Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXXIV.

A DINNER IN THE ROW.

PON the appointed day our two friends made their appearance at Mr. Bungay's door in Paternoster Row; not the public entrance through which booksellers' boys issued with their sacks full of Bungay's volumes, and around which timid aspirants lingered with their virgin manuscripts ready for sale to Sultan Bungay, but at the pri

vate door of the house, whence the splendid Mrs. Bungay would come forth to step into her chaise and take her drive, settling herself on the cushions, and casting looks of defiance at Mrs. Bacon's opposite windows—at Mrs. Bacon, who was as yet a chaiseless woman.

On such occasions, when very much wroth at her sisterin-law's splendour, Mrs. Bacon would fling up the sash of her drawing-room window, and look out with her four children at the chaise, as much as to say, “Look at these four darlings, Flora Bungay! This is why I can't drive in my carriage; you would give a coach and four to have the same reason." And it was with these arrows out of her quiver that Emma Bacon shot Flora Bungay as she sate in her chariot envious and childless.

As Pen and Warrington came to Bungay's door, a carriage and a cab drove up to Bacon's. Old Dr. Slocum de

[graphic]

scended heavily from the first; the Doctor's equipage was as ponderous as his style, but both had a fine sonorous effect upon the publishers in the Row. A couple of dazzling white waistcoats stepped out of the cab.

Warrington laughed. “You see Bacon has his dinner party too. That is Dr. Slocum, author of Memoirs of the Poisoners. You would hardly have recognised our friend Hoolan in that gallant white waistcoat. Doolan is one of Bungay's men, and faith, here he comes.” Indeed Messrs. Hoolan and Doolan had come from the Strand in the same cab, tossing up by the way which should pay the shilling; and Mr. D. stepped from the other side of the way, arrayed in black, with a large pair of white gloves which were spread out on his hands, and which the owner could not help regarding with pleasure.

The house porter in an evening coat, and gentlemen with gloves as large as Doolan's, but of the famous Berlin web, were in the passage of Mr. Bungay's house to receive the guests' hats and coats, and bawl their names up the stair. Some of the latter had arrived when the three new visitors made their appearance; but there was only Mrs. Bungay, in red satin and a turban, to represent her own charming sex. She made curtseys to each new comer as he entered the drawing-room, but her mind was evidently preoccupied by extraneous thoughts. The fact is, Mrs. Bacon's dinner party was disturbing her, and as soon as she had received each individual of her own company, Flora Bungay flew back to the embrasure of the window, whence she could rake the carriages of Emma Bacon's friends as they came rattling up the Row. The sight of Dr. Slocum's large carriage, with the gaunt job. horses, crushed Flora : none but hack-cabs had driven up to her own door on that day.

They were all literary gentlemen, though unknown as yet to Pen. There was Mr. Bole, the real editor of the magazine of which Mr. Wagg was the nominal chief; Mr. Trotter, who, from having broken out on the world as a poet of a tragic and suicidal cast, had now subsided into one of Mr. Bungay's back shops as reader for that gentleman; and Captain Sumph, an ex-beau still about town, and related in some indistinct manner

to Literature and the Peerage. He was said to have written a book once, to have been a friend of Lord Byron, to be related to Lord Sumphington; in fact, anecdotes of Byron formed his staple, and he seldom spoke but with the name of that poet or some of his contemporaries in his mouth, as thus: “I remember poor Shelley at school being sent up for good for a copy of verses, every line of which I wrote, by Jove;" or, “I recollect, when I was at Missolonghi with Byron, offering to bet Gamba,” and so forth. This gentleman, Pen remarked, was listened to with great attention by Mrs. Bungay.; his anecdotes of the aristocracy, of which he was a middleaged member, delighted the publisher's lady; and he was almost a greater man than the great Mr. Wagg himself in her eyes. Had he but come in his own carriage, Mrs. Bungay would have made her Bungay purchase any given volume from his pen.

Mr. Bungay went about to his guests as they arrived, and did the honours of his house with much cordiality. “How are you, sir ? Fine day, sir. Glad to see you year, sir. Flora, my love, let me 'ave the honour of introducing Mr. Warrington to you. Mr. Warrington, Mrs. Bungay ; Mr. Pendennis, Mrs. Bungay. Hope you've brought good appetites with you, gentlemen. You, Doolan, I know 'ave, for you've always 'ad a deuce of a twist.”

“Lor, Bungay !” said Mrs. Bungay.

“Faith, a man must be hard to please, Bungay, who can't eat a good dinner in this house,” Doolan said, and he winked and stroked his lean chops with his large gloves; and made appeals of friendship to Mrs. Bungay, which that honest woman refused with scorn from the timid man. “She couldn't abide that Doolan,” she said in confidence to her friends. Indeed, all his flatteries failed to win her.

As they talked, Mrs. Bungay surveying mankind from her window, a magnificent vision of an enormous grey cab-horse appeared, and neared rapidly. A pair of white reins, held by small white gloves, were visible behind it; a face pale, but richly decorated with a chin-tuft, the head of an exiguous groom bobbing over the cab-head-these bright things were revealed to the delighted Mrs. Bungay. “The Honourable Percy Popjoy's quite punctual, I declare,” she said, and sailed to the door to be in waiting at the nobleman's arrival.

“It's Percy Popjoy,” said Pen, looking out of the window, and seeing an individual in extremely lacquered boots, descend from the swinging cab: and, in fact, it was that young nobleman-Lord Falconet's eldest son, as we all very well know, who was come to dine with the publisher—his publisher of the Row.

“He was my fag at Eton," Warrington said. “I ought to have licked him a little more.” He and Pen had had some bouts at the Oxbridge Union debates, in which Pen had had very much the better of Percy: who presently appeared, with his hat under his arm, and a look of indescribable good humour and fatuity in his round dimpled face, upon which Nature had burst out with a chin-tuft, but, exhausted with the effort, had left the rest of the countenance bare of hair.

The temporary groom of the chambers bawled out, “The Honourable Percy Popjoy,” much to that gentleman's discomposure at hearing his titles announced.

“What did the man want to take away my hat for, Bungay ?” he asked of the publisher. “Can't do without my hat-want it to make my bow to Mrs. Bungay. How well you look, Mrs. Bungay, to-day. Haven't seen your carriage in the Park: why haven't you been there? I missed you; indeed I did.”

“I'm afraid you're a sad quiz,” said Mrs. Bungay.

“Quiz! Never made a joke in my-hullo! who's here? How d'ye do, Pendennis? How d'ye do, Warrington ? These are old friends of mine, Mrs. Bungay. I say, how the doose did you come here?” he asked of the two young men, turning his lacquered heels upon Mrs. Bungay, who respected her husband's two young guests, now that she found they were intimate with a lord's son.

“What! do they know him ?" she asked rapidly of Mr. B.

“High fellers, I tell you—the young one related to all the nobility,” said the publisher; and both ran forward, smiling and bowing, to greet almost as great personages as the young lord-no less characters, indeed, than the great Mr. Wenham and the great Mr. Wagg, who were now announced.

Mr. Wenham entered, wearing the usual demure look and stealthy smile with which he commonly surveyed the tips of his neat little shining boots, and which he but seldom brought to bear upon the person who addressed him. Wagg's white waistcoat spread out, on the contrary, with profuse brilliancy; his burly red face shone resplendent over it, lighted up with the thoughts of good jokes and a good dinner. He liked to make his entrée into a drawing-room with a laugh, and, when he went away at night, to leave a joke exploding behind him. No personal calamities or distresses (of which that humourist had his share in common with the unjocular part of mankind) could altogether keep his humour down. Whatever his griefs might be, the thought of a dinner rallied his great soul; and when he saw a lord, he saluted him with a pun.

Wenham went up, then, with a smug smile and whisper, to Mrs. Bungay, and looked at her from under his eyes, and showed her the tips of his shoes. Wagg said she looked charming, and pushed on straight at the young nobleman, whom he called Pop; and to whom he instantly related a funny story, seasoned with what the French call gros sel. He was delighted to see Pen, too, and shook hands with him, and slapped him on the back cordially; for he was full of spirits and good-humour. And he talked in a loud voice about their last place and occasion of meeting at Baymouth; and asked how their friends of Clavering Park were, and whether Sir Francis was not coming to London for the season; and whether Pen had been to see Lady Rockminster, who had arrived—fine old lady, Lady Rockminster! These remarks Wagg made not for Pen's ear so much as for the edification of the company, whom he was glad to inform that he paid visits to gentlemen's country seats, and was on intimate terms with the nobility.

Wenham also shook hands with our young friend-all of which scenes Mrs. Bungay remarked with respectful pleasure, and communicated her ideas to Bungay, afterwards, regarding the importance of Mr. Pendennis-ideas by which Pen profited much more than he was aware.

Pen, who had read, and rather admired some of her works (and expected to find in Miss Bunion a person somewhat

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »