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[-374-] HOUR THE TWENTY-FOURTH AND LAST-THREE A.M.- A BAL MASQUE, AND THE NIGHT CHARGES AT BOW STREET.
When the bad Lord Lyttelton lay on his last
bed - thorn-strewn by conscience - and haunted by the awful prediction of the phantom
which appeared to him in the semblance of a white dove, telling
him that at a certain hour on a certain night he should die, some
friends who had a modicum of human feeling, and wished that
wicked lord well, thinking that his agony was caused by mere terror
of an impending event - half nervous, half superstitious - advanced
the hands of the clock One Hour, and when the fatal one, as it
seemed, struck, his Lordship started up in bed, apparently much relieved,
and cried out joyfully that he had "jockeyed the ghost." But when
the real time arrived, and the real hour was stricken on the bell, the
prediction of the white dove was verified, and the bad Lord Lyttelton,
shrieking, gave up the ghost.
Moral : there is not the slightest use in playing tricks with the clock. Were it otherwise, and were I not deterred by this awful warning in the case of Lord Lyttelton, I would entreat some kindly friend to stand on tiptoe, and just push the hour-hand of this clock of mine back, were it but for one poor stunde of sixty minutes. But in vain. As well ask Mr. Calcraft to postpone his quarter-to-eight visit with a new rope, when the law has consigned you to the tender mercies of that eminent functionary. As well may Crown Prince Frederick entreat the Governor of Custrin to defer the execution of wretched Lieutenant Katte, "till he can write to the king." As well may the unfortunate little Pants, hopelessly embroiled for the fifth time this morning with his Greek Delectus, implore the terrible Doctor Budd to spare him the rod this once. As well might I write to the Postmaster-General to say that it will not be convenient for me to deposit the last batch of newspapers in the window till half-past six p.m.; or beg the London and North-Western Railway Company to delay the departure of the Manchester night express till I have finished my wine and walnuts at the Victoria Hotel, Euston Square. The fiat has gone [-375-] forth. Missa est. Judgment is over, and execution is come; and I may say, with Lord Grizzle in "Tom Thumb: "
"My bodye is a bankrupt's shop,
My grim creditor is death,"
who, like a stern sergeant, lays his hand on my collar, and bids me follow him to jail in the king's name. I wish I were Punch, for he not only "jockeyed the ghost, but the hangman, and the beadle, and Mr. Shallabalah, and his wife, and the very deuce himself. I wish I were in a land where time is indeed made for slaves, or where there are no clocks to cast honest men off their hobbies.
"I wish I were a geese,
For they lives and dies in peace,
And accumulates much grease,
But I am not a Punch nor a "geese," to endorse the touching transatlantic locution, however much I may merit the singular application of the name. I am only your humble servant to command, and this is the last hour of "Twice Round the Clock," so I must e'en essay to make a good end of it.
We have not been so badly off for public amusements during our journeyings. We have been to the opera, to the theatre, a dancing-academy, and to hear an oratorio. We have supped at Evans's, and "assisted" at a late debate in the House of Commons; yet I acknowledge, mournfully, that scores of places of recreation exist in London to which I could have taken you, and where we might have enjoyed ourselves very rationally and harmlessly. I should have liked to induct you to the mysteries of Canterbury Hall, the Polytechnic, Christy's Minstrels, and Madame Tussaud's waxwork show. For I hold to this creed, sternly and strongly, that public amusements - indoor and outdoor amusements - are eminently conducive to public morals, and to the liberty and happiness of the people. Music, dancing, and dramatic representations, free from grossness and turbulence, are as healthful and innocent recreations as Temperance Halls, lectures on the comet's tail, or monster meetings dedicated to the deification of the odium theologicum. From my little parlour window at Brighton, I can see a huge yellow placard disfiguring a dead wall with this inscription:- "Protestants attend the Great Meeting to-night !" Bother the Protestants, (on platforms) I say, and the Pope of Rome too. What [-376-] have we done that we are to be perpetually set together by the ears by belligerent Protestants and rampant Romanists? Is the whole frame-work of society to be shaken by controversies about the cardinal's red stockings or the rector's shovel hat? They had best both be swept into the dust-hole, I think, as having no more to do with religion than my poodle, Buffo, has with the Gunpowder Plot. Will all these roaring meetings - Protestants and Romanist, or Mumbo-Jumboical -where blatant stump-orators, paid for their theology by the night, rant, and stamp, and cook up those eternal Smithfield fires, help the sacred cause of Christianity one iota? It is long since Sheridan expressed a hope that there might be no more "scandal about Queen Elizabeth," and now, I see, they can't let that poor old woman rest in her grave. Some zealous people want to get up a sort of rider to "Guy Fawkes's Day," to commemorate the tri-centenary of her accession. You stupid firebrands! Of course "the Reformation was a blessing;" but do you know what will be the result of this raking up of the Elizabethan scandal? Do you know that there are such books as "Cobbett's Legacy to Parsons," and "Lingard's History," besides "Foxe's Martyrs," and a "Thunderbolt for Rome ?" Do you know that it may be proved just six of one and half-a-dozen of the other about Queen Bess? that while to some she is the Great Protestant Sovereign, the Egeria of the Reformation, the Heroine of Tilbury Fort, to others she is a vain, cruel, arrogant old beldame, no better than she should be? who butchered Mary Stuart, and had Leicester poisoned ; and who for every Protestant her gloomy sister burned, had at least two Papists hanged, drawn, and quartered, with the pleasant addition of their entrails being torn out and consumed before their eyes! Eh! laissons la these horrible reminiscences, and thank heaven that we live under the sway of good Victoria, not that of ruthless Elizabeth or bloody Mary. Did the wise, and merciful, and bounteous Creator, who made this smiling earth, who has gladdened us with an infinity of good things for our solace and enjoyment, and for all quit-rent has laid this law upon us that we should love one another, in testimony of our greatest love for Him, who is all love and tenderness; did He send us here to squabble and fight and predict eternal perdition to one another, because there fall into our hearts a differently-coloured ray of the divine Effulgence? There is a flaming Protestant here with a broad-brimmed hat, and who is a vessel of much consequence among his fellow-bigots, who told an honest butcher some days since that if the Maynooth grant were [-377-] renewed we should have "the thumbscrews in three months;" whereupon the affrighted butcher plastered all his joints over with handbills of the great Protestant Meeting, thus, of course, losing all his customers of the other persuasion. I wish those bells which are eternally jangling invitations for us to come and thank Heaven that we are not "as that publican," would ring a little tolerance and charity into men's hearts; would ring out a little more oblivion of phylacteries and pew-rents in high places, and of the sepulchral whitewash brushes. If the people who make all this noise and clamour, and who howl out against rational amusements, led pure and virtuous lives, and set good examples to their neighbours, this voice should not be raised; but, alas! here is brother Dolorous at the bar of the court of Queen's Bench for peculation; here is Sister Saintly scourging her apprentice; here are Messrs. Over- righteous in trouble for adulteration of their wares.
It is by no means incompatible, I hope, with the broad line of argument I have striven to adopt in these papers, if I honestly declare that the tableau I am about to describe has not in any way my approval, nay is, in many respects, much to be reprobated and deplored. I describe it - in its least repulsive details - simply because it is a very noticeable feature in modern London life. To have passed it over would have been dishonest and hypocritical, and I set it down in my catalogue of subjects at the outset of my task, actuated then, as I am now, by a determination to allow no squeamishness to interfere with the delineation of the truth-so long as that truth could be told without offence to good manners and in household language. A modern masquerade in London is, to tell the honest truth, anything but an edifying spectacle. There is certainly no perceptible harm in some hundreds of persons, of both sexes, accoutred in more or less fantastic dresses, meeting together in a handsome theatre, and, to the music of a magnificent band, dancing till three or four o'clock in the morning. But the place is not harmless: people go there to dissipate, and do dissipate. The salle de danse of a grand masquerade is a re-union of epicurean passions - an epitome of vice painted and spangled. And I take a masquerade triumphantly as an argument against the precisians and sour-faces, who would curtail the amusements of the people, and viciously thwart them in their every effort to amuse themselves. Look you here, gentlemen of the vestry-arch moralists of the parish! look you here, good Mr. Chaplain of Pentonville, who have got your pet garotter safe in hold for his sins This is no penny-gaff, no twopenny theatre, no cheap concert or dancing [-378-] academy - not so much as a "free-and-easy or a "sixpenny hop." Shopboys don't rob the till to come to a bal masqué at her Majesty's Theatre. Your pet garotter didn't throttle the gentleman in the Old Kent Road in order to procure funds to dance with Mademoiselle Euphrosine de la Galette, of the Rue Nôtre Dame de Lorette, Paris, and attired in a ravishing débardeur costume. There is, to be sure, a floating population of Bohemians - citizens of the world of London, belonging to the theatres, enfants perdus of the newspaper press, and so on, who are admitted gratis to a masquerade: these last Zouaves of social life, have free admission to coroners' inquests, public dinners, ship launches, private views of picture exhibitions, night rehearsals of pantomimes, and royal marriages. The modern newspaper man is, in print, the embodiment of Mr. Everybody ; in private he is Mr. Nobody, and doesn't count at all. Lord Derby is afraid of the journalist in print, but in the flesh his Lordship's footman would look down upon him. "Honly a littery man, let him knock agin," Jeames would say. So we go everywhere, even as though we were in the "receipt of fern seed." Even the House of Commons has invented a pleasant fiction for the benefit of the gentlemen of the press, and humorously ignores their presence during the debates. The Empress Julia bathed before her male slave. "Call that a man," she cried, contemptuously. In the like manner, no account is taken of the journalist's extra card of admission or extra knife and fork. He goes under the head of "sundries," though he makes sometimes a rather formidable figure in the aggregate.
But to the general public-the social Zouaves are but a drop of water in the sea - a bal masqué is a very expensive affair, and a luxury not to be indulged in without a liberal disbursement of cash. First, ticket, half a guinea. Mademoiselle de Ia Galette's ticket, if you be galant homme, five shillings more, if she be in costume; half a guinea if in domino. Next, costume for yourself, variable according to its extravagance - a guinea at least. At any rate, if you are content to appear in plain evening dress, there are clean white kid gloves and patent leather boots to be purchased. And the supper; and the wine, for champagne is de rigueur, at twelve and fifteen shillings a bottle! (You will observe that whenever I grow fashionably dissipated, I begin to chatter French.) And Mademoiselle de la Galette's bouquet, and the intermediate refreshments, ices, coffee, lemonade, and what-not; and the cabs and the wild revelry in the wicked Haymarket purlieus afterwards. [-379-] You see I have led you to the very end of the chapter, and that a night at a bal masqué will make an irremediable hole in a ten-pound note.
For this reason the persons (of the male sex) who visit such a gathering must be divided into three classes : theatrical and literary nobodies, coming there for nothing and not caring much about the place now they are come; young bucks about the town with more money than wit, who will exist, I am afraid, in every civilised age; and lastly and chiefly, the "Swells." I use the term advisedly, for none other can so minutely characterise them. Long, stern, solemn, languid, with drooping tawny moustaches, with faultlessly made habiliments, with irreproachable white neckcloths, with eyes half-closed, with pendant arms, with feet enclosed in mirror-like patent boots, the "swells" saunter listlessly through the ball-room with a quiet consciousness that all these dazzling frivolities are provided for their special gratification - which indeed they are. As it is l'oeil du maitre qui engraisse le cheval, so it is the "swell" who makes the bal masqué pay. Never so many orders may Mr.. Nugent give away; but if the "swell" be not in town or muster not in force on the eventful night, there will be wailing in her Majesty's Theatre, and woe in M. Jullien's cash-box. It must be somewhat of a strong till that can stand this tiraillement. As regards the ladies who are the partners in the mazy dance of these splendid cavaliers, I may say, once for all, that they are Daughters of Folly; Mademoiselle de la Galette and her condisciples, English and French, are there, multipled five-hundred fold. I don't think your pet garotter, good Mr. Chaplain, would be very successful as a Hercules at the feet of these Omphales.
I wonder how many sons and scions, or cousins or nephews, or multitudinous misty offshoots of the titled men who govern us, who own our lands, our waters, and the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea, are here. I wonder how many threads of connection there are in this ball-room theatre between these butterflies and the ermine and the lawn of the House of Peers. How many, how much? Bah! There is young Reginald Pitzmitre, the Bishop of Bosfursus's son, talking to that charming titi in the striped silk skirt and crimson satin trousers. Reginald is in the Guards. Bishops' sons are fond of going into the Guards. Yonder is little Pulex, whose brother, Tapely Pulex, is Under-Secretary for the Egregious Department. There Lord Claude Muffin has just stalked in with Sir Charles Shakeypegs (who is old enough to know better); and upon my word, here comes [-380-]
THREE O'CLOCK A.M. : A BAL MASQUE
[-381-] that venerable sinner Lord Holloway, with little Fanny Claypainter on
his arm. It won't do, my Lord; you may disguise yourself as closely as you will in a domino and a mask with a long lace beard, but I know
you by that side-wise waggle of your Lordship's head. The Earl of
Holloway has been a very gay nobleman in his time. He married
Miss Redpoll, the famous English contraltro, drew her theatrical salary
with very great punctuality every Saturday afternoon at three o'clock,
and heat her, people said, lie was the honourable Jack Pilluler then.
Years elapsed before he came into the title and Unguenton Park. She
died. Advance, then - advance then, my noble swells - to adopt the
style of the gentlemen with the thimble and pea. Advance, this is all
for your delectation. Meanwhile, let your most noble and right reverend
fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins meet in either House of Parliament, meet at Quarter Sessions, or on borough bench, and make or
expound laws against the wicked, thriftless, hardened, incorrigibly
dissipated Poor. No beer for them, the rogues! No fairs, no wakes,
no village feasts, no harvest-homes, no theatres, concerts, dances, no
tobacco, no rabbits, no bowls, no cricket - but plenty of law, and plenty
of nice hard labour, and wholesome gruel, and strengthening stone-breaking, and plenty of your sweet aristocratic wives and daughters
to force their way into poor men's cottages, ask them questions for
which I wonder they don't get their ears boxed, pry into their domestic concerns, peep into their cupboards, and wonder at their improvidence
in not having more to eat and drink therein.
Stand we in the orchestral hemicycle, and watch the garish, motley scene. Questions of morality apart, one must have jaundiced eyes to deny that, as a mere spectacle, it is brilliant and picturesque enough. All that M. Jullien's bizarre taste and fancy could suggest, or the cunning skill of experienced scenic decorators carry out, has been done here to make the place gay, dazzling, and effective. Wreaths of artificial flowers, reflecting the highest credit upon the paper-stainer and the paper-cutter's art, mask the somewhat fanées ornaments of the tiers of boxes; homely corridors and staircases are pleasantly disguised under a plentitude of scarlet baize and drugget ; the chandelier is of abnormous size, for any number of glittering festoons have been added to its crystal abacot; devices in glass and devices in gas twinkle and radiate on every side : nor is music's voluptuous swell wanting to incite us to "chase the glowing hours with flying feet," and make all things go "merry as a marriage bell."
[-382-] Truly, that well-packed orchestra deserves a more dignified arena for its exertions than this vulgar dancing-place. A jangling harp, a wheezy flute, and a cracked-voice violin, with perhaps a dingy old drum, with two perpetual black eyes in its parchment cheeks where the stick hits them, like the wife of an incorrigibly drunken cobbler-instruments such as you may hear tortured any night outside the Moguls in Drury Dane: these would be quite good enough for the ruffiani (by which I do not at all mean "ruffians") and bona robas of a masquerade to dance to. But this orchestra, numerous as it is, is composed of picked men : it is an imperial guard of veterans in fiddling, bassooning, and cornet-?-pistoning. Even the gentleman who officiates at the triangle, is a solo player; and the fierce-looking foreigner who attends to the side-drums, is the most famous tambour in Europe. At beating the chamade he stands alone, and his roll is unrivalled. With shame I speak it: you shall find among these artists in wind and artists in string instruments, horns, and clarionettes. tenors and second violins, who, during the opertic season, are deemed not unworthy to be ruled by the Prospero wand of the kid-gloved Costa or swayed by the magic fiddlestick of the accomplished Alfred Mellon. A pretty vocation for them to have to fiddle and blow for the amusement of ne'er-do-weels in torn- fools' costumes, and bold-faced jigs in velvet trousers! Why, they could take their parts in the symphonies of Beethoven and the masses of Mozart. And thou, too, Jullien the Superb, maestro of the ambrosial ringlets, the softly-luxuriant whiskers and moustaches, gracilis puer of the embroidered body-linen, the frogged pantaloons, the coat with moire antique facings, the diamond studs and sleeve buttons? couldst thou not find a worthier tilt-yard for thy chivalrous gambadoes? Alas! to some men, howsoever talented, charlatanism seems to adhere like a burr, and will not depart. Jullien must have caught this stain at the battle of Navarino or at the Jardin Turc, and it has abided by him ever since. There is not the slightest necessity for this clever, kindly, and really accomplished musician - to whom the cause of good and even classical music in England owes much - to be a quack; but I suppose he can't help it. He was born under a revolving firework star, and would introduce blue fire in the Dead March in "Saul." So it is with many. They could be Abernethies, but they prefer being Dulcamaras; they could be Galileos or Copernici, they prefer the fame of Cagliostro or Katterfelto. There was poor dear Alexis Soyer, as kind a hearted Christian as you might find, an admirable cook, an inventive [-383-] genius, a brave, devoted, self-denying man, who served his adopted country better in the Crimea than many a starred and titled CB. He had no call to be a quack; there was no earthly reason why he should inundate the newspapers with puffs, and wear impossible trousers, or cloth-of-gold waistcoats, cut diagonally. The man had a vast natural capacity, could think, ay, and do things; yet he quacked so continually, that many people set him down as a mere shallow pretender, and some even doubted whether he could cook at all. He was, nevertheless, a master of his difficult art, though in his latter days he did not exercise it much. Grisier grew tired of fencing. Wordsworth did not write much after he was laureate. Sir Edwin's brush is passing idle now. But I have partaken of succulent dainties cooked in their daintiest manner by the cunning hands of the illustrious chef: and I tell you that he could cook, when he chose, like St. Zita, the patroness of the Genoese cuisinieres. And I think I know, and that I can tell, a compote from a cow-heel, having dined as well and as ill, in my time, as any man of my age and standing.
What shall I say of the moving, living, kaleidoscope, twinkling and coruscating in the vast enceinte? Indeed, it is very difficult to say anything about the outward similitude of a bal masqué that has not been said a hundred times before. You have taken for granted the very considerable admixture of plain evening costume, worn by the swells et autres, which speckles the galaxy of gay costumes with multitudinous black dots. After this, we all know what to expect, and whom to find. Paint, patches, spangles, and pearl-powder, tawdry gold and silver (more brassy and pewtery, rather, I opine), and sham point lace. Sham fox-hunters, mostly of a Hebrew cast of countenance, in tarnished scarlet coats, creased buckskins, and boots with tops guiltless of oxalic acid, brandishing whips that have oftener been laid across their own shoulders than on the flanks of the "screws" they have bestridden; and screening their mouths with palms covered by dubious white kid gloves, or with bare dirt-inlaid knuckles protuberant with big rings of mosaic jewellery, shouting "Yoicks," and "Hark- away," in nasal accents. Undergraduates, in trencher caps and trailing gowns, worn by jobbernols, who know far more about Oxford Street than the University of Oxford. Barristers, more likely to be pleaded for than to plead. Bartlemy-Fair Field Marshals, in costumes equally akin to his who rides on the lamentable white horse before the Lord Mayor's gingerbread coach, and Bombastes Furioso in the farce. Charles [-384-] the Seconds, with all the dissolute effrontery of that monarch, but of his wit or merriment none. Red Rovers and Conrad Corsairs, whose nautical adventures have been confined to a fracas on board a penny steamboat; Albanian, and Sciote, and Suliote Chiefs, with due fez, kilt, yataghan, and lambrochines, in orthodox "snowy camise and shaggy capote," and who act their characters in a likelier manner than their comrades, for they are, the majority, arrant "Greeks." A few Bedouin Arabs - a costume picturesque yet inexpensive: a pen'north of Spanish liquorice to dye the face withal; a couple of calico sheets, for caftan and burnous, with the tassel of a red worsted bell-pull or so to finish off with, and you have your Abd-el-Kader complete. Half-a-dozen Marquises, of Louis the Fifteenth's time. Plenty of Monks : robes and cagoules of gray linen, a rope for a girdle, a pennyworth of wooden beads for a rosary, and slippers cut down into sandals-these are as cheap as effective. A Knight, in complete armour (pasteboard with tin-foil glued thereupon) ; a Robinson Crusoe, always getting into piteous dilemmas, with his goatskin (worsted) umbrella; a Bear, a Demon, and a Chinese Mandarin. When I have enumerated these, I find that I have noticed the travestisements most prevalent among the English male portion of the costumed mob. But there is another very appreciable element in these exhibitions: the foreign one. A century has passed since Johnson told us, in his mordant satire of "London," that England's metropolis was-
"The needy villain's general home,
The common sew'r of Paris and of Rome.
It is astonishing to find how much foreign riff-raff and alien scoundrelry will turn up at a masquerade. Leicester Square and Panton Street, the cloaques of the Haymarket and Soho, disgorge the bearded and pomatumed scum of their stale pot-au-feu-smelling purlieus on this dancing floor. They come with orders, and don't sup; rather hover about the Daughters of Folly and Sons of Silliness, to wheedle and extort odd silver sums, with which to gamble at atrocious "nicks," and tobacco-enveloped gambling dens in Leicesterian slums, yet unrooted out by lynx-eyed policemen. Homer not unfrequently nods in Scotland Yard. "None are so blind as those that won't see," whisper the wicked. These foreigners - shameless, abandoned rogues, mostly throwing undeserved discredit upon honest, harmless forestieri; fellows who are "known to the police" in Paris, and have a second home at the Depot de la Prefecture - affect the cheap, but thoroughly masquer-[-385-]ade costume of the Pierrot. Very easy of accomplishment, this disguise. About one and ninepence outlay would suffice, it seemeth to me. Jerkin of white calico, with immoderately long sleeves, like those of a camisole de force unfastened; galligaskins of the same snowy cheapness, and scarlet slippers; any number of tawdry calico bows of any colour down the sides, a frill round the neck, where the "jougs" of the pillory or the collar of the garotte should be; the face, that should be seared with the hangman's brand, thickly plastered with flour, so that there would be no room for the knave to blush, even if the light hand of a transient conscience smote him on the cheek and bade him remember that he once had a mother, and was not always aide-de-camp in waiting to Beelzebub; a conical cap of pasteboard, like an extinguisher snowed upon; here you have the Pierrot. The Englishman sometimes attempts him, but generally fails in the assumption. In order to "keep-up" the character well, it is necessary to play an infinity of monkey-tricks, to bear kicking with cheerful equanimity, to dance furiously, and to utter a succession of shrill screams at the end of every dance. Else you are no true Pierrot; and these elegancies are foreign to our phlegmatic manners.
Another favourite costume with the bal masqué is that of the "Postillon de Longjumeau." He is as well-nigh extinct in France, by this chiming, as our own old English post-boys. Railways shunted him off on to oblivion's sidings with terrible rapidity. Only, his Imperial Highness Prince Jerome Napoleon - whom the Parisians persist in calling "l'Oncle Tom," because, say they, Napoleon I., his brother, was "le grand homme," Napoleon III., his nephew, "le petit homme," so this must be necessarily "l'oncle-t-homme" - or Tom - this mediocre old gentleman, who throughout his long life has always been fortunate enough to be lodged, and boarded, and pensioned at other peoples' expense (they positively carved out a kingdom for him once), still keeps up a staff of postillons de Lonqjumeau, who, with much bell-ringing, whip-cracking, and "ha! heu hooping!" guide his fat, white, hollow-backed Norman post-horses, when his Imperial Highness goes down to St. Cloud or Chantilly in his travelling carriage. It is a quaint, not unbecoming costume: glazed bat, the brim built at an angle, broad gold band, cockade as big as a pancake, and multicoloured streamers of attenuated ribbon; short wig, with club well powdered; jacket with red facings and turn-up two-inch tails; saucepan-lid buttons, and metal badge on the left arm ; scarlet vest, double breasted; buck-[-386-]skins, saffron-dyed; high boots with bucket tops, and greased, mind, not blacked; long spurs, and whip insignificant as to stock and tremendous as to lash. This is his Imperial Highness's postilion, and this, minus the spurs, is the postilion of the bal masque.
And the ladies? I am reticent. I am nervous. I draw back. "I don't like," as the children say. Hie you to the National Gallery, and look at Turner's picture of "Phryne going to the bath as Venus." Among the wild crew of bacchantes and psoropaphae who surround that young person, you will find costumes as extravagant of hues, as variegated, as strike the senses here. Only, among the masqueraders you must not look for harmony of colour or symmetry of line. All is jarring, discordant, tawdry, and harlequinadish. You are in error if you suppose I am about to descant at length on the glittering seminudities gyrating here. Go to, you naughty queans! you must find some other inventory-maker. Go and mend your ways, buy horsehair corsets, "disciplines" and skulls if you will, and repair to the desert, there to mortify yourselves. Alas! the hussies laugh at me, and tell me that the only manner in which they choose to tolerate horsehair is en crinoline. Go to, and remember the fate of a certain Janet Somebody - I forget her surname - condemned by some Scotch elders, in the early days of the Reformation, to stripes and the stocks, for assuming a "pair of breeks." Alack! the débardeurs only mock me, and tell me that I am a fogey.
Three quasi-feminine costumes there are, however, that shall be pilloried here. There is the young lady in a riding-habit , who is so palpably unaccustomed to wearing such a garment, who is so piteously ill-at-ease in it, not knowing how to raise its folds with Amazonian grace, and tripping herself up at every fourth step or so, that she is more ridiculous than offensive. There is the "Middy" a pair of white trousers, a turn-down collar, a round jacket, and a cap with a gold-lace band, being understood to fulfil all the requirements of that costume. The "middy" sneaks about in a most woeful state of sheep-leggedness, or, at most, essays to burst into delirious gymnastics, which end in confusion and contumely. And last, and most abhorrent to me, there is the "Romp." Romps in their natural state - in a parlour, on a lawn, in a swing, at a game of blind-man's-buff, or hunt-the-slipper - no honest man need cavil at. I like romps myself, when they don't pull your hair too hard, have some mercy on your toes, and refrain from calling you a "cross, grumpy, old thing," when you mildly suggest [-387-] that it is very near bed-time. But a romp of some twenty-five years of age, with a cadaverous face, rouged, with a coral necklace, flaxen tails, a pinafore, a blue sash, Vandyked trousers, bare arms, and a skipping- rope: take away that romp, I say, quickly, somebody, and bring me a Gorgon or a Fury, the Hottentot Venus or the Pig-faced Lady! Anything for a change. Away with that romp, and cart her speedily to the nearest boarding-school where a lineal descendant of Mother Brownrigge yet wields her birchen sceptre.
It is on record that Thomas Carlyle, chiefest among British prose writing men, once in his life was present, in this very theatre, at a performance of the Italian Opera. He stayed the ballet, even, and went away full of strange cogitations. I would give one of my two ears (for be it known to you I am stone-deaf on the left side, like most men who have led evil lives in their youth, and could, wearing my hair long, well spare the superfluous flap of flesh and gristle) if I could persuade Thomas to visit a masquerade. There would be a new chapter in the next edition of "Sartor Resartus" to a certainty. For all these varied fopperies and fineries, dominoes, battered masks with ragged lace, sham orris, draggle-tailed feathers, tin-bladed rapiers, rabbit-skin and rat's-tail ermine, cotton velvet, pinked stockings, frayed epaulettes, mended skirts - all suggest pregnant thoughts of the Bag. Tout cela sent son marchand d'habits. Not to be driven away is the pervading notion of Old Clothes of Vinegar Yard and the ladies' wardrobe shop, of the ultimate relegation of these sallow fripperies to Petticoat Lane and Rag Fair. Nor without histories - some grave, some gay, some absurd, some terrible - must be these mended shreds of gaudy finery. They have been worn by aristocratic striplings at Eton Montem - defunct saturnalia of patrician "cadging." Those dim brocades and Swiss shepherdess corsages, have graced the forms of the fair-haired daughters of nobles at fancy balls. Great actresses, or cantatrici, have declaimed or sung in those satins, before they were disdainfully cast by, abandoned to the dresser, sold to the Jew costumier, cut down into tunics or pages' shoulder cloaks, furbished up with new tags and trimmings. Real barristers and gay young college lads have worn those wigs and gowns and trencher caps; real captains have flaunted at reviews in those embroidered tunics and epaulettes; swift horses have borne those scarlet coats and buckskins across country, but with real fox-hunters inside. Where are the original possessors? Drowned, or shot to death, or peacefully mouldering, insolvent, or abroad, gone up to the Lords, or hanged. Who knows? [-388-] Perhaps they are lounging here as Swells, not recognising their old uniforms and academics, now worn by sham Abraham men and francmitous. Who can tell? Where is the pinafore of our youth, and the first shooting jacket of adolescence? "Ou sont les neiges d'antan?" Where are the last winter's snows?
But Thomas Carlyle wouldn't come to this place, at his age and at this time in the morning; and, between you and me, I think it high time that we too should depart. In truth, the place is growing anything but orderly. Champagne and incessant exercise on the "light fantastic toe" have done their work. Dances of a wild and incoherent character, reminding one of the "Chaloupe, the " Tulipe Orageuse," and the much-by-municipal-authorities-abhorred "Cancan," are attempted. The masters of the ceremonies seem laudably desirous of clearing the salle. Let us procure our great-coats, and flee from Babylon before the masquers grew unroarious.
A stream of masquerading humanity, male and female, begins to pour through the corridors and so out beneath the portico. It is time. Cabs and broughams - the "swells" came in the broughams - sly, wicked little inventions; policemen hoarsely shout and linkmen dart about.
I thought so. I knew how it would end. A row, of course. That big Postillon de Longjumeau has borne it with admirable temper for hours; but the conduct of the Charles the Second Cavalier has been beyond human forbearance. She - the cavalier is a she - has incited the Pierrot (an Englishman, for a wonder, and hopelessly gone in champagne) to knock the postilion down. He wept piteously at first, but, gathering courage, and not liking, perhaps, to be humiliated in the eyes of a débardeur in claret-coloured velvet, he kicked up wildly at the aggressor with his boots. Then the cavalier scratched his face; then the claret-coloured débardeur fainted; then Mr. Edward Clyfaker, of Charles Street, Drury Lane, thief, cut in cleverly from between the wheels of a carriage, and picked Lord Holloway's pocket of Miss Claypainter's cambric handkerchief; then A 22 drew his truncheon and hit an inoffensive fox-hunter a violent blow on the head; then four medical students called out "Fire!" and an inebriated costermonger, who had not been to the masquerade at all, but was quietly reeling home, challenged Lord Claude Muffin to single combat; then Ned Raggabones and Robin Barelegs, street Arabs, threw "cart-wheels" into the midst [-389-]
THREE O'CLOCK A.M. : THE NIGHT CHARGES AT BOW STREET
[-390-] of the throng; then the police came down in great force, and, after
knocking a great many people about who were not in the slightest
degree implicated in the disturbance, at last pitched upon the right
parties, and bore the pugnacious Pierrot and the disorderly Cavalier off
to the station-house. It is but due to the managers of the masquerade
to state, that no such scandalous melées take place within the precincts
of the theatre itself. The masters of the ceremonies and the police on
duty take care of that : but such little accidents will happen, outside,
after the best-regulated masquerades.
To the station-house, then, to the abode of captivity and the hall of justice. The complaining postilion and his friends, accompanied by a motley procession of tag-rag and bob-tail, press triumphantly forward. Shall we follow also?
In a commodious gas-lit box, surrounded by books and papers, and with a mighty folio of loose leaves open before him - a book of Fate, in truth - sits a Rhadamanthine man, buttoned up in a great-coat often; for be it blazing July or frigid December, it is always cold at three o'clock in the morning. Not a very pleasant duty his : sitting through the long night before that folio, smoking prohibited, warm alcoholic liquids only, I should suppose, to be surreptitiously indulged in: sitting only diversified by an occasional sally into the night air, to visit the policemen on their various beats, and learn what wicked deeds are doing this night and morning - a deputy taking charge of the folio meanwhile. Duty perhaps as onerous as that of the Speaker of the House of Commons: but, ah! not half so wearisome. For the Rhadamanthine man in the great-coat has betimes to listen to tales of awful murder, of desperate burglaries, of harrowing suicides, of poverty and misery that make your soul to shudder and your heart to grow sick; and sometimes to more jocund narratives - harum.scarum escapades, drunken freaks, impudent tricks, ingenious swindles, absurd jealousy, quarrels, and the like. But they all - be the case murder, or be it mouse-trap stealing - are entered on that vast loose folio, which is the charge-sheet, in fact; Rhadamanthine man in great-coat being but the inspector of police on night duty, sitting here at his grim task for some fifty or sixty shillings a week. Harder task than sub-editing a newspaper even, I am of opinion.
He has had a busy time since nine, last evening.. One by one the "charges" were brought in, and hour after hour, and set before him in that little iron-railed dock. Some were felonious charges: scowling, [-391-] beetle-browed, under-hung charges, who had been there many times before, and were likely to come there many times again. A multiplicity of Irish charges, too : beggars, brawlers, pavement-obstructors - all terribly voluble and abusive of tongue; many with squalid babies in their arms. One or two such charges are lying now, contentedly drunken heaps of rags, in the women's cells. Plenty of juvenile charges, mere children, God help them! swept in and swept out; sometimes shot into cells - their boxes of fusees, or jagged broom-stumps, taken from them. A wife-beating charge; rufflanly carver, who has been beating his wife with the leg of a pianoforte. The wretched woman, all blood and tears, is very reluctant, even now, to give evidence, and entreats the inspector to "let Bill go; he didn't mean no harm." But he is locked up, departing to durance with the comforting assurance to his wife that he will, "do for her," at the first convenient opportunity. I daresay he will, when his six months' hard labour are over. There was a swell-mob charge, too, a dandy de premiere force, who swaggered, and twisted his eye-glass, and sucked his diamond ring while in the dock, and declared he knew nothing of the gentleman's watch, he was "shaw." He broke down, however, while being searched, and on the discovery of the watch - for he had missed the confederate who usually "covered him" - subsided into bad language, and the expression of a hope that he might not be tried by "old Bramwell," meaning the learned judge of that name. Short work has been made with some of these charges, while the disposal of others has occupied a considerable time. As the night grew older, the drunk and disorderly and drunk and incapable charges began to drop in; but one by one they have been disposed of in a calm, business-like manner, and the "charges" are either released, or, if sufficient cause were apparent for their detention, are sleeping off their liquor, or chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancies, in the adjacent cells.
"I thought the ball masky would bring us some work," the inspector remarks to the sergeant, as the Pierrot is carried, and the cavalier is dragged, and the postilion and his friend stalk indignantly - the whole accompanied by a posse of police, into the station : "Now, then, F29, what is it?"
F, or X, or Z, or whatever may be his distinguishing letter or numeral, gives a succint narrative of the row, so far as he is acquainted with its phases, very much in the style of the Act á'Accusation of a French [-392-] procureur imperial, which is always as damaging as it conveniently can be made against the person in custody. The postilion follows with his statement, the cavalier breaks in with an indignant denial of all he has said, violently insists upon charging the postilion with murder and assaults and ultimately expresses a desire to know what he, the inspector, thinks of himself, a wish to tear F 29's eyes out, and ardent ambition to "polish off the whole lot." "Don't all speak at once," remonstrates the inspector, but they will all speak at once, and the Pierrot, waking up from an intoxicated trance, asseverates, in broken accents, that he is a "p~p-p-p-pro-f-f-fessional man, and highly res-pe-pep-pectable," and then sinks quiescent over the front of the dock, in an attitude very much resembling that sometimes assumed by the celebrated Mr. Punch.
"There, take him away," says the municipal functionary, pointing with sternly contemptuous finger to the Pierrot. "And take her away," he adds, designating the cavalier. "And you, sir," he continues, to the postilion, "sign your name and address there, and take care to be at the court at ten in the morning. And I should advise you to go straight home, or you'll be here again shortly, with somebody to take care of you. I wonder whether we shall have any more," he says wearily, to his sergeant, as the captives are removed, and the room is cleared.
It does not so much matter, for the third hour is gone and past, and as we emerge into the street, the clock of St. Paul's strikes FOUR. There! the twenty-four hours are accomplished, and we have progressed, however lamely and imperfectly, " Twice Round the Clock." Good-bye, dear readers-pleasant companions of my labours. Goodbye, troops of shadowy friends and shadowy enemies, whose handwriting-in praise, in reproach, in condolence, in sympathy, in jest, and in earnest-is visible enough to me on many pages laying open before me at this moment, but whose faces I shall never see on this side the grave. Your smiles and frowns henceforward belong to the past, for my humble task is achieved, and the Clock is Stopped.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]