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AND A WHEELBARROW THAT CONTAINED UNEXPECTED THINGS.
Great events meanwhile were happening in Troy. On the eighth morning of his eclipse Admiral Buzza was startled by a brisk step upon the stairs; the devil's tattoo was neatly struck upon his bed-room door, and the head of Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys looked in.
"Ah! Admiral, here you are; like What's-his-name in the ruins of Thingummy. You'll pardon me coming up, but my wife is downstairs with Mrs. Buzza, and I was told I should find you here. Don't rise-- 'no dress,' as they say. May I smoke? Thanks. And how are you by this time? I heard something of your mishap, but not the rights of it. I'll sit down, and you can tell me all about it."
Here was affability indeed. The Admiral conquered his first impulse of diving beneath the bed-clothes, and, lying back, recounted his misadventure at some length. The Honourable Frederic listened and smoked with perfect gravity. At the close he said--
"Very dirty treatment, 'pon my word; though I'm not sure I don't sympathise with the fellow in warning off the women. But why stay in bed?"
"There are feelings,"--began the Admiral.
"Ah! to be sure--injured feelings--ungrateful country--blow, blow, thou winter wind, &c. So you take to bed, like the Roman gentleman who went too; forget the place. Gets rid of the women, too; nuisance--women--when you're upset; nonsense, that about pain and anguish playing the deuce, and a ministering angel thou--tommy-rot, I call it. Can't be bothered, now, in bed--turn round and snore; wife has hysterics--snore louder. Capital! I've a mind to try the same plan when Geraldine is fussing and fuming. These infernal women--"
I am sorry to say that the Admiral, instead of defending Mrs. Buzza, began to exculpate Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys.
"But your wife is so charming, so--"
"Of course, my dear sir; so is Mrs. Buzza."
"She was termed the 'Belle of Portsmouth' at the Ball where I proposed to her," remarked the Admiral, with some complacency.
"To be sure; trust a sailor to catch the pretty girls--eh?"
The Admiral chuckled feebly.
"But these women--"
"Ah! yes; these women--"
"Bachelor life was pleasant--eh, Admiral?"
The two men looked at each other. A smile spread over either countenance. I regret to say the Admiral winked, and then chuckled again.
"Admiral, you must get up."
The Admiral stared interrogatively; his visitor pursued, with some inconsequence--"By the way, is there a club here?"
"There's the 'Jolly Trojans' down at the 'Man-o'-War'; they meet on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and--"
"Low lot, I suppose?"
"Well, yes," admitted the Admiral; "a certain amount of good fellowship prevails, I understand; but low, of course--distinctly low."
The Honourable Frederic tapped his boot reflectively with his malacca.
"Admiral," he said at last, "you ought to found a Club here."
"Bless my heart! I never thought of it."
"It is your duty."
"You think so?"
"Sure of it."
"I will get up," said the Admiral decisively. He started out of bed, and looked around for his clothes.
"Nice place, the country," pursued the Honourable Frederic thoughtfully; "fresh eggs, and grass to clean your pipe with--but apt to be dull. Now, a pleasant little society; cards, billiards, and social reunions--select, of course--"
"Of course. Do you happen to be sitting on my trousers?"
"Eh? No, I believe--no. Let me see--limited loo and a modest pool of an evening. Hullo! what's the matter?"
The Admiral had rushed to the door.
"Emily!" he bawled down the stairs.
"Well, I'll be going. Can't find your trousers? Admiral, it's the last straw. But we'll be revenged, Admiral. We'll found a Club; and, by George, sir, we'll call it 'The Inexpressibles'! Ta-ta for the present," and Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys retired.
But what was being discussed below when the Admiral's voice disturbed his wife? Alas! you shall hear.
"These men," Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys was saying, "are all alike. But, my dear, why not disregard his absurd humours? I have revolted from Frederic long ago."
"You don't say so!"
"It is a fact. Take my advice and do the same. It needs courage at first, but they are all cowards--oh, such cowards, my dear! Revolt. Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip--"
"My dear, I should faint."
"Oh, poor soul! Reflect! How pretty the domestic virtues are, but how impossible! Besides, how unfashionable!"
Mrs. Buzza reflected.
"I will!" she exclaimed at last. Just then her husband's voice detonated in the room above. She arose, trembling like a leaf. "Be firm," said her adviser.
"Sit down again. It will do him no harm to wait."
Mrs. Buzza obeyed, still trembling.
It was at this moment that the Honourable Frederic re-entered the room, and looked around with a slow smile.
"Nellie," he observed, when they were outside the house, "you're a vastly clever woman, my love."
"How's the Admiral?" was the reply.
"He nibbles, my angel; he bites."
"I heard him barkin'. An' how long will Brady be givin' us?"
"Two months, my treasure."
Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys reflected for a moment, and then made the following extraordinary reply--
"Be aisy, me dear. In six weeks I'll be ready to elope from yez."
What passed between the Admiral and Mrs. Buzza when they were left together was never fully known. But it was quickly whispered that in No. 2, Alma Villas, the worm had turned. Oddly enough, the spread of conjugal estrangement did not end here. It began to be rumoured that Lawyer Pellow and his wife had "differences "; that Mr. and Mrs. Simpson dined at different hours; and that the elder Miss Strip had broken off a very suitable match with a young ship's chandler, on the ground that ship's candles were not "genteel." It was about this time, too, that Mrs. Wapshot, at the confectionery shop, refused to walk with Mr. Wapshot on the Rope-walk after Sunday evening service, because domestic bliss was "horrid vulgar"; and Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys' dictum that "one admirer, at least, was no more than a married woman's due," only failed of acceptance because the supply of admirers in Troy fell short of the demand. She had herself annexed Samuel Buzza and Mr. Moggridge.
Meanwhile the Admiral was not idle; and had anything been needed to whet his desire for a Club, it would have been found in a dreadful event that happened shortly afterwards.
It was May-morning, and the Admiral was planted in the sunshine outside No. 2, Alma Villas, loudly discussing the question of the hour with Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys, Lawyer Pellow, and the little Doctor.
"No, we can't have him," he was roundly declaring; "the Club must be select, or it is useless to discuss it further."
"Must draw the line somewhere," murmured the Honourable Frederic.
"Quite so; at this rate we shall be admitting all the 'Jolly Trojans.'"
Just then an enormous wheelbarrow was observed approaching, seemingly by supernatural means, for no driver could be seen. The barrow was piled to a great height, and staggered drunkenly from side to side of the road; but the load, whatever it was, lay hidden beneath a large white cloth.
"H'm!" said the little Doctor dubiously. "Well, of course, you know best, but I should have thought that as an old inhabitant of Troy--"
"Pooh, my dear fellow," snapped the Admiral, "it is natural that the feelings of a few will be hurt; but if once we begin to elect the 'Jolly Trojans'--"
The barrow had drawn near meanwhile, and now halted at the Admiral's feet. From behind it stepped into view an exceeding small boy, attired mainly in a gigantic pair of corduroys that reached to the armpits, and were secured with string around the shoulders. His face was a mask of woe, and he staunched his tears on a very grimy shirt-sleeve as he stood and gazed mutely into the Admiral's face.
"Go away, boy!" said Admiral Buzza severely.
The boy sobbed loudly, but made no sign of moving.
"Go away, I tell you!"
"'Tes for you, sir."
"For me? What does the boy mean?"
"Iss, sir. Missusses orders that I was to bring et to Adm'ral Buzza's; an' ef I don't pay out Billy Higgs for this nex' time I meets wi' 'un--"
"The child's daft!" roared the Admiral. "D---- the boy! what has Billy Higgs to do with me?"
"Poured a teacupful o' water down the nape o' my breeches when I'd got ha'f-way up the hill an' cudn' set the barrow down to fight 'un--the coward! Boo-hoo!" and tears flowed again at the recollection.
"What is it?"
The youth stifled a sob, and removed the white cover from the wheelbarrow.
"Bless my soul!" gasped the Admiral, "there must be some mistake."
"It certainly seems to be cake," observed the Honourable Frederic, examining the load through his eye-glass; "and very good cake, too, by the smell."
He was right. High on the barrow, and symmetrically piled, rested five-and-twenty huge cakes--yellow cakes such as all Trojans love-- each large as a mill-stone, tinctured with saffron, plentifully stowed with currants, and crisp with brown crust, steaming to heaven, and wooing the nostrils of the gods.
"Bless my soul!" repeated the Admiral, "but I never ordered this."
Each member of the group in turn advanced, inspected the cake, sniffed the savour, pronounced it excellent, and looked from the Admiral to the boy for explanation.
"Mrs. Dymond down to the 'Man-'o-War' sent et, sir, wi' her compliments to Maaster Sam, an' hopin' as he'll find et plum i' the bakin' as it leaves her at present, an' the currants all a-picked careful, knowin' as he'd a sweet tooth."
"Sam! Do you mean to tell me that Sam--that my son--ordered this? Upon my word, of all--"
"Didn' azackly order et, sir. Won et fair an' square. Bill Odgers comed nex' wi' seven-an'-ninety gallon. But Master Sam topped the lot by a dozen gallon aisy."
"Gallons! What the devil is the boy talking bout?"
"Beer, sir--beer; fust prize for top score o' beer drunk down to the 'Man-o'-War' sence fust o' November last. He's a wunner for beer, es Maaster Sam," pursued the relentless urchin, who by this time had forgotten his tears. "Hunderd an' nine gallons, sir, an' Bill Odgers so jallous as fire--says he'd ha' won et same as he did last time, on'y Maaster Sam's got the longer purse--offered to fight 'un, an' the wuss man to pay for both nex' time."
Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys turned aside to conceal a smile. Lawyer Pellow rubbed his chin. The Admiral stamped.
"Take it away!"
"Where be I to take it to, plaise, sir?"
"Take it away--anywhere; take it to the devil!"
But worse remained for the little man. During this conversation there had come unperceived up the road a gentleman of mild appearance, dressed in black, and carrying under his arm a large parcel wrapped about with whitey-brown paper.
The new-comer, who was indeed our friend Mr. Fogo, now advanced towards the Admiral with a bow.
"Admiral Buzza, I believe?"
The Admiral turned and faced the speaker; his jaw fell like a signal flag; but he drew himself up with fine self-repression.
"Sir, I am Admiral Buzza."
"I have come," said Mr. Fogo, quietly pulling the pins out of his parcel, "to restore what I believe is your property (Will somebody oblige me by holding this pin? Thank you), and at the same time to apologise for the circumstances under which it came into my hands. (Dear me, what a number of pins, to be sure!) I have done what lay in my power with a clothes-brush and emery-powder to restore it to its pristine brilliance. The treatment (That is the last, I think) has not, I am bound to admit, answered my expectations; its result, however, is as you see."
Here Mr. Fogo withdrew the wrapper and with a pleasant smile held out--a cocked hat.
The Admiral, purple with fury, bounced back like a shot on a red-hot shovel; stared; tried to speak, but could not; gulped; tried again; and finally, shaking his fist in Mr. Fogo's face, flung into the house and slammed the front door.
The cause of this transport turned a pair of bewildered spectacles on the others, and found them convulsed with unseemly mirth. He singled out the Honourable Frederic, and addressed himself to that gentleman.
"I have not the pleasure to be acquainted with you, sir; but if you can supply me with any reason for this display of temper, believe me--"
"My name is Goodwyn-Sandys, sir, at your--"
Mr. Fogo dropped the cocked hat and sat down suddenly among the cakes.
"Are you," he gasped--"are you Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys--the Honourable Frederic Augustus Hythe Good--? Heavens!"
"No, sir," said the Honourable Frederic, who had grown a thought pale. "Good wyn, sir--Goodwyn-Sandys. What then?"
"I never saw your face before," murmured Mr. Fogo faintly.
"That, sir, if a misfortune, is one which you share with a number of your fellow-men. And permit me to tell you, sir," continued Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys, with unaccountable change of mood, "that I consider your treatment of my friend Admiral Buzza unworthy of a gentleman, sir--unworthy of a gentleman. Come, Doctor; come, Pellow--I want a word or two more with you about this Club."
And Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys ruffled away, followed by his two slightly puzzled companions.
For the space of two minutes Mr. Fogo gazed up the road after them. Then he sighed, took off his spectacles, and wiped them carefully.
"So that," he said slowly, "is the man she married."
Mr. Fogo started, turned round on the barrow, and beheld the urchin from the "Man-o'-War."
"Little boy," he said sternly, "your conduct is unworthy of a--I mean, what are you doing here?"
"You've a-been an' squashed a cake," said the boy.
Mr. Fogo gave him a shilling, and hurried away down the road; but stopped once or twice on his homeward way to repeat to himself--
"So that--is the man--she married."
It took Admiral Buzza several days to recover his composure; but when he did, the project of the new Club grew with the conjugal disintegration of Troy, and at a rate of progress scarcely inferior. Within a week or two a house was hired in Nelson Row, a brass-plate bearing the words "Trojan Club" affixed to the door, and Admiral Buzza installed in the Presidential Chair. The Presidential Chair occupied the right-hand side of the reading-room window, which overlooked the harbour; and the Presidential duties consisted mainly in conning the morning papers and discussing their contents with Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys, who usually sat, with a glass of whiskey and the Club telescope, on the left-hand side of the window. Indeed, it would be hard to say to which of the two, the whiskey or the telescope, the Honourable Frederic more sedulously devoted himself: it is certain, at least, that under the Admiral's instruction he soon developed a most amazing familiarity with nautical terms, was a mine of information (almost as soon as the Club invested in a Yacht Register) on the subject of Lord Sinkport's yacht, the auxiliary screw Niobe, and swept the horizon with a persistence that made his fellow-members stare.
But the most noticeable feature in this nautical craze was the disproportionate attention which the Honourable Frederic lavished on barques. It was the first rig that he learnt to distinguish, and his early interest developed before long into something like a passion.
One morning, for instance, Sam Buzza lounged into the reading-room and observed--
"I say, have you seen that American barque that came in last night-- the Maritana?"
"What name?" asked Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys, looking up suddenly.
"The Maritana, or the Mariana, or Mary Ann, or something of the--Hullo! what's wrong?"
But the Honourable Frederic had caught up his hat and fled. Half an hour afterwards, when he returned, his usual calm self, the little Doctor took occasion to remark, "Upon my word, you might be a detective, you keep such a look-out on the harbour"--a remark which caused Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys to laugh so consumedly that the Doctor, without exactly seeing the point, began to think he had perpetrated quite a considerable joke.
But let no one imagine that the disruption of Trojan morals avoided heart-burning or escaped criticism. For the line which Mr. Goodwyn-Sandys declared must be drawn somewhere was found not only to bisect the domestic hearth, but to lead to a surprising number of social problems. It fell across the parallels of our small society, and demonstrated that Mrs. A and Mrs. B could never meet; that one room could not contain the two unequal families X and Y; and that while one rested on the basis of trade, and the other on professional skill, it was unreasonable to expect the apex Mrs. Y to coincide with the apex Mrs. X. Finally the New Geometry culminated in a triumphant process, which proved that while Mrs. Simpson was allowed to imbibe tea and scandal in the company of the great, her husband must sip his gin and water in solitude at home.
We had always been select in Troy; but then, In the old days, all Troy had been included in the term. When Mr. Simpson had spoken of the "Jack of Oaks" (meaning the Knave of Clubs), or had said "fainaiguing" (where others said "revoking"), we had pretended not to notice it, until at length we actually did not. So that a human as well as a philological interest attaches to the date when fashion narrowed the meaning of Cumeelfo to exclude the Jack of Oaks, and sent Mr. Simpson home to his gin and water.
The change was discussed with some asperity in the bar-parlour of the "Man-o'-War."
"The hupper classes in Troy es bloomin' fine nowadays," remarked Rechab Geddye (locally known as Rekkub) over his beer on the night when the resignations of Mr. Buzza Junior and Mr. Moggridge had been received by the "Jolly Trojans."
"Ef they gets the leastest bit finer, us shan't be able to see mun," answered Bill Odgers, who was reckoned a wit. "I have heerd tell as Trojans was cousins an' hail-fellow-well-met all the world over; but the hayleet o' this place es a-gettin' a bit above itsel'."
"That's a true word, Bill," interposed Mrs. Dymond from the bar; "an' to say 'Gie us this day our daily bread,' an' then turn up a nose at good saffron cake es flyin' i' the face o' Pruvvidence, an' no less."
"I niver knawed good to come o' titled gentry yet," said Bill.
"You doan't say that?" exclaimed Rekkub, who was an admirer of Bill's Radical views.
"I do, tho'. Look at King Richard--him i' the play-actin'. I reckon he was wan o' the hupper ten ef anybody. An' what does he do? Why, throttles a pair o' babbies, puts a gen'l'm'n he'd a gridge agen into a cask o' wine--which were the spoliation o' both--murders 'most ivery wan he claps eyes on, an' then when he've a-got the jumps an' sees the sperrits an' blue fire, goes off an' offers to swap hes whole bloomin' kingdom for a hoss--a hoss, mind you, he hadn' seen, let alone not bein' in a state o' mind to jedge hoss-flesh. What's true o' kings I reckon es true o' Hon'rubbles; they'm all reared up to the same high notions, an' I reckon us'll find et out afore long. I niver seed no good in makin' Troy fash'nubble mysel'."
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