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before his death, which took place, suddenly, in June, 1860, he married Miss Mary Keeley, daughter of the veteran comedian, who survives him.]
MR. TONKS was an eminent retail tea-dealer, as well known in the City as the Exchange grasshopper, the Bank beadle, or the generous gentlemen of the Hebrew persuasion who used to do nothing all their lives but buy dressing-cases and penknives at the open auction in the Poultry. He was portly in his person, and spoke with an air of immutable reliance upon his own opinion. He was a smart tradesman, and very close-fisted, but his name was as good as any in London. In fine, Mr. Tonks was as much esteemed and disliked as any man in any kind of position-so long as it is a positionmay expect to be.
The establishment in which Mr. Tonks daily amassed his wealth was something wonderful to behold; especially so to country visitors. There was tea enough shovelled about in the windows to make you believe - that the four hundred and twenty millions of Chinese who made up the last census had been actively engaged, day and night, for a twelvemonth, without ever going to bed, in collecting it, and had not gone through their work even then. And the coffee-mill-there was a monster machine! It resembled one of those dreadful engines used in pantomimes to grind aged individuals into youths and maidens; and if the old man who was perpetually turning it had tumbled in by accident, nobody would have been at all surprised to have seen him come out a little boy, in a paper cap and shirt sleeves, at the spout, after a single revolution.
Well, in this sumptuous establishment, Tonks and Company-the "company" consisted of his wife and daughter-flourished several years; for they were well to do, and better each Christmas. Their notions expanded. Gravesend gave place to Margate, Margate to Ramsgate, and Ramsgate to the French coast. Tonks was moved from the day-school in the Hackneyroad to Miss Turnham's academy at Chiswick, and then
to Miss Burton's "Pension" at Boulogne. Then, Mr. Tonks became various great things in the City; he used to talk a little and eat a great deal at Guildhall, and once went before the Queen; and at last retired from trade altogether, and bought a large estate in the lower part of Surrey, where he determined to reside, and for the rest of his life do the Old English Gentleman line of business.
The house he purchased was a fine old place; it had long been the home of one of the county families now extinct. It had tall twisted chimneys and heavy mullioned windows; a porch, a terrace, and a large hall; a staircase that you might have driven a coach-andfour up-if the horses had been Astley's platform ones, and didn't mind climbing-and weathercocks, my goodness, what a lot!
Mr. Tonks had money, which the extinct family who lived there before had not; and the house was soon put in order. Relics of Elizabethan furniture were manufactured for him by the old curiosity dealers, at a day's notice; and more ancestors took their departure from Wardour-street than had ever before migrated from that musty locality. The most important of these, Sir Humphrey de Tonkes, who fought at "Azincour," was put at the top of the staircase, and his armour was set up in the hall on a dummy, supposed to represent the warrior, which had a propensity to lean forward in rather a drunken attitude than otherwise, giving a notion of the knight as he might have been supposed to have appeared when trying to keep on his legs with the aid of his spear, in the lists, after violently indulging in strong drinks, according to the fashion of the dark ages.
The people in the neighbourhood soon began to call. First the doctor came, then the clergyman, and afterwards some of the families. These last were more tardy; for country aristocracy is cautious, having very little, in the abstract, to assume high ground upon, beyond conventional position, and consequently being
fearful of more easily jeopardizing it. But old Lady Hawksy, who hunted up everybody from whom available advantages were to be pumped, or otherwise secured, called at last, and all the rest followed, like ducks going to water, or sheep through a hedge. And then Mr. Tonks made up his own mind, as well as his wife's and daughter's, that it was time for the Old English Gentleman to come out strong. Annie Tonksit was not a very pretty name, but that could not be altogether considered as her fault-was very nice looking. Her father already calculated upon her making a good match-good, that is to say, in point of connexion -in return for which he would advance money. And, accordingly, he gave days of shooting to all eligible young men, and got them to his house afterwards. But Annie, though exceedingly courteous, never gave any of them the slightest encouragement, at which her father was first surprised, and then annoyed. Possibly he would have been more so, had he known that a certain young lawyer, whom his daughter had met at that paradise of autumnal philanderings, Ramsgate, stood a far better chance-in fact, the affaire du cœur had almost been put beyond one-of becoming Annie's future husband, than the son of the sheriff, or Lady Hawksy's nephew, or any other elder brothers that Mr. Tonks wished would enter his family. And this young lawyer, whose name was Frederick Walcot, was the most impudent fellow imaginable. He would come to the house, in spite of all Mr. Tonks's gruff receptions; and never took hints to go, or that he was not wanted; and always kept so close to Annie, that there was little room for anybody else to come near her. In fact, with him the young lady was as effectually guarded as the showman who, in describing his view of the battle of Trafalgar, points out Lord Nelson to have been "s'rounded by Captain Hardy." In former days, there was only one line of Old English Gentlemen to take up; now there are several. There is the virtuous-indignation Old English Gentleman, who makes speeches about the
"wrongs of the poor man," and "nature's nobility," and maintains the right of the labourer to knock down fences, trespass on preserves, and steal game that he has no right to, whenever he pleases: the Old Gentleman in question not having any preserves of his own, of course. Then there is the Young England Old English Gentleman, who, being as proud as Lucifer, gives a ball once a year to his servants and tenants, and apes humility in a manner wonderful to behold, but keeps his own circle about him most religiously, with the silver forks and superior soup at the top cross-table, to show the common people, after all, that this is but condescension on his part, and that the clay of which they are formed is but crockery to the porcelain of his own set. Then there is the Squire Old English Gentleman, who can talk of nothing but dogs and horses, shouts and bawls whenever he speaks, makes his friends drink as much wine as he chooses to swill himself, and appears to put his children and pet animals all on the same level— a descendant of the Western genus still existing.
Mr. Tonks debated for a long time what sort of Old English Gentleman he should be, and at last thought an amalgamation of certain features from all these classes, with Young England uppermost, would be the best of all. And as the year was drawing to its close, he decided upon giving a Christmas entertainment to his neighbours in the old style at a great expenditure; and so assume a place with the best of them, and marry Annie to the son of the sheriff, or Lady Hawksy's nephew, or any other of the elder brothers.
By the assistance of "Hone's Every-Day Book," and the four-and-sixpenny edition of "Strutt's Sports and Pastimes," Mr. Tonks soon found out how Christmas ought to be kept. He determined upon having mummers, a fool, and a wassail-bowl; there would be also a yule-log, a hobby-horse, and a dragon; and he also decided upon a "wode-house," or a 66 salvage-man,' who, according to the book, should "dysporte himself with fireworks" amongst the company. But this latter
character was discarded at the express desire of Mrs. Tonks, who thought squibs and book-muslin dresses, "which as they kiss consume," would not go very well together; and that, although violent delights might be thereat produced, they would have equally violent ends, and die in their triumph.
Old Lady Hawksy was the first who accepted the invitation; in consequence of which, by a bold stroke of policy, the Tonkses put their carriage at her disposal for a week, that she might drive round to all her acquaintances and say she was going, whereby they would be induced to come. And this had its effect; for whether from curiosity, condescension, love of gaiety, or politeness, everybody "had great pleasure in accepting," &c., and the heart of Mr. Tonks swelled with pride, as that of his wife did with maternal speculation, when they thought of all their guests comprising all the gentry of the neighbourhood, and those designated in circulars merely as "inhabitants;" especially Lady Hawksy's nephew, who was in the Guards, and whom Mrs. Tonks hoped would bring some brother officers, and that they would all come in their soldiers' clothes, and look as ferocious and imposing as their partners would permit. No invitation was to be sent to Frederick Walcot; this was expressly insisted on, and yet, somehow or another, curiously enough, he contrived to know all about the party, as we shall see.
Mr. Tonks was determined for once to make a splash. The supper was to come down in light vans from Gunter's; the music from Chappell's; and the mummers and hobby-horse from Nathan's—at least, their outward gear.
The guests were to dance in the hall, and refect in the dining-room, whilst the fool was to say clever things everywhere all the evening. For this purpose, Mr. Tonks engaged a witty man at a salary of thirty shillings, who was an actor at one of the minor theatres, and used to conjure and show a magic lantern at his parties when Annie was a little girl. The frame of Sir