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SUCH A GOOD MAN.
BY WALTER BESANT AND JAMES RICE.
Authors of 'Ready-Money Mortiboy,' 'The Golden Butterfly,''By Celia's Arbour,' etc., etc.
that your balance at the bank, whose sup
posed exiguity has frequently given you so THE CITY DINNER.
much anxiety, is in reality a splendid sum of
five figures at least—else, how could you be HE Master and his two Wardens are in such coinpany? that the suburban villa
in the anteroom receiving the guests. has no existence, and the pre-matrimonial They are surrounded by a Court consisting dinginess of Gray's Inn, never, in plain fact, of officers, chaplain, and the Livery. It is existed; that your whole life has always been not an ordinary Company dinner, but one spent in and naturally belongs to such palaces of their great banquets. A foreign ambas- as this abode of the City Company; that your sador is present ; a cabinet minister, who every-day dinner, your plain cut of mutton will give the dinner a political significance, with a glass of thin claret, as you have aland perhaps drop a hint in the matter of ways supposed it, has really been from the Eastern politics ; there is the latest thing we very beginning such a banquet as you are have to show in the way of a soldier who about to assist at; and that doubt, insecurity, has seen service, and actually commanded anxiety, necessity for work have no real exan army; there is one of the oldest extant istence at all in the order of things. Because specimens of the ancient British admiral, the air that you breathe, the aspect of the bluff and hearty ; there is a bishop of pro- guests, the sonorous names which ring like nounced Evangelical opinions, he of Bam- massive gold coins, and the place you are in borough ; and there is a dean, who is de- fill you with the sense of the fatness which is clared by his enemies to have no opinions stable and abiding. at all. There are also two or three of the Guest after guest, they come crowding in City clergy, who perhaps rejoice to make of singly and in pairs. His Highness of Hythese banquets an occasion for fasting and derabad, Ek Rupiya Dao, ablaze with diamortification of the flesh. There is a man monds. His Excellency the Minister for of science, on whom the clergy look askance, the Republic of El Dorado: did his smiling because he has lately uttered opinions which and courteous Excellency, in his own tropias yet they do not see their way out of; there cal retreat beneath the palms of that much are many rich men; there are no artists and borrowing country, ever dream in his wildest no representatives of literature, because the moments of such a dinner as he is about to Lord Mayor works off both these classes of put away? and does he feel that his prehumans in two dinners, which is, the Lord sence, recorded in the daily papers, will asknows, sufficient honour for them, and City sist the new loan ? The Ambassador of Two Companies know nothing about literature or Eagle Land, said to be the most courteous art. There is a full gathering of the Livery ; minister ever sent to London—also said to there are servants in gorgeous costumes ; be the greatest of—but that is calumny. The there is a lavish abundance of costly flowers ; Archbishop of Kensington : doth monseigthere is the brightness of innumerable gas- neur seek" for new converts, or doth he dejets, playing in wood carvings on picture sire to make up for the rigours of Lent, now frames, losing itself in massive furniture and happily finished and got through ? and heavy carpets of triple pile. Everything is would he mind repeating for the general solid. magnificent, and rich. To be one of benefit that capital story which he told his the guests standing in the semicircle round companion just before his carriage stopped, the Master and Wardens is to feel for the its last smile still playing round lips too time that you have hitherto lived in a dream, solid for austerity?' The Lord Bishop of Bamborough, our own prop, stay, and com- visit the dead and gone generations of his fort in matters spiritual, regards his Roman early centuries. Think how delightful it Catholic Brother-Father (is that quite a cor- must have been for Methusalem to see again rect way of putting the relationship?) with in the Champs Elysées the friends of his eyes of distrust, as if he feared to be con- youth, remembered after so many hundred verted on the spot by some Papistic trick years. Even Old Parr must have had some and so be disgraced for ever. The Rev. such strange welcoming of long-forgotten Cyprian Chancel, who is about to suffer friends and playmates who had been turned martyrdom through the new Act. He has into dust, ere he began to feel old. Three prepared his face already, walks with his hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds a head on one side and his hands up, like a year! And all got out of “ile," you said ? figure out of a church window, and looks as Dear, dear! Really the atmosphere of this if he was about to go straight to a red-hot Hall is Celestial-Olympian. We are among fire and blaze cheerfully, though slowly, pinnacles-Alps—of Greatness. round an iron stake. “I remember when A buzz of expectation : a whispering they plucked Chancel at Cambridge for clas- among the guests : a murmur which at the sical honours,” whispers a voice at my right. slightest provocation would turn into apHis Reverence hears the remark and he plause and shouts of acclamation : a craning winces. Touch a Ritualist on the subject forward of necks : a standing up on tip-toe of intellectual distinction, and you revive of short-legged guests in the background: a many old griefs of pluckings sore, which putting up of eye-glasses. Hush! here he many times he bore, and a lowly degree comes. taken ignobly among the common herd. Sir Jacob ESCOMB. This is a sad memory for one who has be- The Master and the Wardens bow low : come a leader of-women, old and young. ; lower than when they received the Secretary Mr. Gabriel Cassilis. The figure seems of State for Internal Navigation : lower than familiar to me. He is tall and rather bent; for the Ambassador of Two Eagle Land : he carries a gold pince-nez, with which he lower than for him of El Dorado : a great taps his knuckles. The great financier, said deal lower than for any bishop or clergyman: to be worth, in the delightful metaphor of lower even than to that light and glory of the last century, a couple of Plums at least. 'the earth, the successful striker of Canadian Happy Gabriel Cassilis ! Was there not, "ile." some talk about his wife and a man named Sir JACOB ESCOMB ! Lawrence Colquhoun? To be sure there He is a man of a commanding presence, was ; and she married the old man after all, tall, portly, dignified in bearing ; he is about and now Lawrence has come back again to fifty-five years of age, a time when dignity is London. Wonder if there will be any scan- at its best; he has a large head, held a little dal ? Who is that with him? Mr. Gilead back; hair still abundant, though streaked P. Beck--hush--sh-sh! thin tall man, with grey ; a big and prominent nose, great with lanky legs, shrewd face, full of curiosity. lips, and a long square chin. His eyes, you Lucky American who struck “ile” in Canada : might say, did you not know him to be such owner of Petroleaville : said to be worth a a good man, are rather hard. Altogether, it thousand pounds a day: goes where he likes : 1 is the face of a successful man, and of a man does what he likes: might marry whom he who knows how to get on in the world. The likes: some nonsense about selling himself to secret of that man is the secret which that the devil for a lucky butterfly. What a thing other philanthropist, Voltaire, discovered -of course without the bargain with the Evil pretty early in life and published for the One, which no well-regulated mind would benefit of humanity--it is that some men are approve of or consent to-to have a thou- anvils and some hammers, that it is better to sand pounds a day! If nothing else, it be a hammer than an anvil ; or, leaving the makes a man a law unto himself : he can do metaphorical method, that those who make what he likes. Wonder why it can't do money cannot pile it up fast unless they away with the laws of nature? With a thou make it out of the labours of other men. sand pounds a day, a man ought to be able Sir Jacob knows everybody of any disto live, in youth and vigour, till he grew | tinction. He shakes hands not only with quite tired of things and became ready to re- i the Bishop of Bamborough, but also with him of Kensington ; he is acquainted with your foreign counts and excellencies—counts Mr. Cassilis and already knows Mr. Gilead and excellencies ! beggarly lot at home, P. Beck. Sir John Sells, Sir Solomon Gold- no doubt. Our great men, sir, the backbone beater, Sir Samuel Ingot, the Indian prince, of wealthy England, are such men as Sir Ek Rupiya Dao, and the Rajah Jeldee Ag Jacob Escomb. Self-made, practical, with Lao are all known to him, and the clergy an eye always open for the main chance, are to a man reckoned as his private and in- full of energy, the director of a dozen diftimate friends. Therefore, for the brief space ferent concerns." which remains before dinner is announced, “What are they, then?” I asked in my there is a general press to shake hands with innocence, for though I had heard of this this greatest of great men. Those who can- man, I knew not what soldiers call “his not do so feel small; I am one of the record.” small.
“He is an ironmaster at Dolmen-in-Ra-Dinner! Welcome announcement. vendale, he has the principal share in a coal
I am placed at the lower end of the hall, mine, he has a great office in the City, he is the end where those sit who have least a gigantic contractor, he has built railways. money. Sir Jacob, naturally, is near the over half Europe." Master. In the open space between the " Pardon," said a foreigner opposite; two ends of the great horse-shoe table is a ' you are speaking of Sir Jacob Escomb ? piano-a Grand, of course. In the corner Would you point him out to me, this great of the hall separated from Us, the aristo- man ?” cratic diners, is a screen behind which you We indicate the distinguished Englishmay hear, perhaps, the sounds of more plates man with not unnatural pride in our country. and the voices of other guests. They are, “A-ha !” said the foreigner, putting up his in fact, the four singers and the pianoforte- glasses. “That is the Sir Jacob Escomb player, who are, after dinner, to give us a who made our railways for us. C'est très small selection of ballad and glee music remarquable.” (printed for us in a little book in green and “Good railways, sir, no doubt,” said the gold) between the speeches. They dine at thin man. “You were very glad, I suppose, the same time as ourselves, that is allowed ; to get the great Sir Jacob?” but not, if you please, in our sight. We all “Good? I do not know.” The foreigner draw the line somewhere. In the City the shrugged his shoulders They carry our line is drawn at professional musicians, peo- troops, which was what we wanted. The ple who play and sing for hire.
cost was not many millions above the conGrace, with a gratitude almost unctuous, tract price. We borrowed all the millions from the chaplain.
for those railways from England. It is good Turtle, with punch. My next-door neigh- of England to lend the world money to help bour is a thin, tall man. From his general carry troops, very good. I am glad to have appearance, which suggests insatiable hun- seen this man-great in England.” ger, I am convinced that he is going to make “ And with all his wealth,” the thin man à noble, an Enormous dinner. He does. went on, helping himself largely to salmon, He begins magnificently with three plates of " such a good man!” He shook his head turtle soup one after the other, and three with an expression of envy. Who could glasses of iced punch. He has eaten and aspire to so much goodness? It was more drunk enough at the very commencement of than one man's share. his dinner to keep an English labourer going I got no more conversation out of that thin the whole of one day, an Italian for two days, man, because for two hours and a half he cona Syrian for an entire week. What a great tinued to eat steadily, which gave him no country this is where the power of eating ex- time for talk. And to drink! Let us do pands with the means of procuring food !. him justice. He drank with as much zeal After the third plate of turtle he turns to me, as he ate, and with equal impartiality put and begins talking about Sir Jacob Escomb. down champagne—the Hammerers' cham“ There is a man, sir,” he says, “ of whom pagne is not too dry-sauterne. chablis, mawe have reason to be proud. Don't talk to deira, hock, and sherry—they gave us manme of your lords-hereditary legislators : zanilla. A glass of port with the cheese-your bishops—ah ! backstairs influence : and the port at the Hammerers' is generous and fruity. More port with the desert : claret strong hand. Of that we may be quite sure. after that. Then more claret. He was in- Meantime, we are preparing for the worst. deed a truly zealous defender of City privi- Should the worst occur, which Heaven forleges, and ate and drank enough for twenty. bid !-he is perhaps revealing a State secret, I thought of poor old Ebenezer Grumbelow but he may tell us that the forces are to be (whose history I have already narrated else- strengthened by five hundred men, and two where), and how he would have envied this new gunboats are now upon the stocks. great and splendid appetite.
(Rapturous applause.) We hammer the Presently the end of dinner actually ar- table, sure of our country. Says the foreign rived. Then the harmonious Four came out person,“ The British interests mean, I think, from behind their screen, having also well whatever you can get people to give you eaten and much drunken, and began to too- without going to war. How long will you tle, and we all talked together. The thin keep what you have got unless you fight for man on my left looked much thinner after them. Two gunboats. Bah! Five hundred his enormous dinner than before. This is a men. Bah!' The odd thing about foreignphysiological peculiarity with thin men which ers is that they never appreciate the British has never been explained. Fat men expand belief in the honesty and generosity of their with dinner. Thin men contract. He neighbours. That comes of being too civilseized a decanter of port, and, with a big ised, perhaps. Other nations have to be bunch of grapes, settled down to quiet en- educated up to the English level. joyment. The foreign person with the eye- “Our illustrious guest, the Ambassador glasses looked about him and asked who the for Two Eagle Land.” Nothing, it appears, illustrious guests were and what each had is more certain than the firm friendship which done.
exists between England and the illustrious “ The Queen.”. There is no doubt about guest's own country. That is most reassuring. the Hammerers' loyalty. We are ready to Friendship between two nations," says the die for our Sovereign to a man.
absurd foreign critic opposite me, whose The harmonious Four chant “God save name is surely Machiavelli, “means that the Queen."
neither thinks itself strong enough to crush “ The Army and the Navy,” There is no the other. You English,” he goes on, “will doubt about the efficiency of both, because always continue to be the friend of everybody, both the General, who has commanded an so long as you kindly submit everything to army, and the Admiral, who has hoisted his arbitration, because the arbitrators will alflag in the Mediterranean, both say so, and ways decide against you.” It is very diswe receive their assurances with acclamation. agreeable, after dinner too, to hear such things “But your army is so very small," urges the spoken of one's country. person of foreign extraction, “and as for your The musicians give us, “ All among the fleet-why there are torpedoes. When you Barley." can put 500,000 men into the field, we shall “The Church." The Bishop of Kensington begin to be a little afraid of you again. But, bows courteously to him of Bamborough, as pardon me, nobody is afraid of England's to an enemy whom one respects. The little toy which she calls an army." Very Bishop of Bamborough assures us of the odd that some foreign persons think so much surprising increase in the national love for of large armies and have such small belief in the Church of England. We are overjoyed. money.
This is a facer for Monseigneur of Kensing“ Her Majesty's Government.” Cabinet ton. Foreign person listens admiringly. Minister-Secretary of State for Internal “He is what you call • Ritualist ??” he asks. Navigation in reply, assures us that all is “No; he is Evangelical." Ah ! he does going on perfectly with the best of all possi- not understand these little distinctions. The ble Governments. Never anybody so able Church does not interest him. as the Chief, never any man so adroit as the " The industries of England." Applause Foreign Office man, never anything managed is rapturous, when Sir Jacob Escomb slowly with such diplomatic skill as the Eastern rises to reply, and soleninly looks round the Question. War, unfortunately, could not hall. be prevented, but we are out of it—so far, “So rich a man,” says my friend on the British interests will be maintained with a left, who has eaten his grapes, cleared off a plateful of early peaches, and is now tackling semblage that Sir Jacob's philanthropic a dish of strawberries with his second decan- speech is loudly applauded. Only the dreadter of port. He is thinner than ever. “So ful foreign person lifts his hands and shakes rich : and such a good man !”
his head. “ England," begins Sir Jacob, after a pre- “By his cheque !" he repeats in admiraamble of modesty, “is deservedly proud, tion. "He will advance humanity-by his not only of her industries, but also, if I, an cheque. He will prevent wars—by his employer of labour, be permitted to say so, cheque. He will make us all good—by his of the men who have built up the edifice of cheque. He will convert nations—by his British wealth.
· And if this is cheque. He will reconcile parties--by his so, what, I ask, is England's duty ? To cheque. He will make the priest love the civilise, by means of that wealth ; to use that Voltairean-by his cheque. Enfin, he will gold in doing Good." (Hear, hear!) “And go to heaven-by his cheque. He is very how can the rich men of England do great, Sir Jacob Escomb—a very, very GOOD?” He lays tremendous emphasis on great man. the word good, so much emphasis that it "Sir," said the thin man on my left, who must be printed in capitals. “Are they, for had now entered into the full enjoyment of instance, to go up and down the lanes and his third decanter—this wine is really very by-ways seeking for fit objects of relief ? generous and fruity, as I said before-proNo. That, my lords and gentlemen, were bably wine of fifty-one—“he is more than to make an ironclad do the work of the cap. great. There is no philanthropic, religious, tain's gig. Their business is, as I take it, to or benevolent movement which is complete distribute cheques. Are people, anywhere, without Sir Jacob's name. There are many in suffering ? Send a cheque. Are soldiers Englishmen of whom we are proud, because lying wounded on a field of battle? Shall they have made so much money ; but there we go to war with the lying and hypocritical is none of whom it may be said, as is said of Power which has caused the war, and pre- Sir Jacob, not only that he is so rich, but vent, if we can, a recurrence of the wicked that he is SUCH a good man.” ness ? No; that is not the mission of England Send a cheque. Is a society started for the Advancement of Humanity? I am glad to say that such a society is about to
CHAPTER II. start, as I read in the papers,—for I have noi myself any personal connection, as yet, with it, -under the presidency of that distinguished philanthropist, Lord Addlehede, whom I am HE breakfast-room of Sir Jacob Esproud to call my friend-send a cheque. comb's town house, one of the great The actual work of charity, philanthropy, houses on Campden Hill which stand in and general civilisation is carried out for us, their own gardens, set about with trees, like by proper officers, by the army of paid work- houses a hundred miles away from the City, men, the secretaries, the curates, the sur- was a large and cheerful apartment, whose geons, and such people. The man of wealth windows had a south aspect, while a condirects. Like the general, he does not lead servatory on the east side intercepted the the troops himself; he sends them into bat- wind from that hateful quarter. It was furtle. I go even farther,” Sir Jacob leans nished, like the whole of the house, with forward very solemnly, “I say that the solidity. No new-fashioned gewgaws littered actual sight of suffering, disease, poverty, the rooms in Sir Jacob's house ; nor did the sorrow, brutality, wickedness, hunger, dirt, pseudo-antique rubbish carry the imagination want of civilization generally, is revolting- back to the straight-backed times of Queen simply revolting—to the man of wealth. His Anne. There were heavy carpets, heavy position must, and should, secure him from chairs, heavy tables, very heavy pictures of unpleasant sights. Let him hear of them; game and fruit, a massive mirror, in an imand let him alleviate—it is his mission and mense and richly-chased gold frame, and a his privilege-by means of his cheque." sideboard which looked like one mass of
There is so much benevolence in this as- solid inahogany, built up out of a giant trunk
GLORY AND GREATNESS.