As the young gentleman who has just gone to bed is to be the hero of the following pages, we had best begin our account of him with his family history, which luckily is not very long.
When pigtails still grew on the backs of the British gentry, and their wives wore cushions on their heads, over which they tied their own hair, and disguised it with powder and pomatum: when Ministers went in their stars and orders to the House of Commons, and the orators of the Opposition attacked nightly the noble lord in the blue ribbon: when Mr. Washington was heading the American rebels with a courage, it must be confessed, worthy of a better cause: there came up to London, out of a northern county, Mr. Thomas Newcome, afterwards Thomas Newcome, Esq., and sheriff of London, afterwards Mr. Alderman Newcome, the founder of the family whose name has given the title to this history. It was but in the reign of George III. that Mr. Newcome first made his appearance in Cheapside; having made his entry into London on a waggon, which landed him and some bales of cloth, all his fortune, in Bishopsgate Street; though if it could be proved that the Normans wore pigtails under William the Conqueror, and Mr. Washington fought against the English under King Richard in Palestine, I am sure some of the present Newcomes would pay the Heralds’ Office handsomely, living, as they do, amongst the noblest of the land, and giving entertainments to none but the very highest nobility and elite of the fashionable and diplomatic world, as you may read any day in the newspapers. For though these Newcomes have got a pedigree from the College, which is printed in Budge’s Landed Aristocracy of Great Britain, and which proves that the Newcome of Cromwell’s army, the Newcome who was among the last six who were hanged by Queen Mary for Protestantism, were ancestors of this house; of which a member distinguished himself at Bosworth Field; and the founder, slain by King Harold’s side at Hastings, had been surgeon-barber to King Edward the Confessor; yet, between ourselves, I think that Sir Brian Newcome, of Newcome, does not believe a word of the story, any more than the rest of the world does, although a number of his children bear names out of the Saxon Calendar.
Was Thomas Newcome a foundling — a workhouse child out of that village which has now become a great manufacturing town, and which bears his name? Such was the report set about at the last election, when Sir Brian, in the Conservative interest contested the borough; and Mr. Yapp, the out-and-out Liberal candidate, had a picture of the old workhouse placarded over the town as the birthplace of the Newcomes; with placards ironically exciting freemen to vote for Newcome and union — Newcome and the parish interests, etc. Who cares for these local scandals? It matters very little to those who have the good fortune to be invited to Lady Ann Newcome’s parties whether her beautiful daughters can trace their pedigrees no higher than to the alderman their grandfather; or whether, through the mythic ancestral barber-surgeon, they hang on to the chin of Edward, Confessor and King.
Thomas Newcome, who had been a weaver in his native village, brought the very best character for honesty, thrift, and ingenuity with him to London, where he was taken into the house of Hobson Brothers, cloth-factors; afterwards Hobson and Newcome. This fact may suffice to indicate Thomas Newcome’s story. Like Whittington and many other London apprentices, he began poor and ended by marrying his master’s daughter, and becoming sheriff and alderman of the City of London.
But it was only en secondes noces that he espoused the wealthy, and religious, and eminent (such was the word applied to certain professing Christians in those days) Sophia Alethea Hobson — a woman who, considerably older than Mr. Newcome, had the advantage of surviving him many years. Her mansion at Clapham was long the resort of the most favoured amongst the religious world. The most eloquent expounders; the most gifted missionaries, the most interesting converts from foreign islands, were to be found at her sumptuous table, spread with the produce of her magnificent gardens. Heaven indeed blessed those gardens with plenty, as many reverend gentlemen remarked; there were no finer grapes, peaches, or pineapples in all England. Mr. Whitfield himself christened her; and it was said generally in the City, and by her friends, that Miss Hobson’s two Christian names, Sophia and Alethea, were two Greek words, which, being interpreted, meant wisdom and truth. She, her villa and gardens, are now no more; but Sophia Terrace, Upper and Lower Alethea Road, and Hobson’s Buildings, Square, etc., show every quarter-day that the ground sacred to her (and freehold) still bears plenteous fruit for the descendants of this eminent woman.
We are, however, advancing matters. When Thomas Newcome had been some time in London, he quitted the house of Hobson, finding an opening, though in a much smaller way, for himself. And no sooner did his business prosper, than he went down into the north, like a man, to a pretty girl whom he had left there, and whom he had promised to marry. What seemed an imprudent match (for his wife had nothing but a pale face, that had grown older and paler with long waiting) turned out a very lucky one for Newcome. The whole countryside was pleased to think of the prosperous London tradesman returning to keep his promise to the penniless girl whom he had loved in the days of his own poverty; the great country clothiers, who knew his prudence and honesty, gave him much of their business when he went back to London. Susan Newcome would have lived to be a rich woman had not fate ended her career within a year after her marriage, when she died giving birth to a son.
Newcome had a nurse for the child, and a cottage at Clapham, hard by Mr. Hobson’s house, where he had often walked in the garden of a Sunday, and been invited to sit down to take a glass of wine. Since he had left their service, the house had added a banking business, which was greatly helped by the Quakers and their religious connection; and Newcome, keeping his account there, and gradually increasing his business, was held in very good esteem by his former employers, and invited sometimes to tea at the Hermitage; for which entertainments he did not, in truth, much care at first, being a City man, a good deal tired with his business during the day, and apt to go to sleep over the sermons, expoundings, and hymns, with which the gifted preachers, missionaries, etc., who were always at the Hermitage, used to wind up the evening, before supper. Nor was he a supping man (in which case he would have found the parties pleasanter, for in Egypt itself there were not more savoury fleshpots than at Clapham); he was very moderate in his meals, of a bilious temperament, and, besides, obliged to be in town early in the morning, always setting off to walk an hour before the first coach.
But when his poor Susan died, Miss Hobson, by her father’s demise, having now become a partner in the house, as well as heiress to the pious and childless Zachariah Hobson, her uncle Mr. Newcome, with his little boy in his hand, met Miss Hobson as she was coming out of meeting one Sunday; and the child looked so pretty (Mr. N. was a very personable, fresh-coloured man himself; he wore powder to the end, and top-boots and brass buttons, in his later days, after he had been sheriff indeed, one of the finest specimens of the old London merchant); Miss Hobson, I say, invited him and little Tommy into the grounds of the Hermitage; did not quarrel with the innocent child for frisking about in the hay on the lawn, which lay basking in the Sabbath sunshine, and at the end of the visit gave him a large piece of pound-cake, a quantity of the finest hothouse grapes, and a tract in one syllable. Tommy was ill the next day; but on the next Sunday his father was at meeting.
He became very soon after this an awakened man; and the tittling and tattling, and the sneering and gossiping, all over Clapham, and the talk on ‘Change, and the pokes in the waistcoat administered by the wags to Newcome — “Newcome, give you joy, my boy;” “Newcome, new partner in Hobson’s;” “Newcome, just take in this paper to Hobson’s, they’ll do it, I warrant,” etc. etc.; and the groans of the Rev. Gideon Bawls, of the Rev. Athanasius O’Grady, that eminent convert from Popery, who, quarrelling with each other, yea, striving one against another, had yet two sentiments in common, their love for Miss Hobson, their dread, their hatred of the worldly Newcome; all these squabbles and jokes, and pribbles and prabbles, look you, may be omitted. As gallantly as he had married a woman without a penny, as gallantly as he had conquered his poverty and achieved his own independence, so bravely he went in and won the great City prize with a fortune of a quarter of a million. And every one of his old friends, and every honest-hearted fellow who likes to see shrewdness, and honesty, and courage succeed, was glad of his good fortune, and said, “Newcome, my boy” (or “Newcome, my buck,” if they were old City cronies, and very familiar), “I give you joy.”
Of course Mr. Newcome might have gone into Parliament: of course before the close of his life he might have been made a baronet: but he eschewed honours senatorial or blood-red hands. “It wouldn’t do,” with his good sense he said; “the Quaker connection wouldn’t like it.” His wife never cared about being called Lady Newcome. To manage the great house of Hobson Brothers and Newcome; to attend to the interests of the enslaved negro; to awaken the benighted Hottentot to a sense of the truth; to convert Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Papists; to arouse the indifferent and often blasphemous mariner; to guide the washerwoman in the right way; to head all the public charities of her sect, and do a thousand secret kindnesses that none knew of; to answer myriads of letters, pension endless ministers, and supply their teeming wives with continuous baby-linen; to hear preachers daily bawling for hours, and listen untired on her knees after a long day’s labour, while florid rhapsodists belaboured cushions above her with wearisome benedictions; all these things had this woman to do, and for near fourscore years she fought her fight womanfully: imperious but deserving to rule, hard but doing her duty, severe but charitable, and untiring in generosity as in labour; unforgiving in one instance — in that of her husband’s eldest son, Thomas Newcome; the little boy who had played on the hay, and whom at first she had loved very sternly and fondly.
Mr. Thomas Newcome, the father of his wife’s twin boys, the junior partner of the house of Hobson Brothers and Co., lived several years after winning the great prize about which all his friends so congratulated him. But he was, after all, only the junior partner of the house. His wife was manager in Threadneedle Street and at home — when the clerical gentlemen prayed they importuned Heaven for that sainted woman a long time before they thought of asking any favour for her husband. The gardeners touched their hats, the clerks at the bank brought him the books, but they took their orders from her, not from him. I think he grew weary of the prayer-meetings, he yawned over the sufferings of the negroes, and wished the converted Jews at Jericho. About the time the French Emperor was meeting with his Russian reverses Mr. Newcome died: his mausoleum is in Clapham Churchyard, near the modest grave where his first wife reposes.
When his father married, Mr. Thomas Newcome, jun., and Sarah his nurse were transported from the cottage where they had lived in great comfort to the palace hard by, surrounded by lawns and gardens, pineries, graperies, aviaries, luxuries of all kinds. This paradise, five miles from the Standard at Cornhill, was separated from the outer world by a thick hedge of tall trees, and an ivy-covered porter’s-gate, through which they who travelled to London on the top of the Clapham coach could only get a glimpse of the bliss within. It was a serious paradise. As you entered at the gate, gravity fell on you; and decorum wrapped you in a garment of starch. The butcher-boy who galloped his horse and cart madly about the adjoining lanes and common, whistled wild melodies (caught up in abominable playhouse galleries), and joked with a hundred cook-maids, on passing that lodge fell into an undertaker’s pace, and delivered his joints and sweetbreads silently at the servants’ entrance. The rooks in the elms cawed sermons at morning and evening; the peacocks walked demurely on the terraces; the guinea-fowls looked more Quaker-like than those savoury birds usually do. The lodge-keeper was serious, and a clerk at a neighbouring chapel. The pastors who entered at the gate, and greeted his comely wife and children, fed the little lambkins with tracts. The head-gardener was a Scotch Calvinist, after the strictest order, only occupying himself with the melons and pines provisionally, and until the end of the world, which event, he could prove by infallible calculations, was to come off in two or three years at farthest. Wherefore, he asked, should the butler brew strong ale to be drunken three years hence; or the housekeeper (a follower of Joanna Southcote) make provisions of fine linen and lay up stores of jams? On a Sunday (which good old Saxon word was scarcely known at the Hermitage) the household marched away in separate couples or groups to at least half a dozen of religious edifices, each to sit under his or her favourite minister, the only man who went to church being Thomas Newcome, accompanied by Tommy his little son, and Sarah his nurse, who was, I believe, also his aunt, or at least his mother’s first cousin. Tommy was taught hymns, very soon after he could speak, appropriate to his tender age, pointing out to him the inevitable fate of wicked children, and giving him the earliest possible warning and description of the punishment of little sinners. He repeated these poems to his stepmother after dinner, before a great shining mahogany table, covered with grapes, pineapples, plum-cake, port wine, and Madeira, and surrounded by stout men in black, with baggy white neckcloths, who took the little man between their knees, and questioned him as to his right understanding of the place whither naughty boys were bound. They patted his head with their fat hands if he said well, or rebuked him if he was bold, as he often was.
Nurse Sarah or Aunt Sarah would have died had she remained many years in that stifling garden of Eden. She could not bear to part from the child whom her mistress and kinswoman had confided to her (the women had worked in the same room at Newcome’s, and loved each other always, when Susan became a merchant’s lady, and Sarah her servant). She was nobody in the pompous new household but Master Tommy’s nurse. The honest soul never mentioned her relationship to the boy’s mother, nor indeed did Mr. Newcome acquaint his new family with that circumstance. The housekeeper called her an Erastian: Mrs. Newcome’s own serious maid informed against her for telling Tommy stories of Lancashire witches, and believing in the same. The black footman (madam’s maid and the butler were of course privately united) persecuted her with his addresses, and was even encouraged by his mistress, who thought of sending him as a missionary to the Niger. No little love, and fidelity, and constancy did honest Sarah show and use during the years she passed at the Hermitage, and until Tommy went to school. Her master, with many private prayers and entreaties, in which he passionately recalled his former wife’s memory and affection, implored his friend to stay with him; and Tommy’s fondness for her and artless caresses, and the scrapes he got into, and the howls he uttered over the hymns and catechisms which he was bidden to learn (by Rev. T. Clack,, of Highbury College, his daily tutor, who was commissioned to spare not the rod, neither to spoil the child), all these causes induced Sarah to remain with her young master until such time as he was sent to school.
Meanwhile an event of prodigious importance, a wonderment, a blessing and a delight, had happened at the Hermitage. About two years after Mrs. Newcome’s marriage, the lady being then forty-three years of age, no less than two little cherubs appeared in the Clapham Paradise — the twins, Hobson Newcome and Brian Newcome, called after their uncle and late grandfather, whose name and rank they were destined to perpetuate. And now there was no reason why young Newcome should not go to school. Old Mr. Hobson and his brother had been educated at that school of Grey Friars, of which mention has been made in former works and to Grey Friars Thomas Newcome was accordingly sent, exchanging — O ye Gods! with what delight! — the splendour of Clapham for the rough, plentiful fare of the place, blacking his master’s shoes with perfect readiness, till he rose in the school, and the time came when he should have a fag of his own: tibbing out and receiving the penalty therefore: bartering a black eye, per bearer, against a bloody nose drawn at sight, with a schoolfellow, and shaking hands the next day; playing at cricket, hockey, prisoners’ base, and football, according to the season; and gorging himself and friends with tarts when he had money (and of this he had plenty) to spend. I have seen his name carved upon the Gown Boys’ arch: but he was at school long before my time; his son showed me the name when we were boys together, in some year when George the Fourth was king.
The pleasures of this school-life were such to Tommy Newcome, that he did not care to go home for a holiday: and indeed, by insubordination and boisterousness; by playing tricks and breaking windows; by marauding upon the gardener’s peaches and the housekeeper’s jam; by upsetting his two little brothers in a go-cart (of which wanton and careless injury the present Baronet’s nose bears marks to this very day); by going to sleep during the sermons, and treating reverend gentlemen with levity, he drew down on himself the merited wrath of his stepmother; and many punishments in this present life, besides those of a future and much more durable kind, which the good lady did not fail to point out that he must undoubtedly inherit. His father, at Mrs. Newcome’s instigation, certainly whipped Tommy for upsetting his little brothers in the go-cart; but upon being pressed to repeat the whipping for some other peccadillo performed soon after, Mr. Newcome refused at once, using a wicked, worldly expression, which well might shock any serious lady; saying, in fact, that he would be deed if he beat the boy any more, and that he got flogging enough at school, in which opinion Master Tommy fully coincided.
The undaunted woman, his stepmother, was not to be made to forgo her plans for the boy’s reform by any such vulgar ribaldries; and Mr. Newcome being absent in the City on his business, and Tommy refractory as usual, she summoned the serious butler and the black footman (for the lashings of whose brethren she felt an unaffected pity) to operate together in the chastisement of this young criminal. But he dashed so furiously against the butler’s shins as to draw blood from his comely limbs, and to cause that serious and overfed menial to limp and suffer for many days after; and, seizing the decanter, he swore he would demolish blacky’s ugly face with it: nay, he threatened to discharge it at Mrs. Newcome’s own head before he would submit to the coercion which she desired her agents to administer.
High words took place between Mr. and Mrs. Newcome that night on the gentleman’s return home from the City, and on his learning the events of the morning. It is to be feared he made use of further oaths, which hasty ejaculations need not be set down in this place; at any rate, he behaved with spirit and manliness as master of the house, vowed that if any servant laid a hand on the child, he would thrash him first and then discharge him; and I dare say expressed himself with bitterness and regret that he had married a wife who would not be obedient to her husband, and had entered a house of which he was not suffered to be the master. Friends were called in-the interference, the supplications, of the Clapham clergy, some of whom dined constantly at the Hermitage, prevailed to allay this domestic quarrel; and no doubt the good sense of Mrs. Newcome — who, though imperious, was yet not unkind; and who, excellent as she was, yet could be brought to own that she was sometimes in fault — induced her to make at least a temporary submission to the man whom she had placed at the head of her house, and whom it must be confessed she had vowed to love and honour. When Tommy fell ill of the scarlet fever, which afflicting event occurred presently after the above dispute, his own nurse, Sarah, could not have been more tender, watchful, and affectionate than his stepmother showed herself to be. She nursed him through his illness; allowed his food and medicine to be administered by no other hand; sat up with the boy through a night of his fever, and uttered not one single reproach to her husband (who watched with her) when the twins took the disease (from which we need not say they happily recovered); and though young Tommy, in his temporary delirium, mistaking her for Nurse Sarah, addressed her as his dear Fat Sally — whereas no whipping-post to which she ever would have tied him could have been leaner than Mrs. Newcome — and, under this feverish delusion, actually abused her to her face; calling her an old cat, an old Methodist, and, jumping up in his little bed, forgetful of his previous fancy, vowing that he would put on his clothes and run away to Sally. Sally was at her northern home by this time, with a liberal pension which Mr. Newcome gave her, and which his son and his son’s son after him, through all their difficulties and distresses, always found means to pay.
What the boy threatened in his delirium he had thought of, no doubt, more than once in his solitary and unhappy holidays. A year after he actually ran away, not from school, but from home; and appeared one morning, gaunt and hungry, at Sarah’s cottage two hundred miles away from Clapham, who housed the poor prodigal, and killed her calf for him — washed him, with many tears and kisses, and put him to bed and to sleep; from which slumber he was aroused by the appearance of his father, whose sure instinct, backed by Mrs. Newcome’s own quick intelligence, had made him at once aware whither the young runaway had fled. The poor father came horsewhip in hand — he knew of no other law or means to maintain his authority; many and many a time had his own father, the old weaver, whose memory he loved and honoured, strapped and beaten him. Seeing this instrument in the parent’s hand, as Mr. Newcome thrust out the weeping trembling Sarah and closed the door upon her, Tommy, scared out of a sweet sleep and a delightful dream of cricket, knew his fate; and, getting up out of bed, received his punishment without a word. Very likely the father suffered more than the child; for when the punishment was over, the little man, yet trembling and quivering with the pain, held out his little bleeding hand and said, “I can — I can take it from you, sir;” saying which his face flushed, and his eyes filled, for the first time; whereupon the father burst into a passion of tears, and embraced the boy and kissed him, besought and prayed him to be rebellious no more — flung the whip away from him and swore, come what would, he would never strike him again. The quarrel was the means of a great and happy reconciliation. The three dined together in Sarah’s cottage. Perhaps the father would have liked to walk that evening in the lanes and fields where he had wandered as a young fellow: where he had first courted and first kissed the young girl he loved — poor child — who had waited for him so faithfully and fondly, who had passed so many a day of patient want and meek expectance, to be repaid by such a scant holiday and brief fruition.
Mrs. Newcome never made the slightest allusion to Tom’s absence after his return, but was quite gentle and affectionate with him, and that night read the parable of the Prodigal in a very low and quiet voice.
This, however, was only a temporary truce. War very soon broke out again between the impetuous lad and his rigid domineering mother-inlaw. It was not that he was very bad, or she perhaps more stern than other ladies, but the two could not agree. The boy sulked and was miserable at home. He fell to drinking with the grooms in the stables. I think he went to Epsom races, and was discovered after that act of rebellion. Driving from a most interesting breakfast at Roehampton (where a delightful Hebrew convert had spoken, oh! so graciously!), Mrs. Newcome — in her state-carriage, with her bay horses — met Tom, her son-inlaw, in a tax-cart, excited by drink, and accompanied by all sorts of friends, male and female. John the black man was bidden to descend from the carriage and bring him to Mrs. Newcome. He came; his voice was thick with drink. He laughed wildly: he described a fight at which he had been present. It was not possible that such a castaway as this should continue in a house where her two little cherubs were growing up in innocence and grace.
The boy had a great fancy for India; and Orme’s History, containing the exploits of Clive and Lawrence, was his favourite book of all in his father’s library. Being offered a writership, he scouted the idea of a civil appointment, and would be contented with nothing but a uniform. A cavalry cadetship was procured for Thomas Newcome; and the young man’s future career being thus determined, and his stepmother’s unwilling consent procured, Mr. Newcome thought fit to send his son to a tutor for military instruction, and removed him from the London school, where in truth he had made but very little progress in the humaner letters. The lad was placed with a professor who prepared young men for the army, and received rather a better professional education than fell to the lot of most young soldiers of his day. He cultivated the mathematics and fortification with more assiduity than he had ever bestowed on Greek and Latin, and especially made such a progress in the French tongue as was very uncommon among the British youth his contemporaries.
In the study of this agreeable language, over which young Newcome spent a great deal of his time, he unluckily had some instructors who were destined to bring the poor lad into yet further trouble at home. His tutor, an easy gentleman, lived at Blackheath, and, not far from thence, on the road to Woolwich, dwelt the little Chevalier de Blois, at whose house the young man much preferred to take his French lessons rather than to receive them under his tutor’s own roof.
For the fact was that the little Chevalier de Blois had two pretty young daughters, with whom he had fled from his country along with thousands of French gentlemen at the period of revolution and emigration. He was a cadet of a very ancient family, and his brother, the Marquis de Blois, was a fugitive like himself, but with the army of the princes on the Rhine, or with his exiled sovereign at Mittau. The Chevalier had seen the wars of the great Frederick: what man could be found better to teach young Newcome the French language and the art military? It was surprising with what assiduity he pursued his studies. Mademoiselle Leonore, the Chevalier’s daughter, would carry on her little industry very undisturbedly in the same parlour with her father and his pupil. She painted card-racks: laboured at embroidery; was ready to employ her quick little brain or fingers in any way by which she could find means to add a few shillings to the scanty store on which this exiled family supported themselves in their day of misfortune. I suppose the Chevalier was not in the least unquiet about her, because she was promised in marriage to the Comte de Florac, also of the emigration — a distinguished officer like the Chevalier, than whom he was a year older — and, at the time of which we speak, engaged in London in giving private lessons on the fiddle. Sometimes on a Sunday he would walk to Blackheath with that instrument in his hand, and pay his court to his young fiancee, and talk over happier days with his old companion-inarms. Tom Newcome took no French lessons on a Sunday. He passed that day at Clapham generally, where, strange to say, he never said a word about Mademoiselle de Blois.
What happens when two young folks of eighteen, handsome and ardent, generous and impetuous, alone in the world, or without strong affections to bind them elsewhere — what happens when they meet daily over French dictionaries, embroidery frames, or indeed upon any business whatever? No doubt Mademoiselle Leonore was a young lady perfectly bien elevee, and ready, as every well-elevated young Frenchwoman should be, to accept a husband of her parents’ choosing; but while the elderly M. de Florac was fiddling in London, there was that handsome young Tom Newcome ever present at Blackheath. To make a long matter short, Tom declared his passion, and was for marrying Leonore off hand, if she would but come with him to the little Catholic chapel at Woolwich. Why should they not go out to India together and be happy ever after?
The innocent little amour may have been several months in transaction, and was discovered by Mrs. Newcome, whose keen spectacles nothing could escape. It chanced that she drove to Blackheath to Tom’s tutor’s. Tom was absent taking his French and drawing lesson of M. de Blois. Thither Tom’s stepmother followed him, and found the young man sure enough with his instructor over his books and plans of fortification. Mademoiselle and her card-screens were in the room, but behind those screens she could not hide her blushes and confusion from Mrs. Newcome’s sharp glances. In one moment the banker’s wife saw the whole affair — the whole mystery which had been passing for months under poor M. de Blois’ nose, without his having the least notion of the truth.
Mrs. Newcome said she wanted her son to return home with her upon private affairs; and before they had reached the Hermitage a fine battle had ensued between them. His mother had charged him with being a wretch and a monster, and he had replied fiercely, denying the accusation with scorn, and announcing his wish instantly to marry the most virtuous, the most beautiful of her sex. To marry a Papist! This was all that was wanted to make poor Tom’s cup of bitterness run over. Mr. Newcome was called in, and the two elders passed a great part of the night in an assault upon the lad. He was grown too tall for the cane; but Mrs. Newcome thonged him with the lash of her indignation for many an hour that evening.
He was forbidden to enter, M. de Blois’ house, a prohibition at which the spirited young fellow snapped his fingers, and laughed in scorn. Nothing, he swore, but death should part him from the young lady. On the next day his father came to him alone and plied him with entreaties, but he was as obdurate as before. He would have her; nothing should prevent him. He cocked his hat and walked out of the lodge-gate, as his father, quite beaten by the young man’s obstinacy, with haggard face and tearful eyes, went his own way into town. He was not very angry himself: in the course of their talk overnight the boy had spoken bravely and honestly, and Newcome could remember how, in his own early life, he too had courted and loved a young lass. It was Mrs. Newcome the father was afraid of. Who shall depict her wrath at the idea that a child of her house was about to marry a Popish girl?
So young Newcome went his way to Blackheath, bent upon falling straightway down upon his knees before Leonore, and having the Chevalier’s blessing. That old fiddler in London scarcely seemed to him to be an obstacle: it seemed monstrous that a young creature should be given away to a man older than her own father. He did not know the law of honour, as it obtained amongst French gentlemen of those days, or how religiously their daughters were bound by it.
But Mrs. Newcome had been beforehand with him, and had visited the Chevalier de Blois almost at cockcrow. She charged him insolently with being privy to the attachment between the young people; pursued him with vulgar rebukes about beggary, Popery, and French adventurers. Her husband had to make a very contrite apology afterwards for the language which his wife had thought fit to employ. “You forbid me,” said the Chevalier, “you forbid Mademoiselle de Blois to marry your son, Mr. Thomas! No, madam, she comes of a race which is not accustomed to ally itself with persons of your class; and is promised to a gentleman whose ancestors were dukes and peers when Mr. Newcome’s were blacking shoes!” Instead of finding his pretty blushing girl on arriving at Woolwich, poor Tom only found his French master, livid with rage and quivering under his ailes de pigeon. We pass over the scenes that followed; the young man’s passionate entreaties, and fury and despair. In his own defence, and to prove his honour to the world, M. de Blois determined that his daughter should instantly marry the Count. The poor girl yielded without a word, as became her; and it was with this marriage effected almost before his eyes, and frantic with wrath and despair, that young Newcome embarked for India, and quitted the parents whom he was never more to see.
Tom’s name was no more mentioned at Clapham. His letters to his father were written to the City; very pleasant they were, and comforting to the father’s heart. He sent Tom liberal private remittances to India, until the boy wrote to say that he wanted no more. Mr. Newcome would have liked to leave Tom all his private fortune, for the twins were only too well cared for; but he dared not on account of his terror of Sophia Alethea, his wife; and he died, and poor Tom was only secretly forgiven.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00