MEMOIRS OF A MOST RESPECTABLE FAMILY
Edited by Arthur Pendennis, Esq.
By William Makepeace Thackeray
CHAPTER I The Overture—After which the Curtain rises upon a Drinking Chorus II Colonel Newcome's Wild Oats III Colonel Newcome's Letter-box IV In which the Author and the Hero resume their Acquaintance V Clive's Uncles VI Newcome Brothers VII In which Mr. Clive's School-days are over VIII Mrs. Newcome at Home (a Small Early Party) IX Miss Honeyman's X Ethel and her Relations XI At Mrs. Ridley's XII In which Everybody is asked to Dinner XIII In which Thomas Newcome sings his last Song XIV Park Lane XV The Old Ladies XVI In which Mr. Sherrick lets his House in Fitzroy Square XVII A School of Art XVIII New Companions XIX The colonel at Home XX Contains more Particulars of the Colonel and his Brethren XXI Is Sentimental, but Short XXII Describes a Visit to Paris; with Accidents and Incidents in London XXIII In which we hear a Soprano and a Contralto XXIV In which the Newcome Brothers once more meet together in Unity XXV Is passed in a Public-house XXVI In which Colonel Newcome's Horses are sold XXVII Youth and Sunshine XXVIII In which Clive begins to see the World XXIX In which Barnes comes a-Wooing XXX A Retreat XXXI Madame la Duchesse XXXII Barnes's Courtship XXXIII Lady Kew at the Congress XXXIV The End of the Congress of Baden XXXV Across the Alps XXXVI In which M. de Florac is promoted XXXVII Returns to Lord Kew XXXVIII In which Lady Kew leaves his Lordship quite Convalescent XXXIX Amongst the Painters XL Returns from Rome to Pall Mall XLI An Old Story XLII Injured Innocence XLIII Returns to some Old Friends XLIV In which Mr. Charles Honeyman appears in an amiable light XLV A Stag of Ten XLVI The Hotel de Florac XLVII Contains two or three Acts of a little Comedy XLVIII In which Benedick is a Married Man XLIX Contains at least Six more Courses and Two Desserts L Clive in New Quarters LI An Old Friend LII Family Secrets LIII In which Kinsmen fall out LIV Has a Tragical Ending LV Barnes's Skeleton Closet LVI Rosa quo locorum sera moratur LVII Rosebury and Newcome LVIII "One more Unfortunate" LIX In which Achilles loses Briseis LX In which we write to the Colonel LXI In which we are introduced to a new Newcome LXII Mr. and Mrs. Clive Newcome LXIII Mrs. Clive at Home LXIV Absit Omen LXV In which Mrs. Clive comes into her Fortune LXVI In which the Colonel and the Newcome Athenaeum are both Lectured LXVII Newcome and Liberty LXVIII A Letter and a Reconciliation LXIX The Election LXX Chiltern Hundreds LXXI In which Mrs. Clive Newcome's Carriage is ordered LXXII Belisarius LXXIII In which Belisarius returns from Exile LXXIV In which Clive begins the World LXXV Founder's Day at Grey Friars LXXVI Christmas at Rosebury LXXVII The Shortest and Happiest in the whole History LXXVIII In which the Author goes on a Pleasant Errand LXII In which Old Friends come together LXXX In which the Colonel says "Adsum" when his Name is called
CHAPTER I. The Overture—After which the Curtain rises upon a Drinking Chorus
A crow, who had flown away with a cheese from a dairy-window, sate perched on a tree looking down at a great big frog in a pool underneath him. The frog's hideous large eyes were goggling out of his head in a manner which appeared quite ridiculous to the old blackamoor, who watched the splay-footed slimy wretch with that peculiar grim humour belonging to crows. Not far from the frog a fat ox was browsing; whilst a few lambs frisked about the meadow, or nibbled the grass and buttercups there.
Who should come in to the farther end of the field but a wolf? He was so cunningly dressed up in sheep's clothing, that the very lambs did not know Master Wolf; nay, one of them, whose dam the wolf had just eaten, after which he had thrown her skin over his shoulders, ran up innocently towards the devouring monster, mistaking him for her mamma.
"He, he!" says a fox, sneaking round the hedge-paling, over which the tree grew, whereupon the crow was perched looking down on the frog, who was staring with his goggle eyes fit to burst with envy, and croaking abuse at the ox. "How absurd those lambs are! Yonder silly little knock-kneed baah-ling does not know the old wolf dressed in the sheep's fleece. He is the same old rogue who gobbled up little Red Riding Hood's grandmother for lunch, and swallowed little Red Riding Hood for supper. Tirez la bobinette et la chevillette cherra. He, he!"
An owl that was hidden in the hollow of the tree woke up. "Oho, Master Fox," says she, "I cannot see you, but I smell you! If some folks like lambs, other folks like geese," says the owl.
"And your ladyship is fond of mice," says the fox.
"The Chinese eat them," says the owl, "and I have read that they are very fond of dogs," continued the old lady.
"I wish they would exterminate every cur of them off the face of the earth," said the fox.
"And I have also read, in works of travel, that the French eat frogs," continued the owl. "Aha, my friend Crapaud! are you there? That was a very pretty concert we sang together last night!"
"If the French devour my brethren, the English eat beef," croaked out the frog,—"great, big, brutal, bellowing oxen."
"Ho, whoo!" says the owl, "I have heard that the English are toad-eaters too!"
"But who ever heard of them eating an owl or a fox, madam?" says Reynard, "or their sitting down and taking a crow to pick?" adds the polite rogue, with a bow to the old crow who was perched above them with the cheese in his mouth. "We are privileged animals, all of us; at least, we never furnish dishes for the odious orgies of man."
"I am the bird of wisdom," says the owl; "I was the companion of Pallas Minerva: I am frequently represented in the Egyptian monuments."
"I have seen you over the British barn-doors," said the fox, with a grin. "You have a deal of scholarship, Mrs. Owl. I know a thing or two myself; but am, I confess it, no scholar—a mere man of the world—a fellow that lives by his wits—a mere country gentleman."
"You sneer at scholarship," continues the owl, with a sneer on her venerable face. "I read a good deal of a night."
"When I am engaged deciphering the cocks and hens at roost," says the fox.
"It's a pity for all that you can't read; that board nailed over my head would give you some information."
"What does it say?" says the fox.
"I can't spell in the daylight," answered the owl; and, giving a yawn, went back to sleep till evening in the hollow of her tree.
"A fig for her hieroglyphics!" said the fox, looking up at the crow in the tree. "What airs our slow neighbour gives herself! She pretends to all the wisdom; whereas, your reverences, the crows, are endowed with gifts far superior to these benighted old big-wigs of owls, who blink in the darkness, and call their hooting singing. How noble it is to hear a chorus of crows! There are twenty-four brethren of the Order of St. Corvinus, who have builded themselves a convent near a wood which I frequent; what a droning and a chanting they keep up! I protest their reverences' singing is nothing to yours! You sing so deliciously in parts, do for the love of harmony favour me with a solo!"
While this conversation was going on, the ox was thumping the grass; the frog was eyeing him in such a rage at his superior proportions, that he would have spurted venom at him if he could, and that he would have burst, only that is impossible, from sheer envy; the little lambkin was lying unsuspiciously at the side of the wolf in fleecy hosiery, who did not as yet molest her, being replenished with the mutton her mamma. But now the wolf's eyes began to glare, and his sharp white teeth to show, and he rose up with a growl, and began to think he should like lamb for supper.
"What large eyes you have got!" bleated out the lamb, with rather a timid look.
"The better to see you with, my dear."
"What large teeth you have got!"
"The better to——"
At this moment such a terrific yell filled the field, that all its inhabitants started with terror. It was from a donkey, who had somehow got a lion's skin, and now came in at the hedge, pursued by some men and boys with sticks and guns.
When the wolf in sheep's clothing heard the bellow of the ass in the lion's skin, fancying that the monarch of the forest was near, he ran away as fast as his disguise would let him. When the ox heard the noise he dashed round the meadow-ditch, and with one trample of his hoof squashed the frog who had been abusing him. When the crow saw the people with guns coming, he instantly dropped the cheese out of his mouth, and took to wing. When the fox saw the cheese drop, he immediately made a jump at it (for he knew the donkey's voice, and that his asinine bray was not a bit like his royal master's roar), and making for the cheese, fell into a steel trap, which snapped off his tail; without which he was obliged to go into the world, pretending, forsooth, that it was the fashion not to wear tails any more; and that the fox-party were better without 'em.
Meanwhile, a boy with a stick came up, and belaboured Master Donkey until he roared louder than ever. The wolf, with the sheep's clothing draggling about his legs, could not run fast, and was detected and shot by one of the men. The blind old owl, whirring out of the hollow tree, quite amazed at the disturbance, flounced into the face of a ploughboy, who knocked her down with a pitchfork. The butcher came and quietly led off the ox and the lamb; and the farmer, finding the fox's brush in the trap, hung it up over his mantelpiece, and always bragged that he had been in at his death.
"What a farrago of old fables is this! What a dressing up in old clothes!" says the critic. (I think I see such a one—a Solomon that sits in judgment over us authors and chops up our children.) "As sure as I am just and wise, modest, learned, and religious, so surely I have read something very like this stuff and nonsense about jackasses and foxes before. That wolf in sheep's clothing?—do I not know him? That fox discoursing with the crow?—have I not previously heard of him? Yes, in Lafontaine's fables: let us get the Dictionary and the Fable and the Biographie Universelle, article Lafontaine, and confound the impostor."
"Then in what a contemptuous way," may Solomon go on to remark, "does this author speak of human nature! There is scarce one of these characters he represents but is a villain. The fox is a flatterer; the frog is an emblem of impotence and envy; the wolf in sheep's clothing a bloodthirsty hypocrite, wearing the garb of innocence; the ass in the lion's skin a quack trying to terrify, by assuming the appearance of a forest monarch (does the writer, writhing under merited castigation, mean to sneer at critics in this character? We laugh at the impertinent comparison); the ox, a stupid commonplace; the only innocent being in the writer's (stolen) apologue is a fool—the idiotic lamb, who does not know his own mother!" And then the critic, if in a virtuous mood, may indulge in some fine writing regarding the holy beauteousness of maternal affection.
Why not? If authors sneer, it is the critic's business to sneer at them for sneering. He must pretend to be their superior, or who would care about his opinion? And his livelihood is to find fault. Besides, he is right sometimes; and the stories he reads, and the characters drawn in them, are old, sure enough. What stories are new? All types of all characters march through all fables: tremblers and boasters; victims and bullies; dupes and knaves; long-eared Neddies, giving themselves leonine airs; Tartuffes wearing virtuous clothing; lovers and their trials, their blindness, their folly and constancy. With the very first page of the human story do not love and lies too begin? So the tales were told ages before Aesop; and asses under lions' manes roared in Hebrew; and sly foxes flattered in Etruscan; and wolves in sheep's clothing gnashed their teeth in Sanskrit, no doubt. The sun shines to-day as he did when he first began shining; and the birds in the tree overhead, while I am writing, sing very much the same note they have sung ever since there were finches. Nay, since last he besought good-natured friends to listen once a month to his talking, a friend of the writer has seen the New World, and found the (featherless) birds there exceedingly like their brethren of Europe. There may be nothing new under and including the sun; but it looks fresh every morning, and we rise with it to toil, hope, scheme, laugh, struggle, love, suffer, until the night comes and quiet. And then will wake Morrow and the eyes that look on it; and so da capo.
This, then, is to be a story, may it please you, in which jackdaws will wear peacocks' feathers, and awaken the just ridicule of the peacocks; in which, while every justice is done to the peacocks themselves, the splendour of their plumage, the gorgeousness of their dazzling necks, and the magnificence of their tails, exception will yet be taken to the absurdity of their rickety strut, and the foolish discord of their pert squeaking; in which lions in love will have their claws pared by sly virgins; in which rogues will sometimes triumph, and honest folks, let us hope, come by their own; in which there will be black crape and white favours; in which there will be tears under orange-flower wreaths, and jokes in mourning-coaches; in which there will be dinners of herbs with contentment and without, and banquets of stalled oxen where there is care and hatred—ay, and kindness and friendship too, along with the feast. It does not follow that all men are honest because they are poor; and I have known some who were friendly and generous, although they had plenty of money. There are some great landlords who do not grind down their tenants; there are actually bishops who are not hypocrites; there are liberal men even among the Whigs, and the Radicals themselves are not all aristocrats at heart. But who ever heard of giving the Moral before the Fable? Children are only led to accept the one after their delectation over the other: let us take care lest our readers skip both; and so let us bring them on quickly—our wolves and lambs, our foxes and lions, our roaring donkeys, our billing ringdoves, our motherly partlets, and crowing chanticleers.
There was once a time when the sun used to shine brighter than it appears to do in this latter half of the nineteenth century; when the zest of life was certainly keener; when tavern wines seemed to be delicious, and tavern dinners the perfection of cookery; when the perusal of novels was productive of immense delight, and the monthly advent of magazine-day was hailed as an exciting holiday; when to know Thompson, who had written a magazine-article, was an honour and a privilege; and to see Brown, the author of the last romance, in the flesh, and actually walking in the Park with his umbrella and Mrs. Brown, was an event remarkable, and to the end of life to be perfectly well remembered; when the women of this world were a thousand times more beautiful than those of the present time; and the houris of the theatres especially so ravishing and angelic, that to see them was to set the heart in motion, and to see them again was to struggle for half an hour previously at the door of the pit; when tailors called at a man's lodgings to dazzle him with cards of fancy waistcoats; when it seemed necessary to purchase a grand silver dressing-case, so as to be ready for the beard which was not yet born (as yearling brides provide lace caps, and work rich clothes, for the expected darling); when to ride in the Park on a ten-shilling hack seemed to be the height of fashionable enjoyment, and to splash your college tutor as you were driving down Regent Street in a hired cab the triumph of satire; when the acme of pleasure seemed to be to meet Jones of Trinity at the Bedford, and to make an arrangement with him, and with King of Corpus (who was staying at the Colonnade), and Martin of Trinity Hall (who was with his family in Bloomsbury Square), to dine at the Piazza, go to the play and see Braham in Fra Diavolo, and end the frolic evening by partaking of supper and a song at the "Cave of Harmony."—It was in the days of my own youth, then, that I met one or two of the characters who are to figure in this history, and whom I must ask leave to accompany for a short while, and until, familiarised with the public, they can make their own way. As I recall them the roses bloom again, and the nightingales sing by the calm Bendemeer.
Going to the play, then, and to the pit, as was the fashion in those honest days, with some young fellows of my own age, having listened delighted to the most cheerful and brilliant of operas, and laughed enthusiastically at the farce, we became naturally hungry at twelve o'clock at night, and a desire for welsh-rabbits and good old glee-singing led us to the "Cave of Harmony," then kept by the celebrated Hoskins, among whose friends we were proud to count.
We enjoyed such intimacy with Mr. Hoskins that he never failed to greet us with a kind nod; and John the waiter made room for us near the President of the convivial meeting. We knew the three admirable glee-singers, and many a time they partook of brandy-and-water at our expense. One of us gave his call dinner at Hoskins's, and a merry time we had of it. Where are you, O Hoskins, bird of the night? Do you warble your songs by Acheron, or troll your choruses by the banks of black Avernus?
The goes of stout, the "Chough and Crow," the welsh-rabbit, the "Red-Cross Knight," the hot brandy-and-water (the brown, the strong!), the "Bloom is on the Rye" (the bloom isn't on the rye any more!)—the song and the cup, in a word, passed round merrily; and, I daresay, the songs and bumpers were encored. It happened that there was a very small attendance at the "Cave" that night, and we were all more sociable and friendly because the company was select. The songs were chiefly of the sentimental class; such ditties were much in vogue at the time of which I speak.
There came into the "Cave" a gentleman with a lean brown face and long black mustachios, dressed in very loose clothes, and evidently a stranger to the place. At least he had not visited it for a long time. He was pointing out changes to a lad who was in his company; and, calling for sherry-and-water, he listened to the music, and twirled his mustachios with great enthusiasm.
At the very first glimpse of me the boy jumped up from the table, bounded across the room, ran to me with his hands out, and, blushing, said, "Don't you know me?"
It was little Newcome, my school-fellow, whom I had not seen for six years, grown a fine tall young stripling now, with the same bright blue eyes which I remembered when he was quite a little boy.
"What the deuce brings you here?" said I.
He laughed and looked roguish. "My father—that's my father—would come. He's just come back from India. He says all the wits used to come here,—Mr. Sheridan, Captain Morris, Colonel Hanger, Professor Porson. I told him your name, and that you used to be very kind to me when I first went to Smithfield. I've left now; I'm to have a private tutor. I say, I've got such a jolly pony. It's better fun than old Smile."
Here the whiskered gentleman, Newcome's father, pointing to a waiter to follow him with his glass of sherry-and-water, strode across the room twirling his mustachios, and came up to the table where we sate, making a salutation with his hat in a very stately and polite manner, so that Hoskins himself was, as it were, obliged to bow; the glee-singers murmured among themselves (their eyes rolling over their glasses towards one another as they sucked brandy-and water), and that mischievous little wag, little Nadab the Improvisatore (who had just come in), began to mimic him, feeling his imaginary whiskers, after the manner of the stranger, and flapping about his pocket-handkerchief in the most ludicrous manner. Hoskins checked this ribaldry by sternly looking towards Nadab, and at the same time called upon the gents to give their orders, the waiter being in the room, and Mr. Bellew about to sing a song.
Newcome's father came up and held out his hand to me. I dare say I blushed, for I had been comparing him to the admirable Harley in the Critic, and had christened him Don Ferolo Whiskerandos.
He spoke in a voice exceedingly soft and pleasant, and with a cordiality so simple and sincere, that my laughter shrank away ashamed, and gave place to a feeling much more respectful and friendly. In youth, you see, one is touched by kindness. A man of the world may, of course, be grateful or not as he chooses.
"I have heard of your kindness, sir," says he, "to my boy. And whoever is kind to him is kind to me. Will you allow me to sit down by you? and may I beg you to try my cheroots?" We were friends in a minute—young Newcome snuggling by my side, his father opposite, to whom, after a minute or two of conversation, I presented my three college friends.
"You have come here, gentlemen, to see the wits," says the Colonel. "Are there any celebrated persons in the room? I have been five-and-thirty years from home, and want to see all that is to be seen."
King of Corpus (who was an incorrigible wag) was on the point of pulling some dreadful long-bow, and pointing out a halfdozen of people in the room, as R. and H. and L., etc., the most celebrated wits of that day; but I cut King's shins under the table, and got the fellow to hold his tongue.
"Maxima debetur pueris," says Jones (a fellow of very kind feeling, who has gone into the Church since), and, writing on his card to Hoskins, hinted to him that a boy was in the room, and a gentleman, who was quite a greenhorn: hence that the songs had better be carefully selected.
And so they were. A ladies' school might have come in, and, but for the smell of the cigars and brandy-and-water, have taken no harm by what happened. Why should it not always be so? If there are any "Caves of Harmony" now, I warrant Messieurs the landlords, their interests would be better consulted by keeping their singers within bounds. The very greatest scamps like pretty songs, and are melted by them; so are honest people. It was worth a guinea to see the simple Colonel, and his delight at the music. He forgot all about the distinguished wits whom he had expected to see in his ravishment over the glees.
"I say, Clive, this is delightful. This is better than your aunt's concert with all the Squallinis, hey? I shall come here often. Landlord, may I venture to ask those gentlemen if they will take any refreshment? What are their names?" (to one of his neighbours). "I was scarcely allowed to hear any singing before I went out, except an oratorio, where I fell asleep; but this, by George, is as fine as Incledon!" He became quite excited over his sherry-and-water-("I'm sorry to see you, gentlemen, drinking brandy-pawnee," says he; "it plays the deuce with our young men in India.") He joined in all the choruses with an exceedingly sweet voice. He laughed at "The Derby Ram" so that it did you good to hear him; and when Hoskins sang (as he did admirably) "The Old English Gentleman," and described, in measured cadence, the death of that venerable aristocrat, tears trickled down the honest warrior's cheek, while he held out his hand to Hoskins and said, "Thank you, sir, for that song; it is an honour to human nature." On which Hoskins began to cry too.
And now young Nadab, having been cautioned, commenced one of those surprising feats of improvisation with which he used to charm audiences. He took us all off, and had rhymes pat about all the principal persons in the room: King's pins (which he wore very splendid), Martin's red waistcoat, etc. The Colonel was charmed with each feat, and joined delighted with the chorus—"Ritolderol ritolderol ritolderolderay" (bis). And when, coming to the Colonel himself, he burst out—
"A military gent I see—And while his face I scan, I think you'll all agree with me—He came from Hindostan. And by his side sits laughing free—A youth with curly head, I think you'll all agree with me—That he was best in bed. Ritolderol," etc. —the Colonel laughed immensely at this sally, and clapped his son, young Clive, on the shoulder. "Hear what he says of you, sir? Clive, best be off to bed, my boy—ho, ho! No, no. We know a trick worth two of that. 'We won't go home till morning, till daylight does appear.' Why should we? Why shouldn't my boy have innocent pleasure? I was allowed none when I was a young chap, and the severity was nearly the ruin of me. I must go and speak with that young man—the most astonishing thing I ever heard in my life. What's his name? Mr. Nadab? Mr. Nadab, sir, you have delighted me. May I make so free as to ask you to come and dine with me to-morrow at six? Colonel Newcome, if you please, Nerot's Hotel, Clifford Street. I am always proud to make the acquaintance of men of genius, and you are one, or my name is not Newcome!"
"Sir, you do me hhonour," says Mr. Nadab, pulling up his shirt-collar, "and perhaps the day will come when the world will do me justice,—may I put down your hhonoured name for my book of poems?"
"Of course, my dear sir," says the enthusiastic Colonel; "I'll send them all over India. Put me down for six copies, and do me the favour to bring them to-morrow when you come to dinner."
And now Mr. Hoskins asking if any gentleman would volunteer a song, what was our amazement when the simple Colonel offered to sing himself, at which the room applauded vociferously; whilst methought poor Clive Newcome hung down his head, and blushed as red as a peony. I felt for the young lad, and thought what my own sensations would have been if, in that place, my own uncle, Major Pendennis, had suddenly proposed to exert his lyrical powers.
The Colonel selected the ditty of "Wapping Old Stairs" (a ballad so sweet and touching that surely any English poet might be proud to be the father of it), and he sang this quaint and charming old song in an exceedingly pleasant voice, with flourishes and roulades in the old Incledon manner, which has pretty nearly passed away. The singer gave his heart and soul to the simple ballad, and delivered Molly's gentle appeal so pathetically that even the professional gentlemen hummed and buzzed—a sincere applause; and some wags who were inclined to jeer at the beginning of the performance, clinked their glasses and rapped their sticks with quite a respectful enthusiasm. When the song was over, Clive held up his head too; after the shock of the first verse, looked round with surprise and pleasure in his eyes; and we, I need not say, backed our friend, delighted to see him come out of his queer scrape so triumphantly. The Colonel bowed and smiled with very pleasant good-nature at our plaudits. It was like Dr. Primrose preaching his sermon in the prison. There was something touching in the naivete and kindness of the placid and simple gentleman.
Great Hoskins, placed on high, amidst the tuneful choir, was pleased to signify his approbation, and gave his guest's health in his usual dignified manner. "I am much obliged to you, sir," says Mr. Hoskins; "the room ought to be much obliged to you: I drink your 'ealth and song, sir;" and he bowed to the Colonel politely over his glass of brandy-and-water, of which he absorbed a little in his customer's honour. "I have not heard that song," he was kind enough to say, "better performed since Mr. Incledon sung it. He was a great singer, sir, and I may say, in the words of our immortal Shakspeare, that, take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again."
The Colonel blushed in his turn, and turning round to his boy with an arch smile, said, "I learnt it from Incledon. I used to slip out from Grey Friars to hear him, Heaven bless me, forty years ago; and I used to be flogged afterwards, and serve me right too. Lord! Lord! how the time passes!" He drank off his sherry-and-water, and fell back in his chair; we could see he was thinking about his youth—the golden time—the happy, the bright, the unforgotten. I was myself nearly two-and-twenty years of age at that period, and felt as old as, ay, older than the Colonel.
Whilst he was singing his ballad, there had walked, or rather reeled, into the room, a gentleman in a military frock-coat and duck trousers of dubious hue, with whose name and person some of my readers are perhaps already acquainted. In fact it was my friend Captain Costigan, in his usual condition at this hour of the night.
Holding on by various tables, the Captain had sidled up, without accident to himself or any of the jugs and glasses round about him, to the table where we sat, and had taken his place near the writer, his old acquaintance. He warbled the refrain of the Colonel's song, not inharmoniously; and saluted its pathetic conclusion with a subdued hiccup and a plentiful effusion of tears. "Bedad, it is a beautiful song," says he, "and many a time I heard poor Harry Incledon sing it."
"He's a great character," whispered that unlucky King of Corpus to his neighbour the Colonel; "was a Captain in the army. We call him the General. Captain Costigan, will you take something to drink?"
"Bedad, I will," says the Captain, "and I'll sing ye a song tu."
And, having procured a glass of whisky-and-water from the passing waiter, the poor old man, settling his face into a horrid grin, and leering, as he was wont when he gave what he called one of his prime songs, began his music.
The unlucky wretch, who scarcely knew what he was doing or saying, selected one of the most outrageous performances of his repertoire, fired off a tipsy howl by way of overture, and away he went. At the end of the second verse the Colonel started up, clapping on his hat, seizing his stick, and looking as ferocious as though he had been going to do battle with a Pindaree.
"Silence!" he roared out.
"Hear, hear!" cried certain wags at a farther table. "Go on, Costigan!" said others.
"Go on!" cries the Colonel, in his high voice trembling with anger. "Does any gentleman say 'Go On?' Does any man who has a wife and sisters, or children at home, say 'Go on' to such disgusting ribaldry as this? Do you dare, sir, to call yourself a gentleman, and to say that you hold the King's commission, and to sit down amongst Christians and men of honour, and defile the ears of young boys with this wicked balderdash?"
"Why do you bring young boys here, old boy?" cries a voice of the malcontents.
"Why? Because I thought I was coming to a society of gentlemen," cried out the indignant Colonel. "Because I never could have believed that Englishmen could meet together and allow a man, and an old man, so to disgrace himself. For shame, you old wretch! Go home to your bed, you hoary old sinner! And for my part, I'm not sorry that my son should see, for once in his life, to what shame and degradation and dishonour, drunkenness and whisky may bring a man. Never mind the change, sir!—Curse the change!" says the Colonel, facing the amazed waiter. "Keep it till you see me in this place again; which will be never—by George, never!" And shouldering his stick, and scowling round at the company of scared bacchanalians, the indignant gentleman stalked away, his boy after him.
Clive seemed rather shamefaced; but I fear the rest of the company looked still more foolish.
"Aussi que diable venait—il faire dans cette galere?" says King of Corpus to Jones of Trinity; and Jones gave a shrug of his shoulders, which were smarting, perhaps; for that uplifted cane of the Colonel's had somehow fallen on the back of every man in the room.
CHAPTER II. Colonel Newcome's Wild Oats
As the young gentleman who has just gone to bed is to be the hero of the following pages, we had best begin our account of him with his family history, which luckily is not very long.
When pigtails still grew on the backs of the British gentry, and their wives wore cushions on their heads, over which they tied their own hair, and disguised it with powder and pomatum: when Ministers went in their stars and orders to the House of Commons, and the orators of the Opposition attacked nightly the noble lord in the blue ribbon: when Mr. Washington was heading the American rebels with a courage, it must be confessed, worthy of a better cause: there came up to London, out of a northern county, Mr. Thomas Newcome, afterwards Thomas Newcome, Esq., and sheriff of London, afterwards Mr. Alderman Newcome, the founder of the family whose name has given the title to this history. It was but in the reign of George III. that Mr. Newcome first made his appearance in Cheapside; having made his entry into London on a waggon, which landed him and some bales of cloth, all his fortune, in Bishopsgate Street; though if it could be proved that the Normans wore pigtails under William the Conqueror, and Mr. Washington fought against the English under King Richard in Palestine, I am sure some of the present Newcomes would pay the Heralds' Office handsomely, living, as they do, amongst the noblest of the land, and giving entertainments to none but the very highest nobility and elite of the fashionable and diplomatic world, as you may read any day in the newspapers. For though these Newcomes have got a pedigree from the College, which is printed in Budge's Landed Aristocracy of Great Britain, and which proves that the Newcome of Cromwell's army, the Newcome who was among the last six who were hanged by Queen Mary for Protestantism, were ancestors of this house; of which a member distinguished himself at Bosworth Field; and the founder, slain by King Harold's side at Hastings, had been surgeon-barber to King Edward the Confessor; yet, between ourselves, I think that Sir Brian Newcome, of Newcome, does not believe a word of the story, any more than the rest of the world does, although a number of his children bear names out of the Saxon Calendar.
Was Thomas Newcome a foundling—a workhouse child out of that village which has now become a great manufacturing town, and which bears his name? Such was the report set about at the last election, when Sir Brian, in the Conservative interest contested the borough; and Mr. Yapp, the out-and-out Liberal candidate, had a picture of the old workhouse placarded over the town as the birthplace of the Newcomes; with placards ironically exciting freemen to vote for Newcome and union—Newcome and the parish interests, etc. Who cares for these local scandals? It matters very little to those who have the good fortune to be invited to Lady Ann Newcome's parties whether her beautiful daughters can trace their pedigrees no higher than to the alderman their grandfather; or whether, through the mythic ancestral barber-surgeon, they hang on to the chin of Edward, Confessor and King.
Thomas Newcome, who had been a weaver in his native village, brought the very best character for honesty, thrift, and ingenuity with him to London, where he was taken into the house of Hobson Brothers, cloth-factors; afterwards Hobson and Newcome. This fact may suffice to indicate Thomas Newcome's story. Like Whittington and many other London apprentices, he began poor and ended by marrying his master's daughter, and becoming sheriff and alderman of the City of London.
But it was only en secondes noces that he espoused the wealthy, and religious, and eminent (such was the word applied to certain professing Christians in those days) Sophia Alethea Hobson—a woman who, considerably older than Mr. Newcome, had the advantage of surviving him many years. Her mansion at Clapham was long the resort of the most favoured amongst the religious world. The most eloquent expounders; the most gifted missionaries, the most interesting converts from foreign islands, were to be found at her sumptuous table, spread with the produce of her magnificent gardens. Heaven indeed blessed those gardens with plenty, as many reverend gentlemen remarked; there were no finer grapes, peaches, or pineapples in all England. Mr. Whitfield himself christened her; and it was said generally in the City, and by her friends, that Miss Hobson's two Christian names, Sophia and Alethea, were two Greek words, which, being interpreted, meant wisdom and truth. She, her villa and gardens, are now no more; but Sophia Terrace, Upper and Lower Alethea Road, and Hobson's Buildings, Square, etc., show every quarter-day that the ground sacred to her (and freehold) still bears plenteous fruit for the descendants of this eminent woman.
We are, however, advancing matters. When Thomas Newcome had been some time in London, he quitted the house of Hobson, finding an opening, though in a much smaller way, for himself. And no sooner did his business prosper, than he went down into the north, like a man, to a pretty girl whom he had left there, and whom he had promised to marry. What seemed an imprudent match (for his wife had nothing but a pale face, that had grown older and paler with long waiting) turned out a very lucky one for Newcome. The whole countryside was pleased to think of the prosperous London tradesman returning to keep his promise to the penniless girl whom he had loved in the days of his own poverty; the great country clothiers, who knew his prudence and honesty, gave him much of their business when he went back to London. Susan Newcome would have lived to be a rich woman had not fate ended her career within a year after her marriage, when she died giving birth to a son.
Newcome had a nurse for the child, and a cottage at Clapham, hard by Mr. Hobson's house, where he had often walked in the garden of a Sunday, and been invited to sit down to take a glass of wine. Since he had left their service, the house had added a banking business, which was greatly helped by the Quakers and their religious connection; and Newcome, keeping his account there, and gradually increasing his business, was held in very good esteem by his former employers, and invited sometimes to tea at the Hermitage; for which entertainments he did not, in truth, much care at first, being a City man, a good deal tired with his business during the day, and apt to go to sleep over the sermons, expoundings, and hymns, with which the gifted preachers, missionaries, etc., who were always at the Hermitage, used to wind up the evening, before supper. Nor was he a supping man (in which case he would have found the parties pleasanter, for in Egypt itself there were not more savoury fleshpots than at Clapham); he was very moderate in his meals, of a bilious temperament, and, besides, obliged to be in town early in the morning, always setting off to walk an hour before the first coach.
But when his poor Susan died, Miss Hobson, by her father's demise, having now become a partner in the house, as well as heiress to the pious and childless Zachariah Hobson, her uncle Mr. Newcome, with his little boy in his hand, met Miss Hobson as she was coming out of meeting one Sunday; and the child looked so pretty (Mr. N. was a very personable, fresh-coloured man himself; he wore powder to the end, and top-boots and brass buttons, in his later days, after he had been sheriff indeed, one of the finest specimens of the old London merchant); Miss Hobson, I say, invited him and little Tommy into the grounds of the Hermitage; did not quarrel with the innocent child for frisking about in the hay on the lawn, which lay basking in the Sabbath sunshine, and at the end of the visit gave him a large piece of pound-cake, a quantity of the finest hothouse grapes, and a tract in one syllable. Tommy was ill the next day; but on the next Sunday his father was at meeting.
He became very soon after this an awakened man; and the tittling and tattling, and the sneering and gossiping, all over Clapham, and the talk on 'Change, and the pokes in the waistcoat administered by the wags to Newcome,—"Newcome, give you joy, my boy;" "Newcome, new partner in Hobson's;" "Newcome, just take in this paper to Hobson's, they'll do it, I warrant," etc. etc.; and the groans of the Rev. Gideon Bawls, of the Rev. Athanasius O'Grady, that eminent convert from Popery, who, quarrelling with each other, yea, striving one against another, had yet two sentiments in common, their love for Miss Hobson, their dread, their hatred of the worldly Newcome; all these squabbles and jokes, and pribbles and prabbles, look you, may be omitted. As gallantly as he had married a woman without a penny, as gallantly as he had conquered his poverty and achieved his own independence, so bravely he went in and won the great City prize with a fortune of a quarter of a million. And every one of his old friends, and every honest-hearted fellow who likes to see shrewdness, and honesty, and courage succeed, was glad of his good fortune, and said, "Newcome, my boy" (or "Newcome, my buck," if they were old City cronies, and very familiar), "I give you joy."
Of course Mr. Newcome might have gone into Parliament: of course before the close of his life he might have been made a baronet: but he eschewed honours senatorial or blood-red hands. "It wouldn't do," with his good sense he said; "the Quaker connection wouldn't like it." His wife never cared about being called Lady Newcome. To manage the great house of Hobson Brothers and Newcome; to attend to the interests of the enslaved negro; to awaken the benighted Hottentot to a sense of the truth; to convert Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Papists; to arouse the indifferent and often blasphemous mariner; to guide the washerwoman in the right way; to head all the public charities of her sect, and do a thousand secret kindnesses that none knew of; to answer myriads of letters, pension endless ministers, and supply their teeming wives with continuous baby-linen; to hear preachers daily bawling for hours, and listen untired on her knees after a long day's labour, while florid rhapsodists belaboured cushions above her with wearisome benedictions; all these things had this woman to do, and for near fourscore years she fought her fight womanfully: imperious but deserving to rule, hard but doing her duty, severe but charitable, and untiring in generosity as in labour; unforgiving in one instance—in that of her husband's eldest son, Thomas Newcome; the little boy who had played on the hay, and whom at first she had loved very sternly and fondly.
Mr. Thomas Newcome, the father of his wife's twin boys, the junior partner of the house of Hobson Brothers and Co., lived several years after winning the great prize about which all his friends so congratulated him. But he was, after all, only the junior partner of the house. His wife was manager in Threadneedle Street and at home—when the clerical gentlemen prayed they importuned Heaven for that sainted woman a long time before they thought of asking any favour for her husband. The gardeners touched their hats, the clerks at the bank brought him the books, but they took their orders from her, not from him. I think he grew weary of the prayer-meetings, he yawned over the sufferings of the negroes, and wished the converted Jews at Jericho. About the time the French Emperor was meeting with his Russian reverses Mr. Newcome died: his mausoleum is in Clapham Churchyard, near the modest grave where his first wife reposes.
When his father married, Mr. Thomas Newcome, jun., and Sarah his nurse were transported from the cottage where they had lived in great comfort to the palace hard by, surrounded by lawns and gardens, pineries, graperies, aviaries, luxuries of all kinds. This paradise, five miles from the Standard at Cornhill, was separated from the outer world by a thick hedge of tall trees, and an ivy-covered porter's-gate, through which they who travelled to London on the top of the Clapham coach could only get a glimpse of the bliss within. It was a serious paradise. As you entered at the gate, gravity fell on you; and decorum wrapped you in a garment of starch. The butcher-boy who galloped his horse and cart madly about the adjoining lanes and common, whistled wild melodies (caught up in abominable playhouse galleries), and joked with a hundred cook-maids, on passing that lodge fell into an undertaker's pace, and delivered his joints and sweetbreads silently at the servants' entrance. The rooks in the elms cawed sermons at morning and evening; the peacocks walked demurely on the terraces; the guinea-fowls looked more Quaker-like than those savoury birds usually do. The lodge-keeper was serious, and a clerk at a neighbouring chapel. The pastors who entered at the gate, and greeted his comely wife and children, fed the little lambkins with tracts. The head-gardener was a Scotch Calvinist, after the strictest order, only occupying himself with the melons and pines provisionally, and until the end of the world, which event, he could prove by infallible calculations, was to come off in two or three years at farthest. Wherefore, he asked, should the butler brew strong ale to be drunken three years hence; or the housekeeper (a follower of Joanna Southcote) make provisions of fine linen and lay up stores of jams? On a Sunday (which good old Saxon word was scarcely known at the Hermitage) the household marched away in separate couples or groups to at least half a dozen of religious edifices, each to sit under his or her favourite minister, the only man who went to church being Thomas Newcome, accompanied by Tommy his little son, and Sarah his nurse, who was, I believe, also his aunt, or at least his mother's first cousin. Tommy was taught hymns, very soon after he could speak, appropriate to his tender age, pointing out to him the inevitable fate of wicked children, and giving him the earliest possible warning and description of the punishment of little sinners. He repeated these poems to his stepmother after dinner, before a great shining mahogany table, covered with grapes, pineapples, plum-cake, port wine, and Madeira, and surrounded by stout men in black, with baggy white neckcloths, who took the little man between their knees, and questioned him as to his right understanding of the place whither naughty boys were bound. They patted his head with their fat hands if he said well, or rebuked him if he was bold, as he often was.
Nurse Sarah or Aunt Sarah would have died had she remained many years in that stifling garden of Eden. She could not bear to part from the child whom her mistress and kinswoman had confided to her (the women had worked in the same room at Newcome's, and loved each other always, when Susan became a merchant's lady, and Sarah her servant). She was nobody in the pompous new household but Master Tommy's nurse. The honest soul never mentioned her relationship to the boy's mother, nor indeed did Mr. Newcome acquaint his new family with that circumstance. The housekeeper called her an Erastian: Mrs. Newcome's own serious maid informed against her for telling Tommy stories of Lancashire witches, and believing in the same. The black footman (madam's maid and the butler were of course privately united) persecuted her with his addresses, and was even encouraged by his mistress, who thought of sending him as a missionary to the Niger. No little love, and fidelity, and constancy did honest Sarah show and use during the years she passed at the Hermitage, and until Tommy went to school. Her master, with many private prayers and entreaties, in which he passionately recalled his former wife's memory and affection, implored his friend to stay with him; and Tommy's fondness for her and artless caresses, and the scrapes he got into, and the howls he uttered over the hymns and catechisms which he was bidden to learn (by Rev. T. Clack,, of Highbury College, his daily tutor, who was commissioned to spare not the rod, neither to spoil the child), all these causes induced Sarah to remain with her young master until such time as he was sent to school.
Meanwhile an event of prodigious importance, a wonderment, a blessing and a delight, had happened at the Hermitage. About two years after Mrs. Newcome's marriage, the lady being then forty-three years of age, no less than two little cherubs appeared in the Clapham Paradise—the twins, Hobson Newcome and Brian Newcome, called after their uncle and late grandfather, whose name and rank they were destined to perpetuate. And now there was no reason why young Newcome should not go to school. Old Mr. Hobson and his brother had been educated at that school of Grey Friars, of which mention has been made in former works and to Grey Friars Thomas Newcome was accordingly sent, exchanging—O ye Gods! with what delight!—the splendour of Clapham for the rough, plentiful fare of the place, blacking his master's shoes with perfect readiness, till he rose in the school, and the time came when he should have a fag of his own: tibbing out and receiving the penalty therefore: bartering a black eye, per bearer, against a bloody nose drawn at sight, with a schoolfellow, and shaking hands the next day; playing at cricket, hockey, prisoners' base, and football, according to the season; and gorging himself and friends with tarts when he had money (and of this he had plenty) to spend. I have seen his name carved upon the Gown Boys' arch: but he was at school long before my time; his son showed me the name when we were boys together, in some year when George the Fourth was king.
The pleasures of this school-life were such to Tommy Newcome, that he did not care to go home for a holiday: and indeed, by insubordination and boisterousness; by playing tricks and breaking windows; by marauding upon the gardener's peaches and the housekeeper's jam; by upsetting his two little brothers in a go-cart (of which wanton and careless injury the present Baronet's nose bears marks to this very day); by going to sleep during the sermons, and treating reverend gentlemen with levity, he drew down on himself the merited wrath of his stepmother; and many punishments in this present life, besides those of a future and much more durable kind, which the good lady did not fail to point out that he must undoubtedly inherit. His father, at Mrs. Newcome's instigation, certainly whipped Tommy for upsetting his little brothers in the go-cart; but upon being pressed to repeat the whipping for some other peccadillo performed soon after, Mr. Newcome refused at once, using a wicked, worldly expression, which well might shock any serious lady; saying, in fact, that he would be deed if he beat the boy any more, and that he got flogging enough at school, in which opinion Master Tommy fully coincided.
The undaunted woman, his stepmother, was not to be made to forgo her plans for the boy's reform by any such vulgar ribaldries; and Mr. Newcome being absent in the City on his business, and Tommy refractory as usual, she summoned the serious butler and the black footman (for the lashings of whose brethren she felt an unaffected pity) to operate together in the chastisement of this young criminal. But he dashed so furiously against the butler's shins as to draw blood from his comely limbs, and to cause that serious and overfed menial to limp and suffer for many days after; and, seizing the decanter, he swore he would demolish blacky's ugly face with it: nay, he threatened to discharge it at Mrs. Newcome's own head before he would submit to the coercion which she desired her agents to administer.
High words took place between Mr. and Mrs. Newcome that night on the gentleman's return home from the City, and on his learning the events of the morning. It is to be feared he made use of further oaths, which hasty ejaculations need not be set down in this place; at any rate, he behaved with spirit and manliness as master of the house, vowed that if any servant laid a hand on the child, he would thrash him first and then discharge him; and I dare say expressed himself with bitterness and regret that he had married a wife who would not be obedient to her husband, and had entered a house of which he was not suffered to be the master. Friends were called in—the interference, the supplications, of the Clapham clergy, some of whom dined constantly at the Hermitage, prevailed to allay this domestic quarrel; and no doubt the good sense of Mrs. Newcome—who, though imperious, was yet not unkind; and who, excellent as she was, yet could be brought to own that she was sometimes in fault—induced her to make at least a temporary submission to the man whom she had placed at the head of her house, and whom it must be confessed she had vowed to love and honour. When Tommy fell ill of the scarlet fever, which afflicting event occurred presently after the above dispute, his own nurse, Sarah, could not have been more tender, watchful, and affectionate than his stepmother showed herself to be. She nursed him through his illness; allowed his food and medicine to be administered by no other hand; sat up with the boy through a night of his fever, and uttered not one single reproach to her husband (who watched with her) when the twins took the disease (from which we need not say they happily recovered); and though young Tommy, in his temporary delirium, mistaking her for Nurse Sarah, addressed her as his dear Fat Sally—whereas no whipping-post to which she ever would have tied him could have been leaner than Mrs. Newcome—and, under this feverish delusion, actually abused her to her face; calling her an old cat, an old Methodist, and, jumping up in his little bed, forgetful of his previous fancy, vowing that he would put on his clothes and run away to Sally. Sally was at her northern home by this time, with a liberal pension which Mr. Newcome gave her, and which his son and his son's son after him, through all their difficulties and distresses, always found means to pay.
What the boy threatened in his delirium he had thought of, no doubt, more than once in his solitary and unhappy holidays. A year after he actually ran away, not from school, but from home; and appeared one morning, gaunt and hungry, at Sarah's cottage two hundred miles away from Clapham, who housed the poor prodigal, and killed her calf for him—washed him, with many tears and kisses, and put him to bed and to sleep; from which slumber he was aroused by the appearance of his father, whose sure instinct, backed by Mrs. Newcome's own quick intelligence, had made him at once aware whither the young runaway had fled. The poor father came horsewhip in hand—he knew of no other law or means to maintain his authority; many and many a time had his own father, the old weaver, whose memory he loved and honoured, strapped and beaten him. Seeing this instrument in the parent's hand, as Mr. Newcome thrust out the weeping trembling Sarah and closed the door upon her, Tommy, scared out of a sweet sleep and a delightful dream of cricket, knew his fate; and, getting up out of bed, received his punishment without a word. Very likely the father suffered more than the child; for when the punishment was over, the little man, yet trembling and quivering with the pain, held out his little bleeding hand and said, "I can—I can take it from you, sir;" saying which his face flushed, and his eyes filled, for the first time; whereupon the father burst into a passion of tears, and embraced the boy and kissed him, besought and prayed him to be rebellious no more—flung the whip away from him and swore, come what would, he would never strike him again. The quarrel was the means of a great and happy reconciliation. The three dined together in Sarah's cottage. Perhaps the father would have liked to walk that evening in the lanes and fields where he had wandered as a young fellow: where he had first courted and first kissed the young girl he loved—poor child—who had waited for him so faithfully and fondly, who had passed so many a day of patient want and meek expectance, to be repaid by such a scant holiday and brief fruition.
Mrs. Newcome never made the slightest allusion to Tom's absence after his return, but was quite gentle and affectionate with him, and that night read the parable of the Prodigal in a very low and quiet voice.
This, however, was only a temporary truce. War very soon broke out again between the impetuous lad and his rigid domineering mother-in-law. It was not that he was very bad, or she perhaps more stern than other ladies, but the two could not agree. The boy sulked and was miserable at home. He fell to drinking with the grooms in the stables. I think he went to Epsom races, and was discovered after that act of rebellion. Driving from a most interesting breakfast at Roehampton (where a delightful Hebrew convert had spoken, oh! so graciously!), Mrs. Newcome—in her state-carriage, with her bay horses—met Tom, her son-in-law, in a tax-cart, excited by drink, and accompanied by all sorts of friends, male and female. John the black man was bidden to descend from the carriage and bring him to Mrs. Newcome. He came; his voice was thick with drink. He laughed wildly: he described a fight at which he had been present. It was not possible that such a castaway as this should continue in a house where her two little cherubs were growing up in innocence and grace.
The boy had a great fancy for India; and Orme's History, containing the exploits of Clive and Lawrence, was his favourite book of all in his father's library. Being offered a writership, he scouted the idea of a civil appointment, and would be contented with nothing but a uniform. A cavalry cadetship was procured for Thomas Newcome; and the young man's future career being thus determined, and his stepmother's unwilling consent procured, Mr. Newcome thought fit to send his son to a tutor for military instruction, and removed him from the London school, where in truth he had made but very little progress in the humaner letters. The lad was placed with a professor who prepared young men for the army, and received rather a better professional education than fell to the lot of most young soldiers of his day. He cultivated the mathematics and fortification with more assiduity than he had ever bestowed on Greek and Latin, and especially made such a progress in the French tongue as was very uncommon among the British youth his contemporaries.
In the study of this agreeable language, over which young Newcome spent a great deal of his time, he unluckily had some instructors who were destined to bring the poor lad into yet further trouble at home. His tutor, an easy gentleman, lived at Blackheath, and, not far from thence, on the road to Woolwich, dwelt the little Chevalier de Blois, at whose house the young man much preferred to take his French lessons rather than to receive them under his tutor's own roof.
For the fact was that the little Chevalier de Blois had two pretty young daughters, with whom he had fled from his country along with thousands of French gentlemen at the period of revolution and emigration. He was a cadet of a very ancient family, and his brother, the Marquis de Blois, was a fugitive like himself, but with the army of the princes on the Rhine, or with his exiled sovereign at Mittau. The Chevalier had seen the wars of the great Frederick: what man could be found better to teach young Newcome the French language and the art military? It was surprising with what assiduity he pursued his studies. Mademoiselle Leonore, the Chevalier's daughter, would carry on her little industry very undisturbedly in the same parlour with her father and his pupil. She painted card-racks: laboured at embroidery; was ready to employ her quick little brain or fingers in any way by which she could find means to add a few shillings to the scanty store on which this exiled family supported themselves in their day of misfortune. I suppose the Chevalier was not in the least unquiet about her, because she was promised in marriage to the Comte de Florac, also of the emigration—a distinguished officer like the Chevalier, than whom he was a year older—and, at the time of which we speak, engaged in London in giving private lessons on the fiddle. Sometimes on a Sunday he would walk to Blackheath with that instrument in his hand, and pay his court to his young fiancee, and talk over happier days with his old companion-in-arms. Tom Newcome took no French lessons on a Sunday. He passed that day at Clapham generally, where, strange to say, he never said a word about Mademoiselle de Blois.
What happens when two young folks of eighteen, handsome and ardent, generous and impetuous, alone in the world, or without strong affections to bind them elsewhere,—what happens when they meet daily over French dictionaries, embroidery frames, or indeed upon any business whatever? No doubt Mademoiselle Leonore was a young lady perfectly bien elevee, and ready, as every well-elevated young Frenchwoman should be, to accept a husband of her parents' choosing; but while the elderly M. de Florac was fiddling in London, there was that handsome young Tom Newcome ever present at Blackheath. To make a long matter short, Tom declared his passion, and was for marrying Leonore off hand, if she would but come with him to the little Catholic chapel at Woolwich. Why should they not go out to India together and be happy ever after?
The innocent little amour may have been several months in transaction, and was discovered by Mrs. Newcome, whose keen spectacles nothing could escape. It chanced that she drove to Blackheath to Tom's tutor's. Tom was absent taking his French and drawing lesson of M. de Blois. Thither Tom's stepmother followed him, and found the young man sure enough with his instructor over his books and plans of fortification. Mademoiselle and her card-screens were in the room, but behind those screens she could not hide her blushes and confusion from Mrs. Newcome's sharp glances. In one moment the banker's wife saw the whole affair—the whole mystery which had been passing for months under poor M. de Blois' nose, without his having the least notion of the truth.
Mrs. Newcome said she wanted her son to return home with her upon private affairs; and before they had reached the Hermitage a fine battle had ensued between them. His mother had charged him with being a wretch and a monster, and he had replied fiercely, denying the accusation with scorn, and announcing his wish instantly to marry the most virtuous, the most beautiful of her sex. To marry a Papist! This was all that was wanted to make poor Tom's cup of bitterness run over. Mr. Newcome was called in, and the two elders passed a great part of the night in an assault upon the lad. He was grown too tall for the cane; but Mrs. Newcome thonged him with the lash of her indignation for many an hour that evening.
He was forbidden to enter, M. de Blois' house, a prohibition at which the spirited young fellow snapped his fingers, and laughed in scorn. Nothing, he swore, but death should part him from the young lady. On the next day his father came to him alone and plied him with entreaties, but he was as obdurate as before. He would have her; nothing should prevent him. He cocked his hat and walked out of the lodge-gate, as his father, quite beaten by the young man's obstinacy, with haggard face and tearful eyes, went his own way into town. He was not very angry himself: in the course of their talk overnight the boy had spoken bravely and honestly, and Newcome could remember how, in his own early life, he too had courted and loved a young lass. It was Mrs. Newcome the father was afraid of. Who shall depict her wrath at the idea that a child of her house was about to marry a Popish girl?
So young Newcome went his way to Blackheath, bent upon falling straightway down upon his knees before Leonore, and having the Chevalier's blessing. That old fiddler in London scarcely seemed to him to be an obstacle: it seemed monstrous that a young creature should be given away to a man older than her own father. He did not know the law of honour, as it obtained amongst French gentlemen of those days, or how religiously their daughters were bound by it.
But Mrs. Newcome had been beforehand with him, and had visited the Chevalier de Blois almost at cockcrow. She charged him insolently with being privy to the attachment between the young people; pursued him with vulgar rebukes about beggary, Popery, and French adventurers. Her husband had to make a very contrite apology afterwards for the language which his wife had thought fit to employ. "You forbid me," said the Chevalier, "you forbid Mademoiselle de Blois to marry your son, Mr. Thomas! No, madam, she comes of a race which is not accustomed to ally itself with persons of your class; and is promised to a gentleman whose ancestors were dukes and peers when Mr. Newcome's were blacking shoes!" Instead of finding his pretty blushing girl on arriving at Woolwich, poor Tom only found his French master, livid with rage and quivering under his ailes de pigeon. We pass over the scenes that followed; the young man's passionate entreaties, and fury and despair. In his own defence, and to prove his honour to the world, M. de Blois determined that his daughter should instantly marry the Count. The poor girl yielded without a word, as became her; and it was with this marriage effected almost before his eyes, and frantic with wrath and despair, that young Newcome embarked for India, and quitted the parents whom he was never more to see.
Tom's name was no more mentioned at Clapham. His letters to his father were written to the City; very pleasant they were, and comforting to the father's heart. He sent Tom liberal private remittances to India, until the boy wrote to say that he wanted no more. Mr. Newcome would have liked to leave Tom all his private fortune, for the twins were only too well cared for; but he dared not on account of his terror of Sophia Alethea, his wife; and he died, and poor Tom was only secretly forgiven.
CHAPTER III. Colonel Newcome's Letter-box
I. "With the most heartfelt joy, my dear Major, I take up my pen to announce to you the happy arrival of the Ramchunder, and the dearest and handsomest little boy who, I am sure, ever came from India. Little Clive is in perfect health. He speaks English wonderfully well. He cried when he parted from Mr. Sneid, the supercargo, who most kindly brought him from Southampton in a postchaise, but these tears in childhood are of very brief duration! The voyage, Mr. Sneid states, was most favourable, occupying only four months and eleven days. How different from that more lengthened and dangerous passage of eight months, and almost perpetual sea-sickness, in which my poor dear sister Emma went to Bengal, to become the wife of the best of husbands and the mother of the dearest of little boys, and to enjoy these inestimable blessings for so brief an interval! She has quitted this wicked and wretched world for one where all is peace. The misery and ill-treatment which she endured from Captain Case her first odious husband, were, I am sure, amply repaid, my dear Colonel, by your subsequent affection. If the most sumptuous dresses which London, even Paris, could supply, jewellery the most costly, and elegant lace, and everything lovely and fashionable, could content a woman, these, I am sure, during the last four years of her life, the poor girl had. Of what avail are they when this scene of vanity is closed?
"Mr. Sneid announces that the passage was most favourable. They stayed a week at the Cape, and three days at St. Helena, where they visited Bonaparte's tomb (another instance of the vanity of all things!), and their voyage was enlivened off Ascension by the taking of some delicious turtle!
"You may be sure that the most liberal sum which you have placed to my credit with the Messrs. Hobson and Co. shall be faithfully expended on my dear little charge. Mrs. Newcome can scarcely be called his grandmamma, I suppose; and I daresay her Methodistical ladyship will not care to see the daughter and grandson of a clergyman of the Church of England! My brother Charles took leave to wait upon her when he presented your last most generous bill at the bank. She received him most rudely, and said a fool and his money are soon parted; and when Charles said, 'Madam, I am the brother of the late Mrs. Major Newcome,' 'Sir,' says she, 'I judge nobody; but from all accounts, you are the brother of a very vain, idle, thoughtless, extravagant woman; and Thomas Newcome was as foolish about his wife as about his money.' Of course, unless Mrs. N. writes to invite dear Clive, I shall not think of sending him to Clapham.
"It is such hot weather that I cannot wear the beautiful shawl you have sent me, and shall keep it in lavender till next winter! My brother, who thanks you for your continuous bounty, will write next month, and report progress as to his dear pupil. Clive will add a postscript of his own, and I am, my dear Major, with a thousand thanks for your kindness to me,—Your grateful and affectionate Martha Honeyman."
In a round hand and on lines ruled with pencil:—
"Dearest Papa i am very well i hope you are Very Well. M Sneed brought me in a postchaise i like Mr. Sneed very much. i like Aunt Martha i like Hannah. There are no ships here i am your affectionate son Clive Newcome."
II. Rue St. Dominique, St. Germain, Paris,
Nov. 15, 1820,
"Long separated from the country which was the home of my youth, I carried from her tender recollections, and bear her always a lively gratitude. The Heaven has placed me in a position very different from that in which I knew you. I have been the mother of many children. My husband has recovered a portion of the property which the Revolution tore from us; and France, in returning to its legitimate sovereign, received once more the nobility which accompanied his august house into exile. We, however, preceded His Majesty, more happy than many of our companions. Believing further resistance to be useless; dazzled, perhaps, by the brilliancy of that genius which restored order, submitted Europe, and governed France; M. de Florac, in the first days, was reconciled to the Conqueror of Marengo and Austerlitz, and held a position in his Imperial Court. This submission, at first attributed to infidelity, has subsequently been pardoned to my husband. His sufferings during the Hundred Days made to pardon his adhesion to him who was Emperor. My husband is now an old man. He was of the disastrous campaign of Moscow, as one of the chamberlains of Napoleon. Withdrawn from the world, he gives his time to his feeble health—to his family—to Heaven.
"I have not forgotten a time before those days, when, according to promises given by my father, I became the wife of M. de Florac. Sometimes I have heard of your career. One of my parents, M. de F., who took service in the English India, has entertained me of you; he informed me how yet a young man you won laurels at Argom and Bhartpour; how you escaped to death at Laswari. I have followed them, sir, on the map. I have taken part in your victories and your glory. Ah! I am not so cold, but my heart has trembled for your dangers; not so aged, but I remember the young man who learned from the pupil of Frederick the first rudiments of war. Your great heart, your love of truth, your courage were your own. None had to teach you those qualities, of which a good God had endowed you, My good father is dead since many years. He, too, was permitted to see France before to die.
"I have read in the English journals not only that you are married, but that you have a son. Permit me to send to your wife, to your child, these accompanying tokens of an old friendship. I have seen that Mistress Newcome was widow, and am not sorry of it. My friend, I hope there was not that difference of age between your wife and you that I have known in other unions. I pray the good God to bless yours. I hold you always in my memory. As I write, the past comes back to me. I see a noble young man, who has a soft voice, and brown eyes. I see the Thames, and the smiling plains of Blackheath. I listen and pray at my chamber-door as my father talks to you in our little cabinet of studies. I look from my window, and see you depart.
"My son's are men: one follows the profession of arms, one has embraced the ecclesiastical state; my daughter is herself a mother. I remember this was your birthday; I have made myself a little fete in celebrating it, after how many years of absence, of silence! Comtesse De Florac. (Nee L. de Blois.)"
III. "My Dear Thomas,—Mr. Sneid, supercargo of the Ramchunder, East Indiaman, handed over to us yesterday your letter, and, to-day, I have purchased three thousand three hundred and twenty-three pounds 6 and 8d. three per cent Consols, in our joint names (H. and B. Newcome), held for your little boy. Mr. S. gives a very favourable account of the little man, and left him in perfect health two days since, at the house of his aunt, Miss Honeyman. We have placed 200 pounds to that lady's credit, at your desire.
"Lady Anne is charmed with the present which she received yesterday, and says the white shawl is a great deal too handsome. My mother is also greatly pleased with hers, and has forwarded, by the coach to Brighton, to-day, a packet of books, tracts, etc., suited for his tender age, for your little boy. She heard of you lately from the Rev. T. Sweatenham on his return from India. He spoke of your kindness,—and of the hospitable manner in which you had received him at your house, and alluded to you in a very handsome way in the course of the thanksgiving that evening. I dare say my mother will ask your little boy to the Hermitage; and when we have a house of our own, I am sure Anne and I will be very happy to see him. Yours affectionately, Major Newcome. B. Newcome."
IV. "My Dear Colonel,—Did I not know the generosity of your heart, and the bountiful means which Heaven has put at your disposal in order to gratify that noble disposition; were I not certain that the small sum I required will permanently place me beyond the reach of the difficulties of life, and will infallibly be repaid before six months are over, believe me I never would have ventured upon that bold step which our friendship (carried on epistolarily as it has been), our relationship, and your admirable disposition, have induced me to venture to take.
"That elegant and commodious chapel, known as Lady Whittlesea's, Denmark Street, Mayfair, being for sale, I have determined on venturing my all in its acquisition, and in laying, as I hope, the foundation of a competence for myself and excellent sister. What is a lodging-house at Brighton but an uncertain maintenance? The mariner on the sea before those cliffs is no more sure of wind and wave, or of fish to his laborious net, than the Brighton house-owner (bred in affluence she may have been, and used to unremitting plenty) to the support of the casual travellers who visit the city. On one day they come in shoals, it is true, but where are they on the next? For many months my poor sister's first floor was a desert, until occupied by your noble little boy, my nephew and pupil. Clive is everything that a father's, an uncle's (who loves him as a father), a pastor's, a teacher's affections could desire. He is not one of those premature geniuses whose much-vaunted infantine talents disappear along with adolescence; he is not, I frankly own, more advanced in his classical and mathematical studies than some children even younger than himself; but he has acquired the rudiments of health; he has laid in a store of honesty and good-humour, which are not less likely to advance him in life than mere science and language, than the as in praesenti, or the pons asinorum.
"But I forget, in thinking of my dear little friend and pupil, the subject of this letter—namely, the acquisition of the proprietary chapel to which I have alluded, and the hopes, nay, certainty of a fortune, if aught below is certain, which that acquisition holds out. What is a curacy, but a synonym for starvation? If we accuse the Eremites of old of wasting their lives in unprofitable wildernesses, what shall we say to many a hermit of Protestant, and so-called civilised times, who hides his head in a solitude in Yorkshire, and buries his probably fine talents in a Lincolnshire fen? Have I genius? Am I blessed with gifts of eloquence to thrill and soothe, to arouse the sluggish, to terrify the sinful, to cheer and convince the timid, to lead the blind groping in darkness, and to trample the audacious sceptic in the dust? My own conscience, besides a hundred testimonials from places of popular, most popular worship, from reverend prelates, from distinguished clergy, tells me I have these gifts. A voice within me cries, 'Go forth, Charles Honeyman, fight the good fight; wipe the tears of the repentant sinner; sing of hope to the agonised criminal; whisper courage, brother, courage, at the ghastly deathbed, and strike down the infidel with the lance of evidence and the shield of reason!' In a pecuniary point of view I am confident, nay, the calculations may be established as irresistibly as an algebraic equation, that I can realise, as incumbent of Lady Whittlesea's chapel, the sum of not less than one thousand pounds per annum. Such a sum, with economy (and without it what sum were sufficient?), will enable me to provide amply for my wants, to discharge my obligations to you, to my sister, and some other creditors, very, very unlike you, and to place Miss Honeyman in a home more worthy of her than that which she now occupies, only to vacate it at the beck of every passing stranger!
"My sister does not disapprove of my plan, into which enter some modifications which I have not, as yet, submitted to her, being anxious at first that they should be sanctioned by you. From the income of the Whittlesea chapel I propose to allow Miss Honeyman the sum of two hundred pounds per annum, paid quarterly. This, with her private property, which she has kept more thriftily than her unfortunate and confiding brother guarded his (for whenever I had a guinea a tale of distress would melt it into half a sovereign), will enable Miss Honeyman to live in a way becoming my father's daughter.
"Comforted with this provision as my sister will be, I would suggest that our dearest young Clive should be transferred from her petticoat government, and given up to the care of his affectionate uncle and tutor. His present allowance will most liberally suffice for his expenses, board, lodging, and education while under my roof, and I shall be able to exert a paternal, a pastoral influence over his studies, his conduct, and his highest welfare, which I cannot so conveniently exercise at Brighton, where I am but Miss Honeyman's stipendiary, and where I often have to submit in cases where I know, for dearest Clive's own welfare, it is I, and not my sister, should be paramount.
"I have given then to a friend, the Rev. Marcus Flather a draft for two hundred and fifty pounds sterling, drawn upon you at your agent's in Calcutta, which sum will go in liquidation of dear Clive's first year's board with me, or, upon my word of honour as a gentleman and clergyman, shall be paid back at three months after sight, if you will draw upon me. As I never—no, were it my last penny in the world—would dishonour your draft, I implore you, my dear Colonel, not to refuse mine. My credit in this city, where credit is everything, and the awful future so little thought of, my engagements to Mr. Flather, my own prospects in life, and the comfort of my dear sister's declining years, all—all depend upon this bold, this eventful measure. My ruin or my earthly happiness lies entirely in your hands. Can I doubt which way your kind heart will lead you, and that you will come to the aid of your affectionate brother-in-law? Charles Honeyman."
"Our little Clive has been to London on a visit to his uncles and to the Hermitage, Clapham, to pay his duty to his step-grandmother, the wealthy Mrs. Newcome. I pass over words disparaging of myself which the child in his artless prattles subsequently narrated. She was very gracious to him, and presented him with a five-pound note, a copy of Kirk White's Poems, and a work called Little Henry and his Bearer, relating to India, and the excellent Catechism of our Church. Clive is full of humour, and I enclose you a rude scrap representing the Bishopess of Clapham, as she is called,—the other figure is a rude though entertaining sketch of some other droll personage.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Newcome, etc."
V. "My Dear Colonel;—The Rev. Marcus Flather has just written me a letter at which I am greatly shocked and perplexed, informing me that my brother Charles has given him a draft upon you for two hundred and fifty pounds, when goodness knows it is not you but we who are many, many hundred pounds debtors to you. Charles has explained that he drew the bill at your desire, that you wrote to say you would be glad to serve him in any way, and that the money is wanted to make his fortune. Yet I don't know—poor Charles is always going to make his fortune and has never done it. That school which he bought, and for which you and me between us paid the purchase-money, turned out no good, and the only pupils left at the end of the first half-year were two woolly-headed poor little mulattos, whose father was in gaol at St. Kitt's, and whom I kept actually in my own second-floor back room whilst the lawyers were settling things, and Charles was away in France, and until my dearest little Clive came to live with me.
"Then, as he was too small for a great school, I thought Clive could not do better than stay with his old aunt and have his Uncle Charles for a tutor, who is one of the finest scholars in the world. I wish you could hear him in the pulpit. His delivery is grander and more impressive than any divine now in England. His sermons you have subscribed for, and likewise his book of elegant poems, which are pronounced to be very fine.