Tom thanked his father for
this unwonted instance, not of simple compliance only, but of compliance
by anticipation, with what wishes he might yet form, and promised to take
the subject proposed to him into that serious consideration which his
father had recommended.
It is true that Tom had
been frequently bitten before by similar exhibitions of a compliant
spirit on the part of his worthy parent; but, frequently as he had been
deceived by it, he could not help believing his father in earnest on the
present occasion. He was soon, however, set to rights on this matter.
"Ay, ay, very good, Tom,"
said Mr Forster, when his son had expressed the gratitude he felt. "Well,
now, but have you never yet thought of any profession? Is there none that
you have thought of with any degree of preference?"
"Why, to tell you a truth
then, father, since you are so good," replied Tom, "I have a great fancy
for the army. I should like it above all other professions."
"Hem—the army," muttered Mr
Forster. "By jingo there it is now as usual: you have stumbled on, or
rather, I believe, purposely chosen the profession I abhor of all others.
The army! By jingo, sir, I would as soon see you a negro-driver—a
"Well, father," replied
Tom, mildly, "there’s no occasion for your getting into a passion on the
subject. Since my choice does not meet with your approbation, I abandon it
"Oh, you do—do you? What a
cursed want of firmness. You give way at once; you turn like a weathercock
with every puff of wind; you have no mind of your own—no determination.
Pho; but I do despise the man who can’t or won’t stick to his point. If
you prefer the army, why the devil do you not insist upon it. Why don’t
you say—‘Into the army I shall go, by jingo.’"
"Then I do say so,
father," replied Tom, smiling.
"Do you, sirrah!" exclaimed
the former, looking fiercely at his son. "Then I say, by jingo, you
shan’t. Would you resist my authority, sir—eh? Would you rebel? Would you
do what I expressly forbid?"
"By no means, sir," said
Tom. "I trust I know my duty towards you better than to be guilty of any
"Well, well, Tom, take
another glass of wine, and no more about it," said Mr Forster, a little
mollified, and shoving the wine decanter towards his son. "Take this
matter into your consideration, and propose me something more rational as
a profession in the course of a day or two, and we will see what can be
Tom promised compliance,
and shortly after withdrew from the table, quitted the room, and left his
father to finish his bottle of Madeira alone.
On leaving the apartment,
young Forster hastened to seek his mother and sister, to communicate to
them the disappointment of his hopes regarding the army; for, be it known
to the reader, that, although Tom’s predilection for that particular line
of life has been made to appear but in a sort of incidental way, it was
yet a deep-seated one, and of long standing. It had, moreover, the
approbation of both his mother and sister, at least in so far as they
desired to see his wish in this respect gratified.
"It ‘s all up then,
mother!" exclaimed Tom, as he entered the apartment in which his mother
and sister sat. "All up."
"What’s up, Tom?" said his
mother, in some surprise at the excitation in her son’s manner.
"The army," replied the
latter. "He won’t allow me on any account to enter it."
"You must have been
proposing it to him then," rejoined Mrs Forster; "and you know that was a
very absurd way of proceeding with your father."
"I certainly did," replied
Tom; "but not before he had invited me to name any profession I chose."
And he went on to detail
the particulars of the conversation.he had just had with his father.
"And you bit, Tom?" said
his mother, laughing.
"I certainly did."
"Then, you should nave
known your father better, Tom; you should have known that to propose a
thing to him was a certain way to have him set his face against it. But I
don’t know but I could manage the matter for you yet. Leave the affair in
my hands, Tom; and I am much mistaken if, within a week, I do not obtain,
not only your father’s consent to your entering the army, but his most
positive injunctions for you to do so."
Two days after this, Mrs
Forster, availing herself of what she conceived to be a favourable
opportunity for accomplishing the apparently hopeless task of getting her
worthy husband to do what she wished, thus addressed him--
"So Tom and you, my dear,
have had some conversation, he tells me, about a profession for him."
"We have, ma’am; but not a
very satisfactory one—at least not to him, I should suppose, the puppy!"
replied Mr Forster.
"He proposed the army, I
understand," said Mrs Forster. "I am delighted, my dear, to find that you
refused your consent to so absurd a proposal."
"I did, ma’am, certainly,"
replied Mr Forster; "but I don’t exactly see the absurdity of it. It was
on wholly different grounds that I objected to Tom’s adopting the
profession of arms."
"Well, my dear, it doesn’t
matter on what grounds you objected to it: it is enough for me that you
have objected to it; for I abhor and destest the army, and wouldn’t
see my son in it for the world."
"And pray, why not, ma’am?"
rejoined Mr Forster. "It appears to me to be a very honourable
profession—that’s the light I view it in. A very honourable and noble
"Well, well, my dear, take
what view of it you please, so long as you do not allow Tom to enter it,"
replied Mrs Forster, "that is quite enough for me; it ‘s all I
"Indeed, ma’am! Then, I
suppose, I am to understand that you would not have Tom be a soldier
because I said the profession was an honourable and a noble one,"
replied Mr Forster. "Is it not so, ma’am? I rather think it is. The
pleasure of thwarting me—eh? The old story."
Mrs Forster assured her
choleric husband that she had no such purpose in view. To this assurance
her amiable husband made no reply, but smoked his cigar with increased
energy; when his wife, thinking that she had now said enough to secure her
point, left her worthy spouse to finish his bottle of Madeira, and to
strengthen himself in that spirit of opposition which she saw she had
"Well, Tom," said Mr
Forster to his son, whom he accidentally met in the garden before
breakfast on the following morning, "have you been thinking over what we
were talking of the other day? Dropt all idea of the army, eh?"
"Entirely, father. I have
thought better of it, and wouldn’t take a commission now if it were
"Oh, you wouldn’t—wouldn’t
you? Many a prettier fellow than you would be deuced glad to have a
commission offered to him though—I can tell you that."
"No doubt of it, father,"
said Tom; "I only speak for myself."
"Ay, and a pretty speech
you have made of it," replied old crusty. "I tell you what it is, Tom:
this here is another proof of the truth of what I have always said, that
your mother and you—for I find she is of the same mind with you about the
sodgering—take a delight in contradicting my wishes. Nay, both you and she
seem to have some infernal knack of discovering these wishes before they
are expressed, and employ this gift of prescience in preparing to oppose
them. It is so in this very instance. I have been thinking more of your
proposition of going into the army; and, after taking everything into
consideration, have come to the conclusion, that it is, after all, the
best thing you can do. Well, mark me, no sooner have I come
to this way of thinking, than, behold, you come to a directly opposite
one. Now, isn’t this deuced annoying? However, I won’t be thwarted, sir,
by either you or your mother. So I shall directly purchase a commission
for you in the army; and, if you don’t accept it, I shall cut you off with
a shilling—that’s all. Now, go and tell your mother what I have determined
on, and hold yourself in readiness, sir, to troop off with the first order
from the Horse Guards. These are my orders to you, and I expect them to be
Tom durst make no reply;
for the desired point being gained, it was unnecessary to urge him further
by pretended opposition; and to have expressed acquiescence, would have
undone all that had been accomplished, as the worthy gentleman would, in
such a case, to a certainty, have gone off on an opposite tack. Neither
durst he exhibit any sign of satisfaction, as this would have had
precisely the same effect. To escape from this dilemma, then, Tom, without
replying a word, hastened out of the room and sought his mother, on whom
he burst with a face radiant with joy.
"Lord love you, mother!" he
exclaimed, in an ecstasy of delight; "you have done it—you have done it. I
have this moment received my father’s most positive orders to hold myself
in readiness to join, the moment he obtains my commission; and he has
desired me to tell you this, because you didn’t wish it."
"Much obliged to him, I am
sure," replied Mrs Forster, smiling.
"But how on earth did you
manage it, mother?"
"The easiest thing on
earth, my dear," replied the latter. "I had only to say that I was against
it, and the thing was done. Contradictory people, my dear, like your
father, are the most accommodating and easiest managed of any. You have
only to work them by contraries, and you may get them to do whatever you
please. You have only to say that you dislike a thing, or, if you are very
anxious to have it, to say you abhor it, and it is done."