chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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EGERTON now became the constant companion of the fashionable acquaintances whom
he had accidentally picked up or rather, who had cunningly picked
He dined with them at Long's; he formed
with them parties to eat fish at Greenwich and Blackwall; he
became a member of Crockford's; and every-day he lost considerable sums to them
in one shape of gambling or another.
They had ascertained that he was possessed, on coming of
age a few weeks previously, of the handsome fortune of sixty thousand pounds;
and they determined to appropriate the best portion of it to their own uses.
The Honourable Colonel Cholmondeley most obligingly
acted as his Mentor in the choice of magnificent furnished apartments in
Stratton Street; Lord Dunstable was kind enough to purchase two
thorough-breds for him, the price being only eight hundred guineas a
little transaction by which his lordship quietly pocketed three hundred as his
own a commission; Mr. Chichester thought it no trouble to select a
rare assortment of wines at one of the most fashionable merchants of the West
End, and actually carried his good-nature so far as to see them carefully stowed
away in the young dupe's cellar; and Sir Rupert Harborough
generously surrendered to him his cast-off mistress.
The four friends also conceived so violent an attachment
towards Mr. Egerton, that they never lost sight of him. They managed matters so
well that he had no time for compunctious reflections; for they invariably made
him drunk ere they took him home to his bed; and when he awoke in the morning,
the obliging Mr. Chichester was sure to be already there to give him sherry and
Then Harborough would drop in to breakfast; and while
Egerton was performing the duties of the toilette, Dunstable and Cholmondeley
were sure to make their appearance.
Perhaps Egerton would complain of headach.
"Don't talk of headach, my dear fellow," Lord
Dunstable exclaimed: "you were quite sober last night in comparison with
me. My losses were terrific! A thousand to Cholmondeley fifteen
hundred to Chichester and double as much to Harborough."
"It is very strange that I seldom win any
thing," observed Egerton on one of these occasions: "and yet we can't
all lose. Some one must be the gainer."
Every one has his turn, my dear boy," cried
Harborough. "But what shall we do to-day? Any thing going on at
"Nothing particular," was the reply, lazily
delivered. "Suppose we have some claret and cigars for an hour or two, and
then play a rub of billiards till dinner-time. Of course we all dine together
"Oh! of course," chimed in Lord Dunstable.
"What do you think the Duke of Highgate said of us all yesterday, Egerton?"
"I know not what he could have said of you,"
was the answer "but I am sure he could have said nothing of me for
he cannot be aware that there is such a person in existence."
"Nonsense, my dear fellow!" exclaimed
Dunstable: "you are as well known now in the fashionable world as any one
of us. Every body is speaking of you; and it will be your own fault if you do
not marry an heiress. We must introduce you at Almack's in due course. But I was
speaking about my friend the Duke. His Grace met me yesterday as I was on my way
to join you all at the Clarendon: and when I told him where I was going, he said
with a laugh, 'Ah! I call you the Inseparables! and away he
Egerton was profoundly gratified with the ab-[-356-]surd
flattery thus constantly poured in his ear; and as he really possessed a
handsome person, he saw no difficulty in carrying out the idea of marrying an
And this same belief has proved fatal to thousands and
thousands of young men placed in the same situation as Albert Egerton. They
pursue a career of reckless extravagance and dissipation, buoying themselves up
with the hope that when their present resources shall have passed away, it will
be the easiest thing possible to rebuild their fortunes by means of marriage.
A month slipped away, and Egerton found himself on
intimate terms with many "men about town" one of the
most popular members at Crockford's a great favourite in certain
titled but not over-particular families, where there were portionless daughters
to "get off," and at whose house Lord Dunstable enjoyed the entrιe and
the pride and delight (as he believed) of his four dear friends who had done so
much for him!
And sure enough they had done a great deal in his
behalf; for he had already sold out twenty thousand pounds, or one third of his
entire fortune; but he was purposely kept in such an incessant whirl of
excitement, pleasure, dissipation, and bustle, that he had no time for
One morning it was about eleven
o'clock the young man awoke with aching head and feverish pulse,
after the usual night's debauch; and it happened that none of his dear friends
had yet arrived.
Egerton rang the bell for some white wine and soda-water
to assuage the burning thirst which oppressed him; and when his livery-boy, or
"tiger," appeared with the refreshing beverage, the young rake learnt
that a lady was waiting, to see him in the drawing-room.
"A lady?" exclaimed Egerton: "who the
deuce can she be?"
"She is a stout, elderly lady, sir," said the
"And did she give no name?" inquired Egerton,
beginning to suspect who his visitor was.
"No, sir," was the answer. "I assured her
that you were not up yet, and that you never received any one at so early an
hour; but she declared that you would see her; and I was obliged to show
her into the drawing-room."
Ah! it must be my aunt, then!" muttered Egerton to
himself. "Bring me up some hot-water this minute, you young
rascal" fashionable upstarts always vent their annoyances
upon their servants; "and then go and tell the lady that I
will be with her in five minutes."
The tiger disappeared returned with the
hot-water and then departed once more, to execute the latter
portion of his master's orders.
Egerton felt truly wretched and ashamed of himself when
he surveyed his pale cheeks and haggard eyes in the glass, and thought of the
course which he had lately been pursuing. But then he remembered the flattery of
his fashionable friends, and soothed his remorseful feelings by the idea that he
was on intimate terms with all the "best men about town," was a member
of Crockford's, and had the entrιe of several families of distinction.
Moreover, when he was shaved and washed, oiled
and perfumed, and attired in a clean shirt, slack trousers, red
morocco slippers, and an elegant dressing-gown, his appearance was so much more
satisfactory to himself that he felt quite equal to the task of encountering his
He accordingly proceeded, with a smile upon his lips and
an easy unconstrained manner, to the drawing-room, where a respectable,
motherly-looking stout old lady was anxiously awaiting him.
"My dear Albert," she exclaimed, as he entered
the apartment, "what have you been doing with yourself this last month,
that you never come near us no, not even on Sundays, as you used
And, while she spoke, the good-natured woman made a
motion as if she were anxious to embrace her nephew; but he well
aware that it is improper to give way to one's feelings in the fashionable
world retreated a step or two, and graciously allowed his aunt to
shake the tip of his fore-finger.
"Lor, Albert, how strange you are!" exclaimed
the baffled relative. "But do tell me," she continued, quietly
resuming her seat, "what you have been doing with yourself. Why did
you leave your nice little lodging in Budge Row? why do you never come near us?
why have you moved up into this part of the town? and why didn't you ever write
to tell us where you was living? If it hadn't been for Storks, your
stock-broker, I shouldn't have known how to find you out; but he gave me your
"Storks!" murmured Egerton, turning very pale.
"Did he tell you any thing "
"Oh! yes," continued the aunt, speaking with
great volubility; "he told me that you had sold out a power of money; but
when he saw that I was annoyed, he assured me that it could only be for some
good purpose. And it is so, Albert dear isn't it?"
"Certainly to be sure, aunt Oh!
certainly," stammered the young man, as he glanced uneasily towards the
"Well, now I am glad of that,
Albert," said the old lady, apparently relieved of a serious misgiving.
"I said to your eldest cousin Susannah Rachel, says I, 'Albert is a good
young man quiet steady and firm in his
resolve to follow in the footsteps of his dear lamented father:' here
the aunt wiped her eyes; 'and,' says I, 'if he has sold
out fifteen or twenty thousand pounds, depend, upon it he has bought a nice snug
little estate, and he means to surprise us all by asking us to dine with him
some Sunday at his country-house.' Am I right, Albert dear?"
"Oh! quite right, aunt," exclaimed the young
man, overjoyed to find that his dissipated courses were unknown to his
relatives. "And that was the reason why I did not go near you nor
yet write to you. But have a little patience and, in a few weeks,
I promise you and my cousins a pleasant day "
"Well, well I don't want penetrate
into your little secrets, you know," interrupted the aunt. "But how
late you get up. Why, it is near twelve, I declare; and I rose this morning
"I was detained last evening "
"Ah! by your man of business, no doubt," cried
the voluble old lady. "Many papers to read over and sign contracts
to make leases to consider deeds to study Oh!
I understand it all; and I am delighted, Albert, to find you so prudent."
"It is quite necessary, my dear aunt," said
Egerton, in a hurried and nervous tone, for a thundering [-357-]
double-knock at that moment reverberated through the house. "But I am
afraid that is, I think some one is coming,
"Oh! never mind me, dear Al," observed the old
lady. "I shall just rest myself for half an hour or so, before I take the
omnibus back to the Pavement."
"Certainly, my dear aunt but "
The door opened; and Lord Dunstable entered the room.
"Ah! my dear Egerton!" he exclaimed, rushing
forward, with out-stretched hand, to greet his young friend: but, perceiving the
lady, who had risen from the sofa, he stopped short, and bowed to her with
distant politeness for it struck him at the moment that she might
be a washerwoman, or the mother of Egerton's servant, or a shirt-maker, or some
such kind of person.
"How d'ye do, sir!" said the aunt, in
acknowledgment. of the bow; and, resuming her seat, also observed, "I find
it very warm for the time of year. But then I was scrooged up in an omnibus for
near an hour all packed as close as herrings in a barrel; and
that's not pleasant is it, sir!"
"By no means, madam," answered Dunstable, in a
cold tone; while Egerton bit his lips at a loss what to do.
"Well it is not
pleasant," continued the garrulous lady. "And now, when I think of it,
I have a call to make in Aldgate to-day; and so, when I leave here, I shall take
a Whitechapel 'bus. Nasty place that Aldgate, sir?"
"Really, madam, I never heard of it until
now," said Lord Dunstable, with marvellous stiffness of manner.
"Never heard of Aldgate, sir?" literally
shouted the lady. "Why, you must be very green in London, then."
"I know no place east of Temple Bar, madam,"
was the cold reply. "I am aware that there are human habitations on
the other side; and I could perhaps find my way to the Bank but
nothing more, madam, I can assure you."
And he turned towards Egerton, who was pretending to
look out of the window.
"Well I never!" exclaimed the
lady, now eyeing the nobleman with sovereign contempt.
"My dear aunt," said Egerton, desperately
resolved to put an end if possible to this awkward scene; "allow me to
introduce my friend Lord Dunstable: Lord Dunstable Mrs.
"Oh! delighted at the honour!" cried the
nobleman, instantly conquering his surprise at this announcement of the
relationship existing between his young friend and the vulgar lady who
complained of having been "scrooged up in an omnibus:" "proud,
madam, to form your acquaintance!"
And his features instantly beamed with smiles a
relaxation from his former chilling manner, which appeared like a sudden
transition from the north pole to the tropics.
On her side, the aunt bad started up from the sofa,
quite electrified by the mention of the magic words "LORD
DUNSTABLE;" and there she stood, cruelly embarrassed, and bobbing up and
down in a rapid series of curtseys at every word which the nobleman addressed to
her. For this was the first time in her life that she had ever exchanged a
syllable with a Lord, unless it were with a Lord Mayor on one or two
occasions but that was only "cakes and gingerbread" in
comparison with the excitement of forming the acquaintance of a real Lord whose
title was not the temporary splendour of a single year.
"I really must apologise, my dear madam," said
the nobleman, now speaking in the most amiable manner possible, "for having
affected ere now not to know anything of the City. I cannot fancy how I could
have been so foolish. As for the Mansion House, it is the finest building in the
world; and Lombard Street is the very focus of attraction. With Aldgate I am
well acquainted, and a pleasant spot it is, too. The butchers' shops in the
neighbourhood must be quite healthy for consumptive people. Then you have
Whitechapel, madam; fine wide and
open: the Commercial Road delightful proof of the industry of this
great city;-and, best of all, there is the Albion in Aldersgate Street, where,
by the by, Egerton," he added, turning towards his friend," we will
all dine today, if you like."
"Oh! yes certainly," said
Egerton, smiling faintly.
But Dunstable was too good a judge to show that he even
perceived the honest vulgarity of his friend's aunt: he accordingly seated
himself near her upon the sofa, and rattled away, in the most amiable manner
possible, upon the delights of the City. He then listened with great apparent
interest to the long story which the old lady told him, how she
kept a haberdashery warehouse on the Pavement, and did a very tidy
business, how she had five daughters all "well-edicated gals
as could be, and which was Albert's own first cousins," how
her late husband had once been nearly an alderman and quite a sheriff, how
she and her deceased partner dined with the Lord Mayor "seven years ago
come next November," how she had been lately plundered of
three hundred pounds' worth of goods by a French Marchioness, who turned out to
be an English swindler, and how she strongly suspected that young
Tedworth Jones, the only son of the great tripe-man in Bishopsgate
Street-Without, was making up to her third daughter, Clarissa Jemima.
To all this, we say, Lord Dunstable listened with the
deepest interest; and, at the conclusion, he expressed a hope that if the
anticipated match did come off between Mr. Tedworth Jones and Miss Clarissa
Jemima Bustard, he should have the honour of receiving an invitation on the
Even Egerton himself was rendered more comfortable by
the distinguished politeness with which his aunt was treated; but he was not the
less delighted when she rose and took her departure.
As soon as the door was shut behind her, Dunstable
hastened to observe, "There goes an estimable woman I can
vouch for it! What would England's commerce be without such industrious,
plodding, intelligent persons as your aunt! Egerton, my boy, you ought to be
proud of her as I am of her acquaintance. But there is
Chichester's knock, I'll swear!"
In a few moments the gentleman alluded to made his
appearance; and the scene with the aunt was soon forgotten.
The day was passed in the usual profitless manner; and
the greater portion of the night following was spent in gaming and
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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