Transcribed from the 1911 John Murray edition by David Price, email email@example.com
THE HISTORY OF SAMUEL TITMARSH AND THE THE GREAT HOGGARTY DIAMOND
LONDON JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 1911
GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF OUR VILLAGE AND THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE DIAMOND
When I came up to town for my second year, my aunt Hoggarty made me a present of a diamond-pin; that is to say, it was not a diamond-pin then, but a large old-fashioned locket, of Dublin manufacture in the year 1795, which the late Mr. Hoggarty used to sport at the Lord Lieutenant's balls and elsewhere. He wore it, he said, at the battle of Vinegar Hill, when his club pigtail saved his head from being taken off,—but that is neither here nor there.
In the middle of the brooch was Hoggarty in the scarlet uniform of the corps of Fencibles to which he belonged; around it were thirteen locks of hair, belonging to a baker's dozen of sisters that the old gentleman had; and, as all these little ringlets partook of the family hue of brilliant auburn, Hoggarty's portrait seemed to the fanciful view like a great fat red round of beef surrounded by thirteen carrots. These were dished up on a plate of blue enamel, and it was from the GREAT HOGGARTY DIAMOND (as we called it in the family) that the collection of hairs in question seemed as it were to spring.
My aunt, I need not say, is rich; and I thought I might be her heir as well as another. During my month's holiday, she was particularly pleased with me; made me drink tea with her often (though there was a certain person in the village with whom on those golden summer evenings I should have liked to have taken a stroll in the hayfields); promised every time I drank her bohea to do something handsome for me when I went back to town,—nay, three or four times had me to dinner at three, and to whist or cribbage afterwards. I did not care for the cards; for though we always played seven hours on a stretch, and I always lost, my losings were never more than nineteenpence a night: but there was some infernal sour black-currant wine, that the old lady always produced at dinner, and with the tray at ten o'clock, and which I dared not refuse; though upon my word and honour it made me very unwell.
Well, I thought after all this obsequiousness on my part, and my aunt's repeated promises, that the old lady would at least make me a present of a score of guineas (of which she had a power in the drawer); and so convinced was I that some such present was intended for me, that a young lady by the name of Miss Mary Smith, with whom I had conversed on the subject, actually netted me a little green silk purse, which she gave me (behind Hicks's hayrick, as you turn to the right up Churchyard Lane)—which she gave me, I say, wrapped up in a bit of silver paper. There was something in the purse, too, if the truth must be known. First there was a thick curl of the glossiest blackest hair you ever saw in your life, and next there was threepence: that is to say, the half of a silver sixpence hanging by a little necklace of blue riband. Ah, but I knew where the other half of the sixpence was, and envied that happy bit of silver!
The last day of my holiday I was obliged, of course, to devote to Mrs. Hoggarty. My aunt was excessively gracious; and by way of a treat brought out a couple of bottles of the black currant, of which she made me drink the greater part. At night when all the ladies assembled at her party had gone off with their pattens and their maids, Mrs. Hoggarty, who had made a signal to me to stay, first blew out three of the wax candles in the drawing-room, and taking the fourth in her hand, went and unlocked her escritoire.
I can tell you my heart beat, though I pretended to look quite unconcerned.
"Sam my dear," said she, as she was fumbling with her keys, "take another glass of Rosolio" (that was the name by which she baptised the cursed beverage): "it will do you good." I took it, and you might have seen my hand tremble as the bottle went click—click against the glass. By the time I had swallowed it, the old lady had finished her operations at the bureau, and was coming towards me, the wax-candle bobbing in one hand and a large parcel in the other.
"Now's the time," thought I.
"Samuel, my dear nephew," said she, "your first name you received from your sainted uncle, my blessed husband; and of all my nephews and nieces, you are the one whose conduct in life has most pleased me."
When you consider that my aunt herself was one of seven married sisters, that all the Hoggarties were married in Ireland and mothers of numerous children, I must say that the compliment my aunt paid me was a very handsome one.
"Dear aunt," says I, in a slow agitated voice, "I have often heard you say there were seventy-three of us in all, and believe me I do think your high opinion of me very complimentary indeed: I'm unworthy of it—indeed I am."
"As for those odious Irish people," says my aunt, rather sharply, "don't speak of them, I hate them, and every one of their mothers" (the fact is, there had been a lawsuit about Hoggarty's property); "but of all my other kindred, you, Samuel, have been the most dutiful and affectionate to me. Your employers in London give the best accounts of your regularity and good conduct. Though you have had eighty pounds a year (a liberal salary), you have not spent a shilling more than your income, as other young men would; and you have devoted your month's holidays to your old aunt, who, I assure you, is grateful."
"Oh, ma'am!" said I. It was all that I could utter.
"Samuel," continued she, "I promised you a present, and here it is. I first thought of giving you money; but you are a regular lad; and don't want it. You are above money, dear Samuel. I give you what I value most in life—the p,—the po, the po-ortrait of my sainted Hoggarty" (tears), "set in the locket which contains the valuable diamond that you have often heard me speak of. Wear it, dear Sam, for my sake; and think of that angel in heaven, and of your dear Aunt Susy."
She put the machine into my hands: it was about the size of the lid of a shaving-box: and I should as soon have thought of wearing it as of wearing a cocked-hat and pigtail. I was so disgusted and disappointed that I really could not get out a single word.
When I recovered my presence of mind a little, I took the locket out of the bit of paper (the locket indeed! it was as big as a barndoor padlock), and slowly put it into my shirt. "Thank you, Aunt," said I, with admirable raillery. "I shall always value this present for the sake of you, who gave it me; and it will recall to me my uncle, and my thirteen aunts in Ireland."
"I don't want you to wear it in that way!" shrieked Mrs. Hoggarty, "with the hair of those odious carroty women. You must have their hair removed."
"Then the locket will be spoiled, Aunt."
"Well, sir, never mind the locket; have it set afresh."
"Or suppose," said I, "I put aside the setting altogether: it is a little too large for the present fashion; and have the portrait of my uncle framed and placed over my chimney-piece, next to yours. It's a sweet miniature."
"That miniature," said Mrs. Hoggarty, solemnly, "was the great Mulcahy's chef-d'oeuvre" (pronounced shy dewver, a favourite word of my aunt's; being, with the words bongtong and ally mode de Parry, the extent of her French vocabulary). "You know the dreadful story of that poor poor artist. When he had finished that wonderful likeness for the late Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty, county Mayo, she wore it in her bosom at the Lord Lieutenant's ball, where she played a game of piquet with the Commander-in-Chief. What could have made her put the hair of her vulgar daughters round Mick's portrait, I can't think; but so it was, as you see it this day. 'Madam,' says the Commander-in-Chief, 'if that is not my friend Mick Hoggarty, I'm a Dutchman!' Those were his Lordship's very words. Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty took off the brooch and showed it to him.
"'Who is the artist?' says my Lord. 'It's the most wonderful likeness I ever saw in my life!'
"'Mulcahy,' says she, 'of Ormond's Quay.'
"'Begad, I patronise him!' says my Lord; but presently his face darkened, and he gave back the picture with a dissatisfied air. 'There is one fault in that portrait,' said his Lordship, who was a rigid disciplinarian; 'and I wonder that my friend Mick, as a military man, should have overlooked it.'
"'What's that?' says Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty.
"'Madam, he has been painted WITHOUT HIS SWORD-BELT!' And he took up the cards again in a passion, and finished the game without saying a single word.
"The news was carried to Mr. Mulcahy the next day, and that unfortunate artist went mad immediately! He had set his whole reputation upon this miniature, and declared that it should be faultless. Such was the effect of the announcement upon his susceptible heart! When Mrs. Hoggarty died, your uncle took the portrait and always wore it himself. His sisters said it was for the sake of the diamond; whereas, ungrateful things! it was merely on account of their hair, and his love for the fine arts. As for the poor artist, my dear, some people said it was the profuse use of spirit that brought on delirium tremens; but I don't believe it. Take another glass of Rosolio."
The telling of this story always put my aunt into great good-humour, and she promised at the end of it to pay for the new setting of the diamond; desiring me to take it on my arrival in London to the great jeweller, Mr. Polonius, and send her the bill. "The fact is," said she, "that the gold in which the thing is set is worth five guineas at the very least, and you can have the diamond reset for two. However, keep the remainder, dear Sam, and buy yourself what you please with it."
With this the old lady bade me adieu. The clock was striking twelve as I walked down the village, for the story of Mulcahy always took an hour in the telling, and I went away not quite so downhearted as when the present was first made to me. "After all," thought I, "a diamond-pin is a handsome thing, and will give me a distingue air, though my clothes be never so shabby"—and shabby they were without any doubt. "Well," I said, "three guineas, which I shall have over, will buy me a couple of pairs of what-d'ye-call-'ems;" of which, entre nous, I was in great want, having just then done growing, whereas my pantaloons were made a good eighteen months before.
Well, I walked down the village, my hands in my breeches pockets; I had poor Mary's purse there, having removed the little things which she gave me the day before, and placed them—never mind where: but look you, in those days I had a heart, and a warm one too. I had Mary's purse ready for my aunt's donation, which never came, and with my own little stock of money besides, that Mrs. Hoggarty's card parties had lessened by a good five-and-twenty shillings, I calculated that, after paying my fare, I should get to town with a couple of seven-shilling pieces in my pocket.
I walked down the village at a deuce of a pace; so quick that, if the thing had been possible, I should have overtaken ten o'clock that had passed by me two hours ago, when I was listening to Mrs. H.'s long stories over her terrible Rosolio. The truth is, at ten I had an appointment under a certain person's window, who was to have been looking at the moon at that hour, with her pretty quilled nightcap on, and her blessed hair in papers.
There was the window shut, and not so much as a candle in it; and though I hemmed and hawed, and whistled over the garden paling, and sang a song of which Somebody was very fond, and even threw a pebble at the window, which hit it exactly at the opening of the lattice,—I woke no one except a great brute of a house-dog, that yelled, and howled, and bounced so at me over the rails, that I thought every moment he would have had my nose between his teeth.
So I was obliged to go off as quickly as might be; and the next morning Mamma and my sisters made breakfast for me at four, and at five came the "True Blue" light six-inside post-coach to London, and I got up on the roof without having seen Mary Smith.
As we passed the house, it did seem as if the window curtain in her room was drawn aside just a little bit. Certainly the window was open, and it had been shut the night before: but away went the coach; and the village, cottage, and the churchyard, and Hicks's hayricks were soon out of sight.
* * * * *
"My hi, what a pin!" said a stable-boy, who was smoking a cigar, to the guard, looking at me and putting his finger to his nose.
The fact is, that I had never undressed since my aunt's party; and being uneasy in mind and having all my clothes to pack up, and thinking of something else, had quite forgotten Mrs. Hoggarty's brooch, which I had stuck into my shirt-frill the night before.
TELLS HOW THE DIAMOND IS BROUGHT UP TO LONDON, AND PRODUCES WONDERFUL EFFECTS BOTH IN THE CITY AND AT THE WEST END
The circumstances recorded in this story took place some score of years ago, when, as the reader may remember, there was a great mania in the City of London for establishing companies of all sorts; by which many people made pretty fortunes.
I was at this period, as the truth must be known, thirteenth clerk of twenty-four young gents who did the immense business of the Independent West Diddlesex Fire and Life Insurance Company, at their splendid stone mansion in Cornhill. Mamma had sunk a sum of four hundred pounds in the purchase of an annuity at this office, which paid her no less than six- and-thirty pounds a year, when no other company in London would give her more than twenty-four. The chairman of the directors was the great Mr. Brough, of the house of Brough and Hoff, Crutched Friars, Turkey Merchants. It was a new house, but did a tremendous business in the fig and sponge way, and more in the Zante currant line than any other firm in the City.
Brough was a great man among the Dissenting connection, and you saw his name for hundreds at the head of every charitable society patronised by those good people. He had nine clerks residing at his office in Crutched Friars; he would not take one without a certificate from the schoolmaster and clergyman of his native place, strongly vouching for his morals and doctrine; and the places were so run after, that he got a premium of four or five hundred pounds with each young gent, whom he made to slave for ten hours a day, and to whom in compensation he taught all the mysteries of the Turkish business. He was a great man on 'Change, too; and our young chaps used to hear from the stockbrokers' clerks (we commonly dined together at the "Cock and Woolpack," a respectable house, where you get a capital cut of meat, bread, vegetables, cheese, half a pint of porter, and a penny to the waiter, for a shilling)—the young stockbrokers used to tell us of immense bargains in Spanish, Greek, and Columbians, that Brough made. Hoff had nothing to do with them, but stopped at home minding exclusively the business of the house. He was a young chap, very quiet and steady, of the Quaker persuasion, and had been taken into partnership by Brough for a matter of thirty thousand pounds: and a very good bargain too. I was told in the strictest confidence that the house one year with another divided a good seven thousand pounds: of which Brough had half, Hoff two-sixths, and the other sixth went to old Tudlow, who had been Mr. Brough's clerk before the new partnership began. Tudlow always went about very shabby, and we thought him an old miser. One of our gents, Bob Swinney by name, used to say that Tudlow's share was all nonsense, and that Brough had it all; but Bob was always too knowing by half, used to wear a green cutaway coat, and had his free admission to Covent Garden Theatre. He was always talking down at the shop, as we called it (it wasn't a shop, but as splendid an office as any in Cornhill)—he was always talking about Vestris and Miss Tree, and singing
"The bramble, the bramble, The jolly jolly bramble!"
one of Charles Kemble's famous songs in "Maid Marian;" a play that was all the rage then, taken from a famous story-book by one Peacock, a clerk in the India House; and a precious good place he has too.
When Brough heard how Master Swinney abused him, and had his admission to the theatre, he came one day down to the office where we all were, four- and-twenty of us, and made one of the most beautiful speeches I ever heard in my life. He said that for slander he did not care, contumely was the lot of every public man who had austere principles of his own, and acted by them austerely; but what he did care for was the character of every single gentleman forming a part of the Independent West Diddlesex Association. The welfare of thousands was in their keeping; millions of money were daily passing through their hands; the City—the country looked upon them for order, honesty, and good example. And if he found amongst those whom he considered as his children—those whom he loved as his own flesh and blood—that that order was departed from, that that regularity was not maintained, that that good example was not kept up (Mr. B. always spoke in this emphatic way)—if he found his children departing from the wholesome rules of morality, religion, and decorum—if he found in high or low—in the head clerk at six hundred a year down to the porter who cleaned the steps—if he found the slightest taint of dissipation, he would cast the offender from him—yea, though he were his own son, he would cast him from him!
As he spoke this, Mr. Brough burst into tears; and we who didn't know what was coming, looked at each other as pale as parsnips: all except Swinney, who was twelfth clerk, and made believe to whistle. When Mr. B. had wiped his eyes and recovered himself, he turned round; and oh, how my heart thumped as he looked me full in the face! How it was relieved, though, when he shouted out in a thundering voice—
"Mr. ROBERT SWINNEY!"
"Sir to you," says Swinney, as cool as possible, and some of the chaps began to titter.
"Mr. SWINNEY!" roared Brough, in a voice still bigger than before, "when you came into this office—this family, sir, for such it is, as I am proud to say—you found three-and-twenty as pious and well-regulated young men as ever laboured together—as ever had confided to them the wealth of this mighty capital and famous empire. You found, sir, sobriety, regularity, and decorum; no profane songs were uttered in this place sacred to—to business; no slanders were whispered against the heads of the establishment—but over them I pass: I can afford, sir, to pass them by—no worldly conversation or foul jesting disturbed the attention of these gentlemen, or desecrated the peaceful scene of their labours. You found Christians and gentlemen, sir!"
"I paid for my place like the rest," said Swinney. "Didn't my governor take sha-?"
"Silence, sir! Your worthy father did take shares in this establishment, which will yield him one day an immense profit. He did take shares, sir, or you never would have been here. I glory in saying that every one of my young friends around me has a father, a brother, a dear relative or friend, who is connected in a similar way with our glorious enterprise; and that not one of them is there but has an interest in procuring, at a liberal commission, other persons to join the ranks of our Association. But, sir, I am its chief. You will find, sir, your appointment signed by me; and in like manner, I, John Brough, annul it. Go from us, sir!—leave us—quit a family that can no longer receive you in its bosom! Mr. Swinney, I have wept—I have prayed, sir, before I came to this determination; I have taken counsel, sir, and am resolved. Depart from out of us!
"Not without three months' salary, though, Mr. B.: that cock won't fight!"
"They shall be paid to your father, sir."
"My father be hanged! I tell you what, Brough, I'm of age; and if you don't pay me my salary, I'll arrest you,—by Jingo, I will! I'll have you in quod, or my name's not Bob Swinney!"
"Make out a cheque, Mr. Roundhand, for the three months' salary of this perverted young man."
"Twenty-one pun' five, Roundhand, and nothing for the stamp!" cried out that audacious Swinney. "There it is, sir, re-ceipted. You needn't cross it to my banker's. And if any of you gents like a glass of punch this evening at eight o'clock, Bob Swinney's your man, and nothing to pay. If Mr. Brough would do me the honour to come in and take a whack? Come, don't say no, if you'd rather not!"
We couldn't stand this impudence, and all burst out laughing like mad.
"Leave the room!" yelled Mr. Brough, whose face had turned quite blue; and so Bob took his white hat off the peg, and strolled away with his "tile," as he called it, very much on one side. When he was gone, Mr. Brough gave us another lecture, by which we all determined to profit; and going up to Roundhand's desk put his arm round his neck, and looked over the ledger.
"What money has been paid in to-day, Roundhand?" he said, in a very kind way.
"The widow, sir, came with her money; nine hundred and four ten and six—say 904l. 10s. 6d. Captain Sparr, sir, paid his shares up; grumbles, though, and says he's no more: fifty shares, two instalments—three fifties, sir."
"He's always grumbling!"
"He says he has not a shilling to bless himself with until our dividend day."
Mr. Roundhand went through the book, and made it up nineteen hundred pounds in all. We were doing a famous business now; though when I came into the office, we used to sit, and laugh, and joke, and read the newspapers all day; bustling into our seats whenever a stray customer came. Brough never cared about our laughing and singing then, and was hand and glove with Bob Swinney; but that was in early times, before we were well in harness.
"Nineteen hundred pounds, and a thousand pounds in shares. Bravo, Roundhand—bravo, gentlemen! Remember, every share you bring in brings you five per cent. down on the nail! Look to your friends—stick to your desks—be regular—I hope none of you forget church. Who takes Mr. Swinney's place?"
"Mr. Samuel Titmarsh, sir."
"Mr. Titmarsh, I congratulate you. Give me your hand, sir: you are now twelfth clerk of this Association, and your salary is consequently increased five pounds a year. How is your worthy mother, sir—your dear and excellent parent? In good health I trust? And long—long, I fervently pray, may this office continue to pay her annuity! Remember, if she has more money to lay out, there is higher interest than the last for her, for she is a year older; and five per cent. for you, my boy! Why not you as well as another? Young men will be young men, and a ten-pound note does no harm. Does it, Mr. Abednego?"
"Oh, no!" says Abednego, who was third clerk, and who was the chap that informed against Swinney; and he began to laugh, as indeed we all did whenever Mr. Brough made anything like a joke: not that they were jokes; only we used to know it by his face.
"Oh, by-the-bye, Roundhand," says he, "a word with you on business. Mrs. Brough wants to know why the deuce you never come down to Fulham."
"Law, that's very polite!" said Mr. Roundhand, quite pleased.
"Name your day, my boy! Say Saturday, and bring your night-cap with you."
"You're very polite, I'm sure. I should be delighted beyond anything, but—"
"But—no buts, my boy! Hark ye! the Chancellor of the Exchequer does me the honour to dine with us, and I want you to see him; for the truth is, I have bragged about you to his Lordship as the best actuary in the three kingdoms."
Roundhand could not refuse such an invitation as that, though he had told us how Mrs. R. and he were going to pass Saturday and Sunday at Putney; and we who knew what a life the poor fellow led, were sure that the head clerk would be prettily scolded by his lady when she heard what was going on. She disliked Mrs. Brough very much, that was the fact; because Mrs. B. kept a carriage, and said she didn't know where Pentonville was, and couldn't call on Mrs. Roundhand. Though, to be sure, her coachman might have found out the way.
"And oh, Roundhand!" continued our governor, "draw a cheque for seven hundred, will you! Come, don't stare, man; I'm not going to run away! That's right,—seven hundred—and ninety, say, while you're about it! Our board meets on Saturday, and never fear I'll account for it to them before I drive you down. We shall take up the Chancellor at Whitehall."
So saying, Mr. Brough folded up the cheque, and shaking hands with Mr. Roundhand very cordially, got into his carriage-and-four (he always drove four horses even in the City, where it's so difficult), which was waiting at the office-door for him.
Bob Swinney used to say that he charged two of the horses to the Company; but there was never believing half of what that Bob said, he used to laugh and joke so. I don't know how it was, but I and a gent by the name of Hoskins (eleventh clerk), who lived together with me in Salisbury Square, Fleet Street—where we occupied a very genteel two-pair—found our flute duet rather tiresome that evening, and as it was a very fine night, strolled out for a walk West End way. When we arrived opposite Covent Garden Theatre we found ourselves close to the "Globe Tavern," and recollected Bob Swinney's hospitable invitation. We never fancied that he had meant the invitation in earnest, but thought we might as well look in: at any rate there could be no harm in doing so.
There, to be sure, in the back drawing-room, where he said he would be, we found Bob at the head of a table, and in the midst of a great smoke of cigars, and eighteen of our gents rattling and banging away at the table with the bottoms of their glasses.
What a shout they made as we came in! "Hurray!" says Bob, "here's two more! Two more chairs, Mary, two more tumblers, two more hot waters, and two more goes of gin! Who would have thought of seeing Tit, in the name of goodness?"
"Why," said I, "we only came in by the merest chance."
At this word there was another tremendous roar: and it is a positive fact, that every man of the eighteen had said he came by chance! However, chance gave us a very jovial night; and that hospitable Bob Swinney paid every shilling of the score.
"Gentlemen!" says he, as he paid the bill, "I'll give you the health of John Brough, Esquire, and thanks to him for the present of 21l. 5s. which he made me this morning. What do I say—21l. 5s.? That and a month's salary that I should have had to pay—forfeit—down on the nail, by Jingo! for leaving the shop, as I intended to do to-morrow morning. I've got a place—a tip-top place, I tell you. Five guineas a week, six journeys a year, my own horse and gig, and to travel in the West of England in oil and spermaceti. Here's confusion to gas, and the health of Messrs. Gann and Co., of Thames Street, in the City of London!"
I have been thus particular in my account of the West Diddlesex Insurance Office, and of Mr. Brough, the managing director (though the real names are neither given to the office nor to the chairman, as you may be sure), because the fate of me and my diamond pin was mysteriously bound up with both: as I am about to show.
You must know that I was rather respected among our gents at the West Diddlesex, because I came of a better family than most of them; had received a classical education; and especially because I had a rich aunt, Mrs. Hoggarty, about whom, as must be confessed, I used to boast a good deal. There is no harm in being respected in this world, as I have found out; and if you don't brag a little for yourself, depend on it there is no person of your acquaintance who will tell the world of your merits, and take the trouble off your hands.
So that when I came back to the office after my visit at home, and took my seat at the old day-book opposite the dingy window that looks into Birchin Lane, I pretty soon let the fellows know that Mrs. Hoggarty, though she had not given me a large sum of money, as I expected—indeed, I had promised a dozen of them a treat down the river, should the promised riches have come to me—I let them know, I say, that though my aunt had not given me any money, she had given me a splendid diamond, worth at least thirty guineas, and that some day I would sport it at the shop.
"Oh, let's see it!" says Abednego, whose father was a mock-jewel and gold- lace merchant in Hanway Yard; and I promised that he should have a sight of it as soon as it was set. As my pocket-money was run out too (by coach-hire to and from home, five shillings to our maid at home, ten to my aunt's maid and man, five-and-twenty shillings lost at whist, as I said, and fifteen-and-six paid for a silver scissors for the dear little fingers of Somebody), Roundhand, who was very good-natured, asked me to dine, and advanced me 7l. 1s. 8d., a month's salary. It was at Roundhand's house, Myddelton Square, Pentonville, over a fillet of veal and bacon and a glass of port, that I learned and saw how his wife ill- treated him; as I have told before. Poor fellow!—we under-clerks all thought it was a fine thing to sit at a desk by oneself, and have 50l. per month, as Roundhand had; but I've a notion that Hoskins and I, blowing duets on the flute together in our second floor in Salisbury Square, were a great deal more at ease than our head—and more in harmony, too; though we made sad work of the music, certainly.
One day Gus Hoskins and I asked leave from Roundhand to be off at three o'clock, as we had particular business at the West End. He knew it was about the great Hoggarty diamond, and gave us permission; so off we set. When we reached St. Martin's Lane, Gus got a cigar, to give himself as it were a distingue air, and pulled at it all the way up the Lane, and through the alleys into Coventry Street, where Mr. Polonius's shop is, as everybody knows.
The door was open, and a number of carriages full of ladies were drawing up and setting down. Gus kept his hands in his pockets—trousers were worn very full then, with large tucks, and pigeon-holes for your boots, or Bluchers, to come through (the fashionables wore boots, but we chaps in the City, on 80l. a year, contented ourselves with Bluchers); and as Gus stretched out his pantaloons as wide as he could from his hips, and kept blowing away at his cheroot, and clamping with the iron heels of his boots, and had very large whiskers for so young a man, he really looked quite the genteel thing, and was taken by everybody to be a person of consideration.
He would not come into the shop though, but stood staring at the gold pots and kettles in the window outside. I went in; and after a little hemming and hawing—for I had never been at such a fashionable place before—asked one of the gentlemen to let me speak to Mr. Polonius.
"What can I do for you, sir?" says Mr. Polonius, who was standing close by, as it happened, serving three ladies,—a very old one and two young ones, who were examining pearl necklaces very attentively.
"Sir," said I, producing my jewel out of my coat-pocket, "this jewel has, I believe, been in your house before: it belonged to my aunt, Mrs. Hoggarty, of Castle Hoggarty." The old lady standing near looked round as I spoke.
"I sold her a gold neck-chain and repeating watch in the year 1795," said Mr. Polonius, who made it a point to recollect everything; "and a silver punch-ladle to the Captain. How is the Major—Colonel—General—eh, sir?"
"The General," said I, "I am sorry to say"—though I was quite proud that this man of fashion should address me so.—"Mr. Hoggarty is—no more. My aunt has made me a present, however, of this—this trinket—which, as you see, contains her husband's portrait, that I will thank you, sir, to preserve for me very carefully; and she wishes that you would set this diamond neatly."
"Neatly and handsomely, of course, sir."
"Neatly, in the present fashion; and send down the account to her. There is a great deal of gold about the trinket, for which, of course, you will make an allowance."
"To the last fraction of a sixpence," says Mr. Polonius, bowing, and looking at the jewel. "It's a wonderful piece of goods, certainly," said he; "though the diamond's a neat little bit, certainly. Do, my Lady, look at it. The thing is of Irish manufacture, bears the stamp of '95, and will recall perhaps the times of your Ladyship's earliest youth."
"Get ye out, Mr. Polonius!" said the old lady, a little wizen-faced old lady, with her face puckered up in a million of wrinkles. "How dar you, sir, to talk such nonsense to an old woman like me? Wasn't I fifty years old in '95, and a grandmother in '96?" She put out a pair of withered trembling hands, took up the locket, examined it for a minute, and then burst out laughing: "As I live, it's the great Hoggarty diamond!"
Good heavens! what was this talisman that had come into my possession?
"Look, girls," continued the old lady: "this is the great jew'l of all Ireland. This red-faced man in the middle is poor Mick Hoggarty, a cousin of mine, who was in love with me in the year '84, when I had just lost your poor dear grandpapa. These thirteen sthreamers of red hair represent his thirteen celebrated sisters,—Biddy, Minny, Thedy, Widdy (short for Williamina), Freddy, Izzy, Tizzy, Mysie, Grizzy, Polly, Dolly, Nell, and Bell—all married, all ugly, and all carr'ty hair. And of which are you the son, young man?—though, to do you justice, you're not like the family."
Two pretty young ladies turned two pretty pairs of black eyes at me, and waited for an answer: which they would have had, only the old lady began rattling on a hundred stories about the thirteen ladies above named, and all their lovers, all their disappointments, and all the duels of Mick Hoggarty. She was a chronicle of fifty-years-old scandal. At last she was interrupted by a violent fit of coughing; at the conclusion of which Mr. Polonius very respectfully asked me where he should send the pin, and whether I would like the hair kept.
"No," says I, "never mind the hair."
"And the pin, sir?"
I had felt ashamed about telling my address: "But, bang it!" thought I, "why should I?—
'A king can make a belted knight, A marquess, duke, and a' that; An honest man's abune his might— Gude faith, he canna fa' that.'
Why need I care about telling these ladies where I live?"
"Sir," says I, "have the goodness to send the parcel, when done, to Mr. Titmarsh, No. 3 Bell Lane, Salisbury Square, near St. Bride's Church, Fleet Street. Ring, if you please, the two-pair bell."
"What, sir?" said Mr. Polonius.
"Hwat!" shrieked the old lady. "Mr. Hwat? Mais, ma chere, c'est impayable. Come along—here's the carr'age! Give me your arm, Mr. Hwat, and get inside, and tell me all about your thirteen aunts."
She seized on my elbow and hobbled through the shop as fast as possible; the young ladies following her, laughing.
"Now, jump in, do you hear?" said she, poking her sharp nose out of the window.
"I can't, ma'am," says I; "I have a friend."
"Pooh, pooh! send 'um to the juice, and jump in!" And before almost I could say a word, a great powdered fellow in yellow-plush breeches pushed me up the steps and banged the door to.
I looked just for one minute as the barouche drove away at Hoskins, and never shall forget his figure. There stood Gus, his mouth wide open, his eyes staring, a smoking cheroot in his hand, wondering with all his might at the strange thing that had just happened to me.
"Who is that Titmarsh?" says Gus: "there's a coronet on the carriage, by Jingo!"
HOW THE POSSESSOR OF THE DIAMOND IS WHISKED INTO A MAGNIFICENT CHARIOT, AND HAS YET FURTHER GOOD LUCK
I sat on the back seat of the carriage, near a very nice young lady, about my dear Mary's age—that is to say, seventeen and three-quarters; and opposite us sat the old Countess and her other grand-daughter—handsome too, but ten years older. I recollect I had on that day my blue coat and brass buttons, nankeen trousers, a white sprig waist-coat, and one of Dando's silk hats, that had just come in in the year '22, and looked a great deal more glossy than the best beaver.
"And who was that hidjus manster"—that was the way her Ladyship pronounced,—"that ojous vulgar wretch, with the iron heels to his boots, and the big mouth, and the imitation goold neck-chain, who steered at us so as we got into the carriage?"
How she should have known that Gus's chain was mosaic I can't tell; but so it was, and we had bought it for five-and-twenty and sixpence only the week before at M'Phail's, in St. Paul's Churchyard. But I did not like to hear my friend abused, and so spoke out for him—
"Ma'am," says I, "that young gentleman's name is Augustus Hoskins. We live together; and a better or more kind-hearted fellow does not exist."
"You are quite right to stand up for your friends, sir," said the second lady; whose name, it appears, was Lady Jane, but whom the grandmamma called Lady Jene.
"Well, upon me conscience, so he is now, Lady Jene; and I like sper't in a young man. So his name is Hoskins, is it? I know, my dears, all the Hoskinses in England. There are the Lincolnshire Hoskinses, the Shropshire Hoskinses: they say the Admiral's daughter, Bell, was in love with a black footman, or boatswain, or some such thing; but the world's so censorious. There's old Doctor Hoskins of Bath, who attended poor dear Drum in the quinsy; and poor dear old Fred Hoskins, the gouty General: I remember him as thin as a lath in the year '84, and as active as a harlequin, and in love with me—oh, how he was in love with me!"
"You seem to have had a host of admirers in those days, Grandmamma?" said Lady Jane.
"Hundreds, my dear,—hundreds of thousands. I was the toast of Bath, and a great beauty, too: would you ever have thought it now, upon your conscience and without flattery, Mr.-a-What-d'ye-call-'im?"
"Indeed, ma'am, I never should," I answered, for the old lady was as ugly as possible; and at my saying this the two young ladies began screaming with laughter, and I saw the two great-whiskered footmen grinning over the back of the carriage.
"Upon my word, you're mighty candid, Mr. What's-your-name—mighty candid indeed; but I like candour in young people. But a beauty I was. Just ask your friend's uncle the General. He's one of the Lincolnshire Hoskinses—I knew he was by the strong family likeness. Is he the eldest son? It's a pretty property, though sadly encumbered; for old Sir George was the divvle of a man—a friend of Hanbury Williams, and Lyttleton, and those horrid, monstrous, ojous people! How much will he have now, mister, when the Admiral dies?"
"Why, ma'am, I can't say; but the Admiral is not my friend's father."
"Not his father?—but he is, I tell you, and I'm never wrong. Who is his father, then?"
"Ma'am, Gus's father's a leatherseller in Skinner Street, Snow Hill,—a very respectable house, ma'am. But Gus is only third son, and so can't expect a great share in the property."
The two young ladies smiled at this—the old lady said, "Hwat?"
"I like you, sir," Lady Jane said, "for not being ashamed of your friends, whatever their rank of life may be. Shall we have the pleasure of setting you down anywhere, Mr. Titmarsh?"
"Noways particular, my Lady," says I. "We have a holiday at our office to-day—at least Roundhand gave me and Gus leave; and I shall be very happy, indeed, to take a drive in the Park, if it's no offence."
"I'm sure it will give us—infinite pleasure," said Lady Jane; though rather in a grave way.
"Oh, that it will!" says Lady Fanny, clapping her hands: "won't it, Grandmamma? And after we have been in the Park, we can walk in Kensington Gardens, if Mr. Titmarsh will be good enough to accompany us."
"Indeed, Fanny, we will do no such thing," says Lady Jane.
"Indeed, but we will though!" shrieked out Lady Drum. "Ain't I dying to know everything about his uncle and thirteen aunts? and you're all chattering so, you young women, that not a blessed syllable will you allow me or my young friend here to speak."
Lady Jane gave a shrug with her shoulders, and did not say a single word more. Lady Fanny, who was as gay as a young kitten (if I may be allowed so to speak of the aristocracy), laughed, and blushed, and giggled, and seemed quite to enjoy her sister's ill-humour. And the Countess began at once, and entered into the history of the thirteen Misses Hoggarty, which was not near finished when we entered the Park.
When there, you can't think what hundreds of gents on horseback came to the carriage and talked to the ladies. They had their joke for Lady Drum, who seemed to be a character in her way; their bow for Lady Jane; and, the young ones especially, their compliment for Lady Fanny.
Though she bowed and blushed, as a young lady should, Lady Fanny seemed to be thinking of something else; for she kept her head out of the carriage, looking eagerly among the horsemen, as if she expected to see somebody. Aha! my Lady Fanny, I knew what it meant when a young pretty lady like you was absent, and on the look-out, and only half answered the questions put to her. Let alone Sam Titmarsh—he knows what Somebody means as well as another, I warrant. As I saw these manoeuvres going on, I could not help just giving a wink to Lady Jane, as much as to say I knew what was what. "I guess the young lady is looking for Somebody," says I. It was then her turn to look queer, I assure you, and she blushed as red as scarlet; but, after a minute, the good-natured little thing looked at her sister, and both the young ladies put their handkerchiefs up to their faces, and began laughing—laughing as if I had said the funniest thing in the world.
"Il est charmant, votre monsieur," said Lady Jane to her grandmamma; and on which I bowed, and said, "Madame, vous me faites beaucoup d'honneur:" for I know the French language, and was pleased to find that these good ladies had taken a liking to me. "I'm a poor humble lad, ma'am, not used to London society, and do really feel it quite kind of you to take me by the hand so, and give me a drive in your fine carriage."
At this minute a gentleman on a black horse, with a pale face and a tuft to his chin, came riding up to the carriage; and I knew by a little start that Lady Fanny gave, and by her instantly looking round the other way, that Somebody was come at last.
"Lady Drum," said he, "your most devoted servant! I have just been riding with a gentleman who almost shot himself for love of the beautiful Countess of Drum in the year—never mind the year."
"Was it Killblazes?" said the lady: "he's a dear old man, and I'm quite ready to go off with him this minute. Or was it that delight of an old bishop? He's got a lock of my hair now—I gave it him when he was Papa's chaplain; and let me tell you it would be a hard matter to find another now in the same place."
"Law, my Lady!" says I, "you don't say so?"
"But indeed I do, my good sir," says she; "for between ourselves, my head's as bare as a cannon-ball—ask Fanny if it isn't. Such a fright as the poor thing got when she was a babby, and came upon me suddenly in my dressing-room without my wig!"
"I hope Lady Fanny has recovered from the shock," said "Somebody," looking first at her, and then at me as if he had a mind to swallow me. And would you believe it? all that Lady Fanny could say was, "Pretty well, I thank you, my Lord;" and she said this with as much fluttering and blushing as we used to say our Virgil at school—when we hadn't learned it.
My Lord still kept on looking very fiercely at me, and muttered something about having hoped to find a seat in Lady Drum's carriage, as he was tired of riding; on which Lady Fanny muttered something, too, about "a friend of Grandmamma's."
"You should say a friend of yours, Fanny," says Lady Jane: "I am sure we should never have come to the Park if Fanny had not insisted upon bringing Mr. Titmarsh hither. Let me introduce the Earl of Tiptoff to Mr. Titmarsh." But, instead of taking off his hat, as I did mine, his Lordship growled out that he hoped for another opportunity, and galloped off again on his black horse. Why the deuce I should have offended him I never could understand.
But it seemed as if I was destined to offend all the men that day; for who should presently come up but the Right Honourable Edmund Preston, one of His Majesty's Secretaries of State (as I know very well by the almanac in our office) and the husband of Lady Jane.
The Right Honourable Edmund was riding a grey cob, and was a fat pale- faced man, who looked as if he never went into the open air. "Who the devil's that?" said he to his wife, looking surlily both at me and her.
"Oh, it's a friend of Grandmamma's and Jane's," said Lady Fanny at once, looking, like a sly rogue as she was, quite archly at her sister—who in her turn appeared quite frightened, and looked imploringly at her sister, and never dared to breathe a syllable. "Yes, indeed," continued Lady Fanny, "Mr. Titmarsh is a cousin of Grandmamma's by the mother's side: by the Hoggarty side. Didn't you know the Hoggarties when you were in Ireland, Edmund, with Lord Bagwig? Let me introduce you to Grandmamma's cousin, Mr. Titmarsh: Mr. Titmarsh, my brother, Mr. Edmund Preston."
There was Lady Jane all the time treading upon her sister's foot as hard as possible, and the little wicked thing would take no notice; and I, who had never heard of the cousinship, feeling as confounded as could be. But I did not know the Countess of Drum near so well as that sly minx her grand-daughter did; for the old lady, who had just before called poor Gus Hoskins her cousin, had, it appeared, the mania of fancying all the world related to her, and said—
"Yes, we're cousins, and not very far removed. Mick Hoggarty's grandmother was Millicent Brady, and she and my Aunt Towzer were related, as all the world knows; for Decimus Brady, of Ballybrady, married an own cousin of Aunt Towzer's mother, Bell Swift—that was no relation of the Dean's, my love, who came but of a so-so family—and isn't that clear?"
"Oh, perfectly, Grandmamma," said Lady Jane, laughing, while the right honourable gent still rode by us, looking sour and surly.
"And sure you knew the Hoggarties, Edmund?—the thirteen red-haired girls—the nine graces, and four over, as poor Clanboy used to call them. Poor Clan!—a cousin of yours and mine, Mr. Titmarsh, and sadly in love with me he was too. Not remember them all now, Edmund?—not remember?—not remember Biddy and Minny, and Thedy and Widdy, and Mysie and Grizzy, and Polly and Dolly and the rest?"
"D—- the Miss Hoggarties, ma'am," said the right honourable gent; and he said it with such energy, that his grey horse gave a sudden lash out that well nigh sent him over his head. Lady Jane screamed; Lady Fanny laughed; old Lady Drum looked as if she did not care twopence, and said "Serve you right for swearing, you ojous man you!"
"Hadn't you better come into the carriage, Edmund—Mr. Preston?" cried out the lady, anxiously.
"Oh, I'm sure I'll slip out, ma'am," says I.
"Pooh—pooh! don't stir," said Lady Drum: "it's my carriage; and if Mr. Preston chooses to swear at a lady of my years in that ojous vulgar way—in that ojous vulgar way I repeat—I don't see why my friends should be inconvenienced for him. Let him sit on the dicky if he likes, or come in and ride bodkin." It was quite clear that my Lady Drum hated her grandson-in-law heartily; and I've remarked somehow in families that this kind of hatred is by no means uncommon.
Mr. Preston, one of His Majesty's Secretaries of State, was, to tell the truth, in a great fright upon his horse, and was glad to get away from the kicking plunging brute. His pale face looked still paler than before, and his hands and legs trembled, as he dismounted from the cob and gave the reins to his servant. I disliked the looks of the chap—of the master, I mean—at the first moment he came up, when he spoke rudely to that nice gentle wife of his; and I thought he was a cowardly fellow, as the adventure of the cob showed him to be. Heaven bless you! a baby could have ridden it; and here was the man with his soul in his mouth at the very first kick.
"Oh, quick! do come in, Edmund," said Lady Fanny, laughing; and the carriage steps being let down, and giving me a great scowl as he came in, he was going to place himself in Lady Fanny's corner (I warrant you I wouldn't budge from mine), when the little rogue cried out, "Oh, no! by no means, Mr. Preston. Shut the door, Thomas. And oh! what fun it will be to show all the world a Secretary of State riding bodkin!"
And pretty glum the Secretary of State looked, I assure you!
"Take my place, Edmund, and don't mind Fanny's folly," said Lady Jane, timidly.
"Oh no! Pray, madam, don't stir! I'm comfortable, very comfortable; and so I hope is this Mr.—this gentleman."
"Perfectly, I assure you," says I. "I was going to offer to ride your horse home for you, as you seemed to be rather frightened at it; but the fact was, I was so comfortable here that really I couldn't move."
Such a grin as old Lady Drum gave when I said that!—how her little eyes twinkled, and her little sly mouth puckered up! I couldn't help speaking, for, look you, my blood was up.
"We shall always be happy of your company, Cousin Titmarsh," says she; and handed me a gold snuff-box, out of which I took a pinch, and sneezed with the air of a lord.
"As you have invited this gentleman into your carriage, Lady Jane Preston, hadn't you better invite him home to dinner?" says Mr. Preston, quite blue with rage.
"I invited him into my carriage," says the old lady; "and as we are going to dine at your house, and you press it, I'm sure I shall be very happy to see him there."
"I'm very sorry I'm engaged," said I.
"Oh, indeed, what a pity!" says Right Honourable Ned, still glowering at his wife. "What a pity that this gentleman—I forget his name—that your friend, Lady Jane, is engaged! I am sure you would have had such gratification in meeting your relation in Whitehall."
Lady Drum was over-fond of finding out relations to be sure; but this speech of Right Honourable Ned's was rather too much. "Now, Sam," says I, "be a man and show your spirit!" So I spoke up at once, and said, "Why, ladies, as the right honourable gent is so very pressing, I'll give up my engagement, and shall have sincere pleasure in cutting mutton with him. What's your hour, sir?"
He didn't condescend to answer, and for me I did not care; for, you see, I did not intend to dine with the man, but only to give him a lesson of manners. For though I am but a poor fellow, and hear people cry out how vulgar it is to eat peas with a knife, or ask three times for cheese, and such like points of ceremony, there's something, I think, much more vulgar than all this, and that is, insolence to one's inferiors. I hate the chap that uses it, as I scorn him of humble rank that affects to be of the fashion; and so I determined to let Mr. Preston know a piece of my mind.
When the carriage drove up to his house, I handed out the ladies as politely as possible, and walked into the hall, and then, taking hold of Mr. Preston's button at the door, I said, before the ladies and the two big servants—upon my word I did—"Sir," says I, "this kind old lady asked me into her carriage, and I rode in it to please her, not myself. When you came up and asked who the devil I was, I thought you might have put the question in a more polite manner; but it wasn't my business to speak. When, by way of a joke, you invited me to dinner, I thought I would answer in a joke too, and here I am. But don't be frightened; I'm not a-going to dine with you: only if you play the same joke upon other parties—on some of the chaps in our office, for example—I recommend you to have a care, or they will take you at your word."
"Is that all, sir?" says Mr. Preston, still in a rage. "If you have done, will you leave this house, or shall my servants turn you out? Turn out this fellow! do you hear me?" and he broke away from me, and flung into his study in a rage.
"He's an ojous horrid monsther of a man, that husband of yours!" said Lady Drum, seizing hold of her elder grand-daughter's arm, "and I hate him; and so come away, for the dinner'll be getting cold:" and she was for hurrying away Lady Jane without more ado. But that kind lady, coming forward, looking very pale and trembling, said, "Mr. Titmarsh, I do hope you'll not be angry—that is, that you'll forget what has happened, for, believe me, it has given me very great—"
Very great what, I never could say, for here the poor thing's eyes filled with tears; and Lady Drum crying out "Tut, tut! none of this nonsense," pulled her away by the sleeve, and went upstairs. But little Lady Fanny walked boldly up to me, and held me out her little hand, and gave mine such a squeeze and said, "Good-bye, my dear Mr. Titmarsh," so very kindly, that I'm blest if I did not blush up to the ears, and all the blood in my body began to tingle.
So, when she was gone, I clapped my hat on my head, and walked out of the hall-door, feeling as proud as a peacock and as brave as a lion; and all I wished for was that one of those saucy grinning footmen should say or do something to me that was the least uncivil, so that I might have the pleasure of knocking him down, with my best compliments to his master. But neither of them did me any such favour! and I went away and dined at home off boiled mutton and turnips with Gus Hoskins quite peacefully.
I did not think it was proper to tell Gus (who, between ourselves, is rather curious, and inclined to tittle-tattle) all the particulars of the family quarrel of which I had been the cause and witness, and so just said that the old lady—("They were the Drum arms," says Gus; "for I went and looked them out that minute in the 'Peerage'")—that the old lady turned out to be a cousin of mine, and that she had taken me to drive in the Park. Next day we went to the office as usual, when you may be sure that Hoskins told everything of what had happened, and a great deal more; and somehow, though I did not pretend to care sixpence about the matter, I must confess that I was rather pleased that the gents in our office should hear of a part of my adventure.
But fancy my surprise, on coming home in the evening, to find Mrs. Stokes the landlady, Miss Selina Stokes her daughter, and Master Bob Stokes her son (an idle young vagabond that was always playing marbles on St. Bride's steps and in Salisbury Square),—when I found them all bustling and tumbling up the steps before me to our rooms on the second floor, and there, on the table, between our two flutes on one side, my album, Gus's "Don Juan" and "Peerage" on the other, I saw as follows:—
1. A basket of great red peaches, looking like the cheeks of my dear Mary Smith.
2. A ditto of large, fat, luscious, heavy-looking grapes.
3. An enormous piece of raw mutton, as I thought it was; but Mrs. Stokes said it was the primest haunch of venison that ever she saw.
And three cards—viz.
DOWAGER COUNTESS OF DRUM. LADY FANNY RAKES.
MR. PRESTON. LADY JANE PRESTON.
EARL OF TIPTOFF.
"Sich a carriage!" says Mrs. Stokes (for that was the way the poor thing spoke). "Sich a carriage—all over coronites! sich liveries—two great footmen, with red whiskers and yellow-plush small-clothes; and inside, a very old lady in a white poke bonnet, and a young one with a great Leghorn hat and blue ribands, and a great tall pale gentleman with a tuft on his chin.
"'Pray, madam, does Mr. Titmarsh live here?' says the young lady, with her clear voice.
"'Yes, my Lady,' says I; 'but he's at the office—the West Diddlesex Fire and Life Office, Cornhill.'
"'Charles, get out the things,' says the gentleman, quite solemn.
"'Yes, my Lord,' says Charles; and brings me out the haunch in a newspaper, and on the chany dish as you see it, and the two baskets of fruit besides.
"'Have the kindness, madam,' says my Lord, 'to take these things to Mr. Titmarsh's rooms, with our, with Lady Jane Preston's compliments, and request his acceptance of them;' and then he pulled out the cards on your table, and this letter, sealed with his Lordship's own crown."
And herewith Mrs. Stokes gave me a letter, which my wife keeps to this day, by the way, and which runs thus:—
"The Earl of Tiptoff has been commissioned by Lady Jane Preston to express her sincere regret and disappointment that she was not able yesterday to enjoy the pleasure of Mr. Titmarsh's company. Lady Jane is about to leave town immediately: she will therefore be unable to receive her friends in Whitehall Place this season. But Lord Tiptoff trusts that Mr. Titmarsh will have the kindness to accept some of the produce of her Ladyship's garden and park; with which, perhaps, he will entertain some of those friends in whose favour he knows so well how to speak."
Along with this was a little note, containing the words "Lady Drum at home. Friday evening, June 17." And all this came to me because my aunt Hoggarty had given me a diamond-pin!
I did not send back the venison: as why should I? Gus was for sending it at once to Brough, our director; and the grapes and peaches to my aunt in Somersetshire.
"But no," says I; "we'll ask Bob Swinney and half-a-dozen more of our gents; and we'll have a merry night of it on Saturday." And a merry night we had too; and as we had no wine in the cupboard, we had plenty of ale, and gin-punch afterwards. And Gus sat at the foot of the table, and I at the head; and we sang songs, both comic and sentimental, and drank toasts; and I made a speech that there is no possibility of mentioning here, because, entre nous, I had quite forgotten in the morning everything that had taken place after a certain period on the night before.
HOW THE HAPPY DIAMOND-WEARER DINES AT PENTONVILLE
I did not go to the office till half-an-hour after opening time on Monday. If the truth must be told, I was not sorry to let Hoskins have the start of me, and tell the chaps what had taken place,—for we all have our little vanities, and I liked to be thought well of by my companions.
When I came in, I saw my business had been done, by the way in which the chaps looked at me; especially Abednego, who offered me a pinch out of his gold snuff-box the very first thing. Roundhand shook me, too, warmly by the hand, when he came round to look over my day-book, said I wrote a capital hand (and indeed I believe I do, without any sort of flattery), and invited me for dinner next Sunday, in Myddelton Square. "You won't have," said he, "quite such a grand turn-out as with your friends at the West End"—he said this with a particular accent—"but Amelia and I are always happy to see a friend in our plain way,—pale sherry, old port, and cut and come again. Hey?"
I said I would come and bring Hoskins too.
He answered that I was very polite, and that he should be very happy to see Hoskins; and we went accordingly at the appointed day and hour; but though Gus was eleventh clerk and I twelfth, I remarked that at dinner I was helped first and best. I had twice as many force-meat balls as Hoskins in my mock-turtle, and pretty nearly all the oysters out of the sauce-boat. Once, Roundhand was going to help Gus before me; when his wife, who was seated at the head of the table, looking very big and fierce in red crape and a turban, shouted out, "ANTONY!" and poor R. dropped the plate, and blushed as red as anything. How Mrs. R. did talk to me about the West End to be sure! She had a "Peerage," as you may be certain, and knew everything about the Drum family in a manner that quite astonished me. She asked me how much Lord Drum had a year; whether I thought he had twenty, thirty, forty, or a hundred and fifty thousand a year; whether I was invited to Drum Castle; what the young ladies wore, and if they had those odious gigot sleeves which were just coming in then; and here Mrs. R. looked at a pair of large mottled arms that she was very proud of.
"I say, Sam my boy!" cried, in the midst of our talk, Mr. Roundhand, who had been passing the port-wine round pretty freely, "I hope you looked to the main chance, and put in a few shares of the West Diddlesex,—hey?"
"Mr. Roundhand, have you put up the decanters downstairs?" cries the lady, quite angry, and wishing to stop the conversation.
"No, Milly, I've emptied 'em," says R.
"Don't Milly me, sir! and have the goodness to go down and tell Lancy my maid" (a look at me) "to make the tea in the study. We have a gentleman here who is not used to Pentonville ways" (another look); "but he won't mind the ways of friends." And here Mrs. Roundhand heaved her very large chest, and gave me a third look that was so severe, that I declare to goodness it made me look quite foolish. As to Gus, she never so much as spoke to him all the evening; but he consoled himself with a great lot of muffins, and sat most of the evening (it was a cruel hot summer) whistling and talking with Roundhand on the verandah. I think I should like to have been with them,—for it was very close in the room with that great big Mrs. Roundhand squeezing close up to one on the sofa.
"Do you recollect what a jolly night we had here last summer?" I heard Hoskins say, who was leaning over the balcony, and ogling the girls coming home from church. "You and me with our coats off, plenty of cold rum-and-water, Mrs. Roundhand at Margate, and a whole box of Manillas?"
"Hush!" said Roundhand, quite eagerly; "Milly will hear."
But Milly didn't hear: for she was occupied in telling me an immense long story about her waltzing with the Count de Schloppenzollern at the City ball to the Allied Sovereigns; and how the Count had great large white moustaches; and how odd she thought it to go whirling round the room with a great man's arm round your waist. "Mr. Roundhand has never allowed it since our marriage—never; but in the year 'fourteen it was considered a proper compliment, you know, to pay the sovereigns. So twenty-nine young ladies, of the best families in the City of London, I assure you, Mr. Titmarsh—there was the Lord Mayor's own daughters; Alderman Dobbins's gals; Sir Charles Hopper's three, who have the great house in Baker Street; and your humble servant, who was rather slimmer in those days—twenty-nine of us had a dancing-master on purpose, and practised waltzing in a room over the Egyptian Hall at the Mansion House. He was a splendid man, that Count Schloppenzollern!"
"I am sure, ma'am," says I, "he had a splendid partner!" and blushed up to my eyes when I said it.
"Get away, you naughty creature!" says Mrs. Roundhand, giving me a great slap: "you're all the same, you men in the West End—all deceivers. The Count was just like you. Heigho! Before you marry, it's all honey and compliments; when you win us, it's all coldness and indifference. Look at Roundhand, the great baby, trying to beat down a butterfly with his yellow bandanna! Can a man like that comprehend me? can he fill the void in my heart?" (She pronounced it without the h; but that there should be no mistake, laid her hand upon the place meant.) "Ah, no! Will you be so neglectful when you marry, Mr. Titmarsh?"
As she spoke, the bells were just tolling the people out of church, and I fell a-thinking of my dear dear Mary Smith in the country, walking home to her grandmother's, in her modest grey cloak, as the bells were chiming and the air full of the sweet smell of the hay, and the river shining in the sun, all crimson, purple, gold, and silver. There was my dear Mary a hundred and twenty miles off, in Somersetshire, walking home from church along with Mr. Snorter's family, with which she came and went; and I was listening to the talk of this great leering vulgar woman.
I could not help feeling for a certain half of a sixpence that you have heard me speak of; and putting my hand mechanically upon my chest, I tore my fingers with the point of my new DIAMOND-PIN. Mr. Polonius had sent it home the night before, and I sported it for the first time at Roundhand's to dinner.
"It's a beautiful diamond," said Mrs. Roundhand. "I have been looking at it all dinner-time. How rich you must be to wear such splendid things! and how can you remain in a vulgar office in the City—you who have such great acquaintances at the West End?"
The woman had somehow put me in such a passion that I bounced off the sofa, and made for the balcony without answering a word,—ay, and half broke my head against the sash, too, as I went out to the gents in the open air. "Gus," says I, "I feel very unwell: I wish you'd come home with me." And Gus did not desire anything better; for he had ogled the last girl out of the last church, and the night was beginning to fall.
"What! already?" said Mrs. Roundhand; "there is a lobster coming up,—a trifling refreshment; not what he's accustomed to, but—"
I am sorry to say I nearly said, "D—- the lobster!" as Roundhand went and whispered to her that I was ill.
"Ay," said Gus, looking very knowing. "Recollect, Mrs. R., that he was at the West End on Thursday, asked to dine, ma'am, with the tip-top nobs. Chaps don't dine at the West End for nothing, do they, R.? If you play at bowls, you know—"
"You must look out for rubbers," said Roundhand, as quick as thought.
"Not in my house of a Sunday," said Mrs. R., looking very fierce and angry. "Not a card shall be touched here. Are we in a Protestant land, sir? in a Christian country?"
"My dear, you don't understand. We were not talking of rubbers of whist."
"There shall be no game at all in the house of a Sabbath eve," said Mrs. Roundhand; and out she flounced from the room, without ever so much as wishing us good-night.
"Do stay," said the husband, looking very much frightened,—"do stay. She won't come back while you're here; and I do wish you'd stay so."
But we wouldn't: and when we reached Salisbury Square, I gave Gus a lecture about spending his Sundays idly; and read out one of Blair's sermons before we went to bed. As I turned over in bed, I could not help thinking about the luck the pin had brought me; and it was not over yet, as you will see in the next chapter.
HOW THE DIAMOND INTRODUCES HIM TO A STILL MORE FASHIONABLE PLACE
To tell the truth, though, about the pin, although I mentioned it almost the last thing in the previous chapter, I assure you it was by no means the last thing in my thoughts. It had come home from Mr. Polonius's, as I said, on Saturday night; and Gus and I happened to be out enjoying ourselves, half-price, at Sadler's Wells; and perhaps we took a little refreshment on our way back: but that has nothing to do with my story.
On the table, however, was the little box from the jeweller's; and when I took it out,—my, how the diamond did twinkle and glitter by the light of our one candle!
"I'm sure it would light up the room of itself," says Gus. "I've read they do in—in history."
It was in the history of Cogia Hassan Alhabbal, in the "Arabian Nights," as I knew very well. But we put the candle out, nevertheless, to try.
"Well, I declare to goodness it does illuminate the old place!" says Gus; but the fact was, that there was a gas-lamp opposite our window, and I believe that was the reason why we could see pretty well. At least in my bedroom, to which I was obliged to go without a candle, and of which the window looked out on a dead wall, I could not see a wink, in spite of the Hoggarty diamond, and was obliged to grope about in the dark for a pincushion which Somebody gave me (I don't mind owning it was Mary Smith), and in which I stuck it for the night. But, somehow, I did not sleep much for thinking of it, and woke very early in the morning; and, if the truth must be told, stuck it in my night-gown, like a fool, and admired myself very much in the glass.
Gus admired it as much as I did; for since my return, and especially since my venison dinner and drive with Lady Drum, he thought I was the finest fellow in the world, and boasted about his "West End friend" everywhere.
As we were going to dine at Roundhand's, and I had no black satin stock to set it off, I was obliged to place it in the frill of my best shirt, which tore the muslin sadly, by the way. However, the diamond had its effect on my entertainers, as we have seen; rather too much perhaps on one of them; and next day I wore it down at the office, as Gus would make me do; though it did not look near so well in the second day's shirt as on the first day, when the linen was quite clear and bright with Somersetshire washing.
The chaps at the West Diddlesex all admired it hugely, except that snarling Scotchman M'Whirter, fourth clerk,—out of envy because I did not think much of a great yellow stone, named a carum-gorum, or some such thing, which he had in a snuff-mull, as he called it,—all except M'Whirter, I say, were delighted with it; and Abednego himself, who ought to know, as his father was in the line, told me the jewel was worth at least ten poundsh, and that his governor would give me as much for it.
"That's a proof," says Roundhand, "that Tit's diamond is worth at least thirty." And we all laughed, and agreed it was.
Now I must confess that all these praises, and the respect that wag paid me, turned my head a little; and as all the chaps said I must have a black satin stock to set the stone off, was fool enough to buy a stock that cost me five-and-twenty shillings, at Ludlam's in Piccadilly: for Gus said I must go to the best place, to be sure, and have none of our cheap and common East End stuff. I might have had one for sixteen and six in Cheapside, every whit as good; but when a young lad becomes vain, and wants to be fashionable, you see he can't help being extravagant.
Our director, Mr. Brough, did not fail to hear of the haunch of venison business, and my relationship with Lady Drum and the Right Honourable Edmund Preston: only Abednego, who told him, said I was her Ladyship's first cousin; and this made Brough think more of me, and no worse than before.
Mr. B. was, as everybody knows, Member of Parliament for Rottenburgh; and being considered one of the richest men in the City of London, used to receive all the great people of the land at his villa at Fulham; and we often read in the papers of the rare doings going on there.
Well, the pin certainly worked wonders: for not content merely with making me a present of a ride in a countess's carriage, of a haunch of venison and two baskets of fruit, and the dinner at Roundhand's above described, my diamond had other honours in store for me, and procured me the honour of an invitation to the house of our director, Mr. Brough.
Once a year, in June, that honourable gent gave a grand ball at his house at Fulham; and by the accounts of the entertainment brought back by one or two of our chaps who had been invited, it was one of the most magnificent things to be seen about London. You saw Members of Parliament there as thick as peas in July, lords and ladies without end. There was everything and everybody of the tip-top sort; and I have heard that Mr. Gunter, of Berkeley Square, supplied the ices, supper, and footmen,—though of the latter Brough kept a plenty, but not enough to serve the host of people who came to him. The party, it must be remembered, was Mrs. Brough's party, not the gentleman's,—he being in the Dissenting way, would scarcely sanction any entertainments of the kind: but he told his City friends that his lady governed him in everything; and it was generally observed that most of them would allow their daughters to go to the ball if asked, on account of the immense number of the nobility which our director assembled together: Mrs. Roundhand, I know, for one, would have given one of her ears to go; but, as I have said before, nothing would induce Brough to ask her.
Roundhand himself, and Gutch, nineteenth clerk, son of the brother of an East Indian director, were the only two of our gents invited, as we knew very well: for they had received their invitations many weeks before, and bragged about them not a little. But two days before the ball, and after my diamond-pin had had its due effect upon the gents at the office, Abednego, who had been in the directors' room, came to my desk with a great smirk, and said, "Tit, Mr. B. says that he expects you will come down with Roundhand to the ball on Thursday." I thought Moses was joking,—at any rate, that Mr. B.'s message was a queer one; for people don't usually send invitations in that abrupt peremptory sort of way; but, sure enough, he presently came down himself and confirmed it, saying, as he was going out of the office, "Mr. Titmarsh, you will come down on Thursday to Mrs. Brough's party, where you will see some relations of yours."
"West End again!" says that Gus Hoskins; and accordingly down I went, taking a place in a cab which Roundhand hired for himself, Gutch, and me, and for which he very generously paid eight shillings.
There is no use to describe the grand gala, nor the number of lamps in the lodge and in the garden, nor the crowd of carriages that came in at the gates, nor the troops of curious people outside; nor the ices, fiddlers, wreaths of flowers, and cold supper within. The whole description was beautifully given in a fashionable paper, by a reporter who observed the same from the "Yellow Lion" over the way, and told it in his journal in the most accurate manner; getting an account of the dresses of the great people from their footmen and coachmen, when they came to the alehouse for their porter. As for the names of the guests, they, you may be sure, found their way to the same newspaper: and a great laugh was had at my expense, because among the titles of the great people mentioned my name appeared in the list of the "Honourables." Next day, Brough advertised "a hundred and fifty guineas reward for an emerald necklace lost at the party of John Brough, Esq., at Fulham;" though some of our people said that no such thing was lost at all, and that Brough only wanted to advertise the magnificence of his society; but this doubt was raised by persons not invited, and envious no doubt.
Well, I wore my diamond, as you may imagine, and rigged myself in my best clothes, viz. my blue coat and brass buttons before mentioned, nankeen trousers and silk stockings, a white waistcoat, and a pair of white gloves bought for the occasion. But my coat was of country make, very high in the waist and short in the sleeves, and I suppose must have looked rather odd to some of the great people assembled, for they stared at me a great deal, and a whole crowd formed to see me dance—which I did to the best of my power, performing all the steps accurately and with great agility, as I had been taught by our dancing-master in the country.
And with whom do you think I had the honour to dance? With no less a person than Lady Jane Preston; who, it appears, had not gone out of town, and who shook me most kindly by the hand when she saw me, and asked me to dance with her. We had my Lord Tiptoff and Lady Fanny Rakes for our vis- a-vis.
You should have seen how the people crowded to look at us, and admired my dancing too, for I cut the very best of capers, quite different to the rest of the gents (my Lord among the number), who walked through the quadrille as if they thought it a trouble, and stared at my activity with all their might. But when I have a dance I like to enjoy myself: and Mary Smith often said I was the very best partner at our assemblies. While we were dancing, I told Lady Jane how Roundhand, Gutch, and I, had come down three in a cab, besides the driver; and my account of our adventures made her Ladyship laugh, I warrant you. Lucky it was for me that I didn't go back in the same vehicle; for the driver went and intoxicated himself at the "Yellow Lion," threw out Gutch and our head clerk as he was driving them back, and actually fought Gutch afterwards and blacked his eye, because he said that Gutch's red waistcoat frightened the horse.
Lady Jane, however, spared me such an uncomfortable ride home: for she said she had a fourth place in her carriage, and asked me if I would accept it; and positively, at two o'clock in the morning, there was I, after setting the ladies and my Lord down, driven to Salisbury Square in a great thundering carriage, with flaming lamps and two tall footmen, who nearly knocked the door and the whole little street down with the noise they made at the rapper. You should have seen Gus's head peeping out of window in his white nightcap! He kept me up the whole night telling him about the ball, and the great people I had seen there; and next day he told at the office my stories, with his own usual embroideries upon them.
"Mr. Titmarsh," said Lady Fanny, laughing to me, "who is that great fat curious man, the master of the house? Do you know he asked me if you were not related to us? and I said, 'Oh, yes, you were.'"
"Fanny!" says Lady Jane.
"Well," answered the other, "did not Grandmamma say Mr. Titmarsh was her cousin?"
"But you know that Grandmamma's memory is not very good."
"Indeed, you're wrong, Lady Jane," says my Lord; "I think it's prodigious."
"Yes, but not very—not very accurate."
"No, my Lady," says I; "for her Ladyship, the Countess of Drum, said, if you remember, that my friend Gus Hoskins—"
"Whose cause you supported so bravely," cries Lady Fanny.
"—That my friend Gus is her Ladyship's cousin too, which cannot be, for I know all his family: they live in Skinner Street and St. Mary Axe, and are not—not quite so respectable as my relatives."
At this they all began to laugh; and my Lord said, rather haughtily—
"Depend upon it, Mr. Titmarsh, that Lady Drum is no more your cousin than she is the cousin of your friend Mr. Hoskinson."
"Hoskins, my Lord—and so I told Gus; but you see he is very fond of me, and will have it that I am related to Lady D.: and say what I will to the contrary, tells the story everywhere. Though to be sure," added I with a laugh, "it has gained me no small good in my time." So I described to the party our dinner at Mrs. Roundhand's, which all came from my diamond-pin, and my reputation as a connection of the aristocracy. Then I thanked Lady Jane handsomely for her magnificent present of fruit and venison, and told her that it had entertained a great number of kind friends of mine, who had drunk her Ladyship's health with the greatest gratitude.
"A haunch of venison!" cried Lady Jane, quite astonished; "indeed, Mr. Titmarsh, I am quite at a loss to understand you."
As we passed a gas-lamp, I saw Lady Fanny laughing as usual, and turning her great arch sparkling black eyes at Lord Tiptoff.
"Why, Lady Jane," said he, "if the truth must out, the great haunch of venison trick was one of this young lady's performing. You must know that I had received the above-named haunch from Lord Guttlebury's park: and knowing that Preston is not averse to Guttlebury venison, was telling Lady Drum (in whose carriage I had a seat that day, as Mr. Titmarsh was not in the way), that I intended the haunch for your husband's table. Whereupon my Lady Fanny, clapping together her little hands, declared and vowed that the venison should not go to Preston, but should be sent to a gentleman about whose adventures on the day previous we had just been talking—to Mr. Titmarsh, in fact; whom Preston, as Fanny vowed, had used most cruelly, and to whom, she said, a reparation was due. So my Lady Fanny insists upon our driving straight to my rooms in the Albany (you know I am only to stay in my bachelor's quarters a month longer)—"
"Nonsense!" says Lady Fanny.
"—Insists upon driving straight to my chambers in the Albany, extracting thence the above-named haunch—"
"Grandmamma was very sorry to part with it," cries Lady Fanny.
"—And then she orders us to proceed to Mr. Titmarsh's house in the City, where the venison was left, in company with a couple of baskets of fruit bought at Grange's by Lady Fanny herself."
"And what was more," said Lady Fanny, "I made Grandmamma go into Fr—into Lord Tiptoff's rooms, and dictated out of my own mouth the letter which he wrote, and pinned up the haunch of venison that his hideous old housekeeper brought us—I am quite jealous of her—I pinned up the haunch of venison in a copy of the John Bull newspaper."
It had one of the Ramsbottom letters in it, I remember, which Gus and I read on Sunday at breakfast, and we nearly killed ourselves with laughing. The ladies laughed too when I told them this; and good-natured Lady Jane said she would forgive her sister, and hoped I would too: which I promised to do as often as her Ladyship chose to repeat the offence.
I never had any more venison from the family; but I'll tell you what I had. About a month after came a card of "Lord and Lady Tiptoff," and a great piece of plum-cake; of which, I am sorry to say, Gus ate a great deal too much.
OF THE WEST DIDDLESEX ASSOCIATION, AND OF THE EFFECT THE DIAMOND HAD THERE
Well, the magic of the pin was not over yet. Very soon after Mrs. Brough's grand party, our director called me up to his room at the West Diddlesex, and after examining my accounts, and speaking awhile about business, said, "That's a very fine diamond-pin, Master Titmarsh" (he spoke in a grave patronising way), "and I called you on purpose to speak to you upon the subject. I do not object to seeing the young men of this establishment well and handsomely dressed; but I know that their salaries cannot afford ornaments like those, and I grieve to see you with a thing of such value. You have paid for it, sir,—I trust you have paid for it; for, of all things, my dear—dear young friend, beware of debt."
I could not conceive why Brough was reading me this lecture about debt and my having bought the diamond-pin, as I knew that he had been asking about it already, and how I came by it—Abednego told me so. "Why, sir," says I, "Mr. Abednego told me that he had told you that I had told him—"
"Oh, ay-by-the-bye, now I recollect, Mr. Titmarsh—I do recollect—yes; though I suppose, sir, you will imagine that I have other more important things to remember."
"Oh, sir, in course," says I.
"That one of the clerks did say something about a pin—that one of the other gentlemen had it. And so your pin was given you, was it?"
"It was given me, sir, by my aunt, Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty," said I, raising my voice; for I was a little proud of Castle Hoggarty.
"She must be very rich to make such presents, Titmarsh?"
"Why, thank you, sir," says I, "she is pretty well off. Four hundred a year jointure; a farm at Slopperton, sir; three houses at Squashtail; and three thousand two hundred loose cash at the banker's, as I happen to know, sir,—that's all."
I did happen to know this, you see; because, while I was down in Somersetshire, Mr. MacManus, my aunt's agent in Ireland, wrote to say that a mortgage she had on Lord Brallaghan's property had just been paid off, and that the money was lodged at Coutts's. Ireland was in a very disturbed state in those days; and my aunt wisely determined not to invest her money in that country any more, but to look out for some good security in England. However, as she had always received six per cent. in Ireland, she would not hear of a smaller interest; and had warned me, as I was a commercial man, on coming to town, to look out for some means by which she could invest her money at that rate at least.
"And how do you come to know Mrs. Hoggarty's property so accurately?" said Mr. Brough; upon which I told him.
"Good heavens, sir! and do you mean that you, a clerk in the West Diddlesex Insurance Office, applied to by a respectable lady as to the manner in which she should invest property, never spoke to her about the Company which you have the honour to serve? Do you mean, sir, that you, knowing there was a bonus of five per cent. for yourself upon shares taken, did not press Mrs. Hoggarty to join us?"
"Sir," says I, "I'm an honest man, and would not take a bonus from my own relation."
"Honest I know you are, my boy—give me your hand! So am I honest—so is every man in this Company honest; but we must be prudent as well. We have five millions of capital on our books, as you see—five bona fide millions of bona fide sovereigns paid up, sir,—there is no dishonesty there. But why should we not have twenty millions—a hundred millions? Why should not this be the greatest commercial Association in the world?—as it shall be, sir,—it shall, as sure as my name is John Brough, if Heaven bless my honest endeavours to establish it! But do you suppose that it can be so, unless every man among us use his utmost exertions to forward the success of the enterprise? Never, sir,—never; and, for me, I say so everywhere. I glory in what I do. There is not a house in which I enter, but I leave a prospectus of the West Diddlesex. There is not a single tradesman I employ, but has shares in it to some amount. My servants, sir,—my very servants and grooms, are bound up with it. And the first question I ask of anyone who applies to me for a place is, Are you insured or a shareholder in the West Diddlesex? the second, Have you a good character? And if the first question is answered in the negative, I say to the party coming to me, Then be a shareholder before you ask for a place in my household. Did you not see me—me, John Brough, whose name is good for millions—step out of my coach-and-four into this office, with four pounds nineteen, which I paid in to Mr. Roundhand as the price of half a share for the porter at my lodge-gate? Did you remark that I deducted a shilling from the five pound?"
"Yes, sir; it was the day you drew out eight hundred and seventy-three ten and six—Thursday week," says I.
"And why did I deduct that shilling, sir? Because it was my commission—John Brough's commission; honestly earned by him, and openly taken. Was there any disguise about it? No. Did I do it for the love of a shilling? No," says Brough, laying his hand on his heart, "I did it from principle,—from that motive which guides every one of my actions, as I can look up to Heaven and say. I wish all my young men to see my example, and follow it: I wish—I pray that they may. Think of that example, sir. That porter of mine has a sick wife and nine young children: he is himself a sick man, and his tenure of life is feeble; he has earned money, sir, in my service—sixty pounds and more—it is all his children have to look to—all: but for that, in the event of his death, they would be houseless beggars in the street. And what have I done for that family, sir? I have put that money out of the reach of Robert Gates, and placed it so that it shall be a blessing to his family at his death. Every farthing is invested in shares in this office; and Robert Gates, my lodge-porter, is a holder of three shares in the West Diddlesex Association, and, in that capacity, your master and mine. Do you think I want to cheat Gates?"
"Oh, sir!" says I.
"To cheat that poor helpless man, and those tender innocent children!—you can't think so, sir; I should be a disgrace to human nature if I did. But what boots all my energy and perseverance? What though I place my friends' money, my family's money, my own money—my hopes, wishes, desires, ambitions—all upon this enterprise? You young men will not do so. You, whom I treat with love and confidence as my children, make no return to me. When I toil, you remain still; when I struggle, you look on. Say the word at once,—you doubt me! O heavens, that this should be the reward of all my care and love for you!"
Here Mr. Brough was so affected that he actually burst into tears, and I confess I saw in its true light the negligence of which I had been guilty.
"Sir," says I, "I am very—very sorry: it was a matter of delicacy, rather than otherwise, which induced me not to speak to my aunt about the West Diddlesex."
"Delicacy, my dear dear boy—as if there can be any delicacy about making your aunt's fortune! Say indifference to me, say ingratitude, say folly,—but don't say delicacy—no, no, not delicacy. Be honest, my boy, and call things by their right names—always do."
"It was folly and ingratitude, Mr. Brough," says I: "I see it all now; and I'll write to my aunt this very post."
"You had better do no such thing," says Brough, bitterly: "the stocks are at ninety, and Mrs. Hoggarty can get three per cent. for her money."
"I will write, sir,—upon my word and honour, I will write."
"Well, as your honour is passed, you must, I suppose; for never break your word—no, not in a trifle, Titmarsh. Send me up the letter when you have done, and I'll frank it—upon my word and honour I will," says Mr. Brough, laughing, and holding out his hand to me.
I took it, and he pressed mine very kindly—"You may as well sit down here," says he, as he kept hold of it; "there is plenty of paper."
And so I sat down and mended a beautiful pen, and began and wrote, "Independent West Diddlesex Association, June 1822," and "My dear Aunt," in the best manner possible. Then I paused a little, thinking what I should next say; for I have always found that difficulty about letters. The date and My dear So-and-so one writes off immediately—it is the next part which is hard; and I put my pen in my mouth, flung myself back in my chair, and began to think about it.
"Bah!" said Brough, "are you going to be about this letter all day, my good fellow? Listen to me, and I'll dictate to you in a moment." So he began:—
"My Dear Aunt,—Since my return from Somersetshire, I am very happy indeed to tell you that I have so pleased the managing director of our Association and the Board, that they have been good enough to appoint me third clerk—"
"Sir!" says I.
"Write what I say. Mr. Roundhand, as has been agreed by the board yesterday, quits the clerk's desk and takes the title of secretary and actuary. Mr. Highmore takes his place; Mr. Abednego follows him; and I place you as third clerk—as
"third clerk (write), with a salary of a hundred and fifty pounds per annum. This news will, I know, gratify my dear mother and you, who have been a second mother to me all my life.
"When I was last at home, I remember you consulted me as to the best mode of laying out a sum of money which was lying useless in your banker's hands. I have since lost no opportunity of gaining what information I could: and situated here as I am, in the very midst of affairs, I believe, although very young, I am as good a person to apply to as many others of greater age and standing.
"I frequently thought of mentioning to you our Association, but feelings of delicacy prevented me from doing so. I did not wish that anyone should suppose that a shadow of self-interest could move me in any way.
"But I believe, without any sort of doubt, that the West Diddlesex Association offers the best security that you can expect for your capital, and, at the same time, the highest interest you can anywhere procure.
"The situation of the Company, as I have it from the very best authority (underline that), is as follows:—
"The subscribed and bona fide capital is FIVE MILLIONS STERLING.
"The body of directors you know. Suffice it to say that the managing director is John Brough, Esq., of the firm of Brough and Hoff, a Member of Parliament, and a man as well known as Mr. Rothschild in the City of London. His private fortune, I know for a fact, amounts to half a million; and the last dividends paid to the shareholders of the I. W. D. Association amounted to 6.125 per cent. per annum."
[That I know was the dividend declared by us.]
"Although the shares in the market are at a very great premium, it is the privilege of the four first clerks to dispose of a certain number, 5,000l. each at par; and if you, my dearest aunt, would wish for 2,500l. worth, I hope you will allow me to oblige you by offering you so much of my new privileges.