The Newcomes, by William Makepeace Thackeray


In which Kinsmen fall out

Not the least difficult part of Thomas Newcome’s present business was to keep from his son all knowledge of the negotiation in which he was engaged on Clive’s behalf. If my gentle reader has had sentimental disappointments, he or she is aware that the friends who have given him most sympathy under these calamities have been persons who have had dismal histories of their own at some time of their lives, and I conclude Colonel Newcome in his early days must have suffered very cruelly in that affair of which we have a slight cognisance, or he would not have felt so very much anxiety about Clive’s condition.

A few chapters back and we described the first attack, and Clive’s manful cure: then we had to indicate the young gentleman’s relapse, and the noisy exclamations of the youth under this second outbreak of fever. Calling him back after she had dismissed him, and finding pretext after pretext to see him — why did the girl encourage him, as she certainly did? I allow, with Mrs. Grundy and most moralists, that Miss Newcome’s conduct in this matter was highly reprehensible; that if she did not intend to marry Clive she should have broken with him — altogether; that a virtuous young woman of high principle, etc. etc., having once determined to reject a suitor, should separate from him utterly then and there — never give him again the least chance of a hope, or reillume the extinguished fire in the wretch’s bosom.

But coquetry, but kindness, but family affection, and a strong, very strong partiality for the rejected lover — are these not to be taken in account, and to plead as excuses for her behaviour to her cousin? The least unworthy part of her conduct, some critics will say, was that desire to see Clive and be well with him: as she felt the greatest regard for him, the showing it was not blameable; and every flutter which she made to escape out of the meshes which the world had cast about her was but the natural effort at liberty. It was her prudence which was wrong; and her submission wherein she was most culpable. In the early church story, do we not read how young martyrs constantly had to disobey worldly papas and mammas, who would have had them silent, and not utter their dangerous opinions? how their parents locked them up, kept them on bread-and-water, whipped and tortured them in order to enforce obedience? — nevertheless they would declare the truth: they would defy the gods by law established, and deliver themselves up to the lions or the tormentors. Are not there Heathen Idols enshrined among us still? Does not the world worship them, and persecute those who refuse to kneel? Do not many timid souls sacrifice to them; and other bolder spirits rebel and, with rage at their hearts, bend down their stubborn knees at their altars? See! I began by siding with Mrs. Grundy and the world, and at the next turn of the see-saw have lighted down on Ethel’s side, and am disposed to think that the very best part of her conduct has been those escapades which — which right-minded persons most justly condemn. At least, that a young beauty should torture a man with alternate liking and indifference; allure, dismiss, and call him back out of banishment; practise arts to please upon him, and ignore them when rebuked for her coquetry — these are surely occurrences so common in young women’s history as to call for no special censure; and if on these charges Miss Newcome is guilty, is she, of all her sex, alone in her criminality?

So Ethel and her duenna went away upon their tour of visits to mansions so splendid, and among hosts and guests so polite, that the present modest historian does not dare to follow them. Suffice it to say that Duke This and Earl That were, according to their hospitable custom, entertaining a brilliant circle of friends at their respective castles, all whose names the Morning Post gave; and among them those of the Dowager Countess of Kew and Miss Newcome.

During her absence, Thomas Newcome grimly awaited the result of his application to Barnes. That Baronet showed his uncle a letter, or rather a postscript, from Lady Kew, which probably had been dictated by Barnes himself, in which the Dowager said she was greatly touched by Colonel Newcome’s noble offer; that though she owned she had very different views for her granddaughter, Miss Newcome’s choice of course lay with herself. Meanwhile, Lady K. and Ethel were engaged in a round of visits to the country, and there would be plenty of time to resume this subject when they came to London for the season. And, lest dear Ethel’s feelings should be needlessly agitated by a discussion of the subject, and the Colonel should take a fancy to write to her privately, Lady Kew gave orders that all letters from London should be despatched under cover to her ladyship, and carefully examined the contents of the packet before Ethel received her share of the correspondence.

To write to her personally on the subject of the marriage, Thomas Newcome had determined was not a proper course for him to pursue. “They consider themselves,” says he, “above us, forsooth, in their rank of life (oh, mercy! what pigmies we are! and don’t angels weep at the brief authority in which we dress ourselves up!) and of course the approaches on our side must be made in regular form, and the parents of the young people must act for them. Clive is too honourable a man to wish to conduct the affair in any other way. He might try the influence of his beaux yeux, and run off to Gretna with a girl who had nothing; but the young lady being wealthy, and his relation, sir, we must be on the point of honour; and all the Kews in Christendom shan’t have more pride than we in this matter.”

All this time we are keeping Mr. Clive purposely in the background. His face is so woebegone that we do not care to bring it forward in the family picture. His case is so common that surely its lugubrious symptoms need not be described at length. He works away fiercely at his pictures, and in spite of himself improves in his art. He sent a “Combat of Cavalry,” and a picture of “Sir Brian the Templar carrying off Rebecca,” to the British Institution this year; both of which pieces were praised in other journals besides the Pall Mall Gazette. He did not care for the newspaper praises. He was rather surprised when a dealer purchased his “Sir Brian the Templar.” He came and went from our house a melancholy swain. He was thankful for Laura’s kindness and pity. J. J.‘s studio was his principal resort; and I dare say, as he set up his own easel there, and worked by his friend’s side, he bemoaned his lot to his sympathising friend.

Sir Barnes Newcome’s family was absent from London during the winter. His mother, and his brothers and sisters, his wife and his two children, were gone to Newcome for Christmas. Some six weeks after seeing him, Ethel wrote her uncle a kind, merry letter. They had been performing private theatricals at the country-house where she and Lady Kew were staying. “Captain Crackthorpe made an admirable Jeremy Diddler in ‘Raising the Wind.’ Lord Farintosh broke down lamentably as Fusbos in ‘Bombastes Furioso.’” Miss Ethel had distinguished herself in both of these facetious little comedies. “I should like Clive to paint me as Miss Plainways,” she wrote. “I wore a powdered front, painted my face all over wrinkles, imitated old Lady Griffin as well as I could, and looked sixty at least.”

Thomas Newcome wrote an answer to his fair niece’s pleasant letter; “Clive,” he said, “would be happy to bargain to paint her, and nobody else but her, all the days of his life; and,” the Colonel was sure, “would admire her at sixty as much as he did now, when she was forty years younger.” But, determined on maintaining his appointed line of conduct respecting Miss Newcome, he carried his letter to Sir Barnes, and desired him to forward it to his sister. Sir Barnes took the note, and promised to despatch it. The communications between him and his uncle had been very brief and cold, since the telling of these little fibs concerning old Lady Kew’s visits to London, which the Baronet dismissed from his mind as soon as they were spoken, and which the good Colonel never could forgive. Barnes asked his uncle to dinner once or twice, but the Colonel was engaged. How was Barnes to know the reason of the elder’s refusal? A London man, a banker, and a Member of Parliament, has a thousand things to think of; and no time to wonder that friends refuse his invitations to dinner. Barnes continued to grin and smile most affectionately when he met the Colonel; to press his hand, to congratulate him on the last accounts from India, unconscious of the scorn and distrust with which his senior mentally regarded him. “Old boy is doubtful about the young cub’s love-affair,” the Baronet may have thought. “We’ll ease his old mind on that point some time hence.” No doubt Barnes thought he was conducting the business very smartly and diplomatically.

I heard myself news at this period from the gallant Crackthorpe, which, being interested in my young friend’s happiness, filled me with some dismay. “Our friend the painter and glazier has been hankering about our barracks at Knightsbridge” (the noble Life Guards Green had now pitched their tents in that suburb), “and pumping me about la belle cousin. I don’t like to break it to him — I don’t really, now. But it’s all up with his chance, I think. Those private theatricals at Fallowfield have done Farintosh’s business. He used to rave about the Newcomes to me, as we were riding home from hunting. He gave Bob Henchman the lie, who told a story which Bob got from his man, who had it from Miss Newcome’s lady’s-maid, about — about some journey to Brighton, which the cousins took.” Here Mr. Crackthorpe grinned most facetiously. “Farintosh swore he’d knock Henchman down; and vows he will be the death of — will murder our friend Clive when he comes to town. As for Henchman, he was in a desperate way. He lives on the Marquis, you know, and Farintosh’s anger or his marriage will be the loss of free quarters, and ever so many good dinners a year to him.” I did not deem it necessary to impart Crackthorpe’s story to Clive, or explain to him the reason why Lord Farintosh scowled most fiercely upon the young painter, and passed him without any other sign of recognition one day as Clive and I were walking together in Pall Mall. If my lord wanted a quarrel, young Clive was not a man to balk him; and would have been a very fierce customer to deal with, in his actual state of mind.

A pauper child in London at seven years old knows how to go to market, to fetch the beer, to pawn father’s coat, to choose the largest fried fish or the nicest ham-bone, to nurse Mary Jane of three — to conduct a hundred operations of trade or housekeeping, which a little Belgravian does not perhaps acquire in all the days of her life. Poverty and necessity force this precociousness on the poor little brat. There are children who are accomplished shoplifters and liars almost as soon as they can toddle and speak. I dare say little Princes know the laws of etiquette as regards themselves, and the respect due to their rank, at a very early period of their royal existence. Every one of us, according to his degree, can point to the Princekins of private life who are flattered and worshipped, and whose little shoes grown men kiss as soon almost as they walk upon ground.

It is a wonder what human nature will support: and that, considering the amount of flattery some people are crammed with from their cradles, they do not grow worse and more selfish than they are. Our poor little pauper just mentioned is dosed with Daffy’s Elixir, and somehow survives the drug. Princekin or lordkin from his earliest days has nurses, dependants, governesses, little friends, schoolfellows, schoolmasters, fellow-collegians, college tutors, stewards and valets, led captains of his suite, and women innumerable flattering him and doing him honour. The tradesman’s manner, which to you and me is decently respectful, becomes straightway frantically servile before Princekin. Honest folks at railway stations whisper to their families, “That’s the Marquis of Farintosh,” and look hard at him as he passes. Landlords cry, “This way, my lord; this room for your lordship.” They say at public schools Princekin is taught the beauties of equality, and thrashed into some kind of subordination. Psha! Toad-eaters in pinafores surround Princekin. Do not respectable people send their children so as to be at the same school with him; don’t they follow him to college, and eat his toads through life?

And as for women — oh, my dear friends and brethren in this vale of tears — did you ever see anything so curious, monstrous, and amazing as the way in which women court Princekin when he is marriageable, and pursue him with their daughters? Who was the British nobleman in old old days who brought his three daughters to the King of Mercia, that His Majesty might choose one after inspection? Mercia was but a petty province, and its king in fact a Princekin. Ever since those extremely ancient and venerable times the custom exists not only in Mercia, but in all the rest of the provinces inhabited by the Angles, and before Princekins the daughters of our nobles are trotted out.

There was no day of his life which our young acquaintance, the Marquis of Farintosh, could remember on which he had not been flattered; and no society which did not pay him court. At a private school he could recollect the master’s wife stroking his pretty curls and treating him furtively to goodies; at college he had the tutor simpering and bowing as he swaggered over the grass-plat; old men at clubs would make way for him and fawn on him — not your mere pique-assiettes and penniless parasites, but most respectable toad-eaters, fathers of honest families, gentlemen themselves of good station, who respected this young gentleman as one of the institutions of their country, and the admired wisdom of the nation that set him to legislate over us. When Lord Farintosh walked the streets at night, he felt himself like Haroun Alraschid —(that is, he would have felt so had he ever heard of the Arabian potentate)— a monarch in disguise affably observing and promenading the city. And let us be sure there was a Mesrour in his train to knock at the doors for him and run the errands of this young caliph. Of course he met with scores of men in life who neither flattered him nor would suffer his airs; but he did not like the company of such, or for the sake of truth undergo the ordeal of being laughed at; he preferred toadies, generally speaking. “I like,” says he, “you know, those fellows who are always saying pleasant things, you know, and who would run from here to Hammersmith if I asked ’em — much better than those fellows who are always making fun of me, you know.” A man of his station who likes flatterers need not shut himself up; he can get plenty of society.

As for women, it was his lordship’s opinion that every daughter of Eve was bent on marrying him. A Scotch marquis, an English earl, of the best blood in the empire, with a handsome person, and a fortune of fifteen thousand a year, how could the poor creatures do otherwise than long for him? He blandly received their caresses; took their coaxing and cajolery as matters of course; and surveyed the beauties of his time as the Caliph the moonfaces of his harem. My lord intended to marry certainly. He did not care for money, nor for rank; he expected consummate beauty and talent, and some day would fling his handkerchief to the possessor of these, and place her by his side upon the Farintosh throne.

At this time there were but two or three young ladies in society endowed with the necessary qualifications, or who found favour in his eyes. His lordship hesitated in his selection from these beauties. He was not in a hurry, he was not angry at the notion that Lady Kew (and Miss Newcome with her) hunted him. What else should they do but pursue an object so charming? Everybody hunted him. The other young ladies, whom we need not mention, languished after him still more longingly. He had little notes from these; presents of purses worked by them, and cigar-cases embroidered with his coronet. They sang to him in cosy boudoirs — mamma went out of the room, and sister Ann forgot something in the drawing-room. They ogled him as they sang. Trembling they gave him a little foot to mount them, that they might ride on horseback with him. They tripped along by his side from the Hall to the pretty country church on Sundays. They warbled hymns: sweetly looking at him the while mamma whispered confidentially to him, “What an angel Cecilia is!” And so forth, and so forth — with which chaff our noble bird was by no means to be caught. When he had made up his great mind, that the time was come and the woman, he was ready to give a Marchioness of Farintosh to the English nation.

Miss Newcome has been compared ere this to the statue of “Huntress Diana” at the Louvre, whose haughty figure and beauty the young lady indeed somewhat resembled. I was not present when Diana and Diana’s grandmother hunted the noble Scottish stag of whom we have just been writing; nor care to know how many times Lord Farintosh escaped, and how at last he was brought to bay and taken by his resolute pursuers. Paris, it appears, was the scene of his fall and capture. The news was no doubt well known amongst Lord Farintosh’s brother-dandies, among exasperated matrons and virgins in Mayfair, and in polite society generally, before it came to simple Tom Newcome and his son. Not a word on the subject had Sir Barnes mentioned to the Colonel: perhaps not choosing to speak till the intelligence was authenticated; perhaps not wishing to be the bearer of tidings so painful.

Though the Colonel may have read in his Pall Mall Gazette a paragraph which announced an approaching MARRIAGE IN HIGH LIFE, “between a noble young marquis and an accomplished and beautiful young lady, daughter and sister of a Northern baronet,” he did not know who were the fashionable persons about to be made happy, nor, until he received a letter from an old friend who lived at Paris, was the fact conveyed to him. Here is the letter preserved by him along with all that he ever received from the same hand:—

“Rue St. Dominique, St. Germain,

“Paris, 10 Fev.

“So behold you of return, my friend! you quit for ever the sword and those arid plains where you have passed so many years of your life, separated from those to whom, at the commencement, you held very nearly. Did it not seem once as if two hands never could unlock, so closely were they enlaced together? Ah, mine are old and feeble now; forty years have passed since the time when you used to say they were young and fair. How well I remember me of every one of those days, though there is a death between me and them, and it is as across a grave I review them! Yet another parting, and tears and regrets are finished. Tenez, I do not believe them when they say there is no meeting for us afterwards, there above. To what good to have seen you, friend, if we are to part here, and in Heaven too? I have not altogether forgotten your language, is it not so? I remember it because it was yours, and that of my happy days. I radote like an old woman as I am. M. de Florac has known my history from the commencement. May I not say that after so many of years I have been faithful to him and to all my promises? When the end comes with its great absolution, I shall not be sorry. One supports the combats of life, but they are long, and one comes from them very wounded; ah, when shall they be over?

“You return and I salute you with wishes for parting. How much egotism! I have another project which I please myself to arrange. You know how I am arrived to love Clive as own my child. I very quick surprised his secret, the poor boy, when he was here it is twenty months. He looked so like you as I repeal me of you in the old time! He told me he had no hope of his beautiful cousin. I have heard of the fine marriage that one makes her. Paul, my son, has been at the English Ambassade last night and has made his congratulations to M. de Farintosh. Paul says him handsome, young, not too spiritual, rich, and haughty, like all, all noble Montagnards.

“But it is not of M. de Farintosh I write, whose marriage, without doubt, has been announced to you. I have a little project; very foolish, perhaps. You know Mr. the Duke of Ivry has left me guardian of his little daughter Antoinette, whose affreuse mother no one sees more. Antoinette is pretty and good, and soft, and with an affectionate heart. I love her already as my infant. I wish to bring her up, and that Clive should marry her. They say you are returned very rich. What follies are these I write! In the long evenings of winter, the children escaped it is a long time from the maternal nest, a silent old man my only company — I live but of the past; and play with its souvenirs as the detained caress little birds, little flowers, in their prisons. I was born for the happiness; my God! I have learned it in knowing you. In losing you I have lost it. It is not against the will of Heaven I oppose myself. It is man, who makes himself so much of this evil and misery, this slavery, these tears, these crimes, perhaps.

“This marriage of the young Scotch Marquis and the fair Ethel (I love her in spite of all, and shall see her soon and congratulate her, for, do you see, I might have stopped this fine marriage, and did my best and more than my duty for our poor Clive) shall make itself in London next spring, I hear. You shall assist scarcely at the ceremony; he, poor boy, shall not care to be there. Bring him to Paris to make the court to my little Antoinette: bring him to Paris to his good friend, Comtesse de Florac.”

“I read marvels of his works in an English journal, which one sends me.”

Clive was not by when this letter reached his father. Clive was in his painting-room, and lest he should meet his son, and in order to devise the best means of breaking the news to the lad, Thomas Newcome retreated out of doors; and from the Oriental he crossed Oxford Street, and from Oxford Street he stalked over the roomy pavements of Gloucester Place, and there he bethought him how he had neglected Mrs. Hobson Newcome of late, and the interesting family of Bryanstone Square. So he went to leave his card at Maria’s door: her daughters, as we have said, are quite grown girls. If they have been lectured, and learning, and back-boarded, and practising, and using the globes, and laying in a store of ‘ologies, ever since, what a deal they must know! Colonel Newcome was admitted to see his nieces, and Consummate Virtue, their parent. Maria was charmed to see her brother-inlaw; she greeted him with reproachful tenderness: “Why, why,” her fine eyes seemed to say, “have you so long neglected us? Do you think because I am wise, and gifted, and good, and you are, it must be confessed, a poor creature with no education, I am not also affable? Come, let the prodigal be welcomed by his virtuous relatives: come and lunch with us, Colonel!” He sate down accordingly to the family tiffin.

When the meal was over, the mother, who had matter of importance to impart to him, besought him to go to the drawing-room, and there poured out such a eulogy upon her children’s qualities as fond mothers know how to utter. They knew this and they knew that. They were instructed by the most eminent professors; “that wretched Frenchwoman, whom you may remember here, Mademoiselle Lenoir,” Maria remarked parenthetically, “turned out, oh, frightfully! She taught the girls the worst accent, it appears. Her father was not a colonel; he was — oh! never mind! It is a mercy I got rid of that fiendish woman, and before my precious ones knew what she was!” And then followed details of the perfections of the two girls, with occasional side-shots at Lady Anne’s family, just as in the old time. “Why don’t you bring your boy, whom I have always loved as a son, and who avoids me? Why does not Clive know his cousins? They are very different from others of his kinswomen, who think best of the heartless world.”

“I fear, Maria, there is too much truth in what you say,” sighs the Colonel, drumming on a book on the drawing-room table, and looking down sees it is a great, large, square, gilt Peerage, open at FARINTOSH, MARQUIS OF. — Fergus Angus Malcolm Mungo Roy, Marquis of Farintosh, Earl of Glenlivat, in the peerage of Scotland; also Earl of Rossmont, in that of the United Kingdom. Son of Angus Fergus Malcolm, Earl of Glenlivat, and grandson and heir of Malcolm Mungo Angus, first Marquis of Farintosh, and twenty-fifth Earl, etc. etc.

“You have heard the news regarding Ethel?” remarks Hobson.

“I have just heard,” says the poor Colonel.

“I have a letter from Anne this morning,” Maria continues. “They are of course delighted with the match. Lord Farintosh is wealthy, handsome; has been a little wild, I hear; is not such a husband as I would choose for my darlings, but poor Brian’s family have been educated to love the world; and Ethel no doubt is flattered by the prospects before her. I have heard that some one else was a little epris in that quarter. How does Clive bear the news, my dear Colonel?”

“He has long expected it,” says the Colonel, rising: “and I left him very cheerful at breakfast this morning.”

“Send him to see us, the naughty boy!” cries Maria. “We don’t change; we remember old times, to us he will ever be welcome!” And with this confirmation of Madame de Florac’s news, Thomas Newcome walked sadly homewards.

And now Thomas Newcome had to break the news to his son; who received the shot in such a way as caused his friends and confidants to admire his high spirit. He said he had long been expecting some such announcement: it was many months since Ethel had prepared him for it. Under her peculiar circumstances he did not see how she could act otherwise than she had done. And he narrated to the Colonel the substance of the conversation which the two young people had had together several months before, in Madame de Florac’s garden.

Clive’s father did not tell his son of his own bootless negotiation with Barnes Newcome. There was no need to recall that now; but the Colonel’s wrath against his nephew exploded in conversation with me, who was the confidant of father and son in this business. Ever since that luckless day when Barnes thought proper to — to give a wrong address for Lady Kew, Thomas Newcome’s anger had been growing. He smothered it yet for a while, sent a letter to Lady Anne Newcome, briefly congratulating her on the choice which he had heard Miss Newcome had made; and in acknowledgment of Madame de Florac’s more sentimental epistle he wrote a reply which has not been preserved, but in which he bade her rebuke Miss Newcome for not having answered him when he wrote to her, and not having acquainted her old uncle with her projected union.

To this message, Ethel wrote back a brief, hurried reply; it said:—

“I saw Madame de Florac last night at her daughter’s reception, and she gave me my dear uncle’s messages. Yes, the news is true which you have heard from Madame de Florac, and in Bryanstone Square. I did not like to write it to you, because I know one whom I regard as a brother (and a great, great deal better), and to whom I know it will give pain. He knows that I have done my duty, and why I have acted as I have done. God bless him and his dear father!

“What is this about a letter which I never answered? Grandmamma knows nothing about a letter. Mamma has enclosed to me that which you wrote to her, but there has been no letter from T. N. to his sincere and affectionate E. N.

“Rue de Rivoli. Friday.”

This was too much, and the cup of Thomas Newcome’s wrath overflowed. Barnes had lied about Ethel’s visit to London: Barnes had lied in saying that he delivered the message with which his uncle charged him: Barnes had lied about the letter which he had received, and never sent. With these accusations firmly proven in his mind against his nephew, the Colonel went down to confront that sinner.

Wherever he should find Barnes, Thomas Newcome was determined to tell him his mind. Should they meet on the steps of a church, on the flags of ‘Change, or in the newspaper-room at Bays’s, at evening-paper time, when men most do congregate, Thomas the Colonel was determined upon exposing and chastising his father’s grandson. With Ethel’s letter in his pocket, he took his way into the City, penetrated into the unsuspecting back-parlour of Hobson’s bank, and was disappointed at first at only finding his half-brother Hobson there engaged over his newspaper. The Colonel signified his wish to see Sir Barnes Newcome. “Sir Barnes was not come in yet. You’ve heard about the marriage,” says Hobson. “Great news for the Barnes’s, ain’t it? The head of the house is as proud as a peacock about it. Said he was going out to Samuels, the diamond merchants; going to make his sister some uncommon fine present. Jolly to be uncle to a marquis, ain’t it, Colonel? I’ll have nothing under a duke for my girls. I say, I know whose nose is out of joint. But young fellows get over these things, and Clive won’t die this time, I dare say.”

While Hobson Newcome made these satiric and facetious remarks, his half-brother paced up and down the glass parlour, scowling over the panes into the bank where the busy young clerks sate before their ledgers. At last he gave an “Ah!” as of satisfaction. Indeed, he had seen Sir Barnes Newcome enter into the bank.

The Baronet stopped and spoke with a clerk, and presently entered, followed by that young gentleman into his private parlour. Barnes tried to grin when he saw his uncle, and held out his hand to greet the Colonel; but the Colonel put both his behind his back — that which carried his faithful bamboo cane shook nervously. Barnes was aware that the Colonel had the news. “I was going to — to write to you this morning, with — with some intelligence that I am — very — very sorry to give.”

“This young gentleman is one of your clerks?” asked Thomas Newcome, blandly.

“Yes; Mr. Boltby, who has your private account. This is Colonel Newcome, Mr. Boltby,” says Sir Barnes, in some wonder.

“Mr. Boltby, brother Hobson, you heard what Sir Barnes Newcome said just now respecting certain intelligence which he grieved to give me?”

At this the three other gentlemen respectively wore looks of amazement.

“Allow me to say in your presence, that I don’t believe one single word Sir Barnes Newcome says, when he tells me that he is very sorry for some intelligence he has to communicate. He lies, Mr. Boltby; he is very glad. I made up my mind that in whatsoever company I met him, and on the very first day I found him — hold your tongue, sir; you shall speak afterwards and tell more lies when I have done — I made up my mind, I say, that on the very first occasion I would tell Sir Barnes Newcome that he was a liar and a cheat. He takes charge of letters and keeps them back. Did you break the seal, sir? There was nothing to steal in my letter to Miss Newcome. He tells me people are out of town, when he goes to see in the next street, after leaving my table, and whom I see myself half an hour before he lies to me about their absence.”

“D— n you, go out, and don’t stand staring there, you booby!” screams out Sir Barnes to the clerk. “Stop, Boltby. Colonel Newcome, unless you leave this room I shall — I shall ——”

“You shall call a policeman. Send for the gentleman, and I will tell the Lord Mayor what I think of Sir Barnes Newcome, Baronet. Mr. Boltby, shall we have the constable in?”

“Sir, you are an old man, and my father’s brother, or you know very well I would ——”

“You would what, Sir? Upon my word, Barnes Newcome” (here the Colonel’s two hands and the bamboo cane came from the rear and formed in front), “but that you are my father’s grandson, after a menace like that, I would take you out and cane you in the presence of your clerks. I repeat, sir, that I consider you guilty of treachery, falsehood, and knavery. And if I ever see you at Bays’s Club, I will make the same statement to your acquaintance at the west end of the town. A man of your baseness ought to be known, sir; and it shall be my business to make men of honour aware of your character. Mr. Boltby, will you have the kindness to make out my account? Sir Barnes Newcome, for fear of consequences that I should deplore, I recommend you to keep a wide berth of me, sir.” And the Colonel twirled his mustachios, and waved his cane in an ominous manner, and Barnes started back spontaneously out of its dangerous circle.

What Mr. Boltby’s sentiments may have been regarding this extraordinary scene in which his principal cut so sorry a figure; — whether he narrated the conversation to other gentlemen connected with the establishment of Hobson Brothers, or prudently kept it to himself, I cannot say, having no means of pursuing Mr. B.‘s subsequent career. He speedily quitted his desk at Hobson Brothers; and let us presume that Barnes thought Mr. B. had old all the other clerks of the avuncular quarrel. That conviction will make us imagine Barnes still more comfortable. Hobson Newcome no doubt was rejoiced at Barnes’s discomfiture; he had been insolent and domineering beyond measure of late to his vulgar good-natured uncle, whereas after the above interview with the Colonel he became very humble and quiet in his demeanour, and for a long, long time never said a rude word. Nay, I fear Hobson must have carried an account of the transaction to Mrs. Hobson and the circle in Bryanstone Square; for Sam Newcome, now entered at Cambridge, called the Baronet “Barnes” quite familiarly; asked after Clara and Ethel; and requested a small loan of Barnes.

Of course the story did not get wind at Bays’s; of course Tom Eaves did not know all about it, and say that Sir Barnes had been beaten black-and-blue. Having been treated very ill by the committee in a complaint which he made about the Club cookery, Sir Barnes Newcome never came to Bays’s, and at the end of the year took off his name from the lists of the Club.

Sir Barnes, though a little taken aback in the morning, and not ready with an impromptu reply to the Colonel and his cane, could not allow the occurrence to pass without a protest; and indited a letter which Thomas Newcome kept along with some others previously quoted by the compiler of the present memoirs.

It is as follows:—

Belgrave St., Feb. 15, 18 —.

“Colonel Newcome, C..B., private.

“SIR— The incredible insolence and violence of your behaviour today (inspired by whatever causes or mistakes of your own), cannot be passed without some comment, on my part. I laid before a friend of your own profession, a statement of the words which you applied to me in the presence of my partner and one of my clerks this morning; and my adviser is of opinion, that considering the relationship unhappily subsisting between us, I can take no notice of insults for which you knew when you uttered them, I could not call you to account.”

“There is some truth in that,” said the Colonel. “He couldn’t fight, you know; but then he was such a liar I could not help speaking my mind.”

“I gathered from the brutal language which you thought fit to employ towards a disarmed man, the ground of one of your monstrous accusations against me, that I deceived you in stating that my relative, Lady Kew, was in the country, when in fact she was at her house in London.

“To this absurd charge I at once plead guilty. The venerable lady in question was passing through London, where she desired to be free from intrusion. At her ladyship’s wish I stated that she was out of town; and would, under the same circumstances, unhesitatingly make the same statement. Your slight acquaintance with the person in question did not warrant that you should force yourself on her privacy, as you would doubtless know were you more familiar with the customs of the society in which she moves.

“I declare upon my honour as a gentleman, that I gave her the message which I promised to deliver from you, and also that I transmitted a letter with which you entrusted me; and repel with scorn and indignation the charges which you were pleased to bring against me, as I treat with contempt the language and the threats which you thought fit to employ.

“Our books show the amount of xl. xs. xd. to your credit, which you will be good enough to withdraw at your earliest convenience; as of course all intercourse must cease henceforth between you and — Yours, etc.

B. Newcome Newcome.”

“I think, sir, he doesn’t make out a bad case,” Mr. Pendennis remarked to the Colonel, who showed him this majestic letter.

“It would be a good case if I believed a single word of it, Arthur,” replied my friend, placidly twirling the old grey moustache. “If you were to say so-and-so, and say that I had brought false charges against you, I should cry mea culpa and apologise with all my heart. But as I have a perfect conviction that every word this fellow says is a lie, what is the use of arguing any more about the matter? I would not believe him if he brought twenty as witnesses, and if he lied till he was black in the other liars’ face. Give me the walnuts. I wonder who Sir Barnes’s military friend was.”

Barnes’s military friend was our gallant acquaintance General Sir George Tufto, K.C.B., who a short while afterwards talked over the quarrel with the Colonel, and manfully told him that (in Sir George’s opinion) he was wrong. “The little beggar behaved very well, I thought, in the first business. You bullied him so, and in the front of his regiment, too, that it was almost past bearing; and when he deplored, with tears in his eyes, almost, the little humbug! that his relationship prevented him calling you out, ecod, I believed him! It was in the second affair that poor little Barnes showed he was a cocktail.”

“What second affair?” asked Thomas Newcome.

“Don’t you know? He! he! this is famous!” cries Sir George. “Why, sir, two days after your business, he comes to me with another letter and a face as long as my mare’s, by Jove. And that letter, Newcome, was from your young ’un. Stop, here it is!” and from his padded bosom General Sir George Tufto drew a pocket-book, and from the pocket-book a copy of a letter, inscribed, “Clive Newcome, Esq., to Sir B. N. Newcome.” “There’s no mistake about your fellow, Colonel. No — — him!” and the man of war fired a volley of oaths as a salute to Clive.

And the Colonel, on horseback, riding by the other cavalry officer’s side read as follows:—

“George Street, Hanover Square, February 16.

“SIR— Colonel Newcome this morning showed me a letter bearing your signature, in which you state — 1. That Colonel Newcome has uttered calumnious and insolent charges against you. 2. That Colonel Newcome so spoke, knowing that you could take no notice of his charges of falsehood and treachery, on account of the relationship subsisting between you.

“Your statements would evidently imply that Colonel Newcome has been guilty of ungentlemanlike conduct, and of cowardice towards you.

“As there can be no reason why we should not meet in any manner that you desire, I here beg leave to state, on my own part, that I fully coincide with Colonel Newcome in his opinion that you have been guilty of falsehood and treachery, and that the charge of cowardice which you dare to make against a gentleman of his tried honour and courage, is another wilful and cowardly falsehood on your part.

“And I hope you will refer the bearer of this note, my friend, Mr. George Warrington, of the Upper Temple, to the military gentleman whom you consulted in respect to the just charges of Colonel Newcome. Waiting a prompt reply, believe me, sir — Your obedient servant, Clive Newcome.

“Sir Barnes Newcome Newcome, Bart., M. P., etc.”

“What a blunderhead I am!” cries the Colonel, with delight on his countenance, spite of his professed repentance. “It never once entered my head that the youngster would take any part in the affair. I showed him his cousin’s letter casually, just to amuse him, I think, for he has been deuced low lately, about — about a young man’s scrape that he has got into. And he must have gone off and despatched his challenge straightway. I recollect he appeared uncommonly brisk at breakfast the next morning. And so you say, General, the Baronet did not like the poulet?”

“By no means; never saw a fellow show such a confounded white feather. At first I congratulated him, thinking your boy’s offer must please him, as it would have pleased any fellow in our time to have a shot. Dammy! but I was mistaken in my man. He entered into some confounded long-winded story about a marriage you wanted to make with that infernal pretty sister of his, who is going to marry young Farintosh, and how you were in a rage because the scheme fell to the ground, and how a family duel might occasion unpleasantries to Miss Newcome; though I showed him how this could be most easily avoided, and that the lady’s name need never appear in the transaction. ‘Confound it, Sir Barnes,’ says I, ‘I recollect this boy, when he was a youngster throwing a glass of wine in your face! We’ll put it upon that, and say it’s an old feud between you.’ He turned quite pale, and he said your fellow had apologised for the glass of wine.”

“Yes,” said the Colonel, sadly, “my boy apologised for the glass of wine. It is curious how we have disliked that Barnes ever since we set eyes on him.”

“Well, Newcome,” Sir George resumed, as his mettled charger suddenly jumped and curvetted, displaying the padded warrior’s cavalry-seat to perfection. “Quiet, old lady! — easy, my dear! Well, when I found the little beggar turning tail in this way I said to him, ‘Dash me, sir, if you don’t want me, why the dash do you send for me, dash me? Yesterday you talked as if you would bite the Colonel’s head off, and today, when his son offers you every accommodation, by dash, sir, you’re afraid to meet him. It’s my belief you had better send for a policeman. A 22 is your man, Sir Barnes Newcome.’ And with that I turned on my heel and left him. And the fellow went off to Newcome that very night.”

“A poor devil can’t command courage, General,” said the Colonel, quite peaceably, “any more than he can make himself six feet high.”

“Then why the dash did the beggar send for me?” called out General Sir George Tufto, in a loud and resolute voice; and presently the two officers parted company.

When the Colonel reached home, Mr. Warrington and Mr. Pendennis happened to be on a visit to Clive, and all three were in the young fellow’s painting-room. We knew our lad was unhappy, and did our little best to amuse and console him. The Colonel came in. It was in the dark February days: we lighted the gas in the studio. Clive had made a sketch from some favourite verses of mine and George’s: those charming lines of Scott’s:—

“He turned his charger as he spake,
Beside the river shore;
He gave his bridle-rein a shake,
With adieu for evermore,
My dear!
Adieu for evermore!”

Thomas Newcome held up a finger at Warrington, and he came up to the picture and looked at it; and George and I trolled out:

“Adieu for evermore,
My dear!
Adieu for evermore!”

From the picture the brave old Colonel turned to the painter, regarding his son with a look of beautiful inexpressible affection. And he laid his hand on his son’s shoulder, and smiled, and stroked Clive’s yellow moustache.

“And — and did Barnes send no answer to that letter you wrote him?” he said, slowly.

Clive broke out into a laugh that was almost a sob. He took both his father’s hands. “My dear, dear old father!” says he, “what a — what an — old — trump you are!” My eyes were so dim I could hardly see the two men as they embraced.

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