« AnteriorContinuar »
monsters, heraldries, darkles and shines with the most wonderful shadows and lights. There he lies, Fundator Noster, in his ruff and gown, awaiting the great Examination Day. We oldsters, be we ever so old, become boys again as we look at that familiar old tomb, and think how the seats are altered since we were here, and how the doctor-not the present doctor, the doctor of our time used to sit yonder, and his awful eye used to frighten us shuddering boys, on whom it lighted ; and how the boy next us would kick our shins during service time, and how the monitor would cane us afterwards. because our shins were kicked. Yonder sit forty cherry-cheeked boys, thinking about home and holidays to-morrow. Yonder sit some threescore old gentlemen pensioners of the hospital, listening to the prayers and the psalms. You hear them coughing feebly in the twilight,--the old reverend blackgowns. Is Codd Ajax alive, you wonder?—the Cistercian lads called these old gentlemen Codds, I know not wherefore-I know not wherefore-but is old Codd Ajax alive I wonder? or Codd Soldier ? or kind old Codd Gentleman, or has the grave closed over them? A plenty of candles light up this chapel, and this scene of age and youth, and early memories, and pompous death. How solemn the well-remembered prayers are, here uttered again in the place where in childhood we used to hear them! How beautiful and decorous the rite; how noble the ancient words of the supplications which the priest utters, and to which generations of fresh children and troops of bygone seniors have cried Amen! under those arches! The service for Founder's Day is a special one ; one of the psalms selected being the thirty-seventh, and we hear
23. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord : and he delighteth in his way.
24. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.
25. I have been young, and now am old ; yet have I not seen the righteous. forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
As we came to this verse, I chanced to Icok up from my book towards the swarm of black-coated pensioners: and amongst themamongst them-sate Thomas Newcome.
His dear old head was bent down over his prayer-book; there was no mistaking him. He wore the black gown of the pensioners of the Hospital of Grey Friars. His order of the Bath was on his breast. He stood there amongst the poor brethren, uttering the responses to the psalm. The steps of this good man had been ordered hither by Heaven's decree : to this almshouse! Here it was ordained that à life all love, and kindness, and honour, should end! I heard no more of prayers, and psalms, and sermon, after that. How dared I to be in
a place of mark, and he, he yonder among the poor? Oh, pardon, you noble soul! I ask forgiveness of you for being of a world that has so treated you—you my better, you the honest, and gentle, and good ! I thought the service would never end, or the organist's voluntaries, or the preacher's homily.
The organ played us out of chapel at length, and I waited in the ante-chapel until the pensioners took their turn to quit it. My dear, dear old friend ! I ran to him with a warmth and eagerness of recognition which no doubt showed themselves in my face and accents as my heart was moved at the sight of him. His own wan face flushed up when he saw me, and his hand shook in mine. “I have found a home, Arthur," said he. “Don't you remember, before I went to India, when we came to see the old Grey Friars, and visited Captain Scarsdale in his room ?-a poor brother like me an old Peninsular man. Scarsdale is gone now, sir, and is where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest;' and I thought then, when we saw him,here would be a place for an old fellow when his career was over, to hang his sword up; to humble his soul, and to wait thankfully for the end, Arthur. My good friend, Lord H., who is a Cistercian like ourselves, and has just been appointed a governor, gave me his first nomination. Don't be agitated, Arthur my boy, I am very happy. I 'have good quarters, good food, good light and fire, and good friends; blessed be God! my dear kind young friend—my boy's friend; you have always been so, sir; and I take it uncommonly kind of you, and I thank God for you, sir. Why, sir, I am as happy as the day is long.” He uttered words to this effect as we walked through the courts of the building towards his room, which in truth I found neat and comfortable, with a brisk fire crackling on the hearth; a little tea-table laid out, a Bible and spectacles by the side of it, and over the mantel-piece a drawing of his grandson by Clive.
“ You may come and see me here, sir, whenever you like, and so inay your dear wife and little ones, tell Laura, with my love;-but you must not stay now. You must go back to your dinner.” In vain I pleaded that I had no stomach for it. He gave me a look, which seemed to say he desired to be alone, and I had to respect that order and leave him.
Of course I came to him on the very next day; though not with my wife and children, who were in truth absent in the country at Rosebury, where they were to pass the Christmas holidays; and where, this school-dinner over, I was to join them. On my second visit to Grey Friars my good friend entered more at length into the reasons why he had assumed the Poor Brother's gown; and I cannot say but that I acquiesced in his reasons, and admired that noble humility and contentedness of which he gave me an example.
“ That which had caused him most grief and pain,” he said, “in the issue of that unfortunate bank, was the thought that poor friends of his had been induced by his representations to invest their little capital in that speculation. Good Miss Honeyman, for instance, meaning' no harm, and in all respects a most honest and kindlydisposed old lady, had nevertheless alluded more than once to the fact that her money had been thrown away; and these allusions, sir, made her hospitality somewhat hard to bear," said the Colonel. “At home-at poor Clivy's, I mean it was even worse," he continued. “ Mrs. Mackenzie for months past, by her complaints, and—and her .conduct, has made my son and me so miserable—that flight before her, and into any refuge, was the best course. She too does not mean ill, Pen. Do not waste any of your oaths upon that poor woman," he added, holding up his finger, and smiling sadly. “She thinks I deceived her, though heaven knows it was myself I deceived. She has great influence over Rosey. Very few persons can resist that violent and headstrong woman, sir. I could not bear her reproaches, or my poor sick daughter, whom her mother leads almost entirely now, and it was with all this grief on my mind, that, as I was walking one day upon Brighton cliff, I met my schoolfellow, my Lord H.--who has ever been a good friend of mine-and who told me how he had just been appointed a governor of Grey Friars. He asked me to dine with him on the next day, and would take no refusal. He knew of my pecuniary misfortunes, of course--and showed himself most noble and liberal in his offers of help. I was very much touched by his goodness, Pen, and made a clean breast of it to his lordship; who at first would not hear of my coming to this place—and offered me out of the purse of an old brother schoolfellow and an old brother soldier as much as much as should last me my time. Wasn't it noble of him, Arthur? God bless him! There are good men in the world, sir, there are true friends, as I have found in these later days. Do you know, sir,"_here the old man's eyes twinkled," that Fred Bayham fixed up that bookcase yonder-and brought me my little boy's picture to hang up? Boy and Clive will come and see me soon."
“Do you mean they do not come?" I cried.
“ They don't know I am here, sir," said the Colonel, with a sweet, kind smile. “They think I am visiting his lordship in Scotland. Ah! they are good people! When we had had our talk downstairs over our bottle of claret-where my old commander-in-chief would not hear of my plan-we went upstairs to her ladyship, who saw that her husband was disturbed, and asked the reason. I daresay it was the good claret that made me speak, sir ; for I told her that I and her husband had had a dispute, and that I would take her ladyship for umpire. And then I told her the story over, that I had paid away every rupee to the creditors, and mortgaged my pensions and retiring allowances for the same end, that I was a burden upon Clivy, who had work enough, poor boy, to keep his own family and his wife's mother, whom my imprudence had impoverished,--that here was an honourable asylum which my friend could procure for me, and was not that better than to drain his purse ? . She was very much moved, sir---she is a very kind lady, though she passed for being very proud and haughty in India—so wrongly are people judged. And Lord H. said, in his rough way, 'that, by Jove, if Tom Newcome took a thing into his obstinate old head no one could drive it out.' And so," said the Colonel, with his sad smile, “I had my own way. Lady H. was good enough to come and see me the very next day
and do you know, Pen, she invited me to go and live with them for the rest of my life-made me the most generous, the most delicate offers ? But I knew I was right, and held my own. I am too old to: work, Arthur: and better here, whilst I am to stay, than elsewhere. Look! all this furniture came from H, House--and that wardrobe is full of linen, which she sent me. She has been twice to see me, and every officer in this hospital is as courteous to me as if I had my fine house."
I thought of the psalm we had heard on the previous evening, and turned to it in the opened Bible, and pointed to the verse, “ Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down : for the Lord upholdeth him." Thomas Newcome seeing my occupation, said a kind, trembling hand on my shoulder; and then, putting on his glasses, with a smile bent over the volume. And who that saw him then, and knew him and loved him as I did—who would not have humbled his own heart, and breathed his inward prayer, confessing and adoring the Divine Will, which ordains these trials, these triumphs, these humiliations, these blessed griefs, this crowning Love?
I had the happiness of bringing Clive and his little boy to Thomas Newcome that evening; and heard the child's cry of recognition and surprise, and the old man calling the boy's name, as I closed the door upon that meeting: and by the night's mail I went down to Newcome, to the friends with whom my own family was already staying.
Of course, my conscience-keeper at Rosebury was anxious to know about the school-dinner, and all the speeches made, and the guests assembled there: but she soon ceased to inquire about these when I came to give her the news of the discovery of our dear old friend in the habit of a Poor Brother of Grey Friars. She was very glad to hear that Clive and his little son had been reunited to the Colonel; and appeared to imagine at first, that there was some wonderful merit upon my part in bringing the three together.
6 Well—no great merit, Pen, as you will put it,” says the Confessor; “ but it was kindly thought, sir--and I like my husband when he is kind best; and don't wonder at your having made a stupid speech at the dinner, as you say you did, when you had this other subject to think of. That is a beautiful psalm, Pen, and those verses which you were reading when you saw him, especially beautiful.”
“But in the presence of eighty old gentlemen, who have all come to decay, and have all had to beg their bread in a manner, don't you think the clergyman might choose some other psalm?” asks Mr. Pendennis.
They were not forsaken utterly, Arthur,” says Mrs. Laura, gravely: but rather declines to argue the point raised by me; namely, that the selection of that especial thirty-seventh psalm was not complimentary to those decayed old gentlemen.
“ All the psalms are good, sir," she says, “and this one, of course, is included,” and thus the discussion closed.
I then fell to a description of Howland Street, and poor Clive, whom I had found there over his work. A dubious maid scanned my appearance rather eagerly when I asked to see him. I found a picture-dealer chaffering with him over a bundle of sketches, and his little boy, already pencil in hand, lying in one corner of the room, the sun playing about his yellow hair. The child looked languid and pale, the father worn and ill. When the dealer at length took his bargains away, I gradually broke my errand to Clive, and told him from whence I had just come..
He had thought his father in Scotland with Lord H.: and was immensely moved with the news which I brought.
“I haven't written to him for a month. It's not pleasant letters I have to write, Pen, and I can't make them pleasant. Up, Tommykin, and put on your cap.” Tommykin jumps up. “Put on your cap, and tell them to take off your pinafore, and tell grandmamma
At that name Tommykin begins to cry.
“ Look at that!” says Clive, commencing to speak in the French language, which the child interrupts by calling out in that tongue, " I speak also French, papa."
“Well, my child! You will like to come out with papa, and Betsy can dress you." He flings off his own paint-stained shooting-jacket as he talks, takes a frock-coat out of a carved wardrobe, and a hat. from a helmet on the shelf. He is no longer the handsome splendid boy of old times. Can that be Clive, with that haggard face and slouched handkerchief? “I am not the dandy I was, Pen,” he says. bitterly. A little voice is heard crying overhead-and giving a kind of gasp,