Conspiracy by William Makepeace Thackeray
A story of Charles de Bernard furnished the plot of
"The Bedford-Row Conspiracy."
THE BEDFORD-ROW CONSPIRACY
OF THE LOVES OF MR. PERKINS AND MISS GORGON, AND OF THE TWO GREAT
FACTIONS IN THE TOWN OF OLDBOROUGH.
"My dear John," cried Lucy, with a very wise look indeed, "it must
and shall be so. As for Doughty Street, with our means, a house is
out of the question. We must keep three servants, and Aunt Biggs
says the taxes are one-and-twenty pounds a year."
"I have seen a sweet place at Chelsea," remarked John: "Paradise
Row, No. 17,--garden--greenhouse--fifty pounds a year--omnibus to
town within a mile."
"What! that I may be left alone all day, and you spend a fortune in
driving backward and forward in those horrid breakneck cabs? My
darling, I should die there--die of fright, I know I should. Did
you not say yourself that the road was not as yet lighted, and that
the place swarmed with public-houses and dreadful tipsy Irish
bricklayers? Would you kill me, John?"
"My da-arling," said John, with tremendous fondness, clutching Miss
Lucy suddenly round the waist, and rapping the hand of that young
person violently against his waistcoat,--"My da-arling, don't say
such things, even in a joke. If I objected to the chambers, it is
only because you, my love, with your birth and connections, ought to
have a house of your own. The chambers are quite large enough and
certainly quite good enough for me." And so, after some more sweet
parley on the part of these young people, it was agreed that they
should take up their abode, when married, in a part of the House
number One hundred and something, Bedford Row.
It will be necessary to explain to the reader that John was no other
than John Perkins, Esquire, of the Middle Temple, barrister-at-law,
and that Miss Lucy was the daughter of the late Captain Gorgon, and
Marianne Biggs, his wife. The Captain being of noble connections,
younger son of a baronet, cousin to Lord X----, and related to the
Y---- family, had angered all his relatives by marrying a very silly
pretty young woman, who kept a ladies'-school at Canterbury. She
had six hundred pounds to her fortune, which the Captain laid out in
the purchase of a sweet travelling-carriage and dressing-case for
himself; and going abroad with his lady, spent several years in the
principal prisons of Europe, in one of which he died. His wife and
daughter were meantime supported by the contributions of Mrs. Jemima
Biggs, who still kept the ladies'-school.
At last a dear old relative--such a one as one reads of in
romances--died and left seven thousand pounds apiece to the two
sisters, whereupon the elder gave up schooling and retired to
London; and the younger managed to live with some comfort and
decency at Brussels, upon two hundred and ten pounds per annum.
Mrs. Gorgon never touched a shilling of her capital, for the very
good reason that it was placed entirely out of her reach; so that
when she died, her daughter found herself in possession of a sum of
money that is not always to be met with in this world.
Her aunt the baronet's lady, and her aunt the ex-schoolmistress,
both wrote very pressing invitations to her, and she resided with
each for six months after her arrival in England. Now, for a second
time, she had come to Mrs. Biggs, Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh
Square. It was under the roof of that respectable old lady that
John Perkins, Esquire, being invited to take tea, wooed and won Miss
Having thus described the circumstances of Miss Gorgon's life, let
us pass for a moment from that young lady, and lift up the veil of
mystery which envelopes the deeds and character of Perkins.
Perkins, too, was an orphan; and he and his Lucy, of summer
evenings, when Sol descending lingered fondly yet about the minarets
of the Foundling, and gilded the grassplots of Mecklenburgh
Square--Perkins, I say, and Lucy would often sit together in the
summer-house of that pleasure-ground, and muse upon the strange
coincidences of their life. Lucy was motherless and fatherless; so
too was Perkins. If Perkins was brotherless and sisterless, was not
Lucy likewise an only child? Perkins was twenty-three: his age and
Lucy's united, amounted to forty-six; and it was to be remarked, as
a fact still more extraordinary, that while Lucy's relatives were
AUNTS, John's were UNCLES. Mysterious spirit of love! let us treat
thee with respect and whisper not too many of thy secrets. The fact
is, John and Lucy were a pair of fools (as every young couple OUGHT
to be who have hearts that are worth a farthing), and were ready to
find coincidences, sympathies, hidden gushes of feeling, mystic
unions of the soul, and what not, in every single circumstance that
occurred from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, and
in the intervals. Bedford Row, where Perkins lived, is not very far
from Mecklenburgh Square; and John used to say that he felt a
comfort that his house and Lucy's were served by the same
Further comment is needless. A more honest, simple, clever,
warm-hearted, soft, whimsical, romantical, high-spirited young
fellow than John Perkins did not exist. When his father, Doctor
Perkins, died, this, his only son, was placed under the care of John
Perkins, Esquire, of the house of Perkins, Scully, and Perkins,
those celebrated attorneys in the trading town of Oldborough, which
the second partner, William Pitt Scully, Esquire, represented in
Parliament and in London.
All John's fortune was the house in Bedford Row, which, at his
father's death, was let out into chambers, and brought in a clear
hundred a year. Under his uncle's roof at Oldborough, where he
lived with thirteen red-haired male and female cousins, he was only
charged fifty pounds for board, clothes, and pocket-money, and the
remainder of his rents was carefully put by for him until his
majority. When he approached that period--when he came to belong to
two spouting-clubs at Oldborough, among the young merchants and
lawyers'-clerks--to blow the flute nicely, and play a good game at
billiards--to have written one or two smart things in the Oldborough
Sentinel--to be fond of smoking (in which act he was discovered by
his fainting aunt at three o'clock one morning)--in one word, when
John Perkins arrived at manhood, he discovered that he was quite
unfit to be an attorney, that he detested all the ways of his
uncle's stern, dull, vulgar, regular, red-headed family, and he
vowed that he would go to London and make his fortune. Thither he
went, his aunt and cousins, who were all "serious," vowing that he
was a lost boy; and when his history opens, John had been two years
in the metropolis, inhabiting his own garrets; and a very nice
compact set of apartments, looking into the back-garden, at this
moment falling vacant, the prudent Lucy Gorgon had visited them, and
vowed that she and her John should there commence housekeeping.
All these explanations are tedious, but necessary; and furthermore,
it must be said, that as John's uncle's partner was the Liberal
member for Oldborough, so Lucy's uncle was its Ministerial
This gentleman, the brother of the deceased Captain Gorgon, lived at
the paternal mansion of Gorgon Castle, and rejoiced in the name and
title of Sir George Grimsby Gorgon.
He, too, like his younger brother, had married a lady beneath his
own rank in life; having espoused the daughter and heiress of Mr.
Hicks, the great brewer at Oldborough, who held numerous mortgages
on the Gorgon property, all of which he yielded up, together with
his daughter Juliana, to the care of the baronet.
What Lady Gorgon was in character, this history will show. In
person, if she may be compared to any vulgar animal, one of her
father's heavy, healthy, broad-flanked, Roman-nosed white
dray-horses might, to the poetic mind, appear to resemble her. At
twenty she was a splendid creature, and though not at her full
growth, yet remarkable for strength and sinew; at forty-five she was
as fine a woman as any in His Majesty's dominions. Five feet seven
in height, thirteen stone, her own teeth and hair, she looked as if
she were the mother of a regiment of Grenadier Guards. She had
three daughters of her own size, and at length, ten years after the
birth of the last of the young ladies, a son--one son--George
Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon, the godson of a royal duke, whose
steady officer in waiting Sir George had been for many years.
It is needless to say, after entering so largely into a description
of Lady Gorgon, that her husband was a little shrivelled wizen-faced
creature, eight inches shorter than her Ladyship. This is the way
of the world, as every single reader of this book must have
remarked; for frolic love delights to join giants and pigmies of
different sexes in the bonds of matrimony. When you saw her
Ladyship in flame-coloured satin and gorgeous toque and feathers,
entering the drawing-room, as footmen along the stairs shouted
melodiously, "Sir George and Lady Gorgon," you beheld in her company
a small withered old gentleman, with powder and large royal
household buttons, who tripped at her elbow as a little weak-legged
colt does at the side of a stout mare.
The little General had been present at about a hundred and twenty
pitched battles on Hounslow Heath and Wormwood Scrubs, but had never
drawn his sword against an enemy. As might be expected, therefore,
his talk and tenue were outrageously military. He had the whole
Army List by heart--that is, as far as the field-officers: all
below them he scorned. A bugle at Gorgon Castle always sounded at
breakfast, and dinner: a gun announced sunset. He clung to his
pigtail for many years after the army had forsaken that ornament,
and could never be brought to think much of the Peninsular men for
giving it up. When he spoke of the Duke, he used to call him "MY
LORD WELLINGTON--I RECOLLECT HIM AS CAPTAIN WELLESLEY." He swore
fearfully in conversation, was most regular at church, and regularly
read to his family and domestics the morning and evening prayer; he
bullied his daughters, seemed to bully his wife, who led him whither
she chose; gave grand entertainments, and never asked a friend by
chance; had splendid liveries, and starved his people; and was as
dull, stingy, pompous, insolent, cringing, ill-tempered a little
creature as ever was known.
With such qualities you may fancy that he was generally admired in
society and by his country. So he was: and I never knew a man so
endowed whose way through life was not safe--who had fewer pangs of
conscience--more positive enjoyments--more respect shown to
him--more favours granted to him, than such a one as my friend the
Her Ladyship was just suited to him, and they did in reality admire
each other hugely. Previously to her marriage with the baronet,
many love-passages had passed between her and William Pitt Scully,
Esquire, the attorney; and there was especially one story, a propos
of certain syllabubs and Sally-Lunn cakes, which seemed to show that
matters had gone very far. Be this as it may, no sooner did the
General (Major Gorgon he was then) cast an eye on her, than Scully's
five years' fabric of love was instantly dashed to the ground. She
cut him pitilessly, cut Sally Scully, his sister, her dearest friend
and confidante, and bestowed her big person upon the little
aide-de-camp at the end of a fortnight's wooing. In the course of
time their mutual fathers died; the Gorgon estates were
unencumbered: patron of both the seats in the borough of
Oldborough, and occupant of one, Sir George Grimsby Gorgon, Baronet,
was a personage of no small importance.
He was, it scarcely need to be said, a Tory; and this was the reason
why William Pitt Scully, Esquire, of the firm of Perkins and Scully,
deserted those principles in which he had been bred and christened;
deserted that church which he had frequented, for he could not bear
to see Sir George and my Lady flaunting in their grand
pew;--deserted, I say, the church, adopted the conventicle, and
became one of the most zealous and eloquent supporters that Freedom
has known in our time. Scully, of the house of Scully and Perkins,
was a dangerous enemy. In five years from that marriage, which
snatched from the jilted solicitor his heart's young affections, Sir
George Gorgon found that he must actually spend seven hundred pounds
to keep his two seats. At the next election, a Liberal was set up
against his man, and actually ran him hard; and finally, at the end
of eighteen years, the rejected Scully--the mean attorney--was
actually the FIRST Member for Oldborough, Sir George Grimsby Gorgon,
Baronet, being only the second!
The agony of that day cannot be imagined--the dreadful curses of Sir
George, who saw fifteen hundred a year robbed from under his very
nose--the religious resignation of my Lady--the hideous
window-smashing that took place at the "Gorgon Arms," and the
discomfiture of the pelted Mayor and Corporation. The very next
Sunday, Scully was reconciled to the church (or attended it in the
morning, and the meeting twice in the afternoon), and as Doctor
Snorter uttered the prayer for the High Court of Parliament, his
eye, the eye of his whole party--turned towards Lady Gorgon and Sir
George in a most unholy triumph. Sir George (who always stood
during prayers, like a military man) fairly sank down among the
hassocks, and Lady Gorgon was heard to sob as audibly as ever did
little beadle-belaboured urchin.
Scully, when at Oldborough, came from that day forth to church.
"What," said he, "was it to him? were we not all brethren?" Old
Perkins, however, kept religiously to the Squaretoes congregation.
In fact, to tell the truth, this subject had been debated between
the partners, who saw the advantage of courting both the
Establishment and the Dissenters--a manoeuvre which, I need not say,
is repeated in almost every country town in England, where a
solicitor's house has this kind of power and connection.
Three months after this election came the races at Oldborough, and
the race-ball. Gorgon was so infuriated by his defeat, that he gave
"the Gorgon cup and cover," a matter of fifteen pounds. Scully,
"although anxious," as he wrote from town, "anxious beyond measure
to preserve the breed of horses for which our beloved country has
ever been famous, could attend no such sports as these, which but
too often degenerated into vice." It was voted a shabby excuse.
Lady Gorgon was radiant in her barouche and four, and gladly became
the patroness of the ball that was to ensue; and which all the
gentry and townspeople, Tory and Whig, were in the custom of
attending. The ball took place on the last day of the races. On
that day, the walls of the market-house, the principal public
buildings, and the "Gorgon Arms Hotel" itself, were plastered with
"Letter from our distinguished representative, William P. Scully,
Esquire, etc., etc.
"HOUSE OF COMMONS: June 1, 18--.
"MY DEAR HEELTAP,--You know my opinion about horseracing, and though
I blame neither you nor any brother Englishman who enjoys that manly
sport, you will, I am sure, appreciate the conscientious motives
which induce me not to appear among my friends and constituents on
the festival of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th instant. If _I_, however,
cannot allow my name to appear among your list of stewards, ONE at
least of the representatives of Oldborough has no such scruples.
Sir George Gorgon is among you: and though I differ from that
honourable Baronet on more than ONE VITAL POINT, I am glad to think
that he is with you. A gentleman, a soldier, a man of property in
the county, how can he be better employed than in forwarding the
county's amusements, and in forwarding the happiness of all?
"Had I no such scruples as those to which I have just alluded, I
must still have refrained from coming among you. Your great
Oldborough common-drainage and inclosure bill comes on to-morrow,
and I shall be AT MY POST. I am sure, if Sir George Gorgon were
here, he and I should on this occasion vote side by side, and that
party strife would be forgotten in the object of our common
interest--OUR DEAR NATIVE TOWN.
"There is, however, another occasion at hand, in which I shall be
proud to meet him. Your ball is on the night of the 6th. Party
forgotten--brotherly union--innocent mirth--beauty, OUR DEAR TOWN'S
BEAUTY, our daughters in the joy of their expanding loveliness, our
matrons in the exquisite contemplation of their children's bliss--
can you, can I, can Whig or Tory, can any Briton be indifferent to a
scene like this, or refuse to join in this heart-stirring festival?
If there BE such let them pardon me--I, for one, my dear Heeltap,
will be among you on Friday night--ay, and hereby invite all pretty
Tory Misses, who are in want of a partner.
"I am here in the very midst of good things, you know, and we old
folks like A SUPPER after a dance. Please to accept a brace of
bucks and a turtle, which come herewith. My worthy colleague, who
was so liberal last year of his soup to the poor, will not, I trust,
refuse to taste a little of Alderman Birch's--'tis offered on my
part with hearty goodwill. Hey for the 6th, and vive la joie!
"Ever, my dear Heeltap, your faithful
"W. PITT SCULLY.
"P.S.--Of course this letter is STRICTLY PRIVATE. Say that the
venison, etc. came from a WELL-WISHER TO OLDBOROUGH."
This amazing letter was published, in defiance of Mr. Scully's
injunctions, by the enthusiastic Heeltap, who said, bluntly, in a
preface, "that he saw no reason why Mr. Scully should be ashamed of
his action, and he, for his part, was glad to let all friends at
Oldborough know of it."
The allusion about the Gorgon soup was killing: thirteen paupers in
Oldborough had, it was confidently asserted, died of it. Lady
Gorgon, on the reading of this letter, was struck completely dumb;
Sir George Gorgon was wild. Ten dozen of champagne was he obliged
to send down to the "Gorgon Arms," to be added to the festival. He
would have stayed away if he could, but he dared not.
At nine o'clock, he in general's uniform; his wife in blue satin and
diamonds; his daughters in blue crape and white roses; his niece,
Lucy Gorgon, in white muslin; his son, George Augustus Frederick
Grimsby Gorgon, in a blue velvet jacket, sugar-loaf buttons, and
nankeens, entered the north door of the ballroom, to much cheering,
and the sound of "God save the King!"
At that very same moment, and from the south door, issued William
Pitt Scully, Esquire, M.P., and his staff. Mr. Scully had a
brand-new blue coat and brass buttons, buff waistcoat, white
kerseymere tights, pumps with large rosettes, and pink silk
"This wool," said he to a friend, "was grown on Oldborough sheep,
this cloth was spun in Oldborough looms, these buttons were cast in
an Oldborough manufactory, these shoes were made by an Oldborough
tradesman, this HEART first beat in Oldborough town, and pray Heaven
may be buried there!"
Could anything resist a man like this? John Perkins, who had come
down as one of Scully's aides-de-camp, in a fit of generous
enthusiasm, leaped on a whist-table, flung up a pocket-handkerchief,
and shrieked--"SCULLY FOR EVER!"
Heeltap, who was generally drunk, fairly burst into tears, and the
grave tradesmen and Whig gentry, who had dined with the Member at
his inn, and accompanied him thence to the "Gorgon Arms," lifted
their deep voices and shouted "Hear!" "Good!" "Bravo!" "Noble!"
"Scully for ever!" "God bless him!" and "Hurrah!"
The scene was tumultuously affecting; and when young Perkins sprang
down from the table and came blushing up to the Member, that
gentleman said, "Thank you, Jack! THANK you, my boy! THANK you,"
in a way which made Perkins think that his supreme cup of bliss was
quaffed; that he had but to die: for that life had no other such
joy in store for him. Scully was Perkins's Napoleon--he yielded
himself up to the attorney, body and soul.
Whilst this scene was going on under one chandelier of the ballroom,
beneath the other scarlet little General Gorgon, sumptuous Lady
Gorgon, the daughters and niece Gorgons, were standing surrounded by
their Tory court, who affected to sneer and titter at the Whig
demonstrations which were taking place.
"What a howwid thmell of whithkey!" lisped Cornet Fitch, of the
Dragoons, to Miss Lucy, confidentially. "And thethe are what they
call Whigth, are they? He! he!"
"They are drunk, ----- me,--drunk, by -----!" said the General to
"WHICH is Scully?" said Lady Gorgon, lifting her glass gravely (she
was at that very moment thinking of the syllabubs). "Is it that
tipsy man in the green coat, or that vulgar creature in the blue
"Law, my Lady," said the Mayoress, "have you forgotten him? Why,
that's him in blue and buff."
"And a monthous fine man, too," said Cornet Fitch. "I wish we had
him in our twoop--he'th thix feet thwee, if he'th an inch; ain't he,
"And heavens! Mamma," shrieked the three Gorgons in a breath, "see,
one creature is on the whist-table. Oh, the wretch!
"I'm sure he's very good-looking," said Lucy, simply.
Lady Gorgon darted at her an angry look, and was about to say
something very contemptuous, when, at that instant, John Perkins's
shout taking effect, Master George Augustus Frederick Grimsby
Gorgon, not knowing better, incontinently raised a small shout on
"Hear! good! bravo!" exclaimed he; "Scully for ever! Hurra-a-a-ay!"
and fell skipping about like the Whigs opposite.
"Silence, you brute you!" groaned Lady Gorgon; and seizing him by
the shirt-frill and coat-collar, carried him away to his nurse, who,
with many other maids of the Whig and Tory parties, stood giggling
and peeping at the landing-place.
Fancy how all these small incidents augmented the heap of Lady
Gorgon's anger and injuries! She was a dull phlegmatic woman for
the most part, and contented herself generally with merely despising
her neighbours; but oh! what a fine active hatred raged in her bosom
for victorious Scully! At this moment Mr. Perkins had finished
shaking hands with his Napoleon--Napoleon seemed bent upon some
tremendous enterprise. He was looking at Lady Gorgon very hard.
"She's a fine woman," said Scully, thoughtfully; he was still
holding the hand of Perkins. And then, after a pause, "Gad! I think
"Try what, sir?"
"She's a DEUCED fine woman!" burst out again the tender solicitor.
"I WILL go. Springer, tell the fiddlers to strike up."
Springer scuttled across the room, and gave the leader of the band a
knowing nod. Suddenly, "God save the King" ceased, and "Sir Roger
de Coverley" began. The rival forces eyed each other; Mr. Scully,
accompanied by his friend, came forward, looking very red, and
fumbling two large kid gloves.
"HE'S GOING TO ASK ME TO DANCE," hissed out Lady Gorgon, with a
dreadful intuition, and she drew back behind her lord.
"D--- it, madam, THEN DANCE with him!" said the General. "Don't you
see that the scoundrel is carrying it all his own way! ----- him!
and ----- him! and ----- him!" (All of which dashes the reader may
fill up with oaths of such strength as may be requisite).
"General!" cried Lady Gorgon, but could say no more. Scully was
"Madam!" exclaimed the Liberal Member for Oldborough, "in a moment
like this--I say--that is--that on the present occasion--your
Ladyship--unaccustomed as I am--pooh, psha--WILL your Ladyship give
me the distinguished honour and pleasure of going down the
country-dance with your Ladyship?"
An immense heave of her Ladyship's ample chest was perceptible.
Yards of blond lace, which might be compared to a foam of the sea,
were agitated at the same moment, and by the same mighty emotion.
The river of diamonds which flowed round her Ladyship's neck, seemed
to swell and to shine more than ever. The tall plumes on her
ambrosial head bowed down beneath the storm. In other words, Lady
Gorgon, in a furious rage, which she was compelled to restrain,
trembled, drew up, and bowing majestically, said,--
"Sir, I shall have much pleasure." With this, she extended her
hand. Scully, trembling, thrust forward one of his huge kid-gloves,
and led her to the head of the country-dance. John Perkins--who I
presume had been drinking pretty freely, so as to have forgotten his
ordinary bashfulness--looked at the three Gorgons in blue, then at
the pretty smiling one in white, and stepping up to her, without the
smallest hesitation, asked her if she would dance with him.
The young lady smilingly agreed. The great example of Scully and
Lady Gorgon was followed by all dancing men and women. Political
enmities were forgotten. Whig voters invited Tory voters' wives to
the dance. The daughters of Reform accepted the hands of the sons
of Conservatism. The reconciliation of the Romans and Sabines was
not more touching than this sweet fusion. Whack--whack! Springer
clapped his hands; and the fiddlers adroitly obeying the cheerful
signal, began playing "Sir Roger de Coverley" louder than ever.
I do not know by what extraordinary charm (nescio qua praeter
solitum, etc.), but young Perkins, who all his life had hated
country-dances, was delighted with this one, and skipped and
laughed, poussetting, crossing, down-the-middling, with his merry
little partner, till every one of the bettermost sort of the
thirty-nine couples had dropped panting away, and till the youngest
Miss Gorgon, coming up to his partner, said in a loud hissing
scornful whisper, "Lucy, Mamma thinks you have danced quite enough
with this--this person." And Lucy, blushing, starting back, and
looking at Perkins in a very melancholy way, made him a little
curtsey, and went off to the Gorgonian party with her cousin.
Perkins was too frightened to lead her back to her place--too
frightened at first, and then too angry. "Person!" said he: his
soul swelled with a desperate republicanism: he went back to his
patron more of a Radical than ever.
He found that gentleman in the solitary tea-room, pacing up and down
before the observant landlady and handmaidens of the "Gorgon Arms,"
wiping his brows, gnawing his fingers--his ears looming over his
stiff white shirt-collar as red as fire. Once more the great man
seized John Perkins's hand as the latter came up.
"D----- the aristocrats!" roared the ex-follower of Squaretoes.
"And so say I! but what's the matter, sir?"
"What's the matter?--Why, that woman--that infernal, haughty,
straitlaced, cold-blooded brewer's daughter! I loved that woman,
sir--I KISSED that woman, sir, twenty years ago: we were all but
engaged, sir: we've walked for hours and hours, sir--us and the
governess--I've got a lock of her hair, sir, among my papers now;
and to-night, would you believe it?--as soon as she got to the
bottom of the set, away she went--not one word would she speak to me
all the way down: and when I wanted to lead her to her place, and
asked her if she would have a glass of negus, 'Sir,' says she, 'I
have done my duty; I bear no malice: but I consider you a traitor
to Sir George Gorgon's family--a traitor and an upstart! I consider
your speaking to me as a piece of insolent vulgarity, and beg you
will leave me to myself!' There's her speech, sir. Twenty people
heard it, and all of her Tory set too. I'll tell you what, Jack:
at the next election I'll put YOU up. Oh that woman! that woman!-
-and to think that I love her still!" Here Mr. Scully paused, and
fiercely consoled himself by swallowing three cups of Mrs. Rincer's
The fact is, that Lady Gorgon's passion had completely got the
better of her reason. Her Ladyship was naturally cold, and
artificially extremely squeamish; and when this great red-faced
enemy of hers looked tenderly at her through his red little eyes,
and squeezed her hand and attempted to renew old acquaintance, she
felt such an intolerable disgust at his triumph, at his familiarity,
and at the remembrance of her own former liking for him, that she
gave utterance to the speech above correctly reported. The Tories
were delighted with her spirit, and Cornet Fitch, with much glee,
told the story to the General; but that officer, who was at whist
with some of his friends, flung down his cards, and coming up to his
lady, said briefly,--
"Madam, you are a fool!"
"I will NOT stay here to be bearded by that disgusting man!--Mr.
Fitch, call my people.--Henrietta, bring Miss Lucy from that
linendraper with whom she is dancing. I will not stay, General,
once for all."
Henrietta ran--she hated her cousin: Cornet Fitch was departing.
"Stop, Fitch," said Sir George, seizing him by the arm. "You are a
fool, Lady Gorgon," said he, "and I repeat it--a ----- fool! This
fellow Scully is carrying all before him: he has talked with
everybody, laughed with everybody--and you, with your infernal
airs--a brewer's daughter, by -----, must sit like a queen and not
speak to a soul! You've lost me one seat of my borough, with your
infernal pride--fifteen hundred a year, by Jove!--and you think you
will bully me out of another. No, madam, you SHALL stay, and stay
supper too;--and the girls shall dance with every cursed
chimney-sweep and butcher in the room: they shall--confound me!"
Her Ladyship saw that it was necessary to submit; and Mr. Springer,
the master of the ceremonies, was called, and requested to point out
some eligible partners for the young ladies. One went off with a
Whig auctioneer; another figured in a quadrille with a very Liberal
apothecary; and the third, Miss Henrietta, remained.
"Hallo you, sir!" roared the little General to John Perkins, who was
passing by. John turned round and faced him.
"You were dancing with my niece just now--show us your skill now,
and dance with one of my daughters. Stand up, Miss Henrietta
"My name," said John, with marked and majestic emphasis, "is
PERKINS." And he looked towards Lucy, who dared not look again.
"Miss Gorgon--Mr. Perkins. There, now go and dance."
"Mr. Perkins regrets, madam," said John, making a bow to Miss
Henrietta, "that he is not able to dance this evening. I am this
moment obliged to look to the supper; but you will find, no doubt,
some other PERSON who will have much pleasure."
"Go to -----, sir!" screamed the General, starting up, and shaking
"Calm yourself, dearest George," said Lady Gorgon, clinging fondly
to him. Fitch twiddled his moustaches. Miss Henrietta Gorgon
stared with open mouth. The silks of the surrounding dowagers
rustled--the countenances of all looked grave.
"I will follow you, sir, wherever you please; and you may hear of me
whenever you like," said Mr. Perkins, bowing and retiring. He heard
little Lucy sobbing in a corner. He was lost at once--lost in love;
he felt as if he could combat fifty generals! he never was so happy
in his life.
The supper came; but as that meal cost five shillings a head,
General Gorgon dismissed the four spinsters of his family homewards
in the carriage, and so saved himself a pound. This added to Jack
Perkins's wrath; he had hoped to have seen Miss Lucy once more. He
was a steward, and, in the General's teeth, would have done his
duty. He was thinking how he would have helped her to the most
delicate chicken-wings and blancmanges, how he WOULD have made her
take champagne. Under the noses of indignant aunt and uncle, what
glorious fun it would have been!
Out of place as Mr. Scully's present was, and though Lady Gorgon and
her party sneered at the vulgar notion of venison and turtle for
supper, all the world at Oldborough ate very greedily of those two
substantial dishes; and the Mayor's wife became from that day forth
a mortal enemy of the Gorgons: for, sitting near her Ladyship, who
refused the proffered soup and meat, the Mayoress thought herself
obliged to follow this disagreeable example. She sent away the
plate of turtle with a sigh, saying, however, to the baronet's lady,
"I thought, mem, that the LORD MAYOR OF LONDON always had turtle to
"And what if he didn't, Biddy?" said his Honour the Mayor; "a good
thing's a good thing, and here goes!" wherewith he plunged his spoon
into the savoury mess. The Mayoress, as we have said, dared not;
but she hated Lady Gorgon, and remembered it at the next election.
The pride, in fact, and insolence of the Gorgon party rendered every
person in the room hostile to them; so soon as, gorged with meat,
they began to find that courage which Britons invariably derive from
their victuals. The show of the Gorgon plate seemed to offend the
people. The Gorgon champagne was a long time, too, in making its
appearance. Arrive, however, it did. The people were waiting for
it; the young ladies, not accustomed to that drink, declined
pledging their admirers until it was produced; the men, too,
despised the bucellas and sherry, and were looking continually
towards the door. At last, Mr. Rincer, the landlord, Mr. Hock, Sir
George's butler, and sundry others entered the room. Bang! went the
corks--fizz the foamy liquor sparkled into all sorts of glasses that
were held out for its reception. Mr. Hock helped Sir George and his
party, who drank with great gusto; the wine which was administered
to the persons immediately around Mr. Scully was likewise pronounced
to be good. But Mr. Perkins, who had taken his seat among the
humbler individuals, and in the very middle of the table, observed
that all these persons, after drinking, made to each other very wry
and ominous faces, and whispered much. He tasted his wine: it was
a villanous compound of sugar, vitriol, soda-water, and green
gooseberries. At this moment a great clatter of forks was made by
the president's and vice-president's party. Silence for a
toast--'twas silence all.
"Landlord," said Mr. Perkins, starting up (the rogue, where did his
impudence come from?) "have you any champagne of YOUR OWN?"
"Silence! down!" roared the Tories, the ladies looking aghast.
"Silence, sit down you!" shrieked the well-known voice of the
"I beg your pardon, General," said young John Perkins; "but where
COULD you have bought this champagne? My worthy friend I know is
going to propose the ladies; let us at any rate drink such a toast
in good wine." ("Hear, hear!") "Drink her Ladyship's health in
THIS stuff? I declare to goodness I would sooner drink it in beer!"
No pen can describe the uproar which arose: the anguish of the
Gorgonites--the shrieks, jeers, cheers, ironic cries of "Swipes!"
etc., which proceeded from the less genteel but more enthusiastic
"This vulgarity is too much," said Lady Gorgon, rising; and Mrs.
Mayoress and the ladies of the party did so too.
The General, two squires, the clergyman, the Gorgon apothecary and
attorney, with their respective ladies, followed her: they were
plainly beaten from the field. Such of the Tories as dared
remained, and in inglorious compromise shared the jovial Whig feast.
"Gentlemen and ladies," hiccupped Mr. Heeltap, "I'll give you a
toast. 'Champagne to our real--hic--friends,' no, 'Real champagne
to our friends,' and--hic--pooh! 'Champagne to our friends, and real
pain to our enemies,'--huzzay!"
The Scully faction on this day bore the victory away, and if the
polite reader has been shocked by certain vulgarities on the part of
Mr. Scully and his friends, he must remember imprimis that
Oldborough was an inconsiderable place--that the inhabitants thereof
were chiefly tradespeople, not of refined habits--that Mr. Scully
himself had only for three months mingled among the aristocracy-
-that his young friend Perkins was violently angry--and finally, and
to conclude, that the proud vulgarity of the great Sir George Gorgon
and his family was infinitely more odious and contemptible than the
mean vulgarity of the Scullyites and their leader.
Immediately after this event, Mr. Scully and his young friend
Perkins returned to town; the latter to his garrets in Bedford Row--
the former to his apartments on the first floor of the same house.
He lived here to superintend his legal business: his London agents,
Messrs. Higgs, Biggs, and Blatherwick, occupying the ground floor;
the junior partner, Mr. Gustavus Blatherwick, the second flat of the
house. Scully made no secret of his profession or residence: he
was an attorney, and proud of it; he was the grandson of a labourer,
and thanked God for it; he had made his fortune by his own honest
labour, and why should he be ashamed of it?
And now, having explained at full length who the several heroes and
heroines of this history were, and how they conducted themselves in
the country, let us describe their behaviour in London, and the
great events which occurred there.
You must know that Mr. Perkins bore away the tenderest recollections
of the young lady with whom he had danced at the Oldborough ball,
and, having taken particular care to find out where she dwelt when
in the metropolis, managed soon to become acquainted with Aunt
Biggs, and made himself so amiable to that lady, that she begged he
would pass all his disengaged evenings at her lodgings in Caroline
Place. Mrs. Biggs was perfectly aware that the young gentleman did
not come for her bohea and muffins, so much as for the sweeter
conversation of her niece, Miss Gorgon; but seeing that these two
young people were of an age when ideas of love and marriage will
spring up, do what you will; seeing that her niece had a fortune,
and Mr. Perkins had the prospect of a place, and was moreover a very
amiable and well-disposed young fellow, she thought her niece could
not do better than marry him; and Miss Gorgon thought so too. Now
the public will be able to understand the meaning of that important
conversation which is recorded at the very commencement of this
Lady Gorgon and her family were likewise in town; but, when in the
metropolis, they never took notice of their relative, Miss Lucy:
the idea of acknowledging an ex-schoolmistress living in
Mecklenburgh Square being much too preposterous for a person of my
Lady Gorgon's breeding and fashion. She did not, therefore, know of
the progress which sly Perkins was making all this while; for Lucy
Gorgon did not think it was at all necessary to inform her Ladyship
how deeply she was smitten by the wicked young gentleman who had
made all the disturbance at the Oldborough ball.
The intimacy of these young persons had, in fact, become so close,
that on a certain sunshiny Sunday in December, after having
accompanied Aunt Biggs to church, they had pursued their walk as far
as that rendezvous of lovers, the Regent's Park, and were talking of
their coming marriage, with much confidential tenderness, before the
bears in the Zoological Gardens.
Miss Lucy was ever and anon feeding those interesting animals with
buns, to perform which act of charity she had clambered up on the
parapet which surrounds their den. Mr. Perkins was below; and Miss
Lucy, having distributed her buns, was on the point of
following,--but whether from timidity, or whether from a desire to
do young Perkins an essential service, I know not: however, she
found herself quite unwilling to jump down unaided.
"My dearest John," said she, "I never can jump that."
Whereupon John stepped up, put one hand round Lucy's waist; and as
one of hers gently fell upon his shoulder, Mr. Perkins took the
other and said,--
Hoop! jump she did, and so excessively active and clever was Mr.
John Perkins, that he jumped Miss Lucy plump into the middle of a
group formed of--
The Misses Gorgon;
Master George Augustus Frederick Grimsby Gorgon;
And a footman, poodle, and French governess: who had all been for
two or three minutes listening to the billings and cooings of these
imprudent young lovers.
SHOWS HOW THE PLOT BEGAN TO THICKEN IN OR ABOUT BEDFORD ROW.
"Upon my word!"
"I'm hanged if it arn't Lucy! How do, Lucy?" uttered Lady, the
Misses, and Master Gorgon in a breath.
Lucy came forward, bending down her ambrosial curls, and blushing,
as a modest young woman should: for, in truth, the scrape was very
awkward. And as for John Perkins, he made a start, and then a step
forwards, and then two backwards, and then began laying hands upon
his black satin stock--in short, the sun did not shine at that
moment upon a man who looked so exquisitely foolish.
"Miss Lucy Gorgon, is your aunt--is Mrs. Briggs here?" said Lady
Gorgon, drawing herself up with much state.
"Mrs. Biggs, Aunt?" said Lucy demurely.
"Biggs or Briggs, madam, it is not of the slightest consequence. I
presume that persons in my rank of life are not expected to know
everybody's name in Magdeburg Square?" (Lady Gorgon had a house in
Baker Street, and a dismal house it was.) "NOT here," continued
she, rightly interpreting Lucy's silence, "NOT here?--and may I ask
how long is it that young ladies have been allowed to walk abroad
without chaperons, and to--to take a part in such scenes as that
which we have just seen acted?"
To this question--and indeed it was rather difficult to answer--Miss
Gorgon had no reply. There were the six grey eyes of her cousins
glowering at her; there was George Augustus Frederick examining her
with an air of extreme wonder, Mademoiselle the governess turning
her looks demurely away, and awful Lady Gorgon glancing fiercely at
her in front. Not mentioning the footman and poodle, what could a
poor modest timid girl plead before such an inquisition, especially
when she was clearly guilty? Add to this, that as Lady Gorgon, that
majestic woman, always remarkable for her size and insolence of
demeanour, had planted herself in the middle of the path, and spoke
at the extreme pitch of her voice, many persons walking in the
neighbourhood had heard her Ladyship's speech and stopped, and
seemed disposed to await the rejoinder.
"For Heaven's sake, Aunt, don't draw a crowd around us," said Lucy,
who, indeed, was glad of the only escape that lay in her power. "I
will tell you of the--of the circumstances of--of my engagement with
this gentleman--with Mr. Perkins," added she, in a softer tone--so
soft that the 'ERKINS was quite inaudible.
"A Mr. What? An engagement without consulting your guardians!"
screamed her Ladyship. "This must be looked to! Jerningham, call
round my carriage. Mademoiselle, you will have the goodness to walk
home with Master Gorgon, and carry him, if you please, where there
is wet; and, girls, as the day is fine, you will do likewise.
Jerningham, you will attend the young ladies. Miss Gorgon, I will
thank you to follow me immediately." And so saying, and looking at
the crowd with ineffable scorn, and at Mr. Perkins not at all, the
lady bustled away forwards, the files of Gorgon daughters and
governess closing round and enveloping poor Lucy, who found herself
carried forward against her will, and in a minute seated in her
aunt's coach, along with that tremendous person.
Her case was bad enough, but what was it to Perkins's? Fancy his
blank surprise and rage at having his love thus suddenly ravished
from him, and his delicious tete-a-tete interrupted. He managed, in
an inconceivably short space of time, to conjure up half-a-million
obstacles to his union. What should he do? he would rush on to
Baker Street, and wait there until his Lucy left Lady Gorgon's
He could find no vehicle in the Regent's Park, and was in
consequence obliged to make his journey on foot. Of course, he
nearly killed himself with running, and ran so quick, that he was
just in time to see the two ladies step out of Lady Gorgon's
carriage at her own house, and to hear Jerningham's fellow-footman
roar to the Gorgonian coachman, "Half-past seven!" at which hour we
are, to this day, convinced that Lady Gorgon was going out to dine.
Mr. Jerningham's associate having banged to the door, with an
insolent look towards Perkins, who was prying in with the most
suspicious and indecent curiosity, retired, exclaiming, "That chap
has a hi to our great-coats, I reckon!" and left John Perkins to
pace the street and be miserable.
John Perkins then walked resolutely up and down dismal Baker Street,
determined on an eclaircissement. He was for some time occupied in
thinking how it was that the Gorgons were not at church, they who
made such a parade of piety; and John Perkins smiled as he passed
the chapel, and saw that two CHARITY SERMONS were to be preached
that day--and therefore it was that General Gorgon read prayers to
his family at home in the morning.
Perkins, at last, saw that little General, in blue frock-coat and
spotless buff gloves, saunter scowling home; and half an hour before
his arrival had witnessed the entrance of Jerningham, and the three
gaunt Miss Gorgons, poodle, son-and-heir, and French governess,
protected by him, into Sir George's mansion.
"Can she be going to stay all night?" mused poor John, after being
on the watch for three hours: when presently, to his inexpressible
delight, he saw a very dirty hackney-coach clatter up to the Gorgon
door, out of which first issued the ruby plush breeches and stalwart
calves of Mr. Jerningham; these were followed by his body, and then
the gentleman, ringing modestly, was admitted.
Again the door opened: a lady came out, nor was she followed by the
footman, who crossed his legs at the door-post and allowed her to
mount the jingling vehicle as best she might. Mr. Jerningham had
witnessed the scene in the Park Gardens, had listened to the
altercation through the library keyhole, and had been mighty sulky
at being ordered to call a coach for this young woman. He did not
therefore deign to assist her to mount.
But there was ONE who did! Perkins was by the side of his Lucy: he
had seen her start back and cry, "La, John!"--had felt her squeeze
his arm--had mounted with her into the coach, and then shouted with
a voice of thunder to the coachman, "Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh
But Mr. Jerningham would have been much more surprised and puzzled
if he had waited one minute longer, and seen this Mr. Perkins, who
had so gallantly escaladed the hackney-coach, step out of it with
the most mortified, miserable, chap-fallen countenance possible.
The fact is, he had found poor Lucy sobbing fit to break her heart,
and instead of consoling her, as he expected, he only seemed to
irritate her further: for she said, "Mr. Perkins--I beg--I insist,
that you leave the carriage." And when Perkins made some movement
(which, not being in the vehicle at the time, we have never been
able to comprehend), she suddenly sprang from the back-seat and
began pulling at a large piece of cord which communicated with the
wrist of the gentleman driving; and, screaming to him at the top of
her voice, bade him immediately stop.
This Mr. Coachman did, with a curious, puzzled, grinning air.
Perkins descended, and on being asked, "Vere ham I to drive the
young 'oman, sir?" I am sorry to say muttered something like an
oath, and uttered the above-mentioned words, "Caroline Place,
Mecklenburgh Square," in a tone which I should be inclined to
describe as both dogged and sheepish--very different from that
cheery voice which he had used when he first gave the order.
Poor Lucy, in the course of those fatal three hours which had passed
while Mr. Perkins was pacing up and down Baker Street, had received
a lecture which lasted exactly one hundred and eighty minutes--from
her aunt first, then from her uncle, whom we have seen marching
homewards, and often from both together.
Sir George Gorgon and his lady poured out such a flood of advice and
abuse against the poor girl, that she came away from the interview
quite timid and cowering; and when she saw John Perkins (the sly
rogue! how well he thought he had managed the trick!) she shrank
from him as if he had been a demon of wickedness, ordered him out of
the carriage, and went home by herself, convinced that she had
committed some tremendous sin.
While, then, her coach jingled away to Caroline Place, Perkins, once
more alone, bent his steps in the same direction. A desperate,
heart-stricken man, he passed by the beloved's door, saw lights in
the front drawing-room, felt probably that she was there; but he
could not go in. Moodily he paced down Doughty Street, and turning
abruptly into Bedford Row, rushed into his own chambers, where Mrs.
Snooks, the laundress, had prepared his humble Sabbath meal.
A cheerful fire blazed in his garret, and Mrs. Snooks had prepared
for him the favourite blade-bone he loved (blest four-days' dinner
for a bachelor--roast, cold, hashed, grilled bladebone, the fourth
being better than the first); but although he usually did rejoice in
this meal--ordinarily, indeed, grumbling that there was not enough
to satisfy him--he, on this occasion, after two mouthfuls, flung
down his knife and fork, and buried his two claws in his hair.
"Snooks," said he at last, very moodily, "remove this d---- mutton,
give me my writing things, and some hot brandy-and-water."
This was done without much alarm: for you must know that Perkins
used to dabble in poetry, and ordinarily prepare himself for
composition by this kind of stimulus.
He wrote hastily a few lines.
"Snooks, put on your bonnet," said he, "and carry this--YOU KNOW
WHERE!" he added, in a hollow, heart-breaking tone of voice, that
affected poor Snooks almost to tears. She went, however, with the
note, which was to this purpose:--
"Lucy! Lucy! my soul's love--what, what has happened? I am writing
this"--(a gulp of brandy-and-water)--"in a state bordering on
distraction--madness--insanity"(another). "Why did you send me out
of the coach in that cruel cruel way? Write to me a word, a line--
tell me, tell me, I may come to you--and leave me not in this
agonising condition; your faithful"(glog--glog--glog--the whole
He never signed John Perkins in full--he couldn't, it was so
Well, this missive was despatched by Mrs. Snooks, and Perkins, in a
fearful state of excitement, haggard, wild, and with more
brandy-and-water, awaited the return of his messenger.
When at length, after about an absence of forty years, as it seemed
to him, the old lady returned with a large packet, Perkins seized it
with a trembling hand, and was yet more frightened to see the
handwriting of Mrs. or Miss Biggs.
"MY DEAR MR. PERKINS," she began--"Although I am not your soul's
adored, I performed her part for once, since I have read your
letter, as I told her. You need not be very much alarmed, although
Lucy is at this moment in bed and unwell: for the poor girl has had
a sad scene at her grand uncle's house in Baker Street, and came
home very much affected. Rest, however, will restore her, for she
is not one of your nervous sort; and I hope when you come in the
morning, you will see her as blooming as she was when you went out
to-day on that unlucky walk.
"See what Sir George Gorgon says of us all! You won't challenge
him, I know, as he is to be your uncle, and so I may show you his
"Good-night, my dear John. Do not go QUITE distracted before
morning; and believe me your loving aunt,
"41 BAKER STREET: 11th December.
"MAJOR-GENERAL SIR GEORGE GORGON has heard with the utmost disgust
and surprise of the engagement which Miss Lucy Gorgon has thought
fit to form.
"The Major-General cannot conceal his indignation at the share which
Miss Biggs has taken in this disgraceful transaction.
"Sir George Gorgon puts an absolute veto upon all further
communication between his niece and the low-born adventurer who has
been admitted into her society, and begs to say that Lieutenant
Fitch, of the Lifeguards, is the gentleman who he intends shall
marry Miss Gorgon.
"It is the Major-General's wish, that on the 28th Miss Gorgon should
be ready to come to his house, in Baker Street, where she will be
more safe from impertinent intrusions than she has been in
When poor John Perkins read this epistle, blank rage and wonder
filled his soul, at the audacity of the little General, who thus,
without the smallest title in the world, pretended to dispose of the
hand and fortune of his niece. The fact is, that Sir George had
such a transcendent notion of his own dignity and station, that it
never for a moment entered his head that his niece, or anybody else
connected with him, should take a single step in life without
previously receiving his orders; and Mr. Fitch, a baronet's son,
having expressed an admiration of Lucy, Sir George had determined
that his suit should be accepted, and really considered Lucy's
preference of another as downright treason.
John Perkins determined on the death of Fitch as the very least
reparation that should satisfy him; and vowed too that some of the
General's blood should be shed for the words which he had dared to
We have said that William Pitt Scully, Esquire, M.P., occupied the
first floor of Mr. Perkins's house in Bedford Row: and the reader
is further to be informed that an immense friendship had sprung up
between these two gentlemen. The fact is, that poor John was very
much flattered by Scully's notice, and began in a very short time to
fancy himself a political personage; for he had made several of
Scully's speeches, written more than one letter from him to his
constituents, and, in a word, acted as his gratis clerk. At least a
guinea a week did Mr. Perkins save to the pockets of Mr. Scully, and
with hearty good will too, for he adored the great William Pitt, and
believed every word that dropped from the pompous lips of that
Well, after having discussed Sir George Gorgon's letter, poor
Perkins, in the utmost fury of mind that his darling should be
slandered so, feeling a desire for fresh air, determined to descend
to the garden and smoke a cigar in that rural quiet spot. The night
was very calm. The moonbeams slept softly upon the herbage of
Gray's Inn gardens, and bathed with silver splendour Theobald's Row.
A million of little frisky twinkling stars attended their queen, who
looked with bland round face upon their gambols, as they peeped in
and out from the azure heavens. Along Gray's Inn wall a lazy row of
cabs stood listlessly, for who would call a cab on such a night?
Meanwhile their drivers, at the alehouse near, smoked the short pipe
or quaffed the foaming beer. Perhaps from Gray's Inn Lane some
broken sounds of Irish revelry might rise. Issuing perhaps from
Raymond Buildings gate, six lawyers' clerks might whoop a tipsy
song--or the loud watchman yell the passing hour; but beyond this
all was silence; and young Perkins, as he sat in the summerhouse at
the bottom of the garden, and contemplated the peaceful heaven, felt
some influences of it entering into his soul, and almost forgetting
revenge, thought but of peace and love.
Presently, he was aware there was someone else pacing the garden.
Who could it be?--Not Blatherwick, for he passed the Sabbath with
his grandmamma at Clapham; not Scully surely, for he always went to
Bethesda Chapel, and to a select prayer-meeting afterwards. Alas!
it WAS Scully; for though that gentleman SAID that he went to
chapel, we have it for a fact that he did not always keep his
promise, and was at this moment employed in rehearsing an extempore
speech, which he proposed to deliver at St. Stephen's.
"Had I, sir," spouted he, with folded arms, slowly pacing to and
fro--"Had I, sir, entertained the smallest possible intention of
addressing the House on the present occasion--hum, on the present
occasion--I would have endeavoured to prepare myself in a way that
should have at least shown my sense of the greatness of the subject
before the House's consideration, and the nature of the
distinguished audience I have the honour to address. I am, sir, a
plain man--born of the people--myself one of the people, having won,
thank Heaven, an honourable fortune and position by my own honest
labour; and standing here as I do--"
Here Mr. Scully (it may be said that he never made a speech without
bragging about himself: and an excellent plan it is, for people
cannot help believing you at last)--here, I say, Mr. Scully, who had
one arm raised, felt himself suddenly tipped on the shoulder, and
heard a voice saying, "Your money or your life!"
The honourable gentleman twirled round as if he had been shot; the
papers on which a great part of this impromptu was written dropped
from his lifted hand, and some of them were actually borne on the
air into neighbouring gardens. The man was, in fact, in the direst
"It's only I," said Perkins, with rather a forced laugh, when he saw
the effect that his wit had produced.
"Only you! And pray what the dev--what right have you to--to come
upon a man of my rank in that way, and disturb me in the midst of
very important meditations?" asked Mr. Scully, beginning to grow
"I want your advice," said Perkins, "on a matter of the very
greatest importance to me. You know my idea of marrying?"
"Marry!" said Scully; "I thought you had given up that silly scheme.
And how, pray, do you intend to live?"
"Why, my intended has a couple of hundreds a year, and my clerkship
in the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office will be as much more."
"Clerkship--Tape and Sealing-Wax Office--Government sinecure!--Why,
good heavens! John Perkins, you don't tell ME that you are going to
accept any such thing?"
"It is a very small salary, certainly," said John, who had a decent
notion of his own merits; "but consider, six months vacation, two
hours in the day, and those spent over the newspapers. After all,
"After all it's a swindle," roared out Mr. Scully--"a swindle upon
the country; an infamous tax upon the people, who starve that you
may fatten in idleness. But take this clerkship in the Tape and
Sealing-Wax Office," continued the patriot, his bosom heaving with
noble indignation, and his eye flashing the purest fire,--"TAKE this
clerkship, John Perkins, and sanction tyranny, by becoming one of
its agents; sanction dishonesty by sharing in its plunder--do this,
BUT never more be friend of mine. Had I a child," said the patriot,
clasping his hands and raising his eyes to heaven, "I would rather
see him dead, sir--dead, dead at my feet, than the servant of a
Government which all honest men despise." And here, giving a
searching glance at Perkins, Mr. Scully began tramping up and down
the garden in a perfect fury.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the timid John Perkins--"don't say SO. My
dear Mr. Scully, I'm not the dishonest character you suppose me to
be--I never looked at the matter in this light. I'll--I'll consider
of it. I'll tell Crampton that I will give up the place; but for
Heaven's sake, don't let me forfeit YOUR friendship, which is dearer
to me than any place in the world."
Mr. Scully pressed his hand, and said nothing; and though their
interview lasted a full half-hour longer, during which they paced up
and down the gravel walk, we shall not breathe a single syllable of
their conversation, as it has nothing to do with our tale.
The next morning, after an interview with Miss Lucy, John Perkins,
Esquire, was seen to issue from Mrs. Biggs's house, looking
particularly pale, melancholy, and thoughtful; and he did not stop
until he reached a certain door in Downing Street, where was the
office of a certain great Minister, and the offices of the clerks in
his Lordship's department.
The head of them was Mr. Josiah Crampton, who has now to be
introduced to the public. He was a little old gentleman, some sixty
years of age, maternal uncle to John Perkins; a bachelor, who had
been about forty-two years employed in the department of which he
was now the head.
After waiting four hours in an ante-room, where a number of
Irishmen, some newspaper editors, many pompous-looking political
personages asking for the "first lord," a few sauntering clerks, and
numbers of swift active messengers passed to and fro;--after waiting
for four hours, making drawings on the blotting-book, and reading
the Morning Post for that day week, Mr. Perkins was informed that he
might go into his uncle's room, and did so accordingly.
He found a little hard old gentleman seated at a table covered with
every variety of sealing-wax, blotting-paper, envelopes,
despatch-boxes, green tapers, etc. etc. An immense fire was blazing
in the grate, an immense sheet-almanack hung over that, a screen,
three or four chairs, and a faded Turkey carpet, formed the rest of
the furniture of this remarkable room--which I have described thus
particularly, because in the course of a long official life, I have
remarked that such is the invariable decoration of political rooms.
"Well, John," said the little hard old gentleman, pointing to an
arm-chair, "I'm told you've been here since eleven. Why the deuce
do you come so early?"
"I had important business," answered Mr. Perkins, stoutly; and as
his uncle looked up with a comical expression of wonder, John began
in a solemn tone to deliver a little speech which he had composed,
and which proved him to be a very worthy, easy, silly fellow.
"Sir," said Mr. Perkins, "you have known for some time past the
nature of my political opinions, and the intimacy which I have had
the honour to form with one--with some of the leading members of the
Liberal party." (A grin from Mr. Crampton.) "When first, by your
kindness, I was promised the clerkship in the Tape and Sealing-Wax
Office, my opinions were not formed as they are now; and having
taken the advice of the gentlemen with whom I act,"--(an enormous
grin)--"the advice, I say, of the gentlemen with whom I act, and the
counsel likewise of my own conscience, I am compelled, with the
deepest grief, to say, my dear uncle, that I--I--"
"That you--what, sir?" exclaimed little Mr. Crampton, bouncing off
his chair. "You don't mean to say that you are such a fool as to
decline the place?"
"I do decline the place," said Perkins, whose blood rose at the word
"fool." "As a man of honour, I cannot take it."
"Not take it! and how are you to live? On the rent of that house of
yours? For, by gad, sir, if you give up the clerkship, I never will
give you a shilling."
"It cannot be helped," said Mr. Perkins, looking as much like a
martyr as he possibly could, and thinking himself a very fine
fellow. "I have talents, sir, which I hope to cultivate; and am
member of a profession by which a man may hope to rise to the very
highest offices of the State."
"Profession, talents, offices of the State! Are you mad, John
Perkins, that you come to me with such insufferable twaddle as this?
Why, do you think if you HAD been capable of rising at the bar, I
would have taken so much trouble about getting you a place? No,
sir; you are too fond of pleasure, and bed, and tea-parties, and
small-talk, and reading novels, and playing the flute, and writing
sonnets. You would no more rise at the bar than my messenger, sir.
It was because I knew your disposition--that hopeless, careless,
irresolute good-humour of yours--that I had determined to keep you
out of danger, by placing you in a snug shelter, where the storms of
the world would not come near you. You must have principles
forsooth! and you must marry Miss Gorgon, of course: and by the
time you have gone ten circuits, and had six children, you will have
eaten up every shilling of your wife's fortune, and be as briefless
as you are now. Who the deuce has put all this nonsense into your
head? I think I know."
Mr. Perkins's ears tingled as these hard words saluted them; and he
scarcely knew whether he ought to knock his uncle down, or fall at
his feet and say, "Uncle, I have been a, fool, and I know it." The
fact is, that in his interview with Miss Gorgon and her aunt in the
morning, when he came to tell them of the resolution he had formed
to give up the place, both the ladies and John himself had agreed,
with a thousand rapturous tears and exclamations, that he was one of
the noblest young men that ever lived, had acted as became himself,
and might with perfect propriety give up the place, his talents
being so prodigious that no power on earth could hinder him from
being Lord Chancellor. Indeed, John and Lucy had always thought the
clerkship quite beneath him, and were not a little glad, perhaps, at
finding a pretext for decently refusing it. But as Perkins was a
young gentleman whose candour was such that he was always swayed by
the opinions of the last speaker, he did begin to feel now the truth
of his uncle's statements, however disagreeable they might be.
Mr. Crampton continued:--
"I think I know the cause of your patriotism. Has not William Pitt
Scully, Esquire, had something to do with it?"
Mr. Perkins COULD not turn any redder than he was, but confessed
with deep humiliation that "he HAD consulted Mr. Scully among other
Mr. Crampton smiled--drew a letter from a heap before him, and
tearing off the signature, handed over the document to his nephew.
It contained the following paragraphs:--
"Hawksby has sounded Scully: we can have him any day we want him.
He talks very big at present, and says he would not take anything
under a. . . This is absurd. He has a Yorkshire nephew coming up
to town, and wants a place for him. There is one vacant in the Tape
Office, he says: have you not a promise of it?"
"I can't--I can't believe it," said John; "this, sir, is some weak
invention of the enemy. Scully is the most honourable man
"Mr. Scully is a gentleman in a very fair way to make a fortune,"
answered Mr. Crampton. "Look you, John--it is just as well for your
sake that I should give you the news a few weeks before the papers,
for I don't want you to be ruined, if I can help it, as I don't wish
to have you on my hands. We know all the particulars of Scully's
history. He was a Tory attorney at Oldborough; he was jilted by the
present Lady Gorgon, turned Radical, and fought Sir George in his
own borough. Sir George would have had the peerage he is dying for,
had he not lost that second seat (by-the-by, my Lady will be here in
five minutes), and Scully is now quite firm there. Well, my dear
lad, we have bought your incorruptible Scully. Look here,"--and Mr.
Crampton produced three Morning Posts.
"'THE HONOURABLE HENRY HAWKSBY'S DINNER-PARTY.--Lord So-and-So--Duke
of So-and-So--W. Pitt Scully, Esq. M.P.'
"Hawksby is our neutral, our dinner-giver.
"'LADY DIANA DOLDRUM'S ROUT.--W. Pitt Scully, Esq,' again.
"'THE EARL OF MANTRAP'S GRAND DINNER.'--A Duke--four Lords--'Mr.
Scully, and Sir George Gorgon.'"
"Well, but I don't see how you have bought him; look at his votes."
"My dear John," said Mr. Crampton, jingling his watch-seals very
complacently, "I am letting you into fearful secrets. The great
common end of party is to buy your opponents--the great statesman
buys them for nothing."
Here the attendant genius of Mr. Crampton made his appearance, and
whispered something, to which the little gentleman said, "Show her
Ladyship in,"--when the attendant disappeared.
"John," said Mr. Crampton, with a very queer smile, "you can't stay
in this room while Lady Gorgon is with me; but there is a little
clerk's room behind the screen there, where you can wait until I
John retired, and as he closed the door of communication, strange to
say, little Mr. Crampton sprang up and said, "Confound the young
ninny, he has shut the door!"
Mr. Crampton then, remembering that he wanted a map in the next
room, sprang into it, left the door half open in coming out, and was
in time to receive Her Ladyship with smiling face as she, ushered by
Mr. Strongitharm, majestically sailed in.
BEHIND THE SCENES.
In issuing from and leaving open the door of the inner room, Mr.
Crampton had bestowed upon Mr. Perkins a look so peculiarly arch,
that even he, simple as he was, began to imagine that some mystery
was about to be cleared up, or some mighty matter to be discussed.
Presently he heard the well-known voice of Lady Gorgon in
conversation with his uncle. What could their talk be about? Mr.
Perkins was dying to know, and--shall we say it?--advanced to the
door on tiptoe and listened with all his might.
Her Ladyship, that Juno of a woman, if she had not borrowed Venus's
girdle to render herself irresistible, at least had adopted a
tender, coaxing, wheedling, frisky tone, quite different from her
ordinary dignified style of conversation. She called Mr. Crampton a
naughty man, for neglecting his old friends, vowed that Sir George
was quite hurt at his not coming to dine--nor fixing a day when he
would come--and added, with a most engaging ogle, that she had three
fine girls at home, who would perhaps make an evening pass
pleasantly, even to such a gay bachelor as Mr. Crampton.
"Madam," said he, with much gravity, "the daughters of such a mother
must be charming; but I, who have seen your Ladyship, am, alas!
proof against even them."
Both parties here heaved tremendous sighs and affected to be
wonderfully unhappy about something.
"I wish," after a pause, said Lady Gorgon--"I wish, dear Mr.
Crampton, you would not use that odious title 'my Ladyship:' you
know it always makes me melancholy."
"Melancholy, my dear Lady Gorgon; and why?"
"Because it makes me think of another title that ought to have been
mine--ours (I speak for dear Sir George's and my darling boy's sake,
Heaven knows, not mine). What a sad disappointment it has been to
my husband, that after all his services, all the promises he has
had, they have never given him his peerage. As for me, you know--"
"For you, my dear madam, I know quite well that you care for no such
bauble as a coronet, except in so far as it may confer honour upon
those most dear to you--excellent wife and noble mother as you are.
Heigho! what a happy man is Sir George!"
Here there was another pause, and if Mr. Perkins could have seen
what was taking place behind the screen, he would have beheld little
Mr. Crampton looking into Lady Gorgon's face, with as love-sick a
Romeo-gaze as he could possibly counterfeit; while her Ladyship,
blushing somewhat and turning her own grey gogglers up to heaven,
received all his words for gospel, and sat fancying herself to be
the best, most meritorious, and most beautiful creature in the three
"You men are terrible flatterers," continued she; "but you say
right: for myself I value not these empty distinctions. I am
growing old, Mr. Crampton,--yes, indeed, I am, although you smile so
incredulously,--and let me add, that MY thoughts are fixed upon
HIGHER things than earthly crowns. But tell me, you who are all in
all with Lord Bagwig, are we never to have our peerage? His
Majesty, I know, is not averse; the services of dear Sir George to a
member of His Majesty's august family, I know, have been appreciated
in the highest quarter. Ever since the peace we have had a promise.
Four hundred pounds has Sir George spent at the Heralds' Office (I
myself am of one of the most ancient families in the kingdom, Mr.
Crampton), and the poor dear man's health is really ruined by the
anxious sickening feeling of hope so long delayed."
Mr. Crampton now assumed an air of much solemnity.
"My dear Lady Gorgon," said he, "will you let me be frank with you,
and will you promise solemnly that what I am going to tell you shall
never be repeated to a single soul?"
Lady Gorgon promised.
"Well, then, since the truth you must know, you yourselves have been
in part the cause of the delay of which you complain. You gave us
two votes five years ago; you now only give us one. If Sir George
were to go up to the Peers, we should lose even that one vote; and
would it be common sense in us to incur such a loss? Mr. Scully,
the Liberal, would return another Member of his own way of thinking;
and as for the Lords, we have, you know, a majority there."
"Oh, that horrid man!" said Lady Gorgon, cursing Mr. Scully in her
heart, and beginning to play a rapid tattoo with her feet, "that
miscreant, that traitor, that--that attorney has been our ruin."
"Horrid man, if you please, but give me leave to tell you that the
horrid man is not the sole cause of your ruin--if ruin you will call
it. I am sorry to say that I do candidly think Ministers believe
that Sir George Gorgon has lost his influence in Oldborough as much
through his own fault as through Mr. Scully's cleverness."
"Our own fault! Good heavens! Have we not done
everything--everything that persons of our station in the county
could do, to keep those misguided men? Have we not remonstrated,
threatened, taken away our custom from the Mayor, established a
Conservative apothecary--in fact, done all that gentlemen could do?
But these are such times, Mr. Crampton: the spirit of revolution is
abroad, and the great families of England are menaced by democratic
This was Sir George Gorgon's speech always after dinner, and was
delivered by his lady with a great deal of stateliness. Somewhat,
perhaps, to her annoyance, Mr. Crampton only smiled, shook his head,
"Nonsense, my dear Lady Gorgon--pardon the phrase, but I am a plain
old man, and call things by their names. Now, will you let me
whisper in your ear one word of truth? You have tried all sorts of
remonstrances, and exerted yourself to maintain your influence in
every way, except the right one, and that is--"
"What, in Heaven's name?"
"Conciliation. We know your situation in the borough. Mr. Scully's
whole history, and, pardon me for saying so (but we men in office
know everything), yours--"
Lady Gorgon's ears and cheeks now assumed the hottest hue of
crimson. She thought of her former passages with Scully, and of the
days when--but never mind when: for she suffered her veil to fall,
and buried her head in the folds of her handkerchief. Vain folds!
The wily little Mr. Crampton could see all that passed behind the
cambric, and continued--
"Yes, madam, we know the absurd hopes that were formed by a certain
attorney twenty years since. We know how, up to this moment, he
boasts of certain walks--"
"With the governess--we were always with the governess!" shrieked
out Lady Gorgon, clasping her hands. "She was not the wisest of
"With the governess, of course," said Mr. Crampton, firmly. "Do you
suppose that any man dare breathe a syllable against your spotless
reputation? Never, my dear madam; but what I would urge is this-
-you have treated your disappointed admirer too cruelly."
"What! the traitor who has robbed us of our rights?"
"He never would have robbed you of your rights if you had been more
kind to him. You should be gentle, madam; you should forgive him-
-you should be friends with him."
"With a traitor, never!"
"Think what made him a traitor, Lady Gorgon; look in your glass, and
say if there be not some excuse for him? Think of the feelings of
the man who saw beauty such as yours--I am a plain man and must
speak--virtue such as yours, in the possession of a rival. By
heavens, madam, I think he was RIGHT to hate Sir George Gorgon!
Would you have him allow such a prize to be ravished from him
without a pang on his part?"
"He was, I believe, very much attached to me," said Lady Gorgon,
quite delighted; "but you must be aware that a young man of his
station in life could not look up to a person of my rank."
"Surely not: it was monstrous pride and arrogance in Mr. Scully.
But que voulez-vous? Such is the world's way. Scully could not
help loving you--who that knows you can? I am a plain man, and say
what I think. He loves you still. Why make an enemy of him, who
would at a word be at your feet? Dearest Lady Gorgon, listen to me.
Sir George Gorgon and Mr. Scully have already met--their meeting was
our contrivance. It is for our interest, for yours, that they
should be friends. If there were two Ministerial Members for
Oldborough, do you think your husband's peerage would be less
secure? I am not at liberty to tell you all I know on this subject;
but do, I entreat you, be reconciled to him."
And after a little more conversation, which was carried on by Mr.
Crampton in the same tender way, this important interview closed,
and Lady Gorgon, folding her shawl round her, threaded certain
mysterious passages and found her way to her carriage in Whitehall.
"I hope you have not been listening, you rogue?" said Mr. Crampton
to his nephew, who blushed most absurdly by way of answer. "You
would have heard great State secrets, if you had dared to do so.
That woman is perpetually here, and if peerages are to be had for
the asking, she ought to have been a duchess by this time. I would
not have admitted her but for a reason that I have. Go you now and
ponder upon what you have heard and seen. Be on good terms with
Scully, and, above all, speak not a word concerning our
interview--no, not a word even to your mistress. By the way, I
presume, sir, you will recall your resignation?"
The bewildered Perkins was about to stammer out a speech, when his
uncle, cutting it short, pushed him gently out of the door.
At the period when the important events occurred which have been
recorded here, parties ran very high, and a mighty struggle for the
vacant Speakership was about to come on. The Right Honourable
Robert Pincher was the Ministerial candidate, and Sir Charles
Macabaw was patronised by the Opposition. The two Members for
Oldborough of course took different sides, the baronet being of the
Pincher faction, while Mr. William Pitt Scully strongly supported
the Macabaw party.
It was Mr. Scully's intention to deliver an impromptu speech upon
the occasion of the election, and he and his faithful Perkins
prepared it between them: for the latter gentleman had wisely kept
his uncle's counsel and his own and Mr. Scully was quite ignorant of
the conspiracy that was brooding. Indeed, so artfully had that
young Machiavel of a Perkins conducted himself, that when asked by
his patron whether he had given up his place in the Tape and Sealing
Wax Office, he replied that "he HAD tendered his resignation," but
did not say one word about having recalled it.
"You were right, my boy, quite right," said Mr. Scully. "A man of
uncompromising principles should make no compromise." And herewith
he sat down and wrote off a couple of letters, one to Mr. Hawksby,
telling him that the place in the Sealing-Wax Office was, as he had
reason to know, vacant; and the other to his nephew, stating that it
was to be his. "Under the rose, my dear Bob," added Mr. Scully, "it
will cost you five hundred pounds; but you cannot invest your money
It is needless to state that the affair was to be conducted "with
the strictest secresy and honour," and that the money was to pass
through Mr. Scully's hands.
While, however, the great Pincher and Macabaw question was yet
undecided, an event occurred to Mr. Scully, which had a great
influence upon his after-life. A second grand banquet was given at
the Earl of Mantrap's: Lady Mantrap requested him to conduct Lady
Gorgon to dinner; and the latter, with a charming timidity, and a
gracious melancholy look into his face (after which her veined
eyelids veiled her azure eyes), put her hand into the trembling one
of Mr. Scully and said as much as looks could say, "Forgive and
Down went Scully to dinner. There were dukes on his right hand and
earls on his left; there were but two persons without title in the
midst of that glittering assemblage; the very servants looked like
noblemen. The cook had done wonders; the wines were cool and rich,
and Lady Gorgon was splendid! What attention did everybody pay to
her and to him! Why WOULD she go on gazing into his face with that
tender imploring look? In other words, Scully, after partaking of
soup and fish (he, during their discussion, had been thinking over
all the former love-and-hate passages between himself and Lady
Gorgon), turned very red, and began talking to her.
"Were you not at the opera on Tuesday?" began he, assuming at once
the airs of a man of fashion. "I thought I caught a glimpse of you
in the Duchess of Diddlebury's box."
"Opera, Mr. Scully?" (pronouncing the word "Scully" with the utmost
softness). "Ah, no! we seldom go, and yet too often. For serious
persons the enchantments of that place are too dangerous. I am so
nervous--so delicate; the smallest trifle so agitates, depresses, or
irritates me, that I dare not yield myself up to the excitement of
music. I am too passionately attached to it; and, shall I tell you?
it has such a strange influence upon me, that the smallest false
note almost drives me to distraction, and for that very reason I
hardly ever go to a concert or a ball."
"Egad," thought Scully, "I recollect when she would dance down a
matter of five-and-forty couple, and jingle away at the 'Battle of
Prague' all day."
She continued: "Don't you recollect, I do, with--oh, what regret!-
-that day at Oldborough race-ball, when I behaved with such sad
rudeness to you? You will scarcely believe me, and yet I assure you
'tis the fact, the music had made me almost mad. Do let me ask your
pardon for my conduct. I was not myself. Oh, Mr. Scully! I am no
worldly woman; I know my duties, and I feel my wrongs. Nights and
days have I lain awake weeping and thinking of that unhappy day-
-that I should ever speak so to an old friend; for we WERE old
friends, were we not?"
Scully did not speak; but his eyes were bursting out of his head,
and his face was the exact colour of a deputy-lieutenant's uniform.
"That I should ever forget myself and you so! How I have been
longing for this opportunity to ask you to forgive me! I asked Lady
Mantrap, when I heard you were to be here, to invite me to her
party. Come, I know you will forgive me--your eyes say you will.
You used to look so in old days, and forgive me my caprices THEN.
Do give me a little wine--we will drink to the memory of old days."
Her eyes filled with tears; and poor Scully's hand caused such a
rattling and trembling of the glass and the decanter that the Duke
of Doldrum--who had been, during the course of this whispered
sentimentality, describing a famous run with the Queen's hounds at
the top of his voice--stopped at the jingling of the glass, and his
tale was lost for ever. Scully hastily drank his wine, and Lady
Gorgon turned round to her next neighbour, a little gentleman in
black, between whom and herself certain conscious looks passed.
"I am glad poor Sir George is not here," said he, smiling.
Lady Gorgon said, "Pooh, for shame!" The little gentleman was no
other than Josiah Crampton, Esquire, that eminent financier, and he
was now going through the curious calculation before mentioned, by
which you BUY A MAN FOR NOTHING. He intended to pay the very same
price for Sir George Gorgon, too; but there was no need to tell the
baronet so; only of this the reader must be made aware.
While Mr. Crampton was conducting this intrigue, which was to bring
a new recruit to the Ministerial ranks, his mighty spirit
condescended to ponder upon subjects of infinitely less importance,
and to arrange plans for the welfare of his nephew and the young
woman to whom he had made a present of his heart. These young
persons, as we said before, had arranged to live in Mr. Perkins's
own house in Bedford Row. It was of a peculiar construction, and
might more properly be called a house and a half: for a snug little
tenement of four chambers protruded from the back of the house into
the garden. These rooms communicated with the drawing-rooms
occupied by Mr. Scully; and Perkins, who acted as his friend and
secretary, used frequently to sit in the one nearest the Member's
study, in order that he might be close at hand to confer with that
great man. The rooms had a private entrance too, were newly
decorated, and in them the young couple proposed to live; the
kitchen and garrets being theirs likewise. What more could they
need? We are obliged to be particular in describing these
apartments, for extraordinary events occurred therein.
To say the truth, until the present period Mr. Crampton had taken no
great interest in his nephew's marriage, or, indeed, in the young
man himself. The old gentleman was of a saturnine turn, and
inclined to undervalue the qualities of Mr. Perkins, which were
idleness, simplicity, enthusiasm, and easy good-nature.
"Such fellows never do anything in the world," he would say, and for
such he had accordingly the most profound contempt. But when, after
John Perkins's repeated entreaties, he had been induced to make the
acquaintance of Miss Gorgon, he became instantly charmed with her,
and warmly espoused her cause against her overbearing relations.
At his suggestion she wrote back to decline Sir George Gorgon's
peremptory invitation, and hinted at the same time that she had
attained an age and a position which enabled her to be the mistress
of her own actions. To this letter there came an answer from Lady
Gorgon which we shall not copy, but which simply stated that Miss
Lucy Gorgon's conduct was unchristian, ungrateful, unladylike, and
immodest; that the Gorgon family disowned her for the future, and
left her at liberty to form whatever base connections she pleased.
"A pretty world this," said Mr. Crampton, in a great rage, when the
letter was shown to him. "This same fellow, Scully, dissuades my
nephew from taking a place, because Scully wants it for himself.
This prude of a Lady Gorgon cries out shame, and disowns an innocent
amiable girl: she a heartless jilt herself once, and a heartless
flirt now. The Pharisees, the Pharisees! And to call mine a base
Now, Lady Gorgon did not in the least know Mr. Crampton's connection
with Mr. Perkins, or she would have been much more guarded in her
language; but whether she knew it or not, the old gentleman felt a
huge indignation, and determined to have his revenge.
"That's right, Uncle! SHALL I call Gorgon out?" said the impetuous
young Perkins, who was all for blood.
"John, you are a fool," said his uncle. "You shall have a better
revenge: you shall be married from Sir George Gorgon's house, and
you shall see Mr. William Pitt Scully sold for nothing." This to
the veteran diplomatist seemed to be the highest triumph which man
could possibly enjoy.
It was very soon to take place: and, as has been the case ever
since the world began, woman, lovely woman was to be the cause of
Scully's fall. The tender scene at Lord Mantrap's was followed by
many others equally sentimental. Sir George Gorgon called upon his
colleague the very next day, and brought with him a card from Lady
Gorgon inviting Mr. Scully to dinner. The attorney eagerly accepted
the invitation, was received in Baker Street by the whole amiable
family with much respectful cordiality, and was pressed to repeat
his visits as country neighbours should. More than once did he
call, and somehow always at the hour when Sir George was away at his
club, or riding in the Park, or elsewhere engaged. Sir George
Gorgon was very old, very feeble, very much shattered in
constitution. Lady Gorgon used to impart her fears to Mr. Scully
every time he called there, and the sympathising attorney used to
console her as best he might. Sir George's country agent neglected
the property--his lady consulted Mr. Scully concerning it. He knew
to a fraction how large her jointure was; how she was to have Gorgon
Castle for her life; and how, in the event of the young baronet's
death (he, too, was a sickly poor boy), the chief part of the
estates, bought by her money, would be at her absolute disposal.
"What a pity these odious politics prevent me from having you for
our agent," would Lady Gorgon say; and indeed Scully thought it was
a pity too. Ambitious Scully! what wild notions filled his brain.
He used to take leave of Lady Gorgon and ruminate upon these things;
and when he was gone, Sir George and her Ladyship used to laugh.
"If we can but commit him--if we can but make him vote for Pincher,"
said the General, "my peerage is secure. Hawksby and Crampton as
good as told me so."
The point had been urged upon Mr. Scully repeatedly and adroitly.
"Is not Pincher a more experienced man than Macabaw?" would Sir
George say to his guest over their wine. Scully allowed it. "Can't
you vote for him on personal grounds, and say so in the House?"
Scully wished he could--how he wished he could! Every time the
General coughed, Scully saw his friend's desperate situation more
and more, and thought how pleasant it would be to be lord of Gorgon
Castle. "Knowing my property," cried Sir George, "as you do, and
with your talents and integrity, what a comfort it would be could I
leave you as guardian to my boy! But these cursed politics prevent
it, my dear fellow. Why WILL you be a Radical?" And Scully cursed
politics too. "Hang the low-bred rogue," added Sir George, when
William Pitt Scully left the house: "he will do everything but
"My dear General," said Lady Gorgon, sidling up to him and patting
him on his old yellow cheek--"My dear Georgy, tell me one
thing,--are you jealous?"
"Jealous, my dear! and jealous of THAT fellow--pshaw!"
"Well, then, give me leave, and you shall have the promise
To-morrow arrived. It was a remarkably fine day, and in the
forenoon Mr. Perkins gave his accustomed knock at Scully's study,
which was only separated from his own sitting-room by a double door.
John had wisely followed his uncle's advice, and was on the best
terms with the honourable Member.
"Here are a few sentences," said he, "which I think may suit your
purpose. Great public services--undeniable merit--years of
integrity--cause of reform, and Macabaw for ever!" He put down the
paper. It was, in fact, a speech in favour of Mr. Macabaw.
"Hush," said Scully, rather surlily; for he was thinking how
disagreeable it was to support Macabaw; and besides, there were
clerks in the room, whom the thoughtless Perkins had not at first
perceived. As soon as that gentleman saw them, "You are busy, I
see," continued he in a lower tone. "I came to say that I must be
off duty to-day, for I am engaged to take a walk with some ladies of
So saying, the light-hearted young man placed his hat
unceremoniously on his head, and went off through his own door,
humming a song. He was in such high spirits that he did not even
think of closing the doors of communication, and Scully looked after
him with a sneer.
"Ladies, forsooth," thought he; "I know who they are. This precious
girl that he is fooling with, for one, I suppose." He was right:
Perkins was off on the wings of love, to see Miss Lucy; and she and
Aunt Biggs and Uncle Crampton had promised this very day to come and
look at the apartments which Mrs. John Perkins was to occupy with
her happy husband.
"Poor devil," so continued Mr. Scully's meditations, "it is almost
too bad to do him out of his place; but my Bob wants it, and John's
girl has, I hear, seven thousand pounds. His uncle will get him
another place before all that money is spent." And herewith Mr.
Scully began conning the speech which Perkins had made for him.
He had not read it more than six times,--in truth, he was getting it
by heart,--when his head clerk came to him from the front room,
bearing a card: a footman had brought it, who said his lady was
waiting below. Lady Gorgon's name was on the card! To seize his
hat and rush downstairs was, with Mr. Scully, the work of an
infinitesimal portion of time.
It was indeed Lady Gorgon in her Gorgonian chariot.
"Mr. Scully," said she, popping her head out of window and smiling
in a most engaging way, "I want to speak to you, on something very
particular INDEED"--and she held him out her hand. Scully pressed
it most tenderly: he hoped all heads in Bedford Row were at the
windows to see him. "I can't ask you into the carriage, for you see
the governess is with me, and I want to talk secrets to you."
"Shall I go and make a little promenade?" said mademoiselle,
innocently. And her mistress hated her for that speech.
"No. Mr. Scully, I am sure, will let me come in for five minutes?"
Mr. Scully was only too happy. My Lady descended and walked
upstairs, leaning on the happy solicitor's arm. But how should he
manage? The front room was consecrated to clerks; there were clerks
too, as ill-luck would have it, in his private room. "Perkins is
out for the day," thought Scully; "I will take her into his room."
And into Perkins's room he took her--ay, and he shut the double
doors after him too, and trembled as he thought of his own
"What a charming little study," said Lady Gorgon, seating herself.
And indeed it was very pretty: for Perkins had furnished it
beautifully, and laid out a neat tray with cakes, a cold fowl, and
sherry, to entertain his party withal. "And do you bachelors always
live so well?" continued she, pointing to the little cold collation.
Mr. Scully looked rather blank when he saw it, and a dreadful
suspicion crossed his soul; but there was no need to trouble Lady
Gorgon with explanations: therefore, at once, and with much
presence of mind, he asked her to partake of his bachelor's fare
(she would refuse Mr. Scully nothing that day). A pretty sight
would it have been for young Perkins to see strangers so
unceremoniously devouring his feast. She drank--Mr. Scully
drank--and so emboldened was he by the draught that he actually
seated himself by the side of Lady Gorgon, on John Perkins's new
Her Ladyship had of course something to say to him. She was a pious
woman, and had suddenly conceived a violent wish for building a
chapel of ease at Oldborough, to which she entreated him to
subscribe. She enlarged upon the benefits that the town would
derive from it, spoke of Sunday-schools, sweet spiritual
instruction, and the duty of all well-minded persons to give aid to
"I will subscribe a hundred pounds," said Scully, at the end of her
Ladyship's harangue: "would I not do anything for you?"
"Thank you, thank you, dear Mr. Scully," said the enthusiastic
woman. (How the "dear" went burning through his soul!) "Ah!"
added she, "if you WOULD but do anything for me--if you, who are so
eminently, so truly distinguished, in a religious point of view,
would but see the truth in politics too; and if I could see your
name among those of the true patriot party in this empire, how
blest--oh! how blest should I be! Poor Sir George often says he
should go to his grave happy, could he but see you the guardian of
his boy; and I, your old friend (for we WERE friends, William), how
have I wept to think of you as one of those who are bringing our
monarchy to ruin. Do, do promise me this too!" And she took his
hand and pressed it between hers.
The heart of William Pitt Scully, during this speech, was thumping
up and down with a frightful velocity and strength. His old love,
the agency of the Gorgon property--the dear widow--five thousand a
year clear--a thousand delicious hopes rushed madly through his
brain, and almost took away his reason. And there she sat--she, the
loved one, pressing his hand and looking softly into his eyes.
Down, down he plumped on his knees.
"Juliana!" shrieked he, "don't take away your hand! My love--my
only love!--speak but those blessed words again! Call me William
once more, and do with me what you will."
Juliana cast down her eyes and said, in the very smallest type,
--when the door opened, and in walked Mr. Crampton, leading Mrs.
Biggs, who could hardly contain herself for laughing, and Mr. John
Perkins, who was squeezing the arm of Miss Lucy. They had heard
every word of the two last speeches.
For at the very moment when Lady Gorgon had stopped at Mr. Scully's
door, the four above-named individuals had issued from Great James
Street into Bedford Row.
Lucy cried out that it was her aunt's carriage, and they all saw Mr.
Scully come out, bare-headed, in the sunshine, and my Lady descend,
and the pair go into the house. They meanwhile entered by Mr.
Perkins's own private door, and had been occupied in examining the
delightful rooms on the ground-floor, which were to be his
dining-room and library--from which they ascended a stair to visit
the other two rooms, which were to form Mrs. John Perkins's drawingroom
and bedroom. Now whether it was that they trod softly, or that
the stairs were covered with a grand new carpet and drugget, as was
the case, or that the party within were too much occupied in
themselves to heed any outward disturbances, I know not; but Lucy,
who was advancing with John (he was saying something about one of
the apartments, the rogue!)--Lucy started and whispered, "There is
somebody in the rooms!" and at that instant began the speech already
reported, "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, DEAR MR. SCULLY," etc. etc., which
was delivered by Lady Gorgon in a full clear voice; for, to do her
Ladyship justice, SHE had not one single grain of love for Mr.
Scully, and during the delivery of her little oration, was as cool
as the coolest cucumber.
Then began the impassioned rejoinder, to which the four listened on
the landing-place; and then the little "William," as narrated above:
at which juncture Mr. Crampton thought proper to rattle at the door,
and, after a brief pause, to enter with his party.
"William" had had time to bounce off his knees, and was on a chair
at the other end of the room.
"What, Lady Gorgon!" said Mr. Crampton, with excellent surprise,
"how delighted I am to see you! Always, I see employed in works of
charity" (the chapel-of-ease paper was on her knees), "and on such
an occasion, too,--it is really the most wonderful coincidence! My
dear madam, here is a silly fellow, a nephew of mine, who is going
to marry a silly girl, a niece of your own."
"Sir, I--" began Lady Gorgon, rising.
"They heard every word," whispered Mr. Crampton eagerly. "Come
forward, Mr. Perkins, and show yourself." Mr. Perkins made a
genteel bow. "Miss Lucy, please to shake hands with your aunt; and
this, my dear madam, is Mrs. Biggs, of Mecklenburgh Square, who, if
she were not too old, might marry a gentleman in the Treasury, who
is your very humble servant." And with this gallant speech, old Mr.
Crampton began helping everybody to sherry and cake.
As for William Pitt Scully, he had disappeared, evaporated, in the
most absurd sneaking way imaginable. Lady Gorgon made good her
retreat presently, with much dignity, her countenance undismayed,
and her face turned resolutely to the foe.
About five days afterwards, that memorable contest took place in the
House of Commons, in which the partisans of Mr. Macabaw were so very
nearly getting him the Speakership. On the day that the report of
the debate appeared in the Times, there appeared also an
announcement in the Gazette as follows:--
"The King has been pleased to appoint John Perkins, Esquire, to be
Deputy-Subcomptroller of His Majesty's Tape Office and Custos of the
Mr. Crampton showed this to his nephew with great glee, and was
chuckling to think how Mr. William Pitt Scully would be annoyed, who
had expected the place, when Perkins burst out laughing and said,
"By heavens, here is my own speech! Scully has spoken every word of
it; he has only put in Mr. Pincher's name in the place of Mr.
"He is ours now," responded his uncle, "and I told you WE WOULD HAVE
HIM FOR NOTHING. I told you, too, that you should be married from
Sir George Gorgon's, and here is proof of it."
It was a letter from Lady Gorgon, in which she said that, "had she
known Mr. Perkins to be a nephew of her friend Mr. Crampton, she
never for a moment would have opposed his marriage with her niece,
and she had written that morning to her dear Lucy, begging that the
marriage breakfast should take place in Baker Street."
"It shall be in Mecklenburgh Square," said John Perkins stoutly; and
in Mecklenburgh Square it was.
William Pitt Scully, Esquire, was, as Mr. Crampton said, hugely
annoyed at the loss of the place for his nephew. He had still,
however, his hopes to look forward to, but these were unluckily
dashed by the coming in of the Whigs. As for Sir George Gorgon,
when he came to ask about his peerage, Hawksby told him that they
could not afford to lose him in the Commons, for a Liberal Member
would infallibly fill his place.
And now that the Tories are out and the Whigs are in, strange to say
a Liberal does fill his place. This Liberal is no other than Sir
George Gorgon himself, who is still longing to be a lord, and his
lady is still devout and intriguing. So that the Members for
Oldborough have changed sides, and taunt each other with apostasy,
and hate each other cordially. Mr. Crampton still chuckles over the
manner in which he tricked them both, and talks of those five
minutes during which he stood on the landing-place, and hatched and
executed his "Bedford-Row Conspiracy."