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when such a cornucopia of blessings is showered upon me, why would destiny will that it must come one day too soon; before the Brussels carpet was laid down in the breakfast-room—before the—" At this instant the carriage suddenly rolled up to the door: a dead stop followed, which put a dead stop to Pig's soliloquy: the steps were audibly let down: and the commissioner was obliged to rush out precipitately, in order to do the honours of reception to his illustrious guest.
"No ceremony, I beg," said the Count Fitz-Hum; '' for one day at least let no idle forms remind me of courts, or banish the happy thought that I am in the bosom of friends!" So saying, he stretched out his hand to the commissioner ; and though he did not shake Pig's hand, yet (as great men do) he pressed it with the air of one who has feelings too fervent and profound for utterance: whilst Pig, on his part, sank upon one knee, and imprinted a grateful kiss upon that princely hand which had by its condescension for ever glorified his own.
Von Hoax was no less gracious than the Count Fitz-Hum; and was pleased repeatedly, both by words and gestures, to signify that he dispensed with all ceremony and idle consideration of rank.
The commissioner was beginning to apologize for the unfinished state of the preparations, but the count would not hear of it "Affection to my person," said he, "unseasonable affection, I must say it, has (it seems) betrayed my rank to you; but for this night at least, I beseech you let us forget it." And, upon the ladies excusing themselves from appearing, on the plea that their dresses were not yet arrived in which they could think of presenting themselves before their sovereign,—" Ah! what?" said the count, gaily, " my dear commissioner, I cannot think of accepting such excuses as these." Agitated as the ladies were at this summons, they found all their alarms put to flight in a moment by the afiability and gracious manners of the high personage. Nothing came amiss to him: every thing was right and delightful. Down went the little sophabed in a closet which they had found it necessary to makeup for one night, the state-bed not being ready until the following day; and with the perfect high-breeding of a prince, he saw in the least mature of the arrangements for his reception, and the least successful of the attempts to entertain him, nothing but the good intention and affection which had suggested them.
The first great question which arose was—At what hour would the Count Fitz-Hum be pleased to take supper? But this question the Count Fitz-Hum referred wholly to the two ladies; and for this one night he notified his pleasure that no other company should bo invited. Precisely at eleven o'clock the party sat down to supper, which was served on the round table in the library. The Count Fitz-Hum, we have the pleasure of stating, was in the best health and spirits; and, on taking his seat, he smiled with the most paternal air, at the same time bowing to the ladies who sat on his right and left hand, and saying—" Ou peut-on etre mieux, qu'au sein do .«i familte.i" At which words tears began to trickle down the cheeks of the commissioner, overwhelmed with the sense of the honour and happiness which were thus descending pleno imbre upon his family, and finding nothing left to wish for, but that the whole city had been witness to his felicity. Even the cook came in for some distant rays and emanations of the princely countenance; for the Count Fitz-Hum condescended to express his entire approbation of the supper, and signified his pleasure to Von Hoax that the cook should be remembered on the next vacancy which occurred in the palace establishment.
'' Tears such as tender fathers shed" had already on this night bedewed the cheeks of the commissioner; but before he retired to bed, tie was destined to shed more and still sweeter tears; for after supper he was honoured by a long private interview with the count, in which that personage expressed his astonishment (indeed, he must say, his indignation) that merit so distinguished as that of Mr Pig should so long have remained unknown at court. "I now see more than ever," said he, " the necessity there was that I should visit my states incognito." And he then threw out pretty plain intimations that a place, and even a title, would soon be conferred on his host. Upon this Pig wept copiously; and, upon retiring, being immediately honoured by an interview with Mr Von Hoax, who assured him that he was much mistaken if he thought that his highness ever did these things by halves, or would cease to watch over the fortunes of a family whom he had once taken into his special grace; the good man absolutely sobbed like a child, and could neither utter a word, nor get a wink of sleep that night.
All night the workmen pursued their labours, and by morning the state apartments were in complete preparation. By this time it was universally known throughout the city who was sleeping at the commissioner's. As soon, therefore, as it could be supposed agreeable to him, the trained bands of the town marched down to pay their respects by a morning salute. The drums awoke the count, who rose immediately, and in a few minutes presented himself at the window—bowing repeatedly and in the most gracious manner. A prodigious roar of" Vivat Serenissimus.i" ascended from the mob; amongst whom the count had some difficulty in descijing the martial body who were parading below; that gallant corps mustering, in fact, fourteen strong, of whom nine were reported fit for service , the " balance of five," as their commercial leader observed, being either on the sick-list—or, at least, not ready for " all work," though too loyal to decline a labour of love like the present. The count received the report of the commanding officer; and declared (addressing himself to Von Hoax, but loud enough to be overheard by the officer) that he had seldom seen a more soldierly body of men, or who had more the air of veteran troops. The officer's honest face burned with the anticipation of communicating so flattering a judgment to his corps; and his delight was not diminished by overhearing the words—" early promotion," and " order of merit." In the transports of his gratitude, he determined that the fourteen should fire a volley; but this was an event not to be accomplished in a hurry; much forethought and a deep premeditation were required; a considerable " balance" of the gallant troops were not quite au fait in the art of loading, and a considerable " balance " of the muskets not quite au fait in the art of going off. Men and muskets being alike veterans, the agility of youth was not to be expected of them; and the issue was—that only two guns did actually go off. "But in commercial cities," as the good-natured count observed to his host, "a large discount must always be made on prompt payment."
Breakfast now over; the bells of the churches were ringing; the streets swarming with people in their holiday clothes; and numerous deputations, with addresses, petitions, &c., from the companies and guild of the city were forming into processions. First came the town-council, with the chief burgomaster at their head: the recent order for the reduction of fees, &c., was naturally made the subject of a dutiful remonstrance; great was the joy with which the count's answer was received:—" On the word of a prince, he had never heard of it before: his signature must have been obtained by some court intrigue ; but he could assure his faithful council, that on his return to his capital his first care would be to punish the authors of so scandalous a measure; and to take such other steps, of an opposite description, as were due to the long services of the petitioners, and to the honour and dignity of the nation." The council were then presented seriatim, and had all the honour of kissing hands. These gentlemen having withdrawn, next came all the trading companies; each with an address of congratulation expressive of love and devotion, but uniformly bearing some little rider attached to it of a more exclusive nature. The tailors prayed for the general abolition of seamstresses, as nuisances and invaders of chartered rights and interests. The shoemakers, in conjunction with the tanners and curriers, complained that Providence had in vain endowed leather with the valuable property of perishableness—if the selfishness of the iron-trade were allowed to counteract this benign arrangement by driving nails into all men's shoe-soles. The hair-dressers were modest, indeed too modest in their demands—confining themselves to the request, that for the better encouragement of wigs, a tax should be imposed on every man who wore his own hair, and that it should be felony for a gentleman to appear without powder. The glaziers were content with the existing state of things; only that they felt it their duty to complain of the police regulation against breaking the windows of those who refused to join in public illuminations: a regulation the more harsh, as it was well known that hail-storms had for many years sadly fallen off, and the present race of hail-stones were scandalously degenerated from their ancestors of the last generation. The bakers complained that their enemies had accused them of wishing to sell their bread at a higher price; which was a base insinuation; all they wished for was, that they might diminish their loaves in size; and this, upon public grounds, was highly requisite: "fulness of bread" being notoriously the root of jacobinism, and under the present assize of bread, men ate so much
bread that they did not know what the d they would be at. A
course of small loaves would therefore be the best means of bringing them round to sound principles. To the bakers succeeded the projectors; the first of whom offered to make the town conduits and sewers navigable, if his highness would "lend him a thousand pounds." The clergy of the city, whose sufferings had been great from the weekly scourgings which they and their works received from the town newspaper, called out clamorously for a literary censorship. On the other hand, the editor of the newspaper prayed for unlimited freedom of the press and abolition of the law of libel.
Certainly the Count Fitz-Hum must have had the happiest art of reconciling contradictions, and insinuating hopes into the most desperate cases: for the petitioners, one and all, quitted his presence delighted and elevated with hope. Possibly one part of his secret might lie in the peremptory injunction which he laid upon all the petitioners to observe the profoundest silence for the present upon his intentions in their favour.
The corporate bodies were now despatched; but such was the report of the prince's gracious affability, that the whole town kept crowding to the commissioner's house, and pressing for the honour of an audience. The commissioner represented to the mob, that his highness was made neither of steel nor of granite, and was at length worn out by the fatigues of the day. But to this every man answered, that what he had to say would be finished in two words, and could not add much to the prince's fatigue; and all kept their ground before the house as firm as a wall. In this emergency the Count Fitz-Hum resorted to a ruse. He sent round a servant from the back-door to mingle with the crowd, and proclaim that a mad-dog was ranging about the streets, and had already bit many other dogs and several men. This answered: the cry of " mad dog " was set up ; the mob flew asunder from their cohesion, and the blockade of the Pig-house was raised. Farewell, now, to all faith in man or dog; for all might be among the bitten, and consequently might in turn be among the biters.
The night was now come; dinner was past, at which all the grandees of the place had been present: all had now departed, delighted with the condescensions of the count, and puzzled only on one point, viz., the extraordinary warmth of his attentions to the commissioner's daughter. The young lady's large fortune might have explained this excessive homage in any other case, but not in that of a prince, and beauty or accomplishments they said she had none. Here then was subject for meditation without end to all the curious in natural philosophy. Amongst these, spite of parental vanity, were the commissioner and his wife; but an explanation was soon given, which however did but explain one riddle by another. The count desired a private interview, in which, to the infinite astonishment of the parents, he demanded the hand of their daughter in marriage. State policy, he was aware, opposed such connexions ; but the pleadings of the heart outweighed all considerations of that sort; and he requested, that with the consent of the young lady, the marriage might be solemnized immediately. The honour was too much for the commissioner; he felt himself in some measure guilty of treason, by harbouring for one moment hopes of so presumptuous a nature, and in a great panic he ran away and hid himself in the wine-cellar. Here he imbibed fresh courage; and, upon his re-ascent to the upper world, and finding that his daughter joined her entreaties to those of the count, he began to fear that the treason might lie on the other side, viz., in opposing the wishes of his sovereign; and he joyfully gave his consent: upon which, all things being in readiness, the marriage was immediately celebrated, and a select company, who witnessed it, had the honour of kissing the hand of the new Countess Fitz-Hum.
Scarcely was the ceremony concluded, before a horseman's horn was heard at the commissioner's gate. "A special messenger with despatches, no doubt," said the count; and immediately a servant entered with a box bearing the state arms. Von Hoax unlocked the box; and from a great body of papers which he said were " merely petitions, addresses, or despatches from foreign powers," he drew out and presented to the count a " despatch from the privy council." The count read it, repeatedly shrugging his shoulders.