Charles Dickens.

The works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) online

. (page 27 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 27 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


chase small particles of salmon round and round his plate
with a piece of bread and a fork, the number of successful
attempts being about one in seventeen.



332 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

" Take away, James," said Mrs. Tibbs, as Tibbs swallowed
the fourth mouthful and away went the plates like lightning.

'Til take a bit of bread, James," said the poor "master
of the house," more hungry than ever.

"Never mind your master now, James," said Mrs. Tibbs,
"see about the meat." This was conveyed in the tone in
which ladies usually give admonitions to servants in company,
that is to say, a low one ; but which, like a stage whisper,
from its peculiar emphasis, is most distinctly heard by every-
body present.

A pause ensued, before the table was replenished a sort
of parenthesis in which Mr. Simpson, Mr. Calton, and Mr.
Hicks, produced respectively a bottle of sauterne, bucellas,
and sherry, and took wine with everybody except Tibbs.
No one ever thought of him.

Between the fish and an intimated sirloin, there was a
prolonged interval.

Here was an opportunity for Mr. Hicks. He could not
resist the singularly appropriate quotation

" But beef is rare within these oxless isles ;
Goats' flesh there is, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,
And when a holiday upon them smiles,
A joint upon their barbarous spits they put on."

"Very ungentlemanly behaviour," thought little Mrs.
Tibbs, "to talk in that way."

"Ah," said Mr. Calton, filling his glass. "Tom Moore is
my poet."

" And mine," said Mrs. Maplesone.

"And mine," said Miss Julia.

"And mine," added Mr. Simpson.

" Look at his compositions," resumed the knocker.

"To be sure," said Simpson, with confidence.

" Look at Don Juan," replied Mr. Septimus Hicks.

"Julia's letter," suggested Miss Matilda.

"Can anything be grander than the Fire Worshippers?"
inquired Miss Julia.



MR. TIBBS BEGINS HIS STORY. 333

" To be sure," said Simpson.

" Or Paradise and the Peri," said the old beau.

" Yes ; or Paradise and the Peer, 1 ' repeated Simpson, who
thought he was getting through it capitally.

"It's all very well," replied Mr. Septimus Hicks, who, as
we have before hinted, never had read anything but Don
Juan. "Where will you find anything finer than the de-
scription of the siege, at the commencement of the seventh
canto ? "

"Talking of a siege," said Tibbs, with a mouthful of
bread " when I was in the volunteer corps, in eighteen
hundred and six, our commanding officer was Sir Charles
Rampart; and one day, when we were exercising on the
ground on which the London University now stands, he says,
says he, Tibbs (calling me from the ranks), Tibbs "

"Tell your master, James," interrupted Mrs. Tibbs, in an
awfully distinct tone, "tell your master if he won't carve
those fowls, to send them to me." The discomfited volunteer
instantly set to work, and carved the fowls almost as
expeditiously as his wife operated on the haunch of mutton.
Whether he ever finished the story is not known ; but, if he
did, nobody heard it.

As the ice was now broken, and the new inmates more
at home, every member of the company felt more at ease.
Tibbs himself most certainly did, because he went to sleep
immediately after dinner. Mr. Hicks and the ladies dis-
coursed most eloquently about poetry, and the theatres, and
Lord Chesterfield's Letters; and Mr. Calton followed up
what everybody said, with continuous double knocks. Mrs.
Tibbs highly approved of every observation that fell from
Mrs. Maplesone ; and as Mr. Simpson sat with a smile upon
his face and said " Yes," or " Certainly," at intervals of about
four minutes each, he received full credit for understanding
what was going forward. The gentlemen rejoined the ladies
in the drawing-room very shortly after they had left the
rlining-parlour, Mrs. Maplesone and Mr. Calton played



334 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

cribbage, and the "young people" amused themselves with
music and conversation. The Miss Maplesones sang the
most fascinating duets, and accompanied themselves on
guitars, ornamented with bits of ethereal blue ribbon. Mr.
Simpson put on a pink waistcoat, and said he was in raptures;
and Mr. Hicks felt in the seventh heaven of poetry or the
seventh canto of Don Juan it was the same thing to him.
Mrs. Tibbs was quite charmed with the new-comers; and
Mr. Tibbs spent the evening in his usual way he went to
sleep, and woke up, and went to sleep again, and woke at
supper-time.

******

We are not about to adopt the licence of novel-writers,
and to let "years roll on;" but we will take the liberty of
requesting the reader to suppose that six months have elapsed,
since the dinner we have described, and that Mrs. Tibbs's
boarders have, during that period, sang, and danced, and
gone to theatres and exhibitions, together, as ladies and
gentlemen, wherever they board, often do. And we will
beg them, the period we have mentioned having elapsed, to
imagine farther, that Mr. Septimus Hicks received, in his own
bedroom (a front attic), at an early hour one morning, a
note from Mr. Calton, requesting the favour of seeing him,
as soon as convenient to himself, in his (CaltonV) dressing-
room on the second-floor back.

"Tell Mr. Calton 111 come down directly," said Mr.
Septimus to the boy. "Stop is Mr. Calton unwell?"
inquired this excited walker of hospitals, as he put on a
bed-furniture-looking dressing-gown.

" Not as I knows on, sir," replied the boy. " Please, sir,
he looked rather rum, as it might be."

"Ah, that's no proof of his being ill," returned Hicks,
unconsciously. " Very well : I'll be down directly." Down-
stairs ran the boy with the message, and down went the
excited Hicks himself, almost as soon as the message was
delivered. "Tap, tap." "Come in." Door opens, and



SIX MONTHS AFrER. 335

discovers Mr. Calton sitting in an easy chair. Mutual
shakes of the hand exchanged, and Mr. Septimus Hicks
motioned to a seat. A short pause. Mr. Hicks coughed,
and Mr. Calton took a pinch of snuff*. It was one of those
interviews where neither party knows what to say. Mr.
Septimus Hicks broke silence.

" I received a note " he said, very tremulously, in a voice
like a Punch with a cold.

" Yes," returned the other, " you did. 11

" Exactly. "

"Yes. 11

Now, although this dialogue must have been satisfactory,
both gentlemen felt there was something more important
to be said; therefore they did as most men in such a situa-
tion would have done they looked at the table with a
determined aspect. The conversation had been opened, how-
ever, and Mr. Calton had made up his mind to continue
it with a regular double knock. He always spoke very
pompously.

" Hicks," said he, " I have sent for you, in consequence of
certain arrangements which are pending in this house, con-
nected with a marriage."

" With a marriage ! " gasped Hicks, compared with whose
expression of countenance, Hamlet's, when he sees his father's
ghost, is pleasing and composed.

" With a marriage," returned the knocker. " I have sent
for you to prove the great confidence I can repose in you."

" And will you betray me ? " eagerly inquired Hicks, who
in his alarm had even forgotten to quote.

" / betray you ! Won't you betray me ? "

" Never : no one shall know, to my dying day, that you
had a hand in the business," responded the agitated Hicks,
with an inflamed countenance, and his hair standing on end
as if he were on the stool of an electrifying machine in full
operation.

"People must know that, some time or other within a



336 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

year, I imagine," said Mr. Calton, with an air of great self-
complacency. " We may have a family."

We ! That won't affect you, surely ? "

" The devil it won't ! "

" No ! how can it ? " said the bewildered Hicks. Calton
was too much inwrapped in the contemplation of his happi-
ness to see the equivoque between Hicks and himself; and
threw himself back in his chair. " Oh, Matilda ! " sighed the
antique beau, in a lack-a-daisical voice, and applying his
right hand a little to the left of the fourth button of his
waistcoat, counting from the bottom. " Oh, Matilda ! "

" What Matilda ? " inquired Hicks, starting up.

"Matilda Maplesone," responded the other, doing the
same.

" I marry her to-morrow morning," said Hicks.

"It's false," rejoined his companion: "I marry her!"

"You marry her?"

" I marry her ! "

" You marry Matilda Maplesone ? "

" Matilda Maplesone."

" Miss Maplesone marry you ? "

" Miss Maplesone ! No : Mrs. Maplesone."

" Good Heaven ! " said Hicks, falling into his chair : " You
marry the mother, and I the daughter ! "

" Most extraordinary circumstance ! " replied Mr. Calton,
"and rather inconvenient too; for the fact is, that owing
to Matilda's wishing to keep her intention secret from her
daughters until the ceremony had taken place, she doesn't
like applying to any of her friends to give her away. I
entertain an objection to making the affair known to my
acquaintance just now; and the consequence is, that I sent
to you to know whether you'd oblige me by acting as father."

" I should have been most happy, I assure you," said
Hicks, in a tone of condolence; "but, you see, I shall be
acting as bridegroom. One character is frequently a conse-
quence of the other; but it is not usual to act in both at



AN UNPLEASANT SITUATION. 337

the same time. There's Simpson I have no doubt he'll do
it for you."

"I don't like to ask him," replied Calton, "he's such a
donkey."

Mr. Septimus Hicks looked up at the ceiling, and down at
the floor; at last an idea struck him. "Let the man of the
house, Tibbs, be the father," he suggested; and then he
quoted, as peculiarly applicable to Tibbs and the pair

" Oh Powers of Heaven ! what dark eyes meets she there ?
'Tia 'tis her father's fixed upon the pair."

"The idea has struck me already," said Mr. Calton : '-but,
you see, Matilda, for what reason I know not, is very anxious
that Mrs. Tibbs should know nothing about it, till it's all
over. It's a natural delicacy, after all, you know."

" He's the best-natured little man in existence, if you
manage him properly," said Mr. Septimus Hicks. " Tell him
not to mention it to his wife, and assure him she won't mind
it, and he'll do it directly. My marriage is to be a secret
one, on account of the mother and my father; therefore he
must be enjoined to secrecy."

A small double knock, like a presumptuous single one, was
that instant heard at the street-door. It was Tibbs ; it could
be no one else; for no one else occupied five minutes in rub-
bing his shoes. He had been out to pay the baker's bill.

"Mr. Tibbs," called Mr. Calton in a very bland tone,
looking over the banisters.

" Sir ! " replied he of the dirty face.

"Will you have the kindness to step up-stairs for a
moment ? "

"Certainly, sir," said Tibbs, delighted to be taken notice
of. The bedroom-door was carefully closed, and Tibbs, having
put his hat on the floor (as most timid men do), and been
accommodated with a seat, looked as astounded as if he were
suddenly summoned before the familiars of the Inquisition.

" A rather unpleasant occurrence, Mr. Tibbs," said Calton,

VOL. i. z



338 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

in a very portentous manner, "obliges me to consult you,
and to beg you will not communicate what I am about to
say, to your wife."

Tibbs acquiesced, wondering in his own mind what the
deuce the other could have done, and imagining that at least
he must have broken the best decanters.

Mr. Calton resumed ; " I am placed, Mr. Tibbs, in rather
an unpleasant situation.""

Tibbs looked at Mr. Septimus Hicks, as if he thought Mr.
H.^s being in the immediate vicinity of his fellow-boarder
might constitute the unpleasantness of his situation ; but as
he did not exactly know what to say, he merely ejaculated
the monosyllable "Lor!"

"Now," continued the knocker, "let me beg you will
exhibit no manifestations of surprise, which may be overheard
by the domestics, when I tell you command your feelings
of astonishment that two inmates of this house intend to
be married to-morrow morning." And he drew back his
chair, several feet, to perceive the effect of the unlooked-for
announcement.

If Tibbs had rushed from the room, staggered down-stairs,
and fainted in the passage if he had instantaneously jumped
out of the window into the mews behind the house, in an
agony of surprise his behaviour would have been much less
inexplicable to Mr. Calton than it was, when he put his hands
into his inexpressible-pockets, and said with a half-chuckle,
"Just so."

" You are not surprised, Mr. Tibbs ? " inquired Mr. Calton.

"Bless you, no, sir," returned Tibbs; "after all, it's
very natural. When two young people get together, you
know "

"Certainly, certainly," said Calton, with an indescribable
air of self-satisfaction.

" You don^t think ifs at all an out-of-the-way affair then ? "
asked Mr. Septimus Hicks, who had watched the countenance
of Tibbs in mute astonishment.



MYSTIFICATION. 339

" No, sir, 11 replied Tibbs ; " I was just the same at his age.' 1 ' 1
He actually smiled when he said this.

" How devilish well I must carry my years ! " thought the
delighted old beau, knowing he was at least ten years older
than Tibbs at that moment.

" Well, then, to come to the point at once," he continued,
"I have to ask you whether you will object to act as father
on the occasion?"

"Certainly not," replied Tibbs; still without evincing an
atom of surprise.

" You will not ? "

" Decidedly not," reiterated Tibbs, still as calm as a pot
of porter with the head off'.

Mr. Calton seized the hand of the petticoat-governed little
man, and vowed eternal friendship from that hour. Hicks,
' who was all admiration and surprise, did the same.

" Now, confess," asked Mr. Calton of Tibbs, as he picked
up his hat, " were you not a little surprised ? "

" I Vlieve you ! " replied that illustrious person, holding up
one hand ; " I Vlieve you ! When I first heard of it."''

"So sudden," said Septimus Hicks.

" So strange to ask me, you know," said Tibbs.

" So odd altogether ! " said the superannuated love-maker ;
and then all three laughed.

" I say," said Tibbs, shutting the door which he had pre-
viously opened, and giving full vent to a hitherto corked-up
giggle, " what bothers me is, what will his father say ? "

Mr. Septimus Hicks looked at Mr. Calton.

" Yes ; but the best of it is," said the latter, giggling in
his turn, " I haven't got a father he ! he ! he ! "

" You haven't got a father. No ; but he has," said
Tibbs.

" Wlio has?" inquired Septimus Hicks.

" Why him."

"Him, who? Do you know my secret? Do you mean
me ? "



340 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

" You ! No ; you know who I mean," returned Tibbs with
a knowing wink.

"For Heaven's sake, whom do you mean?" inquired Mr.
Calton, who, like Septimus Hicks, was all but out of his
senses at the strange confusion.

" Why Mr. Simpson, of course," replied Tibbs ; " who else
could I mean?"

"I see it all," said the Byron-quoter ; "Simpson marries
Julia Maplesone to-morrow morning ! "

" Undoubtedly," replied Tibbs, thoroughly satisfied, " of
course he does."

It would require the pencil of Hogarth to illustrate our
feeble pen is inadequate to describe the expression which the
countenances of Mr. Calton and Mr. Septimus Hicks respec-
tively assumed, at this unexpected announcement. Equally
impossible is it to describe, although perhaps it is easier for
our lady readers to imagine, what arts the three ladies could
have used, so completely to entangle their separate partners.
Whatever they were, however, they were successful. The
mother was perfectly aware of the intended marriage of both
daughters ; and the young ladies were equally acquainted
Avith the intention of their estimable parent. They agreed,
however, that it would have a much better appearance if
each feigned ignorance of the other's engagement ; and it was
equally desirable that all the marriages should take place on
the same day, to prevent the discovery of one clandestine
alliance, operating prejudicially on the others. Hence, the
mystification of Mr. Calton and Mr. Septimus Hicks, and the
pre-engagement of the unwary Tibbs.

On the following morning, Mr. Septimus Hicks was united
to Miss Matilda Maplesone. Mr. Simpson also entered into
a "holy alliance" with Miss Julia; Tibbs acting as father,
"his first appearance in that character." Mr. Calton, not
being quite so eager as the two young men, was rather struck
by the double discovery ; and as he had found some difficulty
in getting any one to give the lady away, it occurred to him



A BREACH OF PROMISE. 341

that the best mode of obviating the inconvenience would be
not to take her at all. The lady, however, "appealed," as
her counsel said on the trial of the cause, Maplesone v. Calton,
for a breach of promise, " with a broken heart, to the out-
raged laws of her country." She recovered damages to the
amount of 1,000. which the unfortunate knocker was compelled
to pay. Mr. Septimus Hicks having walked the hospitals,
took it into his head to walk off altogether. His injured
wife is at present residing Avith her mother at Boulogne. Mr.
Simpson, having the misfortune to lose his wife six weeks
after marriage (by her eloping with an officer during his
temporary sojourn in the Fleet Prison, in consequence of his
inability to discharge her little mantua-maker's bill), and
being disinherited by his father, who died soon afterwards,
was fortunate enough to obtain a permanent engagement at
a fashionable haircutter's ; hairdressing being a science to
which he had frequently directed his attention. In this
situation he had necessarily many opportunities of making
himself acquainted with the habits, and style of thinking, of
the exclusive portion of the nobility of this kingdom. To
this fortunate circumstance are we indebted for the produc-
tion of those brilliant efforts of genius, his fashionable novels,
which so long as good taste, unsullied by exaggeration, cant,
and quackery, continues to exist, cannot fail to instruct and
amuse the thinking portion of the community.

It only remains to add, that this complication of disorders
completely deprived poor Mrs. Tibbs of all her inmates,
except the one whom she could have best spared her husband.
That wretched little man returned home, on the day of the
wedding, in a state of partial intoxication ; and, under the
influence of wine, excitement, and despair, actually dared to
brave the anger of his wife. Since that ill-fated hour he has
constantly taken his meals in the kitchen, to which apartment,
it is understood, his witticisms will be in future confined: a
turn-up bedstead having been conveyed there by Mrs. Tibbs's
order for his exclusive accommodation. It is possible that he



342 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

will be enabled to finish, in that seclusion, his story of the
volunteers.

The advertisement has again appeared in the morning
papers. Results must be reserved for another chapter.

CHAPTER THE SECOND.

"WELL!" said little Mrs. Tibbs to herself, as she sat in
the front parlour of the Coram-street mansion one morning,
mending a piece of stair-carpet off' the first landing ; " Things
have not turned out so badly, either, and if I only get a
favourable answer to the advertisement, we shall be full again. 11

Mrs. Tibbs resumed her occupation of making worsted
lattice-work in the carpet, anxiously listening to the two-
penny postman, who was hammering his way down the street,
at the rate of a penny a knock. The house was as quiet as
possible. There was only one low sound to be heard it was
the unhappy Tibbs cleaning the gentlemen's boots in the
back kitchen, and accompanying himself with a buzzing noise,
in wretched mockery of humming a tune.

The postman drew near the house. He paused so did
Mrs. Tibbs. A knock a bustle a letter post-paid.

"T. I. presents compt. to I. T. and T. I. begs To say that
i see the advertisement And she will Do Herself the pleasure
of calling On you at 12 o'clock to-morrow morning.

"T. I. as To apologise to I. T. for the shortness Of the
notice But i hope it will not unconvenience you.

"I remain yours Truly

"Wednesday evening.

Little Mrs. Tibbs perused the document, over and over
again ; and the more she read it, the more was she confused by
the mixture of the first and third person ; the substitution of
the " i " for the " T. I. ; " and the transition from the " I. T."
to the " you." The writing looked like a skein of thread in



MRS. TIBBS'S VISITOR. 343

a tangle, and the note was ingeniously folded into a perfect
square, with the direction squeezed up into the right-hand
corner, as if it were ashamed of itself. The back of the epistle
was pleasingly ornamented with a large red wafer, which,
with the addition of divers ink-stains, bore a marvellous
resemblance to a black beetle trodden upon. One thing,
however, was perfectly clear to the perplexed Mrs. Tibbs.
Somebody was to call at twelve. The drawing-room was
forthwith dusted for the third time that morning ; three or
four chairs were pulled out of their places, and a corresponding
number of books carefully upset, in order that there might
be a due absence of formality. Down went the piece of stair-
carpet before noticed, and up ran Mrs. Tibbs "to make
herself tidy."

The clock of New Saint Pancras Church struck twelve, and
the Foundling, with laudable politeness, did the same ten
minutes afterwards. Saint something else struck the quarter,
and then there arrived a single lady with a double knock, in
a pelisse the colour of the interior of a damson pie ; a bonnet
of the same, with a regular conservatory of artificial flowers ;
a white veil, and a green parasol, with a cobweb border.

The visitor (who was very fat and red-faced) was shown
into the drawing-room ; Mrs. Tibbs presented herself, and
the negotiation commenced.

"I called in consequence of an advertisement," said the
stranger, in a voice as if she had been playing a set of Pan's
pipes for a fortnight without leaving off.

"Yes!" said Mrs. Tibbs, rubbing her hands very slowly,
and looking the applicant full in the face two things she
always did on such occasions.

"Money isn't no object whatever to me," said the lady,
" so much as living in a state of retirement and obtrusion."

Mrs. Tibbs, as a matter of course, acquiesced in such an
exceedingly natural desire.

"I am constantly attended by a medical man," resumed
the pelisse wearer ; ' " I have been a shocking Unitarian for



344 SKETCHES BY BOZ.

some time I, indeed, have had very little peace since the
death of Mr. Bloss."

Mrs. Tibbs looked at the relict of the departed Bloss, and
thought he must have had very little peace in his time. Of
course she could not say so ; so she looked very sympathising.
" I shall be a good deal of trouble to you," said Mrs. Bloss ;
"but, for that trouble I am willing to pay. I am going
through a course of treatment which renders attention neces-
sary. I have one mutton-chop in bed at half-past eight,
and another at ten, every morning."

Mrs. Tibbs, as in duty bound, expressed the pity she felt
for anybody placed in such a distressing situation ; and the
carnivorous Mrs. Bloss proceeded to arrange the various pre-
liminaries with wonderful despatch. " Now mind," said that
lady, after terms were arranged ; " I am to have the second-
floor front, for my bedroom ? "
"Yes, ma'am."

" And you'll find room for my little servant Agnes ? "
"Oh! certainly."

"And I can have one of the cellars in the area for my
bottled porter."

" With the greatest pleasure ; James shall get it ready for
you by Saturday."

"And Til join the company at the breakfast-table on
Sunday morning," said Mrs. Bloss. "I shall get up on
purpose."

" Very well," returned Mrs. Tibbs, in her most amiable
tone ; for satisfactory references had " been given and required, 1 *
and it was quite certain that the new-comer had plenty of
money. "Ifs rather singular," continued Mrs. Tibbs, with
what was meant for a most bewitching smile, " that we have
a gentleman now with us, who is in a very delicate state of
health a Mr. Gobler. His apartment is the back drawing-
room."

"The next room?" inquired Mrs. Bloss.
"The next room," repeated the hostess.



A GENTLEMAN WITHOUT A STOMACH. 345

" How very promiscuous ! " ejaculated the widow.

" He hardly ever gets up,' 1 said Mrs. Tibbs in a whisper.

" Lor ! " cried Mrs. Bloss, in an equally low tone.

" And when he is up," said Mi's. Tibbs, " we never can
persuade him to go to bed again. 11

" Dear me ! " said the astonished Mi's. Bloss, drawing her
chair nearer Mrs. Tibbs. " What is his complaint ? *



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 27 of 31)