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But all this is wasting time-and time is life. Dinner is over, and the business of the evening is about to begin. So, bumpers, gentlemen, and
get rid of this wine as fast as we can. Mr Vice, look to your bottles."
And on this, Jack Ginger gave a bumper toast.
This being done, every man pulled in his chair close to the table, and prepared for serious action. It was plain, that we all, like Nelson's sailors at Trafalgar, felt called upon to do our duty. The wine circulated with considerable rapidity; and there was no flinching on the part of any individual of the company. It was quite needless for our president to remind us of the necessity of bumpers, or the impropriety of leaving heel-taps. We were all too well trained to require the admonition, or to fall into the error. On the other hand, the chance of any man obtaining more than his share in the round was infinitesimally small. The Sergeant himself, celebrated as he is, could not have succeeded in obtaining a glass more than his neighbours. Just to our friends, we were also just to ourselves; and a more rigid circle of philosophers never surrounded a board.
The wine was really good, and its merits did not appear the less striking from the fact that we were not habitually wine-bibbers, our devotion generally being paid to fluids more potent or more heavy than the juice of the grape, and it soon excited our powers of conversation. Heavens ! what a flow of soul! More good things were said in Jack Ginger's chambers that evening, than in the Houses of Lords and Commons in a month. We talked of every thing politics, literature, the fine arts, drama, high life, low life, the opera, the cockpit-every thing from the heavens above to the hells in St James's Street. There was not an article in a morning, evening, or weekly paper for the week before, which we did not repeat. It was clear that our knowfedge of things in general was drawn in a vast degree from these recondite sources. In politics we were har monious-we were Tories to a man, and defied the Radicals of all classes, ranks, and conditions. We deplored the ruin of our country, and breathed a sigh over the depression of the
HOW WE CONVERSED AT JACK GINGER's.
agricultural interest. We gave it as our opinion that Don Miguel should be King of Portugal-and that Don Carlos, if he had the pluck of the most nameless of insects, could ascend the throne of Spain. We pitched Louis Philippe to that place which is never mentioned to ears polite, and drank the health of the Duchess of Berri. Opinions differed somewhat about the Emperor of Russia
some thinking that he was too hard on the Poles-others gently blaming him for not squeezing them much tighter. Antony Harrison, who had seen the Grand Duke Constantine, when he was campaigning, spoke with tears in his eyes of that illustrious prince-declaring him, with an oath, to have been a d-d good fellow. As for Leopold, we unanimous. ly voted him to be a scurvy hound; and Joe Macgillicuddy was pleased to say something complimentary of the Prince of Orange, which would have, no doubt, much gratified his Royal Highness, if it had been communicated to him, but I fear it never reached his ears.
Turning to domestic policy-we gave it to the Whigs in high style. If Lord Grey had been within hearing, he must have instantly resigned
he never could have resisted the thunders of our eloquence. All the hundred and one Greys would have been forgotten-he must have sunk before us. Had Brougham been there, he would have been converted to Toryism long before he could have got to the state of tipsyfication in which he sometimes addresses the House of Lords. There was not a topic left undiscussed. With one hand we arranged Ireland-with another put the Colonies in order. Catholic Emancipation was severely condemned, and Bob Burke gave the glorious, pious, and immortal memory. The vote of £20,000,000 to the greasy blacks was much reprobated, and the opening of the China trade declared a humbug. We spoke, in fact, articles that would have made the fortunes of half a hundred maga
zines, if the editors of those works would have had the perspicacity to insert them-and this we did with such ease to ourselves, that we never for a moment stopped the circulation of the bottle, which kept running on its round rejoicing, while we settled the affairs of the nation.
flint thief would not stand more than the half, for which he merits the most infinite certainty of non-payment."
(You may depend upon it that Harrison was as good as his word, and treated the man of bottles according to his deserts.)
Then Antony Harrison told us all his campaigns in the Peninsula, and that capital story how he bilked the tavernkeeper in Portsmouth. Jack Ginger entertained us with an account of his transactions in the Brazils; and as Jack's imagination far outruns his attention to matters of fact, we had them considerably improved. Bob Burke gave us all the particulars of his duel with Ensign Brady of the 48th, and how he hit him on the waistcoat pocket, which, fortunately for the Ensign, contained a five-shilling piece, (how he got it was never accounted for,) which saved him from grim death. From Joe Macgillicuddy we heard multifarious narrations of steeple-chases in Tipperary, and of his hunting with the Blazers in Galway. Tom Meggot expatiated on his college adventures in Edinburgh, which he maintained to be a far superior city to London, and repeated sundry witty sayings of the advocates in the Parliament House, who seem to be gentlemen of As for me, I great facetiousness. emptied out all Joe Miller on the company; and if old Joe could have burst his cerements in the neighbouring churchyard of St Clement Danes, he would have been infinitely delighted with the reception which the contents of his agreeable miscellany met with. To tell the truth, my jokes were not more known to my companions than their stories were to me. Harrison's campaigns, Ginger's cruises, Burke's duel, Macgillicuddy's steeple-chases, and Tom Meggot's rows in the High Street, had been told over and over-so often indeed, that the several relators begin to believe that there is some foundation in fact for the wonders which they are continually repeat ing.
The port was gathered to its fathers, and potteen reigned in its stead. A most interesting discussion took place as to what was to be done with it. No doubt, indeed, existed as to its final destination; but various opinions were broached as to the manner in which it was to make its way to its appointed end. Some wished that every man should make for himself; but that Jack Ginger strenuously opposed, because he said it would render the drinking unsteady. The company divided into two parties on the great questions of bowl or jug. The Irishmen maintained the cause of the latter. Tom Meggot, who had been reared in Glasgow, and Jack Ginger, who did not forget his sailor propensities, were in favour of the former. Much erudition was displayed on both sides, and I believe I may safely say, that every topic that either learning or experience could suggest, was exhausted. At length we called for a division, when there appeared
"I perceive this is the last bottle of port," said Jack Ginger; suppose that there cannot be any harm in drinking bad luck to Antony Harrison's wine-merchant, who did not make it the dozen."
"Yes," said Harrison, "the skin
For the jug,
For the bowl, Jack Ginger Humpy Harlow Tom Meggot.
Majority 1, in favour of the jug. I was principally moved to vote as I did, because I deferred to the Irishmen, as persons who were best acquainted with the nature of potteen; and Antony Harrison was on the same side from former recollections of his quarterings in Ireland. Humpy Harlow said, that he made it a point always to side with the man of the house.
"It is settled," said Jack Ginger, "and, as we said of Parliamentary Reform, though we opposed it, it is now law, and must be obeyed. I'll clear away these marines, and do you, Bob Burke, make the punch. I think you will find the lemons good-the sugar superb-and the water of the Temple has been famous for centuries."
"And I'll back the potteen against any that ever came from the Island of Saints," said Bob, proceeding to
his duty, which all who have the honour of his acquaintance will admit him to be well qualified to perform. He made it in a couple of big blue water-jugs, observing that making punch in small jugs was nearly as great a bother as ladling from a bowl-and as he tossed the steamy fluid from jug to jug to mix it kindly,
he sang the pathetic ballad of Hugger-mo-fane.
The punch being made, and the jug revolving, the conversation continued as before. But it may have been observed that I have not taken any notice of the share which one of the party, Humpy Harlow, took in it. The fact is, that he had been silent for almost all the evening, being outblazed and overborne by the brilliancy of the conversation of his companions. We were all acknowledged wits in our respective lines, whereas he had not been endowed with the same talents. How he came among us I forget; nor did any of us know "well who or what he was. Some maintained he was a drysalter in the City; others surmised that he might be a pawnbroker at the West End. Certain it is that he had some money, which perhaps might have recommended him to us, for there was not a man in the company who had not occasionally borrowed from him a sum, too trifling, in general, to permit any of us to think of repaying it. He was a broken-backed little fellow, as vain of his person as a peacock, and accordingly we always called him Humpy Harlow, with the spirit of gentlemanlike candour which characterised all our conversation. With a kind feeling towards him, we in general permitted him to pay our bills for us whenever we dined together at tavern or chop-house, merely to gratify the little fellow's vanity, which I have already hinted to be excessive.
HOW HUMPY HARLOW BROKE SILENCE AT JACK GINGER's.
He had this evening made many ineffectual attempts to shine, but was at last obliged to content himself with opening his mouth for the admission, not for the utterance, of good things. He was evidently unhappy, and a rightly constituted mind could not avoid pitying his condition. As jug, however, succeeded jug, he began to recover his self-possession; and it was clear, about eleven o'clock, when
"I wish I had a red herring's tail," &c. It was an agreeable picture of continued use and ornament, and reminded us strongly of the Abyssinian maid of the Platonic poetry of Coleridge.
the fourth bottle of potteen was converting into punch, that he had a desire to speak. We had been for some time busily employed in smoking cigars, when, all on a sudden, a shrill and sharp voice was heard from the midst of a cloud, exclaiming, in a high treble key,—
"Humphries told me".
We all puffed our Havannahs with the utmost silence, as if we were so many Sachems at a palaver, listening to the narration which issued from the misty tabernacle in which Humpy Harlow was enveloped. He unfolded a tale of wondrous length, which we never interrupted. No sound was heard save that of the voice of Harlow, narrating the story which had to him been confided by the unknown Humphries, or the gentle gliding of the jug, an occasional tingle of a glass, and the soft suspiration of the cigar. On moved the story in its length, breadth, and thickness, for Harlow gave it to us in its full dimensions. He abated it not a jot. The firmness which we displayed was unequalled since the battle of Waterloo. We sat with determined countenances, exhaling smoke and inhaling punch, while the voice still rolled onward. At last Harlow came to an end; and a Babel of conversation burst from lips in which it had been so long imprisoned. Harlow looked proud of his feat, and obtained the thanks of the company, grateful that he had come to a conclusion. How we finished the potteen-converted my bottle of rum into a bowl, (for here Jack Ginger prevailed)-how Jerry Gallagher, by superhuman exertions, succeeded in raising a couple of hundred of oysters for supperhow the company separated, each to get to his domicile as he could-how found, in the morning, my personal liberty outraged by the hands of
that unconstitutional band of gens--how I was introduced to the attention of a magistrate, and recorded in the diurnal page of the newspaper-all this must be left to other historians to narrate.
d'-armes created for the direct purposes of tyranny, and held up to the indignation of al! England by the weekly eloquence of the Despatch
WHAT STORY IT WAS THAT HUMPY HARLOW TOLD AT JACK GINGER's.
At three o'clock on the day after the dinner, Antony Harrison and I found ourselves eating bread and cheese-part of the cheese-at Jack Ginger's. We recapitulated the events of the preceding evening, and expressed ourselves highly gratified with the entertainment. Most of the good things we had said were revived, served up again, and laughed at once more. We were perfectly satisfied with the parts which we had respectively played, and talked ourselves into excessive good humour. All on a sudden, Jack Ginger's countenance clouded. He was evidently puzzled; and sat for a moment in thoughtful silence. We asked him, with Oriental simplicity of sense, "Why art thou troubled?" and till a moment he answered
"I know it did," said Jack Ginger; "but what was it that Humphries had told him? I cannot recollect it if I was to be made Lord Chancellor." Antony Harrison and I mused in silence, and racked our brains, but to no purpose. On the tablet of our memories no trace had been engraved, and the tale of Humphries, as reported by Harlow, was as if it were not, so far as we were concerned.
While we were in this perplexity, Joe Macgillicuddy and Bob Burke entered the room.
"We have been just taking a hair of the same dog," said Joe. "It was a pleasant party we had last night. Do you know what Bob and I have been talking of for the last half hour?" We professed our inability to conjecture.
"Why, then," continued Joe," it was about the story that Harlow told last night."
"The story begins with Humphries told me," said Bob.
"And," proceeded Joe, " for our lives we cannot recollect what it was."
"Wonderful!" we all exclaimed. "How inscrutable are the movements of the human mind!"
And we proceeded to reflect on the frailty of our memories, moralizing in a strain that would have done honour to Dr Johnson.
"Perhaps," said I," Tom Meggot may recollect it."
Idle hope! dispersed to the winds almost as soon as it was formed. For the words had scarcely passed "the bulwark of my teeth," when Tom appeared, looking excessively bloodshot in the eye. On enquiry, it turned out that he, like the rest of us, remembered only the cabalistic words which introduced the tale, but of the tale itself, nothing.
Tom had been educated in Edinburgh, and was strongly attached to what he calls metapheesicks; and, accordingly, after rubbing his forehead, he exclaimed
"This is a psychological curiosity, which deserves to be developed. I happen to have half a sovereign about me," (an assertion, which, I may remark, in passing, excited considerable surprise in his audience,) " and I'll ask Harlow to dine with me at the Rainbow. I'll get the story out of the humpy rascal-and no mistake."
We acquiesced in the propriety of this proceeding; and Antony Harrison, observing that he happened by chance to be disengaged, hooked himself on Tom, who seemed to have a sort of national antipathy to such a ceremony, with a talent and alacrity that proved him to be a veteran warrior, or what, in common parlance, is called an old soldier.
Tom succeeded in getting Harlow to dinner, and Harrison succeeded in making him pay the bill, to the great relief of Meggot's halfsovereign, and they parted at an early hour in the morning. The two Irishmen and myself were at
Ginger's shortly after breakfast; we had been part occupied in tossing halfpence to decide which of us was to send out for ale, when-Harrison and Meggot appeared. There was conscious confusion written in their countenances. "Did Humpy Harlow tell you that story?" we all exclaimed at once.
"It cannot be denied that he did," said Meggot. "Precisely as the clock struck eleven, he commenced with Humphries told me"".
"Well-and what then?"
"Why, there it is," said Antony Harrison, "may I be drummed out if I can recollect another word."
"Nor I," said Meggot.
The strangeness of this singular adventure made a deep impression on us all. We were sunk in silence for some minutes, during which Jerry Gallagher made his appearance with the ale, which I omitted to mention had been lost by Joe Macgillicuddy. We sipped that 'British beverage, much abstracted in deep thought. The thing appeared to us perfectly inscrutable. At last I said "This never will do-we cannot exist much longer in this atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty. We must have it out of Harlow to-night, or there is an end of all the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent. "I have credit," said, I, "at the widow's, in St Martin's Lane. Suppose we all meet there to-night, and get Harlow there if we can ?"
"That I can do," said Antony Harrison, "for I quartered myself to dine with him to-day, as I saw him home, poor little fellow, last night. I promise that he figures at the widow's to-night at nine o'clock."
So we separated. At nine every man of the party was in St Martin's Lane, seated in the little back parlour; and Harrison was as good as his word, for he brought Harlow with him. He ordered a sumptuous supper of mutton kidneys, interspersed with sausages, and set to. At eleven o'clock precisely, the eye of Harlow brightened, and putting his pipe down, he commenced with a shrill voice
py Harlow, performing that feat, which by the illustrious Mr John Reeve is called "flaring up."
"Nothing," we replied, "nothing, but we are anxious to hear that story."
"I understand you," said our broken-backed friend. "I now recollect that I did tell it once or so before in your company, but I shall not be a butt any longer for you or any body else."
"Don't be in a passion, Humpy," said Jack Ginger.
"Sir," replied Harlow, "I hate nicknames-it is a mark of a low mind to use them-and as I see I am brought here only to be insulted, I shall not trouble you any longer with my company."
Saying this, the little man seized his hat and umbrella, and strode out of the room.
"His back is up," said Joe Macgillicuddy, "and there's no use of trying to get it down. I am sorry he is gone, because I should have made him pay for another round."
But he was gone, not to return again-and the story remains unknown. Yea, as undiscoverable as the hieroglyphical writings of the ancient Egyptians. It exists, to be sure, in the breast of Harlow; but there it is buried, never to emerge into the light of day. It is lost to the world-and means of recovering it, there, in my opinion, exist none. The world must go on without it, and states and empires must continue to flourish and to fade without the knowledge of what it was that Humphries told Harlow. Such is the inevitable course of events.
For my part, I shall be satisfied with what I have done in drawing up this accurate and authentic narrative, if I can seriously impress on the minds of my readers the perishable nature of mundane affairs-if I can make them reflect that memory itself, the noblest, perhaps the characteristic, quality of the human mind, will decay, even while other faculties exist-and that in the words of a celebrated Lord of Trade and Plantations, of the name of John Locke, "we may be like the tombs to which we are hastening, where, though the brass and marble remain, yet the imagery is defaced, and the inscription is blotted out for ever!"
"Humphries told me "Aye," said we all, with one accord, "here it is-now we shall have it-take care of it this time."
"What do you mean?" said Hum