« 上一頁繼續 »
The fountain in the Court ceased playing of course; and then it came out how much money was owing to the Water Company, in which Sir Jasper was a shareholder. The scrip, it is needless to say, had been mortgaged for twice its value. Money had been raised upon every thing on which it was possible to raise a stiver,—upon title-deeds and dock-warrants, upon bills and cheques, upon bills-of-sale of phantom furniture, upon shares, and bonds, and bills of lading, and policies of insurance, and reversions, and the contents of Mammon's waste-paper basket generally. The assets, if they could only have been realised, ought to have been enormous. Hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling were owed to Sir Jasper Goldthorpe; only Brumm Brothers of Finsbury Circus, and Poulgar and Tyke of Manchester, and J. C. Whittlestool of New York, and Solomon Bennosey and Co. of Vienna and Trieste, and Jacob van Scholdup and Nephews of the Hague, and Caïkjee, Ferikjee, and Bostandji - Bashi of Constantinople,—those great Greek bankers and farmers of the MoldavioWallachian tribute,—all happened to smash up simultaneously with Sir Jasper Goldthorpe, or as early, at least, as the return of post would permit them. None of these reputedly-wealthy houses had any assets worth speaking of; and people did say that Brumm Brothers never had any more tangible representatives than a very large mahogany-desk, and an office-boy at fifteen shillings a week; that Poulgar and Tyke of Manchester were simply myths; that J. C. Whittlestool of New York was a gentleman of the “loafing" persuasion, who, after an unsuccessful speculation in dry goods, had taken to school-teaching, and to lecturing on the Od. Force, and to writing epic poems and five-act tragedies, purporting to be the composition of Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare respectively, for a spirit-rapping circle at Fantombrowski City, Mass. Ugly rumours also got abroad that Solomon Bennosey and Jacob van Scholdup, Company, Nephews, and all, were personages equally fabulous with the foregoing; and that Caïkjee, Ferikjee, and Bostandji-Bashi were only petty money-changers in the Grande Rue de Péra. Be it as it may, nothing came out of the stoppage or the “liquidation" of these shadowy firms; in fact, they liquidated themselves so completely, that their names might have been written in water.
Sir Jasper Goldthorpe was seen no more on his accustomed walk in the Royal Exchange. He took his name off the books of the Callipash Club in Old Broad Street. He was one of the Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Battle-axe Makers; but he did not join that ancient Society at their June feast in Battle-axe-Makers' Hall, or drink prose perity to the Company “root and branch.” He was to have taken the chair at the annual dinner of the Hospital for Elephantiasis; but declining the honour, for obvious reasons, the indefatigable Secretary, W. R. Y. Noceros, Esq. (subsequently public prosecutor to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Fleas,— the post which friendly George Gafferer tried so hard to obtain), succeeded in persuading his Grace the Duke of Clubfoot to officiate as chairman, who, had he not been stone
deaf, and had he not in his speech in advocacy of the claims of the Insti tution confounded it with the Royal Queen-Charlotte Institution for supplying Wet-nurses with Snuff, would have afforded the highest satisfaction to the numerous and distinguished company present.
It was about this time that Sir Jasper's former chums and associates -if a man so mighty can be said to have ever had chums or associateswere found to turn their heads the other way, or to cross discreetly to the other side of the road, when the ruined man crept by on his way to his lawyers'. The cabmen, too, whom he had once held in such awe, now openly scorned him, and would have over-charged him because he was poor, and braved his ire had be remonstrated. The red-nosed and whiteaproned ticket-porters, the ward-beadles and turncocks, the hangers-on at City taverns and coffee-houses, even the man who sold dog-collars, pocket-books, and toy copper coal-scuttles and coffee-pots, under the lee of Bow Church and the Poultry Chapel, quite forgot to touch their hats now when the Baronet passed. With that idiosyncrasy peculiar to ruined men, he persisted in hanging about the scenes of his former glories ;-a poor broken-down old Marius wandering amidst the ruins of a golden Carthage. There was no great need for him to be seen on the eastern side of Temple Bar. He was not often wanted at his lawyers' or at Basinghall Street; in fact, they could have got on quite as well there without as with him. But he would hanker after the old scenes ; he would prowl about Beryl Court, and the marts and exchanges where he had been so well known, and where he had achieved in bygone times such triumphant successes. Some of his former companions took it quite ill that he did not absent himself for good and all. He was smashed; he was done for ; he belonged henceforth to the Court and the Commissioners. What did he want “humbugging”—I use their terms, not
was no great wandering amidst his former g
mine about one did he wereld hencelerea
“There's a want of decency in it,” quoth one. “He ought to know better,” said another. “Hain't proper," was the opinion of a third. Joddles, of Joddles and Toddles, Turkey brokers, had a dreadful dream about Sir Jasper Goldthorpe, and told it the next morning, coldly perspiring as he spoke to a friend. “By Jove, sir !” he said, “I dreamt last night of that fellow Goldthorpe coming to my place, and wanting to borrow halfa-sufferin of me. And of course I wouldn't lend it to him. And then he seized me by the throat; and then be changed into the Rotunda of the Bank of England ; and then I fell into a tureenful of scalding hot turtle; and then I woke. Sir, if that man had any sense of decency in him, he'd emigrate."
The Church had something to say, too, about the luckless wretch. The Reverend Hugh Hango Hollow penny, who, through Sir Jasper's influence, had been presented to the comfortable living of St.-Pogis-underPump (resident population thirteen hundred and thirteen, average congregation nine and a half,—the half being a hunch-backed charity-boy), took the ruined Goldthorpe as the text for a very neat sermon preached in the
Stephensodisgrace, and in thorpe must inevia system of busin leaders, in
ancient church of St. Pogis, the first Sunday after the decline of Mammon. He showed how, even when the ex-millionaire was a rich man, he had doubtless scorned the beggar in his gate, and sent him disdainfully the crumbs that fell from his children's table; whereas now the beggar was an infinitely better man than he, and would go to glory; whereas he --but I desist.
The minor organs of the public press would have been wanting to their high attributes and functions, had they not made a trifling moral capital out of the great catastrophe which had convulsed the City of London. The money-articles in all the dailies were full of Goldthorpiana for at least a fortnight. Then came two or three stinging leaders, in which it was irrefragably proved that such a system of business as that pursued by Sir Jasper Goldthorpe must inevitably find its culmination in ruin and disgrace, and in which he was likened to John Law, to Rowland Stephenson, and, by implication, to the late Mr. Fauntleroy. The weekly journals teemed with tiny paragraphs, contributed by industrious penny-a-liners, not quite certain on Friday as to where their Sunday’s dinner was to come from, and alluding to the Sardanapalian extravagance of Sir Jasper, to the wasteful prodigality of the Sons of Mammon, to the Persian splendour of Beryl Court, the Versailles-like magnificence of Onyx Square, and the Arcadian beauty of Goldthorpe Manor. There were little anecdotes, too, about Sir Jasper having been in the habit of purchasing early green peas at a guinea a quart, feeding his horses on Jamaica arrowroot, and cane-bottoming the chairs in his servants' hall with gold wire. Fortunately Magdalen Hill was only ruined, and was not a gazetted bankrupt, else the minor organs of the press might have had something to say against her as well.
All these anecdotes and calumnies, all these lies and scandals, Ernest Goldthorpe read in his rectory at Swordsley ;-for he had plenty of kind friends to send him the papers, however trashy they were, which contained them ;- all these he perused with a secret rage and burning shame. There are few things more terrible in the eventualities of life than when misfortune creates a grief between parents and their children, -than when inevitable Fate abases the sire, and leaves the son honoured and prosperous. Ask my lady yonder, who has married a peer, whether she is comfortable in the knowledge that her poor old mother once kept & grocer's shop, and is still partial to snuff and to ardent spirits. Ask the gallant officer, who has won rank and fame and the Cross of the Bath in far distant lands, how he likes coming home from the East, and finding that his father has failed as a stock-broker, and has taken to the cornand-coal-commission business for a livelihood. Ofcourse Ernest Goldthorpe, as a son and as a clergyman, meant to do every thing that was proper and generous for his family, when this dreadful crisis was over, and these sad affairs were arranged; but, meanwhile, he could not help thinking in his heart of hearts that it would be an exceedingly comfortable thing and an infinite relief if, for some brief period, say six months, his papa
and mamma could be relegated to the antipodes, or sunk (without any peril to their lives) at the bottom of the sea.
AT THE WEST-END. It would be difficult to describe with precision the immediate effect which the failure of Sir Jasper Goldthorpe had upon that polite world of which he had been for so long the envy and the ornament. A thunderbolt, an earthquake, a tornado, the explosion of a powder-magazine,-all these are, if not vulgar, at least hackneyed images, and will scarcely bear requoting when this most gigantic Smash is taken into consideration. The news of Goldthorpe's stoppage was wafted, of course, on a thousand wings through Temple Bar,—another edition came round Newgate Street and Holborn way,—rushed with lightning swiftness up Fleet Street, and so to Charing Cross, where, bifurcating, it was transmitted, in duplicate, westward to Tyburnia and southward to Belgravia. Consternation, amazement, rage, mortification, -all these feelings were certainly experienced by the polite world on the receipt of the disastrous intelligence; but with regard to any sentiment of pity, sorrow, condolence, or compassion, my information is by no means so exact. The polite world felt, in the first place, naturally vexed and humiliated at the collapse of a sumptuous Entity to whom they had so long bowed the knee, whom, together with its belongings, they had courted, flattered, not to say beslavered with adulation; to whose feasts they had rejoiced to be bidden; in whose sunshine they had basked; and in whose temporal Eternity-for many persons, gross as seems the paradox, do positively believe that Riches will last for ever-they had reposed so strong a faith; and Sir Jasper Goldthorpe, they argued, had no right to set himself up as a rich man, since the foundations of his formidably gigantic fortune were, after all, built upon a quicksand. For the polite world, as a rule, profess to be entirely ignorant of the fluctuations of financial and commercial speculations. The polite world screeches in agony when their banker breaks, or their stockbroker runs away, and want to hang all Lombard Street, and all Capel Court, immediately. They say they can't understand panics and hard times, and so forth. Their only notion of a firm tangible fortune is one that consists of snug dividends upon Bank or India Stock, on bonds and rent-charges, and especially on national pensions; and so long as the Bank of England doesn't break, and the British Government still holds its own, they imagine that their fortunes must necessarily be secure.
Thus, while in the City Sir Jasper Goldthorpe was looked upon as a simply unfortunate man who had gone a little too fast, over-traded, and had found at last things turn out badly, he was regarded at the WestEnd, and by the impulsive polite world, as little short of a swindler. They had no patience with him. This, forsooth, was the financier worth millions, the man made of money, the auriferous oligarch who could buy
the stingere was evidenche, about that it would
and sell half the Peerage, who had been made a baronet because he was so rich, and was to be made a peer because he was growing richer. This was the Idol to whom all had bowed down; whose feasts were like those of Marly in the reign of the Grand Monarque; whose daughters, had he possessed any, might have wedded with princes; who was, in fact, MAMMON, and in consequence to be worshiped, and made much of, so long as he would shower gold about him. Now he was down. Now his fortune turned out to be a myth, and his riches not worth a peck of cowries. Of course the polite world were shocked, irritated, and mortified that they had been deceived ; and, equally of course, their just suspicions, which they had entertained for a very long period,-only twenty-four hours since they had been caressing Mammon's shoe-strings !— were only verified. They had always thought how it would end. There was always something suspicious, louche, about this man. He never looked you in the face. He was evidently, and had been for a long time, tormented by the stings of conscience. And finally, drawing a neat and genteel moral from the downfall of this rich man, who had so wickedly proved to be poorer than Job, the polite world bade its admirers, dependents, toadies, and hangers-on take warning by the fate of the Goldthorpes, beware in future of these City sharpers and adventurers, and mark the results which followed the encouragement and the admission into society of mere plebeians; for although Sir Jasper Goldthorpe's name was in Burke and in Debrett, and he had a handle to his name, and a bloody hand in his escutcheon, he had not been two days bankrupt ere the polite world found out that he was of the meanest possible extraction, and, not many years ago, had kept a shop in a little country town.
This is the way of the world, and has been these thousand years; and there is small use, perhaps, in moralising upon it. To hit a man when he is down, and find out that the wretch who stands convicted of murder has committed half-a-dozen desperate assassinations in addition to the one for which he is to be hanged next Monday; to throw a stone at the drowning man, and trip up the lame dog that is trying to get over the stile; to declare that “the woman who has made one false step has tumbled down a whole flight of stairs” (as a great wit once said); to swear, because a man wears a wig, that his teeth are false and his moustaches dyed; to give unto him who has plenty, and to take away from him who has nothing ;-we say that we don't do these things, and brand as cynics and man-haters those who declare that we do. But we do them, nevertheless, and, in ourselves, glory in them, every day.
Courtly Doctor Sardonix was inexpressibly shocked by the catastrophe which had laid desolate Beryl Court and Onyx Square. It was a terrible blow to him, almost as severe as though he had been put down in consultation before a third party who was an enemy, or as though some beautiful duchess whom he had been attending for the tooth-ache had died. The worst of the matter was, that there was no denying it. You cannot quite ignore the sun at noonday. The courteous Doctor did