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coach, but sate up behind with his friend the guard, who remembered his former liberality, and lent him plenty of great-coats. Perhaps it was the cold that made his knees tremble as he got down at the lodge gate, or it may be that he was agitated at the notion of seeing the kind creature for whose love he had made so selfish a return. Old John was in waiting to receive his master's baggage, but he appeared in a fustian jacket, and no longer wore his livery of drab and blue. "I'se garner and stable man, and lives in the ladge now," this worthy man remarked, with a grin of welcome to Pen, and something of a blush; but instantly as Pen turned the corner of the shrubbery and was out of eye-shot of the coach, Helen made her appearance, her face beaming with love and forgiveness—for forgiving is what some women love best of all.
We may be sure that the widow, having a certain other object in view, had lost no time in writing off to Pen an account of the noble, the magnanimous, the magnificent offer of Laura, filling up her letter with a profusion of benedictions upon both her children. It was probably the knowledge of this money-obligation which caused Pen to blush very much when he saw Laura, who was in waiting in the hall, and who this time, and for this time only, broke through the little arrangement of which we have spoken, as having subsisted between her and Arthur for the last few years; but the truth is, there has been a great deal too much said about kissing in the present chapter.
So the Prodigal came home, and the fatted calf was killed for him, and he was made as happy as two simple women could make him. No allusions were made to the Oxbridge mishap, or questions asked as to his further proceedings, for some time. But Pen debated these anxiously in his own mind, and up in his own room, where he passed much time in cogitation.
A few days after he came home, he rode to Chatteris on his horse, and came back on the top of the coach. He then informed his mother that he had left the horse to be sold; and when that operation was effected, he handed her over the cheque, which she, and possibly Pen himself, thought was an act of uncommon virtue and self-denial, but which Laura pronounced to be only strict justice.
He rarely mentioned the loan which she had made, and which, indeed, had been accepted by the widow with certain modifications; but once or twice, and with great hesitation and stammering, he alluded to it, and thanked her. It evidently pained his vanity to be beholden to the orphan for succour. He was wild to find some means of repaying her.
He left off drinking wine, and betook himself, but with great moderation, to the refreshment of whisky-and-water. He gave up cigar smoking; but it must be confessed that of late years he had liked pipes and tobacco as well or even better, so that this sacrifice was not a very severe one.
He fell asleep a great deal after dinner when he joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and was certainly very moody and melancholy. He watched the coaches with great interest, walked in to read the papers at Clavering assiduously, dined with anybody who would ask him (and the widow was glad that he should have any entertainment in their solitary place), and played a good deal at cribbage with Captain Glanders.
He avoided Doctor Portman, who, in his turn, whenever Pen passed, gave him very severe looks from under his shovel-hat. He went to church with his mother, however, very regularly, and read prayers for her at home to the little household. Always humble, it was greatly diminished now; a couple of maids did the work of the house of Fairoaks: the silver dish-covers never saw the light at all. John put on his livery to go to church, and assert his dignity on Sundays, but it was only for form's sake. He was gardener and out-door man, vice Upton, resigned. There was but little fire in Fairoaks kitchen, and John and the maids drank their evening beer there by the light of a single candle. All this was Mr. Pen's doing, and the state of things did not increase his cheerfulness.
For some time Pen said no power on earth could induce him to go back to Oxbridge again, after his failure there; but one day, Laura said to him, with many blushes, that she thought, as some sort of reparation, of punishment on himself for his—for his idleness, he ought to go back and get his degree, if he could fetch it by doing so; and so back Mr. Pen went.
A plucked man is a dismal being in a university; belonging to no set of men there, and owned by no one. Pen felt himself plucked indeed of all the fine feathers which he had won during his brilliant years, and rarely appeared out of his college; regularly going to morning chapel, and shutting himself up in his rooms of nights, away from the noise and suppers of the undergraduates. There were no duns about his door, they were all paid—scarcely any cards were left there. The men of his year had taken their degrees, and were gone. He went into a second examination, and passed with perfect ease. He was somewhat more easy in his mind when he appeared in his bachelor's gown.
On his way back from Oxbridge he paid a visit to his uncle in London; but the old gentleman received him with very cold looks, and would scarcely give him his forefinger to shake. He called a second time, but Morgan, the valet, said his master was from home.
Pen came back to Fairoaks, and to his books and to his idleness, and loneliness and despair. He commenced several tragedies, and wrote many copies of verses of a gloomy cast. He formed plans of reading and broke them. He thought about enlisting—about the Spanish legion—about a profession. He chafed against his captivity, and cursed the idleness which had caused it. Helen said he was breaking his heart, and was sad to see his prostration. As soon as they could afford it, he should go abroad—he should go to London — he should be freed from the dull society of two poor women. It was dull—very, certainly. The tender widow's habitual melancholy seemed to deepen into a sadder gloom; and Laura saw with alarm that the dear friend became every year more languid and weary, and that her pale cheek grew more wan.
HE inmates of Fairoaks were drowsily pursuing this humdrum existence, while the great house upon the hill, on the other side of the River Brawl, was shaking off the slumber in which it had lain during the lives of two generations of masters, and giving extraordinary signs of renewed liveliness.
Just about the time of Pen's little mishap, and when he was so absorbed in the grief occasioned by that calamity as to take no notice of events which befell persons less interesting to himself than Arthur Pendennis, an announcement appeared in the provincial journals which caused no small sensation in the county at least, and in all the towns, villages, halls and mansions, and parsonages for many miles round Clavering Park. At Clavering Market; at Cackleby Fair; at Chatteris Sessions; on Gooseberry Green, as the squire's carriage met the vicar's one-horse contrivance, and the inmates of both vehicles stopped on the road to talk; at Tinkleton Church gate, as the bell was tolling in the sunshine, and the white smocks and scarlet cloaks came trooping over the green common, to Sunday worship; in a hundred societies round about—the word was, that Clavering Park was to be inhabited again. Some five years before, the county papers had advertised the marriage at Florence, at the British Legation, of Francis Clavering, Esq., only son of Sir Francis Clavering, Bart., of Clavering Park, with Jemima Augusta, daughter of Samuel Snell, of Calcutta, Esq., and widow of the late J. Amory, Esq. At that time the legend in the county was that Clavering, who had been ruined for many a year, had married a widow from India with some money. Some of the county folks caught a sight of the newly-married pair. The Kickleburys, travelling in Italy, had seen them. Clavering occupied the Poggi Palace at Florence, gave parties, and lived comfortably—but could never come to England. Another year—young Peregrine, of Cackleby, making a Long Vacation tour, had fallen in with the Claverings occupying Schloss Schinkenstein, on the Mummul See. At Rome, at Lucca, at Nice, at the baths and gambling places of the Rhine and Belgium, this worthy couple might occasionally be heard of by the curious, and rumours of them came, as it were by gusts, to Clavering's ancestral place.
Their last place of abode was Paris, where they appear to have lived in great fashion and splendour after the news of the death of Samuel Snell, Esq., of Calcutta, reached his orphan daughter in Europe.
Of Sir Francis Clavering's antecedents little can be said that would be advantageous to that respected baronet. The son of an outlaw, living in a dismal old chateau near Bruges, this gentleman had made a feeble attempt to start in life with a commission in a dragoon regiment, and had broken down almost at the outset. Transactions at the gambling-table had speedily effected his ruin; after a couple of years in the army he had been forced to sell out, had passed some time in Her Majesty's prison of the Fleet, and had then shipped over to Ostend to join the gouty exile, his father. And in Belgium, France, and Germany, for some years, this decayed and abortive prodigal might be seen lurking about billiard-rooms