The Fatal Boots
William Makepeace Thackeray
THE FATAL BOOTS.
by William Makepeace Thackeray
THE FATAL BOOTS:--
January.--The Birth of the Year
June.--Marrowbones and Cleavers
August.--Dogs have their Days
September.--Plucking a Goose
October.--Mars and Venus in Opposition
November.--A General Post Delivery
December.--"The Winter of Our Discontent"
THE FATAL BOOTS
JANUARY.--THE BIRTH OF THE YEAR.
Some poet has observed, that if any man would write down what has
really happened to him in this mortal life, he would be sure to
make a good book, though he never had met with a single adventure
from his birth to his burial. How much more, then, must I, who
HAVE had adventures, most singular, pathetic, and unparalleled, be
able to compile an instructive and entertaining volume for the use
of the public.
I don't mean to say that I have killed lions, or seen the wonders
of travel in the deserts of Arabia or Prussia; or that I have been
a very fashionable character, living with dukes and peeresses, and
writing my recollections of them, as the way now is. I never left
this my native isle, nor spoke to a lord (except an Irish one, who
had rooms in our house, and forgot to pay three weeks' lodging and
extras); but, as our immortal bard observes, I have in the course
of my existence been so eaten up by the slugs and harrows of
outrageous fortune, and have been the object of such continual and
extraordinary ill-luck, that I believe it would melt the heart of a
milestone to read of it--that is, if a milestone had a heart of
anything but stone.
Twelve of my adventures, suitable for meditation and perusal during
the twelve months of the year, have been arranged by me for this
work. They contain a part of the history of a great, and,
confidently I may say, a GOOD man. I was not a spendthrift like
other men. I never wronged any man of a shilling, though I am as
sharp a fellow at a bargain as any in Europe. I never injured a
fellow-creature; on the contrary, on several occasions, when
injured myself, have shown the most wonderful forbearance. I come
of a tolerably good family; and yet, born to wealth--of an
inoffensive disposition, careful of the money that I had, and eager
to get more,--I have been going down hill ever since my journey of
life began, and have been pursued by a complication of misfortunes
such as surely never happened to any man but the unhappy Bob
Bob Stubbs is my name; and I haven't got a shilling: I have borne
the commission of lieutenant in the service of King George, and am
NOW--but never mind what I am now, for the public will know in a
few pages more. My father was of the Suffolk Stubbses--a well-to-
do gentleman of Bungay. My grandfather had been a respected
attorney in that town, and left my papa a pretty little fortune. I
was thus the inheritor of competence, and ought to be at this
moment a gentleman.
My misfortunes may be said to have commenced about a year before my
birth, when my papa, a young fellow pretending to study the law in
London, fell madly in love with Miss Smith, the daughter of a
tradesman, who did not give her a sixpence, and afterwards became
bankrupt. My papa married this Miss Smith, and carried her off to
the country, where I was born, in an evil hour for me.
Were I to attempt to describe my early years, you would laugh at me
as an impostor; but the following letter from mamma to a friend,
after her marriage, will pretty well show you what a poor foolish
creature she was; and what a reckless extravagant fellow was my
other unfortunate parent:--
"TO MISS ElIZA KICKS, IN GRACECHURCH STREET, LONDON.
"OH, ELIZA! your Susan is the happiest girl under heaven! My
Thomas is an angel! not a tall grenadier-like looking fellow, such
as I always vowed I would marry:--on the contrary, he is what the
world would call dumpy, and I hesitate not to confess, that his
eyes have a cast in them. But what then? when one of his eyes is
fixed on me, and one on my babe, they are lighted up with an
affection which my pen cannot describe, and which, certainly, was
never bestowed upon any woman so strongly as upon your happy Susan
"When he comes home from shooting, or the farm, if you COULD see
dear Thomas with me and our dear little Bob! as I sit on one knee,
and baby on the other, and as he dances us both about. I often
wish that we had Sir Joshua, or some great painter, to depict the
group; for sure it is the prettiest picture in the whole world, to
see three such loving merry people.
"Dear baby is the most lovely little creature that CAN POSSIBLY
BE,--the very IMAGE of papa; he is cutting his teeth, and the
delight of EVERYBODY. Nurse says that, when he is older he will
get rid of his squint, and his hair will get a GREAT DEAL less red.
Doctor Bates is as kind, and skilful, and attentive as we could
desire. Think what a blessing to have had him! Ever since poor
baby's birth, it has never had a day of quiet; and he has been
obliged to give it from three to four doses every week;--how
thankful ought we to be that the DEAR THING is as well as it is!
It got through the measles wonderfully; then it had a little rash;
and then a nasty hooping-cough; and then a fever, and continual
pains in its poor little stomach, crying, poor dear child, from
morning till night.
"But dear Tom is an excellent nurse; and many and many a night has
he had no sleep, dear man! in consequence of the poor little baby.
He walks up and down with it FOR HOURS, singing a kind of song
(dear fellow, he has no more voice than a tea-kettle), and bobbing
his head backwards and forwards, and looking, in his nightcap and
dressing-gown, SO DROLL. Oh, Eliza! how you would laugh to see
"We have one of the best nursemaids IN THE WORLD,--an Irishwoman,
who is as fond of baby almost as his mother (but that can NEVER
BE). She takes it to walk in the park for hours together, and I
really don't know why Thomas dislikes her. He says she is tipsy,
very often, and slovenly, which I cannot conceive;--to be sure, the
nurse is sadly dirty, and sometimes smells very strong of gin.
"But what of that?--these little drawbacks only make home more
pleasant. When one thinks how many mothers have NO nursemaids: how
many poor dear children have no doctors: ought we not to be
thankful for Mary Malowney, and that Dr. Bates's bill is forty-
seven pounds? How ill must dear baby have been, to require so much
"But they are a sad expense, these dear babies, after all. Fancy,
Eliza, how much this Mary Malowney costs us. Ten shillings every
week; a glass of brandy or gin at dinner; three pint-bottles of Mr.
Thrale's best porter every day,--making twenty-one in a week, and
nine hundred and ninety in the eleven months she has been with us.
Then, for baby, there is Dr. Bates's bill of forty-five guineas,
two guineas for christening, twenty for a grand christening supper
and ball (rich uncle John mortally offended because he was made
godfather, and had to give baby a silver cup: he has struck Thomas
out of his will: and old Mr. Firkin quite as much hurt because he
was NOT asked: he will not speak to me or Thomas in consequence)
twenty guineas for flannels, laces, little gowns, caps, napkins,
and such baby's ware: and all this out of 300L. a year! But Thomas
expects to make A GREAT DEAL by his farm.
"We have got the most charming country-house YOU CAN IMAGINE: it is
QUITE SHUT IN by trees, and so retired that, though only thirty
miles from London, the post comes to us but once a week. The
roads, it must be confessed, are execrable; it is winter now, and
we are up to our knees in mud and snow. But oh, Eliza! how happy
we are: with Thomas (he has had a sad attack of rheumatism, dear
man!) and little Bobby, and our kind friend Dr. Bates, who comes so
far to see us, I leave you to fancy that we have a charming merry
party, and do not care for all the gayeties of Ranelagh.
"Adieu! dear baby is crying for his mamma. A thousand kisses from
There it is! Doctor's bills, gentleman-farming, twenty-one pints
of porter a week. In this way my unnatural parents were already
robbing me of my property.
I have called this chapter "cutting weather," partly in compliment
to the month of February, and partly in respect of my own
misfortunes, which you are going to read about. For I have often
thought that January (which is mostly twelfth-cake and holiday
time) is like the first four or five years of a little boy's life;
then comes dismal February, and the working-days with it, when
chaps begin to look out for themselves, after the Christmas and the
New Year's heyday and merrymaking are over, which our infancy may
well be said to be. Well can I recollect that bitter first of
February, when I first launched out into the world and appeared at
Doctor Swishtail's academy.
I began at school that life of prudence and economy which I have
carried on ever since. My mother gave me eighteenpence on setting
out (poor soul! I thought her heart would break as she kissed me,
and bade God bless me); and, besides, I had a small capital of my
own which I had amassed for a year previous. I'll tell you, what I
used to do. Wherever I saw six halfpence I took one. If it was
asked for I said I had taken it and gave it back;--if it was not
missed, I said nothing about it, as why should I?--those who don't
miss their money, don't lose their money. So I had a little
private fortune of three shillings, besides mother's eighteenpence.
At school they called me the copper-merchant, I had such lots of
Now, even at a preparatory school, a well-regulated boy may better
himself: and I can tell you I did. I never was in any quarrels: I
never was very high in the class or very low: but there was no chap
so much respected:--and why? I'D ALWAYS MONEY. The other boys
spent all theirs in the first day or two, and they gave me plenty
of cakes and barley-sugar then, I can tell you. I'd no need to
spend my own money, for they would insist upon treating me. Well,
in a week, when theirs was gone, and they had but their threepence
a week to look to for the rest of the half-year, what did I do?
Why, I am proud to say that three-halfpence out of the threepence a
week of almost all the young gentlemen at Dr. Swishtail's, came
into my pocket. Suppose, for instance, Tom Hicks wanted a slice of
gingerbread, who had the money? Little Bob Stubbs, to be sure.
"Hicks," I used to say, "I'LL buy you three halfp'orth of
gingerbread, if you'll give me threepence next Saturday." And he
agreed; and next Saturday came, and he very often could not pay me
more than three-halfpence. Then there was the threepence I was to
have THE NEXT Saturday. I'll tell you what I did for a whole half-
year:--I lent a chap, by the name of Dick Bunting, three-halfpence
the first Saturday for three-pence the next: he could not pay me
more than half when Saturday came, and I'm blest if I did not make
him pay me three-halfpence FOR THREE-AND-TWENTY WEEKS RUNNING,
making two shillings and tenpence-halfpenny. But he was a sad
dishonorable fellow, Dick Bunting; for after I'd been so kind to
him, and let him off for three-and-twenty-weeks the money he owed
me, holidays came, and threepence he owed me still. Well,
according to the common principles of practice, after six-weeks'
holidays, he ought to have paid me exactly sixteen shillings, which
was my due. For the
First week the 3d. would be 6d. | Fourth week . . . . . 4s.
Second week . . . . . 1s. | Fifth week . . . . . 8s.
Third week . . . . . 2s. | Sixth week . . . . . 16s.
Nothing could be more just; and yet--will it be believed? when
Bunting came back he offered me THREE-HALFPENCE! the mean,
However, I was even with him, I can tell you.--He spent all his
money in a fortnight, and THEN I screwed him down! I made him,
besides giving me a penny for a penny, pay me a quarter of his
bread and butter at breakfast and a quarter of his cheese at
supper; and before the half-year was out, I got from him a silver
fruit-knife, a box of compasses, and a very pretty silver-laced
waistcoat, in which I went home as proud as a king: and, what's
more, I had no less than three golden guineas in the pocket of it,
besides fifteen shillings, the knife, and a brass bottle-screw,
which I got from another chap. It wasn't bad interest for twelve
shillings--which was all the money I'd had in the year--was it?
Heigho! I've often wished that I could get such a chance again in
this wicked world; but men are more avaricious now than they used
to be in those dear early days.
Well, I went home in my new waistcoat as fine as a peacock; and
when I gave the bottle-screw to my father, begging him to take it
as a token of my affection for him, my dear mother burst into such
a fit of tears as I never saw, and kissed and hugged me fit to
smother me. "Bless him, bless him," says she, "to think of his old
father. And where did you purchase it, Bob?"--"Why, mother," says
I, "I purchased it out of my savings" (which was as true as the
gospel).--When I said this, mother looked round to father, smiling,
although she had tears in her eyes, and she took his hand, and with
her other hand drew me to her. "Is he not a noble boy?" says she
to my father: "and only nine years old!"--"Faith," says my father,
"he IS a good lad, Susan. Thank thee, my boy: and here is a crown-
piece in return for thy bottle-screw--it shall open us a bottle of
the very best too," says my father. And he kept his word. I
always was fond of good wine (though never, from a motive of proper
self-denial, having any in my cellar); and, by Jupiter! on this
night I had my little skinful,--for there was no stinting,--so
pleased were my dear parents with the bottle-screw. The best of it
was, it only cost me threepence originally, which a chap could not
Seeing this game was such a good one, I became very generous
towards my parents; and a capital way it is to encourage liberality
in children. I gave mamma a very neat brass thimble, and she gave
me a half-guinea piece. Then I gave her a very pretty needle-book,
which I made myself with an ace of spades from a new pack of cards
we had, and I got Sally, our maid, to cover it with a bit of pink
satin her mistress had given her; and I made the leaves of the
book, which I vandyked very nicely, out of a piece of flannel I had
had round my neck for a sore throat. It smelt a little of
hartshorn, but it was a beautiful needle-book; and mamma was so
delighted with it, that she went into town and bought me a gold-
laced hat. Then I bought papa a pretty china tobacco-stopper: but
I am sorry to say of my dear father that he was not so generous as
my mamma or myself, for he only burst out laughing, and did not
give me so much as a half-crown piece, which was the least I
expected from him. "I shan't give you anything, Bob, this time,"
says he; "and I wish, my boy, you would not make any more such
presents,--for, really, they are too expensive." Expensive indeed!
I hate meanness,--even in a father.
I must tell you about the silver-edged waistcoat which Bunting gave
me. Mamma asked me about it, and I told her the truth,--that it
was a present from one of the boys for my kindness to him. Well,
what does she do but writes back to Dr. Swishtail, when I went to
school, thanking him for his attention to her dear son, and sending
a shilling to the good and grateful little boy who had given me the
"What waistcoat is it," says the Doctor to me, "and who gave it to
"Bunting gave it me, sir," says I.
"Call Bunting!" and up the little ungrateful chap came. Would you
believe it, he burst into tears,--told that the waistcoat had been
given him by his mother, and that he had been forced to give it
for a debt to Copper-Merchant, as the nasty little blackguard
called me? He then said how, for three-halfpence, he had been
compelled to pay me three shillings (the sneak! as if he had been
OBLIGED to borrow the three-halfpence!)--how all the other boys
had been swindled (swindled!) by me in like manner,--and how,
with only twelve shillings, I had managed to scrape together four
guineas. . . . .
My courage almost fails me as I describe the shameful scene that
followed. The boys were called in, my own little account-book was
dragged out of my cupboard, to prove how much I had received from
each, and every farthing of my money was paid back to them. The
tyrant took the thirty shillings that my dear parents had given me,
and said he should put them into the poor-box at church; and, after
having made a long discourse to the boys about meanness and usury,
he said, "Take off your coat, Mr. Stubbs, and restore Bunting his
waistcoat." I did, and stood without coat and waistcoat in the
midst of the nasty grinning boys. I was going to put on my coat,--
"Stop!" says he. "TAKE DOWN HIS BREECHES!"
Ruthless, brutal villain! Sam Hopkins, the biggest boy, took them
down--horsed me--and I WAS FLOGGED, SIR: yes, flogged! O revenge!
I, Robert Stubbs, who had done nothing but what was right, was
brutally flogged at ten years of age!--Though February was the
shortest month, I remembered it long.
When my mamma heard of the treatment of her darling she was for
bringing an action against the schoolmaster, or else for tearing
his eyes out (when, dear soul! she would not have torn the eyes out
of a flea, had it been her own injury), and, at the very least, for
having me removed from the school where I had been so shamefully
treated. But papa was stern for once, and vowed that I had been
served quite right, declared that I should not be removed from
school, and sent old Swishtail a brace of pheasants for what he
called his kindness to me. Of these the old gentleman invited me
to partake, and made a very queer speech at dinner, as he was
cutting them up, about the excellence of my parents, and his own
determination to be KINDER STILL to me, if ever I ventured on such
practices again. So I was obliged to give up my old trade of
lending: for the Doctor declared that any boy who borrowed should
be flogged, and any one who PAID should be flogged twice as much.
There was no standing against such a prohibition as this, and my
little commerce was ruined.
I was not very high in the school: not having been able to get
farther than that dreadful Propria quae maribus in the Latin
grammar, of which, though I have it by heart even now, I never
could understand a syllable: but, on account of my size, my age,
and the prayers of my mother, was allowed to have the privilege of
the bigger boys, and on holidays to walk about in the town. Great
dandies we were, too, when we thus went out. I recollect my
costume very well: a thunder-and-lightning coat, a white waistcoat
embroidered neatly at the pockets, a lace frill, a pair of knee-
breeches, and elegant white cotton or silk stockings. This did
very well, but still I was dissatisfied: I wanted A PAIR OF BOOTS.
Three boys in the school had boots--I was mad to have them too.
But my papa, when I wrote to him, would not hear of it; and three
pounds, the price of a pair, was too large a sum for my mother to
take from the housekeeping, or for me to pay, in the present
impoverished state of my exchequer; but the desire for the boots
was so strong, that have them I must at any rate.
There was a German bootmaker who had just set up in OUR town in
those days, who afterwards made his fortune in London. I
determined to have the boots from him, and did not despair, before
the end of a year or two, either to leave the school, when I should
not mind his dunning me, or to screw the money from mamma, and so
So I called upon this man--Stiffelkind was his name--and he took my
measure for a pair.
"You are a vary yong gentleman to wear dop-boots," said the
"I suppose, fellow," says I, "that is my business and not yours.
Either make the boots or not--but when you speak to a man of my
rank, speak respectfully!" And I poured out a number of oaths, in
order to impress him with a notion of my respectability.
They had the desired effect. "Stay, sir," says he. "I have a nice
littel pair of dop-boots dat I tink will jost do for you." And he
produced, sure enough, the most elegant things I ever saw. "Day
were made," said he, "for de Honorable Mr. Stiffney, of de Gards,
but were too small."
"Ah, indeed!" said I. "Stiffney is a relation of mine. And what,
you scoundrel, will you have the impudence to ask for these
things?" He replied, "Three pounds."
"Well," said I, "they are confoundedly dear; but, as you will have
a long time to wait for your money, why, I shall have my revenge
you see. The man looked alarmed, and began a speech: "Sare,--I
cannot let dem go vidout"--but a bright thought struck me, and I
interrupted--"Sir! don't sir me. Take off the boots, fellow, and,
hark ye, when you speak to a nobleman, don't say--Sir."
"A hundert tousand pardons, my lort," says he: "if I had known you
were a lort, I vood never have called you--Sir. Vat name shall I
put down in my books?"
"Name?--oh! why, Lord Cornwallis, to be sure," said I, as I walked
off in the boots.
"And vat shall I do vid my lort's shoes?"
"Keep them until I send for them," said I. And, giving him a
patronizing bow, I walked out of the shop, as the German tied up my
shoes in paper.
. . . . . .
This story I would not have told, but that my whole life turned
upon these accursed boots. I walked back to school as proud as a
peacock, and easily succeeded in satisfying the boys as to the
manner in which I came by my new ornaments.
Well, one fatal Monday morning--the blackest of all black-Mondays
that ever I knew--as we were all of us playing between school-
hours, I saw a posse of boys round a stranger, who seemed to be
looking out for one of us. A sudden trembling seized me--I knew it
was Stiffelkind. What had brought him here? He talked loud, and
seemed angry. So I rushed into the school-room, and burying my
head between my hands, began reading for dear life.
"I vant Lort Cornvallis," said the horrid bootmaker. "His lortship
belongs, I know, to dis honorable school, for I saw him vid de boys
at chorch yesterday."
"Vy, Lort Cornvallis to be sure--a very fat yong nobeman, vid red
hair: he squints a little, and svears dreadfully."
"There's no Lord Cornvallis here," said one; and there was a pause.
"Stop! I have it," says that odious Bunting. "IT MUST BE STUBBS!"
And "Stubbs! Stubbs!" every one cried out, while I was so busy at
my book as not to hear a word.
At last, two of the biggest chaps rushed into the schoolroom, and
seizing each an arm, run me into the playground--bolt up against
"Dis is my man. I beg your lortship's pardon," says he, "I have
brought your lortship's shoes, vich you left. See, dey have been
in dis parcel ever since you vent avay in my boots."
"Shoes, fellow!" says I. "I never saw your face before!" For I
knew there was nothing for it but brazening it out. "Upon the
honor of a gentleman!" said I, turning round to the boys. They
hesitated; and if the trick had turned in my favor, fifty of them
would have seized hold of Stiffelkind and drubbed him soundly.
"Stop!" says Bunting (hang him!) "Let's see the shoes. If they
fit him, why then the cobbler's right." They did fit me; and not
only that, but the name of STUBBS was written in them at full
"Vat!" said Stiffelkind. "Is he not a lort? So help me Himmel, I
never did vonce tink of looking at de shoes, which have been lying
ever since in dis piece of brown paper." And then, gathering anger
as he went on, he thundered out so much of his abuse of me, in his
German-English, that the boys roared with laughter. Swishtail came
in in the midst of the disturbance, and asked what the noise meant.
"It's only Lord Cornwallis, sir," said the boys, "battling with his
shoemaker about the price of a pair of top-boots."
"Oh, sir," said I, "it was only in fun that I called myself Lord
"In fun!--Where are the boots? And you, sir, give me your bill."
My beautiful boots were brought; and Stiffelkind produced his bill.
"Lord Cornwallis to Samuel Stiffelkind, for a pair of boots--four
"You have been fool enough, sir," says the Doctor, looking very
stern, "to let this boy impose on you as a lord; and knave enough
to charge him double the value of the article you sold him. Take
back the boots, sir! I won't pay a penny of your bill; nor can you
get a penny. As for you, sir, you miserable swindler and cheat, I
shall not flog you as I did before, but I shall send you home: you
are not fit to be the companion of honest boys."
"SUPPOSE WE DUCK HIM before he goes?" piped out a very small voice.
The Doctor grinned significantly, and left the school-room; and the
boys knew by this they might have their will. They seized me and
carried me to the playground pump: they pumped upon me until I was
half dead; and the monster, Stiffelkind, stood looking on for the
half-hour the operation lasted.
I suppose the Doctor, at last, thought I had had pumping enough,
for he rang the school-bell, and the boys were obliged to leave me.
As I got out of the trough, Stiffelkind was alone with me. "Vell,
my lort," says he, "you have paid SOMETHING for dese boots, but not
all. By Jubider, YOU SHALL NEVER HEAR DE END OF DEM." And I
After this, as you may fancy, I left this disgusting establishment,
and lived for some time along with pa and mamma at home. My
education was finished, at least mamma and I agreed that it was;
and from boyhood until hobbadyhoyhood (which I take to be about the
sixteenth year of the life of a young man, and may be likened to
the month of April when spring begins to bloom)--from fourteen
until seventeen, I say, I remained at home, doing nothing--for
which I have ever since had a great taste--the idol of my mamma,
who took part in all my quarrels with father, and used regularly to
rob the weekly expenses in order to find me in pocket-money. Poor
soul! many and many is the guinea I have had from her in that way;
and so she enabled me to cut a very pretty figure.
Papa was for having me at this time articled to a merchant, or put
to some profession; but mamma and I agreed that I was born to be a
gentleman and not a tradesman, and the army was the only place for
me. Everybody was a soldier in those times, for the French war had
just begun, and the whole country was swarming with militia
regiments. "We'll get him a commission in a marching regiment,"
said my father. "As we have no money to purchase him up, he'll
FIGHT his way, I make no doubt." And papa looked at me with a kind
of air of contempt, as much as to say he doubted whether I should
be very eager for such a dangerous way of bettering myself.
I wish you could have heard mamma's screech when he talked so
coolly of my going out to fight! "What! send him abroad, across
the horrid, horrid sea--to be wrecked and perhaps drowned, and only
to land for the purpose of fighting the wicked Frenchmen,--to be
wounded, and perhaps kick--kick--killed! Oh, Thomas, Thomas! would
you murder me and your boy?" There was a regular scene. However,
it ended--as it always did--in mother's getting the better, and it
was settled that I should go into the militia. And why not? The
uniform is just as handsome, and the danger not half so great. I
don't think in the course of my whole military experience I ever
fought anything, except an old woman, who had the impudence to
hallo out, "Heads up, lobster!"--Well, I joined the North Bungays,
and was fairly launched into the world.
I was not a handsome man, I know; but there was SOMETHING about me--
that's very evident--for the girls always laughed when they talked
to me, and the men, though they affected to call me a poor little
creature, squint-eyes, knock-knees, redhead, and so on, were
evidently annoyed by my success, for they hated me so confoundedly.
Even at the present time they go on, though I have given up
gallivanting, as I call it. But in the April of my existence,--
that is, in anno Domini 1791, or so--it was a different case; and
having nothing else to do, and being bent upon bettering my
condition, I did some very pretty things in that way. But I was
not hot-headed and imprudent, like most young fellows. Don't fancy
I looked for beauty! Pish!--I wasn't such a fool. Nor for temper;
I don't care about a bad temper: I could break any woman's heart in
two years. What I wanted was to get on in the world. Of course I
didn't PREFER an ugly woman, or a shrew; and when the choice
offered, would certainly put up with a handsome, good-humored girl,
with plenty of money, as any honest man would.
Now there were two tolerably rich girls in our parts: Miss Magdalen
Crutty, with twelve thousand pounds (and, to do her justice, as
plain a girl as ever I saw), and Miss Mary Waters, a fine, tall,
plump, smiling, peach-cheeked, golden-haired, white-skinned lass,
with only ten. Mary Waters lived with her uncle, the Doctor, who
had helped me into the world, and who was trusted with this little
orphan charge very soon after. My mother, as you have heard, was
so fond of Bates, and Bates so fond of little Mary, that both, at
first, were almost always in our house; and I used to call her my
little wife as soon as I could speak, and before she could walk
almost. It was beautiful to see us, the neighbors said.
Well, when her brother, the lieutenant of an India ship, came to be
captain, and actually gave Mary five thousand pounds, when she was
about ten years old, and promised her five thousand more, there was
a great talking, and bobbing, and smiling between the Doctor and my
parents, and Mary and I were left together more than ever, and she
was told to call me her little husband. And she did; and it was
considered a settled thing from that day. She was really amazingly
fond of me.
Can any one call me mercenary after that? Though Miss Crutty had
twelve thousand, and Mary only ten (five in hand, and five in the
bush), I stuck faithfully to Mary. As a matter of course, Miss
Crutty hated Miss Waters. The fact was, Mary had all the country
dangling after her, and not a soul would come to Magdalen, for all
her 12,000L. I used to be attentive to her though (as it's always
useful to be); and Mary would sometimes laugh and sometimes cry at
my flirting with Magdalen. This I thought proper very quickly to
check. "Mary," said I, "you know that my love for you is
disinterested,--for I am faithful to you, though Miss Crutty is
richer than you. Don't fly into a rage, then, because I pay her
attentions, when you know that my heart and my promise are engaged
The fact is, to tell a little bit of a secret, there is nothing
like the having two strings to your bow. "Who knows?" thought I.
"Mary may die; and then where are my 10,000L.?" So I used to be
very kind indeed to Miss Crutty; and well it was that I was so: for
when I was twenty and Mary eighteen, I'm blest if news did not
arrive that Captain Waters, who was coming home to England with all
his money in rupees, had been taken--ship, rupees, self and all--by
a French privateer; and Mary, instead of 10,000L. had only 5,000L.,
making a difference of no less than 350L. per annum betwixt her and
I had just joined my regiment (the famous North Bungay Fencibles,
Colonel Craw commanding) when this news reached me; and you may
fancy how a young man, in an expensive regiment and mess, having
uniforms and what not to pay for, and a figure to cut in the world,
felt at hearing such news! "My dearest Robert," wrote Miss Waters,
"will deplore my dear brother's loss: but not, I am sure, the money
which that kind and generous soul had promised me. I have still
five thousand pounds, and with this and your own little fortune (I
had 1,000L. in the Five per Cents!) we shall be as happy and
contented as possible."
Happy and contented indeed! Didn't I know how my father got on
with his 300L. a year, and how it was all he could do out of it to
add a hundred a year to my narrow income, and live himself! My
mind was made up. I instantly mounted the coach and flew to our
village,--to Mr. Crutty's, of course. It was next door to Doctor
Bates's; but I had no business THERE.
I found Magdalen in the garden. "Heavens, Mr. Stubbs!" said she,
as in my new uniform I appeared before her, "I really did never--
such a handsome officer--expect to see you." And she made as if
she would blush, and began to tremble violently. I led her to a
garden-seat. I seized her hand--it was not withdrawn. I pressed
it;--I thought the pressure was returned. I flung myself on my
knees, and then I poured into her ear a little speech which I had
made on the top of the coach. "Divine Miss Crutty," said I; "idol
of my soul! It was but to catch one glimpse of you that I passed
through this garden. I never intended to breathe the secret
passion" (oh, no; of course not) "which was wearing my life away.
You know my unfortunate pre-engagement--it is broken, and FOR EVER!
I am free;--free, but to be your slave,--your humblest, fondest,
truest slave!" And so on. . . . .
"Oh, Mr. Stubbs," said she, as I imprinted a kiss upon her cheek,
"I can't refuse you; but I fear you are a sad naughty man. . . . ."
Absorbed in the delicious reverie which was caused by the dear
creature's confusion, we were both silent for a while, and should
have remained so for hours perhaps, so lost were we in happiness,
had I not been suddenly roused by a voice exclaiming from behind
"DON'T CRY, MARY! HE IS A SWINDLING, SNEAKING SCOUNDREL, AND YOU
ARE WELL RID OF HIM!"
I turned round. O heaven, there stood Mary, weeping on Doctor
Bates's arm, while that miserable apothecary was looking at me with
the utmost scorn. The gardener, who had let me in, had told them
of my arrival, and now stood grinning behind them. "Imperence!"
was my Magdalen's only exclamation, as she flounced by with the
utmost self-possession, while I, glancing daggers at the SPIES,
followed her. We retired to the parlor, where she repeated to me
the strongest assurances of her love.
I thought I was a made man. Alas! I was only an APRIL FOOL!
As the month of May is considered, by poets and other philosophers,
to be devoted by Nature to the great purpose of love-making, I may
as well take advantage of that season and acquaint you with the
result of MY amours.
Young, gay, fascinating, and an ensign--I had completely won the
heart of my Magdalen; and as for Miss Waters and her nasty uncle
the Doctor, there was a complete split between us, as you may
fancy; Miss pretending, forsooth, that she was glad I had broken
off the match, though she would have given her eyes, the little
minx, to have had it on again. But this was out of the question.
My father, who had all sorts of queer notions, said I had acted
like a rascal in the business; my mother took my part, in course,
and declared I acted rightly, as I always did: and I got leave of
absence from the regiment in order to press my beloved Magdalen to
marry me out of hand--knowing, from reading and experience, the
extraordinary mutability of human affairs.
Besides, as the dear girl was seventeen years older than myself,
and as bad in health as she was in temper, how was I to know that
the grim king of terrors might not carry her off before she became
mine? With the tenderest warmth, then, and most delicate ardor, I
continued to press my suit. The happy day was fixed--the ever
memorable 10th of May, 1792. The wedding-clothes were ordered;
and, to make things secure, I penned a little paragraph for the
county paper to this effect:--"Marriage in High Life. We
understand that Ensign Stubbs, of the North Bungay Fencibles, and
son of Thomas Stubbs, of Sloffemsquiggle, Esquire, is about to lead
to the hymeneal altar the lovely and accomplished daughter of
Solomon Crutty, Esquire, of the same place. A fortune of twenty
thousand pounds is, we hear, the lady's portion. 'None but the
brave deserve the fair.'"
. . . . . .
"Have you informed your relatives, my beloved?" said I to Magdalen,
one day after sending the above notice; "will any of them attend at
"Uncle Sam will, I dare say," said Miss Crutty, "dear mamma's
"And who WAS your dear mamma?" said I: for Miss Crutty's respected
parent had been long since dead, and I never heard her name
mentioned in the family.
Magdalen blushed, and cast down her eyes to the ground. "Mamma was
a foreigner," at last she said.
"And of what country?"
"A German. Papa married her when she was very young:--she was not
of a very good family," said Miss Crutty, hesitating.
"And what care I for family, my love!" said I, tenderly kissing the
knuckles of the hand which I held. "She must have been an angel
who gave birth to you."
"She was a shoemaker's daughter."
"A GERMAN SHOEMAKER! Hang 'em," thought I, "I have had enough of
them;" and so broke up this conversation, which did not somehow
. . . . . .
Well, the day was drawing near: the clothes were ordered; the banns
were read. My dear mamma had built a cake about the size of a
washing-tub; and I was only waiting for a week to pass to put me in
possession of twelve thousand pounds in the FIVE per Cents, as they
were in those days, heaven bless 'em! Little did I know the storm
that was brewing, and the disappointment which was to fall upon a
young man who really did his best to get a fortune.
. . . . . .
"Oh, Robert," said my Magdalen to me, two days before the match was
to come off, "I have SUCH a kind letter from uncle Sam in London.
I wrote to him as you wished. He says that he is coming down to-
morrow, that he has heard of you often, and knows your character
very well; and that he has got a VERY HANDSOME PRESENT for us!
What can it be, I wonder?"
"Is he rich, my soul's adored?" says I.
"He is a bachelor, with a fine trade, and nobody to leave his money
"His present can't be less than a thousand pounds?" says I.
"Or, perhaps, a silver tea-set, and some corner-dishes," says she.
But we could not agree to this: it was too little--too mean for a
man of her uncle's wealth; and we both determined it must be the
"Dear good uncle! he's to be here by the coach," says Magdalen.
"Let us ask a little party to meet him." And so we did, and so
they came: my father and mother, old Crutty in his best wig, and
the parson who was to marry us the next day. The coach was to come
in at six. And there was the tea-table, and there was the punch-
bowl, and everybody ready and smiling to receive our dear uncle
Six o'clock came, and the coach, and the man from the "Green
Dragon" with a portmanteau, and a fat old gentleman walking behind,
of whom I just caught a glimpse--a venerable old gentleman: I
thought I'd seen him before.
. . . . . .
Then there was a ring at the bell; then a scuffling and bumping in
the passage: then old Crutty rushed out, and a great laughing and
talking, and "HOW ARE YOU?" and so on, was heard at the door; and
then the parlor-door was flung open, and Crutty cried out with a
"Good people all! my brother-in-law, Mr. STIFFELKIND!"
MR. STIFFELKIND!--I trembled as I heard the name!
Miss Crutty kissed him; mamma made him a curtsy, and papa made him
a bow; and Dr. Snorter, the parson, seized his hand and shook it
most warmly: then came my turn!
"Vat!" says he. "It is my dear goot yong frend from Doctor
Schvis'hentail's! is dis de yong gentleman's honorable moder"
(mamma smiled and made a curtsy), "and dis his fader? Sare and
madam, you should be broud of soch a sonn. And you my niece, if
you have him for a husband you vill be locky, dat is all. Vat dink
you, broder Croty, and Madame Stobbs, I 'ave made your sonn's
My mamma laughed, and said, "I did not know it, but I am sure, sir,
he has as pretty a leg for a boot as any in the whole county."
Old Stiffelkind roared louder. "A very nice leg, ma'am, and a very
SHEAP BOOT TOO. Vat! did you not know I make his boots? Perhaps
you did not know something else too--p'raps you did not know" (and
here the monster clapped his hand on the table and made the punch-
ladle tremble in the bowl)--"p'raps you did not know as dat yong
man, dat Stobbs, dat sneaking, baltry, squinting fellow, is as
vicked as he is ogly. He bot a pair of boots from me and never
paid for dem. Dat is noting, nobody never pays; but he bought a
pair of boots, and called himself Lord Cornvallis. And I was fool
enough to believe him vonce. But look you, niece Magdalen, I 'ave
got five tousand pounds: if you marry him I vill not give you a
benny. But look you what I will gif you: I bromised you a bresent,
and I will give you DESE!"
And the old monster produced THOSE VERY BOOTS which Swishtail had
made him take back.
. . . . . .
I DIDN'T marry Miss Crutty: I am not sorry for it though. She was
a nasty, ugly, ill-tempered wretch, and I've always said so ever
And all this arose from those infernal boots, and that unlucky
paragraph in the county paper--I'll tell you how.
In the first place, it was taken up as a quiz by one of the wicked,
profligate, unprincipled organs of the London press, who chose to
be very facetious about the "Marriage in High Life," and made all
sorts of jokes about me and my dear Miss Crutty.
Secondly, it was read in this London paper by my mortal enemy,
Bunting, who had been introduced to old Stiffelkind's acquaintance
by my adventure with him, and had his shoes made regularly by that
Thirdly, he happened to want a pair of shoes mended at this
particular period, and as he was measured by the disgusting old
High-Dutch cobbler, he told him his old friend Stubbs was going to
"And to whom?" said old Stiffelkind. "To a voman wit geld, I vill
take my oath."
"Yes," says Bunting, "a country girl--a Miss Magdalen Carotty or
Crotty, at a place called Sloffemsquiggle."
"SHLOFFEMSCHWIEGEL!" bursts out the dreadful bootmaker. "Mein
Gott, mein Gott! das geht nicht! I tell you, sare, it is no go.
Miss Crotty is my niece. I vill go down myself. I vill never let
her marry dat goot-for-nothing schwindler and tief." SUCH was the
language that the scoundrel ventured to use regarding me!
JUNE.--MARROWBONES AND CLEAVERS.
Was there ever such confounded ill-luck? My whole life has been a
tissue of ill-luck: although I have labored perhaps harder than any
man to make a fortune, something always tumbled it down. In love
and in war I was not like others. In my marriages, I had an eye to
the main chance; and you see how some unlucky blow would come and
throw them over. In the army I was just as prudent, and just as
unfortunate. What with judicious betting, and horse-swapping,
good-luck at billiards, and economy, I do believe I put by my pay
every year,--and that is what few can say who have but an allowance
of a hundred a year.
I'll tell you how it was. I used to be very kind to the young men;
I chose their horses for them, and their wine: and showed them how
to play billiards, or ecarte, of long mornings, when there was
nothing better to do. I didn't cheat: I'd rather die than cheat;--
but if fellows WILL play, I wasn't the man to say no--why should I?
There was one young chap in our regiment of whom I really think I
cleared 300L. a year.
His name was Dobble. He was a tailor's son, and wanted to be a
gentleman. A poor weak young creature; easy to be made tipsy; easy
to be cheated; and easy to be frightened. It was a blessing for
him that I found him; for if anybody else had, they would have
plucked him of every shilling.
Ensign Dobble and I were sworn friends. I rode his horses for him,
and chose his champagne, and did everything, in fact, that a
superior mind does for an inferior,--when the inferior has got the
money. We were inseparables,--hunting everywhere in couples. We
even managed to fall in love with two sisters, as young soldiers
will do, you know; for the dogs fall in love, with every change of
Well, once, in the year 1793 (it was just when the French had
chopped poor Louis's head off), Dobble and I, gay young chaps as
ever wore sword by side, had cast our eyes upon two young ladies by
the name of Brisket, daughters of a butcher in the town where we
were quartered. The dear girls fell in love with us, of course.
And many a pleasant walk in the country, many a treat to a tea-
garden, many a smart ribbon and brooch used Dobble and I (for his
father allowed him 600L., and our purses were in common) present to
these young ladies. One day, fancy our pleasure at receiving a
note couched thus:--
"DEER CAPTING STUBBS AND DOBBLE--Miss Briskets presents their
compliments, and as it is probble that our papa will be till twelve
at the corprayshun dinner, we request the pleasure of their company
Didn't we go! Punctually at six we were in the little back-parlor;
we quaffed more Bohea, and made more love, than half a dozen
ordinary men could. At nine, a little punch-bowl succeeded to the
little teapot; and, bless the girls! a nice fresh steak was
frizzling on the gridiron for our supper. Butchers were butchers
then, and their parlor was their kitchen too; at least old
Brisket's was--one door leading into the shop, and one into the
yard, on the other side of which was the slaughter-house.
Fancy, then, our horror when, just at this critical time, we heard
the shop-door open, a heavy staggering step on the flags, and a
loud husky voice from the shop, shouting, "Hallo, Susan; hallo,
Betsy! show a light!" Dobble turned as white as a sheet; the two
girls each as red as a lobster; I alone preserved my presence of
mind. "The back-door," says I--"The dog's in the court," say they.
"He's not so bad as the man," said I. "Stop!" cries Susan,
flinging open the door, and rushing to the fire. "Take THIS and
perhaps it will quiet him."
What do you think "THIS" was? I'm blest if it was not the STEAK!
She pushed us out, patted and hushed the dog, and was in again in a
minute. The moon was shining on the court, and on the slaughter-
house, where there hung the white ghastly-looking carcasses of a
couple of sheep; a great gutter ran down the court--a gutter of
BLOOD! The dog was devouring his beefsteak (OUR beefsteak) in
silence; and we could see through the little window the girls
hustling about to pack up the supper-things, and presently the
shop-door being opened, old Brisket entering, staggering, angry,
and drunk. What's more, we could see, perched on a high stool, and
nodding politely, as if to salute old Brisket, the FEATHER OF
DOBBLE'S COCKED HAT! When Dobble saw it, he turned white, and
deadly sick; and the poor fellow, in an agony of fright, sunk
shivering down upon one of the butcher's cutting-blocks, which was
in the yard.
We saw old Brisket look steadily (as steadily as he could) at the
confounded, impudent, pert, waggling feather; and then an idea
began to dawn upon his mind, that there was a head to the hat; and
then he slowly rose up--he was a man of six feet, and fifteen
stone--he rose up, put on his apron and sleeves, and TOOK DOWN HIS
"Betsy," says he, "open the yard door." But the poor girls
screamed, and flung on their knees, and begged, and wept, and did
their very best to prevent him. "OPEN THE YARD DOOR!" says he,
with a thundering loud voice; and the great bull-dog, hearing it,
started up and uttered a yell which sent me flying to the other end
of the court.--Dobble couldn't move; he was sitting on the block,
blubbering like a baby.
The door opened, and out Mr. Brisket came.
"TO HIM, JOWLER!" says he. "KEEP HIM, JOWLER!"--and the horrid dog
flew at me, and I flew back into the corner, and drew my sword,
determining to sell my life dearly.
"That's it," says Brisket. "Keep him there,--good dog,--good dog!
And now, sir," says he, turning round to Dobble, "is this your
"Yes," says Dobble, fit to choke with fright.
"Well, then," says Brisket, "it's my--(hic)--my painful duty to--
(hic)--to tell you, that as I've got your hat, I must have your
head;--it's painful, but it must be done. You'd better--(hic)--
settle yourself com--comfumarably against that--(hic)--that block,
and I'll chop it off before you can say Jack--(hic)--no, I mean
Dobble went down on his knees and shrieked out, "I'm an only son,
Mr. Brisket! I'll marry her, sir; I will, upon my honor, sir.--
Consider my mother, sir; consider my mother."
"That's it, sir," says Brisket that's a good--(hic)--a good boy;--
just put your head down quietly--and I'll have it off--yes, off--as
if you were Louis the Six--the Sixtix--the Siktickleteenth.--I'll
chop the other CHAP AFTERWARDS."
When I heard this, I made a sudden bound back, and gave such a cry
as any man might who was in such a way. The ferocious Jowler,
thinking I was going to escape, flew at my throat; screaming
furious, I flung out my arms in a kind of desperation,--and, to my
wonder, down fell the dog, dead, and run through the body!
. . . . . .
At this moment a posse of people rushed in upon old Brisket,--one
of his daughters had had the sense to summon them,--and Dobble's
head was saved. And when they saw the dog lying dead at my feet,
my ghastly look, my bloody sword, they gave me no small credit for
my bravery. "A terrible fellow that Stubbs," said they; and so the
mess said, the next day.
I didn't tell them that the dog had committed SUICIDE--why should
I? And I didn't say a word about Dobble's cowardice. I said he
was a brave fellow, and fought like a tiger; and this prevented HIM
from telling tales. I had the dogskin made into a pair of pistol-
holsters, and looked so fierce, and got such a name for courage in
our regiment, that when we had to meet the regulars, Bob Stubbs was
always the man put forward to support the honor of the corps. The
women, you know, adore courage; and such was my reputation at this
time, that I might have had my pick out of half a dozen, with
three, four, or five thousand pounds apiece, who were dying for
love of me and my red coat. But I wasn't such a fool. I had been
twice on the point of marriage, and twice disappointed; and I vowed
by all the Saints to have a wife, and a rich one. Depend upon
this, as an infallible maxim to guide you through life: IT'S AS
EASY TO GET A RICH WIFE AS A POOR ONE;--the same bait that will
hook a fly will hook a salmon.
Dobble's reputation for courage was not increased by the butcher's-
dog adventure; but mine stood very high: little Stubbs was voted
the boldest chap of all the bold North Bungays. And though I must
confess, what was proved by subsequent circumstances, that nature
has NOT endowed me with a large, or even, I may say, an average
share of bravery, yet a man is very willing to flatter himself to
the contrary; and, after a little time, I got to believe that my
killing the dog was an action of undaunted courage, and that I was
as gallant as any of the one hundred thousand heroes of our army.
I always had a military taste--it's only the brutal part of the
profession, the horrid fighting and blood, that I don't like.
I suppose the regiment was not very brave itself--being only
militia; but certain it was, that Stubbs was considered a most
terrible fellow, and I swore so much, and looked so fierce, that
you would have fancied I had made half a hundred campaigns. I was
second in several duels; the umpire in all disputes; and such a
crack-shot myself, that fellows were shy of insulting me. As for
Dobble, I took him under my protection; and he became so attached
to me, that we ate, drank, and rode together every day; his father
didn't care for money, so long as his son was in good company--and
what so good as that of the celebrated Stubbs? Heigho! I WAS good
company in those days, and a brave fellow too, as I should have
remained, but for--what I shall tell the public immediately.
It happened, in the fatal year ninety-six, that the brave North
Bungays were quartered at Portsmouth, a maritime place, which I
need not describe, and which I wish I had never seen. I might have
been a General now, or, at least, a rich man.
The red-coats carried everything before them in those days; and I,
such a crack character as I was in my regiment, was very well
received by the townspeople: many dinners I had; many tea-parties;
many lovely young ladies did I lead down the pleasant country-
Well, although I had had the two former rebuffs in love which I
have described, my heart was still young; and the fact was, knowing
that a girl with a fortune was my only chance, I made love here as
furiously as ever. I shan't describe the lovely creatures on whom
I fixed, whilst at Portsmouth. I tried more than--several--and it
is a singular fact, which I never have been able to account for,
that, successful as I was with ladies of maturer age, by the young
ones I was refused regular.
But "faint heart never won fair lady;" and so I went on, and on,
until I had got a Miss Clopper, a tolerable rich navy-contractor's
daughter, into such a way, that I really don't think she could have
refused me. Her brother, Captain Clopper, was in a line regiment,
and helped me as much as ever he could: he swore I was such a brave
As I had received a number of attentions from Clopper, I determined
to invite him to dinner; which I could do without any sacrifice of
my principle upon this point: for the fact is, Dobble lived at an
inn, and as he sent all his bills to his father, I made no scruple
to use his table. We dined in the coffee-room, Dobble bringing HIS
friend; and so we made a party CARRY, as the French say. Some
naval officers were occupied in a similar way at a table next to
Well--I didn't spare the bottle, either for myself or for my
friends; and we grew very talkative, and very affectionate as the
drinking went on. Each man told stories of his gallantry in the
field, or amongst the ladies, as officers will, after dinner.
Clopper confided to the company his wish that I should marry his
sister, and vowed that he thought me the best fellow in Christendom.
Ensign Dobble assented to this. "But let Miss Clopper beware,"
says he, "for Stubbs is a sad fellow: he has had I don't know how
many liaisons already; and he has been engaged to I don't know how
"Indeed!" says Clopper. "Come, Stubbs, tell us your adventures."
"Psha!" said I, modestly, "there is nothing, indeed, to tell. I
have been in love, my dear boy--who has not?--and I have been
jilted--who has not?"
Clopper swore he would blow his sister's brains out if ever SHE
served me so.
"Tell him about Miss Crutty," said Dobble. "He! he! Stubbs served
THAT woman out, anyhow; she didn't jilt HIM. I'll be sworn."
"Really, Dobble, you are too bad, and should not mention names.
The fact is, the girl was desperately in love with me, and had
money--sixty thousand pounds, upon my reputation. Well, everything
was arranged, when who should come down from London but a
"Well, and did he prevent the match?"
"Prevent it--yes, sir, I believe you he did; though not in the
sense that YOU mean. He would have given his eyes--ay, and ten
thousand pounds more--if I would have accepted the girl, but I
"Why, in the name of goodness?"
"Sir, her uncle was a SHOEMAKER. I never would debase myself by
marrying into such a family."
"Of course not," said Dobble; "he couldn't, you know. Well, now--
tell him about the other girl, Mary Waters, you know."
"Hush, Dobble, hush! don't you see one of those naval officers has
turned round and heard you? My dear Clopper, it was a mere
"Well, but let's have it," said Clopper--"let's have it. I won't
tell my sister, you know." And he put his hand to his nose and
looked monstrous wise.
"Nothing of that sort, Clopper--no, no--'pon honor--little Bob
Stubbs is no LIBERTINE; and the story is very simple. You see that
my father has a small place, merely a few hundred acres, at
Sloffemsquiggle. Isn't it a funny name? Hang it, there's the
naval gentleman staring again,"--(I looked terribly fierce as I
returned this officer's stare, and continued in a loud careless
voice). Well, at this Sloffemsquiggle there lived a girl, a Miss
Waters, the niece of some blackguard apothecary in the neighborhood;
but my mother took a fancy to the girl, and had her up to the park
and petted her. We were both young--and--and--the girl fell in love
with me, that's the fact. I was obliged to repel some rather warm
advances that she made me; and here, upon my honor as a gentleman,
you have all the story about which that silly Dobble makes such a
Just as I finished this sentence. I found myself suddenly taken by
the nose, and a voice shouting out,--
"Mr. Stubbs, you are A LIAR AND A SCOUNDREL! Take this, sir,--and
this, for daring to meddle with the name of an innocent lady."
I turned round as well as I could--for the ruffian had pulled me
out of my chair--and beheld a great marine monster, six feet high,
who was occupied in beating and kicking me, in the most
ungentlemanly manner, on my cheeks, my ribs, and between the tails
of my coat. "He is a liar, gentlemen, and a scoundrel! The
bootmaker had detected him in swindling, and so his niece refused
him. Miss Waters was engaged to him from childhood, and he
deserted her for the bootmaker's niece, who was richer."--And then
sticking a card between my stock and my coat-collar, in what is
called the scruff of my neck, the disgusting brute gave me another
blow behind my back, and left the coffee-room with his friends.
Dobble raised me up; and taking the card from my neck, read,
CAPTAIN WATERS. Clopper poured me out a glass of water, and said
in my ear, "If this is true, you are an infernal scoundrel, Stubbs;
and must fight me, after Captain Waters;" and he flounced out of
I had but one course to pursue. I sent the Captain a short and
contemptuous note, saying that he was beneath my anger. As for
Clopper, I did not condescend to notice his remark but in order to
get rid of the troublesome society of these low blackguards, I
determined to gratify an inclination I had long entertained, and
make a little tour. I applied for leave of absence, and set off
THAT VERY NIGHT. I can fancy the disappointment of the brutal
Waters, on coming, as he did, the next morning to my quarters and
finding me GONE. Ha! ha!
After this adventure I became sick of a military life--at least the
life of my own regiment, where the officers, such was their
unaccountable meanness and prejudice against me, absolutely refused
to see me at mess. Colonel Craw sent me a letter to this effect,
which I treated as it deserved.--I never once alluded to it in any
way, and have since never spoken a single word to any man in the
AUGUST.--DOGS HAVE THEIR DAYS.
See, now, what life is! I have had ill-luck on ill-luck from that
day to this. I have sunk in the world, and, instead of riding my
horse and drinking my wine, as a real gentleman should, have hardly
enough now to buy a pint of ale; ay, and am very glad when anybody
will treat me to one. Why, why was I born to undergo such
You must know that very soon after my adventure with Miss Crutty,
and that cowardly ruffian, Captain Waters (he sailed the day after
his insult to me, or I should most certainly have blown his brains
out; NOW he is living in England, and is my relation; but, of
course, I cut the fellow)--very soon after these painful events
another happened, which ended, too, in a sad disappointment. My
dear papa died, and, instead of leaving five thousand pounds, as I
expected at the very least, left only his estate, which was worth
but two. The land and house were left to me; to mamma and my
sisters he left, to be sure, a sum of two thousand pounds in the
hands of that eminent firm Messrs. Pump, Aldgate and Co., which
failed within six months after his demise, and paid in five years
about one shilling and ninepence in the pound; which really was all
my dear mother and sisters had to live upon.
The poor creatures were quite unused to money matters; and, would
you believe it? when the news came of Pump and Aldgate's failure,
mamma only smiled, and threw her eyes up to heaven, and said,
"Blessed be God, that we have still wherewithal to live. There are
tens of thousands in this world, dear children, who would count our
poverty riches." And with this she kissed my two sisters, who
began to blubber, as girls always will do, and threw their arms
round her neck, and then round my neck, until I was half stifled
with their embraces, and slobbered all over with their tears.
"Dearest mamma," said I, "I am very glad to see the noble manner in
which you bear your loss; and more still to know that you are so
rich as to be able to put up with it." The fact was, I really
thought the old lady had got a private hoard of her own, as many of
them have--a thousand pounds or so in a stocking. Had she put by
thirty pounds a year, as well she might, for the thirty years of
her marriage, there would have been nine hundred pounds clear, and
no mistake. But still I was angry to think that any such paltry
concealment had been practised--concealment too of MY money; so I
turned on her pretty sharply, and continued my speech. "You say,
Ma'am, that you are rich, and that Pump and Aldgate's failure has
no effect upon you. I am very happy to hear you say so, Ma'am--
very happy that you ARE rich; and I should like to know where your
property, my father's property, for you had none of your own,--I
should like to know where this money lies--WHERE YOU HAVE CONCEALED
IT, Ma'am; and, permit me to say, that when I agreed to board you
and my two sisters for eighty pounds a year, I did not know that
you had OTHER resources than those mentioned in my blessed father's
This I said to her because I hated the meanness of concealment, not
because I lost by the bargain of boarding them: for the three poor
things did not eat much more than sparrows: and I've often since
calculated that I had a clear twenty pounds a year profit out of
Mamma and the girls looked quite astonished when I made the speech.
"What does he mean?" said Lucy to Eliza.
Mamma repeated the question. "My beloved Robert, what concealment
are you talking of?"
"I am talking of concealed property, Ma'am," says I sternly.
"And do you--what--can you--do you really suppose that I have
concealed--any of that blessed sa-a-a-aint's prop-op-op-operty?"
screams out mamma. "Robert," says she--"Bob, my own darling boy--
my fondest, best beloved, now HE is gone" (meaning my late
governor--more tears)--"you don't, you cannot fancy that your own
mother, who bore you, and nursed you, and wept for you, and would
give her all to save you from a moment's harm--you don't suppose
that she would che-e-e-eat you!" And here she gave a louder
screech than ever, and flung back on the sofa; and one of my
sisters went and tumbled into her arms, and t'other went round, and
the kissing and slobbering scene went on again, only I was left
out, thank goodness. I hate such sentimentality.
"CHE-E-E-EAT ME," says I, mocking her. "What do you mean, then, by
saying you're so rich? Say, have you got money, or have you not?"
(And I rapped out a good number of oaths, too, which I don't put in
here; but I was in a dreadful fury, that's the fact.)
"So help me heaven," says mamma, in answer, going down on her knees
and smacking her two hands, "I have but a Queen Anne's guinea in
the whole of this wicked world."
"Then what, Madam, induces you to tell these absurd stories to me,
and to talk about your riches, when you know that you and your
daughters are beggars, Ma'am--BEGGARS?"
"My dearest boy, have we not got the house, and the furniture, and
a hundred a year still; and have you not great talents, which will
make all our fortunes?" says Mrs. Stubbs, getting up off her knees,
and making believe to smile as she clawed hold of my hand and
This was TOO cool. "YOU have got a hundred a year, Ma'am," says I--
"YOU have got a house? Upon my soul and honor this is the first I
ever heard of it; and I'll tell you what, Ma'am," says I (and it
cut her PRETTY SHARPLY too): "as you've got it, YOU'D BETTER GO AND
LIVE IN IT. I've got quite enough to do with my own house, and
every penny of my own income."
Upon this speech the old lady said nothing, but she gave a screech
loud enough to be heard from here to York, and down she fell--
kicking and struggling in a regular fit.
. . . . . .
I did not see Mrs. Stubbs for some days after this, and the girls
used to come down to meals, and never speak; going up again and
stopping with their mother. At last, one day, both of them came in
very solemn to my study, and Eliza, the eldest, said, "Robert,
mamma has paid you our board up to Michaelmas."
"She has," says I; for I always took precious good care to have it
"She says, Robert, That on Michaelmas day--we'll--we'll go away,
"Oh, she's going to her own house, is she, Lizzy? Very good.
She'll want the furniture, I suppose, and that she may have too,
for I'm going to sell the place myself." And so THAT matter was
. . . . . .
On Michaelmas day--and during these two months I hadn't, I do
believe, seen my mother twice (once, about two o'clock in the
morning, I woke and found her sobbing over my bed)--on Michaelmas-
day morning, Eliza comes to me and says, "ROBERT, THEY WILL COME
AND FETCH US AT SIX THIS EVENING." Well, as this was the last day,
I went and got the best goose I could find (I don't think I ever
saw a primer, or ate more hearty myself), and had it roasted at
three, with a good pudding afterwards; and a glorious bowl of
punch. "Here's a health to you, dear girls," says I, "and you, Ma,
and good luck to all three; and as you've not eaten a morsel, I
hope you won't object to a glass of punch. It's the old stuff, you
know, Ma'am, that that Waters sent to my father fifteen years ago."
Six o'clock came, and with it came a fine barouche. As I live,
Captain Waters was on the box (it was his coach); that old thief,
Bates, jumped out, entered my house, and before I could say Jack
Robinson, whipped off mamma to the carriage: the girls followed,
just giving me a hasty shake of the hand; and as mamma was helped
in, Mary Waters, who was sitting inside, flung her arms round her,
and then round the girls; and the Doctor, who acted footman, jumped
on the box, and off they went; taking no more notice of ME than if
I'd been a nonentity.
Here's a picture of the whole business:--Mamma and Miss Waters are
sitting kissing each other in the carriage, with the two girls in
the back seat: Waters is driving (a precious bad driver he is too);
and I'm standing at the garden door, and whistling. That old fool
Mary Malowney is crying behind the garden gate: she went off next
day along with the furniture; and I to get into that precious
scrape which I shall mention next.
SEPTEMBER.--PLUCKING A GOOSE.
After my papa's death, as he left me no money, and only a little
land, I put my estate into an auctioneer's hands, and determined to
amuse my solitude with a trip to some of our fashionable watering-
places. My house was now a desert to me. I need not say how the
departure of my dear parent, and her children, left me sad and
Well, I had a little ready money, and, for the estate, expected a
couple of thousand pounds. I had a good military-looking person:
for though I had absolutely cut the old North Bungays (indeed,
after my affair with Waters, Colonel Craw hinted to me, in the most
friendly manner, that I had better resign)--though I had left the
army, I still retained the rank of Captain; knowing the advantages
attendant upon that title in a watering-place tour.
Captain Stubbs became a great dandy at Cheltenham, Harrogate, Bath,
Leamington, and other places. I was a good whist and billiard
player; so much so, that in many of these towns, the people used to
refuse, at last, to play with me, knowing how far I was their
superior. Fancy my surprise, about five years after the Portsmouth
affair, when strolling one day up the High Street, in Leamington,
my eyes lighted upon a young man, whom I remembered in a certain
butcher's yard, and elsewhere--no other, in fact, than Dobble. He,
too, was dressed en militaire, with a frogged coat and spurs; and
was walking with a showy-looking, Jewish-faced, black-haired lady,
glittering with chains and rings, with a green bonnet and a bird-
of-Paradise--a lilac shawl, a yellow gown, pink silk stockings, and
light-blue shoes. Three children, and a handsome footman, were
walking behind her, and the party, not seeing me, entered the
"Royal Hotel" together.
I was known myself at the "Royal," and calling one of the waiters,
learned the names of the lady and gentleman. He was Captain
Dobble, the son of the rich army-clothier, Dobble (Dobble, Hobble
and Co. of Pall Mall);--the lady was a Mrs. Manasseh, widow of an
American Jew, living quietly at Leamington with her children, but
possessed of an immense property. There's no use to give one's
self out to be an absolute pauper: so the fact is, that I myself
went everywhere with the character of a man of very large means.
My father had died, leaving me immense sums of money, and landed
estates. Ah! I was the gentleman then, the real gentleman, and
everybody was too happy to have me at table.
Well, I came the next day, and left a card for Dobble, with a note.
He neither returned my visit, nor answered my note. The day after,
however, I met him with the widow, as before; and going up to him,
very kindly seized him by the hand, and swore I was--as really was
the case--charmed to see him. Dobble hung back, to my surprise,
and I do believe the creature would have cut me, if he dared; but I
gave him a frown, and said--
"What, Dobble, my boy, don't you recollect old Stubbs, and our
adventure with the butcher's daughters--ha?"
Dobble gave a sickly kind of grin, and said, "Oh! ah! yes! It is--
yes! it is, I believe, Captain Stubbs."
"An old comrade, Madam, of Captain Dobble's, and one who has heard
so much, and seen so much of your ladyship, that he must take the
liberty of begging his friend to introduce him."
Dobble was obliged to take the hint; and Captain Stubbs was duly
presented to Mrs. Manasseh. The lady was as gracious as possible;
and when, at the end of the walk, we parted, she said "she hoped
Captain Dobble would bring me to her apartments that evening, where
she expected a few friends." Everybody, you see, knows everybody
at Leamington; and I, for my part, was well known as a retired
officer of the army, who, on his father's death, had come into
seven thousand a year. Dobble's arrival had been subsequent to
mine; but putting up as he did at the "Royal Hotel," and dining at
the ordinary there with the widow, he had made her acquaintance
before I had. I saw, however, that if I allowed him to talk about
me, as he could, I should be compelled to give up all my hopes and
pleasures at Leamington; and so I determined to be short with him.
As soon as the lady had gone into the hotel, my friend Dobble was
for leaving me likewise; but I stopped him and said, "Mr. Dobble, I
saw what you meant just now: you wanted to cut me, because,
forsooth, I did not choose to fight a duel at Portsmouth. Now look
you, Dobble, I am no hero, but I'm not such a coward as you--and
you know it. You are a very different man to deal with from
Waters; and I WILL FIGHT this time."
Not perhaps that I would: but after the business of the butcher, I
knew Dobble to be as great a coward as ever lived; and there never
was any harm in threatening, for you know you are not obliged to
stick to it afterwards. My words had their effect upon Dobble, who
stuttered and looked red, and then declared he never had the
slightest intention of passing me by; so we became friends, and his
mouth was stopped.
He was very thick with the widow, but that lady had a very
capacious heart, and there were a number of other gentlemen who
seemed equally smitten with her. "Look at that Mrs. Manasseh,"
said a gentleman (it was droll, HE was a Jew, too) sitting at
dinner by me. "She is old, and ugly, and yet, because she has
money, all the men are flinging themselves at her."
"She has money, has she?"
"Eighty thousand pounds, and twenty thousand for each of her
children. I know it FOR A FACT," said the strange gentleman. "I
am in the law, and we of our faith, you know, know pretty well what
the great families amongst us are worth."
"Who was Mr. Manasseh?" said I.
"A man of enormous wealth--a tobacco-merchant--West Indies; a
fellow of no birth, however; and who, between ourselves, married a
woman that is not much better than she should be. My dear sir,"
whispered he, "she is always in love. Now it is with that Captain
Dobble; last week it was somebody else--and it may be you next
week, if--ha! ha! ha!--you are disposed to enter the lists. I
wouldn't, for MY part, have the woman with twice her money."
What did it matter to me whether the woman was good or not,
provided she was rich? My course was quite clear. I told Dobble
all that this gentleman had informed me, and being a pretty good
hand at making a story, I made the widow appear SO bad, that the
poor fellow was quite frightened, and fairly quitted the field.
Ha! ha! I'm dashed if I did not make him believe that Mrs. Manasseh
had MURDERED her last husband.
I played my game so well, thanks to the information that my friend
the lawyer had given me, that in a month I had got the widow to
show a most decided partiality for me. I sat by her at dinner, I
drank with her at the "Wells"--I rode with her, I danced with her,
and at a picnic to Kenilworth, where we drank a good deal of
champagne, I actually popped the question, and was accepted. In
another month, Robert Stubbs, Esq., led to the altar, Leah, widow
of the late Z. Manasseh, Esq., of St. Kitt's!
. . . . . .
We drove up to London in her comfortable chariot: the children and
servants following in a post-chaise. I paid, of course, for
everything; and until our house in Berkeley Square was painted, we
stopped at "Stevens's Hotel."
. . . . . .
My own estate had been sold, and the money was lying at a bank in
the City. About three days after our arrival, as we took our
breakfast in the hotel, previous to a visit to Mrs. Stubbs's
banker, where certain little transfers were to be made, a gentleman
was introduced, who, I saw at a glance, was of my wife's
He looked at Mrs. Stubbs, and made a bow. "Perhaps it will be
convenient to you to pay this little bill, one hundred and fifty-
"My love," says she, "will you pay this--it is a trifle which I had
"My soul!" said I, "I have really not the money in the house."
"Vel, denn, Captain Shtubbsh," says he, "I must do my duty--and
arrest you--here is the writ! Tom, keep the door?" My wife
fainted--the children screamed, and I fancy my condition as I was
obliged to march off to a spunging-house along with a horrid
OCTOBER.--MARS AND VENUS IN OPPOSITION.
I shall not describe my feelings when I found myself in a cage in
Cursitor Street, instead of that fine house in Berkeley Square,
which was to have been mine as the husband of Mrs. Manasseh. What
a place!--in an odious, dismal street leading from Chancery Lane.
A hideous Jew boy opened the second of three doors and shut it when
Mr. Nabb and I (almost fainting) had entered; then he opened the
third door, and then I was introduced to a filthy place called a
coffee-room, which I exchanged for the solitary comfort of a little
dingy back-parlor, where I was left for a while to brood over my
miserable fate. Fancy the change between this and Berkeley Square!
Was I, after all my pains, and cleverness, and perseverance,
cheated at last? Had this Mrs. Manasseh been imposing upon me, and
were the words of the wretch I met at the table-d'hote at
Leamington only meant to mislead me and take me in? I determined
to send for my wife, and know the whole truth. I saw at once that
I had been the victim of an infernal plot, and that the carriage,
the house in town, the West India fortune, were only so many lies
which I had blindly believed. It was true that the debt was but a
hundred and fifty pounds; and I had two thousand at my bankers'.
But was the loss of HER 80,000L. nothing? Was the destruction of
my hopes nothing? The accursed addition to my family of a Jewish
wife and three Jewish children, nothing? And all these I was to
support out of my two thousand pounds. I had better have stopped
at home with my mamma and sisters, whom I really did love, and who
produced me eighty pounds a year.
I had a furious interview with Mrs. Stubbs; and when I charged her,
the base wretch! with cheating me, like a brazen serpent as she
was, she flung back the cheat in my teeth, and swore I had swindled
her. Why did I marry her, when she might have had twenty others?
She only took me, she said, because I had twenty thousand pounds.
I HAD said I possessed that sum; but in love, you know, and war
We parted quite as angrily as we met; and I cordially vowed that
when I had paid the debt into which I had been swindled by her, I
would take my 2,000L. and depart to some desert island; or, at the
very least, to America, and never see her more, or any of her
Israelitish brood. There was no use in remaining in the spunging-
house (for I knew that there were such things as detainers, and
that where Mrs. Stubbs owed a hundred pounds, she might owe a
thousand) so I sent for Mr. Nabb, and tendering him a cheque for
150L. and his costs, requested to be let out forthwith. "Here,
fellow," said I, "is a cheque on Child's for your paltry sum."
"It may be a sheck on Shild's," says Mr. Nabb; "but I should be a
baby to let you out on such a paper as dat."
"Well," said I, "Child's is but a step from this: you may go and
get the cash,--just give me an acknowledgment."
Nabb drew out the acknowledgment with great punctuality, and set
off for the bankers', whilst I prepared myself for departure from
this abominable prison.
He smiled as he came in. "Well," said I, "you have touched your
money; and now, I must tell you, that you are the most infernal
rogue and extortioner I ever met with."
"Oh, no, Mishter Shtubbsh," says he, grinning still. "Dere is som
greater roag dan me,--mosh greater."
"Fellow," said I, "don't stand grinning before a gentleman; but
give me my hat and cloak, and let me leave your filthy den."
"Shtop, Shtubbsh," says he, not even Mistering me this time. "Here
ish a letter, vich you had better read."
I opened the letter; something fell to the ground:--it was my
The letter ran thus: "Messrs. Child and Co. present their
compliments to Captain Stubbs, and regret that they have been
obliged to refuse payment of the enclosed, having been served this
day with an attachment by Messrs. Solomonson and Co., which compels
them to retain Captain Stubbs' balance of 2,010L. 11s. 6d. until
the decision of the suit of Solomonson v. Stubbs.
"You see," says Mr. Nabb, as I read this dreadful letter--"you see,
Shtubbsh, dere vas two debts,--a little von and a big von. So dey
arrested you for de little von, and attashed your money for de big
Don't laugh at me for telling this story. If you knew what tears
are blotting over the paper as I write it--if you knew that for
weeks after I was more like a madman than a sane man,--a madman in
the Fleet Prison, where I went instead of to the desert island!
What had I done to deserve it? Hadn't I always kept an eye to the
main chance? Hadn't I lived economically, and not like other young
men? Had I ever been known to squander or give away a single
penny? No! I can lay my hand on my heart, and, thank heaven, say,
No! Why, why was I punished so?
Let me conclude this miserable history. Seven months--my wife saw
me once or twice, and then dropped me altogether--I remained in
that fatal place. I wrote to my dear mamma, begging her to sell
her furniture, but got no answer. All my old friends turned their
backs upon me. My action went against me--I had not a penny to
defend it. Solomonson proved my wife's debt, and seized my two
thousand pounds. As for the detainer against me, I was obliged to
go through the court for the relief of insolvent debtors. I passed
through it, and came out a beggar. But fancy the malice of that
wicked Stiffelkind: he appeared in court as my creditor for 3L.,
with sixteen years' interest at five per cent, for a PAIR OF TOP-
BOOTS. The old thief produced them in court, and told the whole
story--Lord Cornwallis, the detection, the pumping and all.
Commissioner Dubobwig was very funny about it. "So Doctor
Swishtail would not pay you for the boots, eh, Mr. Stiffelkind?"
"No: he said, ven I asked him for payment, dey was ordered by a
yong boy, and I ought to have gone to his schoolmaster."
"What! then you came on a BOOTLESS errand, ay, sir?" (A laugh.)
"Bootless! no sare, I brought de boots back vid me. How de devil
else could I show dem to you?" (Another laugh.)
"You've never SOLED 'em since, Mr. Tickleshins?"
"I never would sell dem; I svore I never vood, on porpus to be
revenged on dat Stobbs."
"What! your wound has never been HEALED, eh?"
"Vat do you mean vid your bootless errands, and your soling and
healing? I tell you I have done vat I svore to do: I have exposed
him at school; I have broak off a marriage for him, ven he vould
have had tventy tousand pound; and now I have showed him up in a
court of justice. Dat is vat I 'ave done, and dat's enough." And
then the old wretch went down, whilst everybody was giggling and
staring at poor me--as if I was not miserable enough already.
"This seems the dearest pair of boots you ever had in your life,
Mr. Stubbs," said Commissioner Dubobwig very archly, and then he
began to inquire about the rest of my misfortunes.
In the fulness of my heart I told him the whole of them: how Mr.
Solomonson the attorney had introduced me to the rich widow, Mrs.
Manasseh, who had fifty thousand pounds, and an estate in the West
Indies. How I was married, and arrested on coming to town, and
cast in an action for two thousand pounds brought against me by
this very Solomonson for my wife's debts.
"Stop!" says a lawyer in the court. "Is this woman a showy black-
haired woman with one eye? very often drunk, with three children?--
Solomonson, short, with red hair?"
"Exactly so," said I, with tears in my eyes.
"That woman has married THREE MEN within the last two years. One
in Ireland, and one at Bath. A Solomonson is, I believe, her
husband, and they both are off for America ten days ago."
"But why did you not keep your 2,000L.?" said the lawyer.
"Sir, they attached it."
"Oh, well, we may pass you. You have been unlucky, Mr. Stubbs, but
it seems as if the biter had been bit in this affair."
"No," said Mr. Dubobwig. "Mr. Stubbs is the victim of a FATAL
NOVEMBER.--A GENERAL POST DELIVERY.
I was a free man when I went out of the Court; but I was a beggar--
I, Captain Stubbs, of the bold North Bungays, did not know where I
could get a bed, or a dinner.
As I was marching sadly down Portugal Street, I felt a hand on my
shoulder and a rough voice which I knew well.
"Vell, Mr. Stobbs, have I not kept my promise? I told you dem
boots would be your ruin."
I was much too miserable to reply; and only cast my eyes towards
the roofs of the houses, which I could not see for the tears.
"Vat! you begin to gry and blobber like a shild? you vood marry,
vood you? and noting vood do for you but a vife vid monny--ha, ha--
but you vere de pigeon, and she was de grow. She has plocked you,
too, pretty vell--eh? ha! ha!"
"Oh, Mr. Stiffelkind," said I, "don't laugh at my misery: she has
not left me a single shilling under heaven. And I shall starve: I
do believe I shall starve." And I began to cry fit to break my
"Starf! stoff and nonsense! You vill never die of starfing--you
vill die of HANGING, I tink--ho! ho!--and it is moch easier vay
too." I didn't say a word, but cried on; till everybody in the
street turned round and stared.
"Come, come," said Stiffelkind, "do not gry, Gaptain Stobbs--it is
not goot for a Gaptain to gry--ha! ha! Dere--come vid me, and you
shall have a dinner, and a bregfast too,--vich shall gost you
nothing, until you can bay vid your earnings."
And so this curious old man, who had persecuted me all through my
prosperity, grew compassionate towards me in my ill-luck; and took
me home with him as he promised. "I saw your name among de
Insolvents, and I vowed, you know, to make you repent dem boots.
Dere, now, it is done and forgotten, look you. Here, Betty,
Bettchen, make de spare bed, and put a clean knife and fork; Lort
Cornvallis is come to dine vid me."
I lived with this strange old man for six weeks. I kept his books,
and did what little I could to make myself useful: carrying about
boots and shoes, as if I had never borne his Majesty's commission.
He gave me no money, but he fed and lodged me comfortably. The men
and boys used to laugh, and call me General, and Lord Cornwallis,
and all sorts of nicknames; and old Stiffelkind made a thousand new
ones for me.
One day I can recollect--one miserable day, as I was polishing on
the trees a pair of boots of Mr. Stiffelkind's manufacture--the old
gentleman came into the shop, with a lady on his arm.
"Vere is Gaptain Stobbs?" said he. "Vere is dat ornament to his
I came in from the back shop, where I was polishing the boots, with
one of them in my hand.
"Look, my dear," says he, "here is an old friend of yours, his
Excellency Lort Cornvallis!--Who would have thought such a nobleman
vood turn shoeblack? Captain Stobbs, here is your former flame, my
dear niece, Miss Grotty. How could you, Magdalen, ever leaf such a
lof of a man? Shake hands vid her, Gaptain;--dere, never mind de
blacking!" But Miss drew back.
"I never shake hands with a SHOEBLACK," said she, mighty
"Bah! my lof, his fingers von't soil you. Don't you know he has
just been VITEVASHED?"
"I wish, uncle," says she, "you would not leave me with such low
"Low, because he cleans boots? De Gaptain prefers PUMPS to boots I
"Captain indeed! a nice Captain," says Miss Crutty, snapping her
fingers in my face, and walking away: "a Captain who has had his
nose pulled! ha! ha!"--And how could I help it? it wasn't by my own
CHOICE that that ruffian Waters took such liberties with me.
Didn't I show how averse I was to all quarrels by refusing
altogether his challenge?--But such is the world. And thus the
people at Stiffelkind's used to tease me, until they drove me
At last he came home one day more merry and abusive than ever.
"Gaptain," says he, "I have goot news for you--a goot place. Your
lordship vill not be able to geep your garridge, but you vill be
gomfortable, and serve his Majesty."
"Serve his Majesty?" says I. "Dearest Mr. Stiffelkind, have you
got me a place under Government?"
"Yes, and somting better still--not only a place, but a uniform:
yes, Gaptain Stobbs, a RED GOAT."
"A red coat! I hope you don't think I would demean myself by
entering the ranks of the army? I am a gentleman, Mr. Stiffelkind--
I can never--no, I never--"
"No, I know you will never--you are too great a goward--ha! ha!--
though dis is a red goat, and a place where you must give some HARD
KNOCKS too--ha! ha!--do you gomprehend?--and you shall be a general
instead of a gaptain--ha! ha!"
"A general in a red coat, Mr. Stiffelkind?"
"Yes, a GENERAL BOSTMAN!--ha! ha! I have been vid your old friend,
Bunting, and he has an uncle in the Post Office, and he has got you
de place--eighteen shillings a veek, you rogue, and your goat. You
must not oben any of de letters you know."
And so it was--I, Robert Stubbs, Esquire, became the vile thing he
named--a general postman!
. . . . . .
I was so disgusted with Stiffelkind's brutal jokes, which were now
more brutal than ever, that when I got my place in the Post Office,
I never went near the fellow again: for though he had done me a
favor in keeping me from starvation, he certainly had done it in a
very rude, disagreeable manner, and showed a low and mean spirit in
SHOVING me into such a degraded place as that of postman. But what
had I to do? I submitted to fate, and for three years or more,
Robert Stubbs, of the North Bungay Fencibles, was--
I wonder nobody recognized me. I lived in daily fear the first
year: but afterwards grew accustomed to my situation, as all great
men will do, and wore my red coat as naturally as if I had been
sent into the world only for the purpose of being a letter-carrier.
I was first in the Whitechapel district, where I stayed for nearly
three years, when I was transferred to Jermyn Street and Duke
Street--famous places for lodgings. I suppose I left a hundred
letters at a house in the latter street, where lived some people
who must have recognized me had they but once chanced to look at
You see that when I left Sloffemsquiggle, and set out in the gay
world, my mamma had written to me a dozen times at least; but I
never answered her, for I knew she wanted money, and I detest
writing. Well, she stopped her letters, finding she could get none
from me:--but when I was in the Fleet, as I told you, I wrote
repeatedly to my dear mamma, and was not a little nettled at her
refusing to notice me in my distress, which is the very time one
most wants notice.
Stubbs is not an uncommon name; and though I saw MRS. STUBBS on a
little bright brass plate, in Duke street, and delivered so many
letters to the lodgers in her house, I never thought of asking who
she was, or whether she was my relation, or not.
One day the young woman who took in the letters had not got change,
and she called her mistress. An old lady in a poke-bonnet came out
of the parlor, and put on her spectacles, and looked at the letter,
and fumbled in her pocket for eightpence, and apologized to the
postman for keeping him waiting. And when I said, "Never mind,
Ma'am, it's no trouble," the old lady gave a start, and then she
pulled off her spectacles, and staggered back; and then she began
muttering, as if about to choke; and then she gave a great screech,
and flung herself into my arms, and roared out, "MY SON, MY SON!"
"Law, mamma," said I, "is that you?" and I sat down on the hall
bench with her, and let her kiss me as much as ever she liked.
Hearing the whining and crying, down comes another lady from up
stairs,--it was my sister Eliza; and down come the lodgers. And
the maid gets water and what not, and I was the regular hero of the
group. I could not stay long then, having my letters to deliver.
But, in the evening, after mail-time, I went back to my mamma and
sister; and, over a bottle of prime old port, and a precious good
leg of boiled mutton and turnips, made myself pretty comfortable, I
can tell you.
DECEMBER.--"THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT."
Mamma had kept the house in Duke Street for more than two years.
I recollected some of the chairs and tables from dear old
Sloffemsquiggle, and the bowl in which I had made that famous rum-
punch, the evening she went away, which she and my sisters left
untouched, and I was obliged to drink after they were gone; but
that's not to the purpose.
Think of my sister Lucy's luck! that chap, Waters, fell in love
with her, and married her; and she now keeps her carriage, and
lives in state near Sloffemsquiggle. I offered to make it up with
Waters; but he bears malice, and never will see or speak to me.--He
had the impudence, too, to say, that he took in all letters for
mamma at Sloffemsquiggle; and that as mine were all begging-
letters, he burned them, and never said a word to her concerning
them. He allowed mamma fifty pounds a year, and, if she were not
such a fool, she might have had three times as much; but the old
lady was high and mighty forsooth, and would not be beholden, even
to her own daughter, for more than she actually wanted. Even this
fifty pound she was going to refuse; but when I came to live with
her, of course I wanted pocket-money as well as board and lodging,
and so I had the fifty pounds for MY share, and eked out with it as
well as I could.
Old Bates and the Captain, between them, gave mamma a hundred
pounds when she left me (she had the deuce's own luck, to be sure--
much more than ever fell to ME, I know) and as she said she WOULD
try and work for her living, it was thought best to take a house
and let lodgings, which she did. Our first and second floor paid
us four guineas a week, on an average; and the front parlor and
attic made forty pounds more. Mamma and Eliza used to have the
front attic: but I took that, and they slept in the servants'
bedroom. Lizzy had a pretty genius for work, and earned a guinea a
week that way; so that we had got nearly two hundred a year over
the rent to keep house with,--and we got on pretty well. Besides,
women eat nothing: my women didn't care for meat for days together
sometimes,--so that it was only necessary to dress a good steak or
so for me.
Mamma would not think of my continuing in the Post Office. She
said her dear Robert, her husband's son, her gallant soldier, and
all that, should remain at home and be a gentleman--which I was,
certainly, though I didn't find fifty pounds a year very much to
buy clothes and be a gentleman upon. To be sure, mother found me
shirts and linen, so that THAT wasn't in the fifty pounds. She
kicked a little at paying the washing too; but she gave in at last,
for I was her dear Bob, you know; and I'm blest if I could not make
her give me the gown off her back. Fancy! once she cut up a very
nice rich black silk scarf, which my sister Waters sent her, and
made me a waistcoat and two stocks of it. She was so VERY soft,
the old lady!
. . . . . .
I'd lived in this way for five years or more, making myself content
with my fifty pounds a year (PERHAPS I had saved a little out of
it; but that's neither here nor there). From year's end to year's
end I remained faithful to my dear mamma, never leaving her except
for a month or so in the summer--when a bachelor may take a trip to
Gravesend or Margate, which would be too expensive for a family. I
say a bachelor, for the fact is, I don't know whether I am married
or not--never having heard a word since of the scoundrelly Mrs.
I never went to the public-house before meals: for, with my
beggarly fifty pounds, I could not afford to dine away from home:
but there I had my regular seat, and used to come home PRETTY
GLORIOUS, I can tell you. Then bed till eleven; then breakfast and
the newspaper; then a stroll in Hyde Park or St. James's; then home
at half-past three to dinner--when I jollied, as I call it, for the
rest of the day. I was my mother's delight; and thus, with a clear
conscience, I managed to live on.
. . . . . .
How fond she was of me, to be sure! Being sociable myself, and
loving to have my friends about me, we often used to assemble a
company of as hearty fellows as you would wish to sit down with,
and keep the nights up royally. "Never mind, my boys," I used to
say. "Send the bottle round: mammy pays for all." As she did,
sure enough: and sure enough we punished her cellar too. The good
old lady used to wait upon us, as if for all the world she had been
my servant, instead of a lady and my mamma. Never used she to
repine, though I often, as I must confess, gave her occasion
(keeping her up till four o'clock in the morning, because she never
could sleep until she saw her "dear Bob" in bed, and leading her a
sad anxious life). She was of such a sweet temper, the old lady,
that I think in the course of five years I never knew her in a
passion, except twice: and then with sister Lizzy, who declared I
was ruining the house, and driving the lodgers away, one by one.
But mamma would not hear of such envious spite on my sister's part.
"Her Bob" was always right, she said. At last Lizzy fairly
retreated, and went to the Waters's.--I was glad of it, for her
temper was dreadful, and we used to be squabbling from morning till
Ah, those WERE jolly times! but Ma was obliged to give up the
lodging-house at last--for, somehow, things went wrong after my
sister's departure--the nasty uncharitable people said, on account
of ME; because I drove away the lodgers by smoking and drinking,
and kicking up noises in the house; and because Ma gave me so much
of her money:--so she did, but if she WOULD give it, you know, how
could I help it? Heigho! I wish I'd KEPT it.
No such luck. The business I thought was to last for ever: but at
the end of two years came a smash--shut up shop--sell off
everything. Mamma went to the Waters's: and, will you believe it?
the ungrateful wretches would not receive me! that Mary, you see,
was SO disappointed at not marrying me. Twenty pounds a year they
allow, it is true; but what's that for a gentleman? For twenty
years I have been struggling manfully to gain an honest livelihood,
and, in the course of them, have seen a deal of life, to be sure.
I've sold cigars and pocket-handkerchiefs at the corners of
streets; I've been a billiard-marker; I've been a director (in the
panic year) of the Imperial British Consolidated Mangle and Drying
Ground Company. I've been on the stage (for two years as an actor,
and about a month as a cad, when I was very low); I've been the
means of giving to the police of this empire some very valuable
information (about licensed victuallers, gentlemen's carts, and
pawnbrokers' names); I've been very nearly an officer again--that
is, an assistant to an officer of the Sheriff of Middlesex: it was
my last place.
On the last day of the year 1837, even THAT game was up. It's a
thing that very seldom happened to a gentleman, to be kicked out of
a spunging-house; but such was my case. Young Nabb (who succeeded
his father) drove me ignominiously from his door, because I had
charged a gentleman in the coffee-rooms seven-and-sixpence for a
glass of ale and bread and cheese, the charge of the house being
only six shillings. He had the meanness to deduct the eighteenpence
from my wages, and because I blustered a bit, he took me by the
shoulders and turned me out--me, a gentleman, and, what is more, a
How I did rage and swear at him when I got out into the street!
There stood he, the hideous Jew monster, at the double door,
writhing under the effect of my language. I had my revenge! Heads
were thrust out of every bar of his windows, laughing at him. A
crowd gathered round me, as I stood pounding him with my satire,
and they evidently enjoyed his discomfiture. I think the mob would
have pelted the ruffian to death (one or two of their missiles hit
ME, I can tell you), when a policeman came up, and in reply to a
gentleman, who was asking what was the disturbance, said, "Bless
you, sir, it's Lord Cornwallis." "Move on, BOOTS," said the fellow
to me; for the fact is, my misfortunes and early life are pretty
well known--and so the crowd dispersed.
"What could have made that policeman call you Lord Cornwallis and
Boots?" said the gentleman, who seemed mightily amused, and had
followed me. "Sir," says I, "I am an unfortunate officer of the
North Bungay Fencibles, and I'll tell you willingly for a pint of
beer." He told me to follow him to his chambers in the Temple,
which I did (a five-pair back), and there, sure enough, I had the
beer; and told him this very story you've been reading. You see he
is what is called a literary man--and sold my adventures for me to
the booksellers; he's a strange chap; and says they're MORAL.
. . . . . .
I'm blest if I can see anything moral in them. I'm sure I ought to
have been more lucky through life, being so very wide awake. And
yet here I am, without a place, or even a friend, starving upon a
beggarly twenty pounds a year--not a single sixpence more, upon MY
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