The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray


An Old Story

Many of Clive’s Roman friends were by this time come to London, and the young man renewed his acquaintance with them, and had speedily a considerable circle of his own. He thought fit to allow himself a good horse or two, and appeared in the Park among other young dandies. He and Monsieur de Moncontour were sworn allies. Lord Fareham, who had purchased J. J.‘s picture, was Clive’s very good friend: Major Pendennis himself pronounced him to be a young fellow of agreeable manners, and very favourably vu (as the Major happened to know) in some very good quarters.

Ere many days Clive had been to Brighton to see Lady Anne and Sir Brian, and good Aunt Honeyman, in whose house the Baronet was lodged: and I suppose he found out, by some means or other, where Lady Kew lived in Mayfair.

But her ladyship was not at home, nor was she at home on the second day, nor did there come any note from Ethel to her cousin. She did not ride in the Park as of old. Clive, bien vu as he was, did not belong to that great world as yet, in which he would be pretty sure to meet her every night at one of those parties where everybody goes. He read her name in the paper morning after morning, as having been present at Lady This’s entertainment and Lady That’s ministerial reunion. At first he was too shy to tell what the state of the case was, and took nobody into his confidence regarding his little tendre.

There he was riding through Queen Street, Mayfair, attired in splendid raiment: never missing the Park; actually going to places of worship in the neighbourhood; and frequenting the opera — a waste of time which one would never have expected in a youth of his nurture. At length a certain observer of human nature remarking his state, rightly conjectured that he must be in love, and taxed him with the soft impeachment — on which the young man, no doubt anxious to open his heart to some one, poured out all that story which has before been narrated; and told how he thought his passion cured, and how it was cured; but when he heard from Kew at Naples that the engagement was over between him and Miss Newcome, Clive found his own flame kindle again with new ardour. He was wild to see her. He dashed off from Naples instantly on receiving the news that she was free. He had been ten days in London without getting a glimpse of her. “That Mrs. Mackenzie bothers me so I hardly know where to turn,” said poor Clive, “and poor little Rosey is made to write me a note about something twice a day. She’s a good dear little thing — little Rosey — and I really had thought once of — of — oh, never mind that! Oh, Pen! I’m up another tree now! and a poor miserable young beggar I am!” In fact, Mr. Pendennis was installed as confidant, vice J. J. — absent on leave.

This is a part, which, especially for a few days, the present biographer has always liked well enough. For a while, at least, I think almost every man or woman is interesting when in love. If you know of two or three such affairs going on in any soiree to which you may be invited — is not the party straightway amusing? Yonder goes Augustus Tomkins, working his way through the rooms to that far corner where demure Miss Hopkins is seated, to whom the stupid grinning Bumpkins thinks he is making himself agreeable. Yonder sits Miss Fanny distraite, and yet trying to smile as the captain is talking his folly the parson his glib compliments. And see, her face lights up all of a sudden: her eyes beam with delight at the captain’s stories, and at that delightful young clergyman likewise. It is because Augustus has appeared; their eyes only meet for one semi-second, but that is enough for Miss Fanny. Go on, captain, with your twaddle! — Proceed, my reverend friend, with your smirking commonplaces! In the last two minutes the world has changed for Miss Fanny. That moment has come for which she has been fidgeting and longing and scheming all day! How different an interest, I say, has a meeting of people for a philosopher who knows of a few such little secrets, to that which your vulgar looker-on feels who comes but to eat the ices, and stare at the ladies’ dresses and beauty! There are two frames of mind under which London society is bearable to a man — to be an actor in one of those sentimental performances above hinted at; or to be a spectator and watch it. But as for the mere dessus de cartes — would not an arm-chair and the dullest of books be better than that dull game?

So I not only became Clive’s confidant in this affair, but took a pleasure in extracting the young fellow’s secrets from him, or rather in encouraging him to pour them forth. Thus was the great part of the previous tale revealed to me: thus Jack Belsize’s misadventures, of the first part of which we had only heard in London (and whither he returned presently to be reconciled to his father, after his elder brother’s death). Thus my Lord Kew’s secret history came into my possession; let us hope for the public’s future delectation, and the chronicler’s private advantage. And many a night until daylight did appear has poor Clive stamped his chamber or my own, pouring his story out to me, his griefs and raptures; recalling, in his wild young way, recollections of Ethel’s sayings and doings; uttering descriptions of her beauty, and raging against the cruelty which she exhibited towards him.

As soon as the new confidant heard the name of the young lover’s charmer, to do Mr. Pendennis justice, he endeavoured to fling as much cold water upon Clive’s flame as a small private engine could be brought to pour on such a conflagration. “Miss Newcome! my dear Clive,” says the confidant, “do you know what you are aspiring to? For the last three months Miss Newcome has been the greatest lioness in London: the reigning beauty winning the horse: the first favourite out of the whole Belgravian harem. No young woman of this year has come near her: those of past seasons she has distanced and utterly put to shame. Miss Blackcap, Lady Blanch Blackcap’s daughter, was (as perhaps you are not aware) considered by her mamma the great beauty of last season; and it was considered rather shabby of the young Marquis of Farintosh to leave town without offering to change Miss Blackcap’s name. Heaven bless you! this year Farintosh will not look at Miss Blackcap! He finds people at home when (ha! I see you wince, my suffering innocent!)— when he calls in Queen Street; yes, and Lady Kew, who is one of the cleverest women in England, will listen for hours to Lord Farintosh’s conversation; than whom the Rotten Row of Hyde Park cannot show a greater booby. Miss Blackcap may retire, like Jephthah’s daughter, for all Farintosh will relieve her. Then, my dear fellow, there were, as possibly you do not know, Lady Hermengilde and Lady Yseult, Lady Rackstraw’s lovely twins, whose appearance created such a sensation at Lady Hautbois’ first — was it her first or was it her second? — yes, it was her second — breakfast. Whom weren’t they going to marry? Crackthorpe as mad, they said, about both. — Bustington, Sir John Fobsby, the young Baronet with the immense Northern property — the Bishop of Windsor was actually said to be smitten with one of them, but did not like to offer, as her present M— y, like Qu — n El-z-b-th of gracious memory, is said to object to bishops, as bishops, marrying. Where is Bustington? Where is Crackthorpe? Where is Fobsby, the young Baronet of the North? My dear fellow, when those two girls come into a room now, they make no more sensation than you or I. Miss Newcome has carried their admirers away from them: Fobsby has actually, it is said, proposed for her: and the real reason of that affair between Lord Bustington and Captain Crackthorpe of the Royal Horse Guards Green, was a speech of Bustington’s, hinting that Miss Newcome had not behaved well in throwing Lord Kew over. Don’t you know what old Lady Kew will do with this girl, Clive? She will marry Miss Newcome to the best man. If a richer and better parti than Lord Farintosh presents himself — then it will be Farintosh’s turn to find that Lady Kew is not at home. Is there any young man in the Peerage unmarried and richer than Farintosh? I forget. Why does not some one publish a list of the young male nobility and baronetage, their names, weights, and probable fortunes? I don’t mean for the matrons of Mayfair — they have the list by heart and study it in secret — but for young men in the world; so that they may know what their chances are, and who naturally has the pull over them. Let me see — there is young Lord Gaunt, who will have a great fortune, and is desirable because you know his father is locked up — but he is only ten years old — no — they can scarcely bring him forward as Farintosh’s rival.

“You look astonished, my poor boy? You think it is wicked in me to talk in this brutal way about bargain and sale; and say that your heart’s darling is, at this minute, being paced up and down the Mayfair market to be taken away by the best bidder. Can you count purses with Sultan Farintosh? Can you compete even with Sir John Fobsby of the North? What I say is wicked and worldly, is it? So it is; but it is true, as true as Tattersall’s — as true as Circassia or Virginia. Don’t you know that the Circassian girls are proud of their bringing up, and take rank according to the prices which they fetch? And you go and buy yourself some new clothes, and a fifty-pound horse, and put a penny rose in your button-hole, and ride past her window, and think to win this prize? Oh, you idiot! A penny rosebud! Put money in your purse. A fifty-pound hack when a butcher rides as good a one! — Put money in your purse. A brave young heart, all courage and love and honour! Put money in thy purse — t’other coin don’t pass in the market — at least, where old Lady Kew has the stall.”

By these remonstrances, playful though serious, Clive’s adviser sought to teach him wisdom about his love affair; and the advice was received as advice upon those occasions usually is.

After calling thrice and writing to Miss Newcome, there came a little note from that young lady, saying, “Dear Clive — We were so sorry we were out when you called. We shall be at home tomorrow at lunch, when Lady Kew hopes you will come, and see yours ever, E. N.”

Clive went — poor Clive! He had the satisfaction of shaking Ethel’s hand and a finger of Lady Kew; of eating a mutton-chop in Ethel’s presence; of conversing about the state of art at Rome with Lady Kew, and describing the last works of Gibson and Macdonald. The visit lasted but for half an hour. Not for one minute was Clive allowed to see Ethel alone. At three o’clock Lady Kew’s carriage was announced, and our young gentleman rose to take his leave, and had the pleasure of seeing the most noble Peer, Marquis of Farintosh and Earl of Rossmont, descend from his lordship’s brougham and enter at Lady Kew’s door, followed by a domestic bearing a small stack of flowers from Covent Garden.

It befell that the good-natured Lady Fareham had a ball in these days; and meeting Clive in the Park, her lord invited him to the entertainment. Mr. Pendennis had also the honour of a card. Accordingly Clive took me up at Bays’s, and we proceeded to the ball together.

The lady of the house, smiling upon all her guests, welcomed with particular kindness her young friend from Rome. “Are you related to the Miss Newcome, Lady Anne Newcome’s daughter? Her cousin? She will be here to-night.” Very likely Lady Fareham did not see Clive wince and blush at this announcement, her ladyship having to occupy herself with a thousand other people. Clive found a dozen of his Roman friends in the room, ladies young and middle-aged, plain and handsome, all glad to see his kind face. The house was splendid; the ladies magnificently dressed; the ball beautiful, though it appeared a little dull until that event took place whereof we treated two pages back (in the allegory of Mr. Tomkins and Miss Hopkins), and Lady Kew and her granddaughter made their appearance.

That old woman, who began to look more and more like the wicked fairy of the stories, who is not invited to the Princess’s Christening Feast, had this advantage over her likeness, that she was invited everywhere; though how she, at her age, could fly about to so many parties, unless she was a fairy, no one could say. Behind the fairy, up the marble stairs, came the most noble Farintosh, with that vacuous leer which distinguishes his lordship. Ethel seemed to be carrying the stack of flowers which the Marquis had sent to her. The noble Bustington (Viscount Bustington, I need scarcely tell the reader, is the heir of the house of Podbury), the Baronet of the North, the gallant Crackthorpe, the first men in town, in a word, gathered round the young beauty, forming her court; and little Dick Hitchin, who goes everywhere, you may be sure was near her with a compliment and a smile. Ere this arrival, the twins had been giving themselves great airs in the room — the poor twins! when Ethel appeared they sank into shuddering insignificance, and had to put up with the conversation and attentions of second-rate men, belonging to second-rate clubs in heavy dragoon regiments. One of them actually walked with a dancing barrister; but he was related to a duke, and it was expected the Lord Chancellor would give him something very good.

Before he saw Ethel, Clive vowed he was aware of her. Indeed, had not Lady Fareham told him Miss Newcome was coming? Ethel, on the contrary, not expecting him, or not having the prescience of love, exhibited signs of surprise when she beheld him, her eyebrows arching, her eyes darting looks of pleasure. When grandmamma happened to be in another room, she beckoned Clive to her, dismissing Crackthorpe and Fobsby, Farintosh and Bustington, the amorous youth who around her bowed, and summoning Mr. Clive to an audience with the air of a young princess.

And so she was a princess; and this the region of her special dominion. The wittiest and handsomest, she deserved to reign in such a place, by right of merit and by general election. Clive felt her superiority, and his own shortcomings: he came up to her as to a superior person. Perhaps she was not sorry to let him see how she ordered away grandees and splendid Bustingtons, informing them, with a superb manner, that she wished to speak to her cousin — that handsome young man with the light moustache yonder.

“Do you know many people? This is your first appearance in society? Shall I introduce you to some nice girls to dance with?” What very pretty buttons!”

“Is that what you wanted to say?” asked Clive, rather bewildered.

“What does one say at a ball? One talks conversation suited to the place. If I were to say to Captain Crackthorpe, ‘What pretty buttons!’ he would be delighted. But you — you have a soul above buttons, I suppose.”

“Being, as you say, a stranger in this sort of society, you see I am not accustomed to — to the exceeding brilliancy of its conversation,” said Clive.

“What! you want to go away, and we haven’t seen each other for near a year!” cries Ethel, in quite a natural voice. “Sir John Fobsby, I’m very sorry — but do let me off this dance. I have just met my cousin, whom I have not seen for a whole year, and I want to talk to him.”

“It was not my fault that you did not see me sooner. I wrote to you that I only got your letter a month ago. You never answered the second I wrote you from Rome. Your letter lay there at the post ever so long, and was forwarded to me at Naples.”

“Where?” asked Ethel.

“I saw Lord Kew there.” Ethel was smiling with all her might, and kissing her hand to the twins, who passed at that moment with their mamma. “Oh, indeed, you saw — how do you do? — Lord Kew.”

“And, having seen him, I came over to England,” said Clive.

Ethel looked at him, gravely. “What am I to understand by that, Clive? — You came over because it was very hot at Naples, and because you wanted to see your friends here, n’est-ce pas? How glad mamma was to see you! You know she loves you as if you were her own son.”

“What, as much as that angel, Barnes!” cries Clive, bitterly; “impossible.”

Ethel looked once more. Her present mood and desire was to treat Clive as a chit, as a young fellow without consequence — a thirteenth younger brother. But in his looks and behaviour there was that which seemed to say not too many liberties were to be taken with him.

“Why weren’t you here a month sooner, and you might have seen the marriage? It was a very pretty thing. Everybody was there. Clara, and so did Barnes really, looked quite handsome.”

“It must have been beautiful,” continued Clive; “quite a touching sight, I am sure. Poor Charles Belsize could not be present because his brother was dead; and ——”

“And what else, pray, Mr. Newcome!” cries Miss, in great wrath, her pink nostrils beginning to quiver. “I did not think, really, that when we met after so many months, I was to be insulted; yes, insulted, by the mention of that name.”

“I most humbly ask pardon,” said Clive, with a grave bow. “Heaven forbid that I should wound your sensibility, Ethel! It is, as you say, my first appearance in society. I talk about things or persons that I should not mention. I should talk about buttons, should I? which you were good enough to tell me was the proper subject of conversation. Mayn’t I even speak of connexions of the family? Mr. Belsize, through this marriage, has the honour of being connected with you; and even I, in a remote degree, may boast of a sort of an ever — so — distant cousinship with him. What an honour for me!”

“Pray, what is the meaning of all this?” cries Miss Ethel, surprised, and perhaps alarmed. Indeed, Clive scarcely knew. He had been chafing all the while he talked with her; smothering anger as he saw the young men round about her; revolting against himself for the very humility of his obedience, and angry at the eagerness and delight with which he had come at her call.

“The meaning is, Ethel”— he broke out, seizing the opportunity —“that when a man comes a thousand miles to see you, and shake your hand, you should give it him a little more cordially than you choose to do to me; that when a kinsman knocks at your door, time after time, you should try and admit him; and that when you meet him you should treat him like an old friend not as you treated me when my Lady Kew vouchsafed to give me admittance; not as you treat these fools that are fribbling round about you,” cries Mr. Clive, in a great rage, folding his arms, and glaring round on a number of the most innocent young swells; and he continued looking as if he would like to knock a dozen of their heads together. “Am I keeping Miss Newcome’s admirers from her?”

“That is not for me to say,” she said, quite gently. He was; but to see him angry did not displease Miss Newcome.

“That young man who came for you just now,” Clive went on —“that Sir John ——”

“Are you angry with me because I sent him away?” said Ethel, putting out a hand. “Hark! there is the music. Take me in and waltz with me. Don’t you know it is not my door at which you knocked?” she said, looking up into his face as simply and kindly as of old. She whirled round the dancing-room with him in triumph, the other beauties dwindling before her: she looked more and more beautiful with each rapid move of the waltz, her colour heightening and her eyes seeming to brighten. Not till the music stopped did she sink down on a seat, panting, and smiling radiant — as many many hundred years ago I remember to have seen Taglioni after a conquering pas seul. She nodded a “thank you” to Clive. It seemed that there was a perfect reconciliation. Lady Kew came in just at the end of the dance, scowling when she beheld Ethel’s partner; but in reply to her remonstrances, Ethel shrugged her fair shoulders, with a look which seemed to say je le veux, gave an arm to her grandmother, an walked off, saucily protecting her.

Clive’s friend had been looking on observingly and curiously as the scene between them had taken place, and at the dance with which the reconciliation had been celebrated. I must tell you that this arch young creature had formed the object of my observation for some months past, and that I watched her as I have watched a beautiful panther at the Zoological Gardens, so bright of eye, so sleek of coat, so slim in form, so sweet and agile in her spring.

A more brilliant young coquette than Miss Newcome, in her second season, these eyes never looked upon, that is the truth. In her first year, being engaged to Lord Kew, she was perhaps a little more reserved and quiet. Besides, her mother went out with her that first season, to whom Miss Newcome except for a little occasional flightiness, was invariably obedient and ready to come to call. But when Lady Kew appeared as her duenna, the girl’s delight seemed to be to plague the old lady, and she would dance with the very youngest sons merey to put grandmamma in a passion. In this way poor young Cubley (who has two hundred a year of allowance, besides eighty, and an annual rise of five in the Treasury) actually thought that Ethel was in love with him, and consulted with the young men in his room in Downing Street, whether two hundred and eighty a year, with five pound more next year, would be enough for them to keep house on? Young Tandy of the Temple, Lord Skibbereen’s younger son, who sate in the House for some time on the Irish Catholic side, was also deeply smitten, and many a night in our walks home from the parties at the other end of the town, would entertain me with his admiration and passion for her.

“If you have such a passion for her, why not propose?” it was asked of Mr. Tandy.

“Propose! propose to a Russian Archduchess,” cries young Tandy. “She’s beautiful, she’s delightful, she’s witty. I have never seen anything like her eyes; they send me wild — wild,” says Tandy —(slapping his waistcoat under Temple Bar)—“but a more audacious little flirt never existed since the days of Cleopatra.”

With this opinion likewise in my mind, I had been looking on during Clive’s proceedings with Miss Ethel — not, I say, without admiration of the young lady who was leading him such a dance. The waltz over, I congratulated him on his own performance. His Continental practice had greatly improved him. “And as for your partner, it is delightful to see her,” I went on. “I always like to be by when Miss Newcome dances. I had sooner see her than anybody since Taglioni. Look at her now, with her neck up, and her little foot out, just as she is preparing to start! Happy Lord Bustington!”

“You are angry with her because she cut you,” growls Clive. “You know you said she cut you, or forgot you; and your vanity’s wounded, that is why you are so satirical.”

“How can Miss Newcome remember all the men who are presented to her?” says the other. “Last year she talked to me because she wanted to know about you. This year she doesn’t talk: because I suppose she doesn’t want to know about you any more.”

“Hang it. Do — on’t, Pen,” cries Clive, as a schoolboy cries out to another not to hit him.

“She does not pretend to observe: and is in full conversation with the amiable Bustington. Delicious interchange of noble thoughts! But she is observing us talking, and knows that we are talking about her. If ever you marry her, Clive, which is absurd, I shall lose you for a friend. You will infallibly tell her what I think of her: and she will order you to give me up.” Clive had gone off in a brown study, as his interlocutor continued. “Yes, she is a flirt. She can’t help her nature. She tries to vanquish every one who comes near her. She is a little out of breath from waltzing, and so she pretends to be listening to poor Bustington, who is out of breath too, but puffs out his best in order to make himself agreeable, with what a pretty air she appears to listen! Her eyes actually seem to brighten.”

“What?” says Clive, with a start.

I could not comprehend the meaning of the start: nor did I care much to know: supposing that the young man was waking up from some lover’s reverie: and the evening sped away, Clive not quitting the ball until Miss Newcome and the Countess of Kew had departed. No further communication appeared to take place between the cousins that evening. I think it was Captain Crackthorpe who gave the young lady an arm into her carriage; Sir John Fobsby having the happiness to conduct the old Countess, and carrying the pink bag for the shawls, wrappers, etc., on which her ladyship’s coronet and initials are emblazoned. Clive may have made a movement as if to step forward, but a single finger from Miss Newcome warned him back.

Clive and his two friends in Lamb Court had made an engagement for the next Saturday to dine at Greenwich; but on the morning of that day there came a note from him to say that he thought of going down to see his aunt, Miss Honeyman, and begged to recall his promise to us. Saturday is a holiday with gentlemen of our profession. We had invited F. Bayham, Esquire, and promised ourselves a merry evening, and were unwilling to baulk ourselves of the pleasure on account of the absence of our young Roman. So we three went to London Bridge Station at an early hour, proposing to breathe the fresh air of Greenwich Park before dinner. And, at London Bridge, by the most singular coincidence, Lady Kew’s carriage drove up to the Brighton entrance, and Miss Ethel and her maid stepped out of the brougham.

When Miss Newcome and her maid entered the Brighton station, did Mr. Clive, by another singular coincidence, happen also to be there? What more natural and dutiful than that he should go and see his aunt, Miss Honeyman? What more proper than that Miss Ethel should pass the Saturday and Sunday with her sick father; and take a couple of wholesome nights’ rest after those five weary past evenings, for each of which we may reckon a couple of soirees and a ball? And that relations should travel together, the young lady being protected by her femme-de-chambre; that surely, as every one must allow, was perfectly right and proper.

That a biographer should profess to know everything which passes, even in a confidential talk in a first-class carriage between two lovers, seems perfectly absurd; not that grave historians do not pretend to the same wonderful degree of knowledge — reporting meetings of the most occult of conspirators; private interviews between monarchs and their ministers, even the secret thoughts and motives of those personages, which possibly the persons themselves did not know; — all for which the present writer will pledge his known character for veracity is, that on a certain day certain parties had a conversation, of which the upshot was so-and-so. He guesses, of course, at a great deal of what took place; knowing the characters, and being informed at some time of their meeting. You do not suppose that I bribed the femme-de-chambre, or that those two City gents, who sate in the same carriage with our young friends, and could not hear a word they said, reported their talk to me? If Clive and Ethel had had a coupe to themselves, I would yet boldly tell what took place, but the coupe was taken by other three young City gents who smoked the whole way.

“Well, then,” the bonnet begins close up to the hat, “tell me, sir, is it true that you were so very much epris of the Miss Freemans at Rome; and that afterwards you were so wonderfully attentive to the third Miss Baliol? Did you draw her portrait? You know you drew her portrait. You painters always pretend to admire girls with auburn hair, because Titian and Raphael painted it. Has the Fornarina red hair? Why, we are at Croydon, I declare!”

“The Fornarina”— the hat replies to the bonnet, “if that picture at the Borghese Palace be an original, or a likeness of her — is not a handsome woman, with vulgar eyes and mouth, and altogether a most mahogany-coloured person. She is so plain, in fact, I think that very likely it is the real woman; for it is with their own fancies that men fall in love — or rather every woman is handsome to the lover. You know how old Helen must have been.”

“I don’t know any such thing, or anything about her. Who was Helen?” asks the bonnet; and indeed she did not know.

“It’s a long story, and such an old scandal now, that there is no use in repeating it,” says Clive.

“You only talk about Helen because you wish to turn away the conversation from Miss Freeman,” cries the young lady —“from Miss Baliol, I mean.”

“We will talk about whichever you please. Which shall we begin to pull to pieces?” says Clive. You see, to be in this carriage — to be actually with her — to be looking into those wonderful lucid eyes — to see her sweet mouth dimpling, and hear her sweet voice ringing with its delicious laughter — to have that hour and a half his own, in spite of all the world-dragons, grandmothers, convenances, the future — made the young fellow so happy, filled his whole frame and spirit with a delight so keen, that no wonder he was gay, and brisk, and lively.

“And so you knew of my goings-on?” he asked. O me! they were at Reigate by this time; there was Gatton Park flying before them on the wings of the wind.

“I know of a number of things,” says the bonnet, nodding with ambrosial curls.

“And you would not answer the second letter I wrote to you?

“We were in great perplexity. One cannot be always answering young gentlemen’s letters. I had considerable doubt about answering a note I got from Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square,” says the lady’s chapeau. “No, Clive, we must not write to one another,” she continued more gravely, “or only very, very seldom. Nay, my meeting you here today is by the merest chance, I am sure; for when I mentioned at Lady Fareham’s the other evening that I was going to see papa at Brighton today, I never for one moment thought of seeing you in the train. But as you are here, it can’t be helped; and I may as well tell you that there are obstacles.”

“What, other obstacles?” Clive gasped out.

“Nonsense — you silly boy! No other obstacles but those which always have existed, and must. When we parted — that is, when you left us at Baden, you knew it was for the best. You had your profession to follow, and could not go on idling about — about a family of sick people and children. Every man has his profession, and you yours, as you would have it. We are so nearly allied that we may — we may like each other like brother and sister almost. I don’t know what Barnes would say if he heard me! Wherever you and your father are, how can I ever think of you but — but you know how? I always shall, always. There are certain feelings we have which I hope never can change; though, if you please, about them I intend never to speak any more. Neither you nor I can alter our conditions, but must make the best of them. You shall be a fine clever painter; and I — who knows what will happen to me? I know what is going to happen today; I am going to see papa and mamma, and be as happy as I can till Monday morning.”

“I know what I wish would happen now,” said Clive — they were going screaming through a tunnel.

“What?” said the bonnet in the darkness: and the engine was roaring so loudly, that he was obliged to put his head quite close to say —

“I wish the tunnel would fall in and close upon us, or that we might travel on for ever and ever.”

Here there was a great jar of the carriage, and the lady’s-maid, and I think Miss Ethel, gave a shriek. The lamp above was so dim that the carriage was almost totally dark. No wonder the lady’s-maid was frightened! but the daylight came streaming in, and all poor Clive’s wishes of rolling and rolling on for ever were put an end to by the implacable sun in a minute.

Ah, why was it the quick train? Suppose it had been the parliamentary train? — even that too would have come to an end. They came and said, “Tickets, please,” and Clive held out the three of their party — his, and Ethel’s, and her maid’s. I think for such a ride as that he was right to give up Greenwich. Mr. Kuhn was in waiting with a carriage for Miss Ethel. She shook hands with Clive, returning his pressure.

“I may come and see you?” he said.

“You may come and see mamma — yes.”

“And where are you staying?”

“Bless my soul — they were staying at Miss Honeyman’s!” Clive burst into a laugh. Why, he was going there too! Of course Aunt Honeyman had no room for him, her house being quite full with the other Newcomes.

It was a most curious coincidence their meeting; but altogether Lady Anne thought it was best to say nothing about the circumstance to grandmamma. I myself am puzzled to say which would have been the better course to pursue under the circumstances; there were so many courses open. As they had gone so far, should they go on farther together? Suppose they were going to the same house at Brighton, oughtn’t they to have gone in the same carriage, with Kuhn and the maid of course? Suppose they met by chance at the station, ought they to have travelled in separate carriages? I ask any gentleman and father of a family, when he was immensely smitten with his present wife, Mrs. Brown, if he had met her travelling with her maid, in the mail, when there was a vacant place, what would he himself have done?

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