Between 1833 and 1836, the Victorian writer Charles Dickens wrote a number of sketches which were originally published in various newspapers and other periodicals including The Morning Chronicle, The Evening Chronicle, The Monthly Magazine, The Carlton Chronicle and Bell’s Weekly Messenger. Many were published under the pen name of Boz, which Dickens adopted early on in his career as a writer and journalist. The popular sketches were reproduced in 1836 in a collected work, Sketches by Boz, which contained 56 sketches divided into four sections: Our Parish (7 sketches) Scenes (25 sketches), Characters (12 sketches) and Tales (12 sketches). The material in the first three sections consists of portraits of London life and the last section comprised fictional stories.
Sketches by Boz. Tales, Chapter 4.
THE TUGGSES AT RAMSGATE
Once upon a time there dwelt, in a narrow street on the Surrey side of the water, within three minutes’ walk of old London Bridge, Mr. Joseph Tuggs—a little dark-faced man, with shiny hair, twinkling eyes, short legs, and a body of very considerable thickness, measuring from the centre button of his waistcoat in front, to the ornamental buttons of his coat behind. The figure of the amiable Mrs. Tuggs, if not perfectly symmetrical, was decidedly comfortable; and the form of her only daughter, the accomplished Miss Charlotte Tuggs, was fast ripening into that state of luxuriant plumpness which had enchanted the eyes, and captivated the heart, of Mr. Joseph Tuggs in his earlier days. Mr. Simon Tuggs, his only son, and Miss Charlotte Tuggs’s only brother, was as differently formed in body, as he was differently constituted in mind, from the remainder of his family. There was that elongation in his thoughtful face, and that tendency to weakness in his interesting legs, which tell so forcibly of a great mind and romantic disposition. The slightest traits of character in such a being, possess no mean interest to speculative minds. He usually appeared in public, in capacious shoes with black cotton stockings; and was observed to be particularly attached to a black glazed stock, without tie or ornament of any description.
There is perhaps no profession, however useful; no pursuit, however meritorious; which can escape the petty attacks of vulgar minds. Mr. Joseph Tuggs was a grocer. It might be supposed that a grocer was beyond the breath of calumny; but no—the neighbours stigmatised him as a chandler; and the poisonous voice of envy distinctly asserted that he dispensed tea and coffee by the quartern, retailed sugar by the ounce, cheese by the slice, tobacco by the screw, and butter by the pat. These taunts, however, were lost upon the Tuggses. Mr. Tuggs attended to the grocery department; Mrs. Tuggs to the cheesemongery; and Miss Tuggs to her education. Mr. Simon Tuggs kept his father’s books, and his own counsel.
One fine spring afternoon, the latter gentleman was seated on a tub of weekly Dorset, behind the little red desk with a wooden rail, which ornamented a corner of the counter; when a stranger dismounted from a cab, and hastily entered the shop. He was habited in black cloth, and bore with him, a green umbrella, and a blue bag.
‘Mr. Tuggs?’ said the stranger, inquiringly.
‘My name is Tuggs,’ replied Mr. Simon.
‘It’s the other Mr. Tuggs,’ said the stranger, looking towards the glass door which led into the parlour behind the shop, and on the inside of which, the round face of Mr. Tuggs, senior, was distinctly visible, peeping over the curtain.
Mr. Simon gracefully waved his pen, as if in intimation of his wish that his father would advance. Mr. Joseph Tuggs, with considerable celerity, removed his face from the curtain and placed it before the stranger.
‘I come from the Temple,’ said the man with the bag.
‘From the Temple!’ said Mrs. Tuggs, flinging open the door of the little parlour and disclosing Miss Tuggs in perspective.
‘From the Temple!’ said Miss Tuggs and Mr. Simon Tuggs at the same moment.
‘From the Temple!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs, turning as pale as a Dutch cheese.
‘From the Temple,’ repeated the man with the bag; ‘from Mr. Cower’s, the solicitor’s. Mr. Tuggs, I congratulate you, sir. Ladies, I wish you joy of your prosperity! We have been successful.’ And the man with the bag leisurely divested himself of his umbrella and glove, as a preliminary to shaking hands with Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
Now the words ‘we have been successful,’ had no sooner issued from the mouth of the man with the bag, than Mr. Simon Tuggs rose from the tub of weekly Dorset, opened his eyes very wide, gasped for breath, made figures of eight in the air with his pen, and finally fell into the arms of his anxious mother, and fainted away without the slightest ostensible cause or pretence.
‘Water!’ screamed Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Look up, my son,’ exclaimed Mr. Tuggs.
‘Simon! dear Simon!’ shrieked Miss Tuggs.
‘I’m better now,’ said Mr. Simon Tuggs. ‘What! successful!’ And then, as corroborative evidence of his being better, he fainted away again, and was borne into the little parlour by the united efforts of the remainder of the family, and the man with the bag.
To a casual spectator, or to any one unacquainted with the position of the family, this fainting would have been unaccountable. To those who understood the mission of the man with the bag, and were moreover acquainted with the excitability of the nerves of Mr. Simon Tuggs, it was quite comprehensible. A long-pending lawsuit respecting the validity of a will, had been unexpectedly decided; and Mr. Joseph Tuggs was the possessor of twenty thousand pounds.
A prolonged consultation took place, that night, in the little parlour—a consultation that was to settle the future destinies of the Tuggses. The shop was shut up, at an unusually early hour; and many were the unavailing kicks bestowed upon the closed door by applicants for quarterns of sugar, or half-quarterns of bread, or penn’orths of pepper, which were to have been ‘left till Saturday,’ but which fortune had decreed were to be left alone altogether.
‘We must certainly give up business,’ said Miss Tuggs.
‘Oh, decidedly,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Simon shall go to the bar,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
‘And I shall always sign myself “Cymon” in future,’ said his son.
‘And I shall call myself Charlotta,’ said Miss Tuggs.
‘And you must always call me “Ma,” and father “Pa,”’ said Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Yes, and Pa must leave off all his vulgar habits,’ interposed Miss Tuggs.
‘I’ll take care of all that,’ responded Mr. Joseph Tuggs, complacently. He was, at that very moment, eating pickled salmon with a pocket-knife.
‘We must leave town immediately,’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs.
Everybody concurred that this was an indispensable preliminary to being genteel. The question then arose, Where should they go?
‘Gravesend?’ mildly suggested Mr. Joseph Tuggs. The idea was unanimously scouted. Gravesend was low.
‘Margate?’ insinuated Mrs. Tuggs. Worse and worse—nobody there, but tradespeople.
‘Brighton?’ Mr. Cymon Tuggs opposed an insurmountable objection. All the coaches had been upset, in turn, within the last three weeks; each coach had averaged two passengers killed, and six wounded; and, in every case, the newspapers had distinctly understood that ‘no blame whatever was attributable to the coachman.’
‘Ramsgate?’ ejaculated Mr. Cymon, thoughtfully. To be sure; how stupid they must have been, not to have thought of that before! Ramsgate was just the place of all others.
Two months after this conversation, the City of London Ramsgate steamer was running gaily down the river. Her flag was flying, her band was playing, her passengers were conversing; everything about her seemed gay and lively.—No wonder—the Tuggses were on board.
‘Charming, ain’t it?’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs, in a bottle-green great-coat, with a velvet collar of the same, and a blue travelling-cap with a gold band.
‘Soul-inspiring,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs—he was entered at the bar. ‘Soul-inspiring!’
‘Delightful morning, sir!’ said a stoutish, military-looking gentleman in a blue surtout buttoned up to his chin, and white trousers chained down to the soles of his boots.
Mr. Cymon Tuggs took upon himself the responsibility of answering the observation. ‘Heavenly!’ he replied.
‘You are an enthusiastic admirer of the beauties of Nature, sir?’ said the military gentleman.
‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs.
‘Travelled much, sir?’ inquired the military gentleman.
‘Not much,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs.
‘You’ve been on the continent, of course?’ inquired the military gentleman.
‘Not exactly,’ replied Mr. Cymon Tuggs—in a qualified tone, as if he wished it to be implied that he had gone half-way and come back again.
‘You of course intend your son to make the grand tour, sir?’ said the military gentleman, addressing Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
As Mr. Joseph Tuggs did not precisely understand what the grand tour was, or how such an article was manufactured, he replied, ‘Of course.’ Just as he said the word, there came tripping up, from her seat at the stern of the vessel, a young lady in a puce-coloured silk cloak, and boots of the same; with long black ringlets, large black eyes, brief petticoats, and unexceptionable ankles.
‘Walter, my dear,’ said the young lady to the military gentleman.
‘Yes, Belinda, my love,’ responded the military gentleman to the black-eyed young lady.
‘What have you left me alone so long for?’ said the young lady. ‘I have been stared out of countenance by those rude young men.’
‘What! stared at?’ exclaimed the military gentleman, with an emphasis which made Mr. Cymon Tuggs withdraw his eyes from the young lady’s face with inconceivable rapidity. ‘Which young men—where?’ and the military gentleman clenched his fist, and glared fearfully on the cigar-smokers around.
‘Be calm, Walter, I entreat,’ said the young lady.
‘I won’t,’ said the military gentleman.
‘Do, sir,’ interposed Mr. Cymon Tuggs. ‘They ain’t worth your notice.’
‘No—no—they are not, indeed,’ urged the young lady.
‘I will be calm,’ said the military gentleman. ‘You speak truly, sir. I thank you for a timely remonstrance, which may have spared me the guilt of manslaughter.’ Calming his wrath, the military gentleman wrung Mr. Cymon Tuggs by the hand.
‘My sister, sir!’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs; seeing that the military gentleman was casting an admiring look towards Miss Charlotta.
‘My wife, ma’am—Mrs. Captain Waters,’ said the military gentleman, presenting the black-eyed young lady.
‘My mother, ma’am—Mrs. Tuggs,’ said Mr. Cymon. The military gentleman and his wife murmured enchanting courtesies; and the Tuggses looked as unembarrassed as they could.
‘Walter, my dear,’ said the black-eyed young lady, after they had sat chatting with the Tuggses some half-hour.
‘Yes, my love,’ said the military gentleman.
‘Don’t you think this gentleman (with an inclination of the head towards Mr. Cymon Tuggs) is very much like the Marquis Carriwini?’
‘Lord bless me, very!’ said the military gentleman.
‘It struck me, the moment I saw him,’ said the young lady, gazing intently, and with a melancholy air, on the scarlet countenance of Mr. Cymon Tuggs. Mr. Cymon Tuggs looked at everybody; and finding that everybody was looking at him, appeared to feel some temporary difficulty in disposing of his eyesight.
‘So exactly the air of the marquis,’ said the military gentleman.
‘Quite extraordinary!’ sighed the military gentleman’s lady.
‘You don’t know the marquis, sir?’ inquired the military gentleman.
Mr. Cymon Tuggs stammered a negative.
‘If you did,’ continued Captain Walter Waters, ‘you would feel how much reason you have to be proud of the resemblance—a most elegant man, with a most prepossessing appearance.’
‘He is—he is indeed!’ exclaimed Belinda Waters energetically. As her eye caught that of Mr. Cymon Tuggs, she withdrew it from his features in bashful confusion.
All this was highly gratifying to the feelings of the Tuggses; and when, in the course of farther conversation, it was discovered that Miss Charlotta Tuggs was the fac simile of a titled relative of Mrs. Belinda Waters, and that Mrs. Tuggs herself was the very picture of the Dowager Duchess of Dobbleton, their delight in the acquisition of so genteel and friendly an acquaintance, knew no bounds. Even the dignity of Captain Walter Waters relaxed, to that degree, that he suffered himself to be prevailed upon by Mr. Joseph Tuggs, to partake of cold pigeon-pie and sherry, on deck; and a most delightful conversation, aided by these agreeable stimulants, was prolonged, until they ran alongside Ramsgate Pier.
‘Good-bye, dear!’ said Mrs. Captain Waters to Miss Charlotta Tuggs, just before the bustle of landing commenced; ‘we shall see you on the sands in the morning; and, as we are sure to have found lodgings before then, I hope we shall be inseparables for many weeks to come.’
‘Oh! I hope so,’ said Miss Charlotta Tuggs, emphatically.
‘Tickets, ladies and gen’lm’n,’ said the man on the paddle-box.
‘Want a porter, sir?’ inquired a dozen men in smock-frocks.
‘Now, my dear!’ said Captain Waters.
‘Good-bye!’ said Mrs. Captain Waters—‘good-bye, Mr. Cymon!’ and with a pressure of the hand which threw the amiable young man’s nerves into a state of considerable derangement, Mrs. Captain Waters disappeared among the crowd. A pair of puce-coloured boots were seen ascending the steps, a white handkerchief fluttered, a black eye gleamed. The Waterses were gone, and Mr. Cymon Tuggs was alone in a heartless world.
Silently and abstractedly, did that too sensitive youth follow his revered parents, and a train of smock-frocks and wheelbarrows, along the pier, until the bustle of the scene around, recalled him to himself. The sun was shining brightly; the sea, dancing to its own music, rolled merrily in; crowds of people promenaded to and fro; young ladies tittered; old ladies talked; nursemaids displayed their charms to the greatest possible advantage; and their little charges ran up and down, and to and fro, and in and out, under the feet, and between the legs, of the assembled concourse, in the most playful and exhilarating manner. There were old gentlemen, trying to make out objects through long telescopes; and young ones, making objects of themselves in open shirt-collars; ladies, carrying about portable chairs, and portable chairs carrying about invalids; parties, waiting on the pier for parties who had come by the steam-boat; and nothing was to be heard but talking, laughing, welcoming, and merriment.
‘Fly, sir?’ exclaimed a chorus of fourteen men and six boys, the moment Mr. Joseph Tuggs, at the head of his little party, set foot in the street.
‘Here’s the gen’lm’n at last!’ said one, touching his hat with mock politeness. ‘Werry glad to see you, sir,—been a-waitin’ for you these six weeks. Jump in, if you please, sir!’
‘Nice light fly and a fast trotter, sir,’ said another: ‘fourteen mile a hour, and surroundin’ objects rendered inwisible by ex-treme welocity!’
‘Large fly for your luggage, sir,’ cried a third. ‘Werry large fly here, sir—reg’lar bluebottle!’
‘Here’s your fly, sir!’ shouted another aspiring charioteer, mounting the box, and inducing an old grey horse to indulge in some imperfect reminiscences of a canter. ‘Look at him, sir!—temper of a lamb and haction of a steam-ingein!’
Resisting even the temptation of securing the services of so valuable a quadruped as the last named, Mr. Joseph Tuggs beckoned to the proprietor of a dingy conveyance of a greenish hue, lined with faded striped calico; and, the luggage and the family having been deposited therein, the animal in the shafts, after describing circles in the road for a quarter of an hour, at last consented to depart in quest of lodgings.
‘How many beds have you got?’ screamed Mrs. Tuggs out of the fly, to the woman who opened the door of the first house which displayed a bill intimating that apartments were to be let within.
‘How many did you want, ma’am?’ was, of course, the reply.
‘Will you step in, ma’am?’ Down got Mrs. Tuggs. The family were delighted. Splendid view of the sea from the front windows—charming! A short pause. Back came Mrs. Tuggs again.—One parlour and a mattress.
‘Why the devil didn’t they say so at first?’ inquired Mr. Joseph Tuggs, rather pettishly.
‘Don’t know,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Wretches!’ exclaimed the nervous Cymon. Another bill—another stoppage. Same question—same answer—similar result.
‘What do they mean by this?’ inquired Mr. Joseph Tuggs, thoroughly out of temper.
‘Don’t know,’ said the placid Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Orvis the vay here, sir,’ said the driver, by way of accounting for the circumstance in a satisfactory manner; and off they went again, to make fresh inquiries, and encounter fresh disappointments.
It had grown dusk when the ‘fly’—the rate of whose progress greatly belied its name—after climbing up four or five perpendicular hills, stopped before the door of a dusty house, with a bay window, from which you could obtain a beautiful glimpse of the sea—if you thrust half of your body out of it, at the imminent peril of falling into the area. Mrs. Tuggs alighted. One ground-floor sitting-room, and three cells with beds in them up-stairs. A double-house. Family on the opposite side. Five children milk-and-watering in the parlour, and one little boy, expelled for bad behaviour, screaming on his back in the passage.
‘What’s the terms?’ said Mrs. Tuggs. The mistress of the house was considering the expediency of putting on an extra guinea; so, she coughed slightly, and affected not to hear the question.
‘What’s the terms?’ said Mrs. Tuggs, in a louder key.
‘Five guineas a week, ma’am, with attendance,’ replied the lodging-house keeper. (Attendance means the privilege of ringing the bell as often as you like, for your own amusement.)
‘Rather dear,’ said Mrs. Tuggs. ‘Oh dear, no, ma’am!’ replied the mistress of the house, with a benign smile of pity at the ignorance of manners and customs, which the observation betrayed. ‘Very cheap!’
Such an authority was indisputable. Mrs. Tuggs paid a week’s rent in advance, and took the lodgings for a month. In an hour’s time, the family were seated at tea in their new abode.
‘Capital srimps!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
Mr. Cymon eyed his father with a rebellious scowl, as he emphatically said ‘Shrimps.’
‘Well, then, shrimps,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs. ‘Srimps or shrimps, don’t much matter.’
There was pity, blended with malignity, in Mr. Cymon’s eye, as he replied, ‘Don’t matter, father! What would Captain Waters say, if he heard such vulgarity?’
‘Or what would dear Mrs. Captain Waters say,’ added Charlotta, ‘if she saw mother—ma, I mean—eating them whole, heads and all!’
‘It won’t bear thinking of!’ ejaculated Mr. Cymon, with a shudder. ‘How different,’ he thought, ‘from the Dowager Duchess of Dobbleton!’
‘Very pretty woman, Mrs. Captain Waters, is she not, Cymon?’ inquired Miss Charlotta.
A glow of nervous excitement passed over the countenance of Mr. Cymon Tuggs, as he replied, ‘An angel of beauty!’
‘Hallo!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs. ‘Hallo, Cymon, my boy, take care. Married lady, you know;’ and he winked one of his twinkling eyes knowingly.
‘Why,’ exclaimed Cymon, starting up with an ebullition of fury, as unexpected as alarming, ‘why am I to be reminded of that blight of my happiness, and ruin of my hopes? Why am I to be taunted with the miseries which are heaped upon my head? Is it not enough to—to—to—’ and the orator paused; but whether for want of words, or lack of breath, was never distinctly ascertained.
There was an impressive solemnity in the tone of this address, and in the air with which the romantic Cymon, at its conclusion, rang the bell, and demanded a flat candlestick, which effectually forbade a reply. He stalked dramatically to bed, and the Tuggses went to bed too, half an hour afterwards, in a state of considerable mystification and perplexity.
If the pier had presented a scene of life and bustle to the Tuggses on their first landing at Ramsgate, it was far surpassed by the appearance of the sands on the morning after their arrival. It was a fine, bright, clear day, with a light breeze from the sea. There were the same ladies and gentlemen, the same children, the same nursemaids, the same telescopes, the same portable chairs. The ladies were employed in needlework, or watch-guard making, or knitting, or reading novels; the gentlemen were reading newspapers and magazines; the children were digging holes in the sand with wooden spades, and collecting water therein; the nursemaids, with their youngest charges in their arms, were running in after the waves, and then running back with the waves after them; and, now and then, a little sailing-boat either departed with a gay and talkative cargo of passengers, or returned with a very silent and particularly uncomfortable-looking one.
‘Well, I never!’ exclaimed Mrs. Tuggs, as she and Mr. Joseph Tuggs, and Miss Charlotta Tuggs, and Mr. Cymon Tuggs, with their eight feet in a corresponding number of yellow shoes, seated themselves on four rush-bottomed chairs, which, being placed in a soft part of the sand, forthwith sunk down some two feet and a half—‘Well, I never!’
Mr. Cymon, by an exertion of great personal strength, uprooted the chairs, and removed them further back.
‘Why, I’m blessed if there ain’t some ladies a-going in!’ exclaimed Mr. Joseph Tuggs, with intense astonishment.
‘Lor, pa!’ exclaimed Miss Charlotta.
‘There is, my dear,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs. And, sure enough, four young ladies, each furnished with a towel, tripped up the steps of a bathing-machine. In went the horse, floundering about in the water; round turned the machine; down sat the driver; and presently out burst the young ladies aforesaid, with four distinct splashes.
‘Well, that’s sing’ler, too!’ ejaculated Mr. Joseph Tuggs, after an awkward pause. Mr. Cymon coughed slightly.
‘Why, here’s some gentlemen a-going in on this side!’ exclaimed Mrs. Tuggs, in a tone of horror.
Three machines—three horses—three flounderings—three turnings round—three splashes—three gentlemen, disporting themselves in the water like so many dolphins.
‘Well, that’s sing’ler!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs again. Miss Charlotta coughed this time, and another pause ensued. It was agreeably broken.
‘How d’ye do, dear? We have been looking for you, all the morning,’ said a voice to Miss Charlotta Tuggs. Mrs. Captain Waters was the owner of it.
‘How d’ye do?’ said Captain Walter Waters, all suavity; and a most cordial interchange of greetings ensued.
‘Belinda, my love,’ said Captain Walter Waters, applying his glass to his eye, and looking in the direction of the sea.
‘Yes, my dear,’ replied Mrs. Captain Waters.
‘There’s Harry Thompson!’
‘Where?’ said Belinda, applying her glass to her eye.
‘Lor, so it is! He don’t see us, does he?’
‘No, I don’t think he does’ replied the captain. ‘Bless my soul, how very singular!’
‘What?’ inquired Belinda.
‘There’s Mary Golding, too.’
‘Lor!—where?’ (Up went the glass again.)
‘There!’ said the captain, pointing to one of the young ladies before noticed, who, in her bathing costume, looked as if she was enveloped in a patent Mackintosh, of scanty dimensions.
‘So it is, I declare!’ exclaimed Mrs. Captain Waters. ‘How very curious we should see them both!’
‘Very,’ said the captain, with perfect coolness.
‘It’s the reg’lar thing here, you see,’ whispered Mr. Cymon Tuggs to his father.
‘I see it is,’ whispered Mr. Joseph Tuggs in reply. ‘Queer, though—ain’t it?’ Mr. Cymon Tuggs nodded assent.
‘What do you think of doing with yourself this morning?’ inquired the captain. ‘Shall we lunch at Pegwell?’
‘I should like that very much indeed,’ interposed Mrs. Tuggs. She had never heard of Pegwell; but the word ‘lunch’ had reached her ears, and it sounded very agreeably.
‘How shall we go?’ inquired the captain; ‘it’s too warm to walk.’
‘A shay?’ suggested Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
‘Chaise,’ whispered Mr. Cymon.
‘I should think one would be enough,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs aloud, quite unconscious of the meaning of the correction. ‘However, two shays if you like.’
‘I should like a donkey so much,’ said Belinda.
‘Oh, so should I!’ echoed Charlotta Tuggs.
‘Well, we can have a fly,’ suggested the captain, ‘and you can have a couple of donkeys.’
A fresh difficulty arose. Mrs. Captain Waters declared it would be decidedly improper for two ladies to ride alone. The remedy was obvious. Perhaps young Mr. Tuggs would be gallant enough to accompany them.
Mr. Cymon Tuggs blushed, smiled, looked vacant, and faintly protested that he was no horseman. The objection was at once overruled. A fly was speedily found; and three donkeys—which the proprietor declared on his solemn asseveration to be ‘three parts blood, and the other corn’—were engaged in the service.
‘Kim up!’ shouted one of the two boys who followed behind, to propel the donkeys, when Belinda Waters and Charlotta Tuggs had been hoisted, and pushed, and pulled, into their respective saddles.
‘Hi—hi—hi!’ groaned the other boy behind Mr. Cymon Tuggs. Away went the donkey, with the stirrups jingling against the heels of Cymon’s boots, and Cymon’s boots nearly scraping the ground.
‘Way—way! Wo—o—o—!’ cried Mr. Cymon Tuggs as well as he could, in the midst of the jolting.
‘Don’t make it gallop!’ screamed Mrs. Captain Waters, behind.
‘My donkey will go into the public-house!’ shrieked Miss Tuggs in the rear.
‘Hi—hi—hi!’ groaned both the boys together; and on went the donkeys as if nothing would ever stop them.
Everything has an end, however; even the galloping of donkeys will cease in time. The animal which Mr. Cymon Tuggs bestrode, feeling sundry uncomfortable tugs at the bit, the intent of which he could by no means divine, abruptly sidled against a brick wall, and expressed his uneasiness by grinding Mr. Cymon Tuggs’s leg on the rough surface. Mrs. Captain Waters’s donkey, apparently under the influence of some playfulness of spirit, rushed suddenly, head first, into a hedge, and declined to come out again: and the quadruped on which Miss Tuggs was mounted, expressed his delight at this humorous proceeding by firmly planting his fore-feet against the ground, and kicking up his hind-legs in a very agile, but somewhat alarming manner.
This abrupt termination to the rapidity of the ride, naturally occasioned some confusion. Both the ladies indulged in vehement screaming for several minutes; and Mr. Cymon Tuggs, besides sustaining intense bodily pain, had the additional mental anguish of witnessing their distressing situation, without having the power to rescue them, by reason of his leg being firmly screwed in between the animal and the wall. The efforts of the boys, however, assisted by the ingenious expedient of twisting the tail of the most rebellious donkey, restored order in a much shorter time than could have reasonably been expected, and the little party jogged slowly on together.
‘Now let ’em walk,’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs. ‘It’s cruel to overdrive ’em.’
‘Werry well, sir,’ replied the boy, with a grin at his companion, as if he understood Mr. Cymon to mean that the cruelty applied less to the animals than to their riders.
‘What a lovely day, dear!’ said Charlotta.
‘Charming; enchanting, dear!’ responded Mrs. Captain Waters.
‘What a beautiful prospect, Mr. Tuggs!’
Cymon looked full in Belinda’s face, as he responded—‘Beautiful, indeed!’ The lady cast down her eyes, and suffered the animal she was riding to fall a little back. Cymon Tuggs instinctively did the same.
There was a brief silence, broken only by a sigh from Mr. Cymon Tuggs.
‘Mr. Cymon,’ said the lady suddenly, in a low tone, ‘Mr. Cymon—I am another’s.’
Mr. Cymon expressed his perfect concurrence in a statement which it was impossible to controvert.
‘If I had not been—’ resumed Belinda; and there she stopped.
‘What—what?’ said Mr. Cymon earnestly. ‘Do not torture me. What would you say?’
‘If I had not been’—continued Mrs. Captain Waters—‘if, in earlier life, it had been my fate to have known, and been beloved by, a noble youth—a kindred soul—a congenial spirit—one capable of feeling and appreciating the sentiments which—’
‘Heavens! what do I hear?’ exclaimed Mr. Cymon Tuggs. ‘Is it possible! can I believe my—Come up!’ (This last unsentimental parenthesis was addressed to the donkey, who, with his head between his fore-legs, appeared to be examining the state of his shoes with great anxiety.)
‘Hi—hi—hi,’ said the boys behind. ‘Come up,’ expostulated Cymon Tuggs again. ‘Hi—hi—hi,’ repeated the boys. And whether it was that the animal felt indignant at the tone of Mr. Tuggs’s command, or felt alarmed by the noise of the deputy proprietor’s boots running behind him; or whether he burned with a noble emulation to outstrip the other donkeys; certain it is that he no sooner heard the second series of ‘hi—hi’s,’ than he started away, with a celerity of pace which jerked Mr. Cymon’s hat off, instantaneously, and carried him to the Pegwell Bay hotel in no time, where he deposited his rider without giving him the trouble of dismounting, by sagaciously pitching him over his head, into the very doorway of the tavern.
Great was the confusion of Mr. Cymon Tuggs, when he was put right end uppermost, by two waiters; considerable was the alarm of Mrs. Tuggs in behalf of her son; agonizing were the apprehensions of Mrs. Captain Waters on his account. It was speedily discovered, however, that he had not sustained much more injury than the donkey—he was grazed, and the animal was grazing—and then it was a delightful party to be sure! Mr. and Mrs. Tuggs, and the captain, had ordered lunch in the little garden behind:—small saucers of large shrimps, dabs of butter, crusty loaves, and bottled ale. The sky was without a cloud; there were flower-pots and turf before them; the sea, from the foot of the cliff, stretching away as far as the eye could discern anything at all; vessels in the distance with sails as white, and as small, as nicely-got-up cambric handkerchiefs. The shrimps were delightful, the ale better, and the captain even more pleasant than either. Mrs. Captain Waters was in such spirits after lunch!—chasing, first the captain across the turf, and among the flower-pots; and then Mr. Cymon Tuggs; and then Miss Tuggs; and laughing, too, quite boisterously. But as the captain said, it didn’t matter; who knew what they were, there? For all the people of the house knew, they might be common people. To which Mr. Joseph Tuggs responded, ‘To be sure.’ And then they went down the steep wooden steps a little further on, which led to the bottom of the cliff; and looked at the crabs, and the seaweed, and the eels, till it was more than fully time to go back to Ramsgate again. Finally, Mr. Cymon Tuggs ascended the steps last, and Mrs. Captain Waters last but one; and Mr. Cymon Tuggs discovered that the foot and ankle of Mrs. Captain Waters, were even more unexceptionable than he had at first supposed.
Taking a donkey towards his ordinary place of residence, is a very different thing, and a feat much more easily to be accomplished, than taking him from it. It requires a great deal of foresight and presence of mind in the one case, to anticipate the numerous flights of his discursive imagination; whereas, in the other, all you have to do, is, to hold on, and place a blind confidence in the animal. Mr. Cymon Tuggs adopted the latter expedient on his return; and his nerves were so little discomposed by the journey, that he distinctly understood they were all to meet again at the library in the evening.
The library was crowded. There were the same ladies, and the same gentlemen, who had been on the sands in the morning, and on the pier the day before. There were young ladies, in maroon-coloured gowns and black velvet bracelets, dispensing fancy articles in the shop, and presiding over games of chance in the concert-room. There were marriageable daughters, and marriage-making mammas, gaming and promenading, and turning over music, and flirting. There were some male beaux doing the sentimental in whispers, and others doing the ferocious in moustache. There were Mrs. Tuggs in amber, Miss Tuggs in sky-blue, Mrs. Captain Waters in pink. There was Captain Waters in a braided surtout; there was Mr. Cymon Tuggs in pumps and a gilt waistcoat; there was Mr. Joseph Tuggs in a blue coat and a shirt-frill.
‘Numbers three, eight, and eleven!’ cried one of the young ladies in the maroon-coloured gowns.
‘Numbers three, eight, and eleven!’ echoed another young lady in the same uniform.
‘Number three’s gone,’ said the first young lady. ‘Numbers eight and eleven!’
‘Numbers eight and eleven!’ echoed the second young lady.
‘Number eight’s gone, Mary Ann,’ said the first young lady.
‘Number eleven!’ screamed the second.
‘The numbers are all taken now, ladies, if you please,’ said the first. The representatives of numbers three, eight, and eleven, and the rest of the numbers, crowded round the table.
‘Will you throw, ma’am?’ said the presiding goddess, handing the dice-box to the eldest daughter of a stout lady, with four girls.
There was a profound silence among the lookers-on.
‘Throw, Jane, my dear,’ said the stout lady. An interesting display of bashfulness—a little blushing in a cambric handkerchief—a whispering to a younger sister.
‘Amelia, my dear, throw for your sister,’ said the stout lady; and then she turned to a walking advertisement of Rowlands’ Macassar Oil, who stood next her, and said, ‘Jane is so very modest and retiring; but I can’t be angry with her for it. An artless and unsophisticated girl is so truly amiable, that I often wish Amelia was more like her sister!’
The gentleman with the whiskers whispered his admiring approval.
‘Now, my dear!’ said the stout lady. Miss Amelia threw—eight for her sister, ten for herself.
‘Nice figure, Amelia,’ whispered the stout lady to a thin youth beside her.
‘And such a spirit! I am like you in that respect. I can not help admiring that life and vivacity. Ah! (a sigh) I wish I could make poor Jane a little more like my dear Amelia!’
The young gentleman cordially acquiesced in the sentiment; both he, and the individual first addressed, were perfectly contented.
‘Who’s this?’ inquired Mr. Cymon Tuggs of Mrs. Captain Waters, as a short female, in a blue velvet hat and feathers, was led into the orchestra, by a fat man in black tights and cloudy Berlins.
‘Mrs. Tippin, of the London theatres,’ replied Belinda, referring to the programme of the concert.
The talented Tippin having condescendingly acknowledged the clapping of hands, and shouts of ‘bravo!’ which greeted her appearance, proceeded to sing the popular cavatina of ‘Bid me discourse,’ accompanied on the piano by Mr. Tippin; after which, Mr. Tippin sang a comic song, accompanied on the piano by Mrs. Tippin: the applause consequent upon which, was only to be exceeded by the enthusiastic approbation bestowed upon an air with variations on the guitar, by Miss Tippin, accompanied on the chin by Master Tippin.
Thus passed the evening; thus passed the days and evenings of the Tuggses, and the Waterses, for six weeks. Sands in the morning—donkeys at noon—pier in the afternoon—library at night—and the same people everywhere.
On that very night six weeks, the moon was shining brightly over the calm sea, which dashed against the feet of the tall gaunt cliffs, with just enough noise to lull the old fish to sleep, without disturbing the young ones, when two figures were discernible—or would have been, if anybody had looked for them—seated on one of the wooden benches which are stationed near the verge of the western cliff. The moon had climbed higher into the heavens, by two hours’ journeying, since those figures first sat down—and yet they had moved not. The crowd of loungers had thinned and dispersed; the noise of itinerant musicians had died away; light after light had appeared in the windows of the different houses in the distance; blockade-man after blockade-man had passed the spot, wending his way towards his solitary post; and yet those figures had remained stationary. Some portions of the two forms were in deep shadow, but the light of the moon fell strongly on a puce-coloured boot and a glazed stock. Mr. Cymon Tuggs and Mrs. Captain Waters were seated on that bench. They spoke not, but were silently gazing on the sea.
‘Walter will return to-morrow,’ said Mrs. Captain Waters, mournfully breaking silence.
Mr. Cymon Tuggs sighed like a gust of wind through a forest of gooseberry bushes, as he replied, ‘Alas! he will.’
‘Oh, Cymon!’ resumed Belinda, ‘the chaste delight, the calm happiness, of this one week of Platonic love, is too much for me!’ Cymon was about to suggest that it was too little for him, but he stopped himself, and murmured unintelligibly.
‘And to think that even this gleam of happiness, innocent as it is,’ exclaimed Belinda, ‘is now to be lost for ever!’
‘Oh, do not say for ever, Belinda,’ exclaimed the excitable Cymon, as two strongly-defined tears chased each other down his pale face—it was so long that there was plenty of room for a chase. ‘Do not say for ever!’
‘I must,’ replied Belinda.
‘Why?’ urged Cymon, ‘oh why? Such Platonic acquaintance as ours is so harmless, that even your husband can never object to it.’
‘My husband!’ exclaimed Belinda. ‘You little know him. Jealous and revengeful; ferocious in his revenge—a maniac in his jealousy! Would you be assassinated before my eyes?’ Mr. Cymon Tuggs, in a voice broken by emotion, expressed his disinclination to undergo the process of assassination before the eyes of anybody.
‘Then leave me,’ said Mrs. Captain Waters. ‘Leave me, this night, for ever. It is late: let us return.’
Mr. Cymon Tuggs sadly offered the lady his arm, and escorted her to her lodgings. He paused at the door—he felt a Platonic pressure of his hand. ‘Good night,’ he said, hesitating.
‘Good night,’ sobbed the lady. Mr. Cymon Tuggs paused again.
‘Won’t you walk in, sir?’ said the servant. Mr. Tuggs hesitated. Oh, that hesitation! He did walk in.
‘Good night!’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs again, when he reached the drawing-room.
‘Good night!’ replied Belinda; ‘and, if at any period of my life, I—Hush!’ The lady paused and stared with a steady gaze of horror, on the ashy countenance of Mr. Cymon Tuggs. There was a double knock at the street-door.
‘It is my husband!’ said Belinda, as the captain’s voice was heard below.
‘And my family!’ added Cymon Tuggs, as the voices of his relatives floated up the staircase.
‘The curtain! The curtain!’ gasped Mrs. Captain Waters, pointing to the window, before which some chintz hangings were closely drawn.
‘But I have done nothing wrong,’ said the hesitating Cymon.
‘The curtain!’ reiterated the frantic lady: ‘you will be murdered.’ This last appeal to his feelings was irresistible. The dismayed Cymon concealed himself behind the curtain with pantomimic suddenness.
Enter the captain, Joseph Tuggs, Mrs. Tuggs, and Charlotta.
‘My dear,’ said the captain, ‘Lieutenant, Slaughter.’ Two iron-shod boots and one gruff voice were heard by Mr. Cymon to advance, and acknowledge the honour of the introduction. The sabre of the lieutenant rattled heavily upon the floor, as he seated himself at the table. Mr. Cymon’s fears almost overcame his reason.
‘The brandy, my dear!’ said the captain. Here was a situation! They were going to make a night of it! And Mr. Cymon Tuggs was pent up behind the curtain and afraid to breathe!
‘Slaughter,’ said the captain, ‘a cigar?’
Now, Mr. Cymon Tuggs never could smoke without feeling it indispensably necessary to retire, immediately, and never could smell smoke without a strong disposition to cough. The cigars were introduced; the captain was a professed smoker; so was the lieutenant; so was Joseph Tuggs. The apartment was small, the door was closed, the smoke powerful: it hung in heavy wreaths over the room, and at length found its way behind the curtain. Cymon Tuggs held his nose, his mouth, his breath. It was all of no use—out came the cough.
‘Bless my soul!’ said the captain, ‘I beg your pardon, Miss Tuggs. You dislike smoking?’
‘Oh, no; I don’t indeed,’ said Charlotta.
‘It makes you cough.’
‘Oh dear no.’
‘You coughed just now.’
‘Me, Captain Waters! Lor! how can you say so?’
‘Somebody coughed,’ said the captain.
‘I certainly thought so,’ said Slaughter. No; everybody denied it.
‘Fancy,’ said the captain.
‘Must be,’ echoed Slaughter.
Cigars resumed—more smoke—another cough—smothered, but violent.
‘Damned odd!’ said the captain, staring about him.
‘Sing’ler!’ ejaculated the unconscious Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
Lieutenant Slaughter looked first at one person mysteriously, then at another: then, laid down his cigar, then approached the window on tiptoe, and pointed with his right thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of the curtain.
‘Slaughter!’ ejaculated the captain, rising from table, ‘what do you mean?’
The lieutenant, in reply, drew back the curtain and discovered Mr. Cymon Tuggs behind it: pallid with apprehension, and blue with wanting to cough.
‘Aha!’ exclaimed the captain, furiously. ‘What do I see? Slaughter, your sabre!’
‘Cymon!’ screamed the Tuggses.
‘Mercy!’ said Belinda.
‘Platonic!’ gasped Cymon.
‘Your sabre!’ roared the captain: ‘Slaughter—unhand me—the villain’s life!’
‘Murder!’ screamed the Tuggses.
‘Hold him fast, sir!’ faintly articulated Cymon.
‘Water!’ exclaimed Joseph Tuggs—and Mr. Cymon Tuggs and all the ladies forthwith fainted away, and formed a tableau.
Most willingly would we conceal the disastrous termination of the six weeks’ acquaintance. A troublesome form, and an arbitrary custom, however, prescribe that a story should have a conclusion, in addition to a commencement; we have therefore no alternative. Lieutenant Slaughter brought a message—the captain brought an action. Mr. Joseph Tuggs interposed—the lieutenant negotiated. When Mr. Cymon Tuggs recovered from the nervous disorder into which misplaced affection, and exciting circumstances, had plunged him, he found that his family had lost their pleasant acquaintance; that his father was minus fifteen hundred pounds; and the captain plus the precise sum. The money was paid to hush the matter up, but it got abroad notwithstanding; and there are not wanting some who affirm that three designing impostors never found more easy dupes, than did Captain Waters, Mrs. Waters, and Lieutenant Slaughter, in the Tuggses at Ramsgate.
Discover more Sketches by Boz.