General Baynes began the story which you and I have heard at length. He told it in his own way. He grew very angry with himself whilst defending himself. He had to abuse Philip very fiercely, in order to excuse his own act of treason. He had to show that his act was not his act; that, after all, he never had promised; and that, if he had promised, Philip’s atrocious conduct ought to absolve him from any previous promise. I do not wonder that the general was abusive, and out of temper. Such a crime as he was committing can’t be performed cheerfully by a man who is habitually gentle, generous, and honest. I do not say that men cannot cheat, cannot lie, cannot inflict torture, cannot commit rascally actions, without in the least losing their equanimity; but these are men habitually false, knavish, and cruel. They are accustomed to break their promises, to cheat their neighbours in bargains, and what not. A roguish word or action more or less is of little matter to them: their remorse only awakens after detection, and they don’t begin to repent till they come sentenced out of the dock. But here was an ordinarily just man withdrawing from his promise, turning his back on his benefactor, and justifying himself to himself by maligning the man whom he injured. It is not an uncommon event, my dearly beloved brethren and esteemed miserable sister sinners; but you like to say a preacher is “cynical” who admits this sad truth — and, perhaps, don’t care to hear about the subject on more than one day in the week.
So, in order to make out some sort of case for himself, our poor good old General Baynes chose to think and declare that Philip was so violent, ill-conditioned, and abandoned a fellow, that no faith ought to be kept with him; and that Colonel Bunch had behaved with such brutal insolence that Baynes must call him to account. As for the fact that there was another, a richer, and a much more eligible suitor, who was likely to offer for his daughter, Baynes did not happen to touch on this point at all; preferring to speak of Philip’s hopeless poverty, disreputable conduct, and gross and careless behaviour.
Now MacWhirter, having, I suppose, little to do at Tours, had read Mrs. Baynes’s letters to her sister Emily, and remembered them. Indeed, it was but very few months since Eliza Baynes’s letters had been full of praise of Philip, of his love for Charlotte, and of his noble generosity in foregoing the great claim which he had upon the general, his mother’s careless trustee. Philip was the first suitor Charlotte had had: in her first glow of pleasure, Charlotte’s mother had covered yards of paper with compliments, interjections, and those scratches or dashes under her words, by which some ladies are accustomed to point their satire or emphasize their delight. He was an admirable young man — wild, but generous, handsome, noble! He had forgiven his father thousands and thousands of pounds which the doctor owed him — all his mother’s fortune; and he had acted most nobly by her trustees — that she must say, though poor dear weak Baynes was one of them, Baynes who was as simple as a child! Major Mac and his wife had agreed that Philip’s forbearance was very generous and kind, but after all that there was no special cause for rapture at the notion of their niece marrying a struggling young fellow without a penny in the world; and they had been not a little amused with the change of tone in Eliza’s later letters, when she began to go out in the great world, and to look coldly upon poor, penniless Firmin, her hero of a few months since. Then Emily remembered how Eliza had always been fond of great people; how her head was turned by going to a few parties at Government House; how absurdly she went on with that little creature Fitzrickets (because he was an Honourable, forsooth) at Dumdum. Eliza was a good wife to Baynes; a good mother to the children; and made both ends of a narrow income meet with surprising dexterity; but Emily was bound to say of her sister Eliza, that a more, And when the news came at length that Philip was to be thrown overboard, Emily clapped her hands together, and said to her husband, “Now, Mac, didn’t I always tell you so? If she could get a fashionable husband for Charlotte, I knew my sister would put the doctor’s son to the door!” That the poor child would suffer considerably, her aunt was assured. Indeed, before her own union with Mac, Emily had undergone heartbreakings and pangs of separation on her own account. The poor child would want comfort and companionship. She would go to fetch her niece. And though the major said, “My dear, you want to go to Paris, and buy a new bonnet,” Mrs. MacWhirter spurned the insinuation, and came to Paris from a mere sense of duty.
So Baynes poured out his history of wrongs to his brother-in-law, who marvelled to hear a man, ordinarily chary of words and cool of demeanour, so angry and so voluble. If he had done a bad action, at least, after doing it, Baynes had the grace to be very much out of humour. If I ever, for my part, do anything wrong in my family, or to them, I accompany that action with a furious rage and blustering passion. I won’t have wife or children question it. No querulous Nathan of a family friend (or an incommodious conscience, may be) shall come and lecture me about my ill-doings. No — no. Out of the house with him! Away, you preaching bugbear, don’t try to frighten me! Baynes, I suspect, to browbeat, bully, and outtalk the Nathan pleading in his heart — Baynes will outbawl that prating monitor, and thrust that inconvenient preacher out of sight, out of hearing, drive him with angry words from our gate. Ah! in vain we expel him; and bid John say, not at home! There he is when we wake, sitting at our bed-foot. We throw him overboard for daring to put an oar in our boat. Whose ghastly head is that looking up from the water and swimming alongside us, row we never so swiftly? Fire at him. Brain him with an oar, one of you, and pull on! Flash goes the pistol. Surely that oar has stove the old skull in? See! there comes the awful companion popping up out of water again, and crying, “Remember, remember, I am here, I am here!” Baynes had thought to bully away one monitor by the threat of a pistol, and here was another swimming alongside of his boat. And would you have it otherwise, my dear reader, for you, for me? That you and I shall commit sins, in this, and ensuing years, is certain; but I hope — I hope they won’t be past praying for. Here is Baynes, having just done a bad action, in a dreadfully wicked, murderous, and dissatisfied state of mind. His chafing, bleeding temper is one raw; his whole soul one rage, and wrath, and fever. Charles Baynes, thou old sinner, I pray that heaven may turn thee to a better state of mind. I will kneel down by thy side, scatter ashes on my own bald pate, and we will quaver out Peccavimus together.
“In one word, the young man’s conduct has been so outrageous and disreputable that I can’t, Mac, as a father of a family, consent to my girl’s marrying. Out of a regard for her happiness, it is my duty to break off the engagement,” cries the general, finishing the story.
“Has he formally released you from that trust business?” asked the major.
“Good heavens, Mac!” cries the general, turning very red. “You know I am as innocent of all wrong towards him as you are!”
“Innocent — only you did not look to your trust — ”
“I think ill of him, sir. I think he is a wild, reckless, overbearing young fellow,” calls out the general, very quickly, “who would make my child miserable; but I don’t think he is such a blackguard as to come down on a retired elderly man with a poor family — a numerous family; a man who has bled and fought for his sovereign in the Peninsula, and in India, as the Army List will show you, by George. I don’t think Firmin will be such a scoundrel as to come down on me, I say; and I must say, MacWhirter, I think it most unhandsome of you to allude to it — most unhandsome, by George!”
“Why, you are going to break off your bargain with him; why should he keep his compact with you?” asks the gruff major.
“Because,” shouted the general, “it would be a sin and a shame that an old man with seven children, and broken health, who has served in every place — yes, in the West and East Indies, by George! — in Canada — in the Peninsula, and at New Orleans; — because he has been deceived and humbugged by a miserable scoundrel of a doctor into signing a sham paper, by George! should be ruined, and his poor children and wife driven to beggary, by Jove! as you seem to recommend young Firmin to do, Jack MacWhirter; and I’ll tell you what, Major MacWhirter, I take it dee’d unfriendly of you; and I’ll trouble you not to put your oar into my boat, and meddle with my affairs, that’s all, and I’ll know who’s at the bottom of it, by Jove! It’s the grey mare, Mac — it’s your better half, MacWhirter — it’s that confounded, meddling, sneaking, backbiting, domineering — ”
“What next?” roared the major. “Ha, ha, ha! Do you think I don’t know, Baynes, who has put you on doing what I have no hesitation in calling a most sneaking and rascally action — yes, a rascally action, by George! I am not going to mince matters! Don’t come your Major-General or your Mrs. Major-General over me! It’s Eliza that has set you on. And if Tom Bunch has been telling you that you have been breaking from your word, and are acting shabbily, Tom is right; and you may get somebody else to go out with you, General Baynes, for, by George, I won’t!”
“Have you come all the way from Tours, Mac, in order to insult me?” asks the general.
“I came to do you a friendly turn; to take charge of your poor girl, upon whom you are being very hard, Baynes. And this is the reward I get! Thank you. No more grog! What I have had is rather too strong for me already.” And the major looks down with an expression of scorn at the emptied beaker, the idle spoon before him.
As the warriors were quarrelling over their cups, there came to them a noise as of brawling and of female voices without. “Mais, madame!” pleads Madame Smolensk, in her grave way. “Taisez-vous, madame, laissez moi tranquille, s’il vous plais!” exclaims the well-known voice of Mrs. General Baynes, which I own was never very pleasant to me, either in anger or good-humour. “And your Little, — who tries to sleep in my chamber!” again pleads the mistress of the boarding-house. “Vous n’avez pas droit d’appeler Mademoiselle Baynes petite!” calls out the general’s lady. And Baynes, who was fighting and quarrelling himself just now, trembled when he heard her. His angry face assumed an alarmed expression. He looked for means of escape. He appealed for protection to Mac Whirter, whose nose he had been ready to pull anon. Samson was a mighty man, but he was a fool in the hands of a woman. Hercules was a brave man and a strong, but Omphale twisted him round her spindle. Even so Baynes, who had fought in India, Spain, America, trembled before the partner of his bed and name.
It was an unlucky afternoon. Whilst the husbands had been quarrelling in the dining-room over brandy-and-water, the wives, the sisters, had been fighting over their tea in the salon. I don’t know what the other boarders were about. Philip never told me. Perhaps they had left the room to give the sisters a free opportunity for embraces and confidential communication. Perhaps there were no lady boarders left. Howbeit, Emily and Eliza had tea; and before that refreshing meal was concluded, those dear women were fighting as hard as their husbands in the adjacent chamber.
Eliza, in the first place, was very angry at Emily’s coming without invitation. Emily, on her part, was angry with Eliza for being angry. “I am sure, Eliza,” said the spirited and injured MacWhirter, “that is the third time you have alluded to it since we have been here. Had you and all your family come to Tours, Mac and I would have made them welcome — children and all; and I am sure yours make trouble enough in a house.”
“A private house is not like a boarding-house, Emily. Here Madame makes us pay frightfully for extras,” remarks Mrs. Baynes.
“I am sorry I came, Eliza. Let us say no more about it. I can’t go away to-night,” says the other.
“And most unkind it is that speech to make, Emily. Any more tea?”
“Most unpleasant to have to make that speech, Eliza. To travel a whole day and night — and I never able to sleep in a diligence — to hasten to my sister because I thought she was in trouble, because I thought a sister might comfort her; and to be received as you — re — as you — oh, oh, oh — boh! How stoopid I am!” A handkerchief dries the tears: a smelling-bottle restores a little composure. “When you came to us at Dumdum, with two — o — o children in the whooping-cough, I am sure Mac and I gave you a very different welcome.”
The other was smitten with a remorse. She remembered her sister’s kindness in former days. “I did not mean, sister, to give you pain,” she said. “But I am very unhappy myself, Emily. My child’s conduct is making me most unhappy.”
“And very good reason you have to be unhappy, Eliza, if woman ever had!” says the other.
“Oh, indeed, yes!” gasps the general’s lady.
“If any woman ought to feel remorse, Eliza Baynes, I am sure it’s you. Sleepless nights! What was mine in the diligence, compared to the nights you must have? I said so to myself. ‘I am wretched,’ I said, ‘but what must she be?’”
“Of course, as a feeling mother, I feel that poor Charlotte is unhappy, my dear.”
“But what makes her so, my dear?” cries Mrs. MacWhirter, who presently showed that she was mistress of the whole controversy. “No wonder Charlotte is unhappy, dear love! Can a girl be engaged to a young man, a most interesting young man, a clever, accomplished, highly educated young man — ”
“What?” cries Mrs. Baynes.
“Haven’t I your letters? I have them all in my desk. They are in that hall now. Didn’t you tell me so over and over again; and rave about him, till I thought you were in love with him yourself almost?” cries Mrs. Mac.
“A most indecent observation!” cries out Eliza Baynes, in her deep, awful voice. “No woman, no sister, shall say that to me!”
“Shall I go and get the letters? It used to be, ‘Dear Philip has just left us. Dear Philip has been more than a son to me. He is our preserver!’ Didn’t you write all that to me over and over again? And because you have found a richer husband for Charlotte, you are going to turn your preserver out of doors!”
“Emily MacWhirter, am I to sit here and be accused of crimes, uninvited, mind — uninvited, mind, by my sister? Is a general officer’s lady to be treated in this way by a brevet-major’s wife? Though you are my senior in age, Emily, I am yours in rank. Out of any room in England, but this, I go before you! And if you have come uninvited all the way from Tours to insult me in my own house — ”
“House, indeed! pretty house! Everybody else’s house as well as yours!”
“Such as it is, I never asked you to come into it, Emily!”
“Oh, yes! You wish me to go out in the night. Mac! I say!”
“Emily!” cries the generaless.
“Mac, I say!” screams the majoress, flinging open the door of the salon, “my sister wishes me to go. Do you hear me?”
“Au nom de Dieu, madame, pensez à cette pauvre petite, qui souffre à côtè,” cries the mistress of the house, pointing to her own adjoining chamber, in which, we have said, our poor little Charlotte was lying.
“Nappley pas Madamaselle Baynes petite, sivoplay!” booms out Mrs. Baynes’s contralto.
“MacWhirter, I say, Major MacWhirter!” cries Emily, flinging open the door of the dining-room where the two gentlemen were knocking their own heads together. “MacWhirter! My sister chooses to insult me, and say that a brevet-major’s wife — ”
“By George! are you fighting, too?” asks the general.
“Baynes, Emily MacWhirter has insulted me!” cries Mrs. Baynes.
“It seems to have been a settled thing beforehand,” yells the general. “Major MacWhirter has done the same thing by me! He has forgotten that he is a gentleman, and that I am.”
“He only insults you because he thinks you are his relative, and must bear everything from him,” says the general’s wife.
“By George! I will Not bear everything from him!” shouts the general.
The two gentlemen and their two wives are squabbling in the hall. Madame and the servants are peering up from the kitchen-regions. I daresay the boys from the topmost banisters are saying to each other, “Row between Ma and aunt Mac!” I daresay scared little Charlotte, in her temporary apartment, is, for awhile, almost forgetful of her own grief; and wondering what quarrel is agitating her aunt and mother, her father and uncle? Place the remaining male and female boarders about in the corridors and on the landings, in various attitudes expressive of interest, of satiric commentary, wrath at being disturbed by unseemly domestic quarrel:— in what posture you will. As for Mrs. Colonel Bunch, she, poor thing, does not know that the general and her own colonel have entered on a mortal quarrel. She imagines the dispute is only between Mrs. Baynes and her sister as yet; and she has known this pair quarrelling for a score of years past. “Toujours comme ç, fighting vous savez, et puis make it up again. Oui,” she explains to a French friend on the landing.
In the very midst of this storm Colonel Bunch returns, his friend and second, Dr. Martin, on his arm. He does not know that two battles have been fought since his own combat. His, we will say, was Ligny. Then came Quatre-Bras, in which Baynes and Mac Whirter were engaged. Then came the general action of Waterloo. And here enters Colonel Bunch, quite unconscious of the great engagements which have taken place since his temporary retreat in search of reinforcements.
“How are you, Mac Whirter?” cries the colonel of the purple whiskers. “My friend, Dr. Martin!” And as he addresses himself to the general, his eyes almost start out of his head, as if they would shoot themselves into the breast of that officer.
“My dear, hush! Emily Mac Whirter, had we not better defer this most painful dispute? The whole house is listening to us!” whispers the general, in a rapid low voice. “Doctor — Colonel Bunch — Major Mac Whirter, had we not better go into the diningroom?”
The general and the doctor go first, Major Mac Whirter and Colonel Bunch pause at the door. Says Bunch to Mac Whirter: “Major, you act as the general’s friend in this affair? It’s most awkward, but, by George! Baynes has said things to me that I won’t bear, were he my own flesh and blood, by George! And I know him a deuced deal too well to think he will ever apologize!”
“He has said things to ME, Bunch, that I won’t bear from fifty brother-in-laws, by George!” growls MacWhirter.
“What? Don’t you bring me any message from him?”
“I tell you, Tom Bunch, I want to send a message to him. Invite me to his house, and insult me and Emily when we come! By George, it makes my blood boil! Insult us after travelling twenty-four hours in a confounded diligence, and say we’re not invited! He and his little catamaran.”
“Hush!” interposed Bunch.
“I say catamaran, sir! don’t tell me! They came and stayed with us four months at Dumdum — the children ill with the pip, or some confounded thing — went to Europe, and left me to pay the doctor’s bill; and now, by — ”
Was the major going to invoke George, the Cappadocian champion, or Olympian Jove? At this moment a door, by which they stood, opens. You may remember there were three doors, all on that landing; if you doubt me, go and see the house (Avenue de Marli, Champs Elysèes, Paris). A third door opens, and a young lady comes out, looking very pale and sad, and her hair hanging over her shoulders; — her hair, which hung in rich clusters generally, but I suppose tears have put it all out of curl.
“Is it you, uncle Mac? I thought I knew your voice, and I heard aunt Emily’s,” says the little person.
“Yes, it is I, Charley,” says uncle Mac. And he looks into the round face, which looks so wild and is so full of grief unutterable that uncle Mac is quite melted, and takes the child to his arms, and says, “What is it, my dear?” And he quite forgets that he proposes to blow her father’s brains out in the morning. “How hot your little hands are!”
“Uncle, uncle!” she says, in a swift febrile whisper, “you’re come to take me away, I know. I heard you and papa, I heard mamma and aunt Emily speaking quite loud! But if I go — I’ll — I’ll never love any but him!”
“But whom, dear?”
“But Philip, uncle.”
“By George! Char, no more you shall!” says the major. And herewith the poor child, who had been sitting up on her bed whilst this quarrelling of sisters, — whilst this brawling of majors, generals, colonels, — whilst this coming of hackney-coaches, — whilst this arrival and departure of visitors on horseback, — had been taking place, gave a fine hysterical scream, and fell into her uncle’s arms laughing and crying wildly.
This outcry, of course, brought the gentlemen from their adjacent room, and the ladies from theirs.
“What are you making a fool of yourself about?” growls Mrs. Baynes, in her deepest bark.
“By George, Eliza, you are too bad!” says the general quite white.
“Eliza, you are a brute!” cries Mrs. Mac Whirter,
“So She is!” shrieks Mrs. Bunch from the landing-place overhead, where other lady boarders were assembled looking down on this awful family battle.
Eliza Baynes knew she had gone too far. Poor Charley was scarce conscious by this time, and wildly screaming, “Never, never!” . . . When, as I live, who should burst into the premises but a young man with fair hair, with flaming whiskers, with flaming eyes, who calls out, “What is it? I am here, Charlotte, Charlotte!”
Who is that young man? We had a glimpse of him, prowling about the Champs Elysées just now, and dodging behind a tree when Colonel Bunch went out in search of his second. Then the young man saw the Mac Whirter hackney-coach approach the house. Then he waited and waited, looking to that upper window behind which we know his beloved was not reposing. Then he beheld Bunch and Doctor Martin arrive. Then he passed through the wicket into the garden, and heard Mrs. Mac and Mrs. Baynes fighting. Then there came from the passage — where, you see, this battle was going on — that ringing, dreadful laugh and scream of poor Charlotte: and Philip Firmin burst like a bombshell into the midst of the hall where the battle was raging, and of the family circle who were fighting and screaming.
Here is a picture, I protest. We have — first, the boarders on the first landing, whither, too, the Baynes children have crept in their night-gowns. Secondly, we have Auguste, Françoise, the cook, and the assistant coming up from the basement. And, third, we have Colonel Bunch, Doctor Martin, Major MacWhirter, with Charlotte in his arms; madame, General B., Mrs. Mac, Mrs. General B., all in the passage, when our friend the bombshell bursts in amongst them.
“What is it? Charlotte, I am here!” cries Philip, with his great voice; at hearing which, little Char gives one final scream, and, at the next moment, she has fainted quite dead — but this time she is on Philip’s shoulder.
“You brute, how dare you do this?” asks Mrs. Baynes, glaring at the young man.
“It is you who have done it, Eliza!” says aunt Emily.
“And so she has, Mrs. MacWhirter!” calls out Mrs. Colonel Bunch, from the landing above.
And Charles Baynes felt he had acted like a traitor, and hung down his head. He had encouraged his daughter to give her heart away, and she had obeyed him. When he saw Philip I think he was glad: so was the major, though Firmin, to be sure, pushed him quite roughly up against the wall.
“Is this vulgar scandal to go on in the passage before the whole house?” gasped Mrs. Baynes.
“Bunch brought me here to prescribe for this young lady,” says little Doctor Martin, in a very courtly way. “Madame, will you get a little sal volatile from Anjubeau’s in the Faubourg; and let her be kept very quiet!”
“Come, Monsieur Philippe. It is enough like that,” cries madame, who can’t repress a smile. “Come to your chamber, dear little!”
“Madame!” cries Mrs. Baynes, “une mère — ”
Madame shrugs her shoulders. “Une mère, une belle mère, ma foi!” she says. “Come, mademoiselle!”
There were only very few people in the boarding-house: if they knew, if they saw, what happened, how can we help ourselves? But that they had all been sitting over a powder magazine, which might have blown up and destroyed one, two, three, five people, even Philip did not know, until afterwards, when, laughing, Major MacWhirter told him how that meek but most savage Baynes had first challenged Bunch, had then challenged his brother-in-law, and how all sorts of battle, murder, sudden death might have ensued had the quarrel not come to an end.
Were your humble servant anxious to harrow his reader’s feelings, or display his own graphical powers, you understand that I never would have allowed those two gallant officers to quarrel and threaten each other’s very noses, without having the insult wiped out in blood. The Bois de Boulogne is hard by the Avenue de Marli, with plenty of cool fighting ground. The octroi officers never stop gentlemen going out at the neighbouring barrier upon duelling business, or prevent the return of the slain victim in the hackney-coach when the dreadful combat is over. From my knowledge of Mrs. Baynes’s character, I have not the slightest doubt that she would have encouraged her husband to fight; and, the general down, would have put pistols into the hands of her boys, and bidden them carry on the vendetta; but as I do not, for my part, love to see brethren at war, or Moses and Aaron tugging white handfuls out of each other’s beards, I am glad there is going to be no fight between the veterans, and that either’s stout old breast is secure from the fratricidal bullet.
Major MacWhirter forgot all about bullets and battles when poor little Charlotte kissed him, and was not in the least jealous when he saw the little maiden clinging on Philip’s arm. He was melted at the sight of that grief and innocence, when Mrs. Baynes still continued to bark out her private rage, and said: “If the general won’t protect me from insult, I think I had better go.”
“By Jove, I think you had!” exclaimed MacWhirter, to which remark the eyes of the doctor and Colonel Bunch gleamed an approval.
“Allons, Monsieur Philippe. Enough like that — let me take her to bed again,” madame resumed. “Come, dear miss?”
What a pity that the bedroom was but a yard from where they stood! Philip felt strong enough to carry his little Charlotte to the Tuileries. The thick brown locks, which had fallen over his shoulders, are lifted away. The little wounded heart that had lain against his own, parts from him with a reviving throb. Madame and her mother carry away little Charlotte. The door of the neighbouring chamber closes on her. The sad little vision has disappeared. The men, quarrelling anon in the passage, stand there silent.
“I heard her voice outside,” said Philip, after a little pause (with love, with grief, with excitement, I suppose his head was in a whirl). “I heard her voice outside, and I couldn’t help coming in.”
“By George, I should think not, young fellow!” says Major MacWhirter, stoutly shaking the young man by the hand.
“Hush, hush!” whispers the doctor; “she must be kept quite quiet. She has had quite excitement enough for to-night. There must be no more scenes, my young fellow.”
And Philip says, when in this his agony of grief and doubt he found a friendly hand put out to him, he himself was so exceedingly moved that he was compelled to fly out of the company of the old men, into the night, where the rain was pouring — the gentle rain.
While Philip, without Madame Smolensk’s premises, is saying his tenderest prayers, offering up his tears, heart-throbs, and most passionate vows of love for little Charlotte’s benefit, the warriors assembled within once more retreat to a colloquy in the salle è manger; and, in consequence of the rainy state of the night, the astonished Auguste has to bring a third supply of hotwater for the four gentlemen attending the congress. The colonel, the major, the doctor, ranged themselves on one side the table, defended, as it were, by a line of armed tumblers, flanked by a strong brandy-bottle and a stout earth-work from an embrasure in which scalding water could be discharged. Behind these fortifications the veterans awaited their enemy, who, after marching up and down the room for a while, takes position finally in their front and prepares to attack. The general remounts his cheval de bataille, but cannot bring the animal to charge as fiercely as before. Charlotte’s white apparition has come amongst them, and flung her fair arms between the men of war. In vain Baynes tries to get up a bluster, and to enforce his passion with by Georges, by Joves, and words naughtier still. That weak, meek, quiet, henpecked, but most bloodthirsty old general, found himself forming his own minority, and against him his old comrade Bunch, whom he had insulted and nose-pulled; his brother-in-law MacWhirter, whom he had nose-pulled and insulted; and the doctor, who had been called in as the friend of the former. As they faced him, shoulder to shoulder, each of those three acquired fresh courage from his neighbour. Each, taking his aim deliberately, poured his fire into Baynes. To yield to such odds, on the other hand, was not so distasteful to the veteran, as to have to give up his sword to any single adversary. Before he would own himself in the wrong to any individual, he would eat that individual’s ears and nose: but to be surrounded by three enemies, and strike your flag before such odds, was no disgrace; and Baynes could take the circumbendibus way of apology to which some proud spirits will submit. Thus he could say to the doctor, “Well, doctor, perhaps I was hasty in accusing Bunch of employing bad language to me. A bystander can see these things sometimes when a principal is too angry; and as you go against me — well — there, then, I ask Bunch’s pardon.” That business over, the MacWhirter reconciliation was very speedily brought about. Fact was, was in a confounded ill-temper — very much disturbed by events of the day — didn’t mean anything but this, that, and so forth. If this old chief had to eat humble pie, his brave adversaries were anxious that he should gobble up his portion as quickly as possible, and turned away their honest old heads as he swallowed it. One of the party told his wife of the quarrel which had arisen, but Baynes never did. “I declare, sir,” Philip used to say, “had she known anything about the quarrel that night, Mrs. Baynes would have made her husband turn out of bed at midnight, and challenge his old friends over again!” But then there was no love between Philip and Mrs. Baynes, and in those whom he hates he is accustomed to see little good.
Thus, any gentle reader who expected to be treated to an account of the breakage of the sixth commandment will close this chapter disappointed. Those stout old rusty swords which were fetched off their hooks by the warriors, their owners, were returned undrawn to their flannel cases. Hands were shaken after a fashion — at least no blood was shed. But, though the words spoken between the old boys were civil enough, Bunch, Baynes, and the doctor could not alter their opinion that Philip had been hardly used, and that the benefactor of his family merited a better treatment from General Baynes.
Meanwhile, that benefactor strode home through the rain in a state of perfect rapture. The rain refreshed him, as did his own tears. The dearest little maiden had sunk for a moment on his heart, and, as she lay there, a thrill of hope vibrated through his whole frame. Her father’s old friends had held out a hand to him, and bid him not despair. Blow wind, fall autumn rains! In the midnight, under the gusty trees, amidst which the lamps of the réverbères are tossing, the young fellow strides back to his lodgings. He is poor and unhappy, but he has Hope along with him. He looks at a certain breast-button of his old coat ere he takes it off to sleep. “Her cheek was lying there,” he thinks, “just there.” My poor little Charlotte! what could she have done to the breast-button of the old coat?
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00