The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray


In which the Newcome Brothers once more meet together in Unity

His narrative, as the judicious reader no doubt is aware, is written maturely and at ease, long after the voyage is over, whereof it recounts the adventures and perils; the winds adverse and favourable; the storms, shoals, shipwrecks, islands, and so forth, which Clive Newcome met in his early journey in life. In such a history events follow each other without necessarily having a connection with one another. One ship crosses another ship, and after a visit from one captain to his comrade, they sail away each on his course. The Clive Newcome meets a vessel which makes signals that she is short of bread and water; and after supplying her, our captain leaves her to see her no more. One or two of the vessels with which we commenced the voyage together, part company in a gale, and founder miserably; others, after being wofully battered in the tempest, make port, or are cast upon surprising islands where all sorts of unlooked-for prosperity awaits the lucky crew. Also, no doubt, the writer of the book, into whose hands Clive Newcome’s logs have been put, and who is charged with the duty of making two octavo volumes out of his friend’s story, dresses up the narrative in his own way; utters his own remarks in place of Newcome’s; makes fanciful descriptions of individuals and incidents with which he never could have been personally acquainted; and commits blunders, which the critics will discover. A great number of the descriptions in Cook’s Voyages, for instance, were notoriously invented by Dr. Hawkesworth, who “did” the book: so in the present volumes, where dialogues are written down, which the reporter could by no possibility have heard, and where motives are detected which the persons actuated by them certainly never confided to the writer, the public must once for all be warned that the author’s individual fancy very likely supplies much of the narrative; and that he forms it as best he may, out of stray papers, conversations reported to him, and his knowledge, right or wrong, of the characters of the persons engaged. And, as is the case with the most orthodox histories, the writer’s own guesses or conjectures are printed in exactly the same type as the most ascertained patent facts. I fancy, for my part, that the speeches attributed to Clive, the Colonel, and the rest, are as authentic as the orations in Sallust or Livy, and only implore the truth-loving public to believe that incidents here told, and which passed very probably without witnesses, were either confided to me subsequently as compiler of this biography, or are of such a nature that they must have happened from what we know happened after. For example, when you read such words as QVE ROMANVS on a battered Roman stone, your profound antiquarian knowledge enables you to assert that SENATVS POPVLVS was also inscribed there at some time or other. You take a mutilated statue of Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, or Virorum, and you pop him on a wanting hand, an absent foot, or a nose which time or barbarians have defaced. You tell your tales as you can, and state the facts as you think they must have been. In this manner, Mr. James (historiographer to Her Majesty), Titus Livius, Professor Alison, Robinson Crusoe, and all historians proceeded. Blunders there must be in the best of these narratives, and more asserted than they can possibly know or vouch for.

To recur to our own affairs, and the subject at present in hand, I am obliged here to supply from conjecture a few points of the history, which I could not know from actual experience or hearsay. Clive, let us say, is Romanus, and we must add Senatus Populusque to his inscription. After Mrs. Mackenzie and her pretty daughter had been for a few months in London, which they did not think of quitting, although Mr. Binnie’s wounded little leg was now as well and as brisk as ever it had been, a redintegration of love began to take place between the Colonel and his relatives in Park Lane. How should we know that there had ever been a quarrel, or at any rate a coolness? Thomas Newcome was not a man to talk at length of any such matter; though a word or two occasionally dropped in conversation by the simple gentleman might lead persons who chose to interest themselves about his family affairs to form their own opinions concerning them. After that visit of the Colonel and his son to Newcome, Ethel was constantly away with her grandmother. The Colonel went to see his pretty little favourite at Brighton, and once, twice, thrice, Lady Kew’s door was denied to him. The knocker of that door could not be more fierce than the old lady’s countenance, when Newcome met her in her chariot driving on the cliff. Once, forming the loveliest of a charming Amazonian squadron, led by Mr. Whiskin, the riding-master, when the Colonel encountered his pretty Ethel, she greeted him affectionately, it is true; there was still the sweet look of candour and love in her eyes; but when he rode up to her she looked so constrained, when he talked about Clive, so reserved, when he left her, so sad, that he could not but feel pain and commiseration. Back he went to London, having in a week only caught this single glance of his darling.

This event occurred while Clive was painting his picture of the “Battle of Assaye” before mentioned, during the struggles incident on which composition he was not thinking much about Miss Ethel, or his papa, or any other subject but his great work. Whilst Assaye was still in progress, Thomas Newcome must have had an explanation with his sister-inlaw, Lady Anne, to whom he frankly owned the hopes which he had entertained for Clive, and who must as frankly have told the Colonel that Ethel’s family had very different views for that young lady to those which the simple Colonel had formed. A generous early attachment, the Colonel thought, is the safeguard of a young man. To love a noble girl; to wait a while and struggle, and haply do some little achievement in order to win her; the best task to which his boy could set himself. If two young people so loving each other were to marry on rather narrow means, what then? A happy home was better than the finest house in Mayfair; a generous young fellow, such as, please God, his son was — loyal, upright, and a gentleman — might pretend surely to his kinswoman’s hand without derogation; and the affection he bore Ethel himself was so great, and the sweet regard with which she returned it, that the simple father thought his kindly project was favoured by Heaven, and prayed for its fulfilment, and pleased himself to think, when his campaigns were over, and his sword hung on the wall, what a beloved daughter he might have to soothe and cheer his old age. With such a wife for his son, and child for himself, he thought the happiness of his last years might repay him for friendless boyhood, lonely manhood, and cheerless exile; and he imparted his simple scheme to Ethel’s mother, who no doubt was touched as he told his story; for she always professed regard and respect for him, and in the differences which afterwards occurred in the family, and the quarrels which divided the brothers, still remained faithful to the good Colonel.

But Barnes Newcome, Esquire, was the bead of the house, and the governor of his father and all Sir Brian’s affairs; and Barnes Newcome, Esquire, hated his cousin Clive, and spoke of him as a beggarly painter, an impudent snob, an infernal young puppy, and so forth; and Barnes with his usual freedom of language imparted his opinions to his Uncle Hobson at the bank, and Uncle Hobson carried them home to Mrs. Newcome in Bryanstone Square; and Mrs. Newcome took an early opportunity of telling the Colonel her opinion on the subject, and of bewailing that love for aristocracy which she saw actuated some folks; and the Colonel was brought to see that Barnes was his boy’s enemy, and words very likely passed between them, for Thomas Newcome took a new banker at this time, and, as Clive informed me, was in very great dudgeon because Hobson Brothers wrote to him to say that he had overdrawn his account. “I am sure there is some screw loose,” the sagacious youth remarked to me; “and the Colonel and the people in Park Lane are at variance, because he goes there very little now; and he promised to go to Court when Ethel was presented, and he didn’t go.”

Some months after the arrival of Mr. Binnie’s niece and sister in Fitzroy Square, the fraternal quarrel between the Newcomes must have come to an end — for that time at least — and was followed by a rather ostentatious reconciliation. And pretty little Rosey Mackenzie was the innocent and unconscious cause of this amiable change in the minds of the three brethren, as I gathered from a little conversation with Mrs. Newcome, who did me the honour to invite me to her table. As she had not vouchsafed this hospitality to me for a couple of years previously, and perfectly stifled me with affability when we met — as her invitation came quite at the end of the season, when almost everybody was out of town, and a dinner to a man is no compliment — I was at first for declining this invitation, and spoke of it with great scorn when Mr. Newcome orally delivered it to me at Bays’s Club.

“What,” said I, turning round to an old man of the world, who happened to be in the room at the time, “what do these people mean by asking a fellow to dinner in August, and taking me up after dropping me for two years?”

“My good fellow,” says my friend — it was my kind old Uncle Major Pendennis, indeed —“I have lived long enough about town never to ask myself questions of that sort. In the world people drop you and take you up every day. You know Lady Cheddar by sight? I have known her husband for forty years: I have stayed with them in the country, for weeks at a time. She knows me as well as she knows King Charles at Charing Cross, and a doosid deal better, and yet for a whole season she will drop me — pass me by, as if there was no such person in the world. Well, sir, what do I do? I never see her. I give you my word I am never conscious of her existence; and if I meet her at dinner, I’m no more aware of her than the fellows in the play are of Banquo. What’s the end of it? She comes round — only last Toosday she came round — and said Lord Cheddar wanted me to go down to Wiltshire. I asked after the family (you know Henry Churningham is engaged to Miss Rennet? — a doosid good match for the Cheddars). We shook hands and are as good friends as ever. I don’t suppose she’ll cry when I die, you know,” said the worthy old gentleman with a grin. “Nor shall I go into very deep mourning if anything happens to her. You were quite right to say to Newcome that you did not know whether you were free or not, and would look at your engagements when you got home, and give him an answer. A fellow of that rank has no right to give himself airs. But they will, sir. Some of those bankers are as high and mighty as the oldest families. They marry noblemen’s daughters, by Jove, and think nothing is too good for ’em. But I should go, if I were you, Arthur. I dined there a couple of months ago; and the bankeress said something about you: that you and her nephew were much together, that you were sad wild dogs, I think — something of that sort. ‘Gad, ma’am,’ says I, ‘boys will be boys.’ ‘And they grow to be men!’ says she, nodding her head. Queer little woman, devilish pompous. Dinner confoundedly long, stoopid, scientific.”

The old gentleman was on this day inclined to be talkative and confidential, and I set down some more remarks which he made concerning my friends. “Your Indian Colonel,” says he, “seems a worthy man.” The Major quite forgot having been in India himself, unless he was in company with some very great personage. “He don’t seem to know much of the world, and we are not very intimate. Fitzroy Square is a dev’lish long way off for a fellow to go for a dinner, and entre nous, the dinner is rather queer and the company still more so. It’s right for you who are a literary man to see all sorts of people; but I’m different, you know, so Newcome and I are not very thick together. They say he wanted to marry your friend to Lady Anne’s daughter, an exceedingly fine girl; one of the prettiest girls come out this season. I hear the young men say so. And that shows how monstrous ignorant of the world Colonel Newcome is. His son could no more get that girl than he could marry one of the royal princesses. Mark my words, they intend Miss Newcome for Lord Kew. Those banker fellows are wild after grand marriages. Kew will sow his wild oats, and they’ll marry her to him; or if not to him, to some man of high rank. His father Walham was a weak young man; but his grandmother, old Lady Kew, is a monstrous clever old woman, too severe with her children, one of whom ran away and married a poor devil without a shilling. Nothing could show a more deplorable ignorance of the world than poor Newcome supposing his son could make such a match as that with his cousin. Is it true that he is going to make his son an artist? I don’t know what the dooce the world is coming to. An artist! By gad, in my time a fellow would as soon have thought of making his son a hairdresser, or a pastrycook, by gad.” And the worthy Major gives his nephew two fingers, and trots off to the next club in St. James’s Street, of which he is a member.

The virtuous hostess of Bryanstone Square was quite civil and good-humoured when Mr. Pendennis appeared at her house; and my surprise was not inconsiderable when I found the whole party from Saint Pancras there assembled — Mr. Binnie; the Colonel and his son; Mrs. Mackenzie, looking uncommonly handsome and perfectly well-dressed; and Miss Rosey, in pink crape, with pearly shoulders and blushing cheeks, and beautiful fair ringlets — as fresh and comely a sight as it was possible to witness. Scarcely had we made our bows, and shaken our hands, and imparted our observations about the fineness of the weather, when, behold! as we look from the drawing-room windows into the cheerful square of Bryanstone, a great family coach arrives, driven by a family coachman in a family wig, and we recognise Lady Anne Newcome’s carriage, and see her ladyship, her mother, her daughter, and her husband, Sir Brian, descend from the vehicle. “It is quite a family party,” whispers the happy Mrs. Newcome to the happy writer conversing with her in the niche of the window. “Knowing your intimacy with our brother, Colonel Newcome, we thought it would please him to meet you here. Will you be so kind as to take Miss Newcome to dinner?”

Everybody was bent upon being happy and gracious. It was “My dear brother, how do you do?” from Sir Brian. “My dear Colonel, how glad we are to see you! how well you look!” from Lady Anne. Miss Newcome ran up to him with both hands out, and put her beautiful face so close to his that I thought, upon my conscience, she was going to kiss him. And Lady Kew, advancing in the frankest manner, with a smile, I must own, rather awful, playing round her many wrinkles, round her ladyship’s hooked nose, and displaying her ladyship’s teeth (a new and exceedingly handsome set), held out her hand to Colonel Newcome, and said briskly, “Colonel, it is an age since we met.” She turns to Clive with equal graciousness and good-humour, and says, “Mr. Clive, let me shake hands with you; I have heard all sorts of good of you, that you have been painting the most beautiful things, that you are going to be quite famous.” Nothing can exceed the grace and kindness of Lady Anne Newcome towards Mrs. Mackenzie: the pretty widow blushes with pleasure at this greeting; and now Lady Anne must be introduced to Mrs. Mackenzie’s charming daughter, and whispers in the delighted mother’s ear, “She is lovely!” Rosey comes up looking rosy indeed, and executes a pretty curtsey with a great deal of blushing grace.

Ethel has been so happy to see her dear uncle, that as yet she has had no eyes for any one else, until Clive advancing, those bright eyes become brighter still with surprise and pleasure as she beholds him. For being absent with his family in Italy now, and not likely to see this biography for many many months, I may say that he is a much handsomer fellow than our designer has represented; and if that wayward artist should take this very scene for the purpose of illustration, he is requested to bear in mind that the hero of this story will wish to have justice done to his person. There exists in Mr. Newcome’s possession a charming little pencil-drawing of Clive at this age, and which Colonel Newcome took with him when he went — whither he is about to go in a very few pages — and brought back with him to this country. A florid apparel becomes some men, as simple raiment suits others, and Clive in his youth was of the ornamental class of mankind — a customer to tailors, a wearer of handsome rings, shirt-studs, mustachios, long hair, and the like; nor could he help, in his costume or his nature, being picturesque and generous and splendid. He was always greatly delighted with that Scotch man-at-arms in Quentin Durward, who twists off an inch or two of his gold chain to treat a friend and pay for a bottle. He would give a comrade a ring or a fine jewelled pin, if he had no money. Silver dressing-cases and brocade morning-gowns were in him a sort of propriety at this season of his youth. It was a pleasure to persons of colder temperament to sun themselves in the warmth of his bright looks and generous humour. His laughter cheered one like wine. I do not know that he was very witty; but he was pleasant. He was prone to blush: the history of a generous trait moistened his eyes instantly. He was instinctively fond of children, and of the other sex from one year old to eighty. Coming from the Derby once — a merry party — and stopped on the road from Epsom in a lock of carriages, during which the people in the carriage ahead saluted us with many vituperative epithets, and seized the heads of our leaders — Clive in a twinkling jumped off the box, and the next minute we saw him engaged with a half-dozen of the enemy: his hat gone, his fair hair flying off his face, his blue eyes flashing with fire, his lips and nostrils quivering wrath, his right and left hand hitting out, que c’etoit un plaisir voir. His father sat back in the carriage, looking with delight and wonder — indeed it was a great sight. Policeman X separated the warriors. Clive ascended the box again with a dreadful wound in the coat, which was gashed from the waist to the shoulder. I hardly ever saw the elder Newcome in such a state of triumph. The postboys quite stared at the gratuity he gave them, and wished they might drive his lordship to the Oaks.

All the time we have been making this sketch Ethel is standing, looking at Clive; and the blushing youth casts down his eyes before hers. Her face assumes a look of arch humour. She passes a slim hand over the prettiest lips and a chin with the most lovely of dimples, thereby indicating her admiration of Mr. Clive’s mustachios and imperial. They are of a warm yellowish chestnut colour, and have not yet known the razor. He wears a low cravat; a shirt-front of the finest lawn, with ruby buttons. His hair, of a lighter colour, waves almost to his “manly shoulders broad.” “Upon my word; my dear Colonel,” says Lady Kew, after looking at him, and nodding her head shrewdly, “I think we were right.”

“No doubt right in everything your ladyship does, but in what particularly?” asks the Colonel.

“Right to keep him out of the way. Ethel has been disposed of these ten years. Did not Anne tell you? How foolish of her! But all mothers like to have young men dying for their daughters. Your son is really the handsomest boy in London. Who is that conceited-looking young man in the window? Mr. Pen — what? has your son really been very wicked? I was told he was a sad scapegrace.”

“I never knew him do, and I don’t believe he ever thought, anything that was untrue, or unkind, or ungenerous,” says the Colonel. “If any one has belied my boy to you, and I think I know who his enemy has been ——”

“The young lady is very pretty,” remarks Lady Kew, stopping the Colonel’s further outbreak. “How very young her mother looks! Ethel, my dear! Colonel Newcome must present us to Mrs. Mackenzie and Miss Mackenzie;” and Ethel, giving a nod to Clive, with whom she has talked for a minute or two, again puts her hand in her uncle’s, and walks towards Mrs. Mackenzie and her daughter.

And now let the artist, if he has succeeded in drawing Clive to his liking, cut a fresh pencil, and give us a likeness of Ethel. She is seventeen years old; rather taller than the majority of women; of a countenance somewhat grave and haughty, but on occasion brightening with humour or beaming with kindliness and affection. Too quick to detect affectation or insincerity in others, too impatient of dulness or pomposity, she is more sarcastic now than she became when after years of suffering had softened her nature. Truth looks out of her bright eyes, and rises up armed, and flashes scorn or denial, perhaps too readily, when she encounters flattery, or meanness, or imposture. After her first appearance in the world, if the truth must be told, this young lady was popular neither with many men, nor with most women. The innocent dancing youth who pressed round her, attracted by her beauty, were rather afraid, after a while, of engaging her. This one felt dimly that she despised him; another, that his simpering commonplaces (delights of how many well-bred maidens!) only occasioned Miss Newcome’s laughter. Young Lord Croesus, whom all maidens and matrons were eager to secure, was astounded to find that he was utterly indifferent to her, and that she would refuse him twice or thrice in an evening, and dance as many times with poor Tom Spring, who was his father’s ninth son, and only at home till he could get a ship and go to sea again. The young women were frightened at her sarcasm. She seemed to know what fadaises they whispered to their partners as they paused in the waltzes; and Fanny, who was luring Lord Croesus towards her with her blue eyes, dropped them guiltily to the floor when Ethel’s turned towards her; and Cecilia sang more out of time than usual; and Clara, who was holding Freddy, and Charley, and Tommy round her enchanted by her bright conversation and witty mischief, became dumb and disturbed when Ethel passed her with her cold face; and old Lady Hookham, who was playing off her little Minnie now at young Jack Gorget of the Guards, now at the eager and simple Bob Bateson of the Coldstreams, would slink off when Ethel made her appearance on the ground, whose presence seemed to frighten away the fish and the angler. No wonder that the other Mayfair nymphs were afraid of this severe Diana, whose looks were so cold and whose arrows were so keen.

But those who had no cause to heed Diana’s shot or coldness might admire her beauty; nor could the famous Parisian marble, which Clive said she resembled, be more perfect in form than this young lady. Her hair and eyebrows were jet black (these latter may have been too thick according to some physiognomists, giving rather a stern expression to the eyes, and hence causing those guilty ones to tremble who came under her lash), but her complexion was as dazzlingly fair and her cheeks as red as Miss Rosey’s own, who had a right to those beauties, being a blonde by nature. In Miss Ethel’s black hair there was a slight natural ripple, as when a fresh breeze blows over the melan hudor — a ripple such as Roman ladies nineteen hundred years ago, and our own beauties a short time since, endeavoured to imitate by art, paper, and I believe crumpling-irons. Her eyes were grey; her mouth rather large; her teeth as regular and bright as Lady Kew’s own; her voice low and sweet; and her smile, when it lighted up her face and eyes, as beautiful as spring sunshine; also they could lighten and flash often, and sometimes, though rarely, rain. As for her figure — but as this tall slender form is concealed in a simple white muslin robe (of the sort which I believe is called demi-toilette), in which her fair arms are enveloped, and which is confined at her slim waist by an azure ribbon, and descends to her feet — let us make a respectful bow to that fair image of Youth, Health, and Modesty, and fancy it as pretty as we will. Miss Ethel made a very stately curtsey to Mrs. Mackenzie, surveying that widow calmly, so that the elder lady looked up and fluttered; but towards Rosey she held out her hand, and smiled with the utmost kindness, and the smile was returned by the other; and the blushes with which Miss Mackenzie was always ready at this time, became her very much. As for Mrs. Mackenzie — the very largest curve that shall not be a caricature, and actually disfigure the widow’s countenance — a smile so wide and steady, so exceedingly rident, indeed, as almost to be ridiculous, may be drawn upon her buxom face, if the artist chooses to attempt it as it appeared during the whole of this summer evening, before dinner came (when people ordinarily look very grave), when she was introduced to the company: when she was made known to our friends Julia and Maria — the darling child, lovely little dears! how like their papa and mamma! — when Sir Brian Newcome gave her his arm downstairs to the dining-room when anybody spoke to her: when John offered her meat, or the gentleman in the white waistcoat, wine; when she accepted or when she refused these refreshments; when Mr. Newcome told her a dreadfully stupid story; when the Colonel called cheerily from his end of the table, “My dear Mrs. Mackenzie, you don’t take any wine today; may I not have the honour of drinking a glass of champagne with you?” when the new boy from the country upset some sauce upon her shoulder: when Mrs. Newcome made the sign for departure; and I have no doubt in the drawing-room, when the ladies retired thither. “Mrs. Mack is perfectly awful,” Clive told me afterwards, “since that dinner in Bryanstone Square. Lady Kew and Lady Anne are never out of her mouth; she has had white muslin dresses made just like Ethel’s for herself and her daughter. She has bought a Peerage, and knows the pedigree of the whole Kew family. She won’t go out in a cab now without the boy on the box; and in the plate for the cards which she has established in the drawing-room, you know, Lady Kew’s pasteboard always will come up to the top, though I poke it down whenever I go into the room. As for poor Lady Trotter, the governess of St. Kitt’s, you know, and the Bishop of Tobago, they are quite bowled out: Mrs. Mack has not mentioned them for a week.”

During the dinner it seemed to me that the lovely young lady by whom I sate cast many glances towards Mrs. Mackenzie, which did not betoken particular pleasure. Miss Ethel asked me several questions regarding Clive, and also respecting Miss Mackenzie: perhaps her questions were rather downright and imperious, and she patronised me in a manner that would not have given all gentlemen pleasure. I was Clive’s friend, his schoolfellow? had I seen him a great deal? know him very well — very well indeed? Was it true that he had been very thoughtless? very wild? Who told her so? That was not her question (with a blush). It was not true, and I ought to know? He was not spoiled? He was very good-natured, generous, told the truth? He loved his profession very much, and had great talent? Indeed she was very glad. Why do they sneer at his profession? It seemed to her quite as good as her father’s and brother’s. Were artists not very dissipated? Not more so, nor often so much as other young men? Was Mr. Binnie rich, and was he going to leave all his money to his niece? How long have you known them? Is Miss Mackenzie as good-natured as she looks? Not very clever, I suppose. Mrs. Mackenzie looks very — No, thank you, no more. Grandmamma (she is very deaf, and cannot hear) scolded me for reading the book you wrote, and took the book away. I afterwards got it, and read it all. I don’t think there was any harm in it. Why do you give such bad characters of women? Don’t you know any good ones? Yes, two as good as any in the world. They are unselfish: they are pious; they are always doing good; they live in the country? Why don’t you put them into a book? Why don’t you put my uncle into a book? He is so good, that nobody could make him good enough. Before I came out, I heard a young lady —(Lady Clavering’s daughter, Miss Amory) sing a song of yours. I have never spoken to an author before. I saw Mr. Lyon at Lady Popinjoy’s, and heard him speak. He said it was very hot, and he looked so, I am sure. Who is the greatest author now alive? You will tell me when you come upstairs after dinner; — and the young lady sails away, following the matrons, who rise and ascend to the drawing-room. Miss Newcome has been watching the behaviour of the author by whom she sate; curious to know what such a person’s habits are; whether he speaks and acts like other people; and in what respect authors are different from persons “in society.”

When we had sufficiently enjoyed claret and politics below-stairs, the gentlemen went to the drawing-room to partake of coffee and the ladies’ delightful conversation. We had heard previously the tinkling of the piano above, and the well-known sound of a couple of Miss Rosey’s five songs. The two young ladies were engaged over an album at a side-table, when the males of the party arrived. The book contained a number of Clive’s drawings made in the time of his very early youth for the amusement of his little cousins. Miss Ethel seemed to be very much pleased with these performances, which Miss Mackenzie likewise examined with great good-nature and satisfaction. So she did the views of Rome, Naples, Marble Hill in the county of Sussex, etc., in the same collection: so she did the Berlin cockatoo and spaniel which Mrs. Newcome was working in idle moments: so she did the “Books of Beauty,” “Flowers of Loveliness,” and so forth. She thought the prints very sweet and pretty: she thought the poetry very pretty and sweet. Which did she like best, Mr. Niminy’s “Lines to a bunch of violets,” or Miss Piminy’s “Stanzas to a wreath of roses”? Miss Mackenzie was quite puzzled to say which of these masterpieces she preferred; she found them alike so pretty. She appealed, as in most cases, to mamma. “How, my darling love, can I pretend to know?” mamma says. “I have been a soldier’s wife, battling about the world. I have not had your advantages. I had no drawing-masters, nor music-masters as you have. You, dearest child, must instruct me in these things.” This poses Rosey: who prefers to have her opinions dealt out to her like her frocks, bonnets, handkerchiefs, her shoes and gloves, and the order thereof; the lumps of sugar for her tea, the proper quantity of raspberry jam for breakfast; who trusts for all supplies corporeal and spiritual to her mother. For her own part, Rosey is pleased with everything in nature. Does she love music? Oh, yes. Bellini and Donizetti? Oh, yes. Dancing? They had no dancing at grandmamma’s, but she adores dancing, and Mr. Clive dances very well indeed. (A smile from Miss Ethel at this admission.) Does she like the country? Oh, she is so happy in the country! London? London is delightful, and so is the seaside. She does not really know which she likes best, London or the country, for mamma is not near her to decide, being engaged listening to Sir Brian, who is laying down the law to her, and smiling, smiling with all her might. In fact, Mr. Newcome says to Mr. Pendennis in his droll, humorous way, “That woman grins like a Cheshire cat.” Who was the naturalist who first discovered that peculiarity of the cats in Cheshire?

In regard to Miss Mackenzie’s opinions, then, it is not easy to discover that they are decided, or profound, or original; but it seems pretty clear that she has a good temper, and a happy contented disposition. And the smile which her pretty countenance wears shows off to great advantage the two dimples on her pink cheeks. Her teeth are even and white, her hair of a beautiful colour, and no snow can be whiter than her fair round neck and polished shoulders. She talks very kindly and good-naturedly with Julia and Maria (Mrs. Hobson’s precious ones) until she is bewildered by the statements which those young ladies make regarding astronomy, botany, and chemistry, all of which they are studying. “My dears, I don’t know a single word about any of these abstruse subjects: I wish I did,” she says. And Ethel Newcome laughs. She too is ignorant upon all these subjects. “I am glad there is some one else,” says Rosey, with naivete, “who is as ignorant as I am.” And the younger children, with a solemn air, say they will ask mamma leave to teach her. So everybody, somehow, great or small, seems to protect her; and the humble, simple, gentle little thing wins a certain degree of goodwill from the world, which is touched by her humility and her pretty sweet looks. The servants in Fitzroy Square waited upon her much more kindly than upon her smiling bustling mother. Uncle James is especially fond of his little Rosey. Her presence in his study never discomposes him; whereas his sister fatigues him with the exceeding activity of her gratitude, and her energy in pleasing. As I was going away, I thought I heard Sir Brian Newcome say, “It” (but what “it” was, of course I cannot conjecture)—“it will do very well. The mother seems a superior woman.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00