Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Notice to Quit.

Well, we arrived at Boulogne; and Jemmy, after making inquiries, right and left, about the Baron, found that no such person was known there; and being bent, I suppose, at all events, on marrying her daughter to a lord, she determined to set off for Paris, where, as he had often said, he possessed a magnificent —— hotel he called it; — and I remember Jemmy being mightily indignant at the idea; but hotel, we found afterwards, means only a house in French, and this reconciled her. Need I describe the road from Boulogne to Paris? or need I describe that Capitol itself? Suffice it to say, that we made our appearance there, at “Murisse’s Hotel,” as became the family of Coxe Tuggeridge; and saw everything worth seeing in the metropolis in a week. It nearly killed me, to be sure; but, when you’re on a pleasure-party in a foreign country, you must not mind a little inconvenience of this sort.

Well, there is, near the city of Paris, a splendid road and row of trees, which — I don’t know why — is called the Shandeleezy, or Elysian Fields, in French: others, I have heard, call it the Shandeleery; but mine I know to be the correct pronunciation. In the middle of this Shandeleezy is an open space of ground, and a tent where, during the summer, Mr. Franconi, the French Ashley, performs with his horses and things. As everybody went there, and we were told it was quite the thing, Jemmy agreed that we should go too; and go we did.

It’s just like Ashley’s: there’s a man just like Mr. Piddicombe, who goes round the ring in a huzzah-dress, cracking a whip; there are a dozen Miss Woolfords, who appear like Polish princesses, Dihannas, Sultannas, Cachuchas, and heaven knows what! There’s the fat man, who comes in with the twenty-three dresses on, and turns out to be the living skeleton! There’s the clowns, the sawdust, the white horse that dances a hornpipe, the candles stuck in hoops, just as in our own dear country.

My dear wife, in her very finest clothes, with all the world looking at her, was really enjoying this spectacle (which doesn’t require any knowledge of the language, seeing that the dumb animals don’t talk it), when there came in, presently, “the great Polish act of the Sarmatian horse-tamer, on eight steeds,” which we were all of us longing to see. The horse-tamer, to music twenty miles an hour, rushed in on four of his horses, leading the other four, and skurried round the ring. You couldn’t see him for the sawdust, but everybody was delighted, and applauded like mad. Presently, you saw there were only three horses in front: he had slipped one more between his legs, another followed, and it was clear that the consequences would be fatal, if he admitted any more. The people applauded more than ever; and when, at last, seven and eight were made to go in, not wholly, but sliding dexterously in and out, with the others, so that you did not know which was which, the house, I thought, would come down with applause; and the Sarmatian horse-tamer bowed his great feathers to the ground. At last the music grew slower, and he cantered leisurely round the ring; bending, smirking, seesawing, waving his whip, and laying his hand on his heart, just as we have seen the Ashley’s people do. But fancy our astonishment when, suddenly, this Sarmatian horse-tamer, coming round with his four pair at a canter, and being opposite our box, gave a start, and a — hupp! which made all his horses stop stock-still at an instant.

“Albert!” screamed my dear Jemmy: “Albert! Bahbahbah — baron!” The Sarmatian looked at her for a minute; and turning head over heels, three times, bolted suddenly off his horses, and away out of our sight.

It was HIS EXCELLENCY THE BARON DE PUNTER!

Jemmy went off in a fit as usual, and we never saw the Baron again; but we heard, afterwards, that Punter was an apprentice of Franconi’s, and had run away to England, thinking to better himself, and had joined Mr. Richardson’s army; but Mr. Richardson, and then London, did not agree with him; and we saw the last of him as he sprung over the barriers at the Tuggeridgeville tournament.

“Well, Jemimarann,” says Jemmy, in a fury, “you shall marry Tagrag; and if I can’t have a baroness for a daughter, at least you shall be a baronet’s lady.” Poor Jemimarann only sighed: she knew it was of no use to remonstrate.

Paris grew dull to us after this, and we were more eager than ever to go back to London: for what should we hear, but that that monster, Tuggeridge, of the City — old Tug’s black son, forsooth! — was going to contest Jemmy’s claim to the property, and had filed I don’t know how many bills against us in Chancery! Hearing this, we set off immediately, and we arrived at Boulogne, and set off in that very same “Grand Turk” which had brought us to France.

If you look in the bills, you will see that the steamers leave London on Saturday morning, and Boulogne on Saturday night; so that there is often not an hour between the time of arrival and departure. Bless us! bless us! I pity the poor Captain that, for twenty-four hours at a time, is on a paddle-box, roaring out, “Ease her! Stop her!” and the poor servants, who are laying out breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, supper; — breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, supper again; — for layers upon layers of travellers, as it were; and most of all, I pity that unhappy steward, with those unfortunate tin-basins that he must always keep an eye over. Little did we know what a storm was brooding in our absence; and little were we prepared for the awful, awful fate that hung over our Tuggeridgeville property.

Biggs, of the great house of Higgs, Biggs, and Blatherwick, was our man of business: when I arrived in London I heard that he had just set off to Paris after me. So we started down to Tuggeridgeville instead of going to Portland Place. As we came through the lodge-gates, we found a crowd assembled within them; and there was that horrid Tuggeridige on horseback, with a shabby-looking man, called Mr. Scapgoat, and his man of business, and many more. “Mr. Scapgoat,” says Tuggeridge, grinning, and handing him over a sealed paper, “here’s the lease; I leave you in possession, and wish you good morning.”

“In possession of what?” says the rightful lady of Tuggeridgeville, leaning out of the carriage-window. She hated black Tuggeridge, as she called him, like poison: the very first week of our coming to Portland Place, when he called to ask restitution of some plate which he said was his private property, she called him a base-born blackamoor, and told him to quit the house. Since then there had been law squabbles between us without end, and all sorts of writings, meetings, and arbitrations.

“Possession of my estate of Tuggeridgeville, madam,” roars he, “left me by my father’s will, which you have had notice of these three weeks, and know as well as I do.”

“Old Tug left no will,” shrieked Jemmy; “he didn’t die to leave his estates to blackamoors — to negroes — to base-born mulatto story-tellers; if he did may I be ———”

“Oh, hush! dearest mamma,” says Jemimarann. “Go it again, mother!” says Tug, who is always sniggering.

“What is this business, Mr. Tuggeridge?” cried Tagrag (who was the only one of our party that had his senses). “What is this will?”

“Oh, it’s merely a matter of form,” said the lawyer, riding up. “For heaven’s sake, madam, be peaceable; let my friends, Higgs, Biggs, and Blatherwick, arrange with me. I am surprised that none of their people are here. All that you have to do is to eject us; and the rest will follow, of course.”

“Who has taken possession of this here property?” roars Jemmy, again.

“My friend Mr. Scapgoat,” said the lawyer. — Mr. Scapgoat grinned.

“Mr. Scapgoat,” said my wife, shaking her fist at him (for she is a woman of no small spirit), “if you don’t leave this ground I’ll have you pushed out with pitchforks, I will — you and your beggarly blackamoor yonder.” And, suiting the action to the word, she clapped a stable fork into the hands of one of the gardeners, and called another, armed with a rake, to his help, while young Tug set the dog at their heels, and I hurrahed for joy to see such villany so properly treated.

“That’s sufficient, ain’t it?” said Mr. Scapgoat, with the calmest air in the world. “Oh, completely,” said the lawyer. “Mr. Tuggeridge, we’ve ten miles to dinner. Madam, your very humble servant.” And the whole posse of them rode away.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07