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Chapter 7

THE STEAM EXCURSION

Mr. Percy Noakes was a law student, inhabiting a set of chambers on
the fourth floor, in one of those houses in Gray's-inn-square which
command an extensive view of the gardens, and their usual adjuncts-
-flaunting nursery-maids, and town-made children, with
parenthetical legs. Mr. Percy Noakes was what is generally termed-
-'a devilish good fellow.' He had a large circle of acquaintance,
and seldom dined at his own expense. He used to talk politics to
papas, flatter the vanity of mammas, do the amiable to their
daughters, make pleasure engagements with their sons, and romp with
the younger branches. Like those paragons of perfection,
advertising footmen out of place, he was always 'willing to make
himself generally useful.' If any old lady, whose son was in
India, gave a ball, Mr. Percy Noakes was master of the ceremonies;
if any young lady made a stolen match, Mr. Percy Noakes gave her
away; if a juvenile wife presented her husband with a blooming
cherub, Mr. Percy Noakes was either godfather, or deputy-godfather;
and if any member of a friend's family died, Mr. Percy Noakes was
invariably to be seen in the second mourning coach, with a white
handkerchief to his eyes, sobbing--to use his own appropriate and
expressive description--'like winkin'!'

It may readily be imagined that these numerous avocations were
rather calculated to interfere with Mr. Percy Noakes's professional
studies. Mr. Percy Noakes was perfectly aware of the fact, and
had, therefore, after mature reflection, made up his mind not to
study at all--a laudable determination, to which he adhered in the
most praiseworthy manner. His sitting-room presented a strange
chaos of dress-gloves, boxing-gloves, caricatures, albums,
invitation-cards, foils, cricket-bats, cardboard drawings, paste,
gum, and fifty other miscellaneous articles, heaped together in the
strangest confusion. He was always making something for somebody,
or planning some party of pleasure, which was his great forte. He
invariably spoke with astonishing rapidity; was smart, spoffish,
and eight-and-twenty.

'Splendid idea, 'pon my life!' soliloquised Mr. Percy Noakes, over
his morning coffee, as his mind reverted to a suggestion which had
been thrown out on the previous night, by a lady at whose house he
had spent the evening. 'Glorious idea!--Mrs. Stubbs.'

'Yes, sir,' replied a dirty old woman with an inflamed countenance,
emerging from the bedroom, with a barrel of dirt and cinders.--This
was the laundress. 'Did you call, sir?'

'Oh! Mrs. Stubbs, I'm going out. If that tailor should call
again, you'd better say--you'd better say I'm out of town, and
shan't be back for a fortnight; and if that bootmaker should come,
tell him I've lost his address, or I'd have sent him that little
amount. Mind he writes it down; and if Mr. Hardy should call--you
know Mr. Hardy?'

'The funny gentleman, sir?'

'Ah! the funny gentleman. If Mr. Hardy should call, say I've gone
to Mrs. Taunton's about that water-party.'

'Yes, sir.'

'And if any fellow calls, and says he's come about a steamer, tell
him to be here at five o'clock this afternoon, Mrs. Stubbs.'

'Very well, sir.'

Mr. Percy Noakes brushed his hat, whisked the crumbs off his
inexpressibles with a silk handkerchief, gave the ends of his hair
a persuasive roll round his forefinger, and sallied forth for Mrs.
Taunton's domicile in Great Marlborough-street, where she and her
daughters occupied the upper part of a house. She was a good-
looking widow of fifty, with the form of a giantess and the mind of
a child. The pursuit of pleasure, and some means of killing time,
were the sole end of her existence. She doted on her daughters,
who were as frivolous as herself.

A general exclamation of satisfaction hailed the arrival of Mr.
Percy Noakes, who went through the ordinary salutations, and threw
himself into an easy chair near the ladies' work-table, with the
ease of a regularly established friend of the family. Mrs. Taunton
was busily engaged in planting immense bright bows on every part of
a smart cap on which it was possible to stick one; Miss Emily
Taunton was making a watch-guard; Miss Sophia was at the piano,
practising a new song--poetry by the young officer, or the police-
officer, or the custom-house officer, or some other interesting
amateur.

'You good creature!' said Mrs. Taunton, addressing the gallant
Percy. 'You really are a good soul! You've come about the water-
party, I know.'

'I should rather suspect I had,' replied Mr. Noakes, triumphantly.
'Now, come here, girls, and I'll tell you all about it.' Miss
Emily and Miss Sophia advanced to the table.

'Now,' continued Mr. Percy Noakes, 'it seems to me that the best
way will be, to have a committee of ten, to make all the
arrangements, and manage the whole set-out. Then, I propose that
the expenses shall be paid by these ten fellows jointly.'

'Excellent, indeed!' said Mrs. Taunton, who highly approved of this
part of the arrangements.

'Then, my plan is, that each of these ten fellows shall have the
power of asking five people. There must be a meeting of the
committee, at my chambers, to make all the arrangements, and these
people shall be then named; every member of the committee shall
have the power of black-balling any one who is proposed; and one
black ball shall exclude that person. This will ensure our having
a pleasant party, you know.'

'What a manager you are!' interrupted Mrs. Taunton again.

'Charming!' said the lovely Emily.

'I never did!' ejaculated Sophia.

'Yes, I think it'll do,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who was now
quite in his element. 'I think it'll do. Then you know we shall
go down to the Nore, and back, and have a regular capital cold
dinner laid out in the cabin before we start, so that everything
may be ready without any confusion; and we shall have the lunch
laid out, on deck, in those little tea-garden-looking concerns by
the paddle-boxes--I don't know what you call 'em. Then, we shall
hire a steamer expressly for our party, and a band, and have the
deck chalked, and we shall be able to dance quadrilles all day; and
then, whoever we know that's musical, you know, why they'll make
themselves useful and agreeable; and--and--upon the whole, I really
hope we shall have a glorious day, you know!'

The announcement of these arrangements was received with the utmost
enthusiasm. Mrs. Taunton, Emily, and Sophia, were loud in their
praises.

'Well, but tell me, Percy,' said Mrs. Taunton, 'who are the ten
gentlemen to be?'

'Oh! I know plenty of fellows who'll be delighted with the
scheme,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes; 'of course we shall have--'

'Mr. Hardy!' interrupted the servant, announcing a visitor. Miss
Sophia and Miss Emily hastily assumed the most interesting
attitudes that could be adopted on so short a notice.

'How are you?' said a stout gentleman of about forty, pausing at
the door in the attitude of an awkward harlequin. This was Mr.
Hardy, whom we have before described, on the authority of Mrs.
Stubbs, as 'the funny gentleman.' He was an Astley-Cooperish Joe
Miller--a practical joker, immensely popular with married ladies,
and a general favourite with young men. He was always engaged in
some pleasure excursion or other, and delighted in getting somebody
into a scrape on such occasions. He could sing comic songs,
imitate hackney-coachmen and fowls, play airs on his chin, and
execute concertos on the Jews'-harp. He always eat and drank most
immoderately, and was the bosom friend of Mr. Percy Noakes. He had
a red face, a somewhat husky voice, and a tremendous laugh.

'How ARE you?' said this worthy, laughing, as if it were the finest
joke in the world to make a morning call, and shaking hands with
the ladies with as much vehemence as if their arms had been so many
pump-handles.

'You're just the very man I wanted,' said Mr. Percy Noakes, who
proceeded to explain the cause of his being in requisition.

'Ha! ha! ha!' shouted Hardy, after hearing the statement, and
receiving a detailed account of the proposed excursion. 'Oh,
capital! glorious! What a day it will be! what fun!--But, I say,
when are you going to begin making the arrangements?'

'No time like the present--at once, if you please.'

'Oh, charming!' cried the ladies. 'Pray, do!'

Writing materials were laid before Mr. Percy Noakes, and the names
of the different members of the committee were agreed on, after as
much discussion between him and Mr. Hardy as if the fate of nations
had depended on their appointment. It was then agreed that a
meeting should take place at Mr. Percy Noakes's chambers on the
ensuing Wednesday evening at eight o'clock, and the visitors
departed.

Wednesday evening arrived; eight o'clock came, and eight members of
the committee were punctual in their attendance. Mr. Loggins, the
solicitor, of Boswell-court, sent an excuse, and Mr. Samuel Briggs,
the ditto of Furnival's Inn, sent his brother: much to his (the
brother's) satisfaction, and greatly to the discomfiture of Mr.
Percy Noakes. Between the Briggses and the Tauntons there existed
a degree of implacable hatred, quite unprecedented. The animosity
between the Montagues and Capulets, was nothing to that which
prevailed between these two illustrious houses. Mrs. Briggs was a
widow, with three daughters and two sons; Mr. Samuel, the eldest,
was an attorney, and Mr. Alexander, the youngest, was under
articles to his brother. They resided in Portland-street, Oxford-
street, and moved in the same orbit as the Tauntons--hence their
mutual dislike. If the Miss Briggses appeared in smart bonnets,
the Miss Tauntons eclipsed them with smarter. If Mrs. Taunton
appeared in a cap of all the hues of the rainbow, Mrs. Briggs
forthwith mounted a toque, with all the patterns of the
kaleidoscope. If Miss Sophia Taunton learnt a new song, two of the
Miss Briggses came out with a new duet. The Tauntons had once
gained a temporary triumph with the assistance of a harp, but the
Briggses brought three guitars into the field, and effectually
routed the enemy. There was no end to the rivalry between them.

Now, as Mr. Samuel Briggs was a mere machine, a sort of self-acting
legal walking-stick; and as the party was known to have originated,
however remotely, with Mrs. Taunton, the female branches of the
Briggs family had arranged that Mr. Alexander should attend,
instead of his brother; and as the said Mr. Alexander was
deservedly celebrated for possessing all the pertinacity of a
bankruptcy-court attorney, combined with the obstinacy of that
useful animal which browses on the thistle, he required but little
tuition. He was especially enjoined to make himself as
disagreeable as possible; and, above all, to black-ball the
Tauntons at every hazard.

The proceedings of the evening were opened by Mr. Percy Noakes.
After successfully urging on the gentlemen present the propriety of
their mixing some brandy-and-water, he briefly stated the object of
the meeting, and concluded by observing that the first step must be
the selection of a chairman, necessarily possessing some arbitrary-
-he trusted not unconstitutional--powers, to whom the personal
direction of the whole of the arrangements (subject to the approval
of the committee) should be confided. A pale young gentleman, in a
green stock and spectacles of the same, a member of the honourable
society of the Inner Temple, immediately rose for the purpose of
proposing Mr. Percy Noakes. He had known him long, and this he
would say, that a more honourable, a more excellent, or a better-
hearted fellow, never existed.--(Hear, hear!) The young gentleman,
who was a member of a debating society, took this opportunity of
entering into an examination of the state of the English law, from
the days of William the Conqueror down to the present period; he
briefly adverted to the code established by the ancient Druids;
slightly glanced at the principles laid down by the Athenian law-
givers; and concluded with a most glowing eulogium on pic-nics and
constitutional rights.

Mr. Alexander Briggs opposed the motion. He had the highest esteem
for Mr. Percy Noakes as an individual, but he did consider that he
ought not to be intrusted with these immense powers--(oh, oh!)--He
believed that in the proposed capacity Mr. Percy Noakes would not
act fairly, impartially, or honourably; but he begged it to be
distinctly understood, that he said this, without the slightest
personal disrespect. Mr. Hardy defended his honourable friend, in
a voice rendered partially unintelligible by emotion and brandy-
and-water. The proposition was put to the vote, and there
appearing to be only one dissentient voice, Mr. Percy Noakes was
declared duly elected, and took the chair accordingly.

The business of the meeting now proceeded with rapidity. The
chairman delivered in his estimate of the probable expense of the
excursion, and every one present subscribed his portion thereof.
The question was put that 'The Endeavour' be hired for the
occasion; Mr. Alexander Briggs moved as an amendment, that the word
'Fly' be substituted for the word 'Endeavour'; but after some
debate consented to withdraw his opposition. The important
ceremony of balloting then commenced. A tea-caddy was placed on a
table in a dark corner of the apartment, and every one was provided
with two backgammon men, one black and one white.

The chairman with great solemnity then read the following list of
the guests whom he proposed to introduce:- Mrs. Taunton and two
daughters, Mr. Wizzle, Mr. Simson. The names were respectively
balloted for, and Mrs. Taunton and her daughters were declared to
be black-balled. Mr. Percy Noakes and Mr. Hardy exchanged glances.

'Is your list prepared, Mr. Briggs?' inquired the chairman.

'It is,' replied Alexander, delivering in the following:- 'Mrs.
Briggs and three daughters, Mr. Samuel Briggs.' The previous
ceremony was repeated, and Mrs. Briggs and three daughters were
declared to be black-balled. Mr. Alexander Briggs looked rather
foolish, and the remainder of the company appeared somewhat
overawed by the mysterious nature of the proceedings.

The balloting proceeded; but, one little circumstance which Mr.
Percy Noakes had not originally foreseen, prevented the system from
working quite as well as he had anticipated. Everybody was black-
balled. Mr. Alexander Briggs, by way of retaliation, exercised his
power of exclusion in every instance, and the result was, that
after three hours had been consumed in hard balloting, the names of
only three gentlemen were found to have been agreed to. In this
dilemma what was to be done? either the whole plan must fall to the
ground, or a compromise must be effected. The latter alternative
was preferable; and Mr. Percy Noakes therefore proposed that the
form of balloting should be dispensed with, and that every
gentleman should merely be required to state whom he intended to
bring. The proposal was acceded to; the Tauntons and the Briggses
were reinstated; and the party was formed.

The next Wednesday was fixed for the eventful day, and it was
unanimously resolved that every member of the committee should wear
a piece of blue sarsenet ribbon round his left arm. It appeared
from the statement of Mr. Percy Noakes, that the boat belonged to
the General Steam Navigation Company, and was then lying off the
Custom-house; and, as he proposed that the dinner and wines should
be provided by an eminent city purveyor, it was arranged that Mr.
Percy Noakes should be on board by seven o'clock to superintend the
arrangements, and that the remaining members of the committee,
together with the company generally, should be expected to join her
by nine o'clock. More brandy-and-water was despatched; several
speeches were made by the different law students present; thanks
were voted to the chairman; and the meeting separated.

The weather had been beautiful up to this period, and beautiful it
continued to be. Sunday passed over, and Mr. Percy Noakes became
unusually fidgety--rushing, constantly, to and from the Steam
Packet Wharf, to the astonishment of the clerks, and the great
emolument of the Holborn cabmen. Tuesday arrived, and the anxiety
of Mr. Percy Noakes knew no bounds. He was every instant running
to the window, to look out for clouds; and Mr. Hardy astonished the
whole square by practising a new comic song for the occasion, in
the chairman's chambers.

Uneasy were the slumbers of Mr. Percy Noakes that night; he tossed
and tumbled about, and had confused dreams of steamers starting
off, and gigantic clocks with the hands pointing to a quarter-past
nine, and the ugly face of Mr. Alexander Briggs looking over the
boat's side, and grinning, as if in derision of his fruitless
attempts to move. He made a violent effort to get on board, and
awoke. The bright sun was shining cheerfully into the bedroom, and
Mr. Percy Noakes started up for his watch, in the dreadful
expectation of finding his worst dreams realised.

It was just five o'clock. He calculated the time--he should be a
good half-hour dressing himself; and as it was a lovely morning,
and the tide would be then running down, he would walk leisurely to
Strand-lane, and have a boat to the Custom-house.

He dressed himself, took a hasty apology for a breakfast, and
sallied forth. The streets looked as lonely and deserted as if
they had been crowded, overnight, for the last time. Here and
there, an early apprentice, with quenched-looking sleepy eyes, was
taking down the shutters of a shop; and a policeman or milkwoman
might occasionally be seen pacing slowly along; but the servants
had not yet begun to clean the doors, or light the kitchen fires,
and London looked the picture of desolation. At the corner of a
by-street, near Temple-bar, was stationed a 'street-breakfast.'
The coffee was boiling over a charcoal fire, and large slices of
bread and butter were piled one upon the other, like deals in a
timber-yard. The company were seated on a form, which, with a view
both to security and comfort, was placed against a neighbouring
wall. Two young men, whose uproarious mirth and disordered dress
bespoke the conviviality of the preceding evening, were treating
three 'ladies' and an Irish labourer. A little sweep was standing
at a short distance, casting a longing eye at the tempting
delicacies; and a policeman was watching the group from the
opposite side of the street. The wan looks and gaudy finery of the
thinly-clad women contrasted as strangely with the gay sunlight, as
did their forced merriment with the boisterous hilarity of the two
young men, who, now and then, varied their amusements by
'bonneting' the proprietor of this itinerant coffee-house.

Mr. Percy Noakes walked briskly by, and when he turned down Strand-
lane, and caught a glimpse of the glistening water, he thought he
had never felt so important or so happy in his life.

'Boat, sir?' cried one of the three watermen who were mopping out
their boats, and all whistling. 'Boat, sir?'

'No,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, rather sharply; for the inquiry was
not made in a manner at all suitable to his dignity.

'Would you prefer a wessel, sir?' inquired another, to the infinite
delight of the 'Jack-in-the-water.'

Mr. Percy Noakes replied with a look of supreme contempt.

'Did you want to be put on board a steamer, sir?' inquired an old
fireman-waterman, very confidentially. He was dressed in a faded
red suit, just the colour of the cover of a very old Court-guide.

'Yes, make haste--the Endeavour--off the Custom-house.'

'Endeavour!' cried the man who had convulsed the 'Jack' before.
'Vy, I see the Endeavour go up half an hour ago.'

'So did I,' said another; 'and I should think she'd gone down by
this time, for she's a precious sight too full of ladies and
gen'lemen.'

Mr. Percy Noakes affected to disregard these representations, and
stepped into the boat, which the old man, by dint of scrambling,
and shoving, and grating, had brought up to the causeway. 'Shove
her off!' cried Mr. Percy Noakes, and away the boat glided down the
river; Mr. Percy Noakes seated on the recently mopped seat, and the
watermen at the stairs offering to bet him any reasonable sum that
he'd never reach the 'Custum-us.'

'Here she is, by Jove!' said the delighted Percy, as they ran
alongside the Endeavour.

'Hold hard!' cried the steward over the side, and Mr. Percy Noakes
jumped on board.

'Hope you will find everything as you wished, sir. She looks
uncommon well this morning.'

'She does, indeed,' replied the manager, in a state of ecstasy
which it is impossible to describe. The deck was scrubbed, and the
seats were scrubbed, and there was a bench for the band, and a
place for dancing, and a pile of camp-stools, and an awning; and
then Mr. Percy Noakes bustled down below, and there were the
pastrycook's men, and the steward's wife, laying out the dinner on
two tables the whole length of the cabin; and then Mr. Percy Noakes
took off his coat and rushed backwards and forwards, doing nothing,
but quite convinced he was assisting everybody; and the steward's
wife laughed till she cried, and Mr. Percy Noakes panted with the
violence of his exertions. And then the bell at London-bridge
wharf rang; and a Margate boat was just starting; and a Gravesend
boat was just starting, and people shouted, and porters ran down
the steps with luggage that would crush any men but porters; and
sloping boards, with bits of wood nailed on them, were placed
between the outside boat and the inside boat; and the passengers
ran along them, and looked like so many fowls coming out of an
area; and then, the bell ceased, and the boards were taken away,
and the boats started, and the whole scene was one of the most
delightful bustle and confusion.

The time wore on; half-past eight o'clock arrived; the pastry-
cook's men went ashore; the dinner was completely laid out; and Mr.
Percy Noakes locked the principal cabin, and put the key in his
pocket, in order that it might be suddenly disclosed, in all its
magnificence, to the eyes of the astonished company. The band came
on board, and so did the wine.

Ten minutes to nine, and the committee embarked in a body. There
was Mr. Hardy, in a blue jacket and waistcoat, white trousers, silk
stockings, and pumps--in full aquatic costume, with a straw hat on
his head, and an immense telescope under his arm; and there was the
young gentleman with the green spectacles, in nankeen
inexplicables, with a ditto waistcoat and bright buttons, like the
pictures of Paul--not the saint, but he of Virginia notoriety. The
remainder of the committee, dressed in white hats, light jackets,
waistcoats, and trousers, looked something between waiters and West
India planters.

Nine o'clock struck, and the company arrived in shoals. Mr. Samuel
Briggs, Mrs. Briggs, and the Misses Briggs, made their appearance
in a smart private wherry. The three guitars, in their respective
dark green cases, were carefully stowed away in the bottom of the
boat, accompanied by two immense portfolios of music, which it
would take at least a week's incessant playing to get through. The
Tauntons arrived at the same moment with more music, and a lion--a
gentleman with a bass voice and an incipient red moustache. The
colours of the Taunton party were pink; those of the Briggses a
light blue. The Tauntons had artificial flowers in their bonnets;
here the Briggses gained a decided advantage--they wore feathers.

'How d'ye do, dear?' said the Misses Briggs to the Misses Taunton.
(The word 'dear' among girls is frequently synonymous with
'wretch.')

'Quite well, thank you, dear,' replied the Misses Taunton to the
Misses Briggs; and then, there was such a kissing, and
congratulating, and shaking of hands, as might have induced one to
suppose that the two families were the best friends in the world,
instead of each wishing the other overboard, as they most sincerely
did.

Mr. Percy Noakes received the visitors, and bowed to the strange
gentleman, as if he should like to know who he was. This was just
what Mrs. Taunton wanted. Here was an opportunity to astonish the
Briggses.

'Oh! I beg your pardon,' said the general of the Taunton party,
with a careless air.--'Captain Helves--Mr. Percy Noakes--Mrs.
Briggs--Captain Helves.'

Mr. Percy Noakes bowed very low; the gallant captain did the same
with all due ferocity, and the Briggses were clearly overcome.

'Our friend, Mr. Wizzle, being unfortunately prevented from
coming,' resumed Mrs. Taunton, 'I did myself the pleasure of
bringing the captain, whose musical talents I knew would be a great
acquisition.'

'In the name of the committee I have to thank you for doing so, and
to offer you welcome, sir,' replied Percy. (Here the scraping was
renewed.) 'But pray be seated--won't you walk aft? Captain, will
you conduct Miss Taunton?--Miss Briggs, will you allow me?'

'Where could they have picked up that military man?' inquired Mrs.
Briggs of Miss Kate Briggs, as they followed the little party.

'I can't imagine,' replied Miss Kate, bursting with vexation; for
the very fierce air with which the gallant captain regarded the
company, had impressed her with a high sense of his importance.

Boat after boat came alongside, and guest after guest arrived. The
invites had been excellently arranged: Mr. Percy Noakes having
considered it as important that the number of young men should
exactly tally with that of the young ladies, as that the quantity
of knives on board should be in precise proportion to the forks.

'Now, is every one on board?' inquired Mr. Percy Noakes. The
committee (who, with their bits of blue ribbon, looked as if they
were all going to be bled) bustled about to ascertain the fact, and
reported that they might safely start.

'Go on!' cried the master of the boat from the top of one of the
paddle-boxes.

'Go on!' echoed the boy, who was stationed over the hatchway to
pass the directions down to the engineer; and away went the vessel
with that agreeable noise which is peculiar to steamers, and which
is composed of a mixture of creaking, gushing, clanging, and
snorting.

'Hoi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-o-i-i-i!' shouted half-a-dozen voices from a
boat, a quarter of a mile astern.

'Ease her!' cried the captain: 'do these people belong to us,
sir?'

'Noakes,' exclaimed Hardy, who had been looking at every object far
and near, through the large telescope, 'it's the Fleetwoods and the
Wakefields--and two children with them, by Jove!'

'What a shame to bring children!' said everybody; 'how very
inconsiderate!'

'I say, it would be a good joke to pretend not to see 'em, wouldn't
it?' suggested Hardy, to the immense delight of the company
generally. A council of war was hastily held, and it was resolved
that the newcomers should be taken on board, on Mr. Hardy solemnly
pledging himself to tease the children during the whole of the day.

'Stop her!' cried the captain.

'Stop her!' repeated the boy; whizz went the steam, and all the
young ladies, as in duty bound, screamed in concert. They were
only appeased by the assurance of the martial Helves, that the
escape of steam consequent on stopping a vessel was seldom attended
with any great loss of human life.

Two men ran to the side; and after some shouting, and swearing, and
angling for the wherry with a boat-hook, Mr. Fleetwood, and Mrs.
Fleetwood, and Master Fleetwood, and Mr. Wakefield, and Mrs.
Wakefield, and Miss Wakefield, were safely deposited on the deck.
The girl was about six years old, the boy about four; the former
was dressed in a white frock with a pink sash and dog's-eared-
looking little spencer: a straw bonnet and green veil, six inches
by three and a half; the latter, was attired for the occasion in a
nankeen frock, between the bottom of which, and the top of his
plaid socks, a considerable portion of two small mottled legs was
discernible. He had a light blue cap with a gold band and tassel
on his head, and a damp piece of gingerbread in his hand, with
which he had slightly embossed his countenance.

The boat once more started off; the band played 'Off she goes:' the
major part of the company conversed cheerfully in groups; and the
old gentlemen walked up and down the deck in pairs, as
perseveringly and gravely as if they were doing a match against
time for an immense stake. They ran briskly down the Pool; the
gentlemen pointed out the Docks, the Thames Police-office, and
other elegant public edifices; and the young ladies exhibited a
proper display of horror at the appearance of the coal-whippers and
ballast-heavers. Mr. Hardy told stories to the married ladies, at
which they laughed very much in their pocket-handkerchiefs, and hit
him on the knuckles with their fans, declaring him to be 'a naughty
man--a shocking creature'--and so forth; and Captain Helves gave
slight descriptions of battles and duels, with a most bloodthirsty
air, which made him the admiration of the women, and the envy of
the men. Quadrilling commenced; Captain Helves danced one set with
Miss Emily Taunton, and another set with Miss Sophia Taunton. Mrs.
Taunton was in ecstasies. The victory appeared to be complete; but
alas! the inconstancy of man! Having performed this necessary
duty, he attached himself solely to Miss Julia Briggs, with whom he
danced no less than three sets consecutively, and from whose side
he evinced no intention of stirring for the remainder of the day.

Mr. Hardy, having played one or two very brilliant fantasias on the
Jews'-harp, and having frequently repeated the exquisitely amusing
joke of slily chalking a large cross on the back of some member of
the committee, Mr. Percy Noakes expressed his hope that some of
their musical friends would oblige the company by a display of
their abilities.

'Perhaps,' he said in a very insinuating manner, 'Captain Helves
will oblige us?' Mrs. Taunton's countenance lighted up, for the
captain only sang duets, and couldn't sing them with anybody but
one of her daughters.

'Really,' said that warlike individual, 'I should be very happy,
'but--'

'Oh! pray do,' cried all the young ladies.

'Miss Emily, have you any objection to join in a duet?'

'Oh! not the slightest,' returned the young lady, in a tone which
clearly showed she had the greatest possible objection.

'Shall I accompany you, dear?' inquired one of the Miss Briggses,
with the bland intention of spoiling the effect.

'Very much obliged to you, Miss Briggs,' sharply retorted Mrs.
Taunton, who saw through the manoeuvre; 'my daughters always sing
without accompaniments.'

'And without voices,' tittered Mrs. Briggs, in a low tone.

'Perhaps,' said Mrs. Taunton, reddening, for she guessed the tenor
of the observation, though she had not heard it clearly--'Perhaps
it would be as well for some people, if their voices were not quite
so audible as they are to other people.'

'And, perhaps, if gentlemen who are kidnapped to pay attention to
some persons' daughters, had not sufficient discernment to pay
attention to other persons' daughters,' returned Mrs. Briggs, 'some
persons would not be so ready to display that ill-temper which,
thank God, distinguishes them from other persons.'

'Persons!' ejaculated Mrs. Taunton.

'Persons,' replied Mrs. Briggs.

'Insolence!'

'Creature!'

'Hush! hush!' interrupted Mr. Percy Noakes, who was one of the very
few by whom this dialogue had been overheard. 'Hush!--pray,
silence for the duet.'

After a great deal of preparatory crowing and humming, the captain
began the following duet from the opera of 'Paul and Virginia,' in
that grunting tone in which a man gets down, Heaven knows where,
without the remotest chance of ever getting up again. This, in
private circles, is frequently designated 'a bass voice.'


'See (sung the captain) from o-ce-an ri-sing
Bright flames the or-b of d-ay.
From yon gro-ove, the varied so-ongs--'


Here, the singer was interrupted by varied cries of the most
dreadful description, proceeding from some grove in the immediate
vicinity of the starboard paddle-box.

'My child!' screamed Mrs. Fleetwood. 'My child! it is his voice--I
know it.'

Mr. Fleetwood, accompanied by several gentlemen, here rushed to the
quarter from whence the noise proceeded, and an exclamation of
horror burst from the company; the general impression being, that
the little innocent had either got his head in the water, or his
legs in the machinery.

'What is the matter?' shouted the agonised father, as he returned
with the child in his arms.

'Oh! oh! oh!' screamed the small sufferer again.

'What is the matter, dear?' inquired the father once more--hastily
stripping off the nankeen frock, for the purpose of ascertaining
whether the child had one bone which was not smashed to pieces.

'Oh! oh!--I'm so frightened!'

'What at, dear?--what at?' said the mother, soothing the sweet
infant.

'Oh! he's been making such dreadful faces at me,' cried the boy,
relapsing into convulsions at the bare recollection.

'He!--who?' cried everybody, crowding round him.

'Oh!--him!' replied the child, pointing at Hardy, who affected to
be the most concerned of the whole group.

The real state of the case at once flashed upon the minds of all
present, with the exception of the Fleetwoods and the Wakefields.
The facetious Hardy, in fulfilment of his promise, had watched the
child to a remote part of the vessel, and, suddenly appearing
before him with the most awful contortions of visage, had produced
his paroxysm of terror. Of course, he now observed that it was
hardly necessary for him to deny the accusation; and the
unfortunate little victim was accordingly led below, after
receiving sundry thumps on the head from both his parents, for
having the wickedness to tell a story.

This little interruption having been adjusted, the captain resumed,
and Miss Emily chimed in, in due course. The duet was loudly
applauded, and, certainly, the perfect independence of the parties
deserved great commendation. Miss Emily sung her part, without the
slightest reference to the captain; and the captain sang so loud,
that he had not the slightest idea what was being done by his
partner. After having gone through the last few eighteen or
nineteen bars by himself, therefore, he acknowledged the plaudits
of the circle with that air of self-denial which men usually assume
when they think they have done something to astonish the company.

'Now,' said Mr. Percy Noakes, who had just ascended from the fore-
cabin, where he had been busily engaged in decanting the wine, 'if
the Misses Briggs will oblige us with something before dinner, I am
sure we shall be very much delighted.'

One of those hums of admiration followed the suggestion, which one
frequently hears in society, when nobody has the most distant
notion what he is expressing his approval of. The three Misses
Briggs looked modestly at their mamma, and the mamma looked
approvingly at her daughters, and Mrs. Taunton looked scornfully at
all of them. The Misses Briggs asked for their guitars, and
several gentlemen seriously damaged the cases in their anxiety to
present them. Then, there was a very interesting production of
three little keys for the aforesaid cases, and a melodramatic
expression of horror at finding a string broken; and a vast deal of
screwing and tightening, and winding, and tuning, during which Mrs.
Briggs expatiated to those near her on the immense difficulty of
playing a guitar, and hinted at the wondrous proficiency of her
daughters in that mystic art. Mrs. Taunton whispered to a
neighbour that it was 'quite sickening!' and the Misses Taunton
looked as if they knew how to play, but disdained to do it.

At length, the Misses Briggs began in real earnest. It was a new
Spanish composition, for three voices and three guitars. The
effect was electrical. All eyes were turned upon the captain, who
was reported to have once passed through Spain with his regiment,
and who must be well acquainted with the national music. He was in
raptures. This was sufficient; the trio was encored; the applause
was universal; and never had the Tauntons suffered such a complete
defeat.

'Bravo! bravo!' ejaculated the captain;--'bravo!'

'Pretty! isn't it, sir?' inquired Mr. Samuel Briggs, with the air
of a self-satisfied showman. By-the-bye, these were the first
words he had been heard to utter since he left Boswell-court the
evening before.

'De-lightful!' returned the captain, with a flourish, and a
military cough;--'de-lightful!'

'Sweet instrument!' said an old gentleman with a bald head, who had
been trying all the morning to look through a telescope, inside the
glass of which Mr. Hardy had fixed a large black wafer.

'Did you ever hear a Portuguese tambourine?' inquired that jocular
individual.

'Did YOU ever hear a tom-tom, sir?' sternly inquired the captain,
who lost no opportunity of showing off his travels, real or
pretended.

'A what?' asked Hardy, rather taken aback.

'A tom-tom.'

'Never!'

'Nor a gum-gum?'

'Never!'

'What IS a gum-gum?' eagerly inquired several young ladies.

'When I was in the East Indies,' replied the captain--(here was a
discovery--he had been in the East Indies!)--'when I was in the
East Indies, I was once stopping a few thousand miles up the
country, on a visit at the house of a very particular friend of
mine, Ram Chowdar Doss Azuph Al Bowlar--a devilish pleasant fellow.
As we were enjoying our hookahs, one evening, in the cool verandah
in front of his villa, we were rather surprised by the sudden
appearance of thirty-four of his Kit-ma-gars (for he had rather a
large establishment there), accompanied by an equal number of Con-
su-mars, approaching the house with a threatening aspect, and
beating a tom-tom. The Ram started up--'

'Who?' inquired the bald gentleman, intensely interested.

'The Ram--Ram Chowdar--'

'Oh!' said the old gentleman, 'beg your pardon; pray go on.'

'--Started up and drew a pistol. "Helves," said he, "my boy,"--he
always called me, my boy--"Helves," said he, "do you hear that tom-
tom?" "I do," said I. His countenance, which before was pale,
assumed a most frightful appearance; his whole visage was
distorted, and his frame shaken by violent emotions. "Do you see
that gum-gum?" said he. "No," said I, staring about me. "You
don't?" said he. "No, I'll be damned if I do," said I; "and what's
more, I don't know what a gum-gum is," said I. I really thought
the Ram would have dropped. He drew me aside, and with an
expression of agony I shall never forget, said in a low whisper--'

'Dinner's on the table, ladies,' interrupted the steward's wife.

'Will you allow me?' said the captain, immediately suiting the
action to the word, and escorting Miss Julia Briggs to the cabin,
with as much ease as if he had finished the story.

'What an extraordinary circumstance!' ejaculated the same old
gentleman, preserving his listening attitude.

'What a traveller!' said the young ladies.

'What a singular name!' exclaimed the gentlemen, rather confused by
the coolness of the whole affair.

'I wish he had finished the story,' said an old lady. 'I wonder
what a gum-gum really is?'

'By Jove!' exclaimed Hardy, who until now had been lost in utter
amazement, 'I don't know what it may be in India, but in England I
think a gum-gum has very much the same meaning as a hum-bug.'

'How illiberal! how envious!' cried everybody, as they made for the
cabin, fully impressed with a belief in the captain's amazing
adventures. Helves was the sole lion for the remainder of the day-
-impudence and the marvellous are pretty sure passports to any
society.

The party had by this time reached their destination, and put about
on their return home. The wind, which had been with them the whole
day, was now directly in their teeth; the weather had become
gradually more and more overcast; and the sky, water, and shore,
were all of that dull, heavy, uniform lead-colour, which house-
painters daub in the first instance over a street-door which is
gradually approaching a state of convalescence. It had been
'spitting' with rain for the last half-hour, and now began to pour
in good earnest. The wind was freshening very fast, and the
waterman at the wheel had unequivocally expressed his opinion that
there would shortly be a squall. A slight emotion on the part of
the vessel, now and then, seemed to suggest the possibility of its
pitching to a very uncomfortable extent in the event of its blowing
harder; and every timber began to creak, as if the boat were an
overladen clothes-basket. Sea-sickness, however, is like a belief
in ghosts--every one entertains some misgivings on the subject, but
few will acknowledge any. The majority of the company, therefore,
endeavoured to look peculiarly happy, feeling all the while
especially miserable.

'Don't it rain?' inquired the old gentleman before noticed, when,
by dint of squeezing and jamming, they were all seated at table.

'I think it does--a little,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who could
hardly hear himself speak, in consequence of the pattering on the
deck.

'Don't it blow?' inquired some one else.

'No, I don't think it does,' responded Hardy, sincerely wishing
that he could persuade himself that it did not; for he sat near the
door, and was almost blown off his seat.

'It'll soon clear up,' said Mr. Percy Noakes, in a cheerful tone.

'Oh, certainly!' ejaculated the committee generally.

'No doubt of it!' said the remainder of the company, whose
attention was now pretty well engrossed by the serious business of
eating, carving, taking wine, and so forth.

The throbbing motion of the engine was but too perceptible. There
was a large, substantial, cold boiled leg of mutton, at the bottom
of the table, shaking like blancmange; a previously hearty sirloin
of beef looked as if it had been suddenly seized with the palsy;
and some tongues, which were placed on dishes rather too large for
them, went through the most surprising evolutions; darting from
side to side, and from end to end, like a fly in an inverted wine-
glass. Then, the sweets shook and trembled, till it was quite
impossible to help them, and people gave up the attempt in despair;
and the pigeon-pies looked as if the birds, whose legs were stuck
outside, were trying to get them in. The table vibrated and
started like a feverish pulse, and the very legs were convulsed--
everything was shaking and jarring. The beams in the roof of the
cabin seemed as if they were put there for the sole purpose of
giving people head-aches, and several elderly gentlemen became ill-
tempered in consequence. As fast as the steward put the fire-irons
up, they WOULD fall down again; and the more the ladies and
gentlemen tried to sit comfortably on their seats, the more the
seats seemed to slide away from the ladies and gentlemen. Several
ominous demands were made for small glasses of brandy; the
countenances of the company gradually underwent most extraordinary
changes; one gentleman was observed suddenly to rush from table
without the slightest ostensible reason, and dart up the steps with
incredible swiftness: thereby greatly damaging both himself and
the steward, who happened to be coming down at the same moment.

The cloth was removed; the dessert was laid on the table; and the
glasses were filled. The motion of the boat increased; several
members of the party began to feel rather vague and misty, and
looked as if they had only just got up. The young gentleman with
the spectacles, who had been in a fluctuating state for some time--
at one moment bright, and at another dismal, like a revolving light
on the sea-coast--rashly announced his wish to propose a toast.
After several ineffectual attempts to preserve his perpendicular,
the young gentleman, having managed to hook himself to the centre
leg of the table with his left hand, proceeded as follows:

'Ladies and gentlemen. A gentleman is among us--I may say a
stranger--(here some painful thought seemed to strike the orator;
he paused, and looked extremely odd)--whose talents, whose travels,
whose cheerfulness--'

'I beg your pardon, Edkins,' hastily interrupted Mr. Percy Noakes,-
-'Hardy, what's the matter?'

'Nothing,' replied the 'funny gentleman,' who had just life enough
left to utter two consecutive syllables.

'Will you have some brandy?'

'No!' replied Hardy in a tone of great indignation, and looking as
comfortable as Temple-bar in a Scotch mist; 'what should I want
brandy for?'

'Will you go on deck?'

'No, I will NOT.' This was said with a most determined air, and in
a voice which might have been taken for an imitation of anything;
it was quite as much like a guinea-pig as a bassoon.

'I beg your pardon, Edkins,' said the courteous Percy; 'I thought
our friend was ill. Pray go on.'

A pause.

'Pray go on.'

'Mr. Edkins IS gone,' cried somebody.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the steward, running up to Mr. Percy
Noakes, 'I beg your pardon, sir, but the gentleman as just went on
deck--him with the green spectacles--is uncommon bad, to be sure;
and the young man as played the wiolin says, that unless he has
some brandy he can't answer for the consequences. He says he has a
wife and two children, whose werry subsistence depends on his
breaking a wessel, and he expects to do so every moment. The
flageolet's been werry ill, but he's better, only he's in a
dreadful prusperation.'

All disguise was now useless; the company staggered on deck; the
gentlemen tried to see nothing but the clouds; and the ladies,
muffled up in such shawls and cloaks as they had brought with them,
lay about on the seats, and under the seats, in the most wretched
condition. Never was such a blowing, and raining, and pitching,
and tossing, endured by any pleasure party before. Several
remonstrances were sent down below, on the subject of Master
Fleetwood, but they were totally unheeded in consequence of the
indisposition of his natural protectors. That interesting child
screamed at the top of his voice, until he had no voice left to
scream with; and then, Miss Wakefield began, and screamed for the
remainder of the passage.

Mr. Hardy was observed, some hours afterwards, in an attitude which
induced his friends to suppose that he was busily engaged in
contemplating the beauties of the deep; they only regretted that
his taste for the picturesque should lead him to remain so long in
a position, very injurious at all times, but especially so, to an
individual labouring under a tendency of blood to the head.

The party arrived off the Custom-house at about two o'clock on the
Thursday morning dispirited and worn out. The Tauntons were too
ill to quarrel with the Briggses, and the Briggses were too
wretched to annoy the Tauntons. One of the guitar-cases was lost
on its passage to a hackney-coach, and Mrs. Briggs has not scrupled
to state that the Tauntons bribed a porter to throw it down an
area. Mr. Alexander Briggs opposes vote by ballot--he says from
personal experience of its inefficacy; and Mr. Samuel Briggs,
whenever he is asked to express his sentiments on the point, says
he has no opinion on that or any other subject.

Mr. Edkins--the young gentleman in the green spectacles--makes a
speech on every occasion on which a speech can possibly be made:
the eloquence of which can only be equalled by its length. In the
event of his not being previously appointed to a judgeship, it is
probable that he will practise as a barrister in the New Central
Criminal Court.

Captain Helves continued his attention to Miss Julia Briggs, whom
he might possibly have espoused, if it had not unfortunately
happened that Mr. Samuel arrested him, in the way of business,
pursuant to instructions received from Messrs. Scroggins and
Payne, whose town-debts the gallant captain had condescended to
collect, but whose accounts, with the indiscretion sometimes
peculiar to military minds, he had omitted to keep with that dull
accuracy which custom has rendered necessary. Mrs. Taunton
complains that she has been much deceived in him. He introduced
himself to the family on board a Gravesend steam-packet, and
certainly, therefore, ought to have proved respectable.

Mr. Percy Noakes is as light-hearted and careless as ever.


Charles Dickens