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   Chapter 9 THE BROTHERS

Celt and Saxon -- Complete By George Meredith Characters: 10174

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


'Con has learnt one secret,' said Philip, quitting his chair.

Patrick went up to him, and, 'Give us a hug,' he said, and the hug was given.

They were of an equal height, tall young men, alert, nervously braced from head to foot, with the differences between soldier and civilian marked by the succintly military bearing of the elder brother, whose movements were precise and prompt, and whose frame was leopardlike in indolence. Beside him Patrick seemed cubbish, though beside another he would not have appeared so. His features were not so brilliantly regular, but were a fanciful sketch of the same design, showing a wider pattern of the long square head and the forehead, a wavering at the dip of the nose, livelier nostrils: the nostrils dilated and contracted, and were exceeding alive. His eyelids had to do with the look of his eyes, and were often seen cutting the ball. Philip's eyes were large on the pent of his brows, open, liquid, and quick with the fire in him. Eyes of that quality are the visible mind, animated both to speak it and to render it what comes within their scope. They were full, unshaded direct, the man himself, in action. Patrick's mouth had to be studied for an additional index to the character. To symbolise them, they were as a sword-blade lying beside book.

Men would have thought Patrick the slippery one of the two: women would have inclined to confide in him the more thoroughly; they bring feeling to the test, and do not so much read a print as read the imprinting on themselves; and the report that a certain one of us is true as steel, must be unanimous at a propitious hour to assure them completely that the steel is not two-edged in the fully formed nature of a man whom they have not tried. They are more at home with the unformed, which lends itself to feeling and imagination. Besides Patrick came nearer to them; he showed sensibility. They have it, and they deem it auspicious of goodness, or of the gentleness acceptable as an equivalent. Not the less was Philip the one to inspire the deeper and the wilder passion.

'So you've been down there?' said Philip. 'Tell us of your welcome. Never mind why you went: I think I see. You're the Patrick of fourteen, who tramped across Connaught for young Dermot to have a sight of you before he died, poor lad. How did Mr. Adister receive you?'

Patrick described the first interview.

Philip mused over it. 'Yes, those are some of his ideas: gentlemen are to excel in the knightly exercises. He used to fence excellently, and he was a good horseman. The Jesuit seminary would have been hard for him to swallow once. The house is a fine old house: lonely, I suppose.'

Patrick spoke of Caroline Adister and pursued his narrative. Philip was lost in thought. At the conclusion, relating to South America, he raised his head and said: 'Not so foolish as it struck you, Patrick. You and I might do that,-without the design upon the original owner of the soil! Irishmen are better out of Europe, unless they enter one of the Continental services.'

'What is it Con O'Donnell proposes to you?' Patrick asked him earnestly.

'To be a speaking trumpet in Parliament. And to put it first among the objections, I haven't an independence; not above two hundred a year.'

'I'll make it a thousand,' said Patrick, 'that is, if my people can pay.'

'Secondly, I don't want to give up my profession. Thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, once there, I should be boiling with the rest. I never could go half way. This idea of a commencement gives me a view of the finish. Would you care to try it?'

'If I'm no wiser after two or three years of the world I mean to make a better acquaintance with,' Patrick replied. 'Over there at home one catches the fever, you know. They have my feelings, and part of my judgement, and whether that's the weaker part I can't at present decide. My taste is for quiet farming and breeding.'

'Friendship, as far as possible; union, if the terms are fair,' said Philip. 'It's only the name of union now; supposing it a concession that is asked of them; say, sacrifice; it might be made for the sake of what our people would do to strengthen the nation. But they won't try to understand our people. Their laws, and their rules, their systems are forced on a race of an opposite temper, who would get on well enough, and thrive, if they were properly consulted. Ireland 's the sore place of England, and I'm sorry for it. We ought to be a solid square, with Europe in this pickle. So I say, sitting here. What should I be saying in Parliament?'

'Is Con at all likely, do you think, Philip?'

'He might: and become the burlesque Irishman of the House. There must be one, and the lot would be safe to fall on him.'

'Isn't he serious about it?'

'Quite, I fancy; and that will be the fun. A serious fellow talking nonsense with lively illustrations, is just the man for House of Commons clown. Your humorous rogue is not half so taking. Con would be the porpoise in a fish tank there, inscrutably busy on his errand and watched for his tumblings. Be

tter I than he; and I should make a worse of it-at least for myself.'

'Wouldn't the secret of his happiness interfere?'

'If he has the secret inside his common sense. The bulk of it I suspect to be, that he enjoys his luxuries and is ashamed of his laziness; and so the secret pulls both ways. One day a fit of pride may have him, or one of his warm impulses, and if he's taken in the tide of it, I shall grieve for the secret.'

'You like his wife, Philip?'

'I respect her. They came together,-I suppose, because they were near together, like the two islands, in spite of the rolling waves between. I would not willingly see the union disturbed. He warms her, and she houses him. And he has to control the hot blood that does the warming, and she to moderate the severity of her principles, which are an essential part of the housing. Oh! shiver politics, Patrice. I wish I had been bred in France: a couple of years with your Pere Clement, and I could have met Irishmen and felt to them as an Irishman, whether they were disaffected or not. I wish I did. When I landed the other day, I thought myself passably cured, and could have said that rhetoric is the fire-water of our country, and claptrap the springboard to send us diving into it. I like my comrades-in-arms, I like the character of British officers, and the men too-I get on well with them. I declare to you, Patrice, I burn to live in brotherhood with them, not a rift of division at heart! I never show them that there is one. But our early training has us; it comes on us again; three or four days with Con have stirred me; I don't let him see it, but they always do: these tales of starvations and shootings, all the old work just as when I left, act on me like a smell of powder. I was dipped in "Ireland for the Irish"; and a contented Irishman scarcely seems my countryman.'

'I suppose it 's like what I hear of as digesting with difficulty,' Patrick referred to the state described by his brother.

'And not the most agreeable of food,' Philip added.

'It would be the secret of our happiness to discover how to make the best of it, if we had to pay penance for the discovery by living in an Esquimaux shanty,' said Patrick.

'With a frozen fish of admirable principles for wife,' said Philip.

'Ah, you give me shudders!'

'And it's her guest who talks of her in that style! and I hope to be thought a gentleman!' Philip pulled himself up. 'We may be all in the wrong. The way to begin to think so, is to do them an injury and forget it. The sensation's not unpleasant when it's other than a question of good taste. But politics to bed, Patrice. My chief is right-soldiers have nothing to do with them. What are you fiddling at in your coat there?'

'Something for you, my dear Philip.' Patrick brought out the miniature. He held it for his brother to look. 'It was the only thing I could get. Mr. Adister sends it. The young lady, Miss Caroline, seconded me. They think more of the big portrait: I don't. And it 's to be kept carefully, in case of the other one getting damaged. That's only fair.'

Philip drank in the face upon a swift shot of his eyes.

'Mr. Adister sends it?' His tone implied wonder at such a change in Adiante's father.

'And an invitation to you to visit him when you please.'

'That he might do,' said Philip: it was a lesser thing than to send her likeness to him.

Patrick could not help dropping his voice: 'Isn't it very like?' For answer the miniature had to be inspected closely.

Philip was a Spartan for keeping his feelings under.

'Yes,' he said, after an interval quick with fiery touches on the history of that face and his life. 'Older, of course. They are the features, of course. The likeness is not bad. I suppose it resembles her as she is now, or was when it was painted. You 're an odd fellow to have asked for it.'

'I thought you would wish to have it, Philip.'

'You're a good boy, Patrice. Light those candles we'll go to bed. I want a cool head for such brains as I have, and bumping the pillow all night is not exactly wholesome. We'll cross the Channel in a few days, and see the nest, and the mother, and the girls.'

'Not St. George's Channel. Mother would rather you would go to France and visit the De Reuils. She and the girls hope you will keep out of Ireland for a time: it's hot. Judge if they're anxious, when it's to stop them from seeing you, Philip!'

'Good-night, dear boy.' Philip checked the departing Patrick. 'You can leave that.' He made a sign for the miniature to be left on the table.

Patrick laid it there. His brother had not touched it, and he could have defended himself for having forgotten to leave it, on the plea that it might prevent his brother from having his proper share of sleep; and also, that Philip had no great pleasure in the possession of it. The two pleas, however, did not make one harmonious apology, and he went straight to the door in an odd silence, with the step of a decorous office-clerk, keeping his shoulders turned on Philip to conceal his look of destitution.

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