Imágenes de páginas

gentlemen and ladies to their carriage, when, as they were about to step in, a Hansom cab drove up rapidly, in which was perceived Thomas Newcome's anxious face. He got out of the vehicle—his own carriage making way for him—the ladies still on the steps. “Oh, the play! I forgot,” said the Colonel.

65 Of course we are going to the play, papa," cries little Rosey, with a gay little tap of her hand.

“ I think you had best not,” Colonel Newcome said gravely.

“ Indeed my darling child has set her heart upon it, and I would not have her disappointed for the world in her situation," cries the Campaigner, tossing up her head.

The Colonel for reply bade his coachman drive to the stables, and come for further orders; and, turning to his daughter's guest, expressed to Captain Goby his regret that the proposed party could not take place on that evening, as he had matter of very great importance to communicate to his family. On hearing these news, and understanding that his further company was not desirable, the Captain, a man of great presence of mind, arrested the Hansom cabman, who was about to take his departure, and who blithely, knowing the Club and its inmates full well, carried off the jolly Captain to finish his evening at the “Flag."

“ Has it come, father?” said Clive with a sure prescience, looking in his father's face.

The father took and grasped the hand which his son held out. 6 Let us go back into the dining-room,” he said. They entered it, and he filled himself a glass of wine out of the bottle still standing amidst the dessert. He bade the butler retire, who was lingering about the room and sideboard, and only wanted to know whether his master would have dinner, that was all. And, this gentleman having withdrawn, Colonel Newcome finished his glass of sherry and broke a biscuit; the Campaigner assuming an attitude of surprise and indignation, whilst Rosey had leisure to remark that papa looked very ill, and that something must have happened.

The Colonel took both her hands and drew her towards him and kissed her, whilst Rosey's mamma, flouncing down on a chair, beat a tattoo upon the tablecloth with her fan. “Something has happened, my love," the Colonel said very sadly; " you must show all your strength of mind, for a great misfortune has befallen us.

.“ Good heavens, Colonel, what is it? don't frighten my beloved child,” cries the Campaigner, rushing towards her darling, and enveloping her in her robust arms. “What can have happened ? don't agitate this darling child, sir,” and she looked indignantly towards the poor Colonel.

“We have received the very worst news from Calcutta-a con. firmation of the news by the last mail, Clivy my boy."

“It is no news to me. I have always been expecting it, father," says Clive, holding down his head.

“ Expecting what? What have you been keeping back from us? In what have you been deceiving us, Colonel Newcome?" shrieks the Campaigner; and Rosey, crying out,“ Oh, mamma, mamma!” begins to whimper.

“ The chief of the bank in India is dead," the Colonel went on. “ He has left its affairs in worse than disorder. We are, I fear, ruined, Mrs. Mackenzie." And the Colonel went on to tell how the bank could not open on Monday morning, and its bills to a great amount had already been protested in the City that day. . . Rosey did not understand half these news, or comprehend the calamity which was to follow; but Mrs. Mackenzie, rustling in great wrath, made a speech, of which the anger gathered as she proceeded : in which she vowed and protested that her money which the Colonel, she did not know from what motives, had induced her to subscribe, should not be sacrificed, and that have it she would, the bank shut or not, the next Monday morning—that her daughter had a fortune of her own which her poor dear brother James should have divided, and would have divided much more fairly, had he not been wrongly influenced-she would not say by whoin, and she commanded Colonel Newcome upon that instant, if he was, as he always pretended to be, an honourable man, to give an account of her blessed darling's pro; perty, and to pay back her own, every sixpence of it: she would not lend it for an hour longer. And to see that that dear blessed child now sleeping unconsciously upstairs, and his dear brothers and sisters who might followfor Rosey was a young woman, a poor innocent creature, too young to be married, and never would have been married had she listened to her mamma's advice-she demanded that baby and all succeeding babies, should have their rights, and should be looked to by their grandmother, if their father's father was so unkindo and so wicked, and so unnatural, as to give their money to rogues and deprive them of their just bread. · Rosey began to cry more loudly than ever during the utterance of mamma's sermon, so loudly that Clive peevishly cried out “Hold your tongue;" on which the Campaigner, clutching her daughter to her breast again, turned on her son-in-law, and abused him as she had abused his father before him, calling out that they were both in a conspiracy to defraud her child, and the little darling upstairs, of its bread, and she would speak, yes, she would, and no power should prevent her, and her money she would have on Monday, as sure as her poor dear husband, Captain Mackenzie, was dead, and she never would have been cheated so, yes, cheated, if he had been alive.

At the word “ cheated," Clive broke out with an execration-thepoor Colonel with a groan of despair--the widow's storm continued, and above that howling tempest of words rose. Mrs. Clive's piping scream, who went off into downright hysterics at last, in which she was encouraged by her mother, and in which she gasped out frantic ejaculations regarding baby; dear, darling, ruined baby, and so forthi.

The sorrow-stricken Colonel had to quell the women's tongues and shrill anger, and his son's wrathful replies, who could not bear the weight of Mrs. Mackenzie upon him; and it was not until these three were allayed, that Thomas Newcome was able to continue his sad story, to explain what had happened, and what the actual state of the case was, and to oblige the terror-stricken women at length to hear something like reason.

He then had to tell them, to their dismay, that he would inevitably be declared a bankrupt in the ensuing week; that the whole of his property in that house, as elsewhere, would be seized and sold for the creditors' benefit; and that his daughter had best immediately leave a home where she would be certainly subject to humiliation and annoy

--and return to me when I have need of him, and shall send for him," the father said fondly in reply to a rebellious look in his son's face. “I would have you quit this house as soon as possible. Why not to-night? The law bloodhounds may be upon us ere an hour is over-at this moment for what I know."

At that moment the door-bell was heard to ring, and the women gave a scream apiece, as if the bailiffs were actually coming to take possession. Rosey went off in quite a series of screams, peevishly repressed by her husband, and always encouraged by mamma, who called her son-in-law an unfeeling wretch. It must be confessed that Mrs Clive Newcome did not exhibit much strength of mind, or comfort her husband much at a moment when he needed consolation.

From angry rebellion and fierce remonstrance this pair of women now passed to an extreme terror and desire for instantaneous flight. They would go that moment,they would wrap that blessed child up in its shawls-and nurse should take it anywhere-anywhere, poor neglected thing. “My trunks,” cries Mrs. Mackenzie, “ you know are ready packed—I am sure it is not the treatment which I have received-it is nothing but my duty and my religion and the protection which I owe to this blessed unprotected yes, unprotected, and robbed, and cheated, darling child--which have made me stay a single day in this house. I never thought I should have been robbed in it, or my darlings with their fine fortunes flung naked on the world. If my Mack was here, you never had dared to have done this, Colonel Newcomeno, never. He had his faults-Mackenzie hadbut he would never have robbed his own children! Come away, Rosey, my blessed love, come let us pack your things, and let usgo and hide our heads in sorrow somewhere. Ah! didn't I tell you to beware of all painters, and that Clarence was a true gentleman, and loved you with all his heart, and would never have cheated you out of your money, for which I will have justice as sure as there is justice in England."

During this outburst the Colonel sat utterly scared and silent, supporting his poor head between his hands. When the harem had. departed he turned sadly to his son. Clive did not believe that his father was a cheat and a rogue. No, thank God! The two men embraced with tender cordiality and almost happy emotion on the one side and the other. Never for one moment could Clive think his dear old father meant wrong, though the speculations were unfortunate in which he had engaged-though Clive had not liked them; it was a relief to his mind that they were now come to an end; they should all be happier now, thank God! those clouds of distrust being removed. Clive felt not one moment's doubt but that they should be able to meet fortune with a brave face: and that happier, inuch happier days were in store for him than ever they had known since the period of this confounded prosperity.

“Here's a good end to it,” says Clive, with flashing eyes and a flushed face, “and here's a good health till to-morrow, father!” and he filled into two glasses the wine still remaining in the flask. " Good-by to our fortune, and bad luck go with her I puff the prostitute awaySi celeres quatit pennas, you remember what we used to say at Grey Friars-resigno quæ dedit, et mea virtute me involvo, probamque pauperiem sine dote quero." And he pledged his father, who drank his wine, his hand shaking as he raised the glass to his lips, and his kind voice trembling as he uttered the well-known old school words, with an emotion that was as sacred as a prayer. Once more, and with hearts full of love, the two men embraced. Clive's voice would tremble now if he told the story, as it did when he spoke to me in happier times, one calm summer evening when we sat together and talked of dear old days.

Thomas Newcome explained to his son the plan which, to his mind, as he came away from the City after the day's misfortunes, he thought it was best to pursue. The women and the child, were clearly best out of the way. And you, too, my boy, must be on duty with them until I send for you, which I will do if your presence can be of the least service to me, or is called for by-by-our honour," said the old man with a drop in his voice. “You must obéy me in this, dear Clive, as you have done in everything, and been a good and dear, and obedient son to me. God pardon me for having trusted to my own simple old brains too much, and not to you who know so much better,

You will obey me this once more, my boy—you will promise me this ?” and the old man as he spoke took Clive's hand in both his, and fondly caressed it.

Then with a shaking hand he took out of his pocket his old purse with the steel rings, which he had worn for many and many a long year. Clive remembered it, and his father's face how it would beam with delight, when he used to take that very purse out in Clive's boyish days and tip him just after he left school. “Here are some notes and some gold,” he said. “It is Rosey's, honestly, Clive dear, her halfyear's dividend, for which you will give an order, please, to Sherrick. He has been very kind and good, Sherrick. All the servants were providentially paid last week—there are only the outstanding week's bills out—we shall manage to meet those, I daresay. And you will see that Rosey only takes away such clothes for herself and her baby as are actually necessary, won't you, dear? the plain things, you know

none of the fineries—they may be packed in a petara or two, and you will take them with you—but the pomps and vanities, you know, we will leave behind-the pearls and bracelets, and the plate, and all that rubbish-and I will make an inventory of them to-morrow when you are gone and give them up, every rupee's worth, sir, every anna, by Jove, to the creditors.”

The darkness had fallen by this time, and the obsequious butler entered to light the dining-room lamps. “You have been a very good and kind servant to us, Martin," says the Colonel, making him a low bow. “I should like to shake you by the hand. We must part company now, and I have no doubt you and your fellow-servants will find good places, all of you, as you merit, Martin-as you merit. Great losses have fallen upon our family--we are ruined, sir--we are ruined ! The great Bundelcund Banking Company has stopped payment in India, and our branch here must stop on Monday. Thank my friends downstairs for their kindness to me and my family.” Martin bowed in silence with great respect. He and his comrades in the servants' hall had been expecting this catastrophe, quite as long as the Colonel himself, who thought he had kept his affairs so profoundly secret.

Clive went up into his women's apartments, looking with but little regret, I daresay, round those cheerless nuptial chambers with all their gaudy fittings; the fine looking-glasses, in which poor Rosey's little person had been reflected; the silken curtains under which he had lain by the poor child's side, wakeful and lonely. Here he found his child's nurse, and his wife, and his wife's mother, busily engaged with a multiplicity of boxes; with flounces, feathers, fal-lals, and finery, which they were stowing away in this trunk and that; while the baby lay on its little pink pillow breathing softly, a little pearly fist placed close to its mouth. The aspect of the tawdry vanities scattered here


« AnteriorContinuar »