Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

IV
MYSTIFYING THE MASTER (1849)

ON Tuesday, 4.12.49, when Carlyle was fifty-four, Neuberg reported to his sister the good news that he had seen him feeding the cat and laughing at the pup from Manchester, new arrivals both. Mrs. Carlyle had made these additions to the family without consulting her husband, as she feared he might not want them, and was glad to see him reconcile himself to their company.

Neuberg and she had gone into town this morning together and bought a card-case for a birthday present, and put it into a used envelope. Neuberg stayed to dinner, and was still present when there was a postman's knock at the front door, which the maid had been told to give to "mystify the master." In she came with the present in her hand as if she had just received it from the postman, and handed it to Carlyle, who was lying on the sofa.

He looked at the envelope and said:--"Another letter from Espinasse! I had one from him this morning, and this is his handwriting. What in the world is there in it? H--m, a card-case! That's good, however,--just the thing I wanted. Mine does not fit my new cards, which they always change in size. Quite providential! Ha, ha, ha! Just the thing I wanted. But how in the world did little Espinasse get to know that I wanted a card-case?"

"'Tis your birthday, too," said Mrs. Carlyle.

"Ah, how did he get to know that?"

She made no answer. Carlyle rose from the sofa, and taking a pocket-comb from his pocket, smoothed his wife's hair with it and said,--"Ah, I know now it is your doing. You told Espinasse to send it?"

"I declare upon my honour I did no such thing"

"It is your doing, however," he said. She answered,-- "I assure you I never wrote a word to Espinasse about it," and so on. Neuberg tells no more. Maybe he discreetly departed and left them debating.1

____________________
1
Macmillan's Mag., Aug., 1884, p. 282, letter from J. Neuberg to his sister, 4. and 5.12.49.

-222-

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