III.15. The Wedding-Day
The time was nine o'clock in the morning. The place was a private room in one of
the old-fashioned inns which still remain on the Borough side of the Thames. The
date was Monday, the 11th of August. And the person was Mr. Bashwood, who
had traveled to London on a summons from his son, and had taken up his abode at
the inn on the previous day.
He had never yet looked so pitiably old and helpless as he looked now. The fever
and chill of alternating hope and despair had dried, and withered, and wasted him.
The angles of his figure had sharpened. The outline of his face had shrunk. His
dress pointed the melancholy change in him with a merciless and shocking
emphasis. Never, even in his youth, had he worn such clothes as he wore now.
With the desperate resolution to leave no chance untried of producing an
impression on Miss Gwilt, he had cast aside his dreary black garments; he had
even mustered the courage to wear his blue satin cravat. His coat was a riding-
coat of light gray. He had ordered it, with a vindictive subtlety of purpose, to be
made on the pattern of a coat that he had seen Allan wear. His waistcoat was
white; his trousers were of the gayest summer pattern, in the largest check. His
wig was oiled and scented, and brushed round, on either side, to hide the wrinkles
on his temples. He was an object to laugh at; he was an object to weep over. His
enemies, if a creature so wretched could have had enemies, would have forgiven
him, on seeing him in his new dress. His friends--had any of his friends been left--
would have been less distressed if they had looked at him in his coffin than if they
had looked at him as he was now. Incessantly restless, he paced the room from
end to end. Now he looked at his watch; now he looked out of the window; now
he looked at the well-furnished breakfast-table--always with the same wistful,
uneasy inquiry in his eyes. The waiter coming in, with the urn of boiling water,
was addressed for the fiftieth time in the one form of words which the miserable
creature seemed to be capable of uttering that morning: "My son is coming to
breakfast. My son is very particular. I want everything of the best--hot things and
cold things--and tea and coffee--and all the rest of it, waiter; all the rest of it." For
the fiftieth time, he now reiterated those anxious words. For the fiftieth time, the
impenetrable waiter had just returned his one pacifying answer, "All right, sir;
you may leave it to me"--when the sound of leisurely footsteps was heard on the
stairs; the door opened; and the long-expected son sauntered indolently into the
room, with a neat little black leather bag in his hand.
"Well done, old gentleman!" said Bashwood the younger, surveying his father's
dress with a smile of sardonic encouragement. "You're ready to be married to
Miss Gwilt at a moment's notice!"
The father took the son's hand, and tried to echo the son's laugh.
"You have such good spirits, Jemmy," he said, using the name in its familiar
form, as he had been accustomed to use it in happier days. "You always had good
spirits, my dear, from a child. Come and sit down; I've ordered you a nice
breakfast. Everything of the best! everything of the best! What a relief it is to see