Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Law Life Assurance.

We knew not what this meant, until we received a strange document from Higgs, in London — which begun, “Middlesex to wit. Samuel Cox, late of Portland Place, in the city of Westminster, in the said county, was attached to answer Samuel Scapgoat, of a plea, wherefore, with force and arms, he entered into one messuage, with the appurtenances, which John Tuggeridge, Esq., demised to the said Samuel Scapgoat, for a term which is not yet expired, and ejected him.” And it went on to say that “we, with force of arms, viz, with swords, knives, and staves, had ejected him.” Was there ever such a monstrous falsehood? when we did but stand in defence of our own; and isn’t it a sin that we should have been turned out of our rightful possessions upon such a rascally plea?

Higgs, Biggs, and Blatherwick had evidently been bribed; for would you believe it? — they told us to give up possession at once, as a will was found, and we could not defend the action. My Jemmy refused their proposal with scorn, and laughed at the notion of the will: she pronounced it to be a forgery, a vile blackamoor forgery; and believes, to this day, that the story of its having been made thirty years ago, in Calcutta, and left there with old Tug’s papers, and found there, and brought to England, after a search made by order of Tuggeridge junior, is a scandalous falsehood.

Well, the cause was tried. Why need I say anything concerning it? What shall I say of the Lord Chief Justice, but that he ought to be ashamed of the wig he sits in? What of Mr. —— and Mr. — — who exerted their eloquence against justice and the poor? On our side, too, was no less a man than Mr. Serjeant Binks, who, ashamed I am, for the honor of the British bar, to say it, seemed to have been bribed too: for he actually threw up his case! Had he behaved like Mr. Mulligan, his junior — and to whom, in this humble way, I offer my thanks — all might have been well. I never knew such an effect produced, as when Mr. Mulligan, appearing for the first time in that court, said, “Standing here upon the pidestal of secred Thamis; seeing around me the arnymints of a profission I rispict; having before me a vinnerable judge, and an enlightened jury — the counthry’s glory, the netion’s cheap defender, the poor man’s priceless palladium: how must I thrimble, my lard, how must the blush bejew my cheek —” (somebody cried out, “O CHEEKS!” In the court there was a dreadful roar of laughing; and when order was established, Mr. Mulligan continued:)—“My lard, I heed them not; I come from a counthry accustomed to opprission, and as that counthry — yes, my lard, THAT IRELAND—(do not laugh, I am proud of it)— is ever, in spite of her tyrants, green, and lovely, and beautiful: my client’s cause, likewise, will rise shuperior to the malignant imbecility — I repeat, the MALIGNANT IMBECILITY— of those who would thrample it down; and in whose teeth, in my client’s name, in my counthry’s — ay, and MY OWN— I, with folded arrums, hurl a scarnful and eternal defiance!”

“For heaven’s sake, Mr. Milligan”—(“MULLIGAN, ME LARD,” cried my defender)—“Well, Mulligan, then, be calm, and keep to your brief.”

Mr. Mulligan did; and for three hours and a quarter, in a speech crammed with Latin quotations, and unsurpassed for eloquence, he explained the situation of me and my family; the romantic manner in which Tuggeridge the elder gained his fortune, and by which it afterwards came to my wife; the state of Ireland; the original and virtuous poverty of the Coxes — from which he glanced passionately, for a few minutes (until the judge stopped him), to the poverty of his own country; my excellence as a husband, father, landlord; my wife’s, as a wife, mother, landlady. All was in vain — the trial went against us. I was soon taken in execution for the damages; five hundred pounds of law expenses of my own, and as much more of Tuggeridge’s. He would not pay a farthing, he said, to get me out of a much worse place than the Fleet. I need not tell you that along with the land went the house in town, and the money in the funds. Tuggeridge, he who had thousands before, had it all. And when I was in prison, who do you think would come and see me? None of the Barons, nor Counts, nor Foreign Ambassadors, nor Excellencies, who used to fill our house, and eat and drink at our expense — not even the ungrateful Tagrag!

I could not help now saying to my dear wife, “See, my love, we have been gentlefolks for exactly a year, and a pretty life we have had of it. In the first place, my darling, we gave grand dinners, and everybody laughed at us.”

“Yes, and recollect how ill they made you,” cries my daughter.

“We asked great company, and they insulted us.”

“And spoilt mamma’s temper,” said Jemimarann.

“Hush! Miss,” said her mother; “we don’t want YOUR advice.”

“Then you must make a country gentleman of me.”

“And send Pa into dunghills,” roared Tug.

“Then you must go to operas, and pick up foreign Barons and Counts.”

“Oh, thank heaven, dearest papa, that we are rid of them,” cries my little Jemimarann, looking almost happy, and kissing her old pappy.

“And you must make a fine gentleman of Tug there, and send him to a fine school.”

“And I give you my word,” says Tug, “I’m as ignorant a chap as ever lived.”

“You’re an insolent saucebox,” says Jemmy; “you’ve learned that at your fine school.”

“I’ve learned something else, too, ma’am; ask the boys if I haven’t,” grumbles Tug.

“You hawk your daughter about, and just escape marrying her to a swindler.”

“And drive off poor Orlando,” whimpered my girl.

“Silence! Miss,” says Jemmy, fiercely.

“You insult the man whose father’s property you inherited, and bring me into this prison, without hope of leaving it: for he never can help us after all your bad language.” I said all this very smartly; for the fact is, my blood was up at the time, and I determined to rate my dear girl soundly.

“Oh! Sammy,” said she, sobbing (for the poor thing’s spirit was quite broken), “it’s all true; I’ve been very, very foolish and vain, and I’ve punished my dear husband and children by my follies, and I do so, so repent them!” Here Jemimarann at once burst out crying, and flung herself into her mamma’s arms, and the pair roared and sobbed for ten minutes together. Even Tug looked queer: and as for me, it’s a most extraordinary thing, but I’m blest if seeing them so miserable didn’t make me quite happy. — I don’t think, for the whole twelve months of our good fortune, I had ever felt so gay as in that dismal room in the Fleet, where I was locked up.

Poor Orlando Crump came to see us every day; and we, who had never taken the slightest notice of him in Portland Place, and treated him so cruelly that day at Beulah Spa, were only too glad of his company now. He used to bring books for my girl, and a bottle of sherry for me; and he used to take home Jemmy’s fronts and dress them for her; and when locking-up time came, he used to see the ladies home to their little three-pair bedroom in Holborn, where they slept now, Tug and all. “Can the bird forget its nest?” Orlando used to say (he was a romantic young fellow, that’s the truth, and blew the flute and read Lord Byron incessantly, since he was separated from Jemimarann). “Can the bird, let loose in eastern climes, forget its home? Can the rose cease to remember its beloved bulbul? — Ah, no! Mr. Cox, you made me what I am, and what I hope to die — a hairdresser. I never see a curling-irons before I entered your shop, or knew Naples from brown Windsor. Did you not make over your house, your furniture, your emporium of perfumery, and nine-and-twenty shaving customers, to me? Are these trifles? Is Jemimarann a trifle? if she would allow me to call her so. Oh, Jemimarann, your Pa found me in the workhouse, and made me what I am. Conduct me to my grave, and I never, never shall be different!” When he had said this, Orlando was so much affected, that he rushed suddenly on his hat and quitted the room.

Then Jemimarann began to cry too. “Oh, Pa!” said she, “isn’t he — isn’t he a nice young man?”

“I’m HANGED if he ain’t,” says Tug. “What do you think of his giving me eighteenpence yesterday, and a bottle of lavender-water for Mimarann?”

“He might as well offer to give you back the shop at any rate,” says Jemmy.

“What! to pay Tuggeridge’s damages? My dear, I’d sooner die than give Tuggeridge the chance.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00