{tocify}

Sketches by Boz


Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


CHAPTER I—THE BOARDING-HOUSE

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 43l. 15s. 10d. 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 700l., 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 300l. 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 1,000l. 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.

II.

‘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 100l. 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 43l. 15s. 10d., 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 10,000l. 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.