« AnteriorContinua »
Before saying more on this subject, it will be as well to describe those respected parents, on whose decision in this matter depended my future advancement in life. I say, advancement, for who on earth could hope for success in this world, bearing the long tail of heterogeneous names that my mother recommended ?-Including the five uncles, thus it would have run :-"Anthony, Job, Jack, Zebedee, Christopher, Zacharias, Jerusalem, Timothy Babylon, Fitzroy Pike!”
It is very fine, doubtless, to quote Shakspere, and ask, “ What's in a name?”—I say, and I believe, that a man's Christian name is the arbiter of his life and character; and, although I was not then old enough to look with interest on the contention, I cannot now recur without a shudder to the narrowness of my escape from impending ruin.
But I was about to describe my parents; and, first, my father :
Bob Pike, or, as he styled himself upon retiring, Bob Pike, Esq., was a tall, stout and burly gentleman, with a red nose and grinning mouth; his whole appearance as though intended by Nature for a coal-heaver. Having, however, retired from business on a genteel independence, to be “genteel” was his ambition. His thick, coarse hair, was frizzled in the newest fashion; an erect shirt-collar, of good four inches perpendicular, surmounted a figured satin stock, the tie of which descending, formed the centre ornament of his bosom; his waistcoat was long, after his own fashion ; that was too comfortable to alter,-its yellow plush investments descended below the hips, while, over this, a blue swallow-tailed coat and bright buttons formed a ridiculous contrast. White ducks in summer, and in winter fashionable trousers of some warmer materials, generally of a check pattern, enveloped his legs (which, in shape, formed the outline of an hourglass), and boots of patent leather adorned his expanded feet. To all this add, for out-door use, a Paris hat, with white kid gloves, and a gold-headed, tasselled cane, and my father is before you.
My mother was an easy, comfortable looking dame, some few miles in circumference, who ignorantly persisted in all the in-bred customs of the potato shop, except, perhaps, when, to please my genteel father, some more fashionable ribands were to be placed, in picturesque confusion, on her cap. Once Bob Pike, Esq. wished his wife to wear stays; that was the only thing she positively refused. On the whole, however, her chief desire and happiness was to see every one pleased.
It was the day before the christening, and my name, among the multiplicity of advisers, was not yet decided upon; every candidate for the honour of Christianizing the bald name of Pike, was hot in de. fence of his or her favourite designation. The hour was six, and my parents had just dined,- for five o'clock was a "genteel” dinner hour; my father was seated on a sofa, by the fire-side, smoking a cigar through an ivory holder, and reading Byron upside-down; it made little difference --but fashionable poetry must be “looked at :"-my mother, equally unable to spell, had before her, for gentility's sake and to please her husband, the last fashionable novel (“ The Mysterious Murderer ;” a tale of high life, by the Dowager Duchess of * * *), and was wondering at the ingenuity of those persons who were able to string together such a vast number of letters, and blacken such a vast quantity of good paper. Both were dozing over their meditations, when
a short, snappy, double knock, proceeding from the brass knocker on the green door, caused each to start.
“My dear,” said Bob Pike, arranging his curls, “ here's wisitors :put yourself in a hattitude !"
Before, however, time had been allowed for studying “ hattitudes,” the visiters entered ;-three ladies :Mrs. Jones, my grandmother, with Dorothy and Tabitha her daughters, my mother's elder, elderly and maiden sisters, each with a little dog.
With the newest West End air, the fruits of observation, my father received his wife's relatives ; to suit their plebeian appetites, tea was ordered, and soon all were seated ;-the visiters domesticated for the rest of the evening.
My grandmother, with respect be it spoken, was stout and stupid. My aunts both dressed alike, in green silk of the most ancient material and antiquated manufacture. The little dogs were veritable puppies, barking and yelping, thrusting in their opinions on all points, very evidently considering themselves beings of the highest possible importance.
I, of course, the interesting Johnny Newcome, was the topic of conversation.
“ Well," said Aunt Tabitha, “ and what's his name to be ?". “ Yow-yow-yow!” cried one of the puppies.
And Yow-yow-yow might as well have been my name, as anything my dear relatives were about to propose.
“ Fitzroy !” said my father in a decided tone, taking the cigar from his mouth, and puffing a cloud of smoke into the room.
" What!” cried Aunt Tabitha.
“ Fiddledoy!” cried my grandmother—" is that the name of a Christian? I says, Timothy Babylon,-Timothy's a good name, and it's my name—that is, it was the late Mr. Jones's, -as for Babylon, two names is genteel, and that's what you wants, Mr. Pike ;-Babylon means confusion, and second names is confusion, so Babylon's what's right for a second name.--I says, Timothy Babylon.”
Having delivered this long and logical oration, my grandmother poured her tea into her “ sarsser," and having taken that piece of crockery in the extended grasp of her thumb and forefinger, the little digit being, pursuant to established custom, projected outwards to its full length, she proceeded to imbibe.
“Babylon's a wicked place,” said Aunt Tabitha, “ it ar'n't Christian; let it be Jerusalem, and I'm satisfied !"
“Jerusalem a'n't Christian neither, Tabitha dear,” said Aunt Dorothy, “ that's Jewish; let's have Zacharias !"
“Stupid !" cried the amiable Tabitha, “ you ha'n't made it no better!"
“Why can't we have all the names ?” asked my good-natured mother; “ I'm sure they're very good and pious."
" It sha'n't be!" cried my father, rising for a speech ;-he always “ did the genteel” in language when he had an opportunity; now, therefore, advancing to the tea table, holding his cigar in one hand, whilst the other was flourished in the air, he prepared for an oration :
“ I says," said he, “it sha'n't be. Vhen I inspects around me on this circle-nawigable globe, and beholds the childer of the nobs a bearin' of sutton names and coggle-nommle-nations, and, vhen I beholds the childer of the poor-poor classes a bearin' of other names and coggle-nommle-nations, wot's not the same and is therefore different; and vhen, on the third hand, I looks on myself, an' sees the genteelness and ho tone of my own doughmasticate eke-onomy, I feels a fire a flamin' in my buzzum, as if as how I was ekal to the nobs of my country; I also is a-rusty-grate; I also has a rite to make my child genteel by name,- not Tom,—not Dick, --still more lessenly Jerusalem or Zachary, I says to myself—and I con-tests the pinthe shall be FITZROY!”
Arrived at this climax, my father, to add force to his words, dashed his fist from on high,-it fell upon a tea-cup, smashed it into a thousand pieces, and the scalding beverage poured off the table upon the back of Aunt Tabitha's pet puppy, who was dozing beneath.
“ Yow! yow! yow !” cried the upfortunate beast, and flew at my father's leg, tearing, at the first bite, a large mouthful from his check trousers. My father retreated, the dog pursued; another bite drew blood, and Bob Pike, Esq., mad with rage, kicked his assailant into the air :- three summersets, and it descended upon the tea-tray amongst the crockery, breaking two tea cups, a saucer, milk-pot, and best sugar basin.
“ Cruel Mr. Pike !" cried Aunt Tabitha.
“Ugh, you brute !" cried Aunt Dorothy, making a grimace at my father.
“ Poor dear little Fido!" said Tabitha, in tears; “its cut hisself.”
The little cur was lapping up the milk spilled by its descent, whilst drops of blood,“ few and far between,” like angel's visits, issued from his tail.
“Let her finish it,” said Tabitha. Her !-of what gender was this animal, since Tabitha called it both he, she, and it ?
“Its all the milk there is in the house,” said my mother.
“Never mind,” said Tabitha; “ the poor thing's Aurried and wants something rewiving.”
“A drop of gin,” said my father, with a wink.
Aunt Tabitha had a very red nose, and considered this a personal insult.
“No insinivations, I beg, Mr. Pike,” said she, coldly; then, snatching up her dog, she caressed it and examined its wounds. “I don't bring dogs here to be kicked and scalded !”
“No, replied my father, “and I doesn't put on check trousers, eighteen shillings and sixpence a pair, makin' included, for puppies to tear their legs to pieces !”
“ Very well, Mr. Pike; very well, sir,” said Aunt Tabitha, “ I'll take good care my dog shall never come here again to be insulted."
“ Nor mine neither, you wretch,” said Aunt Dorothy—“Flo! Flo! Flo!--Dear little Flo!
“ Bow! wow! wow! wow,-own-ow,-ow!"
“Sweet Fido," said Tabitha, “has cut his tail; have you any sticking plaster in the house, Mrs. Pike ?"
“Ha! ha! ha!” roared my father, forgetting that loud laughter was ungenteel, “ that's fashionable with a wengeance,-court plaster to the tail of a puppy dog!”
“Puppy dog, Mr. Pike?" said Tabitha, rising in state," and if it is a puppy dog,—which it isn't,-I say, if it is a puppy dog, and not my dear pet Fido, a sweet duck !- what's that to you, sir? If you, Mr. Pike, had cut your tail, wouldn't you think it cruel if we was to deny you stickin' plaster ?--but you're a grinning still,-come, mother, let's go!"
My mother in vain strove to make peace, and the offended cherishers of canine specimens, the Misses Dorothy and Tabitha Jones, together with their wondering parent, having “put on their things,” majestically swept from the apartment,
• Hooroar!" cried "Bob Pike, Esq., “ Fitzroy it'll be! Them old maids won't interfere any more with their Babby-long and Sack-o'rice-Fitzroy for ever !"
Had it not been for the above-mentioned interruption to the debate, the women, in spite of my father's speech, would have gained their point;—and so, by the scalding of a puppy dog, was I saved from utter ruin,—thus illustrating the fact that great events arise sometimes from insignificant circumstances.
This point, the most important to my future career, having been detailed at length, it remains to hurry rapidly through the rest of my earlier history.
In the family mansion of the Pikes, an only son and heir, I was nurtured and spoiled. I broke as many wooden soldiers as I pleased, amputated the legs of my ligneal steeds, and scratched my nurse with impunity.
As I grew in years I was sent to a preparatory school, kept, in connection with a green-grocer's stall, (“ Preparatory Tuition-ring the area bell,”) by two maiden ladies, whose starched collars I rumpled, and whose starched manners I mimicked, until, with a thundering reprimand, I was sent home in disgrace.
My father then would have sent me to a boarding-school; but having heard that private tuition was customary for noblemen's sons, the son of Bob Pike, Esq. was also privately instructed, and imbibed a vast knowledge of his own importance, together with the sciences of peg-top and “ mivies,” in which his tutor was a proficient.
Tutors can bear a great deal, no doubt; yet, as mine remarked when complaining of me to my father—“Tutors are men" (N. B.-he himself was but a boy); and, as I had already kicked his shins to the last stage of mortification, he deemed it prudent for his health to decline further continuance in the duty of inspecting my intellectual progress.
A spoiled child is the most detestable little wretch on the face of the earth; humiliating as the declaration may be, I confess now, that, unhappy in myself, I could not fail to perceive, with all my conceit, that friends I had none; and that, save my blinded parents, all that saw me considered me a bore; and many thought worse of me than that.
But never mind;--a period of correction was at hand, -to boarding
school I must go, where, of all beings, pet children fare the hardest, and “pride must have its fall;" there, at length, I found my own level, and learned to correct those faults that appear so ridiculous in intercourse with our fellows,—the nasty, sneaking ways that parents generate who are foolish enough to "spoil” their child.
I well remember the day on which I was conveyed to the regions of knowledge in a hackney coach, or, as Bob Pike, Esq. preferred calling it, a borrowed carriage, lent and driven by the owner (in consideration of eighteen-pence) to a house in the neighbourhood of Peckham.
“ MINERVA House ACADEMY,” on a large board, was visible at a distance; “ Dr. Pitchitin,” on a brass plate, glared upon the gate as we drove through, upon a very grassy carriage drive, to the door of a spacious mansion; “ Dr. Pitchitin," on the door of the mansion, engraved upon a duplicate plate, froze the blood in my heart, and the ample legs of my corduroys vibrated slightly, in unison with the shivering of the little legs within. The door was knocked at and opened ;-my father, who accompanied me, entered,—and I followed : we were ushered into a waiting-room, and requested to be seated, -left alone ;-mathematical instruments, and instruments of unknown use were scattered around, to strike awe into visiters, and impress upon them an idea of the vast knowledge of Dr. Pitchitin ;-on the table, circulars and copy-books, open letters, replete with encomiums on Dr. Pitchitin, all lost on my father, who had spelt as far as “My dear Sir," in one of them, (making it out, “ My dead Sir,'') when the Doctor entered. He was a long man,-long legs, long body, long head, long face, long nose, long hair hanging sleek around his head : but, knowing the value of contrast, he wore a short coat, with very short sleeves; short trousers, with very short legs, (not knee breeches, but exceedingly like them ;) on the other hand, again, he was very long winded. But my father loved speeches as well as he.
“ Robert Pike, Esq.”—commenced the Doctor.
“ Bob,"-corrected my father, but the Doctor did not stop,“ This is your offspring; indeed, a promising lad. Most happy am I to have the honour, let me see,-honour, of your patronage and acquaintance. That's it. Sir, I pray and entreat that you will be seated. It will, sir, be the proudest, let me see, the proudest, yes,-the proudest day of my life, when I think that I should have been, so to say, selected by Robert”
“ Bob” —
-“ Pike, Esq., as the educator of his progeny and hopeful,let me see,-that's it,-hopeful offspring,-progeny and hopeful offspring. Will you, sir, allow me to ascertain the state of his acquaintance with Literature and Science by asking of him a few practical questions ?”
It was now my father's turn to speak; he had long sat impatient, and eagerly arose :
“I rises, Dr. Pitchitin, to respond to your werry able and eloquent speech. I rises, in coarse, to a great disarwantage, risin' as I does after the werry able manner in witch,-Fitzroy, my dear, you're a suckin' your thumb!"-Sir, this boy, as is a settin' on that there mortal cheer, is, I is proud to hone, my hopfull sun. Sir, I is not on the pint of employin' suck-'em-lick-you-shun-airy phases for the por