The Great Hoggarty Diamond, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER V

How the Diamond Introduces Him to A Still More Fashionable Place

To tell the truth, though, about the pin, although I mentioned it almost the last thing in the previous chapter, I assure you it was by no means the last thing in my thoughts. It had come home from Mr. Polonius’s, as I said, on Saturday night; and Gus and I happened to be out enjoying ourselves, half-price, at Sadler’s Wells; and perhaps we took a little refreshment on our way back: but that has nothing to do with my story.

On the table, however, was the little box from the jeweller’s; and when I took it out — my, how the diamond did twinkle and glitter by the light of our one candle!

“I’m sure it would light up the room of itself,” says Gus. “I’ve read they do in-in history.”

It was in the history of Cogia Hassan Alhabbal, in the “Arabian Nights,” as I knew very well. But we put the candle out, nevertheless, to try.

“Well, I declare to goodness it does illuminate the old place!” says Gus; but the fact was, that there was a gas-lamp opposite our window, and I believe that was the reason why we could see pretty well. At least in my bedroom, to which I was obliged to go without a candle, and of which the window looked out on a dead wall, I could not see a wink, in spite of the Hoggarty diamond, and was obliged to grope about in the dark for a pincushion which Somebody gave me (I don’t mind owning it was Mary Smith), and in which I stuck it for the night. But, somehow, I did not sleep much for thinking of it, and woke very early in the morning; and, if the truth must be told, stuck it in my night-gown, like a fool, and admired myself very much in the glass.

Gus admired it as much as I did; for since my return, and especially since my venison dinner and drive with Lady Drum, he thought I was the finest fellow in the world, and boasted about his “West End friend” everywhere.

As we were going to dine at Roundhand’s, and I had no black satin stock to set it off, I was obliged to place it in the frill of my best shirt, which tore the muslin sadly, by the way. However, the diamond had its effect on my entertainers, as we have seen; rather too much perhaps on one of them; and next day I wore it down at the office, as Gus would make me do; though it did not look near so well in the second day’s shirt as on the first day, when the linen was quite clear and bright with Somersetshire washing.

The chaps at the West Diddlesex all admired it hugely, except that snarling Scotchman M’Whirter, fourth clerk — out of envy because I did not think much of a great yellow stone, named a carum-gorum, or some such thing, which he had in a snuff-mull, as he called it — all except M’Whirter, I say, were delighted with it; and Abednego himself, who ought to know, as his father was in the line, told me the jewel was worth at least ten poundsh, and that his governor would give me as much for it.

“That’s a proof,” says Roundhand, “that Tit’s diamond is worth at least thirty.” And we all laughed, and agreed it was.

Now I must confess that all these praises, and the respect that wag paid me, turned my head a little; and as all the chaps said I must have a black satin stock to set the stone off, was fool enough to buy a stock that cost me five-and-twenty shillings, at Ludlam’s in Piccadilly: for Gus said I must go to the best place, to be sure, and have none of our cheap and common East End stuff. I might have had one for sixteen and six in Cheapside, every whit as good; but when a young lad becomes vain, and wants to be fashionable, you see he can’t help being extravagant.

Our director, Mr. Brough, did not fail to hear of the haunch of venison business, and my relationship with Lady Drum and the Right Honourable Edmund Preston: only Abednego, who told him, said I was her Ladyship’s first cousin; and this made Brough think more of me, and no worse than before.

Mr. B. was, as everybody knows, Member of Parliament for Rottenburgh; and being considered one of the richest men in the City of London, used to receive all the great people of the land at his villa at Fulham; and we often read in the papers of the rare doings going on there.

Well, the pin certainly worked wonders: for not content merely with making me a present of a ride in a countess’s carriage, of a haunch of venison and two baskets of fruit, and the dinner at Roundhand’s above described, my diamond had other honours in store for me, and procured me the honour of an invitation to the house of our director, Mr. Brough.

Once a year, in June, that honourable gent gave a grand ball at his house at Fulham; and by the accounts of the entertainment brought back by one or two of our chaps who had been invited, it was one of the most magnificent things to be seen about London. You saw Members of Parliament there as thick as peas in July, lords and ladies without end. There was everything and everybody of the tip-top sort; and I have heard that Mr. Gunter, of Berkeley Square, supplied the ices, supper, and footmen — though of the latter Brough kept a plenty, but not enough to serve the host of people who came to him. The party, it must be remembered, was Mrs. Brough’s party, not the gentleman’s — he being in the Dissenting way, would scarcely sanction any entertainments of the kind: but he told his City friends that his lady governed him in everything; and it was generally observed that most of them would allow their daughters to go to the ball if asked, on account of the immense number of the nobility which our director assembled together: Mrs. Roundhand, I know, for one, would have given one of her ears to go; but, as I have said before, nothing would induce Brough to ask her.

Roundhand himself, and Gutch, nineteenth clerk, son of the brother of an East Indian director, were the only two of our gents invited, as we knew very well: for they had received their invitations many weeks before, and bragged about them not a little. But two days before the ball, and after my diamond-pin had had its due effect upon the gents at the office, Abednego, who had been in the directors’ room, came to my desk with a great smirk, and said, “Tit, Mr. B. says that he expects you will come down with Roundhand to the ball on Thursday.” I thought Moses was joking — at any rate, that Mr. B.‘s message was a queer one; for people don’t usually send invitations in that abrupt peremptory sort of way; but, sure enough, he presently came down himself and confirmed it, saying, as he was going out of the office, “Mr. Titmarsh, you will come down on Thursday to Mrs. Brough’s party, where you will see some relations of yours.”

“West End again!” says that Gus Hoskins; and accordingly down I went, taking a place in a cab which Roundhand hired for himself, Gutch, and me, and for which he very generously paid eight shillings.

There is no use to describe the grand gala, nor the number of lamps in the lodge and in the garden, nor the crowd of carriages that came in at the gates, nor the troops of curious people outside; nor the ices, fiddlers, wreaths of flowers, and cold supper within. The whole description was beautifully given in a fashionable paper, by a reporter who observed the same from the “Yellow Lion” over the way, and told it in his journal in the most accurate manner; getting an account of the dresses of the great people from their footmen and coachmen, when they came to the alehouse for their porter. As for the names of the guests, they, you may be sure, found their way to the same newspaper: and a great laugh was had at my expense, because among the titles of the great people mentioned my name appeared in the list of the “Honourables.” Next day, Brough advertised “a hundred and fifty guineas reward for an emerald necklace lost at the party of John Brough, Esq., at Fulham;” though some of our people said that no such thing was lost at all, and that Brough only wanted to advertise the magnificence of his society; but this doubt was raised by persons not invited, and envious no doubt.

Well, I wore my diamond, as you may imagine, and rigged myself in my best clothes, viz. my blue coat and brass buttons before mentioned, nankeen trousers and silk stockings, a white waistcoat, and a pair of white gloves bought for the occasion. But my coat was of country make, very high in the waist and short in the sleeves, and I suppose must have looked rather odd to some of the great people assembled, for they stared at me a great deal, and a whole crowd formed to see me dance — which I did to the best of my power, performing all the steps accurately and with great agility, as I had been taught by our dancing-master in the country.

And with whom do you think I had the honour to dance? With no less a person than Lady Jane Preston; who, it appears, had not gone out of town, and who shook me most kindly by the hand when she saw me, and asked me to dance with her. We had my Lord Tiptoff and Lady Fanny Rakes for our vis-a-vis.

You should have seen how the people crowded to look at us, and admired my dancing too, for I cut the very best of capers, quite different to the rest of the gents (my Lord among the number), who walked through the quadrille as if they thought it a trouble, and stared at my activity with all their might. But when I have a dance I like to enjoy myself: and Mary Smith often said I was the very best partner at our assemblies. While we were dancing, I told Lady Jane how Roundhand, Gutch, and I, had come down three in a cab, besides the driver; and my account of our adventures made her Ladyship laugh, I warrant you. Lucky it was for me that I didn’t go back in the same vehicle; for the driver went and intoxicated himself at the “Yellow Lion,” threw out Gutch and our head clerk as he was driving them back, and actually fought Gutch afterwards and blacked his eye, because he said that Gutch’s red waistcoat frightened the horse.

Lady Jane, however, spared me such an uncomfortable ride home: for she said she had a fourth place in her carriage, and asked me if I would accept it; and positively, at two o’clock in the morning, there was I, after setting the ladies and my Lord down, driven to Salisbury Square in a great thundering carriage, with flaming lamps and two tall footmen, who nearly knocked the door and the whole little street down with the noise they made at the rapper. You should have seen Gus’s head peeping out of window in his white nightcap! He kept me up the whole night telling him about the ball, and the great people I had seen there; and next day he told at the office my stories, with his own usual embroideries upon them.

“Mr. Titmarsh,” said Lady Fanny, laughing to me, “who is that great fat curious man, the master of the house? Do you know he asked me if you were not related to us? and I said, ‘Oh, yes, you were.’”

“Fanny!” says Lady Jane.

“Well,” answered the other, “did not Grandmamma say Mr. Titmarsh was her cousin?”

“But you know that Grandmamma’s memory is not very good.”

“Indeed, you’re wrong, Lady Jane,” says my Lord; “I think it’s prodigious.”

“Yes, but not very — not very accurate.”

“No, my Lady,” says I; “for her Ladyship, the Countess of Drum, said, if you remember, that my friend Gus Hoskins —”

“Whose cause you supported so bravely,” cries Lady Fanny.

“— That my friend Gus is her Ladyship’s cousin too, which cannot be, for I know all his family: they live in Skinner Street and St. Mary Axe, and are not — not quite so respectable as my relatives.”

At this they all began to laugh; and my Lord said, rather haughtily —

“Depend upon it, Mr. Titmarsh, that Lady Drum is no more your cousin than she is the cousin of your friend Mr. Hoskinson.”

“Hoskins, my Lord — and so I told Gus; but you see he is very fond of me, and will have it that I am related to Lady D.: and say what I will to the contrary, tells the story everywhere. Though to be sure,” added I with a laugh, “it has gained me no small good in my time.” So I described to the party our dinner at Mrs. Roundhand’s, which all came from my diamond-pin, and my reputation as a connection of the aristocracy. Then I thanked Lady Jane handsomely for her magnificent present of fruit and venison, and told her that it had entertained a great number of kind friends of mine, who had drunk her Ladyship’s health with the greatest gratitude.

A haunch of venison!” cried Lady Jane, quite astonished; “indeed, Mr. Titmarsh, I am quite at a loss to understand you.”

As we passed a gas-lamp, I saw Lady Fanny laughing as usual, and turning her great arch sparkling black eyes at Lord Tiptoff.

“Why, Lady Jane,” said he, “if the truth must out, the great haunch of venison trick was one of this young lady’s performing. You must know that I had received the above-named haunch from Lord Guttlebury’s park: and knowing that Preston is not averse to Guttlebury venison, was telling Lady Drum (in whose carriage I had a seat that day, as Mr. Titmarsh was not in the way), that I intended the haunch for your husband’s table. Whereupon my Lady Fanny, clapping together her little hands, declared and vowed that the venison should not go to Preston, but should be sent to a gentleman about whose adventures on the day previous we had just been talking — to Mr. Titmarsh, in fact; whom Preston, as Fanny vowed, had used most cruelly, and to whom, she said, a reparation was due. So my Lady Fanny insists upon our driving straight to my rooms in the Albany (you know I am only to stay in my bachelor’s quarters a month longer)—”

“Nonsense!” says Lady Fanny.

“— Insists upon driving straight to my chambers in the Albany, extracting thence the above-named haunch —”

“Grandmamma was very sorry to part with it,” cries Lady Fanny.

“— And then she orders us to proceed to Mr. Titmarsh’s house in the City, where the venison was left, in company with a couple of baskets of fruit bought at Grange’s by Lady Fanny herself.”

“And what was more,” said Lady Fanny, “I made Grandmamma go into Fr — into Lord Tiptoff’s rooms, and dictated out of my own mouth the letter which he wrote, and pinned up the haunch of venison that his hideous old housekeeper brought us — I am quite jealous of her — I pinned up the haunch of venison in a copy of the John Bull newspaper.”

It had one of the Ramsbottom letters in it, I remember, which Gus and I read on Sunday at breakfast, and we nearly killed ourselves with laughing. The ladies laughed too when I told them this; and good-natured Lady Jane said she would forgive her sister, and hoped I would too: which I promised to do as often as her Ladyship chose to repeat the offence.

I never had any more venison from the family; but I’ll tell you what I had. About a month after came a card of “Lord and Lady Tiptoff,” and a great piece of plum-cake; of which, I am sorry to say, Gus ate a great deal too much.

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