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laughing, “because me and Clavering are middle-aged people;”—and here they were offered the copious remains of the luncheon of which Lady Clavering and Blanche had just partaken. When nobody was near, our little sylphide, who scarcely ate at dinner more than the six grains of rice of Amina, the friend of the Ghouls in the Arabian Nights, was most active with her knife and fork, and consumed a very substantial portion of mutton cutlets : in which piece of hypocrisy it is believed she resembled other young ladies of fashion. Pen and his uncle declined the refection, but they admired the dining-room with fitting compliments, and pronounced it “very chaste," that being the proper phrase. There were, indeed, high-backed Dutch chairs of the seventeenth century; there was a sculptured carved buffet of the sixteenth; there was a sideboard robbed out of the carved work of a church in the Low Countries, and a large brass cathedral lamp over the round oak table; there were old family portraits from Wardour Street, and tapestry from France, bits of armour, double-handed swords and battle-axes made of carton-pierre, looking-glasses, statuettes of saints, and Dresden china—nothing, in a word, could be chaster. Behind the dining-room was the library, fitted with busts and books all of a size, and wonderful easy-chairs, and solemn bronzes in the severe classic style. Here it was that, guarded by double doors, Sir Francis smoked cigars and read Bell's Life in London, and went to sleep after dinner, when he was not smoking over the billiard-table at his clubs, or punting at the gambling-houses in Saint James's.
But what could equal the chaste splendour of the drawingrooms ?—the carpets were so magnificently fluffy that your foot made no more noise on them than your shadow: on their white ground bloomed roses and tulips as big as warmingpans: about the room were high chairs and low chairs, bandy-legged chairs, chairs so attenuated that it was a wonder any but a sylph could sit upon them, marqueterie tables covered with marvellous gimcracks, china ornaments of all ages and countries, bronzes, gilt daggers, Books of Beauty, yataghans, Turkish papooshes and boxes of Parisian bonbons. Wherever you sate down there were Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses convenient at your elbow; there were, moreover, light-blue poodles and ducks and cocks and hens in porcelain; there were nymphs by Boucher, and shepherdesses by Greuze, very chaste indeed; there were muslin curtains and brocade curtains, gilt cages with parroquets and love-birds, two squealing cockatoos, each out-squealing and out-chattering the other; a clock singing tunes on a consoletable, and another booming the hours like Great Tom, on the mantelpiece—there was, in a word, everything that comfort could desire, and the most elegant taste devise. A London drawing-room fitted up without regard to expense is surely one of the noblest and most curious sights of the present day. The Romans of the Lower Empire, the dear Marchionesses and Countesses of Louis XV., could scarcely have had a finer taste than our modern folks exhibit; and everybody who saw Lady Clavering’s reception rooms was forced to confess that they were most elegant: and that the prettiest rooms in London-Lady Harley Quin's, Lady Hanway Wardour's, Mrs. Hodge-Podgson's own, the great Railroad Cresus' wife, were not fitted up with a more consummate “chastity."
Poor Lady Clavering, meanwhile, knew little regarding these things, and had a sad want of respect for the splendours around her. “I only know they cost a precious deal of money, Major,” she said to her guest, “and that I don't advise you to try one of them gossamer gilt chairs : I came down on one the night we gave our second dinner party. Why didn't you come and see us before? We'd have asked you to it."
“You would have liked to see Mamma break a chair, wouldn't you, Mr. Pendennis ?” dear Blanche said with a sneer. She was angry because Pen was talking and laughing with Mamma, because Mamma had made a number of blunders in describing the house—for a hundred other good reasons.
“I should like to have been by to give Lady Clavering my arm if she had need of it,” Pen answered, with a bow and a blush.
"Quel preux Chevalier !” cried the Sylphide, tossing up her little head.
“I have a fellow-feeling with those who fall, remember," Pen said. “I suffered myself very much from doing so once.”
“And you went home to Laura to console you," said Miss Amory. Pen winced. He did not like the remembrance of the consolation which Laura had given to him, nor was he very well pleased to find that his rebuff in that quarter was known to the world : so as he had nothing to say in reply, he began to be immensely interested in the furniture round about him, and to praise Lady Clavering's taste with all his might.
“Me: don't praise me," said honest Lady Clavering; "it's all the upholsterer's doings and Captain Strong's; they did it all while we was at the Park—and—and—Lady Rockminster has been here and says the salongs are very well,” said Lady Clavering, with an air and tone of great deference.
“My cousin Laura has been staying with her," Pen said.
“It's not the dowager : it is the Lady Rockminster.”
“Indeed!” cried Major Pendennis, when he heard this great name of fashion. “If you have her Ladyship's approval, Lady Clavering, you cannot be far wrong. No, no, you cannot be far wrong. Lady Rockminster, I should say, Arthur, is the very centre of the circle of fashion and taste. The rooms are beautiful indeed !” and the Major's voice hushed as he spoke of this great lady, and he looked round and surveyed the apartments awfully and respectfully, as if he had been at church.
“Yes, Lady Rockminster has took us up,” said Lady Clavering.
“Taken us up, Mamma,” cried Blanche, in a shrill voice.
“Well, taken us up, then," said my lady; “it's very kind of her, and I dare say we shall like it when we git used to it, only at first one don't fancy being took—well, taken up, at all. She is going to give our balls for us; and wants to invite all our diners. But I won't stand that. I will have my old friends, and I won't let her send all the cards out, and sit mum at the head of my own table. You must come to me, Arthur and Major-come, let me see, on the 14th.-It ain't one of our grand dinners, Blanche,” she said, looking round at her daughter, who bit her lips and frowned very savagely for a sylphide.
The Major, with a smile and a bow, said he would much rather come to a quiet meeting than to a grand dinner. He had had enough of those large entertainments, and preferred the simplicity of the home circle.
“I always think a dinner's the best the second day,” said Lady Clavering, thinking to mend her first speech. “On the 14th we'll be quite a snug little party;” at which second blunder, Miss Blanche clasped her hands in despair, and said, “O Mamma, vous êtes incorrigible.” Major Pendennis vowed that he liked snug dinners of all things in the world, and confounded her Ladyship’s impudence for daring to ask such a man as him to a second day's dinner. But he was a man of an economical turn of mind, and bethinking himself that he could throw over these people if anything better should offer, he accepted with the blandest air. As for Pen, he was not a diner-out of thirty years' standing as yet, and the idea of a fine feast in a fine house was still perfectly welcome to him.
“What was that pretty little quarrel which engaged itself between your worship and Miss Amory?” the Major asked of Pen, as they walked away together. “I thought you used to be au mieux in that quarter.”
“ Used to be," answered Pen, with a dandified air, “is a vague phrase regarding a woman. Was and is are two very different terms, sir, as regards women's hearts especially.”
“Egad, they change as we do,” cried the elder. “When we took the Cape of Good Hope, I recollect there was a lady who talked of poisoning herself for your humble servant; and, begad, in three months, she ran away from her husband with somebody else. Don't get yourself entangled with that Miss Amory. She is forward, affected, and underbred; and her character is somewhat-never mind what. But don't think of her: ten thousand pound won't do for you. What, my good fellow, is ten thousand pound? I would scarcely pay that girl's milliner's bill with the interest of the money."
“You seem to be a connoisseur in millinery, Uncle,” Pen
“I was, sir, I was,” replied the senior; "and the old warhorse, you know, never hears the sound of a trumpet, but he begins to he, he !-you understand,”—and he gave a killing though somewhat superannuated leer and bow to a carriage that passed them and entered the Park.
“Lady Catherine Martingale's carriage,” he said, “mons'ous fine girls the daughters, though, gad, I remember their mother a thousand times handsomer. No, Arthur, my dear fellow, with your person and expectations, you ought to make a good coup in marriage some day or other; and though I wouldn't have this repeated at Fairoaks, you rogue, ha! ha! a reputation for a little wickedness, and for being an homme dangereux, don't hurt a young fellow with the women. They like it, sir—they hate a milksop . . . young men must be young men, you know. But for marriage,” continued the veteran moralist, “ that is a very different matter. Marry a woman with money. I've told you before it is as easy to get a rich wife as a poor one; and a doosed deal more comfortable to sit down to a well-cooked dinner, with your little entrées nicely served, than to have nothing but a damned cold leg of mutton between you and your wife. We shall have a good dinner on the 14th, when we dine with Sir Francis Clavering: stick to that, my boy, in your relations with the family. Cultivate 'em, but keep 'em for dining. No more of your youthful follies and nonsense about love in a cottage.”
“It must be a cottage with a double coach-house, a cottage of gentility, sir," said Pen, quoting the hackneyed ballad of the “ Devil's Walk”: but his uncle did not know that poem (though, perhaps, he might be leading Pen upon the very promenade in question), and went on with his philosophical remarks, very much pleased with the aptness of the pupil to whom he addressed them. Indeed Arthur Pendennis was a clever fellow, who took his colour very readily from his neighbour, and found the adaptation only too easy.
Warrington, the grumbler, growled out that Pen was becoming such a puppy that soon there would be no bearing