« VorigeDoorgaan »
with a start of terror, it not occurring to him that the intolerable green had preceded and caused, not followed, the use of the soft soap. "Go home, my dear sir! God bless you-go home, as you value your hair; take this small bottle of Damascus cream, and rub it in before it's too late; and then use the remainder of the
"I should think so! Much good they do me! Sir, you're a humbug ! impostor! I'm a sight to be scen for the rest of my life! Look at me, sir! Eyebrows, whiskers, and all.” "Rather a singular appearance, just at present, I must own," said the gentleman, his face turning suddenly red all over, with the violent effort he was making to prevent an explosion of laughter. He soon, however, recovered himself, and added coolly, "if you'll only persevere."
Persevere!" interrupted Titmouse, violently, clapping his hat on his head, "I'll teach you to persevere in taking in the public. I'll have a warrant out against you."
"Oh, my dear sir, I'm accustomed to all this!"
"The-devil-you-are!" gasped Titmouse, quite aghast.
"Oh, often-often, while the liquid is performing the first stage of the change; but, in a day or two afterwards, the parties generally come back smiling into my shop with heads as black as crows."
"No! But really-do they, sir?" interrupted Titmouse, drawing a long breath.
"Hundreds, I may say thousands, my dear sir! And one lady gave me a picture of herself, in her black hair, to make up for her abuse of me when it was in a puce colour."
"But do you recollect any one's hair turning green, and then getting black?" enquired Titmouse, with trembling anxiety.
"Recollect any? Fifty, at least. For instance, there was Lord Albert Addlehead-but why should I name names? I know hundreds! But every thing is honour and confidential here!
"And did Lord What's-his-name's hair go green, and then black; and was it at first as light as mine?'
"His hair was redder, and in consequence it became greener, and now is blacker than ever yours will be."
"Well, if I and my landlady have this morning used an ounce, we've used a quarter of a pound of soft soap in"
"Soft soap!-soft soap! That explains all," (he forgot how well it had been already explained by him.) "By Heavens, sir!-soft soap! You may have ruined your hair for ever!" Titmouse opened his eyes and mouth
"Then you don't think it's too late?" enquired Titmouse, faintly; and having been assured to the contraryhaving asked the price of the Damascus cream, which was only three-andsixpence, (stamp included) — he paid it with a rueful air, and took his departure. He sneaked along the streets, with the air of a pickpocket fearful that every one he met was an officer who had his eye on him. He was not, in fact, very far off the mark; for many a person smiled, and stared, and turned round to look at him as he went along.
[I wonder, now, what effect the perusal of these pages must have upen the reader, gentle or simple, young or old, male or female, who has shared the folly of Titmouse in the particular now under consideration? They cannot help laughing at the trouble of Titmouse; but it is accompanied by a blush at the absurd weakness of which themselves have been guilty. Depend upon it, my gentleman, that every man or woman of sense who sees you, and suspects or knows what you have been about, can scarce help bursting out a-laughing at you, and writes you down ever after-Ass. But if they do this on seeing him who has so weakly attempted to disguise red-coloured hair, what sorrow, mingled with contempt, must they feel when they see a man, or woman, ashamed of-GREY HAIRS-a 66 crown of rejoicing to them that have done well, a mark of one to whom God has given long life, as the means of gathering experience and wisdom-and dishonouring those grey hairs by the desperate folly of Tittlebat Titmouse?]
Titmouse slunk up stairs to his room, in a sad state of depression, and spent the next hour in rubbing into his hair the Damascus cream. He rubbed till he could hardly hold his arms up any longer from sheer fatigue. Having risen, at length, to mark, from the glass, the progress he had made, he found that the only result of his persevering exertions had been to give a
greasy shining appearance to the hair, that remained as green as ever. With a half-uttered groan he sunk down upon a chair, and fell into a sort of abstraction, which was interrupted by a sharp knock at his door. Titmouse started up, trembled, and stood for a moment or two irresolute, glancing fearfully at the glass; and then, opening the door, let in Mr Gammon, who started back a pace or two, as if he had been shot, on catching sight of the strange figure of Titmouse. It was useless for Gammon to try to check his laughter; so, leaning against the door-post, he yielded to the impulse, and laughed without intermission for at least two minutes. Titmouse felt desperately angry, but feared to show it; and the timid, rueful, lackadaisi cal air with which he regarded the dreaded Mr Gammon, only prolonged and aggravated the agonies of that gentleman. When at length he had a little recovered himself, holding his left hand to his side, with an exhausted air, he entered the little apartment, and asked Titmouse what in the name of heaven he had been doing to himself."Without this" (in the absurd slang of the lawyers) that he knew all the while quite well what Titmouse had been about; but he wanted the enjoyment of hearing Titmouse's own account of the matter. Titmouse, not daring to hesitate, complied-Gammon listening in an agony of suppressed laughter, all the while seeming on the point of bursting a blood vessel. He looked as little at Titmouse as he could, and was growing a little more sedate, when Titmouse, in a truly lamentable tone, enquired, "What's the good, Mr Gammon, of ten thousand a-year with such a head of hair as this?" On hearing which Gammon jumped off his chair, started to the window, and such an explosion of laughter followed as threatened to crack the panes of glass before him. This was too much for Titmouse, who presently cried aloud in a grieVous manner; and Gammon, suddenly ceasing his laughter, turned round and apologized in the most earnest manner; after which he uttered an abun
dance of sympathy for the sufferings which "he deplored being unable to alleviate." He even restrained himself when Titmouse again and again asked if he could not have the law" of the man who had so imposed on
him. Gammon diverted the thoughts of his suffering client, by taking from his pocket some very imposing packages of paper, tied round with red tape. From time to time, however, he almost split his nose with efforts to restrain his laughter, on catching a fresh glimpse of poor Titmouse's emerald hair. Gammon was a man of business, however; and in the midst of all this distracting excitement, contrived to get Titmouse's signature to sundry papers of no little consequence; amongst others, first, to a bond conditioned for the payment of L.500; secondly, another for L. 10,000; and, lastly, an agreement (of which he gave Titmouse an alleged copy) by which Titmouse, in consideration of Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap using their best exertions to put him in the possession of the estate, &c. &c., bound himself to conform to their wishes in every thing, on pain of their instantly throwing up the whole affair, looking out for another heir-atlaw (!) and issuing execution forthwith against Titmouse for all expenses incurred under his retainer. I said that Gammon gave his confiding client an alleged copy of this agreement;-it was not a real copy, for certain stipulations appeared in each that were not intended to appear in the other, for reasons which were perfectly satisfactory to Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. When Gammon had got to this point, he thought it the fitting opportunity for producing a second five pound note. He did so, and put Titmouse thereby into an ecstasy which pushed out of his head, for a while, all recollection of what had happened to his hair. He had at that moment nearly eleven pounds in hard cash! Gammon easily obtained from him an account of his little money transactions with Huckaback-of which, however, all he could tell was
that for ten shillings down, he had given a written engagement to pay fifty pounds on getting the estate. Of this Gammon made a careful memorandum, explaining the atrocious villany of Huckaback-and, in short, that if he (Titmouse) did not look very sharply about him, he would be robbed right and left; so that it was of the utmost consequence to him early to learn how to distinguish between false
and true friends. Gammon went on to assure him that the instrument he
had given to Huckaback was, probably, in point of law, not worth a farthing, on the ground of its being both fraudulent and usurious; and intimated something, which Titmouse did not very distinctly comprehend, about the efficacy of a bill in equity for a discovery; which, at a very insignificant expense, (not exceeding £100,) would enable the plaintiff in equity, to put the defendant in equity (i. e. Huckaback) in the way of declaring, on his solemn oath, that he had advanced the full sum of £50: and having obtained this important and satisfactory result, Titmouse would have the opportunity of disproving the statement of Huckaback-if he could; which of course he could not. By this process, however, a little profitable employment would have been afforded to a certain distinguished firm in Saffron Hill-and that was something-to Gammon.
"But, by the way, talking of money," said Titmouse, suddenly, "how surprising handsome Mr Tag-rag has behaved to me!"
"Indeed, my dear sir!" exclaimed Gammon, with real curiosity," what has he done?"
“Advanced me five pounds—all of his own head!"
"Are you serious, Mr Titmouse?" enquired Gammon.
Titmouse produced the change which he had obtained for Tag-rag's five pound note, minus only the prices of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion, the Damascus Cream, and the eyeglass. Gammon merely stroked his chin in a thoughtful manner. So occupied, indeed, was he with his reflections, that though his eye was fixed on the ludicrous figure of Titmouse, which so shortly before had occasioned him such paroxysms of laughter, he did not feel the least inclination even to a smile. Tag-rag advance Titmouse five pounds! Throwing as much smil. ing indifference into his manner as was possible, he asked Titmouse the particulars of so strange a transaction. Titmouse answered (how truly the reader can judge) that Mr Tag-rag had, in the very handsomest way, volunteered the loan of five pounds; and moreover offered him any further sum he might require!
"What a charming change, Mr Titmouse!" exclaimed Gammon, with a watchful eye and anxious smile.
"Rather sudden, too!-eh ?-Mr Titmouse?"
"Why-no-no; I should say, 'pon my life, certainly not. The fact is, we've long misunderstood each other. He's had an uncommon good opinion of me all the while-people have tried to set him against me; but it's no use, he's found them out he told me so! And he's not only said, but done the handsome thing! He's turned up, by Jove, a trump all of a sudden-though it long looked an ugly one."
"Ha, ha, ha!-very!-how curi. ous!" exclaimed Mr Gammon, mechanically revolving several important matters in his mind.
"I'm going, too, to dine at Satin Lodge, Mr Tag-rag's country house, next Sunday."
"Indeed! It will be quite a change for you, Mr Titmouse."
"Yes, it will, by Jove; and-aa-what's more-there's-hem !-you understand?"
"Go on, I beg, my dear Mr Titmouse."
"There's a lady in the case-not that she's said any thing; but a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horseeh? Mr Gammon ?”
"I should think so-Miss Tag-rag will have money, of course?"
"You've hit it! Lots! But I've not made up my mind."
[I'd better undeceive this poor devil at once, as to this sordid wretch Tag-rag, (thought Gammon,) otherwise the cunning old rogue may get a very mischievous hold upon him! And a lady in the case! The old scamp has a daughter! Whew! this will never do! The sooner I enlighten my young friend, the better-though at a little risk.]
"It's very important to be able to tell who are real and who false friends, as I was saying just now, my dear Titmouse," said Gammon, seriously.
"I think so. Now look, for instance, there's that fellow Hucka. back. I should say he"
"Pho! pho! my dear sir, a mere beetle-he's not worth thinking of, one way or the other. But, can't you guess another sham friend, who has changed so suddenly."
"Do you mean Mr Tag-rag eh?"
"I mention no names; but it's rather odd, that when I am speaking
of hollow-hearted friends, you should at once name Mr Tag-rag.'
"The proof of the pudding-handsome is that handsome does; and I've got £5 of his money, at any rate." "Of course, he took no security for such a trifle, between such close friends as you and him ?"
"Oh-why-now you mention it— But, 'twas only a line-one line."
"I knew it, my dear sir," interrupted Gammon, calmly, with a significant smile" Tag-rag and Huckaback, they're on a par-ah, ha, ha!” My dear Titmouse, you are too honest and confiding !"
"What keen eyes you lawyers have, to be sure! Well-I never❞— he was evidently somewhat staggered.—“ I—I—must say," he presently added, looking gratefully at Gammon, "I think I do now know of a true friend, that sent me two five-pound notes, and never asked for any security."
My dear sir, you really pain me by alluding to such a matter!"
[Oh, Gammon, is not this too bad? What are the papers which you know are now in your pocket, signed only this very evening by Titmouse ?]
"You are not a match for Tag-rag, Titmouse; because he was made for a tradesman-you are not. Do you think he would have parted with his £5 but for value received? Oh, Tag. rag! Tag-rag!"
"I-I really begin to think, Mr Gammon-'pon my soul, I do think you're right."
"Think!-Why-for a man of your acuteness-how could he imagine you could forget the long course of insult and tyranny; that he should change all of a sudden--just now, when""Ay-by Jove!-just when I'm coming into my property," interrupted Titmouse, quickly.
"To be sure to be sure!-Just now, I say, to make this sudden change! Bah! bah!"
"I hate Tag-rag, and always did. Now, he's trying to take me in, just as he does every body; but I've found him out-I won't lay out a penny with him."
"Would you, do you think, ever have seen the inside of Satin Lodge, you hadn't ".
"Why, I don't know I really think-hem!"
"Were you, my dear sir?-But now
a scheme occurs to me-a very amu
sing idea. Shall I tell you a way of proving to his own face how insincere and interested he is towards you? Go to dinner, by all means, eat his good things, hear all that the whole set of them have to say, and just before you go, (it will require you to have your wits about you,) pretend, with a long face, that our affair is all a bottle of smoke: say that Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap have told you the day before that they had made a horrid mistake."
"'Pon my life, I-I-reallydaren't I couldn't-I couldn't keep it up-he'd half kill me. Besides, there will be Miss Tag-rag, it would be the death of her, I know."
"Miss Tag-rag! Gracious Heavens! What on earth can you have to do with her? You-why, if you really succeed in getting this fine property, she might make a very suitable wife for one of your grooms."
"Ah! I don't know-she may be a devilish fine girl, and the old fellow will have a tolerable penny to leave her
and a bird in the hand-eh? Besides, I know what she's all alonghem!-but that doesn't signify."
"Pho! pho! Ridiculous! Ha, ha, ha! Fancy Miss Tag rag Mrs Titmouse! Your eldest son-ah, ha, ha! Tag-rag Titmouse, Esq. Delightful! Your honoured father a draper in Oxford Street!" All this might be very clever, but it did not seem to tell upon Titmouse, whose little heart had been reached by a cunning hint of Tagrag's, concerning his daughter's flattering estimate of Titmouse's personal appearance. The reason why Gammon attacked so seriously a matter, which appeared so chimerical and preposterous, was this-that, according to his present plan, Titmouse was to re
main for some considerable while at Tag-rag's, and, with his utter weakness of character, might be worked upon by Tag-rag and his daughter, and get inveigled into an engagement which might be productive, hereafter of no little embarassment. He suc
ceeded, however, at length, in obtaining. Titmouse's promise to adopt his suggestion, and thereby discover the true nature of the feelings entertained towards him at Satin Lodge. shook Titmouse energetically by the hand, and left him perfectly certain, that if there was one person in the
world worthy of his esteem, and even reverence, that person was OILY GAMMON, ESQ.
As he bent his steps towards Saffron Hill, he reflected rather anxiously on several matters that had occurred to him during the interview which I have just described. On reaching the office he was presently closeted with Mr Quirk, to whom, first and foremost, he exhibited and delivered the documents to which he had obtained Titmouse's signature, and which, the reader will allow me to assure him, were of a somewhat different texture, from a certain legal instrument or security which I laid before him some little time ago.
"Now, Gammon," said the old gentleman, as soon as he had locked up in his safe the above-mentioned documents"Now, Gammon, I think we may be up and at 'em; load our guns, and blaze away," and he rubbed his hands.
"Yes, and long enough we've been in preparation! But I just want to name a thing or two that has occurred to me while with Titmouse." Then he told him of the effects which had followed the use of the potent Cyanochaitanthropopoion, at which old Quirk almost laughed himself into fits. When, however, Gammon, with a serious air, mentioned the name of Miss Tag-rag, and his grave suspicions concerning her, Quirk bounced up out of his chair, almost startling Gammon out of his. If he had just been told that his banker had broke, he could scarce have shown more emotion.
The fact was, that he, too, had a DAUGHTER-an only child-Miss Quirk -whom he had destined to become Mrs Titmouse.
"A designing old villain!" he exclaimed at length, and Gammon agreed with him; but, strange to say, with all his acuteness, never adverted to the real cause of Quirk's sudden and vehement exclamation. When Gammon told him of the manner in which he had opened Titmouse's eyes to the knavery of Tag-rag, and the expedient he had suggested for its demonstration, Quirk could have worshipped Gammon, and could not help rising and shaking him very energetically by the hand, much to his astonishment. After a long consultation, two things were agreed upon by the partners; to look out fresh lodgings for Titmouse, and remove him presently
altogether from the company and influence of Tag-rag. Some time after they had parted, Quirk came with an eager air into Mr Gammon's room, with a most important suggestion, viz. whether it would not be possible for them to get Tag-rag to become a surety to them, by-and-by, on behalf of Titmouse? Gammon was delighted !— He heartily commended Mr Quirk's sagacity, and promised to turn it about in his thoughts very carefully. Not having been let entirely into Quirk's policy, (of which the reader has, however, just had a glimpse,) he did not see the difficulties which kept Quirk awake almost all that night-how to protect Titmouse from the machinations of Tag-rag and his daughter, and yet keep Tag-rag sufficiently interested in, and intimate with Titmouse to entertain, by-and- by, the idea of becoming surety for him to them, the said Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap; and how to manage Titmouse all the while, so as to forward their objects, and also that of turning his attention towards Miss Quirk, was really rather a difficult problem. Quirk looked down on Tag-rag with honest indignation, as a mean and mercenary fellow, whose unprincipled schemes, thank Heaven! he already saw through, and from which he resolved to rescue his innocent and confiding client, who was made for better things-to wit, Miss Quirk.
When Titmouse rose the next morning, (Saturday,) behold-he found his hair had become of a variously shaded purple or violet colour! Astonishment and apprehension by turns possessed him, as he stared into the glass at this unlooked-for change of colour; and hastily dressing himself, after swallowing a very slight breakfast, off he went once more to the scientific establishment in Bond Street, to which he had been indebted for his recent delightful. experiences. The distinguished inventor and proprietor of the Cyanochaitanthropopoion was behind the counter as usual-calm and confident as ever.
"Ah! I see as I said! as I said! Isn't it?-coming round quicker than usual-Really, I'm selling more of the article than I can possibly make."
“Well,”—at length said Titmouse, as soon as he had recovered from the surprise occasioned by the sudden vo