Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XVI.

“Tel brille au second rang qui s'éclipse au premiere.".
“I do pity unlearned gentlemen on a rainy day.”

LORD FALKLAND. “Moi, voyez-vous, Monsieur l'Essoufflé, je n'ai point de ces intrigues qui font les amis, et les amis qui font applaudir.”- Le Bénéficiare Comédie.

“Mrs. Major Fitzagony's fly coming up;
Mrs. Colonel Pilaw's chair; she stays to sup;
Dear! the major's old sat wife has flown in a rage,
And thrown all her cards at the wig of Miss Page;
Mr. Lush, very drunk, enacts King Cambyses,
While his partner's engaged in the mysteries of Ices."

It was the beginning of September, a month sacred to geese, game, and garrulity, inasmuch as people assemble to eat and talk in country-houses; and the Dow. ager Lady de Clifford's, for a wonder, was full among others; but it was in the very thick of the Triverton election, and at the end of the second day the poll stood thus :

De Clifford . . . . . . . : 474
Dinely . . . . . . . . . 456

Hobson . . . . . . . . . 312 Gentlement with sound lungs and a talent for shaking hands are invaluable at an election; consequently, Lord de Clifford had imported Messieurs Fuzboz, Feedwell, and De Rivoli, who had recently arrived in England, and was extremely anxious to see an election; Major Nonplus was also retained as receiver-general, for his lordship knew, by experience, that a great deal of unpopularity is often incurred, in going the rounds, by not being able to consume all the stale cake, Cape Madeira, and sausage (!) sandwiches that are set before popular candidates at all the houses; here, then, the gallant major was invaluable, for he had that sort of gastronomic vanity that could swallow anything and everything, and in the art of kissing children he could not have been excelled by a foundling-hospital nurse. Yet, potwithstanding this legion of coadjutors, Lord de Clifford had a great deal to contend with. In the first place, Triverton swarmed with Dissenters. To be sure, as far as pulling down the established church went, and railing at the clergy, he got on extremely well; but then Lord Albert Dinely had stolen a march upon him by presenting the Anabaptists with a large stone basin, big enough for a donkey to bathe in; and a handsome and extensive tankard to the Muggletonians for their love-feasts; this gave Lord Albert a decided 'vantage ground. Next, his mother was by no means too well pleased to have so many people to feed and fawn upon, and it was absolutely necessary to keep her in good-humour. And last, though not least, that very evening there was to be a dance at the Tymmons's, to which he and his whole party must go, and never once relax in his most assiduous “To solicit the honour of your vote and interest” manner; then the next day came the election dinner, at which a ten years' stock of patience and patriotism would be required. All this was very trying, certainly, but there was a gleam of sunshine through it all-the Lees were safely secured beyond the power of tormenting him. The morning of his second day's canvassing had commenced with a deluge of rain, which continued the whole day; there. fore his “aidesdecamp” had been reduced to Fuzboz and Major Nonplus, as Monsieur de Rivoli thought that rain accompanied with fog was exceedingly injurious to the complexion, from the fact of its making people bilious; and Mr. Feedwell declared that going out in the wet always made him feel like a fungus, and that he should not be able to eat a morsel at the dinner the next day, or annihilate the young ladies that evening, if he tampered with himself in the morning; consequently, he and Monsieur de Rivoli remained “tête-à-tête" the whole day, stretched on opposite sofas, each giving the other to understand that it was utterly impossible he ever could have made a conquest.

It was about half past five when Lord de Clifford returned, not so well pleased with his second day's canvass as he had been with the first, on account of Lord Albert's increasing popularity with the Dissenters. In any dilemma he was (with a degree of filial affection that was truly amiable) in the habit of consulting his mother's judgment; and, accordingly, though he knew she was not fond of being disturbed when Frump was enacting the part of the Graces, he repaired to her dressingroom. No sooner had his knock been answered by a permission to come in, than Frump (who, had she been Tó valet de chambre" even to Napoleon, would have still kept him a hero to her in spite of himself) immediately withdrew.

“Well, my dear, how is the poll? I hear you got on vaustly well to-day.”

"Pretty well, my dear ma'am; but those d-d Methodists plague me. Dinely has made himself so devilish popular with them. I wish you could strike out someThing, anything that would seem religious, that we might do. You understand these sort of things, my dear ma'am. Do devise something that would tell permanently among them.”

16'Pon my word, my dear," replied the dowager, assuming a thoughtful attitude by placing the two forefingers of her right hand to her temple under her frizzette, and the other two on her chin, “it's difficult to know what to do; let me see-oh, I'll tell you; suppose I make the servants fast twice a week.”

“Now, really, my dear ma'am, that's not a bad idea; but, as I always say, I know no one in point of cleverness to compare to you."

“Very just observation, my dear; and if every one had the sense to think so, the world would go on a great deal better than it does."

" But now," resumed Lord de Clifford, affectionately taking his mother's hand, “I have a very, very great favour to ask you; a woman of superior understanding like you must know that private feelings should always yield to public good.”

“ Lord ! my dear,” interrupted the dowager, who began to fear that her son was going to ask for more money for his election, "you alarm me by such a preamble; can't you come to the pint at once? But, however, I think it right to tell you beforehand, if it's any. thing about politics I'm inexorable ; for you know I'm a Tory, as I think every landed proprietor ought to be. And these here Radicals are such lords of the creation, that, let them commit what trespasses they will, there's no warning them off the premises; and Grindall tells me he has more trouble with them than enough. No, no, my dear, I really cannot encourage Radicalism, and the rights of the people, and all that sort of thing, even to

gain you your election; for I always had that sort of independent sperit about me, like my mother, that, when I wanted nothing, I never would put myself out of the way for any one; and I must say I'm very glad to hear that Radical fellow Hobson is the last on the poll.”

“What I was going to ask you, my dear ma'am, has nothing on earth to do with politics, but may have a great deal to do with making me popular, or the reverse.”

6 Oh, my dear, that's quite another affair; what is it?”

" Why, that dd fellow Hoskins is in London, so we shan't be annoyed by the sight of him; but his wife, old MacScrew that was, is to be at the Tymmons's to-night, and I want you to be civil to her. You know she lent Herbert two thousand pounds last year, though, having got that appointment in Russia, he has not wanted it for his election; but still it would be very impolitic in us to quarrel with her, especially just at this crisis; and as every one knows how infamously Hoskins has behaved to you, your noticing his wife will appear doubly magnanimous; and, indeed, mark more strongly your disapprobation of him, of whom you need never, at any period, take the slightest notice.”

“ Well, my dear, there is some sense in your last observation; but really I have no patience with the old fool for marrying that fellow.”

" Oh, d-nit, I don't know, my dear ma'am; any man is good enough for any woman, always excepting the solitary instance of yourself and my father.”

“ Certainly, my dear; a woman of sperit, courage, and every feminine virtue, was vaustly thrown away upon him. But you had better go and dress, for we dine at half past six, on account of this here tiresome party at the Tymmons's.”

“ Then you will be civil to Mrs. Hoskins to-night?"

“Oh, certainly, as far as asking her how she does, and how she came to make such a fool of herself, goes. Be so good, my dear, as to pull that bell as you go by for Frump.”

As soon as Frump reappeared, her ladyship completed her toilet, which consisted of a claret-coloured gros de Naples dress, made high up to her throat, over which were arranged three diamond necklaces in succession and two gold chains, fastened in the centre of her bosom by a vinaigrette in the form of an envelope,

with a ruby seal, intended to represent a frank, inscribed as follows:

“ Triverton, November fourteen, 180-. “ To the Viscountess Dowager de Clifford,

“Blichingly Park. “ Herbert Grimstone." And presented to her by that amiable young man as a commemoration of his first return to Parliament! There was a humility that was quite charming about her ladyship’s diamonds; for they did not disdain associating with the most homely things, as they proved by a wreath of brilliants going across a very shabby, somewhat tumbled, and not over-clean morning cap, trimmed with the narrowest blonde that is made; while Scotch pebbles and dim gold bracelets jostled very handsome ones. A large pocket-handkerchief of fine but thick cambric, with a hem so narrow that it looked as if Mrs. Noah had employed her ingenuity on it " pour passer le temps" in the ark; and a very small transparent horn fan, with a wreath of roses and forget-me-nots round it, completed her “pareur;" which having done, we will leave the industrious lady to go down to dinner, while we go and take a survey of Mrs. Tymmons's preparations for her party.

In the first place, Mr. Tymmons had ordered real Champagne from “the Golden Fleece" at Triverton, and made himself extremely busy about what he called appropriate devices for everything on the supper-table; in the centre of which was a spun sugar effigy of Lord de Clifford being chaired, surmounted by two mottoes, the first of which was “Ducit amor patriæ," done in gold, while immediately under it, in coloured comfits, was inscribed “Sweet's the love that meets return !" This Mr. Tymmons thought witty in the extreme, and laughed for an hour at his own brilliancy; but as punning, like every other vice, increases frightfully when once indulged in, he farther proceeded to write on pieces of paper the words “lapsus linguæ," which he placed on every dish of tongue sandwiches; but his chef-d'euvre consisted in putting a large empty dish in a very conspicuous part of the table, containing another placard, with “Hobson's choice” written on it; and having concluded these elegant arrangements, by impressing upon the waiters that the popping of the Cham

« PreviousContinue »