"Been in Switzerland?" says Pen.
"Yes," says Warrington.
"Couldn't find a bit of tobacco fit to smoke till we came to Strasburg, where I got some caporal." The man's mind is full, very likely, of the great sights which he has seen, of the great emotions with which the vast works of nature have inspired it. But his enthusiasm is too coy to show itself, even to his closest friend, and he veils it with a cloud of tobacco. He will speak more fully of confidential evenings, however, and write ardently and frankly about that which he is shy of saying. The thoughts and experience of his travel will come forth in his writings; as the learning, which he never displays in talk, enriches his style with pregnant allusion and brilliant illustration, colours his generous eloquence, and points his wit.
The elder gives a rapid account of the places which he has visited in his tour. He has seen Switzerland, North Italy, and the Tyrol—he has come home by Vienna, and Dresden, and the Rhine. He speaks about these places in a shy sulky voice, as if he had rather not mention them at all, and as if the sight of them had rendered him very unhappy. The outline of the elder man's tour thus gloomily sketched out, the young one begins to speak. He has been in the country—very much bored—canvassing uncommonly slow—he is here for a day or two, and going on to—to the neighbourhood of Tunbridge Wells, to some friends that will be uncommonly slow, too. How hard it is to make an Englishman acknowledge that he is happy!
"And the seat in Parliament, Pen? Have you made it all right?" asks Warrington.
"All right,—as soon as Parliament meets and a new writ can be issued, Clavering retires, and I step into his shoes," says Pen.
"And under which king does Bezonian speak or die?" asked Warrington. "Do we come out as Liberal Conservative, or as Government man, or on our own hook?"
"Hem! There are no politics now; every man's politics, at least, are pretty much the same. I have not got acres enough to make me a Protectionist; nor could I be one, I think, if I had all the land in the county. I shall go pretty much with Government, and in advance of them upon some social questions which I have been getting up during the vacation;—don't grin, you old cynic, I have been getting up the Blue Books, and intend to come out rather strong on the Sanitary and Colonisation questions."
"We reserve to ourselves the liberty of voting against Government, though we are generally friendly. We are, however, friends of the people avant tout. We give lectures at the Clavering Institute, and shake bands with the intelligent mechanics. We think the franchise ought to be very considerably enlarged; at the same time we are free to accept office some day, when the House has listened to a few crack speeches from us, and the Administration perceives our merit."
"I am not Moses," said Pen, with, as usual, somewhat of melancholy in his voice. "I have no laws from Heaven to bring down to the people from the mountain. I don't belong to the mountain at all, or set up to be a leader and reformer of mankind. My faith is not strong enough for that; nor my vanity, nor my hypocrisy, great enough. I will tell no lies, George, that I promise you; and do no more than coincide in those which are necessary and pass current, and can't be got in without recalling the whole circulation. Give a man at least the advantage of his sceptical turn. If I find a good thing to say in the House, I will say it; a good measure, I will support it; a fair place, I will take it, and be glad of my luck. But I would no more flatter a great man than a mob; and now you know as much about my politics as I do. What call have I to be a Whig? Whiggism is not a divine institution. Why not vote with the Liberal Conservatives? They have done for the nation what the Whigs would never have done without them. Who converted both?—the Radicals and the country outside. I think the Morning Post is often right, and Punch is often wrong. I don't profess a call, but take advantage of a chance. Parlons d'autre chose."
"The next thing at your heart, after ambition is love, I suppose?" Warrington said. "How have our young loves prospered? Are we going to change our condition, and give up our chambers? Are you going to divorce me, Arthur, and take unto yourself a wife?"
"I suppose so. She is very good-natured and lively. She sings, and she don't mind smoking. She'll have a fair fortune—I don't know how much—but my uncle augurs everything from the Begum's generosity, and says that she will come down very handsomely. And I think Blanche is dev'lish fond of me," said Arthur, with a sigh.
"That means that we accept her caresses and her money."
"Haven't we said before that life was a transaction?" Pendennis said. "I don't pretend to break my heart about her. I have told her pretty fairly what my feelings are—and—and have engaged myself to her. And since I saw her last, and for the last two months especially, whilst I have been in the country, I think she has been growing fonder and fonder of me; and her letters to me, and especially to Laura, seem to show it. Mine have been simple enough—no raptures, nor vows, you understand—but looking upon the thing as an affaire faite; and not desirous to hasten or defer the completion."
"And Laura? how is she?" Warrington asked frankly.
"Laura, George," said Pen, looking his friend hard in the face—"by heaven, Laura is the best, and noblest, and dearest girl the sun ever shone upon." His own voice fell as he spoke: it seemed as if he could hardly utter the words: he stretched out his hand to his comrade, who took it and nodded his head.
"Have you only found out that now, young un?" Warrington said after a pause.
"Who has not learned things too late, George?" cried Arthur, in his impetuous way, gathering words and emotion as he went on. "Whose life is not a disappointment? Who carries his heart entire to the grave without a mutilation? I never knew anybody who was happy quite: or who has not had to ransom himself out of the hands of Fate with the payment of some dearest treasure or other. Lucky if we are left alone afterwards, when we have paid our fine, and if the tyrant visits us no more. Suppose I have found out that I have lost the greatest prize in the world, now that it can't be mine—that for years I had an angel under my tent, and let her go?—am I the only one—ah, dear old boy, am I the only one? And do you think my lot is easier to bear because I own that I deserve it? She's gone from us. God's blessing be with her! She might have stayed, and I lost her; it's like Undine: isn't it, George?"
"She was in this room once," said George.
He saw her there—he heard the sweet low voice—he saw the sweet smile and eyes shining so kindly—the face remembered so fondly—thought of in what night-watches—blest and loved always—gone now! A glass that had held a nosegay—a bible with Helen's handwriting—were all that were left him of that brief flower of his life. Say it is a dream: say it passes: better the recollection of a dream than an aimless waking from a blank stupor.
The two friends sate in silence a while, each occupied with his own thoughts and aware of the other's. Pen broke it presently, by saying that he must go and seek for his uncle, and report progress to the old gentleman. The Major had written in a very bad humour; the Major was getting old. "I should like to see you in Parliament, and snugly settled with a comfortable house and an heir to the name before I make my bow. Show me these," the Major wrote, "and then, let old Arthur Pendennis make room for the younger fellows; he has walked the Pall Mall pave long enough."
"There is a kindness about the old heathen," said Warrington. "He cares for somebody besides himself, at least for some other part of himself besides that which is buttoned into his own coat;—for you and your race. He would like to see the progeny of the Pendennises multiplying and increasing, and hopes that they may inherit the land. The old patriarch blesses you from the Club window of Bays's, and is carried off and buried under the flags of St. James's Church, in sight of Piccadilly, and the cabstand, and the carriages going to the levee. It is an edifying ending."
"The new blood I bring into the family," mused Pen, "is rather tainted. If I had chosen, I think my father-in-law Amory would not have been the progenitor I should have desired for my race; nor my grandfather-in-law Snell; nor our Oriental ancestors. By the way, who was Amory? Amory was lieutenant of an Indiaman. Blanche wrote some verses about him, about the storm, the mountain wave, the seaman's grave, the gallant father, and that sort of thing. Amory was drowned commanding a country ship between Calcutta and Sydney; Amory and the Begum weren't happy together. She has been unlucky in her selection of husbands, the good old lady, for, between ourselves, a more despicable creature than Sir Francis Clavering, of Clavering Park, Baronet, never——" "Never legislated for his country," broke in Warrington; at which Pen blushed rather.
"By the way, at Baden," said Warrington, "I found our friend the Chevalier Strong in great state, and wearing his orders. He told me that he had quarrelled with Clavering, of whom he seemed to have almost as bad an opinion as you have, and in fact, I think, though I will not be certain, confided to me his opinion, that Clavering was an utter scoundrel. That fellow Bloundell, who taught you card-playing at Oxbridge, was with Strong; and time, I think, has brought out his valuable qualities, and rendered him a more accomplished rascal than he was during your undergraduateship. But the king of the place was the famous Colonel Altamont, who was carrying all before him, giving flies to the whole society, and breaking the bank, it was said."
"My uncle knows something about that fellow—Clavering knows something about him. There's something louche regarding him. But come! I must go to Bury Street, like a dutiful nephew." And, taking his hat, Pen prepared to go.
"I will walk, too," said Warrington. And they descended the stairs, stopping, however, at Pen's chambers, which, as the reader has been informed, were now on the lower story.
Here Pen began sprinkling himself with eau-de-Cologne, and carefully scenting his hair and whiskers with that odoriferous water.
"What is the matter? You've not been smoking. Is it my pipe that has poisoned you?" growled Warrington.
"I am going to call upon some women," said Pen. "I'm—I'm going to dine with 'em. They are passing through town, and are at an hotel in Jermyn Street."
Warrington looked with good-natured interest at the young fellow dandifying himself up to a pitch of completeness; and appearing at length in a gorgeous shirt-front and neckcloth, fresh gloves, and glistening boots. George had a pair of thick high-lows, and his old shirt was torn about the breast, and ragged at the collar, where his blue beard had worn it.
"Well, young un," said he, simply, "I like you to be a buck; somehow. When I walk about with you, it is as if I had a rose in my button-hole. And you are still affable. I don't think there is any young fellow in the Temple turns out like you; and I don't believe you were ever ashamed of walking with me yet."
"Don't laugh at me, George." said Pen.
"I say, Pen," continued the other, sadly, "if you write—if you write to Laura, I wish you would say 'God bless her' from me."
Pen blushed; and then looked at Warrington; and then—and then burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughing.
"I'm going to dine with her," he said. "I brought her and Lady Rockminster up from the country to-day—made two days of it—slept last night at Bath—I say, George, come and dine, too. I may ask any one I please, and the old lady is constantly talking about you."
George refused. George had an article to write. George hesitated; and oh, strange to say! at last he agreed to go. It was agreed that they should go and call upon the ladies; and they marched away in high spirits to the hotel in Jermyn Street. Once more the dear face shone upon him; once more the sweet voice spoke to him, and the tender hand pressed a welcome.
There still wanted half an hour to dinner. "You will go and see your uncle now, Mr. Pendennis," old Lady Rockminster said. "You will not bring him to dinner-no—his old stories are intolerable; and I want to talk to Mr. Warrington; I daresay he will amuse us. I think we have heard all your stories. We have been together for two whole days, and I think we are getting tired of each other."
So, obeying her ladyship's orders, Arthur went downstairs and walked to his uncle's lodgings.
CHAPTER LXXI. Fiat Justitia
The dinner was served when Arthur returned, and Lady Rockminster began to scold him for arriving late. But Laura, looking at her cousin, saw that his face was so pale and scared, that she interrupted her imperious patroness; and asked, with tender alarm, what had happened? Was Arthur ill?
Arthur drank a large bumper of sherry. "I have heard the most extraordinary news; I will tell you afterwards," he said, looking at the servants. He was very nervous and agitated during the dinner. "Don't tramp and beat so with your feet under the table," Lady Rockminster said. "You have trodden on Fido, and upset his saucer. You see Mr. Warrington keeps his boots quiet."
At the dessert—it seemed as if the unlucky dinner would never be over—Lady Rockminster said, "This dinner has been exceedingly stupid. I suppose something has happened, and that you want to speak to Laura. I will go and have my nap. I am not sure that I shall have any tea—no. Good night, Mr. Warrington. You must come again, and when there is no business to talk about." And the old lady, tossing up her head, walked away from the room with great dignity.
George and the others had risen with her, and Warrington was about to go away, and was saying "Good night" to Laura, who, of course, was looking much alarmed about her cousin, when Arthur said, "Pray, stay, George. You should hear my news too, and give me your counsel in this case. I hardly know how to act in it."
"It's something about Blanche, Arthur," said Laura, her heart beating, and her cheek blushing as she thought it had never blushed in her life.
"Yes—and the most extraordinary story," said Pen. "When I left you to go to my uncle's lodgings, I found his servant, Morgan, who has been with him so long, at the door, and he said that he and his master had parted that morning; that my uncle had quitted the house, and had gone to an hotel—this hotel. I asked for him when I came in; but he was gone out to dinner. Morgan then said that he had something of a most important nature to communicate to me, and begged me to step into the house; his house it is now. It appears the scoundrel has saved a great deal of money whilst in my uncle's service, and is now a capitalist and a millionaire, for what I know. Well, I went into the house, and what do you think he told me? This must be a secret between us all—at least if we can keep it, now that it is in possession of that villain. Blanche's father is not dead. He has come to life again. The marriage between Clavering and the Begum is no marriage."
"And Blanche, I suppose, is her grandfather's heir," said Warrington.
"Perhaps: but the child of what a father! Amory is an escaped convict—Clavering knows it; my uncle knows it—and it was with this piece of information held over Clavering in terrorem that the wretched old man got him to give up his borough to me."
"Blanche doesn't know it," said Laura, "nor poor Lady Clavering?"
"No," said Pen; "Blanche does not even know the history of her father. She knew that he and her mother had separated, and had heard as a child, from Bonner, her nurse, that Mr. Amory was drowned in New South Wales. He was there as a convict, not as a ship's-captain, as the poor girl thought. Lady Clavering has told me that they were not happy, and that her husband was a bad character. She would tell me all, she said, some day: and I remember her saying to me, with tears in her eyes, that it was hard for a woman to be forced to own that she was glad to hear her husband was dead: and that twice in her life she should have chosen so badly. What is to be done now? The man can't show and claim his wife: death is probably over him if he discovers himself: return to transportation certainly. But the rascal has held the threat of discovery over Clavering for some time past, and has extorted money from him time after time."
"It is our friend Colonel Altamont, of course," said Warrington "I see all now."
"If the rascal comes back," continued Arthur, "Morgan, who knows his secret, will use it over him—and having it in his possession, proposes to extort money from us all. The d——d rascal supposed I was cognisant of it," said Pen, white with anger; "asked me if I would give him an annuity to keep it quiet; threatened me, me, as if I was trafficking with this wretched old Begum's misfortune, and would extort a seat in Parliament out of that miserable Clavering. Good heavens! was my uncle mad, to tamper in such a conspiracy? Fancy our mother's son, Laura, trading on such a treason!"
"I can't fancy it, dear Arthur," said Laura, seizing Arthur's hand, and kissing it.
"No!" broke out Warrington's deep voice, with a tremor; he surveyed the two generous and loving young people with a pang of indescribable love and pain. "No. Our boy can't meddle with such a wretched intrigue as that. Arthur Pendennis can't marry a convict's daughter; and sit in Parliament as member for the hulks. You must wash your hands of the whole affair, Pen. You must break off. You must give no explanations of why and wherefore, but state that family reasons render a match impossible. It is better that those poor women should fancy you false to your word than that they should know the truth. Besides, you can get from that dog Clavering—I can fetch that for you easily enough an acknowledgment that the reasons which you have given to him as the head of the family are amply sufficient for breaking off the union. Don't you think with me, Laura?" He scarcely dared to look her in the face as he spoke. Any lingering hope that he might have—any feeble hold that he might feel upon the last spar of his wrecked fortune, he knew he was casting away; and he let the wave of his calamity close over him. Pen had started up whilst he was speaking, looking eagerly at him. He turned his head away. He saw Laura rise up also and go to Pen, and once more take his hand and kiss it. "She thinks so too—God bless her!" said George.
"Her father's shame is not Blanche's fault, dear Arthur, is it?" Laura said, very pale, and speaking very quickly. "Suppose you had been married, would you desert her because she had done no wrong? Are you not pledged to her? Would you leave her because she is in misfortune? And if she is unhappy, wouldn't you console her? Our mother would, had she been here." And, as she spoke, the kind girl folded her arms round him, and buried her face upon his heart.
"Our mother is an angel with God," Pen sobbed out. "And you are the dearest and best of women—the dearest, the dearest and the best. Teach me my duty. Pray for me that I may do it—pure heart. God bless you—God bless you, my sister!"
"Amen," groaned out Warrington, with his head in his hands. "She is right," he murmured to himself. "She can't do any wrong, I think—that girl." Indeed, she looked and smiled like an angel. Many a day after he saw that smile—saw her radiant face as she looked up at Pen—saw her putting back her curls, blushing and smiling, and still looking fondly towards him.
She leaned for a moment her little fair hand on the table, playing on it. "And now, and now," she said, looking at the two gentlemen—
"And what now?" asked George.
"And now we will have some tea," said Miss Laura, with her smile.
But before this unromantic conclusion to a rather sentimental scene could be suffered to take place, a servant brought word that Major Pendennis had returned to the hotel, and was waiting to see his nephew. Upon this announcement, Laura, not without some alarm, and an appealing look to Pen, which said, "Behave yourself well—hold to the right, and do your duty—be gentle, but firm with your uncle"—Laura, we say, with these warnings written in her face, took leave of the two gentlemen, and retreated to her dormitory. Warrington, who was not generally fond of tea, yet grudged that expected cup very much. Why could not old Pendennis have come in an hour later? Well, an hour sooner or later, what matter? The hour strikes at last. The inevitable moment comes to say Farewell, The hand is shaken, the door closed, and the friend gone; and, the brief joy over, you are alone. "In which of those many windows of the hotel does her light beam?" perhaps he asks himself as he passes down the street. He strides away to the smoking-room of a neighbouring Club, and, there applies himself to his usual solace of a cigar. Men are brawling and talking loud about politics, opera-girls, horse-racing, the atrocious tyranny of the committee:—bearing this sacred secret about him, he enters into this brawl. Talk away, each louder than the other. Rattle and crack jokes. Laugh and tell your wild stories. It is strange to take one's place and part in the midst of the smoke and din, and think every man here has his secret ego most likely, which is sitting lonely and apart, away in the private chamber, from the loud game in which the rest of us is joining!
Arthur, as he traversed the passages of the hotel, felt his anger rousing up within him. He was indignant to think that yonder old gentleman whom he was about to meet, should have made him such a tool and puppet, and so compromised his honour and good name. The old fellow's hand was very cold and shaky when Arthur took it. He was coughing; he was grumbling over the fire; Frosch could not bring his dressing-gown or arrange his papers as that d——d confounded impudent scoundrel of a Morgan. The old gentleman bemoaned himself, and cursed Morgan's ingratitude with peevish pathos.
"The confounded impudent scoundrel! He was drunk last night, and challenged me to fight him, Pen; and, begad, at one time I was so excited that I thought I should have driven a knife into him; and the infernal rascal has made ten thousand pound, I believe—and deserves to be hanged, and will be; but, curse him, I wish he could have lasted out my time. He knew all my ways, and, dammy, when I rang the bell, the confounded thief brought the thing I wanted—not like that stupid German lout. And what sort of time have you had in the country? Been a good deal with Lady Rockminster? You can't do better. She is one of the old school—vieille ecole, bonne ecole, hey? Dammy, they don't make gentlemen and ladies now; and in fifty years you'll hardly know one man from another. But they'll last my time. I ain't long for this business: I am getting very old, Pen, my boy; and, gad, I was thinking to-day, as I was packing up my little library, there's a bible amongst the books that belonged to my poor mother; I would like you to keep that, Pen. I was thinking, sir, that you would most likely open the box when it was your property, and the old fellow was laid under the sod, sir," and the Major coughed and wagged his old head over the fire.
His age—his kindness, disarmed Pen's anger somewhat, and made Arthur feel no little compunction for the deed which he was about to do. He knew that the announcement which he was about to make would destroy the darling hope of the old gentleman's life, and create in his breast a woful anger and commotion.
"Hey—hey—I'm off, sir," nodded the Elder; "but I'd like to read a speech of yours in the Times before I go—'Mr. Pendennis said, Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking'—hey, sir? hey, Arthur? Begad, you look dev'lish well and healthy, sir. I always said my brother Jack would bring the family right. You must go down into the west, and buy the old estate, sir. Nec tenui penna, hey? We'll rise again, sir—rise again on the wing—and, begad, I shouldn't be surprised that you will be a Baronet before you die."
His words smote Pen. "And it is I," he thought, "that am going to fling down the poor old fellow's air-castle. Well, it must be. Here goes.—I—I went into your lodgings at Bury Street, though I did not find you," Pen slowly began—"and I talked with Morgan, uncle."
"Indeed!" The old gentleman's cheek began to flush involuntarily, and he muttered, "The cat's out of the bag now, begad!"
"He told me a story, sir, which gave me the deepest surprise and pain," said Pen.
The Major tried to look unconcerned. "What—that story about—about—What-d'-you-call-'em, hey?"
"About Miss Amory's father—about Lady Clavering's first husband, and who he is, and what."
"Hem—a dev'lish awkward affair!" said the old man, rubbing his nose. "I—I've been aware of that—eh—confounded circumstance for some time."
"I wish I had known it sooner, or not at all," said Arthur, gloomily.
"He is all safe," thought the Senior, greatly relieved. "Gad! I should have liked to keep it from you altogether—and from those two poor women, who are as innocent as unborn babes in the transaction."
"You are right. There is no reason why the two women should hear it; and I shall never tell them—though that villain, Morgan, perhaps may," Arthur said, gloomily. "He seems disposed to trade upon his secret, and has already proposed terms of ransom to me. I wish I had known of the matter earlier, sir. It is not a very pleasant thought to me that I am engaged to a convict's daughter."
"The very reason why I kept it from you—my dear boy. But Miss Amory is not a convict's daughter, don't you see? Miss Amory is the daughter of Lady Clavering, with fifty or sixty thousand pounds for a fortune; and her father-in-law, a Baronet and country gentleman, of high reputation, approves of the match, and gives up his seat in Parliament to his son-in-law. What can be more simple?"
"Is it true, sir?"
"Begad, yes, it is true, of course it's true. Amory's dead. I tell you he is dead. The first sign of life he shows, he is dead. He can't appear. We have him at a deadlock, like the fellow in the play—the 'Critic,' hey?—dev'lish amusing play, that 'Critic.' Monstrous witty man, Sheridan; and so was his son. By Gad, sir, when I was at the Cape, I remember——"
The old gentleman's garrulity, and wish to conduct Arthur to the Cape, perhaps arose from a desire to avoid the subject which was nearest his nephew's heart; but Arthur broke out, interrupting him—"If you had told me this tale sooner, I believe you would have spared me and yourself a great deal of pain and disappointment; and I should not have found myself tied to an engagement from which I can't, in honour, recede."
"No, begad, we've fixed you—and a man who's fixed to a seat in Parliament, and a pretty girl, with a couple of thousand a year, is fixed to no bad thing, let me tell you," said the old man.
"Great Heavens, sir!" said Arthur, "are you blind? Can't you see?"
"See what, young gentleman?" asked the other.
"See, that rather than trade upon this secret of Amory's," Arthur cried out, "I would go and join my father-in-law at the hulks! See, that rather than take a seat in Parliament as a bribe from Clavering for silence, I would take the spoons off the table! See, that you have given me a felon's daughter for a wife; doomed me to poverty and shame; cursed my career when it might have been—when it might have been so different but for you! Don't you see that we have been playing a guilty game, and have been overreached;—that in offering to marry this poor girl, for the sake of her money, and the advancement she would bring, I was degrading myself, and prostituting my honour?"
"What in Heaven's name do you mean, sir?" cried the old man.
"I mean to say that there is a measure of baseness which I can't pass," Arthur said. "I have no other words for it, and am sorry if they hurt you. I have felt, for months past, that my conduct in this affair has been wicked, sordid, and worldly. I am rightly punished by the event, and having sold myself for money and a seat in Parliament, by losing both."
"How do you mean that you lose either?" shrieked the old gentleman. "Who the devil's to take your fortune or your seat away from you? By G—, Clavering shall give 'em to you. You shall have every shilling of eighty thousand pounds."
"I'll keep my promise to Miss Amory, sir," said Arthur.
"And, begad, her parents shall keep theirs to you."
"Not so, please God," Arthur answered. "I have sinned, but, Heaven help me, I will sin no more. I will let Clavering off from that bargain which was made without my knowledge. I will take no money with Blanche but that which was originally settled upon her; and I will try to make her happy. You have done it. You have brought this on me, sir. But you knew no better: and I forgive——"
"Arthur—in God's name—in your father's, who, by Heavens, was the proudest man alive, and had the honour of the family always at heart—in mine—for the sake of a poor broken-down old fellow, who has always been dev'lish fond of you—don't fling this chance away—I pray you, I beg you, I implore you, my dear, dear boy, don't fling this chance away. It's the making of you. You're sure to get on. You'll be a Baronet; it's three thousand a year: dammy, on my knees, there, I beg of you, don't do this."
And the old man actually sank down on his knees, and, seizing one of Arthur's hands, looked up piteously at him. It was cruel to remark the shaking hands, the wrinkled and quivering face, the old eyes weeping and winking, the broken voice. "Ah, sir," said Arthur, with a groan, "you have brought pain enough on me, spare me this. You have wished me to marry Blanche. I marry her. For God's sake, sir, rise! I can't bear it."
"You—you mean to say that you will take her as a beggar, and be one yourself?" said the old gentleman, rising up and coughing violently.
"I look at her as a person to whom a great calamity has befallen, and to whom I am promised. She cannot help the misfortune; and as she had my word when she was prosperous, I shall not withdraw it now she is poor. I will not take Clavering's seat, unless afterwards it should be given of his free will. I will not have a shilling more than her original fortune."
"Have the kindness to ring the bell," said the old gentleman. "I have done my best, and said my say; and I'm a dev'lish old fellow. And—and—it don't matter. And—and Shakspeare was right—and Cardinal Wolsey—begad—'and had I but served my God as I've served you'—yes, on my knees, by Jove, to my own nephew—I mightn't have been—Good night, sir, you needn't trouble yourself to call again."
Arthur took his hand, which the old man left to him; it was quite passive and clammy. He looked very much oldened; and it seemed as if the contest and defeat had quite broken him.
On the next day he kept his bed, and refused to see his nephew.
CHAPTER LXXII. In which the Decks begin to clear
When, arrayed in his dressing-gown, Pen walked up, according to custom, to Warrington's chambers next morning, to inform his friend of the issue of the last night's interview with his uncle, and to ask, as usual, for George's advice and opinion, Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, was the only person whom Arthur found in the dear old chambers. George had taken a carpet-bag, and was gone. His address was to his brother's house, in Suffolk. Packages addressed to the newspaper and review for which he wrote lay on the table, awaiting delivery.
"I found him at the table, when I came, the dear gentleman!" Mrs. Flanagan said, "writing at his papers, and one of the candles was burned out; and hard as his bed is, he wasn't in it all night, sir."
Indeed, having sat at the Club until the brawl there became intolerable to him, George had walked home, and had passed the night finishing some work on which he was employed, and to the completion of which he bent himself with all his might. The labour was done, and the night was worn away somehow, and the tardy November dawn came and looked in on the young man as he sate over his desk. In the next day's paper, or quarter's review, many of us very likely admired the work of his genius, the variety of his illustration, the fierce vigour of his satire, the depth of his reason. There was no hint in his writing of the other thoughts which occupied him, and always accompanied him in his work—a tone more melancholy than was customary, a satire more bitter and impatient than that which he afterwards showed, may have marked the writings of this period of his life to the very few persons who knew his style or his name. We have said before, could we know the man's feelings as well as the author's thoughts—how interesting most books would be!—more interesting than merry. I suppose harlequin's face behind his mask is always grave, if not melancholy—certainly each man who lives by the pen, and happens to read this, must remember, if he will, his own experiences, and recall many solemn hours of solitude and labour. What a constant care sate at the side of the desk and accompanied him! Fever or sickness were lying possibly in the next room: a sick child might be there, with a wife watching over it terrified and in prayer: or grief might be bearing him down, and the cruel mist before the eyes rendering the paper scarce visible as he wrote on it, and the inexorable necessity drove on the pen. What man among us has not had nights and hours like these? But to the manly heart—severe as these pangs are, they are endurable: long as the night seems, the dawn comes at last, and the wounds heal, and the fever abates, and rest comes, and you can afford to look back on the past misery with feelings that are anything but bitter.
Two or three books for reference, fragments of torn-up manuscript, drawers open, pens and inkstand, lines half visible on the blotting-paper, a bit of sealing-wax twisted and bitten and broken into sundry pieces—such relics as these were about the table, and Pen flung himself down in George's empty chair—noting things according to his wont, or in spite of himself. There was a gap in the bookcase (next to the old College Plato, with the Boniface Arms), where Helen's bible used to be. He has taken that with him, thought Pen. He knew why his friend was gone. Dear, dear old George!
Pen rubbed his hand over his eyes. Oh, how much wiser, how much better, how much nobler he is than I! he thought. Where was such a friend, or such a brave heart? Where shall I ever hear such a frank voice, and kind laughter? Where shall I ever see such a true gentleman? No wonder she loved him. God bless him! What was I compared to him? What could she do else but love him? To the end of our days we will be her brothers, as fate wills that we can be no more. We'll be her knights, and wait on her: and when we're old, we'll say how we loved her. Dear, dear old George!
When Pen descended to his own chambers, his eye fell on the letter-box of his outer door, which he had previously overlooked, and there was a little note to A. P., Esq., in George's well-known handwriting, George had put into Pen's box probably as he was going away.
"Dear Pen,—I shall be half-way home when you breakfast, and intend to stay over Christmas, in Norfolk, or elsewhere.
"I have my own opinion of the issue of matters about which we talked in J——— St. yesterday; and think my presence de trop.
"Vale. G. W."
"Give my very best regards and adieux to your cousin."
And so George was gone, and Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, ruled over his empty chambers.
Pen of course had to go and see his uncle on the day after their colloquy, and not being admitted, he naturally went to Lady Rockminster's apartments, where the old lady instantly asked for Bluebeard, and insisted that he should come to dinner.
"Bluebeard is gone," Pen said, and he took out poor George's scrap of paper, and handed it to Laura, who looked at it—did not look at Pen in return, but passed the paper back to him, and walked away. Pen rushed into an eloquent eulogium upon his dear old George to Lady Rockminster, who was astonished at his enthusiasm. She had never heard him so warm in praise of anybody; and told him with her usual frankness, that she didn't think it had been in his nature to care so much about any other person.
As Mr. Pendennis was passing in Waterloo Place, in one of his many walks to the hotel where Laura lived, and whither duty to his uncle carried Arthur every day, Arthur saw issuing from Messrs. Gimcrack's celebrated shop an old friend, who was followed to his brougham by an obsequious shopman bearing parcels. The gentleman was in the deepest mourning: the brougham, the driver, and the horse were in mourning. Grief in easy circumstances and supported by the comfortablest springs and cushions, was typified in the equipage and the little gentleman, its proprietor.
"What, Foker! Hail, Foker!" cried out Pen—the reader, no doubt, has likewise recognised Arthur's old schoolfellow—and he held out his hand to the heir of the late lamented John Henry Foker, Esq., the master of Logwood and other houses, the principal partner in the great brewery of Foker and Co.: the greater portion of Foker's Entire.
A little hand, covered with a glove of the deepest ebony, and set off by three inches of a snowy wristband, was put forth to meet Arthur's salutation. The other little hand held a little morocco case, containing, no doubt, something precious, of which Mr. Foker had just become proprietor in Messrs. Gimcrack's shop. Pen's keen eyes and satiric turn showed him at once upon what errand Mr. Foker had been employed; and he thought of the heir in Horace pouring forth the gathered wine of his father's vats; and that human nature is pretty much the same in Regent Street as in the Via Sacra.
"Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!" said Arthur.
"Ah!" said the other. "Yes. Thank you—very much obliged. How do you do, Pen?—very busy—good-bye!" and he jumped into the black brougham, and sate like a little black Care behind the black coachman. He had blushed on seeing Pen, and shown other signs of guilt and perturbation, which Pen attributed to the novelty of his situation; and on which he began to speculate in his usual sardonic manner.
"Yes: so wags the world," thought Pen. "The stone closes over Harry the Fourth, and Harry the Fifth reigns in his stead. The old ministers at the brewery come and kneel before him with their books; the draymen, his subjects, fling up their red caps, and shout for him. What a grave deference and sympathy the bankers and the lawyers show! There was too great a stake at issue between those two that they should ever love each other very cordially. As long as one man keeps another out of twenty thousand a year, the younger must be always hankering after the crown, and the wish must be the father to the thought of possession. Thank Heaven, there was no thought of money between me and our dear mother, Laura."
"There never could have been. You would have spurned it!" cried Laura. "Why make yourself more selfish than you are, Pen; and allow your mind to own for an instant that it would have entertained such—such dreadful meanness? You make me blush for you, Arthur: you make me——" her eyes finished this sentence, and she passed her handkerchief across them.
"There are some truths which women will never acknowledge," Pen said, "and from which your modesty always turns away. I do not say that I ever knew the feeling, only that I am glad I had not the temptation. Is there any harm in that confession of weakness?"
"We are all taught to ask to be delivered from evil, Arthur," said Laura, in a low voice. "I am glad if you were spared from that great crime; and only sorry to think that you could by any possibility have been led into it. But you never could; and you don't think you could. Your acts are generous and kind: you disdain mean actions. You take Blanche without money, and without a bribe. Yes, thanks be to Heaven, dear brother. You could not have sold yourself away; I knew you could not when it came to the day, and you did not. Praise be—be where praise is due. Why does this horrid scepticism pursue you, my Arthur? Why doubt and sneer at your own heart—at every one's? Oh, if you knew the pain you give me—how I lie awake and think of those hard sentences, dear brother, and wish them unspoken, unthought!"
"Do I cause you many thoughts and many tears, Laura?" asked Arthur. The fulness of innocent love beamed from her in reply. A smile heavenly pure, a glance of unutterable tenderness, sympathy, pity, shone in her face—all which indications of love and purity Arthur beheld and worshipped in her, as you would watch them in a child, as one fancies one might regard them in an angel.
"I—I don't know what I have done," he said, simply, "to have merited such regard from two such women. It is like undeserved praise, Laura—or too much good fortune, which frightens one—or a great post, when a man feels that he is not fit for it. Ah, sister, how weak and wicked we are; how spotless, and full of love and truth, Heaven made you! I think for some of you there has been no fall," he said, looking at the charming girl with an almost paternal glance of admiration. "You can't help having sweet thoughts, and doing good actions. Dear creature! they are the flowers which you bear."
"And what else, sir?" asked Laura. "I see a sneer coming over your face. What is it? Why does it come to drive all the good thoughts away?"
"A sneer, is there? I was thinking, my dear, that nature in making you so good and loving did very well: but——"
"But what? What is that wicked but? and why are you always calling it up?"
"But will come in spite of us. But is reflection. But is the sceptic's familiar, with whom he has made a compact; and if he forgets it, and indulges in happy day-dreams, or building of air-castles, or listens to sweet music let us say, or to the bells ringing to church, But taps at the door, and says, Master, I am here. You are my master; but I am yours. Go where you will you can't travel without me. I will whisper to you when you are on your knees at church. I will be at your marriage pillow. I will sit down at your table with your children. I will be behind your deathbed curtain. That is what But is," Pen said.
"Pen, you frighten me," cried Laura.
"Do you know what But came and said to me just now, when I was looking at you? But said, If that girl had reason as well as love, she would love you no more. If she knew you as you are—the sullied, selfish being which you know—she must part from you, and could give you no love and no sympathy. Didn't I say," he added fondly, "that some of you seem exempt from the fall? Love you know; but the knowledge of evil is kept from you."
"What is this you young folks are talking about?" asked Lady Rockminster, who at this moment made her appearance in the room, having performed, in the mystic retirement of her own apartments, and under the hands of her attendant, those elaborate toilet-rites without which the worthy old lady never presented herself to public view. "Mr. Pendennis, you are always coming here."
"It is very pleasant to be here," Arthur said; "and we were talking, when you came in, about my friend Foker, whom I met just now; and who, as your ladyship knows, has succeeded to his father's kingdom."
"He has a very fine property, he has fifteen thousand a year. He is my cousin. He is a very worthy young man. He must come and see me," said Lady Rockminster, with a look at Laura.
"He has been engaged for many years past to his cousin, Lady——"
"Lady Ann is a foolish little chit," Lady Rockminster said, with much dignity; "and I have no patience with her. She has outraged every feeling of society. She has broken her father's heart, and thrown away fifteen thousand a year."
"Thrown away? What has happened?" asked Pen.
"It will be the talk of the town in a day or two; and there is no need why I should keep the secret any longer," said Lady Rockminster, who had written and received a dozen letters on the subject. "I had a letter yesterday from my daughter, who was staying at Drummington until all the world was obliged to go away on account of the frightful catastrophe which happened there. When Mr. Foker came home from Nice, and after the funeral, Lady Ann went down on her knees to her father, said that she never could marry her cousin, that she had contracted another attachment, and that she must die rather than fulfil her contract. Poor Lord Rosherville, who is dreadfully embarrassed, showed his daughter what the state of his affairs was, and that it was necessary that the arrangements should take place; and in fine, we all supposed that she had listened to reason, and intended to comply with the desires of her family. But what has happened?—last Thursday she went out after breakfast with her maid, and was married in the very church in Drummington Park to Mr. Hobson, her father's own chaplain and her brother's tutor; a red-haired widower with two children. Poor dear Rosherville is in a dreadful way: he wishes Henry Foker should marry Alice or Barbara; but Alice is marked with the small-pox, and Barbara is ten years older than he is. And, of course, now the young man is his own master, he will think of choosing for himself. The blow on Lady Agnes is very cruel. She is inconsolable. She has the house in Grosvenor Street for her life, and her settlement, which was very handsome. Have you not met her? Yes, she dined one day at Lady Clavering's—the first day I saw you, and a very disagreeable young man I thought you were. But I have formed you. We have formed him, haven't we, Laura? Where is Bluebeard? let him come. That horrid Grindley, the dentist, will keep me in town another week."
To the latter part of her ladyship's speech Arthur gave no ear. He was thinking for whom could Foker be purchasing those trinkets which he was carrying away from the jeweller's? Why did Harry seem anxious to avoid him? Could he be still faithful to the attachment which had agitated him so much, and sent him abroad eighteen months back? Psha! The bracelets and presents were for some of Harry's old friends of the Opera or the French theatre. Rumours from Naples and Paris, rumours such as are borne to Club smoking-rooms, had announced that the young man had found distractions; or, precluded from his virtuous attachment, the poor fellow had flung himself back upon his old companions and amusements—not the only man or woman whom society forces into evil, or debars from good; not the only victim of the world's selfish and wicked laws.
As a good thing when it is to be done cannot be done too quickly, Laura was anxious that Pen's marriage intentions should be put into execution as speedily as possible, and pressed on his arrangements with rather a feverish anxiety. Why could she not wait? Pen could afford to do so with perfect equanimity, but Laura would hear of no delay. She wrote to Pen: she implored Pen: she used every means to urge expedition. It seemed as if she could have no rest until Arthur's happiness was complete.
She offered herself to dearest Blanche to come and stay at Tunbridge with her, when Lady Rockminster should go on her intended visit to the reigning house of Rockminster; and although the old dowager scolded, and ordered, and commanded, Laura was deaf and disobedient: she must go to Tunbridge, she would go to Tunbridge: she who ordinarily had no will of her own, and complied smilingly with anybody's whim and caprices, showed the most selfish and obstinate determination in this instance. The dowager lady must nurse herself in her rheumatism, she must read herself to sleep, if she would not hear her maid, whose voice croaked, and who made sad work of the sentimental passages in the novels—Laura must go,—and be with her new sister. In another week, she proposed, with many loves and regards to dear Lady Clavering, to pass some time with dearest Blanche.
Dearest Blanche wrote instantly in reply to dearest Laura's No. 1, to say with what extreme delight she should welcome her sister: how charming it would be to practise their old duets together, to wander o'er the grassy sward, and amidst the yellowing woods of Penshurst and Southborough! Blanche counted the hours till she should embrace her dearest friend.
Laura, No. 2, expressed her delight at dearest Blanche's affectionate reply. She hoped that their friendship would never diminish; that the confidence between them would grow in after years; that they should have no secrets from each other; that the aim of the life of each would be to make one person happy.
Blanche, No. 2, followed in two days. "How provoking! Their house was very small, the two spare bedrooms were occupied by that horrid Mrs. Planter and her daughter, who had thought proper to fall ill (she always fell ill in country-houses), and she could not or would not be moved for some days."
Laura, No. 3. "It was indeed very provoking. L. had hoped to hear one of dearest B.'s dear songs on Friday; but she was the more consoled to wait, because Lady R. was not very well, and liked to be nursed by her. Poor Major Pendennis was very unwell, too, in the same hotel—too unwell even to see Arthur, who was constant in his calls on his uncle. Arthur's heart was full of tenderness and affection. She had known Arthur all her life. She would answer"—yes, even in italics she would answer—"for his kindness, his goodness, and his gentleness."
Blanche, No. 3. "What is this most surprising, most extraordinary letter from A. P.? What does dearest Laura know about it? What has happened? What, what mystery is enveloped under his frightful reserve?"
Blanche, No. 3, requires an explanation; and it cannot be better given than in the surprising and mysterious letter of Arthur Pendennis.
CHAPTER LXXIII. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Huxter
"Dear Blanche," Arthur wrote, "you are always reading and dreaming pretty dramas, and exciting romances in real life: are you now prepared to enact a part of one? And not the pleasantest part, dear Blanche, that in which the heroine takes possession of her father's palace and wealth, and introducing her husband to the loyal retainers and faithful vassals, greets her happy bridegroom with 'All of this is mine and thine,'—but the other character, that of the luckless lady, who suddenly discovers that she is not the Prince's wife, but Claude Melnotte's the beggar's: that of Alnaschar's wife, who comes in just as her husband has kicked over the tray of porcelain which was to be the making of his fortune—But stay; Alnaschar, who kicked down the china, was not a married man; he had cast his eye on the Vizier's daughter, and his hopes of her went to the ground with the shattered bowls and tea-cups.
"Will you be the Vizier's daughter, and refuse and laugh to scorn Alnaschar, or will you be the Lady of Lyons, and love the penniless Claude Melnotte? I will act that part if you like. I will love you my best in return. I will do my all to make your humble life happy: for humble it will be: at least the odds are against any other conclusion; we shall live and die in a poor prosy humdrum way. There will be no stars and epaulettes for the hero of our story. I shall write one or two more stories, which will presently be forgotten. I shall be called to the Bar, and try to get on in my profession: perhaps some day, if I am very lucky, and work very hard (which is absurd), I may get a colonial appointment, and you may be an Indian Judge's lady. Meanwhile. I shall buy back the Pall Mall Gazette; the publishers are tired of it since the death of poor Shandon, and will sell it for a small sum. Warrington will be my right hand, and write it up to a respectable sale. I will introduce you to Mr. Finucane the sub-editor, and I know who in the end will be Mrs. Finucane,—a very nice gentle creature, who has lived sweetly through a sad life and we will jog on, I say, and look out for better times, and earn our living decently. You shall have the opera-boxes, and superintend the fashionable intelligence, and break your little heart in the poet's corner. Shall we live over the offices?—there are four very good rooms, a kitchen, and a garret for Laura, in Catherine Street in the Strand; or would you like a house in the Waterloo Road?—it would be very pleasant, only there is that halfpenny toll at the Bridge. The boys may go to King's College, mayn't they? Does all this read to you like a joke?
"Ah, dear Blanche, it is no joke, and I am sober and telling the truth. Our fine day-dreams are gone. Our carriage has whirled out of sight like Cinderella's: our house in Belgravia has been whisked away into the air by a malevolent Genius, and I am no more a member of Parliament than I am a Bishop on his bench in the House of Lords, or a Duke with a garter at his knee. You know pretty well what my property is, and your own little fortune: we may have enough with those two to live in decent comfort; to take a cab sometimes when we go out to see our friends, and not to deny ourselves an omnibus when we are tired. But that is all: is that enough for you, my little dainty lady? I doubt sometimes whether you can bear the life which I offer you—at least, it is fair that you should know what it will be. If you say, 'Yes, Arthur, I will follow your fate whatever it may be, and be a loyal and loving wife to aid and cheer you'—come to me, dear Blanche, and may God help me so that I may do my duty to you. If not, and you look to a higher station, I must not bar Blanche's fortune—I will stand in the crowd, and see your ladyship go to Court when you are presented, and you shall give me a smile from your chariot window. I saw Lady Mirabel going to the drawing-room last season: the happy husband at her side glittered with stars and cordons. All the flowers in the garden bloomed in the coachman's bosom. Will you have these and the chariot, or walk on foot and mend your husband's stockings?
"I cannot tell you now—afterwards I might, should the day come when we may have no secrets from one another—what has happened within the last few hours which has changed all my prospects in life: but so it is, that I have learned something which forces me to give up the plans which I had formed, and many vain and ambitious hopes in which I had been indulging. I have written and despatched a letter to Sir Francis Clavering, saying that I cannot accept his seat in Parliament until after my marriage; in like manner I cannot and will not accept any larger fortune with you than that which has always belonged to you since your grandfather's death, and the birth of your half-brother. Your good mother is not in the least aware—I hope she never may be—of the reasons which force me to this very strange decision. They arise from a painful circumstance, which is attributable to none of our faults; but, having once befallen, they are as fatal and irreparable as that shock which overset honest Alnaschar's porcelain, and shattered all his hopes beyond the power of mending. I write gaily enough, for there is no use in bewailing such a hopeless mischance. We have not drawn the great prize in the lottery, dear Blanche: but I shall be contented enough without it, if you can be so; and I repeat, with all my heart, that I will do my best to make you happy.
"And now, what news shall I give you? My uncle is very unwell, and takes my refusal of the seat in Parliament in sad dudgeon: the scheme was his, poor old gentleman, and he naturally bemoans its failure. But Warrington, Laura, and I had a council of war: they know this awful secret, and back me in my decision. You must love George as you love what is generous and upright and noble; and as for Laura—she must be our Sister, Blanche, our Saint, our good Angel. With two such friends at home, what need we care for the world without; or who is member for Clavering, or who is asked or not asked to the great balls of the season?"
To this frank communication came back the letter from Blanche to Laura, and one to Pen himself, which perhaps his own letter justified. "You are spoiled by the world," Blanche wrote; "you do not love your poor Blanche as she would be loved, or you would not offer thus lightly to take her or to leave her, no, Arthur, you love me not—a man of the world, you have given me your plighted troth, and are ready to redeem it; but that entire affection, that love whole and abiding, where—where is that vision of my youth? I am but a pastime of your life, and I would be its all;—but a fleeting thought, and I would be your whole soul. I would have our two hearts one; but ah, my Arthur, how lonely yours is! how little you give me of it! You speak of our parting with a smile on your lip; of our meeting, and you care not to hasten it! Is life but a disillusion, then, and are the flowers of our garden faded away? I have wept—I have prayed—I have passed sleepless hours—I have shed bitter, bitter tears over your letter! To you I bring the gushing poesy of my being—the yearnings of the soul that longs to be loved—that pines for love, love, love, beyond all!—that flings itself at your feet, and cries, Love me, Arthur! Your heart beats no quicker at the kneeling appeal of my love!—your proud eye is dimmed by no tear of sympathy!—you accept my soul's treasure as though 'twere dross! not the pearls from the unfathomable deeps of affection! not the diamonds from the caverns of the heart. You treat me like a slave, and bid me bow to my master! Is this the guerdon of a free maiden—is this the price of a life's passion? Ah me! when was it otherwise? when did love meet with aught but disappointment? Could I hope (fond fool!) to be the exception to the lot of my race; and lay my fevered brow on a heart that comprehended my own? Foolish girl that I was! One by one, all the flowers of my young life have faded away; and this, the last, the sweetest, the dearest, the fondly, the madly loved, the wildly cherished—where is it? But no more of this. Heed not my bleeding heart.—Bless you, bless you always, Arthur!
"I will write more when I am more collected. My racking brain renders thought almost impossible. I long to see Laura! She will come to us directly we return from the country, will she not? And you, cold one!
The words of this letter were perfectly clear, and written in Blanche's neatest hand upon her scented paper; and yet the meaning of the composition not a little puzzled Pen. Did Blanche mean to accept or to refuse his polite offer? Her phrases either meant that Pen did not love her, and she declined him, or that she took him, and sacrificed herself to him, cold as he was. He laughed sardonically over the letter, and over the transaction which occasioned it. He laughed to think how Fortune had jilted him, and how he deserved his slippery fortune. He turned over and over the musky gilt-edged riddle. It amused his humour: he enjoyed it as if it had been a funny story.
He was thus seated, twiddling the queer manuscript in his hand, joking grimly to himself, when his servant came in with a card from a gentleman, who wished to speak to him very particularly. And if Pen had gone out into the passage, he would have seen, sucking his stick, rolling his eyes, and showing great marks of anxiety, his old acquaintance, Mr. Samuel Huxter.
"Mr. Huxter on particular business! Pray, beg Mr. Huxter to come in," said Pen, amused rather; and not the less so when poor Sam appeared before him.
"Pray take a chair, Mr. Huxter," said Pen, in his most superb manner. "In what way can I be of service to you?"
"I had rather not speak before the flunk—before the man, Mr. Pendennis:" on which Mr. Arthur's attendant quitted the room.
"I'm in a fix," said Mr. Huxter, gloomily.
"She sent me to you," continued the young surgeon.
"What, Fanny? Is she well? I was coming to see her, but I have had a great deal of business since my return to London."
"I heard of you through my governor and Jack Hobnell," broke in Huxter. "I wish you joy, Mr. Pendennis, both of the borough and the lady, sir. Fanny wishes you joy, too," he added, with something of a blush.
"There's many a slip between the cup and the lip! Who knows what may happen, Mr. Huxter, or who will sit in Parliament for Clavering next session?"
"You can do anything with my governor," continued Mr. Huxter. "You got him Clavering Park. The old boy was very much pleased, sir, at your calling him in. Hobnell wrote me so. Do you think you could speak to the governor for me, Mr. Pendennis?"
"And tell him what?"
"I've gone and done it, sir," said Huxter, with a particular look.
"You—you don't mean to say you have—you have done any wrong to that dear little creature, sir?" said Pen, starting up in a great fury.
"I hope not," said Huxter, with a hangdog look: "but I've married her. And I know there will be an awful shindy at home. It was agreed that I should be taken into partnership when I had passed the College, and it was to have been Huxter and Son. But I would have it, confound it. It's all over now, and the old boy's wrote me that he's coming up to town for drugs: he will be here to-morrow, and then it must all come out."
"And when did this event happen?" asked Pen, not over well pleased, most likely, that a person who had once attracted some portion of his royal good graces should have transferred her allegiance, and consoled herself for his loss.
"Last Thursday was five weeks—it was two days after Miss Amory came to Shepherd's Inn," Huxter answered.
Pen remembered that Blanche had written and mentioned her visit. "I was called in," Huxter said. "I was in the Inn looking after old Cos's leg; and about something else too, very likely: and I met Strong, who told me there was a woman taken ill in Chambers, and went up to give her my professional services. It was the old lady who attends Miss Amory—her housekeeper, or some such thing. She was taken with strong hysterics: I found her kicking and screaming like a good one—in Strong's chamber, along with him and Colonel Altamont, and Miss Amory crying and as pale as a sheet; and Altamont fuming about—a regular kick-up. They were two hours in the Chambers; and the old woman went whooping off in a cab. She was much worse than the young one. I called in Grosvenor Place next day to see if I could be of any service, but they were gone without so much as thanking me: and the day after I had business of my own to attend to—a bad business too," said Mr. Huxter, gloomily. "But it's done, and can't be undone; and we must make the best of it"
She has known the story for a month, thought Pen, with a sharp pang of grief, and a gloomy sympathy—this accounts for her letter of to-day. She will not implicate her father, or divulge his secret; she wishes to let me off from the marriage—and finds a pretext—the generous girl!
"Do you know who Altamont is, sir?" asked Huxter, after the pause during which Pen had been thinking of his own affairs. "Fanny and I have talked him over, and we can't help fancying that it's Mrs. Lightfoot's first husband come to life again, and she who has just married a second. Perhaps Lightfoot won't be very sorry for it," sighed Huxter, looking savagely at Arthur, for the demon of jealousy was still in possession of his soul; and now, and more than ever since his marriage, the poor fellow fancied that Fanny's heart belonged to his rival.
"Let us talk about your affairs," said Pen. "Show me how I can be of any service to you, Huxter. Let me congratulate you on your marriage. I am thankful that Fanny, who is so good, so fascinating, so kind a creature, has found an honest man, and a gentleman who will make her happy. Show me what I can do to help you."
"She thinks you can, sir," said Huxter, accepting Pen's proffered hand, "and I'm very much obliged to you, I'm sure; and that you might talk over my father, and break the business to him, and my mother, who always has her back up about being a clergyman's daughter. Fanny ain't of a good family, I know, and not up to us in breeding and that—but she's a Huxter now."
"The wife takes the husband's rank, of course," said Pen.
"And with a little practice in society," continued Huxter, imbibing his stick, "she'll be as good as any girl in Clavering. You should hear her sing and play on the piano. Did you ever? Old Bows taught her. And she'll do on the stage, if the governor was to throw me over; but I'd rather not have her there. She can't help being a coquette, Mr. Pendennis, she can't help it. Dammy, sir! I'll be bound to say, that two or three of the Bartholomew chaps, that I've brought into my place, are sitting with her now: even Jack Linton, that I took down as my best man, is as bad as the rest, and she will go on singing and making eyes at him. It's what Bows says, if there were twenty men in a room, and one not taking notice of her, she wouldn't be satisfied until the twentieth was at her elbow."
"You should have her mother with her," said Pen, laughing.
"She must keep the lodge. She can't see so much of her family as she used. I can't, you know, sir, go on with that lot. Consider my rank in life," said Huxter, putting a very dirty hand up to his chin.
"Au fait," said Mr. Pen, who was infinitely amused, and concerning whom mutato nomine (and of course concerning nobody else in the world) the fable might have been narrated.
As the two gentlemen were in the midst of this colloquy, another knock came to Pen's door, and his servant presently announced Mr. Bows. The old man followed slowly, his pale face blushing, and his hand trembling somewhat as he took Pen's. He coughed, and wiped his face in his checked cotton pocket-handkerchief, and sate down with his hands on his knees, the sunshining on his bald head. Pen looked at the homely figure with no small sympathy and kindness. This man, too, has had his griefs and his wounds, Arthur thought. This man, too, has brought his genius and his heart, and laid them at a woman's feet; where she spurned them. The chance of life has gone against him, and the prize is with that creature yonder. Fanny's bridegroom, thus mutely apostrophised, had winked meanwhile with one eye at old Bows, and was driving holes in the floor with the cane which he loved.
"So we have lost, Mr. Bows, and here is the lucky winner," Pen said, looking hard at the old man.
"Here is the lucky winner, sir, as you say."
"I suppose you have come from my place?" asked Huxter, who, having winked at Bows with one eye, now favoured Pen with a wink of the other—a wink which seemed to say, "Infatuated old boy—you understand—over head and ears in love with her poor old fool."
"Yes, I have been there ever since you went away. It was Mrs. Sam who sent me after you: who said that she thought you might be doing something stupid—something like yourself, Huxter."
"There's as big fools as I am," growled the young surgeon.
"A few, p'raps," said the old man; "not many, let us trust. Yes, she sent me after you for fear you should offend Mr. Pendennis; and I daresay because she thought you wouldn't give her message to him, and beg him to go and see her; and she knew I would take her errand. Did he tell you that, sir?"
Huxter blushed scarlet, and covered his confusion with an imprecation. Pen laughed; the scene suited his bitter humour more and more.
"I have no doubt Mr. Huxter was going to tell me," Arthur said, "and very much flattered I am sure I shall be to pay my respects to his wife."
"It's in Charterhouse Lane, over the baker's, on the right hand side as you go from St. John's Street," continued Bows, without any pity. "You know Smithfield, Mr. Pendennis? St. John's Street leads into Smithfield. Doctor Johnson has been down the street many a time with ragged shoes, and a bundle of penny-a-lining for the Gent's Magazine. You literary gents are better off now—eh? You ride in your cabs, and wear yellow kid gloves now."
"I have known so many brave and good men fail, and so many quacks and impostors succeed, that you mistake me if you think I am puffed up by my own personal good luck, old friend," Arthur said, sadly. "Do you think the prizes of life are carried by the most deserving? and set up that mean test of prosperity for merit? You must feel that you are as good as I. I have never questioned it. It is you that are peevish against the freaks of fortune, and grudge the good luck that befalls others. It's not the first time you have unjustly accused me, Bows."
"Perhaps you are not far wrong, sir," said the old fellow, wiping his bald forehead. "I am thinking about myself and grumbling; most men do when they get on that subject. Here's the fellow that's got the prize in the lottery; here's the fortunate youth."
"I don't know what you are driving at," Huxter said, who had been much puzzled as the above remarks passed between his two companions.
"Perhaps not," said Bows, drily. "Mrs. H. sent me here to look after you, and to see that you brought that little message to Mr. Pendennis, which you didn't, you see, and so she was right. Women always are; they have always a reason for everything. Why, sir," he said, turning round to Pen with a sneer, "she had a reason even for giving me that message. I was sitting with her after you left us, very quiet and comfortable; I was talking away, and she was mending your shirts, when your two young friends, Jack Linton and Bob Blades, looked in from Bartholomew's; and then it was she found out that she had this message to send. You needn't hurry yourself, she don't want you back again; they'll stay these two hours, I daresay."
Huxter arose with great perturbation at this news, and plunged his stick into the pocket of his paletot, and seized his hat.
"You'll come and see us, sir, won't you?" he said to Pen. "You'll talk over the governor, won't you, sir, if I can get out of this place and down to Clavering?"
"You will promise to attend me gratis if ever I fall ill at Fairoaks, will you, Huxter?" Pen said, good-naturedly. "I will do anything I can for you. I will come and see Mrs. Huxter immediately, and we will conspire together about what is to be done."
"I thought that would send him out, sir," Bows said, dropping into his chair again as soon as the young surgeon had quitted the room. "And it's all true, sir—every word of it. She wants you back again, and sends her husband after you. She cajoles everybody, the little devil. She tries it on you, on me, on poor Costigan, on the young chaps from Bartholomew's. She's got a little court of 'em already. And if there's nobody there, she practises on the old German baker in the shop, or coaxes the black sweeper at the crossing."
"Is she fond of that fellow?" asked Pen.
"There is no accounting for likes and dislikes," Bows answered.
"Yes, she is fond of him; and having taken the thing into her head, she would not rest until she married him. They had their banns published at St. Clement's, and nobody heard it or knew any just cause or impediment. And one day she slips out of the porter's lodge and has the business done, and goes off to Gravesend with Lothario; and leaves a note for me to go and explain all things to her Ma. Bless you! the old woman knew it as well as I did, though she pretended ignorance. And so she goes, and I'm alone again. I miss her, sir, tripping along that court, and coming for her singing lesson; and I've no heart to look into the porter's lodge now, which looks very empty without her, the little flirting thing. And I go and sit and dangle about her lodgings, like an old fool. She makes 'em very trim and nice, though; gets up all Huxter's shirts and clothes: cooks his little dinner, and sings at her business like a little lark. What's the use of being angry? I lent 'em three pound to go on with: for they haven't got a shilling till the reconciliation, and Pa comes down."
When Bows had taken his leave, Pen carried his letter from Blanche, and the news which he had just received, to his usual adviser, Laura. It was wonderful upon how many points Mr. Arthur, who generally followed his own opinion, now wanted another person's counsel. He could hardly so much as choose a waistcoat without referring to Miss Bell: if he wanted to buy a horse he must have Miss Bell's opinion; all which marks of deference tended greatly to the amusement of the shrewd old lady with whom Miss Bell lived, and whose plans regarding her protegee we have indicated.
Arthur produced Blanche's letter then to Laura, and asked her to interpret it. Laura was very much agitated and puzzled by the contents of the note.
"It seems to me," she said, "as if Blanche is acting very artfully."
"And wishes so to place matters that she may take me or leave me? Is it not so?"
"It is, I am afraid, a kind of duplicity which does not augur well for your future happiness; and is a bad reply to your own candour and honesty, Arthur. Do you know, I think, I think—I scarcely like to say what I think," said Laura with a deep blush; but of course the blushing young lady yielded to her cousin's persuasion, and expressed what her thoughts were. "It looks to me, Arthur, as if there might be—there might be somebody else," said, Laura, with a repetition of the blush.
"And if there is," broke in Arthur, "and if I am free once again, will the best and dearest of all women——"
"You are not free, dear brother," Laura said calmly. "You belong to another; of whom I own it grieves me to think ill. But I can't do otherwise. It is very odd that in this letter she does not urge you to tell her the reason why you have broken arrangements which would have been so advantageous to you; and avoids speaking on the subject. She somehow seems to write as if she knows her father's secret."
Pen said, "Yes, she must know it;" and told the story, which he had just heard from Huxter, of the interview at Shepherd's Inn.
"It was not so that she described the meeting," said Laura; and, going to her desk, produced from it that letter of Blanche's which mentioned her visit to Shepherd's Inn. 'Another disappointment—only the Chevalier Strong and a friend of his in the room.' This was all that Blanche had said. "But she was bound to keep her father's secret, Pen," Laura added. "And yet, and yet—it is very puzzling."
The puzzle was this, that for three weeks after this eventful discovery Blanche had been only too eager about her dearest Arthur; was urging, as strongly as so much modesty could urge, the completion of the happy arrangements which were to make her Arthur's for ever; and now it seemed as if something had interfered to mar these happy arrangements—as if Arthur poor was not quite so agreeable to Blanche as Arthur rich and a member of Parliament—as if there was some mystery. At last she said:
"Tunbridge Wells is not very far off, is it, Arthur? Hadn't you better go and see her?"
They had been in town a week, and neither had thought of that simple plan before!
CHAPTER LXXIV. Shows how Arthur had better have taken a Return-ticket
The train carried Arthur only too quickly to Tunbridge, though he had time to review all the circumstances of his life as he made the brief journey; and to acknowledge to what sad conclusions his selfishness and waywardness had led him. "Here is the end of hopes and aspirations," thought he, "of romance and ambitions! Where I yield or where I am obstinate, I am alike unfortunate; my mother implores me, and I refuse an angel! Say I had taken her; forced on me as she was, Laura would never have been an angel to me. I could not have given her my heart at another's instigation; I never could have known her as she is had I been obliged to ask another to interpret her qualities and point out her virtues. I yield to my uncle's solicitations, and accept on his guarantee Blanche, and a seat in Parliament, and wealth, and ambition, and a career; and see!—fortune comes and leaves me the wife without the dowry, which I had taken in compensation of a heart. Why was I not more honest, or am I not less so? It would have cost my poor old uncle no pangs to accept Blanche's fortune whencesoever it came; he can't even understand, he is bitterly indignant, heart-stricken, almost, at the scruples which actuate me in refusing it. I dissatisfy everybody. A maimed, weak, imperfect wretch, it seems as if I am unequal to any fortune. I neither make myself nor any one connected with me happy. What prospect is there for this poor little frivolous girl, who is to take my obscure name and share my fortune? I have not even ambition to excite me, or self-esteem enough to console myself, much more her, for my failure. If I were to write a book that should go through twenty editions, why, I should be the very first to sneer at my reputation. Say I could succeed at the Bar, and achieve a fortune by bullying witnesses and twisting evidence; is that a fame which would satisfy my longings, or a calling in which my life would be well spent? How I wish I could be that priest opposite, who never has lifted his eyes from his breviary, except when we were in Reigate tunnel, when he could not see; or that old gentleman next him, who scowls at him with eyes of hatred over his newspaper. The priest shuts his eyes to the world, but has his thoughts on the book, which is his directory to the world to come. His neighbour hates him as a monster, tyrant, persecutor, and fancies burning martyrs, and that pale countenance looking on, and lighted up by the flame. These have no doubts; these march on trustfully, bearing their load of logic."
"Would you like to look at the paper, sir?" here interposed the stout gentleman (it had a flaming article against the order of the black-coated gentleman who was travelling with them in the carriage), and Pen thanked him and took it, and pursued his reverie, without reading two sentences of the journal.
"And yet, would you take either of those men's creeds, with its consequences?" he thought. "Ah me! you must bear your own burthen, fashion your own faith, think your own thoughts, and pray your own prayer. To what mortal ear could I tell all, if I had a mind? or who could understand all? Who can tell another's shortcomings, lost opportunities, weigh the passions which overpower, the defects which incapacitate reason?—what extent of truth and right his neighbour's mind is organised to perceive and to do?—what invisible and forgotten accident, terror of youth, chance or mischance of fortune, may have altered the whole current of life? A grain of sand may alter it, as the flinging of a pebble may end it. Who can weigh circumstances, passions, temptations, that go to our good and evil account, save One, before whose awful wisdom we kneel, and at whose mercy we ask absolution? Here it ends," thought Pen; "this day or to-morrow will wind up the account of my youth; a weary retrospect, alas! a sad history, with many a page I would fain not look back on! But who has not been tired or fallen, and who has escaped without scars from that struggle?" And his head fell on his breast, and the young man's heart prostrated itself humbly and sadly before that Throne where sits wisdom, and love, and pity for all, and made its confession. "What matters about fame or poverty!" he thought. "If I marry this woman I have chosen, may I have strength and will to be true to her, and to make her happy. If I have children, pray God teach me to speak and to do the truth among them, and to leave them an honest name. There are no splendours for my marriage. Does my life deserve any? I begin a new phase of it; a better than the last may it be, I pray Heaven!"
The train stopped at Tunbridge as Pen was making these reflections; and he handed over the newspaper to his neighbour, of whom he took leave, while the foreign clergyman in the opposite corner still sate with his eyes on his book. Pen jumped out of the carriage then, his carpet-bag in hand, and briskly determined to face his fortune.
A fly carried him rapidly to Lady Clavering's house from the station; and, as he was transported thither, Arthur composed a little speech, which he intended to address to Blanche, and which was really as virtuous, honest, and well-minded an oration as any man of his turn of mind, and under his circumstances, could have uttered. The purport of it was—"Blanche, I cannot understand from your last letter what your meaning is, or whether my fair and frank proposal to you is acceptable or no. I think you know the reason which induces me to forgo the worldly advantages which a union with you offered, and which I could not accept without, as I fancy, being dishonoured. If you doubt of my affection, here I am ready to prove it. Let Smirke be called in, and let us be married out of hand; and with all my heart I purpose to keep my vow, and to cherish you through life, and to be a true and a loving husband to you."
From the fly Arthur sprang out then to the hall-door, where he was met by a domestic whom he did not know. The man seemed to be surprised at the approach of the gentleman with the carpet-bag, which he made no attempt to take from Arthur's hands. "Her Ladyship's not at home, sir," the man remarked.
"I am Mr. Pendennis," Arthur said. "Where is Lightfoot?"
"Lightfoot is gone," answered the man. "My Lady is out, and my orders was——"
"I hear Miss Amory's voice in the drawing-room," said Arthur. "Take the bag to a dressing-room, if you please;" and, passing by the porter, he walked straight towards that apartment, from which, as the door opened, a warble of melodious notes issued.
Our little Siren was at her piano singing with all her might and fascinations. Master Clavering was asleep on the sofa, indifferent to the music; but near Blanche sat a gentleman who was perfectly enraptured with her strain, which was of a passionate and melancholy nature.
As the door opened, the gentleman started up with Hullo! the music stopped, with a little shriek from the singer; Frank Clavering woke up from the sofa, and Arthur came forward and said, "What, Foker! how do you do, Foker?" He looked at the piano, and there, by Miss Amory's side, was just such another purple-leather box as he had seen in Harry's hand three days before, when the heir of Logwood was coming out of a jeweller's shop in Waterloo Place. It was opened, and curled round the white satin cushion within was, oh, such a magnificent serpentine bracelet, with such a blazing ruby head and diamond tail!
"How de-do, Pendennis?" said Foker. Blanche made many motions of the shoulders, and gave signs of unrest and agitation. And she put her handkerchief over the bracelet, and then she advanced, with a hand which trembled very much, to greet Pen.
"How is dearest Laura?" she said. The face of Foker looking up from his profound mourning—that face, so piteous and puzzled, was one which the reader's imagination must depict for himself; also that of Master Frank Clavering, who, looking at the three interesting individuals with an expression of the utmost knowingness, had only time to ejaculate the words, "Here's a jolly go!" and to disappear sniggering.
Pen, too, had restrained himself up to that minute; but looking still at Foker, whose ears and cheeks tingled with blushes, Arthur burst out into a fit of laughter, so wild and loud, that it frightened Blanche much more than any the most serious exhibition.
"And this was the secret, was it? Don't blush and turn away, Foker, my boy. Why, man, you are a pattern of fidelity. Could I stand between Blanche and such constancy—could I stand between Miss Amory and fifteen thousand a year?"
"It is not that, Mr. Pendennis," Blanche said, with great dignity. "It is not money, it is not rank, it is not gold that moves me; but it is constancy, it is fidelity, it is a whole trustful loving heart offered to me, that I treasure—yes, that I treasure!" And she made for her handkerchief, but, reflecting what was underneath it, she paused. "I do not disown, I do not disguise—my life is above disguise—to him on whom it is bestowed, my heart must be for ever bare—that I once thought I loved you,—yes, thought I was beloved by you, I own! How I clung to that faith! How I strove, I prayed, I longed to believe it! But your conduct always—your own words so cold, so heartless, so unkind, have undeceived me. You trifled with the heart of the poor maiden! You flung me back with scorn the troth which I had plighted! I have explained all—all to Mr. Foker."
"That you have," said Foker, with devotion, and conviction in his looks.
"What, all?" said Pen, with a meaning look at Blanche. "It is I am in fault, is it? Well, well, Blanche, be it so. I won't appeal against your sentence, and bear it in silence. I came down here looking to very different things, Heaven knows, and with a heart most truly and kindly disposed towards you. I hope you may be happy with another, as, on my word, it was my wish to make you so; and I hope my honest old friend here will have a wife worthy of his loyalty, his constancy, and affection. Indeed they deserve the regard of any woman—even Miss Blanche Amory. Shake hands, Harry; don't look askance at me. Has anybody told you that I was a false and heartless character?"
"I think you're a——" Foker was beginning, in his wrath, when Blanche interposed.
"Henry, not a word!—I pray you let there be forgiveness!"
"You're an angel, by Jove, you're an angel!" said Foker, at which Blanche looked seraphically up to the chandelier.
"In spite of what has passed, for the sake of what has passed, I must always regard Arthur as a brother," the seraph continued; "we have known each other years, we have trodden the same fields, and plucked the same flowers together. Arthur! Henry! I beseech you to take hands and to be friends! Forgive you!—I forgive you, Arthur, with my heart I do. Should I not do so for making me so happy?"
"There is only one person of us three whom I pity, Blanche," Arthur said, gravely, "and I say to you again, that I hope you will make this good fellow, this honest and loyal creature, happy."
"Happy! O Heavens!" said Harry. He could not speak. His happiness gushed out at his eyes. "She don't know—she can't know how fond I am of her, and—and who am I? a poor little beggar, and she takes me up and says she'll try and I—I—love me. I ain't worthy of so much happiness. Give us your hand, old boy, since she forgives you after your heartless conduct, and says she loves you. I'll make you welcome. I tell you I'll love everybody who loves her. By—-, if she tells me to kiss the ground I'll kiss it. Tell me to kiss the ground! I say, tell me. I love you so. You see I love you so."
Blanche looked up seraphically again. Her gentle bosom heaved. She held out one hand as if to bless Harry, and then royally permitted him to kiss it. She took up the pocket-handkerchief and hid her own eyes, as the other fair hand was abandoned to poor Harry's tearful embrace.
"I swear that is a villain who deceives such a loving creature as that," said Pen.
Blanche laid down the handkerchief, and put hand No. 2 softly on Foker's head, which was bent down kissing and weeping over hand No. 1. "Foolish boy?" she said, "it shall be loved as it deserves: who could help loving such a silly creature!"
And at this moment Frank Clavering broke in upon the sentimental trio.
"I say, Pendennis!" he said.
"The man wants to be paid, and go back. He's had some beer."
"I'll go back with him," cried Pen. "Good-bye, Blanche. God bless you, Foker, old friend. You know, neither of you want me here." He longed to be off that instant.
"Stay—I must say one word to you. One word in private, if you please," Blanche said. "You can trust us together, can't you, Henry?" The tone in which the word Henry was spoken, and the appeal, ravished Foker with delight. "Trust you!" said he. "Oh, who wouldn't trust you! Come along, Franky, my boy."
"Let's have a cigar," said Frank, as they went into the hall.
"She don't like it," said Foker, gently.
"Law bless you—she don't mind. Pendennis used to smoke regular," said the candid youth.
"It was but a short word I had to say," said Blanche to Pen, with great calm, when they were alone. "You never loved me, Mr. Pendennis."
"I told you how much," said Arthur. "I never deceived you."
"I suppose you will go back and marry Laura," continued Blanche.
"Was that what you had to say?" said Pen.
"You are going to her this very night, I am sure of it. There is no denying it. You never cared for me."
"Et moi, c'est different. I have been spoilt early. I cannot live out of the world, out of excitement. I could have done so, but it is too late. If I cannot have emotions, I must have the world. You would offer me neither one nor the other. You are blase in everything, even in ambition. You had a career before you, and you would not take it. You give it up!—for what?—for a betise, for an absurd scruple. Why would you not have that seat, and be such a puritain? Why should you refuse what is mine by right, by right, entendez-vous?"
"You know all, then?" said Pen.
"Only within a month. But I have suspected ever since Baymouth—n'importe since when. It is not too late. He is as if he had never been; and there is a position in the world before you yet. Why not sit in Parliament, exert your talent, and give a place in the world to yourself, to your wife? I take celui-la. Il est bon. Il est riche. Il est—vous le connaissez autant que moi enfin. Think you that I would not prefer un homme qui fera parler de moi? If the secret appears I am rich a millions. How does it affect me? It is not my fault. It will never appear."
"You will tell Harry everything, won't you?"
"Je comprends. Vous refusez," said Blanche, savagely. "I will tell Harry at my own time, when we are married. You will not betray me, will you? You, having a defenceless girl's secret, will not turn upon her and use it? S'il me plait de le cacher, mon secret; pourquoi le donnerai je? Je l'aime, mon pauvre pere, voyez-vous? I would rather live with that man than with you fades intriguers of the world. I must have emotions—it m'en donne. Il m'ecrit. Il ecrit tres-bien, voyez-vous—comme un pirate—comme un Bohemien—comme un homme. But for this I would have said to my mother—Ma mere! quittons ce lache mari, cette lache societe—retournons a mon pere."
"The pirate would have wearied you like the rest," said Pen.
"Eh! Il me faut des emotions," said Blanche. Pen had never seen her or known so much about her in all the years of their intimacy as he saw and knew now: though he saw more than existed in reality. For this young lady was not able to carry out any emotion to the full; but had a sham enthusiasm, a sham hatred, a sham love, a sham taste, a sham grief, each of which flared and shone very vehemently for an instant, but subsided and gave place to the next sham emotion.
CHAPTER LXXV. A Chapter of Match-making
Upon the platform at Tunbridge, Pen fumed and fretted until the arrival of the evening train to London, a full half-hour,—six hours it seemed to him; but even this immense interval was passed, the train arrived, the train sped on, the London lights came in view—a gentleman who forgot his carpet-bag in the train rushed at a cab, and said to the man, "Drive as hard as you can go to Jermyn Street." The cabman, although a hansom-cabman, said Thank you for the gratuity which was put into his hand, and Pen ran up the stairs of the hotel to Lady Rockminster's apartments. Laura was alone in the drawing-room, reading, with a pale face, by the lamp. The pale face looked up when Pen opened the door. May we follow him? The great moments of life are but moments like the others. Your doom is spoken in a word or two. A single look from the eyes; a mere pressure of the hand may decide it; or of the lips, though they cannot speak.