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The Bedford-Row Conspiracy William Makepeace Thackeray

I. Of the loves of Mr. Perkins and Miss Gorgon, and of the two great factions in the town of Oldborough.

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"General!" cried Lady Gorgon, but could say no more. Scully was before her.

"Madam!" exclaimed the Liberal Member for Oldborough, "in a moment like this--I say--that is--that on the present occasion--your Ladyship--unaccustomed as I am--pooh, psha--WILL your Ladyship give me the distinguished honour and pleasure of going down the country-dance with your Ladyship?"

An immense heave of her Ladyship's ample chest was perceptible. Yards of blond lace, which might be compared to a foam of the sea, were agitated at the same moment, and by the same mighty emotion. The river of diamonds which flowed round her Ladyship's neck, seemed to swell and to shine more than ever. The tall plumes on her ambrosial head bowed down beneath the storm. In other words, Lady Gorgon, in a furious rage, which she was compelled to restrain, trembled, drew up, and bowing majestically, said,--

"Sir, I shall have much pleasure." With this, she extended her hand. Scully, trembling, thrust forward one of his huge kid-gloves, and led her to the head of the country-dance. John Perkins--who I presume had been drinking pretty freely, so as to have forgotten his ordinary bashfulness--looked at the three Gorgons in blue, then at the pretty smiling one in white, and stepping up to her, without the smallest hesitation, asked her if she would dance with him.

The young lady smilingly agreed. The great example of Scully and Lady Gorgon was followed by all dancing men and women. Political enmities were forgotten. Whig voters invited Tory voters' wives to the dance. The daughters of Reform accepted the hands of the sons of Conservatism. The reconciliation of the Romans and Sabines was not more touching than this sweet fusion. Whack--whack! Springer clapped his hands; and the fiddlers adroitly obeying the cheerful signal, began playing "Sir Roger de Coverley" louder than ever.

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I do not know by what extraordinary charm (nescio qua praeter solitum, etc.), but young Perkins, who all his life had hated country-dances, was delighted with this one, and skipped and laughed, poussetting, crossing, down-the-middling, with his merry little partner, till every one of the bettermost sort of the thirty-nine couples had dropped panting away, and till the youngest Miss Gorgon, coming up to his partner, said in a loud hissing scornful whisper, "Lucy, Mamma thinks you have danced quite enough with this--this person." And Lucy, blushing, starting back, and looking at Perkins in a very melancholy way, made him a little curtsey, and went off to the Gorgonian party with her cousin. Perkins was too frightened to lead her back to her place--too frightened at first, and then too angry. "Person!" said he: his soul swelled with a desperate republicanism: he went back to his patron more of a Radical than ever.

He found that gentleman in the solitary tea-room, pacing up and down before the observant landlady and handmaidens of the "Gorgon Arms," wiping his brows, gnawing his fingers--his ears looming over his stiff white shirt-collar as red as fire. Once more the great man seized John Perkins's hand as the latter came up.

"D----- the aristocrats!" roared the ex-follower of Squaretoes.

"And so say I! but what's the matter, sir?"

"What's the matter?--Why, that woman--that infernal, haughty, straitlaced, cold-blooded brewer's daughter! I loved that woman, sir--I KISSED that woman, sir, twenty years ago: we were all but engaged, sir: we've walked for hours and hours, sir--us and the governess--I've got a lock of her hair, sir, among my papers now; and to-night, would you believe it?--as soon as she got to the bottom of the set, away she went--not one word would she speak to me all the way down: and when I wanted to lead her to her place, and asked her if she would have a glass of negus, 'Sir,' says she, 'I have done my duty; I bear no malice: but I consider you a traitor to Sir George Gorgon's family--a traitor and an upstart! I consider your speaking to me as a piece of insolent vulgarity, and beg you will leave me to myself!' There's her speech, sir. Twenty people heard it, and all of her Tory set too. I'll tell you what, Jack: at the next election I'll put YOU up. Oh that woman! that woman!- -and to think that I love her still!" Here Mr. Scully paused, and fiercely consoled himself by swallowing three cups of Mrs. Rincer's green tea.

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The Bedford-Row Conspiracy
William Makepeace Thackeray

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