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The Bedford-Row Conspiracy William Makepeace Thackeray

III. Behind the scenes.

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In issuing from and leaving open the door of the inner room, Mr. Crampton had bestowed upon Mr. Perkins a look so peculiarly arch, that even he, simple as he was, began to imagine that some mystery was about to be cleared up, or some mighty matter to be discussed. Presently he heard the well-known voice of Lady Gorgon in conversation with his uncle. What could their talk be about? Mr. Perkins was dying to know, and--shall we say it?--advanced to the door on tiptoe and listened with all his might.

Her Ladyship, that Juno of a woman, if she had not borrowed Venus's girdle to render herself irresistible, at least had adopted a tender, coaxing, wheedling, frisky tone, quite different from her ordinary dignified style of conversation. She called Mr. Crampton a naughty man, for neglecting his old friends, vowed that Sir George was quite hurt at his not coming to dine--nor fixing a day when he would come--and added, with a most engaging ogle, that she had three fine girls at home, who would perhaps make an evening pass pleasantly, even to such a gay bachelor as Mr. Crampton.

"Madam," said he, with much gravity, "the daughters of such a mother must be charming; but I, who have seen your Ladyship, am, alas! proof against even them."

Both parties here heaved tremendous sighs and affected to be wonderfully unhappy about something.

"I wish," after a pause, said Lady Gorgon--"I wish, dear Mr. Crampton, you would not use that odious title 'my Ladyship:' you know it always makes me melancholy."

"Melancholy, my dear Lady Gorgon; and why?"

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"Because it makes me think of another title that ought to have been mine--ours (I speak for dear Sir George's and my darling boy's sake, Heaven knows, not mine). What a sad disappointment it has been to my husband, that after all his services, all the promises he has had, they have never given him his peerage. As for me, you know--"

"For you, my dear madam, I know quite well that you care for no such bauble as a coronet, except in so far as it may confer honour upon those most dear to you--excellent wife and noble mother as you are. Heigho! what a happy man is Sir George!"

Here there was another pause, and if Mr. Perkins could have seen what was taking place behind the screen, he would have beheld little Mr. Crampton looking into Lady Gorgon's face, with as love-sick a Romeo-gaze as he could possibly counterfeit; while her Ladyship, blushing somewhat and turning her own grey gogglers up to heaven, received all his words for gospel, and sat fancying herself to be the best, most meritorious, and most beautiful creature in the three kingdoms.

"You men are terrible flatterers," continued she; "but you say right: for myself I value not these empty distinctions. I am growing old, Mr. Crampton,--yes, indeed, I am, although you smile so incredulously,--and let me add, that MY thoughts are fixed upon HIGHER things than earthly crowns. But tell me, you who are all in all with Lord Bagwig, are we never to have our peerage? His Majesty, I know, is not averse; the services of dear Sir George to a member of His Majesty's august family, I know, have been appreciated in the highest quarter. Ever since the peace we have had a promise. Four hundred pounds has Sir George spent at the Heralds' Office (I myself am of one of the most ancient families in the kingdom, Mr. Crampton), and the poor dear man's health is really ruined by the anxious sickening feeling of hope so long delayed."

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The Bedford-Row Conspiracy
William Makepeace Thackeray

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