Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Adventures of Philip on his way through the World > Part 2 Chapter 10 Contains a Tug of War
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Part 2 Chapter 10 Contains a Tug of War

Who was the first to spread the report that Philip was a prodigal, and had ruined his poor confiding father? I thought I knew a person who might be interested in getting under any shelter, and sacrificing even his own son for his own advantage. I thought I knew a man who had done as much already, and surely might do so again; but my wife flew into one of her tempests of indignation, when I hinted something of this, clutched her own children to her heart, according to her maternal wont, asked me was there any power would cause me to belie them? and sternly rebuked me for daring to be so wicked, heartless, and cynical. My dear creature, wrath is no answer. You call me heartless and cynic, for saying men are false and wicked. Have you never heard to what lengths some bankrupts will go? To appease the wolves who chase them in the winter forest, have you not read how some travellers will cast all their provisions out of the sledge? then, when all the provisions are gone, don’t you know that they will fling out perhaps the sister, perhaps the mother, perhaps the baby, the little, dear, tender innocent? Don’t you see him tumbling among the howling pack, and the wolves gnashing, gnawing, crashing, gobbling him up in the snow? Oh, horror — horror! My wife draws all the young ones to her breast as I utter these fiendish remarks. She hugs them in her embrace, and says, “For shame!” and that I am a monster, and so on. Go to! Go down on your knees, woman, and acknowledge the sinfulness of our humankind. How long had our race existed ere murder and violence began? and how old was the world ere brother slew brother?

Well, my wife and I came to a compromise. I might have my opinion, but was there any need to communicate it to poor Philip? No, surely. So I never sent him the extract from the New York Emerald; though, of course, some other good-natured friend did, and I don’t think my magnanimous friend cared much. As for supposing that his own father, to cover his own character, would lie away his son’s — such a piece of artifice was quite beyond Philip’s comprehension, who has been all his life slow in appreciating roguery, or recognizing that there is meanness and double-dealing in the world. When he once comes to understand the fact; when he once comprehends that Tartuffe is a humbug and swelling Bufo is a toady; then my friend becomes as absurdly indignant and mistrustful as before he was admiring and confiding. Ah, Philip! Tartuffe has a number of good, respectable qualities; and Bufo, though an underground odious animal, may have a precious jewel in his head. ’Tis you are cynical. I see the good qualities in these rascals whom you spurn. I see. I shrug my shoulders. I smile: and you call me cynic. It was long before Philip could comprehend why Charlotte’s mother turned upon him, and tried to force her daughter to forsake him. “I have offended the old woman in a hundred ways,” he would say. “My tobacco annoys her; my old clothes offend her; the very English I speak is often Greek to her, and she can no more construe my sentences than I can the Hindostanee jargon she talks to her husband at dinner.” “My dear fellow, if you had ten thousand a year she would try and construe your sentences, or accept them even if not understood,” I would reply. And some men, whom you and I know to be mean, and to be false, and to be flatterers and parasites, and to be inexorably hard and cruel in their own private circles, will surely pull a long face to-morrow, and say, “Oh! the man’s so cynical!”

I acquit Baynes of what ensued. I hold Mrs. B. to have been the criminal — the stupid criminal. The husband, like many other men extremely brave in active life, was at home timid and irresolute. Of two heads that lie side by side on the same pillow for thirty years, one must contain the stronger power, the more enduring resolution. Baynes, away from his wife, was shrewd, courageous, gay at times; when with her he was fascinated, torpid under the power of this baleful superior creature. “Ah, when we were subs together in camp in 1803, what a lively fellow Charley Baynes was!” his comrade, Colonel Bunch, would say. “That was before he ever saw his wife’s yellow face; and what a slave she has made of him!”

After that fatal conversation which ensued after the ball, Philip did not come to dinner at madame’s according to his custom. Mrs. Baynes told no family stories, and Colonel Bunch, who had no special liking for the young gentleman, did not trouble himself to make any inquiries about him. One, two, three days passed, and no Philip. At last the colonel says to the general, with a sly look at Charlotte, “Baynes, where is our young friend with the mustachios? We have not seen him these three days.” And he gives an arch look at poor Charlotte. A burning blush flamed up in little Charlotte’s pale face, as she looked at her parents and then at their old friend. “Mr. Firmin does not come, because papa and mamma have forbidden him,” says Charlotte. “I suppose he only comes where he is welcome.” And, having made this audacious speech, I suppose the little maid tossed her little head up; and wondered, in the silence which ensued, whether all the company could hear her heart thumping.

Madame, from her central place, where she is carving, sees, from the looks of her guests, the indignant flushes on Charlotte’s face, the confusion on her father’s, the wrath on Mrs. Baynes’s, that some dreadful words are passing; and in vain endeavours to turn the angry current of talk. “Un petit canard dèlicieux, go?tez-en, madame!” she cries. Honest Colonel Bunch sees the little maid with eyes flashing with anger, and trembling in every limb. The offered duck having failed to create a diversion, he, too, tries a feeble commonplace. “A little difference, my dear,” he says in an under voice. “There will be such in the best regulated families. Canard sauvage tres bong, madame, avec — ” but he is allowed to speak no more, for —

“What would you do, Colonel Bunch,” little Charlotte breaks out with her poor little ringing, trembling voice — “that is, if you were a young man, if another young man struck you, and insulted you?” I say she utters this in such a clear voice, that Fran?oise, the femme-de-chambre, that Auguste, the footman, that all the guests hear, that all the knives and forks stop their clatter.

“Faith, my dear, I’d knock him down, if I could,” says Bunch; and he catches hold of the little maid’s sleeve, and would stop her speaking if he could.

“And that is what Philip did,” cries Charlotte aloud; “and mamma has turned him out of the house — yes, out of the house, for acting like a man of honour!”

“Go to your room this instant, miss!” shrieks mamma. As for old Baynes, his stained old uniform is not more dingy-red than his wrinkled face and his throbbing temples. He blushes under his wig, no doubt, could we see beneath that ancient artifice.

“What is it? madame your mother dismisses you of my table? I will come with you, my dear Miss Charlotte!” says madame, with much dignity. “Serve the sugared plate, Auguste! My ladies, you will excuse me! I go to attend the dear miss, who seems to me ill.” And she rises up, and she follows poor little blushing, burning, weeping Charlotte: and again, I have no doubt, takes her in her arms, and kisses, and cheers, and caresses her — at the threshold of the door — there by the staircase, among the cold dishes of the dinner, where Moira and MacGrigor had one moment before been marauding.

“Courage, ma fille, courage, mon enfant! Tenez! Behold something to console thee!” and madame takes out of her pocket a little letter, and gives it to the girl, who at sight of it kisses the superscription, and then in an anguish of love, and joy, and grief, falls on the neck of the kind woman, who consoles her in her misery. Whose writing is it Charlotte kisses? Can you guess by any means? Upon my word, Madame Smolensk, I never recommend ladies to take daughters to your boarding-house. And I like you so much, I would not tell of you, but you know the house is shut up this many a long day. Oh! the years slip away fugacious; and the grass has grown over graves; and many and many joys and sorrows have been born and have died since then for Charlotte and Philip: but that grief aches still in their bosoms at times; and that sorrow throbs at Charlotte’s heart again whenever she looks at a little yellow letter in her trinket-box: and she says to her children, “Papa wrote that to me before we were married, my dears.” There are scarcely half-a-dozen words in the little letter, I believe; and two of them are “for ever.”

I could draw a ground-plan of madame’s house in the Champs Elysées if I liked, for has not Philip shown me the place and described it to me many times? In front, and facing the road and garden, were madame’s room and the salon; to the back was the salle-à-manger; and a stair ran up the house (where the dishes used to be laid during dinner-time, and where Moira and MacGrigor fingered the meats and puddings). Mrs. General Baynes’s rooms were on the first floor, looking on the Champs Elysées, and into the garden-court of the house below. And on this day, as the dinner was necessarily short (owing to unhappy circumstances), and the gentlemen were left alone glumly drinking their wine or grog, and Mrs. Baynes had gone upstairs to her own apartment, had slapped her boys, and was looking out of window — was it not provoking that of all days in the world young Hely should ride up to the house on his capering mare, with his flower in his button-hole, with his little varnished toe-tips just touching his stirrups, and after performing various caracolades and gambadoes in the garden, kiss his yellow-kidded hand to Mrs. General Baynes at the window, hope Miss Baynes was quite well, and ask if he might come in and take a cup of tea? Charlotte, lying on madame’s bed in the ground-floor room, heard Mr. Hely’s sweet voice asking after her health, and the crunching of his horse’s hoofs on the gravel, and she could even catch glimpses of that little form as the horse capered about in the court, though of course he could not see her where she was lying on the bed with her letter in her hand. Mrs. Baynes at her window had to wag her withered head from the casement, to groan out, “My daughter is lying down, and has a bad headache, I am sorry to say,” and then she must have had the mortification to see Hely caper off, after waving her a genteel adieu. The ladies in the front salon, who assembled after dinner, witnessed the transaction, and Mrs. Bunch, I daresay, had a grim pleasure at seeing Eliza Baynes’s young spring of fashion, of whom Eliza was for ever bragging, come at last, and obliged to ride away, not bootless, certainly, for where were feet more beautifully chaussés? but after a bootless errand.

Meanwhile the gentlemen sate awhile in the dining-room, after the British custom which such veterans liked too well to give up. Other two gentlemen boarders went away, rather alarmed by that storm and outbreak in which Charlotte had quitted the dinner-table, and left the old soldiers together, to enjoy, according to their after-dinner custom, a sober glass of “something hot,” as the saying is. In truth, madame’s wine was of the poorest; but what better could you expect for the money?

Baynes was not eager to be alone with Bunch, and I have no doubt began to blush again when he found himself tête-à-tête with his old friend. But what was to be done? The general did not dare to go up-stairs to his own quarters, where poor Charlotte was probably crying, and her mother in one of her tantrums. Then in the salon there were the ladies of the boarding-house party, and there Mrs. Bunch would be sure to be at him. Indeed, since the Bayneses were launched in the great world, Mrs. Bunch was untiringly sarcastic in her remarks about lords, ladies, attachés, ambassadors, and fine people in general. So Baynes sate with his friend, in the falling evening, in much silence, dipping his old nose in the brandy-and-water.

Litte square-faced, red-faced, whisker-dyed Colonel Bunch sate opposite his old companion, regarding him not without scorn. Bunch had a wife. Bunch had feelings. Do you suppose those feelings had not been worked upon by that wife in private colloquies? Do you suppose — when two old women have lived together in pretty much the same rank of life, — if one suddenly gets promotion, is carried off to higher spheres, and talks of her new friends, the countesses, duchesses, ambassadresses, as of course she will — do you suppose, I say, that the unsuccessful woman will be pleased at the successful woman’s success? Your knowledge of your own heart, my dear lady, must tell you the truth in this matter. I don’t want you to acknowledge that you are angry because your sister has been staying with the Duchess of Fitzbattleaxe, but you are, you know. You have made sneering remarks, to your husband on the subject, and such remarks, I have no doubt, were made by Mrs. Colonel Bunch to her husband, regarding her poor friend Mrs. General Baynes.

During this parenthesis we have left the general dipping his nose in the brandy-and-water. He can’t keep it there for ever. He must come up for air presently. His face must come out of the drink, and sigh over the table.

“What’s this business, Baynes?” says the colonel. “What’s the matter with poor Charley?”

“Family affairs — differences will happen,” says the general.

“I do hope and trust nothing has gone wrong with her and young Firmin, Baynes?”

The general does not like those fixed eyes staring at him under those bushy eyebrows, between those bushy, blackened whiskers.

“Well, then, yes, Bunch, something has gone wrong; and given me and — and Mrs. Baynes — a deuced deal of pain too. The young fellow has acted like a blackguard, brawling and fighting at an ambassador’s ball, bringing us all to ridicule. He’s not a gentleman; that’s the long and short of it, Bun............

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