The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XXVI

In which Colonel Newcome’s Horses are sold

At an hour early the next morning I was not surprised to see Colonel Newcome at my chambers, to whom Clive had communicated Bayham’s important news of the night before. The Colonel’s object, as any one who knew him need scarcely be told, was to rescue his brother-inlaw; and being ignorant of lawyers, sheriffs’-officers, and their proceedings, he bethought him that he would apply to Lamb Court for information, and in so far showed some prudence, for at least I knew more of the world and its ways than my simple client, and was enabled to make better terms for the unfortunate prisoner, or rather for Colonel Newcome, who was the real sufferer, than Honeyman’s creditors might otherwise have been disposed to give.

I thought it would be more prudent that our good Samaritan should not see the victim of rogues whom he was about to succour; and left him to entertain himself with Mr. Warrington in Lamb Court, while I sped to the lock-up house, where the Mayfair pet was confined. A sickly smile played over his countenance as he beheld me when I was ushered to his private room. The reverent gentleman was not shaved; he had partaken of breakfast. I saw a glass which had once contained brandy on the dirty tray whereon his meal was placed: a greasy novel from a Chancery Lane library lay on the table: but he was at present occupied in writing one or more of those great long letters, those laborious, ornate, eloquent statements, those documents so profusely underlined, in which the machinations of villains are laid bare with italic fervour; the coldness, to use no harsher phrase, of friends on whom reliance might have been placed; the outrageous conduct of Solomons; the astonishing failure of Smith to pay a sum of money on which he had counted as on the Bank of England; finally, the infallible certainty of repaying (with what heartfelt thanks need not be said) the loan of so many pounds next Saturday week at farthest. All this, which some readers in the course of their experience have read no doubt in many handwritings, was duly set forth by poor Honeyman. There was a wafer in a wine-glass on the table, and the bearer no doubt below to carry the missive. They always sent these letters by a messenger, who is introduced in the postscript; he is always sitting in the hall when you get the letter, and is “a young man waiting for an answer, please.”

No one can suppose that Honeyman laid a complete statement of his affairs before the negotiator who was charged to look into them. No debtor does confess all his debts, but breaks them gradually to his man of business, factor or benefactor, leading him on from surprise to surprise; and when he is in possession of the tailor’s little account, introducing him to the bootmaker. Honeyman’s schedule I felt perfectly certain was not correct. The detainees against him were trifling. “Moss of Wardour Street, one hundred and twenty — I believe I have paid him thousands in this very transaction,” ejaculates Honeyman. “A heartless West End tradesman hearing of my misfortune — all these people a linked together, my dear Pendennis, and rush like vultures upon their prey! — Waddilove, the tailor, has another writ out for ninety-eight pounds; a man whom I have made by my recommendations! Tobbins, the bootmaker, his neighbour in Jermyn Street, forty-one pounds more, and that is all — I give you my word, all. In a few months, when my pew-rents will be coming in, I should have settled with those cormorants; otherwise, my total and irretrievable ruin, and the disgrace and humiliation of a prison attends me. I know it; I can bear it; I have been wretchedly weak, Pendennis: I can say mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, and I can — bear — my — penalty.” In his finest moments he was never more pathetic. He turned his head away, and concealed it in a handkerchief not so white as those which veiled his emotions at Lady Whittlesea’s.

How by degrees this slippery penitent was induced to make other confessions; how we got an idea of Mrs. Ridley’s account from him, of his dealings with Mr. Sherrick, need not be mentioned here. The conclusion to which Colonel Newcome’s ambassador came was, that to help such a man would be quite useless; and that the Fleet Prison would be a most wholesome retreat for this most reckless divine. Ere the day was out, Messrs. Waddilove and Tobbins had conferred with their neighbour in St. James’s, Mr. Brace; and there came a detainer from that haberdasher for gloves, cravats, and pocket-handkerchiefs, that might have done credit to the most dandified young Guardsman. Mr. Warrington was on Mr. Pendennis’s side, and urged that the law should take its course. “Why help a man,” said he, “who will not help himself? Let the law sponge out the fellow’s debts; set him going again with twenty pounds when he quits the prison, and get him a chaplaincy in the Isle of Man.”

I saw by the Colonel’s grave kind face that these hard opinions did not suit him. “At all events, sir, promise us,” we said, “that you will pay nothing yourself — that you won’t see Honeyman’s creditors, and let people, who know the world better, deal with him.” “Know the world, young man!” cries Newcome; “I should think if I don’t know the world at my age, I never shall.” And if he had lived to be as old as Jahaleel, a boy could still have cheated him.

“I do not scruple to tell you,” he said, after a pause during which a plenty of smoke was delivered from the council of three, “that I have — a fund — which I had set aside for mere purposes of pleasure, I give you my word, and a part of which I shall think it my duty to devote to poor Honeyman’s distresses. The fund is not large. The money was intended, in fact:— however, there it is. If Pendennis will go round to these tradesmen, and make some composition with them, as their prices have been no doubt enormously exaggerated, I see no harm. Besides the tradesfolk, there is good Mrs. Ridley and Mr. Sherrick — we must see them; and, if we can, set this luckless Charles again on his legs. We have read of other prodigals who were kindly treated; and we may have debts of our own to forgive, boys.”

Into Mr. Sherrick’s account we had no need to enter. That gentleman had acted with perfect fairness by Honeyman. He laughingly said to us, “You don’t imagine I would lend that chap a shilling without security? I will give him fifty or a hundred. Here’s one of his notes, with What-do-you-call-‘ems — that rum fellow Bayham’s name as drawer. A nice pair, ain’t they? Pooh! I shall never touch ’em. I lent some money on the shop overhead,” says Sherrick, pointing to the ceiling (we were in his counting-house in the cellar of Lady Whittlesea’s Chapel), “because I thought it was a good speculation. And so it was at first. The people liked Honeyman. All the nobs came to hear him. Now the speculation ain’t so good. He’s used up. A chap can’t be expected to last for ever. When I first engaged Mademoiselle Bravura at my theatre, you couldn’t get a place for three weeks together. The next year she didn’t draw twenty pounds a week. So it was with Pottle and the regular drama humbug. At first it was all very well. Good business, good houses, our immortal bard, and that sort of game. They engaged the tigers and the French riding people over the way; and there was Pottle bellowing away in my place to the orchestra and the orders. It’s all a speculation. I’ve speculated in about pretty much everything that’s going: in theatres, in joint-stock jobs, in building-ground, in bills, in gas and insurance companies, and in this chapel. Poor old Honeyman! I won’t hurt him. About that other chap I put in to do the first business — that red-haired chap, Rawkins — I think I was wrong. I think he injured the property. But I don’t know everything, you know. I wasn’t bred to know about parsons — quite the reverse. I thought, when I heard Rawkins at Hampstead, he was just the thing. I used to go about, sir, just as I did to the provinces, when I had the theatre — Camberwell, Islington, Kennington, Clapton, all about, and hear the young chaps. Have a glass of sherry; and here’s better luck to Honeyman. As for that Colonel, he’s a trump, sir! I never see such a man. I have to deal with such a precious lot of rogues, in the City and out of it, among the swells and all, you know, that to see such a fellow refreshes me; and I’d do anything for him. You’ve made a good thing of that Pall Mall Gazette! I tried papers too; but mine didn’t do. I don’t know why. I tried a Tory one, moderate Liberal, and out-and-out uncompromising Radical. I say, what d’ye think of a religious paper, the Catechism, or some such name? Would Honeyman do as editor? I’m afraid it’s all up with the poor cove at the chapel.” And I parted with Mr. Sherrick, not a little edified by his talk, and greatly relieved as to Honeyman’s fate. The tradesmen of Honeyman’s body were appeased; and as for Mr. Moss, when he found that the curate had no effects, and must go before the Insolvent Court, unless Moss chose to take the composition which we were empowered to offer him, he too was brought to hear reason, and parted with the stamped paper on which was poor Honeyman’s signature. Our negotiation had like to have come to an end by Clive’s untimely indignation, who offered at one stage of the proceedings to pitch young Moss out of window; but nothing came of this most ungentlemanlike behaviour on Noocob’s part, further than remonstrance and delay in the proceedings; and Honeyman preached a lovely sermon at Lady Whittlesea’s the very next Sunday. He had made himself much liked in the sponging-house, and Mr. Lazarus said, “if he hadn’t a got out time enough, I’d a let him out for Sunday, and sent one of my men with him to show him the way ome, you know; for when a gentleman behaves as a gentleman to me, I behave as a gentleman to him.”

Mrs. Ridley’s account, and it was a long one, was paid without a single question, or the deduction of a farthing; but the Colonel rather sickened of Honeyman’s expressions of rapturous gratitude, and received his professions of mingled contrition and delight very coolly. “My boy,” says the father to Clive, “you see to what straits debt brings a man, to tamper with truth to have to cheat the poor. Think of flying before a washerwoman, or humbling yourself to a tailor, or eating a poor man’s children’s bread!” Clive blushed, I thought, and looked rather confused.

“Oh, father,” says he, “I— I’m afraid I owe some money too — not much; but about forty pound, five-and-twenty for cigars, and fifteen I borrowed of Pendennis, and — and I’ve been devilish annoyed about it all this time.”

“You stupid boy,” says the father “I knew about the cigars bill, and paid it last week. Anything I have is yours, you know. As long as there is a guinea, there is half for you. See that every shilling we owe is paid before — before a week is over. And go down and ask Binnie if I can see him in his study. I want to have some conversation with him.” When Clive was gone away, he said to me in a very sweet voice, “In God’s name, keep my boy out of debt when I am gone, Arthur. I shall return to India very soon.”

“Very soon, sir! You have another year’s leave,” said I.

“Yes, but no allowances, you know; and this affair of Honeyman’s has pretty nearly emptied the little purse I had set aside for European expenses. They have been very much heavier than I expected. As it is, I overdrew my account at my brother’s, and have been obliged to draw money from my agents in Calcutta. A year sooner or later (unless two of our senior officers had died, when I should have got my promotion and full colonel’s pay with it, and proposed to remain in this country)— a year sooner or later, what does it matter? Clive will go away and work at his art, and see the great schools of painting while I am absent. I thought at one time how pleasant it would be to accompany him. But l’homme propose, Pendennis. I fancy now a lad is not the better for being always tied to his parent’s apron-string. You young fellows are too clever for me. I haven’t learned your ideas or read your books. I feel myself very often an old damper in your company. I will go back, sir, where I have some friends, where I am somebody still. I know an honest face or two, white and brown, that will lighten up in the old regiment when they see Tom Newcome again. God bless you, Arthur. You young fellows in this country have such cold ways that we old ones hardly know how to like you at first. James Binnie and I, when we first came home, used to talk you over, and think you laughed at us. But you didn’t, I know. God Almighty bless you, and send you a good wife, and make a good man of you. I have bought a watch, which I would like you to wear in remembrance of me and my boy, to whom you were so kind when you were boys together in the old Grey Friars.” I took his hand, and uttered some incoherent words of affection and respect. Did not Thomas Newcome merit both from all who knew him?

His resolution being taken, our good Colonel began to make silent but effectual preparations for his coming departure. He was pleased during these last days of his stay to give me even more of his confidence than I had previously enjoyed, and was kind enough to say that he regarded me almost as a son of his own, and hoped I would act as elder brother and guardian to Clive. Ah! who is to guard the guardian? The younger brother had many nobler qualities than belonged to the elder. The world had not hardened Clive, nor even succeeded in spoiling him. I perceive I am diverging from his history into that of another person, and will return to the subject proper of the book.

Colonel Newcome expressed himself as being particularly touched and pleased with his friend Binnie’s conduct, now that the Colonel’s departure was determined. “James is one of the most generous of men, Pendennis, and I am proud to be put under an obligation to him, and to tell it too. I hired this house, as you are aware, of our speculative friend Mr. Sherrick, and am answerable for the payment of the rent till the expiry of the lease. James has taken the matter off my hands entirely. The place is greatly too large for him, but he says that he likes it, and intends to stay, and that his sister and niece shall be his housekeepers. Clive” (here, perhaps, the speaker’s voice drops a little) —“Clive will be the son of the house still, honest James says, and God bless him. James is richer than I thought by near a lakh of rupees — and here is a hint for you, Master Arthur. Mr. Binnie has declared to me in confidence that if his niece, Miss Rosey, shall marry a person of whom he approves, he will leave her a considerable part of his fortune.”

The Colonel’s confidant here said that his own arrangements were made in another quarter, to which statement the Colonel replied knowingly, “I thought so. A little bird has whispered to me the name of a certain Miss A. I knew her grandfather, an accommodating old gentleman, and I borrowed some money from him when I was a subaltern at Calcutta. I tell you in strict confidence, my dear young friend, that I hope and trust a certain young gentleman of your acquaintance may be induced to think how good and pretty and sweet-tempered a girl Miss Mackenzie is, and that she may be brought to like him. If you young men would marry in good time good and virtuous women — as I am sure — ahem! — Miss Amory is — half the temptations of your youth would be avoided. You would neither be dissolute, has many of you seem to me, or cold and selfish, which are worse vices still. And my prayer is, that my Clive may cast anchor early out of the reach of temptation, and mate with some such kind girl as Binnie’s niece. When I first came home I formed other plans for him which could not be brought to a successful issue; and knowing his ardent disposition, and having kept an eye on the young rogue’s conduct, I tremble lest some mischance with a woman should befall him, and long to have him out of danger.”

So the kind scheme of the two elders was, that their young ones should marry and be happy ever after, like the Prince and Princess of the Fairy Tale: and dear Mrs. Mackenzie (have I said that at the commencement of her visit to her brother she made almost open love to the Colonel?), dear Mrs. Mack was content to forgo her own chances so that her darling Rosey might be happy. We used to laugh and say, that as soon as Clive’s father was gone, Josey would be sent for to join Rosey. But little Josey being under her grandmother’s sole influence took most gratifying and serious turn; wrote letters, in which she questioned the morality of operas, Towers of London, and waxworks; and, before a year was out, married Elder Bogie, of Mr. M’Craw’s church.

Presently was to be read in the Morning Post an advertisement of the sale of three horses (the description and pedigree following), “the property of an officer returning to India. Apply to the groom, at the stables, 150 Fitzroy Square.”

The Court of Directors invited Lieutenant-Colonel Newcome to an entertainment given to Major-General Sir Ralph Spurrier, K.C.B., appointed Commander-inChief at Madras. Clive was asked to this dinner too, “and the governor’s health was drunk, sir,” Clive said, “after dinner, and the dear old fellow made such a good speech, in returning thanks!”

He, Clive, and I made a pilgrimage to Grey Friars, and had the Green to ourselves, it being the Bartlemytide vacation, and the boys all away. One of the good old Poor Brothers whom we both recollected accompanied us round the place; and we sate for a while in Captain Scarsdale’s little room (he had been a Peninsular officer, who had sold out, and was fain in his old age to retire into this calm retreat). And we talked, as old schoolmates and lovers talk, about subjects interesting to schoolmates and lovers only.

One by one the Colonel took leave of his friends, young and old; ran down to Newcome, and gave Mrs. Mason a parting benediction; slept a night at Tom Smith’s, and passed a day with Jack Brown; went to all the boys’ and girls’ schools where his little proteges were, so as to be able to take the very last and most authentic account of the young folks to their parents in India; spent a week at Marble Hill, and shot partridges there, but for which entertainment, Clive said, the place would have been intolerable; and thence proceeded to Brighton to pass a little time with good Miss Honeyman. As for Sir Brian’s family, when Parliament broke up, of course, they did not stay in town. Barnes, of course, had part of a moor in Scotland, whither his uncle and cousin did not follow him. The rest went abroad. Sir Brian wanted the waters of Aix-la-Chapelle. The brothers parted very good friends; Lady Anne, and all the young people, heartily wished him farewell. I believe Sir Brian even accompanied the Colonel downstairs from the drawing-room, in Park Lane, and actually came out and saw his brother into his cab (just as he would accompany old Lady Bagges when she came to look at her account at the bank, from the parlour to her carriage). But as for Ethel, she was not going to be put off with this sort of parting and the next morning a cab dashed up to Fitzroy Square, and a veiled lady came out thence, and was closeted with Colonel Newcome for five minutes, and when he led her back to the carriage there were tears in his eyes.

Mrs. Mackenzie joked about the transaction (having watched it from the dining-room windows), and asked the Colonel who his sweetheart was? Newcome replied very sternly, that he hoped no one would ever speak lightly of that young lady, whom he loved as his own daughter; and I thought Rosey looked vexed at the praises thus bestowed. This was the day before we all went down to Brighton. Miss Honeyman’s lodgings were taken for Mr. Binnie and his ladies. Clive and her dearest Colonel had apartments next door. Charles Honeyman came dawn and preached one of his very best sermons. Fred Bayham was there, and looked particularly grand and noble on the pier and the cliff. I am inclined to think he had had some explanation with Thomas Newcome, which had placed F. B. in a state of at least temporary prosperity. Whom did he not benefit whom he knew, and what eye that saw him did not bless him? F. B. was greatly affected at Charles’s sermon, of which our party of course could see the allusions. Tears actually rolled down his brown cheeks; for Fred was a man very easily moved, and, as it were, a softened sinner. Little Rosey and her mother sobbed audibly, greatly to the surprise of stout old Miss Honeyman, who had no idea of such watery exhibitions, and to the discomfiture of poor Newcome, who was annoyed to have his praises even hinted in that sacred edifice. Good Mr. James Binnie came for once to church; and, however variously their feelings might be exhibited or, repressed, I think there was not one of the little circle there assembled who did not bring to the place a humble prayer and a gentle heart. It was the last Sabbath-bell our dear friend was to hear for many a day on his native shore. The great sea washed the beach as we came out, blue with the reflection of the skies, and its innumerable waves crested with sunshine. I see the good man and his boy yet clinging to him, as they pace together by the shore.

The Colonel was very much pleased by a visit from Mr. Ridley and the communication which he made (my Lord Todmorden has a mansion and park in Sussex, whence Mr. Ridley came to pay his duty to Colonel Newcome). He said he “never could forget the kindness with which the Colonel have a treated him. His lordship have taken a young man, which Mr. Ridley had brought him up under his own eye, and can answer for him, Mr. R. says, with impunity; and which he is to be his lordship’s own man for the future. And his lordship have appointed me his steward, and having, as he always hev been, been most liberal in point of sellary. And me and Mrs. Ridley was thinking, sir, most respectfully, with regard to our son, Mr. John James Ridley — as good and honest a young man, which I am proud to say it, that if Mr. Clive goes abroad we should be most proud and happy if John James went with him. And the money which you have paid us so handsome, Colonel, he shall have it; which it was the excellent ideer of Miss Cann; and my lord have ordered a pictur of John James in the most libral manner, and have asked my son to dinner, sir, at his lordship’s own table, which I have faithfully served him five-and-thirty years.” Ridley’s voice fairly broke down at this part of his speech, which evidently was a studied composition, and he uttered no more of it, for the Colonel cordially shook him by the hand, and Clive jumped up clapping his, and saying that it was the greatest wish of his heart that J. J. and he should be companions in France and Italy. “But I did not like to ask my dear old father,” he said, “who has had so many calls on his purse, and besides, I knew that J. J. was too independent to come as my follower.”

The Colonel’s berth has been duly secured ere now. This time he makes the overland journey; and his passage is to Alexandria, taken in one of the noble ships of the Peninsular and Oriental Company. His kit is as simple as a subaltern’s; I believe, but for Clive’s friendly compulsion, he would have carried back no other than the old uniform which has served him for so many years. Clive and his father travelled to Southampton together by themselves. F. B. and I took the Southampton coach: we had asked leave to see the last of him, and say a “God bless you” to our dear old friend. So the day came when the vessel was to sail. We saw his cabin, and witnessed all the bustle and stir on board the good ship on a day of departure. Our thoughts, however, were fixed but on one person — the case, no doubt, with hundreds more on such a day. There was many a group of friends closing wistfully together on the sunny deck, and saying the last words of blessing and farewell. The bustle of the ship passes dimly round about them; the hurrying noise of crew and officers running on their duty; the tramp and song of the men at the capstan-bars; the bells ringing, as the hour for departure comes nearer and nearer, as mother and son, father and daughter, husband and wife, hold hands yet for a little while. We saw Clive and his father talking together by the wheel. Then they went below; and a passenger, her husband, asked me to give my arm to an almost fainting lady, and to lead her off the ship. Bayham followed us, carrying their two children in his arms, as the husband turned away and walked aft. The last bell was ringing, and they were crying, “Now for the shore.” The whole ship had begun to throb ere this, and its great wheels to beat the water, and the chimneys had flung out their black signals for sailing. We were as yet close on the dock, and we saw Clive coming up from below, looking very pale; the plank was drawn after him as he stepped on land.

Then, with three great cheers from the dock, and from the crew in the bows, and from the passengers on the quarter-deck, the noble ship strikes the first stroke of her destined race, and swims away towards the ocean. “There he is, there he is,” shouts Fred Bayham, waving his hat. “God bless him, God bless him!” I scarce perceived at the ship’s side, beckoning an adieu, our dear old friend, when the lady, whose husband had bidden me to lead her away from the ship, fainted in my arms. Poor soul! Her, too, has fate stricken. Ah, pangs of hearts torn asunder, passionate regrets, cruel, cruel partings! Shall you not end one day, ere many years; when the tears shall be wiped from all eyes, and there shall be neither sorrow nor pain?

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