« AnteriorContinuar »
IN WHICH KINSMEN FALL OUT. N OT the least difficult part of Thomas Newcome's present business
V was to keep from his son all knowledge of the negotiation in which he was engaged on Clive's behalf. If my gentle reader has had sentimental disappointments, he or she is aware that the friends who have given him most sympathy'under these calamities have been persons who have had dismal histories of their own at some time of their lives, and I conclude Colonel Newcome in his early days must have suffered very cruelly in that affair of which we have a slight cognizance, or he would not have felt so very much anxiety about Clive's condition.
"A few chapters back and we described the first attack, and Clive's manful cure: then we had to indicate the young gentleman's relapse, and the noisy exclamations of the youth under this second outbreak of fever. - Calling him back after she had dismissed him, and finding pretext after pretext to see him, why did the girl encourage him, as she certainly did ? - I allow, with Mrs. Grundy and most moralists, that Miss Newcome's conduct in this matter was highly reprehensible; that if she did not intend to marry Clive she should have broken with him altogether; that 'a virtuous young woman' of 'high' principle, &c. &C., having once determined to reject a suitor, should separate from him utterly then and there-never give him again the least chance of a hope, or re-illume the extinguished fire in the wretch's bosom.
strong partiality for the rejected lover-are these not to be taken in account, and to plead as excuses for her behaviour to her cousin ? The least unworthy part of her conduct, some critics will say, was that desire to see Clive and be well with him : as she felt the greatest regard for him, the showing it was not blameable; and every flutter which she made to escape out of the meshes which the world had cast about her was but the natural effort at liberty. -- It was her prudence which was wrong; and her submission wherein she was most culpable. In the early church story, do we 'not read how young martyrs constantly had to disobey worldly papas and mammas, who would have had them silent, and not utter their dangerous opinions ? how their parents locked them up, kept them on bread-and-water, whipped and tortured them, in order to enforce obedience !-nevertheless they would declare the truth: they would defy the gods by law established, and deliver themselves up to the lions or the tormentors. Are not there Heathen Idols enshrined among us still ? Does not the world worship them, and persecute those who refuse to kneel? Do not many timid souls sacrifice to them; and other bolder spirits rebel, and, with rage at their hearts, bend down their stubborn knees at their altars? See! I began by siding with Mrs. Grundy and the world, and at the next turn of the see-saw have lighted down on Ethel's side, and am disposed to think that the very best part of her conduct has been those escapades which-which right-minded persons most justly condemn. At least, that a young beauty should torture a man with alternate liking and indifference; allure, dismiss, and call him back out of banishment; practise arts-to-please upon him, and ignore them when rebuked for her coquetry-these are surely occurrences so common in young women's history as to call for no special censure; and if on these charges Miss Newcome is guilty, is she, of all her sex, alone in her criminality ?
So Ethel and her duenna went away upon their tour of visits to
present modest historian does not dare to follow them. Suffice it to say that Duke This and Earl That were, according to their hospitable custom, entertaining a brilliant circle of friends at their respective castles, all whose names the Morning Post gave; and among them those of the Dowager Countess of Kew and Miss Newcome.
During her absence, Thomas Newcome grimly awaited the result of his application to Barnes. That Baronet showed his uncle a letter, or rather a postscript from Lady Kew, which had probably been dictated by Barnes himself, in which the Dowager said she was greatly touched by Colonel Newcome's noble offer; that though she owned she had very different views for her granddaughter, Miss Newcome's. choice of course lay with herself. Meanwhile, I.ady K. and Ethel were engaged in a round of visits to the country, and there would be plenty of time to resume this subject when they came to London for the season. And lest dear Ethel's feelings should be needlessly agitated by a discussion of the subject, and the Colonel should take a fancy to write to her privately, Lady Kew gave orders that all letters from London should be despatched under cover to her ladyship, and carefully examined the contents of the packet before Ethel received her share of the correspondence.
To write to her personally on the subject of the marriage, Thomas Newcome had determined was not a proper course for him to pursue, “ They consider themselves," says he, “ above us, forsooth, in their
rank of life (Oh, mercy! what pigmies we are ! and don't angels weep at the brief authority in which we dress ourselves up !) and of course the approaches on our side must be made in regular form, and the parents of the young people must act for them. Clive is too honourable a man to wish to conduct the affair in any other way. He might try the influence of his beaux yeux, and run off to Gretna with a girl who had nothing; but the young lady being wealthy, and his relation, sir, we must be on the point of honour; and all the Kews in Christendom sha'n't have more pride than we in this matter."
All this time we are keeping Mr. Clive purposely in the background. His face is so wobegone that we do not care to bring it forward in the family picture. His case is so common that surely its lugubrious symptoms need not be described at length. He works away fiercely at his pictures, and in spite of himself improves in his art. He sent a “ Combat of Cavalry," and a picture of “Sir Brian the Templar carryng off Rebecca," to the British Institution this year; both of which pieces were praised in other journals besides the Pall Mall Gazette. He did not care for the newspaper praises. He was rather surprised when a dealer purchased his “ Sir Brian the Templar." He came and went from our house a melancholy swain. He was thankful for Laura's kindness and pity. J. J.'s studio was his principal resort; and I daresay, as he set up his own easel there, and worked by his friend's side, he bemoaned his lot to his sympathizing friend.
Sir Barnes Newconie's family was absent from London during the winter. His mother, and his brothers and sisters, his wife and his two children, were gone to Newcome for Christinas. Some six weeks after seeing him, Ethel wrote her uncle a kind, merry letter. They had been performing private theatricals at the country-house where she and Lady Kew were staying. “ Captain Crackthorpe made an admirable Jeremy Diddler in • Raising the Wind.' Lord Farintosh broke down lamentably as Fusbos in “Bombastes Furioso.'” Miss Ethel had distinguished herself in both of these facetious little comedies. “I should like Clive to paint me as Miss Plainways," she wrote. “I wore a powdered front, painted my face all over wrinkles, imitated old Lady Griffin as well as I could, and looked sixty at least."
Thomas Newcome wrote an answer to his fair niece's pleasant letter : “ Clive," he said, “would be happy to bargain to paint her, and nobody else but her, all the days of his life ; and," the Colonel was sure, “ would admire her at sixty as much as he did now, when she was forty years younger." But determined on maintaining his appointed line of conduct respecting Miss Newcome, he carried his letter to Sir Barnes, and desired him to forward it to his sister. Sir Barnes took the note, and promised to despatch it. The communications between him and his uncle had been very brief and cold, since the telling of those litle fibs concerning old Lady Kew's visits to London, which the Baronet dismissed from his mind as soon as they were spoken, and which the good Colonel never could forgive. Barnes asked his uncle to dinner once or twice, but the Colonel was engaged. How was Barnes to know the reason of the elder's refusal ? A London man, a banker, and a member of Parliament, has a thousand things to think of ; and no time to wonder that friends refuse his invitations to dinner. Barnes continued to grin and smile most affectionately when he met the Colonel ; to press his hand, to congratulate him on the last accounts from India, unconscious of the scorn and distrust with which his senior mentally regarded him.. “Old boy is doubtful about the young cub's love-affair," the Baronet may have thought. 6 We'll ease his old mind on that point some time hence." No doubt Barnes thought he was conducting the business very smartly and diplomatically.
I heard myself news at this period from the gallant Crackthorpe, which, being interested in my young friend's happiness, filled me with some dismay. “Our friend the painter and glazier has been hankering about our barracks at Knightsbridge” (the noble Life Guards Green had now pitched their tents in that suburb), “and pumping me about la belle cousine. I don't like to break it to him-I don't, really, now. But it's all up with his chance, I think. Those private theatricals at Fallowfield have done Farintosh's business. He used to rave about the Newcome to me, as we were riding home from hunting. He gave Bob Henchman the lie, who told a story which Bob got from his man, who had it from Miss Newcome's lady's-maid, about--about some journey to Brighton, which the cousins took.” Here Mr. Crackthorpe grinned most facetiously. “Farintosh swore he'd knock Henchman down; and vows he will be the death of-will murder our friend Clive when he comes to town. As for Henchman, he was in a desperate way. He lives on the Marquis, you know, and Farintosh's anger or his marriage will be the loss of free quarters, and ever so many good dinners a year to him.” I did not deem it necessary to impart Crackthorpe's story to Clive, or explain to him the reason why Lord Farintosh scowled most fiercely upon the young painter, and passed him without any other sign of recognition one day as Clive and I were walking together in Pall Mall. If my lord wanted a quarrel, young Clive was not a man to baulk him, and would have been a very fierce customer to deal with, in his actual state of mind.
A pauper child in London at seven years old knows how to go to market, to fetch the beer, to pawn father's coat, to choose the largest fried fish or the nicest ham-bone, to nurse Mary Jane of three-to conduct a hundred operations of trade or housekeeping, which a little
Belgravian does not perhaps acquire in all the days of her life. Poverty and necessity force this precociousness on the poor little brat. . There are children who are accomplished shop-lifters and liars almost as soon as they can toddle and speak. I daresay little Princes know the laws of etiquette as regards themselves, and the respect due to their rank, at a very early period of their royal existence. Every one of us, according to his degree, can point to the Princekins of private life who are flattered and worshipped, and whose little shoes grown men kiss as soon almost as they walk upon ground.
It is a wonder what human nature will support, and that, considering the amount of flattery some people are crammed with from their cradles, they do not grow worse and more selfish than they are. Our poor little pauper just mentioned is dosed with Daffy's Elixir, and somehow survives the drug. Princekin or lordkin from his earliest days has nurses, dependants, governesses, little friends, schoolfellows, schoolmasters, fellow-collegians, college tutors, stewards and valets, led-captains of his suite, and women innumerable. flattering him and doing him honour. The tradesman's manner, which to you and me is decently respectful, becomes straightway frantically servile before Princekin. Folks at railway stations whisper to their families, " That's the Marquis of Farintosh," and look hard at him as he passes. Landlords cry,“ This way, my lord; this room for your lordship.” They say at public schools Princekin is taught the beauties of equality, and thrashed into some kind of subordination. Psha! Toad-eaters in pinafores surround Princekin. Do not respectable people send their children so as to be at the same school with him; don't they follow him to college, and eat his toads through life?
And as for women-O my dear friends and brethren in this vale of tears-did you ever see anything so curious, monstrous, and amazing as the way in which women court Princekin when he is marriageable, and pursue him with their daughters ? Who was the British nobleman in old old days who brought his three daughters to the King of Mercia, that his Majesty might choose one after inspection ? Mercia was but a petty province, and its king in fact a Princekin. Ever since those extremely ancient and venerable times the custom exists not only in Mercia, but in all the rest of the provinces inhabited by the Angles, and before Princekins the daughters of our nobles are trotted out. ;.
There was no day of his life which our young acquaintance, the Marquis of Farintosh, could remember on which he had not been flattered; and no society which did not pay him court. At a private school he could recollect the master's wife stroking his pretty curls and treating him furtively to goodies; at college he had the tutor simpering and bowing as he swaggered over the grass-plat; old men at clubs would make way for him and fawn on him-not your mere