Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/Business with Bokes
BUSINESS WITH BOKES.
We are told that we may know men by their friends. But suppose they have no friends? How is it possible in that desperate case to arrive at a correct estimation of our fellow-creatures? Well, I think that we may know men by their waistcoats, by their shirt-collars, by their whiskers, by their books, by their furniture, by their surroundings generally.
Now, Tom Lupthorpe, in connection with whom I am about to relate certain facts, had friends. For instance, Budder was one of them: Crickson was another: I was a third. No doubt, therefore, it was open to the critical observer by taking account of Budder, and Crickson, and myself, or somehow by adding us together, and dividing the total by three, to regard the result, or average, so obtained, as a fair valuation of Tom Lupthorpe. But I think that an estimate of equal correctness might have been reached by a less complicated method. I may be led to this opinion, perhaps, by an inclination to shrink from arithmetical effort, which, as it is purely natural and constitutional, and quite out of my control, I have no hesitation in avowing. By no process of calculation could I ever persuade a sum of addition, however simple bystanders may have chosen to call it, to yield a correct product, or one that did not singularly vary upon each occasion of my testing it. Consequently I should have preferred to derive my appreciation of my friend’s character from other sources. I should have put Budder on one side, and Crickson, and myself, and have set to work to study Tom Lupthorpe, quite as an isolated subject. I should have held a severe inquest upon his personal appearance, his manners, and dress. And certainly my friend betrayed himself abundantly in these matters. His was not an involved character; his idiosyncrasy presented few remarkable traits. A foundation of admirable amiability and geniality of disposition, and reared upon this a rather rickety mental edifice; extreme irresoluteness, much vacillation of purpose: a mind of a sort of putty material, which could be pinched, and pressed, and kneaded into almost any shape the operator might fancy. And this much was surely perceptible, even upon a cursory examination; for, indeed, in the most trivial affairs of life his want of decision was demonstrated; in the brushing of his hair, the cut of his beard, the fashion of his necktie. He never could resolve definitively as to the side of his head on which he would draw the conventional line of division of his hair. He never knew exactly whether he would wear his straggling straw-coloured moustache with the ends turned up defiantly, or down pensively; and, as often as not, in his indecision, had one up and one down, like a railway semaphore signalling the approach of a train; whether he would denude his chin with his razor, or clothe it with a beard, now to be worn long and streaming, now short, sharp, and pointed; now a thick, bushy, blunt spade form; now pared away to a mere comma or sedilla on his lower jaw, which receded of course; or where would physiognomy be in respect to men of feeble volitions? He had always found much difficulty in the proceeding known as making up his mind. Perhaps, altogether, this gave rather a pleasantly helpless and benignly imbecile expression to his face. He had made, of course, two or three false starts in life. The wonder was that he had ever “got off,” as the phrase is, at all. At the time I first knew him, he was an artist, occupying a second floor in a small street turning out of the upper end of Tottenham Court Road. I believe he had been originally destined for the church; had lurched towards the army, was found for a short time stranded on a high stool in a lawyer’s office, was next said to be reading hard for the bar, and then was suddenly discovered to be a painter, following no particular line of art, but in a sort of irregular service, struggling on a plan of his own, independently of any one else, and in defiance of all rules and precedents. Not from any over muscularity of his mind prescribing for him a particular career of informal action, but simply because in his irresoluteness he was turned and twisted by every gale that blew, carried away by any chance current that came near him. He had commenced with a success in portraiture, then had developed a passion for landscape, had burst out with a grand historical work, and then had suddenly subsided into genre, with a suspicion enduring the while that he might at any time revert to the former branches of his profession: like a squirrel leaping in a tree, his movements seemed to be entirely without method, and could not possibly be predicted. I am bound to say, however, that he had very considerable art-talent, and though his works were rather indications than developed proofs of this, they were, nevertheless, very charming, and might have been of much more commercial advantage to him than his want of judicious dealing with them would permit them to be.
“How are you, Lupthorpe?”
“Hard up. That is, I have been; as hard up this morning for five shillings, as I should think a fellow ever was. However, it’s all right now.”
“Where’s that pretty little sketch you made in Epping Forest?” I asked, as I looked round the studio. It had been a favourite drawing of mine, and it generally rested on the mantel-piece, and I always went straightway to contemplate it whenever I called on Lupthorpe. I may say here that his was not by any means a comfortable studio; it was, like its tenant, so wanting in decision of character. It looked as though at one time it had wanted to become a drawing-room, and then before it could bring that idea to maturity it had abandoned it in favour of being a bed-room, ultimately to revert again to its old studio destiny. Thus, a loo-table, with an ornamental cover, stood in one corner of the room; in another a washing-stand painted to resemble an upholsterer’s notion of bamboo, that is to say, a bright yellow colour, with here and there mysterious brown dabs and lines, and speckles. Of course, the washing-stand flatly contradicted the loo-table, and at direct issue with both of these were the easels, and the paint boxes, and the groups of boards and canvases leaning against the wall. The effect was embarrassing to the visitor, who was always torn with doubts as to how he ought to behave himself, and whether it could possibly be permissible to smoke.
“Where’s the Epping Forest sketch?”
“I’ve sold it. To Moss Bokes. For five shillings.”
He jerked out the words with evident effort, as though he did not like parting with them.
“For five shillings? Why it was well worth five pounds, if not ten!”
“Do you think so?” he asked, meekly.
“Oh! no,” cried some one in the depth of shadow of the window, the half of which was covered to exclude the light, “it vas only vorth a crown, vorth vot I give for it, not a farding more. A poor little thing. I shall have a hard job to sell it agin, and get my money back.”
Moss Bokes was the speaker. I could see him now standing behind Lupthorpe, and if I could not have seen him I should have recognised him by his voice. For there was no mistaking Moss Bokes’s voice. It had all the peculiarities of his nation. Need I say that the purchaser of Lupthorpe’s “Epping Forest,” for five shillings, was of what is called the Jewish persuasion? The voice evidenced the ordinary stoppage in his nose—(it was a roomy-looking and largely moulded nose, too, and was not so ornamentally formed but what it might have been useful)—and seemed influenced by a perennial cold in his head, and it had the usual husky gutturalness and indistinctness which may proceed from labial peculiarities or lingual excess of size. An anatomical question here presents itself, upon which I hardly feel justified in entering: the reader who has ever talked with one of Mr. Bokes’s nation will understand the kind of voice I desire to describe; if not, he has only to listen to the persuasive tones of the next crier of “Old Clo’!” who passes down his street, to be thoroughly acquainted with it. A small old man, with a hat much too large for him, and a thick stock of dusky black silk round his neck, fastened with a huge buckle at the back—a stock of so ample a circumference that he could avail himself of it easily, if necessary, to withdraw his chin and almost his nose from public view. In fact, it always seemed to me that by pulling his stock well up and his hat well down, Bokes could have, at any moment, rendered himself invisible so far as his face was concerned. A dusty olive-green coat of remote antiquity, high in the collar, short in the waist, and long in the skirt; thin sallow claw-like hands, that were generally either buried in his pockets or concealed by overhanging cuffs; a stunted beard of rather a patchy piebald aspect—here orange, there grisly grey—there quite white; prominent green eyes with a glassy glitter in them; and I think I have catalogued the specialities of Mr. Bokes’s appearance.
“A poor little thing! Vot am I to do vith it now I got it? Who’ll buy it of me I should like to know? I don’t know no one. But I’m so veak; there’s vhere it ish. I’m so veak, ’specially when a gent says to me, ‘Bokes,’ says he, or ‘Mossy,’ if he’s more intimate, ‘buy a picture of us?’ vhy, I buys it right off. I’m so veak, and loses no end of money by it; that’s me all over, that is.”
He gesticulated violently as he spoke, and smiled and chuckled, and put his head on one side, and shrugged his shoulders, and meanwhile held his purchase tight under his arm.
“I never thought, Lup, that you’d have sold it for such a figure as that,” I said.
“No!” cried Bokes, exultingly, “else you’d have bought it yourself. Vouldn’t you now?”
“Well, I don’t buy pictures——”
“No. You sells them; and sellers alvays vants to keep up prices, don’t they?” and Mr. Bokes laughed loudly, stamping on the floor in his merriment. May I avow that I, at that moment, felt a passionate longing to “bonnet” Bokes where he stood, as violently as might be. I resisted that longing and overcame it. I hardly know now whether I am glad or sorry that I did so. I turned to Lupthorpe.
“That’s a pretty thing you’re painting there, Lup.”
“Do you think so? I hardly know what to make of it yet; or what it means, quite. Can you give us a name for it?”
“Call it Paul and Virginia,” interrupted Bokes, “that’s a good selling name.”
“Don’t be absurd, Bokes. You know it won’t do for that.”
“Well, vasn’t I advising you against my own interest? Put a little more brown on the boy’s face, and it’ll do very vell.”
“I was thinking of Lorenzo and Isabella—that might do?” said Lupthorpe, turning his puzzled-looking face to me, “or Lorenzo and Jessica,—or Romeo and Juliet,—or Claudio and Isabella,—or Claudio and Hero,—or Hero and Leander—no, that wouldn’t do. Dear me. How difficult it is to find a good name for a picture.”
“What’s that sketch over there?”
“O, I designed that for a large picture as big as that side of the room, a Jael and Sisera, or a Judith and Holofernes, I don’t know which it will be. Crickson, who was here the other day, advised me to make it a Samson and Dalilah, or if not that, a Charlotte Corday and Marat. You see it would come very well for any one of them.”
“I’ll buy it, I’ll buy it,” cried Bokes; “what shall we say for this pretty little thing?” and he brought out a handful of silver from his pocket and began to swing it about before us. “I don’t bear no malice,” he said, “I’ll trade with you; let me do a deal with you—do. What shall we say?—one half-crown, two half-crowns, three half-crowns—four; do let me do a deal with you, Tom, my boy.”
“No, Mr. Bokes,” I said to him, sternly, “we’ll have no more dealings here at present. You’ve done too good a morning’s work as it is.”
“To think of saying that now,” cried the Jew, in a tone of expostulation. “Suppose I’d bought it—the poor little thing! Vot should I have done vith it? I don’t know, no more than the dead. But I’m so veak—there’s vere it is—so veak!”
“How can I help it?” asked Lupthorpe, piteously, after the Jew had gone, in answer to my regrets on the loss of Epping Forest. “He would have it you know, and I don’t know how much things are worth. Well, it does seem a poor price certainly, as you say; but I did want five shillings rather badly, and then—and then—you know—Bokes isn’t such a bad sort of fellow after all. I wish though he wouldn’t call me Tom. I do wish that. It does not sound well.”
“You’ve sold him a good many things, haven’t you, Lup?”
“Well, I have, at poor prices certainly, I must admit. But what can I do? He comes here, and talks, and stands at the back of me, and says, ‘Well, that is a poor little thing you’re painting there—that is—and no mistake—a very poor little thing. What do you expect you’ll ever do with that? You’ll never sell it, you know, never,’ and so on, and a cold shiver seems to come over me, and I begin to think it is rather a twopenny sort of thing I’m at work on, and then he gets rattling his money about in his pockets ever so much—and then he says, ‘A crown. I wouldn’t mind giving a crown, though it’s more than it’s worth, and I shall never get my money again, never,’ and then he brings out half-crowns, and flings them up in the air, and catches them, and chinks them together, and drops them on the floor, and they roll over my feet and settle down right before me; and I begin to think I do want a few shillings rather badly—and—and it ends in his taking off the picture at his own price.”
“And his selling it for fifty times as much.”
“Do you think so, really? Well, he says not.”
A burly red-cheeked gentleman strode into the studio. He looked more like a farmer than an artist; still he was one.
“How are you two fellows?” He had a grand, loud, hearty, healthy voice, full-flavoured, and with plenty of body in it, as some merchants say of port. Eminently a strong, stout man’s voice.
“Hullo, Crickson. Did you meet Bokes?”
“Bokes? Connais pas Bokes (Crickson had studied in French ateliers evidently), and don’t want to. I’ve heard of him, though: a dealer? of course. No. We’ve got our own vampire at Camden Town. I should like to see Bokes come on his beat.”
Painters are always gregarious. They all love to establish distinct quartiers of their own. Wherever you find one you may be sure there are plenty more not far off. They don’t live as single figures, but compose themselves into groups. Hence art colonies are established in various parts of the town; one at Camden Town; one at Pimlico; one at Bayswater; with always the old parent stock near Fitzroy Square; to say nothing of a snug little branch settlement near Langham Church. Crickson was of the Camden Town migration.
“What are you painting, Lup? Lord Leicester and Miss Robsart? or the Earl of Surrey and the Fair Geraldine? or Shakspere and Ann Hathaway before they were married?”
“Thank you, Crickson, those are very good names. I’m sure I don’t know which to choose. Do you like it? It’s a mere sketch, you know, and I’ve had very little nature for it at present.”
“Yes, it’s very nice. I think there’s rather shaky drawing about that knee, though, old fellow, and you have got some queer colour in the girl’s hair.”
“What do you think I ought to ask for it?”
“Ask anything you like, and you’re sure to get it. All that’s wanted in these matters is confidence—or cheek, if you think that’s a better word. And I’m not at all sure that it isn’t. Why, I was twelve hours the other day wrangling about price with a fellow down Camden Town way. And then at last we stood ten shillings off each other. I offered to fight him for the difference, or to wrestle him for it, or to walk him for it, or run, or hop, or swim, or row him for it. Still we couldn’t come to terms. Then I lost my temper and threatened to throw him out of window, and the sneak, would you believe it? he gave in. I haven’t done a stroke of work since, and shan’t till the money’s all gone. It has nearly.”
Crickson was rather like that pupil of Berghem’s named Theodore Visscher, who we are told disdained to carry his stock of money in his pockets, but always walked about with it in his hands, notifying his possession of it thus simply to his companions, and carousing with them until all was expended.
We told him about Bokes.
“Five shillings for that lovely little study. My eyes! what a shame. Why, Lup, you are the dearest old flat that ever lived, I do believe! I tell you what I was thinking of doing with our Camden Town vampire the next time I have a deal with him. I was reading the other day—was it Roman or Grecian history? Have you got a Pinnock, Lup?”
“Yes, I think I have somewhere, a geography.”
“Ah, that won’t do. Well you know what I mean—about that old woman the Sybil, you know, who offered the books to the fellow to buy, and when he wouldn’t trade with her, went home and burnt some of them, and then offered to sell him the rest at the same price—or was it double? I forget which; and went on burning and offering to sell the rest, until the fellow bought them of her at her own figure. You know what I mean. Well, I intend to pursue the same course with my next picture.”
“What! Burn half of it?” cried Lupthorpe, alarmedly.
“Well, no, not that so much as asking double for it, every day, until the dealer buys it at last. And he’s sure to, you mark my words. Name your price and don’t flinch from it—rather increase than decrease—and you’ll get it, you’re sure to. These men mean buying, sir, it’s their trade; they must buy—they can’t help it—and you can get out of them any price you like if you only know how to set about it. Ask a hundred of Bokes for that, and you’ll get it—you see if you don’t; only persist in it, stick to the hundred, threaten to make it a hundred and fifty if he’s obstinate; tell him you’d sooner put your foot through it, or put it on the fire, than let it go for less, and you’ll get your price at last—only see if you don’t. When does Bokes come here again?”
“He generally looks in on Mondays.”
“He’s made a good thing out of you, Lup. It’s time you should make something out of him. Mind now you don’t go selling him anything more without letting me know. Promise it.”
“Well, I’ll try not to,” said Lupthorpe, with much self-distrust.
A fortnight and great progress had been made with the picture. Hugo and Parasina it was finally named. I believe there were a few anachronisms in the matter of costume, but then these are usual in paintings. Mobbs (late of the 10th Hussars) had been sitting for Hugo, and pretty Miss Briggs (of Upper Paradise Place, Hampstead Road, top bell and a single knock, please), had posed for Parasina. It was decidedly a very admirable work, and did Lupthorpe infinite credit. Soon, it was finished.
“Itsh pretty; yes, itsh pretty. But it ishn’t much. I wouldn’t mind a tenner. Vat do you say Tom, my tear, a tenner—think of that.” And Mr. Bokes waved a Bank of England note in the air.
“Think of Crickson,” I whispered to Lup, for I saw he was yielding.
“Fifteen, then; come, twenty; there, twenty-five; I can’t say fairer.” It was evident that Bokes wanted the picture very badly.
“Am I right?” asked a bland voice at the door. “Is this Mr. Lupthorpe’s? I think the name is Lupthorpe. Oh, this is Mr. Lupthorpe’s. Thank you.”
An elderly gentleman, with smooth grey hair, and gold-rimmed spectacles, and a white neckerchief, a most respectable looking gentleman, clothed in a shiny suit of black, entered the room; he felt in his pockets for a letter. He produced and read it. He addressed himself to me in the first instance, mistaking me for Lupthorpe. I set him right.
“I am commissioned, sir,” he said, “as the London agent of” (he mentioned a name greatly venerated in studios, the name of a large purchaser of works of art, let us call him Smith of Manchester) “as the London agent of Mr. Smith of Manchester, to make an offer for a picture in your studio, called, I believe, Hugo and Parasina.”
“Indeed!” said the aghast Lupthorpe.
“Close with me, my tear boy,” whispered Bokes. “Thirty-seven pund ten; forty, there!”
“My instructions will prevent my offering more than a hundred pounds for the picture,” said the London agent of Mr. Smith of Manchester.
“A hundred pounds!” cried the Jew.
“I have the money with me,” said the agent, putting his hand in his pocket.
“So have I; so have I,” cried Moss Bokes. “Guineas. I’ll give guineas; take the money, my tear Tom, you’ll sell to me in preference to a stranger, von’t you, now? Ah! that’s right!”
The bland agent expressed his regret that he could make no advance on his offer. So Lupthorpe closed with the Jew, and gave him a receipt for the money as the agent left the room. Mr. Bokes nearly cried as he brought out the money—in gold, notes, silver, partly even in half-pence; then he danced round the picture and gazed into it; nearly colouring his nose with the wet paint, he inspected it so closely, and his green eyes sparkling with joy; then he subsided into an assumed despondency.
“A lot of money! I shall never see it again. Never! And what shall I do with this poor little pictur now that I’ve got it? Dear me! it will be a dead loss to me. But I am so veak, so precious veak! There’s vhere it is. I alvays vas!” And he went off in a cab, with Hugo and Parasina on the seat opposite to him.
“Well, that’s the best business I think I ever did with Bokes!” cried Lupthorpe, with elation, after the door had closed upon the Jew. “A hundred guineas for that little picture is really a very respectable price. I should have liked, though, rather to have sold it to Smith of Manchester. It would have been a good thing to have commenced a connexion with Smith of Manchester. Only Bokes was so pressing.”
Just then Mr. Smith’s agent re-entered the room. He stared at us curiously, and then commenced tearing off his white neckerchief, flinging a grey wig, and a pair of gold rimmed spectacles into the middle of the room, and capering round them extravagantly. It was Crickson!
“I consider that a very neat piece of acting,” he said; “and I think I circumnavigated Bokes in rather a superior manner. Lup, I congratulate you. You’ve made a good thing out of Bokes at last. Thanks to me. It was a grand idea. I shall get one of you fellows to try the same trick on with our Camden Town vampire.”
“Then, Smith of Manchester,” Lupthorpe began, in a disappointed tone—
“All a delusion, my dear Lup. He doesn’t want Hugo and Parasina, and wouldn’t give you a hundred pounds for them, so far as I know, any more than I would—and now I suppose some one will give me something to drink, for picture buying is very dry work,”—and Mr. Crickson began to amuse himself with a tumbler.
In the evening Budder called. He was always welcome to Lupthorpe’s studio; and indeed, at a good many other studios. We were sitting round the fire, and some of us were smoking, and there was a strong odour of whiskey and hot water in the room, which some of us must have been drinking. At this distance of time I may be forgiven for not remembering precisely who it must have been.
Budder was not an artist. He was an articled clerk in the firm of Blinker, Jugman, and Moggles, Austin Friars, City; and what with his official duties, bitter ale at all times of the day, late hours, reading law books while he drank cold green tea, and sat with a wet towel wrapped round his head, like a turbaned Turk who had been pumped upon, preparing for his examination, he had rather a pale and uncomfortable appearance, and had the coldest and flabbiest hands I ever met with—shaking hands with him was something like taking hold of the tail of a dead cod-fish.
He knew nothing about art, though he had many friends among the artists. But after all, friendship is just as unreasonable as love. Perhaps in both it is best to begin with a little aversion. How is it that men, with diametrically opposed minds, are always such fast friends with each other? Ideal poets cling to anatomical professors. Visionary politicians are fast allies of analytical chemists. We artists were cleaving to a lawyer.
Not, after all, that Budder was much of a lawyer really, though undoubtedly he seemed so to us. Upon reflection, I think now that though he is an unquestionable authority upon fly-fishing, and pigeon shooting, and bagatelle even—and I should not hesitate to accept a dictum of his upon any of these heads as quite final—he is perhaps the last man I should go to for a decision upon a strictly legal question.
We put him in possession of the story of our business with Bokes. He smoked over it a pipe of the very strongest tobacco I should think procurable anywhere. Somehow, he did not appear to enjoy the narrative so highly as we had expected; on the contrary, he grew very solemn over it.
“Perhaps you’re not aware of it,” he said, at last, in an awful voice, dividing his words so that they might fall like distinct and individual blows upon us. “Perhaps you are none of you aware of it; but you’ve all been guilty of an offence—I should say clearly indictable at common law. You, Lupthorpe, of fraud and covin.”
“Oh Lor!” cried Lup, in an agony, “what’s covin?” But Budder did not heed him. He went on as though he had been a chief justice, with the black cap on, condemning a batch of convicts to extreme penalties.
“You other two have been guilty of conspiracy, or perhaps misprision of felony or you may be charged with vagrancy and disorderly conduct. I was reading up the subject only last night, but I hardly know upon which I should go against you.’ He certainly dwindled here from the chief justice into the articled clerk again—and then he communed with himself, contemplating the ceiling. “No. I don’t think it’s crimen læsæ majestatis,” he went on; “the punishment might be transportation for two years, or perhaps penal servitude; or if the thing came before the sessions, perhaps imprisonment and hard labour for one year, with whipping, except in the case of females.” (What was crimen læsæ majestatis? Did Budder really know? or was he only seeking to impress us?)
“Oh please, sir, let us off: we’ll never do it again—please, sir!” cried Crickson, with what I must really denounce as ill-timed humour.
“This is awful,” cried Lupthorpe, his face quite white; “fancy being dragged along the streets by policemen—the crowd hurraing—then before a magistrate—”
“The scene would paint very well,” said Crickson, meditatively. He was an artist always—even if he was to be regarded as a felon.
“Fancy its being put into the papers, and their getting hold of it down at the Rectory. I do think it would kill my poor old governor. Hard labour for one year! Oh Lor! with whipping—”
“Except in the case of females,” interpolated Budder.
“What would you advise us to do, Budder? Do tell us. Do help a fellow in his trouble!” cried Lupthorpe.
“Give back the money. Make peace with Bokes. Give him double the money if need be.”
“Where’s one to get double the money from?” growled Crickson.
“Won’t that be compounding a felony?” I asked, with a dim notion that I had heard of some such thing before.
“That’s Bokes’s look-out,” replied Budder, trenchantly.
For ten days poor Lupthorpe endured an agony which can be better imagined than described. The phrase is not original, I admit; but it is appropriate. If I knew the name of its author, I would frankly give it—but I do not know it.
He grew thin and pale, and intensely miserable. He was always putting problematical inquiries to his friends.
“I say, old fellow, suppose you’re transported; they give you a ticket-of-leave, don’t they, if you know your catechism and that? And you can come back to your friends, can’t you, after a short time, and when your hair’s grown all right again, you know? And, I say, do you think, supposing you were a returned convict, that people would come to you for their portraits? and could you sell your pictures, do you think? and would the Academy let you exhibit? Do you think if I were to cut off my moustache that the police would recognise me, and could I not dispute my identity and get off somehow that way?” and so on. Poor Lupthorpe!
We were comforting him as well as we could.—“There’s been a dead schvindle here,” said a well-known voice; “a dead schvindle.”
We looked up. Moss Bokes stood before us, frowning grimly.
“How about Mr. Smith, of Manchester, and his London agent?” and he fixed his green eyes on Crickson. “There’s been a dead schvindle here.”
“There have been a good many swindles here altogether, Mr. Bokes,” said Crickson, with a calmness that might be callousness, but which was anyhow enviable.
“Tom,” said the Jew, pathetically, and he screwed up his face, trying, I fancy, to press a tear out of his green eyes, but he could not quite manage it; “I didn’t think it of you. You knew how veak I vas, and you’ve used me cruel! But I’ve got a peeler below?” This could have been only to frighten us.
“Oh, Mr. Bokes, please don’t!” cried Lupthorpe.
“Vill you give me back my money? Vill you deal with me fair in future? May I call you Tom?”
Lupthorpe shrieked affirmative replies to these inquiries.
“Vill you sell me Jael and Sisera—dirt cheap?” the Jew asked, eagerly. Before Lupthorpe could answer, the servant entered with a letter. It bore the Manchester post-mark. It ran thus:
Dear Sir,—I have bought of Mr. Bokes, a dealer, a picture painted by you—Hugo and Parisina—at the price of 150 guineas. He tells me you have a companion work of Jael and Sisera, and of this he speaks highly. I am willing to act upon his judgment, coupled with what I myself know of your works. Are you disposed to sell me the second picture at the same price I paid to Mr. Bokes for the first? An early answer will oblige,
Yours tJohn Smith.
“Is this really true,” said Lupthorpe, wiping his face; “is it really Smith, of Manchester, this time?”
“It’s quite true,” said Crickson, after he had glanced at the letter. “I’ve sold to him, and know his handwriting: Jael and Sisera, a companion to Hugo and Parisina. Hurrah! how I love people who buy pendant pictures.”
“Then you von’t sell it to me now, I suppose?” said the Jew, humbly. “Ah, how you’ve trifled with my veakness.”
“You didn’t make a bad thing out of it though, Bokes,” remarked Crickson. “Fifty guineas, that’s a tidy profit on a hundred, I fancy.”
“But you vill have another deal with me some day—von’t you, Tom?” and Mr. Bokes writhed insinuatingly before him. Tom said he would, and the Jew took care he should act up to his word. In fact, he had dealings with us all afterwards. The system of waving about bank-notes and chinking gold disturbs the equanimity of the artist mind terribly.
“The Jew had a good cause of action,” Budder sententiously commented upon the case, for as we had triumphed we were rather inclined to undervalue our friend’s legal opinions; “if he chose to let it go, why of course that was his look-out. Well—thank you—I will, as you’re so pressing. Yes, whiskey please—two lumps—thank you—and hot water. It’s delicious. Your health, Lup, old boy, and good luck to your next picture.”
We joined him in the sentiment, and in the drinking of it.