Somehow she had the very same smile with which she had laughed at him on the night previous, and the recollection of his disaster again offended Pen. But Laura, though she saw him coming down the walk looking so gloomy and full of care, accorded to him a smile of the most perfect and provoking good-humour, and went to meet him, holding one of the gauntlets to him, so that he might shake it if he liked—and Mr. Pen condescended to do so. His face, however, did not lose its tragic expression in consequence of this favour, and he continued to regard her with a dismal and solemn air.
"Excuse my glove," said Laura, with a laugh, pressing Pen's hand kindly with it. "We are not angry again, are we, Pen?"
"Why do you laugh at me?" said Pen. "You did the other night, and made a fool of me to the people at Baymouth."
"My dear Arthur, I meant you no wrong," the girl answered. "You and Miss Roundle looked so droll as you—as you met with your little accident, that I could not make a tragedy of it. Dear Pen, it wasn't a serious fall. And, besides, it was Miss Roundle who was the most unfortunate."
"Confound Miss Roundle," bellowed out Pen.
"I'm sure she looked so," said Laura, archly. "You were up in an instant; but that poor lady sitting on the ground in her red crape dress, and looking about her with that piteous face—can I ever forget her?"—and Laura began to make a face in imitation of Miss Roundle's under the disaster, but she checked herself repentantly, saying, "Well, we must not laugh at her, but I am sure we ought to laugh at you, Pen, if you were angry about such a trifle."
"You should not laugh at me, Laura," said Pen, with some bitterness; "not you, of all people."
"And why not? Are you such a great man?" asked Laura.
"Ah no, Laura, I'm such a poor one," Pen answered. "Haven't you baited me enough already?"
"My dear Pen, and how?" cried Laura. "Indeed, indeed, I didn't think to vex you by such a trifle. I thought such a clever man as you could bear a harmless little joke from his sister," she said, holding her hand out again. "Dear Arthur, if I have hurt you, I beg your pardon."
"It is your kindness that humiliates me more even than your laughter, Laura," Pen said. "You are always my superior."
"What! superior to the great Arthur Pendennis? How can it be possible?" said Miss Laura, who may have had a little wickedness as well as a great deal of kindness in her composition. "You can't mean that any woman is your equal?"
"Those who confer benefits should not sneer," said Pen. "I don't like my benefactor to laugh at me, Laura; it makes the obligation very hard to bear. You scorn me because I have taken your money, and I am worthy to be scorned; but the blow is hard coming from you."
"Money! Obligation! For shame, Pen; this is ungenerous," Laura said, flushing red. "May not our mother claim everything that belongs to us? Don't I owe her all my happiness in this world, Arthur? What matters about a few paltry guineas, if we can set her tender heart at rest, and ease her mind regarding you? I would dig in the fields, I would go out and be a servant—I would die for her. You know I would," said Miss Laura, kindling up; "and you call this paltry money an obligation? Oh, Pen, it's cruel—it's unworthy of you to take it so! If my brother may not share with me my superfluity, who may?—Mine?—I tell you it was not mine; it was all mamma's to do with as she chose, and so is everything I have," said Laura; "my life is hers." And the enthusiastic girl looked towards the windows of the widow's room, and blessed in her heart the kind creature within.
Helen was looking, unseen, out of that window towards which Laura's eyes and heart were turned as she spoke, and was watching her two children with the deepest interest and emotion, longing and hoping that the prayer of her life might be fulfilled; and if Laura had spoken as Helen hoped, who knows what temptations Arthur Pendennis might have been spared, or what different trials he would have had to undergo? He might have remained at Fairoaks all his days, and died a country gentleman. But would he have escaped then? Temptation is an obsequious servant that has no objection to the country, and we know that it takes up its lodging in hermitages as well as in cities; and that in the most remote and inaccessible desert it keeps company with the fugitive solitary.
"Is your life my mother's?" said Pen, beginning to tremble, and speak in a very agitated manner. "You know, Laura, what the great object of hers is?" And he took her hand once more.
"What, Arthur?" she said, dropping it, and looking at him, at the window again, and then dropping her eyes to the ground, so that they avoided Pen's gaze. She, too, trembled, for she felt that the crisis for which she had been secretly preparing was come.
"Our mother has one wish above all others in the world, Laura," Pen said; "and I think you know it. I own to you that she has spoken to me of it; and if you will fulfil it, dear sister, I am ready. I am but very young as yet; but I have had so many pains and disappointments, that I am old and weary. I think I have hardly got a heart to offer. Before I have almost begun the race in life, I am a tired man. My career has been a failure; I have been protected by those whom I by right should have protected. I own that your nobleness and generosity, dear Laura, shame me, whilst they render me grateful. When I heard from our mother what you had done for me; that it was you who armed me and bade me go out for one struggle more; I longed to go and throw myself at your feet, and say, 'Laura, will you come and share the contest with me?' Your sympathy will cheer me while it lasts. I shall have one of the tenderest and most generous creatures under heaven to aid and bear me company. Will you take me, dear Laura, and make our mother happy?"
"Do you think mamma would be happy if you were otherwise, Arthur?" Laura said in a low sad voice.
"And why should I not be," asked Pen eagerly, "with so dear a creature as you by my side? I have not my first love to give you. I am a broken man. But indeed I would love you fondly and truly. I have lost many an illusion and ambition, but I am not without hope still. Talents I know I have, wretchedly as I have misapplied them: they may serve me yet: they would, had I a motive for action. Let me go away and think that I am pledged to return to you. Let me go and work, and hope, that you will share my success if I gain it. You have given me so much, Laura dear, will you take from me nothing?"
"What have you got to give, Arthur?" Laura said, with a grave sadness of tone, which made Pen start, and see that his words had committed him. Indeed, his declaration had not been such as he would have made it two days earlier, when, full of hope and gratitude, he had run over to Laura, his liberatress, to thank her for his recovered freedom. Had he been permitted to speak then, he had spoken, and she, perhaps, had listened differently. It would have been a grateful heart asking for hers; not a weary one offered to her, to take or to leave. Laura was offended with the terms in which Pen offered himself to her. He had, in fact, said that he had no love, and yet would take no denial. "I give myself to you to please my mother," he had said: "take me, as she wishes that I should make this sacrifice." The girl's spirit would brook a husband under no such conditions: she was not minded to run forward because Pen chose to hold out the handkerchief, and her tone, in reply to Arthur, showed her determination to be independent.
"No, Arthur," she said, "our marriage would not make mamma happy, as she fancies; for it would not content you very long. I, too, have known what her wishes were; for she is too open to conceal anything she has at heart: and once, perhaps, I thought—but that is over now—that I could have made you—that it might have been as she wished."
"You have seen somebody else," said Pen, angry at her tone, and recalling the incidents of the past days.
"That allusion might have been spared," Laura replied, flinging up her head. "A heart which has worn out love at three-and-twenty, as yours has, you say, should have survived jealousy too. I do not condescend to say whether I have seen or encouraged any other person. I shall neither admit the charge, nor deny it: and beg you also to allude to it no more."
"I ask your pardon, Laura, if I have offended you: but if I am jealous, does it not prove that I have a heart?"
"Not for me, Arthur. Perhaps you think you love me now but it is only for an instant, and because you are foiled. Were there no obstacle, you would feel no ardour to overcome it. No, Arthur, you don't love me. You would weary of me in three months, as—as you do of most things; and mamma, seeing you tired of me, would be more unhappy than at my refusal to be yours. Let us be brother and sister, Arthur, as heretofore—but no more. You will get over this little disappointment."
"I will try," said Arthur, in a great indignation.
"Have you not tried before?" Laura said, with some anger, for she had been angry with Arthur for a very long time, and was now determined, I suppose, to speak her mind. "And the next time, Arthur, when you offer yourself to a woman, do not say as you have done to me, 'I have no heart—I do not love you; but I am ready to marry you because my mother wishes for the match.' We require more than this in return for our love—that is, I think so. I have had no experience hitherto, and have not had the—the practice which you supposed me to have, when you spoke but now of my having seen somebody else. Did you tell your first love that you had no heart, Arthur? or your second that you did not love her, but that she might have you if she liked?"
"What—what do you mean?" asked Arthur, blushing, and still in great wrath.
"I mean Blanche Amory, Arthur Pendennis," Laura said, proudly. "It is but two months since you were sighing at her feet—making poems to her—placing them in hollow trees by the river-side. I knew all. I watched you—that is, she showed them to me. Neither one nor the other were in earnest perhaps; but it is too soon now, Arthur, to begin a new attachment. Go through the time of your—your widowhood at least, and do not think of marrying until you are out of mourning"—(Here the girl's eyes filled with tears, and she passed her hand across them.) "I am angry and hurt, and I have no right to be so, and I ask your pardon in my turn now, dear Arthur. You had a right to love Blanche. She was a thousand times prettier and more accomplished than—than any girl near us here; and you not could know that she had no heart; and so you were right to leave her too. I ought not to rebuke you about Blanche Amory, and because she deceived you. Pardon me, Pen,"—and she held the kind hand out to Pen once more.
"We were both jealous," said Pen. "Dear Laura, let us both forgive"—and he seized her band and would have drawn her towards him. He thought that she was relenting, and already assumed the airs of a victor.
But she shrank back, and her tears passed away; and she fixed on him a look so melancholy and severe, that the young man in his turn shrank before it. "Do not mistake me, Arthur," she said, "it cannot be. You do not know what you ask, and do not be too angry with me for saying that I think you do not deserve it. What do you offer in exchange to a woman for her love, honour, and obedience? If ever I say these words, dear Pen, I hope to say them in earnest, and by the blessing of God to keep my vow. But you—what tie binds you? You do not care about many things which we poor women hold sacred, I do not like to think or ask how far your incredulity leads you. You offer to marry to please our mother, and own that you have no heart to give away. Oh, Arthur, what is it you offer me? What a rash compact would you enter into so lightly? A month ago, and you would have given yourself to another. I pray you do not trifle with your own or others' hearts so recklessly. Go and work; go and mend, dear Arthur, for I see your faults, and dare speak of them now: go and get fame, as you say that you can, and I will pray for my brother, and watch our dearest mother at home."
"Is that your final decision, Laura?" Arthur cried.
"Yes," said Laura, bowing her head; and once more giving him her hand, she went away. He saw her pass under the creepers of the little porch, and disappear into the house. The curtains of his mother's window fell at the same minute, but he did not mark that, or suspect that Helen had been witnessing the scene.
Was he pleased, or was he angry at its termination? He had asked her, and a secret triumph filled his heart to think that he was still free. She had refused him, but did she not love him? That avowal of jealousy made him still think that her heart was his own, whatever her lips might utter.
And now we ought, perhaps, to describe another scene which took place at Fairoaks, between the widow and Laura, when the latter had to tell Helen that she had refused Arthur Pendennis. Perhaps it was the hardest task of all which Laura had to go through in this matter: and the one which gave her the most pain. But as we do not like to see a good woman unjust, we shall not say a word more of the quarrel which now befell between Helen and her adopted daughter, or of the bitter tears which the poor girl was made to shed. It was the only difference which she and the widow had ever had as yet, and the more cruel from this cause. Pen left home whilst it was as yet pending—and Helen, who could pardon almost everything, could not pardon an act of justice in Laura.
CHAPTER XXIX. Babylon
Our reader must now please to quit the woods and sea-shore of the west, and the gossip of Clavering, and the humdrum life of poor little Fairoaks, and transport himself with Arthur Pendennis, on the 'Alacrity' coach, to London, whither he goes once for all to face the world and to make his fortune. As the coach whirls through the night away from the friendly gates of home, many a plan does the young man cast in his mind of future life and conduct, prudence, and peradventure success and fame. He knows he is a better man than many who have hitherto been ahead of him in the race: his first failure has caused him remorse, and brought with it reflection; it has not taken away his courage, or, let us add, his good opinion of himself. A hundred eager fancies and busy hopes keep him awake. How much older his mishaps and a year's thought and self-communion have made him, than when, twelve months since, he passed on this road on his way to and from Oxbridge! His thoughts turn in the night with inexpressible fondness and tenderness towards the fond mother who blessed him when parting, and who, in spite of all his past faults and follies, trusts him and loves him still. Blessings be on her! he prays, as he looks up to the stars overhead. O Heaven! give him strength to work, to endure, to be honest, to avoid temptation, to be worthy of the loving soul who loves him so entirely! Very likely she is awake, too, at that moment, and sending up to the same Father purer prayers than his for the welfare of her boy. That woman's love is a talisman by which he holds and hopes to get his safety. And Laura's—he would have fain carried her affection with him too, but she has denied it, as he is not worthy of it. He owns as much with shame and remorse; confesses how much better and loftier her nature is than his own—confesses it, and yet is glad to be free. "I am not good enough for such a creature," he owns to himself. He draws back before her spotless beauty and innocence, as from something that scares him. He feels he is not fit for such a mate as that; as many a wild prodigal who has been pious and guiltless in early days, keeps away from a church which he used to frequent once—shunning it, but not hostile to it—only feeling that he has no right in that pure place.
With these thoughts to occupy him, Pen did not fall asleep until the nipping dawn of an October morning, and woke considerably refreshed when the coach stopped at the old breakfasting place at B——, where he had had a score of merry meals on his way to and from school and college many times since he was a boy. As they left that place, the sun broke out brightly, the pace was rapid, the horn blew, the milestones flew by, Pen smoked and joked with guard and fellow-passengers and people along the familiar road; it grew more busy and animated at every instant; the last team of greys came out at H——, and the coach drove into London. What young fellow has not felt a thrill as he entered the vast place? Hundreds of other carriages, crowded with their thousands of men, were hastening to the great city. "Here is my place," thought Pen; "here is my battle beginning, in which I must fight and conquer, or fall. I have been a boy and a dawdler as yet. Oh, I long, I long to show that I can be a man." And from his place on the coach-roof the eager young fellow looked down upon the city, with the sort of longing desire which young soldiers feel on the eve of a campaign.
As they came along the road, Pen had formed acquaintance with a cheery fellow-passenger in a shabby cloak, who talked a great deal about men of letters with whom he was very familiar, and who was, in fact, the reporter of a London newspaper, as whose representative he had been to attend a great wrestling-match in the west. This gentleman knew intimately, as it appeared, all the leading men of letters of his day, and talked about Tom Campbell, and Tom Hood, and Sydney Smith, and this and the other, as if he had been their most intimate friend. As they passed by Brompton, this gentleman pointed out to Pen Mr. Hurtle, the reviewer, walking with his umbrella. Pen craned over the coach to have a long look at the great Hurtle. He was a Boniface man, said Pen. And Mr. Doolan, of the Star newspaper (for such was the gentleman's name and address upon the card which he handed to Pen), said "Faith he was, and he knew him very well." Pen thought it was quite an honour to have seen the great Mr. Hurtle, whose works he admired. He believed fondly, as yet, in authors, reviewers, and editors of newspapers. Even Wagg, whose books did not appear to him to be masterpieces of human intellect, he yet secretly revered as a successful writer. He mentioned that he had met Wagg in the country, and Doolan told him how that famous novelist received three hundther pounds a volume for every one of his novels. Pen began to calculate instantly whether he might not make five thousand a year.
The very first acquaintance of his own whom Arthur met, as the coach pulled up at the Gloster Coffee-house, was his old friend Harry Foker, who came prancing down Arlington Street behind an enormous cab-horse. He had white kid gloves and white reins, and nature had by this time decorated him with a considerable tuft on the chin. A very small cab-boy, vice Stoopid retired, swung on behind Foker's vehicle; knock-kneed and in the tightest leather breeches. Foker looked at the dusty coach, and the smoking horses of the 'Alacrity' by which he had made journeys in former times. "What, Foker!" cried out Pendennis—"Hullo! Pen, my boy!" said the other, and he waved his whip by way of amity and salute to Arthur, who was very glad to see his queer friend's kind old face. Mr. Doolan had a great respect for Pen who had an acquaintance in such a grand cab; and Pen was greatly excited and pleased to be at liberty and in London. He asked Doolan to come and dine with him at the Covent Garden Coffee-house, where he put up: he called a cab and rattled away thither in the highest spirits. He was glad to see the bustling waiter and polite bowing landlord again; and asked for the landlady, and missed the old Boots and would have liked to shake hands with everybody. He had a hundred pounds in his pocket. He dressed himself in his very best; dined in the coffee-room with a modest pint of sherry (for he was determined to be very economical), and went to the theatre adjoining.
The lights and the music, the crowd and the gaiety, charmed and exhilarated Pen, as those sights will do young fellows from college and the country, to whom they are tolerably new. He laughed at the jokes; he applauded the songs, to the delight of some of the dreary old habitues of the boxes, who had ceased long ago to find the least excitement in their place of nightly resort, and were pleased to see any one so fresh, and so much amused. At the end of the first piece, he went and strutted about the lobbies of the theatre, as if he was in a resort of the highest fashion. What tired frequenter of the London pave is there that cannot remember having had similar early delusions, and would not call them back again? Here was young Foker again, like an ardent votary of pleasure as he was. He was walking with Grandy Tiptoff, of the Household Brigade, Lord Tiptoff's brother, and Lord Colchicum, Captain Tiptoff's uncle, a venerable peer, who had been a man of pleasure since the first French Revolution. Foker rushed upon Pen with eagerness, and insisted that the latter should come into his private box, where a lady with the longest ringlets and the fairest shoulders, was seated. This was Miss Blenkinsop, the eminent actress of high comedy; and in the back of the box snoozing in a wig, sate old Blenkinsop, her papa. He was described in the theatrical prints as the "veteran Blenkinsop"—"the useful Blenkinsop"—"that old favourite of the public, Blenkinsop"—those parts in the drama, which are called the heavy fathers, were usually assigned to this veteran, who, indeed, acted the heavy father in public, as in private life.
At this time, it being about eleven o'clock, Mrs. Pendennis was gone to bed at Fairoaks, and wondering whether her dearest Arthur was at rest after his journey. At this time Laura, too, was awake. And at this time yesterday night, as the coach rolled over silent commons, where cottage windows twinkled, and by darkling woods under calm starlit skies, Pen was vowing to reform and to resist temptation, and his heart was at home. Meanwhile the farce was going on very successfully, and Mrs. Leary, in a hussar jacket and braided pantaloons, was enchanting the audience with her archness, her lovely figure, and her delightful ballads.
Pen, being new to the town, would have liked to listen to Mrs. Leary; but the other people in the box did not care about her song or her pantaloons, and kept up an incessant chattering. Tiptoff knew where her maillots came from. Colchicum saw her when she came out in '14. Miss Blenkinsop said she sang out of all tune, to the pain and astonishment of Pen, who thought that she was as beautiful as an angel, and that she sang like a nightingale; and when Hoppus came on as Sir Harcourt Featherby, the young man of the piece, the gentlemen in the box declared that Hoppus was getting too stale, and Tiptoff was for flinging Miss Blenkinsop's bouquet to him.
"Not for the world," cried the daughter of the veteran Blenkinsop; "Lord Colchicum gave it to me."
Pen remembered that nobleman's name, and with a bow and a blush said he believed he had to thank Lord Colchicum for having proposed him at the Megatherium Club, at the request of his uncle, Major Pendennis.
"What, you're Wigsby's nephew, are you?" said the peer. "I beg your pardon, we always call him Wigsby." Pen blushed to hear his venerable uncle called by such a familiar name. "We balloted you in last week, didn't we? Yes, last Wednesday night. Your uncle wasn't there."
Here was delightful news for Pen! He professed himself very much obliged indeed to Lord Colchicum, and made him a handsome speech of thanks, to which the other listened with his double opera-glass up to his eyes. Pen was full of excitement at the idea of being a member of this polite Club.
"Don't be always looking at that box, you naughty creature," cried Miss Blenkinsop.
"She's a dev'lish fine woman, that Mirabel," said Tiptoff; "though Mirabel was a d——d fool to marry her."
"A stupid old spooney," said the peer.
"Mirabel!" cried out Pendennis.
"Ha! ha!" laughed out Harry Foker. "We've heard of her before, haven't we, Pen?"
It was Pen's first love. It was Miss Fotheringay. The year before she had been led to the altar by Sir Charles Mirabel, G.C.B., and formerly envoy to the Court of Pumpernickel, who had taken so active a part in the negotiations before the Congress of Swammerdam, and signed, on behalf of H.B.M., the Peace of Pultusk.
"Emily was always as stupid as an owl," said Miss Blenkinsop.
"Eh! Eh! pas si bete," the old Peer said.
"Oh, for shame!" cried the actress, who did not in the least know what he meant.
And Pen looked out and beheld his first love once again—and wondered how he ever could have loved her.
Thus on the very first night of his arrival in London, Mr. Arthur Pendennis found himself introduced to a Club, to an actress of genteel comedy and a heavy father of the Stage, and to a dashing society of jovial blades, old and young; for my Lord Colchicum, though stricken in years, bald of head and enfeebled in person, was still indefatigable in the pursuit of enjoyment, and it was the venerable Viscount's boast that he could drink as much claret as the youngest member of the society which he frequented. He lived with the youth about town: he gave them countless dinners at Richmond and Greenwich: an enlightened patron of the drama in all languages and of the Terpsichorean art, he received dramatic professors of all nations at his banquets—English from the Covent Garden and Strand houses, Italians from the Haymarket, French from their own pretty little theatre, or the boards of the Opera where they danced. And at his villa on the Thames, this pillar of the State gave sumptuous entertainments to scores of young men of fashion, who very affably consorted with the ladies and gentlemen of the greenroom—with the former chiefly, for Viscount Colchicum preferred their society as more polished and gay than that of their male brethren.
Pen went the next day and paid his entrance-money at the Club, which operation carried off exactly one-third of his hundred pounds; and took possession of the edifice, and ate his luncheon there with immense satisfaction. He plunged into an easy-chair in the library, and tried to read all the magazines. He wondered whether the members were looking at him, and that they could dare to keep on their hats in such fine rooms. He sate down and wrote a letter to Fairoaks on the Club paper, and said, what a comfort this place would be to him after his day's work was over. He went over to his uncle's lodgings in Bury Street with some considerable tremor, and in compliance with his mother's earnest desire, that he should instantly call on Major Pendennis; and was not a little relieved to find that the Major had not yet returned to town. His apartments were blank. Brown hollands covered his library-table, and bills and letters lay on the mantelpiece, grimly awaiting the return of their owner. The Major was on the Continent, the landlady of the house said, at Badnbadn, with the Marcus of Steyne. Pen left his card upon the shelf with the rest. Fairoaks was written on it still.
When the Major returned to London, which he did in time for the fogs of November, after enjoying which he proposed to spend Christmas with some friends in the country, he found another card of Arthur's, on which Lamb Court, Temple, was engraved, and a note from that young gentleman and from his mother, stating that he was come to town, was entered a member of the Upper Temple, and was reading hard for the bar.
Lamb Court, Temple:—where was it? Major Pendennis remembered that some ladies of fashion used to talk of dining with Mr. Ayliffe, the barrister, who was "in society," and who lived there in the King's Bench, of which prison there was probably a branch in the Temple, and Ayliffe was very likely an officer. Mr. Deuceace, Lord Crabs's son, had also lived there, he recollected. He despatched Morgan to find out where Lamb Court was, and to report upon the lodging selected by Mr. Arthur. That alert messenger had little difficulty in discovering Mr. Pen's abode. Discreet Morgan had in his time traced people far more difficult to find than Arthur.
"What sort of a place is it, Morgan?" asked the Major, out of the bed-curtains in Bury Street the next morning, as the valet was arranging his toilette in the deep yellow London fog.
"I should say rayther a shy place," said Mr. Morgan. "The lawyers lives there, and has their names on the doors. Mr. Harthur lives three pair high, sir. Mr. Warrington lives there too, sir."
"Suffolk Warringtons! I shouldn't wonder: a good family," thought the Major. "The cadets of many of our good families follow the robe as a profession. Comfortable rooms, eh?"
"Honly saw the outside of the door, sir, with Mr. Warrington's name and Mr. Arthur's painted up, and a piece of paper with 'Back at 6;' but I couldn't see no servant, sir."
"Economical at any rate," said the Major.
"Very, sir. Three pair, sir. Nasty black staircase as ever I see. Wonder how a gentleman can live in such a place."
"Pray, who taught you where gentlemen should or should not live, Morgan? Mr. Arthur, sir, is going to study for the bar, sir," the Major said with much dignity; and closed the conversation and began to array himself in the yellow fog.
"Boys will be boys," the mollified uncle thought to himself. "He has written to me a devilish good letter. Colchicum says he has had him to dine, and thinks him a gentlemanlike lad. His mother is one of the best creatures in the world. If he has sown his wild oats, and will stick to his business, he may do well yet. Think of Charley Mirabel, the old fool, marrying that flame of his! that Fotheringay! He doesn't like to come here until I give him leave, and puts it in a very manly nice way. I was deuced angry with him, after his Oxbridge escapades—and showed it too when he was here before—Gad, I'll go and see him, hang me if I don't."
And having ascertained from Morgan that he could reach the Temple without much difficulty, and that a city omnibus would put him down at the gate, the Major one day after breakfast at his Club—not the Polyanthus, whereof Mr. Pen was just elected a member, but another Club: for the Major was too wise to have a nephew as a constant inmate of any house where he was in the habit of passing his time—the Major one day entered one of those public vehicles, and bade the conductor to put him down at the gate of the Upper Temple.
When Major Pendennis reached that dingy portal it was about twelve o'clock in the day; and he was directed by a civil personage with a badge and a white apron, through some dark alleys, and under various melancholy archways into courts each more dismal than the other, until finally he reached Lamb Court. If it was dark in Pall Mail, what was it in Lamb Court? Candles were burning in many of the rooms there—in the pupil-room of Mr. Hodgeman, the special pleader, where six pupils were scribbling declarations under the tallow; in Sir Hokey Walker's clerk's room, where the clerk, a person far more gentlemanlike and cheerful in appearance than the celebrated counsel, his master, was conversing in a patronising manner with the managing clerk of an attorney at the door; and in Curling the wigmaker's melancholy shop, where, from behind the feeble glimmer of a couple of lights, large serpents' and judges' wigs were looming drearily, with the blank blocks looking at the lamp-post in the court. Two little clerks were playing at toss-halfpenny under that lamp. A laundress in pattens passed in at one door, a newspaper boy issued from another. A porter, whose white apron was faintly visible, paced up and down. It would be impossible to conceive a place more dismal, and the Major shuddered to think that any one should select such a residence. "Good Ged!" he said, "the poor boy mustn't live on here."
The feeble and filthy oil-lamps, with which the staircases of the Upper Temple are lighted of nights, were of course not illuminating the stairs by day, and Major Pendennis, having read with difficulty his nephew's name under Mr. Warrington's on the wall of No. 6, found still greater difficulty in climbing the abominable black stairs, up the banisters of which, which contributed their damp exudations to his gloves, he groped painfully until he came to the third story. A candle was in the passage of one of the two sets of rooms; the doors were open, and the names of Mr. Warrington and Mr. A. Pendennis were very clearly visible to the Major as he went in. An Irish charwoman, with a pail and broom, opened the door for the Major.
"Is that the beer?" cried out a great voice: "give us hold of it."
The gentleman who was speaking was seated on a table, unshorn and smoking a short pipe; in a farther chair sate Pen, with a cigar, and his legs near the fire. A little boy, who acted as the clerk of these gentlemen, was grinning in the Major's face, at the idea of his being mistaken for beer. Here, upon the third floor, the rooms were somewhat lighter, and the Major could see place.
"Pen, my boy, it's I—it's your uncle," he said, choking with the smoke. But as most young men of fashion used the weed, he pardoned the practice easily enough.
Mr. Warrington got up from the table, and Pen, in a very perturbed manner, from his chair. "Beg your pardon for mistaking you," said Warrington, in a frank, loud voice. "Will you take a cigar, sir? Clear those things off the chair, Pidgeon, and pull it round to the fire."
Pen flung his cigar into the grate; and was pleased with the cordiality with which his uncle shook him by the hand. As soon as he could speak for the stairs and the smoke, the Major began to ask Pen very kindly about himself and about his mother; for blood is blood, and he was pleased once more to see the boy.
Pen gave his news, and then introduced Mr. Warrington—an old Boniface man—whose chambers he shared.
The Major was quite satisfied when he heard that Mr. Warrington was a younger son of Sir Miles Warrington of Suffolk. He had served with an uncle of his in India and in New South Wales, years ago.
"Took a sheep-farm there, sir, made a fortune—better thing than law or soldiering," Warrington said. "Think I shall go there too." And here the expected beer coming in, in a tankard with a glass bottom, Mr. Warrington, with a laugh, said he supposed the Major would not have any, and took a long, deep draught himself, after which he wiped his wrist across his beard with great satisfaction. The young man was perfectly easy and unembarrassed. He was dressed in a ragged old shooting jacket, and had a bristly blue beard. He was drinking beer like a coalheaver, and yet you couldn't but perceive that he was a gentleman.
When he had sate for a minute or two after his draught he went out of the room, leaving it to Pen and his uncle, that they might talk over family affairs were they so inclined.
"Rough and ready, your chum seems," the Major said. "Somewhat different from your dandy friends at Oxbridge."
"Times are altered," Arthur replied, with a blush. "Warrington is only just called, and has no business, but he knows law pretty well; and until I can afford to read with a pleader, I use his books, and get his help."
"Is that one of the books?" the Major asked, with a smile. A French novel was lying at the foot of Pen's chair.
"This is not a working day, sir," the lad said. "We were out very late at a party last night—at Lady Whiston's," Pen added, knowing his uncle's weakness. "Everybody in town was there except you, sir; Counts, Ambassadors, Turks, Stars and Garters—I don't know who—it's all in the paper—and my name, too," said Pen, with great glee. "I met an old flame of mine there, sir," he added, with a laugh. "You know whom I mean, sir,—Lady Mirabel—to whom I was introduced over again. She shook hands, and was gracious enough. I may thank you for being out of that scrape, sir. She presented me to the husband, too—an old beau in a star and a blonde wig. He does not seem very wise. She has asked me to call on her, sir: and I may go now without any fear of losing my heart."
"What, we have had some new loves, have we?" the Major asked in high good-humour.
"Some two or three," Mr. Pen said, laughing. "But I don't put on my grand serieux any more, sir. That goes off after the first flame."
"Very right, my dear boy. Flames and darts and passion, and that sort of thing, do very well for a lad: and you were but a lad when that affair with the Fotheringill—Fotheringay—(what's her name?) came off. But a man of the world gives up those follies. You still may do very well. You have been bit, but you may recover. You are heir to a little independence; which everybody fancies is a doosid deal more. You have a good name, good wits, good manners, and a good person—and, begad! I don't see why you shouldn't marry a woman with money—get into Parliament—distinguish yourself, and—and, in fact, that sort of thing. Remember, it's as easy to marry a rich woman as a poor woman: and a devilish deal pleasanter to sit down to a good dinner, than to a scrag of mutton in lodgings. Make up your mind to that. A woman with a good jointure is a doosid deal easier a profession than the law, let me tell you that. Look out; I shall be on the watch for you: and I shall die content, my boy, if I can see you with a good ladylike wife, and a good carriage, and a good pair of horses, living in society, and seeing your friends, like a gentleman. Would you like to vegetate like your dear good mother at Fairoaks? Dammy, sir! life, without money and the best society isn't worth having." It was thus this affectionate uncle spoke, and expounded to Pen his simple philosophy.
"What would my mother and Laura say to this, I wonder?" thought the lad. Indeed old Pendennis's morals were not their morals, nor was his wisdom theirs.
This affecting conversation between uncle and nephew had scarcely concluded, when Warrington came out of his bedroom, no longer in rags, but dressed like a gentleman, straight and tall and perfectly frank and good-humoured. He did the honours of his ragged sitting-room with as much ease as if it had been the finest apartment in London. And queer rooms they were in which the Major found his nephew. The carpet was full of holes—the table stained with many circles of Warrington's previous ale-pots. There was a small library of law-books, books of poetry, and of mathematics, of which he was very fond. (He had been one of the hardest livers and hardest readers of his time at Oxbridge, where the name of Stunning Warrington was yet famous for beating bargemen, pulling matches, winning prizes, and drinking milk-punch.) A print of the old college hung up over the mantelpiece, and some battered volumes of Plato, bearing its well-known arms, were on the book-shelves. There were two easy-chairs; a standing reading-desk piled with bills; a couple of very meagre briefs on a broken-legged study-table. Indeed, there was scarcely any article of furniture that had not been in the wars, and was not wounded. "Look here, sir, here is Pen's room. He is a dandy, and has got curtains to his bed, and wears shiny boots, and a silver dressing-case." Indeed, Pen's room was rather coquettishly arranged, and a couple of neat prints of opera-dancers, besides a drawing of Fairoaks, hung on the walls. In Warrington's room there was scarcely any article of furniture, save a great shower-bath, and a heap of books by the bedside: where he lay upon straw like Margery Daw, and smoked his pipe, and read half through the night his favourite poetry or mathematics.
When he had completed his simple toilette, Mr. Warrington came out of this room, and proceeded to the cupboard to search for his breakfast.
"Might I offer you a mutton-chop, sir? We cook 'em ourselves hot and hot: and I am teaching Pen the first principles of law, cooking, and morality at the same time. He's a lazy beggar, sir, and too much of a dandy."
And so saying, Mr. Warrington wiped a gridiron with a piece of paper, put it on the fire, and on it two mutton-chops, and took from the cupboard a couple of plates and some knives and silver forks, and castors.
"Say but a word, Major Pendennis," he said; "there's another chop in the cupboard, or Pidgeon shall go out and get you anything you like."
Major Pendennis sate in wonder and amusement, but he said he had just breakfasted, and wouldn't have any lunch. So Warrington cooked the chops, and popped them hissing hot upon the plates.
Pen fell to at his chop with a good appetite, after looking up at his uncle, and seeing that gentleman was still in good-humour.
"You see, sir," Warrington said, "Mrs. Flanagan isn't here to do 'em, and we can't employ the boy, for the little beggar is all day occupied cleaning Pen's boots. And now for another swig at the beer. Pen drinks tea; it's only fit for old women."
"And so you were at Lady Whiston's last night," the Major said, not in truth knowing what observation to make to this rough diamond.
"I at Lady Whiston's! not such a flat, sir. I don't care for female society. In fact it bores me. I spent my evening philosophically at the Back Kitchen."
"The Back Kitchen? indeed!" said the Major.
"I see you don't know what it means," Warrington said. "Ask Pen. He was there after Lady Whiston's. Tell Major Pendennis about the Back Kitchen, Pen—don't be ashamed of yourself."
So Pen said it was a little eccentric society of men of letters and men about town, to which he had been presented; and the Major began to think that the young fellow had seen a good deal of the world since his arrival in London.
CHAPTER XXX. The Knights of the Temple
Colleges, schools, and inns of courts still have some respect for antiquity, and maintain a great number of the customs and institutions of our ancestors, with which those persons who do not particularly regard their forefathers, or perhaps are not very well acquainted with them; have long since done away. A well-ordained workhouse or prison si much better provided with the appliances of health, comfort, and cleanliness, than a respectable Foundation School a venerable College, or a learned Inn. In the latter place of residence men are contented to sleep in dingy closets, and to pay for the sitting-room and the cupboard which is their dormitory, the price of a good villa and garden in the suburbs, or of a roomy house in the neglected squares of the town. The poorest mechanic in Spitalfields has a cistern and an unbounded suppy of water at his command; but the gentlemen of the inns of court, and the gentlemen of the universities, have their supply of this cosmetic fetched in jugs by laundresses and bedmakers, and live in abodes which were erected long before the custom of cleanliness and decency obtained among us. There are individuals still alive who sneer at the people and speak of them with epithets of scorn. Gentlemen, there can be but little doubt that your ancestors were the Great Unwashed: and in the Temple especially, it is pretty certain, that only under the greatest difficulties and restrictions the virtue which has been pronounced to be next to godliness could have been practised at all.
Old Grump, of the Norfolk Circuit, who had lived for more than thirty years in the chambers under those occupied by Warrington and Pendennis, and who used to be awakened by the roaring of the shower-baths which those gentlemen had erected in their apartments—a part of the contents of which occasionally trickled through the roof into Mr. Grump's room,—declared that the practice was an absurd, newfangled, dandified folly, and daily cursed the laundress who slopped the staircase by which he had to pass. Grump, now much more than half a century old, had indeed never used the luxury in question. He had done without water very well, and so had our fathers before him. Of all those knights and baronets, lords and gentlemen, bearing arms, whose escutcheons are painted upon the walls of the famous hall of the Upper Temple, was there no philanthropist good-natured enough to devise a set of Hummums for the benefit of the lawyers, his fellows and successors? The Temple historian makes no mention of such a scheme. There is Pump Court and Fountain Court, with their hydraulic apparatus, but one never heard of a bencher disporting in the fountain; and can't but think how many a counsel learned in the law of old days might have benefited by the pump.
Nevertheless, those venerable Inns which have the Lamb and Flag and the Winged Horse for their ensigns, have attractions for persons who inhabit them, and a share of rough comforts and freedom which men always remember with pleasure. I don't know whether the student of law permits himself the refreshment of enthusiasm, or indulges in poetical reminiscences as he passes by historical chambers, and says, "Yonder Eldon lived—upon this site Coke mused upon Littleton—here Chitty toiled—here Barnewall and Alderson joined in their famous labours—here Byles composed his great work upon bills, and Smith compiled his immortal leading cases—here Gustavus still toils, with Solomon to aid him:" but the man of letters can't but love the place which has been inhabited by so many of his brethren, or peopled by their creations as real to us at this day as the authors whose children they were—and Sir Roger de Coverley walking in the Temple Garden, and discoursing with Mr. Spectator about the beauties in hoops and patches who are sauntering over the grass, is just as lively a figure to me as old Samuel Johnson rolling through the fog with the Scotch gentleman at his heels on their way to Dr. Goldsmith's chambers in Brick Court; or Harry Fielding, with inked ruffles and a wet towel round his head, dashing off articles at midnight for the Covent Garden Journal, while the printer's boy is asleep in the passage.
If we could but get the history of a single day as it passed in any one of those four-storied houses in the dingy court where our friends Pen and Warrington dwelt, some Temple Asmodeus might furnish us with a queer volume. There may be a great parliamentary counsel on the ground floor, who drives off to Belgravia at dinner-time, when his clerk, too, becomes a gentleman, and goes away to entertain his friends, and to take his pleasure. But a short time since he was hungry and briefless in some garret of the Inn; lived by stealthy literature; hoped, and waited, and sickened, and no clients came; exhausted his own means and his friends' kindness; had to remonstrate humbly with duns, and to implore the patience of poor creditors. Ruin seemed to be staring him in the face, when, behold, a turn of the wheel of fortune, and the lucky wretch in possession of one of those prodigious prizes which are sometimes drawn in the great lottery of the Bar. Many a better lawyer than himself does not make a fifth part of the income of his clerk, who, a few months since, could scarcely get credit for blacking for his master's unpaid boots. On the first floor, perhaps, you will have a venerable man whose name is famous, who has lived for half a century in the Inn, whose brains are full of books, and whose shelves are stored with classical and legal lore. He has lived alone all these fifty years, alone and for himself, amassing learning, and compiling a fortune. He comes home now at night alone from the club, where he has been dining freely, to the lonely chambers where he lives a godless old recluse. When he dies, his Inn will erect a tablet to his honour, and his heirs burn a part of his library. Would you like to have such a prospect for your old age, to store up learning and money, and end so? But we must not linger too long by Mr. Doomsday's door. Worthy Mr. Grump lives over him, who is also an ancient inhabitant of the Inn, and who, when Doomsday comes home to read Catullus, is sitting down with three steady seniors of his standing, to a steady rubber at whist, after a dinner at which they have consumed their three steady bottles of Port. You may see the old boys asleep at the Temple Church of a Sunday. Attorneys seldom trouble them, and they have small fortunes of their own. On the other side of the third landing, where Pen and Warrington live, till long after midnight, sits Mr. Paley, who took the highest honours, and who is a fellow of his college, who will sit and read and note cases until two o'clock in the morning; who will rise at seven and be at the pleader's chambers as soon as they are open, where he will work until an hour before dinner-time; who will come home from Hall and read and note cases again until dawn next day, when perhaps Mr. Arthur Pendennis and his friend Mr. Warrington are returning from some of their wild expeditions. How differently employed Mr. Paley has been! He has not been throwing himself away: he has only been bringing a great intellect laboriously down to the comprehension of a mean subject, and in his fierce grasp of that, resolutely excluding from his mind all higher thoughts, all better things, all the wisdom of philosophers and historians, all the thoughts of poets; all wit, fancy, reflection, art, love, truth altogether—so that he may master that enormous legend of the law, which he proposes to gain his livelihood by expounding. Warrington and Paley had been competitors for university honours in former days, and had run each other hard; and everybody said now that the former was wasting his time and energies, whilst all people praised Paley for his industry. There may be doubts, however, as to which was using his time best. The one could afford time to think, and the other never could. The one could have sympathies and do kindnesses; and the other must needs be always selfish. He could not cultivate a friendship or do a charity, or admire a work of genius, or kindle at the sight of beauty or the sound of a sweet song—he had no time, and no eyes for anything but his law-books. All was dark outside his reading-lamp. Love, and Nature, and Art (which is the expression of our praise and sense of the beautiful world of God) were shut out from him. And as he turned off his lonely lamp at night, he never thought but that he had spent the day profitably, and went to sleep alike thankless and remorseless. But he shuddered when he met his old companion Warrington on the stairs, and shunned him as one that was doomed to perdition.
It may have been the sight of that cadaverous ambition and self-complacent meanness, which showed itself in Paley's yellow face, and twinkled in his narrow eyes, or it may have been a natural appetite for pleasure and joviality, of which it must be confessed Mr. Pen was exceedingly fond, which deterred that luckless youth from pursuing his designs upon the Bench or the Woolsack with the ardour, or rather steadiness, which is requisite in gentlemen who would climb to those seats of honour. He enjoyed the Temple life with a great deal of relish: his worthy relatives thought he was reading as became a regular student; and his uncle wrote home congratulatory letters to the kind widow at Fairoaks, announcing that the lad had sown his wild oats, and was becoming quite steady. The truth is, that it was a new sort of excitement to Pen, the life in which he was now engaged, and having given up some of the dandified pretensions, and fine-gentleman airs which he had contracted among his aristocratic college acquaintances, of whom he now saw but little, the rough pleasures and amusements of a London bachelor were very novel and agreeable to him, and he enjoyed them all. Time was he would have envied the dandies their fine horses in Rotten Row, but he was contented now to walk in the Park and look at them. He was too young to succeed in London society without a better name and a larger fortune than he had, and too lazy to get on without these adjuncts. Old Pendennis fondly thought he was busied with law because he neglected the social advantages presented to him, and, having been at half a dozen balls and evening parties, retreated before their dulness and sameness; and whenever anybody made inquiries of the worthy Major about his nephew the old gentleman said the young rascal was reformed, and could not be got away from his books. But the Major would have been almost as much horrified as Mr. Paley was, had he known what was Mr. Pen's real course of life, and how much pleasure entered into his law studies.
A long morning's reading, a walk in the park, a pull on the river, a stretch up the hill to Hampstead, and a modest tavern dinner; a bachelor night passed here or there, in joviality, not vice (for Arthur Pendennis admired women so heartily that he never could bear the society of any of them that were not, in his fancy at least, good and pure); a quiet evening at home, alone with a friend and a pipe or two, and a humble potation of British spirits, whereof Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, invariably tested the quality;—these were our young gentleman's pursuits, and it must be owned that his life was not unpleasant. In term-time, Mr. Pen showed a most praiseworthy regularity in performing one part of the law-student's course of duty, and eating his dinners in Hall. Indeed, that Hall of the Upper Temple is a sight not uninteresting, and with the exception of some trifling improvements and anachronisms which have been introduced into the practice there, a man may sit down and fancy that he joins in a meal of the seventeenth century. The bar have their messes, the students their tables apart; the benchers sit at the high table on the raised platform surrounded by pictures of judges of the law and portraits of royal personages who have honoured its festivities with their presence and patronage. Pen looked about, on his first introduction, not a little amused with the scene which he witnessed. Among his comrades of the student class there were gentlemen of all ages, from sixty to seventeen; stout grey-headed attorneys who were proceeding to take the superior dignity,—dandies and men—about town who wished for some reason to be barristers of seven years' standing,—swarthy, black-eyed natives of the Colonies, who came to be called here before they practised in their own islands,—and many gentlemen of the Irish nation, who make a sojourn in Middle Temple Lane before they return to the green country of their birth. There were little squads of reading students who talked law all dinner-time; there were rowing men, whose discourse was of sculling matches, the Red House, Vauxhall and the Opera; there were others great in politics, and orators of the students' debating clubs; with all of which sets, except the first, whose talk was an almost unknown and a quite uninteresting language to him, Mr. Pen made a gradual acquaintance, and had many points of sympathy.
The ancient and liberal Inn of the Upper Temple provides in its Hall, and for a most moderate price, an excellent wholesome dinner of soup, meat, tarts, and port wine or sherry, for the barristers and students who attend that place of refection. The parties are arranged in messes of four, each of which quartets has its piece of beef or leg of mutton, its sufficient apple-pie and its bottle of wine. But the honest habitues of the hall, amongst the lower rank of students, who have a taste for good living, have many harmless arts by which they improve their banquet, and innocent 'dodges' (if we may be permitted to use an excellent phrase that has become vernacular since the appearance of the last dictionaries) by which they strive to attain for themselves more delicate food than the common every-day roast meat of the students' tables.
"Wait a bit," said Mr. Lowton, one of these Temple gourmands. "Wait a bit," said Mr. Lowton, tugging at Pen's gown—"the side-tables are very full, and there's only three benchers to eat ten dishes—if we wait, perhaps we shall get something from their table." And Pen looked with some amusement, as did Mr. Lowton with eyes of fond desire, towards the benchers' high table, where three old gentlemen were standing up before a dozen silver dish-covers, while the clerk was quavering out a grace.
Lowton was great in the conduct of the dinner. His aim was to manage so as to be the first, a captain of the mess, and to secure for himself the thirteenth glass of the bottle of port wine. Thus he would have the command of the joint on which he operated his favourite cuts, and made rapid dexterous appropriations of gravy, which amused Pen infinitely. Poor Jack Lowton! thy pleasures in life were very harmless; an eager epicure, thy desires did not go beyond eighteen pence.
Pen was somewhat older than many of his fellow-students, and there was that about his style and appearance, which, as we have said, was rather haughty and impertinent, that stamped him as a man of ton—very unlike those pale students who were talking law to one another, and those ferocious dandies, in rowing shirts and astonishing pins and waistcoats, who represented the idle part of the little community. The humble and good-natured Lowton had felt attracted by Pen's superior looks and presence—and had made acquaintance with him at the mess by opening the conversation.
"This is boiled-beef day, I believe, sir," said Lowton to Pen.
"Upon my word, sir, I'm not aware," said Pen, hardly able to contain his laughter, but added, "I'm a stranger; this is my first term;" on which Lowton began to point out to him the notabilities in the Hall.
"That's Boosey the bencher, the bald one sitting under the picture and aving soup; I wonder whether it's turtle? They often ave turtle. Next is Balls, the King's Counsel, and Swettenham—Hodge and Swettenham, you know. That's old Grump, the senior of the bar; they say he's dined here forty years. They often send 'em down their fish from the benchers to the senior table. Do you see those four fellows seated opposite us? Those are regular swells—tip-top fellows, I can tell you—Mr. Trail, the Bishop of Ealing's son, Honourable Fred. Ringwood, Lord Cinqbar's brother, you know. He'll have a good place, I bet any money; and Bob Suckling, who's always with him—a high fellow too. Ha! ha!" Here Lowton burst into a laugh.
"What is it?" said Pen, still amused.
"I say, I like to mess with those chaps," Lowton said, winking his eye knowingly, and pouring out his glass of wine.
"And why?" asked Pen.
"Why! they don't come down here to dine, you know, they only make believe to dine. They dine here, Law bless you! They go to some of the swell clubs, or else to some grand dinner-party. You see their names in the Morning Post at all the fine parties in London. Why, I bet anything that Ringwood has his cab, or Trail his Brougham (he's a devil of a fellow, and makes the bishop's money spin, I can tell you) at the corner of Essex Street at this minute. They dine! They won't dine these two hours, I dare say."
"But why should you like to mess with them, if they don't eat any dinner?" Pen asked, still puzzled. "There's plenty, isn't there?"
"How green you are," said Lowton. "Excuse me, but you are green. They don't drink any wine, don't you see, and a fellow gets the bottle to himself if he likes it when he messes with those three chaps. That's why Corkoran got in with 'em."
"Ah, Mr. Lowton, I see you are a sly fellow," Pen said, delighted with his acquaintance: on which the other modestly replied, that he had lived in London the better part of his life, and of course had his eyes about him; and went on with his catalogue to Pen.
"There's a lot of Irish here," he said; "that Corkoran's one, and I can't say I like him. You see that handsome chap with the blue neck-cloth, and pink shirt, and yellow waistcoat, that's another; that's Molloy Maloney of Ballymaloney, and nephew to Major-General Sir Hector O'Dowd, he, he," Lowton said, trying to imitate the Hibernian accent. "He's always bragging about his uncle; and came into Hall in silver-striped trousers the day he had been presented. That other near him, with the long black hair, is a tremendous rebel. By Jove, sir, to hear him at the Forum it makes your blood freeze; and the next is an Irishman, too, Jack Finucane, reporter of a newspaper. They all stick together, those Irish. It's your turn to fill your glass. What? you won't have any port? Don't like port with your dinner? Here's your health." And this worthy man found himself not the less attached to Pendennis because the latter disliked port wine at dinner.
It was while Pen was taking his share of one of these dinners with his acquaintance Lowton as the captain of his mess, that there came to join them a gentleman in a barrister's gown, who could not find a seat, as it appeared, amongst the persons of his own degree, and who strode over the table and took his place on the bench where Pen sate. He was dressed in old clothes and a faded gown, which hung behind him, and he wore a shirt which, though clean, was extremely ragged, and very different to the magnificent pink raiment of Mr. Molloy Maloney, who occupied a commanding position in the next mess. In order to notify their appearance at dinner, it is the custom of the gentlemen who eat in the Upper Temple Hall to write down their names upon slips of paper, which are provided for that purpose, with a pencil for each mess. Lowton wrote his name first, then came Arthur Pendennis, and the next was that of the gentleman in the old clothes. He smiled when he saw Pen's name, and looked at him. "We ought to know each other," he said. "We're both Boniface men; my name's Warrington."
"Are you St—— Warrington?" Pen said, delighted to see this hero.
Warrington laughed—"Stunning Warrington—yes," he said, "I recollect you in your freshman's term. But you appear to have quite cut me out."
"The college talks about you still," said Pen, who had a generous admiration for talent and pluck. "The bargeman you thrashed, Bill Simes, don't you remember, wants you up again at Oxbridge. The Miss Notleys, the haberdashers——"
"Hush!" said Warrington—"glad to make your acquaintance, Pendennis. Heard a good deal about you."
The young men were friends immediately, and at once deep in college-talk. And Pen, who had been acting rather the fine gentleman on a previous day, when he pretended to Lowton that he could not drink port wine at dinner, seeing Warrington take his share with a great deal of gusto, did not scruple about helping himself any more, rather to the disappointment of honest Lowton. When the dinner was over, Warrington asked Arthur where he was going.
"I thought of going home to dress, and hear Grisi in Norma," Pen said.
"Are you going to meet anybody there?" he asked.
Pen said, "No—only to hear the music," of which he was fond.
"You had much better come home and smoke a pipe with me," said Warrington,—"a very short one. Come, I live close by in Lamb Court, and we'll talk over Boniface and old times."
They went away; Lowton sighed after them. He knew Warrington was a baronet's son, and he looked up with simple reverence to all the aristocracy. Pen and Warrington became sworn friends from that night. Warrington's cheerfulness and jovial temper, his good sense, his rough welcome, and his never-failing pipe of tobacco, charmed Pen, who found it more pleasant to dive into shilling taverns with him, than to dine in solitary state amongst the silent and polite frequenters of the Polyanthus.
Ere long Pen gave up the lodgings in St. James's, to which he had migrated on quitting his hotel, and found it was much more economical to take up his abode with Warrington in Lamb Court, and furnish and occupy his friend's vacant room there. For it must be said of Pen, that no man was more easily led than he to do a thing, when it was a novelty, or when he had a mind to it. And Pidgeon, the youth, and Flanagan, the laundress, divided their allegiance now between Warrington and Pen.
CHAPTER XXXI. Old and new Acquaintances
Elated with the idea of seeing life, Pen went into a hundred queer London haunts. He liked to think he was consorting with all sorts of men—so he beheld coalheavers in their tap-rooms; boxers in their inn-parlours; honest citizens disporting in the suburbs or on the river; and he would have liked to hob and nob with celebrated pickpockets, or drink a pot of ale with a company of burglars and cracksmen, had chance afforded him an opportunity of making the acquaintance of this class of society. It was good to see the gravity with which Warrington listened to the Tutbury Pet or the Brighton Stunner at the Champion's Arms, and behold the interest which he took in the coalheaving company assembled at the Fox-under-the-Hill. His acquaintance with the public-houses of the metropolis and its neighbourhood, and with the frequenters of their various parlours, was prodigious. He was the personal friend of the landlord and landlady, and welcome to the bar as to the clubroom. He liked their society, he said, better than that of his own class, whose manners annoyed him, and whose conversation bored him. "In society," he used to say, "everybody is the same, wears the same dress, eats and drinks, and says the same things; one young dandy at the club talks and looks just like another, one Miss at a ball exactly resembles another, whereas there's character here. I like to talk with the strongest man in England, or the man who can drink the most beer in England, or with that tremendous republican of a hatter, who thinks Thistlewood was the greatest character in history. I like better gin-and-water than claret. I like a sanded floor in Carnaby Market better than a chalked one in Mayfair. I prefer Snobs, I own it." Indeed, this gentleman was a social republican; and it never entered his head while conversing with Jack and Tom that he was in any respect their better; although, perhaps, the deference which they paid him might secretly please him.
Pen followed him then to these various resorts of men with great glee and assiduity. But he was considerably younger, and therefore much more pompous and stately than Warrington, in fact a young prince in disguise, visiting the poor of his father's kingdom. They respected him as a high chap, a fine fellow, a regular young swell. He had somehow about him an air of imperious good-humour, and a royal frankness and majesty, although he was only heir-apparent to twopence-halfpenny, and but one in descent from a gallypot. If these positions are made for us, we acquiesce in them very easily; and are always pretty ready to assume a superiority over those who are as good as ourselves. Pen's condescension at this time of his life was a fine thing to witness. Amongst men of ability this assumption and impertinence passes off with extreme youth: but it is curious to watch the conceit of a generous and clever lad—there is something almost touching in that early exhibition of simplicity and folly.
So, after reading pretty hard of a morning, and, I fear, not law merely, but politics and general history and literature, which were as necessary for the advancement and instruction of a young man as mere dry law, after applying with tolerable assiduity to letters, to reviews, to elemental books of law, and, above all, to the newspaper, until the hour of dinner was drawing nigh, these young gentlemen would sally out upon the town with great spirits and appetite, and bent upon enjoying a merry night as they had passed a pleasant forenoon. It was a jovial time, that of four-and-twenty, when every muscle of mind and body was in healthy action, when the world was new as yet, and one moved over it spurred onwards by good spirits and the delightful capability to enjoy. If ever we feel young afterwards, it is with the comrades of that time: the tunes we hum in our old age, are those we learned then. Sometimes, perhaps, the festivity of that period revives in our memory; but how dingy the pleasure-garden has grown, how tattered the garlands look, how scant and old the company, and what a number of the lights have gone out since that day! Grey hairs have come on like daylight streaming in—daylight and a headache with it. Pleasure has gone to bed with the rouge on her cheeks. Well, friend, let us walk through the day, sober and sad, but friendly.
I wonder what Laura and Helen would have said, could they have seen, as they might not unfrequently have done had they been up and in London, in the very early morning when the bridges began to blush in the sunrise, and the tranquil streets of the city to shine in the dawn, Mr. Pen and Mr. Warrington rattling over the echoing flags towards the Temple, after one of their wild nights of carouse—nights wild, but not so wicked as such nights sometimes are, for Warrington was a woman-hater; and Pen, as we have said, too lofty to stoop to a vulgar intrigue. Our young Prince of Fairoaks never could speak to one of the sex but with respectful courtesy, and shrank from a coarse word or gesture with instinctive delicacy—for though we have seen him fall in love with a fool, as his betters and inferiors have done, and as it is probable that he did more than once in his life, yet for the time of the delusion it was always as a Goddess that he considered her, and chose to wait upon her. Men serve women kneeling—when they get on their feet, they go away.
That was what an acquaintance of Pen's said to him in his hard homely way;—an old friend with whom he had fallen in again in London—no other than honest Mr. Bows of the Chatteris Theatre, who was now employed as pianoforte player, to accompany the eminent lyrical talent which nightly delighted the public at the Fielding's Head in Covent Garden: and where was held the little club called the Back Kitchen.
Numbers of Pen's friends frequented this very merry meeting. The Fielding's Head had been a house of entertainment, almost since the time when the famous author of 'Tom Jones' presided as magistrate in the neighbouring Bow Street; his place was pointed out, and the chair said to have been his, still occupied by the president of the night's entertainment. The worthy Cutts, the landlord of the Fielding's Head, generally occupied this post when not disabled by gout or other illness. His jolly appearance and fine voice may be remembered by some of my male readers: he used to sing profusely in the course of the harmonic meeting, and his songs were of what may be called the British Brandy-and-Water School of Song—such as 'The Good Old English Gentleman,' 'Dear Tom, this Brown Jug,' and so forth—songs in which pathos and hospitality are blended, and the praises of good liquor and the social affections are chanted in a baritone voice. The charms of our women, the heroic deeds of our naval and military commanders, are often sung in the ballads of this school; and many a time in my youth have I admired how Cutts the singer, after he had worked us all up to patriotic enthusiasm, by describing the way in which the brave Abercrombie received his death-wound, or made us join him in tears, which he shed liberally himself, as in faltering accents he told how autumn's falling leaf "proclaimed the old man he must die"—how Cutts the singer became at once Cutts the landlord, and, before the applause which we were making with our fists on his table, in compliment to his heart-stirring melody, had died away,—was calling, "Now, gentlemen, give your orders, the waiter's in the room—John, a champagne cup for Mr. Green. I think, sir, you said sausages and mashed potatoes? John, attend on the gentleman."
"And I'll thank ye give me a glass of punch too, John, and take care the wather boils," a voice would cry not unfrequently, a well-known voice to Pen, which made the lad blush and start when he heard it first—that of the venerable Captain Costigan; who was now established in London, and one of the great pillars of the harmonic meetings at the Fielding's Head.
The Captain's manners and conversation brought very many young men to the place. He was a character, and his fame had begun to spread soon after his arrival in the metropolis, and especially after his daughter's marriage. He was great in his conversation to the friend for the time being (who was the neighbour drinking by his side), about "me daughther." He told of her marriage, and of the events previous and subsequent to that ceremony; of the carriages she kept; of Mirabel's adoration for her and for him; of the hundther pounds which he was at perfect liberty to draw from his son-in-law, whenever necessity urged him. And having stated that it was his firm intention to "dthraw next Sathurday, I give ye me secred word and honour next Sathurday, the fourteenth, when ye'll see the money will be handed over to me at Coutts's, the very instant I present the cheque," the Captain would not unfrequently propose to borrow a half-crown of his friend until the arrival of that day of Greek Calends, when, on the honour of an officer and gentleman, he would repee the thrifling obligetion.
Sir Charles Mirabel had not that enthusiastic attachment to his father-in-law, of which the latter sometimes boasted (although in other stages of emotion Cos would inveigh, with tears in his eyes, against the ingratitude of the child of his bosom, and the stinginess of the wealthy old man who had married her); but the pair had acted not unkindly towards Costigan; had settled a small pension on him, which was paid regularly, and forestalled with even more regularity by poor Cos; and the period of the payments was always well known by his friend at the Fielding's Head, whither the honest Captain took care to repair, bank-notes in hand, calling loudly for change in the midst of the full harmonic meeting. "I think ye'll find that note won't be refused at the Bank of England, Cutts, my boy," Captain Costigan would say. "Bows, have a glass? Ye needn't stint yourself to-night, anyhow; and a glass of punch will make ye play con spirito." For he was lavishly free with his money when it came to him, and was scarcely known to button his breeches pocket, except when the coin was gone, or sometimes, indeed, when a creditor came by.
It was in one of these moments of exultation that Pen found his old friend swaggering at the singers' table at the Back Kitchen of the Fielding's Head, and ordering glasses of brandy-and-water for any of his acquaintances who made their appearance in the apartment. Warrington, who was on confidential terms with the bass singer, made his way up to this quarter of the room, and Pen walked at his friend's heels.
Pen started and blushed to see Costigan. He had just come from Lady Whiston's party, where he had met and spoken with the Captain's daughter again for the first time after very old old days. He came up with outstretched hand, very kindly and warmly to greet the old man; still retaining a strong remembrance of the time when Costigan's daughter had been everything in the world to him. For though this young gentleman may have been somewhat capricious in his attachments, and occasionally have transferred his affections from one woman to another, yet he always respected the place where Love had dwelt, and, like the Sultan of Turkey, desired that honours should be paid to the lady towards whom he had once thrown the royal pocket-handkerchief. The tipsy Captain returning the clasp of Pen's hand with all the strength of a palm which had become very shaky by the constant lifting up of weights of brandy-and-water, looked hard in Pen's face, and said, "Grecious Heavens, is it possible? Me dear boy, me dear fellow, me dear friend;" and then with a look of muddled curiosity, fairly broke down with, "I know your face, me dear dear friend, but, bedad, I've forgot your name." Five years of constant punch had passed since Pen and Costigan met. Arthur was a good deal changed, and the Captain may surly be excused for forgetting him; when a man at the actual moment sees things double, we may expect that his view of the past will be rather muzzy.
Pen saw his condition and laughed, although, perhaps, he was somewhat mortified. "Don't you remember me, Captain?" he said. "I am Pendennis—Arthur Pendennis, of Chatteris."
The sound of the young man's friendly voice recalled and steadied Cos's tipsy remembrance, and he saluted Arthur, as soon as he knew him, with a loud volley of friendly greetings. Pen was his dearest boy, his gallant young friend, his noble collagian, whom he had held in his inmost heart ever since they had parted—how was his fawther, no, his mother, and his guardian, the General, the Major? "I preshoom, from your apparance, you've come into your prawpertee; and, bedad, yee'll spend it like a man of spirit—I'll go bail for that. No? not yet come into your estete? If ye want any thrifle, heark ye, there's poor old Jack Costigan has got a guinea or two in his pocket—and, be heavens! you shall never want, Awthur, me dear boy. What'll ye have? John, come hither, and look aloive; give this gentleman a glass of punch, and I'll pay for't.—Your friend? I've seen him before. Permit me to have the honour of making meself known to ye, sir, and requesting ye'll take a glass of punch."
"I don't envy Sir Charles Mirabel his father-in-law," thought Pendennis. "And how is my old friend, Mr. Bows, Captain? Have you any news of him, and do you see him still?"
"No doubt he's very well," said the Captain, jingling his money, and whistling the air of a song—'The Little Doodeen'—for the singing of which he was celebrated at the Fielding's Head. "Me dear boy—I've forgot your name again—but my name's Costigan, Jack Costigan, and I'd loike ye to take as many tumblers of punch in my name as ever ye loike. Ye know my name; I'm not ashamed of it." And so the captain went maundering on.
"It's pay-day with the General," said Mr. Hodgen, the bass singer, with whom Warrington was in deep conversation: "and he's a precious deal more than half seas over. He has already tried that 'Little Doodeen' of his, and broke it, too, just before I sang 'King Death.' Have you heard my new song, 'The Body Snatcher,' Mr. Warrington?—angcored at Saint Bartholomew's the other night—composed expressly for me. Per'aps you or your friend would like a copy of the song, sir? John, just 'ave the kyndness to 'and over a 'Body Snatcher' 'ere, will yer?—There's a portrait of me, sir, as I sing it—as the Snatcher—considered rather like."
"Thank you," said Warrington; "heard it nine times—know it by heart, Hodgen."
Here the gentleman who presided at the pianoforte began to play upon his instrument, and Pen, looking in the direction of the music, beheld that very Mr. Bows, for whom he had been asking but now, and whose existence Costigan had momentarily forgotten. The little old man sate before the battered piano (which had injured its constitution wofully by sitting up so many nights, and spoke with a voice, as it were, at once hoarse and faint), and accompanied the singers, or played with taste and grace in the intervals of the songs.
Bows had seen and recollected Pen at once when the latter came into the room, and had remarked the eager warmth of the young man's recognition of Costigan. He now began to play an air, which Pen instantly remembered as one which used to be sung by the chorus of villagers in 'The Stranger,' just before Mrs. Haller came in. It shook Pen as he heard it. He remembered how his heart used to beat as that air was played, and before the divine Emily made her entry. Nobody, save Arthur, too any notice of old Bows's playing: it was scarcely heard amidst the clatter of knives and forks, the calls for poached eggs and kidneys, and the tramp of guests and waiters.
Pen went up and kindly shook the player by the hand at the end of his performance; and Bows greeted Arthur with great respect and cordiality. "What, you haven't forgot the old tune, Mr. Pendennis?" he said; "I thought you'd remember it. I take it, it was the first tune of that sort you ever heard played—wasn't it, sir? You were quite a young chap then. I fear the Captain's very bad to-night. He breaks out on a pay-day; and I shall have the deuce's own trouble in getting home. We live together. We still hang on, sir, in partnership, though Miss Em—though my lady Mirabel has left the firm.—And so you remember old times, do you? Wasn't she a beauty, sir?—Your health and my service to you,"—and he took a sip at the pewter measure of porter which stood by his side as he played.
Pen had many opportunities of seeing his early acquaintance afterwards, and of renewing his relations with Costigan and the old musician.
As they sate thus in friendly colloquy, men of all sorts and conditions entered and quitted the house of entertainment; and Pen had the pleasure of seeing as many different persons of his race, as the most eager observer need desire to inspect. Healthy country tradesmen and farmers, in London for their business, came and recreated themselves with the jolly singing and suppers of the Back Kitchen,—squads of young apprentices and assistants, the shutters being closed over the scene of their labours, came hither for fresh air doubtless,—rakish young medical students, gallant, dashing, what is called "loudly" dressed, and (must it be owned?) somewhat dirty,—were here smoking and drinking, and vociferously applauding the songs; young university bucks were to be found here, too, with that indescribable genteel simper which is only learned at the knees of Alma Mater;—and handsome young guardsmen, and florid bucks from the St. James's Street Clubs—nay, senators English and Irish; and even members of the House of Peers.
The bass singer had made an immense hit with his song of 'The Body Snatcher,' and the town rushed to listen to it. The curtain drew aside, and Mr. Hodgen appeared in the character of the Snatcher, sitting on a coffin, with a flask of gin before him, with a spade, and a candle stuck in a skull. The song was sung with a really admirable terrific humour. The singer's voice went down so low, that its grumbles rumbled into the hearer's awe-stricken soul; and in the chorus he clamped with his spade, and gave a demoniac "Ha! ha!" which caused the very glasses to quiver on the table, as with terror. None of the other singers, not even Cutts himself, as that high-minded man owned, could stand up before the Snatcher, and he commonly used to retire to Mrs. Cutts's private apartments, or into the bar, before that fatal song extinguished him. Poor Cos's ditty, 'The Little Doodeen,' which Bows accompanied charmingly on the piano, was sung but to a few admirers, who might choose to remain after the tremendous resurrectionist chant. The room was commonly emptied after that, or only left in possession of a very few and persevering votaries of pleasure.
Whilst Pen and his friend were sitting here together one night, or rather morning, two habitues of the house entered almost together. "Mr. Hoolan and Mr. Doolan," whispered Warrington to Pen, saluting these gentlemen, and in the latter Pen recognised his friend of the Alacrity coach, who could not dine with Pen on the day on which the latter had invited him, being compelled by his professional duties to decline dinner-engagements on Fridays, he had stated, with his compliments to Mr. Pendennis.
Doolan's paper, the Dawn, was lying on the table much bestained by porter, and cheek-by-jowl with Hoolan's paper, which we shall call the Day; the Dawn was Liberal—the Day was ultra-Conservative. Many of our journals are officered by Irish gentlemen, and their gallant brigade does the penning among us, as their ancestors used to transact the fighting in Europe; and engage under many a flag, to be good friends when the battle is over.
"Kidneys, John, and a glass of stout," says Hoolan. "How are you, Morgan? how's Mrs. Doolan?"
"Doing pretty well, thank ye, Mick, my boy—faith she's accustomed to it," said Doolan. "How's the lady that owns ye? Maybe I'll step down Sunday, and have a glass of punch, Kilburn way."
"Don't bring Patsey with you, Mick, for our Georgy's got the measles," said the friendly Morgan, and they straightway fell to talk about matters connected with their trade—about the foreign mails—about who was correspondent at Paris, and who wrote from Madrid—about the expense the Morning Journal was at in sending couriers, about the circulation of the Evening Star, and so forth.
Warrington, laughing, took the Dawn which was lying before him, and pointed to one of the leading articles in that journal, which commenced thus—
"As rogues of note in former days who had some wicked work to perform,—an enemy to be put out of the way, a quantity of false coin to be passed, a lie to be told or a murder to be done—employed a professional perjurer or assassin to do the work, which they were themselves too notorious or too cowardly to execute: our notorious contemporary, the Day, engages smashers out of doors to utter forgeries against individuals, and calls in auxiliary cut-throats to murder the reputation of those who offend him. A black-vizarded ruffian (whom we will unmask), who signs the forged name of Trefoil, is at present one of the chief bravoes and bullies in our contemporary's establishment. He is the eunuch who brings the bowstring, and strangles at the order of the Day. We can convict this cowardly slave, and propose to do so. The charge which he has brought against Lord Bangbanagher, because he is a Liberal Irish peer, and against the Board of Poor Law Guardians of the Bangbanagher Union, is," etc.
"How did they like the article at your place, Mick?" asked Morgan; "when the Captain puts his hand to it he's a tremendous hand at a smasher. He wrote the article in two hours—in—whew—you know where, while the boy was waiting."
"Our governor thinks the public don't mind a straw about these newspaper rows, and has told the Docthor to stop answering," said the other. "Them two talked it out together in my room. The Docthor would have liked a turn, for he says it's such easy writing, and requires no reading up of a subject: but the governor put a stopper on him."
"The taste for eloquence is going out, Mick," said Morgan.
"'Deed then it is, Morgan," said Mick. "That was fine writing when the Docthor wrote in the Phaynix, and he and Condy Roony blazed away at each other day after day."
"And with powder and shot, too, as well as paper," says Morgan, "Faith, the Docthor was out twice, and Condy Roony winged his man."
"They are talking about Doctor Boyne and Captain Shandon," Warrington said, "who are the two Irish controversialists of the Dawn and the Day, Dr. Boyne being the Protestant champion and Captain Shandon the Liberal orator. They are the best friends in the world, I believe, in spite of their newspaper controversies; and though they cry out against the English for abusing their country, by Jove they abuse it themselves more in a single article than we should take the pains to do in a dozen volumes. How are you, Doolan?"
"Your servant, Mr. Warrington—Mr. Pendennis, I am delighted to have the honour of seeing ye again. The night's journey on the top of the Alacrity was one of the most agreeable I ever enjoyed in my life, and it was your liveliness and urbanity that made the trip so charming. I have often thought over that happy night, sir, and talked over it to Mrs. Doolan. I have seen your elegant young friend, Mr. Foker, too, here, sir, not unfrequently. He is an occasional frequenter of this hostelry, and a right good one it is. Mr. Pendennis, when I saw you I was on the Tom and Jerry Weekly Paper; I have now the honour to be sub-editor of the Dawn, one of the best-written papers of the empire"—and he bowed very slightly to Mr. Warrington. His speech was unctuous and measured, his courtesy oriental, his tone, when talking with the two Englishmen, quite different to that with which he spoke to his comrade.
"Why the devil will the fellow compliment so?" growled Warrington, with a sneer which he hardly took the pains to suppress. "Psha—who comes here?—all Parnassus is abroad to-night: here's Archer. We shall have some fun. Well, Archer, House up?"
"Haven't been there. I have been," said Archer, with an air of mystery, "where I was wanted. Get me some supper, John—something substantial. I hate your grandees who give you nothing to eat. If it had been at Apsley House, it would have been quite different. The Duke knows what I like, and says to the Groom of the Chambers, 'Martin, you will have some cold beef, not too much done, and a pint bottle of pale ale, and some brown sherry, ready in my study as usual;—Archer is coming here this evening.' The Duke doesn't eat supper himself, but he likes to see a man enjoy a hearty meal, and he knows that I dine early. A man can't live upon air, be hanged to him."
"Let me introduce you to my friend, Mr. Pendennis," Warrington said, with great gravity. "Pen, this is Mr Archer, whom you have heard me talk about. You must know Pen's uncle, the Major, Archer, you who know everybody?"
"Dined with him the day before yesterday at Gaunt House," Archer said. "We were four—the French Ambassador, Steyne, and we two commoners."
"Why, my uncle is in Scot——" Pen was going to break out, but Warrington pressed his foot under the table as a signal for him to be quiet.
"It was about the same business that I have been to the palace to-night," Archer went on simply, "and where I've been kept four hours, in an anteroom, with nothing but yesterday's Times, which I knew by heart, as I wrote three of the leading articles myself; and though the Lord Chamberlain came in four times, and once holding the royal teacup and saucer in his hand, he did not so much as say to me, 'Archer, will you have a cup of tea?'"
"Indeed! what is in the wind now?" asked Warrington—and turning to Pen, added, "You know, I suppose, that when there is anything wrong at Court they always send for Archer."
"There is something wrong," said Mr. Archer, "and as the story will be all over the town in a day or two I don't mind telling it. At the last Chantilly races, where I rode Brian Boru for my old friend the Duke de Saint Cloud—the old King said to me, Archer, I'm uneasy about Saint Cloud. I have arranged his marriage with the Princess Marie Cunegonde; the peace of Europe depends upon it—for Russia will declare war if the marriage does not take place, and the young fool is so mad about Madame Massena, Marshal Massena's wife, that he actually refuses to be a party to the marriage. Well, Sir, I spoke to Saint Cloud, and having got him into pretty good humour by winning the race, and a good bit of money into the bargain, he said to me, 'Archer, tell the Governor I'll think of it.'"
"How do you say Governor in French?" asked Pen, who piqued himself on knowing that language.
"Oh, we speak in English—I taught him when we were boys, and I saved his life at Twickenham, when he fell out of a punt," Archer said. "I shall never forget the Queen's looks as I brought him out of the water. She gave me this diamond ring, and always calls me Charles to this day."
"Madame Massena must be rather an old woman, Archer," Warrington said.
"Dev'lish old—old enough to be his grandmother; I told him so," Archer answered at once. "But those attachments for old women are the deuce and all. That's what the King feels: that's what shocks the poor Queen so much. They went away from Paris last Tuesday night, and are living at this present moment at Jaunay's Hotel."
"Has there been a private marriage, Archer?" asked Warrington.
"Whether there has or not I don't know," Mr. Archer replied, "all I know is that I was kept waiting for four hours at the palace; that I never saw a man in such a state of agitation as the King of Belgium when he came out to speak to me, and that I'm devilish hungry—and here comes some supper."
"He has been pretty well to-night," said Warrington, as the pair went home together: "but I have known him in much greater force, and keeping a whole room in a state of wonder. Put aside his archery practice, that man is both able and honest—a good man of business, an excellent friend, admirable to his family as husband, father, and son."
"What is it makes him pull the long bow in that wonderful manner?"
"An amiable insanity," answered Warrington. "He never did anybody harm by his talk, or said evil of anybody. He is a stout politician too, and would never write a word or do an act against his party, as many of us do."
"Of us! Who are we?" asked Pen. "Of what profession is Mr. Archer?"
"Of the Corporation of the Goosequill—of the Press, my boy," said Warrington; "of the fourth estate."
"Are you, too, of the craft, then?" Pendennis said.
"We will talk about that another time," answered the other. They were passing through the Strand as they talked, and by a newspaper office, which was all lighted up and bright. Reporters were coming out of the place, or rushing up to it in cabs; there were lamps burning in the editors' rooms, and above where the compositors were at work: the windows of the building were in a blaze of gas.
"Look at that, Pen," Warrington said. "There she is—the great engine—she never sleeps. She has her ambassadors in every quarter of the world—her couriers upon every road. Her officers march along with armies, and her envoys walk into statesmen's cabinets. They are ubiquitous. Yonder journal has an agent, at this minute, giving bribes at Madrid; and another inspecting the price of potatoes in Covent Garden. Look! here comes the Foreign Express galloping in. They will be able to give news to Downing Street to-morrow: funds will rise or fall, fortunes be made or lost; Lord B. will get up, and, holding the paper in his hand, and seeing the noble marquis in his place, will make a great speech; and—and Mr. Doolan will be called away from his supper at the Back Kitchen; for he is foreign sub-editor, and sees the mail on the newspaper sheet before he goes to his own."
And so talking, the friends turned into their chambers, as the dawn was beginning to peep.
CHAPTER XXXII. In which the Printer's Devil comes to the Door
Pen, in the midst of his revels and enjoyments, humble as they were, and moderate in cost if not in kind, saw an awful sword hanging over him which must drop down before long and put an end to his frolics and feasting. His money was very nearly spent. His club subscription had carried away a third part of it. He had paid for the chief articles of furniture with which he had supplied his little bedroom: in fine, he was come to the last five-pound note in his pocket-book, and could think of no method of providing a successor: for our friend had been bred up like a young prince as yet, or as a child in arms whom his mother feeds when it cries out.