Osborne Hamley reviews his Position

Osborne had his solitary cup of coffee in the drawing-room. He was very unhappy too, after his fashion. He stood on the hearth-rug pondering over his situation. He was not exactly aware how hardly his father was pressed for ready-money; the Squire had never spoken to him on the subject without being angry; and many of his loose contradictory statements—all of which, however contradictory they might appear, had their basis in truth—were set down by his son to the exaggeration of passion. But it was uncomfortable enough to a young man of Osborne’s age to feel himself continually hampered for want of a five-pound note. The principal supplies for the liberal—almost luxurious-table at the Hall came off the estate; so that there was no appearance of poverty as far as the household went; and, as long as Osborne was content at home, he had everything he could wish for; but he had a wife elsewhere—he wanted to see her continually—and that necessitated journeys. She, poor thing! had to be supported—where was the money for the journeys and for Aimée’s modest wants to come from? That was the puzzle in Osborne’s mind just now. While he had been at college, his allowance—heir of the Hamleys— had been three hundred, while Roger had to be content with a hundred less. The payment of these annual sums had given the Squire a good deal of trouble; but he thought of it as a merely temporary inconvenience; perhaps unreasonably thought so. Osborne was to do great things; take high honours, get a fellowship, marry a long-descended heiress, live in some of the many uninhabited rooms at the Hall, and help the Squire in the management of the estate that would some time be his. Roger was to be a clergyman; steady, slow Roger, was just fitted for that; and, when he declined entering the Church, preferring a life of more activity and adventure, Roger was to be anything; he was useful and practical, and fit for all the employments from which Osborne was shut out by his fastidiousness, and his (pseudo-) genius; so it was well he was an eldest son, for he would never have done to struggle through the world; and, as for his settling down to a profession, it would be like cutting blocks with a razor! And now here was Osborne, living at home, but longing to be elsewhere; his allowance stopped in reality; indeed, the punctual payment of it during the last year or two had been owing to his mother’s exertions; but nothing had been said about its present cessation by either father or son; money-matters were too sore a subject between them. Every now and then the Squire threw him a ten-pound note or so; but the sort of suppressed growl with which it was given, and the entire uncertainty as to when he might receive such gifts, rendered any calculation based upon their receipt exceeding vague and uncertain.

“What in the world can I do to secure an income?” thought Osborne, as he stood on the hearth-rug, his back to a blazing fire; his cup of coffee sent up in the rare old china that had belonged to the Hall for generations; his dress finished, as dress of Osborne’s could hardly fail to be. One could hardly have thought that this elegant young man, standing there in the midst of comfort that verged on luxury, should have been turning over that one great problem in his mind; but so it was. “What can I do to be sure of a present income? Things cannot go on as they are. I should need support for two or three years, even if I entered myself at the Temple or Lincoln’s Inn. It would be impossible to live on my pay in the army; besides, I should hate that profession. In fact, there are evils attending all professions —I couldn’t bring myself to become a member of any I’ve ever heard of. Perhaps I’m more fitted to take ‘orders’ than anything else; but to be compelled to write weekly sermons whether one had anything to say or not, and, probably, doomed only to associate with people below one in refinement and education! Yet poor Aimée must have money! I can’t bear to compare our dinners here, overloaded with joints and game and sweets, as Dawson will persist in sending them up, with Aimée’s two little mutton-chops. Yet what would my father say, if he knew I’d married a French-woman? In his present mood he’d disinherit me, if that is possible; and he’d speak about her in a way I couldn’t stand. A Roman Catholic, too! Well, I don’t repent it. I’d do it again. Only, if my mother had been in good health —if she could have heard my story, and known Aimée! As it is, I must keep it secret; but where to get money? Where to get money?”

Then he bethought him of his poems—would they sell, and bring him in money? In spite of Milton, he thought they might; and he went to fetch his MSS. out of his room. He sate down near the fire, trying to study them with a critical eye, to represent public opinion as far as he could. He had changed his style since the Mrs. Hemans days. He was essentially imitative in his poetic faculty; and of late he had followed the lead of a popular writer of sonnets. He turned his poems over; they were almost equivalent to an autobiographical passage in his life. Arranging them in their order, they came as follows:—

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