< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >


[-95-]

CHAPTER CLXXI.

MR. GREENWOOD'S DINNER-PARTY.

SOME few days after the events just related, Mr. G. M. Greenwood, M.P., entertained several gentlemen at dinner at his residence in Spring Gardens.
    The banquet was served up at seven precisely:  Mr. Greenwood had gradually made his dinner hour later as he had risen in the world; and he was determined that if ever he became a baronet, he would never have that repast put on table till half-past -eight o'clock.
    On the present occasion, as we ere now observed, the guests were conducted to the dining-room at seven.
    The thick curtains were drawn over the windows: the apartment was a blaze of light.
    The table groaned beneath the massive plate: the banquet was choice and luxurious in the highest degree.
    On Mr. Greenwood's right sate the Marquis of Holmesford  a nobleman of sixty-three years of age, of immense wealth, and notorious for the unbounded licentiousness of his mode of life. His conversation, when his heart was somewhat warmed with wine, bore ample testimony to the profligacy of his morals: seductions wore his boast; and he frequently indulged in obscene anecdotes or expressions which even called a blush to the cheeks of his least fastidious male acquaintances.
    On Mr. Greenwood's left was Sir T. M. B. Muzzlehem, Bart., M.P., and Whipper-In to the Tory party.
    Next to the two guests already described, sate Sir Cherry Bounce, Bart., and the Honourable Major Smilax Dapper  the latter of whom had recently acquired a grade in the service by purchase.
    Mr. James Tomlinson, Mr. Sheriff Popkins, Mr. Alderman Sniff, Mr. Bubble, Mr. Chouse, and Mr. Twitchem (a solicitor) completed the party.
    Now this company, the reader will perceive, was somewhat a mixed one: the aristocracy of the West End, the civic authority, and the members of the financial and legal spheres, were assembled on the present occasion.
    The fact is, gentle reader, that this was a "business dinner;" and that you may be no longer kept in suspense, we will at once inform you that when the cloth was drawn, Mr. Greenwood, in a brief speech, proposed "Success to the Algiers, Oran, and Morocco Railway."
    The toast was drunk with great applause.
    "With your permission, my lord and gentlemen," said Mr. Twitchem, the solicitor, "I will read the Prospectus."
    "Yeth, wead the pwothpeckthuth, by all meanth," exclaimed Sir Cherry Bounce.
    "Strike me  but I'm anxious to hear that," cried the Honourable Major Dapper.
    The solicitor then drew a bundle of papers from his pocket, and in a business-like manner read the contents of one which he extracted from the parcel:  
    
    'ALGIERS, ORAN, AND MOROCCO GREAT DESERT RAILWAY.
    
    "(Provisionally Registered Pursuant to Act.)
    "Capital 1,200,000, in 80,000 shares, of 20 each.
    "Deposit 2 2s. per Share.
    
    COMMITTE OF DIRECTION.
    "THE MOST HONOURABLE THE MARQUIS OF HOLMES.FORD, G. C. B., CHAIRMAN. -
    'GEORGE M. GREENWOOD, ESQ., M.P., DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.
    
    "Sir T. M. B. Muzzlehem, Bart, M.P.
    "James Tomlinson, Esq.
    "Sylvester Popkins, Esq., Sheriff of London.
    "Percival Peter Sniff, Esq., Alderman.
    "Sir Cherry Bounce, Bart.
    "The Honourable Major Smilax Dapper.
    "Charles Cecil Bubble, Esq.
    "Robert James Baring Chouse, Esq.
    
    'This Railway is intended to connect the great cities of Algiers and Morocco, passing close to the populous and flourishing town of Oran. It will thus be the means of transit for passengers and traffic over a most important section of the Great Desert, which, though placed in maps in a more southernly latitude, nevertheless extends to the District through which this Line is to pass.
    "The French government has willingly accorded its countenance to the proposed scheme; and the Governor-General of Algeria has expressed his sincere wish that it may be carried into effect.
    "The Morocco government (one of the most enlightened in Africa) has also assented to the enterprise; and the Emperor, the better to manifest the favour with which be views the project, ordered his Prime Minister to be soundly bastinadoed for daring to question its practicability. This proof of the imperial wisdom has filled the Committee and friends of the enterprise with the most sanguine hopes.
    "The support of the principal tribes, and other influential parties in Algeria and Morocco, has been secured.
    "The Emperor of Morocco, on one side, and his Excellency the Governor-General of Algeria, on the other, have signified their readiness to grant a strong armed force to protect the engineers and operatives, when laying down. the rails, from being devoured by wild beasts, or molested by predatory tribes.
    "The ex-Emir of Mascara, Abd-el-Kadir, has entered into a bond not to interfere with the works while in progress, nor to molest those who may travel by the Line when it shall be opened; and, in order to secure this important concession on the part of the ex-Emir, the Committee have agreed to make that Prince an annual present of clothes, linen, tobacco, and ardent spirit.
    "It is with the greatest satisfaction that the Committee of Direction is enabled to announce these brilliant prospects; and the Committee beg to state that application for the allotment of Shares mast be made without delay to James Tomlinson, Esq. Stockbroker, Tokenhouse Yard.
    "By order of the Board,
    "SHARPLY TWITCHEM, Secretary."
    
    "On my thoul, there never wath any thing better  conthith, bwief, ekthplithit, and attwactive!" cried Sir Cherry.
    "Sure to take  as certain as I'm in Her Majesty's service  strike me!" exclaimed Major Dapper.
    "I think you ought to have thrown in something about African beauties," observed the Marquis "they are particularly stout, you know, being all fed on a preparation of rice called couscousou. I really think I must pay a visit to those parts next spring."
    "I will undertake to get one of the members of the government to introduce a favourable mention of the project into his speech to-morrow night, in the House," said Sir T. M. B. Muzzlehem: 'but you must send him a hundred shares the first thing in the morning."
    "That shall be done." answered Mr. Twitchem. [-96-]
    "Well, my lord and gentlemen," observed Mr Greenwood, "I think that this little business looks uncommonly well. The project is no doubt feasible  I mean, the shares are certain to go off well. Mr. Bubble and Mr. Chouse will undertake to raise them in public estimation, by the reports they will circulate in Capel Court. Of course, my lord and gentlemen, when they are at a good premium, we shall all sell; and if we do not realise twenty or thirty thousand pounds each  each, mark me  then shall you be at liberty to say that the free and Independent electors of Rottenborough have chosen as their representative a dolt and an idiot in the person of your humble servant."
    "Whatever Mr. Greenwood undertakes is certain to turn to gold," observed Mr. Bubble.
    "Can't be otherwise," said Mr. Chouse.
    "Mr. Greenwood's name stands so well in the City," added Mr. Sheriff Popkins.
    "And his lordship's countenance to the enterprise is a tower of strength," exclaimed Mr. Alderman Sniff.
    "I have already had many inquiries concerning the project," said Mr. Tomlinson.
    "Yes  Chouse and I took care to circulate reports in the City that such a scheme was in contemplation," observed Bubble.
    "Gentlemen, I think that all difficulties have been provided against in this Prospectus," cried Mr. Twitchem;  "the predatory tribes, Abd-el-Kadir, and the wild beasts."
    "Nothing could be better," answered Mr. Greenwood. "Take care that the Prospectus be sent as an advertisement to every London journal, and the leading provincial ones. You know that I am a shareholder in one of the London newspapers; and I can promise you that it will not fail to cry up our enterprise. In fact, my lord and gentlemen," added Mr. Greenwood, "I have at this moment in my pocket a copy of a leading article that will appear in that paper, the day after to-morrow."
    "My gwathioth!  do read it, Greenwood," cried Sir Cherry Bounce.
    "Yes: I'd give the world to hear it,  smite me!" ejaculated Major Dapper.
    Mr. Greenwood glanced complacently around, and then drew forth a printed slip, the contents of which were as follow:  
    
    "In our opposition to those multifarious railway projects which are starting upon all sides, as if some Cadmus had been sowing bubbles in our financial soil, we have only been swayed by our fears lest such a number of schemes, which never can obtain the sanction of Parliament, should injure the credit, and impair the monetary prosperity of the country. It must not, however, be supposed that we are inimical to those undertakings which are based upon fair, intelligible, and reasonable grounds. There are many talented, honourable, and wealthy individuals engaged in speculations of this nature; and, their motives being beyond suspicion, no one of common sense can for a moment suppose that we include their projects amongst the airy nothings against which we are compelled to put the public on their guard. The extension of railways is internally connected with the progress of civilisation; and when we behold the principle applied to distant and semi-barbarian countries  as in the rise, for instance, of that truly grand and promising enterprise, the Algiers, Oran, and Morocco Great Desert Railway  we feel proud that England should have the honour of taking the initiative in thus propagating beyond its own limits the elements of civilisation, and the germs of humanising influences. At the same time we shall continue our strenuous opposition to all railway schemes which we consider to be mere bubbles blown from the pipes of intriguants and adventurers; and we shall never pause until in those pipes we put an effectual stopper."
    
    "Thuper  ekthellent  glowiouth  majethtic  athtounding!" ejaculated Sir Cherry, quite in raptures.
    "You perceive how beautifully  how delicately the puff is insinuated," said Mr. Greenwood. "That article will have an astonishing effect."
    "No doubt of it," observed the Marquis. "You might have contrived to introduce something relative to the Emperor of Morocco's ladies. Why not state that the Moorish terminus will command a view of the gardens of the imperial harem, where those divine creatures  each of seventeen stone weight  are wont to ramble in a voluptuous undress?"
    "No  no, my lord; that would never do! " cried Greenwood, with a smile. "And now, my lord and gentlemen, we perfectly understand each other. Each takes as many shares at he pleases. When they reach a high premium, each may sell as he thinks fit. Then, when we have realized our profits, we will inform the shareholders that insuperable difficulties prevent the carrying out of the project,  that Abd-el-Kadir, for instance, has violated his agreement and declared against the scheme,  that the Committee of Direction will therefore retain a sum sufficient to defray the expenses already incurred, and that the remaining capital paid up shall be returned to the shareholders."
    "That is exactly what, I believe, we all understand," observed Mr. Twitchem.
    "For my part," said Lord Holmesford, "I only embark in the enterprise to oblige my friend Greenwood; and therefore I am agreeable to any thing that he proposes."
    Matters being thus amicably arranged, the company passed the remainder of the evening in the conviviality of the table.
    At eleven o'clock the guests all retired, with the exception of the Marquis of Holmesford.
    "Now, friend Greenwood," said this nobleman, "you will keep your engagement with me?"
    "Yes, my lord: I am prepared to accompany you."
    "Let us depart at once, then," added the Marquis, rising from his chair: "my Carriage has been waiting some time; and I long to introduce you to the voluptuous mysteries of Holmesford House."    

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >