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[-347-] 

CHAPTER CCXL.

A NEW EPOCH.

    TWENTY months had elapsed since the events just related.
    It was now the end of January, 1843.
    Haply the reader may begin to imagine that our subject is well-nigh exhausted  that the mysteries of London are nearly all unveiled?
    He errs; for London is a city containing such a variety of strange institutions, private as well as public, and presenting so many remarkable phases to the contemplation of the acute observer, that the writer who is resolved to avail himself fully of the heterogeneous materials thus supplied him, cannot readily lack food for comment and narrative.
    The dwellers in the country, and even the inhabitants of the great provincial cities and manufacturing towns, can form no just estimate of the wondrous features of the sovereign metropolis by the local scenes with which they are familiar.
    Who can judge of the splendour of the West End of London by even the most fashionable quarters of Edinburgh or Dublin?
    Who can conceive the amount of revolting squalor and hideous penury existing in the poor districts of London, by a knowledge of the worst portions of Liverpool or Manchester!
    Who can form a conjecture of the dreadful immorality and shocking vice of the low neighbourhoods of London, judging by the scenes presented to view in the great mining or manufacturing counties!
    No:  for all that is most gorgeous and beautiful, as well as all that is most filthy and revolting,  all that is best of talents or most degraded of ignorance,  all that is most admirable for virtue, or most detestable for crime,  all that is most refined in elegance, or most strange in barbarism,  all, all these wondrous phases are to be found, greatest in glory, or lowest in infamy, in the imperial city of the British Isles!
    And shall we be charged with vanity, if we declare that never until now has the veil been so rudely torn aside, nor the corruptions of London been so boldly laid bare?
    But, in undertaking this work, we were determined at the outset to be daunted by no fear of offending the high and the powerful: we were resolved to misrepresent nothing for the purpose of securing to ourselves the favour of those whom so many sycophants delight to bespatter with their sickly praises.
    In the same independent spirit do we now pursue our narrative.
    On the left-hand side of Brydges Street, as you proceed from the Strand towards Russell Street, Covent Garden, you may perceive a lamp projecting over the door of an establishment which, viewed externally, appears to be a modest eating-house; but which in reality is one of the most remarkable places of nocturnal entertainment in London.
    Upon the lamp alluded to are painted these words  "THE PARADISE."
    It was past midnight, towards the end of January, 1843, when two gentlemen, wearing fashionable Taglioni coats over their elegant attire, and impregnating the fine frosty air with the vapour of their cigars, strolled into this establishment.
    Proceeding down a passage, they pushed open a door with a painted ground-glass window, and entered a spacious supper-room.
    This apartment was lofty, handsomely fitted up, well furnished, and provided with boxes containing little tables, like the coffee-room of an hotel.
    A cheerful fire burnt in the grate, and the numerous lights suspended around the apartment were reflected in a handsome mirror over the mantelpiece.
    Above the door leading into the room was a species of gallery, forming a grotto-like opening into a suite of upper apartments, which were reached by a flight of stairs leading from the passage just now mentioned.
    All was gaiety and bustle both in the coffee-room below and the chambers above. Numerous suppers were in progress, the partakers thereof consisting of gentlemen of various descriptions and gay ladies of only one particular class. Oysters, lobsters, cold fowls, ham, and kidneys, constituted the principal edibles; while liquor flowed copiously and in all gradations of luxury, from humble porter in pewter pots to sparkling champagne in green bottles.
    The male portion of the guests was composed of those various specimens of "gentlemen" who either turn night into day, or who make up for the toils of the day by the dissipated enjoyments of the night.
    There was an attorney's clerk, who, having picked up a stray guinea in a manner for which he would not perhaps have liked to account, was doing the liberal, in the shape of oysters, stout, and hot brandy-and-water, to some fair Cyprian whom he had never seen before, and whom he would perhaps never see again, but with whom he was on the very best possible terms for the time being; the only trifling damper to his enjoyment being her constant anxiety lest "her friend" should happen to come in and catch her at supper with the said attorney's clerk.
    There was a notorious black-leg, who was regaling a couple of frail ones with champagne and looking out for flats as well; while his accomplice was doing precisely the same in the next box,  both these respectable gentlemen affecting to be total strangers to each other.
    There also was a handsome young man, who, having just come of age, and stepped into the possession of a good property, was commencing his career of waste and extravagance at the Paradise. Proud of the nauseating flattery of the three or four abandoned women who had him in tow, he was literally throwing about his money in all directions, and staring around him with the vacant air of semi-intoxication, as much as to say, "Don't you think me a very fine dashing fellow indeed?"
    [-348-] In another box was an old man, who had reached the wrong side of sixty, but who was endeavouring to make a young girl of seventeen believe that he was but forty-four last birthday,  a tale which she had too much tact to appear to doubt for a moment, as the antiquated beau supplied her with copious draughts of champagne to enable her to swallow the lie the more easily.
    A little farther on was a dandified, stiff-necked, coxcomical individual of about six-and-twenty, sipping sherry with a fair friend, and endeavouring to render himself as polite and agreeable as possible. But, at every word he spoke, he drew out the edge of the table-cloth to precisely the extent of a yard between his fore-fingers and thumbs;  whereby it was easy to perceive that, although he assured his companion he was a captain in the Guards, he in reality exercised the less conspicuous but more active employment of a linen-draper's assistant.
    Crowding near the fire were several Cyprians, who had not as yet obtained cavaliers, and were therefore hovering between the alternatives of "supper" or "no supper," the odds being, to all appearances, in favour of the latter. They did not, however, seem very unhappy while their fate, as to oysters and stout, was pending in the balance of suspense; but laughed, chattered, and larked amongst themselves; and then, by way of avoiding any thing like monotony or sameness in their recreation, two of them got up a pleasant little quarrel which terminated in a brisk exchange of blows and scratches.
    Leaning over the side of the grotto-like gallery before referred to, were two individuals, whose appearance was something between that of dissipated actors and broken down tradesmen; and who were so disguised in liquor that their own mothers could scarcely have recognised them. Being most probably wearied of their own conversation, they diverted themselves by addressing their remarks to the people in the coffee-room below, whom they invited in the most condescending manner possible to "flare up," "mind their eyes," "form a union," and enact various other little social civilities of the same ambiguous nature.
    Within the upper rooms were several gay ladies and jovially disposed gentlemen, all mainly intent upon the pleasures of eating or drinking, which occupations were however relieved by boisterous shouts of laughter and practical jokes of all kinds.
    In justice to the proprietor of this establishment it must be observed that he conducted it upon as orderly a system as could be possibly maintained when the characters of his patrons and patronesses are taken into consideration; and the moment a disturbance occurred, either himself or his waiters adopted the most efficient means of putting an end to it, by bundling the offenders neck-and-crop into the street.
    The two gentlemen who lounged, as before stated, into this celebrated night-house on the occasion alluded to, took possession of a vacant box, and throwing down their cigars, summoned the waiter.
    "Yes, sir  coming, sir  di-rectly, sir," cried the chief functionary thus adjured, and who was busy at the moment in disputing the items of the score with the linen-draper's assistant:  but, when that little matter was duly settled to the satisfaction of the waiter and the discomfiture of the assistant aforesaid, he hurried up to the table occupied by the new comers.
    Well, what shall we have, Harborough? asked one of the gentlemen, appealing to his companion.
    "'Pon my honour, I don't care a rap," was the reply. "Order what you like, old fellow."
    Thus encouraged, Mr. Chichester (for it was he) desired the waiter to bring "no end of oysters," and to follow with a cold fowl.
    "Yes, sir  certainly, sir," said the domestic, hastily transferring a pepper-box from one side of the table to the other, and smoothing down the cloth: "please to order any thing to drink, gentlemen?"
    "A bottle of champagne," returned Mr. Chichester; "and make haste about it."
    "Yes, sir  this minute, sir:"  and the waiter glided away with that kind of shuffling, shambling motion which no living beings save waiters can ever accomplish.
    When the provender was duly supplied, and the first glass of champagne was quaffed, Chichester leant across the table, and said to the baronet in a low tone of chuckling triumph, "Well, old chap I don't think we can complain of Fortune during the last three or four months?"
    "No  far from it," returned Sir Rupert Harborough. "But we musn't be idle because we happen to have a few five pound notes in our pocket. However, things will turn up, I dare say."
    "Yes  if we look out for them," said Chichester; "but not unless. By the bye, who do you think I met this afternoon, as I was strolling along the Strand?"
    "Can't say at all," replied the baronet. "Who?"
    "Greenwood," added Chichester.
    "The deuce you did! And how was he looking?"
    "Not so slap-up as he used to be:  no jewellery  toggery not quite new  hat showing marks of the late rain  boots patched at the sides  and cotton gloves."
    "The scoundrel! Do you remember how he served me about that bill which I accepted in Lord Tremordyn's name? Ah! shouldn't I like to pay him out for it!" said the baronet. "But how he has fallen within the last two years! Turned out of his seat for Rottenborough at the last election  obliged to give up his splendid house in Spring Gardens  "
    "Well, well  we know all about that," interrupted Chichester, impatiently. "Don't speak so loud; but look into the next box  the one behind me, I mean  and tell me if you think that young fellow who is treating those girls to champagne would prove a flat or not."
    The baronet glanced in the direction indicated; and immediately afterwards gave an affirmative nod of the heed to his companion: then, leaning across the table he whispered, "To be sure he would; and I know who he is. It's young Egerton  the son of the great outfitter, who died a few years ago, leaving a large fortune in trust for this lad. I'll be bound to say he has just come of age, and is launching out."
    "Does he know you?" inquired Chichester, also speaking in a subdued tone.
    "I am almost certain he does not," replied the baronet. "But sit up  we will soon see what he is made of. I will touch him on the cross that we have got up together."
    [-349-] The two friends resumed the discussion of their supper, and in a few minutes began to converse with each other in a tone loud enough to be heard  and intended also to be so heard  in the next box.
    "And so you really think the Haggerstone Pet will beat the Birmingham Bruiser, Mr. Chichester?" observed the baronet5 in a tone of mere friendly courtesy.
    "I am convinced of it, Sir Rupert, in spite of the odds," was the answer, delivered in the same punctilious manner. "Will you take my four ponies upon the Haggerstone Pet to five?"
    "Done, Mr. Chichester!" cried the baronet: then drawing out a betting-book from the breast-pocket of his coat, he proceeded to enter the wager, saying aloud and in a measured tone as be did so, "Back Birmingham Bruiser against Haggerstone Pet  five ponies to four  Honourable  Arthur  Chichester. There it is!"
    This ceremony was followed on the part of Mr. Chichester, who, having produced his book, wrote down the wager, saying, "Back Haggerstone Pet against Birmingham Bruiser  four ponies to five  Sir  Rupert    Harborough  baronet."
    "And now," exclaimed the baronet, "before we put up our books, I'll give you another chance. Will you take three hundred to one that the favourites for the fight and the Derby don't both win?"
    "Stop, Sir Rupert!" cried Chichester. "Let me first see how I stand for the Derby"  then, as if speaking to himself, he continued, "Taken even five hundred, four horses against the field, from Lord Dunstable;  seven hundred to one against Eagle-Wing, from the Honourable Colonel Cholmondeley;  betted even five hundred, Skyscraper to Moonraker, with the Honourable Augustus Smicksmack. Well, Sir Rupert," he exclaimed, raising his head from the contemplation of the leaf on which these sham bets were entered, "I don't mind if I take you."
    "It's a bargain," said the baronet; and the wager was accordingly inscribed in the little books.
    The two gentlemen then refreshed themselves each with another draught of champagne; and Sir Rupert Harborough, as he drank, glanced over the edge of the glass into the next box, to ascertain the effect produced upon Mr. Egerton by the previous little display of sporting spirit.
    That effect was precisely the one which had been anticipated. Mr. Egerton was not so tipsy but that he was struck with the aristocratic names of the two gentlemen in the next box; and he raised his head from the bosom of a Cyprian to take a view of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and the Honourable Arthur Chichester.
    So satisfactory was the result of the survey  at least to himself  that he determined not only to show off a little of his own "dashing spirit," but also, if possible, form the acquaintance of the two gentlemen; for, like many young fellows similarly circumstanced, he was foolish enough to believe that the possession of money must prove a passport to the best society, if he could only obtain an opening.
    Therefore, having greedily devoured every word of the dialogue just detailed, and taking it for granted that nothing in this world was ever more sincere than the betting of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and the Honourable Arthur Chichester, Mr. Egerton exclaimed, "Beg pardon, gentlemen, for intruding upon you; but I think I heard you staking some heavy sums on the coming fight?"
    "Really, sir," said the baronet, gravely, "I was not aware that any thing which took place between me and this gentleman could he overheard;  and yet, after all," he added with a gracious smile, "I do not know that there is the least harm in a little quiet bet."
    "Harm, no  and be damned to it!" ejaculated Mr. Egerton. "All I can say is, that I admire sporting men  I honour them: they're an ornament to the country. What would Old England  hic  be without her Turf  her hunting  her prize-fighting? For my part, I have a great idea of this fight  a very great  hic  idea. But I back the Birmingham Bruiser  I do."
    "So do I, sir," answered the baronet. "My friend here, however  the Honourable Mr. Chichester  fancies the Haggerstone Pet."
    "I heard him say so," returned the young man. "But, if he hasn't made up his book, I don't mind betting him five hundred pounds  hic  to his four  that's the odds, I believe  "
    "Yes  those are the odds," observed Mr. Chichester, carelessly: then, taking out his book, he said, "But I am already so deep in this fight, that I really am afraid  however, if you wish it, I don't mind  "
    "Is it a bet, then, sir?" asked the young gentleman, looking round the room with an air of importance, as if he were quite accustomed to the thing although it was in reality the first wager he had ever laid in his life.
    "It shall be so, if you choose, sir," returned Chichester: then, glancing in an inquiring manner towards his new acquaintance, he said with a bland smile, "I really beg your pardon  but I have not the pleasure  "
    "Oh! truly  you don't know me from Adam!" interrupted the other. "But you shall know me, sir  and I hope we shall know each other better too  hic."
    He then produced his card; and Mr. Chichester, of course, affected not to have been previously aware of the young gentleman's name.
    The bet between them was duly recorded  by Mr. Chichester in his little book, and by Mr. Albert Egerton on the back of a love-letter.
    The latter gentleman then called for his bill, and having glanced at the amount, paid it without a murmur, adding a munificent donation for the waiter. Having effected this arrangement, by means of which he got rid of the women who had fastened themselves on him, he coolly passed round to the table at which his new acquaintances were seated, and called for another bottle of champagne.
    When it was brought, he was about to pay for it but Sir Rupert interrupted him, saying, "No  that would be too bad. If you sit at our table, you are our guest;  and here's to a better acquaintance."
    The bottle went round rapidly; and Mr. Egerton became quite enchanted with the agreeable manners of Sir Rupert Harborough, Bart., and the off-hand pleasant conversation of the Honourable Arthur Chichester.
    It was now past one o'clock; and the baronet proposed to depart.
    "Which way do you  hic  go?" inquired Egerton.
    "Oh! westward, of course," returned Har[-350-]borough, in a tone of gentle remonstrance, as much as to say that there could have been no doubt upon the subject. "Will you walk with us?"
    "Certainly," was the answer: "and we will smoke a  hic  cigar as we go along."
    The baronet called for the bill, paid it, and led the way from the room, followed by Egerton and Chichester, the former of whom insisted upon stopping at the bar to take some soda water, as he declared himself to be "half-seas    hic  over."
    While the three gentlemen were engaged in partaking each of a bottle of the refreshing beverage, Sir Rupert felt his coat-sleeve gently pulled from behind; and, turning round, he perceived a man whom he had noticed in the coffee-room. Indeed, this was one of the black-legs already alluded to as having been engaged in treating Cyprians to supper and champagne.
    The baronet instantly comprehended the nature of the business which this individual had to address him upon; and making him a significant sign, he said to Chichester, "Do you and Mr. Egerton go very slowly along the Strand; and I will follow you in a few minutes. I have a word to say to this gentleman."
    Gentleman indeed!  one of the most astounding knaves in London! But vice and roguery compel the haughty aristocrat to address the lowest ruffian as an equal.
    Chichester took Egerton's arm, and sauntered out of the house, attended to the door by the obsequious master of the establishment  an honour shown only to those who drink champagne or claret.
    "Well, sir, what is it?" asked the baronet, taking the black-leg aside, and speaking to him in a whisper.
    "Only this, Sir Rupert," returned the man: "you've got that youngster in tow, and he'll turn out profitable, no doubt. Me and my pal, which is inside the room there, meant to have had him somehow or another; and we planted our vimen on him to-night:  but we thought he wasn't drunk enough; and then you come in and take him from us. Your friend has nailed him for a bet of five hundred, which he's safe to pay; so you must stand someot for my disappointment."
    "I understand you, sir," said the baronet. "Here are twenty pounds: and if the bet be paid, you shall have thirty more. Will that do?"
    "Thank'ee for the twenty, which is ready," answered the black-leg, consigning the notes to his pocket. "Now never mind the other thirty; but make the best you can out of that young chap; and all I ask in return is just a word or two about the mill that 's coming off."
    "I don't understand you," said the baronet colouring.
    "Come, come  that won't do," continued the man. "But don't be afeard  it 'a all in the way of business that I'm speaking. I see you and Mr. Chichester at a public about three veeks ago along with the Birmingham Bruiser; and therefore I knowed you was the friends which deposited the money for him, but which kept in the back-ground. So all I want is the office  just a single word: is the Bruiser to win or to make a cross of it?"
    "Really, my good fellow  " stammered the baronet.
    "Only just one word, so that I may know how to lay my money," persisted the black-leg, "and your secret is safe with me. For my own interest it will be so, if you tell me which way it is to be."
    "Can I rely on you?" said Sir Rupert. "But of course I may, if you really mean to bet. Now keep the thing dark  and you may win plenty of money. The Bruiser is to lose: the odds are five to four on him now  and they will be seven to four in his favour before the fight comes off. No one suspects that it is to be a cross; and the reports of the Bruiser's training are glorious."
    "Enough  and as mum as a dead man, Sir Rupert," whispered the black-leg.
    He then returned to the supper-room; and the baronet hastened after his friends.

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