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

Chapter 8

Nec Dulces Amores Sperne, Puer, Neque Tu Choreas.

“My dear,” Mrs. Baynes said to her daughter, “you are going out a great deal in the world now. You will go to a great number of places where poor Philip cannot hope to be admitted.”

“Not admit Philip, mamma! then I’m sure I don’t want to go,” cries the girl.

“Time enough to leave off going to parties when you can’t afford it, and marry him. When I was a lieutenant’s wife, I didn’t go to any parties out of the regiment, my dear!”

“Oh, then, I am sure I shall never want to go out!” Charlotte declares.

“You fancy he will always stop at home, I daresay. Men are not all so domestic as your papa. Very few love to stop at home like him. Indeed, I may say that I have made his home comfortable. But one thing is clear, my child. Philip can’t always expect to go where we go. He is not in the position in life. Recollect, your father is a general officer, C. B., and may be K.C.B. soon, and your mother is a general officer’s lady. We may go anywhere. I might have gone to the drawing-room at home if I chose. Lady Biggs would have been delighted to present me. Your aunt has been to the drawing-room, and she is only Mrs. Major Mac Whirter; and most absurd it was of Mac to let her go. But she rules him in everything, and they have no children. I have, goodness knows! I sacrifice myself for my children. You little know what I deny myself for my children. I said to Lady Biggs, ‘No, Lady Biggs; my husband may go. He should go. He has his uniform, and it will cost him nothing except a fly and a bouquet for the man who drives; but I will not spend money on myself for the hire of diamonds and feathers, and, though I yield in loyalty to no person, I daresay my Sovereign won’t miss me.’ And I don’t think her Majesty did. She has other things to think of besides Mrs. General Baynes, I suppose. She is a mother, and can appreciate a mother’s sacrifices for her children." — If I have not hitherto given you detailed reports of Mrs. General Baynes’ conversation, I don’t think, my esteemed reader, you will be very angry.

“Now, child,” the general’s lady continued, “let me warn you not to talk much to Philip about those places to which you go without him, and to which his position in life does not allow of his coming. Hide anything from him? Oh, dear, no! Only for his own good, you understand. I don’t tell everything to your papa. I should only worrit him and vex him. When anything will please him, and make him happy, then I tell him. And about Philip. Philip, I must say it, my dear — I must as a mother say it — has his faults. He is an envious man. Don’t look shocked. He thinks very well of himself; and having been a great deal spoiled, and made too much of in his unhappy father’s time, he is so proud and haughty that he forgets his position, and thinks he ought to live with the highest society. Had Lord Ringwood left him a fortune, as Philip led us to expect when we gave our consent to this most unlucky match — for that my dear child should marry a beggar is most unlucky and most deplorable; I can’t help saying so, Charlotte, — if I were on my deathbed I couldn’t help saying so; and I wish with all my heart we had never seen or heard of him. — There! Don’t go off in one of your tantrums! What was I saying, pray? I say that Philip is in no position, or rather in a very humble one, which — a mere newspaper-writer and a subaltern too — everybody acknowledges to be. And if he hears us talking about our parties, to which we have a right to go — to which you have a right to go with your mother, a general officer’s lady — why, he’ll be offended. He won’t like to hear about them and think he can’t be invited; and you had better not talk about them at all, or about the people you meet, you dance with. At Mrs. Hely’s you may dance with Lord Headbury, the ambassador’s son. And if you tell Philip he will be offended. He will say that you boast about it. When I was only a lieutenant’s wife at Barrackpore, Mrs. Captain Capers used to go to Calcutta to the Government House balls. I didn’t go. But I was offended, and I used to say that Flora Capers gave herself airs, and was always boasting of her intimacy with the Marchioness of Hastings. We don’t like our equals to be better off than ourselves. Mark my words. And if you talk to Philip about the people whom you meet in society, and whom he can’t from his unfortunate station expect to know, you will offend him. That was why I nudged you to-day when you were going on about Mr. Hely. Anything so absurd! I saw Philip getting angry at once, and biting his moustaches, as he always does when he is angry — and swears quite out loud — so vulgar! There! you are going to be angry again, my love; I never saw anything like you! Is this my Charly who never was angry? I know the world, dear, and you don’t. Look at me, how I manage your papa, and I tell you don’t talk to Philip about things which offend him! No, dearest, kiss your poor old mother who loves you. Go upstairs and bathe your eyes, and come down happy to dinner.” And at dinner Mrs. General Baynes was uncommonly gracious to Philip: and when gracious she was especially odious to Philip, whose magnanimous nature accommodated itself ill to the wheedling artifices of an ill-bred old woman.

Following this wretched mother’s advice, my poor Charlotte spoke scarcely at all to Philip of the parties to which she went, and the amusements which she enjoyed without him. I daresay Mrs. Baynes was quite happy in thinking that she was “guiding” her child rightly. As if a coarse woman, because she is mean, and greedy, and hypocritical, and fifty years old, has a right to lead a guileless nature into wrong! Ah! if some of us old folks were to go to school to our children, I am sure, madam, it would do us a great deal of good. There is a fund of good sense and honourable feeling about my great-grandson Tommy, which is more valuable than all his grandpapa’s experience and knowledge of the world. Knowledge of the world forsooth! Compromise, selfishness modified, and double dealing. Tom disdains a lie. When he wants a peach, he roars for it. If his mother wishes to go to a party, she coaxes, and wheedles, and manages, and smirks, and curtseys for months, in order to get her end; takes twenty rebuffs, and comes up to the scratch again smiling; — and this woman is for ever lecturing her daughters, and preaching to her sons upon virtue, honesty, and moral behaviour!

Mrs. Hely’s little party at the Hôtel de la Terrasse was very pleasant and bright; and Miss Charlotte enjoyed it, although her swain was not present. But Philip was pleased that his little Charlotte should be happy. She beheld with wonderment Parisian duchesses, American millionnaires, dandies from the embassies, deputies and peers of France with large stars and wigs like papa. She gaily described her party to Philip; described, that is to say, everything but her own success, which was undoubted. There were many beauties at Mrs. Hely’s, but nobody fresher or prettier. The Miss Blacklocks retired very early and in the worst possible temper. Prince Slyboots did not in the least heed their going away. His thoughts were all fixed upon little Charlotte. Charlotte’s mamma saw the impression which the girl made, and was filled with a hungry joy. Good-natured Mrs. Hely complimented her on her daughter. “Thank God, she is as good as she is pretty,” said the mother, I am sure speaking seriously this time regarding her daughter. Prince Slyboots danced with scarce anybody else. He raised a perfect whirlwind of compliments round about Charlotte. She was quite a simple person, and did not understand one-tenth part of what he said to her. He strewed her path with roses of poesy: he scattered garlands of sentiment before her all the way from the ante-chamber downstairs, and so to the fly which was in waiting to take her and her parents home to the boarding-house. “By George, Charlotte, I think you have smitten that fellow,” cries the general, who was infinitely amused by young Hely — his raptures, his affectations, his long hair, and what Baynes called his low dress. A slight white tape and a ruby button confined Hely’s neck. His hair waved over his shoulders. Baynes had never seen such a specimen. At the mess of the stout 120th, the lads talked of their dogs, horses, and sport. A young civilian, smattering in poetry, chattering in a dozen languages, scented, smiling, perfectly at ease with himself and the world, was a novelty to the old officer.

And now the Queen’s birthday arrived — and that it may arrive for many scores of years yet to come is, I am sure, the prayer of all of us — and with the birthday his Excellency Lord Estridge’s grand annual fête in honour of his sovereign. A card for the ball was left at Madame Smolensk’s, for General, Mrs. and Miss Baynes; and no doubt Monsieur Slyboots Walsingham Hely was the artful agent by whom the invitation was forwarded. Once more the general’s veteran uniform came out from the tin-box, with its dingy epaulets and little cross and ribbon. His wife urged on him strongly the necessity of having a new wig, wigs being very cheap and good at Paris — but Baynes said a new wig would make his old coat look very shabby; and a new uniform would cost more money than he would like to afford. So shabby he went de cape à pied, with a moulting feather, a threadbare suit, a tarnished wig, and a worn-out lace, sibi constans. Boots, trousers, sash, coat, were all old and worse for wear, and “faith,” says he, “my face follows suit.” A brave, silent man was Baynes; with a twinkle of humour in his lean, wrinkled face.

And if General Baynes was shabbily attired at the Embassy ball, I think I know a friend of mine who was shabby too. In the days of his prosperity, Mr. Philip was parcus cultor et infrequens of balls, routes, and ladies’ company. Perhaps because his father was angered at Philip’s neglect of his social advantages and indifference as to success in the world, Philip was the more neglectful and indifferent. The elder’s comedy-smiles, and solemn hypocritical politeness, caused scorn and revolt on the part of the younger man. Philip despised the humbug, and the world to which such humbug could be welcome. He kept aloof from tea-parties then: his evening-dress clothes served him for a long time. I cannot say how old his dress-coat was at the time of which we are writing. But he had been in the habit of respecting that garment and considering it new and handsome for many years past. Meanwhile the coat had shrunk, or its wearer had grown stouter; and his grand embroidered, embossed, illuminated, carved and gilt velvet dress waistcoat, too, had narrowed, had become absurdly tight and short, and I daresay was the laughing-stock of many of Philip’s acquaintances, whilst he himself, poor simple fellow, was fancying that it was a most splendid article of apparel. You know in the Palais Royal they hang out the most splendid reach-me-down dressing-gowns, waistcoats, and so forth. “No,” thought Philip, coming out of his cheap dining-house, and swaggering along the arcades, and looking at the tailors’ shops, with his hands in his pockets. “My brown velvet dress waistcoat with the gold sprigs, which I had made at college, is a much more tasty thing than these gaudy ready-made articles. And my coat is old certainly, but the brass buttons are still very bright and handsome, and, in fact, it is a most becoming and gentlemanlike thing.” And under this delusion the honest fellow dressed himself in his old clothes, lighted a pair of candles, and looked at himself with satisfaction in the looking-glass, drew on a pair of cheap gloves which he had bought, walked by the Quays, and over the Deputies’ Bridge, across the Place Louis XV., and strutted up the Faubourg St. Honoré to the Hotel of the British Embassy. A half-mile queue of carriages was formed along the street, and of course the entrance to the hotel was magnificently illuminated.

A plague on those cheap gloves! Why had not Philip paid three francs for a pair of gloves, instead of twenty-nine sous? Mrs. Baynes had found a capital cheap glove shop, whither poor Phil had gone in the simplicity of his heart; and now as he went in under the grand illuminated porte-cochère, Philip saw that the gloves had given way at the thumbs, and that his hands appeared through the rents, as red as red as raw beefsteaks. It is wonderful how red hands will look through holes in white gloves. “And there’s that hole in my boot, too,” thought Phil; but he had put a little ink over the seam, and so the rent was imperceptible. The coat and waistcoat were tight, and of a past age. Never mind. The chest was broad, the arms were muscular and long, and Phil’s face, in the midst of a halo of fair hair and flaming whiskers, looked brave, honest, and handsome. For a while his eyes wandered fiercely and restlessly all about the room from group to group; but now — ah! now — they were settled. They had met another pair of eyes, which lighted up with glad welcome when they beheld him. Two young cheeks mantled with a sweet blush. These were Charlotte’s cheeks: and hard by them were mamma’s, of a very different colour. But Mrs. General Baynes had a knowing turban on, and a set of garnets round her old neck, like gooseberries set in gold.

They admired the rooms: they heard the names of the great folks who arrived, and beheld many famous personages. They made their curtseys to the ambassadress. Confusion! With a great rip, the thumb of one of those cheap gloves of Philip’s parts company from the rest of the glove, and he is obliged to wear it crumpled up in his hand: a dreadful mishap — for he is going to dance with Charlotte, and he will have to give his hand to the vis-à-vis.

Who comes up smiling, with a low neck, with waving curls and whiskers, pretty little hands exquisitely gloved, and tiny feet? ’Tis Hely Walsingham, lightest in the dance. Most affably does Mrs. General Baynes greet the young fellow. Very brightly and happily do Charlotte’s eyes glance towards her favourite partner. It is certain that poor Phil can’t hope at all to dance like Hely. “And see what nice neat feet and hands he has got,” says Mrs. Baynes. “Comme il est bien ganté! A gentleman ought to be always well gloved.”

“Why did you send me to the twenty-nine-sous-shop?” says poor Phil, looking at his tattered handshoes, and red obtrusive thumb.

“Oh, you!" — (here Mrs. Baynes shrugs her yellow old shoulders.) “Your hands would burst through any gloves! How do you do, Mr. Hely! Is your mamma here? Of course she is! What a delightful party she gave us! The dear ambassadress looks quite unwell — most pleasing manners, I am sure; Lord Estridge, what a perfect gentleman!”

The Bayneses were just come. For what dance was Miss Baynes disengaged? “As many as ever you like!” cries Charlotte, who, in fact, called Hely her little dancing-master, and never thought of him except as a partner. “Oh, too much happiness! Oh, that this could last for ever!” sighed Hely, after a waltz, polka, mazurka, I know not what, and fixing on Charlotte the full blaze of his beauteous blue eyes. “For ever?” cries Charlotte, laughing. “I’m very fond of dancing, indeed; and you dance beautifully; but I don’t know that I should like to dance for ever.” Ere the words are over, he is whirling her round the room again. His little feet fly with surprising agility. His hair floats behind him. He scatters odours as he spins. The handkerchief with which he fans his pale brow is like a cloudy film of muslin — and poor old Philip sees with terror that his pocket-handkerchief has got three great holes in it. His nose and one eye appeared through one of the holes while Phil was wiping his forehead. It was very hot. He was very hot. He was hotter, though standing still, than young Hely who was dancing. “He! he! I compliment you on your gloves, and your handkerchief, I’m sure,” sniggers Mrs. Baynes, with a toss of her turban. Has it not been said that a bull is a strong, courageous, and noble animal, but that a bull in a china-shop is not in his place? “There you go. Thank you! I wish you’d go somewhere else,” cries Mrs. Baynes in a fury. Poor Philip’s foot has just gone through her flounce. How red he is! how much hotter than ever! There go Hely and Charlotte, whirling round like two operadancers! Philip grinds his teeth, he buttons his coat across his chest. How very tight it feels! How savagely his eyes glare! Do young men still look savage and solemn at balls? An ingenuous young Englishman ought to do that duty of dancing, of course. Society calls upon him. But I doubt whether he ought to look cheerful during the performance, or flippantly engage in so grave a matter.

As Charlotte’s sweet round face beamed smiles upon Philip over Hely’s shoulders, it looked so happy that he never thought of grudging her her pleasure: and happy he might have remained in this contemplation, regarding not the circle of dancers who were galloping and whirling on at their usual swift rate, but her, who was the centre of all joy and pleasure for him; — when suddenly a shrill voice was heard behind him, crying, “Get out of the way, hang you!” and suddenly there bounced against him Ringwood Twysden, pulling Miss Flora Trotter round the room, one of the most powerful and intrepid dancers of that season at Paris. They hurtled past Philip; they shot him forward against a pillar. He heard a screech, an oath, and another loud laugh from Twysden, and beheld the scowls of Miss Trotter as that rapid creature bumped at length into a place of safety.

I told you about Philip’s coat. It was very tight. The daylight had long been struggling to make an entry at the seams. As he staggered up against the wall, crack! went a great hole at his back; and crack! one of his gold buttons came off, leaving a rent in his chest. It was in those days when gold buttons still lingered on the breasts of some brave men, and we have said simple Philip still thought his coat a fine one.

There was not only a rent of the seam, there was not only a burst button, but there was also a rip in Philip’s rich cut-velvet waistcoat, with the gold sprigs, which he thought so handsome — a great, heartrending scar. What was to be done? Retreat was necessary. He told Miss Charlotte of the hurt he had received, whose face wore a very comical look of pity at his misadventure — he covered part of his wound with his gibus hat — and he thought he would try and make his way out by the garden of the hotel, which, of course, was illuminated, and bright, and crowded, but not so very bright and crowded as the saloons, galleries, supper-rooms, and halls of gilded light in which the company, for the most part, assembled.

So our poor wounded friend wandered into the garden, over which the moon was shining with the most blank indifference at the fiddling, feasting, and particoloured lamps. He says that his mind was soothed by the aspect of yonder placid moon and twinkling stars, and that he had altogether forgotten his trumpery little accident and torn coat and waistcoat: but I doubt about the entire truth of this statement, for there have been some occasions when he, Mr. Philip, has mentioned the subject, and owned that he was mortified and in a rage.

Well. He went into the garden: and was calming himself by contemplating the stars, when, just by that fountain where there is Pradier’s little statue of — Moses in the Bulrushes, let us say — round which there was a beautiful row of illuminated lamps, lighting up a great coronal of flowers, which my dear readers are at liberty to select and arrange according to their own exquisite taste; — near this little fountain he found three gentlemen talking together.

The high voice of one Philip could hear, and knew from old days. Ringwood Twysden, Esquire, always liked to talk and to excite himself with other persons’ liquor. He had been drinking the Sovereign’s health with great assiduity, I suppose, and was exceedingly loud and happy. With Ringwood was Mr. Woolcomb, whose countenance the lamps lit up in a fine lurid manner, and whose eyeballs gleamed in the twilight: and the third of the group was our young friend Mr. Lowndes.

“I owed him one, you see, Lowndes,” said Mr. Ringwood Twysden. “I hate the fellow! Hang him, always did! I saw the great hulkin brute standing there. Couldn’t help myself. Give you my honour, couldn’t help myself. I just drove Miss Trotter at him — sent her elbow well into him, and spun him up against the wall. The buttons cracked off the beggar’s coat, begad! What business had he there, hang him? Gad, sir, he made a cannon off an old woman in blue, and went into. . . .

Here Mr. Ringwood’s speech came to an end: for his cousin stood before him, grim and biting his mustachios.

“Hullo!” piped the other. “Who wants you to overhear my conversation? Dammy, I say! I . . . ”

Philip put out that hand with the torn glove. The glove was in a dreadful state of disruption now. He worked the hand well into his kinsman’s neck, and twisting Ringwood round into a proper position, brought that poor old broken boot so to bear upon the proper quarter, that Ringwood was discharged into the little font, and lighted amidst the flowers, and the water, and the oil-lamps, and made a dreadful mess and splutter amongst them. And as for Philip’s coat, it was torn worse than ever.

I don’t know how many of the brass buttons had revolted and parted company from the poor old cloth, which cracked, and split, and tore under the agitation of that beating angry bosom. I blush as I think of Mr. Firmin in this ragged state, a great rent all across his back, and his prostrate enemy lying howling in the water, amidst the sputtering, crashing oil-lamps at his feet. When Cinderella quitted her first ball, just after the clock struck twelve, we all know how shabby she looked. Philip was a still more disreputable object when he slunk away. I don’t know by what side door Mr. Lowndes eliminated him. He also benevolently took charge of Philip’s kinsman and antagonist, Mr. Ringwood Twysden. Mr. Twysden’s hands, coat-tails, were very much singed and scalded by the oil, and cut by the broken glass, which was all extracted at the Beaujon Hospital, but not without much suffering on the part of the patient. But though young Lowndes spoke up for Philip, in describing the scene (I fear not without laughter), his Excellency caused Mr. Firmin’s name to be erased from his party lists: and I am sure no sensible man will defend Philip’s conduct for a moment.

Of this lamentable fracas which occurred in the Hotel Garden, Miss Baynes and her parents had no knowledge for awhile. Charlotte was too much occupied with her dancing, which she pursued with all her might: papa was at cards with some sober male and female veterans: and mamma was looking with delight at her daughter, whom the young gentlemen of many embassies were charmed to choose for a partner. When Lord Headbury, Lord Estridge’s son, was presented to Miss Baynes, her mother was so elated that she was ready to dance too. I do not envy Mrs. Major MacWhirter, at Tours, the perusal of that immense manuscript in which her sister recorded the events of the ball. Here was Charlotte, beautiful, elegant, accomplished, admired everywhere, with young men, young noblemen of immense property and expectations, wild about her; and engaged by a promise to a rude, ragged, presumptuous, ill-bred young man, without a penny in the world — wasn’t it provoking? Ah, poor Philip! How that little sour, yellow mother-in-law elect did scowl at him when he came with rather a shamefaced look to pay his duty to his sweetheart on the day after the ball! Mrs. Baynes had caused her daughter to dress with extra smartness, had forbidden the poor child to go out, and coaxed her, and wheedled her, and dressed her with I know not what ornaments of her own, with a fond expectation that Lord Headbury, that the yellow young Spanish attaché, that the sprightly Prussian secretary, and Walsingham Hely, Charlotte’s partners at the ball, would certainly call; and the only equipage that appeared at Madame Smolensk’s gate was a hack cab, which drove up at evening, and out of which poor Philip’s well-known tattered boots came striding. Such a fond mother as Mrs. Baynes may well have been out of humour.

As for Philip, he was unusually shy and modest. He did not know in what light his friends would regard his escapade of the previous evening. He had been sitting at home all the morning in state, and in company with a Polish colonel, who lived in his hotel, and whom Philip had selected to be his second in case the battle of the previous night should have any suite. He had left that colonel in company with a bag of tobacco and an order for unlimited beer, whilst he himself ran up to catch a glimpse of his beloved. The Bayneses had not heard of the battle of the previous night. They were full of the ball, of Lord Estridge’s affability, of the Golconda ambassador’s diamonds, of the appearance of the royal princes who honoured the fête, of the most fashionable Paris talk in a word. Philip was scolded, snubbed, and coldly received by mamma; but he was used to that sort of treatment, and greatly relieved by finding that she was unacquainted with his own disorderly behaviour. He did not tell Charlotte about the quarrel; a knowledge of it might alarm the little maiden; and so for once our friend was discreet, and held his tongue.

But if he had any influence with the editor of Galignani’s Messenger, why did he not entreat the conductors of that admirable journal to forego all mention of the fracas at the embassy ball? Two days after the fête, I am sorry to say, there appeared a paragraph in the paper narrating the circumstances of the fight. And the guilty Philip found a copy of that paper on the table before Mrs. Baynes and the general when he came to the Champs Elysées according to his wont. Behind that paper sate Major-General Baynes, C. B., looking confused, and beside him his lady frowning like Rhadamanthus. But no Charlotte was in the room.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/adventures_of_philip/v2.8.html

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