Part 5 out of 6
than she meant to say. "My dear Colonel, how hot we are! how angry you
Indian gentlemen become with us poor women! Your boy is much older than
mine. He lives with artists, with all sorts of eccentric people. Our
children are bred on _quite a different plan_. Hobson will succeed his
father in the bank, and dear Samuel, I trust, will go into the church. I
told you before the views I had regarding the boys; but it was most kind
of you to think of them--most generous and kind."
"That nabob of ours is a queer fish," Hobson Newcome remarked to his
nephew Barnes. "He is as proud as Lucifer; he is always taking huff about
one thing or the other. He went off in a fume the other night because
your aunt objected to his taking the boys to the play. And then he flew
out about his boy, and said that my wife insulted him! I used to like
that boy. Before his father came he was a good lad enough--a jolly, brave
little fellow. But since he has taken this madcap freak of turning
painter there is no understanding the chap. I don't care what a fellow
is, if he is a good fellow, but a painter is no trade at all! I don't
like it, Barnes!"
To Lady Ann Newcome the Colonel's society was more welcome than to her
sister-in-law, and the affectionate gentleman never tired of doing
kindnesses for her children, and consoled himself as best he might for
Clive's absences with his nephews and nieces, especially with Ethel, for
whom his admiration conceived at first sight never diminished. He found
a fine occupation in breaking a pretty little horse for her, of which he
made her a present, and there was no horse in the Park that was so
handsome, and surely no girl who looked more beautiful than Ethel Newcome
with her broad hat and red ribbon, with her thick black locks waving
round her bright face, galloping along the ride on "Bhurtpore."
Occasionally Clive was at their riding-parties, but Ethel rallied him and
treated him with such distance and dignity, at the same time looking
fondly and archly at her uncle, that Clive set her down as a very
haughty, spoiled, aristocratic young creature. In fact, the two young
people were too much alike in disposition to agree perfectly, and Ethel's
parents were glad that it was so.
It was pleasant to watch the kind old face of Clive's father, that
sweet young blushing lady by his side, as the two rode homewards at
sunset talking happily together. Ethel wanted to know about battles;
about lover's lamps, which she had read of in "Lalla Rookh." "Have you
ever seen them, uncle, floating down the Ganges of a night? About
Indian widows, did you actually see one burning, and hear her scream as
you rode up?"
She wonders whether he will tell her anything about Clive's mother; how
she must have loved Uncle Newcome! Rambling happily from one subject to
another Ethel commands: "Next year, when I am presented at Court, you
must come, too, sir! I insist upon it, you must come, too!"
"I will order a new uniform, Ethel," says her uncle.
The girl laughs. "When little Egbert took hold of your sword, and asked
you how many people you had killed, do you know I had the same question
in my mind? I thought perhaps the King would knight you instead of that
horrid little Sir Danby Jilks, and I won't have you knighted anymore!"
The Colonel, laughing, says he hopes Egbert won't ask Sir Danby Jilks how
many men he has killed; then thinking the joke too severe upon Sir Danby,
hastens to narrate some anecdotes about the courage of surgeons in
general. Ethel declares that her uncle always will talk of other people's
courage, and never say a word about his own. So the pair talked kindly
on, riding homewards through the pleasant summer twilight. Mamma had gone
out to dinner and there were cards for three parties afterward.
"Oh, how I wish it was next year!" says Miss Ethel.
Many a splendid assembly and many a brilliant next year will the young
creature enjoy; but in the midst of her splendour and triumphs she will
often think of that quiet happy season before the world began for her,
and of that dear old friend on whose arm she leaned while she was yet a
On account of the ugly rumours spread abroad concerning young Clive's
extravagant habits and gaiety of living, also on account of the
profession he had chosen, Sir Bryan Newcome's family preferred to have
young Clive see as little of his handsome Cousin Ethel as possible, and
Ethel's brother, Barnes, whose hatred for Clive was not untinged by
jealousy, was the most vigorous of the family in spreading disagreeable
reports about his cousin, whom he spoke of as an impudent young puppy.
Even old Lady Kew was particularly rude to Colonel Newcome and Clive. On
Ethel's birthday she had a small party chiefly of girls of her own age
who came and played and sang together and enjoyed such mild refreshments
as sponge cake, jellies, tea, and the like. The Colonel, who was invited
to this little party, sent a fine present to his favourite Ethel; and
Clive and his friend J. J. made a funny series of drawings, representing
the life of a young lady as they imagined it, and drawing her progress
from her cradle upwards: now engaged with her doll, then with her dancing
master; now marching in her backboard; now crying over her German
lessons; and dressed for her first ball finally, and bestowing her hand
upon a dandy of preternatural ugliness, who was kneeling at her feet as
the happy man. This picture was the delight of the laughing, happy girls;
except, perhaps, the little cousins from Brianstone Square, who were
invited to Ethel's party, but were so overpowered by the prodigious new
dresses in which their mamma had attired them that they could admire
nothing but their rustling pink frocks, their enormous sashes, their
lovely new silk stockings.
Lady Kew, coming to London, attended on the party, and presented her
granddaughter with a sixpenny pincushion. The Colonel had sent Ethel a
beautiful little gold watch and chain. Her aunt had complimented her with
that refreshing work, "Allison's History of Europe," richly bound. Lady
Kew's pincushion made rather a poor figure among the gifts, whence
probably arose her ladyship's ill-humour.
Ethel's grandmother became exceedingly testy, when, the Colonel
arriving, Ethel ran up to him and thanked him for the beautiful watch,
in return for which she gave him a kiss, which I daresay amply repaid
Colonel Newcome; and shortly after him Mr. Clive arrived. As he entered,
all the girls who had been admiring his pictures began to clap their
hands. Mr. Clive Newcome blushed, and looked none the worse for that
indication of modesty.
Lady Kew had met Colonel Newcome a half-dozen times at her daughter's
house; but on this occasion she had quite forgotten him, for when the
Colonel made a bow, her ladyship regarded him steadily, and beckoning her
daughter to her, asked who the gentleman was who had just kissed Ethel.
With the clapping of hands that greeted Clive's arrival, the Countess was
by no means more good-humoured. Not aware of her wrath, the young fellow,
who had also previously been presented to her, came forward presently to
make her his compliments. "Pray, who are you?" she said, looking at him
very earnestly in the face. He told her his name.
"H'm," said Lady Kew, "I have heard of you, and I have heard very little
good of you."
"Will your ladyship please to give me your informant?" cried out
Barnes Newcome, who had condescended to attend his sister's little party,
and had been languidly watching the frolics of the young people, looked
very much alarmed, and hastened to soften the incident by a change of
But the attitude of Lady Kew and young Barnes was only a reflection of
the attitude of Ethel's parents concerning Clive, and Ethel, who was
really friendly towards him, found it difficult to deny the charges which
were constantly brought against the boy. The truth was the young fellow
enjoyed life, as one of his age and spirit might be expected to do; but
he did very little harm and meant less; and was quite unconscious of the
reputation which he was gaining.
There had been a long-standing promise that Clive and his father were to
go to Newcome at Christmas; and I daresay Ethel proposed to reform the
young prodigal, if prodigal he was, for she busied herself delightedly in
preparing the apartments for their guests and putting off her visit to
this pleasant neighbour, or that pretty scene in the vicinity, until her
uncle should come and they might enjoy the excursion together. And before
the arrival of her relatives, Ethel, with one of her young brothers, went
to see Mrs. Mason and introduced herself as Colonel Newcome's niece, and
came back charmed with the old lady and eager once more in defence of
Clive, for had she not seen the kindest letter which Clive had written to
old Mrs. Mason, and the beautiful drawing of his father on horseback, and
in regimentals, waving his sword in front of the gallant Bengal Cavalry,
which the lad had sent down to the good old woman? He could not be very
bad, Ethel thought, who was so kind and thoughtful for the poor. And the
young lady went home quite fired with enthusiasm for her cousin, but
encountered Barnes, who was more than usually bitter and sarcastic on the
subject. Ethel lost her temper, and then her firmness, while bursting
into tears she taxed Barnes with cruelty for uttering stories to his
cousin's disadvantage and for pursuing with constant slander one of the
very best of men. But notwithstanding her defence of the Colonel and
Clive, when they came to Newcome for the Christmas holidays, there was no
Ethel there. She had gone on a visit to her sick aunt. Colonel Newcome
passed the holidays sadly without her, and Clive consoled himself by
knocking down pheasants with Sir Brian's keepers; and increased his
cousin's attachment for him by breaking the knees of Barnes's favourite
mare out hunting. It was a dreary holiday; father and son were glad
enough to get away from it, and to return to their own humbler quarters
Thomas Newcome had now been for three years in the possession of that joy
which his soul longed after, and yet in spite of his happiness, his
honest face grew more melancholy, his loose clothes hung only the looser
on his lean limbs; he ate his meals without appetite; his nights were
restless and he would sit for hours silent, and was constantly finding
business which took him to distant quarters of England. Notwithstanding
this change in him the Colonel insisted that he was perfectly happy and
contented, but the truth was, his heart was aching with the knowledge
that Clive had occupations, ideas, associates, in which the elder could
take no interest. Sitting in his blank, cheerless bedroom, Newcome could
hear the lad and his friends making merry and breaking out in roars of
laughter from time to time. The Colonel longed to share in the merriment,
but he knew that the party would be hushed if he joined it, that the
younger men were happier and freer without him, and without laying any
blame upon them for this natural state of affairs, it saddened the days
and nights of our genial Colonel.
Clive, meanwhile, passed through the course of study prescribed by Mr.
Gandish and drew every cast and statue in that gentleman's studio.
Grindley, his tutor, getting a curacy, Clive did not replace him, but
took a course of modern languages, which he learned with great rapidity.
And now, being strong enough to paint without a master, Mr. Clive must
needs have a studio, as there was no good light in the house in Fitzroy
Square. If his kind father felt any pang even at this temporary parting,
he was greatly soothed and pleased by a little mark of attention on
Clive's part. He walked over with Colonel Newcome to see the new studio,
with its tall centre window, and its curtains and hard wardrobes, china
jars, pieces of armour, and other artistic properties, and with a very
sweet smile of kindness and affection lighting up his honest face, took
out a house-key and gave it to his father: "That's _your_ key, sir," he
said to the Colonel; "and you must be my first sitter, please, father;
for, though I am to be a historical painter, I shall condescend to do a
few portraits, you know." The Colonel grasped his son's hand as Clive
fondly put the other hand on his father's shoulder. Then Colonel Newcome
walked away for a minute or two, and came back wiping his moustache with
his handkerchief, and still holding the key in the other hand. He spoke
about some trivial subject when he returned; but his voice quite
trembled, his face glowed with love and pleasure, and the little act of
affection compensated him for many weary hours of solitude. It is certain
that Clive worked much better after he had this apartment of his own, and
meals at home were gayer; and the rides with his father more frequent and
agreeable. The Colonel used his key not infrequently, and found Clive and
his friend J. J. as a general thing absorbed in executing historical
subjects on the largest possible canvases. Meanwhile Colonel Newcome was
preparing his mind to leave his idol, who he knew would be happy without
as with him. During the three years since he had come from India the
Colonel had spent money lavishly and had also been obliged to pay dearly
for some of Clive's boyish extravagances. At first, the Colonel had
thought he might retire from the army altogether, but experience showed
him that he could not live upon his income. He proposed now to return to
India to get his promotion as full Colonel when the thousand a year to
which that would entitle him, together with his other investments, would
be ample for Clive and himself to live on. While the Colonel's thoughts
were absorbed in this matter his favourite Ethel was constantly away with
her grandmother. The Colonel went to see her at Brighton, and once,
twice, thrice, Lady Kew's door was denied to him. Once when the Colonel
encountered his pretty Ethel with her riding master she greeted him
affectionately, but when he rode up to her she looked so constrained,
when he talked about Clive she was so reserved, when he left her, so sad,
he could only feel pain and regret. Back he went to London, having in a
week only caught this single glance of his darling, but filled with
determination to have a frank talk with his sister-in-law, Lady Ann, and
if possible to mend the family disagreement and turn the tide of Lady
Ann's affection again towards his son. This he attempted to do, and would
have succeeded had not Barnes Newcome been the head of the house. As we
know, his opinion of Clive was not to that young man's advantage. These
opinions were imparted to his Uncle Hobson at the bank, and Uncle Hobson
carried them home to his wife, who took an early opportunity of repeating
them to the Colonel, and the Colonel was brought to see that Barnes was
his boy's enemy, and words very likely passed between them, for Thomas
Newcome took a new banker at this time, and was very angry because Hobson
Brothers wrote to him to say that he had overdrawn his account. "I am
sure there is some screw loose," remarked Clive to a friend, "and that my
father and the people in Park Lane have disagreed, because he goes there
very little now; and he promised to go to Court when Ethel was presented
and he didn't go." This state of affairs between the members of the
Newcome family continued for some months. Then, happily, a truce was
declared, the quarrel between the Newcome brothers came to an end--for
that time at least--and was followed by a rather showy reconciliation and
a family dinner at Brianstone Square. Everybody was bent upon being happy
and gracious. It was "My dear brother, how do you do?" from Sir Brian.
"My dear Colonel, how glad we are to see you! How well you look!" from
Lady Ann. Ethel Newcome ran to him with both hands out, an eager welcome
on her beautiful face. And even Lady Kew held out her hand to Colonel
Newcome, saying briskly: "Colonel, it is an age since we met," and
turning to Clive with equal graciousness to say, "Mr. Clive, let me shake
hands with you; I have heard all sorts of good of you, that you have been
painting the most beautiful things, that you are going to be quite
famous." There was no doubt about it,--it was an evening of
reconciliation on every side.
Ethel was so happy to see her dear uncle that she had no eyes for any
one else, until Clive advancing, those bright eyes became brighter still
as she saw him; and as she looked she saw a very handsome fellow, for
Clive at that time was of the ornamental class of mankind--a customer to
tailors, a wearer of handsome rings, shirt studs, long hair, and the
like; nor could he help, in his costume or his nature, being
picturesque, generous, and splendid. Silver dressing cases and brocade
morning gowns were in him a sort of propriety at this season of his
youth. It was a pleasure to persons of colder temperament to sun
themselves in the warmth of his bright looks and generous humour. His
laughter cheered one like wine. I do not know that he was very witty;
but he was pleasant. He was prone to blush; the history of a generous
trait moistened his eyes instantly. He was instinctively fond of
children and of the other sex from one year old to eighty. Coming from
the Derby once and being stopped on the road in a lock of carriages
during which the people in a carriage ahead saluted us with many
insulting epithets, and seized the heads of our leaders, Clive in a
twinkling jumped off the box, and the next minute we saw him engaged
with a half dozen of the enemy: his hat gone, his fair hair falling off
his face, his blue eyes flashing fire, his lips and nostrils quivering
with wrath. His father sat back in the carriage looking on with delight
and wonder while a policeman separated the warriors. Clive ascended the
box again, with his coat gashed from waist to shoulder. I hardly ever
saw the elder Newcome in such a state of triumph.
While we have been making this sketch of Clive, Ethel was standing
looking at him, and the blushing youth cast down his eyes before hers
while her face assumed a look of arch humour. And now let us have a
likeness of Ethel. She was seventeen years old; rather taller than the
majority of girls; her face somewhat grave and haughty, but on occasion
brightening with humour or beaming with kindliness and affection. Too
quick to detect affectation or insincerity in others, too impatient of
dulness or pomposity, she was more sarcastic now than she became when
after-years of suffering had softened her nature. Truth looked out of her
bright eyes, and rose up armed and flashed scorn or denial when she
encountered flattery or meanness or imposture.
But those who had no cause to fear her keenness or her coldness admired
her beauty; nor could the famous Parisian model whom Clive said she
resembled be more perfect in form than this young lady. Her hair and
eyebrows were jet black, but her complexion was dazzlingly fair and her
cheeks as red as those belonging by right to a blonde. In her black hair
there was a slight natural ripple. Her eyes were grey; her mouth rather
large; her teeth were regular and white, her voice was low and sweet; and
her smile, when it lighted up her face and eyes, as beautiful as spring
sunshine; also her eyes could lighten and flash often, and sometimes,
though rarely, rain. As for her figure, the tall, slender form clad in a
simple white muslin robe in which her fair arms were enveloped, and which
was caught at her slim waist by a blue ribbon, let us make a respectful
bow to that fair image of youth, health, and modesty, and fancy it as
pretty as we will.
Not yet overshadowed by the cloud of Colonel Newcome's departure,
light-hearted in the joy of reconciliation and meeting, once again full
of high spirits and mindful of no moment beyond the present, the two
cousins never looked brighter or happier, and as Colonel Newcome gazed
upon them in the freshness of their youth and vigour his heart was filled
Not many days after the dinner the good Colonel found it necessary to
break the news of his intended departure to Clive. His resolution to go
being taken, and having been obliged to dip somewhat deeply into the
little purse he had set aside for European expenses to help a kinsman in
distress, the Colonel's departure came somewhat sooner than he had
expected. But, as he said, "A year sooner or later, what does it matter?
Clive will go away and work at his art, and see the great schools of
painting while I am absent. I thought at one time how pleasant it would
be to accompany him. I fancy now a lad is not the better for being always
tied to his parents' apron-strings. You young fellows are too clever for
me. I haven't learned your ideas or read your books. I feel myself very
often an old damper in your company. I will go back, sir, where I have
some friends, and where I am somebody still. I know an honest face or
two, white and brown, that will lighten up in the old regiment when they
see Tom Newcome again."
With this resolution taken, the Colonel began saying farewell to his
friends. He and Clive made a pilgrimage to Grey Friars; and the Colonel
ran down to Newcome to give Mrs. Mason a parting benediction; went to all
the boys' and girls' schools where his little proteges were, so as to be
able to take the very latest account of the young folks to their parents
in India; and thence proceeded to Brighton to pass a little time with
good Miss Honeyman. With Sir Brian's family he parted on very good terms.
I believe Sir Brian even accompanied him downstairs from the drawing-room
in Park Lane, and actually saw his brother into his cab, but as for
Ethel, _she_ was not going to be put off with this sort of parting; and
the next morning a cab dashed up to Fitzroy Square and she was closeted
with Colonel Newcome for five minutes, and when he led her back to the
carriage there were tears in his eyes. Then came the day when Clive and
his father travelled together to Southampton, where a group of the
Colonel's faithful friends were assembled to say a "God bless you" to
their dear old friend, and see the vessel sail. To the end Clive remained
with his father and went below with him, and when the last bell was
ringing, came from below looking very pale. The plank was drawn after him
almost as soon as he stepped on land, and the vessel had sailed.
Although Thomas Newcome had gone back to India in search of more money,
he was nevertheless rather a wealthy man and was able to leave a hundred
a year in England to be transferred to his boy as soon as he came of
age. He also left a considerable annual sum to be paid to the boy, and
so as soon as the parting was over and his affairs were settled, Clive
was free to start on his travels, to study art in new lands, accompanied
by his faithful friend J.J. They went first to Antwerp; thence to
Brussels, and next Clive's correspondents received a letter from Bonn:
in which Master Clive said, "And whom should I find here but Aunt Ann,
Ethel, Miss Quigley and the little ones. Uncle Brian is staying at Aix,
and, upon my conscience, I think my pretty cousin looks prettier every
day. J.J. and I were climbing a little hill which leads to a ruin, when
I heard a little voice cry, 'Hello! it's Clive! Hooray, Clive,' and an
ass came down the incline with a little pair of white trousers at an
immensely wide angle over the donkey's back, and there was little Alfred
grinning with all his might.
"He turned his beast and was for galloping up the hill again, I suppose
to inform his relations; but the donkey refused with many kicks, one of
which sent Alfred plunging amongst the stones, and we were rubbing him
down just as the rest of the party came upon us. Miss Quigley looked very
grim on an old white pony; my aunt was on a black horse that might have
turned grey, he is so old. Then came two donkeys-full of children, with
Kuhn as supercargo; then Ethel on donkey back, too, with a bunch of wild
flowers in her hand, a great straw hat with a crimson ribbon, a white
muslin jacket, you know, bound at the waist with a ribbon of the first,
and a dark skirt, with a shawl round her feet, which Kuhn had arranged.
As she stopped, the donkey fell to cropping greens in the hedge; the
trees there chequered her white dress and face with shadow. Her eyes,
hair, and forehead were in shadow, too, but the light was all upon her
right cheek. Upon her shoulder down to her arm, which was of a warmer
white, and on the bunch of flowers which she held, blue, yellow, and red
poppies, and so forth.
"J. J. says, 'I think the birds began to sing louder when she came.' We
have both agreed that she is the handsomest woman in England. It's not
her form merely, which is certainly as yet too thin and a little angular;
it is her colour. I do not care for women or pictures without colour. Oh,
ye carnations! Oh, such black hair and solemn eyebrows. It seems to me
the roses and carnations have bloomed again since we saw them last in
London, when they were drooping from the exposure to night air, candle
light, and heated ballrooms.
"Here I was in the midst of a regiment of donkeys bearing a crowd of
relations; J. J. standing modestly in the background, beggars completing
the group. Throw in the Rhine in the distance flashing by the Seven
Mountains--but mind and make Ethel the principal figure: if you make her
like she certainly _will_ be, and other lights will be only minor fires.
You may paint her form, but can't paint her colour."
Thus wrote Clive from Bonn, and now that the old Countess and Barnes were
away, the barrier between Clive and this family was withdrawn. The young
folks who loved him were free to see him as often as he would come. They
were going to Baden: would he come, too? He was glad enough to go with
them, and to travel in the orbit of such a lovely girl as Ethel Newcome,
whose beauty made all the passengers on all the steamers look round and
admire. The journey was all sunshine and pleasure and novelty; and I like
to think of the pretty girl and the gallant young fellow enjoying this
holiday. Few sights are more pleasant than to watch a happy, manly
English youth, freehanded and generous-hearted, content and good-humour
shining in his honest face, pleased and pleasing, eager, active, and
thankful for services, and exercising bravely his noble youthful
privilege to be happy and to enjoy. As for J. J., he, too, had his share
of enjoyment. Clive was still his hero as ever, his patron, his splendid
young prince and chieftain. Who was so brave, who was so handsome,
generous, witty as Clive? To hear Clive sing, as the lad would whilst
they were seated at their work, or driving along on this happy journey,
through fair landscapes in the sunshine, gave J. J. the keenest pleasure;
his wit was a little slow, but he would laugh with his eyes at Clive's
sallies, or ponder over them and explode with laughter presently, giving
a new source of amusement to these merry travellers, and little Alfred
would laugh at J.J.'s laughing; and so, with a hundred harmless jokes to
enliven, and the ever-changing, ever-charming smiles of Nature to cheer
and accompany it, the happy day's journey would come to an end.
So they travelled by the accustomed route to the prettiest town of all
places where Pleasure has set up her tents, and there enjoyed themselves
to the fullest extent.
Among Colonel Newcome's papers to which the family biographer has had
access, there are a couple of letters from Clive, dated Baden this time,
and full of happiness, gaiety, and affection. Letter No. 1 says: "Ethel
is the prettiest girl here. At the Assemblies all the princes, counts,
dukes, etc., are dying to dance with her. She sends her dearest love to
her uncle." By the side of the words "Prettiest girl" are written in a
frank female hand the monosyllable "_stuff_"; and as a note to the
expression "dearest love," with a star to mark the text and the note, are
squeezed in the same feminine characters at the bottom of Clive's page
the words "_that I do_. E. N."
In letter No. 2, Clive, after giving amusing details of life at Baden and
the company whom he met there, concludes with this: "Ethel is looking
over my shoulder. She thinks me such a delightful creature that she is
never easy without me. She bids me to say that I am the best of sons and
cousins, and am, in a word, a darling du--" The rest of this important
word is not given, but "_goose_" is added in the female hand.
Ethel takes up the pen. "My dear uncle," she says, "while Clive is
sketching out of the window, let me write to you a line or two on his
paper, _though I know you like to hear no one speak_ but him. I wish I
could draw him for you as he stands yonder looking the picture of good
health, good spirits, and good-humour. Everybody likes him. He is quite
unaffected; always gay, always pleased, and he draws more beautifully
When these letters were received by the good Colonel in India we can well
imagine the joy that warmed his fond heart. He, himself, was comfortably
settled in the only place which would ever be home to him,--his son, the
idol of his heart, was with Ethel, his darling. The objects of his
tenderest affection were gay, happy, together, and, best of all, thinking
of him. That he was not with them gave him no regrets; his love was too
great for that. That their youth was soon to give place to the soberer
experiences of life, gave him no pang of fear for them. Reading their
letters, the Colonel was filled with quiet contentment; their future he
could trust to the care of that Guiding Hand to whom he had entrusted his
boy in childhood's earliest days.
[Illustration: ARTHUR PENDENNIS AT FAIR-OAKS.]
Early in the Regency of George the Magnificent there lived in a small
town in the west of England, called Clavering, a gentleman whose name was
Pendennis. At an earlier date Mr. Pendennis had exercised the profession
of apothecary and surgeon, and had even condescended to sell a plaster
across the counter of his humble shop, or to vend tooth-brushes,
hair-powder, and London perfumery. And yet that little apothecary was a
gentleman with good education, and of as old a family as any in the
county of Somerset. He had a Cornish pedigree which carried the
Pendennises back to the time of the Druids. He had had a piece of
University education, and might have pursued that career with honour, but
in his second year at Oxford his father died insolvent, and he was
obliged to betake himself to the trade which he always detested. For some
time he had a hard struggle with poverty, but his manners were so
gentleman-like and soothing that he was called in to prescribe for some
of the ladies in the best families of Bath. Then his humble little shop
became a smart one; then he shut it up altogether; then he had a gig with
a man to drive in; and before she died his poor old mother had the
happiness of seeing her beloved son step into a close carriage of his
own; with the arms of the family of Pendennis handsomely emblazoned on
the panels. He married Miss Helen Thistlewood, a very distant relative
of the noble family of Bareacres, having met that young lady under Lady
The secret ambition of Mr. Pendennis had always been to be a gentleman.
By prudence and economy, his income was largely increased, and finally he
sold his business for a handsome sum, and retired forever from handling
of the mortar and pestle, having purchased as a home the house of
Fair-Oaks, nearly a mile out of Clavering.
The estate was a beautiful one, and Arthur Pendennis, his son, being then
but eight years of age, dated his earliest recollections from that place.
Fair-Oaks lawn comes down to the little river Brawl, and on the other
side were the plantations and woods of Clavering Park. The park was let
out in pasture when the Pendennises came first to live at Fair-Oaks.
Shutters were up in the house; a splendid free stone palace, with great
stairs, statues and porticos. Sir Richard Clavering, Sir Francis's
grandfather, had commenced the ruin of the family by the building of this
palace: his successor had achieved the ruin by living in it. The present
Sir Francis was abroad somewhere, and until now nobody could be found
rich enough to rent that enormous mansion; through the deserted rooms,
mouldy, clanking halls, and dismal galleries of which Arthur Pendennis
many a time walked trembling when he was a boy. At sunset from the lawn
of Fair-Oaks there was a pretty sight: it and the opposite park of
Clavering were in the habit of putting on a rich golden tinge, which
became them both wonderfully. The upper windows of the great house flamed
so as to make your eyes wink; the little river ran off noisily westward
and was lost in sombre wood, behind which the towers of the old abbey
church of Clavering (whereby that town is called Clavering St. Mary's to
the present day) rose up in purple splendour. Little Arthur's figure and
his mother's cast long blue shadows over the grass: and he would repeat
in a low voice (for a scene of great natural beauty always moved the boy,
who inherited this sensibility from his mother) certain lines beginning,
"These are thy glorious works. Parent of Good; Almighty! thine this
universal frame," greatly to Mrs. Pendennis's delight. Such walks and
conversation generally ended in a profusion of filial and maternal
embraces; for to love and to pray were the main occupations of this dear
woman's life; and I have often heard Pendennis say in his wild way, that
he felt that he was sure of going to heaven, for his mother never could
be happy there without him.
As for John Pendennis, as the father of the family, and that sort of
thing, everybody had the greatest respect for him: and his orders were
obeyed like those of the Medes and Persians. His hat was as well brushed
perhaps as that of any man in this empire. His meals were served at the
same minute every day, and woe to those who came late, as little Pen, a
disorderly little rascal, sometimes did. Prayers were recited, his
letters were read, his business despatched, his stables and garden
inspected, his hen-houses and kennel, his barn and pig-sty visited,
always at regular hours. After dinner he always had a nap with the Globe
newspaper on his knee, and his yellow bandanna handkerchief on his face.
And so, as his dinner took place at six o'clock to a minute, and the
sunset business alluded to may be supposed to have occurred at half-past
seven, it is probable that he did not much care for the view in front of
his lawn windows, or take any share in the poetry and caresses which were
taking place there.
They seldom occurred in his presence. However frisky they were before,
mother and child were hushed and quiet when Mr. Pendennis walked into the
drawing-room, his newspaper under his arm. And here, while little Pen,
buried in a great chair, read all the books on which he could lay hold,
the Squire perused his own articles in the Gardener's Gazette, or took a
solemn hand at piquet with Mrs. Pendennis, or an occasional friend from
As for Mrs. Pendennis, she was conspicuous for her tranquil beauty, her
natural sweetness and kindness, and that simplicity and dignity which
purity and innocence are sure to bestow upon a handsome woman, and
during her son's childhood and youth the boy thought of her as little
less than an angel, a supernatural being, all wisdom, love and beauty.
But Mrs. Pendennis had one weakness,--pride of family. She spoke of Mr.
Pendennis as if he had been the Pope of Rome on his throne, and she a
cardinal kneeling at his feet, and giving him incense. Mr. Pendennis's
brother, the Major, she held to be a sort of Bayard among Majors, and
as for her son Arthur, she worshipped that youth with an ardour which
the young scapegrace accepted almost as coolly as the statue of the
saint in St. Peter's receives the rapturous kisses which the faithful
deliver on his toe.
Notwithstanding his mother's worship of him, Arthur Pendennis's
school-fellows at the Grey Friars School state that as a boy he was in no
way remarkable either as a dunce or as a scholar. He never read to
improve himself out of school-hours, but on the contrary devoured all the
novels, plays and poetry he could get hold of. He never was flogged, but
it was a wonder how he escaped the whippingpost. When he had money he
spent it royally in tarts for himself and his friends, and had been known
to disburse nine and sixpence out of ten shillings awarded to him in a
single day. When he had no funds he went on tick. When he could get no
credit he went without, and was almost as happy. He had been known to
take a thrashing for a crony without saying a word; but a blow ever so
slight from a friend would make him roar. To fighting he was averse from
his earliest youth, and indeed to physic, the Greek Grammar, or any other
exertion, and would engage in none of them, except at the last extremity.
He seldom if ever told lies, and never bullied little boys. Those masters
or seniors who were kind to him, he loved with boyish ardour. And though
the Doctor, when he did not know his Horace, or could not construe his
Greek play, said that that boy Pendennis was a disgrace to the school, a
candidate for ruin in this world, and perdition in the next; a profligate
who would most likely bring his venerable father to ruin and his mother
to a dishonoured grave, and the like--yet as the Doctor made use of these
compliments to most of the boys in the place, little Pen, at first uneasy
and terrified by these charges, became gradually accustomed to hear them;
and he has not, in fact, either murdered his parents or committed any act
worthy of transportation or hanging up to the present day.
Thus with various diversions and occupations his school days passed until
he was about sixteen years old, when he was suddenly called away from his
It was at the close of the forenoon school, and Pen had been unnoticed
all the previous part of the morning till now, when the Doctor put him on
to construe in a Greek play. He did not know a word of it, though little
Timmins, his form-fellow, was prompting him with all his might. Pen had
made a sad blunder or two, when the awful chief broke out upon him.
"Pendennis, sir," he said, "your idleness is incorrigible and your
stupidity beyond example. You are a disgrace to your school, and to your
family, and I have no doubt will prove so in after-life to your country.
If that vice, sir, which is described to us as the root of all evil, be
really what moralists have represented, what a prodigious quantity of
future crime and wickedness are you, unhappy boy, laying the seed!
Miserable trifler! A boy, sir, who does not learn his Greek play cheats
the parent who spends money for his education. A boy who cheats his
parent is not very far from robbing or forging upon his neighbour. A man
who forges on his neighbour pays the penalty of his crime at the
gallows. And it is not such a one that I pity, for he will be deservedly
cut off, but his maddened and heartbroken parents, who are driven to a
premature grave by his crimes, or, if they live, drag on a wretched and
dishonoured old age. Go on, sir, and I warn you that the very next
mistake that you make shall subject you to the punishment of the rod.
Who's that laughing? What ill-conditioned boy is there that dares to
laugh?" shouted the Doctor.
Indeed, while the master was making this oration, there was a general
titter behind him in the schoolroom. The orator had his back to the door
of this ancient apartment, which was open, and a gentleman who was quite
familiar with the place (for both Major Arthur, Pen's uncle, and Mr. John
Pendennis had been at the school) was asking the fifth-form boy who sat
by the door for Pendennis. The lad, grinning, pointed to the culprit
against whom the Doctor was pouring out the thunders of his just wrath.
Major Pendennis could not help laughing. He remembered having stood under
that very pillar where Pen the younger now stood, and having been
assaulted by the Doctor's predecessor years and years ago. The
intelligence was "passed round" in an instant that it was Pendennis's
uncle, and a hundred young faces, wondering and giggling, between terror
and laughter, turned now to the newcomer and then to the awful Doctor.
The Major asked the fifth-form boy to carry his card up to the Doctor,
which the lad did with an arch look. Major Pendennis had written on the
card: "I must take A.P. home; his father is very ill."
As the Doctor received the card, and stopped his harangue with rather a
scared look, the laughter of the boys, half constrained until then, burst
out in a general shout. "Silence!" roared out the Doctor, stamping with
his foot. Pen looked up and saw who was his deliverer; the Major beckoned
to him gravely, and, tumbling down his books, Pen went across.
The Doctor took out his watch. It was two minutes to one. "We will take
the Juvenal at afternoon school," he said, nodding to the Captain, and
all the boys, understanding the signal, gathered up their books and
poured out of the hall.
Young Pen saw by his uncle's face that something had happened at home.
"Is there anything the matter with--my mother?" he said. He could hardly
speak for emotion and the tears which were ready to start.
"No," said the Major, "but your father's very ill. Go and pack your trunk
directly; I have got a post-chaise at the gate."
Pen went off quickly to his boarding-house to do as his uncle bade him;
and the Doctor, now left alone in the schoolroom, came out to shake hands
with the Major.
"There is nothing serious, I hope," said the Doctor. "It is a pity to
take the boy otherwise. He is a good boy, rather idle and unenergetic,
but an honest, gentleman-like little fellow, though I can't get him to
construe as I wish. Won't you come in and have some luncheon? My wife
will be very happy to see you."
But Major Pendennis declined the luncheon. He said his brother was very
ill, and had had a fit the day before, and it was a great question if
they should see him alive.
"There's no other son, is there?" said the Doctor. The Major
"And there's a good eh--a good eh--property, I believe?" asked the other
in an off-hand way.
"H'm--so-so," said the Major. Whereupon this colloquy came to an end. And
Arthur Pendennis got into a post-chaise with his uncle, never to come
back to school any more.
As the chaise drove through Clavering, the ostler standing whistling
under the archway of the Clavering Arms winked to the postilion
ominously, as much as to say all was over. The gardener's wife came and
opened the lodge-gates and let the travellers through with a silent shake
of the head. All the blinds were down at Fair-Oaks; and the face of the
old footman was as blank when he let them in. Arthur's face was white,
too, with terror more than with grief. Whatever of warmth and love the
deceased man might have had, and he adored his wife, and loved and
admired his son with all his heart, he had shut them up within himself;
nor had the boy ever been able to penetrate that frigid outward barrier.
A little girl, who was Mrs. Pendennis's adopted daughter, the child of
a dear old friend, peered for a moment under the blinds as the chaise
came up, opened the door from the stairs into the hall, and there
taking Arthur's hand silently as he stooped down to kiss her, led him
upstairs to his mother. What passed between that lady and the boy is
not of import; a veil should be thrown over those sacred emotions of
love and grief.
As for Arthur Pendennis, after that awful shock which the sight of his
dead father must have produced on him, and the pity and feeling which
such an event no doubt occasioned, I am not sure that in the very moment
of the grief, and as he embraced his mother and tenderly consoled her and
promised to love her forever, there was not springing up in his breast a
sort of secret triumph and exultation. He was the chief now and lord. He
was Pendennis; and all round about him were his servants and handmaids.
"You'll never send me away," little Laura said, tripping by him and
holding his hand. "You won't send me to school, will you, Arthur?"
Arthur kissed her and patted her head. No, she shouldn't go to school. As
for going himself that was quite out of the question. He had determined
that his life should be all holidays for the future; that he wouldn't get
up till he liked, or stand the bullying of the Doctor any more; and made
a hundred such day-dreams and resolves for the future. Then in due time
they buried John Pendennis, Esquire, in the Abbey Church of Clavering St.
Mary's, and Arthur Pendennis reigned in his stead.
Arthur was about sixteen years old when he began to reign; in person he
had what his friends would call a dumpy, but his mamma styled, a neat
little figure. His hair was of a healthy brown colour, which looked like
gold in the sunshine. His face was round, rosy, freckled, and
good-humoured. In fact, without being a beauty, he had such a frank,
good-natured, kind face and laughed so merrily at you out of his honest
blue eyes that no wonder Mrs. Pendennis thought him the pride of the
whole country. You may be certain he never went back to school; the
discipline of the establishment did not suit him, and he liked being at
home much better. The question of his return was debated, and his uncle
was for his going back. The Doctor wrote his opinion that it was most
important for Arthur's success in after life that he should know a Greek
play thoroughly, but Pen adroitly managed to hint to his mother what a
dangerous place Grey Friars was, and what sad wild fellows some of the
chaps there were, and the timid soul, taking alarm at once, acceded to
his desire to stay at home.
Then Pen's uncle offered to use his influence with his Royal Highness,
the Commander-in-Chief, to get Pen a commission in the Foot Guards. Pen's
heart leaped at this: he had been to hear the band at St. James's play on
a Sunday, when he went out to his uncle. He had seen Tom Ricketts, of the
fourth form, who used to wear a jacket and trousers so ludicrously tight
that the elder boys could not forbear using him in the quality of a butt
or "cockshy"--he had seen this very Ricketts arrayed in crimson and gold,
with an immense bearskin cap on his head, staggering under the colours of
the regiment. Tom had recognised him and gave him a patronising nod--Tom,
a little wretch whom he had cut over the back with a hockey-stick last
quarter, and there he was in the centre of the square, rallying round the
flag of his county, surrounded by bayonets, cross-belts, and scarlet, the
band blowing trumpets and banging cymbals--talking familiarly to immense
warriors with tufts to their chins and Waterloo medals. What would not
Pen have given to enter such a service?
But Helen Pendennis, when this point was proposed to her by her son, put
on a face full of terror and alarm, and confessed that she should be very
unhappy if he thought of entering the army. Now Pen would as soon have
cut off his nose and ears as deliberately and of malice aforethought have
made his mother unhappy; and as he was of such a generous disposition
that he would give away anything to any one, he instantly made a present
of his visionary red coat and epaulettes to his mother.
She thought him the noblest creature in the world. But Major Pendennis,
when the offer of the commission was acknowledged and refused, wrote back
a curt and somewhat angry letter to the widow, and thought his nephew was
rather a spooney.
He was contented, however, when he saw the boy's performances out hunting
at Christmas, when the Major came down as usual to Fair-Oaks. Pen had a
very good mare, and rode her with uncommon pluck and grace. He took his
fences with great coolness and judgment. He wrote to the chaps at school
about his topboots, and his feats across country. He began to think
seriously of a scarlet coat: and his mother must own that she thought it
would become him remarkably well; though, of course, she passed hours of
anguish during his absence, and daily expected to see him brought home on
With these amusements, in rather too great plenty, it must not be assumed
that Pen neglected his studies altogether. He had a natural taste for
reading every possible kind of book which did _not_ fall into his school
course. It was only when they forced his head into the waters of
knowledge that he refused to drink. He devoured all the books at home and
ransacked the neighbouring book-cases. He found at Clavering an old cargo
of French novels which he read with all his might; and he would sit for
hours perched on the topmost bar of Dr. Portman's library steps with an
old folio on his knees.
Mr. Smirke, Dr. Portman's curate, was engaged at a liberal salary to pass
several hours daily with the young gentleman. He was a decent scholar and
mathematician, and taught Pen as much as the lad was ever disposed to
learn, which was not much. Pen soon took the measure of his tutor, who,
when he came riding into the court-yard at Fair-Oaks on his pony, turned
out his toes so absurdly, and left such a gap between his knees and the
saddle, that it was impossible for any lad endowed with a sense of humour
to respect such a rider. He nearly killed Smirke with terror by putting
him on his mare, and taking him a ride over a common where the county
fox-hounds happened to meet.
Smirke and his pupil read the ancient poets together, and rattled through
them at a pleasant rate, very different from that steady grubbing pace
with which he was obliged to go over the _classis_ ground at Grey Friars,
scenting out each word and digging up every root in the way. Pen never
liked to halt, but made his tutor construe when he was at fault, and thus
galloped through the Iliad and the Odyssey and the charming, wicked
Aristophanes. But he went so fast that though he certainly galloped
through a considerable extent of the ancient country, he clean forgot it
in after life. Besides the ancient poets, Pen read the English with great
gusto. Smirke sighed and shook his head sadly both about Byron and Moore.
But Pen was a sworn fire-worshipper and a corsair; he had them by heart,
and used to take little Laura into the window and say, "Zuleika, I am not
thy brother," in tones so tragic that they caused the solemn little maid
to open her great eyes still wider. She sat sewing at Mrs. Pendennis's
knee, listening to Pen reading to her without understanding one word of
what he said.
He read Shakespeare to his mother, and Byron and Pope, and his favourite
"Lalla Rookh" and Bishop Heber and Mrs. Hemans, and about this period of
his existence began to write verses of his own. He broke out in the
poet's corner of the County Chronicle with some verses with which he was
perfectly well satisfied. His are the verses signed NEP addressed "To a
Tear," "On the Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo," "On St.
Bartholomew's Day," etc., etc., all of which masterpieces Mrs. Pendennis
kept along with his first socks, the first cutting of his hair, his
bottle and other interesting relics of his infancy. His genius at this
time was of a decidedly gloomy cast. He brought his mother a tragedy in
which, though he killed sixteen people before the second act, she laughed
so that he thrust the masterpiece into the fire in a pet. He also
projected an epic poem in blank verse, and several other classical pieces
of a gloomy character, and was altogether of an intense and sentimental
turn of mind quite in contrast with his practical and merry appearance.
The sentimental side of his nature, fed by the productions of his
favourite poets and fanned by the romantic temperament of his tutor, soon
found an object to kindle the spark into a blaze, and a most unfortunate
blaze for Pen.
While Mrs. Pendennis was planning her son's career and had not yet
settled in her mind whether he was to be Senior Wrangler and Archbishop
of Canterbury, or Double First Class at Oxford and Lord Chancellor, young
Pen himself was starting out on quite a different career, which seemed
destined to lead him in the opposite direction from that of his mother's
day-dreams, who had made up her mind that in time he was to marry little
Laura, settle in London and astonish that city by his learning and
eloquence at the Bar; or, better still, in a sweet country parsonage
surrounded by hollyhocks and roses close to a delightful, romantic,
ivy-covered church, from the pulpit of which Pen would utter the most
beautiful sermons ever preached.
While these plans and decisions were occupying his mother's thoughts,
Pen was getting into mischief. One day he rode into Chatteris to carry to
the County Chronicle a thrilling poem for the next week's paper; and
while putting up his horse at the stables at the George hotel, he fell in
with an old school-fellow, Mr. Foker, who after a desultory conversation
with Pen strolled down High Street with him, and persuaded him not only
to dine at the George with him, but to accompany him later to the
theatre. Mr. Foker, who was something of a sport, was acquainted with the
troupe who were then acting at that theatre, and the entire atmosphere
was so new and exciting to Pen that his emotional nature, which had been
waiting for many months for a sensational thrill, responded at once to
the idea; and later on to the applause of pit and gallery, and to the
personal magnetism of the heroine of the play, one Miss Fotheringay.
To Miss Fotheringay's attractions, natural and artificial, Pen responded
at once, and sat in breathless enchanted silence through all the
conversations and melodramatic situations of the mediocre performance.
When the curtain went down he felt that he now had a subject to inspire
his Muse forever. He quitted the theatre in a state of intense
excitement, and rode homeward in a state of numb ecstasy. Notwithstanding
his sentimental mood, Pen was so normal in mind and body that he slept as
soundly as ever, but when he awoke he felt himself to be many years older
than yesterday. He dressed himself in some of his finest clothes, and
came down to breakfast, patronising his mother and little Laura, who
wondered at his grand appearance, and asked him to tell her what the play
Pen laughed and declined to tell her. Then she asked him why he had got
on his fine pin and beautiful new waistcoat?
Pen blushed and said that Mr. Foker was reading with a tutor at
Baymouth, a very learned man; and as he was himself to go to college he
was anxious to ride over--and--just see what their course of reading
was. The truth was Pen had resolved that he must see Foker that morning
and find out all that was possible concerning the object of his last
night's enthusiasm; and soon after breakfast he was on his horse
galloping away towards Baymouth like a madman.
From that time the lad's chief object in life was visiting the theatre,
or Miss Fotheringay herself, to whom he had speedily received an
introduction; and although she was a young woman not at all conversant
with the social side of life with which he was familiar, she was
nevertheless fascinating to Pen, who saw her always in the glamour of
lime lights and applause. It was not long before Mrs. Pendennis
discovered the lad's new interest, which naturally disquieted her.
Finally, however, for reasons of her own, she assented to Pen's
suggestion that Miss Fotheringay was to appear as Ophelia in a benefit
"Suppose we were to go--Shakespeare, you know, mother. We can get horses
from the Clavering Arms," he said. Little Laura sprang up with delight;
she longed for a play. The mother was delighted that Pen should suggest
their going, and in her good-humour asked Mr. Smirke to be one of the
party. They arrived at the theatre ahead of time, and were cordially
saluted by Mr. Foker and a friend, who sat in a box near theirs. The
young fellows saluted Pen cordially, and examined his party with
approval; for little Laura was a pretty red-cheeked girl with a quantity
of shining brown ringlets, and Mrs. Pendennis, dressed in black velvet,
with a diamond cross which she wore on great occasions, looked uncommonly
handsome and majestic.
"Who is that odd-looking person bowing to you, Arthur?" Mrs. Pendennis
asked of her son, after a critical examination of the audience.
Pen blushed a great deal. "His name is Captain Costigan, ma'am," he said,
"a Peninsular officer." Pen did not volunteer anything more; and how was
Mrs. Pendennis to know that Mr. Costigan was the father of Miss
We have nothing to do with the play except to say that Ophelia looked
lovely, and performed with admirable wild pathos, laughing, weeping,
gazing wildly, waving her beautiful white arms and flinging about her
snatches of flowers and songs with the most charming madness. What an
opportunity her splendid black hair had of tossing over her shoulders!
She made the most charming corpse ever seen, and while Hamlet and Laertes
were battling in her grave she was looking out from the back scenes with
some curiosity towards Pen's box, and the family party assembled in it.
There was but one voice in her praise there. Mrs. Pendennis was in
ecstasies with her beauty. Little Laura was bewildered by the piece and
the Ghost, and the play within the play, but cried out great praises of
that beautiful young creature, Ophelia. Pen was charmed with the effect
which she produced on his mother, and the clergyman on his part was
When the curtain fell upon that group of slaughtered personages who are
despatched so suddenly at the end of "Hamlet," and whose death astonished
poor little Laura, there was an immense shouting and applause from all
quarters of the house. There was a roar of bravoes rang through the
house; Pen bellowing with the loudest. "Fotheringay! Fotheringay!" Even
Mrs. Pendennis began to wave about her pocket-handkerchief, and little
Laura danced, laughed, clapped, and looked up at Pen with wonder.
If Pen had been alone with his mother in the carriage as they drove home
that night he would have told her the extent of his devotion for Miss
Fotheringay, but he had no chance to do so, and it remained for that good
lady to hear of her boy's intimacy with the actress from good Dr.
Portman, who, on the following evening, happening to see Pen in Miss
Fotheringay's company and much absorbed by her charms, lost no time in
hurrying to Mrs. Pendennis with the news. Now, although Mrs. Pendennis
had been wise enough to appreciate Pen's infatuation, she had looked upon
it as the merest boyish fancy, induced by the glamour of the stage, and
did not dream that there was a personal intimacy behind it. She heard Dr.
Portman's statement in horrified silence, and before she slept that night
had despatched letters to Major Pendennis demanding his immediate return
from London to help her in the management of her son at this critical
point in his youthful career.
Although loath to leave London, Major Pendennis straightway came to
Fair-Oaks. He came; he saw the situation at a glance; and after a
prolonged conversation with Mrs. Pendennis he summoned Pen himself. That
young man having strung up his nerves, and prepared himself for the
encounter, determined to face the awful uncle, with all the courage and
dignity of the famous family which he represented. He marched into Major
Pendennis's presence with a most severe and warlike expression, as if to
say, "Come on, I am ready."
The old man of the world, as he surveyed the boy's demeanour, could
hardly help a grin at his admirable pompous simplicity, and having a
shrewd notion that threats and tragic exaltations would have no effect
upon the boy, said with the most good-humoured smile in the world, as
he shook Pen's passive fingers gaily: "Well, Pen, my boy, tell us all
Helen was delighted with the generosity of the Major's good-humour. On
the contrary, it quite took aback and disappointed poor Pen, whose nerves
were strung up for a tragedy, and who felt that his grand entrance was
altogether balked and ludicrous. He blushed and winced with mortified
vanity and bewilderment. He felt immensely inclined to begin to cry.
"I--I didn't know you were come till just now," he said; "is--is--town
very full, I suppose?"
If Pen could hardly gulp his tears down it was all the Major could do to
keep from laughter. He turned round and shot a comical glance at Mrs.
Pendennis, who, too, felt that the scene was at once ridiculous and
sentimental. And so, having nothing to say, she went up and kissed Mr.
Pen, while the Major said: "Come, come, Pen, my good fellow, tell us the
Pen got back at once to his tragic and heroical air while he told the
story of his devotion to the charming Miss Fotheringay, to which the
Major gave quiet attention, and then asked many practical questions, and
made so many remarks of a worldly-wise nature that the boy was obliged to
give in and acknowledge the sound wisdom of them, and also before the
interview was over he gave his mother a promise that he would never do
anything which would bring shame upon the family; which promise given,
the Major could contain his gravity at the situation no longer, but burst
into a fit of laughter so infectious that Pen was obliged to join in it.
This sent them with great good-humour into Mrs. Pendennis's drawing-room,
and she was pleased to hear the Major and Pen laughing together as they
walked across the hall with the Major's arm laid gayly on Pen's
shoulder. The pair came to the tea-table in the highest spirits. The
Major's politeness was beyond expression. He was secretly delighted with
himself that he had been able to win such a victory over the young
fellow's feelings. He had never tasted such good tea, and such bread was
only to be had in the country. He asked Mrs. Pendennis for one of her
charming songs. He then made Pen sing, and was delighted at the beauty of
the boy's voice; he made his nephew fetch his maps and drawings, and
praised them as really remarkable works of talent in a young fellow; he
complimented him on his French pronunciation. He flattered the simple boy
to the extent of his ability, and when bedtime came mother and son went
to their rooms perfectly enchanted with him.
Unwilling to leave his work half done, the Major remained at Fair-Oaks
for some time that he might watch his nephew's actions. Pen never rode
over to Chatteris but that the Major found out on what errand the boy
had been. Faithful to his plan, he gave his nephew no hindrance. Yet
somehow the constant feeling that his uncle's eye was upon him made Pen
go less frequently to sigh away his soul at the feet of his charmer than
he had done before his uncle's arrival. But even so, and despite Pen's
promise to his mother, the Major felt that if he were to succeed in
permanently curing the lad of his interest in the actress, it would be
well to have more help in achieving it. In pursuance of this aim, the
Major went to Chatteris himself privately, sought out the actress's
father, and presented to him the practical facts of his nephew's extreme
youth and lack of money, as hindrances to his devotion going further.
After a rather heated argument with Captain Costigan, that gentleman was
made to understand the situation, and finally gave his promise so to
present the case to his daughter, that she should herself write a
letter to Pen setting forth her firm determination to have no more
intercourse with him.
Captain Costigan was as good as his word, and his letter to Pen was sent
immediately. A few lines from Miss Costigan were enclosed. She agreed in
the decision of her papa, pointed out several reasons why they should
meet no more, and thanked him for his kindness and friendship.
Major Pendennis had won a complete victory, and his secret delight
at having rescued Pen from an unwise attachment was only equalled by
his regret at the real suffering he was obliged to allow the lad to
After receiving the letter Pen rushed wildly off to Chatteris; but in
vain attempted to see Miss Fotheringay, for whom he left a letter
enclosed to her father. The enclosure was returned by Mr. Costigan, who
begged that all correspondence might end; and after one or two further
attempts of the lad's, Captain Costigan insisted that their
acquaintance should cease. He cut Pen in the street. As Arthur and
Foker were pacing the street one day they came upon the daughter on her
father's arm. She passed without any nod of recognition. Foker felt
poor Pen trembling on his arm.
His uncle wanted him to travel, and his mother urged him, too, for he was
in a state of restless unhappiness. But he said point blank he would not
go, and his mother was too fond, and his uncle too wise, to force him.
Whenever Miss Fotheringay acted, he rode over to the Chatteris theatre
and saw her; and between times found the life at Fair-Oaks extremely
dreary and uninteresting. He sometimes played backgammon with his mother,
or took dinner with Dr. Portman or some other neighbour; these were the
chief of his pleasures; or he would listen to his mother's simple music
of summer evenings. But he was very restless and wretched in spite of
all. By the pond and under a tree, which was his favourite resort in
moods of depression, Pen, at that time, composed a number of poems
suitable to his misery--over which verses he blushed in after days,
wondering how he could have ever invented such rubbish. He had his hot
and cold fits, his days of sullenness and peevishness, and occasional mad
paroxysms of rage and longing, in which fits his horse would be saddled
and galloped fiercely about the country, bringing him back in such a
state of despair as brought much worry to his mother and the Major. In
fact, Pen's attitude towards life and his actions at that time were so
unlike what they should have been at his age that his proceedings
tortured his mother not a little, and her anxiety would have led her
often to interfere with Pen's doings had not the Major constantly checked
her; fancying that he saw a favourable turn in Pen's malady, which was
shown by a violent attack of writing verses; also spouting them as he sat
with the home party of evenings; and one day the Major found a great
bookful of original verses in the lad's study. Also he discovered that
the young gentleman had a very creditable appetite for his meals, and
slept soundly at night. From these symptoms the Major argued that Pen was
leaving behind him his infatuation.
Dr. Portman was of the opinion that Pen should go to college. He thought
the time had come for the boy to leave his old surroundings, and, besides
study, have a moderate amount of the best society, too. Pen, who was
thoroughly out of harmony with his present surroundings, gloomily said he
would go, and in consequence of this decision not many weeks later the
widow and Laura nervously set about filling trunks with his books, and
linen, and making all necessary preparation for his departure, writing
cards with the name of Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, which were duly nailed
on the boxes; at which both the widow and Laura looked with tearful eyes.
A night soon came when the coach, with echoing horn and blazing lamps,
stopped at the lodge gate of Fair-Oaks, and Pen's trunks and his Uncle's
were placed on the roof of the carriage, into which the pair presently
afterwards entered. Mrs. Pendennis and Laura were standing by the
evergreens of the shrubbery, their figures lighted up by the coach lamps.
The guard cried "All right"; in another instant the carriage whirled
onward; the lights disappeared, and his mother's heart and prayers went
with them. Her sainted benedictions followed the departing boy. He had
left the home-nest in which he had been chafing; eager to go forth and
try his restless wings.
How lonely the house was without him! The corded trunks and book-boxes
were there in his empty study. Laura asked leave to come and sleep in
her aunt's room: and when she cried herself to sleep there, the mother
went softly into Pen's vacant chamber, and knelt down by the bed on
which the moon shone, and there prayed for her boy, as mothers only know
how to plead.
Pen passed a few days at the Major's lodgings in London, of which he
wrote a droll account to his dearest mother; and she and Laura read that
letter, and those which followed, many, many times, and brooded over
them, while Pen and the Major were arriving at Oxbridge; and Pen was
becoming acquainted with his surroundings. The boxes that his mother had
packed with so much care arrived in a few days. Pen was touched as he
read the cards in the dear well-known hand, and as he arranged in their
places all the books, and all the linen and table-cloths which Helen had
selected for him from the family stock, and all the hundred simple gifts
of home. Then came the Major's leave-taking, and truth to tell our friend
Pen was not sorry when he was left alone to enter upon his new career,
and we may be sure that the Major on his part was very glad to have done
his duty by Pen, and to have finished that irksome work. Having left Pen
in the company of Harry Foker, who would introduce him to the best set at
the University, the Major rushed off to London and again took up his
We are not about to go through young Pen's academical career very
minutely. During the first term of his university life he attended
lectures with tolerable regularity, but soon discovering that he had
little taste for pursuing the exact sciences, he gave up his attendance
at that course and announced that he proposed to devote himself
exclusively to Greek and Roman Literature.
Mrs. Pendennis was for her part quite satisfied that her darling boy
should pursue that branch of learning for which he had the greatest
inclination; and only besought him not to ruin his health by too much
study, for she had heard the most melancholy stories of young students
who by overfatigue had brought on brain-fevers, and perished untimely in
the midst of their university career. Pen's health, which was always
delicate, was to be regarded, as she justly said, beyond all
considerations or vain honours. Pen, although not aware of any lurking
disease which was likely to endanger his life, yet kindly promised his
mamma not to sit up reading too late of nights, and stuck to his word in
this respect with a great deal more tenacity of resolution than he
exhibited upon some other occasions, when perhaps he was a little remiss.
Presently he began to find that he learned little good in the classical
lecture. His fellow-students there were too dull, as in mathematics they
were too learned for him. Pen grew weary of hearing the students and
tutor blunder through a few lines of a play which he could read in a
tenth part of the time which they gave to it. After all, private reading,
he decided, was the only study which was really profitable, and he
announced to his mamma that he should read by himself a great deal more
and in public a great deal less. That excellent woman knew no more about
Homer than she did about Algebra, but she was quite contented with Pen's
arrangements regarding his course of study, and felt perfectly confident
that her dear boy would get the place which he merited.
Pen did not come home until after Christmas, a little to the fond
mother's disappointment, and Laura's, who was longing for him to make a
fine snow fortification, such as he had made three winters before. But he
was invited to Logwood, Lady Agnes Foker's, where there were private
theatricals, and a gay Christmas party of very fine folks, some of whom
Major Pendennis would on no account have his nephew neglect. However, he
stayed at home for the last three weeks of the vacation, and Laura had
the opportunity of remarking what a quantity of fine new clothes he
brought with him, and his mother admired his improved appearance and
manly and decided tone.
He had not come home at Easter; but when he arrived for the long vacation
he brought more smart clothes; appearing in the morning in wonderful
shooting-jackets, with remarkable buttons; and in the evening in gorgeous
velvet waistcoats, with richly embroidered cravats, and curious linen.
And as she pried about his room, she saw, oh, such a beautiful
dressing-case, with silver mountings, and a quantity of lovely rings and
jewellery. And he had a new French watch and gold chain, in place of the
big old chronometer, with its bunch of jingling seals, which had hung
from the fob of John Pendennis. It was but a few months back Pen had
longed for this watch, which he thought the most splendid and august
time-piece in the world; and just before he went to college, Helen had
taken it out of her trinket box and given it to Pen with a solemn and
appropriate little speech respecting his father's virtues and the proper
use of time. This portly and valuable chronometer Pen now pronounced to
be out of date, and indeed made some comparisons between it and a
warming-pan, which Laura thought disrespectful; and he left it in a
drawer in the company of soiled primrose gloves and cravats which had
gone out of favour. His horse Pen pronounced no longer up to his weight,
and swapped her for another for which he had to pay rather a heavy
figure. Mrs. Pendennis gave the boy the money for the new horse, and
Laura cried when the old one was fetched away.
Arthur's allowances were liberal at this time, and thus he, the only son
of a country gentleman, and of a gentleman-like bearing and person, was
looked up to as a lad of much more consequence than he really was. His
manner was frank, brave and perhaps a little impertinent, as becomes a
high-spirited youth. He was generous and freehanded with his money, loved
joviality, and had a good voice for a song. He rode well to hounds,
appeared in pink as became a young buck, and managed to run up fine bills
in a number of quarters. In fact, he had almost every taste to a
considerable degree. He was very fond of books of all sorts and had a
very fair taste in matters of art; also a great partiality for fine
clothes and expensive jewellery.
In the course of his second year he had become one of the men of fashion
in the University, and a leader of the faithful band who hung around him
and wondered at him and loved him and imitated him. Now, it is easy to
calculate that with such tastes as Mr. Pen possessed he must in the
course of two or three years spend or owe a very handsome sum of money.
As he was not of a calculating turn he certainly found himself frequently
in debt, but this did not affect his gaiety of spirit. He got a
prodigious in the University and was hailed as a sort of Crichton: and as
for the English verse prize, although Jones carried it that year, the
undergraduates thought Pen's a much finer poem, and he had his verses
printed at his own expense, and distributed in gilt morocco covers
amongst his acquaintance.
Amidst his friends, and a host of them there were, Pen passed more than
two brilliant and happy years. He had his fill of pleasure and
popularity. No dinner or supper party was complete without him. He became
the favourite and leader of young men who were his superiors in wealth
and station, but also did not neglect the humblest man of his
acquaintance in order to curry favour with the richest young grandee in
the University. He became famous and popular: not that he did much, but
there was a general idea that he could do a great deal if he chose. "Ah,
if Pendennis would only _try_" the men said, "he might do anything." One
by one the University honours were lost by him, until he ceased to
compete. But he got a declamation prize and brought home to his mother
and Laura a set of prize books begilt with the college arms, and so
magnificent that the ladies thought that Pen had won the largest honour
which Oxbridge was capable of awarding.
Vacation after vacation passed without the desired news that Pen had sat
for any scholarship or won any honour, and Pen grew rebellious and
unhappy, and there was a tacit feud between Dr. Portman, who was
disappointed in Arthur, and the lad himself. Mrs. Pendennis, hearing Dr.
Portman prophesy that Pen would come to ruin, trembled in her heart, and
little Laura also--Laura who had grown to be a fine young stripling,
graceful and fair, clinging to her adopted mother and worshipping her
with a passionate affection. Both of these women felt that their boy was
changed. He was no longer the artless Pen of old days, so brave, so
impetuous, so tender. He spent little of his vacations at home, but went
on visits, and scared the quiet pair at Fair-Oaks by stories of great
houses to which he had been invited, and by talking of lords without
But even with all his weaknesses there was a kindness and frankness about
Arthur Pendennis which won most people who came in contact with him, and
made it impossible to resist his good-nature, or in his worst moments not
to hope for his rescue from utter ruin. At the time of his career of
university pleasure he would leave the gayest party to sit with a sick
friend and was only too ready to share any money which he had with a
In his third year at college the duns began to gather awfully round about
him, and descended upon him in such a number that the tutors were
scandalised, and even brave-hearted Pen was scared. Hearing of his
nephew's extravagances, Major Pendennis interviewed that young man, and
was thunderstruck at the extent of his liabilities after receiving Pen's
dismal confession of the trouble in which he was involved.
Perhaps it was because she was so tender and good that Pen was terrified
lest his mother should know of his sins. "I can't bear to break it to
her," he said to the tutor, in an agony of grief. "Oh! sir, I've been a
villain to her!"
--and he repented, and asked himself, Why, why, did his uncle insist
upon the necessity of living with great people, and in how much did all
his grand acquaintance profit him?
They were not shy of him, but Pen thought they were, and slunk from them
during his last terms at college. He was as gloomy as a death's-head at
parties, which he avoided of his own part, or to which his young friends
soon ceased to invite him. Everybody knew that Pendennis was "hard up."
At last came the Degree Examinations. Many a young man of his year, whose
hob-nailed shoes Pen had derided, and whose face or coat he had
caricatured, many a man whom he had treated with scorn in the
lecture-room or crushed with his eloquence in the debating club, many of
his own set who had not half his brains, but a little regularity and
constancy of occupation, took high places in the honours or passed within
decent credit. And where in the list was Pen, the superb; Pen, the wit
and dandy; Pen, the poet and orator? Ah, where was Pen, the widow's
darling and sole pride? Let us hide our heads and shut up the page. The
lists came out; and a dreadful rumour rushed through the University, that
Pendennis of Boniface was plucked.
During the latter part of Pen's university career the Major had become
very proud of Arthur on account of his high spirits, frank manners, and
high, gentleman-like bearing. He made more than one visit to Oxbridge and
had an almost paternal fondness for Pen, whom he bragged about at his
clubs, and introduced with pleasure into his conversation. He boasted
everywhere of the boy's great talents and of the brilliant degree he was
going to take as he wrote over and over again to Pen's mother, who for
her part was ready to believe anything that anybody chose to say in
favour of her son.
And all this pride and affection of uncle and mother had been trampled
down by Pen's wicked extravagance and idleness. I don't envy Pen's
feelings as he thought of what he had done. He had marred at its outset
what might have been a brilliant career. He had dipped ungenerously into
a generous mother's purse, and basely and recklessly spent her little
income. Poor Arthur Pendennis felt perfectly convinced that all England
would remark the absence of his name from the examination lists and talk
about his misfortune. His wounded tutor, his many duns, the
undergraduates--how could he bear to look any of them in the face now?
After receiving the news of his disgrace he rushed to his rooms and there
penned a letter to his tutor full of thanks, regards, remorse and
despair, requesting that his name might be taken off the college books,
and intimating a wish that death might speedily end the woes of the
disgraced Arthur Pendennis. Then he slunk out, scarcely knowing where he
went, taking the unfrequented little lanes at the backs of the college
buildings until he found himself some miles distant from Oxbridge. As he
went up a hill, a drizzling January rain beating in his face and his
ragged gown flying behind him, for he had not taken it off since the
morning, a post-chaise came rattling up the road with a young gentleman
in it who caught sight of poor Pen's pale face, jumped out of the
carriage and ran towards him, exclaiming, "I say,--Hello, old boy, where
are you going, and what's the row now?"
"I am going where I deserve to go," said Pen.
"This ain't the way," said his friend Spavin, smiling. "I say, Pen, don't
take on because you are plucked. It is nothing when you are used to it.
I've been plucked three times, old boy, and after the first time I
didn't care. You'll have better luck next time."
Pen looked at his early acquaintance who had been plucked, who had been
rusticated, who had only after repeated failures learned to read and
write correctly, but who, in spite of all these drawbacks had attained
the honour of a degree.
"This man has passed," he thought, "and I have failed." It was almost too
much for him to bear.
"Good-bye," said he; "I am very glad you are through. Don't let me keep
you. I am in a hurry--I am going to town to-night."
"Gammon!" said his friend, "this ain't the way to town; this is the
Fenbury road, I tell you."
"I was just going to turn back," Pen said.
"All the coaches are full with the men going down," Spavin said. Pen
winced. "You'd not get a place for a ten-pound note. Get in here. I'll
drop you where you have a chance of the Fenbury mail. I'll lend you a hat
and coat; I've got lots. Come along; jump in, old boy--go it, leathers!"
And in this way Pen found himself in Mr. Spavin's post-chaise and rode
with that gentleman as far as the Ram Inn at Mudford, fifteen miles from
Oxbridge, where the Fenbury mail changed horses, and where Pen got a
place on to London.
The next day there was an immense excitement at Oxbridge, where, for some
time, a rumour prevailed, to the terror of Pen's tutor and tradesmen,
that Pendennis, maddened at losing his degree, had made away with
himself. A battered cap, in which his name was almost discernible,
together with a seal bearing his crest of an eagle looking at a now
extinct sun, had been found three miles on the Fenbury road, near a mill
stream; and for four-and-twenty hours it was supposed that poor Pen had
flung himself into the stream, until letters arrived from him, bearing
the London post-mark.
The coach reached London at the dreary hour of five; and he hastened to
the inn at Covent Garden, where the ever-wakeful porter admitted him, and
showed him to a bed. Pen looked hard at the man, and wondered whether
Boots knew he was plucked? When in bed he could not sleep there. He
tossed about restlessly until the appearance of daylight, when he sprang
up desperately, and walked off to his uncle's lodgings in Bury Street.
"Good 'evens! Mr. Arthur, what 'as 'appened, sir?" asked the valet, who
was just carrying in his wig to the Major.
"I want to see my uncle," Pen cried in a ghastly voice, and flung himself
down on a chair.
The valet backed before the pale and desperate-looking young man,
with terrified and wondering glances, and disappeared into his
master's apartment, whence the Major put out his head as soon as he
had his wig on.
"What? Examination over? Senior Wrangler, Double First Class, hey?" said
the old gentleman. "I'll come directly," and the head disappeared.
Pen was standing with his back to the window, so that his uncle could not
see the expression of gloomy despair on the young man's face. But when he
held out his hand to Pen, and was about to address him in his cheery,
high-toned voice, he caught sight of the boy's face; and dropping his
hand said, "Why, Pen, what's the matter?"
"You'll see it in the papers at breakfast, sir," Pen said.
"My name isn't there, sir."
"Hang it, why _should_ it be?" asked the Major, more perplexed.
"I have lost everything, sir," groaned out Pen; "my honour's gone; I'm
ruined irretrievably; I can't go back to Oxbridge."
"Lost your honour?" screamed out the Major. "Heaven alive! You don't mean
to say you have shown the white feather?"
Pen laughed bitterly at the word feather, and repeated it. "No, it isn't
that, sir. I'm not afraid of being shot; I wish anybody would shoot me. I
have not got my degree. I--I'm plucked, sir."
The Major had heard of plucking, but in a very vague and cursory way, and
concluded that it was some ceremony performed corporally upon rebellious
university youth. "I wonder you can look me in the face after such a
disgrace, sir," he said; "I wonder you submitted to it as a gentleman."
"I couldn't help it, sir. I did my classical papers well enough: it was
those infernal mathematics, which I have always neglected."
"Was it--was it done in public, sir?" the Major said.
"The--the plucking?" asked the guardian, looking Pen anxiously in the
Pen perceived the error under which his guardian was labouring, and in
the midst of his misery the blunder caused the poor wretch a faint smile,
and served to bring down the conversation from the tragedy-key in which
Pen had been disposed to carry it on. He explained to his uncle that he
had gone in to pass his examination, and failed. On which the Major said,
that though he had expected far better things of his nephew, there was no
great misfortune in this, and no dishonour as far as he saw, and that
Pen must try again.
"Me again at Oxbridge!" Pen thought, "after such a humiliation as
that?" He felt that, except he went down to burn the place, he could
not enter it.
But it was when he came to tell his uncle of his debts that the other
felt surprise and anger most keenly, and broke out into speeches most
severe upon Pen, which the lad bore, as best he might, without flinching.
It appeared that his bills in all amounted to about L700; and furthermore
it was calculated that he had had more than twice that sum during his
stay at Oxbridge. This sum he had spent, and for it he had to show--what?
"You need not press a man who is down, sir," Pen said to his uncle,
gloomily. "I know very well how wicked and idle I have been. My mother
won't like to see me dishonoured, sir," he continued, with his voice
failing; "and I know she will pay these accounts. But I shall ask her for
no more money."
"As you like, sir," the Major said. "You are of age, and my hands are
washed of your affairs. But you can't live without money, and have no
means of making it that I see, though you have a fine talent in spending
it, and it is my belief that you will proceed as you have begun, and ruin
your mother before you are five years older. Good-morning; it is time for
me to go to breakfast. My engagements won't permit me to see you much
during the time that you stay in London. I presume that you will acquaint
your mother with the news which you have just conveyed to me."
And pulling on his hat, and trembling in his limbs somewhat, Major
Pendennis walked out of his lodgings before his nephew, and went ruefully
off to take his accustomed corner at the club, where he saw the Oxbridge
examination lists in the morning papers, and read over the names with
mournful accuracy, thinking also with bitterness of the many plans he had
formed to make a man of his nephew, of the sacrifices which he had made,
and of the manner in which he was disappointed. And he wrote a letter to
Dr. Portman telling him what had happened and begging the Doctor to break
the sad news to Helen. Then the Major went out to dinner, one of the
saddest men in any London dining-room that day.
On receipt of the Major's letter Dr. Portman went at once to Fair-Oaks to
break the disagreeable news to Mrs. Pendennis. She had already received a
letter from Pen, and to the Doctor's great indignation she seemed to feel
no particular unhappiness except that her darling boy should be unhappy.
What was this degree that they made such an outcry about, and what good
would it do Pen? Why did Dr. Portman and his uncle insist upon sending
the boy where there was so much temptation to be risked, and so little
good to be won? Why didn't they leave him at home with his mother? Her
boy was coming back to her repentant and tender-hearted,--why should she
want more? As for his debts, of course they must be paid;--his
debts.--Wasn't his father's money all his, and hadn't he a right to spend
it? In this way the widow met the virtuous Doctor, and all his anger took
no effect upon her gentle bosom.
As for Laura, Pen's little adopted sister, she was no longer the simple
girl of Pen's college days, but a tall, slim, handsome young lady. At the
age of sixteen she was a sweet young lady indeed, ordinarily pale, with a
faint rose-tinge in her cheeks. Her eyes were very large and some critics
said that she was in the habit of making play with those eyes, but the
fact is that nature had made them so to shine and to look, that they
could no more help so looking and shining than one star can help being
brighter than another. It was doubtless to soften their brightness that
Miss Laura's eyes were provided with two veils in the shape of the
longest and finest black eyelashes. Her complexion was brilliant, her
smile charming, while her voice was so low and sweet that to hear it was
like listening to sweet music.
Now, this same charming Miss Laura had only been half pleased with Pen's
general conduct and bearing during the past two years. His letters to his
mother had been very rare and short. It was in vain that the fond widow
urged how constant Arthur's occupations and studies were, and how many
his engagements. "It is better that he should lose a prize," Laura said,
"than forget his mother: and indeed, Mamma, I don't see that he gets many
prizes. Why doesn't he come home and stay with you, instead of passing
his vacations at his great friends' fine houses? There is nobody there
that will love him half as much as you do." Thus Laura declared stoutly,
nor would she be convinced by any of Helen's fond arguments that the boy
must make his way in the world; that his uncle was most desirous that Pen
should cultivate the acquaintance of persons who were likely to befriend
him in life; that men had a thousand ties and calls which women could not
understand, and so forth.
But as soon as Miss Laura heard that Pen was unfortunate and unhappy, all
her anger straightway vanished, giving place to the most tender
compassion. He was the Pen of old days, the frank and affectionate, the
generous and tender-hearted. She at once took side with Helen against Dr.
Portman when he cried out at the enormity of Pen's transgressions.
Debts? What were his debts? They were a trifle; he had been thrown into
expensive society by his uncle's order, and of course was obliged to live
in the same manner as the young gentlemen whose company he frequented.
Disgraced by not getting his degree? The poor boy was ill when he went
for the examinations; he couldn't think of his mathematics and stuff on
account of those very debts which oppressed him; very likely some of the
odious tutors and masters were jealous of him, and had favourites of
their own whom they wanted to put over his head. Other people disliked
him and were cruel to him, and were unfair to him, she was very sure.
And so with flushing cheeks and eyes bright with anger this young
creature reasoned, and went up and seized Helen's hand and kissed her in
the Doctor's presence; and her looks braved the Doctor and seemed to ask
how he dared to say a word against her darling mother's Pen?
Directly the Doctor was gone, Laura ordered fires to be lighted in Mr.
Arthur's rooms, and his bedding to be aired; and by the time Helen had
completed a tender and affectionate letter to Pen, Laura had her
preparations completed, and, smiling fondly, went with her mamma into
Pen's room, which was now ready for him to occupy. Laura also added a
postscript to Helen's letter, in which she called him her dearest friend,
and bade him come home _instantly_ and be happy with his mother and his
That night when Mrs. Pendennis was lying sleepless, thinking of Pen, a
voice at her side startled her, saying softly: "Mamma, are you awake?"
It was Laura. "You know, Mamma," this young lady said, "that I have been
living with you for ten years, during which time you have never taken
any of my money, and have been treating me just as if I were a charity
girl. Now, this obligation has offended me very much, because I am proud
and do not like to be beholden to people. And as, if I had gone to
school, only I wouldn't, it must have cost me as least fifty pounds a
year, it is clear that I owe you fifty times ten pounds, which I know
you have put into the bank at Chatteris for me, and which doesn't belong
to me a bit. Now, to-morrow we will go to Chatteris, and see that nice
old Mr. Rowdy, with the bald head, and ask him for it,--not for his
head, but for the five hundred pounds; and I daresay he will lend you
two more, which we will save and pay back, and we will send the money to
Pen, who can pay all his debts without hurting anybody, and then we will
live happy ever after."
What Mrs. Pendennis replied to this speech need not be repeated, but we
may be sure that its terms were those of the deepest gratitude, and that
the widow lost no time in writing off to Pen an account of the noble, the
magnificent offer of Laura, filling up her letter with a profusion of
benedictions upon both her children.
As for Pen, after being deserted by the Major, and writing his letter to
his mother, he skulked about London streets for the rest of the day,
fancying that everybody was looking at him and whispering to his
neighbour, "That is Pendennis of Boniface, who was plucked yesterday."
His letter to his mother was full of tenderness and remorse: he wept the
bitterest tears over it, and the repentance soothed him to some degree.
On the second day of his London wanderings there came a kind letter from
his tutor, containing many grave and appropriate remarks upon what had
befallen him, but strongly urging Pen not to take his name off the
University books, and to retrieve a disaster which everybody knew was
owing to his own carelessness alone, and which he might repair by a
month of application.
On the third day there arrived the letter from home which Pen read in his
bedroom, and the result of which was that he fell down on his knees, with
his head in the bedclothes, and there prayed out his heart, and humbled
himself; and having gone downstairs and eaten an immense breakfast, he
sallied forth and took his place at the Bull and Mouth, Piccadilly, on
the Chatteris coach for that evening.
And so the Prodigal came home, and the fatted calf was killed for him,
and he was made as happy as two simple women could make him.
For some time he said no power on earth could induce him to go back to
Oxbridge again after his failure there; but one day Laura said to him,
with many blushes, that she thought, as some sort of reparation, or
punishment on himself for his idleness, he ought to go back and get his
degree if he could fetch it by doing so; and so back Mr. Pen went.
A plucked man is a dismal being in a university; belonging to no set of
men there and owned by no one. Pen felt himself plucked indeed of all the
fine feathers which he had won during his brilliant years, and rarely
appeared out of his college; regularly going to morning chapel and
shutting himself up in his rooms of nights, away from the noise and
suppers of the undergraduates. The men of his years had taken their
degrees and were gone. He went into a second examination, and passed with
perfect ease. He was somewhat more easy in his mind when he appeared in
his bachelor's gown, and could cast aside the hated badge of disgrace.
On his way back from Oxbridge he paid a visit to his uncle in London,
hoping that gentleman would accept his present success in place of his
past failure, but the old gentleman received him with very cold looks,
and would scarcely give him his forefinger to shake. He called a second
time, but the valet said his master was not at home.
So Pen went back to Fair-Oaks. True, he had retrieved his failure, had
won his honours, but he came back to his home a very different fellow
from the bright-faced youth who had gone out into college life some years
before. He no longer laughed, sang, or rollicked about the house as of
old; he had tasted of the fruit of the awful Tree of Life which from the
beginning had tempted all mankind, and which had changed Arthur Pendennis
the light-hearted boy into a man. Young, he is, of course, and still
awaiting the development which life's deeper experiences are to bring,
but nevertheless he is not again to taste the joy, the zest, or the
enthusiasm which come to careless boyhood.
Arthur Pendennis is now a competitor among the ranks of men striving
after life's prizes, and this narrative of his boyhood ends.
[Illustration: Miss CAROLINE AND BECKY.]
Since the time of Cinderella the First there have been many similar
instances in real life of the persecution of youth by family injustice
and cruelty, and no case more strikingly similar than that of Miss
Caroline Brandenburg Gann, whose youthful career was one of monotonous
hardship and injustice until the arrival of her fairy prince.
The story is a short one to relate, but to live through the days and
months of sixteen unhappy years seemed an eternal process to the young
heart beating high with hopes which must constantly be stifled, and give
place to bitter disappointment.
But to go back for a moment to the time when Louis XVIII. was restored a
second time to the throne of his father, and all the English who had
money or leisure rushed over to the Continent. At that time there lived
in a certain boarding-house at Brussels a lady who was called Mrs. Crabb;
and her daughter, a genteel young widow, who bore the name of Mrs.
Wellesley McCarty. Previous to this Mrs. McCarty, who was then Miss
Crabb, had run off one day with a young Ensign, who possessed not a
shilling, and who speedily died, leaving his widow without property, but
with a remarkably fine pair of twins, named Rosalind Clancy and Isabella
Finigan Wellesley McCarty.
The young widow being left penniless, her mother, who had disowned the
runaway couple, was obliged to become reconciled to her daughter and to
share her small income of one hundred and twenty pounds a year with her.
Upon this at the boarding-house in Brussels the two managed to live. The
twins were put out, after the foreign fashion, to nurse, and a village in
the neighbourhood, and the widow and her mother maintained a very good
appearance despite their small income; and it was not long before the
Widow McCarty married a young Englishman, James Gann, Esq.--of the great
oil-house of Gann, Blubbery, and Gann,--who was boarding in the same
house with Mrs. Crabb and her daughter. These ladies, who had their full
share of common sense, took care to keep the twins in the background
until such time as the Widow McCarty had become Mrs. Gann. Then on the
day after the wedding, in the presence of many friends who had come to
offer their congratulations, a stout nurse, bearing the two chubby little
ones, made her appearance; and these rosy urchins, springing forward,
shouted affectionately, "_Maman! Maman_!" to the great astonishment and
bewilderment of James Gann, who well-nigh fainted at this sudden
paternity so put upon him. However, being a good-humoured, soft-hearted
man, he kissed his lady hurriedly, and vowed that he would take care of
the poor little things, whom he would also have kissed, but the darlings
refused his caress with many roars.
Soon after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. James Gann returned to England and
occupied a house in Thames Street, City, until the death of Gann, Sr.,
when his son, becoming head of the firm, mounted higher on the social
ladder and went to live in the neighbourhood of Putney, where a neat box,
a couple of spare bedrooms, a good cellar, and a smart gig made a real
gentleman of him. About this period, a daughter was born to him, called
Caroline Blandenburg Gann, so named after a large mansion near
Hammersmith, and an injured queen who lived there at the time of the
little girl's birth.
At this time Mrs. James Gann sent the twins, Rosalind Clancy and Isabella
Finigan Wellesley McCarty, to a boarding-school for young ladies, and
grumbled much at the amount of the bills which her husband was obliged to
pay for them; for, although James discharged them with perfect
good-humour, his lady began to entertain a mean opinion indeed of her
pretty young children. They could expect no fortune, she said, from Mr.
Gann, and she wondered that he should think of bringing them up
expensively, when he had a darling child of his own for whom to save all
the money that he could lay by.
Grandmamma, too, doted on the little Caroline Brandenburg, and vowed
that she would leave her three thousand pounds to this dear infant; for
in this way does the world show its respect for that most respectable
thing, prosperity, and little Caroline was the daughter of prosperous
Little Caroline, then, had her maid, her airy nursery, her little
carriage to drive in, the promise of her grandmamma's money, and her
mamma's undivided affection. Gann, too, loved her sincerely in his
careless good-humoured way; but he determined, notwithstanding, that his
step-daughters should have something handsome at his death, but--but for
a great But.
Gann and Blubbery were in the oil line; their profits arose from
contracts for lighting a great number of streets in London; and about
this period gas came into use. The firm of Gann and Blubbery had been so
badly managed, I am sorry to say, and so great had been the extravagance
of both partners and their ladies, that they only paid their creditors
fourteen-pence halfpenny in the pound.
When Mrs. Crabb heard of this dreadful accident she at once proclaimed
James Gann to be a swindler, a villain, a disreputable, vulgar man, and
made over her money to the Misses Rosalind Clancy and Isabella Finigan
McCarty, leaving poor little Caroline without a cent of legacy. Half of
one thousand five hundred pounds allotted to each twin was to be paid at
marriage, the other half on the death of Mrs. James Gann, who was to
enjoy the interest thereof. Thus did the fortunes of little Caroline
alter in a single night! Thus did Cinderella enter upon the period of her
After James Gann's failure his family lived in various uncomfortable
ways, until at length Mrs. Gann opened a lodging-house in a certain back
street in the town of Margate, on the door of which house might be read
in gleaming brass the name of MR. GANN. It was the work of a single
smutty servant-maid to clean this brass plate every morning, and to
attend to the wants of Mr. Gann, his family, and lodgers. In this same
house Mr. Gann had his office, though if truth be told he had nothing to
do from morning until night. He was very much changed, poor fellow! He
was now a fat, bald-headed man of fifty whose tastes were no longer
aristocratic, and who loved public-house jokes and company.
As for Mrs. Gann, she had changed, too, under the pressure of
misfortune. Her chief occupation was bragging of her former
acquaintances, taking medicine, and mending and altering her gowns. She
had a huge taste for cheap finery, loved raffles, tea-parties, and walks
on the pier, where she flaunted herself and daughters as gay as
butterflies. She stood upon her rank, did not fail to tell her lodgers
that she was "a gentlewoman," and was mighty sharp with Becky, the
maid, and Carrie, her youngest child.
For the tide of affection had turned now, and the Misses Wellesley
McCarty were the darlings of their mother's heart, as Caroline had been
in the early days of Putney prosperity. Mrs. Gann respected and loved her
elder daughters, the stately heiresses of L1500, and scorned poor
Caroline, who was likewise scorned, like Cinderella, by her brace of
haughty, thoughtless sisters. These young women were tall, well-grown,
black-browed girls, fond of fun, and having great health and spirits.
They had pink cheeks, white shoulders, and many glossy curls about their
shining foreheads. Such charms cannot fail of having their effect, and it
was very lucky for Caroline that she did not possess them, or she might
have been as vain, frivolous, and vulgar as these young ladies were. As
it was, Caroline was pale and thin, with fair hair and neat grey eyes;
nobody thought her a beauty in her moping cotton gown, and while her
sisters enjoyed their pleasures and tea-parties abroad, it was Carrie's
usual fate to remain at home and help the servant in the many duties
which were required in Mrs. Gann's establishment. She dressed her mamma
and her sisters, brought her papa his tea in bed, kept the lodgers'
bills, bore their scoldings, and sometimes gave a hand in the kitchen if
any extra cookery was required. At two she made a little toilette for
dinner, and was employed on numberless household darnings and mendings in
the long evenings while her sisters giggled over the jingling piano.
Mamma lay on the sofa, and Gann was at the club. A weary lot, in sooth,
was yours,--poor little Caroline. Since the days of your infancy, not one
hour of sunshine, no friendship, no cheery playfellows, no mother's love!
Only James Gann, of all the household, had a good-natured look for her,
and a coarse word of kindness, but Caroline did not complain, nor shed
any tears. Her misery was dumb and patient; she felt that she was
ill-treated, and had no companion; but was not on that account envious,
only humble and depressed, not desiring so much to resist as to bear
injustice, and hardly venturing to think for herself. This tyranny and
humility served her in place of education and formed her manners, which
were wonderfully gentle and calm. It was strange to see such a person
growing up in such a family, and the neighbours spoke of her with much
scornful compassion. "A poor half-witted, thing," they said, "who could
not say bo! to a goose." And I think it is one good test of gentility to
be thus looked down on by vulgar people.
I have said that Miss Caroline had no friend in the world except her
father, but one friend she most certainly had, and that was honest Becky,
the smutty maid, whose name has been mentioned before. A great comfort it
was for Caroline to descend to the calm kitchen from the stormy
back-parlour, and there vent some of her little woes to the compassionate
servant of all work.
When Mrs. Gann went out with her daughters Becky would take her work and
come and keep Miss Caroline company; and, if the truth must be told, the
greatest enjoyment the pair used to have was in these afternoons, when
they read together out of the precious, greasy, marble-covered volumes
that Mrs. Gann was in the habit of fetching from the library. Many and
many a tale had the pair so gone through. I can see them over "Manfrone;
or the One-handed Monk," the room dark, the street silent, the hour ten,
the tall, red, lurid candlewick waggling down, the flame flickering pale
upon Miss Caroline's pale face as she read out, and lighting up honest
Becky's goggling eyes, who sat silent, her work in her lap; she had not
done a stitch of it for an hour. As the trapdoor slowly opens, and the
scowling Alonzo, bending over the sleeping Imoinda, draws his pistol,
cocks it, looks well if the priming be right, places it then to the
sleeper's ear, and--_thunder under-under_--down fall the snuffers! Becky
has had them in her hand for ten minutes, afraid to use them. Up starts
Caroline and flings the book back into mamma's basket. It is only that
lady returned with her daughters from a tea-party, where they have been
For the sentimental, too, as well as the terrible, Miss Caroline and the
cook had a strong predilection, and had wept their poor eyes out over
"Thaddeus of Warsaw" and the "Scottish Chiefs." Fortified by the examples
drawn from those instructive volumes, Becky was firmly convinced that her
young mistress would meet with a great lord some day or other, or be
carried off, like Cinderella, by a brilliant prince, to the mortification
of her elder sisters, whom Becky hated.
When, therefore, a new lodger came, lonely, mysterious, melancholy,
elegant, with the romantic name of George Brandon--when he actually wrote
a letter directed to a lord, and Miss Caroline and Becky together
examined the superscription, Becky's eyes were lighted up with a
preternatural look of wondering wisdom; whereas, after an instant,
Caroline dropped hers, and blushed and said, "Nonsense, Becky!"
"Is it nonsense?" said Becky, grinning, and snapping her fingers with a
triumphant air; "the cards come true; I knew they would. Didn't you have
a king and queen of hearts three deals running? What did you dream about
last Tuesday, tell me that?"
But Miss Caroline never did tell, for just then her sisters came bouncing
down the stairs, and examined the lodger's letter. Caroline, however,
went away musing much upon these points; and she began to think Mr.
Brandon more wonderful and beautiful every day, whereas he was remarkable
for nothing except very black eyes, a sallow face, and a habit of smoking
cigars in bed till noon. His name of George Brandon was only an assumed
one. He was really the son of a half-pay Colonel, of good family, who had
been sent to Eton to acquire an education. From Eton he went to Oxford,
took honours there, but ran up bills amounting to two thousand pounds.
Then there came fury on the part of his stern old "governor"; and final
payment of the debt, but while this settlement was pending Master George
had contracted many more debts and was glad to fly to the Continent as
tutor to young Lord Cinqbars, and afterwards went into retirement at
Margate until his father's wrath should be appeased. For that reason we
find him a member of the Gann establishment, flirting when occasion
seemed to demand it with mother and daughters, and taking occasional
notice of little Caroline, who frequently broiled his cutlets.
Mrs. Gann's other lodger was a fantastic youth, Andrea Fitch, to whom his
art, and his beard and whiskers, were the darlings of his heart. He was a
youth of poetic temperament, whose long pale hair fell over a high
polished brow, which looked wonderfully thoughtful; and yet no man was
more guiltless of thinking. He was always putting himself into attitudes,
and his stock-in-trade were various theatrical properties, which when
arranged in his apartments on the second floor made a tremendous show.
The Misses Wellesley McCarty voted this Mr. Fitch an elegant young
fellow, and before long the intimacy between the young people was
considerable, for Mr. Fitch insisted upon drawing the portraits of the
"I suppose you will do my Carrie next?" said Mr. Gann, one day,
expressing his approbation of a portrait just finished, wherein the
Misses McCarty were represented embracing one another.
"Law, sir," exclaimed Miss Linda, "Carrie, with her red hair!--"
"Mr. Fitch might as well paint Becky, our maid!" cried Miss Bella.
"Carrie is quite impossible, Gann," said Mrs. Gann; "she hasn't a gown
fit to be seen in. She's not been at church for thirteen Sundays in
"And more shame for you, ma'am," said Mr. Gann, who liked his child;
"Carrie shall have a gown, and the best of gowns;" and jingling three and
twenty shillings in his pocket, Mr. Gann determined to spend them all in
the purchase of a robe for Carrie. But, alas, the gown never came; half
the money was spent that very evening at the tavern.
"Is that--that young lady your daughter?" asked Mr. Fitch, surprised, for
he fancied Carrie was a humble companion of the family.
"Yes, she is, and a very good daughter, too, sir," answered Mr. Gann.
"_Fetch_ and Carrie I call her, or else Carry-van; she is so useful.
Ain't you, Carrie?"
"I'm very glad if I am, Papa," said the young lady, blushing violently.
"Hold your tongue, Miss!" said her mother; "you are, very expensive to
us, that you are, and need not brag about the work you do, and if your
sisters and me starve to keep you, and some other folks" (looking
fiercely at Mr. Gann), "I presume you are bound to make some return."
Poor Caroline was obliged to listen to this harangue on her own
ill-conduct in silence. As it was the first lecture Mr. Fitch had heard
on the subject, he naturally set down Caroline for a monster. Was she not
idle, sulky, scornful, and a sloven? For these and many more of her
daughter's vices Mrs. Gann vouched, declaring that Caroline's behaviour
was hastening her own death; and she finished by a fainting fit. In the
presence of all these charges, there stood Miss Caroline, dumb, stupid
and careless; nay, when the fainting-fit came on, and Mrs. Gann fell back
on the sofa, the unfeeling girl took the opportunity to retire, and never
offered to rub her mamma's hands, to give her the smelling bottle, or to
restore her with a glass of water.
Mr. Fitch stood close at hand, for at the time he was painting Mrs.
Gann's portrait--and he was hastily making towards her with his tumbler,
when Miss Linda cried out, "Stop! the water is full of paint!" and
straightway burst out laughing. Mrs. Gann jumped up at this, cured
suddenly, and left the room, looking somewhat foolish.
"You don't know Ma," said Miss Linda, still giggling; "she's always
"Poor dear lady!" said the artist; "I pity her from my inmost soul.
Doesn't the himmortal bard observe how sharper than a serpent's tooth it
is to have a thankless child? And is it true, ma'am, that that young
woman has been the ruin of her family?"
"Ruin of her fiddlestick!" replied Miss Bella. "Law, Mr. Fitch, you don't
know Ma yet; she is in one of her tantrums."
"What, then, it _isn't_ true!" cried simple-minded Fitch. To which
neither of the young ladies made any answer in words, nor could the
little artist comprehend why they looked at each other and burst out
laughing. But he retired pondering on what he had seen and heard, and
being a very soft young fellow, most implicitly believed the accusations
of poor dear Mrs. Gann for a time.
Presently, however, those opinions changed, and the change was brought
about by watching closely the trend of domestic affairs in the Gann
establishment. After a fortnight of close observation the artist, though
by no means quick of comprehension, began to see that the nightly charges
brought against poor Caroline could not be founded upon truth.
"Let's see," mused he to himself. "Tuesday the old lady said her daughter
was bringing her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, because the cook
had not boiled the potatoes. Wednesday she said Caroline was an assassin,
because she could not find her own thimble. Thursday she vowed Caroline
had no religion, because that old pair of silk stockings were not darned;
and this can't be," reasoned Fitch. "A gal ain't a murderess, because her
ma can't find her thimble. A woman that goes to slap her grown-up
daughter on the back, and before company too, for such a paltry thing as
an old pair of stockings, can't be surely speaking the truth." And thus
gradually his first impression against Caroline wore away, and pity took
possession of his soul, pity for the meek little girl, who, though
trampled upon, was now springing up to womanhood; and though pale,
freckled, thin, meanly dressed, had a certain charm about her which some
people preferred to the cheap splendours and rude red and white of the
Misses McCarty, and which was calculated to touch the heart of anyone who
watched her carefully.
On account of Mr. Brandon's correspondence with the aristocracy that
young gentleman was highly esteemed by the family with whom he lodged for
a time. Then, however, he bragged so much, and assumed such airs of
superiority, that he perfectly disgusted Mrs. Gann and the Misses
McCarty, who did not at all like his way of telling them that he was
their better. But James Gann looked up to Mr. Brandon with deepest
wonder as a superior being. And poor little Caroline followed her
father's faith and in six weeks after Mr. Brandon's arrival had grown to
believe him the most perfect, polished, agreeable of mankind. Indeed, the
poor girl had never seen a gentleman before, and towards such her gentle
heart turned instinctively. Brandon never offended her by hard words; or
insulted her by cruel scorn such as she met with from her mother and
sisters; and so Caroline felt that he was their superior, and as such
admired and respected him.
Consequently one day when he condescended to dine with the family at
three o'clock, there being another guest as well, one Mr. Swigby,
Caroline felt it to be one of the greatest occasions of her life, and was
fairly trembling with pleasure, when, dinner being half over, she stole
gently into the room and took her ordinary place near her father. I do
believe she would have been starved, but Gann was much too good-natured
to allow any difference to be made between her and her sisters in the
matter of food. An old rickety wooden stool was placed for her, instead
of that elegant and comfortable Windsor chair which supported every other
person at table; by the side of the plate stood a curious old battered
tin mug bearing the inscription "Caroline." These, in truth, were poor
Caroline's mug and stool, having been appropriated to her from childhood
upwards; and here it was her custom meekly to sit and eat her daily meal.
Caroline's pale face was very red; for she had been in the kitchen
helping Becky, and had been showing her respect for the great Mr. Brandon
by cooking in her best manner a certain dish for which her papa had often
praised her. She took her place, blushing violently when she saw him, and
if Mr. Gann had not been making a violent clattering with his knife and
fork, it is possible that he might have heard Miss Caroline's heart
thump, which it did violently. Her dress was somehow a little smarter
than usual, and Becky, who brought in the hashed mutton, looked at her
young lady complacently, as, loaded with plates, she quitted the room.
Indeed, the poor girl deserved to be looked at: there was an air of