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LONDON [Vol. II]
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EX-MEMBER FOR ROTTENBOROUGH.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"Ah! my dear sir," he said, extending his hand
towards the merchant, "how do you find yourself? It is almost an age since
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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