Part 2 out of 2
'Show that you have descended among them, dear Van, but are not of them.
Our beautiful noble English poet expresses it so. You have come to pay
the last mortal duties, which they will respect, if they are not brutes,
and attempt no familiarities. Allow none: gently, but firmly. Imitate
Silva. You remember, at Dona Risbonda's ball? When he met the Comte de
Dartigues, and knew he was to be in disgrace with his Court on the
morrow? Oh! the exquisite shade of difference in Silva's behaviour
towards the Comte. So finely, delicately perceptible to the Comte, and
not a soul saw it but that wretched Frenchman! He came to me: "Madame,"
he said, "is a question permitted?" I replied, "As-many as you please,
M. le Comte, but no answers promised." He said: "May I ask if the
Courier has yet come in?"--"Nay, M. le Comte," I replied, "this is
diplomacy. Inquire of me, or better, give me an opinion on the new glace
silk from Paris."--"Madame," said he, bowing, "I hope Paris may send me
aught so good, or that I shall grace half so well." I smiled, "You shall
not be single in your hopes, M. le Comte. The gift would be base that
you did not embellish." He lifted his hands, French-fashion: "Madame, it
is that I have received the gift."--"Indeed! M. le Comte."--"Even now
from the Count de Saldar, your husband." I looked most innocently, "From
my husband, M. le Comte?"--"From him, Madame. A portrait. An Ambassador
without his coat! The portrait was a finished performance." I said:
"And may one beg the permission to inspect it?"--"Mais," said he,
laughing: "were it you alone, it would be a privilege to me." I had to
check him. "Believe me, M. le Comte, that when I look upon it, my praise
of the artist will be extinguished by my pity for the subject." He
should have stopped there; but you cannot have the last word with a
Frenchman--not even a woman. Fortunately the Queen just then made her
entry into the saloon, and his mot on the charity of our sex was lost.
We bowed mutually, and were separated.' (The Countess employed her
handkerchief.) 'Yes, dear Van! that is how you should behave. Imply
things. With dearest Mama, of course, you are the dutiful son. Alas!
you must stand for son and daughters. Mama has so much sense! She will
understand how sadly we are placed. But in a week I will come to her for
a day, and bring you back.'
So much his sister Louisa. His sister Harriet offered him her house for
a home in London, thence to project his new career. His sister Caroline
sought a word with him in private, but only to weep bitterly in his arms,
and utter a faint moan of regret at marriages in general. He loved this
beautiful creature the best of his three sisters (partly, it may be,
because he despised her superior officer), and tried with a few smothered
words to induce her to accompany him: but she only shook her fair locks
and moaned afresh. Mr. Andrew, in the farewell squeeze of the hand at
the street-door, asked him if he wanted anything. He negatived the
requirement of anything whatever, with an air of careless decision,
though he was aware that his purse barely contained more than would take
him the distance, but the instincts of this amateur gentleman were very
fine and sensitive on questions of money. His family had never known him
beg for a shilling, or admit his necessity for a penny: nor could he be
made to accept money unless it was thrust into his pocket. Somehow his
sisters had forgotten this peculiarity of his. Harriet only remembered
it when too late.
'But I dare say Andrew has supplied him,' she said.
Andrew being interrogated, informed her what had passed between them.
'And you think a Harrington would confess he wanted money!' was her
scornful exclamation. 'Evan would walk--he would die rather. It was
treating him like a mendicant.'
Andrew had to shrink in his brewer's skin.
By some fatality all who were doomed to sit and listen to the Countess de
Saldar, were sure to be behindhand in an appointment.
When the young man arrived at the coach-office, he was politely informed
that the vehicle, in which a seat had been secured for him, was in close
alliance with time and tide, and being under the same rigid laws, could
not possibly have waited for him, albeit it had stretched a point to the
extent of a pair of minutes, at the urgent solicitation of a passenger.
'A gentleman who speaks so, sir,' said a volunteer mimic of the office,
crowing and questioning from his throat in Goren's manner. 'Yok! yok!
That was how he spoke, sir.'
Evan reddened, for it brought the scene on board the Jocasta vividly to
his mind. The heavier business obliterated it. He took counsel with the
clerks of the office, and eventually the volunteer mimic conducted him to
certain livery stables, where Evan, like one accustomed to command,
ordered a chariot to pursue the coach, received a touch of the hat for a
lordly fee, and was soon rolling out of London.
MY GENTLEMAN ON THE ROAD
The postillion had every reason to believe that he carried a real
gentleman behind him; in other words, a purse long and liberal. He
judged by all the points he knew of: a firm voice, a brief commanding
style, an apparent indifference to expense, and the inexplicable minor
characteristics, such as polished boots, and a striking wristband, and so
forth, which will show a creature accustomed to step over the heads of
men. He had, therefore, no particular anxiety to part company, and
jogged easily on the white highway, beneath a moon that walked high and
small over marble clouds.
Evan reclined in the chariot, revolving his sensations. In another mood
he would have called, them thoughts, perhaps, and marvelled at their
immensity. The theme was Love and Death. One might have supposed, from
his occasional mutterings at the pace regulated by the postillion, that
he was burning with anxiety to catch the flying coach. He had forgotten
it: forgotten that he was giving chase to anything. A pair of wondering
feminine eyes pursued him, and made him fret for the miles to throw a
thicker veil between him and them. The serious level brows of Rose
haunted the poor youth; and reflecting whither he was tending, and to
what sight, he had shadowy touches of the holiness there is in death,
from which came a conflict between the imaged phantoms of his father and
of Rose, and he sided against his love with some bitterness. His
sisters, weeping for their father and holding aloof from his ashes,
Evan swept from his mind. He called up the man his father was: the
kindliness, the readiness, the gallant gaiety of the great Mel. Youths
are fascinated by the barbarian virtues; and to Evan, under present
influences, his father was a pattern of manhood. He asked himself:
Was it infamous to earn one's bread? and answered it very strongly in
his father's favour. The great Mel's creditors were not by to show him
another feature of the case.
Hitherto, in passive obedience to the indoctrination of the Countess,
Evan had looked on tailors as the proscribed race of modern society. He
had pitied his father as a man superior to his fate; but despite the
fitfully honest promptings with Rose (tempting to him because of the
wondrous chivalry they argued, and at bottom false probably as the
hypocrisy they affected to combat), he had been by no means sorry that
the world saw not the spot on himself. Other sensations beset him now.
Since such a man was banned by the world, which was to be despised?
The clear result of Evan's solitary musing was to cast a sort of halo
over Tailordom. Death stood over the pale dead man, his father, and
dared the world to sneer at him. By a singular caprice of fancy, Evan
had no sooner grasped this image, than it was suggested that he might as
well inspect his purse, and see how much money he was master of.
Are you impatient with this young man? He has little character for the
moment. Most youths are like Pope's women; they have no character at
all. And indeed a character that does not wait for circumstances to
shape it, is of small worth in the race that must be run. To be set too
early, is to take the work out of the hands of the Sculptor who fashions
men. Happily a youth is always at school, and if he was shut up and
without mark two or three hours ago, he will have something to show you
now: as I have seen blooming seaflowers and other graduated organisms,
when left undisturbed to their own action. Where the Fates have designed
that he shall present his figure in a story, this is sure to happen.
To the postillion Evan was indebted for one of his first lessons.
About an hour after midnight pastoral stillness and the moon begat in the
postillion desire for a pipe. Daylight prohibits the dream of it to
mounted postillions. At night the question is more human, and allows
appeal. The moon smiles assentingly, and smokers know that she really
lends herself to the enjoyment of tobacco.
The postillion could remember gentlemen who did not object: who had even
given him cigars. Turning round to see if haply the present inmate of
the chariot might be smoking, he observed a head extended from the
'How far are we?' was inquired.
The postillion numbered the milestones passed.
'Do you see anything of the coach?'
'Can't say as I do, sir.'
He was commanded to stop. Evan jumped out.
'I don't think I'll take you any farther,' he said.
The postillion laughed to scorn the notion of his caring how far he went.
With a pipe in his mouth, he insinuatingly remarked, he could jog on all
night, and throw sleep to the dogs. Fresh horses at Hillford; fresh at
Fallow field: and the gentleman himself would reach Lymport fresh in the
'No, no; I won't take you any farther,' Evan repeated.
'But what do it matter, sir?' urged the postillion.
'I'd rather go on as I am. I--a--made no arrangement to take you the
'Oh!' cried the postillion, 'don't you go troublin' yourself about that,
sir. Master knows it 's touch-and-go about catchin' the coach. I'm all
So infatuated was the fellow in the belief that he was dealing with a
perfect gentleman--an easy pocket!
Now you would not suppose that one who presumes he has sufficient, would
find a difficulty in asking how much he has to pay. With an effort,
indifferently masked, Evan blurted:
'By the way, tell me--how much--what is the charge for the distance we've
There are gentlemen-screws: there are conscientious gentlemen. They
calculate, and remonstrating or not, they pay. The postillion would
rather have had to do with the gentleman royal, who is above base
computation; but he knew the humanity in the class he served, and with
his conception of Evan only partially dimmed, he remarked:
'Oh-h-h! that won't hurt you, sir. Jump along in,--settle that by-and-
But when my gentleman stood fast, and renewed the demand to know the
exact charge for the distance already traversed, the postillion
dismounted, glanced him over, and speculated with his fingers tipping up
his hat. Meantime Evan drew out his purse, a long one, certainly, but
limp. Out of this drowned-looking wretch the last spark of life was
taken by the sum the postillion ventured to name; and if paying your
utmost farthing without examination of the charge, and cheerfully
stepping out to walk fifty miles, penniless, constituted a postillion's
gentleman, Evan would have passed the test. The sight of poverty,
however, provokes familiar feelings in poor men, if you have not had
occasion to show them you possess particular qualities. The postillion's
eye was more on the purse than on the sum it surrendered.
'There,' said Evan, 'I shall walk. Good night.' And he flung his cloak
to step forward.
'Stop a bit, sir!' arrested him.
The postillion rallied up sideways, with an assumption of genial respect.
'I didn't calc'late myself in that there amount.'
Were these words, think you, of a character to strike a young man hard
on the breast, send the blood to his head, and set up in his heart a
derisive chorus? My gentleman could pay his money, and keep his footing
gallantly; but to be asked for a penny beyond what he possessed; to be
seen beggared, and to be claimed a debtor-aleck! Pride was the one
developed faculty of Evan's nature. The Fates who mould us, always work
from the main-spring. I will not say that the postillion stripped off
the mask for him, at that instant completely; but he gave him the first
true glimpse of his condition. From the vague sense of being an
impostor, Evan awoke to the clear fact that he was likewise a fool.
It was impossible for him to deny the man's claim, and he would not have
done it, if he could. Acceding tacitly, he squeezed the ends of his
purse in his pocket, and with a 'Let me see,' tried his waistcoat. Not
too impetuously; for he was careful of betraying the horrid emptiness
till he was certain that the powers who wait on gentlemen had utterly
forsaken him. They had not. He discovered a small coin, under ordinary
circumstances not contemptible; but he did not stay to reflect, and was
guilty of the error of offering it to the postillion.
The latter peered at it in the centre of his palm; gazed queerly in the
gentleman's face, and then lifting the spit of silver for the disdain of
his mistress, the moon, he drew a long breath of regret at the original
mistake he had committed, and said:
'That's what you're goin' to give me for my night's work?'
The powers who wait on gentlemen had only helped the pretending youth to
try him. A rejection of the demand would have been infinitely wiser and
better than this paltry compromise. The postillion would have fought it:
he would not have despised his fare.
How much it cost the poor pretender to reply, 'It 's the last farthing I
have, my man,' the postillion could not know.
'A scabby sixpence?' The postillion continued his question.
'You heard what I said,' Evan remarked.
The postillion drew another deep breath, and holding out the coin at
'Well, sir !' he observed, as one whom mental conflict has brought to the
philosophy of the case, 'now, was we to change places, I couldn't a' done
it! I couldn't a' done it!' he reiterated, pausing emphatically.
'Take it, sir!' he magnanimously resumed; 'take it! You rides when you
can, and you walks when you must. Lord forbid I should rob such a
gentleman as you!'
One who feels a death, is for the hour lifted above the satire of
postillions. A good genius prompted Evan to avoid the silly squabble
that might have ensued and made him ridiculous. He took the money,
quietly saying, 'Thank you.'
Not to lose his vantage, the postillion, though a little staggered by the
move, rejoined: 'Don't mention it.'
Evan then said: 'Good night, my man. I won't wish, for your sake, that
we changed places. You would have to walk fifty miles to be in time for
your father's funeral. Good night.'
'You are it to look at!' was the postillion's comment, seeing my
gentleman depart with great strides. He did not speak offensively;
rather, it seemed, to appease his conscience for the original mistake he
had committed, for subsequently came, 'My oath on it, I don't get took in
again by a squash hat in a hurry !'
Unaware of the ban he had, by a sixpenny stamp, put upon an unoffending
class, Evan went ahead, hearing the wheels of the chariot still dragging
the road in his rear. The postillion was in a dissatisfied state of
mind. He had asked and received more than his due. But in the matter of
his sweet self, he had been choused, as he termed it. And my gentleman
had baffled him, he could not quite tell how; but he had been got the
better of; his sarcasms had not stuck, and returned to rankle in the
bosom of their author. As a Jew, therefore, may eye an erewhile bondsman
who has paid the bill, but stands out against excess of interest on legal
grounds, the postillion regarded Evan, of whom he was now abreast, eager
for a controversy.
'Fine night,' said the postillion, to begin, and was answered by a short
assent. 'Lateish for a poor man to be out--don't you think sir, eh?'
'I ought to think so,' said Evan, mastering the shrewd unpleasantness he
felt in the colloquy forced on him.
'Oh, you! you're a gentleman!' the postillion ejaculated.
'You see I have no money.'
'Feel it, too, sir.'
'I am sorry you should be the victim.'
'Victim!' the postillion seized on an objectionable word. 'I ain't no
victim, unless you was up to a joke with me, sir, just now. Was that the
Evan informed him that he never played jokes with money, or on men.
'Cause it looks like it, sir, to go to offer a poor chap sixpence.' The
postillion laughed hollow from the end of his lungs. 'Sixpence for a
night's work! It is a joke, if you don't mean it for one. Why, do you
know, sir, I could go--there, I don't care where it is!--I could go before
any magistrate livin', and he'd make ye pay. It's a charge, as custom
is, and he'd make ye pay. Or p'rhaps you're a goin' on my generosity,
and 'll say, he gev back that sixpence! Well! I shouldn't a' thought a
gentleman'd make that his defence before a magistrate. But there, my
man! if it makes ye happy, keep it. But you take my advice, sir. When
you hires a chariot, see you've got the shiners. And don't you go never
again offerin' a sixpence to a poor man for a night's work. They don't
like it. It hurts their feelin's. Don't you forget that, sir. Lay that
up in your mind.'
Now the postillion having thus relieved himself, jeeringly asked
permission to smoke a pipe. To which Evan said, 'Pray, smoke, if it
pleases you.' And the postillion, hardly mollified, added, 'The baccy's
paid for,' and smoked.
As will sometimes happen, the feelings of the man who had spoken out and
behaved doubtfully, grew gentle and Christian, whereas those of the man
whose bearing under the trial had been irreproachable were much the
reverse. The postillion smoked--he was a lord on his horse; he beheld my
gentleman trudging in the dust. Awhile he enjoyed the contrast, dividing
his attention between the footfarer and moon. To have had the last word
is always a great thing; and to have given my gentleman a lecture,
because he shunned a dispute, also counts. And then there was the poor
young fellow trudging to his father's funeral! The postillion chose to
remember that now. In reality, he allowed, he had not very much to
complain of, and my gentleman's courteous avoidance of provocation (the
apparent fact that he, the postillion, had humbled him and got the better
of him, equally, it may be), acted on his fine English spirit. I should
not like to leave out the tobacco in this good change that was wrought in
him. However, he presently astonished Evan by pulling up his horses, and
crying that he was on his way to Hillford to bait, and saw no reason why
he should not take a lift that part of the road, at all events. Evan
thanked him briefly, but declined, and paced on with his head bent.
'It won't cost you nothing-not a sixpence!' the postillion sang out,
pursuing him. 'Come, sir! be a man! I ain't a hintin' at anything--
Evan again declined, and looked out for a side path to escape the fellow,
whose bounty was worse to him than his abuse, and whose mention of the
sixpence was unlucky.
'Dash it!' cried the postillion, 'you're going down to a funeral--
I think you said your father's, sir--you may as well try and get there
respectable--as far as I go. It's one to me whether you're in or out;
the horses won't feel it, and I do wish you'd take a lift and welcome.
It's because you're too much of a gentleman to be beholden to a poor man,
Evan's young pride may have had a little of that base mixture in it, and
certainly he would have preferred that the invitation had not been made
to him; but he was capable of appreciating what the rejection of a piece
of friendliness involved, and as he saw that the man was sincere, he did
violence to himself, and said: 'Very well; then I'll jump in.'
The postillion was off his horse in a twinkling, and trotted his bandy
legs to undo the door, as to a gentleman who paid. This act of service
'Suppose I were to ask you to take the sixpence now?' he said, turning
round, with one foot on the step.
'Well, sir,' the postillion sent his hat aside to answer. 'I don't want
it--I'd rather not have it; but there! I'll take it--dash the sixpence!
and we'll cry quits.'
Evan, surprised and pleased with him, dropped the bit of money in his
hand, saying: 'It will fill a pipe for you. While you 're smoking it,
think of me as in your debt. You're the only man I ever owed a penny
The postillion put it in a side pocket apart, and observed: 'A sixpence
kindly meant is worth any crown-piece that's grudged--that it is! In you
jump, sir. It's a jolly night!'
Thus may one, not a conscious sage, play the right tune on this human
nature of ours: by forbearance, put it in the wrong; and then, by not
refusing the burden of an obligation, confer something better. The
instrument is simpler than we are taught to fancy. But it was doubtless
owing to a strong emotion in his soul, as well as to the stuff he was
made of, that the youth behaved as he did. We are now and then above our
own actions; seldom on a level with them. Evan, I dare say, was long in
learning to draw any gratification from the fact that he had achieved
without money the unparalleled conquest of a man. Perhaps he never knew
what immediate influence on his fortune this episode effected.
At Hillford they went their different ways. The postillion wished him
good speed, and Evan shook his hand. He did so rather abruptly, for the
postillion was fumbling at his pocket, and evidently rounding about a
proposal in his mind.
My gentleman has now the road to himself. Money is the clothing of a
gentleman: he may wear it well or ill. Some, you will mark, carry great
quantities of it gracefully: some, with a stinted supply, present a
decent appearance: very few, I imagine, will bear inspection, who are
absolutely stripped of it. All, save the shameless, are toiling to
escape that trial. My gentleman, treading the white highway across the
solitary heaths, that swell far and wide to the moon, is, by the
postillion, who has seen him, pronounced no sham. Nor do I think the
opinion of any man worthless, who has had the postillion's authority for
speaking. But it is, I am told, a finer test to embellish much
gentleman-apparel, than to walk with dignity totally unadorned. This
simply tries the soundness of our faculties: that tempts them in erratic
directions. It is the difference between active and passive excellence.
As there is hardly any situation, however, so interesting to reflect upon
as that of a man without a penny in his pocket, and a gizzard full of
pride, we will leave Mr. Evan Harrington to what fresh adventures may
befall him, walking toward the funeral plumes of the firs, under the soft
midsummer flush, westward, where his father lies.
MOTHER AND SON
Rare as epic song is the man who is thorough in what he does. And
happily so; for in life he subjugates us, and he makes us bondsmen to his
ashes. It was in the order of things that the great Mel should be borne
to his final resting-place by a troop of creditors. You have seen (since
the occasion demands a pompous simile) clouds that all day cling about
the sun, and, in seeking to obscure him, are compelled to blaze in his
livery at fall of night they break from him illumined, hang mournfully
above him, and wear his natural glories long after he is gone. Thus,
then, these worthy fellows, faithful to him to the dust, fulfilled Mel's
triumphant passage amongst them, and closed his career.
To regale them when they returned, Mrs. Mel, whose mind was not intent on
greatness, was occupied in spreading meat and wine. Mrs. Fiske assisted
her, as well as she could, seeing that one hand was entirely engaged by
her handkerchief. She had already stumbled, and dropped a glass, which
had brought on her sharp condemnation from her aunt, who bade her sit
down, or go upstairs to have her cry out, and then return to be
'Oh! I can't help it!' sobbed Mrs. Fiske. 'That he should be carried
away, and none of his children to see him the last time! I can
understand Louisa--and Harriet, too, perhaps? But why could not
Caroline? And that they should be too fine ladies to let their brother
come and bury his father. Oh! it does seem----'
Mrs. Fiske fell into a chair, and surrendered to grief.
'Where is the cold tongue?' said Mrs. Mel to Sally, the maid, in a brief
'Please mum, Jacko----!'
'He must be whipped. You are a careless slut.'
'Please, I can't think of everybody and everything, and poor master----'
Sally plumped on a seat, and took sanctuary under her apron. Mrs. Mel
glanced at the pair, continuing her labour.
'Oh, aunt, aunt!' cried Mrs. Fiske, 'why didn't you put it off for
another day, to give Evan a chance?'
'Master 'd have kept another two days, he would!' whimpered Sally.
'Oh, aunt! to think !' cried Mrs. Fiske.
'And his coffin not bearin' of his spurs!' whimpered Sally.
Mrs. Mel interrupted them by commanding Sally to go to the drawing-room,
and ask a lady there, of the name of Mrs. Wishaw, whether she would like
to have some lunch sent up to her. Mrs. Fiske was requested to put
towels in Evan's bedroom.
'Yes, aunt, if you're not infatuated!' said Mrs. Fiske, as she prepared
to obey; while Sally, seeing that her public exhibition of sorrow and
sympathy could be indulged but an instant longer, unwound herself for a
violent paroxysm, blurting between stops:
'If he'd ony've gone to his last bed comfortable! . . . If he'd ony
've been that decent as not for to go to his last bed with his clothes
on! . . . If he'd ony've had a comfortable sheet! . . . It makes
a woman feel cold to think of him full dressed there, as if he was goin'
to be a soldier on the Day o' Judgement!'
To let people speak was a maxim of Mrs. Mel's, and a wise one for any
form of society when emotions are very much on the surface. She
continued her arrangements quietly, and, having counted the number of
plates and glasses, and told off the guests on her fingers, she, sat down
to await them.
The first one who entered the room was her son.
'You have come,' said Mrs. Mel, flushing slightly, but otherwise
'You didn't suppose I should stay away from you, mother?'
Evan kissed her cheek.
'I knew you would not.'
Mrs. Mel examined him with those eyes of hers that compassed objects in a
single glance. She drew her finger on each side of her upper lip, and
half smiled, saying:
'That won't do here.'
'What?' asked Evan, and proceeded immediately to make inquiries about her
health, which she satisfied with a nod.
'You saw him lowered, Van?'
'Then go and wash yourself, for you are dirty, and then come and take
your place at the head of the table.'
'Must I sit here, mother?'
'Without a doubt--you must. You know your room. Quick!'
In this manner their first interview passed.
Mrs. Fiske rushed in to exclaim:
'So, you were right, aunt--he has come. I met him on the stairs. Oh!
how like dear uncle Mel he looks, in the militia, with that moustache.
I just remember him as a child; and, oh, what a gentleman he is!'
At the end of the sentence Mrs. Mel's face suddenly darkened: she said,
in a deep voice:
'Don't dare to talk that nonsense before him, Ann.'
Mrs. Fiske looked astonished.
'What have I done, aunt?'
'He shan't be ruined by a parcel of fools,' said Mrs. Mel. 'There, go!
Women have no place here.'
'How the wretches can force themselves to touch a morsel, after this
morning!' Mrs. Fiske exclaimed, glancing at the table.
'Men must eat,' said Mrs. Mel.
The mourners were heard gathering outside the door. Mrs. Fiske escaped
into the kitchen. Mrs. Mel admitted them into the parlour, bowing much
above the level of many of the heads that passed her.
Assembled were Messrs. Barnes, Kilne, and Grossby, whom we know; Mr.
Doubleday, the ironmonger; Mr. Joyce, the grocer; Mr. Perkins, commonly
called Lawyer Perkins; Mr. Welbeck, the pier-master of Lymport;
Bartholomew Fiske; Mr. Coxwell, a Fallow field maltster, brewer, and
farmer; creditors of various dimensions, all of them. Mr. Goren coming
last, behind his spectacles.
'My son will be with you directly, to preside,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Accept
my thanks for the respect you have shown my husband. I wish you good
'Morning, ma'am,' answered several voices, and Mrs. Mel retired.
The mourners then set to work to relieve their hats of the appendages of
crape. An undertaker's man took possession of the long black cloaks.
The gloves were generally pocketed.
'That's my second black pair this year,' said Joyce.
'They'll last a time to come. I don't need to buy gloves while
neighbours pop off.'
'Undertakers' gloves seem to me as if they're made for mutton fists,'
remarked Welbeck; upon which Kilne nudged Barnes, the butcher, with a
sharp 'Aha!' and Barnes observed:
'Oh! I never wear 'em--they does for my boys on Sundays. I smoke a pipe
The Fallow field farmer held his length of crape aloft and inquired:
'What shall do with this?'
'Oh, you keep it,' said one or two.
Coxwell rubbed his chin. 'Don't like to rob the widder.'
'What's left goes to the undertaker?' asked Grossby.
'To be sure,' said Barnes; and Kilne added: 'It's a job': Lawyer Perkins
ejaculating confidently, 'Perquisites of office, gentlemen; perquisites
of office!' which settled the dispute and appeased every conscience.
A survey of the table ensued. The mourners felt hunger, or else thirst;
but had not, it appeared, amalgamated the two appetites as yet. Thirst
was the predominant declaration; and Grossby, after an examination of the
decanters, unctuously deduced the fact, which he announced, that port and
sherry were present.
'Try the port,' said Kilne.
'Good?' Barnes inquired.
A very intelligent 'I ought to know,' with a reserve of regret at the
extension of his intimacy with the particular vintage under that roof,
was winked by Kilne.
Lawyer Perkins touched the arm of a mourner about to be experimental on
'I think we had better wait till young Mr. Harrington takes the table,
don't you see?'
'Yes,-ah!' croaked Goren. 'The head of the family, as the saying goes!'
'I suppose we shan't go into business to-day?' Joyce carelessly observed.
Lawyer Perkins answered:
'No. You can't expect it. Mr. Harrington has led me to anticipate that
he will appoint a day. Don't you see?'
'Oh! I see,' returned Joyce. 'I ain't in such a hurry. What's he
Doubleday, whose propensities were waggish, suggested 'shaving,' but half
ashamed of it, since the joke missed, fell to as if he were soaping his
face, and had some trouble to contract his jaw.
The delay in Evan's attendance on the guests of the house was caused by
the fact that Mrs. Mel had lain in wait for him descending, to warn him
that he must treat them with no supercilious civility, and to tell him
partly the reason why. On hearing the potential relations in which they
stood toward the estate of his father, Evan hastily and with the
assurance of a son of fortune, said they should be paid.
'That's what they would like to hear,' said Mrs. Mel. 'You may just
mention it when they're going to leave. Say you will fix a day to meet
'Every farthing!' pursued Evan, on whom the tidings were beginning to
operate. 'What! debts? my poor father!'
'And a thumping sum, Van. You will open your eyes wider.'
'But it shall be paid, mother,--it shall be paid. Debts? I hate them.
I'd slave night and day to pay them.'
Mrs. Mel spoke in a more positive tense: 'And so will I, Van. Now, go.'
It mattered little to her what sort of effect on his demeanour her
revelation produced, so long as the resolve she sought to bring him to
was nailed in his mind; and she was a woman to knock and knock again,
till it was firmly fixed there. With a strong purpose, and no plans,
there were few who could resist what, in her circle, she willed; not even
a youth who would gaily have marched to the scaffold rather than stand
behind a counter. A purpose wedded to plans may easily suffer shipwreck;
but an unfettered purpose that moulds circumstances as they arise,
masters us, and is terrible. Character melts to it, like metal in the
steady furnace. The projector of plots is but a miserable gambler and
votary of chances. Of a far higher quality is the will that can subdue
itself to wait, and lay no petty traps for opportunity. Poets may fable
of such a will, that it makes the very heavens conform to it; or, I may
add, what is almost equal thereto, one who would be a gentleman, to
consent to be a tailor. The only person who ever held in his course
against Mrs. Mel, was Mel,--her husband; but, with him, she was under the
physical fascination of her youth, and it never left her. In her heart
she barely blamed him. What he did, she took among other inevitable
The door closed upon Evan, and waiting at the foot, of the stairs a
minute to hear how he was received, Mrs. Mel went to the kitchen and
called the name of Dandy, which brought out an ill-built, low-browed,
small man, in a baggy suit of black, who hopped up to her with a surly
salute. Dandy was a bird Mrs. Mel had herself brought down, and she had
for him something of a sportsman's regard for his victim. Dandy was the
cleaner of boots and runner of errands in the household of Melchisedec,
having originally entered it on a dark night by the cellar. Mrs. Mel,
on that occasion, was sleeping in her dressing-gown, to be ready to give
the gallant night-hawk, her husband, the service he might require on his
return to the nest. Hearing a suspicious noise below, she rose, and
deliberately loaded a pair of horse-pistols, weapons Mel had worn in his
holsters in the heroic days gone; and with these she stepped downstairs
straight to the cellar, carrying a lantern at her girdle. She could not
only load, but present and fire. Dandy was foremost in stating that she
called him forth steadily, three times, before the pistol was discharged.
He admitted that he was frightened, and incapable of speech, at the
apparition of the tall, terrific woman. After the third time of asking
he had the ball lodged in his leg and fell. Mrs. Mel was in the habit of
bearing heavier weights than Dandy. She made no ado about lugging him to
a chamber, where, with her own hands (for this woman had some slight
knowledge of surgery, and was great in herbs and drugs) she dressed his
wound, and put him to bed; crying contempt (ever present in Dandy's
memory) at such a poor creature undertaking the work of housebreaker.
Taught that he really was a poor creature for the work, Dandy, his
nursing over, begged to be allowed to stop and wait on Mrs. Mel; and she
who had, like many strong natures, a share of pity for the objects she
despised, did not cast him out. A jerk in his gait, owing to the bit of
lead Mrs. Mel had dropped into him, and a little, perhaps, to her self-
satisfied essay in surgical science on his person, earned him the name he
When her neighbours remonstrated with her for housing a reprobate, Mrs.
Mel would say: 'Dandy is well-fed and well-physicked: there's no harm in
Dandy'; by which she may have meant that the food won his gratitude, and
the physic reduced his humours. She had observed human nature. At any
rate, Dandy was her creature; and the great Mel himself rallied her about
'When were you drunk last?, was Mrs. Mel's address to Dandy, as he stood
waiting for orders.
He replied to it in an altogether injured way:
'There, now; you've been and called me away from my dinner to ask me
that. Why, when I had the last chance, to be sure.'
'And you were at dinner in your new black suit?'
'Well,' growled Dandy, 'I borrowed Sally's apron. Seems I can't please
Mrs. Mel neither enjoined nor cared for outward forms of respect, where
she was sure of complete subserviency. If Dandy went beyond the limits,
she gave him an extra dose. Up to the limits he might talk as he
pleased, in accordance with Mrs. Mel's maxim, that it was a necessary
relief to all talking creatures.
'Now, take off your apron,' she said, 'and wash your hands, dirty pig,
and go and wait at table in there'; she pointed to the parlour-door:
'Come straight to me when everybody has left.'
'Well, there I am with the bottles again,' returned Dandy. 'It 's your
fault this time, mind! I'll come as straight as I can.'
Dandy turned away to perform her bidding, and Mrs. Mel ascended to the
drawing-room to sit with Mrs. Wishaw, who was, as she told all who chose
to hear, an old flame of Mel's, and was besides, what Mrs. Mel thought
more of, the wife of Mel's principal creditor, a wholesale dealer in
cloth, resident in London.
The conviviality of the mourners did not disturb the house. Still, men
who are not accustomed to see the colour of wine every day, will sit and
enjoy it, even upon solemn occasions, and the longer they sit the more
they forget the matter that has brought them together. Pleading their
wives and shops, however, they released Evan from his miserable office
late in the afternoon.
His mother came down to him,--and saying, 'I see how you did the journey
--you walked it,' told him to follow her.
'Yes, mother,' Evan yawned, 'I walked part of the way. I met a fellow in
a gig about ten miles out of Fallow field, and he gave me a lift to
Flatsham. I just reached Lymport in time, thank Heaven! I wouldn't have
missed that! By the way, I've satisfied these men.'
'Oh!' said Mrs. Mel.
'They wanted--one or two of them--what a penance it is to have to sit
among those people an hour!--they wanted to ask me about the business,
but I silenced them. I told them to meet me here this day week.'
Mrs. Mel again said 'Oh!' and, pushing into one of the upper rooms,
'Here's your bedroom, Van, just as you left it.'
'Ah, so it is,' muttered Evan, eyeing a print. 'The Douglas and the
Percy: "he took the dead man by the hand." What an age it seems since I
last saw that. There's Sir Hugh Montgomery on horseback--he hasn't
moved. Don't you remember my father calling it the Battle of Tit-for-
Tat? Gallant Percy! I know he wished he had lived in those days of
knights and battles.'
'It does not much signify whom one has to make clothes for,' observed
Mrs. Mel. Her son happily did not mark her.
'I think we neither of us were made for the days of pence and pounds,' he
continued. 'Now, mother, sit down, and talk to me about him. Did he
mention me? Did he give me his blessing? I hope he did not suffer.
I'd have given anything to press his hand,' and looking wistfully at the
Percy lifting the hand of Douglas dead, Evan's eyes filled with big
'He suffered very little,' returned Mrs. Mel, 'and his last words were
'What were they?' Evan burst out.
'I will tell you another time. Now undress, and go to bed. When I talk
to you, Van, I want a cool head to listen. You do nothing but yawn yard-
The mouth of the weary youth instinctively snapped short the abhorred
'Here, I will help you, Van.'
In spite of his remonstrances and petitions for talk, she took off his
coat and waistcoat, contemptuously criticizing the cloth of foreign
tailors and their absurd cut.
'Have you heard from Louisa?' asked Evan.
'Yes, yes--about your sisters by-and-by. Now, be good, and go to bed.'
She still treated him like a boy, whom she was going to force to the
resolution of a man.
Dandy's sleeping-room was on the same floor as Evan's. Thither, when she
had quitted her son, she directed her steps. She had heard Dandy tumble
up-stairs the moment his duties were over, and knew what to expect when
the bottles had been in his way; for drink made Dandy savage, and a
terror to himself. It was her command to him that, when he happened to
come across liquor, he should immediately seek his bedroom and bolt the
door, and Dandy had got the habit of obeying her. On this occasion he
was vindictive against her, seeing that she had delivered him over to his
enemy with malice prepense. A good deal of knocking, and summoning of
Dandy by name, was required before she was admitted, and the sight of her
did not delight him, as he testified.
'I 'm drunk!' he bawled. 'Will that do for ye?'
Mrs. Mel stood with her two hands crossed above her apron-string, noting
his sullen lurking eye with the calm of a tamer of beasts.
'You go out of the room; I'm drunk!' Dandy repeated, and pitched forward
on the bed-post, in the middle of an oath.
She understood that it was pure kindness on Dandy's part to bid her go
and be out of his reach; and therefore, on his becoming so abusive as to
be menacing, she, without a shade of anger, and in the most unruffled
manner, administered to him the remedy she had reserved, in the shape of
a smart box on the ear, which sent him flat to the floor. He rose, after
two or three efforts, quite subdued.
'Now, Dandy, sit on the edge of the bed.'
Dandy sat on the extreme edge, and Mrs. Mel pursued:
'Now, Dandy, tell me what your master said at the table.'
'Talked at 'em like a lord, he did,' said Dandy, stupidly consoling the
'What were his words?'
Dandy's peculiarity was, that he never remembered anything save when
drunk, and Mrs. Mel's dose had rather sobered him. By degrees,
scratching at his head haltingly, he gave the context.
"'Gentlemen, I hear for the first time, you've claims against my poor
father. Nobody shall ever say he died, and any man was the worse for it.
I'll meet you next week, and I'll bind myself by law. Here's Lawyer
Perkins. No; Mr. Perkins. I'll pay off every penny. Gentlemen, look
upon me as your debtor, and not my father."'
Delivering this with tolerable steadiness, Dandy asked, 'Will that do?'
'That will do,' said Mrs. Mel. 'I'll send you up some tea presently.
Lie down, Dandy.'
The house was dark and silent when Evan, refreshed by his rest, descended
to seek his mother. She was sitting alone in the parlour. With a
tenderness which Mrs. Mel permitted rather than encouraged, Evan put his
arm round her neck, and kissed her many times. One of the symptoms of
heavy sorrow, a longing for the signs of love, made Evan fondle his
mother, and bend over her yearningly. Mrs. Mel said once: 'Dear Van;
good boy!' and quietly sat through his caresses.
'Sitting up for me, mother?' he whispered.
'Yes, Van; we may as well have our talk out.'
'Ah!' he took a chair close by her side, 'tell me my father's last
'He said he hoped you would never be a tailor.'
Evan's forehead wrinkled up. 'There's not much fear of that, then!'
His mother turned her face on him, and examined him with a rigorous
placidity; all her features seeming to bear down on him. Evan did not
like the look.
'You object to trade, Van?'
'Yes, decidedly, mother-hate it; but that's not what I want to talk to
you about. Didn't my father speak of me much?'
'He desired that you should wear his militia sword, if you got a
'I have rather given up hope of the Army,' said Evan.
Mrs. Mel requested him to tell her what a colonel's full pay amounted to;
and again, the number of years it required, on a rough calculation, to
attain that grade. In reply to his statement she observed: 'A tailor
might realize twice the sum in a quarter of the time.'
'What if he does-double, or treble?' cried Evan, impetuously; and to
avoid the theme, and cast off the bad impression it produced on him, he
rubbed his hands, and said: 'I want to talk to you about my prospects,
'What are they?' Mrs. Mel inquired.
The severity of her mien and sceptical coldness of her speech caused him
to inspect them suddenly, as if she had lent him her eyes. He put them
by, till the gold should recover its natural shine, saying: 'By the way,
mother, I 've written the half of a History of Portugal.'
'Have you?' said Mrs. Mel. 'For Louisa?'
'No, mother, of course not: to sell it. Albuquerque! what a splendid
fellow he was!'
Informing him that he knew she abominated foreign names, she said: 'And
your prospects are, writing Histories of Portugal?'
'No, mother. I was going to tell you, I expect a Government appointment.
Mr. Jocelyn likes my work--I think he likes me. You know, I was his
private secretary for ten months.'
'You write a good hand,' his mother interposed.
'And I'm certain I was born for diplomacy.'
'For an easy chair, and an ink-dish before you, and lacqueys behind.
What's to be your income, Van?'
Evan carelessly remarked that he must wait and see.
'A very proper thing to do,' said Mrs. Mel; for now that she had fixed
him to some explanation of his prospects, she could condescend in her
stiff way to banter.
Slightly touched by it, Evan pursued, half laughing, as men do who wish
to propitiate common sense on behalf of what seems tolerably absurd:
'It 's not the immediate income, you know, mother: one thinks of one's
future. In the diplomatic service, as Louisa says, you come to be known
to Ministers gradually, I mean. That is, they hear of you; and if you
show you have some capacity--Louisa wants me to throw it up in time,
and stand for Parliament. Andrew, she thinks, would be glad to help me
to his seat. Once in Parliament, and known to Ministers, you--your
career is open to you.'
In justice to Mr. Evan Harrington, it must be said, he built up this
extraordinary card-castle to dazzle his mother's mind: he had lost his
right grasp of her character for the moment, because of an undefined
suspicion of something she intended, and which sent him himself to take
refuge in those flimsy structures; while the very altitude he reached
beguiled his imagination, and made him hope to impress hers.
Mrs. Mel dealt it one fillip. 'And in the meantime how are you to live,
and pay the creditors?'
Though Evan answered cheerfully, 'Oh, they will wait, and I can live on
anything,' he was nevertheless floundering on the ground amid the ruins
of the superb edifice; and his mother, upright and rigid, continuing,
'You can live on anything, and they will wait, and call your father a
rogue,' he started, grievously bitten by one of the serpents of earth.
'Good heaven, mother! what are you saying?'
'That they will call your father a rogue, and will have a right to,' said
the relentless woman.
'Not while I live!' Evan exclaimed.
'You may stop one mouth with your fist, but you won't stop a dozen, Van.'
Evan jumped up and walked the room.
'What am I to do?' he cried. 'I will pay everything. I will bind myself
to pay every farthing. What more can I possibly do?'
'Make the money,' said Mrs. Mel's deep voice.
Evan faced her: 'My dear mother, you are very unjust and inconsiderate.
I have been working and doing my best. I promise---- what do the debts
'Something like L5000 in all, Van.'
'Very well.' Youth is not alarmed by the sound of big sums. 'Very well
--I will pay it.'
Evan looked as proud as if he had just clapped down the full amount on
'Out of the History of Portugal, half written, and the prospect of a
Mrs. Mel raised her eyelids to him.
'In time-in time, mother!'
'Mention your proposal to the creditors when you meet them this day
week,' she said.
Neither of them spoke for several minutes. Then Evan came close to her,
'What is it you want of me, mother?'
'I want nothing, Van--I can support myself.'
'But what would you have me do, mother?'
'Be honest; do your duty, and don't be a fool about it.'
'I will try,' he rejoined. 'You tell me to make the money. Where and
how can I make it? I am perfectly willing to work.'
'In this house,' said Mrs. Mel; and, as this was pretty clear speaking,
she stood up to lend her figure to it.
'Here?' faltered Evan. 'What! be a ----'
'Tailor!' The word did not sting her tongue.
'I? Oh, that's quite impossible!' said Evan. And visions of leprosy,
and Rose shrinking her skirts from contact with him, shadowed out and
away in his mind.
'Understand your choice!' Mrs. Mel imperiously spoke. 'What are brains
given you for? To be played the fool with by idiots and women? You have
L5000 to pay to save your father from being called a rogue. You can only
make the money in one way, which is open to you. This business might
produce a thousand pounds a-year and more. In seven or eight years you
may clear your father's name, and live better all the time than many of
your bankrupt gentlemen. You have told the creditors you will pay them.
Do you think they're gaping fools, to be satisfied by a History of
Portugal? If you refuse to take the business at once, they will sell me
up, and quite right too. Understand your choice. There's Mr. Goren has
promised to have you in London a couple of months, and teach you what he
can. He is a kind friend. Would any of your gentlemen acquaintance do
the like for you? Understand your choice. You will be a beggar--the son
of a rogue--or an honest man who has cleared his father's name!'
During this strenuously uttered allocution, Mrs. Mel, though her chest
heaved but faintly against her crossed hands, showed by the dilatation of
her eyes, and the light in them, that she felt her words. There is that
in the aspect of a fine frame breathing hard facts, which, to a youth who
has been tumbled headlong from his card-castles and airy fabrics, is
masterful, and like the pressure of a Fate. Evan drooped his head.
'Now,' said Mrs. Mel, 'you shall have some supper.'
Evan told her he could not eat.
'I insist upon your eating,' said Mrs. Mel; 'empty stomachs are foul
'Mother! do you want to drive me mad?' cried Evan.
She looked at him to see whether the string she held him by would bear
the slight additional strain: decided not to press a small point.
'Then go to bed and sleep on it,' she said--sure of him--and gave her
cheek for his kiss, for she never performed the operation, but kept her
mouth, as she remarked, for food and speech, and not for slobbering
Evan returned to his solitary room. He sat on the bed and tried to
think, oppressed by horrible sensations of self-contempt, that caused
whatever he touched to sicken him.
There were the Douglas and the Percy on the wall. It was a happy and a
glorious time, was it not, when men lent each other blows that killed
outright; when to be brave and cherish noble feelings brought honour;
when strength of arm and steadiness of heart won fortune; when the fair
stars of earth--sweet women--wakened and warmed the love of squires of
low degree. This legacy of the dead man's hand! Evan would have paid it
with his blood; but to be in bondage all his days to it; through it to
lose all that was dear to him; to wear the length of a loathed
existence!--we should pardon a young man's wretchedness at the prospect,
for it was in a time before our joyful era of universal equality. Yet he
never cast a shade of blame upon his father.
The hours moved on, and he found himself staring at his small candle,
which struggled more and more faintly with the morning light, like his
own flickering ambition against the facts of life.
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