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I do so," he added with a blush. "I do not choose that questions should be asked: or, perhaps, I am an ass, and don't wish it to be said that George Warrington writes for bread. But I write in the Law Reviews: look here, these articles are mine." And he turned over some sheets. "I write in a newspaper now and then, of which a friend of mine is editor." And Warrington, going with Pendennis to the club one day, called for a file of the "Dawn," and pointed with his finger silently to one or two articles, which Pen read with delight. He had no difficulty in recognising the style afterwards—the strong thoughts and curt periods, the sense, the satire, and the scholarship.
"I am not up to this," said Pen, with a genuine admiration of his friend's powers. "I know very little about politics or history, Warrington; and have but a smattering of letters. I can't fly upon such a wing as yours."
"But you can on your own, my boy, which is lighter, and soars higher, perhaps," the other said, good-naturedly. "Those little scraps and verses which I have seen of yours show me, what is rare in these days, a natural gift, sir. You needn't blush, you conceited young jackanapes. You have thought so yourself any time these ten years. You have got the sacred flame—a little of the real poetical fire, sir, I think; and all our oil-lamps are nothing, compared to that, though ever so well trimmed. You are a poet, Pen, my boy," and so speaking, Warrington stretched out his broad hand, and clapped Pen on the shoulder.
Arthur was so delighted that the tears came into his eyes. "How kind you are to me, Warrington!" he said.
"I like you, old boy," said the other. "I was dev'lish lonely in chambers and wanted somebody, and the sight of your honest face somehow pleased me. I liked the way you laughed at Lowton—that poor good little snob. And, in fine, the reason why I cannot tell—but so it is, young 'un. I'm alone in the world, sir; and I wanted some one to keep me company; " and a glance of extreme kindness and melancholy passed out of Warrington's dark eyes.
Pen was too much pleased with his own thoughts to perceive the sadness of the friend who was complimenting him. "Thank you, Warrington," he said, "thank you for your friendship to me, and—and what you say about me. I have often thought I was a poet. I will be one—I think I am one, as you say so, though the world mayn't. Is it—is it the Ariadne in Naxos which you liked (I was only eighteen when I wrote it), or the Prize Poem?"
Warrington burst into a roar of laughter. "Why, you young goose," he yelled out—"of all the miserable weak rubbish I ever tried, Ariadne in Naxos is the most mawkish and disgusting. The Prize Poem is so pompous and feeble, that I'm positively surprised, sir, it didn't get the medal. You don't suppose that you are a serious poet, do you, and are going to cut out Milton and ^Eschylus? Are you setting up to be a Pindar, you absurd little tom-tit, and fancy you have the strength and pinion which the Theban eagles bear, sailing with supreme dominion through the azure fields of air? No, my boy, I think you can write a magazine article, and turn out a pretty copy of verses; that's what I think of you."
"By Jove!" said Pen, bouncing up and stamping his foot, "I'll show you that I am a better man than you think for."
Warrington only laughed the more, and blew twenty-four puffs rapidly out of his pipe by way of reply to Pen.
An opportunity for showing his skill presented itself before very long. That eminent publisher, Mr. Bacon (formerly Bacon and Bungay) of Paternoster Row, besides being the proprietor of the "Legal Review," in which Mr. Warrington wrote, and of other periodicals of note and gravity, used to present to the world every year a beautiful gilt volume called the "Spring Annual," edited by the Lady Violet Lebas, and numbering amongst its contributors not only the most eminent, but the most fashionable, poets of our time. Young Lord Dodo's poems first appeared in this miscellany—the Honourable Percy Popjoy, whose chivalrous ballads have obtained him such a reputation—Bedwin Sands's Eastern Ghazuls, and many more of the works of our young nobles were first given to the world in the "Spring Annual," which has since shared the fate of other vernal blossoms, and perished out of the world. The book was daintily illustrated with pictures of reigning beauties, or other prints of a tender and voluptuous character; and, as these plates were prepared long beforehand, requiring much time in engraving, it was the eminent poets who had to write to the plates, and not the painters who illustrated the poems.
One day, just when this volume was on the eve of publication, it chanced that Mr. Warrington called in Paternoster Row to talk with Mr. Hack, Mr. Bacon's reader and general manager of publications—for Mr. Bacon, not having the least taste in poetry or in literature of any kind, wisely employed the services of a professional gentleman. Warrington, then, going into Mr. Hack's room on business of his own, found that gentleman with a number of proof plates and sheets of the "Spring Annual" before him, and glanced at some of them.
Percy Popjoy had written some verses to illustrate one of the pictures, which was called the Church Porch. A Spanish damsel was hastening to church with a large prayer-book; a youth in a cloak was hidden in a niche watching this young woman. The picture was pretty: but the great genius of Percy Popjoy had deserted him, for he had made the most execrable verses which ever were perpetrated by a young nobleman.
Warrington burst out laughing as he read the poem: and Mr. Hack laughed too, but with rather a rueful face. "It won't do," he said, "the public won't stand it. Bungay's people are going to bring out a very good book, and have set up Miss Bunion against Lady Violet. We have most titles to be sure—but the verses are too bad. Lady Violet herself owns it; she's busy with her own poem; what's to be done? We can't lose the plate. The governor gave sixty pounds for it!"
"I know a fellow who would do some verses, I think," said Warrington. "Let me take the plate home in my pocket: and send to my chambers in the morning for the verses. You'll pay well, of course?"
"Of course," said Mr. Hack; and Warrington, having despatched his own business, went home to Mr. Pen, plate in hand.
"Now, boy, here's a chance for you. Turn me off a copy of verses to this.""What's this? A Church Porch—A lady entering it, and a youth out of a wine-shop window ogling her.—What the deuce am I to do with it?"
"Try," said Warrington. "Earn your livelihood for once, you who long so to do it."
"Well, I will try," said Pen.
"And I'll go out to dinner," said Warrington, and left Mr. Pen in a brown study.
When Warrington came home that night at a very late hour, the verses were done."There they are," said Pen. "I screwed 'em out at last. I think they'll do."
"I think they will," said Warrington, after reading them. They ran as follows:—
Cfce ittlmrrtJ $orcf).
Although I enter not,
Sometimes I hover,
Expectant of her.
The Minster bell tolls out
My lady comes at last,
May Heaven go with her t
Kneel undisturb'd, fair saint,
Meekly and duly.
With thoughts unruly.
But suffer me to pace
Lingering a minute,
Angels within it.
"Have you got any more, young fellow?" asked Warrington. "We must make them give you a couple of guineas a