“My dear John,” cried Lucy, with a very wise look indeed, “it must and shall be so. As for Doughty Street, with our means, a house is out of the question. We must keep three servants, and Aunt Biggs says the taxes are one-and-twenty pounds a year.”
“I have seen a sweet place at Chelsea,” remarked John: “Paradise Row, No. 17 — garden — greenhouse — fifty pounds a year — omnibus to town within a mile.”
“What! that I may be left alone all day, and you spend a fortune in driving backward and forward in those horrid breakneck cabs? My darling, I should die there — die of fright, I know I should. Did you not say yourself that the road was not as yet lighted, and that the place swarmed with public-houses and dreadful tipsy Irish bricklayers? Would you kill me, John?”
“My da-arling,” said John, with tremendous fondness, clutching Miss Lucy suddenly round the waist, and rapping the hand of that young person violently against his waistcoat — “My da-arling, don’t say such things, even in a joke. If I objected to the chambers, it is only because you, my love, with your birth and connections, ought to have a house of your own. The chambers are quite large enough and certainly quite good enough for me.” And so, after some more sweet parley on the part of these young people, it was agreed that they should take up their abode, when married, in a part of the House number One hundred and something, Bedford Row.
It will be necessary to explain to the reader that John was no other than John Perkins, Esquire, of the Middle Temple, barrister-at-law, and that Miss Lucy was the daughter of the late Captain Gorgon, and Marianne Biggs, his wife. The Captain being of noble connections, younger son of a baronet, cousin to Lord X— — and related to the Y—— family, had angered all his relatives by marrying a very silly pretty young woman, who kept a ladies’-school at Canterbury. She had six hundred pounds to her fortune, which the Captain laid out in the purchase of a sweet travelling-carriage and dressing-case for himself; and going abroad with his lady, spent several years in the principal prisons of Europe, in one of which he died. His wife and daughter were meantime supported by the contributions of Mrs. Jemima Biggs, who still kept the ladies’-school.
At last a dear old relative — such a one as one reads of in romances — died and left seven thousand pounds apiece to the two sisters, whereupon the elder gave up schooling and retired to London; and the younger managed to live with some comfort and decency at Brussels, upon two hundred and ten pounds per annum. Mrs. Gorgon never touched a shilling of her capital, for the very good reason that it was placed entirely out of her reach; so that when she died, her daughter found herself in possession of a sum of money that is not always to be met with in this world.
Her aunt the baronet’s lady, and her aunt the ex-schoolmistress, both wrote very pressing invitations to her, and she resided with each for six months after her arrival in England. Now, for a second time, she had come to Mrs. Biggs, Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh Square. It was under the roof of that respectable old lady that John Perkins, Esquire, being invited to take tea, wooed and won Miss Gorgon.
Having thus described the circumstances of Miss Gorgon’s life, let us pass for a moment from that young lady, and lift up the veil of mystery which envelopes the deeds and character of Perkins.
Perkins, too, was an orphan; and he and his Lucy, of summer evenings, when Sol descending lingered fondly yet about the minarets of the Foundling, and gilded the grassplots of Mecklenburgh Square — Perkins, I say, and Lucy would often sit together in the summer-house of that pleasure-ground, and muse upon the strange coincidences of their life. Lucy was motherless and fatherless; so too was Perkins. If Perkins was brotherless and sisterless, was not Lucy likewise an only child? Perkins was twenty-three: his age and Lucy’s united, amounted to forty-six; and it was to be remarked, as a fact still more extraordinary, that while Lucy’s relatives were AUNTS, John’s were UNCLES. Mysterious spirit of love! let us treat thee with respect and whisper not too many of thy secrets. The fact is, John and Lucy were a pair of fools (as every young couple OUGHT to be who have hearts that are worth a farthing), and were ready to find coincidences, sympathies, hidden gushes of feeling, mystic unions of the soul, and what not, in every single circumstance that occurred from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, and in the intervals. Bedford Row, where Perkins lived, is not very far from Mecklenburgh Square; and John used to say that he felt a comfort that his house and Lucy’s were served by the same muffin-man.
Further comment is needless. A more honest, simple, clever, warm-hearted, soft, whimsical, romantical, high-spirited young fellow than John Perkins did not exist. When his father, Doctor Perkins, died, this, his only son, was placed under the care of John Perkins, Esquire, of the house of Perkins, Scully, and Perkins, those celebrated attorneys in the trading town of Oldborough, which the second partner, William Pitt Scully, Esquire, represented in Parliament and in London.
All John’s fortune was the house in Bedford Row, which, at his father’s death, was let out into chambers, and brought in a clear hundred a year. Under his uncle’s roof at Oldborough, where he lived with thirteen red-haired male and female cousins, he was only charged fifty pounds for board, clothes, and pocket-money, and the remainder of his rents was carefully put by for him until his majority. When he approached that period — when he came to belong to two spouting-clubs at Oldborough, among the young merchants and lawyers’-clerks — to blow the flute nicely, and play a good game at billiards — to have written one or two smart things in the Oldborough Sentinel — to be fond of smoking (in which act he was discovered by his fainting aunt at three o’clock one morning)— in one word, when John Perkins arrived at manhood, he discovered that he was quite unfit to be an attorney, that he detested all the ways of his uncle’s stern, dull, vulgar, regular, red-headed family, and he vowed that he would go to London and make his fortune. Thither he went, his aunt and cousins, who were all “serious,” vowing that he was a lost boy; and when his history opens, John had been two years in the metropolis, inhabiting his own garrets; and a very nice compact set of apartments, looking into the back-garden, at this moment falling vacant, the prudent Lucy Gorgon had visited them, and vowed that she and her John should there commence housekeeping.
All these explanations are tedious, but necessary; and furthermore, it must be said, that as John’s uncle’s partner was the Liberal member for Oldborough, so Lucy’s uncle was its Ministerial representative.
This gentleman, the brother of the deceased Captain Gorgon, lived at the paternal mansion of Gorgon Castle, and rejoiced in the name and title of Sir George Grimsby Gorgon.
He, too, like his younger brother, had married a lady beneath his own rank in life; having espoused the daughter and heiress of Mr. Hicks, the great brewer at Oldborough, who held numerous mortgages on the Gorgon property, all of which he yielded up, together with his daughter Juliana, to the care of the baronet.
What Lady Gorgon was in character, this history will show. In person, if she may be compared to any vulgar animal, one of her father’s heavy, healthy, broad-flanked, Roman-nosed white dray-horses might, to the poetic mind, appear to resemble her. At twenty she was a splendid creature, and though not at her full growth, yet remarkable for strength and sinew; at forty-five she was as fine a woman as any in His Majesty’s dominions. Five feet seven in height, thirteen stone, her own teeth and hair, she looked as if she were the mother of a regiment of Grenadier Guards. She had three daughters of her own size, and at length, ten years after the birth of the last of the young ladies, a son — one son — George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon, the godson of a royal duke, whose steady officer in waiting Sir George had been for many years.
It is needless to say, after entering so largely into a description of Lady Gorgon, that her husband was a little shrivelled wizen-faced creature, eight inches shorter than her Ladyship. This is the way of the world, as every single reader of this book must have remarked; for frolic love delights to join giants and pigmies of different sexes in the bonds of matrimony. When you saw her Ladyship in flame-coloured satin and gorgeous toque and feathers, entering the drawing-room, as footmen along the stairs shouted melodiously, “Sir George and Lady Gorgon,” you beheld in her company a small withered old gentleman, with powder and large royal household buttons, who tripped at her elbow as a little weak-legged colt does at the side of a stout mare.
The little General had been present at about a hundred and twenty pitched battles on Hounslow Heath and Wormwood Scrubs, but had never drawn his sword against an enemy. As might be expected, therefore, his talk and tenue were outrageously military. He had the whole Army List by heart — that is, as far as the field-officers: all below them he scorned. A bugle at Gorgon Castle always sounded at breakfast, and dinner: a gun announced sunset. He clung to his pigtail for many years after the army had forsaken that ornament, and could never be brought to think much of the Peninsular men for giving it up. When he spoke of the Duke, he used to call him “MY LORD WELLINGTON— I RECOLLECT HIM AS CAPTAIN WELLESLEY.” He swore fearfully in conversation, was most regular at church, and regularly read to his family and domestics the morning and evening prayer; he bullied his daughters, seemed to bully his wife, who led him whither she chose; gave grand entertainments, and never asked a friend by chance; had splendid liveries, and starved his people; and was as dull, stingy, pompous, insolent, cringing, ill-tempered a little creature as ever was known.
With such qualities you may fancy that he was generally admired in society and by his country. So he was: and I never knew a man so endowed whose way through life was not safe — who had fewer pangs of conscience — more positive enjoyments — more respect shown to him — more favours granted to him, than such a one as my friend the General.
Her Ladyship was just suited to him, and they did in reality admire each other hugely. Previously to her marriage with the baronet, many love-passages had passed between her and William Pitt Scully, Esquire, the attorney; and there was especially one story, a propos of certain syllabubs and Sally-Lunn cakes, which seemed to show that matters had gone very far. Be this as it may, no sooner did the General (Major Gorgon he was then) cast an eye on her, than Scully’s five years’ fabric of love was instantly dashed to the ground. She cut him pitilessly, cut Sally Scully, his sister, her dearest friend and confidante, and bestowed her big person upon the little aide-de-camp at the end of a fortnight’s wooing. In the course of time their mutual fathers died; the Gorgon estates were unencumbered: patron of both the seats in the borough of Oldborough, and occupant of one, Sir George Grimsby Gorgon, Baronet, was a personage of no small importance.
He was, it scarcely need to be said, a Tory; and this was the reason why William Pitt Scully, Esquire, of the firm of Perkins and Scully, deserted those principles in which he had been bred and christened; deserted that church which he had frequented, for he could not bear to see Sir George and my Lady flaunting in their grand pew; — deserted, I say, the church, adopted the conventicle, and became one of the most zealous and eloquent supporters that Freedom has known in our time. Scully, of the house of Scully and Perkins, was a dangerous enemy. In five years from that marriage, which snatched from the jilted solicitor his heart’s young affections, Sir George Gorgon found that he must actually spend seven hundred pounds to keep his two seats. At the next election, a Liberal was set up against his man, and actually ran him hard; and finally, at the end of eighteen years, the rejected Scully — the mean attorney — was actually the FIRST Member for Oldborough, Sir George Grimsby Gorgon, Baronet, being only the second!
The agony of that day cannot be imagined — the dreadful curses of Sir George, who saw fifteen hundred a year robbed from under his very nose — the religious resignation of my Lady — the hideous window-smashing that took place at the “Gorgon Arms,” and the discomfiture of the pelted Mayor and Corporation. The very next Sunday, Scully was reconciled to the church (or attended it in the morning, and the meeting twice in the afternoon), and as Doctor Snorter uttered the prayer for the High Court of Parliament, his eye, the eye of his whole party — turned towards Lady Gorgon and Sir George in a most unholy triumph. Sir George (who always stood during prayers, like a military man) fairly sank down among the hassocks, and Lady Gorgon was heard to sob as audibly as ever did little beadle-belaboured urchin.
Scully, when at Oldborough, came from that day forth to church. “What,” said he, “was it to him? were we not all brethren?” Old Perkins, however, kept religiously to the Squaretoes congregation. In fact, to tell the truth, this subject had been debated between the partners, who saw the advantage of courting both the Establishment and the Dissenters — a manoeuvre which, I need not say, is repeated in almost every country town in England, where a solicitor’s house has this kind of power and connection.
Three months after this election came the races at Oldborough, and the race-ball. Gorgon was so infuriated by his defeat, that he gave “the Gorgon cup and cover,” a matter of fifteen pounds. Scully, “although anxious,” as he wrote from town, “anxious beyond measure to preserve the breed of horses for which our beloved country has ever been famous, could attend no such sports as these, which but too often degenerated into vice.” It was voted a shabby excuse. Lady Gorgon was radiant in her barouche and four, and gladly became the patroness of the ball that was to ensue; and which all the gentry and townspeople, Tory and Whig, were in the custom of attending. The ball took place on the last day of the races. On that day, the walls of the market-house, the principal public buildings, and the “Gorgon Arms Hotel” itself, were plastered with the following:—
“Letter from our distinguished representative, William P. Scully, Esquire, etc., etc.
“HOUSE OF COMMONS: June 1, 18 —.
“MY DEAR HEELTAP — You know my opinion about horseracing, and though I blame neither you nor any brother Englishman who enjoys that manly sport, you will, I am sure, appreciate the conscientious motives which induce me not to appear among my friends and constituents on the festival of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th instant. If I, however, cannot allow my name to appear among your list of stewards, ONE at least of the representatives of Oldborough has no such scruples. Sir George Gorgon is among you: and though I differ from that honourable Baronet on more than ONE VITAL POINT, I am glad to think that he is with you. A gentleman, a soldier, a man of property in the county, how can he be better employed than in forwarding the county’s amusements, and in forwarding the happiness of all?
“Had I no such scruples as those to which I have just alluded, I must still have refrained from coming among you. Your great Oldborough common-drainage and inclosure bill comes on tomorrow, and I shall be AT MY POST. I am sure, if Sir George Gorgon were here, he and I should on this occasion vote side by side, and that party strife would be forgotten in the object of our common interest — OUR DEAR NATIVE TOWN.
“There is, however, another occasion at hand, in which I shall be proud to meet him. Your ball is on the night of the 6th. Party forgotten — brotherly union — innocent mirth — beauty, OUR DEAR TOWN’S BEAUTY, our daughters in the joy of their expanding loveliness, our matrons in the exquisite contemplation of their children’s bliss — can you, can I, can Whig or Tory, can any Briton be indifferent to a scene like this, or refuse to join in this heart-stirring festival? If there BE such let them pardon me — I, for one, my dear Heeltap, will be among you on Friday night — ay, and hereby invite all pretty Tory Misses, who are in want of a partner.
“I am here in the very midst of good things, you know, and we old folks like A SUPPER after a dance. Please to accept a brace of bucks and a turtle, which come herewith. My worthy colleague, who was so liberal last year of his soup to the poor, will not, I trust, refuse to taste a little of Alderman Birch’s —’tis offered on my part with hearty goodwill. Hey for the 6th, and vive la joie!
“Ever, my dear Heeltap, your faithful
“W. PITT SCULLY.
“P.S. — Of course this letter is STRICTLY PRIVATE. Say that the venison, etc. came from a WELL-WISHER TO OLDBOROUGH.”
This amazing letter was published, in defiance of Mr. Scully’s injunctions, by the enthusiastic Heeltap, who said, bluntly, in a preface, “that he saw no reason why Mr. Scully should be ashamed of his action, and he, for his part, was glad to let all friends at Oldborough know of it.”
The allusion about the Gorgon soup was killing: thirteen paupers in Oldborough had, it was confidently asserted, died of it. Lady Gorgon, on the reading of this letter, was struck completely dumb; Sir George Gorgon was wild. Ten dozen of champagne was he obliged to send down to the “Gorgon Arms,” to be added to the festival. He would have stayed away if he could, but he dared not.
At nine o’clock, he in general’s uniform; his wife in blue satin and diamonds; his daughters in blue crape and white roses; his niece, Lucy Gorgon, in white muslin; his son, George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon, in a blue velvet jacket, sugar-loaf buttons, and nankeens, entered the north door of the ballroom, to much cheering, and the sound of “God save the King!”
At that very same moment, and from the south door, issued William Pitt Scully, Esquire, M.P., and his staff. Mr. Scully had a brand-new blue coat and brass buttons, buff waistcoat, white kerseymere tights, pumps with large rosettes, and pink silk stockings.
“This wool,” said he to a friend, “was grown on Oldborough sheep, this cloth was spun in Oldborough looms, these buttons were cast in an Oldborough manufactory, these shoes were made by an Oldborough tradesman, this HEART first beat in Oldborough town, and pray Heaven may be buried there!”
Could anything resist a man like this? John Perkins, who had come down as one of Scully’s aides-de-camp, in a fit of generous enthusiasm, leaped on a whist-table, flung up a pocket-handkerchief, and shrieked —“SCULLY FOR EVER!”
Heeltap, who was generally drunk, fairly burst into tears, and the grave tradesmen and Whig gentry, who had dined with the Member at his inn, and accompanied him thence to the “Gorgon Arms,” lifted their deep voices and shouted “Hear!” “Good!” “Bravo!” “Noble!” “Scully for ever!” “God bless him!” and “Hurrah!”
The scene was tumultuously affecting; and when young Perkins sprang down from the table and came blushing up to the Member, that gentleman said, “Thank you, Jack! THANK you, my boy! THANK you,” in a way which made Perkins think that his supreme cup of bliss was quaffed; that he had but to die: for that life had no other such joy in store for him. Scully was Perkins’s Napoleon — he yielded himself up to the attorney, body and soul.
Whilst this scene was going on under one chandelier of the ballroom, beneath the other scarlet little General Gorgon, sumptuous Lady Gorgon, the daughters and niece Gorgons, were standing surrounded by their Tory court, who affected to sneer and titter at the Whig demonstrations which were taking place.
“What a howwid thmell of whithkey!” lisped Cornet Fitch, of the Dragoons, to Miss Lucy, confidentially. “And thethe are what they call Whigth, are they? He! he!”
“They are drunk, ——— me — drunk, by ———!” said the General to the Mayor.
“WHICH is Scully?” said Lady Gorgon, lifting her glass gravely (she was at that very moment thinking of the syllabubs). “Is it that tipsy man in the green coat, or that vulgar creature in the blue one?”
“Law, my Lady,” said the Mayoress, “have you forgotten him? Why, that’s him in blue and buff.”
“And a monthous fine man, too,” said Cornet Fitch. “I wish we had him in our twoop — he’th thix feet thwee, if he’th an inch; ain’t he, Genewal?”
“And heavens! Mamma,” shrieked the three Gorgons in a breath, “see, one creature is on the whist-table. Oh, the wretch!
“I’m sure he’s very good-looking,” said Lucy, simply.
Lady Gorgon darted at her an angry look, and was about to say something very contemptuous, when, at that instant, John Perkins’s shout taking effect, Master George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon, not knowing better, incontinently raised a small shout on his side.
“Hear! good! bravo!” exclaimed he; “Scully for ever! Hurra-a-a-ay!” and fell skipping about like the Whigs opposite.
“Silence, you brute you!” groaned Lady Gorgon; and seizing him by the shirt-frill and coat-collar, carried him away to his nurse, who, with many other maids of the Whig and Tory parties, stood giggling and peeping at the landing-place.
Fancy how all these small incidents augmented the heap of Lady Gorgon’s anger and injuries! She was a dull phlegmatic woman for the most part, and contented herself generally with merely despising her neighbours; but oh! what a fine active hatred raged in her bosom for victorious Scully! At this moment Mr. Perkins had finished shaking hands with his Napoleon — Napoleon seemed bent upon some tremendous enterprise. He was looking at Lady Gorgon very hard.
“She’s a fine woman,” said Scully, thoughtfully; he was still holding the hand of Perkins. And then, after a pause, “Gad! I think I’ll try.”
“Try what, sir?”
“She’s a DEUCED fine woman!” burst out again the tender solicitor. “I WILL go. Springer, tell the fiddlers to strike up.”
Springer scuttled across the room, and gave the leader of the band a knowing nod. Suddenly, “God save the King” ceased, and “Sir Roger de Coverley” began. The rival forces eyed each other; Mr. Scully, accompanied by his friend, came forward, looking very red, and fumbling two large kid gloves.
“HE’S GOING TO ASK ME TO DANCE,” hissed out Lady Gorgon, with a dreadful intuition, and she drew back behind her lord.
“D—— it, madam, THEN DANCE with him!” said the General. “Don’t you see that the scoundrel is carrying it all his own way! ——— him! and ——— him! and ——— him!” (All of which dashes the reader may fill up with oaths of such strength as may be requisite).
“General!” cried Lady Gorgon, but could say no more. Scully was before her.
“Madam!” exclaimed the Liberal Member for Oldborough, “in a moment like this — I say — that is — that on the present occasion — your Ladyship — unaccustomed as I am — pooh, psha — WILL your Ladyship give me the distinguished honour and pleasure of going down the country-dance with your Ladyship?”
An immense heave of her Ladyship’s ample chest was perceptible. Yards of blond lace, which might be compared to a foam of the sea, were agitated at the same moment, and by the same mighty emotion. The river of diamonds which flowed round her Ladyship’s neck, seemed to swell and to shine more than ever. The tall plumes on her ambrosial head bowed down beneath the storm. In other words, Lady Gorgon, in a furious rage, which she was compelled to restrain, trembled, drew up, and bowing majestically, said —
“Sir, I shall have much pleasure.” With this, she extended her hand. Scully, trembling, thrust forward one of his huge kid-gloves, and led her to the head of the country-dance. John Perkins — who I presume had been drinking pretty freely, so as to have forgotten his ordinary bashfulness — looked at the three Gorgons in blue, then at the pretty smiling one in white, and stepping up to her, without the smallest hesitation, asked her if she would dance with him.
The young lady smilingly agreed. The great example of Scully and Lady Gorgon was followed by all dancing men and women. Political enmities were forgotten. Whig voters invited Tory voters’ wives to the dance. The daughters of Reform accepted the hands of the sons of Conservatism. The reconciliation of the Romans and Sabines was not more touching than this sweet fusion. Whack — whack! Springer clapped his hands; and the fiddlers adroitly obeying the cheerful signal, began playing “Sir Roger de Coverley” louder than ever.
I do not know by what extraordinary charm (nescio qua praeter solitum, etc.), but young Perkins, who all his life had hated country-dances, was delighted with this one, and skipped and laughed, poussetting, crossing, down-the-middling, with his merry little partner, till every one of the bettermost sort of the thirty-nine couples had dropped panting away, and till the youngest Miss Gorgon, coming up to his partner, said in a loud hissing scornful whisper, “Lucy, Mamma thinks you have danced quite enough with this — this person.” And Lucy, blushing, starting back, and looking at Perkins in a very melancholy way, made him a little curtsey, and went off to the Gorgonian party with her cousin. Perkins was too frightened to lead her back to her place — too frightened at first, and then too angry. “Person!” said he: his soul swelled with a desperate republicanism: he went back to his patron more of a Radical than ever.
He found that gentleman in the solitary tea-room, pacing up and down before the observant landlady and handmaidens of the “Gorgon Arms,” wiping his brows, gnawing his fingers — his ears looming over his stiff white shirt-collar as red as fire. Once more the great man seized John Perkins’s hand as the latter came up.
“D——— the aristocrats!” roared the ex-follower of Squaretoes.
“And so say I! but what’s the matter, sir?”
“What’s the matter? — Why, that woman — that infernal, haughty, straitlaced, cold-blooded brewer’s daughter! I loved that woman, sir — I KISSED that woman, sir, twenty years ago: we were all but engaged, sir: we’ve walked for hours and hours, sir — us and the governess — I’ve got a lock of her hair, sir, among my papers now; and to-night, would you believe it? — as soon as she got to the bottom of the set, away she went — not one word would she speak to me all the way down: and when I wanted to lead her to her place, and asked her if she would have a glass of negus, ‘Sir,’ says she, ‘I have done my duty; I bear no malice: but I consider you a traitor to Sir George Gorgon’s family — a traitor and an upstart! I consider your speaking to me as a piece of insolent vulgarity, and beg you will leave me to myself!’ There’s her speech, sir. Twenty people heard it, and all of her Tory set too. I’ll tell you what, Jack: at the next election I’ll put YOU up. Oh that woman! that woman!- -and to think that I love her still!” Here Mr. Scully paused, and fiercely consoled himself by swallowing three cups of Mrs. Rincer’s green tea.
The fact is, that Lady Gorgon’s passion had completely got the better of her reason. Her Ladyship was naturally cold, and artificially extremely squeamish; and when this great red-faced enemy of hers looked tenderly at her through his red little eyes, and squeezed her hand and attempted to renew old acquaintance, she felt such an intolerable disgust at his triumph, at his familiarity, and at the remembrance of her own former liking for him, that she gave utterance to the speech above correctly reported. The Tories were delighted with her spirit, and Cornet Fitch, with much glee, told the story to the General; but that officer, who was at whist with some of his friends, flung down his cards, and coming up to his lady, said briefly —
“Madam, you are a fool!”
“I will NOT stay here to be bearded by that disgusting man! — Mr. Fitch, call my people. — Henrietta, bring Miss Lucy from that linendraper with whom she is dancing. I will not stay, General, once for all.”
Henrietta ran — she hated her cousin: Cornet Fitch was departing. “Stop, Fitch,” said Sir George, seizing him by the arm. “You are a fool, Lady Gorgon,” said he, “and I repeat it — a ——— fool! This fellow Scully is carrying all before him: he has talked with everybody, laughed with everybody — and you, with your infernal airs — a brewer’s daughter, by —— — must sit like a queen and not speak to a soul! You’ve lost me one seat of my borough, with your infernal pride — fifteen hundred a year, by Jove! — and you think you will bully me out of another. No, madam, you SHALL stay, and stay supper too; — and the girls shall dance with every cursed chimney-sweep and butcher in the room: they shall — confound me!”
Her Ladyship saw that it was necessary to submit; and Mr. Springer, the master of the ceremonies, was called, and requested to point out some eligible partners for the young ladies. One went off with a Whig auctioneer; another figured in a quadrille with a very Liberal apothecary; and the third, Miss Henrietta, remained.
“Hallo you, sir!” roared the little General to John Perkins, who was passing by. John turned round and faced him.
“You were dancing with my niece just now — show us your skill now, and dance with one of my daughters. Stand up, Miss Henrietta Gorgon — Mr. What’s-your-name?”
“My name,” said John, with marked and majestic emphasis, “is PERKINS.” And he looked towards Lucy, who dared not look again.
“Miss Gorgon — Mr. Perkins. There, now go and dance.”
“Mr. Perkins regrets, madam,” said John, making a bow to Miss Henrietta, “that he is not able to dance this evening. I am this moment obliged to look to the supper; but you will find, no doubt, some other PERSON who will have much pleasure.”
“Go to —— — sir!” screamed the General, starting up, and shaking his cane.
“Calm yourself, dearest George,” said Lady Gorgon, clinging fondly to him. Fitch twiddled his moustaches. Miss Henrietta Gorgon stared with open mouth. The silks of the surrounding dowagers rustled — the countenances of all looked grave.
“I will follow you, sir, wherever you please; and you may hear of me whenever you like,” said Mr. Perkins, bowing and retiring. He heard little Lucy sobbing in a corner. He was lost at once — lost in love; he felt as if he could combat fifty generals! he never was so happy in his life.
The supper came; but as that meal cost five shillings a head, General Gorgon dismissed the four spinsters of his family homewards in the carriage, and so saved himself a pound. This added to Jack Perkins’s wrath; he had hoped to have seen Miss Lucy once more. He was a steward, and, in the General’s teeth, would have done his duty. He was thinking how he would have helped her to the most delicate chicken-wings and blancmanges, how he WOULD have made her take champagne. Under the noses of indignant aunt and uncle, what glorious fun it would have been!
Out of place as Mr. Scully’s present was, and though Lady Gorgon and her party sneered at the vulgar notion of venison and turtle for supper, all the world at Oldborough ate very greedily of those two substantial dishes; and the Mayor’s wife became from that day forth a mortal enemy of the Gorgons: for, sitting near her Ladyship, who refused the proffered soup and meat, the Mayoress thought herself obliged to follow this disagreeable example. She sent away the plate of turtle with a sigh, saying, however, to the baronet’s lady, “I thought, mem, that the LORD MAYOR OF LONDON always had turtle to his supper?”
“And what if he didn’t, Biddy?” said his Honour the Mayor; “a good thing’s a good thing, and here goes!” wherewith he plunged his spoon into the savoury mess. The Mayoress, as we have said, dared not; but she hated Lady Gorgon, and remembered it at the next election.
The pride, in fact, and insolence of the Gorgon party rendered every person in the room hostile to them; so soon as, gorged with meat, they began to find that courage which Britons invariably derive from their victuals. The show of the Gorgon plate seemed to offend the people. The Gorgon champagne was a long time, too, in making its appearance. Arrive, however, it did. The people were waiting for it; the young ladies, not accustomed to that drink, declined pledging their admirers until it was produced; the men, too, despised the bucellas and sherry, and were looking continually towards the door. At last, Mr. Rincer, the landlord, Mr. Hock, Sir George’s butler, and sundry others entered the room. Bang! went the corks — fizz the foamy liquor sparkled into all sorts of glasses that were held out for its reception. Mr. Hock helped Sir George and his party, who drank with great gusto; the wine which was administered to the persons immediately around Mr. Scully was likewise pronounced to be good. But Mr. Perkins, who had taken his seat among the humbler individuals, and in the very middle of the table, observed that all these persons, after drinking, made to each other very wry and ominous faces, and whispered much. He tasted his wine: it was a villanous compound of sugar, vitriol, soda-water, and green gooseberries. At this moment a great clatter of forks was made by the president’s and vice-president’s party. Silence for a toast —’twas silence all.
“Landlord,” said Mr. Perkins, starting up (the rogue, where did his impudence come from?) “have you any champagne of YOUR OWN?”
“Silence! down!” roared the Tories, the ladies looking aghast. “Silence, sit down you!” shrieked the well-known voice of the General.
“I beg your pardon, General,” said young John Perkins; “but where COULD you have bought this champagne? My worthy friend I know is going to propose the ladies; let us at any rate drink such a toast in good wine.” (“Hear, hear!”) “Drink her Ladyship’s health in THIS stuff? I declare to goodness I would sooner drink it in beer!”
No pen can describe the uproar which arose: the anguish of the Gorgonites — the shrieks, jeers, cheers, ironic cries of “Swipes!” etc., which proceeded from the less genteel but more enthusiastic Scullyites.
“This vulgarity is too much,” said Lady Gorgon, rising; and Mrs. Mayoress and the ladies of the party did so too.
The General, two squires, the clergyman, the Gorgon apothecary and attorney, with their respective ladies, followed her: they were plainly beaten from the field. Such of the Tories as dared remained, and in inglorious compromise shared the jovial Whig feast.
“Gentlemen and ladies,” hiccupped Mr. Heeltap, “I’ll give you a toast. ‘Champagne to our real — hic — friends,’ no, ‘Real champagne to our friends,’ and — hic — pooh! ‘Champagne to our friends, and real pain to our enemies,’— huzzay!”
The Scully faction on this day bore the victory away, and if the polite reader has been shocked by certain vulgarities on the part of Mr. Scully and his friends, he must remember imprimis that Oldborough was an inconsiderable place — that the inhabitants thereof were chiefly tradespeople, not of refined habits — that Mr. Scully himself had only for three months mingled among the aristocracy — that his young friend Perkins was violently angry — and finally, and to conclude, that the proud vulgarity of the great Sir George Gorgon and his family was infinitely more odious and contemptible than the mean vulgarity of the Scullyites and their leader.
Immediately after this event, Mr. Scully and his young friend Perkins returned to town; the latter to his garrets in Bedford Row — the former to his apartments on the first floor of the same house. He lived here to superintend his legal business: his London agents, Messrs. Higgs, Biggs, and Blatherwick, occupying the ground floor; the junior partner, Mr. Gustavus Blatherwick, the second flat of the house. Scully made no secret of his profession or residence: he was an attorney, and proud of it; he was the grandson of a labourer, and thanked God for it; he had made his fortune by his own honest labour, and why should he be ashamed of it?
And now, having explained at full length who the several heroes and heroines of this history were, and how they conducted themselves in the country, let us describe their behaviour in London, and the great events which occurred there.
You must know that Mr. Perkins bore away the tenderest recollections of the young lady with whom he had danced at the Oldborough ball, and, having taken particular care to find out where she dwelt when in the metropolis, managed soon to become acquainted with Aunt Biggs, and made himself so amiable to that lady, that she begged he would pass all his disengaged evenings at her lodgings in Caroline Place. Mrs. Biggs was perfectly aware that the young gentleman did not come for her bohea and muffins, so much as for the sweeter conversation of her niece, Miss Gorgon; but seeing that these two young people were of an age when ideas of love and marriage will spring up, do what you will; seeing that her niece had a fortune, and Mr. Perkins had the prospect of a place, and was moreover a very amiable and well-disposed young fellow, she thought her niece could not do better than marry him; and Miss Gorgon thought so too. Now the public will be able to understand the meaning of that important conversation which is recorded at the very commencement of this history.
Lady Gorgon and her family were likewise in town; but, when in the metropolis, they never took notice of their relative, Miss Lucy: the idea of acknowledging an ex-schoolmistress living in Mecklenburgh Square being much too preposterous for a person of my Lady Gorgon’s breeding and fashion. She did not, therefore, know of the progress which sly Perkins was making all this while; for Lucy Gorgon did not think it was at all necessary to inform her Ladyship how deeply she was smitten by the wicked young gentleman who had made all the disturbance at the Oldborough ball.
The intimacy of these young persons had, in fact, become so close, that on a certain sunshiny Sunday in December, after having accompanied Aunt Biggs to church, they had pursued their walk as far as that rendezvous of lovers, the Regent’s Park, and were talking of their coming marriage, with much confidential tenderness, before the bears in the Zoological Gardens.
Miss Lucy was ever and anon feeding those interesting animals with buns, to perform which act of charity she had clambered up on the parapet which surrounds their den. Mr. Perkins was below; and Miss Lucy, having distributed her buns, was on the point of following — but whether from timidity, or whether from a desire to do young Perkins an essential service, I know not: however, she found herself quite unwilling to jump down unaided.
“My dearest John,” said she, “I never can jump that.”
Whereupon John stepped up, put one hand round Lucy’s waist; and as one of hers gently fell upon his shoulder, Mr. Perkins took the other and said —
Hoop! jump she did, and so excessively active and clever was Mr. John Perkins, that he jumped Miss Lucy plump into the middle of a group formed of —
Lady Gorgon; The Misses Gorgon; Master George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon;
And a footman, poodle, and French governess: who had all been for two or three minutes listening to the billings and cooings of these imprudent young lovers.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00