Page images
PDF
EPUB

dained that they should have the first “refusal,” though the term refusal is perhaps hardly applicable to a case where the “offer” is what is wanted.

The Doveys were Londoners, town-house Bryanston Square ; country one, all the watering-places in the world. Old Dooey was a hopmerchant, a calling, we believe, that ranks next to that of a banker. He was in a great way of business, and his house in the Borough was so well known that twenty years had elapsed without the name or the dingy doorpost being touched up with black paint. But for the extreme dirtiness of the foot-trod passage, a passer-by might have imagined that “Dooey" at least had long ceased to flourish.

It is hardly, perhaps, in the province of a periodical like this to expatiate on a man's aptitude for business, but we may state that Dooey had applied himself in early life with such amazing energy and perseverance to the management and details of his, that his mind seemed to have run entirely to hops; and apart from them and his ledgers, he was not what would be called a very entertaining man. He was, however, what his successors would esteem a great deal more, extremely rich. If we might parody such a swell as Shakspeare, we would say

A man's wealth lives after him,

His wit is oft buried with his bones. Dooey, in short, was an extremely respectable well-to-do merchant, highly esteemed upon 'Change, and very passable at the head of his own table. He stood up to carve, preferred warm champagne to iced, and thought a black satin waistcoat the height of good dressing in a morning. As recent events are calculated to prejudice the daughters of merchants and men in trade, we may observe that Dooey adhered closely to his own business, he did not dabble in railway shares, joint stock banks, tin mines, or any of the promising cent, per cent. speculations that are so liberally offered to a covetous public, but quietly placed his surplus gains in the Three

per Cent. Consols, and flattered himself that he was thus taking & mortgage on every house and every field that he saw.

Mrs. Dooey, like most ladies, had accomplished the elegant with more ease than her husband, and when in full feather in her well-built barouche, with her blooming daughters sitting opposite, as she happened to be on the day of our hero's first ride, she looked very like an inflated dowager driving from Covent Garden with a gigantic bouquet on each seat.

From this flowery language the reader will most likely infer that the daughters were pretty, and so they were ; we might go a step further, and say they would have been beautiful, but for the likeness to “mamma.” An unprejudiced, that is to say an out-of-love man could not but see in the plump, blooming, blue-eyed, fair-haired beauties before him the lineaments of the China monster figured old lady with the flaxen front, who so completely filled the best seat of the carriage. Moreover, Mrs. Dooey was guilty of the indiscretion of dressing in the same colours as her daughters, a proceeding that tended to heighten the resemblance. We should observe, however, that we do not wish to say any thing in disparagement of fat people generally. There are many very plummy ladies among the aristocracy, but the question whether an inordinately fat woman can be elegant, is very different to whether a man would order a very fat woman for a wife.

People used once to make a wondrous fuss about gentility, talk of vulgar people as if they were to be abhorred, just as if a little communication with them would corrupt their own good ınanners. The world seems to have got wiser, or at all events to have changed in that respect, and money is the great criterion now-a-days. If people have plenty of that, they may eat peas with their knives with impunity. Dooey had plenty of money, so much so, indeed, that he had often threatened to “ turn gentleman," but two or three days of perfect idleness always changed bis determination, and made him glad to get back to London again.

The Dooey appointments were those of people of substance. Whatever " guys” people may make of themselves, still

, if they employ good London tradesmen, and let the tradesmen have their own way, they are sure to have something of an air. Pearce and Countze's highly-finished green barouche, with an elegant light lining, trimmed with rich figured lace, and silk tabourette to squabs, elbows, and tops, was not to be overlaid even by John, the coachman, and Matthew, the footman, encircling their Recks--the one in a blue and white, the other in a bright scarlet cravat, and this, though their liveries were green, and all green-neither were the dazzling effects of broadly laced hats to be eclipsed by a few darns up the backs of the wearer's white stockings.

Surely, nothing is so indicative of a perfect plethora of money as plastering it about a servant's hat.

Dooey and his wife took different views on the subject of matrimony, Dooey contending that girls were just as well single as married, while Mrs. Dooey felt that her daughters remaining single was a sort of reflection upon herself. She was, therefore, always quite as ready to do business in the matrimonial market, as Dooey was in the hop one, though she was not quite so particular about her customers, and this readiness, coupled with the great money reputation that always attended them, brought her in plenty of applicants.

The consequence was, that often when poor Dooey came down on a Saturday afternoon, instead of enjoying the breezes or the shade of wherever they happened to be, in listless tranquillity, he used to have to open a court of inquiry into some young gentleman's pretensions who had aspired to a “ hand” in his absence. Indeed so numerous were the suitors, and so rapid their succession, that Dooey used to be looked upon a sort of judge coming down to hold a court of assize, the result of which had always, hitherto, been a general delivery.

The Dooey tactics were these :

When the game had gone far enough, Dooey and his wife suddenly changed places, and from the most agreeable, disinterested, flobby old mother-in-law, the surprised suitor found himself all at once in the clutches of the most searching, inquisitive, matter-of-fact old gentleman that ever encased himself in a pudding neckcloth, snuffy black waistcoat, baggy trousers, and high-lows.

Well, sir,” he would say, squatting himself down opposite the unfortunate victim, and darting a pair of little ferrety gray eyes into the very inmost recesses of his heart, “ well, sir, I suppose I needn't observe that I've nothing to do with your personal appearance, looks, age, or any thing of that sort, Mrs. D. and my darter have satisfied themselves on those points, therefore, with your permission, we will proceed at once to the f. s. d.”

It is wonderful how that brief preface put to flight days, weeks, nay, months, of the most enchanting dreams of romantic attachment! How all the merry little Cupids used suddenly to start off by the express train,

66

leaving the unfortunate suitor panting and gasping on the platform of inquiry.

Mrs. Dooey had had so many“ nice young men,” through her hands, all abounding in the undoubted prerogative of youthful minds, “great expectations,” and besides what she had dismissed of her own accord, had passed so many hopeless ones on to Dooey, who had discharged them almost unquestioned, that she had become a tolerable “mouser,” or adept in the art of discrimination, and, moreover, had established certain channels of information that she worked clandestinely like the wires of an electric telegraph. The principal wire in the set was her maid, Lucy Green, or Miss Green, as she was styled in the language of high life below stairs, Lucy was a comely girl, a capital figure, with a goodish face, possessed of the usual talent of making clothes that really were “ too bad” for her young ladies to wear, come out like new ones on her own person. Lucy wrote a fine running hand, with a great liberality of tail to her leading letters, danced as self-taught people generally do dance, a sort of mixture of bounce, romp, shake, and shuffle ; and Lucy was generally considered a very attractive young lady at the tradesmen's and servants’ balls of the various watering-places to which the Dooeys went.

We have heard simple stupid people decry these delightful réunionsask what good could come from ladies' maids showing their bare shoulders above dyed satin dresses, twirling a fan instead of the curling-tongs ; but people who make those sort of observations show a very shallow knowledge of the intricacies of human life. However, without going at large into the question it will be sufficient for our purpose to say that if other people did not appreciate their advantages, Mrs. Dooey did, and always sent her maid becomingly attired-artificial flowers, crinkled hair, corded petticoat, and so on. Now mark!

What mighty matters rise from trivial things, as Squire Pope sang.

There had been a discussion on the propriety of casting a white watered dinner dress of Miss Dooey's, that Mr. Jay's stupid oaf of a foot-boy had scattered some currant-jelly sauce over, and the question being carried in the affirmative, the very first ball that took place after our friend Mr. Rocket's arrival, saw Lucy Green in this identical dress, standing at the top of a quadrille, having for a partner Mr. Rocket's valet, the elegant and distinguished Monsieur Jean de la Tour; the dress having been the means of procuring her the partner ; for it must be apparent to every female mind, that a lady in unblemished white (and unblemished this one certainly did appear--the currant-jelly daubs being most tastefully concealed by artificial flowers and garniture), it must be apparent, we say, to every female mind, that a lady in unblemished white was more likely to strike a stranger than those in tawdry greens, and blue, and browns, and buffs, that every body knew the history of. We do not mean to detract from Miss Green's personal charms, but, on that evening, she was "got up" with extra care, and her swelling bosom was set off with a point lace berthe of surpassing fineness, which for certain reasons she did not care to array herself in until she had undergone the scrutiny of her mistress ; added to this, being a little taller than Miss Dooey, the dress was sufficiently raised from the ground to show an uncommonly pretty foot and ankle, which she kept pointing and admiring at such intervals as she was not engaged in drawing herself up.

Monsieur de la Tour was a delightful man, full of grimace and anecdote, with a sufficient knowledge of the English tongue to make even his most sober remarks amusing. He was a little sallow-faced, small-poxmarked, sharp-featured fellow, with an infinity of hair and most ferocious whiskers, which he wore in the full bushy style, instead of the elaborate layers of curls with which he plastered the sides of his master's face. His dress was composed of the usual heterogeneous mixture which none but a Frenchman's imagination could supply—a very long swallow-tailed blue coat, with fancy buttons, and a very short-cut green velvet waistcoat studded with gold stars, and striped with three rows of coral buttons, a shirt frill as big as a hand-saw, putting out of countenance the tiny puckers of a cockscomb one in which his capacious black-satin stock terminated, almost concealing between them sundry brooches, pins, rings, and chains, with which they were entangled. His trousers were puckered around the waist to the fulness of a woman's skirt, and were slightly shaped over the instep of patent leather slipper boots, with interminable toes, which made a sort of puffing sound as he walked, just as if he had a bladder under each foot. Thus attired, with an old crush hat in one hand, and a massive mosaic gold-headed black cane, with large black and gold tassels in the other, he strutted into the room, exhibiting a considerable quantity of draggled wristband between his short tight coat-cuffs and his three-quarters dirty, primrose-coloured kid-gloves.

We forgot to state that he had a gold eye-glass passed over his chest by a broad satin ribbon into a waistcoat-pocket, with which, having glazed his right eye, he scrutinised the company with that audacious sort of air peculiar to men who fix their glasses in their eyes.

There cannot be a doubt, that if a Frenchman is a great man anywhere in England it will be in a ball-room. Much as the English nation, especially the lower orders, are inclined to undervalue them generally, still there is no denying that among even the humblest votaries of the fantastic toe, a Frenchman ever stands importantly conspicuous. Though the company at Glauberend was not what might be called first class, and as a necessary consequence, the servants lacked that high-life power of double character which runs to deferential awe before their masters' faces, and audacious impudence behind their backs, still there was a sufficient taste for “ dancing and deportment” among the Johns and Jennets there assembled to make them appreciate the appearance of so bright a constellation as our hero's hero, Monsieur de la Tour.

The Johns, perhaps, might not like him, indeed it was hardly to be expected that they would, seeing that in the struggle for him among the ladies some of them would have to go to the wall, but they thought there was a sort of honour in the thing, just as some men think it an honour to pay a guinea for dining at the Freemason's Tavern with a royal duke in the chair. De la Tour had lolled in the rumbles of too many Long-Acre barouches, and seen too much of the “ Ros Bifs" at home and abroad not to know how to treat the flunkeydom of a place like Glauberend; accordingly, he just dropped in about an hour after dancing had commenced the precise hour of these balls being one over which the majority of the company can exercise “ no control," as the merchants say of their affairs when they are going to stop payment-depending a good deal upon the jingling of the bells and other little contingencies at home. Being quite what the niggers call a “ a quality ball,” the room was brilliantly lighted with wax, though many of the masters and mistresses were sitting at home with “tallow," or Palmer's composition candles.

To some it may seem strange that the tradespeople should associate with the servants, but we should observe that the tradespeople of places like Glauberend are only married servants themselves; but even if they were not, it would be well worth their while cultivating the acquaintance of those who rule the roast at home. Besides, no under or livery servants were admitted.

Mr. Bazil Brown's butler, a big, burly, black-headed fellow, lately emancipated from the martyrdom of powder and livery, was master of the ceremonies for the evening, as was denoted by a huge white rosette pinned on the left side of his capacious chest. As it was generally known that Mr. Rocket's gentleman had signified his intention of being present, Monsieur's arrival did not create the sensation that would have been experienced had he dropped in “quite promiscuous ;" and Mr. Brown's representative's altitude enabling him to see all parts of the room, he was scraping a bow before the distinguished foreigner, after the manner of the lamented Vauxhall Simpson ere Monsieur de la Tour had got half through his survey

of the room.

But if his appearance was viewed with complacency by the male portion of the company, it had a very different effect upon the ladies. There is nothing so truly sensitive and delicate as a lady's maid. They get all their mistress's nonsense and airs grafted on their own. Polly Perkins, who couldn't be kept out of the butler's pantry at no price,” as Mr. Tuckey's housekeeper pathetically complained to her mistress, now shrunk behind Martha Smith, old Miss Ribble's young woman, while Harriet Stagg, Miss Starch's pinsticker, who had even demeaned herself by coquetting with a groom, now clung to Mrs. Toddey, the landlady's wife, as though she thought the terrible foreigner would tear her away. Not so our fair friend in the white silk. In the full confidence inspired by the best dress in the room, she passed her fair hand rapidly over her glossy brown hair, in which, like the self-adulating Miss Smith, of Smith v. Ferrers' celebrity, she wore "a single white rose,” and satisfying herself by a glance in the mirror that it was all right, she just drew herself up in a tolerably conspicuous place, put out the pretty foot, and looked as much as to say, “ I don't care whether you do or not, but if you've any taste, you'll take me.' Nor was she out in her reckoning, for the cut glass chandelier, under which she had casually placed herself, casting a strong light upon her handsome face and figure, she shone forth the very impersonification of light and elegance compared to the tawdry, dark-dressed dowdies by whom she was surrounded. Many minutes had not elapsed from the time of Monsieur de la Tour's entrée ere he was performing a most respectful arm-drooping salaam at her feet.

“ With pleasure,” was all she said, sticking herself out behind, just as she had seen her young ladies do in reply to the solicitation of some of the watering-place bucks at the promenade-rooms; and as the decorous Frenchman led her by the tips of her fingers to the top of the quadrille there was such an outburst of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, as makes our pen splutter to record.

Pretty minx !" exclaimed Mary Dubber, looking at her sailing past with a “no better than she should be " sort of air.

“Who's she?" asked Harriet Cooke ; "what are her people, I should

66

« PreviousContinue »