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Part 2 Chapter 4 Course of True Love

We beg the gracious reader to remember that Mr. Philip’s business at Paris was only with a weekly London paper as yet; and hence that he had on his hands a great deal of leisure. He could glance over the state of Europe; give the latest news from the salons, imparted to him, I do believe, for the most part, by some brother hireling scribes; be present at all the theatres by deputy; and smash Louis Philippe or Messieurs Guizot and Thiers in a few easily turned paragraphs, which cost but a very few hours’ labour to that bold and rapid pen. A wholesome though humiliating thought it must be to great and learned public writers, that their eloquent sermons are but for the day; and that, having read what the philosophers say on Tuesday or Wednesday, we think about their yesterday’s sermons or essays no more. A score of years hence, men will read the papers of 1861 for the occurrences narrated — births, marriages, bankruptcies, elections, murders, deaths, and so forth; and not for the leading articles. “Though there were some of my letters,” Mr. Philip would say, in after times, “that I fondly fancied the world would not willingly let die. I wanted to have them or see them reprinted in a volume, but I could find no publisher willing to undertake the risk. A fond being, who fancies there is genius in everything I say or write, would have had me reprint my letters to the Pall Mall Gazette; but I was too timid, or she, perhaps, was too confident. The letters never were republished. Let them pass.” They have passed. And he sighs, in mentioning this circumstance; and I think tries to persuade himself, rather than others, that he is an unrecognized genius.

“And then, you know,” he pleads, “I was in love, sir, and spending all my days at Omphale’s knees. I didn’t do justice to my powers. If I had had a daily paper, I still think I might have made a good public writer; and that I had the stuff in me — the stuff in me, sir!”

The truth is that, if he had had a daily paper, and ten times as much work as fell to his lot, Mr. Philip would have found means of pursuing his inclination, as he ever through life has done. The being, whom a young man wishes to see, he sees. What business is superior to that of seeing her? Does a little Hellespontine matter keep Leander from his Hero? He would die rather than not see her. Had he swum out of that difficulty on that stormy night, and carried on a few months later, it might have been, “Beloved! my cold and rheumatism are so severe that the doctor says I must not think of cold bathing at-night;” or, “Dearest! we have a party at tea, and you mustn’t expect your ever fond Lambda to-night,” and so forth, and so forth. But in the heat of his passion water could not stay him; tempests could not frighten him; and in one of them he went down, while poor Hero’s lamp was twinkling and spending its best flame in vain. So Philip came from Sestos to Abydos daily — across one of the bridges, and paying a halfpenny toll very likely — and, late or early, poor little Charlotte’s virgin lamps were lighted in her eyes, and watching for him.

Philip made many sacrifices, mind you: sacrifices which all men are not in the habit of making. When Lord Ringwood was in Paris, twice, thrice he refused to dine with his lordship, until that nobleman smelt a rat, as the saying is — and said, “Well, youngster, I suppose you are going where there is metal more attractive. When you come to twelve lustres, my boy, you’ll find vanity and vexation in that sort of thing, and a good dinner better, and cheaper, too, than the best of them.” And when some of Philip’s rich college friends met him in his exile, and asked him to the Rocher or the Trois Freres, he would break away from those banquets; and as for meeting at those feasts doubtful companions, whom young men will sometimes invite to their entertainments, Philip turned from such with scorn and anger. His virtue was loud, and he proclaimed it loudly. He expected little Charlotte to give him credit for it, and told her of his self-denial. And she believed anything he said; and delighted in everything he wrote; and copied out his articles for the Pall Mall Gazette; and treasured his poems in her desk of desks: and there never was in all Sestos, in all Abydos, in all Europe, in all Asia Minor or Asia Major, such a noble creature as Leander, Hero thought; never, never! I hope, young ladies, you may all have a Leander on his way to the tower where the light of your love is burning steadfastly. I hope, young gentlemen, you have each of you a beacon in sight, and may meet with no mishap in swimming to it.

From my previous remarks regarding Mrs. Baynes, the reader has been made aware that the general’s wife was no more faultless than the rest of her fellowcreatures; and having already candidly informed the public that the writer and his family were no favourites of this lady, I have now the pleasing duty of recording my own opinions regarding her Mrs. General B. was an early riser. She was a frugal woman; fond of her young, or, let us say, anxious to provide for their maintenance; and here, with my best compliments, I think the catalogue of her good qualities is ended. She had a bad, violent temper; a disagreeable person, attired in very bad taste; a shrieking voice; and two manners, the respectful and the patronizing, which were both alike odious. When she ordered Baynes to marry her, gracious powers! why did he not run away? Who dared first to say that marriages are made in heaven? We know that there are not only blunders, but roguery in the marriage office. Do not mistakes occur every day, and are not the wrong people coupled? Had heaven anything to do with the bargain by which young Miss Blushrose was sold to old Mr. Hoarfrost? Did heaven order young Miss Tripper to throw over poor Tom Spooner, and marry the wealthy Mr. Bung? You may as well say that horses are sold in heaven, which, as you know, are groomed, are doctored, are chanted on to the market, and warranted by dexterous horse-vendors, as possessing every quality of blood, pace, temper, age. Against these Mr. Greenhorn has his remedy sometimes; but against a mother who sells you a warranted daughter, what remedy is there? You have been jockeyed by false representation into bidding for the Cecilia, and the animal is yours for life. She shies, kicks, stumbles, has an infernal temper, is a crib-biter — and she was warranted to you by her mother as the most perfect, good-tempered creature, whom the most timid might manage! You have bought her. She is yours. Heaven bless you! Take her home, and be miserable for the rest of your days. You have no redress. You have done the deed. Marriages were made in heaven, you know; and in yours you were as much sold as Moses Primrose was when he bought the gross of green spectacles.

I don’t think poor General Baynes ever had a proper sense of his situation, or knew how miserable he ought by rights to have been. He was not uncheerful at times: a silent man, liking his rubber and his glass of wine; a very weak person in the common affairs of life, as his best friends must own; but, as I have heard, a very tiger in action. “I know your opinion of the general,” Philip used to say to me, in his grandiloquent way. “You despise men who don’t bully their wives; you do, sir! You think the general weak, I know, I know. Other brave men were so about women, as I daresay you have heard. This man, so weak at home, was mighty on the war-path; and in his wigwam are the scalps of countless warriors.”

“In his wig what?” say I. The truth is, on his meek head the general wore a little curling chestnut top-knot, which looked very queer and out of place over that wrinkled and war-worn face.

“If you choose to laugh at your joke, pray do,” says Phil, majestically. “I make a noble image of a warrior: You prefer a barber’s pole. Bon! Pass me the wine. The veteran whom I hope to salute as father ere long — the soldier of twenty battles; — who saw my own brave grandfather die at his side — die at Busaco, by George; you laugh at an account of his wig. It’s a capital joke.” And here Phil scowled and slapped the table, and passed his hand across his eyes, as though the death of his grandfather, which occurred long before Philip was born, caused him a very serious pang of grief. Philip’s newspaper business brought him to London on occasions. I think it was on one of these visits, that we had our talk about General Baynes. And it was at the same time Philip described the boarding-house to us, and its inmates, and the landlady, and the doings there.

For that struggling landlady, as for all women in distress, our friend had a great sympathy and liking; and she returned Philip’s kindness by being very good to Mademoiselle Charlotte, and very forbearing with the general’s wife and his other children. The appetites of those little ones were frightful, the temper of Madame la Générale was almost intolerable, but Charlotte was an angel, and the general was a mutton — a true mutton. Her own father had been so. The brave are often muttons at home. I suspect that, though madame could have made but little profit by the general’s family, his monthly payments were very welcome to her meagre little exchequer. “Ah! if all my locataires were like him!” sighed the poor lady. “That Madame Boldero, whom the generaless treats always as Honourable, I wish I was as sure of her! And others again!”

I never kept a boarding-house, but I am sure there must be many painful duties attendant on that profession. What can you do if a lady or gentleman doesn’t pay his bill? Turn him or her out? Perhaps the very thing that lady or gentleman would desire. They go. Those trunks which you have insanely detained, and about which you have made a fight and a scandal, do not contain a hundred francs’ worth of goods, and your creditors never come back again. You do not like to have a row in a boarding-house any more than you would like to have a party with scarlet-fever in your best bedroom. The scarlet-fever party stays, and the other boarders go away. What, you ask, do I mean by this mystery? I am sorry to have to give up names, and titled names. I am sorry to say the Honourable Mrs. Boldero did not pay her bills. She was waiting for remittances, which the Honourable Boldero was dreadfully remiss in sending. A dreadful man! He was still at his lordship’s at Gaberlunzie Castle, shooting the wild deer and hunting the roe. And though the Honourable Mrs. B.’s heart was in the Highlands, of course, how could she join her Highland chief without the money to pay madame? The Highlands, indeed! One dull day it came out that the Honourable Boldero was amusing himself in the Highlands of Hesse Homburg; and engaged in the dangerous sport which is to be had in the green plains about Loch Badenbadenoch!

“Did you ever hear of such depravity? The woman is a desperate and unprincipled adventuress! I wonder madame dares to put me and my children and my general down at table with such people as those, Philip!” cries madame la générale. “I mean those opposite — that woman and her two daughters who haven’t paid madame a shilling for three months — who owes me five hundred francs, which she borrowed until next Tuesday, expecting a remittance — a pretty remittance indeed — from Lord Strongitharm. Lord Strongitharm, I daresay! And she pretends to be most intimate at the embassy; and that she would introduce us there, and at the Tuileries: and she told me Lady Estridge had the small-pox in the house; and when I said all ours had been vaccinated, and I didn’t mind, she fobbed me off with some other excuse; and it’s my belief the woman’s a humbug. Overhear me! I don’t care if she does overhear me. No. You may look as much as you like, my Honourable Mrs. Boldero; and I don’t care if you do overhear me. Ogoost! Pomdytare pour le général! How tough madame’s boof is, and it’s boof, boof, boof every day, till I’m sick of boof. Ogoost! why don’t you attend to my children?” And so forth.

By this report of the worthy woman’s conversation, you will see that the friendship which had sprung up between the two ladies had come to an end, in consequence of painful pecuniary disputes between them; that to keep a boarding-house can’t be a very pleasant occupation; and that even to dine in a boarding-house must be very bad fun when the company is frightened and dull, and when there are two old women at table ready to fling the dishes at each other’s fronts. At the period of which I now write, I promise you, there was very little of the piano-duet business going on after dinner. In the first place, everybody knew the girls’ pieces; and when they began, Mrs. General Baynes would lift up a voice louder than the jingling old instrument, thumped Minna and Brenda ever so loudly. “Perfect strangers to me, Mr. Clancy, I assure you. Had I known her, you don’t suppose I would have lent her the money. Honourable Mrs. Boldero, indeed! Five weeks she has owed me five hundred frongs. Bong swor, Monsieur Bidois! Sang song frong pas payy encor! Prommy, pas payy!” Fancy, I say, what a dreary life that must have been at the select boarding-house, where these two parties were doing battle daily after dinner! Fancy, at the select soirées, the general’s lady seizing upon one guest after another, and calling out her wrongs, and pointing to the wrong-doer; and poor Madame Smolensk, smirking, and smiling, and flying from one end of the salon to the other, and thanking M. Pivoine for his charming romance, and M. Brumm for his admirable performance on the violoncello, and even asking those poor Miss Bolderos to perform their duet — for her heart melted towards them. Not ignorant of evil, she had learned to succour the miserable. She knew what poverty was, and had to coax scowling duns, and wheedle vulgar creditors. “Tenez, Monsieur Philippe,” she said, “the générale is too cruel. There are others here who might complain, and are silent.” Philip felt all this; the conduct of his future mother-in-law filled him with dismay and horror. And some time after these remarkable circumstances, he told me, blushing as he spoke, a humiliating secret. “Do you know, sir,” says he, “that autumn I made a pretty good thing of it with one thing or another. I did my work for the Pall Mall Gazette: and Smith of the Daily Intelligencer, wanting a month’s holiday, gave me his letter and ten francs a day. And at that very time I met Redman, who had owed me twenty pounds ever since we were at college, and who was just coming back flush from Homburg, and paid me. Well, now. Swear you won’t tell. Swear on your faith as a Christian man! With this money I went, sir, privily to Mrs. Boldero. I said if she would pay the dragon — I mean Mrs. Baynes — I would lend her the money. And I did lend her the money, and the Boldero never paid back Mrs. Baynes. Don’t mention it. Promise me you won’t tell Mrs. Baynes. I never expected to get Redman’s money you know, and am no worse off than before. One day of the Grandes Eaux we went to Versailles I think, and the Honourable Mrs. Boldero gave us the slip. She left the poor girls behind her in pledge, who, to do them justice, cried and were in a dreadful way; and when Mrs. Baynes, on our return, began shrieking about her ‘sang song frong,’ Madame Smolensk fairly lost patience for once, and said, ‘Mais, madame, vous nous fatiguez avec vos cinq cents francs;’ on which the other muttered something about ‘Ansolong,’ but was briskly taken up by her husband, who said, ‘By George, Eliza, madame is quite right. And I wish the five hundred francs were in the sea.’”

Thus you understand, if Mrs. General Baynes thought some people were “stuck-up people,” some people can — and hereby do by these presents — pay off Mrs. Baynes, by furnishing the public with a candid opinion of that lady’s morals, manners, and character. How could such a shrewd woman be dazzled so repeatedly by ranks and titles? There used to dine at Madame Smolensk’s boarding-house a certain German baron, with a large finger-ring, upon a dingy finger, towards whom the lady was pleased to cast the eye of favour, and who chose to fall in love with her pretty daughter; young Mr. Clancy, the Irish poet, was also smitten with the charms of the fair young lady; and this intrepid mother encouraged both suitors, to the unspeakable agonies of Philip Firmin, who felt often that whilst he was away at his work these inmates of Madame Smolensk’s house were near his charmer — at her side at lunch, ever handing her the cup at breakfast, on the watch for her when she walked forth in the garden; and I take the pangs of jealousy to have formed a part of those unspeakable sufferings which Philip said he endured in the house whither he came courting.

Little Charlotte, in one or two of her letters to her friends in Queen Square, London, meekly complained of Philip’s tendency to jealousy. “Does he think, after knowing him, I can think of these horrid men?” she asked. “I don’t understand what Mr. Clancy is talking about, when he comes to me with his ‘pomes and potry;’ and who can read poetry like Philip himself? Then the German baron — who does not even call himself a baron: it is mamma who will insist upon calling him so — has such very dirty things, and smells so of cigars, that I don’t like to come near him. Philip smokes too, but his cigars are quite pleasant. Ah, dear friend, how could he ever think such men as these were to be put in comparison with him! And he scolds so; and scowls at the poor men in the evening when he comes! and his temper is so high! Do say a word to him — quite cautiously and gently, you know — in behalf of your fondly attached and most happy — only he will make me unhappy sometimes; but you’ll prevent him, won’t you? — Charlotte B.”

I could fancy Philip hectoring through the part of Othello, and his poor young Desdemona not a little frightened at his black humours. Such sentiments as Mr. Philip felt strongly, he expressed with an uproar. Charlotte’s correspondent, as usual, made light of these little domestic confidences and grievances. “Women don’t dislike a jealous scolding,” she said. “It may be rather tiresome, but it is always a compliment. Some husbands think so well of themselves, that they can’t condescend to be jealous.” Yes, I say, women prefer to have tyrants over them. A scolding you think is a mark of attention. Hadn’t you better adopt the Russian system at once, and go out and buy me a whip, and present it to me with a curtsey, and your compliments; and a meek prayer that I should use it. “Present you a whip! present you a goose!” says the lady, who encourages scolding in other husbands, it seems, but won’t suffer a word from her own.

Both disputants had set their sentimental hearts on the marriage of this young man and this young woman. Little Charlotte’s heart was so bent on the match, that it would break, we fancied, if she were disappointed; and............

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