Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Adventures of Philip on his way through the World > Part 2 Chapter 12 In which Mrs. Macwhirter has a New Bonnet
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Part 2 Chapter 12 In which Mrs. Macwhirter has a New Bonnet

Now though the unhappy Philip slept quite soundly, so that his boots, those tramp-worn sentries, remained en faction at his door until quite a late hour next morning; and though little Charlotte, after a prayer or two, sank into the sweetest and most refreshing girlish slumber, Charlotte’s father and mother had a bad night; and, for my part, I maintain that they did not deserve a good one. It was very well for Mrs. Baynes to declare that it was MacWhirter’s snoring which kept them awake (Mr. and Mrs. Mac being lodged in the bed-room over their relatives) — I don’t say a snoring neighbour is pleasant — but what a bedfellow is a bad conscience! Under Mrs. Baynes’s night-cap the grim eyes lie open all night; on Baynes’s pillow is a silent, wakeful head that hears the hours toll. A plague upon the young man! (thinks the female bonnet de nuit); how dare he come in and disturb everything? How pale Charlotte will look to-morrow when Mrs. Hely calls with her son! When she has been crying she looks hideous, and her eyelids and nose are quite red. She may fly out, and say something wicked and absurd, as she did to-day. I wish I had never seen that insolent young man, with his carroty beard, and vulgar blucher boots! If my boys were grown up, he should not come hectoring about the house as he does; they would soon find a way of punishing his impudence! Baulked revenge and a hungry disappointment, I think, are keeping that old woman awake; and, if she hears the hours tolling, it is because wicked thoughts make her sleepless.

As for Baynes, I believe that old man is awake, because he is awake to the shabbiness of his own conduct. His conscience has got the better of him, which he has been trying to bully out of doors. Do what he will, that reflection forces itself upon him. Mac, Bunch, and the doctor all saw the thing at once, and went dead against him. He wanted to break his word to a young fellow, who, whatever his faults might be, had acted most nobly and generously by the Baynes family. He might have been ruined but for Philip’s forbearance; and showed his gratitude by breaking his promise to the young fellow. He was a henpecked man — that was the fact. He allowed his wife to govern him: that little old plain, cantankerous woman asleep yonder. Asleep. Was she? No. He knew she wasn’t. Both were lying quite still, wide awake, pursuing their dismal thoughts. Only Charles was owning that he was a sinner, whilst Eliza, his wife, in a rage at her last defeat, was meditating how she could continue and still win her battle.

Then Baynes reflects how persevering his wife is; how, all through life, she has come back and back and back to her point, until he has ended by an almost utter subjugation. He will resist for a day: she will fight for a year, for a life. If once she hates people, the sentiment always remains with her fresh and lively. Her jealousy never dies; nor her desire to rule. What a life she will lead poor Charlotte now she has declared against Philip! The poor child will be subject to a dreadful tyranny: the father knows it. As soon as he leaves the house on his daily walks, the girl’s torture will begin. Baynes knows how his wife can torture a woman. As she groans out a hollow cough from her bed in the midnight, the guilty man lies quite mum under his own counterpane. If she fancies him awake, it will be his turn to receive the torture. Ah, Othello, mon ami! when you look round at married life, and know what you know, don’t you wonder that the bolster is not used a great deal more freely on both sides? Horrible cynicism! Yes — I know. These propositions served raw are savage, and shock your sensibility; cooked with a little piquant sauce, they are welcome at quite polite tables.

“Poor child! Yes, by George! What a life her mother will lead her!” thinks the general, rolling uneasy on the midnight pillow. “No rest for her, day or night, until she marries the man of her mother’s choosing. And she has a delicate chest — Martin says she has; and she wants coaxing and soothing, and pretty coaxing she will have from mamma!” Then, I daresay, the past rises up in that wakeful old man’s uncomfortable memory. His little Charlotte is a child again, laughing on his knee, and playing with his accoutrements as he comes home from parade. He remembers the fever which she had, when she would take medicine from no other hand; and how, though silent with her mother, with him she would never tire of prattling, prattling. Guilt-stricken old man! are those tears trickling down thy old nose? It is midnight. We cannot see. When you brought her to the river, and parted with her to send her to Europe, how the little maid clung to you, and cried, “Papa, papa!” Staggering up the steps of the ghaut, how you wept yourself — yes, wept tears of passionate, tender grief at parting with the darling of your soul. And now, deliberately, and for the sake of money, you stab her to the heart, and break your plighted honour to your child. “And it is yonder cruel, shrivelled, bilious, plain old woman who makes me do all this, and trample on my darling, and torture her!” he thinks. In Zoffany’s famous picture of Garrick and Mrs. Pritchard as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Macbeth stands in an attitude hideously contorted and constrained, while Lady Mac is firm and easy. Was this the actor’s art, or the poet’s device? Baynes is wretched, then. He is wrung with remorse, and shame, and pity. Well, I am glad of it. Old man, old man! how darest thou to cause that child’s tender little bosom to bleed? How bilious he looks the next morning! I declare as yellow as his grim old wife. When Mrs. General B. hears the children their lessons, how she will scold them! It is my belief she will bark through the morning chapter, and scarce understand a word of its meaning. As for Charlotte, when she appears with red eyes, and ever so little colour in her round cheek, there is that in her look and demeanour which warns her mother to refrain from too familiar abuse or scolding. The girl is in rebellion. All day Char was in a feverish state, her eyes flashing war. There was a song which Philip loved in those days: the song of Ruth. Char sate down to the piano, and sang it with a strange energy. “Thy people shall be my people” — she sang with all her heart — “and thy God my God!” The slave had risen. The little heart was in arms and mutiny. The mother was scared by her defiance.

As for the guilty old father: pursued by the fiend remorse, he fled early from his house, and read all the papers at Galignani’s without comprehending them. Madly regardless of expense, he then plunged into one of those luxurious restaurants in the Palais Royal, where you get soup, three dishes, a sweet, and a pint of delicious wine for two frongs, by George! But all the luxuries there presented to him could not drive away care, or create appetite. Then the poor old wretch went off, and saw a ballet at the Grand Opera. In vain. The pink nymphs had not the slightest fascination for him. He hardly was aware of their ogles, bounds, and capers. He saw a little maid with round, sad eyes; — his Iphigenia whom he was stabbing. He took more brandy-and-water at cafés on his way home. In vain, in vain, I tell you! The old wife was sitting up — for him, scared at the unusual absence of her lord. She dared not remonstrate with him when he returned. His face was pale. His eyes were fierce and bloodshot. When the general had a particular look, Eliza Baynes cowered in silence. Mac, the two sisters, and, I think, Colonel Bunch (but on this point my informant, Philip, cannot be sure) were having a dreary rubber when the general came in. Mrs. B. knew by the general’s face that he had been having recourse to alcoholic stimulus. But she dared not speak. A tiger in a jungle was not more savage than Baynes sometimes. “Where’s Char?” he asked in his dreadful, his Bluebeard voice. “Char was gone to bed,” said mamma, sorting her trumps. “Hm! Augoost, Odevee, Osho!” Did Eliza Baynes interfere, though she knew he had had enough? As soon interfere with a tiger, and tell him he had eaten enough sepoy. After Lady Macbeth had induced Mac to go through that business with Duncan, depend upon it she was very deferential and respectful to her general. No groans, prayers, remorses could avail to bring his late majesty back to life again. As for you, old man, though your deed is done, it is not past recalling. Though you have withdrawn from your word on a sordid money pretext; made two hearts miserable; stabbed cruelly that one which you love best in the world; acted with wicked ingratitude towards a young man, who has been nobly forgiving towards you and yours; and are suffering with rage and remorse, as you own your crime to yourself; — your deed is not past recalling as yet. You may soothe that anguish, and dry those tears. It is but an act of resolution on your part, and a firm resumption of your marital authority. Mrs. Baynes, after her crime, is quite humble and gentle. She has half murdered her child, and stretched Philip on an infernal rack of torture; but she is quite civil to everybody at madame’s house. Not one word does she say respecting Mrs. Colonel Bunch’s outbreak of the night before. She talks to sister Emily about Paris, the fashions, and Emily’s walks on the Boulevard and the Palais Royal with her major. She bestows ghastly smiles upon sundry lodgers at table. She thanks Augoost when he serves her at dinner, and says, “Ah, madame, que le boof est bong aujourdhui, rien que j’aime comme le potofou.” Oh, you old hypocrite! But you know I, for my part, always disliked the woman, and said her good humour was more detestable than her anger. You hypocrite! I say again; ay, and avow that there were other hypocrites at the table, as you shall presently hear.

When Baynes got an opportunity of speaking unobserved, as he thought, to madame, you may be sure the guilty wretch asked her how his little Charlotte was. Mrs. Baynes trumped her partner’s best heart at that moment, but pretended to observe or overhear nothing. “She goes better — she sleeps,” madame said. “Mr. the Doctor Martin has commanded her a calming potion.” And what if I were to tell you that somebody had taken a little letter from Charlotte, and actually had given fifteen sous to a Savoyard youth to convey that letter to somebody else? What if I were to tell you that the party to whom that letter was addressed, straightway wrote an answer — directed to Madame de Smolensk, of course? I know it was very wrong; but I suspect Philip’s prescription did quite as much good as Dr. Martin’s, and don’t intend to be very angry with madame for consulting the unlicensed practitioner. Don’t preach to me, madam, about morality, and dangerous examples set to young people. Even at your present mature age, and with your dear daughters around you, if your ladyship goes to hear the Barber of Seville, on which side are your sympathies — on Dr. Bartolo’s , or Miss Rosina’s?

Although, then, Mrs. Baynes was most respectful to her husband, and by many grim blandishments, humble appeals, and forced humiliations, strove to conciliate and soothe him, the general turned a dark, lowering face upon the partner of his existence: her dismal smiles were no longer pleasing to him: he returned curt “Oh’s !” and “Ah’s!” to her remarks. When Mrs. Hely and her son and her daughter drove up in their family coach to pay yet a second visit to the Baynes’ family, the general flew in a passion and cried, “Bless my soul, Eliza, you can’t think of receiving visitors, with our poor child sick in the next room? It’s inhuman!” The scared woman ventured on no remonstrances. She was so frightened that she did not attempt to scold the younger children. She took a piece of work, and sat amongst them, furtively weeping. Their artless queries and unseasonable laughter stabbed and punished the matron. You see people do wrong, though they are long past fifty years of age. It is not only the scholars, but the ushers, and the head-master himself, who sometimes deserve a chastisement. I, for my part, hope to remember this sweet truth, though I live into the year 1900.

To those other ladies boarding at madame’s establishment, to Mrs. Mac and Mrs. Colonel Bunch, though they had declared against him, and expressed their opinions in the frankest way on the night of the battle royal, the general was provokingly polite and amiable. They had said, but twenty-four hours since, that the general was a brute; and Lord Chesterfield could not have been more polite to a lovely young duchess than was Baynes to these matrons next day. You have heard how Mrs. Mac had a strong desire to possess a new Paris bonnet, so that she might appear with proper lustre among the ladies on the promenade at Tours? Major and Mrs. Mac and Mrs. Bunch talked of going to the Palais Royal (where MacWhirter said he had remarked some uncommonly neat things, by George! at the corner shop under the glass gallery). On this, Baynes started up, and said he would accompany his friends, adding, “You know, Emily, I promised you a hat ever so long ago!” And those four went away together, and not one offer did Baynes make to his wife to join the party; though her best bonnet, poor thing, was a dreadfully old performance, with moulting feathers, rumpled ribbons, tarnished flowers, and lace bought in St. Martin’s Alley months and months before. Emily, to be sure, said to her sister, “Eliza, won’t you be of the party? We can take the omnibus at the corner, which will land us at the very gate.” But as Emily gave this unlucky invitation, the general’s face wore an expression of ill-will so savage and terrific, that Eliza Baynes said, “No, thank you, Emily; Charlotte is still unwell, and I— I may be wanted at home.” And the party went away without Mrs. Baynes; and they were absent I don’t know how long; and Emily MacWhirter came back to the boarding-house in a bonnet — the sweetest thing you ever saw! — green piqué velvet, with a ruche full of rosebuds, and a bird of paradise perched on the top, pecking at a bunch of the most magnificent grapes, poppies, ears of corn, barley, all indicative of the bounteous autumn season. Mrs. General Baynes had to see her sister return home in this elegant bonnet; to welcome her; to acquiesce in Emily’s remark that the general had done the genteel thing; to hear how the party had further been to Tortoni’s , and had ices; and then to go upstairs to her own room, and look at her own battered, blowsy old chapeau, with its limp streamers, hanging from its peg. This humiliation, I say, Eliza Baynes had to bear in silence, without wincing, and, if possible, with a smile on her face.

In consequence of circumstances before indicated, Miss Charlotte was pronounced to be very much better when her papa returned from his Palais Royal trip. He found her seated on madame’s sofa, pale, but with the wonted sweetness in her smile. He kissed and caressed her with many tender words. I daresay he told her there was nothing in the world he loved so much as his Charlotte. He would never willingly do anything to give her pain, never! She had been his good girl, and his blessing, all his life! Ah! that is a prettier little picture to imagine — that repentant man, and his child clinging to him — than the tableau overhead, viz. Mrs. Baynes looking at her old bonnet. Not one word was said about Philip in the talk between Baynes and his daughter, but those tender paternal looks and caresses carried hope into Charlotte’s heart; and when her papa went away (she said afterwards to a female friend), “I got up and followed him, intending to show him Philip’s letter. But at the door I saw mamma coming down the stairs; and she looked so dreadful, and frightened me so, that I went back.” There are some mothers I have heard of, who won’t allow their daughters to read the works of this humble homilist, lest they should imbibe “dangerous” notions, My good ladies, give them Goody Twoshoes if you like, or whatever work, combining instruction and amusement, you think most appropriate to their juvenile understandings; but I beseech you to be gentle with them. I never saw people on better terms with each other, more frank, affectionate, and cordial, than the parents and the grown-up young folks in the United States. And why? Because the children were spoiled, to be sure! I say to you, get the confidence of yours — before the day comes of revolt and independence, after which love returneth not.

Now, when Mrs. Baynes went in to her daughter, who had been sitting pretty comfortably kissing her father, on the sofa in madame’s chamber, all those soft tremulous smiles, and twinkling dew-drops of compassion and forgiveness which anon had come to soothe the little maid, fled from cheek and eyes. They began to flash again with their febrile brightness, and her heart to throb with dangerous rapidity. “How are you now?” asks mamma, with her deep voice. “I am much the same,” says the girl, beginning to tremble. “Leave the child; you agitate her, madam,” cries the mistress of the house, coming in after Mrs. Baynes. That sad, humiliated, deserted mother goes out from her daughter’s presence, hanging her head. She put on the poor old bonnet, and had a walk that evening on the Champs Elysées with her little ones, and showed them Guignol. She gave a penny to Guignol’s man. It is my belief that she saw no more of the performance than her husband had seen of the ballet the night previous, when Taglioni, and Noblet, and Duvernay, ............

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