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awhile the Major's great soul chafes and frets, inwardly vexed as he thinks what great parties are going on in London, and that he might be sunning himself in the glances of Dukes and Duchesses, but for those cursed affairs which keep him in a wretched little country hole—while Pen is tossing between his passion and a more agreeable sensation, unacknowledged yet, but swaying him considerably, namely, his longing to see the world—Mr. Smirke has a private care watching at his bedside, and sitting behind him on his pony; and is no more satisfied than the rest of us. How lonely we are in the world! how selfish and secret, everybody! You and your wife have pressed the same pillow for forty years and fancy yourselves united.—Psha, does she cry out when you have the gout, or do you lie awake when she has the tooth-ache? Your artless daughter, seemingly all innocence and devoted to her mamma and her piano-lesson, is thinking of neither, but of the young Lieutenant with whom she danced at the last ball—the honest frank boy just returned from school is secretly speculating upon the money you will give him, and the debts he owes the tart-man. The old grandmother crooning in the corner and bound to another world within a few months, has some business or cares which are quite private and her own—very likely she is thinking of fifty years back, and that night when she made such an impression, and danced a cotillon with the Captain before your father proposed for her; or, what a silly little over-rated creature your wife is, and how absurdly you are infatuated about her—and, as for your wife—O philosophic reader, answer and say,—Do you tell her all? Ah, sir—a distinct universe walks about under your hat and under mine—all things in nature are different to each—the woman we look at has not the same features, the dish we eat from has not the same taste to the one and the other—you and I are but a pair of infinite isolations, with some fellow-islands alittle more or less near to us. Let us return, however, to the solitary Smirke.
Smirke had one confidant for his passion—that most injudicious woman, Madame Fribsby. How she became Madame Fribsby, nobody knows: she had left Clavering to go to a milliner's in London as Miss Fribsby—she pretended that she had got the rank in Paris during her residence in that city. But how could the French king, were he ever so much disposed, give her any such title? We shall not inquire into this mystery, however. Suffice to say, she went away from home a bouncing young lass; she returned a rather elderly character, with a Madonna front and a melancholy countenance—bought the late Mrs. Harbottle's business for a song—took her elderly mother to live with her; was very good to the poor, was constant at church, and had the best of characters. But there was no one in all Clavering, not Mrs. Portman herself, who read so many novels as Madame Fribsby. She had plenty of time for this amusement, for, in truth, very few people besides the folks at the Rectory and Fairoaks employed her; and by a perpetual perusal of such works (which were by no means so moral or edifying in the days of which we write, as they are at present), she had got to be so absurdly sentimental, that in her eyes life was nothing but an immense love-match; and she never could see two people together, but she fancied they were dying for one another.
On the day after Mrs. Pendennis's visit to the Curate, which we have recorded many pages back, Madame Fribsby settled in her mind that Mr. Smirke must be in love with the widow, and did everything in her power to encourage this passion on both sides. Mrs. Pendennis she very seldom saw, indeed, except in public, and in her pew at church. That lady had very little need of millinery, or made most of her own dresses and caps; but on the rare occasions when Madame Fribsby received visits from Mrs. Pendennis, or paid her respects at Fairoaks, she never failed to entertain the widow with praises of the Curate, pointing out what an angelical man he was, how gentle, how studious, how lonely; and she would wonder that no lady would take pity upon him.
Helen laughed at these sentimental remarks, and wondered that Madame herself did not compassionate her lodger, and console him. Madame Fribsby shook her Madonna front. "Mong cure a boco souffare," she said, laying her hand on the part she designated as her cure. "II est more en Espang, Madame," she said with a sigh. She was proud of her intimacy with the French language, and spoke it with more