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Har he arri, of the new rs. Upjob
well as for a good investment for some spare capital, he was just in the mood to be seduced by so glowing a description. In a word, after rigging himself out at a Bond Street tailor's, where he afforded diversion enough to pay for his clothes, he set off for Cornwall. He was a short pursy man, with a round figure and chubby face, not unlike the late Mr. Robson in the part of Zephyr. He got down to Oakham safe enough, but he got into the first of his troubles the very day he arrived, for inquiring at the inn for the residence of “the great lady” of the neighbourhood, he was directed by an Upjohnite waiter to Foxden. Mrs. Upjohn, who was always happy to receive visits from titled personages, no sooner saw Sir Peter's card than she desired the servant to show him in, and she must have been very unreasonable not to have been satisfied with the bows and obeisances with which he presented himself before her. Upon his part, the knight was even more delighted at the cordial and respectful reception vouchsafed him by the great lady.
But the very first compliment Sir Peter fired off (most probably borrowed from the newspaper) spoiled all. Mrs. Upjohn rose abruptly, almost as soon as she was seated, grew as red as the moon in a fog, and cut him short in her usual refined way, when there was nobody present to put her on her lady-like behaviour.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, “ but you are in the wrong box. I'm not the person you take me for. We don't brew here, I assure you. I'll order my servant to direct you to Mrs. Rowley's establishment."
Poor Sir Peter was confounded by this tirade, and almost tumbled out of the room, making all manner of inarticulate apologies for his mistake.
He had hardly recovered from his confusion when he reached the cottage, to be discomfited again, though in a different way. There he saw Miss Secretary Penrose, who shook her head in an awful way; told him that as to seeing Mrs. Rowley, it was quite out of the question, and referred him to Mr. Cosie at the village.
At the village, both that day and the next, Sir Peter Cheesy was equally unlucky, so there was nothing to be done but to live in hope, and meanwhile lounge about by himself, and see as much as he could without anybody's assistance. He passed some days in this way, always expecting to come across “the fascinating widow" in his perambulations, which he never had the luck to do. He was beginning to be a bore, however, sometimes waylaying her, sometimes taking observations of her with a pocket telescope from the rocks and eminences commanding a view of the Meadows. At last Mr. Pickford threw himself in his way in hopes of getting rid of him ; but he soon forgot all about that, he was so diverted by the gushing simplicity with which Sir Peter stated his objects and his determination to persevere until he had the honour of seeing "the paragon of her sex and the mirror of English gentlewomen." It now occurred to Paul, both for his own amusement and Mrs. Rowley's security, to take Sir Peter in tow himself, and tire him well out, which promised to be an easy matter; for, as men of his figure commonly are, he was a little asthmatic or short-winded. Paul first took him to the brewery, and made him drowsy with tasting the different ales and beers, astonishing him at the same time by his account of the profits.
“It pays a fabulous percentage,” said Paul, intrepidly.
“A fabulous percentage !” repeated Sir Peter; “I'll take a note of that—wonderful woman!”
“I should say so," said Paul, while Sir Peter entered the veracious statement in his memoranda.
" And is there really no chance of seeing her, Mr. Beckford ?”
“Pickford, if you please. None whatever, Sir Peter—in fact, Mrs. Rowley is a lady, if it is not profane to say it, who is only to be seen like Providence—in her works."
“Bless my soul, Mr. Pickwick !-do you say so ? Like Providence! I'll take a note of that.”
“Do, by all means,” said Paul, with a gravity that did him credit, “ but allow me to observe that I have not the honour to be Mr. Pickwick-Pickford, if you please.”
Paul then carried off his victim into the open country, to show him the cottages and the farming, and kept him in a state of unintermitting amazement, not so much with the facts, you may suppose, as with Paul's comments upon them. The pencil and notebook were not a moment idle.
“Just look at those sheep, Sir Peter; you ought to be a judge of sheep, coming from Australia,—did you ever see such sheep in your life? The mutton is the best in the world. No one who has once tasted it ever eats venison afterwards."
Sir Peter's lips watered as he asked the name of the breed.
“A breed of her own, Sir Peter ; she is crossing her Southdowns with Cotswolds.” .
“Crossing her Southdowns with Cotswolds !”.
Perhaps there was not a note taken of that! But it was the last Sir Peter took that day; for he was dog-tired, and obliged to entreat Mr. Pickford to conduct him back to the inn by the shortest way.
But though his legs failed, his curiosity was unabated, and at parting, he implored his cicerone to give him the benefit of his guidance for one day more, adding, as the thought suddenly struck him, that perhaps if Mrs. Rowley knew who he was, and that he had bought her house, she would not refuse him an interview.
“Renzind her of that, if you please, my dear sir—more by token, I stickled for the furniture into the bargain."
“You didn't get it, I rather think?" said Paul.
“Not so much as a kitchen chair. She was right, sir, quite right; but so was I, you know, to hold out for it;-business is business, that's my motto.”
“Let me tell you,” said Paul, “ if you had acted otherwise, you would for ever have forfeited her esteem, and it would be utterly in vain to solicit an audience for you. Now I feel disposed to try, for you seem to me to be just the sort of man she likes.”
Sir Peter was as proud as a peacock.
“But you must see the mines,” said Paul. “I can't go with you to-morrow, but you can go very well by yourself. Go early, by the first light; see them thoroughly, and mind, go down into them, into every chamber. She likes that. And come up afterwards to the cottage, and I take on myself to ask you to lunch with her at one o'clock."
“This is kind of you, indeed!” cried the little man.
Paul then instructed him how to get to the mines, which were on an island behind Arnaud's.
“Is the passage rough ?" inquired Sir Peter, rather anxiously. “A ripple, perhaps—but so short. Portsmouth to Ryde, that's all.”
Mrs. Rowley thought Mr. Pickford had taken too great a liberty ; but she was not very angry about it, as Sir Peter had paid a round sum for the house.
But when the next day came, no Sir Peter; luncheon came, and was over, but no Sir Peter.
“The voyage probably disagreed with him,” said Susan.
Later in the day Mr. Pickford strolled down to the village to inquire what had become of the knight, though he rather suspected the cause of his non-appearance.
“Ask him for to-morrow, if he has come to grief,” said Mrs. Rowley, good-naturedly.
He had come to grief, indeed, and the passage was the least of it. · The poor little man came up out of the mine, which was very wet, not only thoroughly drenched, but all crusted with yellow slime -hands and face, new clothes and everything.
When Paul was shown to his room, he found him standing at the fire in his shirt-sleeves, and ruefully contemplating the disastrous state of a superb morning suit of velveteen which he had put on that day for the first time, to appear to advantage in Mrs. Rowley's eyes.
“Ruined, sir!” he said, in a tone that was quite affecting ; “ruined past brushing—coppered all over!”
Paul really was very sorry, and looked as sympathising as he could.
" You see," continued Sir Peter, with the same melancholy seriousness, “it was impossible to present myself before Mrs. Rowley in the state I was in.”
“Well, if you had, my dear sir, she would only have been flattered. I almost regret you didn't come as you were ; but that can't be helped. She desires me to say she hopes to see you at the same hour to-morrow.”
Sir Peter brightened up. This more than compensated him for the ruin of his velveteens.
“You will have a great deal to tell her,” added Paul; “she loves to be complimented on her speculations and her practical talents. All woinen like praise, as you know, and Mrs. Rowley is a thorough woman for that.”
“ Thank you for the hint,” said Sir Peter. “I'll not forget it. Oh, though the mine was dirty, and I spoiled my clothes, I saw it all ; went through every chamber; nothing escaped me. Why it must pay enormously!”
“You may say so,” said Paul ; “but when you see the lady herself, you will forget everything else. Remember, one o'clock to-morrow," and Mr. Pickford went away, leaving the little man full of hope and in high spirits, though he sighed heavily every time he looked at his velveteens.
He was punctual as the sun at the Meadows the next day; and as his morning suit was spoiled, he appeared in full evening costume, with a black coat and a wonderful spread of white waistcoat, in which he looked like a turbot standing on his tail. As to the vein of conversation which Sir Peter adopted to charm his hostess, according to Mr. Pickford's cruel suggestion, we leave the reader to imagine it. Mr. Pickford was every moment expecting to hear Mrs. Rowley complimented on her experiment with the Cotswolds and Southdowns. Suffice it to say that the lunch of that day was a severe trial to the Rowleys. Sir Peter, however, went away so enchanted with his reception, that he almost hugged Mr. Pickford as he departed, and begged the honour of his company to dinner at the inn the following day; an invitation which Paul, after a moment's reflection, accepted, suspecting there was something in the wind which Sir Peter had not yet disclosed.
The dinner came off. The host was at first reserved, and rather silent; but it was evidently the silence of a man who was bursting with some great conception. Paul ate his dinner, drank his wine, and waited. As soon, however, as the cloth was removed, Sir Peter, while filling Paul's glass, commenced the conversation as follows :
“Ah, but you are a lucky man, Mr. Pickford, with the opportunities you have.”
“ Who, I?” said Paul; “with the widow you mean?”
“ To be sure I do."
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Mr. Pickford, “she would be a likely woman to think of me!”
“I don't see why not—a handsome young man like you—everything in your favour.”
Paul laughed again, but it was only that he saw in a moment what his little host was driving at.
“No, no, Sir Peter, I'm not the happy man. In the first place, I'm too young. If ever Mrs. Rowley marries again, it will be a steady elderly gentleman—not under fifty, I should say. That's about your age, Sir Peter, eh ?”.
“ Just turned fifty-two,” said Sir Peter.
“But, besides," continued Mr. Pickford, “you don't suppose a sharp woman of the world like her would think of a partner without either a landed estate or a good round sum in the funds ? If I had the good luck to be a moneyed man of fifty-two I might have some chance. She is very well disposed to marry, I have good reason to believe.”
“A woman like her has only to choose,” said Sir Peter, who was mentally engaged in putting together all the qualifications stated by Paul, and comparing them with a standard he had in his own mind. Paul knew what was going on there as well as he did himself.
“And there's another thing, Sir Peter. I know no more of business than a fool. In fact, she despises me ever since she discovered one day that I knew nothing of tare and tret.”
"And you don't-is it possible ? Nobody knows all about that better than I do.”
“I took care to tell her the interest you took in her system of book-keeping, and you must have seen yourself how gratified she was by your descent into the mines. That was the best hit you ever - made.”
Sir Peter pushed the wine towards his guest, and seemed again in his former difficulty of finding words; but at last they came.
“You said I made a hit, Mr. Pickford, didn't you? May I ask what you mean precisely by that ?”
“Why, that you hit her fancy, of course; and I know what I would do next, if I was fortunate enough to have your mature age, handsome fortune, business-like habits, and another thing that I have not mentioned yet—your title, Sir Peter.”
“ My title! you really think the title would be of use ?"
“To be sure it will; there's nothing like a handle to one's name to win a woman.”
“And what would you do, as you were just saying?” “Why, having made a hit, I would follow it up.”