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Captain Dobbin had some thoughts of joining the party at supper: as, in truth, he found the Vauxhall amusements not particularly lively--but he paraded twice before the box where the now united couples were met, and nobody took any notice of him. Covers were laid for four. The mated pairs were prattling away quite happily, and Dobbin knew he was as clean forgotten as if he had never existed in this world.
"I should only be de trop," said the Captain, looking at them rather wistfully. "I'd best go and talk to the hermit," --and so he strolled off out of the hum of men, and noise, and clatter of the banquet, into the dark walk, at the end of which lived that well-known pasteboard Solitary. It wasn't very good fun for Dobbin-and, indeed, to be alone at Vauxhall, I have found, from my own experience, to be one of the most dismal sports ever entered into by a bachelor.
The two couples were perfectly happy then in their box: where the most delightful and intimate conversation took place. Jos was in his glory, ordering about the waiters with great majesty. He made the salad; and uncorked the Champagne; and carved the chickens; and ate and drank the greater part of the refreshments on the tables. Finally, he insisted upon having a bowl of rack punch; everybody had rack punch at Vauxhall. "Waiter, rack punch.”
That bowl of rack punch was the cause of all this history. And why not a bowl of rack punch as well as any other cause? Was not a bowl of prussic acid the cause of Fair Rosamond's retiring from the world? Was not a bowl of wine the cause of the demise of Alexander the Great, or, at least, does not Dr. Lempriere say so?-so did this bowl of rack punch influence the fates of all the principal characters in this “Novel without a Hero," which we are now relating. It influenced their life, although most of them did not taste a drop of it.
The young ladies did not drink it; Osborne did not like it; and the consequence was that Jos, that fat gourmand. drank up the whole contents of the bowl; and the consequence of his drinking up the whole contents of the bowl was, a liveliness which at first was astonishing, and then became almost painful; for he talked and laughed so loud as to bring scores of listeners round the box, much to the confusion of the innocent party within it; and, volunteering to sing a song (which he did in that maudlin high key peculiar to gentlemen in an inebriated state), he almost drew away the audience who were gathered round the musicians in the gilt scollop-shell, and received from his hearers a great deal of applause.
"Brayvo, Fat un!” said one; “Angcore, Daniel Lambert!" said another; "What a figure for the tight-rope !" exclaimed another wag, to the inexpressible alarm of the ladies, and the great anger of Mr. Osborne.
“For Heaven's sake, Jos, let us get up and go," cried that gentleman, and the young women rose.
"Stop, my dearest diddle-diddle-darling," shouted Jos, now as bold as a lion, and clasping Miss Rebecca round the waist. Rebecca started, but she could not get away her hand. The laughter outside redoubled. Jos continued to drink, to make love, and to sing; and, winking and waving his glass gracefully to his audience, challenged all or any to come in and take a share of his punch.
Mr. Osborne was just on the point of knocking down a gentleman in top-boots, who proposed to take advantage of this invitation, and a commotion seemed to be inevitable. when by the greatest good luck a gentleman of the name of Dobbin, who had been walking about the gardens, stepped up to the box. “Be off, you fools !" said this gentlemanshouldering off a great number of the crowd, who vanished presently before his cocked hat and fierce appearance-and he entered the box in a most agitated state.
“Good Heavens! Dobbin, where have you been?” Osborne said, seizing the white cashmere shawl from his friend's arm, and huddling up Amelia in it.--"Make yourself useful, take charge of Jos here, whilst I take the ladies to the carriage."
Jos was for rising to interfere—but a single push from Osborne's finger sent him puffing back into his seat again. and the lieutenant was enabled to remove the ladies in safety. Jos kissed his hand to them as they retreated, and hiccupped out "Bless you! Bless you!" Then, seizing Captain Dobbin's hand, and weeping in the most pitiful way, he confided to that gentleman the secret of his loves. He adored that girl who had just gone out; he had broken her heart, he knew he had, by his conduct; he would marry her next morning at St. George's, Hanover Square; he'd knock up the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth; he would, by Jove! and have him in readiness; and, acting on this hint, Captain Dobbin shrewdly induced him to leave the gardens and hasten to Lambeth Palace, and, when once out of the gates, easily conveyed Mr. Jos Sedley into a hackney-coach, which deposited him safely at his lodgings.
George Osborne conducted the girls home in safety: and when the door was closed upon him, and as he walked across Russell Square, laughed so as to astonish the watchman. Amelia looked very ruefully at her friend, as they went up stairs, and kissed her, and went to bed without any more talking
"He must propose to-morrow,” thought Rebecca. "He called me his soul's darling, four times; he squeezed my hand in Amelia's presence. He must propose to-morrow.”
And so thought Amelia, too. And I dare say she thought of the dress she was to wear as bridesmaid, and of the presents which she should make to her nice little sister-in-law, and of a subsequent ceremony in which she herself might play a principal part, &c., and &c., and &c., and &c.
Oh, ignorant young creatures! How little do you know the effect of rack punch! What is the rack in the punch, at night, to the rack in the head of a morning? To this truth I can vouch as a man; there is no headache in the world like that caused by Vauxhall punch. Through the lapse of twenty years, I can remember the consequence of two glasses !--two wine-glasses !-but two, upon the honour of a gentleman; and Joseph Sedley, who had a liver complaint, had swallowed at least a quart of the abominable mixture.
That next morning, which Rebecca thought was to dawn upon her fortune, found Sedley groaning in agonies which the pen refuses to describe. Soda-water was not invented yet. Small beer-will it be believed was the only drink with which unhappy gentlemen soothed the fever of their previous night's potation. With this mild beverage before him, George Osborne found the ex-collector of Boggley Wollah groaning on the sofa at his lodgings. Dobbin was already in the room, good-naturedly tending his patient of the night before. The two officers, looking at the prostrate Bacchanalian, and askance at each other, exchanged the most frightful sympathetic grins. Even Sedley's valet, the most solemn and correct of gentlemen, with the muteness and gravity of an undertaker, could hardly keep his countenance in order, as he looked at his unfortunate master.
"Mr. Sedley was uncommon wild last night, sir,” he whispered in confidence to Osborne, as the latter mounted the stair. "He wanted to fight the 'ackney-coachman, sir. The Capting was obliged to bring him up stairs in his harms like a babby.” A momentary smile flickered over Mr. Brush's features as he spoke; instantly, however, they relapsed into their usual unfathomable calm, as he flung open the drawing-room door, and announced "Mr. Hosbin."
"How are you, Sedley?” that young wag began, after surveying his victim. "No bones broke? There's a hackneycoachman down stairs with a black eye, and a tied-up head, vowing he'll have the law of you."
"What do you mean,-law?" Sedley faintly asked.
"For thrashing him last night-didn't he, Dobbin? You hit out, sir, like Molyneux. The watchman says he never saw a fellow go down so straight. Ask Dobbin."
"You did have a round with the coachman," Captain Dobbin said, “and showed plenty of fight too."
"And that fellow with the white coat at Vauxhall! How Jos drove at him! How the women screamed! By Jove, sir, it did my heart good to see you. I thought you civilians had no pluck; but I'll never get in your way when you are in your cups, Jos."
"I believe I'm very terrible, when I'm roused,” ejaculated Jos from the sofa, and made a grimace so dreary and ludicrous, that the Captain's politeness could restrain him no longer and he and Osborne fired off a ringing volley of laughter.
Osborne pursued his advantage pitilessly. He thought Jos a milk-sop. He had been revolving in his mind the marriage-question pending between Jos and Rebecca, and was not over well pleased that a member of a family into which he, George Osborne, of the-th, was going to marry, should make a mésalliance with a little nobody-a little upstart governess. “You hit, you poor old fellow !” said Osborne. "You were terrible! Why, man, you couldn't stand -you made everybody laugh in the Gardens, though you were crying yourself. You were maudlin, Jos. Don't you remember singing a song?"
“A what?” Jos asked.
"A sentimental song, and calling Rosa, Rebecca, what's her name, Amelia's little friend-your dearest diddle-diddledarling ?" And this ruthless young fellow, seizing hold of Dobbin's hand, acted over the scene, to the horror of the original performer, and in spite of Dobbin's good-natured entreaties to him to have mercy.
"Why should I spare him?" Osborne said to his friend's remonstrances, when they quitted the invalid, leaving him under the hands of Doctor Gollop. "What the deuce right has he to give himself his patronizing airs, and make fools of us at Vauxhall? Who's this little school-girl that is ogling and making love to him? Hang it, the family's low enough already, without her. A governess is all very well, but I'd rather have a lady for my sister-in-law. I'm a liberal man; but I've proper pride, and know my own station: let her know hers. And I'll take down that great hectoring Nabob, and prevent him from being made a greater fool than he is. That's why I told him to look out, lest she brought an action against him."
"I suppose you know best,” Dobbin said, though rather dubiously. “You always were a Tory, and your family's one of the oldest in England. But-"
"Come and see the girls, and make love to Miss Sharp yourself,” the lieutenant here interrupted his friend; but Captain Dobbin declined to join Osborne in his daily visit to the young ladies in Russell Square.
As George walked down Southampton Row, from Holborn, he laughed as he saw, at the Sedley Mansion, in two different stories, two heads on the look-out.
The fact is, Miss Amelia, in the drawing-room balcony, was looking very eagerly towards the opposite side of the