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Christmas books, p.1
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       Christmas Books, p.1

           William Makepeace Thackeray
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Christmas Books

  Project Gutenberg's The Christmas Books, by William Makepeace Thackeray This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: The Christmas Books Author: William Makepeace Thackeray Release Date: May 25, 2006 [EBook #2731] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CHRISTMAS BOOKS *** Produced by Donald Lainson; David Widger




  By William Makepeace Thackeray

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  * * *



  I do not know where Ballymulligan is, and never knew anybody who did. Once I asked the Mulligan the question, when that chieftain assumed a look of dignity so ferocious, and spoke of "Saxon curiawsitee" in a tone of such evident displeasure, that, as after all it can matter very little to me whereabouts lies the Celtic principality in question, I have never pressed the inquiry any farther.

  I don't know even the Mulligan's town residence. One night, as he bade us adieu in Oxford Street,—"I live THERE," says he, pointing down towards Oxbridge, with the big stick he carries—so his abode is in that direction at any rate. He has his letters addressed to several of his friends' houses, and his parcels, &c. are left for him at various taverns which he frequents. That pair of checked trousers, in which you see him attired, he did me the favor of ordering from my own tailor, who is quite as anxious as anybody to know the address of the wearer. In like manner my hatter asked me, "Oo was the Hirish gent as 'ad ordered four 'ats and a sable boar to be sent to my lodgings?" As I did not know (however I might guess) the articles have never been sent, and the Mulligan has withdrawn his custom from the "infernal four-and-nine-penny scoundthrel," as he calls him. The hatter has not shut up shop in consequence.

  I became acquainted with the Mulligan through a distinguished countryman of his, who, strange to say, did not know the chieftain himself. But dining with my friend Fred Clancy, of the Irish bar, at Greenwich, the Mulligan came up, "inthrojuiced" himself to Clancy as he said, claimed relationship with him on the side of Brian Boroo, and drawing his chair to our table, quickly became intimate with us. He took a great liking to me, was good enough to find out my address and pay me a visit: since which period often and often on coming to breakfast in the morning I have found him in my sitting-room on the sofa engaged with the rolls and morning papers: and many a time, on returning home at night for an evening's quiet reading, I have discovered this honest fellow in the arm-chair before the fire, perfuming the apartment with my cigars and trying the quality of such liquors as might be found on the sideboard. The way in which he pokes fun at Betsy, the maid of the lodgings, is prodigious. She begins to laugh whenever he comes; if he calls her a duck, a divvle, a darlin', it is all one. He is just as much a master of the premises as the individual who rents them at fifteen shillings a week; and as for handkerchiefs, shirt-collars, and the like articles of fugitive haberdashery, the loss since I have known him is unaccountable. I suspect he is like the cat in some houses: for, suppose the whiskey, the cigars, the sugar, the tea-caddy, the pickles, and other groceries disappear, all is laid upon that edax-rerum of a Mulligan.

  The greatest offence that can be offered to him is to call him MR. Mulligan. "Would you deprive me, sir," says he, "of the title which was bawrun be me princelee ancestors in a hundred thousand battles? In our own green valleys and fawrests, in the American savannahs, in the sierras of Speen and the flats of Flandthers, the Saxon has quailed before me war-cry of MULLIGAN ABOO! MR. Mulligan! I'll pitch anybody out of the window who calls me MR. Mulligan." He said this, and uttered the slogan of the Mulligans with a shriek so terrific, that my uncle (the Rev. W. Gruels, of the Independent Congregation, Bungay), who had happened to address him in the above obnoxious manner, while sitting at my apartments drinking tea after the May meetings, instantly quitted the room, and has never taken the least notice of me since, except to state to the rest of the family that I am doomed irrevocably to perdition.

  Well, one day last season, I had received from my kind and most estimable friend, MRS. PERKINS OF POCKLINGTON SQUARE (to whose amiable family I have had the honor of giving lessons in drawing, French, and the German flute), an invitation couched in the usual terms, on satin gilt-edged note-paper, to her evening-party; or, as I call it, "Ball."

  Besides the engraved note sent to all her friends, my kind patroness had addressed me privately as follows:—

  MY DEAR MR. TITMARSH,—If you know any VERY eligible young man, we give you leave to bring him. You GENTLEMEN love your CLUBS so much now, and care so little for DANCING, that it is really quite A SCANDAL. Come early, and before EVERYBODY, and give us the benefit of all your taste and CONTINENTAL SKILL.

  "Your sincere


  "Whom shall I bring?" mused I, highly flattered by this mark of confidence; and I thought of Bob Trippett; and little Fred Spring, of the Navy Pay Office; Hulker, who is rich, and I knew took lessons in Paris; and a half-score of other bachelor friends, who might be considered as VERY ELIGIBLE—when I was roused from my meditation by the slap of a hand on my shoulder; and looking up, there was the Mulligan, who began, as usual, reading the papers on my desk.

  "Hwhat's this?" says he. "Who's Perkins? Is it a supper-ball, or only a tay-ball?"

  "The Perkinses of Pocklington Square, Mulligan, are tiptop people," says I, with a tone of dignity. "Mr. Perkins's sister is married to a baronet, Sir Giles Bacon, of Hogwash, Norfolk. Mr. Perkins's uncle was Lord Mayor of London; and he was himself in Parliament, and MAY BE again any day. The family are my most particular friends. A tay-ball indeed! why, Gunter . . ." Here I stopped: I felt I was committing myself.

  "Gunter!" says the Mulligan, with another confounded slap on the shoulder. "Don't say another word: I'LL go widg you, my boy."

  "YOU go, Mulligan?" says I: "why, really—I—it's not my party."

  "Your hwhawt? hwhat's this letter? a'n't I an eligible young man?—Is the descendant of a thousand kings unfit company for a miserable tallow-chandthlering cockney? Are ye joking wid me? for, let me tell ye, I don't like them jokes. D'ye suppose I'm not as well bawrun and bred as yourself, or any Saxon friend ye ever had?"

  "I never said you weren't, Mulligan," says I.

  "Ye don't mean seriously that a Mulligan is not fit company for a Perkins?"

  "My dear fellow, how could you think I could so far insult you?" says I. "Well, then," says he, "that's a matter settled, and we go."

  What the deuce was I to do? I wrote to Mrs. Perkins; and that kind lady replied, that she would receive the Mulligan, or any other of my friends, with the greatest cordiality. "Fancy a party, all Mulligans!" thought I, with a secret terror.


  Following Mrs. Perkins's orders, the present writer made his appearance very early at Pocklington Square: where the tastiness of all the decorations elicited my warmest admiration. Supper of course was in the dining-loom, superbly arranged by Messrs. Grigs and Spooner, the confectioners of the neighborhood. I assisted my respected friend Mr. Perkins and his butler in decanting the sherry, and saw, not without satisfaction, a large bath for wine under the sideboard, in which were already placed very many bottles of champagne.
  The BACK DINING-ROOM, Mr. P.'s study (where the venerable man goes to sleep after dinner), was arranged on this occasion as a tea-room, Mrs. Flouncey (Miss Fanny's maid) officiating in a cap and pink ribbons, which became her exceedingly. Long, long before the arrival of the company, I remarked Master Thomas Perkins and Master Giles Bacon, his cousin (son of Sir Giles Bacon, Bart.), in this apartment, busy among the macaroons.

  Mr. Gregory the butler, besides John the footman and Sir Giles's large man in the Bacon livery, and honest Grundsell, carpet-beater and green-grocer, of Little Pocklington Buildings, had at least half a dozen of aides-de-camp in black with white neck-cloths, like doctors of divinity.

  The BACK DRAWING-ROOM door on the landing being taken off the hinges (and placed up stairs under Mr. Perkins's bed), the orifice was covered with muslin, and festooned with elegant wreaths of flowers. This was the Dancing Saloon. A linen was spread over the carpet; and a band—consisting of Mr. Clapperton, piano, Mr. Pinch, harp, and Herr Spoff, cornet-a-piston arrived at a pretty early hour, and were accommodated with some comfortable negus in the tea-room, previous to the commencement of their delightful labors. The boudoir to the left was fitted up as a card-room; the drawing-room was of course for the reception of the company,—the chandeliers and yellow damask being displayed this night in all their splendor; and the charming conservatory over the landing was ornamented by a few moon-like lamps, and the flowers arranged so that it had the appearance of a fairy bower. And Miss Perkins (as I took the liberty of stating to her mamma) looked like the fairy of that bower. It is this young creature's first year in PUBLIC LIFE: she has been educated, regardless of expense, at Hammersmith; and a simple white muslin dress and blue ceinture set off charms of which I beg to speak with respectful admiration.

  My distinguished friend the Mulligan of Ballymulligan was good enough to come the very first of the party. By the way, how awkward it is to be the first of the party! and yet you know somebody must; but for my part, being timid, I always wait at the corner of the street in the cab, and watch until some other carriage comes up.

  Well, as we were arranging the sherry in the decanters down the supper-tables, my friend arrived: "Hwhares me friend Mr. Titmarsh?" I heard him bawling out to Gregory in the passage, and presently he rushed into the supper-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Perkins and myself were, and as the waiter was announcing "Mr. Mulligan," "THE Mulligan of Ballymulligan, ye blackguard!" roared he, and stalked into the apartment, "apologoizing," as he said, for introducing himself.

  Mr. and Mrs. Perkins did not perhaps wish to be seen in this room, which was for the present only lighted by a couple of candles; but HE was not at all abashed by the circumstance, and grasping them both warmly by the hands, he instantly made himself at home. "As friends of my dear and talented friend Mick," so he is pleased to call me, "I'm deloighted, madam, to be made known to ye. Don't consider me in the light of a mere acquaintance! As for you, my dear madam, you put me so much in moind of my own blessed mother, now resoiding at Ballymulligan Castle, that I begin to love ye at first soight." At which speech Mr. Perkins getting rather alarmed, asked the Mulligan whether he would take some wine, or go up stairs.

  "Faix," says Mulligan "it's never too soon for good dhrink." And (although he smelt very much of whiskey already) he drank a tumbler of wine "to the improvement of an acqueentence which comminces in a manner so deloightful."

  "Let's go up stairs, Mulligan," says I, and led the noble Irishman to the upper apartments, which were in a profound gloom, the candles not being yet illuminated, and where we surprised Miss Fanny, seated in the twilight at the piano, timidly trying the tunes of the polka which she danced so exquisitely that evening. She did not perceive the stranger at first; but how she started when the Mulligan loomed upon her.

  "Heavenlee enchanthress!" says Mulligan, "don't floy at the approach of the humblest of your sleeves! Reshewm your pleece at that insthrument, which weeps harmonious, or smoils melojious, as you charrum it! Are you acqueented with the Oirish Melodies? Can ye play, 'Who fears to talk of Nointy-eight?' the 'Shan Van Voght?' or the 'Dirge of Ollam Fodhlah?'"

  "Who's this mad chap that Titmarsh has brought?" I heard Master Bacon exclaim to Master Perkins. "Look! how frightened Fanny looks!"

  "O poo! gals are ALWAYS frightened," Fanny's brother replied; but Giles Bacon, more violent, said, "I'll tell you what, Tom: if this goes on, we must pitch into him." And so I have no doubt they would, when another thundering knock coming, Gregory rushed into the room and began lighting all the candles, so as to produce an amazing brilliancy, Miss Fanny sprang up and ran to her mamma, and the young gentlemen slid down the banisters to receive the company in the hall.


  "It's only me and my sisters," Master Bacon said; though "only" meant eight in this instance. All the young ladies had fresh cheeks and purple elbows; all had white frocks, with hair more or less auburn: and so a party was already made of this blooming and numerous family, before the rest of the company began to arrive. The three Miss Meggots next came in their fly: Mr. Blades and his niece from 19 in the square: Captain and Mrs. Struther, and Miss Struther: Doctor Toddy's two daughters and their mamma: but where were the gentlemen? The Mulligan, great and active as he was, could not suffice among so many beauties. At last came a brisk neat little knock, and looking into the hall, I saw a gentleman taking off his clogs there, whilst Sir Giles Bacon's big footman was looking on with rather a contemptuous air.

  "What name shall I enounce?" says he, with a wink at Gregory on the stair.

  The gentleman in clogs said, with quiet dignity,—


  "Pump Court, Temple," is printed on his cards in very small type: and he is a rising barrister of the Western Circuit. He is to be found at home of mornings: afterwards "at Westminster," as you read on his back door. "Binks and Minchin's Reports" are probably known to my legal friends: this is the Minchin in question.

  He is decidedly genteel, and is rather in request at the balls of the Judges' and Serjeants' ladies: for he dances irreproachably, and goes out to dinner as much as ever he can.

  He mostly dines at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, of which you can easily see by his appearance that he is a member; he takes the joint and his half-pint of wine, for Minchin does everything like a gentleman. He is rather of a literary turn; still makes Latin verses with some neatness; and before he was called, was remarkably fond of the flute.

  When Mr. Minchin goes out in the evening, his clerk brings his bag to the Club, to dress; and if it is at all muddy, he turns up his trousers, so that he may come in without a speck. For such a party as this, he will have new gloves; otherwise Frederick, his clerk, is chiefly employed in cleaning them with India-rubber.

  He has a number of pleasant stories about the Circuit and the University, which he tells with a simper to his neighbor at dinner; and has always the last joke of Mr. Baron Maule. He has a private fortune of five thousand pounds; he is a dutiful son; he has a sister married, in Harley Street; and Lady Jane Ranville has the best opinion of him, and says he is a most excellent and highly principled young man.

  Her ladyship and daughter arrived just as Mr. Minchin had popped his clogs into the umbrella-stand; and the rank of that respected person, and the dignified manner in which he led her up stairs, caused all sneering on the part of the domestics to disappear.


  A hundred of knocks follow Frederick Minchin's: in half an hour Messrs. Spoff, Pinch, and Clapperton have begun their music, and Mulligan, with one of the Miss Bacons, is dancing majestically in the first quadrille. My young friends Giles and Tom prefer the landing-place to the drawing-rooms, where they stop all night, robbing the refreshment-trays as they come up or down. Giles has eaten fourteen ices: he will have a dreadful stomach-ache to-morrow. Tom has eaten twelve, but he has had four more glasses of negus than Giles. Grundsell, the occasional waiter, from whom Master Tom buys quantities o
f ginger-beer, can of course deny him nothing. That is Grundsell, in the tights, with the tray. Meanwhile direct your attention to the three gentlemen at the door: they are conversing.

  1st Gent.—Who's the man of the house—the bald man?

  2nd Gent.—Of course. The man of the house is always bald. He's a stockbroker, I believe. Snooks brought me.

  1st Gent.—Have you been to the tea-room? There's a pretty girl in the tea-room; blue eyes, pink ribbons, that kind of thing.

  2nd Gent.—Who the deuce is that girl with those tremendous shoulders? Gad! I do wish somebody would smack 'em.

  3rd Gent.—Sir—that young lady is my niece, sir,—my niece—my name is Blades, sir.

  2nd Gent.—Well, Blades! smack your niece's shoulders: she deserves it, begad! she does. Come in, Jinks, present me to the Perkinses.—Hullo! here's an old country acquaintance—Lady Bacon, as I live! with all the piglings; she never goes out without the whole litter. (Exeunt 1st and 2nd Gents.)


  Lady B.—Leonora! Maria! Amelia! here is the gentleman we met at Sir John Porkington's.

  [The MISSES BACON, expecting to be asked to dance, smile simultaneously, and begin to smooth their tuckers.]

  Mr. Flam.—Lady Bacon! I couldn't be mistaken in YOU! Won't you dance, Lady Bacon?

  Lady B.—Go away, you droll creature!

  Mr. Flam.—And these are your ladyship's seven lovely sisters, to judge from their likenesses to the charming Lady Bacon?

  Lady B.—My sisters, he! he! my DAUGHTERS, Mr. Flam, and THEY dance, don't you, girls?

  The Misses Bacon.—O yes!

  Mr. Flam.—Gad! how I wish I was a dancing man!

  [Exit FLAM.


  I have not been able to do justice (only a Lawrence could do that) to my respected friend Mrs. Perkins, in this picture; but Larkins's portrait is considered very like. Adolphus Larkins has been long connected with Mr. Perkins's City establishment, and is asked to dine twice or thrice per annum. Evening-parties are the great enjoyment of this simple youth, who, after he has walked from Kentish Town to Thames Street, and passed twelve hours in severe labor there, and walked back again to Kentish Town, finds no greater pleasure than to attire his lean person in that elegant evening costume which you see, to walk into town again, and to dance at anybody's house who will invite him. Islington, Pentonville, Somers Town, are the scenes of many of his exploits; and I have seen this good-natured fellow performing figure-dances at Notting-hill, at a house where I am ashamed to say there was no supper, no negus even to speak of, nothing but the bare merits of the polka in which Adolphus revels. To describe this gentleman's infatuation for dancing, let me say, in a word, that he will even frequent boarding-house hops, rather than not go.

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