A LITTLE DINNER AT TIMMINS'S.
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Mr. and Mrs. Fitzroy Timmins live in Lilliput Street, that neat
little street which runs at right angles with the Park and
Brobdingnag Gardens. It is a very genteel neighborhood, and I need
not say they are of a good family.
Especially Mrs. Timmins, as her mamma is always telling Mr. T.
They are Suffolk people, and distantly related to the Right
honorable the Earl of Bungay.
Besides his house in Lilliput Street, Mr. Timmins has chambers in
Fig-tree Court, Temple, and goes the Northern Circuit.
The other day, when there was a slight difference about the payment
of fees between the great Parliamentary Counsel and the Solicitors,
Stoke and Pogers, of Great George Street, sent the papers of the
Lough Foyle and Lough Corrib Junction Railway to Mr. Fitzroy
Timmins, who was so elated that he instantly purchased a couple of
looking-glasses for his drawing-rooms (the front room is 16 by 12,
and the back, a tight but elegant apartment, 10 ft. 6 by 8 ft. 4),
a coral for the baby, two new dresses for Mrs. Timmins, and a
little rosewood desk, at the Pantechnicon, for which Rosa had long
been sighing, with crumpled legs, emerald-green and gold morocco
top, and drawers all over.
Mrs. Timmins is a very pretty poetess (her "Lines to a Faded Tulip"
and her "Plaint of Plinlimmon" appeared in one of last year's
Keepsakes); and Fitzroy, as he impressed a kiss on the snowy
forehead of his bride, pointed out to her, in one of the
innumerable pockets of the desk, an elegant ruby-tipped pen, and
six charming little gilt blank books, marked "My Books," which Mrs.
Fitzroy might fill, he said, (he is an Oxford man, and very
polite,) "with the delightful productions of her Muse." Besides
these books, there was pink paper, paper with crimson edges, lace
paper, all stamped with R. F. T. (Rosa Fitzroy Timmins) and the
hand and battle-axe, the crest of the Timminses (and borne at
Ascalon by Roaldus de Timmins, a crusader, who is now buried in the
Temple Church, next to Serjeant Snooks), and yellow, pink, light-
blue and other scented sealing waxes, at the service of Rosa when
she chose to correspond with her friends.
Rosa, you may be sure, jumped with joy at the sight of this sweet
present; called her Charles (his first name is Samuel, but they
have sunk that) the best of men; embraced him a great number of
times, to the edification of her buttony little page, who stood at
the landing; and as soon as he was gone to chambers, took the new
pen and a sweet sheet of paper, and began to compose a poem.
"What shall it be about?" was naturally her first thought. "What
should be a young mother's first inspiration?" Her child lay on
the sofa asleep before her; and she began in her neatest hand--
"ON MY SON BUNGAY DE BRACY GASHLEIGH TYMMYNS, AGED TEN MONTHS.
"How beautiful! how beautiful thou seemest,
My boy, my precious one, my rosy babe!
Kind angels hover round thee, as thou dreamest:
Soft lashes hide thy beauteous azure eye which gleamest."
"Gleamest? thine eye which gleamest? Is that grammar?" thought
Rosa, who had puzzled her little brains for some time with this
absurd question, when the baby woke. Then the cook came up to ask
about dinner; then Mrs. Fundy slipped over from No. 27 (they are
opposite neighbors, and made an acquaintance through Mrs. Fundy's
macaw); and a thousand things happened. Finally, there was no
rhyme to babe except Tippoo Saib (against whom Major Gashleigh,
Rosa's grandfather, had distinguished himself), and so she gave up
the little poem about her De Bracy.
Nevertheless, when Fitzroy returned from chambers to take a walk
with his wife in the Park, as he peeped through the rich tapestry
hanging which divided the two drawing-rooms, he found his dear girl
still seated at the desk, and writing, writing away with her ruby
pen as fast as it could scribble.
"What a genius that child has!" he said; "why, she is a second Mrs.
Norton!" and advanced smiling to peep over her shoulder and see
what pretty thing Rosa was composing.
It was not poetry, though, that she was writing, and Fitz read as
"LILLIPUT STREET, Tuesday, 22nd May.
"Mr. and Mr. Fitzroy Tymmyns request the pleasure of Sir Thomas and
Lady Kicklebury's company at dinner on Wednesday, at 7 1/2 o'clock."
"My dear!" exclaimed the barrister, pulling a long face.
"Law, Fitzroy!" cried the beloved of his bosom, "how you do startle
"Give a dinner-party with our means!" said he.
"Ain't you making a fortune, you miser?" Rosa said. "Fifteen
guineas a day is four thousand five hundred a year; I've calculated
it." And, so saying, she rose and taking hold of his whiskers
(which are as fine as those of any man of his circuit,) she put her
mouth close up against his and did something to his long face,
which quite changed the expression of it; and which the little page
heard outside the door.
"Our dining-room won't hold ten," he said.
"We'll only ask twenty, my love. Ten are sure to refuse in this
season, when everybody is giving parties. Look, here is the list."
"Earl and Countess of Bungay, and Lady Barbara Saint Mary's."
"You are dying to get a lord into the house," Timmins said (HE had
not altered his name in Fig-tree Court yet, and therefore I am not
so affected as to call him TYMMYNS).
"Law, my dear, they are our cousins, and must be asked," Rosa said.
"Let us put down my sister and Tom Crowder, then."
"Blanche Crowder is really so VERY fat, Fitzroy," his wife said,
"and our rooms are so VERY small."
Fitz laughed. "You little rogue," he said, "Lady Bungay weighs two
of Blanche, even when she's not in the f--"
"Fiddlesticks!" Rose cried out. "Doctor Crowder really cannot be
admitted: he makes such a noise eating his soup, that it is really
quite disagreeable." And she imitated the gurgling noise performed
by the Doctor while inhausting his soup, in such a funny way that
Fitz saw inviting him was out of the question.
"Besides, we mustn't have too many relations," Rosa went on.
"Mamma, of course, is coming. She doesn't like to be asked in the
evening; and she'll bring her silver bread-basket and her
candlesticks, which are very rich and handsome."
"And you complain of Blanche for being too stout!" groaned out
"Well, well, don't be in a pet," said little Rosa. "The girls
won't come to dinner; but will bring their music afterwards." And
she went on with the list.
"Sir Thomas and Lady Kicklebury, 2. No saying no: we MUST ask
them, Charles. They are rich people, and any room in their house
in Brobdingnag Gardens would swallow up OUR humble cot. But to
people in OUR position in SOCIETY they will be glad enough to come.
The city people are glad to mix with the old families."
"Very good," says Fitz, with a sad face of assent--and Mrs. Timmins
went on reading her list.
"Mr. and Mrs. Topham Sawyer, Belgravine Place."
"Mrs. Sawyer hasn't asked you all the season. She gives herself
the airs of an empress; and when--"
"One's Member, you know, my dear, one must have," Rosa replied,
with much dignity as if the presence of the representative of her
native place would be a protection to her dinner. And a note was
written and transported by the page early next morning to the
mansion of the Sawyers, in Belgravine Place.
The Topham Sawyers had just come down to breakfast; Mrs. T. in her
large dust-colored morning-dress and Madonna front (she looks
rather scraggy of a morning, but I promise you her ringlets and
figure will stun you of an evening); and having read the note, the
following dialogue passed:--
Mrs. Topham Sawyer.--"Well, upon my word, I don't know where things
will end. Mr. Sawyer, the Timminses have asked us to dinner."
Mr. Topham Sawyer.--"Ask us to dinner! What d----- impudence!"
Mrs. Topham Sawyer.--"The most dangerous and insolent revolutionary
principles are abroad, Mr. Sawyer; and I shall write and hint as
much to these persons."
Mr. Topham Sawyer.--"No, d--- it, Joanna: they are my constituents
and we must go. Write a civil note, and say we will come to their
party." (He resumes the perusal of 'The times,' and Mrs. Topham
"MY DEAR ROSA,--We shall have GREAT PLEASURE in joining your little
party. I do not reply in the third person, as WE ARE OLD FRIENDS,
you know, and COUNTRY NEIGHBORS. I hope your mamma is well:
present my KINDEST REMEMBRANCES to her, and I hope we shall see
much MORE of each other in the summer, when we go down to the
Sawpits (for going abroad is out of the question in these DREADFUL
TIMES). With a hundred kisses to your dear little PET,
"Believe me your attached
"J. T. S."
She said Pet, because she did not know whether Rosa's child was a
girl or boy: and Mrs. Timmins was very much pleased with the kind
and gracious nature of the reply to her invitation.
The next persons whom little Mrs. Timmins was bent upon asking,
were Mr. and Mrs. John Rowdy, of the firm of Stumpy, Rowdy and Co.,
of Brobdingnag Gardens, of the Prairie, Putney, and of Lombard
Mrs. Timinins and Mrs. Rowdy had been brought up at the same school
together, and there was always a little rivalry between them, from
the day when they contended for the French prize at school to last
week, when each had a stall at the Fancy Fair for the benefit of
the Daughters of Decayed Muffin-men; and when Mrs. Timmins danced
against Mrs. Rowdy in the Scythe Mazurka at the Polish Ball, headed
by Mrs. Hugh Slasher. Rowdy took twenty-three pounds more than
Timmins in the Muffin transaction (for she had possession of a
kettle-holder worked by the hands of R-y-lty, which brought crowds
to her stall); but in the Mazurka Rosa conquered: she has the
prettiest little foot possible (which in a red boot and silver heel
looked so lovely that even the Chinese ambassador remarked it),
whereas Mrs. Rowdy's foot is no trifle, as Lord Cornbury
acknowledged when it came down on his lordship's boot-tip as they
danced together amongst the Scythes.
"These people are ruining themselves," said Mrs. John Rowdy to her
husband, on receiving the pink note. It was carried round by that
rogue of a buttony page in the evening; and he walked to
Brobdingnag Gardens, and in the Park afterwards, with a young lady
who is kitchen-maid at 27, and who is not more than fourteen years
older than little Buttons.
"These people are ruining themselves," said Mrs. John to her
husband. "Rosa says she has asked the Bungays."
"Bungays indeed! Timmins was always a tuft-hunter," said Rowdy,
who had been at college with the barrister, and who, for his own
part, has no more objection to a lord than you or I have; and
adding, "Hang him, what business has HE to be giving parties?"
allowed Mrs. Rowdy, nevertheless, to accept Rosa's invitation.
"When I go to business to-morrow, I will just have a look at Mr.
Fitz's account," Mr. Rowdy thought; "and if it is overdrawn, as it
usually is, why . . ." The announcement of Mrs. Rowdy's brougham
here put an end to this agreeable train of thought; and the banker
and his lady stepped into it to join a snug little family-party of
two-and-twenty, given by Mr. and Mrs. Secondchop at their great
house on the other side of the Park.
"Rowdys 2, Bungays 3, ourselves and mamma 3, 2 Sawyers," calculated
"General Gulpin," Rosa continued, "eats a great deal, and is very
stupid, but he looks well at table with his star and ribbon. Let
us put HIM down!" and she noted down "Sir Thomas and Lady Gulpin,
2. Lord Castlemouldy, 1."
"You will make your party abominably genteel and stupid," groaned
Timmins. "Why don't you ask some of our old friends? Old Mrs.
Portman has asked us twenty times, I am sure, within the last two
"And the last time we went there, there was pea-soup for dinner!"
Mrs. Timmins said, with a look of ineffable scorn.
"Nobody can have been kinder than the Hodges have always been to
us; and some sort of return we might make, I think."
"Return, indeed! A pretty sound it is on the staircase to hear
'Mr. and Mrs. 'Odge and Miss 'Odges' pronounced by Billiter, who
always leaves his h's out. No, no: see attorneys at your chambers,
my dear--but what could the poor creatures do in OUR society?" And
so, one by one, Timmins's old friends were tried and eliminated by
Mrs. Timmins, just as if she had been an Irish Attorney-General,
and they so many Catholics on Mr. Mitchel's jury.
Mrs. Fitzroy insisted that the party should be of her very best
company. Funnyman, the great wit, was asked, because of his jokes;
and Mrs. Butt, on whom he practises; and Potter, who is asked
because everybody else asks him; and Mr. Ranville Ranville of the
Foreign Office, who might give some news of the Spanish squabble;
and Botherby, who has suddenly sprung up into note because he is
intimate with the French Revolution, and visits Ledru-Rollin and
Lamartine. And these, with a couple more who are amis de la
maison, made up the twenty, whom Mrs. Timmins thought she might
safely invite to her little dinner.
But the deuce of it was, that when the answers to the invitations
came back, everybody accepted! Here was a pretty quandary. How
they were to get twenty into their dining-room was a calculation
which poor Timmins could not solve at all; and he paced up and down
the little room in dismay.
"Pooh!" said Rosa with a laugh. "Your sister Blanche looked very
well in one of my dresses last year; and you know how stout she is.
We will find some means to accommodate them all, depend upon it."
Mrs. John Rowdy's note to dear Rosa, accepting the latter's
invitation, was a very gracious and kind one; and Mrs. Fitz showed
it to her husband when he came back from chambers. But there was
another note which had arrived for him by this time from Mr. Rowdy--
or rather from the firm; and to the effect that Mr. F. Timmins had
overdrawn his account 28L. 18s. 6d., and was requested to pay that
sum to his obedient servants, Stumpy, Rowdy and Co.
. . . . . .
And Timmins did not like to tell his wife that the contending
parties in the Lough Foyle and Lough Corrib Railroad had come to a
settlement, and that the fifteen guineas a day had consequently
determined. "I have had seven days of it, though," he thought;
"and that will be enough to pay for the desk, the dinner, and the
glasses, and make all right with Stumpy and Rowdy."
The cards for dinner having been issued, it became the duty of Mrs.
Timmins to make further arrangements respecting the invitations to
the tea-party which was to follow the more substantial meal.
These arrangements are difficult, as any lady knows who is in the
habit of entertaining her friends. There are--
People who are offended if you ask them to tea whilst others have
been asked to dinner;
People who are offended if you ask them to tea at all; and cry out
furiously, "Good heavens! Jane my love, why do these Timminses
suppose that I am to leave my dinner-table to attend their -----
soiree?" (the dear reader may fill up the ----- to any strength,
according to his liking)--or, "Upon my word, William my dear, it is
too much to ask us to pay twelve shillings for a brougham, and to
spend I don't know how much in gloves, just to make our curtsies in
Mrs. Timmins's little drawing-room." Mrs. Moser made the latter
remark about the Timmins affair, while the former was uttered by
Mr. Grumpley, barrister-at-law, to his lady, in Gloucester Place.
That there are people who are offended if you don't ask them at
all, is a point which I suppose nobody will question. Timmins's
earliest friend in life was Simmins, whose wife and family have
taken a cottage at Mortlake for the season.
"We can't ask them to come out of the country," Rosa said to her
Fitzroy--(between ourselves, she was delighted that Mrs. Simmins
was out of the way, and was as jealous of her as every well-
regulated woman should be of her husband's female friends)--"we
can't ask them to come so far for the evening."
"Why, no, certainly." said Fitzroy, who has himself no very great
opinion of a tea-party; and so the Simminses were cut out of the
And what was the consequence? The consequence was, that Simmins
and Timmins cut when they met at Westminster; that Mrs. Simmins
sent back all the books which she had borrowed from Rosa, with a
withering note of thanks; that Rosa goes about saying that Mrs.
Simmins squints; that Mrs. S., on her side, declares that Rosa is
crooked, and behaved shamefully to Captain Hicks in marrying
Fitzroy over him, though she was forced to do it by her mother, and
prefers the Captain to her husband to this day. If, in a word,
these two men could be made to fight, I believe their wives would
not be displeased; and the reason of all this misery, rage, and
dissension, lies in a poor little twopenny dinner-party in Lilliput
Well, the guests, both for before and after meat, having been
asked, old Mrs. Gashleigh, Rosa's mother--(and, by consequence,
Fitzroy's DEAR mother-in-law, though I promise you that "dear" is
particularly sarcastic)--Mrs. Gashleigh of course was sent for, and
came with Miss Eliza Gashleigh, who plays on the guitar, and Emily,
who limps a little, but plays sweetly on the concertina. They live
close by--trust them for that. Your mother-in-law is always within
hearing, thank our stars for the attention of the dear women. The
Gashleighs, I say, live close by, and came early on the morning
after Rosa's notes had been issued for the dinner.
When Fitzroy, who was in his little study, which opens into his
little dining-room--one of those absurd little rooms which ought to
be called a gentleman's pantry, and is scarcely bigger than a
shower-bath, or a state cabin in a ship--when Fitzroy heard his
mother-in-law's knock, and her well-known scuffling and chattering
in the passage--in which she squeezed up young Buttons, the page,
while she put questions to him regarding baby, and the cook's
health, and whether she had taken what Mrs. Gashleigh had sent
overnight, and the housemaid's health, and whether Mr. Timmins had
gone to chambers or not--and when, after this preliminary chatter,
Buttons flung open the door, announcing--"Mrs. Gashleigh and the
young ladies," Fitzroy laid down his Times newspaper with an
expression that had best not be printed here, and took his hat and
Mrs. Gashleigh has never liked him since he left off calling her
mamma, and kissing her. But he said he could not stand it any
longer--he was hanged if he would. So he went away to chambers,
leaving the field clear to Rosa, mamma, and the two dear girls.
Or to one of them, rather: for before leaving the house, he thought
he would have a look at little Fitzroy up stairs in the nursery,
and he found the child in the hands of his maternal aunt Eliza, who
was holding him and pinching him as if he had been her guitar, I
suppose; so that the little fellow bawled pitifully--and his father
finally quitted the premises.
No sooner was he gone, although the party was still a fortnight
off, than the women pounced upon his little study, and began to put
it in order. Some of his papers they pushed up over the bookcase,
some they put behind the Encyclopaedia. Some they crammed into the
drawers--where Mrs. Gashleigh found three cigars, which she
pocketed, and some letters, over which she cast her eye; and by
Fitz's return they had the room as neat as possible, and the best
glass and dessert-service mustered on the study table.
It was a very neat and handsome service, as you may be sure Mrs.
Gashleigh thought, whose rich uncle had purchased it for the young
couple, at Spode and Copeland's; but it was only for twelve
It was agreed that it would be, in all respects, cheaper and better
to purchase a dozen more dessert-plates; and with "my silver basket
in the centre," Mrs. G. said (she is always bragging about that
confounded bread-basket), we need not have any extra china dishes,
and the table will look very pretty."
On making a roll-call of the glass, it was calculated that at least
a dozen or so tumblers, four or five dozen wines, eight water-
bottles, and a proper quantity of ice-plates, were requisite; and
that, as they would always be useful, it would be best to purchase
the articles immediately. Fitz tumbled over the basket containing
them, which stood in the hall as he came in from chambers, and over
the boy who had brought them--and the little bill.
The women had had a long debate, and something like a quarrel, it
must be owned, over the bill of fare. Mrs. Gashleigh, who had
lived a great part of her life in Devonshire, and kept house in
great state there, was famous for making some dishes, without
which, she thought, no dinner could be perfect. When she proposed
her mock-turtle, and stewed pigeons, and gooseberry-cream, Rosa
turned up her nose--a pretty little nose it was, by the way, and
with a natural turn in that direction.
"Mock-turtle in June, mamma!" said she.
"It was good enough for your grandfather, Rosa," the mamma replied:
"it was good enough for the Lord High Admiral, when he was at
Plymouth; it was good enough for the first men in the county, and
relished by Lord Fortyskewer and Lord Rolls; Sir Lawrence Porker
ate twice of it after Exeter races; and I think it might be good
"I will NOT have it, mamma!" said Rosa, with a stamp of her foot;
and Mrs. Gashleigh knew what resolution there was in that. Once,
when she had tried to physic the baby, there had been a similar
fight between them.
So Mrs. Gashleigh made out a carte, in which the soup was left with
a dash--a melancholy vacuum; and in which the pigeons were
certainly thrust in among the entrees; but Rosa determined they
never should make an entree at all into HER dinner-party, but that
she would have the dinner her own way.
When Fitz returned, then, and after he had paid the little bill of
6L. 14s. 6d. for the glass, Rosa flew to him with her sweetest
smiles, and the baby in her arms. And after she had made him
remark how the child grew every day more and more like him, and
after she had treated him to a number of compliments and caresses,
which it were positively fulsome to exhibit in public, and after
she had soothed him into good humor by her artless tenderness, she
began to speak to him about some little points which she had at
She pointed out with a sigh how shabby the old curtains looked
since the dear new glasses which her darling Fitz had given her had
been put up in the drawing-room. Muslin curtains cost nothing, and
she must and would have them.
The muslin curtains were accorded. She and Fitz went and bought
them at Shoolbred's, when you may be sure she treated herself
likewise to a neat, sweet pretty half-mourning (for the Court, you
know, is in mourning)--a neat sweet barege, or calimanco, or
bombazine, or tiffany, or some such thing; but Madame Camille, of
Regent Street, made it up, and Rosa looked like an angel in it on
the night of her little dinner.
"And, my sweet," she continued, after the curtains had been
accorded, "mamma and I have been talking about the dinner. She
wants to make it very expensive, which I cannot allow. I have been
thinking of a delightful and economical plan, and you, my sweetest
Fitz, must put it into execution."
"I have cooked a mutton-chop when I was in chambers," Fitz said
with a laugh. "Am I to put on a cap and an apron?"
"No: but you are to go to the 'Megatherium Club' (where, you
wretch, you are always going without my leave), and you are to beg
Monsieur Mirobolant, your famous cook, to send you one of his best
aides-de-camp, as I know he will, and with his aid we can dress the
dinner and the confectionery at home for ALMOST NOTHING, and we can
show those purse-proud Topham Sawyers and Rowdys that the HUMBLE
COTTAGE can furnish forth an elegant entertainment as well as the
gilded halls of wealth."
Fitz agreed to speak to Monsieur Mirobolant. If Rosa had had a
fancy for the cook of the Prime Minister, I believe the deluded
creature of a husband would have asked Lord John for the loan of
Fitzroy Timmins, whose taste for wine is remarkable for so young a
man, is a member of the committee of the "Megatherium Club," and
the great Mirobolant, good-natured as all great men are, was only
too happy to oblige him. A young friend and protege of his, of
considerable merit, M. Cavalcadour, happened to be disengaged
through the lamented death of Lord Hauncher, with whom young
Cavalcadour had made his debut as an artist. He had nothing to
refuse to his master, Mirobolant, and would impress himself to be
useful to a gourmet so distinguished as Monsieur Timmins. Fitz
went away as pleased as Punch with this encomium of the great
Mirobolant, and was one of those who voted against the decreasing
of Mirobolant's salary, when the measure was proposed by Mr.
Parings, Colonel Close, and the Screw party in the committee of the
Faithful to the promise of his great master, the youthful Cavalcadour
called in Lilliput Street the next day. A rich crimson velvet
waistcoat, with buttons of blue glass and gold, a variegated blue
satin stock, over which a graceful mosaic chain hung in glittering
folds, a white hat worn on one side of his long curling ringlets,
redolent with the most delightful hair-oil--one of those white hats
which looks as if it had been just skinned--and a pair of gloves not
exactly of the color of beurre frais, but of beurre that has been up
the chimney, with a natty cane with a gilt knob, completed the upper
part at any rate, of the costume of the young fellow whom the page
introduced to Mrs. Timmins.
Her mamma and she had been just having a dispute about the
gooseberry-cream when Cavalcadour arrived. His presence silenced
Mrs. Gashleigh; and Rosa, in carrying on a conversation with him in
the French language--which she had acquired perfectly in an elegant
finishing establishment in Kensington Square--had a great advantage
over her mother, who could only pursue the dialogue with very much
difficulty, eying one or other interlocutor with an alarmed and
suspicious look, and gasping out "We" whenever she thought a proper
opportunity arose for the use of that affirmative.
"I have two leetl menus weez me," said Cavalcadour to Mrs. Gashleigh.
"Minews--yes,--oh, indeed?" answered the lady.
"Two little cartes."
"Oh, two carts! Oh, we," she said. "Coming, I suppose?" And she
looked out of the window to see if they were there.
Cavalcadour smiled. He produced from a pocket-book a pink paper
and a blue paper, on which he had written two bills of fare--the
last two which he had composed for the lamented Hauncher--and he
handed these over to Mrs. Fitzroy.
The poor little woman was dreadfully puzzled with these documents,
(she has them in her possession still,) and began to read from the
pink one as follows:--
"DINER POUR 16 PERSONNES.
Potage (clair) a la Rigodon.
Do. a la Prince de Tombuctou.
Saumon de Severne Rougets Gratines
a la Boadicee. a la Cleopatre.
Le Chapeau-a-trois-cornes farci a la Robespierre.
Le Tire-botte a l'Odalisque.
Saute de Hannetons a l'Epingliere.
Cotelettes a la Megatherium.
Bourrasque de Veau a la Palsambleu.
Laitances de Carpe en goguette a la Reine Pomare.
Turban de Volaille a l'Archeveque de Cantorbery."
And so on with the entremets, and hors d'oeuvres, and the rotis,
and the releves.
"Madame will see that the dinners are quite simple," said M.
"Oh, quite!" said Rosa, dreadfully puzzled.
"Which would Madame like?"
"Which would we like, mamma?" Rosa asked; adding, as if after a
little thought, "I think, sir, we should prefer the blue one." At
which Mrs. Gashleigh nodded as knowingly as she could; though pink
or blue, I defy anybody to know what these cooks mean by their
"If you please, Madame, we will go down below and examine the scene
of operations," Monsieur Cavalcadour said; and so he was marshalled
down the stairs to the kitchen, which he didn't like to name, and
appeared before the cook in all his splendor.
He cast a rapid glance round the premises, and a smile of something
like contempt lighted up his features. "Will you bring pen and
ink, if you please, and I will write down a few of the articles
which will be necessary for us? We shall require, if you please,
eight more stew-pans, a couple of braising-pans, eight saute-pans,
six bainmarie-pans, a freezing-pot with accessories, and a few more
articles of which I will inscribe the names." And Mr. Cavalcadour
did so, dashing down, with the rapidity of genius, a tremendous
list of ironmongery goods, which he handed over to Mrs. Timmins.
She and her mamma were quite frightened by the awful catalogue.
"I will call three days hence and superintend the progress of
matters; and we will make the stock for the soup the day before the
"Don't you think, sir," here interposed Mrs. Gashleigh, "that one
soup--a fine rich mock-turtle, such as I have seen in the best
houses in the West of England, and such as the late Lord
"You will get what is wanted for the soups, if you please," Mr.
Cavalcadour continued, not heeding this interruption, and as bold
as a captain on his own quarter-deck: "for the stock of clear soup,
you will get a leg of beef, a leg of veal, and a ham."
"We, munseer," said the cook, dropping a terrified curtsy: "a leg
of beef, a leg of veal, and a ham."
"You can't serve a leg of veal at a party," said Mrs. Gashleigh;
"and a leg of beef is not a company dish."
"Madame, they are to make the stock of the clear soup," Mr.
"WHAT!" cried Mrs. Gashleigh; and the cook repeated his former
"Never, whilst I am in this house," cried out Mrs. Gashleigh,
indignantly; "never in a Christian ENGLISH household; never shall
such sinful waste be permitted by ME. If you wish me to dine,
Rosa, you must get a dinner less EXPENSIVE. The Right Honorable
Lord Fortyskewer could dine, sir, without these wicked luxuries,
and I presume my daughter's guests can."
"Madame is perfectly at liberty to decide," said M. Cavalcadour.
"I came to oblige Madame and my good friend Mirobolant, not
"Thank you, sir, I think it WILL be too expensive," Rosa stammered
in a great flutter; "but I am very much obliged to you."
"Il n'y a point d'obligation, Madame," said Monsieur Alcide Camille
Cavalcadour in his most superb manner; and, making a splendid bow
to the lady of the house, was respectfully conducted to the upper
regions by little Buttons, leaving Rosa frightened, the cook amazed
and silent, and Mrs. Gashleigh boiling with indignation against the
Up to that moment, Mrs. Blowser, the cook, who had come out of
Devonshire with Mrs. Gashleigh (of course that lady garrisoned her
daughter's house with servants, and expected them to give her
information of everything which took place there) up to that
moment, I say, the cook had been quite contented with that
subterraneous station which she occupied in life, and had a pride
in keeping her kitchen neat, bright, and clean. It was, in her
opinion, the comfortablest room in the house (we all thought so
when we came down of a night to smoke there), and the handsomest
kitchen in Lilliput Street.
But after the visit of Cavalcadour, the cook became quite
discontented and uneasy in her mind. She talked in a melancholy
manner over the area-railings to the cooks at twenty-three and
twenty-five. She stepped over the way, and conferred with the cook
there. She made inquiries at the baker's and at other places about
the kitchens in the great houses in Brobdingnag Gardens, and how
many spits, bangmarry-pans, and stoo-pans they had. She thought
she could not do with an occasional help, but must have a kitchen-
maid. And she was often discovered by a gentleman of the police
force, who was, I believe, her cousin, and occasionally visited her
when Mrs. Gashleigh was not in the house or spying it:--she was
discovered seated with MRS. RUNDELL in her lap, its leaves
bespattered with her tears. "My pease be gone, Pelisse," she said,
"zins I zaw that ther Franchman!" And it was all the faithful
fellow could do to console her.
"---- the dinner!" said Timmins, in a rage at last. "Having it
cooked in the house is out of the question. The bother of it, and
the row your mother makes, are enough to drive one mad. It won't
happen again, I can promise you, Rosa. Order it at Fubsby's, at
once. You can have everything from Fubsby's--from footmen to
saltspoons. Let's go and order it at Fubsby's."
"Darling, if you don't mind the expense, and it will be any relief
to you, let us do as you wish," Rosa said; and she put on her
bonnet, and they went off to the grand cook and confectioner of the
On the arm of her Fitzroy, Rosa went off to Fubsby's, that
magnificent shop at the corner of Parliament Place and Alicompayne
Square,--a shop into which the rogue had often cast a glance of
approbation as he passed: for there are not only the most wonderful
and delicious cakes and confections in the window, but at the
counter there are almost sure to be three or four of the prettiest
women in the whole of this world, with little darling caps of the
last French make, with beautiful wavy hair, and the neatest
possible waists and aprons.
Yes, there they sit; and others, perhaps, besides Fitz have cast a
sheep's-eye through those enormous plate-glass windowpanes. I
suppose it is the fact of perpetually living among such a quantity
of good things that makes those young ladies so beautiful. They
come into the place, let us say, like ordinary people, and
gradually grow handsomer and handsomer, until they grow out into
the perfect angels you see. It can't be otherwise: if you and I,
my dear fellow, were to have a course of that place, we should
become beautiful too. They live in an atmosphere of the most
delicious pine-apples, blanc-manges, creams, (some whipt, and some
so good that of course they don't want whipping,) jellies, tipsy-
cakes, cherry-brandy--one hundred thousand sweet and lovely things.
Look at the preserved fruits, look at the golden ginger, the
outspreading ananas, the darling little rogues of China oranges,
ranged in the gleaming crystal cylinders. Mon Dieu! Look at the
strawberries in the leaves. Each of them is as large nearly as a
lady's reticule, and looks as if it had been brought up in a
nursery to itself. One of those strawberries is a meal for those
young ladies, behind the counter; they nibble off a little from the
side, and if they are very hungry, which can scarcely ever happen,
they are allowed to go to the crystal canisters and take out a
rout-cake or macaroon. In the evening they sit and tell each other
little riddles out of the bonbons; and when they wish to amuse
themselves, they read the most delightful remarks, in the French
language, about Love, and Cupid, and Beauty, before they place them
inside the crackers. They always are writing down good things into
Mr. Fubsby's ledgers. It must be a perfect feast to read them.
Talk of the Garden of Eden! I believe it was nothing to Mr.
Fubsby's house; and I have no doubt that after those young ladies
have been there a certain time, they get to such a pitch of
loveliness at last, that they become complete angels, with wings
sprouting out of their lovely shoulders, when (after giving just a
preparatory balance or two) they fly up to the counter and perch
there for a minute, hop down again, and affectionately kiss the
other young ladies, and say, "Good-by, dears! We shall meet again
la haut." And then with a whir of their deliciously scented wings,
away they fly for good, whisking over the trees of Brobdingnag
Square, and up into the sky, as the policeman touches his hat.
It is up there that they invent the legends for the crackers, and
the wonderful riddles and remarks on the bonbons. No mortal, I am
sure, could write them.
I never saw a man in such a state as Fitzroy Timmins in the
presence of those ravishing houris. Mrs. Fitz having explained
that they required a dinner for twenty persons, the chief young
lady asked what Mr. and Mrs. Fitz would like, and named a thousand
things, each better than the other, to all of which Fitz instantly
said yes. The wretch was in such a state of infatuation that I
believe if that lady had proposed to him a fricasseed elephant, or
a boa-constrictor in jelly, he would have said, "O yes, certainly;
put it down."
That Peri wrote down in her album a list of things which it would
make your mouth water to listen to. But she took it all quite
calmly. Heaven bless you! THEY don't care about things that are no
delicacies to them! But whatever she chose to write down, Fitzroy
After the dinner and dessert were ordered (at Fubsby's they furnish
everything: dinner and dessert, plate and china, servants in your
own livery, and, if you please, guests of title too), the married
couple retreated from that shop of wonders; Rosa delighted that the
trouble of the dinner was all off their hands but she was afraid it
would be rather expensive.
"Nothing can be too expensive which pleases YOU, dear," Fitz said.
"By the way, one of those young women was rather good-looking,"
Rosa remarked: "the one in the cap with the blue ribbons." (And
she cast about the shape of the cap in her mind, and determined to
have exactly such another.)
"Think so? I didn't observe," said the miserable hypocrite by her
side; and when he had seen Rosa home, he went back, like an
infamous fiend, to order something else which he had forgotten, he
said, at Fubsby's. Get out of that Paradise, you cowardly,
creeping, vile serpent you!
Until the day of the dinner, the infatuated fop was ALWAYS going to
Fubsby's. HE WAS REMARKED THERE. He used to go before he went to
chambers in the morning, and sometimes on his return from the
Temple: but the morning was the time which he preferred; and one
day, when he went on one of his eternal pretexts, and was
chattering and flirting at the counter, a lady who had been reading
yesterday's paper and eating a halfpenny bun for an hour in the
back shop (if that paradise may be called a shop)--a lady stepped
forward, laid down the Morning Herald, and confronted him.
That lady was Mrs. Gashleigh. From that day the miserable Fitzroy
was in her power; and she resumed a sway over his house, to shake
off which had been the object of his life, and the result of many
battles. And for a mere freak--(for, on going into Fubsby's a week
afterwards he found the Peris drinking tea out of blue cups, and
eating stale bread and butter, when his absurd passion instantly
vanished)--I say, for a mere freak, the most intolerable burden of
his life was put on his shoulders again--his mother-in-law.
On the day before the little dinner took place--and I promise you
we shall come to it in the very next chapter--a tall and elegant
middle-aged gentleman, who might have passed for an earl but that
there was a slight incompleteness about his hands and feet, the
former being uncommonly red, and the latter large and irregular,
was introduced to Mrs. Timmins by the page, who announced him as
"I'm Truncheon, Ma'am," he said, with a low bow.
"Indeed!" said Rosa.
"About the dinner M'm, from Fubsby's, M'm. As you have no butler,
M'm, I presume you will wish me to act as sich. I shall bring two
persons as haids to-morrow; both answers to the name of John. I'd
best, if you please, inspect the premisis, and will think you to
allow your young man to show me the pantry and kitching."
Truncheon spoke in a low voice, and with the deepest and most
respectful melancholy. There is not much expression in his eyes,
but from what there is, you would fancy that he was oppressed by a
secret sorrow. Rosa trembled as she surveyed this gentleman's
size, his splendid appearance, and gravity. "I am sure," she said,
"I never shall dare to ask him to hand a glass of water." Even
Mrs. Gashleigh, when she came on the morning of the actual dinner-
party, to superintend matters, was cowed, and retreated from the
kitchen before the calm majesty of Truncheon.
And yet that great man was, like all the truly great--affable.
He put aside his coat and waistcoat (both of evening cut, and
looking prematurely splendid as he walked the streets in noonday),
and did not disdain to rub the glasses and polish the decanters,
and to show young Buttons the proper mode of preparing these
articles for a dinner. And while he operated, the maids, and
Buttons, and cook, when she could--and what had she but the
vegetables to boil?--crowded round him, and listened with wonder as
he talked of the great families as he had lived with. That man, as
they saw him there before them, had been cab-boy to Lord Tantallan,
valet to the Earl of Bareacres, and groom of the chambers to the
Duchess Dowager of Fitzbattleaxe. Oh, it was delightful to hear
On the great, momentous, stupendous day of the dinner, my beloved
female reader may imagine that Fitzroy Timmins was sent about his
business at an early hour in the morning, while the women began to
make preparations to receive their guests. "There will be no need
of your going to Fubsby's," Mrs. Gashleigh said to him, with a look
that drove him out of doors. "Everything that we require has been
ordered THERE! You will please to be back here at six o'clock, and
not sooner: and I presume you will acquiesce in my arrangements
about the WINE?"
"O yes, mamma," said the prostrate son-in-law.
"In so large a party--a party beyond some folks MEANS--expensive
WINES are ABSURD. The light sherry at 26s., the champagne at 42s.;
and you are not to go beyond 36s. for the claret and port after
dinner. Mind, coffee will be served; and you come up stairs after
two rounds of the claret."
"Of course, of course," acquiesced the wretch; and hurried out of
the house to his chambers, and to discharge the commissions with
which the womankind had intrusted him.
As for Mrs. Gashleigh, you might have heard her bawling over the
house the whole day long. That admirable woman was everywhere: in
the kitchen until the arrival of Truncheon, before whom she would
not retreat without a battle; on the stairs; in Fitzroy's dressing-
room; and in Fitzroy minor's nursery, to whom she gave a dose of
her own composition, while the nurse was sent out on a pretext to
make purchases of garnish for the dishes to be served for the
little dinner. Garnish for the dishes! As if the folks at
Fubsby's could not garnish dishes better than Gashleigh, with her
stupid old-world devices of laurel-leaves, parsley, and cut
turnips! Why, there was not a dish served that day that was not
covered over with skewers, on which truffles, crayfish, mushrooms,
and forced-meat were impaled. When old Gashleigh went down with
her barbarian bunches of holly and greens to stick about the meats,
even the cook saw their incongruity, and, at Truncheon's orders,
flung the whole shrubbery into the dust-house, where, while poking
about the premises, you may be sure Mrs. G. saw it.
Every candle which was to be burned that night (including the
tallow candle, which she said was a good enough bed-light for
Fitzroy) she stuck into the candlesticks with her own hands, giving
her own high-shouldered plated candlesticks of the year 1798 the
place of honor. She upset all poor Rosa's floral arrangements,
turning the nosegays from one vase into the other without any pity,
and was never tired of beating, and pushing, and patting, and
WHAPPING the curtain and sofa draperies into shape in the little
In Fitz's own apartments she revelled with peculiar pleasure. It
has been described how she had sacked his study and pushed away his
papers, some of which, including three cigars, and the commencement
of an article for the Law Magazine, "Lives of the Sheriffs'
Officers," he has never been able to find to this day. Mamma now
went into the little room in the back regions, which is Fitz's
dressing-room, (and was destined to be a cloak-room,) and here she
rummaged to her heart's delight.
In an incredibly short space of time she examined all his outlying
pockets, drawers, and letters; she inspected his socks and
handkerchiefs in the top drawers; and on the dressing-table, his
razors, shaving-strop, and hair-oil. She carried off his silver-
topped scent-bottle out of his dressing-case, and a half-dozen of
his favorite pills (which Fitz possesses in common with every well-
regulated man), and probably administered them to her own family.
His boots, glossy pumps, and slippers she pushed into the shower-
bath, where the poor fellow stepped into them the next morning, in
the midst of a pool in which they were lying. The baby was found
sucking his boot-hooks the next day in the nursery; and as for the
bottle of varnish for his shoes, (which he generally paints upon
the trees himself, having a pretty taste in that way,) it could
never be found to the present hour but it was remarked that the
young Master Gashleighs, when they came home for the holidays,
always wore lacquered highlows; and the reader may draw his
conclusions from THAT fact.
In the course of the day all the servants gave Mrs. Timmins
The cook said she coodn't abear it no longer, 'aving Mrs. G. always
about her kitching, with her fingers in all the saucepans. Mrs. G.
had got her the place, but she preferred one as Mrs. G. didn't get
The nurse said she was come to nuss Master Fitzroy, and knew her
duty; his grandmamma wasn't his nuss, and was always aggrawating
her,--missus must shoot herself elsewhere.
The housemaid gave utterance to the same sentiments in language
Little Buttons bounced up to his mistress, said he was butler of
the family, Mrs. G. was always poking about his pantry, and dam if
he'd stand it.
At every moment Rosa grew more and more bewildered. The baby
howled a great deal during the day. His large china christening-
bowl was cracked by Mrs. Gashleigh altering the flowers in it, and
pretending to be very cool, whilst her hands shook with rage.
"Pray go on, mamma," Rosa said with tears in her eyes. "Should you
like to break the chandelier?"
"Ungrateful, unnatural child!" bellowed the other. "Only that I
know you couldn't do without me, I'd leave the house this minute."
"As you wish," said Rosa; but Mrs. G. DIDN'T wish: and in this
juncture Truncheon arrived.
That officer surveyed the dining-room, laid the cloth there with
admirable precision and neatness; ranged the plate on the sideboard
with graceful accuracy, but objected to that old thing in the
centre, as he called Mrs. Gashleigh's silver basket, as cumbrous
and useless for the table, where they would want all the room they
Order was not restored to the house, nor, indeed, any decent
progress made, until this great man came: but where there was a
revolt before, and a general disposition to strike work and to yell
out defiance against Mrs. Gashleigh, who was sitting bewildered and
furious in the drawing-room--where there was before commotion, at
the appearance of the master-spirit, all was peace and unanimity:
the cook went back to her pans, the housemaid busied herself with
the china and glass, cleaning some articles and breaking others,
Buttons sprang up and down the stairs, obedient to the orders of
his chief, and all things went well and in their season.
At six, the man with the wine came from Binney and Latham's. At a
quarter past six, Timmins himself arrived.
At half past six he might have been heard shouting out for his
varnished boots but we know where THOSE had been hidden--and for
his dressing things; but Mrs. Gashleigh had put them away.
As in his vain inquiries for these articles he stood shouting,
"Nurse! Buttons! Rosa my dear!" and the most fearful execrations up
and down the stairs, Mr. Truncheon came out on him.
"Egscuse me, sir," says he, "but it's impawsable. We can't dine
twenty at that table--not if you set 'em out awinder, we can't."
"What's to be done?" asked Fitzroy, in an agony; "they've all said
"Can't do it," said the other; "with two top and bottom--and your
table is as narrow as a bench--we can't hold more than heighteen,
and then each person's helbows will be into his neighbor's cheer."
"Rosa! Mrs. Gashleigh!" cried out Timmins, "come down and speak to
"Truncheon, sir," said the man.
The women descended from the drawing-room. "Look and see, ladies,"
he said, inducting them into the dining-room: "there's the room,
there's the table laid for heighteen, and I defy you to squeege in
"One person in a party always fails," said Mrs. Gashleigh, getting
"That's nineteen," Mr. Truncheon remarked. "We must knock another
hoff, Ma'm." And he looked her hard in the face.
Mrs. Gashleigh was very red and nervous, and paced, or rather
squeezed round the table (it was as much as she could do). The
chairs could not be put any closer than they were. It was
impossible, unless the convive sat as a centre-piece in the middle,
to put another guest at that table.
"Look at that lady movin' round, sir. You see now the difficklty.
If my men wasn't thinner, they couldn't hoperate at all," Mr.
Truncheon observed, who seemed to have a spite to Mrs. Gashleigh.
"What is to be done?" she said, with purple accents.
"My dearest mamma," Rosa cried out, "you must stop at home--how
sorry I am!" And she shot one glance at Fitzroy, who shot another
at the great Truncheon, who held down his eyes. "We could manage
with heighteen," he said, mildly.
Mrs. Gashleigh gave a hideous laugh.
. . . . . .
She went away. At eight o'clock she was pacing at the corner of
the street, and actually saw the company arrive. First came the
Topham Sawyers, in their light-blue carriage with the white
hammercloth and blue and white ribbons--their footmen drove the
house down with the knocking.
Then followed the ponderous and snuff-colored vehicle, with faded
gilt wheels and brass earl's coronets all over it, the conveyance
of the House of Bungay. The Countess of Bungay and daughter
stepped out of the carriage. The fourteenth Earl of Bungay
Sir Thomas and Lady Gulpin's fly made its appearance, from which
issued the General with his star, and Lady Gulpin in yellow satin.
The Rowdys' brougham followed next; after which Mrs. Butt's
handsome equipage drove up.
The two friends of the house, young gentlemen from the Temple, now
arrived in cab No. 9996. We tossed up, in fact, which should pay
Mr. Ranville Ranville walked, and was dusting his boots as the
Templars drove up. Lord Castlemouldy came out of a twopenny
omnibus. Funnyman, the wag, came last, whirling up rapidly in a
hansom, just as Mrs. Gashleigh, with rage in her heart, was
counting that two people had failed, and that there were only
seventeen after all.
Mr. Truncheon passed our names to Mr. Billiter, who bawled them out
on the stairs. Rosa was smiling in a pink dress, and looking as
fresh as an angel, and received her company with that grace which
has always characterized her.
The moment of the dinner arrived, old Lady Bungay scuffled off on
the arm of Fitzroy, while the rear was brought up by Rosa and Lord
Castlemouldy, of Ballyshanvanvoght Castle, co, Tipperary. Some
fellows who had the luck took down ladies to dinner. I was not
sorry to be out of the way of Mrs. Rowdy, with her dandified airs,
or of that high and mighty county princess, Mrs. Topham Sawyer.
Of course it does not become the present writer, who has partaken
of the best entertainment which his friends could supply, to make
fun of their (somewhat ostentatious, as it must be confessed)
hospitality. If they gave a dinner beyond their means, it is no
business of mine. I hate a man who goes and eats a friend's meat,
and then blabs the secrets of the mahogany. Such a man deserves
never to be asked to dinner again; and though at the close of a
London season that seems no great loss, and you sicken of a
whitebait as you would of a whale--yet we must always remember
that there's another season coming, and hold our tongues for the
As for describing, then, the mere victuals on Timmins's table, that
would be absurd. Everybody--(I mean of the genteel world of
course, of which I make no doubt the reader is a polite ornament)--
Everybody has the same everything in London. You see the same
coats, the same dinners, the same boiled fowls and mutton, the same
cutlets, fish, and cucumbers, the same lumps of Wenham Lake ice,
&c. The waiters with white neck-cloths are as like each other
everywhere as the peas which they hand round with the ducks of the
second course. Can't any one invent anything new?
The only difference between Timmins's dinner and his neighbor's
was, that he had hired, as we have said, the greater part of the
plate, and that his cowardly conscience magnified faults and
disasters of which no one else probably took heed.
But Rosa thought, from the supercilious air with which Mrs. Topham
Sawyer was eying the plate and other arrangements, that she was
remarking the difference of the ciphers on the forks and spoons--
which had, in fact, been borrowed from every one of Fitzroy's
friends--(I know, for instance, that he had my six, among others,
and only returned five, along with a battered old black-pronged
plated abomination, which I have no doubt belongs to Mrs.
Gashleigh, whom I hereby request to send back mine in exchange)--
their guilty consciences, I say, made them fancy that every one was
spying out their domestic deficiencies: whereas, it is probable
that nobody present thought of their failings at all. People never
do: they never see holes in their neighbors' coats--they are too
indolent, simple, and charitable.
Some things, however, one could not help remarking: for instance,
though Fitz is my closest friend, yet could I avoid seeing and being
amused by his perplexity and his dismal efforts to be facetious?
His eye wandered all round the little room with quick uneasy
glances, very different from those frank and jovial looks with which
he is accustomed to welcome you to a leg of mutton; and Rosa, from
the other end of the table, and over the flowers, entree dishes, and
wine-coolers, telegraphed him with signals of corresponding alarm.
Poor devils! why did they ever go beyond that leg of mutton?
Funnyman was not brilliant in conversation, scarcely opening his
mouth, except for the purposes of feasting. The fact is, our
friend Tom Dawson was at table, who knew all his stories, and in
his presence the greatest wag is always silent and uneasy.
Fitz has a very pretty wit of his own, and a good reputation on
circuit; but he is timid before great people. And indeed the
presence of that awful Lady Bungay on his right hand was enough
to damp him. She was in court mourning (for the late Prince of
Schlippenschloppen). She had on a large black funereal turban
and appurtenances, and a vast breastplate of twinkling,
twiddling black bugles. No wonder a man could not be gay in
talking to HER.
Mrs. Rowdy and Mrs. Topham Sawyer love each other as women do
who have the same receiving nights, and ask the same society;
they were only separated by Ranville Ranville, who tries to be
well with both and they talked at each other across him.
Topham and Rowdy growled out a conversation about Rum, Ireland,
and the Navigation Laws, quite unfit for print. Sawyer never
speaks three words without mentioning the House and the Speaker.
The Irish Peer said nothing (which was a comfort) but he ate and
drank of everything which came in his way; and cut his usual
absurd figure in dyed whiskers and a yellow under-waistcoat.
General Gulpin sported his star, and looked fat and florid, but
melancholy. His wife ordered away his dinner, just like honest
Sancho's physician at Barataria.
Botherby's stories about Lamartine are as old as the hills,
since the barricades of 1848; and he could not get in a word or
cut the slightest figure. And as for Tom Dawson, he was
carrying on an undertoned small-talk with Lady Barbara St.
Mary's, so that there was not much conversation worth record
going on WITHIN the dining-room.
Outside it was different. Those houses in Lilliput Street are
so uncommonly compact, that you can hear everything which takes
place all over the tenement; and so--
In the awful pauses of the banquet, and the hall-door being
furthermore open, we had the benefit of hearing:
The cook, and the occasional cook, below stairs, exchanging
rapid phrases regarding the dinner;
The smash of the soup-tureen, and swift descent of the kitchen-
maid and soup-ladle down the stairs to the lower regions. This
accident created a laugh, and rather amused Fitzroy and the
company, and caused Funnyman to say, bowing to Rosa, that she
was mistress of herself, though China fall. But she did not
heed him, for at that moment another noise commenced, namely,
The baby in the upper rooms, who commenced a series of piercing
yells, which, though stopped by the sudden clapping to of the
nursery-door, were only more dreadful to the mother when
suppressed. She would have given a guinea to go up stairs and
have done with the whole entertainment.
A thundering knock came at the door very early after the
dessert, and the poor soul took a speedy opportunity of
summoning the ladies to depart, though you may be sure it was
only old Mrs. Gashleigh, who had come with her daughters--of
course the first person to come. I saw her red gown whisking up
the stairs, which were covered with plates and dishes, over
which she trampled.
Instead of having any quiet after the retreat of the ladies, the
house was kept in a rattle, and the glasses jingled on the table
as the flymen and coachmen plied the knocker, and the soiree
came in. From my place I could see everything: the guests as
they arrived (I remarked very few carriages, mostly cabs and
flies), and a little crowd of blackguard boys and children, who
were formed round the door, and gave ironical cheers to the
folks as they stepped out of their vehicles.
As for the evening-party, if a crowd in the dog-days is
pleasant, poor Mrs. Timmins certainly had a successful soiree.
You could hardly move on the stair. Mrs. Sternhold broke in the
banisters, and nearly fell through. There was such a noise and
chatter you could not hear the singing of the Miss Gashleighs,
which was no great loss. Lady Bungay could hardly get to her
carriage, being entangled with Colonel Wedgewood in the passage.
An absurd attempt was made to get up a dance of some kind; but
before Mrs. Crowder had got round the room, the hanging-lamp in
the dining-room below was stove in, and fell with a crash on the
table, now prepared for refreshment.
Why, in fact, did the Timminses give that party at all? It was
quite beyond their means. They have offended a score of their
old friends, and pleased none of their acquaintances. So angry
were many who were not asked, that poor Rosa says she must now
give a couple more parties and take in those not previously
invited. And I know for a fact that Fubsby's bill is not yet
paid; nor Binney and Latham's the wine-merchants; that the
breakage and hire of glass and china cost ever so much money;
that every true friend of Timmins has cried out against his
absurd extravagance, and that now, when every one is going out
of town, Fitz has hardly money to pay his circuit, much more to
take Rosa to a watering-place, as he wished and promised.
As for Mrs. Gashleigh, the only feasible plan of economy which
she can suggest, is that she could come and live with her
daughter and son-in-law, and that they should keep house
together. If he agrees to this, she has a little sum at the
banker's, with which she would not mind easing his present
difficulties; and the poor wretch is so utterly bewildered and
crestfallen that it is very likely he will become her victim.
The Topham Sawyers, when they go down into the country, will
represent Fitz as a ruined man and reckless prodigal; his uncle,
the attorney, from whom he has expectations, will most likely
withdraw his business, and adopt some other member of his
family--Blanche Crowder for instance, whose husband, the doctor,
has had high words with poor Fitzroy already, of course at the
women's instigation. And all these accumulated miseries fall
upon the unfortunate wretch because he was good-natured, and his
wife would have a Little Dinner.