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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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On the following day I determined to go myself into the city, and see whether I could discover anything in the newspapers; fondly hoping that I would he saved from the unpleasant revelations made by the Arch Spirit; and believing, also, that in presenting myself alone, I might be more successful. Alas, the same bad fortune attended me. I had been so sharpened by my experience with the Mind Seer, that the only difference was in my beholding with my own eyes that which before seemed only revealed by a superior intelligence.

On being met with two or three rebuffs, I was returning determinedly to the News Room, to start fresh enquiries, when I observed Archimago before me. He did not appear to have recognised me. He walked between two gentlemen, and gently slid an arm through one of each of theirs,—all the time looking up in their faces and talking confidentially. In leaving them, he placed his arms round their shoulders, and simulated an extreme difficulty in parting.

I was indignant on joining him, and demanded whether, in the flesh, he had concocted an intimacy with these gentlemen.

"I am surprised that you should ask a question after what I have shown you. I was whiling an page 67 hour away ere I came upon you, and involuntarily I adopted the habit of those who I may call my choicest disciples. These men dream that I am more attached to them than to others, and that my secret opinions,—shallow things they are,—are confided to them alone. Yet, my children who practice these habits, would not even invite those arm-enclosed friends to their houses. But now, whilst we are on the way to the News Boom, let me call you to account for your remarks and thoughts on the Philosophers—particularly on your ejaculation 'political.'"

"Remarks and thoughts!" I cried, in astonishment. Recollecting who addressed me, I added, "Just so. Let us finish it in few words. Did you not introduce me to several philosophers? and are there not others with different names?"

"Certainly. Moral, religious, mental, and many other kinds."

"As I thought. Then these matters are dealt with as distinct things?"

"Such is the fact."

"Politics, then, are separated from religion. Thus the one is made barren of all good, and the other irreligious. Hence came my ejaculation, and flowed my thoughts."

"And that is what I suspected in your interjection. Take my advice. Don't mention a doctrine like that to your fellow citizens, or you will lose your reputation, if not your wits, in the sequel. We can only talk thus among ourselves."

Arrived at the News Room, Tenebrosa said,—

"If you want to see how a man may have a score of page 68 accomplishments, and by aid of them earn a degraded living, be curious enough to explore the following:—

"Tutor.—Wanted, a Graduate of London, for a gentleman's family. He must be able to give instructions in English, Latin, French, German, Italian and Mathematics. Must have a good figure and pronunciation, and be of gentlemanly demeanour."

In search of the advertiser, we took a drive out of London, until we saw a green field or two and a few trees, and the expanse of the sky looked larger than I had seen it since I left my native village.

It was a pretty villa, called Allshow, approached by a short avenue. There were several faces gazing at us out of several windows, of different ages, complexions, and degrees of cleanliness; some were dusted with soot and some were smutted with violet powder. When we entered, one-half of the house rushed to the kitchen, and the other half to a bedroom, to discuss our appearance.

We were led into a large room, recently emptied of many active beings, as the confusion testified. Soon there entered a lady and gentleman, Mr. and Mrs. Riseandshine. They made up two moderate persons between them, although they had respectively seized upon the wrong proportions. The lady was tall, thin, and angular: the gentleman short, stout, and globular.

"Oh, there are two of you!" said the lady, at one mouthful.

Sanguinosa smiled, bowed, and replied that he only accompanied his friend. Mrs. Riseandshine was entranced with Sanguinosa's manner, and desired us to be page 69 seated. She was inclined to converse and increase the effect that her first words produced, but her lesser half cried,—

"No, palaver. "We must know each other at once. I, sir, can give a hundred and fifty a year, and you, I suppose, can take it. You understand, I see. Then you will give and I will accept services, as specified."

He pulled out a card, and half-extemporised, half-read,—

"English, for Jenny, seven years of age, and my wife,—"

"My dear!" she exclaimed, interrupting him.

"I mean—I mean," he said, "in explanation of the different terms used by fashionable company when they come here."

"Oh, that of course," she simpered.

"Yes, and sometimes unfashionable too. You remember you said ride instead of drive, the other day, and Lady Tickler larfed. But, to go on. Latin for me when I want quotations. I can scholarise it a little before company comes. French, for the girls. Two girls—delightful creatures—could boast of red hair, if they chose."

"My dear!" exclaimed the angular voice.

"I love to tell 'em so," said Riseandshine, emphatically. "It's the family complexion, and run down to us ginelagically from Rufus. Confound it, Madam, when will you learn proper pride for our piddigree? Italian, for that lackey of mine. We must have an interpreter for his lingo and actions; for keep him we must, for he is an essential curiosity. German—ah, why is that on the card? Oh, yes, for the Italian, too, if it's any page 70 use to him to explain the new infernal dishes that come up to table; for our cook's a German. Mathematics—now this is important. It's to measure the soil for a railway that intends coming through my land,—you'll make a plan of it,—and to keep a check on the kitchen accounts. A great deal of cheating goes on there, and I believe I'll make your money out of the savings in that department.

Now, as to your figure. Please stand up. Yes, I think you will do. Confound it, love, he's as well shaped as Brown Bess, Will you hand my lady to the door? Yes, that's it; beautiful! beautiful, indeed—graceful, majestic, superb. Take his arm, my dear—exquisite, queenlike, sublime, aristocratic! It is for my daughters, sir, too, that you are required—the apple blossoms of our home, as we call 'em—greengages and walnuts in one. Oh, I forgot. Faint, my dear, faint into that chair: you often do so, and so will they—filial daughters, as they are."

Mrs. Riseandshine shut her eyes, opened her delicate mouth of sundry hues, dropped her arms by her side, and would have dropped into the chair as directed, but Archimago nipped me. It effected a strange communication of ideas that nip. I removed the chair, and the lady recovered her fainted faculties as she fell. The spherical husband rushed to assist her, met Archimago's foot with his own, and involuntarily embraced his grovelling spouse. Our feet took wings, and our cab below promptly bore us from the range of the hostile household.

We were still in a lively humour that evening, from our adventure with Mr. and Mrs. Riseandshine.

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"Come," said my merry-faced Sanguinosa, "I will show you a trick worth a hundred Asmodeii."

With that, he took me into a fashionable street. He leaped nimbly upon the railings before a house, and placing his foot upon a projecting brick, sprung up to the sill of one of the drawing-room windows. I followed his example.

Rich damask curtains were drawn across the window. He gently raised the sash, and we overheard the occupants—indeed, saw them—between the curtains, which were not quite closed. An old lady was seated at a centre table with her daughter. They had superinduced feelings that had been invented by a French word ennui, and they spoke now and then of their friends.

A servant girl ran from the area of the next house and "hemmed" thrice, which brought another servant girl out of the kitchen into the area below us, and the two conversed between the railings.

The double conversation ran thus:—
Miss Arntusuch.—I can't go to Lawkin's Ball, unless I get a silk dress, and a necklace, that will surpass Miss Speames's. Servant of House.—That dooced mantle and blue trimmings of Jenny's put me quite out of favor with Mr. Harry on Sunday last.
Mrs. Arntusuch.—My dear, your father shall buy them, if he does not spend another farthing this season. Other Servant.—Good gracious, how you do talk! I'd make young missus's things pay for it afore I was to be cut out in that way.page 72
Miss.—Kind mamma! I wonder what people do see in Miss Speames. S. H.—Lor, people do say that that girl has such a winning way in spite of her looks. But I don't believe it, and hang Mr. Harry if it comes to that.
Mrs.—So do I, my dear. To be sure that Col. Jenkins might be glad of any heiress—or with even less than that. O. S.—So say I. I'd like to see her come near me when my Timothy is bye; and I'd ask who she thinks has most money, and things too, for a comfortable public or anything of that kind.
Miss.—Ha! ha! ha! you are very witty, mamma. You are really better than Mrs. Foloce. And to hear her speak of respect for seniors, filial affection, and all that, to her pretty daughter, is the most amusing thing of the routs this season. S. H.—That's as good as the old lady upstairs talks to the old gentleman of the fortin she brought. And it's quite k'rect. Mrs. Betty, our housekeeper, says jist the same. Hany m'ralty and keep your head up.
Mrs.—Yes, my dear, there is only one flaw in our position at present; and that is, you're unmarried. People will talk as we talk, and say I'm on the look out and you anxious. O. S.—What are your prospects.page 73
Miss.—And I say, let them talk. We shall beat them with our generalship. Only let the right man turn up, and there will be no delay in our measures. I will be settled and provided for as completely as a family of fifty generations. S. H.—Oh,—h'm—all right with the young missis. And when she marries—oh, lor, she says she's lots of hoffers, and honly waits to choose the best. Then I'm to be her housekeeper. And she knows nothin', poor innocent; so my fortin's made.
Mrs.—I think you are right, and we are a match for the coterie at present. O. S.—S'pose she docs pretty well now?
Miss.—Indeed we are, mamma. Oh, the nice tales I hear in confidence from the Misses Honus, about the Misses Speames. With all their dash, they resort to the same shifts as we do,—in those little matters on which we don't even speak of together,—but perfectly understand. S. H.—Why, no. She's not her own missus, and the old lady is careful, you see, and saves at one end of the candle, and there's only a trifle over what serves Mrs. Betty. They were stingy at their dinner today.
Mrs.—Quite right, my love, and don't let us hint at it now. Consider only that les petites annoyances that we feel are not intended to restrain ourselves, but to secure economy down stairs, which has much to do with the position you will be able to secure. O. S.—And you?
S. H.—Oh, nothing makes no difference to us, except hextrordinary occasions, when we put by for days to come. Bless me, when they have a grand dinner, they have to make it up over a fornight. We are not such fools.
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* * * * * * * *

A carriage drove up the street. The girls knew it and fled. It came up to the door of the house. A gentleman stepped out and entered, and the girls returned to the area again.

The gentleman was ushered into the drawing room. The coachman joined the two servant girls.
Both.—Why, Col. Jenkins! We are delighted to see you. We hope you are well. Both.—Good gracious! Why, who ever would have believed it. How are you, Mr. Harry.
Col. J.—Quite well, my dear ladies! and I trust to see you the same. Harry.—Tip-top, my darlings! and hopes I see you the same.
Both.—We wish we could say so, but a slight headache has been our companion all day. Both.—Depend on that at hall times, save colds and tooth-aches.
Col. J.—Very sorry to hear it; but trust a night's sleep will dissipate it. That odious forwardness of Miss Speames was enough to overturn sensitive natures like yours. Harry.—It was too bad of you Perky, on Sunday, to give me the cold shoulder as you did.
Miss.—Not me, I assure you. I am quite indifferent to her airs, although some may be caught by them. Perky.—I never gives the cold shoulder to my friends. It's a roast-joint at the least, if you will speak of the pantry. But if you do prefer Jenny, what do I care.page 75
Mrs.—You are quite right, my dear. Col. Jenkins seems quite ignorant of the indifference all feel towards Miss Speames. O. S.—So say I. What needs one to care for such as her.
Col. J.—Nay, that is an unkind thrust. I hope any attentions I bestowed upon her could not be construed as ought else than the commonest politeness. But my feeling with respect to you, Miss Arntusuch, will never bear so cold a name. Harry.—And so say I. It vos all a mistake for you to think so. I went to meet you. I know you vont have it so. But vot I've said afore, in spite of third parties, I say now—you're my fancy, and no bother : and, if I can't win your heart, I suppose you will break mine.
The daughter played with the fringe of the table-cloth. Perky was very much affected, silent, and looked and called for an invisible "pussy, pussy," in the area.
Mrs.—Why, certainly your manner towards Miss Speames might be considered by others as something else than mere courtesy. But your explanation, Colonel, is quite sufficient. Indeed your reputation as a fascinating man is, I see, not without foundation. O. S— Oh, if that's the case, it makes all the difference. But you are such a fellow, Harry—such a fellow—you'd win the heart of any girl.page 76
Miss.—I can't see it ma. Still I hardly thought it possible that Miss Speames had sufficient attractions to induce Col. Jenkins to flirt with her. Perky.—Not me, depend on't. Though, after all, I scarcely thought you were to be caught by ribbons.
The maternal lady did not neglect the opportunity, and Col. Jenkins was accepted as the most eligible offer. It was all made up. Harry was the best chap in creation.
Archimago.—True to the rule, Col. J. has discovered that Miss Speames' inheritance would be what they call. "tied up;" but Miss Arntusuch's portion will be at his disposal. Archimago.—'Tis well done. Harry found out on Sunday, that Perky has more savings than Jenny.

We dropped from our perch. Cunning, scandal, and jealousy had wrought out their design in the parlour and in the kitchen.

What I had just seen and heard, made me more wickedly disposed than ever. I felt a strange, uncontrollable desire to explore further into the secrets of folly and double-dealing. Instead, therefore, of going at once to my lodgings, I cried to Sanguinosa,—

"I am desirous of seeing how the pretty pieces of page 77 pasteboard, that I was wont to play with, produce so much damage to morals."

"That I will soon show you," said—presto, without aught of the cabala—it was Tenebrosa that spoke. "Here is one of your old haunts. We shall be lookers on instead of players, and it will make a marvellous difference in your observation."

It was a large room, in which I had often played deeply, and turned many men's brains by emptying their pockets—a phenomenon often witnessed in those times. There were several parties engaged in the rites of Pam.

"A glance will tell you," whispered my Stygian Mate, "which are the unskilful and which the skilful."

Such was the truth. At every table there were two, sometimes three, whose calm demeanour, watchful eyes, and manœuvering hands, bespoke them the tacticians of a hundred campaigns.

"You will note," said Archimago, alluding to these men, "that their play is quite mechanical. A study no greater than that needed to learn the multiplication table will instruct a man to value every card almost involuntarily. The game is but a pretext. See, it is won there by the countenance of a novice, which reflects every card he holds, like a looking-glass—he is weak in trumps. There, it is lost by the man who gathers the trick—his look of wonderment shows that it has baffled a good card. There, the game is decided by the dealer's method of placing the cards in his hand, and his comparing each card with the one he has turned up. There, by a similar negligence, his opponent saw him place the knave of trumps second from his thumb, and page 78 thereby he infers nearly every card he holds. There, it is by a feint seducing the queen. There, by the careless air of leading with a poor card. There, by that tyro's abstraction of calculation. There, by an exclamation. There, by the exposure of a card.

"Thus you see matters here are not decided by skill in playing your own cards, which give a very limited circuit; but in the higher and more perilous play of circumstances around. This is the art of overreaching. And when you have a man studying his fellow in his words, looks, and gestures, to circumvent him for venal gain, it is the first step to crime. As an amusement, the game is delightful, with its excitement of the mind, but beyond that—ruin. The mind then invents more than points,—and you have found the nature of the inventions in the false gold pieces."

"This insight explains the horror many have of the game," said I, "and justly they eschew everything that smacks of it in personal affairs."

"Indeed," replied Archimago. "Look at that scene."

I had moralised, as above, after we had walked a considerable distance in silence, on leaving the gaming house. Archimago now pointed to the flames of a huge conflagration that rose and roared above the houses before us. We hastened to the spot. It was in Cheapside. In spite of the water poured upon the devouring fire, the whole of the valuable stock in a shop was consumed.

"Good God!" cried a bystander, "here is one of the inscrutable dispensations of Providence. The poor man's property is destroyed, and he will be a beggar. page 79 I do not doubt it will be a blessing, but—what benefit can any one possibly gain from this calamity?"

I looked at Tenebrosa, for him to relieve the man's incredulity.

"This is one of the waiters upon Providence repining withal," said he, smiling. "Job's misfortunes with him bring demurs as to Providence; in these days, however, Providence is jilted of the lessons it would inculcate from troubles like Job's. To-morrow morning we shall solve the matter."