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[-403-]

CHAPTER CCLIII.

THE EX-MEMBER FOR ROTTENBOROUGH.

    It was now the middle of April, 1843.
    The morning was fine, and the streets were marked with the bustle of men of business, clerks, and others repairing to their respective offices, when Mr. George Montague Greenwood turned from Saint Paul's Churchyard into Cheapside.
    He was attired in a plain, and even somewhat shabby manner: there was not a particle of jewellery about him; and a keen eye might have discovered, In the tout ensemble of his appearance, that his toilette had been arranged with every endeavour to produce as good an effect as possible.
    Thus his neckcloth was tied with a precision seldom bestowed upon a faded piece of black silk: his shirt-cuffs were drawn down so as to place an interval of snowy white between the somewhat threadbare sleeve of the blue coat and the common grey glove of Berlin wool:  a black riband hung round his neck and was gathered at the ends in the right pocket of the soiled satin waistcoat, so as to leave the beholder in a state of uncertainty whether it were connected with a watch or only an eye-glass  or, in deed, with any thing at all;  and the Oxford-mixture trousers, rather white at the knees, were strapped tightly over a pair of well-blacked bluchers, a casual observer would certainly have taken for Wellingtons.
    In his hand he carried a neat black cane; and his gait was characterised by much of the self-sufficiency which had marked it in better days. It was, however, far removed from a swagger: Greenwood was too much of a gentleman in his habits to fall into the slightest manifestation of vulgarity.
    His beautiful black hair, curling and glossy, put to shame the brownish hue of the beaver hat which had evidently seen some service, and had lately been exposed to all the varieties of weather peculiar to this capricious climate. His face  eminently handsome, as we have before observed  was pale and rather thin.; but there was a haughty assurance in the proud curl of the upper up, and a fire in his large dark eyes, which showed that hope was not altogether a stranger to the breast of Mr. George Montague Greenwood.
    It was about a quarter past nine in the morning when this gentleman entered the great thoroughfare of Cheapside.
    Perhaps there is no street in all London which presents so many moral phases to the eyes of the acute beholder as this one, and at that hour; inasmuch as those eyes may single out, and almost read the pursuit of every individual forming an item in the dense crowd that is then rolling onward to the vicinity of the Bank of England.
    For of every ten persons, nine are proceeding in that direction.
    Reader, let us pause for a moment and examine the details of the scene to which we allude: for Greenwood has slackened his pace  his eye has caught sight of Bow clock  and be perceives that he is yet too early to commence the visits which he intends to make in certain quarters.
    And first, gentle reader, behold that young man with the loose taglioni and no undercoat: he has a devil-me-care kind of look about him, mingled with an air of seediness, as if he had been up the best [-404-] part of the night at a free-and-easy. He is smoking a cigar  at that hour of the morning! It is impossible to gaze at him for two seconds, without being convinced that he is an articled clerk to an attorney, and that he doesn't care so long as he reaches the office just five minutes before the "governor" arrives.
    But that old man, with a threadbare suit of black, and the red cotton handkerchief sticking so suspiciously out of his pocket, as if he had something wrapped up in it,  who is he? Mark how he shuffles along, dragging his heavy high-lows over the pavement at a pace too speedy for his attenuated frame: and see with what anxiety he looks up at the clock projecting out far over-head, to assure himself that he shall yet be at his office within two minutes of half-past nine  or else risk his place and the eighteen shillings a week which it brings him in, and on which he has to support a wife and large family. He is a copying clerk in a lawyer's office  there can be no doubt of it; and the poor man has his dinner wrapped up in his pocket-handkerchief!
    Do you observe that proud, pompous-looking stout man, with the large yellow cane in his hand, and the massive chain and seals hanging from his fob? He is a stockbroker who, having got up a bubble Railway Company, has enriched himself in a single day, after having struggled against difficulties for twenty years. But see  a fashionably-dressed gentleman, with a little too much jewellery about his person, and a rather too severe swagger in his gait, overtakes our stout friend, and passes his arm familiarly in his as he wishes him "good morning." There is no mistake about this individual: he is the Managing-Director of the stockbroker's Company, and was taken from a three-pair back in the New Cut to preside at the Board. Arcades ambo  a precious pair!
    Glance a moment at that great, stout, shabbily-dressed man, whose trousers are so tight that they certainly never could have been made for him, and whose watery boiled-kind of eyes, vacant look, and pale but bloated face, denotethe [-sic-] habitual gin-drinker. He rolls along with a staggering gait, as if the effects of the previous night's debauch had not been slept off, or as if he had already taken his first dram. He is on his way to the neighbourhood of the Bank, where he either loiters about on the steps of the Auction Mart, or at the door of Capel Court, or else proceeds to some public-house parlour "which he frequents." His business is to hawk bills about for discount; and, to hear him speak, one would believe that be could raise a million of money in no time  whereas he has most likely the pawn-ticket of his Sunday's coat in his pocket.
    And now mark that elderly, sedate, quiet-looking man, whose good black suit is well-brushed and his boots nicely polished. He compares his heavy gold watch with the clock of Bow church, and is quite delighted to see that his time is correct to a second. And now he continues his way, without looking to the right or the left: he knows every feature  every shop  every lamp-post of Cheapside and the Poultry too well to have any farther curiosity about those thoroughfares  for he has passed along that way every morning, Sundays excepted, during the last twenty years. Are you not prepared to make an affidavit that he is a superior clerk in the Bank of England?
    But we must abandon any farther scrutiny of the several members of the crowd in Cheapside  at least for the present; because it is now half-past nine o'clock, and Mr. Greenwood has reached Cornhill.
    Here he paused  and sighed,  sighed deeply. That sigh told a long and painful history,  of how he had lately been rich and prosperous  how he had lost all by grasping at more  how he was now reduced almost to the very verge of penury  and how he wondered whether he should ever be wealthy and great again!
    "Yes  yes: I will be!" he said to himself  speaking not with his lips, but with that silent though emphatic tongue which belongs to the soul "My good star cannot have deserted me for ever!  But this day must show!"
    Then, calling all his assurance to his aid, he turned into the office of a well-known merchant and capitalist on Cornhill.
    The clerks did not immediately recognise him; for the last time he had called there, it was at four in the afternoon and he had alighted from an elegant cab: whereas now it was half-past nine in the morning, and he had evidently come on foot. But when he demanded, in his usual authoritative tone, whether their master had arrived yet, they recollected him, and replied in the affirmative.
    Greenwood accordingly walked into the merchant's private office.
    "Ah! my dear sir," he said, extending his hand towards the merchant, "how do you find yourself? It is almost an age since we met."
    The merchant affected not to perceive the outstretched hand; nor did he return the bland smile with which Mr. Greenwood accosted him. But, just raising his eyes from the morning paper which lay before him, he said in a cold tone, "Oh! Mr. Greenwood, I believe? Pray, sir, what is your business?"
    The ex-member for Rottenborough took a chair uninvited, and proceeded to observe in a confidential kind of whisper,  "The fact is, my dear sir, I have conceived a magnificent project for making a few thousands into as many millions, I may say; and as on former occasions you and I have done some little business together  and I have put a few good things in your way  I thought I would give you the refusal of my new design."
    "I am really infinitely obliged to you, Mr. Greenwood  "
    "Oh! I knew you would be, my dear sir!" interrupted the ex-member. "The risk is nothing  the gains certain and enormous. You and I can keep it all to ourselves; and  "
    "You require me to advance the funds, I presume?" asked the merchant, eyeing his visitor askance.
    "Just so  a few thousands only-  to be repaid out of the first proceeds, of course," returned Green wood.
    "Then, sir, I beg to decline the speculation," said the merchant, drily.
    "Speculation! it is not a speculation, cried Greenwood "it is a certainty."
    "Nevertheless, sir, I must decline it; and as my time is very much occupied  "
    "Oh! I shall not intrude upon you any longer" interrupted Greenwood, indignantly; and he strode out of the office.
    "The impertinent scoundrel!" he muttered to [-405-] himself, when he had gained the street. "After all the good things I have placed in his way, to treat me in this manner. But, never mind  let me once grow rich again and I will humble him at my feet!"
    In spite of this attempt at self-consolation, Greenwood was deeply mortified with the reception which he had experienced at the merchant's office: his anger had, however, cooled and his spirits revived by the time he reached Birchin Lane, where dwelt another of his City acquaintances.
    This individual was a capitalist who had once a been saved from serious embarrassment, if not from total ruin, by a timely advance of funds made to him by Greenwood; and though the capitalist had paid enormous interest for the accommodation, he had nevertheless always exhibited the most profound gratitude towards the ex-member for Rottenborough
    It was, therefore, with great confidence that Greenwood entered the private office of the capitalist.
    "Ah! my dear fellow," cried the latter, apparently overjoyed to see his visitor, "how have you been lately? Why  it is really an age since I have seen you! Pray sit down  and now say what I can do for you."
    Greenwood addressed him in terms similar to those which he had used with the merchant a few minutes previously.
    "And so you actually have a scheme that will malts millions, my dear Greenwood?" said the capitalist, his entire countenance beaming with smiles.
    "Just as I tell you," answered the ex-member.
    "And you have considered it in all its bearings?"
    "In every shape and way. Success is certain."
    "Oh! what a lucky dog you are," cried the capitalist, playfully thrusting his fingers into Greenwood's ribs.
    "Well  I can't say that I am lucky," observed the hatter, in a measured tone. "I have had losses lately  serious losses: but you know that I am not the man to be long in remedying them."
    "Far from it, my boy!" exclaimed the capitalist. "You will make an enormous fortune before you die  I am sure you will. And this new scheme of yours,  although you have only hinted darkly at it,  must succeed  I am convinced it must."
    "Then you are prepared to join me in the project?" said Greenwood.
    "Nothing would give me greater pleasure, my dear friend," ejaculated the capitalist: "but it is impossible."
    "Impossible! How can that be, since you think so well of any thing which I may devise?" asked Greenwood.
    "God bless your soul!" cried the other; "money is money now-a-days. For my part I can't think where the devil it all gets to! One hears of it  reads of it  but never sees it! In fact," he added, sinking his voice to a mysterious whisper, "I do believe that there is no such thing now as money in the whole City."
    "Ridiculous!" exclaimed Greenwood. "Complaints from you are absurd  because every one knows that you have made an enormous fortune since that time when I was so happy to save you from bankruptcy."
    Yes  yes," said the capitalist: "I remember that incident  I have never forgot it  I always told you I never should."
    "Then, in plain terms," continued Greenwood, "do me the service of advancing two or three thousand pounds to set my new project in motion."
    "Impossible, Greenwood  impossible!" cried the capitalist, buttoning up his breeches-pockets. "Things are in such a state that I would not venture a penny upon the most feasible speculation in the world."
    "Perhaps you will lend me a sum  "
    "Lend! Ah! ha! Now, really, Greenwood, this is too good! Lend, indeed! What-when we are all in the borrowing line in the City!"  and the capitalist chuckled, as if he had uttered a splendid joke.
    "In one word, then," said Greenwood, relishing this mirth as little as a person in his situation was likely to do; "will you assist my temporary wants  even if you do not choose to enter into my speculation? You know that I am proud, and that it must pain me thus to speak to you: but I declare most solemnly that fifty pounds at this moment would be of the greatest service to me."
    "Nothing gives me more pain than to refuse a friend like you," answered the capitalist: "but, positively, I could not part with a shilling to-day to save my own brother from a gaol."
    Greenwood rose, put on his hat, and left the office without uttering another word.
    He felt that he was righteously punished  for he had, in his time, often treated men in the same manner,  professing ardent friendship, and yet refusing the smallest pecuniary favour!
    Having walked about for nearly half an hour, to calm the feelings which the conduct of the capitalist had so painfully excited, Greenwood repaired to the office of a great bill-discounter and speculator in Broad Street. This individual had been a constant visitor at Greenwood's house in Spring Gardens  had joined him in many of his most profitable speculations  and had gained considerable sums thereby. He was, moreover, of a very enterprising character, and always ready to risk money with the hope of large returns.
    Greenwood entered the clerks' office; and, glancing towards the private one at the lower extremity, he caught sight of the speculator's countenance peering over the blinds of the glass-door which opened between the two rooms.
    The face was instantly withdrawn; and Greenwood, who of course affected not to have observed its appearance at the window, inquired whether the speculator was within.
    "Really I can't say, sir," drawled a clerk, who was mending a pen: then, without desisting from his operation, he said, " I'll see, sir, in a moment."
    "Be so kind as to see this moment," exclaimed Greenwood, angrily, "I suppose you know who I am?"
    "Oh! yes  sir  certainly, sir," returned the clerk; and, having duly nibbed the pen, he dismounted very leisurely from his stool  paused to arrange a piece of blotting-paper on the desk in a very precise manner indeed  brushed the splinters of the quill from his trousers  and then dragged himself in a lazy fashion towards the private office.
    Greenwood bit his quivering lip with rage.
    "Two years ago," he thought to himself. "I should not have been treated thus!"
    [-406-] Meantime the clerk entered the inner office, and carefully closed the door behind him.
    Greenwood could hear the murmuring sounds of two voices within.
    At length the clerk reappeared, and said in a careless tone, "The governor isn't in, Mr. Greenwood: I thought he was  but he isn't  and, what's more, I don't know when he will be. You'd better look in again, if it's particular; but I know the governor's uncommon busy to-day."
    "I shall not trouble you nor your governor any more," returned Greenwood, his heart ready to break at the cool, deliberate insult thus put upon him, "You think me a fallen man  and you dare to treat me thus. But  "
    "Why, as for that," interrupted the clerk, with impertinent emphasis, "every one knows you're broke and done up  and my governor doesn't want shabby insolvents hanging about his premises."
    Greenwood's countenance became scarlet as these bitter taunts met his ears; and for a moment he felt inclined to rush upon the insolent clerk and punish him severely with his cane.
    But, being naturally of a cool and cautious disposition, he perceived with a second thought that he might only become involved in a dilemma from which he had no means to extricate himself: so, conquering his passion, he rushed out of the office. He could now no longer remain blind to the cruel conviction that the extremities of his position were well known in the City, and that the hopes with which he had sallied forth three hours previously were mere delusive visions.
    Still he was resolved to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour to retrieve his ruined fortunes; but feeling sick at heart and the prey to a deep depression of spirits, he plunged hastily into a public-house to take some refreshment.
    And now behold the once splendid and fastidious Greenwood,  the man who had purchased the votes of a constituency, and had even created a sensation within the walls of Parliament,  the individual who had discounted bills of large amount for some of the greatest peers of England, and whose luxurious mode of living had once been the envy and wonder of the fashionable world,  behold the ex-member for Rottenborough partaking of a pint of porter and a crust of bread and cheese in the dingy parlour of a public-house!
    There was a painful knitting of the brows, and there was a nervous quivering of the lip, which denoted the acute emotions to which he was a prey, as he partook of his humble fare; and once  once, two large tears trickled down his cheeks, and moistened the bread that he was conveying to his mouth.
    For he thought of the times when money was as dirt in his estimation,  when he rode in splendid vehicles, sate down to sumptuous repasts, was ministered unto by a host of servants in gorgeous liveries, and revelled in the arms of the loveliest women of the metropolis.
    Oh! he thought of all this: he recalled to mind the well-filled wardrobes he had once possessed, and glanced at his present faded attire;  he shook up the remains of the muddy beer at the bottom of the pewter-pot, and remembered the gold he had lavished on champagne: his eyes lingered upon the crumbs of the bread and the rind of the cheese left on the plate, and his imagination became busy with. the reminiscences of the turtle and venison that had once smoked upon his board.
    But worse  oh! far worse than this was the dread conviction that all his lavish expenditure  all his ostentatious display  all his princely feasts, had failed to secure him a single friend!
    No wonder, then, that the bitter  bitter tears started from his eyes; and, though he immediately checked that first ebullition of heart-felt anguish yet the effort only caused the storm of emotions to rage the more painfully within his breast.
    For, in imagination, he cast his eyes towards a mansion a few miles distant; and there he beheld one whose condition formed a striking contrast with his own  one who had suddenly burst from obscurity and created for himself as proud a name as might be found in Christendom,  a young man whose indomitable energies and honourable aspirations had enabled him to head armies to conquest,  and who had taken his place amongst the greatest Princes in the universe!
    The comparison which Greenwood drew  despite of himself  between the elevated position of Richard Markham and his own fallen, ruined lot, produced feelings of so painful  so exquisitely agonising a nature, that he could endure them no longer. He felt that they were goading him to madness  the more so because he was alone in that dingy parlour at the time, and was therefore the least likely to struggle against them successfully.
    Hastily quitting the-public-house, he rushed into the street, where the fresh air-seemed to do him good.
    And then he asked himself whether he should risk farther insult by calling upon other wealthy men with whom he had once been on intimate terms? For a few moments he was inclined to abandon the idea: but a little calm reflection told him not to despair.
    Moreover, he had a reason  a powerful motive for exerting all his energies to repair the past, so far as his worldly fortunes were concerned; and though the idea was almost insane, he hoped  if he had but a chance  to make such good use of the coming few weeks as would reinstate him in the possession of enormous wealth.
    But, alas! It seemed as if no one would listen to the scheme which he felt convinced was calculated to return millions for the risk of a few thousands!
    "Oh! I must retrieve myself  I must make a fortune!" he thought, as he hurried towards Moorgate Street. "One lucky stroke  and four-and-twenty hours shall see me rich again!"
    This idea brought a smile to his lips; and, relaxing his pace, he composed his countenance as well as he could ere he entered the office of a wealthy stockbroker in Moorgate Street.
    The stockbroker was lounging over the clerks' desk, conversing with a merchant whom Greenwood also knew; and the moment the ex-member for Rottenborough entered, the two City gentlemen treated him to a long, impertinent, and contemptuous stare.
    "Ah!" said Greenwood, affecting a pleasant smile, which, God knows! did not come from the heart; "you do not appear to recollect me! Am I so very much changed as all that?"
    "Well  it is Greenwood, pos-i-tive-ly!" drawled the stockbroker, turning towards his friend the [-407-] merchant in a manner that was equivalent to saying, "I wonder at his impudence in coming here."
    "Yes  it is Greenwood," observed the merchant, putting his glasses up to his eyes: "or rather the shadow of Greenwood, I should take it to be."
    "Ah! ha! ha!" chuckled the stockbroker.
    "You are disposed to be facetious, gentlemen," said the object of this intended witticism but really galling insult: "I presume that my long absence from the usual City haunts  "
    "I can assure you, Greenwood," interrupted the stockbroker, "that the City has got on uncommonly well without you. The Bank hasn't stopped payment  bills are easy of discount  money is plentiful  "
    "And yet," said Greenwood, determined to receive all this sarcasm as quietly as a poor devil ought to do when about to make a proposal requiring an advance of funds,  "and yet a certain capitalist  a very intimate friend of mine, in Birching Lane-assured me just now that money was very scarce."
    "Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the stockbroker.
    "He! he! he!" chuckled the merchant.
    "Why, the fact is, Greenwood," continued the broker, "your very intimate friend the capitalist was here only a quarter of an hour ago; and he delighted us hugely by telling us how you called upon him this morning with a scheme that would make millions, and ended by wanting to borrow fifty pounds of him."
    "He! he! he!" again chuckled the merchant.
    "Ha! ha! ha!" once more laughed the stockbroker; and, taking his friend's arm, he led him into his private office, the two continuing to laugh and chuckle until the door closed behind them.
    Greenwood now became aware of the gratifying fact that every clerk in the counting-house was laughing also; and he rushed out into the street, a prey to feelings of the most agonising nature.
    But the ignominy of that day was not yet complete in respect to him.
    As he darted away from the door of the insolent stockbroker's office, he came in collision with two gentlemen who were walking arm-in-arm towards the Bank.
    " 'Pon my honour, my good fellow  " began one, rubbing his arm which had been hurt by the encounter.
    "Greenwood!" cried the second, stepping back in surprise.
    The ex-member for Rottenborough raised his eyes at the sounds of those well-known voices, and beheld Mr. Chichester, with his inseparable friend the baronet, both eyeing him in the most insulting manner.
    "Ah! Greenwood, my dear fellow," exclaimed Sir Rupert; "I am really quite delighted to see you. How get on the free and independent electors of Rottenborough? Egad, though  you are not quite the pink of fashion that you used to be  when you did me the honour of making my wife your mistress?"
    "Greenwood and Berlin-wool gloves  impossible!" cried Chichester. "Such a companionship is quite unnatural!"
    "And an old coat brushed up to look like a new one," added the baronet, laughing heartily.
    "And bluchers  "
    Greenwood stayed to hear no more. he broke from the hold which the two friends had laid upon him, and darted down an alley into Coleman Street.

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