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THE OLD CHELSEA BUN-HOUSE ***




Produced by Chris Whitehead and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)









[Illustration:

C. P. NICHOLLS]




_THE_

OLD CHELSEA BUN-HOUSE.

_A Tale of the Last Century._


BY

THE AUTHOR OF 'MARY POWELL.'


See how the World its Votaries rewards!
A Youth of Folly, an Old Age of Cards!
* * * * *
But trust me, Dears, Good-humour will prevail,
When Airs, and Flights, and Screams, and Scoldings fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll,
Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.

POPE: _Rape of the Lock_.


LONDON:

Printed for ARTHUR HALL, VIRTUE & CO.

_25, Paternoster Row._

1855.




[Illustration]




CHAPTER I.

_Lady Betty's Folly._


It is a sad Thing when a Lady of Quality, who has been a Toast in her
Youth, and has seen the white-gloved Beaux, as Mr. _Pope_ calls them,
bowing to her from the Pit, and kissing the scented Tips of their
Gloves to her in the Ring; who has flaunted at _Vauxhall_, and shone
in a Side-Box of the Opera-House in _Lincoln's Inn Fields_; has run
down _Handel_, and run after _Bononcini_; has had her gay Water-Parties
to _Jenny's Whim_, attended by Violins and Hautboys; and has brought,
not only her own Company, but her own Strawberries and Cherries to our
Bun-house, as if our own were not good enough; it is mortifying, I
say, when such a Lady of Quality falls into the sear and yellow Autumn
of Life, and finds herself a disregarded Thing, with no resources
but green Tea and Brag. And such is the Case with poor Lady _Betty
Spadille_.

How well I remember her, on the Occasion I have somewhat maliciously
alluded to, for it sticks in my Throat, arriving at our Bun-House in
her peach-coloured Sacque, Mechlin Head, and red-heeled Shoes, the
Foreparts richly embroidered with Silver; loudly talking and laughing,
and turning her Head right and left, now to this Beau, now to t'other,
who fluttered round her with their clouded Canes and perfumed Wigs;
now bursting into what the _French_ People call _des grands Eclats de
Rire_, now flirting her Fan, or rapping it on the Shoulder of one of
the Ladies who accompanied her. Having just set my Mark, a Sprig of
Rosemary, in the midst of one of good Bishop _Atterbury_'s Sermons,
I thought within myself, "Is this a Creature that is formed for
Eternity?" Meanwhile, two tall Lacqueys, with immense Shoulder-Knots,
bore between them a great Hamper of _French_ Wine; while a little
black Page, in pale Blue, laced with Silver, tottered under the Fruit
from _Rogers's_; and certainly it was very fine. I never saw such
Strawberries and Cherries before nor since.

I did not think her a Belle of the first Order, setting her Rank and
Style aside. Her Shape was fine; her Hand and Foot delicately formed;
but she rolled her Eyes too much, and had too high a Colour. I don't
believe she painted. Altogether, she seemed in the very Flush of
Existence; as if she had never met with a Reverse, nor ever expected
one. She seemed to think "Let us Eat and Drink," without adding,
"To-morrow _we die_."

We had set our oval Walnut-wood Table under the umbrageous Shade of two
large Elms, and had spread it with one of our best Tablecloths. This
was superciliously removed by the two Footmen, who spread a Tablecloth
and Napkins they had brought with them. Our China Service and water
Caraffes they condescended to use. Meanwhile, the Boatmen brought
up a second Hamper, containing Ham, Tongue, Chicken, Sallet, and
other Matters: but the Footmen, I should mention, brought the Plate,
including not only silver Forks, but a silver Stew-Pan.

The gay Bevy having streamed hither and thither, making their humorous
and contemptuous Remarks, which were continually interspersed with,
"Oh, my _Lord_!" and, "Oh, Sir _Charles_!" at length settled down to
their Repast. There were three Ladies and four Gentlemen. Also, there
was a tall, slender Girl in Black, whom I concluded my _Lady's_ own
Woman, because she stood the whole Time, a little behind Lady _Betty_,
holding her Handkerchief and Scent-Bottle, watching her Eye, and
obeying her Commands, almost before spoken; notwithstanding which, my
_Lady's_ Lip was often put up, and such words as "Thou'rt strangely
slow ... Canst not hear me, Creature?" were muttered by her rosy mouth.

And there was pale Mr. _Fenwick_, sitting at his open Casement over the
Bun-Shop, Book in Hand, hearing, seeing, and silently noting all.

One of the Gentlemen was my Lord _Earlstoke_, (to whom the Town gave
Lady _Betty_,) a weak-eyed, puny Peer; another, Sir _Charles Sefton_,
all Fashion and Froth; a third, a handsome young Gentleman, whom they
called Mr. _Arbuthnot_: the fourth, who had the Wit and Sprightliness
of all the Rest, (for whereas they continually laughed, he continually
gave them Something worth laughing at,) was a lank, ungraceful,
undersized Personage, of olivander Complexion, with projecting Teeth,
quick, black Eyes, and a not unagreeable Physiognomy, though his
Figure was mean and almost Distorted. His Name was _Caryl_, which
I learned not at first, they were so given to address him by his
baptismal Name of _Paul_.

Then, for the Ladies, there was Lady _Mary_, my _Lord's_ Aunt, and the
Duenna of the Party; and Lady _Grace_, a sweet pretty Creature, but
empty and self-sufficient.

It might have been thought, that two able-bodied Men and a Foot-page
were Servitors enow for a Party of seven; but on the contrary,
they kept my younger Sister _Prudence_, who was then very pretty,
continually afoot, tripping to and from the House on one impertinent
errand or another, while I attended to the general Customers. At
length, coming up to me with a painful Blush on her Cheek, "_Patty_,"
says she, "do oblige me by changing Places, will you? I can't abide the
ways of these Quality, and give no satisfaction, and only get scoffed
at."

"Perhaps I may please them no better, _Prue_," said I, "however, I'll
try." And as I proceeded to take her Place, I heard Mr. _Paul_ (that's
to say, Mr. _Caryl_,) observe to Sir _Charles_, "Humph! we've lost
_Rachel_ and got _Leah_."

This was not over-civil; but I took no notice.

"Now then," cries Lady _Betty_, in high Good-Humour, "I'll make you
what we have called a _Petersham_ Chicken, ever since Lady _Caroline's_
Frolick. Here are seven of us, and here are seven Chickens, which must,
in the first Place, be finely minced; so let each take one." And while
every one was laughing and mincing their Chicken, she pulls off ever so
many diamond Rings from her white Fingers, and gives them to her Woman
to hold.

"Don't trouble yourself, my _Lord_," says she, carelessly, as he
stoops to pick up one she had let fall on the Grass, "_Gatty_ will
find it. Here, Child, take them all; and," (aside with a Frown), "be
sure you don't lose them. Now, _Pompey_! the spirit-Lamp; three pats
of Butter, and a Flaggon of spring Water. The only variation I make in
Lady _Caroline's_ cookery is to stew my Chicken in a silver Stew-Pan,
instead of in a China Dish, which might crack over the Lamp. Prithee,
_Pompey_, don't let the Grass grow under your Feet!"

Methought, if her Ladyship had been _obliged_ to cook her own Supper,
she would have considered herself demeaned by it very much: however,
there is nothing that Quality will not do for a Freak. By and by, she
gets tired of stewing her Chicken over the Lamp, and bids the young
Person she calls _Gatty_ to carry it in-doors and dress it over the
Fire. "And be sure, Child, not to let it burn." As I did not seem
wanted, I shewed Mrs. _Gatty_ the way to the Kitchen, and stood by
while she stirred the Stew-Pan over the Fire. "I'm ready to drop!"
says she, at length. "No wonder," said I, taking the silver Spoon from
her, and using it myself, "you have never once sat down since you
left the Boat, and 'tis the Dog-Days. Rest awhile, and I'll mind the
Chicken." "Thank you heartily," says she, dropping into a Seat, and
turning from Red to White, and then Red again. "May I take a draught
of this cold Water?" "Aye, and welcome," said I, "so that you're not
afraid of drinking it while you're so hot." "Oh, I'm not afraid," says
she, drinking plentifully of it, and setting down the Mug with a Sigh
of relief. "I'm better now, but there was such a glare upon the River."
"Are you her Ladyship's Woman?" said I. With that, she fetches a deep
Sigh; and, says she, "I'm no better, now, and a hard Life to me it is.
I am the Daughter of a poor Country Curate, who died and left a large
Family penniless: but my _Mother_, who married him for love, had high
Connections; so Lady _Betty_ takes me for her Woman, partly, as she
says, out of Charity, and partly because she prefers being served by
a decayed Person of Condition. I have twenty Pounds by the Year, and
indeed 'tis hardly earned." "That I can well believe," said I. "But
what can I do?" says she. "My _Lady_ has engaged to give me enough
cast-off Apparel, to keep me in Clothing; so that I shall be able to
send the twenty Pounds to my _Mother_." "There'll be some comfort to
you in doing that," said I. "The greatest of comforts," says she; "and
'tis that which keeps me up, in spite of hard Work, late Hours, and
contumely; for no one has a better and dearer Mother than I have."
"Well, the Chicken is done now," said I. "Shall I carry it out for
you?" "Oh no, I dare not remain behind," says _Gatty_; "but do you come
along with me, for you will make me feel less lonely." So I went with
her according to her wish; and when we came up to the Table, we found
Lady _Betty_ talking about her foreign Travels; for, it seemed she had
been abroad with my _Lord_ her _Father_, on some public Mission or
Ambassade, to this and the other distant Land, that had formerly been
the Seat of War. And, to my Fancy, she discoursed agreeably enough of
_Belgrade_, _Peterwaradin_, and _Prince Eugene_, though my Lord did
not seem to think so; for, once, he covered his Mouth with his Hand
to conceal a Yawn, not so adroitly but that my Lady perceived it; and
thereupon she immediately diverted her Conversation to Sir _Charles_,
and never spoke to his _Lordship_ another Word. The _Petersham_ Chicken
was too Gross, as 'twas like to be, with that monstrous quantity of
Butter: my Lady _Betty_ was annoyed, and said Mrs. _Gatty_ had oiled
it over the Fire, darting at her a side-look of Reproach. It was sent
away, and the Fruit set upon Table; and the Black Boy, producing a
Theorbo, sang foreign Airs while they finished their Repast. A brisk
encounter of Wits then ensuing between Mr. _Caryl_, Mr. _Arbuthnot_,
and Sir _Charles_, my _Lady_ presently found herself cut out;
notwithstanding she made one or two ineffectual efforts to recover the
lead; and extremely mortified that she should, even for a few Minutes,
be Second, she threw herself back in her Chair, called for Essences,
and bade Mrs. _Gatty_ support her to the House; protesting she had
the Vapours to that degree, that nothing but Seclusion and Repose
could restore her sufficiently to enable her to take Boat. The other
two Ladies, constrained to follow her, made wry Faces to one another
behind her Back, but accompanied her in-doors, leaving the Gentlemen
to saunter about, or sit over their Wine. Having entered our little
Parlour and made a prodigious fuss, till we were all in waiting on her,
"How horridly vapourish I feel!" cries she; "But what! Is that some
real Dragon China on the Mantel-Shelf? How did you come by it, Mrs.
_Patty_?"

I coldly replied, "My _Father_ bought it, _Madam_."

"And, those Josses and Mandarins," pursues she, "have positively the
appearance of being, nay, they _are_ genuine! What lovely _Chelsea_
China! These Shepherdesses fondling Lambs and Kids are nearly equal to
mine. Sure, can a Person of your _Father's_ Condition, Mrs. _Patty_,
afford to be a Virtuoso?"

"Had my _Husband_ not been a Virtuoso, _Madam_," says my _Mother_,
quietly looking up from making an _Hippocrates'_ sleeve for our Jelly,
"these Girls had never needed to keep a Bun-House." Which indeed, was
true enough, for my _Father_, who had been apprenticed to the first
Jeweller in _London_, might have commanded a flourishing Business,
and accumulated a Fortune, but for his unhappy Taste for Articles of
Virtu, which led him into connection with unprincipled Men of Quality,
who ran in his Debt, and would have run him through if he had dunned
'em; and that again led to his drowning Trouble in Intemperance. So
that, had not a Legacy, opportunely left to my dear _Mother_ for her
sole and separate use, enabled her to purchase our present House and
Business, for _Prudence_ and me, 'twould have fared ill with her and
with us, and with my poor _Father_ too. And hitherto, we had gone on so
steadily and respectably, that we had given general Satisfaction, and
notwithstanding our unprotected State (for my poor _Father_ was almost
worse than no Protection,) had kept good Names, and met with no Let nor
Hindrance.

Lady _Betty_, without vouchsafing more than a Stare at the Speaker of
the Words just addressed to her, turns her Head slowly round towards
me, and with more Haughtiness than I can describe, "Prithee, Mrs.
_Patty_," says she, "is that good Woman your _Mother_?"

Now certainly, to be a good Woman is the chief Merit of our Sex; and
to have it acknowledged that one whom we dearly love and reverence is
such, ought to be taken as a compliment, rather than the other way:
but yet I knew full well that Lady _Betty_ had not used this term
respectfully and kindly, but quite the reverse; wherefore I replied,
"Yes, _Madam_," very bluntly.

"How are the Men amusing themselves?" says she to Lady _Grace_, who was
looking out of the Window.

"Mr. _Caryl_ seems reading them a copy of Verses which diverts them
hugely," said Lady _Grace_.

"Odious Creature!" cried Lady _Betty_, forgetting all her Languor,
and fanning herself vehemently, "A Man of Letters is the very worst
possible Ingredient in a Party of Pleasure; he thinks of Nothing but
shewing himself off. I'll never invite another to a Folly. Sure 'tis
Time for us now to think of returning."

"Were we not to wait for the Moon?" says Lady _Grace_.

"If you particularly wish it, we will do so," says Lady _Betty_, "but I
really believe the evening Air on the Water will kill me."

"Oh, then the Moon will be too expensive a luxury," says Lady _Grace_,
"let us return at once by all means."

And the Black Boy was instantly sent to prepare the Gentlemen for the
reembarkation.

"Give me my Cardinal, Child," says Lady _Betty_ to _Gatty_. "Why,
what on Earth is the matter with your Hands? They are covered with a
Rash. Your Face, too, is as red as this Velvet. Huh! don't come near
me! Stay, let me rush into the open Air. You are sickening with some
infectious Complaint."

Poor _Gatty_ stood transfixed and aghast; Lady _Grace_ gave a little
Shriek, and ran to the door after Lady _Betty_; while the elder Lady,
less absurdly timorous, stood at pause, looking at the poor Girl, who
did, indeed, appear very much heated.

"You are really ill, I believe, young Woman," said she stiffly. "What
is to be done? You cannot go back with us in the Boat."

And following Lady _Betty_, she held a Dialogue with her in the open
Air.

"She can't come near me; she shan't come near me," cries Lady _Betty_
vehemently; and then the three Ladies talked under their Breath. At
length Lady _Mary_ returned.

"Young Woman," says she; "Dear me, Mrs. _Patty_, you are very
incautious, to hold her Hand that Way, with her Head resting on your
Neck; there's no knowing what she may communicate."

"I'm not afraid of her communicating any Harm, Madam," said I.

"I have come to ask you," resumes Lady _Mary_, "whether you know of any
decent Lodging, where this young Person may be placed till her Illness
declares itself one Way or another. I suppose there must be plenty of
People that would readily take her in."

"Indeed, Madam," said my _Mother_, again taking up the Word, "if the
Disorder be, as you seem to suppose, infectious, I do not see how
we can ask any of our Neighbours to incur the Hazard of it; but,
for myself, I am so little fearful of the Consequences, that I will
undertake the Care of Mrs. _Gatty_, if Lady _Betty_ wishes it, till, as
your _Ladyship_ says, her Illness declares itself one Way or another."

"An excellent Plan! extremely well thought of," says Lady _Mary_. "Of
course, Lady _Betty_ will remunerate you handsomely for your Trouble."

"And Risk," put in my _Mother_.

"And Risk," repeated Lady _Mary_; "though, I protest, I think there is
none; but that the young Woman has merely been overheated, and taken a
Chill upon it."

Though Lady _Mary_ spoke not sincerely, yet her expressed Opinion was
so much like my _Mother's_ real one, that the Arrangement was speedily
concluded. And then, after as much Fuss in departing as they had made
in arriving, these heartless Denizens of the Great World quitted us;
full of themselves, caring very little for each other, and least of all
for the poor Dependent left sick upon our Hands.

"Thank Goodness they're gone!" exclaimed _Prudence_, as the last Rustle
of Silk, and the last empty Laugh was heard.

"And now, where to bestow our young Charge?" said my _Mother_.

"Oh, how kind you are to me!" said _Gatty_; Tears rolling down her
Cheeks. "Any Place will do."

"I think _Prudence_ must sleep in the little Closet beyond my Chamber,"
said my _Mother_, "and then, _Patty_, you can share your Bed with Mrs.
_Gatty_. You are not afraid, Child, are you?"

"_Afraid, Mother?_ No!"




[Illustration]




CHAPTER II.

_Mrs. Patty & Mrs. Gatty._


The Bed and Night-Clothes were soon prepared; and as I helped Mrs.
_Gatty_ to undress, I could not help noting, that though her Gown was
of the plainest black Stuff, her under Garments were beautifully Fine,
and fitted to a Nicety; which corroborated what she had said of her
being a young Woman of good Condition. "You must not alarm yourself,
Mrs. _Gatty_," said I; "you will very likely be quite well to-morrow."

"Don't call me Mrs. _Gatty_," says she. "Call me _Gertrude_, which is
my proper Name, and it will put me in Mind of Home."

"Well, then, Mrs. _Gertrude_," said I.

"Not Mrs. at all, I entreat of you," said she, "plain, simple
_Gertrude_."

"Simple _Gertrude_, you may be," said I, "but plain _Gertrude_, you
certainly are not."

She smiled faintly, and said, "Ah, you are very Kind, and mean kindly;
but the finest Compliment in the World is of little Value to me,
compared with a Word of Kindness: and yours only pleases me so far as
Kindness is expressed in it. And now, dear Mrs. _Patty_, let down the
Curtain, and make the Chamber as dark as you can, and I will try to
sleep; for my Head aches to Distraction, and there is Nothing you can
do for me."

When I went down Stairs, I found my _Mother_ mentioning _Gatty's_ Case
to Dr. _Elwes_, who frequently stepped in to smoak a quiet Pipe under
our Elms. He immediately went up Stairs to see her; and was guarded in
pronouncing whether she had a Fever, a Chill, a Surfeit, or what; but
said Time would disclose, and he would see her again in the Morning.
Meanwhile, she was to be kept Cool and Quiet; and he would write a
Prescription for a Composing Draught; which accordingly he did.

"And now, with respect to Supper," said I, when he was gone. "Dear me!
who has thought, all this Time, of Mr. _Fenwick_?"

No one had remembered him; so I immediately carried up his Whey and
Buns, smote to the Heart at his having been so entirely overlooked.
When I went in, he was still sitting at the Casement. He said, "Well,
_Leah_!" with a gentle Smile, which assured me that he had heard and
remembered what had passed at Lady _Betty's_ Table.

"Dear Sir," said I, "I am quite sorry you should have been so long
forgotten. We have had such a noisy Party this Afternoon."

"Rather tumultuous certainly," said he; "they helped to amuse me, and
it was not my Fault that I heard every Word they said."

"How loudly High-Bred People laugh and talk, Sir!" said I.

"I doubt if it be High-Breeding to do so," said he; "Ill-Breeding it
seems to me."

"What did you think, Sir, of Mr. _Caryl_? Mr. _Paul_, as they called
him?"

"Well, I thought he tried to serve the _Petersham_ Chicken with
_Walpole_ Sauce."

"He was very smart and ready, Sir, wasn't he?"

"Yes, Mrs. _Patty_, he had plenty of Repartee."

"What is a Repartee, Sir?"

"A smart Reply. When Mr. _Pope_, who was deformed, asked a young
Officer if he knew what a Note of Interrogation was, the other replied,
'A little crooked Thing that asks Questions.' That was a Repartee."

"A very ill-natured One, though, Sir. When Sir _Charles_ said of the
unfortunate Emigrant _Lady_, 'That Woman deserves a Crown,' and Mr.
_Paul_ rejoined, that he had not a Crown to lay at her Feet, but he had
Half-a-Crown very much at her Service: was that a Repartee?"

"Yes, it was suggested by the Remark of the First, and could not have
been prepared. You have culled a Grain of Wheat, Mrs. _Patty_, from a
Bushel of Chaff."

"You thought Lady _Betty_ a great Beauty, I suppose, Mr. _Fenwick_?"

"Well, she is what is called a Fine-Woman, I believe. Fine Eyes, and
Teeth; good Carriage of the Head."

"Oh Sir! had you seen her toss that Head at my poor _Mother_! 'Twas as
much as I could stand!"

"I am glad, then, that I did not. She has Wit, however, but is too
artificial, flighty, and exacting. There's a degree of Coarseness
about her. 'Twas so humorous, to hear her trying to recover her
Supremacy in that Dialogue among the Men, when she began once and again
'When I was at _Peterwaradin_,' and no one was listening to her!"

"Except you and me, Sir. Well, I must not keep you from Supper."

"Nor must I keep you standing. How are you going to manage about Mrs.
_Gatty_?"

"She's going to sleep with me, Sir; if I sleep at all, that is."

"You expect a restless Night."

"I doubt if I shall lie down if she continue as she is."

"If you are going to sit up, you will require Something to keep you
awake. Shall I find you a Book to read?"

"Do, if you please, Sir; I shall gratefully thank you!"

"Well then, what will you have? You know I have no Novels. Here is a
charming Paper of Mr. _Addison's_, in one of the old _Spectators_,
which I was reading when you came in. '_Cheerfulness preferable to
Mirth._' How well it opens! 'I have always preferred Cheerfulness to
Mirth. The latter I consider as an Act, the former as a Habit of the
Mind.'"

"That will not take long in reading, Sir. Might I have one of
_Shakspeare's_ Plays? I liked the _Merchant of Venice_ so much!"

"Certainly you may. Did you like _Romeo and Juliet_?"

"Not at all, Sir."

"Come, then, here is the _Winter's Tale_ for you. Or stay, here is
_Cymbeline_. You will like much of it, though not all; for you have
as nice a Taste in Books, Mrs. _Patty_, as your _Father_ has in old
China. _Imogen_ is one of the purest, loveliest Creations of the Poet.
When you get tired of her Companions, turn the Leaf till you come to
her, and you won't fall asleep. Her two Brothers, too, in the Cave,
are charming. What a fine Lesson is given here, in a mere passing Word
of the Physician to the Queen, against Cruelty to dumb Animals! She
tells him she experimentalizes with Poisons on Creatures not worth the
hanging; and he tells her she hardens her Heart, and proceeding from
low degrees to higher, will become careless of inflicting pain and
death on superior Natures. Here it is, Mrs. _Patty_."

I took the Book, curtseyed, and withdrew; thinking that this little
Dialogue with the good young Curate after the Noise and Babble of Lady
_Betty's_ Party, was like gazing on cool Green, after one's Eyes had
been dazzled by garish Sunshine. Since he had lodged with us, to drink
fresh Whey and recover his Health, I, being the elder and plainer
Sister of the two, had principally waited upon him; though I seldom
encroached so much on his Leisure as on this Evening, which I partly
ventured on, because I felt I had neglected him during the Afternoon.

Mrs. _Gatty_ passed a restless Night, and rambled a good deal, fancying
herself at Home, or what I concluded such; and talking of, and to her
Kinsfolk and Intimates by name. What with attending to her and reading
my Play-Book, I got not much Rest; but towards Day-Break, she became
Quiet; so then I had a good Nap, with my Cloathes loosened, but not


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