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way (for railways have sprung up in the course of this narrative, though they have not quite penetrated into Pen's country yet), and made his appearance, in his usual trim order and curly wig, at the dinner-table of the Marquis of Steyne. But we must do the Major the justice to say, that he was very unhappy and gloomy in demeanour. Wagg and Wenham rallied him about his low spirits; asked whether he was crossed in love? and otherwise diverted themselves at his expense. He lost his money at whist after dinner, and actually trumped his partner's highest spade. And the thoughts of the suffering boy, of whom he was proud, and whom he loved after his manner, kept the old fellow awake half through the night, and made him feverish and uneasy.
On the morrow he received a note in a handwriting which he did not know: it was that of Mr. Bows, indeed, saying that Mr. Arthur Pendennis had had a tolerable night; and that as Doctor Goodenough had stated that the Major desired to be informed of his nephew's health, he, E. B., had sent him the news per rail.
The next day he was going out shooting, about noon, with some of the gentlemen staying at Lord Steyne's house; and the company, waiting for the carriages, were assembled on the terrace in front of the house, when a fly drove up from the neighbouring station, and a grey-headed, rather shabby old gentleman jumped out, and asked for Major Pendennis. It was Mr. Bows. He took the Major aside and spoke to him; most of the gentlemen round about saw that something serious had happened, from the alarmed look of the Major's face.
Wagg said, "It's a bailiff come down to nab the Major;" but nobody laughed at the pleasantry.
"Hullo! What's the matter, Pendennis?" cried Lord Steyne, with his strident voice. "Anything wrong?"
"It's—it's—my boy that's dead," said the Major, and burst into a sob—the old man was quite overcome.
"Not dead, my Lord; but very ill when I left London," Mr. Bows said, in a low voice.
A britzka came up at this moment as the three men were speaking. The Peer looked at his watch. "You've twenty minutes to catch the mail-train. Jump in, Pendennis; and drive like h—, sir, do you hear?"
The carriage drove off swiftly with Pendennis and his companion, and let us trust that the oath will be pardoned to the Marquis of Steyne.
The Major drove rapidly from the station to the Temple, and found a travelling carriage already before him, and blocking up the narrow Temple Lane. Two ladies got out of it, and were asking their way of the porters; the Major looked by chance at the panel of the carriage, and saw the worn-out crest of the Eagle looking at the Sun, and the motto, "Nec tenui penna," painted beneath. It was his brother's old carriage, built many many years ago. It was Helen and Laura that were asking their way to poor Pen's room.
He ran up to them; hastily clasped his sister's arm and kissed her hand; and the three entered into Lamb Court, and mounted the long gloomy stair.
They knocked very gently at the door, on which Arthur's name was written, and it was opened by Fanny Bolton.
A CRITICAL CHAPTER.
S Fanny saw the two ladies and the anxious countenance of the elder, who regarded her with a look of inscrutable alarm and terror, the poor girl at once knew that Pen's mother was before her; there was a resemblance between the widow's haggard eyes and Arthur's as he tossed in his bed in fever. Fanny looked wistfully at Mrs. Pendennis and at Laura afterwards; there was no more expression in the latter's face than if it had been a mass of stone. Hard-heartedness and gloom dwelt on the figures of both the new-comers; neither showed any the faintest gleam of mercy or sympathy for Fanny. She looked desperately from them to the Major behind them. Old Pendennis dropped his eyelids, looking up ever so stealthily from under them at Arthur's poor little nurse.
"I—I wrote to you yesterday, if you please, ma'am," Faoiiy said, trembling in every limb as she spoke; and as pale as Laura, whose sad menacing face looked over Mrs. Pendenms's shoulder.
"Did you, madam?" Mrs. Pendennis said. "I suppose I may now relieve you from nursing my son. I am his mother, you understand."
"Yes, ma'am. I—this is the way to his Oh, wait a
minute," cried out Fanny. "I must prepare you for his"
The widow, whose face had been hopelessly cruel and ruthless, here started back with a gasp and a little cry, which she speedily stifled.
"He's been so since yesterday," Fanny said, trembling very much, and with chattering teeth.
A horrid shriek of laughter came out of Pen's room, whereof the door was open; and, after several shouts, the poor wretch began to sing a college drinking-song, and then to hurray and to shout as if he was in the midst of a wine party, and to thump with his fist against the wainscot. He was quite delirious.
"He does not know me, ma'am," Fanny said.
"Indeed. Perhaps he will know his mother; let me pass, if you please, and go in to him." And the widow hastily pushed by little Fanny, and through the dark passage which led into Pen's sitting-room. Laura sailed by Fanny, too, without a word; and Major Pendennis followed them. Fanny sat down on a bench in the passage, and cried, and prayed as well as she could. She would have died for him; and they hated her! They had not a word of thanks or kindness for her, the fine ladies. She sate there in the passage, she did not know how long. They never came out to speak to her. She sate there until Dr. Goodenough came to pay his second visit that day; he found the poor little thing at the door.
"What, nurse? How's your patient?" asked the goodnatured Doctor. "Has he had any rest?"
"Go and ask them. They're inside," Fanny answered.
"Who? his mother?"
Fanny nodded her head and didn't speak.
"You must go to bed yourself, my poor little maid," said the Doctor. "You will be ill too, if you don't."
"Oh, mayn't I come and see him: mayn't I come and see him? I—I—love him so," the little girl said; and as she spoke she fell down on her knees and clasped hold of the Doctor's hand in such an agony that to see her melted the
kind physician's heart, and caused a mist to come over his spectacles.
"Pooh, pooh! Nonsense! Nurse, has he taken his draught? Has he had any rest? Of course you must come and see him. So must I."
"They'll let me sit here, won't they, sir? I'll never make