Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 64 of 103)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 64 of 103)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


make ready for a volley, and after firing to reload
quickly. " And expect a score or two on ye to
go head over heels," murmured William Boozey;
"for I'm a looking at ye." With those words,
the derisive though deadly William took a good
aim.

" Fire ! "

The ringing voice of Boldheart was lost in
the report of the guns and the screeching of the
savages. Volley after volley awakened the nu-
merous echoes. Hundreds of savages were
killed, hundreds wounded, and thousands ran
howhng into the woods. The Latin-grammar
master had a spare nightcap lent him, and a
long-tail coat, which he wore hind-side before.
He presented a ludicrous though pitiable appear-
ance, and serve him right.

We now find Capt. Boldheart, with this res-
cued wretch on board, standing off" for other
islands. At one of these, not a cannibal island,
but a pork and vegetable one, he married (only
in fun on his part) the king's daughter. Here
he rested some time, receiving from the natives
great quantities of precious stones, gold dust,
elephants' teeth, and sandal wood, and getting
very rich. This, too, though he almost every day
made presents of enormous value to his men.

The ship being at length as full as she could
hold of all sorts of valuable things, Boldlieart
gave orders to weigh the anchor, and turn " The
Beauty's " head towards England. These orders
were obeyed with three clieers ; and ere the sun
went down full many a hornpipe had been
danced on deck by the uncouth though agile
William.



330



nOLIDA V ROMANCE.



We next find Capt. Boldheart about three
leagues oft" Madeira, surveying through his spy-
glass a stranger of suspicious appearance making
sail towards him. On his firing a gun ahead of
her to bring her to, she ran up a flag, which he
instantly recognised as the flag from the mast in
the back-garden at home.

Inferring, from this, that his father had put to
sea to seek his long-lost son, the captain sent his
own boat on board the stranger to inquire if
this was so, and, if so, whether his father's in-
tentions were strictly honourable. The boat
came back with a present of greens and fresh
meat, and reported that the stranger was " The
Family," of twelve hundred tons, and had not
only the captain's father on board, but also his
mother, with the majority of his aunts and uncles,
and all his cousins. It was further reported to
Boldheart that the whole of these relations had
expressed themselves in a becoming manner,
and were anxious to embrace him and thank
him for the glorious credit he had done them.
Boldheart at once invited them to breakfast next
morning on board " The Beauty," and gave
orders for a brilliant ball that should last all day.

It was in the course of the night that the cap-
tain discovered the hopelessness of reclaiming
the Latin-grammar master. That thankless
traitor was found out, as the two ships lay near
each other, communicating wdth " The Family "
by signals, and offering to give up Boldheart.
He was hanged at the yard-arm the first thing in
the morning, after having it impressively pointed
out to him by Boldheart that this was what
spiters came to.

The meeting between the captain and his
parents was attended with tears. His uncles
and aunts would have attended their meeting
with tears too, but he wasn't going to stand that.
His cousins were very much astonished by the
size of his ship and the discipline of his men,
and were greatly overcome by the splendour of
his uniform. He kindly conducted them round
the vessel, and pointed out everything worthy of
notice. He also fired his hundred guns, and
found it amusing to witness their alarm.

The entertainment surpassed everything ever
seen on board ship, and lasted from ten in the
morning until seven the next morning. Only
one disagreeable incident occurred. Capt. Bold-
heart found himself obliged to put his cousin
Tom in irons, for being disrespectful. On the
boy's promising amendment, however, he was
humanely released after a few hours' close con-
finement.

Boldheart now took his mother down into the
great cabin, and asked after the young lady with



whom, it was well known to the world, he was
in love. His mother replied that the object of
his afi'ections was then at school at Margate, for
the benefit of sea-bathing (it was the month of
September), but that she feared the young lady's
friends were still opposed to the union. Bold-
heart at once resolved, if necessary, to bombard
the town.

Taking the command of his ship with this
intention, and putting all but fighting-men on
board " The Family," with orders to that vessel
to keep in company, Boldheart soon anchored
in Margate Roads. Here he went ashore well
armed, and attended by his boat's crew (at their
head the faithful though ferocious William), and
demanded to see the mayor, who came out ol
his oftice.

" D jst know the name of yon ship, mayor ? "
asked Boldheart fiercely.

•' No," said the mayor, rubbing his eyes, vvhich
he could scarce believe, when he saw the goodly
vessel riding at anchor.

" She is named ' The Beauty,' " said the cap-
tain.

" Hah ! " exclaimed the mayor with a start.
'•'And you, then, are Capt. Boldheart?"

" The same."

A pause ensued. The mayor trembled.

" Now, mayor," said the captain, " choose !
Help me to my bride, or be bombarded."

The mayor begged for two hours' grace, in
which to make inquiries respecting the young
lady. Boldheart accorded him but one; and
during that one placed William Boozey sentry
over him, with a drawn sword, and instructions
to accompany him wherever he went, and to run
him through the body if he showed a sign of
playing false.

At the end of the hour the mayor reappeared
more dead than alive, closely waited on by
Boozey more alive than dead.

"Captain," said the mayor, "I have ascer-
tained that the young lady is going to bathe.
Even now she waits her turn for a machine.
The tide is low, though rising. I, in one of our
town boats, shall not be suspected. When she
comes forth in her bathing-dress into the shallow
water from behind the hood of the machine, my
boat shall intercept her and prevent her return.
Do you the rest."

" Mayor," returned Capt. Boldheart, " thou
hast saved thy town."

The captain then signalled his boat to take
him off, and, steering her himself, ordered her
crew to row towards the bathing-ground, and
there to rest upon their oars. All happened as
had been arranged. His lovely bride came



AfRS. ORANGE AND MRS. LEMON



331



forth, the mayor glided in behind her, she
became confused, and had floated out of her
depth, when, with one skilful toucli of the rudder
and one quivering stroke from the boat's crew,
her adoring Boldheart held her in his strong
arms. There her shrieks of terror were changed
to cries of joy.

Before " The Beauty " could get under way,
the hoisting of all the flags in the town and har-
bour, and the ringing of all the bells, announced
to the brave Boldheart that he had nothing to
fear. He therefore determined to be married
on the spot, and signalled for a clergyman and
clerk, who came off promptly in a sailing-boat
named " The Skylark." Another great entertain-
ment was then given on board " The Beauty,"
in the midst of which the mayor was called out
by a messenger. He returned with the news
that government had sent down to know whether
Capt. Boldheart, in acknowledgment of the great
services he had done his country by being a
pirate, would consent to be made a lieutenant-
colonel. For himself he would have spurned
the worthless boon ; but his bride wished it, and
he consented.

Only one thing further happened before the
good ship " Family " was dismissed, with rich
presents to all on board. It is painful to record
(but such is human nature in some cousins) that
Capt. Boldheart's unmannerly cousin Tom was
actually tied up to receive three dozen with a
rope's end " for cheekiness and making game,"
when Capt. Boldheart's lady begged for him,
and he was spared. "The Beauty" then re-
fitted, and the captain and his bride departed
for the Indian Ocean to enjoy themselves for
evermore.



ROMANCE.



PART IV.

FROM THE PEN OF MISS NETTIE
ASHFORD.*




HERE is a country, which I will
show you when I get into maps,
where the children have everything
their own way. It is a most delight-
ful country to live in. The grown-
up people are obliged to obey the children,
and are never allowed to sit up to supper,
except on their birthdays. The children
order them to make jam and jelly and marma-
lade, and tarts and pies and puddings, and all
manner of pastry. If they say they won't, they
are put in a corner till they do. They are some-
times allowed to have some ; but, when they
* Aged half-past six.



have some, they generally have powders given
them afterwards.

One of the inhabitants of this country, a truly
sweet young creature of the name of Mrs.
Orange, had the misfortune to be sadly plagued
by her numerous family. Her parents required
a great deal of looking after, and they had con-
nections and companions who were scarcely
ever out of mischief. So Mrs. Orange said to
herself, " I really cannot be troubled with these
torments any longer ; I must put them all to
school."

Mrs. Orange took off her pinafore, and dressed
herself very nicely, and took up her baby, and
went out to call upon another lady of the name
of Mrs. Lemon, who kept a preparatory esta-
blishment. Mrs. Orange stood upon the
scraper to pull at the bell, and give a ring-
ting-ting.

Mrs. Lemon's neat little housemaid, pulling
up her socks as she came along the passage,
answered the Ring-ting-ting.

" Good morning," said Mrs. Orange. " Fine
day. How do you do ? Mrs. Lemon at
home ? "

" Yes, ma'am."

" Will you say Mrs. Orange and baby ? "

"Yes, ma'am. Walk in."

Mrs. Orange's baby was a very fine one, and
real wax all over. Mrs. Lemon's baby was
leather and bran. However, when Mrs. Lemon
came into the drawing-room with her baby in
her arms, Mrs. Orange said politely, " Good
morning. Fine day. How do you do ? And
how is little Tootleum-boots ? "

" Well, she is but poorly. Cutting her teeth,
ma'am," said Mrs. Lemon.

" Oh, indeed, ma'am ! " said Mrs. Orange.
"No fits, I hope?"

" No, ma'am."

" How many teeth has she, ma'am ? "

" Five, ma'am."

" My Emilia, ma'am, has eight," said Mrs.
Orange. " Shall we lay them on the mantel-
piece side by side while we converse? "

" By all means, ma'am," said Mrs. Lemon.
" Hem ! "

" The first question is, ma'am," said Mrs.
Orange, " I don't bore you ? "

" Not in the least, ma'am," said Mrs. Lemon.
" Far from it, I assure you."

" Then pray hai'e you," said Mrs. Orange, —
" /lare you any vacancies ? "

" Yes, ma'am. How many might you re-
quire ? "

" Why, the truth is, ma'am," said Mrs. Orange,
" I have come to the conclusion that my chil-



332



HOLIDAY ROMANCE.



dren," — oh, I forgot to say that they call the
grown-up people children in that country ! —
" that my children are getting positively too
much for me. Let me see. Two parents, two
intimate friends of theirs, one godfather, two
godmothers, and an aunt. Have you as many
as eight vacancies ? "

"I have just eight, ma'am," said Mrs.
Lemon.

" Most fortunate ! Terms moderate, I
think ? "

" Very moderate, ma'am."

" Diet good, I believe ? "

" Excellent, ma'am."

" Unlimited ? "

"Unlimited."

" Most satisfactory ! Corporal punishment
dispensed with ? "

" Why, we do occasionally shake," said Mrs.
Lemon, " and we have slapped. But only in
extreme cases.''

" Could I, ma'am," said Mrs. Orange, — '' could
I see the establishment ? "

" With the greatest of pleasure, ma'am," said
Mrs. Lemon.

Mrs. Lemon took Mrs. Orange into the
schoolroom, where there were a number of
pupils. " Stand up, children," said Mrs.
Lemon ; and they all stood up.

Mrs. Orange whispered to Mrs. Lemon,
" There is a pale, bald child, with red whiskers,
in disgrace. Might I ask what he has done ? "

" Come here. White," said Mrs. Lemon, " and
tell this lady what you have been doing."

" Betting on horses," said White sulkily.

" Are you sorry for it, you naughty child ? "
said Mrs. Lemon.

"No," said White. "Sorry to lose, but
shouldn't be sorry to win."

" There's a vicious boy for you, ma'am 1 "
said Mrs. Lemon. " Go along with you, sir !
This is Brown, ]\Irs. Orange. Oh, a sad case,
Brown's ! Never knows when he has had
enough. Greedy. How is your gout, sir?"

" Bad," said Brown.

" What else can you expect ? " said Mrs,
Lemon. "Your stomach is the size of two. Go
and take exercise directly. Mrs. Black, come
here to me. Now, here is a child, Mrs.
Orange, ma'am, who is always at play. She
can't be kept at home a single day together ;
always gadding about and spoiling her clothes.
Play, play, play, play, from morning to night,
and to morning again. How can she expect to
improve ? "

" Don't expect to improve," sulked Mrs.
Black. " Don't want to."



" There is a specimen of her temper, ma'am ! "
said Mrs. Lemon. " To sec her when she is
tearing about, neglecting everything else, you
would suppose her to be at least good-humoured.
But bless you, ma'am ! she is as pert and flounc-
ing a minx as ever you met with in all your
days ! "

" You must have a great deal of trouble with
them, ma'am," said Mrs. Orange.

"Ah, I have, indeed, ma'am!" said Mrs.
Lemon. " What with their tempers, what with
their quarrels, what with their never knowing
what's good for them, and wliat with their
always wanting to domineer, deliver me from
these unreasonable children ! "

"Well, I wish you good morning, ma'am,"
said Mrs. Orange.

" Well, I wish you good morning, ma'am,*'
said Mrs. Lemon.

So Mrs. Orange took up her baby and went
home, and told the family that plagued her so
that they were all going to be sent to school.
They said they didn't want to go to school;
but she packed up their boxes, and packed
them oft^.

" Oh dear me, dear me ! Rest and be
thankful ! " said Mrs. Orange, throwing herself
back in her little arm-chair. " Those trouble-
some troubles are got rid of, please the pigs ! "

Just then another lady, named Mrs. Alicum-
paine, came calling at the street-door with a
ring-ting-ting.

" My dear Mrs. Alicumpaine," said Mrs.
Orange, " how do you do ? Pray stay to
dinner. We have but a simple joint of sweet-
stuff, followed by a plain dish of bread-and-
treacle ; but, if you will take us as you find us,
it will be so kind ! "

" Don't mention it," said Mrs. Alicumpaine.
" I shall be too glad. But what do you think
I have come for, ma'am? Guess, ma'am."

" I really cannot guess, ma'am," said I\lrs.
Orange.

" Why, I am going to have a small juvenile
party to-night," said Mrs. Alicumpaine ; " and,
if you and Mr. Orange and baby would but join
us, we shoukl be complete."

" More than charmed, I am sure," said i\Irs.
Orange.

" So kind of you ! " said Mrs. Alicumpaine.
" But I hope the children won't bore you?"

" Dear things ! Not at all," said JNIrs. Orange.
" I dote upon them."

Mr. Orange here came home from the City ;
and he came, too, with a ring-ting-ting.

"James love," said Mrs. Orange, "you look
tired. What has been doing in the City to-day?"



A JUVENILE PARTY.



333



"Trap, bat, and ball, my dear," said Mr.
Orange; *' and it knocks a man up."

" That dreadfully anxious City, ma'am," said
Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine ; " so wear-
ing, is it not ?''

"Oh, so trying!" said Mrs. Alicumpaine.
" John has lately been speculating in the pegtop
ring ; and I often say to him at night, ' John, is
the result worth the wear and tear ? ' "

Dinner was ready by this time : so they sat
down to dinner; and, while Mr. Orange carved
the joint of sweetstuff, he said, " It's a poor
heart that never rejoices. Jane, go down to the
cellar, and fetch a bottle of the Upest ginger-
beer."

At tea-time, I\Ir. and Mrs. Orange, and baby,
and Mrs. Alicumpaine went off" to Mrs. Alicum-
paine's house. The children had not come yet ;
but the ball-room was ready for them, decorated
with paper flowers.

" How very sweet ! " said Mrs. Orange. " The
dear things ! How pleased they will be ! "

" I don't care for children myself," said Mr.
Orange, gaping.

" Not for girls ? " said Mrs. Alicumpaine.
" Come ! you care for girls ? "

Mr. Orange shook his head, and gaped again.
" Frivolous and vain, ma'am."

" My dear James," cried Mrs. Orange, who
had been peeping about, " do look here. Here's
the supper for the darlings, ready laid in the
room behind the folding doors. Here's their
little pickled salmon, I do declare ! And here's
their little salad, and their little roast beef and
fowls, and their little pastry, and their wee, wee,
wee champagne ! ''

" Yes, I thought it best, ma'am," said Mrs.
Alicumpaine, " that they should have their supper
by themselves. Our table is in the corner here,
where the gentlemen can have their wine-glass
of negus, and their egg-sandwich, and their quiet
game at beggar-m3^-neighbour, and look on. As
for us, ma'am, we shall have quite enough to do
to managj the company."

" Oh, indeed, you may say so ! Quite enough,
ma'am," said j\Irs. Orange.

The company began to come. The first of
them was a stout boy, with a white top-knot and
spectacles. The housemaid brought him in and
said, " Compliments, and at what time was he
to be fetched ?" Mrs. Alicumpaine said, " Not
a moment later than ten. How do you do, sir?
Go and sit down." Then a number of other
children came ; boys by themselves, and girls
by themselves, and boys and girls together.
They didn't behave at all well. Some of them
looked through quizzing-glasses at others, and



said, "Who are those? Don't know them."
Some of them looked through quizzing-glasses at
others, and said, "How do?" Some of them
had cups of tea or coffee handed to them by
others, and said, " Thanks ; much ! " A good
many boys stood about, and felt their shirt
collars. Four tiresome fat boys ivoiild stand in
the doorway, and talk about the newspapers, till
Mrs. Alicumi)aine went to them and said, " My
dears, I really cannot allow you to prevent
people from coming in. I shall be truly sorry
to do it ; but, if you put yourselves in every-
body's way, I must positively send you home."
One boy, with a beard and a large white waist-
coat, who stood straddling on the hearth-rug
warming his coat-tails, was sent home. " Highly
incorrect, my dear," said Mrs. Alicumpaine,
handing him out of the room, " and I cannot
permit it."

There was a children's band, — harp, cornet,
and piano, — and Mrs. Alicumpaine and Mrs.
Orange bustled among the children to persuade
them to take partners and dance. But they were
so obstinate ! For quite a long time they would
not be persuaded to take partners and dance.
Most of the boys said, "Thanks ; much! But
not at present." And most of the rest of the
boys said, " Thanks ; much ! But never do."

" Oh, these childr^ are very wearing ! " said
Mrs. Ahcumpaine to Mrs. Orange.

" Dear things ! I dote upon them ; but they
ARE wearing," said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicum-
paine.

At last they did begin in a slow and melan-
choly way to slide about to the music ; though
even then they wouldn't mind what they were
told, but would have this partner, and wouldn't
have that partner, and showed temper about it.
And they wouldn't smile, — no, not on any
account they wouldn't; but when the music
stopped, went round and round the room in
dismal twos, as if everybody else was dead.

" Oh, it's very hard indeed to get these vexing
children to be entertained ! " said Mrs. Alicum-
paine to I\Irs. Orange.

" I dote upon the darlings ; but it is hard,"
said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine.

They were trying children, that's the truth.
First, they wouldn't sing when they were asked ;
and then, when everybody fully believed they
wouldn't, they would. " If you serve us so any
more, my love," said Mrs. Alicumpaine to a tall
child, with a good deal of white back, in mauve
silk trimmed with lace, " it will be my painful
privilege to offer you a bed, and to send you to
it immediately."

The girls were so ridiculously dressed, too,



334



iiULlUA y KUMANCE.



that they were in rags before supper. How
could the boys help treading on their trains?
And yet, when their trains were trodden on,
they often showed temper again, and looked as
black, they did ! However, they all seemed to
be pleased when Mrs. Alicumpaine said, "Supper
is ready, children ! " And they went crowding
and pushing in, as if they had had dry bread for
dinner.

"How are the children getting on?" said Mr.
Orange to Mrs. Orange, when Mrs. Orange came
to look after baby. Mrs. Orange had left baby
on a shelf near Mr. Orange while he played at
beggar-my-neighbour, and had asked him to keep
his eye upon her now and then.

" Most charmingly, my dearest," said Mrs.
Orange. " So droll to see their litde flirtations
and jealousies ! Do come and look !"

"Much obhged to you, my dear," said Mr.
Orange ; ''' but I don't care about children
myself."

So Mrs. Orange, having seen that baby was
safe, went back without Mr. Orange to the room
where the children were having supper.

"What are they doing now?" said Mrs.
Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine.

" They are making speeches, and playing at
Parliament," said Mrs. Alicumpaine to Mrs.
Orange.

On hearing this, Mrs. Orange set off once
more back again to Mr. Orange, and said,
"James dear, do come. The children are play-
ing at Parliament."

" Thank you, my dear," said Mr. Orange,
" but I don't care about Parliament myself"

So Mrs. Orange went once again without Mr.
Orange to the room where the children were
having supper, to see them playing at Parlia-
ment. And she found some of the boys crying,
* Hear, hear, hear ! " while other boys cried
" No, no ! " and others, " Question ! " " Spoke ! "'
and all sorts of nonsense that ever you heard.
Then one of those tiresome fat boys who had
stopped the doorway told them he was on his
legs (as if they couldn't see that he wasn't on his
head, or on his anything else) to explain, and
that, with the permission of his honourable friend,
if he would allow him to call him so (another tire-
some boy bowed), he would proceed to explain.
Then he went on for a long time in a sing-song
(whatever he meant), did this troublesome fat
boy, about that he held in his hand a gla,ss ; and
about that he had come down to that house that
night to discharge what he would call a public
duty; and about that, on the present occasion,
he W'juld lay his hand (his other hand) upon his



heart, and would tell honourable gentlemen that
he was about to open the door to general ap-
proval. Then he opened the door by saying,
" To our hostess ! " and everybody else said,
" To our hostess ! " and then there were cheers.
Then another tiresome boy started up in sing-
song, and then half-a-dozen noisy and non-
sensical boys at once. But at last Mrs. Alicum-
paine said, " I cannot have this din. Now,
children, you have played at Parliament very
nicely ; but Parliament gets tiresome after a
little while, and it's time you left off, for you
will soon be fetched."

After another dance (with more tearing to rags
than before supper), they began to be fetched ;
and you will be very glad to be told that the
tiresome fat boy who had been on his legs was
walked off first without any ceremony. When
they were all gone, poor Mrs. Alicumpaine
dropped upon a sofa, and said to Mrs. Orange,
" These children will be the death of me at last,
ma'am, — they will indeed ! "

" I quite adore theni, ma'am," said Mrs.
Orange ; " but they do want variety."

Mr. Orange got his hat, and Mrs. Orange got
her bonnet and her baby, and they set out to
walk home. They had to pass Mrs. Lemon's
preparatory establishment on their way.

" I wonder, James dear," said Mrs. Orange,
looking up at the window, " whether the precious
children are asleep ! "

" I don't care much whether they are or not,
myself," said Mr. Orange.

" James dear ! "

'■ You dote upon them, you know," said Mr.
Orange. " That's another thing."

" I do," said Mrs. Orange rapturously. " Oh,
I do!"
. " I don't," said Mr. Orange.

" But I was thinking, James love," said Mrs.
Orange, pressing his arm, " whether our dear,
good, kind Mrs. Lemon would like them to stay
the holidays with her."

"If she was paid for it, I dare say she would,"
said Mr. Orange.

" I adore them, James," said Mrs. Orange,
" but SUPPOSE we pay her, then ! "

This was what brought that country to such
perfection, and made it such a delightful place



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 64 of 103)