I sat on the back seat of the carriage, near a very nice young lady, about my dear Mary’s age — that is to say, seventeen and three-quarters; and opposite us sat the old Countess and her other grand-daughter — handsome too, but ten years older. I recollect I had on that day my blue coat and brass buttons, nankeen trousers, a white sprig waist-coat, and one of Dando’s silk hats, that had just come in in the year ‘22, and looked a great deal more glossy than the best beaver.
“And who was that hidjus manster”— that was the way her Ladyship pronounced — “that ojous vulgar wretch, with the iron heels to his boots, and the big mouth, and the imitation goold neck-chain, who steered at us so as we got into the carriage?”
How she should have known that Gus’s chain was mosaic I can’t tell; but so it was, and we had bought it for five-and-twenty and sixpence only the week before at M’Phail’s, in St. Paul’s Churchyard. But I did not like to hear my friend abused, and so spoke out for him —
“Ma’am,” says I, “that young gentleman’s name is Augustus Hoskins. We live together; and a better or more kind-hearted fellow does not exist.”
“You are quite right to stand up for your friends, sir,” said the second lady; whose name, it appears, was Lady Jane, but whom the grandmamma called Lady Jene.
“Well, upon me conscience, so he is now, Lady Jene; and I like sper’t in a young man. So his name is Hoskins, is it? I know, my dears, all the Hoskinses in England. There are the Lincolnshire Hoskinses, the Shropshire Hoskinses: they say the Admiral’s daughter, Bell, was in love with a black footman, or boatswain, or some such thing; but the world’s so censorious. There’s old Doctor Hoskins of Bath, who attended poor dear Drum in the quinsy; and poor dear old Fred Hoskins, the gouty General: I remember him as thin as a lath in the year ‘84, and as active as a harlequin, and in love with me — oh, how he was in love with me!”
“You seem to have had a host of admirers in those days, Grandmamma?” said Lady Jane.
“Hundreds, my dear — hundreds of thousands. I was the toast of Bath, and a great beauty, too: would you ever have thought it now, upon your conscience and without flattery, Mr.-a-What-d’ye-call-’im?”
“Indeed, ma’am, I never should,” I answered, for the old lady was as ugly as possible; and at my saying this the two young ladies began screaming with laughter, and I saw the two great-whiskered footmen grinning over the back of the carriage.
“Upon my word, you’re mighty candid, Mr. What’s-your-name — mighty candid indeed; but I like candour in young people. But a beauty I was. Just ask your friend’s uncle the General. He’s one of the Lincolnshire Hoskinses — I knew he was by the strong family likeness. Is he the eldest son? It’s a pretty property, though sadly encumbered; for old Sir George was the divvle of a man — a friend of Hanbury Williams, and Lyttleton, and those horrid, monstrous, ojous people! How much will he have now, mister, when the Admiral dies?”
“Why, ma’am, I can’t say; but the Admiral is not my friend’s father.”
“Not his father? — but he is, I tell you, and I’m never wrong. Who is his father, then?”
“Ma’am, Gus’s father’s a leatherseller in Skinner Street, Snow Hill — a very respectable house, ma’am. But Gus is only third son, and so can’t expect a great share in the property.”
The two young ladies smiled at this — the old lady said, “Hwat?”
“I like you, sir,” Lady Jane said, “for not being ashamed of your friends, whatever their rank of life may be. Shall we have the pleasure of setting you down anywhere, Mr. Titmarsh?”
“Noways particular, my Lady,” says I. “We have a holiday at our office today — at least Roundhand gave me and Gus leave; and I shall be very happy, indeed, to take a drive in the Park, if it’s no offence.”
“I’m sure it will give us — infinite pleasure,” said Lady Jane; though rather in a grave way.
“Oh, that it will!” says Lady Fanny, clapping her hands: “won’t it, Grandmamma? And after we have been in the Park, we can walk in Kensington Gardens, if Mr. Titmarsh will be good enough to accompany us.”
“Indeed, Fanny, we will do no such thing,” says Lady Jane.
“Indeed, but we will though!” shrieked out Lady Drum. “Ain’t I dying to know everything about his uncle and thirteen aunts? and you’re all chattering so, you young women, that not a blessed syllable will you allow me or my young friend here to speak.”
Lady Jane gave a shrug with her shoulders, and did not say a single word more. Lady Fanny, who was as gay as a young kitten (if I may be allowed so to speak of the aristocracy), laughed, and blushed, and giggled, and seemed quite to enjoy her sister’s ill-humour. And the Countess began at once, and entered into the history of the thirteen Misses Hoggarty, which was not near finished when we entered the Park.
When there, you can’t think what hundreds of gents on horseback came to the carriage and talked to the ladies. They had their joke for Lady Drum, who seemed to be a character in her way; their bow for Lady Jane; and, the young ones especially, their compliment for Lady Fanny.
Though she bowed and blushed, as a young lady should, Lady Fanny seemed to be thinking of something else; for she kept her head out of the carriage, looking eagerly among the horsemen, as if she expected to see somebody. Aha! my Lady Fanny, I knew what it meant when a young pretty lady like you was absent, and on the look-out, and only half answered the questions put to her. Let alone Sam Titmarsh — he knows what Somebody means as well as another, I warrant. As I saw these manoeuvres going on, I could not help just giving a wink to Lady Jane, as much as to say I knew what was what. “I guess the young lady is looking for Somebody,” says I. It was then her turn to look queer, I assure you, and she blushed as red as scarlet; but, after a minute, the good-natured little thing looked at her sister, and both the young ladies put their handkerchiefs up to their faces, and began laughing — laughing as if I had said the funniest thing in the world.
“Il est charmant, votre monsieur,” said Lady Jane to her grandmamma; and on which I bowed, and said, “Madame, vous me faites beaucoup d’honneur:” for I know the French language, and was pleased to find that these good ladies had taken a liking to me. “I’m a poor humble lad, ma’am, not used to London society, and do really feel it quite kind of you to take me by the hand so, and give me a drive in your fine carriage.”
At this minute a gentleman on a black horse, with a pale face and a tuft to his chin, came riding up to the carriage; and I knew by a little start that Lady Fanny gave, and by her instantly looking round the other way, that somebody was come at last.
“Lady Drum,” said he, “your most devoted servant! I have just been riding with a gentleman who almost shot himself for love of the beautiful Countess of Drum in the year — never mind the year.”
“Was it Killblazes?” said the lady: “he’s a dear old man, and I’m quite ready to go off with him this minute. Or was it that delight of an old bishop? He’s got a lock of my hair now — I gave it him when he was Papa’s chaplain; and let me tell you it would be a hard matter to find another now in the same place.”
“Law, my Lady!” says I, “you don’t say so?”
“But indeed I do, my good sir,” says she; “for between ourselves, my head’s as bare as a cannon-ball — ask Fanny if it isn’t. Such a fright as the poor thing got when she was a babby, and came upon me suddenly in my dressing-room without my wig!”
“I hope Lady Fanny has recovered from the shock,” said “Somebody,” looking first at her, and then at me as if he had a mind to swallow me. And would you believe it? all that Lady Fanny could say was, “Pretty well, I thank you, my Lord;” and she said this with as much fluttering and blushing as we used to say our Virgil at school — when we hadn’t learned it.
My Lord still kept on looking very fiercely at me, and muttered something about having hoped to find a seat in Lady Drum’s carriage, as he was tired of riding; on which Lady Fanny muttered something, too, about “a friend of Grandmamma’s.”
“You should say a friend of yours, Fanny,” says Lady Jane: “I am sure we should never have come to the Park if Fanny had not insisted upon bringing Mr. Titmarsh hither. Let me introduce the Earl of Tiptoff to Mr. Titmarsh.” But, instead of taking off his hat, as I did mine, his Lordship growled out that he hoped for another opportunity, and galloped off again on his black horse. Why the deuce I should have offended him I never could understand.
But it seemed as if I was destined to offend all the men that day; for who should presently come up but the Right Honourable Edmund Preston, one of His Majesty’s Secretaries of State (as I know very well by the almanac in our office) and the husband of Lady Jane.
The Right Honourable Edmund was riding a grey cob, and was a fat pale-faced man, who looked as if he never went into the open air. “Who the devil’s that?” said he to his wife, looking surlily both at me and her.
“Oh, it’s a friend of Grandmamma’s and Jane’s,” said Lady Fanny at once, looking, like a sly rogue as she was, quite archly at her sister — who in her turn appeared quite frightened, and looked imploringly at her sister, and never dared to breathe a syllable. “Yes, indeed,” continued Lady Fanny, “Mr. Titmarsh is a cousin of Grandmamma’s by the mother’s side: by the Hoggarty side. Didn’t you know the Hoggarties when you were in Ireland, Edmund, with Lord Bagwig? Let me introduce you to Grandmamma’s cousin, Mr. Titmarsh: Mr. Titmarsh, my brother, Mr. Edmund Preston.”
There was Lady Jane all the time treading upon her sister’s foot as hard as possible, and the little wicked thing would take no notice; and I, who had never heard of the cousinship, feeling as confounded as could be. But I did not know the Countess of Drum near so well as that sly minx her grand-daughter did; for the old lady, who had just before called poor Gus Hoskins her cousin, had, it appeared, the mania of fancying all the world related to her, and said —
“Yes, we’re cousins, and not very far removed. Mick Hoggarty’s grandmother was Millicent Brady, and she and my Aunt Towzer were related, as all the world knows; for Decimus Brady, of Ballybrady, married an own cousin of Aunt Towzer’s mother, Bell Swift — that was no relation of the Dean’s, my love, who came but of a so-so family — and isn’t that clear?”
“Oh, perfectly, Grandmamma,” said Lady Jane, laughing, while the right honourable gent still rode by us, looking sour and surly.
“And sure you knew the Hoggarties, Edmund? — the thirteen red-haired girls — the nine graces, and four over, as poor Clanboy used to call them. Poor Clan! — a cousin of yours and mine, Mr. Titmarsh, and sadly in love with me he was too. Not remember them all now, Edmund? — not remember? — not remember Biddy and Minny, and Thedy and Widdy, and Mysie and Grizzy, and Polly and Dolly and the rest?”
“D—— the Miss Hoggarties, ma’am,” said the right honourable gent; and he said it with such energy, that his grey horse gave a sudden lash out that well nigh sent him over his head. Lady Jane screamed; Lady Fanny laughed; old Lady Drum looked as if she did not care twopence, and said “Serve you right for swearing, you ojous man you!”
“Hadn’t you better come into the carriage, Edmund — Mr. Preston?” cried out the lady, anxiously.
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll slip out, ma’am,” says I.
“Pooh — pooh! don’t stir,” said Lady Drum: “it’s my carriage; and if Mr. Preston chooses to swear at a lady of my years in that ojous vulgar way — in that ojous vulgar way I repeat — I don’t see why my friends should be inconvenienced for him. Let him sit on the dicky if he likes, or come in and ride bodkin.” It was quite clear that my Lady Drum hated her grandson-inlaw heartily; and I’ve remarked somehow in families that this kind of hatred is by no means uncommon.
Mr. Preston, one of His Majesty’s Secretaries of State, was, to tell the truth, in a great fright upon his horse, and was glad to get away from the kicking plunging brute. His pale face looked still paler than before, and his hands and legs trembled, as he dismounted from the cob and gave the reins to his servant. I disliked the looks of the chap — of the master, I mean — at the first moment he came up, when he spoke rudely to that nice gentle wife of his; and I thought he was a cowardly fellow, as the adventure of the cob showed him to be. Heaven bless you! a baby could have ridden it; and here was the man with his soul in his mouth at the very first kick.
“Oh, quick! do come in, Edmund,” said Lady Fanny, laughing; and the carriage steps being let down, and giving me a great scowl as he came in, he was going to place himself in Lady Fanny’s corner (I warrant you I wouldn’t budge from mine), when the little rogue cried out, “Oh, no! by no means, Mr. Preston. Shut the door, Thomas. And oh! what fun it will be to show all the world a Secretary of State riding bodkin!”
And pretty glum the Secretary of State looked, I assure you!
“Take my place, Edmund, and don’t mind Fanny’s folly,” said Lady Jane, timidly.
“Oh no! Pray, madam, don’t stir! I’m comfortable, very comfortable; and so I hope is this Mr. — this gentleman.”
“Perfectly, I assure you,” says I. “I was going to offer to ride your horse home for you, as you seemed to be rather frightened at it; but the fact was, I was so comfortable here that really I couldn’t move.”
Such a grin as old Lady Drum gave when I said that! — how her little eyes twinkled, and her little sly mouth puckered up! I couldn’t help speaking, for, look you, my blood was up.
“We shall always be happy of your company, Cousin Titmarsh,” says she; and handed me a gold snuff-box, out of which I took a pinch, and sneezed with the air of a lord.
“As you have invited this gentleman into your carriage, Lady Jane Preston, hadn’t you better invite him home to dinner?” says Mr. Preston, quite blue with rage.
“I invited him into my carriage,” says the old lady; “and as we are going to dine at your house, and you press it, I’m sure I shall be very happy to see him there.”
“I’m very sorry I’m engaged,” said I.
“Oh, indeed, what a pity!” says Right Honourable Ned, still glowering at his wife. “What a pity that this gentleman — I forget his name — that your friend, Lady Jane, is engaged! I am sure you would have had such gratification in meeting your relation in Whitehall.”
Lady Drum was over-fond of finding out relations to be sure; but this speech of Right Honourable Ned’s was rather too much. “Now, Sam,” says I, “be a man and show your spirit!” So I spoke up at once, and said, “Why, ladies, as the right honourable gent is so very pressing, I’ll give up my engagement, and shall have sincere pleasure in cutting mutton with him. What’s your hour, sir?”
He didn’t condescend to answer, and for me I did not care; for, you see, I did not intend to dine with the man, but only to give him a lesson of manners. For though I am but a poor fellow, and hear people cry out how vulgar it is to eat peas with a knife, or ask three times for cheese, and such like points of ceremony, there’s something, I think, much more vulgar than all this, and that is, insolence to one’s inferiors. I hate the chap that uses it, as I scorn him of humble rank that affects to be of the fashion; and so I determined to let Mr. Preston know a piece of my mind.
When the carriage drove up to his house, I handed out the ladies as politely as possible, and walked into the hall, and then, taking hold of Mr. Preston’s button at the door, I said, before the ladies and the two big servants — upon my word I did —“Sir,” says I, “this kind old lady asked me into her carriage, and I rode in it to please her, not myself. When you came up and asked who the devil I was, I thought you might have put the question in a more polite manner; but it wasn’t my business to speak. When, by way of a joke, you invited me to dinner, I thought I would answer in a joke too, and here I am. But don’t be frightened; I’m not a-going to dine with you: only if you play the same joke upon other parties — on some of the chaps in our office, for example — I recommend you to have a care, or they will take you at your word.”
“Is that all, sir?” says Mr. Preston, still in a rage. “If you have done, will you leave this house, or shall my servants turn you out? Turn out this fellow! do you hear me?” and he broke away from me, and flung into his study in a rage.
“He’s an ojous horrid monsther of a man, that husband of yours!” said Lady Drum, seizing hold of her elder grand-daughter’s arm, “and I hate him; and so come away, for the dinner’ll be getting cold:” and she was for hurrying away Lady Jane without more ado. But that kind lady, coming forward, looking very pale and trembling, said, “Mr. Titmarsh, I do hope you’ll not be angry — that is, that you’ll forget what has happened, for, believe me, it has given me very great —”
Very great what, I never could say, for here the poor thing’s eyes filled with tears; and Lady Drum crying out “Tut, tut! none of this nonsense,” pulled her away by the sleeve, and went upstairs. But little Lady Fanny walked boldly up to me, and held me out her little hand, and gave mine such a squeeze and said, “Good-bye, my dear Mr. Titmarsh,” so very kindly, that I’m blest if I did not blush up to the ears, and all the blood in my body began to tingle.
So, when she was gone, I clapped my hat on my head, and walked out of the hall-door, feeling as proud as a peacock and as brave as a lion; and all I wished for was that one of those saucy grinning footmen should say or do something to me that was the least uncivil, so that I might have the pleasure of knocking him down, with my best compliments to his master. But neither of them did me any such favour! and I went away and dined at home off boiled mutton and turnips with Gus Hoskins quite peacefully.
I did not think it was proper to tell Gus (who, between ourselves, is rather curious, and inclined to tittle-tattle) all the particulars of the family quarrel of which I had been the cause and witness, and so just said that the old lady —(“They were the Drum arms,” says Gus; “for I went and looked them out that minute in the ‘Peerage’")— that the old lady turned out to be a cousin of mine, and that she had taken me to drive in the Park. Next day we went to the office as usual, when you may be sure that Hoskins told everything of what had happened, and a great deal more; and somehow, though I did not pretend to care sixpence about the matter, I must confess that I was rather pleased that the gents in our office should hear of a part of my adventure.
But fancy my surprise, on coming home in the evening, to find Mrs. Stokes the landlady, Miss Selina Stokes her daughter, and Master Bob Stokes her son (an idle young vagabond that was always playing marbles on St. Bride’s steps and in Salisbury Square) — when I found them all bustling and tumbling up the steps before me to our rooms on the second floor, and there, on the table, between our two flutes on one side, my album, Gus’s “Don Juan” and “Peerage” on the other, I saw as follows:—
1. A basket of great red peaches, looking like the cheeks of my dear Mary Smith.
2. A ditto of large, fat, luscious, heavy-looking grapes.
3. An enormous piece of raw mutton, as I thought it was; but Mrs. Stokes said it was the primest haunch of venison that ever she saw.
And three cards — viz.
Dowager Countess of Drum. Lady Fanny Rakes.
Mr. Preston. Lady Jane Preston.
Earl of Tiptoff.
“Sich a carriage!” says Mrs. Stokes (for that was the way the poor thing spoke). “Sich a carriage — all over coronites! sich liveries — two great footmen, with red whiskers and yellow-plush small-clothes; and inside, a very old lady in a white poke bonnet, and a young one with a great Leghorn hat and blue ribands, and a great tall pale gentleman with a tuft on his chin.
“‘Pray, madam, does Mr. Titmarsh live here?’ says the young lady, with her clear voice.
“‘Yes, my Lady,’ says I; ‘but he’s at the office — the West Diddlesex Fire and Life Office, Cornhill.’
“‘Charles, get out the things,’ says the gentleman, quite solemn.
“‘Yes, my Lord,’ says Charles; and brings me out the haunch in a newspaper, and on the chany dish as you see it, and the two baskets of fruit besides.
“‘Have the kindness, madam,’ says my Lord, ‘to take these things to Mr. Titmarsh’s rooms, with our, with Lady Jane Preston’s compliments, and request his acceptance of them;’ and then he pulled out the cards on your table, and this letter, sealed with his Lordship’s own crown.”
And herewith Mrs. Stokes gave me a letter, which my wife keeps to this day, by the way, and which runs thus:—
“The Earl of Tiptoff has been commissioned by Lady Jane Preston to express her sincere regret and disappointment that she was not able yesterday to enjoy the pleasure of Mr. Titmarsh’s company. Lady Jane is about to leave town immediately: she will therefore be unable to receive her friends in Whitehall Place this season. But Lord Tiptoff trusts that Mr. Titmarsh will have the kindness to accept some of the produce of her Ladyship’s garden and park; with which, perhaps, he will entertain some of those friends in whose favour he knows so well how to speak.”
Along with this was a little note, containing the words “Lady Drum at home. Friday evening, June 17.” And all this came to me because my aunt Hoggarty had given me a diamond-pin!
I did not send back the venison: as why should I? Gus was for sending it at once to Brough, our director; and the grapes and peaches to my aunt in Somersetshire.
“But no,” says I; “we’ll ask Bob Swinney and half-a-dozen more of our gents; and we’ll have a merry night of it on Saturday.” And a merry night we had too; and as we had no wine in the cupboard, we had plenty of ale, and gin-punch afterwards. And Gus sat at the foot of the table, and I at the head; and we sang songs, both comic and sentimental, and drank toasts; and I made a speech that there is no possibility of mentioning here, because, entre nous, I had quite forgotten in the morning everything that had taken place after a certain period on the night before.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00