Anthony Trollope.

The three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

now teetotally nnable to rise my throbing bead
from off my pillar, I liave took fom- blu pills and
some salts and sena, plenty of that, and shall be
the thing to-morrow morning no doubt, just at
present I feel just as if I had a mill stone inside
my stomac — Pray be so kind as to make it all
right with Mr. Oldeschole and believe me to

" Your faithful and obedient servant,

"Verax Corkscrew.

** Thomas Snape, Esq., &c.,

Internal Navigation Office,

Somerset House."

Having composed this letter of excuse, and not
intending to return to his lodgings that evening,
he had to make provision for its safely reaching
the hands of Mr. Snape in due time on the fol-
lowing morning. This he did, by giving it to
the boy who came to clean the lodging-house
boots, with sundry injunctions that if he did not
deliver it at the office by ten o'clock on the fol-
lowing morning, the sixpence accruing to him
would never be paid. Mr. Corkscrew, however,
said nothing as to the letter not being delivered
before ten the next morning, and as other busi-
ness took the boy along the Strand the same
evening, he saw no reason why he should not
then execute his commission. He accordingly


did so, and duly delivered the letter into tlie
hands of a servant girl, who was cleaning the
passages of the office.

Fortune on this occasion was blind to the
merits of Mr. Corkscrew, and threw him over
most unmercifully. It so happened that Mr.
Snape had been summoned to an evening con-
ference with Mr. Oldeschole and the other
pundits of the office, to discuss with them, or
rather to hear discussed, some measure wdiich
they began to think it necessary to introduce,
for amending the discipline of the department.

"W^-are getting a bad name, whether we
deserve it or not," said Mr. Oldeschole. "That
fellow Hardlines has put us into his blue-book,
and now there's an article in the Times !"

Just at this moment, a messenger brought into
Mr. Snape the unfortunate letter of which we
have given a copy.

''^Vliat's that?" said Mr. Oldeschole.

" A note from Mr. Corkscrew, sir," said Snape.

" He's the worst of the whole lot," said Mr.

*' He is very bad," said Snape, " but I rather
think that perhaps, sir, Mr. Tudor is the worst
of all."

" Well, I don't knov/," said the Secretary, mut-
tering sotto voce to the under secretary, while Mr.
Snape read the letter — '' Tudor, at any rate, is a


Mr. Snape read the letter, and his face grew
very long. There was a sort of sneaking civility
about Corkscrew, not prevalent indeed at all
times, bnt which chiefly showed itself when he
and Mr. Snape were alone together, which some-
what endeared him to the elder clerk. He would
have screened the sinner had he had either the
necessary presence of mind or the necessary
pluck. But he had neither. He did not know
how to account for the letter but by the truth,
and he feared to conceal so flagrant a breach
of discipline at the moment of the present dis-

Things at any rate so turned out that Mr.
Corkscrew's letter was read in full conclave in
the board- room of the office, just as he was
describing the excellence of his manoeuvre with
great glee to four or five other jolly souls at
the Magpie and Stump.

At first it was impossible to prevent a fit of
laughter, in which even Mr. Snape joined; but
very shortly the laughter gave way to the serious
considerations to which such an epistle was sure
to give rise at such a moment. Wliat if Sir
Gregory Hardlines should get hold of it and put
it into his blue-book ! Wliat if the Times should
print it and send it over the whole world, accom-
panied by a few of its most venomous touches,
to the eternal dissfrace of the Internal Navis^a-
tion and probable utter annihilation of Mr.


Oldescliole's official career. An example must
be made !

Yes, an example must be made. — Messengers
were sent off scouring the town for Mr. Cork-
screw, and about midnight he was found, still
true to the Magpie and Stump, but hardly in
condition to understand the misfortune which
had befallen him. So much as this however did
make itself manifest to him, that he must by no
means join his joUy-souled brethren at the Eel-
pie Island, and that he must be at his office
punctually at ten o'clock the next morning if he
had any intention of saving himself from dis-
missal. ^Vlien Charlev arrived at his office Mr.
Corkscrew was still with the authorities and
Charley's turn was to come next.

Charley was rather a favourite with Mr. Olde-
schole, having been appointed by himself at the
instance of Mr. Oldescliole's great friend. Sir
Gilbert de Salop ; and he was, moreover, the
best-lookino- of the whole lot of navvies : but he
was no favourite with Mr. Snape.

"Poor Screwy — it will be all up with him,"
said Charley. " He might just as well have gone
on with his party and had his fun out."

" It will, I imagine, be necessary to make more
than one example, Mr. Tudor," said Mr. Snape
with a voice of utmost severity.

"A-a-a-men," said Charley. — ''If every thing
else fails, I think I'll go into the green line. —


YoTi conldn't give me a lielping hand, could you,
Mr. Snape ? " There was a rumour afloat in the
office that Mr. Snape's wife held some little
interest in a small greengrocer's establishment.

" Mr. Tudor to attend in the board-room, im-
mediately," said a fat messenger, who opened
the door wide with a start, and then stood with
it in his hand while he delivered his message.

"All right," said Charley — "I'll tumble up
and be with them in ten seconds ;" and then col-
lecting together a large bundle of the arrears of
the Kennett and Avon lock entries, being just
as much as he could carry, he took the disor-
dered papers and placed them on Mr. Snape's
desk, exactly over the paper on which he was
writing, and immediately under his nose.

" Mr. Tudor — Mr. Tudor !" said Snape.

"As I am to tear myself away from you, Mr.
Snape, it is better that I should hand over these
valuable documents to your safe keeping. There
they are, Mr. Snape ; pray see that you have got
them all;" and so saying, he left the room to
attend to the high behests of Mr. Oldeschole.

As he went along the passages he met Verax
Corkscrew returning from his interview. " Well
Screwy," said he, " and how fares it with you ?
Pork chops are bad things in summer, aint they ?"

" It's all U-P," said Corkscrew almost crying.
" I'm to go down to the bottom, and I'm to stay
at the office till seven o'clock every day for a


month ; and old Foolscap says he'll sliip me the
next time I'm absent half-an-hour without leave."

'' Oh ! is that all?" said Charley. " If that's
all yon get for pork chops and senna, I'm all
right. I shouldn't wonder if I did not get
promoted ;" and so he went in to his interview.

What was the nature of the advice given him,
what amount of caution he was called on to
endure, need not here be exactly specified. We
all know with how lio-lit a rod a father chastises
the son he loves, let Solomon have given what
counsel he may to the contrary. Charley, in spite
of his manifold sins, was a favourite, and he came
forth from the board-room an unscathed man. In
fact, he had been promoted as he had sm-mised,
seeing that Corkscrew who had been his senior
was now his junior. He came forth unscathed,
and walking with an easy air into his room, put his
hat on his head and told his brother clerks that
he should be there to-morrovv^ morning at ten, or
at any rate soon after.

" And where are you going now, Mr. Tudor ?"
said Snape.

" To meet my grandmother at Islington, if yon
please, sir," said Charley. '' I have permission
from Mr. Oldeschole to attend upon her for the
rest of the day — perhaps you would like to ask
him." And so saying he went off to his
appointment with Mr. M'^Euen at the " Banks
of Jordan."



" The Banks of Jordan" was a pnblic-lionse in
the city, which from its appearance did not seem
to do a very thriving trade \ but as it was carried
on from year to year in the same dull monoto-
nous dead-alive sort of fashion, it must be sur-
mised that some one found an interest in keeping
it open.

Charley, when he entered the door pmictually
at two o'clock, saw that it was as u.sual nearly
deserted. One long, lanky, middle-aged man,
seed.y as to his outward vestments and melancholy
in countenance, sat at one of the tables. But he
was doing very little good for the establishment;
he had no refreshment of any kind before him,
and was intent only on a dingy pocket-book in
which he was making entries with a pencil.

You enter the '' Banks of Jordan" by two
folding doors in a corner of a very narrow alley
behind the Exchange. As you go in, 3^ou observe
on your left a little glass partition, something like
a large cage, inside which, in a bar, are four or five
untempting looking bottles ; and also inside the


cage, on a cliair is to be seen a quiet-looldng female,
who is invariably engaged in the manufacture of
some white article of inward clothing. Anything
less like the flashy-dressed bar-maidens of the
western gin palaces it would be difficult to
imagine. To this encaged sempstress no one ever
speaks unless it be to give a rare order for a
mutton chop or pint of stout. And even for this
she hardly stays her sewing for a moment, but
touches a small bell, and the ancient waiter, who
never shows himself but when called for, and
who is the only other inhabit ant of the place ever
visible, receives the order from her through an
open pane in the cage as quietly as she received
it from her customer.

The floor of the single square room of the
establishment is sanded, and the tables are ranged
round the walls, each table being fixed to the floor,
and placed within wooden partitions by which the
occupier is screened from any inquiring eyes on
either side.

Such was Mr. Jabesh M'^Euen's house-of-call
in the city, and of many a mutton chop and
many a pint of stout had Charley partaken there
w^hile waiting for the man of money. To him
it seemed to be inexcusable to sit down in a
public inn, and call for nothing ; he perceived
however that the large majority of the frequenters
of the " Banks of Jordan" so conducted them-


He was sufficiently accustomed to tlie place to
know liow to give liis orders without troubling
that diligent bar-maid, and had done so about
ten minutes when Jabesh, more punctual than
usual, entered the place. This Charley regarded
as a promising sign of forthcoming cash. It very
frequently happened that he waited there an hour,
and that after all Jabesh would not come ; and
then the morning visit to Mecklenburg Square
had to be made again; and so poor Charley's time,
or rather the time of his poor office, was cut up,
wasted, and destroyed.

" A mutton chop !" said M°Euen looking at
Charley's banquet. " A very nice thing indeed
in the middle of the day. I don't mind if I have
one myself," and so Charley had to order another
chop and more stout.

"They have very nice sherry here, excellent
sherry," said M^Ruen. " The best, I think, in
the city — that's why I come here."

"Upon my honour, Mr. M^Euen, I shan't
have money to pay for it, until I get some from
you," said Charley, as he called for a pint of

"Never mind, John, never mind the sherry
to-day," said M^'Euen. "Mr. Tudor is very
kind, but I'll take beer ; " and the little man gave
a laugh and twisted his head, and ate his chop
and drank his stout, as though he found that
both were very good indeed. When he had


fmislied, Charley paid the bill and discovered that
he was left with ninepence in his pocket.

And then he produced the bill stamp. "Waiter,"
said he, " pen and ink," and the waiter brought
pen and ink.

" Not to-day," said Jabesh, wiping his mouth
with the table-cloth. " Not to-day, Mr. Tudor —
I really haven't time to go into it, to-day — and I
haven't brought the other bills with me ; I quite
forgot to bring the other bills with me, and I can
do nothing without them," and Mr. M'^Euen
got up to go.

But this was too much for Charley. He had
often before bought bill stamps in vain, and in
vain had paid for mutton chops and beer for
Mr. M^^Ruen's dinner ; but he had never before
when doing so, been so hard pushed for money
as he was now. He was determined to make a
great attempt to gain his object.

" Nonsense," said he, getting up and standing
so as to prevent M^^Euen from leaving the box ;
" that's d nonsense."

" Oh ! don't swear," said M^Euen, — " pi'ay
don't take God's name in vain ; I don't like it."

" I shall swear, and to some pm-pose too, if
that's your game. Now look here — "

'' Let me get up, and we'll talk of it as we go
to the bank — you are so unpunctual, you know."

'' J) — your punctuahty."

" Oh ! don't swear, Mr. Tudor."


"Look liere — if you don't let me liave this
money to-day, by all tliat is lioly I will never pay
you a farthing again — not one farthing ; I'll go
into the court, and you may get your money as
you can."

'' But, Mr. Tudor, let me get up, and we'll talk
about it in the street, as we go along."

" There's the stamp," said Charley. " Fill it
up, and then I'll go with you to the bank."

M'E-uen took the bit of paper, and tvfisted it
over and over again in his hand, considering the
while whether he had yet squeezed out of the
young man all that could be squeezed with safety,
or whether by an additional turn, by giving him
another small advancement, he might yet get
something more. He knew that Tudor was in a
very bad state, that he was tottering on the out-
side edge of the precipice; but he also knew that
he had friends. Would his friends when they
came forward to assist their young Pickle out of
the mire, would they pay such biUs as these, or
would they leave poor Jabesh to get his remedy
at law? That vv^as the' question wdiich Mr.
M*^Iluen had to ask and to answer. He was not
one of those noble vultures who fly at large game,
and who are willing to run considerable risk in
pursuit of their prey. Mr. M'Euen avoided
courts of law as much as he could, and preferred
a small safe trade ; one in which the fall of a
single customer could never be ruinous to him ; in


wliicli lie need run no risk of being transported
for forgery, incarcerated for perjury, or even, if
possibly it might be avoided, gibbeted by some
law}^er or judge for bis mal-jDractices.

" But you are so unpunctual," be said, having
at last made up his mind that he had made a very
good thing of Charley, and that probably he
might go a little further without much danger.
" I wish to oblige you, Mr. Tudor ; but pray do
be punctual ;" and so saying he slowly spread the
little document before him, across which Scatter-
all had abeady scrawled his name, and slowly
began to write in the date. Slowly, with his
head low down over the table, and continually
twisting it inside his cravat, he filled up the paper,
and then looking at it with the air of a connoisseur
in such matters, he gave it to Charley to sign.

" But you haven't put in the amount," said

Mr. M^^Euen twisted his head and laughed.
He delighted in playing with his game as a
fisherman does with a salmon. " Well — no — I
haven't put in the amount yet. Do you sign it,
and I'll do that at once."

"I'll do it," said Charley; ''I'll say 15/., and
you'll give me 10/. on that."

" No, no, no !" said Jabesh, covering the paper
over with his hands ; " you young men know no-
thing of filling bills ; just sign it, Mr. Tudor, and
I'll do the rest." And so Charley signed it, and


tlien M'^Ruen, again taking tlie pen, wrote in
' fifteen pounds ' as tlie recognised amount of the
value of tlie document. He also took out his
pocket-book and filled a cheque, but he was very
careful that Charley should not see the amount
there written. " And now," said he, " we will
go to the bank."

As they made their way to the house in
Lombard Street which Mr. M'^Euen honoured
by his account, Charley insisted on knowing how
much he was to have for the bill. Jabesh
suggested 3/. 10^. ; Charley swore he would take
nothing less than 8/. ; but by the time they had
arrived at the bank, it had been settled that 5/.
was to be paid in cash, and that Charley was to
have the three Seasons for the balance whenever
he chose to send for them. When Charley, as
he did at first, positively refused to accede to
these terms, Mr. M*^Ruen tendered him back the
bill, and reminded him with a plaintive voice
that he was so unpunctual, so extremely un-

Having reached the bank, which the money-
lender insisted on Charley entering with him,
Mr. M*^Euen gave the cheque across the counter,
and wrote on the back of it the form in which he
would take the money, whereupon a note and
^YQ sovereigns were handed to him. The cheque
was for 15/., and was payable to C. Tudor, Esq.,
so that proof might be forthcoming at a future


time, if necessary, tliat lie had given to liis
customer full value for tlie bill. Then in the
outer hall of the bank, unseen by the clerks, he
put, one after another, slowly and unwillingly,
four sovereigns into Charley's hand.

" The other — where's the other ?" said Charley.

Jabesh smiled sweetly and twisted his head.

" Come, give me the other," said Charley

" Four is quite enough, quite enough for what
you want ; and remember my time, Mr. Tudor ;
you should remember my time."

" Grive me the other sovereign," said Charley,
taking hold of the front of his coat.

" Well, well, you shah, have ten shillings ; but
I want the rest for a purpose."

" Grive me the sovereign," said Charley, " or
I'll drag you in before them all in the bank and
expose you ; give me the other sovereign, I say."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. M'Euen; "I
thought you liked a joke, Mr. Tudor. Well,
here it is. And now do be punctual, pray do be
punctual, and I'll do anything I can for you."

And then they parted, Charley going west-
ward towards his own haunts, and M'^Euen
following his daily pm'suits in the city.

Charley had engaged to pull up to Avis's at
Putney with Harry Norman, to dine there, take
a country walk, and row back in the cool of the
evening; and he had promised to call at the



Weights and Measures witli that object punc-
tually at five.

" You can get away in time for that, I
suppose/' said Harry.

Well, I'll try and manage it," said Charley,

Nothing could be kinder, nay more affection-
ate, than Norman had been to Ms fellow-lodo-er
during the last year and a half. It seemed as
though he had transferred to Alaric's cousin all
the friendship which he had once felt for Alaric ;
and the deeper were Charley's sins of idleness
and extravagance, the wider grew Norman's
forgiveness and the more sincere his efforts to
befriend him. As one result of this, Charley
was already deep in his debt. Not that Norman
had lent him money, or even paid bills for him ;
but the lodgings in which they lived had been
taken by Norman, and when the end of the
quarter came he punctually paid his landlady.
But poor Charley had always been somewhat
backward in providing his portion of the ac-
count due ; and latterly, since his acquaintance
with M'Euen had grown into a close intimacy,
he had made no such payments at all.

He had once, a few weeks before the period of
which we are now writing, told Norman that he
had no money to pay his long arrear, and that
he would leave the lodgings and shift for himself
as best he could. He had said the same thing


to Mrs. Eicliards, tlie landlady, and had gone so
far as to pack up all liis clothes; hut his back
was no sooner turned than Mrs. Eichards, under
Norman's orders, unpacked them all, and hid
away the portmanteau. It w^as well for him
that this was done. He had bespoken for him-
self a bedroom at the pubHc house in Norfolk
Street, and had he once taken up his residence
there he would have been ruined for ever.

He was still living with Norman, and ever
increasing his debt. In his misery at this state
of affairs, he had talked over with Harry all
manner of schemes for increasing his income,
but he had never told a word about IVIr.
M'^Euen. Wliy his salary, which was now
150/. per annum, should not be able to support
him, Norman never asked. That it was suffi-
cient to support him Norman well knew, and
therefore felt convinced that Charley was still
going very much astray; but he was not, on
that account, the more inclined to desert him.
Charley the while was very miserable, and the
more miserable he was, the less he found himself
able to rescue himself from his dissipation. Wliat
moments of ease he had, were nearly all sj^ent in
Norfolk Street; and such being the case how
' could he abstain from going there ?

" Well, Charley, and how do CrinoHne and
Macassar go on ? " said Norman, as they
sauntered away together up the towing-path

D 2


above Putney. Now tliere were those wlio had
found out that Charley Tudor, in s]3ite of his
wretched idle vagabond mode of life, was no
fool ; indeed that there was that talent within
him which, if turned to good account, might
perhaps redeem him from ruin and set him on
his legs again ; at least so thought some of his
friends, among whom Mrs. Woodward was the
most prominent. She insisted that if he would
make use of his genius he might employ his spare
time to great profit by writing for magazines or
periodicals of some sort ; and, inspirited by so
flattering a proposition, Charley had got himself
introduced to the editor of a newly projected
publication. At his instance he was to write a
tale for approval, and " Crinoline and Macassar "
was the name selected for his first attempt.

The affair had been fully talked over at
Hampton, and it had been arranged that the
young author should submit his story, when
completed, to the friendly criticism of the party
assembled at Surbiton Cottage, before he sent it
to the editor. He had undertaken to have Cri-
noline and Macassar ready for perusal on the next
Saturday ; and in spite of Mr. M^Euen and Norah
Greraghty, he had really been hard at work.

" Will it be finished by Saturday, Charley ? "
said Norman.

" Yes — at least I hope so ; but if that's not
done, I have another all complete."


" Anotlier ! and wliat is that called? "

" Oh, that's a very short one," said Charley,

"But, short as it is, it must have a name,
I suppose. Wliat's the name of the short
one ? "

" Why the name is long enough ; it's the
longest part about it. The editor gave me the
name, you know, and then I had to write the
story. It's to be called ' Sir Anthony Allan-a-
dale and the Baron of Ballyporeen.' "

" Oh ! two rival knights in love with the same
lady, of course," and Harry gave a gentle sigh
as he thought of his own still unhealed grief.
" The scene is laid in Ireland, I presume ? "

"No, not in Ireland; at least not exactly.
I don't think the scene is laid anywhere in
particular ; it's up in a mountain, near a
castle. There isn't any lady in it — at least not

" Heavens, Charley ! I hope you are not deal-
ing with dead women."

"No — that is, I have to bring them to Hfe
again. I'll tell you how it is. In the first
paragraph, Sir Anthony Allan- a- dale is l}dng
dead, and the Baron of Ballyporeen is standing
over him with a bloody sword. You must
always begin with an incident now, and then
hark back for your explanation and description ;
that's what the editor says is the great secret of


the present day, and where we beat all the old
fellows that wrote twenty years ago."

" Oh! — ^yes — I see. They used to begin at the
beginning ; that was very humdrum."

"A devilish bore, you know, for a fellow who
takes up a novel because he's dull. Of course he
wants his fan at once. If you begin with a long
history of who's who and all that, why he won't
read three pages ; but if you touch him up with
a startling incident or two at the first go off,
then give him a chapter of horrors, then another
of fun, then a little love, or a little slang, or
something of that sort, why, you know, about
the end of the first volume, you may describe as
much as you like, and tell every thing about

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 18)