Novels by Eminent Hands, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Codlingsby.

by D. Shrewsberry, Esq.

I.

“The whole world is bound by one chain. In every city in the globe there is one quarter that certain travellers know and recognize from its likeness to its brother district in all other places where are congregated the habitations of men. In Tehran, or Pekin, or Stamboul, or New York, or Timbuctoo, or London, there is a certain district where a certain man is not a stranger. Where the idols are fed with incense by the streams of Ching-wang-foo; where the minarets soar sparkling above the cypresses, their reflections quivering in the lucid waters of the Golden Horn; where the yellow Tiber flows under broken bridges and over imperial glories; where the huts are squatted by the Niger, under the palm-trees; where the Northern Babel lies, with its warehouses, and its bridges, its graceful factory-chimneys, and its clumsy fanes — hidden in fog and smoke by the dirtiest river in the world — in all the cities of mankind there is One Home whither men of one family may resort. Over the entire world spreads a vast brotherhood, suffering, silent, scattered, sympathizing, WAITING— an immense Free-Masonry. Once this world-spread band was an Arabian clan — a little nation alone and outlying amongst the mighty monarchies of ancient time, the Megatheria of history. The sails of their rare ships might be seen in the Egyptian waters; the camels of their caravans might thread the sands of Baalbec, or wind through the date-groves of Damascus; their flag was raised, not ingloriously, in many wars, against mighty odds; but ’twas a small people, and on one dark night the Lion of Judah went down before Vespasian’s Eagles, and in flame, and death, and struggle, Jerusalem agonized and died. . . . Yes, the Jewish city is lost to Jewish men; but have they not taken the world in exchange?”

Mused thus Godfrey de Bouillon, Marquis of Codlingsby, as he debouched from Wych Street into the Strand. He had been to take a box for Armida at Madame Vestris’s theatre. That little Armida was folle of Madame Vestris’s theatre; and her little brougham, and her little self, and her enormous eyes, and her prodigious opera-glass, and her miraculous bouquet, which cost Lord Codlingsby twenty guineas every evening at Nathan’s in Covent Garden (the children of the gardeners of Sharon have still no rival for flowers), might be seen, three nights in the week at least, in the narrow, charming, comfortable little theatre. Godfrey had the box. He was strolling, listlessly, eastward; and the above thoughts passed through the young noble’s mind as he came in sight of Holywell Street.

The occupants of the London Ghetto sat at their porches basking in the evening sunshine. Children were playing on the steps. Fathers were smoking at the lintel. Smiling faces looked out from the various and darkling draperies with which the warehouses were hung. Ringlets glossy, and curly, and jetty — eyes black as night — midsummer night — when it lightens; haughty noses bending like beaks of eagles — eager quivering nostrils — lips curved like the bow of Love — every man or maiden, every babe or matron in that English Jewry bore in his countenance one or more of these characteristics of his peerless Arab race.

“How beautiful they are!” mused Codlingsby, as he surveyed these placid groups calmly taking their pleasure in the sunset.

“D’you vant to look at a nishe coat?” a voice said, which made him start; and then some one behind him began handling a masterpiece of Stultz’s with a familiarity which would have made the baron tremble.

“Rafael Mendoza!” exclaimed Godfrey.

“The same, Lord Codlingsby,” the individual so apostrophized replied. “I told you we should meet again where you would little expect me. Will it please you to enter? this is Friday, and we close at sunset. It rejoices my heart to welcome you home.” So saying Rafael laid his hand on his breast, and bowed, an oriental reverence. All traces of the accent with which he first addressed Lord Codlingsby had vanished: it was disguise; half the Hebrew’s life is a disguise. He shields himself in craft, since the Norman boors persecuted him.

They passed under an awning of old clothes, tawdry fripperies, greasy spangles, and battered masks, into a shop as black and hideous as the entrance was foul. “THIS your home, Rafael?” said Lord Codlingsby.

“Why not?” Rafael answered. “I am tired of Schloss Schinkenstein; the Rhine bores me after a while. It is too hot for Florence; besides they have not completed the picture-gallery, and my place smells of putty. You wouldn’t have a man, mon cher, bury himself in his chateau in Normandy, out of the hunting season? The Rugantino Palace stupefies me. Those Titians are so gloomy, I shall have my Hobbimas and Tenierses, I think, from my house at the Hague hung over them.”

“How many castles, palaces, houses, warehouses, shops, have you, Rafael?” Lord Codlingsby asked, laughing.

“This is one,” Rafael answered. “Come in.”

II.

The noise in the old town was terrific; Great Tom was booming sullenly over the uproar; the bell of Saint Mary’s was clanging with alarm; St. Giles’s tocsin chimed furiously; howls, curses, flights of brickbats, stones shivering windows, groans of wounded men, cries of frightened females, cheers of either contending party as it charged the enemy from Carfax to Trumpington Street, proclaimed that the battle was at its height.

In Berlin they would have said it was a revolution, and the cuirassiers would have been charging, sabre in hand, amidst that infuriate mob. In France they would have brought down artillery, and played on it with twenty-four pounders. In Cambridge nobody heeded the disturbance — it was a Town and Gown row.

The row arose at a boat-race. The Town boat (manned by eight stout Bargees, with the redoubted Rullock for stroke) had bumped the Brazenose light oar, usually at the head of the river. High words arose regarding the dispute. After returning from Granchester, when the boats pulled back to Christchurch meadows, the disturbance between the Townsmen and the University youths — their invariable opponents — grew louder and more violent, until it broke out in open battle. Sparring and skirmishing took place along the pleasant fields that lead from the University gate down to the broad and shining waters of the Cam, and under the walls of Balliol and Sidney Sussex. The Duke of Bellamont (then a dashing young sizar at Exeter) had a couple of rounds with Billy Butt, the bow-oar of the Bargee boat. Vavasour of Brazenose was engaged with a powerful butcher, a well-known champion of the Town party, when, the great University bells ringing to dinner, truce was called between the combatants, and they retired to their several colleges for refection.

During the boat-race, a gentleman pulling in a canoe, and smoking a narghilly, had attracted no ordinary attention. He rowed about a hundred yards ahead of the boats in the race, so that he could have a good view of that curious pastime. If the eight-oars neared him, with a few rapid strokes of his flashing paddles his boat shot a furlong ahead; then he would wait, surveying the race, and sending up volumes of odor from his cool narghilly.

“Who is he?” asked the crowds who panted along the shore, encouraging, according to Cambridge wont, the efforts of the oarsmen in the race. Town and Gown alike asked who it was, who, with an ease so provoking, in a barque so singular, with a form seemingly so slight, but a skill so prodigious, beat their best men. No answer could be given to the query, save that a gentleman in a dark travelling-chariot, preceded by six fourgons and a courier, had arrived the day before at the “Hoop Inn,” opposite Brazenose, and that the stranger of the canoe seemed to be the individual in question.

No wonder the boat, that all admired so, could compete with any that ever was wrought by Cambridge artificer or Putney workman. That boat — slim, shining, and shooting through the water like a pike after a small fish — was a caique from Tophana; it had distanced the Sultan’s oarsmen and the best crews of the Capitan Pasha in the Bosphorus; it was the workmanship of Togrul-Beg, Caikjee Bashee of his Highness. The Bashee had refused fifty thousand tomauns from Count Boutenieff, the Russian Ambassador, for that little marvel. When his head was taken off, the Father of Believers presented the boat to Rafael Mendoza.

It was Rafael Mendoza that saved the Turkish monarchy after the battle of Nezeeb. By sending three millions of piastres to the Seraskier; by bribing Colonel de St. Cornichon, the French envoy in the camp of the victorious Ibrahim, the march of the Egyptian army was stopped — the menaced empire of the Ottomans was saved from ruin; the Marchioness of Stokepogis, our ambassador’s lady, appeared in a suite of diamonds which outblazed even the Romanoff jewels, and Rafael Mendoza obtained the little caique. He never travelled without it. It was scarcely heavier than an arm-chair. Baroni, the courier, had carried it down to the Cam that morning, and Rafael had seen the singular sport which we have mentioned.

The dinner over, the young men rushed from their colleges, flushed, full-fed, and eager for battle. If the Gown was angry, the Town, too, was on the alert. From Iffly and Barnwell, from factory and mill, from wharf and warehouse, the Town poured out to meet the enemy, and their battle was soon general. From the Addenbrook’s hospital to the Blenheim turnpike, all Cambridge was in an uproar — the college gates closed — the shops barricaded — the shop-boys away in support of their brother townsmen — the battle raged, and the Gown had the worst of the fight.

A luncheon of many courses had been provided for Rafael Mendoza at his inn; but he smiled at the clumsy efforts of the university cooks to entertain him, and a couple of dates and a glass of water formed his meal. In vain the discomfited landlord pressed him to partake of the slighted banquet. “A breakfast! psha!” said he. “My good man, I have nineteen cooks, at salaries rising from four hundred a year. I can have a dinner at any hour; but a Town and Gown row” (a brickbat here flying through the window crashed the caraffe of water in Mendoza’s hand)—“a Town and Gown row is a novelty to me. The Town has the best of it, clearly, though: the men outnumber the lads. Ha, a good blow! How that tall townsman went down before yonder slim young fellow in the scarlet trencher cap.”

“That is the Lord Codlingsby,” the landlord said.

“A light weight, but a pretty fighter,” Mendoza remarked. “Well hit with your left, Lord Codlingsby; well parried, Lord Codlingsby; claret drawn, by Jupiter!”

“Ours is werry fine,” the landlord said. “Will your Highness have Chateau Margaux or Lafitte?”

“He never can be going to match himself against that bargeman!” Rafael exclaimed, as an enormous boatman — no other than Rullock — indeed, the most famous bruiser of Cambridge, and before whose fists the Gownsmen went down like ninepins — fought his way up to the spot where, with admirable spirit and resolution, Lord Codlingsby and one or two of his friends were making head against a number of the town.

The young noble faced the huge champion with the gallantry of his race, but was no match for the enemy’s strength and weight and sinew, and went down at every round. The brutal fellow had no mercy on the lad. His savage treatment chafed Mendoza as he viewed the unequal combat from the inn-window. “Hold your hand!” he cried to this Goliath; “don’t you see he’s but a boy?”

“Down he goes again!” the bargeman cried, not heeding the interruption. “Down he goes again: I likes wapping a lord!”

“Coward!” shouted Mendoza; and to fling open the window amidst a shower of brickbats, to vault over the balcony, to slide down one of the pillars to the ground, was an instant’s work.

At the next he stood before the enormous bargeman.

***

After the coroner’s inquest, Mendoza gave ten thousand pounds to each of the bargeman’s ten children, and it was thus his first acquaintance was formed with Lord Codlingsby.

But we are lingering on the threshold of the house in Holywell Street. Let us go in.

III.

Godfrey and Rafael passed from the street into the outer shop of the old mansion in Holywell Street. It was a masquerade warehouse to all appearance. A dark-eyed damsel of the nation was standing at the dark and grimy counter, strewed with old feathers, old yellow hoots, old stage mantles, painted masks, blind and yet gazing at you with a look of sad death-like intelligence from the vacancy behind their sockets.

A medical student was trying one of the doublets of orange-tawny and silver, slashed with dirty light blue. He was going to a masquerade that night. He thought Polly Pattens would admire him in the dress — Polly Pattens, the fairest of maids-of-all-work — the Borough Venus, adored by half the youth of Guy’s.

“You look like a prince in it, Mr. Lint,” pretty Rachel said, coaxing him with her beady black eyes.

“It IS the cheese,” replied Mr. Lint; “it ain’t the dress that don’t suit, my rose of Sharon; it’s the FIGURE. Hullo, Rafael, is that you, my lad of sealing-wax? Come and intercede for me with this wild gazelle; she says I can’t have it under fifteen bob for the night. And it’s too much: cuss me if it’s not too much, unless you’ll take my little bill at two months, Rafael.”

“There’s a sweet pretty brigand’s dress you may have for half de monish,” Rafael replied; “there’s a splendid clown for eight bob; but for dat Spanish dress, selp ma Moshesh, Mistraer Lint, ve’d ask a guinea of any but you. Here’s a gentlemansh just come to look at it. Look ‘ear, Mr. Brownsh, did you ever shee a nisher ting dan dat?” So saying, Rafael turned to Lord Codlingsby with the utmost gravity, and displayed to him the garment about which the young medicus was haggling.

“Cheap at the money,” Codlingsby replied; “if you won’t make up your mind, sir, I should like to engage it myself.” But the thought that another should appear before Polly Pattens in that costume was too much for Mr. Lint; he agreed to pay the fifteen shillings for the garment. And Rafael, pocketing the money with perfect simplicity, said, “Dis vay, Mr. Brownsh: dere’s someting vill shoot you in the next shop.”

Lord Codlingsby followed him, wondering.

“You are surprised at our system,” said Rafael, marking the evident bewilderment of his friend. “Confess you would call it meanness — my huckstering with yonder young fool. I call it simplicity. Why throw away a shilling without need? Our race never did. A shilling is four men’s bread: shall I disdain to defile my fingers by holding them out relief in their necessity? It is you who are mean — you Normans — not we of the ancient race. You have your vulgar measurement for great things and small. You call a thousand pounds respectable, and a shekel despicable. Psha, my Codlingsby! One is as the other. I trade in pennies and in millions. I am above or below neither.”

They were passing through a second shop, smelling strongly of cedar, and, in fact, piled up with bales of those pencils which the young Hebrews are in the habit of vending through the streets. “I have sold bundles and bundles of these,” said Rafael. “My little brother is now out with oranges in Piccadilly. I am bringing him up to be head of our house at Amsterdam. We all do it. I had myself to see Rothschild in Eaton Place this morning, about the Irish loan, of which I have taken three millions: and as I wanted to walk, I carried the bag.

“You should have seen the astonishment of Lauda Latymer, the Archbishop of Croydon’s daughter, as she was passing St. Bennet’s, Knightsbridge, and as she fancied she recognized in the man who was crying old clothes the gentleman with whom she had talked at the Count de St. Aulair’s the night before.” Something like a blush flushed over the pale features of Mendoza as he mentioned the Lady Lauda’s name. “Come on,” said he. They passed through various warehouses — the orange room, the sealing-wax room, the six-bladed knife department, and finally came to an old baize door. Rafael opened the baize door by some secret contrivance, and they were in a black passage, with a curtain at the end.

He clapped his hands; the curtain at the end of the passage drew back, and a flood of golden light streamed on the Hebrew and his visitor.

Chapter Xxiv.

They entered a moderate-sized apartment — indeed, Holywell Street is not above a hundred yards long, and this chamber was not more than half that length — it was fitted up with the simple taste of its owner.

The carpet was of white velvet —(laid over several webs of Aubusson, Ispahan, and Axminster, so that your foot gave no more sound as it trod upon the yielding plain than the shadow did which followed you)— of white velvet, painted with flowers, arabesques, and classic figures, by Sir William Ross, J. M. W. Turner, R. A., Mrs. Mee, and Paul Delaroche. The edges were wrought with seed-pearls, and fringed with Valenciennes lace and bullion. The walls were hung with cloth of silver, embroidered with gold figures, over which were worked pomegranates, polyanthuses, and passion-flowers, in ruby, amethyst, and smaragd. The drops of dew which the artificer had sprinkled on the flowers were diamonds. The hangings were overhung by pictures yet more costly. Giorgione the gorgeous, Titian the golden, Rubens the ruddy and pulpy (the Pan of Painting), some of Murillo’s beatified shepherdesses, who smile on you out of darkness like a star, a few score first-class Leonardos, and fifty of the master-pieces of the patron of Julius and Leo, the Imperial genius of Urbino, covered the walls of the little chamber. Divans of carved amber covered with ermine went round the room, and in the midst was a fountain, pattering and babbling with jets of double-distilled otto of roses.

“Pipes, Goliath!” Rafael said gayly to a little negro with a silver collar (he spoke to him in his native tongue of Dongola); “and welcome to our snuggery, my Codlingsby. We are quieter here than in the front of the house, and I wanted to show you a picture. I’m proud of my pictures. That Leonardo came from Genoa, and was a gift to our father from my cousin, Marshal Manasseh: that Murillo was pawned to my uncle by Marie Antoinette before the flight to Varennes — the poor lady could not redeem the pledge, you know, and the picture remains with us. As for the Rafael, I suppose you are aware that he was one of our people. But what are you gazing at? Oh! my sister — I forgot. Miriam! this is the Lord Codlingsby.”

She had been seated at an ivory pianoforte on a mother-of-pearl music-stool, trying a sonata of Herz. She rose when thus apostrophized. Miriam de Mendoza rose and greeted the stranger.

The Talmud relates that Adam had two wives — Zillah the dark beauty; Eva the fair one. The ringlets of Zillah were black; those of Eva were golden. The eyes of Zillah were night; those of Eva were morning. Codlingsby was fair — of the fair Saxon race of Hengist and Horsa — they called him Miss Codlingsby at school; but how much fairer was Miriam the Hebrew!

Her hair had that deep glowing tinge in it which has been the delight of all painters, and which, therefore, the vulgar sneer at. It was of burning auburn. Meandering over her fairest shoulders in twenty thousand minute ringlets, it hung to her waist and below it. A light blue velvet fillet clasped with a diamond aigrette (valued at two hundred thousand tomauns, and bought from Lieutenant Vicovich, who had received it from Dost Mahomed), with a simple bird of paradise, formed her head-gear. A sea-green cymar with short sleeves, displayed her exquisitely moulded arms to perfection, and was fastened by a girdle of emeralds over a yellow satin frock. Pink gauze trousers spangled with silver, and slippers of the same color as the band which clasped her ringlets (but so covered with pearls that the original hue of the charming little papoosh disappeared entirely) completed her costume. She had three necklaces on, each of which would have dowered a Princess — her fingers glistened with rings to their rosy tips, and priceless bracelets, bangles, and armlets wound round an arm that was whiter than the ivory grand piano on which it leaned.

As Miriam de Mendoza greeted the stranger, turning upon him the solemn welcome of her eyes, Codlingsby swooned almost in the brightness of her beauty. It was well she spoke; the sweet kind voice restored him to consciousness. Muttering a few words of incoherent recognition, he sank upon a sandalwood settee, as Goliath, the little slave, brought aromatic coffee in cups of opal, and alabaster spittoons, and pipes of the fragrant Gibelly.

“My lord’s pipe is out,” said Miriam with a smile, remarking the bewilderment of her guest — who in truth forgot to smoke — and taking up a thousand pound note from a bundle on the piano, she lighted it at the taper and proceeded to re-illumine the extinguished chibouk of Lord Codlingsby.

IV.

When Miriam, returning to the mother-of-pearl music-stool, at a signal from her brother, touched the silver and enamelled keys of the ivory piano, and began to sing, Lord Codlingsby felt as if he were listening at the gates of Paradise, or were hearing Jenny Lind.

“Lind is the name of the Hebrew race; so is Mendelssohn, the son of Almonds; so is Rosenthal, the Valley of the Roses: so is Lowe or Lewis or Lyons or Lion. The beautiful and the brave alike give cognizances to the ancient people: you Saxons call yourselves Brown, or Smith, or Rodgers,” Rafael observed to his friend; and, drawing the instrument from his pocket, he accompanied his sister, in the most ravishing manner, on a little gold and jewelled harp, of the kind peculiar to his nation.

All the airs which the Hebrew maid selected were written by composers of her race; it was either a hymn by Rossini, a polacca by Braham, a delicious romance by Sloman, or a melody by Weber, that, thrilling on the strings of the instrument, wakened a harmony on the fibres of the heart; but she sang no other than the songs of her nation.

“Beautiful one! sing ever, sing always,” Codlingsby thought. “I could sit at thy feet as under a green palm-tree, and fancy that Paradise-birds were singing in the boughs.”

Rafael read his thoughts. “We have Saxon blood too in our veins,” he said. “You smile! but it is even so. An ancestress of ours made a mesalliance in the reign of your King John. Her name was Rebecca, daughter of Isaac of York, and she married in Spain, whither she had fled to the Court of King Boabdil, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe; then a widower by the demise of his first lady, Rowena. The match was deemed a cruel insult amongst our people but Wilfred conformed, and was a Rabbi of some note at the synagogue of Cordova. We are descended from him lineally. It is the only blot upon the escutcheon of the Mendozas.”

As they sat talking together, the music finished, and Miriam having retired (though her song and her beauty were still present to the soul of the stranger) at a signal from Mendoza, various messengers from the outer apartments came in to transact business with him.

First it was Mr. Aminadab, who kissed his foot, and brought papers to sign. “How is the house in Grosvenor Square, Aminadab; and is your son tired of his yacht yet?” Mendoza asked. “That is my twenty-fourth cashier,” said Rafael to Codlingsby, when the obsequious clerk went away. “He is fond of display, and all my people may have what money they like.”

Entered presently the Lord Bareacres, on the affair of his mortgage. The Lord Bareacres, strutting into the apartment with a haughty air, shrank back, nevertheless, with surprise on beholding the magnificence around him. “Little Mordecai,” said Rafael to a little orange-boy, who came in at the heels of the noble, “take this gentleman out and let him have ten thousand pounds. I can’t do more for you, my lord, than this — I’m busy. Good-by!” And Rafael waved his hand to the peer, and fell to smoking his narghilly.

A man with a square face, cat-like eyes, and a yellow moustache, came next. He had an hour-glass of a waist, and walked uneasily upon his high-heeled boots. “Tell your master that he shall have two millions more, but not another shilling,” Rafael said. “That story about the five-and-twenty millions of ready money at Cronstadt is all bosh. They won’t believe it in Europe. You understand me, Count Grogomoffski?”

“But his Imperial Majesty said four millions, and I shall get the knout unless —”

“Go and speak to Mr. Shadrach, in room Z 94, the fourth court,” said Mendoza good-naturedly. “Leave me at peace, Count: don’t you see it is Friday, and almost sunset?” The Calmuck envoy retired cringing, and left an odor of musk and candle-grease behind him.

An orange-man; an emissary from Lola Montes; a dealer in piping bullfinches; and a Cardinal in disguise, with a proposal for a new loan for the Pope, were heard by turns; and each, after a rapid colloquy in his own language, was dismissed by Rafael.

“The queen must come back from Aranjuez, or that king must be disposed of,” Rafael exclaimed, as a yellow-faced amabassador from Spain, General the Duke of Olla Podrida, left him. “Which shall it be, my Codlingsby?” Codlingsby was about laughingly to answer — for indeed he was amazed to find all the affairs of the world represented here, and Holywell Street the centre of Europe — when three knocks of a peculiar nature were heard, and Mendoza starting up, said, “Ha! there are only four men in the world who know that signal.” At once, and with a reverence quite distinct from his former nonchalant manner, he advanced towards the new-comer.

He was an old man — an old man evidently, too, of the Hebrew race — the light of his eyes was unfathomable — about his mouth there played an inscrutable smile. He had a cotton umbrella, and old trousers, and old boots, and an old wig, curling at the top like a rotten old pear.

He sat down, as if tired, in the first seat at hand, as Rafael made him the lowest reverence.

“I am tired,” says he; “I have come in fifteen hours. I am ill at Neuilly,” he added with a grin. “Get me some eau sucree, and tell me the news, Prince de Mendoza. These bread rows; this unpopularity of Guizot; this odious Spanish conspiracy against my darling Montpensier and daughter; this ferocity of Palmerston against Coletti, makes me quite ill. Give me your opinion, my dear duke. But ha! whom have we here?”

The august individual who had spoken, had used the Hebrew language to address Mendoza, and the Lord Codlingsby might easily have pleaded ignorance of that tongue. But he had been at Cambridge, where all the youth acquire it perfectly.

“SIRE,” said he, “I will not disguise from you that I know the ancient tongue in which you speak. There are probably secrets between Mendoza and your Maj —”

“Hush!” said Rafael, leading him from the room. “Au revoir, dear Codlingsby. His Majesty is one of US,” he whispered at the door; “so is the Pope of Rome; so is . . .”— a whisper concealed the rest.

“Gracious powers! is it so?” said Codlingsby, musing. He entered into Holywell Street. The sun was sinking.

“It is time,” said he, “to go and fetch Armida to the Olympic.”

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