The livery servants form a complete lane on either side of the passage, and you reduce yourself into the smallest possible space to avoid being turned out. You see that stout man with the hoarse voice, in the blue coat, queer- crowned, broad-brimmed hat, white corduroy breeches, and great boots, who has been talking incessantly for half an hour past, and whose importance has occasioned no small quantity of mirth among the strangers. That is the great conservator of the peace of Westminster. You cannot fail to have remarked the grace with which he saluted the noble Lord who passed just now, or the excessive dignity of his air, as he expostulates with the crowd. He is rather out of temper now, in consequence of the very irreverent behaviour of those two young fellows behind him, who have done nothing but laugh all the time they have been here.
'Will they divide to-night, do you think, Mr. -' timidly inquires a little thin man in the crowd, hoping to conciliate the man of office.
'How CAN you ask such questions, sir?' replies the functionary, in an incredibly loud key, and pettishly grasping the thick stick he carries in his right hand. 'Pray do not, sir. I beg of you; pray do not, sir.' The little man looks remarkably out of his element, and the uninitiated part of the throng are in positive convulsions of laughter.
Just at this moment some unfortunate individual appears, with a very smirking air, at the bottom of the long passage. He has managed to elude the vigilance of the special constable downstairs, and is evidently congratulating himself on having made his way so far.
'Go back, sir--you must NOT come here,' shouts the hoarse one, with tremendous emphasis of voice and gesture, the moment the offender catches his eye.
The stranger pauses.
'Do you hear, sir--will you go back?' continues the official dignitary, gently pushing the intruder some half-dozen yards.
'Come, don't push me,' replies the stranger, turning angrily round.
'I will, sir.'
'You won't, sir.'
'Go out, sir.'
'Take your hands off me, sir.'
'Go out of the passage, sir.'
'You're a Jack-in-office, sir.'
'A what?' ejaculates he of the boots.
'A Jack-in-office, sir, and a very insolent fellow,' reiterates the stranger, now completely in a passion.
'Pray do not force me to put you out, sir,' retorts the other-- 'pray do not--my instructions are to keep this passage clear--it's the Speaker's orders, sir.'
'D-n the Speaker, sir!' shouts the intruder.
'Here, Wilson!--Collins!' gasps the officer, actually paralysed at this insulting expression, which in his mind is all but high treason; 'take this man out--take him out, I say! How dare you, sir?' and down goes the unfortunate man five stairs at a time, turning round at every stoppage, to come back again, and denouncing bitter vengeance against the commander-in-chief, and all his supernumeraries.
'Make way, gentlemen,--pray make way for the Members, I beg of you!' shouts the zealous officer, turning back, and preceding a whole string of the liberal and independent.
You see this ferocious-looking gentleman, with a complexion almost as sallow as his linen, and whose large black moustache would give him the appearance of a figure in a hairdresser's window, if his countenance possessed the thought which is communicated to those waxen caricatures of the human face divine. He is a militia- officer, and the most amusing person in the House. Can anything be more exquisitely absurd than the burlesque grandeur of his air, as he strides up to the lobby, his eyes rolling like those of a Turk's head in a cheap Dutch clock? He never appears without that bundle of dirty papers which he carries under his left arm, and which are generally supposed to be the miscellaneous estimates for 1804, or some equally important documents. He is very punctual in his attendance at the House, and his self-satisfied 'He-ar-He-ar,' is not unfrequently the signal for a general titter.
This is the gentleman who once actually sent a messenger up to the Strangers' gallery in the old House of Commons, to inquire the name of an individual who was using an eye-glass, in order that he might complain to the Speaker that the person in question was quizzing him! On another occasion, he is reported to have repaired to Bellamy's kitchen--a refreshment-room, where persons who are not Members are admitted on sufferance, as it were--and perceiving two or three gentlemen at supper, who, he was aware, were not Members, and could not, in that place, very well resent his behaviour, he indulged in the pleasantry of sitting with his booted leg on the table at which they were supping! He is generally harmless, though, and always amusing.