Once upon a time there dwelt, in a narrow street on the Surrey side of the water, within three minutes’ walk of old London Bridge, Mr. Joseph Tuggs—a little dark-faced man, with shiny hair, twinkling eyes, short legs, and a body of very considerable thickness, measuring from the centre button of his waistcoat in front, to the ornamental buttons of his coat behind. The figure of the amiable Mrs. Tuggs, if not perfectly symmetrical, was decidedly comfortable; and the form of her only daughter, the accomplished Miss Charlotte Tuggs, was fast ripening into that state of luxuriant plumpness which had enchanted the eyes, and captivated the heart, of Mr. Joseph Tuggs in his earlier days. Mr. Simon Tuggs, his only son, and Miss Charlotte Tuggs’s only brother, was as differently formed in body, as he was differently constituted in mind, from the remainder of his family. There was that elongation in his thoughtful face, and that tendency to weakness in his interesting legs, which tell so forcibly of a great mind and romantic disposition. The slightest traits of character in such a being, possess no mean interest to speculative minds. He usually appeared in public, in capacious shoes with black cotton stockings; and was observed to be particularly attached to a black glazed stock, without tie or ornament of any description.
There is perhaps no profession, however useful; no pursuit, however meritorious; which can escape the petty attacks of vulgar minds. Mr. Joseph Tuggs was a grocer. It might be supposed that a grocer was beyond the breath of calumny; but no—the neighbours stigmatised him as a chandler; and the poisonous voice of envy distinctly asserted that he dispensed tea and coffee by the quartern, retailed sugar by the ounce, cheese by the slice, tobacco by the screw, and butter by the pat. These taunts, however, were lost upon the Tuggses. Mr. Tuggs attended to the grocery department; Mrs. Tuggs to the cheesemongery; and Miss Tuggs to her education. Mr. Simon Tuggs kept his father’s books, and his own counsel.
One fine spring afternoon, the latter gentleman was seated on a tub of weekly Dorset, behind the little red desk with a wooden rail, which ornamented a corner of the counter; when a stranger dismounted from a cab, and hastily entered the shop. He was habited in black cloth, and bore with him, a green umbrella, and a blue bag.
‘Mr. Tuggs?’ said the stranger, inquiringly.
‘My name is Tuggs,’ replied Mr. Simon.
‘It’s the other Mr. Tuggs,’ said the stranger, looking towards the glass door which led into the parlour behind the shop, and on the inside of which, the round face of Mr. Tuggs, senior, was distinctly visible, peeping over the curtain.
Mr. Simon gracefully waved his pen, as if in intimation of his wish that his father would advance. Mr. Joseph Tuggs, with considerable celerity, removed his face from the curtain and placed it before the stranger.
‘I come from the Temple,’ said the man with the bag.
‘From the Temple!’ said Mrs. Tuggs, flinging open the door of the little parlour and disclosing Miss Tuggs in perspective.
‘From the Temple!’ said Miss Tuggs and Mr. Simon Tuggs at the same moment.
‘From the Temple!’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs, turning as pale as a Dutch cheese.
‘From the Temple,’ repeated the man with the bag; ‘from Mr. Cower’s, the solicitor’s. Mr. Tuggs, I congratulate you, sir. Ladies, I wish you joy of your prosperity! We have been successful.’ And the man with the bag leisurely divested himself of his umbrella and glove, as a preliminary to shaking hands with Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
Now the words ‘we have been successful,’ had no sooner issued from the mouth of the man with the bag, than Mr. Simon Tuggs rose from the tub of weekly Dorset, opened his eyes very wide, gasped for breath, made figures of eight in the air with his pen, and finally fell into the arms of his anxious mother, and fainted away without the slightest ostensible cause or pretence.
‘Water!’ screamed Mrs. Tuggs.
‘Look up, my son,’ exclaimed Mr. Tuggs.
‘Simon! dear Simon!’ shrieked Miss Tuggs.
‘I’m better now,’ said Mr. Simon Tuggs. ‘What! successful!’ And then, as corroborative evidence of his being better, he fainted away again, and was borne into the little parlour by the united efforts of the remainder of the family, and the man with the bag.