Изображения страниц

"And if they are, where's the harm?" again interrupted Fricoteau, whose head once more suddenly emerged from the doorway.

"Go to your saucepans, Fricoteau!" thundered Baleine, growing redder han ever. "And now, disobedient child, confess to me to whom you have given your heart?"

"Fricoteau took it, uncle," replied the handsome peasant girl, half crying and half laughing.

"My cook!" cried the restaurateur, in a tragic tone. shall my neice be called Fricoteau !"

"Never, no never,

"I don't see why not," said that personage from the stair-way. "Fricoteau is as good a name as Baleine, any day; and I am now almost as good a cook as yourself. In many dishes I defy you or anybody else to tell the difference between your hand and mine."

"And he is so steady, dear uncle," added Perrette. "And we will always live with you, and keep up the honour of the house, and take such care of you when you grow old."

But Baleine was obdurate, and they pleaded in vain.

One day there was to be a grand gathering of "The Modern Cellar;" the dinner was a miracle, and quite ready; the guests were waiting; but the oysters (a rare luxury in those days, and one on which Baleine especially prided himself) had not come by the coach. Baleine was in despair. The dinner would be spoiled, and thoughts of suicide suggested themselves to his mind, as he muttered

"Never before were oysters lacking at the Rocher-de-Cancale! Come, Fricoteau," he added at last, "you are an ingenious lad; what can be done?" "I have an idea!" replied Fricoteau, with a sudden gleam of joyful anticipation irradiating his handsome features; "give me five minutes, and trust to me!"

Away darted Fricoteau into the street, running wildly forwards, but glancing sharply about him in every direction. "There must be oysters somewhere in the town," said he to himself; "and wherever they may be, I must have them!" He soon espied a Savoyard staggering along under a barrel of oysters. To rush on the porter, lift the load off his back, and transfer it to his own shoulders, was the affair of an instant. He thrust several gold pieces, treble the worth of the oysters, into the Savoyard's hand, and rushed off to his master, while the Savoyard was still shouting to him to stand, and to give him back the barrel.

"You have saved me !" cried Baleine, in admiring raptures, as his head cook reappeared. "Quick, all hands, to open the oysters !"


[ocr errors]

"Wait a minute, dear master," said Fricoteau, holding fast the barrel; "these oysters are mine, and I only give them up on condition Any price you please; a thousand francs, two thousand, three thou sand- -but don't torture me, monster!"

[ocr errors]

"I don't want your money; I want Perrette. Give me Perrette, and I give you the oysters!"

"Oh, yes, dear uncle; do give me to Fricoteau! We will never leave you, and you know the house would go to ruin without him!" chimed in that young lady, showing her pretty face unexpectedly on the scene of action.

Baleine heaved a deep sigh. "I must have the oysters!" he murmured,

under his breath.

"Then will you give me Perrette?" demanded Fricoteau, still holding on to the barrel.

"I will," said Baleine, with a voice of anguish, as he seized the barrel and drove off the lid.

"Come on, boys!" shouted Fricoteau in triumph, as he caught Perrette by the waist, gave her a smacking kiss, and then, snatching up a knife, began

o open the oysters with the same vigour and celerity that had marked his apture of them.

The dinner was voted phenomenal. While the dessert was going forward, name Fricoteau, leading the blushing Perrette by the hand.

"Messieurs, we are come to ask you to drink to our wedding," said the head-cook, who was a great favourite with the guests.

"Bravo!" cried they; "what a handsome couple you will be, dear children! And you will keep up the Rocher-de-Cancale for our descendants, when Baleine and we have taken our departure. What's the marriage-portion, Baleine? You are as rich as Crœsus, and must come down handsomely. A hundred thousand francs and your blessing! Not a sou less!"

Baleine, beset by his admiring patrons, and secretly glad to make sure f his invaluable cook, did not hold out long. He gave his blessing to the young pair with true fatherly unction; and promised to count down a hundred thousand francs for the bride's portion. He then entreated his patrons to honour him with their presence at the marriage-feast; which they all promised to do, and with very great readiness.

The marriage took place shortly after this scene. The repast provided for the occasion surpassed all that Baleine had ever accomplished before, and was done ample justice to by the brilliant wits of "The Modern Cellar."

"No Queen of France ever had such a gathering of clever men at her wedding!" cried Baleine, in the pride of his heart, as he kissed the bride when her health was being drunk by the guests, at the close of the dinner.

A grand ball followed this repast, and all the cooks of Paris, with their wives, daughters, and sweethearts, footed it merrily through the rest of the night.

Baleine, Fricoteau, and Perrette lived happily together ever afterwards in a constant sunshine of prosperity and success.

After the death of the founder, the Rocher-de-Cancale passed into the hands of his adopted children, who kept up the renown of the house, which, under the care of their successors, is still one of the most famous eating-houses of Paris.


By the late Ebenezer Elliot, the "Corn-law Rhymer."

JOHN. In the sound of that rebellious word

There is brave music. Jack, and Jacobin,
Are vulgar terms: law-link'd to shame and sin,
They have twang of Jack the hangman's cord:
Yet John hath merit which can well afford

To be call'd Jack's. By life's strange offs and ons;
Glory hath had great dealings with the Johns,

Since history first awaked where fable snored.

John Cade, John Huss, John Hampden, and John Knox,
Aye, these were names of fellows who had will.
John Wilson's name, far sounded, sounds not ill;
But how unlike John Milton's, or John Locke's!
John Bright, like Locke and Milton, scorns paid sloth!
And Johnson might have liked to gibbet both.



WERE it possible to cross the Ticino in a skiff of swan's down; to make a first-chop Wesleyan of Mr. Commissioner Yeh (first chops and second chops being peculiarly in the line of that talented ex-executioner); to improve the billiard play of Captain Crawley; to translate Uncle Tom's Cabin into intelligible and verbatim Sanscrit; to maintain that the working man (because a working man) is unworthy of a vote; to establish (as certain florid and advanced spirits have attempted) that there is no such thing as progress; to believe in the genuine foreign aroma of a penny Pickwick; or, lastly, to maim and destroy your conviction that the present paper will take precedence of anything ever written by a Dickens, a Bulwer, or a Scott, were these, or other such impossibilities, possible, then, I say, I might hope to sketch, in this brief article, the various characters which surround, and, by their very contrast, "bring out strong" the special philosophy and original views of MARK TAPLEY, my subject.

Taking the Chuzzlewit characters as a world in miniature, how I should delight to compare with them, and with it, the individual Tapley. Tapley, of the "Dragon;" Tapley, of the Tapley Arms; Mrs. Lupin's Tapley, the honest-hearted, whimsical, most singular, most sensible, most jovial Mark! Alas! the space allotted to me will not suffice, else would I pourtray the members of that many-hued community, who represented almost every phase of good and evil in themselves. How they appear on memory's disk-Tom Pinch and bright-eyed Ruth, his little loving sister; also keen, worldly, despicable Anthony Chuzzlewit, and Jonas his spoiled and hateful son-Jonas the brutal beast, the cunning and remorseless wretch, that most abominable murderer Jonas; and poor old Chuffey, in whom a loving servant's sad imbecile affection was strangely manifested. Then sodden Chevy Slyme, and flashy man-of-the-world, adventurer, swindling, polished, but Satanic Tigg, Montague Tigg, or Tigg Montague, of that famed institution the Anglo Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Insurance (or Assurance) Company; then Old Martin and Young Martin; then Mr. and Mrs. Spottletoe, irascible George Chuzzlewit, and the Strongminded Woman; then Bullamy (I had forgotten him), the important porter of the Anglo-Bengalee, whose vast red waistcoat and coat of pepper-and-salt, with short tails, constituted him a wonderful creature at least; then ferrety, secret, silent, sleepless Nadgett; next, sweet Mary Graham, and that lean and lank, but good Samaritan, Mrs. Todgers, of Todgers's; next melancholy, miserable, gaunt, and ghostly Lewsome; then little Fips, the lawyer; then Cherry and Merry, with poor Moddle, who loved Another's, and when he courted always wept most copiously and Mr. Jinkins, of Todgers's, who was the very Upas Tree of Mr. Moddle! Then there would be the marvellous Mr. Bailey and simple, soft, Poll Sweedlepipes; next, honest, jovial John Westlock, and sprightly Mr. Mould, the undertaker, who loved mankind (and womankind) so well, he'd gladly have buried 'em all for nothing! Oh! that time and space permitted! How might I sketch dear, tender Betsey Prig, and most immaculate Sairey Gamp, of Kingsgate Street, High Holborn. Above all, Mr. Pecksniff, the moral man; whose morality was only equalled by his architectural skill. Bland, gentle, humble Mr. Peck.

sniff, whose shining face was an index to the good, the beautiful, the true ! But it may not be; each page would overflow a volume to effect this gratifying result. I must e'en leave it to a future time, and content myself now with Mark Tapley alone. Yet how delightful to depict my own dear Sairey-Gamp by name and Gamp by nature-who always spoke her mind, even were she to be lead (as she herself observed) a Martha to the stake! Dear Sairey Gamp, whose leers, and smiles, and winks, and coughs, and nods, and curtseys are her monument throughout all time, never to mention that inexhaustible umbrella, which was part and parcel of her constitution. "Let's dry our eyes;" for the present I cannot do more than attempt a photograph, personal, mental, and practical of Mark Tapley the philosopher.

Between eighteen and nineteen years ago, Mark and I became acquainted. That was some few years before Dickens introduced him to me; but then, in his introduction Dickens spoke of having seen Mark some few years before on the road to Salisbury. The most remarkable feature of all is that I became acquainted with Mark on the said Salisbury Road. How well I remember the time! I had left old Pecksniff in his nightcap at his chamber window, and was touching up the movements of old Pecksniff's raw-boned, haggard horse, which, in its moral character (for it always made a show of going fast, and displayed the mightiest action) was like old Pecksniff, full of promise but of no performance. There was no better time for driving than that fresh and frosty morning, the commencement of a bracing day in early winter. The sheep-bells rang as clearly in the vigorous air as if they felt its wholesome freshness like living creatures; the trees, in lieu of leaves or blossoms, shed upon the ground a frosty rime that sparkled as it fell and might have been the dust of diamonds. From cottage chimneys the smoke went streaming up high, high, as if the earth had lost its grossness, being so fair, and must not be oppressed by heavy vapour. The crust of ice on the else rippling brook was so transparent, and so thin in texture, that the lively water might, of its own free will, have stopped to look upon the lovely morning; and lest the sun should break this charm too eagerly, there moved between him and the ground a mist like that which waits upon the moon on summer nights, and wooed him to dissolve it gently.

I was jogging along, full of pleasant thoughts and cheerful influences, when I saw upon the path before me a traveller on foot, who walked with a quick light step, and sang as he went. His voice was loud, but not unmusical. He was a young fellow of some five or six-and-twenty, perhaps, and was dressed in such a free and fly-away fashion that the long ends of his loose red neckcloth were streaming out behind him quite as much as before; and the bunch of bright winter berries in the button-hole of his velveteen coat was as visible to my rearward observation as if he had worn that garment wrong side foremost. He continued to sing with so much energy that he did not hear the sound of wheels until I had approached close, when he checked himself, and turned a whimsical face and very merry pair of blue eyes on me. Such were the circumstances of my first acquaintance with Mark Tapley, of the "Dragon." When I complimented him on his spruce appearance, his face became overcast, and he said, "The spruceness wasn't his fault. Any man," he said, "might be in good spirits and good temper when well-drest. If he'd been ragged, and very jolly, then he would have felt he had gained a point !" I asked Mark Tapley to get in, which he did, and together we went along. I remember a few of his opinions expressed on the way. "He thought there would be some credit in being jolly with a wife if the children had the measles, and," as he said, "was very fractious;' but, as he wasn't quite

sure, he was almost afraid to try it." He told me, very dolefully, "he couldn't get a chance to come out strong; so persuaded, he was going to leave Mrs. Lupin and the Blue Dragon, because it wasn't the place for him. He had thought (before he went to it) that the Dragon was the dullest, little, out-of-the-way corner in England; and that there would be some credit in being jolly under such circumstances. But, Lord!" he said, "there was no dulness at the Dragon! Skittles, cricket, quoits, nine-pins, comic songs, choruses, company round the chimney corner every winter's evening, any man could be jolly at the Dragon! so he didn't mean to stay there!"

I asked him what kind of thing he was looking out for; what sort of situation calculated to bring jollity and credit. "Well," he said, “he was thinking of something in the grave-digging way; it was a damp, wormy, good sort of business, unless grave diggers were jolly in their profession, in which case there'd be no credit in him being so! Undertaking might suit him," Mark said; "its gloominess would gain credit; or a broker's man in a poor neighbourhood wouldn't be so bad; or a jailor's life; or a doctor's, because he is in the midst of murder. A bailiff's, being scarcely a lively office, might suit him; or a tax gatherer's!" I observed that Mark didn't wear a waistcoat, and that his shirt-bosom was ruffled by every breath of air. "What was the good of a waistcoat?" he asked; "his chest didn't want no warming! Even if it did, what would no waistcoat bring it to? Inflammation of the lungs, perhaps. Well," said Mark, "there'd be some credit in being jolly with an inflammation of the lungs."

Such was our first acquaintanceship; and when Mark Tapley had jumped lightly down, away he fluttered with his red neckerchief and open coat, looking one of the most careless, good-humoured, comical fellows in life.

I had many experiences of him afterwards. Once, when he was in the miserable-most miserable-room rented by Young Martin, in London. A terribly ill-conditioned hole it was; and Martin's spirits were low indeed, as he viewed the place. But Mark Tapley regarded it as a princely mansion, a very Buckingham Palace; its miseries being so many recommendations to him. "Jolly sort of lodgings," said Mark, rubbing his nose with the nob at the end of the fire-shovel, and looking round the poor chamber. "That's a comfort-the rain's coming through the roof too-that's not bad. A lively old bedstead, I'll be bound; popilated by lots of wampires, no doubt. Come, my spirits is a-getting up again. An uncommon ragged night-cap this-a very good sign. We shall do yet." Such was Mark Tapley. Yes, view him from first to last, Mark was ever jolly, when you or I, perhaps, would have been sunk in wretchedness. Without difficulties to encounter and overcome, the world would have had no charms for him. He practically enunciated the truth that without pain pleasure would lose half its pungency.

"Rich the treasure, sweet the pleasure,
Sweet is pleasure after pain."

Or to quote Peter Pindar's distich :

"Care to our coffin adds a nail no doubt,
But every grin so merry draws one out."

Punch says, the experience of life is, "What a fool I've been !" How! Because I've neglected opportunities, given way to melancholy and inaction when cheerfulness and work would have obtained the object I so greatly desired. When had I seen the bright sunbeam reflected in the otherwise dark stream of life, I might have done something, and obtained credit. This bright sunbeam Mark persisted in seeing, though rather

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »