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need I say what happened to her? When the ladies went away my heart was opened to my friend Florac, and I told him where and how I had left my dear Clive's father.
The Frenchman's emotion on hearing this tale was such that I have loved him ever since. Clive in want! Why had he not sent to his friend ? Grands Dieux! Clive who had helped him in his greatest distress. Clive's father, ce preux chevalier, ce parfait gentilhomme! In a hundred rapid exclamations Florac exhibited his sympathy, asking of Fate, why such men as he and I were sitting surrounded by splendours before golden vases-crowned with flowers-with valets to kiss our feet-(these were merely figures of speech in which Paul expressed his prosperity whilst our friend the Colonel, so much better than we, spent his last days in poverty, and alone.
I liked my host none the less, I own, because that one of the conditions of the Colonel's present life, which appeared the hardest to most people, affected Florac but little. To be a Pensioner of an Ancient Institution ? Why not? Might not any officer retire without shame to the Invalides at the close of his campaigns, and had not Fortune conquered our old friend, and age and disaster overcome him? It never once entered Thomas Newcome's head, nor Clive's, nor Florac's, nor his mother's, that the Colonel demeaned himself at all by accepting that bounty; and I recollect Warrington sharing our sentiment and trolling out those noble lines of the old poet:
“ His golden locks Time hath to silver turned;
O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing !
But spurned in vain ; youth waneth by increasing.
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees,
And lovers' songs be turned to holy psalms;
And feed on prayers, which are old age's alms."
These, I say, respected our friend, whatever was the coat he wore; whereas, among the Colonel's own kinsfolk, dire was the dismay, and indignation even, which they expressed when they came to hear of this what they were pleased to call degradation to their family. Mrs. Hobson Newcome, in subsequent confidential communication with the writer of these memoirs, improved the occasion religiously as her wont was; referred the matter to heaven too, and thought fit to assume that the celestial powers had decreed this humiliation, this dreadful trial for the Newcome family, as a warning to them all that they should not be too much puffed up with prosperity, nor set their affections too much upon things of this earth. Had they not already received one chastisement in Barnes's punishment, and Lady Clara's awful falling away? They had taught her a lesson, which the Colonel's lamentable errors had confirmed,--the vanity of trusting in all earthly grandeurs ! Thus it was this worthy woman plumed herself, as it were, on her relatives' misfortunes; and was pleased to think the latter were designed for the special warning and advantage of her private family. But Mrs. Hobson's philosophy is only mentioned by the way. Our story, which is drawing to its close, has to busy itself with other members of the house of The Newcomes.
My talk with Florac lasted for some time; at its close, when we went to join the ladies in the drawing-room, we found Ethel cloaked and shawled, and prepared for her departure with her young ones, who were already asleep. The little festival was over, and had ended in melancholy-even in weeping. Our hostess sat in her accustomed seat by her lamp and her work-table; but neglecting her needle, she was having perpetual recourse to her pocket-handkerchief, and uttering ejaculations of pity between the intervals of her gushes of tears. Madame de Florac was in her usual place, her head cast downwards, and her hands folded. My wife was at her side, a grave commiseration showing itself in Laura's countenance, whilst I read a yet deeper Sadness in Ethel's pale face. Miss Newcome's carriage had been announced; the attendants had already carried the young ones asleep to the vehicle; and she was in the act of taking leave. We looked round at this disturbed party, guessing very likely what the subject of their talk had been, to which, however, Miss Ethel did not allude; but, announcing that she had intended to depart without disturbing the two gentlemen, she bade us farewell and good-night. “I wish I could say merry Christmas," she added gravely, “but none of us, I fear, can hope for that.” It was evident that Laura had told the last chapter of the Colonel's story.
Madame de Florac rose up and embraced Miss Newcome: and, that farewell over, she sank back on the sofa exhausted, and with such an expression of affliction in her countenance that my wife ran eagerly towards her. “ It is nothing, my dear," she said, giving a cold hand to the younger lady, and sat silent for a few moments, during which we heard Florac's voice without, crying, “Adieu !" and the wheels of Miss Newcome's carriage as it drove away.
Our host entered a moment afterwards; and remarking, as Laura had done, his mother's pallor and look of anguish, went up and spoke to her with the utmost tenderness and anxiety.
She gave her hand to her son, and a faint blush rose up out of the past as it were, and trembled upon her wan cheek. “He was the first friend I ever had in the world, Paul,” she said; “ the first and the best. He shall not want, shall he, my son ?"
No signs of that emotion in which her daughter-in-law had been indulging were as yet visible in Madame de Florac's eyes; but, as she spoke, holding her son's hand in hers, the tears at length overflowed; and, with a sob, her head fell forwards. The impetuous Frenchman flung himself on his knees before his mother, uttered a hundred words of love and respect for her, and with tears and sobs of his own called God to witness that their friend should never want. And so this mother and son embraced each other, and clung together in a sacred union of love; before which we who had been admitted as spectators of that scene, stood hushed and respectful. . .
That night Laura told me how, when the ladies left us, their talk had been entirely about the Colonel and Clive. Madame de Florac had spoken especially, and much more freely than was her wont. She had told many reminiscences of Thomas Newcome and his early days; how her father taught him mathematics when they were quite poor, and living in their dear little cottage at Blackheath; how handsome he was then, with bright eyes, and long black hair flowing over his shoulders; how military glory was his boyish passion, and he was for ever talking of India, and the famous deeds of Clive and Lawrence, His favourite book was a history of India—the “ History" of Orme. “ He read it, and I read it also, my daughter," the French lady said, turning to Ethel; “ah! I may say so after so many years."
Ethel remembered the book as belonging to her grandmother, and now in the library at Newcome. Doubtless the same sympathy which caused me to speak about Thomas Newcome that evening, impelled my wife likewise. She told her friends, as I had told Florac, all the Colonel's story; and it was while these good women were under the impression of the melancholy history, that Florac and his guest found them.
Retired to our rooms, Laura and I talked on the same subject until the clock tolled Christmas, and the neighbouring church bells rang out a jubilation. And, looking out into the quiet night, where the stars were keenly shining, we committed ourselves to rest with humbled hearts; praying, for all those we loved, a blessing of peace and good-will.
THE SHORTEST AND HAPPIEST IN THE WHOLE HISTORY.
N the ensuing Christmas morning I chanced to rise betimes, and V entering my dressing-room, opened the windows, and looked out on the soft landscape, over which mists were still lying; whilst the serene sky above, and the lawns and leafless woods in the foreground near, were still pink with sunrise. The grey had not even left the west yet, and I could see a star or two twinkling there, to vanish with that twilight.
As I looked out, I saw the not very distant lodge-gate open after a brief parley, and a lady on horseback, followed by a servant, rode rapidly up to the house.
This early visitor was no other than Miss Ethel Newcome. The young lady espied me immediately. “Cone down; come down to me this moment, Mr. Pendennis,” she cried out, I hastened down to her, supposing rightly that news of importance had brought her to Rosebury so early.
The news were of importance indeed. “Look here!” she said, “ read this;" and she took a paper from the pocket of her habit. “When I went home last night, after Madame de Florac had been talking to us about Orme's 'India,' I took the volumes from the bookcase, and found this paper. It is in my grandmother's--Mrs. Newcome's handwriting; I know it quite well; it is dated on the very day of her death. She had been writing and reading in her study on that very night; I have often heard papa speak of the circumstance. Look and read. You are a lawyer, Mr. Pendennis; tell me about this paper."
I seized it eagerly, and cast my eyes over it; but having read it, my countenance fell.
“My dear Miss Newcome, it is not worth a penny," I was obliged to own.
“Yes, it is, sir, to honest people!" she cried out. “My brother and uncle will respect it as Mrs. Newcome's dying wish. They must respect it."
The paper in question was a letter in ink that had grown yellow from time, and was addressed by the late Mrs. Newcome to“ my dear Mr. Luce."
6 That was her solicitor, my solicitor still," interposes Miss Ethel.
" The Hermitage, March 14, 182, “ MY DEAR MR. LUCE” (the defunct lady wrote) — "My late husband's grandson has been staying with me lately, and is a most pleasing, handsome, and engaging little boy. He bears a strong likeness to his grandfather, I think; and though he has no claims upon me, and I know is sufficiently provided for by his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Newcome, C.B., of the East India Company's Service, I am sure my late dear husband will be pleased that I should leave his grandson, Clive Newcome, a token of peace and good-will ; and I can do so with the more readiness, as it has pleased heaven greatly to increase my means since my husband was called away hence.
“I desire to bequeath a sum equal to that which Mr. Newcome willed to my eldest son, Brian Newcome, Esq., to Mr. Newcome's grandson, Clive Newcome; and furthermore, that a token of my esteem and affection, a ring, or a piece of plate, of the value of £100, be given to Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Newcome, my step-son, whose excellent conduct for many years, and whose repeated acts of gallantry in the service of his sovereign, have long obliterated the just feelings of displeasure with which I could not but view his early disobedience and misbehaviour, before he quitted England against my will, and entered the military service.
“I beg you to prepare immediately a codicil to my will, providing for the above bequests; and desire that the amount of these legacies should be taken. from the property bequeathed to my eldest son. You will be so good as to prepare the necessary document, and bring it with you when you come, on Saturday, to
Yours very truly, “ Tuesday night.
“SOPHIA ALETHEA NEWCOME.” I gave back the paper with a sigh to the finder. “It is but a wish of Mrs. Newcome, my dear Miss Ethel,” I said. “ Pardon me, if I say, I think I know your elder brother too well to suppose that he will fulfil it."
“He will fulfil it, sir, I am sure he will," Miss Newcome said, in a haughty manner. "He would do as much without being asked, I am certain he would, did he know the depth of my dear uncle's misfortune. Barnes is in London now, and ".
“And you will write to him? I know what the answer will be."
“ I will go to him this very day, Mr. Pendennis! I will go to my dear, dear uncle. I cannot bear to think of him in that place," cried the young lady, the tears starting into her eyes. “It was the will of heaven. Oh, God be thanked for it! Had we found my grandmamma's letter earlier, Barnes would have paid the legacy immediately, and the money would have gone in that dreadful bankruptcy. I will go to Barnes to-day. Will you come with me? Won't you come to your old friends? We may be at his,-at Clive's house this. evening; and oh, praise be to God! there need be no more want in his family."
“My dear friend, I will go with you round the world on such an