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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 22
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Pelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 22 Post by :donben2002 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1574

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Pelham - Volume 2 - Chapter 22

VOLUME II CHAPTER XXII

At length the treacherous snare was laid, Poor pug was caught--to town convey'd; There sold. How envied was his doom, Made captive in a lady's room!--Gay's Fables.

I was sitting alone a morning or two after this adventure, when Bedos entering, announced une dame. This dame was a fine tall thing, dressed out like a print in the Magasin des Modes. She sate herself down, threw up her veil, and, after a momentary pause, asked me if I liked my apartment?

"Very much," said I, somewhat surprised at the nature of the interrogatory.

"Perhaps you would wish it altered in some way?" rejoined the lady.

"Non--mille remercimens!" said I--"you are very good to be so interested in my accommodation."

"Those curtains might be better arranged--that sofa replaced with a more elegant one," continued my new superintendant.

"Really," said I, "I am too, too much flattered. Perhaps you would like to have my rooms altogether; if so, make at least no scruple of saying it."

"Oh, no," replied the lady, "I have no objection to your staying here."

"You are too kind," said I, with a low bow.

There was a pause of some moments--I took advantage of it.

"I think, Madame, I have the honour of speaking to--to--to--"

"The mistress of the hotel," said the lady, quietly. "I merely called to ask you how you did, and hope you were well accommodated."

"Rather late, considering I have been six weeks in the house," thought I, revolving in my mind various reports I had heard of my present visitor's disposition to gallantry. However, seeing it was all over with me, I resigned myself, with the patience of a martyr, to the fate that I foresaw. I rose, approached her chair, took her hand (very hard and thin it was too), and thanked her with a most affectionate squeeze.

"I have seen much English!" said the lady, for the first time speaking in our language.

"Ah!" said I, giving another squeeze.

"You are handsome, garcon," renewed the lady.

"I am so," I replied.

At that moment Bedos entered, and whispered that Madame D'Anville was in the anti-room.

"Good heavens!" said I, knowing her jealousy of disposition, "what is to be done? Oblige me, Madame," seizing the unfortunate mistress of the hotel, and opening the door to the back entrance--"There," said I, "you can easily escape. Bon jour."

Hardly had I closed the door, and put the key in my pocket, before Madame D'Anville entered.

"Do you generally order your servants to keep me waiting in your anti-room?" said she haughtily.

"Not generally," I replied, endeavouring to make my peace; but all my complaisance was in vain--she was jealous of my intimacy with the Duchesse de Perpignan, and glad of any excuse to vent her pique. I am just the sort of man to bear, but never to forgive a woman's ill temper, viz.--it makes no impression on me at the time, but leaves a sore recollection of something disagreeable, which I internally resolve never again to experience. Madame D'Anville was going to the Luxembourg; and my only chance of soothing her anger was to accompany her.

Down stairs, therefore, we went, and drove to the Luxembourg; I gave Bedos, before my departure, various little commissions, and told him he need not be at home till the evening. Long before the expiration of an hour, Madame D'Anville's ill humour had given me an excuse for affecting it myself. Tired to death of her, and panting for release, I took a high tone--complained of her ill temper, and her want of love--spoke rapidly--waited for no reply, and leaving her at the Luxembourg, proceeded forthwith to Galignani's, like a man just delivered from a strait waistcoat.

Leave me now, for a few minutes, in the reading-room at Galignani's, and return to the mistress of the hotel, whom I had so unceremoniously thrust out of my salon. The passage into which she had been put communicated by one door with my rooms, and by another with the staircase. Now, it had so happened, that Bedos was in the habit of locking the latter door, and keeping the key; the other egress, it will be remembered, I myself had secured; so that the unfortunate mistress of the hotel was no sooner turned into this passage than she found herself in a sort of dungeon, ten feet by five, and surrounded, like Eve in Paradise, by a whole creation--not of birds, beasts, and fishes, but of brooms, brushes, unclean linen, and a wood-basket. What she was to do in this dilemma was utterly inconceivable; scream, indeed, she might, but then the shame and ridicule of being discovered in so equivocal a situation, were somewhat more than our discreet landlady could endure. Besides, such an expose might be attended with a loss the good woman valued more than reputation, viz. lodgers; for the possessors of the two best floors were both Englishwomen of a certain rank; and my landlady had heard such accounts of our national virtue, that she feared an instantaneous emigration of such inveterate prudes, if her screams and situation reached their ears.

Quietly then, and soberly, did the good lady sit, eyeing the brooms and brushes as they grew darker and darker with the approach of the evening, and consoling herself with the certainty that her release must eventually take place.

Meanwhile, to return to myself--from which dear little person, I very seldom, even in imagination, digress--I found Lord Vincent at Galignani's, carefully looking over "Choice Extracts from the best English Authors."

"Ah, my good fellow!" said he, "I am delighted to see you; I made such a capital quotation just now: the young Benningtons were drowning a poor devil of a puppy; the youngest (to whom the mother belonged) looked on with a grave earnest face, till the last kick was over, and then burst into tears. 'Why do you cry so?' said I. 'Because it was so cruel in us to drown the poor puppy!' replied the juvenile Philocunos. 'Pooh," said I, "'Quid juvat errores mersa jam puppe fateri.'" Was it not good?--you remember it in Claudian, eh, Pelham? Think of its being thrown away on those Latinless young lubbers! Have you seen any thing of Mr. Thornton lately?"

"No," said I, "I've not, but I am determined to have that pleasure soon."

"You will do as you please," said Vincent, "but you will be like the child playing with edged tools."

"I am not a child," said I, "so the simile is not good. He must be the devil himself, or a Scotchman at least, to take me in."

Vincent shook his head. "Come and dine with me at the Rocher," said he; "we are a party of six--choice spirits all."

"Volontiers; but we can stroll in the Tuileries first, if you have no other engagement."

"None," said Vincent, putting his arm in mine.

As we passed up the Rue de la Paix, we met Sir Henry Millington, mounted on a bay horse, as stiff as himself, and cantering down the street as if he and his steed had been cut out of pasteboard together.

"I wish," said Vincent, (to borrow Luttrel's quotation,) "that that master of arts would 'cleanse his bosom of that perilous stuff.' I should like to know in what recess of that immense mass now cantering round the corner is the real body of Sir Henry Millington. I could fancy the poor snug little thing shrinking within, like a guilty conscience. Ah, well says Juvenal,

"'Mors sola fatetur Quantula sint hominum corpuscula.'"

"He has a superb head, though," I replied. "I like to allow that other people are handsome now and then--it looks generous."

"Yes," said Vincent, "for a barber's block: but here comes Mrs. C--me, and her beautiful daughter--those are people you ought to know, if you wish to see human nature a little relieved from the frivolities which make it in society so like a man milliner. Mrs. C--has considerable genius, combined with great common sense."

"A rare union," said I.

"By no means," replied Vincent. "It is a cant antithesis in opinion to oppose them to one another; but, so far as mere theoretical common sense is concerned, I would much sooner apply to a great poet or a great orator for advice on matter of business, than any dull plodder who has passed his whole life in a counting-house. Common sense is only a modification of talent--genius is an exaltation of it: the difference is, therefore, in the degree, not nature. But to return to Mrs. C--; she writes beautiful poetry--almost impromptu; draws excellent caricatures; possesses a laugh for whatever is ridiculous, but never loses a smile for whatever is good. Placed in very peculiar situations, she has passed through each with a grace and credit which make her best eulogium. If she possesses one quality higher than intellect, it is her kindness of heart: no wonder indeed, that she is so really clever--those trees which are the soundest at the core produce the finest fruits, and the most beautiful blossoms."

"Lord Vincent grows poetical," thought I--"how very different he really is to that which he affects to be in the world; but so it is with every one--we are all like the ancient actors: let our faces be ever so beautiful, we must still wear a mask."

After an hour's walk, Vincent suddenly recollected that he had a commission of a very important nature in the Rue J. J. Rousseau. This was--to buy a monkey. "It is for Wormwood," said he, "who has written me a long letter, describing its' qualities and qualifications. I suppose he wants it for some practical joke--some embodied bitterness--God forbid I should thwart him in so charitable a design!"

"Amen," said I; and we proceeded together to the monkey-fancier. After much deliberation we at last decided upon the most hideous animal I ever beheld--it was of a--no, I will not attempt to describe it--it would be quite impossible! Vincent was so delighted with our choice that he insisted upon carrying it away immediately.

"Is it quite quiet?" I asked.

"Comme un oiseau," said the man.

We called a fiacre--paid for monsieur Jocko, and drove to Vincent's apartments; there we found, however, that his valet had gone out and taken the key.

"Hang it," said Vincent, "it does not signify! We'll carry le petit monsieur with us to the Rocher."

Accordingly we all three once more entered the fiacre, and drove to the celebrated restaurateur's of the Rue Mont Orgueil. O, blissful recollections of that dinner! how at this moment you crowd upon my delighted remembrance! Lonely and sorrowful as I now sit, digesting with many a throe the iron thews of a British beef-steak--more anglico--immeasurably tough--I see the grateful apparitions of Escallopes de Saumon and Laitances de Carps rise in a gentle vapour before my eyes! breathing a sweet and pleasant odour, and contrasting the dream-like delicacies of their hue and aspect, with the dire and dure realities which now weigh so heavily on the region below my heart! And thou, most beautiful of all--thou evening star of entremets--thou that delightest in truffles, and gloriest in a dark cloud of sauces--exquisite foie-gras!--Have I forgotten thee? Do I not, on the contrary, see thee--smell thee--taste thee--and almost die with rapture of thy possession? What, though the goose, of which thou art a part, has, indeed, been roasted alive by a slow fire, in order to increase thy divine proportions--yet has not our Almanach--the Almanach des Gourmands--truly declared that the goose rejoiced amid all her tortures--because of the glory that awaited her? Did she not, in prophetic vision, behold her enlarged and ennobled foie dilate into pates and steam into sautees--the companion of truffles--the glory of dishes--the delight--the treasure--the transport of gourmands! O, exalted among birds--apotheosised goose, did not thy heart exult even when thy liver parched and swelled within thee, from that most agonizing death; and didst thou not, like the Indian at the stake, triumph in the very torments which alone could render thee illustrious?

After dinner we grew exceedingly merry. Vincent punned and quoted; we laughed and applauded; and our Burgundy went round with an alacrity, to which every new joke gave an additional impetus. Monsieur Jocko was by no means the dullest in the party; he cracked his nuts with as much grace as we did our jests, and grinned and chatted as facetiously as the best of us. After coffee we were all so pleased with one another, that we resolved not to separate, and accordingly we adjourned to my rooms, Jocko and all, to find new revelries and grow brilliant over Curacoa punch.

We entered my salon with a roar, and set Bedos to work at the punch forthwith. Bedos, that Ganymede of a valet, had himself but just arrived, and was unlocking the door as we entered. We soon blew up a glorious fire, and our spirits brightened in proportion. Monsieur Jocko sate on Vincent's knee--Ne monstrum, as he classically termed it. One of our compotatores was playing with it. Jocko grew suddenly in earnest--a grin--a scratch and a bite, were the work of a moment.

"Ne quid nimis--now," said Vincent, gravely, instead of endeavouring to soothe the afflicted party, who grew into a towering passion. Nothing but Jocko's absolute disgrace could indeed have saved his life from the vengeance of the sufferer.

"Where shall we banish him?" said Vincent.

"Oh," I replied, "put him out in that back passage; the outer door is shut; he'll be quite safe;" and to the passage he was therefore immediately consigned.

It was in this place, the reader will remember, that the hapless Dame du Chateau was at that very instant in "durance vile." Bedos, who took the condemned monkey, opened the door, thrust Jocko in, and closed it again. Meanwhile we resumed our merriment.

"Nunc est bibendum," said Vincent, as Bedos placed the punch on the table. "Give us a toast, Dartmore."

Lord Dartmore was a young man, with tremendous spirits, which made up for wit. He was just about to reply, when a loud shriek was heard from Jocko's place of banishment: a sort of scramble ensued, and the next moment the door was thrown violently open, and in rushed the terrified landlady, screaming like a sea-gull, and bearing Jocko aloft upon her shoulders, from which "bad eminence" he was grinning and chattering with the fury of fifty devils. She ran twice round the room, and then sunk on the floor in hysterics. We lost no time in hastening to her assistance; but the warlike Jocko, still sitting upon her, refused to permit one of us to approach. There he sat, turning from side to side, showing his sharp, white teeth, and uttering from time to time the most menacing and diabolical sounds.

"What the deuce shall we do?" cried Dartmore.

"Do?" said Vincent, who was convulsed with laughter, and yet endeavouring to speak gravely; "why, watch like L. Opimius, 'ne quid respublica detrimenti caperet.'"

"By Jove, Pelham, he will scratch out the lady's beaux yeux," cried the good-natured Dartmore, endeavouring to seize the monkey by the tail, for which he very narrowly escaped with an unmutilated visage. But the man who had before suffered by Jocko's ferocity, and whose breast was still swelling with revenge, was glad of so favourable an opportunity and excuse for wreaking it. He seized the poker, made three strides to Jocko, who set up an ineffable cry of defiance, and with a single blow split the skull of the unhappy monkey in twain. It fell with one convulsion on the ground, and gave up the ghost.

We then raised the unfortunate landlady, placed her on the sofa, and Dartmore administered a plentiful potation of the Curacoa punch. By slow degrees she revived, gave three most doleful suspirations, and then, starting up, gazed wildly around her. Half of us were still laughing--my unfortunate self among the number; this the enraged landlady no sooner perceived than she imagined herself the victim of some preconcerted villainy. Her lips trembled with passion--she uttered the most dreadful imprecations; and had I not retired into a corner, and armed myself with the dead body of Jocko, which I wielded with exceeding valour, she might, with the simple weapons with which nature had provided her hands, have for ever demolished the loves and graces that abide in the face of Henry Pelham.

When at last she saw that nothing hostile was at present to be effected, she drew herself up, and giving Bedos a tremendous box on the ear, as he stood grinning beside her, marched out of the room.

We then again rallied around the table, more than ever disposed to be brilliant, and kept up till day break a continued fire of jests upon the heroine of the passage. "Cum qua (as Vincent observed) clauditur adversis innoxia simia fatis!"

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