The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XXX

A Retreat

As Clive lay awake revolving the strange incidents of the day, and speculating upon the tragedy in which he had been suddenly called to take a certain part, a sure presentiment told him that his own happy holiday was come to an end, and that the clouds and storm which he had always somehow foreboded, were about to break and obscure this brief pleasant period of sunshine. He rose at a very early hour, flung his windows open, looked out no doubt towards those other windows in the neighbouring hotel, where he may have fancied he saw a curtain stirring, drawn by a hand that every hour now he longed more to press. He turned back into his chamber with a sort of groan, and surveyed some of the relics of the last night’s little feast, which still remained on the table. There were the champagne-flasks which poor Jack Belsize had emptied, the tall seltzer-water bottle, from which the gases had issued and mingled with the hot air of the previous night’s talk; glasses with dregs of liquor, ashes of cigars, or their black stumps, strewing the cloth; the dead men, the burst guns of yesterday’s battle. Early as it was, his neighbour J. J had been up before him. Clive could hear him singing as was his wont when the pencil went well, and the colours arranged themselves to his satisfaction over his peaceful and happy work.

He pulled his own drawing-table to the window, set out his board and colour-box, filled a great glass from the seltzer-water bottle, drank some of the vapid liquor, and plunged his brushes in the rest, with which he began to paint. The work all went wrong. There was no song for him over his labour; he dashed brush and board aside after a while, opened his drawers, pulled out his portmanteaus from under the bed, and fell to packing mechanically. J. J. heard the noise from the next room, and came in smiling, with a great painting-brush in his mouth.

“Have the bills in, J. J.,” says Clive. “Leave your cards on your friends, old boy; say good-bye to that pretty little strawberry-girl whose picture you have been doing; polish it off today, and dry the little thing’s tears. I read P.P.C. in the stars last night, and my familiar spirit came to me in a vision, and said, ‘Clive, son of Thomas, put thy travelling-boots on.’”

Lest any premature moralist should prepare to cry fie against the good, pure-minded little J. J., I hereby state that his strawberry-girl was a little village maiden of seven years old, whose sweet little picture a bishop purchased at the next year’s Exhibition.

“Are you going already?” cries J. J., removing the bit out of his mouth. “I thought you had arranged parties for a week to come, and that the princesses and the duchesses had positively forbidden the departure of your lordship!”

“We have dallied at Capua long enough,” says Clive; “and the legions have the route for Rome. So wills Hannibal, the son of Hasdrubal.”

“The son of Hasdrubal is quite right,” his companion answered; “the sooner we march the better. I have always said it; I will get all the accounts in. Hannibal has been living like a voluptuous Carthaginian prince. One, two, three champagne-bottles! There will be a deuce of a bill to pay.”

“Ah! there will be a deuce of a bill to pay,” says Clive, with a groan whereof J. J. knew the portent; for the young men had the confidence of youth one in another. Clive was accustomed to pour out his full heart to any crony who was near him; and indeed had he spoken never a word, his growing attachment to his cousin was not hard to see. A hundred times, and with the glowing language and feelings of youth, with the fire of his twenty years, with the ardour of a painter, he had spoken of her and described her. Her magnanimous simplicity, her courage and lofty scorn, her kindness towards her little family, her form, her glorious colour of rich carnation and dazzling white, her queenly grace when quiescent and in motion, had constantly formed the subjects of this young gentleman’s ardent eulogies. As he looked at a great picture or statue, as the Venus of Milo, calm and deep, unfathomably beautiful as the sea from which she sprung; as he looked at the rushing Aurora of the Rospigliosi, or the Assumption of Titian, more bright and glorious than sunshine, or that divine Madonna and divine Infant, of Dresden, whose sweet faces must have shone upon Raphael out of heaven; his heart sang hymns, as it were, before these gracious altars; and, somewhat as he worshipped these masterpieces of his art, he admired the beauty of Ethel.

J. J. felt these things exquisitely after his manner, and enjoyed honest Clive’s mode of celebration and rapturous fioriture of song; but Ridley’s natural note was much gentler, and he sang his hymns in plaintive minors. Ethel was all that was bright and beautiful but — but she was engaged to Lord Kew. The shrewd kind confidant used gently to hint the sad fact to the impetuous hero of this piece. The impetuous hero knew this quite well. As he was sitting over his painting-board he would break forth frequently, after his manner, in which laughter and sentiment were mingled, and roar out with all the force of his healthy young lungs ——

“But her heart it is another’s, she never — can — be — mine;”

and then hero and confidant would laugh each at his drawing-table. Miss Ethel went between the two gentlemen by the name of Alice Grey.

Very likely, Night, the Grey Mentor, had given Clive Newcome the benefit of his sad counsel. Poor Belsize’s agony, and the wretchedness of the young lady who shared in the desperate passion, may have set our young man a-thinking; and Lord Kew’s frankness and courage, and honour, whereof Clive had been a witness during the night, touched his heart with a generous admiration, and manned him for a trial which he felt was indeed severe. He thought of the dear old father ploughing the seas on the way to his duty, and was determined, by Heaven’s help, to do his own. Only three weeks since, when strolling careless about Bonn he had lighted upon Ethel and the laughing group of little cousins, he was a boy as they were, thinking but of the enjoyment of the day and the sunshine, as careless as those children. And now the thoughts and passions which had sprung up in a week or two, had given him an experience such as years do not always furnish; and our friend was to show, not only that he could feel love in his heart, but that he could give proof of courage, and self-denial, and honour.

“Do you remember, J. J.,” says he, as boots and breeches went plunging into the portmanteau, and with immense energy, he pummels down one upon the other, “do you remember” (a dig into the snowy bosom of a dress cambric shirt) “my dear old father’s only campaign story of his running away” (a frightful blow into the ribs of a waistcoat), “running away at Asseer-Ghur?”

“Asseer-What?” says J. J. wondering.

“The siege of Asseer-Ghur!” says Clive, “fought in the eventful year 1803: Lieutenant Newcome, who has very neat legs, let me tell you, which also he has imparted to his descendants, had put on a new pair of leather breeches, for he likes to go handsomely dressed into action. His horse was shot, the enemy were upon him, and the governor had to choose between death and retreat. I have heard his brother-officers say that my dear old father was the bravest man they ever knew, the coolest hand, sir. What do you think it was Lieutenant Newcome’s duty to do under these circumstances? To remain alone as he was, his troop having turned about, and to be cut down by the Mahratta horsemen — to perish or to run, sir?”

“I know which I should have done,” says Ridley.

“Exactly. Lieutenant Newcome adopted that course. His bran-new leather breeches were exceedingly tight, and greatly incommoded the rapidity of his retreating movement, but he ran away, sir, and afterwards begot your obedient servant. That is the history of the battle of Asseer-Ghur.”

“And now for the moral,” says J. J., not a little amused.

“J. J., old boy, this is my battle of Asseer-Ghur. I am off. Dip into the money-bag: pay the people: be generous, J. J., but not too prodigal. The chambermaid is ugly, yet let her not want for a crown to console her at our departure. The waiters have been brisk and servile; reward the slaves for their labours. Forget not the humble boots, so shall he bless us when we depart. For artists are gentlemen, though Ethel does not think so. De — No — God bless her, God bless her,” groans out Clive, cramming his two fists into his eyes. If Ridley admired him before, he thought none the worse of him now. And if any generous young fellow in life reads the Fable, which may possibly concern him, let him take a senior’s counsel and remember that there are perils in our battle, God help us, from which the bravest had best run away.

Early as the morning yet was, Clive had a visitor, and the door opened to let in Lord Kew’s honest face. Ridley retreated before it into his own den; the appearance of earls scared the modest painter, though he was proud and pleased that his Clive should have their company. Lord Kew indeed lived in more splendid apartments on the first floor of the hotel, Clive and his friend occupying a couple of spacious chambers on the second story. “You are an early bird,” says Kew. “I got up myself in a panic before daylight almost; Jack was making a deuce of a row in his room, and fit to blow the door out. I have been coaxing him for this hour; I wish we had thought of giving him a dose of laudanum last night; if it finished him, poor old boy, it would do him no harm.” And then, laughing, he gave Clive an account of his interview with Barnes on the previous night. “You seem to be packing up to go, too,” says Lord Kew, with a momentary glance of humour darting from his keen eyes. The weather is breaking up here, and if you are going to cross the St. Gothard, as the Newcomes told me, the sooner the better. It’s bitter cold over the mountains in October.”

“Very cold,” says Clive, biting his nails.

“Post or Vett.?” asks my lord.

“I bought a carriage at Frankfort,” says Clive, in an offhand manner.

“Hulloh!” cries the other, who was perfectly kind, and entirely frank and pleasant, and showed no difference in his conversation with men of any degree, except perhaps that to his inferiors in station he was a little more polite than to his equals; but who would as soon have thought of a young artist leaving Baden in a carriage of his own as of his riding away on a dragon.

“I only gave twenty pounds for the carriage; it’s a little light thing, we are two, a couple of horses carry us and our traps, you know, and we can stop where we like. I don’t depend upon my profession,” Clive added, with a blush. “I made three guineas once, and that is the only money I ever gained in my life.”

“Of course, my dear fellow, have not I been to your father’s house? At that pretty ball, and seen no end of fine people there? We are young swells. I know that very well. We only paint for pleasure.”

“We are artists, and we intend to paint for money, my lord,” says Clive. “Will your lordship give me an order?”

“My lordship serves me right,” the other said. “I think, Newcome, as you are going, I think you might do some folks here a good turn, though the service is rather a disagreeable one. Jack Belsize is not fit to be left alone. I can’t go away from here just now for reasons of state. Do be a good fellow and take him with you. Put the Alps between him and this confounded business, and if I can serve you in any way I shall be delighted, if you will furnish me with the occasion. Jack does not know yet that our amiable Barnes is here. I know how fond you are of him. I have heard the story — glass of claret and all. We all love Barnes. How that poor Lady Clara can have accepted him the Lord knows. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, especially women.”

“Good heavens,” Clive broke out, “can it be possible that a young creature can have been brought to like such a selfish, insolent coxcomb as that, such a cocktail as Barnes Newcome? You know very well, Lord Kew, what his life is. There was a poor girl whom he brought out of a Newcome factory when he was a boy himself, and might have had a heart one would have thought, whom he ill-treated, whom he deserted, and flung out of doors without a penny, upon some pretence of her infidelity towards him; who came and actually sat down on the steps of Park Lane with a child on each side of her, and not their cries and their hunger, but the fear of his own shame and a dread of a police-court, forced him to give her a maintenance. I never see the fellow but I loathe him, and long to kick him out of window and this man is to marry a noble young lady because forsooth he is a partner in a bank, and heir to seven or eight thousand a year. Oh, it is a shame, it is a shame! It makes me sick when I think of the lot which the poor thing is to endure.”

“It is not a nice story,” said Lord Kew, rolling a cigarette; “Barnes is not a nice man. I give you that in. You have not heard it talked about in the family, have you?”

“Good heavens! you don’t suppose that I would speak to Ethel, to Miss Newcome, about such a foul subject as that?” cries Clive. “I never mentioned it to my own father. He would have turned Barnes out of his doors if he had known it.”

“It was the talk about town, I know,” Kew said dryly. “Everything is told in those confounded clubs. I told you I give up Barnes. I like him no more than you do. He may have treated the woman ill, I suspect he has not an angelical temper: but in this matter he has not been so bad, so very bad as it would seem. The first step is wrong, of course — those factory towns — that sort of thing, you know — well, well, the commencement of the business is a sad one. But he is not the only sinner in London. He has declared on his honour to me when the matter was talked about, and he was coming on for election at Bays’s, and was as nearly as any man I ever knew in my life — he declared on his word that he only parted from poor Mrs. Delacy, (Mrs. Delacy, the devil used to call herself) because he found that she had served him — as such women will serve men. He offered to send his children to school in Yorkshire — rather a cheap school — but she would not part with them. She made a scandal in order to get good terms, and she succeeded. He was anxious to break the connexion: he owned it had hung like a millstone round his neck and caused him a great deal of remorse — annoyance you may call it. He was immensely cut up about it. I remember, when that fellow was hanged for murdering a woman, Barnes said he did not wonder at his having done it. Young men make those connexions in their early lives and rue them all their days after. He was heartily sorry, that we may take for granted. He wished to lead a proper life. My grandmother managed this business with the Dorkings. Lady Kew still pulls stroke oar in our boat, you know, and the old woman will not give up her place. They know everything, the elders do. He is a clever fellow. He is witty in his way. When he likes he can make himself quite agreeable to some people. There has been no sort of force. You don’t suppose young ladies are confined in dungeons and subject to tortures, do you? But there is a brood of Pulleyns at Chanticlere, and old Dorking has nothing to give them. His daughter accepted Barnes of her own free will, he knowing perfectly well of that previous affair with Jack. The poor devil bursts into the place yesterday and the girl drops down in a faint. She will see Belsize this very day if he likes. I took a note from Lady Dorking to him at five o’clock this morning. If he fancies that there is any constraint put upon Lady Clara’s actions she will tell him with her own lips that she has acted of her own free will. She will marry the husband she has chosen and do her duty by him. You are quite a young un who boil and froth up with indignation at the idea that a girl hardly off with an old love should take on with a new ——”

“I am not indignant with her,” says Clive, “for breaking with Belsize, but for marrying Barnes.”

“You hate him, and you know he is your enemy; and, indeed, young fellow, he does not compliment you in talking about you. A pretty young scapegrace he has made you out to be, and very likely thinks you to be. It depends on the colours in which a fellow is painted. Our friends and our enemies draw us — and I often think both pictures are like,” continued the easy world-philosopher. “You hate Barnes, and cannot see any good in him. He sees none in you. There have been tremendous shindies in Park Lane a propos of your worship, and of a subject which I don’t care to mention,” said Lord Kew, with some dignity; “and what is the upshot of all this malevolence? I like you; I like your father, I think he is a noble old boy; there are those who represented him as a sordid schemer. Give Mr. Barnes the benefit of common charity at any rate; and let others like him, if you do not.

“And as for this romance of love,” the young nobleman went on, kindling as he spoke, and forgetting the slang and colloquialisms with which we garnish all our conversation —“this fine picture of Jenny and Jessamy falling in love at first sight, billing and cooing in an arbour, and retiring to a cottage afterwards to go on cooing and billing — Psha! what folly is this! It is good for romances, and for misses to sigh about; but any man who walks through the world with his eyes open, knows how senseless is all this rubbish. I don’t say that a young man and woman are not to meet, and to fall in love that instant, and to marry that day year, and love each other till they are a hundred; that is the supreme lot — but that is the lot which the gods only grant to Baucis and Philemon, and a very, very few besides. As for the rest, they must compromise; make themselves as comfortable as they can, and take the good and the bad together. And as for Jenny and Jessamy, by Jove! look round among your friends, count up the love matches, and see what has been the end of most of them! Love in a cottage! Who is to pay the landlord for the cottage? Who is to pay for Jenny’s tea and cream, and Jessamy’s mutton-chops? If he has cold mutton, he will quarrel with her. If there is nothing in the cupboard, a pretty meal they make. No, you cry out against people in our world making money marriages. Why, kings and queens marry on the same understanding. My butcher has saved a stockingful of money, and marries his daughter to a young salesman; Mr. and Mrs. Salesman prosper in life, and get an alderman’s daughter for their son. My attorney looks out amongst his clients for an eligible husband for Miss Deeds; sends his son to the bar, into Parliament, where he cuts a figure and becomes attorney-general, makes a fortune, has a house in Belgrave Square, and marries Miss Deeds of the second generation to a peer. Do not accuse us of being more sordid than our neighbours. We do but as the world does; and a girl in our society accepts the best party which offers itself, just as Miss Chummey, when entreated by two young gentlemen of the order of costermongers, inclines to the one who rides from market on a moke, rather than to the gentleman who sells his greens from a handbasket.”

This tirade, which his lordship delivered with considerable spirit, was intended no doubt to carry a moral for Clive’s private hearing; and which, to do him justice, the youth was not slow to comprehend. The point was, “Young man, if certain persons of rank choose to receive you very kindly, who have but a comely face, good manners, and three or four hundred pounds a year, do not presume upon their good-nature, or indulge in certain ambitious hopes which your vanity may induce you to form. Sail down the stream with the brass-pots, Master Earthen-pot, but beware of coming too near! You are a nice young man, but there are prizes which are some too good for you, and are meant for your betters. And you might as well ask the prime minister for the next vacant garter as expect to wear on your breast such a star as Ethel Newcome.”

Before Clive made his accustomed visit to his friends at the hotel opposite, the last great potentiary had arrived who was to take part in the family Congress of Baden. In place of Ethel’s flushing cheeks and bright eyes, Clive found, on entering Lady Anne Newcome’s sitting-room, the parchment-covered features and the well-known hooked beak of the old Countess of Kew. To support the glances from beneath the bushy black eyebrows on each side of that promontory was no pleasant matter. The whole family cowered under Lady Kew’s eyes and nose, and she ruled by force of them. It was only Ethel whom these awful features did not utterly subdue and dismay.

Besides Lady Kew, Clive had the pleasure of finding his lordship, her grandson, Lady Anne and children of various sizes, and Mr. Barnes; not one of whom was the person whom Clive desired to behold.

The queer glance in Kew’s eye directed towards Clive, who was himself not by any means deficient in perception, informed him that there had just been a conversation in which his own name had figured. Having been abusing Clive extravagantly as he did whenever he mentioned his cousin’s name, Barnes must needs hang his head when the young fellow came in. His hand was yet on the chamber-door, and Barnes was calling his miscreant and scoundrel within; so no wonder Barnes had a hangdog look. But as for Lady Kew, that veteran diplomatist allowed no signs of discomfiture, or any other emotion, to display themselves on her ancient countenance. Her bushy eyebrows were groves of mystery, her unfathomable eyes were wells of gloom.

She gratified Clive by a momentary loan of two knuckly old fingers, which he was at liberty to hold or to drop; and then he went on to enjoy the felicity of shaking hands with Mr. Barnes, who, observing and enjoying his confusion over Lady Kew’s reception, determined to try Clive in the same way, and he gave Clive at the same time a supercilious “How de dah,” which the other would have liked to drive down his throat. A constant desire to throttle Mr. Barnes — to beat him on the nose — to send him flying out of window, was a sentiment with which this singular young man inspired many persons whom he accosted. A biographer ought to be impartial, yet I own, in a modified degree, to have partaken of this sentiment. He looked very much younger than his actual time of life, and was not of commanding stature; but patronised his equals, nay, let us say, his betters, so insufferably, that a common wish for his suppression existed amongst many persons in society.

Clive told me of this little circumstance, and I am sorry to say of his own subsequent ill behaviour. “We were standing apart from the ladies,” so Clive narrated, “when Barnes and I had our little passage-of-arms. He had tried the finger business upon me before, and I had before told him, either to shake hands or to leave it alone. You know the way in which the impudent little beggar stands astride, and sticks his little feet out. I brought my heel well down on his confounded little varnished toe, and gave it a scrunch which made Mr. Barnes shriek out one of his loudest oaths.”

“D—— clumsy ——!” screamed out Barnes.

Clive said, in a low voice, “I thought you only swore at women, Barnes.”

“It is you that say things before women, Clive,” cries his cousin, looking very furious.

Mr. Clive lost all patience. “In what company, Barnes, would you like me to say, that I think you are a snob? Will you have it on the Parade? Come out and I will speak to you.”

“Barnes can’t go out on the Parade,” cries Lord Kew, bursting out laughing: “there’s another gentleman there wanting him.” And two of the three young men enjoyed this joke exceedingly. I doubt whether Barnes Newcome Newcome, Esq., of Newcome, was one of the persons amused.

“What wickedness are you three boys laughing at?” cries Lady Anne, perfectly innocent and good-natured; “no good, I will be bound. Come here, Clive.” Our young friend, it must be premised, had no sooner received the thrust of Lady Kew’s two fingers on entering, than it had been intimated to him that his interview with that gracious lady was at an end. For she had instantly called her daughter to her, with whom her ladyship fell a-whispering; and then it was that Clive retreated from Lady Kew’s hand, to fall into Barnes’s.

“Clive trod on Barnes’s toe,” cries out cheery Lord Kew, “and has hurt Barnes’s favourite corn, so that he cannot go out, and is actually obliged to keep the room. That’s what we were laughing at.”

“Hem!” growled Lady Kew. She knew to what her grandson alluded. Lord Kew had represented Jack Belsize, and his thundering big stick, in the most terrific colours to the family council. The joke was too good a one not to serve twice.

Lady Anne, in her whispered conversation with the old Countess, had possibly deprecated her mother’s anger towards poor Clive, for when he came up to the two ladies, the younger took his hand with great kindness, and said, “My dear Clive, we are very sorry you are going. You were of the greatest use to us on the journey. I am sure you have been uncommonly good-natured and obliging, and we shall all miss you very much.” Her gentleness smote the generous young fellow, and an emotion of gratitude towards her for being so compassionate to him in his misery, caused his cheeks to blush and his eyes perhaps to moisten. “Thank you, dear aunt,” says he, “you have been very good and kind to me. It is I that shall feel lonely; but — but it is quite time that I should go to my work.”

“Quite time!” said the severe possessor of the eagle beak. “Baden is a bad place for young men. They make acquaintances here of which very little good can come. They frequent the gambling-tables, and live with the most disreputable French Viscounts. We have heard of your goings-on, sir. It is a great pity that Colonel Newcome did not take you with him to India.”

“My dear mamma,” cries Lady Anne, “I am sure Clive has been a very good boy indeed.” The old lady’s morality put a stop to Clive’s pathetic mood, and he replied with a great deal of spirit, “Dear Lady Anne, you have been always very good, and kindness is nothing surprising from you; but Lady Kew’s advice, which I should not have ventured to ask, is an unexpected favour; my father knows the extent of the gambling transactions to which your ladyship was pleased to allude, and introduced me to the gentleman whose acquaintance you don’t seem to think eligible.”

“My good young man, I think it is time you were off,” Lady Kew said, this time with great good-humour; she liked Clive’s spirit, and as long as he interfered with none of her plans, was quite disposed to be friendly with him. “Go to Rome, go to Florence, go wherever you like, and study very hard, and make very good pictures, and come back again, and we shall all be very glad to see you. You have very great talents — these sketches are really capital.”

“Is not he very clever, mamma?” said kind Lady Anne, eagerly. Clive felt the pathetic mood coming on again, and an immense desire to hug Lady Anne in his arms, and to kiss her. How grateful are we — how touched a frank and generous heart is for a kind word extended to us in our pain! The pressure of a tender hand nerves a man for an operation, and cheers him for the dreadful interview with the surgeon.

That cool old operator, who had taken Mr. Clive’s case in hand, now produced her shining knife, and executed the first cut with perfect neatness and precision. “We are come here, as I suppose you know, Mr. Newcome, upon family matters, and I frankly tell you that I think, for your own sake, you would be much better away. I wrote my daughter a great scolding when I heard that you were in this place.”

“But it was by the merest chance, mamma, indeed it was,” cries Lady Anne.

“Of course, by the merest chance, and by the merest chance I heard of it too. A little bird came and told me at Kissingen. You have no more sense, Anne, than a goose. I have told you so a hundred times. Lady Anne requested you to stay, and I, my good young friend, request you to go away.”

“I needed no request,” said Clive. “My going, Lady Kew, is my own act. I was going without requiring any guide to show me to the door.”

“No doubt you were, and my arrival is the signal for Mr. Newcome’s bon jour. I am Bogey, and I frighten everybody away. By the scene which you witnessed yesterday, my good young friend, and all that painful esclandre on the promenade, you must see how absurd, and dangerous, and wicked — yes, wicked it is for parents to allow intimacies to spring up between young people, which can only lead to disgrace and unhappiness. Lady Dorking was another good-natured goose. I had not arrived yesterday ten minutes, when my maid came running in to tell me of what had occurred on the promenade; and, tired as I was, I went that instant to Jane Dorking and passed the evening with her, and that poor little creature to whom Captain Belsize behaved so cruelly. She does not care a fig for him — not one fig. Her childish inclination is passed away these two years, whilst Mr. Jack was performing his feats in prison; and if the wretch flatters himself that it was on his account she was agitated yesterday, he is perfectly mistaken, and you may tell him Lady Kew said so. She is subject to fainting fits. Dr. Finck has been attending her ever since she has been here. She fainted only last Tuesday at the sight of a rat walking about their lodgings (they have dreadful lodgings, the Dorkings), and no wonder she was frightened at the sight of that great coarse tipsy wretch! She is engaged, as you know, to your connexion, my grandson, Barnes:— in all respects a most eligible union. The rank of life of the parties suits them to one another. She is a good young woman, and Barnes has experienced from persons of another sort such horrors, that he will know the blessing of domestic virtue. It was high time he should. I say all this in perfect frankness to you.

“Go back again and play in the garden, little brats” (this to the innocents who came frisking in from the lawn in front of the windows). “You have been? And Barnes sent you in here? Go up to Miss Quigley. No, stop. Go and tell Ethel to come down; bring her down with you. Do you understand?”

The unconscious infants toddle upstairs to their sister; and Lady Kew blandly says, “Ethel’s engagement to my grandson, Lord Kew, has long been settled in our family, though these things are best not talked about until they are quite determined, you know, my dear Mr. Newcome. When we saw you and your father in London, we heard that you too-that you too were engaged to a young lady in your own rank of life, a Miss — what was her name? — Miss MacPherson, Miss Mackenzie. Your aunt, Mrs. Hobson Newcome, who I must say is a most blundering silly person, had set about this story. It appears there is no truth in it. Do not look surprised that I know about your affairs. I am an old witch, and know numbers of things.”

And, indeed, how Lady Kew came to know this fact, whether her maid corresponded with Lady Anne’s maid, what her ladyship’s means of information were, avowed or occult, this biographer has never been able to ascertain. Very likely Ethel, who in these last three weeks had been made aware of that interesting circumstance, had announced it to Lady Kew in the course of a cross-examination, and there may have been a battle between the granddaughter and the grandmother, of which the family chronicler of the Newcomes has had no precise knowledge. That there were many such I know — skirmishes, sieges, and general engagements. When we hear the guns, and see the wounded, we know there has been a fight. Who knows had there been a battle-royal, and was Miss Newcome having her wounds dressed upstairs?

“You will like to say good-bye to your cousin, I know,” Lady Kew continued, with imperturbable placidity. “Ethel, my dear, here is Mr. Clive Newcome, who has come to bid us all good-bye.” The little girls came trotting down at this moment, each holding a skirt of their elder sister. She looked rather pale, but her expression was haughty — almost fierce.

Clive rose up as she entered, from the sofa by the old Countess’s side, which place she had pointed him to take during the amputation. He rose up and put his hair back off his face, and said very calmly, “Yes, I’m come to say good-bye. My holidays are over, and Ridley and I are off for Rome; good-bye, and God bless you, Ethel.”

She gave him her hand and said, “Good-bye, Clive,” but her hand did not return his pressure, and dropped to her side, when he let it go.

Hearing the words good-bye, little Alice burst into a howl, and little Maude, who was an impetuous little thing, stamped her little red shoes and said, “It san’t be good-bye. Tlive san’t go.” Alice, roaring, clung hold of Clive’s trousers. He took them up gaily, each on an arm, as he had done a hundred times, and tossed the children on to his shoulders, where they used to like to pull his yellow mustachios. He kissed the little hands and faces, and a moment after was gone.

“Qu’as-tu?” says M. de Florac, meeting him going over the bridge to his own hotel. “Qu’as-tu, mon petit Claive? Est-ce qu’on vient de t’arracher une dent?”

“C’est ca,” says Clive, and walked into the Hotel de France. “Hulloh! J. J.! Ridley!” he sang out. “Order the trap out and let’s be off.” “I thought we were not to march till tomorrow,” says J. J., divining perhaps that some catastrophe had occurred. Indeed, Mr. Clive was going a day sooner than he had intended. He woke at Fribourg the next morning. It was the grand old cathedral he looked at, not Baden of the pine-clad hills, of the pretty walks and the lime-tree avenues. Not Baden, the prettiest booth of all Vanity Fair. The crowds and the music, the gambling-tables and the cadaverous croupiers and chinking gold, were far out of sight and hearing. There was one window in the Hotel de Hollande that he thought of, how a fair arm used to open it in the early morning, how the muslin curtain in the morning air swayed to and fro. He would have given how much to see it once more! Walking about at Fribourg in the night, away from his companions, he had thought of ordering horses, galloping back to Baden, and once again under that window, calling Ethel, Ethel. But he came back to his room and the quiet J. J., and to poor Jack Belsize, who had had his tooth taken out too.

We had almost forgotten Jack, who took a back seat in Clive’s carriage, as befits a secondary personage in this history, and Clive in truth had almost forgotten him too. But Jack having his own cares and business, and having rammed his own carpet-bag, brought it down without a word, and Clive found him environed in smoke when he came down to take his place in the little britzska. I wonder whether the window at the Hotel de Hollande saw him go? There are some curtains behind which no historian, however prying, is allowed to peep.

“Tiens, le petit part,” says Florac of the cigar, who was always sauntering. “Yes, we go,” says Clive. “There is a fourth place, Viscount; will you come too?”

“I would love it well,” replies Florac, “but I am here in faction. My cousin and seigneur M. le Duc d’Ivry is coming all the way from Bagneres de Bigorre. He says he counts on me:— affaires mon cher, affaires d’etat.”

“How pleased the duchess will be! Easy with that bag!” shouts Clive. “How pleased the princess will be!” In truth he hardly knew what he was saying.

“Vous croyez; vous croyez,” says M. de Florac. “As you have a fourth place, I know who had best take it.”

“And who is that?” asked the young traveller.

Lord Kew and Barnes, Esq., of Newcome, came out of the Hotel de Hollande at this moment. Barnes slunk back, seeing Jack Belsize’s hairy face. Kew ran over the bridge. “Good-bye, Clive. Good-bye, Jack.” “Good-bye, Kew.” It was a great handshake. Away goes the postillion blowing his horn, and young Hannibal has left Capua behind him.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/newcomes/chapter30.html

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