Public Life of Mr.
Once the Mayer of
Mudfog by Boz.
Mr. Tulrumble as Mayor of Mudfog
Mudfog is a pleasant town—a remarkably pleasant
town—situated in a charming hollow by the side of a river, from which
river, Mudfog derives an agreeable scent of pitch, tar, coals, and
rope-yarn, a roving population in oil-skin hats, a pretty steady
influx of drunken bargemen, and a great many other maritime
advantages. There is a good deal of water about Mudfog,
and yet it is not exactly the sort of town for a watering-place,
either. Water is a perverse sort of element at the best of times,
and in Mudfog it is particularly so. In winter, it comes oozing
down the streets and tumbling over the fields,—nay, rushes into
the very cellars and kitchens of the houses, with a lavish prodigality
that might well be dispensed with; but in the hot summer
weather it will dry up, and turn green: and, although
green is a very good colour in its way, especially in grass, still it
certainly is not becoming to water; and it cannot be denied that
the beauty of Mudfog is rather impaired, even by this trifling
circumstance. Mudfog is a healthy place—very healthy;—damp,
perhaps, but none the worse for that. It's quite a mistake
to suppose that damp is unwholesome: plants thrive best in
damp situations, and why shouldn't men? The inhabitants of
Mudfog are unanimous in asserting that there exists not a finer
race of people on the face of the earth; here we have an indisputable
and veracious contradiction of the vulgar error at
once. So, admitting Mudfog to be damp, we distinctly state
that it is salubrious.
The town of Mudfog is extremely picturesque. Limehouse
and Ratcliffe Highway are both something like it, but they give
you a very faint idea of Mudfog. There are a great many
more public-houses in Mudfog,—more than in Ratcliffe Highway
and Limehouse put together. The public buildings, too,
are very imposing. We consider the Town-hall one of the
finest specimens of shed architecture, extant: it is a combination
of the pig-sty and tea-garden-box, orders; and the simplicity of its
design is of surpassing beauty. The idea of placing a large
window on one side of the door, and a small one on the other, is
particularly happy. There is a fine bold Doric beauty, too,
about the padlock and scraper, which is strictly in keeping with
the general effect.
In this room do the mayor and corporation of Mudfog
assemble together in solemn council for the public weal.
Seated on the massive wooden benches, which, with the table in
the centre, form the only furniture of the whitewashed apartment,
the sage men of Mudfog spend hour after hour in grave
deliberation. Here they settle at what hour of the night the
public-houses shall be closed, at what hour of the morning they
shall be permitted to open, how soon it shall be lawful for people
to eat their dinner on church-days, and other great political
questions; and sometimes, long after silence has fallen on the
town, and the distant lights from the shops and houses have
ceased to twinkle, like far-off stars, to the sight of the boatmen
on the river, the illumination in the two unequal-sized windows
of the town-hall, warns the inhabitants of Mudfog that its little
body of legislators, like a larger and better-known body of the
same genus, a great deal more noisy, and not a whit more profound,
are patriotically dozing away in company, far into the
night, for their country's good.
Among this knot of sage and learned men, no one was
so eminently distinguished, during many years, for the quiet modesty
of his appearance and demeanour, as Nicholas Tulrumble, the
well-known coal-dealer. However exciting the subject of discussion,
however animated the tone of the debate, or however
warm the personalities exchanged, (and even in Mudfog we get
personal sometimes,) Nicholas Tulrumble was always the same.
To say truth, Nicholas, being an industrious man, and always
up betimes, was apt to fall asleep when a debate began, and to
remain asleep till it was over, when he would wake up very
much refreshed, and give his vote with the greatest complacency.
The fact was, that Nicholas Tulrumble, knowing that
everybody there, had made up his mind beforehand, considered
the talking as just a long hot botheration about nothing at all; and
to the present hour it remains a question, whether, on this point
at all events, Nicholas Tulrumble was not pretty near right.
Time, which strews a man's head with silver, sometimes
fills his pockets with gold. As he gradually performed one good
office for Nicholas Tulrumble, he was obliging enough, not to
omit the other. Nicholas began life in a wooden tenement of
four feet square, with a capital of two and ninepence, and a
stock in trade of three bushels and a-half of coals, exclusive of
the large lump which hung, by way of sign-board, outside.
Then he enlarged the shed, and kept a truck; then he left the
shed, and the truck too, and started a donkey and a Mrs. Tulrumble;
then he moved again and set up a cart; the cart was
soon afterwards exchanged for a waggon; and so he went on,
like his great predecessor Whittington—only without a cat for
a partner—increasing in wealth and fame, until at last he gave
up business altogether, and retired with Mrs. Tulrumble and
family to Mudfog Hall, which he had himself erected, on something
which he endeavoured to delude himself into the belief
was a hill, about a quarter of a mile distant from the town of
About this time, it began to be murmured in Mudfog that
Nicholas Tulrumble was growing vain and haughty; that prosperity
and success had corrupted the simplicity of his manners,
and tainted the natural goodness of his heart; in short, that he
was setting up for a public character, and a great gentleman,
and affected to look down upon his old companions with compassion
and contempt. Whether these reports were at the time
well-founded, or not, certain it is that Mrs. Tulrumble very
shortly afterwards started a four-wheel chaise, driven by a tall
postilion in a yellow cap,—that Mr. Tulrumble junior took to
smoking cigars, and calling the footman a "feller,"—and that
Mr. Tulrumble from that time forth, was no more seen in his old
seat in the chimney-corner of the Lighterman's Arms at night.
This looked bad; but, more than this, it began to be observed
that Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble attended the corporation meetings
more frequently than heretofore; that he no longer went to
sleep as he had done for so many years, but propped his eyelids
open with his two fore-fingers; that he read the newspapers by
himself at home; and that he was in the habit of indulging
abroad in distant and mysterious allusions to "masses of people,"
and "the property of the country," and "productive
power," and "the monied interest:" all of which denoted and
proved that Nicholas Tulrumble was either mad, or worse; and
it puzzled the good people of Mudfog amazingly.
At length, about the middle of the month of October,
Mr. Tulrumble and family went up to London; the middle of October
being, as Mrs. Tulrumble informed her acquaintance in Mudfog,
the very height of the fashionable season.
Somehow or other, just about this time, despite the
health-preserving air of Mudfog, the Mayor died. It was a most extraordinary
circumstance; he had lived in Mudfog for eighty-five
years. The corporation didn't understand it at all; indeed
it was with great difficulty that one old gentleman, who was a
great stickler for forms, was dissuaded from proposing a vote of
censure on such unaccountable conduct. Strange as it was,
however, die he did, without taking the slightest notice of the
corporation; and the corporation were imperatively called upon
to elect his successor. So, they met for the purpose; and being
very full of Nicholas Tulrumble just then, and Nicholas Tulrumble
being a very important man, they elected him, and wrote
off to London by the very next post to acquaint Nicholas Tulrumble
with his new elevation.
Now, it being November time, and Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble
being in the capital, it fell out that he was present at the Lord
Mayor's show and dinner, at sight of the glory and splendour
whereof, he, Mr. Tulrumble, was greatly mortified, inasmuch as
the reflection would force itself on his mind, that, had he been
born in London instead of in Mudfog, he might have been a
Lord Mayor too, and have patronised the judges, and been
affable to the Lord Chancellor, and friendly with the Premier,
and coldly condescending to the Secretary to the Treasury, and
have dined with a flag behind his back, and done a great many
other acts and deeds which unto Lord Mayors of London peculiarly
appertain. The more he thought of the Lord Mayor, the
more enviable a personage he seemed. To be a King was all
very well; but what was the King to the Lord Mayor? When
the King made a speech, everybody knew it was somebody else's
writing; whereas here was the Lord Mayor talking away for
half an hour—all out of his own head—amidst the enthusiastic
applause of the whole company, while it was notorious that the
King might talk to his parliament till he was black in the face
without getting so much as a single cheer. As all these reflections
passed through the mind of Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble, the
Lord Mayor of London appeared to him the greatest sovereign
on the face of the earth, beating the Emperor of Russia all to
nothing, and leaving the Great Mogul immeasurably behind.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was pondering over these things,
and inwardly cursing the fate which had pitched his coal-shed
in Mudfog, when the letter of the corporation was put into his
hand. A crimson flush mantled over his face as he read it, for
visions of brightness were already dancing before his imagination.
"My dear," said Mr. Tulrumble to his wife, "they have
elected me, Mayor of Mudfog."
"Lor-a-mussy!" said Mrs. Tulrumble: "why, what's become
of old Sniggs?"
"The late Mr. Sniggs, Mrs. Tulrumble," said Mr. Tulrumble
sharply, for he by no means approved of the notion of unceremoniously
designating a gentleman who had filled the high
office of Mayor as "old Sniggs,"—"The late Mr. Sniggs,
Mrs. Tulrumble, is dead."
The communication was very unexpected; but Mrs. Tulrumble
only ejaculated "Lor-a-mussy!" once again, as if a Mayor
were a mere ordinary Christian, at which Mr. Tulrumble frowned gloomily.
"What a pity 'tan't in London, ain't it?" said Mrs. Tulrumble,
after a short pause; "what a pity 'tan't in London,
where you might have had a show."
"I might have a show in Mudfog, if I thought proper, I
apprehend," said Mr. Tulrumble mysteriously.
"Lor! so you might, I declare," replied Mrs. Tulrumble.
"And a good one, too," said Mr. Tulrumble.
"Delightful!" exclaimed Mrs. Tulrumble.
"One which would rather astonish the ignorant people down
there," said Mr. Tulrumble.
"It would kill them with envy," said Mrs. Tulrumble.
So it was agreed that his Majesty's lieges in Mudfog
should be astonished with splendour, and slaughtered with envy, and
that such a show should take place as had never been seen in that
town, or in any other town before,—no, not even in London itself.
On the very next day after the receipt of the letter, down
came the tall postilion in a post-chaise,—not upon one of the horses,
but inside—actually inside the chaise,—and, driving up to the
very door of the town-hall, where the corporation were assembled,
delivered a letter, written by the Lord knows who, and signed by
Nicholas Tulrumble, in which Nicholas said, all through four
sides of closely-written, gilt-edged, hot-pressed, Bath post
letter-paper, that he responded to the call of his fellow-townsmen
with feelings of heartfelt delight; that he accepted the arduous
office which their confidence had imposed upon him; that they
would never find him shrinking from the discharge of his duty;
that he would endeavour to execute his functions with all that
dignity which their magnitude and importance demanded; and
a great deal more to the same effect. But even this was not all.
The tall postilion produced from his right-hand top-boot, a
damp copy of that afternoon's number of the county paper;
and there, in large type, running the whole length of the very
first column, was a long address from Nicholas Tulrumble to
the inhabitants of Mudfog, in which he said that he cheerfully
complied with their requisition, and, in short, as if to prevent
any mistake about the matter, told them over again what a
grand fellow he meant to be, in very much the same terms as
those in which he had already told them all about the matter in
The corporation stared at one another very hard at all
this, and then looked as if for explanation to the tall postilion, but as
the tall postilion was intently contemplating the gold tassel on
the top of his yellow cap, and could have afforded no explanation
whatever, even if his thoughts had been entirely disengaged,
they contented themselves with coughing very dubiously, and
looking very grave. The tall postilion then delivered another
letter, in which Nicholas Tulrumble informed the corporation,
that he intended repairing to the town-hall, in grand state and
gorgeous procession, on the Monday afternoon then next ensuing.
At this, the corporation looked still more solemn; but, as
the epistle wound up with a formal invitation to the whole body
to dine with the Mayor on that day, at Mudfog Hall, Mudfog
Hill, Mudfog, they began to see the fun of the thing directly,
and sent back their compliments, and they'd be sure to come.
Now there happened to be in Mudfog, as somehow or other
there does happen to be, in almost every town in the British dominions,
and perhaps in foreign dominions too—we think it very
likely, but, being no great traveller, cannot distinctly say—there
happened to be, in Mudfog a merry-tempered, pleasant-faced,
good-for-nothing sort of vagabond, with an invincible dislike
to manual labour, and an unconquerable attachment to
strong beer and spirits whom everybody knew, and nobody,
except his wife, took the trouble to quarrel with, who inherited
from his ancestors the appellation of Edward Twigger, and rejoiced
in the sobriquet of Bottle-nosed Ned. He was drunk
upon the average once a day, and penitent upon an equally fair
calculation once a month; and when he was penitent, he was
invariably in the very last stage of maudlin intoxication. He
was a ragged, roving, roaring kind of fellow, with a burly form,
a sharp wit, and a ready head, and could turn his hand to anything
when he chose to do it. He was by no means opposed to
hard labour on principle, for he would work away at a cricket-match
by the day together,—running, and catching, and batting,
and bowling, and revelling in toil which would exhaust a galley-slave.
He would have been invaluable to a fire-office; never
was a man with such a natural taste for pumping engines, running
up ladders, and throwing furniture out of two-pair-of-stairs'
windows: nor was this the only element in which he was
at home; he was a humane society in himself, a portable drag,
an animated life-preserver, and had saved more people, in his
time, from drowning, than the Plymouth life-boat, or Captain
Manby's apparatus. With all these qualifications, notwithstanding
his dissipation, Bottle-nosed Ned was a general favourite;
and the authorities of Mudfog, remembering his numerous
services to the population, allowed him in return to get
drunk in his own way, without the fear of stocks, fine, or
imprisonment. He had a general licence, and he showed his sense
of the compliment by making the most of it.
We have been thus particular in describing the character
and avocations of Bottle-nosed Ned, because it enables us to introduce
a fact politely, without hauling it into the reader's presence
with indecent haste by the head and shoulders, and brings
us very naturally to relate, that on the very same evening on
which Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble and family returned to Mudfog,
Mr. Tulrumble's new secretary, just imported from London,
with a pale face and light whiskers, thrust his head down to
the very bottom of his neckcloth-tie, in at the tap-room door
of the Lighterman's Arms, and enquiring whether one Ned
Twigger was luxuriating within, announced himself as the
bearer of a message from Nicholas Tulrumble, Esquire, requiring
Mr. Twigger's immediate attendance at the hall, on private
and particular business. It being by no means Mr. Twigger's
interest to affront the Mayor, he rose from the fire-place
with a slight sigh, and followed the light-whiskered secretary
through the dirt and wet of Mudfog streets, up to Mudfog Hall,
without further ado.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was seated in a small cavern with
a skylight, which he called his library, sketching out a plan of the
procession on a large sheet of paper; and into the cavern the secretary
ushered Ned Twigger.
"Well, Twigger!" said Nicholas Tulrumble, condescendingly.
There was a time when Twigger would have replied, "Well,
Nick!" but that was in the days of the truck, and a couple of
years before the donkey; so, he only bowed.
"I want you to go into training, Twigger," said Mr. Tulrumble.
"What for, sir?" enquired Ned, with a stare.
"Hush, hush, Twigger!" said the Mayor. "Shut the door,
Mr. Jennings. Look here, Twigger."
As the Mayor said this, he unlocked a high closet, and disclosed
a complete suit of brass armour, of gigantic dimensions.
"I want you to wear this, next Monday, Twigger," said the
"Bless your heart and soul, sir!" replied Ned, "you might
as well ask me to wear a seventy-four pounder, or a cast-iron
"Nonsense, Twigger! nonsense!" said the Mayor.
"I couldn't stand under it, sir," said Twigger; "it would
make mashed potatoes of me, if I attempted it."
"Pooh, pooh, Twigger!" returned the Mayor. "I tell you
I have seen it done with my own eyes, in London, and the man
wasn't half such a man as you are, either."
"I should as soon have thought of a man's wearing the case
of an eight-day clock to save his linen," said Twigger, casting
a look of apprehension at the brass suit.
"It's the easiest thing in the world," rejoined the Mayor.
"It's nothing," said Mr. Jennings.
"When you're used to it," added Ned.
"You do it by degrees," said the Mayor. "You would begin
with one piece to-morrow, and two the next day, and so on,
till you had got it all on. Mr. Jennings, give Twigger a glass
of rum. Just try the breast-plate, Twigger. Stay; take another
glass of rum first. Help me to lift it, Mr. Jennings.
Stand firm, Twigger! There!—it isn't half as heavy as it looks,
Twigger was a good strong, stout fellow; so, after
a great deal of staggering he managed to keep himself up, under the
breast-plate, and even contrived, with the aid of another glass of
rum, to walk about in it, and the gauntlets into the bargain. He
made a trial of the helmet, but was not equally successful, inasmuch
he tipped over instantly,—an accident which Mr. Tulrumble
clearly demonstrated to be occasioned by his not having
a counteracting weight of brass on his legs.
"Now, wear that with grace and propriety on Monday next,"
said Tulrumble, "and I'll make your fortune."
"I'll try what I can do, sir," said Twigger.
"It must be kept a profound secret," said Tulrumble.
"Of course, sir," replied Twigger.
"And you must be sober," said Tulrumble; "perfectly
Mr. Twigger at once solemnly pledged himself to be
as sober as a judge, and Nicholas Tulrumble was satisfied, although,
had we been Nicholas, we should certainly have exacted some promise
of a more specific nature; inasmuch as, having attended the
Mudfog assizes in the evening more than once, we can solemnly
testify to having seen judges with very strong symptoms of
dinner under their wigs. However, that's neither here nor there.
The next day, and the day following, and the day after
that, Ned Twigger was securely locked up in the small cavern with
the skylight, hard at work at the armour. With every additional
piece he could manage to stand upright in, he had on additional
glass of rum; and at last, after many partial suffocations,
he contrived to get on the whole suit, and to stagger up
and down the room in it, like an intoxicated effigy from
Never was man so delighted as Nicholas Tulrumble;
never was woman so charmed as Nicholas Tulrumble's wife. Here
was a sight for the common people of Mudfog! A live man in
brass armour! Why, they would go wild with wonder!
The day—the Monday—arrived.
If the morning had been made to order, it couldn't
have been better adapted to the purpose. They never showed a better
fog in London on Lord Mayor's day, than enwrapped the town of
Mudfog on that eventful occasion. It had risen slowly and
surely from the green and stagnant water with the first light of
morning, until it reached a little above the lamp-post tops; and
there it had stopped, with a sleepy, sluggish obstinacy, which
bade defiance to the sun, who had got up very blood-shot about
the eyes, as if he had been at a drinking-party over night, and
was doing his day's work with the worst possible grace. The
thick damp mist hung over the town like a huge gauze curtain.
All was dim and dismal. The church-steeples had bidden a
temporary adieu to the world below; and every object of lesser
importance—houses, barns, hedges, trees, and barges—had all
taken the veil.
The church-clock struck one. A cracked trumpet from
the front-garden of Mudfog Hall produced a feeble flourish, as if
some asthmatic person had coughed into it accidentally; the
gate flew open, and out came a gentleman, on a moist-sugar coloured
charger, intended to represent a herald, but bearing a
much stronger resemblance to a court-card on horseback. This
was one of the Circus people, who always came down to Mudfog
at that time of the year, and who had been engaged by Nicholas
Tulrumble expressly for the occasion. There was the horse,
whisking his tail about, balancing himself on his hind-legs, and
flourishing away with his fore-feet, in a manner which would
have gone to the hearts and souls of any reasonable crowd. But
a Mudfog crowd never was a reasonable one, and in all probability
never will be. Instead of scattering the very fog with
their shouts, as they ought most indubitably to have done, and
were fully intended to do, by Nicholas Tulrumble, they no
sooner recognised the herald, than they began to growl forth the
most unqualified disapprobation at the bare notion of his riding
like any other man. If he had come out on his head indeed, or
jumping through a hoop, or flying through a red-hot drum, or
even standing on one leg with his other foot in his mouth, they
might have had something to say to him; but for a professional
gentleman to sit astride in the saddle, with his feet in the stirrups,
was rather too good a joke. So, the herald was a decided
failure, and the crowd hooted with great energy, as he pranced
On the procession came. We were afraid to say how
many supernumeraries there were, in striped shirts and black velvet
caps, to imitate the London watermen, or how many base
imitations of running-footmen, or how many banners, which,
owing to the heaviness of the atmosphere, could by no means be
prevailed on to display their inscriptions: still less do we feel
disposed to relate how the men who played the wind instruments,
looking up into the sky (we mean the fog) with musical
fervour, walked through pools of water and hillocks of mud,
till they covered the powdered heads of the running-footmen
aforesaid with splashes, that looked curious, but not ornamental;
or how the barrel-organ performer put on the wrong stop, and
played one tune while the band played another; or how the
horses, being used to the arena, and not to the streets, would
stand still and dance, instead of going on and prancing;—all of
which are matters which might be dilated upon to great advantage,
but which we have not the least intention of dilating upon,
Oh! it was a grand and beautiful sight to behold the
corporation in glass coaches, provided at the sole cost and charge of
Nicholas Tulrumble, coming rolling along, like a funeral out of
mourning, and to watch the attempts the corporation made to
look great and solemn, when Nicholas Tulrumble himself, in the
four-wheel chaise, with the tall postilion, rolled out after them,
with Mr. Jennings on one side to look like the chaplain, and a
supernumerary on the other, with an old life-guardsman's sabre,
to imitate the sword-bearer; and to see the tears rolling down
the faces of the mob as they screamed with merriment. This was
beautiful! and so was the appearance of Mrs. Tulrumble and
son, as they bowed with grave dignity out of their coach-window
to all the dirty faces that were laughing around them: but it is
not even with this that we have to do, but with the sudden stopping
of the procession at another blast of the trumpet, whereat,
and whereupon, a profound silence ensued, and all eyes were
turned towards Mudfog Hull, in the confident anticipation of
some new wonder.
"They won't laugh now, Mr. Jennings,"
said Nicholas Tulrumble.
"I think not, sir," said Mr. Jennings.
"See how eager they look," said Nicholas Tulrumble.
"Aha! the laugh will be on our side now; eh, Mr. Jennings?"
"No doubt of that, sir," replied Mr. Jennings; and Nicholas
Tulrumble, in a state of pleasurable excitement, stood up in the
four-wheel chaise, and telegraphed gratification to the Mayoress behind.
While all this was going forward, Ned Twigger had
descended into the kitchen of Mudfog Hall for the purpose of indulging
the servants with a private view of the curiosity that was to
burst upon the town; and, somehow or other, the footman was
so companionable, and the housemaid so kind, and the cook so
friendly, that he could not resist the offer of the first-mentioned
to sit down and take something—just to drink success to master in.
So, down Ned Trigger sat himself in his brass livery
on the top of the kitchen-table; and in a mug of something strong, paid
for by the unconscious Nicholas Tulrumble, and provided by the
companionable footman, drank success to the Mayor and his
procession; and, as Ned laid by his helmet to imbibe the something
strong, the companionable footman put it on his own head,
to the immeasurable and unrecordable delight of the cook and
housemaid. The companionable footman was very facetious to
Ned, and Ned was very gallant to the cook and housemaid by
turns. They were all very cosy and comfortable; and the something
strong went briskly round.
At last Ned Twigger was loudly called for, by the procession
people: and, having had his helmet fixed on, in a very complicated
manner, by the companionable footman, and the kind
housemaid, and the friendly cook, he walked gravely forth, and
appeared before the multitude.
The crowd roared—it was not with wonder, it was not
with surprise; it was most decidedly and unquestionably with laughter.
"What!" said Mr. Tulrumble, starting up in the
four-wheel chaise. "Laughing? If they laugh at a man in real brass
armour, they'd laugh when their own fathers were dying.
Why doesn't he go into his place, Mr. Jennings? What's he
rolling down towards us for?—he has no business here!"
"I am afraid, sir——" faltered Mr. Jennings.
"Afraid of what, sir?" said Nicholas Tulrumble, looking up
into the secretary's face.
"I am afraid he's drunk, sir;" replied Mr. Jennings.
Nicholas Tulrumble took one look at the extraordinary figure
that was bearing down upon them; and then, clasping his secretary
by the arm, uttered an audible groan in anguish of spirit.
It is a melancholy fact that Mr. Twigger having full
licence to demand a single glass of rum on the putting on of every piece
of the armour, got, by some means or other, rather out in his
calculation in the hurry and confusion of preparation, and drank
about four glasses to a piece instead of one, not to mention the
something strong which went on the top of it. Whether the brass
armour checked the natural flow of perspiration, and thus prevented
the spirit from evaporating, we are not scientific enough
to know; but, whatever the cause was, Mr. Twigger no sooner
found himself outside the gate of Mudfog Hall, than he also
found himself in a very considerable state of intoxication; and
hence his extraordinary style of progressing. This was bad
enough, but, as if fate and fortune had conspired against
Nicholas Tulrumble, Mr. Twigger, not having been penitent
for a good calendar month, took it into his head to be most
especially and particularly sentimental, just when his repentance
could have been most conveniently dispensed with. Immense
tears were rolling down his cheeks, and he was vainly endeavouring
to conceal his grief by applying to his eyes a blue cotton
pocket-handkerchief with white spots,—an article not strictly in
keeping with a suit of armour some three hundred years old,
"Twigger, you villain!" said Nicholas Tulrumble,
quite forgetting his dignity, "go back!"
"Never," said Ned. "I'm a miserable wretch.
I'll never leave you."
The by-standers of course received this declaration
with acclamations of "That's right, Ned; don't!"
"I don't intend it," said Ned, with all the obstinacy
of a very tipsy man. "I'm very unhappy. I'm the wretched father of
an unfortunate family; but I am very faithful, sir. I'll never
leave you." Having reiterated this obliging promise, Ned proceeded
in broken words to harangue the crowd upon the number
of years he had lived in Mudfog, the excessive respectability
of his character, and other topics of the like nature.
"Here! will anybody lead him away?" said Nicholas: "if
they'll call on me afterwards, I'll reward them well."
Two or three men stepped forward, with the view of bearing
Ned off, when the secretary interposed.
"Take care! take care!" said Mr. Jennings. "I beg your
pardon, sir; but they'd better not go too near him, because, if
he falls over, he'll certainly crush somebody."
At this hint the crowd retired on all sides to a
very respectful distance, and left Ned, like the Duke of Devonshire,
in a little circle of his own.
"But, Mr. Jennings," said Nicholas Tulrumble,
"he'll be suffocated."
"I'm very sorry for it, sir," replied Mr. Jennings; "but
nobody can get that armour off, without his own assistance. I'm
quite certain of it, from the way he put it on."
Here Ned wept dolefully, and shook his helmeted head,
in a manner that might have touched a heart of stone; but the crowd
had not hearts of stone, and they laughed heartily.
"Dear me, Mr. Jennings," said Nicholas, turning pale at the
possibility of Ned's being smothered in his antique costume—"Dear
me, Mr. Jennings, can nothing be done with him?"
"Nothing at all," replied Ned, "nothing at all.
Gentlemen, I'm an unhappy wretch. I'm a body, gentlemen, in a brass
coffin." At this poetical idea of his own conjuring up, Ned
cried so much that the people began to get sympathetic, and to
ask what Nicholas Tulrumble meant by putting a man into such
a machine as that; and one individual in a hairy waistcoat like
the top of a trunk, who had previously expressed his opinion
that if Ned hadn't been a poor man, Nicholas wouldn't have
dared to do it, hinted at the propriety of breaking the four-wheel
chaise, or Nicholas's head, or both, which last compound
proposition the crowd seemed to consider a very good notion.
It was not acted upon, however, for it had hardly
been broached, when Ned Twigger's wife made her appearance
abruptly in the little circle before noticed, and Ned no sooner
caught a glimpse of her face and form, than from the mere force
of habit he set off towards his home just as fast as his legs would
carry him; and that was not very quick in the present instance
either, for, however ready they might have been to carry him,
they couldn't get on very well under the brass armour. So,
Mrs. Twigger had plenty of time to denounce Nicholas Tulrumble
to his face: to express her opinion that he was a decided
monster; and to intimate that, if her ill-used husband sustained
any personal damage from the brass armour, she would have the
law of Nicholas Tulrumble for manslaughter. When she had
said all this with due vehemence, she posted after Ned, who was
dragging himself along as best he could, and deploring his unhappiness
in most dismal tones.
What a wailing and screaming Ned's children raised
when he got home at last! Mrs. Twigger tried to undo the armour, first
in one place, and then in another, but she couldn't manage it; so
she tumbled Ned into bed, helmet, armour, gauntlets, and all.
Such a creaking as the bedstead made, under Ned's weight in his
new suit! It didn't break down though; and there Ned lay,
like the anonymous vessel in the Bay of Biscay, till next day,
drinking barley-water, and looking miserable: and every time
he groaned, his good lady said it served him right, which was
all the consolation Ned Twigger got.
Nicholas Tulrumble and the gorgeous procession went
on together to the town-hall, amid the hisses and groans of all the
spectators, who had suddenly taken it into their heads to consider
poor Ned a martyr. Nicholas was formally installed
in his new office, in acknowledgment of which ceremony he delivered
himself of a speech, composed by the secretary, which
was very long and no doubt very good, only the noise of the
people outside prevented anybody from hearing it, but Nicholas
Tulrumble himself. After which, the procession got back to
Mudfog Hall any how it could; and Nicholas and the corporation
sat down to dinner.
But the dinner was flat, and Nicholas was disappointed.
They were such dull sleepy old fellows, that corporation.
Nicholas made quite as long speeches as the Lord Mayor of
London had done, nay, he said the very same things that the
Lord Mayor of London had said, and the deuce a cheer the
corporation gave him. There was only one man in the party
who was thoroughly awake; and he was insolent, and called
him Nick. Nick! What would be the consequence, thought
Nicholas, of anybody presuming to call the Lord Mayor of
London "Nick!" He should like to know what the sword-bearer
would say to that; or the recorder, or the toast-master, or
any other of the great officers of the city. They'd nick him.
But these were not the worst of Nicholas Tulrumble's
doings; If they had been, he might have remained a Mayor to this
day, and have talked till he lost his voice. He contracted a
relish for statistics, and got philosophical; and the statistics
and the philosophy together, led him into an act which increased
his unpopularity and hastened his downfall.
At the very end of the Mudfog High-street, and
abutting on the river-side, stands the Jolly Boatmen, an old-fashioned,
low-roofed, bay-windowed house, with a bar, kitchen, and tap-room
all in one, and a large fire-place with a kettle to correspond,
round which the working men have congregated time out of
mind on a winter's night, refreshed by draughts of good strong
beer, and cheered by the sounds of a fiddle and tambourine: the
Jolly Boatmen having been duly licensed by the Mayor and
corporation, to scrape the fiddle and thumb the tambourine
from time, whereof the memory of the oldest inhabitants
goeth not to the contrary. Now Nicholas Tulrumble had been
reading pamphlets on crime, and parliamentary reports,—or had
made the secretary read them to him, which is the same thing in
effect,—and he at once perceived that this fiddle and tambourine
must have done more to demoralise Mudfog, than any other
operating causes that ingenuity could imagine. So he read up
for the subject, and determined to come out on the corporation
with a burst, the very next time the licence was applied for.
The licensing day came, and the red-faced landlord
of the Jolly Boatmen, walked into the town-hall, looking as jolly as
need be, having actually put on an extra fiddle for that night,
to commemorate the anniversary of the Jolly Boatmen's music
licence. It was applied for in due form, and was just about to
be granted as a matter of course, when up rose Nicholas Tulrumble,
and drowned the astonished corporation in a torrent of
eloquence. He descanted in glowing terms upon the increasing
depravity of his native town of Mudfog, and the excesses committed
by its population. Then, he related how shocked he had
been, to see barrels of beer sliding down into the cellar of the
Jolly Boatmen week after week; and how he had sat at a window
opposite the Jolly Boatmen for two days together, to count
the people who went in for beer between the hours of twelve and
one o'clock alone—which, by-the-bye, was the time at which the
great majority of the Mudfog people dined. Then, he went on
to state, how the number of people who came out with beer-jugs,
averaged twenty-one in five minutes, which, being multiplied by
twelve, gave two hundred and fifty-two people with beer-jugs in
an hour, and multiplied again by fifteen (the number of hours
during which the house was open daily) yielded three thousand
seven hundred and eighty people with beer-jugs per day, or
twenty-six thousand four hundred and sixty people with beer-jugs,
per week. Then he proceeded to show that a tambourine
and moral degradation were synonymous terms, and a fiddle and
vicious propensities wholly inseparable. All these arguments
he strengthened and demonstrated by frequent references to a
large book with a blue cover, and sundry quotations from the
Middlesex magistrates; and in the end, the corporation, who
were posed with the figures, and sleepy with the speech, and
sadly in want of dinner into the bargain, yielded the palm to
Nicholas Tulrumble, and refused the music licence to the Jolly
But although Nicholas triumphed, his triumph was
short. He carried on the war against beer-jugs and fiddles, forgetting
the time when he was glad to drink out of the one, and to
dance to the other, till the people hated, and his old friends
shunned him. He grew tired of the lonely magnificence of
Mudfog Hall, and his heart yearned towards the Lighterman's
Arms. He wished he had never set up as a public man, and
sighed for the good old times of the coal-shop, and the chimney-corner.
At length old Nicholas, being thoroughly miserable,
took heart of grace, paid the secretary a quarter's wages in advance,
and packed him off to London by the next coach. Having
taken this step, he put his hat on his head, and his pride in his
pocket, and walked down to the old room at the Lighterman's
Arms. There were only two of the old fellows there, and they
looked coldly on Nicholas as he proffered his hand.
"Are you going to put down pipes, Mr. Tulrumble?" said one.
"Or trace the progress of crime to 'baccer?" growled the other.
"Neither," replied Nicholas Tulrumble, shaking hands
with them both, whether they would or not. "I've come down to
say that I'm very sorry for having made a fool of myself, and
that I hope you'll give me up the old chair, again."
The old fellows opened their eyes, and three or four
more old fellows opened the door, to whom Nicholas, with tears in his
eyes, thrust out his hand too, and told the same story. They
raised a shout of joy, that made the bells in the ancient church-tower
vibrate again, and wheeling the old chair into the warm
corner, thrust old Nicholas down into it, and ordered in the
very largest-sized bowl of hot punch, with an unlimited number
of pipes, directly.
The next day, the Jolly Boatmen got the licence, and
the next night, old Nicholas and Ned Twigger's wife led off a dance
to the music of the fiddle and tambourine, the tone of which
seemed mightily improved by a little rest, for they never had
played so merrily before. Ned Twigger was in the very height
of his glory, and he danced hornpipes, and balanced chairs on
his chin, and straws on his nose, till the whole company, including
the corporation, were in raptures of admiration at the
brilliancy of his acquirements.
Mr. Tulrumble, junior, couldn't make up his mind
to be anything but magnificent, so he went up to London and drew
bills on his father; and when he had overdrawn, and got into
debt, he grew penitent and came home again.
As to old Nicholas, he kept his word, and having had
six weeks of public life, never tried it any more. He went to sleep
in the town-hall at the very next meeting; and, in full proof of
his sincerity, has requested us to write this faithful narrative.
We wish it could have the effect of reminding the Tulrumbles
of another sphere, that puffed-up conceit is not dignity, and that
snarling at the little pleasures they were once glad to enjoy,
because they would rather forget the times when they were of
lower station, renders them objects of contempt and ridicule.
This is the first time we have published any of our
gleanings from this particular source. Perhaps, at some future period,
we may venture to open the chronicles of Mudfog.