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The History of Pendennis, Vol. 2 by William Makepeace Thackeray

Part 8 out of 9

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you have surprised concern me, I should like to know?" asked Major
Pendennis, with great majesty.

"How does it concern me, indeed? how grand we are! how does it concern
my nephew, I wonder? How does it concern my nephew's seat in
Parlyment: and to subornation of bigamy? How does it concern that?
What, are you to be the only man to have a secret, and to trade on it?
Why shouldn't I go halves, Major Pendennis? I've found it out too.
Look here! I ain't goin' to be unreasonable with you. Make it worth my
while, and I'll keep the thing close. Let Mr. Arthur take his seat,
and his rich wife, if you like; I don't want to marry her. But I will
have my share as sure as my name's James Morgan. And if I don't--"

"And if you don't, sir--what?" Pendennis asked. "If I don't, I split,
and tell all. I smash Clavering, and have him and his wife up for
bigamy--so help me, I will! I smash young Hopeful's marriage, and I
show up you and him as makin' use of this secret, in order to squeeze
a seat in Parlyment out of Sir Francis, and a fortune out of
his wife."

"Mr. Pendennis knows no more of this business than the babe unborn,
sir," cried the major, aghast. "No more than Lady Clavering, than Miss
Amory does."

"Tell that to the marines, major," replied the valet; "that cock won't
fight with me."

"Do you doubt my word, you villain?"

"No bad language. I don't care one twopence'a'p'ny whether your word's
true or not. I tell you, I intend this to be a nice little annuity to
me, major: for I have every one of you; and I ain't such a fool as to
let you go. I should say that you might make it five hundred a year to
me among you, easy. Pay me down the first quarter now, and I'm as mum
as a mouse. Just give me a note for one twenty-five. There's your
check-book on your desk."

"And there's this, too, you villain," cried the old gentleman. In the
desk to which the valet pointed was a little double-barreled pistol,
which had belonged to Pendennis's old patron, the Indian
commander-in-chief, and which had accompanied him in many a campaign.
"One more word, you scoundrel, and I'll shoot you, like a mad dog.
Stop--by Jove, I'll do it now. You'll assault me will you? You'll
strike at an old man, will you, you lying coward? Kneel down and say
your prayers, sir, for by the Lord you shall die."

The major's face glared with rage at his adversary, who looked
terrified before him for a moment, and at the next, with a shriek of
"Murder," sprang toward the open window, under which a policeman
happened to be on his beat. "Murder! Police!" bellowed Mr. Morgan. To
his surprise, Major Pendennis wheeled away the table and walked to the
other window, which was also open. He beckoned the policeman. "Come up
here, policeman," he said, and then went and placed himself
against the door.

"You miserable sneak," he said to Morgan; "the pistol hasn't been
loaded these fifteen years as you have known very well: if you had not
been such a coward. That policeman is coming, and I will have him up,
and have your trunks searched; I have reason to believe that you are a
thief, sir. I know you are. I'll swear to the things."

"You gave 'em to me--you gave 'em to me!" cried Morgan.

The major laughed. "We'll see," he said; and the guilty valet
remembered some fine lawn-fronted shirts--a certain gold-headed cane--
an opera-glass, which he had forgotten to bring down, and of which he
had assumed the use along with certain articles of his master's
clothes, which the old dandy neither wore nor asked for.

Policeman X entered; followed by the scared Mrs. Brixham and her
maid-of-all-work, who had been at the door and found some
difficulty in closing it against the street amateurs, who wished to
see the row. The major began instantly to speak.

"I have had occasion to discharge this drunken scoundrel," he said,
"Both last night and this morning he insulted and assaulted me. I am
an old man and took up a pistol. You see it is not loaded, and this
coward cried out before he was hurt. I am glad you are come. I was
charging him with taking my property, and desired to examine his
trunks and his room."

"The velvet cloak you ain't worn these three years, nor the weskits,
and I thought I might take the shirts, and I--I take my hoath I
intended to put back the hopera-glass," roared Morgan, writhing with
rage and terror.

"The man acknowledges that he is a thief," the major said, calmly, "He
has been in my service for years, and I have treated him with every
kindness and confidence. We will go up-stairs and examine his trunks."
In those trunks Mr. Morgan had things which he would fain keep from
public eyes. Mr. Morgan, the bill discounter, gave goods as well as
money to his customers. He provided young spendthrifts with
snuff-boxes and pins and jewels and pictures and cigars, and of a very
doubtful quality those cigars and jewels and pictures were. Their
display at a police-office, the discovery of his occult profession,
and the exposure of the major's property, which he had appropriated,
indeed, rather than stolen--would not have added to the reputation of
Mr. Morgan. He looked a piteous image of terror and discomfiture.

"He'll smash me, will he?" thought the major. "I'll crush him now, and
finish with him."

But he paused. He looked at poor Mrs. Brixham's scared face; and he
thought for a moment to himself that the man brought to bay and in
prison might make disclosures which had best be kept secret, and that
it was best not to deal too fiercely with a desperate man.

"Stop," he said, "policeman. I'll speak with this man by himself." "Do
you give Mr. Morgan in charge?" said the policeman.

"I have brought no charge as yet," the major said, with a significant
look at his man.

"Thank you sir," whispered Morgan, very low.

"Go outside the door, and wait there, policeman, if you please--Now,
Morgan, you have played one game with me, and you have not had the
best of it, my good man. No, begad, you've not had the best of it,
though you had the best hand; and you've got to pay, too, now, you
scoundrel."

"Yes, sir," said the man.

"I've only found out, within the last week, the game which you have
been driving, you villain. Young De Boots, of the Blues, recognized
you as the man who came to barracks, and did business one-third in
money, one-third in Eau-de-Cologne, and one-third in French prints,
you confounded demure old sinner! I didn't miss any thing, or care a
straw what you'd taken, you booby; but I took the shot, and it hit--hit
the bull's-eye, begad. Dammy, sir, I'm an old campaigner." "What do
you want with me, sir?"

"I'll tell you. Your bills, I suppose, you keep about you in that
dem'd great leather pocket-book, don't you? You'll burn Mrs.
Brixham's bill?"

"Sir, I ain't a-goin' to part with my property," growled the man.

"You lent her sixty pounds five years ago. She and that poor devil of
an insurance clerk, her son, have paid you fifty pounds a year ever
since; and you have got a bill of sale of her furniture, and her note
of hand for a hundred and fifty pounds. She told me so last night. By
Jove, sir, you've bled that poor woman enough."

"I won't give it up," said Morgan; "If I do I'm--"

"Policeman!" cried the major.

"You shall have the bill," said Morgan. "You're not going to take
money of me, and you a gentleman?"

"I shall want you directly," said the major to X, who here entered,
and who again withdrew.

"No, my good sir," the old gentleman continued; "I have not any desire
to have farther pecuniary transactions with you; but we will draw out
a little paper, which, you will have the kindness to sign. No,
stop!--you shall write it: you have improved immensely in writing of
late, and have now a very good hand. You shall sit down and write, if
you please--there, at that table--so--let me see--we may as well have
the date. Write 'Bury-street, St. James's, October 21, 18--.'"

And Morgan wrote as he was instructed, and as the pitiless old major
continued:

"I, James Morgan, having come in extreme poverty into the service of
Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, of Bury-street, St. James's, a major in her
Majesty's service, acknowledge that I received liberal wages and board
wages from my employer, during fifteen years. You can't object to
that, I am sure," said the major.

"During fifteen years," wrote Morgan.

"In which time, by my own care and prudence," the dictator resumed, "I
have managed to amass sufficient money to purchase the house in which
my master resides, and, besides, to effect other savings. Among other
persons from whom I have had money, I may mention my present tenant,
Mrs. Brixham, who, in consideration of sixty pounds advanced by me
five years since, has paid back to me the sum of two hundred and fifty
pounds sterling, besides giving me a note of hand for one hundred and
twenty pounds, which I restore to her at the desire of my late master,
Major Arthur Pendennis, and therewith free her furniture, of which I
had a bill of sale. Have you written?"

"I think if this pistol was loaded, I'd blow your brains out," said
Morgan.

"No, you wouldn't. You have too great a respect for your valuable
life, my good man," the major answered. "Let us go on and begin a
new sentence."

"And having, in return for my master's kindness, stolen his property
from him, which I acknowledge to be now up-stairs in my trunks;
and having uttered falsehoods regarding his and other honorable
families, I do hereby, in consideration of his clemency to me, express
my regret for uttering these falsehoods, and for stealing his
property; and declare that I am not worthy of belief, and that I
hope--yes, begad--that I hope to amend for the future. Signed,
James Morgan."

"I'm d--d if I sign it," said Morgan.

"My good man, it will happen to you, whether you sign or no, begad,"
said the old fellow, chuckling at his own wit. "There, I shall not use
this, you understand, unless--unless I am compelled to do so. Mrs.
Brixham, and our friend the policeman, will witness it, I dare say,
without reading it: and I will give the old lady back her note of
hand, and say, which you will confirm, that she and you are quits. I
see there is Frosch come back with the cab for my trunks; I shall go
to an hotel. You may come in now, policeman; Mr. Morgan and I have
arranged our little dispute. If Mrs. Brixham will sign this paper, and
you, policeman, will do so, I shall be very much obliged to you both.
Mrs. Brixham, you and your worthy landlord, Mr. Morgan, are quits. I
wish you joy of him. Let Frosch come and pack the rest of the things."

Frosch, aided by the Slavey, under the calm superintendence of Mr.
Morgan, carried Major Pendennis's boxes to the cabs in waiting; and
Mrs. Brixham, when her persecutor was not by, came and asked a
Heaven's blessing upon the major, her preserver, and the best and
quietest and kindest of lodgers. And having given her a finger to
shake, which the humble lady received with a courtesy, and over which
she was ready to make a speech full of tears, the major cut short that
valedictory oration, and walked out of the house to the hotel in
Jermyn street, which was not many steps from Morgan's door.

That individual, looking forth from the parlor-window, discharged any
thing but blessings at his parting guest; but the stout old boy could
afford not to be frightened at Mr. Morgan, and flung him a look of
great contempt and humor as he strutted away with his cane.

Major Pendennis had not quitted his house of Bury street many hours,
and Mr. Morgan was enjoying his _otium_, in a dignified manner,
surveying the evening fog, and smoking a cigar, on the doorsteps, when
Arthur Pendennis, Esq., the hero of this history, made his appearance
at the well-known door.

"My uncle out, I suppose, Morgan?" he said to the functionary; knowing
full well that to smoke was treason, in the presence of the major.

"Major Pendennis _i_s hout, sir," said Morgan, with gravity, bowing,
but not touching the elegant cap which he wore. "Major Pendennis have
left this ouse to-day, sir, and I have no longer the honor of being in
his service, sir."

"Indeed, and where is he?"

"I believe he ave taken tempory lodgings at Cox's otel, in Jummin
street," said Mr. Morgan; and added, after a pause, "Are you in
town for some time, pray, sir? Are you in Chambers? I should like to
have the honor of waiting on you there: and would be thankful if you
would favor me with a quarter of an hour."

"Do you want my uncle to take you back?" asked Arthur, insolent and
good-natured.

"I want no such thing; I'd see him--" the man glared at him for a
minute, but he stopped. "No, sir, thank you," he said in a softer
voice; "it's only with you that I wish to speak, on some business
which concerns you; and perhaps you would favor me by walking into
my house."

"If it is but for a minute or two, I will listen to you, Morgan," said
Arthur; and thought to himself, "I suppose the fellow wants me to
patronize him;" and he entered the house. A card was already in the
front windows, proclaiming that apartments were to be let, and having
introduced Mr. Pendennis into the dining-room, and offered him a
chair, Mr. Morgan took one himself, and proceeded to convey some
information to him, with which the reader has already had
cognizance.

CHAPTER XXXI.

IN WHICH PENDENNIS COUNTS HIS EGGS.

[Illustration]

Our friend had arrived in London on that day only,
though but for a brief visit, and having left some fellow-travelers at
an hotel to which he had conveyed them from the West, he hastened to
the Chambers in Lamb-court, which were basking in as much sun as chose
to visit that dreary but not altogether comfortless building. Freedom
stands in lieu of sunshine in Chambers; and Templars grumble, but take
their ease in their Inn. Pen's domestic announced to him that
Warrington was in Chambers too, and, of course, Arthur ran up to his
friend's room straightway, and found it, as of old, perfumed with the
pipe, and George once more at work at his newspapers and reviews. The
pair greeted each other with the rough cordiality which young
Englishmen use one to another: and which carries a great deal of
warmth and kindness under its rude exterior. Warrington smiled and
took his pipe out of his mouth, and said, "Well, young one!" Pen
advanced and held out his hand, and said, "How are you, old boy?" And
so this greeting passed between two friends who had not seen each
other for months. Alphonse and Frederic would have rushed into each
other's arms and shrieked _Ce bon coeur! ce cher Alphonse!_ over each
other's shoulders. Max and Wilhelm would have bestowed half a dozen
kisses, scented with Havanna, upon each other's mustaches. "Well,
young one!" "How are you, old boy?" is what two Britons say: after
saving each other's lives, possibly, the day before. To-morrow they
will leave off shaking hands, and only wag their heads at one another
as they come to breakfast. Each has for the other the very warmest
confidence and regard: each would share his purse with the other; and
hearing him attacked would break out in the loudest and most
enthusiastic praise of his friend; but they part with a mere Good-by,
they meet with a mere How-d'you-do: and they don't write to each other
in the interval. Curious modesty, strange stoical decorum of English
friendship! "Yes, we are not demonstrative like those confounded
foreigners," says Hardman; who not only shows no friendship, but
never felt any all his life long.

"Been in Switzerland?" says Pen. "Yes," says Warrington. "Couldn't
find a bit of tobacco fit to smoke till we came to Strasburg, where I
got some caporal." The man's mind is full, very likely, of the great
sights which he has seen, of the great emotions with which the vast
works of nature have inspired it. But his enthusiasm is too coy to
show itself, even to his closest friend, and he veils it with a cloud
of tobacco. He will speak more fully of confidential evenings,
however, and write ardently and frankly about that which he is shy of
saying. The thoughts and experience of his travel will come forth in
his writings; as the learning, which he never displays in talk,
enriches his style with pregnant allusion and brilliant illustration,
colors his generous eloquence, and points his wit.

The elder gives a rapid account of the places which he has visited in
his tour. He has seen Switzerland, North Italy, and the Tyrol--he has
come home by Vienna, and Dresden, and the Rhine. He speaks about these
places in a shy, sulky voice, as if he had rather not mention them at
all, and as if the sight of them had rendered him very unhappy. The
outline of the elder man's tour thus gloomily sketched out, the young
one begins to speak. He has been in the country--very much
bored--canvassing--uncommonly slow--he is here for a day or two, and
going on to--to the neighborhood of Tunbridge Wells, to some
friends--that will be uncommonly slow, too. How hard it is to make an
Englishman acknowledge that he is happy!

"And the seat in Parliament, Pen? Have you made it all right?" asks
Warrington.

"All right--as soon as Parliament meets and a new writ can be issued,
Clavering retires, and I step into his shoes," says Pen.

"And under which king does Bezonian speak or die?" asked Warrington.
"Do we come out as Liberal Conservative, or as Government man, or on
our own hook?"

"Hem! There are no politics now; every man's politics, at least, are
pretty much the same. I have not got acres enough to make me a
Protectionist; nor could I be one, I think, if I had all the land in
the county. I shall go pretty much with Government, and in advance of
them upon some social questions which I have been getting up during
the vacation; don't grin, you old Cynic, I _have_ been getting up the
Blue Books, and intend to come out rather strong on the Sanitary and
Colonization questions."

"We reserve to ourselves the liberty of voting against
Government, though, we are generally friendly. We are, however,
friends of the people _avant tout_. We give lectures at the Clavering
Institute, and shake hands with the intelligent mechanics. We think
the franchise ought to be very considerably enlarged; at the same time
we are free to accept office some day, when the House has listened to
a few crack speeches from us, and the Administration perceives
our merit."

"I am not Moses," said Pen, with, as usual, somewhat of melancholy in
his voice. "I have no laws from Heaven to bring down to the people
from the mountain. I don't belong to the mountain at all, or set up to
be a leader and reformer of mankind. My faith is not strong enough for
that; nor my vanity, nor my hypocrisy, great enough. I will tell no
lies, George, that I promise you: and do no more than coincide in
those which are necessary and pass current, and can't be got in
without recalling the whole circulation. Give a man at least the
advantage of his skeptical turn. If I find a good thing to say in the
House, I will say it; a good measure, I will support it; a fair place,
I will take it, and be glad of my luck. But I would no more flatter a
great man than a mob; and now you know as much about my politics as I
do. What call have I to be a Whig? Whiggism is not a divine
institution. Why not vote with the Liberal Conservatives? They have
done for the nation what the Whigs would never have done without them.
Who converted both?--the Radicals and the country outside. I think the
_Morning Post_ is often right, and _Punch_ is often wrong. I don't
profess a call, but take advantage of a chance. _Parlons
d'autre chose_."

"The next thing at your heart, after ambition, is love, I suppose?"
Warrington said. "How have our young loves prospered? Are we going to
change our condition, and give up our chambers? Are you going to
divorce me, Arthur, and take unto yourself a wife?"

"I suppose so. She is very good-natured and lively. She sings, and she
don't mind smoking. She'll have a fair fortune--I don't know how
much--but my uncle augurs every thing from the Begum's generosity, and
says that she will come down very handsomely. And I think Blanche is
devilish fond of me," said Arthur, with a sigh.

"That means that we accept her caresses and her money."

"Haven't we said before that life was a transaction?" Pendennis said.
"I don't pretend to break my heart about her. I have told her pretty
fairly what my feelings are--and--and have engaged myself to her. And
since I saw her last, and for the last two months especially, while I
have been in the country, I think she has been growing fonder and
fonder of me; and her letters to me, and especially to Laura, seem to
show it. Mine have been simple enough--no raptures nor vows, you
understand--but looking upon the thing as an _affaire faite_; and not
desirous to hasten or defer the completion."

"And Laura? how is she?" Warrington asked frankly.

"Laura, George," said Pen, looking his friend hard in the face; "by
Heaven, Laura is the best, and noblest, and dearest girl the sun ever
shone upon." His own voice fell as he spoke: it seemed as if he
could hardly utter the words: he stretched out his hand to his
comrade, who took it and nodded his head.

"Have you only found out that now, young un?" Warrington said after a
pause.

"Who has not learned things too late, George?" cried Arthur, in his
impetuous way, gathering words and emotion as he went on. "Whose life
is not a disappointment? Who carries his heart entire to the grave
without a mutilation? I never knew any body who was happy quite: or
who has not had to ransom himself out of the hands of Fate with the
payment of some dearest treasure or other. Lucky if we are left alone
afterward, when we have paid our fine, and if the tyrant visits us no
more. Suppose I have found out that I have lost the greatest prize in
the world, now that it can't be mine--that for years I had an angel
under my tent, and let her go?--am I the only one--ah, dear old boy,
am I the only one? And do you think my lot is easier to bear because I
own that I deserve if? She's gone from us. God's blessing be with her!
She might have staid, and I lost her; it's like Undine: isn't
it, George?"

"She was in this room once," said George.

He saw her there--he heard the sweet low voice--he saw the sweet smile
and eyes shining so kindly--the face remembered so fondly--thought of
in what night-watches--blest and loved always--gone now! A glass that
had held a nosegay--a Bible with Helen's hand-writing--were all that
were left him of that brief flower of his life. Say it is a dream: say
it passes: better the recollection of a dream than an aimless waking
from a blank stupor.

The two friends sate in silence awhile, each occupied with his own
thoughts and aware of the other's. Pen broke it presently, by saying
that he must go and seek for his uncle, and report progress to the old
gentleman. The major had written in a very bad humor; the major was
getting old. "I should like to see you in Parliament, and snugly
settled with a comfortable house and an heir to the name before I make
my bow. Show me these," the major wrote, "and then, let old Arthur
Pendennis make room for the younger fellows: he has walked the Pall
Mall _pav_ long enough."

"There is a kindness about the old heathen," said Warrington. "He
cares for somebody besides himself, at least for some other part of
himself besides that which is buttoned into his own coat;--for you and
your race. He would like to see the progeny of the Pendennises
multiplying and increasing, and hopes that they may inherit the land.
The old patriarch blesses you from the Club window of Bays's, and is
carried off and buried under the flags of St. James's Church, in sight
of Piccadilly, and the cab-stand, and the carriages going to the
levee. It is an edifying ending."

"The new blood I bring into the family," mused Pen, "is rather
tainted. If I had chosen, I think my father-in-law, Amory, would not
have been the progenitor I should have desired for my race; nor my
grandfather-in-law Snell; nor our Oriental ancestors. By the way, who
was Amory? Amory was lieutenant of an Indiaman. Blanche wrote some
verses about him, about the storm, the mountain wave, the seaman's
grave, the gallant father, and that sort of thing. Amory was drowned
commanding a country ship between Calcutta and Sydney; Amory and the
Begum weren't happy together. She has been unlucky in her selection of
husbands, the good old lady, for, between ourselves, a more despicable
creature than Sir Francis Clavering, of Clavering Park, Baronet,
never--" "Never legislated for his country," broke in Warrington; at
which Pen blushed rather.

"By the way, at Baden," said Warrington, "I found our friend the
Chevalier Strong in great state, and wearing his orders. He told me
that he had quarreled with Clavering, of whom he seemed to have almost
as bad an opinion as you have, and in fact, I think, though I will not
be certain, confided to me his opinion, that Clavering was an utter
scoundrel. That fellow Bloundell, who taught you card-playing at
Oxbridge, was with Strong; and time, I think, has brought out his
valuable qualities, and rendered him a more accomplished rascal than
he was during your undergraduateship. But the king of the place was
the famous Colonel Altamont, who was carrying all before him, giving
fetes to the whole society, and breaking the bank, it was said."

"My uncle knows something about that fellow--Clavering knows something
about him. There's something _louche_ regarding him. But come! I must
go to Bury-street, like a dutiful nephew." And, taking his hat, Pen
prepared to go.

"I will walk, too," said Warrington. And they descended the stairs,
stopping, however, at Pen's chambers, which, as the reader has been
informed, were now on the lower story.

Here Pen began sprinkling himself with Eau-de-Cologne, and carefully
scenting his hair and whiskers with that odoriferous water.

"What is the matter? You've not been smoking. Is it my pipe that has
poisoned you?" growled Warrington.

"I am going to call upon some women," said Pen. "I'm--I'm going to
dine with 'em. They are passing through town, and are at an hotel in
Jermyn-street."

Warrington looked with good-natured interest at the young fellow
dandifying himself up to a pitch of completeness; and appearing at
length in a gorgeous shirt-front and neckcloth, fresh gloves, and
glistening boots. George had a pair of thick high-lows, and his old
shirt was torn about the breast, and ragged at the collar, where his
blue beard had worn it.

"Well, young un," said he, simply, "I like you to be a buck, somehow.
When I walk about with you, it is as if I had a rose in my
button-hole. And you are still affable. I don't think there is any
young fellow in the Temple turns out like you; and I don't believe you
were ever ashamed of walking with me yet."

"Don't laugh at me, George," said Pen.

"I say, Pen," continued the other, sadly, "if you write--if you write
to Laura, I wish you would say 'God bless her' for me." Pen blushed;
and then looked at Warrington; and then--and then burst into an
uncontrollable fit of laughing.

"I'm going to dine with her," he said. "I brought her and Lady
Rockminster up from the country to-day--made two days of it--slept
last night at Bath--I say, George, come and dine, too. I may ask any
one I please, and the old lady is constantly talking about you."

George refused. George had an article to write. George hesitated; and
oh, strange to say! at last he agreed to go. It was agreed that they
should go and call upon the ladies; and they marched away in high
spirits to the hotel in Jermyn-street. Once more the dear face shone
upon him; once more the sweet voice spoke to him, and the tender hand
pressed a welcome.

There still wanted half-an-hour to dinner, "You will go and see your
uncle now, Mr. Pendennis," old Lady Rockminster said. "You will not
bring him to dinner--no--his old stories are intolerable; and I want
to talk to Mr. Warrington; I daresay he will amuse us. I think we have
heard all your stories. We have been together for two whole days, and
I think we are getting tired of each other."

So obeying her ladyship's orders, Arthur went down stairs and walked
to his uncle's lodgings.

CHAPTER XXXII

FIAT JUSTITIA.

[Illustration]

The dinner was served when Arthur returned, and Lady
Rockminster began to scold him for arriving late. But Laura, looking
at her cousin, saw that his face was so pale and scared, that she
interrupted her imperious patroness; and asked, with tender alarm,
what had happened? Was Arthur ill?

Arthur drank a large bumper of sherry. "I have heard the most
extraordinary news; I will tell you afterward," he said, looking at
the servants. He was very nervous and agitated during the dinner.
"Don't tramp and beat so with your feet under the table," Lady
Rockminster said. "You have trodden on Fido, and upset his saucer. You
see Mr. Warrington keeps his boots quiet."

At the dessert--it seemed as if the unlucky dinner would never be
over--Lady Rockminster said, "This dinner has been exceedingly stupid.
I suppose something has happened, and that you want to speak to Laura.
I will go and have my nap. I am not sure that I shall have any
tea--no. Good night, Mr. Warrington. You must come again, and when
there is no business to talk about." And the old lady, tossing up her
head, walked away from the room with great dignity.

George and the others had risen with her, and Warrington was about to
go away, and was saying "Good-night" to Laura, who, of course was
looking much alarmed about her cousin, when Arthur said, "Pray, stay,
George. You should hear my news too, and give me your counsel in this
case. I hardly know how to act in it."

"It's something about Blanche, Arthur," said Laura, her heart beating,
and her cheek blushing, as she thought it had never blushed in
her life.

"Yes--and the most extraordinary story," said Pen. "When I left you to
go to my uncle's lodgings, I found his servant, Morgan, who has been
with him so long, at the door, and he said that he and his master had
parted that morning; that my uncle had quitted the house, and had gone
to an hotel--this hotel. I asked for him when I came in; but he was
gone out to dinner. Morgan then said that he had something of a most
important nature to communicate to me, and begged me to step into the
house; his house it is now. It appears the scoundrel has saved a great
deal of money while in my uncle's service, and is now a capitalist and
a millionaire, for what I know. Well, I went into the house, and what
do you think he told me? This must be a secret between us all--at
least if we can keep it, now that it is in possession of that villain.
Blanche's father is not dead. He has come to life again. The marriage
between Clavering and the Begum is no marriage."

"And Blanche, I suppose, is her grandfather's heir," said Warrington.

"Perhaps: but the child of what a father! Amory is an escaped
convict--Clavering knows it; my uncle knows it--and it was with this
piece of information held over Clavering _in terrorem_ that the
wretched old man got him to give up his borough to me."

"Blanche doesn't know it," said Laura, "nor poor Lady Clavering."

"No," said Pen; "Blanche does not even know the history of her father.
She knew that he and her mother had separated, and had heard, as a
child, from Bonner, her nurse, that Mr. Amory was drowned in New South
Wales. He was there as a convict, not as a ship's captain, as the poor
girl thought. Lady Clavering has told me that they were not happy, and
that her husband was a bad character. She would tell me all, she said,
some day: and I remember her saying to me, with tears in her eyes,
that it was hard for a woman to be forced to own that she was glad to
hear her husband was dead: and that twice in her life she should have
chosen so badly. What is to be done now? The man can't show and claim
his wife: death is probably over him if he discovers himself: return
to transportation certainly. But the rascal has held the threat of
discovery over Clavering for some time past, and has extorted money
from him time after time."

"It is our friend, Colonel Altamont, of course," said Warrington: "I
see all now."

"If the rascal comes back," continued Arthur, "Morgan, who knows his
secret, will use it over him--and having it in his possession,
proposes to extort money from us all. The d--d rascal supposed I was
cognizant of it," said Pen, white with anger; "asked me if I would
give him an annuity to keep it quiet; threatened me, _me_, as if I was
trafficking with this wretched old Begum's misfortune; and would
extort a seat in Parliament out of that miserable Clavering. Good
heavens! was my uncle mad, to tamper in such a conspiracy? Fancy our
mother's son, Laura, trading on such a treason!"

"I can't fancy it, dear Arthur," said Laura; seizing Arthur's hand,
and kissing it.

"No!" broke out Warrington's deep voice, with a tremor; he surveyed
the two generous and loving young people with a pang of indescribable
love and pain. "No. Our boy can't meddle with such a wretched intrigue
as that. Arthur Pendennis can't marry a convict's daughter; and sit in
Parliament as member for the hulks. You must wash your hands of the
whole affair, Pen. You must break off. You must give no explanations
of why and wherefore, but state that family reasons render a match
impossible. It is better that those poor women should fancy you false
to your word than that they should know the truth. Besides, you can
get from that dog Clavering--I can fetch that for you easily
enough--an acknowledgement that the reasons which you have given to
him as the head of the family are amply sufficient for breaking off
the union. Don't you think with me, Laura?" He scarcely dared to look
her in the face as he spoke. Any lingering hope that he might
have--any feeble hold that he might feel upon the last spar of his
wrecked fortune, he knew he was casting away; and he let the wave of
his calamity close over him. Pen had started up while he was speaking,
looking eagerly at him. He turned his head away. He saw Laura rise up
also and go to Pen, and once more take his hand and kiss it. "She
thinks so too--God bless her!" said George.

"Her father's shame is not Blanche's fault, dear Arthur, is it?" Laura
said, very pale, and speaking very quickly. "Suppose you had been
married, would you desert her because she had done no wrong? Are you
not pledged to her? Would you leave her because she is in misfortune?
And if she is unhappy, wouldn't you console her? Our mother would, had
she been here." And, as she spoke, the kind girl folded her arms round
him, and buried her face upon his heart.

"Our mother is an angel with God," Pen sobbed out. "And you are the
dearest and best of women--the dearest, the dearest and the best.
Teach me my duty. Pray for me that I may do it--pure heart. God bless
you--God bless you, my sister."

"Amen," groaned out Warrington, with his head in his hands. "She is
right," he murmured to himself. "She can't do any wrong, I think
--that girl." Indeed, she looked and smiled like an angel. Many a day
after he saw that smile--saw her radiant face as she looked up at
Pen--saw her putting back her curls, blushing and smiling, and still
looking fondly toward him.

She leaned for a moment her little fair hand on the table, playing on
it. "And now, and now," she said, looking at the two gentlemen--

"And what now?" asked George.

"And now we will have some tea," said Miss Laura, with her smile.

But before this unromantic conclusion to a rather sentimental scene
could be suffered to take place, a servant brought word that Major
Pendennis had returned to the hotel, and was waiting to see his
nephew. Upon this announcement, Laura, not without some alarm, and an
appealing look to Pen, which said "Behave yourself well--hold to the
right, and do your duty--be gentle, but firm with your uncle"--Laura,
we say, with these warnings written in her face, took leave of the
two gentlemen, and retreated to her dormitory. Warrington, who was not
generally fond of tea, yet grudged that expected cup very much. Why
could not old Pendennis have come in an hour later? Well, an hour
sooner or later, what matter? The hour strikes at last? The inevitable
moment comes to say Farewell. The hand is shaken, the door closed,
and the friend gone; and, the brief joy over, you are alone. "In which
of those many windows of the hotel does _her_ light beam?" perhaps he
asks himself as he passes down the street. He strides away to the
smoking-room of a neighboring club, and there applies himself to his
usual solace of a cigar. Men are brawling and talking loud about
politics, opera-girls, horse-racing, the atrocious tyranny of the
committee; bearing this sacred secret about him, he enters into this
brawl. Talk away, each louder than the other. Rattle and crack jokes.
Laugh and tell your wild stories. It is strange to take one's place
and part in the midst of the smoke and din, and think every man here
has his secret _ego_, most likely, which is sitting lonely and apart,
away in the private chamber, from the loud game in which the rest of
us is joining!

Arthur, as he traversed the passages of the hotel, felt his anger
rousing up within him. He was indignant to think that yonder old
gentleman whom he was about to meet, should have made him such a tool
and puppet, and so compromised his honor and good name. The old
fellow's hand was very cold and shaky when Arthur took it. He was
coughing; he was grumbling over the fire; Frosch could not bring his
dressing-gown or arrange his papers as that d--d, confounded,
impudent scoundrel of a Morgan. The old gentleman bemoaned himself,
and cursed Morgan's ingratitude with peevish pathos.

"The confounded impudent scoundrel! He was drunk last night, and
challenged me to fight him, Pen; and, bedad, at one time I was so
excited that I thought I should have driven a knife into him; and the
infernal rascal has made ten thousand pound, I believe--and deserves
to be hanged, and will be; but, curse him, I wish he could have lasted
out my time. He knew all my ways, and, dammy, when I rang the bell,
the confounded thief brought the thing I wanted--not like that stupid
German lout. And what sort of time have you had in the country? Been a
good deal with Lady Rockminster? You can't do better. She is one of
the old school--_vieille cole, bonne cole_, hey? Dammy, they don't
make gentlemen and ladies now; and in fifty years you'll hardly know
one man from another. But they'll last my time. I ain't long for this
business: I am getting very old, Pen, my boy; and, gad, I was thinking
to-day, as I was packing up my little library, there's a Bible among
the books that belonged to my poor mother; I would like you to keep
that, Pen. I was thinking, sir, that you would most likely open the
box when it was your property, and the old fellow was laid under the
sod, sir," and the major coughed and wagged his old head over
the fire.

His age--his kindness, disarmed Pen's anger somewhat, and made Arthur
feel no little compunction for the deed which he was about to do. He
knew that the announcement which he was about to make would destroy
the darling hope of the old gentleman's life, and create in his breast
a woeful anger and commotion.

"Hey--hey--I'm off, sir," nodded the Elder; "but I'd like to read a
speech of yours in the _Times_ before I go--'Mr. Pendennis said,
Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking'--hey, sir? hey, Arthur?
Begad, you look dev'lish well and healthy, sir. I always said my
brother Jack would bring the family right. You must go down into the
west, and buy the old estate, sir. _Nec tenui penn_, hey? We'll rise
again, sir--rise again on the wing--and, begad, I shouldn't be
surprised that you will be a baronet before you die."

His words smote Pen. "And it is I," he thought, "that am going to
fling down the poor old fellow's air-castle. Well, it must be. Here
goes. I--I went into your lodgings at Bury-street, though I did not
find you," Pen slowly began--"and I talked with Morgan, uncle."

"Indeed!" The old gentleman's cheek began to flush involuntarily, and
he muttered, "The cat's out of the bag now, begad!"

"He told me a story, sir, which gave me the deepest surprise and
pain," said Pen.

The major tried to look unconcerned. "What--that story about--
about--What-do-you-call-'em, hey?"

"About Miss Amory's father--about Lady Clavering's first husband, and
who he is, and what."

"Hem--a devilish awkward affair!" said the old man, rubbing his nose.
"I--I've been aware of that--eh--confounded circumstance, for
some time."

"I wish I had known it sooner, or not at all," said Arthur, gloomily.

"He is all safe," thought the senior, greatly relieved. "Gad! I should
have liked to keep it from you altogether--and from those two poor
women, who are as innocent as unborn babes in the transaction."

"You are right. There is no reason why the two women should hear it;
and I shall never tell them--though that villain, Morgan, perhaps
may," Arthur said, gloomily. "He seems disposed to trade upon his
secret, and has already proposed terms of ransom to me. I wish I had
known of the matter earlier, sir. It is not a very pleasant thought to
me that I am engaged to a convict's daughter."

"The very reason why I kept it from you--my dear boy. But Miss Amory
is not a convict's daughter, don't you see? Miss Amory is the daughter
of Lady Clavering, with fifty or sixty thousand pounds for a fortune;
and her father-in-law, a baronet and country gentleman, of high
reputation, approves of the match, and gives up his seat in Parliament
to his son-in-law. What can be more simple?"

"Is it true, sir?"

"Begad, yes, it is true, of course it's true. Amory's dead. I tell you
he _is_ dead. The first sign of life he shows, he is dead. He can't
appear. We have him at a dead-lock like the fellow in the play--the
Critic, hey?--devilish amusing play, that Critic. Monstrous witty man
Sheridan; and so was his son. By gad, sir, when I was at the Cape, I
remember--" The old gentleman's garrulity, and wish, to conduct Arthur
to the Cape, perhaps arose from a desire to avoid the subject which
was near est his nephew's heart; but Arthur broke out, interrupting
him, "If you had told me this tale sooner, I believe you would have
spared me and yourself a great deal of pain and disappointment; and I
should not have found myself tied to an engagement from which I can't,
in honor, recede."

"No, begad, we've fixed you--and a man who's fixed to a seat in
Parliament, and a pretty girl, with a couple of thousand a year, is
fixed to no bad thing, let me tell you," said the old man.

"Great Heavens, sir!" said Arthur; "are you blind? Can't you see?"

"See what, young gentleman?" asked the other.

"See, that rather than trade upon this secret of Amory's," Arthur
cried out, "I would go and join my father-in-law at the hulks! See,
that rather than take a seat in Parliament as a bribe from Clavering
for silence, I would take the spoons off the table! See, that you have
given me a felon's daughter for a wife; doomed me to poverty and
shame; cursed my career when it might have been--when it might have
been so different but for you! Don't you see that we have been playing
a guilty game, and have been over-reached; that in offering to marry
this poor girl, for the sake of her money, and the advancement she
would bring, I was degrading myself, and prostituting my honor?"

"What in Heaven's name do you mean, sir?" cried the old man.

"I mean to say that there is a measure of baseness which I can't
pass," Arthur said. "I have no other words for it, and am sorry if
they hurt you. I have felt, for months past, that my conduct in this
affair has been wicked, sordid, and worldly. I am rightly punished by
the event, and having sold myself for money and a seat in Parliament,
by losing both."

"How do you mean that you lose either?" shrieked the old gentleman.
"Who the devil's to take your fortune or your seat away from you. By
G--, Clavering _shall_ give 'em to you. You shall have every shilling
of eighty thousand pounds."

"I'll keep my promise to Miss Amory, sir," said Arthur.

"And, begad, her parents shall keep theirs to you."

"Not so, please God," Arthur answered. "I have sinned, but, Heaven
help me, I will sin no more. I will let Clavering off from that
bargain which was made without my knowledge. I will take no money with
Blanche but that which was originally settled upon her; and I will try
to make her happy. You have done it. You have brought this on me, sir.
But you knew no better: and I forgive--"

"Arthur--in God's name--in your father's, who, by Heavens, was the
proudest man alive, and had the honor of the family always at
heart--in mine--for the sake of a poor broken down old fellow, who has
always been dev'lish fond of you--don't fling this chance away--I pray
you, I beg you, I implore you, my dear, dear boy, don't fling this
chance away. It's the making of you. You're sure to get on. You'll be
a baronet; it's three thousand a year: dammy, on my knees, there, I
beg of you, don't do this."

And the old man actually sank down on his knees, and seizing one of
Arthur's hands, looked up piteously at him. It was cruel to remark the
shaking hands, the wrinkled and quivering face, the old eyes weeping
and winking, the broken voice. "Ah, sir," said Arthur, with a groan.
"You have brought pain enough on me, spare me this. You have wished me
to marry Blanche. I marry her. For God's sake, sir, rise, I can't
bear it."

"You--you mean to say that you will take her as a beggar, and be one
yourself?" said the old gentleman, rising up and coughing violently.

"I look at her as a person to whom a great calamity has befallen, and
to whom I am promised. She can not help the misfortune; and as she had
my word when she was prosperous, I shall not withdraw it now she is
poor. I will not take Clavering's seat, unless afterward it should be
given of his free will. I will not have a shilling more than her
original fortune."

"Have the kindness to ring the bell," said the old gentleman. "I have
done my best, and said my say; and I'm a dev'lish old fellow.
And--and--it don't matter. And--and Shakspeare was right--and Cardinal
Wolsey--begad--'and had I but served my God as I've served you'--yes,
on my knees, by Jove, to my own nephew--I mightn't have
been--Good-night, sir, you needn't trouble yourself to call again."

Arthur took his hand, which the old man left to him; it was quite
passive and clammy. He looked very much oldened; and it seemed as if
the contest and defeat had quite broken him.

On the next day he kept his bed, and refused to see his
nephew.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

IN WHICH THE DECK BEGINS TO CLEAR.

When, arrayed in his dressing-gown, Pen walked up, according to
custom, to Warrington's chambers next morning, to inform his friend of
the issue of the last night's interview with his uncle, and to ask, as
usual, for George's advice and opinion, Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress,
was the only person whom Arthur found in the dear old chambers. George
had taken a carpet-hag, and was gone. His address was to his brother's
house, in Suffolk. Packages addressed to the newspaper and review for
which he wrote lay on the table, awaiting delivery.

"I found him at the table, when I came, the dear gentleman!" Mrs.
Flanagan said, "writing at his papers, and one of the candles was
burned out; and hard as his bed is, he wasn't in it all night, sir."

Indeed, having sat at the Club until the brawl there became
intolerable to him, George had walked home, and had passed the night
finishing some work on which he was employed, and to the completion of
which he bent himself with all his might. The labor was done, and the
night was worn away somehow, and the tardy November dawn came and
looked in on the young man as he sate over his desk. In the next day's
paper, or quarter's review, many of us very likely admired the work of
his genius, the variety of his illustration, the fierce vigor of his
satire, the depth of his reason. There was no hint in his writing of
the other thoughts which occupied him, and always accompanied him in
his work--a tone more melancholy than was customary, a satire more
bitter and impatient than that which he afterward showed, may have
marked the writings of this period of his life to the very few persons
who knew his style or his name. We have said before, could we know the
man's feelings as well as the author's thoughts--how interesting most
books would be! more interesting than merry. I suppose harlequin's
face behind his mask is always grave, if not melancholy--certainly
each man who lives by the pen, and happens to read this, must
remember, if he will, his own experiences, and recall many solemn
hours of solitude and labor. What a constant care sate at the side of
the desk and accompanied him! Fever or sickness were lying possibly in
the next room: a sick child might be there, with a wife watching over
it terrified and in prayer: or grief might be bearing him down, and
the cruel mist before the eyes rendering the paper scarce visible as
he wrote on it, and the inexorable necessity drove on the pen. What
man among us has not had nights and hours like these? But to the manly
heart--severe as these pangs are, they are endurable: long as the
night seems, the dawn comes at last, and the wounds heal, and the
fever abates, and rest comes, and you can afford to look back on the
past misery with feelings that are any thing but bitter.

Two or three books for reference, fragments of torn up manuscript,
drawers open, pens and inkstand, lines half visible on the blotting
paper, a bit of sealing wax twisted and bitten and broken into sundry
pieces--such relics as these were about the table, and Pen flung
himself down in George's empty chair--noting things according to his
wont, or in spite of himself. There was a gap in the book-case (next
to the old College Plato, with the Boniface Arms), where Helen's Bible
used to be. He has taken that with him, thought Pen. He knew why his
friend was gone. Dear, dear old George!

Pen rubbed his hand over his eyes. O, how much wiser, how much better,
how much nobler he is than I, he thought. Where was such a friend, or
such a brave heart? Where shall I ever hear such a frank voice, and
kind laughter? Where shall I ever see such a true gentleman? No wonder
she loved him. God bless him. What was I compared to him? What could
she do else but love him? To the end of our days we will be her
brothers, as fate wills that we can be no more. We'll be her knights,
and wait on her: and when we're old, we'll say how we loved her. Dear,
dear old George!

When Pen descended to his own chambers, his eye fell on the letter-box
of his outer door, which he had previously overlooked, and there was a
little note to A. P., Esq., in George's well-known handwriting, George
had put into Pen's box probably as he was going away.

"Dr. Pen--I shall be half way home when you breakfast, and intend to
stay over Christmas, in Norfolk, or elsewhere.

"I have my own opinion of the issue of matters about which we talked
in J----street yesterday; and think my presence _de trop_." Vale.
G.W.

"Give my very best regards and adieux to your cousin." And so George
was gone, and Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, ruled over his
empty chambers.

[Illustration]

Pen of course had to go and see his uncle on the day after their
colloquy, and not being admitted, he naturally went to Lady
Rockminister's apartments, where the old lady instantly asked for
Bluebeard, and insisted that he should come to dinner.

"Bluebeard is gone," Pen said, and he took out poor George's scrap of
paper, and handed it to Laura, who looked at it--did not look at Pen
in return, but passed the paper back to him, and walked away. Pen
rushed into an eloquent eulogium upon his dear old George to Lady
Rockminister, who was astonished at his enthusiasm. She had never
heard him so warm in praise of any body; and told him with her usual
frankness, that she didn't think it had been in his nature to care so
much about any other person.

As Mr. Pendennis was passing in Waterloo-place, in one of his many
walks to the hotel where Laura lived, and whither duty to his uncle
carried Arthur every day, Arthur saw issuing from Messrs. Gimcrack's
celebrated shop an old friend, who was followed to his Brougham by an
obsequious shopman bearing parcels. The gentleman was in the deepest
mourning: the Brougham, the driver, and the horse, were in mourning.
Grief in easy circumstances, and supported by the comfortablest
springs and cushions, was typified in the equipage and the little
gentleman, its proprietor.

"What, Foker! Hail, Foker!" cried out Pen--the reader, no doubt, has
likewise recognized Arthur's old schoolfellow--and he held out his
hand to the heir of the late lamented John Henry Foker, Esq., the
master of Logwood and other houses, the principal partner in the great
brewery of Foker & Co.: the greater portion of Foker's Entire.

A little hand, covered with a glove of the deepest ebony, and set off
by three inches of a snowy wristband, was put forth to meet Arthur's
salutation. The other little hand held a little morocco case,
containing, no doubt, something precious, of which Mr. Foker had just
become proprietor in Messrs. Gimcrack's shop. Pen's keen eyes and
satiric turn showed him at once upon what errand Mr. Foker had been
employed; and he thought of the heir in Horace pouring forth the
gathered wine of his father's vats; and that human nature is pretty
much the same in Regent-street as in the Via Sacra.

"Le roi est mort. Vive le roi!" said Arthur.

"Ah!" said the other. "Yes. Thank you--very much obliged. How do you
do, Pen? very busy--good-by!" and he jumped into the black Brougham,
and sate like a little black Care behind the black coachman. He had
blushed on seeing Pen, and showed other signs of guilt and
perturbation, which Pen attributed to the novelty of his situation;
and on which he began to speculate in his usual sardonic manner.

"Yes: so wags the world," thought Pen. "The stone closes over Harry
the Fourth, and Harry the Fifth reigns in his stead. The old ministers
at the brewery come and kneel before him with their books; the
draymen, his subjects, fling up their red caps, and shout for him.
What a grave deference and sympathy the bankers and the lawyers show!
There was too great a stake at issue between those two that they
should ever love each other very cordially. As long as one man keeps
another out of twenty thousand a year, the younger must be always
hankering after the crown, and the wish must be the father to the
thought of possession. Thank Heaven, there was no thought of money
between me and our dear mother, Laura."

"There never could have been. You would have spurned it!" cried Laura.
"Why make yourself more selfish than you are, Pen; and allow your mind
to own for an instant that it would have entertained such--such
dreadful meanness? You make me blush for you, Arthur; you make me--"
her eyes finished this sentence, and she passed her handkerchief
across them.

"There are some truths which women will never acknowledge," Pen said,
"and from which your modesty always turns away. I do not say that I
ever knew the feeling, only that I am glad I had not the temptation.
Is there any harm in that confession of weakness?"

"We are all taught to ask to be delivered from evil, Arthur," said
Laura, in a low voice. "I am glad if you were spared from that great
crime; and only sorry to think that you could by any possibility have
been led into it. But you never could; and you don't think you
could. Your acts are generous and kind: you disdain mean actions. You
take Blanche without money, and without a bribe. Yes, thanks be to
Heaven, dear brother. You could not have sold yourself away; I knew
you could not when it came to the day, and you did not. Praise be--be
where praise is due. Why does this horrid skepticism pursue you, my
Arthur? Why doubt and sneer at your own heart--at every one's? Oh, if
you knew the pain you give me--how I lie awake and think of those hard
sentences, dear brother, and wish them unspoken, unthought!"

"Do I cause you many thoughts and many tears, Laura?" asked Arthur.
The fullness of innocent love beamed from her in reply. A smile
heavenly pure, a glance of unutterable tenderness, sympathy, pity,
shone in her face--all which indications of love and purity Arthur
beheld and worshiped in her, as you would watch them in a child, as
one fancies one might regard them in an angel.

"I--I don't know what I have done," he said, simply, "to have merited
such regard from two such women. It is like undeserved praise,
Laura--or too much good fortune, which frightens one--or a great post,
when a man feels that he is not fit for it. Ah, sister, how weak and
wicked we are; how spotless, and full of love and truth, Heaven made
you! I think for some of you there has been no fall," he said, looking
at the charming girl with an almost paternal glance of admiration.
"You can't help having sweet thoughts, and doing good actions. Dear
creature! they are the flowers which you bear."

"And what else, sir?" asked Laura. "I see a sneer coming over your
face. What is it? Why does it come to drive all the good
thoughts away?"

"A sneer, is there? I was thinking, my dear, that nature in making you
so good and loving did very well: but--"

"But what? What is that wicked but? and why are you always calling it
up?"

"But will come in spite of us. But is reflection. But is the skeptic's
familiar, with whom he has made a compact; and if he forgets it, and
indulges in happy day-dreams, or building of air castles, or listens
to sweet music, let us say, or to the bells ringing to church, But
taps at the door, and says, 'Master, I am here. You are my master; but
I am yours. Go where you will you can't travel without me. I will
whisper to you when you are on your knees at church. I will be at your
marriage pillow. I will sit down at your table with your children. I
will be behind your death-bed curtain.' That is what But is,"
Pen said.

"Pen, you frighten me," cried Laura.

"Do you know what But came and said to me just now, when I was looking
at you? But said, 'If that girl had reason as well as love, she would
love you no more. If she knew you as you are--the sullied, selfish
being which _you_ know--she must part from you, and could give you no
love and no sympathy.' Didn't I say," he added fondly, "that some of
you seem exempt from the fall? Love you know; but the knowledge of
evil is kept from you."

"What is this you young folks are talking about?" asked Lady
Rockminster, who at this moment made her appearance in the room,
having performed in the mystic retirement of her own apartments, and
under the hands of her attendant, those elaborate toilet-rites without
which the worthy old lady never presented herself to public view "Mr.
Pendennis, you are always coming here."

"It is very pleasant to be here," Arthur said; "and we were talking
when you came in, about my friend Foker, whom I met just now; and who,
as your ladyship knows, has succeeded to his father's kingdom."

"He has a very fine property, he has fifteen thousand a year. He is my
cousin. He is a very worthy young man. He must come and see me," said
Lady Rockminster, with a look at Laura.

"He has been engaged for many years past to his cousin, Lady--"

"Lady Ann is a foolish little chit," Lady Rockminster said, with much
dignity; "and I have no patience with her. She has outraged every
feeling of society. She has broken her father's heart, and thrown away
fifteen thousand a year."

"Thrown away? What has happened?" asked Pen.

"It will be the talk of the town in a day or two; and there is no need
why I should keep the secret any longer," said Lady Rockminster, who
had written and received a dozen letters on the subject. "I had a
letter yesterday from my daughter, who was staying at Drummington
until all the world was obliged to go away on account of the frightful
catastrophe which happened there. When Mr. Foker came home from Nice,
and after the funeral, Lady Ann went down on her knees to her father,
said that she never could marry her cousin, that she had contracted
another attachment, and that she must die rather than fulfill her
contract. Poor Lord Rosherville, who is dreadfully embarrassed, showed
his daughter what the state of his affairs was, and that it was
necessary that the arrangements should take place; and in fine, we all
supposed that she had listened to reason, and intended to comply with
the desires of her family. But what has happened--last Thursday she
went out after breakfast with her maid, and was married in the very
church in Drummington Park to Mr. Hobson, her father's own chaplain
and her brother's tutor; a red-haired widower with two children. Poor
dear Rosherville is in a dreadful way: he wishes Henry Foker should
marry Alice or Barbara; but Alice is marked with the small-pox, and
Barbara is ten years older than he is. And, of course, now the young
man is his own master, he will think of choosing for himself. The blow
on Lady Agnes is very cruel. She is inconsolable. She has the house in
Grosvenor-street for her life, and her settlement, which was very
handsome. Have you not met her? Yes, she dined one day at Lady
Clavering's--the first day I saw you, and a very disagreeable young
man I thought you were. But I have formed you. We have formed him,
haven't we, Laura? Where is Bluebeard? let him come. That horrid
Grindley, the dentist, will keep me in town another week." To the
latter part of her ladyship's speech Arthur gave no ear. He was
thinking for whom could Foker be purchasing those trinkets which he
was carrying away from the jeweler's. Why did Harry seem anxious to
avoid him? Could he be still faithful to the attachment which had
agitated him so much, and sent him abroad eighteen months back? Psha!
The bracelets and presents were for some of Harry's old friends of the
Opera or the French theatre. Rumors from Naples and Paris, rumors,
such as are borne to club smoking-rooms, had announced that the young
man had found distractions; or, precluded from his virtuous
attachment, the poor fellow had flung himself back upon his old
companions and amusements--not the only man or woman whom society
forces into evil, or debars from good; not the only victim of the
world's selfish and wicked laws.

As a good thing when it is to be done can not be done too quickly,
Laura was anxious that Pen's marriage intentions should be put into
execution as speedily as possible, and pressed on his arrangements
with rather a feverish anxiety. Why could she not wait? Pen could
afford to do so with perfect equanimity, but Laura would hear of no
delay. She wrote to Pen: she implored Pen: she used every means to
urge expedition. It seemed as if she could have no rest until Arthur's
happiness was complete.

She offered herself to dearest Blanche to come and stay at Tunbridge
with her, when Lady Rockminster should go on her intended visit to the
reigning house of Rockminster; and although the old dowager scolded,
and ordered, and commanded, Laura was deaf and disobedient: she must
go to Tunbridge, she would go to Tunbridge: she who ordinarily had no
will of her own, and complied, smilingly, with any body's whim and
caprices, showed the most selfish and obstinate determination in this
instance. The dowager lady must nurse herself in her rheumatism, she
must read herself to sleep; if she would not hear her maid, whose
voice croaked, and who made sad work of the sentimental passages in
the novels--Laura must go, and be with her new sister. In another
week, she proposed, with many loves and regards to dear Lady
Clavering, to pass some time with dearest Blanche.

Dearest Blanche wrote instantly in reply to dearest Laura's No. 1, to
say with what extreme delight she should welcome her sister: how
charming it would be to practice their old duets together, to wander
o'er the grassy sward, and amidst the yellowing woods of Penshurst and
Southborough! Blanche counted the hours till she should embrace her
dearest friend.

Laura, No. 2, expressed her delight at dearest Blanche's affectionate
reply. She hoped that their friendship would never diminish; that the
confidence between them would grow in after years; that they should
have no secrets from each other; that the aim of the life of each
would be to make one person happy.

Blanche, No. 2 followed in two days. "How provoking! Their house was
very small, the two spare bedrooms were occupied by that horrid Mrs.
Planter and her daughter, who had thought proper to fall ill (she
always fell ill in country houses), and she could not, or would not be
moved for some days."

Laura, No. 3. "It was indeed very provoking. L. had hoped to hear one
of dearest B.'s dear songs on Friday; but she was the more consoled to
wait, because Lady R. was not very well, and liked to be nursed by
her. Poor Major Pendennis was very unwell, too, in the same hotel--too
unwell even to see Arthur, who was constant in his calls on his uncle.
Arthur's heart was full of tenderness and affection. She had known
Arthur all her life. She would answer--yes, even in italics she would
answer--for his kindness, his goodness, and his gentleness."

Blanche, No. 3. "What is this most surprising, most extraordinary
letter from A.P.? What does dearest Laura know about it? What has
happened? What, what mystery is enveloped under his frightful reserve?"

Blanche, No. 3, requires an explanation; and it can not be better
given than in the surprising and mysterious letter of Arthur
Pendennis.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

MR. AND MRS. SAM HUXTER.

"Dear Blanche," Arthur wrote, "you are always reading and dreaming
pretty dramas, and exciting romances in real life, are you now
prepared to enact a part of one? And not the pleasantest part, dear
Blanche--that in which the heroine takes possession of her father's
palace and wealth, and, introducing her husband to the loyal retainers
and faithful vassals, greets her happy bridegroom with 'All of this is
mine and thine;' but the other character--that of the luckless lady,
who suddenly discovers that she is not the prince's wife, but Claude
Melnotte's the beggar's; that of Alnaschar's wife, who comes in just
as her husband has kicked over the tray of porcelain which was to be
the making of his fortune. But stay; Alnaschar, who kicked down the
china, was not a married man; he had cast his eye on the vizier's
daughter, and his hopes of her went to the ground with the shattered
bowls and tea-cups.

"Will you be the vizier's daughter, and refuse and laugh to scorn
Alnaschar, or will you be the Lady of Lyons, and love the penniless
Claude Melnotte? I will act that part, if you like. I will love you my
best in return. I will do my all to make your humble life happy: for
humble it will be: at least the odds are against any other conclusion;
we shall live and die in a poor, prosy, humdrum way. There will be no
stars and epaulets for the hero of our story. I shall write one or two
more stories, which will presently be forgotten. I shall be called
to the bar, and try to get on in my profession: perhaps some day, if I
am very lucky, and work very hard (which is absurd), I may get a
colonial appointment, and you may be an Indian judge's lady. Meanwhile
I shall buy back the Pall Mall Gazette: the publishers are tired of it
since the death of poor Shandon, and will sell it for a small sum.
Warrington will be my right hand, and write it up to a respectable
sale. I will introduce you to Mr. Finucane, the sub-editor, and I know
who, in the end, will be Mrs. Finucane--a very nice, gentle creature,
who has lived sweetly through a sad life--and we will jog on, I say,
and look out for better times, and earn our living decently. You shall
have the opera-boxes, and superintend the fashionable intelligence,
and break your little heart in the poet's corner. Shall we live over
the offices?--there are four very good rooms, a kitchen, and a garret
for Laura, in Catherine-street, in the Strand; or would you like a
house in the Waterloo-road?--it would be very pleasant, only there is
that halfpenny toll at the bridge. The boys may go to King's College,
mayn't they? Does all this read to you like a joke?

"Ah, dear Blanche, it is no joke, and I am sober and telling the
truth. Our fine day-dreams are gone. Our carriage has whirled out of
sight like Cinderella's: our house in Belgravia has been whisked away
into the air by a malevolent Genius, and I am no more a member of
Parliament than I am a Bishop on his bench in the House of Lords, or a
Duke with a garter at his knee. You know pretty well what my property
is, and your own little fortune: we may have enough with those two to
live in decent comfort; to take a cab sometimes when we go out to see
our friends, and not to deny ourselves an omnibus when we are tired.
But that is all: is that enough for you, my little dainty lady? I
doubt sometimes whether you can bear the life which I offer you--at
least, it is fair that you should know what it will be. If you say,
'Yes, Arthur, I will follow your fate whatever it may be, and be a
loyal and loving wife to aid and cheer you'--come to me, dear Blanche,
and may God help me so that I may do my duty to you. If not, and you
look to a higher station, I must not bar Blanche's fortune--I will
stand in the crowd, and see your ladyship go to Court where you are
presented, and you shall give me a smile from your chariot window. I
saw Lady Mirable going to the drawing-room last season: the happy
husband at her side glittered with stars and cordons. All the flowers
in the garden bloomed in the coachman's bosom. Will you have these and
the chariot, or walk on foot and mend your husband's stockings?

"I can not tell you now--afterward I might, should the day come when
we may have no secrets from one another--what has happened within the
last few hours which has changed all my prospects in life; but so it
is, that I have learned something which forces me to give up the plans
which I had formed, and many vain and ambitious hopes in which I had
been indulging. I have written and dispatched a letter to Sir Francis
Clavering, saying that I can not accept his seat in Parliament until
after my marriage; in like manner I can not and will not accept any
larger fortune with you than that which has always belonged to you
since your grandfather's death, and the birth of your half-brother.
Your good mother is not in the least aware--I hope she never may
be--of the reasons which force me to this very strange decision. They
arise from a painful circumstance, which is attributable to none of
our faults; but, having once befallen, they are as fatal and
irreparable as that shock which overset honest Alnaschar's porcelain,
and shattered all his hopes beyond the power of mending. I write gayly
enough, for there is no use in bewailing such a hopeless mischance. We
have not drawn the great prize in the lottery, dear Blanche: But I
shall be contented enough without it, if you can be so; and I repeat,
with all my heart, that I will do my best to make you happy.

"And now, what news shall I give you? My uncle is very unwell, and
takes my refusal of the seat in Parliament in sad dudgeon: the scheme
was his, poor old gentleman, and he naturally bemoans its failure. But
Warrington, Laura, and I had a council of war: they know this awful
secret, and back me in my decision. You must love George as you love
what is generous and upright and noble; and as for Laura--she must be
our sister, Blanche, our saint, our good angel. With two such friends
at home, what need we care for the world with-out, or who is member
for Clavering, or who is asked or not asked to the great balls of
the season?"

To this frank communication came back the letter from Blanche to
Laura, and one to Pen himself, which perhaps his own letter justified.
"You are spoiled by the world," Blanche wrote; "you do not love your
poor Blanche as she would be loved, or you would not offer thus
lightly to take her or leave her. No, Arthur, you love me not--a man
of the world, you have given me your plighted troth, and are ready to
redeem it; but that entire affection, that love whole and abiding,
where--where is that vision of my youth? I am but a pastime of your
life, and I would be its all;--but a fleeting thought, and I would be
your whole soul. I would have our two hearts one; but ah, my Arthur,
how lonely yours is! how little you give me of it! You speak of our
parting, with a smile on your lip; of our meeting, and you care not to
hasten it! Is life but a disillusion, then, and are the flowers of our
garden faded away? I have wept--I have prayed--I have passed sleepless
hours--I have shed bitter, bitter tears over your letter! To you I
bring the gushing poesy of my being--the yearnings of the soul that
longs to be loved--that pines for love, love, love, beyond all!--that
flings itself at your feet, and cries, Love me, Arthur! Your heart
beats no quicker at the kneeling appeal of my love!--your proud eye is
dimmed by no tear of sympathy!--you accept my soul's treasure as
though 'twere dross! not the pearls from the unfathomable deeps of
affection! not the diamonds from the caverns of the heart. You treat
me like a slave, and bid me bow to my master! Is this the guerdon of a
free maiden--is this the price of a life's passion? Ah me! when was it
otherwise? when did love meet with aught but disappointment? Could I
hope (fond fool!) to be the exception to the lot of my race; and lay
my fevered brow on a heart that comprehended my own? Foolish girl
that I was! One by one, all the flowers of my young life have faded
away; and this, the last, the sweetest, the dearest, the fondly, the
madly loved, the wildly cherished--where is it? But no more of this.
Heed not my bleeding heart.--Bless you, bless you always, Arthur!

"I will write more when I am more collected. My racking brain renders
thought almost impossible. I long to see Laura! She will come to us
directly we return from the country, will she not? And you, cold
one!" B.

The words of this letter were perfectly clear, and written in
Blanche's neatest hand, upon her scented paper; and yet the meaning of
the composition not a little puzzled Pen. Did Blanche mean to accept
or to refuse his polite offer? Her phrases either meant that Pen did
not love her, and she declined him, or that she took him, and
sacrificed herself to him, cold as he was. He laughed sardonically
over the letter, and over the transaction which occasioned it. He
laughed to think how Fortune had jilted him, and how he deserved his
slippery fortune. He turned over and over the musky, gilt-edged
riddle. It amused his humor: he enjoyed it as if it had been a
funny story.

He was thus seated, twiddling the queer manuscript in his hand, joking
grimly to himself, when his servant came in with a card from a
gentleman, who wished to speak to him very particularly. And if Pen
had gone out into the passage, he would have seen sucking his stick,
rolling his eyes, and showing great marks of anxiety, his old
acquaintance, Mr. Samuel Huxter.

"Mr. Huxter on particular business! Pray, beg Mr. Huxter to come in,"
said Pen, amused rather; and not the less so when poor Sam appeared
before him.

"Pray take a chair, Mr. Huxter," said Pen, in his most superb manner.
"In what way can I be of service to you?"

"I had rather not speak before the flunk--before the man, Mr.
Pendennis;" on which Mr. Arthur's attendant quitted the room.

"I'm in a fix," said Mr. Huxter, gloomily.

"Indeed."

"_She_ sent me to you," continued the young surgeon.

"What, Fanny? Is she well? I was coming to see her, but I have had a
great deal of business since my return to London."

"I heard of you through my governor and Jack Hobnell," broke in
Huxter. "I wish you joy, Mr. Pendennis, both of the borough and the
lady, sir. Fanny wishes you joy, too," he added, with something of
a blush.

"There's many a slip between the cup and the lip! Who knows what may
happen, Mr. Huxter, or who will sit in Parliament for Clavering
next session?"

"You can do any thing with my governor," continued Mr. Huxter. "You
got him Clavering Park. The old boy was very much pleased, sir, at
your calling him in. Hobnell wrote me so. Do you think you could speak
to the governor for me, Mr. Pendennis?"

"And tell him what?" "I've gone and done it, sir," said Huxter, with
a particular look.

"You--you don't mean to say you have--you have done any wrong to that
dear little creature, sir," said Pen, starting up in a great fury.

"I hope not," said Huxter, with a hang-dog look: "but I've married
her. And I know there will be an awful shindy at home. It was agreed
that I should be taken into partnership when I had passed the College,
and it was to have been Huxter and Son. But I _would_ have it,
confound it. It's all over now, and the old boy's wrote to me that
he's coming up to town for drugs: he will be here to-morrow, and then
it must all come out."

"And when did this event happen?" asked Pen, not over well pleased,
most likely, that a person who had once attracted some portion of his
royal good graces should have transferred her allegiance, and consoled
herself for his loss.

"Last Thursday was five weeks--it was two days after Miss Amory came
to Shepherd's Inn," Huxter answered.

Pen remembered that Blanche had written and mentioned her visit. "I
was called in," Huxter said. "I was in the inn looking after old Cos's
leg; and about something else too, very likely: and I met Strong, who
told me there was a woman taken ill in Chambers, and went up to give
her my professional services. It was the old lady who attends Miss
Amory--her housekeeper, or some such thing. She was taken with strong
hysterics: I found her kicking and screaming like a good one--in
Strong's chamber, along with him and Colonel Altamont, and Miss Amory
crying and as pale as a sheet; and Altamont fuming about--a regular
kick up. They were two hours in the chambers; and the old woman went
whooping off in a cab. She was much worse than the young one. I called
in Grosvenor-place next day to see if I could be of any service, but
they were gone without so much as thanking me: and the day after I had
business of my own to attend to--a bad business too," said Mr. Huxter,
gloomily. "But it's done, and can't be undone; and we must make the
best of it."

She has known the story for a month, thought Pen, with a sharp pang of
grief, and a gloomy sympathy--this accounts for her letter of to-day.
She will not implicate her father, or divulge his secret; she wishes
to let me off from the marriage--and finds a pretext--the
generous girl!

"Do you know who Altamont is, sir?" asked Huxter, after the pause
during which Pen had been thinking of his own affairs. "Fanny and I
have talked him over, and we can't help fancying that it's Mrs.
Lightfoot's first husband come to life again, and she who has just
married a second. Perhaps Lightfoot won't be very sorry for it,"
sighed Huxter, looking savagely at Arthur, for the demon of jealousy
was still in possession of his soul; and now, and more than ever since
his marriage, the poor fellow fancied that Fanny's heart belonged to
his rival.

"Let us talk about your affairs," said Pen. "Show me how I can be of
any service to you, Huxter. Let me congratulate you on your
marriage, I am thankful that Fanny, who is so good, so fascinating, so
kind a creature, has found an honest man, and a gentleman who will
make her happy. Show me what I can do to help you."

"She thinks you can, sir," said Huxter, accepting Pen's proffered
hand, "and I'm very much obliged to you, I'm sure; and that you might
talk over my father, and break the business to him, and my mother, who
always has her back up about being a clergyman's daughter. Fanny ain't
of a good family, I know, and not up to us in breeding and that--but
she's a Huxter now."

[Illustration]

"The wife takes the husband's rank, of course," said Pen.

"And with a little practice in society," continued Huxter, imbibing
his stick, "she'll be as good as any girl in Clavering. You should
hear her sing and play on the piano. Did you ever? Old Bows taught
her. And she'll do on the stage, if the governor was to throw me over;
but I'd rather not have her there. She can't help being a coquette,
Mr. Pendennis, she can't help it. Dammy, sir! I'll be bound to say,
that two or three of the Bartholomew chaps, that I've brought into my
place, are sitting with her now: even Jack Linton, that I took down as
my best man, is as bad as the rest, and she will go on singing and
making eyes at him. It's what Bows says, if there were twenty men in a
room, and one not taking notice of her, she wouldn't be satisfied
until the twentieth was at her elbow."

"You should have her mother with her," said Pen, laughing.

"She must keep the lodge. She can't see so much of her family as she
used. I can't, you know, sir, go on with that lot. Consider my rank in
life," said Huxter, putting a very dirty hand up to his chin.

"_Au fait_" said Mr. Pen, who was infinitely amused, and concerning
whom _mutato nomine_ (and of course concerning nobody else in the
world) the fable might have been narrated.

As the two gentlemen were in the midst of this colloquy, another knock
came to Pen's door, and his servant presently announced Mr. Bows. The
old man followed slowly, his pale face blushing, and his hand
trembling somewhat as he took Pen's. He coughed, and wiped his face in
his checked cotton pocket-handkerchief, and sat down, with his hands
on his knees, the sun shining on his bald head. Pen looked at the
homely figure with no small sympathy and kindness. This man, too, has
had his griefs, and his wounds, Arthur thought. This man, too, has
brought his genius and his heart, and laid them at a woman's feet;
where she spurned them. The chance of life has gone against him, and
the prize is with that creature yonder. Fanny's bridegroom, thus
mutely apostrophized, had winked meanwhile with one eye at old Bows,
and was driving holes in the floor with the cane which he loved.

"So we have lost, Mr. Bows, and here is the lucky winner," Pen said,
looking hard at the old man.

"Here is the lucky winner, sir, as you say."

"I suppose you have come from my place?" asked Huxter, who, having
winked at Bows with one eye, now favored Pen with a wink of the
other--a wink which seemed to say, "Infatuated old boy--you
understand--over head and ears in love with her--poor old fool."

"Yes, I have been there ever since you went away. It was Mrs. Sam who
sent me after you: who said that she thought you might be doing
something stupid--something like yourself, Huxter."

"There's as big fools as I am," growled the young surgeon.

"A few, p'raps," said the old man; "not many, let us trust. Yes, she
sent me after you, for fear you should offend Mr. Pendennis; and I
daresay because she thought you wouldn't give her message to him, and
beg him to go and see her; and she knew _I_ would take her errand. Did
he tell you that, sir?"

Huxter blushed scarlet, and covered his confusion with an imprecation.
Pen laughed; the scene suited his bitter humor more and more.

"I have no doubt Mr. Huxter was going to tell me," Arthur said, "and
very much flattered I am sure I shall be to pay my respects to
his wife."

"It's in Charterhouse-lane, over the baker's, on the right hand side
as you go from St. John's-street," continued Bows, without any pity.
"You know Smithfield, Mr. Pendennis? St. John's-street leads into
Smithfield. Dr. Johnson has been down the street many a time with
ragged shoes, and a bundle of penny-a-lining for the 'Gent's
Magazine.' You literary gents are better off now--eh? You ride in your
cabs, and wear yellow kid gloves now."

"I have known so many brave and good men fail, and so many quacks and
impostors succeed, that you mistake me if you think I am puffed up by
my own personal good luck, old friend," Arthur said, sadly. "Do _you_
think the prizes of life are carried by the most deserving? and set up
that mean test of prosperity for merit? You must feel that you are as
good as I. I have never questioned it. It is you that are peevish
against the freaks of fortune, and grudge the good luck that befalls
others. It's not the first time you have unjustly accused me, Bows."

"Perhaps you are not far wrong, sir," said the old fellow, wiping his
bald forehead. "I am thinking about myself and grumbling; most men do
when they get on that subject. Here's the fellow that's got the prize
in the lottery; here's the fortunate youth."

"I don't know what you are driving at," Huxter said, who had been much
puzzled as the above remarks passed between his two companions.

"Perhaps not," said Bows, drily. "Mrs. H. sent me here to look after
you, and to see that you brought that little message to Mr. Pendennis,
which you didn't, you see, and so she was right. Women always are;
they have always a reason for every thing. Why, sir," he said, turning
round to Pen with a sneer, "she had a reason even for giving me that
message. I was sitting with her after you left us, very quiet and
comfortable; I was talking away, and she was mending your shirts, when
your two young friends, Jack Linton and Bob Blades, looked in from
Bartholomew's; and then it was she found out that she had this message
to send. You needn't hurry yourself, she don't want you back again;
they'll stay these two hours, I daresay."

Huxter rose with great perturbation at this news, and plunged his
stick into the pocket of his paletot, and seized his hat.

"You'll come and see us, sir, won't you?" he said to Pen. "You'll talk
over the governor, won't you, sir, if I can get out of this place and
down to Clavering?"

"You will promise to attend me gratis if ever I fall ill at Fairoaks,
will you, Huxter?" Pen said, good-naturedly. "I will do any thing I
can for you. I will come and see Mrs. Huxter immediately, and we will
conspire together about what is to be done."

"I thought that would send him out, sir," Bows said, dropping into his
chair again as soon as the young surgeon had quitted the room. "And
it's all true, sir--every word of it. She wants you back again, and
sends her husband after you. She cajoles every body, the little devil.
She tries it on you, on me, on poor Costigan, on the young chaps from
Bartholomew's. She's got a little court of 'em already. And if there's
nobody there, she practices on the old German baker in the shop, or
coaxes the black sweeper at the crossing."

"Is she fond of that fellow?" asked Pen.

"There is no accounting for likes and dislikes," Bows answered. "Yes,
she is fond of him; and having taken the thing into her head, she
would not rest until she married him. They had their bans published at
St. Clement's, and nobody heard it or knew any just cause or
impediment. And one day she slips out of the porter's lodge, and has
the business done, and goes off to Gravesend with Lothario; and leaves
a note for me to go and explain all things to her ma. Bless you! the
old woman knew it as well as I did, though she pretended ignorance.
And so she goes, and I'm alone again. I miss her, sir, tripping along
that court, and coming for her singing lesson; and I've no heart to
look into the porter's lodge now, which looks very empty without her,
the little flirting thing. And I go and sit and dangle about her
lodgings, like an old fool. She makes 'em very trim and nice, though;
gets up all Huxter's shirts and clothes: cooks his little dinner, and
sings at her business like a little lark. What's the use of being
angry? I lent 'em three pound to go on with: for they haven't got a
shilling till the reconciliation, and pa comes down."

When Bows had taken his leave, Pen carried his letter from Blanche,
and the news which he had just received, to his usual adviser, Laura.
It was wonderful upon how many points Mr. Arthur, who generally
followed his own opinion, now wanted another person's counsel. He
could hardly so much as choose a waistcoat without referring to Miss
Bell: if he wanted to buy a horse he must have Miss Bell's opinion;
all which marks of deference tended greatly to the amusement of the
shrewd old lady with whom Miss Bell lived, and whose plans regarding
her _protge_ we have indicated.

Arthur produced Blanche's letter then to Laura, and asked her to
interpret it. Laura was very much agitated, and puzzled by the
contents of the note.

"It seems to me," she said, "as if Blanche is acting very artfully."

"And wishes so to place matters that she may take me or leave me? Is
it not so?"

"It is, I am afraid, a kind of duplicity which does not augur well for
your future happiness; and is a bad reply to your own candor and
honesty, Arthur. Do you know I think, I think--I scarcely like to say
what I think," said Laura, with a deep blush; but of course the
blushing young lady yielded to her cousin's persuasion, and expressed
what her thoughts were. "It looks to me, Arthur, as if there might
be--there might be somebody else," said Laura, with a repetition of
the blush.

"And if there is," broke in Arthur, "and if I am free once again, will
the best and dearest of all women--"

"You are not free, dear brother," Laura said, calmly. "You belong to
another; of whom I own it grieves me to think ill. But I can't do
otherwise. It is very odd that in this letter she does not urge you to
tell her the reason why you have broken arrangements which would have
been so advantageous to you; and avoids speaking on the subject. She
somehow seems to write as if she knows her father's secret."

Pen said, "Yes, she must know it;" and told the story, which he had
just heard from Huxter, of the interview at Shepherd's Inn. "It was
not so that she described the meeting," said Laura; and, going to her
desk, produced from it that letter of Blanche's which mentioned her
visit to Shepherd's Inn. "Another disappointment--only the Chevalier
Strong and a friend of his in the room." This was all that Blanche had
said. "But she was bound to keep her father's secret, Pen," Laura
added. "And yet, and yet--it is very puzzling."

The puzzle was this, that for three weeks after this eventful
discovery Blanche had been, only too eager about her dearest Arthur;
was urging, as strongly as so much modesty could urge, the completion
of the happy arrangements which were to make her Arthur's forever; and
now it seemed as if something had interfered to mar these happy
arrangements--as if Arthur poor was not quite so agreeable to Blanche
as Arthur rich and a member of Parliament--as if there was some
mystery. At last she said--

"Tunbridge Wells is not very far off, is it, Arthur? Hadn't you better
go and see her?"

They had been in town a week and neither had thought of that simple
plan before!

CHAPTER XXXV.

SHOWS HOW ARTHUR HAD BETTER HAVE TAKEN A RETURN-TICKET.

[Illustration]

The train carried Arthur only too quickly to Tunbridge,
though he had time to review all the circumstances of his life as he
made the brief journey, and to acknowledge to what sad conclusions his
selfishness and waywardness had led him. "Here is the end of hopes and
aspirations," thought he, "of romance and ambitions! Where I yield or
where I am obstinate, I am alike unfortunate; my mother implores me,
and I refuse an angel! Say I had taken her: forced on me as she was,
Laura would never have been an angel to me. I could not have given her
my heart at another's instigation; I never could have known her as she
is, had I been obliged to ask another to interpret her qualities and
point out her virtues. I yield to my uncle's solicitations, and
accept, on his guarantee, Blanche, and a seat in Parliament, and
wealth, and ambition, and a career; and see!--fortune comes and leaves
me the wife without the dowry, which I had taken in compensation of a
heart. Why was I not more honest, or am I not less so? It would have
cost my poor old uncle no pangs to accept Blanche's fortune,
whencesoever it came; he can't even understand, he is bitterly
indignant--heart-stricken, almost--at the scruples which actuate me in
refusing it. I dissatisfy every body. A maimed, weak, imperfect
wretch, it seems as if I am unequal to any fortune. I neither make
myself nor any one connected with me happy. What prospect is there for
this poor little frivolous girl, who is to take my obscure name, and
share my fortune? I have not even ambition to excite me, or
self-esteem enough to console myself, much more her, for my failure.
If I were to write a book that should go through twenty editions, why,
I should be the very first to sneer at my reputation. Say I could
succeed at the bar, and achieve a fortune by bullying witnesses and
twisting evidence; is that a fame which would satisfy my longings, or
a calling in which my life would be well spent? How I wish I could be
that priest opposite, who never has lifted his eyes from his breviary,
except when we were in Reigate tunnel, when he could not see; or that
old gentleman next him, who scowls at him with eyes of hatred over his
newspaper. The priest shuts his eyes to the world, but has his
thoughts on the book, which is his directory to the world to come. His
neighbor hates him as a monster, tyrant, persecutor; and fancies
burning martyrs, and that pale countenance looking on, and lighted up
by the flame. These have no doubts; these march on trustfully, bearing
their load of logic."

"Would you like to look at the paper, sir?" here interposed the stout
gentleman (it had a flaming article against the order of the
blackcoated gentleman who was traveling with them in the carriage) and
Pen thanked him and took it, and pursued his reverie, without reading
two sentences of the journal.

"And yet, would you take either of those men's creeds, with its
consequences?" he thought. "Ah me! you must bear your own burden,
fashion your own faith, think your own thoughts, and pray your own
prayer. To what mortal ear could I tell all, if I had a mind? or who
could understand all? Who can tell another's short-comings, lost
opportunities, weigh the passions which overpower, the defects which
incapacitate reason?--what extent of truth and right his neighbor's
mind is organized to perceive and to do?--what invisible and forgotten
accident, terror of youth, chance or mischance of fortune, may have
altered the whole current of life? A grain of sand may alter it, as
the flinging of a pebble may end it. Who can weigh circumstances,
passions, temptations, that go to our good and evil account, save One,
before whose awful wisdom we kneel, and at whose mercy we ask
absolution? Here it ends," thought Pen; "this day or to-morrow will
wind up the account of my youth; a weary retrospect, alas! a sad
history, with many a page I would fain not look back on! But who has
not been tired or fallen, and who has escaped without scars from that
struggle?" And his head fell on his breast, and the young man's heart
prostrated itself humbly and sadly before that Throne where sits
wisdom, and love, and pity for all, and made its confession. "What
matters about fame or poverty!" he thought. "If I marry this woman I
have chosen, may I have strength and will to be true to her, and to
make her happy. If I have children, pray God teach me to speak and to
do the truth among them, and to leave them an honest name. There are
no splendors for my marriage. Does my life deserve any? I begin a new
phase of it; a better than the last may it be, I pray Heaven!"

The train stopped at Tunbridge as Pen was making these reflections;
and he handed over the newspaper to his neighbor, of whom he
took leave, while the foreign clergyman in the opposite corner still
sate with his eyes on his book. Pen jumped out of the carriage then,
his carpetbag in hand, and briskly determined to face his fortune.

A fly carried him rapidly to Lady Clavering's house from the station;
and, as he was transported thither, Arthur composed a little speech,
which he intended to address to Blanche, and which was really as
virtuous, honest, and well-minded an oration as any man of his turn of
mind, and under his circumstances, could have uttered. The purport of
it was--"Blanche, I cannot understand from your last letter what your
meaning is, or whether my fair and frank proposal to you is acceptable
or no. I think you know the reason which induces me to forego the
worldly advantages which a union with you offered, and which I could
not accept without, as I fancy, being dishonored. If you doubt of my
affection, here I am ready to prove it. Let Smirke be called in, and
let us be married out of hand; and with all my heart I purpose to keep
my vow, and to cherish you through life, and to be a true and a loving
husband to you."

From the fly Arthur sprang out then to the hall-door, where he was met
by a domestic whom he did not know. The man seemed to be surprised at
the approach of the gentleman with the carpet-bag, which he made no
attempt to take from Arthur's hands. "Her ladyship's not at home,
sir," the man remarked.

"I am Mr. Pendennis," Arthur said. "Where is Lightfoot?" "Lightfoot is
gone," answered the man. "My lady is out, and my orders was--"

"I hear Miss Amory's voice in the drawing-room," said Arthur. "Take
the bag to a dressing-room, if you please;" and, passing by the
porter, he walked straight toward that apartment, from which, as the
door opened, a warble of melodious notes issued.

Our little siren was at her piano singing with all her might and
fascinations. Master Clavering was asleep on the sofa, indifferent to
the music; but near Blanche sat a gentleman who was perfectly
enraptured with her strain, which was of a passionate and
melancholy nature.

As the door opened, the gentleman started up with a hullo! the music
stopped, with a little shriek from the singer; Frank Clavering woke up
from the sofa, and Arthur came forward and said, "What, Foker! how do
you do, Foker?" He looked at the piano, and there, by Miss Amory's
side, was just such another purple-leather box as he had seen in
Harry's hand three days before, when the heir of Logwood was coming
out of a jeweler's shop in Waterloo-place. It was opened, and curled
round the white-satin cushion within was, oh, such a magnificent
serpentine bracelet, with such a blazing ruby head and diamond tail!

"How-de-do, Pendennis?" said Foker. Blanche made many motions of the
shoulders, and gave signs of interest and agitation. And she put her
handkerchief over the bracelet, and then she advanced, with a hand
which trembled very much, to greet Pen. "How is dearest Laura?" she
said. The face of Foker looking up from his profound mourning--that
face, so piteous and puzzled, was one which the reader's imagination
must depict for himself; also that of Master Frank Clavering, who,
looking at the three interesting individuals with an expression of the
utmost knowingness, had only time to ejaculate the words, "Here's a
jolly go!" and to disappear sniggering.

[Illustration]

Pen, too, had restrained himself up to that minute; but looking still
at Foker, whose ears and cheeks tingled with blushes, Arthur burst out
into a fit of laughter, so wild and loud, that it frightened Blanche
much more than any the most serious exhibition.

"And this was the secret, was it? Don't blush and turn away, Foker, my
boy. Why, man, you are a pattern of fidelity. Could I stand between
Blanche and such constancy--could I stand between Miss Amory and
fifteen thousand a year?"

"It is not that, Mr. Pendennis," Blanche said, with great dignity. "It
is not money, it is not rank, it is not gold that moves _me_; but it
_is_ constancy, it is fidelity, it is a whole, trustful, loving heart
offered to me that I treasure--yes, that I treasure!" And she made
for her handkerchief, but, reflecting what was underneath it, she
paused. "I do not disown, I do not disguise--my life is above
disguise--to him on whom it is bestowed, my heart must be forever
bare--that I once thought I loved you,--yes, thought I was beloved by
you! I own. How I clung to that faith! How I strove, I prayed, I
longed to believe it! But your conduct always--your own words so cold,
so heartless, so unkind, have undeceived me. You trifled with the
heart of the poor maiden! You flung me back with scorn the troth which
I had plighted! I have explained all--all to Mr. Foker."

"That you have," said Foker, with devotion, and conviction in his
looks.

"What, all?" said Pen, with a meaning look at Blanche. "It is I am in
fault is it? Well, well, Blanche, be it so. I won't appeal against
your sentence, and bear it in silence. I came down here looking to
very different things, Heaven knows, and with a heart most truly and
kindly disposed toward you. I hope you may be happy with another, as,
on my word, it was my wish to make you so; and I hope my honest old
friend here will have a wife worthy of his loyalty, his constancy, and
affection. Indeed they deserve the regard of any woman--even Miss
Blanche Amory. Shake hands, Harry; don't look askance at me. Has any
body told you that I was a false and heartless character?"

"I think you're a--" Foker was beginning, in his wrath, when Blanche
interposed.

"Henry, not a word!--I pray you let there be forgiveness!"

"You're an angel, by Jove, you're an angel!" said Foker, at which
Blanche looked seraphically up to the chandelier.

"In spite of what has passed, for the sake of what has passed, I must
always regard Arthur as a brother," the seraph continued; "we have
known each other years, we have trodden the same fields, and plucked
the same flowers together. Arthur! Henry! I beseech you to take hands
and to be friends! Forgive you!--_I_ forgive you, Arthur, with my
heart I do. Should I not do so for making me so happy?"

"There is only one person of us three whom I pity, Blanche," Arthur
said, gravely, "and I say to you again, that I hope you will make this
good fellow, this honest and loyal creature, happy."

"Happy! O Heavens!" said Harry. He could not speak. His happiness
gushed out at his eyes. "She don't know--she can't know how fond I am
of her, and--and who am I? a poor little beggar, and she takes me up
and says she'll try and l-l-love me. I ain't worthy of so much
happiness. Give us your hand, old boy, since she forgives you after
your heartless conduct, and says she loves you. I'll make you welcome.
I tell you I'll love every body who loves her. By--if she tells me to
kiss the ground I'll kiss it. Tell me to kiss the ground! I say, tell
me. I love you so. You see I love you so."

Blanche looked up seraphically again. Her gentle bosom heaved. She
held out one hand as if to bless Harry, and then royally permitted him
to kiss it. She took up the pocket handkerchief and hid her own eyes,
as the other fair hand was abandoned to poor Harry's tearful embrace.

"I swear that is a villain who deceives such a loving creature as
that," said Pen.

Blanche laid down the handkerchief, and put hand No. 2 softly on
Foker's head, which was bent down kissing and weeping over hand No. 1.
"Foolish boy!" she said, "it shall be loved as it deserves: who could
help loving such a silly creature?"

And at this moment Frank Clavering broke in upon the sentimental trio.

"I say, Pendennis!" he said.

"Well, Frank!"

"The man wants to be paid, and go back. He's had some beer."

"I'll go back with him," cried Pen. "Good-by, Blanche. God bless you,
Foker, old friend. You know, neither of you want me here." He longed
to be off that instant.

"Stay--I must say one word to you. One word in private, if you
please," Blanche said. "You can trust us together, can't you--Henry?"
The tone in which the word Henry was spoken, and the appeal, ravished
Foker with delight. "Trust you!" said he; "Oh, who wouldn't trust you!
Come along, Franky, my boy."

"Let's have a cigar," said Frank, as they went into the hall.

"She don't like it," said Foker, gently.

"Law bless you--_she don't mind. Pendennis used to smoke regular,"
said the candid youth.

"It was but a short word I had to say," said Blanche to Pen, with
great calm, when they were alone. "You never loved me, Mr. Pendennis."

"I told you how much," said Arthur. "I never deceived you."

"I suppose you will go back and marry Laura," continued Blanche.

"Was that what you had to say?" said Pen.

"You are going to her this very night, I am sure of it. There is no
denying it. You never cared for me."

_"Et vous?"

"Et moi c'est diffrent._ I have been spoilt early. I can not live out
of the world, out of excitement. I could have done so, but it is too

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