At the period when her
father obtained the prize, Sarah was on the eve of being united to a
respectable young man, a mechanic in the village; but now she was
forbidden to speak to or look on him. The cotton gown lay lighter on her
bosom than did its silken successor. Rebecca mocked her, and her father
persecuted her; but poor Sarah could not cast off the affections of her
heart like a worn garment. From childhood she had been blithe as the lark,
but now dull melancholy claimed her as its own. The smile and the rose
expired upon her cheeks together, and her health and happiness were
crushed beneath her father’s wealth. Rebecca, too, in their poverty had
been "respected like the lave;" but she now turned disdainfully from her
admirer, and when he dared to accost her, she inquired with a frown—"Who
are you, sir?" In her efforts also to speak properly, she committed foul
murder on his Majesty’s English; but she became the pride of her father’s
heart, his favourite daughter whom he delighted to honour.
Still feeling bitterly the
want of reverence which was shown him by the villagers, and resolved at
the same time to act as other gentlemen of fortune did, as winter drew on,
Mr. Donaldson removed, with his wife and daughters, and his son Peter, to
London. They took up their abode at an hotel in Albemarle Street; and
having brought the barouche with them, every afternoon Mr. Donaldson, and
his daughter Rebecca, drove round the Park. His dress was rich and his
carriage proud, and he lounged about the most fashionable places of
resort; but he was not yet initiated into the mysteries of fashion and
greatness; he was ignorant of the key by which their chambers were to be
unlocked; and it mortified and surprised him that Andrew Donaldson, Esq.,
of Luck’s Lodge—a gentleman who paid ready money for everything—received
no invitations to the routes, the assemblies, or tables of the haut
ton; but he paraded Bond Street, or sauntered on the Mall, with as
little respect shown to him as by his neighbours in the country. When he
had been a month in the metropolis, he discovered that he had made an
omission, and he paid two guineas for the announcement of his arrival in a
morning newspaper. "This will do!" said he, twenty times during breakfast,
as he held the paper in his hand. and twenty times read the
announcement,—"Arrived at ----Hotel Albemarle Street, A. Donaldson, Esq.,
of Luck’s Lodge, and family, from their seat in the north." But this did
not do; he found that it was two guineas thrown away, but consoled himself
with the thought that it would vex the Squire and the people of his native
village. With the hope of becoming familiar with the leading men of the
great world, he became a frequenter of the principal coffee-rooms. At one
of these, he shortly became acquainted with a Captain Edwards, who, as Mr.
Donaldson affirmed, was intimate with all the world, and bowed to and was
known by every nobleman they met. Edwards was one of those creatures who
live—Heaven knows how—who are without estates and without fortune, but who
appear in the resorts of Fashion as its very mirrors. In a word, he was
one of the hangers-on of the nobility and gentry—one of their blacklegs
and purveyors. Poor Mr. Donaldson thought him the greatest man he had ever
met with. He heard him accost noblemen on the streets in the afternoon
with—"Good morning, my lord," and they familiarly replied—"Ha!
Tom! what’s the news?" He had borrowed ten, fifty, and a hundred pounds
from his companion; and he had relieved him of a hundred or two more in
teaching him to play at whist; but vain, simple Mr. Donaldson never
conceived that such a great man and such a fashionable man could be
without money, though he could not be at the trouble to carry it. Edwards
was between thirty and forty years of age, but looked younger; his hair
was black, and tortured into ringlets; his upper lip was ornamented with
thin, curved mustachioes; and in his dress he was an exquisite, or a buck
as they were then called, of the first water. Mr. Donaldson invited him to
his hotel, where he became a daily visitor. He spoke of his uncle the
Bishop of such a place, and of his godfather the Earl of another—of his
estates in Wales, and the rich advowsons in his gift. Andrew gloried in
his fortune; he was now reaching the acme of his ambition; he
believed there would be no difficulty in getting his friend to bestow one
or more of the benefices, when vacant, upon his son Paul; and he thought
of sending for Paul to leave Edinburgh, and enter himself of Cambridge.
Rebecca displayed all her charms before the Captain; and the Captain all
his attractions before her. She triumphed in a conquest; so did he. Mr.
Donaldson now also began to give dinners—and to them Captain Edwards
invited the Honourable This, and Sir That; but in the midst of his own
feast he found himself a cipher, where he was neither looked upon nor
regarded, but had to think himself honoured in Honourables eating of the
banquet for which he had to pay. This galled him nearly as much as the
perverseness of his neighbours in the country in not lifting their hats to
him; but he feared to notice it, lest by so doing he should lose the
distinction of their society. From the manner in which his guests treated
him, they gave him few opportunities of betraying his origin; but, indeed,
though a vain, he was not an ignorant man.
While these doings were
carrying on in Albemarle Street, Mrs. Donaldson was, as she herself
expressed it, "uneasy as a fish taken from the water." She said "such
ongoings would be her death;" and she almost wished that the lottery
ticket had turned up a blank. Peter was studying the paintings in Somerset
House, and taking lessons in oil-colours; Rebecca mingled with the company
or flaunted with Captain Edwards; but poor Sarah drooped like a lily that
appeared before its time, and is bitten by the returning frost. She wasted
away—she died of a withered heart.
For a few weeks her death
stemmed the tide of fashionable folly and extravagance; for, although
vanity was the ruling passion of Andrew Donaldson, it could not altogether
extinguish the parent in his heart. But his wife was inconsolable; for
Sarah had been her favourite daughter, as Rebecca was his. It is a weak
and a wicked thing, sir, for parents to make favourites of one child more
than another—good never comes of it. Peter painted a portrait of his
deceased sister from memory, and sent it to the young man to whom she was
betrothed—I say betrothed, for she had said to him "I will,"
and they had broken a ring between them; each took a half of it; and, poor
thing, her part of it was found on her breast, in a small bag, when she
died. The Captain paid his daily visits—he condoled with Rebecca—and, in a
short time, she began to say it was a silly thing for her sister to die;
but she was a grovelling-minded girl, she had no spirit.
Soon after this, Captain
Edwards, in order to cheer Mr. Donaldson, obtained for him admission to a
club, where he introduced him to a needy peer, who was a sort of half
proprietor of a nomination borough, and had the sale of the representation
of a thousand souls. It was called his lordship’s borough. One of his
seats was then vacant, and was in the market; and his lordship was in want
of money. Captain Edwards whispered the matter to his friend Mr.
Donaldson. Now, the latter, though a vain man, and anxious to be thought a
fashionable man, was also a shrewd and a calculating man. His ideas
expanded—his ambition fired at the thought! He imagined he saw the words
ANDREW DONALDSON, ESQ., M.P., in capitals before him. He discovered that
he had had a turn for politics—he remembered that, when a working-man, he
had always been too much in an argument for the Black-nebs. He
thought of the flaming speeches he would make in parliament—he had a habit
of stamping his foot (for he thought it dignified), and he did so, and
half exclaimed—"Mr. Speaker!" But he thought also of his family—he sank
the idea of advowsons, and he had no doubt but he might push his son Paul
forward till he saw him Prime Minister or Lord Chancellor; Peter’s genius,
he thought, was such as to secure his appointment to the Board of Works
whenever he might apply for it; Jacob would make a Secretary to a foreign
ambassador; and for Rebecca he provided as a maid of honour. But, beyond
all this, he perceived also that, by writing the letters M.P. after
his name, he would be a greater man than the Squire of his native village,
and its inhabitants would then lift their hats to him when he went down to
his seat; or, if they did not, he would know how to punish them. He would
bring in severer bills on the game laws and against smuggling—he would
chastise them with a new turnpike act!
Such were the ideas that
passed rapidly through his mind when his friend Edwards suggested the
possibility of his becoming a member of parliament.
"And how much do you think
it would cost to obtain the seat?" inquired he, anxiously.
"Oh, only a few thousands,"
replied the Captain.
"How many, think ye!"
inquired Mr. Donaldson.
"Can’t say exactly,"
replied the other; "but my friend Mr. Borrowbridge, the solicitor in
Clement’s Inn, has the management of the affair—we shall inquire at him."
So they went to the
solicitor; the price agreed upon for the representation of the borough was
five thousand pounds; and the money was paid.
Mr. Donaldson returned to
his hotel, his heart swelling within him, and cutting the figures M.P. in
the air with his cane as he went along. A letter was despatched to Paul at
Edinburgh to write a speech for his father, which he might deliver on the
day of his nomination.
"O father!" exclaimed Paul,
as he read the letter, "much money hath made thee mad!"
The speech was written and
forwarded, though reluctantly, by return of post. It was short,
With the speech in his
pocket, Mr. Donaldson, accompanied by his friend Edwards, posted down to
the borough. But, to their horror, on arriving, they found that a
candidate of the opposite party had dared to contest the borough with the
nobleman’s nominee, and had commenced his canvass the day before. But what
was worse than all, they were told that he bled freely, and his friends
were distributing gooseberries right and left.
"What is the meaning of all
this?" said Mr. Donaldson—"have I not paid for the borough, and is it not
mine? I shall punish him for daring to poach upon my grounds."
And, breaking away from
Captain Edwards and his friends, he hurried out in quest of the Mayor, to
request advice from him. Nor had he gone far, till, addressing a person
who was employed in thatching a house— "Hollo, friend!" cried he, "can you
inform me where I shall find the right worshipful the Mayor?"
"Why, Zur!" replied the
thatcher, "I be’s the Mayor!" Andrew looked at him. "Heaven help us!"
thought he—"you the Mayor!—you!—a thatcher!—well may I be a member of
parliament!" But, without again addressing his worship, he hastened back
to his friends; and with them he was made sensible, that, although he had
given a consideration for the borough, yet, as oppositioi had started—as
the power of the patron was not omnipotent—as the other candidate was
bleeding freely—as he was keeping open houses and giving yellow
gooseberries— there was nothing for it but that Mr. Donaldson should
do the same.
"But, oh! how much will it
require?" again inquired the candidate, in a tone of anxiety.
"Oh, merely a thousand or
two!" again coolly rejoined Captain Edwards.
"A thousand or two!"
ejaculated Mr. Donaldson, for the thousands were becoming few. But, like
King Richard, he had "set his fate upon a cast," and he "would stand the
hazard of the die." As to his landed qualification, if elected, the patron
was to provide for that; and, after a few words from his friend Edwards,
"Richard was himself again"—his fears vanished—the ocean of his ambition
opened before him—he saw golden prospects for himself and for his
family—he could soon, when elected, redeem a few thousands; and he bled,
he opened houses, he gave gooseberries as his opponent did.