Sketches by Boz
Part 8 out of 15
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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
'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 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
'I am quite sure you'd like him,' continued Mrs. Malderton, 'he is
'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
'No doubt of it,' echoed Miss Teresa.
'Indeed, he said as much to me in confidence,' observed Mrs.
'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 ideal 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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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?'
'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
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--
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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.'
'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
'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
'Well, perhaps it does,' said Mr. Frederick; 'I didn't see it
'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
'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
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
'You are very lucky, if you have had an opportunity of obliging
that great man,' observed Flamwell, with an air of profound
'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
'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
CHAPTER VI--THE BLACK VEIL
One winter's evening, towards the close of the year 1800, or within
a year or two of that time, a young medical practitioner, recently
established in business, was seated by a cheerful fire in his
little parlour, listening to the wind which was beating the rain in
pattering drops against the window, or rumbling dismally in the
chimney. The night was wet and cold; he had been walking through
mud and water the whole day, and was now comfortably reposing in
his dressing-gown and slippers, more than half asleep and less than
half awake, revolving a thousand matters in his wandering
imagination. First, he thought how hard the wind was blowing, and
how the cold, sharp rain would be at that moment beating in his
face, if he were not comfortably housed at home. Then, his mind
reverted to his annual Christmas visit to his native place and
dearest friends; he thought how glad they would all be to see him,
and how happy it would make Rose if he could only tell her that he
had found a patient at last, and hoped to have more, and to come
down again, in a few months' time, and marry her, and take her home
to gladden his lonely fireside, and stimulate him to fresh
exertions. Then, he began to wonder when his first patient would
appear, or whether he was destined, by a special dispensation of
Providence, never to have any patients at all; and then, he thought
about Rose again, and dropped to sleep and dreamed about her, till
the tones of her sweet merry voice sounded in his ears, and her
soft tiny hand rested on his shoulder.
There WAS a hand upon his shoulder, but it was neither soft nor
tiny; its owner being a corpulent round-headed boy, who, in
consideration of the sum of one shilling per week and his food, was
let out by the parish to carry medicine and messages. As there was
no demand for the medicine, however, and no necessity for the
messages, he usually occupied his unemployed hours--averaging
fourteen a day--in abstracting peppermint drops, taking animal
nourishment, and going to sleep.
'A lady, sir--a lady!' whispered the boy, rousing his master with a
'What lady?' cried our friend, starting up, not quite certain that
his dream was an illusion, and half expecting that it might be Rose
herself.--'What lady? Where?'
'THERE, sir!' replied the boy, pointing to the glass door leading
into the surgery, with an expression of alarm which the very
unusual apparition of a customer might have tended to excite.
The surgeon looked towards the door, and started himself, for an
instant, on beholding the appearance of his unlooked-for visitor.
It was a singularly tall woman, dressed in deep mourning, and
standing so close to the door that her face almost touched the
glass. The upper part of her figure was carefully muffled in a
black shawl, as if for the purpose of concealment; and her face was
shrouded by a thick black veil. She stood perfectly erect, her
figure was drawn up to its full height, and though the surgeon felt
that the eyes beneath the veil were fixed on him, she stood
perfectly motionless, and evinced, by no gesture whatever, the
slightest consciousness of his having turned towards her.
'Do you wish to consult me?' he inquired, with some hesitation,
holding open the door. It opened inwards, and therefore the action
did not alter the position of the figure, which still remained
motionless on the same spot.
She slightly inclined her head, in token of acquiescence.
'Pray walk in,' said the surgeon.
The figure moved a step forward; and then, turning its head in the
direction of the boy--to his infinite horror--appeared to hesitate.
'Leave the room, Tom,' said the young man, addressing the boy,
whose large round eyes had been extended to their utmost width
during this brief interview. 'Draw the curtain, and shut the
The boy drew a green curtain across the glass part of the door,
retired into the surgery, closed the door after him, and
immediately applied one of his large eyes to the keyhole on the
The surgeon drew a chair to the fire, and motioned the visitor to a
seat. The mysterious figure slowly moved towards it. As the blaze
shone upon the black dress, the surgeon observed that the bottom of
it was saturated with mud and rain.
'You are very wet,' be said.
'I am,' said the stranger, in a low deep voice.
'And you are ill?' added the surgeon, compassionately, for the tone
was that of a person in pain.
'I am,' was the reply--'very ill; not bodily, but mentally. It is
not for myself, or on my own behalf,' continued the stranger, 'that
I come to you. If I laboured under bodily disease, I should not be
out, alone, at such an hour, or on such a night as this; and if I
were afflicted with it, twenty-four hours hence, God knows how
gladly I would lie down and pray to die. It is for another that I
beseech your aid, sir. I may be mad to ask it for him--I think I
am; but, night after night, through the long dreary hours of
watching and weeping, the thought has been ever present to my mind;
and though even _I_ see the hopelessness of human assistance
availing him, the bare thought of laying him in his grave without
it makes my blood run cold!' And a shudder, such as the surgeon
well knew art could not produce, trembled through the speaker's
There was a desperate earnestness in this woman's manner, that went
to the young man's heart. He was young in his profession, and had
not yet witnessed enough of the miseries which are daily presented
before the eyes of its members, to have grown comparatively callous
to human suffering.
'If,' he said, rising hastily, 'the person of whom you speak, be in
so hopeless a condition as you describe, not a moment is to be
lost. I will go with you instantly. Why did you not obtain
medical advice before?'
'Because it would have been useless before--because it is useless
even now,' replied the woman, clasping her hands passionately.
The surgeon gazed, for a moment, on the black veil, as if to
ascertain the expression of the features beneath it: its
thickness, however, rendered such a result impossible.
'You ARE ill,' he said, gently, 'although you do not know it. The
fever which has enabled you to bear, without feeling it, the
fatigue you have evidently undergone, is burning within you now.
Put that to your lips,' he continued, pouring out a glass of water-
-'compose yourself for a few moments, and then tell me, as calmly
as you can, what the disease of the patient is, and how long he has
been ill. When I know what it is necessary I should know, to
render my visit serviceable to him, I am ready to accompany you.'
The stranger lifted the glass of water to her mouth, without
raising the veil; put it down again untasted; and burst into tears.
'I know,' she said, sobbing aloud, 'that what I say to you now,
seems like the ravings of fever. I have been told so before, less
kindly than by you. I am not a young woman; and they do say, that
as life steals on towards its final close, the last short remnant,
worthless as it may seem to all beside, is dearer to its possessor
than all the years that have gone before, connected though they be
with the recollection of old friends long since dead, and young
ones--children perhaps--who have fallen off from, and forgotten one
as completely as if they had died too. My natural term of life
cannot be many years longer, and should be dear on that account;
but I would lay it down without a sigh--with cheerfulness--with
joy--if what I tell you now, were only false, or imaginary. To-
morrow morning he of whom I speak will be, I KNOW, though I would
fain think otherwise, beyond the reach of human aid; and yet, to-
night, though he is in deadly peril, you must not see, and could
not serve, him.'
'I am unwilling to increase your distress,' said the surgeon, after
a short pause, 'by making any comment on what you have just said,
or appearing desirous to investigate a subject you are so anxious
to conceal; but there is an inconsistency in your statement which I
cannot reconcile with probability. This person is dying to-night,
and I cannot see him when my assistance might possibly avail; you
apprehend it will be useless to-morrow, and yet you would have me
see him then! If he be, indeed, as dear to you, as your words and
manner would imply, why not try to save his life before delay and
the progress of his disease render it impracticable?'
'God help me!' exclaimed the woman, weeping bitterly, 'how can I
hope strangers will believe what appears incredible, even to
myself? You will NOT see him then, sir?' she added, rising
'I did not say that I declined to see him,' replied the surgeon;
'but I warn you, that if you persist in this extraordinary
procrastination, and the individual dies, a fearful responsibility
rests with you.'
'The responsibility will rest heavily somewhere,' replied the
stranger bitterly. 'Whatever responsibility rests with me, I am
content to bear, and ready to answer.'
'As I incur none,' continued the surgeon, 'by acceding to your
request, I will see him in the morning, if you leave me the
address. At what hour can he be seen?'
'NINE,' replied the stranger.
'You must excuse my pressing these inquiries,' said the surgeon.
'But is he in your charge now?'
'He is not,' was the rejoinder.
'Then, if I gave you instructions for his treatment through the
night, you could not assist him?'
The woman wept bitterly, as she replied, 'I could not.'
Finding that there was but little prospect of obtaining more
information by prolonging the interview; and anxious to spare the
woman's feelings, which, subdued at first by a violent effort, were
now irrepressible and most painful to witness; the surgeon repeated
his promise of calling in the morning at the appointed hour. His
visitor, after giving him a direction to an obscure part of
Walworth, left the house in the same mysterious manner in which she
had entered it.
It will be readily believed that so extraordinary a visit produced
a considerable impression on the mind of the young surgeon; and
that he speculated a great deal and to very little purpose on the
possible circumstances of the case. In common with the generality
of people, he had often heard and read of singular instances, in
which a presentiment of death, at a particular day, or even minute,
had been entertained and realised. At one moment he was inclined
to think that the present might be such a case; but, then, it
occurred to him that all the anecdotes of the kind he had ever
heard, were of persons who had been troubled with a foreboding of
their own death. This woman, however, spoke of another person--a
man; and it was impossible to suppose that a mere dream or delusion
of fancy would induce her to speak of his approaching dissolution
with such terrible certainty as she had spoken. It could not be
that the man was to be murdered in the morning, and that the woman,
originally a consenting party, and bound to secrecy by an oath, had
relented, and, though unable to prevent the commission of some
outrage on the victim, had determined to prevent his death if
possible, by the timely interposition of medical aid? The idea of
such things happening within two miles of the metropolis appeared
too wild and preposterous to be entertained beyond the instant.
Then, his original impression that the woman's intellects were
disordered, recurred; and, as it was the only mode of solving the
difficulty with any degree of satisfaction, he obstinately made up
his mind to believe that she was mad. Certain misgivings upon this
point, however, stole upon his thoughts at the time, and presented
themselves again and again through the long dull course of a
sleepless night; during which, in spite of all his efforts to the
contrary, he was unable to banish the black veil from his disturbed
The back part of Walworth, at its greatest distance from town, is a
straggling miserable place enough, even in these days; but, five-
and-thirty years ago, the greater portion of it was little better
than a dreary waste, inhabited by a few scattered people of
questionable character, whose poverty prevented their living in any
better neighbourhood, or whose pursuits and mode of life rendered
its solitude desirable. Very many of the houses which have since
sprung up on all sides, were not built until some years afterwards;
and the great majority even of those which were sprinkled about, at
irregular intervals, were of the rudest and most miserable
The appearance of the place through which he walked in the morning,
was not calculated to raise the spirits of the young surgeon, or to
dispel any feeling of anxiety or depression which the singular kind
of visit he was about to make, had awakened. Striking off from the
high road, his way lay across a marshy common, through irregular
lanes, with here and there a ruinous and dismantled cottage fast
falling to pieces with decay and neglect. A stunted tree, or pool
of stagnant water, roused into a sluggish action by the heavy rain
of the preceding night, skirted the path occasionally; and, now and
then, a miserable patch of garden-ground, with a few old boards
knocked together for a summer-house, and old palings imperfectly
mended with stakes pilfered from the neighbouring hedges, bore
testimony, at once to the poverty of the inhabitants, and the
little scruple they entertained in appropriating the property of
other people to their own use. Occasionally, a filthy-looking
woman would make her appearance from the door of a dirty house, to
empty the contents of some cooking utensil into the gutter in
front, or to scream after a little slip-shod girl, who had
contrived to stagger a few yards from the door under the weight of
a sallow infant almost as big as herself; but, scarcely anything
was stirring around: and so much of the prospect as could be
faintly traced through the cold damp mist which hung heavily over
it, presented a lonely and dreary appearance perfectly in keeping
with the objects we have described.
After plodding wearily through the mud and mire; making many
inquiries for the place to which he had been directed; and
receiving as many contradictory and unsatisfactory replies in
return; the young man at length arrived before the house which had
been pointed out to him as the object of his destination. It was a
small low building, one story above the ground, with even a more
desolate and unpromising exterior than any he had yet passed. An
old yellow curtain was closely drawn across the window up-stairs,
and the parlour shutters were closed, but not fastened. The house
was detached from any other, and, as it stood at an angle of a
narrow lane, there was no other habitation in sight.
When we say that the surgeon hesitated, and walked a few paces
beyond the house, before he could prevail upon himself to lift the
knocker, we say nothing that need raise a smile upon the face of
the boldest reader. The police of London were a very different
body in that day; the isolated position of the suburbs, when the
rage for building and the progress of improvement had not yet begun
to connect them with the main body of the city and its environs,
rendered many of them (and this in particular) a place of resort
for the worst and most depraved characters. Even the streets in
the gayest parts of London were imperfectly lighted, at that time;
and such places as these, were left entirely to the mercy of the
moon and stars. The chances of detecting desperate characters, or
of tracing them to their haunts, were thus rendered very few, and
their offences naturally increased in boldness, as the
consciousness of comparative security became the more impressed
upon them by daily experience. Added to these considerations, it
must be remembered that the young man had spent some time in the
public hospitals of the metropolis; and, although neither Burke nor
Bishop had then gained a horrible notoriety, his own observation
might have suggested to him how easily the atrocities to which the
former has since given his name, might be committed. Be this as it
may, whatever reflection made him hesitate, he DID hesitate: but,
being a young man of strong mind and great personal courage, it was
only for an instant;--he stepped briskly back and knocked gently at
A low whispering was audible, immediately afterwards, as if some
person at the end of the passage were conversing stealthily with
another on the landing above. It was succeeded by the noise of a
pair of heavy boots upon the bare floor. The door-chain was softly
unfastened; the door opened; and a tall, ill-favoured man, with
black hair, and a face, as the surgeon often declared afterwards,
as pale and haggard, as the countenance of any dead man he ever
saw, presented himself.
'Walk in, sir,' he said in a low tone.
The surgeon did so, and the man having secured the door again, by
the chain, led the way to a small back parlour at the extremity of
'Am I in time?'
'Too soon!' replied the man. The surgeon turned hastily round,
with a gesture of astonishment not unmixed with alarm, which he
found it impossible to repress.
'If you'll step in here, sir,' said the man, who had evidently
noticed the action--'if you'll step in here, sir, you won't be
detained five minutes, I assure you.'
The surgeon at once walked into the room. The man closed the door,
and left him alone.
It was a little cold room, with no other furniture than two deal
chairs, and a table of the same material. A handful of fire,
unguarded by any fender, was burning in the grate, which brought
out the damp if it served no more comfortable purpose, for the
unwholesome moisture was stealing down the walls, in long slug-like
tracks. The window, which was broken and patched in many places,
looked into a small enclosed piece of ground, almost covered with
water. Not a sound was to be heard, either within the house, or
without. The young surgeon sat down by the fireplace, to await the
result of his first professional visit.
He had not remained in this position many minutes, when the noise
of some approaching vehicle struck his ear. It stopped; the
street-door was opened; a low talking succeeded, accompanied with a
shuffling noise of footsteps, along the passage and on the stairs,
as if two or three men were engaged in carrying some heavy body to
the room above. The creaking of the stairs, a few seconds
afterwards, announced that the new-comers having completed their
task, whatever it was, were leaving the house. The door was again
closed, and the former silence was restored.
Another five minutes had elapsed, and the surgeon had resolved to
explore the house, in search of some one to whom he might make his
errand known, when the room-door opened, and his last night's
visitor, dressed in exactly the same manner, with the veil lowered
as before, motioned him to advance. The singular height of her
form, coupled with the circumstance of her not speaking, caused the
idea to pass across his brain for an instant, that it might be a
man disguised in woman's attire. The hysteric sobs which issued
from beneath the veil, and the convulsive attitude of grief of the
whole figure, however, at once exposed the absurdity of the
suspicion; and he hastily followed.
The woman led the way up-stairs to the front room, and paused at
the door, to let him enter first. It was scantily furnished with
an old deal box, a few chairs, and a tent bedstead, without
hangings or cross-rails, which was covered with a patchwork
counterpane. The dim light admitted through the curtain which he
had noticed from the outside, rendered the objects in the room so
indistinct, and communicated to all of them so uniform a hue, that
he did not, at first, perceive the object on which his eye at once
rested when the woman rushed frantically past him, and flung
herself on her knees by the bedside.
Stretched upon the bed, closely enveloped in a linen wrapper, and
covered with blankets, lay a human form, stiff and motionless. The
head and face, which were those of a man, were uncovered, save by a
bandage which passed over the head and under the chin. The eyes
were closed. The left arm lay heavily across the bed, and the
woman held the passive hand.
The surgeon gently pushed the woman aside, and took the hand in
'My God!' he exclaimed, letting it fall involuntarily--'the man is
The woman started to her feet and beat her hands together.
'Oh! don't say so, sir,' she exclaimed, with a burst of passion,
amounting almost to frenzy. 'Oh! don't say so, sir! I can't bear
it! Men have been brought to life, before, when unskilful people
have given them up for lost; and men have died, who might have been
restored, if proper means had been resorted to. Don't let him lie
here, sir, without one effort to save him! This very moment life
may be passing away. Do try, sir,--do, for Heaven's sake!'--And
while speaking, she hurriedly chafed, first the forehead, and then
the breast, of the senseless form before her; and then, wildly beat
the cold hands, which, when she ceased to hold them, fell
listlessly and heavily back on the coverlet.
'It is of no use, my good woman,' said the surgeon, soothingly, as
he withdrew his hand from the man's breast. 'Stay--undraw that
'Why?' said the woman, starting up.
'Undraw that curtain!' repeated the surgeon in an agitated tone.
'I darkened the room on purpose,' said the woman, throwing herself
before him as he rose to undraw it.--'Oh! sir, have pity on me! If
it can be of no use, and he is really dead, do not expose that form
to other eyes than mine!'
'This man died no natural or easy death,' said the surgeon. 'I
MUST see the body!' With a motion so sudden, that the woman hardly
knew that he had slipped from beside her, he tore open the curtain,
admitted the full light of day, and returned to the bedside.
'There has been violence here,' he said, pointing towards the body,
and gazing intently on the face, from which the black veil was now,
for the first time, removed. In the excitement of a minute before,
the female had thrown off the bonnet and veil, and now stood with
her eyes fixed upon him. Her features were those of a woman about
fifty, who had once been handsome. Sorrow and weeping had left
traces upon them which not time itself would ever have produced
without their aid; her face was deadly pale; and there was a
nervous contortion of the lip, and an unnatural fire in her eye,
which showed too plainly that her bodily and mental powers had
nearly sunk, beneath an accumulation of misery.
'There has been violence here,' said the surgeon, preserving his
'There has!' replied the woman.
'This man has been murdered.'
'That I call God to witness he has,' said the woman, passionately;
'pitilessly, inhumanly murdered!'
'By whom?' said the surgeon, seizing the woman by the arm.
'Look at the butchers' marks, and then ask me!' she replied.
The surgeon turned his face towards the bed, and bent over the body
which now lay full in the light of the window. The throat was
swollen, and a livid mark encircled it. The truth flashed suddenly
'This is one of the men who were hanged this morning!' he
exclaimed, turning away with a shudder.
'It is,' replied the woman, with a cold, unmeaning stare.
'Who was he?' inquired the surgeon.
'MY SON,' rejoined the woman; and fell senseless at his feet.
It was true. A companion, equally guilty with himself, had been
acquitted for want of evidence; and this man had been left for
death, and executed. To recount the circumstances of the case, at
this distant period, must be unnecessary, and might give pain to
some persons still alive. The history was an every-day one. The
mother was a widow without friends or money, and had denied herself
necessaries to bestow them on her orphan boy. That boy, unmindful
of her prayers, and forgetful of the sufferings she had endured for
him--incessant anxiety of mind, and voluntary starvation of body--
had plunged into a career of dissipation and crime. And this was
the result; his own death by the hangman's hands, and his mother's
shame, and incurable insanity.
For many years after this occurrence, and when profitable and
arduous avocations would have led many men to forget that such a
miserable being existed, the young surgeon was a daily visitor at
the side of the harmless mad woman; not only soothing her by his
presence and kindness, but alleviating the rigour of her condition
by pecuniary donations for her comfort and support, bestowed with
no sparing hand. In the transient gleam of recollection and
consciousness which preceded her death, a prayer for his welfare
and protection, as fervent as mortal ever breathed, rose from the
lips of this poor friendless creature. That prayer flew to Heaven,
and was heard. The blessings he was instrumental in conferring,
have been repaid to him a thousand-fold; but, amid all the honours
of rank and station which have since been heaped upon him, and
which he has so well earned, he can have no reminiscence more
gratifying to his heart than that connected with The Black Veil.
CHAPTER VII--THE STEAM EXCURSION
Mr. Percy Noakes was a law student, inhabiting a set of chambers on
the fourth floor, in one of those houses in Gray's-inn-square which
command an extensive view of the gardens, and their usual adjuncts-
-flaunting nursery-maids, and town-made children, with
parenthetical legs. Mr. Percy Noakes was what is generally termed-
-'a devilish good fellow.' He had a large circle of acquaintance,
and seldom dined at his own expense. He used to talk politics to
papas, flatter the vanity of mammas, do the amiable to their
daughters, make pleasure engagements with their sons, and romp with
the younger branches. Like those paragons of perfection,
advertising footmen out of place, he was always 'willing to make
himself generally useful.' If any old lady, whose son was in
India, gave a ball, Mr. Percy Noakes was master of the ceremonies;
if any young lady made a stolen match, Mr. Percy Noakes gave her
away; if a juvenile wife presented her husband with a blooming
cherub, Mr. Percy Noakes was either godfather, or deputy-godfather;
and if any member of a friend's family died, Mr. Percy Noakes was
invariably to be seen in the second mourning coach, with a white
handkerchief to his eyes, sobbing--to use his own appropriate and
expressive description--'like winkin'!'
It may readily be imagined that these numerous avocations were
rather calculated to interfere with Mr. Percy Noakes's professional
studies. Mr. Percy Noakes was perfectly aware of the fact, and
had, therefore, after mature reflection, made up his mind not to
study at all--a laudable determination, to which he adhered in the
most praiseworthy manner. His sitting-room presented a strange
chaos of dress-gloves, boxing-gloves, caricatures, albums,
invitation-cards, foils, cricket-bats, cardboard drawings, paste,
gum, and fifty other miscellaneous articles, heaped together in the
strangest confusion. He was always making something for somebody,
or planning some party of pleasure, which was his great forte. He
invariably spoke with astonishing rapidity; was smart, spoffish,
'Splendid idea, 'pon my life!' soliloquised Mr. Percy Noakes, over
his morning coffee, as his mind reverted to a suggestion which had
been thrown out on the previous night, by a lady at whose house he
had spent the evening. 'Glorious idea!--Mrs. Stubbs.'
'Yes, sir,' replied a dirty old woman with an inflamed countenance,
emerging from the bedroom, with a barrel of dirt and cinders.--This
was the laundress. 'Did you call, sir?'
'Oh! Mrs. Stubbs, I'm going out. If that tailor should call
again, you'd better say--you'd better say I'm out of town, and
shan't be back for a fortnight; and if that bootmaker should come,
tell him I've lost his address, or I'd have sent him that little
amount. Mind he writes it down; and if Mr. Hardy should call--you
know Mr. Hardy?'
'The funny gentleman, sir?'
'Ah! the funny gentleman. If Mr. Hardy should call, say I've gone
to Mrs. Taunton's about that water-party.'
'And if any fellow calls, and says he's come about a steamer, tell
him to be here at five o'clock this afternoon, Mrs. Stubbs.'
'Very well, sir.'
Mr. Percy Noakes brushed his hat, whisked the crumbs off his
inexpressibles with a silk handkerchief, gave the ends of his hair
a persuasive roll round his forefinger, and sallied forth for Mrs.
Taunton's domicile in Great Marlborough-street, where she and her
daughters occupied the upper part of a house. She was a good-
looking widow of fifty, with the form of a giantess and the mind of
a child. The pursuit of pleasure, and some means of killing time,
were the sole end of her existence. She doted on her daughters,
who were as frivolous as herself.
A general exclamation of satisfaction hailed the arrival of Mr.
Percy Noakes, who went through the ordinary salutations, and threw
himself into an easy chair near the ladies' work-table, with the
ease of a regularly established friend of the family. Mrs. Taunton
was busily engaged in planting immense bright bows on every part of
a smart cap on which it was possible to stick one; Miss Emily
Taunton was making a watch-guard; Miss Sophia was at the piano,
practising a new song--poetry by the young officer, or the police-
officer, or the custom-house officer, or some other interesting
'You good creature!' said Mrs. Taunton, addressing the gallant
Percy. 'You really are a good soul! You've come about the water-
party, I know.'
'I should rather suspect I had,' replied Mr. Noakes, triumphantly.
'Now, come here, girls, and I'll tell you all about it.' Miss
Emily and Miss Sophia advanced to the table.
'Now,' continued Mr. Percy Noakes, 'it seems to me that the best
way will be, to have a committee of ten, to make all the
arrangements, and manage the whole set-out. Then, I propose that
the expenses shall be paid by these ten fellows jointly.'
'Excellent, indeed!' said Mrs. Taunton, who highly approved of this
part of the arrangements.
'Then, my plan is, that each of these ten fellows shall have the
power of asking five people. There must be a meeting of the
committee, at my chambers, to make all the arrangements, and these
people shall be then named; every member of the committee shall
have the power of black-balling any one who is proposed; and one
black ball shall exclude that person. This will ensure our having
a pleasant party, you know.'
'What a manager you are!' interrupted Mrs. Taunton again.
'Charming!' said the lovely Emily.
'I never did!' ejaculated Sophia.
'Yes, I think it'll do,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who was now
quite in his element. 'I think it'll do. Then you know we shall
go down to the Nore, and back, and have a regular capital cold
dinner laid out in the cabin before we start, so that everything
may be ready without any confusion; and we shall have the lunch
laid out, on deck, in those little tea-garden-looking concerns by
the paddle-boxes--I don't know what you call 'em. Then, we shall
hire a steamer expressly for our party, and a band, and have the
deck chalked, and we shall be able to dance quadrilles all day; and
then, whoever we know that's musical, you know, why they'll make
themselves useful and agreeable; and--and--upon the whole, I really
hope we shall have a glorious day, you know!'
The announcement of these arrangements was received with the utmost
enthusiasm. Mrs. Taunton, Emily, and Sophia, were loud in their
'Well, but tell me, Percy,' said Mrs. Taunton, 'who are the ten
gentlemen to be?'
'Oh! I know plenty of fellows who'll be delighted with the
scheme,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes; 'of course we shall have--'
'Mr. Hardy!' interrupted the servant, announcing a visitor. Miss
Sophia and Miss Emily hastily assumed the most interesting
attitudes that could be adopted on so short a notice.
'How are you?' said a stout gentleman of about forty, pausing at
the door in the attitude of an awkward harlequin. This was Mr.
Hardy, whom we have before described, on the authority of Mrs.
Stubbs, as 'the funny gentleman.' He was an Astley-Cooperish Joe
Miller--a practical joker, immensely popular with married ladies,
and a general favourite with young men. He was always engaged in
some pleasure excursion or other, and delighted in getting somebody
into a scrape on such occasions. He could sing comic songs,
imitate hackney-coachmen and fowls, play airs on his chin, and
execute concertos on the Jews'-harp. He always eat and drank most
immoderately, and was the bosom friend of Mr. Percy Noakes. He had
a red face, a somewhat husky voice, and a tremendous laugh.
'How ARE you?' said this worthy, laughing, as if it were the finest
joke in the world to make a morning call, and shaking hands with
the ladies with as much vehemence as if their arms had been so many
'You're just the very man I wanted,' said Mr. Percy Noakes, who
proceeded to explain the cause of his being in requisition.
'Ha! ha! ha!' shouted Hardy, after hearing the statement, and
receiving a detailed account of the proposed excursion. 'Oh,
capital! glorious! What a day it will be! what fun!--But, I say,
when are you going to begin making the arrangements?'
'No time like the present--at once, if you please.'
'Oh, charming!' cried the ladies. 'Pray, do!'
Writing materials were laid before Mr. Percy Noakes, and the names
of the different members of the committee were agreed on, after as
much discussion between him and Mr. Hardy as if the fate of nations
had depended on their appointment. It was then agreed that a
meeting should take place at Mr. Percy Noakes's chambers on the
ensuing Wednesday evening at eight o'clock, and the visitors
Wednesday evening arrived; eight o'clock came, and eight members of
the committee were punctual in their attendance. Mr. Loggins, the
solicitor, of Boswell-court, sent an excuse, and Mr. Samuel Briggs,
the ditto of Furnival's Inn, sent his brother: much to his (the
brother's) satisfaction, and greatly to the discomfiture of Mr.
Percy Noakes. Between the Briggses and the Tauntons there existed
a degree of implacable hatred, quite unprecedented. The animosity
between the Montagues and Capulets, was nothing to that which
prevailed between these two illustrious houses. Mrs. Briggs was a
widow, with three daughters and two sons; Mr. Samuel, the eldest,
was an attorney, and Mr. Alexander, the youngest, was under
articles to his brother. They resided in Portland-street, Oxford-
street, and moved in the same orbit as the Tauntons--hence their
mutual dislike. If the Miss Briggses appeared in smart bonnets,
the Miss Tauntons eclipsed them with smarter. If Mrs. Taunton
appeared in a cap of all the hues of the rainbow, Mrs. Briggs
forthwith mounted a toque, with all the patterns of the
kaleidoscope. If Miss Sophia Taunton learnt a new song, two of the
Miss Briggses came out with a new duet. The Tauntons had once
gained a temporary triumph with the assistance of a harp, but the
Briggses brought three guitars into the field, and effectually
routed the enemy. There was no end to the rivalry between them.
Now, as Mr. Samuel Briggs was a mere machine, a sort of self-acting
legal walking-stick; and as the party was known to have originated,
however remotely, with Mrs. Taunton, the female branches of the
Briggs family had arranged that Mr. Alexander should attend,
instead of his brother; and as the said Mr. Alexander was
deservedly celebrated for possessing all the pertinacity of a
bankruptcy-court attorney, combined with the obstinacy of that
useful animal which browses on the thistle, he required but little
tuition. He was especially enjoined to make himself as
disagreeable as possible; and, above all, to black-ball the
Tauntons at every hazard.
The proceedings of the evening were opened by Mr. Percy Noakes.
After successfully urging on the gentlemen present the propriety of
their mixing some brandy-and-water, he briefly stated the object of
the meeting, and concluded by observing that the first step must be
the selection of a chairman, necessarily possessing some arbitrary-
-he trusted not unconstitutional--powers, to whom the personal
direction of the whole of the arrangements (subject to the approval
of the committee) should be confided. A pale young gentleman, in a
green stock and spectacles of the same, a member of the honourable
society of the Inner Temple, immediately rose for the purpose of
proposing Mr. Percy Noakes. He had known him long, and this he
would say, that a more honourable, a more excellent, or a better-
hearted fellow, never existed.--(Hear, hear!) The young gentleman,
who was a member of a debating society, took this opportunity of
entering into an examination of the state of the English law, from
the days of William the Conqueror down to the present period; he
briefly adverted to the code established by the ancient Druids;
slightly glanced at the principles laid down by the Athenian law-
givers; and concluded with a most glowing eulogium on pic-nics and
Mr. Alexander Briggs opposed the motion. He had the highest esteem
for Mr. Percy Noakes as an individual, but he did consider that he
ought not to be intrusted with these immense powers--(oh, oh!)--He
believed that in the proposed capacity Mr. Percy Noakes would not
act fairly, impartially, or honourably; but he begged it to be
distinctly understood, that he said this, without the slightest
personal disrespect. Mr. Hardy defended his honourable friend, in
a voice rendered partially unintelligible by emotion and brandy-
and-water. The proposition was put to the vote, and there
appearing to be only one dissentient voice, Mr. Percy Noakes was
declared duly elected, and took the chair accordingly.
The business of the meeting now proceeded with rapidity. The
chairman delivered in his estimate of the probable expense of the
excursion, and every one present subscribed his portion thereof.
The question was put that 'The Endeavour' be hired for the
occasion; Mr. Alexander Briggs moved as an amendment, that the word
'Fly' be substituted for the word 'Endeavour'; but after some
debate consented to withdraw his opposition. The important
ceremony of balloting then commenced. A tea-caddy was placed on a
table in a dark corner of the apartment, and every one was provided
with two backgammon men, one black and one white.
The chairman with great solemnity then read the following list of
the guests whom he proposed to introduce:- Mrs. Taunton and two
daughters, Mr. Wizzle, Mr. Simson. The names were respectively
balloted for, and Mrs. Taunton and her daughters were declared to
be black-balled. Mr. Percy Noakes and Mr. Hardy exchanged glances.
'Is your list prepared, Mr. Briggs?' inquired the chairman.
'It is,' replied Alexander, delivering in the following:- 'Mrs.
Briggs and three daughters, Mr. Samuel Briggs.' The previous
ceremony was repeated, and Mrs. Briggs and three daughters were
declared to be black-balled. Mr. Alexander Briggs looked rather
foolish, and the remainder of the company appeared somewhat
overawed by the mysterious nature of the proceedings.
The balloting proceeded; but, one little circumstance which Mr.
Percy Noakes had not originally foreseen, prevented the system from
working quite as well as he had anticipated. Everybody was black-
balled. Mr. Alexander Briggs, by way of retaliation, exercised his
power of exclusion in every instance, and the result was, that
after three hours had been consumed in hard balloting, the names of
only three gentlemen were found to have been agreed to. In this
dilemma what was to be done? either the whole plan must fall to the
ground, or a compromise must be effected. The latter alternative
was preferable; and Mr. Percy Noakes therefore proposed that the
form of balloting should be dispensed with, and that every
gentleman should merely be required to state whom he intended to
bring. The proposal was acceded to; the Tauntons and the Briggses
were reinstated; and the party was formed.
The next Wednesday was fixed for the eventful day, and it was
unanimously resolved that every member of the committee should wear
a piece of blue sarsenet ribbon round his left arm. It appeared
from the statement of Mr. Percy Noakes, that the boat belonged to
the General Steam Navigation Company, and was then lying off the
Custom-house; and, as he proposed that the dinner and wines should
be provided by an eminent city purveyor, it was arranged that Mr.
Percy Noakes should be on board by seven o'clock to superintend the
arrangements, and that the remaining members of the committee,
together with the company generally, should be expected to join her
by nine o'clock. More brandy-and-water was despatched; several
speeches were made by the different law students present; thanks
were voted to the chairman; and the meeting separated.
The weather had been beautiful up to this period, and beautiful it
continued to be. Sunday passed over, and Mr. Percy Noakes became
unusually fidgety--rushing, constantly, to and from the Steam
Packet Wharf, to the astonishment of the clerks, and the great
emolument of the Holborn cabmen. Tuesday arrived, and the anxiety
of Mr. Percy Noakes knew no bounds. He was every instant running
to the window, to look out for clouds; and Mr. Hardy astonished the
whole square by practising a new comic song for the occasion, in
the chairman's chambers.
Uneasy were the slumbers of Mr. Percy Noakes that night; he tossed
and tumbled about, and had confused dreams of steamers starting
off, and gigantic clocks with the hands pointing to a quarter-past
nine, and the ugly face of Mr. Alexander Briggs looking over the
boat's side, and grinning, as if in derision of his fruitless
attempts to move. He made a violent effort to get on board, and
awoke. The bright sun was shining cheerfully into the bedroom, and
Mr. Percy Noakes started up for his watch, in the dreadful
expectation of finding his worst dreams realised.
It was just five o'clock. He calculated the time--he should be a
good half-hour dressing himself; and as it was a lovely morning,
and the tide would be then running down, he would walk leisurely to
Strand-lane, and have a boat to the Custom-house.
He dressed himself, took a hasty apology for a breakfast, and
sallied forth. The streets looked as lonely and deserted as if
they had been crowded, overnight, for the last time. Here and
there, an early apprentice, with quenched-looking sleepy eyes, was
taking down the shutters of a shop; and a policeman or milkwoman
might occasionally be seen pacing slowly along; but the servants
had not yet begun to clean the doors, or light the kitchen fires,
and London looked the picture of desolation. At the corner of a
by-street, near Temple-bar, was stationed a 'street-breakfast.'
The coffee was boiling over a charcoal fire, and large slices of
bread and butter were piled one upon the other, like deals in a
timber-yard. The company were seated on a form, which, with a view
both to security and comfort, was placed against a neighbouring
wall. Two young men, whose uproarious mirth and disordered dress
bespoke the conviviality of the preceding evening, were treating
three 'ladies' and an Irish labourer. A little sweep was standing
at a short distance, casting a longing eye at the tempting
delicacies; and a policeman was watching the group from the
opposite side of the street. The wan looks and gaudy finery of the
thinly-clad women contrasted as strangely with the gay sunlight, as
did their forced merriment with the boisterous hilarity of the two
young men, who, now and then, varied their amusements by
'bonneting' the proprietor of this itinerant coffee-house.
Mr. Percy Noakes walked briskly by, and when he turned down Strand-
lane, and caught a glimpse of the glistening water, he thought he
had never felt so important or so happy in his life.
'Boat, sir?' cried one of the three watermen who were mopping out
their boats, and all whistling. 'Boat, sir?'
'No,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, rather sharply; for the inquiry was
not made in a manner at all suitable to his dignity.
'Would you prefer a wessel, sir?' inquired another, to the infinite
delight of the 'Jack-in-the-water.'
Mr. Percy Noakes replied with a look of supreme contempt.
'Did you want to be put on board a steamer, sir?' inquired an old
fireman-waterman, very confidentially. He was dressed in a faded
red suit, just the colour of the cover of a very old Court-guide.
'Yes, make haste--the Endeavour--off the Custom-house.'
'Endeavour!' cried the man who had convulsed the 'Jack' before.
'Vy, I see the Endeavour go up half an hour ago.'
'So did I,' said another; 'and I should think she'd gone down by
this time, for she's a precious sight too full of ladies and
Mr. Percy Noakes affected to disregard these representations, and
stepped into the boat, which the old man, by dint of scrambling,
and shoving, and grating, had brought up to the causeway. 'Shove
her off!' cried Mr. Percy Noakes, and away the boat glided down the
river; Mr. Percy Noakes seated on the recently mopped seat, and the
watermen at the stairs offering to bet him any reasonable sum that
he'd never reach the 'Custum-us.'
'Here she is, by Jove!' said the delighted Percy, as they ran
alongside the Endeavour.
'Hold hard!' cried the steward over the side, and Mr. Percy Noakes
jumped on board.
'Hope you will find everything as you wished, sir. She looks
uncommon well this morning.'
'She does, indeed,' replied the manager, in a state of ecstasy
which it is impossible to describe. The deck was scrubbed, and the
seats were scrubbed, and there was a bench for the band, and a
place for dancing, and a pile of camp-stools, and an awning; and
then Mr. Percy Noakes bustled down below, and there were the
pastrycook's men, and the steward's wife, laying out the dinner on
two tables the whole length of the cabin; and then Mr. Percy Noakes
took off his coat and rushed backwards and forwards, doing nothing,
but quite convinced he was assisting everybody; and the steward's
wife laughed till she cried, and Mr. Percy Noakes panted with the
violence of his exertions. And then the bell at London-bridge
wharf rang; and a Margate boat was just starting; and a Gravesend
boat was just starting, and people shouted, and porters ran down
the steps with luggage that would crush any men but porters; and
sloping boards, with bits of wood nailed on them, were placed
between the outside boat and the inside boat; and the passengers
ran along them, and looked like so many fowls coming out of an
area; and then, the bell ceased, and the boards were taken away,
and the boats started, and the whole scene was one of the most
delightful bustle and confusion.
The time wore on; half-past eight o'clock arrived; the pastry-
cook's men went ashore; the dinner was completely laid out; and Mr.
Percy Noakes locked the principal cabin, and put the key in his
pocket, in order that it might be suddenly disclosed, in all its
magnificence, to the eyes of the astonished company. The band came
on board, and so did the wine.
Ten minutes to nine, and the committee embarked in a body. There
was Mr. Hardy, in a blue jacket and waistcoat, white trousers, silk
stockings, and pumps--in full aquatic costume, with a straw hat on
his head, and an immense telescope under his arm; and there was the
young gentleman with the green spectacles, in nankeen
inexplicables, with a ditto waistcoat and bright buttons, like the
pictures of Paul--not the saint, but he of Virginia notoriety. The
remainder of the committee, dressed in white hats, light jackets,
waistcoats, and trousers, looked something between waiters and West
Nine o'clock struck, and the company arrived in shoals. Mr. Samuel
Briggs, Mrs. Briggs, and the Misses Briggs, made their appearance
in a smart private wherry. The three guitars, in their respective
dark green cases, were carefully stowed away in the bottom of the
boat, accompanied by two immense portfolios of music, which it
would take at least a week's incessant playing to get through. The
Tauntons arrived at the same moment with more music, and a lion--a
gentleman with a bass voice and an incipient red moustache. The
colours of the Taunton party were pink; those of the Briggses a
light blue. The Tauntons had artificial flowers in their bonnets;
here the Briggses gained a decided advantage--they wore feathers.
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