I don’t know how it was that in the course of the next six months Mr. Roundhand, the actuary, who had been such a profound admirer of Mr. Brough and the West Diddlesex Association, suddenly quarrelled with both, and taking his money out of the concern, he disposed of his 5,000_l. worth of shares to a pretty good profit, and went away, speaking everything that was evil both of the Company and the Director.
Mr. Highmore now became secretary and actuary, Mr. Abednego was first clerk, and your humble servant was second in the office at a salary of 250_l. a year. How unfounded were Mr. Roundhand’s aspersions of the West Diddlesex appeared quite clearly at our meeting in January, 1823, when our Chief Director, in one of the most brilliant speeches ever heard, declared that the half-yearly dividend was 4_l. per cent., at the rate of 8_l. per cent. per annum; and I sent to my aunt 120_l. sterling as the amount of the interest of the stock in my name.
My excellent aunt, Mrs. Hoggarty, delighted beyond measure, sent me back 10_l. for my own pocket, and asked me if she had not better sell Slopperton and Squashtail, and invest all her money in this admirable concern.
On this point I could not surely do better than ask the opinion of Mr. Brough. Mr. B. told me that shares could not be had but at a premium; but on my representing that I knew of 5,000_l. worth in the market at par, he said —“Well, if so, he would like a fair price for his, and would not mind disposing of 5,000_l. worth, as he had rather a glut of West Diddlesex shares, and his other concerns wanted feeding with ready money.” At the end of our conversation, of which I promised to report the purport to Mrs. Hoggarty, the Director was so kind as to say that he had determined on creating a place of private secretary to the Managing Director, and that I should hold that office with an additional salary of 150_l.
I had 250_l. a year, Miss Smith had 70_l. per annum to her fortune. What had I said should be my line of conduct whenever I could realise 300_l. a year?
Gus of course, and all the gents in our office through him, knew of my engagement with Mary Smith. Her father had been a commander in the navy and a very distinguished officer; and though Mary, as I have said, only brought me a fortune of 70_l. a year, and I, as everybody said, in my present position in the office and the City of London, might have reasonably looked out for a lady with much more money, yet my friends agreed that the connection was very respectable, and I was content: as who would not have been with such a darling as Mary? I am sure, for my part, I would not have taken the Lord Mayor’s own daughter in place of Mary, even with a plum to her fortune.
Mr. Brough of course was made aware of my approaching marriage, as of everything else relating to every clerk in the office; and I do believe Abednego told him what we had for dinner every day. Indeed, his knowledge of our affairs was wonderful.
He asked me how Mary’s money was invested. It was in the three per cent. consols — 2,333_l. 6_s. 8_d.
“Remember,” says he, “my lad, Mrs. Sam Titmarsh that is to be may have seven per cent. for her money at the very least, and on better security than the Bank of England; for is not a Company of which John Brough is the head better than any other company in England?” and to be sure I thought he was not far wrong, and promised to speak to Mary’s guardians on the subject before our marriage. Lieutenant Smith, her grandfather, had been at the first very much averse to our union. (I must confess that, one day finding me alone with her, and kissing, I believe, the tips of her little fingers, he had taken me by the collar and turned me out of doors.) But Sam Titmarsh, with a salary of 250_l. a year, a promised fortune of 150_l. more, and the right-hand man of Mr. John Brough of London, was a very different man from Sam the poor clerk, and the poor clergyman’s widow’s son; and the old gentleman wrote me a kind letter enough, and begged me to get him six pairs of lamb’s-wool stockings and four ditto waistcoats from Romanis’, and accepted them too as a present from me when I went down in June — in happy June of 1823 — to fetch my dear Mary away.
Mr. Brough was likewise kindly anxious about my aunt’s Slopperton and Squashtail property, which she had not as yet sold, as she talked of doing; and, as Mr. B. represented, it was a sin and a shame that any person in whom he took such interest, as he did in all the relatives of his dear young friend, should only have three per cent. for her money, when she could have eight elsewhere. He always called me Sam now, praised me to the other young men (who brought the praises regularly to me), said there was a cover always laid for me at Fulham, and repeatedly took me thither. There was but little company when I went; and M’Whirter used to say he only asked me on days when he had his vulgar acquaintances. But I did not care for the great people, not being born in their sphere; and indeed did not much care for going to the house at all. Miss Belinda was not at all to my liking. After her engagement with Captain Fizgig, and after Mr. Tidd had paid his 20,000_l. and Fizgig’s great relations had joined in some of our Director’s companies, Mr. Brough declared he believed that Captain Fizgig’s views were mercenary, and put him to the proof at once, by saying that he must take Miss Brough without a farthing, or not have her at all. Whereupon Captain Fizgig got an appointment in the colonies, and Miss Brough became more ill-humoured than ever. But I could not help thinking she was rid of a bad bargain, and pitying poor Tidd, who came back to the charge again more love-sick than ever, and was rebuffed pitilessly by Miss Belinda. Her father plainly told Tidd, too, that his visits were disagreeable to Belinda, and though he must always love and value him, he begged him to discontinue his calls at the Rookery. Poor fellow! he had paid his 20,000_l. away for nothing! for what was six per cent. to him compared to six per cent. and the hand of Miss Belinda Brough?
Well, Mr. Brough pitied the poor love-sick swain, as he called me, so much, and felt such a warm sympathy in my well-being, that he insisted on my going down to Somersetshire with a couple of months’ leave; and away I went, as happy as a lark, with a couple of brand-new suits from Von Stiltz’s in my trunk (I had them made, looking forward to a certain event), and inside the trunk Lieutenant Smith’s fleecy hosiery; wrapping up a parcel of our prospectuses and two letters from John Brough, Esq., to my mother our worthy annuitant, and to Mrs. Hoggarty our excellent shareholder. Mr. Brough said I was all that the fondest father could wish, that he considered me as his own boy, and that he earnestly begged Mrs. Hoggarty not to delay the sale of her little landed property, as land was high now and must fall; whereas the West Diddlesex Association shares were (comparatively) low, and must inevitably, in the course of a year or two, double, treble, quadruple their present value.
In this way I was prepared, and in this way I took leave of my dear Gus. As we parted in the yard of the “Bolt-inTun,” Fleet Street, I felt that I never should go back to Salisbury Square again, and had made my little present to the landlady’s family accordingly. She said I was the respectablest gentleman she had ever had in her house: nor was that saying much, for Bell Lane is in the Rules of the Fleet, and her lodgers used commonly to be prisoners on Rule from that place. As for Gus, the poor fellow cried and blubbered so that he could not eat a morsel of the muffins and grilled ham with which I treated him for breakfast in the “Bolt-inTun” coffee-house; and when I went away was waving his hat and his handkerchief so in the archway of the coach-office that I do believe the wheels of the “True Blue” went over his toes, for I heard him roaring as we passed through the arch. Ah! how different were my feelings as I sat proudly there on the box by the side of Jim Ward, the coachman, to those I had the last time I mounted that coach, parting from my dear Mary and coming to London with my diamond pin!
When arrived near home (at Grumpley, three miles from our village, where the “True Blue” generally stops to take a glass of ale at the Poppleton Arms) it was as if our Member, Mr. Poppleton himself, was come into the country, so great was the concourse of people assembled round the inn. And there was the landlord of the inn and all the people of the village. Then there was Tom Wheeler, the post-boy, from Mrs. Rincer’s posting-hotel in our town; he was riding on the old bay posters, and they, Heaven bless us! were drawing my aunt’s yellow chariot, in which she never went out but thrice in a year, and in which she now sat in her splendid cashmere shawl and a new hat and feather. She waved a white handkerchief out of the window, and Tom Wheeler shouted out “Huzza!” as did a number of the little blackguard boys of Grumpley: who, to be sure, would huzza for anything. What a change on Tom Wheeler’s part, however! I remembered only a few years before how he had whipped me from the box of the chaise, as I was hanging on for a ride behind.
Next to my aunt’s carriage came the four-wheeled chaise of Lieutenant Smith, R.N., who was driving his old fat pony with his lady by his side. I looked in the back seat of the chaise, and felt a little sad at seeing that somebody was not there. But, O silly fellow! there was Somebody in the yellow chariot with my aunt, blushing like a peony, I declare, and looking so happy! — oh, so happy and pretty! She had a white dress, and a light blue and yellow scarf, which my aunt said were the Hoggarty colours; though what the Hoggartys had to do with light blue and yellow, I don’t know to this day.
Well, the “True Blue” guard made a great bellowing on his horn as his four horses dashed away; the boys shouted again; I was placed bodkin between Mrs. Hoggarty and Mary; Tom Wheeler cut into his bays; the Lieutenant (who had shaken me cordially by the hand, and whose big dog did not make the slightest attempt at biting me this time) beat his pony till its fat sides lathered again; and thus in this, I may say, unexampled procession, I arrived in triumph at our village.
My dear mother and the girls — Heaven bless them! — nine of them in their nankeen spencers (I had something pretty in my trunk for each of them)— could not afford a carriage, but had posted themselves on the road near the village; and there was such a waving of hands and handkerchiefs: and though my aunt did not much notice them, except by a majestic toss of the head, which is pardonable in a woman of her property, yet Mary Smith did even more than I, and waved her hands as much as the whole nine. Ah! how my dear mother cried and blessed me when we met, and called me her soul’s comfort and her darling boy, and looked at me as if I were a paragon of virtue and genius: whereas I was only a very lucky young fellow, that by the aid of kind friends had stepped rapidly into a very pretty property.
I was not to stay with my mother — that had been arranged beforehand; for though she and Mrs. Hoggarty were not remarkably good friends, yet Mother said it was for my benefit that I should stay with my aunt, and so give up the pleasure of having me with her: and though hers was much the humbler house of the two, I need not say I preferred it far to Mrs. Hoggarty’s more splendid one; let alone the horrible Rosolio, of which I was obliged now to drink gallons.
It was to Mrs. H.‘s then we were driven: she had prepared a great dinner that evening, and hired an extra waiter, and on getting out of the carriage, she gave a sixpence to Tom Wheeler, saying that was for himself, and that she would settle with Mrs. Rincer for the horses afterwards. At which Tom flung the sixpence upon the ground, swore most violently, and was very justly called by my aunt an “impertinent fellow.”
She had taken such a liking to me that she would hardly bear me out of her sight. We used to sit for morning after morning over her accounts, debating for hours together the propriety of selling the Slopperton property; but no arrangement was come to yet about it, for Hodge and Smithers could not get the price she wanted. And, moreover, she vowed that at her decease she would leave every shilling to me.
Hodge and Smithers, too, gave a grand party, and treated me with marked consideration; as did every single person of the village. Those who could not afford to give dinners gave teas, and all drank the health of the young couple; and many a time after dinner or supper was my Mary made to blush by the allusions to the change in her condition.
The happy day for that ceremony was now fixed, and the 24th July, 1823, saw me the happiest husband of the prettiest girl in Somersetshire. We were married from my mother’s house, who would insist upon that at any rate, and the nine girls acted as bridesmaids; ay! and Gus Hoskins came from town express to be my groomsman, and had my old room at my mother’s, and stayed with her for a week, and cast a sheep’s-eye upon Miss Winny Titmarsh too, my dear fourth sister, as I afterwards learned.
My aunt was very kind upon the marriage ceremony, indeed. She had desired me some weeks previous to order three magnificent dresses for Mary from the celebrated Madame Mantalini of London, and some elegant trinkets and embroidered pocket-handkerchiefs from Howell and James’s. These were sent down to me, and were to be my present to the bride; but Mrs. Hoggarty gave me to understand that I need never trouble myself about the payment of the bill, and I thought her conduct very generous. Also she lent us her chariot for the wedding journey, and made with her own hands a beautiful crimson satin reticule for Mrs. Samuel Titmarsh, her dear niece. It contained a huswife completely furnished with needles, &c., for she hoped Mrs. Titmarsh would never neglect her needle; and a purse containing some silver pennies, and a very curious pocket-piece. “As long as you keep these, my dear,” said Mrs. Hoggarty, “you will never want; and fervently — fervently do I pray that you will keep them.” In the carriage-pocket we found a paper of biscuits and a bottle of Rosolio. We laughed at this, and made it over to Tom Wheeler — who, however, did not seem to like it much better than we.
I need not say I was married in Mr. Von Stiltz’s coat (the third and fourth coats, Heaven help us! in a year), and that I wore sparkling in my bosom the Great Hoggarty Diamond.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00