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Tag-rag could do to make him comfortable!
About seven o'clock Tag-rag quitted his premises in Oxford Street, for his country house; and, occupied with these and similar delightful and anxious thoughts and speculations, hur ried along Oxford Street on his way to the Clapham stage, without thinking of his umbrella, though it rained fast. When he had taken his place on the coach-box, beside old Crack, (as he had done almost every night for years,) he was so unusually silent that Crack naturally thought his best passenger was going to become bankrupt, or compound with his creditors, or something of that sort. Mr Tag-rag could hardly keep his temper at the slow pace old Crack was driving at just when Tag-rag could have wished to gallop the whole way. Never had he descended with so much briskness, as when the coach at length drew up before the little green gate, which opened on the nice little gravel walk, which led up to the little green wooden porch, which sheltered the slim door which admitted you into Satin Lodge. As Tag rag stood for a moment wiping his wet shoes upon the mat, he could not help observing, for the first time, by the inward light of ten thousand a-year, how uncommon small the passage was-and thinking that it would never do, when he should be the father-in-law of a man worth ten thousand a-year he could easily let that house, and take a large one. As he hung his hat upon the peg, the mischievous insolence of Lutestring occurred to him; and he deposited such a prodigious execration upon that gentleman's name, as must have sunk a far more buoyant sinner many fathoms deeper than usual into a certain hot and deep place that shall be nameless.
Mrs and Miss Tag-rag were sitting in the front parlour, intending to take tea as soon as Mr Tag-rag should have arrived. It was not a large room, but furnished prettily, according to the taste of the owners. There was only one window, and it had a flaunting white summer curtain. The walls were ornamented with three pictures, in heavily gilt frames, being portraits of Mr, Mrs, and Miss Tag-rag; and I do not wish to say more of these pictures, than that in each of them the dress was done with singular exactness and fidelity-the faces seeming
to have been painted in, in order to complete the thing. The skinny, little Miss Tag-rag sat at the worn-out, jingling pianoforte, playing-oh, horrid and doleful sound!-The Battle of Prague. Mrs Tag-rag, a fat, showily-dressed woman of about fifty, her cap having a prodigious number of artificial flowers in it, sat reading a profitable volume entitled " Groans from the Bottomless Pit to Awaken Sleeping Sinners," by the REV. DISMAL HORROR-a very rousing young preacher lately come into that neigh. bourhood, and who had almost frightened into fits half the women and children, and one or two old gentlemen of his congregation, giving out, amongst several similarly cheering intimations, that they must necessarily be damned unless they immediately set about making themselves as miserable as possible in this world. The Sunday before, he had pointed out, with awful force and distinctness, that cards and novels were the devil's traps to catch souls; and balls and theatres short and easy cuts to
He had proved to his trembling female hearers, in effect, that there was only one way to Heaventhrough his chapel; that the only safe mode of spending their time on earth was reading religious books, going to prayer-meetings, making all sorts of trash for a fancy sale, to defray the expenses of putting an organ in his chapel; and wheedling their husbands into subscriptions to the Lord knows how many missionary societies, and so forth. But when, a Sunday or two before, he preached a funeral sermon, to "improve the death,” as he said, of a Miss Snooks, (who had kept a circulating library in the neighbourhood ;) and who, having been to the theatre on the Thursday night, was taken ill of a bowel attack on the Friday, and was a "lifeless corpse when the next Sabbath dawned," you might have heard a beetle sneeze within any of the walls, all over the crowded chapel. Two-thirds of the women present, struck with the awful judgment upon the deceased Miss Snooks, made solemn VOWS never again to enter the accursed walls of a theatre; many determined no longer to subscribe to the circulating library, ruining their precious souls with light and amusing reading; and almost all resolved forthwith to become active members of a sort of
religious tract society, which Mr Horror had just established in the neighbourhood, for the purpose of giving the sick and starving poor spiritual food, in the shape of tracts, which might wean their affections away from this vain world, and fix them on better things, rejoicing, in the mean while, in the bitter pangs of destitution. All this sort of thing Mr Horror possibly imagined to be advancing the cause of real religion!In short, he had created a sort of spiritual fever about the place, which was then just at its height in worthy Mrs Tag-rag.
"Well, Dolly, how are you tonight?" enquired Tag-rag, with unusual briskness, on entering the room. "Tolerable, thank you, Tag," replied Mrs Tag-rag, mournfully, with a sigh, closing the cheerful volume she had been perusing-it having been recommended the preceding Sunday from the pulpit by its pious and gifted author, Mr Horror, to be read and prayed over every day by every member of his congregation.
"And how are you, Tabby?" said Tag-rag, addressing his daughter. "Come and kiss me, you little slut
"No, I sha'n't, pa! Do let me go on with my practising "-and twang! twang! went those infernal keys,
"Dy'e hear, Tab? Come and kiss me, you little minx”.
"Really, pa, how provoking-just as I am in the middle of the Cries of the Wounded! Isha'n't!-that's flat." The doating parent could not, however, be denied; so he stepped to the piano, put his arm round his dutiful daughter's neck, kissed her fondly, and then stood for a moment behind her, admiring her brilliant execution of The Trumpet of Victory. Having changed his coat, and put on an old pair of shoes, Tag-rag was comfortable for the evening.
"Tabby plays wonderful well, Dolly, don't she?" said Tag-rag, as the tea things were being brought in, by way of beginning a conversation, while he drew his chair nearer to his wife.
"Ah! I'd a deal rather see her reading something serious-for life is short, Tag, and eternity's long." "Botheration!-Stuff!-Tut!" "You may find it out one day, my dear, when its too late "
"I'll tell you what, Dolly," said
Tag-rag, angrily, "you're coming a great deal too much of that sort of thing-my house is getting like a Methodist meeting-house. I can't bear it, I can't! What the deuce is come to you all in these parts, lately?"
"Ah, Tag-rag," replied his wife, with a sigh, "I can only pray for you-I can do no more"
"Oh!" exclaimed Tag-rag, with an air of desperate disgust, thrusting his hands into his pockets, and stretching his legs to their utmost extent under the table. "I'll tell you what, Mrs T.," he added, after a while, "too much of one thing is good for nothing; you may choke a dog with pudding;-I sha'n't renew my sittings at Mr Horror's.".
"Now, pa, do! That's a love of a pa!" interposed Miss Tag-rag, twirling round on her music-stool. " All Clapham's running after him—he's quite the rage! There's the Dugginses, the Pips, the Jones, the Maggots-and, really, Mr Horror does preach such dreadful things, it's quite delightful to look round and see all the people with their eyes and mouths wide open-and our's is such a good pew for seeing-and Mr Horror is such a bee-yeautiful preacher,-isn't he, ma?"
"Yes, love, he is-but, I wish I could see you profit by him, and preparing for death".
“Why, ma, how can you go on in that ridiculous way? You know I'm not twenty yet!"
"Well, well! Poor Tabby!" here Mrs Tag-rag's voice faltered-" a day will come, when".
Play me the Devil among the Tailors, or Copenhagen Waltz, or something of that sort, Tabby, or I shall be sick!—I can't bear it!
"Well!—Oh, my!-I never !—Mr Tag-rag!" exclaimed his astounded wife.
Play away, Tab, or I'll go and sit in the kitchen! They're cheerful there! The next time I come across Mr Horror, if I don't give him a bit of my mind "-here he paused, and slapped his hand with much energy upon the table. Mrs Tag-rag wiped her eyes, sighed, and resumed her book. Miss Tag-rag began to make tea, her papa gradually forgetting his rage, as he fixed his dull grey eyes fondly on the pert skinny countenance of his daughter.
"By the way, Tag," exclaimed Mrs Tag-rag, suddenly, but in the
same mournful tone, addressing her husband, “ you haven't of course forgot the lace for my new bonnet?" "Never once thought of it," replied Tag-rag, doggedly.
"You haven't! Good gracious! what am I to go to chapel in next Sunday!" she exclaimed, with sudden alarm, closing her book, "and our seat in the very front of the gallery!bless me! I shall have a hundred eyes on me!"
"Now that you're coming down a bit, and dropped out of the clouds, Dolly," said her husband, much relieved, "I'll tell you a bit of news that will, I fancy, rather"
"Come! what is it, Tag?" eagerly enquired his wife.
What should you say of a chance of a certain somebody" (here he looked unutterable things at his daughter) "that shall be nameless, becoming mistress of ten thousand a year?"
"Why"-Mrs Tag-rag changed colour" has any one fallen in love with Tab?"
"What should you say of our Tab marrying a man with ten thousand ayear? There's for you! Isn't that better than all your religion?"
"Oh Tag, don't say that; but". here she hastily turned down the leaf, of Groans from the Bottomless Pit, and tossed that inestimable work upon the sofa-" do tell me, lovy! what are you talking about?"
"What indeed, Dolly!—I'm going to have him here to dinner next Sunday.'
"Oh—I—I—why-you see-I don't exactly think that signifies so much-He will see her next Sunday." "So then he's positively coming?" "Y—e—s—I've no doubt."-(I'll discharge Lutestring to-morrow, thought Tag-rag.)
"But aren't we counting our chickens, Tag, before they're hatched? If Titmouse is all of a sudden become such a catch, he'll be snapped up in a minute."
Why, you see, Dolly—we're first in the market, I'm sure of that-his attorney tells me he's to be kept quite snug and quiet under my care for months, and see no one.-So when he once gets sight of Tabby, and gets into her company-eh! Tab, sweet! you'll do the rest-hem!"
"La, pa! how you go on!" simpered Miss Tag-rag.
"You must do your part, Tab," said her father_" we'll do ours.He'll bite, you may depend on it!"
"What sort of a looking young man is he, dear pa?" enquired Miss Tagrag, blushing, and her heart fluttering very fast.
"Oh, you must have seen him,
"How should I ever notice any one of the lots of young men at the shop, pa ?--I don't at all know him!"
"Well-he's the handsomest, most genteel-looking fellow I ever came across; he's long been an ornament to my establishment, for his good looks and civil and obliging manners"
"Dear me," interrupted Mrs Tagrag, anxiously addressing her daughter, "I hope, Tabby, that Miss Nix will send home your lilac-coloured frock by next Sunday.'
"If she don't, ma, I'll take care she never makes any thing more for me."
"We'll call there to-morrow, love, and hurry her on," said her mother; and from that moment until eleven o'clock, when the amiable and interesting trio retired to rest, nothing was talked of but the charming Titmouse, and the good fortune he so richly deserved, and how long the courtship was likely to last. Mrs Tag-rag, who, for the last month or so, had always remained on her knees before getting into bed, for at least ten minutes, on this eventful evening compressed her prayers, I regret to say, into one minute and a half's time, (as for Tag-rag, a
hardened heathen, he always tumbled prayerless into bed, the moment he was undressed;) while, for once in a way, Miss Tag-rag, having taken only half an hour to put her hair into papers, popped into bed directly she had blown the candle out, without saying any prayers or even thinking of finishing the novel which lay under her pillow, and which she had got on the sly from the circulating library of the late Miss Snooks. For several hours she lay in a delicious reverie, imagining herself become Mrs Tittlebat Titmouse, riding about Clapham in a handsome car. riage, going to the play every night; and what would the three Miss Knipps's say when they heard of it-they'd burst! And such a handsome man, too!
She sunk, at length, into unconsciousness, amidst a soft confusion of glistening white satin. - favours bride'smaids-Mrs Tittlebat TitTit-Tit-Tit-mouse.
Tittlebat, about half-past nine o'clock on the ensuing morning, was sitting in his room in a somewhat dismal humour, musing on many things, and little imagining the intense interest he had excited in the feelings of the amiable occupants of Satin Lodge. A knock at his door startled him out of his reverie. Behold, on opening it, Mr Tag-rag!
"Your most obedient, sir," commenced that gentleman, in a subdued and obsequious manner, plucking off his hat the instant that he saw Titmouse. "I hope you're better, sir! Been very uneasy, sir, about you." "Please to walk in, sir," replied Titmouse, not a little fluttered" I'm better, sir, thank you."
Happy to hear it, sir!-But am also come to offer humble apologies for the rudeness of that upstart that was so rude to you yesterday, at my premises-know whom I mean, eh? Lutestring-I shall get rid of him, I
understand me, Mr Titmouse?" Titmouse continued looking on the floor, incredulously and sheepishly.
Very much obliged, sir-but must say you've rather a funny way of showing it, sir. Look at the sort of life you've led me for this”.
"Ah! knew you'd say so! But I can lay my hand on my heart, Mr Titmouse, and declare to God-I can, indeed, Mr Titmouse" Titmouse preserved a very embarrassing silence. "See I'm out of your good booksBut won't you forget and forgive, Mr Titmouse? I meant well. Nay, I humbly beg forgiveness for every thing you've not liked in me. Can I say more? Come, Mr Titmouse, you've a noble nature, and I ask forgiveness."
"You-you ought to do it before the whole shop," replied Titmouse, a little relenting-" for they've all seen your goings on."
"Them!-the brutes !-the vulgar fellows! you and I, Mr Titmouse, are a leetle above them! D'ye think we ought to mind what servants say?— Only say the word, and I make a clean sweep of 'em all; you shall have the premises to yourself, Mr Titmouse, within an hour after any of those chaps shows you disrespect."
"Ah! I don't know-you've used me most uncommon bad-far worse than they have-you've nearly broke my heart, sir! You have!"
"Well, my womankind at home are right, after all! They told me all along I was going the wrong way to work, when I said how I tried to keep your pride down, and prevent you from having your head turned by knowing your good looks. My little girl has said, with tears in her dear eyes
you'll break his spirit, dear papa-if he's handsome, wasn't it God that made him so ?" The little frost-work which Titmouse had thrown around his heart, began to melt like snow under sunbeams. "The women are always right, Mr Titmouse, and we're always wrong," continued Tag. rag, earnestly, perceiving his advantage.
Upon my soul, I could kick myself for my stupidity, and cruelty
most respectable gentleman,) and I have had a long talk yesterday about you, in which he did certainly tell me every thing-nothing like confidence, Mr Titmouse, when gentleman meets gentleman, you know. It's really delightful!"
"Isn't it, sir?" eagerly interrupted Titmouse, his eyes glistening with sudden rapture.
"Ah! ten thous-I must shake hands with you, my dear Mr Titmouse ;" and for the first time in their lives their hands touched, Tagrag squeezing that of Titmouse with energetic cordiality; while he added, with a little emotion in his tone"Thomas Tag-rag may be a plainspoken and wrong-headed man, but he's a warm heart."
"And did Mr Gammon tell you all, sir?" eagerly interrupted Tit
"And did he say about my-hem! -eh? my stopping a few weeks longer with you?" enquired Titmouse, chagrin overspreading his features.
"I think he did, Mr Titmouse! He's bent on it, sir! And so would any true friend of your's be-because you see," here he dropped his voice, and looked very mysteriously at Titmouse-" in short, I quite agree with Mr Gammon !"
"Do you indeed, sir!" exclaimed Titmouse, with rather an uneasy look. "I do, i' faith! Why, they'd give thousands and thousands to get you out of the way-and what's money to them? But they must look very sharp that get at you in the premises of Thomas Tag-rag.-Talking of that, ah, ha!—it will be a funny thing to see You, Mr Titmouse-Squire Titmouse-ah, ha, ha!"
"You won't hardly expect me to go out with goods, I suppose, sir?"
“ Ha, ha, ha !—Ha, ha, ha!-Might as well ask me if I'd set you to clean my shoes! No, no, my dear Mr Titmouse, you and I have done as master and servant; its only as friends that we know each other now.
say and do whatever you like, and come and go when and where you like.-It's true it will make my other hands rather jealous, and get me into trouble; but what do I care? Suppose they do all give me warning for your sake? Let 'em go, say I!" He snapped
his fingers with an air of defiance. "Your looks and manners would keep a shop full of customers-one Titmouse is worth a hundred of them."
"You speak uncommon gentlemanlike, sir," said Titmouse, with a little excitement" and if you'd only always
but that's all past and gone; and I've no objections to say at once, that all the articles I may want in your line I'll have at your establishment, pay cash down, and ask for no discount. And I'll send all my friends, for, in course, sir, you know I shall have lots of them!"
"Don't forget your oldest, your truest, your humblest friend, Mr Titmouse," said Tag-rag, with a cringing air.
"That I won't!"
[It flashed across his mind that a true and old friend would be only too happy to lend him a ten-pound note.] "Hem!-Now, are you such a friend, Mr Tag rag?"
Am I? Can you doubt me? Try me! See what I could not do for you! Friend, indeed!"
"Well, I believe you, sir! And the fact is, a-a-a-you see, Mr Tag-rag, though all this heap of money's coming to me, I'm precious low just now."
"Y—e—e—e-s, Mr Titmouse," quoth Tag-rag, anxiously; his dull grey eye fixed on that of Titmouse steadfastly.
"Well-if you've a mind to prove your words, Mr Tag-rag, and don't mind advancing me a ten-pound note"
"Hem!" involuntarily uttered Tagrag, so suddenly and violently, that it made Titmouse almost start off his seat. Then Tag-rag's face flushed over, he twirled about his watch-key rapidly, and wriggled about in his chair with visible agitation.
"Oh, you aren't going to do it! If so, you'd better say it at once," quoth Titmouse, rather cavalierly.
"Why-was ever any thing so unfortunate ?" stammered Tag-rag. "That cursed lot of French goods I bought only yesterday, to be paid for this very morning-and it will drain me of every penny!"
"Ah-yes! True! Well, it don't much signify," said Titmouse, carelessly, running his hand through his hair." In fact, I needn't have bothered an old friend; Mr Gammon says he's my banker to any amount. I beg pardon, I'm sure".