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TEN THOUSAND A-YEAR!
Fortuna sævo læta negotio, et
Nunc mihi, nunc alii benigna.
HOR. CARM. Lib. iii. 49.
WHEN, after his return from Mr Gammon's chambers, at Thavies' Inn, Titmouse woke at an early hour in the morning, he was labouring under the ordinary effects of unaccustomed inebriety. His mouth and lips were perfectly parched; there was a horrid weight pressing on his aching eyes, and upon his throbbing head. His pillow seemed undulating beneath him, and every thing swimming around him: but when, to crown the whole, he was roused from a momentary nap by the insupportable-the loathed importunities of Mrs Squallop, that he would just sit up and partake of three thick rounds of hot buttered toast, and a great basin of smoking tea, which would do him so much good, and settle his stomach-at all events, if he'd only have a thimbleful of gin in it-poor. Titmouse was fairly overcome. He lay in bed all that day, during which he underwent very severe sufferings; and it was not till towards night that he began to have any thing like a distinct recollection of the evening he had spent with Mr Gammon; who, by the way, had sent one of the clerks, during the afternoon, to enquire after him. He did not get out of bed on the Tuesday till past twelve o'clock, when, in a very rickety condition, he made his ap pearance at the shop of Messrs Dowlas and Co.; on approaching which he felt a sudden faintness, arising from mingled apprehension and disgust.
"What are you doing here, sir?— You're no longer in my employment, sir," exclaimed Tag-rag, attempting to speak calmly, as he hurried down the shop to meet Titmouse, and plant. ed himself right in the way of his languid and pallid shopman.
"Sir!"-faintly exclaimed Titmouse, with his hat in his hand.
"Very much obliged, sir-very! by the offer of your valuable services," said Tag-rag. But-that's the way out again, sir-that!—there!-good morn
ing, sir-good morning, sir!-that's the way out"-and he edged on Titmouse, till he had got him fairly into the street -with infinite difficulty restraining himself from giving him a parting kick. Titmouse stood for a moment before the door, trembling and aghast, looking in a bewildered manner at the shop: but Tag-rag again making his appearance, Titmouse slowly walked away and returned to his lodgings.-Oh that Mr Gammon had witnessed the scene- -thought he-and so have been satisfied that it had been Tag-rag who had put an end to his service, not he himself who had quitted it!
The next day, about the same hour, Mr Gammon made his appearance at Messrs Dowlas and Company's, and enquired for Mr Tag-rag, who presently presented himself—and, recognising Mr Gammon, who naturally reminded him of Titmouse, changed colour a little.
"What did you please to want, sir?" enquired Mr Tag-rag, with a wouldbe resolute air, twirling round his watch-key with some energy.
Only a few minutes' conversation, sir, if you please," said Mr Gammon, with such a significant manner as a little disturbed Mr Tag-rag; who, with an ill-supported sneer, bowed very low, and led the way to his own little room. Having closed the door, he, with an exceedingly civil air, begged Mr Gammon to be seated; and then occupied the chair opposite to him, and awaited the issue with illdisguised anxiety.
"I am very sorry, Mr Tag.rag," commenced Gammon, with his usual elegant and feeling manner, "that any misunderstanding should have arisen between you and Mr Titmouse."
"Yes-you are right, Mr Tagrag; and, having already heard Mr Titmouse's version, may I be favoured with your account of your reasons for dismissing him? For he tells us that yesterday you dismissed him suddenly from your employment, without giving him any warn'
"So I did, sir; and what of that?" enquired Tag-rag, tossing his head with an air of defiance. "Things are come to a pretty pass indeed, when a man can't dismiss a drunken, idle, impudent vagabond."
"Do you seriously charge him with being such a character, and can you prove your charges, Mr Tag-rag?" enquired Gammon, gravely.
Prove 'em! yes, sir, a hundred times over; so will all my young men. "And in a court of justice, Mr Tag-rag?"
"Oh! he's going to law, is he? That's why you're come here-ah, ha! when you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you may get your bill out of Mr Tittlebat Titmouse !-ha, ha, ha!" laughed Tag-rag, hoping thereby to conceal how much he was really startled.
"Well-that's our look-out, Mr Tag-rag: to Mr Titmouse, his character is as valuable as Mr Tag-rag's is to him. In short, he has placed himself in our hands, and we are resolved to go on with the case, if it costs us a hundred pounds-we are indeed, Mr Tag-rag.'"
"Why-he's not a penny in the world to go to law with!" exclaimed Tag-rag, with an air of mingled wonder and contempt.
"But you forget, Mr Tag-rag, that if Mr Titmouse's account should turn out to be correct, it will be your pocket that must pay all the expenses, amounting probably to twenty times the sum which a jury may award to Mr Tit
"Law, sir!—It's not justice-I hate law-give me common sense and common honesty!"
"Both of them would condemn your conduct, Mr Tag-rag; for I have heard a full account of what Mr Titmouse has suffered at your hands-of the cause of your sudden warning to him, and your still more sudden dismissal of yesterday. Oh, Mr Tag-rag! upon my honour, it won't do-not for a moment-and should you go on, rely upon what I tell you, that it will cost you dear."
"And suppose, sir," said Tag-rag, in a would-be contemptuous tone"I should have witnesses to prove all I've said-which of us will look funny then, sir?"
"Which, indeed! However, since that is your humour, I can only assure you that Mr Titmouse defies you to prove any misconduct on his part. We have taken up his cause, and, as you may perhaps find, we shall not easily let it drop.'
"I mean no offence, sir," said Tagrag, in a mitigated tone; " but I must say, that ever since you first came here, Titmouse has been quite another person. He seems not to know who I am, nor to care either-and he's perfectly unbearable."
"My dear sir, what has he said or done?-that, you know, is what you must be prepared to prove.
"Well, sir! and which of us is likely to be best off for witnesses?— Think of that, sir- I've eighteen young men".
"We shall chance that, sir," replied Gammon, shrugging his shoulders; but, again, I ask, what did you dismiss him for? and I request a plain, straight-forward answer.'
"What did I dismiss him for?Haven't I eyes and ears?- First and foremost, he's the most odious-mannered fellow I ever came near-andhe hadn't a shirt to his back, when I first took him-the ungrateful wretch! Sir, it's not against the law, I suppose, to hate a man ;—and if it isn't, how I hate Titmouse!"
"Mr Tag-rag" said Gammon, lowering his voice, and looking very earnestly at his companion-" can I say a word to you in confidence-the strictest confidence?"
"What's it about, sir?" enquired Tag-rag, with an apprehensive air.
"I dare say you may have felt, perhaps, rather surprised at the interest which I-in fact our office, the office of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, in Saffron Hill-appear to have taken in Mr Titmouse.'
"Ten thousand a-year, sir!-My Titmouse!-Tittlebat Titmouse !Ten thousand a-year!" faltered Tagrag, after a pause.
"I have as little doubt of the fact, as I have that you yesterday turned him out of doors."
"But-who could have dreamt it? How was how was I to know it?" "That's the fact, however," said Gammon, shrugging his shoulders. Tag-rag wriggled about in his chair, put his hands in and out of his pockets, scratched his head, and continued staring open-mouthed at the bearer of such astounding intelligence. "Perhaps all this is meant as a joke, sir," said he-" if so-it's-it's-a very"
"It's one of his solicitors, who were fortunate enough to make the discovery, that tells you. I solemnly assure you of the fact, Mr Tag-rag. Ten thousand a-year, at the least, is Mr Titmouse now the real owner of." "Why, that's two hundred thousand pounds, sir!"-exclaimed Tag-rag, with an awe-struck air.
"At the very least".
Lord, Mr Gammon!-Excuse me, sir, but how did you find it out?" "Mere accident-mere accident, sir."
"And does Mr Titmouse know it?" "Ever since the day after that on which I called on him here."
"You don't say so!"-Tag-rag continued silent for nearly a minute, evidently amazed beyond all power of expression.
"Well," at length he observed"I will say this-he's the most amiyoung gentleman_the very amiyoung gentleman I-evercame near. I always thought there was something uncommon superiorlike in his looks."
"Yes I think he is of rather an amiable turn," observed Gammon, with an expressive smile" and so intelligent'
Intelligent! Mr Gammon! you should only have known him as I have known him!-Well, to be sure! -Lord! His only fault was, that he was above his business; but when one comes to think of it, how could it be otherwise? From the time I first clapped eyes on him—I—I—knew he was a superior article-quite superior-you know what I mean, sir?— He couldn't help it, of course! To be sure he never was much liked by the other young men ; but that was jealousy! all jealousy;
I saw that all the while." Here he looked at the door, and added in a very low tone, "Many sleepless nights has their bad treatment of Mr Titmouse cost me!-Even I, now and then, used to look and speak sharply to him-just to keep him, as it were, down to the mark of the others-he was SO uncommon handsome, and genteel in his manner, sir. Hang me, if I didn't tell Mrs Tag-rag the very first day he came to me, that he was a gentleman born-or ought to have been one."
Now, do you suppose, acute reader, that Mr Tag-rag was insincere in all this? By no means. He spoke the real dictates of his heart, unaware of the sudden change which had taken place in his feelings. It certainly has an ugly look-but it was the nature of the beast; his eye suddenly caught a glimpse of the golden calf, and he instinctively fell down and worshipped it. "Well-at all events," said Mr Gammon, scarcely able to keep a serious expression on his face"though not a gentleman born, he'll live like a gentleman-and spend his money like one, too."
"II dare say he will!—I wonder how he will get through a quarter of it!-what do you think he'll dó, sir?"
"Heaven only knows-he may do just what he likes."
"I declare-I feel as if I shouldn't be quite right again for the rest of the day!
I own to you, sir, that all yesterday and to-day I've been on the point of going to Mr Titmouse's lodgingsto apologize for-for-Good gracious me! one can't take it all in at once-Ten thousand a-year!-Many a lord hasn't got more some not as much, I'll be bound!- Dear me, what will he do!Well, one thing I'm sure of—he'll never have a truer friend than plain Thomas Tag-rag, though I've not
always been a-flattering him-I respected him too much!-The many little things I've borne with in Titmouse, that in any one else I'd have -But why didn't he tell me, sir? We should have understood one another in a moment." Here he paused abruptly; for his breath seemed suddenly taken away, as he reviewed the series of indignities which he had latterly inflicted on Titmouse-the kind of life which that amiable young gentleman had led in his establishment. Never had the keen Gammon enjoyed any thing more exquisitely than the scene which I have been describing. To a man of his practical sagacity in the affairs of life, and knowledge of human nature, nothing could appear more ludicrously contemptible than the conduct of poor Tag-rag. How differently are the minds of men constituted! How Gammon despised Tag-rag! and how the reader must respect Gammon !
“Now, may I take for granted, Mr Tag-rag, that we understand each other?" enquired Gammon.
"Yes, sir," replied Tag-rag, meekly. "But do you think Mr Titmouse will ever forgive or forget the little misunderstanding we've lately had? If I could but explain to him how I have been acting a part towards him—all for his good!
"You may have opportunities for doing so, if you are really so disposed, Mr Tag-rag; for I have something seriously to propose to you. Circum
stances render it desirable that for some little time this important affair should be kept as quiet as possible; and it is Mr Titmouse's wish, and ours-as his confidential professional advisers-that for some few months he should continue in your establishment, and apparently in your service as before."
"In my service!-my service!" interrupted Tag-rag, opening his eyes to their utmost. "I sha'n't know how to behave in my own premises! Have a man with ten thousand a-year behind my counter, sir? I might as well have the Lord Mayor! Sir, it can't-it can't be. Now, if Mr Titmouse chose to become a partner in the house —ay, there might be something in that -he needn't have any trouble-be only a sleeping partner." Tag-rag warmed with the thought. Really, sir, that wouldn't be so much amiss-would it ?" Gammon assured him that it was out of the question; and gave him
some of the reasons for the proposal which he (Mr Gammon) had been making. While Gammon fancied that Tag-rag was paying profound attention to what he was saying, Tag-rag's thoughts had shot far a-head. He had an only child-a daughter, about twenty years old-Miss Tabitha Tagrag; and the delightful possibility of her by-and-by becoming MRS TITMOUSE, put her amiable parent into a perspiration. Into the proposal just made by Mr Gammon he fell with great eagerness, which he attempted to conceal-for what innumerable opportunities could it not afford him for bringing about the desire of his heart-for throwing the lovely young couple into each other's way, endearing them to each other! Oh, delightful! It really looked almost as if fate had determined that the thing should come to pass! If Mr Titmouse did not dine with him, Mrs, and Miss Tag-rag, at Satin Lodge, Clapham, on the very next Sunday, it should, Tagrag resolved, be owing to no fault of his.-Mr Gammon having arranged every thing exactly as he had desired, and having again enjoined Mr Tag-rag to absolute secresy, took his departure. Mr Tag-rag, in his excitement, thrust out his hand, and grasped that of Gammon, which was extended towards him somewhat coldly and reluctantly. Tagrag attended him with extreme obsequiousness to the door; and on his departure, walked back rapidly to his own room, and sat down for nearly half an hour in deep thought. Abruptly rising, at length, he clapped his hat on his head, and saying that he should soon be back, hurried out to call upon his future sonin-law, full of affectionate anxiety concerning his health-and vowing within himself, that thenceforth it should be the study of his life to make his daughter and Titmouse happy! There could be no doubt of the reality of the event just communicated to him by Mr Gammon; for he was a well-known solicitor, he had had an interview on important business with Titmouse a fortnight ago, which could have been nothing but the prodigious event just communicated to himself. Such things had happened to others-why not to Tittlebat Titmouse? In short, Tag-rag had no doubt on the matter.
He found Titmouse not at home; so he left a most particularly civil message, half a dozen times repeated, with Mrs Squallop-to the effect that he, Mr Tag-rag, should be only too
of them stored it up in their minds as a useful precedent against some future
happy to see Mr Titmouse at No. 375, Oxford Street, whenever it might suit his convenience; that he was most deeply concerned to hear of Mr Titmouse's indisposition, and anxious to learn from himself that he had recovered, &c. &c. &c.;-all which, together with one or two other little matters, which Mrs Squallop could not help putting together, satisfied that shrewd lady that "something was in the wind about Mr Titmouse;" and made her reflect rather anxiously on one or two violent scenes she had had with him, and which she was now ready entirely to forget and forgive. Having thus done all that at present was in his power to forward the thing, the anxious and excited Tag-rag returned to his shop; on entering which, one Lutestring, his principal young man, eagerly apprised him of a claim which he had, as he imagined, only the moment before established to the thanks of Mr Tag-rag, by having "bundled off, neck and crop, that hodious Titmouse," who, about five minutes before, had, it seemed, had the "impudence" to present himself at the shop-door, and walk in as if nothing had happened!! [Titmouse had so presented himself, in consequence of a call from Mr Gammon, immediately after his interview with Tag-rag.]
"You-ordered-Mr Titmouseoff!!" exclaimed Tag-rag, starting back aghast, and stopping his voluble and officious assistant.
"Of course, sir-after what happened yester"
"Who authorized, you, Mr Lutestring?" enquired Tag-rag, striving to choke down the rage that was rising within him.
"Why, sir, I really supposed that".
"You supposed! You're a meddling, impertinent, disgusting Suddenly his face was overspread with smiles, as three or four elegantly dressed customers entered, whom he received with profuse obeisances. But when their backs were turned, he directed a lightning look to wards Lutestring, and retreated once more to his room, to meditate on the agitating events of the last hour. The extraordinary alteration in Mr Tagrag's behaviour was attributed by his shopmen to his having been frightened out of his wits by the threats of Titmouse's lawyer-for such it was clear the stranger was; and more than one
Twice afterwards during the day did Tag-rag call at Titmouse's lodgings-but in vain; and on returning the third time felt not a little disquieted. He determined, however, to call the first thing on the ensuing morning; if he should then fail of seeing Mr Titmouse, he was resolved to go to Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap-and besides, address a very affectionate letter to Mr Titmouse. How totally changed had become all his feelings towards that gentleman within the last few hours! The more Tagrag reflected on Titmouse's conduct, the more he saw in it to approve of. How steady and regular had he been in his habits! how civil and obliging! how patient of rebuke! how plea sing in his manners to the customers! Surely, surely, thought Tag-rag, Titmouse can't have been four long years in my employ without getting a—sort of a-feeling-of attachment to mehe'd have left long ago if he hadn't! It was true there had now and then been tiffs between them; but who could agree always? Even Mrs Tagrag and he, when they were courting, often fell out with one another. Tagrag was now ready to forget and forgive all-he had never meant any harm to Titmouse. He believed that poor Tittlebat was an orphan, poor soul! alone in the wide world-now he would become the prey of designing strangers.
Tag-rag did not like the appearance of Gammon. No doubt that person would try and ingratiate himself as much as possible with Titmouse! Then Titmouse was remarkably good-looking. "I wonder what Tabby will think of him when she sees him!" How anxious Tittlebat must be to see her his daughter!— How could Tag-rag make Tittlebat's stay at his premises (for he could not bring himself to believe that on the morrow he could not set all right, and disavow the impudent conduct of Lutestring) agreeable and delightful? He would discharge the first of his young men that did not show Titmouse proper respect. What low lodgings poor Tittlebat lived in! Why could he not take up his quarters at Satin Lodge? They always had a nice spare bedroom. Ah! that would be a stroke! How Tabby could endear herself to him! What a number of things Mrs