« AnteriorContinuar »
errand," I said, kissing her hand. How beautiful she looked! the generous colour rose in her face, her voice thrilled with happiness. The music of Christmas church bells leaped up at this moment with joyful gratulations; the face of the old house, before which we stood talking, shone out in the morning sun.
“You will come ? thank you! I must run and tell Madame de Florac," cried the happy young lady, and we entered the house together. “How came you to be kissing Ethel's hand, sir; and what
returned to my own apartments.
..66 Martha, get me a carpet-bag! I am going to London in an hour," cries Mr. Pendennis. If I had kissed Ethel's hand just now, delighted at the news which she brought to me, was not one a thousand times dearer to me, as happy as her friend? I know who prayed with a thankful heart that day as we sped, in the almost solitary train, towards London.
IN WHICH THE AUTHOR GOES ON A PLEASANT ERRAND.
PEFORE I parted with Miss Newcome at the station, she made
me promise to see her on the morrow at an early hour at her brother's house; and having bidden her farewell and repaired to my own solitary residence, which presented but a dreary aspect on that festive day, I thought I would pay Howland Street a visit; and, if invited, eat my Christmas dinner with Clive.
I found my friend at home, and at work still, in spite of the day.. He had promised a pair of pictures to a dealer for the morrow. "He: pays me pretty well, and I want all the money he will give me, Pen," the painter said, rubbing on at his canvas. “I am pretty easy in my mind since I have become acquainted with a virtuous dealer. I sell myself to him, body and soul, for some half-dozen pounds a week. I know I can get my money, and he is regularly supplied with his pictures. But for Rosey's illness we might carry on well enough."
Rosey's illness? I was sorry to hear of that: and poor Clive, entering into particulars, told me how he had spent upon doctors rather more than a fourth of his year's earnings. “There is a solemn fellow, to whom the women have taken a fancy, who lives but a few doors off in. Gower Street; and who, for his last sixteen visits, has taken sixteen pounds sixteen shillings out of my pocket with the most admirable gravity, and as if guineas grew there. He talks the fashions. to my mother-in-law. My poor wife hangs on every word he saysLook! There is his carriage coming up now! and there is his fee, confound him!” says Clive, casting a rueful look towards a little packet lying upon the mantel-piece, by the side of that skinned figure in plaster of Paris which we have seen in most studios.
I looked out of window and saw a certain Fashionable Doctor tripping out of his chariot; that Ladies' Delight, who has subsequently migrated from Bloomsbury to Belgravia; and who has his polite foot now in a thousand nurseries and boudoirs. What Confessors were in old times, Quackenboss and his like are in our Protestant country. What secrets they know! into what mystic chambers do they not enter! I suppose the Campaigner made a special toilette to receive her fashionable friend, for that lady, attired in considerable splendourg and with the precious jewel on her head, which I remembered at Boulogne, came into the studio two minutes after the Doctor's visit was announced, and made him a low curtsey. I cannot describe the overpowering civilities of that woman.
Clive was very gracious and humble to her. He adopted a lively air in addressing her. “Must work, you know, Christmas Day and all-for the owner of the pictures will call for them in the morning. Bring me a good report about Rosey, Mrs. Mackenzie, please-and if you will have the kindness to look by the écorché there, you will see that little packet which I have left for you.” Mrs. Mack, advancing, took the money. I thought that plaster of Paris figure was not the only écorché in the room.
“I want you to stay to dinner. You must stay, Pen, please," cried Clive; “and be civil to her, will you ? My dear old father is coming to dine here. They fancy that he has lodgings at the other end of the town, and that his brothers do something for him. Not a word about Grey Friars. It might agitate Rosey, you know. Ah! isn't he noble, the dear old boy! and isn't it fine to see him in that place ?" Clive worked on as he talked, using up the last remnant of the light of Christmas Day, and was cleaning his palette and brushes, when Mrs. Mackenzie returned to us.
Darling Rosey was very delicate, but Doctor Quackenboss was going to give her the very same medicine which had done the charming young Duchess of Clackmannanshire so much good, and he was not in the least disquiet.
On this I cut into the conversation with anecdotes concerning the family of the Duchess of Clackmannanshire, remembering early days, when it used to be my sport to entertain the Campaigner with anecdotes of the aristocracy, about whose proceedings she still maintained a laudable curiosity. Indeed, one of the few books escaped out of the wreck of Tyburn Gardens was a “Peerage," now a well-worn volume, much read by Rosey and her mother.
The anecdotes were very politely received-perhaps it was the season which made Mrs. Mack and her son-in-law on more than ordinarily good terms. When, turning to the Campaigner, Clive said he wished that she could persuade me to stay to dinner, she acquiesced graciously and at once in that proposal, and vowed that her daughter would be delighted if I could condescend to eat their humble fare. “ It is not such a dinner as you have seen at her house, with six sidedishes, two flanks, that splendid épergne, and the silver dishes top and bottom; but such as my Rosey has she offers with a willing heart," cries the Campaigner.
“And Tom may sit to dinner, mayn't he, grandmamma?” asks Clive, in a humble voice.
“Oh, if you wish it, sir,"
“ His grandfather will like to sit by him," said Clive. “I will go out and meet him; he comes through Guildford Street and Russell Square," says Clive. “Will you walk, Pen?".
“Oh, pray don't let us detain you," says Mrs. Mackenzie, with a toss of her head: and when she retreated Clive whispered that she would not want me; for she looked to the roasting of the beef and the making of the pudding and the mince-pie.
..“ I thought she might have a finger in it," I said; and we set forth to meet the dear old father, who presently came, walking very slowly, along the line by which we expected him. His stick trembled as it fell on the pavement; so did his voice, as he called out Clive's name: so did his hand, as he stretched it to me. His body was bent, and feeble. Twenty years had not weakened him so much as the last score of months. I walked by the side of my two friends as they went onwards, linked lovingly together. How I longed for the morrow, and hoped they might be united once more! Thomas Newcome's voice, once so grave, went up to a treble, and became almost childish, as he asked after Boy. His white hair hung over his collar. I could see it by the gas under which we walked--and Clive's great back and arm, as his father leaned on it, and his brave face turned towards the old man. O Barnes Newcome, Barnes Newcome! Be an honest man for once, and help your kinsfolk! thought I.
The Christmas meal went off in a friendly manner enough. The Campaigner's eyes were everywhere: it was evident that the little maid who served the dinner, and had cooked a portion of it under their keen supervision, cowered under them, as well as other folks. Mrs. Mack did not make more than ten allusions to former splendours during the entertainment, or half as many apologies to me for sitting down to a table very different from that to which I was accustomed. Good, faithful F. Bayham was the only other guest. He complimented the mince-pies, so that Mrs. Mackenzie owned she had made them. The Colonel was very silent, but he tried to feed Boy, and was only once or twice sternly corrected by the Campaigner. Boy, in the best little words he could muster, asked why grandpapa wore a black cloak? Clive nudged my foot under the table. The secret of the Poor Brothership was very nearly out. The Colonel blushed, and with great presence of mind said he wore a cloak to keep him warm in winter.
Rosey did not say much. She had grown lean and languid: the light of her eyes had gone out: all her pretty freshness had faded. She ate scarce anything, though her mother pressed her eagerly, and whispered loudly that a woman in her situation ought to strengthen herself. Poor Rosey was always in a situation,
When the cloth was withdrawn, the Colonel bending his head said, “ Thank God for what we have received," so reverently, and with an accent so touching, that Fred Bayham's big eyes as he turned towards the old man filled up with tears. When his mother and grandmother rose to go away, poor little Boy cried to stay longer, and the Colonel would have meekly interposed, but the domineering Campaigner cried, “Nonsense, let him go to bed!” and flounced him out of the room: and nobody appealed against that sentence. Then we four remained, and strove to talk as cheerfully as we might, speaking now of old times, and presently of new. Without the slightest affectation, Thomas Newcome told us that his life was comfortable, and that he was happy in it. He wished that many others of the old gentlemen, he said, were as contented as himself, but some of them grumbled sadly, he owned, and quarrelled with their bread and butter. He, for his part, had everything he could desire: all the officers of the establishment were most kind to him; an excellent physician came to him when wanted; a most attentive woman waited on him. “And if I wear a black gown," said he, “is not that uniform as good as another? and if we have to go to church every day, at which some of the Poor Brothers grumble, I think an old fellow can't do better; and I can say my prayers with a thankful heart, Clivy my boy, and should be quite happy but for my-for my past imprudence, God forgive me. Think of Bayham here coming to our chapel to-day !he often comes-that was very right, sir-very right.”
Clive, filling a glass of wine, looked at F..B. with eyes that said God bless you. F. B. gulped down another bumper. “It is almost a merry Christmas," said I; "and oh, I hope it will be a happy New Year !"
Shortly after nine o'clock the Colonel rose to depart, saying he must be “in barracks” by ten ; and Clive and F. B. went a part of the way with him. I would have followed them, but Clive whispered me to stay and talk to Mrs. Mack, for heaven's sake, and that he would be back ere long. So I went and took tea with the two ladies; and as.. we drank it, Mrs. Mackenzie took occasion to tell me she did not know what amount of income the Colonel had from his wealthy brother, but. that they never received any benefit from it; and again she computed. to me all the sums, principal and interest, which ought at that moment to belong to her darling Rosey. Rosey now and again made a feeble remark. She did not seem pleased or sorry when her husband came in; and presently, dropping me a little curtsey, went to bed under charge of the Campaigner. So Bayham and I and Clive retired to the studio, where smoking was allowed, and where we brought that Christmas day to an end.
At the appointed time on the next forenoon I called upon Miss.