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The porter pointed out a queer old tower at the corner of the quadrangle, by which Mr. Buck's rooms were approached, and the two gentlemen walked across the square, the main features of which were at once and for ever stamped in Pen's mind—the pretty fountain playing in the centre of the fair grass plats; the tall chapel windows and buttresses rising to the right; the hall, with its tapering lantern and oriel window; the lodge, from the doors of which the Master issued awfully in rustling silks; the lines of the surrounding rooms pleasantly broken by carved chimneys, grey turrets, and quaint gables—all these Mr. Pen's eyes drank in with an eagerness which belongs to first impressions; and Major Pendennis surveyed with that calmness which belongs to a gentleman who does not care for the picturesque, and whose eyes have been somewhat dimmed by the constant glare of the pavement of Pall Mall.
Saint George's is the great Çollege of the University of Oxbridge, with its four vast quadrangles, and its beautiful hall and gardens, and the Georgians, as the men are called, wear gowns of a peculiar cut, and give themselves no small airs of superiority over all other young men. Little Saint Boniface is but a petty hermitage in comparison of the huge consecrated pile alongside of which it lies. But considering its size it has always kept an excellent name in the university. Its ton is very good; the best families of certain counties have time out of mind sent up their young men to Saint Boniface; the college livings are remarkably good, the fellowships easy; the Boniface men had had more than their fair share of university honours; their boat was third upon the river; their chapelchoir is not inferior to Saint George's itself; and the Boniface ale the best in Oxbridge. In the comfortable old wainscoted College-Hall, and round about Roubilliac's statue of Saint Boniface (who stands in an attitude of seraphic benediction over the uncommonly good cheer of the fellows' table) there are portraits of many most eminent Bonifacians. There is the learned Doctor Griddle, who suffered in Henry VIII.'s time, and Archbishop Bush who roasted him—there is Lord Chief Justice Hicks—the Duke of St. David's, K.G., Chancellor of the University and Member of this College-Sprott the Poet, of whose fame the college is justly proud-Doctor Blogg, the late master, and friend of Doctor Johnson, who visited him at Saint Boniface—and other lawyers, scholars, and divines, whose portraitures look from the walls, or whose coats-of-arms shine in emerald and ruby, gold and azure, in the tall windows of the refectory. The venerable cook of the college is one of the best artists in Oxbridge, and the wine in the fellows' room has long been famed for its excellence and abundance.
Into this certainly not the least snugly sheltered arbour amongst the groves of Academe, Pen now found his way, leaning on his uncle's arm, and they speedily reached Mr. Buck's rooms, and were conducted into the apartment of that courteous gentleman.
He had received previous information from Doctor Portman regarding Pen, with respect to whose family, fortune, and personal merits the honest Doctor had spoken with no small enthusiasm. Indeed Portman had described Arthur to the tutor as “a young gentleman of some fortune and landed estate, of one of the most ancient families in the kingdom, and possessing such a character and genius as were sure, under proper guidance, to make him a credit to the college and the university.” Under such recommendations, the tutor was, of course, most cordial to the young freshman and his guardian, invited the latter to dine in hall, where he would have the satisfaction of seeing his nephew wear his gown and eat his dinner for the first time, and requested the pair to take wine at his rooms after hall, and in consequence of the highly. favourable report he had received of Mr. Arthur Pendennis, said he should be happy to give him the best set of rooms to be had in college—a gentleman-pensioner's set, indeed, which were just luckily vacant. When a College Magnate takes the trouble to be polite, there is no man more splendidly courteous. Immersed in their books, and excluded from the world by the gravity of their occupations, these reverend men assume a solemn magnificence of compliment in which they rustle and swell as in their grand robes of state. Those silks and brocades are not put on for all comers or every day.
When the two gentlemen had taken leave of the tutor in
his study, and had returned to Mr. Buck’s anteroom, or lecture-room, a very handsome apartment, turkey-carpeted, and hung with excellent prints and richly framed pictures, they found the tutor's servant already in waiting there, accompanied by a man with a bag full of caps and a number of gowns, from which Pen might select a cap and gown for him
self, and the servant, no doubt, would get a commission proportionable to the service done by him. Mr. Pen was all in a tremor of pleasure as the bustling tailor tried on a gown, and pronounced that it was an excellent fit; and then he put the pretty college cap on, in rather a dandified manner, and somewhat on one side, as he had seen Fiddicombe, the youngest master at Grey Friars, wear it. And he inspected the entire costume with a great deal of satisfaction in one of the great gilt mirrors which ornamented Mr. Buck's lecture-room : for some of these college divines are no more above lookingglasses than a lady is, and look to the set of their gowns and caps quite as anxiously as folks do of the lovelier sex.
Then Davis, the skip or attendant, led the way, keys in hand, across the quadrangle, the Major and Pen following him, the latter blushing, and pleased with his new academical habiliments, across the quadrangle to the rooms which were destined for the freshman; and which were vacated by the retreat of the gentleman-pensioner, Mr. Spicer. The rooms were very comfortable, with large cross beams, high wainscots, and small windows in deep embrasures. Mr. Spicer's furniture was there, and to be sold at a valuation, and Major Pendennis agreed on his nephew's behalf to take the available part of it, laughingly however declining (as, indeed, Pen did for his own part) six sporting prints, and four groups of opera-dancers with gauze draperies, which formed the late occupant's pictorial collection.
Then they went to hall, where Pen sate down and ate his commons with his brother freshmen, and the Major took his place at the high-table along with the college dignitaries and other fathers or guardians of youth, who had come up with their sons to Oxbridge; and after hall they went to Mr. Buck’s to take wine; and after wine to chapel, where the Major sate with great gravity in the upper place, having a fine view of the Master in his carved throne or stall under the organ-loft, where that gentleman, the learned Doctor Donne, sate magnificent, with his great prayer-book before him, an image of statuesque piety and rigid devotion. All the young freshmen behaved with gravity and decorum, but Pen was shocked to see that atrocious little Foker, who came in very late, and half-a-dozen of his comrades in the gentlemen-pensioners' seats, giggling and talking as if they had been in so many stalls at the Opera.
Pen could hardly sleep at night in his bedroom at the Trencher; so anxious was he to begin his college life, and to get into his own apartments. What did he think about, as he lay tossing and awake? Was it about his mother at home; the pious soul whose life was bound up in his ? Yes, let us hope he thought of her a little. Was it about Miss Fotheringay, and his eternal passion, which had kept him awake so many nights, and created such wretchedness and such longing ? He had a trick of blushing, and if you had been in the room, and the candle had not been out, you might have seen the youth's countenance redden more than once, as he broke out into passionate incoherent exclamations regarding that luckless event of his life. His uncle's lessons had not been thrown away upon him; the mist of passion had passed from his eyes now, and he saw her as she was. To think that he, Pendennis, had been enslaved by such a woman, and then jilted by her! that he should have stooped so low, to be trampled on in the mire! that there was a time in his life, and that but a few months back, when he was willing to take Costigan for his father-in-law !
“Poor old Smirke !” Pen presently laughed out—"well, I'll write and try and console the poor old boy. He won't die of his passion, ha, ha!” The Major, had he been awake, might have heard a score of such ejaculations uttered by Pen as he lay awake and restless through the first night of his residence at Oxbridge.
It would, perhaps, have been better for a youth, the battle of whose life was going to begin on the morrow, to have passed the eve in a different sort of vigil; but the world had, got hold of Pen in the shape of his selfish old Mentor; and those who have any interest in his character must have perceived ere now that this lad was very weak as well as very impetuous, very vain as well as very frank, and if of a generous disposition, not a little selfish, in the midst of his profuseness, and also rather fickle, as all eager pursuers of self-gratification are.
The six-months' passion had aged him very considerably. There was an immense gulf between Pen the victim of love, and Pen the innocent boy of eighteen, sighing after it; and so Arthur Pendennis had all the experience and superiority, besides that command which afterwards conceit and imperiousness of disposition gave him over the young men with whom he now began to live.