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THE OLD LADIES.
THE above letter and conversation will show what our active
I Colonel's movements and history had been since the last chapter in which they were recorded. He and Clive took the Liverpool mail, and travelled from Liverpool to Newcome with a postchaise and a pair of horses, which landed them at the King's Arms." The Colonel delighted in postchaising-the rapid transit through the country amused him and cheered his spirits. Besides, had he not Dr. Johnson's word for it, that a swift journey in a postchaise was one of the greatest enjoyments in life, and a sojourn in a comfortable inn one of its chief pleasures? In travelling, he was as happy and noisy as a boy. He talked to the waiters, and made friends with the landlord; got all the information which he could gather regarding the towns into which he came; and drove about from one sight or curiosity to another with indefatigable good humour and interest. It was good for Clive to see men and cities : to visit mills, manufactories, country seats, cathedrals. He asked a hundred questions regarding all things round about him; and any one caring to know who Thomas Newcome was, and what his rank and business, found no difficulty in having his questions answered by the simple and kindly traveller.
Mine host of the “King's Arms,” Mr. Taplow aforesaid, knew in five minutes who his guest was, and the errand on which he came. Was not Colonel Newcome's name painted on all his trunks and boxes ? Was not his servant ready to answer all questions regarding the Colonel and his son ? Newcome pretty generally introduced Clive to my landlord, when the latter brought his guest his bottle of wine. With old-fashioned cordiality, the Colonel would bid the landlord drink a glass of his own liquor, and seldom failed to say to him, “This is my son, sir. We are travelling together to see the country. Every English gentleman should see his own country first, before he goes abroad, as we intend to do afterwards to make the Grand Tour. And I will thank you to tell me what there is remarkable in your town, and what we ought to see-antiquities, manufactures, and seats in the neighbourhood. We wish to see everything, sira
everything." Elaborate diaries of these home tours are still extant, in Clive's boyish manuscript and the Colonel's dashing handwriting -quaint records of places visited, and alarming accounts of inn bills paid.
So Mr. Taplow knew in five minutes that his guest was a brother of Sir Brian, their Member; and saw the note despatched by an ostler to “ Mrs. Sarah Mason, Jubilee Row," announcing that the Colonel had arrived, and would be with her after his dinner. Mr. Taplow did not think fit to tell his guest that the house Sir Brian usedthe “ Blue House"--was the “Roebuck," not the “ King's Arms." Might not the gentlemen be of different politics ? Mi. Taplow's wine knew none.
Some of the jolliest fellows in all Newcome use the Boscawen Room at the “King's Arms" as their club, and pass numberless merry evenings and crack countless jokes there.
Duff, the baker ; old Mr. Vidler, when he can get away from his medical labours (and his hand shakes, it must be owned, very much now, and his nose is very red); Parrot, the auctioneer; and that amusing dog, Tom Potts, the talented reporter of the Independent were pretty constant attendants at the “ King's Arms ;” and Colonel Newcome's dinner was not over before some of these gentlemen knew what dishes he had had ; how he had called for a bottle of sherry and ia bottle of claret, like a gentleman; how he had paid the post-boys, and travelled with a servant, like a top-sawyer; and that he was come to shake hands with an old nurse and relative of his family. Every one of those jolly Britons thought well of the Colonel for his affectionateness and liberality, and contrasted it with the behaviour of the Tory Baronet-their representative.
His arrival made a sensation in the place. The Blue Club at the " Roebuck" discussed it, as well as the uncompromising Liberals at the “ King's Arms." Mr. Speers, Sir Brian's agent, did not know how to act, and advised Sir Brian by the next night's mail. The Reverend Dr. Bulders, the rector, left his card.
Meanwhile, it was not gain or business, but only love and gratitude, which brought Thomas Newcome to his father's native town. Their dinner over, away went the Colonel and Clive, guided by the ostler, their previous messenger, to the humble little tenement which Thomas Newcome's earliest friend inhabited. The good old woman put her spectacles into her Bible, and flung herself into her boy's arms--her boy who was more than fifty years old. She embraced Clive still more eagerly and frequently than she kissed his father. She did not know her Colonel with them whiskers. Clive was the very picture of the dear boy as he had left her almost two score years ago. And as fondly as she hung on the boy, her memory had ever clung round that early time when they were together. The good soul told endless tales of her darling's childhood, his frolics and beauty. To-day was uncertain to her, but the past was still bright and clear. As they sat prattling together over the bright tea-table, attended by the trim little maid, whose services the Colonel's bounty secured for his old nurse, the kind old creature insisted on having Clive by her side. Again and again she would think he was actually her own boy, forgetting, in that sweet and pious hallucination, that the bronzed face, and thinned hair, and melancholy eyes of the veteran before her, were those of her nursling of old days. So for near half the space of man's allotted life he had been absent from her, and day and night wherever he was, in sickness or health, in sorrow or danger, her innocent love and prayers had attended the absent darling. Not in vain, not in vain, does he live whose course is so befriended. Let us be thankful for our race, as we think of the love that blesses some of us. Surely it has something of Heaven in it, and angels celestial may rejoice in it, and admire it.
Having nothing whatever to do, our Colonel's movements are of course exceedingly rapid, and he has the very shortest time to spend in any single place. He can spare but that evening, Saturday, and the next day, Sunday, when he will faithfully accompany his dear old nurse to church. And what a festival is that day for her, when she has her Colonel and that beautiful brilliant boy of his by her side, and Mr. Hicks, the curate, looking at him, and the venerable Dr. Bulders himself eyeing him from the pulpit, and all the neighbours fluttering and whispering, to be sure, who can be that fine military gentleman, and that splendid young man sitting by old Mrs. Mason, and leading her so affectionately out of church? That Saturday and Sunday the Colonel will pass with good old Mason, but on Monday he must be off; on Tuesday he must be in London, he has important business in London,-in fact, Tom Hamilton, of his regiment, comes up for election at the “ Oriental” on that day, and on such an occasion could Thomas Newcome be absent ? He drives away from the " King's Arms" through a row of smirking chambermaids, smiling waiters, and thankful ostlers, accompanied to the postchaise, of which the obsequious Taplow shuts the door, and the Boscawen Room pronounces him that night to be a trump; and the whole of the busy town, ere the next day is over, has heard of his coming and departure, praised his kindliness and generosity, and no doubt contrasted it with the different behaviour of the Baronet, his brother, who has gone for some time by the ignominious sobriquet of Screwcome, in the neighbourhood of his ancestral hall.
Dear old nurse Mason will have a score of visits to make and to receive, at all of which you may be sure that triumphal advent of the Colonel's will be discussed and admired. Mrs. Mason will show her beautiful new India shawl, and her splendid Bible with the large print, and the affectionate inscription, from Thomas Newcome to his dearest old friend; her little maid will exhibit her new gown; the curate will see the Bible, and Mrs. Bulders will admire the shawl; and the old friends and humble companions of the good old lady, as they take their Sunday walks by the pompous lodge-gates of Newcome Park, which stand, with the Baronet's new-fangled arms over them, gilded, and filigree'd, and barred, will tell their stories, too, about the kind Colonel and his hard brother. When did Sir Brian ever visit a poor old woman's cottage, or his bailiff exempt from the rent? What good action, except a few thin blankets and beggarly coal and soup tickets, did Newcome Park ever do for the poor? And as for the Colonel's wealth, Lord bless you, he's been in India these five-and-thirty years; the Baronet's money is a drop in the sea to his. The Colonel is the kindest, the best; the richest of men. These facts and opinions, doubtless, inspired the eloquent pen of “ Peeping Tom," when he indited the sarcastic epistle to the Newcome Independent, which we perused over Sir Brian Newcome's shoulder in the last chapter.
And you may be sure Thomas Newcome had not been many weeks in England before good little Miss Honeyman, at Brighton, was favoured with a visit from her dear Colonel. The envious Gawler scowling out of his bow-window, where the fly-blown card
tion to behold a yellow postchaise drive up to Miss Honeyman's door, and having discharged two gentlemen from within, trot away with servant and baggage to some house of entertainment other than Gawler's. Whilst this wretch was cursing his own ill fate, and execrating yet more deeply Miss Honeyman's better fortune, the worthy little lady was treating her Colonel to a sisterly embrace and a solemn reception. Hannah, the faithful housekeeper, was presented, and had a shake of the hand. The Colonel knew all about Hannah : ere he had been in England a week, a basket containing pots of jam of her confection, and a tongue of Hannah's curing, had arrived for the Colonel. That very night when his servant had lodged Colonel Newcome's effects at the neighbouring hotel, Hannah was in possession of one of the Colonel's shirts, she and her mistress having previously conspired to make a dozen of those garments for the family benefactor.
All the presents which Newcome had ever transmitted to his sister-in-law from India had been taken out of the cotton and lavender in which the faithful creature kept them. It was a fine hot day in June, but, I promise you, Miss Honeyman wore her blazing scarlet in her collar ; and her bracelets (she used to say, “ I am given to understand they are called bangles, my dear, by the natives,") decorated the sleeves round her lean old hands, which trembled with pleasure as they received the kind grasp of the Colonel of colonels. How busy those hands had been that morning! What custards they had whipped !-what a triumph of pie-crusts they had achieved ! Before Colonel Newcome had been ten minutes in the house, the celebrated veal-cutlets made their appearance. Was not the whole house adorned in expectation of his coming ? Had not Mr. Kuhn, the affable foreign gentleman of the first-floor lodgers, prepared a French dish? Was not Sally on the look-out, and instructed to put the cutlets on the fire at the very moment when the Colonel's carriage drove up to her mistress's door? The good woman's eyes twinkled, the kind old hand and voice shook, as, holding up a bright glass of Madeira, Miss Honeyman drank the Colonel's health. “I promise you, my dear Colonel,” says she, nodding her head, adorned with a bristling superstructure of lace and ribbons," I promise you, that I can drink your health in good wine !” The wine was of his own sending, and so were the China fire-screens, and the sandal-wood workbox, and the ivory card-case, and those magnificent pink and white chessmen, carved like little sepoys and mandarins, with the castles on elephants' backs, George the Third and his queen in pink ivory, against the Emperor of China and lady in white—the delight of Clive's childhood, the chief ornament of the old spinster's sitting-room.
Miss Honeyman's little feast was pronounced to be the perfection of cookery; and when the meal was over, came a noise of little feet at the parlour door, which being opened, there appeared : first, a tall nurse with a dancing baby ; second and third, two little girls with little frocks, little trousers, long ringlets, blue eyes, and blue ribbons to match ; fourth, Master Alfred, now quite recovered from his illness, and holding by the hand, fifth, Miss Ethel Newcome, blushing like a rose.
Hannah, grinning, acted as mistress of the ceremonies, calling out the names of “Miss Newcomes, Master Newcomes, to see the Colonel, if you please, na'am," bobbing a curtsey, and giving a knowing nod to Master Clive, as she smoothed her new silk apron. Hannah, too, was in new attire, all crisp and rustling, in the Colonel's honour. Miss Ethel did not cease blushing as she advanced towards her uncle ; and the honest campaigner started up, blushing too. Mr. Clive rose also, as little Alfred, of whom he was a great friend, ran towards him. Clive rose, laughed, nodded at Ethel, and ate gingerbread nuts all at the same time. As for Colonel Thomas Newcome and his niece, they fell in love with each other instantaneously, like Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess of China.
“ Mamma has sent us to bid you welcome to England, uncle,"