Squire Bull, as may be imagined, was not a little astonished and mortified at hearing from the usher, who returned looking foolish and chop-fallen, of this outbreak on the part of Jack, for whom he had really begun to conceive a sort of sneaking kindness; but knowing of old his fantastical and melancholic turn, he attributed this sally rather to the state of his bowels, which at all times he exceedingly neglected, and which, being puffed up with flatulency and indigestion to an extraordinary degree, not unfrequently acted upon his brain—generating therein strange conceits and dangerous hallucinations—than to any settled intention on Jack's part to pick a quarrel with him or evade performance of the conditions of their indenture, so long as he was not under the influence of hypochondria. And having this notion as to Jack's motives, and knowing nothing of the private confab at the village lawyer's, he could not help believing that, by a brisk course of purgatives and an antiphlogistic treatment—and without resorting to a strait-waistcoat, which many who knew Jack's pranks at once recommended him to adopt—he might be cured of those acrid and intoxicating vapours, which, ascending into the brain, led him into such extravagant vagaries. "I'faith," said the Squire, "since the poor man has taken this mad fancy into his head as to the terms of his bargain, the best way to restore him to his senses is to bring the matter, as he himself seemed to desire it, before the Justices of the Peace at once: 'Tis a hundred to one but he will have come to his senses long before they have come to a decision; at all events, unless he is madder than I take him to be, when he finds how plain the terms of the indenture are, he will surely submit with a good grace.'"
So thought the Squire; and, accordingly, by his direction, the usher-elect brought his case before the Justices at their next sittings, who forthwith summoned Jack before them to know why he refused performance of his contract with the Squire. Jack came on the day appointed, attended by the attorney—though for that matter he might have safely left him behind, being fully as much master of all equivocation or chicanery as if he had never handled anything but quills and quirks from his youth upward. This, indeed, was probably the effect of his old training in Peter's family, for whose hairsplitting distinctions and Jesuistical casuistries, notwithstanding his dislike to the man himself, he had a certain admiration, founded on a secret affinity of nature. Indeed it was wonderful to observe how, with all Jack's hatred to Peter, real or pretended, he took after him in so many points—insomuch that at times, their look, voice, manner, and way of thinking, were so closely alike, that those who knew them best might very well have mistaken them for each other. The usher having produced the Squire's copy of the indenture, pointed out the clause by which Jack became bound to examine and admit to the schools on North Farm any qualified usher whom the Squire might send—as the condition on which he was to retain his right to the tabernacle and his own mansion upon the Farm—at the same time showing Jack's seal and signature at the bottom of the deed. Jack, being called upon by the justices to show cause, pulled out of his pocket an old memorandum-book—very greasy, musty, and ill-flavoured—and which, from the quantity of dust and cobwebs with which it was overlaid, had obviously been lying on the shelf for half a century at least. This he placed in the hands of his friend Snacks the attorney, pointing out to him a page or two which he had marked with his thumb nail, as appropriate to the matter in hand. And there, to be sure, was to be found, among a quantity of other nostrums, recipes, cooking receipts, prescriptions, and omnium-gatherums of all kinds, an entry to this effect:—"That no ushere be yntruded intoe anie schoole against ye wille of ye schooleboys in schoole-roome assembled." Whereupon the attorney maintained, that, as this memorandum-book of Jack's was plainly of older date than the indenture, and had evidently been seen by the Squire at or prior to the time of signing, as appeared from some of the entries which it contained being incorporated in the deed, it must be presumed, that its whole contents, though not to be found in the indenture per expressum, or totidem verbis, were yet included therein implicitly, or in a latent form, inasmuch as they were not per expressum excluded therefrom;—this being, as you will recollect, precisely the argument which Jack had borrowed from Peter, when the latter construed their father's will in the question as to the lawfulness of their wearing shoulder-knots; and very much of the same kind with that celebrated thesis which Peter afterwards maintained in the matter of the brown loaf. And though he was obliged to admit (what indeed from the very look of the book he could not well dispute) that no such rule had ever been known or acted upon—and on the contrary that Jack, until this last occasion, had always admitted the Squire's ushers without objection whatsoever; yet he contended vehemently, that now that his conscience was awakened on the subject, the past must be laid out of view; and that the old memorandum-book, as part and parcel of the indenture itself, must receive effect; and farther, that whether he, Jack, was right or wrong in this matter, the Justices had no right to interfere with them.
But the Justices, on looking into this antiquated document, found that, besides this notandum, the memorandum-book contained a number of other entries of a very extraordinary kind—such, for instance, as that Martin was no better than he should be, and ought to be put down speedily: that Squire Bull had no more right to nominate ushers than he had to be Khan of Tartary: that that right belonged exclusively to Jack himself, or to the schoolboys under Jack's control and direction: that Jack was to have the sole right of laying down rules for his own government, and of enforcing them against himself by the necessary compulsitors, if the case should arise; thus, that Jack should have full powers to censure, fine, punish, flog, flay, banish, imprison, or set himself in the stocks as often as he should think fit; but that whether Jack did right or wrong, in any given case, Jack was himself to be the sole judge, and neither Squire Bull nor any of his Justices of the Peace was to have one word to say to him or his proceedings in the matter: on the contrary, that any such interference on their part, was to be regarded as a high grievance and misdemeanour on their part, for which Jack was to be entitled at the least to read them a lecture from the writing-desk, and shut the schoolroom door in their own or their children's face.
There were many other whimsical and extravagant things contained in this private note-book, so much so, that it was evident no man in his senses could ever have intended to make them part of his bargain with Jack. But the matter was put beyond a doubt by the usher producing the original draft of the indenture, on which some of these crotchets, including this fancy about the right of the schoolboys to reject the usher if they did not like him, had been interlined in Jack's hand: but all of which the Squire, on revising the deed, had scored out with his own pen, adding in the margin, opposite to the very passage, the words, in italics—"See him damned first.—J.B." And as it could not be disputed that Jack and the Squire ultimately subscribed the deed, omitting all this nonsense—the Justices had no hesitation in holding, that Jack's private memorandum-book, even if he had always carried it in his breeches pocket, and quoted it on all occasions, instead of leaving it—as it was plain he had done—for many a long year, in some forgotten corner of his trunk or lumber-room, could no more affect the construction of the indenture between himself and Squire, or afford him any defence against performance of his part of that indenture, than if he had founded on the statutes of Prester John, on the laws of Hum-Bug, Fee-Faw-Fum, or any other Emperor of China for the time being. And so, after hearing very deliberately all that the attorney for Jack had to say to the contrary, they decided that Jack must forthwith proceed to examine the usher, and give him possession, if qualified, of the schoolhouse and other appurtenances; or else make up his mind to a thundering action of damages if he did not.
The Justices thought that Jack, on hearing the case fairly stated, and their opinion given against him, with a long string of cases in point, would yield, and give the usher possession in the usual way; but no: no sooner was the sentence written out than Jack entered an appeal to the Quarter-sessions. There the whole matter was heard over again, at great length, before a full bench; but after Jack and his attorney had spoken till they were tired, the Quarter-sessions, without a moment's hesitation, confirmed the sentence of the Justices, with costs.
Jack, who had blustered exceedingly as to his chances of bamboozling the Quarter-sessions, and quashing the sentence of the Justices, looked certainly not a little discomfited at the result of his appeal. For some days after, he was observed to walk about looking gloomy and disheartened, and was heard to say to some of his family, that he began to think matters had really gone too far between him and his good friend the Squire, to whom he owed his bread; that, on second thoughts, he would give up the point about intruding ushers on the schools, and see whether the Squire might not be prevailed on to arrange matters on an amicable footing; and that he would take an opportunity, the next time he had an assembly at his house, of consulting his friends on the subject. And had Jack stuck to this resolution, there is little doubt that, by some device or other, he would have gained all he wanted; for the Squire, being an easy, good-natured man, and wishing really to do his duty in the matter of the ushership, would probably, if Jack had yielded in this instance with a good grace, have probably allowed him in the end to have things very much his own way. But to the surprise of everybody, the next time Jack had a party of friends with him, he rose up, and putting on that peculiarly sanctimonious expression which his countenance generally assumed when he had a mind to confuse and mystify his auditors by a string of enigmas and Jesuitical reservations, made a long, unintelligible, and inconsistent harangue, the drift of which no one could well understand, except that it bore that "both the Justices and the Quarter-sessions were a set of ignoramuses who could not understand a word of Jack's contract, and knew nothing of black-letter whatever; but that, nevertheless, as they had decided against him, he, as a loyal subject, must and would submit;—not, however, that he had the least idea of taking the Squire's usher, or any other usher whatsoever, on trials, contrary to the schoolboys' wishes; that, he begged to say, he would never hear of:—still he would obey the law by laying no claim himself to the usher's salary, nor interfering with the usher's drawing it; and yet that he could not exactly answer for others not doing so;"—Jack knowing all the time, that, claim as he might, he himself had no more right to the salary than to the throne of the Celestial Empire; while, on the other hand, by locking up the schoolroom, and keeping the key in his pocket, he had rendered it impossible for the poor wight of an usher to recover one penny of it—the legal condition of his doing so being his actual possession of the schoolhouse itself, of which Jack, by this last manoeuvre, had contrived to deprive him. But, as if to finish the matter, and to prove the knavish spirit in which this protestation was made, he instantly got a private friend and relative of his own, with whom the whole scheme had been arranged beforehand, to come forward and bring an action on the case, in which the latter claimed the whole fund which would have belonged to the unlucky usher—in terms, as he said, of some old arrangement made by the Squire's predecessor as to school-salaries during vacancy; to be applied, as the writ very coolly stated it, "for behoof of Jack's destitute widow, in the event of his decease, and of his numerous and indigent family."
Many of Jack's own family, who were present on this occasion, remonstrated with him on the subject, foreseeing that if he went on as he had begun and threatened to proceed, he must soon come to a rupture with the Squire, which could end in nothing else than his being turned out of house and hall, and thrown adrift upon the wide world, without a penny in his pocket. But the majority—who were puffed up with more than Jack's own madness and had a notion that by sheer boldness and bullying on their part, the Squire would, after a time, be sure to give way, encouraged Jack to go on at all hazards, and not to retract a hair's breadth in his demands. And Jack, who had now become mischievously crazed on the subject, and began to be as arrogant and conceited of his own power and authority, as ever my Lord Peter had been in his proudest and most pestilential days, was not slow to follow their advice.
'Twas of no consequence that a friend of the Squire's, who had known Jack long, and had really a great kindness towards him, tried to bring about an arrangement between him and the Squire upon very handsome terms. He had a meeting with Jack;—at which he talked the matter over in a friendly way—telling him that though the Squire must reserve in his own hands the nomination of his own ushers, he had always been perfectly willing to listen to reason in any objections that might be taken to them; only some reason he must have, were it only that Jack could not abide the sight of a red-nosed usher:—let that reason, such as it was, be put on paper, and he would consider of it; and if, from any peculiar idiosyncracy in Jack's temperament and constitution, he found that his antipathy to red noses was unsuperable, probably he would not insist on filling up the vacancy with a nose of that colour. Jack, who was always more rational when alone than when he had got the attorney and the more frantic members of his family at his elbow, acknowledged, as he well might, that all this seemed very reasonable; and that he really thought that on these terms the Squire and he would have little difficulty in coming to an agreement. So they parted, leaving the Squire's friend under the impression that all was right, and that he had only to get an agreement to that effect drawn out, signed and sealed by the parties.
Next morning, however, he received a letter by the penny-post, written no doubt in Jack's hand, but obviously dictated by the attorney, in these terms:—
"Honoured Sir—Lest there should be any misconception between us as to our yesterday's conversation, I have put into writing the substance of what was agreed on between us, which I understand to be this: that there shall be no let or impediment to the Squire's full and absolute right of naming an usher in all cases of vacancy; that I shall have an equally full right to object to the said usher for any reasons that may be satisfactory to myself, and thereupon to exclude him from the school; leaving it to the Squire, if he pleases, to send another, whom I shall have the right of handling in the same fashion, with this further proviso, that if the Squire does not fill up the office to my satisfaction within half-a-year, I shall be entitled to take the appointment into my own hands. I need hardly add that no Justices of the Peace are to take cognizance of anything done by me in the matter, be it good, bad, or indifferent. Hoping that this statement of our mutual views will be found correct and satisfactory—I remain, your humble servant,
The moment the Squire's friend perused this missive, he saw plainly that all hope of bringing Jack to his senses was at an end; and that under the advice of evil counsellors, lunatic friends, and lewd fellows of the baser sort, Jack would shortly bring himself and his family to utter ruin.
And now, as might be expected, Jack's disorder, which had hitherto been comparatively of the calm and melancholy kind, broke out into the most violent and phrenetic exhibitions. He sometimes raved incoherently, for hours together, against the Squire; often, in the midst of his speeches, he was assailed with epileptic fits, during which he displayed the strangest contortions and most laughable gestures; he threw entirely aside the decent coat he had worn for some time back, and habitually attired himself in the old and threadbare raiment, which he had worn after he and Martin had been so unceremoniously sent to the right-about by Lord Peter, and even ran about the streets with his band tied round his peaked beaver, bearing thereon the motto—"Nemo me impune lacessit." If his madness had only led him to make a spectacle and laughing-stock of himself, by these wild vagaries and mountebank exhibitions, all had been well, but this did not satisfy Jack; his old disposition for a riot had returned, and a riot, right or wrong, he was determined to have. So he set to work to frighten the women of the village with stories, as to the monsters whom the Squire would send among them as ushers, who would do nothing but teach their children drinking, chuck-farthing, and cock-fighting; to the schoolboys themselves, talked of the length, breadth, and thickness, of the usher's birch, which he assured them was dipped in vinegar every evening, in order to afford a more agreeable stimulus to the part affected; he plied them with halfpence and strong beer; exhorted them to insurrections and barrings-out; taught them how to mock at any usher who would not submit to be Jack's humble servant; and by gibes and scurril ballads, which he would publish in the newspapers, try to make his life a burden to him. He also instructed them how best to stick darts into his wig, cover his back with spittle, fill his pockets with crackers, burn assafoetida in the fire, extinguish the candles with fulminating powder, or blow up the writing-desk by a train of combustibles. Above all, he counselled the urchins to stand firm the next time that John sent an usher down to that quarter, and vehemently to protest for the doctrine of election as to their own usher, and reprobation as to the Squire's; assuring them, that provided they took his advice, and followed the plan which he would afterwards impart to them in confidence at the proper time, he could almost take it upon himself to say, that in a short time, no tyrannical usher, or cast-off tutor of the Squire, should venture to show his face, with or without tawse or ferule, within the boundaries of North Farm.
It was not long before an opportunity offered of putting these precious schemes in practice; for shortly afterwards, the old usher of a school on the northermost boundary of the North Farm estates having died, the ushership became vacant, and John, as usual, appointed a successor in his room. Being warned this time by what had taken place on the last occasion, the Squire took care to apply beforehand to the Justices of the Peace—got a peremptory mandamus from them, directing Jack to proceed forthwith, and, after the usual trials, to put the usher in possession of the schoolhouse by legal form, and without re-regard to any protest or interruption from any or all of the schoolboys put together. So down the usher proceeded, accompanied by a posse of constables and policemen of various divisions, till they arrived at the schoolhouse, which lay adjacent to the churchyard, and then demanded admittance. It happened that in this quarter resided some of Jack's family, who, as we have already mentioned, differed from him entirely, thinking him totally wrong in the contest with the Squire and being completely satisfied that all his glosses upon his contract were either miserable quibbles or mere hallucinations, and that it was his duty, so long as he ate John's bread, and slept under John's roof, to perform fairly the obligations he had come under:—and so, on reading the Justices' warrant, which required them, on pain of being set in the stocks, and forfeiture of two shillings and sixpence of penalty, besides costs, to give immediate possession to the Squire's usher, they at once resolved to obey, called for the key of the schoolhouse, and proceeded to the door, accompanied by the usher and the authorities, for the purpose of complying with the warrant and admitting the usher as in times past. But on arriving there, never was there witnessed such a scene of confusion. The churchyard was crowded with ragamuffins of every kind, from all the neighbouring parishes; scarcely was there a sot or deboshed fellow within the district who had not either come himself or found a substitute; gipsies, beggarwomen, and thimbleriggers were thick as blackberries; while Jack himself—who, upon hearing of what was going forward, had come down by the night coach with all expedition—was standing on a tombstone near the doorway, and holding forth to the whole bevy of rascals whom he had assembled about him. It was evident from his tones and gestures that Jack had been exciting the mob in every possible way; but as the justices and the constables drew near, he changed the form of his countenance, pulled a psalm-book out of his pocket, and, with much sanctity and appearance of calmness, gave out the tune; in which the miscellaneous assemblage around him joined, with similar unction and devotion. When the procession reached the door, they found the whole inside of the schoolhouse already packed with urchins and blackguards of all kinds, who, having previously gained admission by the window, had forcibly barricaded the door against the constables, being assisted in the defence thereof by the mob without, who formed a double line, and kept hustling the poor usher and the constables from side to side, helping themselves to a purse or two in passing, and calling out at the same time, "take care of pickpockets"—occasionally amusing themselves also by playfully smashing the beaver of some of the justices of the peace over their face, to the tune of "all round my hat," sung in chorus, on the Mainzerian system, amidst peals of laughter.
Meantime Jack was skipping up and down upon the tombstone, calling out to his myrmidons—"Good friends! Sweet friends! Let me not stir your spirits up to mutiny. Though that cairn of granite stones lies very handy and inviting, I pray you refrain from it. Touch it not. I humbly entreat my friend with the dirty shirt not to break the sconce of the respectable gentleman whom I have in my eye, with that shillelah of his—though I must admit that he is labouring under strong and just provocation." "For mercy's sake, my dear sir!" he would exclaim to a third—"don't push my respected friend the justice into yonder puddle—the one which lies so convenient on your right hand there; though, to be sure, the ground is slippery, and the thing might happen, in a manner without any one's being able to prevent it." And so on he went, taking care to say nothing for which the justices could afterwards venture to commit him to Bridewell; but, in truth, stirring up the rabble to the utmost, by nods, looks, winks, and covert speeches, intended to convey exactly the opposite meaning from what the words bore.
At last by main force, and after a hard scuffle, the constables contrived to force the schoolhouse door open, and so to make way for the justices, the usher, and those of Jack's family who, as we have seen already, had made up their minds to give the usher possession, to enter. But having entered, the confusion and bedevilment was ten times worse than even in the churchyard itself. The benches were lined with a pack of overgrown rascals in corduroy vestments, and with leather at the knees, from all the neighbouring villages; in a gallery at one end sat a Scotch bagpiper, flanked by a blind fiddler, and an itinerant performer on the hurdygurdy, accompanied by his monkey—who in the course of his circuit through the village, had that morning received a special retainer, in the shape of half a quartern of gin, for the occasion; while in the usher's chair were ensconced two urchins of about fourteen years of age, smoking tobacco, playing at all fours, and drinking purl, with their legs diffused in a picturesque attitude along the writing-desk. One of the justices tried to command silence—till the Squire's commission to the usher should be read; but no sooner had he opened his mouth than the whole multitude burst forth as if the confusion of tongues had taken place for the first time; twenty spoke together, ten whistled, as many more sang psalms and obscene songs alternately; the bagpiper droned his worst; the fiddler uttered notes that made the hair of those who heard them stand on end; while the hurdygurdy man did his utmost to grind down both his companions, in which task he was ably assisted by the grinning and chattering of the honourable and four-footed gentleman on his left. Meantime stones, tiles, and rafters, pewter pint-pots, fragments of slates, rulers, and desks, were circulating through the schoolhouse in all directions, in the most agreeable confusion.
One of the justices tried to speak, but even from the first it was all dumb show; and scarcely had he proceeded through two sentences, when his oration was extinguished as suddenly and by the same means as the conflagration of the Royal Palace at Lilliput. After many attempts to obtain a hearing, it became obvious that all chance of doing so in the schoolhouse was at an end; and so the usher, the justices, and the rest, adjourned to the next ale-house, where they had the usher's commission quietly read over in presence of the landlord and the waiter, and handed him over the keys of the house before the same witnesses; of all which, and of their previous deforcement by a mob of rapscallions, they took care to have an instrument regularly drawn out by a notary-public. Thereafter they ordered a rump and dozen, being confident that as the day was bitterly cold, and the snow some feet deep upon the ground, the courage of the rioters would be cooled before they had finished dinner; and so it was, for towards evening, the temperature having descended considerably beneath the freezing point, the mob, who had now exhausted their beer and gin, and who saw that there was no more fun to be expected for the day, began to disperse each man to his home, so that before nightfall the coast was clear; on which the justices, with the posse comitatus, escorted the usher to the schoolhouse, opened the door, put him formally in possession, and, wishing him much good of his new appointment, departed.
But how did Jack, you will ask, bear this rebuff on the part of his own kin? Why, very ill indeed; in truth, he became furious, and seemed to have lost all natural feelings towards his own flesh and blood. He summoned such of his family as had given admission to the usher before him, called a sort of court-martial of the rest of his relations to enquire into their conduct; and, notwithstanding the accused protested that they had the highest respect and regard for Jack, were his humble servants to command in all ordinary matters, and only acted in this instance in obedience to the justices' warrant, (the which, if they had disobeyed, they were certain to have been at that moment cooling their heels in the stocks,) Jack, who was probably worked up to a kind of frenzy by his more violent of his inmates, kicked them out of the room, and sent a set of his myrmidons after them, with instructions to tear their coats off their backs, strip them of their wigs and small-clothes, and turn them into the street. Against this the unlucky wights appealed to the justices for protection, who, to be sure, sent down some policemen, who beat off the mob, and enabled them to make their doors fast against Jack and his emissaries. But beyond that they could give them little assistance; for though Jack and his abettors could not actually venture upon a trespass by forcing their way within doors, they contrived to render the very existence of all who were not of their way of thinking miserable. If it was an usher who, in spite of all their efforts to exclude him, had fairly got admittance into the schoolhouse, they set up a sentry-box at his very door, in which a rival usher held forth on Cocker and the alphabet; they drew off a few stray boys from the village school, and this detachment, recruited and reinforced by all the idlers of the neighbourhood, to whom mischief was sport, was studiously instructed to keep up a perpetual whistling, hooting, howling, hissing, and imitations of the crowing of a cock, so as to render it impossible for the usher and boys within the school to hear or profit by one word that was said. If the scholars within were told to say A, the blackguards without were bellowing B; or if the usher asked how many three times three made, the answer from the outside would be "ten," or else that "it depended upon circumstances." Every week some ribald and libellous paragraph would appear in the county newspaper, headed "Advertisement," in such terms as the following:—"We have just learned from the best authority, that the usher of a school not a hundred miles off from Hogs-Norton, has lately been detected in various acts of forgery, petty larceny, sedition, high treason, burglary, &c. &c. If this report be not officially contradicted by the said usher within a fortnight, by advertisement, duly inserted and paid for in this newspaper, we shall hold the same to be true." Or sometimes more mysteriously thus:—"Delicacy forbids us to allude to the shocking reports which are current respecting the usher of Mullaglass. Christian charity would lead us to hope they were unfounded, but Christian verity compels us to state that we believe every word of them." And though Jack and his editor sometimes overshot their mark, and got soused in damages at the instance of those whom they had libelled, yet Jack, who found that it answered his ends, persevered, and so kept the whole neighbourhood in hot water.
You would not believe me were I to tell you of half the tyrannical and preposterous pranks which he performed about this period; but some of them I can't help noticing. He had picked up some subscriptions, for instance, from charitable folks in the neighbourhood, to build a school upon a remote corner of North Farm, where not a single boy had learned his alphabet within the memory of man; and what, think ye, does he do with the money, but insists on clapping down the new school exactly opposite the old school in the village, merely to spite the poor usher, against whom he had taken a dislike—though there was no more need to build a school there than to ship a cargo of coals for Newcastle. Again, having ascertained that one of his servants had been seen shaking hands with some of Jack's family with whom he had quarrelled as above mentioned, he refused to give him a character, though the poor fellow was only thinking of taking service somewhere in the plantations.
Notwithstanding all Jack's efforts, however, it sometimes happened that when an usher was appointed he could not get up a sufficient cabal against him, and that even the schoolboys, knowing something of the man before, had no objection to him. In such cases Jack resorted to various schemes in order to cast the candidate upon his examinations. Sometimes he would shut him up in a small closet, telling him he must answer a hundred and fifty questions, in plane and spherical trigonometry, within as many minutes, and that he would be allowed the assistance of Johnson's Dictionary, and the Gradus ad Parnassum, for the purpose. At other tines he would ask the candidate, with a bland smile, what was his opinion of things in general, and of the dispute between him (Jack) and the Squire in particular; and if that question was not answered to his satisfaction, he remitted him to his studies. When no objection could be made to the man's parts, Jack would say that he had scruples of conscience, because he doubted whether his commission had been fairly come by, or whether he had not bribed the Squire by a five-pound note to obtain it. At last he did not even take the trouble of going through this farce, but would at once, if he disliked the look of the man's face, tell him he was busy at the moment;—that he might lay the Squire's letter on the table, and call again that day six months for an answer. He no longer pretended, in fact, to any fairness or justice in his dealings; for though those who sided with him might be guilty of all the offences in the calendar, Jack continued to wink so hard, and shut his ears so close, as not to see or hear of them; while as to the unhappy wights who differed from him, he had the eyes of Argus and the ear of Dionysius, and the tender mercies of a Spanish inquisitor, discovering scandalum magnatum and high treason in ballads which they had written twenty years before, and in which Jack, though he received a presentation copy at the time, had never pretended, up to that moment, to detect the least harm.
The last of these freaks which I shall here mention took place on this wise. Jack had never been accustomed to invite any one to his assemblies but the ushers who had been appointed by the Squire, and it was always understood that they alone had a vote in all vestry matters. But when John quarrelled with his family, as above mentioned, and a large part of the oldest and most respectable of his relatives drew off from him, it occurred to Jack that he could bring in a set of new auxiliaries, upon whose vote he could count in all his family squabbles, or his deputes, with Squire Bull; and the following was the device he fell upon for that end.
Here and there upon North Farm, where the village schools were crowded, little temporary schoolhouses had been run up, where one or two of the monitors were accustomed to teach such of the children as could not be accommodated in the larger school. But these assistants had always been a little looked down upon, and had never been allowed a seat at Jack's board. Now, however, he began to change his tone towards them, and to court and flatter them on all occasions. One fine morning he suddenly made his appearance on the village green, followed by some of his hangers on, bearing a theodolite, chains, measuring rods, sextants, compasses, and other instruments of land-surveying. Jack set up his theodolite, took his observations, began noting measurements, and laying down the bases of triangles in all directions, then, having summed up his calculations with much gravity, gave directions to those about him to line off with stakes and ropes the space which he pointed out to them, and which in fact enclosed nearly half the village. In the course of these operations, the usher, who had witnessed these mathematical proceedings of Jack from the window, but could not comprehend what the man would be at, sallied forth, and accosting Jack, asked him what he meant by these strange lines of circumvallation. "Why," answered Jack, "I have been thinking for some time past of relieving you of part of your heavy duties, and dividing the parish-school between you and your assistant; so in future you will confine yourself to the space outside the ropes, and leave all within the inclosure to him." It was in vain that the usher protested he was quite equal to the duty; that the boys liked him, and disliked his assistant; that if the village was thus divided, the assistant would be put upon a level with him, and have a vote in the vestry, to which he had no more right than to a seat in the House of Commons. Jack was not to be moved from his purpose, but gave orders to have a similar apportionment made in most of the neighbouring villages, and then inviting the assistants to a party at his house, he had them sworn in as vestrymen, telling them, that in future they had the same right to a seat at his board as the best of John's ushers had. Here again, however, he found he had run his head against a wall, and that he was not the mighty personage he took himself for; for, on a complaint to the justices of the peace, a dozen special constables were sent down, who tore up the posts, removed the ropes, and demolished all Jack's inclosures in a trice.
These frequent defeats rendered Jack nearly frantic. He now began to quarrel even with his best friends, not a few of whom, though they had gone with him a certain length, now left his house, and told him plainly they would never set foot in it again. He burst forth into loud invectives against Martin, who had always been a good friend to his penny subscriptions, and more than once had come to his assistance when Jack was hard pressed by Hugh, a dissenting schoolmaster, between whom and Jack there had long been a bloody feud. Jack now denounced Martin in set terms; accused him of being in the pay of Peter, with whom he said he had been holding secret conferences of late at the Cross-Keys; and of setting the Squire's mind against him (Jack)—whereas poor Martin, till provoked by Jack's abuse to defend himself, had never said an unkind word against him. Finding, however, that, with all his efforts, he did not make much way with the men, Jack directed his battery chiefly against the women, who were easily caught by his sanctimonious air, and knowing nothing earthly of the subject, took for gospel all that Jack chose to tell them. He held love-feasts in his house up to a late hour, at which he generally harangued on the subject of the persecutions which he endured. He vowed the justices were all in a conspiracy against him; that they were constantly intruding into his grounds, notwithstanding his warnings that spring-guns were set in the premises; that on one occasion a tall fellow of a sheriff's officer had made his way into his house and served him with a writ of fieri facias even in the midst of one of his assemblies, a disgrace he never could get over; that he could not walk ten yards in any direction, or saunter for an instant at the corner of a street, without being ordered by a policeman to move on; in short, that he lived in perpetual terror and anxiety—and all this because he had done his best to save them and their children from the awful scourge of deboshed and despotical ushers. At the conclusion of these meetings he invariably handed round his hat, into which the silly women dropped a good many shillings, which Jack assured them would be applied for the public benefit, meaning thereby his own private advantage.
Jack, however, with all his craze, was too knowing not to see that the women, beyond advancing him a few shillings at a time, would do little for his cause so far as any terms with Squire Bull was concerned; so, with the view of making a last attack upon the Squire, and driving him into terms, he began to look about for assistance among those with whom he had previously been at loggerheads. It cost him some qualms before he could so far abase his stomach as to do so; but at last he ventured to address a long and pitiful letter to Hugh, in which he set forth all his disputes with John, and dwelt much on his scruples of conscience; begged him to forget old quarrels, and put down his name to a Round Robin, which he was about to address to the Squire in his own behalf. To this epistle Hugh answered as follows:—"Dearly beloved,—my bowels are grieved for your condition, but I see only one cure for your scruples of conscience. Strip off the Squire's livery, and give up your place, as I did, and your peace of mind will be restored to you. In the mean time, I do not see very well why I should help you to pocket the Squire's wages, and do nothing for it. Yours, in the spirit of meekness and forgiveness—HUGH." After this rebuff, Jack, you may easily believe, saw there was little hope of assistance from that quarter.
As a last resource, he called a general meeting of his friends, at which it was resolved to present the proposed Round Robin to John, signed by as many names as they could muster; in which Jack, who seemed to be of opinion that the more they asked the greater was their chance of getting something at least, set forth the articles he wanted, and without which, he told John, he could no longer remain in his house; but that he and his relatives and friends would forthwith, if this petition was rejected, walk out, to the infinite scandal of the neighbourhood, leaving the Squire without a teacher or a writing-master within fifty miles to supply their place. They demanded that the Squire should give up the nomination of the ushers entirely, though in whose favour they did not explain; and that Jack was in future to be a law unto himself, and to be supreme in all matters of education, with power to himself to define in what such matters consisted. On these requests being conceded, they stated that they would continue to give their countenance to the Squire as in times past; otherwise the whole party must quit possession incontinently. Jack prevailed on a good many to sign this document—though some did not like the idea of walking out, demurred, and added after the word incontinently, "i.e. when convenient,"—and thus signed, they put the Round Robin under a twopenny cover, and dispatched it to "John Bull, Esquire"—with haste.
If they really thought the Squire was to be bullied into these terms by this last sally, they found themselves consumedly mistaken; for after a time down came a long and perfectly civil letter from the Squire's secretary, telling them their demands were totally out of the question, and that the Squire would see them at the antipodes sooner than comply with them.
Did Jack then, you will ask, walk out as he had threatened, when he got the Squire's answer? Not he. He now gave notice that he intended to apply for an Act of Parliament on the subject: and that, in the meantime, the matter might stand over. Meantime, and in case matters should come to the worst, he is busily engaged begging all over the country, for cash to erect a new wooden tenement for him, in the event of his having to leave his old one of stone and lime. Some say even that he has been seen laying down several pounds of gunpowder in the cellar of his present house, and has been heard to boast of his intention to blow up his successor when he takes possession; but for my own part, and seeing how he has shuffled hitherto, I believe that he is no nearer removing than he was a year ago. Indeed he has said confidentially to several people, that even if his new house were all ready for him, he could not, with his asthmatic tendency, think of entering it for a twelvemonth or so, till the lath and plaster should be properly seasoned. Of all this, however, we shall hear more anon.
* * * * *
PAUL DE KOCKNEYISMS.
BY A COCKNEY.
When any one thinks of French literature, there immediately rises before him a horrid phantasmagoria of repulsive objects—murders, incests, parricides, and every imaginable shape of crime that horror e'er conceived or fancy feigned. He sees the whole efforts of a press, brimful of power and talent, directed against every thing that has hitherto been thought necessary to the safety of society, or the happiness of domestic life—marriage deliberately written down, and proved to be the cause of all the miseries of the social state: and strange to say, in the crusade against matrimony, the sharpest swords and strongest lances are wielded by women. Those women are received into society—men's wives and daughters associate with them—and their books are noticed in the public journals without any allusions to the Association for the prevention of vice, but rather with the praises which, in other times and countries, would have been bestowed on works of genius and virtue. The taste of the English public has certainly deteriorated within the last few years; and popularity, the surest index of the public's likings, though not of the writer's deservings, has attended works of which the great staple has been crime and blackguardism. A certain rude power, a sort of unhealthy energy, has enabled the writer to throw an interest round pickpockets and murderers; and if this interest were legitimately produced, by the exhibition of human passions modified by the circumstances of the actor—if it arose from the development of one real, living, thinking, doing, and suffering man's heart, we could only wonder at the author's choice of such a subject, but we should be ready to acknowledge that he had widened our sphere of knowledge—and made us feel, as we all do, without taking the same credit for it to ourselves that the old blockhead in France does, that being human, we have sympathies with all, even the lowest and wickedest of our kind. But the interest those works excite arises from no such legitimate source—not from the development of our common nature, but from the creation of a new one—from startling contrasts, not of two characters but of one—tenderness, generosity in one page; fierceness and murder in the next. But though our English tastes are so far deteriorated as to tolerate, or even to admire, the records of cruelty and sin now proceeding every day from the press—our English morals would recoil with horror from the deliberate wickedness which forms the great attraction of the French modern school of romance. The very subjects chosen for their novels, by the most popular of their female writers, shows a state of feeling in the authors more dreadful to contemplate than the mere coarse raw-head-and-bloody-bones descriptions of our chroniclers of Newgate. A married woman, the heroine—high in rank, splendid in intellect, radiant in beauty—has for the hero a villain escaped from the hulks. There is no record of his crimes—we are not called upon to follow him in his depredations, or see him cut throats in the scientific fashion of some of our indigenous rascals. He is the philosopher,—the instructor—the guide. The object of his introduction is to show the iniquity of human laws—the object of her introduction is to show the absurdity of the institution of marriage. This would never be tolerated in England. Again, a married woman is presented to us—for the sympathy which with us attends a young couple to the church-door, only begins in France after they have left it: as a child she has been betrothed to a person of her own rank—at five or six incurable idiocy takes possession of her proposed husband—but when she is eighteen the marriage takes place—the husband is a mere child still; for his intellect has continued stationary though his body has reached maturity—a more revolting picture was never presented than that of the condition of the idiot's wife—her horror of her husband—and of course her passion for another. The most interesting scenes between the lovers are constantly interrupted by the hideous representative of matrimony, the grinning husband, who rears his slavering countenance from behind the sofa, and impresses his unfortunate wife with a sacred awe for the holy obligations of marriage.
Again, a dandy of fifty is presented to us, whose affection for his ward has waited, of course, till she is wedded to another, to ripen into love. He still continues her protector against the advances of others; for jealousy is a good point of character in every one but the husband, and there it is only ridiculous. The husband in this case is another admirable specimen of the results of wedlock for life—he is a chattering, shallow pretender—a political economist, prodigiously dull and infinitely conceited—an exaggerated type of the Hume-Bowring statesman—and, as is naturally to be expected, our sympathies are awakened for the wretched wife, and we rejoice to see that her beauty and talents, her fine mind and pure ideas, are appreciated by a dashing young fellow, who outwits our original friend the dandy of fifty and the philosophical depute; the whole leaving a pleasing impression on the reader's mind from the conviction that the heroine is no longer neglected.
From the similarity of these stories—and they are only taken at random from a great number—it will be seen that the spirit of almost all of them is the same. But when we go lower in the scale, and leave the class of philosophic novels, we find their tales of life and manners still more absurd in their total untrueness than the others were hateful in their design. There is a novel just now appearing in one of the most widely-circulated of the Parisian papers, so grotesquely overdone, that if it had been meant for a caricature of the worst parts of our own hulk-and-gallows authors, it would have been very much admired; but meant to be serious, powerful, harrowing, and all the rest of it, it is a most curious exhibition of a nation's taste and a writer's audacity. The Mysteries of Paris, by Eugene Sue, has been dragging its slow length along for a long time, and gives no sign of getting nearer its denouement than when it began. A sovereign prince is the hero—his own daughter, whom he has disowned, the heroine; and the tale commences by his fighting a man on the street, and taking a fancy to his unknown child, who is the inhabitant of one of the lowest dens in the St Giles' of Paris! The other dramatis personae are convicts, receivers of stolen goods, murderers, intriguers of all ranks—the aforesaid prince, sometimes in the disguise of a workman, sometimes of a pickpocket, acting the part of a providence among them, rewarding the good and punishing the guilty. The English personages are the Countess Sarah McGregor—the lawful wife of the prince—her brother Tom, and Sir Walter Murph, Esquire. These are all jostled, and crowded, and pushed, and flurried—first in flash kens, where the language is slang; then in country farms, and then in halls and palaces—and so intermixed and confused, that the clearest head gets puzzled with the entanglements of the story; and confusion gets worse confounded as the farrago proceeds. How M. Sue will manage ever to come to a close is an enigma to us; and we shall wait with some impatience to see how he will distribute his poetic justice, when he can't get his puppets to move another step. Horror seems the great ingredient in the present literary fare of France, and in the Mysteres de Paris the most confirmed glutton of such delicacies may sup full of them. In the midst of such depraved and revolting exhibitions, it is a sort of satisfaction, though not of the loftiest kind, to turn to the coarse fun and ludicrous descriptions of Paul de Kock. And, after all, our friend Paul has not many more sins than coarseness and buffoonery to answer for. As to his attempting, of set purpose, to corrupt people's morals, it never entered into his head. He does not know what morals are; they never form any part of his idea of manners or character. If a good man comes in his way, he looks at him with a strange kind of unacquaintance that almost rises into respect; but he is certainly more affectionate, and on far better terms, with men about town—amative hairdressers, flirting grisettes, and the whole genus, male and female, of the epiciers. It would no doubt be an improvement if the facetious Paul could believe in the existence of an honest woman; but such women as come in his way he describes to the life. A ball in a dancing-master's private room up six pairs of stairs, a pic-nic to one of the suburbs, a dinner at a restaurateur's, or a family consultation on a proposal of marriage, are far more in Paul's way than tales of open horror or silk-and-satin depravity. One is only sorry, in the midst of so much gaiety and good-humour, to stumble on some scene or sentiment that gives on the inclination to throw the book in the fire, or start, like Caesar, on the top of the diligence to pull the author's ears. But the next page sets all right again; and you go on laughing at the disasters of my neighbour Raymond, or admiring the graces or Chesterfieldian politeness of M. Bellequeue. French nature seems essentially different from all the other natures hitherto known; and yet, though so new, there never rises any doubt that it is a nature, a reality, as Thomas Carlyle says, and not a sham. The personages presented to us by Paul de Kock can scarcely, in the strict sense of the word, be called human beings; but they are French beings of real flesh and blood, speaking and thinking French in the most decided possible manner, and at intervals possessed of feelings which make us inclined to include them in the great genus homo, though with so many inseparable accidents, that it is impossible for a moment to shut one's eyes to the species to which they belong. But such as they are in their shops, and back-parlours, and ball-rooms, and fetes champetres, there they are in Paul de Kock—nothing extenuated, little set down in malice—vain, empty, frivolous, good-tempered, gallant, lively, and absurd. Let us go to the wood of Romainville to celebrate the anniversary of the marriage of M. and Madame Moutonnet on the day of St Eustache.
"At a little distance from the ball, towards the middle of the wood, a numerous party is seated on the grass, or rather on the sand; napkins are spread on the ground, and covered with plates and cold meat and fruits. The bottles are placed in the cool shade, the glasses are filled and emptied rapidly; good appetites and open air make every thing appear excellent. They make plates out of paper, and toss pieces of pate and sausage to each other. They eat, they drink, they sing, they laugh and play tricks. It seems a struggle who shall be funniest. It is well known that all things are allowable in the country; and the cits now assembled in the wood of Romainville seem fully persuaded of the fact. A jolly old governor of about fifty tries to carve a turkey, and can't succeed. A little woman, very red, very fat, and very round, hastens to seize a limb of the bird; she pulls at one side, the jolly old governor at the other—the leg separates at last, and the lady goes sprawling on the grass, while the gentleman topples over in the opposite direction with the remainder of the animal in his hand. The shouts of laughter redouble, and M. Moutonnet—such is the name of the jolly old governor—resumes his place, declaring that he will never try to carve any thing again. 'I knew you would never be able to manage it,' said a large woman bluntly, in a tone that agreed exactly with her starched and crabbed features. She was sitting opposite the stout gentleman, and had seen with indignation the alacrity with which the little lady had flown to M. Moutonnet's assistance.
"'In the twenty years we have been married,' she continued, 'have you ever carved any thing at home, sir?'
"'No, my dear, that's very true;' replied the stout gentleman in a submissive voice, and trying to smile his better half into good-humour.
"'You don't know how to help a dish of spinach, and yet you attempt a dish like that!'
"'My dear—in the country, you know——'
"'In the country, sir, as in the town, people shouldn't try things they can't perform.'
"'You know, Madame Moutonnet, that generally I never attempt any thing—but to day'——
"'To day you should have done as you do on other days,' retorted the lady.
"'Ah, but, my love, you forget that this is Saint Eustache——'
"'Yes, yes, this is Saint Eustache!' is repeated in chorus by the whole company, and the glasses are filled and jingled as before.
"'To the health of Eustache; Eustache for ever!'
"'To yours, ladies and gentlemen,' replied M. Moutonnet graciously smiling—'and yours, my angel.'
"It is to his wife M. Moutonnet addresses himself. She tried to assume an amiable look, and condescends to approach her glass to that of M. Eustache Moutonnet. M. Eustache Moutonnet is a rich laceman of the Rue St Martin; a man highly respected in trade; no bill of his was ever protested, nor any engagement failed in. For the thirty years he has kept shop he has been steadily at work from eight in the morning till eight at night. His department is to take care of the day-book and ledger; Madame Moutonnet manages the correspondence and makes the bargains. The business of the shop and the accounts are confided to an old clerk and Mademoiselle Eugenie Moutonnet, with whom we shall presently become better acquainted.
"M. Moutonnet, as you may perhaps already have perceived, is not commander-in-chief at hone. His wife directs, rules, and governs all things. When she is in good-humour—a somewhat extraordinary occurrence—she allows her husband to go and take his little cup of coffee, provided he goes for that purpose to the coffee-house at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil—for it is famous for its liberal allowance of sugar, and M. Moutonnet always brings home three lumps of it to his wife. On Sundays they dine a little earlier, to have time for a promenade to the Tuileries or the Jardin Turk. Excursions into the country are very rare, and only on extraordinary occasions, such as the fete-day of M. and Madame Moutonnet. That regular life does not hinder the stout lace-merchant from being the happiest of men—so true is it that what is one man's poison is another man's meat. M. Moutonnet was born with simple tastes—she required to be led and managed like a child. Don't shrug your shoulders at this avowal, ye spirited gentlemen, so proud of your rights, so puffed up with your merits. You! who think yourselves always masters of your actions, you yield to your passions every day! they lead you, and sometimes lead you very ill. Well, M. Moutonnet has no fear of that—he has no passions—he knows nothing but his trade, and obedience to his spouse. He finds that a man can be very happy, though he does not know how to carve a turkey, and lets himself be governed by his wife. Madame Moutonnet is long past forty, but it is a settled affair that she is never to be more than thirty-six. She never was handsome, but she is large and tall, and her husband is persuaded she is superb. She is not a coquette, but she thinks herself superior to every body else in talents and beauty. She never cared a rush about her husband, but if he was untrue to her she would tear his eyes out. Madame Moutonnet, you perceive, is excessively jealous of her rights. A daughter is the sole issue of the marriage of M. Eustache Moutonnet and Mademoiselle Barbe Desormeaux. She is now eighteen years old, and at eighteen the young ladies in Paris are generally pretty far advanced. But Eugenie has been educated severely—and although possessed of a good deal of spirit, is timid, docile, submissive, and never ventures on a single observation in presence of her parents. She has cleverness, grace, and sensibility, but she is ignorant of the advantages she has received from nature—her sentiments are as yet concentrated at the bottom of her heart. She is not coquettish—or rather she scarcely ventures to give way to the inclination so natural to women, which leads them to please and to be pretty. But Eugenie has no need of those little arts, so indispensable to others, or to have recourse to her mirror every hour. She is well made, and she is beautiful; her eyes are soft and expressive, her voice is tender and agreeable, her brow is shadowed by dark locks of hair, her mouth furnished with fine white teeth. In short, she has that nameless something about her, which charms at first sight, which is not always possessed by greater beauties and more regular features. We now know all the Moutonnet family; and since we have gone so far, let us make acquaintance with the rest of the party who have come to the wood of Romainville to celebrate the Saint Eustache.
"The little woman who rushed so vigorously to the assistance of M. Moutonnet, is the wife of a tall gentleman of the name of Bernard, who is a toyman in the Rue St Denis. M. Bernard plays the amiable and the fool at the same time. He laughs and quizzes, makes jokes, and even puns; he is the wit of the party. His wife has been rather good-looking, and wishes to be so still. She squeezes in her waist till she can hardly breathe, and takes an hour to fit her shoes on—for she is determined to have a small foot. Her face is a little too red; but her eyes are very lively, and she is constantly trying to give them as mischievous an expression as she can. Madame Bernard has a great girl of fifteen, whom she dresses as if she were five, and treats occasionally to a new doll, by way of keeping her a child. By the side of Madame Bernard is seated a young man of eighteen, who is almost as timid as Eugenie, and blushes when he is spoken to, though he has stood behind a counter for six months. He is the son of a friend of M. Bernard, and his wife has undertaken to patronize him, and introduce him to good society.
"A person of about forty years of age, with one of those silly countenances which there is no mistaking at the first glance, is seated beside Eugenie. M. Dupont—such is his name—is a rich grocer of the Rue aux Ours. He wears powder and a queue, because he fancies they are becoming, and his hairdresser has told him that they are very aristocratic. His coat of sky-blue, and his jonquil-coloured waistcoat, give him still more the appearance of a simpleton, and agree admirably with the astonished expression of his gooseberry eyes. He dangles two watch-chains, that hang down his nankeen trowsers, with great satisfaction, and seems struck with admiration at the wisdom of his own remarks. He thinks himself captivating and full of wit. He has the presumption of ignorance, propped up by money. Finally, he is a bachelor, which gives him great consideration in all the families where there are marriageable daughters. M. and Madame Gerard, perfumers in the Rue St Martin, are also of the party. The perfumer enacts the gallant gay Lothario, and in his own district has the reputation of a prodigious rake, though he is ugly, and ill-made, and squints. But he fancies he overcomes all these drawbacks by covering himself with odours and perfumes—accordingly, you smell him half an hour before he comes in sight. His wife is young and pretty. She married him at fifteen, and has a boy of nine, who looks more like her brother than her son. The little Gerard hollos and jumps about, breaks the glasses and bottles, and makes as much noise as all the rest of the company put together. 'He's a little lion,' exclaims M. Gerard; 'he's exactly what I was. You never could hear yourselves speak wherever I was, at his age. People were delighted with me. My son is my perfect image.'
"M. Gerard's sister, an old maid of forty-five, who takes every opportunity of declaring that she never intends to marry, and sighs every tine M. Dupont looks at her, is next to M. Moutonnet. The old clerk of the laceman—M. Bidois—who waits for Madame Moutonnet's permission before he opens his mouth, and fills his glass every time she is not looking—is placed at the side of Mademoiselle Cecile Gerard; who, though she swears every minute that she never will marry, and that she hates the men, is very ill pleased to have old M. Bidois for her neighbour, and hints pretty audibly that Madame Bernard monopolizes all the young beaux. A young man of about twenty, tall, well-made, with handsome features, whose intelligent expression announces that he is intended for higher things than perpetually to be measuring yards of calico, is seated at the right hand of Eugenie. That young man, whose name is Adolphe, is assistant in a fashionable warehouse where Madame Moutonnet deals; and as he always gives good measure, she has asked him to the fete of St Eustache. And now we are acquainted with all the party who are celebrating the marriage-day of M. Moutonnet."
We are not going to follow Paul de Kock in the adventures of all the party so carefully described to us. Our object in translating the foregoing passage, was to enable our readers to see the manner of people who indulge in pic-nics in the wood of Romainville, desiring them to compare M. Moutonnet and his friends, with any laceman and his friends he may choose to fix upon in London. A laceman as well to do in the world as M. Moutonnet, a grocer as rich as M. Dupont, and even a perfumer as fashionable as M. Gerard, would have a whitebait dinner at Blackwall, or make up a party to the races at Epsom—and as to admitting such a humble servitor as M. Bidois to their society, or even the unfriended young mercer's assistant, M. Adolphe, they would as soon think of inviting one of the new police. Five miles from town our three friends would pass themselves off for lords, and blow-up the waiter for not making haste with their brandy and water, in the most aristocratic manner imaginable. In France, or at least in Paul de Kock, there seems no straining after appearances. The laceman continues a laceman when he is miles away from the little back shop; and even the laceman's lady has no desire to be mistaken for the wife of a squire. Madame Moutonnet seems totally unconscious of the existence of any lady whatever, superior to herself in rank or station. The Red Book is to her a sealed volume. Her envies, hatreds, friendships, rivalries, and ambitions, are all limited to her own circle. The wife of a rich laceman, on the other hand, in England, most religiously despises the wives of almost all other tradesmen; she scarcely knows in what street the shop is situated, but from the altitudes of Balham or Hampstead, looks down with supreme disdain on the toiling creatures who stand all day behind a counter. The husband, in the same way, manages to cast off every reminiscence of the shop, in the course of his three miles in the omnibus, and at six or seven o'clock you might fancy they were a duke and duchess, sitting in a gaudily furnished drawing-room, listening to two elegant young ladies torturing a piano, and another still more elegant young lady severely flogging a harp. The effect of this, so far as our English Paul de Kocks are concerned, is, that their linen-drapers, and lacemen, and rich perfumers, are represented assuming a character that does not belong to them, and aping people whom they falsely suppose to be their betters; whereas the genuine Paul paints the Parisian tradesmen without any affectation at all. Ours are made laughable by the common farcical attributes of all pretensions, great or small; while real unsophisticated shopkeeping (French) nature is the staple of Paul's character-sketches, and they are more valuable, and in the end more interesting, accordingly. Who cares for the exaggerated efforts of a Manchester warehouseman to be polished and gentlemanly? It is only acting after all, and gives us no insight into his real character, or the character of his class, any more than Mr Coates' anxiety to be Romeo enlightened us as to his disposition in other respects. The Manchester warehouseman, though he fails in his attempt at fashionable parts, may be a very estimable and pains-taking individual, and, with the single exception of that foible, offers nothing to the most careful observer to distinguish him from the stupid and respectable in any part of the world. And in this respect, any one starting as the chronicler of citizen life among us, would labour under a great disadvantage. Whether our people are phlegmatic, or stupid, or sensible—all three of which epithets are generally applicable to the same individual—or that they have no opportunities of showing their peculiarities from the domestic habits of the animal—it is certain that, however better they may be qualified for the business of life than their neighbours, they are far less fitted for the pages of a book. And the proof of it is this, that wherever any of our novelists has introduced a tradesman, he has either been an invention altogether, or a caricature. Even Bailie Nicol Jarvie never lived in the Saut Market in half such true flesh and blood as he does in Rob Roy. At all events, the inimitable Bailie is known to the universe at large by the additions made to his real character by the prodigal hand of his biographer, and the ridiculous contrasts in which he is placed with the caterans and reivers of the hills. In the city of Glasgow he was looked upon, and justly, as an honour to the gude town—consulted on all difficult matters, and famous for his knowledge of the world and his natural sagacity. Would this have been a fit subject for description? or is it just to think of the respectable Bailie in the ridiculous point of view in which he is presented to us in the Highlands? How would Sir Peter Laurie look if he had been taken long ago by Algerine pirates, and torn, with all his civic honours thick upon him, from the magisterial chair, and made hairdresser to the ladies of the harem—threatened with the bastinado for awkwardness in combing, as he now commits other unfortunate fellows to the treadmill for crimes scarcely more enormous? Paul de Kock derives none of his interest from odd juxtapositions. He knows nothing about caves and prisons and brigands—but he knows every corner of coffee-houses, and beer-shops, and ball-rooms. And these ball-rooms give him the command of another set of characters, totally unknown to the English world of fiction, because non-existent in England. With us, no shop-boy or apprentice would take his sweetheart to a public hop at any of the licenced music-houses. No decent girl would go there, nor even any girl that wished to keep up the appearance of decency. No flirtations, to end in matrimony, take their rise between an embryo boot-maker and a barber's daughter, in the course of the chaine Anglaise beneath the trees of the Green Park, or even at the Yorkshire Stingo. Fathers have flinty hearts, and the above-mentioned barber would probably increase the beauty of his daughter's "bonny black eye," by giving her another, if she talked of going to a ball, whether in a room or the open air. The Puritans have left their mark. Dancing is always sinful, and Satan is perpetual M.C. But let us follow the barber, or rather hairdresser—for the mere gleaner of beards is not intended by the name—into his own amusements. In Paul de Kock he goes to a coffee-house, drinks a small cup of coffee, and pockets the entire sugar; or to a ball, where he performs all the offices of a court chamberlain, and captivates all hearts by his graceful deportment. His wife, perhaps, goes with him, and flirts in a very business-like manner with a tobacconist; and his daughter is whirled about in a waltz by Eugene or Adolphe, the young confectioner, with as much elegance and decorum as if they were a young marquis and his bride in the dancing hall at Devonshire House. Our English friend goes to enjoy a pipe, or, if he has lofty notions, a cigar, and gin and water, at the neighbouring inn. Or when he determines on having a night of real rational enjoyment, he goes to some tavern where singing is the order of the evening. A stout man in the chair knocks on the table, and being the landlord, makes disinterested enquiries if every gentleman has a bumper. He then calls on himself for a song, and states that he is to be accompanied on the piano by a distinguished performer; whereupon, a tall young man of a moribund expression of countenance, and with his hair closely pomatumed over his head, rises, and, after a low bow, seats himself at the instrument. The stout man sings, the young man plays, and thunders of applause, and various fresh orders for kidneys and strong ale, and welch rabbits and cold-without, reward their exertions. Drinking goes on for some time, and waiters keep flying about with dishes of all kinds, and the hairdresser becomes communicative to his next neighbour, a butcher from Whitechapel, and they exchange their sentiments about kidneys and music in general, and the kidneys and music now offered to them in particular. In a few minutes, a gentleman with a strange obliquity in his vision, seated in the middle of the coffee-room, takes off his hat, and after a thump on the table from the landlord's hammer, commences a song so intensely comic, that when it is over, the orders for supper and drink are almost unanimous. The house is now full, the theatres have discharged their hungry audiences, and a distinguished guinea-a-week performer seats himself in the very next box to the hairdresser. That worthy gentleman by this time is stuffed so full of kidneys, and has drank so many glasses of brandy and water, that he can scarcely understand the explanations of the Whitechapel butcher, who has a great turn for theatricals, and wishes to treat the dramatic performer to a tumbler of gin-twist. Another knock on the table produces a momentary silence, and a little man starts off with an extempore song, where the conviviality of the landlord, and the goodness of his suppers, are duly chronicled. The hairdresser hears a confused buzz of admiration, and even attempts to join in it, but thinks it, at last, time to go. He goes, and narrowly escapes making the acquaintance of Mr Jardine, from his extraordinary propensity to brush all the lamp-posts he encounters with the shoulder of his coat; and gets home, to the great comfort of his wife and daughter, who have gone cozily off to sleep, in the assurance that their distinguished relative is safely locked up in the police-office. The Frenchman, on the other hand, never gets into mischief from an overdose of eau sucree, though sometimes he certainly becomes very rombustious from a glass or two of vin ordinaire; and nothing astonishes us so much as the small quantities of small drink which have an effect on the brains of the steadiest of the French population. They get not altogether drunk, but decidedly very talkative, and often quarrelsome, on a miserable modicum of their indigenous small beer, to a degree which would not be excusable if it were brandy. We constantly find whole parties at a pic-nic in a most prodigious state of excitement after two rounds of a bottle—jostling the peasants, and talking more egregious nonsense than before. And when they quarrel, what a Babel of words, and what a quakerism of hands! Instead of a round or two between the parties, as it would be in our own pugnacious disagreements, they merely, when it comes to the worst, push each other from side to side, and shout lustily for the police; and squalling women, and chattering men, and ignorant country people, and elegant mercers' apprentices, and gay-mannered grocers, hustle, and scream, and swear, and lecture, and threaten, and bluster—but not a single blow! The guardian of the public peace appears, and the combatants evanish into thin air; and in a few minutes after this dreadful melee, the violin strikes up a fresh waltz, and all goes "gaily as a marriage-bell." We don't say, at the present moment, that one of these methods of conducting a quarrel is better than the other, (though we confess we are rather partial to a hit in the bread-basket, or a tap on the claret-cork)—all we mean to advance is, that with the materials to work upon, Paul de Kock, as a faithful describer of real scenes, has a manifest advantage over the describer of English incidents of a parallel kind.
The affectations of a French cit, when that nondescript animal condescends to be affected, are more varied and interesting than those of their brethren here. He has a taste for the fine arts—he talks about the opera—likes to know artists and authors—and, though living up five or six pairs of stairs in a narrow lane, gives soirees and conversaziones. More ludicrous all this, and decidedly less disgusting, than the assumptions of our man-milliners and fishmongers. There is short sketch by Paul de Kock, called a Soiree Bourgeoise, which we translate entire, as an illustration of this curious phase of French character; and we shall take an early opportunity of bringing before our readers the essays of the daily feuilletonists of the Parisian press, which give a clearer insight into the peculiarities of French domestic literature than can be acquired in any other quarter.
A CIT'S SOIREE.
Lights were observed some time ago, in the four windows of an apartment on the second floor of a house in the Rue Grenetat. It was not quite so brilliant as the Cercle des Etrangers, but still it announced something. These four windows, with lights glancing in them all, had an air of rejoicing, and the industrious inhabitants of the Rue Grenetat, who don't generally go to much expense for illumination, even in their shops, looked at the four windows which eclipsed the street lamps in their brilliancy, and said, "There's certainly something very extraordinary going on this evening at M. Lupot's!" M. Lupot is an honest tradesman, who has retired from business some time. After having sold stationary for thirty years, without ever borrowing of a neighbour, or failing in a payment, M. Lupot, having scraped together an income of three hundred and twenty pounds, disposed of his stock in trade, and closed his ledger, to devote himself entirely to the pleasures of domestic life with his excellent spouse, Madam Felicite Lupot—a woman of an amazingly apathetic turn of mind, who did admirably well in the shop as long as she had only to give change for half-crowns, but whose abilities extended no further. But this had not prevented her from making a very good wife to her husband, (which proves that much talent is not required for that purpose,) and presenting him with a daughter and a son.
The daughter was the eldest, and had attained her seventeenth year; and M. Lupot, who spared nothing on her education, did not despair of finding a husband for her with a soul above sticks of sealing-wax and wafers—more especially as it was evident she had no turn for trade, and believed she had a decided genius for the fine arts—for she had painted her father as a shepherd with his crook, when she was only twelve, and had learned a year after to play "Je suis Lindore" by ear on the piano. M. Lupot was proud of his daughter, who was thus a painter and a musician; who was a foot taller than her papa; who held herself as upright as a Prussian grenadier; who made a curtsy like Taglioni, who had a Roman nose three times the size of other people's, a mouth to match, and eyes so arch and playful, that it was difficult to discover them. The boy was only seven; he was allowed to do whatever he chose—he was so very young; and Monsieur Ascanius availed himself of the permission, and was in mischief from morning to night. His father was too fond of him to scold him, and his mother wouldn't take the trouble to get into a passion.
Well, then, one morning M. Lupot soliloquized—"I have a good fortune, a charming family, and a wife who has never been in a rage; but all this does not lead to a man's being invited, courted, and made much of in the world. Since I have cut the hotpress-wove and red sealing-wax, I have seen nobody but a few friends—retired tradesmen like myself—who drop in to take a hand at vingt-et-un, or loto; but I wish more than that—my daughter must not live in so narrow a circle; my daughter has a decided turn for the arts; I ought to have artists to my house. I will give soirees, tea-parties—yes, with punch at parting, if it be necessary. We shall play bouillote and ecarte, for my daughter can't endure loto. Indeed, I wish to set people talking about my re-unions, and to find a husband for Celanire worthy of her." M. Lupot was seated near his wife, who was seated on an elastic sofa, and was caressing a cat on her knee. He said to her—
"My dear Felicite, I intend to give soirees—to receive lots of company. We live in too confined a sphere for our daughter, who was born for the arts—and for Ascanius, who, it strikes me, will make some noise in the world."
Madame Lupot continued to caress the cat, and replied, "Well, what have I to do with that? Do I hinder you from receiving company? If it doesn't cause me any trouble—for I must tell you first of all, you musn't count on me to help you"—
"You will have nothing at all to do, my dear Felicite, but the honours of the house."
"I must be getting up every minute"—
"You do it so gracefully," replied the husband—"I will give all the orders, and Celanire will second me."
Mademoiselle was enchanted with the intention of her sire, and threw her arms round his neck.
"Oh yes! papa," she said, "invite as many as you can, I will learn to play some country-dances that we may have a ball, and finish my head of Belisarius—you must get it framed for the occasion."
And the little Ascanius whooped and hollo'd in the middle of the room. "I shall have tea and punch and cakes. I'll eat every thing!"
After this conversation M. Lupot had set to work. He went to his friends and his friends' friends—to people he hardly knew, and invited them to his party, begging them to bring any body with them they liked. M. Lupot had formerly sold rose-coloured paper to a musician, and drawing pencils to an artist. He went to his ancient customers, and pressed them to come and to bring their professional friends with them. In short, M. Lupot was so prodigiously active that in four days he had run through nearly the whole of Paris, caught an immense cold, and spent seven shillings in cab hire. Giving an entertainment has its woes as well as its pleasures.
The grand day, or rather the grand evening, at last arrived. All the lamps were lighted, and they had even borrowed some from their neighbours; for Celanire had discovered that their own three lamps did not give light enough both for the public-room and the supper-room—(which on ordinary occasions was a bed-chamber.) It was the first time that M. Lupot had borrowed any thing—but also it was the first time that M. Lupot gave a soiree.
From the dawn of day M. Lupot was busy in preparation: He had ordered in cakes and refreshments; bought sundry packs of cards, brushed the tables, and tucked up the curtains. Madame Lupot had sat all the time quietly on the sofa, ejaculating from time to time, "I'm afraid 'twill be a troublesome business all this receiving company."
Celanire had finished her Belisarius, who was an exact likeness of Blue Beard, and whom they had honoured with a Gothic frame, and placed in a conspicuous part of the room. Mademoiselle Lupot was dressed with amazing care. She had a new gown, her hair plaited a la Clotilde. All this must make a great sensation. Ascanius was rigged out in his best; but this did not hinder him from kicking up a dust in the room, from getting up on the furniture, handling the cards, and taking them to make houses; from opening the cupboards, and laying his fingers on the cakes.
Sometimes M. Lupot's patience gave way, and he cried, "Madame, I beg you'll make your son be quiet." But Madame Lupot answered without turning her head, "Make him quiet yourself, M. Lupot—You know very well it's your business to manage him."
It was now eight o'clock, and nobody was yet arrived. Mademoiselle looked at her father, who looked at his wife, who looked at her cat. The father of the family muttered every now and then—"Are we to have our grand soiree all to ourselves?" And he cast doleful looks on his lamps, his tables, and all his splendid preparations. Mademoiselle Celanire sighed and looked at her dress, and then looked in the mirror. Madame Lupot was as unmoved as ever, and said, "Is this what we've turned every thing topsy-turvy for?" As for little Ascanius, he jumped about the room, and shouted, "If nobody comes, what lots of cakes we shall have!" At last the bell rang. It is a family from the Rue St Denis, retired perfumers, who have only retained so much of their ancient profession, that they cover themselves all over with odours. When they enter the room, you feel as if a hundred scent-bottles were opened at once. There is such a smell of jasmine and vanille, that you have good luck if you get off without a headache. Other people drop in. M. Lupot does not know half his guests, for many of them are brought by others, and even these he scarcely knows the names of. But he is enchanted with every thing. A young fashionable is presented to him by some unknown third party, who says, "This is one of our first pianists, who is good enough to give up a great concert this evening to come here." The next is a famous singer, a lion in musical parties, who is taken out every where, and who will give one of his latest compositions, though unfortunately labouring under a cold. This man won the first prize at the Conservatory, an unfledged Boildieu, who will be a great composer of operas—when he can get librettos to his music, and music to his librettos. The next is a painter. He has shown at the exhibition—he has had wonderful success. To be sure nobody bought his pictures, because he didn't wish to sell them to people that couldn't appreciate them. In short, M. Lupot sees nobody in his rooms that is not first-rate in some way or other. He is delighted with the thought—ravished, transported. He can't find words enough to express his satisfaction at having such geniuses in his house. For their sakes he neglects his old friends—he scarcely speaks to them. It seems the new-comers, people he has never seen before, are the only people worthy of his attentions. Madame Lupot is tired of getting up, curtsying, and sitting down again. But her daughter is radiant with joy; her husband goes from room to room, rubbing his hands, as if he had bought all Paris, and got it a bargain. And little Ascanius never comes out of the bed-room without his mouth full. But it is not enough to invite a large party; you must know how to amuse them; it is a thing which very few people have the art of, even those most accustomed to have soirees. In some you get tired, and you are in great ceremony; you must restrict yourself to a conversation that is neither open, nor friendly, nor amusing. In others, you are pestered to death by the amphitryon, who is perhaps endowed with the bump of music, and won't leave the piano for fear some one else should take his place. There are others fond of cards, who only ask their friends that they may make up a table. Such individuals care for nothing but the game, and don't trouble themselves whether the rest of their guests are amused or not. Ah! there are few homes that know how to receive their company, or make every body pleased. It requires a tact, a cleverness, an absence of self, which must surely be very unusual since we see so few specimens of them in the soirees we attend.