For once Philip found that he had offended without giving general offence. In the confidence of female intercourse, Mrs. Mugford had already, in her own artless but powerful language, confirmed her husband’s statement regarding Mr. Bickerton, and declared that B. was a beast, and she was only sorry that Mr. F. had not hit him a little harder. So different are the opinions which different individuals entertain of the same event! I happen to know that Bickerton, on his side, went away, averring that we were quarrelsome, underbred people; and that a man of any refinement had best avoid that kind of society. He does really and seriously believe himself our superior, and will lecture almost any gentleman on the art of being one. This assurance is not at all uncommon with your parvenu. Proud of his newly-acquired knowledge of the art of exhausting the contents of an egg, the well-known little boy of the apologue rushed to impart his knowledge to his grandmother, who had been for many years familiar with the process which the child had just discovered. Which of us has not met with some such instructors? I know men who would be ready to step forward and teach Taglioni how to dance, Tom Sayers how to box, or the Chevalier Bayard how to be a gentleman. We most of us know such men, and undergo, from time to time, the ineffable benefit of their patronage.
Mugford went away from our little entertainment vowing, by George, that Philip shouldn’t want for a friend at the proper season; and this proper season very speedily arrived. I laughed one day, on going to the Pall Mall Gazette office, to find Philip installed in the sub-editor’s room, with a provision of scissors, wafers, and paste-pots, snipping paragraphs from this paper and that, altering, condensing, giving titles, and so forth; and, in a word, in regular harness. The three-headed calves, the great prize gooseberries, the old maiden ladies of wonderful ages, who at length died in country places — it was wonderful (considering his little experience) how Firmin hunted out these. He entered into all the spirit of his business. He prided himself on the clever titles which he found for his paragraphs. When his paper was completed at the week’s end, he surveyed it fondly — not the leading articles, or those profound and yet brilliant literary essays which appeared in the Gazette — but the births, deaths, marriages, markets, trials, and what not. As a shop-boy, having decorated his master’s window, goes into the street, and pleased surveys his work; so the fair face of the Pall Mall Gazette rejoiced Mr. Firmin, and Mr. Bince, the printer of the paper. They looked with an honest pride upon the result of their joint labours. Nor did Firmin relish pleasantry on the subject. Did his friends allude to it, and ask if he had shot any especially fine canard that week? Mr. Philip’s brow would corrugate and his cheeks redden. He did not like jokes to be made at his expense. Was not his a singular antipathy?
In his capacity of sub-editor, the good fellow had the privilege of taking and giving away countless theatre orders, and panorama and diorama tickets: the Pall Mall Gazette was not above accepting such little bribes in those days, and Mrs. Mugford’s familiarity with the names of opera singers, and splendid appearance in an opera-box, was quite remarkable. Friend Philip would bear away a heap of these cards of admission, delighted to carry off our young folks to one exhibition or another. But once at the diorama, where our young people sat in the darkness, very much frightened as usual, a voice from out the midnight gloom cried out: “Who has come in with orders from the Pall Mall Gazette?” A lady, two scared children, and Mr. Sub-editor Philip, all trembled at this dreadful summons. I think I should not dare to print the story even now, did I not know that Mr. Firmin was travelling abroad. It was a blessing the place was dark, so that none could see the poor sub-editor’s blushes. Rather than cause any mortification to this lady, I am sure Philip would have submitted to rack and torture. But, indeed, her annoyance was very slight, except in seeing her friend annoyed. The humour of the scene surpassed the annoyance in the lady’s mind, and caused her to laugh at the mishap; but I own our little boy (who is of an aristocratic turn, and rather too sensitive to ridicule from his schoolfellows) was not at all anxious to talk upon the subject, or to let the world know that he went to a place of public amusement “with an order.”
As for Philip’s landlady, the Little sister, she, you know, had been familiar with the press and press-men, and orders for the play for years past. She looked quite young and pretty, with her kind smiling face and neat tight black dress, as she came to the theatre — it was to an Easter piece — on Philip’s arm, one evening. Our children saw her from their cab, as they, too, were driving to the same performance. It was “Look, mamma! There’s Philip and the Little Sister!” And then came such smiles, and nods, and delighted recognitions from the cab to the two friends on foot! Of course I have forgotten what was the piece which we all saw on that Easter evening. But those children will never forget; no, though they live to be a hundred years old, and though their attention was distracted from the piece by constant observation of Philip and his companion in the public boxes opposite.
Mr. Firmin’s work and pay were both light, and he accepted both very cheerfully. He saved money out of his little stipend. It was surprising how economically he could live with his little landlady’s aid and counsel. He would come to us, recounting his feats of parsimony with a childish delight. He loved to contemplate his sovereigns, as week by week the little pile accumulated. He kept a sharp eye upon sales, and purchased now and again articles of furniture. In this way he broght home a piano to his lodgings, on which he could no more play than he could on the tight-rope; but he was given to understand that it was a very fine instrument; and my wife played on it one day when we went to visit him, and he sat listening, with his great hands on his knees, in ecstasies. He was thinking how one day, please heaven, he should see other hands touching the keys — and player and instrument disappeared in a mist before his happy eyes. His purchases were not always lucky. For example, he was sadly taken in at an auction about a little pearl ornament. Some artful Hebrews at the sale conspired and ran him up, as the phrase is, to a price more than equal to the value of the trinket. “But you know who it was for, ma’am,” one of Philip’s apologists said. “If she would like to wear his ten fingers he would cut ’em off and send ’em to her. But he keeps ’em to write her letters and verses — and most beautiful they are, too.”
“And the dear fellow, who was bred up in splendour and luxury, Mrs. Mugford, as you, ma’am, know too well — he won’t drink no wine now. A little whiskey and a glass of beer is all he takes. And his clothes — he used to be so grand — you see how he is now, ma’am. Always the gentleman, and, indeed, a finer or grander looking gentleman never entered a room; but he is saving — you know for what, ma’am.”
And, indeed, Mrs. Mugford did know; and so did Mrs. Pendennis and Mrs. Brandon. And these three women worked themselves into a perfect fever, interesting themselves for Mr. Firmin. And Mugford, in his rough, funny way, used to say, “Mr. P., a certain Mr. Heff has come and put our noses out of joint. He has, as sure as my name is Hem. And I am getting quite jealous of our sub-editor, and that is the long and short of it. But it’s good to see him haw-haw Bickerton if ever they meet in the office, that it is! Bickerton won’t bully him any more, I promise you!”
The conclaves and conspiracies of these women were endless in Philip’s behalf. One day I let the Little Sister out of my house, with a handkerchief to her eyes, and in a great state of flurry and excitement, which perhaps communicates itself to the gentleman who passes her at his own door. The gentleman’s wife is on her part not a little moved and excited. “What do you think Mrs. Brandon says? Philip is learning shorthand. He says he does not think he is clever enough to be a writer of any mark; — but he can be a reporter, and with this and his place at Mr. Mugford’s, he thinks he can earn enough to — Oh, he is a fine fellow!” I suppose feminine emotion stopped the completion of this speech. But when Mr. Philip slouched into dinner that day, his hostess did homage before him: she loved him: she treated him with a tender respect and sympathy which her like are ever wont to bestow upon brave and honest men in misfortune.
Why should not Mr. Philip Firmin, barrister-at-law, bethink him that he belonged to a profession which has helped very many men to competence, and not a few to wealth and honours? A barrister might surely hope for as good earnings as could be made by a newspaper reporter. We all knew instances of men who, having commenced their careers as writers for the press, had carried on the legal profession simultaneously, and attained the greatest honours of the bar and the bench. “Can I sit in a Pump-court garret waiting for attorneys?” asked poor Phil; “I shall break my heart before they come. My brains are not worth much: I should addle them altogether in poring over law books. I am not at all a clever fellow, you see; and I haven’t the ambition and obstinate will to succeed which carry on many a man with no greater capacity than my own. I may have as good brains as Bickerton, for example; but I am not so bumptious as he is. By claiming the first place wherever he goes, he gets it very often. My dear friends, don’t you see how modest I am? There never was a man less likely to get on than myself — you must own that; and I tell you that Charlotte and I must look forward to a life of poverty, of cheeseparings, and secondfloor lodgings at Pentonville or Islington. That’s about my mark. I would let her off, only I know she would not take me at my word — the dear little thing. She has set her heart upon a hulking pauper, that’s the truth. And I tell you what I am going to do. I am going seriously to learn the profession of poverty, and make myself master of it. What’s the price of cowheel and tripe? You don’t know. I do; and the right place to buy ’em. I am as good a judge of sprats as any man in London. My tap in life is to be small beer henceforth, and I am growing quite to like it, and think it is brisk and pleasant, and wholesome.” There was not a little truth in Philip’s account of himself, and his capacities and incapacities. Doubtless, he was not born to make a great name for himself in the world. But do we like those only who are famous? As well say we will only give our regard to men who have ten thousand a year, or are more than six feet high.
While, of his three female friends and advisers, my wife admired Philip’s humility, Mrs. Brandon and Mrs. Mugford were rather disappointed at his want of spirit, and to think that he aimed so low. I shall not say which side Firmin’s biographer took in this matter. Was it my business to applaud or rebuke him for being humble-minded, or was I called upon to advise at all? My amiable reader, acknowledge that you and I in life pretty much go our own way. We eat the dishes we like, because we like them; not because our neighbour relishes them. We rise early, or sit up late; we work, idle, smoke, or what not, because we choose so to do, not because the doctor orders. Philip, then, was like you and me, who will have our own way when we can. Will we not? If you won’t, you do not deserve it. Instead of hungering after a stalled ox, he was accustoming himself to be content with a dinner of herbs. Instead of braving the tempest, he chose to take in sail, creep along shore, and wait for calmer weaher.
So, on Tuesday of every week let us say, it was this modest sub-editor’s duty to begin snipping and pasting paragraphs for the ensuing Saturday’s issue. He cut down the parliamentary speeches, giving due favouritism to the orators of the Pall Mall Gazette party, and meagre outlines of their opponents’ discourses. If the leading public men on the side of the Pall Mall Gazette gave entertainments, you may be sure they were duly chronicled in the fashionable intelligence; if one of their party wrote a book it was pretty sure to get praise from the critic. I am speaking of simple old days, you understand. Of course there is no puffing, or jobbing, or false praise, or unfair censure now. Every critic knows what he is writing about, and writes with no aim but to tell truth.
Thus Philip, the dandy of two years back, was content to wear the shabbiest old coat; Philip, the Philippus of one-and-twenty, who rode showy horses, and rejoiced to display his horse and person in the Park, now humbly took his place in an omnibus, and only on occasions indulged in a cab. From the roof of the larger vehicle he would salute his friends with perfect affability, and stare down on his aunt as she passed in her barouche. He never could be quite made to acknowledge that she purposely would not see him: or he would attribute her blindness to the quarrel which they had had, not to his poverty and present position. As for his cousin Ringwood, “That fellow would commit any baseness,” Philip acknowledged; “and it is I who have cut him,” our friend averred.
A real danger was lest our friend should in his poverty become more haughty and insolent than he had been in his days of better fortune, and that he should make companions of men who were not his equals. Whether was it better for him to be slighted in a fashionable club, or to swagger at the head of the company in a tavern parlour? This was the danger we might fear for Firmin. It was impossible not to confess that he was choosing to take a lower place in the world than that to which he had been born.
“Do you mean that Philip is lowered, because he is poor?” asked an angry lady, to whom this remark was made by her husband — man and wife being both very good friends to Mr. Firmin.
“My dear,” replies the worlding of a husband, “suppose Philip were to take a fancy to buy a donkey and sell cabbages? He would be doing no harm; but there is no doubt he would lower himself in the world’s estimation.”
“Lower himself!” says the lady, with a toss of her head. “No man lowers himself by pursuing an honest calling. No man!”
“Very good. There is Grundsell, the greengrocer, out of Tuthill Street, who waits at our dinners. Instead of asking him to wait, we should beg him to sit down at table; or perhaps we should wait, and stand with a napkin behind Grundsell.”
“Grundsell’s calling is strictly honest, unless he abuses his opportunities, and smuggles away — ”
“ — smuggles away stuff and nonsense!”
“Very good; Grundsell is not a fitting companion, then, for us, or the nine little Grundsells for our children. Then why should Philip give up the friends of his youth, and forsake a club for a tavern parlour? You can’t say our little friend, Mrs. Brandon, good as she is, is a fitting companion for him?”
“If he had a good little wife, he would have a companion of his own degree; and he would be twice as happy; and he would be out of all danger and temptation — and the best thing he can do is to marry directly!” cries the lady. “And, my dear, I think I shall write to Charlotte and ask her to come and stay with us.”
There was no withstanding this argument. As long as Charlotte was with us we were sure that Philip would be out of harm’s way, and seek for no other company. There was a snug little bedroom close by the quarters inhabited by our own children. My wife pleased herself by adorning this chamber, and uncle Mac happening to come to London on business about this time, the young lady came over to us under his convoy, and I should like to describe the meeting between her and Mr. Philip in our parlour. No doubt it was very edifying. But my wife and I were not present, vous concevez. We only heard one shout of surprise and delight from Philip as he went into the room where the young lady was waiting. We had but said, “Go into the parlour, Philip. You will find your old friend, Major Mac, there. He has come to London on business, and has news of — ” There was no need to speak, for here Philip straightway bounced into the room.
And then came the shout. And then out came Major Mac, with such a droll twinkle in his eyes! What artifices and hypocrisies had we not to practise previously, so as to keep our secret from our children, who assuredly would have discovered it! I must tell you that the paterfamilias had guarded against the innocent prattle and inquiries of the children regarding the preparation of the little bedroom, by informing them that it was intended for Miss Grigsby, the governess, with whose advent they had long been threatened. And one of our girls, when the unconscious Philip arrived, said, “Philip, if you go into the parlour, you will find Miss Grigsby, the governess, there.” And then Philip entered into that parlour, and then arose that shout, and then out came uncle Mac, and then And we called Charlotte Miss Grigsby all dinner-time; and we called her Miss Grigsby next day; and the more we called her Miss Grigsby the more we all laughed. And the baby, who could not speak plain yet, called her Miss Gibby, and laughed loudest of all; and it was such fun. But I think Philip and Charlotte had the best of the fun, my dears, though they may not have laughed quite so loud as we did.
As for Mrs. Brandon, who, you may be sure, speedily came to pay us a visit, Charlotte blushed, and looked quite beautiful when she went up and kissed the Little Sister. “He have told you about me, then!” she said, in her soft little voice, smoothing the young lady’s brown hair. “Should I have known him at all but for you, and did you not save his life for me when he was ill?” asked Miss Baynes. “And mayn’t I love everybody who loves him?” she asked. And we left these women alone for a quarter of an hour, during which they became the most intimate friends in the world. And all our household, great and small, including the nurse (a woman of a most jealous, domineering, and uncomfortable fidelity), thought well of our gentle young guest, and welcomed Miss Grigsby.
Charlotte, you see, is not so exceedingly handsome as to cause other women to perjure themselves by protesting that she is no great things after all. At the period with which we are concerned, she certainly had a lovely complexion, which her black dress set off, perhaps. And when Philip used to come into the room, she had always a fine garland of roses ready to offer him, and growing upon her cheeks, the moment he appeared. Her manners are so entirely unaffected and simple that they can’t be otherwise than good: for is she not grateful, truthful, unconscious of self, easily pleased, and interested in others? Is she very witty? I never said so — though that she appreciated some men’s wit (whose names need not be mentioned) I cannot doubt. “I say,” cries Philip, on that memorable first night of her arrival, and when she and other ladies had gone to bed, “by George! isn’t she glorious, I say! What can I have done to win such a pure little heart as that? Non sum dignus. It is too much happiness — too much, by George!” And his voice breaks behind his pipe, and he squeezes two fists into eyes that are brimful of joy and thanks. Where Fortune bestows such a bounty as this, I think we need not pity a man for what she withdraws. As Philip walks away at midnight (walks away? is turned out of doors; or surely he would have gone on talking till dawn), with the rain beating in his face, and fifty or a hundred pounds for all his fortune in his pocket, I think there goes one of the happiest of men — the happiest and richest. For is he not possessor of a treasure which he could not buy, or would not sell, for all the wealth of the world?
My wife may say what she will, but she assuredly is answerable for the invitation to Miss Baynes, and for all that ensued in consequence. At a hint that she would be a welcome guest in our house, in London, where all her heart and treasure lay, Charlotte Baynes gave up straightway her dear aunt, at Tours, who had been kind to her; her dear uncle, her dear mamma, and all her dear brothers — following that natural law which ordains that a woman, under certain circumstances, shall resign home, parents, brothers, sisters, for the sake of that one individual who is henceforth to be dearer to her than all. Mrs. Baynes, the widow, growled a complaint at her daughter’s ingratitude, but did not refuse her consent. She may have known that little Hely, Charlotte’s volatile admirer, had fluttered off to another flower by this time, and that a pursuit of that butterfly was in vain: or she may have heard that he was going to pass the spring — the butterfly season — in London, and hoped that he perchance might again light on her girl. Howbeit, she was glad enough that her daughter should accept an invitation to our house, and owned that as yet the poor child’s share of this life’s pleasures had been but small. Charlotte’s modest little trunks were again packed, then, and the poor child was sent off, I won’t say with how small a provision of pocket-money, by her mother. But the thrifty woman had but little, and of it was determined to give as little as she could. “Heaven will provide for my child,” she would piously say; and hence interfered very little with those agents whom heaven sent to befriend her children.
“Her mother told Charlotte that she would send her some money next Tuesday,” the major told us; “but, between ourselves, I doubt whether she will. Between ourselves, my sister-in-law is always going to give money next Tuesday: but somehow Wednesday comes, and the money has not arrived. I could not let the little maid be without a few guineas, and have provided her out of a half-pay purse; but mark me, that pay-day Tuesday will never come.” Shall I deny or confirm the worthy major’s statement? Thus far I will say, that Tuesday most certainly came; and a letter from her mamma to Charlotte, which said that one of her brothers and a younger sister were going to stay with aunt Mac; and that as Char was so happy with her most hospitable and kind friends, a fond widowed mother, who had given up all pleasures for herself, would not interfere to prevent a darling child’s happiness.
It has been said that three women, whose names have been given up, were conspiring in the behalf of this young person and the young man her sweetheart. Three days after Charlotte’s arrival at our house, my wife persists in thinking that a drive into the country would do the child good, orders a brougham, dresses Charlotte in her best, and trots away to see Mrs. Mugford at Hampstead. Mrs. Brandon is at Mrs. Mugford’s, of course quite by chance: and I feel sure that Charlotte’s friend compliments Mrs. Mugford upon her garden, upon her nursery, upon her luncheon, upon everything that is hers. “Why, dear me,” says Mrs. Mugford (as the ladies discourse upon a certain subject), “what does it matter? Me and Mugford married on two pound a week; and on two pound a week my dear eldest children were born. It was a hard struggle sometimes, but we were all the happier for it; and I’m sure if a man won’t risk a little he don’t deserve much. I know I would risk, if I were a man, to marry such a pretty young dear. And I should take a young man to be but a mean-spirited fellow who waited and went shilly-shallying when he had but to say the word and be happy. I thought Mr. F. was a brave, courageous gentleman, I did, Mrs. Brandon. Do you want me for to have a bad opinion of him? My dear, a little of that cream. It’s very good. We’ad a dinner yesterday, and a cook down from town, on purpose.” This speech, with appropriate imitations of voice and gesture, was repeated to the present biographer by the present biographer’s wife, and he now began to see in what webs and meshes of conspiracy these artful women had enveloped the subject of the present biography.
Like Mrs. Brandon, and the other matron, Charlotte’s friend, Mrs. Mugford, became interested in the gentle young creature, and kissed her kindly, and made her a present on going away. It was a brooch in the shape of a thistle, if I remember aright, set with amethysts and a lovely Scottish stone called, I believe, a carumgorum. “She ain’t no style about her: and I confess, from a general’s daughter, brought up on the Continent, I should have expected better. But we’ll show her a little of the world and the opera, Brandon, and she’ll do very well, of that I make no doubt.” And Mrs. Mugford took Miss Baynes to the opera, and pointed out the other people of fashion there assembled. And delighted Charlotte was. I make no doubt there was a young gentleman of our acquaintance at the back of the box who was very happy too. And this year, Philip’s kinsman’s wife, Lady Ringwood, had a box, in which Philip saw her and her daughters, and little Ringwood Twysden paying assiduous court to her ladyship. They met in the crush-room by chance again, and Lady Ringwood looked hard at Philip and the blushing young lady on his arm. And it happened that Mrs. Mugford’s carriage — the little one-horse trap which opens and shuts so conveniently — and Lady Ringwood’s tall, emblazoned chariot of state, stopped the way together. And from the tall emblazoned chariot the ladies looked not unkindly at the trap which contained the beloved of Philip’s heart: and the carriages departed each on its way: and Ringwood Twysden, seeing his cousin advancing towards him, turned very pale, and dodged at a double quick down an arcade. But he need not have been afraid of Philip. Mr. Firmin’s heart was all softness and benevolence at that time. He was thinking of those sweet, sweet eyes that had just glanced to him a tender good-night; of that little hand which a moment since had hung with fond pressure on his arm. Do you suppose in such a frame of mind he had leisure to think of a nauseous little reptile crawling behind him? He was so happy that night, that Philip was King Philip again. And he went to the Haunt, and sang his song of Garry-owenna-gloria, and greeted the boys assembled, and spent at least three shillings over his supper and drinks. But the next day being Sunday, Mr. Firmin was at West- minster Abbey, listening to the sweet church chants, by the side of the very same young person whom he had escorted to the opera on the night before. They sate together so close that one must have heard exactly as well as the other. I daresay it is edifying to listen to anthems à deux. And how complimentary to the clergyman to have to wish that the sermon was longer! Through the vast cathedral aisles the organ notes peal gloriously. Ruby and topaz and amethysts blaze from the great church windows. Under the tall arcades the young people went together. Hand in hand they passed, and thought no ill.
Do gentle readers begin to tire of this spectacle of billing and cooing? I have tried to describe Mr. Philip’s love affairs with as few words and in as modest phrases as may be — omitting the raptures, the passionate vows, the reams of correspondence, and the usual commonplaces of his situation. And yet, my dear madam, though you and I may be past the age of billing and cooing, though your ringlets, which I remember a lovely auburn, are now — well — are now a rich purple and green black, and my brow may be as bald as a cannon-ball; — I say, though we are old, we are not too old to forget. We may not care about the pantomime much now, but we like to take the young folks, and see them rejoicing. From the window where I write, I can look down into the garden of a certain square. In that garden I can at this moment’ see a young gentleman and lady of my acquaintance pacing up and down. They are talking some such talk as Milton imagines our first parents engaged in; and yonder garden is a paradise to my young friends. Did they choose to look outside the railings of the square, or at any other objects than each other’s noses, they might see — the tax-gatherer we will say — with his book, knocking at one door; the doctor’s brougham at a second; a hatchment over the windows of a third mansion; the baker’s boy discoursing with the housemaid over the railings of a fourth. But what to them are these phenomena of life? Arm in arm my young folks go pacing up and down their Eden, and discoursing about that happy time which I suppose is now drawing near, about that charming little snuggery for which the furniture is ordered, and to which, miss, your old friend and very humble servant will take the liberty of forwarding his best regards and a neat silver teapot. I daresay, with these young people, as with Mr. Philip and Miss Charlotte, all occurrences of life seem to have reference to that event which forms the subject of their perpetual longing and contemplation. There is the doctor’s brougham driving away, and Imogene says to Alonzo, “What anguish I shall have if you are ill!” Then there is the carpenter putting up the hatchment. “Ah, my love, if you were to die, I think they might put up a hatchment for both of us,” says Alonzo, with a killing sigh. Both sympathize with Mary and the baker’s boy whispering over the railings. Go to, gentle baker’s boy, we also know what it is to love!
The whole soul and strength of Charlotte and Philip being bent upon marriage, I take leave to put in a document which Philip received at this time; and can imagine that it occasioned no little sensation:—
Astor House, New York.
“And so you are returned to the great city — to the fumum, the strepitum, and I sincerely hope the opes of our Rome!” Your own letters are but brief; but I have an occasional correspondent (there are few, alas! who remember the exile!) who keeps me au cournat of my Philip’s history, and tells me that you are industrious, that you are cheerful, that you prosper. Cheerfulness is the companion of Industry, Prosperity their offspring. That that prosperity may attain the fullest growth, is an absent father’s fondest prayer! Perhaps ere long I shall be able to announce to you that I too am prospering. I am engaged in pursuing a scientific discovery here (it is medical, and connected with my own profession), of which the results ought to lead to Fortune, unless the jade has for ever deserted George Brand Firmin! So you have embarked in the drudgery of the press, and have become a member of the fourth estate. It has been despised, and press-man and poverty were for a long time supposed to be synonymous. But the power, the wealth of the press are daily developing, and they will increase yet further. I confess I should have liked to hear that my Philip was pursuing his profession of the bar, at which honour, splendid competence, nay, aristocratic rank, are the prizes of the bold, the industrious, and the deserving. Why should you not — should I not — still hope that you may gain legal eminence and position? A father who has had much to suffer, who is descending the vale of years alone and in a distant land, would be soothed in his exile if he thought his son would one day be able to repair the shattered fortunes of his race. But it is not yet, I fondly think, too late. You may yet qualify for the bar, and one of its prizes may fall to you. I confess it was not without a pang of grief I heard from our kind little friend Mrs. B., you were studying shorthand in order to become a newspaper reporter. And has Fortune, then, been so relentless to me, that my son is to be compelled to follow such a calling? I shall try and be resigned. I had hoped higher things for you — for me.
“My dear boy, with regard to your romantic attachment for Miss Baynes, which our good little Brandon narrates to me, in her peculiar orthography, but with much touching simplicity," — I make it a rule not to say a word of comment, of warning, or remonstrance. As sure as you are your father’s son, you will take your own line in any matter of attachment to a woman, and all the fathers in the world won’t stop you. In Philip of four-and-twenty I recognize his father thirty years ago. My father scolded, entreated, quarrelled with me, never forgave me. I will learn to be more generous towards my son. I may grieve, but I bear you no malice. If ever I achieve wealth again, you shall not be deprived of it. I suffered so myself from a harsh father, that I will never be one to my son!
“As you have put on the livery of the Muses, and regularly entered yourself of the Fraternity of the Press, what say you to a little addition to your income by letters addressed to my friend, the editor of the new journal, called here the Gazette of the Upper Ten Thousand. It is the fashionable journal published here; and your qualifications are precisely those which would make your services valuable as a contributor. Doctor Geraldine, the editor, is not, I believe, a relative of the Leinster family, but a self-made man, who arrived in this country some years since, poor, and an exile from his native country. He advocates Repeal politics in Ireland; but with these of course you need have nothing to do. And he is much too liberal to expect these from his contributors. I have been of service professionally to Mrs. Geraldine and himself. My friend of the Emerald introduced me to the doctor. Terrible enemies in print, in private they are perfectly good friends, and the little passages of arms between the two journalists serve rather to amuse than to irritate. ‘The grocer’s boy from Ormond Quay’ (Geraldine once, it appears, engaged in that useful but humble calling), and the ‘miscreant from Cork’ (the editor of the Emerald comes from that city) assail each other in public, but drink whiskey-and-water galore in private. If you write for Geraldine, of course you will say nothing disrespectful about grocers’ boys. His dollars are good silver, of that you may be sure. Dr. G. knows a part of your history: he knows that you are now fairly engaged in literary pursuits; that you are a man of education, a gentleman, a man of the world, a man of courage. I have answered for your possessing all these qualities. (The doctor, in his droll, humorous way, said that if you were a chip of the old block you would be just what he called ‘the grit.’) Political treaties are not so much wanted as personal news regarding the notabilities of London, and these, I assured him, you were the very man to be able to furnish. You, who know everybody; who have lived with the great world — the world of lawyers, the world of artists, the world of the university — have already had an experience which few gentlemen of the press can boast of, and may turn that experience to profit. Suppose you were to trust a little to your imagination in composing these letters? there can be no harm in being poetical. Suppose an intelligent correspondent writes that he has met the D-ke of W-ll-ngt-n, had a private interview with the Pr-m-r, and so forth, who is to say him nay? And this is the kind of talk our gobemouches of New York delight in. My worthy friend, Doctor Geraldine, for example (between ourselves his name is Finnigan, but his private history is strictly entre nous,) when he first came to New York astonished the people by the copiousness of his anecdotes regarding the English aristocracy, of whom he knows as much as he does of the Court of Pekin. He was smart, ready, sarcastic, amusing; he found readers: from one success he advanced to another, and the Gazette of the Upper Ten Thousand is likely to make this worthy man’s fortune. You really may be serviceable to him, and may justly earn the liberal remuneration which he offers for a weekly letter. Anecdotes of men and women of fashion — the more gay and lively the more welcome — the quicquid agunt homines, in a word, — should be the farrago libelli. Who are the reigning beauties of London? (and Beauty, you know, has a rank and fashion of its own.) Has any one lately won or lost on the turf or at play? What are the clubs talking about? Are there any duels? What is the last scandal? Does the good old duke keep his health? Is that affair over between the Duchess of This and Captain That?
“Such is the information which our badauds here like to have, and for which my friend the doctor will pay at the rate of — dollars per letter. Your name need not appear at all. The remuneration is certain.” C’est à prendre ou à laisser, as our lively neighbours say. Write in the first place in confidence to me; and in whom can you confide more safely than in your father?
“You will, of course, pay your respects to your relative the new lord of Ringwood. For a young man whose family is so powerful as yours, there can surely be no derogation in entertaining some feudal respect, and who knows whether and how soon Sir John Ringwood may be able to help his cousin? By the way, Sir John is a Whig, and your paper is a Conservative. But you are, above all, homme du monde. In such a subordinate place as you occupy with the Pall Mall Gazette, a man’s private politics do not surely count at all. If Sir John Ringwood, your kinsman, sees any way of helping you, so much the better, and of course your politics will be those of your family. I have no knowledge of him. He was a very quiet man at college, where, I regret to say, your father’s friends were not of the quiet sort at all. I trust I have repented. I have sown my wild oats. And ah! how pleased I shall be to hear that my Philip has bent his proud head a little, and is ready to submit more than he used of old to the customs of the world. Call upon Sir John, then. As a Whig gentleman of large estate, I need not tell you that he will expect respect from you. He is your kinsman; the representative of your grandfather’s gallant and noble race. He bears the name your mother bore. To her my Philip was always gentle, and for her sake you will comply with the wishes of your affectionate father,
“G. B. F.”
“I have not said a word of compliment to made-moiselle. I wish her so well that I own I wish she were about to marry a richer suitor than my dear son. Will fortune ever permit me to embrace my daughter-in-law, and take your children on my knee? You will speak kindly to them of their grandfather, will you not? Poor General Baynes, I have heard, used violent and unseemly language regarding me, which I most heartily pardon. I am grateful when I think that I never did General B. an injury: grateful and proud to accept benefits from my own son. These I treasure up in my heart; and still hope I shall be able to repay with something more substantial than my fondest prayers. Give my best wishes, then, to Miss Charlotte, and try and teach her to think kindly of her Philip’s father.”
Miss Charlotte Baynes, who kept the name of Miss Grigsby, the governess, amongst all the roguish children of a facetious father, was with us one month, and her mamma expressed great cheerfulness at her absence, and at the thought that she had found such good friends. After two months, her uncle Major MacWhirter, returned from visiting his relations in the North, and offered to take his niece back to France again. He made this proposition with the jolliest air in the world, and as if his niece would jump for joy to go back to her mother. But to the major’s astonishment, Miss Baynes turned quite pale, ran to her hostess, flung herself into that lady’s arms and then there began an osculatory performance which perfectly astonished the good major. Charlotte’s friend, holding Miss Baynes tight in her embrace, looked fiercely at the major over the girl’s shoulder, and defied him to take her away from that sanctuary.
“Oh, you dear, good dear friend!” Charlotte gurgled out, and sobbed I know not what more expressions of fondness and gratitude.
But the truth is, that two sisters, or mother and daughter, could not love each other more heartily than these two personages. Mother and daughter forsooth! You should have seen Charlotte’s piteous look when sometimes the conviction would come on her that she ought at length to go home to mamma; such a look as I can fancy Iphigenia casting on Agamemnon, when, in obedience to a painful sense of duty, he was about to — to use the sacrificial knife. No, we all loved her. The children would howl at the idea of parting with their Miss Grigsby. Charlotte, in return, helped them to very pretty lessons in music and French — served hot, as it were, from her own recent studies at Tours — and a good daily governess operated on the rest of their education to everybody’s satisfaction.
And so months rolled on and our young favourite still remained with us. Mamma fed the little maid’s purse with occasional remittances; and begged her hostess to supply her with all necessary articles from the milliner. Afterwards, it is true, Mrs. General Baynes — But why enter upon these painful family disputes in a chapter which has been devoted to sentiment?
As soon as Mr. Firmin received the letter above faithfully copied (with the exception of the pecuniary offer, which I do not consider myself at liberty to divulge), he hurried down from Thornhaugh Street to Westminster. He dashed by Buttons, the page, he took no notice of my wondering wife at the drawing-room door; he rushed to the second floor, bursting open the school-room door, where Charlotte was teaching our dear third daughter to play In my Cottage near a Wood.
“Charlotte! Charlotte!” he cried out.
“La, Philip! don’t you see Miss Grigsby is giving us lessons?” said the children.
But he would not listen to those wags, and still beckoned Charlotte to him. That young woman rose up and followed him out of the door, as, indeed, she would have followed him out of the window; and there, on the stairs, they read Dr. Firmin’s letter, with their heads quite close together, you understand.
“Two hundred a year more,” said Philip, his heart throbbing so that he could hardly speak; “and your fifty — and two hundred the Gazette — and — ”
“Oh, Philip!” was all Charlotte could say, and then — There was a pretty group for the children to see, and for an artist to draw!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00