“We must begin, my dear madam,” said Sir George Thrum, “by unlearning all that Mr. Baroski (of whom I do not wish to speak with the slightest disrespect) has taught you!”
Morgiana knew that every professor says as much, and submitted to undergo the study requisite for Sir George’s system with perfect good grace. Au fond, as I was given to understand, the methods of the two artists were pretty similar; but as there was rivalry between them, and continual desertion of scholars from one school to another, it was fair for each to take all the credit he could get in the success of any pupil. If a pupil failed, for instance, Thrum would say Baroski had spoiled her irretrievably; while the German would regret “Dat dat yong voman, who had a good organ, should have trown away her dime wid dat old Drum.” When one of these deserters succeeded, “Yes, yes,” would either professor cry, “I formed her; she owes her fortune to me.” Both of them thus, in future days, claimed the education of the famous Ravenswing; and even Sir George Thrum, though he wished to ecraser the Ligonier, pretended that her present success was his work because once she had been brought by her mother, Mrs. Larkins, to sing for Sir George’s approval.
When the two professors met it was with the most delighted cordiality on the part of both. “Mein lieber Herr,” Thrum would say (with some malice), “your sonata in x flat is divine.” “Chevalier,” Baroski would reply, “dat andante movement in w is worthy of Beethoven. I gif you my sacred honour,” and so forth. In fact, they loved each other as gentlemen in their profession always do.
The two famous professors conduct their academies on very opposite principles. Baroski writes ballet music; Thrum, on the contrary, says “he cannot but deplore the dangerous fascinations of the dance,” and writes more for Exeter Hall and Birmingham. While Baroski drives a cab in the Park with a very suspicious Mademoiselle Leocadie, or Amenaide, by his side, you may see Thrum walking to evening church with his lady, and hymns are sung there of his own composition. He belongs to the “Athenaeum Club,” he goes to the Levee once a year, he does everything that a respectable man should; and if, by the means of this respectability, he manages to make his little trade far more profitable than it otherwise would be, are we to quarrel with him for it?
Sir George, in fact, had every reason to be respectable. He had been a choir-boy at Windsor, had played to the old King’s violoncello, had been intimate with him, and had received knighthood at the hand of his revered sovereign. He had a snuff-box which His Majesty gave him, and portraits of him and the young princes all over the house. He had also a foreign order (no other, indeed, than the Elephant and Castle of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel), conferred upon him by the Grand Duke when here with the allied sovereigns in 1814. With this ribbon round his neck, on gala days, and in a white waistcoat, the old gentleman looked splendid as he moved along in a blue coat with the Windsor button, and neat black small-clothes, and silk stockings. He lived in an old tall dingy house, furnished in the reign of George III., his beloved master, and not much more cheerful now than a family vault. They are awfully funereal, those ornaments of the close of the last century — tall gloomy horse-hair chairs, mouldy Turkey carpets with wretched druggets to guard them, little cracked sticking-plaster miniatures of people in tours and pigtails over high-shouldered mantelpieces, two dismal urns on each side of a lanky sideboard, and in the midst a queer twisted receptacle for worn-out knives with green handles. Under the sideboard stands a cellaret that looks as if it held half a bottle of currant wine, and a shivering plate-warmer that never could get any comfort out of the wretched old cramped grate yonder. Don’t you know in such houses the grey gloom that hangs over the stairs, the dull-coloured old carpet that winds its way up the same, growing thinner, duller, and more threadbare as it mounts to the bedroom floors? There is something awful in the bedroom of a respectable old couple of sixty-five. Think of the old feathers, turbans, bugles, petticoats, pomatum-pots, spencers, white satin shoes, false fronts, the old flaccid boneless stays tied up in faded riband, the dusky fans, the old forty-years-old baby linen, the letters of Sir George when he was young, the doll of poor Maria who died in 1803, Frederick’s first corduroy breeches, and the newspaper which contains the account of his distinguishing himself at the siege of Seringapatam. All these lie somewhere, damp and squeezed down into glum old presses and wardrobes. At that glass the wife has sat many times these fifty years; in that old morocco bed her children were born. Where are they now? Fred the brave captain, and Charles the saucy colleger: there hangs a drawing of him done by Mr. Beechey, and that sketch by Cosway was the very likeness of Louisa before —
“Mr. Fitz-Boodle! for Heaven’s sake come down. What are you doing in a lady’s bedroom?”
“The fact is, madam, I had no business there in life; but, having had quite enough wine with Sir George, my thoughts had wandered upstairs into the sanctuary of female excellence, where your Ladyship nightly reposes. You do not sleep so well now as in old days, though there is no patter of little steps to wake you overhead.”
They call that room the nursery still, and the little wicket still hangs at the upper stairs: it has been there for forty years — bon Dieu! Can’t you see the ghosts of little faces peering over it? I wonder whether they get up in the night as the moonlight shines into the blank vacant old room, and play there solemnly with little ghostly horses, and the spirits of dolls, and tops that turn and turn but don’t hum.
Once more, sir, come down to the lower storey — that is to the Morgiana story — with which the above sentences have no more to do than this morning’s leading article in The Times; only it was at this house of Sir George Thrum’s that I met Morgiana. Sir George, in old days, had instructed some of the female members of our family, and I recollect cutting my fingers as a child with one of those attenuated green-handled knives in the queer box yonder.
In those days Sir George Thrum was the first great musical teacher of London, and the royal patronage brought him a great number of fashionable pupils, of whom Lady Fitz-Boodle was one. It was a long long time ago: in fact, Sir George Thrum was old enough to remember persons who had been present at Mr. Braham’s first appearance, and the old gentleman’s days of triumph had been those of Billington and Incledon, Catalani and Madame Storace.
He was the author of several operas (“The Camel Driver,” “Britons Alarmed; or, the Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom,” etc. etc.), and, of course, of songs which had considerable success in their day, but are forgotten now, and are as much faded and out of fashion as those old carpets which we have described in the professor’s house, and which were, doubtless, very brilliant once. But such is the fate of carpets, of flowers, of music, of men, and of the most admirable novels — even this story will not be alive for many centuries. Well, well, why struggle against Fate?
But, though his heyday of fashion was gone, Sir George still held his place among the musicians of the old school, conducted occasionally at the Ancient Concerts and the Philharmonic, and his glees are still favourites after public dinners, and are sung by those old bacchanalians, in chestnut wigs, who attend for the purpose of amusing the guests on such occasions of festivity. The great old people at the gloomy old concerts before mentioned always pay Sir George marked respect; and, indeed, from the old gentleman’s peculiar behaviour to his superiors, it is impossible they should not be delighted with him, so he leads at almost every one of the concerts in the old-fashioned houses in town.
Becomingly obsequious to his superiors, he is with the rest of the world properly majestic, and has obtained no small success by his admirable and undeviating respectability. Respectability has been his great card through life; ladies can trust their daughters at Sir George Thrum’s academy. “A good musician, madam,” says he to the mother of a new pupil, “should not only have a fine ear, a good voice, and an indomitable industry, but, above all, a faultless character — faultless, that is, as far as our poor nature will permit. And you will remark that those young persons with whom your lovely daughter, Miss Smith, will pursue her musical studies, are all, in a moral point of view, as spotless as that charming young lady. How should it be otherwise? I have been myself the father of a family; I have been honoured with the intimacy of the wisest and best of kings, my late sovereign George III., and I can proudly show an example of decorum to my pupils in my Sophia. Mrs. Smith, I have the honour of introducing to you my Lady Thrum.”
The old lady would rise at this, and make a gigantic curtsey, such a one as had begun the minuet at Ranelagh fifty years ago; and, the introduction ended, Mrs. Smith would retire, after having seen the portraits of the princes, his late Majesty’s snuff-box, and a piece of music which he used to play, noted by himself — Mrs. Smith, I say, would drive back to Baker Street, delighted to think that her Frederica had secured so eligible and respectable a master. I forgot to say that, during the interview between Mrs. Smith and Sir George, the latter would be called out of his study by his black servant, and my Lady Thrum would take that opportunity of mentioning when he was knighted, and how he got his foreign order, and deploring the sad condition of OTHER musical professors, and the dreadful immorality which sometimes arose in consequence of their laxness. Sir George was a good deal engaged to dinners in the season, and if invited to dine with a nobleman, as he might possibly be on the day when Mrs. Smith requested the honour of his company, he would write back “that he should have had the sincerest happiness in waiting upon Mrs. Smith in Baker Street, if, previously, my Lord Tweedledale had not been so kind as to engage him.” This letter, of course, shown by Mrs. Smith to her friends, was received by them with proper respect; and thus, in spite of age and new fashions, Sir George still reigned pre-eminent for a mile round Cavendish Square. By the young pupils of the academy he was called Sir Charles Grandison; and, indeed, fully deserved this title on account of the indomitable respectability of his whole actions.
It was under this gentleman that Morgiana made her debut in public life. I do not know what arrangements may have been made between Sir George Thrum and his pupil regarding the profits which were to accrue to the former from engagements procured by him for the latter; but there was, no doubt, an understanding between them. For Sir George, respectable as he was, had the reputation of being extremely clever at a bargain; and Lady Thrum herself, in her great high-tragedy way, could purchase a pair of soles or select a leg of mutton with the best housekeeper in London.
When, however, Morgiana had been for some six months under his tuition, he began, for some reason or other, to be exceedingly hospitable, and invited his friends to numerous entertainments: at one of which, as I have said, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Walker.
Although the worthy musician’s dinners were not good, the old knight had some excellent wine in his cellar, and his arrangement of his party deserves to be commended.
For instance, he meets me and Bob Fitz-Urse in Pall Mall, at whose paternal house he was also a visitor. “My dear young gentlemen,” says he, “will you come and dine with a poor musical composer? I have some Comet hock, and, what is more curious to you, perhaps, as men of wit, one or two of the great literary characters of London whom you would like to see — quite curiosities, my dear young friends.” And we agreed to go.
To the literary men he says: “I have a little quiet party at home: Lord Roundtowers, the Honourable Mr. Fitz-Urse of the Life Guards, and a few more. Can you tear yourself away from the war of wits, and take a quiet dinner with a few mere men about town?”
The literary men instantly purchase new satin stocks and white gloves, and are delighted to fancy themselves members of the world of fashion. Instead of inviting twelve Royal Academicians, or a dozen authors, or a dozen men of science to dinner, as his Grace the Duke of ——— and the Right Honourable Sir Robert ——— are in the habit of doing once a year, this plan of fusion is the one they should adopt. Not invite all artists, as they would invite all farmers to a rent dinner; but they should have a proper commingling of artists and men of the world. There is one of the latter whose name is George Savage Fitz-Boodle, who — But let us return to Sir George Thrum.
Fitz-Urse and I arrive at the dismal old house, and are conducted up the staircase by a black servant, who shouts out, “Missa Fiss-Boodle — the HONOURABLE Missa Fiss-Urse!” It was evident that Lady Thrum had instructed the swarthy groom of the chambers (for there is nothing particularly honourable in my friend Fitz’s face that I know of, unless an abominable squint may be said to be so). Lady Thrum, whose figure is something like that of the shot-tower opposite Waterloo Bridge, makes a majestic inclination and a speech to signify her pleasure at receiving under her roof two of the children of Sir George’s best pupils. A lady in black velvet is seated by the old fireplace, with whom a stout gentleman in an exceedingly light coat and ornamental waistcoat is talking very busily. “The great star of the night,” whispers our host. “Mrs. Walker, gentlemen — the RAVENSWING! She is talking to the famous Mr. Slang, of the ——— Theatre.”
“Is she a fine singer?” says Fitz-Urse. “She’s a very fine woman.”
“My dear young friends, you shall hear to-night! I, who have heard every fine voice in Europe, confidently pledge my respectability that the Ravenswing is equal to them all. She has the graces, sir, of a Venus with the mind of a Muse. She is a siren, sir, without the dangerous qualities of one. She is hallowed, sir, by her misfortunes as by her genius; and I am proud to think that my instructions have been the means of developing the wondrous qualities that were latent within her until now.”
“You don’t say so!” says gobemouche Fitz-Urse.
Having thus indoctrinated Mr. Fitz-Urse, Sir George takes another of his guests, and proceeds to work upon him. “My dear Mr. Bludyer, how do you do? Mr. Fitz-Boodle, Mr. Bludyer, the brilliant and accomplished wit, whose sallies in the Tomahawk delight us every Saturday. Nay, no blushes, my dear sir; you are very wicked, but oh! SO pleasant. Well, Mr. Bludyer, I am glad to see you, sir, and hope you will have a favourable opinion of our genius, sir. As I was saying to Mr. Fitz-Boodle, she has the graces of a Venus with the mind of a Muse. She is a siren, without the dangerous qualities of one,” etc. This little speech was made to half-a-dozen persons in the course of the evening — persons, for the most part, connected with the public journals or the theatrical world. There was Mr. Squinny, the editor of the Flowers of Fashion; Mr. Desmond Mulligan, the poet, and reporter for a morning paper; and other worthies of their calling. For though Sir George is a respectable man, and as high-minded and moral an old gentleman as ever wore knee-buckles, he does not neglect the little arts of popularity, and can condescend to receive very queer company if need be.
For instance, at the dinner-party at which I had the honour of assisting, and at which, on the right hand of Lady Thrum, sat the oblige nobleman, whom the Thrums were a great deal too wise to omit (the sight of a lord does good to us commoners, or why else should we be so anxious to have one?). In the second place of honour, and on her ladyship’s left hand, sat Mr. Slang, the manager of one of the theatres; a gentleman whom my Lady Thrum would scarcely, but for a great necessity’s sake, have been induced to invite to her table. He had the honour of leading Mrs. Walker to dinner, who looked splendid in black velvet and turban, full of health and smiles.
Lord Roundtowers is an old gentleman who has been at the theatres five times a week for these fifty years, a living dictionary of the stage, recollecting every actor and actress who has appeared upon it for half a century. He perfectly well remembered Miss Delancy in Morgiana; he knew what had become of Ali Baba, and how Cassim had left the stage, and was now the keeper of a public-house. All this store of knowledge he kept quietly to himself, or only delivered in confidence to his next neighbour in the intervals of the banquet, which he enjoys prodigiously. He lives at an hotel: if not invited to dine, eats a mutton-chop very humbly at his club, and finishes his evening after the play at Crockford’s, whither he goes not for the sake of the play, but of the supper there. He is described in the Court Guide as of “Simmer’s Hotel,” and of Roundtowers, county Cork. It is said that the round towers really exist. But he has not been in Ireland since the rebellion; and his property is so hampered with ancestral mortgages, and rent-charges, and annuities, that his income is barely sufficient to provide the modest mutton-chop before alluded to. He has, any time these fifty years, lived in the wickedest company in London, and is, withal, as harmless, mild, good-natured, innocent an old gentleman as can readily be seen.
“Roundy,” shouts the elegant Mr. Slang, across the table, with a voice which makes Lady Thrum shudder, “Tuff, a glass of wine.”
My Lord replies meekly, “Mr. Slang, I shall have very much pleasure. What shall it be?”
“There is Madeira near you, my Lord,” says my Lady, pointing to a tall thin decanter of the fashion of the year.
“Madeira! Marsala, by Jove, your Ladyship means!” shouts Mr. Slang. “No, no, old birds are not caught with chaff. Thrum, old boy, let’s have some of your Comet hock.”
“My Lady Thrum, I believe that IS Marsala,” says the knight, blushing a little, in reply to a question from his Sophia. “Ajax, the hock to Mr. Slang.”
“I’m in that,” yells Bludyer from the end of the table. “My Lord, I’ll join you.”
“Mr. —— — I beg your pardon — I shall be very happy to take wine with you, sir.”
“It is Mr. Bludyer, the celebrated newspaper writer,” whispers Lady Thrum.
“Bludyer, Bludyer? A very clever man, I dare say. He has a very loud voice, and reminds me of Brett. Does your Ladyship remember Brett, who played the ‘Fathers’ at the Haymarket in 1802?”
“What an old stupid Roundtowers is!” says Slang, archly, nudging Mrs. Walker in the side. “How’s Walker, eh?”
My husband is in the country,” replied Mrs. Walker, hesitatingly.
“Gammon! I know where he is! Law bless you! — don’t blush. I’ve been there myself a dozen times. We were talking about quod, Lady Thrum. Were you ever in college?”
“I was at the Commemoration at Oxford in 1814, when the sovereigns were there, and at Cambridge when Sir George received his degree of Doctor of Music.”
“Laud, Laud, THAT’S not the college WE mean.”
“There is also the college in Gower Street, where my grandson —”
“This is the college in QUEER STREET, ma’am, haw, haw! Mulligan, you divvle (in an Irish accent), a glass of wine with you. Wine, here, you waiter! What’s your name, you black nigger? ‘Possum up a gum-tree, eh? Fill him up. Dere he go “ (imitating the Mandingo manner of speaking English)
In this agreeable way would Mr. Slang rattle on, speedily making himself the centre of the conversation, and addressing graceful familiarities to all the gentlemen and ladies round him.
It was good to see how the little knight, the most moral and calm of men, was compelled to receive Mr. Slang’s stories and the frightened air with which, at the conclusion of one of them, he would venture upon a commendatory grin. His lady, on her part too, had been laboriously civil; and, on the occasion on which I had the honour of meeting this gentleman and Mrs. Walker, it was the latter who gave the signal for withdrawing to the lady of the house, by saying, “I think, Lady Thrum, it is quite time for us to retire.” Some exquisite joke of Mr. Slang’s was the cause of this abrupt disappearance. But, as they went upstairs to the drawing-room, Lady Thrum took occasion to say, “My dear, in the course of your profession you will have to submit to many such familiarities on the part of persons of low breeding, such as I fear Mr. Slang is. But let me caution you against giving way to your temper as you did. Did you not perceive that I never allowed him to see my inward dissatisfaction? And I make it a particular point that you should be very civil to him to-night. Your interests — our interests depend upon it.”
“And are my interests to make me civil to a wretch like that?”
“Mrs. Walker, would you wish to give lessons in morality and behaviour to Lady Thrum?” said the old lady, drawing herself up with great dignity. It was evident that she had a very strong desire indeed to conciliate Mr. Slang; and hence I have no doubt that Sir George was to have a considerable share of Morgiana’s earnings.
Mr. Bludyer, the famous editor of the Tomahawk, whose jokes Sir George pretended to admire so much (Sir George who never made a joke in his life), was a press bravo of considerable talent and no principle, and who, to use his own words, would “back himself for a slashing article against any man in England!” He would not only write, but fight on a pinch; was a good scholar, and as savage in his manner as with his pen. Mr. Squinny is of exactly the opposite school, as delicate as milk-and-water, harmless in his habits, fond of the flute when the state of his chest will allow him, a great practiser of waltzing and dancing in general, and in his journal mildly malicious. He never goes beyond the bounds of politeness, but manages to insinuate a great deal that is disagreeable to an author in the course of twenty lines of criticism. Personally he is quite respectable, and lives with two maiden aunts at Brompton. Nobody, on the contrary, knows where Mr. Bludyer lives. He has houses of call, mysterious taverns, where he may be found at particular hours by those who need him, and where panting publishers are in the habit of hunting him up. For a bottle of wine and a guinea he will write a page of praise or abuse of any man living, or on any subject, or on any line of politics. “Hang it, sir!” says he, “pay me enough and I will write down my own father!” According to the state of his credit, he is dressed either almost in rags or else in the extremest flush of the fashion. With the latter attire he puts on a haughty and aristocratic air, and would slap a duke on the shoulder. If there is one thing more dangerous than to refuse to lend him a sum of money when he asks for it, it is to lend it to him; for he never pays, and never pardons a man to whom he owes. “Walker refused to cash a bill for me,” he had been heard to say, “and I’ll do for his wife when she comes out on the stage!” Mrs. Walker and Sir George Thrum were in an agony about the Tomahawk; hence the latter’s invitation to Mr. Bludyer. Sir George was in a great tremor about the Flowers of Fashion, hence his invitation to Mr. Squinny. Mr. Squinny was introduced to Lord Roundtowers and Mr. Fitz-Urse as one of the most delightful and talented of our young men of genius; and Fitz, who believes everything anyone tells him, was quite pleased to have the honour of sitting near the live editor of a paper. I have reason to think that Mr. Squinny himself was no less delighted: I saw him giving his card to Fitz-Urse at the end of the second course.
No particular attention was paid to Mr. Desmond Mulligan. Political enthusiasm is his forte. He lives and writes in a rapture. He is, of course, a member of an inn of court, and greatly addicted to after-dinner speaking as a preparation for the bar, where as a young man of genius he hopes one day to shine. He is almost the only man to whom Bludyer is civil; for, if the latter will fight doggedly when there is a necessity for so doing, the former fights like an Irishman, and has a pleasure in it. He has been “on the ground” I don’t know how many times, and quitted his country on account of a quarrel with Government regarding certain articles published by him in the Phoenix newspaper. With the third bottle, he becomes overpoweringly great on the wrongs of Ireland, and at that period generally volunteers a couple or more of Irish melodies, selecting the most melancholy in the collection. At five in the afternoon, you are sure to see him about the House of Commons, and he knows the “Reform Club” (he calls it the Refawrum) as well as if he were a member. It is curious for the contemplative mind to mark those mysterious hangers-on of Irish members of Parliament — strange runners and aides-de-camp which all the honourable gentlemen appear to possess. Desmond, in his political capacity, is one of these, and besides his calling as reporter to a newspaper, is “our well-informed correspondent” of that famous Munster paper, the Green Flag of Skibbereen.
With Mr. Mulligan’s qualities and history I only became subsequently acquainted. On the present evening he made but a brief stay at the dinner-table, being compelled by his professional duties to attend the House of Commons.
The above formed the party with whom I had the honour to dine. What other repasts Sir George Thrum may have given, what assemblies of men of mere science he may have invited to give their opinion regarding his prodigy, what other editors of papers he may have pacified or rendered favourable, who knows? On the present occasion, we did not quit the dinner-table until Mr. Slang the manager was considerably excited by wine, and music had been heard for some time in the drawing-room overhead during our absence. An addition had been made to the Thrum party by the arrival of several persons to spend the evening — a man to play on the violin between the singing, a youth to play on the piano, Miss Horsman to sing with Mrs. Walker, and other scientific characters. In a corner sat a red-faced old lady, of whom the mistress of the mansion took little notice; and a gentleman with a royal button, who blushed and looked exceedingly modest.
“Hang me!” says Mr. Bludyer, who had perfectly good reasons for recognising Mr Woolsey, and who on this day chose to assume his aristocratic air; “there’s a tailor in the room! What do they mean by asking ME to meet tradesmen?”
“Delancy, my dear,” cries Slang, entering the room with a reel, “how’s your precious health? Give us your hand! When ARE we to be married? Make room for me on the sofa, that’s a duck!”
“Get along, Slang,” says Mrs. Crump, addressed by the manager by her maiden name (artists generally drop the title of honour which people adopt in the world, and call each other by their simple surnames)—“get along, Slang, or I’ll tell Mrs. S.!” The enterprising manager replies by sportively striking Mrs. Crump on the side a blow which causes a great giggle from the lady insulted, and a most good-humoured threat to box Slang’s ears. I fear very much that Morgiana’s mother thought Mr. Slang an exceedingly gentlemanlike and agreeable person; besides, she was eager to have his good opinion of Mrs. Walker’s singing.
The manager stretched himself out with much gracefulness on the sofa, supporting two little dumpy legs encased in varnished boots on a chair.
“Ajax, some tea to Mr. Slang,” said my Lady, looking towards that gentleman with a countenance expressive of some alarm, I thought.
“That’s right, Ajax, my black prince!” exclaimed Slang when the negro brought the required refreshment; “and now I suppose you’ll be wanted in the orchestra yonder. Don’t Ajax play the cymbals, Sir George?”
“Ha, ha, ha! very good — capital!” answered the knight, exceedingly frightened; “but ours is not a MILITARY band. Miss Horsman, Mr. Craw, my dear Mrs. Ravenswing, shall we begin the trio? Silence, gentlemen, if you please; it is a little piece from my opera of the ‘Brigand’s Bride.’ Miss Horsman takes the Page’s part, Mr. Craw is Stiletto the Brigand, my accomplished pupil is the Bride;” and the music began.
“My heart with joy is beating,
My eyes with tears are dim;
“Her heart with joy is beating
Her eyes are fixed on him;
“My heart with rage is beating,
In blood my eye-balls swim!”
What may have been the merits of the music or the singing, I, of course, cannot guess. Lady Thrum sat opposite the tea-cups, nodding her head and beating time very gravely. Lord Roundtowers, by her side, nodded his head too, for awhile, and then fell asleep. I should have done the same but for the manager, whose actions were worth of remark. He sang with all the three singers, and a great deal louder than any of them; he shouted bravo! or hissed as he thought proper; he criticised all the points of Mrs. Walker’s person. “She’ll do, Crump, she’ll do — a splendid arm — you’ll see her eyes in the shilling gallery! What sort of a foot has she? She’s five feet three, if she’s an inch! Bravo — slap up — capital — hurrah!” And he concluded by saying, with the aid of the Ravenswing, he would put Ligonier’s nose out of Joint!
The enthusiasm of Mr. Slang almost reconciled Lady Thrum to the abruptness of his manners, and even caused Sir George to forget that his chorus had been interrupted by the obstreperous familiarity of the manager.
“And what do YOU think, Mr. Bludyer,” said the tailor, delighted that his protegee should be thus winning all hearts: “isn’t Mrs. Walker a tip-top singer, eh, sir?”
“I think she’s a very bad one, Mr. Woolsey,” said the illustrious author, wishing to abbreviate all communications with a tailor to whom he owed forty pounds.
“Then, sir,” says Mr. Woolsey, fiercely, “I’ll — I’ll thank you to pay me my little bill!”
It is true there was no connection between Mrs. Walker’s singing and Woolsey’s little bill; that the “THEN, sir,” was perfectly illogical on Woolsey’s part; but it was a very happy hit for the future fortunes of Mrs. Walker. Who knows what would have come of her debut but for that “Then, sir,” and whether a “smashing article” from the Tomahawk might not have ruined her for ever?
“Are you a relation of Mrs. Walker’s?” said Mr. Bludyer, in reply to the angry tailor.
“What’s that to you, whether I am or not?” replied Woolsey, fiercely. “But I’m the friend of Mrs. Walker, sir; proud am I to say so, sir; and, as the poet says, sir, ‘a little learning’s a dangerous thing,’ sir; and I think a man who don’t pay his bills may keep his tongue quiet at least, sir, and not abuse a lady, sir, whom everybody else praises, sir. You shan’t humbug ME any more, sir; you shall hear from my attorney tomorrow, so mark that!”
“Hush, my dear Mr. Woolsey,” cried the literary man, “don’t make a noise; come into this window: is Mrs. Walker REALLY a friend of yours?”
“I’ve told you so, sir.”
“Well, in that case, I shall do my utmost to serve her and, look you, Woolsey, any article you choose to send about her to the Tomahawk I promise you I’ll put in.”
“WILL you, though? then we’ll say nothing about the little bill.”
“You may do on that point,” answered Bludyer, haughtily, “exactly as you please. I am not to be frightened from my duty, mind that; and mind, too, that I can write a slashing article better than any man in England: I could crush her by ten lines.”
The tables were now turned, and it was Woolsey’s turn to be alarmed.
“Pooh! pooh! I WAS angry,” said he, “because you abuse Mrs. Walker, who’s an angel on earth; but I’m very willing to apologise. I say — come — let me take your measure for some new clothes, eh! Mr. B.?”
“I’ll come to your shop,” answered the literary man, quite appeased. “Silence! they’re beginning another song.”
The songs, which I don’t attempt to describe (and, upon my word and honour, as far as I can understand matters, I believe to this day that Mrs. Walker was only an ordinary singer)— the songs lasted a great deal longer than I liked; but I was nailed, as it were, to the spot, having agreed to sup at Knightsbridge barracks with Fitz-Urse, whose carriage was ordered at eleven o’clock.
“My dear Mr. Fitz-Boodle,” said our old host to me, “you can do me the greatest service in the world.”
“Speak, sir!” said I.
“Will you ask your honourable and gallant friend, the Captain, to drive home Mr. Squinny to Brompton?”
“Can’t Mr. Squinny get a cab?”
Sir George looked particularly arch. “Generalship, my dear young friend — a little harmless generalship. Mr. Squinny will not give much for MY opinion of my pupil, but he will value very highly the opinion of the Honourable Mr. FitzUrse.”
For a moral man, was not the little knight a clever fellow? He had bought Mr. Squinny for a dinner worth ten shillings, and for a ride in a carriage with a lord’s son. Squinny was carried to Brompton, and set down at his aunts’ door, delighted with his new friends, and exceedingly sick with a cigar they had made him smoke.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00