The Picnic Party by Horace Smith
O give a picnic party a fair chance of success, it must be almost
impromptu: projected at twelve o'clock at night at the earliest,
executed at twelve o'clock on the following day at the latest; and even
then the odds are fearfully against it. The climate of England is not
remarkable for knowing its own mind; nor is the weather "so fixed in its
resolve" but that a bright August moon, suspended in a clear sky, may be
lady-usher to a morn of fog, sleet, and drizzle. Then, again,—but this
being tender ground, we will only hint at the possibility of such a
change,—a lady of the intended party might quit the drawing-room at
night in the sweetest humor imaginable, and make her appearance at
breakfast in a less amiable mood, or, perhaps, "prefer taking breakfast
in her own room,"—from which notice husbands sometimes infer that such
a change has taken place.
Mr. Claudius Bagshaw, a retired silk mercer, in the vicinity of London,
determined, notwithstanding all these arguments, to have a picnic party
on the 24th of August, his wedding-day. On the 3d of July, Mr. Claudius
Bagshaw, after eating his breakfast and reading the Morning Post, looked
out of his parlor window to watch the horticultural pursuits of his
better part. Mr. Bagshaw had become a member of one of the
"march-of-intellect-societies," and was confident that the picnic would
turn out a very pleasant thing.
"How fortunate we shall be, dear," said Mr. Bagshaw, "how happy we shall
be, if the weather should be as fine on our wedding-day as it is now."
"True, love," replied Mrs. Bagshaw; "but this is only the 3d of July,
and, as the anniversary of our happy day is the 24th of August, the
weather may change."
This proposition Mr. Bagshaw did not attempt to deny.
The Bagshaws were the happiest couple in the world. Being blessed with
the negative blessing of no offspring, the stream of their affections
was not diverted into little channels, but ebbed and flowed in one
uninterrupted tide reciprocally from bosom to bosom. They never
disputed, they never quarrelled. Yes, they did sometimes, but then it
was from a mutual over-anxiety to please. Each was afraid to pronounce a
choice, or a preference, lest it might be disagreeable to the other; and
hence there occasionally did arise little bickerings, and tiffings, and
miffings, which were quite as unpleasant in their effects, and sometimes
as difficult to settle, as quarrels originating in less amiable causes.
"But," said Mr. Bagshaw, referring to the barometer, "the instrument for
indicating the present state and probable changes of the weather still
maintains its elevation, and I tell you what, dear, if the weather
should be preposterous on the 24th of August, suppose, instead of
going into the north, as we did last year, we migrate into Kent or
Surrey? Instead of dining at Hampstead, as we did last year, shall we go
to Greenwich, or to Putney, and eat little fishes?"
"Whichever you like, love," was the lady's answer to the so-intended
"But I put it to your choice, dear."
"Either—or neither—please yourself, love, and you are sure you will
"Pshaw! but it is for the gratification of your—or, more properly
speaking, for your gratification. I submit to you an alternative for the
purpose of election; and you know, Jane, I repudiate indifference, even
as concerning or applying to trifles."
"You know, Claudius, we have but one wish, and that is to please each
other; so do you decide."
"But, Mrs. Bagshaw, I must promulgate a request that—having, as I have,
no desire but to please you—you will—"
"How, sir! would you force me to choose, when I am so obedient as to
choose that you should have the choice entirely your own way? This
treatment of me is monstrous!"
And here Mrs. Bagshaw did what is usual and proper for ladies to do on
such occasions,—she burst into tears.
"Why, then, madam, to use a strong expression, I must say that—"
But a loud rap at the street-door prevented the utterance of an
"expression," the force of which would doubtless have humbled Mrs.
Claudius Bagshaw down to the very dust.
"Claudius," said the lady, hastily drying her eyes, "that is Uncle
John's knock. We'll go to Gre—Put—Greenwich, love."
"That's well, dear; and be assured, love, that nothing is so adverse to
the constitution of what Locke emphatically calls the human mind,
philosophically considered, as to persevere in that state of indecision
which—that—whereof—but we will not go to either; Uncle John shall
select the locality."
Uncle John was a bachelor of fifty-five, possessing twelve thousand
pounds, a strong disinclination to part with any of them, a good heart,
and a bad temper.
"Good morning t' ye, good folks; as usual, I perceive, billing and
The Bagshaws had by this time got together in a corner of the garden,
and were lovingly occupied in trimming the same pot of sweet peas.
"Quite the contrary, Uncle John," said Mrs. Bagshaw. "Claudius and I
have just had one of our most desperate quarrels."
And here the happy pair giggled, and exchanged looks which were meant to
imply that their most desperate quarrels were mere kitten's play; and
that Uncle John did so interpret them, he made manifest by a knowing
shake of his forefinger.
"The fact is, sir, Jane and I talk of commemorating the annual
recurrence of the anniversary of our wedding-day, at some place a
leetle farther in the country; but our minds are in a perfect vacuum
concerning the identity of the spot. Now, sir, will you reduce the place
to a mathematical certainty, and be one of the party?"
"Why—um—no; these things are expensive; we come home at night with a
guinea apiece less in our pockets, and I don't see the good of that."
"I have it!" cried Bagshaw; "we'll make it a picnic; that won't be
"Then I'm with you, Bagshaw, with all my heart,—and it shall be al
"There or anywhere else you please, sir," gravely replied the learned
member of the universal-knowledge-warehouse.
"Uncle John means in the open air, Claudius; that will be delightful."
"Charming!" rejoined Bagshaw.
It may be inquired why Uncle John, who objected to the disbursement of a
guinea for a day's pleasure, should so readily have yielded at the
suggestion of a picnic. Uncle John possessed a neat little morocco
pocket-case, containing a dozen silver spoons, and silver-handled knives
and forks, and although we are told that these implements are of later
invention than fingers, there is, nevertheless, a very general bias in
their favor, for the purpose to which they are applied. Now, Uncle John
being aware of the prevalence of their employment, it was for this
reason he never objected to make one of a picnic party; for, whilst
others contributed chickens, pigeon-pies, or wines,—it being the
principle of such parties that each member should furnish something to
the feast,—Uncle John invariably contributed the use of his knives,
forks, and spoons.
The whole morning was spent in debating on who should be invited to
partake of this "pleasantest thing that ever was," and examining into
their several pretensions, and their powers of contributing to the
amusements of the day; when, at length, the honor of nomination was
conferred upon the persons following, and for the reasons assigned:—
Sir Thomas and Lady Grouts—because of their title, which would give an
air to the thing—(Sir Thomas, formerly a corn-chandler, having been
knighted for carrying up an address in the late reign). Miss Euphemia
Grouts, daughter No. 1—who would bring her guitar. Miss Corinna Grouts,
ditto No. 2—because she would sing.
Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass—Mr. Snodgrass being vice-president of the grand
junction march-of-intellect society. Mr. Frederick Snodgrass, their son
(lately called to the chancery bar), who would bring his flute.
Messrs. Wrench and son (eminent dentists). The father to be invited
because he was charming company, and the son, a dead bore, because the
father would be offended if he were not. And, lastly,
Miss Snubbleston, a rich maiden lady of forty-four, for no other earthly
qualification whatever than her carriage, which (to use Bagshaw's words)
would carry herself and us three, and also transplant a large portion
of the provender to the place of rendezvous.
Bagshaw having made out a fair copy of this list, somewhat in the shape
of a bill of parcels, this, the first step towards the "pleasantest
thing that ever was," was taken with entire satisfaction.
"Why, Bagshaw," exclaimed Uncle John, who had cast up the numbers,
"including our three selves, we shall be thirteen!"
The member of the institution perceived the cause of his alarm! but
having been lectured out of prejudices respecting matters of greater
moment than this, he prepared a look of ineffable contempt as his only
reply; however, happening to think of Uncle John's twelve thousand
pounds, he suppressed it, and just contented himself with,
"And what then, sir?"
"Why, then, sir, that is a risk I won't run; and unless we can manage
to—I have it! the very man. How came we to forget him?
The—very—man! You know Jack Richards?"
The last four words were delivered in a tone implying the utter
impossibility of any human creature being unacquainted with Jack
"Not in the least, sir. I never heard of him."
"What! never heard of Ja—The thing is impossible; everybody knows Jack
Richards. The very thing for us; such a wit! such a wag!—he is the life
and soul of everything. Should he be unengaged for the 24th of August.
But he is so caught up! I was invited to meet him at dinner last Sunday
at Jones's, but he didn't come. Such a disappointment to us! However, I
shall meet him on Thursday at the Tims's, if he should but keep his
promise, and then—"
"But, uncle," said Mrs. Bagshaw, "hadn't you better send him an
invitation at once?"
"I'll do better still, my dear; I'll call at his lodgings, and if I find
him hanging loose, I'll bring him to dine with you to-day." Then,
turning to Bagshaw, he added, "That a man like you shouldn't know Jack
Richards, is surprising!"
As this was evidently pointed at Mr. Claudius Bagshaw in his capacity of
member of a learned body, Bagshaw pursed up his mouth into a
mock-modesty smile, and slightly bowed. Off went Uncle John in quest of
Jack Richards; and, that the pleasantest thing in the world might not
suffer by delay, off went Mr. Bagshaw to apprize the Snodgrasses, the
Groutses, and the rest of the nominees; and, more important still, off
went the lady to the poulterer's, to inquire whether he was likely to
have any nice pigeons for a pie, about the twenty-third of next month.
The dinner-hour arrived, and so did Uncle John, but with a face of
"I feared how it would be."
"What! can't he be with us on the 24th?" inquired both the Bagshaws at
the same instant.
"He will if he can; but he won't promise. But to-day!—However, it
serves us right; we were unwise to indulge a hope of his coming at so
short a notice. He has almost engaged himself to you for Sunday
fortnight, though. What a creature it is!—he has given me such a pain
in my side!"
"Something he said that almost killed you with laughing? Repeat it,
uncle, repeat it."
"Why, no, he didn't say anything particular; but he has a knack of
poking one in the ribs, in his comical way, and sometimes he hurts
We intended to describe Jack Richards at length; Uncle John's accidental
notice of this trait has, most probably, rendered that trouble
unnecessary. Indeed, we feel that we need scarcely add to it, that he
can sing a devilish good song (and everybody knows what is meant by
that), and imitated the inimitable Mathews's imitations of the actors,
not even excepting his imitation of Tate Wilkinson's imitation of
Except the uncertainty of Jack Richards, the result of the morning's
occupation was satisfactory. Bagshaw, still retaining his old
business-like habits of activity and industry, had contrived to wait on
every person named in the list, all of whom had promised their
attendance; and Mrs. Bagshaw had received from the poulterer a positive
assurance that he would raise heaven and earth to supply her with
pigeons on the 23d of the ensuing August!
Committees were forthwith summoned. First, a committee to consider of
the whereabout. At this, after an evening of polite squabbling, which
had nearly put an end to the project altogether, Twickenham meadows
received the honor of selection,—nem. con. as Bagshaw said. Next,
lest it should happen, as it did once happen, for want of such
preconcert, that a picnic party of ten found themselves at their place
of meeting with ten fillets of veal and ten hams, Mr. Bagshaw called a
committee of "provender." Here it was settled that the Snodgrasses
should contribute four chickens and a tongue; the Bagshaws, their
pigeon-pie; Wrench and son, a ham; Sir Thomas Grouts, a hamper of his
own choice wine; Miss Snubbleston, a basket of fruit and pastry;
Uncle John, his silver spoons, knives, and forks; and Jack Richards—his
charming company. And lastly came the committee for general purposes! At
this important meeting, it was agreed that the party proceed to
Twickenham by water; that to save the trouble of loading and unloading,
Miss Snubbleston's carriage convey the hampers, etc., direct to the
place appointed,—the said carriage, moreover, serving to bring the
ladies to town, should the evening prove cold; that, for the
water-music, the following programme be adopted: 1. On reaching
Vauxhall Bridge, the concert to commence with Madame Pasta's grand scena
in "Medea," previous to the murder of the children, by Miss Corinna
Grouts. 2. Nicholson's grand flute concerto in five sharps, by Mr.
Frederick Snodgrass. 3. Grand aria, with variations, guitar, by Miss
Euphemia Grouts. 4. Sweet Bird; accompaniment, flute obligato, Miss C.
G. and Mr. F. S.—and 5. The Dettingen Te Deum (arranged for three
voices, by Mr. F. S.) by Miss Euphemia, Miss Corinna, and Mr. Frederick
Snodgrass. The "interstices," as Mr. Bagshaw called them, to be filled
up by the amusing talents of the elder Wrench and Uncle John's friend.
And, lastly, that the company do assemble at Mr. Bagshaw's on the
morning of the 24th of August, at ten o'clock precisely, in order to
have the advantage of the tide both ways.
Three days prior to the important 24th, Mr. Bagshaw went to engage the
boat, but, in a squabble with the boatman, Mr. B. got a black eye. This
was the first mishap.
Restless and impatient though you be, depend upon it, there is not a
day of the whole three hundred and sixty-five will put itself, in the
slightest degree, out of the way, or appear one second before its
appointed time, for your gratification. O that people would consider
this, and await events with patience! Certainly Mr. Bagshaw did not. The
night of the 23d to him appeared an age. His repeater was in his hand
every ten minutes. He thought the morning would never dawn,—but he was
mistaken; it did; and as fine a morning as if it had been made on
purpose to favor his excursion. By six o'clock he was dressed!—by eight
the contributions from all the members had arrived, and were ranged in
the passage. There was their own pigeon-pie, carefully packed in brown
paper and straw; Sir Thomas's hamper of his own choice wine; and the
rest. Everything promised fairly. The young ladies and Mr. Frederick had
had thirty rehearsals of their grand arias and concertos, and were
perfect to a demi-semiquaver; Jack Richards would certainly come; and
the only drawback upon Mr. Bagshaw's personal enjoyment—but nothing in
this world is perfect—was the necessity he was under of wearing his
green shade, which would totally deprive him of the pleasure of
contemplating the beauties of the Thames scenery,—a thing he had set
his heart upon. Nine! ten!
"No one here yet! Jane, my love, we shall infallibly lose the tide." And
for the next quarter of an hour the place of the poor repeater was no
A knock! Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass and Mr. Frederick. Another! The whole
family of the Groutses. Next came Mr. Charles Wrench.
"Bless us! Mr. Charles," said Bagshaw, "where is your father?"
Now, Mr. Wrench, senior, was an agreeable old dentist, always gay,
generally humorous, sometimes witty; he could sketch characters as
well as draw teeth; and, on occasions of this kind, was invaluable.
The son was a mere donkey; a silly, simpering, well-dressed young
gentleman, the owner of no more than the eighth of an idea, and of a
very fine set of teeth, which he constantly exhibited like a sign or
advertisement of his shop. Appended to everything he uttered were a
preface and postscript, in the form of a sort of Billy-goat grin.
"He! he! he! he! Fayther regrets emezingly he caint come, being called
to attend the Duchess of Dilborough. He! he! he! he!"
As we have already said that it was in pure compliment to the father
that the son was invited, and not at all for the sake of his own
company, his presence was a grievous aggravation of the disappointment.
The next knock announced Miss Snubbleston. But where was her carriage?
Why, it had been newly varnished, and they might scratch her panels with
the hampers; and then she was afraid of her springs. So here was Miss
Snubbleston without her carriage, for the convenience of which alone she
had been invited, considered by the rest in exactly the same light as
young Mr. Wrench without old Mr. Wrench,—id est, a damper. A new
arrangement was the necessary consequence; and the baskets, under the
superintendence of a servant, were jolted down in a hackney-coach, to be
embarked at Westminster. But Miss Snubbleston brought with her a
substitute, which was by no means a compensation. Cupid, her wretched,
little, barking, yelping, Dutch pug, had eaten something that had
disagreed with him, and his fair mistress would not "for worlds" have
left him at home while he was so indisposed. Well, no one chose to be
the first to object to the intruder, so Cupid was received.
"But where can Uncle John and his friend be? We shall lose the tide,
that's certain," was scarcely uttered by Mr. Bagshaw, when in came our
uncle, together with the long-expected Jack Richards.
The usual introductions over, Mr. Richards saluted everybody with the
self-sufficient swagger of a vulgar lion.
"The day smiles auspicious, sir," said Bagshaw, who thought it requisite
he should throw off something fine to so celebrated a person.
"Smile?—a broad grin, I call it, sir." And here was a general laugh.
Uncle John, proud of his friend, whispered in Bagshaw's ear, "You see,
Jack's beginning." And now hats and gloves were in motion.
"You have got your flute, Frederick?"
"Yes, mother," was the reply.
"Lau, ma," cried Miss Corinna, "if I haven't come without 'Sweet Bird,'
and my scena from 'Medea,' I declare."
As these were indispensable to the amusements of the day, a servant was
despatched for them. He couldn't be gone longer than half an hour. Half
an hour! thought Bagshaw; 'tis eleven now; and the tide.—But the
servant was absent a few minutes beyond the half-hour, and poor Bagshaw
suffered severely from that gnawing impatience, amounting almost to
pain, which every mother's son of us has experienced upon occasions of
greater—or less importance than this. They were again at the very point
of starting, when a message was brought to Mrs. Snodgrass that little
Master Charles had cut his thumb dreadfully! What was to be done? Mrs.
Snodgrass vowed she shouldn't be easy in her mind the whole day unless
she knew the extent of the mischief; and as they only lived in Euston
Square, and she could be there and back again in twenty minutes, she
would herself go see what really was the matter,—and away she went.
Twenty minutes! During all this time, Bagshaw—but who would attempt to
describe anguish indescribable? At length he was relieved by the return
of Mrs. Snodgrass; but, to the horror and consternation of himself and
of all present, she introduced the aforesaid Master Charles,—an ugly,
ill-tempered, blubbering little brat of seven years old, with a bloated
red face, scrubby white hair, and red eyes; and with the interesting
appendage of a thick slice of bread and butter in his hand.
"I'm sure you'll pardon this liberty," said the affectionate mamma; "but
poor Charley has cut himself very much, and he would not be pacified
till I consented to take him with us. He has promised to be very good.
There, don't cry any more, darling!" and, accordingly, the urchin roared
with tenfold vigor. There were no particular manifestations of joy at
this arrival; and it is just possible, although nothing was uttered to
that effect, that there did exist a general and cordial wish that young
Master Snodgrass were sprawling at the bottom of the deepest well in
England. Uncle John, indeed, did utter something about the pug and the
child—two such nuisances—people bringing their brats into grownup
At length the procession set out: the Bagshaws, Uncle John, and Jack
Richards bringing up the rear in a hackney-coach. On reaching the corner
of the street, Mrs. Bagshaw called out to the driver to stop.
"What is the matter, dear?" said Bagshaw.
"Your eye-lotion, love."
"Well, never mind that, sweet."
"Claudius, I shall be miserable if you go without it. Dr. Nooth desired
you would use it every two hours. I must insist,—now, for my sake,
love,—such an eye as he has got, Mr. Richards!"
So away went Bagshaw to the Lake of Lausanne Lodge for the lotion,
which, as it always happens when folks are in a hurry, it took him a
quarter of an hour to find.
They were now fairly on the road.
"What a smell of garlic!" exclaimed Uncle John; "it is intolerable!"
"Dear me!" said Mr. Richards, "do you perceive it? 'Tis a fine Italian
sausage I bought at Morel's, as my contribution. We shall find it an
excellent relish in the country." And he exhibited his purchase,
enveloped in a brown paper.
"Pha! shocking!—'tis a perfect nuisance! Put it into your pocket again,
or throw it out at the window." But Mr. Richards preferred obeying the
Apropos of contributions—"Uncle, have you brought your spoons?"
"Here they are," replied Uncle, at the same time drawing from his pocket
a parcel in size and form very closely resembling Mr. Richards's
On arriving at Westminster Bridge, they found the rest of the party
already seated in the barge, and the first sound that saluted their ears
was an intimation that, owing to their being two hours behind time (it
was now past twelve), they should hardly save the tide.
"I knew it would be so," said Bagshaw, with more of discontent than he
had thought to experience, considering the pains he had taken that
everything should be well ordered.
As Uncle John was stepping into the boat, Richards, with great
dexterity, exchanged parcels with him, putting the Italian sausage into
Uncle John's pocket and the spoons into his own; enhancing the wit of
the manœuvre by whispering to the Bagshaws, who, with infinite
delight, had observed it.
"Hang me," said Richards, "but he shall have enough of the garlic!"
The old gentleman was quite unconscious of the operation, as Richards
adroitly diverted his attention from it by giving him one of his
facetious pokes in the ribs, which nearly bent him double, and drew a
roar of laughter from every one else.
Just as they were pushing off, their attention was attracted by a loud
howling. It proceeded from a large Newfoundland dog which was standing
at the water's edge.
"Confound it!" cried Richards, "that's my Carlo! He has followed me,
unperceived, all the way from home—I would not lose him for fifty
pounds. I must take him back—pray put me ashore. This is very
provoking—though he is a very quiet dog!"
There was no mistaking this hint. Already were there two nuisances on
board,—Master Charles and the Dutch pug: but as they were to choose
between Jack Richards with his dog, or no Jack Richards (or in other
words, no life and soul of the party), it was presently decided that
Carlo should be invited to a seat on the hampers, which were stowed at
the head of the boat,—Uncle John having first extracted from Mr.
Richards an assurance that their new guest would lie there as still as a
mouse. This complaisance was amply rewarded by a speedy display of Mr.
Richards's powers of entertainment. As soon as they reached the middle
of the river Jack Richards suddenly jumped up, for the purpose of
frightening Miss Snubbleston; a jest at which everybody else would have
laughed, had not their own lives been endangered by it. Even his great
admirer suggested to him that once of that was enough. His next joke was
one of a more intellectual character. Though he had never till this day
seen Sir Thomas, he had accidentally heard something about his former
"What is the difference between Lord Eldon and Sir Thomas Grouts?"
Nobody could tell.
"One is an ex-chancellor,—the other is an ex-chandler." Everybody
laughed, except the Grouts family.
This was succeeded by another thrust in Uncle John's side; after which
came a pun, which we shall not record, as the effect of it was to force
the ladies to cough and look into the water, the gentlemen to look at
each other, and Mrs. Snodgrass to whisper to Mrs. Bagshaw,—
"Who is this Mr. Richards?"
Indeed, there would have been no end to his pleasantries had they not
been interrupted by a request that Miss Corinna would open the concert,
as they were fast approaching Vauxhall Bridge. Mr. Bagshaw (looking at
the programme, which he had drawn out on paper ruled with red and blue
lines) objected to this, as it would disturb the previous arrangement,
according to which the concert was not to commence till they were
through the bridge. This objection was overruled, and the fair Corinna
unrolled the music, for which the servant had been despatched with so
much haste. Miss Corinna screamed. What was the matter?
"They had not sent the grand scena from Medea, after all, but a wrong
piece!" And the pains she had taken to be perfect in it!
"Could not Miss Corinna sing it from memory?"
"How careless of you, Corinna! then sing what they have sent."
"Why, ma," said Corinna, with tears in her eyes, and holding up the
unfortunate sheets,—"why, bless me, ma, I can't sing the overture to
The difficulty of such a performance being readily admitted, Mr.
Frederick Snodgrass declared himself but too happy to comply with the
calls for his concerto in five sharps, which stood next on the list; and
with the air of one well satisfied that an abundance of admiration and
applause would reward his efforts, he drew forth his flute, when, lo!
one of the joints was missing! This accident was nearly fatal to the
musical entertainments of the day; for not only was the concerto thereby
rendered impracticable, but "Sweet Bird" with the flute-accompaniment
obligato, was put hors de combat. Disappointment having, by this, been
carried to its uttermost bounds, the announcement that two strings of
the guitar had gone was received with an indifference almost stoical;
and every one was grateful to Miss Euphemia for so willingly
undertaking (the whispered menaces of Lady Grouts being heard by nobody
but the young lady herself) to do all that could be done under such
untoward circumstances. She would endeavor to accompany herself through
a little ballad; but she failed.
Mr. Claudius Bagshaw, with all his literature, science, and philosophy,
now, for the first time, wondered how anything could fail, so much
trouble having been taken to insure success. Drawing forth his repeater,
he ahem'd, and just muttered,—
"Unaccountable! Hem! upon my word! One o'clock, and no pleasure yet!"
"One o'clock!" echoed his spouse; "then 'tis time for your eye, dear!"
And Bagshaw was compelled not only to suffer his damaged optics to be
dabbled by his tormentingly affectionate wife, but to submit again to
be hoodwinked, in spite of his entreaties to the contrary, and his
pathetic assurances that he had not yet seen a bit of the prospect; a
thing he had set his heart upon.
Now occurred a dead silence of some minutes. A steamboat rushed by.
Bagshaw seized this opportunity to make a display of his scientific
acquirements; and this he did with the greater avidity, as he had long
wished to astonish Vice-President Snodgrass. Besides, in the event of
his offering to deliver a course of lectures at the institution, the
vice-president might bear evidence to his capabilities for the
purpose,—his acquaintance not only with the facts, but with the terms
of science. Whether those terms were always correctly applied, we
confess ourselves not sufficiently learned to pronounce.
"How wondrous is the science of mechanism! how variegated its progeny,
how simple, yet how compound! I am propelled to the consideration of
this subject by having optically perceived that ingenious nautical
instrument, which has just now flown along like a mammoth, that monster
of the deep! You ask me how are steamboats propagated? in other words,
how is such an infinite and immovable body inveigled along its course? I
will explain it to you. It is by the power of friction: that is to say,
the two wheels, or paddles, turning diametrically, or at the same
moment, on the axioms, and repressing by the rotundity of their motion
the action of the menstruum in which the machine floats,—water being,
in a philosophical sense, a powerful non-conductor,—it is clear, that
in proportion as is the revulsion so is the progression; and as is the
centrifugal force, so is the—"
"Pooh!" cried Uncle John, impatiently; "let us have some music."
"I have an apprehension, Bagshaw," said the vice-president,—"that I
should not presume to dispute with you,—that you are wrong in your
theory of the centrifugal force of the axioms. However, we will discuss
that point at the grand-junction. But come, Frederick, the 'Dettingen Te
Frederick and the young ladies having, by many rehearsals, perfected
themselves in the performance of this piece, instantly complied.
Scarcely had they reached the fourth bar, when Jack Richards, who had
not for a long time perpetrated a joke, produced a harsh, brassy-toned,
German eolina, and "blew a blast so loud and shrill," that the Dutch pug
began to bark, Carlo to howl, and the other nuisance, Master Charles, to
cry. The German eolina was of itself bad enough, but these congregated
noises were intolerable. Uncle John aimed a desperate blow with a large
apple, which he was just about to bite, at the head of Carlo, who, in
order to give his lungs fair play, was standing on all fours on the
hampers. The apple missed the dog, and went some distance beyond him
into the water. Mr. Carlo, attributing to Uncle John a kinder feeling
than that which actually prompted the proceeding, looked upon it as a
good-natured expedient to afford him an opportunity of adding his mite
to the amusements of the day, by displaying a specimen of his training.
Without waiting for a second hit, he plunged into the river, seized the
apple, and, paddling up the side of the boat with the prize
triumphantly exhibited in his jaws, to the consternation of the whole
party, he scrambled in between Uncle John and his master, dropped the
apple upon the floor, distributed a copious supply of Thames water
amongst the affrighted beholders, squeezed his way through them as best
he could, and, with an air of infinite self-satisfaction, resumed his
place on the hampers.
Had Mr. Jack Richards, the owner of the dog, been at the bottom of the
Thames a week before this delightful 24th, not one of the party, Mr.
Richards himself excepted, would have felt in the slightest degree
concerned; but since, with a common regard to politeness, they could not
explicitly tell him so, they contented themselves with bestowing upon
Mr. Carlo every term of opprobrium, every form of execration, which good
manners will allow,—leaving it to the sagacity of "the life and soul of
the company" to apply them to himself, if so it might be agreeable to
him. Poor fellow! he felt the awkwardness of his situation, and
figuratively, as well as literally speaking, this exploit of his dog
threw a damp upon him, as it had done upon every one else.
For some time the picnickers pursued their way in solemn silence. At
length Bagshaw, perceiving that there would be very little pleasure if
matters were allowed to go on in this way, exclaimed,—
"An intelligent observer, not imbued with the knowledge of our
intentions, would indicate us to be a combination of perturbed spirits,
rowed by Charon across the river Tiber."
In cases of this kind, the essential is to break the ice. Conversation
was now resumed.
"Ah! ha!" said the vice-president, "Sion-house."
"The residuum of the Northumberlands," said Claudius, "one of the most
genealogical and antique families in England."
And here, having put forth so much classical and historical lore, almost
in a breath, he marked his own satisfaction by a short, single cough.
The vice-president said nothing, but he thought to himself, "There is
much more in this Bagshaw than I suspected."
Jack Richards was up again.
"Come, what's done can't be helped; but, upon my soul! I am sorry at
being the innocent cause of throwing cold water on the party."
"Cold water, indeed! look at me, sir," said Miss Snubbleston, with tears
in her eyes, and exhibiting her ci-devant shoulder-of-mutton sleeves,
which, but half an hour before as stiff and stately as starch could make
them, were now hanging loose and flabby about her skinny arms.
"Too bad, Jack," said Uncle John, "to bring that cursed Carlo of yours!"
Carlo, perceiving that he was the subject of conversation, was instantly
on his legs, his eye steadily fixed upon Uncle John, evidently expecting
a signal for a second plunge. The alarm was general, and every tongue
joined in the scream of "Lie down, sir! lie down!"
Uncle John, who had been more than once offended by the odor from his
friend's garlic sausage, and who had on each and every such occasion
vented an exclamation of disgust, to the great amusement of Mr. Richards
(who chuckled with delight to think of the exchange he had secretly
effected) here, in the very middle of the stream, resolved to rid
himself of the annoyance. Unperceived by any one, he gently drew the
parcel from Richards's coat-pocket, and let it drop into the water! Like
King Richard's pierced coffin, once in, it soon found the way to the
bottom. Uncle John could scarcely restrain his inclination to laugh
aloud; however, he contrived to assume an air of indifference, and
whistled part of a tune.
Arrived at Twickenham, the boatmen were ordered to pull up to a
beautiful meadow, sloping down to the water's edge. There was no time to
lose,—they had had no pleasure yet,—so Bagshaw entreated that every
one "would put his shoulder to the wheel, and be on the qui rala." In
an instant a large heavy hamper was landed, but as, in compliance with
Bagshaw's request, every one did something to help, a scene of
confusion was the consequence, and numerous pieces of crockery were
invalided ere the cloth was properly spread, and the dishes, plates, and
glasses distributed. But for the feast. Mr. Snodgrass's basket was
opened, and out of it were taken four remarkably fine chickens, and a
tongue—uncooked! There was but one mode of accounting for this trifling
omission. Mr. Snodgrass's Betty was a downright matter-of-fact person,
who obeyed orders to the very letter. Having been told, the evening
before, to get four fine chickens for roasting, together with a tongue,
and to pack them, next morning, in a basket, she did so literally and
strictly; but, as she had received no distinct orders to dress them, to
have done so she would have deemed an impertinent departure from her
instructions. Well; since people in a high state of civilization, like
Mr. Claudius Bagshaw and his friends, cannot eat raw chickens, they did
the only thing they could under the circumstances,—they grumbled
exceedingly, and put them back again into the basket. This was a serious
deduction in the important point of quantity, and Uncle John felt a
slight touch of remorse at having thrown, as he thought, his friend's
Italian sausage into the Thames. However, there was still provision in
the garrison. But the run of luck in events, as at a game of whist, may
be against you; and when it is so, be assured that human prudence and
foresight—remarkable as even Mrs. Bagshaw's, who bespoke her pigeons
seven weeks before she wanted them—avail but little. When the packages
were first stowed in the boat, the pigeon-pie was inadvertently placed
at the bottom, and everything else, finishing with the large heavy
hamper of crockery, with Carlo on that, upon it; so that when it was
taken up it appeared a chaotic mass of pie-crust, broken china, pigeons,
brown paper, beefsteak, eggs, and straw!
"Now this is enough to provoke a saint!" said Bagshaw; and no one
attempting to deny the position, with this salvo for his own character
of philosophic patience, he indulged himself in the full expression of
his vexation and sorrow. After a minute examination, he declared the pie
to be "a complete squash," and that nobody could venture to eat it but
at the imminent risk of being choked. As he was about to throw it over
the hedge, Miss Snubbleston, seized with an unusual fit of generosity,
called out to him,—
"What are you doing? Though it isn't fit for us to eat, it will be
quite a treat to the poor watermen. I dare say, poor souls, they don't
often get pigeon-pie."
But the good genius of Mr. Carlo prevailed; and the truth of the adage,
"'tis an ill wind that blows nobody good," was confirmed in his mind as
he found himself busily employed in the ingenious operation of
separating pigeon from porcelain. It was, doubtless, extremely ill-bred
in one dog not to invite another, and Cupid expressed his sense of the
slight by a long-continued yell, which drew down upon him, from the
equally disappointed bipeds of the company, sundry wishes, the positive
accomplishment of which would not have tended much to his personal
happiness. The next basket was opened. Things were not altogether in a
desperate state. Mr. Wrench's ham was in perfect order, and that, with
Miss Snubbleston's salad, and some bread, and—could it be possible!
After so much preparation, and Mr. Bagshaw's committee of "provender" to
boot, that no one should have thought of so obvious a requisite as
bread! There would not be time to send Mr. Bagshaw to Twickenham town to
procure some, for it was getting late, and if they lost the tide, they
should be on the water till midnight, and they did not like the
appearance of the sky, which was by no means so blue as it had hitherto
been. However, the want of bread did not much signify; they could make
a shift with Miss Snubbleston's biscuits and poundcakes. But Uncle John
did not come out on an excursion of pleasure to make shift; no more did
Bagshaw; no more did any of the others. There was nothing else to be
done; so where is Miss Snubbleston's basket? And where is Master
Charles? gracious! Don't be alarmed, the precious rarity is in no
danger. He was soon discovered behind a tree, whither he had dragged the
fruit and cakes, and was engaged with all his might and main, in an
endeavor, with a piece of stick, to force out an apple. In this attempt,
as it was presently seen, the interesting child had cracked a bottle,
the contents of which—merely a preparation of oil, vinegar, and mustard
for the salad—were quietly dribbling through the poundcakes, biscuits,
and fruit. Similar aspirations to those which had lately been so
cordially expressed for the Dutch pug were now most devoutly formed in
behalf of Master Charles.
"This comes of bringing their plaguy brats with them," said Uncle and
Whilst this scene was going on, Jack Richards, perceiving that the
service of the table was incomplete, bethought him of Uncle John's
silver-handled knives and forks and spoons; he felt first in one pocket,
and then in the other, then he ran down to search the boat, then he
rummaged the baskets.
"Jack, my boy," hallooed Uncle John, "don't trouble yourself, you'll
never see that again."
"I could not bear the smell of it any longer, so I slyly drew it out of
your pocket, and dexterously let it fall into the deepest part of the
And here Uncle John chuckled, and looked about him for applause.
"Bless me, sir! Don't say so—why—bless my heart—you don't
know—before we got into the boat, I put the sausage into your pocket,
and your case of cutlery into my own!"
There was a general burst of laughter against Uncle John. He turned as
pale as—nay, paler than anything that has ever yet been dragged into
the comparison; for an instant he stood stock-still, then thrust his
hand into his pocket, drew forth the unfortunate substitute, and at the
same time exclaiming D——tion! dashed it violently to the ground. He
next buttoned his coat from the bottom to the top, pulled down his
cuffs, whispered to his no longer admired Jack Richards, "You shall hear
from me, Mr.——," and saying aloud to Bagshaw, "This comes of your
confounded party of pleasure, sir," away he went, and returned to town
outside a Twickenham coach; resolving by the way to call out that Mr.
Richards, and to eject the Bagshaws from the snug corner they held in
his last will and testament.
This explosion seemed to have banished pleasure for that day. They were
all, more or less, out of humor; and instead of making the best of
things, as they had hitherto done, they now made the worst of them. Sir
Thomas's hamper of his choice wine (which, by the by, he purchased at
a cheap shop for the occasion) was opened; and slices of ham were cut
with the only knife and fork. Jack Richards tried to be facetious, but
it would not do. He gave Bagshaw a poke in the ribs, which was received
with a very formal, "Sir, I must beg—" To Mr. Wrench, junior, he
"You have not spoken much to-day—but you have made amends for your
silence—d' ye take?—Your ham is good, though your tongue is not
Instead of laughing, Mr. Wrench simpered something about impertinent
liberties and satisfaction. On being invited by Sir Thomas to a second
glass of his old East India, he said that one was a dose—had rather not
double the Cape; and at the first glass of champagne, he inquired
whether there had been a plentiful supply of gooseberries that year. In
short, whether it were that the company knew not how to appreciate his
style of wit and pleasantry, or that he was in reality a very
disagreeable person, the fact is that—but hold! let us say nothing ill
of him; he died last week, at Folkestone, of a surfeit of goose, in the
forty-ninth year of his age. For the consolation of such as were amused
by him, and regret his loss, be it remembered that there are still to be
found many Jack Richards in this world.
As we have said, they now resolved to make the worst of everything; the
grass was damp, the gnats were troublesome, Carlo's nose was in
everybody's face, Cupid's teeth at everybody's calves, and Master
Charles was ill of the many sour apples; it was growing late, and no
good could come of sitting longer in the open air. They re-embarked. By
the time they reached Putney it was pitch dark, and the tide was setting
against them. They moved on in mute impatience, for there was a slight
sprinkling of rain. It now fell in torrents. Master Charles grew
frightened and screamed. Cupid yelped, and Carlo howled. Accompanied the
rest of the way by these pleasing sounds, at one in the morning (two
hours and a half later than they intended) they arrived at Westminster
stairs, dull, dreary, drowsy, discontented, and drenched.