The Adventures of Philip on his way through the World, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter 17

In which Philip Shows His Mettle.

When the poor Little Sister proffered her mite, her all, to Philip, I daresay some sentimental passages occurred between them which are much too trivial to be narrated. No doubt her pleasure would have been at that moment to give him not only that gold which she had been saving up against rent-day, but the spoons, the furniture, and all the valuables of the house, including, perhaps, J. J.’s bricabrac, cabinets, china, and so forth. To perform a kindness, an act of self-sacrifice; — are not these the most delicious privileges of female tenderness? Philip checked his little friend’s enthusiasm. He showed her a purse full of money, at which sight the poor little soul was rather disappointed. He magnified the value of his horses, which, according to Philip’s calculation, were to bring him at least two hundred pounds more than the stock which he had already in hand; and the master of such a sum as this, she was forced to confess, had no need to despair. Indeed, she had never in her life possessed the half of it. Her kind dear little offer of a home in her house he would accept sometimes, and with gratitude. Well, there was a little consolation in that. In a moment that active little housekeeper saw the room ready; flowers on the mantel-piece; his looking-glass which her father could do quite well with the little one, as he was always shaved by the barber now; the quilted counterpane, which she had herself made — I know not what more improvements she devised; and I fear that at the idea of having Philip with her, this little thing was as extravagantly and unreasonably happy as we have just now seen Philip to be. What was that last dish which Pætus and Arria shared in common? I have lost my Lempriere’s dictionary (that treasure of my youth), and forget whether it was a cold dagger au naturel, or a dish of hot coals á la Romaine, of which they partook; but, whatever it was, she smiled, and delightedly received it, happy to share the beloved one’s fortune.

Yes: Philip would come home to his Little Sister sometimes: sometimes of a Saturday, and they would go to church on Sunday, as he used to do when he was a boy at school. “But then, you know,” says Phil, “law is law; study is study. I must devote my whole energies to my work — get up very early.”

“Don’t tire your eyes, my dear,” interposes Mr. Philip’s soft, judicious friend.

“There must be no trifling with work,” says Philip, with awful gravity. “There’s Benton the Judge: Benton, and Burbage, you know.”

“Oh, Benton and Burbage!” whispers the Little Sister, not a little bewildered.

“How do you suppose he became a judge before forty?”

“Before forty who? law, bless me!”

“Before he was forty, Mrs. Carry. When he came to work, he had his own way to make: just like me. He had a small allowance from his father: that’s not like me. He took chambers in the Temple. He went to a pleader’s office. He read fourteen, fifteen, hours every day. He dined on a cup of tea and a muttonchop.”

“La, bless me, child! I wouldn’t have you do that, not to be Lord Chamberlain — Chancellor what’s his name? Destroy your youth with reading, and your eyes, and go without your dinner? You’re not used to that sort of thing, dear; and it would kill you!”

Philip smoothed his fair hair off his ample forehead, and nodded his head, smiling sweetly. I think his inward monitor hinted to him that there was not much danger of his killing himself by over-work. “To succeed at the law, as in all other professions,” he continued, with much gravity, “requires the greatest perseverance, and industry, and talent; and then, perhaps, you don’t succeed. Many have failed who have had all these qualities.”

“But they haven’t talents like my Philip, I know they haven’t. And I had to stand up in a court once, and was cross-examined by a vulgar man before a horrid deaf old judge; and I’m sure if your lawyers are like them I don’t wish you to succeed at all. And now, look! there’s a nice loin of pork coming up. Pa loves roast pork; and you must come and have some with us; and every day and all days, my dear, I should like to see you seated there.” And the Little Sister frisked about here, and bustled there, and brought a cunning bottle of wine from some corner, and made the boy welcome. So that, you see, far from starving, he actually had two dinners on that first day of his ruin.

Caroline consented to a compromise regarding the money, on Philip’s solemn vow and promise that she should be his banker whenever necessity called. She rather desired his poverty for the sake of its precious reward. She hid away a little bag of gold for her darling’s use whenever he should need it. I daresay she pinched and had shabby dinners at home, so as to save yet more, and so caused the captain to grumble. Why, for that boy’s sake, I believe she would have been capable of shaving her lodgers’ legs of mutton, and levying a tax on their tea-caddies and baker’s stuff. If you don’t like unprincipled attachments of this sort, and only desire that your womankind should love you for yourself, and according to your deserts, I am your very humble servant. Hereditary bondswomen! you know, that were you free, and did you strike the blow, my dears, you were unhappy for your pain, and eagerly would claim your bonds again. What poet has uttered that sentiment? It is perfectly true, and I know will receive the cordial approbation of the dear ladies.

Philip has decreed in his own mind that he will go and live in those chambers in the Temple where we have met him. Vanjohn, the sporting gentleman, had determined for special reasons to withdraw from law and sport in this country, and Mr. Firmin took possession of his vacant sleeping chamber. To furnish a bachelor’s bed-room need not be a matter of much cost; but Mr. Philip was too good-natured a fellow to haggle about the valuation of Vanjohn’s bedsteads and chests of drawers, and generously took them at twice their value. He and Mr. Cassidy now divided the rooms in equal reign. Ah, happy rooms! bright rooms, rooms near the sky, to remember you is to be young again! for I would have you to know, that when Philip went to take possession of his share of the fourth floor in the Temple, his biographer was still comparatively juvenile, and in one or two very old-fashioned families was called “young Pendennis.”

So Philip Firmin dwelt in a garret; and the fourth part of a laundress and the half of a boy now formed the domestic establishment of him who had been attended by housekeepers, butlers, and obsequious liveried menials. To be freed from that ceremonial and etiquette of plush and worsted lace was an immense relief to Firmin. His pipe need not lurk in crypts or back closets now: its fragrance breathed over the whole chambers, and rose up to the sky, their near neighbour.

The first month or two after being ruined. Philip vowed, was an uncommonly pleasant time. He had still plenty of money in his pocket; and the sense that, perhaps, it was imprudent to take a cab or drink a bottle of wine, added a zest to those enjoyments which they by no means possessed when they were easy and of daily occurrence. I am not certain that a dinner of beef and porter did not amuse our young man almost as well as banquets much more costly to which he had been accustomed. He laughed at the pretensions of his boyish days, when he and other solemn young epicures used to sit down to elaborate tavern banquets, and pretend to criticize vintages, and sauces, and turtle. As yet there was not only content with his dinner, but plenty therewith; and I do not wish to alarm you by supposing that Philip will ever have to encounter any dreadful extremities of poverty or hunger in the course of his history. The wine in the jug was very low at times, but it never was quite empty. This lamb was shorn, but the wind was tempered to him.

So Philip took possession of his rooms in the Temple, and began actually to reside there just as the long vacation commenced, which he intended to devote to a course of serious study of the law and private preparation, before he should venture on the great business of circuits and the bar. Nothing is more necessary for desk-men than exercise, so Philip took a good deal; especially on the water, where he pulled a famous oar. Nothing is more natural after exercise than refreshment; and Mr. Firmin, now he was too poor for claret, showed a great capacity for beer. After beer and bodily labour, rest, of course, is necessary; and Firmin slept nine hours, and looked as rosy as a girl in her first season. Then such a man, with such a frame and health, must have a good appetite for breakfast. And then every man, who wishes to succeed at the bar, in the senate, on the bench, in the House of Peers, on the Woolsack, must know the quotidian history of his country; so, of course, Philip read the newspaper. Thus, you see, his hours of study were perforce curtailed by the necessary duties which distracted him from his labours.

It has been said that Mr. Firmin’s companion in chambers, Mr. Cassidy, was a native of the neighbouring kingdom of Ireland, and engaged in literary pursuits in this country. A merry, shrewd, silent, observant little man, he, unlike some of his compatriots, always knew how to make both ends meet; feared no man alive in the character of a dun; and out of small earnings managed to transmit no small comforts and subsidies to old parents living somewhere in Munster. Of Cassidy’s friends was Finucane, now editor of the Pall Mall Gazette; he married the widow of the late eccentric and gifted Captain Shandon, and Cass. himself was the fashionable correspondent of the Gazette, chronicling the marriages, deaths, births, dinner-parties of the nobility. These Irish gentlemen knew other Irish gentlemen, connected with other newspapers, who formed a little literary society. They assembled at each other’s rooms, and at haunts where social pleasure was to be purchased at no dear rate. Philip Firmin was known to many of them before his misfortunes occurred, and when there was gold in plenty in his pocket, and never-failing applause for his songs.

When Pendennis and his friends wrote in this newspaper, it was impertinent enough, and many men must have heard the writers laugh at the airs which they occasionally thought proper to assume. The tone which they took amused, annoyed, tickled, was popular. It was continued, and, of course, caricatured by their successors. They worked for very moderate fees: but paid themselves by impertinence, and the satisfaction of assailing their betters. There or four persons were reserved from their abuse; but somebody was sure every week to be tied up at their post, and the public made sport of the victim’s contortions. The writers were obscure barristers, ushers, and college men, but they had omniscience at their pen’s end, and were ready to lay down the law on any given subject — to teach any man his business, were it a bishop in his pulpit, a Minister in his place in the House, a captain on his quarter-deck, a tailor on his shopboard, or a jockey in his saddle.

Since those early days of the Pall Mall Gazette, when old Shandon wielded his truculent tomahawk, and Messrs. W-rr-ngt-n and P-nd-nn-s followed him in the war-path, the Gazette had passed through several hands; and the victims who were immolated by the editors of to-day were very likely the objects of the best puffery of the last dynasty. To be flogged in what was your own school-room — that, surely, is a queer sensation; and when my Report was published on the decay of the sealing-wax trade in the three kingdoms (owing to the prevalence of gummed envelopes — as you may see in that masterly document), I was horsed up and smartly whipped in the Gazette by some of the rods which had come out of pickle since my time. Was not good Dr. Guillotin executed by his own neat invention? I don’t know who was the Monsieur Samson who operated on me; but have always had my idea that Digges, of Corpus, was the man to whom my flagellation was entrusted. His father keeps a ladies’-school at Hackney; but there is an air of fashion in everything which Digges writes, and a chivalrous conservatism which makes me pretty certain that D. was my scarifier. All this, however, is naught. Let us turn away from the author’s private griefs and egotisms to those of the hero of the story.

Does any one remember the appearance some twenty years ago of a little book called Trumpet Calls — a book of songs and poetry, dedicated to his brother officers by Cornet Canterton? His trumpet was very tolerably melodious, and the cornet played some small airs on it with some little grace and skill. But this poor Canterton belonged to the Life Guards Green, and Philip Firmin would have liked to have the lives of one or two troops at least of that corps. Entering into Mr. Cassidy’s room, Philip found the little volume. He set to work to exterminate Canterton. He rode him down, trampled over his face and carcase, knocked the Trumpet Calls and all the teeth out of the trumpeter’s throat. Never was such a smashing article as he wrote. And Mugford, Mr. Cassidy’s chief and owner, who likes always to have at least one man served up and hashed small in the Pall Mall Gazette, happened at this very juncture to have no other victim ready in his larder. Philip’s review appeared there in print. He rushed off with immense glee to Westminster, to show us his performance. Nothing must content him but to give a dinner at Greenwich on his success. Oh, Philip! We wished that this had not been his first fee; and that sober law had given it to him, and not the graceless and fickle muse with whom he had been flirting. For, truth to say, certain wise old heads which wagged over his performance could see but little merit in it. His style was coarse, his wit clumsy and savage. Never mind characterizing either now. He has seen the error of his ways, and divorced with the muse whom he never ought to have wooed.

The shrewd Cassidy not only could not write himself, but knew he could not — or, at least pen more than a plain paragraph, or a brief sentence to the point, but said he would carry this paper to his chief. “His Excellency” was the nickname by which this chief was called by his familiars. Mugford — Frederick Mugford, was his real name — and putting out of sight that little defect in his character, that he committed a systematic literary murder once a week, a more worthy good-natured little murderer did not live. He came of the old school of the press. Like French marshals, he had risen from the ranks, and retained some of the manners and oddities of the private soldier. A new race of writers had grown up since he enlisted as a printer’s boy — men of the world, with the manners of other gentlemen. Mugford never professed the least gentility. He knew that his young men laughed at his peculiarities, and did not care a fig for their scorn. As the knife with which he conveyed his victuals to his mouth went down his throat at the plenteous banquets which he gave, he saw his young friends wince and wonder, and rather relished their surprise. Those lips never cared in the least about placing his h’s in right places. They used bad language with great freedom — (to hear him bullying a printing-office was a wonder of eloquence) — but they betrayed no secrets, and the words which they uttered you might trust. He had belonged to two or three parties, and had respected them all. When he went to the Under-Secretary’s office he was never kept waiting; and once or twice Mrs. Mugford, who governed him, ordered him to attend the Saturday reception of the Ministers’ ladies, where he might be seen, with dirty hands, it is true, but a richly-embroidered waistcoat and fancy satin tie. His heart, however, was not in these entertainments. I have heard him say that he only came because Mrs. M. would have it; and he frankly owned that he “would rather ‘ave a pipe, and a drop of something ‘ot, than all your ices and rubbish.”

Mugford had a curious knowledge of what was going on in the world, and of the affairs of countless people. When Cass. brought Philip’s article to his Excellency, and mentioned the author’s name, Mugford showed himself to be perfectly familiar with the histories of Philp and his father. “The old chap has nobbled the young fellow’s money, almost every shilling of it, I hear. Knew he never would carry on. His discounts would have killed any man. Seen his paper about this ten year. Young one is a gentleman — passionate fellow, hawhaw fellow, but kind to the poor. Father never was a gentleman, with all his fine airs and fine waistcoats. I don’t set up in that line myself, Cass., but I tell you I know ’em when I see ’em.”

Philip had friends and private patrons whose influence was great with the Mugford family, and of whom he little knew. Every year Mrs. M. was in the habit of contributing a Mugford to the world. She was one of Mrs. Brandon’s most regular clients; and year after year, almost from his first arrival in London, Ridley, the painter, had been engaged as portrait painter to this worthy family. Philip and his illness; Philip and his horses, splendours, and entertainments; Philip and his lamentable downfall and ruin, had formed the subject of many an interesting talk between Mrs. Mugford and her friend, the Little Sister; and as we know Caroline’s infatuation about the young fellow, we may suppose that his good qualities lost nothing in the description. When that article in the Pall Mall Gazette appeared, Nurse Brandon took the omnibus to Haverstock Hill, where, as you know, Mugford had his villa; — arrived at Mrs. Mugford’s, Gazette in hand, and had a long and delightful conversation with that lady. Mrs. Brandon bought I don’t know how many copies of that Pall Mall Gazette. She now asked for it repeatedly in her walks at sundry ginger-beer shops, and of all sorts of newsvendors. I have heard that when the Mugfords first purchased the Gazette, Mrs. M. used to drop bills from her pony-chaise, and distribute placards setting forth the excellence of the journal. “We keep our carriage, but we ain’t above our business, Brandon,” that good lady would say. And the business prospered under the management of these worthy folks; and the pony-chaise unfolded into a noble barouche; and the pony increased and multiplied, and became a pair of horses; and there was not a richer piece of gold-lace round any coachman’s hat in London than now decorated John, who had grown with the growth of his master’s fortunes, and drove the chariot in which his worthy employers rode on the way to Hampstead, honour, and prosperity.

“All this pitching into the poet is very well, you know, Cassidy,” says Mugford to his subordinate. “It’s like shooting a butterfly with a blunderbuss; but if Firmin likes that kind of sport, I don’t mind. There won’t be any difficulty about taking his copy at our place. The duchess knows another old woman who is a friend of his” (“the duchess” was the title which Mr. Mugford was in the playful habit of conferring upon his wife). “It’s my belief young F. had better stick to the law, and leave the writing rubbish alone. But he knows his own affairs best, and, mind you, the duchess is determined we shall give him a helping hand.”

Once, in the days of his prosperity, and in J. J.’s company, Philip had visited Mrs. Mugford and her family — a circumstance which the gentleman had almost forgotten. The painter and his friend were taking a Sunday walk, and came upon Mugford’s pretty cottage and garden, and were hospitably entertained there by the owners of the place. It has disappeared, and the old garden has long since been covered by terraces and villas, and Mugford and Mrs. M., good souls, where are they? But the lady thought she had never seen such a fine-looking young fellow as Philip; cast about in her mind which of her little female Mugfords should marry him; and insisted upon offering her guest champagne. Poor Phil! So, you see, whilst, perhaps, he was rather pluming himself upon his literary talents, and imagining that he was a clever fellow, he was only the object of a job on the part of two or three good folks, who knew his history, and compassionated his misfortunes.

Mugford recalled himself to Philip’s recollection, when they met after the appearance of Mr. Phil’s first performance in the Gazette. If he still took a Sunday walk, Hampstead way, Mr. M. requested him to remember that there was a slice of beef and a glass of wine at the old shop. Philip remembered it well enough now: the ugly room, the ugly family, the kind worthy people. Ere long he learned what had been Mrs. Brandon’s connection with them, and the young man’s heart was softened and grateful as he thought how this kind, gentle creature had been able to befriend him. She, we may be sure, was not a little proud of her protégé. I believe she grew to fancy that the whole newspaper was written by Philip. She made her fond parent read it aloud as she worked. Mr. Ridley, senior, pronounced it was remarkable fine, really now; without, I think, entirely comprehending the meaning of the sentiments which Mr. Gann gave forth in his rich loud voice, and often dropping asleep in his chair during this sermon.

In the autumn, Mr. Firmin’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pendennis, selected the romantic seaport town of Boulogne for their holiday residence; and having roomy quarters in the old town, we gave Mr. Philip an invitation to pay us a visit whenever he could tear himself away from literature and law. He came in high spirits. He amused us by imitations and descriptions of his new proprietor and master, Mr. Mugford — his blunders, his bad language, his good heart. One day, Mugford expected a celebrated literary character to dinner, and Philip and Cassidy were invited to meet him. The great man was ill, and was unable to come. “Don’t dish up the side-dishes,” called out Mugford to his cook, in the hearing of his other guests. “Mr. Lyon ain’t a coming.” They dined quite sufficiently without the side-dishes, and were perfectly cheerful in the absence of the lion. Mugford patronized his young men with amusing good-nature. “Firmin, cut the goose for the duchess, will you? Cass. can’t say Bo! to one, he can’t. Ridley, a little of the stuffing. It’ll make your hair curl.” And Philip was going to imitate a frightful act with the cold steel (with which I have said Philip’s master used to convey food to his mouth), but our dear innocent third daughter uttered a shriek of terror, which caused him to drop the dreadful weapon. Our darling little Florence is a nervous child, and the sight of an edged tool causes her anguish, ever since our darling little Tom nearly cut his thumb off with his father’s razor.

Our main amusement in this delightful place was to look at the sea-sick landing from the steamers; and one day, as we witnessed this phenomenon, Philip sprang to the ropes which divided us from the arriving passengers, and with a cry of “How do you do, general?” greeted a yellow-faced gentleman, who started back, and, to my thinking, seemed but ill inclined to reciprocate Philip’s friendly greeting. The general was fluttered, no doubt, by the bustle and interruptions incidental to the landing. A pallid lady, the partner of his existence, probably, was calling out, “Noof et doo domestiques, Doo!” to the sentries who kept the line, and who seemed little interested by this family news. A governess, a tall young lady, and several more male and female children, followed the pale lady, who, as I thought, looked strangely frightened when the gentleman addressed as general communicated to her Philip’s name. “Is that him?” said the lady in questionable grammar; and the tall young lady turned a pair of large eyes upon the individual designated as “him,” and showed a pair of dank ringlets, out of which the envious sea-nymphs had shaken all the curl.

The general turned out to be General Baynes; the pale lady was Mrs. General B.; the tall young lady was Miss Charlotte Baynes, the general’s eldest child; and the other six, forming nine, or “noof,” in all, as Mrs. General B. said, were the other members of the Baynes family. And here I may as well say why the general looked alarmed on seeing Philip, and why the general’s lady frowned at him. In action, one of the bravest of men, in common life General Baynes was timorous and weak. Specially he was afraid of Mrs. General Baynes, who ruled him with a vigorous authority. As Philip’s trustee, he had allowed Philip’s father to make away with the boy’s money. He learned with a ghastly terror that he was answerable for his own remissness and want of care. For a long while he did not dare to tell his commander-in-chief of this dreadful penalty which was hanging over him. When at last he ventured upon this confession, I do not envy him the scene which must have ensued between him and his commanding officer. The morning after the fatal confession, when the children assembled for breakfast and prayers, Mrs. Baynes gave their young ones their porridge: she and Charlotte poured out the tea and coffee for their elders, and then addressing her eldest son Ochterlony, she said, “Ocky, my boy, the general has announced a charming piece of news this morning.”

“Bought that pony, sir?” says Ocky.

“Oh, what jolly fun!” says Moira, the second son.

“Dear, dear papa! what’s the matter, and why do you look so?” cries Charlotte, looking behind her father’s paper.

That guilty man would fain have made a shroud of his Morning Herald. He would have flung the sheet over his whole body, and lain hidden there from all eyes.

“The fun, my dears, is that your father is ruined: that’s the fun. Eat your porridge now, little ones. Charlotte, pop a bit of butter in Carrick’s porridge; for you mayn’t have any to-morrow.”

“Oh, gammon,” cries Moira.

“You’ll soon see whether it is gammon or not, sir, when you’ll be starving, sir. Your father has ruined us — and a very pleasant morning’s work, I am sure.”

And she calmly rubs the nose of her youngest child who is near her, and too young, and innocent, and careless, perhaps, of the world’s censure as yet to keep in a strict cleanliness her own dear little snub nose and dappled cheeks.

“We are only ruined, and shall be starving soon, my dears, and if the general has bought a pony — as I dare say he has; he is quite capable of buying a pony when we are starving — the best thing we can do is to eat the pony. M’Grigor, don’t laugh. Starvation is no laughing matter. When we were at Dumdum, in ‘36, we ate some colt. Don’t you remember Jubber’s colt — Jubber of the Horse Artillery, general? Never tasted anything more tender in all my life. Charlotte, take Jany’s hands out of the marmalade! We are all ruined, my dears, as sure as our name is Baynes.” Thus did the mother of the family prattle on in the midst of her little ones, and announce to them the dreadful news of impending starvation. “General Baynes, by his carelessness, had allowed Dr. Firmin to make away with the money over which the general had been set as sentinel. Philip might recover from the trustee, and no doubt would. Perhaps he would not press his claim? My dear, what can you expect from the son of such a father? Depend on it, Charlotte, no good fruit can come from a stock like that. The son is a bad one, the father is a bad one, and your father, poor dear soul, is not fit to be trusted to walk the street without some one to keep him from tumbling. Why did I allow him to go to town without me? We were quartered at Colchester then: and I could not move on account of your brother M’Grigor. ‘Baynes,’ I said to your father, ‘as sure as I let you go away to town without me, you will come to mischief.’ And go he did, and come to mischief he did. And through his folly I and my poor children must go and beg our bread in the streets — I and my seven poor, robbed, penniless little ones. Oh, it’s cruel, cruel!”

Indeed, one cannot fancy a more dismal prospect for this worthy mother and wife than to see her children without provision at the commencement of their lives, and her luckless husband robbed of his life’s earnings, and ruined just when he was too old to work.

What was to become of them? Now poor Charlotte thought, with pangs of a keen remorse, how idle she had been, and how she had snubbed her governesses, and how little she knew, and how badly she played the piano. Oh, neglected opportunities! Oh, remorse, now the time was past and irrecoverable! Does any young lady read this who, perchance, ought to be doing her lessons? My dear, lay down the story-book at once. Go up to your school-room, and practise your piano for two hours this moment; so that you may be prepared to support your family, should ruin in any case fall upon you. A great girl of sixteen, I pity Charlotte Baynes’s feelings of anguish. She can’t write a very good hand; she can scarcely answer any question to speak of in any educational books; her pianoforte playing is very, very so-so indeed. If she is to go out and get a living for the family, how, in the name of goodness, is she to set about it? What are they to do with the boys, and the money that has been put away for Ochterlony when he goes to college, and for Moira’s commission? “Why, we can’t afford to keep them at Dr. Pybus’s, where they were doing so well; and they were ever so much better and more gentlemanlike than Colonel Chandler’s boys; and to lose the army will break Moira’s heart, it will. And the little ones, my little blue-eyed Carrick, and my darling Jany, and my Mary, that I nursed almost miraculously out of her scarlet fever. God help them! God help us all!” thinks the poor mother. No wonder that her nights are wakeful, and her heart in a tumult of alarm at the idea of the impending danger.

And the father of the family? — the stout old general whose battles and campaigns are over, who has come home to rest his war-worn limbs, and make his peace with heaven ere it calls him away — what must be his feelings when he thinks that he has been entrapped by a villain into committing an imprudence, which makes his children penniless and himself dishonoured and a beggar? When he found what Dr. Firmin had done, and how he had been cheated, he went away, aghast, to his lawyer, who could give him no help. Philip’s mother’s trustee was answerable to Philip for his property. It had been stolen through Baynes’s own carelessness, and the law bound him to replace it. General Baynes’s man of business could not help him out of his perplexity at all; and I hope my worthy reader is not going to be too angry with the general for what I own he did. You never would, my dear sir, I know. No power on earth would induce you to depart one inch from the path of rectitude; or, having done an act of imprudence, to shrink from bearing the consequence. The long and short of the matter is, that poor Baynes and his wife, after holding agitated, stealthy councils together — after believing that every strange face they saw was a bailiff’s coming to arrest them on Philip’s account — after horrible days of remorse, misery, guilt — I say the long and the short of the matter was, that these poor people determined to run away. They would go and hide themselves anywhere — in an impenetrable pine forest in Norway — up an inaccessible mountain in Switzerland. They would change their names; dye their mustachios and honest old white hair; fly with their little ones away, away, away, out of the reach of law and Philip; and the first flight lands them on Boulogne Pier, and there is Mr. Philip holding out his hand and actually eyeing them as they got out of the steamer! Eyeing them? It is the eye of heaven that is on those criminals. Holding out his hand to them? It is the hand of fate that is on their wretched shoulders. No wonder they shuddered and turned pale. That which I took for sea-sickness, I am sorry to say, was a guilty conscience: and where is the steward, my dear friends, who can relieve us of that?

As this party came staggering out of the Customhouse, poor Baynes still found Philip’s hand stretched out to catch hold of him, and saluted him with a ghastly cordiality. “These are your children, general, and this is Mrs. Baynes?” says Philip, smiling, and taking off his hat.

“Oh, yes! I’m Mrs. General Baynes!” says the poor woman; “and these are the children — yes, yes. Charlotte, this is Mr. Firmin, of whom you have heard us speak; and these are my boys, Moira and Ochterlony.”

“I have had the honour of meeting General Baynes at Old Parr Street. Don’t you remember, sir?” says Mr. Pendennis, with great affability to the general.

“What, another who knows me?” I daresay the poor wretch thinks; and glances of a dreadful meaning pass between the guilty wife and the guilty husband.

“You are going to stay at any hotel?”

“Hôtel des Bains!” “Hôtel du Nord?” “Hôtel d’Angleterre,” here cry twenty commissioners in a breath.

“Hotel? Oh, yes! That is, we have not made up our minds whether we shall go in to-night or whether we shall stay,” say those guilty ones, looking at one another, and then down to the ground; on which one of the children, with a roar, says —

“Oh, ma, what a story! You said you’d stay to-night; and I was so sick in the beastly boat, and I won’t travel any more!” And tears choke his artless utterance. “And you said Bang to the man who took your keys, you know you did,” resumes the innocent, as soon as he can gasp a further remark.

“Who told you to speak?” cried mamma, giving the boy a shake.

“This is the way to the Hôtel des Bains,” says Philip, making Miss Baynes another of his best bows. And Miss Baynes makes a curtsey, and her eyes look up at the handsome young man — large brown honest eyes in a comely round face, on each side of which depend two straight wisps of brown hair that were ringlets when they left Folkestone a few hours since.

“Oh, I say, look at those women with the short petticoats! and wooden shoes, by George! Oh! it’s jolly, ain’t it?” cries one young gentleman.

“By George, there’s a man with earrings on! There is, Ocky, upon my word!” calls out another. And the elder boy, turning round to his father, points to some soldiers. “Did you ever see such little beggars?” he says, tossing his head up. “They wouldn’t take such fellows into our line.”

“I am not at all tired, thank you,” says Charlotte.

“I am accustomed to carry him.” I forgot to say that the young lady had one of the children asleep on her shoulder: and another was toddling at her side, holding by his sister’s dress, and admiring Mr. Firmin’s whiskers, that flamed and curled very luminously and gloriously, like to the rays of the setting sun.

“I am very glad we met, sir,” says Philip, in the most friendly manner, taking leave of the general at the gate of his hotel. “I hope you won’t go away to-morrow, and that I may come and pay my respects to Mrs. Baynes.” Again he salutes that lady with a coup de chapeau. Again he bows to Miss Baynes. She makes a pretty curtsey enough, considering that she has a baby asleep on her shoulder. And they enter the hotel, the excellent Marie marshalling them to fitting apartments, where some of them, I have no doubt, will sleep very soundly. How much more comfortably might poor Baynes and his wife have slept had they known what were Philip’s feelings regarding them!

We both admired Charlotte, the tall girl who carried her little brother, and around whom the others clung. And we spoke loudly in Miss Charlotte’s praises to Mrs. Pendennis, when we joined that lady at dinner. In the praise of Mrs. Baynes we had not a great deal to say, further than that she seemed to take command of the whole expedition, including the general officer, her husband.

Though Marie’s beds at the Hôtel des Bains are as comfortable as any beds in Europe, you see that admirable chambermaid cannot lay out a clean, easy conscience upon the clean, fragrant pillow-case; and General and Mrs. Baynes owned, in after days, that one of the most dreadful nights they ever passed was that of their first landing in France. What refugee from his country can fly from himself? Railways were not as yet in that part of France. The general was too poor to fly with a couple of private carriages, which he must have had for his family of “noof,” his governess, and two servants. Encumbered with such a train, his enemy would speedily have pursued and overtaken him. It is a fact that, immediately after landing at his hotel, he and his commanding officer went off to see when they could get places for — never mind the name of the place where they really thought of taking refuge. They never told, but Mrs. General Baynes had a sister, Mrs. Major MacWhirter (married to MacW. of the Bengal Cavalry), and the sisters loved each other very affectionately, especially by letter, for it must be owned that they quarrelled frightfully when together; and Mrs. Mac Whirter never could bear that her younger sister should be taken out to dinner before her, because she was married to a superior officer. Well, their little differences were forgotten when the two ladies were apart. The sisters wrote to each other prodigious long letters, in which household affairs, the children’s puerile diseases, the relative prices of veal, eggs, chickens, the rent of lodging and houses in various places, were fully discussed. And as Mrs. Baynes showed a surprising knowledge of Tours, the markets, rents, clergymen, society there, and as Major and Mrs. Mac were staying there, I have little doubt, for my part, from this and another not unimportant circumstance, that it was to that fair city our fugitives were wending their way, when events occurred which must now be narrated, and which caused General Baynes at the head of his domestic regiment to do what the King of France with twenty thousand men is said to have done in old times.

Philip was greatly interested about the family. The truth is, we were all very much bored at Boulogne. We read the feeblest London papers at the reading-room with frantic assiduity. We saw all the boats come in: and the day was lost when we missed the Folkestone boat or the London boat. We consumed much time and absinthe at cafés; and tramped leagues upon that old pier every day. Well, Philip was at the Hôtel des Bains at a very early hour next morning, and there he saw the general, with a woe-worn face, leaning on his stick, and looking at his luggage, as it lay piled in the porte-cochère of the hotel. There they lay, thirty-seven packages in all, including washing-tubes, and a child’s India sleeping-cot; and all these packages were ticketed M. le Général Baynes, Officier Anglais, Tours, Touraine, France. I say, putting two and two together; calling to mind Mrs. General’s singular knowledge of Tours and familiarity with the place and its prices; remembering that her sister Emily — Mrs. Major MacWhirter, in fact — was there; and seeing thirty-seven trunks, bags and portmanteaus, all directed “M. le GÉnÉral Baynes, Officier Anglais, Tours, Touraine,” am I wrong in supposing that Tours was the general’s destination? On the other hand, we have the old officer’s declaration to Philip that he did not know where he was going. Oh, you sly old man! Oh, you grey old fox, beginning to double and to turn at sixty-seven years of age! Well? The general was in retreat, and he did not wish the enemy to know upon what lines he was retreating. What is the harm of that, pray? Besides, he was under the orders of his commanding officer, and when Mrs. General gave her orders, I should have liked to see any officer of hers disobey.

“What a pyramid of portmanteaus! You are not thinking of moving to-day, general?” says Philip.

“It is Sunday, sir,” says the general; which you will perceive was not answering the question; but, in truth, except for a very great emergency, the good general would not travel on that day.

“I hope the ladies slept well after their windy voyage.”

“Thank you. My wife is an old sailor, and has made two voyages out and home to India.” Here, you understand, the old man is again eluding his interlocutor’s artless queries.

“I should like to have some talk with you, sir, when you are free,” continues Philip, not having leisure as yet to be surprised at the other’s demeanour.

“There are other days besides Sunday for talk on business,” says that piteous sly-boots of an old officer. Ah, conscience! conscience! Twenty-four Sikhs, sword in hand, two dozen Pindarries, Mahrattas, Ghoorkas, what you please — that old man felt that he would rather have met them than Philip’s unsuspecting blue eyes. These, however, now lighted up with rather an angry, “Well, sir, as you don’t talk business on Sunday, may I call on you to-morrow morning.”

And what advantage had the poor old fellow got by all this doubling and hesitating and artfulness? — a respite until to-morrow morning! Another night of horrible wakefulness and hopeless guilt, and Philip waiting ready the next morning with his little bill, and “Please pay me the thirty thousand which my father spent and you owe me. Please turn out into the streets with your wife and family, and beg and starve. Have the goodness to hand me out your last rupee. Be kind enough to sell your children’s clothes and your wife’s jewels, and hand over the proceeds to me. I’ll call to-morrow. Bye, bye.”

Here there came tripping over the marble pavement of the hall of the hotel a tall young lady in a brown silk dress and rich curling ringlets falling upon her fair young neck — (beautiful brown curling ringlets, vous comprenez, not wisps of moistened hair,) and a broad clear forehead, and two honest eyes shining below it, and cheeks not pale as they were yesterday; and lips redder still; and she says, “Papa, papa, won’t you come to breakfast? The tea is — ” What the precise state of the tea is I don’t know — none of us ever shall — for here she says, “Oh, Mr. Firmin!” and makes a curtsey.

To which remark Philip replied, “Miss Baynes, I hope you are very well this morning, and not the worse for yesterday’s rough weather.”

“I am quite well, thank you,” was Miss Baynes’ instant reply. The answer was not witty, to be sure; but I don’t know that under the circumstances she could have said anything more appropriate. Indeed, never was a pleasanter picture of health and good-humour than the young lady presented: a difference more pleasant to note than Miss Charlotte’s face pale from the steamboat on Saturday, and shining, rosy, happy, and innocent in the cloudless Sabbath morn.

“A Madame,

“Madame le Major MacWhirter,

“à Tours,

“Touraine,

“France.

“Tintelleries, Boulogne-sur-Mer,

“Dearest Emily,

“Wednesday, August 24, 18 — .

“After suffering more dreadfully in the two hours’ passage from Folkestone to this place than I have in four passages out and home from India, except in that terrible storm off the Cape, in September, 1824, when I certainly did suffer most cruelly on board that horrible troop-ship; we reached this place last Saturday evening, having a full determination to proceed immediately on our route. Now, you will perceive that our minds are changed. We found this place pleasant, and the lodgings besides most neat, comfortable, and well found in everything, more reasonable than you proposed to get for us at Tours, which I am told also is damp, and might bring on the general’s jungle fever again. Owing to the hooping-cough having just been in the house, which, praised be mercy, all my dear ones have had it, including dear baby, who is quite well through it, and recommended sea air, we got this house more reasonable than prices you mention at Tours. A whole house: little room for two boys; nursery; nice little room for Charlotte, and a den for the general. I don’t know how ever we should have brought our party safe all the way to Tours. Thirty-seven articles of luggage, and Miss Flixby, who announced herself as perfect French governess, acquired at Paris — perfect, but perfectly useless. She can’t understand the French people when they speak to her, and goes about the house in a most bewildering way. I am the interpreter; poor Charlotte is much too timid to speak when I am by. I have rubbed up the old French which we learned at Chiswick at Miss Pinkerton’s; and I find my Hindostanee of great help: which I use it when we are at a loss for a word, and it answers extremely well. We pay for lodgings, the whole house — francs per month. Butchers’ meat and poultry plentiful but dear. A grocer in the Grande Rue sell excellent wine at fifteenpence per bottle; and groceries pretty much at English prices. Mr. Blowman at the English chapel of the Tintelleries has a fine voice, and appears to be a most excellent clergyman. I have heard him only once, however, on Sunday evening, when I was so agitated and so unhappy in my mind that I own I took little note of his sermon.

“The cause of that agitation you know, having imparted it to you in my letters of July, June, and 24th of May, ult. My poor simple, guileless Baynes was trustee to Mrs. Dr. Firmin, before she married that most unprincipled man. When we were at home last, and exchanged to the 120th from the 99th, my poor husband was inveigled by the horrid man into signing a paper which put the doctor in possession of all his wife’s property; whereas Charles thought he was only signing a power of attorney, enabling him to receive his son’s dividends. Dr. F., after the most atrocious deceit, forgery, and criminality of every kind, fled the country; and Hunt and Pegler, our solicitors, informed us that the general was answerable for the wickedness of this miscreant. He is so weak that he has been many and many times on the point of going to young Mr. F. and giving up everything. It was only by my prayers, by my commands, that I have been enabled to keep him quiet; and, indeed, Emily, the effort has almost killed him. Brandy repeatedly I was obliged to administer on the dreadful night of our arrival here.

“For the first person we met on landing was Mr. Philip Firmin, with a pert friend of his, Mr. Pendennis, whom I don’t at all like, though his wife is an amiable person like Emma Fletcher of the Horse Artillery: not with Emma’s style, however, but still amiable, and disposed to be most civil. Charlotte has taken a great fancy to her, as she always does to every new person. Well, fancy our state on landing, when a young gentleman calls out, ‘How do you do, general?’ and turns out to be Mr. Firmin! I thought I should have lost Charles in the night. I have seen him before going into action, as calm, and sleep and smile as sweet, as any babe. It was all I could do to keep up his courage: and, but for me, but for my prayers, but for my agonies, I think he would have jumped out of bed, and gone to Mr. F. that night, and said, ‘Take everything I have.’

“The young man I own has behaved in the most honourable way. He came to see us before breakfast on Sunday, when the poor general was so ill that I thought he would have fainted over his tea. He was too ill to go to church, where I went alone, with my dear ones, having, as I own, but very small comfort in the sermon: but oh, Emily, fancy, on our return, when I went into our room, I found my general on his knees with his Church service before him, crying, crying like a baby! You know I am hasty in my temper sometimes, and his is indeed an angel’s — and I said to him, ‘Charles Baynes, be a man, and don’t cry like a child!’ ‘Ah,’ says he, ‘Eliza, do you kneel, and thank God too;’ on which I said that I thought I did not require instruction in my religion from him or any man, except a clergyman, and many of these are but poor instructors, as you know.

“‘He has been here,’ says Charles; when I said, ‘Who has been here?’ ‘That noble young fellow,’ says my general; ‘that noble, noble Philip Firmin.’ Which noble his conduct I own it has been. ‘Whilst you were at church he came again — here into this very room, where I was sitting, doubting and despairing, with the Holy Book before my eyes, and no comfort out of it. And he said to me, “General, I want to talk to you about my grandfather’s will. You don’t suppose that because my father has deceived you and ruined me, I will carry the ruin farther, and visit his wrong upon children and innocent people?” Those were the young man’s words,’ my general said; and, ‘oh, Eliza!’ says he, ‘what pangs of remorse I felt when I remembered we had used hard words about him,’ which I own we had, for his manners are rough and haughty, and I have heard things of him which I do believe now can’t be true.

“All Monday my poor man was obliged to keep his bed with a smart attack of his fever. But yesterday he was quite bright and well again, and the Pendennis party took Charlotte for a drive, and showed themselves most polite. She reminds me of Mrs. Tom Fletcher of the Horse Artillery, but that I think I have mentioned before. My paper is full; and with our best to MacWhirter and the children, I am always my dearest Emily’s affectionate sister,

“Eliza Baynes.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/adventures_of_philip/v1.17.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07