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Chapter 32

  • Misfortunes, saith the adage, never come singly. There is little doubt tha_roubles are exceedingly gregarious in their nature, and flying in flocks, ar_pt to perch capriciously; crowding on the heads of some poor wights unti_here is not an inch of room left on their unlucky crowns, and taking no mor_otice of others who offer as good resting-places for the soles of their feet,
  • than if they had no existence. It may have happened that a flight of trouble_rooding over London, and looking out for Joseph Willet, whom they couldn’_ind, darted down haphazard on the first young man that caught their fancy,
  • and settled on him instead. However this may be, certain it is that on th_ery day of Joe’s departure they swarmed about the ears of Edward Chester, an_id so buzz and flap their wings, and persecute him, that he was mos_rofoundly wretched.
  • It was evening, and just eight o’clock, when he and his father, having win_nd dessert set before them, were left to themselves for the first time tha_ay. They had dined together, but a third person had been present during th_eal, and until they met at table they had not seen each other since th_revious night.
  • Edward was reserved and silent. Mr Chester was more than usually gay; but no_aring, as it seemed, to open a conversation with one whose humour was s_ifferent, he vented the lightness of his spirit in smiles and sparklin_ooks, and made no effort to awaken his attention. So they remained for som_ime: the father lying on a sofa with his accustomed air of gracefu_egligence; the son seated opposite to him with downcast eyes, busied, it wa_lain, with painful and uneasy thoughts.
  • ‘My dear Edward,’ said Mr Chester at length, with a most engaging laugh, ‘d_ot extend your drowsy influence to the decanter. Suffer that to circulate,
  • let your spirits be never so stagnant.’
  • Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former state.
  • ‘You do wrong not to fill your glass,’ said Mr Chester, holding up his ow_efore the light. ‘Wine in moderation—not in excess, for that makes me_gly—has a thousand pleasant influences. It brightens the eye, improves th_oice, imparts a new vivacity to one’s thoughts and conversation: you shoul_ry it, Ned.’
  • ‘Ah father!’ cried his son, ‘if—’
  • ‘My good fellow,’ interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his glass, an_aised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified expression, ‘for Heaven’_ake don’t call me by that obsolete and ancient name. Have some regard fo_elicacy. Am I grey, or wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth,
  • that you adopt such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!’
  • ‘I was about to speak to you from my heart, sir,’ returned Edward, ‘in th_onfidence which should subsist between us; and you check me in the outset.’
  • ‘Now do, Ned, do not,’ said Mr Chester, raising his delicate hand imploringly,
  • ‘talk in that monstrous manner. About to speak from your heart. Don’t you kno_hat the heart is an ingenious part of our formation—the centre of the blood-
  • vessels and all that sort of thing—which has no more to do with what you sa_r think, than your knees have? How can you be so very vulgar and absurd?
  • These anatomical allusions should be left to gentlemen of the medica_rofession. They are really not agreeable in society. You quite surprise me,
  • Ned.’
  • ‘Well! there are no such things to wound, or heal, or have regard for. I kno_our creed, sir, and will say no more,’ returned his son.
  • ‘There again,’ said Mr Chester, sipping his wine, ‘you are wrong. I distinctl_ay there are such things. We know there are. The hearts of animals—o_ullocks, sheep, and so forth—are cooked and devoured, as I am told, by th_ower classes, with a vast deal of relish. Men are sometimes stabbed to th_eart, shot to the heart; but as to speaking from the heart, or to the heart,
  • or being warm- hearted, or cold-hearted, or broken-hearted, or being al_eart, or having no heart—pah! these things are nonsense, Ned.’
  • ‘No doubt, sir,’ returned his son, seeing that he paused for him to speak. ‘N_oubt.’
  • ‘There’s Haredale’s niece, your late flame,’ said Mr Chester, as a careles_llustration of his meaning. ‘No doubt in your mind she was all heart once.
  • Now she has none at all. Yet she is the same person, Ned, exactly.’
  • ‘She is a changed person, sir,’ cried Edward, reddening; ‘and changed by vil_eans, I believe.’
  • ‘You have had a cool dismissal, have you?’ said his father. ‘Poor Ned! I tol_ou last night what would happen.—May I ask you for the nutcrackers?’
  • ‘She has been tampered with, and most treacherously deceived,’ cried Edward,
  • rising from his seat. ‘I never will believe that the knowledge of my rea_osition, given her by myself, has worked this change. I know she is beset an_ortured. But though our contract is at an end, and broken past al_edemption; though I charge upon her want of firmness and want of truth, bot_o herself and me; I do not now, and never will believe, that any sordi_otive, or her own unbiassed will, has led her to this course—never!’
  • ‘You make me blush,’ returned his father gaily, ‘for the folly of your nature,
  • in which—but we never know ourselves—I devoutly hope there is no reflection o_y own. With regard to the young lady herself, she has done what is ver_atural and proper, my dear fellow; what you yourself proposed, as I lear_rom Haredale; and what I predicted—with no great exercise of sagacity—sh_ould do. She supposed you to be rich, or at least quite rich enough; an_ound you poor. Marriage is a civil contract; people marry to better thei_orldly condition and improve appearances; it is an affair of house an_urniture, of liveries, servants, equipage, and so forth. The lady being poo_nd you poor also, there is an end of the matter. You cannot enter upon thes_onsiderations, and have no manner of business with the ceremony. I drink he_ealth in this glass, and respect and honour her for her extreme good sense.
  • It is a lesson to you. Fill yours, Ned.’
  • ‘It is a lesson,’ returned his son, ‘by which I hope I may never profit, an_f years and experience impress it on—’
  • ‘Don’t say on the heart,’ interposed his father.
  • ‘On men whom the world and its hypocrisy have spoiled,’ said Edward warmly,
  • ‘Heaven keep me from its knowledge.’
  • ‘Come, sir,’ returned his father, raising himself a little on the sofa, an_ooking straight towards him; ‘we have had enough of this. Remember, if yo_lease, your interest, your duty, your moral obligations, your filia_ffections, and all that sort of thing, which it is so very delightful an_harming to reflect upon; or you will repent it.’
  • ‘I shall never repent the preservation of my self-respect, sir,’ said Edward.
  • ‘Forgive me if I say that I will not sacrifice it at your bidding, and that _ill not pursue the track which you would have me take, and to which th_ecret share you have had in this late separation tends.’
  • His father rose a little higher still, and looking at him as though curious t_now if he were quite resolved and earnest, dropped gently down again, an_aid in the calmest voice—eating his nuts meanwhile,
  • ‘Edward, my father had a son, who being a fool like you, and, like you,
  • entertaining low and disobedient sentiments, he disinherited and cursed on_orning after breakfast. The circumstance occurs to me with a singula_learness of recollection this evening. I remember eating muffins at the time,
  • with marmalade. He led a miserable life (the son, I mean) and died early; i_as a happy release on all accounts; he degraded the family very much. It is _ad circumstance, Edward, when a father finds it necessary to resort to suc_trong measures.
  • ‘It is,’ replied Edward, ‘and it is sad when a son, proffering him his lov_nd duty in their best and truest sense, finds himself repelled at every turn,
  • and forced to disobey. Dear father,’ he added, more earnestly though in _entler tone, ‘I have reflected many times on what occurred between us when w_irst discussed this subject. Let there be a confidence between us; not i_erms, but truth. Hear what I have to say.’
  • ‘As I anticipate what it is, and cannot fail to do so, Edward,’ returned hi_ather coldly, ‘I decline. I couldn’t possibly. I am sure it would put me ou_f temper, which is a state of mind I can’t endure. If you intend to mar m_lans for your establishment in life, and the preservation of that gentilit_nd becoming pride, which our family have so long sustained—if, in short, yo_re resolved to take your own course, you must take it, and my curse with it.
  • I am very sorry, but there’s really no alternative.’
  • ‘The curse may pass your lips,’ said Edward, ‘but it will be but empty breath.
  • I do not believe that any man on earth has greater power to call one down upo_is fellow—least of all, upon his own child—than he has to make one drop o_ain or flake of snow fall from the clouds above us at his impious bidding.
  • Beware, sir, what you do.’
  • ‘You are so very irreligious, so exceedingly undutiful, so horribly profane,’
  • rejoined his father, turning his face lazily towards him, and cracking anothe_ut, ‘that I positively must interrupt you here. It is quite impossible we ca_ontinue to go on, upon such terms as these. If you will do me the favour t_ing the bell, the servant will show you to the door. Return to this roof n_ore, I beg you. Go, sir, since you have no moral sense remaining; and go t_he Devil, at my express desire. Good day.’
  • Edward left the room without another word or look, and turned his back upo_he house for ever.
  • The father’s face was slightly flushed and heated, but his manner was quit_nchanged, as he rang the bell again, and addressed the servant on hi_ntrance.
  • ‘Peak—if that gentleman who has just gone out—’
  • ‘I beg your pardon, sir, Mr Edward?’
  • ‘Were there more than one, dolt, that you ask the question?—If that gentlema_hould send here for his wardrobe, let him have it, do you hear? If he shoul_all himself at any time, I’m not at home. You’ll tell him so, and shut th_oor.’
  • So, it soon got whispered about, that Mr Chester was very unfortunate in hi_on, who had occasioned him great grief and sorrow. And the good people wh_eard this and told it again, marvelled the more at his equanimity and eve_emper, and said what an amiable nature that man must have, who, havin_ndergone so much, could be so placid and so calm. And when Edward’s name wa_poken, Society shook its head, and laid its finger on its lip, and sighed,
  • and looked very grave; and those who had sons about his age, waxed wrathfu_nd indignant, and hoped, for Virtue’s sake, that he was dead. And the worl_ent on turning round, as usual, for five years, concerning which thi_arrative is silent.