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CHAPTER XXIV

IN WHICH MR. OSBORNE Takes Down THE FAMILY BIBLE

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O having prepared the sisters, Dobbin hastened away to the City to perform the rest and more difficult part

of the task wh:ch he had undertaken. The idea of facing old Osborne rendered him not a little nervous, and more than once he thought of leaving the young ladies to communicate the secret, which, as he was aware, they could not long retain. But he had promised to report to George upon the manner in which the elder Osborne bore the intelligence; so going into the City to the paternal countinghouse in Thames Street, he despatched thence a note to Mr. Osborne begging for a half-hour's conversation relative to the affairs of his son George. Dobbin's messenger returned from Mr. Osborne's house of business, with the compliments of the latter, who would be very happy to see the Captain immediately, and away accordingly Dobbin went to confront him.

The Captain, with a half-guilty secret to confess, and with the prospect of a painful and stormy interview before him, entered Mr. Osborne's offices with a most dismal countenance and abashed gait, and, passing through the outer room where Mr. Chopper presided, was greeted by that functionary from his desk with a waggish air which farther discomfited him. Mr. Chopper winked and nodded and pointed his pen towards his patron's door, and said, "You'll find the governor all right," with the most provoking good humour.

Osborne rose too, and shook him heartily by the hand, and said, “How do, my dear boy?” with a cordiality that made poor George's ambassador fcel doubly guilty. hand lay as if dead in the old gentleman's grasp. He felt that he, Dobbin, was more or less the cause of all that had happened. It was he had brought back George to Amelia : it was he had applauded, encouraged, transacted almost the marriage which he was come to reveal to George's father: and the latter was receiving him with smiles of welcome ; patting him on the shoulder, and calling him "Dobbin, my dear boy.” The envoy had indeed good reason to hang his head.

Osborne fully believed that Dobbin had come to announce his son's surrender. Mr. Chopper and his principal were talking over the matter between George and his father, at the very moment when Dobbin's messenger arrived. Both agreed that George was sending in his submis

Both had been expecting it for some days—and “Lord! Chopper, what a marriage we'll have !" Mr. Osborne said to his clerk, snapping his big fingers, and jingling all the guineas and shillings in his great pockets as he eyed his subordinate with a look of triumph.

With similar operations conducted in both pockets, and a knowing jolly air, Osborne from his chair regarded Dobbin seated blank and silent opposite to him. "What a bumpkin he is for a Captain in the army," old Osborne thought. "I wonder George hasn't taught himn better manners."

At last Dobbin summoned courage to begin. “Sir," said he, “I've brought you some very grave news. I have been at the Horse Guards this morning, and there's no doubt that our regiment will be ordered abroad, and on its way to Belgium before the week is over. And you know, sir, that we shan't be home again before a tussle which may be fatal to many of us.”

Osborne looked grave. "Mys-, the regiment will do its duty, sir, I daresay," he said.

"The French are very strong, sir," Dobbin went on. “The Russians and Austrians will be a long time before they can bring their troops down. We shall have the first of the fight, sir; and depend on it Boney will take care that it shall be a hard one."

“What are you driving at, Dobbin?” his interlocutor said, uneasy and with a scowl. “I suppose no Briton's afraid of any d Frenchman, hay?"

"I only mean, that before we go, and considering the great and certain risk that hangs over every one of us-is

tal pang,

there are any differences between you and George-it would be as well, sir, that--that you should shake hands: wouldn't it? Should anything happen to him, I think you would never forgive yourself if you hadn't parted in charity.”

As he said this, poor William Dobbin blushed crimson, and felt and owned that he himself was a traitor. But for him, perhaps, this severance need never have taken place. Why had not George's marriage been delayed? What call was there to press it on so eagerly? He felt that George would have parted from Amelia at any rate without a mor

Amelia, too, might have recovered the shock of losing him. It was his counsel had brought about this marriage, and all that was to ensue from it. And why was it? Because he loved her so much that he could not bear to see her unhappy; or because his own sufferings of suspense were so unendurable that he was glad to crush them at once-as we hasten a funeral after a death, or, when a separation from those we love is imminent, cannot rest until the parting be over.

"You are a good fellow, William,” said Mr. Osborne in a softened voice; "and me and George shouldn't part in anger, that is true. Look here. I've done for him as much as any father ever did. He's had three times as much money from me, as I warrant your father ever gave you. But I don't brag about that. How I've toiled for him, and worked and employed my talents and energy, I won't say. Ask Chopper. Ask himself. Ask the City of London. Well, I proposed to him such a marriage as any nobleman in the land might be proud of-the only thing in life I ever asked him and he refuses me. Am I wrong? Is the quarrel my making? What do I seek but his good, for which I've been toiling like a convict ever since he was born? Nobody can say there's anything selfish in me. Let him come back. I say, here's my hand. I say, forget and forgive. As for marrying now, it's out of the question. Let him and Miss S. make it up, and inake out the marriage afterwards, when he comes back a Colonel; for he shall be a Colonel, by Gế he shall, if money can do it. I'm glad you've brought him round. I know it's you Dobbin. You've took him out of many a scrape beforex Let his come. I shan't be hard. Come along, and dine in Russell Square to-day: both of you. The old shop, the old hour. You'll find a neck of venison, and no questions asked.”

This praise and confidence smote Dobbin's heart very keenly. Every moment the colloquy continued in this tone, he felt more and more guilty. “Sir," said he, "I fear you deceive yourself. I am sure you do. George is much too high-minded a man ever to marry for money. A threat on your part that you would disinherit him in case of disobedience would only be followed by resistance on his.”

"Why, hang it, man, you don't call offering him eight or ten thousand a year threatening him?" Mr. Osborne said, with still provoking good humour. "Gad, if Miss S. will have me, I'm her man. I ain't particular about a shade or so of tawny." And the old gentleman gave his knowing grin and coarse laugh.

"You forget, sir, previous engagements into which Captain Osborne had entered," the ambassador said, gravely.

"What engagements? What the devil do you mean? You don't mean," Mr. Osborne continued, gathering wrath and astonishment as the thought now first came upon him; "you don't mean that he's such a dfool as to be still hankering after that swindling old bankrupt's daughter? You've not come here for to make me suppose that he wants to marry her? Marry her, that is a good one. My son and heir marry a beggar's girl out of a gutter. Dhim. if he does, let him buy a broom and sweep a crossing. She was always dangling and ogling after him, 1 recollect now; and I've no doubt she was put on by her old sharper of a father.”

"Mr. Sedley was your very good friend, sir," Dobbin interposed, almost pleased at finding himself growing angry. "Time was you called him better names than rogue and swindler. The match was of your making. George had no right to play fast and loose"

"Fast and loose !" howled out old Osborne. "Fast and loose! Why, hang me, those are the very words my gentleman used himself when he gave himself airs, last Thursday was a fortnight, and talked about the British army to his father who made him. What, it's you who have been a setting of him up-is it? and my service to you, Captain. It's you who want to introduce beggars into my family: Thank you for nothing, Captain. Marry her indeed-he, he! why should he? I warrant you she'd go to him fast enough without.

"Sir," said Dobbin, starting up in undisguised anger; "no man shall abuse that lady in my hearing, and you least of all."

"O, your're a going to call me out, are you? Stop, let me ring the bell for pistols for two. Mr. George sent you here to insult his father, did he?" Osborne said, pulling at the bell-cord.

"Mr. Osborne," said Dobbin, with a faltering voice, "it's you who are insulting the best creature in the world. You had best spare her, sir, for she's your son's wife.”

And with this, feeling that he could say no more Dobbin went away, Osborne sinking back in his chair, and looking wildly after him. A clerk came in, obedient to the bell; and the Captain was scarcely out of the court where Mr. Osborne's offices were, when Mr. Chopper the chief clerk came rushing hatless after him.

"For God's sake, what is it?" Mr. Chopper said, catching the Captain by the skirt. "The governor's in a fit. What has Mr. George been doing?”

"He married Miss Sedley five days ago," Dobbin replied. "I was his groomsman, Mr. Chopper, and you must stand his friend."

The old clerk shook his head. "If that's your news, Captain, it's bad. The governor will never forgive him.”

Dobbin begged Chopper to report progress to him at the hotel where he was stopping, and walked off moodily westwards, greatly perturbed as to the past and the future.

When the Russell Square family came to dinner that evening, they found the father of the house seated in his usual place, but with that air of gloom on his face, which, whenever it appeared there, kept the whole circle silent. The ladies, and Mr. Bullock who dined with them, felt that the news had been communicated to Mr. Osborne, His dark looks affected Mr. Bullock so far as to render him

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