory to the full
length of asserting, that any alteration in a man’s disposition would
produce a visible effect on the feature of his knocker.  Our position
merely is, that in such a case, the magnetism which must exist between a
man and his knocker, would induce the man to remove, and seek some
knocker more congenial to his altered feelings.  If you ever find a man
changing his habitation without any reasonable pretext, depend upon it,
that, although he may not be aware of the fact himself, it is because he
and his knocker are at variance.  This is a new theory, but we venture to
launch it, nevertheless, as being quite as ingenious and infallible as
many thousands of the learned speculations which are daily broached for
public good and private fortune-making.

Entertaining these feelings on the subject of knockers, it will be
readily imagined with what consternation we viewed the entire removal of
the knocker from the door of the next house to the one we lived in, some
time ago, and the substitution of a bell.  This was a calamity we had
never anticipated.  The bare idea of anybody being able to exist without
a knocker, appeared so wild and visionary, that it had never for one
instant entered our imagination.

We sauntered moodily from the spot, and bent our steps towards
Eaton-square, then just building.  What was our astonishment and
indignation to find that bells were fast becoming the rule, and knockers
the exception!  Our theory trembled beneath the shock.  We hastened home;
and fancying we foresaw in the swift progress of events, its entire
abolition, resolved from that day forward to vent our speculations on our
next-door neighbours in person.  The house adjoining ours on the left
hand was uninhabited, and we had, therefore, plenty of leisure to observe
our next-door neighbours on the other side.

The house without the knocker was in the occupation of a city clerk, and
there was a neatly-written bill in the parlour window intimating that
lodgings for a single gentleman were to be let within.

It was a neat, dull little house, on the shady side of the way, with new,
narrow floorcloth in the passage, and new, narrow stair-carpets up to the
first floor.  The paper was new, and the paint was new, and the furniture
was new; and all three, paper, paint, and furniture, bespoke the limited
means of the tenant.  There was a little red and black carpet in the
drawing-room, with a border of flooring all the way round; a few stained
chairs and a pembroke table.  A pink shell was displayed on each of the
little sideboards, which, with the addition of a tea-tray and caddy, a
few more shells on the mantelpiece, and three peacock’s feathers
tastefully arranged above them, completed the decorative furniture of the
apartment.

This was the room destined for the reception of the single gentleman
during the day, and a little back room on the same floor was assigned as
his sleeping apartment by night.

The bill had not been long in the window, when a stout, good-humoured
looking gentleman, of about five-and-thirty, appeared as a candidate for
the tenancy.  Terms were soon arranged, for the bill was taken down
immediately after his first visit.  In a day or two the single gentleman
came in, and shortly afterwards his real character came out.

First of all, he displayed a most extraordinary partiality for sitting up
till three or four o’clock in the morning, drinking whiskey-and-water,
and smoking cigars; then he invited friends home, who used to come at ten
o’clock, and begin to get happy about the small hours, when they evinced
their perfect contentment by singing songs with half-a-dozen verses of
two lines each, and a chorus of ten, which chorus used to be shouted
forth by the whole strength of the company, in the most enthusiastic and
vociferous manner, to the great annoyance of the neighbours, and the
special discomfort of another single gentleman overhead.

Now, this was bad enough, occurring as it did three times a week on the
average, but this was not all; for when the company _did_ go away,
instead of walking quietly down the street, as anybody else’s company
would have done, they amused themselves by making alarming and frightful
noises, and counterfeiting the shrieks of females in distress; and one
night, a red-faced gentleman in a white hat knocked in the most urgent
manner at the door of the powdered-headed old gentleman at No. 3, and
when the powdered-headed old gentleman, who thought one of his married
daughters must have been taken ill prematurely, had groped down-stairs,
and after a great deal of unbolting and key-turning, opened the street
door, the red-faced man in the white hat said he hoped he’d excuse his
giving him so much trouble, but he’d feel obliged if he’d favour him with
a glass of cold spring water, and the loan of a shilling for a cab to
take him home, on which the old gentleman slammed the door and went
up-stairs, and threw the contents of his water jug out of window—very
straight, only it went over the wrong man; and the whole street was
involved in confusion.

A joke’s a joke; and even practical jests are very capital in their way,
if you can only get the other party to see the fun of them; but the
population of our street were so dull of apprehension, as to be quite
lost to a sense of the drollery of this proceeding: and the consequence
was, that our next-door neighbour was obliged to tell the single
gentleman, that unless he gave up entertaining his friends at home, he
really must be compelled to part with him.

The single gentleman received the remonstrance with great good-humour,
and promised from that time forward, to spend his evenings at a
coffee-house—a determination which afforded general and unmixed
satisfaction.

The next night passed off very well, everybody being delighted with the
change; but on the next, the noises were renewed with greater spirit than
ever.  The single gentleman’s friends being unable to see him in his own
house every alternate night, had come to the determination of seeing him
home every night; and what with the discordant greetings of the friends
at parting, and the noise created by the single gentleman in his passage
up-stairs, and his subsequent struggles to get his boots off, the evil
was not to be borne.  So, our next-door neighbour gave the single
gentleman, who was a very good lodger in other respects, notice to quit;
and the single gentleman went away, and entertained his friends in other
lodgings.

The next applicant for the vacant first floor, was of a very different
character from the troublesome single gentleman who had just quitted it.
He was a tall, thin, young gentleman, with a profusion of brown hair,
reddish whiskers, and very slightly developed moustaches.  He wore a
braided surtout, with frogs behind, light grey trousers, and wash-leather
gloves, and had altogether rather a military appearance.  So unlike the
roystering single gentleman.  Such insinuating manners, and such a
delightful address!  So seriously disposed, too!  When he first came to
look at the lodgings, he inquired most particularly whether he was sure
to be able to get a seat in the parish church; and when he had agreed to
take them, he requested to have a list of the different local charities,
as he intended to subscribe his mite to the most deserving among them.

Our next-door neighbour was now perfectly happy.  He had got a lodger at
last, of just his own way of thinking—a serious, well-disposed man, who
abhorred gaiety, and loved retirement.  He took down the bill with a
light heart, and pictured in imagination a long series of quiet Sundays,
on which he and his lodger would exchange mutual civilities and Sunday
papers.

The serious man arrived, and his luggage was to arrive from the country
next morning.  He borrowed a clean shirt, and a prayer-book, from our
next-door neighbour, and retired to rest at an early hour, requesting
that he might be called punctually at ten o’clock next morning—not
before, as he was much fatigued.

He _was_ called, and did not answer: he was called again, but there was
no reply.  Our next-door neighbour became alarmed, and burst the door
open.  The serious man had left the house mysteriously; carrying with him
the shirt, the prayer-book, a teaspoon, and the bedclothes.

Whether this occurrence, coupled with the irregularities of his former
lodger, gave our next-door neighbour an aversion to single gentlemen, we
know not; we only know that the next bill which made its appearance in
the parlour window intimated generally, that there were furnished
apartments to let on the first floor.  The bill was soon removed.  The
new lodgers at first attracted our curiosity, and afterwards excited our
interest.

They were a young lad of eighteen or nineteen, and his mother, a lady of
about fifty, or it might be less.  The mother wore a widow’s weeds, and
the boy was also clothed in deep mourning.  They were poor—very poor; for
their only means of support arose from the pittance the boy earned, by
copying writings, and translating for booksellers.

They had removed from some country place and settled in London; partly
because it afforded better chances of employment for the boy, and partly,
perhaps, with the natural desire to leave a place where they had been in
better circumstances, and where their poverty was known.  They were proud
under their reverses, and above revealing their wants and privations to
strangers.  How bitter those privations were, and how hard the boy worked
to remove them, no one ever knew but themselves.  Night after night, two,
three, four hours after midnight, could we hear the occasional raking up
of the scanty fire, or the hollow and half-stifled cough, which indicated
his being still at work; and day after day, could we see more plainly
that nature had set that unearthly light in his plaintive face, which is
the beacon of her worst disease.

Actuated, we hope, by a higher feeling than mere curiosity, we contrived
to establish, first an acquaintance, and then a close intimacy, with the
poor strangers.  Our worst fears were realised; the boy was sinking fast.
Through a part of the winter, and the whole of the following spring and
summer, his labours were unceasingly prolonged: and the mother attempted
to procure needle-work, embroidery—anything for bread.

A few shillings now and then, were all she could earn.  The boy worked
steadily on; dying by minutes, but never once giving utterance to
complaint or murmur.

One beautiful autumn evening we went to pay our customary visit to the
invalid.  His little remaining strength had been decreasing rapidly for
two or three days preceding, and he was lying on the sofa at the open
window, gazing at the setting sun.  His mother had been reading the Bible
to him, for she closed the book as we entered, and advanced to meet us.

‘I was telling William,’ she said, ‘that we must manage to take him into
the country somewhere, so that he may get quite well.  He is not ill, you
know, but he is not very strong, and has exerted himself too much
lately.’  Poor thing!  The tears that streamed through her fingers, as
she turned aside, as if to adjust her close widow’s cap, too plainly
showed how fruitless was the attempt to deceive herself.

We sat down by the head of the sofa, but said nothing, for we saw the
breath of life was passing gently but rapidly from the young form before
us.  At every respiration, his heart beat more slowly.

The boy placed one hand in ours, grasped his mother’s arm with the other,
drew her hastily towards him, and fervently kissed her cheek.  There was
a pause.  He sunk back upon his pillow, and looked long and earnestly in
his mother’s face.

‘William, William!’ murmured the mother, after a long interval, ‘don’t
look at me so—speak to me, dear!’

The boy smiled languidly, but an instant afterwards his features resolved
into the same cold, solemn gaze.

‘William, dear William! rouse yourself; don’t look at me so, love—pray
don’t!  Oh, my God! what shall I do!’ cried the widow, clasping her hands
in agony—‘my dear boy! he is dying!’  The boy raised himself by a violent
effort, and folded his hands together—‘Mother! dear, dear mother, bury me
in the open fields—anywhere but in these dreadful streets.  I should like
to be where you can see my grave, but not in these close crowded streets;
they have killed me; kiss me again, mother; put your arm round my neck—’

He fell back, and a strange expression stole upon his features; not of
pain or suffering, but an indescribable fixing of every line and muscle.

The boy was dead.



SCENES


CHAPTER I—THE STREETS—MORNING


The appearance presented by the streets of London an hour before sunrise,
on a summer’s morning, is most striking even to the few whose unfortunate
pursuits of pleasure, or scarcely less unfortunate pursuits of business,
cause them to be well acquainted with the scene.  There is an air of
cold, solitary desolation about the noiseless streets which we are
accustomed to see thronged at other times by a busy, eager crowd, and
over the quiet, closely-shut buildings, which throughout the day are
swarming with life and bustle, that is very impressive.

The last drunken man, who shall find his way home before sunlight, has
just staggered heavily along, roaring out the burden of the drinking song
of the previous night: the last houseless vagrant whom penury and police
have left in the streets, has coiled up his chilly limbs in some paved
comer, to dream of food and warmth.  The drunken, the dissipated, and the
wretched have disappeared; the more sober and orderly part of the
population have not yet awakened to the labours of the day, and the
stillness of death is over the streets; its very hue seems to be imparted
to them, cold and lifeless as they look in the grey, sombre light of
daybreak.  The coach-stands in the larger thoroughfares are deserted: the
night-houses are closed; and the chosen promenades of profligate misery
are empty.

An occasional policeman may alone be seen at the street corners,
listlessly gazing on the deserted prospect before him; and now and then a
rakish-looking cat runs stealthily across the road and descends his own
area with as much caution and slyness—bounding first on the water-butt,
then on the dust-hole, and then alighting on the flag-stones—as if he
were conscious that his character depended on his gallantry of the
preceding night escaping public observation.  A partially opened
bedroom-window here and there, bespeaks the heat of the weather, and the
uneasy slumbers of its occupant; and the dim scanty flicker of the
rushlight, through the window-blind, denotes the chamber of watching or
sickness.  With these few exceptions, the streets present no signs of
life, nor the houses of habitation.

An hour wears away; the spires of the churches and roofs of the principal
buildings are faintly tinged with the light of the rising sun; and the
streets, by almost imperceptible degrees, begin to resume their bustle
and animation.  Market-carts roll slowly along: the sleepy waggoner
impatiently urging on his tired horses, or vainly endeavouring to awaken
the boy, who, luxuriously stretched on the top of the fruit-baskets,
forgets, in happy oblivion, his long-cherished curiosity to behold the
wonders of London.

Rough, sleepy-looking animals of strange appearance, something between
ostlers and hackney-coachmen, begin to take down the shutters of early
public-houses; and little deal tables, with the ordinary preparations for
a street breakfast, make their appearance at the customary stations.
Numbers of men and women (principally the latter), carrying upon their
heads heavy baskets of fruit, toil down the park side of Piccadilly, on
their way to Covent-garden, and, following each other in rapid
succession, form a long straggling line from thence to the turn of the
road at Knightsbridge.

Here and there, a bricklayer’s labourer, with the day’s dinner tied up in
a handkerchief, walks briskly to his work, and occasionally a little knot
of three or four schoolboys on a stolen bathing expedition rattle merrily
over the pavement, their boisterous mirth contrasting forcibly with the
demeanour of the little sweep, who, having knocked and rung till his arm
aches, and being interdicted by a merciful legislature from endangering
his lungs by calling out, sits patiently down on the door-step, until the
housemaid may happen to awake.

Covent-garden market, and the avenues leading to it, are thronged with
carts of all sorts, sizes, and descriptions, from the heavy lumbering
waggon, with its four stout horses, to the jingling costermonger’s cart,
with its consumptive donkey.  The pavement is already strewed with
decayed cabbage-leaves, broken hay-bands, and all the indescribable
litter of a vegetable market; men are shouting, carts backing, horses
neighing, boys fighting, basket-women talking, piemen expatiating on the
excellence of their pastry, and donkeys braying.  These and a hundred
other sounds form a compound discordant enough to a Londoner’s ears, and
remarkably disagreeable to those of country gentlemen who are sleeping at
the Hummums for the first time.

Another hour passes away, and the day begins in good earnest.  The
servant of all work, who, under the plea of sleeping very soundly, has
utterly disregarded ‘Missis’s’ ringing for half an hour previously, is
warned by Master (whom Missis has sent up in his drapery to the
landing-place for that purpose), that it’s half-past six, whereupon she
awakes all of a sudden, with well-feigned astonishment, and goes
down-stairs very sulkily, wishing, while she strikes a light, that the
principle of spontaneous combustion would extend itself to coals and
kitchen range.  When the fire is lighted, she opens the street-door to
take in the milk, when, by the most singular coincidence in the world,
she discovers that the servant next door has just taken in her milk too,
and that Mr. Todd’s young man over the way, is, by an equally
extraordinary chance, taking down his master’s shutters.  The inevitable
consequence is, that she just steps, milk-jug in hand, as far as next
door, just to say ‘good morning’ to Betsy Clark, and that Mr. Todd’s
young man just steps over the way to say ‘good morning’ to both of ’em;
and as the aforesaid Mr. Todd’s young man is almost as good-looking and
fascinating as the baker himself, the conversation quickly becomes very
interesting, and probably would become more so, if Betsy Clark’s Missis,
who always will be a-followin’ her about, didn’t give an angry tap at her
bedroom window, on which Mr. Todd’s young man tries to whistle coolly, as
he goes back to his shop much faster than he came from it; and the two
girls run back to their respective places, and shut their street-doors
with surprising softness, each of them poking their heads out of the
front parlour window, a minute afterwards, however, ostensibly with the
view of looking at the mail which just then passes by, but really for the
purpose of catching another glimpse of Mr. Todd’s young man, who being
fond of mails, but more of females, takes a short look at the mails, and
a long look at the girls, much to the satisfaction of all parties
concerned.

The mail itself goes on to the coach-office in due course, and the
passengers who are going out by the early coach, stare with astonishment
at the passengers who are coming in by the early coach, who look blue and
dismal, and are evidently under the influence of that odd feeling
produced by travelling, which makes the events of yesterday morning seem
as if they had happened at least six months ago, and induces people to
wonder with considerable gravity whether the friends and relations they
took leave of a fortnight before, have altered much since they have left
them.  The coach-office is all alive, and the coaches which are just
going out, are surrounded by the usual crowd of Jews and nondescripts,
who seem to consider, Heaven knows why, that it is quite impossible any
man can mount a coach without requiring at least sixpenny-worth of
oranges, a penknife, a pocket-book, a last year’s annual, a pencil-case,
a piece of sponge, and a small series of caricatures.

Half an hour more, and the sun darts his bright rays cheerfully down the
still half-empty streets, and shines with sufficient force to rouse the
dismal laziness of the apprentice, who pauses every other minute from his
task of sweeping out the shop and watering the pavement in front of it,
to tell another apprentice similarly employed, how hot it will be to-day,
or to stand with his right hand shading his eyes, and his left resting on
the broom, gazing at the ‘Wonder,’ or the ‘Tally-ho,’ or the ‘Nimrod,’ or
some other fast coach, till it is out of sight, when he re-enters the
shop, envying the passengers on the outside of the fast coach, and
thinking of the old red brick house ‘down in the country,’ where he went
to school: the miseries of the milk and water, and thick bread and
scrapings, fading into nothing before the pleasant recollection of the
green field the boys used to play in, and the green pond he was caned for
presuming to fall into, and other schoolboy associations.

Cabs, with trunks and band-boxes between the drivers’ legs and outside
the apron, rattle briskly up and down the streets on their way to the
coach-offices or steam-packet wharfs; and the cab-drivers and
hackney-coachmen who are on the stand polish up the ornamental part of
their dingy vehicles—the former wondering how people can prefer ‘them
wild beast cariwans of homnibuses, to a riglar cab with a fast trotter,’
and the latter admiring how people can trust their necks into one of
‘them crazy cabs, when they can have a ’spectable ’ackney cotche with a
pair of ’orses as von’t run away with no vun;’ a consolation
unquestionably founded on fact, seeing that a hackney-coach horse never
was known to run at all, ‘except,’ as the smart cabman in front of the
rank observes, ‘except one, and _he_ run back’ards.’

The shops are now completely opened, and apprentices and shopmen are
busily engaged in cleaning and decking the windows for the day.  The
bakers’ shops in town are filled with servants and children waiting for
the drawing of the first batch of rolls—an operation which was performed
a full hour ago in the suburbs: for the early clerk population of Somers
and Camden towns, Islington, and Pentonville, are fast pouring into the
city, or directing their steps towards Chancery-lane and the Inns of
Court.  Middle-aged men, whose salaries have by no means increased in the
same proportion as their families, plod steadily along, apparently with
no object in view but the counting-house; knowing by sight almost
everybody they meet or overtake, for they have seen them every morning
(Sunday excepted) during the last twenty years, but speaking to no one.
If they do happen to overtake a personal acquaintance, they just exchange
a hurried salutation, and keep walking on either by his side, or in front
of him, as his rate of walking may chance to be.  As to stopping to shake
hands, or to take the friend’s arm, they seem to think that as it is not
included in their salary, they have no right to do it.  Small office lads
in large hats, who are made men before they are boys, hurry along in
pairs, with their first coat carefully brushed, and the white trousers of
last Sunday plentifully besmeared with dust and ink.  It evidently
requires a considerable mental struggle to avoid investing part of the
day’s dinner-money in the purchase of the stale tarts so temptingly
exposed in dusty tins at the pastry-cooks’ doors; but a consciousness of
their own importance and the receipt of seven shillings a-week, with the
prospect of an early rise to eight, comes to their aid, and they
accordingly put their hats a little more on one side, and look under the
bonnets of all the milliners’ and stay-makers’ apprentices they meet—poor
girls!—the hardest worked, the worst paid, and too often, the worst used
class of the community.

Eleven o’clock, and a new set of people fill the streets.  The goods in
the shop-windows are invitingly arranged; the shopmen in their white
neckerchiefs and spruce coats, look as it they couldn’t clean a window if
their lives depended on it; the carts have disappeared from
Covent-garden; the waggoners have returned, and the costermongers
repaired to their ordinary ‘beats’ in the suburbs; clerks are at their
offices, and gigs, cabs, omnibuses, and saddle-horses, are conveying
their masters to the same destination.  The streets are thronged with a
vast concourse of people, gay and shabby, rich and poor, idle and
industrious; and we come to the heat, bustle, and activity of NOON.



CHAPTER II—THE STREETS—NIGHT


But the streets of London, to be beheld in the very height of their
glory, should be seen on a dark, dull, murky winter’s night, when there
is just enough damp gently stealing down to make the pavement greasy,
without cleansing it of any of its impurities; and when the heavy lazy
mist, which hangs over every object, makes the gas-lamps look brighter,
and the brilliantly-lighted shops more splendid, from the contrast they
present to the darkness around.  All the people who are at home on such a
night as this, seem disposed to make themselves as snug and comfortable
as possible; and the passengers in the streets have excellent reason to
envy the fortunate individuals who are seated by their own firesides.

In the larger and better kind of streets, dining parlour curtains are
closely drawn, kitchen fires blaze brightly up, and savoury steams of hot
dinners salute the nostrils of the hungry wayfarer, as he plods wearily
by the area railings.  In the suburbs, the muffin boy rings his way down
the little street, much more slowly than he is wont to do; for Mrs.
Macklin, of No. 4, has no sooner opened her little street-door, and
screamed out ‘Muffins!’ with all her might, than Mrs. Walker, at No. 5,
puts her head out of the parlour-window, and screams ‘Muffins!’ too; and
Mrs. Walker has scarcely got the words out of her lips, than Mrs. Peplow,
over the way, lets loose Master Peplow, who darts down the street, with a
velocity which nothing but buttered muffins in perspective could possibly
inspire, and drags the boy back by main force, whereupon Mrs. Macklin and
Mrs. Walker, just to save the boy trouble, and to say a few neighbourly
words to Mrs. Peplow at the same time, run over the way and buy their
muffins at Mrs. Peplow’s door, when it appears from the voluntary
statement of Mrs. Walker, that her ‘kittle’s jist a-biling, and the cups
and sarsers ready laid,’ and that, as it was such a wretched night out o’
doors, she’d made up her mind to have a nice, hot, comfortable cup o’
tea—a determination at which, by the most singular coincidence, the other
two ladies had simultaneously arrived.

After a little conversation about the wretchedness of the weather and the
merits of tea, with a digression relative to the viciousness of boys as a
rule, and the amiability of Master Peplow as an exception, Mrs. Walker
sees her husband coming down the street; and as he must want his tea,
poor man, after his dirty walk from the Docks, she instantly runs across,
muffins in hand, and Mrs. Macklin does the same, and after a few words to
Mrs. Walker, they all pop into their little houses, and slam their little
street-doors, which are not opened again for the remainder of the
evening, except to the nine o’clock ‘beer,’ who comes round with a
lantern in front of his tray, and says, as he lends Mrs. Walker
‘Yesterday’s ‘Tiser,’ that he’s blessed if he can hardly hold the pot,
much less feel the paper, for it’s one of the bitterest nights he ever
felt, ’cept the night when the man was frozen to death in the
Brick-field.

After a little prophetic conversation with the policeman at the
street-corner, touching a probable change in the weather, and the
setting-in of a hard frost, the nine o’clock beer returns to his master’s
house, and employs himself for the remainder of the evening, in
assiduously stirring the tap-room fire, and deferentially taking part in
the conversation of the worthies assembled round it.

The streets in the vicinity of the Marsh-gate and Victoria Theatre
present an appearance of dirt and discomfort on such a night, which the
groups who lounge about them in no degree tend to diminish.  Even the
little block-tin temple sacred to baked potatoes, surmounted by a
splendid design in variegated lamps, looks less gay than usual, and as to
the kidney-pie stand, its glory has quite departed.  The candle in the
transparent lamp, manufactured of oil-paper, embellished with
‘characters,’ has been blown out fifty times, so the kidney-pie merchant,
tired with running backwards and forwards to the next wine-vaults, to get
a light, has given up the idea of illumination in despair, and the only
signs of his ‘whereabout,’ are the bright sparks, of which a long
irregular train is whirled down the street every time he opens his
portable oven to hand a hot kidney-pie to a customer.

Flat-fish, oyster, and fruit vendors linger hopelessly in the kennel, in
vain endeavouring to attract customers; and the ragged boys who usually
disport themselves about the streets, stand crouched in little knots in
some projecting doorway, or under the canvas blind of a cheesemonger’s,
where great flaring gas-lights, unshaded by any glass, display huge piles
of blight red and pale yellow cheeses, mingled with little fivepenny dabs
of dingy bacon, various tubs of weekly Dorset, and cloudy rolls of ‘best
fresh.’

Here they amuse themselves with theatrical converse, arising out of their
last half-price visit to the Victoria gallery, admire the terrific
combat, which is nightly encored, and expatiate on the inimitable manner
in which Bill Thompson can ‘come the double monkey,’ or go through the
mysterious involutions of a sailor’s hornpipe.

It is nearly eleven o’clock, and the cold thin rain which has been
drizzling so long, is beginning to pour down in good earnest; the
baked-potato man has departed—the kidney-pie man has just walked away
with his warehouse on his arm—the cheesemonger has drawn in his blind,
and the boys have dispersed.  The constant clicking of pattens on the
slippy and uneven pavement, and the rustling of umbrellas, as the wind
blows against the shop-windows, bear testimony to the inclemency of the
night; and the policeman, with his oilskin cape buttoned closely round
him, seems as he holds his hat on his head, and turns round to avoid the
gust of wind and rain which drives against him at the street-corner, to
be very far from congratulating himself on the prospect before him.

The little chandler’s shop with the cracked bell behind the door, whose
melancholy tinkling has been regulated by the demand for quarterns of
sugar and half-ounces of coffee, is shutting up.  The crowds which have
been passing to and fro during the whole day, are rapidly dwindling away;
and the noise of shouting and quarrelling which issues from the
public-houses, is almost the only sound that breaks the melancholy
stillness of the night.

There was another, but it has ceased.  That wretched woman with the
infant in her arms, round whose meagre form the remnant of her own scanty
shawl is carefully wrapped, has been attempting to sing some popular
ballad, in the hope of wringing a few pence from the compassionate
passer-by.  A brutal laugh at her weak voice is all she has gained.  The
tears fall thick and fast down her own pale face; the child is cold and
hungry, and its low half-stifled wailing adds to the misery of its
wretched mother, as she moans aloud, and sinks despairingly down, on a
cold damp door-step.

Singing!  How few of those who pass such a miserable creature as this,
think of the anguish of heart, the sinking of soul and spirit, which the
very effort of singing produces.  Bitter mockery!  Disease, neglect, and
starvation, faintly articulating the words of the joyous ditty, that has
enlivened your hours of feasting and merriment, God knows how often!  It
is no subject of jeering.  The weak tremulous voice tells a fearful tale
of want and famishing; and the feeble singer of this roaring song may
turn away, only to die of cold and hunger.

One o’clock!  Parties returning from the different theatres foot it
through the muddy streets; cabs, hackney-coaches, carriages, and theatre
omnibuses, roll swiftly by; watermen with dim dirty lanterns in their
hands, and large brass plates upon their breasts, who have been shouting
and rushing about for the last two hours, retire to their
watering-houses, to solace themselves with the creature comforts of pipes
and purl; the half-price pit and box frequenters of the theatres throng
to the different houses of refreshment; and chops, kidneys, rabbits,
oysters, stout, cigars, and ‘goes’ innumerable, are served up amidst a
noise and confusion of smoking, running, knife-clattering, and
waiter-chattering, perfectly indescribable.

The more musical portion of the play-going community betake themselves to
some harmonic meeting.  As a matter of curiosity let us follow them
thither for a few moments.

In a lofty room of spacious dimensions, are seated some eighty or a
hundred guests knocking little pewter measures on the tables, and
hammering away, with the handles of their knives, as if they were so many
trunk-makers.  They are applauding a glee, which has just been executed
by the three ‘professional gentlemen’ at the top of the centre table, one
of whom is in the chair—the little pompous man with the bald head just
emerging from the collar of his green coat.  The others are seated on
either side of him—the stout man with the small voice, and the thin-faced
dark man in black.  The little man in the chair is a most amusing
personage,—such condescending grandeur, and _such_ a voice!

‘Bass!’ as the young gentleman near us with the blue stock forcibly
remarks to his companion, ‘bass!  I b’lieve you; he can go down lower
than any man: so low sometimes that you can’t hear him.’  And so he does.
To hear him growling away, gradually lower and lower down, till he can’t
get back again, is the most delightful thing in the world, and it is
quite impossible to witness unmoved the impressive solemnity with which
he pours forth his soul in ‘My ’art’s in the ’ighlands,’ or ‘The brave
old Hoak.’  The stout man is also addicted to sentimentality, and warbles
‘Fly, fly from the world, my Bessy, with me,’ or some such song, with
lady-like sweetness, and in the most seductive tones imaginable.

‘Pray give your orders, gen’l’m’n—pray give your orders,’—says the
pale-faced man with the red head; and demands for ‘goes’ of gin and
‘goes’ of brandy, and pints of stout, and cigars of peculiar mildness,
are vociferously made from all parts of the room.  The ‘professional
gentlemen’ are in the very height of their glory, and bestow
condescending nods, or even a word or two of recognition, on the
better-known frequenters of the room, in the most bland and patronising
manner possible.

The little round-faced man, with the small brown surtout, white stockings
and shoes, is in the comic line; the mixed air of self-denial, and mental
consciousness of his own powers, with which he acknowledges the call of
the chair, is particularly gratifying.  ‘Gen’l’men,’ says the little
pompous man, accompanying the word with a knock of the president’s hammer
on the table—‘Gen’l’men, allow me to claim your attention—our friend, Mr.
Smuggins, will oblige.’—‘Bravo!’ shout the company; and Smuggins, after a
considerable quantity of coughing by way of symphony, and a most
facetious sniff or two, which afford general delight, sings a comic song,
with a fal-de-ral—tol-de-ral chorus at the end of every verse, much
longer than the verse itself.  It is received with unbounded applause,
and after some aspiring genius has volunteered a recitation, and failed
dismally therein, the little pompous man gives another knock, and says
‘Gen’l’men, we will attempt a glee, if you please.’  This announcement
calls forth tumultuous applause, and the more energetic spirits express
the unqualified approbation it affords them, by knocking one or two stout
glasses off their legs—a humorous device; but one which frequently
occasions some slight altercation when the form of paying the damage is
proposed to be gone through by the waiter.

Scenes like these are continued until three or four o’clock in the
morning; and even when they close, fresh ones open to the inquisitive
novice.  But as a description of all of them, however slight, would
require a volume, the contents of which, however instructive, would be by
no means pleasing, we make our bow, and drop the curtain.



CHAPTER III—SHOPS AND THEIR TENANTS


What inexhaustible food for speculation, do the streets of London afford!
We never were able to agree with Sterne in pitying the man who could
travel from Dan to Beersheba, and say that all was barren; we have not
the slightest commiseration for the man who can take up his hat and
stick, and walk from Covent-garden to St. Paul’s Churchyard, and back
into the bargain, without deriving some amusement—we had almost said
instruction—from his perambulation.  And yet there are such beings: we
meet them every day.  Large black stocks and light waistcoats, jet canes
and discontented countenances, are the characteristics of the race; other
people brush quickly by you, steadily plodding on to business, or
cheerfully running after pleasure.  These men linger listlessly past,
looking as happy and animated as a policeman on duty.  Nothing seems to
make an impression on their minds: nothing short of being knocked down by
a porter, or run over by a cab, will disturb their equanimity.  You will
meet them on a fine day in any of the leading thoroughfares: peep through
the window of a west-end cigar shop in the evening, if you can manage to
get a glimpse between the blue curtains which intercept the vulgar gaze,
and you see them in their only enjoyment of existence.  There they are
lounging about, on round tubs and pipe boxes, in all the dignity of
whiskers, and gilt watch-guards; whispering soft nothings to the young
lady in amber, with the large ear-rings, who, as she sits behind the
counter in a blaze of adoration and gas-light, is the admiration of all
the female servants in the neighbourhood, and the envy of every
milliner’s apprentice within two miles round.

One of our principal amusements is to watch the gradual progress—the rise
or fall—of particular shops.  We have formed an intimate acquaintance
with several, in different parts of town, and are perfectly acquainted
with their whole history.  We could name off-hand, twenty at least, which
we are quite sure have paid no taxes for the last six years.  They are
never inhabited for more than two months consecutively, and, we verily
believe, have witnessed every retail trade in the directory.

There is one, whose history is a sample of the rest, in whose fate we
have taken especial interest, having had the pleasure of knowing it ever
since it has been a shop.  It is on the Surrey side of the water—a little
distance beyond the Marsh-gate.  It was originally a substantial,
good-looking private house enough; the landlord got into difficulties,
the house got into Chancery, the tenant went away, and the house went to
ruin.  At this period our acquaintance with it commenced; the paint was
all worn off; the windows were broken, the area was green with neglect
and the overflowings of the water-butt; the butt itself was without a
lid, and the street-door was the very picture of misery.  The chief
pastime of the children in the vicinity had been to assemble in a body on
the steps, and to take it in turn to knock loud double knocks at the
door, to the great satisfaction of the neighbours generally, and
especially of the nervous old lady next door but one.  Numerous
complaints were made, and several small basins of water discharged over
the offenders, but without effect.  In this state of things, the
marine-store dealer at the corner of the street, in the most obliging
manner took the knocker off, and sold it: and the unfortunate house
looked more wretched than ever.

We deserted our friend for a few weeks.  What was our surprise, on our
return, to find no trace of its existence!  In its place was a handsome
shop, fast approaching to a state of completion, and on the shutters were
large bills, informing the public that it would shortly be opened with
‘an extensive stock of linen-drapery and haberdashery.’  It opened in due
course; there was the name of the proprietor ‘and Co.’ in gilt letters,
almost too dazzling to look at.  Such ribbons and shawls! and two such
elegant young men behind the counter, each in a clean collar and white
neckcloth, like the lover in a farce.  As to the proprietor, he did
nothing but walk up and down the shop, and hand seats to the ladies, and
hold important conversations with the handsomest of the young men, who
was shrewdly suspected by the neighbours to be the ‘Co.’  We saw all this
with sorrow; we felt a fatal presentiment that the shop was doomed—and so
it was.  Its decay was slow, but sure.  Tickets gradually appeared in the
windows; then rolls of flannel, with labels on them, were stuck outside
the door; then a bill was pasted on the street-door, intimating that the
first floor was to let unfurnished; then one of the young men disappeared
altogether, and the other took to a black neckerchief, and the proprietor
took to drinking.  The shop became dirty, broken panes of glass remained
unmended, and the stock disappeared piecemeal.  At last the company’s man
came to cut off the water, and then the linen-draper cut off himself,
leaving the landlord his compliments and the key.

The next occupant was a fancy stationer.  The shop was more modestly
painted than before, still it was neat; but somehow we always thought, as
we passed, that it looked like a poor and struggling concern.  We wished
the man well, but we trembled for his success.  He was a widower
evidently, and had employment elsewhere, for he passed us every morning
on his road to the city.  The business was carried on by his eldest
daughter.  Poor girl! she needed no assistance.  We occasionally caught a
glimpse of two or three children, in mourning like herself, as they sat
in the little parlour behind the shop; and we never passed at night
without seeing the eldest girl at work, either for them, or in making
some elegant little trifle for sale.  We often thought, as her pale face
looked more sad and pensive in the dim candle-light, that if those
thoughtless females who interfere with the miserable market of poor
creatures such as these, knew but one-half of the misery they suffer, and
the bitter privations they endure, in their honourable attempts to earn a
scanty subsistence, they would, perhaps, resign even opportunities for
the gratification of vanity, and an immodest love of self-display, rather
than drive them to a last dreadful resource, which it would shock the
delicate feelings of these _charitable_ ladies to hear named.

But we are forgetting the shop.  Well, we continued to watch it, and
every day showed too clearly the increasing poverty of its inmates.  The
children were clean, it is true, but their clothes were threadbare and
shabby; no tenant had been procured for the upper part of the house, from
the letting of which, a portion of the means of paying the rent was to
have been derived, and a slow, wasting consumption prevented the eldest
girl from continuing her exertions.  Quarter-day arrived.  The landlord
had suffered from the extravagance of his last tenant, and he had no
compassion for the struggles of his successor; he put in an execution.
As we passed one morning, the broker’s men were removing the little
furniture there was in the house, and a newly-posted bill informed us it
was again ‘To Let.’  What became of the last tenant we never could learn;
we believe the girl is past all suffering, and beyond all sorrow.  God
help her!  We hope she is.

We were somewhat curious to ascertain what would be the next stage—for
that the place had no chance of succeeding now, was perfectly clear.  The
bill was soon taken down, and some alterations were being made in the
interior of the shop.  We were in a fever of expectation; we exhausted
conjecture—we imagined all possible trades, none of which were perfectly
reconcilable with our idea of the gradual decay of the tenement.  It
opened, and we wondered why we had not guessed at the real state of the
case before.  The shop—not a large one at the best of times—had been
converted into two: one was a bonnet-shape maker’s, the other was opened
by a tobacconist, who also dealt in walking-sticks and Sunday newspapers;
the two were separated by a thin partition, covered with tawdry striped
paper.

The tobacconist remained in possession longer than any tenant within our
recollection.  He was a red-faced, impudent, good-for-nothing dog,
evidently accustomed to take things as they came, and to make the best of
a bad job.  He sold as many cigars as he could, and smoked the rest.  He
occupied the shop as long as he could make peace with the landlord, and
when he could no longer live in quiet, he very coolly locked the door,
and bolted himself.  From this period, the two little dens have undergone
innumerable changes.  The tobacconist was succeeded by a theatrical
hair-dresser, who ornamented the window with a great variety of
‘characters,’ and terrific combats.  The bonnet-shape maker gave place to
a greengrocer, and the histrionic barber was succeeded, in his turn, by a
tailor.  So numerous have been the changes, that we have of late done
little more than mark the peculiar but certain indications of a house
being poorly inhabited.  It has been progressing by almost imperceptible
degrees.  The occupiers of the shops have gradually given up room after
room, until they have only reserved the little parlour for themselves.
First there appeared a brass plate on the private door, with ‘Ladies’
School’ legibly engraved thereon; shortly afterwards we observed a second
brass plate, then a bell, and then another bell.

When we paused in front of our old friend, and observed these signs of
poverty, which are not to be mistaken, we thought as we turned away, that
the house had attained its lowest pitch of degradation.  We were wrong.
When we last passed it, a ‘dairy’ was established in the area, and a
party of melancholy-looking fowls were amusing themselves by running in
at the front door, and out at the back one.



CHAPTER IV—SCOTLAND-YARD


Scotland-yard is a small—a very small-tract of land, bounded on one side
by the river Thames, on the other by the gardens of Northumberland House:
abutting at one end on the bottom of Northumberland-street, at the other
on the back of Whitehall-place.  When this territory was first
accidentally discovered by a country gentleman who lost his way in the
Strand, some years ago, the original settlers were found to be a tailor,
a publican, two eating-house keepers, and a fruit-pie maker; and it was
also found to contain a race of strong and bulky men, who repaired to the
wharfs in Scotland-yard regularly every morning, about five or six
o’clock, to fill heavy waggons with coal, with which they proceeded to
distant places up the country, and supplied the inhabitants with fuel.
When they had emptied their waggons, they again returned for a fresh
supply; and this trade was continued throughout the year.

As the settlers derived their subsistence from ministering to the wants
of these primitive traders, the articles exposed for sale, and the places
where they were sold, bore strong outward marks of being expressly
adapted to their tastes and wishes.  The tailor displayed in his window a
Lilliputian pair of leather gaiters, and a diminutive round frock, while
each doorpost was appropriately garnished with a model of a coal-sack.
The two eating-house keepers exhibited joints of a magnitude, and
puddings of a solidity, which coalheavers alone could appreciate; and the
fruit-pie maker displayed on his well-scrubbed window-board large white
compositions of flour and dripping, ornamented with pink stains, giving
rich promise of the fruit within, which made their huge mouths water, as
they lingered past.

But the choicest spot in all Scotland-yard was the old public-house in
the corner.  Here, in a dark wainscoted-room of ancient appearance,
cheered by the glow of a mighty fire, and decorated with an enormous
clock, whereof the face was white, and the figures black, sat the lusty
coalheavers, quaffing large draughts of Barclay’s best, and puffing forth
volumes of smoke, which wreathed heavily above their heads, and involved
the room in a thick dark cloud.  From this apartment might their voices
be heard on a winter’s night, penetrating to the very bank of the river,
as they shouted out some sturdy chorus, or roared forth the burden of a
popular song; dwelling upon the last few words with a strength and length
of emphasis which made the very roof tremble above them.

Here, too, would they tell old legends of what the Thames was in ancient
times, when the Patent Shot Manufactory wasn’t built, and Waterloo-bridge
had never been thought of; and then they would shake their heads with
portentous looks, to the deep edification of the rising generation of
heavers, who crowded round them, and wondered where all this would end;
whereat the tailor would take his pipe solemnly from his mouth, and say,
how that he hoped it might end well, but he very much doubted whether it
would or not, and couldn’t rightly tell what to make of it—a mysterious
expression of opinion, delivered with a semi-prophetic air, which never
failed to elicit the fullest concurrence of the assembled company; and so
they would go on drinking and wondering till ten o’clock came, and with
it the tailor’s wife to fetch him home, when the little party broke up,
to meet again in the same room, and say and do precisely the same things,
on the following evening at the same hour.

About this time the barges that came up the river began to bring vague
rumours to Scotland-yard of somebody in the city having been heard to
say, that the Lord Mayor had threatened in so many words to pull down the
old London-bridge, and build up a new one.  At first these rumours were
disregarded as idle tales, wholly destitute of foundation, for nobody in
Scotland-yard doubted that if the Lord Mayor contemplated any such dark
design, he would just be clapped up in the Tower for a week or two, and
then killed off for high treason.

By degrees, however, the reports grew stronger, and more frequent, and at
last a barge, laden with numerous chaldrons of the best Wallsend, brought
up the positive intelligence that several of the arches of the old bridge
were stopped, and that preparations were actually in progress for
constructing the new one.  What an excitement was visible in the old
tap-room on that memorable night!  Each man looked into his neighbour’s
face, pale with alarm and astonishment, and read therein an echo of the
sentiments which filled his own breast.  The oldest heaver present proved
to demonstration, that the moment the piers were removed, all the water
in the Thames would run clean off, and leave a dry gully in its place.
What was to become of the coal-barges—of the trade of Scotland-yard—of
the very existence of its population?  The tailor shook his head more
sagely than usual, and grimly pointing to a knife on the table, bid them
wait and see what happened.  He said nothing—not he; but if the Lord
Mayor didn’t fall a victim to popular indignation, why he would be rather
astonished; that was all.

They did wait; barge after barge arrived, and still no tidings of the
assassination of the Lord Mayor.  The first stone was laid: it was done
by a Duke—the King’s brother.  Years passed away, and the bridge was
opened by the King himself.  In course of time, the piers were removed;
and when the people in Scotland-yard got up next morning in the confident
expectation of being able to step over to Pedlar’s Acre without wetting
the soles of their shoes, they found to their unspeakable astonishment
that the water was just where it used to be.

A result so different from that which they had anticipated from this
first improvement, produced its full effect upon the inhabitants of
Scotland-yard.  One of the eating-house keepers began to court public
opinion, and to look for customers among a new class of people.  He
covered his little dining-tables with white cloths, and got a painter’s
apprentice to inscribe something about hot joints from twelve to two, in
one of the little panes of his shop-window.  Improvement began to march
with rapid strides to the very threshold of Scotland-yard.  A new market
sprung up at Hungerford, and the Police Commissioners established their
office in Whitehall-place.  The traffic in Scotland-yard increased; fresh
Members were added to the House of Commons, the Metropolitan
Representatives found it a near cut, and many other foot passengers
followed their example.

We marked the advance of civilisation, and beheld it with a sigh.  The
eating-house keeper who manfully resisted the innovation of table-cloths,
was losing ground every day, as his opponent gained it, and a deadly feud
sprung up between them.  The genteel one no longer took his evening’s
pint in Scotland-yard, but drank gin and water at a ‘parlour’ in
Parliament-street.  The fruit-pie maker still continued to visit the old
room, but he took to smoking cigars, and began to call himself a
pastrycook, and to read the papers.  The old heavers still assembled
round the ancient fireplace, but their talk was mournful: and the loud
song and the joyous shout were heard no more.

And what is Scotland-yard now?  How have its old customs changed; and how
has the ancient simplicity of its inhabitants faded away!  The old
tottering public-house is converted into a spacious and lofty
‘wine-vaults;’ gold leaf has been used in the construction of the letters
which emblazon its exterior, and the poet’s art has been called into
requisition, to intimate that if you drink a certain description of ale,
you must hold fast by the rail.  The tailor exhibits in his window the
pattern of a foreign-looking brown surtout, with silk buttons, a fur
collar, and fur cuffs.  He wears a stripe down the outside of each leg of
his trousers: and we have detected his assistants (for he has assistants
now) in the act of sitting on the shop-board in the same uniform.

At the other end of the little row of houses a boot-maker has established
himself in a brick box, with the additional innovation of a first floor;
and here he exposes for sale, boots—real Wellington boots—an article
which a few years ago, none of the original inhabitants had ever seen or
heard of.  It was but the other day, that a dress-maker opened another
little box in the middle of the row; and, when we thought that the spirit
of change could produce no alteration beyond that, a jeweller appeared,
and not content with exposing gilt rings and copper bracelets out of
number, put up an announcement, which still sticks in his window, that
‘ladies’ ears may be pierced within.’  The dress-maker employs a young
lady who wears pockets in her apron; and the tailor informs the public
that gentlemen may have their own materials made up.

Amidst all this change, and restlessness, and innovation, there remains
but one old man, who seems to mourn the downfall of this ancient place.
He holds no converse with human kind, but, seated on a wooden bench at
the angle of the wall which fronts the crossing from Whitehall-place,
watches in silence the gambols of his sleek and well-fed dogs.  He is the
presiding genius of Scotland-yard.  Years and years have rolled over his
head; but, in fine weather or in foul, hot or cold, wet or dry, hail,
rain, or snow, he is still in his accustomed spot.  Misery and want are
depicted in his countenance; his form is bent by age, his head is grey
with length of trial, but there he sits from day to day, brooding over
the past; and thither he will continue to drag his feeble limbs, until
his eyes have closed upon Scotland-yard, and upon the world together.

A few years hence, and the antiquary of another generation looking into
some mouldy record of the strife and passions that agitated the world in
these times, may glance his eye over the pages we have just filled: and
not all his knowledge of the history of the past, not all his
black-letter lore, or his skill in book-collecting, not all the dry
studies of a long life, or the dusty volumes that have cost him a
fortune, may help him to the whereabouts, either of Scotland-yard, or of
any one of the landmarks we have mentioned in describing it.



CHAPTER V—SEVEN DIALS


We have always been of opinion that if Tom King and the Frenchman had not
immortalised Seven Dials, Seven Dials would have immortalised itself.
Seven Dials! the region of song and poetry—first effusions, and last
dying speeches: hallowed by the names of Catnach and of Pitts—names that
will entwine themselves with costermongers, and barrel-organs, when penny
magazines shall have superseded penny yards of song, and capital
punishment be unknown!

Look at the construction of the place.  The Gordian knot was all very
well in its way: so was the maze of Hampton Court: so is the maze at the
Beulah Spa: so were the ties of stiff white neckcloths, when the
difficulty of getting one on, was only to be equalled by the apparent
impossibility of ever getting it off again.  But what involutions can
compare with those of Seven Dials?  Where is there such another maze of
streets, courts, lanes, and alleys?  Where such a pure mixture of
Englishmen and Irishmen, as in this complicated part of London?  We
boldly aver that we doubt the veracity of the legend to which we have
adverted.  We _can_ suppose a man rash enough to inquire at random—at a
house with lodgers too—for a Mr. Thompson, with all but the certainty
before his eyes, of finding at least two or three Thompsons in any house
of moderate dimensions; but a Frenchman—a Frenchman in Seven Dials!
Pooh!  He was an Irishman.  Tom King’s education had been neglected in
his infancy, and as he couldn’t understand half the man said, he took it
for granted he was talking French.

The stranger who finds himself in ‘The Dials’ for the first time, and
stands Belzoni-like, at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain
which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity and
attention awake for no inconsiderable time.  From the irregular square
into which he has plunged, the streets and courts dart in all directions,
until they are lost in the unwholesome vapour which hangs over the
house-tops, and renders the dirty perspective uncertain and confined; and
lounging at every corner, as if they came there to take a few gasps of
such fresh air as has found its way so far, but is too much exhausted
already, to be enabled to force itself into the narrow alleys around, are
groups of people, whose appearance and dwellings would fill any mind but
a regular Londoner’s with astonishment.

On one side, a little crowd has collected round a couple of ladies, who
having imbibed the contents of various ‘three-outs’ of gin and bitters in
the course of the morning, have at length differed on some point of
domestic arrangement, and are on the eve of settling the quarrel
satisfactorily, by an appeal to blows, greatly to the interest of other
ladies who live in the same house, and tenements adjoining, and who are
all partisans on one side or other.

‘Vy don’t you pitch into her, Sarah?’ exclaims one half-dressed matron,
by way of encouragement.  ‘Vy don’t you? if _my_ ’usband had treated her
with a drain last night, unbeknown to me, I’d tear her precious eyes
out—a wixen!’

‘What’s the matter, ma’am?’ inquires another old woman, who has just
bustled up to the spot.

‘Matter!’ replies the first speaker, talking _at_ the obnoxious
combatant, ‘matter!  Here’s poor dear Mrs. Sulliwin, as has five blessed
children of her own, can’t go out a charing for one arternoon, but what
hussies must be a comin’, and ’ticing avay her oun’ ’usband, as she’s
been married to twelve year come next Easter Monday, for I see the
certificate ven I vas a drinkin’ a cup o’ tea vith her, only the werry
last blessed Ven’sday as ever was sent.  I ’appen’d to say promiscuously,
“Mrs. Sulliwin,” says I—’

‘What do you mean by hussies?’ interrupts a champion of the other party,
who has evinced a strong inclination throughout to get up a branch fight
on her own account (‘Hooroar,’ ejaculates a pot-boy in parenthesis, ‘put
the kye-bosk on her, Mary!’), ‘What do you mean by hussies?’ reiterates
the champion.

‘Niver mind,’ replies the opposition expressively, ‘niver mind; _you_ go
home, and, ven you’re quite sober, mend your stockings.’

This somewhat personal allusion, not only to the lady’s habits of
intemperance, but also to the state of her wardrobe, rouses her utmost
ire, and she accordingly complies with the urgent request of the
bystanders to ‘pitch in,’ with considerable alacrity.  The scuffle became
general, and terminates, in minor play-bill phraseology, with ‘arrival of
the policemen, interior of the station-house, and impressive
_dénouement_.’

In addition to the numerous groups who are idling about the gin-shops and
squabbling in the centre of the road, every post in the open space has
its occupant, who leans against it for hours, with listless perseverance.
It is odd enough that one class of men in London appear to have no
enjoyment beyond leaning against posts.  We never saw a regular
bricklayer’s labourer take any other recreation, fighting excepted.  Pass
through St. Giles’s in the evening of a week-day, there they are in their
fustian dresses, spotted with brick-dust and whitewash, leaning against
posts.  Walk through Seven Dials on Sunday morning: there they are again,
drab or light corduroy trousers, Blucher boots, blue coats, and great
yellow waistcoats, leaning against posts.  The idea of a man dressing
himself in his best clothes, to lean against a post all day!

The peculiar character of these streets, and the close resemblance each
one bears to its neighbour, by no means tends to decrease the
bewilderment in which the unexperienced wayfarer through ‘the Dials’
finds himself involved.  He traverses streets of dirty, straggling
houses, with now and then an unexpected court composed of buildings as
ill-proportioned and deformed as the half-naked children that wallow in
the kennels.  Here and there, a little dark chandler’s shop, with a
cracked bell hung up behind the door to announce the entrance of a
customer, or betray the presence of some young gentleman in whom a
passion for shop tills has developed itself at an early age: others, as
if for support, against some handsome lofty building, which usurps the
place of a low dingy public-house; long rows of broken and patched
windows expose plants that may have flourished when ‘the Dials’ were
built, in vessels as dirty as ‘the Dials’ themselves; and shops for the
purchase of rags, bones, old iron, and kitchen-stuff, vie in cleanliness
with the bird-fanciers and rabbit-dealers, which one might fancy so many
arks, but for the irresistible conviction that no bird in its proper
senses, who was permitted to leave one of them, would ever come back
again.  Brokers’ shops, which would seem to have been established by
humane individuals, as refuges for destitute bugs, interspersed with
announcements of day-schools, penny theatres, petition-writers, mangles,
and music for balls or routs, complete the ‘still life’ of the subject;
and dirty men, filthy women, squalid children, fluttering shuttlecocks,
noisy battledores, reeking pipes, bad fruit, more than doubtful oysters,
attenuated cats, depressed dogs, and anatomical fowls, are its cheerful
accompaniments.

If the external appearance of the houses, or a glance at their
inhabitants, present but few attractions, a closer acquaintance with
either is little calculated to alter one’s first impression.  Every room
has its separate tenant, and every tenant is, by the same mysterious
dispensation which causes a country curate to ‘increase and multiply’
most marvellously, generally the head of a numerous family.

The man in the shop, perhaps, is in the baked ‘jemmy’ line, or the
fire-wood and hearth-stone line, or any other line which requires a
floating capital of eighteen-pence or thereabouts: and he and his family
live in the shop, and the small back parlour behind it.  Then there is an
Irish labourer and _his_ family in the back kitchen, and a jobbing
man—carpet-beater and so forth—with _his_ family in the front one.  In
the front one-pair, there’s another man with another wife and family, and
in the back one-pair, there’s ‘a young ’oman as takes in tambour-work,
and dresses quite genteel,’ who talks a good deal about ‘my friend,’ and
can’t ‘a-bear anything low.’  The second floor front, and the rest of the
lodgers, are just a second edition of the people below, except a
shabby-genteel man in the back attic, who has his half-pint of coffee
every morning from the coffee-shop next door but one, which boasts a
little front den called a coffee-room, with a fireplace, over which is an
inscription, politely requesting that, ‘to prevent mistakes,’ customers
will ‘please to pay on delivery.’  The shabby-genteel man is an object of
some mystery, but as he leads a life of seclusion, and never was known to
buy anything beyond an occasional pen, except half-pints of coffee, penny
loaves, and ha’porths of ink, his fellow-lodgers very naturally suppose
him to be an author; and rumours are current in the Dials, that he writes
poems for Mr. Warren.

Now anybody who passed through the Dials on a hot summer’s evening, and
saw the different women of the house gossiping on the steps, would be apt
to think that all was harmony among them, and that a more primitive set
of people than the native Diallers could not be imagined.  Alas! the man
in the shop ill-treats his family; the carpet-beater extends his
professional pursuits to his wife; the one-pair front has an undying feud
with the two-pair front, in consequence of the two-pair front persisting
in dancing over his (the one-pair front’s) head, when he and his family
have retired for the night; the two-pair back will interfere with the
front kitchen’s children; the Irishman comes home drunk every other
night, and attacks everybody; and the one-pair back screams at
everything.  Animosities spring up between floor and floor; the very
cellar asserts his equality.  Mrs. A. ‘smacks’ Mrs. B.’s child for
‘making faces.’  Mrs. B. forthwith throws cold water over Mrs. A.’s child
for ‘calling names.’  The husbands are embroiled—the quarrel becomes
general—an assault is the consequence, and a police-officer the result.



CHAPTER VI—MEDITATIONS IN MONMOUTH-STREET


We have always entertained a particular attachment towards
Monmouth-street, as the only true and real emporium for second-hand
wearing apparel.  Monmouth-street is venerable from its antiquity, and
respectable from its usefulness.  Holywell-street we despise; the
red-headed and red-whiskered Jews who forcibly haul you into their
squalid houses, and thrust you into a suit of clothes, whether you will
or not, we detest.

The inhabitants of Monmouth-street are a distinct class; a peaceable and
retiring race, who immure themselves for the most part in deep cellars,
or small back parlours, and who seldom come forth into the world, except
in the dusk and coolness of the evening, when they may be seen seated, in
chairs on the pavement, smoking their pipes, or watching the gambols of
their engaging children as they revel in the gutter, a happy troop of
infantine scavengers.  Their countenances bear a thoughtful and a dirty
cast, certain indications of their love of traffic; and their habitations
are distinguished by that disregard of outward appearance and neglect of
personal comfort, so common among people who are constantly immersed in
profound speculations, and deeply engaged in sedentary pursuits.

We have hinted at the antiquity of our favourite spot.  ‘A
Monmouth-street laced coat’ was a by-word a century ago; and still we
find Monmouth-street the same.  Pilot great-coats with wooden buttons,
have usurped the place of the ponderous laced coats with full skirts;
embroidered waistcoats with large flaps, have yielded to double-breasted
checks with roll-collars; and three-cornered hats of quaint appearance,
have given place to the low crowns and broad brims of the coachman
school; but it is the times that have changed, not Monmouth-street.
Through every alteration and every change, Monmouth-street has still
remained the burial-place of the fashions; and such, to judge from all
present appearances, it will remain until there are no more fashions to
bury.

We love to walk among these extensive groves of the illustrious dead, and
to indulge in the speculations to which they give rise; now fitting a
deceased coat, then a dead pair of trousers, and anon the mortal remains
of a gaudy waistcoat, upon some being of our own conjuring up, and
endeavouring, from the shape and fashion of the garment itself, to bring
its former owner before our mind’s eye.  We have gone on speculating in
this way, until whole rows of coats have started from their pegs, and
buttoned up, of their own accord, round the waists of imaginary wearers;
lines of trousers have jumped down to meet them; waistcoats have almost
burst with anxiety to put themselves on; and half an acre of shoes have
suddenly found feet to fit them, and gone stumping down the street with a
noise which has fairly awakened us from our pleasant reverie, and driven
us slowly away, with a bewildered stare, an object of astonishment to the
good people of Monmouth-street, and of no slight suspicion to the
policemen at the opposite street corner.

We were occupied in this manner the other day, endeavouring to fit a pair
of lace-up half-boots on an ideal personage, for whom, to say the truth,
they were full a couple of sizes too small, when our eyes happened to
alight on a few suits of clothes ranged outside a shop-window, which it
immediately struck us, must at different periods have all belonged to,
and been worn by, the same individual, and had now, by one of those
strange conjunctions of circumstances which will occur sometimes, come to
be exposed together for sale in the same shop.  The idea seemed a
fantastic one, and we looked at the clothes again with a firm
determination not to be easily led away.  No, we were right; the more we
looked, the more we were convinced of the accuracy of our previous
impression.  There was the man’s whole life written as legibly on those
clothes, as if we had his autobiography engrossed on parchment before us.

The first was a patched and much-soiled skeleton suit; one of those
straight blue cloth cases in which small boys used to be confined, before
belts and tunics had come in, and old notions had gone out: an ingenious
contrivance for displaying the full symmetry of a boy’s figure, by
fastening him into a very tight jacket, with an ornamental row of buttons
over each shoulder, and then buttoning his trousers over it, so as to
give his legs the appearance of being hooked on, just under the armpits.
This was the boy’s dress.  It had belonged to a town boy, we could see;
there was a shortness about the legs and arms of the suit; and a bagging
at the knees, peculiar to the rising youth of London streets.  A small
day-school he had been at, evidently.  If it had been a regular boys’
school they wouldn’t have let him play on the floor so much, and rub his
knees so white.  He had an indulgent mother too, and plenty of halfpence,
as the numerous smears of some sticky substance about the pockets, and
just below the chin, which even the salesman’s skill could not succeed in
disguising, sufficiently betokened.  They were decent people, but not
overburdened with riches, or he would not have so far outgrown the suit
when he passed into those corduroys with the round jacket; in which he
went to a boys’ school, however, and learnt to write—and in ink of pretty
tolerable blackness, too, if the place where he used to wipe his pen
might be taken as evidence.

A black suit and the jacket changed into a diminutive coat.  His father
had died, and the mother had got the boy a message-lad’s place in some
office.  A long-worn suit that one; rusty and threadbare before it was
laid aside, but clean and free from soil to the last.  Poor woman!  We
could imagine her assumed cheerfulness over the scanty meal, and the
refusal of her own small portion, that her hungry boy might have enough.
Her constant anxiety for his welfare, her pride in his growth mingled
sometimes with the thought, almost too acute to bear, that as he grew to
be a man his old affection might cool, old kindnesses fade from his mind,
and old promises be forgotten—the sharp pain that even then a careless
word or a cold look would give her—all crowded on our thoughts as vividly
as if the very scene were passing before us.

These things happen every hour, and we all know it; and yet we felt as
much sorrow when we saw, or fancied we saw—it makes no difference
which—the change that began to take place now, as if we had just
conceived the bare possibility of such a thing for the first time.  The
next suit, smart but slovenly; meant to be gay, and yet not half so
decent as the threadbare apparel; redolent of the idle lounge, and the
blackguard companions, told us, we thought, that the widow’s comfort had
rapidly faded away.  We could imagine that coat—imagine! we could see it;
we _had_ seen it a hundred times—sauntering in company with three or four
other coats of the same cut, about some place of profligate resort at
night.

We dressed, from the same shop-window in an instant, half a dozen boys of
from fifteen to twenty; and putting cigars into their mouths, and their
hands into their pockets, watched them as they sauntered down the street,
and lingered at the corner, with the obscene jest, and the oft-repeated
oath.  We never lost sight of them, till they had cocked their hats a
little more on one side, and swaggered into the public-house; and then we
entered the desolate home, where the mother sat late in the night, alone;
we watched her, as she paced the room in feverish anxiety, and every now
and then opened the door, looked wistfully into the dark and empty
street, and again returned, to be again and again disappointed.  We
beheld the look of patience with which she bore the brutish threat, nay,
even the drunken blow; and we heard the agony of tears that gushed from
her very heart, as she sank upon her knees in her solitary and wretched
apartment.

A long period had elapsed, and a greater change had taken place, by the
time of casting off the suit that hung above.  It was that of a stout,
broad-shouldered, sturdy-chested man; and we knew at once, as anybody
would, who glanced at that broad-skirted green coat, with the large metal
buttons, that its wearer seldom walked forth without a dog at his heels,
and some idle ruffian, the very counterpart of himself, at his side.  The
vices of the boy had grown with the man, and we fancied his home then—if
such a place deserve the name.

We saw the bare and miserable room, destitute of furniture, crowded with
his wife and children, pale, hungry, and emaciated; the man cursing their
lamentations, staggering to the tap-room, from whence he had just
returned, followed by his wife and a sickly infant, clamouring for bread;
and heard the street-wrangle and noisy recrimination that his striking
her occasioned.  And then imagination led us to some metropolitan
workhouse, situated in the midst of crowded streets and alleys, filled
with noxious vapours, and ringing with boisterous cries, where an old and
feeble woman, imploring pardon for her son, lay dying in a close dark
room, with no child to clasp her hand, and no pure air from heaven to fan
her brow.  A stranger closed the eyes that settled into a cold unmeaning
glare, and strange ears received the words that murmured from the white
and half-closed lips.

A coarse round frock, with a worn cotton neckerchief, and other articles
of clothing of the commonest description, completed the history.  A
prison, and the sentence—banishment or the gallows.  What would the man
have given then, to be once again the contented humble drudge of his
boyish years; to have been restored to life, but for a week, a day, an
hour, a minute, only for so long a time as would enable him to say one
word of passionate regret to, and hear one sound of heartfelt forgiveness
from, the cold and ghastly form that lay rotting in the pauper’s grave!
The children wild in the streets, the mother a destitute widow; both
deeply tainted with the deep disgrace of the husband and father’s name,
and impelled by sheer necessity, down the precipice that had led him to a
lingering death, possibly of many years’ duration, thousands of miles
away.  We had no clue to the end of the tale; but it was easy to guess
its termination.

We took a step or two further on, and by way of restoring the naturally
cheerful tone of our thoughts, began fitting visionary feet and legs into
a cellar-board full of boots and shoes, with a speed and accuracy that
would have astonished the most expert artist in leather, living.  There
was one pair of boots in particular—a jolly, good-tempered,
hearty-looking pair of tops, that excited our warmest regard; and we had
got a fine, red-faced, jovial fellow of a market-gardener into them,
before we had made their acquaintance half a minute.  They were just the
very thing for him.  There was his huge fat legs bulging over the tops,
and fitting them too tight to admit of his tucking in the loops he had
pulled them on by; and his knee-cords with an interval of stocking; and
his blue apron tucked up round his waist; and his red neckerchief and
blue coat, and a white hat stuck on one side of his head; and there he
stood with a broad grin on his great red face, whistling away, as if any
other idea but that of being happy and comfortable had never entered his
brain.

This was the very man after our own heart; we knew all about him; we had
seen him coming up to Covent-garden in his green chaise-cart, with the
fat, tubby little horse, half a thousand times; and even while we cast an
affectionate look upon his boots, at that instant, the form of a
coquettish servant-maid suddenly sprung into a pair of Denmark satin
shoes that stood beside them, and we at once recognised the very girl who
accepted his offer of a ride, just on this side the Hammersmith
suspension-bridge, the very last Tuesday morning we rode into town from
Richmond.

A very smart female, in a showy bonnet, stepped into a pair of grey cloth
boots, with black fringe and binding, that were studiously pointing out
their toes on the other side of the top-boots, and seemed very anxious to
engage his attention, but we didn’t observe that our friend the
market-gardener appeared at all captivated with these blandishments; for
beyond giving a knowing wink when they first began, as if to imply that
he quite understood their end and object, he took no further notice of
them.  His indifference, however, was amply recompensed by the excessive
gallantry of a very old gentleman with a silver-headed stick, who
tottered into a pair of large list shoes, that were standing in one
corner of the board, and indulged in a variety of gestures expressive of
his admiration of the lady in the cloth boots, to the immeasurable
amusement of a young fellow we put into a pair of long-quartered pumps,
who we thought would have split the coat that slid down to meet him, with
laughing.

We had been looking on at this little pantomime with great satisfaction
for some time, when, to our unspeakable astonishment, we perceived that
the whole of the characters, including a numerous _corps de ballet_ of
boots and shoes in the background, into which we had been hastily
thrusting as many feet as we could press into the service, were arranging
themselves in order for dancing; and some music striking up at the
moment, to it they went without delay.  It was perfectly delightful to
witness the agility of the market-gardener.  Out went the boots, first on
one side, then on the other, then cutting, then shuffling, then setting
to the Denmark satins, then advancing, then retreating, then going round,
and then repeating the whole of the evolutions again, without appearing
to suffer in the least from the violence of the exercise.

Nor were the Denmark satins a bit behindhand, for they jumped and bounded
about, in all directions; and though they were neither so regular, nor so
true to the time as the cloth boots, still, as they seemed to do it from
the heart, and to enjoy it more, we candidly confess that we preferred
their style of dancing to the other.  But the old gentleman in the list
shoes was the most amusing object in the whole party; for, besides his
grotesque attempts to appear youthful, and amorous, which were
sufficiently entertaining in themselves, the young fellow in the pumps
managed so artfully that every time the old gentleman advanced to salute
the lady in the cloth boots, he trod with his whole weight on the old
fellow’s toes, which made him roar with anguish, and rendered all the
others like to die of laughing.

We were in the full enjoyment of these festivities when we heard a
shrill, and by no means musical voice, exclaim, ‘Hope you’ll know me
agin, imperence!’ and on looking intently forward to see from whence the
sound came, we found that it proceeded, not from the young lady in the
cloth boots, as we had at first been inclined to suppose, but from a
bulky lady of elderly appearance who was seated in a chair at the head of
the cellar-steps, apparently for the purpose of superintending the sale
of the articles arranged there.

A barrel-organ, which had been in full force close behind us, ceased
playing; the people we had been fitting into the shoes and boots took to
flight at the interruption; and as we were conscious that in the depth of
our meditations we might have been rudely staring at the old lady for
half an hour without knowing it, we took to flight too, and were soon
immersed in the deepest obscurity of the adjacent ‘Dials.’



CHAPTER VII—HACKNEY-COACH STANDS


We maintain that hackney-coaches, properly so called, belong solely to
the metropolis.  We may be told, that there are hackney-coach stands in
Edinburgh; and not to go quite so far for a contradiction to our
position, we may be reminded that Liverpool, Manchester, ‘and other large
towns’ (as the Parliamentary phrase goes), have _their_ hackney-coach
stands.  We readily concede to these places the possession of certain
vehicles, which may look almost as dirty, and even go almost as slowly,
as London hackney-coaches; but that they have the slightest claim to
compete with the metropolis, either in point of stands, drivers, or
cattle, we indignantly deny.

Take a regular, ponderous, rickety, London hackney-coach of the old
school, and let any man have the boldness to assert, if he can, that he
ever beheld any object on the face of the earth which at all resembles
it, unless, indeed, it were another hackney-coach of the same date.  We
have recently observed on certain stands, and we say it with deep regret,
rather dapper green chariots, and coaches of polished yellow, with four
wheels of the same colour as the coach, whereas it is perfectly notorious
to every one who has studied the subject, that every wheel ought to be of
a different colour, and a different size.  These are innovations, and,
like other miscalled improvements, awful signs of the restlessness of the
public mind, and the little respect paid to our time-honoured
institutions.  Why should hackney-coaches be clean?  Our ancestors found
them dirty, and left them so.  Why should we, with a feverish wish to
‘keep moving,’ desire to roll along at the rate of six miles an hour,
while they were content to rumble over the stones at four?  These are
solemn considerations.  Hackney-coaches are part and parcel of the law of
the land; they were settled by the Legislature; plated and numbered by
the wisdom of Parliament.

Then why have they been swamped by cabs and omnibuses?  Or why should
people be allowed to ride quickly for eightpence a mile, after Parliament
had come to the solemn decision that they should pay a shilling a mile
for riding slowly?  We pause for a reply;—and, having no chance of
getting one, begin a fresh paragraph.

Our acquaintance with hackney-coach stands is of long standing.  We are a
walking book of fares, feeling ourselves, half bound, as it were, to be
always in the right on contested points.  We know all the regular
watermen within three miles of Covent-garden by sight, and should be
almost tempted to believe that all the hackney-coach horses in that
district knew us by sight too, if one-half of them were not blind.  We
take great interest in hackney-coaches, but we seldom drive, having a
knack of turning ourselves over when we attempt to do so.  We are as
great friends to horses, hackney-coach and otherwise, as the renowned Mr.
Martin, of costermonger notoriety, and yet we never ride.  We keep no
horse, but a clothes-horse; enjoy no saddle so much as a saddle of
mutton; and, following our own inclinations, have never followed the
hounds.  Leaving these fleeter means of getting over the ground, or of
depositing oneself upon it, to those who like them, by hackney-coach
stands we take our stand.

There is a hackney-coach stand under the very window at which we are
writing; there is only one coach on it now, but it is a fair specimen of
the class of vehicles to which we have alluded—a great, lumbering, square
concern of a dingy yellow colour (like a bilious brunette), with very
small glasses, but very large frames; the panels are ornamented with a
faded coat of arms, in shape something like a dissected bat, the axletree
is red, and the majority of the wheels are green.  The box is partially
covered by an old great-coat, with a multiplicity of capes, and some
extraordinary-looking clothes; and the straw, with which the canvas
cushion is stuffed, is sticking up in several places, as if in rivalry of
the hay, which is peeping through the chinks in the boot.  The horses,
with drooping heads, and each with a mane and tail as scanty and
straggling as those of a worn-out rocking-horse, are standing patiently
on some damp straw, occasionally wincing, and rattling the harness; and
now and then, one of them lifts his mouth to the ear of his companion, as
if he were saying, in a whisper, that he should like to assassinate the
coachman.  The coachman himself is in the watering-house; and the
waterman, with his hands forced into his pockets as far as they can
possibly go, is dancing the ‘double shuffle,’ in front of the pump, to
keep his feet warm.

The servant-girl, with the pink ribbons, at No. 5, opposite, suddenly
opens the street-door, and four small children forthwith rush out, and
scream ‘Coach!’ with all their might and main.  The waterman darts from
the pump, seizes the horses by their respective bridles, and drags them,
and the coach too, round to the house, shouting all the time for the
coachman at the very top, or rather very bottom of his voice, for it is a
deep bass growl.  A response is heard from the tap-room; the coachman, in
his wooden-soled shoes, makes the street echo again as he runs across it;
and then there is such a struggling, and backing, and grating of the
kennel, to get the coach-door opposite the house-door, that the children
are in perfect ecstasies of delight.  What a commotion!  The old lady,
who has been stopping there for the last month, is going back to the
country.  Out comes box after box, and one side of the vehicle is filled
with luggage in no time; the children get into everybody’s way, and the
youngest, who has upset himself in his attempts to carry an umbrella, is
borne off wounded and kicking.  The youngsters disappear, and a short
pause ensues, during which the old lady is, no doubt, kissing them all
round in the back parlour.  She appears at last, followed by her married
daughter, all the children, and both the servants, who, with the joint
assistance of the coachman and waterman, manage to get her safely into
the coach.  A cloak is handed in, and a little basket, which we could
almost swear contains a small black bottle, and a paper of sandwiches.
Up go the steps, bang goes the door, ‘Golden-cross, Charing-cross, Tom,’
says the waterman; ‘Good-bye, grandma,’ cry the children, off jingles the
coach at the rate of three miles an hour, and the mamma and children
retire into the house, with the exception of one little villain, who runs
up the street at the top of his speed, pursued by the servant; not
ill-pleased to have such an opportunity of displaying her attractions.
She brings him back, and, after casting two or three gracious glances
across the way, which are either intended for us or the potboy (we are
not quite certain which), shuts the door, and the hackney-coach stand is
again at a standstill.

We have been frequently amused with the intense delight with which ‘a
servant of all work,’ who is sent for a coach, deposits herself inside;
and the unspeakable gratification which boys, who have been despatched on
a similar errand, appear to derive from mounting the box.  But we never
recollect to have been more amused with a hackney-coach party, than one
we saw early the other morning in Tottenham-court-road.  It was a
wedding-party, and emerged from one of the inferior streets near
Fitzroy-square.  There were the bride, with a thin white dress, and a
great red face; and the bridesmaid, a little, dumpy, good-humoured young
woman, dressed, of course, in the same appropriate costume; and the
bridegroom and his chosen friend, in blue coats, yellow waist-coats,
white trousers, and Berlin gloves to match.  They stopped at the corner
of the street, and called a coach with an air of indescribable dignity.
The moment they were in, the bridesmaid threw a red shawl, which she had,
no doubt, brought on purpose, negligently over the number on the door,
evidently to delude pedestrians into the belief that the hackney-coach
was a private carriage; and away they went, perfectly satisfied that the
imposition was successful, and quite unconscious that there was a great
staring number stuck up behind, on a plate as large as a schoolboy’s
slate.  A shilling a mile!—the ride was worth five, at least, to them.

What an interesting book a hackney-coach might produce, if it could carry
as much in its head as it does in its body!  The autobiography of a
broken-down hackney-coach, would surely be as amusing as the
autobiography of a broken-down hackneyed dramatist; and it might tell as
much of its travels _with_ the pole, as others have of their expeditions
_to_ it.  How many stories might be related of the different people it
had conveyed on matters of business or profit—pleasure or pain!  And how
many melancholy tales of the same people at different periods!  The
country-girl—the showy, over-dressed woman—the drunken prostitute!  The
raw apprentice—the dissipated spendthrift—the thief!

Talk of cabs!  Cabs are all very well in cases of expedition, when it’s a
matter of neck or nothing, life or death, your temporary home or your
long one.  But, besides a cab’s lacking that gravity of deportment which
so peculiarly distinguishes a hackney-coach, let it never be forgotten
that a cab is a thing of yesterday, and that he never was anything
better.  A hackney-cab has always been a hackney-cab, from his first
entry into life; whereas a hackney-coach is a remnant of past gentility,
a victim to fashion, a hanger-on of an old English family, wearing their
arms, and, in days of yore, escorted by men wearing their livery,
stripped of his finery, and thrown upon the world, like a once-smart
footman when he is no longer sufficiently juvenile for his office,
progressing lower and lower in the scale of four-wheeled degradation,
until at last it comes to—_a stand_!



CHAPTER VIII—DOCTORS’ COMMONS


Walking without any definite object through St. Paul’s Churchyard, a
little while ago, we happened to turn down a street entitled
‘Paul’s-chain,’ and keeping straight forward for a few hundred yards,
found ourself, as a natural consequence, in Doctors’ Commons.  Now
Doctors’ Commons being familiar by name to everybody, as the place where
they grant marriage-licenses to love-sick couples, and divorces to
unfaithful ones; register the wills of people who have any property to
leave, and punish hasty gentlemen who call ladies by unpleasant names, we
no sooner discovered that we were really within its precincts, than we
felt a laudable desire to become better acquainted therewith; and as the
first object of our curiosity was the Court, whose decrees can even
unloose the bonds of matrimony, we procured a direction to it; and bent
our steps thither without delay.

Crossing a quiet and shady court-yard, paved with stone, and frowned upon
by old red brick houses, on the doors of which were painted the names of
sundry learned civilians, we paused before a small, green-baized,
brass-headed-nailed door, which yielding to our gentle push, at once
admitted us into an old quaint-looking apartment, with sunken windows,
and black carved wainscoting, at the upper end of which, seated on a
raised platform, of semicircular shape, were about a dozen solemn-looking
gentlemen, in crimson gowns and wigs.

At a more elevated desk in the centre, sat a very fat and red-faced
gentleman, in tortoise-shell spectacles, whose dignified appearance
announced the judge; and round a long green-baized table below, something
like a billiard-table without the cushions and pockets, were a number of
very self-important-looking personages, in stiff neckcloths, and black
gowns with white fur collars, whom we at once set down as proctors.  At
the lower end of the billiard-table was an individual in an arm-chair,
and a wig, whom we afterwards discovered to be the registrar; and seated
behind a little desk, near the door, were a respectable-looking man in
black, of about twenty-stone weight or thereabouts, and a fat-faced,
smirking, civil-looking body, in a black gown, black kid gloves, knee
shorts, and silks, with a shirt-frill in his bosom, curls on his head,
and a silver staff in his hand, whom we had no difficulty in recognising
as the officer of the Court.  The latter, indeed, speedily set our mind
at rest upon this point, for, advancing to our elbow, and opening a
conversation forthwith, he had communicated to us, in less than five
minutes, that he was the apparitor, and the other the court-keeper; that
this was the Arches Court, and therefore the counsel wore red gowns, and
the proctors fur collars; and that when the other Courts sat there, they
didn’t wear red gowns or fur collars either; with many other scraps of
intelligence equally interesting.  Besides these two officers, there was
a little thin old man, with long grizzly hair, crouched in a remote
corner, whose duty, our communicative friend informed us, was to ring a
large hand-bell when the Court opened in the morning, and who, for aught
his appearance betokened to the contrary, might have been similarly
employed for the last two centuries at least.

The red-faced gentleman in the tortoise-shell spectacles had got all the
talk to himself just then, and very well he was doing it, too, only he
spoke very fast, but that was habit; and rather thick, but that was good
living.  So we had plenty of time to look about us.  There was one
individual who amused us mightily.  This was one of the bewigged
gentlemen in the red robes, who was straddling before the fire in the
centre of the Court, in the attitude of the brazen Colossus, to the
complete exclusion of everybody else.  He had gathered up his robe
behind, in much the same manner as a slovenly woman would her petticoats
on a very dirty day, in order that he might feel the full warmth of the
fire.  His wig was put on all awry, with the tail straggling about his
neck; his scanty grey trousers and short black gaiters, made in the worst
possible style, imported an additional inelegant appearance to his
uncouth person; and his limp, badly-starched shirt-collar almost obscured
his eyes.  We shall never be able to claim any credit as a physiognomist
again, for, after a careful scrutiny of this gentleman’s countenance, we
had come to the conclusion that it bespoke nothing but conceit and
silliness, when our friend with the silver staff whispered in our ear
that he was no other than a doctor of civil law, and heaven knows what
besides.  So of course we were mistaken, and he must be a very talented
man.  He conceals it so well though—perhaps with the merciful view of not
astonishing ordinary people too much—that you would suppose him to be one
of the stupidest dogs alive.

The gentleman in the spectacles having concluded his judgment, and a few
minutes having been allowed to elapse, to afford time for the buzz of the
Court to subside, the registrar called on the next cause, which was ‘the
office of the Judge promoted by Bumple against Sludberry.’  A general
movement was visible in the Court, at this announcement, and the obliging
functionary with silver staff whispered us that ‘there would be some fun
now, for this was a brawling case.’

We were not rendered much the wiser by this piece of information, till we
found by the opening speech of the counsel for the promoter, that, under
a half-obsolete statute of one of the Edwards, the court was empowered to
visit with the penalty of excommunication, any person who should be
proved guilty of the crime of ‘brawling,’ or ‘smiting,’ in any church, or
vestry adjoining thereto; and it appeared, by some eight-and-twenty
affidavits, which were duly referred to, that on a certain night, at a
certain vestry-meeting, in a certain parish particularly set forth,
Thomas Sludberry, the party appeared against in that suit, had made use
of, and applied to Michael Bumple, the promoter, the words ‘You be
blowed;’ and that, on the said Michael Bumple and others remonstrating
with the said Thomas Sludberry, on the impropriety of his conduct, the
said Thomas Sludberry repeated the aforesaid expression, ‘You be blowed;’
and furthermore desired and requested to know, whether the said Michael
Bumple ‘wanted anything for himself;’ adding, ‘that if the said Michael
Bumple did want anything for himself, he, the said Thomas Sludberry, was
the man to give it him;’ at the same time making use of other heinous and
sinful expressions, all of which, Bumple submitted, came within the
intent and meaning of the Act; and therefore he, for the soul’s health
and chastening of Sludberry, prayed for sentence of excommunication
against him accordingly.

Upon these facts a long argument was entered into, on both sides, to the
great edification of a number of persons interested in the parochial
squabbles, who crowded the court; and when some very long and grave
speeches had been made _pro_ and _con_, the red-faced gentleman in the
tortoise-shell spectacles took a review of the case, which occupied half
an hour more, and then pronounced upon Sludberry the awful sentence of
excommunication for a fortnight, and payment of the costs of the suit.
Upon this, Sludberry, who was a little, red-faced, sly-looking,
ginger-beer seller, addressed the court, and said, if they’d be good
enough to take off the costs, and excommunicate him for the term of his
natural life instead, it would be much more convenient to him, for he
never went to church at all.  To this appeal the gentleman in the
spectacles made no other reply than a look of virtuous indignation; and
Sludberry and his friends retired.  As the man with the silver staff
informed us that the court was on the point of rising, we retired
too—pondering, as we walked away, upon the beautiful spirit of these
ancient ecclesiastical laws, the kind and neighbourly feelings they are
calculated to awaken, and the strong attachment to religious institutions
which they cannot fail to engender.

We were so lost in these meditations, that we had turned into the street,
and run up against a door-post, before we recollected where we were
walking.  On looking upwards to see what house we had stumbled upon, the
words ‘Prerogative-Office,’ written in large characters, met our eye; and
as we were in a sight-seeing humour and the place was a public one, we
walked in.

The room into which we walked, was a long, busy-looking place,
partitioned off, on either side, into a variety of little boxes, in which
a few clerks were engaged in copying or examining deeds.  Down the centre
of the room were several desks nearly breast high, at each of which,
three or four people were standing, poring over large volumes.  As we
knew that they were searching for wills, they attracted our attention at
once.

It was curious to contrast the lazy indifference of the attorneys’ clerks
who were making a search for some legal purpose, with the air of
earnestness and interest which distinguished the strangers to the place,
who were looking up the will of some deceased relative; the former
pausing every now and then with an impatient yawn, or raising their heads
to look at the people who passed up and down the room; the latter
stooping over the book, and running down column after column of names in
the deepest abstraction.

There was one little dirty-faced man in a blue apron, who after a whole
morning’s search, extending some fifty years back, had just found the
will to which he wished to refer, which one of the officials was reading
to him in a low hurried voice from a thick vellum book with large clasps.
It was perfectly evident that the more the clerk read, the less the man
with the blue apron understood about the matter.  When the volume was
first brought down, he took off his hat, smoothed down his hair, smiled
with great self-satisfaction, and looked up in the reader’s face with the
air of a man who had made up his mind to recollect every word he heard.
The first two or three lines were intelligible enough; but then the
technicalities began, and the little man began to look rather dubious.
Then came a whole string of complicated trusts, and he was regularly at
sea.  As the reader proceeded, it was quite apparent that it was a
hopeless case, and the little man, with his mouth open and his eyes fixed
upon his face, looked on with an expression of bewilderment and
perplexity irresistibly ludicrous.

A little further on, a hard-featured old man with a deeply-wrinkled face,
was intently perusing a lengthy will with the aid of a pair of horn
spectacles: occasionally pausing from his task, and slily noting down
some brief memorandum of the bequests contained in it.  Every wrinkle
about his toothless mouth, and sharp keen eyes, told of avarice and
cunning.  His clothes were nearly threadbare, but it was easy to see that
he wore them from choice and not from necessity; all his looks and
gestures down to the very small pinches of snuff which he every now and
then took from a little tin canister, told of wealth, and penury, and
avarice.

As he leisurely closed the register, put up his spectacles, and folded
his scraps of paper in a large leathern pocket-book, we thought what a
nice hard bargain he was driving with some poverty-stricken legatee, who,
tired of waiting year after year, until some life-interest should fall
in, was selling his chance, just as it began to grow most valuable, for a
twelfth part of its worth.  It was a good speculation—a very safe one.
The old man stowed his pocket-book carefully in the breast of his
great-coat, and hobbled away with a leer of triumph.  That will had made
him ten years younger at the lowest computation.

Having commenced our observations, we should certainly have extended them
to another dozen of people at least, had not a sudden shutting up and
putting away of the worm-eaten old books, warned us that the time for
closing the office had arrived; and thus deprived us of a pleasure, and
spared our readers an infliction.

We naturally fell into a train of reflection as we walked homewards, upon
the curious old records of likings and dislikings; of jealousies and
revenges; of affection defying the power of death, and hatred pursued
beyond the grave, which these depositories contain; silent but striking
tokens, some of them, of excellence of heart, and nobleness of soul;
melancholy examples, others, of the worst passions of human nature.  How
many men as they lay speechless and helpless on the bed of death, would
have given worlds but for the strength and power to blot out the silent
evidence of animosity and bitterness, which now stands registered against
them in Doctors’ Commons!



CHAPTER IX—LONDON RECREATIONS


The wish of persons in the humbler classes of life, to ape the manners
and customs of those whom fortune has placed above them, is often the
subject of remark, and not unfrequently of complaint.  The inclination
may, and no doubt does, exist to a great extent, among the small
gentility—the would-be aristocrats—of the middle classes.  Tradesmen and
clerks, with fashionable novel-reading families, and
circulating-library-subscribing daughters, get up small assemblies in
humble imitation of Almack’s, and promenade the dingy ‘large room’ of
some second-rate hotel with as much complacency as the enviable few who
are privileged to exhibit their magnificence in that exclusive haunt of
fashion and foolery.  Aspiring young ladies, who read flaming accounts of
some ‘fancy fair in high life,’ suddenly grow desperately charitable;
visions of admiration and matrimony float before their eyes; some
wonderfully meritorious institution, which, by the strangest accident in
the world, has never been heard of before, is discovered to be in a
languishing condition: Thomson’s great room, or Johnson’s nursery-ground,
is forthwith engaged, and the aforesaid young ladies, from mere charity,
exhibit themselves for three days, from twelve to four, for the small
charge of one shilling per head!  With the exception of these classes of
society, however, and a few weak and insignificant persons, we do not
think the attempt at imitation to which we have alluded, prevails in any
great degree.  The different character of the recreations of different
classes, has often afforded us amusement; and we have chosen it for the
subject of our present sketch, in the hope that it may possess some
amusement for our readers.

If the regular City man, who leaves Lloyd’s at five o’clock, and drives
home to Hackney, Clapton, Stamford-hill, or elsewhere, can be said to
have any daily recreation beyond his dinner, it is his garden.  He never
does anything to it with his own hands; but he takes great pride in it
notwithstanding; and if you are desirous of paying your addresses to the
youngest daughter, be sure to be in raptures with every flower and shrub
it contains.  If your poverty of expression compel you to make any
distinction between the two, we would certainly recommend your bestowing
more admiration on his garden than his wine.  He always takes a walk
round it, before he starts for town in the morning, and is particularly
anxious that the fish-pond should be kept specially neat.  If you call on
him on Sunday in summer-time, about an hour before dinner, you will find
him sitting in an arm-chair, on the lawn behind the house, with a straw
hat on, reading a Sunday paper.  A short distance from him you will most
likely observe a handsome paroquet in a large brass-wire cage; ten to one
but the two eldest girls are loitering in one of the side walks
accompanied by a couple of young gentlemen, who are holding parasols over
them—of course only to keep the sun off—while the younger children, with
the under nursery-maid, are strolling listlessly about, in the shade.
Beyond these occasions, his delight in his garden appears to arise more
from the consciousness of possession than actual enjoyment of it.  When
he drives you down to dinner on a week-day, he is rather fatigued with
the occupations of the morning, and tolerably cross into the bargain; but
when the cloth is removed, and he has drank three or four glasses of his
favourite port, he orders the French windows of his dining-room (which of
course look into the garden) to be opened, and throwing a silk
handkerchief over his head, and leaning back in his arm-chair, descants
at considerable length upon its beauty, and the cost of maintaining it.
This is to impress you—who are a young friend of the family—with a due
sense of the excellence of the garden, and the wealth of its owner; and
when he has exhausted the subject, he goes to sleep.

There is another and a very different class of men, whose recreation is
their garden.  An individual of this class, resides some short distance
from town—say in the Hampstead-road, or the Kilburn-road, or any other
road where the houses are small and neat, and have little slips of back
garden.  He and his wife—who is as clean and compact a little body as
himself—have occupied the same house ever since he retired from business
twenty years ago.  They have no family.  They once had a son, who died at
about five years old.  The child’s portrait hangs over the mantelpiece in
the best sitting-room, and a little cart he used to draw about, is
carefully preserved as a relic.

In fine weather the old gentleman is almost constantly in the garden; and
when it is too wet to go into it, he will look out of the window at it,
by the hour together.  He has always something to do there, and you will
see him digging, and sweeping, and cutting, and planting, with manifest
delight.  In spring-time, there is no end to the sowing of seeds, and
sticking little bits of wood over them, with labels, which look like
epitaphs to their memory; and in the evening, when the sun has gone down,
the perseverance with which he lugs a great watering-pot about is
perfectly astonishing.  The only other recreation he has, is the
newspaper, which he peruses every day, from beginning to end, generally
reading the most interesting pieces of intelligence to his wife, during
breakfast.  The old lady is very fond of flowers, as the hyacinth-glasses
in the parlour-window, and geranium-pots in the little front court,
testify.  She takes great pride in the garden too: and when one of the
four fruit-trees produces rather a larger gooseberry than usual, it is
carefully preserved under a wine-glass on the sideboard, for the
edification of visitors, who are duly informed that Mr. So-and-so planted
the tree which produced it, with his own hands.  On a summer’s evening,
when the large watering-pot has been filled and emptied some fourteen
times, and the old couple have quite exhausted themselves by trotting
about, you will see them sitting happily together in the little
summerhouse, enjoying the calm and peace of the twilight, and watching
the shadows as they fall upon the garden, and gradually growing thicker
and more sombre, obscure the tints of their gayest flowers—no bad emblem
of the years that have silently rolled over their heads, deadening in
their course the brightest hues of early hopes and feelings which have
long since faded away.  These are their only recreations, and they
require no more.  They have within themselves, the materials of comfort
and content; and the only anxiety of each, is to die before the other.

This is no ideal sketch.  There _used_ to be many old people of this
description; their numbers may have diminished, and may decrease still
more.  Whether the course female education has taken of late days—whether
the pursuit of giddy frivolities, and empty nothings, has tended to unfit
women for that quiet domestic life, in which they show far more
beautifully than in the most crowded assembly, is a question we should
feel little gratification in discussing: we hope not.

Let us turn now, to another portion of the London population, whose
recreations present about as strong a contrast as can well be
conceived—we mean the Sunday pleasurers; and let us beg our readers to
imagine themselves stationed by our side in some well-known rural
‘Tea-gardens.’

The heat is intense this afternoon, and the people, of whom there are
additional parties arriving every moment, look as warm as the tables
which have been recently painted, and have the appearance of being
red-hot.  What a dust and noise!  Men and women—boys and
girls—sweethearts and married people—babies in arms, and children in
chaises—pipes and shrimps—cigars and periwinkles—tea and tobacco.
Gentlemen, in alarming waistcoats, and steel watch-guards, promenading
about, three abreast, with surprising dignity (or as the gentleman in the
next box facetiously observes, ‘cutting it uncommon fat!’)—ladies, with
great, long, white pocket-handkerchiefs like small table-cloths, in their
hands, chasing one another on the grass in the most playful and
interesting manner, with the view of attracting the attention of the
aforesaid gentlemen—husbands in perspective ordering bottles of
ginger-beer for the objects of their affections, with a lavish disregard
of expense; and the said objects washing down huge quantities of
‘shrimps’ and ‘winkles,’ with an equal disregard of their own bodily
health and subsequent comfort—boys, with great silk hats just balanced on
the top of their heads, smoking cigars, and trying to look as if they
liked them—gentlemen in pink shirts and blue waistcoats, occasionally
upsetting either themselves, or somebody else, with their own canes.

Some of the finery of these people provokes a smile, but they are all
clean, and happy, and disposed to be good-natured and sociable.  Those
two motherly-looking women in the smart pelisses, who are chatting so
confidentially, inserting a ‘ma’am’ at every fourth word, scraped an
acquaintance about a quarter of an hour ago: it originated in admiration
of the little boy who belongs to one of them—that diminutive specimen of
mortality in the three-cornered pink satin hat with black feathers.  The
two men in the blue coats and drab trousers, who are walking up and down,
smoking their pipes, are their husbands.  The party in the opposite box
are a pretty fair specimen of the generality of the visitors.  These are
the father and mother, and old grandmother: a young man and woman, and an
individual addressed by the euphonious title of ‘Uncle Bill,’ who is
evidently the wit of the party.  They have some half-dozen children with
them, but it is scarcely necessary to notice the fact, for that is a
matter of course here.  Every woman in ‘the gardens,’ who has been
married for any length of time, must have had twins on two or three
occasions; it is impossible to account for the extent of juvenile
population in any other way.

Observe the inexpressible delight of the old grandmother, at Uncle Bill’s
splendid joke of ‘tea for four: bread-and-butter for forty;’ and the loud
explosion of mirth which follows his wafering a paper ‘pigtail’ on the
waiter’s collar.  The young man is evidently ‘keeping company’ with Uncle
Bill’s niece: and Uncle Bill’s hints—such as ‘Don’t forget me at the
dinner, you know,’ ‘I shall look out for the cake, Sally,’ ‘I’ll be
godfather to your first—wager it’s a boy,’ and so forth, are equally
embarrassing to the young people, and delightful to the elder ones.  As
to the old grandmother, she is in perfect ecstasies, and does nothing but
laugh herself into fits of coughing, until they have finished the
‘gin-and-water warm with,’ of which Uncle Bill ordered ‘glasses round’
after tea, ‘just to keep the night air out, and to do it up comfortable
and riglar arter sitch an as-tonishing hot day!’

It is getting dark, and the people begin to move.  The field leading to
town is quite full of them; the little hand-chaises are dragged wearily
along, the children are tired, and amuse themselves and the company
generally by crying, or resort to the much more pleasant expedient of
going to sleep—the mothers begin to wish they were at home
again—sweethearts grow more sentimental than ever, as the time for
parting arrives—the gardens look mournful enough, by the light of the two
lanterns which hang against the trees for the convenience of smokers—and
the waiters who have been running about incessantly for the last six
hours, think they feel a little tired, as they count their glasses and
their gains.



CHAPTER X—THE RIVER


‘Are you fond of the water?’ is a question very frequently asked, in hot
summer weather, by amphibious-looking young men.  ‘Very,’ is the general
reply.  ‘An’t you?’—‘Hardly ever off it,’ is the response, accompanied by
sundry adjectives, expressive of the speaker’s heartfelt admiration of
that element.  Now, with all respect for the opinion of society in
general, and cutter clubs in particular, we humbly suggest that some of
the most painful reminiscences in the mind of every individual who has
occasionally disported himself on the Thames, must be connected with his
aquatic recreations.  Who ever heard of a successful water-party?—or to
put the question in a still more intelligible form, who ever saw one?  We
have been on water excursions out of number, but we solemnly declare that
we cannot call to mind one single occasion of the kind, which was not
marked by more miseries than any one would suppose could be reasonably
crowded into the space of some eight or nine hours.  Something has always
gone wrong.  Either the cork of the salad-dressing has come out, or the
most anxiously expected member of the party has not come out, or the most
disagreeable man in company would come out, or a child or two have fallen
into the water, or the gentleman who undertook to steer has endangered
everybody’s life all the way, or the gentlemen who volunteered to row
have been ‘out of practice,’ and performed very alarming evolutions,
putting their oars down into the water and not being able to get them up
again, or taking terrific pulls without putting them in at all; in either
case, pitching over on the backs of their heads with startling violence,
and exhibiting the soles of their pumps to the ‘sitters’ in the boat, in
a very humiliating manner.

We grant that the banks of the Thames are very beautiful at Richmond and
Twickenham, and other distant havens, often sought though seldom reached;
but from the ‘Red-us’ back to Blackfriars-bridge, the scene is
wonderfully changed.  The Penitentiary is a noble building, no doubt, and
the sportive youths who ‘go in’ at that particular part of the river, on
a summer’s evening, may be all very well in perspective; but when you are
obliged to keep in shore coming home, and the young ladies will colour
up, and look perseveringly the other way, while the married dittos cough
slightly, and stare very hard at the water, you feel awkward—especially
if you happen to have been attempting the most distant approach to
sentimentality, for an hour or two previously.

Although experience and suffering have produced in our minds the result
we have just stated, we are by no means blind to a proper sense of the
fun which a looker-on may extract from the amateurs of boating.  What can
be more amusing than Searle’s yard on a fine Sunday morning?  It’s a
Richmond tide, and some dozen boats are preparing for the reception of
the parties who have engaged them.  Two or three fellows in great rough
trousers and Guernsey shirts, are getting them ready by easy stages; now
coming down the yard with a pair of sculls and a cushion—then having a
chat with the ‘Jack,’ who, like all his tribe, seems to be wholly
incapable of doing anything but lounging about—then going back again, and
returning with a rudder-line and a stretcher—then solacing themselves
with another chat—and then wondering, with their hands in their capacious
pockets, ‘where them gentlemen’s got to as ordered the six.’  One of
these, the head man, with the legs of his trousers carefully tucked up at
the bottom, to admit the water, we presume—for it is an element in which
he is infinitely more at home than on land—is quite a character, and
shares with the defunct oyster-swallower the celebrated name of ‘Dando.’
Watch him, as taking a few minutes’ respite from his toils, he
negligently seats himself on the edge of a boat, and fans his broad bushy
chest with a cap scarcely half so furry.  Look at his magnificent, though
reddish whiskers, and mark the somewhat native humour with which he
‘chaffs’ the boys and ’prentices, or cunningly gammons the gen’lm’n into
the gift of a glass of gin, of which we verily believe he swallows in one
day as much as any six ordinary men, without ever being one atom the
worse for it.

But the party arrives, and Dando, relieved from his state of uncertainty,
starts up into activity.  They approach in full aquatic costume, with
round blue jackets, striped shirts, and caps of all sizes and patterns,
from the velvet skull-cap of French manufacture, to the easy head-dress
familiar to the students of the old spelling-books, as having, on the
authority of the portrait, formed part of the costume of the Reverend Mr.
Dilworth.

This is the most amusing time to observe a regular Sunday water-party.
There has evidently been up to this period no inconsiderable degree of
boasting on everybody’s part relative to his knowledge of navigation; the
sight of the water rapidly cools their courage, and the air of
self-denial with which each of them insists on somebody else’s taking an
oar, is perfectly delightful.  At length, after a great deal of changing
and fidgeting, consequent upon the election of a stroke-oar: the
inability of one gentleman to pull on this side, of another to pull on
that, and of a third to pull at all, the boat’s crew are seated.  ‘Shove
her off!’ cries the cockswain, who looks as easy and comfortable as if he
were steering in the Bay of Biscay.  The order is obeyed; the boat is
immediately turned completely round, and proceeds towards
Westminster-bridge, amidst such a splashing and struggling as never was
seen before, except when the Royal George went down.  ‘Back wa’ater,
sir,’ shouts Dando, ‘Back wa’ater, you sir, aft;’ upon which everybody
thinking he must be the individual referred to, they all back water, and
back comes the boat, stern first, to the spot whence it started.  ‘Back
water, you sir, aft; pull round, you sir, for’ad, can’t you?’ shouts
Dando, in a frenzy of excitement.  ‘Pull round, Tom, can’t you?’
re-echoes one of the party.  ‘Tom an’t for’ad,’ replies another.  ‘Yes,
he is,’ cries a third; and the unfortunate young man, at the imminent
risk of breaking a blood-vessel, pulls and pulls, until the head of the
boat fairly lies in the direction of Vauxhall-bridge.  ‘That’s right—now
pull all on you!’ shouts Dando again, adding, in an under-tone, to
somebody by him, ‘Blowed if hever I see sich a set of muffs!’ and away
jogs the boat in a zigzag direction, every one of the six oars dipping
into the water at a different time; and the yard is once more clear,
until the arrival of the next party.

A well-contested rowing-match on the Thames, is a very lively and
interesting scene.  The water is studded with boats of all sorts, kinds,
and descriptions; places in the coal-barges at the different wharfs are
let to crowds of spectators, beer and tobacco flow freely about; men,
women, and children wait for the start in breathless expectation; cutters
of six and eight oars glide gently up and down, waiting to accompany
their _protégés_ during the race; bands of music add to the animation, if
not to the harmony of the scene; groups of watermen are assembled at the
different stairs, discussing the merits of the respective candidates; and
the prize wherry, which is rowed slowly about by a pair of sculls, is an
object of general interest.

Two o’clock strikes, and everybody looks anxiously in the direction of
the bridge through which the candidates for the prize will come—half-past
two, and the general attention which has been preserved so long begins to
flag, when suddenly a gun is heard, and a noise of distant hurra’ing
along each bank of the river—every head is bent forward—the noise draws
nearer and nearer—the boats which have been waiting at the bridge start
briskly up the river, and a well-manned galley shoots through the arch,
the sitters cheering on the boats behind them, which are not yet visible.

‘Here they are,’ is the general cry—and through darts the first boat, the
men in her, stripped to the skin, and exerting every muscle to preserve
the advantage they have gained—four other boats follow close astern;
there are not two boats’ length between them—the shouting is tremendous,
and the interest intense.  ‘Go on, Pink’—‘Give it her, Red’—‘Sulliwin for
ever’—‘Bravo!  George’—‘Now, Tom, now—now—now—why don’t your partner
stretch out?’—‘Two pots to a pint on Yellow,’ &c., &c.  Every little
public-house fires its gun, and hoists its flag; and the men who win the
heat, come in, amidst a splashing and shouting, and banging and
confusion, which no one can imagine who has not witnessed it, and of
which any description would convey a very faint idea.

One of the most amusing places we know is the steam-wharf of the London
Bridge, or St. Katharine’s Dock Company, on a Saturday morning in summer,
when the Gravesend and Margate steamers are usually crowded to excess;
and as we have just taken a glance at the river above bridge, we hope our
readers will not object to accompany us on board a Gravesend packet.

Coaches are every moment setting down at the entrance to the wharf, and
the stare of bewildered astonishment with which the ‘fares’ resign
themselves and their luggage into the hands of the porters, who seize all
the packages at once as a matter of course, and run away with them,
heaven knows where, is laughable in the extreme.  A Margate boat lies
alongside the wharf, the Gravesend boat (which starts first) lies
alongside that again; and as a temporary communication is formed between
the two, by means of a plank and hand-rail, the natural confusion of the
scene is by no means diminished.

‘Gravesend?’ inquires a stout father of a stout family, who follow him,
under the guidance of their mother, and a servant, at the no small risk
of two or three of them being left behind in the confusion.  ‘Gravesend?’

‘Pass on, if you please, sir,’ replies the attendant—‘other boat, sir.’

Hereupon the stout father, being rather mystified, and the stout mother
rather distracted by maternal anxiety, the whole party deposit themselves
in the Margate boat, and after having congratulated himself on having
secured very comfortable seats, the stout father sallies to the chimney
to look for his luggage, which he has a faint recollection of having
given some man, something, to take somewhere.  No luggage, however,
bearing the most remote resemblance to his own, in shape or form, is to
be discovered; on which the stout father calls very loudly for an
officer, to whom he states the case, in the presence of another father of
another family—a little thin man—who entirely concurs with him (the stout
father) in thinking that it’s high time something was done with these
steam companies, and that as the Corporation Bill failed to do it,
something else must; for really people’s property is not to be sacrificed
in this way; and that if the luggage isn’t restored without delay, he
will take care it shall be put in the papers, for the public is not to be
the victim of these great monopolies.  To this, the officer, in his turn,
replies, that that company, ever since it has been St. Kat’rine’s Dock
Company, has protected life and property; that if it had been the London
Bridge Wharf Company, indeed, he shouldn’t have wondered, seeing that the
morality of that company (they being the opposition) can’t be answered
for, by no one; but as it is, he’s convinced there must be some mistake,
and he wouldn’t mind making a solemn oath afore a magistrate that the
gentleman’ll find his luggage afore he gets to Margate.

Here the stout father, thinking he is making a capital point, replies,
that as it happens, he is not going to Margate at all, and that
‘Passenger to Gravesend’ was on the luggage, in letters of full two
inches long; on which the officer rapidly explains the mistake, and the
stout mother, and the stout children, and the servant, are hurried with
all possible despatch on board the Gravesend boat, which they reached
just in time to discover that their luggage is there, and that their
comfortable seats are not.  Then the bell, which is the signal for the
Gravesend boat starting, begins to ring most furiously: and people keep
time to the bell, by running in and out of our boat at a double-quick
pace.  The bell stops; the boat starts: people who have been taking leave
of their friends on board, are carried away against their will; and
people who have been taking leave of their friends on shore, find that
they have performed a very needless ceremony, in consequence of their not
being carried away at all.  The regular passengers, who have season
tickets, go below to breakfast; people who have purchased morning papers,
compose themselves to read them; and people who have not been down the
river before, think that both the shipping and the water, look a great
deal better at a distance.

When we get down about as far as Blackwall, and begin to move at a
quicker rate, the spirits of the passengers appear to rise in proportion.
Old women who have brought large wicker hand-baskets with them, set
seriously to work at the demolition of heavy sandwiches, and pass round a
wine-glass, which is frequently replenished from a flat bottle like a
stomach-warmer, with considerable glee: handing it first to the gentleman
in the foraging-cap, who plays the harp—partly as an expression of
satisfaction with his previous exertions, and partly to induce him to
play ‘Dumbledumbdeary,’ for ‘Alick’ to dance to; which being done, Alick,
who is a damp earthy child in red worsted socks, takes certain small
jumps upon the deck, to the unspeakable satisfaction of his family
circle.  Girls who have brought the first volume of some new novel in
their reticule, become extremely plaintive, and expatiate to Mr. Brown,
or young Mr. O’Brien, who has been looking over them, on the blueness of
the sky, and brightness of the water; on which Mr. Brown or Mr. O’Brien,
as the case may be, remarks in a low voice that he has been quite
insensible of late to the beauties of nature, that his whole thoughts and
wishes have centred in one object alone—whereupon the young lady looks
up, and failing in her attempt to appear unconscious, looks down again;
and turns over the next leaf with great difficulty, in order to afford
opportunity for a lengthened pressure of the hand.

Telescopes, sandwiches, and glasses of brandy-and-water cold without,
begin to be in great requisition; and bashful men who have been looking
down the hatchway at the engine, find, to their great relief, a subject
on which they can converse with one another—and a copious one too—Steam.

‘Wonderful thing steam, sir.’  ‘Ah! (a deep-drawn sigh) it is indeed,
sir.’  ‘Great power, sir.’  ‘Immense—immense!’  ‘Great deal done by
steam, sir.’  ‘Ah! (another sigh at the immensity of the subject, and a
knowing shake of the head) you may say that, sir.’  ‘Still in its
infancy, they say, sir.’  Novel remarks of this kind, are generally the
commencement of a conversation which is prolonged until the conclusion of
the trip, and, perhaps, lays the foundation of a speaking acquaintance
between half-a-dozen gentlemen, who, having their families at Gravesend,
take season tickets for the boat, and dine on board regularly every
afternoon.



CHAPTER XI—ASTLEY’S


We never see any very large, staring, black Roman capitals, in a book, or
shop-window, or placarded on a wall, without their immediately recalling
to our mind an indistinct and confused recollection of the time when we
were first initiated in the mysteries of the alphabet.  We almost fancy
we see the pin’s point following the letter, to impress its form more
strongly on our bewildered imagination; and wince involuntarily, as we
remember the hard knuckles with which the reverend old lady who instilled
into our mind the first principles of education for ninepence per week,
or ten and sixpence per quarter, was wont to poke our juvenile head
occasionally, by way of adjusting the confusion of ideas in which we were
generally involved.  The same kind of feeling pursues us in many other
instances, but there is no place which recalls so strongly our
recollections of childhood as Astley’s.  It was not a ‘Royal
Amphitheatre’ in those days, nor had Ducrow arisen to shed the light of
classic taste and portable gas over the sawdust of the circus; but the
whole character of the place was the same, the pieces were the same, the
clown’s jokes were the same, the riding-masters were equally grand, the
comic performers equally witty, the tragedians equally hoarse, and the
‘highly-trained chargers’ equally spirited.  Astley’s has altered for the
better—we have changed for the worse.  Our histrionic taste is gone, and
with shame we confess, that we are far more delighted and amused with the
audience, than with the pageantry we once so highly appreciated.

We like to watch a regular Astley’s party in the Easter or Midsummer
holidays—pa and ma, and nine or ten children, varying from five foot six
to two foot eleven: from fourteen years of age to four.  We had just
taken our seat in one of the boxes, in the centre of the house, the other
night, when the next was occupied by just such a party as we should have
attempted to describe, had we depicted our _beau idéal_ of a group of
Astley’s visitors.

First of all, there came three little boys and a little girl, who, in
pursuance of pa’s directions, issued in a very audible voice from the
box-door, occupied the front row; then two more little girls were ushered
in by a young lady, evidently the governess.  Then came three more little
boys, dressed like the first, in blue jackets and trousers, with lay-down
shirt-collars: then a child in a braided frock and high state of
astonishment, with very large round eyes, opened to their utmost width,
was lifted over the seats—a process which occasioned a considerable
display of little pink legs—then came ma and pa, and then the eldest son,
a boy of fourteen years old, who was evidently trying to look as if he
did not belong to the family.

The first five minutes were occupied in taking the shawls off the little
girls, and adjusting the bows which ornamented their hair; then it was
providentially discovered that one of the little boys was seated behind a
pillar and could not see, so the governess was stuck behind the pillar,
and the boy lifted into her place.  Then pa drilled the boys, and
directed the stowing away of their pocket-handkerchiefs, and ma having
first nodded and winked to the governess to pull the girls’ frocks a
little more off their shoulders, stood up to review the little troop—an
inspection which appeared to terminate much to her own satisfaction, for
she looked with a complacent air at pa, who was standing up at the
further end of the seat.  Pa returned the glance, and blew his nose very
emphatically; and the poor governess peeped out from behind the pillar,
and timidly tried to catch ma’s eye, with a look expressive of her high
admiration of the whole family.  Then two of the little boys who had been
discussing the point whether Astley’s was more than twice as large as
Drury Lane, agreed to refer it to ‘George’ for his decision; at which
‘George,’ who was no other than the young gentleman before noticed, waxed
indignant, and remonstrated in no very gentle terms on the gross
impropriety of having his name repeated in so loud a voice at a public
place, on which all the children laughed very heartily, and one of the
little boys wound up by expressing his opinion, that ‘George began to
think himself quite a man now,’ whereupon both pa and ma laughed too; and
George (who carried a dress cane and was cultivating whiskers) muttered
that ‘William always was encouraged in his impertinence;’ and assumed a
look of profound contempt, which lasted the whole evening.

The play began, and the interest of the little boys knew no bounds.  Pa
was clearly interested too, although he very unsuccessfully endeavoured
to look as if he wasn’t.  As for ma, she was perfectly overcome by the
drollery of the principal comedian, and laughed till every one of the
immense bows on her ample cap trembled, at which the governess peeped out
from behind the pillar again, and whenever she could catch ma’s eye, put
her handkerchief to her mouth, and appeared, as in duty bound, to be in
convulsions of laughter also.  Then when the man in the splendid armour
vowed to rescue the lady or perish in the attempt, the little boys
applauded vehemently, especially one little fellow who was apparently on
a visit to the family, and had been carrying on a child’s flirtation, the
whole evening, with a small coquette of twelve years old, who looked like
a model of her mamma on a reduced scale; and who, in common with the
other little girls (who generally speaking have even more coquettishness
about them than much older ones), looked very properly shocked, when the
knight’s squire kissed the princess’s confidential chambermaid.

When the scenes in the circle commenced, the children were more delighted
than ever; and the wish to see what was going forward, completely
conquering pa’s dignity, he stood up in the box, and applauded as loudly
as any of them.  Between each feat of horsemanship, the governess leant
across to ma, and retailed the clever remarks of the children on that
which had preceded: and ma, in the openness of her heart, offered the
governess an acidulated drop, and the governess, gratified to be taken
notice of, retired behind her pillar again with a brighter countenance:
and the whole party seemed quite happy, except the exquisite in the back
of the box, who, being too grand to take any interest in the children,
and too insignificant to be taken notice of by anybody else, occupied
himself, from time to time, in rubbing the place where the whiskers ought
to be, and was completely alone in his glory.

We defy any one who has been to Astley’s two or three times, and is
consequently capable of appreciating the perseverance with which
precisely the same jokes are repeated night after night, and season after
season, not to be amused with one part of the performances at least—we
mean the scenes in the circle.  For ourself, we know that when the hoop,
composed of jets of gas, is let down, the curtain drawn up for the
convenience of the half-price on their ejectment from the ring, the
orange-peel cleared away, and the sawdust shaken, with mathematical
precision, into a complete circle, we feel as much enlivened as the
youngest child present; and actually join in the laugh which follows the
clown’s shrill shout of ‘Here we are!’ just for old acquaintance’ sake.
Nor can we quite divest ourself of our old feeling of reverence for the
riding-master, who follows the clown with a long whip in his hand, and
bows to the audience with graceful dignity.  He is none of your
second-rate riding-masters in nankeen dressing-gowns, with brown frogs,
but the regular gentleman-attendant on the principal riders, who always
wears a military uniform with a table-cloth inside the breast of the
coat, in which costume he forcibly reminds one of a fowl trussed for
roasting.  He is—but why should we attempt to describe that of which no
description can convey an adequate idea?  Everybody knows the man, and
everybody remembers his polished boots, his graceful demeanour, stiff, as
some misjudging persons have in their jealousy considered it, and the
splendid head of black hair, parted high on the forehead, to impart to
the countenance an appearance of deep thought and poetic melancholy.  His
soft and pleasing voice, too, is in perfect unison with his noble
bearing, as he humours the clown by indulging in a little badinage; and
the striking recollection of his own dignity, with which he exclaims,
‘Now, sir, if you please, inquire for Miss Woolford, sir,’ can never be
forgotten.  The graceful air, too, with which he introduces Miss Woolford
into the arena, and, after assisting her to the saddle, follows her fairy
courser round the circle, can never fail to create a deep impression in
the bosom of every female servant present.

When Miss Woolford, and the horse, and the orchestra, all stop together
to take breath, he urbanely takes part in some such dialogue as the
following (commenced by the clown): ‘I say, sir!’—‘Well, sir?’ (it’s
always conducted in the politest manner.)—‘Did you ever happen to hear I
was in the army, sir?’—‘No, sir.’—‘Oh, yes, sir—I can go through my
exercise, sir.’—‘Indeed, sir!’—‘Shall I do it now, sir?’—‘If you please,
sir; come, sir—make haste’ (a cut with the long whip, and ‘Ha’ done now—I
don’t like it,’ from the clown).  Here the clown throws himself on the
ground, and goes through a variety of gymnastic convulsions, doubling
himself up, and untying himself again, and making himself look very like
a man in the most hopeless extreme of human agony, to the vociferous
delight of the gallery, until he is interrupted by a second cut from the
long whip, and a request to see ‘what Miss Woolford’s stopping for?’  On
which, to the inexpressible mirth of the gallery, he exclaims, ‘Now, Miss
Woolford, what can I come for to go, for to fetch, for to bring, for to
carry, for to do, for you, ma’am?’  On the lady’s announcing with a sweet
smile that she wants the two flags, they are, with sundry grimaces,
procured and handed up; the clown facetiously observing after the
performance of the latter ceremony—‘He, he, oh!  I say, sir, Miss
Woolford knows me; she smiled at me.’  Another cut from the whip, a burst
from the orchestra, a start from the horse, and round goes Miss Woolford
again on her graceful performance, to the delight of every member of the
audience, young or old.  The next pause affords an opportunity for
similar witticisms, the only additional fun being that of the clown
making ludicrous grimaces at the riding-master every time his back is
turned; and finally quitting the circle by jumping over his head, having
previously directed his attention another way.

Did any of our readers ever notice the class of people, who hang about
the stage-doors of our minor theatres in the daytime?  You will rarely
pass one of these entrances without seeing a group of three or four men
conversing on the pavement, with an indescribable public-house-parlour
swagger, and a kind of conscious air, peculiar to people of this
description.  They always seem to think they are exhibiting; the lamps
are ever before them.  That young fellow in the faded brown coat, and
very full light green trousers, pulls down the wristbands of his check
shirt, as ostentatiously as if it were of the finest linen, and cocks the
white hat of the summer-before-last as knowingly over his right eye, as
if it were a purchase of yesterday.  Look at the dirty white Berlin
gloves, and the cheap silk handkerchief stuck in the bosom of his
threadbare coat.  Is it possible to see him for an instant, and not come
to the conclusion that he is the walking gentleman who wears a blue
surtout, clean collar, and white trousers, for half an hour, and then
shrinks into his worn-out scanty clothes: who has to boast night after
night of his splendid fortune, with the painful consciousness of a pound
a-week and his boots to find; to talk of his father’s mansion in the
country, with a dreary recollection of his own two-pair back, in the New
Cut; and to be envied and flattered as the favoured lover of a rich
heiress, remembering all the while that the ex-dancer at home is in the
family way, and out of an engagement?

Next to him, perhaps, you will see a thin pale man, with a very long
face, in a suit of shining black, thoughtfully knocking that part of his
boot which once had a heel, with an ash stick.  He is the man who does
the heavy business, such as prosy fathers, virtuous servants, curates,
landlords, and so forth.

By the way, talking of fathers, we should very much like to see some
piece in which all the dramatis personae were orphans.  Fathers are
invariably great nuisances on the stage, and always have to give the hero
or heroine a long explanation of what was done before the curtain rose,
usually commencing with ‘It is now nineteen years, my dear child, since
your blessed mother (here the old villain’s voice falters) confided you
to my charge.  You were then an infant,’ &c., &c.  Or else they have to
discover, all of a sudden, that somebody whom they have been in constant
communication with, during three long acts, without the slightest
suspicion, is their own child: in which case they exclaim, ‘Ah! what do I
see?  This bracelet!  That smile!  These documents!  Those eyes!  Can I
believe my senses?—It must be!—Yes—it is, it is my child!’—‘My father!’
exclaims the child; and they fall into each other’s arms, and look over
each other’s shoulders, and the audience give three rounds of applause.

To return from this digression, we were about to say, that these are the
sort of people whom you see talking, and attitudinising, outside the
stage-doors of our minor theatres.  At Astley’s they are always more
numerous than at any other place.  There is generally a groom or two,
sitting on the window-sill, and two or three dirty shabby-genteel men in
checked neckerchiefs, and sallow linen, lounging about, and carrying,
perhaps, under one arm, a pair of stage shoes badly wrapped up in a piece
of old newspaper.  Some years ago we used to stand looking, open-mouthed,
at these men, with a feeling of mysterious curiosity, the very
recollection of which provokes a smile at the moment we are writing.  We
could not believe that the beings of light and elegance, in milk-white
tunics, salmon-coloured legs, and blue scarfs, who flitted on sleek
cream-coloured horses before our eyes at night, with all the aid of
lights, music, and artificial flowers, could be the pale,
dissipated-looking creatures we beheld by day.

We can hardly believe it now.  Of the lower class of actors we have seen
something, and it requires no great exercise of imagination to identify
the walking gentleman with the ‘dirty swell,’ the comic singer with the
public-house chairman, or the leading tragedian with drunkenness and
distress; but these other men are mysterious beings, never seen out of
the ring, never beheld but in the costume of gods and sylphs.  With the
exception of Ducrow, who can scarcely be classed among them, who ever
knew a rider at Astley’s, or saw him but on horseback?  Can our friend in
the military uniform ever appear in threadbare attire, or descend to the
comparatively un-wadded costume of every-day life?  Impossible!  We
cannot—we will not—believe it.



CHAPTER XII—GREENWICH FAIR


If the Parks be ‘the lungs of London,’ we wonder what Greenwich Fair is—a
periodical breaking out, we suppose, a sort of spring-rash: a three days’
fever, which cools the blood for six months afterwards, and at the
expiration of which London is restored to its old habits of plodding
industry, as suddenly and completely as if nothing had ever happened to
disturb them.

In our earlier days, we were a constant frequenter of Greenwich Fair, for
years.  We have proceeded to, and returned from it, in almost every
description of vehicle.  We cannot conscientiously deny the charge of
having once made the passage in a spring-van, accompanied by thirteen
gentlemen, fourteen ladies, an unlimited number of children, and a barrel
of beer; and we have a vague recollection of having, in later days, found
ourself the eighth outside, on the top of a hackney-coach, at something
past four o’clock in the morning, with a rather confused idea of our own
name, or place of residence.  We have grown older since then, and quiet,
and steady: liking nothing better than to spend our Easter, and all our
other holidays, in some quiet nook, with people of whom we shall never
tire; but we think we still remember something of Greenwich Fair, and of
those who resort to it.  At all events we will try.

The road to Greenwich during the whole of Easter Monday, is in a state of
perpetual bustle and noise.  Cabs, hackney-coaches, ‘shay’ carts,
coal-waggons, stages, omnibuses, sociables, gigs, donkey-chaises—all
crammed with people (for the question never is, what the horse can draw,
but what the vehicle will hold), roll along at their utmost speed; the
dust flies in clouds, ginger-beer corks go off in volleys, the balcony of
every public-house is crowded with people, smoking and drinking, half the
private houses are turned into tea-shops, fiddles are in great request,
every little fruit-shop displays its stall of gilt gingerbread and penny
toys; turnpike men are in despair; horses won’t go on, and wheels will
come off; ladies in ‘carawans’ scream with fright at every fresh
concussion, and their admirers find it necessary to sit remarkably close
to them, by way of encouragement; servants-of-all-work, who are not
allowed to have followers, and have got a holiday for the day, make the
most of their time with the faithful admirer who waits for a stolen
interview at the corner of the street every night, when they go to fetch
the beer—apprentices grow sentimental, and straw-bonnet makers kind.
Everybody is anxious to get on, and actuated by the common wish to be at
the fair, or in the park, as soon as possible.

Pedestrians linger in groups at the roadside, unable to resist the
allurements of the stout proprietress of the ‘Jack-in-the-box, three
shies a penny,’ or the more splendid offers of the man with three
thimbles and a pea on a little round board, who astonishes the bewildered
crowd with some such address as, ‘Here’s the sort o’ game to make you
laugh seven years arter you’re dead, and turn ev’ry air on your ed gray
vith delight!  Three thimbles and vun little pea—with a vun, two, three,
and a two, three, vun: catch him who can, look on, keep your eyes open,
and niver say die! niver mind the change, and the expense: all fair and
above board: them as don’t play can’t vin, and luck attend the ryal
sportsman!  Bet any gen’lm’n any sum of money, from harf-a-crown up to a
suverin, as he doesn’t name the thimble as kivers the pea!’  Here some
greenhorn whispers his friend that he distinctly saw the pea roll under
the middle thimble—an impression which is immediately confirmed by a
gentleman in top-boots, who is standing by, and who, in a low tone,
regrets his own inability to bet, in consequence of having unfortunately
left his purse at home, but strongly urges the stranger not to neglect
such a golden opportunity.  The ‘plant’ is successful, the bet is made,
the stranger of course loses: and the gentleman with the thimbles
consoles him, as he pockets the money, with an assurance that it’s ‘all
the fortin of war! this time I vin, next time you vin: niver mind the
loss of two bob and a bender!  Do it up in a small parcel, and break out
in a fresh place.  Here’s the sort o’ game,’ &c.—and the eloquent
harangue, with such variations as the speaker’s exuberant fancy suggests,
is again repeated to the gaping crowd, reinforced by the accession of
several new-comers.

The chief place of resort in the daytime, after the public-houses, is the
park, in which the principal amusement is to drag young ladies up the
steep hill which leads to the Observatory, and then drag them down again,
at the very top of their speed, greatly to the derangement of their curls
and bonnet-caps, and much to the edification of lookers-on from below.
‘Kiss in the Ring,’ and ‘Threading my Grandmother’s Needle,’ too, are
sports which receive their full share of patronage.  Love-sick swains,
under the influence of gin-and-water, and the tender passion, become
violently affectionate: and the fair objects of their regard enhance the
value of stolen kisses, by a vast deal of struggling, and holding down of
heads, and cries of ‘Oh!  Ha’ done, then, George—Oh, do tickle him for
me, Mary—Well, I never!’ and similar Lucretian ejaculations.  Little old
men and women, with a small basket under one arm, and a wine-glass,
without a foot, in the other hand, tender ‘a drop o’ the right sort’ to
the different groups; and young ladies, who are persuaded to indulge in a
drop of the aforesaid right sort, display a pleasing degree of reluctance
to taste it, and cough afterwards with great propriety.

The old pensioners, who, for the moderate charge of a penny, exhibit the
mast-house, the Thames and shipping, the place where the men used to hang
in chains, and other interesting sights, through a telescope, are asked
questions about objects within the range of the glass, which it would
puzzle a Solomon to answer; and requested to find out particular houses
in particular streets, which it would have been a task of some difficulty
for Mr. Horner (not the young gentleman who ate mince-pies with his
thumb, but the man of Colosseum notoriety) to discover.  Here and there,
where some three or four couple are sitting on the grass together, you
will see a sun-burnt woman in a red cloak ‘telling fortunes’ and
prophesying husbands, which it requires no extraordinary observation to
describe, for the originals are before her.  Thereupon, the lady
concerned laughs and blushes, and ultimately buries her face in an
imitation cambric handkerchief, and the gentleman described looks
extremely foolish, and squeezes her hand, and fees the gipsy liberally;
and the gipsy goes away, perfectly satisfied herself, and leaving those
behind her perfectly satisfied also: and the prophecy, like many other
prophecies of greater importance, fulfils itself in time.

But it grows dark: the crowd has gradually dispersed, and only a few
stragglers are left behind.  The light in the direction of the church
shows that the fair is illuminated; and the distant noise proves it to be
filling fast.  The spot, which half an hour ago was ringing with the
shouts of boisterous mirth, is as calm and quiet as if nothing could ever
disturb its serenity: the fine old trees, the majestic building at their
feet, with the noble river beyond, glistening in the moonlight, appear in
all their beauty, and under their most favourable aspect; the voices of
the boys, singing their evening hymn, are borne gently on the air; and
the humblest mechanic who has been lingering on the grass so pleasant to
the feet that beat the same dull round from week to week in the paved
streets of London, feels proud to think as he surveys the scene before
him, that he belongs to the country which has selected such a spot as a
retreat for its oldest and best defenders in the decline of their lives.

Five minutes’ walking brings you to the fair; a scene calculated to
awaken very different feelings.  The entrance is occupied on either side
by the vendors of gingerbread and toys: the stalls are gaily lighted up,
the most attractive goods profusely disposed, and unbonneted young
ladies, in their zeal for the interest of their employers, seize you by
the coat, and use all the blandishments of ‘Do, dear’—‘There’s a
love’—‘Don’t be cross, now,’ &c., to induce you to purchase half a pound
of the real spice nuts, of which the majority of the regular fair-goers
carry a pound or two as a present supply, tied up in a cotton
pocket-handkerchief.  Occasionally you pass a deal table, on which are
exposed pen’orths of pickled salmon (fennel included), in little white
saucers: oysters, with shells as large as cheese-plates, and divers
specimens of a species of snail (_wilks_, we think they are called),
floating in a somewhat bilious-looking green liquid.  Cigars, too, are in
great demand; gentlemen must smoke, of course, and here they are, two a
penny, in a regular authentic cigar-box, with a lighted tallow candle in
the centre.

Imagine yourself in an extremely dense crowd, which swings you to and
fro, and in and out, and every way but the right one; add to this the
screams of women, the shouts of boys, the clanging of gongs, the firing
of pistols, the ringing of bells, the bellowings of speaking-trumpets,
the squeaking of penny dittos, the noise of a dozen bands, with three
drums in each, all playing different tunes at the same time, the
hallooing of showmen, and an occasional roar from the wild-beast shows;
and you are in the very centre and heart of the fair.

This immense booth, with the large stage in front, so brightly
illuminated with variegated lamps, and pots of burning fat, is
‘Richardson’s,’ where you have a melodrama (with three murders and a
ghost), a pantomime, a comic song, an overture, and some incidental
music, all done in five-and-twenty minutes.

The company are now promenading outside in all the dignity of wigs,
spangles, red-ochre, and whitening.  See with what a ferocious air the
gentleman who personates the Mexican chief, paces up and down, and with
what an eye of calm dignity the principal tragedian gazes on the crowd
below, or converses confidentially with the harlequin!  The four clowns,
who are engaged in a mock broadsword combat, may be all very well for the
low-minded holiday-makers; but these are the people for the reflective
portion of the community.  They look so noble in those Roman dresses,
with their yellow legs and arms, long black curly heads, bushy eyebrows,
and scowl expressive of assassination, and vengeance, and everything else
that is grand and solemn.  Then, the ladies—were there ever such innocent
and awful-looking beings; as they walk up and down the platform in twos
and threes, with their arms round each other’s waists, or leaning for
support on one of those majestic men!  Their spangled muslin dresses and
blue satin shoes and sandals (a _leetle_ the worse for wear) are the
admiration of all beholders; and the playful manner in which they check
the advances of the clown, is perfectly enchanting.

‘Just a-going to begin!  Pray come for’erd, come for’erd,’ exclaims the
man in the countryman’s dress, for the seventieth time: and people force
their way up the steps in crowds.  The band suddenly strikes up, the
harlequin and columbine set the example, reels are formed in less than no
time, the Roman heroes place their arms a-kimbo, and dance with
considerable agility; and the leading tragic actress, and the gentleman
who enacts the ‘swell’ in the pantomime, foot it to perfection.  ‘All in
to begin,’ shouts the manager, when no more people can be induced to
‘come for’erd,’ and away rush the leading members of the company to do
the dreadful in the first piece.

A change of performance takes place every day during the fair, but the
story of the tragedy is always pretty much the same.  There is a rightful
heir, who loves a young lady, and is beloved by her; and a wrongful heir,
who loves her too, and isn’t beloved by her; and the wrongful heir gets
hold of the rightful heir, and throws him into a dungeon, just to kill
him off when convenient, for which purpose he hires a couple of
assassins—a good one and a bad one—who, the moment they are left alone,
get up a little murder on their own account, the good one killing the bad
one, and the bad one wounding the good one.  Then the rightful heir is
discovered in prison, carefully holding a long chain in his hands, and
seated despondingly in a large arm-chair; and the young lady comes in to
two bars of soft music, and embraces the rightful heir; and then the
wrongful heir comes in to two bars of quick music (technically called ‘a
hurry’), and goes on in the most shocking manner, throwing the young lady
about as if she was nobody, and calling the rightful heir
‘Ar-recreant—ar-wretch!’ in a very loud voice, which answers the double
purpose of displaying his passion, and preventing the sound being
deadened by the sawdust.  The interest becomes intense; the wrongful heir
draws his sword, and rushes on the rightful heir; a blue smoke is seen, a
gong is heard, and a tall white figure (who has been all this time,
behind the arm-chair, covered over with a table-cloth), slowly rises to
the tune of ‘Oft in the stilly night.’  This is no other than the ghost
of the rightful heir’s father, who was killed by the wrongful heir’s
father, at sight of which the wrongful heir becomes apoplectic, and is
literally ‘struck all of a heap,’ the stage not being large enough to
admit of his falling down at full length.  Then the good assassin
staggers in, and says he was hired in conjunction with the bad assassin,
by the wrongful heir, to kill the rightful heir; and he’s killed a good
many people in his time, but he’s very sorry for it, and won’t do so any
more—a promise which he immediately redeems, by dying off hand without
any nonsense about it.  Then the rightful heir throws down his chain; and
then two men, a sailor, and a young woman (the tenantry of the rightful
heir) come in, and the ghost makes dumb motions to them, which they, by
supernatural interference, understand—for no one else can; and the ghost
(who can’t do anything without blue fire) blesses the rightful heir and
the young lady, by half suffocating them with smoke: and then a
muffin-bell rings, and the curtain drops.

The exhibitions next in popularity to these itinerant theatres are the
travelling menageries, or, to speak more intelligibly, the ‘Wild-beast
shows,’ where a military band in beef-eater’s costume, with leopard-skin
caps, play incessantly; and where large highly-coloured representations
of tigers tearing men’s heads open, and a lion being burnt with red-hot
irons to induce him to drop his victim, are hung up outside, by way of
attracting visitors.

The principal officer at these places is generally a very tall, hoarse
man, in a scarlet coat, with a cane in his hand, with which he
occasionally raps the pictures we have just noticed, by way of
illustrating his description—something in this way.  ‘Here, here, here;
the lion, the lion (tap), exactly as he is represented on the canvas
outside (three taps): no waiting, remember; no deception.  The
fe-ro-cious lion (tap, tap) who bit off the gentleman’s head last
Cambervel vos a twelvemonth, and has killed on the awerage three keepers
a-year ever since he arrived at matoority.  No extra charge on this
account recollect; the price of admission is only sixpence.’  This
address never fails to produce a considerable sensation, and sixpences
flow into the treasury with wonderful rapidity.

The dwarfs are also objects of great curiosity, and as a dwarf, a
giantess, a living skeleton, a wild Indian, ‘a young lady of singular
beauty, with perfectly white hair and pink eyes,’ and two or three other
natural curiosities, are usually exhibited together for the small charge
of a penny, they attract very numerous audiences.  The best thing about a
dwarf is, that he has always a little box, about two feet six inches
high, into which, by long practice, he can just manage to get, by
doubling himself up like a boot-jack; this box is painted outside like a
six-roomed house, and as the crowd see him ring a bell, or fire a pistol
out of the first-floor window, they verily believe that it is his
ordinary town residence, divided like other mansions into drawing-rooms,
dining-parlour, and bedchambers.  Shut up in this case, the unfortunate
little object is brought out to delight the throng by holding a facetious
dialogue with the proprietor: in the course of which, the dwarf (who is
always particularly drunk) pledges himself to sing a comic song inside,
and pays various compliments to the ladies, which induce them to ‘come
for’erd’ with great alacrity.  As a giant is not so easily moved, a pair
of indescribables of most capacious dimensions, and a huge shoe, are
usually brought out, into which two or three stout men get all at once,
to the enthusiastic delight of the crowd, who are quite satisfied with
the solemn assurance that these habiliments form part of the giant’s
everyday costume.

The grandest and most numerously-frequented booth in the whole fair,
however, is ‘The Crown and Anchor’—a temporary ball-room—we forget how
many hundred feet long, the price of admission to which is one shilling.
Immediately on your right hand as you enter, after paying your money, is
a refreshment place, at which cold beef, roast and boiled, French rolls,
stout, wine, tongue, ham, even fowls, if we recollect right, are
displayed in tempting array.  There is a raised orchestra, and the place
is boarded all the way down, in patches, just wide enough for a country
dance.

There is no master of the ceremonies in this artificial Eden—all is
primitive, unreserved, and unstudied.  The dust is blinding, the heat
insupportable, the company somewhat noisy, and in the highest spirits
possible: the ladies, in the height of their innocent animation, dancing
in the gentlemen’s hats, and the gentlemen promenading ‘the gay and
festive scene’ in the ladies’ bonnets, or with the more expensive
ornaments of false noses, and low-crowned, tinder-box-looking hats:
playing children’s drums, and accompanied by ladies on the penny trumpet.

The noise of these various instruments, the orchestra, the shouting, the
‘scratchers,’ and the dancing, is perfectly bewildering.  The dancing,
itself, beggars description—every figure lasts about an hour, and the
ladies bounce up and down the middle, with a degree of spirit which is
quite indescribable.  As to the gentlemen, they stamp their feet against
the ground, every time ‘hands four round’ begins, go down the middle and
up again, with cigars in their mouths, and silk handkerchiefs in their
hands, and whirl their partners round, nothing loth, scrambling and
falling, and embracing, and knocking up against the other couples, until
they are fairly tired out, and can move no longer.  The same scene is
repeated again and again (slightly varied by an occasional ‘row’) until a
late hour at night: and a great many clerks and ’prentices find
themselves next morning with aching heads, empty pockets, damaged hats,
and a very imperfect recollection of how it was they did _not_ get home.



CHAPTER XIII—PRIVATE THEATRES


    ‘RICHARD THE THIRD.—DUKE OF GLO’STER 2_l._; EARL OF RICHMOND, 1_l_;
    DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM, 15_s._; CATESBY, 12_s._; TRESSEL, 10_s._ 6_d._;
    LORD STANLEY, 5_s._; LORD MAYOR OF LONDON, 2_s._ 6_d._’

Such are the written placards wafered up in the gentlemen’s
dressing-room, or the green-room (where there is any), at a private
theatre; and such are the sums extracted from the shop-till, or
overcharged in the office expenditure, by the donkeys who are prevailed
upon to pay for permission to exhibit their lamentable ignorance and
boobyism on the stage of a private theatre.  This they do, in proportion
to the scope afforded by the character for the display of their
imbecility.  For instance, the Duke of Glo’ster is well worth two pounds,
because he has it all to himself; he must wear a real sword, and what is
better still, he must draw it, several times in the course of the piece.
The soliloquies alone are well worth fifteen shillings; then there is the
stabbing King Henry—decidedly cheap at three-and-sixpence, that’s
eighteen-and-sixpence; bullying the coffin-bearers—say eighteen-pence,
though it’s worth much more—that’s a pound.  Then the love scene with
Lady Ann, and the bustle of the fourth act can’t be dear at ten shillings
more—that’s only one pound ten, including the ‘off with his head!’—which
is sure to bring down the applause, and it is very easy to do—‘Orf with
his ed’ (very quick and loud;—then slow and sneeringly)—‘So much for
Bu-u-u-uckingham!’  Lay the emphasis on the ’uck;’ get yourself gradually
into a corner, and work with your right hand, while you’re saying it, as
if you were feeling your way, and it’s sure to do.  The tent scene is
confessedly worth half-a-sovereign, and so you have the fight in, gratis,
and everybody knows what an effect may be produced by a good combat.
One—two—three—four—over; then, one—two—three—four—under; then thrust;
then dodge and slide about; then fall down on one knee; then fight upon
it, and then get up again and stagger.  You may keep on doing this, as
long as it seems to take—say ten minutes—and then fall down (backwards,
if you can manage it without hurting yourself), and die game: nothing
like it for producing an effect.  They always do it at Astley’s and
Sadler’s Wells, and if they don’t know how to do this sort of thing, who
in the world does?  A small child, or a female in white, increases the
interest of a combat materially—indeed, we are not aware that a regular
legitimate terrific broadsword combat could be done without; but it would
be rather difficult, and somewhat unusual, to introduce this effect in
the last scene of Richard the Third, so the only thing to be done, is,
just to make the best of a bad bargain, and be as long as possible
fighting it out.

The principal patrons of private theatres are dirty boys, low
copying-clerks, in attorneys’ offices, capacious-headed youths from city
counting-houses, Jews whose business, as lenders of fancy dresses, is a
sure passport to the amateur stage, shop-boys who now and then mistake
their masters’ money for their own; and a choice miscellany of idle
vagabonds.  The proprietor of a private theatre may be an
ex-scene-painter, a low coffee-house-keeper, a disappointed eighth-rate
actor, a retired smuggler, or uncertificated bankrupt.  The theatre
itself may be in Catherine-street, Strand, the purlieus of the city, the
neighbourhood of Gray’s-inn-lane, or the vicinity of Sadler’s Wells; or
it may, perhaps, form the chief nuisance of some shabby street, on the
Surrey side of Waterloo-bridge.

The lady performers pay nothing for their characters, and it is needless
to add, are usually selected from one class of society; the audiences are
necessarily of much the same character as the performers, who receive, in
return for their contributions to the management, tickets to the amount
of the money they pay.

All the minor theatres in London, especially the lowest, constitute the
centre of a little stage-struck neighbourhood.  Each of them has an
audience exclusively its own; and at any you will see dropping into the
pit at half-price, or swaggering into the back of a box, if the price of
admission be a reduced one, divers boys of from fifteen to twenty-one
years of age, who throw back their coat and turn up their wristbands,
after the portraits of Count D’Orsay, hum tunes and whistle when the
curtain is down, by way of persuading the people near them, that they are
not at all anxious to have it up again, and speak familiarly of the
inferior performers as Bill Such-a-one, and Ned So-and-so, or tell each
other how a new piece called _The Unknown Bandit of the Invisible
Cavern_, is in rehearsal; how Mister Palmer is to play _The Unknown
Bandit_; how Charley Scarton is to take the part of an English sailor,
and fight a broadsword combat with six unknown bandits, at one and the
same time (one theatrical sailor is always equal to half a dozen men at
least); how Mister Palmer and Charley Scarton are to go through a double
hornpipe in fetters in the second act; how the interior of the invisible
cavern is to occupy the whole extent of the stage; and other
town-surprising theatrical announcements.  These gentlemen are the
amateurs—the _Richards_, _Shylocks_, _Beverleys_, and _Othellos_—the
_Young Dorntons_, _Rovers_, _Captain Absolutes_, and _Charles Surfaces_—a
private theatre.

See them at the neighbouring public-house or the theatrical coffee-shop!
They are the kings of the place, supposing no real performers to be
present; and roll about, hats on one side, and arms a-kimbo, as if they
had actually come into possession of eighteen shillings a-week, and a
share of a ticket night.  If one of them does but know an Astley’s
supernumerary he is a happy fellow.  The mingled air of envy and
admiration with which his companions will regard him, as he converses
familiarly with some mouldy-looking man in a fancy neckerchief, whose
partially corked eyebrows, and half-rouged face, testify to the fact of
his having just left the stage or the circle, sufficiently shows in what
high admiration these public characters are held.

With the double view of guarding against the discovery of friends or
employers, and enhancing the interest of an assumed character, by
attaching a high-sounding name to its representative, these geniuses
assume fictitious names, which are not the least amusing part of the
play-bill of a private theatre.  Belville, Melville, Treville, Berkeley,
Randolph, Byron, St. Clair, and so forth, are among the humblest; and the
less imposing titles of Jenkins, Walker, Thomson, Barker, Solomons, &c.,
are completely laid aside.  There is something imposing in this, and it
is an excellent apology for shabbiness into the bargain.  A shrunken,
faded coat, a decayed hat, a patched and soiled pair of trousers—nay,
even a very dirty shirt (and none of these appearances are very uncommon
among the members of the _corps dramatique_), may be worn for the purpose
of disguise, and to prevent the remotest chance of recognition.  Then it
prevents any troublesome inquiries or explanations about employment and
pursuits; everybody is a gentleman at large, for the occasion, and there
are none of those unpleasant and unnecessary distinctions to which even
genius must occasionally succumb elsewhere.  As to the ladies (God bless
them), they are quite above any formal absurdities; the mere circumstance
of your being behind the scenes is a sufficient introduction to their
society—for of course they know that none but strictly respectable
persons would be admitted into that close fellowship with them, which
acting engenders.  They place implicit reliance on the manager, no doubt;
and as to the manager, he is all affability when he knows you well,—or,
in other words, when he has pocketed your money once, and entertains
confident hopes of doing so again.

A quarter before eight—there will be a full house to-night—six parties in
the boxes, already; four little boys and a woman in the pit; and two
fiddles and a flute in the orchestra, who have got through five overtures
since seven o’clock (the hour fixed for the commencement of the
performances), and have just begun the sixth.  There will be plenty of
it, though, when it does begin, for there is enough in the bill to last
six hours at least.

That gentleman in the white hat and checked shirt, brown coat and brass
buttons, lounging behind the stage-box on the O. P. side, is Mr. Horatio
St. Julien, alias Jem Larkins.  His line is genteel comedy—his father’s,
coal and potato.  He _does_ Alfred Highflier in the last piece, and very
well he’ll do it—at the price.  The party of gentlemen in the opposite
box, to whom he has just nodded, are friends and supporters of Mr.
Beverley (otherwise Loggins), the _Macbeth_ of the night.  You observe
their attempts to appear easy and gentlemanly, each member of the party,
with his feet cocked upon the cushion in front of the box!  They let them
do these things here, upon the same humane principle which permits poor
people’s children to knock double knocks at the door of an empty
house—because they can’t do it anywhere else.  The two stout men in the
centre box, with an opera-glass ostentatiously placed before them, are
friends of the proprietor—opulent country managers, as he confidentially
informs every individual among the crew behind the curtain—opulent
country managers looking out for recruits; a representation which Mr.
Nathan, the dresser, who is in the manager’s interest, and has just
arrived with the costumes, offers to confirm upon oath if
required—corroborative evidence, however, is quite unnecessary, for the
gulls believe it at once.

The stout Jewess who has just entered, is the mother of the pale, bony
little girl, with the necklace of blue glass beads, sitting by her; she
is being brought up to ‘the profession.’  Pantomime is to be her line,
and she is coming out to-night, in a hornpipe after the tragedy.  The
short thin man beside Mr. St. Julien, whose white face is so deeply
seared with the small-pox, and whose dirty shirt-front is inlaid with
open-work, and embossed with coral studs like ladybirds, is the low
comedian and comic singer of the establishment.  The remainder of the
audience—a tolerably numerous one by this time—are a motley group of
dupes and blackguards.

The foot-lights have just made their appearance: the wicks of the six
little oil lamps round the only tier of boxes, are being turned up, and
the additional light thus afforded serves to show the presence of dirt,
and absence of paint, which forms a prominent feature in the audience
part of the house.  As these preparations, however, announce the speedy
commencement of the play, let us take a peep ‘behind,’ previous to the
ringing-up.

The little narrow passages beneath the stage are neither especially clean
nor too brilliantly lighted; and the absence of any flooring, together
with the damp mildewy smell which pervades the place, does not conduce in
any great degree to their comfortable appearance.  Don’t fall over this
plate basket—it’s one of the ‘properties’—the caldron for the witches’
cave; and the three uncouth-looking figures, with broken clothes-props in
their hands, who are drinking gin-and-water out of a pint pot, are the
weird sisters.  This miserable room, lighted by candles in sconces placed
at lengthened intervals round the wall, is the dressing-room, common to
the gentlemen performers, and the square hole in the ceiling is _the_
trap-door of the stage above.  You will observe that the ceiling is
ornamented with the beams that support the boards, and tastefully hung
with cobwebs.

The characters in the tragedy are all dressed, and their own clothes are
scattered in hurried confusion over the wooden dresser which surrounds
the room.  That snuff-shop-looking figure, in front of the glass, is
_Banquo_: and the young lady with the liberal display of legs, who is
kindly painting his face with a hare’s foot, is dressed for _Fleance_.
The large woman, who is consulting the stage directions in Cumberland’s
edition of _Macbeth_, is the _Lady Macbeth_ of the night; she is always
selected to play the part, because she is tall and stout, and _looks_ a
little like Mrs. Siddons—at a considerable distance.  That stupid-looking
milksop, with light hair and bow legs—a kind of man whom you can warrant
town-made—is fresh caught; he plays _Malcolm_ to-night, just to accustom
himself to an audience.  He will get on better by degrees; he will play
_Othello_ in a month, and in a month more, will very probably be
apprehended on a charge of embezzlement.  The black-eyed female with whom
he is talking so earnestly, is dressed for the ‘gentlewoman.’  It is
_her_ first appearance, too—in that character.  The boy of fourteen who
is having his eyebrows smeared with soap and whitening, is _Duncan_, King
of Scotland; and the two dirty men with the corked countenances, in very
old green tunics, and dirty drab boots, are the ‘army.’

‘Look sharp below there, gents,’ exclaims the dresser, a red-headed and
red-whiskered Jew, calling through the trap, ‘they’re a-going to ring up.
The flute says he’ll be blowed if he plays any more, and they’re getting
precious noisy in front.’  A general rush immediately takes place to the
half-dozen little steep steps leading to the stage, and the heterogeneous
group are soon assembled at the side scenes, in breathless anxiety and
motley confusion.

‘Now,’ cries the manager, consulting the written list which hangs behind
the first P. S, wing, ‘Scene 1, open country—lamps down—thunder and
lightning—all ready, White?’  [This is addressed to one of the army.]
‘All ready.’—‘Very well.  Scene 2, front chamber.  Is the front chamber
down?’—‘Yes.’—‘Very well.’—‘Jones’ [to the other army who is up in the
flies].  ‘Hallo!’—‘Wind up the open country when we ring up.’—‘I’ll take
care.’—‘Scene 3, back perspective with practical bridge.  Bridge ready,
White?  Got the tressels there?’—‘All right.’

‘Very well.  Clear the stage,’ cries the manager, hastily packing every
member of the company into the little space there is between the wings
and the wall, and one wing and another.  ‘Places, places.  Now then,
Witches—Duncan—Malcolm—bleeding officer—where’s the bleeding
officer?’—‘Here!’ replies the officer, who has been rose-pinking for the
character.  ‘Get ready, then; now, White, ring the second music-bell.’
The actors who are to be discovered, are hastily arranged, and the actors
who are not to be discovered place themselves, in their anxiety to peep
at the house, just where the audience can see them.  The bell rings, and
the orchestra, in acknowledgment of the call, play three distinct chords.
The bell rings—the tragedy (!) opens—and our description closes.



CHAPTER XIV—VAUXHALL-GARDENS BY DAY


There was a time when if a man ventured to wonder how Vauxhall-gardens
would look by day, he was hailed with a shout of derision at the
absurdity of the idea.  Vauxhall by daylight!  A porter-pot without
porter, the House of Commons without the Speaker, a gas-lamp without the
gas—pooh, nonsense, the thing was not to be thought of.  It was rumoured,
too, in those times, that Vauxhall-gardens by day, were the scene of
secret and hidden experiments; that there, carvers were exercised in the
mystic art of cutting a moderate-sized ham into slices thin enough to
pave the whole of the grounds; that beneath the shade of the tall trees,
studious men were constantly engaged in chemical experiments, with the
view of discovering how much water a bowl of negus could possibly bear;
and that in some retired nooks, appropriated to the study of ornithology,
other sage and learned men were, by a process known only to themselves,
incessantly employed in reducing fowls to a mere combination of skin and
bone.

Vague rumours of this kind, together with many others of a similar
nature, cast over Vauxhall-gardens an air of deep mystery; and as there
is a great deal in the mysterious, there is no doubt that to a good many
people, at all events, the pleasure they afforded was not a little
enhanced by this very circumstance.

Of this class of people we confess to having made one.  We loved to
wander among these illuminated groves, thinking of the patient and
laborious researches which had been carried on there during the day, and
witnessing their results in the suppers which were served up beneath the
light of lamps and to the sound of music at night.  The temples and
saloons and cosmoramas and fountains glittered and sparkled before our
eyes; the beauty of the lady singers and the elegant deportment of the
gentlemen, captivated our hearts; a few hundred thousand of additional
lamps dazzled our senses; a bowl or two of punch bewildered our brains;
and we were happy.

In an evil hour, the proprietors of Vauxhall-gardens took to opening them
by day.  We regretted this, as rudely and harshly disturbing that veil of
mystery which had hung about the property for many years, and which none
but the noonday sun, and the late Mr. Simpson, had ever penetrated.  We
shrunk from going; at this moment we scarcely know why.  Perhaps a morbid
consciousness of approaching disappointment—perhaps a fatal
presentiment—perhaps the weather; whatever it was, we did _not_ go until
the second or third announcement of a race between two balloons tempted
us, and we went.

We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first time,
that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at all, was now
decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more nor less than a
combination of very roughly-painted boards and sawdust.  We glanced at
the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried past—we just recognised them,
and that was all.  We bent our steps to the firework-ground; there, at
least, we should not be disappointed.  We reached it, and stood rooted to
the spot with mortification and astonishment.  _That_ the Moorish
tower—that wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson
and yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case!  _That_ the place where
night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make his
terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of artillery,
and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we forget even her name
now), who nobly devoted her life to the manufacture of fireworks, had so
often been seen fluttering in the wind, as she called up a red, blue, or
party-coloured light to illumine her temple!  _That_ the—but at this
moment the bell rung; the people scampered away, pell-mell, to the spot
from whence the sound proceeded; and we, from the mere force of habit,
found ourself running among the first, as if for very life.

It was for the concert in the orchestra.  A small party of dismal men in
cocked hats were ‘executing’ the overture to _Tancredi_, and a numerous
assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, with their families, had rushed from
their half-emptied stout mugs in the supper boxes, and crowded to the
spot.  Intense was the low murmur of admiration when a particularly small
gentleman, in a dress coat, led on a particularly tall lady in a blue
sarcenet pelisse and bonnet of the same, ornamented with large white
feathers, and forthwith commenced a plaintive duet.

We knew the small gentleman well; we had seen a lithographed semblance of
him, on many a piece of music, with his mouth wide open as if in the act
of singing; a wine-glass in his hand; and a table with two decanters and
four pine-apples on it in the background.  The tall lady, too, we had
gazed on, lost in raptures of admiration, many and many a time—how
different people _do_ look by daylight, and without punch, to be sure!
It was a beautiful duet: first the small gentleman asked a question, and
then the tall lady answered it; then the small gentleman and the tall
lady sang together most melodiously; then the small gentleman went
through a little piece of vehemence by himself, and got very tenor
indeed, in the excitement of his feelings, to which the tall lady
responded in a similar manner; then the small gentleman had a shake or
two, after which the tall lady had the same, and then they both merged
imperceptibly into the original air: and the band wound themselves up to
a pitch of fury, and the small gentleman handed the tall lady out, and
the applause was rapturous.

The comic singer, however, was the especial favourite; we really thought
that a gentleman, with his dinner in a pocket-handkerchief, who stood
near us, would have fainted with excess of joy.  A marvellously facetious
gentleman that comic singer is; his distinguishing characteristics are, a
wig approaching to the flaxen, and an aged countenance, and he bears the
name of one of the English counties, if we recollect right.  He sang a
very good song about the seven ages, the first half-hour of which
afforded the assembly the purest delight; of the rest we can make no
report, as we did not stay to hear any more.

We walked about, and met with a disappointment at every turn; our
favourite views were mere patches of paint; the fountain that had
sparkled so showily by lamp-light, presented very much the appearance of
a water-pipe that had burst; all the ornaments were dingy, and all the
walks gloomy.  There was a spectral attempt at rope-dancing in the little
open theatre.  The sun shone upon the spangled dresses of the performers,
and their evolutions were about as inspiriting and appropriate as a
country-dance in a family vault.  So we retraced our steps to the
firework-ground, and mingled with the little crowd of people who were
contemplating Mr. Green.

Some half-dozen men were restraining the impetuosity of one of the
balloons, which was completely filled, and had the car already attached;
and as rumours had gone abroad that a Lord was ‘going up,’ the crowd were
more than usually anxious and talkative.  There was one little man in
faded black, with a dirty face and a rusty black neckerchief with a red
border, tied in a narrow wisp round his neck, who entered into
conversation with everybody, and had something to say upon every remark
that was made within his hearing.  He was standing with his arms folded,
staring up at the balloon, and every now and then vented his feelings of
reverence for the aëronaut, by saying, as he looked round to catch
somebody’s eye, ‘He’s a rum ’un is Green; think o’ this here being
up’ards of his two hundredth ascent; ecod, the man as is ekal to Green
never had the toothache yet, nor won’t have within this hundred year, and
that’s all about it.  When you meets with real talent, and native, too,
encourage it, that’s what I say;’ and when he had delivered himself to
this effect, he would fold his arms with more determination than ever,
and stare at the balloon with a sort of admiring defiance of any other
man alive, beyond himself and Green, that impressed the crowd with the
opinion that he was an oracle.

‘Ah, you’re very right, sir,’ said another gentleman, with his wife, and
children, and mother, and wife’s sister, and a host of female friends, in
all the gentility of white pocket-handkerchiefs, frills, and spencers,
‘Mr. Green is a steady hand, sir, and there’s no fear about him.’

‘Fear!’ said the little man: ‘isn’t it a lovely thing to see him and his
wife a going up in one balloon, and his own son and _his_ wife a jostling
up against them in another, and all of them going twenty or thirty mile
in three hours or so, and then coming back in pochayses?  I don’t know
where this here science is to stop, mind you; that’s what bothers me.’

Here there was a considerable talking among the females in the spencers.

‘What’s the ladies a laughing at, sir?’ inquired the little man,
condescendingly.

‘It’s only my sister Mary,’ said one of the girls, ‘as says she hopes his
lordship won’t be frightened when he’s in the car, and want to come out
again.’

‘Make yourself easy about that there, my dear,’ replied the little man.
‘If he was so much as to move a inch without leave, Green would jist
fetch him a crack over the head with the telescope, as would send him
into the bottom of the basket in no time, and stun him till they come
down again.’

‘Would he, though?’ inquired the other man.

‘Yes, would he,’ replied the little one, ‘and think nothing of it,
neither, if he was the king himself.  Green’s presence of mind is
wonderful.’

Just at this moment all eyes were directed to the preparations which were
being made for starting.  The car was attached to the second balloon, the
two were brought pretty close together, and a military band commenced
playing, with a zeal and fervour which would render the most timid man in
existence but too happy to accept any means of quitting that particular
spot of earth on which they were stationed.  Then Mr. Green, sen., and
his noble companion entered one car, and Mr. Green, jun., and _his_
companion the other; and then the balloons went up, and the aërial
travellers stood up, and the crowd outside roared with delight, and the
two gentlemen who had never ascended before, tried to wave their flags,
as if they were not nervous, but held on very fast all the while; and the
balloons were wafted gently away, our little friend solemnly protesting,
long after they were reduced to mere specks in the air, that he could
still distinguish the white hat of Mr. Green.  The gardens disgorged
their multitudes, boys ran up and down screaming ‘bal-loon;’ and in all
the crowded thoroughfares people rushed out of their shops into the
middle of the road, and having stared up in the air at two little black
objects till they almost dislocated their necks, walked slowly in again,
perfectly satisfied.

The next day there was a grand account of the ascent in the morning
papers, and the public were informed how it was the finest day but four
in Mr. Green’s remembrance; how they retained sight of the earth till
they lost it behind the clouds; and how the reflection of the balloon on
the undulating masses of vapour was gorgeously picturesque; together with
a little science about the refraction of the sun’s rays, and some
mysterious hints respecting atmospheric heat and eddying currents of air.

There was also an interesting account how a man in a boat was distinctly
heard by Mr. Green, jun., to exclaim, ‘My eye!’ which Mr. Green, jun.,
attributed to his voice rising to the balloon, and the sound being thrown
back from its surface into the car; and the whole concluded with a slight
allusion to another ascent next Wednesday, all of which was very
instructive and very amusing, as our readers will see if they look to the
papers.  If we have forgotten to mention the date, they have only to wait
till next summer, and take the account of the first ascent, and it will
answer the purpose equally well.



CHAPTER XV—EARLY COACHES


We have often wondered how many months’ incessant travelling in a
post-chaise it would take to kill a man; and wondering by analogy, we
should very much like to know how many months of constant travelling in a
succession of early coaches, an unfortunate mortal could endure.
Breaking a man alive upon the wheel, would be nothing to breaking his
rest, his peace, his heart—everything but his fast—upon four; and the
punishment of Ixion (the only practical person, by-the-bye, who has
discovered the secret of the perpetual motion) would sink into utter
insignificance before the one we have suggested.  If we had been a
powerful churchman in those good times when blood was shed as freely as
water, and men were mowed down like grass, in the sacred cause of
religion, we would have lain by very quietly till we got hold of some
especially obstinate miscreant, who positively refused to be converted to
our faith, and then we would have booked him for an inside place in a
small coach, which travelled day and night: and securing the remainder of
the places for stout men with a slight tendency to coughing and spitting,
we would have started him forth on his last travels: leaving him
mercilessly to all the tortures which the waiters, landlords, coachmen,
guards, boots, chambermaids, and other familiars on his line of road,
might think proper to inflict.

Who has not experienced the miseries inevitably consequent upon a summons
to undertake a hasty journey?  You receive an intimation from your place
of business—wherever that may be, or whatever you may be—that it will be
necessary to leave town without delay.  You and your family are forthwith
thrown into a state of tremendous excitement; an express is immediately
dispatched to the washerwoman’s; everybody is in a bustle; and you,
yourself, with a feeling of dignity which you cannot altogether conceal,
sally forth to the booking-office to secure your place.  Here a painful
consciousness of your own unimportance first rushes on your mind—the
people are as cool and collected as if nobody were going out of town, or
as if a journey of a hundred odd miles were a mere nothing.  You enter a
mouldy-looking room, ornamented with large posting-bills; the greater
part of the place enclosed behind a huge, lumbering, rough counter, and
fitted up with recesses that look like the dens of the smaller animals in
a travelling menagerie, without the bars.  Some half-dozen people are
‘booking’ brown-paper parcels, which one of the clerks flings into the
aforesaid recesses with an air of recklessness which you, remembering the
new carpet-bag you bought in the morning, feel considerably annoyed at;
porters, looking like so many Atlases, keep rushing in and out, with
large packages on their shoulders; and while you are waiting to make the
necessary inquiries, you wonder what on earth the booking-office clerks
can have been before they were booking-office clerks; one of them with
his pen behind his ear, and his hands behind him, is standing in front of
the fire, like a full-length portrait of Napoleon; the other with his hat
half off his head, enters the passengers’ names in the books with a
coolness which is inexpressibly provoking; and the villain
whistles—actually whistles—while a man asks him what the fare is outside,
all the way to Holyhead!—in frosty weather, too!  They are clearly an
isolated race, evidently possessing no sympathies or feelings in common
with the rest of mankind.  Your turn comes at last, and having paid the
fare, you tremblingly inquire—‘What time will it be necessary for me to
be here in the morning?’—‘Six o’clock,’ replies the whistler, carelessly
pitching the sovereign you have just parted with, into a wooden bowl on
the desk.  ‘Rather before than arter,’ adds the man with the semi-roasted
unmentionables, with just as much ease and complacency as if the whole
world got out of bed at five.  You turn into the street, ruminating as
you bend your steps homewards on the extent to which men become hardened
in cruelty, by custom.

If there be one thing in existence more miserable than another, it most
unquestionably is the being compelled to rise by candlelight.  If you
have ever doubted the fact, you are painfully convinced of your error, on
the morning of your departure.  You left strict orders, overnight, to be
called at half-past four, and you have done nothing all night but doze
for five minutes at a time, and start up suddenly from a terrific dream
of a large church-clock with the small hand running round, with
astonishing rapidity, to every figure on the dial-plate.  At last,
completely exhausted, you fall gradually into a refreshing sleep—your
thoughts grow confused—the stage-coaches, which have been ‘going off’
before your eyes all night, become less and less distinct, until they go
off altogether; one moment you are driving with all the skill and
smartness of an experienced whip—the next you are exhibiting _à la_
Ducrow, on the off-leader; anon you are closely muffled up, inside, and
have just recognised in the person of the guard an old schoolfellow,
whose funeral, even in your dream, you remember to have attended eighteen
years ago.  At last you fall into a state of complete oblivion, from
which you are aroused, as if into a new state of existence, by a singular
illusion.  You are apprenticed to a trunk-maker; how, or why, or when, or
wherefore, you don’t take the trouble to inquire; but there you are,
pasting the lining in the lid of a portmanteau.  Confound that other
apprentice in the back shop, how he is hammering!—rap, rap, rap—what an
industrious fellow he must be! you have heard him at work for half an
hour past, and he has been hammering incessantly the whole time.  Rap,
rap, rap, again—he’s talking now—what’s that he said?  Five o’clock!  You
make a violent exertion, and start up in bed.  The vision is at once
dispelled; the trunk-maker’s shop is your own bedroom, and the other
apprentice your shivering servant, who has been vainly endeavouring to
wake you for the last quarter of an hour, at the imminent risk of
breaking either his own knuckles or the panels of the door.

You proceed to dress yourself, with all possible dispatch.  The flaring
flat candle with the long snuff, gives light enough to show that the
things you want, are not where they ought to be, and you undergo a
trifling delay in consequence of having carefully packed up one of your
boots in your over-anxiety of the preceding night.  You soon complete
your toilet, however, for you are not particular on such an occasion, and
you shaved yesterday evening; so mounting your Petersham great-coat, and
green travelling shawl, and grasping your carpet-bag in your right hand,
you walk lightly down-stairs, lest you should awaken any of the family,
and after pausing in the common sitting-room for one moment, just to have
a cup of coffee (the said common sitting-room looking remarkably
comfortable, with everything out of its place, and strewed with the
crumbs of last night’s supper), you undo the chain and bolts of the
street-door, and find yourself fairly in the street.

A thaw, by all that is miserable!  The frost is completely broken up. You
look down the long perspective of Oxford-street, the gas-lights
mournfully reflected on the wet pavement, and can discern no speck in the
road to encourage the belief that there is a cab or a coach to be had—the
very coachmen have gone home in despair.  The cold sleet is drizzling
down with that gentle regularity, which betokens a duration of
four-and-twenty hours at least; the damp hangs upon the house-tops and
lamp-posts, and clings to you like an invisible cloak.  The water is
‘coming in’ in every area, the pipes have burst, the water-butts are
running over; the kennels seem to be doing matches against time,
pump-handles descend of their own accord, horses in market-carts fall
down, and there’s no one to help them up again, policemen look as if they
had been carefully sprinkled with powdered glass; here and there a
milk-woman trudges slowly along, with a bit of list round each foot to
keep her from slipping; boys who ‘don’t sleep in the house,’ and are not
allowed much sleep out of it, can’t wake their masters by thundering at
the shop-door, and cry with the cold—the compound of ice, snow, and water
on the pavement, is a couple of inches thick—nobody ventures to walk fast
to keep himself warm, and nobody could succeed in keeping himself warm if
he did.

It strikes a quarter past five as you trudge down Waterloo-place on your
way to the Golden Cross, and you discover, for the first time, that you
were called about an hour too early.  You have not time to go back; there
is no place open to go into, and you have, therefore, no resource but to
go forward, which you do, feeling remarkably satisfied with yourself, and
everything about you.  You arrive at the office, and look wistfully up
the yard for the Birmingham High-flier, which, for aught you can see, may
have flown away altogether, for preparations appear to be on foot for the
departure of any vehicle in the shape of a coach.  You wander into the
booking-office, which with the gas-lights and blazing fire, looks quite
comfortable by contrast—that is to say, if any place _can_ look
comfortable at half-past five on a winter’s morning.  There stands the
identical book-keeper in the same position as if he had not moved since
you saw him yesterday.  As he informs you, that the coach is up the yard,
and will be brought round in about a quarter of an hour, you leave your
bag, and repair to ‘The Tap’—not with any absurd idea of warming
yourself, because you feel such a result to be utterly hopeless, but for
the purpose of procuring some hot brandy-and-water, which you do,—when
the kettle boils! an event which occurs exactly two minutes and a half
before the time fixed for the starting of the coach.

The first stroke of six, peals from St. Martin’s church steeple, just as
you take the first sip of the boiling liquid.  You find yourself at the
booking-office in two seconds, and the tap-waiter finds himself much
comforted by your brandy-and-water, in about the same period.  The coach
is out; the horses are in, and the guard and two or three porters, are
stowing the luggage away, and running up the steps of the booking-office,
and down the steps of the booking-office, with breathless rapidity.  The
place, which a few minutes ago was so still and quiet, is now all bustle;
the early vendors of the morning papers have arrived, and you are
assailed on all sides with shouts of ‘_Times_, gen’lm’n, _Times_,’
‘Here’s _Chron—Chron—Chron_,’ ‘_Herald_, ma’am,’  ‘Highly interesting
murder, gen’lm’n,’ ‘Curious case o’ breach o’ promise, ladies.’  The
inside passengers are already in their dens, and the outsides, with the
exception of yourself, are pacing up and down the pavement to keep
themselves warm; they consist of two young men with very long hair, to
which the sleet has communicated the appearance of crystallised rats’
tails; one thin young woman cold and peevish, one old gentleman ditto
ditto, and something in a cloak and cap, intended to represent a military
officer; every member of the party, with a large stiff shawl over his
chin, looking exactly as if he were playing a set of Pan’s pipes.

‘Take off the cloths, Bob,’ says the coachman, who now appears for the
first time, in a rough blue great-coat, of which the buttons behind are
so far apart, that you can’t see them both at the same time.  ‘Now,
gen’lm’n,’ cries the guard, with the waybill in his hand.  ‘Five minutes
behind time already!’  Up jump the passengers—the two young men smoking
like lime-kilns, and the old gentleman grumbling audibly.  The thin young
woman is got upon the roof, by dint of a great deal of pulling, and
pushing, and helping and trouble, and she repays it by expressing her
solemn conviction that she will never be able to get down again.

‘All right,’ sings out the guard at last, jumping up as the coach starts,
and blowing his horn directly afterwards, in proof of the soundness of
his wind.  ‘Let ’em go, Harry, give ’em their heads,’ cries the
coachman—and off we start as briskly as if the morning were ‘all right,’
as well as the coach: and looking forward as anxiously to the termination
of our journey, as we fear our readers will have done, long since, to the
conclusion of our paper.



CHAPTER XVI—OMNIBUSES


It is very generally allowed that public conveyances afford an extensive
field for amusement and observation.  Of all the public conveyances that
have been constructed since the days of the Ark—we think that is the
earliest on record—to the present time, commend us to an omnibus.  A long
stage is not to be despised, but there you have only six insides, and the
chances are, that the same people go all the way with you—there is no
change, no variety.  Besides, after the first twelve hours or so, people
get cross and sleepy, and when you have seen a man in his nightcap, you
lose all respect for him; at least, that is the case with us.  Then on
smooth roads people frequently get prosy, and tell long stories, and even
those who don’t talk, may have very unpleasant predilections.  We once
travelled four hundred miles, inside a stage-coach, with a stout man, who
had a glass of rum-and-water, warm, handed in at the window at every
place where we changed horses.  This was decidedly unpleasant.  We have
also travelled occasionally, with a small boy of a pale aspect, with
light hair, and no perceptible neck, coming up to town from school under
the protection of the guard, and directed to be left at the Cross Keys
till called for.  This is, perhaps, even worse than rum-and-water in a
close atmosphere.  Then there is the whole train of evils consequent on a
change of the coachman; and the misery of the discovery—which the guard
is sure to make the moment you begin to doze—that he wants a brown-paper
parcel, which he distinctly remembers to have deposited under the seat on
which you are reposing.  A great deal of bustle and groping takes place,
and when you are thoroughly awakened, and severely cramped, by holding
your legs up by an almost supernatural exertion, while he is looking
behind them, it suddenly occurs to him that he put it in the fore-boot.
Bang goes the door; the parcel is immediately found; off starts the coach
again; and the guard plays the key-bugle as loud as he can play it, as if
in mockery of your wretchedness.

Now, you meet with none of these afflictions in an omnibus; sameness
there can never be.  The passengers change as often in the course of one
journey as the figures in a kaleidoscope, and though not so glittering,
are far more amusing.  We believe there is no instance on record, of a
man’s having gone to sleep in one of these vehicles.  As to long stories,
would any man venture to tell a long story in an omnibus? and even if he
did, where would be the harm? nobody could possibly hear what he was
talking about.  Again; children, though occasionally, are not often to be
found in an omnibus; and even when they are, if the vehicle be full, as
is generally the case, somebody sits upon them, and we are unconscious of
their presence.  Yes, after mature reflection, and considerable
experience, we are decidedly of opinion, that of all known vehicles, from
the glass-coach in which we were taken to be christened, to that sombre
caravan in which we must one day make our last earthly journey, there is
nothing like an omnibus.

We will back the machine in which we make our daily peregrination from
the top of Oxford-street to the city, against any ‘buss’ on the road,
whether it be for the gaudiness of its exterior, the perfect simplicity
of its interior, or the native coolness of its cad.  This young gentleman
is a singular instance of self-devotion; his somewhat intemperate zeal on
behalf of his employers, is constantly getting him into trouble, and
occasionally into the house of correction.  He is no sooner emancipated,
however, than he resumes the duties of his profession with unabated
ardour.  His principal distinction is his activity.  His great boast is,
‘that he can chuck an old gen’lm’n into the buss, shut him in, and rattle
off, afore he knows where it’s a-going to’—a feat which he frequently
performs, to the infinite amusement of every one but the old gentleman
concerned, who, somehow or other, never can see the joke of the thing.

We are not aware that it has ever been precisely ascertained, how many
passengers our omnibus will contain.  The impression on the cad’s mind
evidently is, that it is amply sufficient for the accommodation of any
number of persons that can be enticed into it.  ‘Any room?’ cries a hot
pedestrian.  ‘Plenty o’ room, sir,’ replies the conductor, gradually
opening the door, and not disclosing the real state of the case, until
the wretched man is on the steps.  ‘Where?’ inquires the entrapped
individual, with an attempt to back out again.  ‘Either side, sir,’
rejoins the cad, shoving him in, and slamming the door.  ‘All right,
Bill.’  Retreat is impossible; the new-comer rolls about, till he falls
down somewhere, and there he stops.

As we get into the city a little before ten, four or five of our party
are regular passengers.  We always take them up at the same places, and
they generally occupy the same seats; they are always dressed in the same
manner, and invariably discuss the same topics—the increasing rapidity of
cabs, and the disregard of moral obligations evinced by omnibus men.
There is a little testy old man, with a powdered head, who always sits on
the right-hand side of the door as you enter, with his hands folded on
the top of his umbrella.  He is extremely impatient, and sits there for
the purpose of keeping a sharp eye on the cad, with whom he generally
holds a running dialogue.  He is very officious in helping people in and
out, and always volunteers to give the cad a poke with his umbrella, when
any one wants to alight.  He usually recommends ladies to have sixpence
ready, to prevent delay; and if anybody puts a window down, that he can
reach, he immediately puts it up again.

‘Now, what are you stopping for?’ says the little man every morning, the
moment there is the slightest indication of ‘pulling up’ at the corner of
Regent-street, when some such dialogue as the following takes place
between him and the cad:

‘What are you stopping for?’

Here the cad whistles, and affects not to hear the question.

‘I say [a poke], what are you stopping for?’

‘For passengers, sir.  Ba—nk.—Ty.’

‘I know you’re stopping for passengers; but you’ve no business to do so.
_Why_ are you stopping?’

‘Vy, sir, that’s a difficult question.  I think it is because we perfer
stopping here to going on.’

‘Now mind,’ exclaims the little old man, with great vehemence, ‘I’ll pull
you up to-morrow; I’ve often threatened to do it; now I will.’

‘Thankee, sir,’ replies the cad, touching his hat with a mock expression
of gratitude;—‘werry much obliged to you indeed, sir.’  Here the young
men in the omnibus laugh very heartily, and the old gentleman gets very
red in the face, and seems highly exasperated.

The stout gentleman in the white neckcloth, at the other end of the
vehicle, looks very prophetic, and says that something must shortly be
done with these fellows, or there’s no saying where all this will end;
and the shabby-genteel man with the green bag, expresses his entire
concurrence in the opinion, as he has done regularly every morning for
the last six months.

A second omnibus now comes up, and stops immediately behind us.  Another
old gentleman elevates his cane in the air, and runs with all his might
towards our omnibus; we watch his progress with great interest; the door
is opened to receive him, he suddenly disappears—he has been spirited
away by the opposition.  Hereupon the driver of the opposition taunts our
people with his having ‘regularly done ’em out of that old swell,’ and
the voice of the ‘old swell’ is heard, vainly protesting against this
unlawful detention.  We rattle off, the other omnibus rattles after us,
and every time we stop to take up a passenger, they stop to take him too;
sometimes we get him; sometimes they get him; but whoever don’t get him,
say they ought to have had him, and the cads of the respective vehicles
abuse one another accordingly.

As we arrive in the vicinity of Lincoln’s-inn-fields, Bedford-row, and
other legal haunts, we drop a great many of our original passengers, and
take up fresh ones, who meet with a very sulky reception.  It is rather
remarkable, that the people already in an omnibus, always look at
newcomers, as if they entertained some undefined idea that they have no
business to come in at all.  We are quite persuaded the little old man
has some notion of this kind, and that he considers their entry as a sort
of negative impertinence.

Conversation is now entirely dropped; each person gazes vacantly through
the window in front of him, and everybody thinks that his opposite
neighbour is staring at him.  If one man gets out at Shoe-lane, and
another at the corner of Farringdon-street, the little old gentleman
grumbles, and suggests to the latter, that if he had got out at Shoe-lane
too, he would have saved them the delay of another stoppage; whereupon
the young men laugh again, and the old gentleman looks very solemn, and
says nothing more till he gets to the Bank, when he trots off as fast as
he can, leaving us to do the same, and to wish, as we walk away, that we
could impart to others any portion of the amusement we have gained for
ourselves.



CHAPTER XVII—THE LAST CAB-DRIVER, AND THE FIRST OMNIBUS CAD


Of all the cabriolet-drivers whom we have ever had the honour and
gratification of knowing by sight—and our acquaintance in this way has
been most extensive—there is one who made an impression on our mind which
can never be effaced, and who awakened in our bosom a feeling of
admiration and respect, which we entertain a fatal presentiment will
never be called forth again by any human being.  He was a man of most
simple and prepossessing appearance.  He was a brown-whiskered,
white-hatted, no-coated cabman; his nose was generally red, and his
bright blue eye not unfrequently stood out in bold relief against a black
border of artificial workmanship; his boots were of the Wellington form,
pulled up to meet his corduroy knee-smalls, or at least to approach as
near them as their dimensions would admit of; and his neck was usually
garnished with a bright yellow handkerchief.  In summer he carried in his
mouth a flower; in winter, a straw—slight, but, to a contemplative mind,
certain indications of a love of nature, and a taste for botany.

His cabriolet was gorgeously painted—a bright red; and wherever we went,
City or West End, Paddington or Holloway, North, East, West, or South,
there was the red cab, bumping up against the posts at the street
corners, and turning in and out, among hackney-coaches, and drays, and
carts, and waggons, and omnibuses, and contriving by some strange means
or other, to get out of places which no other vehicle but the red cab
could ever by any possibility have contrived to get into at all.  Our
fondness for that red cab was unbounded.  How we should have liked to
have seen it in the circle at Astley’s!  Our life upon it, that it should
have performed such evolutions as would have put the whole company to
shame—Indian chiefs, knights, Swiss peasants, and all.

Some people object to the exertion of getting into cabs, and others
object to the difficulty of getting out of them; we think both these are
objections which take their rise in perverse and ill-conditioned minds.
The getting into a cab is a very pretty and graceful process, which, when
well performed, is essentially melodramatic.  First, there is the
expressive pantomime of every one of the eighteen cabmen on the stand,
the moment you raise your eyes from the ground.  Then there is your own
pantomime in reply—quite a little ballet.  Four cabs immediately leave
the stand, for your especial accommodation; and the evolutions of the
animals who draw them, are beautiful in the extreme, as they grate the
wheels of the cabs against the curb-stones, and sport playfully in the
kennel.  You single out a particular cab, and dart swiftly towards it.
One bound, and you are on the first step; turn your body lightly round to
the right, and you are on the second; bend gracefully beneath the reins,
working round to the left at the same time, and you are in the cab.
There is no difficulty in finding a seat: the apron knocks you
comfortably into it at once, and off you go.

The getting out of a cab is, perhaps, rather more complicated in its
theory, and a shade more difficult in its execution.  We have studied the
subject a great deal, and we think the best way is, to throw yourself
out, and trust to chance for alighting on your feet.  If you make the
driver alight first, and then throw yourself upon him, you will find that
he breaks your fall materially.  In the event of your contemplating an
offer of eightpence, on no account make the tender, or show the money,
until you are safely on the pavement.  It is very bad policy attempting
to save the fourpence.  You are very much in the power of a cabman, and
he considers it a kind of fee not to do you any wilful damage.  Any
instruction, however, in the art of getting out of a cab, is wholly
unnecessary if you are going any distance, because the probability is,
that you will be shot lightly out before you have completed the third
mile.

We are not aware of any instance on record in which a cab-horse has
performed three consecutive miles without going down once.  What of that?
It is all excitement.  And in these days of derangement of the nervous
system and universal lassitude, people are content to pay handsomely for
excitement; where can it be procured at a cheaper rate?

But to return to the red cab; it was omnipresent.  You had but to walk
down Holborn, or Fleet-street, or any of the principal thoroughfares in
which there is a great deal of traffic, and judge for yourself.  You had
hardly turned into the street, when you saw a trunk or two, lying on the
ground: an uprooted post, a hat-box, a portmanteau, and a carpet-bag,
strewed about in a very picturesque manner: a horse in a cab standing by,
looking about him with great unconcern; and a crowd, shouting and
screaming with delight, cooling their flushed faces against the glass
windows of a chemist’s shop.—‘What’s the matter here, can you tell
me?’—‘O’ny a cab, sir.’—‘Anybody hurt, do you know?’—‘O’ny the fare, sir.
I see him a turnin’ the corner, and I ses to another gen’lm’n “that’s a
reg’lar little oss that, and he’s a comin’ along rayther sweet, an’t
he?”—“He just is,” ses the other gen’lm’n, ven bump they cums agin the
post, and out flies the fare like bricks.’  Need we say it was the red
cab; or that the gentleman with the straw in his mouth, who emerged so
coolly from the chemist’s shop and philosophically climbing into the
little dickey, started off at full gallop, was the red cab’s licensed
driver?

The ubiquity of this red cab, and the influence it exercised over the
risible muscles of justice itself, was perfectly astonishing.  You walked
into the justice-room of the Mansion-house; the whole court resounded
with merriment.  The Lord Mayor threw himself back in his chair, in a
state of frantic delight at his own joke; every vein in Mr. Hobler’s
countenance was swollen with laughter, partly at the Lord Mayor’s
facetiousness, but more at his own; the constables and police-officers
were (as in duty bound) in ecstasies at Mr. Hobler and the Lord Mayor
combined; and the very paupers, glancing respectfully at the beadle’s
countenance, tried to smile, as even he relaxed.  A tall, weazen-faced
man, with an impediment in his speech, would be endeavouring to state a
case of imposition against the red cab’s driver; and the red cab’s
driver, and the Lord Mayor, and Mr. Hobler, would be having a little fun
among themselves, to the inordinate delight of everybody but the
complainant.  In the end, justice would be so tickled with the red
cab-driver’s native humour, that the fine would be mitigated, and he
would go away full gallop, in the red cab, to impose on somebody else
without loss of time.

The driver of the red cab, confident in the strength of his own moral
principles, like many other philosophers, was wont to set the feelings
and opinions of society at complete defiance.  Generally speaking,
perhaps, he would as soon carry a fare safely to his destination, as he
would upset him—sooner, perhaps, because in that case he not only got the
money, but had the additional amusement of running a longer heat against
some smart rival.  But society made war upon him in the shape of
penalties, and he must make war upon society in his own way.  This was
the reasoning of the red cab-driver.  So, he bestowed a searching look
upon the fare, as he put his hand in his waistcoat pocket, when he had
gone half the mile, to get the money ready; and if he brought forth
eightpence, out he went.

The last time we saw our friend was one wet evening in
Tottenham-court-road, when he was engaged in a very warm and somewhat
personal altercation with a loquacious little gentleman in a green coat.
Poor fellow! there were great excuses to be made for him: he had not
received above eighteenpence more than his fare, and consequently
laboured under a great deal of very natural indignation.  The dispute had
attained a pretty considerable height, when at last the loquacious little
gentleman, making a mental calculation of the distance, and finding that
he had already paid more than he ought, avowed his unalterable
determination to ‘pull up’ the cabman in the morning.

‘Now, just mark this, young man,’ said the little gentleman, ‘I’ll pull
you up to-morrow morning.’

‘No! will you though?’ said our friend, with a sneer.

‘I will,’ replied the little gentleman, ‘mark my words, that’s all.  If I
live till to-morrow morning, you shall repent this.’

There was a steadiness of purpose, and indignation of speech, about the
little gentleman, as he took an angry pinch of snuff, after this last
declaration, which made a visible impression on the mind of the red
cab-driver.  He appeared to hesitate for an instant.  It was only for an
instant; his resolve was soon taken.

‘You’ll pull me up, will you?’ said our friend.

‘I will,’ rejoined the little gentleman, with even greater vehemence an
before.

‘Very well,’ said our friend, tucking up his shirt sleeves very calmly.
‘There’ll be three veeks for that.  Wery good; that’ll bring me up to the
middle o’ next month.  Three veeks more would carry me on to my birthday,
and then I’ve got ten pound to draw.  I may as well get board, lodgin’,
and washin’, till then, out of the county, as pay for it myself;
consequently here goes!’

So, without more ado, the red cab-driver knocked the little gentleman
down, and then called the police to take himself into custody, with all
the civility in the world.

A story is nothing without the sequel; and therefore, we may state, that
to our certain knowledge, the board, lodging, and washing were all
provided in due course.  We happen to know the fact, for it came to our
knowledge thus: We went over the House of Correction for the county of
Middlesex shortly after, to witness the operation of the silent system;
and looked on all the ‘wheels’ with the greatest anxiety, in search of
our long-lost friend.  He was nowhere to be seen, however, and we began
to think that the little gentleman in the green coat must have relented,
when, as we were traversing the kitchen-garden, which lies in a
sequestered part of the prison, we were startled by hearing a voice,
which apparently proceeded from the wall, pouring forth its soul in the
plaintive air of ‘All round my hat,’ which was then just beginning to
form a recognised portion of our national music.

We started.—‘What voice is that?’ said we.  The Governor shook his head.

‘Sad fellow,’ he replied, ‘very sad.  He positively refused to work on
the wheel; so, after many trials, I was compelled to order him into
solitary confinement.  He says he likes it very much though, and I am
afraid he does, for he lies on his back on the floor, and sings comic
songs all day!’

Shall we add, that our heart had not deceived us and that the comic
singer was no other than our eagerly-sought friend, the red cab-driver?

We have never seen him since, but we have strong reason to suspect that
this noble individual was a distant relative of a waterman of our
acquaintance, who, on one occasion, when we were passing the coach-stand
over which he presides, after standing very quietly to see a tall man
struggle into a cab, ran up very briskly when it was all over (as his
brethren invariably do), and, touching his hat, asked, as a matter of
course, for ‘a copper for the waterman.’  Now, the fare was by no means a
handsome man; and, waxing very indignant at the demand, he
replied—‘Money!  What for?  Coming up and looking at me, I
suppose!’—‘Vell, sir,’ rejoined the waterman, with a smile of immovable
complacency, ‘_that’s_ worth twopence.’

The identical waterman afterwards attained a very prominent station in
society; and as we know something of his life, and have often thought of
telling what we _do_ know, perhaps we shall never have a better
opportunity than the present.

Mr. William Barker, then, for that was the gentleman’s name, Mr. William
Barker was born—but why need we relate where Mr. William Barker was born,
or when?  Why scrutinise the entries in parochial ledgers, or seek to
penetrate the Lucinian mysteries of lying-in hospitals?  Mr. William
Barker _was_ born, or he had never been.  There is a son—there was a
father.  There is an effect—there was a cause.  Surely this is sufficient
information for the most Fatima-like curiosity; and, if it be not, we
regret our inability to supply any further evidence on the point.  Can
there be a more satisfactory, or more strictly parliamentary course?
Impossible.

We at once avow a similar inability to record at what precise period, or
by what particular process, this gentleman’s patronymic, of William
Barker, became corrupted into ‘Bill Boorker.’ Mr. Barker acquired a high
standing, and no inconsiderable reputation, among the members of that
profession to which he more peculiarly devoted his energies; and to them
he was generally known, either by the familiar appellation of ‘Bill
Boorker,’ or the flattering designation of ‘Aggerawatin Bill,’ the latter
being a playful and expressive _sobriquet_, illustrative of Mr. Barker’s
great talent in ‘aggerawatin’ and rendering wild such subjects of her
Majesty as are conveyed from place to place, through the instrumentality
of omnibuses.  Of the early life of Mr. Barker little is known, and even
that little is involved in considerable doubt and obscurity.  A want of
application, a restlessness of purpose, a thirsting after porter, a love
of all that is roving and cadger-like in nature, shared in common with
many other great geniuses, appear to have been his leading
characteristics.  The busy hum of a parochial free-school, and the shady
repose of a county gaol, were alike inefficacious in producing the
slightest alteration in Mr. Barker’s disposition.  His feverish
attachment to change and variety nothing could repress; his native daring
no punishment could subdue.

If Mr. Barker can be fairly said to have had any weakness in his earlier
years, it was an amiable one—love; love in its most comprehensive form—a
love of ladies, liquids, and pocket-handkerchiefs.  It was no selfish
feeling; it was not confined to his own possessions, which but too many
men regard with exclusive complacency.  No; it was a nobler love—a
general principle.  It extended itself with equal force to the property
of other people.

There is something very affecting in this.  It is still more affecting to
know, that such philanthropy is but imperfectly rewarded.  Bow-street,
Newgate, and Millbank, are a poor return for general benevolence,
evincing itself in an irrepressible love for all created objects.  Mr.
Barker felt it so.  After a lengthened interview with the highest legal
authorities, he quitted his ungrateful country, with the consent, and at
the expense, of its Government; proceeded to a distant shore; and there
employed himself, like another Cincinnatus, in clearing and cultivating
the soil—a peaceful pursuit, in which a term of seven years glided almost
imperceptibly away.

Whether, at the expiration of the period we have just mentioned, the
British Government required Mr. Barker’s presence here, or did not
require his residence abroad, we have no distinct means of ascertaining.
We should be inclined, however, to favour the latter position, inasmuch
as we do not find that he was advanced to any other public post on his
return, than the post at the corner of the Haymarket, where he officiated
as assistant-waterman to the hackney-coach stand.  Seated, in this
capacity, on a couple of tubs near the curbstone, with a brass plate and
number suspended round his neck by a massive chain, and his ankles
curiously enveloped in haybands, he is supposed to have made those
observations on human nature which exercised so material an influence
over all his proceedings in later life.

Mr. Barker had not officiated for many months in this capacity, when the
appearance of the first omnibus caused the public mind to go in a new
direction, and prevented a great many hackney-coaches from going in any
direction at all.  The genius of Mr. Barker at once perceived the whole
extent of the injury that would be eventually inflicted on cab and coach
stands, and, by consequence, on watermen also, by the progress of the
system of which the first omnibus was a part.  He saw, too, the necessity
of adopting some more profitable profession; and his active mind at once
perceived how much might be done in the way of enticing the youthful and
unwary, and shoving the old and helpless, into the wrong buss, and
carrying them off, until, reduced to despair, they ransomed themselves by
the payment of sixpence a-head, or, to adopt his own figurative
expression in all its native beauty, ‘till they was rig’larly done over,
and forked out the stumpy.’

An opportunity for realising his fondest anticipations, soon presented
itself.  Rumours were rife on the hackney-coach stands, that a buss was
building, to run from Lisson-grove to the Bank, down Oxford-street and
Holborn; and the rapid increase of busses on the Paddington-road,
encouraged the idea.  Mr. Barker secretly and cautiously inquired in the
proper quarters.  The report was correct; the ‘Royal William’ was to make
its first journey on the following Monday.  It was a crack affair
altogether.  An enterprising young cabman, of established reputation as a
dashing whip—for he had compromised with the parents of three scrunched
children, and just ‘worked out’ his fine for knocking down an old
lady—was the driver; and the spirited proprietor, knowing Mr. Barker’s
qualifications, appointed him to the vacant office of cad on the very
first application.  The buss began to run, and Mr. Barker entered into a
new suit of clothes, and on a new sphere of action.

To recapitulate all the improvements introduced by this extraordinary man
into the omnibus system—gradually, indeed, but surely—would occupy a far
greater space than we are enabled to devote to this imperfect memoir.  To
him is universally assigned the original suggestion of the practice which
afterwards became so general—of the driver of a second buss keeping
constantly behind the first one, and driving the pole of his vehicle
either into the door of the other, every time it was opened, or through
the body of any lady or gentleman who might make an attempt to get into
it; a humorous and pleasant invention, exhibiting all that originality of
idea, and fine, bold flow of spirits, so conspicuous in every action of
this great man.

Mr. Barker had opponents of course; what man in public life has not?  But
even his worst enemies cannot deny that he has taken more old ladies and
gentlemen to Paddington who wanted to go to the Bank, and more old ladies
and gentlemen to the Bank who wanted to go to Paddington, than any six
men on the road; and however much malevolent spirits may pretend to doubt
the accuracy of the statement, they well know it to be an established
fact, that he has forcibly conveyed a variety of ancient persons of
either sex, to both places, who had not the slightest or most distant
intention of going anywhere at all.

Mr. Barker was the identical cad who nobly distinguished himself, some
time since, by keeping a tradesman on the step—the omnibus going at full
speed all the time—till he had thrashed him to his entire satisfaction,
and finally throwing him away, when he had quite done with him.  Mr.
Barker it _ought_ to have been, who honestly indignant at being
ignominiously ejected from a house of public entertainment, kicked the
landlord in the knee, and thereby caused his death.  We say it _ought_ to
have been Mr. Barker, because the action was not a common one, and could
have emanated from no ordinary mind.

It has now become matter of history; it is recorded in the Newgate
Calendar; and we wish we could attribute this piece of daring heroism to
Mr. Barker.  We regret being compelled to state that it was not performed
by him.  Would, for the family credit we could add, that it was achieved
by his brother!

It was in the exercise of the nicer details of his profession, that Mr.
Barker’s knowledge of human nature was beautifully displayed.  He could
tell at a glance where a passenger wanted to go to, and would shout the
name of the place accordingly, without the slightest reference to the
real destination of the vehicle.  He knew exactly the kind of old lady
that would be too much flurried by the process of pushing in and pulling
out of the caravan, to discover where she had been put down, until too
late; had an intuitive perception of what was passing in a passenger’s
mind when he inwardly resolved to ‘pull that cad up to-morrow morning;’
and never failed to make himself agreeable to female servants, whom he
would place next the door, and talk to all the way.

Human judgment is never infallible, and it would occasionally happen that
Mr. Barker experimentalised with the timidity or forbearance of the wrong
person, in which case a summons to a Police-office, was, on more than one
occasion, followed by a committal to prison.  It was not in the power of
trifles such as these, however, to subdue the freedom of his spirit.  As
soon as they passed away, he resumed the duties of his profession with
unabated ardour.

We have spoken of Mr. Barker and of the red cab-driver, in the past
tense.  Alas! Mr. Barker has again become an absentee; and the class of
men to which they both belonged is fast disappearing.  Improvement has
peered beneath the aprons of our cabs, and penetrated to the very
innermost recesses of our omnibuses.  Dirt and fustian will vanish before
cleanliness and livery.  Slang will be forgotten when civility becomes
general: and that enlightened, eloquent, sage, and profound body, the
Magistracy of London, will be deprived of half their amusement, and half
their occupation.



CHAPTER XVIII—A PARLIAMENTARY SKETCH


We hope our readers will not be alarmed at this rather ominous title.  We
assure them that we are not about to become political, neither have we
the slightest intention of being more prosy than usual—if we can help it.
It has occurred to us that a slight sketch of the general aspect of ‘the
House,’ and the crowds that resort to it on the night of an important
debate, would be productive of some amusement: and as we have made some
few calls at the aforesaid house in our time—have visited it quite often
enough for our purpose, and a great deal too often for our personal peace
and comfort—we have determined to attempt the description.  Dismissing
from our minds, therefore, all that feeling of awe, which vague ideas of
breaches of privilege, Serjeant-at-Arms, heavy denunciations, and still
heavier fees, are calculated to awaken, we enter at once into the
building, and upon our subject.

Half-past four o’clock—and at five the mover of the Address will be ‘on
his legs,’ as the newspapers announce sometimes by way of novelty, as if
speakers were occasionally in the habit of standing on their heads.  The
members are pouring in, one after the other, in shoals.  The few
spectators who can obtain standing-room in the passages, scrutinise them
as they pass, with the utmost interest, and the man who can identify a
member occasionally, becomes a person of great importance.  Every now and
then you hear earnest whispers of ‘That’s Sir John Thomson.’  ‘Which? him
with the gilt order round his neck?’  ‘No, no; that’s one of the
messengers—that other with the yellow gloves, is Sir John Thomson.’
‘Here’s Mr. Smith.’  ‘Lor!’  ‘Yes, how d’ye do, sir?—(He is our new
member)—How do you do, sir?’  Mr. Smith stops: turns round with an air of
enchanting urbanity (for the rumour of an intended dissolution has been
very extensively circulated this morning); seizes both the hands of his
gratified constituent, and, after greeting him with the most enthusiastic
warmth, darts into the lobby with an extraordinary display of ardour in
the public cause, leaving an immense impression in his favour on the mind
of his ‘fellow-townsman.’

The arrivals increase in number, and the heat and noise increase in very
unpleasant proportion.  The livery servants form a complete lane on
either side of the passage, and you reduce yourself into the smallest
possible space to avoid being turned out.  You see that stout man with
the hoarse voice, in the blue coat, queer-crowned, broad-brimmed hat,
white corduroy breeches, and great boots, who has been talking
incessantly for half an hour past, and whose importance has occasioned no
small quantity of mirth among the strangers.  That is the great
conservator of the peace of Westminster.  You cannot fail to have
remarked the grace with which he saluted the noble Lord who passed just
now, or the excessive dignity of his air, as he expostulates with the
crowd.  He is rather out of temper now, in consequence of the very
irreverent behaviour of those two young fellows behind him, who have done
nothing but laugh all the time they have been here.

‘Will they divide to-night, do you think, Mr. ---’ timidly inquires a
little thin man in the crowd, hoping to conciliate the man of office.

‘How _can_ you ask such questions, sir?’ replies the functionary, in an
incredibly loud key, and pettishly grasping the thick stick he carries in
his right hand.  ‘Pray do not, sir.  I beg of you; pray do not, sir.’
The little man looks remarkably out of his element, and the uninitiated
part of the throng are in positive convulsions of laughter.

Just at this moment some unfortunate individual appears, with a very
smirking air, at the bottom of the long passage.  He has managed to elude
the vigilance of the special constable downstairs, and is evidently
congratulating himself on having made his way so far.

‘Go back, sir—you must _not_ come here,’ shouts the hoarse one, with
tremendous emphasis of voice and gesture, the moment the offender catches
his eye.

The stranger pauses.

‘Do you hear, sir—will you go back?’ continues the official dignitary,
gently pushing the intruder some half-dozen yards.

‘Come, don’t push me,’ replies the stranger, turning angrily round.

‘I will, sir.’

‘You won’t, sir.’

‘Go out, sir.’

‘Take your hands off me, sir.’

‘Go out of the passage, sir.’

‘You’re a Jack-in-office, sir.’

‘A what?’ ejaculates he of the boots.

‘A Jack-in-office, sir, and a very insolent fellow,’ reiterates the
stranger, now completely in a passion.

‘Pray do not force me to put you out, sir,’ retorts the other—‘pray do
not—my instructions are to keep this passage clear—it’s the Speaker’s
orders, sir.’

‘D-n the Speaker, sir!’ shouts the intruder.

‘Here, Wilson!—Collins!’ gasps the officer, actually paralysed at this
insulting expression, which in his mind is all but high treason; ‘take
this man out—take him out, I say!  How dare you, sir?’ and down goes the
unfortunate man five stairs at a time, turning round at every stoppage,
to come back again, and denouncing bitter vengeance against the
commander-in-chief, and all his supernumeraries.

‘Make way, gentlemen,—pray make way for the Members, I beg of you!’
shouts the zealous officer, turning back, and preceding a whole string of
the liberal and independent.

You see this ferocious-looking gentleman, with a complexion almost as
sallow as his linen, and whose large black moustache would give him the
appearance of a figure in a hairdresser’s window, if his countenance
possessed the thought which is communicated to those waxen caricatures of
the human face divine.  He is a militia-officer, and the most amusing
person in the House.  Can anything be more exquisitely absurd than the
burlesque grandeur of his air, as he strides up to the lobby, his eyes
rolling like those of a Turk’s head in a cheap Dutch clock?  He never
appears without that bundle of dirty papers which he carries under his
left arm, and which are generally supposed to be the miscellaneous
estimates for 1804, or some equally important documents.  He is very
punctual in his attendance at the House, and his self-satisfied
‘He-ar-He-ar,’ is not unfrequently the signal for a general titter.

This is the gentleman who once actually sent a messenger up to the
Strangers’ gallery in the old House of Commons, to inquire the name of an
individual who was using an eye-glass, in order that he might complain to
the Speaker that the person in question was quizzing him!  On another
occasion, he is reported to have repaired to Bellamy’s kitchen—a
refreshment-room, where persons who are not Members are admitted on
sufferance, as it were—and perceiving two or three gentlemen at supper,
who, he was aware, were not Members, and could not, in that place, very
well resent his behaviour, he indulged in the pleasantry of sitting with
his booted leg on the table at which they were supping!  He is generally
harmless, though, and always amusing.

By dint of patience, and some little interest with our friend the
constable, we have contrived to make our way to the Lobby, and you can
just manage to catch an occasional glimpse of the House, as the door is
opened for the admission of Members.  It is tolerably full already, and
little groups of Members are congregated together here, discussing the
interesting topics of the day.

That smart-looking fellow in the black coat with velvet facings and
cuffs, who wears his _D’Orsay_ hat so rakishly, is ‘Honest Tom,’ a
metropolitan representative; and the large man in the cloak with the
white lining—not the man by the pillar; the other with the light hair
hanging over his coat collar behind—is his colleague.  The quiet
gentlemanly-looking man in the blue surtout, gray trousers, white
neckerchief and gloves, whose closely-buttoned coat displays his manly
figure and broad chest to great advantage, is a very well-known
character.  He has fought a great many battles in his time, and conquered
like the heroes of old, with no other arms than those the gods gave him.
The old hard-featured man who is standing near him, is really a good
specimen of a class of men, now nearly extinct.  He is a county Member,
and has been from time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary.
Look at his loose, wide, brown coat, with capacious pockets on each side;
the knee-breeches and boots, the immensely long waistcoat, and silver
watch-chain dangling below it, the wide-brimmed brown hat, and the white
handkerchief tied in a great bow, with straggling ends sticking out
beyond his shirt-frill.  It is a costume one seldom sees nowadays, and
when the few who wear it have died off, it will be quite extinct.  He can
tell you long stories of Fox, Pitt, Sheridan, and Canning, and how much
better the House was managed in those times, when they used to get up at
eight or nine o’clock, except on regular field-days, of which everybody
was apprised beforehand.  He has a great contempt for all young Members
of Parliament, and thinks it quite impossible that a man can say anything
worth hearing, unless he has sat in the House for fifteen years at least,
without saying anything at all.  He is of opinion that ‘that young
Macaulay’ was a regular impostor; he allows, that Lord Stanley may do
something one of these days, but ‘he’s too young, sir—too young.’  He is
an excellent authority on points of precedent, and when he grows
talkative, after his wine, will tell you how Sir Somebody Something, when
he was whipper-in for the Government, brought four men out of their beds
to vote in the majority, three of whom died on their way home again; how
the House once divided on the question, that fresh candles be now brought
in; how the Speaker was once upon a time left in the chair by accident,
at the conclusion of business, and was obliged to sit in the House by
himself for three hours, till some Member could be knocked up and brought
back again, to move the adjournment; and a great many other anecdotes of
a similar description.

There he stands, leaning on his stick; looking at the throng of
Exquisites around him with most profound contempt; and conjuring up,
before his mind’s eye, the scenes he beheld in the old House, in days
gone by, when his own feelings were fresher and brighter, and when, as he
imagines, wit, talent, and patriotism flourished more brightly too.

You are curious to know who that young man in the rough great-coat is,
who has accosted every Member who has entered the House since we have
been standing here.  He is not a Member; he is only an ‘hereditary
bondsman,’ or, in other words, an Irish correspondent of an Irish
newspaper, who has just procured his forty-second frank from a Member
whom he never saw in his life before.  There he goes again—another!
Bless the man, he has his hat and pockets full already.

We will try our fortune at the Strangers’ gallery, though the nature of
the debate encourages very little hope of success.  What on earth are you
about?  Holding up your order as if it were a talisman at whose command
the wicket would fly open?  Nonsense.  Just preserve the order for an
autograph, if it be worth keeping at all, and make your appearance at the
door with your thumb and forefinger expressively inserted in your
waistcoat-pocket.  This tall stout man in black is the door-keeper.  ‘Any
room?’  ‘Not an inch—two or three dozen gentlemen waiting down-stairs on
the chance of somebody’s going out.’  Pull out your purse—‘Are you
_quite_ sure there’s no room?’—‘I’ll go and look,’ replies the
door-keeper, with a wistful glance at your purse, ‘but I’m afraid there’s
not.’  He returns, and with real feeling assures you that it is morally
impossible to get near the gallery.  It is of no use waiting.  When you
are refused admission into the Strangers’ gallery at the House of
Commons, under such circumstances, you may return home thoroughly
satisfied that the place must be remarkably full indeed. {122}

Retracing our steps through the long passage, descending the stairs, and
crossing Palace-yard, we halt at a small temporary doorway adjoining the
King’s entrance to the House of Lords.  The order of the serjeant-at-arms
will admit you into the Reporters’ gallery, from whence you can obtain a
tolerably good view of the House.  Take care of the stairs, they are none
of the best; through this little wicket—there.  As soon as your eyes
become a little used to the mist of the place, and the glare of the
chandeliers below you, you will see that some unimportant personage on
the Ministerial side of the House (to your right hand) is speaking,
amidst a hum of voices and confusion which would rival Babel, but for the
circumstance of its being all in one language.

The ‘hear, hear,’ which occasioned that laugh, proceeded from our warlike
friend with the moustache; he is sitting on the back seat against the
wall, behind the Member who is speaking, looking as ferocious and
intellectual as usual.  Take one look around you, and retire!  The body
of the House and the side galleries are full of Members; some, with their
legs on the back of the opposite seat; some, with theirs stretched out to
their utmost length on the floor; some going out, others coming in; all
talking, laughing, lounging, coughing, oh-ing, questioning, or groaning;
presenting a conglomeration of noise and confusion, to be met with in no
other place in existence, not even excepting Smithfield on a market-day,
or a cock-pit in its glory.

But let us not omit to notice Bellamy’s kitchen, or, in other words, the
refreshment-room, common to both Houses of Parliament, where
Ministerialists and Oppositionists, Whigs and Tories, Radicals, Peers,
and Destructives, strangers from the gallery, and the more favoured
strangers from below the bar, are alike at liberty to resort; where
divers honourable members prove their perfect independence by remaining
during the whole of a heavy debate, solacing themselves with the creature
comforts; and whence they are summoned by whippers-in, when the House is
on the point of dividing; either to give their ‘conscientious votes’ on
questions of which they are conscientiously innocent of knowing anything
whatever, or to find a vent for the playful exuberance of their
wine-inspired fancies, in boisterous shouts of ‘Divide,’ occasionally
varied with a little howling, barking, crowing, or other ebullitions of
senatorial pleasantry.

When you have ascended the narrow staircase which, in the present
temporary House of Commons, leads to the place we are describing, you
will probably observe a couple of rooms on your right hand, with tables
spread for dining.  Neither of these is the kitchen, although they are
both devoted to the same purpose; the kitchen is further on to our left,
up these half-dozen stairs.  Before we ascend the staircase, however, we
must request you to pause in front of this little bar-place with the
sash-windows; and beg your particular attention to the steady,
honest-looking old fellow in black, who is its sole occupant.  Nicholas
(we do not mind mentioning the old fellow’s name, for if Nicholas be not
a public man, who is?—and public men’s names are public
property)—Nicholas is the butler of Bellamy’s, and has held the same
place, dressed exactly in the same manner, and said precisely the same
things, ever since the oldest of its present visitors can remember.  An
excellent servant Nicholas is—an unrivalled compounder of
salad-dressing—an admirable preparer of soda-water and lemon—a special
mixer of cold grog and punch—and, above all, an unequalled judge of
cheese.  If the old man have such a thing as vanity in his composition,
this is certainly his pride; and if it be possible to imagine that
anything in this world could disturb his impenetrable calmness, we should
say it would be the doubting his judgment on this important point.

We needn’t tell you all this, however, for if you have an atom of
observation, one glance at his sleek, knowing-looking head and face—his
prim white neckerchief, with the wooden tie into which it has been
regularly folded for twenty years past, merging by imperceptible degrees
into a small-plaited shirt-frill—and his comfortable-looking form encased
in a well-brushed suit of black—would give you a better idea of his real
character than a column of our poor description could convey.

Nicholas is rather out of his element now; he cannot see the kitchen as
he used to in the old House; there, one window of his glass-case opened
into the room, and then, for the edification and behoof of more juvenile
questioners, he would stand for an hour together, answering deferential
questions about Sheridan, and Percival, and Castlereagh, and Heaven knows
who beside, with manifest delight, always inserting a ‘Mister’ before
every commoner’s name.

Nicholas, like all men of his age and standing, has a great idea of the
degeneracy of the times.  He seldom expresses any political opinions, but
we managed to ascertain, just before the passing of the Reform Bill, that
Nicholas was a thorough Reformer.  What was our astonishment to discover
shortly after the meeting of the first reformed Parliament, that he was a
most inveterate and decided Tory!  It was very odd: some men change their
opinions from necessity, others from expediency, others from inspiration;
but that Nicholas should undergo any change in any respect, was an event
we had never contemplated, and should have considered impossible.  His
strong opinion against the clause which empowered the metropolitan
districts to return Members to Parliament, too, was perfectly
unaccountable.

We discovered the secret at last; the metropolitan Members always dined
at home.  The rascals!  As for giving additional Members to Ireland, it
was even worse—decidedly unconstitutional.  Why, sir, an Irish Member
would go up there, and eat more dinner than three English Members put
together.  He took no wine; drank table-beer by the half-gallon; and went
home to Manchester-buildings, or Millbank-street, for his
whiskey-and-water.  And what was the consequence?  Why, the concern
lost—actually lost, sir—by his patronage.  A queer old fellow is
Nicholas, and as completely a part of the building as the house itself.
We wonder he ever left the old place, and fully expected to see in the
papers, the morning after the fire, a pathetic account of an old
gentleman in black, of decent appearance, who was seen at one of the
upper windows when the flames were at their height, and declared his
resolute intention of falling with the floor.  He must have been got out
by force.  However, he was got out—here he is again, looking as he always
does, as if he had been in a bandbox ever since the last session.  There
he is, at his old post every night, just as we have described him: and,
as characters are scarce, and faithful servants scarcer, long may he be
there, say we!

Now, when you have taken your seat in the kitchen, and duly noticed the
large fire and roasting-jack at one end of the room—the little table for
washing glasses and draining jugs at the other—the clock over the window
opposite St. Margaret’s Church—the deal tables and wax candles—the damask
table-cloths and bare floor—the plate and china on the tables, and the
gridiron on the fire; and a few other anomalies peculiar to the place—we
will point out to your notice two or three of the people present, whose
station or absurdities render them the most worthy of remark.

It is half-past twelve o’clock, and as the division is not expected for
an hour or two, a few Members are lounging away the time here in
preference to standing at the bar of the House, or sleeping in one of the
side galleries.  That singularly awkward and ungainly-looking man, in the
brownish-white hat, with the straggling black trousers which reach about
half-way down the leg of his boots, who is leaning against the
meat-screen, apparently deluding himself into the belief that he is
thinking about something, is a splendid sample of a Member of the House
of Commons concentrating in his own person the wisdom of a constituency.
Observe the wig, of a dark hue but indescribable colour, for if it be
naturally brown, it has acquired a black tint by long service, and if it
be naturally black, the same cause has imparted to it a tinge of rusty
brown; and remark how very materially the great blinker-like spectacles
assist the expression of that most intelligent face.  Seriously speaking,
did you ever see a countenance so expressive of the most hopeless extreme
of heavy dulness, or behold a form so strangely put together?  He is no
great speaker: but when he _does_ address the House, the effect is
absolutely irresistible.

The small gentleman with the sharp nose, who has just saluted him, is a
Member of Parliament, an ex-Alderman, and a sort of amateur fireman.  He,
and the celebrated fireman’s dog, were observed to be remarkably active
at the conflagration of the two Houses of Parliament—they both ran up and
down, and in and out, getting under people’s feet, and into everybody’s
way, fully impressed with the belief that they were doing a great deal of
good, and barking tremendously.  The dog went quietly back to his kennel
with the engine, but the gentleman kept up such an incessant noise for
some weeks after the occurrence, that he became a positive nuisance.  As
no more parliamentary fires have occurred, however, and as he has
consequently had no more opportunities of writing to the newspapers to
relate how, by way of preserving pictures he cut them out of their
frames, and performed other great national services, he has gradually
relapsed into his old state of calmness.

That female in black—not the one whom the Lord’s-Day-Bill Baronet has
just chucked under the chin; the shorter of the two—is ‘Jane:’ the Hebe
of Bellamy’s.  Jane is as great a character as Nicholas, in her way.  Her
leading features are a thorough contempt for the great majority of her
visitors; her predominant quality, love of admiration, as you cannot fail
to observe, if you mark the glee with which she listens to something the
young Member near her mutters somewhat unintelligibly in her ear (for his
speech is rather thick from some cause or other), and how playfully she
digs the handle of a fork into the arm with which he detains her, by way
of reply.

Jane is no bad hand at repartees, and showers them about, with a degree
of liberality and total absence of reserve or constraint, which
occasionally excites no small amazement in the minds of strangers.  She
cuts jokes with Nicholas, too, but looks up to him with a great deal of
respect—the immovable stolidity with which Nicholas receives the
aforesaid jokes, and looks on, at certain pastoral friskings and rompings
(Jane’s only recreations, and they are very innocent too) which
occasionally take place in the passage, is not the least amusing part of
his character.

The two persons who are seated at the table in the corner, at the farther
end of the room, have been constant guests here, for many years past; and
one of them has feasted within these walls, many a time, with the most
brilliant characters of a brilliant period.  He has gone up to the other
House since then; the greater part of his boon companions have shared
Yorick’s fate, and his visits to Bellamy’s are comparatively few.

If he really be eating his supper now, at what hour can he possibly have
dined!  A second solid mass of rump-steak has disappeared, and he eat the
first in four minutes and three quarters, by the clock over the window.
Was there ever such a personification of Falstaff!  Mark the air with
which he gloats over that Stilton, as he removes the napkin which has
been placed beneath his chin to catch the superfluous gravy of the steak,
and with what gusto he imbibes the porter which has been fetched,
expressly for him, in the pewter pot.  Listen to the hoarse sound of that
voice, kept down as it is by layers of solids, and deep draughts of rich
wine, and tell us if you ever saw such a perfect picture of a regular
_gourmand_; and whether he is not exactly the man whom you would pitch
upon as having been the partner of Sheridan’s parliamentary carouses, the
volunteer driver of the hackney-coach that took him home, and the
involuntary upsetter of the whole party?

What an amusing contrast between his voice and appearance, and that of
the spare, squeaking old man, who sits at the same table, and who,
elevating a little cracked bantam sort of voice to its highest pitch,
invokes damnation upon his own eyes or somebody else’s at the
commencement of every sentence he utters.  ‘The Captain,’ as they call
him, is a very old frequenter of Bellamy’s; much addicted to stopping
‘after the House is up’ (an inexpiable crime in Jane’s eyes), and a
complete walking reservoir of spirits and water.

The old Peer—or rather, the old man—for his peerage is of comparatively
recent date—has a huge tumbler of hot punch brought him; and the other
damns and drinks, and drinks and damns, and smokes.  Members arrive every
moment in a great bustle to report that ‘The Chancellor of the
Exchequer’s up,’ and to get glasses of brandy-and-water to sustain them
during the division; people who have ordered supper, countermand it, and
prepare to go down-stairs, when suddenly a bell is heard to ring with
tremendous violence, and a cry of ‘Di-vi-sion!’ is heard in the passage.
This is enough; away rush the members pell-mell.  The room is cleared in
an instant; the noise rapidly dies away; you hear the creaking of the
last boot on the last stair, and are left alone with the leviathan of
rump-steaks.



CHAPTER XIX—PUBLIC DINNERS


All public dinners in London, from the Lord Mayor’s annual banquet at
Guildhall, to the Chimney-sweepers’ anniversary at White Conduit House;
from the Goldsmiths’ to the Butchers’, from the Sheriffs’ to the Licensed
Victuallers’; are amusing scenes.  Of all entertainments of this
description, however, we think the annual dinner of some public charity
is the most amusing.  At a Company’s dinner, the people are nearly all
alike—regular old stagers, who make it a matter of business, and a thing
not to be laughed at.  At a political dinner, everybody is disagreeable,
and inclined to speechify—much the same thing, by-the-bye; but at a
charity dinner you see people of all sorts, kinds, and descriptions.  The
wine may not be remarkably special, to be sure, and we have heard some
hardhearted monsters grumble at the collection; but we really think the
amusement to be derived from the occasion, sufficient to counterbalance
even these disadvantages.

Let us suppose you are induced to attend a dinner of this
description—‘Indigent Orphans’ Friends’ Benevolent Institution,’ we think
it is.  The name of the charity is a line or two longer, but never mind
the rest.  You have a distinct recollection, however, that you purchased
a ticket at the solicitation of some charitable friend: and you deposit
yourself in a hackney-coach, the driver of which—no doubt that you may do
the thing in style—turns a deaf ear to your earnest entreaties to be set
down at the corner of Great Queen-street, and persists in carrying you to
the very door of the Freemasons’, round which a crowd of people are
assembled to witness the entrance of the indigent orphans’ friends.  You
hear great speculations as you pay the fare, on the possibility of your
being the noble Lord who is announced to fill the chair on the occasion,
and are highly gratified to hear it eventually decided that you are only
a ‘wocalist.’

The first thing that strikes you, on your entrance, is the astonishing
importance of the committee.  You observe a door on the first landing,
carefully guarded by two waiters, in and out of which stout gentlemen
with very red faces keep running, with a degree of speed highly
unbecoming the gravity of persons of their years and corpulency.  You
pause, quite alarmed at the bustle, and thinking, in your innocence, that
two or three people must have been carried out of the dining-room in
fits, at least.  You are immediately undeceived by the waiter—‘Up-stairs,
if you please, sir; this is the committee-room.’  Up-stairs you go,
accordingly; wondering, as you mount, what the duties of the committee
can be, and whether they ever do anything beyond confusing each other,
and running over the waiters.

Having deposited your hat and cloak, and received a remarkably small
scrap of pasteboard in exchange (which, as a matter of course, you lose,
before you require it again), you enter the hall, down which there are
three long tables for the less distinguished guests, with a cross table
on a raised platform at the upper end for the reception of the very
particular friends of the indigent orphans.  Being fortunate enough to
find a plate without anybody’s card in it, you wisely seat yourself at
once, and have a little leisure to look about you.  Waiters, with
wine-baskets in their hands, are placing decanters of sherry down the
tables, at very respectable distances; melancholy-looking salt-cellars,
and decayed vinegar-cruets, which might have belonged to the parents of
the indigent orphans in their time, are scattered at distant intervals on
the cloth; and the knives and forks look as if they had done duty at
every public dinner in London since the accession of George the First.
The musicians are scraping and grating and screwing tremendously—playing
no notes but notes of preparation; and several gentlemen are gliding
along the sides of the tables, looking into plate after plate with
frantic eagerness, the expression of their countenances growing more and
more dismal as they meet with everybody’s card but their own.

You turn round to take a look at the table behind you, and—not being in
the habit of attending public dinners—are somewhat struck by the
appearance of the party on which your eyes rest.  One of its principal
members appears to be a little man, with a long and rather inflamed face,
and gray hair brushed bolt upright in front; he wears a wisp of black
silk round his neck, without any stiffener, as an apology for a
neckerchief, and is addressed by his companions by the familiar
appellation of ‘Fitz,’ or some such monosyllable.  Near him is a stout
man in a white neckerchief and buff waistcoat, with shining dark hair,
cut very short in front, and a great, round, healthy-looking face, on
which he studiously preserves a half sentimental simper.  Next him,
again, is a large-headed man, with black hair and bushy whiskers; and
opposite them are two or three others, one of whom is a little
round-faced person, in a dress-stock and blue under-waistcoat.  There is
something peculiar in their air and manner, though you could hardly
describe what it is; you cannot divest yourself of the idea that they
have come for some other purpose than mere eating and drinking.  You have
no time to debate the matter, however, for the waiters (who have been
arranged in lines down the room, placing the dishes on table) retire to
the lower end; the dark man in the blue coat and bright buttons, who has
the direction of the music, looks up to the gallery, and calls out ‘band’
in a very loud voice; out burst the orchestra, up rise the visitors, in
march fourteen stewards, each with a long wand in his hand, like the evil
genius in a pantomime; then the chairman, then the titled visitors; they
all make their way up the room, as fast as they can, bowing, and smiling,
and smirking, and looking remarkably amiable.  The applause ceases, grace
is said, the clatter of plates and dishes begins; and every one appears
highly gratified, either with the presence of the distinguished visitors,
or the commencement of the anxiously-expected dinner.

As to the dinner itself—the mere dinner—it goes off much the same
everywhere.  Tureens of soup are emptied with awful rapidity—waiters take
plates of turbot away, to get lobster-sauce, and bring back plates of
lobster-sauce without turbot; people who can carve poultry, are great
fools if they own it, and people who can’t have no wish to learn.  The
knives and forks form a pleasing accompaniment to Auber’s music, and
Auber’s music would form a pleasing accompaniment to the dinner, if you
could hear anything besides the cymbals.  The substantials
disappear—moulds of jelly vanish like lightning—hearty eaters wipe their
foreheads, and appear rather overcome by their recent exertions—people
who have looked very cross hitherto, become remarkably bland, and ask you
to take wine in the most friendly manner possible—old gentlemen direct
your attention to the ladies’ gallery, and take great pains to impress
you with the fact that the charity is always peculiarly favoured in this
respect—every one appears disposed to become talkative—and the hum of
conversation is loud and general.

‘Pray, silence, gentlemen, if you please, for _Non nobis_!’ shouts the
toast-master with stentorian lungs—a toast-master’s shirt-front,
waistcoat, and neckerchief, by-the-bye, always exhibit three distinct
shades of cloudy-white.—‘Pray, silence, gentlemen, for _Non nobis_!’  The
singers, whom you discover to be no other than the very party that
excited your curiosity at first, after ‘pitching’ their voices
immediately begin _too-too_ing most dismally, on which the regular old
stagers burst into occasional cries of—‘Sh—Sh—waiters!—Silence,
waiters—stand still, waiters—keep back, waiters,’ and other exorcisms,
delivered in a tone of indignant remonstrance.  The grace is soon
concluded, and the company resume their seats.  The uninitiated portion
of the guests applaud _Non nobis_ as vehemently as if it were a capital
comic song, greatly to the scandal and indignation of the regular diners,
who immediately attempt to quell this sacrilegious approbation, by cries
of ‘Hush, hush!’ whereupon the others, mistaking these sounds for hisses,
applaud more tumultuously than before, and, by way of placing their
approval beyond the possibility of doubt, shout ‘_Encore_!’ most
vociferously.

The moment the noise ceases, up starts the toast-master:—‘Gentlemen,
charge your glasses, if you please!’  Decanters having been handed about,
and glasses filled, the toast-master proceeds, in a regular ascending
scale:—‘Gentlemen—_air_—you—all charged?  Pray—silence—gentlemen—for—the
cha-i-r!’  The chairman rises, and, after stating that he feels it quite
unnecessary to preface the toast he is about to propose, with any
observations whatever, wanders into a maze of sentences, and flounders
about in the most extraordinary manner, presenting a lamentable spectacle
of mystified humanity, until he arrives at the words, ‘constitutional
sovereign of these realms,’ at which elderly gentlemen exclaim ‘Bravo!’
and hammer the table tremendously with their knife-handles.  ‘Under any
circumstances, it would give him the greatest pride, it would give him
the greatest pleasure—he might almost say, it would afford him
satisfaction [cheers] to propose that toast.  What must be his feelings,
then, when he has the gratification of announcing, that he has received
her Majesty’s commands to apply to the Treasurer of her Majesty’s
Household, for her Majesty’s annual donation of 25_l._ in aid of the
funds of this charity!’  This announcement (which has been regularly made
by every chairman, since the first foundation of the charity, forty-two
years ago) calls forth the most vociferous applause; the toast is drunk
with a great deal of cheering and knocking; and ‘God save the Queen’ is
sung by the ‘professional gentlemen;’ the unprofessional gentlemen
joining in the chorus, and giving the national anthem an effect which the
newspapers, with great justice, describe as ‘perfectly electrical.’

The other ‘loyal and patriotic’ toasts having been drunk with all due
enthusiasm, a comic song having been well sung by the gentleman with the
small neckerchief, and a sentimental one by the second of the party, we
come to the most important toast of the evening—‘Prosperity to the
charity.’  Here again we are compelled to adopt newspaper phraseology,
and to express our regret at being ‘precluded from giving even the
substance of the noble lord’s observations.’  Suffice it to say, that the
speech, which is somewhat of the longest, is rapturously received; and
the toast having been drunk, the stewards (looking more important than
ever) leave the room, and presently return, heading a procession of
indigent orphans, boys and girls, who walk round the room, curtseying,
and bowing, and treading on each other’s heels, and looking very much as
if they would like a glass of wine apiece, to the high gratification of
the company generally, and especially of the lady patronesses in the
gallery.  _Exeunt_ children, and re-enter stewards, each with a blue
plate in his hand.  The band plays a lively air; the majority of the
company put their hands in their pockets and look rather serious; and the
noise of sovereigns, rattling on crockery, is heard from all parts of the
room.

After a short interval, occupied in singing and toasting, the secretary
puts on his spectacles, and proceeds to read the report and list of
subscriptions, the latter being listened to with great attention.  ‘Mr.
Smith, one guinea—Mr. Tompkins, one guinea—Mr. Wilson, one guinea—Mr.
Hickson, one guinea—Mr. Nixon, one guinea—Mr. Charles Nixon, one
guinea—[hear, hear!]—Mr. James Nixon, one guinea—Mr. Thomas Nixon, one
pound one [tremendous applause].  Lord Fitz Binkle, the chairman of the
day, in addition to an annual donation of fifteen pounds—thirty guineas
[prolonged knocking: several gentlemen knock the stems off their
wine-glasses, in the vehemence of their approbation].  Lady, Fitz Binkle,
in addition to an annual donation of ten pound—twenty pound’ [protracted
knocking and shouts of ‘Bravo!’]  The list being at length concluded, the
chairman rises, and proposes the health of the secretary, than whom he
knows no more zealous or estimable individual.  The secretary, in
returning thanks, observes that _he_ knows no more excellent individual
than the chairman—except the senior officer of the charity, whose health
_he_ begs to propose.  The senior officer, in returning thanks, observes
that _he_ knows no more worthy man than the secretary—except Mr. Walker,
the auditor, whose health _he_ begs to propose.  Mr. Walker, in returning
thanks, discovers some other estimable individual, to whom alone the
senior officer is inferior—and so they go on toasting and lauding and
thanking: the only other toast of importance being ‘The Lady Patronesses
now present!’ on which all the gentlemen turn their faces towards the
ladies’ gallery, shouting tremendously; and little priggish men, who have
imbibed more wine than usual, kiss their hands and exhibit distressing
contortions of visage.

We have protracted our dinner to so great a length, that we have hardly
time to add one word by way of grace.  We can only entreat our readers
not to imagine, because we have attempted to extract some amusement from
a charity dinner, that we are at all disposed to underrate, either the
excellence of the benevolent institutions with which London abounds, or
the estimable motives of those who support them.



CHAPTER XX—THE FIRST OF MAY


    ‘Now ladies, up in the sky-parlour: only once a year, if you please!’

                                              YOUNG LADY WITH BRASS LADLE.

    ‘Sweep—sweep—sw-e-ep!’

                                                        ILLEGAL WATCHWORD.

The first of May!  There is a merry freshness in the sound, calling to
our minds a thousand thoughts of all that is pleasant in nature and
beautiful in her most delightful form.  What man is there, over whose
mind a bright spring morning does not exercise a magic influence—carrying
him back to the days of his childish sports, and conjuring up before him
the old green field with its gently-waving trees, where the birds sang as
he has never heard them since—where the butterfly fluttered far more
gaily than he ever sees him now, in all his ramblings—where the sky
seemed bluer, and the sun shone more brightly—where the air blew more
freshly over greener grass, and sweeter-smelling flowers—where everything
wore a richer and more brilliant hue than it is ever dressed in now!
Such are the deep feelings of childhood, and such are the impressions
which every lovely object stamps upon its heart!  The hardy traveller
wanders through the maze of thick and pathless woods, where the sun’s
rays never shone, and heaven’s pure air never played; he stands on the
brink of the roaring waterfall, and, giddy and bewildered, watches the
foaming mass as it leaps from stone to stone, and from crag to crag; he
lingers in the fertile plains of a land of perpetual sunshine, and revels
in the luxury of their balmy breath.  But what are the deep forests, or
the thundering waters, or the richest landscapes that bounteous nature
ever spread, to charm the eyes, and captivate the senses of man, compared
with the recollection of the old scenes of his early youth?  Magic scenes
indeed; for the fancies of childhood dressed them in colours brighter
than the rainbow, and almost as fleeting!

In former times, spring brought with it not only such associations as
these, connected with the past, but sports and games for the
present—merry dances round rustic pillars, adorned with emblems of the
season, and reared in honour of its coming.  Where are they now!  Pillars
we have, but they are no longer rustic ones; and as to dancers, they are
used to rooms, and lights, and would not show well in the open air.
Think of the immorality, too!  What would your sabbath enthusiasts say,
to an aristocratic ring encircling the Duke of York’s column in
Carlton-terrace—a grand _poussette_ of the middle classes, round Alderman
Waithman’s monument in Fleet-street,—or a general hands-four-round of
ten-pound householders, at the foot of the Obelisk in St.
George’s-fields?  Alas! romance can make no head against the riot act;
and pastoral simplicity is not understood by the police.

Well; many years ago we began to be a steady and matter-of-fact sort of
people, and dancing in spring being beneath our dignity, we gave it up,
and in course of time it descended to the sweeps—a fall certainly,
because, though sweeps are very good fellows in their way, and moreover
very useful in a civilised community, they are not exactly the sort of
people to give the tone to the little elegances of society.  The sweeps,
however, got the dancing to themselves, and they kept it up, and handed
it down.  This was a severe blow to the romance of spring-time, but, it
did not entirely destroy it, either; for a portion of it descended to the
sweeps with the dancing, and rendered them objects of great interest.  A
mystery hung over the sweeps in those days.  Legends were in existence of
wealthy gentlemen who had lost children, and who, after many years of
sorrow and suffering, had found them in the character of sweeps.  Stories
were related of a young boy who, having been stolen from his parents in
his infancy, and devoted to the occupation of chimney-sweeping, was sent,
in the course of his professional career, to sweep the chimney of his
mother’s bedroom; and how, being hot and tired when he came out of the
chimney, he got into the bed he had so often slept in as an infant, and
was discovered and recognised therein by his mother, who once every year
of her life, thereafter, requested the pleasure of the company of every
London sweep, at half-past one o’clock, to roast beef, plum-pudding,
porter, and sixpence.

Such stories as these, and there were many such, threw an air of mystery
round the sweeps, and produced for them some of those good effects which
animals derive from the doctrine of the transmigration of souls.  No one
(except the masters) thought of ill-treating a sweep, because no one knew
who he might be, or what nobleman’s or gentleman’s son he might turn out.
Chimney-sweeping was, by many believers in the marvellous, considered as
a sort of probationary term, at an earlier or later period of which,
divers young noblemen were to come into possession of their rank and
titles: and the profession was held by them in great respect accordingly.

We remember, in our young days, a little sweep about our own age, with
curly hair and white teeth, whom we devoutly and sincerely believed to be
the lost son and heir of some illustrious personage—an impression which
was resolved into an unchangeable conviction on our infant mind, by the
subject of our speculations informing us, one day, in reply to our
question, propounded a few moments before his ascent to the summit of the
kitchen chimney, ‘that he believed he’d been born in the vurkis, but he’d
never know’d his father.’  We felt certain, from that time forth, that he
would one day be owned by a lord: and we never heard the church-bells
ring, or saw a flag hoisted in the neighbourhood, without thinking that
the happy event had at last occurred, and that his long-lost parent had
arrived in a coach and six, to take him home to Grosvenor-square.  He
never came, however; and, at the present moment, the young gentleman in
question is settled down as a master sweep in the neighbourhood of
Battle-bridge, his distinguishing characteristics being a decided
antipathy to washing himself, and the possession of a pair of legs very
inadequate to the support of his unwieldy and corpulent body.

The romance of spring having gone out before our time, we were fain to
console ourselves as we best could with the uncertainty that enveloped
the birth and parentage of its attendant dancers, the sweeps; and we
_did_ console ourselves with it, for many years.  But, even this wicked
source of comfort received a shock from which it has never recovered—a
shock which has been in reality its death-blow.  We could not disguise
from ourselves the fact that whole families of sweeps were regularly born
of sweeps, in the rural districts of Somers Town and Camden Town—that the
eldest son succeeded to the father’s business, that the other branches
assisted him therein, and commenced on their own account; that their
children again, were educated to the profession; and that about their
identity there could be no mistake whatever.  We could not be blind, we
say, to this melancholy truth, but we could not bring ourselves to admit
it, nevertheless, and we lived on for some years in a state of voluntary
ignorance.  We were roused from our pleasant slumber by certain dark
insinuations thrown out by a friend of ours, to the effect that children
in the lower ranks of life were beginning to _choose_ chimney-sweeping as
their particular walk; that applications had been made by various boys to
the constituted authorities, to allow them to pursue the object of their
ambition with the full concurrence and sanction of the law; that the
affair, in short, was becoming one of mere legal contract.  We turned a
deaf ear to these rumours at first, but slowly and surely they stole upon
us.  Month after month, week after week, nay, day after day, at last, did
we meet with accounts of similar applications.  The veil was removed, all
mystery was at an end, and chimney-sweeping had become a favourite and
chosen pursuit.  There is no longer any occasion to steal boys; for boys
flock in crowds to bind themselves.  The romance of the trade has fled,
and the chimney-sweeper of the present day, is no more like unto him of
thirty years ago, than is a Fleet-street pickpocket to a Spanish brigand,
or Paul Pry to Caleb Williams.

This gradual decay and disuse of the practice of leading noble youths
into captivity, and compelling them to ascend chimneys, was a severe
blow, if we may so speak, to the romance of chimney-sweeping, and to the
romance of spring at the same time.  But even this was not all, for some
few years ago the dancing on May-day began to decline; small sweeps were
observed to congregate in twos or threes, unsupported by a ‘green,’ with
no ‘My Lord’ to act as master of the ceremonies, and no ‘My Lady’ to
preside over the exchequer.  Even in companies where there was a ‘green’
it was an absolute nothing—a mere sprout—and the instrumental
accompaniments rarely extended beyond the shovels and a set of Panpipes,
better known to the many, as a ‘mouth-organ.’

These were signs of the times, portentous omens of a coming change; and
what was the result which they shadowed forth?  Why, the master sweeps,
influenced by a restless spirit of innovation, actually interposed their
authority, in opposition to the dancing, and substituted a dinner—an
anniversary dinner at White Conduit House—where clean faces appeared in
lieu of black ones smeared with rose pink; and knee cords and tops
superseded nankeen drawers and rosetted shoes.

Gentlemen who were in the habit of riding shy horses; and steady-going
people who have no vagrancy in their souls, lauded this alteration to the
skies, and the conduct of the master sweeps was described beyond the
reach of praise.  But how stands the real fact?  Let any man deny, if he
can, that when the cloth had been removed, fresh pots and pipes laid upon
the table, and the customary loyal and patriotic toasts proposed, the
celebrated Mr. Sluffen, of Adam-and-Eve-court, whose authority not the
most malignant of our opponents can call in question, expressed himself
in a manner following: ‘That now he’d cotcht the cheerman’s hi, he vished
he might be jolly vell blessed, if he worn’t a goin’ to have his innings,
vich he vould say these here obserwashuns—that how some mischeevus coves
as know’d nuffin about the consarn, had tried to sit people agin the
mas’r swips, and take the shine out o’ their bis’nes, and the bread out
o’ the traps o’ their preshus kids, by a makin’ o’ this here remark, as
chimblies could be as vell svept by ‘sheenery as by boys; and that the
makin’ use o’ boys for that there purpuss vos barbareous; vereas, he ’ad
been a chummy—he begged the cheerman’s parding for usin’ such a wulgar
hexpression—more nor thirty year—he might say he’d been born in a
chimbley—and he know’d uncommon vell as ‘sheenery vos vus nor o’ no use:
and as to kerhewelty to the boys, everybody in the chimbley line know’d
as vell as he did, that they liked the climbin’ better nor nuffin as
vos.’  From this day, we date the total fall of the last lingering
remnant of May-day dancing, among the _élite_ of the profession: and from
this period we commence a new era in that portion of our spring
associations which relates to the first of May.

We are aware that the unthinking part of the population will meet us
here, with the assertion, that dancing on May-day still continues—that
‘greens’ are annually seen to roll along the streets—that youths in the
garb of clowns, precede them, giving vent to the ebullitions of their
sportive fancies; and that lords and ladies follow in their wake.

Granted.  We are ready to acknowledge that in outward show, these
processions have greatly improved: we do not deny the introduction of
solos on the drum; we will even go so far as to admit an occasional
fantasia on the triangle, but here our admissions end.  We positively
deny that the sweeps have art or part in these proceedings.  We
distinctly charge the dustmen with throwing what they ought to clear
away, into the eyes of the public.  We accuse scavengers, brickmakers,
and gentlemen who devote their energies to the costermongering line, with
obtaining money once a-year, under false pretences.  We cling with
peculiar fondness to the custom of days gone by, and have shut out
conviction as long as we could, but it has forced itself upon us; and we
now proclaim to a deluded public, that the May-day dancers are _not_
sweeps.  The size of them, alone, is sufficient to repudiate the idea.
It is a notorious fact that the widely-spread taste for register-stoves
has materially increased the demand for small boys; whereas the men, who,
under a fictitious character, dance about the streets on the first of May
nowadays, would be a tight fit in a kitchen flue, to say nothing of the
parlour.  This is strong presumptive evidence, but we have positive
proof—the evidence of our own senses.  And here is our testimony.

Upon the morning of the second of the merry month of May, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, we went out for a
stroll, with a kind of forlorn hope of seeing something or other which
might induce us to believe that it was really spring, and not Christmas.
After wandering as far as Copenhagen House, without meeting anything
calculated to dispel our impression that there was a mistake in the
almanacks, we turned back down Maidenlane, with the intention of passing
through the extensive colony lying between it and Battle-bridge, which is
inhabited by proprietors of donkey-carts, boilers of horse-flesh, makers
of tiles, and sifters of cinders; through which colony we should have
passed, without stoppage or interruption, if a little crowd gathered
round a shed had not attracted our attention, and induced us to pause.

When we say a ‘shed,’ we do not mean the conservatory sort of building,
which, according to the old song, Love tenanted when he was a young man,
but a wooden house with windows stuffed with rags and paper, and a small
yard at the side, with one dust-cart, two baskets, a few shovels, and
little heaps of cinders, and fragments of china and tiles, scattered
about it.  Before this inviting spot we paused; and the longer we looked,
the more we wondered what exciting circumstance it could be, that induced
the foremost members of the crowd to flatten their noses against the
parlour window, in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of what was going
on inside.  After staring vacantly about us for some minutes, we
appealed, touching the cause of this assemblage, to a gentleman in a suit
of tarpaulin, who was smoking his pipe on our right hand; but as the only
answer we obtained was a playful inquiry whether our mother had disposed
of her mangle, we determined to await the issue in silence.

Judge of our virtuous indignation, when the street-door of the shed
opened, and a party emerged therefrom, clad in the costume and emulating
the appearance, of May-day sweeps!

The first person who appeared was ‘my lord,’ habited in a blue coat and
bright buttons, with gilt paper tacked over the seams, yellow
knee-breeches, pink cotton stockings, and shoes; a cocked hat, ornamented
with shreds of various-coloured paper, on his head, a _bouquet_ the size
of a prize cauliflower in his button-hole, a long Belcher handkerchief in
his right hand, and a thin cane in his left.  A murmur of applause ran
through the crowd (which was chiefly composed of his lordship’s personal
friends), when this graceful figure made his appearance, which swelled
into a burst of applause as his fair partner in the dance bounded forth
to join him.  Her ladyship was attired in pink crape over bed-furniture,
with a low body and short sleeves.  The symmetry of her ankles was
partially concealed by a very perceptible pair of frilled trousers; and
the inconvenience which might have resulted from the circumstance of her
white satin shoes being a few sizes too large, was obviated by their
being firmly attached to her legs with strong tape sandals.

Her head was ornamented with a profusion of artificial flowers; and in
her hand she bore a large brass ladle, wherein to receive what she
figuratively denominated ‘the tin.’  The other characters were a young
gentleman in girl’s clothes and a widow’s cap; two clowns who walked upon
their hands in the mud, to the immeasurable delight of all the
spectators; a man with a drum; another man with a flageolet; a dirty
woman in a large shawl, with a box under her arm for the money,—and last,
though not least, the ‘green,’ animated by no less a personage than our
identical friend in the tarpaulin suit.

The man hammered away at the drum, the flageolet squeaked, the shovels
rattled, the ‘green’ rolled about, pitching first on one side and then on
the other; my lady threw her right foot over her left ankle, and her left
foot over her right ankle, alternately; my lord ran a few paces forward,
and butted at the ‘green,’ and then a few paces backward upon the toes of
the crowd, and then went to the right, and then to the left, and then
dodged my lady round the ‘green;’ and finally drew her arm through his,
and called upon the boys to shout, which they did lustily—for this was
the dancing.

We passed the same group, accidentally, in the evening.  We never saw a
‘green’ so drunk, a lord so quarrelsome (no: not even in the house of
peers after dinner), a pair of clowns so melancholy, a lady so muddy, or
a party so miserable.

How has May-day decayed!



CHAPTER XXI—BROKERS’ AND MARINE-STORE SHOPS


When we affirm that brokers’ shops are strange places, and that if an
authentic history of their contents could be procured, it would furnish
many a page of amusement, and many a melancholy tale, it is necessary to
explain the class of shops to which we allude.  Perhaps when we make use
of the term ‘Brokers’ Shop,’ the minds of our readers will at once
picture large, handsome warehouses, exhibiting a long perspective of
French-polished dining-tables, rosewood chiffoniers, and mahogany
wash-hand-stands, with an occasional vista of a four-post bedstead and
hangings, and an appropriate foreground of dining-room chairs.  Perhaps
they will imagine that we mean an humble class of second-hand furniture
repositories.  Their imagination will then naturally lead them to that
street at the back of Long-acre, which is composed almost entirely of
brokers’ shops; where you walk through groves of deceitful, showy-looking
furniture, and where the prospect is occasionally enlivened by a bright
red, blue, and yellow hearth-rug, embellished with the pleasing device of
a mail-coach at full speed, or a strange animal, supposed to have been
originally intended for a dog, with a mass of worsted-work in his mouth,
which conjecture has likened to a basket of flowers.

This, by-the-bye, is a tempting article to young wives in the humbler
ranks of life, who have a first-floor front to furnish—they are lost in
admiration, and hardly know which to admire most.  The dog is very
beautiful, but they have a dog already on the best tea-tray, and two more
on the mantel-piece.  Then, there is something so genteel about that
mail-coach; and the passengers outside (who are all hat) give it such an
air of reality!

The goods here are adapted to the taste, or rather to the means, of cheap
purchasers.  There are some of the most beautiful _looking_ Pembroke
tables that were ever beheld: the wood as green as the trees in the Park,
and the leaves almost as certain to fall off in the course of a year.
There is also a most extensive assortment of tent and turn-up bedsteads,
made of stained wood, and innumerable specimens of that base imposition
on society—a sofa bedstead.

A turn-up bedstead is a blunt, honest piece of furniture; it may be
slightly disguised with a sham drawer; and sometimes a mad attempt is
even made to pass it off for a book-case; ornament it as you will,
however, the turn-up bedstead seems to defy disguise, and to insist on
having it distinctly understood that he is a turn-up bedstead, and
nothing else—that he is indispensably necessary, and that being so
useful, he disdains to be ornamental.

How different is the demeanour of a sofa bedstead!  Ashamed of its real
use, it strives to appear an article of luxury and gentility—an attempt
in which it miserably fails.  It has neither the respectability of a
sofa, nor the virtues of a bed; every man who keeps a sofa bedstead in
his house, becomes a party to a wilful and designing fraud—we question
whether you could insult him more, than by insinuating that you entertain
the least suspicion of its real use.

To return from this digression, we beg to say, that neither of these
classes of brokers’ shops, forms the subject of this sketch.  The shops
to which we advert, are immeasurably inferior to those on whose outward
appearance we have slightly touched.  Our readers must often have
observed in some by-street, in a poor neighbourhood, a small dirty shop,
exposing for sale the most extraordinary and confused jumble of old,
worn-out, wretched articles, that can well be imagined.  Our wonder at
their ever having been bought, is only to be equalled by our astonishment
at the idea of their ever being sold again.  On a board, at the side of
the door, are placed about twenty books—all odd volumes; and as many
wine-glasses—all different patterns; several locks, an old earthenware
pan, full of rusty keys; two or three gaudy chimney-ornaments—cracked, of
course; the remains of a lustre, without any drops; a round frame like a
capital O, which has once held a mirror; a flute, complete with the
exception of the middle joint; a pair of curling-irons; and a tinder-box.
In front of the shop-window, are ranged some half-dozen high-backed
chairs, with spinal complaints and wasted legs; a corner cupboard; two or
three very dark mahogany tables with flaps like mathematical problems;
some pickle-jars, some surgeons’ ditto, with gilt labels and without
stoppers; an unframed portrait of some lady who flourished about the
beginning of the thirteenth century, by an artist who never flourished at
all; an incalculable host of miscellanies of every description, including
bottles and cabinets, rags and bones, fenders and street-door knockers,
fire-irons, wearing apparel and bedding, a hall-lamp, and a room-door.
Imagine, in addition to this incongruous mass, a black doll in a white
frock, with two faces—one looking up the street, and the other looking
down, swinging over the door; a board with the squeezed-up inscription
‘Dealer in marine stores,’ in lanky white letters, whose height is
strangely out of proportion to their width; and you have before you
precisely the kind of shop to which we wish to direct your attention.

Although the same heterogeneous mixture of things will be found at all
these places, it is curious to observe how truly and accurately some of
the minor articles which are exposed for sale—articles of wearing
apparel, for instance—mark the character of the neighbourhood.  Take
Drury-Lane and Covent-garden for example.

This is essentially a theatrical neighbourhood.  There is not a potboy in
the vicinity who is not, to a greater or less extent, a dramatic
character.  The errand-boys and chandler’s-shop-keepers’ sons, are all
stage-struck: they ‘gets up’ plays in back kitchens hired for the
purpose, and will stand before a shop-window for hours, contemplating a
great staring portrait of Mr. Somebody or other, of the Royal Coburg
Theatre, ‘as he appeared in the character of Tongo the Denounced.’  The
consequence is, that there is not a marine-store shop in the
neighbourhood, which does not exhibit for sale some faded articles of
dramatic finery, such as three or four pairs of soiled buff boots with
turn-over red tops, heretofore worn by a ‘fourth robber,’ or ‘fifth mob;’
a pair of rusty broadswords, a few gauntlets, and certain resplendent
ornaments, which, if they were yellow instead of white, might be taken
for insurance plates of the Sun Fire-office.  There are several of these
shops in the narrow streets and dirty courts, of which there are so many
near the national theatres, and they all have tempting goods of this
description, with the addition, perhaps, of a lady’s pink dress covered
with spangles; white wreaths, stage shoes, and a tiara like a tin lamp
reflector.  They have been purchased of some wretched supernumeraries, or
sixth-rate actors, and are now offered for the benefit of the rising
generation, who, on condition of making certain weekly payments,
amounting in the whole to about ten times their value, may avail
themselves of such desirable bargains.

Let us take a very different quarter, and apply it to the same test.
Look at a marine-store dealer’s, in that reservoir of dirt, drunkenness,
and drabs: thieves, oysters, baked potatoes, and pickled
salmon—Ratcliff-highway.  Here, the wearing apparel is all nautical.
Rough blue jackets, with mother-of-pearl buttons, oil-skin hats, coarse
checked shirts, and large canvas trousers that look as if they were made
for a pair of bodies instead of a pair of legs, are the staple
commodities.  Then, there are large bunches of cotton
pocket-handkerchiefs, in colour and pattern unlike any one ever saw
before, with the exception of those on the backs of the three young
ladies without bonnets who passed just now.  The furniture is much the
same as elsewhere, with the addition of one or two models of ships, and
some old prints of naval engagements in still older frames.  In the
window, are a few compasses, a small tray containing silver watches in
clumsy thick cases; and tobacco-boxes, the lid of each ornamented with a
ship, or an anchor, or some such trophy.  A sailor generally pawns or
sells all he has before he has been long ashore, and if he does not, some
favoured companion kindly saves him the trouble.  In either case, it is
an even chance that he afterwards unconsciously repurchases the same
things at a higher price than he gave for them at first.

Again: pay a visit with a similar object, to a part of London, as unlike
both of these as they are to each other.  Cross over to the Surrey side,
and look at such shops of this description as are to be found near the
King’s Bench prison, and in ‘the Rules.’  How different, and how
strikingly illustrative of the decay of some of the unfortunate residents
in this part of the metropolis!  Imprisonment and neglect have done their
work.  There is contamination in the profligate denizens of a debtor’s
prison; old friends have fallen off; the recollection of former
prosperity has passed away; and with it all thoughts for the past, all
care for the future.  First, watches and rings, then cloaks, coats, and
all the more expensive articles of dress, have found their way to the
pawnbroker’s.  That miserable resource has failed at last, and the sale
of some trifling article at one of these shops, has been the only mode
left of raising a shilling or two, to meet the urgent demands of the
moment.  Dressing-cases and writing-desks, too old to pawn but too good
to keep; guns, fishing-rods, musical instruments, all in the same
condition; have first been sold, and the sacrifice has been but slightly
felt.  But hunger must be allayed, and what has already become a habit,
is easily resorted to, when an emergency arises.  Light articles of
clothing, first of the ruined man, then of his wife, at last of their
children, even of the youngest, have been parted with, piecemeal.  There
they are, thrown carelessly together until a purchaser presents himself,
old, and patched and repaired, it is true; but the make and materials
tell of better days; and the older they are, the greater the misery and
destitution of those whom they once adorned.



CHAPTER XXII—GIN-SHOPS


It is a remarkable circumstance, that different trades appear to partake
of the disease to which elephants and dogs are especially liable, and to
run stark, staring, raving mad, periodically.  The great distinction
between the animals and the trades, is, that the former run mad with a
certain degree of propriety—they are very regular in their
irregularities.  We know the period at which the emergency will arise,
and provide against it accordingly.  If an elephant run mad, we are all
ready for him—kill or cure—pills or bullets, calomel in conserve of
roses, or lead in a musket-barrel.  If a dog happen to look unpleasantly
warm in the summer months, and to trot about the shady side of the
streets with a quarter of a yard of tongue hanging out of his mouth, a
thick leather muzzle, which has been previously prepared in compliance
with the thoughtful injunctions of the Legislature, is instantly clapped
over his head, by way of making him cooler, and he either looks
remarkably unhappy for the next six weeks, or becomes legally insane, and
goes mad, as it were, by Act of Parliament.  But these trades are as
eccentric as comets; nay, worse, for no one can calculate on the
recurrence of the strange appearances which betoken the disease.
Moreover, the contagion is general, and the quickness with which it
diffuses itself, almost incredible.

We will cite two or three cases in illustration of our meaning.  Six or
eight years ago, the epidemic began to display itself among the
linen-drapers and haberdashers.  The primary symptoms were an inordinate
love of plate-glass, and a passion for gas-lights and gilding.  The
disease gradually progressed, and at last attained a fearful height.
Quiet, dusty old shops in different parts of town, were pulled down;
spacious premises with stuccoed fronts and gold letters, were erected
instead; floors were covered with Turkey carpets; roofs supported by
massive pillars; doors knocked into windows; a dozen squares of glass
into one; one shopman into a dozen; and there is no knowing what would
have been done, if it had not been fortunately discovered, just in time,
that the Commissioners of Bankruptcy were as competent to decide such
cases as the Commissioners of Lunacy, and that a little confinement and
gentle examination did wonders.  The disease abated.  It died away.  A
year or two of comparative tranquillity ensued.  Suddenly it burst out
again amongst the chemists; the symptoms were the same, with the addition
of a strong desire to stick the royal arms over the shop-door, and a
great rage for mahogany, varnish, and expensive floor-cloth.  Then, the
hosiers were infected, and began to pull down their shop-fronts with
frantic recklessness.  The mania again died away, and the public began to
congratulate themselves on its entire disappearance, when it burst forth
with tenfold violence among the publicans, and keepers of ‘wine vaults.’
From that moment it has spread among them with unprecedented rapidity,
exhibiting a concatenation of all the previous symptoms; onward it has
rushed to every part of town, knocking down all the old public-houses,
and depositing splendid mansions, stone balustrades, rosewood fittings,
immense lamps, and illuminated clocks, at the corner of every street.

The extensive scale on which these places are established, and the
ostentatious manner in which the business of even the smallest among them
is divided into branches, is amusing.  A handsome plate of ground glass
in one door directs you ‘To the Counting-house;’ another to the ‘Bottle
Department; a third to the ‘Wholesale Department;’ a fourth to ‘The Wine
Promenade;’ and so forth, until we are in daily expectation of meeting
with a ‘Brandy Bell,’ or a ‘Whiskey Entrance.’  Then, ingenuity is
exhausted in devising attractive titles for the different descriptions of
gin; and the dram-drinking portion of the community as they gaze upon the
gigantic black and white announcements, which are only to be equalled in
size by the figures beneath them, are left in a state of pleasing
hesitation between ‘The Cream of the Valley,’ ‘The Out and Out,’ ‘The No
Mistake,’ ‘The Good for Mixing,’ ‘The real Knock-me-down,’ ‘The
celebrated Butter Gin,’ ‘The regular Flare-up,’ and a dozen other,
equally inviting and wholesome _liqueurs_.  Although places of this
description are to be met with in every second street, they are
invariably numerous and splendid in precise proportion to the dirt and
poverty of the surrounding neighbourhood.  The gin-shops in and near
Drury-Lane, Holborn, St. Giles’s, Covent-garden, and Clare-market, are
the handsomest in London.  There is more of filth and squalid misery near
those great thorough-fares than in any part of this mighty city.

We will endeavour to sketch the bar of a large gin-shop, and its ordinary
customers, for the edification of such of our readers as may not have had
opportunities of observing such scenes; and on the chance of finding one
well suited to our purpose, we will make for Drury-Lane, through the
narrow streets and dirty courts which divide it from Oxford-street, and
that classical spot adjoining the brewery at the bottom of
Tottenham-court-road, best known to the initiated as the ‘Rookery.’

The filthy and miserable appearance of this part of London can hardly be
imagined by those (and there are many such) who have not witnessed it.
Wretched houses with broken windows patched with rags and paper: every
room let out to a different family, and in many instances to two or even
three—fruit and ‘sweet-stuff’ manufacturers in the cellars, barbers and
red-herring vendors in the front parlours, cobblers in the back; a
bird-fancier in the first floor, three families on the second, starvation
in the attics, Irishmen in the passage, a ‘musician’ in the front
kitchen, and a charwoman and five hungry children in the back one—filth
everywhere—a gutter before the houses and a drain behind—clothes drying
and slops emptying, from the windows; girls of fourteen or fifteen, with
matted hair, walking about barefoot, and in white great-coats, almost
their only covering; boys of all ages, in coats of all sizes and no coats
at all; men and women, in every variety of scanty and dirty apparel,
lounging, scolding, drinking, smoking, squabbling, fighting, and
swearing.

You turn the corner.  What a change!  All is light and brilliancy.  The
hum of many voices issues from that splendid gin-shop which forms the
commencement of the two streets opposite; and the gay building with the
fantastically ornamented parapet, the illuminated clock, the plate-glass
windows surrounded by stucco rosettes, and its profusion of gas-lights in
richly-gilt burners, is perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the
darkness and dirt we have just left.  The interior is even gayer than the
exterior.  A bar of French-polished mahogany, elegantly carved, extends
the whole width of the place; and there are two side-aisles of great
casks, painted green and gold, enclosed within a light brass rail, and
bearing such inscriptions, as ‘Old Tom, 549;’ ‘Young Tom, 360;’ ‘Samson,
1421’—the figures agreeing, we presume, with ‘gallons,’ understood.
Beyond the bar is a lofty and spacious saloon, full of the same enticing
vessels, with a gallery running round it, equally well furnished.  On the
counter, in addition to the usual spirit apparatus, are two or three
little baskets of cakes and biscuits, which are carefully secured at top
with wicker-work, to prevent their contents being unlawfully abstracted.
Behind it, are two showily-dressed damsels with large necklaces,
dispensing the spirits and ‘compounds.’  They are assisted by the
ostensible proprietor of the concern, a stout, coarse fellow in a fur
cap, put on very much on one side to give him a knowing air, and to
display his sandy whiskers to the best advantage.

The two old washerwomen, who are seated on the little bench to the left
of the bar, are rather overcome by the head-dresses and haughty demeanour
of the young ladies who officiate.  They receive their half-quartern of
gin and peppermint, with considerable deference, prefacing a request for
‘one of them soft biscuits,’ with a ‘Jist be good enough, ma’am.’  They
are quite astonished at the impudent air of the young fellow in a brown
coat and bright buttons, who, ushering in his two companions, and walking
up to the bar in as careless a manner as if he had been used to green and
gold ornaments all his life, winks at one of the young ladies with
singular coolness, and calls for a ‘kervorten and a three-out-glass,’
just as if the place were his own.  ‘Gin for you, sir?’ says the young
lady when she has drawn it: carefully looking every way but the right
one, to show that the wink had no effect upon her.  ‘For me, Mary, my
dear,’ replies the gentleman in brown.  ‘My name an’t Mary as it
happens,’ says the young girl, rather relaxing as she delivers the
change.  ‘Well, if it an’t, it ought to be,’ responds the irresistible
one; ‘all the Marys as ever _I_ see, was handsome gals.’  Here the young
lady, not precisely remembering how blushes are managed in such cases,
abruptly ends the flirtation by addressing the female in the faded
feathers who has just entered, and who, after stating explicitly, to
prevent any subsequent misunderstanding, that ‘this gentleman pays,’
calls for ‘a glass of port wine and a bit of sugar.’

Those two old men who came in ‘just to have a drain,’ finished their
third quartern a few seconds ago; they have made themselves crying drunk;
and the fat comfortable-looking elderly women, who had ‘a glass of
rum-srub’ each, having chimed in with their complaints on the hardness of
the times, one of the women has agreed to stand a glass round, jocularly
observing that ‘grief never mended no broken bones, and as good people’s
wery scarce, what I says is, make the most on ’em, and that’s all about
it!’ a sentiment which appears to afford unlimited satisfaction to those
who have nothing to pay.

It is growing late, and the throng of men, women, and children, who have
been constantly going in and out, dwindles down to two or three
occasional stragglers—cold, wretched-looking creatures, in the last stage
of emaciation and disease.  The knot of Irish labourers at the lower end
of the place, who have been alternately shaking hands with, and
threatening the life of each other, for the last hour, become furious in
their disputes, and finding it impossible to silence one man, who is
particularly anxious to adjust the difference, they resort to the
expedient of knocking him down and jumping on him afterwards.  The man in
the fur cap, and the potboy rush out; a scene of riot and confusion
ensues; half the Irishmen get shut out, and the other half get shut in;
the potboy is knocked among the tubs in no time; the landlord hits
everybody, and everybody hits the landlord; the barmaids scream; the
police come in; the rest is a confused mixture of arms, legs, staves,
torn coats, shouting, and struggling.  Some of the party are borne off to
the station-house, and the remainder slink home to beat their wives for
complaining, and kick the children for daring to be hungry.

We have sketched this subject very slightly, not only because our limits
compel us to do so, but because, if it were pursued farther, it would be
painful and repulsive.  Well-disposed gentlemen, and charitable ladies,
would alike turn with coldness and disgust from a description of the
drunken besotted men, and wretched broken-down miserable women, who form
no inconsiderable portion of the frequenters of these haunts; forgetting,
in the pleasant consciousness of their own rectitude, the poverty of the
one, and the temptation of the other.  Gin-drinking is a great vice in
England, but wretchedness and dirt are a greater; and until you improve
the homes of the poor, or persuade a half-famished wretch not to seek
relief in the temporary oblivion of his own misery, with the pittance
which, divided among his family, would furnish a morsel of bread for
each, gin-shops will increase in number and splendour.  If Temperance
Societies would suggest an antidote against hunger, filth, and foul air,
or could establish dispensaries for the gratuitous distribution of
bottles of Lethe-water, gin-palaces would be numbered among the things
that were.



CHAPTER XXIII—THE PAWNBROKER’S SHOP


Of the numerous receptacles for misery and distress with which the
streets of London unhappily abound, there are, perhaps, none which
present such striking scenes as the pawnbrokers’ shops.  The very nature
and description of these places occasions their being but little known,
except to the unfortunate beings whose profligacy or misfortune drives
them to seek the temporary relief they offer.  The subject may appear, at
first sight, to be anything but an inviting one, but we venture on it
nevertheless, in the hope that, as far as the limits of our present paper
are concerned, it will present nothing to disgust even the most
fastidious reader.

There are some pawnbrokers’ shops of a very superior description.  There
are grades in pawning as in everything else, and distinctions must be
observed even in poverty.  The aristocratic Spanish cloak and the
plebeian calico shirt, the silver fork and the flat iron, the muslin
cravat and the Belcher neckerchief, would but ill assort together; so,
the better sort of pawnbroker calls himself a silver-smith, and decorates
his shop with handsome trinkets and expensive jewellery, while the more
humble money-lender boldly advertises his calling, and invites
observation.  It is with pawnbrokers’ shops of the latter class, that we
have to do.  We have selected one for our purpose, and will endeavour to
describe it.

The pawnbroker’s shop is situated near Drury-Lane, at the corner of a
court, which affords a side entrance for the accommodation of such
customers as may be desirous of avoiding the observation of the
passers-by, or the chance of recognition in the public street.  It is a
low, dirty-looking, dusty shop, the door of which stands always
doubtfully, a little way open: half inviting, half repelling the
hesitating visitor, who, if he be as yet uninitiated, examines one of the
old garnet brooches in the window for a minute or two with affected
eagerness, as if he contemplated making a purchase; and then looking
cautiously round to ascertain that no one watches him, hastily slinks in:
the door closing of itself after him, to just its former width.  The shop
front and the window-frames bear evident marks of having been once
painted; but, what the colour was originally, or at what date it was
probably laid on, are at this remote period questions which may be asked,
but cannot be answered.  Tradition states that the transparency in the
front door, which displays at night three red balls on a blue ground,
once bore also, inscribed in graceful waves, the words ‘Money advanced on
plate, jewels, wearing apparel, and every description of property,’ but a
few illegible hieroglyphics are all that now remain to attest the fact.
The plate and jewels would seem to have disappeared, together with the
announcement, for the articles of stock, which are displayed in some
profusion in the window, do not include any very valuable luxuries of
either kind.  A few old china cups; some modern vases, adorned with
paltry paintings of three Spanish cavaliers playing three Spanish
guitars; or a party of boors carousing: each boor with one leg painfully
elevated in the air, by way of expressing his perfect freedom and gaiety;
several sets of chessmen, two or three flutes, a few fiddles, a
round-eyed portrait staring in astonishment from a very dark ground; some
gaudily-bound prayer-books and testaments, two rows of silver watches
quite as clumsy and almost as large as Ferguson’s first; numerous
old-fashioned table and tea spoons, displayed, fan-like, in half-dozens;
strings of coral with great broad gilt snaps; cards of rings and
brooches, fastened and labelled separately, like the insects in the
British Museum; cheap silver penholders and snuff-boxes, with a masonic
star, complete the jewellery department; while five or six beds in smeary
clouded ticks, strings of blankets and sheets, silk and cotton
handkerchiefs, and wearing apparel of every description, form the more
useful, though even less ornamental, part, of the articles exposed for
sale.  An extensive collection of planes, chisels, saws, and other
carpenters’ tools, which have been pledged, and never redeemed, form the
foreground of the picture; while the large frames full of ticketed
bundles, which are dimly seen through the dirty casement up-stairs—the
squalid neighbourhood—the adjoining houses, straggling, shrunken, and
rotten, with one or two filthy, unwholesome-looking heads thrust out of
every window, and old red pans and stunted plants exposed on the
tottering parapets, to the manifest hazard of the heads of the
passers-by—the noisy men loitering under the archway at the corner of the
court, or about the gin-shop next door—and their wives patiently standing
on the curb-stone, with large baskets of cheap vegetables slung round
them for sale, are its immediate auxiliaries.

If the outside of the pawnbroker’s shop be calculated to attract the
attention, or excite the interest, of the speculative pedestrian, its
interior cannot fail to produce the same effect in an increased degree.
The front door, which we have before noticed, opens into the common shop,
which is the resort of all those customers whose habitual acquaintance
with such scenes renders them indifferent to the observation of their
companions in poverty.  The side door opens into a small passage from
which some half-dozen doors (which may be secured on the inside by bolts)
open into a corresponding number of little dens, or closets, which face
the counter.  Here, the more timid or respectable portion of the crowd
shroud themselves from the notice of the remainder, and patiently wait
until the gentleman behind the counter, with the curly black hair,
diamond ring, and double silver watch-guard, shall feel disposed to
favour them with his notice—a consummation which depends considerably on
the temper of the aforesaid gentleman for the time being.

At the present moment, this elegantly-attired individual is in the act of
entering the duplicate he has just made out, in a thick book: a process
from which he is diverted occasionally, by a conversation he is carrying
on with another young man similarly employed at a little distance from
him, whose allusions to ‘that last bottle of soda-water last night,’ and
‘how regularly round my hat he felt himself when the young ’ooman gave
’em in charge,’ would appear to refer to the consequences of some stolen
joviality of the preceding evening.  The customers generally, however,
seem unable to participate in the amusement derivable from this source,
for an old sallow-looking woman, who has been leaning with both arms on
the counter with a small bundle before her, for half an hour previously,
suddenly interrupts the conversation by addressing the jewelled
shopman—‘Now, Mr. Henry, do make haste, there’s a good soul, for my two
grandchildren’s locked up at home, and I’m afeer’d of the fire.’  The
shopman slightly raises his head, with an air of deep abstraction, and
resumes his entry with as much deliberation as if he were engraving.
‘You’re in a hurry, Mrs. Tatham, this ev’nin’, an’t you?’ is the only
notice he deigns to take, after the lapse of five minutes or so.  ‘Yes, I
am indeed, Mr. Henry; now, do serve me next, there’s a good creetur.  I
wouldn’t worry you, only it’s all along o’ them botherin’ children.’
‘What have you got here?’ inquires the shopman, unpinning the bundle—‘old
concern, I suppose—pair o’ stays and a petticut.  You must look up
somethin’ else, old ’ooman; I can’t lend you anything more upon them;
they’re completely worn out by this time, if it’s only by putting in, and
taking out again, three times a week.’  ‘Oh! you’re a rum un, you are,’
replies the old woman, laughing extremely, as in duty bound; ‘I wish I’d
got the gift of the gab like you; see if I’d be up the spout so often
then!  No, no; it an’t the petticut; it’s a child’s frock and a beautiful
silk ankecher, as belongs to my husband.  He gave four shillin’ for it,
the werry same blessed day as he broke his arm.’—‘What do you want upon
these?’ inquires Mr. Henry, slightly glancing at the articles, which in
all probability are old acquaintances.  ‘What do you want upon
these?’—‘Eighteenpence.’—‘Lend you ninepence.’—‘Oh, make it a shillin’;
there’s a dear—do now?’—‘Not another farden.’—‘Well, I suppose I must
take it.’  The duplicate is made out, one ticket pinned on the parcel,
the other given to the old woman; the parcel is flung carelessly down
into a corner, and some other customer prefers his claim to be served
without further delay.

The choice falls on an unshaven, dirty, sottish-looking fellow, whose
tarnished paper-cap, stuck negligently over one eye, communicates an
additionally repulsive expression to his very uninviting countenance.  He
was enjoying a little relaxation from his sedentary pursuits a quarter of
an hour ago, in kicking his wife up the court.  He has come to redeem
some tools:—probably to complete a job with, on account of which he has
already received some money, if his inflamed countenance and drunken
staggers may be taken as evidence of the fact.  Having waited some little
time, he makes his presence known by venting his ill-humour on a ragged
urchin, who, being unable to bring his face on a level with the counter
by any other process, has employed himself in climbing up, and then
hooking himself on with his elbows—an uneasy perch, from which he has
fallen at intervals, generally alighting on the toes of the person in his
immediate vicinity.  In the present case, the unfortunate little wretch
has received a cuff which sends him reeling to this door; and the donor
of the blow is immediately the object of general indignation.

‘What do you strike the boy for, you brute?’ exclaims a slipshod woman,
with two flat irons in a little basket.  ‘Do you think he’s your wife,
you willin?’  ‘Go and hang yourself!’ replies the gentleman addressed,
with a drunken look of savage stupidity, aiming at the same time a blow
at the woman which fortunately misses its object.  ‘Go and hang yourself;
and wait till I come and cut you down.’—‘Cut you down,’ rejoins the
woman, ‘I wish I had the cutting of you up, you wagabond! (loud.)  Oh!
you precious wagabond! (rather louder.)  Where’s your wife, you willin?
(louder still; women of this class are always sympathetic, and work
themselves into a tremendous passion on the shortest notice.)  Your poor
dear wife as you uses worser nor a dog—strike a woman—you a man! (very
shrill;) I wish I had you—I’d murder you, I would, if I died for
it!’—‘Now be civil,’ retorts the man fiercely.  ‘Be civil, you wiper!’
ejaculates the woman contemptuously.  ‘An’t it shocking?’ she continues,
turning round, and appealing to an old woman who is peeping out of one of
the little closets we have before described, and who has not the
slightest objection to join in the attack, possessing, as she does, the
comfortable conviction that she is bolted in.  ‘Ain’t it shocking, ma’am?
(Dreadful! says the old woman in a parenthesis, not exactly knowing what
the question refers to.)  He’s got a wife, ma’am, as takes in mangling,
and is as ’dustrious and hard-working a young ’ooman as can be, (very
fast) as lives in the back parlour of our ’ous, which my husband and me
lives in the front one (with great rapidity)—and we hears him a beaten’
on her sometimes when he comes home drunk, the whole night through, and
not only a beaten’ her, but beaten’ his own child too, to make her more
miserable—ugh, you beast! and she, poor creater, won’t swear the peace
agin him, nor do nothin’, because she likes the wretch arter all—worse
luck!’  Here, as the woman has completely run herself out of breath, the
pawnbroker himself, who has just appeared behind the counter in a gray
dressing-gown, embraces the favourable opportunity of putting in a
word:—‘Now I won’t have none of this sort of thing on my premises!’ he
interposes with an air of authority.  ‘Mrs. Mackin, keep yourself to
yourself, or you don’t get fourpence for a flat iron here; and Jinkins,
you leave your ticket here till you’re sober, and send your wife for them
two planes, for I won’t have you in my shop at no price; so make yourself
scarce, before I make you scarcer.’

This eloquent address produces anything but the effect desired; the women
rail in concert; the man hits about him in all directions, and is in the
act of establishing an indisputable claim to gratuitous lodgings for the
night, when the entrance of his wife, a wretched, worn-out woman,
apparently in the last stage of consumption, whose face bears evident
marks of recent ill-usage, and whose strength seems hardly equal to the
burden—light enough, God knows!—of the thin, sickly child she carries in
her arms, turns his cowardly rage in a safer direction.  ‘Come home,
dear,’ cries the miserable creature, in an imploring tone; ‘_do_ come
home, there’s a good fellow, and go to bed.’—‘Go home yourself,’ rejoins
the furious ruffian.  ‘Do come home quietly,’ repeats the wife, bursting
into tears.  ‘Go home yourself,’ retorts the husband again, enforcing his
argument by a blow which sends the poor creature flying out of the shop.
Her ‘natural protector’ follows her up the court, alternately venting his
rage in accelerating her progress, and in knocking the little scanty blue
bonnet of the unfortunate child over its still more scanty and
faded-looking face.

In the last box, which is situated in the darkest and most obscure corner
of the shop, considerably removed from either of the gas-lights, are a
young delicate girl of about twenty, and an elderly female, evidently her
mother from the resemblance between them, who stand at some distance
back, as if to avoid the observation even of the shopman.  It is not
their first visit to a pawnbroker’s shop, for they answer without a
moment’s hesitation the usual questions, put in a rather respectful
manner, and in a much lower tone than usual, of ‘What name shall I
say?—Your own property, of course?—Where do you live?—Housekeeper or
lodger?’  They bargain, too, for a higher loan than the shopman is at
first inclined to offer, which a perfect stranger would be little
disposed to do; and the elder female urges her daughter on, in scarcely
audible whispers, to exert her utmost powers of persuasion to obtain an
advance of the sum, and expatiate on the value of the articles they have
brought to raise a present supply upon.  They are a small gold chain and
a ‘Forget me not’ ring: the girl’s property, for they are both too small
for the mother; given her in better times; prized, perhaps, once, for the
giver’s sake, but parted with now without a struggle; for want has
hardened the mother, and her example has hardened the girl, and the
prospect of receiving money, coupled with a recollection of the misery
they have both endured from the want of it—the coldness of old
friends—the stern refusal of some, and the still more galling compassion
of others—appears to have obliterated the consciousness of
self-humiliation, which the idea of their present situation would once
have aroused.

In the next box, is a young female, whose attire, miserably poor, but
extremely gaudy, wretchedly cold, but extravagantly fine, too plainly
bespeaks her station.  The rich satin gown with its faded trimmings, the
worn-out thin shoes, and pink silk stockings, the summer bonnet in
winter, and the sunken face, where a daub of rouge only serves as an
index to the ravages of squandered health never to be regained, and lost
happiness never to be restored, and where the practised smile is a
wretched mockery of the misery of the heart, cannot be mistaken.  There
is something in the glimpse she has just caught of her young neighbour,
and in the sight of the little trinkets she has offered in pawn, that
seems to have awakened in this woman’s mind some slumbering recollection,
and to have changed, for an instant, her whole demeanour.  Her first
hasty impulse was to bend forward as if to scan more minutely the
appearance of her half-concealed companions; her next, on seeing them
involuntarily shrink from her, to retreat to the back of the box, cover
her face with her hands, and burst into tears.

There are strange chords in the human heart, which will lie dormant
through years of depravity and wickedness, but which will vibrate at last
to some slight circumstance apparently trivial in itself, but connected
by some undefined and indistinct association, with past days that can
never be recalled, and with bitter recollections from which the most
degraded creature in existence cannot escape.

There has been another spectator, in the person of a woman in the common
shop; the lowest of the low; dirty, unbonneted, flaunting, and slovenly.
Her curiosity was at first attracted by the little she could see of the
group; then her attention.  The half-intoxicated leer changed to an
expression of something like interest, and a feeling similar to that we
have described, appeared for a moment, and only a moment, to extend
itself even to her bosom.

Who shall say how soon these women may change places?  The last has but
two more stages—the hospital and the grave.  How many females situated as
her two companions are, and as she may have been once, have terminated
the same wretched course, in the same wretched manner!  One is already
tracing her footsteps with frightful rapidity.  How soon may the other
follow her example!  How many have done the same!



CHAPTER XXIV—CRIMINAL COURTS


We shall never forget the mingled feelings of awe and respect with which
we used to gaze on the exterior of Newgate in our schoolboy days.  How
dreadful its rough heavy walls, and low massive doors, appeared to us—the
latter looking as if they were made for the express purpose of letting
people in, and never letting them out again.  Then the fetters over the
debtors’ door, which we used to think were a _bonâ fide_ set of irons,
just hung up there, for convenience’ sake, ready to be taken down at a
moment’s notice, and riveted on the limbs of some refractory felon!  We
were never tired of wondering how the hackney-coachmen on the opposite
stand could cut jokes in the presence of such horrors, and drink pots of
half-and-half so near the last drop.

Often have we strayed here, in sessions time, to catch a glimpse of the
whipping-place, and that dark building on one side of the yard, in which
is kept the gibbet with all its dreadful apparatus, and on the door of
which we half expected to see a brass plate, with the inscription ‘Mr.
Ketch;’ for we never imagined that the distinguished functionary could by
possibility live anywhere else!  The days of these childish dreams have
passed away, and with them many other boyish ideas of a gayer nature.
But we still retain so much of our original feeling, that to this hour we
never pass the building without something like a shudder.

What London pedestrian is there who has not, at some time or other, cast
a hurried glance through the wicket at which prisoners are admitted into
this gloomy mansion, and surveyed the few objects he could discern, with
an indescribable feeling of curiosity?  The thick door, plated with iron
and mounted with spikes, just low enough to enable you to see, leaning
over them, an ill-looking fellow, in a broad-brimmed hat, Belcher
handkerchief and top-boots: with a brown coat, something between a
great-coat and a ‘sporting’ jacket, on his back, and an immense key in
his left hand.  Perhaps you are lucky enough to pass, just as the gate is
being opened; then, you see on the other side of the lodge, another gate,
the image of its predecessor, and two or three more turnkeys, who look
like multiplications of the first one, seated round a fire which just
lights up the whitewashed apartment sufficiently to enable you to catch a
hasty glimpse of these different objects.  We have a great respect for
Mrs. Fry, but she certainly ought to have written more romances than Mrs.
Radcliffe.

We were walking leisurely down the Old Bailey, some time ago, when, as we
passed this identical gate, it was opened by the officiating turnkey.  We
turned quickly round, as a matter of course, and saw two persons
descending the steps.  We could not help stopping and observing them.

They were an elderly woman, of decent appearance, though evidently poor,
and a boy of about fourteen or fifteen.  The woman was crying bitterly;
she carried a small bundle in her hand, and the boy followed at a short
distance behind her.  Their little history was obvious.  The boy was her
son, to whose early comfort she had perhaps sacrificed her own—for whose
sake she had borne misery without repining, and poverty without a
murmur—looking steadily forward to the time, when he who had so long
witnessed her struggles for himself, might be enabled to make some
exertions for their joint support.  He had formed dissolute connexions;
idleness had led to crime; and he had been committed to take his trial
for some petty theft.  He had been long in prison, and, after receiving
some trifling additional punishment, had been ordered to be discharged
that morning.  It was his first offence, and his poor old mother, still
hoping to reclaim him, had been waiting at the gate to implore him to
return home.

We cannot forget the boy; he descended the steps with a dogged look,
shaking his head with an air of bravado and obstinate determination.
They walked a few paces, and paused.  The woman put her hand upon his
shoulder in an agony of entreaty, and the boy sullenly raised his head as
if in refusal.  It was a brilliant morning, and every object looked fresh
and happy in the broad, gay sunlight; he gazed round him for a few
moments, bewildered with the brightness of the scene, for it was long
since he had beheld anything save the gloomy walls of a prison.  Perhaps
the wretchedness of his mother made some impression on the boy’s heart;
perhaps some undefined recollection of the time when he was a happy
child, and she his only friend, and best companion, crowded on him—he
burst into tears; and covering his face with one hand, and hurriedly
placing the other in his mother’s, walked away with her.

Curiosity has occasionally led us into both Courts at the Old Bailey.
Nothing is so likely to strike the person who enters them for the first
time, as the calm indifference with which the proceedings are conducted;
every trial seems a mere matter of business.  There is a great deal of
form, but no compassion; considerable interest, but no sympathy.  Take
the Old Court for example.  There sit the judges, with whose great
dignity everybody is acquainted, and of whom therefore we need say no
more.  Then, there is the Lord Mayor in the centre, looking as cool as a
Lord Mayor _can_ look, with an immense _bouquet_ before him, and habited
in all the splendour of his office.  Then, there are the Sheriffs, who
are almost as dignified as the Lord Mayor himself; and the Barristers,
who are quite dignified enough in their own opinion; and the spectators,
who having paid for their admission, look upon the whole scene as if it
were got up especially for their amusement.  Look upon the whole group in
the body of the Court—some wholly engrossed in the morning papers, others
carelessly conversing in low whispers, and others, again, quietly dozing
away an hour—and you can scarcely believe that the result of the trial is
a matter of life or death to one wretched being present.  But turn your
eyes to the dock; watch the prisoner attentively for a few moments; and
the fact is before you, in all its painful reality.  Mark how restlessly
he has been engaged for the last ten minutes, in forming all sorts of
fantastic figures with the herbs which are strewed upon the ledge before
him; observe the ashy paleness of his face when a particular witness
appears, and how he changes his position and wipes his clammy forehead,
and feverish hands, when the case for the prosecution is closed, as if it
were a relief to him to feel that the jury knew the worst.

The defence is concluded; the judge proceeds to sum up the evidence; and
the prisoner watches the countenances of the jury, as a dying man,
clinging to life to the very last, vainly looks in the face of his
physician for a slight ray of hope.  They turn round to consult; you can
almost hear the man’s heart beat, as he bites the stalk of rosemary, with
a desperate effort to appear composed.  They resume their places—a dead
silence prevails as the foreman delivers in the verdict—‘Guilty!’  A
shriek bursts from a female in the gallery; the prisoner casts one look
at the quarter from whence the noise proceeded; and is immediately
hurried from the dock by the gaoler.  The clerk directs one of the
officers of the Court to ‘take the woman out,’ and fresh business is
proceeded with, as if nothing had occurred.

No imaginary contrast to a case like this, could be as complete as that
which is constantly presented in the New Court, the gravity of which is
frequently disturbed in no small degree, by the cunning and pertinacity
of juvenile offenders.  A boy of thirteen is tried, say for picking the
pocket of some subject of her Majesty, and the offence is about as
clearly proved as an offence can be.  He is called upon for his defence,
and contents himself with a little declamation about the jurymen and his
country—asserts that all the witnesses have committed perjury, and hints
that the police force generally have entered into a conspiracy ‘again’
him.  However probable this statement may be, it fails to convince the
Court, and some such scene as the following then takes place:

_Court_: Have you any witnesses to speak to your character, boy?

_Boy_: Yes, my Lord; fifteen gen’lm’n is a vaten outside, and vos a vaten
all day yesterday, vich they told me the night afore my trial vos a
comin’ on.

_Court_.  Inquire for these witnesses.

Here, a stout beadle runs out, and vociferates for the witnesses at the
very top of his voice; for you hear his cry grow fainter and fainter as
he descends the steps into the court-yard below.  After an absence of
five minutes, he returns, very warm and hoarse, and informs the Court of
what it knew perfectly well before—namely, that there are no such
witnesses in attendance.  Hereupon, the boy sets up a most awful howling;
screws the lower part of the palms of his hands into the corners of his
eyes; and endeavours to look the picture of injured innocence.  The jury
at once find him ‘guilty,’ and his endeavours to squeeze out a tear or
two are redoubled.  The governor of the gaol then states, in reply to an
inquiry from the bench, that the prisoner has been under his care twice
before.  This the urchin resolutely denies in some such terms as—‘S’elp
me, gen’lm’n, I never vos in trouble afore—indeed, my Lord, I never vos.
It’s all a howen to my having a twin brother, vich has wrongfully got
into trouble, and vich is so exactly like me, that no vun ever knows the
difference atween us.’

This representation, like the defence, fails in producing the desired
effect, and the boy is sentenced, perhaps, to seven years’
transportation.  Finding it impossible to excite compassion, he gives
vent to his feelings in an imprecation bearing reference to the eyes of
‘old big vig!’ and as he declines to take the trouble of walking from the
dock, is forthwith carried out, congratulating himself on having
succeeded in giving everybody as much trouble as possible.



CHAPTER XXV—A VISIT TO NEWGATE


‘The force of habit’ is a trite phrase in everybody’s mouth; and it is
not a little remarkable that those who use it most as applied to others,
unconsciously afford in their own persons singular examples of the power
which habit and custom exercise over the minds of men, and of the little
reflection they are apt to bestow on subjects with which every day’s
experience has rendered them familiar.  If Bedlam could be suddenly
removed like another Aladdin’s palace, and set down on the space now
occupied by Newgate, scarcely one man out of a hundred, whose road to
business every morning lies through Newgate-street, or the Old Bailey,
would pass the building without bestowing a hasty glance on its small,
grated windows, and a transient thought upon the condition of the unhappy
beings immured in its dismal cells; and yet these same men, day by day,
and hour by hour, pass and repass this gloomy depository of the guilt and
misery of London, in one perpetual stream of life and bustle, utterly
unmindful of the throng of wretched creatures pent up within it—nay, not
even knowing, or if they do, not heeding, the fact, that as they pass one
particular angle of the massive wall with a light laugh or a merry
whistle, they stand within one yard of a fellow-creature, bound and
helpless, whose hours are numbered, from whom the last feeble ray of hope
has fled for ever, and whose miserable career will shortly terminate in a
violent and shameful death.  Contact with death even in its least
terrible shape, is solemn and appalling.  How much more awful is it to
reflect on this near vicinity to the dying—to men in full health and
vigour, in the flower of youth or the prime of life, with all their
faculties and perceptions as acute and perfect as your own; but dying,
nevertheless—dying as surely—with the hand of death imprinted upon them
as indelibly—as if mortal disease had wasted their frames to shadows, and
corruption had already begun!

It was with some such thoughts as these that we determined, not many
weeks since, to visit the interior of Newgate—in an amateur capacity, of
course; and, having carried our intention into effect, we proceed to lay
its results before our readers, in the hope—founded more upon the nature
of the subject, than on any presumptuous confidence in our own
descriptive powers—that this paper may not be found wholly devoid of
interest.  We have only to premise, that we do not intend to fatigue the
reader with any statistical accounts of the prison; they will be found at
length in numerous reports of numerous committees, and a variety of
authorities of equal weight.  We took no notes, made no memoranda,
measured none of the yards, ascertained the exact number of inches in no
particular room: are unable even to report of how many apartments the
gaol is composed.

We saw the prison, and saw the prisoners; and what we did see, and what
we thought, we will tell at once in our own way.

Having delivered our credentials to the servant who answered our knock at
the door of the governor’s house, we were ushered into the ‘office;’ a
little room, on the right-hand side as you enter, with two windows
looking into the Old Bailey: fitted up like an ordinary attorney’s
office, or merchant’s counting-house, with the usual fixtures—a
wainscoted partition, a shelf or two, a desk, a couple of stools, a pair
of clerks, an almanack, a clock, and a few maps.  After a little delay,
occasioned by sending into the interior of the prison for the officer
whose duty it was to conduct us, that functionary arrived; a
respectable-looking man of about two or three and fifty, in a
broad-brimmed hat, and full suit of black, who, but for his keys, would
have looked quite as much like a clergyman as a turnkey.  We were
disappointed; he had not even top-boots on.  Following our conductor by a
door opposite to that at which we had entered, we arrived at a small
room, without any other furniture than a little desk, with a book for
visitors’ autographs, and a shelf, on which were a few boxes for papers,
and casts of the heads and faces of the two notorious murderers, Bishop
and Williams; the former, in particular, exhibiting a style of head and
set of features, which might have afforded sufficient moral grounds for
his instant execution at any time, even had there been no other evidence
against him.  Leaving this room also, by an opposite door, we found
ourself in the lodge which opens on the Old Bailey; one side of which is
plentifully garnished with a choice collection of heavy sets of irons,
including those worn by the redoubtable Jack Sheppard—genuine; and those
_said_ to have been graced by the sturdy limbs of the no less celebrated
Dick Turpin—doubtful.  From this lodge, a heavy oaken gate, bound with
iron, studded with nails of the same material, and guarded by another
turnkey, opens on a few steps, if we remember right, which terminate in a
narrow and dismal stone passage, running parallel with the Old Bailey,
and leading to the different yards, through a number of tortuous and
intricate windings, guarded in their turn by huge gates and gratings,
whose appearance is sufficient to dispel at once the slightest hope of
escape that any new-comer may have entertained; and the very recollection
of which, on eventually traversing the place again, involves one in a
maze of confusion.

It is necessary to explain here, that the buildings in the prison, or in
other words the different wards—form a square, of which the four sides
abut respectively on the Old Bailey, the old College of Physicians (now
forming a part of Newgate-market), the Sessions-house, and
Newgate-street.  The intermediate space is divided into several paved
yards, in which the prisoners take such air and exercise as can be had in
such a place.  These yards, with the exception of that in which prisoners
under sentence of death are confined (of which we shall presently give a
more detailed description), run parallel with Newgate-street, and
consequently from the Old Bailey, as it were, to Newgate-market.  The
women’s side is in the right wing of the prison nearest the
Sessions-house.  As we were introduced into this part of the building
first, we will adopt the same order, and introduce our readers to it
also.

Turning to the right, then, down the passage to which we just now
adverted, omitting any mention of intervening gates—for if we noticed
every gate that was unlocked for us to pass through, and locked again as
soon as we had passed, we should require a gate at every comma—we came to
a door composed of thick bars of wood, through which were discernible,
passing to and fro in a narrow yard, some twenty women: the majority of
whom, however, as soon as they were aware of the presence of strangers,
retreated to their wards.  One side of this yard is railed off at a
considerable distance, and formed into a kind of iron cage, about five
feet ten inches in height, roofed at the top, and defended in front by
iron bars, from which the friends of the female prisoners communicate
with them.  In one corner of this singular-looking den, was a yellow,
haggard, decrepit old woman, in a tattered gown that had once been black,
and the remains of an old straw bonnet, with faded ribbon of the same
hue, in earnest conversation with a young girl—a prisoner, of course—of
about two-and-twenty.  It is impossible to imagine a more
poverty-stricken object, or a creature so borne down in soul and body, by
excess of misery and destitution, as the old woman.  The girl was a
good-looking, robust female, with a profusion of hair streaming about in
the wind—for she had no bonnet on—and a man’s silk pocket-handkerchief
loosely thrown over a most ample pair of shoulders.  The old woman was
talking in that low, stifled tone of voice which tells so forcibly of
mental anguish; and every now and then burst into an irrepressible sharp,
abrupt cry of grief, the most distressing sound that ears can hear.  The
girl was perfectly unmoved.  Hardened beyond all hope of redemption, she
listened doggedly to her mother’s entreaties, whatever they were: and,
beyond inquiring after ‘Jem,’ and eagerly catching at the few halfpence
her miserable parent had brought her, took no more apparent interest in
the conversation than the most unconcerned spectators.  Heaven knows
there were enough of them, in the persons of the other prisoners in the
yard, who were no more concerned by what was passing before their eyes,
and within their hearing, than if they were blind and deaf.  Why should
they be?  Inside the prison, and out, such scenes were too familiar to
them, to excite even a passing thought, unless of ridicule or contempt
for feelings which they had long since forgotten.

A little farther on, a squalid-looking woman in a slovenly,
thick-bordered cap, with her arms muffled in a large red shawl, the
fringed ends of which straggled nearly to the bottom of a dirty white
apron, was communicating some instructions to _her_ visitor—her daughter
evidently.  The girl was thinly clad, and shaking with the cold.  Some
ordinary word of recognition passed between her and her mother when she
appeared at the grating, but neither hope, condolence, regret, nor
affection was expressed on either side.  The mother whispered her
instructions, and the girl received them with her pinched-up,
half-starved features twisted into an expression of careful cunning.  It
was some scheme for the woman’s defence that she was disclosing, perhaps;
and a sullen smile came over the girl’s face for an instant, as if she
were pleased: not so much at the probability of her mother’s liberation,
as at the chance of her ‘getting off’ in spite of her prosecutors.  The
dialogue was soon concluded; and with the same careless indifference with
which they had approached each other, the mother turned towards the inner
end of the yard, and the girl to the gate at which she had entered.

The girl belonged to a class—unhappily but too extensive—the very
existence of which, should make men’s hearts bleed.  Barely past her
childhood, it required but a glance to discover that she was one of those
children, born and bred in neglect and vice, who have never known what
childhood is: who have never been taught to love and court a parent’s
smile, or to dread a parent’s frown.  The thousand nameless endearments
of childhood, its gaiety and its innocence, are alike unknown to them.
They have entered at once upon the stern realities and miseries of life,
and to their better nature it is almost hopeless to appeal in
after-times, by any of the references which will awaken, if it be only
for a moment, some good feeling in ordinary bosoms, however corrupt they
may have become.  Talk to _them_ of parental solicitude, the happy days
of childhood, and the merry games of infancy!  Tell them of hunger and
the streets, beggary and stripes, the gin-shop, the station-house, and
the pawnbroker’s, and they will understand you.

Two or three women were standing at different parts of the grating,
conversing with their friends, but a very large proportion of the
prisoners appeared to have no friends at all, beyond such of their old
companions as might happen to be within the walls.  So, passing hastily
down the yard, and pausing only for an instant to notice the little
incidents we have just recorded, we were conducted up a clean and
well-lighted flight of stone stairs to one of the wards.  There are
several in this part of the building, but a description of one is a
description of the whole.

It was a spacious, bare, whitewashed apartment, lighted, of course, by
windows looking into the interior of the prison, but far more light and
airy than one could reasonably expect to find in such a situation.  There
was a large fire with a deal table before it, round which ten or a dozen
women were seated on wooden forms at dinner.  Along both sides of the
room ran a shelf; below it, at regular intervals, a row of large hooks
were fixed in the wall, on each of which was hung the sleeping mat of a
prisoner: her rug and blanket being folded up, and placed on the shelf
above.  At night, these mats are placed on the floor, each beneath the
hook on which it hangs during the day; and the ward is thus made to
answer the purposes both of a day-room and sleeping apartment.  Over the
fireplace, was a large sheet of pasteboard, on which were displayed a
variety of texts from Scripture, which were also scattered about the room
in scraps about the size and shape of the copy-slips which are used in
schools.  On the table was a sufficient provision of a kind of stewed
beef and brown bread, in pewter dishes, which are kept perfectly bright,
and displayed on shelves in great order and regularity when they are not
in use.

The women rose hastily, on our entrance, and retired in a hurried manner
to either side of the fireplace.  They were all cleanly—many of them
decently—attired, and there was nothing peculiar, either in their
appearance or demeanour.  One or two resumed the needlework which they
had probably laid aside at the commencement of their meal; others gazed
at the visitors with listless curiosity; and a few retired behind their
companions to the very end of the room, as if desirous to avoid even the
casual observation of the strangers.  Some old Irish women, both in this
and other wards, to whom the thing was no novelty, appeared perfectly
indifferent to our presence, and remained standing close to the seats
from which they had just risen; but the general feeling among the females
seemed to be one of uneasiness during the period of our stay among them:
which was very brief.  Not a word was uttered during the time of our
remaining, unless, indeed, by the wardswoman in reply to some question
which we put to the turnkey who accompanied us.  In every ward on the
female side, a wardswoman is appointed to preserve order, and a similar
regulation is adopted among the males.  The wardsmen and wardswomen are
all prisoners, selected for good conduct.  They alone are allowed the
privilege of sleeping on bedsteads; a small stump bedstead being placed
in every ward for that purpose.  On both sides of the gaol, is a small
receiving-room, to which prisoners are conducted on their first
reception, and whence they cannot be removed until they have been
examined by the surgeon of the prison. {161}

Retracing our steps to the dismal passage in which we found ourselves at
first (and which, by-the-bye, contains three or four dark cells for the
accommodation of refractory prisoners), we were led through a narrow yard
to the ‘school’—a portion of the prison set apart for boys under fourteen
years of age.  In a tolerable-sized room, in which were writing-materials
and some copy-books, was the schoolmaster, with a couple of his pupils;
the remainder having been fetched from an adjoining apartment, the whole
were drawn up in line for our inspection.  There were fourteen of them in
all, some with shoes, some without; some in pinafores without jackets,
others in jackets without pinafores, and one in scarce anything at all.
The whole number, without an exception we believe, had been committed for
trial on charges of pocket-picking; and fourteen such terrible little
faces we never beheld.—There was not one redeeming feature among them—not
a glance of honesty—not a wink expressive of anything but the gallows and
the hulks, in the whole collection.  As to anything like shame or
contrition, that was entirely out of the question.  They were evidently
quite gratified at being thought worth the trouble of looking at; their
idea appeared to be, that we had come to see Newgate as a grand affair,
and that they were an indispensable part of the show; and every boy as he
‘fell in’ to the line, actually seemed as pleased and important as if he
had done something excessively meritorious in getting there at all.  We
never looked upon a more disagreeable sight, because we never saw
fourteen such hopeless creatures of neglect, before.

On either side of the school-yard is a yard for men, in one of which—that
towards Newgate-street—prisoners of the more respectable class are
confined.  Of the other, we have little description to offer, as the
different wards necessarily partake of the same character.  They are
provided, like the wards on the women’s side, with mats and rugs, which
are disposed of in the same manner during the day; the only very striking
difference between their appearance and that of the wards inhabited by
the females, is the utter absence of any employment.  Huddled together on
two opposite forms, by the fireside, sit twenty men perhaps; here, a boy
in livery; there, a man in a rough great-coat and top-boots; farther on,
a desperate-looking fellow in his shirt-sleeves, with an old Scotch cap
upon his shaggy head; near him again, a tall ruffian, in a smock-frock;
next to him, a miserable being of distressed appearance, with his head
resting on his hand;—all alike in one respect, all idle and listless.
When they do leave the fire, sauntering moodily about, lounging in the
window, or leaning against the wall, vacantly swinging their bodies to
and fro.  With the exception of a man reading an old newspaper, in two or
three instances, this was the case in every ward we entered.

The only communication these men have with their friends, is through two
close iron gratings, with an intermediate space of about a yard in width
between the two, so that nothing can be handed across, nor can the
prisoner have any communication by touch with the person who visits him.
The married men have a separate grating, at which to see their wives, but
its construction is the same.

The prison chapel is situated at the back of the governor’s house: the
latter having no windows looking into the interior of the prison.
Whether the associations connected with the place—the knowledge that here
a portion of the burial service is, on some dreadful occasions, performed
over the quick and not upon the dead—cast over it a still more gloomy and
sombre air than art has imparted to it, we know not, but its appearance
is very striking.  There is something in a silent and deserted place of
worship, solemn and impressive at any time; and the very dissimilarity of
this one from any we have been accustomed to, only enhances the
impression.  The meanness of its appointments—the bare and scanty pulpit,
with the paltry painted pillars on either side—the women’s gallery with
its great heavy curtain—the men’s with its unpainted benches and dingy
front—the tottering little table at the altar, with the commandments on
the wall above it, scarcely legible through lack of paint, and dust and
damp—so unlike the velvet and gilding, the marble and wood, of a modern
church—are strange and striking.  There is one object, too, which rivets
the attention and fascinates the gaze, and from which we may turn
horror-stricken in vain, for the recollection of it will haunt us, waking
and sleeping, for a long time afterwards.  Immediately below the
reading-desk, on the floor of the chapel, and forming the most
conspicuous object in its little area, is _the condemned pew_; a huge
black pen, in which the wretched people, who are singled out for death,
are placed on the Sunday preceding their execution, in sight of all their
fellow-prisoners, from many of whom they may have been separated but a
week before, to hear prayers for their own souls, to join in the
responses of their own burial service, and to listen to an address,
warning their recent companions to take example by their fate, and urging
themselves, while there is yet time—nearly four-and-twenty hours—to
‘turn, and flee from the wrath to come!’  Imagine what have been the
feelings of the men whom that fearful pew has enclosed, and of whom,
between the gallows and the knife, no mortal remnant may now remain!
Think of the hopeless clinging to life to the last, and the wild despair,
far exceeding in anguish the felon’s death itself, by which they have
heard the certainty of their speedy transmission to another world, with
all their crimes upon their heads, rung into their ears by the
officiating clergyman!

At one time—and at no distant period either—the coffins of the men about
to be executed, were placed in that pew, upon the seat by their side,
during the whole service.  It may seem incredible, but it is true.  Let
us hope that the increased spirit of civilisation and humanity which
abolished this frightful and degrading custom, may extend itself to other
usages equally barbarous; usages which have not even the plea of utility
in their defence, as every year’s experience has shown them to be more
and more inefficacious.

Leaving the chapel, descending to the passage so frequently alluded to,
and crossing the yard before noticed as being allotted to prisoners of a
more respectable description than the generality of men confined here,
the visitor arrives at a thick iron gate of great size and strength.
Having been admitted through it by the turnkey on duty, he turns sharp
round to the left, and pauses before another gate; and, having passed
this last barrier, he stands in the most terrible part of this gloomy
building—the condemned ward.

The press-yard, well known by name to newspaper readers, from its
frequent mention in accounts of executions, is at the corner of the
building, and next to the ordinary’s house, in Newgate-street: running
from Newgate-street, towards the centre of the prison, parallel with
Newgate-market.  It is a long, narrow court, of which a portion of the
wall in Newgate-street forms one end, and the gate the other.  At the
upper end, on the left hand—that is, adjoining the wall in
Newgate-street—is a cistern of water, and at the bottom a double grating
(of which the gate itself forms a part) similar to that before described.
Through these grates the prisoners are allowed to see their friends; a
turnkey always remaining in the vacant space between, during the whole
interview.  Immediately on the right as you enter, is a building
containing the press-room, day-room, and cells; the yard is on every side
surrounded by lofty walls guarded by _chevaux de frise_; and the whole is
under the constant inspection of vigilant and experienced turnkeys.

In the first apartment into which we were conducted—which was at the top
of a staircase, and immediately over the press-room—were five-and-twenty
or thirty prisoners, all under sentence of death, awaiting the result of
the recorder’s report—men of all ages and appearances, from a hardened
old offender with swarthy face and grizzly beard of three days’ growth,
to a handsome boy, not fourteen years old, and of singularly youthful
appearance even for that age, who had been condemned for burglary.  There
was nothing remarkable in the appearance of these prisoners.  One or two
decently-dressed men were brooding with a dejected air over the fire;
several little groups of two or three had been engaged in conversation at
the upper end of the room, or in the windows; and the remainder were
crowded round a young man seated at a table, who appeared to be engaged
in teaching the younger ones to write.  The room was large, airy, and
clean.  There was very little anxiety or mental suffering depicted in the
countenance of any of the men;—they had all been sentenced to death, it
is true, and the recorder’s report had not yet been made; but, we
question whether there was a man among them, notwithstanding, who did not
_know_ that although he had undergone the ceremony, it never was intended
that his life should be sacrificed.  On the table lay a Testament, but
there were no tokens of its having been in recent use.

In the press-room below, were three men, the nature of whose offence
rendered it necessary to separate them, even from their companions in
guilt.  It is a long, sombre room, with two windows sunk into the stone
wall, and here the wretched men are pinioned on the morning of their
execution, before moving towards the scaffold.  The fate of one of these
prisoners was uncertain; some mitigatory circumstances having come to
light since his trial, which had been humanely represented in the proper
quarter.  The other two had nothing to expect from the mercy of the
crown; their doom was sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of
their crime, and they well knew that for them there was no hope in this
world.  ‘The two short ones,’ the turnkey whispered, ‘were dead men.’

The man to whom we have alluded as entertaining some hopes of escape, was
lounging, at the greatest distance he could place between himself and his
companions, in the window nearest to the door.  He was probably aware of
our approach, and had assumed an air of courageous indifference; his face
was purposely averted towards the window, and he stirred not an inch
while we were present.  The other two men were at the upper end of the
room.  One of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his
back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on
the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it.  The other was leaning on
the sill of the farthest window.  The light fell full upon him, and
communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an
appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly.  His cheek rested upon
his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring
before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks
in the opposite wall.  We passed this room again afterwards.  The first
man was pacing up and down the court with a firm military step—he had
been a soldier in the foot-guards—and a cloth cap jauntily thrown on one
side of his head.  He bowed respectfully to our conductor, and the salute
was returned.  The other two still remained in the positions we have
described, and were as motionless as statues. {165}

A few paces up the yard, and forming a continuation of the building, in
which are the two rooms we have just quitted, lie the condemned cells.
The entrance is by a narrow and obscure stair-case leading to a dark
passage, in which a charcoal stove casts a lurid tint over the objects in
its immediate vicinity, and diffuses something like warmth around.  From
the left-hand side of this passage, the massive door of every cell on the
story opens; and from it alone can they be approached.  There are three
of these passages, and three of these ranges of cells, one above the
other; but in size, furniture and appearance, they are all precisely
alike.  Prior to the recorder’s report being made, all the prisoners
under sentence of death are removed from the day-room at five o’clock in
the afternoon, and locked up in these cells, where they are allowed a
candle until ten o’clock; and here they remain until seven next morning.
When the warrant for a prisoner’s execution arrives, he is removed to the
cells and confined in one of them until he leaves it for the scaffold.
He is at liberty to walk in the yard; but, both in his walks and in his
cell, he is constantly attended by a turnkey who never leaves him on any
pretence.

We entered the first cell.  It was a stone dungeon, eight feet long by
six wide, with a bench at the upper end, under which were a common rug, a
bible, and prayer-book.  An iron candlestick was fixed into the wall at
the side; and a small high window in the back admitted as much air and
light as could struggle in between a double row of heavy, crossed iron
bars.  It contained no other furniture of any description.

Conceive the situation of a man, spending his last night on earth in this
cell.  Buoyed up with some vague and undefined hope of reprieve, he knew
not why—indulging in some wild and visionary idea of escaping, he knew
not how—hour after hour of the three preceding days allowed him for
preparation, has fled with a speed which no man living would deem
possible, for none but this dying man can know.  He has wearied his
friends with entreaties, exhausted the attendants with importunities,
neglected in his feverish restlessness the timely warnings of his
spiritual consoler; and, now that the illusion is at last dispelled, now
that eternity is before him and guilt behind, now that his fears of death
amount almost to madness, and an overwhelming sense of his helpless,
hopeless state rushes upon him, he is lost and stupefied, and has neither
thoughts to turn to, nor power to call upon, the Almighty Being, from
whom alone he can seek mercy and forgiveness, and before whom his
repentance can alone avail.

Hours have glided by, and still he sits upon the same stone bench with
folded arms, heedless alike of the fast decreasing time before him, and
the urgent entreaties of the good man at his side.  The feeble light is
wasting gradually, and the deathlike stillness of the street without,
broken only by the rumbling of some passing vehicle which echoes
mournfully through the empty yards, warns him that the night is waning
fast away.  The deep bell of St. Paul’s strikes—one!  He heard it; it has
roused him.  Seven hours left!  He paces the narrow limits of his cell
with rapid strides, cold drops of terror starting on his forehead, and
every muscle of his frame quivering with agony.  Seven hours!  He suffers
himself to be led to his seat, mechanically takes the bible which is
placed in his hand, and tries to read and listen.  No: his thoughts will
wander.  The book is torn and soiled by use—and like the book he read his
lessons in, at school, just forty years ago!  He has never bestowed a
thought upon it, perhaps, since he left it as a child: and yet the place,
the time, the room—nay, the very boys he played with, crowd as vividly
before him as if they were scenes of yesterday; and some forgotten
phrase, some childish word, rings in his ears like the echo of one
uttered but a minute since.  The voice of the clergyman recalls him to
himself.  He is reading from the sacred book its solemn promises of
pardon for repentance, and its awful denunciation of obdurate men.  He
falls upon his knees and clasps his hands to pray.  Hush! what sound was
that?  He starts upon his feet.  It cannot be two yet.  Hark!  Two
quarters have struck;—the third—the fourth.  It is!  Six hours left.
Tell him not of repentance!  Six hours’ repentance for eight times six
years of guilt and sin!  He buries his face in his hands, and throws
himself on the bench.

Worn with watching and excitement, he sleeps, and the same unsettled
state of mind pursues him in his dreams.  An insupportable load is taken
from his breast; he is walking with his wife in a pleasant field, with
the bright sky above them, and a fresh and boundless prospect on every
side—how different from the stone walls of Newgate!  She is looking—not
as she did when he saw her for the last time in that dreadful place, but
as she used when he loved her—long, long ago, before misery and
ill-treatment had altered her looks, and vice had changed his nature, and
she is leaning upon his arm, and looking up into his face with tenderness
and affection—and he does _not_ strike her now, nor rudely shake her from
him.  And oh! how glad he is to tell her all he had forgotten in that
last hurried interview, and to fall on his knees before her and fervently
beseech her pardon for all the unkindness and cruelty that wasted her
form and broke her heart!  The scene suddenly changes.  He is on his
trial again: there are the judge and jury, and prosecutors, and
witnesses, just as they were before.  How full the court is—what a sea of
heads—with a gallows, too, and a scaffold—and how all those people stare
at _him_!  Verdict, ‘Guilty.’  No matter; he will escape.

The night is dark and cold, the gates have been left open, and in an
instant he is in the street, flying from the scene of his imprisonment
like the wind.  The streets are cleared, the open fields are gained and
the broad, wide country lies before him.  Onward he dashes in the midst
of darkness, over hedge and ditch, through mud and pool, bounding from
spot to spot with a speed and lightness, astonishing even to himself.  At
length he pauses; he must be safe from pursuit now; he will stretch
himself on that bank and sleep till sunrise.

A period of unconsciousness succeeds.  He wakes, cold and wretched.  The
dull, gray light of morning is stealing into the cell, and falls upon the
form of the attendant turnkey.  Confused by his dreams, he starts from
his uneasy bed in momentary uncertainty.  It is but momentary.  Every
object in the narrow cell is too frightfully real to admit of doubt or
mistake.  He is the condemned felon again, guilty and despairing; and in
two hours more will be dead.



CHARACTERS


CHAPTER I—THOUGHTS ABOUT PEOPLE


It is strange with how little notice, good, bad, or indifferent, a man
may live and die in London.  He awakens no sympathy in the breast of any
single person; his existence is a matter of interest to no one save
himself; he cannot be said to be forgotten when he dies, for no one
remembered him when he was alive.  There is a numerous class of people in
this great metropolis who seem not to possess a single friend, and whom
nobody appears to care for.  Urged by imperative necessity in the first
instance, they have resorted to London in search of employment, and the
means of subsistence.  It is hard, we know, to break the ties which bind
us to our homes and friends, and harder still to efface the thousand
recollections of happy days and old times, which have been slumbering in
our bosoms for years, and only rush upon the mind, to bring before it
associations connected with the friends we have left, the scenes we have
beheld too probably for the last time, and the hopes we once cherished,
but may entertain no more.  These men, however, happily for themselves,
have long forgotten such thoughts.  Old country friends have died or
emigrated; former correspondents have become lost, like themselves, in
the crowd and turmoil of some busy city; and they have gradually settled
down into mere passive creatures of habit and endurance.

We were seated in the enclosure of St. James’s Park the other day, when
our attention was attracted by a man whom we immediately put down in our
own mind as one of this class.  He was a tall, thin, pale person, in a
black coat, scanty gray trousers, little pinched-up gaiters, and brown
beaver gloves.  He had an umbrella in his hand—not for use, for the day
was fine—but, evidently, because he always carried one to the office in
the morning.  He walked up and down before the little patch of grass on
which the chairs are placed for hire, not as if he were doing it for
pleasure or recreation, but as if it were a matter of compulsion, just as
he would walk to the office every morning from the back settlements of
Islington.  It was Monday; he had escaped for four-and-twenty hours from
the thraldom of the desk; and was walking here for exercise and
amusement—perhaps for the first time in his life.  We were inclined to
think he had never had a holiday before, and that he did not know what to
do with himself.  Children were playing on the grass; groups of people
were loitering about, chatting and laughing; but the man walked steadily
up and down, unheeding and unheeded his spare, pale face looking as if it
were incapable of bearing the expression of curiosity or interest.

There was something in the man’s manner and appearance which told us, we
fancied, his whole life, or rather his whole day, for a man of this sort
has no variety of days.  We thought we almost saw the dingy little back
office into which he walks every morning, hanging his hat on the same
peg, and placing his legs beneath the same desk: first, taking off that
black coat which lasts the year through, and putting on the one which did
duty last year, and which he keeps in his desk to save the other.  There
he sits till five o’clock, working on, all day, as regularly as the dial
over the mantel-piece, whose loud ticking is as monotonous as his whole
existence: only raising his head when some one enters the counting-house,
or when, in the midst of some difficult calculation, he looks up to the
ceiling as if there were inspiration in the dusty skylight with a green
knot in the centre of every pane of glass.  About five, or half-past, he
slowly dismounts from his accustomed stool, and again changing his coat,
proceeds to his usual dining-place, somewhere near Bucklersbury.  The
waiter recites the bill of fare in a rather confidential manner—for he is
a regular customer—and after inquiring ‘What’s in the best cut?’ and
‘What was up last?’ he orders a small plate of roast beef, with greens,
and half-a-pint of porter.  He has a small plate to-day, because greens
are a penny more than potatoes, and he had ‘two breads’ yesterday, with
the additional enormity of ‘a cheese’ the day before.  This important
point settled, he hangs up his hat—he took it off the moment he sat
down—and bespeaks the paper after the next gentleman.  If he can get it
while he is at dinner, he eats with much greater zest; balancing it
against the water-bottle, and eating a bit of beef, and reading a line or
two, alternately.  Exactly at five minutes before the hour is up, he
produces a shilling, pays the reckoning, carefully deposits the change in
his waistcoat-pocket (first deducting a penny for the waiter), and
returns to the office, from which, if it is not foreign post night, he
again sallies forth, in about half an hour.  He then walks home, at his
usual pace, to his little back room at Islington, where he has his tea;
perhaps solacing himself during the meal with the conversation of his
landlady’s little boy, whom he occasionally rewards with a penny, for
solving problems in simple addition.  Sometimes, there is a letter or two
to take up to his employer’s, in Russell-square; and then, the wealthy
man of business, hearing his voice, calls out from the
dining-parlour,—‘Come in, Mr. Smith:’ and Mr. Smith, putting his hat at
the feet of one of the hall chairs, walks timidly in, and being
condescendingly desired to sit down, carefully tucks his legs under his
chair, and sits at a considerable distance from the table while he drinks
the glass of sherry which is poured out for him by the eldest boy, and
after drinking which, he backs and slides out of the room, in a state of
nervous agitation from which he does not perfectly recover, until he
finds himself once more in the Islington-road.  Poor, harmless creatures
such men are; contented but not happy; broken-spirited and humbled, they
may feel no pain, but they never know pleasure.

Compare these men with another class of beings who, like them, have
neither friend nor companion, but whose position in society is the result
of their own choice.  These are generally old fellows with white heads
and red faces, addicted to port wine and Hessian boots, who from some
cause, real or imaginary—generally the former, the excellent reason being
that they are rich, and their relations poor—grow suspicious of
everybody, and do the misanthropical in chambers, taking great delight in
thinking themselves unhappy, and making everybody they come near,
miserable.  You may see such men as these, anywhere; you will know them
at coffee-houses by their discontented exclamations and the luxury of
their dinners; at theatres, by their always sitting in the same place and
looking with a jaundiced eye on all the young people near them; at
church, by the pomposity with which they enter, and the loud tone in
which they repeat the responses; at parties, by their getting cross at
whist and hating music.  An old fellow of this kind will have his
chambers splendidly furnished, and collect books, plate, and pictures
about him in profusion; not so much for his own gratification, as to be
superior to those who have the desire, but not the means, to compete with
him.  He belongs to two or three clubs, and is envied, and flattered, and
hated by the members of them all.  Sometimes he will be appealed to by a
poor relation—a married nephew perhaps—for some little assistance: and
then he will declaim with honest indignation on the improvidence of young
married people, the worthlessness of a wife, the insolence of having a
family, the atrocity of getting into debt with a hundred and twenty-five
pounds a year, and other unpardonable crimes; winding up his exhortations
with a complacent review of his own conduct, and a delicate allusion to
parochial relief.  He dies, some day after dinner, of apoplexy, having
bequeathed his property to a Public Society, and the Institution erects a
tablet to his memory, expressive of their admiration of his Christian
conduct in this world, and their comfortable conviction of his happiness
in the next.

But, next to our very particular friends, hackney-coachmen, cabmen and
cads, whom we admire in proportion to the extent of their cool impudence
and perfect self-possession, there is no class of people who amuse us
more than London apprentices.  They are no longer an organised body,
bound down by solemn compact to terrify his Majesty’s subjects whenever
it pleases them to take offence in their heads and staves in their hands.
They are only bound, now, by indentures, and, as to their valour, it is
easily restrained by the wholesome dread of the New Police, and a
perspective view of a damp station-house, terminating in a police-office
and a reprimand.  They are still, however, a peculiar class, and not the
less pleasant for being inoffensive.  Can any one fail to have noticed
them in the streets on Sunday?  And were there ever such harmless efforts
at the grand and magnificent as the young fellows display!  We walked
down the Strand, a Sunday or two ago, behind a little group; and they
furnished food for our amusement the whole way.  They had come out of
some part of the city; it was between three and four o’clock in the
afternoon; and they were on their way to the Park.  There were four of
them, all arm-in-arm, with white kid gloves like so many bridegrooms,
light trousers of unprecedented patterns, and coats for which the English
language has yet no name—a kind of cross between a great-coat and a
surtout, with the collar of the one, the skirts of the other, and pockets
peculiar to themselves.

Each of the gentlemen carried a thick stick, with a large tassel at the
top, which he occasionally twirled gracefully round; and the whole four,
by way of looking easy and unconcerned, were walking with a paralytic
swagger irresistibly ludicrous.  One of the party had a watch about the
size and shape of a reasonable Ribstone pippin, jammed into his
waistcoat-pocket, which he carefully compared with the clocks at St.
Clement’s and the New Church, the illuminated clock at Exeter ‘Change,
the clock of St. Martin’s Church, and the clock of the Horse Guards.
When they at last arrived in St. James’s Park, the member of the party
who had the best-made boots on, hired a second chair expressly for his
feet, and flung himself on this two-pennyworth of sylvan luxury with an
air which levelled all distinctions between Brookes’s and Snooks’s,
Crockford’s and Bagnigge Wells.

We may smile at such people, but they can never excite our anger.  They
are usually on the best terms with themselves, and it follows almost as a
matter of course, in good humour with every one about them.  Besides,
they are always the faint reflection of higher lights; and, if they do
display a little occasional foolery in their own proper persons, it is
surely more tolerable than precocious puppyism in the Quadrant, whiskered
dandyism in Regent-street and Pall-mall, or gallantry in its dotage
anywhere.



CHAPTER II—A CHRISTMAS DINNER


Christmas time!  That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast
something like a jovial feeling is not roused—in whose mind some pleasant
associations are not awakened—by the recurrence of Christmas.  There are
people who will tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to
be; that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished hope, or
happy prospect, of the year before, dimmed or passed away; that the
present only serves to remind them of reduced circumstances and
straitened incomes—of the feasts they once bestowed on hollow friends,
and of the cold looks that meet them now, in adversity and misfortune.
Never heed such dismal reminiscences.  There are few men who have lived
long enough in the world, who cannot call up such thoughts any day in the
year.  Then do not select the merriest of the three hundred and
sixty-five for your doleful recollections, but draw your chair nearer the
blazing fire—fill the glass and send round the song—and if your room be
smaller than it was a dozen years ago, or if your glass be filled with
reeking punch, instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the matter,
and empty it off-hand, and fill another, and troll off the old ditty you
used to sing, and thank God it’s no worse.  Look on the merry faces of
your children (if you have any) as they sit round the fire.  One little
seat may be empty; one slight form that gladdened the father’s heart, and
roused the mother’s pride to look upon, may not be there.  Dwell not upon
the past; think not that one short year ago, the fair child now resolving
into dust, sat before you, with the bloom of health upon its cheek, and
the gaiety of infancy in its joyous eye.  Reflect upon your present
blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of
which all men have some.  Fill your glass again, with a merry face and
contented heart.  Our life on it, but your Christmas shall be merry, and
your new year a happy one!

Who can be insensible to the outpourings of good feeling, and the honest
interchange of affectionate attachment, which abound at this season of
the year?  A Christmas family-party!  We know nothing in nature more
delightful!  There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas.  Petty
jealousies and discords are forgotten; social feelings are awakened, in
bosoms to which they have long been strangers; father and son, or brother
and sister, who have met and passed with averted gaze, or a look of cold
recognition, for months before, proffer and return the cordial embrace,
and bury their past animosities in their present happiness.  Kindly
hearts that have yearned towards each other, but have been withheld by
false notions of pride and self-dignity, are again reunited, and all is
kindness and benevolence!  Would that Christmas lasted the whole year
through (as it ought), and that the prejudices and passions which deform
our better nature, were never called into action among those to whom they
should ever be strangers!

The Christmas family-party that we mean, is not a mere assemblage of
relations, got up at a week or two’s notice, originating this year,
having no family precedent in the last, and not likely to be repeated in
the next.  No.  It is an annual gathering of all the accessible members
of the family, young or old, rich or poor; and all the children look
forward to it, for two months beforehand, in a fever of anticipation.
Formerly, it was held at grandpapa’s; but grandpapa getting old, and
grandmamma getting old too, and rather infirm, they have given up
house-keeping, and domesticated themselves with uncle George; so, the
party always takes place at uncle George’s house, but grandmamma sends in
most of the good things, and grandpapa always _will_ toddle down, all the
way to Newgate-market, to buy the turkey, which he engages a porter to
bring home behind him in triumph, always insisting on the man’s being
rewarded with a glass of spirits, over and above his hire, to drink ‘a
merry Christmas and a happy new year’ to aunt George.  As to grandmamma,
she is very secret and mysterious for two or three days beforehand, but
not sufficiently so, to prevent rumours getting afloat that she has
purchased a beautiful new cap with pink ribbons for each of the servants,
together with sundry books, and pen-knives, and pencil-cases, for the
younger branches; to say nothing of divers secret additions to the order
originally given by aunt George at the pastry-cook’s, such as another
dozen of mince-pies for the dinner, and a large plum-cake for the
children.

On Christmas-eve, grandmamma is always in excellent spirits, and after
employing all the children, during the day, in stoning the plums, and all
that, insists, regularly every year, on uncle George coming down into the
kitchen, taking off his coat, and stirring the pudding for half an hour
or so, which uncle George good-humouredly does, to the vociferous delight
of the children and servants.  The evening concludes with a glorious game
of blind-man’s-buff, in an early stage of which grandpapa takes great
care to be caught, in order that he may have an opportunity of displaying
his dexterity.

On the following morning, the old couple, with as many of the children as
the pew will hold, go to church in great state: leaving aunt George at
home dusting decanters and filling casters, and uncle George carrying
bottles into the dining-parlour, and calling for corkscrews, and getting
into everybody’s way.

When the church-party return to lunch, grandpapa produces a small sprig
of mistletoe from his pocket, and tempts the boys to kiss their little
cousins under it—a proceeding which affords both the boys and the old
gentleman unlimited satisfaction, but which rather outrages grandmamma’s
ideas of decorum, until grandpapa says, that when he was just thirteen
years and three months old, _he_ kissed grandmamma under a mistletoe too,
on which the children clap their hands, and laugh very heartily, as do
aunt George and uncle George; and grandmamma looks pleased, and says,
with a benevolent smile, that grandpapa was an impudent young dog, on
which the children laugh very heartily again, and grandpapa more heartily
than any of them.

But all these diversions are nothing to the subsequent excitement when
grandmamma in a high cap, and slate-coloured silk gown; and grandpapa
with a beautifully plaited shirt-frill, and white neckerchief; seat
themselves on one side of the drawing-room fire, with uncle George’s
children and little cousins innumerable, seated in the front, waiting the
arrival of the expected visitors.  Suddenly a hackney-coach is heard to
stop, and uncle George, who has been looking out of the window, exclaims
‘Here’s Jane!’ on which the children rush to the door, and helter-skelter
down-stairs; and uncle Robert and aunt Jane, and the dear little baby,
and the nurse, and the whole party, are ushered up-stairs amidst
tumultuous shouts of ‘Oh, my!’ from the children, and frequently repeated
warnings not to hurt baby from the nurse.  And grandpapa takes the child,
and grandmamma kisses her daughter, and the confusion of this first entry
has scarcely subsided, when some other aunts and uncles with more cousins
arrive, and the grown-up cousins flirt with each other, and so do the
little cousins too, for that matter, and nothing is to be heard but a
confused din of talking, laughing, and merriment.

A hesitating double knock at the street-door, heard during a momentary
pause in the conversation, excites a general inquiry of ‘Who’s that?’ and
two or three children, who have been standing at the window, announce in
a low voice, that it’s ‘poor aunt Margaret.’  Upon which, aunt George
leaves the room to welcome the new-comer; and grandmamma draws herself
up, rather stiff and stately; for Margaret married a poor man without her
consent, and poverty not being a sufficiently weighty punishment for her
offence, has been discarded by her friends, and debarred the society of
her dearest relatives.  But Christmas has come round, and the unkind
feelings that have struggled against better dispositions during the year,
have melted away before its genial influence, like half-formed ice
beneath the morning sun.  It is not difficult in a moment of angry
feeling for a parent to denounce a disobedient child; but, to banish her
at a period of general good-will and hilarity, from the hearth, round
which she has sat on so many anniversaries of the same day, expanding by
slow degrees from infancy to girlhood, and then bursting, almost
imperceptibly, into a woman, is widely different.  The air of conscious
rectitude, and cold forgiveness, which the old lady has assumed, sits ill
upon her; and when the poor girl is led in by her sister, pale in looks
and broken in hope—not from poverty, for that she could bear, but from
the consciousness of undeserved neglect, and unmerited unkindness—it is
easy to see how much of it is assumed.  A momentary pause succeeds; the
girl breaks suddenly from her sister and throws herself, sobbing, on her
mother’s neck.  The father steps hastily forward, and takes her husband’s
hand.  Friends crowd round to offer their hearty congratulations, and
happiness and harmony again prevail.

As to the dinner, it’s perfectly delightful—nothing goes wrong, and
everybody is in the very best of spirits, and disposed to please and be
pleased.  Grandpapa relates a circumstantial account of the purchase of
the turkey, with a slight digression relative to the purchase of previous
turkeys, on former Christmas-days, which grandmamma corroborates in the
minutest particular.  Uncle George tells stories, and carves poultry, and
takes wine, and jokes with the children at the side-table, and winks at
the cousins that are making love, or being made love to, and exhilarates
everybody with his good humour and hospitality; and when, at last, a
stout servant staggers in with a gigantic pudding, with a sprig of holly
in the top, there is such a laughing, and shouting, and clapping of
little chubby hands, and kicking up of fat dumpy legs, as can only be
equalled by the applause with which the astonishing feat of pouring
lighted brandy into mince-pies, is received by the younger visitors.
Then the dessert!—and the wine!—and the fun!  Such beautiful speeches,
and _such_ songs, from aunt Margaret’s husband, who turns out to be such
a nice man, and _so_ attentive to grandmamma!  Even grandpapa not only
sings his annual song with unprecedented vigour, but on being honoured
with an unanimous _encore_, according to annual custom, actually comes
out with a new one which nobody but grandmamma ever heard before; and a
young scapegrace of a cousin, who has been in some disgrace with the old
people, for certain heinous sins of omission and commission—neglecting to
call, and persisting in drinking Burton Ale—astonishes everybody into
convulsions of laughter by volunteering the most extraordinary comic
songs that ever were heard.  And thus the evening passes, in a strain of
rational good-will and cheerfulness, doing more to awaken the sympathies
of every member of the party in behalf of his neighbour, and to
perpetuate their good feeling during the ensuing year, than half the
homilies that have ever been written, by half the Divines that have ever
lived.



CHAPTER III—THE NEW YEAR


Next to Christmas-day, the most pleasant annual epoch in existence is the
advent of the New Year.  There are a lachrymose set of people who usher
in the New Year with watching and fasting, as if they were bound to
attend as chief mourners at the obsequies of the old one.  Now, we cannot
but think it a great deal more complimentary, both to the old year that
has rolled away, and to the New Year that is just beginning to dawn upon
us, to see the old fellow out, and the new one in, with gaiety and glee.

There must have been some few occurrences in the past year to which we
can look back, with a smile of cheerful recollection, if not with a
feeling of heartfelt thankfulness.  And we are bound by every rule of
justice and equity to give the New Year credit for being a good one,
until he proves himself unworthy the confidence we repose in him.

This is our view of the matter; and entertaining it, notwithstanding our
respect for the old year, one of the few remaining moments of whose
existence passes away with every word we write, here we are, seated by
our fireside on this last night of the old year, one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-six, penning this article with as jovial a face as if
nothing extraordinary had happened, or was about to happen, to disturb
our good humour.

Hackney-coaches and carriages keep rattling up the street and down the
street in rapid succession, conveying, doubtless, smartly-dressed
coachfuls to crowded parties; loud and repeated double knocks at the
house with green blinds, opposite, announce to the whole neighbourhood
that there’s one large party in the street at all events; and we saw
through the window, and through the fog too, till it grew so thick that
we rung for candles, and drew our curtains, pastry-cooks’ men with green
boxes on their heads, and rout-furniture-warehouse-carts, with cane seats
and French lamps, hurrying to the numerous houses where an annual
festival is held in honour of the occasion.

We can fancy one of these parties, we think, as well as if we were duly
dress-coated and pumped, and had just been announced at the drawing-room
door.

Take the house with the green blinds for instance.  We know it is a
quadrille party, because we saw some men taking up the front drawing-room
carpet while we sat at breakfast this morning, and if further evidence be
required, and we must tell the truth, we just now saw one of the young
ladies ‘doing’ another of the young ladies’ hair, near one of the bedroom
windows, in an unusual style of splendour, which nothing else but a
quadrille party could possibly justify.

The master of the house with the green blinds is in a public office; we
know the fact by the cut of his coat, the tie of his neckcloth, and the
self-satisfaction of his gait—the very green blinds themselves have a
Somerset House air about them.

Hark!—a cab!  That’s a junior clerk in the same office; a tidy sort of
young man, with a tendency to cold and corns, who comes in a pair of
boots with black cloth fronts, and brings his shoes in his coat-pocket,
which shoes he is at this very moment putting on in the hall.  Now he is
announced by the man in the passage to another man in a blue coat, who is
a disguised messenger from the office.

The man on the first landing precedes him to the drawing-room door.  ‘Mr.
Tupple!’ shouts the messenger.  ‘How _are_ you, Tupple?’ says the master
of the house, advancing from the fire, before which he has been talking
politics and airing himself.  ‘My dear, this is Mr. Tupple (a courteous
salute from the lady of the house); Tupple, my eldest daughter; Julia, my
dear, Mr. Tupple; Tupple, my other daughters; my son, sir;’ Tupple rubs
his hands very hard, and smiles as if it were all capital fun, and keeps
constantly bowing and turning himself round, till the whole family have
been introduced, when he glides into a chair at the corner of the sofa,
and opens a miscellaneous conversation with the young ladies upon the
weather, and the theatres, and the old year, and the last new murder, and
the balloon, and the ladies’ sleeves, and the festivities of the season,
and a great many other topics of small talk.

More double knocks! what an extensive party! what an incessant hum of
conversation and general sipping of coffee!  We see Tupple now, in our
mind’s eye, in the height of his glory.  He has just handed that stout
old lady’s cup to the servant; and now, he dives among the crowd of young
men by the door, to intercept the other servant, and secure the
muffin-plate for the old lady’s daughter, before he leaves the room; and
now, as he passes the sofa on his way back, he bestows a glance of
recognition and patronage upon the young ladies as condescending and
familiar as if he had known them from infancy.

Charming person Mr. Tupple—perfect ladies’ man—such a delightful
companion, too!  Laugh!—nobody ever understood papa’s jokes half so well
as Mr. Tupple, who laughs himself into convulsions at every fresh burst
of facetiousness.  Most delightful partner! talks through the whole set!
and although he does seem at first rather gay and frivolous, so romantic
and with so _much_ feeling!  Quite a love.  No great favourite with the
young men, certainly, who sneer at, and affect to despise him; but
everybody knows that’s only envy, and they needn’t give themselves the
trouble to depreciate his merits at any rate, for Ma says he shall be
asked to every future dinner-party, if it’s only to talk to people
between the courses, and distract their attention when there’s any
unexpected delay in the kitchen.

At supper, Mr. Tupple shows to still greater advantage than he has done
throughout the evening, and when Pa requests every one to fill their
glasses for the purpose of drinking happiness throughout the year, Mr.
Tupple is _so_ droll: insisting on all the young ladies having their
glasses filled, notwithstanding their repeated assurances that they never
can, by any possibility, think of emptying them and subsequently begging
permission to say a few words on the sentiment which has just been
uttered by Pa—when he makes one of the most brilliant and poetical
speeches that can possibly be imagined, about the old year and the new
one.  After the toast has been drunk, and when the ladies have retired,
Mr. Tupple requests that every gentleman will do him the favour of
filling his glass, for he has a toast to propose: on which all the
gentlemen cry ‘Hear! hear!’ and pass the decanters accordingly: and Mr.
Tupple being informed by the master of the house that they are all
charged, and waiting for his toast, rises, and begs to remind the
gentlemen present, how much they have been delighted by the dazzling
array of elegance and beauty which the drawing-room has exhibited that
night, and how their senses have been charmed, and their hearts
captivated, by the bewitching concentration of female loveliness which
that very room has so recently displayed.  (Loud cries of ‘Hear!’)  Much
as he (Tupple) would be disposed to deplore the absence of the ladies, on
other grounds, he cannot but derive some consolation from the reflection
that the very circumstance of their not being present, enables him to
propose a toast, which he would have otherwise been prevented from
giving—that toast he begs to say is—‘The Ladies!’  (Great applause.)  The
Ladies! among whom the fascinating daughters of their excellent host, are
alike conspicuous for their beauty, their accomplishments, and their
elegance.  He begs them to drain a bumper to ‘The Ladies, and a happy new
year to them!’  (Prolonged approbation; above which the noise of the
ladies dancing the Spanish dance among themselves, overhead, is
distinctly audible.)

The applause consequent on this toast, has scarcely subsided, when a
young gentleman in a pink under-waistcoat, sitting towards the bottom of
the table, is observed to grow very restless and fidgety, and to evince
strong indications of some latent desire to give vent to his feelings in
a speech, which the wary Tupple at once perceiving, determines to
forestall by speaking himself.  He, therefore, rises again, with an air
of solemn importance, and trusts he may be permitted to propose another
toast (unqualified approbation, and Mr. Tupple proceeds).  He is sure
they must all be deeply impressed with the hospitality—he may say the
splendour—with which they have been that night received by their worthy
host and hostess.  (Unbounded applause.)  Although this is the first
occasion on which he has had the pleasure and delight of sitting at that
board, he has known his friend Dobble long and intimately; he has been
connected with him in business—he wishes everybody present knew Dobble as
well as he does.  (A cough from the host.)  He (Tupple) can lay his hand
upon his (Tupple’s) heart, and declare his confident belief that a better
man, a better husband, a better father, a better brother, a better son, a
better relation in any relation of life, than Dobble, never existed.
(Loud cries of ‘Hear!’)  They have seen him to-night in the peaceful
bosom of his family; they should see him in the morning, in the trying
duties of his office.  Calm in the perusal of the morning papers,
uncompromising in the signature of his name, dignified in his replies to
the inquiries of stranger applicants, deferential in his behaviour to his
superiors, majestic in his deportment to the messengers.  (Cheers.)  When
he bears this merited testimony to the excellent qualities of his friend
Dobble, what can he say in approaching such a subject as Mrs. Dobble?  Is
it requisite for him to expatiate on the qualities of that amiable woman?
No; he will spare his friend Dobble’s feelings; he will spare the
feelings of his friend—if he will allow him to have the honour of calling
him so—Mr. Dobble, junior.  (Here Mr. Dobble, junior, who has been
previously distending his mouth to a considerable width, by thrusting a
particularly fine orange into that feature, suspends operations, and
assumes a proper appearance of intense melancholy).  He will simply
say—and he is quite certain it is a sentiment in which all who hear him
will readily concur—that his friend Dobble is as superior to any man he
ever knew, as Mrs. Dobble is far beyond any woman he ever saw (except her
daughters); and he will conclude by proposing their worthy ‘Host and
Hostess, and may they live to enjoy many more new years!’

The toast is drunk with acclamation; Dobble returns thanks, and the whole
party rejoin the ladies in the drawing-room.  Young men who were too
bashful to dance before supper, find tongues and partners; the musicians
exhibit unequivocal symptoms of having drunk the new year in, while the
company were out; and dancing is kept up, until far in the first morning
of the new year.

We have scarcely written the last word of the previous sentence, when the
first stroke of twelve, peals from the neighbouring churches.  There
certainly—we must confess it now—is something awful in the sound.
Strictly speaking, it may not be more impressive now, than at any other
time; for the hours steal as swiftly on, at other periods, and their
flight is little heeded.  But, we measure man’s life by years, and it is
a solemn knell that warns us we have passed another of the landmarks
which stands between us and the grave.  Disguise it as we may, the
reflection will force itself on our minds, that when the next bell
announces the arrival of a new year, we may be insensible alike of the
timely warning we have so often neglected, and of all the warm feelings
that glow within us now.



CHAPTER IV—MISS EVANS AND THE EAGLE


Mr. Samuel Wilkins was a carpenter, a journeyman carpenter of small
dimensions, decidedly below the middle size—bordering, perhaps, upon the
dwarfish.  His face was round and shining, and his hair carefully twisted
into the outer corner of each eye, till it formed a variety of that
description of semi-curls, usually known as ‘aggerawators.’  His earnings
were all-sufficient for his wants, varying from eighteen shillings to one
pound five, weekly—his manner undeniable—his sabbath waistcoats dazzling.
No wonder that, with these qualifications, Samuel Wilkins found favour in
the eyes of the other sex: many women have been captivated by far less
substantial qualifications.  But, Samuel was proof against their
blandishments, until at length his eyes rested on those of a Being for
whom, from that time forth, he felt fate had destined him.  He came, and
conquered—proposed, and was accepted—loved, and was beloved.  Mr. Wilkins
‘kept company’ with Jemima Evans.

Miss Evans (or Ivins, to adopt the pronunciation most in vogue with her
circle of acquaintance) had adopted in early life the useful pursuit of
shoe-binding, to which she had afterwards superadded the occupation of a
straw-bonnet maker.  Herself, her maternal parent, and two sisters,
formed an harmonious quartett in the most secluded portion of
Camden-town; and here it was that Mr. Wilkins presented himself, one
Monday afternoon, in his best attire, with his face more shining and his
waistcoat more bright than either had ever appeared before.  The family
were just going to tea, and were _so_ glad to see him.  It was quite a
little feast; two ounces of seven-and-sixpenny green, and a quarter of a
pound of the best fresh; and Mr. Wilkins had brought a pint of shrimps,
neatly folded up in a clean belcher, to give a zest to the meal, and
propitiate Mrs. Ivins.  Jemima was ‘cleaning herself’ up-stairs; so Mr.
Samuel Wilkins sat down and talked domestic economy with Mrs. Ivins,
whilst the two youngest Miss Ivinses poked bits of lighted brown paper
between the bars under the kettle, to make the water boil for tea.

‘I wos a thinking,’ said Mr. Samuel Wilkins, during a pause in the
conversation—‘I wos a thinking of taking J’mima to the Eagle
to-night.’—‘O my!’ exclaimed Mrs. Ivins.  ‘Lor! how nice!’ said the
youngest Miss Ivins.  ‘Well, I declare!’ added the youngest Miss Ivins
but one.  ‘Tell J’mima to put on her white muslin, Tilly,’ screamed Mrs.
Ivins, with motherly anxiety; and down came J’mima herself soon
afterwards in a white muslin gown carefully hooked and eyed, a little red
shawl, plentifully pinned, a white straw bonnet trimmed with red ribbons,
a small necklace, a large pair of bracelets, Denmark satin shoes, and
open-worked stockings; white cotton gloves on her fingers, and a cambric
pocket-handkerchief, carefully folded up, in her hand—all quite genteel
and ladylike.  And away went Miss J’mima Ivins and Mr. Samuel Wilkins,
and a dress-cane, with a gilt knob at the top, to the admiration and envy
of the street in general, and to the high gratification of Mrs. Ivins,
and the two youngest Miss Ivinses in particular.  They had no sooner
turned into the Pancras-road, than who should Miss J’mima Ivins stumble
upon, by the most fortunate accident in the world, but a young lady as
she knew, with _her_ young man!—And it is so strange how things do turn
out sometimes—they were actually going to the Eagle too.  So Mr. Samuel
Wilkins was introduced to Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend’s young man, and
they all walked on together, talking, and laughing, and joking away like
anything; and when they got as far as Pentonville, Miss Ivins’s friend’s
young man _would_ have the ladies go into the Crown, to taste some shrub,
which, after a great blushing and giggling, and hiding of faces in
elaborate pocket-handkerchiefs, they consented to do.  Having tasted it
once, they were easily prevailed upon to taste it again; and they sat out
in the garden tasting shrub, and looking at the Busses alternately, till
it was just the proper time to go to the Eagle; and then they resumed
their journey, and walked very fast, for fear they should lose the
beginning of the concert in the Rotunda.

‘How ev’nly!’ said Miss J’mima Ivins, and Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend,
both at once, when they had passed the gate and were fairly inside the
gardens.  There were the walks, beautifully gravelled and planted—and the
refreshment-boxes, painted and ornamented like so many snuff-boxes—and
the variegated lamps shedding their rich light upon the company’s
heads—and the place for dancing ready chalked for the company’s feet—and
a Moorish band playing at one end of the gardens—and an opposition
military band playing away at the other.  Then, the waiters were rushing
to and fro with glasses of negus, and glasses of brandy-and-water, and
bottles of ale, and bottles of stout; and ginger-beer was going off in
one place, and practical jokes were going on in another; and people were
crowding to the door of the Rotunda; and in short the whole scene was, as
Miss J’mima Ivins, inspired by the novelty, or the shrub, or both,
observed—‘one of dazzling excitement.’  As to the concert-room, never was
anything half so splendid.  There was an orchestra for the singers, all
paint, gilding, and plate-glass; and such an organ!  Miss J’mima Ivins’s
friend’s young man whispered it had cost ‘four hundred pound,’ which Mr.
Samuel Wilkins said was ‘not dear neither;’ an opinion in which the
ladies perfectly coincided.  The audience were seated on elevated benches
round the room, and crowded into every part of it; and everybody was
eating and drinking as comfortably as possible.  Just before the concert
commenced, Mr. Samuel Wilkins ordered two glasses of rum-and-water ‘warm
with—’ and two slices of lemon, for himself and the other young man,
together with ‘a pint o’ sherry wine for the ladies, and some sweet
carraway-seed biscuits;’ and they would have been quite comfortable and
happy, only a strange gentleman with large whiskers _would_ stare at Miss
J’mima Ivins, and another gentleman in a plaid waistcoat _would_ wink at
Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend; on which Miss Jemima Ivins’s friend’s young
man exhibited symptoms of boiling over, and began to mutter about
‘people’s imperence,’ and ‘swells out o’ luck;’ and to intimate, in
oblique terms, a vague intention of knocking somebody’s head off; which
he was only prevented from announcing more emphatically, by both Miss
J’mima Ivins and her friend threatening to faint away on the spot if he
said another word.

The concert commenced—overture on the organ.  ‘How solemn!’ exclaimed
Miss J’mima Ivins, glancing, perhaps unconsciously, at the gentleman with
the whiskers.  Mr. Samuel Wilkins, who had been muttering apart for some
time past, as if he were holding a confidential conversation with the
gilt knob of the dress-cane, breathed hard-breathing vengeance,
perhaps,—but said nothing.  ‘The soldier tired,’ Miss Somebody in white
satin.  ‘Ancore!’ cried Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend.  ‘Ancore!’ shouted
the gentleman in the plaid waistcoat immediately, hammering the table
with a stout-bottle.  Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend’s young man eyed the man
behind the waistcoat from head to foot, and cast a look of interrogative
contempt towards Mr. Samuel Wilkins.  Comic song, accompanied on the
organ.  Miss J’mima Ivins was convulsed with laughter—so was the man with
the whiskers.  Everything the ladies did, the plaid waistcoat and
whiskers did, by way of expressing unity of sentiment and congeniality of
soul; and Miss J’mima Ivins, and Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend, grew lively
and talkative, as Mr. Samuel Wilkins, and Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend’s
young man, grew morose and surly in inverse proportion.

Now, if the matter had ended here, the little party might soon have
recovered their former equanimity; but Mr. Samuel Wilkins and his friend
began to throw looks of defiance upon the waistcoat and whiskers.  And
the waistcoat and whiskers, by way of intimating the slight degree in
which they were affected by the looks aforesaid, bestowed glances of
increased admiration upon Miss J’mima Ivins and friend.  The concert and
vaudeville concluded, they promenaded the gardens.  The waistcoat and
whiskers did the same; and made divers remarks complimentary to the
ankles of Miss J’mima Ivins and friend, in an audible tone.  At length,
not satisfied with these numerous atrocities, they actually came up and
asked Miss J’mima Ivins, and Miss J’mima Ivins’s friend, to dance,
without taking no more notice of Mr. Samuel Wilkins, and Miss J’mima
Ivins’s friend’s young man, than if they was nobody!

‘What do you mean by that, scoundrel!’ exclaimed Mr. Samuel Wilkins,
grasping the gilt-knobbed dress-cane firmly in his right hand.  ‘What’s
the matter with _you_, you little humbug?’ replied the whiskers.  ‘How
dare you insult me and my friend?’ inquired the friend’s young man.  ‘You
and your friend be hanged!’ responded the waistcoat.  ‘Take that,’
exclaimed Mr. Samuel Wilkins.  The ferrule of the gilt-knobbed dress-cane
was visible for an instant, and then the light of the variegated lamps
shone brightly upon it as it whirled into the air, cane and all.  ‘Give
it him,’ said the waistcoat.  ‘Horficer!’ screamed the ladies.  Miss
J’mima Ivins’s beau, and the friend’s young man, lay gasping on the
gravel, and the waistcoat and whiskers were seen no more.

Miss J’mima Ivins and friend being conscious that the affray was in no
slight degree attributable to themselves, of course went into hysterics
forthwith; declared themselves the most injured of women; exclaimed, in
incoherent ravings, that they had been suspected—wrongfully suspected—oh!
that they should ever have lived to see the day—and so forth; suffered a
relapse every time they opened their eyes and saw their unfortunate
little admirers; and were carried to their respective abodes in a
hackney-coach, and a state of insensibility, compounded of shrub, sherry,
and excitement.



CHAPTER V—THE PARLOUR ORATOR


We had been lounging one evening, down Oxford-street, Holborn, Cheapside,
Coleman-street, Finsbury-square, and so on, with the intention of
returning westward, by Pentonville and the New-road, when we began to
feel rather thirsty, and disposed to rest for five or ten minutes.  So,
we turned back towards an old, quiet, decent public-house, which we
remembered to have passed but a moment before (it was not far from the
City-road), for the purpose of solacing ourself with a glass of ale.  The
house was none of your stuccoed, French-polished, illuminated palaces,
but a modest public-house of the old school, with a little old bar, and a
little old landlord, who, with a wife and daughter of the same pattern,
was comfortably seated in the bar aforesaid—a snug little room with a
cheerful fire, protected by a large screen: from behind which the young
lady emerged on our representing our inclination for a glass of ale.

‘Won’t you walk into the parlour, sir?’ said the young lady, in seductive
tones.

‘You had better walk into the parlour, sir,’ said the little old
landlord, throwing his chair back, and looking round one side of the
screen, to survey our appearance.

‘You had much better step into the parlour, sir,’ said the little old
lady, popping out her head, on the other side of the screen.

We cast a slight glance around, as if to express our ignorance of the
locality so much recommended.  The little old landlord observed it;
bustled out of the small door of the small bar; and forthwith ushered us
into the parlour itself.

It was an ancient, dark-looking room, with oaken wainscoting, a sanded
floor, and a high mantel-piece.  The walls were ornamented with three or
four old coloured prints in black frames, each print representing a naval
engagement, with a couple of men-of-war banging away at each other most
vigorously, while another vessel or two were blowing up in the distance,
and the foreground presented a miscellaneous collection of broken masts
and blue legs sticking up out of the water.  Depending from the ceiling
in the centre of the room, were a gas-light and bell-pull; on each side
were three or four long narrow tables, behind which was a thickly-planted
row of those slippery, shiny-looking wooden chairs, peculiar to
hostelries of this description.  The monotonous appearance of the sanded
boards was relieved by an occasional spittoon; and a triangular pile of
those useful articles adorned the two upper corners of the apartment.

At the furthest table, nearest the fire, with his face towards the door
at the bottom of the room, sat a stoutish man of about forty, whose
short, stiff, black hair curled closely round a broad high forehead, and
a face to which something besides water and exercise had communicated a
rather inflamed appearance.  He was smoking a cigar, with his eyes fixed
on the ceiling, and had that confident oracular air which marked him as
the leading politician, general authority, and universal
anecdote-relater, of the place.  He had evidently just delivered himself
of something very weighty; for the remainder of the company were puffing
at their respective pipes and cigars in a kind of solemn abstraction, as
if quite overwhelmed with the magnitude of the subject recently under
discussion.

On his right hand sat an elderly gentleman with a white head, and
broad-brimmed brown hat; on his left, a sharp-nosed, light-haired man in
a brown surtout reaching nearly to his heels, who took a whiff at his
pipe, and an admiring glance at the red-faced man, alternately.

‘Very extraordinary!’ said the light-haired man after a pause of five
minutes.  A murmur of assent ran through the company.

‘Not at all extraordinary—not at all,’ said the red-faced man, awakening
suddenly from his reverie, and turning upon the light-haired man, the
moment he had spoken.

‘Why should it be extraordinary?—why is it extraordinary?—prove it to be
extraordinary!’

‘Oh, if you come to that—’ said the light-haired man, meekly.

‘Come to that!’ ejaculated the man with the red face; ‘but we _must_ come
to that.  We stand, in these times, upon a calm elevation of intellectual
attainment, and not in the dark recess of mental deprivation.  Proof, is
what I require—proof, and not assertions, in these stirring times.  Every
gen’lem’n that knows me, knows what was the nature and effect of my
observations, when it was in the contemplation of the Old-street Suburban
Representative Discovery Society, to recommend a candidate for that place
in Cornwall there—I forget the name of it.  “Mr. Snobee,” said Mr.
Wilson, “is a fit and proper person to represent the borough in
Parliament.”  “Prove it,” says I.  “He is a friend to Reform,” says Mr.
Wilson.  “Prove it,” says I.  “The abolitionist of the national debt, the
unflinching opponent of pensions, the uncompromising advocate of the
negro, the reducer of sinecures and the duration of Parliaments; the
extender of nothing but the suffrages of the people,” says Mr. Wilson.
“Prove it,” says I.  “His acts prove it,” says he.  “Prove _them_,” says
I.

‘And he could not prove them,’ said the red-faced man, looking round
triumphantly; ‘and the borough didn’t have him; and if you carried this
principle to the full extent, you’d have no debt, no pensions, no
sinecures, no negroes, no nothing.  And then, standing upon an elevation
of intellectual attainment, and having reached the summit of popular
prosperity, you might bid defiance to the nations of the earth, and erect
yourselves in the proud confidence of wisdom and superiority.  This is my
argument—this always has been my argument—and if I was a Member of the
House of Commons to-morrow, I’d make ’em shake in their shoes with it.
And the red-faced man, having struck the table very hard with his
clenched fist, to add weight to the declaration, smoked away like a
brewery.

‘Well!’ said the sharp-nosed man, in a very slow and soft voice,
addressing the company in general, ‘I always do say, that of all the
gentlemen I have the pleasure of meeting in this room, there is not one
whose conversation I like to hear so much as Mr. Rogers’s, or who is such
improving company.’

‘Improving company!’ said Mr. Rogers, for that, it seemed, was the name
of the red-faced man.  ‘You may say I am improving company, for I’ve
improved you all to some purpose; though as to my conversation being as
my friend Mr. Ellis here describes it, that is not for me to say anything
about.  You, gentlemen, are the best judges on that point; but this I
will say, when I came into this parish, and first used this room, ten
years ago, I don’t believe there was one man in it, who knew he was a
slave—and now you all know it, and writhe under it.  Inscribe that upon
my tomb, and I am satisfied.’

‘Why, as to inscribing it on your tomb,’ said a little greengrocer with a
chubby face, ‘of course you can have anything chalked up, as you likes to
pay for, so far as it relates to yourself and your affairs; but, when you
come to talk about slaves, and that there abuse, you’d better keep it in
the family, ’cos I for one don’t like to be called them names, night
after night.’

‘You _are_ a slave,’ said the red-faced man, ‘and the most pitiable of
all slaves.’

‘Werry hard if I am,’ interrupted the greengrocer, ‘for I got no good out
of the twenty million that was paid for ’mancipation, anyhow.’

‘A willing slave,’ ejaculated the red-faced man, getting more red with
eloquence, and contradiction—‘resigning the dearest birthright of your
children—neglecting the sacred call of Liberty—who, standing imploringly
before you, appeals to the warmest feelings of your heart, and points to
your helpless infants, but in vain.’

‘Prove it,’ said the greengrocer.

‘Prove it!’ sneered the man with the red face.  ‘What! bending beneath
the yoke of an insolent and factious oligarchy; bowed down by the
domination of cruel laws; groaning beneath tyranny and oppression on
every hand, at every side, and in every corner.  Prove it!—’  The
red-faced man abruptly broke off, sneered melo-dramatically, and buried
his countenance and his indignation together, in a quart pot.

‘Ah, to be sure, Mr. Rogers,’ said a stout broker in a large waistcoat,
who had kept his eyes fixed on this luminary all the time he was
speaking.  ‘Ah, to be sure,’ said the broker with a sigh, ‘that’s the
point.’

‘Of course, of course,’ said divers members of the company, who
understood almost as much about the matter as the broker himself.

‘You had better let him alone, Tommy,’ said the broker, by way of advice
to the little greengrocer; ‘he can tell what’s o’clock by an eight-day,
without looking at the minute hand, he can.  Try it on, on some other
suit; it won’t do with him, Tommy.’

‘What is a man?’ continued the red-faced specimen of the species, jerking
his hat indignantly from its peg on the wall.  ‘What is an Englishman?
Is he to be trampled upon by every oppressor?  Is he to be knocked down
at everybody’s bidding?  What’s freedom?  Not a standing army.  What’s a
standing army?  Not freedom.  What’s general happiness?  Not universal
misery.  Liberty ain’t the window-tax, is it?  The Lords ain’t the
Commons, are they?’  And the red-faced man, gradually bursting into a
radiating sentence, in which such adjectives as ‘dastardly,’
‘oppressive,’ ‘violent,’ and ‘sanguinary,’ formed the most conspicuous
words, knocked his hat indignantly over his eyes, left the room, and
slammed the door after him.

‘Wonderful man!’ said he of the sharp nose.

‘Splendid speaker!’ added the broker.

‘Great power!’ said everybody but the greengrocer.  And as they said it,
the whole party shook their heads mysteriously, and one by one retired,
leaving us alone in the old parlour.

If we had followed the established precedent in all such instances, we
should have fallen into a fit of musing, without delay.  The ancient
appearance of the room—the old panelling of the wall—the chimney
blackened with smoke and age—would have carried us back a hundred years
at least, and we should have gone dreaming on, until the pewter-pot on
the table, or the little beer-chiller on the fire, had started into life,
and addressed to us a long story of days gone by.  But, by some means or
other, we were not in a romantic humour; and although we tried very hard
to invest the furniture with vitality, it remained perfectly unmoved,
obstinate, and sullen.  Being thus reduced to the unpleasant necessity of
musing about ordinary matters, our thoughts reverted to the red-faced
man, and his oratorical display.

A numerous race are these red-faced men; there is not a parlour, or
club-room, or benefit society, or humble party of any kind, without its
red-faced man.  Weak-pated dolts they are, and a great deal of mischief
they do to their cause, however good.  So, just to hold a pattern one up,
to know the others by, we took his likeness at once, and put him in here.
And that is the reason why we have written this paper.



CHAPTER VI—THE HOSPITAL PATIENT


In our rambles through the streets of London after evening has set in, we
often pause beneath the windows of some public hospital, and picture to
ourself the gloomy and mournful scenes that are passing within.  The
sudden moving of a taper as its feeble ray shoots from window to window,
until its light gradually disappears, as if it were carried farther back
into the room to the bedside of some suffering patient, is enough to
awaken a whole crowd of reflections; the mere glimmering of the
low-burning lamps, which, when all other habitations are wrapped in
darkness and slumber, denote the chamber where so many forms are writhing
with pain, or wasting with disease, is sufficient to check the most
boisterous merriment.

Who can tell the anguish of those weary hours, when the only sound the
sick man hears, is the disjointed wanderings of some feverish slumberer
near him, the low moan of pain, or perhaps the muttered, long-forgotten
prayer of a dying man?  Who, but they who have felt it, can imagine the
sense of loneliness and desolation which must be the portion of those who
in the hour of dangerous illness are left to be tended by strangers; for
what hands, be they ever so gentle, can wipe the clammy brow, or smooth
the restless bed, like those of mother, wife, or child?

Impressed with these thoughts, we have turned away, through the
nearly-deserted streets; and the sight of the few miserable creatures
still hovering about them, has not tended to lessen the pain which such
meditations awaken.  The hospital is a refuge and resting-place for
hundreds, who but for such institutions must die in the streets and
doorways; but what can be the feelings of some outcasts when they are
stretched on the bed of sickness with scarcely a hope of recovery?  The
wretched woman who lingers about the pavement, hours after midnight, and
the miserable shadow of a man—the ghastly remnant that want and
drunkenness have left—which crouches beneath a window-ledge, to sleep
where there is some shelter from the rain, have little to bind them to
life, but what have they to look back upon, in death?  What are the
unwonted comforts of a roof and a bed, to them, when the recollections of
a whole life of debasement stalk before them; when repentance seems a
mockery, and sorrow comes too late?

About a twelvemonth ago, as we were strolling through Covent-garden (we
had been thinking about these things over-night), we were attracted by
the very prepossessing appearance of a pickpocket, who having declined to
take the trouble of walking to the Police-office, on the ground that he
hadn’t the slightest wish to go there at all, was being conveyed thither
in a wheelbarrow, to the huge delight of a crowd.

Somehow, we never can resist joining a crowd, so we turned back with the
mob, and entered the office, in company with our friend the pickpocket, a
couple of policemen, and as many dirty-faced spectators as could squeeze
their way in.

There was a powerful, ill-looking young fellow at the bar, who was
undergoing an examination, on the very common charge of having, on the
previous night, ill-treated a woman, with whom he lived in some court
hard by.  Several witnesses bore testimony to acts of the grossest
brutality; and a certificate was read from the house-surgeon of a
neighbouring hospital, describing the nature of the injuries the woman
had received, and intimating that her recovery was extremely doubtful.

Some question appeared to have been raised about the identity of the
prisoner; for when it was agreed that the two magistrates should visit
the hospital at eight o’clock that evening, to take her deposition, it
was settled that the man should be taken there also.  He turned pale at
this, and we saw him clench the bar very hard when the order was given.
He was removed directly afterwards, and he spoke not a word.

We felt an irrepressible curiosity to witness this interview, although it
is hard to tell why, at this instant, for we knew it must be a painful
one.  It was no very difficult matter for us to gain permission, and we
obtained it.

The prisoner, and the officer who had him in custody, were already at the
hospital when we reached it, and waiting the arrival of the magistrates
in a small room below stairs.  The man was handcuffed, and his hat was
pulled forward over his eyes.  It was easy to see, though, by the
whiteness of his countenance, and the constant twitching of the muscles
of his face, that he dreaded what was to come.  After a short interval,
the magistrates and clerk were bowed in by the house-surgeon and a couple
of young men who smelt very strong of tobacco-smoke—they were introduced
as ‘dressers’—and after one magistrate had complained bitterly of the
cold, and the other of the absence of any news in the evening paper, it
was announced that the patient was prepared; and we were conducted to the
‘casualty ward’ in which she was lying.

The dim light which burnt in the spacious room, increased rather than
diminished the ghastly appearance of the hapless creatures in the beds,
which were ranged in two long rows on either side.  In one bed, lay a
child enveloped in bandages, with its body half-consumed by fire; in
another, a female, rendered hideous by some dreadful accident, was wildly
beating her clenched fists on the coverlet, in pain; on a third, there
lay stretched a young girl, apparently in the heavy stupor often the
immediate precursor of death: her face was stained with blood, and her
breast and arms were bound up in folds of linen.  Two or three of the
beds were empty, and their recent occupants were sitting beside them, but
with faces so wan, and eyes so bright and glassy, that it was fearful to
meet their gaze.  On every face was stamped the expression of anguish and
suffering.

The object of the visit was lying at the upper end of the room.  She was
a fine young woman of about two or three and twenty.  Her long black
hair, which had been hastily cut from near the wounds on her head,
streamed over the pillow in jagged and matted locks.  Her face bore deep
marks of the ill-usage she had received: her hand was pressed upon her
side, as if her chief pain were there; her breathing was short and heavy;
and it was plain to see that she was dying fast.  She murmured a few
words in reply to the magistrate’s inquiry whether she was in great pain;
and, having been raised on the pillow by the nurse, looked vacantly upon
the strange countenances that surrounded her bed.  The magistrate nodded
to the officer, to bring the man forward.  He did so, and stationed him
at the bedside.  The girl looked on with a wild and troubled expression
of face; but her sight was dim, and she did not know him.

‘Take off his hat,’ said the magistrate.  The officer did as he was
desired, and the man’s features were disclosed.

The girl started up, with an energy quite preternatural; the fire gleamed
in her heavy eyes, and the blood rushed to her pale and sunken cheeks.
It was a convulsive effort.  She fell back upon her pillow, and covering
her scarred and bruised face with her hands, burst into tears.  The man
cast an anxious look towards her, but otherwise appeared wholly unmoved.
After a brief pause the nature of the errand was explained, and the oath
tendered.

‘Oh, no, gentlemen,’ said the girl, raising herself once more, and
folding her hands together; ‘no, gentlemen, for God’s sake!  I did it
myself—it was nobody’s fault—it was an accident.  He didn’t hurt me; he
wouldn’t for all the world.  Jack, dear Jack, you know you wouldn’t!’

Her sight was fast failing her, and her hand groped over the bedclothes
in search of his.  Brute as the man was, he was not prepared for this.
He turned his face from the bed, and sobbed.  The girl’s colour changed,
and her breathing grew more difficult.  She was evidently dying.

‘We respect the feelings which prompt you to this,’ said the gentleman
who had spoken first, ‘but let me warn you, not to persist in what you
know to be untrue, until it is too late.  It cannot save him.’

‘Jack,’ murmured the girl, laying her hand upon his arm, ‘they shall not
persuade me to swear your life away.  He didn’t do it, gentlemen.  He
never hurt me.’  She grasped his arm tightly, and added, in a broken
whisper, ‘I hope God Almighty will forgive me all the wrong I have done,
and the life I have led.  God bless you, Jack.  Some kind gentleman take
my love to my poor old father.  Five years ago, he said he wished I had
died a child.  Oh, I wish I had!  I wish I had!’

The nurse bent over the girl for a few seconds, and then drew the sheet
over her face.  It covered a corpse.



CHAPTER VII—THE MISPLACED ATTACHMENT OF MR. JOHN DOUNCE


If we had to make a classification of society, there is a particular kind
of men whom we should immediately set down under the head of ‘Old Boys;’
and a column of most extensive dimensions the old boys would require.  To
what precise causes the rapid advance of old-boy population is to be
traced, we are unable to determine.  It would be an interesting and
curious speculation, but, as we have not sufficient space to devote to it
here, we simply state the fact that the numbers of the old boys have been
gradually augmenting within the last few years, and that they are at this
moment alarmingly on the increase.

Upon a general review of the subject, and without considering it minutely
in detail, we should be disposed to subdivide the old boys into two
distinct classes—the gay old boys, and the steady old boys.  The gay old
boys, are paunchy old men in the disguise of young ones, who frequent the
Quadrant and Regent-street in the day-time: the theatres (especially
theatres under lady management) at night; and who assume all the
foppishness and levity of boys, without the excuse of youth or
inexperience.  The steady old boys are certain stout old gentlemen of
clean appearance, who are always to be seen in the same taverns, at the
same hours every evening, smoking and drinking in the same company.

There was once a fine collection of old boys to be seen round the
circular table at Offley’s every night, between the hours of half-past
eight and half-past eleven.  We have lost sight of them for some time.
There were, and may be still, for aught we know, two splendid specimens
in full blossom at the Rainbow Tavern in Fleet-street, who always used to
sit in the box nearest the fireplace, and smoked long cherry-stick pipes
which went under the table, with the bowls resting on the floor.  Grand
old boys they were—fat, red-faced, white-headed old fellows—always
there—one on one side the table, and the other opposite—puffing and
drinking away in great state.  Everybody knew them, and it was supposed
by some people that they were both immortal.

Mr. John Dounce was an old boy of the latter class (we don’t mean
immortal, but steady), a retired glove and braces maker, a widower,
resident with three daughters—all grown up, and all unmarried—in
Cursitor-street, Chancery-lane.  He was a short, round, large-faced,
tubbish sort of man, with a broad-brimmed hat, and a square coat; and had
that grave, but confident, kind of roll, peculiar to old boys in general.
Regular as clockwork—breakfast at nine—dress and tittivate a little—down
to the Sir Somebody’s Head—a glass of ale and the paper—come back again,
and take daughters out for a walk—dinner at three—glass of grog and
pipe—nap—tea—little walk—Sir Somebody’s Head again—capital
house—delightful evenings.  There were Mr. Harris, the law-stationer, and
Mr. Jennings, the robe-maker (two jolly young fellows like himself), and
Jones, the barrister’s clerk—rum fellow that Jones—capital company—full
of anecdote!—and there they sat every night till just ten minutes before
twelve, drinking their brandy-and-water, and smoking their pipes, and
telling stories, and enjoying themselves with a kind of solemn joviality
particularly edifying.

Sometimes Jones would propose a half-price visit to Drury Lane or Covent
Garden, to see two acts of a five-act play, and a new farce, perhaps, or
a ballet, on which occasions the whole four of them went together: none
of your hurrying and nonsense, but having their brandy-and-water first,
comfortably, and ordering a steak and some oysters for their supper
against they came back, and then walking coolly into the pit, when the
‘rush’ had gone in, as all sensible people do, and did when Mr. Dounce
was a young man, except when the celebrated Master Betty was at the
height of his popularity, and then, sir,—then—Mr. Dounce perfectly well
remembered getting a holiday from business; and going to the pit doors at
eleven o’clock in the forenoon, and waiting there, till six in the
afternoon, with some sandwiches in a pocket-handkerchief and some wine in
a phial; and fainting after all, with the heat and fatigue, before the
play began; in which situation he was lifted out of the pit, into one of
the dress boxes, sir, by five of the finest women of that day, sir, who
compassionated his situation and administered restoratives, and sent a
black servant, six foot high, in blue and silver livery, next morning
with their compliments, and to know how he found himself, sir—by G-!
Between the acts Mr. Dounce and Mr. Harris, and Mr. Jennings, used to
stand up, and look round the house, and Jones—knowing fellow that
Jones—knew everybody—pointed out the fashionable and celebrated Lady
So-and-So in the boxes, at the mention of whose name Mr. Dounce, after
brushing up his hair, and adjusting his neckerchief, would inspect the
aforesaid Lady So-and-So through an immense glass, and remark, either,
that she was a ‘fine woman—very fine woman, indeed,’ or that ‘there might
be a little more of her, eh, Jones?’  Just as the case might happen to
be.  When the dancing began, John Dounce and the other old boys were
particularly anxious to see what was going forward on the stage, and
Jones—wicked dog that Jones—whispered little critical remarks into the
ears of John Dounce, which John Dounce retailed to Mr. Harris and Mr.
Harris to Mr. Jennings; and then they all four laughed, until the tears
ran down out of their eyes.

When the curtain fell, they walked back together, two and two, to the
steaks and oysters; and when they came to the second glass of
brandy-and-water, Jones—hoaxing scamp, that Jones—used to recount how he
had observed a lady in white feathers, in one of the pit boxes, gazing
intently on Mr. Dounce all the evening, and how he had caught Mr. Dounce,
whenever he thought no one was looking at him, bestowing ardent looks of
intense devotion on the lady in return; on which Mr. Harris and Mr.
Jennings used to laugh very heartily, and John Dounce more heartily than
either of them, acknowledging, however, that the time _had_ been when he
_might_ have done such things; upon which Mr. Jones used to poke him in
the ribs, and tell him he had been a sad dog in his time, which John
Dounce with chuckles confessed.  And after Mr. Harris and Mr. Jennings
had preferred their claims to the character of having been sad dogs too,
they separated harmoniously, and trotted home.

The decrees of Fate, and the means by which they are brought about, are
mysterious and inscrutable.  John Dounce had led this life for twenty
years and upwards, without wish for change, or care for variety, when his
whole social system was suddenly upset and turned completely
topsy-turvy—not by an earthquake, or some other dreadful convulsion of
nature, as the reader would be inclined to suppose, but by the simple
agency of an oyster; and thus it happened.

Mr. John Dounce was returning one night from the Sir Somebody’s Head, to
his residence in Cursitor-street—not tipsy, but rather excited, for it
was Mr. Jennings’s birthday, and they had had a brace of partridges for
supper, and a brace of extra glasses afterwards, and Jones had been more
than ordinarily amusing—when his eyes rested on a newly-opened
oyster-shop, on a magnificent scale, with natives laid, one deep, in
circular marble basins in the windows, together with little round barrels
of oysters directed to Lords and Baronets, and Colonels and Captains, in
every part of the habitable globe.

Behind the natives were the barrels, and behind the barrels was a young
lady of about five-and-twenty, all in blue, and all alone—splendid
creature, charming face and lovely figure!  It is difficult to say
whether Mr. John Dounce’s red countenance, illuminated as it was by the
flickering gas-light in the window before which he paused, excited the
lady’s risibility, or whether a natural exuberance of animal spirits
proved too much for that staidness of demeanour which the forms of
society rather dictatorially prescribe.  But certain it is, that the lady
smiled; then put her finger upon her lip, with a striking recollection of
what was due to herself; and finally retired, in oyster-like bashfulness,
to the very back of the counter.  The sad-dog sort of feeling came
strongly upon John Dounce: he lingered—the lady in blue made no sign.  He
coughed—still she came not.  He entered the shop.

‘Can you open me an oyster, my dear?’ said Mr. John Dounce.

‘Dare say I can, sir,’ replied the lady in blue, with playfulness.  And
Mr. John Dounce eat one oyster, and then looked at the young lady, and
then eat another, and then squeezed the young lady’s hand as she was
opening the third, and so forth, until he had devoured a dozen of those
at eightpence in less than no time.

‘Can you open me half-a-dozen more, my dear?’ inquired Mr. John Dounce.

‘I’ll see what I can do for you, sir,’ replied the young lady in blue,
even more bewitchingly than before; and Mr. John Dounce eat half-a-dozen
more of those at eightpence.

‘You couldn’t manage to get me a glass of brandy-and-water, my dear, I
suppose?’ said Mr. John Dounce, when he had finished the oysters: in a
tone which clearly implied his supposition that she could.

‘I’ll see, sir,’ said the young lady: and away she ran out of the shop,
and down the street, her long auburn ringlets shaking in the wind in the
most enchanting manner; and back she came again, tripping over the
coal-cellar lids like a whipping-top, with a tumbler of brandy-and-water,
which Mr. John Dounce insisted on her taking a share of, as it was
regular ladies’ grog—hot, strong, sweet, and plenty of it.

So, the young lady sat down with Mr. John Dounce, in a little red box
with a green curtain, and took a small sip of the brandy-and-water, and a
small look at Mr. John Dounce, and then turned her head away, and went
through various other serio-pantomimic fascinations, which forcibly
reminded Mr. John Dounce of the first time he courted his first wife, and
which made him feel more affectionate than ever; in pursuance of which
affection, and actuated by which feeling, Mr. John Dounce sounded the
young lady on her matrimonial engagements, when the young lady denied
having formed any such engagements at all—she couldn’t abear the men,
they were such deceivers; thereupon Mr. John Dounce inquired whether this
sweeping condemnation was meant to include other than very young men; on
which the young lady blushed deeply—at least she turned away her head,
and said Mr. John Dounce had made her blush, so of course she _did_
blush—and Mr. John Dounce was a long time drinking the brandy-and-water;
and, at last, John Dounce went home to bed, and dreamed of his first
wife, and his second wife, and the young lady, and partridges, and
oysters, and brandy-and-water, and disinterested attachments.

The next morning, John Dounce was rather feverish with the extra
brandy-and-water of the previous night; and, partly in the hope of
cooling himself with an oyster, and partly with the view of ascertaining
whether he owed the young lady anything, or not, went back to the
oyster-shop.  If the young lady had appeared beautiful by night, she was
perfectly irresistible by day; and, from this time forward, a change came
over the spirit of John Dounce’s dream.  He bought shirt-pins; wore a
ring on his third finger; read poetry; bribed a cheap miniature-painter
to perpetrate a faint resemblance to a youthful face, with a curtain over
his head, six large books in the background, and an open country in the
distance (this he called his portrait); ‘went on’ altogether in such an
uproarious manner, that the three Miss Dounces went off on small
pensions, he having made the tenement in Cursitor-street too warm to
contain them; and in short, comported and demeaned himself in every
respect like an unmitigated old Saracen, as he was.

As to his ancient friends, the other old boys, at the Sir Somebody’s
Head, he dropped off from them by gradual degrees; for, even when he did
go there, Jones—vulgar fellow that Jones—persisted in asking ‘when it was
to be?’ and ‘whether he was to have any gloves?’ together with other
inquiries of an equally offensive nature: at which not only Harris
laughed, but Jennings also; so, he cut the two, altogether, and attached
himself solely to the blue young lady at the smart oyster-shop.

Now comes the moral of the story—for it has a moral after all.  The
last-mentioned young lady, having derived sufficient profit and emolument
from John Dounce’s attachment, not only refused, when matters came to a
crisis, to take him for better for worse, but expressly declared, to use
her own forcible words, that she ‘wouldn’t have him at no price;’ and
John Dounce, having lost his old friends, alienated his relations, and
rendered himself ridiculous to everybody, made offers successively to a
schoolmistress, a landlady, a feminine tobacconist, and a housekeeper;
and, being directly rejected by each and every of them, was accepted by
his cook, with whom he now lives, a henpecked husband, a melancholy
monument of antiquated misery, and a living warning to all uxorious old
boys.



CHAPTER VIII—THE MISTAKEN MILLINER.  A TALE OF AMBITION


Miss Amelia Martin was pale, tallish, thin, and two-and-thirty—what
ill-natured people would call plain, and police reports interesting.  She
was a milliner and dressmaker, living on her business and not above it.
If you had been a young lady in service, and had wanted Miss Martin, as a
great many young ladies in service did, you would just have stepped up,
in the evening, to number forty-seven, Drummond-street, George-street,
Euston-square, and after casting your eye on a brass door-plate, one foot
ten by one and a half, ornamented with a great brass knob at each of the
four corners, and bearing the inscription ‘Miss Martin; millinery and
dressmaking, in all its branches;’ you’d just have knocked two loud
knocks at the street-door; and down would have come Miss Martin herself,
in a merino gown of the newest fashion, black velvet bracelets on the
genteelest principle, and other little elegancies of the most approved
description.

If Miss Martin knew the young lady who called, or if the young lady who
called had been recommended by any other young lady whom Miss Martin
knew, Miss Martin would forthwith show her up-stairs into the two-pair
front, and chat she would—_so_ kind, and _so_ comfortable—it really
wasn’t like a matter of business, she was so friendly; and, then Miss
Martin, after contemplating the figure and general appearance of the
young lady in service with great apparent admiration, would say how well
she would look, to be sure, in a low dress with short sleeves; made very
full in the skirts, with four tucks in the bottom; to which the young
lady in service would reply in terms expressive of her entire concurrence
in the notion, and of the virtuous indignation with which she reflected
on the tyranny of ‘Missis,’ who wouldn’t allow a young girl to wear a
short sleeve of an arternoon—no, nor nothing smart, not even a pair of
ear-rings; let alone hiding people’s heads of hair under them frightful
caps.  At the termination of this complaint, Miss Amelia Martin would
distantly suggest certain dark suspicions that some people were jealous
on account of their own daughters, and were obliged to keep their
servants’ charms under, for fear they should get married first, which was
no uncommon circumstance—leastways she had known two or three young
ladies in service, who had married a great deal better than their
missises, and _they_ were not very good-looking either; and then the
young lady would inform Miss Martin, in confidence, that how one of their
young ladies was engaged to a young man and was a-going to be married,
and Missis was so proud about it there was no bearing of her; but how she
needn’t hold her head quite so high neither, for, after all, he was only
a clerk.  And, after expressing due contempt for clerks in general, and
the engaged clerk in particular, and the highest opinion possible of
themselves and each other, Miss Martin and the young lady in service
would bid each other good night, in a friendly but perfectly genteel
manner: and the one went back to her ‘place,’ and the other, to her room
on the second-floor front.

There is no saying how long Miss Amelia Martin might have continued this
course of life; how extensive a connection she might have established
among young ladies in service; or what amount her demands upon their
quarterly receipts might have ultimately attained, had not an unforeseen
train of circumstances directed her thoughts to a sphere of action very
different from dressmaking or millinery.

A friend of Miss Martin’s who had long been keeping company with an
ornamental painter and decorator’s journeyman, at last consented (on
being at last asked to do so) to name the day which would make the
aforesaid journeyman a happy husband.  It was a Monday that was appointed
for the celebration of the nuptials, and Miss Amelia Martin was invited,
among others, to honour the wedding-dinner with her presence.  It was a
charming party; Somers-town the locality, and a front parlour the
apartment.  The ornamental painter and decorator’s journeyman had taken a
house—no lodgings nor vulgarity of that kind, but a house—four beautiful
rooms, and a delightful little washhouse at the end of the passage—which
was the most convenient thing in the world, for the bridesmaids could sit
in the front parlour and receive the company, and then run into the
little washhouse and see how the pudding and boiled pork were getting on
in the copper, and then pop back into the parlour again, as snug and
comfortable as possible.  And such a parlour as it was!  Beautiful
Kidderminster carpet—six bran-new cane-bottomed stained chairs—three
wine-glasses and a tumbler on each sideboard—farmer’s girl and farmer’s
boy on the mantelpiece: girl tumbling over a stile, and boy spitting
himself, on the handle of a pitchfork—long white dimity curtains in the
window—and, in short, everything on the most genteel scale imaginable.

Then, the dinner.  There was baked leg of mutton at the top, boiled leg
of mutton at the bottom, pair of fowls and leg of pork in the middle;
porter-pots at the corners; pepper, mustard, and vinegar in the centre;
vegetables on the floor; and plum-pudding and apple-pie and tartlets
without number: to say nothing of cheese, and celery, and water-cresses,
and all that sort of thing.  As to the Company!  Miss Amelia Martin
herself declared, on a subsequent occasion, that, much as she had heard
of the ornamental painter’s journeyman’s connexion, she never could have
supposed it was half so genteel.  There was his father, such a funny old
gentleman—and his mother, such a dear old lady—and his sister, such a
charming girl—and his brother, such a manly-looking young man—with such a
eye!  But even all these were as nothing when compared with his musical
friends, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, from White Conduit, with whom the
ornamental painter’s journeyman had been fortunate enough to contract an
intimacy while engaged in decorating the concert-room of that noble
institution.  To hear them sing separately, was divine, but when they
went through the tragic duet of ‘Red Ruffian, retire!’ it was, as Miss
Martin afterwards remarked, ‘thrilling.’  And why (as Mr. Jennings
Rodolph observed) why were they not engaged at one of the patent
theatres?  If he was to be told that their voices were not powerful
enough to fill the House, his only reply was, that he would back himself
for any amount to fill Russell-square—a statement in which the company,
after hearing the duet, expressed their full belief; so they all said it
was shameful treatment; and both Mr. and Mrs. Jennings Rodolph said it
was shameful too; and Mr. Jennings Rodolph looked very serious, and said
he knew who his malignant opponents were, but they had better take care
how far they went, for if they irritated him too much he had not quite
made up his mind whether he wouldn’t bring the subject before Parliament;
and they all agreed that it ‘’ud serve ’em quite right, and it was very
proper that such people should be made an example of.’  So Mr. Jennings
Rodolph said he’d think of it.

When the conversation resumed its former tone, Mr. Jennings Rodolph
claimed his right to call upon a lady, and the right being conceded,
trusted Miss Martin would favour the company—a proposal which met with
unanimous approbation, whereupon Miss Martin, after sundry hesitatings
and coughings, with a preparatory choke or two, and an introductory
declaration that she was frightened to death to attempt it before such
great judges of the art, commenced a species of treble chirruping
containing frequent allusions to some young gentleman of the name of
Hen-e-ry, with an occasional reference to madness and broken hearts.  Mr.
Jennings Rodolph frequently interrupted the progress of the song, by
ejaculating ‘Beautiful!’—‘Charming!’—‘Brilliant!’—‘Oh! splendid,’ &c.;
and at its close the admiration of himself, and his lady, knew no bounds.

‘Did you ever hear so sweet a voice, my dear?’ inquired Mr. Jennings
Rodolph of Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

‘Never; indeed I never did, love,’ replied Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

‘Don’t you think Miss Martin, with a little cultivation, would be very
like Signora Marra Boni, my dear?’ asked Mr. Jennings Rodolph.

‘Just exactly the very thing that struck me, my love,’ answered Mrs.
Jennings Rodolph.

And thus the time passed away; Mr. Jennings Rodolph played tunes on a
walking-stick, and then went behind the parlour-door and gave his
celebrated imitations of actors, edge-tools, and animals; Miss Martin
sang several other songs with increased admiration every time; and even
the funny old gentleman began singing.  His song had properly seven
verses, but as he couldn’t recollect more than the first one, he sang
that over seven times, apparently very much to his own personal
gratification.  And then all the company sang the national anthem with
national independence—each for himself, without reference to the
other—and finally separated: all declaring that they never had spent so
pleasant an evening: and Miss Martin inwardly resolving to adopt the
advice of Mr. Jennings Rodolph, and to ‘come out’ without delay.

Now, ‘coming out,’ either in acting, or singing, or society, or
facetiousness, or anything else, is all very well, and remarkably
pleasant to the individual principally concerned, if he or she can but
manage to come out with a burst, and being out, to keep out, and not go
in again; but, it does unfortunately happen that both consummations are
extremely difficult to accomplish, and that the difficulties, of getting
out at all in the first instance, and if you surmount them, of keeping
out in the second, are pretty much on a par, and no slight ones
either—and so Miss Amelia Martin shortly discovered.  It is a singular
fact (there being ladies in the case) that Miss Amelia Martin’s principal
foible was vanity, and the leading characteristic of Mrs. Jennings
Rodolph an attachment to dress.  Dismal wailings were heard to issue from
the second-floor front of number forty-seven, Drummond-street,
George-street, Euston-square; it was Miss Martin practising.
Half-suppressed murmurs disturbed the calm dignity of the White Conduit
orchestra at the commencement of the season.  It was the appearance of
Mrs. Jennings Rodolph in full dress, that occasioned them.  Miss Martin
studied incessantly—the practising was the consequence.  Mrs. Jennings
Rodolph taught gratuitously now and then—the dresses were the result.

Weeks passed away; the White Conduit season had begun, and progressed,
and was more than half over.  The dressmaking business had fallen off,
from neglect; and its profits had dwindled away almost imperceptibly.  A
benefit-night approached; Mr. Jennings Rodolph yielded to the earnest
solicitations of Miss Amelia Martin, and introduced her personally to the
‘comic gentleman’ whose benefit it was.  The comic gentleman was all
smiles and blandness—he had composed a duet, expressly for the occasion,
and Miss Martin should sing it with him.  The night arrived; there was an
immense room—ninety-seven sixpenn’orths of gin-and-water, thirty-two
small glasses of brandy-and-water, five-and-twenty bottled ales, and
forty-one neguses; and the ornamental painter’s journeyman, with his wife
and a select circle of acquaintance, were seated at one of the
side-tables near the orchestra.  The concert began.  Song—sentimental—by
a light-haired young gentleman in a blue coat, and bright basket
buttons—[applause].  Another song, doubtful, by another gentleman in
another blue coat and more bright basket buttons—[increased applause].
Duet, Mr. Jennings Rodolph, and Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, ‘Red Ruffian,
retire!’—[great applause].  Solo, Miss Julia Montague (positively on this
occasion only)—‘I am a Friar’—[enthusiasm].  Original duet, comic—Mr. H.
Taplin (the comic gentleman) and Miss Martin—‘The Time of Day.’
‘Brayvo!—Brayvo!’ cried the ornamental painter’s journeyman’s party, as
Miss Martin was gracefully led in by the comic gentleman.  ‘Go to work,
Harry,’ cried the comic gentleman’s personal friends.  ‘Tap-tap-tap,’
went the leader’s bow on the music-desk.  The symphony began, and was
soon afterwards followed by a faint kind of ventriloquial chirping,
proceeding apparently from the deepest recesses of the interior of Miss
Amelia Martin.  ‘Sing out’—shouted one gentleman in a white great-coat.
‘Don’t be afraid to put the steam on, old gal,’ exclaimed another,
‘S-s-s-s-s-s-s’-went the five-and-twenty bottled ales.  ‘Shame, shame!’
remonstrated the ornamental painter’s journeyman’s party—‘S-s-s-s’ went
the bottled ales again, accompanied by all the gins, and a majority of
the brandies.

‘Turn them geese out,’ cried the ornamental painter’s journeyman’s party,
with great indignation.

‘Sing out,’ whispered Mr. Jennings Rodolph.

‘So I do,’ responded Miss Amelia Martin.

‘Sing louder,’ said Mrs. Jennings Rodolph.

‘I can’t,’ replied Miss Amelia Martin.

‘Off, off, off,’ cried the rest of the audience.

‘Bray-vo!’ shouted the painter’s party.  It wouldn’t do—Miss Amelia
Martin left the orchestra, with much less ceremony than she had entered
it; and, as she couldn’t sing out, never came out.  The general good
humour was not restored until Mr. Jennings Rodolph had become purple in
the face, by imitating divers quadrupeds for half an hour, without being
able to render himself audible; and, to this day, neither has Miss Amelia
Martin’s good humour been restored, nor the dresses made for and
presented to Mrs. Jennings Rodolph, nor the local abilities which Mr.
Jennings Rodolph once staked his professional reputation that Miss Martin
possessed.



CHAPTER IX—THE DANCING ACADEMY


Of all the dancing academies that ever were established, there never was
one more popular in its immediate vicinity than Signor Billsmethi’s, of
the ‘King’s Theatre.’  It was not in Spring-gardens, or Newman-street, or
Berners-street, or Gower-street, or Charlotte-street, or Percy-street, or
any other of the numerous streets which have been devoted time out of
mind to professional people, dispensaries, and boarding-houses; it was
not in the West-end at all—it rather approximated to the eastern portion
of London, being situated in the populous and improving neighbourhood of
Gray’s-inn-lane.  It was not a dear dancing academy—four-and-sixpence a
quarter is decidedly cheap upon the whole.  It was _very_ select, the
number of pupils being strictly limited to seventy-five, and a quarter’s
payment in advance being rigidly exacted.  There was public tuition and
private tuition—an assembly-room and a parlour.  Signor Billsmethi’s
family were always thrown in with the parlour, and included in parlour
price; that is to say, a private pupil had Signor Billsmethi’s parlour to
dance _in_, and Signor Billsmethi’s family to dance _with_; and when he
had been sufficiently broken in in the parlour, he began to run in
couples in the assembly-room.

Such was the dancing academy of Signor Billsmethi, when Mr. Augustus
Cooper, of Fetter-lane, first saw an unstamped advertisement walking
leisurely down Holborn-hill, announcing to the world that Signor
Billsmethi, of the King’s Theatre, intended opening for the season with a
Grand Ball.

Now, Mr. Augustus Cooper was in the oil and colour line—just of age, with
a little money, a little business, and a little mother, who, having
managed her husband and _his_ business in his lifetime, took to managing
her son and _his_ business after his decease; and so, somehow or other,
he had been cooped up in the little back parlour behind the shop on
week-days, and in a little deal box without a lid (called by courtesy a
pew) at Bethel Chapel, on Sundays, and had seen no more of the world than
if he had been an infant all his days; whereas Young White, at the
gas-fitter’s over the way, three years younger than him, had been flaring
away like winkin’—going to the theatre—supping at harmonic
meetings—eating oysters by the barrel—drinking stout by the gallon—even
out all night, and coming home as cool in the morning as if nothing had
happened.  So Mr. Augustus Cooper made up his mind that he would not
stand it any longer, and had that very morning expressed to his mother a
firm determination to be ‘blowed,’ in the event of his not being
instantly provided with a street-door key.  And he was walking down
Holborn-hill, thinking about all these things, and wondering how he could
manage to get introduced into genteel society for the first time, when
his eyes rested on Signor Billsmethi’s announcement, which it immediately
struck him was just the very thing he wanted; for he should not only be
able to select a genteel circle of acquaintance at once, out of the
five-and-seventy pupils at four-and-sixpence a quarter, but should
qualify himself at the same time to go through a hornpipe in private
society, with perfect ease to himself and great delight to his friends.
So, he stopped the unstamped advertisement—an animated sandwich, composed
of a boy between two boards—and having procured a very small card with
the Signor’s address indented thereon, walked straight at once to the
Signor’s house—and very fast he walked too, for fear the list should be
filled up, and the five-and-seventy completed, before he got there.  The
Signor was at home, and, what was still more gratifying, he was an
Englishman!  Such a nice man—and so polite!  The list was not full, but
it was a most extraordinary circumstance that there was only just one
vacancy, and even that one would have been filled up, that very morning,
only Signor Billsmethi was dissatisfied with the reference, and, being
very much afraid that the lady wasn’t select, wouldn’t take her.

‘And very much delighted I am, Mr. Cooper,’ said Signor Billsmethi, ‘that
I did _not_ take her.  I assure you, Mr. Cooper—I don’t say it to flatter
you, for I know you’re above it—that I consider myself extremely
fortunate in having a gentleman of your manners and appearance, sir.’

‘I am very glad of it too, sir,’ said Augustus Cooper.

‘And I hope we shall be better acquainted, sir,’ said Signor Billsmethi.

‘And I’m sure I hope we shall too, sir,’ responded Augustus Cooper.  Just
then, the door opened, and in came a young lady, with her hair curled in
a crop all over her head, and her shoes tied in sandals all over her
ankles.

‘Don’t run away, my dear,’ said Signor Billsmethi; for the young lady
didn’t know Mr. Cooper was there when she ran in, and was going to run
out again in her modesty, all in confusion-like.  ‘Don’t run away, my
dear,’ said Signor Billsmethi, ‘this is Mr. Cooper—Mr. Cooper, of
Fetter-lane.  Mr. Cooper, my daughter, sir—Miss Billsmethi, sir, who I
hope will have the pleasure of dancing many a quadrille, minuet, gavotte,
country-dance, fandango, double-hornpipe, and farinagholkajingo with you,
sir.  She dances them all, sir; and so shall you, sir, before you’re a
quarter older, sir.’

And Signor Bellsmethi slapped Mr. Augustus Cooper on the back, as if he
had known him a dozen years,—so friendly;—and Mr. Cooper bowed to the
young lady, and the young lady curtseyed to him, and Signor Billsmethi
said they were as handsome a pair as ever he’d wish to see; upon which
the young lady exclaimed, ‘Lor, pa!’ and blushed as red as Mr. Cooper
himself—you might have thought they were both standing under a red lamp
at a chemist’s shop; and before Mr. Cooper went away it was settled that
he should join the family circle that very night—taking them just as they
were—no ceremony nor nonsense of that kind—and learn his positions in
order that he might lose no time, and be able to come out at the
forthcoming ball.

Well; Mr. Augustus Cooper went away to one of the cheap shoemakers’ shops
in Holborn, where gentlemen’s dress-pumps are seven-and-sixpence, and
men’s strong walking just nothing at all, and bought a pair of the
regular seven-and-sixpenny, long-quartered, town-mades, in which he
astonished himself quite as much as his mother, and sallied forth to
Signor Billsmethi’s.  There were four other private pupils in the
parlour: two ladies and two gentlemen.  Such nice people!  Not a bit of
pride about them.  One of the ladies in particular, who was in training
for a Columbine, was remarkably affable; and she and Miss Billsmethi took
such an interest in Mr. Augustus Cooper, and joked, and smiled, and
looked so bewitching, that he got quite at home, and learnt his steps in
no time.  After the practising was over, Signor Billsmethi, and Miss
Billsmethi, and Master Billsmethi, and a young lady, and the two ladies,
and the two gentlemen, danced a quadrille—none of your slipping and
sliding about, but regular warm work, flying into corners, and diving
among chairs, and shooting out at the door,—something like dancing!
Signor Billsmethi in particular, notwithstanding his having a little
fiddle to play all the time, was out on the landing every figure, and
Master Billsmethi, when everybody else was breathless, danced a hornpipe,
with a cane in his hand, and a cheese-plate on his head, to the
unqualified admiration of the whole company.  Then, Signor Billsmethi
insisted, as they were so happy, that they should all stay to supper, and
proposed sending Master Billsmethi for the beer and spirits, whereupon
the two gentlemen swore, ‘strike ’em wulgar if they’d stand that;’ and
were just going to quarrel who should pay for it, when Mr. Augustus
Cooper said he would, if they’d have the kindness to allow him—and they
_had_ the kindness to allow him; and Master Billsmethi brought the beer
in a can, and the rum in a quart pot.  They had a regular night of it;
and Miss Billsmethi squeezed Mr. Augustus Cooper’s hand under the table;
and Mr. Augustus Cooper returned the squeeze, and returned home too, at
something to six o’clock in the morning, when he was put to bed by main
force by the apprentice, after repeatedly expressing an uncontrollable
desire to pitch his revered parent out of the second-floor window, and to
throttle the apprentice with his own neck-handkerchief.

Weeks had worn on, and the seven-and-sixpenny town-mades had nearly worn
out, when the night arrived for the grand dress-ball at which the whole
of the five-and-seventy pupils were to meet together, for the first time
that season, and to take out some portion of their respective
four-and-sixpences in lamp-oil and fiddlers.  Mr. Augustus Cooper had
ordered a new coat for the occasion—a two-pound-tenner from Turnstile.
It was his first appearance in public; and, after a grand Sicilian
shawl-dance by fourteen young ladies in character, he was to open the
quadrille department with Miss Billsmethi herself, with whom he had
become quite intimate since his first introduction.  It _was_ a night!
Everything was admirably arranged.  The sandwich-boy took the hats and
bonnets at the street-door; there was a turn-up bedstead in the back
parlour, on which Miss Billsmethi made tea and coffee for such of the
gentlemen as chose to pay for it, and such of the ladies as the gentlemen
treated; red port-wine negus and lemonade were handed round at
eighteen-pence a head; and in pursuance of a previous engagement with the
public-house at the corner of the street, an extra potboy was laid on for
the occasion.  In short, nothing could exceed the arrangements, except
the company.  Such ladies!  Such pink silk stockings!  Such artificial
flowers!  Such a number of cabs!  No sooner had one cab set down a couple
of ladies, than another cab drove up and set down another couple of
ladies, and they all knew: not only one another, but the majority of the
gentlemen into the bargain, which made it all as pleasant and lively as
could be.  Signor Billsmethi, in black tights, with a large blue bow in
his buttonhole, introduced the ladies to such of the gentlemen as were
strangers: and the ladies talked away—and laughed they did—it was
delightful to see them.

As to the shawl-dance, it was the most exciting thing that ever was
beheld; there was such a whisking, and rustling, and fanning, and getting
ladies into a tangle with artificial flowers, and then disentangling them
again!  And as to Mr. Augustus Cooper’s share in the quadrille, he got
through it admirably.  He was missing from his partner, now and then,
certainly, and discovered on such occasions to be either dancing with
laudable perseverance in another set, or sliding about in perspective,
without any definite object; but, generally speaking, they managed to
shove him through the figure, until he turned up in the right place.  Be
this as it may, when he had finished, a great many ladies and gentlemen
came up and complimented him very much, and said they had never seen a
beginner do anything like it before; and Mr. Augustus Cooper was
perfectly satisfied with himself, and everybody else into the bargain;
and ‘stood’ considerable quantities of spirits-and-water, negus, and
compounds, for the use and behoof of two or three dozen very particular
friends, selected from the select circle of five-and-seventy pupils.

Now, whether it was the strength of the compounds, or the beauty of the
ladies, or what not, it did so happen that Mr. Augustus Cooper
encouraged, rather than repelled, the very flattering attentions of a
young lady in brown gauze over white calico who had appeared particularly
struck with him from the first; and when the encouragements had been
prolonged for some time, Miss Billsmethi betrayed her spite and jealousy
thereat by calling the young lady in brown gauze a ‘creeter,’ which
induced the young lady in brown gauze to retort, in certain sentences
containing a taunt founded on the payment of four-and-sixpence a quarter,
which reference Mr. Augustus Cooper, being then and there in a state of
considerable bewilderment, expressed his entire concurrence in.  Miss
Billsmethi, thus renounced, forthwith began screaming in the loudest key
of her voice, at the rate of fourteen screams a minute; and being
unsuccessful, in an onslaught on the eyes and face, first of the lady in
gauze and then of Mr. Augustus Cooper, called distractedly on the other
three-and-seventy pupils to furnish her with oxalic acid for her own
private drinking; and, the call not being honoured, made another rush at
Mr. Cooper, and then had her stay-lace cut, and was carried off to bed.
Mr. Augustus Cooper, not being remarkable for quickness of apprehension,
was at a loss to understand what all this meant, until Signor Billsmethi
explained it in a most satisfactory manner, by stating to the pupils,
that Mr. Augustus Cooper had made and confirmed divers promises of
marriage to his daughter on divers occasions, and had now basely deserted
her; on which, the indignation of the pupils became universal; and as
several chivalrous gentlemen inquired rather pressingly of Mr. Augustus
Cooper, whether he required anything for his own use, or, in other words,
whether he ‘wanted anything for himself,’ he deemed it prudent to make a
precipitate retreat.  And the upshot of the matter was, that a lawyer’s
letter came next day, and an action was commenced next week; and that Mr.
Augustus Cooper, after walking twice to the Serpentine for the purpose of
drowning himself, and coming twice back without doing it, made a
confidante of his mother, who compromised the matter with twenty pounds
from the till: which made twenty pounds four shillings and sixpence paid
to Signor Billsmethi, exclusive of treats and pumps.  And Mr. Augustus
Cooper went back and lived with his mother, and there he lives to this
day; and as he has lost his ambition for society, and never goes into the
world, he will never see this account of himself, and will never be any
the wiser.



CHAPTER X—SHABBY-GENTEEL PEOPLE


There are certain descriptions of people who, oddly enough, appear to
appertain exclusively to the metropolis.  You meet them, every day, in
the streets of London, but no one ever encounters them elsewhere; they
seem indigenous to the soil, and to belong as exclusively to London as
its own smoke, or the dingy bricks and mortar.  We could illustrate the
remark by a variety of examples, but, in our present sketch, we will only
advert to one class as a specimen—that class which is so aptly and
expressively designated as ‘shabby-genteel.’

Now, shabby people, God knows, may be found anywhere, and genteel people
are not articles of greater scarcity out of London than in it; but this
compound of the two—this shabby-gentility—is as purely local as the
statue at Charing-cross, or the pump at Aldgate.  It is worthy of remark,
too, that only men are shabby-genteel; a woman is always either dirty and
slovenly in the extreme, or neat and respectable, however
poverty-stricken in appearance.  A very poor man, ‘who has seen better
days,’ as the phrase goes, is a strange compound of dirty-slovenliness
and wretched attempts at faded smartness.

We will endeavour to explain our conception of the term which forms the
title of this paper.  If you meet a man, lounging up Drury-Lane, or
leaning with his back against a post in Long-acre, with his hands in the
pockets of a pair of drab trousers plentifully besprinkled with
grease-spots: the trousers made very full over the boots, and ornamented
with two cords down the outside of each leg—wearing, also, what has been
a brown coat with bright buttons, and a hat very much pinched up at the
side, cocked over his right eye—don’t pity him.  He is not
shabby-genteel.  The ‘harmonic meetings’ at some fourth-rate
public-house, or the purlieus of a private theatre, are his chosen
haunts; he entertains a rooted antipathy to any kind of work, and is on
familiar terms with several pantomime men at the large houses.  But, if
you see hurrying along a by-street, keeping as close as he can to the
area-railings, a man of about forty or fifty, clad in an old rusty suit
of threadbare black cloth which shines with constant wear as if it had
been bees-waxed—the trousers tightly strapped down, partly for the look
of the thing and partly to keep his old shoes from slipping off at the
heels,—if you observe, too, that his yellowish-white neckerchief is
carefully pinned up, to conceal the tattered garment underneath, and that
his hands are encased in the remains of an old pair of beaver gloves, you
may set him down as a shabby-genteel man.  A glance at that depressed
face, and timorous air of conscious poverty, will make your heart
ache—always supposing that you are neither a philosopher nor a political
economist.

We were once haunted by a shabby-genteel man; he was bodily present to
our senses all day, and he was in our mind’s eye all night.  The man of
whom Sir Walter Scott speaks in his Demonology, did not suffer half the
persecution from his imaginary gentleman-usher in black velvet, that we
sustained from our friend in quondam black cloth.  He first attracted our
notice, by sitting opposite to us in the reading-room at the British
Museum; and what made the man more remarkable was, that he always had
before him a couple of shabby-genteel books—two old dog’s-eared folios,
in mouldy worm-eaten covers, which had once been smart.  He was in his
chair, every morning, just as the clock struck ten; he was always the
last to leave the room in the afternoon; and when he did, he quitted it
with the air of a man who knew not where else to go, for warmth and
quiet.  There he used to sit all day, as close to the table as possible,
in order to conceal the lack of buttons on his coat: with his old hat
carefully deposited at his feet, where he evidently flattered himself it
escaped observation.

About two o’clock, you would see him munching a French roll or a penny
loaf; not taking it boldly out of his pocket at once, like a man who knew
he was only making a lunch; but breaking off little bits in his pocket,
and eating them by stealth.  He knew too well it was his dinner.

When we first saw this poor object, we thought it quite impossible that
his attire could ever become worse.  We even went so far, as to speculate
on the possibility of his shortly appearing in a decent second-hand suit.
We knew nothing about the matter; he grew more and more shabby-genteel
every day.  The buttons dropped off his waistcoat, one by one; then, he
buttoned his coat; and when one side of the coat was reduced to the same
condition as the waistcoat, he buttoned it over—on the other side.  He
looked somewhat better at the beginning of the week than at the
conclusion, because the neckerchief, though yellow, was not quite so
dingy; and, in the midst of all this wretchedness, he never appeared
without gloves and straps.  He remained in this state for a week or two.
At length, one of the buttons on the back of the coat fell off, and then
the man himself disappeared, and we thought he was dead.

We were sitting at the same table about a week after his disappearance,
and as our eyes rested on his vacant chair, we insensibly fell into a
train of meditation on the subject of his retirement from public life.
We were wondering whether he had hung himself, or thrown himself off a
bridge—whether he really was dead or had only been arrested—when our
conjectures were suddenly set at rest by the entry of the man himself.
He had undergone some strange metamorphosis, and walked up the centre of
the room with an air which showed he was fully conscious of the
improvement in his appearance.  It was very odd.  His clothes were a
fine, deep, glossy black; and yet they looked like the same suit; nay,
there were the very darns with which old acquaintance had made us
familiar.  The hat, too—nobody could mistake the shape of that hat, with
its high crown gradually increasing in circumference towards the top.
Long service had imparted to it a reddish-brown tint; but, now, it was as
black as the coat.  The truth flashed suddenly upon us—they had been
‘revived.’  It is a deceitful liquid that black and blue reviver; we have
watched its effects on many a shabby-genteel man.  It betrays its victims
into a temporary assumption of importance: possibly into the purchase of
a new pair of gloves, or a cheap stock, or some other trifling article of
dress.  It elevates their spirits for a week, only to depress them, if
possible, below their original level.  It was so in this case; the
transient dignity of the unhappy man decreased, in exact proportion as
the ‘reviver’ wore off.  The knees of the unmentionables, and the elbows
of the coat, and the seams generally, soon began to get alarmingly white.
The hat was once more deposited under the table, and its owner crept into
his seat as quietly as ever.

There was a week of incessant small rain and mist.  At its expiration the
‘reviver’ had entirely vanished, and the shabby-genteel man never
afterwards attempted to effect any improvement in his outward appearance.

It would be difficult to name any particular part of town as the
principal resort of shabby-genteel men.  We have met a great many persons
of this description in the neighbourhood of the inns of court.  They may
be met with, in Holborn, between eight and ten any morning; and whoever
has the curiosity to enter the Insolvent Debtors’ Court will observe,
both among spectators and practitioners, a great variety of them.  We
never went on ‘Change, by any chance, without seeing some shabby-genteel
men, and we have often wondered what earthly business they can have
there.  They will sit there, for hours, leaning on great, dropsical,
mildewed umbrellas, or eating Abernethy biscuits.  Nobody speaks to them,
nor they to any one.  On consideration, we remember to have occasionally
seen two shabby-genteel men conversing together on ‘Change, but our
experience assures us that this is an uncommon circumstance, occasioned
by the offer of a pinch of snuff, or some such civility.

It would be a task of equal difficulty, either to assign any particular
spot for the residence of these beings, or to endeavour to enumerate
their general occupations.  We were never engaged in business with more
than one shabby-genteel man; and he was a drunken engraver, and lived in
a damp back-parlour in a new row of houses at Camden-town, half street,
half brick-field, somewhere near the canal.  A shabby-genteel man may
have no occupation, or he may be a corn agent, or a coal agent, or a wine
merchant, or a collector of debts, or a broker’s assistant, or a
broken-down attorney.  He may be a clerk of the lowest description, or a
contributor to the press of the same grade.  Whether our readers have
noticed these men, in their walks, as often as we have, we know not; this
we know—that the miserably poor man (no matter whether he owes his
distresses to his own conduct, or that of others) who feels his poverty
and vainly strives to conceal it, is one of the most pitiable objects in
human nature.  Such objects, with few exceptions, are shabby-genteel
people.



CHAPTER XI—MAKING A NIGHT OF IT


Damon and Pythias were undoubtedly very good fellows in their way: the
former for his extreme readiness to put in special bail for a friend: and
the latter for a certain trump-like punctuality in turning up just in the
very nick of time, scarcely less remarkable.  Many points in their
character have, however, grown obsolete.  Damons are rather hard to find,
in these days of imprisonment for debt (except the sham ones, and they
cost half-a-crown); and, as to the Pythiases, the few that have existed
in these degenerate times, have had an unfortunate knack of making
themselves scarce, at the very moment when their appearance would have
been strictly classical.  If the actions of these heroes, however, can
find no parallel in modern times, their friendship can.  We have Damon
and Pythias on the one hand.  We have Potter and Smithers on the other;
and, lest the two last-mentioned names should never have reached the ears
of our unenlightened readers, we can do no better than make them
acquainted with the owners thereof.

Mr. Thomas Potter, then, was a clerk in the city, and Mr. Robert Smithers
was a ditto in the same; their incomes were limited, but their friendship
was unbounded.  They lived in the same street, walked into town every
morning at the same hour, dined at the same slap-bang every day, and
revelled in each other’s company very night.  They were knit together by
the closest ties of intimacy and friendship, or, as Mr. Thomas Potter
touchingly observed, they were ‘thick-and-thin pals, and nothing but it.’
There was a spice of romance in Mr. Smithers’s disposition, a ray of
poetry, a gleam of misery, a sort of consciousness of he didn’t exactly
know what, coming across him he didn’t precisely know why—which stood out
in fine relief against the off-hand, dashing,
amateur-pickpocket-sort-of-manner, which distinguished Mr. Potter in an
eminent degree.

The peculiarity of their respective dispositions, extended itself to
their individual costume.  Mr. Smithers generally appeared in public in a
surtout and shoes, with a narrow black neckerchief and a brown hat, very
much turned up at the sides—peculiarities which Mr. Potter wholly
eschewed, for it was his ambition to do something in the celebrated
‘kiddy’ or stage-coach way, and he had even gone so far as to invest
capital in the purchase of a rough blue coat with wooden buttons, made
upon the fireman’s principle, in which, with the addition of a
low-crowned, flower-pot-saucer-shaped hat, he had created no
inconsiderable sensation at the Albion in Little Russell-street, and
divers other places of public and fashionable resort.

Mr. Potter and Mr. Smithers had mutually agreed that, on the receipt of
their quarter’s salary, they would jointly and in company ‘spend the
evening’—an evident misnomer—the spending applying, as everybody knows,
not to the evening itself but to all the money the individual may chance
to be possessed of, on the occasion to which reference is made; and they
had likewise agreed that, on the evening aforesaid, they would ‘make a
night of it’—an expressive term, implying the borrowing of several hours
from to-morrow morning, adding them to the night before, and
manufacturing a compound night of the whole.

The quarter-day arrived at last—we say at last, because quarter-days are
as eccentric as comets: moving wonderfully quick when you have a good
deal to pay, and marvellously slow when you have a little to receive.
Mr. Thomas Potter and Mr. Robert Smithers met by appointment to begin the
evening with a dinner; and a nice, snug, comfortable dinner they had,
consisting of a little procession of four chops and four kidneys,
following each other, supported on either side by a pot of the real
draught stout, and attended by divers cushions of bread, and wedges of
cheese.

When the cloth was removed, Mr. Thomas Potter ordered the waiter to bring
in, two goes of his best Scotch whiskey, with warm water and sugar, and a
couple of his ‘very mildest’ Havannahs, which the waiter did.  Mr. Thomas
Potter mixed his grog, and lighted his cigar; Mr. Robert Smithers did the
same; and then, Mr. Thomas Potter jocularly proposed as the first toast,
‘the abolition of all offices whatever’ (not sinecures, but
counting-houses), which was immediately drunk by Mr. Robert Smithers,
with enthusiastic applause.  So they went on, talking politics, puffing
cigars, and sipping whiskey-and-water, until the ‘goes’—most
appropriately so called—were both gone, which Mr. Robert Smithers
perceiving, immediately ordered in two more goes of the best Scotch
whiskey, and two more of the very mildest Havannahs; and the goes kept
coming in, and the mild Havannahs kept going out, until, what with the
drinking, and lighting, and puffing, and the stale ashes on the table,
and the tallow-grease on the cigars, Mr. Robert Smithers began to doubt
the mildness of the Havannahs, and to feel very much as if he had been
sitting in a hackney-coach with his back to the horses.

As to Mr. Thomas Potter, he _would_ keep laughing out loud, and
volunteering inarticulate declarations that he was ‘all right;’ in proof
of which, he feebly bespoke the evening paper after the next gentleman,
but finding it a matter of some difficulty to discover any news in its
columns, or to ascertain distinctly whether it had any columns at all,
walked slowly out to look for the moon, and, after coming back quite pale
with looking up at the sky so long, and attempting to express mirth at
Mr. Robert Smithers having fallen asleep, by various galvanic chuckles,
laid his head on his arm, and went to sleep also.  When he awoke again,
Mr. Robert Smithers awoke too, and they both very gravely agreed that it
was extremely unwise to eat so many pickled walnuts with the chops, as it
was a notorious fact that they always made people queer and sleepy;
indeed, if it had not been for the whiskey and cigars, there was no
knowing what harm they mightn’t have done ’em.  So they took some coffee,
and after paying the bill,—twelve and twopence the dinner, and the odd
tenpence for the waiter—thirteen shillings in all—started out on their
expedition to manufacture a night.

It was just half-past eight, so they thought they couldn’t do better than
go at half-price to the slips at the City Theatre, which they did
accordingly.  Mr. Robert Smithers, who had become extremely poetical
after the settlement of the bill, enlivening the walk by informing Mr.
Thomas Potter in confidence that he felt an inward presentiment of
approaching dissolution, and subsequently embellishing the theatre, by
falling asleep with his head and both arms gracefully drooping over the
front of the boxes.

Such was the quiet demeanour of the unassuming Smithers, and such were
the happy effects of Scotch whiskey and Havannahs on that interesting
person!  But Mr. Thomas Potter, whose great aim it was to be considered
as a ‘knowing card,’ a ‘fast-goer,’ and so forth, conducted himself in a
very different manner, and commenced going very fast indeed—rather too
fast at last, for the patience of the audience to keep pace with him.  On
his first entry, he contented himself by earnestly calling upon the
gentlemen in the gallery to ‘flare up,’ accompanying the demand with
another request, expressive of his wish that they would instantaneously
‘form a union,’ both which requisitions were responded to, in the manner
most in vogue on such occasions.

‘Give that dog a bone!’ cried one gentleman in his shirt-sleeves.

‘Where have you been a having half a pint of intermediate beer?’ cried a
second.  ‘Tailor!’ screamed a third.  ‘Barber’s clerk!’ shouted a fourth.
‘Throw him O—VER!’ roared a fifth; while numerous voices concurred in
desiring Mr. Thomas Potter to ‘go home to his mother!’  All these taunts
Mr. Thomas Potter received with supreme contempt, cocking the low-crowned
hat a little more on one side, whenever any reference was made to his
personal appearance, and, standing up with his arms a-kimbo, expressing
defiance melodramatically.

The overture—to which these various sounds had been an _ad libitum_
accompaniment—concluded, the second piece began, and Mr. Thomas Potter,
emboldened by impunity, proceeded to behave in a most unprecedented and
outrageous manner.  First of all, he imitated the shake of the principal
female singer; then, groaned at the blue fire; then, affected to be
frightened into convulsions of terror at the appearance of the ghost;
and, lastly, not only made a running commentary, in an audible voice,
upon the dialogue on the stage, but actually awoke Mr. Robert Smithers,
who, hearing his companion making a noise, and having a very indistinct
notion where he was, or what was required of him, immediately, by way of
imitating a good example, set up the most unearthly, unremitting, and
appalling howling that ever audience heard.  It was too much.  ‘Turn them
out!’ was the general cry.  A noise, as of shuffling of feet, and men
being knocked up with violence against wainscoting, was heard: a hurried
dialogue of ‘Come out?’—‘I won’t!’—‘You shall!’—‘I shan’t!’—‘Give me your
card, Sir?’—‘You’re a scoundrel, Sir!’ and so forth, succeeded.  A round
of applause betokened the approbation of the audience, and Mr. Robert
Smithers and Mr. Thomas Potter found themselves shot with astonishing
swiftness into the road, without having had the trouble of once putting
foot to ground during the whole progress of their rapid descent.

Mr. Robert Smithers, being constitutionally one of the slow-goers, and
having had quite enough of fast-going, in the course of his recent
expulsion, to last until the quarter-day then next ensuing at the very
least, had no sooner emerged with his companion from the precincts of
Milton-street, than he proceeded to indulge in circuitous references to
the beauties of sleep, mingled with distant allusions to the propriety of
returning to Islington, and testing the influence of their patent Bramahs
over the street-door locks to which they respectively belonged.  Mr.
Thomas Potter, however, was valorous and peremptory.  They had come out
to make a night of it: and a night must be made.  So Mr. Robert Smithers,
who was three parts dull, and the other dismal, despairingly assented;
and they went into a wine-vaults, to get materials for assisting them in
making a night; where they found a good many young ladies, and various
old gentlemen, and a plentiful sprinkling of hackney-coachmen and
cab-drivers, all drinking and talking together; and Mr. Thomas Potter and
Mr. Robert Smithers drank small glasses of brandy, and large glasses of
soda, until they began to have a very confused idea, either of things in
general, or of anything in particular; and, when they had done treating
themselves they began to treat everybody else; and the rest of the
entertainment was a confused mixture of heads and heels, black eyes and
blue uniforms, mud and gas-lights, thick doors, and stone paving.

Then, as standard novelists expressively inform us—‘all was a blank!’ and
in the morning the blank was filled up with the words ‘STATION-HOUSE,’
and the station-house was filled up with Mr. Thomas Potter, Mr. Robert
Smithers, and the major part of their wine-vault companions of the
preceding night, with a comparatively small portion of clothing of any
kind.  And it was disclosed at the Police-office, to the indignation of
the Bench, and the astonishment of the spectators, how one Robert
Smithers, aided and abetted by one Thomas Potter, had knocked down and
beaten, in divers streets, at different times, five men, four boys, and
three women; how the said Thomas Potter had feloniously obtained
possession of five door-knockers, two bell-handles, and a bonnet; how
Robert Smithers, his friend, had sworn, at least forty pounds’ worth of
oaths, at the rate of five shillings apiece; terrified whole streets full
of Her Majesty’s subjects with awful shrieks and alarms of fire;
destroyed the uniforms of five policemen; and committed various other
atrocities, too numerous to recapitulate.  And the magistrate, after an
appropriate reprimand, fined Mr. Thomas Potter and Mr. Thomas Smithers
five shillings each, for being, what the law vulgarly terms, drunk; and
thirty-four pounds for seventeen assaults at forty shillings a-head, with
liberty to speak to the prosecutors.

The prosecutors _were_ spoken to, and Messrs. Potter and Smithers lived
on credit, for a quarter, as best they might; and, although the
prosecutors expressed their readiness to be assaulted twice a week, on
the same terms, they have never since been detected in ‘making a night of
it.’



CHAPTER XII—THE PRISONERS’ VAN


We were passing the corner of Bow-street, on our return from a lounging
excursion the other afternoon, when a crowd, assembled round the door of
the Police-office, attracted our attention.  We turned up the street
accordingly.  There were thirty or forty people, standing on the pavement
and half across the road; and a few stragglers were patiently stationed
on the opposite side of the way—all evidently waiting in expectation of
some arrival.  We waited too, a few minutes, but nothing occurred; so, we
turned round to an unshorn, sallow-looking cobbler, who was standing next
us with his hands under the bib of his apron, and put the usual question
of ‘What’s the matter?’  The cobbler eyed us from head to foot, with
superlative contempt, and laconically replied ‘Nuffin.’

Now, we were perfectly aware that if two men stop in the street to look
at any given object, or even to gaze in the air, two hundred men will be
assembled in no time; but, as we knew very well that no crowd of people
could by possibility remain in a street for five minutes without getting
up a little amusement among themselves, unless they had some absorbing
object in view, the natural inquiry next in order was, ‘What are all
these people waiting here for?’—‘Her Majesty’s carriage,’ replied the
cobbler.  This was still more extraordinary.  We could not imagine what
earthly business Her Majesty’s carriage could have at the Public Office,
Bow-street.  We were beginning to ruminate on the possible causes of such
an uncommon appearance, when a general exclamation from all the boys in
the crowd of ‘Here’s the wan!’ caused us to raise our heads, and look up
the street.

The covered vehicle, in which prisoners are conveyed from the
police-offices to the different prisons, was coming along at full speed.
It then occurred to us, for the first time, that Her Majesty’s carriage
was merely another name for the prisoners’ van, conferred upon it, not
only by reason of the superior gentility of the term, but because the
aforesaid van is maintained at Her Majesty’s expense: having been
originally started for the exclusive accommodation of ladies and
gentlemen under the necessity of visiting the various houses of call
known by the general denomination of ‘Her Majesty’s Gaols.’

The van drew up at the office-door, and the people thronged round the
steps, just leaving a little alley for the prisoners to pass through.
Our friend the cobbler, and the other stragglers, crossed over, and we
followed their example.  The driver, and another man who had been seated
by his side in front of the vehicle, dismounted, and were admitted into
the office.  The office-door was closed after them, and the crowd were on
the tiptoe of expectation.

After a few minutes’ delay, the door again opened, and the two first
prisoners appeared.  They were a couple of girls, of whom the elder—could
not be more than sixteen, and the younger of whom had certainly not
attained her fourteenth year.  That they were sisters, was evident, from
the resemblance which still subsisted between them, though two additional
years of depravity had fixed their brand upon the elder girl’s features,
as legibly as if a red-hot iron had seared them.  They were both gaudily
dressed, the younger one especially; and, although there was a strong
similarity between them in both respects, which was rendered the more
obvious by their being handcuffed together, it is impossible to conceive
a greater contrast than the demeanour of the two presented.  The younger
girl was weeping bitterly—not for display, or in the hope of producing
effect, but for very shame: her face was buried in her handkerchief: and
her whole manner was but too expressive of bitter and unavailing sorrow.

‘How long are you for, Emily?’ screamed a red-faced woman in the crowd.
‘Six weeks and labour,’ replied the elder girl with a flaunting laugh;
‘and that’s better than the stone jug anyhow; the mill’s a deal better
than the Sessions, and here’s Bella a-going too for the first time.  Hold
up your head, you chicken,’ she continued, boisterously tearing the other
girl’s handkerchief away; ‘Hold up your head, and show ’em your face.  I
an’t jealous, but I’m blessed if I an’t game!’—‘That’s right, old gal,’
exclaimed a man in a paper cap, who, in common with the greater part of
the crowd, had been inexpressibly delighted with this little
incident.—‘Right!’ replied the girl; ‘ah, to be sure; what’s the odds,
eh?’—‘Come!  In with you,’ interrupted the driver.  ‘Don’t you be in a
hurry, coachman,’ replied the girl, ‘and recollect I want to be set down
in Cold Bath Fields—large house with a high garden-wall in front; you
can’t mistake it.  Hallo.  Bella, where are you going to—you’ll pull my
precious arm off?’  This was addressed to the younger girl, who, in her
anxiety to hide herself in the caravan, had ascended the steps first, and
forgotten the strain upon the handcuff.  ‘Come down, and let’s show you
the way.’  And after jerking the miserable girl down with a force which
made her stagger on the pavement, she got into the vehicle, and was
followed by her wretched companion.

These two girls had been thrown upon London streets, their vices and
debauchery, by a sordid and rapacious mother.  What the younger girl was
then, the elder had been once; and what the elder then was, the younger
must soon become.  A melancholy prospect, but how surely to be realised;
a tragic drama, but how often acted!  Turn to the prisons and police
offices of London—nay, look into the very streets themselves.  These
things pass before our eyes, day after day, and hour after hour—they have
become such matters of course, that they are utterly disregarded.  The
progress of these girls in crime will be as rapid as the flight of a
pestilence, resembling it too in its baneful influence and wide-spreading
infection.  Step by step, how many wretched females, within the sphere of
every man’s observation, have become involved in a career of vice,
frightful to contemplate; hopeless at its commencement, loathsome and
repulsive in its course; friendless, forlorn, and unpitied, at its
miserable conclusion!

There were other prisoners—boys of ten, as hardened in vice as men of
fifty—a houseless vagrant, going joyfully to prison as a place of food
and shelter, handcuffed to a man whose prospects were ruined, character
lost, and family rendered destitute, by his first offence.  Our
curiosity, however, was satisfied.  The first group had left an
impression on our mind we would gladly have avoided, and would willingly
have effaced.

The crowd dispersed; the vehicle rolled away with its load of guilt and
misfortune; and we saw no more of the Prisoners’ Van.



TALES


CHAPTER I—THE BOARDING-HOUSE


CHAPTER I.


Mrs. Tibbs was, beyond all dispute, the most tidy, fidgety, thrifty
little personage that ever inhaled the smoke of London; and the house of
Mrs. Tibbs was, decidedly, the neatest in all Great Coram-street.  The
area and the area-steps, and the street-door and the street-door steps,
and the brass handle, and the door-plate, and the knocker, and the
fan-light, were all as clean and bright, as indefatigable white-washing,
and hearth-stoning, and scrubbing and rubbing, could make them.  The
wonder was, that the brass door-plate, with the interesting inscription
‘MRS. TIBBS,’ had never caught fire from constant friction, so
perseveringly was it polished.  There were meat-safe-looking blinds in
the parlour-windows, blue and gold curtains in the drawing-room, and
spring-roller blinds, as Mrs. Tibbs was wont in the pride of her heart to
boast, ‘all the way up.’ The bell-lamp in the passage looked as clear as
a soap-bubble; you could see yourself in all the tables, and
French-polish yourself on any one of the chairs.  The banisters were
bees-waxed; and the very stair-wires made your eyes wink, they were so
glittering.

Mrs. Tibbs was somewhat short of stature, and Mr. Tibbs was by no means a
large man.  He had, moreover, very short legs, but, by way of
indemnification, his face was peculiarly long.  He was to his wife what
the 0 is in 90—he was of some importance _with_ her—he was nothing
without her.  Mrs. Tibbs was always talking.  Mr. Tibbs rarely spoke;
but, if it were at any time possible to put in a word, when he should
have said nothing at all, he had that talent.  Mrs. Tibbs detested long
stories, and Mr. Tibbs had one, the conclusion of which had never been
heard by his most intimate friends.  It always began, ‘I recollect when I
was in the volunteer corps, in eighteen hundred and six,’—but, as he
spoke very slowly and softly, and his better half very quickly and
loudly, he rarely got beyond the introductory sentence.  He was a
melancholy specimen of the story-teller.   He was the wandering Jew of
Joe Millerism.

Mr. Tibbs enjoyed a small independence from the pension-list—about 43_l._
15_s._ 10_d._ a year.  His father, mother, and five interesting scions
from the same stock, drew a like sum from the revenue of a grateful
country, though for what particular service was never known.  But, as
this said independence was not quite sufficient to furnish two people
with _all_ the luxuries of this life, it had occurred to the busy little
spouse of Tibbs, that the best thing she could do with a legacy of
700_l._, would be to take and furnish a tolerable house—somewhere in that
partially-explored tract of country which lies between the British
Museum, and a remote village called Somers-town—for the reception of
boarders.  Great Coram-street was the spot pitched upon.  The house had
been furnished accordingly; two female servants and a boy engaged; and an
advertisement inserted in the morning papers, informing the public that
‘Six individuals would meet with all the comforts of a cheerful musical
home in a select private family, residing within ten minutes’ walk
of’—everywhere.  Answers out of number were received, with all sorts of
initials; all the letters of the alphabet seemed to be seized with a
sudden wish to go out boarding and lodging; voluminous was the
correspondence between Mrs. Tibbs and the applicants; and most profound
was the secrecy observed.  ‘E.’ didn’t like this; ‘I.’ couldn’t think of
putting up with that; ‘I. O. U.’ didn’t think the terms would suit him;
and ‘G. R.’ had never slept in a French bed.  The result, however, was,
that three gentlemen became inmates of Mrs. Tibbs’s house, on terms which
were ‘agreeable to all parties.’  In went the advertisement again, and a
lady with her two daughters, proposed to increase—not their families, but
Mrs. Tibbs’s.

‘Charming woman, that Mrs. Maplesone!’ said Mrs. Tibbs, as she and her
spouse were sitting by the fire after breakfast; the gentlemen having
gone out on their several avocations.  ‘Charming woman, indeed!’ repeated
little Mrs. Tibbs, more by way of soliloquy than anything else, for she
never thought of consulting her husband.  ‘And the two daughters are
delightful.  We must have some fish to-day; they’ll join us at dinner for
the first time.’

Mr. Tibbs placed the poker at right angles with the fire shovel, and
essayed to speak, but recollected he had nothing to say.

‘The young ladies,’ continued Mrs. T., ‘have kindly volunteered to bring
their own piano.’

Tibbs thought of the volunteer story, but did not venture it.

A bright thought struck him—

‘It’s very likely—’ said he.

‘Pray don’t lean your head against the paper,’ interrupted Mrs. Tibbs;
‘and don’t put your feet on the steel fender; that’s worse.’

Tibbs took his head from the paper, and his feet from the fender, and
proceeded.  ‘It’s very likely one of the young ladies may set her cap at
young Mr. Simpson, and you know a marriage—’

‘A what!’ shrieked Mrs. Tibbs.  Tibbs modestly repeated his former
suggestion.

‘I beg you won’t mention such a thing,’ said Mrs. T.  ‘A marriage, indeed
to rob me of my boarders—no, not for the world.’

Tibbs thought in his own mind that the event was by no means unlikely,
but, as he never argued with his wife, he put a stop to the dialogue, by
observing it was ‘time to go to business.’  He always went out at ten
o’clock in the morning, and returned at five in the afternoon, with an
exceedingly dirty face, and smelling mouldy.  Nobody knew what he was, or
where he went; but Mrs. Tibbs used to say with an air of great
importance, that he was engaged in the City.

The Miss Maplesones and their accomplished parent arrived in the course
of the afternoon in a hackney-coach, and accompanied by a most
astonishing number of packages.  Trunks, bonnet-boxes, muff-boxes and
parasols, guitar-cases, and parcels of all imaginable shapes, done up in
brown paper, and fastened with pins, filled the passage.  Then, there was
such a running up and down with the luggage, such scampering for warm
water for the ladies to wash in, and such a bustle, and confusion, and
heating of servants, and curling-irons, as had never been known in Great
Coram-street before.  Little Mrs. Tibbs was quite in her element,
bustling about, talking incessantly, and distributing towels and soap,
like a head nurse in a hospital.  The house was not restored to its usual
state of quiet repose, until the ladies were safely shut up in their
respective bedrooms, engaged in the important occupation of dressing for
dinner.

‘Are these gals ’andsome?’ inquired Mr. Simpson of Mr. Septimus Hicks,
another of the boarders, as they were amusing themselves in the
drawing-room, before dinner, by lolling on sofas, and contemplating their
pumps.

‘Don’t know,’ replied Mr. Septimus Hicks, who was a tallish, white-faced
young man, with spectacles, and a black ribbon round his neck instead of
a neckerchief—a most interesting person; a poetical walker of the
hospitals, and a ‘very talented young man.’  He was fond of ‘lugging’
into conversation all sorts of quotations from Don Juan, without
fettering himself by the propriety of their application; in which
particular he was remarkably independent.  The other, Mr. Simpson, was
one of those young men, who are in society what walking gentlemen are on
the stage, only infinitely worse skilled in his vocation than the most
indifferent artist.  He was as empty-headed as the great bell of St.
Paul’s; always dressed according to the caricatures published in the
monthly fashion; and spelt Character with a K.

‘I saw a devilish number of parcels in the passage when I came home,’
simpered Mr. Simpson.

‘Materials for the toilet, no doubt,’ rejoined the Don Juan reader.

   —‘Much linen, lace, and several pair
   Of stockings, slippers, brushes, combs, complete;
   With other articles of ladies fair,
   To keep them beautiful, or leave them neat.’

‘Is that from Milton?’ inquired Mr. Simpson.

‘No—from Byron,’ returned Mr. Hicks, with a look of contempt.  He was
quite sure of his author, because he had never read any other.  ‘Hush!
Here come the gals,’ and they both commenced talking in a very loud key.

‘Mrs. Maplesone and the Miss Maplesones, Mr. Hicks.  Mr. Hicks—Mrs.
Maplesone and the Miss Maplesones,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, with a very red
face, for she had been superintending the cooking operations below
stairs, and looked like a wax doll on a sunny day.  ‘Mr. Simpson, I beg
your pardon—Mr. Simpson—Mrs. Maplesone and the Miss Maplesones’—and _vice
versâ_.  The gentlemen immediately began to slide about with much
politeness, and to look as if they wished their arms had been legs, so
little did they know what to do with them.  The ladies smiled, curtseyed,
and glided into chairs, and dived for dropped pocket-handkerchiefs: the
gentlemen leant against two of the curtain-pegs; Mrs. Tibbs went through
an admirable bit of serious pantomime with a servant who had come up to
ask some question about the fish-sauce; and then the two young ladies
looked at each other; and everybody else appeared to discover something
very attractive in the pattern of the fender.

‘Julia, my love,’ said Mrs. Maplesone to her youngest daughter, in a tone
loud enough for the remainder of the company to hear—‘Julia.’

‘Yes, Ma.’

‘Don’t stoop.’—This was said for the purpose of directing general
attention to Miss Julia’s figure, which was undeniable.  Everybody looked
at her, accordingly, and there was another pause.

‘We had the most uncivil hackney-coachman to-day, you can imagine,’ said
Mrs. Maplesone to Mrs. Tibbs, in a confidential tone.

‘Dear me!’ replied the hostess, with an air of great commiseration.  She
couldn’t say more, for the servant again appeared at the door, and
commenced telegraphing most earnestly to her ‘Missis.’

‘I think hackney-coachmen generally _are_ uncivil,’ said Mr. Hicks in his
most insinuating tone.

‘Positively I think they are,’ replied Mrs. Maplesone, as if the idea had
never struck her before.

‘And cabmen, too,’ said Mr. Simpson.  This remark was a failure, for no
one intimated, by word or sign, the slightest knowledge of the manners
and customs of cabmen.

‘Robinson, what _do_ you want?’ said Mrs. Tibbs to the servant, who, by
way of making her presence known to her mistress, had been giving sundry
hems and sniffs outside the door during the preceding five minutes.

‘Please, ma’am, master wants his clean things,’ replied the servant,
taken off her guard.  The two young men turned their faces to the window,
and ‘went off’ like a couple of bottles of ginger-beer; the ladies put
their handkerchiefs to their mouths; and little Mrs. Tibbs bustled out of
the room to give Tibbs his clean linen,—and the servant warning.

Mr. Calton, the remaining boarder, shortly afterwards made his
appearance, and proved a surprising promoter of the conversation.  Mr.
Calton was a superannuated beau—an old boy.  He used to say of himself
that although his features were not regularly handsome, they were
striking.  They certainly were.  It was impossible to look at his face
without being reminded of a chubby street-door knocker, half-lion
half-monkey; and the comparison might be extended to his whole character
and conversation.  He had stood still, while everything else had been
moving.  He never originated a conversation, or started an idea; but if
any commonplace topic were broached, or, to pursue the comparison, if
anybody _lifted him up_, he would hammer away with surprising rapidity.
He had the tic-douloureux occasionally, and then he might be said to be
muffled, because he did not make quite as much noise as at other times,
when he would go on prosing, rat-tat-tat the same thing over and over
again.  He had never been married; but he was still on the look-out for a
wife with money.  He had a life interest worth about 300_l._ a year—he
was exceedingly vain, and inordinately selfish.  He had acquired the
reputation of being the very pink of politeness, and he walked round the
park, and up Regent-street, every day.

This respectable personage had made up his mind to render himself
exceedingly agreeable to Mrs. Maplesone—indeed, the desire of being as
amiable as possible extended itself to the whole party; Mrs. Tibbs having
considered it an admirable little bit of management to represent to the
gentlemen that she had _some_ reason to believe the ladies were fortunes,
and to hint to the ladies, that all the gentlemen were ‘eligible.’  A
little flirtation, she thought, might keep her house full, without
leading to any other result.

Mrs. Maplesone was an enterprising widow of about fifty: shrewd,
scheming, and good-looking.  She was amiably anxious on behalf of her
daughters; in proof whereof she used to remark, that she would have no
objection to marry again, if it would benefit her dear girls—she could
have no other motive.  The ‘dear girls’ themselves were not at all
insensible to the merits of ‘a good establishment.’  One of them was
twenty-five; the other, three years younger.  They had been at different
watering-places, for four seasons; they had gambled at libraries, read
books in balconies, sold at fancy fairs, danced at assemblies, talked
sentiment—in short, they had done all that industrious girls could
do—but, as yet, to no purpose.

‘What a magnificent dresser Mr. Simpson is!’ whispered Matilda Maplesone
to her sister Julia.

‘Splendid!’ returned the youngest.  The magnificent individual alluded to
wore a maroon-coloured dress-coat, with a velvet collar and cuffs of the
same tint—very like that which usually invests the form of the
distinguished unknown who condescends to play the ‘swell’ in the
pantomime at ‘Richardson’s Show.’

‘What whiskers!’ said Miss Julia.

‘Charming!’ responded her sister; ‘and what hair!’  His hair was like a
wig, and distinguished by that insinuating wave which graces the shining
locks of those _chef-d’oeuvres_ of art surmounting the waxen images in
Bartellot’s window in Regent-street; his whiskers meeting beneath his
chin, seemed strings wherewith to tie it on, ere science had rendered
them unnecessary by her patent invisible springs.

‘Dinner’s on the table, ma’am, if you please,’ said the boy, who now
appeared for the first time, in a revived black coat of his master’s.

‘Oh!  Mr. Calton, will you lead Mrs. Maplesone?—Thank you.’  Mr. Simpson
offered his arm to Miss Julia; Mr. Septimus Hicks escorted the lovely
Matilda; and the procession proceeded to the dining-room.  Mr. Tibbs was
introduced, and Mr. Tibbs bobbed up and down to the three ladies like a
figure in a Dutch clock, with a powerful spring in the middle of his
body, and then dived rapidly into his seat at the bottom of the table,
delighted to screen himself behind a soup-tureen, which he could just see
over, and that was all.  The boarders were seated, a lady and gentleman
alternately, like the layers of bread and meat in a plate of sandwiches;
and then Mrs. Tibbs directed James to take off the covers.  Salmon,
lobster-sauce, giblet-soup, and the usual accompaniments were discovered:
potatoes like petrifactions, and bits of toasted bread, the shape and
size of blank dice.

‘Soup for Mrs. Maplesone, my dear,’ said the bustling Mrs. Tibbs.  She
always called her husband ‘my dear’ before company.  Tibbs, who had been
eating his bread, and calculating how long it would be before he should
get any fish, helped the soup in a hurry, made a small island on the
table-cloth, and put his glass upon it, to hide it from his wife.

‘Miss Julia, shall I assist you to some fish?’

‘If you please—very little—oh! plenty, thank you’ (a bit about the size
of a walnut put upon the plate).

‘Julia is a _very_ little eater,’ said Mrs. Maplesone to Mr. Calton.

The knocker gave a single rap.  He was busy eating the fish with his
eyes: so he only ejaculated, ‘Ah!’

‘My dear,’ said Mrs. Tibbs to her spouse after every one else had been
helped, ‘what do _you_ take?’  The inquiry was accompanied with a look
intimating that he mustn’t say fish, because there was not much left.
Tibbs thought the frown referred to the island on the table-cloth; he
therefore coolly replied, ‘Why—I’ll take a little—fish, I think.’

‘Did you say fish, my dear?’ (another frown).

‘Yes, dear,’ replied the villain, with an expression of acute hunger
depicted in his countenance.  The tears almost started to Mrs. Tibbs’s
eyes, as she helped her ‘wretch of a husband,’ as she inwardly called
him, to the last eatable bit of salmon on the dish.

‘James, take this to your master, and take away your master’s knife.’
This was deliberate revenge, as Tibbs never could eat fish without one.
He was, however, constrained to chase small particles of salmon round and
round his plate with a piece of bread and a fork, the number of
successful attempts being about one in seventeen.

‘Take away, James,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, as Tibbs swallowed the fourth
mouthful—and away went the plates like lightning.

‘I’ll take a bit of bread, James,’ said the poor ‘master of the house,’
more hungry than ever.

‘Never mind your master now, James,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, ‘see about the
meat.’  This was conveyed in the tone in which ladies usually give
admonitions to servants in company, that is to say, a low one; but which,
like a stage whisper, from its peculiar emphasis, is most distinctly
heard by everybody present.

A pause ensued, before the table was replenished—a sort of parenthesis in
which Mr. Simpson, Mr. Calton, and Mr. Hicks, produced respectively a
bottle of sauterne, bucellas, and sherry, and took wine with
everybody—except Tibbs.  No one ever thought of him.

Between the fish and an intimated sirloin, there was a prolonged
interval.

Here was an opportunity for Mr. Hicks.  He could not resist the
singularly appropriate quotation—

   ‘But beef is rare within these oxless isles;
   Goats’ flesh there is, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,
   And when a holiday upon them smiles,
   A joint upon their barbarous spits they put on.’

‘Very ungentlemanly behaviour,’ thought little Mrs. Tibbs, ‘to talk in
that way.’

‘Ah,’ said Mr. Calton, filling his glass.  ‘Tom Moore is my poet.’

‘And mine,’ said Mrs. Maplesone.

‘And mine,’ said Miss Julia.

‘And mine,’ added Mr. Simpson.

‘Look at his compositions,’ resumed the knocker.

‘To be sure,’ said Simpson, with confidence.

‘Look at Don Juan,’ replied Mr. Septimus Hicks.

‘Julia’s letter,’ suggested Miss Matilda.

‘Can anything be grander than the Fire Worshippers?’ inquired Miss Julia.

‘To be sure,’ said Simpson.

‘Or Paradise and the Peri,’ said the old beau.

‘Yes; or Paradise and the Peer,’ repeated Simpson, who thought he was
getting through it capitally.

‘It’s all very well,’ replied Mr. Septimus Hicks, who, as we have before
hinted, never had read anything but Don Juan.  ‘Where will you find
anything finer than the description of the siege, at the commencement of
the seventh canto?’

‘Talking of a siege,’ said Tibbs, with a mouthful of bread—‘when I was in
the volunteer corps, in eighteen hundred and six, our commanding officer
was Sir Charles Rampart; and one day, when we were exercising on the
ground on which the London University now stands, he says, says he, Tibbs
(calling me from the ranks), Tibbs—’

‘Tell your master, James,’ interrupted Mrs. Tibbs, in an awfully distinct
tone, ‘tell your master if he _won’t_ carve those fowls, to send them to
me.’  The discomfited volunteer instantly set to work, and carved the
fowls almost as expeditiously as his wife operated on the haunch of
mutton.  Whether he ever finished the story is not known but, if he did,
nobody heard it.

As the ice was now broken, and the new inmates more at home, every member
of the company felt more at ease.  Tibbs himself most certainly did,
because he went to sleep immediately after dinner.  Mr. Hicks and the
ladies discoursed most eloquently about poetry, and the theatres, and
Lord Chesterfield’s Letters; and Mr. Calton followed up what everybody
said, with continuous double knocks.  Mrs. Tibbs highly approved of every
observation that fell from Mrs. Maplesone; and as Mr. Simpson sat with a
smile upon his face and said ‘Yes,’ or ‘Certainly,’ at intervals of about
four minutes each, he received full credit for understanding what was
going forward.  The gentlemen rejoined the ladies in the drawing-room
very shortly after they had left the dining-parlour.  Mrs. Maplesone and
Mr. Calton played cribbage, and the ‘young people’ amused themselves with
music and conversation.  The Miss Maplesones sang the most fascinating
duets, and accompanied themselves on guitars, ornamented with bits of
ethereal blue ribbon.  Mr. Simpson put on a pink waistcoat, and said he
was in raptures; and Mr. Hicks felt in the seventh heaven of poetry or
the seventh canto of Don Juan—it was the same thing to him.  Mrs. Tibbs
was quite charmed with the newcomers; and Mr. Tibbs spent the evening in
his usual way—he went to sleep, and woke up, and went to sleep again, and
woke at supper-time.

                                * * * * *

We are not about to adopt the licence of novel-writers, and to let ‘years
roll on;’ but we will take the liberty of requesting the reader to
suppose that six months have elapsed, since the dinner we have described,
and that Mrs. Tibbs’s boarders have, during that period, sang, and
danced, and gone to theatres and exhibitions, together, as ladies and
gentlemen, wherever they board, often do.  And we will beg them, the
period we have mentioned having elapsed, to imagine farther, that Mr.
Septimus Hicks received, in his own bedroom (a front attic), at an early
hour one morning, a note from Mr. Calton, requesting the favour of seeing
him, as soon as convenient to himself, in his (Calton’s) dressing-room on
the second-floor back.

‘Tell Mr. Calton I’ll come down directly,’ said Mr. Septimus to the boy.
‘Stop—is Mr. Calton unwell?’ inquired this excited walker of hospitals,
as he put on a bed-furniture-looking dressing-gown.

‘Not as I knows on, sir,’ replied the boy.  ‘ Please, sir, he looked
rather rum, as it might be.’

‘Ah, that’s no proof of his being ill,’ returned Hicks, unconsciously.
‘Very well: I’ll be down directly.’  Downstairs ran the boy with the
message, and down went the excited Hicks himself, almost as soon as the
message was delivered.  ‘Tap, tap.’  ‘Come in.’—Door opens, and discovers
Mr. Calton sitting in an easy chair.  Mutual shakes of the hand
exchanged, and Mr. Septimus Hicks motioned to a seat.  A short pause.
Mr. Hicks coughed, and Mr. Calton took a pinch of snuff.  It was one of
those interviews where neither party knows what to say.  Mr. Septimus
Hicks broke silence.

‘I received a note—’ he said, very tremulously, in a voice like a Punch
with a cold.

‘Yes,’ returned the other, ‘you did.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Yes.’

Now, although this dialogue must have been satisfactory, both gentlemen
felt there was something more important to be said; therefore they did as
most men in such a situation would have done—they looked at the table
with a determined aspect.  The conversation had been opened, however, and
Mr. Calton had made up his mind to continue it with a regular double
knock.  He always spoke very pompously.

‘Hicks,’ said he, ‘I have sent for you, in consequence of certain
arrangements which are pending in this house, connected with a marriage.’

‘With a marriage!’ gasped Hicks, compared with whose expression of
countenance, Hamlet’s, when he sees his father’s ghost, is pleasing and
composed.

‘With a marriage,’ returned the knocker.  ‘I have sent for you to prove
the great confidence I can repose in you.’

‘And will you betray me?’ eagerly inquired Hicks, who in his alarm had
even forgotten to quote.

‘_I_ betray _you_!  Won’t _you_ betray_ me_?’

‘Never: no one shall know, to my dying day, that you had a hand in the
business,’ responded the agitated Hicks, with an inflamed countenance,
and his hair standing on end as if he were on the stool of an
electrifying machine in full operation.

‘People must know that, some time or other—within a year, I imagine,’
said Mr. Calton, with an air of great self-complacency.   ‘We _may_ have
a family.’

‘_We_!—That won’t affect you, surely?’

‘The devil it won’t!’

‘No! how can it?’ said the bewildered Hicks.  Calton was too much
inwrapped in the contemplation of his happiness to see the equivoque
between Hicks and himself; and threw himself back in his chair.  ‘Oh,
Matilda!’ sighed the antique beau, in a lack-a-daisical voice, and
applying his right hand a little to the left of the fourth button of his
waistcoat, counting from the bottom.  ‘Oh, Matilda!’

‘What Matilda?’ inquired Hicks, starting up.

‘Matilda Maplesone,’ responded the other, doing the same.

‘I marry her to-morrow morning,’ said Hicks.

‘It’s false,’ rejoined his companion: ‘I marry her!’

‘You marry her?’

‘I marry her!’

‘You marry Matilda Maplesone?’

‘Matilda Maplesone.’

‘_Miss_ Maplesone marry _you_?’

‘Miss Maplesone!  No; Mrs. Maplesone.’

‘Good Heaven!’ said Hicks, falling into his chair: ‘You marry the mother,
and I the daughter!’

‘Most extraordinary circumstance!’ replied Mr. Calton, ‘and rather
inconvenient too; for the fact is, that owing to Matilda’s wishing to
keep her intention secret from her daughters until the ceremony had taken
place, she doesn’t like applying to any of her friends to give her away.
I entertain an objection to making the affair known to my acquaintance
just now; and the consequence is, that I sent to you to know whether
you’d oblige me by acting as father.’

‘I should have been most happy, I assure you,’ said Hicks, in a tone of
condolence; ‘but, you see, I shall be acting as bridegroom.  One
character is frequently a consequence of the other; but it is not usual
to act in both at the same time.  There’s Simpson—I have no doubt he’ll
do it for you.’

‘I don’t like to ask him,’ replied Calton, ‘he’s such a donkey.’

Mr. Septimus Hicks looked up at the ceiling, and down at the floor; at
last an idea struck him.  ‘Let the man of the house, Tibbs, be the
father,’ he suggested; and then he quoted, as peculiarly applicable to
Tibbs and the pair—

    ‘Oh Powers of Heaven! what dark eyes meets she there?
    ’Tis—’tis her father’s—fixed upon the pair.’

‘The idea has struck me already,’ said Mr. Calton: ‘but, you see,
Matilda, for what reason I know not, is very anxious that Mrs. Tibbs
should know nothing about it, till it’s all over.  It’s a natural
delicacy, after all, you know.’

‘He’s the best-natured little man in existence, if you manage him
properly,’ said Mr. Septimus Hicks.  ‘Tell him not to mention it to his
wife, and assure him she won’t mind it, and he’ll do it directly.  My
marriage is to be a secret one, on account of the mother and _my_ father;
therefore he must be enjoined to secrecy.’

A small double knock, like a presumptuous single one, was that instant
heard at the street-door.  It was Tibbs; it could be no one else; for no
one else occupied five minutes in rubbing his shoes.  He had been out to
pay the baker’s bill.

‘Mr. Tibbs,’ called Mr. Calton in a very bland tone, looking over the
banisters.

‘Sir!’ replied he of the dirty face.

‘Will you have the kindness to step up-stairs for a moment?’

‘Certainly, sir,’ said Tibbs, delighted to be taken notice of.  The
bedroom-door was carefully closed, and Tibbs, having put his hat on the
floor (as most timid men do), and been accommodated with a seat, looked
as astounded as if he were suddenly summoned before the familiars of the
Inquisition.

‘A rather unpleasant occurrence, Mr. Tibbs,’ said Calton, in a very
portentous manner, ‘obliges me to consult you, and to beg you will not
communicate what I am about to say, to your wife.’

Tibbs acquiesced, wondering in his own mind what the deuce the other
could have done, and imagining that at least he must have broken the best
decanters.

Mr. Calton resumed; ‘I am placed, Mr. Tibbs, in rather an unpleasant
situation.’

Tibbs looked at Mr. Septimus Hicks, as if he thought Mr. H.’s being in
the immediate vicinity of his fellow-boarder might constitute the
unpleasantness of his situation; but as he did not exactly know what to
say, he merely ejaculated the monosyllable ‘Lor!’

‘Now,’ continued the knocker, ‘let me beg you will exhibit no
manifestations of surprise, which may be overheard by the domestics, when
I tell you—command your feelings of astonishment—that two inmates of this
house intend to be married to-morrow morning.’  And he drew back his
chair, several feet, to perceive the effect of the unlooked-for
announcement.

If Tibbs had rushed from the room, staggered down-stairs, and fainted in
the passage—if he had instantaneously jumped out of the window into the
mews behind the house, in an agony of surprise—his behaviour would have
been much less inexplicable to Mr. Calton than it was, when he put his
hands into his inexpressible-pockets, and said with a half-chuckle, ‘Just
so.’

‘You are not surprised, Mr. Tibbs?’ inquired Mr. Calton.

‘Bless you, no, sir,’ returned Tibbs; ‘after all, its very natural.  When
two young people get together, you know—’

‘Certainly, certainly,’ said Calton, with an indescribable air of
self-satisfaction.

‘You don’t think it’s at all an out-of-the-way affair then?’ asked Mr.
Septimus Hicks, who had watched the countenance of Tibbs in mute
astonishment.

‘No, sir,’ replied Tibbs; ‘I was just the same at his age.’  He actually
smiled when he said this.

‘How devilish well I must carry my years!’ thought the delighted old
beau, knowing he was at least ten years older than Tibbs at that moment.

‘Well, then, to come to the point at once,’ he continued, ‘I have to ask
you whether you will object to act as father on the occasion?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Tibbs; still without evincing an atom of
surprise.

‘You will not?’

‘Decidedly not,’ reiterated Tibbs, still as calm as a pot of porter with
the head off.

Mr. Calton seized the hand of the petticoat-governed little man, and
vowed eternal friendship from that hour.  Hicks, who was all admiration
and surprise, did the same.

‘Now, confess,’ asked Mr. Calton of Tibbs, as he picked up his hat, ‘were
you not a little surprised?’

‘I b’lieve you!’ replied that illustrious person, holding up one hand; ‘I
b’lieve you!  When I first heard of it.’

‘So sudden,’ said Septimus Hicks.

‘So strange to ask _me_, you know,’ said Tibbs.

‘So odd altogether!’ said the superannuated love-maker; and then all
three laughed.

‘I say,’ said Tibbs, shutting the door which he had previously opened,
and giving full vent to a hitherto corked-up giggle, ‘what bothers me is,
what _will_ his father say?’

Mr. Septimus Hicks looked at Mr. Calton.

‘Yes; but the best of it is,’ said the latter, giggling in his turn, ‘I
haven’t got a father—he! he! he!’

‘You haven’t got a father.  No; but _he_ has,’ said Tibbs.

‘_Who_ has?’ inquired Septimus Hicks.

‘Why, _him_.’

‘Him, who?  Do you know my secret?  Do you mean me?’

‘You!  No; you know who I mean,’ returned Tibbs with a knowing wink.

‘For Heaven’s sake, whom do you mean?’ inquired Mr. Calton, who, like
Septimus Hicks, was all but out of his senses at the strange confusion.

‘Why Mr. Simpson, of course,’ replied Tibbs; ‘who else could I mean?’

‘I see it all,’ said the Byron-quoter; ‘Simpson marries Julia Maplesone
to-morrow morning!’

‘Undoubtedly,’ replied Tibbs, thoroughly satisfied, ‘of course he does.’

It would require the pencil of Hogarth to illustrate—our feeble pen is
inadequate to describe—the expression which the countenances of Mr.
Calton and Mr. Septimus Hicks respectively assumed, at this unexpected
announcement.  Equally impossible is it to describe, although perhaps it
is easier for our lady readers to imagine, what arts the three ladies
could have used, so completely to entangle their separate partners.
Whatever they were, however, they were successful.  The mother was
perfectly aware of the intended marriage of both daughters; and the young
ladies were equally acquainted with the intention of their estimable
parent.  They agreed, however, that it would have a much better
appearance if each feigned ignorance of the other’s engagement; and it
was equally desirable that all the marriages should take place on the
same day, to prevent the discovery of one clandestine alliance, operating
prejudicially on the others.  Hence, the mystification of Mr. Calton and
Mr. Septimus Hicks, and the pre-engagement of the unwary Tibbs.

On the following morning, Mr. Septimus Hicks was united to Miss Matilda
Maplesone.  Mr. Simpson also entered into a ‘holy alliance’ with Miss
Julia; Tibbs acting as father, ‘his first appearance in that character.’
Mr. Calton, not being quite so eager as the two young men, was rather
struck by the double discovery; and as he had found some difficulty in
getting any one to give the lady away, it occurred to him that the best
mode of obviating the inconvenience would be not to take her at all.  The
lady, however, ‘appealed,’ as her counsel said on the trial of the cause,
_Maplesone_ v. _Calton_, for a breach of promise, ‘with a broken heart,
to the outraged laws of her country.’  She recovered damages to the
amount of 1,000_l._ which the unfortunate knocker was compelled to pay.
Mr. Septimus Hicks having walked the hospitals, took it into his head to
walk off altogether.  His injured wife is at present residing with her
mother at Boulogne.  Mr. Simpson, having the misfortune to lose his wife
six weeks after marriage (by her eloping with an officer during his
temporary sojourn in the Fleet Prison, in consequence of his inability to
discharge her little mantua-maker’s bill), and being disinherited by his
father, who died soon afterwards, was fortunate enough to obtain a
permanent engagement at a fashionable haircutter’s; hairdressing being a
science to which he had frequently directed his attention.  In this
situation he had necessarily many opportunities of making himself
acquainted with the habits, and style of thinking, of the exclusive
portion of the nobility of this kingdom.  To this fortunate circumstance
are we indebted for the production of those brilliant efforts of genius,
his fashionable novels, which so long as good taste, unsullied by
exaggeration, cant, and quackery, continues to exist, cannot fail to
instruct and amuse the thinking portion of the community.

It only remains to add, that this complication of disorders completely
deprived poor Mrs. Tibbs of all her inmates, except the one whom she
could have best spared—her husband.  That wretched little man returned
home, on the day of the wedding, in a state of partial intoxication; and,
under the influence of wine, excitement, and despair, actually dared to
brave the anger of his wife.  Since that ill-fated hour he has constantly
taken his meals in the kitchen, to which apartment, it is understood, his
witticisms will be in future confined: a turn-up bedstead having been
conveyed there by Mrs. Tibbs’s order for his exclusive accommodation.  It
is possible that he will be enabled to finish, in that seclusion, his
story of the volunteers.

The advertisement has again appeared in the morning papers.  Results must
be reserved for another chapter.


CHAPTER THE SECOND.


‘Well!’ said little Mrs. Tibbs to herself, as she sat in the front
parlour of the Coram-street mansion one morning, mending a piece of
stair-carpet off the first Landings;—‘Things have not turned out so
badly, either, and if I only get a favourable answer to the
advertisement, we shall be full again.’

Mrs. Tibbs resumed her occupation of making worsted lattice-work in the
carpet, anxiously listening to the twopenny postman, who was hammering
his way down the street, at the rate of a penny a knock.  The house was
as quiet as possible.  There was only one low sound to be heard—it was
the unhappy Tibbs cleaning the gentlemen’s boots in the back kitchen, and
accompanying himself with a buzzing noise, in wretched mockery of humming
a tune.

The postman drew near the house.  He paused—so did Mrs. Tibbs.  A knock—a
bustle—a letter—post-paid.

    ‘T. I. presents compt. to I. T. and T. I. begs To say that i see the
    advertisement And she will Do Herself the pleasure of calling On you
    at 12 o’clock to-morrow morning.

    ‘T. I. as To apologise to I. T. for the shortness Of the notice But i
    hope it will not unconvenience you.

                                                     ‘I remain yours Truly
                                                      ‘Wednesday evening.’

Little Mrs. Tibbs perused the document, over and over again; and the more
she read it, the more was she confused by the mixture of the first and
third person; the substitution of the ‘i’ for the ‘T. I.;’ and the
transition from the ‘I.  T.’ to the ‘You.’  The writing looked like a
skein of thread in a tangle, and the note was ingeniously folded into a
perfect square, with the direction squeezed up into the right-hand
corner, as if it were ashamed of itself.  The back of the epistle was
pleasingly ornamented with a large red wafer, which, with the addition of
divers ink-stains, bore a marvellous resemblance to a black beetle
trodden upon.  One thing, however, was perfectly clear to the perplexed
Mrs. Tibbs.  Somebody was to call at twelve.  The drawing-room was
forthwith dusted for the third time that morning; three or four chairs
were pulled out of their places, and a corresponding number of books
carefully upset, in order that there might be a due absence of formality.
Down went the piece of stair-carpet before noticed, and up ran Mrs. Tibbs
‘to make herself tidy.’

The clock of New Saint Pancras Church struck twelve, and the Foundling,
with laudable politeness, did the same ten minutes afterwards, Saint
something else struck the quarter, and then there arrived a single lady
with a double knock, in a pelisse the colour of the interior of a damson
pie; a bonnet of the same, with a regular conservatory of artificial
flowers; a white veil, and a green parasol, with a cobweb border.

The visitor (who was very fat and red-faced) was shown into the
drawing-room; Mrs. Tibbs presented herself, and the negotiation
commenced.

‘I called in consequence of an advertisement,’ said the stranger, in a
voice as if she had been playing a set of Pan’s pipes for a fortnight
without leaving off.

‘Yes!’ said Mrs. Tibbs, rubbing her hands very slowly, and looking the
applicant full in the face—two things she always did on such occasions.

‘Money isn’t no object whatever to me,’ said the lady, ‘so much as living
in a state of retirement and obtrusion.’

Mrs. Tibbs, as a matter of course, acquiesced in such an exceedingly
natural desire.

‘I am constantly attended by a medical man,’ resumed the pelisse wearer;
‘I have been a shocking unitarian for some time—I, indeed, have had very
little peace since the death of Mr. Bloss.’

Mrs. Tibbs looked at the relict of the departed Bloss, and thought he
must have had very little peace in his time.  Of course she could not say
so; so she looked very sympathising.

‘I shall be a good deal of trouble to you,’ said Mrs. Bloss; ‘but, for
that trouble I am willing to pay.  I am going through a course of
treatment which renders attention necessary.  I have one mutton-chop in
bed at half-past eight, and another at ten, every morning.’

Mrs. Tibbs, as in duty bound, expressed the pity she felt for anybody
placed in such a distressing situation; and the carnivorous Mrs. Bloss
proceeded to arrange the various preliminaries with wonderful despatch.
‘Now mind,’ said that lady, after terms were arranged; ‘I am to have the
second-floor front, for my bed-room?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘And you’ll find room for my little servant Agnes?’

‘Oh! certainly.’

‘And I can have one of the cellars in the area for my bottled porter.’

‘With the greatest pleasure;—James shall get it ready for you by
Saturday.’

‘And I’ll join the company at the breakfast-table on Sunday morning,’
said Mrs. Bloss.  ‘I shall get up on purpose.’

‘Very well,’ returned Mrs. Tibbs, in her most amiable tone; for
satisfactory references had ‘been given and required,’ and it was quite
certain that the new-comer had plenty of money.  ‘It’s rather singular,’
continued Mrs. Tibbs, with what was meant for a most bewitching smile,
‘that we have a gentleman now with us, who is in a very delicate state of
health—a Mr. Gobler.—His apartment is the back drawing-room.’

‘The next room?’ inquired Mrs. Bloss.

‘The next room,’ repeated the hostess.

‘How very promiscuous!’ ejaculated the widow.

‘He hardly ever gets up,’ said Mrs. Tibbs in a whisper.

‘Lor!’ cried Mrs. Bloss, in an equally low tone.

‘And when he is up,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, ‘we never can persuade him to go to
bed again.’

‘Dear me!’ said the astonished Mrs. Bloss, drawing her chair nearer Mrs.
Tibbs.  ‘What is his complaint?’

‘Why, the fact is,’ replied Mrs. Tibbs, with a most communicative air,
‘he has no stomach whatever.’

‘No what?’ inquired Mrs. Bloss, with a look of the most indescribable
alarm.

‘No stomach,’ repeated Mrs. Tibbs, with a shake of the head.

‘Lord bless us! what an extraordinary case!’ gasped Mrs. Bloss, as if she
understood the communication in its literal sense, and was astonished at
a gentleman without a stomach finding it necessary to board anywhere.

‘When I say he has no stomach,’ explained the chatty little Mrs. Tibbs,
‘I mean that his digestion is so much impaired, and his interior so
deranged, that his stomach is not of the least use to him;—in fact, it’s
an inconvenience.’

‘Never heard such a case in my life!’ exclaimed Mrs. Bloss.  ‘Why, he’s
worse than I am.’

‘Oh, yes!’ replied Mrs. Tibbs;—‘certainly.’  She said this with great
confidence, for the damson pelisse suggested that Mrs. Bloss, at all
events, was not suffering under Mr. Gobler’s complaint.

‘You have quite incited my curiosity,’ said Mrs. Bloss, as she rose to
depart.  ‘How I long to see him!’

‘He generally comes down, once a week,’ replied Mrs. Tibbs; ‘I dare say
you’ll see him on Sunday.’  With this consolatory promise Mrs. Bloss was
obliged to be contented.  She accordingly walked slowly down the stairs,
detailing her complaints all the way; and Mrs. Tibbs followed her,
uttering an exclamation of compassion at every step.  James (who looked
very gritty, for he was cleaning the knives) fell up the kitchen-stairs,
and opened the street-door; and, after mutual farewells, Mrs. Bloss
slowly departed, down the shady side of the street.

It is almost superfluous to say, that the lady whom we have just shown
out at the street-door (and whom the two female servants are now
inspecting from the second-floor windows) was exceedingly vulgar,
ignorant, and selfish.  Her deceased better-half had been an eminent
cork-cutter, in which capacity he had amassed a decent fortune.  He had
no relative but his nephew, and no friend but his cook.  The former had
the insolence one morning to ask for the loan of fifteen pounds; and, by
way of retaliation, he married the latter next day; he made a will
immediately afterwards, containing a burst of honest indignation against
his nephew (who supported himself and two sisters on 100_l._ a year), and
a bequest of his whole property to his wife.  He felt ill after
breakfast, and died after dinner.  There is a mantelpiece-looking tablet
in a civic parish church, setting forth his virtues, and deploring his
loss.  He never dishonoured a bill, or gave away a halfpenny.

The relict and sole executrix of this noble-minded man was an odd mixture
of shrewdness and simplicity, liberality and meanness.  Bred up as she
had been, she knew no mode of living so agreeable as a boarding-house:
and having nothing to do, and nothing to wish for, she naturally imagined
she must be ill—an impression which was most assiduously promoted by her
medical attendant, Dr. Wosky, and her handmaid Agnes: both of whom,
doubtless for good reasons, encouraged all her extravagant notions.

Since the catastrophe recorded in the last chapter, Mrs. Tibbs had been
very shy of young-lady boarders.  Her present inmates were all lords of
the creation, and she availed herself of the opportunity of their
assemblage at the dinner-table, to announce the expected arrival of Mrs.
Bloss.  The gentlemen received the communication with stoical
indifference, and Mrs. Tibbs devoted all her energies to prepare for the
reception of the valetudinarian.  The second-floor front was scrubbed,
and washed, and flannelled, till the wet went through to the drawing-room
ceiling.  Clean white counterpanes, and curtains, and napkins,
water-bottles as clear as crystal, blue jugs, and mahogany furniture,
added to the splendour, and increased the comfort, of the apartment.  The
warming-pan was in constant requisition, and a fire lighted in the room
every day.  The chattels of Mrs. Bloss were forwarded by instalments.
First, there came a large hamper of Guinness’s stout, and an umbrella;
then, a train of trunks; then, a pair of clogs and a bandbox; then, an
easy chair with an air-cushion; then, a variety of suspicious-looking
packages; and—‘though last not least’—Mrs. Bloss and Agnes: the latter in
a cherry-coloured merino dress, open-work stockings, and shoes with
sandals: like a disguised Columbine.

The installation of the Duke of Wellington, as Chancellor of the
University of Oxford, was nothing, in point of bustle and turmoil, to the
installation of Mrs. Bloss in her new quarters.  True, there was no
bright doctor of civil law to deliver a classical address on the
occasion; but there were several other old women present, who spoke quite
as much to the purpose, and understood themselves equally well.  The
chop-eater was so fatigued with the process of removal that she declined
leaving her room until the following morning; so a mutton-chop, pickle, a
pill, a pint bottle of stout, and other medicines, were carried up-stairs
for her consumption.

‘Why, what _do_ you think, ma’am?’ inquired the inquisitive Agnes of her
mistress, after they had been in the house some three hours; ‘what _do_
you think, ma’am? the lady of the house is married.’

‘Married!’ said Mrs. Bloss, taking the pill and a draught of
Guinness—‘married!  Unpossible!’

‘She is indeed, ma’am,’ returned the Columbine; ‘and her husband, ma’am,
lives—he—he—he—lives in the kitchen, ma’am.’

‘In the kitchen!’

‘Yes, ma’am: and he—he—he—the housemaid says, he never goes into the
parlour except on Sundays; and that Ms. Tibbs makes him clean the
gentlemen’s boots; and that he cleans the windows, too, sometimes; and
that one morning early, when he was in the front balcony cleaning the
drawing-room windows, he called out to a gentleman on the opposite side
of the way, who used to live here—“Ah!  Mr. Calton, sir, how are you?”’
Here the attendant laughed till Mrs. Bloss was in serious apprehension of
her chuckling herself into a fit.

‘Well, I never!’ said Mrs. Bloss.

‘Yes.  And please, ma’am, the servants gives him gin-and-water sometimes;
and then he cries, and says he hates his wife and the boarders, and wants
to tickle them.’

‘Tickle the boarders!’ exclaimed Mrs. Bloss, seriously alarmed.

‘No, ma’am, not the boarders, the servants.’

‘Oh, is that all!’ said Mrs. Bloss, quite satisfied.

‘He wanted to kiss me as I came up the kitchen-stairs, just now,’ said
Agnes, indignantly; ‘but I gave it him—a little wretch!’

This intelligence was but too true.  A long course of snubbing and
neglect; his days spent in the kitchen, and his nights in the turn-up
bedstead, had completely broken the little spirit that the unfortunate
volunteer had ever possessed.  He had no one to whom he could detail his
injuries but the servants, and they were almost of necessity his chosen
confidants.  It is no less strange than true, however, that the little
weaknesses which he had incurred, most probably during his military
career, seemed to increase as his comforts diminished.  He was actually a
sort of journeyman Giovanni of the basement story.

The next morning, being Sunday, breakfast was laid in the front parlour
at ten o’clock.  Nine was the usual time, but the family always
breakfasted an hour later on sabbath.  Tibbs enrobed himself in his
Sunday costume—a black coat, and exceedingly short, thin trousers; with a
very large white waistcoat, white stockings and cravat, and Blucher
boots—and mounted to the parlour aforesaid.  Nobody had come down, and he
amused himself by drinking the contents of the milkpot with a teaspoon.

A pair of slippers were heard descending the stairs.  Tibbs flew to a
chair; and a stern-looking man, of about fifty, with very little hair on
his head, and a Sunday paper in his hand, entered the room.

‘Good morning, Mr. Evenson,’ said Tibbs, very humbly, with something
between a nod and a bow.

‘How do you do, Mr. Tibbs?’ replied he of the slippers, as he sat himself
down, and began to read his paper without saying another word.

‘Is Mr. Wisbottle in town to-day, do you know, sir?’ inquired Tibbs, just
for the sake of saying something.

‘I should think he was,’ replied the stern gentleman.  ‘He was whistling
“The Light Guitar,” in the next room to mine, at five o’clock this
morning.’

‘He’s very fond of whistling,’ said Tibbs, with a slight smirk.

‘Yes—I ain’t,’ was the laconic reply.

Mr. John Evenson was in the receipt of an independent income, arising
chiefly from various houses he owned in the different suburbs.  He was
very morose and discontented.  He was a thorough radical, and used to
attend a great variety of public meetings, for the express purpose of
finding fault with everything that was proposed.  Mr. Wisbottle, on the
other hand, was a high Tory.  He was a clerk in the Woods and Forests
Office, which he considered rather an aristocratic employment; he knew
the peerage by heart, and, could tell you, off-hand, where any
illustrious personage lived.  He had a good set of teeth, and a capital
tailor.  Mr. Evenson looked on all these qualifications with profound
contempt; and the consequence was that the two were always disputing,
much to the edification of the rest of the house.  It should be added,
that, in addition to his partiality for whistling, Mr. Wisbottle had a
great idea of his singing powers.  There were two other boarders, besides
the gentleman in the back drawing-room—Mr. Alfred Tomkins and Mr.
Frederick O’Bleary.  Mr. Tomkins was a clerk in a wine-house; he was a
connoisseur in paintings, and had a wonderful eye for the picturesque.
Mr. O’Bleary was an Irishman, recently imported; he was in a perfectly
wild state; and had come over to England to be an apothecary, a clerk in
a government office, an actor, a reporter, or anything else that turned
up—he was not particular.  He was on familiar terms with two small Irish
members, and got franks for everybody in the house.  He felt convinced
that his intrinsic merits must procure him a high destiny.  He wore
shepherd’s-plaid inexpressibles, and used to look under all the ladies’
bonnets as he walked along the streets.  His manners and appearance
reminded one of Orson.

‘Here comes Mr. Wisbottle,’ said Tibbs; and Mr. Wisbottle forthwith
appeared in blue slippers, and a shawl dressing-gown, whistling ‘_Di
piacer_.’

‘Good morning, sir,’ said Tibbs again.  It was almost the only thing he
ever said to anybody.

‘How are you, Tibbs?’ condescendingly replied the amateur; and he walked
to the window, and whistled louder than ever.

‘Pretty air, that!’ said Evenson, with a snarl, and without taking his
eyes off the paper.

‘Glad you like it,’ replied Wisbottle, highly gratified.

‘Don’t you think it would sound better, if you whistled it a little
louder?’ inquired the mastiff.

‘No; I don’t think it would,’ rejoined the unconscious Wisbottle.

‘I’ll tell you what, Wisbottle,’ said Evenson, who had been bottling up
his anger for some hours—‘the next time you feel disposed to whistle “The
Light Guitar” at five o’clock in the morning, I’ll trouble you to whistle
it with your head out o’ window.  If you don’t, I’ll learn the triangle—I
will, by—’

The entrance of Mrs. Tibbs (with the keys in a little basket) interrupted
the threat, and prevented its conclusion.

Mrs. Tibbs apologised for being down rather late; the bell was rung;
James brought up the urn, and received an unlimited order for dry toast
and bacon.  Tibbs sat down at the bottom of the table, and began eating
water-cresses like a Nebuchadnezzar.  Mr. O’Bleary appeared, and Mr.
Alfred Tomkins.  The compliments of the morning were exchanged, and the
tea was made.

‘God bless me!’ exclaimed Tomkins, who had been looking out at the
window.  ‘Here—Wisbottle—pray come here—make haste.’

Mr. Wisbottle started from the table, and every one looked up.

‘Do you see,’ said the connoisseur, placing Wisbottle in the right
position—‘a little more this way: there—do you see how splendidly the
light falls upon the left side of that broken chimney-pot at No. 48?’

‘Dear me!  I see,’ replied Wisbottle, in a tone of admiration.

‘I never saw an object stand out so beautifully against the clear sky in
my life,’ ejaculated Alfred.  Everybody (except John Evenson) echoed the
sentiment; for Mr. Tomkins had a great character for finding out beauties
which no one else could discover—he certainly deserved it.

‘I have frequently observed a chimney-pot in College-green, Dublin, which
has a much better effect,’ said the patriotic O’Bleary, who never allowed
Ireland to be outdone on any point.

The assertion was received with obvious incredulity, for Mr. Tomkins
declared that no other chimney-pot in the United Kingdom, broken or
unbroken, could be so beautiful as the one at No. 48.

The room-door was suddenly thrown open, and Agnes appeared, leading in
Mrs. Bloss, who was dressed in a geranium-coloured muslin gown, and
displayed a gold watch of huge dimensions; a chain to match; and a
splendid assortment of rings, with enormous stones.  A general rush was
made for a chair, and a regular introduction took place.  Mr. John
Evenson made a slight inclination of the head; Mr. Frederick O’Bleary,
Mr. Alfred Tomkins, and Mr. Wisbottle, bowed like the mandarins in a
grocer’s shop; Tibbs rubbed hands, and went round in circles.  He was
observed to close one eye, and to assume a clock-work sort of expression
with the other; this has been considered as a wink, and it has been
reported that Agnes was its object.  We repel the calumny, and challenge
contradiction.

Mrs. Tibbs inquired after Mrs. Bloss’s health in a low tone.  Mrs. Bloss,
with a supreme contempt for the memory of Lindley Murray, answered the
various questions in a most satisfactory manner; and a pause ensued,
during which the eatables disappeared with awful rapidity.

‘You must have been very much pleased with the appearance of the ladies
going to the Drawing-room the other day, Mr. O’Bleary?’ said Mrs. Tibbs,
hoping to start a topic.

‘Yes,’ replied Orson, with a mouthful of toast.

‘Never saw anything like it before, I suppose?’ suggested Wisbottle.

‘No—except the Lord Lieutenant’s levees,’ replied O’Bleary.

‘Are they at all equal to our drawing-rooms?’

‘Oh, infinitely superior!’

‘Gad!  I don’t know,’ said the aristocratic Wisbottle, ‘the Dowager
Marchioness of Publiccash was most magnificently dressed, and so was the
Baron Slappenbachenhausen.’

‘What was he presented on?’ inquired Evenson.

‘On his arrival in England.’

‘I thought so,’ growled the radical; ‘you never hear of these fellows
being presented on their going away again.  They know better than that.’

‘Unless somebody pervades them with an apintment,’ said Mrs. Bloss,
joining in the conversation in a faint voice.

‘Well,’ said Wisbottle, evading the point, ‘it’s a splendid sight.’

‘And did it never occur to you,’ inquired the radical, who never would be
quiet; ‘did it never occur to you, that you pay for these precious
ornaments of society?’

‘It certainly _has_ occurred to me,’ said Wisbottle, who thought this
answer was a poser; ‘it _has_ occurred to me, and I am willing to pay for
them.’

‘Well, and it has occurred to me too,’ replied John Evenson, ‘and I ain’t
willing to pay for ’em.  Then why should I?—I say, why should I?’
continued the politician, laying down the paper, and knocking his
knuckles on the table.  ‘There are two great principles—demand—’

‘A cup of tea if you please, dear,’ interrupted Tibbs.

‘And supply—’

‘May I trouble you to hand this tea to Mr. Tibbs?’ said Mrs. Tibbs,
interrupting the argument, and unconsciously illustrating it.

The thread of the orator’s discourse was broken.  He drank his tea and
resumed the paper.

‘If it’s very fine,’ said Mr. Alfred Tomkins, addressing the company in
general, ‘I shall ride down to Richmond to-day, and come back by the
steamer.  There are some splendid effects of light and shade on the
Thames; the contrast between the blueness of the sky and the yellow water
is frequently exceedingly beautiful.’  Mr. Wisbottle hummed, ‘Flow on,
thou shining river.’

‘We have some splendid steam-vessels in Ireland,’ said O’Bleary.

‘Certainly,’ said Mrs. Bloss, delighted to find a subject broached in
which she could take part.

‘The accommodations are extraordinary,’ said O’Bleary.

‘Extraordinary indeed,’ returned Mrs. Bloss.  ‘When Mr. Bloss was alive,
he was promiscuously obligated to go to Ireland on business.  I went with
him, and raly the manner in which the ladies and gentlemen were
accommodated with berths, is not creditable.’

Tibbs, who had been listening to the dialogue, looked aghast, and evinced
a strong inclination to ask a question, but was checked by a look from
his wife.  Mr. Wisbottle laughed, and said Tomkins had made a pun; and
Tomkins laughed too, and said he had not.

The remainder of the meal passed off as breakfasts usually do.
Conversation flagged, and people played with their teaspoons.  The
gentlemen looked out at the window; walked about the room; and, when they
got near the door, dropped off one by one.  Tibbs retired to the back
parlour by his wife’s orders, to check the green-grocer’s weekly account;
and ultimately Mrs. Tibbs and Mrs. Bloss were left alone together.

‘Oh dear!’ said the latter, ‘I feel alarmingly faint; it’s very
singular.’  (It certainly was, for she had eaten four pounds of solids
that morning.)  ‘By-the-bye,’ said Mrs. Bloss, ‘I have not seen Mr.
What’s-his-name yet.’

‘Mr. Gobler?’ suggested Mrs. Tibbs.

‘Yes.’

‘Oh!’ said Mrs. Tibbs, ‘he is a most mysterious person.  He has his meals
regularly sent up-stairs, and sometimes don’t leave his room for weeks
together.’

‘I haven’t seen or heard nothing of him,’ repeated Mrs. Bloss.

‘I dare say you’ll hear him to-night,’ replied Mrs. Tibbs; ‘he generally
groans a good deal on Sunday evenings.’

‘I never felt such an interest in any one in my life,’ ejaculated Mrs.
Bloss.  A little double-knock interrupted the conversation; Dr. Wosky was
announced, and duly shown in.  He was a little man with a red
face—dressed of course in black, with a stiff white neckerchief.  He had
a very good practice, and plenty of money, which he had amassed by
invariably humouring the worst fancies of all the females of all the
families he had ever been introduced into.  Mrs. Tibbs offered to retire,
but was entreated to stay.

‘Well, my dear ma’am, and how are we?’ inquired Wosky, in a soothing
tone.

‘Very ill, doctor—very ill,’ said Mrs. Bloss, in a whisper

‘Ah! we must take care of ourselves;—we must, indeed,’ said the
obsequious Wosky, as he felt the pulse of his interesting patient.

‘How is our appetite?’

Mrs. Bloss shook her head.

‘Our friend requires great care,’ said Wosky, appealing to Mrs. Tibbs,
who of course assented.  ‘I hope, however, with the blessing of
Providence, that we shall be enabled to make her quite stout again.’
Mrs. Tibbs wondered in her own mind what the patient would be when she
was made quite stout.

‘We must take stimulants,’ said the cunning Wosky—‘plenty of nourishment,
and, above all, we must keep our nerves quiet; we positively must not
give way to our sensibilities.  We must take all we can get,’ concluded
the doctor, as he pocketed his fee, ‘and we must keep quiet.’

‘Dear man!’ exclaimed Mrs. Bloss, as the doctor stepped into the
carriage.

‘Charming creature indeed—quite a lady’s man!’ said Mrs. Tibbs, and Dr.
Wosky rattled away to make fresh gulls of delicate females, and pocket
fresh fees.

As we had occasion, in a former paper, to describe a dinner at Mrs.
Tibbs’s; and as one meal went off very like another on all ordinary
occasions; we will not fatigue our readers by entering into any other
detailed account of the domestic economy of the establishment.  We will
therefore proceed to events, merely premising that the mysterious tenant
of the back drawing-room was a lazy, selfish hypochondriac; always
complaining and never ill.  As his character in many respects closely
assimilated to that of Mrs. Bloss, a very warm friendship soon sprung up
between them.  He was tall, thin, and pale; he always fancied he had a
severe pain somewhere or other, and his face invariably wore a pinched,
screwed-up expression; he looked, indeed, like a man who had got his feet
in a tub of exceedingly hot water, against his will.

For two or three months after Mrs. Bloss’s first appearance in
Coram-street, John Evenson was observed to become, every day, more
sarcastic and more ill-natured; and there was a degree of additional
importance in his manner, which clearly showed that he fancied he had
discovered something, which he only wanted a proper opportunity of
divulging.  He found it at last.

One evening, the different inmates of the house were assembled in the
drawing-room engaged in their ordinary occupations.  Mr. Gobler and Mrs.
Bloss were sitting at a small card-table near the centre window, playing
cribbage; Mr. Wisbottle was describing semicircles on the music-stool,
turning over the leaves of a book on the piano, and humming most
melodiously; Alfred Tomkins was sitting at the round table, with his
elbows duly squared, making a pencil sketch of a head considerably larger
than his own; O’Bleary was reading Horace, and trying to look as if he
understood it; and John Evenson had drawn his chair close to Mrs. Tibbs’s
work-table, and was talking to her very earnestly in a low tone.

‘I can assure you, Mrs. Tibbs,’ said the radical, laying his forefinger
on the muslin she was at work on; ‘I can assure you, Mrs. Tibbs, that
nothing but the interest I take in your welfare would induce me to make
this communication.  I repeat, I fear Wisbottle is endeavouring to gain
the affections of that young woman, Agnes, and that he is in the habit of
meeting her in the store-room on the first floor, over the leads.  From
my bedroom I distinctly heard voices there, last night.  I opened my door
immediately, and crept very softly on to the landing; there I saw Mr.
Tibbs, who, it seems, had been disturbed also.—Bless me, Mrs. Tibbs, you
change colour!’

‘No, no—it’s nothing,’ returned Mrs. T. in a hurried manner; ‘it’s only
the heat of the room.’

‘A flush!’ ejaculated Mrs. Bloss from the card-table; ‘that’s good for
four.’

‘If I thought it was Mr. Wisbottle,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, after a pause, ‘he
should leave this house instantly.’

‘Go!’ said Mrs. Bloss again.

‘And if I thought,’ continued the hostess with a most threatening air,
‘if I thought he was assisted by Mr. Tibbs—’

‘One for his nob!’ said Gobler.

‘Oh,’ said Evenson, in a most soothing tone—he liked to make mischief—‘I
should hope Mr. Tibbs was not in any way implicated.  He always appeared
to me very harmless.’

‘I have generally found him so,’ sobbed poor little Mrs. Tibbs; crying
like a watering-pot.

‘Hush! hush! pray—Mrs. Tibbs—consider—we shall be observed—pray, don’t!’
said John Evenson, fearing his whole plan would be interrupted.  ‘We will
set the matter at rest with the utmost care, and I shall be most happy to
assist you in doing so.’  Mrs. Tibbs murmured her thanks.

‘When you think every one has retired to rest to-night,’ said Evenson
very pompously, ‘if you’ll meet me without a light, just outside my
bedroom door, by the staircase window, I think we can ascertain who the
parties really are, and you will afterwards be enabled to proceed as you
think proper.’

Mrs. Tibbs was easily persuaded; her curiosity was excited, her jealousy
was roused, and the arrangement was forthwith made.  She resumed her
work, and John Evenson walked up and down the room with his hands in his
pockets, looking as if nothing had happened.  The game of cribbage was
over, and conversation began again.

‘Well, Mr. O’Bleary,’ said the humming-top, turning round on his pivot,
and facing the company, ‘what did you think of Vauxhall the other night?’

‘Oh, it’s very fair,’ replied Orson, who had been enthusiastically
delighted with the whole exhibition.

‘Never saw anything like that Captain Ross’s set-out—eh?’

‘No,’ returned the patriot, with his usual reservation—‘except in
Dublin.’

‘I saw the Count de Canky and Captain Fitzthompson in the Gardens,’ said
Wisbottle; ‘they appeared much delighted.’

‘Then it _must_ be beautiful,’ snarled Evenson.

‘I think the white bears is partickerlerly well done,’ suggested Mrs.
Bloss.  ‘In their shaggy white coats, they look just like Polar
bears—don’t you think they do, Mr. Evenson?’

‘I think they look a great deal more like omnibus cads on all fours,’
replied the discontented one.

‘Upon the whole, I should have liked our evening very well,’ gasped
Gobler; ‘only I caught a desperate cold which increased my pain
dreadfully!  I was obliged to have several shower-baths, before I could
leave my room.’

‘Capital things those shower-baths!’ ejaculated Wisbottle.

‘Excellent!’ said Tomkins.

‘Delightful!’ chimed in O’Bleary.  (He had once seen one, outside a
tinman’s.)

‘Disgusting machines!’ rejoined Evenson, who extended his dislike to
almost every created object, masculine, feminine, or neuter.

‘Disgusting, Mr. Evenson!’ said Gobler, in a tone of strong
indignation.—‘Disgusting!  Look at their utility—consider how many lives
they have saved by promoting perspiration.’

‘Promoting perspiration, indeed,’ growled John Evenson, stopping short in
his walk across the large squares in the pattern of the carpet—‘I was ass
enough to be persuaded some time ago to have one in my bedroom.  ‘Gad, I
was in it once, and it effectually cured _me_, for the mere sight of it
threw me into a profuse perspiration for six months afterwards.’

A titter followed this announcement, and before it had subsided James
brought up ‘the tray,’ containing the remains of a leg of lamb which had
made its _début_ at dinner; bread; cheese; an atom of butter in a forest
of parsley; one pickled walnut and the third of another; and so forth.
The boy disappeared, and returned again with another tray, containing
glasses and jugs of hot and cold water.  The gentlemen brought in their
spirit-bottles; the housemaid placed divers plated bedroom candlesticks
under the card-table; and the servants retired for the night.

Chairs were drawn round the table, and the conversation proceeded in the
customary manner.  John Evenson, who never ate supper, lolled on the
sofa, and amused himself by contradicting everybody.  O’Bleary ate as
much as he could conveniently carry, and Mrs. Tibbs felt a due degree of
indignation thereat; Mr. Gobler and Mrs. Bloss conversed most
affectionately on the subject of pill-taking, and other innocent
amusements; and Tomkins and Wisbottle ‘got into an argument;’ that is to
say, they both talked very loudly and vehemently, each flattering himself
that he had got some advantage about something, and neither of them
having more than a very indistinct idea of what they were talking about.
An hour or two passed away; and the boarders and the plated candlesticks
retired in pairs to their respective bedrooms.  John Evenson pulled off
his boots, locked his door, and determined to sit up until Mr. Gobler had
retired.  He always sat in the drawing-room an hour after everybody else
had left it, taking medicine, and groaning.

Great Coram-street was hushed into a state of profound repose: it was
nearly two o’clock.  A hackney-coach now and then rumbled slowly by; and
occasionally some stray lawyer’s clerk, on his way home to Somers-town,
struck his iron heel on the top of the coal-cellar with a noise
resembling the click of a smoke-Jack.  A low, monotonous, gushing sound
was heard, which added considerably to the romantic dreariness of the
scene.  It was the water ‘coming in’ at number eleven.

‘He must be asleep by this time,’ said John Evenson to himself, after
waiting with exemplary patience for nearly an hour after Mr. Gobler had
left the drawing-room.  He listened for a few moments; the house was
perfectly quiet; he extinguished his rushlight, and opened his bedroom
door.  The staircase was so dark that it was impossible to see anything.

‘S-s-s!’ whispered the mischief-maker, making a noise like the first
indication a catherine-wheel gives of the probability of its going off.

‘Hush!’ whispered somebody else.

‘Is that you, Mrs. Tibbs?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Where?’

‘Here;’ and the misty outline of Mrs. Tibbs appeared at the staircase
window, like the ghost of Queen Anne in the tent scene in Richard.

‘This way, Mrs. Tibbs,’ whispered the delighted busybody: ‘give me your
hand—there!  Whoever these people are, they are in the store-room now,
for I have been looking down from my window, and I could see that they
accidentally upset their candlestick, and are now in darkness.  You have
no shoes on, have you?’

‘No,’ said little Mrs. Tibbs, who could hardly speak for trembling.

‘Well; I have taken my boots off, so we can go down, close to the
store-room door, and listen over the banisters;’ and down-stairs they
both crept accordingly, every board creaking like a patent mangle on a
Saturday afternoon.

‘It’s Wisbottle and somebody, I’ll swear,’ exclaimed the radical in an
energetic whisper, when they had listened for a few moments.

‘Hush—pray let’s hear what they say!’ exclaimed Mrs. Tibbs, the
gratification of whose curiosity was now paramount to every other
consideration.

‘Ah! if I could but believe you,’ said a female voice coquettishly, ‘I’d
be bound to settle my missis for life.’

‘What does she say?’ inquired Mr. Evenson, who was not quite so well
situated as his companion.

‘She says she’ll settle her missis’s life,’ replied Mrs. Tibbs.  ‘The
wretch! they’re plotting murder.’

‘I know you want money,’ continued the voice, which belonged to Agnes;
‘and if you’d secure me the five hundred pound, I warrant she should take
fire soon enough.’

‘What’s that?’ inquired Evenson again.  He could just hear enough to want
to hear more.

‘I think she says she’ll set the house on fire,’ replied the affrighted
Mrs. Tibbs.  ‘But thank God I’m insured in the Phoenix!’

‘The moment I have secured your mistress, my dear,’ said a man’s voice in
a strong Irish brogue, ‘you may depend on having the money.’

‘Bless my soul, it’s Mr. O’Bleary!’ exclaimed Mrs. Tibbs, in a
parenthesis.

‘The villain!’ said the indignant Mr. Evenson.

‘The first thing to be done,’ continued the Hibernian, ‘is to poison Mr.
Gobler’s mind.’

‘Oh, certainly,’ returned Agnes.

‘What’s that?’ inquired Evenson again, in an agony of curiosity and a
whisper.

‘He says she’s to mind and poison Mr. Gobler,’ replied Mrs. Tibbs, aghast
at this sacrifice of human life.

‘And in regard of Mrs. Tibbs,’ continued O’Bleary.—Mrs. Tibbs shuddered.

‘Hush!’ exclaimed Agnes, in a tone of the greatest alarm, just as Mrs.
Tibbs was on the extreme verge of a fainting fit.  ‘Hush!’

‘Hush!’ exclaimed Evenson, at the same moment to Mrs. Tibbs.

‘There’s somebody coming _up_-stairs,’ said Agnes to O’Bleary.

‘There’s somebody coming _down_-stairs,’ whispered Evenson to Mrs. Tibbs.

‘Go into the parlour, sir,’ said Agnes to her companion.  ‘You will get
there, before whoever it is, gets to the top of the kitchen stairs.’

‘The drawing-room, Mrs. Tibbs!’ whispered the astonished Evenson to his
equally astonished companion; and for the drawing-room they both made,
plainly hearing the rustling of two persons, one coming down-stairs, and
one coming up.

‘What can it be?’ exclaimed Mrs. Tibbs.  ‘It’s like a dream.  I wouldn’t
be found in this situation for the world!’

‘Nor I,’ returned Evenson, who could never bear a joke at his own
expense.  ‘Hush! here they are at the door.’

‘What fun!’ whispered one of the new-comers.—It was Wisbottle.

‘Glorious!’ replied his companion, in an equally low tone.—This was
Alfred Tomkins.  ‘Who would have thought it?’

‘I told you so,’ said Wisbottle, in a most knowing whisper.  ‘Lord bless
you, he has paid her most extraordinary attention for the last two
months.  I saw ’em when I was sitting at the piano to-night.’

‘Well, do you know I didn’t notice it?’ interrupted Tomkins.

‘Not notice it!’ continued Wisbottle.  ‘Bless you; I saw him whispering
to her, and she crying; and then I’ll swear I heard him say something
about to-night when we were all in bed.’

‘They’re talking of _us_!’ exclaimed the agonised Mrs. Tibbs, as the
painful suspicion, and a sense of their situation, flashed upon her mind.

‘I know it—I know it,’ replied Evenson, with a melancholy consciousness
that there was no mode of escape.

‘What’s to be done? we cannot both stop here!’ ejaculated Mrs. Tibbs, in
a state of partial derangement.

‘I’ll get up the chimney,’ replied Evenson, who really meant what he
said.

‘You can’t,’ said Mrs. Tibbs, in despair.  ‘You can’t—it’s a register
stove.’

‘Hush!’ repeated John Evenson.

‘Hush—hush!’ cried somebody down-stairs.

‘What a d-d hushing!’ said Alfred Tomkins, who began to get rather
bewildered.

‘There they are!’ exclaimed the sapient Wisbottle, as a rustling noise
was heard in the store-room.

‘Hark!’ whispered both the young men.

‘Hark!’ repeated Mrs. Tibbs and Evenson.

‘Let me alone, sir,’ said a female voice in the store-room.

‘Oh, Hagnes!’ cried another voice, which clearly belonged to Tibbs, for
nobody else ever owned one like it, ‘Oh, Hagnes—lovely creature!’

‘Be quiet, sir!’  (A bounce.)

‘Hag—’

‘Be quiet, sir—I am ashamed of you.  Think of your wife, Mr. Tibbs.  Be
quiet, sir!’

‘My wife!’ exclaimed the valorous Tibbs, who was clearly under the
influence of gin-and-water, and a misplaced attachment; ‘I ate her!  Oh,
Hagnes! when I was in the volunteer corps, in eighteen hundred and—’

‘I declare I’ll scream.  Be quiet, sir, will you?’  (Another bounce and a
scuffle.)

‘What’s that?’ exclaimed Tibbs, with a start.

‘What’s what?’ said Agnes, stopping short.

‘Why that!’

‘Ah! you have done it nicely now, sir,’ sobbed the frightened Agnes, as a
tapping was heard at Mrs. Tibbs’s bedroom door, which would have beaten
any dozen woodpeckers hollow.

‘Mrs. Tibbs!  Mrs. Tibbs!’ called out Mrs. Bloss.  ‘Mrs. Tibbs, pray get
up.’  (Here the imitation of a woodpecker was resumed with tenfold
violence.)

‘Oh, dear—dear!’ exclaimed the wretched partner of the depraved Tibbs.
‘She’s knocking at my door.  We must be discovered!  What will they
think?’

‘Mrs. Tibbs!  Mrs. Tibbs!’ screamed the woodpecker again.

‘What’s the matter!’ shouted Gobler, bursting out of the back
drawing-room, like the dragon at Astley’s.

‘Oh, Mr. Gobler!’ cried Mrs. Bloss, with a proper approximation to
hysterics; ‘I think the house is on fire, or else there’s thieves in it.
I have heard the most dreadful noises!’

‘The devil you have!’ shouted Gobler again, bouncing back into his den,
in happy imitation of the aforesaid dragon, and returning immediately
with a lighted candle.  ‘Why, what’s this?  Wisbottle!  Tomkins!
O’Bleary!  Agnes!  What the deuce! all up and dressed?’

‘Astonishing!’ said Mrs. Bloss, who had run down-stairs, and taken Mr.
Gobler’s arm.

‘Call Mrs. Tibbs directly, somebody,’ said Gobler, turning into the front
drawing-room.—‘What!  Mrs. Tibbs and Mr. Evenson!!’

‘Mrs. Tibbs and Mr. Evenson!’ repeated everybody, as that unhappy pair
were discovered: Mrs. Tibbs seated in an arm-chair by the fireplace, and
Mr. Evenson standing by her side.

We must leave the scene that ensued to the reader’s imagination.  We
could tell, how Mrs. Tibbs forthwith fainted away, and how it required
the united strength of Mr. Wisbottle and Mr. Alfred Tomkins to hold her
in her chair; how Mr. Evenson explained, and how his explanation was
evidently disbelieved; how Agnes repelled the accusations of Mrs. Tibbs
by proving that she was negotiating with Mr. O’Bleary to influence her
mistress’s affections in his behalf; and how Mr. Gobler threw a damp
counterpane on the hopes of Mr. O’Bleary by avowing that he (Gobler) had
already proposed to, and been accepted by, Mrs. Bloss; how Agnes was
discharged from that lady’s service; how Mr. O’Bleary discharged himself
from Mrs. Tibbs’s house, without going through the form of previously
discharging his bill; and how that disappointed young gentleman rails
against England and the English, and vows there is no virtue or fine
feeling extant, ‘except in Ireland.’  We repeat that we _could_ tell all
this, but we love to exercise our self-denial, and we therefore prefer
leaving it to be imagined.

The lady whom we have hitherto described as Mrs. Bloss, is no more.  Mrs.
Gobler exists: Mrs. Bloss has left us for ever.  In a secluded retreat in
Newington Butts, far, far removed from the noisy strife of that great
boarding-house, the world, the enviable Gobler and his pleasing wife
revel in retirement: happy in their complaints, their table, and their
medicine, wafted through life by the grateful prayers of all the
purveyors of animal food within three miles round.

We would willingly stop here, but we have a painful duty imposed upon us,
which we must discharge.  Mr. and Mrs. Tibbs have separated by mutual
consent, Mrs. Tibbs receiving one moiety of 43_l._ 15_s._ 10_d._, which
we before stated to be the amount of her husband’s annual income, and Mr.
Tibbs the other.  He is spending the evening of his days in retirement;
and he is spending also, annually, that small but honourable
independence.  He resides among the original settlers at Walworth; and it
has been stated, on unquestionable authority, that the conclusion of the
volunteer story has been heard in a small tavern in that respectable
neighbourhood.

The unfortunate Mrs. Tibbs has determined to dispose of the whole of her
furniture by public auction, and to retire from a residence in which she
has suffered so much.  Mr. Robins has been applied to, to conduct the
sale, and the transcendent abilities of the literary gentlemen connected
with his establishment are now devoted to the task of drawing up the
preliminary advertisement.  It is to contain, among a variety of
brilliant matter, seventy-eight words in large capitals, and six original
quotations in inverted commas.



CHAPTER II—MR. MINNS AND HIS COUSIN


Mr. Augustus Minns was a bachelor, of about forty as he said—of about
eight-and-forty as his friends said.  He was always exceedingly clean,
precise, and tidy; perhaps somewhat priggish, and the most retiring man
in the world.  He usually wore a brown frock-coat without a wrinkle,
light inexplicables without a spot, a neat neckerchief with a remarkably
neat tie, and boots without a fault; moreover, he always carried a brown
silk umbrella with an ivory handle.  He was a clerk in Somerset-house,
or, as he said himself, he held ‘a responsible situation under
Government.’  He had a good and increasing salary, in addition to some
10,000_l._ of his own (invested in the funds), and he occupied a first
floor in Tavistock-street, Covent-garden, where he had resided for twenty
years, having been in the habit of quarrelling with his landlord the
whole time: regularly giving notice of his intention to quit on the first
day of every quarter, and as regularly countermanding it on the second.
There were two classes of created objects which he held in the deepest
and most unmingled horror; these were dogs, and children.  He was not
unamiable, but he could, at any time, have viewed the execution of a dog,
or the assassination of an infant, with the liveliest satisfaction.
Their habits were at variance with his love of order; and his love of
order was as powerful as his love of life.  Mr. Augustus Minns had no
relations, in or near London, with the exception of his cousin, Mr.
Octavius Budden, to whose son, whom he had never seen (for he disliked
the father), he had consented to become godfather by proxy.  Mr. Budden
having realised a moderate fortune by exercising the trade or calling of
a corn-chandler, and having a great predilection for the country, had
purchased a cottage in the vicinity of Stamford-hill, whither he retired
with the wife of his bosom, and his only son, Master Alexander Augustus
Budden.  One evening, as Mr. and Mrs. B. were admiring their son,
discussing his various merits, talking over his education, and disputing
whether the classics should be made an essential part thereof, the lady
pressed so strongly upon her husband the propriety of cultivating the
friendship of Mr. Minns in behalf of their son, that Mr. Budden at last
made up his mind, that it should not be his fault if he and his cousin
were not in future more intimate.

‘I’ll break the ice, my love,’ said Mr. Budden, stirring up the sugar at
the bottom of his glass of brandy-and-water, and casting a sidelong look
at his spouse to see the effect of the announcement of his determination,
‘by asking Minns down to dine with us, on Sunday.’

‘Then pray, Budden, write to your cousin at once,’ replied Mrs. Budden.
‘Who knows, if we could only get him down here, but he might take a fancy
to our Alexander, and leave him his property?—Alick, my dear, take your
legs off the rail of the chair!’

‘Very true,’ said Mr. Budden, musing, ‘very true indeed, my love!’  On
the following morning, as Mr. Minns was sitting at his breakfast-table,
alternately biting his dry toast and casting a look upon the columns of
his morning paper, which he always read from the title to the printer’s
name, he heard a loud knock at the street-door; which was shortly
afterwards followed by the entrance of his servant, who put into his
hands a particularly small card, on which was engraven in immense
letters, ‘Mr. Octavius Budden, Amelia Cottage (Mrs. B.’s name was
Amelia), Poplar-walk, Stamford-hill.’

‘Budden!’ ejaculated Minns, ‘what can bring that vulgar man here!—say I’m
asleep—say I’m out, and shall never be home again—anything to keep him
down-stairs.’

‘But please, sir, the gentleman’s coming up,’ replied the servant, and
the fact was made evident, by an appalling creaking of boots on the
staircase accompanied by a pattering noise; the cause of which, Minns
could not, for the life of him, divine.

‘Hem—show the gentleman in,’ said the unfortunate bachelor.  Exit
servant, and enter Octavius preceded by a large white dog, dressed in a
suit of fleecy hosiery, with pink eyes, large ears, and no perceptible
tail.

The cause of the pattering on the stairs was but too plain.  Mr. Augustus
Minns staggered beneath the shock of the dog’s appearance.

‘My dear fellow, how are you?’ said Budden, as he entered.

He always spoke at the top of his voice, and always said the same thing
half-a-dozen times.

‘How are you, my hearty?’

‘How do you do, Mr. Budden?—pray take a chair!’ politely stammered the
discomfited Minns.

‘Thank you—thank you—well—how are you, eh?’

‘Uncommonly well, thank you,’ said Minns, casting a diabolical look at
the dog, who, with his hind legs on the floor, and his fore paws resting
on the table, was dragging a bit of bread and butter out of a plate,
preparatory to devouring it, with the buttered side next the carpet.

‘Ah, you rogue!’ said Budden to his dog; ‘you see, Minns, he’s like me,
always at home, eh, my boy!—Egad, I’m precious hot and hungry!  I’ve
walked all the way from Stamford-hill this morning.’

‘Have you breakfasted?’ inquired Minns.

‘Oh, no!—came to breakfast with you; so ring the bell, my dear fellow,
will you? and let’s have another cup and saucer, and the cold ham.—Make
myself at home, you see!’ continued Budden, dusting his boots with a
table-napkin.  ‘Ha!—ha!—ha!—’pon my life, I’m hungry.’

Minns rang the bell, and tried to smile.

‘I decidedly never was so hot in my life,’ continued Octavius, wiping his
forehead; ‘well, but how are you, Minns?  ‘Pon my soul, you wear
capitally!’

‘D’ye think so?’ said Minns; and he tried another smile.

‘’Pon my life, I do!’

‘Mrs. B. and—what’s his name—quite well?’

‘Alick—my son, you mean; never better—never better.  But at such a place
as we’ve got at Poplar-walk, you know, he couldn’t be ill if he tried.
When I first saw it, by Jove! it looked so knowing, with the front
garden, and the green railings and the brass knocker, and all that—I
really thought it was a cut above me.’

‘Don’t you think you’d like the ham better,’ interrupted Minns, ‘if you
cut it the other way?’  He saw, with feelings which it is impossible to
describe, that his visitor was cutting or rather maiming the ham, in
utter violation of all established rules.

‘No, thank ye,’ returned Budden, with the most barbarous indifference to
crime, ‘I prefer it this way, it eats short.  But I say, Minns, when will
you come down and see us?  You will be delighted with the place; I know
you will.  Amelia and I were talking about you the other night, and
Amelia said—another lump of sugar, please; thank ye—she said, don’t you
think you could contrive, my dear, to say to Mr. Minns, in a friendly
way—come down, sir—damn the dog! he’s spoiling your curtains,
Minns—ha!—ha!—ha!’  Minns leaped from his seat as though he had received
the discharge from a galvanic battery.

‘Come out, sir!—go out, hoo!’ cried poor Augustus, keeping, nevertheless,
at a very respectful distance from the dog; having read of a case of
hydrophobia in the paper of that morning.  By dint of great exertion,
much shouting, and a marvellous deal of poking under the tables with a
stick and umbrella, the dog was at last dislodged, and placed on the
landing outside the door, where he immediately commenced a most appalling
howling; at the same time vehemently scratching the paint off the two
nicely-varnished bottom panels, until they resembled the interior of a
backgammon-board.

‘A good dog for the country that!’ coolly observed Budden to the
distracted Minns, ‘but he’s not much used to confinement.  But now,
Minns, when will you come down?  I’ll take no denial, positively.  Let’s
see, to-day’s Thursday.—Will you come on Sunday?  We dine at five, don’t
say no—do.’

After a great deal of pressing, Mr. Augustus Minns, driven to despair,
accepted the invitation, and promised to be at Poplar-walk on the ensuing
Sunday, at a quarter before five to the minute.

‘Now mind the direction,’ said Budden: ‘the coach goes from the
Flower-pot, in Bishopsgate-street, every half hour.  When the coach stops
at the Swan, you’ll see, immediately opposite you, a white house.’

‘Which is your house—I understand,’ said Minns, wishing to cut short the
visit, and the story, at the same time.

‘No, no, that’s not mine; that’s Grogus’s, the great ironmonger’s.  I was
going to say—you turn down by the side of the white house till you can’t
go another step further—mind that!—and then you turn to your right, by
some stables—well; close to you, you’ll see a wall with “Beware of the
Dog” written on it in large letters—(Minns shuddered)—go along by the
side of that wall for about a quarter of a mile—and anybody will show you
which is my place.’

‘Very well—thank ye—good-bye.’

‘Be punctual.’

‘Certainly: good morning.’

‘I say, Minns, you’ve got a card.’

‘Yes, I have; thank ye.’  And Mr. Octavius Budden departed, leaving his
cousin looking forward to his visit on the following Sunday, with the
feelings of a penniless poet to the weekly visit of his Scotch landlady.

Sunday arrived; the sky was bright and clear; crowds of people were
hurrying along the streets, intent on their different schemes of pleasure
for the day; everything and everybody looked cheerful and happy except
Mr. Augustus Minns.

The day was fine, but the heat was considerable; when Mr. Minns had
fagged up the shady side of Fleet-street, Cheapside, and
Threadneedle-street, he had become pretty warm, tolerably dusty, and it
was getting late into the bargain.  By the most extraordinary good
fortune, however, a coach was waiting at the Flower-pot, into which Mr.
Augustus Minns got, on the solemn assurance of the cad that the vehicle
would start in three minutes—that being the very utmost extremity of time
it was allowed to wait by Act of Parliament.  A quarter of an hour
elapsed, and there were no signs of moving.  Minns looked at his watch
for the sixth time.

‘Coachman, are you going or not?’ bawled Mr. Minns, with his head and
half his body out of the coach window.

‘Di-rectly, sir,’ said the coachman, with his hands in his pockets,
looking as much unlike a man in a hurry as possible.

‘Bill, take them cloths off.’  Five minutes more elapsed: at the end of
which time the coachman mounted the box, from whence he looked down the
street, and up the street, and hailed all the pedestrians for another
five minutes.

‘Coachman! if you don’t go this moment, I shall get out,’ said Mr. Minns,
rendered desperate by the lateness of the hour, and the impossibility of
being in Poplar-walk at the appointed time.

‘Going this minute, sir,’ was the reply;—and, accordingly, the machine
trundled on for a couple of hundred yards, and then stopped again.  Minns
doubled himself up in a corner of the coach, and abandoned himself to his
fate, as a child, a mother, a bandbox and a parasol, became his
fellow-passengers.

The child was an affectionate and an amiable infant; the little dear
mistook Minns for his other parent, and screamed to embrace him.

‘Be quiet, dear,’ said the mamma, restraining the impetuosity of the
darling, whose little fat legs were kicking, and stamping, and twining
themselves into the most complicated forms, in an ecstasy of impatience.
‘Be quiet, dear, that’s not your papa.’

‘Thank Heaven I am not!’ thought Minns, as the first gleam of pleasure he
had experienced that morning shone like a meteor through his
wretchedness.

Playfulness was agreeably mingled with affection in the disposition of
the boy.  When satisfied that Mr. Minns was not his parent, he
endeavoured to attract his notice by scraping his drab trousers with his
dirty shoes, poking his chest with his mamma’s parasol, and other
nameless endearments peculiar to infancy, with which he beguiled the
tediousness of the ride, apparently very much to his own satisfaction.

When the unfortunate gentleman arrived at the Swan, he found to his great
dismay, that it was a quarter past five.  The white house, the stables,
the ‘Beware of the Dog,’—every landmark was passed, with a rapidity not
unusual to a gentleman of a certain age when too late for dinner.  After
the lapse of a few minutes, Mr. Minns found himself opposite a yellow
brick house with a green door, brass knocker, and door-plate, green
window-frames and ditto railings, with ‘a garden’ in front, that is to
say, a small loose bit of gravelled ground, with one round and two
scalene triangular beds, containing a fir-tree, twenty or thirty bulbs,
and an unlimited number of marigolds.  The taste of Mr. and Mrs. Budden
was further displayed by the appearance of a Cupid on each side of the
door, perched upon a heap of large chalk flints, variegated with pink
conch-shells.  His knock at the door was answered by a stumpy boy, in
drab livery, cotton stockings and high-lows, who, after hanging his hat
on one of the dozen brass pegs which ornamented the passage, denominated
by courtesy ‘The Hall,’ ushered him into a front drawing-room commanding
a very extensive view of the backs of the neighbouring houses.  The usual
ceremony of introduction, and so forth, over, Mr. Minns took his seat:
not a little agitated at finding that he was the last comer, and, somehow
or other, the Lion of about a dozen people, sitting together in a small
drawing-room, getting rid of that most tedious of all time, the time
preceding dinner.

‘Well, Brogson,’ said Budden, addressing an elderly gentleman in a black
coat, drab knee-breeches, and long gaiters, who, under pretence of
inspecting the prints in an Annual, had been engaged in satisfying
himself on the subject of Mr. Minns’s general appearance, by looking at
him over the tops of the leaves—‘Well, Brogson, what do ministers mean to
do?  Will they go out, or what?’

‘Oh—why—really, you know, I’m the last person in the world to ask for
news.  Your cousin, from his situation, is the most likely person to
answer the question.’

Mr. Minns assured the last speaker, that although he was in
Somerset-house, he possessed no official communication relative to the
projects of his Majesty’s Ministers.  But his remark was evidently
received incredulously; and no further conjectures being hazarded on the
subject, a long pause ensued, during which the company occupied
themselves in coughing and blowing their noses, until the entrance of
Mrs. Budden caused a general rise.

The ceremony of introduction being over, dinner was announced, and
down-stairs the party proceeded accordingly—Mr. Minns escorting Mrs.
Budden as far as the drawing-room door, but being prevented, by the
narrowness of the staircase, from extending his gallantry any farther.
The dinner passed off as such dinners usually do.  Ever and anon, amidst
the clatter of knives and forks, and the hum of conversation, Mr. B.’s
voice might be heard, asking a friend to take wine, and assuring him he
was glad to see him; and a great deal of by-play took place between Mrs.
B. and the servants, respecting the removal of the dishes, during which
her countenance assumed all the variations of a weather-glass, from
‘stormy’ to ‘set fair.’

Upon the dessert and wine being placed on the table, the servant, in
compliance with a significant look from Mrs. B., brought down ‘Master
Alexander,’ habited in a sky-blue suit with silver buttons; and
possessing hair of nearly the same colour as the metal.  After sundry
praises from his mother, and various admonitions as to his behaviour from
his father, he was introduced to his godfather.

‘Well, my little fellow—you are a fine boy, ain’t you?’ said Mr. Minns,
as happy as a tomtit on birdlime.

‘Yes.’

‘How old are you?’

‘Eight, next We’nsday.  How old are _you_?’

‘Alexander,’ interrupted his mother, ‘how dare you ask Mr. Minns how old
he is!’

‘He asked me how old _I_ was,’ said the precocious child, to whom Minns
had from that moment internally resolved that he never would bequeath one
shilling.  As soon as the titter occasioned by the observation had
subsided, a little smirking man with red whiskers, sitting at the bottom
of the table, who during the whole of dinner had been endeavouring to
obtain a listener to some stories about Sheridan, called, out, with a
very patronising air, ‘Alick, what part of speech is _be_.’

‘A verb.’

‘That’s a good boy,’ said Mrs. Budden, with all a mother’s pride.

‘Now, you know what a verb is?’

‘A verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer; as, I am—I
rule—I am ruled.  Give me an apple, Ma.’

‘I’ll give you an apple,’ replied the man with the red whiskers, who was
an established friend of the family, or in other words was always invited
by Mrs. Budden, whether Mr. Budden liked it or not, ‘if you’ll tell me
what is the meaning of _be_.’

‘Be?’ said the prodigy, after a little hesitation—‘an insect that gathers
honey.’

‘No, dear,’ frowned Mrs. Budden; ‘B double E is the substantive.’

‘I don’t think he knows much yet about _common_ substantives,’ said the
smirking gentleman, who thought this an admirable opportunity for letting
off a joke.  ‘It’s clear he’s not very well acquainted with _proper
names_.  He! he! he!’

‘Gentlemen,’ called out Mr. Budden, from the end of the table, in a
stentorian voice, and with a very important air, ‘will you have the
goodness to charge your glasses?  I have a toast to propose.’

‘Hear! hear!’ cried the gentlemen, passing the decanters.  After they had
made the round of the table, Mr. Budden proceeded—‘Gentlemen; there is an
individual present—’

‘Hear! hear!’ said the little man with red whiskers.

‘_Pray_ be quiet, Jones,’ remonstrated Budden.

‘I say, gentlemen, there is an individual present,’ resumed the host, ‘in
whose society, I am sure we must take great delight—and—and—the
conversation of that individual must have afforded to every one present,
the utmost pleasure.’  [‘Thank Heaven, he does not mean me!’ thought
Minns, conscious that his diffidence and exclusiveness had prevented his
saying above a dozen words since he entered the house.]  ‘Gentlemen, I am
but a humble individual myself, and I perhaps ought to apologise for
allowing any individual feeling of friendship and affection for the
person I allude to, to induce me to venture to rise, to propose the
health of that person—a person that, I am sure—that is to say, a person
whose virtues must endear him to those who know him—and those who have
not the pleasure of knowing him, cannot dislike him.’

‘Hear! hear!’ said the company, in a tone of encouragement and approval.

‘Gentlemen,’ continued Budden, ‘my cousin is a man who—who is a relation
of my own.’  (Hear! hear!)  Minns groaned audibly.  ‘Who I am most happy
to see here, and who, if he were not here, would certainly have deprived
us of the great pleasure we all feel in seeing him.  (Loud cries of
hear!)  Gentlemen, I feel that I have already trespassed on your
attention for too long a time.  With every feeling—of—with every
sentiment of—of—’

‘Gratification’—suggested the friend of the family.

‘—Of gratification, I beg to propose the health of Mr. Minns.’

‘Standing, gentlemen!’ shouted the indefatigable little man with the
whiskers—‘and with the honours.  Take your time from me, if you please.
Hip! hip! hip!—Za!—Hip! hip! hip!—Za!—Hip hip!—Za-a-a!’

All eyes were now fixed on the subject of the toast, who by gulping down
port wine at the imminent hazard of suffocation, endeavoured to conceal
his confusion.  After as long a pause as decency would admit, he rose,
but, as the newspapers sometimes say in their reports, ‘we regret that we
are quite unable to give even the substance of the honourable gentleman’s
observations.’  The words ‘present company—honour—present occasion,’ and
‘great happiness’—heard occasionally, and repeated at intervals, with a
countenance expressive of the utmost confusion and misery, convinced the
company that he was making an excellent speech; and, accordingly, on his
resuming his seat, they cried ‘Bravo!’ and manifested tumultuous
applause.  Jones, who had been long watching his opportunity, then darted
up.

‘Budden,’ said he, ‘will you allow _me_ to propose a toast?’

‘Certainly,’ replied Budden, adding in an under-tone to Minns right
across the table, ‘Devilish sharp fellow that: you’ll be very much
pleased with his speech.  He talks equally well on any subject.’  Minns
bowed, and Mr. Jones proceeded:

‘It has on several occasions, in various instances, under many
circumstances, and in different companies, fallen to my lot to propose a
toast to those by whom, at the time, I have had the honour to be
surrounded, I have sometimes, I will cheerfully own—for why should I deny
it?—felt the overwhelming nature of the task I have undertaken, and my
own utter incapability to do justice to the subject.  If such have been
my feelings, however, on former occasions, what must they be
now—now—under the extraordinary circumstances in which I am placed.
(Hear! hear!)  To describe my feelings accurately, would be impossible;
but I cannot give you a better idea of them, gentlemen, than by referring
to a circumstance which happens, oddly enough, to occur to my mind at the
moment.  On one occasion, when that truly great and illustrious man,
Sheridan, was—’

Now, there is no knowing what new villainy in the form of a joke would
have been heaped on the grave of that very ill-used man, Mr. Sheridan, if
the boy in drab had not at that moment entered the room in a breathless
state, to report that, as it was a very wet night, the nine o’clock stage
had come round, to know whether there was anybody going to town, as, in
that case, he (the nine o’clock) had room for one inside.

Mr. Minns started up; and, despite countless exclamations of surprise,
and entreaties to stay, persisted in his determination to accept the
vacant place.  But, the brown silk umbrella was nowhere to be found; and
as the coachman couldn’t wait, he drove back to the Swan, leaving word
for Mr. Minns to ‘run round’ and catch him.  However, as it did not occur
to Mr. Minns for some ten minutes or so, that he had left the brown silk
umbrella with the ivory handle in the other coach, coming down; and,
moreover, as he was by no means remarkable for speed, it is no matter of
surprise that when he accomplished the feat of ‘running round’ to the
Swan, the coach—the last coach—had gone without him.

It was somewhere about three o’clock in the morning, when Mr. Augustus
Minns knocked feebly at the street-door of his lodgings in
Tavistock-street, cold, wet, cross, and miserable.  He made his will next
morning, and his professional man informs us, in that strict confidence
in which we inform the public, that neither the name of Mr. Octavius
Budden, nor of Mrs. Amelia Budden, nor of Master Alexander Augustus
Budden, appears therein.



CHAPTER III—SENTIMENT


The Miss Crumptons, or to quote the authority of the inscription on the
garden-gate of Minerva House, Hammersmith, ‘The Misses Crumpton,’ were
two unusually tall, particularly thin, and exceedingly skinny personages:
very upright, and very yellow.  Miss Amelia Crumpton owned to
thirty-eight, and Miss Maria Crumpton admitted she was forty; an
admission which was rendered perfectly unnecessary by the self-evident
fact of her being at least fifty.  They dressed in the most interesting
manner—like twins! and looked as happy and comfortable as a couple of
marigolds run to seed.  They were very precise, had the strictest
possible ideas of propriety, wore false hair, and always smelt very
strongly of lavender.

Minerva House, conducted under the auspices of the two sisters, was a
‘finishing establishment for young ladies,’ where some twenty girls of
the ages of from thirteen to nineteen inclusive, acquired a smattering of
everything, and a knowledge of nothing; instruction in French and
Italian, dancing lessons twice a-week; and other necessaries of life.
The house was a white one, a little removed from the roadside, with close
palings in front.  The bedroom windows were always left partly open, to
afford a bird’s-eye view of numerous little bedsteads with very white
dimity furniture, and thereby impress the passer-by with a due sense of
the luxuries of the establishment; and there was a front parlour hung
round with highly varnished maps which nobody ever looked at, and filled
with books which no one ever read, appropriated exclusively to the
reception of parents, who, whenever they called, could not fail to be
struck with the very deep appearance of the place.

‘Amelia, my dear,’ said Miss Maria Crumpton, entering the school-room one
morning, with her false hair in papers: as she occasionally did, in order
to impress the young ladies with a conviction of its reality.  ‘Amelia,
my dear, here is a most gratifying note I have just received.  You
needn’t mind reading it aloud.’

Miss Amelia, thus advised, proceeded to read the following note with an
air of great triumph:

    ‘Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., presents his compliments to
    Miss Crumpton, and will feel much obliged by Miss Crumpton’s calling
    on him, if she conveniently can, to-morrow morning at one o’clock, as
    Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., is anxious to see Miss Crumpton
    on the subject of placing Miss Brook Dingwall under her charge.

    ‘Adelphi.

    ‘Monday morning.’

‘A Member of Parliament’s daughter!’ ejaculated Amelia, in an ecstatic
tone.

‘A Member of Parliament’s daughter!’ repeated Miss Maria, with a smile of
delight, which, of course, elicited a concurrent titter of pleasure from
all the young ladies.

‘It’s exceedingly delightful!’ said Miss Amelia; whereupon all the young
ladies murmured their admiration again.  Courtiers are but school-boys,
and court-ladies school-girl’s.

So important an announcement at once superseded the business of the day.
A holiday was declared, in commemoration of the great event; the Miss
Crumptons retired to their private apartment to talk it over; the smaller
girls discussed the probable manners and customs of the daughter of a
Member of Parliament; and the young ladies verging on eighteen wondered
whether she was engaged, whether she was pretty, whether she wore much
bustle, and many other _whethers_ of equal importance.

The two Miss Crumptons proceeded to the Adelphi at the appointed time
next day, dressed, of course, in their best style, and looking as amiable
as they possibly could—which, by-the-bye, is not saying much for them.
Having sent in their cards, through the medium of a red-hot looking
footman in bright livery, they were ushered into the august presence of
the profound Dingwall.

Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., was very haughty, solemn, and
portentous.  He had, naturally, a somewhat spasmodic expression of
countenance, which was not rendered the less remarkable by his wearing an
extremely stiff cravat.  He was wonderfully proud of the M.P. attached to
his name, and never lost an opportunity of reminding people of his
dignity.  He had a great idea of his own abilities, which must have been
a great comfort to him, as no one else had; and in diplomacy, on a small
scale, in his own family arrangements, he considered himself unrivalled.
He was a county magistrate, and discharged the duties of his station with
all due justice and impartiality; frequently committing poachers, and
occasionally committing himself.  Miss Brook Dingwall was one of that
numerous class of young ladies, who, like adverbs, may be known by their
answering to a commonplace question, and doing nothing else.

On the present occasion, this talented individual was seated in a small
library at a table covered with papers, doing nothing, but trying to look
busy, playing at shop.  Acts of Parliament, and letters directed to
‘Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P.,’ were ostentatiously scattered
over the table; at a little distance from which, Mrs. Brook Dingwall was
seated at work.  One of those public nuisances, a spoiled child, was
playing about the room, dressed after the most approved fashion—in a blue
tunic with a black belt—a quarter of a yard wide, fastened with an
immense buckle—looking like a robber in a melodrama, seen through a
diminishing glass.

After a little pleasantry from the sweet child, who amused himself by
running away with Miss Maria Crumpton’s chair as fast as it was placed
for her, the visitors were seated, and Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq.,
opened the conversation.

He had sent for Miss Crumpton, he said, in consequence of the high
character he had received of her establishment from his friend, Sir
Alfred Muggs.

Miss Crumpton murmured her acknowledgments to him (Muggs), and Cornelius
proceeded.

‘One of my principal reasons, Miss Crumpton, for parting with my
daughter, is, that she has lately acquired some sentimental ideas, which
it is most desirable to eradicate from her young mind.’  (Here the little
innocent before noticed, fell out of an arm-chair with an awful crash.)

‘Naughty boy!’ said his mamma, who appeared more surprised at his taking
the liberty of falling down, than at anything else; ‘I’ll ring the bell
for James to take him away.’

‘Pray don’t check him, my love,’ said the diplomatist, as soon as he
could make himself heard amidst the unearthly howling consequent upon the
threat and the tumble.  ‘It all arises from his great flow of spirits.’
This last explanation was addressed to Miss Crumpton.

‘Certainly, sir,’ replied the antique Maria: not exactly seeing, however,
the connexion between a flow of animal spirits, and a fall from an
arm-chair.

Silence was restored, and the M.P. resumed: ‘Now, I know nothing so
likely to effect this object, Miss Crumpton, as her mixing constantly in
the society of girls of her own age; and, as I know that in your
establishment she will meet such as are not likely to contaminate her
young mind, I propose to send her to you.’

The youngest Miss Crumpton expressed the acknowledgments of the
establishment generally.  Maria was rendered speechless by bodily pain.
The dear little fellow, having recovered his animal spirits, was standing
upon her most tender foot, by way of getting his face (which looked like
a capital O in a red-lettered play-bill) on a level with the
writing-table.

‘Of course, Lavinia will be a parlour boarder,’ continued the enviable
father; ‘and on one point I wish my directions to be strictly observed.
The fact is, that some ridiculous love affair, with a person much her
inferior in life, has been the cause of her present state of mind.
Knowing that of course, under your care, she can have no opportunity of
meeting this person, I do not object to—indeed, I should rather
prefer—her mixing with such society as you see yourself.’

This important statement was again interrupted by the high-spirited
little creature, in the excess of his joyousness breaking a pane of
glass, and nearly precipitating himself into an adjacent area.  James was
rung for; considerable confusion and screaming succeeded; two little blue
legs were seen to kick violently in the air as the man left the room, and
the child was gone.

‘Mr. Brook Dingwall would like Miss Brook Dingwall to learn everything,’
said Mrs. Brook Dingwall, who hardly ever said anything at all.

‘Certainly,’ said both the Miss Crumptons together.

‘And as I trust the plan I have devised will be effectual in weaning my
daughter from this absurd idea, Miss Crumpton,’ continued the legislator,
‘I hope you will have the goodness to comply, in all respects, with any
request I may forward to you.’

The promise was of course made; and after a lengthened discussion,
conducted on behalf of the Dingwalls with the most becoming diplomatic
gravity, and on that of the Crumptons with profound respect, it was
finally arranged that Miss Lavinia should be forwarded to Hammersmith on
the next day but one, on which occasion the half-yearly ball given at the
establishment was to take place.  It might divert the dear girl’s mind.
This, by the way, was another bit of diplomacy.

Miss Lavinia was introduced to her future governess, and both the Miss
Crumptons pronounced her ‘a most charming girl;’ an opinion which, by a
singular coincidence, they always entertained of any new pupil.

Courtesies were exchanged, acknowledgments expressed, condescension
exhibited, and the interview terminated.

Preparations, to make use of theatrical phraseology, ‘on a scale of
magnitude never before attempted,’ were incessantly made at Minerva House
to give every effect to the forthcoming ball.  The largest room in the
house was pleasingly ornamented with blue calico roses, plaid tulips, and
other equally natural-looking artificial flowers, the work of the young
ladies themselves.  The carpet was taken up, the folding-doors were taken
down, the furniture was taken out, and rout-seats were taken in.  The
linen-drapers of Hammersmith were astounded at the sudden demand for blue
sarsenet ribbon, and long white gloves.  Dozens of geraniums were
purchased for bouquets, and a harp and two violins were bespoke from
town, in addition to the grand piano already on the premises.  The young
ladies who were selected to show off on the occasion, and do credit to
the establishment, practised incessantly, much to their own satisfaction,
and greatly to the annoyance of the lame old gentleman over the way; and
a constant correspondence was kept up, between the Misses Crumpton and
the Hammersmith pastrycook.

The evening came; and then there was such a lacing of stays, and tying of
sandals, and dressing of hair, as never can take place with a proper
degree of bustle out of a boarding-school.  The smaller girls managed to
be in everybody’s way, and were pushed about accordingly; and the elder
ones dressed, and tied, and flattered, and envied, one another, as
earnestly and sincerely as if they had actually _come out_.

‘How do I look, dear?’ inquired Miss Emily Smithers, the belle of the
house, of Miss Caroline Wilson, who was her bosom friend, because she was
the ugliest girl in Hammersmith, or out of it.

‘Oh! charming, dear.  How do I?’

‘Delightful! you never looked so handsome,’ returned the belle, adjusting
her own dress, and not bestowing a glance on her poor companion.

‘I hope young Hilton will come early,’ said another young lady to Miss
somebody else, in a fever of expectation.

‘I’m sure he’d be highly flattered if he knew it,’ returned the other,
who was practising _l’été_.

‘Oh! he’s so handsome,’ said the first.

‘Such a charming person!’ added a second.

‘Such a _distingué_ air!’ said a third.

‘Oh, what _do_ you think?’ said another girl, running into the room;
‘Miss Crumpton says her cousin’s coming.’

‘What!  Theodosius Butler?’ said everybody in raptures.

‘Is _he_ handsome?’ inquired a novice.

‘No, not particularly handsome,’ was the general reply; ‘but, oh, so
clever!’

Mr. Theodosius Butler was one of those immortal geniuses who are to be
met with in almost every circle.  They have, usually, very deep,
monotonous voices.  They always persuade themselves that they are
wonderful persons, and that they ought to be very miserable, though they
don’t precisely know why.  They are very conceited, and usually possess
half an idea; but, with enthusiastic young ladies, and silly young
gentlemen, they are very wonderful persons.  The individual in question,
Mr. Theodosius, had written a pamphlet containing some very weighty
considerations on the expediency of doing something or other; and as
every sentence contained a good many words of four syllables, his
admirers took it for granted that he meant a good deal.

‘Perhaps that’s he,’ exclaimed several young ladies, as the first pull of
the evening threatened destruction to the bell of the gate.

An awful pause ensued.  Some boxes arrived and a young lady—Miss Brook
Dingwall, in full ball costume, with an immense gold chain round her
neck, and her dress looped up with a single rose; an ivory fan in her
hand, and a most interesting expression of despair in her face.

The Miss Crumptons inquired after the family, with the most excruciating
anxiety, and Miss Brook Dingwall was formally introduced to her future
companions.  The Miss Crumptons conversed with the young ladies in the
most mellifluous tones, in order that Miss Brook Dingwall might be
properly impressed with their amiable treatment.

Another pull at the bell.  Mr. Dadson the writing-master, and his wife.
The wife in green silk, with shoes and cap-trimmings to correspond: the
writing-master in a white waistcoat, black knee-shorts, and ditto silk
stockings, displaying a leg large enough for two writing-masters.  The
young ladies whispered one another, and the writing-master and his wife
flattered the Miss Crumptons, who were dressed in amber, with long
sashes, like dolls.

Repeated pulls at the bell, and arrivals too numerous to particularise:
papas and mammas, and aunts and uncles, the owners and guardians of the
different pupils; the singing-master, Signor Lobskini, in a black wig;
the piano-forte player and the violins; the harp, in a state of
intoxication; and some twenty young men, who stood near the door, and
talked to one another, occasionally bursting into a giggle.  A general
hum of conversation.  Coffee handed round, and plentifully partaken of by
fat mammas, who looked like the stout people who come on in pantomimes
for the sole purpose of being knocked down.

The popular Mr. Hilton was the next arrival; and he having, at the
request of the Miss Crumptons, undertaken the office of Master of the
Ceremonies, the quadrilles commenced with considerable spirit.  The young
men by the door gradually advanced into the middle of the room, and in
time became sufficiently at ease to consent to be introduced to partners.
The writing-master danced every set, springing about with the most
fearful agility, and his wife played a rubber in the back-parlour—a
little room with five book-shelves, dignified by the name of the study.
Setting her down to whist was a half-yearly piece of generalship on the
part of the Miss Crumptons; it was necessary to hide her somewhere, on
account of her being a fright.

The interesting Lavinia Brook Dingwall was the only girl present, who
appeared to take no interest in the proceedings of the evening.  In vain
was she solicited to dance; in vain was the universal homage paid to her
as the daughter of a member of parliament.  She was equally unmoved by
the splendid tenor of the inimitable Lobskini, and the brilliant
execution of Miss Laetitia Parsons, whose performance of ‘The
Recollections of Ireland’ was universally declared to be almost equal to
that of Moscheles himself.  Not even the announcement of the arrival of
Mr. Theodosius Butler could induce her to leave the corner of the back
drawing-room in which she was seated.

‘Now, Theodosius,’ said Miss Maria Crumpton, after that enlightened
pamphleteer had nearly run the gauntlet of the whole company, ‘I must
introduce you to our new pupil.’

Theodosius looked as if he cared for nothing earthly.

‘She’s the daughter of a member of parliament,’ said Maria.—Theodosius
started.

‘And her name is—?’ he inquired.

‘Miss Brook Dingwall.’

‘Great Heaven!’ poetically exclaimed Theodosius, in a low tone.

Miss Crumpton commenced the introduction in due form.  Miss Brook
Dingwall languidly raised her head.

‘Edward!’ she exclaimed, with a half-shriek, on seeing the well-known
nankeen legs.

Fortunately, as Miss Maria Crumpton possessed no remarkable share of
penetration, and as it was one of the diplomatic arrangements that no
attention was to be paid to Miss Lavinia’s incoherent exclamations, she
was perfectly unconscious of the mutual agitation of the parties; and
therefore, seeing that the offer of his hand for the next quadrille was
accepted, she left him by the side of Miss Brook Dingwall.

‘Oh, Edward!’ exclaimed that most romantic of all romantic young ladies,
as the light of science seated himself beside her, ‘Oh, Edward, is it
you?’

Mr. Theodosius assured the dear creature, in the most impassioned manner,
that he was not conscious of being anybody but himself.

‘Then why—why—this disguise?  Oh!  Edward M’Neville Walter, what have I
not suffered on your account?’

‘Lavinia, hear me,’ replied the hero, in his most poetic strain.  ‘Do not
condemn me unheard.  If anything that emanates from the soul of such a
wretch as I, can occupy a place in your recollection—if any being, so
vile, deserve your notice—you may remember that I once published a
pamphlet (and paid for its publication) entitled “Considerations on the
Policy of Removing the Duty on Bees’-wax.”’

‘I do—I do!’ sobbed Lavinia.

‘That,’ continued the lover, ‘was a subject to which your father was
devoted heart and soul.’

‘He was—he was!’ reiterated the sentimentalist.

‘I knew it,’ continued Theodosius, tragically; ‘I knew it—I forwarded him
a copy.  He wished to know me.  Could I disclose my real name?  Never!
No, I assumed that name which you have so often pronounced in tones of
endearment.  As M’Neville Walter, I devoted myself to the stirring cause;
as M’Neville Walter I gained your heart; in the same character I was
ejected from your house by your father’s domestics; and in no character
at all have I since been enabled to see you.  We now meet again, and I
proudly own that I am—Theodosius Butler.’

The young lady appeared perfectly satisfied with this argumentative
address, and bestowed a look of the most ardent affection on the immortal
advocate of bees’-wax.

‘May I hope,’ said he, ‘that the promise your father’s violent behaviour
interrupted, may be renewed?’

‘Let us join this set,’ replied Lavinia, coquettishly—for girls of
nineteen _can_ coquette.

‘No,’ ejaculated he of the nankeens.  ‘I stir not from this spot,
writhing under this torture of suspense.  May I—may I—hope?’

‘You may.’

‘The promise is renewed?’

‘It is.’

‘I have your permission?’

‘You have.’

‘To the fullest extent?’

‘You know it,’ returned the blushing Lavinia.  The contortions of the
interesting Butler’s visage expressed his raptures.

We could dilate upon the occurrences that ensued.  How Mr. Theodosius and
Miss Lavinia danced, and talked, and sighed for the remainder of the
evening—how the Miss Crumptons were delighted thereat.  How the
writing-master continued to frisk about with one-horse power, and how his
wife, from some unaccountable freak, left the whist-table in the little
back-parlour, and persisted in displaying her green head-dress in the
most conspicuous part of the drawing-room.  How the supper consisted of
small triangular sandwiches in trays, and a tart here and there by way of
variety; and how the visitors consumed warm water disguised with lemon,
and dotted with nutmeg, under the denomination of negus.  These, and
other matters of as much interest, however, we pass over, for the purpose
of describing a scene of even more importance.

A fortnight after the date of the ball, Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq.,
M.P., was seated at the same library-table, and in the same room, as we
have before described.  He was alone, and his face bore an expression of
deep thought and solemn gravity—he was drawing up ‘A Bill for the better
observance of Easter Monday.’

The footman tapped at the door—the legislator started from his reverie,
and ‘Miss Crumpton’ was announced.  Permission was given for Miss
Crumpton to enter the _sanctum_; Maria came sliding in, and having taken
her seat with a due portion of affectation, the footman retired, and the
governess was left alone with the M.P.  Oh! how she longed for the
presence of a third party!  Even the facetious young gentleman would have
been a relief.

Miss Crumpton began the duet.  She hoped Mrs. Brook Dingwall and the
handsome little boy were in good health.

They were.  Mrs. Brook Dingwall and little Frederick were at Brighton.

‘Much obliged to you, Miss Crumpton,’ said Cornelius, in his most
dignified manner, ‘for your attention in calling this morning.  I should
have driven down to Hammersmith, to see Lavinia, but your account was so
very satisfactory, and my duties in the House occupy me so much, that I
determined to postpone it for a week.  How has she gone on?’

‘Very well indeed, sir,’ returned Maria, dreading to inform the father
that she had gone off.

‘Ah, I thought the plan on which I proceeded would be a match for her.’

Here was a favourable opportunity to say that somebody else had been a
match for her.  But the unfortunate governess was unequal to the task.

‘You have persevered strictly in the line of conduct I prescribed, Miss
Crumpton?’

‘Strictly, sir.’

‘You tell me in your note that her spirits gradually improved.’

‘Very much indeed, sir.’

‘To be sure.  I was convinced they would.’

‘But I fear, sir,’ said Miss Crumpton, with visible emotion, ‘I fear the
plan has not succeeded, quite so well as we could have wished.’

No!’ exclaimed the prophet.  ‘Bless me!  Miss Crumpton, you look alarmed.
What has happened?’

‘Miss Brook Dingwall, sir—’

‘Yes, ma’am?’

‘Has gone, sir’—said Maria, exhibiting a strong inclination to faint.

‘Gone!’

‘Eloped, sir.’

‘Eloped!—Who with—when—where—how?’ almost shrieked the agitated
diplomatist.

The natural yellow of the unfortunate Maria’s face changed to all the
hues of the rainbow, as she laid a small packet on the member’s table.

He hurriedly opened it.  A letter from his daughter, and another from
Theodosius.  He glanced over their contents—‘Ere this reaches you, far
distant—appeal to feelings—love to distraction—bees’-wax—slavery,’ &c.,
&c.  He dashed his hand to his forehead, and paced the room with
fearfully long strides, to the great alarm of the precise Maria.

‘Now mind; from this time forward,’ said Mr. Brook Dingwall, suddenly
stopping at the table, and beating time upon it with his hand; ‘from this
time forward, I never will, under any circumstances whatever, permit a
man who writes pamphlets to enter any other room of this house but the
kitchen.—I’ll allow my daughter and her husband one hundred and fifty
pounds a-year, and never see their faces again: and, damme! ma’am, I’ll
bring in a bill for the abolition of finishing-schools.’

Some time has elapsed since this passionate declaration.  Mr. and Mrs.
Butler are at present rusticating in a small cottage at Ball’s-pond,
pleasantly situated in the immediate vicinity of a brick-field.  They
have no family.  Mr. Theodosius looks very important, and writes
incessantly; but, in consequence of a gross combination on the part of
publishers, none of his productions appear in print.  His young wife
begins to think that ideal misery is preferable to real unhappiness; and
that a marriage, contracted in haste, and repented at leisure, is the
cause of more substantial wretchedness than she ever anticipated.

On cool reflection, Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., was reluctantly
compelled to admit that the untoward result of his admirable arrangements
was attributable, not to the Miss Crumptons, but his own diplomacy.  He,
however, consoles himself, like some other small diplomatists, by
satisfactorily proving that if his plans did not succeed, they ought to
have done so.  Minerva House is _in status quo_, and ‘The Misses
Crumpton’ remain in the peaceable and undisturbed enjoyment of all the
advantages resulting from their Finishing-School.



CHAPTER IV—THE TUGGSES AT RAMSGATE


Once upon a time there dwelt, in a narrow street on the Surrey side of
the water, within three minutes’ walk of old London Bridge, Mr. Joseph
Tuggs—a little dark-faced man, with shiny hair, twinkling eyes, short
legs, and a body of very considerable thickness, measuring from the
centre button of his waistcoat in front, to the ornamental buttons of his
coat behind.  The figure of the amiable Mrs. Tuggs, if not perfectly
symmetrical, was decidedly comfortable; and the form of her only
daughter, the accomplished Miss Charlotte Tuggs, was fast ripening into
that state of luxuriant plumpness which had enchanted the eyes, and
captivated the heart, of Mr. Joseph Tuggs in his earlier days.  Mr. Simon
Tuggs, his only son, and Miss Charlotte Tuggs’s only brother, was as
differently formed in body, as he was differently constituted in mind,
from the remainder of his family.  There was that elongation in his
thoughtful face, and that tendency to weakness in his interesting legs,
which tell so forcibly of a great mind and romantic disposition.  The
slightest traits of character in such a being, possess no mean interest
to speculative minds.  He usually appeared in public, in capacious shoes
with black cotton stockings; and was observed to be particularly attached
to a black glazed stock, without tie or ornament of any description.

There is perhaps no profession, however useful; no pursuit, however
meritorious; which can escape the petty attacks of vulgar minds.  Mr.
Joseph Tuggs was a grocer.  It might be supposed that a grocer was beyond
the breath of calumny; but no—the neighbours stigmatised him as a
chandler; and the poisonous voice of envy distinctly asserted that he
dispensed tea and coffee by the quartern, retailed sugar by the ounce,
cheese by the slice, tobacco by the screw, and butter by the pat.  These
taunts, however, were lost upon the Tuggses.  Mr. Tuggs attended to the
grocery department; Mrs. Tuggs to the cheesemongery; and Miss Tuggs to
her education.  Mr. Simon Tuggs kept his father’s books, and his own
counsel.

One fine spring afternoon, the latter gentleman was seated on a tub of
weekly Dorset, behind the little red desk with a wooden rail, which
ornamented a corner of the counter; when a stranger dismounted from a
cab, and hastily entered the shop.  He was habited in black cloth, and
bore with him, a green umbrella, and a blue bag.

‘Mr. Tuggs?’ said the stranger, inquiringly.

‘_My_ name is Tuggs,’ replied Mr. Simon.

‘It’s the other Mr. Tuggs,’ said the stranger, looking towards the glass
door which led into the parlour behind the shop, and on the inside of
which, the round face of Mr. Tuggs, senior, was distinctly visible,
peeping over the curtain.

Mr. Simon gracefully waved his pen, as if in intimation of his wish that
his father would advance.  Mr. Joseph Tuggs, with considerable celerity,
removed his face from the curtain and placed it before the stranger.

‘I come from the Temple,’ said the man with the bag.

‘From the Temple!’ said Mrs. Tuggs, flinging open the door of the little
parlour and disclosing Miss Tuggs in perspective.

‘From the Temple!’ said Miss Tuggs and Mr. Simon Tuggs at the same
moment.

‘From the Temple!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs, turning as pale as a Dutch
cheese.

‘From the Temple,’ repeated the man with the bag; ‘from Mr. Cower’s, the
solicitor’s.  Mr. Tuggs, I congratulate you, sir.  Ladies, I wish you joy
of your prosperity!  We have been successful.’  And the man with the bag
leisurely divested himself of his umbrella and glove, as a preliminary to
shaking hands with Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

Now the words ‘we have been successful,’ had no sooner issued from the
mouth of the man with the bag, than Mr. Simon Tuggs rose from the tub of
weekly Dorset, opened his eyes very wide, gasped for breath, made figures
of eight in the air with his pen, and finally fell into the arms of his
anxious mother, and fainted away without the slightest ostensible cause
or pretence.

‘Water!’ screamed Mrs. Tuggs.

‘Look up, my son,’ exclaimed Mr. Tuggs.

‘Simon! dear Simon!’ shrieked Miss Tuggs.

‘I’m better now,’ said Mr. Simon Tuggs.  ‘What! successful!’  And then,
as corroborative evidence of his being better, he fainted away again, and
was borne into the little parlour by the united efforts of the remainder
of the family, and the man with the bag.

To a casual spectator, or to any one unacquainted with the position of
the family, this fainting would have been unaccountable.  To those who
understood the mission of the man with the bag, and were moreover
acquainted with the excitability of the nerves of Mr. Simon Tuggs, it was
quite comprehensible.  A long-pending lawsuit respecting the validity of
a will, had been unexpectedly decided; and Mr. Joseph Tuggs was the
possessor of twenty thousand pounds.

A prolonged consultation took place, that night, in the little parlour—a
consultation that was to settle the future destinies of the Tuggses.  The
shop was shut up, at an unusually early hour; and many were the
unavailing kicks bestowed upon the closed door by applicants for
quarterns of sugar, or half-quarterns of bread, or penn’orths of pepper,
which were to have been ‘left till Saturday,’ but which fortune had
decreed were to be left alone altogether.

‘We must certainly give up business,’ said Miss Tuggs.

‘Oh, decidedly,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.

‘Simon shall go to the bar,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

‘And I shall always sign myself “Cymon” in future,’ said his son.

‘And I shall call myself Charlotta,’ said Miss Tuggs.

‘And you must always call _me_ “Ma,” and father “Pa,”’ said Mrs. Tuggs.

‘Yes, and Pa must leave off all his vulgar habits,’ interposed Miss
Tuggs.

‘I’ll take care of all that,’ responded Mr. Joseph Tuggs, complacently.
He was, at that very moment, eating pickled salmon with a pocket-knife.

‘We must leave town immediately,’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs.

Everybody concurred that this was an indispensable preliminary to being
genteel.  The question then arose, Where should they go?

‘Gravesend?’ mildly suggested Mr. Joseph Tuggs.  The idea was unanimously
scouted.  Gravesend was _low_.

‘Margate?’ insinuated Mrs. Tuggs.  Worse and worse—nobody there, but
tradespeople.

‘Brighton?’  Mr. Cymon Tuggs opposed an insurmountable objection.  All
the coaches had been upset, in turn, within the last three weeks; each
coach had averaged two passengers killed, and six wounded; and, in every
case, the newspapers had distinctly understood that ‘no blame whatever
was attributable to the coachman.’

‘Ramsgate?’ ejaculated Mr. Cymon, thoughtfully.  To be sure; how stupid
they must have been, not to have thought of that before!  Ramsgate was
just the place of all others.

Two months after this conversation, the City of London Ramsgate steamer
was running gaily down the river.  Her flag was flying, her band was
playing, her passengers were conversing; everything about her seemed gay
and lively.—No wonder—the Tuggses were on board.

‘Charming, ain’t it?’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs, in a bottle-green
great-coat, with a velvet collar of the same, and a blue travelling-cap
with a gold band.

‘Soul-inspiring,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs—he was entered at the bar.
‘Soul-inspiring!’

‘Delightful morning, sir!’ said a stoutish, military-looking gentleman in
a blue surtout buttoned up to his chin, and white trousers chained down
to the soles of his boots.

Mr. Cymon Tuggs took upon himself the responsibility of answering the
observation.  ‘Heavenly!’ he replied.

‘You are an enthusiastic admirer of the beauties of Nature, sir?’ said
the military gentleman.

‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs.

‘Travelled much, sir?’ inquired the military gentleman.

‘Not much,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs.

‘You’ve been on the continent, of course?’ inquired the military
gentleman.

‘Not exactly,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs—in a qualified tone, as if he
wished it to be implied that he had gone half-way and come back again.

‘You of course intend your son to make the grand tour, sir?’ said the
military gentleman, addressing Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

As Mr. Joseph Tuggs did not precisely understand what the grand tour was,
or how such an article was manufactured, he replied, ‘Of course.’  Just
as he said the word, there came tripping up, from her seat at the stern
of the vessel, a young lady in a puce-coloured silk cloak, and boots of
the same; with long black ringlets, large black eyes, brief petticoats,
and unexceptionable ankles.

‘Walter, my dear,’ said the young lady to the military gentleman.

‘Yes, Belinda, my love,’ responded the military gentleman to the
black-eyed young lady.

‘What have you left me alone so long for?’ said the young lady.  ‘I have
been stared out of countenance by those rude young men.’

‘What! stared at?’ exclaimed the military gentleman, with an emphasis
which made Mr. Cymon Tuggs withdraw his eyes from the young lady’s face
with inconceivable rapidity.  ‘Which young men—where?’ and the military
gentleman clenched his fist, and glared fearfully on the cigar-smokers
around.

‘Be calm, Walter, I entreat,’ said the young lady.

‘I won’t,’ said the military gentleman.

‘Do, sir,’ interposed Mr. Cymon Tuggs.  ‘They ain’t worth your notice.’

‘No—no—they are not, indeed,’ urged the young lady.

‘I _will_ be calm,’ said the military gentleman.  ‘You speak truly, sir.
I thank you for a timely remonstrance, which may have spared me the guilt
of manslaughter.’  Calming his wrath, the military gentleman wrung Mr.
Cymon Tuggs by the hand.

‘My sister, sir!’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs; seeing that the military
gentleman was casting an admiring look towards Miss Charlotta.

‘My wife, ma’am—Mrs. Captain Waters,’ said the military gentleman,
presenting the black-eyed young lady.

‘My mother, ma’am—Mrs. Tuggs,’ said Mr. Cymon.  The military gentleman
and his wife murmured enchanting courtesies; and the Tuggses looked as
unembarrassed as they could.

‘Walter, my dear,’ said the black-eyed young lady, after they had sat
chatting with the Tuggses some half-hour.

‘Yes, my love,’ said the military gentleman.

‘Don’t you think this gentleman (with an inclination of the head towards
Mr. Cymon Tuggs) is very much like the Marquis Carriwini?’

‘Lord bless me, very!’ said the military gentleman.

‘It struck me, the moment I saw him,’ said the young lady, gazing
intently, and with a melancholy air, on the scarlet countenance of Mr.
Cymon Tuggs.  Mr. Cymon Tuggs looked at everybody; and finding that
everybody was looking at him, appeared to feel some temporary difficulty
in disposing of his eyesight.

‘So exactly the air of the marquis,’ said the military gentleman.

‘Quite extraordinary!’ sighed the military gentleman’s lady.

‘You don’t know the marquis, sir?’ inquired the military gentleman.

Mr. Cymon Tuggs stammered a negative.

‘If you did,’ continued Captain Walter Waters, ‘you would feel how much
reason you have to be proud of the resemblance—a most elegant man, with a
most prepossessing appearance.’

‘He is—he is indeed!’ exclaimed Belinda Waters energetically.  As her eye
caught that of Mr. Cymon Tuggs, she withdrew it from his features in
bashful confusion.

All this was highly gratifying to the feelings of the Tuggses; and when,
in the course of farther conversation, it was discovered that Miss
Charlotta Tuggs was the _fac simile_ of a titled relative of Mrs. Belinda
Waters, and that Mrs. Tuggs herself was the very picture of the Dowager
Duchess of Dobbleton, their delight in the acquisition of so genteel and
friendly an acquaintance, knew no bounds.  Even the dignity of Captain
Walter Waters relaxed, to that degree, that he suffered himself to be
prevailed upon by Mr. Joseph Tuggs, to partake of cold pigeon-pie and
sherry, on deck; and a most delightful conversation, aided by these
agreeable stimulants, was prolonged, until they ran alongside Ramsgate
Pier.

‘Good-bye, dear!’ said Mrs. Captain Waters to Miss Charlotta Tuggs, just
before the bustle of landing commenced; ‘we shall see you on the sands in
the morning; and, as we are sure to have found lodgings before then, I
hope we shall be inseparables for many weeks to come.’

‘Oh! I hope so,’ said Miss Charlotta Tuggs, emphatically.

‘Tickets, ladies and gen’lm’n,’ said the man on the paddle-box.

‘Want a porter, sir?’ inquired a dozen men in smock-frocks.

‘Now, my dear!’ said Captain Waters.

‘Good-bye!’ said Mrs. Captain Waters—‘good-bye, Mr. Cymon!’ and with a
pressure of the hand which threw the amiable young man’s nerves into a
state of considerable derangement, Mrs. Captain Waters disappeared among
the crowd.  A pair of puce-coloured boots were seen ascending the steps,
a white handkerchief fluttered, a black eye gleamed.  The Waterses were
gone, and Mr. Cymon Tuggs was alone in a heartless world.

Silently and abstractedly, did that too sensitive youth follow his
revered parents, and a train of smock-frocks and wheelbarrows, along the
pier, until the bustle of the scene around, recalled him to himself.  The
sun was shining brightly; the sea, dancing to its own music, rolled
merrily in; crowds of people promenaded to and fro; young ladies
tittered; old ladies talked; nursemaids displayed their charms to the
greatest possible advantage; and their little charges ran up and down,
and to and fro, and in and out, under the feet, and between the legs, of
the assembled concourse, in the most playful and exhilarating manner.
There were old gentlemen, trying to make out objects through long
telescopes; and young ones, making objects of themselves in open
shirt-collars; ladies, carrying about portable chairs, and portable
chairs carrying about invalids; parties, waiting on the pier for parties
who had come by the steam-boat; and nothing was to be heard but talking,
laughing, welcoming, and merriment.

‘Fly, sir?’ exclaimed a chorus of fourteen men and six boys, the moment
Mr. Joseph Tuggs, at the head of his little party, set foot in the
street.

‘Here’s the gen’lm’n at last!’ said one, touching his hat with mock
politeness.  ‘Werry glad to see you, sir,—been a-waitin’ for you these
six weeks.  Jump in, if you please, sir!’

‘Nice light fly and a fast trotter, sir,’ said another: ‘fourteen mile a
hour, and surroundin’ objects rendered inwisible by ex-treme welocity!’

‘Large fly for your luggage, sir,’ cried a third.  ‘Werry large fly here,
sir—reg’lar bluebottle!’

‘Here’s _your_ fly, sir!’ shouted another aspiring charioteer, mounting
the box, and inducing an old grey horse to indulge in some imperfect
reminiscences of a canter.  ‘Look at him, sir!—temper of a lamb and
haction of a steam-ingein!’

Resisting even the temptation of securing the services of so valuable a
quadruped as the last named, Mr. Joseph Tuggs beckoned to the proprietor
of a dingy conveyance of a greenish hue, lined with faded striped calico;
and, the luggage and the family having been deposited therein, the animal
in the shafts, after describing circles in the road for a quarter of an
hour, at last consented to depart in quest of lodgings.

‘How many beds have you got?’ screamed Mrs. Tuggs out of the fly, to the
woman who opened the door of the first house which displayed a bill
intimating that apartments were to be let within.

‘How many did you want, ma’am?’ was, of course, the reply.

‘Three.’

‘Will you step in, ma’am?’  Down got Mrs. Tuggs.  The family were
delighted.  Splendid view of the sea from the front windows—charming!  A
short pause.  Back came Mrs. Tuggs again.—One parlour and a mattress.

‘Why the devil didn’t they say so at first?’ inquired Mr. Joseph Tuggs,
rather pettishly.

‘Don’t know,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.

‘Wretches!’ exclaimed the nervous Cymon.  Another bill—another stoppage.
Same question—same answer—similar result.

‘What do they mean by this?’ inquired Mr. Joseph Tuggs, thoroughly out of
temper.

‘Don’t know,’ said the placid Mrs. Tuggs.

‘Orvis the vay here, sir,’ said the driver, by way of accounting for the
circumstance in a satisfactory manner; and off they went again, to make
fresh inquiries, and encounter fresh disappointments.

It had grown dusk when the ‘fly’—the rate of whose progress greatly
belied its name—after climbing up four or five perpendicular hills,
stopped before the door of a dusty house, with a bay window, from which
you could obtain a beautiful glimpse of the sea—if you thrust half of
your body out of it, at the imminent peril of falling into the area.
Mrs. Tuggs alighted.  One ground-floor sitting-room, and three cells with
beds in them up-stairs.  A double-house.  Family on the opposite side.
Five children milk-and-watering in the parlour, and one little boy,
expelled for bad behaviour, screaming on his back in the passage.

‘What’s the terms?’ said Mrs. Tuggs.  The mistress of the house was
considering the expediency of putting on an extra guinea; so, she coughed
slightly, and affected not to hear the question.

‘What’s the terms?’ said Mrs. Tuggs, in a louder key.

‘Five guineas a week, ma’am, _with_ attendance,’ replied the
lodging-house keeper.  (Attendance means the privilege of ringing the
bell as often as you like, for your own amusement.)

‘Rather dear,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.  ‘Oh dear, no, ma’am!’ replied the
mistress of the house, with a benign smile of pity at the ignorance of
manners and customs, which the observation betrayed.  ‘Very cheap!’

Such an authority was indisputable.  Mrs. Tuggs paid a week’s rent in
advance, and took the lodgings for a month.  In an hour’s time, the
family were seated at tea in their new abode.

‘Capital srimps!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

Mr. Cymon eyed his father with a rebellious scowl, as he emphatically
said ‘_Shrimps_.’

‘Well, then, shrimps,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.  ‘Srimps or shrimps, don’t
much matter.’

There was pity, blended with malignity, in Mr. Cymon’s eye, as he
replied, ‘Don’t matter, father!  What would Captain Waters say, if he
heard such vulgarity?’

‘Or what would dear Mrs. Captain Waters say,’ added Charlotta, ‘if she
saw mother—ma, I mean—eating them whole, heads and all!’

‘It won’t bear thinking of!’ ejaculated Mr. Cymon, with a shudder.  ‘How
different,’ he thought, ‘from the Dowager Duchess of Dobbleton!’

‘Very pretty woman, Mrs. Captain Waters, is she not, Cymon?’ inquired
Miss Charlotta.

A glow of nervous excitement passed over the countenance of Mr. Cymon
Tuggs, as he replied, ‘An angel of beauty!’

‘Hallo!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.  ‘Hallo, Cymon, my boy, take care.
Married lady, you know;’ and he winked one of his twinkling eyes
knowingly.

‘Why,’ exclaimed Cymon, starting up with an ebullition of fury, as
unexpected as alarming, ‘why am I to be reminded of that blight of my
happiness, and ruin of my hopes?  Why am I to be taunted with the
miseries which are heaped upon my head?  Is it not enough to—to—to—’ and
the orator paused; but whether for want of words, or lack of breath, was
never distinctly ascertained.

There was an impressive solemnity in the tone of this address, and in the
air with which the romantic Cymon, at its conclusion, rang the bell, and
demanded a flat candlestick, which effectually forbade a reply.  He
stalked dramatically to bed, and the Tuggses went to bed too, half an
hour afterwards, in a state of considerable mystification and perplexity.

If the pier had presented a scene of life and bustle to the Tuggses on
their first landing at Ramsgate, it was far surpassed by the appearance
of the sands on the morning after their arrival.  It was a fine, bright,
clear day, with a light breeze from the sea.  There were the same ladies
and gentlemen, the same children, the same nursemaids, the same
telescopes, the same portable chairs.  The ladies were employed in
needlework, or watch-guard making, or knitting, or reading novels; the
gentlemen were reading newspapers and magazines; the children were
digging holes in the sand with wooden spades, and collecting water
therein; the nursemaids, with their youngest charges in their arms, were
running in after the waves, and then running back with the waves after
them; and, now and then, a little sailing-boat either departed with a gay
and talkative cargo of passengers, or returned with a very silent and
particularly uncomfortable-looking one.

‘Well, I never!’ exclaimed Mrs. Tuggs, as she and Mr. Joseph Tuggs, and
Miss Charlotta Tuggs, and Mr. Cymon Tuggs, with their eight feet in a
corresponding number of yellow shoes, seated themselves on four
rush-bottomed chairs, which, being placed in a soft part of the sand,
forthwith sunk down some two feet and a half—‘Well, I never!’

Mr. Cymon, by an exertion of great personal strength, uprooted the
chairs, and removed them further back.

‘Why, I’m blessed if there ain’t some ladies a-going in!’ exclaimed Mr.
Joseph Tuggs, with intense astonishment.

‘Lor, pa!’ exclaimed Miss Charlotta.

‘There _is_, my dear,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.  And, sure enough, four
young ladies, each furnished with a towel, tripped up the steps of a
bathing-machine.  In went the horse, floundering about in the water;
round turned the machine; down sat the driver; and presently out burst
the young ladies aforesaid, with four distinct splashes.

‘Well, that’s sing’ler, too!’ ejaculated Mr. Joseph Tuggs, after an
awkward pause.  Mr. Cymon coughed slightly.

‘Why, here’s some gentlemen a-going in on this side!’ exclaimed Mrs.
Tuggs, in a tone of horror.

Three machines—three horses—three flounderings—three turnings round—three
splashes—three gentlemen, disporting themselves in the water like so many
dolphins.

‘Well, _that’s_ sing’ler!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs again.  Miss Charlotta
coughed this time, and another pause ensued.  It was agreeably broken.

‘How d’ye do, dear?  We have been looking for you, all the morning,’ said
a voice to Miss Charlotta Tuggs.  Mrs. Captain Waters was the owner of
it.

‘How d’ye do?’ said Captain Walter Waters, all suavity; and a most
cordial interchange of greetings ensued.

‘Belinda, my love,’ said Captain Walter Waters, applying his glass to his
eye, and looking in the direction of the sea.

‘Yes, my dear,’ replied Mrs. Captain Waters.

‘There’s Harry Thompson!’

‘Where?’ said Belinda, applying her glass to her eye.

‘Bathing.’

‘Lor, so it is!  He don’t see us, does he?’

‘No, I don’t think he does’ replied the captain.  ‘Bless my soul, how
very singular!’

‘What?’ inquired Belinda.

‘There’s Mary Golding, too.’

‘Lor!—where?’  (Up went the glass again.)

‘There!’ said the captain, pointing to one of the young ladies before
noticed, who, in her bathing costume, looked as if she was enveloped in a
patent Mackintosh, of scanty dimensions.

‘So it is, I declare!’ exclaimed Mrs. Captain Waters.  ‘How very curious
we should see them both!’

‘Very,’ said the captain, with perfect coolness.

‘It’s the reg’lar thing here, you see,’ whispered Mr. Cymon Tuggs to his
father.

‘I see it is,’ whispered Mr. Joseph Tuggs in reply.  ‘Queer, though—ain’t
it?’  Mr. Cymon Tuggs nodded assent.

‘What do you think of doing with yourself this morning?’ inquired the
captain.  ‘Shall we lunch at Pegwell?’

‘I should like that very much indeed,’ interposed Mrs. Tuggs.  She had
never heard of Pegwell; but the word ‘lunch’ had reached her ears, and it
sounded very agreeably.

‘How shall we go?’ inquired the captain; ‘it’s too warm to walk.’

‘A shay?’ suggested Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

‘Chaise,’ whispered Mr. Cymon.

‘I should think one would be enough,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs aloud, quite
unconscious of the meaning of the correction.  ‘However, two shays if you
like.’

‘I should like a donkey _so_ much,’ said Belinda.

‘Oh, so should I!’ echoed Charlotta Tuggs.

‘Well, we can have a fly,’ suggested the captain, ‘and you can have a
couple of donkeys.’

A fresh difficulty arose.  Mrs. Captain Waters declared it would be
decidedly improper for two ladies to ride alone.  The remedy was obvious.
Perhaps young Mr. Tuggs would be gallant enough to accompany them.

Mr. Cymon Tuggs blushed, smiled, looked vacant, and faintly protested
that he was no horseman.  The objection was at once overruled.  A fly was
speedily found; and three donkeys—which the proprietor declared on his
solemn asseveration to be ‘three parts blood, and the other corn’—were
engaged in the service.

‘Kim up!’ shouted one of the two boys who followed behind, to propel the
donkeys, when Belinda Waters and Charlotta Tuggs had been hoisted, and
pushed, and pulled, into their respective saddles.

‘Hi—hi—hi!’ groaned the other boy behind Mr. Cymon Tuggs.  Away went the
donkey, with the stirrups jingling against the heels of Cymon’s boots,
and Cymon’s boots nearly scraping the ground.

‘Way—way!  Wo—o—o—!’ cried Mr. Cymon Tuggs as well as he could, in the
midst of the jolting.

‘Don’t make it gallop!’ screamed Mrs. Captain Waters, behind.

‘My donkey _will_ go into the public-house!’ shrieked Miss Tuggs in the
rear.

‘Hi—hi—hi!’ groaned both the boys together; and on went the donkeys as if
nothing would ever stop them.

Everything has an end, however; even the galloping of donkeys will cease
in time.  The animal which Mr. Cymon Tuggs bestrode, feeling sundry
uncomfortable tugs at the bit, the intent of which he could by no means
divine, abruptly sidled against a brick wall, and expressed his
uneasiness by grinding Mr. Cymon Tuggs’s leg on the rough surface.  Mrs.
Captain Waters’s donkey, apparently under the influence of some
playfulness of spirit, rushed suddenly, head first, into a hedge, and
declined to come out again: and the quadruped on which Miss Tuggs was
mounted, expressed his delight at this humorous proceeding by firmly
planting his fore-feet against the ground, and kicking up his hind-legs
in a very agile, but somewhat alarming manner.

This abrupt termination to the rapidity of the ride, naturally occasioned
some confusion.  Both the ladies indulged in vehement screaming for
several minutes; and Mr. Cymon Tuggs, besides sustaining intense bodily
pain, had the additional mental anguish of witnessing their distressing
situation, without having the power to rescue them, by reason of his leg
being firmly screwed in between the animal and the wall.  The efforts of
the boys, however, assisted by the ingenious expedient of twisting the
tail of the most rebellious donkey, restored order in a much shorter time
than could have reasonably been expected, and the little party jogged
slowly on together.

‘Now let ’em walk,’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs.  ‘It’s cruel to overdrive ’em.’

‘Werry well, sir,’ replied the boy, with a grin at his companion, as if
he understood Mr. Cymon to mean that the cruelty applied less to the
animals than to their riders.

‘What a lovely day, dear!’ said Charlotta.

‘Charming; enchanting, dear!’ responded Mrs. Captain Waters.

‘What a beautiful prospect, Mr. Tuggs!’

Cymon looked full in Belinda’s face, as he responded—‘Beautiful, indeed!’
The lady cast down her eyes, and suffered the animal she was riding to
fall a little back.  Cymon Tuggs instinctively did the same.

There was a brief silence, broken only by a sigh from Mr. Cymon Tuggs.

‘Mr. Cymon,’ said the lady suddenly, in a low tone, ‘Mr. Cymon—I am
another’s.’

Mr. Cymon expressed his perfect concurrence in a statement which it was
impossible to controvert.

‘If I had not been—’ resumed Belinda; and there she stopped.

‘What—what?’ said Mr. Cymon earnestly.  ‘Do not torture me.  What would
you say?’

‘If I had not been’—continued Mrs. Captain Waters—‘if, in earlier life,
it had been my fate to have known, and been beloved by, a noble youth—a
kindred soul—a congenial spirit—one capable of feeling and appreciating
the sentiments which—’

‘Heavens! what do I hear?’ exclaimed Mr. Cymon Tuggs.  ‘Is it possible!
can I believe my—Come up!’  (This last unsentimental parenthesis was
addressed to the donkey, who, with his head between his fore-legs,
appeared to be examining the state of his shoes with great anxiety.)

‘Hi—hi—hi,’ said the boys behind.  ‘Come up,’ expostulated Cymon Tuggs
again.  ‘Hi—hi—hi,’ repeated the boys.  And whether it was that the
animal felt indignant at the tone of Mr. Tuggs’s command, or felt alarmed
by the noise of the deputy proprietor’s boots running behind him; or
whether he burned with a noble emulation to outstrip the other donkeys;
certain it is that he no sooner heard the second series of ‘hi—hi’s,’
than he started away, with a celerity of pace which jerked Mr. Cymon’s
hat off, instantaneously, and carried him to the Pegwell Bay hotel in no
time, where he deposited his rider without giving him the trouble of
dismounting, by sagaciously pitching him over his head, into the very
doorway of the tavern.

Great was the confusion of Mr. Cymon Tuggs, when he was put right end
uppermost, by two waiters; considerable was the alarm of Mrs. Tuggs in
behalf of her son; agonizing were the apprehensions of Mrs. Captain
Waters on his account.  It was speedily discovered, however, that he had
not sustained much more injury than the donkey—he was grazed, and the
animal was grazing—and then it _was_ a delightful party to be sure!  Mr.
and Mrs. Tuggs, and the captain, had ordered lunch in the little garden
behind:—small saucers of large shrimps, dabs of butter, crusty loaves,
and bottled ale.  The sky was without a cloud; there were flower-pots and
turf before them; the sea, from the foot of the cliff, stretching away as
far as the eye could discern anything at all; vessels in the distance
with sails as white, and as small, as nicely-got-up cambric
handkerchiefs.  The shrimps were delightful, the ale better, and the
captain even more pleasant than either.  Mrs. Captain Waters was in
_such_ spirits after lunch!—chasing, first the captain across the turf,
and among the flower-pots; and then Mr. Cymon Tuggs; and then Miss Tuggs;
and laughing, too, quite boisterously.  But as the captain said, it
didn’t matter; who knew what they were, there?  For all the people of the
house knew, they might be common people.  To which Mr. Joseph Tuggs
responded, ‘To be sure.’  And then they went down the steep wooden steps
a little further on, which led to the bottom of the cliff; and looked at
the crabs, and the seaweed, and the eels, till it was more than fully
time to go back to Ramsgate again.  Finally, Mr. Cymon Tuggs ascended the
steps last, and Mrs. Captain Waters last but one; and Mr. Cymon Tuggs
discovered that the foot and ankle of Mrs. Captain Waters, were even more
unexceptionable than he had at first supposed.

Taking a donkey towards his ordinary place of residence, is a very
different thing, and a feat much more easily to be accomplished, than
taking him from it.  It requires a great deal of foresight and presence
of mind in the one case, to anticipate the numerous flights of his
discursive imagination; whereas, in the other, all you have to do, is, to
hold on, and place a blind confidence in the animal.  Mr. Cymon Tuggs
adopted the latter expedient on his return; and his nerves were so little
discomposed by the journey, that he distinctly understood they were all
to meet again at the library in the evening.

The library was crowded.  There were the same ladies, and the same
gentlemen, who had been on the sands in the morning, and on the pier the
day before.  There were young ladies, in maroon-coloured gowns and black
velvet bracelets, dispensing fancy articles in the shop, and presiding
over games of chance in the concert-room.  There were marriageable
daughters, and marriage-making mammas, gaming and promenading, and
turning over music, and flirting.  There were some male beaux doing the
sentimental in whispers, and others doing the ferocious in moustache.
There were Mrs. Tuggs in amber, Miss Tuggs in sky-blue, Mrs. Captain
Waters in pink.  There was Captain Waters in a braided surtout; there was
Mr. Cymon Tuggs in pumps and a gilt waistcoat; there was Mr. Joseph Tuggs
in a blue coat and a shirt-frill.

‘Numbers three, eight, and eleven!’ cried one of the young ladies in the
maroon-coloured gowns.

‘Numbers three, eight, and eleven!’ echoed another young lady in the same
uniform.

‘Number three’s gone,’ said the first young lady.  ‘Numbers eight and
eleven!’

‘Numbers eight and eleven!’ echoed the second young lady.

‘Number eight’s gone, Mary Ann,’ said the first young lady.

‘Number eleven!’ screamed the second.

‘The numbers are all taken now, ladies, if you please,’ said the first.
The representatives of numbers three, eight, and eleven, and the rest of
the numbers, crowded round the table.

‘Will you throw, ma’am?’ said the presiding goddess, handing the dice-box
to the eldest daughter of a stout lady, with four girls.

There was a profound silence among the lookers-on.

‘Throw, Jane, my dear,’ said the stout lady.  An interesting display of
bashfulness—a little blushing in a cambric handkerchief—a whispering to a
younger sister.

‘Amelia, my dear, throw for your sister,’ said the stout lady; and then
she turned to a walking advertisement of Rowlands’ Macassar Oil, who
stood next her, and said, ‘Jane is so _very_ modest and retiring; but I
can’t be angry with her for it.  An artless and unsophisticated girl is
_so_ truly amiable, that I often wish Amelia was more like her sister!’

The gentleman with the whiskers whispered his admiring approval.

‘Now, my dear!’ said the stout lady.  Miss Amelia threw—eight for her
sister, ten for herself.

‘Nice figure, Amelia,’ whispered the stout lady to a thin youth beside
her.

‘Beautiful!’

‘And _such_ a spirit!  I am like you in that respect.  I can _not_ help
admiring that life and vivacity.  Ah! (a sigh) I wish I could make poor
Jane a little more like my dear Amelia!’

The young gentleman cordially acquiesced in the sentiment; both he, and
the individual first addressed, were perfectly contented.

‘Who’s this?’ inquired Mr. Cymon Tuggs of Mrs. Captain Waters, as a short
female, in a blue velvet hat and feathers, was led into the orchestra, by
a fat man in black tights and cloudy Berlins.

‘Mrs. Tippin, of the London theatres,’ replied Belinda, referring to the
programme of the concert.

The talented Tippin having condescendingly acknowledged the clapping of
hands, and shouts of ‘bravo!’ which greeted her appearance, proceeded to
sing the popular cavatina of ‘Bid me discourse,’ accompanied on the piano
by Mr. Tippin; after which, Mr. Tippin sang a comic song, accompanied on
the piano by Mrs. Tippin: the applause consequent upon which, was only to
be exceeded by the enthusiastic approbation bestowed upon an air with
variations on the guitar, by Miss Tippin, accompanied on the chin by
Master Tippin.

Thus passed the evening; thus passed the days and evenings of the
Tuggses, and the Waterses, for six weeks.  Sands in the morning—donkeys
at noon—pier in the afternoon—library at night—and the same people
everywhere.

On that very night six weeks, the moon was shining brightly over the calm
sea, which dashed against the feet of the tall gaunt cliffs, with just
enough noise to lull the old fish to sleep, without disturbing the young
ones, when two figures were discernible—or would have been, if anybody
had looked for them—seated on one of the wooden benches which are
stationed near the verge of the western cliff.  The moon had climbed
higher into the heavens, by two hours’ journeying, since those figures
first sat down—and yet they had moved not.  The crowd of loungers had
thinned and dispersed; the noise of itinerant musicians had died away;
light after light had appeared in the windows of the different houses in
the distance; blockade-man after blockade-man had passed the spot,
wending his way towards his solitary post; and yet those figures had
remained stationary.  Some portions of the two forms were in deep shadow,
but the light of the moon fell strongly on a puce-coloured boot and a
glazed stock.  Mr. Cymon Tuggs and Mrs. Captain Waters were seated on
that bench.  They spoke not, but were silently gazing on the sea.

‘Walter will return to-morrow,’ said Mrs. Captain Waters, mournfully
breaking silence.

Mr. Cymon Tuggs sighed like a gust of wind through a forest of gooseberry
bushes, as he replied, ‘Alas! he will.’

‘Oh, Cymon!’ resumed Belinda, ‘the chaste delight, the calm happiness, of
this one week of Platonic love, is too much for me!’  Cymon was about to
suggest that it was too little for him, but he stopped himself, and
murmured unintelligibly.

‘And to think that even this gleam of happiness, innocent as it is,’
exclaimed Belinda, ‘is now to be lost for ever!’

‘Oh, do not say for ever, Belinda,’ exclaimed the excitable Cymon, as two
strongly-defined tears chased each other down his pale face—it was so
long that there was plenty of room for a chase.  ‘Do not say for ever!’

‘I must,’ replied Belinda.

‘Why?’ urged Cymon, ‘oh why?  Such Platonic acquaintance as ours is so
harmless, that even your husband can never object to it.’

‘My husband!’ exclaimed Belinda.  ‘You little know him.  Jealous and
revengeful; ferocious in his revenge—a maniac in his jealousy!  Would you
be assassinated before my eyes?’  Mr. Cymon Tuggs, in a voice broken by
emotion, expressed his disinclination to undergo the process of
assassination before the eyes of anybody.

‘Then leave me,’ said Mrs. Captain Waters.  ‘Leave me, this night, for
ever.  It is late: let us return.’

Mr. Cymon Tuggs sadly offered the lady his arm, and escorted her to her
lodgings.  He paused at the door—he felt a Platonic pressure of his hand.
‘Good night,’ he said, hesitating.

‘Good night,’ sobbed the lady.  Mr. Cymon Tuggs paused again.

‘Won’t you walk in, sir?’ said the servant.  Mr. Tuggs hesitated.  Oh,
that hesitation!  He _did_ walk in.

‘Good night!’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs again, when he reached the
drawing-room.

‘Good night!’ replied Belinda; ‘and, if at any period of my life,
I—Hush!’  The lady paused and stared with a steady gaze of horror, on the
ashy countenance of Mr. Cymon Tuggs.  There was a double knock at the
street-door.

‘It is my husband!’ said Belinda, as the captain’s voice was heard below.

‘And my family!’ added Cymon Tuggs, as the voices of his relatives
floated up the staircase.

‘The curtain!  The curtain!’ gasped Mrs. Captain Waters, pointing to the
window, before which some chintz hangings were closely drawn.

‘But I have done nothing wrong,’ said the hesitating Cymon.

‘The curtain!’ reiterated the frantic lady: ‘you will be murdered.’  This
last appeal to his feelings was irresistible.  The dismayed Cymon
concealed himself behind the curtain with pantomimic suddenness.

Enter the captain, Joseph Tuggs, Mrs. Tuggs, and Charlotta.

‘My dear,’ said the captain, ‘Lieutenant, Slaughter.’  Two iron-shod
boots and one gruff voice were heard by Mr. Cymon to advance, and
acknowledge the honour of the introduction.  The sabre of the lieutenant
rattled heavily upon the floor, as he seated himself at the table.  Mr.
Cymon’s fears almost overcame his reason.

‘The brandy, my dear!’ said the captain.  Here was a situation!  They
were going to make a night of it!  And Mr. Cymon Tuggs was pent up behind
the curtain and afraid to breathe!

‘Slaughter,’ said the captain, ‘a cigar?’

Now, Mr. Cymon Tuggs never could smoke without feeling it indispensably
necessary to retire, immediately, and never could smell smoke without a
strong disposition to cough.  The cigars were introduced; the captain was
a professed smoker; so was the lieutenant; so was Joseph Tuggs.  The
apartment was small, the door was closed, the smoke powerful: it hung in
heavy wreaths over the room, and at length found its way behind the
curtain.  Cymon Tuggs held his nose, his mouth, his breath.  It was all
of no use—out came the cough.

‘Bless my soul!’ said the captain, ‘I beg your pardon, Miss Tuggs.  You
dislike smoking?’

‘Oh, no; I don’t indeed,’ said Charlotta.

‘It makes you cough.’

‘Oh dear no.’

‘You coughed just now.’

‘Me, Captain Waters!  Lor! how can you say so?’

‘Somebody coughed,’ said the captain.

‘I certainly thought so,’ said Slaughter.  No; everybody denied it.

‘Fancy,’ said the captain.

‘Must be,’ echoed Slaughter.

Cigars resumed—more smoke—another cough—smothered, but violent.

‘Damned odd!’ said the captain, staring about him.

‘Sing’ler!’ ejaculated the unconscious Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

Lieutenant Slaughter looked first at one person mysteriously, then at
another: then, laid down his cigar, then approached the window on tiptoe,
and pointed with his right thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of
the curtain.

‘Slaughter!’ ejaculated the captain, rising from table, ‘what do you
mean?’

The lieutenant, in reply, drew back the curtain and discovered Mr. Cymon
Tuggs behind it: pallid with apprehension, and blue with wanting to
cough.

‘Aha!’ exclaimed the captain, furiously.  ‘What do I see?  Slaughter,
your sabre!’

‘Cymon!’ screamed the Tuggses.

‘Mercy!’ said Belinda.

‘Platonic!’ gasped Cymon.

‘Your sabre!’ roared the captain: ‘Slaughter—unhand me—the villain’s
life!’

‘Murder!’ screamed the Tuggses.

‘Hold him fast, sir!’ faintly articulated Cymon.

‘Water!’ exclaimed Joseph Tuggs—and Mr. Cymon Tuggs and all the ladies
forthwith fainted away, and formed a tableau.

Most willingly would we conceal the disastrous termination of the six
weeks’ acquaintance.  A troublesome form, and an arbitrary custom,
however, prescribe that a story should have a conclusion, in addition to
a commencement; we have therefore no alternative.  Lieutenant Slaughter
brought a message—the captain brought an action.  Mr. Joseph Tuggs
interposed—the lieutenant negotiated.  When Mr. Cymon Tuggs recovered
from the nervous disorder into which misplaced affection, and exciting
circumstances, had plunged him, he found that his family had lost their
pleasant acquaintance; that his father was minus fifteen hundred pounds;
and the captain plus the precise sum.  The money was paid to hush the
matter up, but it got abroad notwithstanding; and there are not wanting
some who affirm that three designing impostors never found more easy
dupes, than did Captain Waters, Mrs. Waters, and Lieutenant Slaughter, in
the Tuggses at Ramsgate.



CHAPTER V—HORATIO SPARKINS


‘Indeed, my love, he paid Teresa very great attention on the last
assembly night,’ said Mrs. Malderton, addressing her spouse, who, after
the fatigues of the day in the City, was sitting with a silk handkerchief
over his head, and his feet on the fender, drinking his port;—‘very great
attention; and I say again, every possible encouragement ought to be
given him.  He positively must be asked down here to dine.’

‘Who must?’ inquired Mr. Malderton.

‘Why, you know whom I mean, my dear—the young man with the black whiskers
and the white cravat, who has just come out at our assembly, and whom all
the girls are talking about.  Young—dear me! what’s his name?—Marianne,
what _is_ his name?’ continued Mrs. Malderton, addressing her youngest
daughter, who was engaged in netting a purse, and looking sentimental.

‘Mr. Horatio Sparkins, ma,’ replied Miss Marianne, with a sigh.

‘Oh! yes, to be sure—Horatio Sparkins,’ said Mrs. Malderton.  ‘Decidedly
the most gentleman-like young man I ever saw.  I am sure in the
beautifully-made coat he wore the other night, he looked like—like—’

‘Like Prince Leopold, ma—so noble, so full of sentiment!’ suggested
Marianne, in a tone of enthusiastic admiration.

‘You should recollect, my dear,’ resumed Mrs. Malderton, ‘that Teresa is
now eight-and-twenty; and that it really is very important that something
should be done.’

Miss Teresa Malderton was a very little girl, rather fat, with vermilion
cheeks, but good-humoured, and still disengaged, although, to do her
justice, the misfortune arose from no lack of perseverance on her part.
In vain had she flirted for ten years; in vain had Mr. and Mrs. Malderton
assiduously kept up an extensive acquaintance among the young eligible
bachelors of Camberwell, and even of Wandsworth and Brixton; to say
nothing of those who ‘dropped in’ from town.  Miss Malderton was as well
known as the lion on the top of Northumberland House, and had an equal
chance of ‘going off.’

‘I am quite sure you’d like him,’ continued Mrs. Malderton, ‘he is so
gentlemanly!’

‘So clever!’ said Miss Marianne.

‘And has such a flow of language!’ added Miss Teresa.

‘He has a great respect for you, my dear,’ said Mrs. Malderton to her
husband.  Mr. Malderton coughed, and looked at the fire.

‘Yes I’m sure he’s very much attached to pa’s society,’ said Miss
Marianne.

‘No doubt of it,’ echoed Miss Teresa.

‘Indeed, he said as much to me in confidence,’ observed Mrs. Malderton.

‘Well, well,’ returned Mr. Malderton, somewhat flattered; ‘if I see him
at the assembly to-morrow, perhaps I’ll ask him down.  I hope he knows we
live at Oak Lodge, Camberwell, my dear?’

‘Of course—and that you keep a one-horse carriage.’

‘I’ll see about it,’ said Mr. Malderton, composing himself for a nap;
‘I’ll see about it.’

Mr. Malderton was a man whose whole scope of ideas was limited to
Lloyd’s, the Exchange, the India House, and the Bank.  A few successful
speculations had raised him from a situation of obscurity and comparative
poverty, to a state of affluence.  As frequently happens in such cases,
the ideas of himself and his family became elevated to an extraordinary
pitch as their means increased; they affected fashion, taste, and many
other fooleries, in imitation of their betters, and had a very decided
and becoming horror of anything which could, by possibility, be
considered low.  He was hospitable from ostentation, illiberal from
ignorance, and prejudiced from conceit.  Egotism and the love of display
induced him to keep an excellent table: convenience, and a love of good
things of this life, ensured him plenty of guests.  He liked to have
clever men, or what he considered such, at his table, because it was a
great thing to talk about; but he never could endure what he called
‘sharp fellows.’  Probably, he cherished this feeling out of compliment
to his two sons, who gave their respected parent no uneasiness in that
particular.  The family were ambitious of forming acquaintances and
connexions in some sphere of society superior to that in which they
themselves moved; and one of the necessary consequences of this desire,
added to their utter ignorance of the world beyond their own small
circle, was, that any one who could lay claim to an acquaintance with
people of rank and title, had a sure passport to the table at Oak Lodge,
Camberwell.

The appearance of Mr. Horatio Sparkins at the assembly, had excited no
small degree of surprise and curiosity among its regular frequenters.
Who could he be?  He was evidently reserved, and apparently melancholy.
Was he a clergyman?—He danced too well.  A barrister?—He said he was not
called.  He used very fine words, and talked a great deal.  Could he be a
distinguished foreigner, come to England for the purpose of describing
the country, its manners and customs; and frequenting public balls and
public dinners, with the view of becoming acquainted with high life,
polished etiquette, and English refinement?—No, he had not a foreign
accent.  Was he a surgeon, a contributor to the magazines, a writer of
fashionable novels, or an artist?—No; to each and all of these surmises,
there existed some valid objection.—‘Then,’ said everybody, ‘he must be
_somebody_.’—‘I should think he must be,’ reasoned Mr. Malderton, within
himself, ‘because he perceives our superiority, and pays us so much
attention.’

The night succeeding the conversation we have just recorded, was
‘assembly night.’  The double-fly was ordered to be at the door of Oak
Lodge at nine o’clock precisely.  The Miss Maldertons were dressed in
sky-blue satin trimmed with artificial flowers; and Mrs. M. (who was a
little fat woman), in ditto ditto, looked like her eldest daughter
multiplied by two.  Mr. Frederick Malderton, the eldest son, in
full-dress costume, was the very _beau idéal_ of a smart waiter; and Mr.
Thomas Malderton, the youngest, with his white dress-stock, blue coat,
bright buttons, and red watch-ribbon, strongly resembled the portrait of
that interesting, but rash young gentleman, George Barnwell.  Every
member of the party had made up his or her mind to cultivate the
acquaintance of Mr. Horatio Sparkins.  Miss Teresa, of course, was to be
as amiable and interesting as ladies of eight-and-twenty on the look-out
for a husband, usually are.  Mrs. Malderton would be all smiles and
graces.  Miss Marianne would request the favour of some verses for her
album.  Mr. Malderton would patronise the great unknown by asking him to
dinner.  Tom intended to ascertain the extent of his information on the
interesting topics of snuff and cigars.  Even Mr. Frederick Malderton
himself, the family authority on all points of taste, dress, and
fashionable arrangement; who had lodgings of his own in town; who had a
free admission to Covent-garden theatre; who always dressed according to
the fashions of the months; who went up the water twice a-week in the
season; and who actually had an intimate friend who once knew a gentleman
who formerly lived in the Albany,—even he had determined that Mr. Horatio
Sparkins must be a devilish good fellow, and that he would do him the
honour of challenging him to a game at billiards.

The first object that met the anxious eyes of the expectant family on
their entrance into the ball-room, was the interesting Horatio, with his
hair brushed off his forehead, and his eyes fixed on the ceiling,
reclining in a contemplative attitude on one of the seats.

‘There he is, my dear,’ whispered Mrs. Malderton to Mr. Malderton.

‘How like Lord Byron!’ murmured Miss Teresa.

‘Or Montgomery!’ whispered Miss Marianne.

‘Or the portraits of Captain Cook!’ suggested Tom.

‘Tom—don’t be an ass!’ said his father, who checked him on all occasions,
probably with a view to prevent his becoming ‘sharp’—which was very
unnecessary.

The elegant Sparkins attitudinised with admirable effect, until the
family had crossed the room.  He then started up, with the most natural
appearance of surprise and delight; accosted Mrs. Malderton with the
utmost cordiality; saluted the young ladies in the most enchanting
manner; bowed to, and shook hands with Mr. Malderton, with a degree of
respect amounting almost to veneration; and returned the greetings of the
two young men in a half-gratified, half-patronising manner, which fully
convinced them that he must be an important, and, at the same time,
condescending personage.

‘Miss Malderton,’ said Horatio, after the ordinary salutations, and
bowing very low, ‘may I be permitted to presume to hope that you will
allow me to have the pleasure—’

‘I don’t _think_ I am engaged,’ said Miss Teresa, with a dreadful
affectation of indifference—‘but, really—so many—’

Horatio looked handsomely miserable.

‘I shall be most happy,’ simpered the interesting Teresa, at last.
Horatio’s countenance brightened up, like an old hat in a shower of rain.

‘A very genteel young man, certainly!’ said the gratified Mr. Malderton,
as the obsequious Sparkins and his partner joined the quadrille which was
just forming.

‘He has a remarkably good address,’ said Mr. Frederick.

‘Yes, he is a prime fellow,’ interposed Tom, who always managed to put
his foot in it—‘he talks just like an auctioneer.’

‘Tom!’ said his father solemnly, ‘I think I desired you, before, not to
be a fool.’  Tom looked as happy as a cock on a drizzly morning.

‘How delightful!’ said the interesting Horatio to his partner, as they
promenaded the room at the conclusion of the set—‘how delightful, how
refreshing it is, to retire from the cloudy storms, the vicissitudes, and
the troubles, of life, even if it be but for a few short fleeting
moments: and to spend those moments, fading and evanescent though they
be, in the delightful, the blessed society of one individual—whose frowns
would be death, whose coldness would be madness, whose falsehood would be
ruin, whose constancy would be bliss; the possession of whose affection
would be the brightest and best reward that Heaven could bestow on man?’

‘What feeling! what sentiment!’ thought Miss Teresa, as she leaned more
heavily on her companion’s arm.

‘But enough—enough!’ resumed the elegant Sparkins, with a theatrical air.
‘What have I said? what have I—I—to do with sentiments like these!  Miss
Malderton’—here he stopped short—‘may I hope to be permitted to offer the
humble tribute of—’

‘Really, Mr. Sparkins,’ returned the enraptured Teresa, blushing in the
sweetest confusion, ‘I must refer you to papa.  I never can, without his
consent, venture to—’

‘Surely he cannot object—’

‘Oh, yes.  Indeed, indeed, you know him not!’ interrupted Miss Teresa,
well knowing there was nothing to fear, but wishing to make the interview
resemble a scene in some romantic novel.

‘He cannot object to my offering you a glass of negus,’ returned the
adorable Sparkins, with some surprise.

‘Is that all?’ thought the disappointed Teresa.  ‘What a fuss about
nothing!’

‘It will give me the greatest pleasure, sir, to see you to dinner at Oak
Lodge, Camberwell, on Sunday next at five o’clock, if you have no better
engagement,’ said Mr. Malderton, at the conclusion of the evening, as he
and his sons were standing in conversation with Mr. Horatio Sparkins.

Horatio bowed his acknowledgments, and accepted the flattering
invitation.

‘I must confess,’ continued the father, offering his snuff-box to his new
acquaintance, ‘that I don’t enjoy these assemblies half so much as the
comfort—I had almost said the luxury—of Oak Lodge.  They have no great
charms for an elderly man.’

‘And after all, sir, what is man?’ said the metaphysical Sparkins.  ‘I
say, what is man?’

‘Ah! very true,’ said Mr. Malderton; ‘very true.’

‘We know that we live and breathe,’ continued Horatio; ‘that we have
wants and wishes, desires and appetites—’

‘Certainly,’ said Mr. Frederick Malderton, looking profound.

‘I say, we know that we exist,’ repeated Horatio, raising his voice, ‘but
there we stop; there, is an end to our knowledge; there, is the summit of
our attainments; there, is the termination of our ends.  What more do we
know?’

‘Nothing,’ replied Mr. Frederick—than whom no one was more capable of
answering for himself in that particular.  Tom was about to hazard
something, but, fortunately for his reputation, he caught his father’s
angry eye, and slunk off like a puppy convicted of petty larceny.

‘Upon my word,’ said Mr. Malderton the elder, as they were returning home
in the fly, ‘that Mr. Sparkins is a wonderful young man.  Such surprising
knowledge! such extraordinary information! and such a splendid mode of
expressing himself!’

‘I think he must be somebody in disguise,’ said Miss Marianne.  ‘How
charmingly romantic!’

‘He talks very loud and nicely,’ timidly observed Tom, ‘but I don’t
exactly understand what he means.’

‘I almost begin to despair of your understanding anything, Tom,’ said his
father, who, of course, had been much enlightened by Mr. Horatio
Sparkins’s conversation.

‘It strikes me, Tom,’ said Miss Teresa, ‘that you have made yourself very
ridiculous this evening.’

‘No doubt of it,’ cried everybody—and the unfortunate Tom reduced himself
into the least possible space.  That night, Mr. and Mrs. Malderton had a
long conversation respecting their daughter’s prospects and future
arrangements.  Miss Teresa went to bed, considering whether, in the event
of her marrying a title, she could conscientiously encourage the visits
of her present associates; and dreamed, all night, of disguised noblemen,
large routs, ostrich plumes, bridal favours, and Horatio Sparkins.

Various surmises were hazarded on the Sunday morning, as to the mode of
conveyance which the anxiously-expected Horatio would adopt.  Did he keep
a gig?—was it possible he could come on horseback?—or would he patronize
the stage?  These, and other various conjectures of equal importance,
engrossed the attention of Mrs. Malderton and her daughters during the
whole morning after church.

‘Upon my word, my dear, it’s a most annoying thing that that vulgar
brother of yours should have invited himself to dine here to-day,’ said
Mr. Malderton to his wife.  ‘On account of Mr. Sparkins’s coming down, I
purposely abstained from asking any one but Flamwell.  And then to think
of your brother—a tradesman—it’s insufferable!  I declare I wouldn’t have
him mention his shop, before our new guest—no, not for a thousand pounds!
I wouldn’t care if he had the good sense to conceal the disgrace he is to
the family; but he’s so fond of his horrible business, that he _will_ let
people know what he is.’

Mr. Jacob Barton, the individual alluded to, was a large grocer; so
vulgar, and so lost to all sense of feeling, that he actually never
scrupled to avow that he wasn’t above his business: ‘he’d made his money
by it, and he didn’t care who know’d it.’

‘Ah! Flamwell, my dear fellow, how d’ye do?’ said Mr. Malderton, as a
little spoffish man, with green spectacles, entered the room.  ‘You got
my note?’

‘Yes, I did; and here I am in consequence.’

‘You don’t happen to know this Mr. Sparkins by name?  You know
everybody?’

Mr. Flamwell was one of those gentlemen of remarkably extensive
information whom one occasionally meets in society, who pretend to know
everybody, but in reality know nobody.  At Malderton’s, where any stories
about great people were received with a greedy ear, he was an especial
favourite; and, knowing the kind of people he had to deal with, he
carried his passion of claiming acquaintance with everybody, to the most
immoderate length.  He had rather a singular way of telling his greatest
lies in a parenthesis, and with an air of self-denial, as if he feared
being thought egotistical.

‘Why, no, I don’t know him by that name,’ returned Flamwell, in a low
tone, and with an air of immense importance.  ‘I have no doubt I know
him, though.  Is he tall?’

‘Middle-sized,’ said Miss Teresa.

‘With black hair?’ inquired Flamwell, hazarding a bold guess.

‘Yes,’ returned Miss Teresa, eagerly.

‘Rather a snub nose?’

‘No,’ said the disappointed Teresa, ‘he has a Roman nose.’

‘I said a Roman nose, didn’t I?’ inquired Flamwell.  ‘He’s an elegant
young man?’

‘Oh, certainly.’

‘With remarkably prepossessing manners?’

‘Oh, yes!’ said all the family together.  ‘You must know him.’

‘Yes, I thought you knew him, if he was anybody,’ triumphantly exclaimed
Mr. Malderton.  ‘Who d’ye think he is?’

‘Why, from your description,’ said Flamwell, ruminating, and sinking his
voice, almost to a whisper, ‘he bears a strong resemblance to the
Honourable Augustus Fitz-Edward Fitz-John Fitz-Osborne.  He’s a very
talented young man, and rather eccentric.  It’s extremely probable he may
have changed his name for some temporary purpose.’

Teresa’s heart beat high.  Could he be the Honourable Augustus
Fitz-Edward Fitz-John Fitz-Osborne!  What a name to be elegantly engraved
upon two glazed cards, tied together with a piece of white satin ribbon!
‘The Honourable Mrs. Augustus Fitz-Edward Fitz-John Fitz-Osborne!’  The
thought was transport.

‘It’s five minutes to five,’ said Mr. Malderton, looking at his watch: ‘I
hope he’s not going to disappoint us.’

‘There he is!’ exclaimed Miss Teresa, as a loud double-knock was heard at
the door.  Everybody endeavoured to look—as people when they particularly
expect a visitor always do—as if they were perfectly unsuspicious of the
approach of anybody.

The room-door opened—‘Mr. Barton!’ said the servant.

‘Confound the man!’ murmured Malderton.  ‘Ah! my dear sir, how d’ye do!
Any news?’

‘Why no,’ returned the grocer, in his usual bluff manner.  ‘No, none
partickler.  None that I am much aware of.  How d’ye do, gals and boys?
Mr. Flamwell, sir—glad to see you.’

‘Here’s Mr. Sparkins!’ said Tom, who had been looking out at the window,
‘on _such_ a black horse!’  There was Horatio, sure enough, on a large
black horse, curvetting and prancing along, like an Astley’s
supernumerary.  After a great deal of reining in, and pulling up, with
the accompaniments of snorting, rearing, and kicking, the animal
consented to stop at about a hundred yards from the gate, where Mr.
Sparkins dismounted, and confided him to the care of Mr. Malderton’s
groom.  The ceremony of introduction was gone through, in all due form.
Mr. Flamwell looked from behind his green spectacles at Horatio with an
air of mysterious importance; and the gallant Horatio looked unutterable
things at Teresa.

‘Is he the Honourable Mr. Augustus What’s-his-name?’ whispered Mrs.
Malderton to Flamwell, as he was escorting her to the dining-room.

‘Why, no—at least not exactly,’ returned that great authority—‘not
exactly.’

‘Who _is_ he then?’

‘Hush!’ said Flamwell, nodding his head with a grave air, importing that
he knew very well; but was prevented, by some grave reasons of state,
from disclosing the important secret.  It might be one of the ministers
making himself acquainted with the views of the people.

‘Mr. Sparkins,’ said the delighted Mrs. Malderton, ‘pray divide the
ladies.  John, put a chair for the gentleman between Miss Teresa and Miss
Marianne.’  This was addressed to a man who, on ordinary occasions, acted
as half-groom, half-gardener; but who, as it was important to make an
impression on Mr. Sparkins, had been forced into a white neckerchief and
shoes, and touched up, and brushed, to look like a second footman.

The dinner was excellent; Horatio was most attentive to Miss Teresa, and
every one felt in high spirits, except Mr. Malderton, who, knowing the
propensity of his brother-in-law, Mr. Barton, endured that sort of agony
which the newspapers inform us is experienced by the surrounding
neighbourhood when a pot-boy hangs himself in a hay-loft, and which is
‘much easier to be imagined than described.’

‘Have you seen your friend, Sir Thomas Noland, lately, Flamwell?’
inquired Mr. Malderton, casting a sidelong look at Horatio, to see what
effect the mention of so great a man had upon him.

‘Why, no—not very lately.  I saw Lord Gubbleton the day before
yesterday.’

‘All!  I hope his lordship is very well?’ said Malderton, in a tone of
the greatest interest.  It is scarcely necessary to say that, until that
moment, he had been quite innocent of the existence of such a person.

‘Why, yes; he was very well—very well indeed.  He’s a devilish good
fellow.  I met him in the City, and had a long chat with him.  Indeed,
I’m rather intimate with him.  I couldn’t stop to talk to him as long as
I could wish, though, because I was on my way to a banker’s, a very rich
man, and a member of Parliament, with whom I am also rather, indeed I may
say very, intimate.’

‘I know whom you mean,’ returned the host, consequentially—in reality
knowing as much about the matter as Flamwell himself.—‘He has a capital
business.’

This was touching on a dangerous topic.

‘Talking of business,’ interposed Mr. Barton, from the centre of the
table.  ‘A gentleman whom you knew very well, Malderton, before you made
that first lucky spec of yours, called at our shop the other day, and—’

‘Barton, may I trouble you for a potato?’ interrupted the wretched master
of the house, hoping to nip the story in the bud.

‘Certainly,’ returned the grocer, quite insensible of his
brother-in-law’s object—‘and he said in a very plain manner—’

‘_Floury_, if you please,’ interrupted Malderton again; dreading the
termination of the anecdote, and fearing a repetition of the word ‘shop.’

‘He said, says he,’ continued the culprit, after despatching the potato;
‘says he, how goes on your business?  So I said, jokingly—you know my
way—says I, I’m never above my business, and I hope my business will
never be above me.  Ha, ha!’

‘Mr. Sparkins,’ said the host, vainly endeavouring to conceal his dismay,
‘a glass of wine?’

‘With the utmost pleasure, sir.’

‘Happy to see you.’

‘Thank you.’

‘We were talking the other evening,’ resumed the host, addressing
Horatio, partly with the view of displaying the conversational powers of
his new acquaintance, and partly in the hope of drowning the grocer’s
stories—‘we were talking the other night about the nature of man.  Your
argument struck me very forcibly.’

‘And me,’ said Mr. Frederick.  Horatio made a graceful inclination of the
head.

‘Pray, what is your opinion of woman, Mr. Sparkins?’ inquired Mrs.
Malderton.  The young ladies simpered.

‘Man,’ replied Horatio, ‘man, whether he ranged the bright, gay, flowery
plains of a second Eden, or the more sterile, barren, and I may say,
commonplace regions, to which we are compelled to accustom ourselves, in
times such as these; man, under any circumstances, or in any
place—whether he were bending beneath the withering blasts of the frigid
zone, or scorching under the rays of a vertical sun—man, without woman,
would be—alone.’

‘I am very happy to find you entertain such honourable opinions, Mr.
Sparkins,’ said Mrs. Malderton.

‘And I,’ added Miss Teresa.  Horatio looked his delight, and the young
lady blushed.

‘Now, it’s my opinion—’ said Mr. Barton.

‘I know what you’re going to say,’ interposed Malderton, determined not
to give his relation another opportunity, ‘and I don’t agree with you.’

‘What!’ inquired the astonished grocer.

‘I am sorry to differ from you, Barton,’ said the host, in as positive a
manner as if he really were contradicting a position which the other had
laid down, ‘but I cannot give my assent to what I consider a very
monstrous proposition.’

‘But I meant to say—’

‘You never can convince me,’ said Malderton, with an air of obstinate
determination.  ‘Never.’

‘And I,’ said Mr. Frederick, following up his father’s attack, ‘cannot
entirely agree in Mr. Sparkins’s argument.’

‘What!’ said Horatio, who became more metaphysical, and more
argumentative, as he saw the female part of the family listening in
wondering delight—‘what!  Is effect the consequence of cause?  Is cause
the precursor of effect?’

‘That’s the point,’ said Flamwell.

‘To be sure,’ said Mr. Malderton.

‘Because, if effect is the consequence of cause, and if cause does
precede effect, I apprehend you are wrong,’ added Horatio.

‘Decidedly,’ said the toad-eating Flamwell.

‘At least, I apprehend that to be the just and logical deduction?’ said
Sparkins, in a tone of interrogation.

‘No doubt of it,’ chimed in Flamwell again.  ‘It settles the point.’

‘Well, perhaps it does,’ said Mr. Frederick; ‘I didn’t see it before.’

‘I don’t exactly see it now,’ thought the grocer; ‘but I suppose it’s all
right.’

‘How wonderfully clever he is!’ whispered Mrs. Malderton to her
daughters, as they retired to the drawing-room.

‘Oh, he’s quite a love!’ said both the young ladies together; ‘he talks
like an oracle.  He must have seen a great deal of life.’

The gentlemen being left to themselves, a pause ensued, during which
everybody looked very grave, as if they were quite overcome by the
profound nature of the previous discussion.  Flamwell, who had made up
his mind to find out who and what Mr. Horatio Sparkins really was, first
broke silence.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ said that distinguished personage, ‘I presume you have
studied for the bar?  I thought of entering once, myself—indeed, I’m
rather intimate with some of the highest ornaments of that distinguished
profession.’

‘N-no!’ said Horatio, with a little hesitation; ‘not exactly.’

‘But you have been much among the silk gowns, or I mistake?’ inquired
Flamwell, deferentially.

‘Nearly all my life,’ returned Sparkins.

The question was thus pretty well settled in the mind of Mr. Flamwell.
He was a young gentleman ‘about to be called.’

‘I shouldn’t like to be a barrister,’ said Tom, speaking for the first
time, and looking round the table to find somebody who would notice the
remark.

No one made any reply.

‘I shouldn’t like to wear a wig,’ said Tom, hazarding another
observation.

‘Tom, I beg you will not make yourself ridiculous,’ said his father.
‘Pray listen, and improve yourself by the conversation you hear, and
don’t be constantly making these absurd remarks.’

‘Very well, father,’ replied the unfortunate Tom, who had not spoken a
word since he had asked for another slice of beef at a quarter-past five
o’clock, P.M., and it was then eight.

‘Well, Tom,’ observed his good-natured uncle, ‘never mind!  _I_ think
with you.  I shouldn’t like to wear a wig.  I’d rather wear an apron.’

Mr. Malderton coughed violently.  Mr. Barton resumed—‘For if a man’s
above his business—’

The cough returned with tenfold violence, and did not cease until the
unfortunate cause of it, in his alarm, had quite forgotten what he
intended to say.

‘Mr. Sparkins,’ said Flamwell, returning to the charge, ‘do you happen to
know Mr. Delafontaine, of Bedford-square?’

‘I have exchanged cards with him; since which, indeed, I have had an
opportunity of serving him considerably,’ replied Horatio, slightly
colouring; no doubt, at having been betrayed into making the
acknowledgment.

‘You are very lucky, if you have had an opportunity of obliging that
great man,’ observed Flamwell, with an air of profound respect.

‘I don’t know who he is,’ he whispered to Mr. Malderton, confidentially,
as they followed Horatio up to the drawing-room.  ‘It’s quite clear,
however, that he belongs to the law, and that he is somebody of great
importance, and very highly connected.’

‘No doubt, no doubt,’ returned his companion.

The remainder of the evening passed away most delightfully.  Mr.
Malderton, relieved from his apprehensions by the circumstance of Mr.
Barton’s falling into a profound sleep, was as affable and gracious as
possible.  Miss Teresa played the ‘Fall of Paris,’ as Mr. Sparkins
declared, in a most masterly manner, and both of them, assisted by Mr.
Frederick, tried over glees and trios without number; they having made
the pleasing discovery that their voices harmonised beautifully.  To be
sure, they all sang the first part; and Horatio, in addition to the
slight drawback of having no ear, was perfectly innocent of knowing a
note of music; still, they passed the time very agreeably, and it was
past twelve o’clock before Mr. Sparkins ordered the
mourning-coach-looking steed to be brought out—an order which was only
complied with, on the distinct understanding that he was to repeat his
visit on the following Sunday.

‘But, perhaps, Mr. Sparkins will form one of our party to-morrow
evening?’ suggested Mrs. M.  ‘Mr. Malderton intends taking the girls to
see the pantomime.’  Mr. Sparkins bowed, and promised to join the party
in box 48, in the course of the evening.

‘We will not tax you for the morning,’ said Miss Teresa, bewitchingly;
‘for ma is going to take us to all sorts of places, shopping.  I know
that gentlemen have a great horror of that employment.’  Mr. Sparkins
bowed again, and declared that he should be delighted, but business of
importance occupied him in the morning.  Flamwell looked at Malderton
significantly.—‘It’s term time!’ he whispered.

At twelve o’clock on the following morning, the ‘fly’ was at the door of
Oak Lodge, to convey Mrs. Malderton and her daughters on their expedition
for the day.  They were to dine and dress for the play at a friend’s
house.  First, driving thither with their band-boxes, they departed on
their first errand to make some purchases at Messrs. Jones, Spruggins,
and Smith’s, of Tottenham-court-road; after which, they were to go to
Redmayne’s in Bond-street; thence, to innumerable places that no one ever
heard of.  The young ladies beguiled the tediousness of the ride by
eulogising Mr. Horatio Sparkins, scolding their mamma for taking them so
far to save a shilling, and wondering whether they should ever reach
their destination.  At length, the vehicle stopped before a dirty-looking
ticketed linen-draper’s shop, with goods of all kinds, and labels of all
sorts and sizes, in the window.  There were dropsical figures of seven
with a little three-farthings in the corner; ‘perfectly invisible to the
naked eye;’ three hundred and fifty thousand ladies’ boas, _from_ one
shilling and a penny halfpenny; real French kid shoes, at two and
ninepence per pair; green parasols, at an equally cheap rate; and ‘every
description of goods,’ as the proprietors said—and they must know
best—‘fifty per cent. under cost price.’

‘Lor! ma, what a place you have brought us to!’ said Miss Teresa; ‘what
_would_ Mr. Sparkins say if he could see us!’

‘Ah! what, indeed!’ said Miss Marianne, horrified at the idea.

‘Pray be seated, ladies.  What is the first article?’ inquired the
obsequious master of the ceremonies of the establishment, who, in his
large white neckcloth and formal tie, looked like a bad ‘portrait of a
gentleman’ in the Somerset-house exhibition.

‘I want to see some silks,’ answered Mrs. Malderton.

‘Directly, ma’am.—Mr. Smith!  Where _is_ Mr. Smith?’

‘Here, sir,’ cried a voice at the back of the shop.

‘Pray make haste, Mr. Smith,’ said the M.C.  ‘You never are to be found
when you’re wanted, sir.’

Mr. Smith, thus enjoined to use all possible despatch, leaped over the
counter with great agility, and placed himself before the newly-arrived
customers.  Mrs. Malderton uttered a faint scream; Miss Teresa, who had
been stooping down to talk to her sister, raised her head, and
beheld—Horatio Sparkins!

‘We will draw a veil,’ as novel-writers say, over the scene that ensued.
The mysterious, philosophical, romantic, metaphysical Sparkins—he who, to
the interesting Teresa, seemed like the embodied idea of the young dukes
and poetical exquisites in blue silk dressing-gowns, and ditto ditto
slippers, of whom she had read and dreamed, but had never expected to
behold, was suddenly converted into Mr. Samuel Smith, the assistant at a
‘cheap shop;’ the junior partner in a slippery firm of some three weeks’
existence.  The dignified evanishment of the hero of Oak Lodge, on this
unexpected recognition, could only be equalled by that of a furtive dog
with a considerable kettle at his tail.  All the hopes of the Maldertons
were destined at once to melt away, like the lemon ices at a Company’s
dinner; Almack’s was still to them as distant as the North Pole; and Miss
Teresa had as much chance of a husband as Captain Ross had of the
north-west passage.

Years have elapsed since the occurrence of this dreadful morning.  The
daisies have thrice bloomed on Camberwell-green; the sparrows have thrice
repeated their vernal chirps in Camberwell-grove; but the Miss Maldertons
are still unmated.  Miss Teresa’s case is more desperate than ever; but
Flamwell is yet in the zenith of his reputation; and the family have the
same predilection for aristocratic personages, with an increased aversion
to anything _low_.



CHAPTER VI—THE BLACK VEIL


One winter’s evening, towards the close of the year 1800, or within a
year or two of that time, a young medical practitioner, recently
established in business, was seated by a cheerful fire in his little
parlour, listening to the wind which was beating the rain in pattering
drops against the window, or rumbling dismally in the chimney.  The night
was wet and cold; he had been walking through mud and water the whole
day, and was now comfortably reposing in his dressing-gown and slippers,
more than half asleep and less than half awake, revolving a thousand
matters in his wandering imagination.  First, he thought how hard the
wind was blowing, and how the cold, sharp rain would be at that moment
beating in his face, if he were not comfortably housed at home.  Then,
his mind reverted to his annual Christmas visit to his native place and
dearest friends; he thought how glad they would all be to see him, and
how happy it would make Rose if he could only tell her that he had found
a patient at last, and hoped to have more, and to come down again, in a
few months’ time, and marry her, and take her home to gladden his lonely
fireside, and stimulate him to fresh exertions.  Then, he began to wonder
when his first patient would appear, or whether he was destined, by a
special dispensation of Providence, never to have any patients at all;
and then, he thought about Rose again, and dropped to sleep and dreamed
about her, till the tones of her sweet merry voice sounded in his ears,
and her soft tiny hand rested on his shoulder.

There _was_ a hand upon his shoulder, but it was neither soft nor tiny;
its owner being a corpulent round-headed boy, who, in consideration of
the sum of one shilling per week and his food, was let out by the parish
to carry medicine and messages.  As there was no demand for the medicine,
however, and no necessity for the messages, he usually occupied his
unemployed hours—averaging fourteen a day—in abstracting peppermint
drops, taking animal nourishment, and going to sleep.

‘A lady, sir—a lady!’ whispered the boy, rousing his master with a shake.

‘What lady?’ cried our friend, starting up, not quite certain that his
dream was an illusion, and half expecting that it might be Rose
herself.—‘What lady?  Where?’

‘_There_, sir!’ replied the boy, pointing to the glass door leading into
the surgery, with an expression of alarm which the very unusual
apparition of a customer might have tended to excite.

The surgeon looked towards the door, and started himself, for an instant,
on beholding the appearance of his unlooked-for visitor.

It was a singularly tall woman, dressed in deep mourning, and standing so
close to the door that her face almost touched the glass.  The upper part
of her figure was carefully muffled in a black shawl, as if for the
purpose of concealment; and her face was shrouded by a thick black veil.
She stood perfectly erect, her figure was drawn up to its full height,
and though the surgeon felt that the eyes beneath the veil were fixed on
him, she stood perfectly motionless, and evinced, by no gesture whatever,
the slightest consciousness of his having turned towards her.

‘Do you wish to consult me?’ he inquired, with some hesitation, holding
open the door.  It opened inwards, and therefore the action did not alter
the position of the figure, which still remained motionless on the same
spot.

She slightly inclined her head, in token of acquiescence.

‘Pray walk in,’ said the surgeon.

The figure moved a step forward; and then, turning its head in the
direction of the boy—to his infinite horror—appeared to hesitate.

‘Leave the room, Tom,’ said the young man, addressing the boy, whose
large round eyes had been extended to their utmost width during this
brief interview.  ‘Draw the curtain, and shut the door.’

The boy drew a green curtain across the glass part of the door, retired
into the surgery, closed the door after him, and immediately applied one
of his large eyes to the keyhole on the other side.

The surgeon drew a chair to the fire, and motioned the visitor to a seat.
The mysterious figure slowly moved towards it.  As the blaze shone upon
the black dress, the surgeon observed that the bottom of it was saturated
with mud and rain.

‘You are very wet,’ be said.

‘I am,’ said the stranger, in a low deep voice.

‘And you are ill?’ added the surgeon, compassionately, for the tone was
that of a person in pain.

‘I am,’ was the reply—‘very ill; not bodily, but mentally.  It is not for
myself, or on my own behalf,’ continued the stranger, ‘that I come to
you.  If I laboured under bodily disease, I should not be out, alone, at
such an hour, or on such a night as this; and if I were afflicted with
it, twenty-four hours hence, God knows how gladly I would lie down and
pray to die.  It is for another that I beseech your aid, sir.  I may be
mad to ask it for him—I think I am; but, night after night, through the
long dreary hours of watching and weeping, the thought has been ever
present to my mind; and though even _I_ see the hopelessness of human
assistance availing him, the bare thought of laying him in his grave
without it makes my blood run cold!’  And a shudder, such as the surgeon
well knew art could not produce, trembled through the speaker’s frame.

There was a desperate earnestness in this woman’s manner, that went to
the young man’s heart.  He was young in his profession, and had not yet
witnessed enough of the miseries which are daily presented before the
eyes of its members, to have grown comparatively callous to human
suffering.

‘If,’ he said, rising hastily, ‘the person of whom you speak, be in so
hopeless a condition as you describe, not a moment is to be lost.  I will
go with you instantly.  Why did you not obtain medical advice before?’

‘Because it would have been useless before—because it is useless even
now,’ replied the woman, clasping her hands passionately.

The surgeon gazed, for a moment, on the black veil, as if to ascertain
the expression of the features beneath it: its thickness, however,
rendered such a result impossible.

‘You _are_ ill,’ he said, gently, ‘although you do not know it.  The
fever which has enabled you to bear, without feeling it, the fatigue you
have evidently undergone, is burning within you now.  Put that to your
lips,’ he continued, pouring out a glass of water—‘compose yourself for a
few moments, and then tell me, as calmly as you can, what the disease of
the patient is, and how long he has been ill.  When I know what it is
necessary I should know, to render my visit serviceable to him, I am
ready to accompany you.’

The stranger lifted the glass of water to her mouth, without raising the
veil; put it down again untasted; and burst into tears.

‘I know,’ she said, sobbing aloud, ‘that what I say to you now, seems
like the ravings of fever.  I have been told so before, less kindly than
by you.  I am not a young woman; and they do say, that as life steals on
towards its final close, the last short remnant, worthless as it may seem
to all beside, is dearer to its possessor than all the years that have
gone before, connected though they be with the recollection of old
friends long since dead, and young ones—children perhaps—who have fallen
off from, and forgotten one as completely as if they had died too.  My
natural term of life cannot be many years longer, and should be dear on
that account; but I would lay it down without a sigh—with
cheerfulness—with joy—if what I tell you now, were only false, or
imaginary.  To-morrow morning he of whom I speak will be, I _know_,
though I would fain think otherwise, beyond the reach of human aid; and
yet, to-night, though he is in deadly peril, you must not see, and could
not serve, him.’

‘I am unwilling to increase your distress,’ said the surgeon, after a
short pause, ‘by making any comment on what you have just said, or
appearing desirous to investigate a subject you are so anxious to
conceal; but there is an inconsistency in your statement which I cannot
reconcile with probability.  This person is dying to-night, and I cannot
see him when my assistance might possibly avail; you apprehend it will be
useless to-morrow, and yet you would have me see him then!  If he be,
indeed, as dear to you, as your words and manner would imply, why not try
to save his life before delay and the progress of his disease render it
impracticable?’

‘God help me!’ exclaimed the woman, weeping bitterly, ‘how can I hope
strangers will believe what appears incredible, even to myself?  You will
_not_ see him then, sir?’ she added, rising suddenly.

‘I did not say that I declined to see him,’ replied the surgeon; ‘but I
warn you, that if you persist in this extraordinary procrastination, and
the individual dies, a fearful responsibility rests with you.’

‘The responsibility will rest heavily somewhere,’ replied the stranger
bitterly.  ‘Whatever responsibility rests with me, I am content to bear,
and ready to answer.’

‘As I incur none,’ continued the surgeon, ‘by acceding to your request, I
will see him in the morning, if you leave me the address.  At what hour
can he be seen?’

‘_Nine_,’ replied the stranger.

‘You must excuse my pressing these inquiries,’ said the surgeon.  ‘But is
he in your charge now?’

‘He is not,’ was the rejoinder.

‘Then, if I gave you instructions for his treatment through the night,
you could not assist him?’

The woman wept bitterly, as she replied, ‘I could not.’

Finding that there was but little prospect of obtaining more information
by prolonging the interview; and anxious to spare the woman’s feelings,
which, subdued at first by a violent effort, were now irrepressible and
most painful to witness; the surgeon repeated his promise of calling in
the morning at the appointed hour.  His visitor, after giving him a
direction to an obscure part of Walworth, left the house in the same
mysterious manner in which she had entered it.

It will be readily believed that so extraordinary a visit produced a
considerable impression on the mind of the young surgeon; and that he
speculated a great deal and to very little purpose on the possible
circumstances of the case.  In common with the generality of people, he
had often heard and read of singular instances, in which a presentiment
of death, at a particular day, or even minute, had been entertained and
realised.  At one moment he was inclined to think that the present might
be such a case; but, then, it occurred to him that all the anecdotes of
the kind he had ever heard, were of persons who had been troubled with a
foreboding of their own death.  This woman, however, spoke of another
person—a man; and it was impossible to suppose that a mere dream or
delusion of fancy would induce her to speak of his approaching
dissolution with such terrible certainty as she had spoken.  It could not
be that the man was to be murdered in the morning, and that the woman,
originally a consenting party, and bound to secrecy by an oath, had
relented, and, though unable to prevent the commission of some outrage on
the victim, had determined to prevent his death if possible, by the
timely interposition of medical aid?  The idea of such things happening
within two miles of the metropolis appeared too wild and preposterous to
be entertained beyond the instant.  Then, his original impression that
the woman’s intellects were disordered, recurred; and, as it was the only
mode of solving the difficulty with any degree of satisfaction, he
obstinately made up his mind to believe that she was mad.  Certain
misgivings upon this point, however, stole upon his thoughts at the time,
and presented themselves again and again through the long dull course of
a sleepless night; during which, in spite of all his efforts to the
contrary, he was unable to banish the black veil from his disturbed
imagination.

The back part of Walworth, at its greatest distance from town, is a
straggling miserable place enough, even in these days; but,
five-and-thirty years ago, the greater portion of it was little better
than a dreary waste, inhabited by a few scattered people of questionable
character, whose poverty prevented their living in any better
neighbourhood, or whose pursuits and mode of life rendered its solitude
desirable.  Very many of the houses which have since sprung up on all
sides, were not built until some years afterwards; and the great majority
even of those which were sprinkled about, at irregular intervals, were of
the rudest and most miserable description.

The appearance of the place through which he walked in the morning, was
not calculated to raise the spirits of the young surgeon, or to dispel
any feeling of anxiety or depression which the singular kind of visit he
was about to make, had awakened.  Striking off from the high road, his
way lay across a marshy common, through irregular lanes, with here and
there a ruinous and dismantled cottage fast falling to pieces with decay
and neglect.  A stunted tree, or pool of stagnant water, roused into a
sluggish action by the heavy rain of the preceding night, skirted the
path occasionally; and, now and then, a miserable patch of garden-ground,
with a few old boards knocked together for a summer-house, and old
palings imperfectly mended with stakes pilfered from the neighbouring
hedges, bore testimony, at once to the poverty of the inhabitants, and
the little scruple they entertained in appropriating the property of
other people to their own use.  Occasionally, a filthy-looking woman
would make her appearance from the door of a dirty house, to empty the
contents of some cooking utensil into the gutter in front, or to scream
after a little slip-shod girl, who had contrived to stagger a few yards
from the door under the weight of a sallow infant almost as big as
herself; but, scarcely anything was stirring around: and so much of the
prospect as could be faintly traced through the cold damp mist which hung
heavily over it, presented a lonely and dreary appearance perfectly in
keeping with the objects we have described.

After plodding wearily through the mud and mire; making many inquiries
for the place to which he had been directed; and receiving as many
contradictory and unsatisfactory replies in return; the young man at
length arrived before the house which had been pointed out to him as the
object of his destination.  It was a small low building, one story above
the ground, with even a more desolate and unpromising exterior than any
he had yet passed.  An old yellow curtain was closely drawn across the
window up-stairs, and the parlour shutters were closed, but not fastened.
The house was detached from any other, and, as it stood at an angle of a
narrow lane, there was no other habitation in sight.

When we say that the surgeon hesitated, and walked a few paces beyond the
house, before he could prevail upon himself to lift the knocker, we say
nothing that need raise a smile upon the face of the boldest reader.  The
police of London were a very different body in that day; the isolated
position of the suburbs, when the rage for building and the progress of
improvement had not yet begun to connect them with the main body of the
city and its environs, rendered many of them (and this in particular) a
place of resort for the worst and most depraved characters.  Even the
streets in the gayest parts of London were imperfectly lighted, at that
time; and such places as these, were left entirely to the mercy of the
moon and stars.  The chances of detecting desperate characters, or of
tracing them to their haunts, were thus rendered very few, and their
offences naturally increased in boldness, as the consciousness of
comparative security became the more impressed upon them by daily
experience.  Added to these considerations, it must be remembered that
the young man had spent some time in the public hospitals of the
metropolis; and, although neither Burke nor Bishop had then gained a
horrible notoriety, his own observation might have suggested to him how
easily the atrocities to which the former has since given his name, might
be committed.  Be this as it may, whatever reflection made him hesitate,
he _did_ hesitate: but, being a young man of strong mind and great
personal courage, it was only for an instant;—he stepped briskly back and
knocked gently at the door.

A low whispering was audible, immediately afterwards, as if some person
at the end of the passage were conversing stealthily with another on the
landing above.  It was succeeded by the noise of a pair of heavy boots
upon the bare floor.  The door-chain was softly unfastened; the door
opened; and a tall, ill-favoured man, with black hair, and a face, as the
surgeon often declared afterwards, as pale and haggard, as the
countenance of any dead man he ever saw, presented himself.

‘Walk in, sir,’ he said in a low tone.

The surgeon did so, and the man having secured the door again, by the
chain, led the way to a small back parlour at the extremity of the
passage.

‘Am I in time?’

‘Too soon!’ replied the man.  The surgeon turned hastily round, with a
gesture of astonishment not unmixed with alarm, which he found it
impossible to repress.

‘If you’ll step in here, sir,’ said the man, who had evidently noticed
the action—‘if you’ll step in here, sir, you won’t be detained five
minutes, I assure you.’

The surgeon at once walked into the room.  The man closed the door, and
left him alone.

It was a little cold room, with no other furniture than two deal chairs,
and a table of the same material.  A handful of fire, unguarded by any
fender, was burning in the grate, which brought out the damp if it served
no more comfortable purpose, for the unwholesome moisture was stealing
down the walls, in long slug-like tracks.  The window, which was broken
and patched in many places, looked into a small enclosed piece of ground,
almost covered with water.  Not a sound was to be heard, either within
the house, or without.  The young surgeon sat down by the fireplace, to
await the result of his first professional visit.

He had not remained in this position many minutes, when the noise of some
approaching vehicle struck his ear.  It stopped; the street-door was
opened; a low talking succeeded, accompanied with a shuffling noise of
footsteps, along the passage and on the stairs, as if two or three men
were engaged in carrying some heavy body to the room above.  The creaking
of the stairs, a few seconds afterwards, announced that the new-comers
having completed their task, whatever it was, were leaving the house.
The door was again closed, and the former silence was restored.

Another five minutes had elapsed, and the surgeon had resolved to explore
the house, in search of some one to whom he might make his errand known,
when the room-door opened, and his last night’s visitor, dressed in
exactly the same manner, with the veil lowered as before, motioned him to
advance.  The singular height of her form, coupled with the circumstance
of her not speaking, caused the idea to pass across his brain for an
instant, that it might be a man disguised in woman’s attire.  The
hysteric sobs which issued from beneath the veil, and the convulsive
attitude of grief of the whole figure, however, at once exposed the
absurdity of the suspicion; and he hastily followed.

The woman led the way up-stairs to the front room, and paused at the
door, to let him enter first.  It was scantily furnished with an old deal
box, a few chairs, and a tent bedstead, without hangings or cross-rails,
which was covered with a patchwork counterpane.  The dim light admitted
through the curtain which he had noticed from the outside, rendered the
objects in the room so indistinct, and communicated to all of them so
uniform a hue, that he did not, at first, perceive the object on which
his eye at once rested when the woman rushed frantically past him, and
flung herself on her knees by the bedside.

Stretched upon the bed, closely enveloped in a linen wrapper, and covered
with blankets, lay a human form, stiff and motionless.  The head and
face, which were those of a man, were uncovered, save by a bandage which
passed over the head and under the chin.  The eyes were closed.  The left
arm lay heavily across the bed, and the woman held the passive hand.

The surgeon gently pushed the woman aside, and took the hand in his.

‘My God!’ he exclaimed, letting it fall involuntarily—‘the man is dead!’

The woman started to her feet and beat her hands together.

‘Oh! don’t say so, sir,’ she exclaimed, with a burst of passion,
amounting almost to frenzy.  ‘Oh! don’t say so, sir!  I can’t bear it!
Men have been brought to life, before, when unskilful people have given
them up for lost; and men have died, who might have been restored, if
proper means had been resorted to.  Don’t let him lie here, sir, without
one effort to save him!  This very moment life may be passing away.  Do
try, sir,—do, for Heaven’s sake!’—And while speaking, she hurriedly
chafed, first the forehead, and then the breast, of the senseless form
before her; and then, wildly beat the cold hands, which, when she ceased
to hold them, fell listlessly and heavily back on the coverlet.

‘It is of no use, my good woman,’ said the surgeon, soothingly, as he
withdrew his hand from the man’s breast.  ‘Stay—undraw that curtain!’

‘Why?’ said the woman, starting up.

‘Undraw that curtain!’ repeated the surgeon in an agitated tone.

‘I darkened the room on purpose,’ said the woman, throwing herself before
him as he rose to undraw it.—‘Oh! sir, have pity on me!  If it can be of
no use, and he is really dead, do not expose that form to other eyes than
mine!’

‘This man died no natural or easy death,’ said the surgeon.  ‘I _must_
see the body!’  With a motion so sudden, that the woman hardly knew that
he had slipped from beside her, he tore open the curtain, admitted the
full light of day, and returned to the bedside.

‘There has been violence here,’ he said, pointing towards the body, and
gazing intently on the face, from which the black veil was now, for the
first time, removed.  In the excitement of a minute before, the female
had thrown off the bonnet and veil, and now stood with her eyes fixed
upon him.  Her features were those of a woman about fifty, who had once
been handsome.  Sorrow and weeping had left traces upon them which not
time itself would ever have produced without their aid; her face was
deadly pale; and there was a nervous contortion of the lip, and an
unnatural fire in her eye, which showed too plainly that her bodily and
mental powers had nearly sunk, beneath an accumulation of misery.

‘There has been violence here,’ said the surgeon, preserving his
searching glance.

‘There has!’ replied the woman.

‘This man has been murdered.’

‘That I call God to witness he has,’ said the woman, passionately;
‘pitilessly, inhumanly murdered!’

‘By whom?’ said the surgeon, seizing the woman by the arm.

‘Look at the butchers’ marks, and then ask me!’ she replied.

The surgeon turned his face towards the bed, and bent over the body which
now lay full in the light of the window.  The throat was swollen, and a
livid mark encircled it.  The truth flashed suddenly upon him.

‘This is one of the men who were hanged this morning!’ he exclaimed,
turning away with a shudder.

‘It is,’ replied the woman, with a cold, unmeaning stare.

‘Who was he?’ inquired the surgeon.

‘_My son_,’ rejoined the woman; and fell senseless at his feet.

It was true.  A companion, equally guilty with himself, had been
acquitted for want of evidence; and this man had been left for death, and
executed.  To recount the circumstances of the case, at this distant
period, must be unnecessary, and might give pain to some persons still
alive.  The history was an every-day one.  The mother was a widow without
friends or money, and had denied herself necessaries to bestow them on
her orphan boy.  That boy, unmindful of her prayers, and forgetful of the
sufferings she had endured for him—incessant anxiety of mind, and
voluntary starvation of body—had plunged into a career of dissipation and
crime.  And this was the result; his own death by the hangman’s hands,
and his mother’s shame, and incurable insanity.

For many years after this occurrence, and when profitable and arduous
avocations would have led many men to forget that such a miserable being
existed, the young surgeon was a daily visitor at the side of the
harmless mad woman; not only soothing her by his presence and kindness,
but alleviating the rigour of her condition by pecuniary donations for
her comfort and support, bestowed with no sparing hand.  In the transient
gleam of recollection and consciousness which preceded her death, a
prayer for his welfare and protection, as fervent as mortal ever
breathed, rose from the lips of this poor friendless creature.  That
prayer flew to Heaven, and was heard.  The blessings he was instrumental
in conferring, have been repaid to him a thousand-fold; but, amid all the
honours of rank and station which have since been heaped upon him, and
which he has so well earned, he can have no reminiscence more gratifying
to his heart than that connected with The Black Veil.



CHAPTER VII—THE STEAM EXCURSION


Mr. Percy Noakes was a law student, inhabiting a set of chambers on the
fourth floor, in one of those houses in Gray’s-inn-square which command
an extensive view of the gardens, and their usual adjuncts—flaunting
nursery-maids, and town-made children, with parenthetical legs.  Mr.
Percy Noakes was what is generally termed—‘a devilish good fellow.’  He
had a large circle of acquaintance, and seldom dined at his own expense.
He used to talk politics to papas, flatter the vanity of mammas, do the
amiable to their daughters, make pleasure engagements with their sons,
and romp with the younger branches.  Like those paragons of perfection,
advertising footmen out of place, he was always ‘willing to make himself
generally useful.’  If any old lady, whose son was in India, gave a ball,
Mr. Percy Noakes was master of the ceremonies; if any young lady made a
stolen match, Mr. Percy Noakes gave her away; if a juvenile wife
presented her husband with a blooming cherub, Mr. Percy Noakes was either
godfather, or deputy-godfather; and if any member of a friend’s family
died, Mr. Percy Noakes was invariably to be seen in the second mourning
coach, with a white handkerchief to his eyes, sobbing—to use his own
appropriate and expressive description—‘like winkin’!’

It may readily be imagined that these numerous avocations were rather
calculated to interfere with Mr. Percy Noakes’s professional studies.
Mr. Percy Noakes was perfectly aware of the fact, and had, therefore,
after mature reflection, made up his mind not to study at all—a laudable
determination, to which he adhered in the most praiseworthy manner.  His
sitting-room presented a strange chaos of dress-gloves, boxing-gloves,
caricatures, albums, invitation-cards, foils, cricket-bats, cardboard
drawings, paste, gum, and fifty other miscellaneous articles, heaped
together in the strangest confusion.  He was always making something for
somebody, or planning some party of pleasure, which was his great
_forte_.  He invariably spoke with astonishing rapidity; was smart,
spoffish, and eight-and-twenty.

‘Splendid idea, ’pon my life!’ soliloquised Mr. Percy Noakes, over his
morning coffee, as his mind reverted to a suggestion which had been
thrown out on the previous night, by a lady at whose house he had spent
the evening.  ‘Glorious idea!—Mrs. Stubbs.’

‘Yes, sir,’ replied a dirty old woman with an inflamed countenance,
emerging from the bedroom, with a barrel of dirt and cinders.—This was
the laundress.  ‘Did you call, sir?’

‘Oh!  Mrs. Stubbs, I’m going out.  If that tailor should call again,
you’d better say—you’d better say I’m out of town, and shan’t be back for
a fortnight; and if that bootmaker should come, tell him I’ve lost his
address, or I’d have sent him that little amount.  Mind he writes it
down; and if Mr. Hardy should call—you know Mr. Hardy?’

‘The funny gentleman, sir?’

‘Ah! the funny gentleman.  If Mr. Hardy should call, say I’ve gone to
Mrs. Taunton’s about that water-party.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And if any fellow calls, and says he’s come about a steamer, tell him to
be here at five o’clock this afternoon, Mrs. Stubbs.’

‘Very well, sir.’

Mr. Percy Noakes brushed his hat, whisked the crumbs off his
inexpressibles with a silk handkerchief, gave the ends of his hair a
persuasive roll round his forefinger, and sallied forth for Mrs.
Taunton’s domicile in Great Marlborough-street, where she and her
daughters occupied the upper part of a house.  She was a good-looking
widow of fifty, with the form of a giantess and the mind of a child.  The
pursuit of pleasure, and some means of killing time, were the sole end of
her existence.  She doted on her daughters, who were as frivolous as
herself.

A general exclamation of satisfaction hailed the arrival of Mr. Percy
Noakes, who went through the ordinary salutations, and threw himself into
an easy chair near the ladies’ work-table, with the ease of a regularly
established friend of the family.  Mrs. Taunton was busily engaged in
planting immense bright bows on every part of a smart cap on which it was
possible to stick one; Miss Emily Taunton was making a watch-guard; Miss
Sophia was at the piano, practising a new song—poetry by the young
officer, or the police-officer, or the custom-house officer, or some
other interesting amateur.

‘You good creature!’ said Mrs. Taunton, addressing the gallant Percy.
‘You really are a good soul!  You’ve come about the water-party, I know.’

‘I should rather suspect I had,’ replied Mr. Noakes, triumphantly.  ‘Now,
come here, girls, and I’ll tell you all about it.’  Miss Emily and Miss
Sophia advanced to the table.

‘Now,’ continued Mr. Percy Noakes, ‘it seems to me that the best way will
be, to have a committee of ten, to make all the arrangements, and manage
the whole set-out.  Then, I propose that the expenses shall be paid by
these ten fellows jointly.’

‘Excellent, indeed!’ said Mrs. Taunton, who highly approved of this part
of the arrangements.

‘Then, my plan is, that each of these ten fellows shall have the power of
asking five people.  There must be a meeting of the committee, at my
chambers, to make all the arrangements, and these people shall be then
named; every member of the committee shall have the power of
black-balling any one who is proposed; and one black ball shall exclude
that person.  This will ensure our having a pleasant party, you know.’

‘What a manager you are!’ interrupted Mrs. Taunton again.

‘Charming!’ said the lovely Emily.

‘I never did!’ ejaculated Sophia.

‘Yes, I think it’ll do,’ replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who was now quite in
his element.  ‘I think it’ll do.  Then you know we shall go down to the
Nore, and back, and have a regular capital cold dinner laid out in the
cabin before we start, so that everything may be ready without any
confusion; and we shall have the lunch laid out, on deck, in those little
tea-garden-looking concerns by the paddle-boxes—I don’t know what you
call ’em.  Then, we shall hire a steamer expressly for our party, and a
band, and have the deck chalked, and we shall be able to dance quadrilles
all day; and then, whoever we know that’s musical, you know, why they’ll
make themselves useful and agreeable; and—and—upon the whole, I really
hope we shall have a glorious day, you know!’

The announcement of these arrangements was received with the utmost
enthusiasm.  Mrs. Taunton, Emily, and Sophia, were loud in their praises.

‘Well, but tell me, Percy,’ said Mrs. Taunton, ‘who are the ten gentlemen
to be?’

‘Oh!  I know plenty of fellows who’ll be delighted with the scheme,’
replied Mr. Percy Noakes; ‘of course we shall have—’

‘Mr. Hardy!’ interrupted the servant, announcing a visitor.  Miss Sophia
and Miss Emily hastily assumed the most interesting attitudes that could
be adopted on so short a notice.

‘How are you?’ said a stout gentleman of about forty, pausing at the door
in the attitude of an awkward harlequin.  This was Mr. Hardy, whom we
have before described, on the authority of Mrs. Stubbs, as ‘the funny
gentleman.’  He was an Astley-Cooperish Joe Miller—a practical joker,
immensely popular with married ladies, and a general favourite with young
men.  He was always engaged in some pleasure excursion or other, and
delighted in getting somebody into a scrape on such occasions.  He could
sing comic songs, imitate hackney-coachmen and fowls, play airs on his
chin, and execute concertos on the Jews’-harp.  He always eat and drank
most immoderately, and was the bosom friend of Mr. Percy Noakes.  He had
a red face, a somewhat husky voice, and a tremendous laugh.

‘How _are_ you?’ said this worthy, laughing, as if it were the finest
joke in the world to make a morning call, and shaking hands with the
ladies with as much vehemence as if their arms had been so many
pump-handles.

‘You’re just the very man I wanted,’ said Mr. Percy Noakes, who proceeded
to explain the cause of his being in requisition.

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ shouted Hardy, after hearing the statement, and receiving a
detailed account of the proposed excursion.  ‘Oh, capital! glorious!
What a day it will be! what fun!—But, I say, when are you going to begin
making the arrangements?’

‘No time like the present—at once, if you please.’

‘Oh, charming!’ cried the ladies.  ‘Pray, do!’

Writing materials were laid before Mr. Percy Noakes, and the names of the
different members of the committee were agreed on, after as much
discussion between him and Mr. Hardy as if the fate of nations had
depended on their appointment.  It was then agreed that a meeting should
take place at Mr. Percy Noakes’s chambers on the ensuing Wednesday
evening at eight o’clock, and the visitors departed.

Wednesday evening arrived; eight o’clock came, and eight members of the
committee were punctual in their attendance.  Mr. Loggins, the solicitor,
of Boswell-court, sent an excuse, and Mr. Samuel Briggs, the ditto of
Furnival’s Inn, sent his brother: much to his (the brother’s)
satisfaction, and greatly to the discomfiture of Mr. Percy Noakes.
Between the Briggses and the Tauntons there existed a degree of
implacable hatred, quite unprecedented.  The animosity between the
Montagues and Capulets, was nothing to that which prevailed between these
two illustrious houses.  Mrs. Briggs was a widow, with three daughters
and two sons; Mr. Samuel, the eldest, was an attorney, and Mr. Alexander,
the youngest, was under articles to his brother.  They resided in
Portland-street, Oxford-street, and moved in the same orbit as the
Tauntons—hence their mutual dislike.  If the Miss Briggses appeared in
smart bonnets, the Miss Tauntons eclipsed them with smarter.  If Mrs.
Taunton appeared in a cap of all the hues of the rainbow, Mrs. Briggs
forthwith mounted a toque, with all the patterns of the kaleidoscope.  If
Miss Sophia Taunton learnt a new song, two of the Miss Briggses came out
with a new duet.  The Tauntons had once gained a temporary triumph with
the assistance of a harp, but the Briggses brought three guitars into the
field, and effectually routed the enemy.  There was no end to the rivalry
between them.

Now, as Mr. Samuel Briggs was a mere machine, a sort of self-acting legal
walking-stick; and as the party was known to have originated, however
remotely, with Mrs. Taunton, the female branches of the Briggs family had
arranged that Mr. Alexander should attend, instead of his brother; and as
the said Mr. Alexander was deservedly celebrated for possessing all the
pertinacity of a bankruptcy-court attorney, combined with the obstinacy
of that useful animal which browses on the thistle, he required but
little tuition.  He was especially enjoined to make himself as
disagreeable as possible; and, above all, to black-ball the Tauntons at
every hazard.

The proceedings of the evening were opened by Mr. Percy Noakes.  After
successfully urging on the gentlemen present the propriety of their
mixing some brandy-and-water, he briefly stated the object of the
meeting, and concluded by observing that the first step must be the
selection of a chairman, necessarily possessing some arbitrary—he trusted
not unconstitutional—powers, to whom the personal direction of the whole
of the arrangements (subject to the approval of the committee) should be
confided.  A pale young gentleman, in a green stock and spectacles of the
same, a member of the honourable society of the Inner Temple, immediately
rose for the purpose of proposing Mr. Percy Noakes.  He had known him
long, and this he would say, that a more honourable, a more excellent, or
a better-hearted fellow, never existed.—(Hear, hear!)  The young
gentleman, who was a member of a debating society, took this opportunity
of entering into an examination of the state of the English law, from the
days of William the Conqueror down to the present period; he briefly
adverted to the code established by the ancient Druids; slightly glanced
at the principles laid down by the Athenian law-givers; and concluded
with a most glowing eulogium on pic-nics and constitutional rights.

Mr. Alexander Briggs opposed the motion.  He had the highest esteem for
Mr. Percy Noakes as an individual, but he did consider that he ought not
to be intrusted with these immense powers—(oh, oh!)—He believed that in
the proposed capacity Mr. Percy Noakes would not act fairly, impartially,
or honourably; but he begged it to be distinctly understood, that he said
this, without the slightest personal disrespect.  Mr. Hardy defended his
honourable friend, in a voice rendered partially unintelligible by
emotion and brandy-and-water.  The proposition was put to the vote, and
there appearing to be only one dissentient voice, Mr. Percy Noakes was
declared duly elected, and took the chair accordingly.

The business of the meeting now proceeded with rapidity.  The chairman
delivered in his estimate of the probable expense of the excursion, and
every one present subscribed his portion thereof.  The question was put
that ‘The Endeavour’ be hired for the occasion; Mr. Alexander Briggs
moved as an amendment, that the word ‘Fly’ be substituted for the word
‘Endeavour’; but after some debate consented to withdraw his opposition.
The important ceremony of balloting then commenced.  A tea-caddy was
placed on a table in a dark corner of the apartment, and every one was
provided with two backgammon men, one black and one white.

The chairman with great solemnity then read the following list of the
guests whom he proposed to introduce:—Mrs. Taunton and two daughters, Mr.
Wizzle, Mr. Simson.  The names were respectively balloted for, and Mrs.
Taunton and her daughters were declared to be black-balled.  Mr. Percy
Noakes and Mr. Hardy exchanged glances.

‘Is your list prepared, Mr. Briggs?’ inquired the chairman.

‘It is,’ replied Alexander, delivering in the following:—‘Mrs. Briggs and
three daughters, Mr. Samuel Briggs.’  The previous ceremony was repeated,
and Mrs. Briggs and three daughters were declared to be black-balled.
Mr. Alexander Briggs looked rather foolish, and the remainder of the
company appeared somewhat overawed by the mysterious nature of the
proceedings.

The balloting proceeded; but, one little circumstance which Mr. Percy
Noakes had not originally foreseen, prevented the system from working
quite as well as he had anticipated.  Everybody was black-balled.  Mr.
Alexander Briggs, by way of retaliation, exercised his power of exclusion
in every instance, and the result was, that after three hours had been
consumed in hard balloting, the names of only three gentlemen were found
to have been agreed to.  In this dilemma what was to be done? either the
whole plan must fall to the ground, or a compromise must be effected.
The latter alternative was preferable; and Mr. Percy Noakes therefore
proposed that the form of balloting should be dispensed with, and that
every gentleman should merely be required to state whom he intended to
bring.  The proposal was acceded to; the Tauntons and the Briggses were
reinstated; and the party was formed.

The next Wednesday was fixed for the eventful day, and it was unanimously
resolved that every member of the committee should wear a piece of blue
sarsenet ribbon round his left arm.  It appeared from the statement of
Mr. Percy Noakes, that the boat belonged to the General Steam Navigation
Company, and was then lying off the Custom-house; and, as he proposed
that the dinner and wines should be provided by an eminent city purveyor,
it was arranged that Mr. Percy Noakes should be on board by seven o’clock
to superintend the arrangements, and that the remaining members of the
committee, together with the company generally, should be expected to
join her by nine o’clock.  More brandy-and-water was despatched; several
speeches were made by the different law students present; thanks were
voted to the chairman; and the meeting separated.

The weather had been beautiful up to this period, and beautiful it
continued to be.  Sunday passed over, and Mr. Percy Noakes became
unusually fidgety—rushing, constantly, to and from the Steam Packet
Wharf, to the astonishment of the clerks, and the great emolument of the
Holborn cabmen.  Tuesday arrived, and the anxiety of Mr. Percy Noakes
knew no bounds.  He was every instant running to the window, to look out
for clouds; and Mr. Hardy astonished the whole square by practising a new
comic song for the occasion, in the chairman’s chambers.

Uneasy were the slumbers of Mr. Percy Noakes that night; he tossed and
tumbled about, and had confused dreams of steamers starting off, and
gigantic clocks with the hands pointing to a quarter-past nine, and the
ugly face of Mr. Alexander Briggs looking over the boat’s side, and
grinning, as if in derision of his fruitless attempts to move.  He made a
violent effort to get on board, and awoke.  The bright sun was shining
cheerfully into the bedroom, and Mr. Percy Noakes started up for his
watch, in the dreadful expectation of finding his worst dreams realised.

It was just five o’clock.  He calculated the time—he should be a good
half-hour dressing himself; and as it was a lovely morning, and the tide
would be then running down, he would walk leisurely to Strand-lane, and
have a boat to the Custom-house.

He dressed himself, took a hasty apology for a breakfast, and sallied
forth.  The streets looked as lonely and deserted as if they had been
crowded, overnight, for the last time.  Here and there, an early
apprentice, with quenched-looking sleepy eyes, was taking down the
shutters of a shop; and a policeman or milkwoman might occasionally be
seen pacing slowly along; but the servants had not yet begun to clean the
doors, or light the kitchen fires, and London looked the picture of
desolation.  At the corner of a by-street, near Temple-bar, was stationed
a ‘street-breakfast.’  The coffee was boiling over a charcoal fire, and
large slices of bread and butter were piled one upon the other, like
deals in a timber-yard.  The company were seated on a form, which, with a
view both to security and comfort, was placed against a neighbouring
wall.  Two young men, whose uproarious mirth and disordered dress bespoke
the conviviality of the preceding evening, were treating three ‘ladies’
and an Irish labourer.  A little sweep was standing at a short distance,
casting a longing eye at the tempting delicacies; and a policeman was
watching the group from the opposite side of the street.  The wan looks
and gaudy finery of the thinly-clad women contrasted as strangely with
the gay sunlight, as did their forced merriment with the boisterous
hilarity of the two young men, who, now and then, varied their amusements
by ‘bonneting’ the proprietor of this itinerant coffee-house.

Mr. Percy Noakes walked briskly by, and when he turned down Strand-lane,
and caught a glimpse of the glistening water, he thought he had never
felt so important or so happy in his life.

‘Boat, sir?’ cried one of the three watermen who were mopping out their
boats, and all whistling.  ‘Boat, sir?’

‘No,’ replied Mr. Percy Noakes, rather sharply; for the inquiry was not
made in a manner at all suitable to his dignity.

‘Would you prefer a wessel, sir?’ inquired another, to the infinite
delight of the ‘Jack-in-the-water.’

Mr. Percy Noakes replied with a look of supreme contempt.

‘Did you want to be put on board a steamer, sir?’ inquired an old
fireman-waterman, very confidentially.  He was dressed in a faded red
suit, just the colour of the cover of a very old Court-guide.

‘Yes, make haste—the Endeavour—off the Custom-house.’

‘Endeavour!’ cried the man who had convulsed the ‘Jack’ before.  ‘Vy, I
see the Endeavour go up half an hour ago.’

‘So did I,’ said another; ‘and I should think she’d gone down by this
time, for she’s a precious sight too full of ladies and gen’lemen.’

Mr. Percy Noakes affected to disregard these representations, and stepped
into the boat, which the old man, by dint of scrambling, and shoving, and
grating, had brought up to the causeway.  ‘Shove her off!’ cried Mr.
Percy Noakes, and away the boat glided down the river; Mr. Percy Noakes
seated on the recently mopped seat, and the watermen at the stairs
offering to bet him any reasonable sum that he’d never reach the
‘Custum-us.’

‘Here she is, by Jove!’ said the delighted Percy, as they ran alongside
the Endeavour.

‘Hold hard!’ cried the steward over the side, and Mr. Percy Noakes jumped
on board.

‘Hope you will find everything as you wished, sir.  She looks uncommon
well this morning.’

‘She does, indeed,’ replied the manager, in a state of ecstasy which it
is impossible to describe.  The deck was scrubbed, and the seats were
scrubbed, and there was a bench for the band, and a place for dancing,
and a pile of camp-stools, and an awning; and then Mr. Percy Noakes
bustled down below, and there were the pastrycook’s men, and the
steward’s wife, laying out the dinner on two tables the whole length of
the cabin; and then Mr. Percy Noakes took off his coat and rushed
backwards and forwards, doing nothing, but quite convinced he was
assisting everybody; and the steward’s wife laughed till she cried, and
Mr. Percy Noakes panted with the violence of his exertions.  And then the
bell at London-bridge wharf rang; and a Margate boat was just starting;
and a Gravesend boat was just starting, and people shouted, and porters
ran down the steps with luggage that would crush any men but porters; and
sloping boards, with bits of wood nailed on them, were placed between the
outside boat and the inside boat; and the passengers ran along them, and
looked like so many fowls coming out of an area; and then, the bell
ceased, and the boards were taken away, and the boats started, and the
whole scene was one of the most delightful bustle and confusion.

The time wore on; half-past eight o’clock arrived; the pastry-cook’s men
went ashore; the dinner was completely laid out; and Mr. Percy Noakes
locked the principal cabin, and put the key in his pocket, in order that
it might be suddenly disclosed, in all its magnificence, to the eyes of
the astonished company.  The band came on board, and so did the wine.

Ten minutes to nine, and the committee embarked in a body.  There was Mr.
Hardy, in a blue jacket and waistcoat, white trousers, silk stockings,
and pumps—in full aquatic costume, with a straw hat on his head, and an
immense telescope under his arm; and there was the young gentleman with
the green spectacles, in nankeen inexplicables, with a ditto waistcoat
and bright buttons, like the pictures of Paul—not the saint, but he of
Virginia notoriety.  The remainder of the committee, dressed in white
hats, light jackets, waistcoats, and trousers, looked something between
waiters and West India planters.

Nine o’clock struck, and the company arrived in shoals.  Mr. Samuel
Briggs, Mrs. Briggs, and the Misses Briggs, made their appearance in a
smart private wherry.  The three guitars, in their respective dark green
cases, were carefully stowed away in the bottom of the boat, accompanied
by two immense portfolios of music, which it would take at least a week’s
incessant playing to get through.  The Tauntons arrived at the same
moment with more music, and a lion—a gentleman with a bass voice and an
incipient red moustache.  The colours of the Taunton party were pink;
those of the Briggses a light blue.  The Tauntons had artificial flowers
in their bonnets; here the Briggses gained a decided advantage—they wore
feathers.

‘How d’ye do, dear?’ said the Misses Briggs to the Misses Taunton.  (The
word ‘dear’ among girls is frequently synonymous with ‘wretch.’)

‘Quite well, thank you, dear,’ replied the Misses Taunton to the Misses
Briggs; and then, there was such a kissing, and congratulating, and
shaking of hands, as might have induced one to suppose that the two
families were the best friends in the world, instead of each wishing the
other overboard, as they most sincerely did.

Mr. Percy Noakes received the visitors, and bowed to the strange
gentleman, as if he should like to know who he was.  This was just what
Mrs. Taunton wanted.  Here was an opportunity to astonish the Briggses.

‘Oh!  I beg your pardon,’ said the general of the Taunton party, with a
careless air.—‘Captain Helves—Mr. Percy Noakes—Mrs. Briggs—Captain
Helves.’

Mr. Percy Noakes bowed very low; the gallant captain did the same with
all due ferocity, and the Briggses were clearly overcome.

‘Our friend, Mr. Wizzle, being unfortunately prevented from coming,’
resumed Mrs. Taunton, ‘I did myself the pleasure of bringing the captain,
whose musical talents I knew would be a great acquisition.’

‘In the name of the committee I have to thank you for doing so, and to
offer you welcome, sir,’ replied Percy.  (Here the scraping was renewed.)
‘But pray be seated—won’t you walk aft?  Captain, will you conduct Miss
Taunton?—Miss Briggs, will you allow me?’

‘Where could they have picked up that military man?’ inquired Mrs. Briggs
of Miss Kate Briggs, as they followed the little party.

‘I can’t imagine,’ replied Miss Kate, bursting with vexation; for the
very fierce air with which the gallant captain regarded the company, had
impressed her with a high sense of his importance.

Boat after boat came alongside, and guest after guest arrived.  The
invites had been excellently arranged: Mr. Percy Noakes having considered
it as important that the number of young men should exactly tally with
that of the young ladies, as that the quantity of knives on board should
be in precise proportion to the forks.

‘Now, is every one on board?’ inquired Mr. Percy Noakes.  The committee
(who, with their bits of blue ribbon, looked as if they were all going to
be bled) bustled about to ascertain the fact, and reported that they
might safely start.

‘Go on!’ cried the master of the boat from the top of one of the
paddle-boxes.

‘Go on!’ echoed the boy, who was stationed over the hatchway to pass the
directions down to the engineer; and away went the vessel with that
agreeable noise which is peculiar to steamers, and which is composed of a
mixture of creaking, gushing, clanging, and snorting.

‘Hoi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-o-i-i-i!’ shouted half-a-dozen voices from a boat, a
quarter of a mile astern.

‘Ease her!’ cried the captain: ‘do these people belong to us, sir?’

‘Noakes,’ exclaimed Hardy, who had been looking at every object far and
near, through the large telescope, ‘it’s the Fleetwoods and the
Wakefields—and two children with them, by Jove!’

‘What a shame to bring children!’ said everybody; ‘how very
inconsiderate!’

‘I say, it would be a good joke to pretend not to see ’em, wouldn’t it?’
suggested Hardy, to the immense delight of the company generally.  A
council of war was hastily held, and it was resolved that the newcomers
should be taken on board, on Mr. Hardy solemnly pledging himself to tease
the children during the whole of the day.

‘Stop her!’ cried the captain.

‘Stop her!’ repeated the boy; whizz went the steam, and all the young
ladies, as in duty bound, screamed in concert.  They were only appeased
by the assurance of the martial Helves, that the escape of steam
consequent on stopping a vessel was seldom attended with any great loss
of human life.

Two men ran to the side; and after some shouting, and swearing, and
angling for the wherry with a boat-hook, Mr. Fleetwood, and Mrs.
Fleetwood, and Master Fleetwood, and Mr. Wakefield, and Mrs. Wakefield,
and Miss Wakefield, were safely deposited on the deck.  The girl was
about six years old, the boy about four; the former was dressed in a
white frock with a pink sash and dog’s-eared-looking little spencer: a
straw bonnet and green veil, six inches by three and a half; the latter,
was attired for the occasion in a nankeen frock, between the bottom of
which, and the top of his plaid socks, a considerable portion of two
small mottled legs was discernible.  He had a light blue cap with a gold
band and tassel on his head, and a damp piece of gingerbread in his hand,
with which he had slightly embossed his countenance.

The boat once more started off; the band played ‘Off she goes:’ the major
part of the company conversed cheerfully in groups; and the old gentlemen
walked up and down the deck in pairs, as perseveringly and gravely as if
they were doing a match against time for an immense stake.  They ran
briskly down the Pool; the gentlemen pointed out the Docks, the Thames
Police-office, and other elegant public edifices; and the young ladies
exhibited a proper display of horror at the appearance of the
coal-whippers and ballast-heavers.  Mr. Hardy told stories to the married
ladies, at which they laughed very much in their pocket-handkerchiefs,
and hit him on the knuckles with their fans, declaring him to be ‘a
naughty man—a shocking creature’—and so forth; and Captain Helves gave
slight descriptions of battles and duels, with a most bloodthirsty air,
which made him the admiration of the women, and the envy of the men.
Quadrilling commenced; Captain Helves danced one set with Miss Emily
Taunton, and another set with Miss Sophia Taunton.  Mrs. Taunton was in
ecstasies.  The victory appeared to be complete; but alas! the
inconstancy of man!  Having performed this necessary duty, he attached
himself solely to Miss Julia Briggs, with whom he danced no less than
three sets consecutively, and from whose side he evinced no intention of
stirring for the remainder of the day.

Mr. Hardy, having played one or two very brilliant fantasias on the
Jews’-harp, and having frequently repeated the exquisitely amusing joke
of slily chalking a large cross on the back of some member of the
committee, Mr. Percy Noakes expressed his hope that some of their musical
friends would oblige the company by a display of their abilities.

‘Perhaps,’ he said in a very insinuating manner, ‘Captain Helves will
oblige us?’  Mrs. Taunton’s countenance lighted up, for the captain only
sang duets, and couldn’t sing them with anybody but one of her daughters.

‘Really,’ said that warlike individual, ‘I should be very happy, ‘but—’

‘Oh! pray do,’ cried all the young ladies.

‘Miss Emily, have you any objection to join in a duet?’

‘Oh! not the slightest,’ returned the young lady, in a tone which clearly
showed she had the greatest possible objection.

‘Shall I accompany you, dear?’ inquired one of the Miss Briggses, with
the bland intention of spoiling the effect.

‘Very much obliged to you, Miss Briggs,’ sharply retorted Mrs. Taunton,
who saw through the manoeuvre; ‘my daughters always sing without
accompaniments.’

‘And without voices,’ tittered Mrs. Briggs, in a low tone.

‘Perhaps,’ said Mrs. Taunton, reddening, for she guessed the tenor of the
observation, though she had not heard it clearly—‘Perhaps it would be as
well for some people, if their voices were not quite so audible as they
are to other people.’

‘And, perhaps, if gentlemen who are kidnapped to pay attention to some
persons’ daughters, had not sufficient discernment to pay attention to
other persons’ daughters,’ returned Mrs. Briggs, ‘some persons would not
be so ready to display that ill-temper which, thank God, distinguishes
them from other persons.’

‘Persons!’ ejaculated Mrs. Taunton.

‘Persons,’ replied Mrs. Briggs.

‘Insolence!’

‘Creature!’

‘Hush! hush!’ interrupted Mr. Percy Noakes, who was one of the very few
by whom this dialogue had been overheard.  ‘Hush!—pray, silence for the
duet.’

After a great deal of preparatory crowing and humming, the captain began
the following duet from the opera of ‘Paul and Virginia,’ in that
grunting tone in which a man gets down, Heaven knows where, without the
remotest chance of ever getting up again.  This, in private circles, is
frequently designated ‘a bass voice.’

    ‘See (sung the captain) from o—ce—an ri—sing
    Bright flames the or—b of d—ay.
    From yon gro—ove, the varied so—ongs—’

Here, the singer was interrupted by varied cries of the most dreadful
description, proceeding from some grove in the immediate vicinity of the
starboard paddle-box.

‘My child!’ screamed Mrs. Fleetwood.  ‘My child! it is his voice—I know
it.’

Mr. Fleetwood, accompanied by several gentlemen, here rushed to the
quarter from whence the noise proceeded, and an exclamation of horror
burst from the company; the general impression being, that the little
innocent had either got his head in the water, or his legs in the
machinery.

‘What is the matter?’ shouted the agonised father, as he returned with
the child in his arms.

‘Oh! oh! oh!’ screamed the small sufferer again.

‘What is the matter, dear?’ inquired the father once more—hastily
stripping off the nankeen frock, for the purpose of ascertaining whether
the child had one bone which was not smashed to pieces.

‘Oh! oh!—I’m so frightened!’

‘What at, dear?—what at?’ said the mother, soothing the sweet infant.

‘Oh! he’s been making such dreadful faces at me,’ cried the boy,
relapsing into convulsions at the bare recollection.

‘He!—who?’ cried everybody, crowding round him.

‘Oh!—him!’ replied the child, pointing at Hardy, who affected to be the
most concerned of the whole group.

The real state of the case at once flashed upon the minds of all present,
with the exception of the Fleetwoods and the Wakefields.  The facetious
Hardy, in fulfilment of his promise, had watched the child to a remote
part of the vessel, and, suddenly appearing before him with the most
awful contortions of visage, had produced his paroxysm of terror.  Of
course, he now observed that it was hardly necessary for him to deny the
accusation; and the unfortunate little victim was accordingly led below,
after receiving sundry thumps on the head from both his parents, for
having the wickedness to tell a story.

This little interruption having been adjusted, the captain resumed, and
Miss Emily chimed in, in due course.  The duet was loudly applauded, and,
certainly, the perfect independence of the parties deserved great
commendation.  Miss Emily sung her part, without the slightest reference
to the captain; and the captain sang so loud, that he had not the
slightest idea what was being done by his partner.  After having gone
through the last few eighteen or nineteen bars by himself, therefore, he
acknowledged the plaudits of the circle with that air of self-denial
which men usually assume when they think they have done something to
astonish the company.

‘Now,’ said Mr. Percy Noakes, who had just ascended from the fore-cabin,
where he had been busily engaged in decanting the wine, ‘if the Misses
Briggs will oblige us with something before dinner, I am sure we shall be
very much delighted.’

One of those hums of admiration followed the suggestion, which one
frequently hears in society, when nobody has the most distant notion what
he is expressing his approval of.  The three Misses Briggs looked
modestly at their mamma, and the mamma looked approvingly at her
daughters, and Mrs. Taunton looked scornfully at all of them.  The Misses
Briggs asked for their guitars, and several gentlemen seriously damaged
the cases in their anxiety to present them.  Then, there was a very
interesting production of three little keys for the aforesaid cases, and
a melodramatic expression of horror at finding a string broken; and a
vast deal of screwing and tightening, and winding, and tuning, during
which Mrs. Briggs expatiated to those near her on the immense difficulty
of playing a guitar, and hinted at the wondrous proficiency of her
daughters in that mystic art.  Mrs. Taunton whispered to a neighbour that
it was ‘quite sickening!’ and the Misses Taunton looked as if they knew
how to play, but disdained to do it.

At length, the Misses Briggs began in real earnest.  It was a new Spanish
composition, for three voices and three guitars.  The effect was
electrical.  All eyes were turned upon the captain, who was reported to
have once passed through Spain with his regiment, and who must be well
acquainted with the national music.  He was in raptures.  This was
sufficient; the trio was encored; the applause was universal; and never
had the Tauntons suffered such a complete defeat.

‘Bravo! bravo!’ ejaculated the captain;—‘bravo!’

‘Pretty! isn’t it, sir?’ inquired Mr. Samuel Briggs, with the air of a
self-satisfied showman.  By-the-bye, these were the first words he had
been heard to utter since he left Boswell-court the evening before.

‘De-lightful!’ returned the captain, with a flourish, and a military
cough;—‘de-lightful!’

‘Sweet instrument!’ said an old gentleman with a bald head, who had been
trying all the morning to look through a telescope, inside the glass of
which Mr. Hardy had fixed a large black wafer.

‘Did you ever hear a Portuguese tambourine?’ inquired that jocular
individual.

‘Did _you_ ever hear a tom-tom, sir?’ sternly inquired the captain, who
lost no opportunity of showing off his travels, real or pretended.

‘A what?’ asked Hardy, rather taken aback.

‘A tom-tom.’

‘Never!’

‘Nor a gum-gum?’

‘Never!’

‘What _is_ a gum-gum?’ eagerly inquired several young ladies.

‘When I was in the East Indies,’ replied the captain—(here was a
discovery—he had been in the East Indies!)—‘when I was in the East
Indies, I was once stopping a few thousand miles up the country, on a
visit at the house of a very particular friend of mine, Ram Chowdar Doss
Azuph Al Bowlar—a devilish pleasant fellow.  As we were enjoying our
hookahs, one evening, in the cool verandah in front of his villa, we were
rather surprised by the sudden appearance of thirty-four of his
Kit-ma-gars (for he had rather a large establishment there), accompanied
by an equal number of Con-su-mars, approaching the house with a
threatening aspect, and beating a tom-tom.  The Ram started up—’

‘Who?’ inquired the bald gentleman, intensely interested.

‘The Ram—Ram Chowdar—’

‘Oh!’ said the old gentleman, ‘beg your pardon; pray go on.’

‘—Started up and drew a pistol.  “Helves,” said he, “my boy,”—he always
called me, my boy—“Helves,” said he, “do you hear that tom-tom?”  “I do,”
said I.  His countenance, which before was pale, assumed a most frightful
appearance; his whole visage was distorted, and his frame shaken by
violent emotions.  “Do you see that gum-gum?” said he.  “No,” said I,
staring about me.  “You don’t?” said he.  “No, I’ll be damned if I do,”
said I; “and what’s more, I don’t know what a gum-gum is,” said I.  I
really thought the Ram would have dropped.  He drew me aside, and with an
expression of agony I shall never forget, said in a low whisper—’

‘Dinner’s on the table, ladies,’ interrupted the steward’s wife.

‘Will you allow me?’ said the captain, immediately suiting the action to
the word, and escorting Miss Julia Briggs to the cabin, with as much ease
as if he had finished the story.

‘What an extraordinary circumstance!’ ejaculated the same old gentleman,
preserving his listening attitude.

‘What a traveller!’ said the young ladies.

‘What a singular name!’ exclaimed the gentlemen, rather confused by the
coolness of the whole affair.

‘I wish he had finished the story,’ said an old lady.  ‘I wonder what a
gum-gum really is?’

‘By Jove!’ exclaimed Hardy, who until now had been lost in utter
amazement, ‘I don’t know what it may be in India, but in England I think
a gum-gum has very much the same meaning as a hum-bug.’

‘How illiberal! how envious!’ cried everybody, as they made for the
cabin, fully impressed with a belief in the captain’s amazing adventures.
Helves was the sole lion for the remainder of the day—impudence and the
marvellous are pretty sure passports to any society.

The party had by this time reached their destination, and put about on
their return home.  The wind, which had been with them the whole day, was
now directly in their teeth; the weather had become gradually more and
more overcast; and the sky, water, and shore, were all of that dull,
heavy, uniform lead-colour, which house-painters daub in the first
instance over a street-door which is gradually approaching a state of
convalescence.  It had been ‘spitting’ with rain for the last half-hour,
and now began to pour in good earnest.  The wind was freshening very
fast, and the waterman at the wheel had unequivocally expressed his
opinion that there would shortly be a squall.  A slight emotion on the
part of the vessel, now and then, seemed to suggest the possibility of
its pitching to a very uncomfortable extent in the event of its blowing
harder; and every timber began to creak, as if the boat were an overladen
clothes-basket.  Sea-sickness, however, is like a belief in ghosts—every
one entertains some misgivings on the subject, but few will acknowledge
any.  The majority of the company, therefore, endeavoured to look
peculiarly happy, feeling all the while especially miserable.

‘Don’t it rain?’ inquired the old gentleman before noticed, when, by dint
of squeezing and jamming, they were all seated at table.

‘I think it does—a little,’ replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who could hardly
hear himself speak, in consequence of the pattering on the deck.

‘Don’t it blow?’ inquired some one else.

‘No, I don’t think it does,’ responded Hardy, sincerely wishing that he
could persuade himself that it did not; for he sat near the door, and was
almost blown off his seat.

‘It’ll soon clear up,’ said Mr. Percy Noakes, in a cheerful tone.

‘Oh, certainly!’ ejaculated the committee generally.

‘No doubt of it!’ said the remainder of the company, whose attention was
now pretty well engrossed by the serious business of eating, carving,
taking wine, and so forth.

The throbbing motion of the engine was but too perceptible.  There was a
large, substantial, cold boiled leg of mutton, at the bottom of the
table, shaking like blancmange; a previously hearty sirloin of beef
looked as if it had been suddenly seized with the palsy; and some
tongues, which were placed on dishes rather too large for them, went
through the most surprising evolutions; darting from side to side, and
from end to end, like a fly in an inverted wine-glass.  Then, the sweets
shook and trembled, till it was quite impossible to help them, and people
gave up the attempt in despair; and the pigeon-pies looked as if the
birds, whose legs were stuck outside, were trying to get them in.  The
table vibrated and started like a feverish pulse, and the very legs were
convulsed—everything was shaking and jarring.  The beams in the roof of
the cabin seemed as if they were put there for the sole purpose of giving
people head-aches, and several elderly gentlemen became ill-tempered in
consequence.  As fast as the steward put the fire-irons up, they _would_
fall down again; and the more the ladies and gentlemen tried to sit
comfortably on their seats, the more the seats seemed to slide away from
the ladies and gentlemen.  Several ominous demands were made for small
glasses of brandy; the countenances of the company gradually underwent
most extraordinary changes; one gentleman was observed suddenly to rush
from table without the slightest ostensible reason, and dart up the steps
with incredible swiftness: thereby greatly damaging both himself and the
steward, who happened to be coming down at the same moment.

The cloth was removed; the dessert was laid on the table; and the glasses
were filled.  The motion of the boat increased; several members of the
party began to feel rather vague and misty, and looked as if they had
only just got up.  The young gentleman with the spectacles, who had been
in a fluctuating state for some time—at one moment bright, and at another
dismal, like a revolving light on the sea-coast—rashly announced his wish
to propose a toast.  After several ineffectual attempts to preserve his
perpendicular, the young gentleman, having managed to hook himself to the
centre leg of the table with his left hand, proceeded as follows:

‘Ladies and gentlemen.  A gentleman is among us—I may say a
stranger—(here some painful thought seemed to strike the orator; he
paused, and looked extremely odd)—whose talents, whose travels, whose
cheerfulness—’

‘I beg your pardon, Edkins,’ hastily interrupted Mr. Percy
Noakes,—‘Hardy, what’s the matter?’

‘Nothing,’ replied the ‘funny gentleman,’ who had just life enough left
to utter two consecutive syllables.

‘Will you have some brandy?’

‘No!’ replied Hardy in a tone of great indignation, and looking as
comfortable as Temple-bar in a Scotch mist; ‘what should I want brandy
for?’

‘Will you go on deck?’

‘No, I will _not_.’  This was said with a most determined air, and in a
voice which might have been taken for an imitation of anything; it was
quite as much like a guinea-pig as a bassoon.

‘I beg your pardon, Edkins,’ said the courteous Percy; ‘I thought our
friend was ill.  Pray go on.’

A pause.

‘Pray go on.’

‘Mr. Edkins _is_ gone,’ cried somebody.

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said the steward, running up to Mr. Percy
Noakes, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, but the gentleman as just went on
deck—him with the green spectacles—is uncommon bad, to be sure; and the
young man as played the wiolin says, that unless he has some brandy he
can’t answer for the consequences.  He says he has a wife and two
children, whose werry subsistence depends on his breaking a wessel, and
he expects to do so every moment.  The flageolet’s been werry ill, but
he’s better, only he’s in a dreadful prusperation.’

All disguise was now useless; the company staggered on deck; the
gentlemen tried to see nothing but the clouds; and the ladies, muffled up
in such shawls and cloaks as they had brought with them, lay about on the
seats, and under the seats, in the most wretched condition.  Never was
such a blowing, and raining, and pitching, and tossing, endured by any
pleasure party before.  Several remonstrances were sent down below, on
the subject of Master Fleetwood, but they were totally unheeded in
consequence of the indisposition of his natural protectors.  That
interesting child screamed at the top of his voice, until he had no voice
left to scream with; and then, Miss Wakefield began, and screamed for the
remainder of the passage.

Mr. Hardy was observed, some hours afterwards, in an attitude which
induced his friends to suppose that he was busily engaged in
contemplating the beauties of the deep; they only regretted that his
taste for the picturesque should lead him to remain so long in a
position, very injurious at all times, but especially so, to an
individual labouring under a tendency of blood to the head.

The party arrived off the Custom-house at about two o’clock on the
Thursday morning dispirited and worn out.  The Tauntons were too ill to
quarrel with the Briggses, and the Briggses were too wretched to annoy
the Tauntons.  One of the guitar-cases was lost on its passage to a
hackney-coach, and Mrs. Briggs has not scrupled to state that the
Tauntons bribed a porter to throw it down an area.  Mr. Alexander Briggs
opposes vote by ballot—he says from personal experience of its
inefficacy; and Mr. Samuel Briggs, whenever he is asked to express his
sentiments on the point, says he has no opinion on that or any other
subject.

Mr. Edkins—the young gentleman in the green spectacles—makes a speech on
every occasion on which a speech can possibly be made: the eloquence of
which can only be equalled by its length.  In the event of his not being
previously appointed to a judgeship, it is probable that he will practise
as a barrister in the New Central Criminal Court.

Captain Helves continued his attention to Miss Julia Briggs, whom he
might possibly have espoused, if it had not unfortunately happened that
Mr. Samuel arrested him, in the way of business, pursuant to instructions
received from Messrs.  Scroggins and Payne, whose town-debts the gallant
captain had condescended to collect, but whose accounts, with the
indiscretion sometimes peculiar to military minds, he had omitted to keep
with that dull accuracy which custom has rendered necessary.  Mrs.
Taunton complains that she has been much deceived in him.  He introduced
himself to the family on board a Gravesend steam-packet, and certainly,
therefore, ought to have proved respectable.

Mr. Percy Noakes is as light-hearted and careless as ever.



CHAPTER VIII—THE GREAT WINGLEBURY DUEL


The little town of Great Winglebury is exactly forty-two miles and
three-quarters from Hyde Park corner.  It has a long, straggling, quiet
High-street, with a great black and white clock at a small red Town-hall,
half-way up—a market-place—a cage—an assembly-room—a church—a bridge—a
chapel—a theatre—a library—an inn—a pump—and a Post-office.  Tradition
tells of a ‘Little Winglebury,’ down some cross-road about two miles off;
and, as a square mass of dirty paper, supposed to have been originally
intended for a letter, with certain tremulous characters inscribed
thereon, in which a lively imagination might trace a remote resemblance
to the word ‘Little,’ was once stuck up to be owned in the sunny window
of the Great Winglebury Post-office, from which it only disappeared when
it fell to pieces with dust and extreme old age, there would appear to be
some foundation for the legend.  Common belief is inclined to bestow the
name upon a little hole at the end of a muddy lane about a couple of
miles long, colonised by one wheelwright, four paupers, and a beer-shop;
but, even this authority, slight as it is, must be regarded with extreme
suspicion, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the hole aforesaid, concur in
opining that it never had any name at all, from the earliest ages down to
the present day.

The Winglebury Arms, in the centre of the High-street, opposite the small
building with the big clock, is the principal inn of Great Winglebury—the
commercial-inn, posting-house, and excise-office; the ‘Blue’ house at
every election, and the judges’ house at every assizes.  It is the
head-quarters of the Gentlemen’s Whist Club of Winglebury Blues (so
called in opposition to the Gentlemen’s Whist Club of Winglebury Buffs,
held at the other house, a little further down): and whenever a juggler,
or wax-work man, or concert-giver, takes Great Winglebury in his circuit,
it is immediately placarded all over the town that Mr. So-and-so,
‘trusting to that liberal support which the inhabitants of Great
Winglebury have long been so liberal in bestowing, has at a great expense
engaged the elegant and commodious assembly-rooms, attached to the
Winglebury Arms.’  The house is a large one, with a red brick and stone
front; a pretty spacious hall, ornamented with evergreen plants,
terminates in a perspective view of the bar, and a glass case, in which
are displayed a choice variety of delicacies ready for dressing, to catch
the eye of a new-comer the moment he enters, and excite his appetite to
the highest possible pitch.  Opposite doors lead to the ‘coffee’ and
‘commercial’ rooms; and a great wide, rambling staircase,—three stairs
and a landing—four stairs and another landing—one step and another
landing—half-a-dozen stairs and another landing—and so on—conducts to
galleries of bedrooms, and labyrinths of sitting-rooms, denominated
‘private,’ where you may enjoy yourself, as privately as you can in any
place where some bewildered being walks into your room every five
minutes, by mistake, and then walks out again, to open all the doors
along the gallery until he finds his own.

Such is the Winglebury Arms, at this day, and such was the Winglebury
Arms some time since—no matter when—two or three minutes before the
arrival of the London stage.  Four horses with cloths on—change for a
coach—were standing quietly at the corner of the yard surrounded by a
listless group of post-boys in shiny hats and smock-frocks, engaged in
discussing the merits of the cattle; half a dozen ragged boys were
standing a little apart, listening with evident interest to the
conversation of these worthies; and a few loungers were collected round
the horse-trough, awaiting the arrival of the coach.

The day was hot and sunny, the town in the zenith of its dulness, and
with the exception of these few idlers, not a living creature was to be
seen.  Suddenly, the loud notes of a key-bugle broke the monotonous
stillness of the street; in came the coach, rattling over the uneven
paving with a noise startling enough to stop even the large-faced clock
itself.  Down got the outsides, up went the windows in all directions,
out came the waiters, up started the ostlers, and the loungers, and the
post-boys, and the ragged boys, as if they were electrified—unstrapping,
and unchaining, and unbuckling, and dragging willing horses out, and
forcing reluctant horses in, and making a most exhilarating bustle.
‘Lady inside, here!’ said the guard.  ‘Please to alight, ma’am,’ said the
waiter.  ‘Private sitting-room?’ interrogated the lady.  ‘Certainly,
ma’am,’ responded the chamber-maid.  ‘Nothing but these ’ere trunks,
ma’am?’ inquired the guard.  ‘Nothing more,’ replied the lady.  Up got
the outsides again, and the guard, and the coachman; off came the cloths,
with a jerk; ‘All right,’ was the cry; and away they went.  The loungers
lingered a minute or two in the road, watching the coach until it turned
the corner, and then loitered away one by one.  The street was clear
again, and the town, by contrast, quieter than ever.

‘Lady in number twenty-five,’ screamed the landlady.—‘Thomas!’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Letter just been left for the gentleman in number nineteen.  Boots at
the Lion left it.  No answer.’

‘Letter for you, sir,’ said Thomas, depositing the letter on number
nineteen’s table.

‘For me?’ said number nineteen, turning from the window, out of which he
had been surveying the scene just described.

‘Yes, sir,’—(waiters always speak in hints, and never utter complete
sentences,)—‘yes, sir,—Boots at the Lion, sir,—Bar, sir,—Missis said
number nineteen, sir—Alexander Trott, Esq., sir?—Your card at the bar,
sir, I think, sir?’

‘My name _is_ Trott,’ replied number nineteen, breaking the seal.  ‘You
may go, waiter.’  The waiter pulled down the window-blind, and then
pulled it up again—for a regular waiter must do something before he
leaves the room—adjusted the glasses on the side-board, brushed a place
that was _not_ dusty, rubbed his hands very hard, walked stealthily to
the door, and evaporated.

There was, evidently, something in the contents of the letter, of a
nature, if not wholly unexpected, certainly extremely disagreeable.  Mr.
Alexander Trott laid it down, and took it up again, and walked about the
room on particular squares of the carpet, and even attempted, though
unsuccessfully, to whistle an air.  It wouldn’t do.  He threw himself
into a chair, and read the following epistle aloud:—

                                            ‘Blue Lion and Stomach-warmer,
                                                        ‘Great Winglebury.
                                                     ‘_Wednesday Morning_.

    ‘Sir.  Immediately on discovering your intentions, I left our
    counting-house, and followed you.  I know the purport of your
    journey;—that journey shall never be completed.

    ‘I have no friend here, just now, on whose secrecy I can rely.  This
    shall be no obstacle to my revenge.  Neither shall Emily Brown be
    exposed to the mercenary solicitations of a scoundrel, odious in her
    eyes, and contemptible in everybody else’s: nor will I tamely submit
    to the clandestine attacks of a base umbrella-maker.

    ‘Sir.  From Great Winglebury church, a footpath leads through four
    meadows to a retired spot known to the townspeople as Stiffun’s
    Acre.’  [Mr. Trott shuddered.]  ‘I shall be waiting there alone, at
    twenty minutes before six o’clock to-morrow morning.  Should I be
    disappointed in seeing you there, I will do myself the pleasure of
    calling with a horsewhip.

                                                           ‘HORACE HUNTER.

    ‘PS.  There is a gunsmiths in the High-street; and they won’t sell
    gunpowder after dark—you understand me.

    ‘PPS.  You had better not order your breakfast in the morning until
    you have met me.  It may be an unnecessary expense.’

‘Desperate-minded villain!  I knew how it would be!’ ejaculated the
terrified Trott.  ‘I always told father, that once start me on this
expedition, and Hunter would pursue me like the Wandering Jew.  It’s bad
enough as it is, to marry with the old people’s commands, and without the
girl’s consent; but what will Emily think of me, if I go down there
breathless with running away from this infernal salamander?  What _shall_
I do?  What _can_ I do?  If I go back to the city, I’m disgraced for
ever—lose the girl—and, what’s more, lose the money too.  Even if I did
go on to the Browns’ by the coach, Hunter would be after me in a
post-chaise; and if I go to this place, this Stiffun’s Acre (another
shudder), I’m as good as dead.  I’ve seen him hit the man at the
Pall-mall shooting-gallery, in the second button-hole of the waistcoat,
five times out of every six, and when he didn’t hit him there, he hit him
in the head.’  With this consolatory reminiscence Mr. Alexander Trott
again ejaculated, ‘What shall I do?’

Long and weary were his reflections, as, burying his face in his hand, he
sat, ruminating on the best course to be pursued.  His mental
direction-post pointed to London.  He thought of the ‘governor’s’ anger,
and the loss of the fortune which the paternal Brown had promised the
paternal Trott his daughter should contribute to the coffers of his son.
Then the words ‘To Brown’s’ were legibly inscribed on the said
direction-post, but Horace Hunter’s denunciation rung in his ears;—last
of all it bore, in red letters, the words, ‘To Stiffun’s Acre;’ and then
Mr. Alexander Trott decided on adopting a plan which he presently
matured.

First and foremost, he despatched the under-boots to the Blue Lion and
Stomach-warmer, with a gentlemanly note to Mr. Horace Hunter, intimating
that he thirsted for his destruction and would do himself the pleasure of
slaughtering him next morning, without fail.  He then wrote another
letter, and requested the attendance of the other boots—for they kept a
pair.  A modest knock at the room door was heard.  ‘Come in,’ said Mr.
Trott.  A man thrust in a red head with one eye in it, and being again
desired to ‘come in,’ brought in the body and the legs to which the head
belonged, and a fur cap which belonged to the head.

‘You are the upper-boots, I think?’ inquired Mr. Trott.

‘Yes, I am the upper-boots,’ replied a voice from inside a velveteen
case, with mother-of-pearl buttons—‘that is, I’m the boots as b’longs to
the house; the other man’s my man, as goes errands and does odd jobs.
Top-boots and half-boots, I calls us.’

‘You’re from London?’ inquired Mr. Trott.

‘Driv a cab once,’ was the laconic reply.

‘Why don’t you drive it now?’ asked Mr. Trott.

‘Over-driv the cab, and driv over a ’ooman,’ replied the top-boots, with
brevity.

‘Do you know the mayor’s house?’ inquired Mr. Trott.

‘Rather,’ replied the boots, significantly, as if he had some good reason
to remember it.

‘Do you think you could manage to leave a letter there?’ interrogated
Trott.

‘Shouldn’t wonder,’ responded boots.

‘But this letter,’ said Trott, holding a deformed note with a paralytic
direction in one hand, and five shillings in the other—‘this letter is
anonymous.’

‘A—what?’ interrupted the boots.

‘Anonymous—he’s not to know who it comes from.’

‘Oh!  I see,’ responded the reg’lar, with a knowing wink, but without
evincing the slightest disinclination to undertake the charge—‘I see—bit
o’ Sving, eh?’ and his one eye wandered round the room, as if in quest of
a dark lantern and phosphorus-box.  ‘But, I say!’ he continued, recalling
the eye from its search, and bringing it to bear on Mr. Trott.  ‘I say,
he’s a lawyer, our mayor, and insured in the County.  If you’ve a spite
agen him, you’d better not burn his house down—blessed if I don’t think
it would be the greatest favour you could do him.’  And he chuckled
inwardly.

If Mr. Alexander Trott had been in any other situation, his first act
would have been to kick the man down-stairs by deputy; or, in other
words, to ring the bell, and desire the landlord to take his boots off.
He contented himself, however, with doubling the fee and explaining that
the letter merely related to a breach of the peace.  The top-boots
retired, solemnly pledged to secrecy; and Mr. Alexander Trott sat down to
a fried sole, maintenon cutlet, Madeira, and sundries, with greater
composure than he had experienced since the receipt of Horace Hunter’s
letter of defiance.

The lady who alighted from the London coach had no sooner been installed
in number twenty-five, and made some alteration in her travelling-dress,
than she indited a note to Joseph Overton, esquire, solicitor, and mayor
of Great Winglebury, requesting his immediate attendance on private
business of paramount importance—a summons which that worthy functionary
lost no time in obeying; for after sundry openings of his eyes, divers
ejaculations of ‘Bless me!’ and other manifestations of surprise, he took
his broad-brimmed hat from its accustomed peg in his little front office,
and walked briskly down the High-street to the Winglebury Arms; through
the hall and up the staircase of which establishment he was ushered by
the landlady, and a crowd of officious waiters, to the door of number
twenty-five.

‘Show the gentleman in,’ said the stranger lady, in reply to the foremost
waiter’s announcement.  The gentleman was shown in accordingly.

The lady rose from the sofa; the mayor advanced a step from the door; and
there they both paused, for a minute or two, looking at one another as if
by mutual consent.  The mayor saw before him a buxom, richly-dressed
female of about forty; the lady looked upon a sleek man, about ten years
older, in drab shorts and continuations, black coat, neckcloth, and
gloves.

‘Miss Julia Manners!’ exclaimed the mayor at length, ‘you astonish me.’

‘That’s very unfair of you, Overton,’ replied Miss Julia, ‘for I have
known you, long enough, not to be surprised at anything you do, and you
might extend equal courtesy to me.’

‘But to run away—actually run away—with a young man!’ remonstrated the
mayor.

‘You wouldn’t have me actually run away with an old one, I presume?’ was
the cool rejoinder.

‘And then to ask me—me—of all people in the world—a man of my age and
appearance—mayor of the town—to promote such a scheme!’ pettishly
ejaculated Joseph Overton; throwing himself into an arm-chair, and
producing Miss Julia’s letter from his pocket, as if to corroborate the
assertion that he _had_ been asked.

‘Now, Overton,’ replied the lady, ‘I want your assistance in this matter,
and I must have it.  In the lifetime of that poor old dear, Mr.
Cornberry, who—who—’

‘Who was to have married you, and didn’t, because he died first; and who
left you his property unencumbered with the addition of himself,’
suggested the mayor.

‘Well,’ replied Miss Julia, reddening slightly, ‘in the lifetime of the
poor old dear, the property had the incumbrance of your management; and
all I will say of that, is, that I only wonder it didn’t die of
consumption instead of its master.  You helped yourself then:—help me
now.’

Mr. Joseph Overton was a man of the world, and an attorney; and as
certain indistinct recollections of an odd thousand pounds or two,
appropriated by mistake, passed across his mind he hemmed deprecatingly,
smiled blandly, remained silent for a few seconds; and finally inquired,
‘What do you wish me to do?’

‘I’ll tell you,’ replied Miss Julia—‘I’ll tell you in three words.  Dear
Lord Peter—’

‘That’s the young man, I suppose—’ interrupted the mayor.

‘That’s the young Nobleman,’ replied the lady, with a great stress on the
last word.  ‘Dear Lord Peter is considerably afraid of the resentment of
his family; and we have therefore thought it better to make the match a
stolen one.  He left town, to avoid suspicion, on a visit to his friend,
the Honourable Augustus Flair, whose seat, as you know, is about thirty
miles from this, accompanied only by his favourite tiger.  We arranged
that I should come here alone in the London coach; and that he, leaving
his tiger and cab behind him, should come on, and arrive here as soon as
possible this afternoon.’

‘Very well,’ observed Joseph Overton, ‘and then he can order the chaise,
and you can go on to Gretna Green together, without requiring the
presence or interference of a third party, can’t you?’

‘No,’ replied Miss Julia.  ‘We have every reason to believe—dear Lord
Peter not being considered very prudent or sagacious by his friends, and
they having discovered his attachment to me—that, immediately on his
absence being observed, pursuit will be made in this direction:—to elude
which, and to prevent our being traced, I wish it to be understood in
this house, that dear Lord Peter is slightly deranged, though perfectly
harmless; and that I am, unknown to him, awaiting his arrival to convey
him in a post-chaise to a private asylum—at Berwick, say.  If I don’t
show myself much, I dare say I can manage to pass for his mother.’

The thought occurred to the mayor’s mind that the lady might show herself
a good deal without fear of detection; seeing that she was about double
the age of her intended husband.  He said nothing, however, and the lady
proceeded.

‘With the whole of this arrangement dear Lord Peter is acquainted; and
all I want you to do, is, to make the delusion more complete by giving it
the sanction of your influence in this place, and assigning this as a
reason to the people of the house for my taking the young gentleman away.
As it would not be consistent with the story that I should see him until
after he has entered the chaise, I also wish you to communicate with him,
and inform him that it is all going on well.’

‘Has he arrived?’ inquired Overton.

‘I don’t know,’ replied the lady.

‘Then how am I to know!’ inquired the mayor.  ‘Of course he will not give
his own name at the bar.’

‘I begged him, immediately on his arrival, to write you a note,’ replied
Miss Manners; ‘and to prevent the possibility of our project being
discovered through its means, I desired him to write anonymously, and in
mysterious terms, to acquaint you with the number of his room.’

‘Bless me!’ exclaimed the mayor, rising from his seat, and searching his
pockets—‘most extraordinary circumstance—he has arrived—mysterious note
left at my house in a most mysterious manner, just before yours—didn’t
know what to make of it before, and certainly shouldn’t have attended to
it.—Oh! here it is.’  And Joseph Overton pulled out of an inner
coat-pocket the identical letter penned by Alexander Trott.  ‘Is this his
lordship’s hand?’

‘Oh yes,’ replied Julia; ‘good, punctual creature!  I have not seen it
more than once or twice, but I know he writes very badly and very large.
These dear, wild young noblemen, you know, Overton—’

‘Ay, ay, I see,’ replied the mayor.—‘Horses and dogs, play and
wine—grooms, actresses, and cigars—the stable, the green-room, the
saloon, and the tavern; and the legislative assembly at last.’

‘Here’s what he says,’ pursued the mayor; ‘“Sir,—A young gentleman in
number nineteen at the Winglebury Arms, is bent on committing a rash act
to-morrow morning at an early hour.”  (That’s good—he means marrying.)
“If you have any regard for the peace of this town, or the preservation
of one—it may be two—human lives”—What the deuce does he mean by that?’

‘That he’s so anxious for the ceremony, he will expire if it’s put off,
and that I may possibly do the same,’ replied the lady with great
complacency.

‘Oh!  I see—not much fear of that;—well—“two human lives, you will cause
him to be removed to-night.”  (He wants to start at once.)  “Fear not to
do this on your responsibility: for to-morrow the absolute necessity of
the proceeding will be but too apparent.  Remember: number nineteen.  The
name is Trott.  No delay; for life and death depend upon your
promptitude.”  Passionate language, certainly.  Shall I see him?’

‘Do,’ replied Miss Julia; ‘and entreat him to act his part well.  I am
half afraid of him.  Tell him to be cautious.’

‘I will,’ said the mayor.

‘Settle all the arrangements.’

‘I will,’ said the mayor again.

‘And say I think the chaise had better be ordered for one o’clock.’

‘Very well,’ said the mayor once more; and, ruminating on the absurdity
of the situation in which fate and old acquaintance had placed him, he
desired a waiter to herald his approach to the temporary representative
of number nineteen.

The announcement, ‘Gentleman to speak with you, sir,’ induced Mr. Trott
to pause half-way in the glass of port, the contents of which he was in
the act of imbibing at the moment; to rise from his chair; and retreat a
few paces towards the window, as if to secure a retreat, in the event of
the visitor assuming the form and appearance of Horace Hunter.  One
glance at Joseph Overton, however, quieted his apprehensions.  He
courteously motioned the stranger to a seat.  The waiter, after a little
jingling with the decanter and glasses, consented to leave the room; and
Joseph Overton, placing the broad-brimmed hat on the chair next him, and
bending his body gently forward, opened the business by saying in a very
low and cautious tone,

‘My lord—’

‘Eh?’ said Mr. Alexander Trott, in a loud key, with the vacant and
mystified stare of a chilly somnambulist.

‘Hush—hush!’ said the cautious attorney: ‘to be sure—quite right—no
titles here—my name is Overton, sir.’

‘Overton?’

‘Yes: the mayor of this place—you sent me a letter with anonymous
information, this afternoon.’

‘I, sir?’ exclaimed Trott with ill-dissembled surprise; for, coward as he
was, he would willingly have repudiated the authorship of the letter in
question.  ‘I, sir?’

‘Yes, you, sir; did you not?’ responded Overton, annoyed with what he
supposed to be an extreme degree of unnecessary suspicion.  ‘Either this
letter is yours, or it is not.  If it be, we can converse securely upon
the subject at once.  If it be not, of course I have no more to say.’

‘Stay, stay,’ said Trott, ‘it _is_ mine; I _did_ write it.  What could I
do, sir?  I had no friend here.’

‘To be sure, to be sure,’ said the mayor, encouragingly, ‘you could not
have managed it better.  Well, sir; it will be necessary for you to leave
here to-night in a post-chaise and four.  And the harder the boys drive,
the better.  You are not safe from pursuit.’

‘Bless me!’ exclaimed Trott, in an agony of apprehension, ‘can such
things happen in a country like this?  Such unrelenting and cold-blooded
hostility!’  He wiped off the concentrated essence of cowardice that was
oozing fast down his forehead, and looked aghast at Joseph Overton.

‘It certainly is a very hard case,’ replied the mayor with a smile,
‘that, in a free country, people can’t marry whom they like, without
being hunted down as if they were criminals.  However, in the present
instance the lady is willing, you know, and that’s the main point, after
all.’

‘Lady willing,’ repeated Trott, mechanically.  ‘How do you know the
lady’s willing?’

‘Come, that’s a good one,’ said the mayor, benevolently tapping Mr. Trott
on the arm with his broad-brimmed hat; ‘I have known her, well, for a
long time; and if anybody could entertain the remotest doubt on the
subject, I assure you I have none, nor need you have.’

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Trott, ruminating.  ‘This is _very_ extraordinary!’

‘Well, Lord Peter,’ said the mayor, rising.

‘Lord Peter?’ repeated Mr. Trott.

‘Oh—ah, I forgot.  Mr. Trott, then—Trott—very good, ha! ha!—Well, sir,
the chaise shall be ready at half-past twelve.’

‘And what is to become of me until then?’ inquired Mr. Trott, anxiously.
‘Wouldn’t it save appearances, if I were placed under some restraint?’

‘Ah!’ replied Overton, ‘very good thought—capital idea indeed.  I’ll send
somebody up directly.  And if you make a little resistance when we put
you in the chaise it wouldn’t be amiss—look as if you didn’t want to be
taken away, you know.’

‘To be sure,’ said Trott—‘to be sure.’

‘Well, my lord,’ said Overton, in a low tone, ‘until then, I wish your
lordship a good evening.’

‘Lord—lordship?’ ejaculated Trott again, falling back a step or two, and
gazing, in unutterable wonder, on the countenance of the mayor.

‘Ha-ha!  I see, my lord—practising the madman?—very good indeed—very
vacant look—capital, my lord, capital—good evening, Mr.—Trott—ha! ha!
ha!’

‘That mayor’s decidedly drunk,’ soliloquised Mr. Trott, throwing himself
back in his chair, in an attitude of reflection.

‘He is a much cleverer fellow than I thought him, that young nobleman—he
carries it off uncommonly well,’ thought Overton, as he went his way to
the bar, there to complete his arrangements.  This was soon done.  Every
word of the story was implicitly believed, and the one-eyed boots was
immediately instructed to repair to number nineteen, to act as custodian
of the person of the supposed lunatic until half-past twelve o’clock.  In
pursuance of this direction, that somewhat eccentric gentleman armed
himself with a walking-stick of gigantic dimensions, and repaired, with
his usual equanimity of manner, to Mr. Trott’s apartment, which he
entered without any ceremony, and mounted guard in, by quietly depositing
himself on a chair near the door, where he proceeded to beguile the time
by whistling a popular air with great apparent satisfaction.

‘What do you want here, you scoundrel?’ exclaimed Mr. Alexander Trott,
with a proper appearance of indignation at his detention.

The boots beat time with his head, as he looked gently round at Mr. Trott
with a smile of pity, and whistled an _adagio_ movement.

‘Do you attend in this room by Mr. Overton’s desire?’ inquired Trott,
rather astonished at the man’s demeanour.

‘Keep yourself to yourself, young feller,’ calmly responded the boots,
‘and don’t say nothing to nobody.’  And he whistled again.

‘Now mind!’ ejaculated Mr. Trott, anxious to keep up the farce of wishing
with great earnestness to fight a duel if they’d let him.  ‘I protest
against being kept here.  I deny that I have any intention of fighting
with anybody.  But as it’s useless contending with superior numbers, I
shall sit quietly down.’

‘You’d better,’ observed the placid boots, shaking the large stick
expressively.

‘Under protest, however,’ added Alexander Trott, seating himself with
indignation in his face, but great content in his heart.  ‘Under
protest.’

‘Oh, certainly!’ responded the boots; ‘anything you please.  If you’re
happy, I’m transported; only don’t talk too much—it’ll make you worse.’

‘Make me worse?’ exclaimed Trott, in unfeigned astonishment: ‘the man’s
drunk!’

‘You’d better be quiet, young feller,’ remarked the boots, going through
a threatening piece of pantomime with the stick.

‘Or mad!’ said Mr. Trott, rather alarmed.  ‘Leave the room, sir, and tell
them to send somebody else.’

‘Won’t do!’ replied the boots.

‘Leave the room!’ shouted Trott, ringing the bell violently: for he began
to be alarmed on a new score.

‘Leave that ’ere bell alone, you wretched loo-nattic!’ said the boots,
suddenly forcing the unfortunate Trott back into his chair, and
brandishing the stick aloft.  ‘Be quiet, you miserable object, and don’t
let everybody know there’s a madman in the house.’

‘He _is_ a madman!  He _is_ a madman!’ exclaimed the terrified Mr. Trott,
gazing on the one eye of the red-headed boots with a look of abject
horror.

‘Madman!’ replied the boots, ‘dam’me, I think he _is_ a madman with a
vengeance!  Listen to me, you unfortunate.  Ah! would you?’ [a slight tap
on the head with the large stick, as Mr. Trott made another move towards
the bell-handle] ‘I caught you there! did I?’

‘Spare my life!’ exclaimed Trott, raising his hands imploringly.

‘I don’t want your life,’ replied the boots, disdainfully, ‘though I
think it ’ud be a charity if somebody took it.’

‘No, no, it wouldn’t,’ interrupted poor Mr. Trott, hurriedly, ‘no, no, it
wouldn’t!  I—I-’d rather keep it!’

‘O werry well,’ said the boots: ‘that’s a mere matter of taste—ev’ry one
to his liking.  Hows’ever, all I’ve got to say is this here: You sit
quietly down in that chair, and I’ll sit hoppersite you here, and if you
keep quiet and don’t stir, I won’t damage you; but, if you move hand or
foot till half-past twelve o’clock, I shall alter the expression of your
countenance so completely, that the next time you look in the glass
you’ll ask vether you’re gone out of town, and ven you’re likely to come
back again.  So sit down.’

‘I will—I will,’ responded the victim of mistakes; and down sat Mr. Trott
and down sat the boots too, exactly opposite him, with the stick ready
for immediate action in case of emergency.

Long and dreary were the hours that followed.  The bell of Great
Winglebury church had just struck ten, and two hours and a half would
probably elapse before succour arrived.

For half an hour, the noise occasioned by shutting up the shops in the
street beneath, betokened something like life in the town, and rendered
Mr. Trott’s situation a little less insupportable; but, when even these
ceased, and nothing was heard beyond the occasional rattling of a
post-chaise as it drove up the yard to change horses, and then drove away
again, or the clattering of horses’ hoofs in the stables behind, it
became almost unbearable.  The boots occasionally moved an inch or two,
to knock superfluous bits of wax off the candles, which were burning low,
but instantaneously resumed his former position; and as he remembered to
have heard, somewhere or other, that the human eye had an unfailing
effect in controlling mad people, he kept his solitary organ of vision
constantly fixed on Mr. Alexander Trott.  That unfortunate individual
stared at his companion in his turn, until his features grew more and
more indistinct—his hair gradually less red—and the room more misty and
obscure.  Mr. Alexander Trott fell into a sound sleep, from which he was
awakened by a rumbling in the street, and a cry of ‘Chaise-and-four for
number twenty-five!’  A bustle on the stairs succeeded; the room door was
hastily thrown open; and Mr. Joseph Overton entered, followed by four
stout waiters, and Mrs. Williamson, the stout landlady of the Winglebury
Arms.

‘Mr. Overton!’ exclaimed Mr. Alexander Trott, jumping up in a frenzy.
‘Look at this man, sir; consider the situation in which I have been
placed for three hours past—the person you sent to guard me, sir, was a
madman—a madman—a raging, ravaging, furious madman.’

‘Bravo!’ whispered Mr. Overton.

‘Poor dear!’ said the compassionate Mrs. Williamson, ‘mad people always
thinks other people’s mad.’

‘Poor dear!’ ejaculated Mr. Alexander Trott.  ‘What the devil do you mean
by poor dear!  Are you the landlady of this house?’

‘Yes, yes,’ replied the stout old lady, ‘don’t exert yourself, there’s a
dear!  Consider your health, now; do.’

‘Exert myself!’ shouted Mr. Alexander Trott; ‘it’s a mercy, ma’am, that I
have any breath to exert myself with!  I might have been assassinated
three hours ago by that one-eyed monster with the oakum head.  How dare
you have a madman, ma’am—how dare you have a madman, to assault and
terrify the visitors to your house?’

‘I’ll never have another,’ said Mrs. Williamson, casting a look of
reproach at the mayor.

‘Capital, capital,’ whispered Overton again, as he enveloped Mr.
Alexander Trott in a thick travelling-cloak.

‘Capital, sir!’ exclaimed Trott, aloud; ‘it’s horrible.  The very
recollection makes me shudder.  I’d rather fight four duels in three
hours, if I survived the first three, than I’d sit for that time face to
face with a madman.’

‘Keep it up, my lord, as you go down-stairs,’ whispered Overton, ‘your
bill is paid, and your portmanteau in the chaise.’  And then he added
aloud, ‘Now, waiters, the gentleman’s ready.’

At this signal, the waiters crowded round Mr. Alexander Trott.  One took
one arm; another, the other; a third, walked before with a candle; the
fourth, behind with another candle; the boots and Mrs. Williamson brought
up the rear; and down-stairs they went: Mr. Alexander Trott expressing
alternately at the very top of his voice either his feigned reluctance to
go, or his unfeigned indignation at being shut up with a madman.

Mr. Overton was waiting at the chaise-door, the boys were ready mounted,
and a few ostlers and stable nondescripts were standing round to witness
the departure of ‘the mad gentleman.’  Mr. Alexander Trott’s foot was on
the step, when he observed (which the dim light had prevented his doing
before) a figure seated in the chaise, closely muffled up in a cloak like
his own.

‘Who’s that?’ he inquired of Overton, in a whisper.

‘Hush, hush,’ replied the mayor: ‘the other party of course.’

‘The other party!’ exclaimed Trott, with an effort to retreat.

‘Yes, yes; you’ll soon find that out, before you go far, I should
think—but make a noise, you’ll excite suspicion if you whisper to me so
much.’

‘I won’t go in this chaise!’ shouted Mr. Alexander Trott, all his
original fears recurring with tenfold violence.  ‘I shall be
assassinated—I shall be—’

‘Bravo, bravo,’ whispered Overton.  ‘I’ll push you in.’

‘But I won’t go,’ exclaimed Mr. Trott.  ‘Help here, help!  They’re
carrying me away against my will.  This is a plot to murder me.’

‘Poor dear!’ said Mrs. Williamson again.

‘Now, boys, put ’em along,’ cried the mayor, pushing Trott in and
slamming the door.  ‘Off with you, as quick as you can, and stop for
nothing till you come to the next stage—all right!’

‘Horses are paid, Tom,’ screamed Mrs. Williamson; and away went the
chaise, at the rate of fourteen miles an hour, with Mr. Alexander Trott
and Miss Julia Manners carefully shut up in the inside.

Mr. Alexander Trott remained coiled up in one corner of the chaise, and
his mysterious companion in the other, for the first two or three miles;
Mr. Trott edging more and more into his corner, as he felt his companion
gradually edging more and more from hers; and vainly endeavouring in the
darkness to catch a glimpse of the furious face of the supposed Horace
Hunter.

‘We may speak now,’ said his fellow-traveller, at length; ‘the post-boys
can neither see nor hear us.’

‘That’s not Hunter’s voice!’—thought Alexander, astonished.

‘Dear Lord Peter!’ said Miss Julia, most winningly: putting her arm on
Mr. Trott’s shoulder.  ‘Dear Lord Peter.  Not a word?’

‘Why, it’s a woman!’ exclaimed Mr. Trott, in a low tone of excessive
wonder.

‘Ah!  Whose voice is that?’ said Julia; ‘’tis not Lord Peter’s.’

‘No,—it’s mine,’ replied Mr. Trott.

‘Yours!’ ejaculated Miss Julia Manners; ‘a strange man!  Gracious heaven!
How came you here!’

‘Whoever you are, you might have known that I came against my will,
ma’am,’ replied Alexander, ‘for I made noise enough when I got in.’

‘Do you come from Lord Peter?’ inquired Miss Manners.

‘Confound Lord Peter,’ replied Trott pettishly.  ‘I don’t know any Lord
Peter.  I never heard of him before to-night, when I’ve been Lord Peter’d
by one and Lord Peter’d by another, till I verily believe I’m mad, or
dreaming—’

‘Whither are we going?’ inquired the lady tragically.

‘How should _I_ know, ma’am?’ replied Trott with singular coolness; for
the events of the evening had completely hardened him.

‘Stop stop!’ cried the lady, letting down the front glasses of the
chaise.

‘Stay, my dear ma’am!’ said Mr. Trott, pulling the glasses up again with
one hand, and gently squeezing Miss Julia’s waist with the other.  ‘There
is some mistake here; give me till the end of this stage to explain my
share of it.  We must go so far; you cannot be set down here alone, at
this hour of the night.’

The lady consented; the mistake was mutually explained.  Mr. Trott was a
young man, had highly promising whiskers, an undeniable tailor, and an
insinuating address—he wanted nothing but valour, and who wants that with
three thousand a-year?  The lady had this, and more; she wanted a young
husband, and the only course open to Mr. Trott to retrieve his disgrace
was a rich wife.  So, they came to the conclusion that it would be a pity
to have all this trouble and expense for nothing; and that as they were
so far on the road already, they had better go to Gretna Green, and marry
each other; and they did so.  And the very next preceding entry in the
Blacksmith’s book, was an entry of the marriage of Emily Brown with
Horace Hunter.  Mr. Hunter took his wife home, and begged pardon, and
_was_ pardoned; and Mr. Trott took _his_ wife home, begged pardon too,
and was pardoned also.  And Lord Peter, who had been detained beyond his
time by drinking champagne and riding a steeple-chase, went back to the
Honourable Augustus Flair’s, and drank more champagne, and rode another
steeple-chase, and was thrown and killed.  And Horace Hunter took great
credit to himself for practising on the cowardice of Alexander Trott; and
all these circumstances were discovered in time, and carefully noted
down; and if you ever stop a week at the Winglebury Arms, they will give
you just this account of The Great Winglebury Duel.



CHAPTER IX—MRS. JOSEPH PORTER


Most extensive were the preparations at Rose Villa, Clapham Rise, in the
occupation of Mr. Gattleton (a stock-broker in especially comfortable
circumstances), and great was the anxiety of Mr. Gattleton’s interesting
family, as the day fixed for the representation of the Private Play which
had been ‘many months in preparation,’ approached.  The whole family was
infected with the mania for Private Theatricals; the house, usually so
clean and tidy, was, to use Mr. Gattleton’s expressive description,
‘regularly turned out o’ windows;’ the large dining-room, dismantled of
its furniture, and ornaments, presented a strange jumble of flats, flies,
wings, lamps, bridges, clouds, thunder and lightning, festoons and
flowers, daggers and foil, and various other messes in theatrical slang
included under the comprehensive name of ‘properties.’  The bedrooms were
crowded with scenery, the kitchen was occupied by carpenters.  Rehearsals
took place every other night in the drawing-room, and every sofa in the
house was more or less damaged by the perseverance and spirit with which
Mr. Sempronius Gattleton, and Miss Lucina, rehearsed the smothering scene
in ‘Othello’—it having been determined that that tragedy should form the
first portion of the evening’s entertainments.

‘When we’re a _leetle_ more perfect, I think it will go admirably,’ said
Mr. Sempronius, addressing his _corps dramatique_, at the conclusion of
the hundred and fiftieth rehearsal.  In consideration of his sustaining
the trifling inconvenience of bearing all the expenses of the play, Mr.
Sempronius had been, in the most handsome manner, unanimously elected
stage-manager.  ‘Evans,’ continued Mr. Gattleton, the younger, addressing
a tall, thin, pale young gentleman, with extensive whiskers—‘Evans, you
play _Roderigo_ beautifully.’

‘Beautifully,’ echoed the three Miss Gattletons; for Mr. Evans was
pronounced by all his lady friends to be ‘quite a dear.’  He looked so
interesting, and had such lovely whiskers: to say nothing of his talent
for writing verses in albums and playing the flute!  _Roderigo_ simpered
and bowed.

‘But I think,’ added the manager, ‘you are hardly perfect in the—fall—in
the fencing-scene, where you are—you understand?’

‘It’s very difficult,’ said Mr. Evans, thoughtfully; ‘I’ve fallen about,
a good deal, in our counting-house lately, for practice, only I find it
hurts one so.  Being obliged to fall backward you see, it bruises one’s
head a good deal.’

‘But you must take care you don’t knock a wing down,’ said Mr. Gattleton,
the elder, who had been appointed prompter, and who took as much interest
in the play as the youngest of the company.  ‘The stage is very narrow,
you know.’

‘Oh! don’t be afraid,’ said Mr. Evans, with a very self-satisfied air; ‘I
shall fall with my head “off,” and then I can’t do any harm.’

‘But, egad,’ said the manager, rubbing his hands, ‘we shall make a
decided hit in “Masaniello.”  Harleigh sings that music admirably.’

Everybody echoed the sentiment.  Mr. Harleigh smiled, and looked
foolish—not an unusual thing with him—hummed’  Behold how brightly breaks
the morning,’ and blushed as red as the fisherman’s nightcap he was
trying on.

‘Let’s see,’ resumed the manager, telling the number on his fingers, ‘we
shall have three dancing female peasants, besides _Fenella_, and four
fishermen.  Then, there’s our man Tom; he can have a pair of ducks of
mine, and a check shirt of Bob’s, and a red nightcap, and he’ll do for
another—that’s five.  In the choruses, of course, we can sing at the
sides; and in the market-scene we can walk about in cloaks and things.
When the revolt takes place, Tom must keep rushing in on one side and out
on the other, with a pickaxe, as fast as he can.  The effect will be
electrical; it will look exactly as if there were an immense number of
’em.  And in the eruption-scene we must burn the red fire, and upset the
tea-trays, and make all sorts of noises—and it’s sure to do.’

‘Sure! sure!’ cried all the performers _unâ voce_—and away hurried Mr.
Sempronius Gattleton to wash the burnt cork off his face, and superintend
the ‘setting up’ of some of the amateur-painted, but
never-sufficiently-to-be-admired, scenery.

Mrs. Gattleton was a kind, good-tempered, vulgar soul, exceedingly fond
of her husband and children, and entertaining only three dislikes.  In
the first place, she had a natural antipathy to anybody else’s unmarried
daughters; in the second, she was in bodily fear of anything in the shape
of ridicule; lastly—almost a necessary consequence of this feeling—she
regarded, with feelings of the utmost horror, one Mrs. Joseph Porter over
the way.  However, the good folks of Clapham and its vicinity stood very
much in awe of scandal and sarcasm; and thus Mrs. Joseph Porter was
courted, and flattered, and caressed, and invited, for much the same
reason that induces a poor author, without a farthing in his pocket, to
behave with extraordinary civility to a twopenny postman.

‘Never mind, ma,’ said Miss Emma Porter, in colloquy with her respected
relative, and trying to look unconcerned; ‘if they had invited me, you
know that neither you nor pa would have allowed me to take part in such
an exhibition.’

‘Just what I should have thought from your high sense of propriety,’
returned the mother.  ‘I am glad to see, Emma, you know how to designate
the proceeding.’  Miss P., by-the-bye, had only the week before made ‘an
exhibition’ of herself for four days, behind a counter at a fancy fair,
to all and every of her Majesty’s liege subjects who were disposed to pay
a shilling each for the privilege of seeing some four dozen girls
flirting with strangers, and playing at shop.

‘There!’ said Mrs. Porter, looking out of window; ‘there are two rounds
of beef and a ham going in—clearly for sandwiches; and Thomas, the
pastry-cook, says, there have been twelve dozen tarts ordered, besides
blancmange and jellies.  Upon my word! think of the Miss Gattletons in
fancy dresses, too!’

‘Oh, it’s too ridiculous!’ said Miss Porter, hysterically.

‘I’ll manage to put them a little out of conceit with the business,
however,’ said Mrs. Porter; and out she went on her charitable errand.

‘Well, my dear Mrs. Gattleton,’ said Mrs. Joseph Porter, after they had
been closeted for some time, and when, by dint of indefatigable pumping,
she had managed to extract all the news about the play, ‘well, my dear,
people may say what they please; indeed we know they will, for some folks
are _so_ ill-natured.  Ah, my dear Miss Lucina, how d’ye do?  I was just
telling your mamma that I have heard it said, that—’

‘What?’

‘Mrs. Porter is alluding to the play, my dear,’ said Mrs. Gattleton; ‘she
was, I am sorry to say, just informing me that—’

‘Oh, now pray don’t mention it,’ interrupted Mrs. Porter; ‘it’s most
absurd—quite as absurd as young What’s-his-name saying he wondered how
Miss Caroline, with such a foot and ankle, could have the vanity to play
_Fenella_.’

‘Highly impertinent, whoever said it,’ said Mrs. Gattleton, bridling up.

‘Certainly, my dear,’ chimed in the delighted Mrs. Porter; ‘most
undoubtedly!  Because, as I said, if Miss Caroline _does_ play _Fenella_,
it doesn’t follow, as a matter of course, that she should think she has a
pretty foot;—and then—such puppies as these young men are—he had the
impudence to say, that—’

How far the amiable Mrs. Porter might have succeeded in her pleasant
purpose, it is impossible to say, had not the entrance of Mr. Thomas
Balderstone, Mrs. Gattleton’s brother, familiarly called in the family
‘Uncle Tom,’ changed the course of conversation, and suggested to her
mind an excellent plan of operation on the evening of the play.

Uncle Tom was very rich, and exceedingly fond of his nephews and nieces:
as a matter of course, therefore, he was an object of great importance in
his own family.  He was one of the best-hearted men in existence: always
in a good temper, and always talking.  It was his boast that he wore
top-boots on all occasions, and had never worn a black silk neckerchief;
and it was his pride that he remembered all the principal plays of
Shakspeare from beginning to end—and so he did.  The result of this
parrot-like accomplishment was, that he was not only perpetually quoting
himself, but that he could never sit by, and hear a misquotation from the
‘Swan of Avon’ without setting the unfortunate delinquent right.  He was
also something of a wag; never missed an opportunity of saying what he
considered a good thing, and invariably laughed until he cried at
anything that appeared to him mirth-moving or ridiculous.

‘Well, girls!’ said Uncle Tom, after the preparatory ceremony of kissing
and how-d’ye-do-ing had been gone through—‘how d’ye get on?  Know your
parts, eh?—Lucina, my dear, act II., scene I—place, left-cue—“Unknown
fate,”—What’s next, eh?—Go on—“The Heavens—”’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Miss Lucina, ‘I recollect—

                “The heavens forbid
    But that our loves and comforts should increase
    Even as our days do grow!”’

‘Make a pause here and there,’ said the old gentleman, who was a great
critic.  ‘“But that our loves and comforts should increase”—emphasis on
the last syllable, “crease,”—loud “even,”—one, two, three, four; then
loud again, “as our days do grow;” emphasis on _days_.  That’s the way,
my dear; trust to your uncle for emphasis.  Ah!  Sem, my boy, how are
you?’

‘Very well, thankee, uncle,’ returned Mr. Sempronius, who had just
appeared, looking something like a ringdove, with a small circle round
each eye: the result of his constant corking.  ‘Of course we see you on
Thursday.’

‘Of course, of course, my dear boy.’

‘What a pity it is your nephew didn’t think of making you prompter, Mr.
Balderstone!’ whispered Mrs. Joseph Porter; ‘you would have been
invaluable.’

‘Well, I flatter myself, I _should_ have been tolerably up to the thing,’
responded Uncle Tom.

‘I must bespeak sitting next you on the night,’ resumed Mrs. Porter; ‘and
then, if our dear young friends here, should be at all wrong, you will be
able to enlighten me.  I shall be so interested.’

‘I am sure I shall be most happy to give you any assistance in my power’

‘Mind, it’s a bargain.’

‘Certainly.’

‘I don’t know how it is,’ said Mrs. Gattleton to her daughters, as they
were sitting round the fire in the evening, looking over their parts,
‘but I really very much wish Mrs. Joseph Porter wasn’t coming on
Thursday.  I am sure she’s scheming something.’

‘She can’t make us ridiculous, however,’ observed Mr. Sempronius
Gattleton, haughtily.

The long-looked-for Thursday arrived in due course, and brought with it,
as Mr. Gattleton, senior, philosophically observed, ‘no disappointments,
to speak of.’  True, it was yet a matter of doubt whether _Cassio_ would
be enabled to get into the dress which had been sent for him from the
masquerade warehouse.  It was equally uncertain whether the principal
female singer would be sufficiently recovered from the influenza to make
her appearance; Mr. Harleigh, the _Masaniello_ of the night, was hoarse,
and rather unwell, in consequence of the great quantity of lemon and
sugar-candy he had eaten to improve his voice; and two flutes and a
violoncello had pleaded severe colds.  What of that? the audience were
all coming.  Everybody knew his part: the dresses were covered with
tinsel and spangles; the white plumes looked beautiful; Mr. Evans had
practised falling until he was bruised from head to foot and quite
perfect; _Iago_ was sure that, in the stabbing-scene, he should make ‘a
decided hit.’  A self-taught deaf gentleman, who had kindly offered to
bring his flute, would be a most valuable addition to the orchestra; Miss
Jenkins’s talent for the piano was too well known to be doubted for an
instant; Mr. Cape had practised the violin accompaniment with her
frequently; and Mr. Brown, who had kindly undertaken, at a few hours’
notice, to bring his violoncello, would, no doubt, manage extremely well.

Seven o’clock came, and so did the audience; all the rank and fashion of
Clapham and its vicinity was fast filling the theatre.  There were the
Smiths, the Gubbinses, the Nixons, the Dixons, the Hicksons, people with
all sorts of names, two aldermen, a sheriff in perspective, Sir Thomas
Glumper (who had been knighted in the last reign for carrying up an
address on somebody’s escaping from nothing); and last, not least, there
were Mrs. Joseph Porter and Uncle Tom, seated in the centre of the third
row from the stage; Mrs. P. amusing Uncle Tom with all sorts of stories,
and Uncle Tom amusing every one else by laughing most immoderately.

Ting, ting, ting! went the prompter’s bell at eight o’clock precisely,
and dash went the orchestra into the overture to ‘The Men of Prometheus.’
The pianoforte player hammered away with laudable perseverance; and the
violoncello, which struck in at intervals, ‘sounded very well,
considering.’  The unfortunate individual, however, who had undertaken to
play the flute accompaniment ‘at sight,’ found, from fatal experience,
the perfect truth of the old adage, ‘ought of sight, out of mind;’ for
being very near-sighted, and being placed at a considerable distance from
his music-book, all he had an opportunity of doing was to play a bar now
and then in the wrong place, and put the other performers out.  It is,
however, but justice to Mr. Brown to say that he did this to admiration.
The overture, in fact, was not unlike a race between the different
instruments; the piano came in first by several bars, and the violoncello
next, quite distancing the poor flute; for the deaf gentleman _too-too’d_
away, quite unconscious that he was at all wrong, until apprised, by the
applause of the audience, that the overture was concluded.  A
considerable bustle and shuffling of feet was then heard upon the stage,
accompanied by whispers of ‘Here’s a pretty go!—what’s to be done?’ &c.
The audience applauded again, by way of raising the spirits of the
performers; and then Mr. Sempronius desired the prompter, in a very
audible voice, to ‘clear the stage, and ring up.’

Ting, ting, ting! went the bell again.  Everybody sat down; the curtain
shook; rose sufficiently high to display several pair of yellow boots
paddling about; and there remained.

Ting, ting, ting! went the bell again.  The curtain was violently
convulsed, but rose no higher; the audience tittered; Mrs. Porter looked
at Uncle Tom; Uncle Tom looked at everybody, rubbing his hands, and
laughing with perfect rapture.  After as much ringing with the little
bell as a muffin-boy would make in going down a tolerably long street,
and a vast deal of whispering, hammering, and calling for nails and cord,
the curtain at length rose, and discovered Mr. Sempronius Gattleton
_solus_, and decked for _Othello_.  After three distinct rounds of
applause, during which Mr. Sempronius applied his right hand to his left
breast, and bowed in the most approved manner, the manager advanced and
said:

‘Ladies and Gentlemen—I assure you it is with sincere regret, that I
regret to be compelled to inform you, that _Iago_ who was to have played
Mr. Wilson—I beg your pardon, Ladies and Gentlemen, but I am naturally
somewhat agitated (applause)—I mean, Mr. Wilson, who was to have played
_Iago_, is—that is, has been—or, in other words, Ladies and Gentlemen,
the fact is, that I have just received a note, in which I am informed
that _Iago_ is unavoidably detained at the Post-office this evening.
Under these circumstances, I trust—a—a—amateur performance—a—another
gentleman undertaken to read the part—request indulgence for a short
time—courtesy and kindness of a British audience.’  Overwhelming
applause.  Exit Mr. Sempronius Gattleton, and curtain falls.

The audience were, of course, exceedingly good-humoured; the whole
business was a joke; and accordingly they waited for an hour with the
utmost patience, being enlivened by an interlude of rout-cakes and
lemonade.  It appeared by Mr. Sempronius’s subsequent explanation, that
the delay would not have been so great, had it not so happened that when
the substitute _Iago_ had finished dressing, and just as the play was on
the point of commencing, the original _Iago_ unexpectedly arrived.  The
former was therefore compelled to undress, and the latter to dress for
his part; which, as he found some difficulty in getting into his clothes,
occupied no inconsiderable time.  At last, the tragedy began in real
earnest.  It went off well enough, until the third scene of the first
act, in which _Othello_ addresses the Senate: the only remarkable
circumstance being, that as _Iago_ could not get on any of the stage
boots, in consequence of his feet being violently swelled with the heat
and excitement, he was under the necessity of playing the part in a pair
of Wellingtons, which contrasted rather oddly with his richly embroidered
pantaloons.  When _Othello_ started with his address to the Senate (whose
dignity was represented by, the _Duke_, _a_ carpenter, two men engaged on
the recommendation of the gardener, and a boy), Mrs. Porter found the
opportunity she so anxiously sought.

Mr. Sempronius proceeded:

    ‘“Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
    My very noble and approv’d good masters,
    That I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter,
    It is most true;—rude am I in my speech—”’

‘Is that right?’ whispered Mrs. Porter to Uncle Tom.

‘No.’

‘Tell him so, then.’

‘I will.  Sem!’ called out Uncle Tom, ‘that’s wrong, my boy.’

‘What’s wrong, uncle?’ demanded _Othello_, quite forgetting the dignity
of his situation.

‘You’ve left out something.  “True I have married—”’

‘Oh, ah!’ said Mr. Sempronius, endeavouring to hide his confusion as much
and as ineffectually as the audience attempted to conceal their
half-suppressed tittering, by coughing with extraordinary violence—

    —‘“true I have married her;—
    The very head and front of my offending
    Hath this extent; no more.”

(_Aside_) Why don’t you prompt, father?’

‘Because I’ve mislaid my spectacles,’ said poor Mr. Gattleton, almost
dead with the heat and bustle.

‘There, now it’s “rude am I,”’ said Uncle Tom.

‘Yes, I know it is,’ returned the unfortunate manager, proceeding with
his part.

It would be useless and tiresome to quote the number of instances in
which Uncle Tom, now completely in his element, and instigated by the
mischievous Mrs. Porter, corrected the mistakes of the performers;
suffice it to say, that having mounted his hobby, nothing could induce
him to dismount; so, during the whole remainder of the play, he performed
a kind of running accompaniment, by muttering everybody’s part as it was
being delivered, in an under-tone.  The audience were highly amused, Mrs.
Porter delighted, the performers embarrassed; Uncle Tom never was better
pleased in all his life; and Uncle Tom’s nephews and nieces had never,
although the declared heirs to his large property, so heartily wished him
gathered to his fathers as on that memorable occasion.

Several other minor causes, too, united to damp the ardour of the
_dramatis personae_.  None of the performers could walk in their tights,
or move their arms in their jackets; the pantaloons were too small, the
boots too large, and the swords of all shapes and sizes.  Mr. Evans,
naturally too tall for the scenery, wore a black velvet hat with immense
white plumes, the glory of which was lost in ‘the flies;’ and the only
other inconvenience of which was, that when it was off his head he could
not put it on, and when it was on he could not take it off.
Notwithstanding all his practice, too, he fell with his head and
shoulders as neatly through one of the side scenes, as a harlequin would
jump through a panel in a Christmas pantomime.  The pianoforte player,
overpowered by the extreme heat of the room, fainted away at the
commencement of the entertainments, leaving the music of ‘Masaniello’ to
the flute and violoncello.  The orchestra complained that Mr. Harleigh
put them out, and Mr. Harleigh declared that the orchestra prevented his
singing a note.  The fishermen, who were hired for the occasion, revolted
to the very life, positively refusing to play without an increased
allowance of spirits; and, their demand being complied with, getting
drunk in the eruption-scene as naturally as possible.  The red fire,
which was burnt at the conclusion of the second act, not only nearly
suffocated the audience, but nearly set the house on fire into the
bargain; and, as it was, the remainder of the piece was acted in a thick
fog.

In short, the whole affair was, as Mrs. Joseph Porter triumphantly told
everybody, ‘a complete failure.’  The audience went home at four o’clock
in the morning, exhausted with laughter, suffering from severe headaches,
and smelling terribly of brimstone and gunpowder.  The Messrs. Gattleton,
senior and junior, retired to rest, with the vague idea of emigrating to
Swan River early in the ensuing week.

Rose Villa has once again resumed its wonted appearance; the dining-room
furniture has been replaced; the tables are as nicely polished as
formerly; the horsehair chairs are ranged against the wall, as regularly
as ever; Venetian blinds have been fitted to every window in the house to
intercept the prying gaze of Mrs. Joseph Porter.  The subject of
theatricals is never mentioned in the Gattleton family, unless, indeed,
by Uncle Tom, who cannot refrain from sometimes expressing his surprise
and regret at finding that his nephews and nieces appear to have lost the
relish they once possessed for the beauties of Shakspeare, and quotations
from the works of that immortal bard.



CHAPTER X—A PASSAGE IN THE LIFE OF MR. WATKINS TOTTLE


CHAPTER THE FIRST


Matrimony is proverbially a serious undertaking.  Like an over-weening
predilection for brandy-and-water, it is a misfortune into which a man
easily falls, and from which he finds it remarkably difficult to
extricate himself.  It is of no use telling a man who is timorous on
these points, that it is but one plunge, and all is over.  They say the
same thing at the Old Bailey, and the unfortunate victims derive as much
comfort from the assurance in the one case as in the other.

Mr. Watkins Tottle was a rather uncommon compound of strong uxorious
inclinations, and an unparalleled degree of anti-connubial timidity.  He
was about fifty years of age; stood four feet six inches and
three-quarters in his socks—for he never stood in stockings at all—plump,
clean, and rosy.  He looked something like a vignette to one of
Richardson’s novels, and had a clean-cravatish formality of manner, and
kitchen-pokerness of carriage, which Sir Charles Grandison himself might
have envied.  He lived on an annuity, which was well adapted to the
individual who received it, in one respect—it was rather small.  He
received it in periodical payments on every alternate Monday; but he ran
himself out, about a day after the expiration of the first week, as
regularly as an eight-day clock; and then, to make the comparison
complete, his landlady wound him up, and he went on with a regular tick.

Mr. Watkins Tottle had long lived in a state of single blessedness, as
bachelors say, or single cursedness, as spinsters think; but the idea of
matrimony had never ceased to haunt him.  Wrapt in profound reveries on
this never-failing theme, fancy transformed his small parlour in
Cecil-street, Strand, into a neat house in the suburbs; the
half-hundredweight of coals under the kitchen-stairs suddenly sprang up
into three tons of the best Walls-end; his small French bedstead was
converted into a regular matrimonial four-poster; and in the empty chair
on the opposite side of the fireplace, imagination seated a beautiful
young lady, with a very little independence or will of her own, and a
very large independence under a will of her father’s.

‘Who’s there?’ inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle, as a gentle tap at his
room-door disturbed these meditations one evening.

‘Tottle, my dear fellow, how _do_ you do?’ said a short elderly gentleman
with a gruffish voice, bursting into the room, and replying to the
question by asking another.

‘Told you I should drop in some evening,’ said the short gentleman, as he
delivered his hat into Tottle’s hand, after a little struggling and
dodging.

‘Delighted to see you, I’m sure,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, wishing
internally that his visitor had ‘dropped in’ to the Thames at the bottom
of the street, instead of dropping into his parlour.  The fortnight was
nearly up, and Watkins was hard up.

‘How is Mrs. Gabriel Parsons?’ inquired Tottle.

‘Quite well, thank you,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons, for that was the
name the short gentleman revelled in.  Here there was a pause; the short
gentleman looked at the left hob of the fireplace; Mr. Watkins Tottle
stared vacancy out of countenance.

‘Quite well,’ repeated the short gentleman, when five minutes had
expired.  ‘I may say remarkably well.’  And he rubbed the palms of his
hands as hard as if he were going to strike a light by friction.

‘What will you take?’ inquired Tottle, with the desperate suddenness of a
man who knew that unless the visitor took his leave, he stood very little
chance of taking anything else.

‘Oh, I don’t know—have you any whiskey?’

‘Why,’ replied Tottle, very slowly, for all this was gaining time, ‘I
_had_ some capital, and remarkably strong whiskey last week; but it’s all
gone—and therefore its strength—’

‘Is much beyond proof; or, in other words, impossible to be proved,’ said
the short gentleman; and he laughed very heartily, and seemed quite glad
the whiskey had been drunk.  Mr. Tottle smiled—but it was the smile of
despair.  When Mr. Gabriel Parsons had done laughing, he delicately
insinuated that, in the absence of whiskey, he would not be averse to
brandy.  And Mr. Watkins Tottle, lighting a flat candle very
ostentatiously; and displaying an immense key, which belonged to the
street-door, but which, for the sake of appearances, occasionally did
duty in an imaginary wine-cellar; left the room to entreat his landlady
to charge their glasses, and charge them in the bill.  The application
was successful; the spirits were speedily called—not from the vasty deep,
but the adjacent wine-vaults.  The two short gentlemen mixed their grog;
and then sat cosily down before the fire—a pair of shorts, airing
themselves.

‘Tottle,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘you know my way—off-hand, open, say
what I mean, mean what I say, hate reserve, and can’t bear affectation.
One, is a bad domino which only hides what good people have about ’em,
without making the bad look better; and the other is much about the same
thing as pinking a white cotton stocking to make it look like a silk one.
Now listen to what I’m going to say.’

Here, the little gentleman paused, and took a long pull at his
brandy-and-water.  Mr. Watkins Tottle took a sip of his, stirred the
fire, and assumed an air of profound attention.

‘It’s of no use humming and ha’ing about the matter,’ resumed the short
gentleman.—‘You want to get married.’

‘Why,’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle evasively; for he trembled violently,
and felt a sudden tingling throughout his whole frame; ‘why—I should
certainly—at least, I _think_ I should like—’

‘Won’t do,’ said the short gentleman.—‘Plain and free—or there’s an end
of the matter.  Do you want money?’

‘You know I do.’

‘You admire the sex?’

‘I do.’

‘And you’d like to be married?’

‘Certainly.’

‘Then you shall be.  There’s an end of that.’  Thus saying, Mr. Gabriel
Parsons took a pinch of snuff, and mixed another glass.

‘Let me entreat you to be more explanatory,’ said Tottle.  ‘Really, as
the party principally interested, I cannot consent to be disposed of, in
this way.’

‘I’ll tell you,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons, warming with the subject,
and the brandy-and-water—‘I know a lady—she’s stopping with my wife
now—who is just the thing for you.  Well educated; talks French; plays
the piano; knows a good deal about flowers, and shells, and all that sort
of thing; and has five hundred a year, with an uncontrolled power of
disposing of it, by her last will and testament.’

‘I’ll pay my addresses to her,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle.  ‘She isn’t
_very_ young—is she?’

‘Not very; just the thing for you.  I’ve said that already.’

‘What coloured hair has the lady?’ inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle.

‘Egad, I hardly recollect,’ replied Gabriel, with coolness.  ‘Perhaps I
ought to have observed, at first, she wears a front.’

‘A what?’ ejaculated Tottle.

‘One of those things with curls, along here,’ said Parsons, drawing a
straight line across his forehead, just over his eyes, in illustration of
his meaning.  ‘I know the front’s black; I can’t speak quite positively
about her own hair; because, unless one walks behind her, and catches a
glimpse of it under her bonnet, one seldom sees it; but I should say that
it was _rather_ lighter than the front—a shade of a greyish tinge,
perhaps.’

Mr. Watkins Tottle looked as if he had certain misgivings of mind.  Mr.
Gabriel Parsons perceived it, and thought it would be safe to begin the
next attack without delay.

‘Now, were you ever in love, Tottle?’ he inquired.

Mr. Watkins Tottle blushed up to the eyes, and down to the chin, and
exhibited a most extensive combination of colours as he confessed the
soft impeachment.

‘I suppose you popped the question, more than once, when you were a
young—I beg your pardon—a younger—man,’ said Parsons.

‘Never in my life!’ replied his friend, apparently indignant at being
suspected of such an act.  ‘Never!  The fact is, that I entertain, as you
know, peculiar opinions on these subjects.  I am not afraid of ladies,
young or old—far from it; but, I think, that in compliance with the
custom of the present day, they allow too much freedom of speech and
manner to marriageable men.  Now, the fact is, that anything like this
easy freedom I never could acquire; and as I am always afraid of going
too far, I am generally, I dare say, considered formal and cold.’

‘I shouldn’t wonder if you were,’ replied Parsons, gravely; ‘I shouldn’t
wonder.  However, you’ll be all right in this case; for the strictness
and delicacy of this lady’s ideas greatly exceed your own.  Lord bless
you, why, when she came to our house, there was an old portrait of some
man or other, with two large, black, staring eyes, hanging up in her
bedroom; she positively refused to go to bed there, till it was taken
down, considering it decidedly wrong.’

‘I think so, too,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle; ‘certainly.’

‘And then, the other night—I never laughed so much in my life’—resumed
Mr. Gabriel Parsons; ‘I had driven home in an easterly wind, and caught a
devil of a face-ache.  Well; as Fanny—that’s Mrs. Parsons, you know—and
this friend of hers, and I, and Frank Ross, were playing a rubber, I
said, jokingly, that when I went to bed I should wrap my head in Fanny’s
flannel petticoat.  She instantly threw up her cards, and left the room.’

‘Quite right!’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle; ‘she could not possibly have
behaved in a more dignified manner.  What did you do?’

‘Do?—Frank took dummy; and I won sixpence.’

‘But, didn’t you apologise for hurting her feelings?’

‘Devil a bit.  Next morning at breakfast, we talked it over.  She
contended that any reference to a flannel petticoat was improper;—men
ought not to be supposed to know that such things were.  I pleaded my
coverture; being a married man.’

‘And what did the lady say to that?’ inquired Tottle, deeply interested.

‘Changed her ground, and said that Frank being a single man, its
impropriety was obvious.’

‘Noble-minded creature!’ exclaimed the enraptured Tottle.

‘Oh! both Fanny and I said, at once, that she was regularly cut out for
you.’

A gleam of placid satisfaction shone on the circular face of Mr. Watkins
Tottle, as he heard the prophecy.

‘There’s one thing I can’t understand,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as he
rose to depart; ‘I cannot, for the life and soul of me, imagine how the
deuce you’ll ever contrive to come together.  The lady would certainly go
into convulsions if the subject were mentioned.’  Mr. Gabriel Parsons sat
down again, and laughed until he was weak.  Tottle owed him money, so he
had a perfect right to laugh at Tottle’s expense.

Mr. Watkins Tottle feared, in his own mind, that this was another
characteristic which he had in common with this modern Lucretia.  He,
however, accepted the invitation to dine with the Parsonses on the next
day but one, with great firmness: and looked forward to the introduction,
when again left alone, with tolerable composure.

The sun that rose on the next day but one, had never beheld a sprucer
personage on the outside of the Norwood stage, than Mr. Watkins Tottle;
and when the coach drew up before a cardboard-looking house with
disguised chimneys, and a lawn like a large sheet of green letter-paper,
he certainly had never lighted to his place of destination a gentleman
who felt more uncomfortable.

The coach stopped, and Mr. Watkins Tottle jumped—we beg his
pardon—alighted, with great dignity.  ‘All right!’ said he, and away went
the coach up the hill with that beautiful equanimity of pace for which
‘short’ stages are generally remarkable.

Mr. Watkins Tottle gave a faltering jerk to the handle of the garden-gate
bell.  He essayed a more energetic tug, and his previous nervousness was
not at all diminished by hearing the bell ringing like a fire alarum.

‘Is Mr. Parsons at home?’ inquired Tottle of the man who opened the gate.
He could hardly hear himself speak, for the bell had not yet done
tolling.

‘Here I am,’ shouted a voice on the lawn,—and there was Mr. Gabriel
Parsons in a flannel jacket, running backwards and forwards, from a
wicket to two hats piled on each other, and from the two hats to the
wicket, in the most violent manner, while another gentleman with his coat
off was getting down the area of the house, after a ball.  When the
gentleman without the coat had found it—which he did in less than ten
minutes—he ran back to the hats, and Gabriel Parsons pulled up.  Then,
the gentleman without the coat called out ‘play,’ very loudly, and
bowled.  Then Mr. Gabriel Parsons knocked the ball several yards, and
took another run.  Then, the other gentleman aimed at the wicket, and
didn’t hit it; and Mr. Gabriel Parsons, having finished running on his
own account, laid down the bat and ran after the ball, which went into a
neighbouring field.  They called this cricket.

‘Tottle, will you “go in?”’ inquired Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as he
approached him, wiping the perspiration off his face.

Mr. Watkins Tottle declined the offer, the bare idea of accepting which
made him even warmer than his friend.

‘Then we’ll go into the house, as it’s past four, and I shall have to
wash my hands before dinner,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons.  ‘Here, I hate
ceremony, you know!  Timson, that’s Tottle—Tottle, that’s Timson; bred
for the church, which I fear will never be bread for him;’ and he
chuckled at the old joke.  Mr. Timson bowed carelessly.  Mr. Watkins
Tottle bowed stiffly.  Mr. Gabriel Parsons led the way to the house.  He
was a rich sugar-baker, who mistook rudeness for honesty, and abrupt
bluntness for an open and candid manner; many besides Gabriel mistake
bluntness for sincerity.

Mrs. Gabriel Parsons received the visitors most graciously on the steps,
and preceded them to the drawing-room.  On the sofa, was seated a lady of
very prim appearance, and remarkably inanimate.  She was one of those
persons at whose age it is impossible to make any reasonable guess; her
features might have been remarkably pretty when she was younger, and they
might always have presented the same appearance.  Her complexion—with a
slight trace of powder here and there—was as clear as that of a well-made
wax doll, and her face as expressive.  She was handsomely dressed, and
was winding up a gold watch.

‘Miss Lillerton, my dear, this is our friend Mr. Watkins Tottle; a very
old acquaintance I assure you,’ said Mrs. Parsons, presenting the
Strephon of Cecil-street, Strand.  The lady rose, and made a deep
courtesy; Mr. Watkins Tottle made a bow.

‘Splendid, majestic creature!’ thought Tottle.

Mr. Timson advanced, and Mr. Watkins Tottle began to hate him.  Men
generally discover a rival, instinctively, and Mr. Watkins Tottle felt
that his hate was deserved.

‘May I beg,’ said the reverend gentleman,—‘May I beg to call upon you,
Miss Lillerton, for some trifling donation to my soup, coals, and blanket
distribution society?’

‘Put my name down, for two sovereigns, if you please,’ responded Miss
Lillerton.

‘You are truly charitable, madam,’ said the Reverend Mr. Timson, ‘and we
know that charity will cover a multitude of sins.  Let me beg you to
understand that I do not say this from the supposition that you have many
sins which require palliation; believe me when I say that I never yet met
any one who had fewer to atone for, than Miss Lillerton.’

Something like a bad imitation of animation lighted up the lady’s face,
as she acknowledged the compliment.  Watkins Tottle incurred the sin of
wishing that the ashes of the Reverend Charles Timson were quietly
deposited in the churchyard of his curacy, wherever it might be.

‘I’ll tell you what,’ interrupted Parsons, who had just appeared with
clean hands, and a black coat, ‘it’s my private opinion, Timson, that
your “distribution society” is rather a humbug.’

‘You are so severe,’ replied Timson, with a Christian smile: he disliked
Parsons, but liked his dinners.

‘So positively unjust!’ said Miss Lillerton.

‘Certainly,’ observed Tottle.  The lady looked up; her eyes met those of
Mr. Watkins Tottle.  She withdrew them in a sweet confusion, and Watkins
Tottle did the same—the confusion was mutual.

‘Why,’ urged Mr. Parsons, pursuing his objections, ‘what on earth is the
use of giving a man coals who has nothing to cook, or giving him blankets
when he hasn’t a bed, or giving him soup when he requires substantial
food?—“like sending them ruffles when wanting a shirt.”  Why not give ’em
a trifle of money, as I do, when I think they deserve it, and let them
purchase what they think best?  Why?—because your subscribers wouldn’t
see their names flourishing in print on the church-door—that’s the
reason.’

‘Really, Mr. Parsons, I hope you don’t mean to insinuate that I wish to
see _my_ name in print, on the church-door,’ interrupted Miss Lillerton.

‘I hope not,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, putting in another word, and
getting another glance.

‘Certainly not,’ replied Parsons.  ‘I dare say you wouldn’t mind seeing
it in writing, though, in the church register—eh?’

‘Register!  What register?’ inquired the lady gravely.

‘Why, the register of marriages, to be sure,’ replied Parsons, chuckling
at the sally, and glancing at Tottle.  Mr. Watkins Tottle thought he
should have fainted for shame, and it is quite impossible to imagine what
effect the joke would have had upon the lady, if dinner had not been, at
that moment, announced.  Mr. Watkins Tottle, with an unprecedented effort
of gallantry, offered the tip of his little finger; Miss Lillerton
accepted it gracefully, with maiden modesty; and they proceeded in due
state to the dinner-table, where they were soon deposited side by side.
The room was very snug, the dinner very good, and the little party in
spirits.  The conversation became pretty general, and when Mr. Watkins
Tottle had extracted one or two cold observations from his neighbour, and
had taken wine with her, he began to acquire confidence rapidly.  The
cloth was removed; Mrs. Gabriel Parsons drank four glasses of port on the
plea of being a nurse just then; and Miss Lillerton took about the same
number of sips, on the plea of not wanting any at all.  At length, the
ladies retired, to the great gratification of Mr. Gabriel Parsons, who
had been coughing and frowning at his wife, for half-an-hour
previously—signals which Mrs. Parsons never happened to observe, until
she had been pressed to take her ordinary quantum, which, to avoid giving
trouble, she generally did at once.

‘What do you think of her?’ inquired Mr. Gabriel Parsons of Mr. Watkins
Tottle, in an under-tone.

‘I dote on her with enthusiasm already!’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle.

‘Gentlemen, pray let us drink “the ladies,”’ said the Reverend Mr.
Timson.

‘The ladies!’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, emptying his glass.  In the
fulness of his confidence, he felt as if he could make love to a dozen
ladies, off-hand.

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘I remember when I was a young man—fill
your glass, Timson.’

‘I have this moment emptied it.’

‘Then fill again.’

‘I will,’ said Timson, suiting the action to the word.

‘I remember,’ resumed Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘when I was a younger man,
with what a strange compound of feelings I used to drink that toast, and
how I used to think every woman was an angel.’

‘Was that before you were married?’ mildly inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle.

‘Oh! certainly,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons.  ‘I have never thought so
since; and a precious milksop I must have been, ever to have thought so
at all.  But, you know, I married Fanny under the oddest, and most
ridiculous circumstances possible.’

‘What were they, if one may inquire?’ asked Timson, who had heard the
story, on an average, twice a week for the last six months.  Mr. Watkins
Tottle listened attentively, in the hope of picking up some suggestion
that might be useful to him in his new undertaking.

‘I spent my wedding-night in a back-kitchen chimney,’ said Parsons, by
way of a beginning.

‘In a back-kitchen chimney!’ ejaculated Watkins Tottle.  ‘How dreadful!’

‘Yes, it wasn’t very pleasant,’ replied the small host.  ‘The fact is,
Fanny’s father and mother liked me well enough as an individual, but had
a decided objection to my becoming a husband.  You see, I hadn’t any
money in those days, and they had; and so they wanted Fanny to pick up
somebody else.  However, we managed to discover the state of each other’s
affections somehow.  I used to meet her, at some mutual friends’ parties;
at first we danced together, and talked, and flirted, and all that sort
of thing; then, I used to like nothing so well as sitting by her side—we
didn’t talk so much then, but I remember I used to have a great notion of
looking at her out of the extreme corner of my left eye—and then I got
very miserable and sentimental, and began to write verses, and use
Macassar oil.  At last I couldn’t bear it any longer, and after I had
walked up and down the sunny side of Oxford-street in tight boots for a
week—and a devilish hot summer it was too—in the hope of meeting her, I
sat down and wrote a letter, and begged her to manage to see me
clandestinely, for I wanted to hear her decision from her own mouth.  I
said I had discovered, to my perfect satisfaction, that I couldn’t live
without her, and that if she didn’t have me, I had made up my mind to
take prussic acid, or take to drinking, or emigrate, so as to take myself
off in some way or other.  Well, I borrowed a pound, and bribed the
housemaid to give her the note, which she did.’

‘And what was the reply?’ inquired Timson, who had found, before, that to
encourage the repetition of old stories is to get a general invitation.

‘Oh, the usual one!  Fanny expressed herself very miserable; hinted at
the possibility of an early grave; said that nothing should induce her to
swerve from the duty she owed her parents; implored me to forget her, and
find out somebody more deserving, and all that sort of thing.  She said
she could, on no account, think of meeting me unknown to her pa and ma;
and entreated me, as she should be in a particular part of Kensington
Gardens at eleven o’clock next morning, not to attempt to meet her
there.’

‘You didn’t go, of course?’ said Watkins Tottle.

‘Didn’t I?—Of course I did.  There she was, with the identical housemaid
in perspective, in order that there might be no interruption.  We walked
about, for a couple of hours; made ourselves delightfully miserable; and
were regularly engaged.  Then, we began to “correspond”—that is to say,
we used to exchange about four letters a day; what we used to say in ’em
I can’t imagine.  And I used to have an interview, in the kitchen, or the
cellar, or some such place, every evening.  Well, things went on in this
way for some time; and we got fonder of each other every day.  At last,
as our love was raised to such a pitch, and as my salary had been raised
too, shortly before, we determined on a secret marriage.  Fanny arranged
to sleep at a friend’s, on the previous night; we were to be married
early in the morning; and then we were to return to her home and be
pathetic.  She was to fall at the old gentleman’s feet, and bathe his
boots with her tears; and I was to hug the old lady and call her
“mother,” and use my pocket-handkerchief as much as possible.  Married we
were, the next morning; two girls-friends of Fanny’s—acting as
bridesmaids; and a man, who was hired for five shillings and a pint of
porter, officiating as father.  Now, the old lady unfortunately put off
her return from Ramsgate, where she had been paying a visit, until the
next morning; and as we placed great reliance on her, we agreed to
postpone our confession for four-and-twenty hours.  My newly-made wife
returned home, and I spent my wedding-day in strolling about
Hampstead-heath, and execrating my father-in-law.  Of course, I went to
comfort my dear little wife at night, as much as I could, with the
assurance that our troubles would soon be over.  I opened the
garden-gate, of which I had a key, and was shown by the servant to our
old place of meeting—a back kitchen, with a stone-floor and a dresser:
upon which, in the absence of chairs, we used to sit and make love.’

‘Make love upon a kitchen-dresser!’ interrupted Mr. Watkins Tottle, whose
ideas of decorum were greatly outraged.

‘Ah!  On a kitchen-dresser!’ replied Parsons.  ‘And let me tell you, old
fellow, that, if you were really over head-and-ears in love, and had no
other place to make love in, you’d be devilish glad to avail yourself of
such an opportunity.  However, let me see;—where was I?’

‘On the dresser,’ suggested Timson.

‘Oh—ah!  Well, here I found poor Fanny, quite disconsolate and
uncomfortable.  The old boy had been very cross all day, which made her
feel still more lonely; and she was quite out of spirits.  So, I put a
good face on the matter, and laughed it off, and said we should enjoy the
pleasures of a matrimonial life more by contrast; and, at length, poor
Fanny brightened up a little.  I stopped there, till about eleven
o’clock, and, just as I was taking my leave for the fourteenth time, the
girl came running down the stairs, without her shoes, in a great fright,
to tell us that the old villain—Heaven forgive me for calling him so, for
he is dead and gone now!—prompted I suppose by the prince of darkness,
was coming down, to draw his own beer for supper—a thing he had not done
before, for six months, to my certain knowledge; for the cask stood in
that very back kitchen.  If he discovered me there, explanation would
have been out of the question; for he was so outrageously violent, when
at all excited, that he never would have listened to me.  There was only
one thing to be done.  The chimney was a very wide one; it had been
originally built for an oven; went up perpendicularly for a few feet, and
then shot backward and formed a sort of small cavern.  My hopes and
fortune—the means of our joint existence almost—were at stake.  I
scrambled in like a squirrel; coiled myself up in this recess; and, as
Fanny and the girl replaced the deal chimney-board, I could see the light
of the candle which my unconscious father-in-law carried in his hand.  I
heard him draw the beer; and I never heard beer run so slowly.  He was
just leaving the kitchen, and I was preparing to descend, when down came
the infernal chimney-board with a tremendous crash.  He stopped and put
down the candle and the jug of beer on the dresser; he was a nervous old
fellow, and any unexpected noise annoyed him.  He coolly observed that
the fire-place was never used, and sending the frightened servant into
the next kitchen for a hammer and nails, actually nailed up the board,
and locked the door on the outside.  So, there was I, on my
wedding-night, in the light kerseymere trousers, fancy waistcoat, and
blue coat, that I had been married in in the morning, in a back-kitchen
chimney, the bottom of which was nailed up, and the top of which had been
formerly raised some fifteen feet, to prevent the smoke from annoying the
neighbours.  And there,’ added Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as he passed the
bottle, ‘there I remained till half-past seven the next morning, when the
housemaid’s sweetheart, who was a carpenter, unshelled me.  The old dog
had nailed me up so securely, that, to this very hour, I firmly believe
that no one but a carpenter could ever have got me out.’

‘And what did Mrs. Parsons’s father say, when he found you were married?’
inquired Watkins Tottle, who, although he never saw a joke, was not
satisfied until he heard a story to the very end.

‘Why, the affair of the chimney so tickled his fancy, that he pardoned us
off-hand, and allowed us something to live on till he went the way of all
flesh.  I spent the next night in his second-floor front, much more
comfortably than I had spent the preceding one; for, as you will probably
guess—’

‘Please, sir, missis has made tea,’ said a middle-aged female servant,
bobbing into the room.

‘That’s the very housemaid that figures in my story,’ said Mr. Gabriel
Parsons.  ‘She went into Fanny’s service when we were first married, and
has been with us ever since; but I don’t think she has felt one atom of
respect for me since the morning she saw me released, when she went into
violent hysterics, to which she has been subject ever since.  Now, shall
we join the ladies?’

‘If you please,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle.

‘By all means,’ added the obsequious Mr. Timson; and the trio made for
the drawing-room accordingly.

Tea being concluded, and the toast and cups having been duly handed, and
occasionally upset, by Mr. Watkins Tottle, a rubber was proposed.  They
cut for partners—Mr. and Mrs. Parsons; and Mr. Watkins Tottle and Miss
Lillerton.  Mr. Timson having conscientious scruples on the subject of
card-playing, drank brandy-and-water, and kept up a running spar with Mr.
Watkins Tottle.  The evening went off well; Mr. Watkins Tottle was in
high spirits, having some reason to be gratified with his reception by
Miss Lillerton; and before he left, a small party was made up to visit
the Beulah Spa on the following Saturday.

‘It’s all right, I think,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons to Mr. Watkins Tottle
as he opened the garden gate for him.

‘I hope so,’ he replied, squeezing his friend’s hand.

‘You’ll be down by the first coach on Saturday,’ said Mr. Gabriel
Parsons.

‘Certainly,’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle.  ‘Undoubtedly.’

But fortune had decreed that Mr. Watkins Tottle should not be down by the
first coach on Saturday.  His adventures on that day, however, and the
success of his wooing, are subjects for another chapter.


CHAPTER THE SECOND


‘The first coach has not come in yet, has it, Tom?’ inquired Mr. Gabriel
Parsons, as he very complacently paced up and down the fourteen feet of
gravel which bordered the ‘lawn,’ on the Saturday morning which had been
fixed upon for the Beulah Spa jaunt.

‘No, sir; I haven’t seen it,’ replied a gardener in a blue apron, who let
himself out to do the ornamental for half-a-crown a day and his ‘keep.’

‘Time Tottle was down,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ruminating—‘Oh, here he
is, no doubt,’ added Gabriel, as a cab drove rapidly up the hill; and he
buttoned his dressing-gown, and opened the gate to receive the expected
visitor.  The cab stopped, and out jumped a man in a coarse Petersham
great-coat, whity-brown neckerchief, faded black suit, gamboge-coloured
top-boots, and one of those large-crowned hats, formerly seldom met with,
but now very generally patronised by gentlemen and costermongers.

‘Mr. Parsons?’ said the man, looking at the superscription of a note he
held in his hand, and addressing Gabriel with an inquiring air.

‘_My_ name is Parsons,’ responded the sugar-baker.

‘I’ve brought this here note,’ replied the individual in the painted
tops, in a hoarse whisper: ‘I’ve brought this here note from a gen’lm’n
as come to our house this mornin’.’

‘I expected the gentleman at my house,’ said Parsons, as he broke the
seal, which bore the impression of her Majesty’s profile as it is seen on
a sixpence.

‘I’ve no doubt the gen’lm’n would ha’ been here, replied the stranger,
‘if he hadn’t happened to call at our house first; but we never trusts no
gen’lm’n furder nor we can see him—no mistake about that there’—added the
unknown, with a facetious grin; ‘beg your pardon, sir, no offence meant,
only—once in, and I wish you may—catch the idea, sir?’

Mr. Gabriel Parsons was not remarkable for catching anything suddenly,
but a cold.  He therefore only bestowed a glance of profound astonishment
on his mysterious companion, and proceeded to unfold the note of which he
had been the bearer.  Once opened and the idea was caught with very
little difficulty.  Mr. Watkins Tottle had been suddenly arrested for
33_l._ 10_s._ 4_d._, and dated his communication from a lock-up house in
the vicinity of Chancery-lane.

‘Unfortunate affair this!’ said Parsons, refolding the note.

‘Oh! nothin’ ven you’re used to it,’ coolly observed the man in the
Petersham.

‘Tom!’ exclaimed Parsons, after a few minutes’ consideration, ‘just put
the horse in, will you?—Tell the gentleman that I shall be there almost
as soon as you are,’ he continued, addressing the sheriff-officer’s
Mercury.

‘Werry well,’ replied that important functionary; adding, in a
confidential manner, ‘I’d adwise the gen’lm’n’s friends to settle.  You
see it’s a mere trifle; and, unless the gen’lm’n means to go up afore the
court, it’s hardly worth while waiting for detainers, you know.  Our
governor’s wide awake, he is.  I’ll never say nothin’ agin him, nor no
man; but he knows what’s o’clock, he does, uncommon.’  Having delivered
this eloquent, and, to Parsons, particularly intelligible harangue, the
meaning of which was eked out by divers nods and winks, the gentleman in
the boots reseated himself in the cab, which went rapidly off, and was
soon out of sight.  Mr. Gabriel Parsons continued to pace up and down the
pathway for some minutes, apparently absorbed in deep meditation.  The
result of his cogitations seemed to be perfectly satisfactory to himself,
for he ran briskly into the house; said that business had suddenly
summoned him to town; that he had desired the messenger to inform Mr.
Watkins Tottle of the fact; and that they would return together to
dinner.  He then hastily equipped himself for a drive, and mounting his
gig, was soon on his way to the establishment of Mr. Solomon Jacobs,
situate (as Mr. Watkins Tottle had informed him) in Cursitor-street,
Chancery-lane.

When a man is in a violent hurry to get on, and has a specific object in
view, the attainment of which depends on the completion of his journey,
the difficulties which interpose themselves in his way appear not only to
be innumerable, but to have been called into existence especially for the
occasion.  The remark is by no means a new one, and Mr. Gabriel Parsons
had practical and painful experience of its justice in the course of his
drive.  There are three classes of animated objects which prevent your
driving with any degree of comfort or celerity through streets which are
but little frequented—they are pigs, children, and old women.  On the
occasion we are describing, the pigs were luxuriating on cabbage-stalks,
and the shuttlecocks fluttered from the little deal battledores, and the
children played in the road; and women, with a basket in one hand, and
the street-door key in the other, _would_ cross just before the horse’s
head, until Mr. Gabriel Parsons was perfectly savage with vexation, and
quite hoarse with hoi-ing and imprecating.  Then, when he got into
Fleet-street, there was ‘a stoppage,’ in which people in vehicles have
the satisfaction of remaining stationary for half an hour, and envying
the slowest pedestrians; and where policemen rush about, and seize hold
of horses’ bridles, and back them into shop-windows, by way of clearing
the road and preventing confusion.  At length Mr. Gabriel Parsons turned
into Chancery-lane, and having inquired for, and been directed to
Cursitor-street (for it was a locality of which he was quite ignorant),
he soon found himself opposite the house of Mr. Solomon Jacobs.
Confiding his horse and gig to the care of one of the fourteen boys who
had followed him from the other side of Blackfriars-bridge on the chance
of his requiring their services, Mr. Gabriel Parsons crossed the road and
knocked at an inner door, the upper part of which was of glass, grated
like the windows of this inviting mansion with iron bars—painted white to
look comfortable.

The knock was answered by a sallow-faced, red-haired, sulky boy, who,
after surveying Mr. Gabriel Parsons through the glass, applied a large
key to an immense wooden excrescence, which was in reality a lock, but
which, taken in conjunction with the iron nails with which the panels
were studded, gave the door the appearance of being subject to warts.

‘I want to see Mr. Watkins Tottle,’ said Parsons.

‘It’s the gentleman that come in this morning, Jem,’ screamed a voice
from the top of the kitchen-stairs, which belonged to a dirty woman who
had just brought her chin to a level with the passage-floor.  ‘The
gentleman’s in the coffee-room.’

‘Up-stairs, sir,’ said the boy, just opening the door wide enough to let
Parsons in without squeezing him, and double-locking it the moment he had
made his way through the aperture—‘First floor—door on the left.’

Mr. Gabriel Parsons thus instructed, ascended the uncarpeted and
ill-lighted staircase, and after giving several subdued taps at the
before-mentioned ‘door on the left,’ which were rendered inaudible by the
hum of voices within the room, and the hissing noise attendant on some
frying operations which were carrying on below stairs, turned the handle,
and entered the apartment.  Being informed that the unfortunate object of
his visit had just gone up-stairs to write a letter, he had leisure to
sit down and observe the scene before him.

The room—which was a small, confined den—was partitioned off into boxes,
like the common-room of some inferior eating-house.  The dirty floor had
evidently been as long a stranger to the scrubbing-brush as to carpet or
floor-cloth: and the ceiling was completely blackened by the flare of the
oil-lamp by which the room was lighted at night.  The gray ashes on the
edges of the tables, and the cigar ends which were plentifully scattered
about the dusty grate, fully accounted for the intolerable smell of
tobacco which pervaded the place; and the empty glasses and
half-saturated slices of lemon on the tables, together with the porter
pots beneath them, bore testimony to the frequent libations in which the
individuals who honoured Mr. Solomon Jacobs by a temporary residence in
his house indulged.  Over the mantel-shelf was a paltry looking-glass,
extending about half the width of the chimney-piece; but by way of
counterpoise, the ashes were confined by a rusty fender about twice as
long as the hearth.

From this cheerful room itself, the attention of Mr. Gabriel Parsons was
naturally directed to its inmates.  In one of the boxes two men were
playing at cribbage with a very dirty pack of cards, some with blue, some
with green, and some with red backs—selections from decayed packs.  The
cribbage board had been long ago formed on the table by some ingenious
visitor with the assistance of a pocket-knife and a two-pronged fork,
with which the necessary number of holes had been made in the table at
proper distances for the reception of the wooden pegs.  In another box a
stout, hearty-looking man, of about forty, was eating some dinner which
his wife—an equally comfortable-looking personage—had brought him in a
basket: and in a third, a genteel-looking young man was talking
earnestly, and in a low tone, to a young female, whose face was concealed
by a thick veil, but whom Mr. Gabriel Parsons immediately set down in his
own mind as the debtor’s wife.  A young fellow of vulgar manners, dressed
in the very extreme of the prevailing fashion, was pacing up and down the
room, with a lighted cigar in his mouth and his hands in his pockets,
ever and anon puffing forth volumes of smoke, and occasionally applying,
with much apparent relish, to a pint pot, the contents of which were
‘chilling’ on the hob.

‘Fourpence more, by gum!’ exclaimed one of the cribbage-players, lighting
a pipe, and addressing his adversary at the close of the game; ‘one ’ud
think you’d got luck in a pepper-cruet, and shook it out when you wanted
it.’

‘Well, that a’n’t a bad un,’ replied the other, who was a horse-dealer
from Islington.

‘No; I’m blessed if it is,’ interposed the jolly-looking fellow, who,
having finished his dinner, was drinking out of the same glass as his
wife, in truly conjugal harmony, some hot gin-and-water.  The faithful
partner of his cares had brought a plentiful supply of the
anti-temperance fluid in a large flat stone bottle, which looked like a
half-gallon jar that had been successfully tapped for the dropsy.
‘You’re a rum chap, you are, Mr. Walker—will you dip your beak into this,
sir?’

‘Thank’ee, sir,’ replied Mr. Walker, leaving his box, and advancing to
the other to accept the proffered glass.  ‘Here’s your health, sir, and
your good ’ooman’s here.  Gentlemen all—yours, and better luck still.
Well, Mr. Willis,’ continued the facetious prisoner, addressing the young
man with the cigar, ‘you seem rather down to-day—floored, as one may say.
What’s the matter, sir?  Never say die, you know.’

‘Oh! I’m all right,’ replied the smoker.  ‘I shall be bailed out
to-morrow.’

‘Shall you, though?’ inquired the other.  ‘Damme, I wish I could say the
same.  I am as regularly over head and ears as the Royal George, and
stand about as much chance of being _bailed out_.  Ha! ha! ha!’

‘Why,’ said the young man, stopping short, and speaking in a very loud
key, ‘look at me.  What d’ye think I’ve stopped here two days for?’

‘’Cause you couldn’t get out, I suppose,’ interrupted Mr. Walker, winking
to the company.  ‘Not that you’re exactly obliged to stop here, only you
can’t help it.  No compulsion, you know, only you must—eh?’

‘A’n’t he a rum un?’ inquired the delighted individual, who had offered
the gin-and-water, of his wife.

‘Oh, he just is!’ replied the lady, who was quite overcome by these
flashes of imagination.

‘Why, my case,’ frowned the victim, throwing the end of his cigar into
the fire, and illustrating his argument by knocking the bottom of the pot
on the table, at intervals,—‘my case is a very singular one.  My father’s
a man of large property, and I am his son.’

‘That’s a very strange circumstance!’ interrupted the jocose Mr. Walker,
_en passant_.

‘—I am his son, and have received a liberal education.  I don’t owe no
man nothing—not the value of a farthing, but I was induced, you see, to
put my name to some bills for a friend—bills to a large amount, I may say
a very large amount, for which I didn’t receive no consideration.  What’s
the consequence?’

‘Why, I suppose the bills went out, and you came in.  The acceptances
weren’t taken up, and you were, eh?’ inquired Walker.

‘To be sure,’ replied the liberally educated young gentleman.  ‘To be
sure; and so here I am, locked up for a matter of twelve hundred pound.’

‘Why don’t you ask your old governor to stump up?’ inquired Walker, with
a somewhat sceptical air.

‘Oh! bless you, he’d never do it,’ replied the other, in a tone of
expostulation—‘Never!’

‘Well, it is very odd to—be—sure,’ interposed the owner of the flat
bottle, mixing another glass, ‘but I’ve been in difficulties, as one may
say, now for thirty year.  I went to pieces when I was in a milk-walk,
thirty year ago; arterwards, when I was a fruiterer, and kept a spring
wan; and arter that again in the coal and ’tatur line—but all that time I
never see a youngish chap come into a place of this kind, who wasn’t
going out again directly, and who hadn’t been arrested on bills which
he’d given a friend and for which he’d received nothing whatsomever—not a
fraction.’

‘Oh! it’s always the cry,’ said Walker.  ‘I can’t see the use on it;
that’s what makes me so wild.  Why, I should have a much better opinion
of an individual, if he’d say at once in an honourable and gentlemanly
manner as he’d done everybody he possibly could.’

‘Ay, to be sure,’ interposed the horse-dealer, with whose notions of
bargain and sale the axiom perfectly coincided, ‘so should I.’  The young
gentleman, who had given rise to these observations, was on the point of
offering a rather angry reply to these sneers, but the rising of the
young man before noticed, and of the female who had been sitting by him,
to leave the room, interrupted the conversation.  She had been weeping
bitterly, and the noxious atmosphere of the room acting upon her excited
feelings and delicate frame, rendered the support of her companion
necessary as they quitted it together.

There was an air of superiority about them both, and something in their
appearance so unusual in such a place, that a respectful silence was
observed until the _whirr—r—bang_ of the spring door announced that they
were out of hearing.  It was broken by the wife of the ex-fruiterer.

‘Poor creetur!’ said she, quenching a sigh in a rivulet of gin-and-water.
‘She’s very young.’

‘She’s a nice-looking ’ooman too,’ added the horse-dealer.

‘What’s he in for, Ikey?’ inquired Walker, of an individual who was
spreading a cloth with numerous blotches of mustard upon it, on one of
the tables, and whom Mr. Gabriel Parsons had no difficulty in recognising
as the man who had called upon him in the morning.

‘Vy,’ responded the factotum, ‘it’s one of the rummiest rigs you ever
heard on.  He come in here last Vensday, which by-the-bye he’s a-going
over the water to-night—hows’ever that’s neither here nor there.  You see
I’ve been a going back’ards and for’ards about his business, and ha’
managed to pick up some of his story from the servants and them; and so
far as I can make it out, it seems to be summat to this here effect—’

‘Cut it short, old fellow,’ interrupted Walker, who knew from former
experience that he of the top-boots was neither very concise nor
intelligible in his narratives.

‘Let me alone,’ replied Ikey, ‘and I’ll ha’ wound up, and made my lucky
in five seconds.  This here young gen’lm’n’s father—so I’m told, mind
ye—and the father o’ the young voman, have always been on very bad,
out-and-out, rig’lar knock-me-down sort o’ terms; but somehow or another,
when he was a wisitin’ at some gentlefolk’s house, as he knowed at
college, he came into contract with the young lady.  He seed her several
times, and then he up and said he’d keep company with her, if so be as
she vos agreeable.  Vell, she vos as sweet upon him as he vos upon her,
and so I s’pose they made it all right; for they got married ’bout six
months arterwards, unbeknown, mind ye, to the two fathers—leastways so
I’m told.  When they heard on it—my eyes, there was such a combustion!
Starvation vos the very least that vos to be done to ’em.  The young
gen’lm’n’s father cut him off vith a bob, ’cos he’d cut himself off vith
a wife; and the young lady’s father he behaved even worser and more
unnat’ral, for he not only blow’d her up dreadful, and swore he’d never
see her again, but he employed a chap as I knows—and as you knows, Mr.
Valker, a precious sight too well—to go about and buy up the bills and
them things on which the young husband, thinking his governor ’ud come
round agin, had raised the vind just to blow himself on vith for a time;
besides vich, he made all the interest he could to set other people agin
him.  Consequence vos, that he paid as long as he could; but things he
never expected to have to meet till he’d had time to turn himself round,
come fast upon him, and he vos nabbed.  He vos brought here, as I said
afore, last Vensday, and I think there’s about—ah, half-a-dozen detainers
agin him down-stairs now.  I have been,’ added Ikey, ‘in the purfession
these fifteen year, and I never met vith such windictiveness afore!’

‘Poor creeturs!’ exclaimed the coal-dealer’s wife once more: again
resorting to the same excellent prescription for nipping a sigh in the
bud.  ‘Ah! when they’ve seen as much trouble as I and my old man here
have, they’ll be as comfortable under it as we are.’

‘The young lady’s a pretty creature,’ said Walker, ‘only she’s a little
too delicate for my taste—there ain’t enough of her.  As to the young
cove, he may be very respectable and what not, but he’s too down in the
mouth for me—he ain’t game.’

‘Game!’ exclaimed Ikey, who had been altering the position of a
green-handled knife and fork at least a dozen times, in order that he
might remain in the room under the pretext of having something to do.
‘He’s game enough ven there’s anything to be fierce about; but who could
be game as you call it, Mr. Walker, with a pale young creetur like that,
hanging about him?—It’s enough to drive any man’s heart into his boots to
see ’em together—and no mistake at all about it.  I never shall forget
her first comin’ here; he wrote to her on the Thursday to come—I know he
did, ’cos I took the letter.  Uncommon fidgety he was all day to be sure,
and in the evening he goes down into the office, and he says to Jacobs,
says he, “Sir, can I have the loan of a private room for a few minutes
this evening, without incurring any additional expense—just to see my
wife in?” says he.  Jacobs looked as much as to say—“Strike me bountiful
if you ain’t one of the modest sort!” but as the gen’lm’n who had been in
the back parlour had just gone out, and had paid for it for that day, he
says—werry grave—“Sir,” says he, “it’s agin our rules to let private
rooms to our lodgers on gratis terms, but,” says he, “for a gentleman, I
don’t mind breaking through them for once.”  So then he turns round to
me, and says, “Ikey, put two mould candles in the back parlour, and
charge ’em to this gen’lm’n’s account,” vich I did.  Vell, by-and-by a
hackney-coach comes up to the door, and there, sure enough, was the young
lady, wrapped up in a hopera-cloak, as it might be, and all alone.  I
opened the gate that night, so I went up when the coach come, and he vos
a waitin’ at the parlour door—and wasn’t he a trembling, neither?  The
poor creetur see him, and could hardly walk to meet him.  “Oh, Harry!”
she says, “that it should have come to this; and all for my sake,” says
she, putting her hand upon his shoulder.  So he puts his arm round her
pretty little waist, and leading her gently a little way into the room,
so that he might be able to shut the door, he says, so kind and
soft-like—“Why, Kate,” says he—’

‘Here’s the gentleman you want,’ said Ikey, abruptly breaking off in his
story, and introducing Mr. Gabriel Parsons to the crest-fallen Watkins
Tottle, who at that moment entered the room.  Watkins advanced with a
wooden expression of passive endurance, and accepted the hand which Mr.
Gabriel Parsons held out.

‘I want to speak to you,’ said Gabriel, with a look strongly expressive
of his dislike of the company.

‘This way,’ replied the imprisoned one, leading the way to the front
drawing-room, where rich debtors did the luxurious at the rate of a
couple of guineas a day.

‘Well, here I am,’ said Mr. Watkins, as he sat down on the sofa; and
placing the palms of his hands on his knees, anxiously glanced at his
friend’s countenance.

‘Yes; and here you’re likely to be,’ said Gabriel, coolly, as he rattled
the money in his unmentionable pockets, and looked out of the window.

‘What’s the amount with the costs?’ inquired Parsons, after an awkward
pause.

‘Have you any money?’

‘Nine and sixpence halfpenny.’

Mr. Gabriel Parsons walked up and down the room for a few seconds, before
he could make up his mind to disclose the plan he had formed; he was
accustomed to drive hard bargains, but was always most anxious to conceal
his avarice.  At length he stopped short, and said, ‘Tottle, you owe me
fifty pounds.’

‘I do.’

‘And from all I see, I infer that you are likely to owe it to me.’

‘I fear I am.’

‘Though you have every disposition to pay me if you could?’

‘Certainly.’

‘Then,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘listen: here’s my proposition.  You
know my way of old.  Accept it—yes or no—I will or I won’t.  I’ll pay the
debt and costs, and I’ll lend you 10_l._ more (which, added to your
annuity, will enable you to carry on the war well) if you’ll give me your
note of hand to pay me one hundred and fifty pounds within six months
after you are married to Miss Lillerton.’

‘My dear—’

‘Stop a minute—on one condition; and that is, that you propose to Miss
Lillerton at once.’

‘At once!  My dear Parsons, consider.’

‘It’s for you to consider, not me.  She knows you well from reputation,
though she did not know you personally until lately.  Notwithstanding all
her maiden modesty, I think she’d be devilish glad to get married out of
hand with as little delay as possible.  My wife has sounded her on the
subject, and she has confessed.’

‘What—what?’ eagerly interrupted the enamoured Watkins.

‘Why,’ replied Parsons, ‘to say exactly what she has confessed, would be
rather difficult, because they only spoke in hints, and so forth; but my
wife, who is no bad judge in these cases, declared to me that what she
had confessed was as good as to say that she was not insensible of your
merits—in fact, that no other man should have her.’

Mr. Watkins Tottle rose hastily from his seat, and rang the bell.

‘What’s that for?’ inquired Parsons.

‘I want to send the man for the bill stamp,’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle.

‘Then you’ve made up your mind?’

‘I have,’—and they shook hands most cordially.  The note of hand was
given—the debt and costs were paid—Ikey was satisfied for his trouble,
and the two friends soon found themselves on that side of Mr. Solomon
Jacobs’s establishment, on which most of his visitors were very happy
when they found themselves once again—to wit, the _out_side.

‘Now,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as they drove to Norwood together—‘you
shall have an opportunity to make the disclosure to-night, and mind you
speak out, Tottle.’

‘I will—I will!’ replied Watkins, valorously.

‘How I should like to see you together,’ ejaculated Mr. Gabriel
Parsons.—‘What fun!’ and he laughed so long and so loudly, that he
disconcerted Mr. Watkins Tottle, and frightened the horse.

‘There’s Fanny and your intended walking about on the lawn,’ said
Gabriel, as they approached the house.  ‘Mind your eye, Tottle.’

‘Never fear,’ replied Watkins, resolutely, as he made his way to the spot
where the ladies were walking.

‘Here’s Mr. Tottle, my dear,’ said Mrs. Parsons, addressing Miss
Lillerton.  The lady turned quickly round, and acknowledged his courteous
salute with the same sort of confusion that Watkins had noticed on their
first interview, but with something like a slight expression of
disappointment or carelessness.

‘Did you see how glad she was to see you?’ whispered Parsons to his
friend.

‘Why, I really thought she looked as if she would rather have seen
somebody else,’ replied Tottle.

‘Pooh, nonsense!’ whispered Parsons again—‘it’s always the way with the
women, young or old.  They never show how delighted they are to see those
whose presence makes their hearts beat.  It’s the way with the whole sex,
and no man should have lived to your time of life without knowing it.
Fanny confessed it to me, when we were first married, over and over
again—see what it is to have a wife.’

‘Certainly,’ whispered Tottle, whose courage was vanishing fast.

‘Well, now, you’d better begin to pave the way,’ said Parsons, who,
having invested some money in the speculation, assumed the office of
director.

‘Yes, yes, I will—presently,’ replied Tottle, greatly flurried.

‘Say something to her, man,’ urged Parsons again.  ‘Confound it! pay her
a compliment, can’t you?’

‘No! not till after dinner,’ replied the bashful Tottle, anxious to
postpone the evil moment.

‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Mrs. Parsons, ‘you are really very polite; you
stay away the whole morning, after promising to take us out, and when you
do come home, you stand whispering together and take no notice of us.’

‘We were talking of the _business_, my dear, which detained us this
morning,’ replied Parsons, looking significantly at Tottle.

‘Dear me! how very quickly the morning has gone,’ said Miss Lillerton,
referring to the gold watch, which was wound up on state occasions,
whether it required it or not.

‘I think it has passed very slowly,’ mildly suggested Tottle.

(‘That’s right—bravo!’) whispered Parsons.

‘Indeed!’ said Miss Lillerton, with an air of majestic surprise.

‘I can only impute it to my unavoidable absence from your society,
madam,’ said Watkins, ‘and that of Mrs. Parsons.’

During this short dialogue, the ladies had been leading the way to the
house.

‘What the deuce did you stick Fanny into that last compliment for?’
inquired Parsons, as they followed together; ‘it quite spoilt the
effect.’

‘Oh! it really would have been too broad without,’ replied Watkins
Tottle, ‘much too broad!’

‘He’s mad!’ Parsons whispered his wife, as they entered the drawing-room,
‘mad from modesty.’

‘Dear me!’ ejaculated the lady, ‘I never heard of such a thing.’

‘You’ll find we have quite a family dinner, Mr. Tottle,’ said Mrs.
Parsons, when they sat down to table: ‘Miss Lillerton is one of us, and,
of course, we make no stranger of you.’

Mr. Watkins Tottle expressed a hope that the Parsons family never would
make a stranger of him; and wished internally that his bashfulness would
allow him to feel a little less like a stranger himself.

‘Take off the covers, Martha,’ said Mrs. Parsons, directing the shifting
of the scenery with great anxiety.  The order was obeyed, and a pair of
boiled fowls, with tongue and et ceteras, were displayed at the top, and
a fillet of veal at the bottom.  On one side of the table two green
sauce-tureens, with ladles of the same, were setting to each other in a
green dish; and on the other was a curried rabbit, in a brown suit,
turned up with lemon.

‘Miss Lillerton, my dear,’ said Mrs. Parsons, ‘shall I assist you?’

‘Thank you, no; I think I’ll trouble Mr. Tottle.’

Watkins started—trembled—helped the rabbit—and broke a tumbler.  The
countenance of the lady of the house, which had been all smiles
previously, underwent an awful change.

‘Extremely sorry,’ stammered Watkins, assisting himself to currie and
parsley and butter, in the extremity of his confusion.

‘Not the least consequence,’ replied Mrs. Parsons, in a tone which
implied that it was of the greatest consequence possible,—directing aside
the researches of the boy, who was groping under the table for the bits
of broken glass.

‘I presume,’ said Miss Lillerton, ‘that Mr. Tottle is aware of the
interest which bachelors usually pay in such cases; a dozen glasses for
one is the lowest penalty.’

Mr. Gabriel Parsons gave his friend an admonitory tread on the toe.  Here
was a clear hint that the sooner he ceased to be a bachelor and
emancipated himself from such penalties, the better.  Mr. Watkins Tottle
viewed the observation in the same light, and challenged Mrs. Parsons to
take wine, with a degree of presence of mind, which, under all the
circumstances, was really extraordinary.

‘Miss Lillerton,’ said Gabriel, ‘may I have the pleasure?’

‘I shall be most happy.’

‘Tottle, will you assist Miss Lillerton, and pass the decanter.  Thank
you.’  (The usual pantomimic ceremony of nodding and sipping gone
through)—

‘Tottle, were you ever in Suffolk?’ inquired the master of the house, who
was burning to tell one of his seven stock stories.

‘No,’ responded Watkins, adding, by way of a saving clause, ‘but I’ve
been in Devonshire.’

‘Ah!’ replied Gabriel, ‘it was in Suffolk that a rather singular
circumstance happened to me many years ago.  Did you ever happen to hear
me mention it?’

Mr. Watkins Tottle _had_ happened to hear his friend mention it some four
hundred times.  Of course he expressed great curiosity, and evinced the
utmost impatience to hear the story again.  Mr. Gabriel Parsons forthwith
attempted to proceed, in spite of the interruptions to which, as our
readers must frequently have observed, the master of the house is often
exposed in such cases.  We will attempt to give them an idea of our
meaning.

‘When I was in Suffolk—’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons.

‘Take off the fowls first, Martha,’ said Mrs. Parsons.  ‘I beg your
pardon, my dear.’

‘When I was in Suffolk,’ resumed Mr. Parsons, with an impatient glance at
his wife, who pretended not to observe it, ‘which is now years ago,
business led me to the town of Bury St. Edmund’s.  I had to stop at the
principal places in my way, and therefore, for the sake of convenience, I
travelled in a gig.  I left Sudbury one dark night—it was winter
time—about nine o’clock; the rain poured in torrents, the wind howled
among the trees that skirted the roadside, and I was obliged to proceed
at a foot-pace, for I could hardly see my hand before me, it was so
dark—’

‘John,’ interrupted Mrs. Parsons, in a low, hollow voice, ‘don’t spill
that gravy.’

‘Fanny,’ said Parsons impatiently, ‘I wish you’d defer these domestic
reproofs to some more suitable time.  Really, my dear, these constant
interruptions are very annoying.’

‘My dear, I didn’t interrupt you,’ said Mrs. Parsons.

‘But, my dear, you _did_ interrupt me,’ remonstrated Mr. Parsons.

‘How very absurd you are, my love!  I must give directions to the
servants; I am quite sure that if I sat here and allowed John to spill
the gravy over the new carpet, you’d be the first to find fault when you
saw the stain to-morrow morning.’

‘Well,’ continued Gabriel with a resigned air, as if he knew there was no
getting over the point about the carpet, ‘I was just saying, it was so
dark that I could hardly see my hand before me.  The road was very
lonely, and I assure you, Tottle (this was a device to arrest the
wandering attention of that individual, which was distracted by a
confidential communication between Mrs. Parsons and Martha, accompanied
by the delivery of a large bunch of keys), I assure you, Tottle, I became
somehow impressed with a sense of the loneliness of my situation—’

‘Pie to your master,’ interrupted Mrs. Parsons, again directing the
servant.

‘Now, pray, my dear,’ remonstrated Parsons once more, very pettishly.
Mrs. P. turned up her hands and eyebrows, and appealed in dumb show to
Miss Lillerton.  ‘As I turned a corner of the road,’ resumed Gabriel,
‘the horse stopped short, and reared tremendously.  I pulled up, jumped
out, ran to his head, and found a man lying on his back in the middle of
the road, with his eyes fixed on the sky.  I thought he was dead; but no,
he was alive, and there appeared to be nothing the matter with him.  He
jumped up, and putting his hand to his chest, and fixing upon me the most
earnest gaze you can imagine, exclaimed—’

‘Pudding here,’ said Mrs. Parsons.

‘Oh! it’s no use,’ exclaimed the host, now rendered desperate.  ‘Here,
Tottle; a glass of wine.  It’s useless to attempt relating anything when
Mrs. Parsons is present.’

This attack was received in the usual way.  Mrs. Parsons talked _to_ Miss
Lillerton and _at_ her better half; expatiated on the impatience of men
generally; hinted that her husband was peculiarly vicious in this
respect, and wound up by insinuating that she must be one of the best
tempers that ever existed, or she never could put up with it.  Really
what she had to endure sometimes, was more than any one who saw her in
every-day life could by possibility suppose.—The story was now a painful
subject, and therefore Mr. Parsons declined to enter into any details,
and contented himself by stating that the man was a maniac, who had
escaped from a neighbouring mad-house.

The cloth was removed; the ladies soon afterwards retired, and Miss
Lillerton played the piano in the drawing-room overhead, very loudly, for
the edification of the visitor.  Mr. Watkins Tottle and Mr. Gabriel
Parsons sat chatting comfortably enough, until the conclusion of the
second bottle, when the latter, in proposing an adjournment to the
drawing-room, informed Watkins that he had concerted a plan with his
wife, for leaving him and Miss Lillerton alone, soon after tea.

‘I say,’ said Tottle, as they went up-stairs, ‘don’t you think it would
be better if we put it off till-till-to-morrow?’

‘Don’t _you_ think it would have been much better if I had left you in
that wretched hole I found you in this morning?’ retorted Parsons
bluntly.

‘Well—well—I only made a suggestion,’ said poor Watkins Tottle, with a
deep sigh.

Tea was soon concluded, and Miss Lillerton, drawing a small work-table on
one side of the fire, and placing a little wooden frame upon it,
something like a miniature clay-mill without the horse, was soon busily
engaged in making a watch-guard with brown silk.

‘God bless me!’ exclaimed Parsons, starting up with well-feigned
surprise, ‘I’ve forgotten those confounded letters.  Tottle, I know
you’ll excuse me.’

If Tottle had been a free agent, he would have allowed no one to leave
the room on any pretence, except himself.  As it was, however, he was
obliged to look cheerful when Parsons quitted the apartment.

He had scarcely left, when Martha put her head into the room,
with—‘Please, ma’am, you’re wanted.’

Mrs. Parsons left the room, shut the door carefully after her, and Mr.
Watkins Tottle was left alone with Miss Lillerton.

For the first five minutes there was a dead silence.—Mr. Watkins Tottle
was thinking how he should begin, and Miss Lillerton appeared to be
thinking of nothing.  The fire was burning low; Mr. Watkins Tottle
stirred it, and put some coals on.

‘Hem!’ coughed Miss Lillerton; Mr. Watkins Tottle thought the fair
creature had spoken.  ‘I beg your pardon,’ said he.

‘Eh?’

‘I thought you spoke.’

‘No.’

‘Oh!’

‘There are some books on the sofa, Mr. Tottle, if you would like to look
at them,’ said Miss Lillerton, after the lapse of another five minutes.

‘No, thank you,’ returned Watkins; and then he added, with a courage
which was perfectly astonishing, even to himself, ‘Madam, that is Miss
Lillerton, I wish to speak to you.’

‘To me!’ said Miss Lillerton, letting the silk drop from her hands, and
sliding her chair back a few paces.—‘Speak—to me!’

‘To you, madam—and on the subject of the state of your affections.’  The
lady hastily rose and would have left the room; but Mr. Watkins Tottle
gently detained her by the hand, and holding it as far from him as the
joint length of their arms would permit, he thus proceeded: ‘Pray do not
misunderstand me, or suppose that I am led to address you, after so short
an acquaintance, by any feeling of my own merits—for merits I have none
which could give me a claim to your hand.  I hope you will acquit me of
any presumption when I explain that I have been acquainted through Mrs.
Parsons, with the state—that is, that Mrs. Parsons has told me—at least,
not Mrs. Parsons, but—’ here Watkins began to wander, but Miss Lillerton
relieved him.

‘Am I to understand, Mr. Tottle, that Mrs. Parsons has acquainted you
with my feeling—my affection—I mean my respect, for an individual of the
opposite sex?’

‘She has.’

‘Then, what?’ inquired Miss Lillerton, averting her face, with a girlish
air, ‘what could induce