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The Tinted Venus A Farcical Romance

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"Ther hopped Hawkyn,Ther daunsed Dawkyn,Ther trumped Tomkyn...."The Tournament of Tottenham.

In Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, there is a small alley or passage leading into Queen Square, and rendered inaccessible to all but foot passengers by some iron posts. The shops in this passage are of a subdued exterior, and are overshadowed by a dingy old edifice dedicated to St. George the Martyr, which seems to have begun its existence as a rather handsome chapel, and to have improved itself, by a sort of evolution, into a singularly ugly church.

Into this alley, one Saturday afternoon late in October, came a short stout young man, with sandy hair, and a perpetual grin denoting anticipation rather than enjoyment. Opposite the church he stopped at a hairdresser's shop, which bore the name of Tweddle. The display in the window was chastely severe; the conventional half-lady revolving slowly in fatuous self-satisfaction, and the gentleman bearing a piebald beard with waxen resignation, were not to be found in this shop-front, which exhibited nothing but a small pile of toilet remedies and a few lengths of hair of graduated tints. It was doubtful, perhaps, whether such self-restraint on the part of its proprietor was the result of a distaste for empty show, or a conviction that the neighbourhood did not expect it.

Inside the shop there was nobody but a small boy, corking and labelling bottles; but before he could answer any question as to the whereabouts of his employer, that artist made his appearance. Leander Tweddle was about thirty, of middle height, with a luxuriant head of brown hair, and carefully-trimmed whiskers that curled round towards his upper lip, where they spent themselves in a faint moustache. His eyes were rather small, and his nose had a decided upward tendency; but, with his pink-and-white complexion and compact well-made figure, he was far from ill-looking, though he thought himself even farther.

"Well, Jauncy," he said, after the first greetings, "so you haven't forgot our appointment?"

"Why, no," explained his friend; "but I never thought I should get away in time to keep it. We've been in court all the morning with motions and short causes, and the old Vice sat on till past three; and when we did get back to chambers, Splitter kep' me there discussing an opinion of his I couldn't agree with, and I was ever so long before I got him to alter it my way."

For he was clerk to a barrister in good practice, and it was Jauncy's pride to discover an occasional verbal slip in some of his employer's more hastily written opinions on cases, and suggest improvements.

"Well, James," said the hairdresser, "I don't know that I could have got away myself any earlier. I've been so absorbed in the laborrit'ry, what with three rejuvenators and an elixir all on the simmer together, I almost gave way under the strain of it; but they're set to cool now, and I'm ready to go as soon as you please."

"Now," said Jauncy, briskly, as they left the shop together, "if we're to get up to Rosherwich Gardens to-night, we mustn't dawdle."

"I just want to look in here a minute," said Tweddle, stopping before the window of a working-jeweller, who sat there in a narrow partition facing the light, with a great horn lens protruding from one of his eyes like a monstrous growth....