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his son into Parliament, could have had no influence over the minds of
Lord George Pliant • - - - 371
- 370 Hurra! Pliant for ever! Glorious majority of one!!! Not long afterwards Lord George Pliant, by accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, (and, probably, something more,) vacated his seat; and then Mr. Tardy was, without opposition, returned member for Rottenbury:the sole condition of his election being that he would oppose, might and main, the Rottenbury-Payment-of-Rate-for-building-a-Bridge-across-theRiver-Slush Enforcement-Bill.
L. L. Tardy, Esq., M.P., went to London; and no sooner arrived there than he took the oaths and his seat. His arrival was opportune; for it happened that, on the evening of that very day, a hard struggle was expected to take place on the third reading of the Rottenbury,—&c., &c.,-Enforcement-Bill. On that same evening, Mrs. Siddons, whom he had never seen, was to play Lady Macbeth ; so, as the Rottenbury Bill was not expected to come on earlier than half-past ten, and the other business before the House being unimportant, he despatched his servant to Drury-Lane Theatre to secure a place for him. Every place was taken; but, fortunately, at the very moment of the application, one front seat in the stage-box was given up, and this was transferred to Mr. Tardy (with the M.P. tacked to the name, of course). In order to be near the scene of action, and that no time might be lost, he took his dinner at the Shakspeare, and, whilst sipping his wine, addressed short letters to every person of his acquaintance, principally, we believe, for the gratification of scrawling Free, L. L. Tardy, on the outside of them. At that period the performances commenced at half-past six. The dial in the Coffee-room indicated that precise time. Mr. Tardy didn't care to hear the overture, so he called for another half-pint of port and more writingpaper. Having inadvertently overstaid the time by which, according to his calculation, the first scene of the play would be over, the loss of the second would be of the less consequence; and as, indeed, all he cared about was to see Mrs. Siddons, he could imagine no reason why he should hurry his wine. And now, having deliberately finished his last glass, he proceeded to the theatre. On passing along the lobby his ears were assailed with the awful sound of "First act over!" and the honourable member for Rottenbury reached his box-door just in time to see a long thin leg in a blue silk stocking striding over three benches at once down into the very place which, till then, had been reserved for himself. .“ That is unlucky, Sir!" said the box-keeper as he closed the door ; "you are so little too late.” “Better late than never,” replied the M.P.: "I can see something through the glass.” And he did see all the action of Macbeth, and he also heard some of the louder portions of the choruses. The tragedy concluded, he procured a tolerable place for the afterpiece. It was the “ Spoiled Child,” in which Mrs. Jordan acted the part of Little Pickle. Aware that his parliamentary duties would not allow of his seeing the whole of the entertainment, he thought, nevertheless, that he might indulge himself with the first act. The first act finishing somewhat earlier than he had been told it would, and the Rottenbury Bill not being expected to come on before half-past ten, (which, most probably, would be eleven,) there was no good reason why he should not enjoy a little of the second. At a quarter before eleven the piece was so very nearly at an end that it would be absurd not to wait its termination. The green curtain fell; and, gratified beyond description by the inimitable performance he had witnessed, the member for Rottenbury hurried down to the House. Full of the importance of his new position, with becoming dignity he marched up stairs towards the lobby, but, to his astonishment, the doors were closed. “Beg pardon, Sir,” said one of the polite gentlemen in black, (at the same time not opening the door,) " after the division, if you please.” “Oh !” said Mr. Tardy, and waited where he was. On being admitted, he found that the House had just then divided on the third reading of the Rottenbury-Payment-of-Rate-for-buildinga-Bridge-across-the-River-Slush Enforcement-Bill; which, after an animated debate, was carried by a majority of ONE: the Speaker, in the absence of the honourable member, having decided the question by his casting vote. No sooner did the news reach his constituents at Rottenbury that the Rate-paying-Enforcement-Bill (for the express object of opposing which they had returned Mr. Tardy to Parliament) had been carried against them, and that, too, entirely owing to his absence on the division, than the free and independent electors forwarded what they called a "peremptory request" to their representative that he would instantly surrender the important trust, which, for the good of the British empire in general, and of the borough of Rottenbury in particular, they had confided to him. This he accordingly did, and returned un-M.P.'d to Neverdone Castle.
them—through the prime of life-into its meridian--past it. He was now fifty-five. At this period old Sir Dawdlemore died. The elder brother succeeded, of course, to the title, the estates, and all the advantages of primogeniture. Loiter inherited a legacy of twenty thousand pounds. This bequest would materially improve his condition ; for having no one to provide for but himself, he determined to lay out the entire sum in the purchase of an annuity for his own life. Arrangements for that purpose were immediately entered into; and in order that the money might be forthcoming as soon as required, it was placed in the rich, responsible, and long-established banking-house of Messrs. Spec, Smash, and Co., London. He would now be the master of about eighteen hundred a year. “ It comes too late for me to enjoy it as once I should have done,” thought he; “ but better late than never.”
Having occasion to go into the city one morning on account of some business connected with his annuity, his eye was caught by a ticket, numbered 77, in the window of a lottery-office. He walked on, and presently got into a hackney-coach : it was numbered 77. He drove to his solicitor's : his house was numbered 77. At night (naturally enough) Tardy dreamt that No. 77 was drawn the great prize in the lottery. He rose early the next morning, and sallied forth from his lodgings in Pallmall to Cornhill, resolved to purchase No. 77. The ticket occupied the same place in the window. He entered the office, drew from his pocket twenty pounds, and "Hold !” said he; “slow and sure ; 'tis a great deal of money to throw away in a lottery speculation ; I'll consider of it.” He retraced his steps. At Temple-Bar, an old man implored his charity.
“What's your age, my fine fellow ?” asked Mr. Tardy. “ Seventy-seven, Sir," was the reply.
This was irresistible. Back again he flew to Cornhill. Again the twenty pounds were displayed on the counter.
“Give me ticket No. 77," said he to the office-keeper.
“No. 77, Sir ?" said the man; “ sold it only a quarter of an hour ago, in a whole ticket, Sir.”
Two days afterwards, No. 77 was drawn a prize of five thousand pounds. Even the ingenuity of Mr. Tardy in twisting “ better late than never” into a consolation failed upon this occasion.
Just at the same time when he received intelligence of this unlucky miss, his solicitor called at his lodgings. The purpose of his visit was to hint to Mr. Tardy that, from certain whispers afloat in the city, touching the credit of Messrs. Spec, Smash, and Co., it might be prudent to withdraw his deposit from their custody. “He could not speak out-it was a delicate matter-might injure the credit of a long-established house-an action at law-prosecution-heavy damages ;-however, he had drawn every shilling of his money out of their hands. Mr. Tardy would, of course, do as he pleased; yet, were he in his place, most certainly he-but, as he said before, he could say nothing.” And having disburthened himself of these agreeable inuendos, the cautious solicitor took his leave.
Here was matter for rumination-and-slow and sure-Mr. Tardy did ruminate upon it during the greater part of the day. The firm of Spec, Smash, and Co. in a ticklish condition! The thing was impossible. A house so long established—so wealthy-so close and wary in its transactions! And then, the individual partners so affluent! Each with
his establishments in town and country; one with his yacht-another with his stud of racers !-To doubt their stability! Pooh! Besides, to withdraw so large a sum at a moment’s notice would betray a want of confidence in those most respectable men, and wound their feelings. And yet, there was no smoke without fire. Could he but find a decent pretext for removing his account! And, fortunately, a decent pretext was afforded him. Notice was sent him that all the preliminary forms towards the settlement of his annuity being arranged, nothing now remained but to pay the twenty thousand pounds, which, if convenient to Mr. Tardy, he might do at two o'clock on the morrow. Thus were Mr. Tardy's delicate scruples regarding the tender feelings of his bankers appeased; and, with respect to the safety of his property, his mind set perfectly at rest.
At one o'clock on the morrow, Mr. Tardy, resolving to be punctual to this most important appointment, walked stoutly towards the city, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left-except to see some wherries start on a rowing-match from Blackfriars Bridge : nor stopping by the way-except occasionally to look at some of the very best caricatures ever exhibited. Thus it was three-quarters past two when he reached the place of his destination—a delay, however, which was of no importance, he being quite in time to sign the necessary papers and deeds. "I am rather late, I know,” exclaimed Tardy, laughingly; “ but better late than never.”
As he was drawing his cheque-book from his pocket, a gentleman entered the office. “Here's a pretty piece of work!” said he.“ Spec, Smash, and Co. stopt payment, and there won't be half-a-crown in the pound.”
“ Eh!-how !--what!—when ?" said, or, rather, gurgled Mr. Tardy.
“ They have been paying till within this quarter of an hour,” was the reply; “but if you have any curiosity about it, Sir, you may now see their beautiful mahogany shutters up.”
The wealthy, respectable, and long-established Messrs. Spec, Smash, and Co. assuring their creditors that there would turn out to be forty shillings in the pound,-in time,-Mr. Tardy, for his own part, was satisfied. After the lapse of nineteen months, a first and final dividend of eightpence three-farthings in the pound was declared, which Mr. Tardy would have received-had he not arrived a quarter of an hour too late to prove his debt.
Mr. Tardy entered his sixtieth year, yet had experience not rendered him wiser. The fatal influence of the family mottoes attended him to the very close of his existence. For several years had he kept up an insurance on his life for three thousand pounds, in favour of a young lady who was either his niece, or his cousin, or the orphan daughter of a naval officer, —for he was not consistent in his explanations upon this point. In due course he received the usual notice that the premium for the insurance was becoming due; but, fifteen days beyond the period specified being allowed for the payment, Mr. Tardy had plenty of time before him, and he saw no earthly reason why he should hurry himself in the business. The last of those days of grace arrived; and so, nearly, had the last hour. He was rather late in his payment, he admitted ; but, “ better late than never.” So, he mounted his horse, and set off at a brisk trot towards the insurance-office. He had not proceeded far when his horse stumbled
and threw him. He was carried home senseless from a severe contusion on the head. Preparations were made for bleeding him. He recovered himself sufficiently to be aware of what was going on.
“ Slow and sure,” he faintly articulated ; “ as I never have been bled, I have a great objection to undergoing that operation now."
In vain did the surgeon assure him that his life depended upon it: remonstrance and entreaty were alike unavailing. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, the surgeon, kindly taking his hand, once more urged him to submit to his advice; adding, at the same time, “Indeed, indeed, Sir, unless you instantly do so it will be too late."
" Do as you please, then," replied he, in a voice scarcely audible; “ better late than never."
Even whilst the surgeon was pointing the lancet to his arm, poor Tardy breathed his last. “Had he consented to this a quarter of an hour ago," exclaimed the operator," I would have answered for his recovery." This melancholy event occurred at precisely fifteen minutes past four o'clock, as it was sworn to, by the parties present, before a magistrate. It is important that we should be thus particular concerning the time of his death; for, at four o'clock precisely, the policy for the benefit of the mysterious young lady we have alluded to, and which till that hour had remained in force, became void and valueless! it expired—just one quarter of an hour before Mr. Tardy!
Of the life of Loiter Lag Tardy procrastination had been the bane. And as he had made his entrance into the world, even so did he quit it -a quarter of an hour too late!
ENGLAND AND THE ENGLISH. * It was high time, we think, for a work like the present to make its appearance; at least, that an Englishman, thoroughly acquainted with the character and condition of his countrymen, should undertake to exhibit them to the world at large; and, in the spirit of enlightened patriotism, to supply them with the means of forming a just estimate of themselves with a view to the further improvement of their personal and domestic manners, as well as of their social and political institutions.
To say nothing of the trash and twaddle which scribblers of inferior note are in the habit of pouring forth on the Continent, the palpable deficiencies, the ludicrous misstatements, and the strangely erroneous opinions to which even foreigners of rank and consideration have given currency in that portion of their literature relating to “England and the English," have long demanded correction and rebuke. Yet, from these, probably, as no evil was intended, nothing practically injurious has arisen. A country that possesses the elements of greatness, and that has raised itself by inherent energy to the very highest eminence in the civilized world, has little to apprehend from the aspersions of enemies, or the misrepresentations of strangers who cannot “ examine its condition and only glance at its surface." If danger threaten such a people, it comes not from without. Great Britain cannot be destroyed unless she consent to bring down ruin upon herself. But it is more than possible that the causes which have contributed to her prosperity, under disastrous influences, may work those changes in her habits and
* England and the English. By Edward Lytton Bulwer, Esq. M.P., Author of “Pelbam," " Devereux," and "Eugene Aram."