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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Struggles Of Brown, Jones, And Robinson - Chapter 3. The Early History Of Mr. Robinson
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The Struggles Of Brown, Jones, And Robinson - Chapter 3. The Early History Of Mr. Robinson Post by :mikman Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3587

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The Struggles Of Brown, Jones, And Robinson - Chapter 3. The Early History Of Mr. Robinson

CHAPTER III. THE EARLY HISTORY OF MR. ROBINSON

And haberdashery it was. But here it may be as well to say a few words as to Mr. Robinson, and to explain how he became a member of the firm. He had been in his boyhood,--a bill-sticker; and he defies the commercial world to show that he ever denied it. In his earlier days he carried the paste and pole, and earned a livelihood by putting up notices of theatrical announcements on the hoardings of the metropolis. There was, however, that within him which Nature did not intend to throw away on the sticking of bills, as was found out quickly enough by those who employed him. The lad, while he was running the streets with his pole in his hand, and his pot round his neck, learned first to read, and then to write what others might read. From studying the bills which he carried, he soon took to original composition; and it may be said of him, that in fluency of language and richness of imagery few surpassed him. In person Mr. Robinson was a genteel young man, though it cannot be said of him that he possessed manly beauty. He was slight and active, intelligent in his physiognomy, and polite in his demeanour. Perhaps it may be unnecessary to say anything further on this head.

Mr. Robinson had already established himself as an author in his own line, and was supporting himself decently by his own unaided abilities, when he first met Maryanne Brown in the Regent's Park. She was then walking with her sister, and resolutely persisted in disregarding all those tokens of admiration which he found himself unable to restrain.

There certainly was a dash about Maryanne Brown that at certain moments was invincible. Hooped petticoats on the back of her sister looked like hoops, and awkward hoops. They were angular, lopsided, and lumpy. But Maryanne wore her hoops as a duchess wears her crinoline. Her well-starched muslin dress would swell off from her waist in a manner that was irresistible to George Robinson. "Such grouping!" as he said to his friend Walker. "Such a flow of drapery! such tournure! Ah, my dear fellow, the artist's eye sees these things at a glance." And then, walking at a safe distance, he kept his eyes on them.

"I'm sure that fellow's following us," said Sarah Jane, looking back at him with all her scorn.

"There's no law against that, I suppose," said Maryanne, tartly. So much as that Mr. Robinson did succeed in hearing.

The girls entered their mother's house; but as they did so, Maryanne lingered for a moment in the doorway. Was it accident, or was it not? Did the fair girl choose to give her admirer one chance, or was it that she was careful not to crush her starch by too rapid an entry?

"I shall be in Regent's Park on Sunday afternoon," whispered Robinson, as he passed by the house, with his hand to his mouth. It need hardly be said that the lady vouchsafed him no reply.

On the following Sunday George Robinson was again in the park, and after wandering among its rural shades for half a day, he was rewarded by seeing the goddess of his idolatry. Miss Brown was there with a companion, but not with Sarah Jane. He had already, as though by instinct, conceived in his heart as powerful an aversion for one sister as affection for the other, and his delight was therefore unbounded when he saw that she he loved was there, while she he hated was away.

'Twere long to tell, at the commencement of this narrative, how a courtship was commenced and carried on; how Robinson sighed, at first in vain and then not in vain; how good-natured was Miss Twizzle, the bosom friend of Maryanne; and how Robinson for a time walked and slept and fed on roses.

There was at that time a music class held at a certain elegant room near Osnaburgh Church in the New Road, at which Maryanne and her friend Miss Twizzle were accustomed to attend. Those lessons were sometimes prosecuted in the evening, and those evening studies sometimes resulted in a little dance. We may say that after a while that was their habitual tendency, and that the lady pupils were permitted to introduce their male friends on condition that the gentlemen paid a shilling each for the privilege. It was in that room that George Robinson passed the happiest hours of his chequered existence. He was soon expert in all the figures of the mazy dance, and was excelled by no one in the agility of his step or the endurance of his performances. It was by degrees rumoured about that he was something higher than he seemed to be, and those best accustomed to the place used to call him the Poet. It must be remembered that at this time Mrs. McCockerell was still alive, and that as Sarah Jane had then become Mrs. Jones, Maryanne was her mother's favourite, and destined to receive all her mother's gifts. Of the name and person of William Brisket, George Robinson was then in happy ignorance, and the first introduction between them took place in the Hall of Harmony.

'Twas about eleven o'clock in the evening, when the light feet of the happy dancers had already been active for some hour or so in the worship of their favourite muse, that Robinson was standing up with his arm round his fair one's waist, immediately opposite to the door of entrance. His right arm still embraced her slight girdle, whilst with his left hand he wiped the perspiration from his brow. She leaned against him palpitating, for the motion of the music had been quick, and there had been some amicable contest among the couples. It is needless to say that George Robinson and Maryanne Brown had suffered no defeat. At that moment a refreshing breeze of the night air was wafted into the room from the opened door, and Robinson, looking up, saw before him a sturdy, thickset man, with mottled beefy face, and by his side there stood a spectre. "It's your sister," whispered he to Maryanne, in a tone of horror.

"Oh, laws! there's Bill," said she, and then she fainted. The gentleman with the mottled face was indeed no other than Mr. Brisket, the purveyor of meat, for whose arms Mrs. McCockerell had destined the charms of her younger daughter. Conduct baser than that of Mrs. Jones on this occasion is not perhaps recorded in history. She was no friend of Brisket's. She had it not at heart to forward her mother's views. At this period of their lives she and her mother never met. But she had learned her sister's secret, and having it in her power to crush her sister's happiness, had availed herself of the opportunity.

"There he is," said she, quite aloud, so that the whole room should hear. "He's a bill-sticker!" and she pointed the finger of scorn at her sister's lover.

"I'm one who have always earned my own living," said Robinson, "and never had occasion to hang on to any one." This he said knowing that Jones's lodgings were paid for by Mr. Brown.

Hereupon Mr. Brisket walked across the room, and as he walked there was a cloud of anger on his brow. "Perhaps, young man," he said,--and as he spoke he touched Robinson on the shoulder,--"perhaps, young man, you wouldn't mind having a few words with me outside the door."

"Sir," said the other with some solemnity, "I am not aware that I have the honour of your acquaintance."

"I'm William Brisket, butcher," said he; "and if you don't come out when I asks you, by jingo, I'll carry you."

The lady had fainted. The crowd of dancers was standing round, with inquiring faces. That female spectre repeated the odious words, still pointing at him with her finger, "He's a bill-sticker!" Brisket was full fourteen stone, whereas Robinson might perhaps be ten. What was Robinson to do? "Are you going to walk out, or am I going to carry you?" said the Hercules of the slaughter-house.

"I will do anything," said Robinson, "to relieve a lady's embarrassment."

They walked out on to the landing-place, whither not a few of the gentlemen and some of the ladies followed them.

"I say, young man," said Brisket, "do you know who that young woman is?"

"I certainly have the honour of her acquaintance," said Robinson.

"But perhaps you haven't the honour of knowing that she's my wife,--as is to be. Now you know it." And then the coarse monster eyed him from head to foot. "Now you may go home to your mother," said he. "But don't tell her anything of it, because it's a secret."

He was fifteen stone at least, and Robinson was hardly ten. Oh, how vile is the mastery which matter still has over mind in many of the concerns of life! How can a man withstand the assault of a bull? What was Robinson to do? He walked downstairs into the street, leaving Maryanne behind with the butcher.

Some days after this he contrived a meeting with his love, and he then learned the history of that engagement. "She hated Brisket," she said. "He was odious to her. He was always greasy and smelt of meat;--but he had a respectable business."

"And is my Maryanne mercenary?" asked Robinson.

"Now, George," said she, "it's no use you scolding me, and I won't be scolded. Ma says that I must be civil to him, and I'm not going to quarrel with ma. At any rate not yet."

"But surely, Maryanne--"

"It's no good you surelying me, George, for I won't be surelyed. If you don't like me you can leave me."

"Maryanne, I adore you."

"That's all very well, and I hope you do; but why did you make a row with that man the other night?"

"But, dearest love, he made the row with me."

"And when you did make it," continued Maryanne, "why didn't you see it out?" Robinson did not find it easy to answer this accusation. That matter has still dominion over mind, though the days are coming when mind shall have dominion over matter, was a lesson which, in after days, it would be sweet to teach her. But at the present moment the time did not serve for such teaching. "A man must look after his own, George, or else he'll go to the wall," she said, with a sneer. And then he parted from her in anger.

But his love did not on that account wax cool, and so in his misery he had recourse to their mutual friend, Miss Twizzle. "The truth is this," said Miss Twizzle, "I believe she'd take him, because he's respectable and got a business."

"He's horribly vulgar," said Robinson.

"Oh, bother!" said Miss Twizzle. "I know nothing about that. He's got a business, and whoever marries Brisket won't have to look for a bed to sleep on. But there's a hitch about the money."

Then Mr. Robinson learned the facts. Mrs. McCockerell, as she was still called, had promised to give her daughter five hundred pounds as her marriage portion, but Mr. Brisket would not go to the altar till he got the money. "He wanted to extend himself," he said, "and would not marry till he saw his way." Hence had arisen that delay which Maryanne had solaced by her attendance at the music-hall.

"But if you're in earnest," said Miss Twizzle, "don't you be down on your luck. Go to old Brown, and make friends with him. He'll stand up for you, because he knows his wife favours Brisket."

George Robinson did go to Mr. Brown, and on the father the young man's eloquence was not thrown away. "She shall be yours, Mr. Robinson," he said, after the first fortnight. "But we must be very careful with Mrs. B."

After the second fortnight Mrs. B. was no more! And in this way it came to pass that George Robinson was present as Mr. Brown's adviser when that scheme respecting the haberdashery was first set on foot.

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