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in the Strand. Here a mixed class, consisting of young men about town, and young ladies of undecided character, met to profit by the lessons of the professor, and, upon the singing for the million system, by mutual instruction.
Our hero's really handsome figure, and the rapid progress he made in quadrilling and waltzing, made him a very desirable partner, and though he could not boast of having won the heart of any of the ladies -for whose correctness of conduct, I ought to have observed, the professor made himself responsible-yet he never met with a refusal from the fairest—the belle of the ball—when he made her an offer-of an ice or a glass of negus.
Two years passed speedily in these improving and pleasing pursuits. The “old couple” were satisfied with the progress which their son was making in life. Gabriel had an unrestricted order to draw on the till for all his wants, and unlimited credit with a fashionable tailor in Holborn-an old friend of his father. But—was not Gabriel happy? No. There was one serious drawback on his happiness. It was this :
Did he execute a song better than usual? Did he give a toast remarkable for its novelty and significance ? Did he shake hands at “the corner” with the winner of the largest stake in the Derby? Did he throw in seven mains running in Jermyn-street ? Did he execute a pas seul in the Strand to the openly-displayed admiration of the professor ? The self-complacency resulting from his success was marred -marred by this interrogatory and the reply,
“Who is he? Oh! only young Gabe, the son of old Flame, the oilman."
This question, with its invariable and soul-sickening answer, had reached his ears one day, just as he had been formally introduced to the jockey who was about to ride the supposed winner of the Oaks. He had not only shaken hands with him, but given him a peculiarly fullflavoured cigar, and claimed his reward for the condescension of the first rider of his day, in the wondering glances of the assembled throng.
Only young Gabe—the son of old Flame, the oilman," reached him just as the jockey having lighted the cigar, pronounced it“ a good un and no mistake.”
He turned away and left the spot disgusted. He hurried home, and as he turned out of Drury-lane into Holborn, he met his father, who, delighted to see his son, held out his hand most affectionately. Gabriel looked at him, thought of “Old Flame the oilman,” and cut him dead.
The fond old man could not believe that the cut was intentional. He knew that to feign short-sightedness was then fashionable, and did not doubt that his son had merely pretended not to see him ; but when he arrived at home, he was unpleasantly convinced of his mistake; for he was told by the affectionate youth never to venture to speak to him in the streets again. Old Flame had a violent fit of the gout, took to his bed, and, in spite of all that medical skill could do, allowed it to reach his stomach, and died.
Gabriel put on a fashionably-cut suit of mourning, and advertised the sale of the goodwill of the business, the house, shop, and fixtures on the same day. The shopman found the money, and married his mis
tress in less than two months. Gabriel was glad of it; he had a fair plea for closing the connexion ; he invested the proceeds of the sale in the funds, and left Bloomsbury for ever—a rich and happy man.
Chap. II. The reader must imagine that some seven years have passed over Gabriel's head, when he meets him again. He has seen a great deal of life, abroad and at home, spent a great deal of money, and advanced some rounds up the ladder of society. He lives in chambers in the Albany, has a club, gives quiet dinners, and rides about town in a wellappointed vis-à-vis. He has the entrée of several third and fourth-rate fashionable families, and, as he is known to be rich still, is looked upon as a rather desirable parti by many speculating mothers and daughters. He has entirely dropped the ruffian, the swaggerer and the vulgar dandy; dresses well, but quietly, and conducts himself on all occasions with a most rigid attention to what he considers the rules of high life. If he has one thing upon which he prides himself more than another, it is the smallness of his waist and ihe elegance of his figure, to preserve which he religiously abstains from all induigence in eating and drinking, and takes regular exercise on horseback and with the foils. Such was our hero when I am about to reintroduce him to the reader.
“ Flame, my dear fellow, your figure has positively made an impression upon Lady Arabella, my sister; she detests fat men, and calls me lumpy, though I only weigh fifteen stone five. Only do me a favour, and I will ensure your success in that quarter. She is a fine woman, a widow, with a comfortable dowry, and will make you a good wife-hundreds of men are dying for her, but you shall eclipse them all, if you will only oblige me in one little thing."
These words were spoken by a jovial country baronet, Sir Jacob Crumpton, who was a great friend of Gabriel's, because he had borrowed 5001. of him, and could not repay it. Gabriel had lent him the money, though he knew he should never be repaid, in order to ensure an introduction to Lady Arabella, upon whom, to use his own expression, “he was rather sweet."
It was the object of his life to marry a woman of title; and although Sir Jacob's sister was only entitled to the prefix " lady,” from the circumstance of her husband having been knighted, he was satisfied-es. pecially as she was very handsome, tolerably rich, and much talked of by the men.
“My dear Sir Jacob,” said Gabriel, "command my services. What can I do to oblige you?"
“ Dine with me and Arabella at seven, and after dinner I will explain,” said the baronet.
Gabriel readily consented, though he had a shrewd suspicion his account at his banker's would be diminished by it; and at seven found himself seated at his friend's table, with the object of, what he called, his affections.
Sir Jacob ate largely and drank copiously. Gabriel was abstinent as a Roman Catholic in Lent; for which he was repaid by the
kindly glances of the lady, and her pungent remarks on the detestability of fatness, and the propriety of preserving the figure, by avoiding gross feeding. She threw a favouring smile on the slim waist of Gabriel as he rose to open the drawing-room door for her, and he felt that his privations-for he had an appetite—were atoned for. If he could only preserve his figure, Lady Arabella was his own. He refused Sir Jacob's challenge to a second glass of claret, and only drank one because in it he drank the health of the fair widow.
Sir Jacob helped himself, and before he had finished the bottle, ex. plained to his friend that the business in which he required his assistance was this: He had been solicited by a borough near to his country-seat, to come forward and represent it in the next parliament, which was expected to be called together in about three months. He was anxious to oblige the borough, for the gentleman who, as he thought, misrepresented it, was a person who had opposed him at every county and magistrates' meeting, and had actually refused to present a petition on a subject in which his private interests were at stake, because the public might be injured by it if it were ordered to lie on the table.
He wanted no money, for he was to be supplied by the opposing party ; but he wanted a friend who would aid him in attending freeand-easies, public dinners, speech-making, and, as he termed it, “ gammoning the constituency,” and letting off squibs to annoy the adversary. If it should come to a duel, he should want a second, and Gabriel was au fait at “the barkers.”
Gabriel agreed. The season in London was nearly over, and he thought he might as well spend two or three months in the country at the baronet's expense, as at some watering-place at his own. He thought, too, that he should have an opportunity-many opportunities -of pleading his cause with Lady Arabella; but in this he was disappointed.
Her ladyship hated electioneering, and held the constituency of Lowburgh in great contempt, so she made up her mind to pass the autumn abroad. Gabriel and the baronet saw her and her maid safely on board the Batavier. The lover felt satisfied with the kindness displayed in her farewell, and was convinced that she gazed admiringly on his slender figure, as he stepped into the boat which conveyed him to the shore.
When they arrived at the Grange, as the baronet's seat was called, a deputation of the voters of Lowburgh waited upon the future candidate for their suffrages. They came to settle the plan of operations on which they were to act. Of course they were invited to stay and dine, and more of course they accepted the invitation, for they had come on purpose.
Gabriel was introduced to them in due form, and every one of them -a round dozen-asked him to take wine with him at dinner, which he did not venture to refuse for fear of losing his friend a vote.
After dinner the plans were laid down and approved of. The principal agent -an attorney, who had never earned even six shillings and eightpence of the sitting member-suggested that Mr. Gabriel Flame should throw open all the public-houses in the baronet's interest, and invite the voters to eat and drink at his expense, and ask the baronet and the
committee to meet them. There could be no bribery by treating in that, for Mr. Gabriel Flame was not going to stand for the borough, and had a right to entertain whom he pleased.
Gabriel consented, and his health was drunk with nine times nine, and one cheer more. The baronet's health was also drunk, and then the gentlemen of the committee, collectively and individually-all in bumpers and upstanding.
A considerable quantity of wine was consumed over this, and then the baronet, who knew the men with whom he had to deal, ordered broiled bones, devilled kidneys, and other grills, which gave a zest to the punch that followed. Gabriel was compelled to drink, whether he wished to do so or not. He went to bed in a state closely bordering on inebriety, and rose in the morning with a shocking bad headach.
He had no time, however, to think of his sufferings, for the deputation came over to the Grange to breakfast, and as every member of it was suffering from the effects of the overnight's excesses, “ French cream” was put into every man's tea by the baronet, and several large jugs of very potent ale were placed on the table. The deputation loved ale and drank freely. They insisted on Gabriel's following their example. Gabriel hated ale, but he drank it for fear of offending the voters if he refused.
After breakfast, the baronet followed the deputation to Lowburgh in an open landau, with his friend seated by his side. They were greeted by loud cheers from the party in his interest, who afterwards came to the assembly-rooms at the principal inn, to hear the candidate explain his political views.
This he did briefly and rather indistinctly, and introduced his friend Mr. Gabriel Flame to them. Gabriel's name was received with unbounded applause-for it had been buzzed about that he was a liberal man, and would stand treat to any amount. This rumour was confirmed, when the voters were invited to meet him that very evening, in that very room, to enjoy his society, and a cheerful glass of any thing they pleased to call for.
As a preparation for the evening's amusement the baronet and the deputation invited Mr. Gabriel Flame to dine at the inn. The scene of the day before was acted over again, and when the large party assembled in the evening, no feeling of shyness existed in the breasts of any of the dinner-party. They were prepared to make themselves agreeable in any way the voters pleased, and as they pleased to smoke clay pipes of very strong tobacco, and drink strong punch, the deputation, the candidate, and his friend, joined them in the amusement. Gabriel, poor fellow, was very ill, and was put to bed by the butler at the Grange.
For more than a month, Gabriel was involved in this same sort of life. He was obliged to breakfast here, lunch there, take sundry glasses of ale with this man, and wine with that. He sat down daily to a dinner party, and wound up the evening at a punch party, after a supper of tripe and onions, or some other fragrant dish.
Still Gabriel was well. He had got seasoned to it, and was kept in such a state of constant excitement, that he had no time to think of any thing—but securing votes and voters—not even to think of his Arabella.
Gabriel, to ensure a vote, had on his arrival at Lowburgh, ordered two suits of clothes of an influential tailor. They fitted him too much that is, there was more broad cloth in them than he had been accustomed to—but use reconciled him to them, and they seemed daily to fit him more closely.
It was resolved, to ensure success, that he should give a ball to the ladies of the borough. Tickets were issued, and on the night of the ball, Gabriel determined to risk offending the voting tailor, by appearing to the ladies in his crack London “ evening costume.” He went up to dress after a copious dinner, and was surprised to find that his London clothes fitted him too little-he could not button them. A fear-a dread of something horrible came over him-a cold sweat seemed to issue from every pore of his body-he made an energetic attempt to make his buttons meet the button-holes, but they gave way in the attempt.
Gabriel groaned, and stood tremblingly, viewing himself in a large looking-glass, and after a careful survey of his reflected figure, fell fainting in a chair, from the conviction that he had grown fat. Yes; his throat was no longer a taper Byronial throat, but supported a second chin—a wad of fat. His waist was no longer discernible as a waist, it was part and parcel of a large middle of fat. Gabriel jumped into bed, and resolved to lie there and die. He never would be seen again.
“Oh, Arabella !" cried he, bursting, into tears, " you will hate me, for I am a fat man."
He was roused from his despondency by the baronet, who laughed at his sad plight, and told him that he could easily restore his figure, by going into training as soon as the election was over. Gabriel was sure he could, so he got up and went to the ball in one of his borough suits, and made up his mind to ensure his friend's return, and then undergo a course of gymnastics and sudorifics, to ensure the restoration of his pristine figure before the return of the Lady Arabella.
Another two months passed. Gabriel extended daily ; even the borough suits sat too tightly upon him. He ordered an enlarged edition; but even then, in less than a fortnight, he was convinced that the cloth shrunk. However, never mind-the election was to come off in a week—it did come off-the baronet was returned. Gabriel received the thanks of his friend, and a check from the deputation to cover all his expenses. He stopped for the chairing and the election dinner, and left for London, literally twice the man he was.
Gabriel arrived at his chambers. He knocked at his door. The housekeeper opened it and started back in amaze.
“ Bless us and save us! how fat you've got, sir !”
Gabriel made no reply, but went to bed and sent for Mr. Jackson, the professor of private pugilism. He revealed to him the secret which weighed on his mind, and asked his advice as to how he was to reduce himself. A plan was laid down, that was recommended by Captain Barclay, which, though severe, had been proved to be efficacious.