Imágenes de página

lubility with which he had been assailed on entering-" then is it really going on tolerable well?" taking off his hat, and looking anxiously into a glass that hung close by.

"Tolerable well! delightful! perfect! couldn't be better! If you'd studied the thing, you'd know, sir, that purple is the middle colour between green and black. Indeed, black's only purple and green mixed, which explains the whole thing! Titmouse listened with infinite satisfaction to this philosophical statement.

[ocr errors]

"Remember, sir-my hair is to come like yours-eh? you recollect, sir?"


'I have very little doubt, of it, sir -nay, I am certain of it, knowing it by experience."

[The scamp had been hired expressly for the purpose of lying thus in support of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion; his own hair being a natural black.

"I'm going to a grand dinner tomorrow, sir," said Titmouse," with some devilish great people, at the west end of the town-eh? you understand? will it do by that time? Would give a trifle to get my hair a shade darker by that time-for-hem !— most lovely girl-eh? you understand the thing?-devilish anxious, and all that sort of thing, you know!"

"Yes-I do," replied the gentleman of the shop, in a confidential tone; and opening one of the glass doors behind him, took out a bottle considerably larger than the first, and handed it to Titmouse. "This," said he, "will complete the thing; it combines chemically with the purple particles, and the result is generally arrived at in about two days' time'

"But it will do something in a night's time-eh ?-surely."

"I should think so! But here it is -it is called the TETARAGMENON ABRACADABRA."

"What a name!" exclaimed Titmouse, with a kind of awe. "'Pon honour, it almost takes one's breath away

[ocr errors]

"It will do more, sir-it will take your red hair away!-By the way, only the day before yesterday, a lady of high rank, (between ourselves, Lady Caroline Carrot,) whose red hair always seemed as if it would have set her bonnet in a blaze, came here,

after two days' use of the Cyanochai-tanthropopoion, and one day's use of this Tetaragmenon Abracadabra— and asked me if I knew her. Upon my soul I did not, till she solemnly assured me she was really Lady Caroline!"

"How much is it?" eagerly enquired Titmouse, thrusting his hand into his pocket, with no little excitement.

66 Only nine-and-sixpence." "Good gracious, what a price !— nine-and-six ”.

"Would you believe it, sir? This extraordinary fluid cost a great German chemist his whole life to bring to perfection; and it contains expensive materials from all the four corners of the world.”

“I've laid out a large figure with you, sir, this day or two-couldn't you say eight sh


"We never abate, sir," said the gentleman, rather haughtily. Of course, poor Titmouse bought the thing; not a little depressed, however, at the heavy prices he had paid for the three bottles, and the uncertainty he felt as to the ultimate issue. That night, he was so well satisfied with the progress which the hair on his head was making, (for, by candle-light, it really looked very dark,) that he resolved-at all events for the present— to leave well alone ;-or at the utmost, to try the effects of the Tetaragmenon Abracadabra only upon his eyebrows and whiskers. Into them he rubbed the new specific; which, on the bottle being opened, surprised him in two respects: first, it was perfectly colourless; secondly, it had a most infernal smell. However it was no use hesitating; he had bought and paid for it; and the papers it was folded in gave an account of its success that was really irresistible and unquestionable. Away, therefore, he rubbed and when he had finished, got into bed, in humble hope as to the result, which would be disclosed by the morning's light. But would you believe it? When he looked at himself in the glass, about six o'clock, (at which hour he awoke,) I protest it is a fact, that his eyebrows and whiskers were as white as snow; which, combining with the purple colour of the hair on his head, rendered him one of the most astounding objects (in human shape) the eye of man had ever be


There was the wisdom of age seated in his eyebrows and whiskers, unspeakable youthful folly in his features, and a purple crown of WONDER on his head.

Really, it seemed as if the devil were wreaking his spite on Mr Titmouse-nay, perhaps it was the devil himself who had served him with the bottles, in Bond Street. Or was it a mere ordinary servant of the devilsome greedy, impudent, unprincipled speculator, who, desirous of acting on the approved maxim-Fiat experimentum in corpore vili-had pitched on Titmouse (seeing the sort of person he was) as a godsend, quite reckless what effect he produced on his hair, so as the stuff was paid for, and its effects noted? It might pos sibly have been sport to the gentleman of the shop, but it was near proving death to poor Titmouse, who really might have resolved on throwing himself out of the window, only that he saw it was not big enough for a baby to get through. He turned aghast at the monstrous object which his little glass presented to him; and sunk down upon the bed, with a feeling as if he were now fit for death. As before, Mrs Squallop made her appearance, with his kettle for breakfast. He was sitting at the table, dressed, and with his arms folded, with a reckless air, not at all caring to conceal the new and still more frightful change which he had undergone since she saw him last. Mrs Squallop stared at him for a second or two in silence ;-then, stepping back out of the room, suddenly drew to the door, and stood outside, laughing vehemently.

"I'll kick you down stairs!" shouted Titmouse, rushing to the door, pale with fury, and pulling it open.

"Mr-Mr-Titmouse-you'll be the death of me-you will-you will!" -gasped Mrs Squallop, almost black in the face, and the water running out of the kettle, which she was unconsciously holding in a slant. After a while, however, they got reconciled. Mrs Squallop had fancied he had been but rubbing chalk on his eyebrows and whiskers; and seemed dismayed indeed on hearing the true state of the

[blocks in formation]

was useless. He sat for an hour or two in an ecstasy of grief and rage. What would he now have given never to have meddled with the hair which God had thought fit to send him into the world with? Alas, with what mournful force Mrs Squallop's words again and again recurred to him! To say that he eat breakfast would be scarcely correct. He drank a single cup of cocoa, and eat about three inches' length and thickness of a roll -and then put away his breakfast things on the window-shelf. If he had been in the humour to go to church -how could he? he would have been turned out as an object involuntarily exciting every body to laughter!

Yet, poor soul, in this extremity of misery, he was not utterly neglected; for he had that morning quite a little levee. First came Mr Snap, who, having quite as keen and clear an eye for his own interest as his senior partners, had early seen how capable was acquaintance with Titmouse of being turned to his (Snap's) great advantage. He had come, therefore, dressed very stylishly, to do a little bit of toadying on the sly, (on his own exclusive account ;) and had brought with him, for the edification of Titmouse, a copy of that day's Sunday Flash, which contained a long account of a bloody fight between Birmingham Bigbones and London Littlego, for £500 aside

eighty rounds were fought, both men killed, and their seconds had bolted to Boulogne. Poor Snap, however, though he had come with the best intentions, and the most anxious wish to evince profound respect for the future master of ten thousand a-year, was quite taken by storm by the very first glimpse he got of Titmouse, and could not for a long while recover himself. He had come to ask Titmouse to dine with him at a tavern in the Strand, where there was to be capital singing in the evening; and also to accompany him, on the ensuing morning, to the Old Bailey, to hear "a most interesting trial" for bigamy, in which Snap was concerned for the prisoner-a miscreant, who had been married to five living women. Snap conceived (and very justly) that it would give Titmouse a striking idea of his (Snap's) importance, to see him so much, and apparently so familiarly concerned with well-known counsel. In his own terse and quaint way,

he was explaining to Titmouse the various remedies he had against the Bond Street Impostor, both by indictment and action on the case; nay, (getting a little, however, beyond his depth,) he assured the eager Titmouse, that a bill of discovery would lie in equity, to ascertain what the Titaragmenon Abracadabra was composed of, with a view to an indictment against its owner- - when his learned display was interrupted by a double knock, and-oh!-enter Mr Gammon. Whether he or Snap felt more disconcerted, I cannot say; but Snap looked the most confused and sneaking. Each told the other a lie, in as easy, good-natured a way as he could assume, concerning the object of his visit to Titmouse. Thus they were going on, when-another knock-and, "Is this Mr Titmouse's?" enquired a voice, which brought a little colour into the face of both Gammon and Snap; for it was absolutely old Quirk, who bustled breathless into the room, on his first visit, and seemed completely confounded by the sight of both his partners. What with this, and the amazing appearance presented by Titmouse, Mr Quirk was so overwhelmed that he scarce spoke a syllable. Each of the three partners felt (in his own way) exquisite embarrassment. Huckaback some time afterwards made his appearance, but him Titmouse unceremoniously dismissed in a twinkling, in spite of a vehement remonstrance. But presently, behold another arrival -Mr Tag-rag, who had come to announce that his carriage, (i. e. a queer, rickety, little one-horse chaise, with a tallow-faced boy in it, in faded livery.) was waiting to convey Mr Titmouse to Satin Lodge, and take him a long drive in the country!Each of these four worthies could have spit in the other's face; first, for detecting, and secondly, for rivalling him in his schemes upon Titmouse. A few minutes after the arrival of Tag-rag, Gammon, half choked with disgust, and despising himself even more than bis fellow-visiters, slunk off, followed almost immediately by Quirk, who was dying to consult him on this new aspect of affairs which had presented itself. Snap (who, ever since the arrival of Messrs Quirk and Gammon, had felt like an ape on hot irons) very shortly followed in the footsteps of his

partners, having made no engagement whatever with Titmouse; and thus the enterprising and determined Tagrag was left master of the field. He had in fact come to do business; and business he determined to do. As for Gammon, during the short time he had stayed, how he had endeared himself to Titmouse, by explaining, not aware that Titmouse had confessed all to Snap, the singular change in the colour of his hair to have been occasioned simply by the intense mental anxiety through which he had lately passed! The anecdotes he told of sufferers, whose hair a single night's agony had changed to all the colours of the rainbow! Though Tag-rag out-stayed all his fellow-visiters, in the manner which has been described, he could not prevail upon Titmouse to accompany him in his "carriage," for Titmouse pleaded a pressing engagement, (i. e. a desperate attempt he purposed making to obtain some ink,) but pledged himself to make his appearance at Satin Lodge at the appointed hour, (half-past three for four o'clock.) Away, therefore, drove Tag-rag, delighted that Satin Lodge would so soon contain so resplendent a visiter-indignant at the cringing, sycophantic attentions of Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, against whom he resolved to put Titmouse on his guard, and infinitely astonished at the extraordinary change that had taken place in the colour of Titmouse's hair. Partly influenced by the explanation which Gammon had given of the phenomenon, Tag-rag resigned himself to feelings of simple wonder. Titmouse was doubtless passing through stages of physical transmogrification, corresponding with the marvellous change that was taking place in his circumstances;—and for all he (Tag-rag) knew, other and more extraordinary changes were going on; Titmouse might be growing at the rate of halfan inch a day, and soon stand before him a man more than six feet high! Considerations such as these invested Titmouse with intense and overpowering interest in the estimation of Tagrag; how could he make enough of him at Satin Lodge that day? If ever that hardened sinner felt inclined to utter an inward prayer, it was as he drove home that Heaven would array his daughter in angel hues to the eyes of Titmouse!

My friend Tittlebat made his appearance at the gate of Satin Lodge, at about a quarter to four o'clock. Good gracious, how he had dressed himself out! He considerably exceeded his appearance when first presented to the reader.

Miss Tag-rag had been before her glass ever since the instant of her return from chapel, up to within ten minutes' time of Titmouse's arrival. An hour and a half at least had she bestowed on her hair, disposing it in little corkscrew and somewhat scanty curls, that quite glistened in bear's grease, hanging on each side of a pair of lean and sallow cheeks. The colour which ought to have distributed itself over her cheeks, in roseate delicacy, had thought fit to collect itself into the tip of her sharp little nose. Her small grey eyes beamed with the gentle and attractive expression that was perceptible in her father's, and her projecting under lip reminded every body of that delicate feature in her mother. She was very short, and her figure rather skinny and angular. She wore her lilac-coloured frock; her waist being pinched in to a degree that made you think of a fit of the colic when you looked at her. A long red sash, tied in a most elaborate bow, gave a very brilliant air to her dress generally. She had a thin gold chain round her neck, and wore long white gloves; her left hand holding a pocket-handkerchief, which she had suffused with bergamotte that scented the whole room.


Tag-rag had made herself very splendid, in a red silk gown and staring head-dress. As for Mr Tag-rag, whenever he was dressed in his Sunday clothes, he looked the model of a dissenting minister; in his black coat, waistcoat, and trousers, and primly. tied white neckerchief, with no shirtcollar visible. For a quarter of an hour had this interesting trio been standing at their parlour window, in anxious expectation of Titmouse's arrival; their only amusement being the numberless dusty stage-coaches driving every five minutes close past their gate, (which was about ten yards from their house,) at once enlivening and ruralizing the scene. Oh, that poor laburnum-laden with dust, drooping with drought, and evidently in the very last stage of a decline-that was planted beside the little gate! Tag-rag spoke of cutting it down; but Mrs and Miss

Tag-rag begged its life a little longer and then that subject dropped. How was it that, though both the ladies had sat under a thundering discourse from Mr Dismal Horror that morning


they had never once since thought or spoke of him or his sermon-never even opened his "Groans ?" reason was plain. They thought of Titmouse, who was bringing "airs from heaven;" while Horror brought only "blasts from hell"-and those they had every day in the week, (his sermons on the Sunday, his "Groans" on the week-day.) At length Miss Tag-rag's little heart fluttered violently, for her papa told her that Titmouse was coming up the road-and so he was. Not dreaming that he could be seen, he stood beside the gate for a moment, under the melancholy laburnum; and, taking a dirty-looking silk handkerchief out of his hat, slapped it vigorously about his boots, (from which cir. cumstance it may be inferred that he had walked,) and replaced it in his hat. Then he unbuttoned his surtout, adjusted it nicely, and disposed his chain and eyeglass just so as to let the tip only of the latter be seen peeping out of his waistcoat; twitched up his collars, plucked down his wrist bands, drew the tip of a white pocket. handkerchief out of the pocket in the breast of his surtout, pulled a white glove halfway on his left hand; and, having thus given the finishing touches to his toilet, opened the gate, and-Tittlebat Titmouse, Esquire, the great guest of the day, for the first time in his life (swinging a little ebony cane about with careless grace) entered the domain of Mr Tag-rag.

The little performance I have been describing, though every bit of it passing under the eyes of Tag-rag, his wife, and his daughter, had not excited a smile; their anxious feelings were too deep to be reached or stirred by light emotions. Miss Tag-rag turned very pale and trembled.

"La, pa," said she faintly, "how could you say he'd got white eyebrows and whiskers? They're a beautiful black."

Tag-rag was speechless: the fact was so for Titmouse had, fortunately, obtained a little bottle of ink. As Titmouse approached the house, (Tagrag hurrying out to open the door for him,) he saw the two ladies standing at the windows. Off went his hat, and

out dropped the silk handkerchief, not a little disconcerting him for the moment. Tag-rag, however, soon occupied his attention at the door with anxious civilities, shaking him by the hand, hanging up his hat and stick, and then introducing him to the sitting-room. The ladies received him with most profound curtseys, which Titmouse returned with a quick embarrassed bow, and an indistinct" I hope you're well, mem!"

If they had had presence of mind enough to observe it, the purple colour of Titmouse's hair must have surprised them not a little; all they could see, however, was the angelic owner of ten thousand a-year.

The only person tolerably at his ease, and he only tolerably, was Mr Tag-rag; and he asked his guest

"Wash your hands, Titmouse, before dinner?" But Titmouse said he had washed them before he had come out. [The day was hot, and he had walked five miles at a slapping pace.] In a few minutes, however, he felt a little more assured; for it was impossible for him not to perceive the awful deference with which he was treated.

"Seen the Sunday Flash, mem?" said he, modestly, addressing Mrs Tag-rag.

"I-I-no-that is-not to-day," she replied, colouring.

[ocr errors]

Vastly amusing, isn't it?" interposed Tag-rag, to prevent mischief— for he knew his wife would as soon have taken a cockatrice into her hand. "Ye-e-s," replied Titmouse, who had not even glanced at the copy which Snap had brought him. uncommon good fight between Birmingham Big"


Tag-rag saw his wife getting redder and redder. "No news stirring about Ministers, is there?" said he, with a desperate attempt at a diversion.

"Not that I have heard," replied Titmouse. Soon he got a little further, and said how cheerful the stages going past must make the house. Tagrag agreed with him. Then there was

a little pause.

"Been to church, mem, this morning, mem?" timidly enquired Titmouse of Miss Tag-rag.

"Yes, sir," she replied, faintly colouring, casting her eyes to the ground, and suddenly putting her hand into that of her mother-with such an innocent, engaging simplicity-like a timid

fawn lying as close as possible to its dam!

"We always go to chapel, sir," said Mrs Tag-rag, confidently, in spite of a very fierce look from her husband; "the gospel isn't preached in the Church of England. We sit under Mr Horror -a heavenly preacher! You've heard of Mr Horror?"

"Yes, mem! Oh, yes! Capital preacher!" replied Titmouse, who of course (being a true churchman) had never in his life heard of Mr Horror, or any other dissenter.

"When will dinner be ready, Mrs T.?" enquired Tag-rag, abruptly, and with a very perceptible dash of sternness in his tone; but dinner was announced the very next moment. He took his wife's arm, and, in doing so, gave it a sudden vehement pressure, which, coupled with a furious glance, explained to her the extent to which she had incurred his anger. She thought, however, of Mr Horror, and was silent.

Titmouse's proffered arm the timid Miss Tag-rag scarcely touched with the tip of her finger, as she walked beside him to dinner. Titmouse soon got tolerably composed and cheerful at dinner, (which consisted of a little piece of nice roast beef, with plenty of horse-radish, Yorkshire pudding, a boiled fowl, a plum-pudding made by Mrs Tag-rag, and custards which had been superintended by Miss Tagrag,) and, to oblige his hospitable host and hostess, eat till he was fit to burst. Miss Tag-rag, though really very hungry, eat only a very small slice of beef, and a quarter of a custard, and drank a third of a glass of sherry after dinner. She never once spoke, except in hurried answers to her papa and mamma; and, sitting exactly opposite Titmouse, (with only a plate of greens and a boiled fowl between them,) was continually colouring whenever their eyes happened to encounter one another, on which occasion hers would suddenly drop, as if overpowered by the brilliance of his. Titmouse

began to love her very fast. After the ladies had withdrawn, you should have heard the way that Tag-rag went on with Titmouse-I can liken

the two to nothing but an old fat spider, and a little fly.

"Will you come into my parlour ?
Said the spider to the fly;"
it might have been well for Tit-


« AnteriorContinuar »