Voltiguer by the Author of the "History of Pendennis"

There arose out of the last Epsom races a little family perplexity, whereon the owner of Voltiguer little speculated: and as out of this apparently trivial circumstance a profound and useful moral may be drawn, to be applied by the polite reader; and as Epsom Races will infallibly happen next year, and, I dare say, for many succeeding generations; perhaps the moral which this brief story points had better be printed upon Dorling's next "Correct Card," as a warning to future patrons and patronesses of the turf.

This moral, then—this text of our sermon, is, Never——but we will keep the moral, if you please, for the end of the fable.

It happened, then, that among the parties who were collected on the Hill to see the race, the carriage of a gentleman, whom we shall call Sir Joseph Raikes, occupied a commanding position, and attracted a great deal of attention amongst the gentlemen sportsmen. Those bucks upon the ground who were not acquainted with the fair occupant of that carriage—as indeed, how should many thousands of them be?—some being shabby bucks; some being vulgar bucks; some being hot and unpleasant bucks, smoking bad cigars, and only staring into Lady Raikes's carriage by that right which allows one Briton to look at another Briton, and a cat to look at a king;—of those bucks, I say, who, not knowing Lady Raikes, yet came and looked at her, there was scarce one that did not admire her, and envy the lucky rogue her husband. Of those ladies who, in their walks from their own vehicles, passed her ladyship's, there was scarce one lady in society who did not say, "is that all?—is that the beauty you are all talking about so much? She is overrated; she looks stupid; she is over-dressed; she squints;" and so forth; whilst of the men who did happen to have the honor of an acquaintance with Lady Raikes and her husband (and many a man, who had thought Raikes rather stupid in his bachelor days, was glad enough to know him now), each as he came to the carriage, and partook of the excellent luncheon provided there, had the most fascinating grins and ogles for the lady, and the most triumphant glances for all the rest of the world,—glances which seemed to say, "Look, you rascals, I know Lady Raikes; you don't know Lady Raikes. I can drink a glass of champagne to Lady Raikes's health. What would you give, you dog, to have such a sweet smile from Lady Raikes? Did you ever see such eyes? did you ever see such a complexion? did you ever see such a killing pink dress, and such a dear little delightfully carved ivory parasol?"—Raikes had it carved for her last year at Baden, when they were on their wedding-trip. It has their coats of arms and their ciphers intertwined elegantly round the stalk—a J and a Z; her name is Zuleika; before she was married she was Zuleika Trotter. Her elder sister, Medora, married Lord T—mn—ddy; her younger, Haidee, is engaged to the eldest son of the second son of a noble D-ke. The Trotters are of a good family. Dolly Trotter, Zuleika's brother, was in the same regiment (and that, I need not say, an extremely heavy one) with Sir Joseph Raikes.

He did not call himself Joseph then: quite the contrary. Larkyn Raikes, before his marriage, was one of the wildest and most irregular of our British youth. Let us not allude—he would blush to hear them—to the particulars of his past career. He turned away his servant for screwing up one of the knockers which he had removed during the period of his own bachelorhood, from an eminent physician's house in Saville Row, on the housekeeper's door at Larkyn Hall. There are whole hampers of those knockers stowed away somewhere, and snuff-taking Highlanders, and tin hats, and black boys,—the trophies of his youth, which Raikes would like to send back to their owners, did he know them; and when he carried off these spoils of war he was not always likely to know. When he goes to the Bayonet and Anchor Club now (and he dined there twice during Lady Raikes's ... in fine, when there was no dinner at home), the butler brings him a half-pint of sherry and a large bottle of Seltzer water, and looks at him with a sigh, and wonders—"Is this Captain Raikes, as used to breakfast off pale hale at three, to take his regular two bottles at dinner, and to drink brandy and water in the smoking billiard-room all night till all was blue?" Yes, it is the same Raikes; Larkyn no more—riotous no more—brandivorous no longer. He gave away all his cigars at his marriage; quite unlike Screwby, who also married the other day, and offered to sell me some. He has not betted at a race since his father paid his debts and forgave him, just before the old gentleman died and Raikes came into his kingdom. Upon that accession, Zuleika Trotter, who looked rather sweetly upon Bob Vincent before, was so much touched by Sir Joseph Raikes's determination to reform, that she dismissed Bob and became Lady Raikes.

Dolly Trotter still remains in the Paddington Dragoons; Dolly is still unmarried; Dolly smokes still; Dolly owes money still. And though his venerable father, Rear-admiral Sir Ajax Trotter, K.C.B., has paid his debts many times, and swears if he ever hears of Dolly betting again, he will disinherit his son, Dolly—the undutiful Dolly—goes on betting still.

Lady Raikes, then, beamed in the pride of her beauty upon Epsom race-course, dispensed smiles and luncheon to a host of acquaintances, and accepted, in return, all the homage and compliments which the young men paid her. The hearty and jovial Sir Joseph Raikes was not the least jealous of the admiration which his pretty wife caused; not even of Bob Vincent, whom he rather pitied for his mishap, poor fellow! (to be sure, Zuleika spoke of Vincent very scornfully, and treated his pretensions as absurd); and with whom, meeting him on the course, Raikes shook hands very cordially, and insisted upon bringing him up to Lady Raikes's carriage, to take refreshment.

There could have been no foundation for the wicked rumor, that Zuleika had looked sweetly upon Vincent before Raikes had carried her off. Lady Raikes received Mr. Vincent with the kindest and frankest smile; shook hands with him with perfect politeness and indifference, and laughed and talked so easily with him, that it was impossible there could have been any previous discomfort between them.

Not very far off from Lady Raikes's carriage, on the hill, there stood a little black brougham—the quietest and most modest equipage in the world, and in which there must have been nevertheless something very attractive, for the young men crowded around this carriage in numbers; and especially that young reprobate Dolly Trotter was to be seen, constantly leaning his great elbows on the window, and poking his head into the carriage. Lady Raikes remarked that, among other gentlemen, her husband went up and spoke to the little carriage, and when he and Dolly came back to her, asked who was in the black brougham.

For some time Raikes could not understand which was the brougham she meant—there was so many broughams. "The black one with the red blinds was it? Oh, that—that was a very old friend—yes, old Lord Cripplegate, was in the brougham: he had the gout, and he couldn't walk."

As Raikes made this statement he blushed as red as a geranium; he looked at Dolly Trotter in an imploring manner, who looked at him, and who presently went away from his sister's carriage bursting with laughter. After making the above statement to his wife, Raikes was particularly polite and attentive to her, and did not leave her side; nor would he consent to her leaving the carriage. There were all sorts of vulgar people about: she would be jostled in the crowd: she could not bear the smell of the cigars—she knew she couldn't (this made Lady Raikes wince a little): the sticks might knock her darling head off; and so forth.

Raikes is a very accomplished and athletic man, and, as a bachelor, justly prided himself upon shying at the sticks better than any man in the army. Perhaps, as he passed the persons engaged in that fascinating sport, he would have himself liked to join in it; but he declined his favorite entertainment, and came back faithfully to the side of his wife.

As Vincent talked at Lady Raikes's side, he alluded to this accomplishment of her husband. "Your husband has not many accomplishments," Vincent said (he is a man of rather a sardonic humor), "but in shying at the sticks he is quite unequalled: he has quite a genius for it. He ought to have the sticks painted on his carriage, as the French marshals have their bâtons. Hasn't he brought you a pincushion or a jack-in-the-box, Lady Raikes? and has he begun to neglect you so soon? Every father with a little boy at home" (and he congratulated her ladyship on the birth of that son and heir) "ought surely to think of him, and bring him a soldier, or a monkey, or a toy or two."

"Oh, yes," cried Lady Raikes, "her husband must go. He must go and bring back a soldier, or a monkey, or a dear little jack-in-the-box, for dear little Dolly at home."

So away Raikes went; indeed nothing loth. He warmed with the noble sport: he was one of the finest players in England. He went on playing for a delightful half-hour; (how swiftly, in the blessed amusement, it passed away!) he reduced several of the sticksters to bankruptcy by his baculine skill; he returned to the carriage laden with jacks, wooden apples and soldiers, enough to amuse all the nurseries in Pimlico.

During his absence Lady Raikes, in the most winning manner, had asked Mr. Vincent for his arm, for a little walk; and did not notice the sneer with which he said that his arm had always been at her service. She was not jostled by the crowd inconveniently; she was not offended by the people smoking (though Raikes was forbidden that amusement); and she walked up on Mr. Vincent's arm, and somehow found herself close to the little black brougham, in which sat gouty old Lord Cripplegate.

Gouty old Lord Cripplegate wore a light blue silk dress, a lace mantle and other gimcracks, a white bonnet with roses, and ringlets as long as a chancellor's wig, but of the most beautiful black hue. His lordship had a pair of enormous eyes, that languished in a most killing manner; and cheeks that were decorated with delicate dimples; and lips of the color of the richest sealing-wax.

"Who's that?" asked Lady Raikes.

"That," said Mr. Vincent, "is Mrs. Somerset Montmorency."

"Who's Mrs. Somerset Montmorency?" hissed out Zuleika.

"It is possible you have not met her in society, Mrs. Somerset Montmorency doesn't go much into society," Mr. Vincent said.

"Why did he say it was Lord Cripplegate?"

Vincent, like a fiend, burst out laughing.

"Did Raikes say it was Lord Cripplegate? Well, he ought to know."

"What ought he to know?" asked Zuleika.

"Excuse me, Lady Raikes," said the other, with his constant sneer; "there are things which people had best not know. There are things which people had best forget, as your ladyship very well knows. You forget; why shouldn't Raikes forget? Let by-gones be by-gones. Let's all forget, Zulei—I beg your pardon. Here comes Raikes. How hot he looks! He has got a hat full of jack-in-the-boxes. How obedient he has been! He will not set the Thames on fire—but he's a good fellow. Yes; we'll forget all: won't we?" And the fiend pulled the tuft under his chin, and gave a diabolical grin with his sallow face.

Zuleika did not say one word about Lord Cripplegate when Raikes found her and flung his treasures into her lap. She did not show her anger in words, but in an ominous, boding silence; during which her eyes might be seen moving constantly to the little black brougham.

When the Derby was run, and Voltigeur was announced as the winner, Sir Joseph, who saw the race from the box of his carriage—having his arm around her ladyship, who stood on the back seat, and thought all men the greatest hypocrites in creation (and so a man is the greatest hypocrite of all animals, save one)—Raikes jumped up and gave a "Hurrah!" which he suddenly checked when his wife asked, with a deathlike calmness, "And pray, sir, have you been betting upon the race, that you are so excited?"

"Oh no, my love; of course not. But you know it's a Yorkshire horse, and I—I'm glad it wins; that's all," Raikes said; in which statement there was not, I am sorry to say, a word of truth.

Raikes wasn't a betting man any more. He had forsworn it: he would never bet again. But he had just, in the course of the day, taken the odds in one little bet; and he had just happened to win. When his wife charged him with the crime, he was about to avow it. "But no," he thought; "it will be a surprise for her. I will buy her the necklace she scolded me about at Lacy and Gimcrack's; it's just the sum. She has been sulky all day. It's about that she is sulky now. I'll go and have another shy at the sticks." And he went away, delighting himself with this notion, and with the idea that at last he could satisfy his adorable little Zuleika.

As Raikes passed Mrs. Somerset Montmorency's brougham, Zuleika remarked how that lady beckoned to him, and how Raikes went up to her. Though he did not remain by the carriage two minutes, Zuleika was ready to take an affidavit that he was there for half an hour; and was saluted by a satanical grin from Vincent, who by this time had returned to her carriage side, and was humming a French tune, which says that "on revient toujours à ses premi-è-res amours, à se-es premières amours."

"What is that you are singing? How dare you sing that?" cried Lady Raikes, with tears.

"It's an old song—you used to sing it," said Mr. Vincent. "By the way, I congratulate you. Your husband has won six hundred pounds. I heard Betterton say so, who gave him the odds."

"He is a wretch! He gave me his word of honor that he didn't bet. He is a gambler—he'll ruin his child! He neglects his wife for that—that creature! He calls her Lord Crick—crick—ipplegate," sobbed her ladyship, "Why did I marry him?"

"Why, indeed!" said Mr. Vincent.

As the two were talking, Dolly Trotter, her ladyship's brother, came up to the carriage; at which, with a scowl on his wicked countenance, and indulging inwardly in language which I am very glad not to be called upon to report, Vincent retired, biting his nails, like a traitor, and exhibiting every sign of ill-humor which the villain of a novel or of a play is wont to betray.

"Don't have that fellow about you, Zuly," Dolly said to his darling sister. "He is a bad one. He's no principle: he—he's a gambler, and every thing that's bad."

"I know others who are gamblers," cried out Zuleika. "I know others who are every thing that's bad, Adolphus," Lady Raikes exclaimed.

"For heaven's sake, what do you mean?" said Adolphus, becoming red and looking very much frightened.

"I mean my husband," gasped the lady. "I shall go home to papa. I shall take my dear little blessed babe with me and go to papa, Adolphus. And if you had the spirit of a man, you would—you would avenge me, that you would."

"Against Joe!" said the heavy dragoon; "against Joe, Zuly? Why, hang me if Joe isn't the greatest twump in Chwistendom. By Jove he is!" said the big one, shaking his fist; "and if that scoundwel, Vincent, or any other wascal, has said a word against him, by Jove—"

"Pray stop your horrid oaths and vulgar threats, Adolphus," her ladyship said.

"I don't know what it is—you've got something against Joe. Something has put you against him; and if it's Vincent, I'll wring his—"

"Mercy! mercy! Pray cease this language." Lady Raikes said.

"You don't know what a good fellow Joe is," said the dragoon. "The best twump in England, as I've weason to say, sister: and here he comes with the horses. God bless the old boy!"

With this, honest Sir Joseph Raikes took his seat in his carriage; and tried, by artless blandishments, by humility, and by simple conversation, to coax his wife into good humor; but all his efforts were unavailing. She would not speak a word during the journey to London; and when she reached home, rushed up to the nursery and instantly burst into tears upon the sleeping little Adolphus's pink and lace cradle.

"It's all about that necklace, Mrs. Prince," the good-natured Baronet explained to the nurse of the son and heir. "I know it's about the necklace. She rowed me about it all the way down to Epsom; and I can't give it her now, that's flat. I've no money. I won't go tick, that's flat; and she ought to be contented with what she has had; oughtn't she, Prince?"

"Indeed she ought, Sir Joseph; and you're an angel of a man, Sir Joseph; and so I often tell my lady, Sir Joseph," the nurse said: "and the more you will spile her, the more she will take on, Sir Joseph."

But if Lady Raikes was angry at not having the necklace, what must have been her ladyship's feelings when she saw in the box opposite to her at the Opera, Mrs. Somerset Montmorency, with that very necklace on her shoulders for which she had pined in vain! How she got it? Who gave it her? How she came by the money to buy such a trinket? How she dared to drive about at all in the Park, the audacious wretch! All these were questions which the infuriate Zuleika put to herself, her confidential maid, her child's nurse, and two or three of her particular friends; and of course she determined that there was but one clue to the mystery of the necklace, which was that her husband had purchased it with the six hundred pounds which he had won at the Derby, which he denied having won even to her, which he had spent in this shameful manner. Nothing would suit her but a return home to her papa—nothing would satisfy her but a separation from the criminal who had betrayed her. She wept floods of tears over her neglected boy, and repeatedly asked that as yet speechless innocent, whether he would remember his mother when her place was filled by another, and whether her little Adolphus would take care that no insult was offered to her untimely grave?

The row at home at length grew so unbearable, that Sir Joseph Raikes, who had never had an explanation since his marriage, and had given into all his wife's caprices—that Sir Joseph, we say, even with his 'eavenly temper, he broke out into a passion; and one day after dinner, at which only his brother-in-law Dolly was present, told his wife that her tyranny was intolerable, and that it must come to an end.

Dolly said he was "quite wight," and backed up Raikes in every way.

Zuleika said they were a pair of brutes, and that she desired to return to Sir Ajax.

"Why, what the devil is urging you?" cried the husband; "you drive me mad, Zuleika."

"Yes; what are you at, Zuleika? You dwive him cwazy," said the brother.

Upon which Zuleika broke out. She briefly stated that her husband was a liar; that he was a gambler; that he had deceived her about betting at Epsom, and had given his word to a lie; that he had deceived her about that—that woman,—and given his word to another lie; and that, with the fruits of his gambling transactions at Epsom, he had purchased the diamond necklace, not for her, but for that—that person! That was all—that was enough. Let her go home and die in Baker Street, in the room which, she prayed Heaven, she never had quitted! That was her charge. If Sir Joseph Raikes had any thing to say he had better say it.

Sir Joseph Raikes said, that she had the most confounded jealous temper that ever a woman was cursed with; that he had been on his knees to her ever since his marriage, and had spent half his income in administering to her caprices and extravagancies; that as for these charges, they were so monstrous, he should not condescend to answer them; and as she chose to leave her husband and her child, she might go whenever she liked.

Lady Raikes upon this rang the bell, and requested Hickson the butler to tell Dickson her maid to bring down her bonnet and shawl; and when Hickson quitted the dining-room, Dolly Trotter began:

"Zuleika," said he, "you are enough to twy the patience of an angel; and, by Jove, you do! You've got the best fellow for a husband (a sneer from Zuleika) that ever was bullied by a woman, and you tweat him like a dawg. When you were ill, you used to make him get up of a night to go to the doctor's. When you're well, you plague his life out of him. He pays your milliner's bills, as if you were a duchess, and you have but to ask for a thing and you get it."

"Oh, yes, I have necklaces!" said Zuleika.

"Confound you, Zuly! had'nt he paid three hundwed and eighty for a new cawwiage for you the week before? Hadn't he fitted your dwawing-woom with yellow satin at the beginning of the season? Hadn't he bought you the pair of ponies you wanted, and gone without a hack himself, and he gettin' as fat as a porpoise for want of exercise, the poor old boy? And for that necklace, do you know how it was that you didn't have it, and that you were very nearly having it, you ungwateful little devil you? It was I prevented you! He did win six hundwed at the Derby; and he would have bought your necklace, but he gave me the money. The governor said he never would pay another play-debt again for me; and bet I would, like a confounded, gweat, stooped fool: and it was this old Joe—this dear old twump—who booked up for me, and took me out of the hole, like the best fellow in the whole world, by Jove! And—and I'll never bet again, so help me——! And that's why he couldn't tell—and that's why he wouldn't split on me—and that's why you didn't have your confounded necklace, which old Cwipplegate bought for Mrs. Montmowency, who's going to marry her, like a confounded fool for his pains!"

And here the dragoon being blown, took a large glass of claret; and when Hickson and Dickson came down stairs, they found her ladyship in rather a theatrical attitude, on her knees, embracing her husband's big hand, and calling down blessings upon him, and owning that she was a wretch, a monster, and a fiend.

She was only a jealous, little spoiled fool of a woman; and I am sure those who read her history have never met with her like, or have ever plagued their husbands. Certainly they have not, if they are not married: as, let us hope, they will be.

As for Vincent, he persists in saying that the defence is a fib from beginning to end, and that the Trotters were agreed to deceive Lady Raikes. But who hasn't had his best actions misinterpreted by calumny? And what innocence or good will can disarm jealousy?