Mr Puffington; or The Young Man About Town

Mr Puffington took the Mangeysterne, now the Hanby hounds, because he thought they would give him consequence. Not that he was particularly deficient in that article; but being a new man in the county, he thought that taking them would make him popular, and give him standing. He had no natural inclination for hunting, but seeing friends who had no taste for the turf take upon themselves the responsibility of stewardships, he saw no reason why he should not make a similar sacrifice at the shrine of Diana. Indeed, Puff was not bred for a sportsman. His father, a most estimable man, and one with whom we have spent many a convivial evening, was a great starchmaker at Stepney; and his mother was the daughter of an eminent Worcestershire stone-china maker. Save such ludicrous hunts as they might have seen on their brown jugs, we do not believe either of them had any acquaintance whatever with the chase. Old Puffington was, however, what a wise heir esteems a great deal more -- an excellent man of business, and amassed mountains of money. To see his establishment at Stepney, one would think the whole world was going to be starched. Enormous dock-tailed dray-horses emerged with ponderous waggons heaped up to the very skies, while others would come rumbling in, laden with wheat, potatoes, and other starch-making ingredients. Puffington’s blue roans were well known about town, and were considered the handsomest horses of the day; quite equal to Barclay and Perkins’s piebalds.

Old Puffington was not like a sportsman. He was a little, soft, rosy, round-about man, with stiff resolute legs that did not look as if they could be bent to a saddle. He was great, however, in a gig, and slouched like a sack.

Mrs Puffington, néee Smith, was a tall handsome woman, who thought a good deal of herself. When she and her spouse married, they lived close to the manufactory, in a sweet little villa replete with every elegance and convenience -- a pond, which they called a lake -- laburnums without end; a yew, clipped into a dock-tailed waggon horse; standing for three horses and gigs, with an acre and a half of land for a cow.

Old Puffington, however, being unable to keep those dearest documents of a British merchant, his balance- sheets, to himself, and Mrs Puffington finding a considerable sum going to the ‘good’ every year, insisted, on the birth of their only child, our friend, upon migrating to the ‘west,’ as she called it, and at one bold stroke they established themselves in Heathcote Street, Mecklenburgh Square. Novelists had not then written this part down as ‘Mesopotamia,’ and it was quite as genteel as Harley or Wimpole Street are now. Their chief object then was to increase their wealth and make their only son ‘a gentleman.’ They sent him to Eton, and in due time to Christ Church, where, of course, he established a red coat, to persecute Sir Thomas Mostyn’s and the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds, much to the annoyance of their respective huntsmen, Stephen Goodall and Philip Payne, and the aggravation of poor old Griff. Lloyd.

What between the field and college, young Puffington made the acquaintance of several very dashing young sparks -- Lord Firebrand, Lord Mudlark, Lord Deuceace, Sir Harry Blueun, and others, whom he always spoke of as ‘Deuceace,’ ‘Blueun,’ &c. in the easy style that marks the perfect gentleman.1 How proud the old people were of him! How they would sit listening to him, flashing, and telling how Deuceace and he floored a Charley, or Blueun and he pitched a snob out of the boxes into the pit. This was in the old Tom-and-Jerry days, when fistycuffs were the fashion. One evening, after he had indulged us with a more than usual dose, and was leaving the room to dress for an eight o’clock dinner at Long’s, ‘Buzzer!’ exclaimed the old man, clutching our arm, as the tears started to his eyes, ‘Buzzer! that’s an amaazin instance of a pop’lar man!’ And certainly, if a large acquaintance is a criterion of popularity, young Puffington, as he was then called, had his fair share. He once did us the honour -- an honour we never shall forget -- of walking down Bond Street with us, in the springtide of fashion, of a glorious summer’s day, when you could not cross Conduit Street under a lapse of a quarter of an hour, and carriages seemed to have come to an interminable lock at the Piccadilly end of the street. In those days great people went about like great people, in handsome hammer-clothed, arms-emblazoned coaches, with plethoric three-corner-hatted coachmen, and gigantic, lace-bedizened, quivering-calved Johnnies, instead of rumbling along like apothecaries in pill-boxes, with a handle inside to let themselves out. Young men, too, dressed as if they were dressed -- as if they were got up with some care and attention -- instead of wearing the loose, careless, flowing, sack-like garments they do now.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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