William Makepeace Thackeray.

Adventures of Philip; prefixed, a shabby genteel story online

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Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayAdventures of Philip; prefixed, a shabby genteel story → online text (page 57 of 85)
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lasted for about half a minute, said, —

" Paws off, Pompey ! You young hang-dog, you — egad, yes,
aha I *pon honor, you're a lad of spirit ; some of your father's
spunk in you, hey ? I know him by that oath. Why, sir, when
I was sixteen, I used to swear — to swear, egad, like a Thames
waterman, and exactly in this fellow's way ! Buss me, my lad ;
no, kiss my hand. That will do " — and he held ont a very lean
yellow hand, peering from a pair of yellow ruffles. It shook
very much, and the shaking made ail the rings upon it shine
only the more.

" Well," says Mr. Billings, " if you wasn't agoing to abuse
me nor mother, I don't care if I shake hands with you. I ain't

The Abb^ laughed with great glee ; and that very evening
sent off to his court a x^^\X ludicrous, spicy description of the

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C^ THRniNE : A STORY. 545

whole scene of meeting between this amiable father and child ;
in which he said that young Billings was the elhfc favorite of M.
Kitch, Ecuyer, le bourreau de Londres, and which made the
Duke*s mistress laugh so much that she vowed that the ^bb^
should have a bishopric on his return : for, with such store of
wisdom, look you, my son, was the world governed in those

The Count and his offspring meanwhile conversed with
some cordiality. The former informed the latter of all the
diseases to which he was subject, his manner of curing them,
his great consideration as chamberlain to the Duke of Bavaria ;
how he wore his court suits, and of a particular powder which
he had invented for the hair ; how, when he was seventeen he
had run away with a canoness, egad I who was afterwards locked
up in a convent and grew to be sixteen stone in weight ; how
he remembered the time when ladies did not wear patches ;
and how the Duchess of Marlborough boxed his ears when he
was so high, because he wanted to kiss her.

All these important anecdotes took some time in the telling,
and were accompanied by many profound remarks ; such as,
" I can't abide garlic, nor white-wine, stap me ! nor Sauerkraut,
though his Highness eats half a bushel per day. I ate it the
first time at court ; but when they brought it me a second time,
I refused — refused, split me and grill me if I didn't ! Everybody
stared ; his Highness looked as fierce as a Turk ; and that
infernal Krahwinkle (my dear, I did for him afterwards) — that
cursed Krahwinkle, I say, looked as pleased as possible, and
whispered to Countess Fritsch, * Blitzchen Frau Grafinn,' says he,
* it's all over with Galgenstein.' What did I do ? I had the entree^
and demanded it. * Altesse,' says I, falling on my knees, * I
ate no Kraut at dinner to-day. You remarked it : I saw your
Highness remark it.'

"' I did, M. le Compte,' said his Highness, gravely.

" I had almost tears in my eyes ; but it was necessary to
come to a resolution, you know. * Sir,' said I, *I speak with
deep grief to your Highness, who are my benefactor, my friend,
my father ; but of this I am resolved, I will never eat Sauer-
kraut MORE : it don't agree with me. After being laid up for
four weeks by the last dish of Sauerkraut of which I partook, I
may say with confidence — it don't^r^Q with me. By impairing
my health, it impairs my intellect, and weakens my strength ;
and both I would keep for your Highness's service.'

" * Tut, tut ! ' said his Highness. * Tut, tut, tut ! ' Those
were his very words.


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" * Give me my sword or my pen/ said I. * Give me my
sword or my pen, and with these Maximilian de Galgenstein is
ready to serve you ; but sure, — sure, a great prince will pity the
weik health of a faithful subject, who does not know how to eat
Sauerkraut ? * His Highness was walking about the room : I
was still on my knees, and stretched forward my hand to seize
his coat,

" * Geht zum Teufel, sir,' said he, in a loud voice (it means
* Go to the deuce,' my dear), — * Geht zum Teufel, and eat what
you like ! ' With this he went out of the room abruptly ; leav-
ing in my hand one of his buttons, which I keep to this day.
As soon as I was alone, amazed by his great goodness and
bounty, I sobbed aloud — cried like a child " (the Count's eyes
filled and winked at the very recollection), " and when I went
back into the card-room, stepping up to Krahwinkel, * Count,'
says I, *who looks foolish now?' — Hey there, La Rose, give

me the diamond Yes, that was the very pun 1 made, and

very good it was thought. * Krahwinkel,' says I, * who looks
foolish now ? ' and from that day to this I was never at a court-
day asked to eat Sauerkraut — never, ^^

" Hey there. La Rose ! Bring me that diamond snuff-box
in the drawer of my secretaire ; " and the snuff-box was brought.
** Look at it, my dear," said the Count, "for I saw you seemed
to doubt. There is the button — the very one that came off his
grace's coat."

Mr. Billings received it, and twisted it about with a stupid
air. The story had quite mystified him ; for he did not dare
yet to think his father was a fool — his respect for the aristoc-
racy prevented him.

When the Count's communications had ceased, which they
did as soon as the story of the Sauerkraut was finished, a si-
lence of some minutes ensued. Mr. Billings was tr}dng to com-
prehend the circumstances above narrated ; his lordship was
exhausted ; the chaplain had quitted the room directly the word
Sauerkraut was mentioned — he knew what was coming. His
lordship looked for some time at his son ; who returned the
gaze with his mouth wide open. " Well." said the Count —
" well, sir .> What are you sitting there for } If you have noth-
ing to say, sir, you had better go. I had you here to amuse me
— split me— ^and not to sit there staring ! '^

Mr. Billings rose in a fury.

" Hark ye, my lad," said the Count, " tell La Rose to give
thee five guineas, and, ah — come again some morning. A nice,
well-grown young lad," mused the Count, as Master lommy

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walked wondering out of tlxe apartment ; " a pretty fellow
enough, and intelligent too/'

" Well, he is an odd fellow, my father," thought Mr. Billings,
as he walked out, having received the sum offered to him. And
he immediately went to call upon his friend Polly Briggs, from
whom he had separated in the mqming.

What was the result of their interview is not at all necessar\'
to the progress of this history. Having made her, however,
acquainted with the particulars of his visit to his father, he went
to his mother's, and related to her all that had occurred.

Poor thing, she was very differently interested in the issue
of it!



About a month after the touching conversation above re-
lated, there was given, at Marylebone Gardens, a grand con-
cert and entertainment, at which the celebrated Madame
Amdnaide, a dancer ti the theatre at Paris, was to perform,
under the patronage of several English and foreign noblemen ;
among whom was his Excellency the Bavarian Envoy. Ma-
dame Am^naide was, in fact, no other than the mattresseen titre
of the Monsieur de Galgenstein, who had her a great bargain
from the Duke de Rohan-Chabot at Paris.

It is Hot our purpose to make a great and learned display
here, otherwise the costumes of the company assembled at this
fdte might afford scope for at least half a dozen pages of fine
writing ; and we might give, if need were, specimens of the very
songs and music sung on the occasion. Does not the Bumey
collection of music, at the British Museum, afford one an ample
store of songs from which to choose ? Are there not the mem-
oirs of Colley Gibber ? those of Mrs. Clark, the daughter of
Colley 1 Is there not Congreve, and Farquhar — nay, and at a
pinch, the " Dramatic Biography," or even the Spectator^ from
which the observant genius might borrow passages, and con-
struct pretty antiquarian figments ? Leave we these trifles to
meaner souls! Our business is not with the breeches and

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periwigs, with the hoops and patches, but with the divine hearts
of men, and the passions which agitate them. What need,
therefore, have we to say that on this evening, after the dan-
cing, the music, and the fireworks, Monsieur de Galgenstein
felt the strange and welcome pangs of appetite, and was picking
a cold chicken, with an accompaniment of a bottle of cham-
pagne — when he was led to remark that a very handsome,
plump little person,, in a gorgeous stiflF damask gown and petti-
coat, was sauntering up and down the walk running opposite
his supping-place^ and bestowing continual glances towards his
Excellency. The lady, whoever she was, was in a mask, such
as ladies of high and low fashion wore at public places in those
days, and had a male companion. He was a lad of only seven-
teen, marvellously well dressed — indeed, no other than the
Count's own son, Mr, Thomas Billings ; who had at length re-
ceived from his mother the silver-hilted sword, and the wig^
which that affectionate parent had promised to him.

In the course of the month which had elapsed since the
interview that has been described in the former chapter, Mr.
Billings had several times had occasion to wait on his father ;
but though he had, according to her wishes, frequently alluded
to the existence of his mother, the count had never at any time
expressed the slightest wish to renew his acquaintance with
that lady ; who, if she had seen him, had only seen him by

The fact is, that after Billings had i^lated to her the par-
ticulars of his first meeting with his Excellency ; which ended,
like many of the latter visits, in nothing at all ; Mrs. Hayes had
found some pressing business, which continually took her to
Whitehall, and had been prowling from day to day about
Monsieur de Galgenstein *s lodgings. Four or five times in the
week, as his Excellency stepped into his coach, he might have
remarked, had he chosen, a woman in a black hood, who was
looking most eagerly into his eyes : but those eyes had long
since left off the practice of observing ; and Madam Catherine's
visits had so far gone for nothing.

On this night, however, inspired by gayety and drink, the
Count had been amazingly stricken by the gait and ogling o£
the lady in the mask. The Reverend O'Flaherty, who was
with him, and had observed the figure in the black cloak, re-
cognized, or thought he recognized, her. " It is the woman
who dogs your Excellency every day," said he. " She is with
that tailor lad who loves to see people hanged — ^your Excel*
lency's son, I mean." And he was just about to warn the

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Count of a conspiracy evidently made against him, and that
the son had brought, most likely, the mother to play her arts
upon him — he was just about, I say, to show to the Count the
folly and danger of renewing an old liaison with a woman such
as he had described Mrs. Cat to be, when his Excellency, start-
ing up, and interrupting his ghostly adviser at the very begin-
ning of his sentence, said, " Egad, TAbb^, you are right — it ts my
son, and a mighty smart-looking creature with him. Hey ! Mr.
What's-your-name — Tom, you rogue, don't you know your own
father ? " And so saying, and cocking his beaver on one side,
Monsieur de Galgenstein strutted jauntily after Mr. Billings and
the lady.

It was the first time that the Count had formally recognized
his son.

'* Tom, you rogue," stopped at this, and the Count came up.
He had a white velvet suit, covered over with stars and orders,
a neat modest wig and bag, and peach-coloured silk stockings
with silver clasps. The lady in the mask gave a start as his
Excellency came forward. " Law, mother, don't squeege so,"
said Tom. The poor woman was trembling in every limb j
but she had presence of mind to "squeege" Tom a great
deal harder ; and the latter took the hint I suppose, and was

The splendid Count came up. Ye gods, how his embroidery
glittered in the lamps I What a royal exhalation of musk and
bergamot came from his wig, his handkerchief, and his grand
Jace ruffles and frills I A broad yellow ribbon passed across
his breast, and ended at his hip in a shining diamond cross — a
diamond cross, and a diamond sword-hilt ! Was anything ever
seen so beautiful } And might not a poor woman tremble when
such a noble creature drew near to her, and deigned, from* the
height of his rank and splendor, to look down upon her ? As
Jove came down to Semele in state, in his habits of ceremony,
with all the grand cordons of his orders blazing about his im-
perial person — thus dazzling, magnificent, triumphant, the great
Galgenstein descended towards Mrs. Catherine. Her cheeks
glowed red hot under her coy velvet mask, her heart thumped
against the whalebone prison of her stays. What a delicious
storm of vanity was raging in her bosom ! What a rush of
long-pent recollections burst forth at the sound of that enchant-
ing voice !

As you wind up a hundred-guinea chronometer with a two-
penny watch-key — as by means of a dirty wooden plug you set
all the waters of Versailles a raging, and splashing, and storin-

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ing — in like manner, and by like humble agents, were Mrs.
Catherine's tumultuous passions set going. The Count, we
have said, slipped up to his son, and merely saying, ** How do,
Tom ? " cut the young gentleman altogether, and passing round
to the lady's side, said, " Madam, 'tis a charming evening —
egad it is ! " She almost fainted : it was the old voice. There
he was, after seventeen years, once more at her side !

Now I know what I couFd have done. I can turn out a
quotation from Sophocles (by looking to the index) as well as
another : I can throw off a bit of fine writing too, with passions,
similes, and amoral at the end. What, pray, is the last sen-
tence but one but the very finest writing ? Suppose, for exam-
ple, I had made Maximilian, as he stood by the side of Cather-
ine, look up towards the clouds and exclaim, in the words of
the voluptuous Cornelius Nepos,

'Acvaoi I'e^eAai

Apoctpay ^vaiv cvayijroi, k* r. X.

Or suppose, again, I had said, in a style still more popular: —
The Count advanced towards the maiden. They both were
mute for a while ; and only the beating of her heart interrupted
that thrilling and passionate silence. Ah, what years of buried
joys and fears, hopes and disappointments, arose from their
graves in the far past, and in those brief moments flitted before
the united ones ! How sad was that delicious retrospect, and
oh, how sweet ? The tears that rolled down the cheeks of each
were bubbles from the choked and moss-grown wells of youth ;
the sigh that heaved each bosom had some lurking odors in it —
memories of the fragrance of boyhood, echoes of the hymns of
the young heart ! Thus is it ever — for these blessed recollec-
tions the soul always has a place ; and while crime perishes,
and sorrow is forgotten, the beautiful alone is eternal.

" O golden legends, written in the skies ! " mused De Gal-
genstein, " ye shine as ye did in the olden days ! IVe change,
but ye speak ever the same language. Gazing in your ab3r5mal

depths, the feeble ratioci "

# « « « • #

There, now, are six columns * of the best writing to be

^ * There wtrt six columns« as mentioned by the acctirate Mr. Solomons ; but we have
Irithdrawn two pages and three-quarter$, because, although our correspondent has been
<jicessively eloqnent, according to custom, we were anxious to come to the facts of the

Mr. Solomons, by sending to our office, may have the cancelled passages.— O. Y.

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found in this or any other book. Galgenstein has quoted Euripi-
des thrice, Plato once, Lycophron nine times, besides extracts
from the Latin syntax and the minor Greek poets. Catherine's
passionate embreathings are of the most fashionable order;

and I call upon the ingenious critic of the X newspaper

to say whether they do not possess the real impress of the
giants of the olden time — the real Platonic smack, in a word ?
Not that I want in the least to show off ; but it is as well, every
now and then, to show the public what one can do.

Instead, however, of all this rant and nonsense, how much
finer is the speech that the Count really did make ? " It is a
very fine evening, — egad it is 1 " The " egad " did the whole :
Mrs. Cat was as much in love with him now as ever she had
been ; and, gathering up all her energies, she said, "It is
dreadful hot too, I think," and with this she made a curtsey.

" Stifling, split me ! " added his Excellency. " What do
you say, madam, to a rest in an arbor, and a drink of something
cool ? "

" Sir 1 " said the lady, drawing back.

" Oh, a drink — a drink by all means," exclaimed Mr.
Billings, who was troubled with a perpetual thirst. " Come,

mo , Mrs. Jones, I mean : you're fond of a glass of cool

punch, you know ; and the rum here is prime, I can tell you."

The lady in the mask consented with some difficulty to the
proposal of Mr. Billings, and was led by the two gentlemen
into an arbor, where she was seated between them ; and some
wax-candles being lighted, punch was brought.

She drank one or two glasses very eagerly, and so did her
two companions ; although it was evident to see, from the
flushed looks of both of them, that they had little need of
any such stimulus. The Count, in the midst of his champagne,
it must be said, had been amazingly stricken and scandalized
by the appearance of such a youth as Billings in a public place,
with a lady under his arm. He was, the reader will therefore
understand, in the moral stage of liquor ; and when he issued
out, it was not merely with the intention of examining Mr.
Billings's female companion, but of administering to him some
sound correction for venturing, at his early period of life, to
form any such acquaintance. On joining Billings, his Excel-
lency's first step was naturally to examine the lady. After they
had been sitting for a while over their punch, he bethought
him of his original purpose, and began to address a number of
remarks to his son.

We have already given some specimens of Monsieur do

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Galgenstein*s sober conversation ; and it is hardly necessary to
trouble the reader with any further reports of his speeches.
They were intolerably stupid and- dull ; as egotistical as his
morning lecture had been, and a hundred times more rambling
and prosy. If Cat had been in the possession of her sober
senses, she would have seen in five minutes that her ancient
lover was a ninny, and have left him with scorn ; but she was
under the charm of old recollections, and the sound of that
silly voice was to her magical. As for Mr. Billings, he allowed
his Excellency to continue his prattle ; only frowning, yawning,
cursing occasionally, but drinking continually.

So the Count descanted at length upon the enormity of
young Billings's early liaisons; and then he told his own, in the
year four, with a burgomaster's daughter at Ratisbon, when he
was in the Elector of Bavaria's service — then, after Blenheim,
when he had come over to the Duke of Marlborough, when a
physician's wife at Bonn poisoned herself for him, &c., &c. ; of
a piece with the story of the canoness, which has been recorded
before. All the tales were true. A clever, ugly man every
now and then is successful with the ladies ; but a handsome fool
is irresistible. Mrs. Cat listened and listened. Good heavens,
she had heard all these tales before, and recollected the place
and the time — how she was hemming a handkerchief for Max ;
who came round and kissed her, vowing that the physician's
wife was nothing compared to her — how he was tired, and lying
on the sofa, just come home from shooting. How handsome
he looked ! Cat thought he was only the handsomer now ; and
looked more grave and thoughtful, the dear fellow I

The garden was filled with a vast deal of company of all
kinds, and parties were passing every moment before the arbor
where our trio sat. About half an hour after his Excellency
had quitted his own box and party, the Rev. Mr. O'Flaherty
came discreetly round, to examine the proceedings of his diplo-
matical chef. The lady in the mask was listening with all her
might ; Mr. Billings was drawing figures on the table with
punch ; and the Count talking incessantly. The Father Con-
fessor listened for a moment ; and then, with something re-
sembling an oath, walked away to the entry of the gardens,
where his Excellency's gilt coach, with three footmen, was wait-
ing to carry him back to London. " Get me a chair, Joseph,"
said his Reverence, who infinitely preferred a seat gratis in the
coach. " That fool," muttered he, " will not move for this
hour." The reverend gentleman knew that, when the Count
was on the subject of the physician's wife, his discourses were

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intolerably long ; and took upon himself, therefore, to disap-
pear, along with the rest of the Count's party ; who procured
other conveyances, and returned to their homes.

After this quiet shadow had passed before the Count's box,
many groups of persons passed and repassed ; and among them
was no other than Mrs. Polly Briggs, to whom we have been
already introduced. Mrs. Polly was in company with one or two
other ladies, and leaning on the arm of a gentleman with large
shoulders and calves, a fierce cock to his hat, and a shabby
genteel air. His name was Mr. Moffat, and his present
occupation was that of doorkeeper at a gambling-house in
Covent Garden ; where, though he saw many thousands pass
daily under his eyes, his own salary amounted to no more than
four-and-sixpence weekly, — a sum quite insufficient to maintain
him in the rank which he held.

Mr. Moffat had, however, received some funds — amounting,
indeed, to a matter of twelve guineas — within the last month,
and was treating Mrs. Briggs very generously to the concert.
It may be as well to say that every one of the twelve guineas
had come out of Mrs. Polly's own pocket ; who, in return, had
received them from Mr. Billings. And as the reader may
remember that, on the day of Tommy's first interview with his
father, he had previously paid a visit to Mrs. Briggs, having
under his arm a pair of breeches, which Mrs. Briggs coveted —
he should now be informed that she desired these breeches,
not for pincushions, but for Mr. Moffat, who had long been in
want of a pair.

Haying thus episodically narrated Mr. Moffat's history, let
us state that he, his lady, and their friends, passed before the
Count's arbor, joining in a melodious chorus to a song which
one of the society, an actor of Betterton's, was singing :—

** *Tis mv will, when I*m dead, that no tear shall be thed.
No ^ Hie iacet * be graved on my stone ;
But pour o*er my ashes a boule of red.
And say a good fellow is gone.

My brave boys !
And say a good fellow is gone.'*

" My brave boys " was given with vast emphasis by the
party ; Mr. Moffat growling it in a rich bass, and Mrs. Briggs
in a soaring treble. As to the notes, when quavering up to the
skies, they excited various emotions among the people in the
gardens. " Silence them blackguards ! " shouted a barber,
who was taking a pint of small-beer along with his lady. " Stop
that there infernal screeching ! " said a couple of ladies, who
were sipping ratafia in company with two pretty fellows.

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" Dang it, it's Polly I " said Mr. Tom Billings, bolting out
of the box, and rushing towards the sweet-voiced Mrs. Briggs.
When he reached her, which he did quickly, and made his
arrival known by tipping Mrs. Briggs slightly on the waist, and
suddenly bouncing down before her and her friend, both of the
latter drew back somewhat startled.

♦'Law, Mr. Billings! " says Mrs. Polly, rather coolly, "is it
you ? Who thought of seeing you here ? "

" Who's this here young feller? " says towering Mr. Moffat,
iritli his bass voice.

" It's Mr, Billings, cousin, a friend of mine," said Mrs.
Polly, beseechingly.

" Oh, cousin, if it's a friend of yours, he should know better
how to conduct himself, that's all. Har you a dancing-master,
young feller, that you cut them there capers before gentlemen ? "

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayAdventures of Philip; prefixed, a shabby genteel story → online text (page 57 of 85)