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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 422 Volume 17, New Series, January 31, 1852   By:

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CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.

No. 422. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.

THE HAPPY JACKS.

'On Saturday, then, at two humble hours, humble fare; but plenty, and good of its kind; with a talk over old fellows and old times.'

Such was the pith of an invitation to dinner, to accept which I started on a pleasant summer Saturday on the top of a Kentish town omnibus. My host was Happy Jack. Everybody called him 'Happy Jack:' he called himself 'Happy Jack.' He believed he was an intensely 'Happy' Jack. Yet his friends shook their heads, and the grandest shook theirs the longest, as they added the ominous addendum of 'Poor Devil' to 'Happy Jack.'

'Seen that unhappy wretch, Happy Jack, lately?'

'Seen him! of course, yesterday: he came to borrow a half sovereign, as two of his children had the measles. He was in the highest spirits, for the pawnbroker lent him more on his watch than he had expected, and so Jack considered the extra shilling or two pure gain. I don't know how the wretch lives, but he seems happier than ever.'

On another occasion, the dialogue would be quite different.

'Who do you think I saw last night in the first tier at the Opera? who but Happy Jack, and Mrs Happy Jack, and the two eldest Happy Jack girls! Jack himself resplendent in diamond studs, and tremendously laced shirt front; and as for the women actually queens of Sheba. A really respectable carriage, too, at the door; for I followed them out in amazement: and off they went like so many lords and ladies. Oh, the sun has been shining somehow on the Happy Jacks!'

In due time I stood before the Terrace honoured by the residence of the Happy Jacks one of those white, stuccoed rows of houses, with bright green doors and bright brass plates thereon, which suburban builders so greatly affect. As I entered the square patch of front garden, I perceived straw lying about, as though there had been recent packing; and looking at the drawing room window, I missed the muslin curtain and the canary's brass cage swathed all over in gauze. The door opened before I knocked, and Happy Jack was the opener. He was clad in an old shooting coat and slippers, had a long clay pipe in his mouth, and was in a state of intense general d├ęshabille . Looking beyond him, I saw that the house was in d├ęshabille as well as the master. There were stairs certainly, but where was the stair carpet? Happy Jack, however, was clearly as happy as usual. He had a round, red face; and, I will add, a red nose. But the usual sprightly smile stirred the red round face, the usual big guffaw came leaping from the largely opening mouth, the usual gleam of mingled sharpness and bonhomie shone from the large blue eyes. Happy Jack closed the door, and, taking my arm, walked me backwards and forwards on the gravel.

'My boy,' he said, 'we've had a little domestic affair inside; but you being, like myself, a man of the world, we were not of course going to give up our dinner for that. The fact is,' said Jack, attempting to assume a heroic and sentimental tone and attitude, 'that, for the present at least, my household gods are shattered!'

'You mean that'

'As I said, my household gods are shattered, even in the shrine!'

It was obvious that the twang of this fine phrase gave Jack uncommon pleasure. He repeated it again and again under his breath, flourishing his pipe, so as, allegorically and metaphorically, to set forth the extent of his desolation.

'In other words,' I went on, 'there has been an an execution'

'And the brokers have not left a stick. But what of that? These, are accidents which will occur in the best'

'And Mrs'

'Oh! She, you know, is apt to be a little downhearted at times; and empty rooms somehow act on her idiosyncrasy... Continue reading book >>


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