Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Adventures of Philip on his way through the World > Part 2 Chapter 9 Infandi Dolores
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Part 2 Chapter 9 Infandi Dolores

Philip’s heart beat very quickly at seeing this grim pair, and the guilty newspaper before them, on which Mrs. Baynes’ lean right hand was laid. “So, sir,” she cried, “you still honour us with your company: after distinguishing yourself as you did the night before last. Fighting and boxing like a porter at his Excellency’s ball. It’s disgusting! I have no other word for it: disgusting!” And here I suppose she nudged the general, or gave him some look or signal by which he knew he was to come into action; for Baynes straightway advanced and delivered his fire.

“Faith, sir, more bub-ub-blackguard conduct I never heard of in my life! That’s the only word for it: the only word for it,” cries Baynes.

“The general knows what blackguard conduct is, and yours is that conduct, Mr. Firmin! It is all over the town: is talked of everywhere: will be in all the newspapers. When his lordship heard of it, he was furious. Never, never, will you be admitted into the Embassy again, after disgracing yourself as you have done,” cries the lady.

“Disgracing yourself, that’s the word. — And disgraceful your conduct was, begad!” cries the officer second in command.

“You don’t know my provocation,” pleaded poor Philip. “As I came up to him Twysden was boasting that he had struck me — and — and laughing at me.”

“And a pretty figure you were to come to a ball! Who could help laughing, sir?”

“He bragged of having insulted me, and I lost my temper, and struck him in return. The thing is done and can’t be helped,” growled Philip.

“Strike a little man before ladies! Very brave indeed!” cries the lady.

“Mrs. Baynes!”

“I call it cowardly. In the army we consider it cowardly to quarrel before ladies,” continues Mrs. General B.

“I have waited at home for two days to see if he wanted any more,” groaned Philip.

“Oh, yes! After insulting and knocking a little man down, you want to murder him! And you call that the conduct of a Christian — the conduct of a gentleman!”

“The conduct of a ruffian, by George!” says General Baynes.

“It was prudent of you to choose a very little man, and to have the ladies within hearing!” continues Mrs. Baynes. “Why, I wonder you haven’t beaten my dear children next. Don’t you, general, wonder he has not knocked down our poor boys? They are quite small. And it is evident that laides being present is no hindrance to Mr. Firmin’s boxing-matches.”

“The conduct is gross, and unworthy of a gentleman,” reiterates the general.

“You hear what that man says — that old man, who never says an unkind word? That veteran, who has been in twenty battles, and never struck a man before women yet? Did you, Charles? He has given you his opinion. He has called you a name which I won’t soil my lips with repeating, but which you deserve. And do you suppose, sir, that I will give my blessed child to a man who has acted as you have acted, and been called a — ? Charles! General! I will go to my grave rather than see my daughter given up to such a man!”

“Good heavens!” said Philip, his knees trembling under him. “You don’t mean to say that you intend to go from your word, and — ”

“Oh! you threaten about money, do you? Because your father was a cheat, you intend to try and make us suffer, do you?” shrieks the lady. “A man who strikes a little man before ladies will commit any act of cowardice, I daresay. And if you wish to beggar my family, because your father was a rogue — ”

“My dear!” interposes the general.

“Wasn’t he a rogue, Baynes? Is there any denying it? Haven’t you said so a hundred and a hundred times? A nice family to marry into! No, Mr. Firmin! You may insult me as you please. You may strike little men before ladies. You may lift your great wicked hand against that poor old man, in one of your tipsy fits: but I know a mother’s love, a mother’s duty — and I desire that we see you no more.”

“Great Powers!” cries Philip, aghast. “You don’t mean to — to separate me from Charlotte, general! I have your word. You encouraged me. I shall break my heart. I’ll go down on my knees to that fellow. I’ll — oh! — you don’t mean what you say!” And, scared and sobbing, the poor fellow clasped his strong hands together, and appealed to the general.

Baynes was under his wife’s eye. “I think,” he said, “your conduct has been confoundedly bad, disorderly, and ungentlemanlike. You can’t support my child, if you marry her. And if you have the least spark of honour in you, as you say you have, it is you, Mr. Firmin, who will break off the match, and release the poor child from certain misery. By George, sir, how is a man who fights and quarrels in a nobleman’s ball-room, to get on in the world? How is a man, who can’t afford a decent coat to his back, to keep a wife? The more I have known you, the more I have felt that the engagement would bring misery upon my child! Is that what you want? A man of honour — ” (“Honour!” in italics, from Mrs. Baynes.) “Hush, my dear! — A man of spirit would give her up, sir. What have you to offer but beggary, by George? Do you want my girl to come home to your lodgings, and mend your clothes?" — “I think I put that point pretty well, Bunch, my boy,” said the general, talking of the matter afterwards. “I hit him there, sir.”

The old soldier did indeed strike his adversary there with a vital stab. Philip’s coat, no doubt, was ragged, and his purse but light. He had sent money to his father out of his small stock. There were one or two servants in the old house in Parr Street, who had been left without their wages, and a part of these debts Philip had paid. He knew his own violence of temper, and his unruly independence. He thought very humbly of his talents, and often doubted of his capacity to get on in the world. In his less hopeful moods, he trembled to think that he might be bringing poverty and unhappiness upon his dearest little maiden, for whom he would joyfully have sacrificed his blood, his life. Poor Philip sank back sickening and fainting almost under Baynes’s words.

“You’ll let me — you’ll let me see her?” he gasped out.

“She’s unwell. She is in her bed. She can’t appear to-day!” cried the mother.

“Oh, Mrs. Baynes! I must — I must see her,” Philip said; and fairly broke out in a sob of pain.

“This is the man that strikes men before women!” said Mrs. Baynes. “Very courageous, certainly!”

“By George, Eliza!” the general cried out, starting up, “it’s too bad — ”

“Infirm of purpose, give me the daggers!” Philip yelled out, whilst describing the scene to his biographer in after days. “Macbeth would never have done the murders but for that little quiet woman at his side. When the Indian prisoners are killed, the squaws always invent the worst tortures. You should have seen that fiend and her livid smile, as she was drilling her gimlets into my heart! I don’t know how I offended her. I tried to like her, sir. I had humbled myself before her. I went on her errands. I played cards with her. I sate and listened to her dreadful stories about Barrackpore and the governor-general. I wallowed in the dust before her, and she hated me. I can see her face now: her cruel yellow face, and her sharp teeth, and her gray eyes. It was the end of August, and pouring a storm that day. I suppose my poor child was cold and suffering up-stairs, for I heard the poking of a fire in her little room. When I hear a fire poking of a fire in her little room. When I hear a fire poked over-head now — twenty years after — the whole thing comes back to me; and I suffer over again that infernal agony. Were I to live a thousand years, I could not forgive her. I never did her a wrong, but I can’t forgive her. Ah, my heaven, how that woman tortured me!”

“I think I know one or two similar instances,” said Mr. Firmin’s biographer.

“You are always speaking ill of women!” said Mr. Firmin’s biographer’s wife.

“No, thank heaven!” said the gentleman. “I think I know some of whom I never thought or spoke a word of evil. My dear, will you give Philip some more tea?” and with this the gentleman’s narrative is resumed.

The rain was beating down the avenue as Philip went into the street. He looked up at Charlotte’s window: but there was no sign. There was a flicker of a fire there. The poor girl had the fever, and was shuddering in her little room, weeping and sobbing on Madame Smolensk’s shoulder, que c’était pitié à voir, madame said. Her mother had told her she must break from Philip; had invented and spoken a hundred calumnies against him; declared that he never cared for her; that he had loose principles, and was for ever haunting theatres and bad company. “It’s not true, mother, it’s not true!” the little girl had cried, flaming up in revolt for a moment: but she soon subsided in tears and misery, utterly broken by the thought of her calamity. Then her father had been brought to her, who had been made to believe some of the stories against poor Philip, and who was commanded by his wife to impress them upon the girl. And Baynes tried to obey orders; but he was scared and cruelly pained by the sight of his little maiden’s grief and suffering. He attempted a weak expostulation, and began a speech or two. But his heart failed him. He retreated behind his wife. She never hesitated in speech or resolution, and her language became more bitter as her ally faltered. Philip was a drunkard; Philip was a prodigal; Philip was a frequenter of dissolute haunts, and loose companions. She had the best authority for what she said. Was not a mother anxious for the welfare of her own child? (“Begad, you don’t suppose your own mother would do anything that was not for your welfare, now?” broke in the general, feebly.) “Do you think if he had not been drunk he would have ventured to commit such an atrocious outrage as that at the Embassy? And do you suppose I want a drunkard and a beggar to marry my daughter? Your ingratitude, Charlotte, is horrible!” cries mamma. And poor Philip, charged with drunkenness, had dined for seventeen sous, with a carafon of beer, and had counted on a supper that night by little Charlotte’s side. So, while the child lay sobbing on her bed, the mother stood over her, and lashed her. For General Baynes — a brave man, a kind-hearted man — to have to look on whilst this torture was inflicted, must have been a hard duty. He could not eat the boarding-house dinner, though he took his place at the table at the sound of the dismal bell. Madame herself was not present at the meal; and you know poor Charlotte’s place was vacant. Her father went upstairs, and paused by her bed-room door, and listened. He heard murmurs within, and madame’s voice, as he stumbled at the door, cried harshly, “Qui est là?” He entered. Madame was sitting on the bed, with Charlotte’s head on her lap. The thick brown tresses were falling over the child’s white nightdress, and she lay almost motionless, and sobbing feebly. “Ah, it is you, general!” said madame. “You have done a pretty work, sir!” “Mamma says, won’t you take something, Charlotte, dear?” faltered the old man. “Will you leave her tranquil?” said madame, with her deep voice. The father retreated. When madame went out presently to get that panacea, une tasse de thé, for her poor little friend, she found the old gentleman seated on a portmanteau at his door. “Is she — is she a little better now?” he sobbed out. Madame shrugged her shoulders, and looked down on the veteran with superb scorn. “Vous n’êtes qu’un poltron, général!” she said, and swept downstairs. Baynes was beaten indeed. He was suffering horrible pain. He was quite unmanned, and tears were trickling down his old cheeks as he sate wretchedly there in the dark. His wife did not leave the table as long as dinner and dessert lasted. She read Galignani resolutely afterwards. She told the children not to make a noise, as their sister was upstairs with a bad headache. But she revoked that statement as it were (as she revoked at cards presently), by asking the Miss Bolderos to play one of their duets.

I wonder whether Philip walked up and down before the house that night? Ah! it was a dismal night for all of them: a racking pain, a cruel sense of shame, throbbed under Baynes’s cotton tassel; and as for Mrs. Baynes, I hope there was not much rest or comfort under her old nightcap. Madame passed the greater part of the night in a great chair in Charlotte’s bedroom, where the poor child heard the hours toll one after the other, and found no comfort in the dreary rising of the dawn.

At a very early hour of the dismal rainy morning, what made poor little Charlotte fling her arms round madame, and cry out, “Ah, que je vous aime! ah, que vous etes bonne, madame!” and smile almost happily through her tears? In the first place, madame went to Charlotte’s dressing-table, whence she took a pair of scissors. Then the little maid sat up on her bed, with her brown hair clustering over her shoulders; and madame took a lock of it, and cut a thick curl; and kissed poor little Charlotte’s red eyes; and laid her pale cheek on the pillow, and carefully covered her; and bade her, with many tender words, to go to sleep. “If you are very good, and will go to sleep, he shall have it in half an hour,” madame said. “And as I go downstairs, I will tell Francoise to have some tea ready for you when you ring.” And this promise, and the thought of what madame was going to do, comforted Charlotte in her misery. And with many fond, fond prayers for Philip, and consoled by thinking, “Now she must have gone the greater part of the way; now she must be with him; now he knows I will never, never love any but him,” she fell asleep at length on her moistened pillow: and was smiling in her sleep, and I daresay dreaming of Philip, when the noise of the fall of a piece of furniture roused her, and she awoke out of her dream to see the grim old mother, in her white nightcap and white dressing-gown, standing by her side.

Never mind. “She has seen him now. She has told him now,” was the child’s very first thought as her eyes fairly opened. “He knows that I never, never will think of any but him.” She felt as if she was actually there in Philip’s room, speaking herself to him; murmuring vows which her fond lips had whispered many and many a time to her lover. And now he knew she would never break them, she was consoled and felt more courage.

“You have had some sleep, Charlotte?” asks Mrs. Baynes.

“Yes, I have been asleep, mamma.” As she speaks, she feels under the pillow a little locket containing — what? I suppose a scrap of Mr. Philip’s lank hair.

“I hope you are in a less wicked frame of mind than when I left you last night,” continues the matron.

“Was I wicked for loving Philip? Then I am wicked still, mamma!” cries the child, sitting up in her bed. And she clutches that little lock of hair which nestles under her pillow.

“What nonsense, child! This is what you get out of your stupid novels. I tell you he does not think about you. He is quite a reckless, careless libertine.”

“Yes, so reckless and careless that we owe him the bread we eat. He doesn’t think of me! Doesn’t he? Ah — ” Here she paused as a clock in a neighbouring chamber began to strike. “Now,” she thought, “he has got my message!” A smile dawned over her face. She sank back on her pillow, turning her head from her mother. She kissed the locket, and murmured: “Not think of me! Don’t you, don’t you, my dear!” She did not heed the woman by her side, hear her voice, or for a moment seem aware of her presence. Charlotte was away in Philip’s room; she saw him talking with her messenger; heard his voice so deep, and so sweet; knew that the promises he had spoken he never would break. With gleaming eyes and flushing cheeks she looked at her mother, her enemy. She held her talisman locket and pressed it to her heart. No, she would never be untrue to him! No, he would never, never desert her! And as Mrs. Baynes looked at the honest indignation beaming in the child’s face, she read Charlotte’s revolt, defiance, perhaps victory. The meek child who never before had questioned an order, or formed a wish which she would not sacrifice at her mother’s order, was now in arms asserting independence. But I should think mamma is not going to give up the command after a single act of revolt; and that she will try more attempts than one to cajole or coerce her rebel.

Meanwhile let Fancy leave the talisman locket nestling on Charlotte’s little heart (in which soft shelter methinks it were pleasant to linger.) Let her wrap a shawl round her, and affix to her feet a pair of stout goloshes; let her walk rapidly through the muddy Champs Elysées, where, in this inclement season, only few a policemen and artisans are to be found moving. Let her pay a halfpenny at the Pont des Invalides, and so march stoutly along the quays, by the Chamber of Deputies, where as yet deputies assemble: and trudge along the river-side, until she reaches Seine Street, into which, as you all know, the Rue Poussin debouches. This was the road brave Madame Smolensk took on a gusty, rainy autumn morning, and on foot, for five-franc pieces were scarce with the good woman. Before the H?tel Poussin (ah, qu’on y était bien à vingt ans!) is a little painted wicket which opens, ringing; and then there is the passage, you know, with the stair leading to the upper regions, to Monsieur Philippe’s room, which is on the first floor, as is that of Bouchard, the painter, who has his atelier over the way. A bad painter is Bouchard, but a worthy friend, a cheery companion, a modest, amiable gentleman. And a rare good fellow is Laberge of the second floor, the poet from Carcassonne, who pretends to be studying law, but whose heart is with the Muses, and whose talk is of Victor Hugo and Alfred de Musset, whose verses he will repeat to all comers. Near Laberge (I think I have heard Philip say) lived Escasse, a Southern man too — a capitalist — a clerk in a bank, quoi! — whose apartment was decorated sumptuously with his own furniture, who had Spanish wine and sausages in cupboards, and a bag of dollars for a friend in need. Is Escassse alive still? Philip Firmin wonders, and that old colonel, who lived on the same floor, and who had been a prisoner in England? What wonderful descriptions that Colonel Dujarret had of les meess anglaises and their singularities of dress and behaviour! Though conquered and a prisoner, what a conqueror and enslaver he was, when in our country! You see, in his rough way, Philip used to imitate these people to his friends, and we almost fancied we could see the hotel before us. It was very clean; it was very cheap; it was very dark; it was very cheerful; — capital coffee and bread-and-butter for breakfast for fifteen sous; capital bedroom au premier for thirty francs a month; — dinner, if you would, for I forget how little; and a merry talk round the pipes and the grog afterwards — the grog, or the modest eau sucrée. Here Colonel Dujarret recorded his victories over both sexes. Here Colonel Tymowski sighed over his enslaved Poland. Tymowski was the second who was to act for Philip, in case the Ringwood Twysden affair should have come to any violent conclusion. Here Laberge bawled poetry to Philip, who no doubt in his turn confided to the young Frenchman his own hopes and passion. Deep into the night he would sit talking of his love, of her goodness, of her beauty, of her innocence, of her dreadful mother, of her good old father — que s?ais-je? Have we not said that when this man had anything on his mind, straightway he bellowed forth his opinions to the universe? Philip, away from his love, would roar out............

Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved