chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT' S LEVEE.
"You have doubtless called, my dear
Cecilia," said Mr. Greenwood, as he handed the fair visitant to a seat in
his elegant drawing-room, - "you have doubtless called to remonstrate with
me respecting my note of this evening."
"No," answered Cecilia coldly: " I come on a
more momentous affair than that: Sir Rupert knows all!"
"Ah!" cried Greenwood; "is it possible that
the villain Chichester "
"Has betrayed us," added the lady. "Moreover, Sir
Rupert and his inseparable friend have been watching and dogging all our
movements for months past."
"This is awkward - very awkward," observed Greenwood.
"However, Sir Rupert will not dare show his teeth against me, nor venture
to give publicity to the affair."
"Because you hold his bill, with a forged acceptance,
for one thousand pounds," said Lady Cecilia.
"Ah! he has told you that much - has he?" exclaimed
Greenwood. "Well - you perceive, my dearest Cecilia, that he is completely in
"The most remarkable part of the entire business,"
observed the lady, " is that I am actually deputed
Sir Rupert to negotiate the amicable settlement of the affair with you."
"Indeed!" cried Greenwood. " He could not have
chosen a more charming plenipotentiary. "
"His proposal is this :- you are
to give up the acceptance,
and he will sign any paper you choose to
guarantee you against legal proceedings on his part."
"I do not see, fair ambassadress," said Greenwood, who did not treat
the business with so much serious attention as Lady Cecilia had anticipated -
" I do not see that I should benefit myself by such an arrangement. So long
as the bill remains in my possession, it is impossible for Sir Rupert
Harborough to commence civil proceedings against me, because he knows full
well that were he to have process issued against me, I should that moment hand
him over to the officers of justice."
"Then, for my sake, Mr. Greenwood," said Lady Cecilia,
cruelly hurt by this cold calculation on the part of a man the slave of whose
passions she had so completely been,- "for my sake, compromise this affair
"A thousand pounds is a large sum to fling into the street, my dear
Cecilia," observed Greenwood.
"And suppose that, by some accident my husband should raise that
amount and pay the bill "
"It never was my intention to allow him to pay all," interrupted
Greenwood. "I imagined that by threatening him, I should obtain five or six
hundred on account, and I should still hold the bill for the balance. That
balance I would not receive, were he to offer it, because by retaining the bill,
I keep him in my power."
"Then, once again, for my sake - for my sake," repeated Lady Cecilia,
"consent to the proposal made to you this evening - settle the affair in an
"To oblige you, my dear Cecilia, I will assent to Sir Rupert
Harborough's proposal. Let him draw up and sign a document in which he
acknowledges that he has discovered the - the "
"Criminal conversation between his wife and Mr. George Greenwood," said
Cecilia: "we will not mince words in a negotiation of this kind," she added, ironically.
"Precisely," exclaimed Greenwood, coolly; "and that he has
satisfaction for the same. In this manner the business can be disposed of to the satisfaction of all parties."
"To-morrow morning at eleven o'clock I will call with
the paper," said
"And I will give you up the forged bill," returned the Member of
Parliament. "And now, my dear Cecilia, allow me to make an observation
relative to the answer I sent you this evening to your little note. The truth
is, that representing as I do an enlightened and independent constituency "
"Pardon me," said Lady Cecilia, rising, " we will not talk of any other
business until this most painful affair be settled."
The fair patrician lady then took her leave, and returned to her husband,
who awaited Greenwood's decision in a state of the most painful suspense.
Cecilia communicated to him the particulars of the interview; and, ere he
retired to rest, the baronet drew up the document which was to save himself by the compromise of his honour.
"So far, so good," said Sir Rupert. as he handed the paper to his wife.
"I have now a proposal to make to you, Cecilia - and I have little doubt
that you will accept it."
"Proceed," said Cecilia.
"After the explanation which has taken place between us
this evening, it is impossible that we can ever entertain much respect for each
other again. You know me to be a forger - I know you to be unfaithful to my bed. If
it suits you, we will agree to live together beneath the same roof as hitherto -
to have our separate apartments - to maintain an appearance of enjoying domestic
tranquillity - and
each to follow his own pursuits without leave or remonstrance on the part of the
other. You will never interfere with me - I will never interfere with you. If you
hear that I have a mistress, you will take no otice of it: if I know that you
have a lover, I shall be equally blind and dumb. Does this please you?"
"Perfectly," answered Lady Cecilia. "Shall we commit this compact to
"Oh! with much pleasure," returned Sir Rupert. "I will draw up two
agreements, embodying the conditions of our compact, immediately. You can retain
one; and I will keep the other."
The baronet set to work, and, in a most business-like manner, wrote out the
compact. He then read it to Lady Cecilia, who signified her approval of its
terms. A counterpart was written; and the u husband and wife signed the papers
that released them from all the moral obligations of their marriage-vows!
They then retired to their separate apartments, better pleased with each
other, perhaps than they had been for a long-long time.
The reader need scarcely be informed that Lady u Cecilia said nothing to her
husband relative to the mysterious letter containing the Bank note for a
On the following morning Lady Cecilia repaired to the abode of Mr. Greenwood.
When she arrived in Spring Gardens, she found the street completely blocked
up with a train of charity children-boys and girls, marshalled by the parish
beadle, and accompanied by the schoolmaster and school-mistress. The girls were
attired in their light blue dresses, plain straw bonnets, white collars, and
pepper-and-salt coloured cloaks; and their arms, red with the cold, were only
half covered with their coarse mittens. The boys wore their muffin caps, short
coats, and knee-breeches; and each was embellished with a large tin plate, or
species of medal, affixed like a badge of honour, to the breast. Their meagre
countenances, their thin arms, and lanky legs, did not speak much in favour of
the quantity of food which constituted their diurnal meals.
Lady Cecilia was conducted to the drawing-room by the Italian valet, who
informed her that Mr. Greenwood would wait upon her the moment he had
dismissed the charity children.
Lafleur, in the mean time threw open the door of the mansion,
and admitted the procession into the spacious hall, after having kept the poor
creatures shivering in the cold for nearly a quarter of an hour. The beadle took
his station upon the steps, with awful dignity, and watched the boys and girls as
they defiled past him in
military order into the hall. It was very evident from the timid glances which
the little scholars cast towards the countenance of this functionary, that
they believed him to be one of the most important personages on the face of the
earth; and perhaps they were even perplexed to decide, in their own minds,
whether the parish beadle whom they saw before them, or Mr. Greenwood, M. P.,
whom they were about to see, was the greater man of the two.
At length the procession had entirely cleared the threshold of the mansion, and then only
did the [-295-] beadle enter. He doffed his enormous cocked
hat out of
respect to the owner of the dwelling in which he now found himself, and made his long staff
ring upon the
marble pavement of the hall with a din that electrified the children and called looks of
importance to the countenances of the schoolmaster and mistress.
In a few moments a aide door opened, and Mr. Greenwood
The beadle struck his stick upon the hall floor once more;
and the children, duly tutored to obey the signal, saluted the great man, the
girls with low curtseys, and the boys by doffing their muffin caps, bobbing
their heads forward, and kicking back their left legs.
"Well, Mr. Muffles," said the Member of Parliament to the
beadle, with one of his usual affable smiles; "brought your little family -
"These children, sir," responded Muffles in a
self-sufficient and important tone, glancing at the same time in a patronising
manner upon the groups of juveniles around - "these children,-sir, has come,
in dooty bounden, to hoffer up the hincense of their most gratefullest thanks
to you, sir, as their kind paytron which supplied 'em with pea-soup, blankets,
and religious tracts, to keep their bodies and souls both warm and
comfortable, as one may say."
"I am delighted, Mr. Muffles," replied the Member of
Parliament, in a most condescending manner, " to receive this little mark
of gratitude on the part of those for whom I entertain a deep interest, and I
am the more pleased because this visit on their part was quite spontaneous, and
on mine totally unlooked for."
Mr. Greenwood did not think it necessary to state his
knowledge that the whole affair had been got up by Lafleur, in obedience to his
"Representing as I do," continued Mr. Greenwood, " an
enlightened, independent, and important constituency, I cannot do otherwise
than feel interested in the welfare of the rising generation; and when I
glance upon the happy countenances of these dear children, I thank God for
having given me the means to contribute my mite towards the maintenance of the
schools of the parish wherein I have the honour to reside."
Mr. Muffles' stick was here rapped upon the floor with
tremendous violence ; and the boys and girls immediately burst forth into shrill
cries of "Hear! hear!"
When silence was once more restored, the beadle in due form
presented the schoolmaster and school-mistress to Mr. Greenwood.
"This gen'leman, sir," said the parish functionary, "is Mr.
Twiggs, the parochial perceptor - as worthy a man, sir, as ever broke bread. He's
bin in his present sitivation thirteen year come Janivary "
"Febivary, Mr. Muffles," said the schoolmaster, mildly
correcting the beadle.
"Oh! Febivary, be it, Mr. Twiggs?" exclaimed
the parish authority. "And this, sir, is Mrs. Twiggs, a lady well known for
her excellent qualities in teaching them blessed young gals, and taking care o'
"Delighted to see your scholars looking so well, Mr.
Twiggs," said Greenwood, bowing to the master: "quite charmed, Mrs. Twiggs, to behold
the healthy and neat appearance of your girls," he added,
bowing to the mistress.
"Would you be kind enough, sir," said Mr. Twiggs. in a
meek and fawning tone, "to question any of them lads on any pint of edication?'"
"Perhaps I might as well, Mr. Twiggs," returned Greenwood; "in case I should ever have to allude to the
subject in the House of Commons."
The mere idea of any mention of the parochial school being
made in Parliament, produced such an impression upon the beadle that he banged
his staff most earnestly on the hall floor; and the children, taking it for a
signal which they had been previously tutored to observe, again yelled forth
"Silence!" thundered Mr. Muffles; and the vociferations
"Now, my boy," said Mr. Greenwood, addressing the one who
stood nearest to him, "I will ask you a question or two. What is your name?"
"Jem Blister, sir," was the prompt reply.
"James Blister-eh? Well - who gave you that name?"
"Father and mother, please, sir."
"Blister, for shame!" ejaculated Mr. Twiggs with a terrific frown: then, by way of prompting the lad, he
said, "My Godfathers and "
"My Godfathers and Godmother in my baptism," hastily
cried the boy, catching at the hint; and after a pause, he added, "I mean
an outward and wisible sign of an inward "
"Blister, I am raly ashamed of you!" again exclaimed Mr.
Twiggs. "Stand back, sir; and let the boy behind you stand for'ard."
Another urchin stepped forth from the rank, and stood,
blushing up to his very hair, and fumbling about with his cap, in the presence
of Mr. Greenwood.
"My good boy," said the Member of Parliament,
condescendingly patting him upon the head, "what is your name?"
"M. or N. as the case may be, please, sir," replied the
"I should observe, sir," said the schoolmaster,
lad only began his Catechism yesterday."
"Oh very well, Mr. Twiggs," exclaimed Greenwood:
"that accounts for his answer! I will ask him something else, then. My
good lad, who was Adam?"
"The fust man, sir."
"Very good, my boy. And who was Eve?"
fust 'ooman, sir."
good indeed," repeated Mr Greenwood. "Now tell me what is the capital of England?"
"This boy is not in geography, sir," said Mr. Twiggs.
" He a jest begun cyphering."
"Oh very good. Can you say your multiplication table, my boy?"
"Twice one's two; twice two's three; twice three's
eight; twice four's ten; twice five's fourteen "
The boy was rattling on at a furious pace, when the ominous
voice of Mr. Twiggs ejaculated, "Garlick, I am ashamed of you!"
And Master Garlick began to cry most piteously.
is not so bad, though," said Mr. Greenwood, by way of soothing the
schoolmaster and restoring the abashed beadle to confidence; "he evidently
knows his Bible very well - and that is the essential."
The Member of Parliament then delivered himself of a long
harangue in favour of a sound religious education and in praise of virtue; and
thus ended the solemn farce.
The great man bowed and withdrew: the beadle rapped his
staff upon the floor; Lafleur opened the door; and the procession filed slowly
out of the mansion.
Mr. Greenwood, having thus gone through a ceremony an account
of which was to appear in the papers [-296-] on the following morning, hurried up to the drawing-room
where Lady Cecilia awaited him.
"My dear Cecilia," he exclaimed, as he entered the room,
"a thousand pardons for keeping you; but the fact is that the position in
which an intelligent and independent constituency has placed me, entails upon me
"A truce to that absurdity with me," interrupted the
baronet's wife, in a more peremptory tone than Mr. Greenwood had ever yet heard
her use. "I am come according to appointment to settle a most unpleasant
business. Here is my husband's acknowledgment, drawn up as you desired: please to deliver up to me
Mr. Greenwood ran his eye over the document, and appeared
He then drew forth the bill from his pocket-book, and handed it to Lady Cecilia.
There was a flush upon the lady's delicately pale
and her eyes sparkled with unusual vivacity. She was dressed in a very neat, but plain
simple manner; and Mr. Greenwood fancied that she had never seemed so interesting before.
As he delivered the bill into her keeping he took her hand
and endeavoured to convey it to his lips.
She drew back with an air of offended dignity, which would
have well become a lady that had never surrendered herself to the pleasures of
an illicit love.
"No, Mr. Greenwood," she said, in a firm, and even
haughty tone: "all that is ended between you and me. You are a heartless
man, who cannot appreciate the warmth with which a confiding woman yields
herself up to you ;- you have treated me - the daughter of a peer - like a pensioned mistress. But I let that
now pass :- I have made you acquainted with the nature of my thoughts - and I am satisfied."
"I am at a loss to understand how I should have deserved
these harsh words, Cecilia," replied Greenwood, with a somewhat supercilious
smile; "but perhaps my inability to supply you with the means of gratifying
your extravagances has given you offence."
"Your cool indifference of late has indeed given me a
bitter lesson," said Lady Cecilia.
"And yet I manifested every disposition to serve you, madam," rejoined
Greenwood haughtily, "when I consented to compromise your husband's felony."
"Yes - you generously abandoned your claim to a thousand pounds," exclaimed
Cecilia, with cutting irony, "in order to hush up an intrigue with the wife
of the man whom you had inveigled into your net. But think not, Mr Greenwood,
that I attempt to justify my husband's conduct: I know him to be a heartless - a
bad - an unprincipled man; and yet Mr. Greenwood, I do not conceive that you would
shine the more resplendently by being placed in contrast with him. One word
more. Had you refused to deliver up that bill, I was prepared to pay it. Some
unknown friend had heard of this transaction - heaven alone knows how; and that friend
evening the means wherewith to liquidate this debt. Here is the letter which
contained a Bank note for a thousand pounds: it fell into my hands, and my
husband knows naught concerning it; can you say whose writing that is?"
Greenwood glanced hastily at the letter, and exclaimed,
"Yes - I know that writing well Mrs Arlington is your husband's generous
"Mrs. Arlington!" exclaimed Cecilia: "Oh! -
now I recollect that rumour points to that woman as having
once been my husband's mistress."
"The same," said Greenwood, struck by this noble act on
the part of the fair one whom be himself had first seduced from the paths of
would now be difficult to decide," observed Cecilia, in a tone of profound contempt. "which
the more noble part - the late mistress of his Rupert Harborough, or the late
lover of his wife."
Greenwood only answered with a satirical curl of the lip.
Lady Cecilia rose from her seat, bowed coldly to the
capitalist, and withdrew.
Thus terminated the amours of the man of the world and the
lady of fashion - ending, as such illicit loves usually do, in a quarrel.
But the reader must not suppose that the same sentiments of
pride which had thus induced Lady Cecilia to break off abruptly a connexion
which her paramour had been for some time dissolving by degrees, influenced her
in the use to which she appropriated the handsome sum supplied for an especial
purpose by Mrs. Arlington. The lady knew no compunction in this respect, and she
therefore devoted the thousand pounds so generously forwarded by her husband's
late mistress, to her own wants!
* * * * * * *
The Italian valet had overheard the entire conversation
between Lady Cecilia Harborough and Mr. Greenwood, which we have just described.
In the course of the day the whole details of that interview
were communicated to Mrs. Arlington, who thus learnt that Lady Cecilia had
intercepted the money intended for Sir Rupert Harborough and had settled the
forged bill without being compelled to disburse it.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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