« ZurückWeiter »
mass their august secrets, just, my dear madam, as our own
parlour-maids and dependants in the kitchen discuss our characters, our stinginess and generosity, our pecuniary means or embarrassments, and our little domestic or connubial tifis and quarrels. If I leave this manuscript open on my table, I have not the slightest doubt Betty will read it, and they will talk it over in the lower regions to-night; and to-morrow she will bring in my breakfast with a face of such entire imperturbable innocence, that no mortal could suppose her guilty of playing the spy. If you and the Captain have high words upon any subject, which is just possible, the circumstances of the quarrel, and the characters of both of you, will be discussed with impartial eloquence over the kitchen tea-table; and if Mrs. Smith’s maid should by chance be taking a dish of tea with yours, her presence will not undoubtedly act as a restraint upon the discussion in question; her opinion will be given with candour; and the next day her mistress will probably know that Captain and Mrs. Jones have been a quarrelling as usual. Nothing is secret. Take it as a rule that John knows everything: and as in our humble world so in the greatest: a duke is no more a hero to his valet-dechambre than you or I; and his Grace’s Man at his club, in company doubtless with other Men of equal social rank, talks over his master’s character and affairs with the ingenuous truthfulness which befits gentlemen who are met together in confidence. Who is a niggard and screws up his moneyboxes: who is in the hands of the money-lenders, and is putting his noble name on the back of bills of exchange: who is intimate with whose wife: who wants whom to marry her daughter, and which he won’t, no not at any price :—all thesefacts gentlemen’s confidential gentlemen discuss confidentially, and are known and examined by every person who has any
claim to rank in genteel society. In a word, if old Pendennis
himself was said to know everything, and was at once admir
ably scandalous and delightfully discreet; it is but justice to
Morgan to say, that a great deal of his master’s information
was supplied to that worthy man by his valet, who went
out and foraged knowledge ,for him. Indeed, what more
effectual plan is there to get a knowledge of London society, than to begin at the foundation—that is, at the kitchenfloor ?
So Mr. Morgan and his employer conversed as the latter’s toilet proceeded. There had been a Drawing-room on the day previous, and the Major read among the presentations that of Lady Clavering by Lady Rockminster, and of Miss Amory by her mother, Lady Clavering,—and in a further part of the paper their dresses were described, with a precision and in a jargon which will puzzle and amuse the antiquary of future generations. The sight of these names carried Pendennis back to the country. “How long have the Claverings been in London?” he asked; “pray, Morgan, have you seen any of their people ? ”
“ Sir Francis have sent away his foring man, sir,” Mr. Morgan replied; “and have took a friend of mine as own man, sir. Indeed he applied on my reckmendation. You may recklect Towler, sir,—tall red-’aired man—but dyes his ’air. Was groom of the chambers in Lord Levant’s famly till his Lordship broke hup. It’s a fall for Towler, sir; but pore men can’t be particklar,” said the valet with a pathetic voice.
“Devilish hard on Towler, by gad!” said the Major, amused, “ and not pleasant for Lord Levant—he, he!”
“Always knew it was coming, sir. I spoke to you of it Michaelmas was four years: when her Ladyship put the diamonds in pawn. It was Towler, sir, took ’em in two cabs to Dobree’s—and a good deal of the plate went the same way. Don’t you remember seeing of it at Blackwall, with the Levant arms and coronick, and Lord Levant settn oppsit to it at the Marquis of Steyne’s dinner? Beg your pardon; did I cut you, sir ? ”
Morgan was now operating upon the Major’s chin— he continued the theme while strapping the skilful razor. “ They’ve took a house in Grosvenor Place, and are coming out strong, sir. Her Ladyship’s going to give three parties, besides a dinner a-week, sir. Her fortune won’t stand it— can’t stand it.”
“ Gad, she had a devilish good cook when I was at Fairoaks,” the Major said, with very little compassion for the widow Amory’s fortune.
“ Marobblan was his name, sir ;—-—Marobblan’s gone away, sir ;” Morgan said,—and the Major, this time with hearty sympathy, said, “ he was devilish sorry to lose him.”
“There’s been a tremenjuous row about that Mosseer Marobblan,” Morgan continued. “At a ball at Baymouth, sir, bless his impadence, he challenged Mr. Harthur to fight a jewel, sir, which Mr. Harthur was very near knocking him down, and pitchin’ him outawinder, and serve him right ; but Chevalier Strong, sir, came up and stopped the shindy—I beg pardon, the holtercation, sir—them French cooks has as much pride and hinsolence as if they was real gentlemen.”
“ I heard something of that quarrel,” said the Major; “but Mirobolant was not turned off for that ? ”
“No, sir—that affair, sir, which Mr. Harthur forgave it him and be’aved most handsome, was hushed hup: it was about Miss Hamory, sir, that he ’ad his dismissial. Those French fellers, they fancy everybody is in love with ’em ; and he climbed up the large grape vine to her winder, sir,
, and was a trying to get in, when he was caught, sir; and
Mr. Strong came out, and they got the garden-engine and played on him, and there was no end of a row, sir.”
“ Confound his impudence! You don’t mean to say Miss Amory encouraged him?” cried the Major, amazed at a peculiar expression in Mr. Morgan’s countenance.
Morgan resumed his imperturbable demeanour. “Know nothing about it, sir. Servants don’t know them kind of things the least. Most probbly there was nothing in it—so many lies is told about families—Marobblan went away, bag and baggage, saucepans, and pianna, and all—the feller ’ad a pianna, and wrote potry in French, and he took a lodging at Clavering, and he hankered about the primises, and it was said that Madame Fribsby, the milliner, brought letters to Miss Hamory, though I don’t believe a word about it; nor that he tried to pison hisself with charcoal, which it was all a humbug betwigst him and Madame Fribsby; and he was nearly shot by the keeper in the park.”
In the course of that very day, it chanced that the Major had stationed himself in the great window of Bays’s Club in St. James’s Street, at the hour in the afternoon when you see a half-score of respectable old bucks similarly recreating themselves (Bays’s is rather an old-fashioned place of resort
‘ | l: i
l mu ‘i i‘wlttitllllmilll ~+ ‘l , I :11, ‘',,_"".wv’
. ‘ l“ .-,\ ', i“ t ., \ \Lc ll‘ Tl r ltiil‘ ‘i ‘Q" ’ ll I ‘‘ y ,1 ‘ft‘WitI . , :’\~\'111,ity‘l\l " it ‘ ; a P [pleat tal’ "l\\\Itttf
now, and many of its members more than middle-aged ; but in the time of the Prince Regent, these old fellows occupied the same window, and were some of the very greatest dandies
in this empire)—Major Pendennis was looking from the great window, and spied his nephew Arthur walking down the street in company with his friend Mr. Popjoy.
“Look!” said Popjoy to Pen, as they passed, “did you ever pass Bays’s at four o’clock, without seeing that collection of old fogies? It’s a regular museum. They ought to be cast in wax, and set up at Madame Tussaud’s—”
“ --In a chamber of old horrors by themselves,” Pen said, laughing.
“ —In the chamber of horrors! Gad, dooced good! ” Pop cried. “They are old rogues, most of ’em, and no mistake. There’s old Blondel; there’s my uncle Colchicum, the most confounded old sinner in Europe; there’s—hullo! there’s somebody rapping the window and nodding at us.”
“It’s my uncle, the Major,” said Pen. “Is he an old sinner too ? ”
“Notorious old rogue,” Pop said, wagging his head. (“Notowious old wogue,” he pronounced the words, thereby rendering them much more emphatic.) “ He’s beckoning you in; he want’s to speak to you.”
“ Come in too,” Pen said.
“—Can’t,” replied the other. “ Cut uncle Col. two years ago, about Mademoiselle Frangipane—Ta, ta,” and the young sinner took leave of Pen, and the club of the elder criminals, and sauntered into Blacquiere’s, an adjacent establishment, frequented by reprobates of his own age.
Colchicum, Blondel, and the senior bucks had just been conversing about the Clavering family, whose appearance in London had formed the subject of Major Pendennis’s morning conversation with his valet. Mr. Blondel’s house was next to that of Sir Francis Clavering, in Grosvenor Place: giving very good dinners himself, he had remarked some activity in his neighbour’s kitchen. Sir Francis, indeed, had a new chef, who had come in more than once and dressed Mr. Blondel’s dinner for him; that gentleman having only a remarkably expert female artist permanently engaged in his establishment, and employing such chefs of note as happened to be free on the occasion of his grand banquets. “ They go to a devilish expense and see devilish bad company as yet, I hear,”
Mr. Blondel said—.“they scour the streets, by gad, to get‘