The Bedford-Row Conspiracy Part 6

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“Hush,” said Scully, rather surlily; for he was thinking how disagreeable it was to support Macabaw; and besides, there were clerks in the room, whom the thoughtless Perkins had not at first perceived. As soon as that gentleman saw them, “You are busy, I see,” continued he in a lower tone. “I came to say that I must be off duty to-day, for I am engaged to take a walk with some ladies of my acquaintance.”

So saying, the light-hearted young man placed his hat unceremoniously on his head, and went off through his own door, humming a song. He was in such high spirits that he did not even think of closing the doors of communication, and Scully looked after him with a sneer.

“Ladies, forsooth,” thought he; “I know who they are. This precious girl that he is fooling with, for one, I suppose.” He was right: Perkins was off on the wings of love, to see Miss Lucy; and she and Aunt Biggs and Uncle Crampton had promised this very day to come and look at the apartments which Mrs. John Perkins was to occupy with her happy husband.

“Poor devil,” so continued Mr. Scully’s meditations, “it is almost too bad to do him out of his place; but my Bob wants it, and John’s girl has, I hear, seven thousand pounds. His uncle will get him another place before all that money is spent.” And herewith Mr. Scully began conning the speech which Perkins had made for him.

He had not read it more than six times,–in truth, he was getting it by heart,–when his head clerk came to him from the front room, bearing a card: a footman had brought it, who said his lady was waiting below.

Lady Gorgon’s name was on the card! To seize his hat and rush downstairs was, with Mr. Scully, the work of an infinitesimal portion of time.

It was indeed Lady Gorgon in her Gorgonian chariot.

“Mr. Scully,” said she, popping her head out of window and smiling in a most engaging way, “I want to speak to you, on something very particular INDEED”–and she held him out her hand. Scully pressed it most tenderly: he hoped all heads in Bedford Row were at the windows to see him. “I can’t ask you into the carriage, for you see the governess is with me, and I want to talk secrets to you.”

“Shall I go and make a little promenade?” said mademoiselle, innocently.

And her mistress hated her for that speech.

“No. Mr. Scully, I am sure, will let me come in for five minutes?”

Mr. Scully was only too happy. My Lady descended and walked upstairs, leaning on the happy solicitor’s arm. But how should he manage? The front room was consecrated to clerks; there were clerks too, as ill-luck would have it, in his private room. “Perkins is out for the day,”

thought Scully; “I will take her into his room.” And into Perkins’s room he took her–ay, and he shut the double doors after him too, and trembled as he thought of his own happiness.

“What a charming little study,” said Lady Gorgon, seating herself. And indeed it was very pretty: for Perkins had furnished it beautifully, and laid out a neat tray with cakes, a cold fowl, and sherry, to entertain his party withal. “And do you bachelors always live so well?” continued she, pointing to the little cold collation.

Mr. Scully looked rather blank when he saw it, and a dreadful suspicion crossed his soul; but there was no need to trouble Lady Gorgon with explanations: therefore, at once, and with much presence of mind, he asked her to partake of his bachelor’s fare (she would refuse Mr. Scully nothing that day). A pretty sight would it have been for young Perkins to see strangers so unceremoniously devouring his feast. She drank–Mr.

Scully drank–and so emboldened was he by the draught that he actually seated himself by the side of Lady Gorgon, on John Perkins’s new sofa.

Her Ladyship had of course something to say to him. She was a pious woman, and had suddenly conceived a violent wish for building a chapel of ease at Oldborough, to which she entreated him to subscribe. She enlarged upon the benefits that the town would derive from it, spoke of Sunday-schools, sweet spiritual instruction, and the duty of all well-minded persons to give aid to the scheme.

“I will subscribe a hundred pounds,” said Scully, at the end of her Ladyship’s harangue: “would I not do anything for you?”

“Thank you, thank you, dear Mr. Scully,” said the enthusiastic woman.

(How the “dear” went burning through his soul!) “Ah!” added she, “if you WOULD but do anything for me–if you, who are so eminently, so truly distinguished, in a religious point of view, would but see the truth in politics too; and if I could see your name among those of the true patriot party in this empire, how blest–oh! how blest should I be! Poor Sir George often says he should go to his grave happy, could he but see you the guardian of his boy; and I, your old friend (for we WERE friends, William), how have I wept to think of you as one of those who are bringing our monarchy to ruin. Do, do promise me this too!” And she took his hand and pressed it between hers.

The heart of William Pitt Scully, during this speech, was thumping up and down with a frightful velocity and strength. His old love, the agency of the Gorgon property–the dear widow–five thousand a year clear–a thousand delicious hopes rushed madly through his brain, and almost took away his reason. And there she sat–she, the loved one, pressing his hand and looking softly into his eyes.

Down, down he plumped on his knees.

“Juliana!” shrieked he, “don’t take away your hand! My love–my only love!–speak but those blessed words again! Call me William once more, and do with me what you will.”

Juliana cast down her eyes and said, in the very smallest type, “William!”

–when the door opened, and in walked Mr. Crampton, leading Mrs. Biggs, who could hardly contain herself for laughing, and Mr. John Perkins, who was squeezing the arm of Miss Lucy. They had heard every word of the two last speeches.

For at the very moment when Lady Gorgon had stopped at Mr. Scully’s door, the four above-named individuals had issued from Great James Street into Bedford Row.

Lucy cried out that it was her aunt’s carriage, and they all saw Mr.

Scully come out, bare-headed, in the sunshine, and my Lady descend, and the pair go into the house. They meanwhile entered by Mr. Perkins’s own private door, and had been occupied in examining the delightful rooms on the ground-floor, which were to be his dining-room and library–from which they ascended a stair to visit the other two rooms, which were to form Mrs. John Perkins’s drawing-room and bedroom. Now whether it was that they trod softly, or that the stairs were covered with a grand new carpet and drugget, as was the case, or that the party within were too much occupied in themselves to heed any outward disturbances, I know not; but Lucy, who was advancing with John (he was saying something about one of the apartments, the rogue!)–Lucy started and whispered, “There is somebody in the rooms!” and at that instant began the speech already reported, “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, DEAR MR. SCULLY,” etc. etc., which was delivered by Lady Gorgon in a full clear voice; for, to do her Ladyship justice, SHE had not one single grain of love for Mr. Scully, and during the delivery of her little oration, was as cool as the coolest cuc.u.mber.

Then began the impa.s.sioned rejoinder, to which the four listened on the landing-place; and then the little “William,” as narrated above: at which juncture Mr. Crampton thought proper to rattle at the door, and, after a brief pause, to enter with his party.

“William” had had time to bounce off his knees, and was on a chair at the other end of the room.

“What, Lady Gorgon!” said Mr. Crampton, with excellent surprise, “how delighted I am to see you! Always, I see employed in works of charity”

(the chapel-of-ease paper was on her knees), “and on such an occasion, too,–it is really the most wonderful coincidence! My dear madam, here is a silly fellow, a nephew of mine, who is going to marry a silly girl, a niece of your own.”

“Sir, I–” began Lady Gorgon, rising.

“They heard every word,” whispered Mr. Crampton eagerly. “Come forward, Mr. Perkins, and show yourself.” Mr. Perkins made a genteel bow. “Miss Lucy, please to shake hands with your aunt; and this, my dear madam, is Mrs. Biggs, of Mecklenburgh Square, who, if she were not too old, might marry a gentleman in the Treasury, who is your very humble servant.” And with this gallant speech, old Mr. Crampton began helping everybody to sherry and cake.

As for William Pitt Scully, he had disappeared, evaporated, in the most absurd sneaking way imaginable. Lady Gorgon made good her retreat presently, with much dignity, her countenance undismayed, and her face turned resolutely to the foe.

About five days afterwards, that memorable contest took place in the House of Commons, in which the partisans of Mr. Macabaw were so very nearly getting him the Speakership. On the day that the report of the debate appeared in the Times, there appeared also an announcement in the Gazette as follows:–

“The King has been pleased to appoint John Perkins, Esquire, to be Deputy-Subcomptroller of His Majesty’s Tape Office and Custos of the Sealing-Wax Department.”

Mr. Crampton showed this to his nephew with great glee, and was chuckling to think how Mr. William Pitt Scully would be annoyed, who had expected the place, when Perkins burst out laughing and said, “By heavens, here is my own speech! Scully has spoken every word of it; he has only put in Mr. Pincher’s name in the place of Mr. Macabaw’s.”

“He is ours now,” responded his uncle, “and I told you WE WOULD HAVE HIM FOR NOTHING. I told you, too, that you should be married from Sir George Gorgon’s, and here is proof of it.”

It was a letter from Lady Gorgon, in which she said that, “had she known Mr. Perkins to be a nephew of her friend Mr. Crampton, she never for a moment would have opposed his marriage with her niece, and she had written that morning to her dear Lucy, begging that the marriage breakfast should take place in Baker Street.”

“It shall be in Mecklenburgh Square,” said John Perkins stoutly; and in Mecklenburgh Square it was.

William Pitt Scully, Esquire, was, as Mr. Crampton said, hugely annoyed at the loss of the place for his nephew. He had still, however, his hopes to look forward to, but these were unluckily dashed by the coming in of the Whigs. As for Sir George Gorgon, when he came to ask about his peerage, Hawksby told him that they could not afford to lose him in the Commons, for a Liberal Member would infallibly fill his place.

And now that the Tories are out and the Whigs are in, strange to say a Liberal does fill his place. This Liberal is no other than Sir George Gorgon himself, who is still longing to be a lord, and his lady is still devout and intriguing. So that the Members for Oldborough have changed sides, and taunt each other with apostasy, and hate each other cordially. Mr. Crampton still chuckles over the manner in which he tricked them both, and talks of those five minutes during which he stood on the landing-place, and hatched and executed his “Bedford-Row Conspiracy.”

The Bedford-Row Conspiracy Part 1

If you are looking for The Bedford-Row Conspiracy Part 1 you are coming to the right place.
The Bedford-Row Conspiracy is a Webnovel created by William Makepeace Thackeray.
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The Bedford-Row Conspiracy.

by William Makepeace Thackeray.

CHAPTER I.

OF THE LOVES OF MR. PERKINS AND MISS GORGON, AND OF THE TWO GREAT FACTIONS IN THE TOWN OF OLDBOROUGH.

“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 n.o.ble 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 princ.i.p.al 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 circ.u.mstances of Miss Gorgon’s life, let us pa.s.s 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 gra.s.splots 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 circ.u.mstance 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 m.u.f.fin-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 t.i.tle 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 G.o.dson 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 s.e.xes 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 b.u.t.tons, 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-pa.s.sages had pa.s.sed 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 unenc.u.mbered: 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 s.n.a.t.c.hed 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 ha.s.socks, 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 princ.i.p.al 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 const.i.tuents 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 amus.e.m.e.nts, 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 to-morrow, 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 a.s.serted, 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 c.r.a.pe and white roses; his niece, Lucy Gorgon, in white muslin; his son, George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon, in a blue velvet jacket, sugar-loaf b.u.t.tons, and nankeens, entered the north door of the ballroom, to much cheering, and the sound of “G.o.d 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 bra.s.s b.u.t.tons, 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 b.u.t.tons 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!” “n.o.ble!” “Scully for ever!” “G.o.d 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 t.i.tter 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 the–the are what they call Whigth, are they? He! he!”

“They are drunk, —-me, –drunk, by —-!” said the General to the Mayor.

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“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 G.o.d 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 pa.s.s 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 m.u.f.fins, 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,–

“Now jump.”

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.

CHAPTER II.

SHOWS HOW THE PLOT BEGAN TO THICKEN IN OR ABOUT BEDFORD ROW.

“Miss Lucy!”

“Upon my word!”

“I’m hanged if it aren’t Lucy! How do, Lucy?” uttered Lady, the Misses, and Master Gorgon in a breath.

Lucy came forward, bending down her ambrosial curls, and blushing, as a modest young woman should: for, in truth, the sc.r.a.pe was very awkward.

And as for John Perkins, he made a start, and then a step forwards, and then two backwards, and then began laying hands upon his black satin stock–in short, the sun did not shine at that moment upon a man who looked so exquisitely foolish.

“Miss Lucy Gorgon, is your aunt–is Mrs. Briggs here?” said Lady Gorgon, drawing herself up with much state.

“Mrs. Biggs, Aunt?” said Lucy demurely.

“Biggs or Briggs, madam, it is not of the slightest consequence.

I presume that persons in my rank of life are not expected to know everybody’s name in Magdeburg Square?” (Lady Gorgon had a house in Baker Street, and a dismal house it was.) “NOT here,” continued she, rightly interpreting Lucy’s silence, “NOT here?–and may I ask how long is it that young ladies have been allowed to walk abroad without chaperons, and to–to take a part in such scenes as that which we have just seen acted?”

To this question–and indeed it was rather difficult to answer–Miss Gorgon had no reply. There were the six grey eyes of her cousins glowering at her; there was George Augustus Frederick examining her with an air of extreme wonder, Mademoiselle the governess turning her looks demurely away, and awful Lady Gorgon glancing fiercely at her in front.

Not mentioning the footman and poodle, what could a poor modest timid girl plead before such an inquisition, especially when she was clearly guilty? Add to this, that as Lady Gorgon, that majestic woman, always remarkable for her size and insolence of demeanour, had planted herself in the middle of the path, and spoke at the extreme pitch of her voice, many persons walking in the neighbourhood had heard her Ladyship’s speech and stopped, and seemed disposed to await the rejoinder.

“For Heaven’s sake, Aunt, don’t draw a crowd around us,” said Lucy, who, indeed, was glad of the only escape that lay in her power. “I will tell you of the–of the circ.u.mstances of–of my engagement with this gentleman–with Mr. Perkins,” added she, in a softer tone–so soft that the ‘ERKINS was quite inaudible.

“A Mr. What? An engagement without consulting your guardians!” screamed her Ladyship. “This must be looked to! Jerningham, call round my carriage. Mademoiselle, you will have the goodness to walk home with Master Gorgon, and carry him, if you please, where there is wet; and, girls, as the day is fine, you will do likewise. Jerningham, you will attend the young ladies. Miss Gorgon, I will thank you to follow me immediately.” And so saying, and looking at the crowd with ineffable scorn, and at Mr. Perkins not at all, the lady bustled away forwards, the files of Gorgon daughters and governess closing round and enveloping poor Lucy, who found herself carried forward against her will, and in a minute seated in her aunt’s coach, along with that tremendous person.

Her case was bad enough, but what was it to Perkins’s? Fancy his blank surprise and rage at having his love thus suddenly ravished from him, and his delicious tete-a-tete interrupted. He managed, in an inconceivably short s.p.a.ce of time, to conjure up half-a-million obstacles to his union. What should he do? he would rush on to Baker Street, and wait there until his Lucy left Lady Gorgon’s house.

He could find no vehicle in the Regent’s Park, and was in consequence obliged to make his journey on foot. Of course, he nearly killed himself with running, and ran so quick, that he was just in time to see the two ladies step out of Lady Gorgon’s carriage at her own house, and to hear Jerningham’s fellow-footman roar to the Gorgonian coachman, “Half-past seven!” at which hour we are, to this day, convinced that Lady Gorgon was going out to dine. Mr. Jerningham’s a.s.sociate having banged to the door, with an insolent look towards Perkins, who was prying in with the most suspicious and indecent curiosity, retired, exclaiming, “That chap has a hi to our great-coats, I reckon!” and left John Perkins to pace the street and be miserable.

John Perkins then walked resolutely up and down dismal Baker Street, determined on an eclairciss.e.m.e.nt. He was for some time occupied in thinking how it was that the Gorgons were not at church, they who made such a parade of piety; and John Perkins smiled as he pa.s.sed the chapel, and saw that two CHARITY SERMONS were to be preached that day–and therefore it was that General Gorgon read prayers to his family at home in the morning.

Perkins, at last, saw that little General, in blue frock-coat and spotless buff gloves, saunter scowling home; and half an hour before his arrival had witnessed the entrance of Jerningham, and the three gaunt Miss Gorgons, poodle, son-and-heir, and French governess, protected by him, into Sir George’s mansion.

“Can she be going to stay all night?” mused poor John, after being on the watch for three hours: when presently, to his inexpressible delight, he saw a very dirty hackney-coach clatter up to the Gorgon door, out of which first issued the ruby plush breeches and stalwart calves of Mr.

Jerningham; these were followed by his body, and then the gentleman, ringing modestly, was admitted.

Again the door opened: a lady came out, nor was she followed by the footman, who crossed his legs at the door-post and allowed her to mount the jingling vehicle as best she might. Mr. Jerningham had witnessed the scene in the Park Gardens, had listened to the altercation through the library keyhole, and had been mighty sulky at being ordered to call a coach for this young woman. He did not therefore deign to a.s.sist her to mount.

But there was ONE who did! Perkins was by the side of his Lucy: he had seen her start back and cry, “La, John!”–had felt her squeeze his arm–had mounted with her into the coach, and then shouted with a voice of thunder to the coachman, “Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh Square.”

But Mr. Jerningham would have been much more surprised and puzzled if he had waited one minute longer, and seen this Mr. Perkins, who had so gallantly escaladed the hackney-coach, step out of it with the most mortified, miserable, chap-fallen countenance possible.

The fact is, he had found poor Lucy sobbing fit to break her heart, and instead of consoling her, as he expected, he only seemed to irritate her further: for she said, “Mr. Perkins–I beg–I insist, that you leave the carriage.” And when Perkins made some movement (which, not being in the vehicle at the time, we have never been able to comprehend), she suddenly sprang from the back-seat and began pulling at a large piece of cord which communicated with the wrist of the gentleman driving; and, screaming to him at the top of her voice, bade him immediately stop.

This Mr. Coachman did, with a curious, puzzled, grinning air.

Perkins descended, and on being asked, “Vere ham I to drive the young ‘oman, sir?” I am sorry to say muttered something like an oath, and uttered the above-mentioned words, “Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh Square,” in a tone which I should be inclined to describe as both dogged and sheepish–very different from that cheery voice which he had used when he first gave the order.

Poor Lucy, in the course of those fatal three hours which had pa.s.sed while Mr. Perkins was pacing up and down Baker Street, had received a lecture which lasted exactly one hundred and eighty minutes–from her aunt first, then from her uncle, whom we have seen marching homewards, and often from both together.

Sir George Gorgon and his lady poured out such a flood of advice and abuse against the poor girl, that she came away from the interview quite timid and cowering; and when she saw John Perkins (the sly rogue! how well he thought he had managed the trick!) she shrank from him as if he had been a demon of wickedness, ordered him out of the carriage, and went home by herself, convinced that she had committed some tremendous sin.

While, then, her coach jingled away to Caroline Place, Perkins, once more alone, bent his steps in the same direction. A desperate, heart-stricken man, he pa.s.sed by the beloved’s door, saw lights in the front drawing-room, felt probably that she was there; but he could not go in. Moodily he paced down Doughty Street, and turning abruptly into Bedford Row, rushed into his own chambers, where Mrs. Snooks, the laundress, had prepared his humble Sabbath meal.

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A cheerful fire blazed in his garret, and Mrs. Snooks had prepared for him the favourite blade-bone he loved (blest four-days’ dinner for a bachelor–roast, cold, hashed, grilled bladebone, the fourth being better than the first); but although he usually did rejoice in this meal–ordinarily, indeed, grumbling that there was not enough to satisfy him–he, on this occasion, after two mouthfuls, flung down his knife and fork, and buried his two claws in his hair.

“Snooks,” said he at last, very moodily, “remove this d—- mutton, give me my writing things, and some hot brandy-and-water.”

This was done without much alarm: for you must know that Perkins used to dabble in poetry, and ordinarily prepare himself for composition by this kind of stimulus.

He wrote hastily a few lines.

“Snooks, put on your bonnet,” said he, “and carry this–YOU KNOW WHERE!”

he added, in a hollow, heart-breaking tone of voice, that affected poor Snooks almost to tears. She went, however, with the note, which was to this purpose:–

“Lucy! Lucy! my soul’s love–what, what has happened? I am writing this”–(a gulp of brandy-and-water)–“in a state bordering on distraction–madness–insanity” (another). “Why did you send me out of the coach in that cruel cruel way? Write to me a word, a line–tell me, tell me, I may come to you–and leave me not in this agonising condition; your faithful” (glog–glog–glog–the whole gla.s.s)–“J.P.”

He never signed John Perkins in full–he couldn’t, it was so unromantic.

Well, this missive was despatched by Mrs. Snooks, and Perkins, in a fearful state of excitement, haggard, wild, and with more brandy-and-water, awaited the return of his messenger.

When at length, after about an absence of forty years, as it seemed to him, the old lady returned with a large packet, Perkins seized it with a trembling hand, and was yet more frightened to see the handwriting of Mrs. or Miss Biggs.

“MY DEAR MR. PERKINS,” she began–“Although I am not your soul’s adored, I performed her part for once, since I have read your letter, as I told her. You need not be very much alarmed, although Lucy is at this moment in bed and unwell: for the poor girl has had a sad scene at her grand uncle’s house in Baker Street, and came home very much affected. Rest, however, will restore her, for she is not one of your nervous sort; and I hope when you come in the morning, you will see her as blooming as she was when you went out to-day on that unlucky walk.

“See what Sir George Gorgon says of us all! You won’t challenge him, I know, as he is to be your uncle, and so I may show you his letter.

“Good-night, my dear John. Do not go QUITE distracted before morning; and believe me your loving aunt, “JEMIMA BIGGS.”

“41 BAKER STREET: 11th December.

“MAJOR-GENERAL SIR GEORGE GORGON has heard with the utmost disgust and surprise of the engagement which Miss Lucy Gorgon has thought fit to form.

“The Major-General cannot conceal his indignation at the share which Miss Biggs has taken in this disgraceful transaction.

“Sir George Gorgon puts an absolute veto upon all further communication between his niece and the low-born adventurer who has been admitted into her society, and begs to say that Lieutenant Fitch, of the Lifeguards, is the gentleman who he intends shall marry Miss Gorgon.

“It is the Major-General’s wish, that on the 28th Miss Gorgon should be ready to come to his house, in Baker Street, where she will be more safe from impertinent intrusions than she has been in Mucklebury Square.

“MRS. BIGGS, “Caroline Place, “Mecklenburgh Square.”

When poor John Perkins read this epistle, blank rage and wonder filled his soul, at the audacity of the little General, who thus, without the smallest t.i.tle in the world, pretended to dispose of the hand and fortune of his niece. The fact is, that Sir George had such a transcendent notion of his own dignity and station, that it never for a moment entered his head that his niece, or anybody else connected with him, should take a single step in life without previously receiving his orders; and Mr. Fitch, a baronet’s son, having expressed an admiration of Lucy, Sir George had determined that his suit should be accepted, and really considered Lucy’s preference of another as downright treason.

John Perkins determined on the death of Fitch as the very least reparation that should satisfy him; and vowed too that some of the General’s blood should be shed for the words which he had dared to utter.

We have said that William Pitt Scully, Esquire, M.P., occupied the first floor of Mr. Perkins’s house in Bedford Row: and the reader is further to be informed that an immense friendship had sprung up between these two gentlemen. The fact is, that poor John was very much flattered by Scully’s notice, and began in a very short time to fancy himself a political personage; for he had made several of Scully’s speeches, written more than one letter from him to his const.i.tuents, and, in a word, acted as his gratis clerk. At least a guinea a week did Mr.

Perkins save to the pockets of Mr. Scully, and with hearty good will too, for he adored the great William Pitt, and believed every word that dropped from the pompous lips of that gentleman.

Well, after having discussed Sir George Gorgon’s letter, poor Perkins, in the utmost fury of mind that his darling should be slandered so, feeling a desire for fresh air, determined to descend to the garden and smoke a cigar in that rural quiet spot. The night was very calm. The moonbeams slept softly upon the herbage of Gray’s Inn gardens, and bathed with silver splendour Theobald’s Row. A million of little frisky twinkling stars attended their queen, who looked with bland round face upon their gambols, as they peeped in and out from the azure heavens.

Along Gray’s Inn wall a lazy row of cabs stood listlessly, for who would call a cab on such a night? Meanwhile their drivers, at the alehouse near, smoked the short pipe or quaffed the foaming beer. Perhaps from Gray’s Inn Lane some broken sounds of Irish revelry might rise. Issuing perhaps from Raymond Buildings gate, six lawyers’ clerks might whoop a tipsy song–or the loud watchman yell the pa.s.sing hour; but beyond this all was silence; and young Perkins, as he sat in the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden, and contemplated the peaceful heaven, felt some influences of it entering into his soul, and almost forgetting revenge, thought but of peace and love.

Presently, he was aware there was someone else pacing the garden.

Who could it be?–Not Blatherwick, for he pa.s.sed the Sabbath with his grandmamma at Clapham; not Scully surely, for he always went to Bethesda Chapel, and to a select prayer-meeting afterwards. Alas! it WAS Scully; for though that gentleman SAID that he went to chapel, we have it for a fact that he did not always keep his promise, and was at this moment employed in rehearsing an extempore speech, which he proposed to deliver at St. Stephen’s.

“Had I, sir,” spouted he, with folded arms, slowly pacing to and fro–“Had I, sir, entertained the smallest possible intention of addressing the House on the present occasion–hum, on the present occasion–I would have endeavoured to prepare myself in a way that should have at least shown my sense of the greatness of the subject before the House’s consideration, and the nature of the distinguished audience I have the honour to address. I am, sir, a plain man–born of the people–myself one of the people, having won, thank Heaven, an honourable fortune and position by my own honest labour; and standing here as I do–“

Here Mr. Scully (it may be said that he never made a speech without bragging about himself: and an excellent plan it is, for people cannot help believing you at last)–here, I say, Mr. Scully, who had one arm raised, felt himself suddenly tipped on the shoulder, and heard a voice saying, “Your money or your life!”

The honourable gentleman twirled round as if he had been shot; the papers on which a great part of this impromptu was written dropped from his lifted hand, and some of them were actually borne on the air into neighbouring gardens. The man was, in fact, in the direst fright.

“It’s only I,” said Perkins, with rather a forced laugh, when he saw the effect that his wit had produced.

“Only you! And pray what the dev–what right have you to–to come upon a man of my rank in that way, and disturb me in the midst of very important meditations?” asked Mr. Scully, beginning to grow fierce.

“I want your advice,” said Perkins, “on a matter of the very greatest importance to me. You know my idea of marrying?”

“Marry!” said Scully; “I thought you had given up that silly scheme. And how, pray, do you intend to live?”

“Why, my intended has a couple of hundreds a year, and my clerkship in the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office will be as much more.”

“Clerkship–Tape and Sealing-Wax Office–Government sinecure!–Why, good heavens! John Perkins, you don’t tell ME that you are going to accept any such thing?”

“It is a very small salary, certainly,” said John, who had a decent notion of his own merits; “but consider, six months vacation, two hours in the day, and those spent over the newspapers. After all, it’s–“

“After all it’s a swindle,” roared out Mr. Scully–“a swindle upon the country; an infamous tax upon the people, who starve that you may fatten in idleness. But take this clerkship in the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office,” continued the patriot, his bosom heaving with n.o.ble indignation, and his eye flashing the purest fire,–“TAKE this clerkship, John Perkins, and sanction tyranny, by becoming one of its agents; sanction dishonesty by sharing in its plunder–do this, BUT never more be friend of mine. Had I a child,” said the patriot, clasping his hands and raising his eyes to heaven, “I would rather see him dead, sir–dead, dead at my feet, than the servant of a Government which all honest men despise.” And here, giving a searching glance at Perkins, Mr.

Scully began tramping up and down the garden in a perfect fury.

“Good heavens!” exclaimed the timid John Perkins–“don’t say SO. My dear Mr. Scully, I’m not the dishonest character you suppose me to be–I never looked at the matter in this light. I’ll–I’ll consider of it.

I’ll tell Crampton that I will give up the place; but for Heaven’s sake, don’t let me forfeit YOUR friendship, which is dearer to me than any place in the world.”

Mr. Scully pressed his hand, and said nothing; and though their interview lasted a full half-hour longer, during which they paced up and down the gravel walk, we shall not breathe a single syllable of their conversation, as it has nothing to do with our tale.

The next morning, after an interview with Miss Lucy, John Perkins, Esquire, was seen to issue from Mrs. Biggs’s house, looking particularly pale, melancholy, and thoughtful; and he did not stop until he reached a certain door in Downing Street, where was the office of a certain great Minister, and the offices of the clerks in his Lordship’s department.

The head of them was Mr. Josiah Crampton, who has now to be introduced to the public. He was a little old gentleman, some sixty years of age, maternal uncle to John Perkins; a bachelor, who had been about forty-two years employed in the department of which he was now the head.

After waiting four hours in an ante-room, where a number of Irishmen, some newspaper editors, many pompous-looking political personages asking for the “first lord,” a few sauntering clerks, and numbers of swift active messengers pa.s.sed to and fro;–after waiting for four hours, making drawings on the blotting-book, and reading the Morning Post for that day week, Mr. Perkins was informed that he might go into his uncle’s room, and did so accordingly.

He found a little hard old gentleman seated at a table covered with every variety of sealing-wax, blotting-paper, envelopes, despatch-boxes, green tapers, etc. etc. An immense fire was blazing in the grate, an immense sheet-almanack hung over that, a screen, three or four chairs, and a faded Turkey carpet, formed the rest of the furniture of this remarkable room–which I have described thus particularly, because in the course of a long official life, I have remarked that such is the invariable decoration of political rooms.

“Well, John,” said the little hard old gentleman, pointing to an arm-chair, “I’m told you’ve been here since eleven. Why the deuce do you come so early?”

“I had important business,” answered Mr. Perkins, stoutly; and as his uncle looked up with a comical expression of wonder, John began in a solemn tone to deliver a little speech which he had composed, and which proved him to be a very worthy, easy, silly fellow.

“Sir,” said Mr. Perkins, “you have known for some time past the nature of my political opinions, and the intimacy which I have had the honour to form with one–with some of the leading members of the Liberal party.” (A grin from Mr. Crampton.) “When first, by your kindness, I was promised the clerkship in the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office, my opinions were not formed as they are now; and having taken the advice of the gentlemen with whom I act,”–(an enormous grin)–“the advice, I say, of the gentlemen with whom I act, and the counsel likewise of my own conscience, I am compelled, with the deepest grief, to say, my dear uncle, that I–I–“

“That you–what, sir?” exclaimed little Mr. Crampton, bouncing off his chair. “You don’t mean to say that you are such a fool as to decline the place?”

“I do decline the place,” said Perkins, whose blood rose at the word “fool.” “As a man of honour, I cannot take it.”

“Not take it! and how are you to live? On the rent of that house of yours? For, by gad, sir, if you give up the clerkship, I never will give you a shilling.”