Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

after, when heavy bills were presented which must be paid, although by this time Rummun Loll was not only dead but buried, and his widows howling over his grave, it was announced throughout Calcutta that but 800 rupees were left in the treasury of the B. B. C. to meet engagements to the amount of four lakhs then immediately due, and sixty days afterwards the shutters were closed at No. 175, Lothbury, the London offices of the B. B. C. of India, and 35,000l, worth of their bills refused by their agents, Messrs. Baines, Jolly & Co., of Fog Court.

When the accounts of that ghastly bankruptcy arrived from Calcutta, it was found, of course, that the merchant prince Rummun Loll owed the B. B. C. twenty-five lakhs of rupees, the value of which was scarcely even represented by his respectable signature. It was found that one of the auditors of the bank, the generally esteemed Charley Condor (a capital fellow, famous for his good dinners and for playing low-comedy characters at the Chowringhee Theatre,) was indebted to the bank in 90,000l.; and also it was discovered that the revered Baptist Bellman, Chief Registrar of the Calcutta Tape and Sealing-Wax Office (a most valuable and powerful amateur preacher who had converted two natives, and whose serious soireés were thronged at Calcutta,) had helped himself to 73,000l, more, for which he settled in the Bankruptcy Court before he resumed his duties in his own. In justice to Mr. Bellman, it must be said that he :could have had no idea of the catastrophe impending over the B. B. C. For only three weeks before that great bank closed its doors, Mr. Bellman, as guardian of the children of his widowed sister, Mrs. Colonel Green, had sold the whole of the late Colonel's property out of Company's paper and invested it in the bank, which gave a high interest, and with bills of which, drawn upon their London correspondents, he had accommodated Mrs. Colonel Green when she took her departure for Europe with her numerous little family on board the - Burrumpooter."

And now you have the explanation of the title of this chapter, and know wherefore Thomas Newcome never sat in Parliament. Where .are our dear old friends now ? . Where are Rosey's chariots and horses? Where her jewels and gewgaws? Bills are up in the fine new house. Swarms of Hebrew gentlemen with their hats on are walking about the drawing-rooms, peering into the bed-rooms, weighing and poising the poor old silver cocoa-nut tree, eyeing the plate and crystal, thumbing the damask of the curtains, and inspecting ottomans, mirrors, and a hundred articles of splendid trumpery. There is Rosey's boudoir which her father-in-law loved to ornament-there is Clive's studio with a hundred sketches--there is the Colonel's bare room at the top of the house, with his little iron bedstead and ship's drawers, and a camel trunk or two which have accompanied him on many an Indian march, and his old regulation sword, and that one which the native officers of his regiment gave him when he bade them farewell. I can fancy the brokers' faces as they look over this camp wardrobe, and that the uniforms will not fetch much in Holywell Street. There is the old one still, and that new one which he ordered and wore when. poor little Rosey was presented at court. I had not the heart to examine their plunder, and go amongst those wreckers. F. B. used to attend the sale regularly, and report its proceedings to us with eyes full of tears. "A fellow laughed at me," says F. B., “because when I came into the dear old drawing-room I took my hat off. I told him that if he dared say another word I would knock him down." I think F. B. may be pardoned in this instance for emulating the office of auctioneer. Where are you, pretty Rosey, and poor little helpless. Baby? Where are you, dear Clive-gallant young friend of my youth? Ah! it is a sad story—a melancholy page to pen! Let us pass it over quickly-I love not to think of my friend in pain.

CHAPTER LXXI.

IN WHICH MRS. CLIVE NEWCOME'S CARRIAGE IS ORDERED.

LL the friends of the Newcome family, of course, knew the disaster 1 which had befallen the good Colonel, and I was aware, for my own part, that not only his own, but almost the whole of Rosey Newcome's property was involved in the common ruin. Some proposals of temporary relief were made to our friends from more quarters than one, but were thankfully rejected; and we were led to hope that the Colonel, having still his pension secured to him, which the law could not touch, might live comfortably enough in the retirement to which, of course, he would tetake himself, when the melancholy proceedings consequent on the bankruptcy were brought to an end. It was shown that he had been egregiously duped in the transaction; that his credulity had cost him and his family a large fortune; that he had given up every penny which belonged to him; that there could not be any sort of stain upon his honest reputation. The judge before whom he appeared spoke with feeling and regard of the unhappy gentleman; the lawyer who examined him respected the grief and fall of that simple old man. Thomas Newcome took a little room near the court where his affairs and the affairs of the company were adjudged; lived with a frugality which never was difficult to him; and once when perchance I met him in the City, avoided me, with a bow and courtesy that was quite humble, though proud and somehow inexpressibly touching to me. Fred Bayham was the only person whom he admitted. Fred always faithfully insisted upon attending him in and out of court. J. J. came to me immediately after he heard of the disaster, eager to place all his savings at the service of his friends, Laura and I came to London, and were urgent with similar offers. Our good friend declined to see any of us. F. B. again, with tears trickling on his rough cheeks, and a break in his voice, told me he feared that affairs must be very bad indeed, for the Colonel absolutely denied himself a cheroot to smoke. Laura drove to his lodgings and took him a box, which was held up to him as he came to open the door to my wife's knock by our smiling little boy. He patted the child on his golden head and kissed him. My wife wished he would have done as much for her; but he would not—though she owned she kissed his hand. He drew it across his eyes and thanked her in a very calm and stately manner-but he did not invite her within the threshold of his door, saying simply, that such a room was not a fit place to receive a lady,“ as you ought to know very well, Mrs. Smith,” he said to the landlady, who had accompanied my wife up the stairs. He will eat scarcely anything," the woman told us; "his ineals come down untouched; his candles are burning all night, almost, as he sits poring over his papers." "He was bent he who used to walk so uprightly,” Laura said. He seemed to have grown many years older, and was, indeed, quite a decrepit old man. :“I am glad they have left Clive out of the bankruptcy," the Colonel said to Bayham; it was almost the only time when his voice exhibited any emotion. “ It was very kind of them to leave out Clive, poor boy, and I have thanked the lawyers in Court.” Those gentlemen, and the judge himself, were very much moved at this act of gratitude. The judge made a very feeling speech to the Colonel when he came up for his certificate. He passed very different comments on the conduct of the Manager of the Bank, when that person appeared for examination. He wished that the law had power to deal with those gentlemen who had come home with large fortunes from India, realized but a few years before the bankruptcy. Those gentlemen had known how to take care of themselves very well, and as for the Manager, is not his

very day?

What weighed most upon the Colonel's mind, F. B. imagined, was the thought that he had been the means of inducing many poor friends to embark their money in this luckless speculation. Take J. J.'s money after he had persuaded old Ridley to place 2001, in Indian shares ! Good God, he and his family should rather perish than he would touch a farthing of it! Many fierce words were uttered to him by Mrs. Mackenzie, for instance; by her angry son-in-law at Musselburgh-Josey's husband; by Mr. Smee, R.A., and two or three Indian officers, friends of his own, who had entered into the speculation on his recommendation. These rebukes Thomas Newcome bore with an affecting meekness, as his faithful F. B. described to me, striving with many oaths and much loudness to carry off his own emotion. But what moved the Colonel most of all, was a letter which came at this time from Honeyman in India, saying that he was doing

he sent a remittance which, D.V., should be annual, in payment of his debt to the Colonel, and his good sister at Brighton. “On receipt of this letter," said F. B., "the old man was fairly beat-the letter, with the bill in it, dropped out of his hands. He clasped them both together, shaking in every limb, and his head dropped down on his breast as he said, 'I thank my God Almighty for this !' and he sent the cheque off to Miss Honeyman by the post that night, sir, every shilling of it; and he passed his old arm under mine; and we went out to Tom's CoffeeHouse, and he ate some dinner for the first time for ever so long, and drank a couple of glasses of port wine, and F. B. stood it, sir, and would stand his heart's blood for that dear old boy."

It was on a Monday morning that those melancholy shutters were seen over the offices of the Bundelcund Bank in Lothbury, which were not to come down until the rooms were handed over to some other, and, let us trust, more fortunate speculators. The Indian bills had arrived, and been protested in the City on the previous Saturday. The Campaigner and Mrs. Rosey had arranged a little party to the theatre that evening, and the gallant Captain Goby had agreed to quit the delights of the “ Flag Club," in order to accompany the ladies. Neither of them knew what was happening in the City, or could account, otherwise than by the conimon domestic causes, for Clive's gloomy despondency and his father's sad reserve. Clive had not been in the City on this day. He had spent it, as usual, in his studio, boudé by his wife, and not disturbed by the mess-room raillery of the Campaigner. They dined early, in order to be in time for the theatre. Goby entertained them with the latest jokes from the smoking-room at the “Flag," and was in his turn amused by the brilliant plans for the season which Rosey and her mamma sketched out: the entertainments which Mrs. Clive proposed to give, the ball-she was dying for a masked ball just such a one as that described in the Pall Mall Gazette of last week, out of that paper with the droll title, the Bengal Hurkaru, which the merchant prince, the head of the bank, you know, in India, had given at Calcutta. “We must have a ball, too,” says Mrs. Mackenzie; “society demands it of you.” “Of course it does," echoes Captain Goby; and he bethought him of a brilliant circle of young fellows from the “ Flag," whom he would bring in splendid uniform to dance with the pretty Mrs. Clive Newcome.

After the dinner, they little knew it was to be their last in that fine house, the ladies retired to give a parting kiss to baby-a parting look to the toilettes, with which they proposed to fascinate the inhabitants of the pit and public boxes at the Olympic. Goby made vigorous play with the claret-bottle during the brief interval of potation allowed to him; he, too, little deeming that he should never drink bumper there again; Clive looking on with the melancholy and silent acquiescence which had, of late, been his part in the household. The carriage was announced the ladies came down-pretty capotes on---the lovely Campaigner, Goby vowed, looking as young and as handsome as her daughter, by Jove, and the hall-door was opened to admit the two

« AnteriorContinuar »