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Part 3 Chapter 10 In which Several People have Their Trials

If Philip and his friend had happened to pass through High Street, Marylebone, on their way to Thornhaugh Street to reconnoitre the Little Sister’s house, they would have seen the Reverend Mr. Hunt, in a very dirty, battered, crestfallen and unsatisfactory state marching to Marylebone from the station, where the reverend gentleman had passed the night, and under the custody of the police. A convoy of street boys followed the prisoner and his guard, making sarcastic remarks on both. Hunt’s appearance was not improved since we had the pleasure of meeting him on the previous evening. With a grizzled beard and hair, a dingy face, a dingy shirt, and a countenance mottled with dirt and drink, we may fancy the reverend man passing in tattered raiment through the street to make his appearance before the magistrate.

You have no doubt forgotten the narrative which appeared in the morning papers two days after the Thornhaugh Street incident, but my clerk has been at the pains to hunt up and copy the police report, in which events connected with our history are briefly recorded.

“Marylebone, Wednesday. — Thomas Tufton Hunt, professing to be a clergyman, but wearing an appearance of extreme squalor, was brought before Mr. Beaksby at this office, charged by Z 25, with being drunk and very disorderly on Tuesday se’nnight, and endeavouring by force and threats to effect his reentrance into a house in Thornhaugh Street, from which he had been previously ejected in a most unclerical and inebriated state.”

“On being taken to the station-house, the reverend gentleman lodged a complaint on his own side, and averred that he had been stupefied and hocussed in the house in Thornhaugh Street by means of some drug, and that whilst in this state he had been robbed of a bill for 386l. 4s. 3d., drawn by a person in New York, and accepted by Mr. P. Firmin, barrister, of Parchment Buildings, Temple.”

“Mrs. Brandon, the landlady of the house, No. — , Thornhaugh Street, has been in the habit of letting lodgings for many years past, and several of her friends, including Mr. Firmin, Mr. Ridley, the Rl. Acad., and other gentlemen, were in attendance to speak to her character, which is most respectable. After Z 25 had given evidence, the servant deposed that Hunt had been more than once disorderly and drunk before that house, and had been forcibly ejected from it. On the night when the alleged robbery was said to have taken place, he had visited the house in Thornhaugh Street, had left it in an inebriated state, and returned some hours afterwards vowing that he had been robbed of the document in question.”

“Mr. P. Firmin said: ‘I am a barrister, and have chambers at Parchment Buildings, Temple, and know the person calling himself Hunt. I have not accepted any bill of exchange, nor is my signature affixed to any such document."’

“At this stage the worthy magistrate interposed, and said that this only went to prove that the bill was not completed by Mr. F.’s acceptance, and would by no means conclude the case set up before him. Dealing with it, however, on the merits, and looking at the way in which the charge had been preferred, and the entire absence of sufficient testimony to warrant him in deciding that even a piece of paper had been abstracted in that house, or by the person accused, and believing that if he were to commit, a conviction would be impossible, he dismissed the charge.”

“The lady left the court with her friends, and the accuser, when called upon to pay a fine for drunkenness, broke out into very unclerical language, in the midst of which he was forcibly removed.”

Philip Firmin’s statement that he had given no bill of exchange, was made not without hesitation on his part, and indeed at his friends’ strong entreaty. It was addressed not so much to the sitting magistrate, as to that elderly individual at New York, who was warned no more to forge his son’s name. I fear a coolness ensued between Philip and his parent in consequence of the younger man’s behaviour. The doctor had thought better of his boy than to suppose that, at a moment of necessity, Philip would desert him. He forgave Philip, nevertheless. Perhaps since his marriage other influences were at work upon him, The parent made further remarks in this strain. A man who takes your money is naturally offended if you remonstrate; you wound his sense of delicacy by protesting against his putting his hand in your pocket. The elegant doctor in New York continued to speak of his unhappy son with a mournful shake of the head; he said, perhaps believed, that Philip’s imprudence was in part the cause of his own exile. “This is not the kind of entertainment to which I would have invited you at my own house in England,” he would say. “I thought to have ended my days there, and to have left my son in comfort, nay splendour. I am an exile in poverty: and he — but I will use no hard words.” And to his female patients he would say: “No, my dear madam! Not a syllable of reproach shall escape these lips regarding that misguided boy! But you can feel for me; I know you can feel for me.” In the old days, a high-spirited highwayman, who took a coach-passenger’s purse, thought himself injured, and the traveller a shabby fellow, if he secreted a guinea or two under the cushions. In the doctor’s now rare letters, he breathed a manly sigh here and there, to think that he had lost the confidence of his boy. I do believe that certain ladies of our acquaintance were inclined to think that the elder Firmin had been not altogether well used, however much they loved and admired the Little Sister for her lawless act in her boy’s defence. But this main point we had won. The doctor at New York took the warning, and wrote his son’s signature upon no more bills of exchange. The good Goodenough’s loan was carried back to him in the very coin which he had supplied. He said that his little nurse Brandon was splendide mendax, and that her robbery was a sublime and courageous act of war.

In so far, since his marriage, Mr. Philip had been pretty fortunate. At need, friends had come to him. In moments of peril he had had succour and relief. Though he had married without money, fate had sent him a sufficiency. His flask had never been empty, and there was always meal in his bin. But now hard trials were in store for him: hard trials which we have said were endurable, and which he has long since lived through. Any man who has played the game of life or whist, knows how for one while he will have a series of good cards dealt him, and again will get no trumps at all. After he got into his house in Milman Street and quitted the Little Sister’s kind roof, our friend’s good fortune seemed to desert him. “Perhaps it was a punishment for my pride, because I was haughty with her, and — and jealous of that dear good little creature,” poor Charlotte afterwards owned in conversation with other friends:— “but our fortune seemed to change when we were away from her, and that I must own.”

Perhaps, when she was yet under Mrs. Brandon’s roof, the Little Sister’s provident care had done a great deal more for Charlotte than Charlotte knew. Mrs. Philip had the most simple tastes in the world, and upon herself never spent an unnecessary shilling. Indeed, it was a wonder, considering her small expenses, how neat and nice Mrs. Philip ever looked. But she never could deny herself when the children were in question; and had them arrayed in all sorts of fine clothes; and stitched and hemmed all day and night to decorate their little prsons; and in reply to the remonstrances of the matrons her friends, showed how it was impossible children could be dressed for less cost. If anything ailed them, quick, the doctor must be sent for. Not worthy Goodenough, who came without a fee, and pooh-poohed her alarms and anxieti............

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