Philip’s heart beat very quickly at seeing this grim pair, and the guilty newspaper before them, on which Mrs. Baynes’ lean right hand was laid. “So, sir,” she cried, “you still honour us with your company: after distinguishing yourself as you did the night before last. Fighting and boxing like a porter at his Excellency’s ball. It’s disgusting! I have no other word for it: disgusting!” And here I suppose she nudged the general, or gave him some look or signal by which he knew he was to come into action; for Baynes straightway advanced and delivered his fire.
“Faith, sir, more bub-ub-blackguard conduct I never heard of in my life! That’s the only word for it: the only word for it,” cries Baynes.
“The general knows what blackguard conduct is, and yours is that conduct, Mr. Firmin! It is all over the town: is talked of everywhere: will be in all the newspapers. When his lordship heard of it, he was furious. Never, never, will you be admitted into the Embassy again, after disgracing yourself as you have done,” cries the lady.
“Disgracing yourself, that’s the word. — And disgraceful your conduct was, begad!” cries the officer second in command.
“You don’t know my provocation,” pleaded poor Philip. “As I came up to him Twysden was boasting that he had struck me — and — and laughing at me.”
“And a pretty figure you were to come to a ball! Who could help laughing, sir?”
“He bragged of having insulted me, and I lost my temper, and struck him in return. The thing is done and can’t be helped,” growled Philip.
“Strike a little man before ladies! Very brave indeed!” cries the lady.
“I call it cowardly. In the army we consider it cowardly to quarrel before ladies,” continues Mrs. General B.
“I have waited at home for two days to see if he wanted any more,” groaned Philip.
“Oh, yes! After insulting and knocking a little man down, you want to murder him! And you call that the conduct of a Christian — the conduct of a gentleman!”
“The conduct of a ruffian, by George!” says General Baynes.
“It was prudent of you to choose a very little man, and to have the ladies within hearing!” continues Mrs. Baynes. “Why, I wonder you haven’t beaten my dear children next. Don’t you, general, wonder he has not knocked down our poor boys? They are quite small. And it is evident that laides being present is no hindrance to Mr. Firmin’s boxing-matches.”
“The conduct is gross, and unworthy of a gentleman,” reiterates the general.
“You hear what that man says — that old man, who never says an unkind word? That veteran, who has been in twenty battles, and never struck a man before women yet? Did you, Charles? He has given you his opinion. He has called you a name which I won’t soil my lips with repeating, but which you deserve. And do you suppose, sir, that I will give my blessed child to a man who has acted as you have acted, and been called a —? Charles! General! I will go to my grave rather than see my daughter given up to such a man!”
“Good heavens!” said Philip, his knees trembling under him. “You don’t mean to say that you intend to go from your word, and — ”
“Oh! you threaten about money, do you? Because your father was a cheat, you intend to try and make us suffer, do you?” shrieks the lady. “A man who strikes a little man before ladies will commit any act of cowardice, I daresay. And if you wish to beggar my family, because your father was a rogue — ”
“My dear!” interposes the general.
“Wasn’t he a rogue, Baynes? Is there any denying it? Haven’t you said so a hundred and a hundred times? A nice family to marry into! No, Mr. Firmin! You may insult me as you please. You may strike little men before ladies. You may lift your great wicked hand against that poor old man, in one of your tipsy fits: but I know a mother’s love, a mother’s duty — and I desire that we see you no more.”
“Great Powers!” cries Philip, aghast. “You don’t mean to — to separate me from Charlotte, general! I have your word. You encouraged me. I shall break my heart. I’ll go down on my knees to that fellow. I’ll — oh! — you don’t mean what you say!” And, scared and sobbing, the poor fellow clasped his strong hands together, and appealed to the general.
Baynes was under his wife’s eye. “I think,” he said, “your conduct has been confoundedly bad, disorderly, and ungentlemanlike. You can’t support my child, if you marry her. And if you have the least spark of honour in you, as you say you have, it is you, Mr. Firmin, who will break off the match, and release the poor child from certain misery. By George, sir, how is a man who fights and quarrels in a nobleman’s ball-room, to get on in the world? How is a man, who can’t afford a decent coat to his back, to keep a wife? The more I have known you, the more I have felt that the engagement would bring misery upon my child! Is that what you want? A man of honour — ” (“Honour!” in italics, from Mrs. Baynes.) “Hush, my dear! — A man of spirit would give her up, sir. What have you to offer but beggary, by George? Do you want my girl to come home to your lodgings, and mend your clothes?" — “I think I put that point pretty well, Bunch, my boy,” said the general, talking of the matter afterwards. “I hit him there, sir.”
The old soldier did indeed strike his adversary there with a vital stab. Philip’s coat, no doubt, was ragged, and his purse but light. He had sent money to his father out of his small stock. There were one or two servants in the old house in Parr Street, who had been left without their wages, and a part of these debts Philip had paid. He knew his own violence of temper, and his unruly independence. He thought very humbly of his talents, and often doubted of his capacity to get on in the world. In his less hopeful moods, he trembled to think that he might be bringing poverty and unhappiness upon his dearest little maiden, for whom he would joyfully have sacrificed his blood, his life. Poor Philip sank back sickening and fainting almost under Baynes’s words.
“You’ll let me — you’ll let me see her?” he gasped out.
“She’s unwell. She is in her bed. She can’t appear to-day!” cried the mother.
“Oh, Mrs. Baynes! I must — I must see her,” Philip said; and fairly broke out in a sob of pain.
“This is the man that strikes men before women!” said Mrs. Baynes. “Very courageous, certainly!”
“By George, Eliza!” the general cried out, starting up, “it’s too bad — ”
“Infirm of purpose, give me the daggers!” Philip yelled out, whilst describing the scene to his biographer in after days. “Macbeth would never have done the murders but for that little quiet woman at his side. When the Indian prisoners are killed, the squaws always invent the worst tortures. You should have seen that fiend and her livid smile, as she was drilling her gimlets into my heart! I don’t know how I offended her. I tried to like her, sir. I had humbled myself before her. I went on her errands. I played cards with her. I sate and listened to her dreadful stories about Barrackpore and the governor-general. I wallowed in the dust before her, and she hated me. I can see her face now: her cruel yellow face, and her sharp teeth, and her gray eyes. It was the end of August, and pouring a storm that day. I suppose my poor child was cold and suffering up-stairs, for I heard the poking of a fire in her little room. When I hear a fire poking of a fire in her little room. When I hear a fire poked over-head now — twenty years after — the whole thing comes back to me; and I suffer over again that infernal agony. Were I to live a thousand years, I could not forgive her. I never did her a wrong, but I can’t forgive her. Ah, my heaven, how that woman tortured me!”
“I think I know one or two similar instances,” said Mr. Firmin’s biographer.
“You are always speaking ill of women!” said Mr. Firmin’s biographer’s wife.
“No, thank heaven!” said the gentleman. “I think I know some of whom I never thought or spoke a word of evil. My dear, will you give Philip some more tea?” and with this the gentleman’s narrative is resumed.
The rain was beating down the avenue as Philip went into the street. He looked up at Charlotte’s window: but there was no sign. There was a flicker of a fire there. The poor girl had the fever, and was shuddering in her little room, weeping and sobbing on Madame Smolensk’s shoulder, que c’était pitié à voir, madame said. Her mother had told her she must break from Philip; had invented and spoken a hundred calumnies against him; declared that he never cared for her; that he had loose principles, and was for ever haunting theatres and bad company. “It’s not true, mother, it’s not true!” the little girl had cried, flaming up in revolt for a moment: but she soon subsided in tears and misery, utterly broken by the thought of her calamity. Then her father had been brought to her, who had been made to believe some of the stories against poor Philip, and who was commanded by his wife to impress them upon the girl. And Baynes tried to obey orders; but he was scared and cruelly pained by the sight of his little maiden’s grief and suffering. He attempted a weak expostulation, and began a speech or two. But his heart failed him. He retreated behind his wife. She never hesitated in speech or resolution, and her language became more bitter as her ally faltered. Philip was a drunkard; Philip was a prodigal; Philip was a frequenter of dissolute haunts, and loose companions. She had the best authority for what she said. Was not a mother anxious for the welfare of her own child? (“Begad, you don’t suppose your own mother would do anything that was not for your welfare, now?” broke in the general, feebly.) “Do you think if he had not been drunk he would have ventured to commit such an atrocious outrage as that at the Embassy? And do you suppose I want a drunkard and a beggar to marry my daughter? Your ingratitude, Charlotte, is horrible!” cries mamma. And poor Philip, charged with drunkenness, had dined for seventeen sous, with a carafon of beer, and had counted on a supper that night by little Charlotte’s side. So, while the child lay sobbing on her bed, the mother stood over her, and lashed her. For General Baynes — a brave man, a kind-hearted man — to have to look on whilst this torture was inflicted, must have been a hard duty. He could not eat the boarding-house dinner, though he took his place at the table at the sound of the dismal bell. Madame herself was not present at the meal; and you know poor Charlotte’s place was vacant. Her father went upstairs, and paused by her bed-room door, and listened. He heard murmurs within, and madame’s voice, as he stumbled at the door, cried harshly, “Qui est là?” He entered. Madame was sitting on the bed, with Charlotte’s head on her lap. The thick brown tresses were falling over the child’s white nightdress, and she lay almost motionless, and sobbing feebly. “Ah, it is you, general!” said madame. “You have done a pretty work, sir!” “Mamma says, won’t you take something, Charlotte, dear?” faltered the old man. “Will you leave her tranquil?” said madame, with her deep voice. The father retreated. When madame went out presently to get that panacea, une tasse de thé, for her poor little friend, she found the old gentleman seated on a portmanteau at his door. “Is she — is she a little better now?” he sobbed out. Madame shrugged her shoulders, and looked down on the veteran with superb scorn. “Vous n’êtes qu’un poltron, général!” she said, and swept downstairs. Baynes was beaten indeed. He was suffering horrible pain. He was quite unmanned, and tears were trickling down his old cheeks as he sate wretchedly there in the dark. His wife did not leave the table as long as dinner and dessert lasted. She read Galignani resolutely afterwards. She told the children not to make a noise, as their sister was upstairs with a bad headache. But she revoked that statement as it were (as she revoked at cards presently), by asking the Miss Bolderos to play one of their duets.
I wonder whether Philip walked up and down before the house that night? Ah! it was a dismal night for all of them: a racking pain, a cruel sense of shame, throbbed under Baynes’s cotton tassel; and as for Mrs. Baynes, I hope there was not much rest or comfort under her old nightcap. Madame passed the greater part of the night in a great chair in Charlotte’s bedroom, where the poor child heard the hours toll one after the other, and found no comfort in the dreary rising of the dawn.
At a very early hour of the dismal rainy morning, what made poor little Charlotte fling her arms round madame, and cry out, “Ah, que je vous aime! ah, que vous etes bonne, madame!” and smile almost happily through her tears? In the first place, madame went to Charlotte’s dressing-table, whence she took a pair of scissors. Then the little maid sat up on her bed, with her brown hair clustering over her shoulders; and madame took a lock of it, and cut a thick curl; and kissed poor little Charlotte’s red eyes; and laid her pale cheek on the pillow, and carefully covered her; and bade her, with many tender words, to go to sleep. “If you are very good, and will go to sleep, he shall have it in half an hour,” madame said. “And as I go downstairs, I will tell Francoise to have some tea ready for you when you ring.” And this promise, and the thought of what madame was going to do, comforted Charlotte in her misery. And with many fond, fond prayers for Philip, and consoled by thinking, “Now she must have gone the greater part of the way; now she must be with him; now he knows I will never, never love any but him,” she fell asleep at length on her moistened pillow: and was smiling in her sleep, and I daresay dreaming of Philip, when the noise of the fall of a piece of furniture roused her, and she awoke out of her dream to see the grim old mother, in her white nightcap and white dressing-gown, standing by her side.
Never mind. “She has seen him now. She has told him now,” was the child’s very first thought as her eyes fairly opened. “He knows that I never, never will think of any but him.” She felt as if she was actually there in Philip’s room, speaking herself to him; murmuring vows which her fond lips had whispered many and many a time to her lover. And now he knew she would never break them, she was consoled and felt more courage.
“You have had some sleep, Charlotte?” asks Mrs. Baynes.
“Yes, I have been asleep, mamma.” As she speaks, she feels under the pillow a little locket containing — what? I suppose a scrap of Mr. Philip’s lank hair.
“I hope you are in a less wicked frame of mind than when I left you last night,” continues the matron.
“Was I wicked for loving Philip? Then I am wicked still, mamma!” cries the child, sitting up in her bed. And she clutches that little lock of hair which nestles under her pillow.
“What nonsense, child! This is what you get out of your stupid novels. I tell you he does not think about you. He is quite a reckless, careless libertine.”
“Yes, so reckless and careless that we owe him the bread we eat. He doesn’t think of me! Doesn’t he? Ah — ” Here she paused as a clock in a neighbouring chamber began to strike. “Now,” she thought, “he has got my message!” A smile dawned over her face. She sank back on her pillow, turning her head from her mother. She kissed the locket, and murmured: “Not think of me! Don’t you, don’t you, my dear!” She did not heed the woman by her side, hear her voice, or for a moment seem aware of her presence. Charlotte was away in Philip’s room; she saw him talking with her messenger; heard his voice so deep, and so sweet; knew that the promises he had spoken he never would break. With gleaming eyes and flushing cheeks she looked at her mother, her enemy. She held her talisman locket and pressed it to her heart. No, she would never be untrue to him! No, he would never, never desert her! And as Mrs. Baynes looked at the honest indignation beaming in the child’s face, she read Charlotte’s revolt, defiance, perhaps victory. The meek child who never before had questioned an order, or formed a wish which she would not sacrifice at her mother’s order, was now in arms asserting independence. But I should think mamma is not going to give up the command after a single act of revolt; and that she will try more attempts than one to cajole or coerce her rebel.
Meanwhile let Fancy leave the talisman locket nestling on Charlotte’s little heart (in which soft shelter methinks it were pleasant to linger.) Let her wrap a shawl round her, and affix to her feet a pair of stout goloshes; let her walk rapidly through the muddy Champs Elysées, where, in this inclement season, only few a policemen and artisans are to be found moving. Let her pay a halfpenny at the Pont des Invalides, and so march stoutly along the quays, by the Chamber of Deputies, where as yet deputies assemble: and trudge along the river-side, until she reaches Seine Street, into which, as you all know, the Rue Poussin debouches. This was the road brave Madame Smolensk took on a gusty, rainy autumn morning, and on foot, for five-franc pieces were scarce with the good woman. Before the Hôtel Poussin (ah, qu’on y était bien à vingt ans!) is a little painted wicket which opens, ringing; and then there is the passage, you know, with the stair leading to the upper regions, to Monsieur Philippe’s room, which is on the first floor, as is that of Bouchard, the painter, who has his atelier over the way. A bad painter is Bouchard, but a worthy friend, a cheery companion, a modest, amiable gentleman. And a rare good fellow is Laberge of the second floor, the poet from Carcassonne, who pretends to be studying law, but whose heart is with the Muses, and whose talk is of Victor Hugo and Alfred de Musset, whose verses he will repeat to all comers. Near Laberge (I think I have heard Philip say) lived Escasse, a Southern man too — a capitalist — a clerk in a bank, quoi! — whose apartment was decorated sumptuously with his own furniture, who had Spanish wine and sausages in cupboards, and a bag of dollars for a friend in need. Is Escassse alive still? Philip Firmin wonders, and that old colonel, who lived on the same floor, and who had been a prisoner in England? What wonderful descriptions that Colonel Dujarret had of les meess anglaises and their singularities of dress and behaviour! Though conquered and a prisoner, what a conqueror and enslaver he was, when in our country! You see, in his rough way, Philip used to imitate these people to his friends, and we almost fancied we could see the hotel before us. It was very clean; it was very cheap; it was very dark; it was very cheerful; — capital coffee and bread-and-butter for breakfast for fifteen sous; capital bedroom au premier for thirty francs a month; — dinner, if you would, for I forget how little; and a merry talk round the pipes and the grog afterwards — the grog, or the modest eau sucrée. Here Colonel Dujarret recorded his victories over both sexes. Here Colonel Tymowski sighed over his enslaved Poland. Tymowski was the second who was to act for Philip, in case the Ringwood Twysden affair should have come to any violent conclusion. Here Laberge bawled poetry to Philip, who no doubt in his turn confided to the young Frenchman his own hopes and passion. Deep into the night he would sit talking of his love, of her goodness, of her beauty, of her innocence, of her dreadful mother, of her good old father — que sçais-je? Have we not said that when this man had anything on his mind, straightway he bellowed forth his opinions to the universe? Philip, away from his love, would roar out her praises for hours and hours to Laberge, until the candles burned down, until the hour for rest was come and could be delayed no longer. Then he would hie to bed with a prayer for her; and the very instant he awoke begin to think of her, and bless her, and thank God for her love. Poor as Mr. Philip was, yet as the possessor of health, content, honour, and that priceless pure jewel the girl’s love, I think we will not pity him much; though, on the night when he received his dismissal from Mrs. Baynes, he must have passed an awful time, to be sure. Toss, Philip, on your bed of pain, and doubt, and fear. Toll, heavy hours, from night till dawn. Ah! ’twas a weary night through which two sad young hearts heard you tolling.
At a pretty early hour the various occupants of the crib at the Rue Poussin used to appear in the dingy little salle-à-manger, and partake of the breakfast there provided. Monsieur Menou, in his shirt-sleeves, shared and distributed the meal. Madame Menou, with a Madras handkerchief round her grizzling head, laid down the smoking coffee on the shining oil-cloth, whilst each guest helped himself out of a little museum of napkins to his own particular towel. The room was small: the breakfast was not fine: the guests who partook of it were certainly not remarkable for the luxury of clean linen; but Philip — who is many years older now than when he dwelt in this hotel, and is not pinched for money at all, you will be pleased to hear (and, between ourselves, has become rather a gourmand) — declares he was a very happy youth at this humble Hôtel Poussin, and sighs for the days when he was sighing for Miss Charlotte.
Well, he has passed a dreadful night of gloom and terror. I doubt that he has bored Laberge very much with his tears and despondency. And now morning has come, and, as he is having his breakfast with one or more of the before-named worthies, the little boy-of-all-work enters, grinning, his plumet under his arm, and cries “Une dame pour M. Philippe!”
“Une dame,” says the French colonel, looking up from his paper; “allez, mauvais sujet!”
“Grand Dieu! what has happened?” cries Philip, running forward, as he recognizes madame’s tall figure in the passage. They go up to his room, I suppose, regardless of the grins and sneers of the little boy with the plumet, who aids the maid servant to make the beds; and who thinks Monsieur Philippe has a very elderly acquaintance.
Philip closes the door upon his visitor, who looks at him with so much hope, kindness, confidence in her eyes, that the poor fellow is encouraged almost ere she begins to speak. “Yes, you have reason; I come from the little person,” Madame Smolensk said; “the means of resisting that poor dear angel! She has passed a sad night. What? You, too, have not been to bed, poor young man!” Indeed Philip had only thrown himself on his bed, and had kicked there, and had groaned there, and had tossed there; and had tried to read, and, I daresay, remembered afterwards, with a strange interest, the book he read, and that other thought which was throbbing in his brain all the time whilst he was reading, and whilst the wakeful hours went wearily tolling by.
“No, in effect,” says poor Philip, rolling a dismal cigarette; “the night has not been too fine. And she has suffered too? Heaven bless her!” And then Madame Smolensk told how the little dear angel had cried all the night long, and how the Smolensk had not succeeded in comforting her, until she promised she would go to Philip, and tell him that his Charlotte would be his for ever and ever; that she never could think of any man but him; that he was the best, and the dearest, and the bravest, and the truest Philip, and that she did not believe one word of those wicked stories told against him by — “Hold, Monsieur Philippe, I suppose Madame la Générale has been talking about you, and loves you no more,” cried Madame Smolensk. “We other women are assassins — assassins, see you! But Madame la Générale went too far with the little maid. She is an obedient little maid, the dear Miss! — trembling before her mother, and always ready to yield — only now her spirit is roused; and she is yours and yours only. The little dear, gentle child! Ah, how pretty she was, leaning on my shoulder. I held her there — yes, there, my poor garcon, and I cut this from her neck, and brought it to thee. Come, embrace me. Weep; that does good, Philip. I love thee well. Go — and thy little — It is an angel!” And so, in the hour of their pain, myriads of manly hearts have found woman’s love ready to soothe their anguish.
Leaving to Philip that thick curling lock of brown hair (from a head where now, mayhap, there is a line or two of matron silver), this Samaritan plods her way back to her own house, where her own cares await her. But though the way is long, madame’s step is lighter now, as she thinks how Charlotte at the journey’s end is waiting for news of Philip; and I suppose there are more kisses and embraces, when the good soul meets with the little suffering girl, and tells her how Philip will remain for ever true and faithful; and how true love must come to a happy ending; and how she Smolensk, will do all in her power to aid, comfort, and console her young friends. As for the writer of Mr. Philip’s memoirs, you see I never try to make any concealments. I have told you, all along, that Charlotte and Philip are married, and I believe they are happy. But it is certain that they suffered dreadfully at this time of their lives; and my wife says that Charlotte, it she alludes to the period and the trial, speaks as though they had both undergone some hideous operation, the remembrance of which for ever causes a pang to the memory. So, my young lady, will you have your trial one day, to be borne, pray heaven, with a meek spirit. Ah, how surely the turn comes to all of us! Look at Madame Smolensk at her luncheon-table, this day after her visit to Philip at his lodging, after comforting little Charlotte in her pain. How brisk she is! How goodnatured! How she smiles! How she speaks to all her company, and carves for her guests! You do not suppose she has no griefs and cares of her own? You know better. I daresay she is thinking of her creditors; of her poverty: of that accepted bill which will come due next week, and so forth. The Samaritan who rescues you, most likely, has been robbed and has bled in his day; and it is a wounded arm that bandages yours when bleeding.
If Anatole, the boy who scoured the plain at the Hôtel Poussin, with his plumet in his jacket-pocket, and his slippers soled with scrubbing brushes, saw the embrace between Philip and his good friend, I believe, in his experience at that hotel, he never witnessed a transaction more honourable, generous, and blameless. Put what construction you will on the business, Anatole, you little imp of mischief! your mother never gave you a kiss more tender than that which Madame Smolensk bestowed on Philip — than that which she gave Philip? — than that which she carried back from him and faithfully placed on poor little Charlotte’s pale round cheek. The world is full of love and pity, I say. Had there been less suffering, there would have been less kindness. I, for one, almost wish to be ill again, so that the friends who succoured me might once more come to my rescue.
To poor little wounded Charlotte in her bed, our friend the mistress of the boarding-house brought back inexpressible comfort. Whatever might betide, Philip would never desert her! “Think you I would ever have gone on such an embassy for a French girl, or interfered between her and her parents?” madame asked, “Never, never! But you and Monsieur Philippe are already betrothed before heaven; and I should despise you, Charlotte, I should despise him, were either to draw back.” This little point being settled in Miss Charlotte’s mind, I can fancy she is immensely soothed and comforted; that hope and courage settle in her heart; that the colour comes back to her young cheeks; that she can come and join her family as she did yesterday. “I told you she never cared about him,” says Mrs. Baynes to her husband. “Faith, no: she can’t have cared for him much,” says Baynes, with something of a sorrow that his girl should be so lightminded. But you and I, who have been behind the scenes, who have peeped into Philip’s bed-room, and behind poor Charlotte’s modest curtains, know that the girl had revolted from her parents; and so children will if the authority exercised over them is too tyrannical or unjust. Gentle Charlotte, who scarce ever resisted, was aroused and in rebellion: honest Charlotte, who used to speak all her thoughts, now hid them, and deceived father and mother; yes, deceived:— what a confession to make regarding a young lady, the prima donna of our opera! Mrs. Baynes is, as usual, writing her lengthy scrawls to sister Mac Whirter at Tours, and informs the major’s lady that she has very great satisfaction in at last being able to announce “that that most imprudent and in all respects ineligible engagement between her Charlotte and a certain young man, son of a bankrupt London physician, is come to an end. Mr. F.’s conduct has been so wild, so gross, so disorderly and ungentlemanlike, that the general (and you know, Maria, how soft and sweet a tempered man Baynes is) has told Mr. Firmin his opinion in unmistakable words, and forbidden him to continue his visits. After seeing him every day for six months, during which time she has accustomed herself to his peculiarities, and his often coarse and odious expressions and conduct, no wonder the separation has been a shock to dear Char, though I believe the young man feels nothing who has been the cause of all this grief. That he cares but little for her, has been my opinion all along, though she, artless child, gave him her whole affection. He has been accustomed to throw over women; and the brother of a young lady whom Mr. F. had courted and left (and who has made a most excellent match since,) showed his indignation at Mr. F.’s conduct at the embassy ball the other night, on which the young man took advantage of his greatly superior size and strength to begin a vulgar boxing-match, in which both parties were severely wounded. Of course you saw the paragraph in Galignani about the whole affair. I sent our dresses, but it did not print them, though our names appeared as amongst the company. Anything more singular than the appearance of Mr. F. you cannot well imagine. I wore my garnets; Charlotte (who attracted universal admiration) was in, Of course, the separation has occasioned her a good deal of pain; for Mr. F. certainly behaved with much kindness and forbearance on a previous occasion. But the general will not hear of the continuance of the connection. He says the young man’s conduct has been too gross and shameful; and when once roused, you know, I might as well attempt to chain a tiger as Baynes. Our poor Char will suffer no doubt in consequence of the behaviour of this brute, but she has ever been an obedient child, who knows how to honour her father and mother. She bears up wonderfully, though, of course, the dear child suffers at the parting. I think if she were to go to you and Mac Whirter at Tours for a month or two, she would be all the better for change of air, too, dear Mac. Come and fetch her, and we will pay the dawk. She would go to certain poverty and wretchedness did she marry this most violent and disreputable young man. The general sends regards to Mac, and I am,”
That these were the actual words of Mrs. Baynes’s letter I cannot, as a veracious biographer, take upon myself to say. I never saw the document, though I have had the good fortune to peruse others from the same hand. Charlotte saw the letter some time after, upon one of those not unfrequent occasions, when a quarrel occurred between the two sisters — Mrs. Major and Mrs. General — and Charlotte mentioned the contents of the letter to a friend of mine who has talked to me about his affairs, and especially his love affairs, for many and many a long hour. And shrewd old woman as Mrs. Baynes may be, you may see how utterly she was mistaken in fancying that her daughter’s obedience was still secure. The little maid had left father and mother, at first with their eager sanction; her love had been given to Firmin; and an inmate — a prisoner if you will — under her father’s roof, her heart remained with Philip, however time or distance might separate them.
And now, as we have the command of Philip’s desk, and are free to open and read the private letters which relate to his history, I take leave to put in a document which was penned in his place of exile by his worthy father, upon receiving the news of the quarrel described in the last chapter of these memoirs:—
“Astor House, New York, September 27.
“Dear Philip, — I received the news in your last kind and affectionate letter with not unmingled pleasure; but ah, what pleasure in life does not carry its amari aliquid along with it! That you are hearty, cheerful, and industrious, earning a small competence, I am pleased indeed to think: that you talk about being married to a penniless girl I can’t say gives me a very sincere pleasure. With your good looks, good manners, attainments, you might have hoped for a better match than a half-pay officer’s daughter. But ’tis useless speculating on what might have been. We are puppets in the hands of fate, most of us. We are carried along by a power stronger than ourselves. It has driven me, at sixty years of age, from competence, general respect, high position, to poverty and exile. So be it! laudo manentem, as my delightful old friend and philosopher teaches me — si celeres quatit pennas — you know the rest. Whatever our fortune may be, I hope that my Philip and his father will bear it with the courage of gentlemen.
“Our papers have announced the death of your poor mother’s uncle, Lord Ringwood, and I had a fond lingering hope that he might have left some token of remembrance to his brother’s grandson. He has not. You have probam pauperiem sine dote. You have courage, health, strength, and talent. I was in greater straits than you are at your age. My father was not as indulgent as yours, I hope and trust, has been. From debt and dependence I worked myself up to a proud position by my own efforts. That the storm overtook me and engulphed me afterwards, is true. But I am like the merchant of my favourite poet: I still hope — ay, at 63! — to mend my shattered ships, indocilis pauperiem pati. I still hope to pay back to my dear boy that fortune which ought to have been his, and which went down in my own shipwreck. Something tells me I must — I will!
“I agree with you that your escape from Agnes Twysden has been a piece of good fortune for you, and am much diverted by your account of her dusky innamorato! Between ourselves, the fondness of the Twysdens for money amounted to meanness. And though I always received Twysden in dear Old Parr Street, as I trust a gentleman should, his company was insufferably tedious to me, and his vulgar loquacity odious. His son also was little to my taste. Indeed I was heartily relieved when I found your connection with that family was over, knowing their rapacity about money, and that it was your fortune, not you, they were anxious to secure for Agnes.
“You will be glad to hear that I am in not inconsiderable practice already. My reputation as a physician had preceded me to this country. My work on Gout was favourably noticed here, and in Philadelphia, and in Boston, by the scientific journals of those great cities. People are more generous and compassionate towards misfortune here than in our cold-hearted island. I could mention several gentlemen of New York who have suffered shipwreck like myself, and are now prosperous and respected. I had the good fortune to be of considerable professional service to Colonel J. B. Fogle, of New York, on our voyage out; and the colonel, who is a leading personage here, has shown himself not at all ungrateful. Those who fancy that at New York people cannot appreciate and understand the manners of a gentleman, are not a little mistaken; and a man who, like myself, has lived with the best society in London, has, I flatter myself, not lived in that society quite in vain. The colonel is proprietor and editor of one of the most brilliant and influential journals of the city. You know that arms and the toga are often worn here by the same individual, and —
“I had actually written thus far when I read in the colonel’s paper — the New York Emerald — an account of your battle with your cousin at the Embassy ball! Oh, you pugnacious Philip! Well, young Twysden was very vulgar, very rude and overbearing, and, I have no doubt, deserved the chastisement you gave him. By the way, the correspondent of the Emerald makes some droll blunders regarding you in his letter. We are all fair game for publicity in this country, where the press is free with a vengeance; and your private affairs, or mine, or the President’s, or our gracious Queen’s, for the matter of that, are discussed with a freedom which certainly amounts to licence. The colonel’s lady is passing the winter in Paris, where I should wish you to pay your respects to her. Her husband has been most kind to me. I am told that Mrs. F. lives in the very choicest French society, and the friendship of this family may be useful to you as to your affectionate father,
“G. B. F.
“Address as usual, until you hear further from me, as Dr. Brandon, New York. I wonder whether Lord Estridge has asked you after his old college friend? When he was Headbury and at Trinity, he and a certain pensioner whom men used to nickname Brummell Firmin were said to be the best dressed men in the university. Estridge has advanced to rank, to honours! You may rely on it, that he will have one of the very next vacant garters. What a different, what an unfortunate career, has been his quondam friend’s! — an exile, an inhabitant of a small room in a great hotel, where I sit at a scrambling public table with all sorts of coarse people! The way in which they bolt their dinner, often with a knife, shocks me. Your remittance was most welcome, small as it was. It shows my Philip has a kind heart. Ah! why, why are you thinking of marriage, who are so poor? By the way, your encouraging account of your circumstances has induced me to draw upon you for 100 dollars. The bill will go to Europe by the packet which carries this letter, and has kindly been cashed for me by my friends, Messrs. Plaster and Shinman, of Wall Street, respected bankers of this city. Leave your card with Mrs. Fogle. Her husband himself may be useful to you and your ever attached
We take the New York Emerald at Bays’s, and in it I had read a very amusing account of our friend Philip, in an ingenious correspondence entitled “Letters from an Attaché,” which appeared in that journal. I even copied the paragraph to show to my wife, and perhaps to forward to our friend.
“I promise you,” wrote the attaché, “the new country did not disgrace the old at the British Embassy ball on Queen Vic’s birthday. Colonel Z. B. Hoggins’s lady, of Albany, and the peerless bride of Elijah J. Dibbs, of Twenty-ninth Street in your city, were the observed of all observers for splendour, for elegance, for refined native beauty. The Royal Dukes danced with nobody else; and at the attention of one of the Princes to the lovely Miss Dibbs, I observed his Royal Duchess looked as black as thunder. Supper handsome. Back Delmonico to beat it. Champagne so-so. By the way, the young fellow who writes here for the Pall Mall Gazette got too much of the champagne on board — as usual, I am told. The Honourable R. Twysden, of London, was rude to my young chap’s partner, or winked at him offensively, or trod on his toe, or I don’t know what — but young F. followed him into the garden; hit out at him; sent him flying, like a spread eagle into the midst of an illumination, and left him there sprawling. Wild, rampageous fellow this young F.; has already spent his own fortune, and ruined his poor old father, who has been forced to cross the water. Old Louis Philippe went away early. He talked long with our minister about his travels in our country. I was standing by, but in course ain’t so ill-bred as to say what passed between them.”
In this way history is written. I daresay about others besides Philip, in English papers as well as American, have fables been narrated.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13