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"I suppose I shall," said Faddle, "but ain't we coming it a little strong? They want to know at the Gardens what the deuce it is I'm about." The Gardens was a new row of houses, latterly christened Badminton Gardens, in which resided the father and mother of Faddle.
"I've given up all that kind of thing," said Tom.
"Your people are not in London."
"It will make no difference when they do come up. I call an evening in the bosom of one's family about the slowest thing there is. The bosom must do without me for the future."
"Won't your governor cut up rough?"
"He must cut up as he pleases. But I rather fancy he knows all about it. I shan't spend half as much money this way as if I had a house and wife and family, – and what we may call a bosom of one's own." Then they had dinner and went to the theatre, and played billiards, and had supper, and spent the night in a manner very delightful, no doubt, to themselves, but of which their elder friends could hardly have approved.
There was a good deal of this following upon the episode of the necklace, and it must be told with regret that our young hero fell into certain exploits which were by no means creditable to him. More than one good-humoured policeman had helped him home to his lodgings; but alas, on Christmas Eve, he fell into the hands of some guardian of the peace who was not quite sufficiently good-natured, and Tom passed the night and the greater part of the following morning, recumbent, he in one cell, and his friend Faddle in the next, with an intimation that they would certainly be taken before a magistrate on the day after Christmas Day.
Oh, Ayala! Ayala! It must be acknowledged that you were in a measure responsible; – and not only for the lamentable condition of your lover, but also of that of his friend. For, in his softer moments, Tom had told every thing to Faddle, and Faddle had declared that he would be true to the death to a friend suffering such unmerited misfortune. Perhaps the fidelity of Faddle may have owed something to the fact that Tom's pecuniary allowances were more generous than those accorded to himself. To Ayala must be attributed the occurrence of these misfortunes. But Tom in his more fiery moments, – those moments which would come between the subsidence of actual sobriety and the commencement of intoxication, – attributed all his misfortunes to the Colonel. "Faddle," he would say in these moments, "of course I know that I'm a ruined man. Of course I'm aware that all this is only a prelude to some ignominious end. I have not sunk to this kind of thing without feeling it." "You'll be right enough some day, old fellow," Faddle would reply. "I shall live to be godfather to the first boy." "Never, Faddle!" Tom replied. "All those hopes have vanished. You'll never live to see any child of mine. And I know well where to look for my enemy. Stubbs indeed! I'll Stubbs him. If I can only live to be revenged on that traitor then I shall die contented.Though he shot me through the heart, I should die contented."
This had happened a little before that unfortunate Christmas Eve. Up to this time Sir Thomas, though he had known well that his son had not been living as he should do, had been mild in his remonstrances, and had said nothing at Merle Park to frighten Lady Tringle. But the affair of Christmas Eve came to his ears with all its horrors. A policeman whom Tom had struck with his fist in the pit of the stomach had not been civil enough to accept this mark of familiarity with good humour. He had been much inconvenienced by the blow, and had insisted upon giving testimony to this effect before the magistrate. There had been half-an-hour, he said, in which he had hung dubious between this world and the next, so great had been the violence of the blow, and so deadly its direction! The magistrate was one of those just men who find a pleasure and a duty in protecting the police of the metropolis. It was no case, he declared, for a fine. What would be a fine to such a one as Thomas Tringle, junior! And Tom, – Tom Tringle, the only son of Sir Thomas Tringle, the senior partner in the great house of Travers and Treason, – was ignominiously locked up for a week. Faddle, who had not struck the blow, was allowed to depart with a fine and a warning. Oh, Ayala, Ayala, this was thy doing!
When the sentence was known Sir Thomas used all his influence to extricate his unfortunate son, but in vain. Tom went through his penalty, and, having no help from champagne, doubtless had a bad time of it. Ayala, Stubbs, the policeman, and the magistrate, seemed to have conspired to destroy him. But the week at last dragged itself out, and then Tom found himself confronted with his father in the back-parlour of the house in Queen's Gate. "Tom," he said, "this is very bad!"
"It is bad, Sir," said Tom.
"You have disgraced me, and your mother, and yourself. You have disgraced Travers and Treason!" Poor Tom shook his head. "It will be necessary, I fear, that you should leave the house altogether." Tom stood silent without a word. "A young man who has been locked up in prison for a week for maltreating a policeman can hardly expect to be entrusted with such concerns as those of Travers and Treason. I and your poor mother cannot get rid of you and the disgrace which you have entailed upon us. Travers and Treason can easily get rid of you." Tom knew very well that his father was, in fact, Travers and Treason, but he did not yet feel that an opportunity had come in which he could wisely speak a word. "What have you got to say for yourself, Sir?" demanded Sir Thomas.
"Of course, I'm very sorry," muttered Tom.
"Sorry, Tom! A young man holding your position in Travers and Treason ought not to have to be sorry for having been locked up in prison for a week for maltreating a policeman! What do you think must be done, yourself?"
"The man had been hauling me about in the street."
"You were drunk, no doubt."
"I had been drinking. I am not going to tell a lie about it. But he needn't have done as he did. Faddle knows that, and can tell you."
"What can have driven you to associate with such a young man as Faddle? That is the worst part of it. Do you know what Faddle and Company are, – stock jobbers, who ten years ago hadn't a thousand pounds in the way of capital among them! They've been connected with a dozen companies, none of which are floating now, and have made money out of them all! Do you think that Travers and Treason will accept a young man as a partner who associates with such people as that?"
"I have seen old Faddle's name and yours on the same prospectus together, Sir."
"What has that to do with it? You never saw him inside our counter. What a name to appear along with yours in such an affair as this! If it hadn't been for that, you might have got over it. Young men will be young men. Faddle! I think you will have to go abroad for a time, till it has been forgotten."
"I should like to stay, just at present, Sir," said Tom.
"What good can you do?"
"All the same, I should like to stay, Sir."
"I was thinking that, if you were to take a tour through the United States, go across to San Francisco, then up to Japan, and from thence through some of the Chinese cities down to Calcutta and Bombay, you might come back by the Euphrates Valley to Constantinople, see something of Bulgaria and those countries, and so home by Vienna and Paris. The Euphrates Valley Railway will be finished by that time, perhaps, and Bulgaria will be as settled as Hertfordshire. You'd see something of the world, and I could let it be understood that you were travelling on behalf of Travers and Treason. By the time that you were back, people in the City would have forgotten the policeman, and if you could manage to write home three or four letters about our trade with Japan and China, they would be willing to forget Faddle."
"But, Sir – "
"Shouldn't you like a tour of that kind?"
"Very much indeed, Sir; – only – "
"Only what, Tom?"
"Ayala!" said Tom, hardly able to suppress a sob as he uttered the fatal name.
"Tom, don't be a fool. You can't make a young woman have you if she doesn't choose. I have done all that I could for you, because I saw that you'd set your heart upon it. I went to her myself, and then I gave two hundred and fifty pounds for that bauble. I am told I shall have to lose a third of the sum in getting rid of it."
"Ricolay told me that he'd take it back at two hundred and twenty," said Tom, whose mind, prostrate as it was, was still alive to consideration of profit and loss.
"Never mind that for the present," said Sir Thomas. "Don't you remember the old song? – 'If she will, she will, you may depend on't. And if she won't she won't; and there's an end on't.' You ought to be a man and pluck up your spirits. Are you going to allow a little girl to knock you about in that way?" Tom only shook his head, and looked as if he was very ill. In truth, the champagne, and the imprisonment, and Ayala together, had altogether altered his appearance. "We've done what we could about it, and now it is time to give it over. Let me hear you say that you will give it over." Tom stood speechless before his father. "Speak the word, and the thing will be done," continued Sir Thomas, endeavouring to encourage the young man.
"I can't," said Tom, sighing.
"I have tried, and I can't."
"Tom, do you mean to say that you are going to lose everything because a chit of a girl like that turns up her nose at you?"
"It's no use my going while things are like this," said Tom. "If I were to get to New York, I should come back by the next ship. As for letters about business, I couldn't settle my mind to anything of the kind."
"Then you're not the man I took you to be," said the father.
"I could be man enough," said Tom, clenching his fist, "if I could get hold of Colonel Stubbs."
"Stubbs! Jonathan Stubbs! I know what I'm talking about. I'm not going to America, nor China, nor anything else, till I've polished him off. It's all very well your abusing me, but you don't know what it is I have suffered. As for being called a man I don't care about it. What I should like best would be to get Ayala on one side and Stubbs on the other, and then all three to go off the Duke of York's Column together. It's no good talking about Travers and Treason. I don't care for Travers and Treason as I am now. If you'll get Ayala to say that she'll have me, I'll go to the shop every morning at eight and stay till nine; and as for the Mountaineers it may all go to the d – for me." Then he rushed out of the room, banging the door after him.
Sir Thomas, when he was thus left, stood for awhile with his hands in his trousers' pockets, contemplating the condition of his son. It was wonderful to him that a boy of his should be afflicted in this manner. When he had been struck by the juvenile beauties of Emmeline Dosett he had at once asked the young lady to share his fortunes with him, and the young lady had speedily acceded to his request. Then he had been married, and that was all he had ever known of the troubles of love. He could not but think, looking back at it as he did now from a distance, that had Emmeline been hard-hearted he would have endured the repulse and have passed on speedily to some other charmer. But Tom had been wounded after a fashion which seemed to him to have been very uncommon. It might be possible that he should recover in time, but while undergoing recovery he would be ruined; – so great were the young man's sufferings! Now Sir Thomas, though he had spoken to Tom with all the severity which he had been able to assume, though he had abused Faddle, and had vindicated the injured dignity of Travers and Treason with all his eloquence; though he had told Tom it was unmanly to give way to his love, yet, of living creatures, Tom was at this moment the dearest to his heart. He had never for an instant entertained the idea of expelling Tom from Travers and Treason because of the policeman, or because of Faddle. What should he do for the poor boy now? Was there any argument, any means of persuasion, by which he could induce that foolish little girl to accept all the good things which he was ready to do for her? Could he try yet once again himself, with any chance of success?
Thinking of all this, he stood there for an hour alone with his hands in his trousers' pockets.