The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
How to Make Love for a Friend
By Charles Lever (18061872)
From Harry Lorrequer
A TALL, dashing-looking, half-swaggering fellow, in a very sufficient envelope of box coats, entered the coffee-room, and unwinding a shawl from his throat, showed me the honest and manly countenance of my friend Jack Waller, of the th dragoons, with whom I had served in the Peninsula.
Five minutes sufficed for Jack to tell me that he was come down on a bold speculation, at this unseasonable time for Cheltenham; that he was quite sure his fortune was about to be made in a few weeks at furthest, and what seemed nearly as engrossing a topicthat he was perfectly famished, and desired a hot supper, tout de suite.
There resided somewhere near Cheltenham, in what direction he did not absolutely know, an old East India colonel, who had returned from a long career of successful staff-duties and government contracts, with the moderate fortune of two hundred thousand. He possessed, in addition, a son and a daughter; the former being a rake and a gambler, he had long since consigned to his own devices, and to the latter he had avowed his intention of leaving all his wealth. That she was beautiful as an angelhighly accomplishedgiftedagreeableand all that, Jack, who had never seen her, was firmly convinced; that she was also bent resolutely on marrying him, or any other gentleman whose claims were principally the want of money, he was quite ready to swear to; and, in fact, so assured did he feel that the whole affair was feasible (I use his own expression), that he had managed a two months leave, and was come down express to see, make love to, and carry her off at once.
Well, that certainly is cool; and how do you propose making his acquaintance? Do you intend to make him a particeps criminis in the elopement of his own daughter, for a consideration to be hereafter paid out of his own money?
Just hear me out without interruption, and Ill explain. Ill first discover the locale of this worthy colonelHydrabad Cottage, he calls it; good, eh?then I shall proceed to make a tour of the immediate vicinity, and either be taken dangerously ill in his grounds, within ten yards of the hall-door, or be thrown from my gig at the gate of his avenue, and fracture my skull; I dont care much which. Well, then, as I learn that the old gentleman is the most kind, hospitable fellow in the world, hell admit me at once; his daughter will tend my sick couchnurseread to me; glorious fun, Harry. Ill make fierce love to her; and now, the only point to be decided is whether, having partaken of the colonels hospitality so freely, I ought to carry her off, or marry her with papas consent. You see there is much to be said for either line of proceeding.
I certainly agree with you there; but since you seem to see your way so clearly up to that point, why, I should advise you leaving that an open question, as the ministers say, when they are hard pressed for an opinion.
Come, no nonsense, Harry, youll have a glorious time of itshall choose as becoming a livery as you likeand youll have the whole female world below stairs dying for you; and all I ask for such an opportunity vouchsafed to you is to puff me, your master, in every possible shape and form, and represent me as the finest and most liberal fellow in the world, rolling in wealth, and only striving to get rid of it.
The unparalleled effrontery of Master Jack, in assigning to me such an office, absolutely left me unable to reply to him; while he continued to expatiate upon the great field for exertion thus open to us both. At last it occurred to me to benefit by an anecdote of a something similar arrangement, of capturing, not a young lady, but a fortified town, by retorting Jacks proposition.
To my utter confusion, and without a seconds consideration, Waller grasped my hand, and cried, Done! Of course I laughed heartily at the utter absurdity of the whole scheme, and rallied my friend on his prospects for Botany Bay for such an exploit, never contemplating in the most remote degree the commission of such extravagance .
As the clock struck two, I had just affixed my name to an agreement, for Jack Waller had so much of method in his madness, that, fearful of my retracting in the morning, he had committed the whole to writing, which as a specimen of Jacks legal talents I copy from the original document now in my possession:
The Plough, Cheltenham, Tuesday night or morning, two oclockbe the same more or less. I, Harry Lorrequer, sub. in his Majestys th regiment of foot, on the one part; and I, John Waller, commonly called Jack Waller, of the th light dragoons on the other; hereby promise and agree, each for himself, and not one for the other, to the following conditions, which are hereafter subjoined, to wit, the aforesaid Jack Waller is to serve, obey, and humbly follow the aforementioned Harry Lorrequer, for the space of one month of four weeks, conducting himself in all respects, modes, ways, manners, as his, the aforesaid Lorrequers own man, skip, valet, or sauce-panduly praising, puffing, and lauding the aforesaid Lorrequer, and in every way facilitating his success to the hand and fortune of
at the end of which period, if successful in his suit, the aforesaid Harry Lorrequer is to render to the aforesaid Waller the sum of ten thousand pounds, three and a half per cent., with a faithful discharge in writing, for his services as may be. If, on the other hand, and which heaven forbid, the aforesaid Lorrequer fail in obtaining the hand of , that he will evacuate the territory within twelve hours, and repairing to a convenient spot selected by the aforesaid Waller, then and there duly invest himself with a livery chosen by the aforesaid Waller
and for the space of four calendar weeks, be unto the aforesaid Waller, as his skip, or valet, receiving in the event of success, the alike compensation as aforesaid, each promising strictly to maintain the terms of this agreement, and binding by a solemn pledge, to divest himself of every right appertaining to his former condition, for the space of time there mentioned.
Harry, my boy, I have done it gloriously, said he. I only remembered on parting with you last night, that one of the most marked features in our old colonels character is a certain vague idea, he has somewhere picked up, that he has been at some very remote period of his history a most distinguished officer. This notion, it appears, haunts his mind, and he absolutely believes he has been in every engagement, from the Seven Years War down to the battle of Waterloo. You cannot mention a siege he did not lay down the first parallel for, nor a storming party where he did not lead the forlorn hope; and there is not a regiment in the service, from those that form the fighting brigade of Picton, down to the London train-bands, with which, to use his own phrase, he has not fought and bled. This mania of heroism is droll enough, when one considers that the sphere of his action was necessarily so limited; but yet we have every reason to be thankful for the peculiarity, as youll say, when I inform you that this morning I despatched a hasty messenger to his villa, with a most polite note, setting forth that a Mr. Lorrequeraye, Harry, all above-boardthere is nothing like itas Mr. Lorrequer, of the th, was collecting for publication, such materials as might serve to commemorate the distinguished achievements of British officers, who have, at any time, been in commandhe most respectfully requests an interview with Colonel Kamworth, whose distinguished services, on many gallant occasions, have called forth the unqualified approval of his Majestys government. Mr. Lorrequers stay is necessarily limited to a few days, as he proceeds from this to visit Lord Anglesey; and therefore would humbly suggest as early a meeting as may suit Colonel K.s convenience. What think you now? Is this a master-stroke or not?
You like it, do you? Well, I should have preferred something a little more showy myself; but as you chose this last night, I, of course, gave way, and after all, I believe youre right; it certainly is neat.
Yes, you were most particular about the length of the waistcoat and the height of the cockade, and you see I have followed your orders tolerably close; and now, adieu to sweet equality for the season, and I am your most obedient servant for four weekssee that you make the most of it.
While we were talking, the waiter entered with a note addressed to me, which I rightly conjectured could only come from Colonel Kamworth. It ran thus:
Colonel Kamworth feels highly flattered by the polite attention of Mr. Lorrequer, and will esteem it a particular favour if Mr. L. can afford him the few days his stay in this part of the country will permit, by spending them at Hydrabad Cottage. Any information as to Colonel Kamworths services in the four quarters of the globe, he need not say, is entirely at Mr. L.s disposal.
Without participating entirely in Wallers exceeding delight, I could not help feeling a growing interest in the part I was advertised to perform, and began my rehearsal with more spirit than I thought I should have been able to command.
That same evening, at the same hour as that in which on the preceding I sat lone and comfortless by the coffee-room fire, I was seated opposite a very pompous, respectable-looking old man, with a large stiff queue of white hair, who pressed me repeatedly to fill my glass and pass the decanter. The room was a small library with handsomely fitted shelves; there were but four chairs, but each would have made at least three of any modern one; the curtains of deep crimson cloth effectually secured the room from draught; and the cheerful wood fire blazing on the hearth, which was the only light in the apartment, gave a most inviting look of comfort and snugness to everything. This, thought I, is excellent; and however the adventure ends, this is certainly pleasant, and I never tasted better Madeira.
I believe I never mentioned to you the storming of Java. Fill yourself another glass, and Ill describe it all to you, for it will be of infinite consequence that a true narrative of this meets the public eyethey really are quite ignorant of it. Here now is Fort Cornelius, and there is the moat, the sugar-basin is the citadel, and the tongs is the first trench; the decanter will represent the tall tower toward the sou-west angle, and here, the wine-glassthis is me. Well, it was a little after ten at night that I got the order from the general in command, to march upon this plate of figs, which was an open space before Fort Cornelius, and to take up my position in front of the fort, and with four pieces of field artillerythese walnuts hereto be ready to open my fire at a moments warning upon the sou-west tower; but, my dear sir, you have moved the tower; I thought you were drinking Madeira. As I said before, to open my fire upon the sou-west tower, or, if necessary, protect the sugar-tongs, which I explained to you was the trench. Just at the same time, the besieged were making preparations for a sortie to occupy this dish of almonds and raisinsthe high ground to the left of my positionput another log on the fire, if you please, sir, for I cannot see myselfI thought I was up near the figs, and I find myself down near the half-moon.
It is past nine, said a servant, entering the room; shall I take the carriage for Miss Kamworth, sir? This being the first time the name of the young lady was mentioned since my arrival, I felt somewhat anxious, to hear more of her, in which laudable desire I was not, however, to be gratified, for the colonel, feeling considerably annoyed by the interruption, dismissed the servant by saying:
What do you mean, sirrah, by coming in at this moment; dont you see I am preparing for the attack on the half-moon? Mr. Lorrequer, I beg your pardon for one moment, this fellow has completely put me out; and besides, I perceive you have eaten the flying artillery, and in fact, my dear sir, I shall be obliged to lay down the position again.
With this praiseworthy interest, the colonel proceeded to arrange the matériel of our dessert in battle array, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and a very handsome girl, in a most becoming demie toilette, sprung into the room, and either not noticing, or not caring, that a stranger was present, threw herself into the old gentlemans arms, with a degree of empressement exceedingly vexatious for any third and unoccupied party to witness.
Mary, my dear, said the colonel, completely forgetting Java and Fort Cornelius at once, you dont perceive I have a gentleman to introduce to you. Mr. Lorrequer, my daughter, Miss Kamworth. Here the young lady courtesied somewhat stiffly, and I bowed reverently; and we all resumed places. I now found out that Miss Kamworth had been spending the preceding four or five days at a friends in the neighbourhood; and had preferred coming home somewhat unexpectedly, to waiting for her own carriage.
My Confessions, if recorded verbatim from the notes of that four weeks sojourn, would only increase the already too prolix and uninteresting details of this chapter in my life. I need only say, that without falling in love with Mary Kamworth, I felt prodigiously disposed thereto; she was extremely pretty, had a foot and ankle to swear by, the most silvery-toned voice I almost ever heard, and a certain witchery and archness of manner that by its very tantalising uncertainty continually provoked attention, and by suggesting a difficulty in the road to success, imparted a more than common zest in the pursuit. She was a little, a very little blue, rather a dabbler in the ologies, than a real disciple. Yet she made collections of minerals, and brown beetles, and cryptogamias, and various other homopathic doses of the creation, infinitesimally small in their subdivision; in none of which I felt any interest, save in the excuse they gave for accompanying her in her pony-phaeton. This was, however, a rare pleasure, for every morning, for at least three or four hours, I was obliged to sit opposite the colonel, engaged in the compilation of that narrative of his res gestæ, which was to eclipse the career of Napoleon, and leave Wellingtons laurels but a very faded lustre in comparison. In this agreeable occupation did I pass the greater part of my day, listening to the insufferable prolixity of the most prolix of colonels, and at times, notwithstanding the propinquity of relationship which awaited us, almost regretting that he was not blown up in any of the numerous explosions his memoir abounded with. I may here mention, that while my literary labour was thus progressing, the young lady continued her avocations as beforenot indeed with me for her companionbut Waller; for Colonel Kamworth, having remarked the steadiness and propriety of my man, felt no scruple in sending him out to drive Miss Kamworth, particularly as I gave him a most excellent character for every virtue under heaven.
I must hasten on. The last evening of my four weeks was drawing to a close. Colonel Kamworth had pressed me to prolong my visit, and I only waited for Wallers return from Cheltenham, whither I had sent him for my letters, to make arrangements with him to absolve me from my ridiculous bond, and accept the invitation. We were sitting round the library fire, the colonel, as usual, narrating his early deeds and hair-breadth scapes. Mary, embroidering an indescribable something, which every evening made its appearance, but seemed never to advance, was rather in better spirits than usual; at the same time, her manner was nervous and uncertain; and I could perceive by her frequent absence of mind, that her thoughts were not so much occupied by the siege of Java as her worthy father believed them. Without laying any stress upon the circumstance, I must yet avow that Wallers not having returned from Cheltenham gave me some uneasiness, and I more than once had recourse to the bell to demand if my servant had come back yet? At each of these times I well remember the peculiar expression of Marys look, the half-embarrassment, half-drollery, with which she listened to the question, and heard the answer in the negative. Supper at length made its appearance; and I asked the servant who waited, if my man had brought me any letters, varying my inquiry to conceal my anxiety; and again I heard he had not returned. Resolving now to propose in all form for Miss Kamworth the next morning, and by referring the colonel to my uncle, Sir Guy, smooth, as far as I could, all difficulties, I wished them good-night and retired; not, however, before the colonel had warned me that they were to have an excursion to some place in the neighbourhood the next day; and begging that I might be in the breakfast-room at nine, as they were to assemble there from all parts, and start early on the expedition. I was in a sound sleep the following morning, when a gentle tap at the door awoke me; at the same time I recognised the voice of the colonels servant, saying, Mr. Lorrequer, breakfast is waiting, sir.
I sprung up at once, and replying, Very well, I shall come down, proceeded to dress in all haste, but to my horror I could not discern a vestige of my clothes; nothing remained of the habiliments I possessed only the day beforeeven my portmanteau had disappeared. After a most diligent search I discovered on a chair in a corner of the room a small bundle tied up in a handkerchief, on opening which I perceived a new suit of livery of the most gaudy and showy description; the vest and breeches of yellow plush with light blue binding and lace; of which colour was also the coat, which had a standing collar and huge cuffs, deeply ornamented with worked button-holes and large buttons. As I turned the things over, without even a guess at what they could mean, for I was scarcely well awake, I perceived a small slip of paper fastened to the coat-sleeve, upon which, in Wallers handwriting, the following few words were written:
The livery I hope will fit you, as I am rather particular about how youll look; get quietly down the stable-yard, and drive the tilbury into Cheltenham, where wait for further orders from your kind master,
The horrible villainy of this wild scamp actually paralysed me. That I should put on such ridiculous trumpery was out of the question; yet what was to be done? I rung the bell violently: Where are my clothes, Thomas?
There, Thomas, be smart now, and send them up, will you? Thomas disappeared, and speedily returned to say that my clothes could not be found anywhere; no one knew anything of them, and begged me to come down, as Miss Kamworth desired him to say that they were still waiting, and she begged Mr. Lorrequer would not make an elaborate toilette as they were going on a country excursion. An elaborate toilette! I wish to Heaven she saw my costume; no, Ill never do it. Thomas, you must tell the ladies, and the colonel, too, that I feel very ill; I am not able to leave my bed; I am subject to attacksvery violent attacks in my head, and must always be left quiet and aloneperfectly alonemind me, Thomasfor a day at least. Thomas departed; and as I lay distracted in my bed, I heard from the breakfast-room the loud laughter of many persons evidently enjoying some excellent joke; could it be me they were laughing at? The thought was horrible.
I jumped out of the bed, and hurled the bootjack at him with all my strength; but had only the satisfaction to hear him go down-stairs chuckling at his escape; and as he reached the parlour, the increase of mirth and the loudness of the laughter told me that he was not the only one who was merry at my expense. Anything was preferable to this; down-stairs I resolved to go at oncebut how? A blanket I thought would not be a bad thing, and particularly as I had said I was ill; I could at least get as far as Colonel Kamworths dressing-room, and explain to him the whole affair; but then, if I was detected en route, which I was almost sure to be, with so many people parading about the house! No, that would never do; there was but one alternative, and dreadfully shocking as it was, I coud not avoid it, and with a heavy heart, and as much indignation at Waller for what I could not but consider a most scurvy trick, I donned the yellow inexpressibles; next came the vest, and last the coat, with its broad flaps and lace excrescences, fifty times more absurd and merry-andrewlike than any stage servant who makes off with his table and two chairs, amid the hisses and gibes of an upper gallery.
If my costume leaned toward the ridiculous, I resolved that my air and bearing should be more than usually austere and haughty; and with something of the stride of John Kemble in Coriolanus, I was leaving my bedroom, when I accidentally caught a view of myself in the glass; and so mortified, so shocked was I, that I sank into a chair, and almost abandoned my resolution to go on; the very gesture I had assumed for my vindication only increased the ridicule of my appearance; and the strange quaintness of the costume totally obliterated every trace of any characteristic of the wearer, so infernally cunning was its contrivance. I dont think that the most saturnine martyr of gout and dyspepsia could survey me without laughing. With a bold effort I flung open my door, hurried down the stairs, and reached the hall. The first person I met was a kind of pantry boy, a beast only lately emancipated from the plough, and destined after a dozen years training as a servant, again to be turned back to his old employ for incapacity; he grinned horribly for a minute, as I passed, and then in a half-whisper said:
Without stopping to consider where I was going, I opened the door of the breakfast-parlour, and found myself in one plunge among a roomful of people. My first impulse was to retreat again; but so shocked was I at the very first thing that met my sight, that I was perfectly powerless to do anything. Among a considerable number of people who stood in small groups round the breakfast-table, I discerned Jack Waller, habited in a very accurate black frock and dark trousers, supporting upon his armshall I confess?no less a person than Mary Kamworth, who leaned on him with the familiarity of an old acquaintance, and chatted gaily with him. The buzz of conversation, which filled the apartment when I entered, ceased for a second of deep silence; and then followed a peal of laughter so long and vociferous, that in my momentary anger I prayed some one might burst a blood-vessel, and frighten the rest. I put on a look of indescribable indignation, and cast a glance of what I intended should be most withering scorn on the assembly; but alas! my infernal harlequin costume ruined the effect; and confound me, if they did not laugh the louder. I turned from one to the other with the air of a man who marks out victims for his future wrath; but with no better success; at last, amid the continued mirth of the party, I made my way toward where Waller stood absolutely suffocated with laughter, and scarcely able to stand without support.
Before I could conclude the sentence, a bustle at the door of the room called every attention in that direction; I turned and beheld Colonel Kamworth, followed by a strong posse comitatus of constables, tipstaffs, etc., armed to the teeth, and evidently prepared for vigorous battle. Before I was able to point out my woes to my kind host, he burst out with:
So, you scoundrel, you impostor, you dd young villain; pretending to be a gentleman, you get admission into a mans house, and dine at his table, when your proper place had been behind his chair! How far he might have gone, Heaven can tell, if that excellent young gentleman, his master, had not traced him here this morningbut youll pay dearly for it, you young rascal, that you shall.
Colonel Kamworth, said I, drawing myself proudly up, and I confess exciting new bursts of laughter, Colonel Kamworth, for the expressions you have just applied to me, a heavy reckoning awaits you; not, however, before another individual now present shall atone for the insult he has dared to pass upon me. Colonel Kamworths passion at this declaration knew no bounds; he cursed and swore absolutely like a madman, and vowed that transportation for life would be a mild sentence for such iniquity.
Waller, at length, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes, interposed between the colonel and his victim, and begged that I might be forgiven; for, indeed, my dear sir, said he, the poor fellow is of rather respectable parentage, and such is his taste for good society that hed run any risk to be among his betters, although, as in the present case, the exposure brings a rather heavy retribution; however, let me deal with him. Come, Henry, said he, with an air of insufferable superiority, take my tilbury into town, and wait for me at the George. I shall endeavour to make your peace with my excellent friend, Colonel Kamworth; and the best mode you can contribute to that object is to let us have no more of your society.
I cannot attempt to picture my rage at these words; however, escape from this diabolical predicament was my only present object; and I rushed from the room, and springing into the tilbury at the door, drove down the avenue at the rate of fifteen miles per hour, amid the united cheers, groans, and yells of the whole servants hall, who seemed to enjoy my detection, more even than their betters. Meditating vengeance, sharp, short, and decisive, on Waller, the colonel, and every one else, in the infernal conspiracy against me, for I utterly forgot every vestige of our agreement in the surprise by which I was taken, I reached Cheltenham. Unfortunately, I had no friend there to whose management I could commit the bearing of a message, and was obliged, as soon as I could procure suitable costume, to hasten up to Coventry, where the th dragoons were then quartered. I lost no time in selecting an adviser, and taking the necessary steps to bring Master Waller to a reckoning; and on the third morning we again reached Cheltenham, I thirsting for vengeance, and bursting still with anger; not so my friend, however, who never could discuss the affair with common gravity, and even ventured every now and then on a sly illusion to my yellow shorts. As we passed the last toll-bar, a travelling carriage came whirling by, with four horses, at a tremendous pace; and as the morning was frosty, and the sun scarcely risen, the whole team were smoking and steaming, so as to be half invisible. We both remarked on the precipitancy of the party; for as our own pace was considerable, the two vehicles passed like lightning. We had scarcely dressed, and ordered breakfast, when a more than usual bustle in the yard called us to the window; the waiter, who came in at the same instant, told us that four horses were ordered out to pursue a young lady who had eloped that morning with an officer.
Ah, our friend in the green travelling chariot, Ill be bound, said my companion; but as neither of us knew that part of the country, and I was too engrossed by my own thoughts, I never inquired further. As the chaise in chaise drove round to the door, I looked to see what the pursuer was like; and as he issued from the inn, recognised my ci devant host, Colonel Kamworth. I need not say my vengeance was sated at once; he had lost his daughter, and Waller was on the road to be married. Apologies and explanations came in due time, for all my injuries and sufferings; and I confess, the part which pleased me most was, that I saw no more of Jack for a considerable period after; he started for the Continent, where he has lived ever since on a small allowance, granted by his father-in-law, and never paying me the stipulated sum, as I had clearly broken the compact.