The further adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford under-graduate/Chapter 7

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"Hullo, Giglamps, you lazy beggar!" said the cheery voice of little Mr. Bouncer, as he walked into our hero's bedroom one morning towards the end of term, and found Mr. Verdant Green in bed, though sufficiently awakened by the sounding of Mr. Bouncer's octaves for the purposes of conversation; "this'll never do, you know, Giglamps! Cutting chapel to do the downy! Why, what do you mean, sir? Didn't you ever learn in the nursery what happened to old Daddy Long-legs when he wouldn't say his prayers?"

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"Robert did call me," said our hero, rubbing his eyes; "but I felt tired, so I told him to put in an æger."

"Upon my word, young 'un," observed Mr. Bouncer, "you're a coming it, you are! and only in your second term, too. What makes you wear a nightcap, Giglamps? Is it to make your hair curl, or to keep your venerable head warm? Nightcaps ain't healthy; they are only fit for long-tailed babbies, and old birds that are as bald as coots; or else for gents that grease their wool with 'thine incomparable oil, Macassar,' as the noble poet justly remarks."

"It ain't always pleasant," continued the little gentleman, who was perched up on the side of the bed, and seemed in a communicative disposition, "it ain't always pleasant to turn out for morning chapel, is it, Giglamps? But it's just like the eels with their skinning: it goes against the grain at first, but you soon get used to it. When I first came up, I was a frightful lazy beggar, and I got such a heap of impositions for not keeping my morning chapels, that I was obliged to have three fellers constantly at work writing 'em out for me. This was rather expensive, you see; and then the dons threatened to take away my term altogether, and bring me to grief, if I didn't be more regular. So I was obliged to make a virtuous resolution, and I told Robert that he was to insist on my getting up in a morning, and I should tip him at the end of term if he succeeded. So at first he used to come and hammer at the door; but that was no go. So then he used to come in and shake me, and try to pull the clothes off; but, you see, I always used to prepare for him, by taking a good supply of boots and things to bed with me; so I was able to take shies at the beggar till he vanished, and left me to snooze peaceably. You see, it ain't every feller as likes to have a Wellington boot at his head; but that rascal of a Robert is used to those trifles, and I was obliged to try another dodge. This you know was only of a morning when I was in bed. When I had had my breakfast, and got my imposition, and become virtuous again, I used to slang him awful for having let me cut chapel; and then I told him that he must always stand at the door until he heard me out of bed. But, when the morning came, it seemed running such a risk, you see to one's lungs and all those sort of things to turn out of the warm bed into the cold chapel, that I would answer Robert when he hammered at the door; but, instead of getting up, I would knock my boots against the floor, as though I was out of bed, don't you see, and was padding about. But that wretch of a Robert was too old a bird to be caught with this dodge; so he used to sing out, 'You must show a leg, sir!' and, as he kept on hammering at the door till I did—for, you see, Giglamps, he was looking out for the tip at the end of term, so it made him persevere—and as his beastly hammering used, of course, to put a stopper on my going to sleep again, I used to rush out in a frightful state of wax, and show a leg. And then, being well up, you see, it was no use doing the downy again, so it was just as well to make one's twilight and go to chapel. Don't gape, Giglamps; it's beastly rude, and I havn't done yet. I'm going to tell you another dodge—one of old Small's. He invested money in an alarum, with a string from it tied on to the bed-clothes, so as to pull them off at whatever time you chose to set it. But I never saw the fun of being left high and dry on your bed: it would be a shock to the system which I couldn't stand. But even this dreadful expedient would be better than posting an æger; which, you know, you didn't ought to was, Giglamps. Well, turn out, old feller! I've told Robert to take your commons [1] into my room. Smalls and Charley are coming, and I've got a dove-tart and a spread-eagle."

"Whatever are they?" asked Mr. Verdant Green.

"Not know what they are!" cried Mr. Bouncer; "why a dove-tart is what mortals call a pigeon-pie. I ain't much in Tennyson's line, but it strikes me that dove-tarts are more poetical than the other thing; spread-eagle is a barn-door fowl smashed out flat, and made jolly with mushroom sauce, and no end of good things. I don't know how they squash it, but I should say that they sit upon it; I daresay, if we were to inquire, we should find that they kept a fat feller on purpose. But you just come, and try how it eats." And, as Mr. Verdant Green's bedroom barely afforded standing room, even for one, Mr. Bouncer walked into the sitting-room, while his friend arose from his couch like a youthful Adonis, and proceeded to bathe his ambrosial person, by taking certain sanatory measures in splashing about in a species of tub—a performance which Mr. Bouncer was wont to term "doing tumbies."

"What'll you take for your letters, Giglamps?" called out the little gentleman from the other room; "the Post's in, and here are three for you. Two are from women,—young uns I should say, from the regular ups and downs, and right angles: they look like billyduxes. Give you a bob for them, at a venture! they may be funny. The other is suspiciously like a tick, and ought to be looked shy on. I should advise you not to open it, but to pitch it in the fire: it may save a fit of the blues. If you want any help over shaving, just say so, Giglamps, will you, before I go; and then I'll hold your nose for you, or do anything else that's civil and accommodating. And, when you've done your tumbies, come in to the dove-tart and the spread-eagle." And off went Mr. Bouncer, making terrible noises with his post-horn, in his strenuous but futile endeavours to discover the octaves.

Our hero soon concluded his "tumbies" and his dressing (not including the shaving), and made his way to Mr. Bouncer's rooms, where he did full justice to the dove-tart, and admired the spread-eagle so much, that he thought of bribing the confectioner for the recipe to take home as a Christmas-box for his mother.

"Well, Giglamps," said Mr. Bouncer, when breakfast was over, "to spare the blushes on your venerable cheeks, I won't even so much as refer to the billyduxes; but, I'll only ask, what was the damage of the tick?"

"Oh! it was not a bill," replied Mr. Verdant Green; "it was a letter about a dog from the man of whom I bought Mop last term."

"What! Filthy Lucre?" cried Mr. Bouncer; "well, I thought, somehow, I knew the fist! he writes just as if he'd learnt from imitating his dogs' hind-legs. Let's have a sight of it if it ain't private and confidential!"

"Oh dear no! on the contrary, I was going to show it to you, and ask your advice on the contents." And Verdant handed to Mr. Bouncer a letter, which had been elaborately sealed with the aid of a key, and was directed high up in the left-hand corner to

"Virdon grene esqre braisenface
collidge Oxford."

"You look beastly lazy, Charley!" said Mr. Bouncer to Mr. Charles Larkyns; "so, while I fill my pipe, just spit out the letter, pro bono." And Charles Larkyns, lying in Mr. Bouncer's easiest lounging chair, read as follows:—

"Onnerd sir i tak the libbaty of a Dressin of you in respex of A dog which i wor sorry For to ear of your Loss in mop which i had The pleshur of Sellin of 2 you onnerd sir A going astray And not a turnin hup Bein of A unsurtin Tempor and guv to A folarin of strandgers which wor maybe as ow You wor a lusein on him onnerd Sir bein Overdogd at this ere present i can let you have A rale good teryer at A barrging which wold giv sattefacshun onnered Sir it wor 12 munth ago i Sold to Bounser esqre a red smooth air terier Dog anserin 2 nam of Tug as wor rite down goodun and No mistake onnerd Sir the purpurt Of this ere is too say as ow i have a Hone brother to Tug black tann and ful ears and If you wold like him i shold bee prowd too wate on you onnerd Sir he wor by robbingsons Twister out of mister jones of abingdons Fan of witch brede Bounser esqre nose on the merritts onnerd Sir he is very Smal and smooth air and most xlent aither for wood Or warter a liter before Tug onnerd Sir is nam is Vermin and he hant got his nam by no mistake as No Vermin not even poll katts can live long before him onnerd Sir I considders as vermin is very sootble compannion for a Gent indors or hout and bein lively wold give amoosement i shall fele it A plesure a waitin on you onnerd Sir opin you will pardin the libbaty of a Dressin of you but my head wor ful of vermin and i wishd to tel you

"onnerd Sir yures
2 komand j. Looker."

"The nasty beggar!" said Mr. Bouncer, in reference to the last paragraph. "Well, Giglamps! Filthy Lucre does'nt tell fibs when he says that Tug came of a good breed: but he was so doosed pugnacious, that he was always having set-to's with Huz and Buz, in the coal-shop just outside the door here; and so, as I'd nowhere else to stow them, I was obliged to give Tug away. Dr. What's-his-name says, 'Let dogs delight to bark and bite, for 'tis their nature to.' But then, you see, it's only a delight when they bite somebody else's dog; and if Dr. What's-his-name had had a kennel of his own, he would'nt have took it so coolly; and, whether it was their nature so to do or not, he would'nt have let the little beggars, that he fork'd out thirteen bob a-year for to the government, amuse themselves by biting each other, or tearing out each other's eyes; he'd have turn'd them over, don't you see, to his neighbours' dogs, and have let them do the biting department on them. And, altogether, Giglamps, I'd advise you to let Filthy Lucre's Vermin alone, and have nothing to do with the breed."

So Mr. Verdant Green took his friend's advice, and then took himself off to learn boxing at the hands, and gloves, of the Putney Pet; for our hero, at the suggestion of Mr. Charles Larkyns, had thought it advisable to receive a few lessons in the fistic art, in order that he might be the better able to defend himself, should he be engaged in a second Town and Gown. He found the Pet in attendance upon Mr. Foote; and, by their mutual aid, speedily mastered the elements of the Art of Self-defence.

Mr. Foote's rooms at St. John's were in the further corner to the right-hand side of the Quad, and had windows looking into the gardens. When Charles had held his Court at St. John's, and when the loyal College had melted down its plate to coin into money for the King's necessities, the Royal visitor had occupied these very rooms. But it was not on this account alone that they were the show rooms of the College, and that tutors sent their compliments to Mr. Foote, with the request that he would allow a party of friends to see his rooms. It was chiefly on account of the lavish manner in which Mr. Foote had furnished his rooms, with what he theatrically called "properties," that made them so sought out: and country lionisers of Oxford, who took their impressions of an Oxford student's room from those of Mr. Foote, must have entertained very highly coloured ideas of the internal aspect of the sober-looking old Colleges.

The sitting-room was large and lofty, and was panelled with oak throughout. At the further end was an elaborately carved book-case of walnut wood, filled with books gorgeously bound in every tint of morocco and vellum, with their backs richly tooled in gold. It was currently reported in the College that "Footelights" had given an order for a certain number of feet of books,—not being at all proud as to their contents,—and had laid down the sum of a thousand pounds (or thereabouts) for their binding. This might have been scandal; but the fact of his father being a Colossus of (the iron) Roads, and indulging his son and heir in every expense, gave some colour to the rumour.

The panels were covered with the choicest engravings (all proofs-before-letters), and with water-colour drawings by Cattermole, Cox, Fripp, Hunt, and Frederick Tayler—their wide, white margins being sunk in light gilt frames. Above these gleamed groups of armour, standing out effectively (and theatrically), against the dark oak panels, and full of "reflected lights," that would have gladdened the heart of Maclise. There were couches of velvet, and lounging chairs of every variety and shape. There was a Broadwood's grand piano-forte, on which Mr. Foote, although uninstructed, could play skilfully. There were round tables and square tables, and writing tables; and there were side tables with statuettes, and Swiss carvings, and old china, and gold apostle-spoons, and lava ware, and Etruscan vases, and a swarm of Spiers's elegant knick-knackeries. There were reading-stands of all sorts; Briarean-armed brazen ones that fastened on to the chair you sat in,—sloping ones to rest on the table before you, elaborately carved in open work, and an upright one of severe Gothic, like a lectern, where you were to stand and read without contracting your chest. Then there were all kinds of stands to hold books: sliding ones, expanding ones, portable ones, heavy fixture ones, plain mahogany ones, and oak ones made glorious by Margetts with the arms of Oxford and St. John's, carved and emblazoned on the ends.

Mr. Foote's rooms were altogether a very gorgeous instance of a Collegian's apartment; and Mr. Foote himself was a very striking example of the theatrical undergraduate. Possessing great powers of mimicry and facial expression, he was able to imitate any peculiarities which were to be observed either in Dons or Undergraduates, in Presidents or Scouts. He could sit down at his piano, and give you—after the manner of Theodore Hook, or John Parry—a burlesque opera; singing high up in his head for the prima donna, and going down to his boots for the basso profondo of the great Lablache. He could also draw corks, saw wood, do a bee in a handkerchief, and make monkeys, cats, dogs, a farm-yard, or a full band, with equal facility. He would also give you Mr. Keeley, in "Betsy Baker;" Mr. Paul Bedford, as "I believe you my bo-o-oy!" Mr. Buckstone, as Cousin Joe, and "Box and Cox;" or Mr. Wright, as Paul Pry, or Mr. Felix Fluffy. Besides the comedians, Mr. Footelights would also give you the leading tragedians, and would favour you (through his nose) with the popular burlesque imitation of Mr. Charles Kean, as Hablet. He would fling himself down on the carpet, and grovel there, as Hamlet does in the play-scene, and would exclaim, with frantic vehemence, "He poisods hib i' the garded, for his estate. His dabe's Godzago: the story is extadt, ad writted id very choice Italiad. You shall see adod, how the burderer gets the love of Godzago's wife." Moreover, as his room possessed the singularity of a trap-door leading down into a wine-cellar, Mr. "Footelights" was thus enabled to leap down into the aperture, and carry on the personation of Hamlet in Ophelia's grave. As the theatrical trait in his character was productive of much amusement, and as he was also considered to be one of those hilarious fragments of masonry, popularly known as "jolly bricks," Mr. Foote's society was greatly cultivated; and Mr. Verdant Green struck up a warm friendship with him.

But the Michaelmas term was drawing to its close. Buttery and kitchen books were adding up their sums total; bursars were preparing for battels;[2] witless men were cramming for Collections;[3] scouts and bedmakers were looking for tips; and tradesmen were hopelessly expecting their little accounts. And, in a few days, Mr. Verdant Green might have been seen at the railway station, in company with Mr. Charles Larkyns and Mr. Bouncer, setting out for the Manor Green, viâ London—this being, as is well known, the most direct route from Oxford to Warwickshire.

Mr. Bouncer, who when travelling was never easy in his mind unless Huz and Buz were with him in the same carriage, had placed these two interesting specimens of the canine species in a small light box, partially ventilated by means of holes drilled through the top. But Huz and Buz, not much admiring this contracted mode of conveyance, and probably suffering from incipient asphyxia, in spite of the admonitory kicks against their box, gave way to dismal howls, at the very moment when the guard came to look at the tickets.

"Can't allow dogs in here, sir! they must go in the locker," said the guard.

"Dogs?" cried Mr. Bouncer, in apparent astonishment: "they're rabbits!"

"Rabbits!" ejaculated the guard, in his turn. "Oh, come, sir! what makes rabbits bark?"

"What makes 'em bark? Why, because they've got the pip, poor beggars!" replied Mr. Bouncer, promptly. At which the guard graciously laughed, and retired; probably thinking that he should, in the end, be a gainer if he allowed Huz and Buz to journey in the same first-class carriage with their master.

  1. The rations of bread, butter, and milk, supplied from the buttery. The breakfast-giver tells his scout the names of those in-college men who are coming to breakfast with him. The scout then collects their commons, which thus forms the substratum of the entertainment. The other things are of course supplied by the giver of the breakfast, and are sent in by the confectioner. As to the knives and forks and crockery, the scout produces them from his common stock.
  2. Battels are the accounts of the expenses of each student. It is stated in Todd's Johnson that this singular word is derived from the Saxon verb, meaning "to count or reckon." But it is stated in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1792, that the word may probably be derived from the Low-German word bettahlen, "to pay," whence may come our English word, tale or score.
  3. College Terminal Examinations