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

Chapter 7

In which the Drawing Rooms are Not Furnished After All.

We cannot expect to be loved by a relative whom we have knocked into an illuminated pond, and whose coattails, pantaloons, nether limbs, and best feelings, we have lacerated with ill-treatment and broken glass. A man whom you have so treated behind his back will not be sparing of his punishment behind yours. Of course all the Twysdens, male and female, and Woolcomb, the dusky husband of Philip’s former love, hated and feared, and maligned him; and were in the habit of speaking of him as a truculent and reckless savage and monster, coarse and brutal in his language and behaviour, ragged, dirty and reckless in his personal appearance; reeking with smoke, perpetually reeling in drink, indulging in oaths, actions, laughter which rendered him intolerable in civilized society. The Twysdens, during Philip’s absence abroad, had been very respectful and assiduous in courting the new head of the Ringwood family. They had flattered Sir John, and paid court to my lady. They had been welcomed at Sir John’s houses in town and country. They had adopted his politics in a great measure, as they had adopted the politics of the deceased peer. They had never lost an opportunity of abusing poor Philip and of ingratiating themselves. They had never refused any invitation from Sir John in town or country, and had ended by utterly boring him and Lady Ringwood and the Ringwood family in general. Lady Ringwood learned somewhere how pitilessly Mrs. Woolcomb had jilted her cousin when a richer suitor appeared in the person of the West Indian. Then news came how Philip had administered a beating to Woolcomb, to young Twysden, to a dozen who set on him. The early prejudices began to pass away. A friend or two of Philip’s told Ringwood how he was mistaken in the young man, and painted a portrait of him in colours much more favourable than those which his kinsfolk employed. Indeed, dear relations, if the public wants to know our little faults and errors, I think I know who will not grudge the requisite information. Dear Aunt Candour, are you not still alive, and don’t you know what we had for dinner yesterday, and the amount (monstrous extravagance!) of the washerwoman’s bill?

Well, the Twysden family so bespattered poor Philip with abuse, and represented him as a monster of such hideous mien, that no wonder the Ringwoods avoided him. They then began to grow utterly sick and tired of his detractors. And then Sir John, happening to talk with his brother Member of Parliament, Tregarvan, in the House of Commons, heard quite a different story regarding our friend to that with which the Twysdens had regaled him, and, with no little surprise on Sir John’s part, was told by Tregarvan how honest, rough, worthy, affectionate and gentle this poor maligned fellow was; how he had been sinned against by his wretch of a father, whom he had forgiven and actually helped out of his wretched means; and how he was making a brave battle against poverty, and had a sweet little loving wife and child, whom every kind heart would willingly strive to help. Because people are rich they are not of necessity ogres. Because they are born gentlemen and ladies of good degree, are in easy circumstances, and have a generous education, it does not follow that they are heartless and will turn their back on a friend. Moi qui vous parle — I have been in a great strait of sickness near to death, and the friends who came to help me with every comfort, succour, sympathy, were actually gentlemen, who lived in good houses, and had a good education. They didn’t turn away because I was sick, or fly from me because they thought I was poor; on the contrary, hand, purse, succour, sympathy were ready, and praise be to heaven. And so too did Philip find help when he needed it, and succour when he was in poverty. Tregarvan, we will own, was a pompous little man, his House of Commons speeches were dull, and his written documents awfully slow; but he had a kind heart: he was touched by that picture which Laura drew of the young man’s poverty, and honesty, and simple hopefulness in the midst of hard times: and we have seen how the European Review was thus entrusted to Mr. Philip’s management. Then some artful friends of Philip’s determined that he should be reconciled to his relations, who were well to do in the world, and might serve him. And I wish, dear reader, that your respectable relatives and mine would bear this little paragraph in mind and leave us both handsome legacies. Then Tregarvan spoke to Sir John Ringwood, and that meeting was brought about, where, for once at least, Mr. Philip quarrelled with nobody.

And now came another little piece of good luck, which, I suppose, must be attributed to the same kind friend who had been scheming for Philip’s benefit, and who is never so happy as when her little plots for her friend’s benefit can be made to succeed. Yes: when that arch jobber — don’t tell me; — I never knew a woman worth a pin who wasn’t — when that archjobber, I say, has achieved a job by which some friend is made happy, her eyes and cheeks brighten with triumph. Whether she has put a sick man into a hospital, or got a poor woman a family’s washing, or made a sinner repent and return to wife, husband, or what not, that woman goes off and pays her thanks, where thanks are due, with such fervour, with such lightsomeness, with such happiness, that I assure you she is a sight to behold. Hush! When one sinner is saved, who are glad? Some of us know a woman or two pure as angels — know, and are thankful.

When the person about whom I have been prattling has one of her benevolent jobs in hand, or has completed it, there is a sort of triumph and mischief in her manner, which I don’t know otherwise how to describe. She does not understand my best jokes at this period, or answers them at random, or laughs very absurdly and vacantly. She embraces her children wildly, and, at the most absurd moments, is utterly unmindful when they are saying their lessons, prattling their little questions, and so forth. I recal all these symptoms (and put this and that together, as the saying is) as happening on one especial day, at the commencement of Easter Term, eighteen hundred and never mind what — as happening on one especial morning when this lady had been astoundingly distraite and curiously excited. I now remember, how during her children’s dinner-time, she sat looking into the square out of her window, and scarcely attending to the little innocent cries for mutton which the children were offering up.

At last there was a rapid clank over the pavement, a tall figure passed the parlour windows, which, our kind friends know, look into Queen Square, and then came a loud ring at the bell, and I thought the mistress of the house gave an ah — a sigh — as though her heart was relieved.

The street door was presently opened, and then the dining-room door, and Philip walks in with his hat on, his blue eyes staring before him, his hair flaming about, and “La, uncle Philip!” cry the children. “What have you done to yourself? You have shaved off your moustache.” And so he had, I declare!

“I say, Pen, look here! This has been left at chambers; and Cassidy has sent it on by his clerk,” our friend said. I forget whether it has been stated that Philip’s name still remained on the door of those chambers in Parchment Buildings, where we once heard his song of “Doctor Luther,” and were present at his call-supper.

The document which Philip produced was actually a brief. The papers were superscribed, “In Parliament, Polwheedle and Tredyddlum Railway. To support bill, Mr. Firmin; retainer, five guineas; brief, fifty guineas; consultation, five guineas. With you Mr. Armstrong, Sir J. Whitworth, Mr. Pinkerton.” Here was a wonder of wonders! A shower of gold was poured out on my friend. A light dawned upon me. The proposed bill was for a Cornish line. Our friend Tregarvan was concerned in it, the line passing through his property, and my wife had canvassed him privately, and by her wheedling and blandishments had persuaded Tregarvan to use his interest with the agents and get Philip this welcome aid.

Philip eyed the paper with a queer expression. He handled it as some men handle a baby. He looked as if he did not know what to do with it, and as if he should like to drop it. I believe I made some satirical remark to this effect as I looked at our friend with his paper.

“He holds a child beautifully,” said my wife with much enthusiasm; “much better than some people who laugh at him.”

“And he will hold this no doubt much to his credit. May this be the father of many briefs. May you have bags full of them!” Philip had all our good wishes. They did not cost much, or avail much, but they were sincere. I know men who can’t for the lives of them give even that cheap coin of good will, but hate their neighbours’ prosperity, and are angry with them when they cease to be dependent and poor.

We have said how Cassidy’s astonished clerk had brought the brief from chambers to Firmin at his lodgings at Mrs. Brandon’s in Thornhaugh Street. Had a bailiff served him with a writ, Philip could not have been more surprised, or in a greater tremor. A brief? Grands Dieux! What was he to do with a brief? He thought of going to bed, and being ill, of flying from home, country, family. Brief? Charlotte, of course, seeing her husband alarmed, began to quake too. Indeed, if his worship’s finger aches, does not her whole body suffer? But Charlotte’s and Philip’s constant friend, the Little Sister, felt no such fear. “Now there’s this opening, you must take it, my dear,” she said. “Suppose you don’t know much about law — ” “Much! nothing,” interposed Philip. “You might ask me to play the piano; but as I never happened to have learned — ”

“La — don’t tell me! You mustn’t show a faint heart. Take the business, and do it best you can. You’ll do it better next time, and next. The Bar’s a gentleman’s business. Don’t I attend a judge’s lady, which I remember her with her first in a little bit of a house in Bernard Street, Russell Square; and now haven’t I been to her in Eaton Square, with a butler, and two footmen, and carriages ever so many? You may work on at your newspapers, and get a crust, and when you’re old, and if you quarrel — and you have a knack of quarrelling — he has, Mrs. Firmin. I knew him before you did. Quarrelsome he is, and he will be, though you think him an angel, to be sure. — Suppose you quarrel with your newspaper masters, and your reviews, and that, you lose your place? A gentleman like Mr. Philip oughtn’t to have a master. I couldn’t bear to think of your going down of a Saturday to the publishing office to get your wages like a workman.”

“But I am a workman,” interposes Philip.

“La! But do you mean to remain one for ever? I would rise, if I was a man!” said the intrepid little woman; “I would rise, or I’d know the reason why. Who knows how many in family you’re going to be? I’d have more spirit than to live in a second floor — I would!”

And the Little Sister said this, though she clung round Philip’s child with a rapture of fondness which she tried in vain to conceal; though she felt that to part from it would be to part from her life’s chief happiness; though she loved Philip as her own son: and Charlotte — well, Charlotte for Philip’s sake — as women love other women.

Charlotte came to her friends in Queen Square, and told us of the resolute Little Sister’s advice and conversation. She knew that Mrs. Brandon only loved her as something belonging to Philip. She admired this Little Sister; and trusted her; and could afford to bear that little somewhat scornful domination which Brandon exercised. “She does not love me, because Philip does,” Charlotte said. “Do you think I could like her, or any woman, if I thought Philip loved them? I could kill them, Laura, that I could!” And at this sentiment I imagine daggers shooting out of a pair of eyes that were ordinarily very gentle and bright.

Not having been engaged in the case in which Philip had the honour of first appearing, I cannot enter into particulars regarding it, but am sure that case must have been uncommonly strong in itself, which could survive such an advocate. He passed a frightful night of torture before appearing in committee room. During that night, he says, his hair grew grey. His old college friend and comrade Pinkerton, who was with him in the case, “coached” him on the day previous; and indeed it must be owned that the work which he had to perform was not of a nature to impair the inside or the outside of his skull. A great man was his leader; his friend Pinkerton followed; and all Mr. Philip’s business was to examine a half-dozen witnesses by questions previously arranged between them and the agents.

When you hear that, as a reward of his services in this case, Mr. Firmin received a sum of money sufficient to pay his modest family expenses for some four months, I am sure, dear and respected literary friends, that you will wish the lot of a parliamentary barrister had been yours, or that your immortal works could be paid with such a liberality as rewards the labours of these lawyers. “Nimmer erscheinen die Götter allein.” After one agent had employed Philip, another came and secured his valuable services: him two or three others followed, and our friend postively had money in bank. Not only were apprehensions of poverty removed for the present, but we had every reason to hope that Firmin’s prosperity would increase and continue. And when a little son and heir was born, which blessing was conferred upon Mr. Philip about a year after his daughter, our godchild, saw the light, we should have thought it shame to have any misgivings about the future, so cheerful did Philip’s prospects appear. “Did I not tell you,” said my wife, with her usual kindling romance, “that comfort and succour would be found for these in the hour of their need?” Amen. We were grateful that comfort and succour should come. No one I am sure was more humbly thankful than Philip himself for the fortunate chances which befel him.

He was alarmed rather than elated by his sudden prosperity. “It can’t last,” he said. “Don’t tell me. The attorneys must find me out before long. They cannot continue to give their business to such an ignoramus; and I really think I must remonstrate with them.” You should have seen the Little Sister’s indignation when Philip uttered this sentiment in her presence. “Give up your business? Yes, do!” she cried, tossing up Philip’s youngest born. “Fling this baby out of window, why not indeed, which heaven has sent it you! — You ought to go down on your knees and ask pardon for having thought anything so wicked.” Philip’s heir, by the way, immediately on his entrance into the world, had become the prime favourite of this unreasoning woman. The little daughter was passed over as a little person of no account, and so began to entertain the passion of jealousy at almost the very earliest age at which even the female breast is capable of enjoying it.

And though this Little Sister loved all these people with an almost ferocious passion of love, and lay awake, I believe, hearing their infantine cries, or crept on stealthy feet in darkness to their mother’s chamber-door, behind which they lay sleeping; though she had, as it were, a range for these infants, and was wretched out of their sight, yet, when a third and a fourth brief came to Philip, and he was enabled to put a little money aside, nothing would content Mrs. Brandon but that he should go into a house of his own. “A gentleman,” she said, “ought not to live in a two-pair lodging; he ought to have a house of his own.” So, you see, she hastened on the preparations for her own execution. She trudged to the brokers’ shops and made wonderful bargains of furniture. She cut chintzes, and covered sofas, and sewed, and patched, and fitted. She found a house and took it — Milman Street, Guildford Street, opposite the Fondling (as the dear little soul called it), a most genteel, quiet little street, “and quite near for me to come,” she said, “to see my dears.” Did she speak with dry eyes? Mine moisten sometimes when I think of the faith, of the generosity, of the sacrifice, of that devoted, loving creature.

I am very fond of Charlotte. Her sweetness and simplicity won all our hearts at home. No wife or mother ever was more attached and affectionate; but I own there was a time when I hated her, though of course that highly principled woman, the wife of the author of the present memoirs, says that the statement I am making here is stuff and nonsense, not to say immoral and irreligious. Well, then, I hated Charlotte for the horrible eagerness which she showed in getting away from this Little Sister, who clung round those children, whose first cries she had heard. I hated Charlotte for a cruel happiness which she felt as she hugged the children to her heart: her own children in their own room, whom she would dress, and watch, and wash, and tend; and for whom she wanted no aid. No aid, entendez-vous? Oh, it was a shame, a shame! In the new house, in the pleasant little trim new nursery (fitted up by whose fond hands we will not say), is the mother glaring over the cot, where the little soft round cheeks are pillowed; and yonder in the rooms in Thornhaugh Street, where she has tended them for two years, the Little Sister sits lonely, as the moonlight streams in. God help thee, little suffering, faithful heart! Never but once in her life before had she known so exquisite a pain.

Of course, we had an entertainment in the new house; and Philip’s friends, old and new, came to the house-warming. The family coach of the Ringwoods blocked up that astonished little street. The powder on their footmen’s heads nearly brushed the ceiling, as the monsters rose when the guests passed in and out of the hall. The Little Sister merely took charge of the tea-room. Philip’s ‘library’ was that usual little cupboard beyond the dining-room. The little drawing-room was dreadfully crowded by an ex-nursery piano, which the Ringwoods bestowed upon their friends; and somebody was in duty bound to play upon it on the evening of this soirée; though the Little Sister chafed downstairs at the music. In fact, her very words were “Rat that piano!” She “ratted” the instrument, because the music would wake her little dears upstairs. And that music did wake them; and they howled melodiously, and the Little Sister, who was about to serve Lady Jane Tregarvan with some tea, dashed upstairs to the nursery: and Charlotte had reached the room already: and she looked angry when the Little Sister came in: and she said, “I am sure, Mrs. Brandon, the people downstairs will be wanting their tea;” and she spoke with some asperity. And Mrs. Brandon went downstairs without one word; and, happening to be on the landing, conversing with a friend, and a little out of the way of the duet which the Miss Ringwoods were performing — riding their great old horse, as it were, and putting it through its paces in Mrs. Firmin’s little paddock; happening, I say, to be on the landing when Caroline passed, I took a hand as cold as stone, and never saw a look of grief more tragic than that worn by her poor little face as it passed. “My children cried,” she said, “and I went up to the nursery. But she don’t want me there now.” Poor Little Sister! She humbled herself and grovelled before Charlotte. You could not help trampling upon her then, madam; and I hated you — and a great number of other women. Ridley and I went down to her tea-room, where Caroline resumed her place. She looked very nice and pretty, with her pale sweet face, and her neat cap and blue ribbon. Tortures I know she was suffering. Charlotte had been stabbing her. Women will use the edge sometimes, and drive the steel in. Charlotte said to me, some time afterwards, “I was jealous of her, and you were right; and a dearer, more faithful creature never lived.” But who told Charlotte I said she was jealous? O fool! I told Ridley, and Mr. Ridley told Mrs. Firmin.

If Charlotte stabbed Caroline, Caroline could not help coming back again and again to the knife. On Sundays, when she was free, there was always a place for her at Philip’s modest table; and when Mrs. Philip went to church, Caroline was allowed to reign in the nursery. Sometimes Charlotte was generous enough to give Mrs. Brandon this chance. When Philip took a house — a whole house to himself — Philip’s mother-in-law proposed to come and stay with him, and said that, wishing to be beholden to no one, she would pay for her board and lodging. But Philip declined this treat, representing, justly, that his present house was no bigger than his former lodgings. “My poor love is dying to have me,” Mrs. Baynes remarked on this. “But her husband is so cruel to her, and keeps her under such terror, that she dares not call her life her own.” Cruel to her! Charlotte was the happiest of the happy in her little house. In consequence of his parliamentary success, Philip went regularly to chambers now, in the fond hope that more briefs might come. At chambers he likewise conducted the chief business of his Review: and, at the accustomed hour of his return, that usual little procession of mother and child and nurse would be seen on the watch for him; and the young woman — the happiest young woman in Christendom — would walk back clinging on her husband’s arm.

All this while letters came from Philip’s dear father at New York, where, it appeared, he was engaged not only in his profession, but in various speculations, with which he was always about to make his fortune. One day Philip got a newspaper advertising a new insurance company, and saw, to his astonishment, the announcement of “Counsel in London, Philip Firmin, Esq., Parchment Buildings, Temple.” A paternal letter promised Philip great fees out of this insurance company, but I never heard that poor Philip was any the richer. In fact, his friends advised him to have nothing to do with this insurance company, and to make no allusion to it in his letters. “They feared the Danai, and the gifts they brought,” as old Firmin would have said. They had to impress upon Philip an abiding mistrust of that wily old Greek, his father. Firmin senior always wrote hopefully and magnificently, and persisted in believing or declaring that ere very long he should have to announce to Philip that his fortune was made. He speculated in Wall Street, I don’t know in what shares, inventions, mines, railways. One day, some few months after his migration to Milman Street, Philip, blushing and hanging down his head, had to tell me that his father had drawn upon him again. Had he not paid up his shares in a certain mine, they would have been forfeited, and he and his son after him would have lost a certain fortune, old Danaus said. I fear an artful, a long-bow-pulling Danaus. What, shall a man have birth, wealth, friends, high position, and end so that we dare not leave him alone in the room with our spoons? “And you have paid this bill which the old man drew?” we asked. Yes, Philip had paid the bill. He vowed he would pay no more. But it was not difficult to see that the doctor would draw more bills upon this accommodating banker. “I dread the letters which begin with a flourish about the fortune which he is just going to make,” Philip said. He knew that the old parent prefaced his demands for money in that way.

Mention has been made of a great medical discovery which he had announced to his correspondent, Mrs. Brandon, and by which the doctor declared as usual that he was about to make a fortune. In New York and Boston he had tried experiments which had been attended with the most astonishing success. A remedy was discovered, the mere sale of which in Europe and America must bring an immense revenue to the fortunate inventors. For the ladies whom Mrs. Brandon attended, the remedy was of priceless value. He would send her some. His friend, Captain Morgan, of the Southampton packet-ship, would bring her some of this astonishing medicine. Let her try it. Let her show the accompanying cases to Doctor Goodenough — to any of his brother physicians in London. Though himself an exile from his country, he loved it, and was proud in being able to confer upon it one of the greatest blessings with which science had endowed mankind.

Goodenough, I am sorry to say, had such a mistrust of his confrère that he chose to disbelieve any statement Firmin made. “I don’t believe, my good Brandon, the fellow has nous enough to light upon any scientific discovery more useful than a new sauce for cutlets. He invent anything but fibs, never!” You see this Goodenough is an obstinate old heathen; and when he has once found reason to mistrust a man, he for ever after declines to believe him.

However, the doctor is a man for ever on the lookout for more knowledge of his profession, and for more remedies to benefit mankind: he hummed and ha’d over the pamphlet, as the Little Sister sat watching him in his study. He clapped it down after a while, and slapped his hands on his little legs as his wont is. “Brandon,” he says, “I think there is a great deal in it, and I think so the more because it turns out that Firmin has nothing to do with the discovery, which has been made at Boston.” In fact, Dr. Firmin, late of London, had only been present in the Boston hospital, where the experiments were made with the new remedy. He had cried “Halves,” and proposed to sell it as a secret remedy, and the bottle which he forwarded to our friend the Little Sister was labelled “Firmin’s Anodyne.” What Firmin did, indeed, was what he had been in the habit of doing. He had taken another man’s property, and was endeavouring to make a flourish with it. The Little Sister returned home, then, with her bottle of Chloroform — for this was what Dr. Firmin chose to call his discovery, and he had sent home a specimen of it; as he sent home a cask of petroleum from Virginia; as he sent proposals for new railways upon which he promised Philip a munificent commission, if his son could but place the shares amongst his friends.

And with regard to these valuables, the sanguine doctor got to believe that he really was endowing his son with large sums of money. “My boy has set up a house, and has a wife and two children, the young jackanapes!” he would say to people in New York; “as if he had not been extravagant enough in former days! When I married, I had private means, and married a nobleman’s niece with a large fortune. Nither of these two young folks has a penny. Well, well, the old father must help them as well as he can!” And I am told there were ladies who dropped the tear of sensibility, and said, “What a fond father this doctor is! How he sacrifices himself for that scapegrace of a son! Think of the dear doctor at his age, toiling cheerfully for that young man, who helped to ruin him!” And Firmin sighed; and passed a beautiful white handkerchief over his eyes with a beautiful white hand; and, I believe, really cried; and thought himself quite a good, affectionate, injured man. He held the plate at Church; he looked very handsome and tall, and bowed with a charming melancholy grace to the ladies as they put in their contributions. The dear man! His plate was fuller than other people’s — so a traveller told us who saw him in New York; and described a very choice dinner which the doctor gave to a few friends, at one of the smartest hotels just then opened.

With all the Little Sister’s good management Mr. and Mrs. Philip were only able to instal themselves in their new house at a considerable expense, and beyond that great Ringwood piano which swaggered in Philip’s little drawing-room, I am constrained to say that there was scarce any furniture at all. One of the railway accounts was not paid as yet, and poor Philip could not feed upon mere paper promises to pay. Nor was he inclined to accept the offers of private friends, who were willing enough to be his bankers. “One in a family is enough for that kind of business,” he said, gloomily; and it came out that again and again the interesting exile at New York who was deploring his son’s extravagance and foolish marriage, had drawn bills upon Philip which our friend accepted and paid — bills, who knows to what amount? He has never told; and the engaging parent who robbed him — must I use a word so unpolite? — will never now tell to what extent he helped himself to Philip’s small means. This I know, that when autumn came — when September was past — we in our cosy little retreat at the seaside received a letter from the Little Sister, in her dear little bad spelling, (about which there used to be somehow a pathos which the very finest writing does not possess;) — there came, I say, a letter from the Little Sister in which she told us, with many dashes, that dear Mrs. Philip and the children were pining and sick in London, and ‘that Philip, he had too much pride and sperit to take money from any one; that Mr. Tregarvan was away travelling on the continent, and that wretch — that monster, you know who — have drawn upon Philip again for money, and again he have paid, and the dear, dear children can’t have fresh air.’

“Did she tell you,” said Philip, brushing his hands across his eyes when a friend came to remonstrate with him, “did she tell you that she brought me money herself, but we would not use it? Look! I have her little marriage gift yonder in my desk, and pray God I shall be able to leave it to my children. The fact is, the doctor has drawn upon me, as usual; he is going to make a fortune next week. I have paid another bill of his. The parliamentary agents are out of town, at their moors in Scotland, I suppose. The air of Russell Square is uncommonly wholesome, and when the babies have had enough of that, why, they must change it for Brunswick Square. Talk about the country! what country can be more quiet than Guildford Street in September? I stretch out of a morning, and breathe the mountain-air on Ludgate Hill.” And with these dismal pleasantries and jokes our friend chose to put a good face upon bad fortune. The kinsmen of Ringwood offered hospitality kindly enough, but how was poor Philip to pay railway expenses for servants, babies, and wife? In this strait Tregarvan from abroad, having found out some monstrous design of Russ — of the Great Power of which he stood in daily terror, and which, as we are in strict amity with that Power, no other Power shall induce me to name — Tregarvan wrote to his editor, and communicated to him in confidence a most prodigious and nefarious plot against the liberties of all the rest of Europe, in which the Power in question was engaged, and in a postscript added, “By the way, the Michaelmas quarter is due, and I send you a cheque,” O precious postscript!

“Didn’t I tell you it would be so?” said my wife, with a self-satisfied air. “Was I not certain that succour would come?”

And succour did come, sure enough; and a very happy little party went down to Brighton in a second-class carriage, and got an extraordinarily cheap lodging, and the roses came back to the little pale cheeks, and mamma was wonderfully invigorated and refreshed, as all her friends could have seen when the little family came back to town, only there was such a thick dun fog that it was impossible to see complexions at all.

When the shooting season was come to an end, the parliamentary agents who had employed Philip, came back to London; and, I am happy to say, gave him a cheque for his little account. My wife cried, “Did I not tell you so?” more than ever. “Is not everything for the best? I knew dear Philip would prosper!”

Everything was for the best, was it? Philip was sure to prosper, was he? What do you think of the next news which the poor fellow brought to us? One night in December he came to us, and I saw by his face that some event of importance had befallen him.

“I am almost heart-broken,” he said, thumping on the table when the young ones had retreated from it. “I don’t know what to do. I have not told you all. I have paid four bills for him already, and now he has — he has signed my name.”

“Who has?”

“He at New York. You know,” said poor Philip. “I tell you he has put my name on a bill, and without my authority.”

“Gracious heavens! You mean your father has for — ” I could not say the word.

“Yes,” groaned Philip. “Here is a letter from him;” and he handed a letter across the table in the doctor’s well-known handwriting.

“Dearest Philip,” the father wrote, “a sad misfortune has befallen me, which I had hoped to conceal, or at any rate, to avert from my dear son.” For you, Philip, are a participator in that misfortune through the imprudence — must I say it? — of your father. Would I had struck off the hand which has done the deed, ere it had been done! But the fault has taken wings and flown out of my reach. Immeritus, dear boy, you have to suffer for the delicta majorum. Ah, that a father should have to own his fault; to kneel and ask pardon of his son!

“I am engaged in many speculations. Some have succeeded beyond my wildest hopes: some have taken in the most rational, the most prudent, the least sanguine of our capitalists in Wall Street, and promising the greatest results have ended in the most extreme failure! To meet a call in an undertaking which seemed to offer the MOST CERTAIN PROSPECTS of success, which seemed to promise a fortune for me and my boy, and your dear children, I put in amongst other securities which I had to realize on a sudden, a bill, on which I used your name. I dated it as drawn six months back by me at New York, on you at Parchment Buildings, Temple; and I wrote your acceptance, as though the signature were yours. I give myself up to you. I tell you what I have done. Make the matter public. Give my confession to the world, as here I write, and sign it, and your father is branded for ever to the world as a — Spare me the word!”

“As I live, as I hope for your forgiveness, long ere that bill became due — it is at five months’ date, for 386l. 4s. 3d. value received, and dated from the Temple, on the fourth of July — I passed it to one who promised to keep it until I myself should redeem it! The commission which he charged me was enormous, rascally; and not content with the immense interest which he extorted from me, the scoundrel has passed the bill away, and it is in Europe, in the hands of an enemy.”

“You remember Tufton Hunt? Yes. You most justly chastised him. The wretch lately made his detested appearance in this city, associated with the lowest of the base, and endeavoured to resume his old practice of threats, cajoleries, and extortions! In a fatal hour the villain heard of the bill of which I have warned you. He purchased it from the gambler, to whom it had been passed. As New York was speedily too hot to hold him (for the unhappy man has even left me to pay his hotel score) he has fled — and fled to Europe — taking with him that fatal bill, which he says he knows you will pay. Ah! dear Philip, if that bill were but once out of the wretch’s hands! What sleepless hours of agony should I be spared! I pray you, I implore you, make every sacrifice to meet it! You will not disown it? No. As you have children of your own — as you love them — you would not willingly let them have a dishonoured”

“Father.”

“I have a share in a great medical discovery, [Note: Æther was first employed, I believe, in America: and I hope the reader will excuse the substitution of Chloroform in this instance. —

W. M. T.

] regarding which I have written to our friend, Mrs. Brandon, and which is sure to realize an immense profit, as introduced into England by a physician so well known — may I not say professionally? respected as myself. The very first profits resulting from that discovery I promise, on my honour, to devote to you. They will very soon far more than repay the loss which my imprudence has brought on my dear boy. Farewell! Love to your wife and little ones. — G. B. F.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/adventures_of_philip/v3.7.html

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