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A quarter of an hour elapsed, and there were no signs of
moving. Minns looked at his watch for the sixth time.

" Coachman, are you going or not ? " bawled Mr. Minns,
with his head and half his body out of the coach window.

" Di rectly, sir," said the coachman, with his hands in his
pockets, looking as much unlike a man in a hurry as possible.

" Bill, take them cloths off. 1 ' Five minutes more clasped :
at the end of which time the coachman mounted the box,
from whence he looked down the street, and up the street,
and hailed all the pedestrians for another five minutes.

" Coachman ! if you don't go this moment, I shall get out,"
said Mr. Minns, rendered desperate by the lateness of the
hour, and the impossibility of being in Poplar-walk at the
appointed time.

" Going this minute, sir,"" was the reply ; and, accord-
ingly, the machine trundled on for a couple of hundred
yards, and then stopped again. Minns doubled himself up
in a corner of the coach, and abandoned himself to his fate,
as a child, a mother, a bandbox and a parasol, became his


The child was an affectionate and an amiable infant ; the
little dear mistook Minns for his other parent, and screamed
to embrace him.

" Be quiet, dear," said the mamma, restraining the impetu-
osity of the darling, whose little fat legs were kicking, and
stamping, and twining themselves into the most complicated
forms, in an ecstasy of impatience. " Be quiet, dear, that's
not your papa."

" Thank Heaven I am not ! " thought Minns, as the first
gleam of pleasure he had experienced that morning shone
like a meteor through his wretchedness.

Playfulness was agreeably mingled with affection in the
disposition of the boy. When satisfied that Mr. Minns was
not his parent, he endeavoured to attract his notice by
scraping his drab trousers with his dirty shoes, poking his
chest with his mammals parasol, and other nameless endear-
ments peculiar to infancy, with which he beguiled the
tediousness of the ride, apparently very much to his own

When the unfortunate gentleman arrived at the Swan, he
found to his great dismay, that it was a quarter past five.
The white house, the stables, the " Beware of the Dog,"
every landmark was passed, with a rapidity not unusual to a
gentleman of a certain age when too late for dinner. After
the lapse of a few minutes, Mr. Minns found himself opposite
a yellow brick house with a green door, brass knocker, and
door-plate, green window-frames and ditto railings, with "a
garden " in front, that is to say, a small loose bit of gravelled
ground, with one round and two scalene triangular beds,
containing a fir-tree, twenty or thirty bulbs, and an unlimited
number of marigolds. The taste of Mr. and Mrs. Budden
was further displayed by the appearance of a Cupid on each
side of the door, perched upon a heap of large chalk flints,
variegated with pink conch-shells. His knock at the door
was answered by a stumpy boy, in drab livery, cotton
stockings and high-lows, who, after hanging his hat on one


of the dozen brass pegs which ornamented the passage,
denominated by courtesy "The Hall," ushered him into a
front drawing-room commanding a very extensive view of the
backs of the neighbouring houses. The usual ceremony of
introduction, and so forth, over, Mr. Minns took his seat:
not a little agitated at finding that he was the last comer,
and, somehow or other, the Lion of about a dozen people,
sitting together in a small drawing-room, getting rid of that
most tedious of all time, the time preceding dinner.

"Well, Brogson," said Budden, addressing an elderly
gentleman in a black coat, drab knee-breeches, and long
gaiters, who, under pretence of inspecting the prints in an
Annual, had been engaged in satisfying himself on the subject
of Mr. Minns's general appearance, by looking at him over the
tops of the leaves " Well, Brogson, what do Ministers mean
to do ? Will they go out, or what ? "

"Oh why really, you know, Tni the last person in the
world to ask for news. Your cousin, from his situation, is
the most likely person to answer the question."

Mr. Minns assured the last speaker, that although he was
in Somerset-house, he possessed no official communication
relative to the projects of his Majesty's Ministers. But his
remark was evidently received incredulously ; and no further
conjectures being hazarded on the subject, a long pause
ensued, during which the company occupied themselves in
coughing and blowing their noses, until the entrance of Mrs.
Budden caused a general rise.

The ceremony of introduction being over, dinner was
announced, and down-stairs the party proceeded accordingly
Mr. Minns escorting Mrs. Budden as far as the drawing-
room door, but being prevented, by the narrowness of the
staircase, from extending his gallantry any farther. The
dinner passed off as such dinners usually do. Ever and anon,
amidst the clatter of knives and forks, and the hum of con-
versation, Mr. B.'s voice might be heard, asking a friend to
take wine, and assuring him he was glad to see him ; and a


great deal of by-play took place between Mrs. B. and the
servants, respecting the removal of the dishes, during which
her countenance assumed all the variations of a weather-glass,
from " stormy " to " set fair."

Upon the dessert and wine being placed on the table, the
servant, in compliance with a significant look from Mrs. B.,
brought down "Master Alexander," habited in a sky-blue
suit with silver buttons; and possessing hair of nearly the
same colour as the metal. After sundry praises from his
mother, and various admonitions as to his behaviour from
his father, he was introduced to his godfather.

" Well, my little fellow you are a fine boy, ain't you ? "
said Mr. Minns, as happy as a tomtit on birdlime.

" Yes. v

" How old are you ? "

" Eight, next We'nsday. How old are you ? "

" Alexander," interrupted his mother, " how dare you ask
Mr. Minns how old he is ! "

"He asked me how old / was," said the precocious child,
to whom Minns had from that moment internally resolved
that he never would bequeath one shilling. As soon as the
titter occasioned by the observation had subsided, a little
smirking man with red whiskers, sitting at the bottom of the
table, who during the whole of dinner had been endeavouring
to obtain a listener to some stories about Sheridan, called
out, with a very patronising air, " Alick, what part of speech
is be"

" A verb."

" That's a good boy," said Mrs. Budden, with all a mother's
pride. " Now, you know what a verb is ? "

" A verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, or to
suffer; as, I am I rule I am ruled. Give me an
apple, Ma."

" I'll give you an apple," replied the man with the red
whiskers, who was an established friend of the family, or in
other words was always invited by Mrs. Budden, whether


Mr. Budden liked it or not, " if you'll tell me. what is the
meaning of be"

"Be? 11 said the prodigy, after a little hesitation "an
insect that gathers honey. 11

" No, dear, 11 frowned Mrs. Budden ; " B double E is the
substantive. 11

"I don't think he knows much yet about common substan-
tives, 11 said the smirking gentleman, who thought this an
admirable opportunity for letting off a joke. " It's clear he's
not very well acquainted with proper names. He ! he ! he ! "

" Gentlemen, 11 called out Mr. Budden, from the end of the
table, in a stentorian voice, and with a very important air,
" will you have the goodness to charge your glasses ? I have
a toast to propose. 1 '

" Hear ! hear ! " cried the gentlemen, passing the decanters.
After they had made the round of the table, Mr. Budden
proceeded " Gentlemen ; there is an individual present "

" Hear ! hear ! " said the little man with red whiskers.

" Pray be quiet, Jones, 1 ' remonstrated Budden.

" I say, gentlemen, there is an individual present, 11 resumed
the host, " in whose society, I am sure we must take great
delight and and the conversation of that individual must
have afforded to every one present, the utmost pleasure."
["Thank Heaven, he does not mean me! 11 thought Minns,
conscious that his diffidence and exclusiveness had prevented
his saying above a dozen words since he entered the house.]
" Gentlemen, I am but a humble individual myself, and I
perhaps ought to apologise for allowing any individual feel-
ings of friendship and affection for the person I allude to,
to induce me to venture to rise, to propose the health of
that person a person that, I am sure that is to say, a
person whose virtues must endear him to those who know
him and those who have not the pleasure of knowing him,
cannot dislike him. 1 '

" Hear ! hear ! " said the company, in a tone of encourage-
ment and approval.


"Gentlemen, 11 continued Budden, "my cousin is a man
who who is a relation of my own." (Hear ! hear !) Minns
groaned audibly. " Who I am most happy to see here, and
who, if he were not here, would certainly have deprived us
of the great pleasure we all feel in seeing him. (Loud cries
of hear !) Gentlemen, I feel that I have already trespassed
on your attention for too long a time. With every feeling
of with every sentiment of of "

" Gratification " suggested the friend of the family.

" Of gratification, I beg to propose the health of Mr.

" Standing, gentlemen ! " shouted the indefatigable little
man with the whiskers " and with the honours. Take your
time from me, if you please. Hip ! hip ! hip ! Za ! Hip !
hip ! hip ! Za ! Hip ! hip ! Za a a ! "

All eyes were now fixed on the subject of the toast, who
by gulping down port wine at the imminent hazard of suffo-
cation, endeavoured to conceal his confusion. After as long
a pause as decency would admit, he rose, but, as the
newspapers sometimes say in their reports, "we regret that
we are quite unable to give even the substance of the honour-
able gentleman's observations. 11 The words " present company
honour present occasion, 11 and " great happiness 11 heard
occasionally, and repeated at intervals, with a countenance
expressive of the utmost confusion and misery, convinced the
company that he was making an excellent speech ; and,
accordingly, on his resuming his seat, they cried " Bravo ! "
and manifested tumultuous applause. Jones, who had been
long watching his opportunity, then darted up.

"Budden," said he, "will you allow me to propose a
toast ? "

"Certainly," replied Budden, adding in an under-tone to
Minns right across the table, "Devilish sharp fellow that:
you'll be very much pleased with his speech. He talks
equally well on any subject." Minns bowed, and Mr. Jones
proceeded :


"It has on several occasions, in various instances, under
many circumstances, and in different companies, fallen to my
lot to propose a toast to those by whom, at the time, I have
had the honour to be surrounded. I have sometimes, I will
cheerfully own for why should I deny it? felt the over-
whelming nature of the task I have undertaken, and my own
utter incapability to do justice to the subject. If such have
been my feelings, however, on former occasions, what must
they be now now under the extraordinary circumstances
in which I am placed. (Hear ! hear !) To describe my feel-
ings accurately, would be impossible ; but I cannot give you
a better idea of them, gentlemen, than by referring to a
circumstance which happens, oddly enough, to occur to my
mind at the moment. On one occasion, when that truly
great and illustrious man, Sheridan, was "

Now, there is no knowing what new villainy in the form
of a joke would have been heaped on the grave of that very
ill-used man, Mr. Sheridan, if the boy in drab had not at
that moment entered the room in a breathless state, to report
that, as it was a very wet night, the nine o'clock stage had
come round, to know whether there was anybody going to
town, as, in that case, he (the nine o'clock) had room for one

Mr. Minns started up ; and, despite countless exclamations
of surprise, and entreaties to stay, persisted in his determina-
tion to accept the vacant place. But, the brown silk umbrella
was nowhere to be found ; and as the coachman couldn't wait,
he drove back to the Swan, leaving word for Mr. Minns to
"run round" and catch him. However, as it did not occur
to Mr. Minns for some ten minutes or so, that he had left
the brown silk umbrella with the ivory handle in the other
coach, coming down ; and, moreover, as he was by no means
remarkable for speed, it is no matter of surprise that when
he accomplished the feat of " running round " to the Swan,
the coach the last coach had gone without him.

It was somewhere about three o'clock in the morning, when


Mr. Augustus Minns knocked feebly at the street-door of his
lodgings in Tavistock-street, cold, wet, cross, and miserable.
He made his will next morning, and his professional man
informs us, in that strict confidence in which we inform the
public, that neither the name of Mr. Octavius Budden, nor
of Mrs. Amelia Budden, nor of Master Alexander Augustus
Budden, appears therein.



THE Miss Crumptons, or to quote the authority of the
inscription on the garden-gate of Minerva House, Hammer-
smith, "The Misses Crumpton," were two unusually tall,
particularly thin, and exceedingly skinny personages : very
upright, and very yellow. Miss Amelia Crumpton owned to
thirty-eight, and Miss Maria Crumpton admitted she was
forty ; an admission which was rendered perfectly unnecessary
by the self-evident fact of her being at least fifty. They
dressed in the most interesting manner like twins ! and
looked as happy and comfortable as a couple of marigolds
run to seed. They were very precise, had the strictest
possible ideas of propriety, wore false hair, and always smelt
very strongly of lavender.

Minerva House, conducted under the auspices of the two
sisters, was a " finishing establishment for young ladies,"" where
some twenty girls of the ages of from thirteen to nineteen
inclusive, acquired a smattering of everything, and a know-
ledge of nothing ; instruction in French and Italian, dancing
lessons twice a- week ; and other necessaries of life. The house
was a white one, a little removed from the roadside, with
close palings in front. The bedroom windows were always
left partly open, to afford a bird's-eye view of numerous little
bedsteads with very white dimity furniture, and thereby
impress the passer-by with a due sense of the luxuries of the


establishment; and there was a front parlour hung round
with highly varnished maps which nobody ever looked at,
and filled with books which no one ever read, appropriated
exclusively to the reception of parents, who, whenever they
called, could not fail to be struck with the very deep appear-
ance of the place.

"Amelia, my dear," said Miss Maria Crumpton, entering
the school-room one morning, with her false hair in papers :
as she occasionally did, in order to impress the young ladies
with a conviction of its reality. "Amelia, my dear, here is
a most gratifying note I have just received. You needn't
mind reading it aloud.""

Miss Amelia, thus advised, proceeded to read the following
note with an air of great triumph :

" Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., presents his com-
pliments to Miss Crumpton, and will feel much obliged by
Miss Crumpton's calling on him, if she conveniently can, to-
morrow morning at one o'clock, as Cornelius Brook Dingwall,
Esq., M.P., is anxious to see Miss Crumpton on the subject
of placing Miss Brook Dingwall under her charge.

" Adelphi.

"Monday morning."

" A Member of Parliament's daughter ! " ejaculated Amelia,
in an ecstatic tone.

"A Member of Parliament's daughter!" repeated Miss
Maria, with a smile of delight, which, of course, elicited a
concurrent titter of pleasure from all the young ladies.

"It's exceedingly delightful!" said Miss Amelia; where-
upon all the young ladies murmured their admiration
again. Courtiers are but school-boys, and court-ladies

So important an announcement, at once superseded the
business of the day. A holiday was declared, in commemora-
tion of the great event ; the Miss Crumptons retired to their


private apartment to talk it over ; the smaller girls discussed
the probable manners and customs of the daughter of a
Member of Parliament ; and the young ladies verging on
eighteen wondered whether she was engaged, whether she
was pretty, whether she wore much bustle, and many other
wheitiers of equal importance.

The two Miss Crumptons proceeded to the Adelphi at the
appointed time next day, dressed, of course, in their best
style, and looking as amiable as they possibly could which,
by-the-bye, is not saying much for them. Having sent in
their cards, through the medium of a red-hot looking footman
in bright livery, they were ushered into the august presence
of the profound Dingwall.

Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., M.P., was very haughty,
solemn, and portentous. He had, naturally, a somewhat
spasmodic expression of countenance, which was not rendered
the less remarkable by his wearing an extremely stiff cravat.
He was wonderfully proud of the M.P. attached to his name,
and never lost an opportunity of reminding people of his
dignity. He had a great idea of his own abilities, which
must have been a great comfort to him, as no one else had;
and in diplomacy, on a small scale, in his own family arrange-
ments, he considered himself unrivalled. He was a county
magistrate, and discharged the duties of his station with all
due justice and impartiality ; frequently committing poachers,
and occasionally committing himself. Miss Brook Dingwall
was one of that numerous class of young ladies, who, like
adverbs, may be known by their answering to a common-,
place question, and doing nothing else.

On the present occasion, this talented individual was seated
in a small library at a table covered with papers, doing-
nothing, but trying to look busy, playing at shop. Acts of
Parliament, and letters directed to " Cornelius Brook Dingwall,
Esq., M.P.," were ostentatiously scattered over the table ; at
a little distance from which, Mrs. Brook Dingwall was seated
at work. One of those public nuisances, a spoiled child, was


playing about the room, dressed after the most approved
fashion in a blue tunic with a black belt a quarter of a
yard wide, fastened with an immense buckle looking like a
robber in a melodrama, seen through a diminishing glass.

After a little pleasantry from the sweet child, who amused
himself by running away with Miss Maria Crumpton''s chair
as fast as it was placed for her, the visitors were seated, and
Cornelius Brook Dingwall, Esq., opened the conversation.

He had sent for Miss Crumpton, he said, in consequence of
the high character he had received of her establishment from
his friend, Sir Alfred Muggs.

Miss Crumpton murmured her acknowledgments to him
(Muggs), and Cornelius proceeded.

" One of my principal reasons, Miss Crumpton, for parting
with my daughter, is, that she has lately acquired some senti-
mental ideas, which it is most desirable to eradicate from
her young mind."" (Here the little innocent before noticed,
fell out of an arm-chair with an awful crash.)

"Naughty boy!" said his mamma, who appeared more
surprised at his taking the liberty of falling down, than at
anything else ; " 111 ring the bell for James to take him

"Pray don't check him, my love," said the diplomatist, as
soon as he could make himself heard amidst the unearthly
howling consequent upon the threat and the tumble. " It all
arises from his great flow of spirits." This last explanation
was addressed to Miss Crumpton.

" Certainly, sir," replied the antique Maria : not exactly
seeing, however, the connexion between a flow of animal
spirits, and a fall from an arm-chair.

Silence was restored, and the M.P. resumed : " Now, I know
nothing so likely to effect this object, Miss Crumpton, as her
mixing constantly in the society of girls of her own age ; and,
as I know that in your establishment she will meet such as
are not likely to contaminate her young mind, I propose to
send her to you."


The youngest Miss Crumpton expressed the acknowledg-
ments of the establishment generally. Maria was rendered
speechless by bodily pain. The dear little fellow, having
recovered his animal spirits, was standing upon her most tender
foot, by way of getting his face (which looked like a capital
O in a red-lettered play-bill) on a level with the writing-

"Of course, Lavinia will be a parlour boarder," continued
the enviable father; "and on one point I wish my directions
to be strictly observed. The fact is, that some ridiculous
love affair, with a person much her inferior in life, has been
the cause of her present state of mind. Knowing that of
course, under your care, she can have no opportunity of
meeting this person, I do not object to indeed, I should
rather prefer her mixing with such society as you see

This important statement was again interrupted by the
high-spirited little creature, in the excess of his joyousness
breaking a pane of glass, and nearly precipitating himself
into an adjacent area. James was rung for; considerable
confusion and screaming succeeded ; two little blue legs were
seen to kick violently in the air as the man left the room,
and the child was gone.

"Mr. Brook Dingwall would like Miss Brook Dingwall to
learn everything," said Mrs. Brook Dingwall, Avho hardly
ever said anything at all.

" Certainly," said both the Miss Crumptons together.

" And as I trust the plan I have devised will be effectual in
weaning my daughter from this absurd idea, Miss Crumpton,"
continued the legislator, " I hope you will have the goodness
to comply, in all respects, Avith any request I may forward
to you."

The promise was of course made ; and after a lengthened
discussion, conducted on behalf of the Dingwalls with the
most becoming diplomatic gravity, and on that of the
Crumptons with profound respect, it was finally arranged that


Miss Lavinia should be forwarded to Hammersmith on the
next day but one, on which occasion the half-yearly ball
given at the establishment was to take place. It might divert
the dear girl's mind. This, by the way, was another bit of

Miss Lavinia was introduced to her future governess, and
both the Miss Crumptons pronounced her "a most charming
girl;" an opinion which, by a singular coincidence, they
always entertained of any new pupil.

Courtesies were exchanged, acknowledgments expressed,
condescension exhibited, and the interview terminated.

Preparations, to make use of theatrical phraseology, " on a
scale of magnitude never before attempted," were incessantly
made at Minerva House to give every effect to the forth-
coming ball. The largest room in the house was pleasingly
ornamented with blue calico roses, plaid tulips, and other
equally natural-looking artificial flowers, the work of the
young ladies themselves. The carpet was taken up, the
folding-doors were taken down, the furniture was taken out,
and rout-seats were taken in. The linen-drapers of Hammer-
smith were astounded at the sudden demand for blue sarsenet
ribbon, and long white gloves. Dozens of geraniums were
purchased for bouquets, and a harp and two violins were
bespoke from town, in addition to the grand piano already on
the premises. The young ladies who were selected to show
off on the occasion, and do credit to the establishment,
practised incessantly, much to their own satisfaction, and
greatly to the annoyance of the lame old gentleman over the
way; and a constant correspondence was kept up, between
the Misses Crumpton and the Hammersmith pastrycook.

The evening came ; and then there was such a lacing of
stays, and tying of sandals, and dressing of hair, as never
can take place with a proper degree of bustle out of a
boarding-school. The smaller girls managed to be in every-
body's way, and were pushed about accordingly ; and the
elder ones dressed, and tied, and flattered, and envied, one

VOL. i. 2 c


another, as earnestly and sincerely as if they had actually

come out.

"How do I look, dear?" inquired Miss Emily Smithers,
the belle of the house, of Miss Caroline Wilson, who was her

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 30 of 31)