Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Chapters 61-63

CHAPTER 63

In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance

Such polite behaviour as that of Lord Tapeworm did not fail to have the most favourable effect upon Mr. Sedley's mind, and the very next morning, at breakfast, he pronounced his opinion that Pumpernickel was the pleasantest little place of any which he had visited on their tour. Jos's motives and artifices were not very difficult of comprehension, and Dobbin laughed in his sleeve, like a hypocrite as he was, when he found, by the knowing air of the civilian and the offhand manner in which the latter talked about Tapeworm Castle and the other members of the family, that Jos had been up already in the morning, consulting his travelling Peerage. Yes, he had seen the Right Honourable the Earl of Bagwig, his lordship's father; he was sure he had, he had met him at — at the Levee — didn't Dob remember? and when the Diplomatist called on the party, faithful to his promise, Jos received him with such a salute and honours as were seldom accorded to the little Envoy. He winked at Kirsch on his Excellency's arrival, and that emissary, instructed before-hand, went out and superintended an entertainment of cold meats, jellies, and other delicacies, brought in upon trays, and of which Mr. Jos absolutely insisted that his noble guest should partake.

Tapeworm, so long as he could have an opportunity of admiring the bright eyes of Mrs. Osborne (whose freshness of complexion bore daylight remarkably well) was not ill pleased to accept any invitation to stay in Mr. Sedley's lodgings; he put one or two dexterous questions to him about India and the dancing-girls there; asked Amelia about that beautiful boy who had been with her; and complimented the astonished little woman upon the prodigious sensation which she had made in the house; and tried to fascinate Dobbin by talking of the late war and the exploits of the Pumpernickel contingent under the command of the Hereditary Prince, now Duke of Pumpernickel.

Lord Tapeworm inherited no little portion of the family gallantry, and it was his happy belief that almost every woman upon whom he himself cast friendly eyes was in love with him. He left Emmy under the persuasion that she was slain by his wit and attractions and went home to his lodgings to write a pretty little note to her. She was not fascinated, only puzzled, by his grinning, his simpering, his scented cambric handkerchief, and his high-heeled lacquered boots. She did not understand one-half the compliments which he paid; she had never, in her small experience of mankind, met a professional ladies' man as yet, and looked upon my lord as something curious rather than pleasant; and if she did not admire, certainly wondered at him. Jos, on the contrary, was delighted. "How very affable his Lordship is," he said; "How very kind of his Lordship to say he would send his medical man! Kirsch, you will carry our cards to the Count de Schlusselback directly; the Major and I will have the greatest pleasure in paying our respects at Court as soon as possible. Put out my uniform, Kirsch — both our uniforms. It is a mark of politeness which every English gentleman ought to show to the countries which he visits to pay his respects to the sovereigns of those countries as to the representatives of his own."

When Tapeworm's doctor came, Doctor von Glauber, Body Physician to H.S.H. the Duke, he speedily convinced Jos that the Pumpernickel mineral springs and the Doctor's particular treatment would infallibly restore the Bengalee to youth and slimness. "Dere came here last year," he said, "Sheneral Bulkeley, an English Sheneral, tvice so pic as you, sir. I sent him back qvite tin after tree months, and he danced vid Baroness Glauber at the end of two."

Jos's mind was made up; the springs, the Doctor, the Court, and the Charge d'Affaires convinced him, and he proposed to spend the autumn in these delightful quarters. And punctual to his word, on the next day the Charge d'Affaires presented Jos and the Major to Victor Aurelius XVII, being conducted to their audience with that sovereign by the Count de Schlusselback, Marshal of the Court.

They were straightway invited to dinner at Court, and their intention of staying in the town being announced, the politest ladies of the whole town instantly called upon Mrs. Osborne; and as not one of these, however poor they might be, was under the rank of a Baroness, Jos's delight was beyond expression. He wrote off to Chutney at the Club to say that the Service was highly appreciated in Germany, that he was going to show his friend, the Count de Schlusselback, how to stick a pig in the Indian fashion, and that his august friends, the Duke and Duchess, were everything that was kind and civil.

Emmy, too, was presented to the august family, and as mourning is not admitted in Court on certain days, she appeared in a pink crape dress with a diamond ornament in the corsage, presented to her by her brother, and she looked so pretty in this costume that the Duke and Court (putting out of the question the Major, who had scarcely ever seen her before in an evening dress, and vowed that she did not look five-and-twenty) all admired her excessively.

In this dress she walked a Polonaise with Major Dobbin at a Court ball, in which easy dance Mr. Jos had the honour of leading out the Countess of Schlusselback, an old lady with a hump back, but with sixteen good quarters of nobility and related to half the royal houses of Germany.

Pumpernickel stands in the midst of a happy valley through which sparkles — to mingle with the Rhine somewhere, but I have not the map at hand to say exactly at what point — the fertilizing stream of the Pump. In some places the river is big enough to support a ferry- boat, in others to turn a mill; in Pumpernickel itself, the last Transparency but three, the great and renowned Victor Aurelius XIV built a magnificent bridge, on which his own statue rises, surrounded by water-nymphs and emblems of victory, peace, and plenty; he has his foot on the neck of a prostrate Turk — history says he engaged and ran a Janissary through the body at the relief of Vienna by Sobieski — but, quite undisturbed by the agonies of that prostrate Mahometan, who writhes at his feet in the most ghastly manner, the Prince smiles blandly and points with his truncheon in the direction of the Aurelius Platz, where he began to erect a new palace that would have been the wonder of his age had the great- souled Prince but had funds to complete it. But the completion of Monplaisir (Monblaisir the honest German folks call it) was stopped for lack of ready money, and it and its park and garden are now in rather a faded condition, and not more than ten times big enough to accommodate the Court of the reigning Sovereign.

The gardens were arranged to emulate those of Versailles, and amidst the terraces and groves there are some huge allegorical waterworks still, which spout and froth stupendously upon fete-days, and frighten one with their enormous aquatic insurrections. There is the Trophonius' cave in which, by some artifice, the leaden Tritons are made not only to spout water, but to play the most dreadful groans out of their lead conchs — there is the nymphbath and the Niagara cataract, which the people of the neighbourhood admire beyond expression, when they come to the yearly fair at the opening of the Chamber, or to the fetes with which the happy little nation still celebrates the birthdays and marriage-days of its princely governors.

Then from all the towns of the Duchy, which stretches for nearly ten mile — from Bolkum, which lies on its western frontier bidding defiance to Prussia, from Grogwitz, where the Prince has a hunting- lodge, and where his dominions are separated by the Pump River from those of the neighbouring Prince of Potzenthal; from all the little villages, which besides these three great cities, dot over the happy principality — from the farms and the mills along the Pump come troops of people in red petticoats and velvet head-dresses, or with three-cornered hats and pipes in their mouths, who flock to the Residenz and share in the pleasures of the fair and the festivities there. Then the theatre is open for nothing, then the waters of Monblaisir begin to play (it is lucky that there is company to behold them, for one would be afraid to see them alone) — then there come mountebanks and riding troops (the way in which his Transparency was fascinated by one of the horse-riders is well known, and it is believed that La Petite Vivandiere, as she was called, was a spy in the French interest), and the delighted people are permitted to march through room after room of the Grand Ducal palace and admire the slippery floor, the rich hangings, and the spittoons at the doors of all the innumerable chambers. There is one Pavilion at Monblaisir which Aurelius Victor XV had arranged — a great Prince but too fond of pleasure — and which I am told is a perfect wonder of licentious elegance. It is painted with the story of Bacchus and Ariadne, and the table works in and out of the room by means of a windlass, so that the company was served without any intervention of domestics. But the place was shut up by Barbara, Aurelius XV's widow, a severe and devout Princess of the House of Bolkum and Regent of the Duchy during her son's glorious minority, and after the death of her husband, cut off in the pride of his pleasures.

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