« PoprzedniaDalej »
was not an article in his shop but came to him through his Israelite providers; and in the very front shop itself sat a gentleman who was the nominee of one of them, and who was called Mr. Mossrose. He was there to superintend the cash account, and to see that certain instalments were paid to his principals, according to certain agreements entered into between Mr. Eglantine and them.
Having that sort of opinion of Mr. Mossrose which Damocles may have had of the sword which hung over his head, of course Mr. Eglantine hated his foreman profoundly. "He an artist," would the former gentleman exclaim; "why, he's only a disguised bailiff ! Mossrose indeed! The chap's name's 'Amos, and he sold oranges before he came here." Mr. Mossrose, on his side, utterly despised Mr. Eglantine, and looked forward to the day when he would become the proprietor of the shop, and take Eglantine for a foreman; and then it would be his turn to sneer and bully, and ride the high horse.
Thus it will be seen that there was a skeleton in the great perfumer's house, as the saying is: a worm in his heart's core, and though to all appearance prosperous, he was really in an awkward position.
What Mr. Eglantine's relations were with Mr. Walker may be imagined from the following dialogue which took place between the two gentlemen at five o'clock one summer's afternoon, when Mr. Walker, issuing from his chambers, came across to the perfumer's shop:
"Is Eglantine at home, Mr. Mossrose?" said Walker to the foreman, who sat in the front shop.
"Don't know-go and look" (meaning go and be hanged); for Mossrose also hated Mr. Walker.
"If you're uncivil I'll break your bones, Mr. Amos," says Mr. Walker, sternly.
"I should like to see you try, Mr. Hooker Walker," replies the undaunted shopman; on which the captain, looking several tremendous canings at him, walked into the back room or "studio."
"How are you, Tiny my buck?" says the Captain. doing?"
"Not a soul in town. I 'aven't touched the hirons all day," replied Mr. Eglantine, in rather a desponding way.
"Well, just get them ready now, and give my whiskers a turn. I'm going to dine with Billingsgate and some out-and-out fellows at the 'Regent,' and so, my lad, just do your best."
"I can't," says Mr. Eglantine. "I expect ladies, captain, every minute."
“Very good; I don't want to trouble such a great man, I'm sure. Good-by, and let me hear from you this day week, Mr. Eglantine." "This day week" meant that at seven days from that time a certain bill accepted by Mr. Eglantine would be due, and presented for payment.
"Don't be in such a hurry, Captain-do sit down. I'll curl you in one minute. And, I say, won't the party renew?"
"Impossible-it's the third renewal."
"But I'll make the thing handsome to you ;—indeed I will." "How much?"
"Will ten pounds do the business?"
"What! offer my principal ten pounds? Are you mad, Eglantine?-A little more of the iron to the left whisker."
"No, I meant for commission."
"Well, I'll see if that will do. The party I deal with, Eglantine, has power, I know, and can defer the matter no doubt. As for me, you know, I've nothing to do in the affair, and only act as a friend between you and him. I give you my honour and soul, I do."
"I know you do, my dear sir." The two last speeches were lies. The perfumer knew perfectly well that Mr. Walker would pocket the 10%; but he was too easy to care for paying it, and too timid to quarrel with such a powerful friend. And he had on three different occasions already paid 10%. fine for the renewal of the bill in question, all of which bonuses he knew went to his friend Mr. Walker.
Here, too, the reader will perceive what was, in part, the meaning
of the word "agency" on Mr. Walker's door. He was a go-between between money-lenders and borrowers in this world, and certain small sums always remained with him in the course of the transaction. He was an agent for wine, too; an agent for places to be had through the influence of great men; he was an agent for half-adozen theatrical people, male and female, and had the interests of the latter especially, it was said, at heart. Such were a few of the means by which this worthy gentleman contrived to support himself, and if, as he was fond of high living, gambling, and pleasures of all kinds, his revenue was not large enough for his expenditure—why, he got into debt, and settled his bills that way. He was as much at home in the Fleet as in Pall Mall, and quite as happy in the one place as in the other. "That's the way I take things," would this philosopher say. "If I've money, I spend; if I've credit, I borrow; if I'm dunned, I whitewash; and so you can't beat me down." Happy elasticity of temperament! I do believe that in spite of his misfortunes and precarious position, there was no man in England whose conscience was more calm, and whose slumbers were more tranquil than those of Captain Howard Walker.
As he was sitting under the hands of Mr. Eglantine, he reverted to "the ladies," whom the latter gentleman professed to expect; said he was a sly dog, a lucky ditto, and asked him if the ladies were handsome.
Eglantine thought there could be no harm in telling a bouncer to a gentleman with whom he was engaged in money transactions; and so, to give the captain an idea of his solvency and the brilliancy of his future prospects, "Captain," said he, "I've got a hundred and eighty pounds out with you, which you were obliging enough to negotiate for me. Have I, or have I not, two bills out to that amount?"
"Well, my good fellow, you certainly have; and what then?" "What then? Why, I bet you five pounds to one, that in three months those bills are paid."
"Done! five pounds to one. I take it."
This sudden closing with him made the perfumer rather uneasy;
but he was not to pay for three months, and so he said "Done !" too, and went on : "What would you say if your bills were paid?"
"Not mine; Pike's."
"Well, if Pike's were paid; and the Minories' man paid, and every single liability I have cleared off; and that Mossrose flung out of winder, and me and my emporium as free as hair?"
"You don't say so? Is Queen Anne dead? and has she left you a fortune? or what's the luck in the wind now?”
"It's better than Queen Anne, or anybody dying. What should you say to seeing in that very place where Mossrose now sits (hang him!)-seeing the finest head of 'air now in Europe? A woman, I tell you-a slap-up lovely woman, who, I'm proud to say, will soon be called Mrs. Heglantine, and will bring me five thousand pounds to her fortune." .
"Well, Tiny, this is good luck indeed. I say, you'll be able to do a bill or two for me then, hay? You won't forget an old friend?"
"That I won't. I shall have a place at my board for you, capting; and many's the time I shall 'ope to see you under that ma'ogany."
"What will the French milliner say? She'll hang herself for despair, Eglantine."
Hush! not a word about 'er. I've sown all my wild oats, I tell you. Eglantine is no longer the gay young bachelor, but the sober married man. I want a heart to share the feelings of mine. I want repose. I'm not so young as I was, I feel it."
"Pooh! pooh! you are-you are
"Well, but I sigh for an 'appy fireside; and I'll have it." "And give up that club which you belong to, hay?"
"The Kidneys?' Oh! of course, no married man should belong to such places: at least, I'll not; and I'll have my kidneys broiled at home. But be quiet, captain, if you please; the ladies appointed
"And is it the lady you expect? eh, you rogue!" "Well, get along. It's her and her Ma."
But Mr. Walker determined he wouldn't get along, and would see these lovely ladies before he stirred.
The operation on Mr. Walker's whiskers being concluded, he was arranging his toilet before the glass in an agreeable attitude: his neck out, his enormous pin settled in his stock to his satisfaction, his eyes complacently directed towards the reflection of his left and favourite whisker. Eglantine was laid on a settee, in an easy, though melancholy posture; he was twiddling the tongs with which he had just operated on Walker with one hand, and his right-hand ringlet with the other, and he was thinking-thinking of Morgiana; and then of the bill which was to become due on the 16th; and then of a light blue velvet waistcoat with gold sprigs, in which he looked very killing, and so was trudging round in his little circle of loves, fears, and vanities. "Hang it!" Mr. Walker was thinking, "I am a handsome man. A pair of whiskers like mine are not met with every day. If anybody can see that my tuft is dyed, may I be--" When the door was flung open, and a large lady with a curl on her forehead, yellow shawl, a green-velvet bonnet with feathers, half-boots, and a drab gown with tulips and other large exotics painted on it-when, in a word, Mrs. Crump and her daughter bounced into the room.
"Here we are, Mr. E," cries Mrs. Crump, in a gay, folâtre, confidential air. "But law! there's a gent in the room!"
"Don't mind me, ladies," said the gent alluded to, with his fascinating way. "I'm a friend of Eglantine's; ain't I, Egg? a chip of the old block, hay?"
"That you are," said the perfumer, starting up.
"An 'air-dresser?" asked Mrs. Crump. "Well, I thought he was; there's something, Mr. E., in gentlemen of your profession so exceeding, so uncommon distangy.”
"Madam, you do me proud," replied the gentleman so complimented, with great presence of mind. "Will you allow me to try my skill upon you, or upon Miss, your lovely daughter? I'm not so clever as Eglantine, but no bad hand, I assure you."
"Nonsense, Captain," interrupted the perfumer, who was uncomfortable somehow at the rencontre between the Captain and the object