Imatges de pÓgina







FITZ GOES DOWN BY THE EXPRESS, AND MAKES AN ACQUAINTANCE EN ROUTE. THERE was to be an Election. The Lords and Commons hadn't hit it; one hon. gentleman had blackguarded another hon. gentleman ; the big schoolboys of St. Stephen's had thrown stones at each other, and as they all lived in glass houses, the practice was dangerous; the session had not benefited the country—so far as the country could see-one bit; the Times opined that the nation was going to the dogs, and suggested that parliament should dissolve. The Times is Cæsar now-a-days, so parliament obeyed, broke itself up, and appealed to the country-i.e. set the Carlton and Reform counting up their money, the lawyers quarrelling for all the dirty work, and the 10l. voters looking out for XXX and fivers; and the country responded promptly, loving a tussle as dearly as a beagle, by sharpening its bowie-knives for the contest, wondering who would buy its votes the highest, and hunting up its stock of Blue and Yellow banners.

“So the governor wants me to stand for Cantitborough. I'm not sure I won't. I'm confoundedly tired of this life year after year. Perhaps the election will give me a little fun. What do you say, Lady Fanny ?" began my brother Fitz one morning, lying reading the Field and drinking strong coffee with brandy in it by way of breakfast, when I called on him in his chambers in the Albany.

This atrocious sobriquet of “ Lady Fanny arose simply, be it known, from the fact of my name being Francis, and from no womanish tendencies or taste for ass's milk, like my namesake of the Hervey family. of us had shown an effeminate turn, I believe the governor

would have shot him straight away as unfit to cumber the earth.

“ Well,” I answered, “I think I would if I were you, if you don't mind spending a couple of thousand or so to buy two little letters to stick after your name, and have no objection to being cooped up on field-nights while the old women badger each other. We may have some jolly fun cajoling the independent electors, and making love to their wives and daughters.”

"I think I will,” said Fitz, twisting a refractory leaf round his weed. "I want something to do; and, besides, if I'm a member, they won't be able to put me in quod, that's a grand consideration. The town's so confoundedly Tory though, there'll be no end of opposition. We shall set them all together by the ears, the Blues and Yellows won't speak for years, and I shall be written up in the Cantitborough Post as a leveller, a socialist, a sceptic, a democrat, and all the delicious names that the

If any

slow coaches call anybody who's a little wide awake and original. Yes, I think I'll put up for it.”

“ Who contests it with you ?” said I. I was just home from a reading tour (where, by-the-by, we read not at all, but smoked and fished determinedly) with some Trinity men, and knew nothing about

my native county.

“ There are two of 'em," answered Fitz; “one an old Indian, Tory out-and-out, worth a million, and consequently worshipped by his neighbours, at whom, I believe, when heated with overmuch curry and cognac, he swears more than is customary in these polite times. The next is a boy, just one-and-twenty-you know him, Cockadoodle's son. He was in petticoats the other day, but, as his father's an Earl, he's to be transplanted from the nursery to the Commons without any intermediate education. The other is that sneaking thing, that compromise between right and wrong, that hybrid animal, a Liberal Conservative. You know him, too, Augustus Le Hoop Smith ; that creature who made his tin by wool, or something horrid, and bought Foxley, and set up as the patriarchal father of his people, in the new-fangled country squire style, with improved drainage, model cottages, prize labourers, and all the rest of it. Two of us must go to the wall. I shall like the fight, and you'll do the chief of the canvassing; mind, I'm no band at soft-soaping. All I engage to do is to kiss any pretty women there may be in the place.”

“ You're very kind, taking the fun and giving me the work. I suppose you know you'll have to shake hands with every one of the Great Unwashed.”

“ Brutes!" rejoined Fitz, who was popularly supposed to be a Socialist and Democrat; “ I'll see them all hanged first !"

“ And you must joke with the butchers, and have a glass with the coalheavers, and make friends with the sweeps."

“ I'd sooner lose my election," rejoined the Republican. “ And

you must kiss a baby or two." The horror, loathing, and disgust expressed on Fitz's face were as good to see as “ Box and Cox.”

“Not to get the premiership would I touch one of the brats. Faugh! I'd lose my seat fifty times over. Of all the loathsome ideas! If you've nothing pleasanter to suggest, Fan, you'd better get out of the room, if you please." “ Thank

you remember the sensation Mr. Samuel Slunkey produced by like caresses in Pickwick ?"

“Pickwick go to the devil, and you too! I shall do nothing more than give them my tin, as everything is bought and sold now-a-days, and tell them I shall vote for free trade, cheap divorces, marriage with whoever one likes, religious toleration-in fact, for liberty, liberté chérie,' for everything and everybody. Then, if they don't like my opinions, they can have the Liberal Conservative instead. I shan't care two straws.".

“ Admirably philosophic! It's lucky you're not going to try the county. The farmers and clericals wouldn't have you at any price. You cut at the root of their monopoly_corn-laws and tithes, church-rates and protection. However, the more fight the more fun. We shall be like a couple of terriers in a barn full of rats. When shall we go down ?" “ Tuesday. I shall go to Hollywood, it's a snug little box, and so much

you. Don't

So ring

closer the town than the governor's; and as he's so ill, poor old chap,
he won't want the bother of us. I mean to have little Beauclerc as my
agent; he was with me at Eton, and is the sharpest dog in Lincoln's
Inn. That's enough business for to-day, Fan. I'm now going to
Tattersall's to look at a roan filly to run tandem with Rumpunch; then
I'm to meet my Lady Frisette in the Pantheon at two; and at five I'm
going to dine at the Castle with Grouse and some other men.
the bell for Soames, and order the cab round, there's a good boy.”

My brother (Randolph Fitzhardinge, according to the register and his visiting cards, but to us and to every body briefly Fitz) is a fine, tall, handsome fellow, a trifle bronzed, and more than a trifle blasé, with aquiline features, a devil-may-care expression, and a figure not beat in the Guards. He has been amusing himself about in the world ever since he left Christ Church, ten years ago, and as he will come into 12,0001. a year whenever the governor leaves him to reign in his stead, has not thought himself necessitated to do more than live in the Albany, hunt with the Pytchley, lounge in the “bay-window," habituate the coulisses, and employ all the other ingenious methods for killing time invented by men about town. He is a good old fellow, is Fitz, and the governor's favourite, which I don't wonder at, though I believe Fitz has been more trouble to him than any of us, as far as I O Us and screws at Newmarket and Doncaster go. But he's the best oar in the Blue-Jersey B. C., the firmest seat and the lightest hand in the county, as good a batsman as any in Lord's Eleven, and these cover a multitude of sins in the governor's eyes; to say nothing that Fitz is as clear-headed, generoushearted, plucky a fellow as any man I know—and I've a right to think so, for Fitz used to tip me royally when I was a little chap under my sisters' governess (by George ! how I did hate that woman, a horrid Wurtemburger, with red hair), and he a six-foot Etonian just going up to Oxford. Besides, when I was in that devil of a mess. for tying up old Burton, the proctor, to his own knocker, was it not Fitz who set it square with the governor? and when I dropped a couple of hundred over the Cambridge Stakes, backing Mosella, who was scarcely fit for a cabhorse, did not Fitz lend me the damage, with payment postponed ad infinitum, though he was nearly cleaned out at the time himself?

Tuesday came, and Fitz (leaving Lady Frisette dissolved in tears in her boudoir, which tears, no doubt, were dried as soon as his back was turned, as being no longer necessary, and destructive to rouge and beauty), with Beauclerc and myself—and Rumpunch and the new filly in a horse-box-put himself in the express for Pottleshire.

We had a carriage to ourselves, and of course, as soon as we were out of Paddington, took out our pipes and began to enjoy a quiet smoke.

“I do wish,” began Fitz, opening the window and taking off his cap, for it was a hot June afternoon, “they'd keep a carriage, as they do in Venice, for the muffs that can't stand the sweet odours of regalia, and not sacrifice us by boxing us up without a weed for four, six, perhaps twelve hours, or else making us pay 5l. for other people's olfactory fancies. I wonder somebody don't take it up. They write a lot of nonsense about this nuisance and that evil, that they're great idiots to notice at all; but if they would write up the crying injustice to smokers on British railways, there'd be something like a case—the Woolwich flogging's nothing to it.”

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66 You

“Wait till we've got the election, and then send a letter to the Times about it, signed · M.P.,' or a 'Lover of Justice,"” said Beauclerc, a 'cute little fellow, fast as a telegraph, and sharp as a ferret's bite.

“ I'll get up a petition rather, signed by all smokers, and addressed to all the directors. I think we're pretty safe for to-day. I don't fancy the express stops at more than a couple of stations between this and Cantitborough, so we are not likely to have any women to bore us. I detest travelling with women,” said Fitz, looking out of the window as if he dreaded an advent of feminines along the telegraph wires. have to put out your pipe, offer them your Punch, and squeeze into nothing to make room for their crinoline. Let's look at the Bradshaw. No! we only stop twice: thought so. It will certainly be odd if we can't keep the carriage to ourselves.”

With which unchivalrous sentiment Fitz poked up his pipe, cut the paper with his ticket, and settled himself comfortably. Twenty minutes after, the engine gave a shriek, which woke him out of his serenity.

“ Here's Bottleston, confound it!” cried Fitz. “I know the placethere's never anybody but a farmer or two for the second class. No fear of crinoline out of these wilds."

Fitz made rather too sure. As we hissed, and whistled, and panted, and puffed into the station, what should we see on the platform but six women-absolutely six-talking and laughing together, with a maid and a lot of luggage cased up, after the custom of females, in brown holland, as if the boxes had put on smock-frocks by mistake. Fitz swore mildly as he took his pipe out of his mouth, and leaned forward to show as if the carriage was full. Not a bit of use was it—with the instinctive obstinacy of her sex, up to our very door came one of the fatal half dozen.

“ There's room in here, Timbs,” she said, with the supremest tranquillity, motioning to her inaid to put in the hundred things—bouquet, dressing-case, book, travelling-bag, and Heaven knows what, with which young ladies will cumber themselves on a journey of half an hour.

“The perfume is extremely like that of a tobacco-shop, where there is license to smoke on the premises,” whispered the intruder to one of her companions—all pretty women, by-the-by-with a significant glance at us.

The whistle screamed—the young ladies bid each other good-by with frantic haste and great enthusiasm--the train started, throwing the maid into Beau's arms, who (as she was thirty and red-haired) was not grateful for the accident, and her mistress seated herself opposite Fitz and began to pay great attention to a poodle imprisoned in a basket, and very prone to rebel against his incarceration.

“ That little brute will yap all the way, I suppose ?” muttered Fitz, looking supremely haughty and stiltified.

The dog's owner glanced up quickly. “ Dauphin never annoys any

Fitz, cool as he was, looked caught, bent his head, and putting his pipe in his pocket with a sigh, stuck his glass in his eye and calmly criticised the young lady. She was decidedly good style, with large bright hazel eyes and hair to match, and was extremely well got up in a hat with drooping feathers, and one of those pretty tight jackets that, I presume, the girls wear to show their figures. She was pretty enough to console


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Beau for the loss of his smoke, and even Fitz thawed a little, and actually went the length of offering her (with his grandest air, though) the Athenæum he was reading. After a time he dropped a monosyllable or two about the weather ; she was ready enough to talk, like a sensible little thing-I hate that "silent system” of John Bull and his daughters-and in half an hour Fitz had examined and admired the poodle, and was forgetting his lost pipe in chatting with the poodle's mistress, when he somehow or other got upon the general election.

“We are all excitement,” laughed the young lady, whose cameriste, by the way, looked rather glum on our conversation. “ It is quite delightful to have anything to stir up this unhappy county. I have only lived in it six months, but I am sure it is the dullest place in the world—the North Pole couldn't be worse."

“ Is it indeed ?” said Fitz. “Pray can you tell me who are the candidates ?"

“General Salter, Mr. Fitzhardinge, Lord Verdant, and a Mr. SmithLe Hoop Smith, I mean; I beg his pardon!" May I ask whom

you favour with your good wishes?” “They are none of them worth much, I fancy,” she answered. “Mr. Fitzhardinge, I understand, is the only clever one; but everybody says he is good for nothing.”

“Not exactly the man to be a member, then," observed Fitz, gravely, stroking the poodle. “What is said against him?"

“I don't know. They call him extravagant, sceptic, socialist, republican—in fact, there is no name they don't

give him. I think he would do Pottleshire good for that very reason; it wants something original."

“ Then you are a Radical,” smiled Fitz. She smiled too.

“It is treason for me to say so ; we are all Blue à outrance. Ah! here is Cantitborough."

It was Cantitborough; that neat, clean, quiet, antiquated town, that always puts me in mind of an old maid dressed for a party; that slowest and dreariest of boroughs, where the streets are as full of grass as an acre of pasture-land, and the inhabitants are driven to ring their own door-bells lest they should rust from disuse.

The train stopped, and Fitz looked as disgusted at losing his travelling companion as he had done at her first appearance, and stared with “ Who the devil are you ?" plainly written on his face, at a young fellow who met her on the platform. Fitz was before him, though, in handing her and the poodle out, and went to look after her luggage, for motives of his own, as you may guess. He was very graciously thanked for his trouble, had a pretty bow to repay him, and saw the poodle and its mistress off with her unknown cavalier (a brother, probably, from the don't carish way that he met her) before he got on a dog-cart and tooled us down the road to Hollywood, a snug little box two miles from Cantitborough, left him by Providence, impersonated by a godfather, with eight or nine hundred a year.

“Of course you improved the occasion, Fitz, and saw the name on the boxes ?” said Beau, as we drove along.

It's Barnardiston. I never heard of it in the county, did you, Fan? She ought to be a lady, by her style and her voice

6 Of course.

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