Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter X.

Unlike the ribald, whose licentious jest

Pollutes his banquet, and insults his guest,

From wealth and grandeur easy to descend,

Thou joy’st to lose the master in the friend.

We round thy board the cheerful menials see, Gay —

with the smile of bland equality;

No social care the gracious lord disdains;

Love prompts to love, and reverence reverence gains.

Translation of LUCAN to Paso, prefixed to the Twelfth Paper of “The Rambler.”

Coyly shone down the bashful stars upon our adventurers, as, after a short nap behind the haystack, they stretched themselves, and looking at each other, burst into an involuntary and hilarious laugh at the prosperous termination of their exploit.

Hitherto they had been too occupied, first by their flight, then by hunger, then by fatigue, for self-gratulation; now they rubbed their hands, and joked like runaway schoolboys at their escape.

By degrees their thoughts turned from the past to the future; and “Tell me, my dear fellow,” said Augustus, “what you intend to do. I trust I have long ago convinced you that it is no sin ‘to serve our friends’ and to ‘be true to our party;’ and therefore, I suppose, you will decide upon taking to the road.”

“It is very odd,” answered Paul, “that I should have any scruples left after your lectures on the subject; but I own to you frankly that, somehow or other, I have doubts whether thieving be really the honestest profession I could follow.”

“Listen to me, Paul,” answered Augustus; and his reply is not unworthy of notice. “All crime and all excellence depend upon a good choice of words. I see you look puzzled; I will explain. If you take money from the public, and say you have robbed, you have indubitably committed a great crime; but if you do the same, and say you have been relieving the necessities of the poor, you have done an excellent action. If, in afterwards dividing this money with your companions, you say you have been sharing booty, you have committed an offence against the laws of your country; but if you observe that you have been sharing with your friends the gains of your industry, you have been performing one of the noblest actions of humanity. To knock a man on the head is neither virtuous nor guilty, but it depends upon the language applied to the action to make it murder or glory. Why not say, then, that you have testified the courage of a hero, rather than the atrocity of a ruffian? This is perfectly clear, is it not?”

[We observe in a paragraph from an American paper, copied without comment into the “Morning Chronicle,” a singular proof of the truth of Tomlinson’s philosophy! “Mr. Rowland Stephenson,” so runs the extract, “the celebrated English banker, has just purchased a considerable tract of land,” etc. Most philosophical of paragraphists! “Celebrated English banker!”— that sentence is a better illustration of verbal fallacies than all Ben tham’s treatises put together. “Celebrated!” O Mercury, what a dexterous epithet!]

“It seems so,” answered Paul.

“It is so self-evident that it is the way all governments are carried on. Wherefore, my good Paul, we only do what all other legislators do. We are never rogues so long as we call ourselves honest fellows, and we never commit a crime so long as we can term it a virtue. What say you now?”

Paul smiled, and was silent a few moments before he replied: “There is very little doubt but that you are wrong; yet if you are, so are all the rest of the world. It is of no use to be the only white sheep of the flock. Wherefore, my dear Tomlinson, I will in future be an excellent citizen, relieve the necessities of the poor, and share the gains of my industry with my friends.”

“Bravo!” cried Tomlinson. “And now that that is settled, the sooner you are inaugurated the better. Since the starlight has shone forth, I see that I am in a place I ought to be very well acquainted with; or, if you like to be suspicious, you may believe that I have brought you purposely in this direction. But first let me ask if you feel any great desire to pass the night by this haystack, or whether you would like a song and the punchbowl almost as much as the open air, with the chance of being eaten up in a pinch of hay by some strolling cow.”

“You may conceive my choice,” answered Paul.

“Well, then, there is an excellent fellow near here, who keeps a public-house, and is a firm ally and generous patron of the lads of the cross. At certain periods they hold weekly meetings at his house: this is one of the nights. What say you? Shall I introduce you to the club?”

“I shall be very glad if they will admit me,” returned Paul, whom many and conflicting thoughts rendered laconic.

“Oh! no fear of that, under my auspices. To tell you the truth, though we are a tolerant set, we welcome every new proselyte with enthusiasm. But are you tired?”

“A little; the house is not far, you say?”

“About a mile off,” answered Tomlinson. “Lean on me.”

Our wanderers now, leaving the haystack, struck across part of Finchley Common; for the abode of the worthy publican was felicitously situated, and the scene in which his guests celebrated their festivities was close by that on which they often performed their exploits.

As they proceeded, Paul questioned his friend touching the name and character of “mine host;” and the all-knowing Augustus Tomlinson answered him, Quaker-like, by a question —

“Have you never heard of Gentleman George?”

“What! the noted head of a flash public-house in the country? To be sure I have, often; my poor nurse, Dame Lobkins, used to say he was the best-spoken man in the trade!”

“Ay, so he is still. In his youth, George was a very handsome fellow, but a little too fond of his lass and his bottle to please his father — a very staid old gentleman, who walked about on Sundays in a bob-wig and a gold-headed cane, and was a much better farmer on week-days than he was head of a public-house. George used to be a remarkably smart-dressed fellow, and so he is to this day. He has a great deal of wit, is a very good whist-player, has a capital cellar, and is so fond of seeing his friends drunk, that he bought some time ago a large pewter measure in which six men can stand upright. The girls, or rather the old women, to which last he used to be much more civil of the two, always liked him; they say nothing is so fine as his fine speeches, and they give him the title of ‘Gentleman George.’ He is a nice, kind-hearted man in many things. Pray Heaven we shall have no cause to miss him when he departs! But, to tell you the truth, he takes more than his share of our common purse.”

“What! is he avaricious?”

“Quite the reverse; but he’s so cursedly fond of building, he invests all his money (and wants us to invest all ours) in houses; and there’s one confounded dog of a bricklayer who runs him up terrible bills — a fellow called ‘Cunning Nat,’ who is equally adroit in spoiling ground and improving ground rent.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ah! thereby hangs a tale. But we are near the place now; you will see a curious set.”

As Tomlinson said this, the pair approached a house standing alone, and seemingly without any other abode in the vicinity. It was of curious and grotesque shape, painted white, with a Gothic chimney, a Chinese sign-post (on which was depicted a gentleman fishing, with the words “The Jolly Angler” written beneath), and a porch that would have been Grecian if it had not been Dutch. It stood in a little field, with a hedge behind it, and the common in front. Augustus stopped at the door; and while he paused, bursts of laughter rang cheerily within.

“Ah, the merry boys!” he muttered; “I long to be with them;” and then with his clenched fist he knocked four times on the door. There was a sudden silence which lasted about a minute, and was broken by a voice within, asking who was there. Tomlinson answered by some cabalistic word; the door was opened, and a little boy presented himself.

“Well, my lad,” said Augustus, “and how is your master? Stout and hearty, if I may judge by his voice.”

“Ay, Master Tommy, ay, he’s boosing away at a fine rate, in the back-parlour, with Mr. Pepper and Fighting Attie, and half-a-score more of them. He’ll be woundy glad to see you, I’ll be bound.”

“Show this gentleman into the bar,” rejoined Augustus, “while I go and pay my respects to honest Geordie.”

The boy made a sort of a bow, and leading our hero into the bar, consigned him to the care of Sal, a buxom barmaid, who reflected credit on the taste of the landlord, and who received Paul with marked distinction and a gill of brandy.

Paul had not long to play the amiable, before Tomlinson rejoined him with the information that Gentleman George would be most happy to see him in the back-parlour, and that he would there find an old friend in the person of Mr. Pepper.

“What! is he here?” cried Paul. “The sorry knave, to let me be caged in his stead!”

“Gently, gently; no misapplication of terms!” said Augustus. “That was not knavery; that was prudence, the greatest of all virtues, and the rarest. But come along, and Pepper shall explain tomorrow.”

Threading a gallery or passage, Augustus preceded our hero, opened a door, and introduced him into a long low apartment, where sat, round a table spread with pipes and liquor, some ten or a dozen men, while at the top of the table, in an armchair, presided Gentleman George. That dignitary was a portly and comely gentleman, with a knowing look, and a Welsh wig, worn, as the “Morning Chronicle” says of his Majesty’s hat, “in a degage manner, on one side.” Being afflicted with the gout, his left foot reclined on a stool; and the attitude developed, despite of a lamb’s-wool stocking, the remains of an exceedingly good leg.

As Gentleman George was a person of majestic dignity among the Knights of the Cross, we trust we shall not be thought irreverent in applying a few of the words by which the aforesaid “Morning Chronicle” depicted his Majesty on the day he laid the first stone of his father’s monument to the description of Gentleman George.

“He had on a handsome blue coat and a white waistcoat;” moreover, “he laughed most good-humouredly,” as, turning to Augustus Tomlinson, he saluted him with —

“So this is the youngster you present to us? Welcome to the Jolly Angler! Give us thy hand, young sir; I shall be happy to blow a cloud with thee.”

“With all due submission,” said Mr. Tomlinson, “I think it may first be as well to introduce my pupil and friend to his future companions.”

“You speak like a leary cove,” cried Gentleman George, still squeezing our hero’s hand; and turning round in his elbow-chair, he pointed to each member, as he severally introduced his guests to Paul.

“Here,” said he — “here’s a fine chap at my right hand” (the person thus designated was a thin military-looking figure, in a shabby riding-frock, and with a commanding, bold, aquiline countenance, a little the worse for wear) — “here’s a fine chap for you! Fighting Attie we calls him; he’s a devil on the road. ‘Halt — deliver — must and shall — can’t and sha’ n’t — do as I bid you, or go to the devil!’ That’s all Fighting Attie’s palaver; and, ‘Sdeath, it has a wonderful way of coming to the point! A famous cull is my friend Attie — an old soldier — has seen the world, and knows what is what; has lots of gumption, and devil a bit of blarney. Howsomever, the highflyers does n’t like him; and when he takes people’s money, he need not be quite so cross about it. Attie, let me introduce a new pal to you.” Paul made his bow.

“Stand at ease, man!” quoth the veteran, without taking the pipe from his mouth.

Gentleman George then continued; and after pointing out four or five of the company (among whom our hero discovered, to his surprise, his old friends Mr. Eustace Fitzherbert and Mr. William Howard Russell), came, at length, to one with a very red face and a lusty frame of body. “That gentleman,” said he, “is Scarlet Jem; a dangerous fellow for a press, though he says he likes robbing alone now, for a general press is not half such a good thing as it used to be formerly. You have no idea what a hand at disguising himself Scarlet Jem is. He has an old wig which he generally does business in; and you would not go for to know him again when he conceals himself under the wig. Oh, he’s a precious rogue, is Scarlet Jem! As for the cove on t’ other side,” continued the host of the Jolly Angler, pointing to Long Ned, “all I can say of him, good, bad, or indifferent, is that he has an unkimmon fine head of hair; and now, youngster, as you knows him, s’pose you goes and sits by him, and he’ll introduce you to the rest; for, split my wig!” (Gentleman George was a bit of a swearer) “if I be n’t tired; and so here’s to your health; and if so be as your name’s Paul, may you always rob Peter [a portmanteau] in order to pay Paul!”

This witticism of mine host’s being exceedingly well received, Paul went, amidst the general laughter, to take possession of the vacant seat beside Long Ned. That tall gentleman, who had hitherto been cloud-compelling (as Homer calls Jupiter) in profound silence, now turned to Paul with the warmest cordiality, declared himself overjoyed to meet his old friend once more, and congratulated him alike on his escape from Bridewell and his admission to the councils of Gentleman George. But Paul, mindful of that exertion of “prudence” on the part of Mr. Pepper by which he had been left to his fate and the mercy of Justice Burnflat, received his advances very sullenly. This coolness so incensed Ned, who was naturally choleric, that he turned his back on our hero, and being of an aristocratic spirit, muttered something about “upstart, and vulgar clyfakers being admitted to the company of swell tobymen.” This murmur called all Paul’s blood into his cheek; for though he had been punished as a clyfaker (or pickpocket), nobody knew better than Long Ned whether or not he was innocent; and a reproach from him came therefore with double injustice and severity. In his wrath he seized Mr. Pepper by the ear, and telling him he was a shabby scoundrel, challenged him to fight.

So pleasing an invitation not being announced sotto voce, but in a tone suited to the importance of the proposition, every one around heard it; and before Long Ned could answer, the full voice of Gentleman George thundered forth —

“Keep the peace there, you youngster! What! are you just admitted into our merry-makings, and must you be wrangling already? Harkye, gemmen, I have been plagued enough with your quarrels before now; and the first cove as breaks the present quiet of the Jolly Angler shall be turned out neck and crop — sha’ n’t he, Attie?”

“Right about, march!” said the hero.

“Ay, that’s the word, Attie,” said Gentleman George. “And now, Mr. Pepper, if there be any ill blood ‘twixt you and the lad there, wash it away in a bumper of bingo, and let’s hear no more whatsomever about it.”

“I’m willing,” cried Long Ned, with the deferential air of a courtier, and holding out his hand to Paul. Our hero, being somewhat abashed by the novelty of his situation and the rebuke of Gentleman George, accepted, though with some reluctance, the proffered courtesy.

Order being thus restored, the conversation of the convivialists began to assume a most fascinating bias. They talked with infinite gout of the sums they had levied on the public, and the peculations they had committed for what one called the good of the community, and another, the established order — meaning themselves. It was easy to see in what school the discerning Augustus Tomlinson had learned the value of words.

There was something edifying in hearing the rascals! So nice was their language, and so honest their enthusiasm for their own interests, you might have imagined you were listening to a coterie of cabinet ministers conferring on taxes or debating on perquisites.

“Long may the Commons flourish!” cried punning Georgie, filling his glass; “it is by the commons we’re fed, and may they never know cultivation!”

“Three times three!” shouted Long Ned; and the toast was drunk as Mr. Pepper proposed.

“A little moderate cultivation of the commons, to speak frankly,” said Augustus Tomlinson, modestly, “might not be amiss; for it would decoy people into the belief that they might travel safely; and, after all, a hedge or a barley-field is as good for us as a barren heath, where we have no shelter if once pursued!”

“You talks nonsense, you spooney!” cried a robber of note, called Bagshot; who, being aged and having been a lawyer’s footboy, was sometimes denominated “Old Bags.” “You talks nonsense; these innowating ploughs are the ruin of us. Every blade of corn in a common is an encroachment on the constitution and rights of the gemmen highwaymen. I’m old, and may n’t live to see these things; but, mark my words, a time will come when a man may go from Lunnun to Johnny Groat’s without losing a penny by one of us; when Hounslow will be safe, and Finchley secure. My eyes, what a sad thing for us that’ll be!”

The venerable old man became suddenly silent, and the tears started to his eyes. Gentleman George had a great horror of blue devils, and particularly disliked all disagreeable subjects.

“Thunder and oons, Old Bags!” quoth mine host of the Jolly Angler, “this will never do; we’re all met here to be merry, and not to listen to your mullancolly taratarantarums. I says, Ned Pepper, s’pose you tips us a song, and I’ll beat time with my knuckles.”

Long Ned, taking the pipe from his mouth, attempted, like Walter Scott’s Lady Heron, one or two pretty excuses; these being drowned by a universal shout, the handsome purloiner gave the following song, to the tune of “Time has not thinned my flowing hair.”

Long Ned’s Song.

Oh, if my hands adhere to cash,

My gloves at least are clean,

And rarely have the gentry flash

In sprucer clothes been seen.

Sweet Public, since your coffers must

Afford our wants relief,

Oh! soothes it not to yield the dust

To such a charming thief?

“‘And John may laugh at mine,’— excellent!” cried Gentleman George, lighting his pipe, and winking at Attie; “I hears as how you be a famous fellow with the lasses.”

Ned smiled and answered, “No man should boast; but —” Pepper paused significantly, and then glancing at Attie, said, “Talking of lasses, it is my turn to knock down a gentleman for a song, and I knock down Fighting Attie.”

“I never sing,” said the warrior.

“Treason, treason!” cried Pepper. “It is the law, and you must obey the law; so begin.”

“It is true, Attie,” said Gentleman George.

There was no appeal from the honest publican’s fiat; so, in a quick and laconic manner, it being Attie’s favourite dogma that the least said is the soonest mended, the warrior sung as follows:—

Fighting Attie’s Song.

Air: “He was famed for deeds of arms.”

I never robbed a single coach

But with a lover’s air;

And though you might my course reproach,

You never could my hair.

Rise at six, dine at two,

Rob your man without ado,

Such my maxims; if you doubt

Their wisdom, to the right-about!

( Signing to a sallow gentleman on the same side of the table to send up the brandy bowl.)

Pass round the bingo — of a gun,

You musty, dusky, husky son!

John Bull, who loves a harmless joke,

Is apt at me to grin;

But why be cross with laughing folk,

Unless they laugh and win?

John Bull has money in his box;

And though his wit’s divine,

Yet let me laugh at Johnny’s locks,

And John may laugh at mine

[Much of whatever amusement might be occasioned by the not (we trust) ill-natured travesties of certain eminent characters in this part of our work when first published, like all political allusions, loses point and becomes obscure as the applications cease to be familiar. It is already necessary, perhaps, to say that Fighting Attie herein typifies or illustrates the Duke of Wellington’s abrupt dismissal of Mr. Huskisson.]

THE SALLOW GENTLEMAN (in a hoarse voice).

Attie, the bingo’s now with me;

I can’t resign it yet, d’ ye see!

ATTIE (seizing the bowl).

Resign, resign it — cease your dust!

(Wresting it away and fiercely regarding the sallow gentleman.)

You have resigned it, and you must.

CHORUS.

You have resigned it, and you must.

While the chorus, laughing at the discomfited tippler, yelled forth the emphatic words of the heroic Attie, that personage emptied the brandy at a draught, resumed his pipe, and in as few words as possible called on Bagshot for a song. The excellent old highwayman, with great diffidence, obeyed the request, cleared his throat, and struck off with a ditty somewhat to the tune of “The Old Woman.”

Old Bags’s Song.

Are the days then gone, when on Hounslow Heath

We flashed our nags,

When the stoutest bosoms quailed beneath

The voice of Bags?

Ne’er was my work half undone, lest I should be nabbed

Slow was old Bags, but he never ceased

Till the whole was grabbed.

CHORUS. Till the whole was grabbed.

When the slow coach paused, and the gemmen stormed,

I bore the brunt;

And the only sound which my grave lips formed

Was “blunt,”— still “blunt”!

Oh, those jovial days are ne’er forgot!

But the tape lags —

When I be’s dead, you’ll drink one pot

To poor old Bags!

CHORUS. To poor old Bags!

“Ay, that we will, my dear Bagshot,” cried Gentleman George, affectionately; but observing a tear in the fine old fellow’s eye, he added: “Cheer up! What, ho! cheer up! Times will improve, and Providence may yet send us one good year, when you shall be as well off as ever. You shakes your poll. Well, don’t be humdurgeoned, but knock down a gemman.”

Dashing away the drop of sensibility, the veteran knocked down Gentleman George himself.

“Oh, dang it!” said George, with an air of dignity, “I ought to skip, since I finds the lush; but howsomever here goes.”

Gentleman George’s Song.

Air: “Old King Cole.”

I be’s the cove, the merry old cove,

Of whose max all the rufflers sing;

And a lushing cove, I thinks, by Jove,

Is as great as a sober king!

CHORUS. Is as great as a sober king!

Whatever the noise as is made by the boys
At the bar as they lush away,
The devil a noise my peace alloys
As long as the rascals pay!

CHORUS. As long as the rascals pay!

What if I sticks my stones and my bricks

With mortar I takes from the snobbish?

All who can feel for the public weal

Likes the public-house to be bobbish.

CHORUS. Likes the public-house to be bobbish.

“There, gemmen!” said the publican, stopping short, “that’s the pith of the matter, and split my wig but I’m short of breath now. So send round the brandy, Augustus; you sly dog, you keeps it all to yourself.”

By this time the whole conclave were more than half-seas over, or, as Augustus Tomlinson expressed it, “their more austere qualities were relaxed by a pleasing and innocent indulgence.” Paul’s eyes reeled, and his tongue ran loose. By degrees the room swam round, the faces of his comrades altered, the countenance of Old Bags assumed an awful and menacing air. He thought Long Ned insulted him, and that Old Bags took the part of the assailant, doubled his fist, and threatened to put the plaintiff’s nob into chancery if he disturbed the peace of the meeting. Various other imaginary evils beset him. He thought he had robbed a mail-coach in company with Pepper; that Tomlinson informed against him, and that Gentleman George ordered him to be hanged; in short, he laboured under a temporary delirium, occasioned by a sudden reverse of fortune — from water to brandy; and the last thing of which he retained any recollection, before he sank under the table, in company with Long Ned, Scarlet Jem, and Old Bags, was the bearing his part in the burden of what appeared to him a chorus of last dying speeches and confessions, but what in reality was a song made in honour of Gentleman George, and sung by his grateful guests as a finale of the festivities. It ran thus:—

The Robber’s Grand Toast.

A tumbler of blue ruin, fill, fill for me!

Red tape those as likes it may drain;

But whatever the lush, it a bumper must be,

If we ne’er drinks a bumper again!

Now — now in the crib, where a ruffler may lie,

Without fear that the traps should distress him,

With a drop in the mouth, and a drop in the eye,

Here’s to Gentleman George — God bless him!

God bless him, God bless him!

Here’s to Gentleman George — God bless him!

‘Mong the pals of the prince I have heard it’s the go,

Before they have tippled enough,

To smarten their punch with the best curagoa,

More conish to render the stuff.

I boast not such lush; but whoever his glass

Does not like, I’ll be hanged if I press him!

Upstanding, my kiddies — round, round let it pass!

Here’s to Gentleman George — God bless him!

God bless him, God bless him!

Here’s to Gentleman George,-God bless him!

See, see, the fine fellow grows weak on his stumps;

Assist him, ye rascals, to stand!

Why, ye stir not a peg! Are you all in the dumps?

Fighting Attie, go, lend him a hand!

(The robbers crowd around Gentleman George, each, under pretence of supporting him, pulling him first one way and then another.)

Come, lean upon me — at your service I am!

Get away from his elbow, you whelp! him

You’ll only upset — them ’ere fellows but sham!

Here’s to Gentleman George — God help him!

God help him, God help him!

Here’s to Gentleman George, God help him!

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31