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supposed to remain in London. Mrs. Flanagan, Mr. Pendennis's laundress, was acquainted with Mrs. Eouncy, who did for Mr. Sibwright, and that gentleman's bedroom was got ready for Miss Bell, or Mrs. Pendennis, when the latter should be inclined to leave her son's sick-room, to try and seek for a little rest for herself.
If that young buck and flower of Baker Street, Percy Sibwright, could have known who was the occupant of his bedroom, how proud he would have been of that apartment!— what poems he would have written about Laura! (several of his things have appeared in the annuals, and in manuscript in the nobility's albums)—he was a Camford man and very nearly got the English Prize Poem, it was said—Sibwright, however, was absent and his bed given up to Miss Bell. It was the prettiest little brass bed in the world, with chintz curtains lined with pink—he had a mignonette box in his bedroom window, and the mere sight of his little exhibition of shiny boots, arranged in trim rows over his wardrobe, was a gratification to the beholder. He had a museum of scent, pomatum, and bears'-grease pots, quite curious to examine, too; and a choice selection of portraits of females, almost always in sadness and generally in disguise or deshabille, glittered round the neat walls of his elegant little bower of repose. Medora with dishevelled hair was consoling herself over her banjo for the absence of her Conrad—The Princesse Fleur de Marie (of Budolstein and the "Mysteres de Paris ") was sadly ogling out of the bars of her convent cage, in which, poor prisoned bird, she was moulting away—Dorothea of "Don Quixote" was washing her eternal feet:—in fine, it was such an elegant gallery as became a gallant lover of the sex. And in Sibwright's sitting-room, while there was quite an infantine law library clad in skins of fresh new-born calf, there was a tolerably large collection of classical books which he could not read, and of English and French works of poetry and fiction which he read a great deal too much. His invitation cards of the past season still decorated his looking-glass: and scarce anything told of the lawyer but the wig-box beside the Venus upon the middle shelf of the bookcase, on which the name of P. Sibwright, Esquire, was gilded.
With Sibwright in chambers was Mr. Bangham. Mr. Bangham was a sporting man, married to a rich widow. Mr. Bangham had no practice—did not come to chambers thrice in a term: went a circuit for those mysterious reasons which make men go circuit,—and his room served as a great convenience to Sibwright when that young gentleman gave his little dinners. It must be confessed that these two gentlemen have nothing to do with our history, will never appear in it again probably, but we cannot help glancing through their doors as they happen to be open to us, and as we pass to Pen's rooms; as in the pursuit of our own business in life through the Strand, at the Club, nay at church itself, we can. not help peeping at the shops on the way, or at our neighbour's dinner, or at the faces under the bonnets in the next pew.
Very many years after the circumstances about which we are at present occupied, Laura, with a blush and a laugh showing much humour, owned to having read a French novel once much in vogue, and when her husband asked her, wondering where on earth she could have got such a volume, she owned that it was in the Temple, when she lived in Mr. Percy Sibwright's chambers.
"And, also, I never confessed," she said, "on that same occasion, what I must now own to: that I opened the japanned box, and took out that strange-looking wig inside it, and put it on and looked at myself in the glass in it."
Suppose Percy Sibwright had come in at such a moment as that? What would he have said,—the enraptured rogue? What would have been all the pictures of disguised beauties in his room compared to that living one? Ah, we are speaking of old times, when Sibwright was a bachelor and before he got a county court,—when people were young—when most people were young. Other people are young now; but we no more.
When Miss Laura played this prank with the wig, you can't suppose that Pen could have been very ill upstairs; otherwise, though she had grown to care for him ever so little, common sense of feeling and decorum would have prevented her from performing any tricks or trying any disguises.
But all sorts of events had occurred in the course of the last few days which had contributed to increase or account for her gaiety, and a little colony of the reader's old friends and acquaintances was by this time established in Lamb Court, Temple, and round Pen's sick-bed there. First, Martha, Mrs. Pendennis's servant, had arrived from Fairoaks, being summoned thence by the Major, who justly thought her presence would be comfortable and useful to her mistress and her young master, for neither of whom the constant neighbourhood of Mrs. Flanagan (who during Pen's illness required more spirituous consolation than ever to support her) could be pleasant. Martha then made her appearance in due season to wait upon Mrs. Pendennis, nor did that lady go once to bed until the faithful servant had reached her, when, with a heart full of maternal thankfulness, she went and lay down upon Warrington's straw mattress, and among his mathematical books, as has been already described.
It is true that ere that day a great and delightful alteration in Pen's condition had taken place. The fever, subjugated by Dr. Goodenough's blisters, potions, and lancet, had left the young man, or only returned at intervals of feeble intermittence; his wandering senses had settled in his weakened brain: he had had time to kiss and bless his mother for coming to him, and calling for Laura and his uncle (who were both affected according to their different natures by his wan appearance, his lean shrunken hands, his hollow eyes and voice, his thin bearded face), to press their hands and thank them affectionately; and after this greeting, and aftei they had been turned out of the room by his affectionate nurse, he had sunk into a fine sleep which had lasted for about sixteen hours, at the end of which period he awoke calling out that he was very hungry. If it is hard to be ill and to loathe food, oh, how pleasant to be getting well and to be feeling hungry—hoiv hungry? Alas, the joys of convalescence become feebler with increasing years, as other joys do —and then—and then comes that illness when one does not convalesce at all.
On the day of this happy event, too, came another arrival in Lamb Court. This was introduced into the Pen-Warrington sitting-room by large puffs of tobacco smoke—the puffs of smoke were followed by an individual with a cigar in his mouth, and a carpet-bag under his arm—this was Warrington, who had run back from Norfolk, when Mr. Bows I thoughtfully wrote to inform him of his friend's calamity. But he had been from home when Bows's letter had reached his brother's house—the Eastern Counties did not then boast of a railway (for we beg the reader to understand that we only commit anachronisms when we choose, and when by a daring violation of those natural laws some great ethical truth is to / be advanced)—in fine, Warrington only appeared with the rest of the good luck upon the lucky day after Pen's convalescence may have been said to have begun.
His surprise was, after all, not very great when he found the chambers of his sick friend occupied, and his old acquaintance the Major seated demurely in an easy-chair (Warrington had let himself into the rooms with his own pass-key), listening, or pretending to listen, to a young lady who was reading to him a play of Shakspeare in a low sweet voice. The lady stopped and started, and laid down her book, at the apparition of the tall traveller with the cigar and the carpet-bag. He blushed, he flung the cigar into the passage: he took off his hat, and dropped that too, and going up to the Major, seized that old gentleman's hand, and asked questions about Arthur.
The Major answered in a tremulous, though cheery voice —it was curious how emotion seemed to olden him—and returning Warrington's pressure with a shaking hand, told him the news—of Arthur's happy crisis, of his mother's arrival— with her young charge—with Miss
"You need not tell me her name," Mr. Warrington said with great animation, for he was affected and elated with the thought of his friend's recovery—" you need not tell me your name. I knew at once it was Laura." And he held out his hand and took hers. Immense kindness and tenderness gleamed from under his rough eyebrows, and shook his voice as he gazed at her and spoke to her. "And this is Laura!" his looks seemed to say. "And this is Warrington," the generous girl's heart beat back. "Arthur's hero—the brave and the kind—he has come hundreds of miles to succour him, when he heard of his friend's misfortune!"
"Thank you, Mr. Warrington," was all that Laura said, however: and as she returned the pressure of his kind hand, she blushed so, that she was glad the lamp was behind her to conceal her flushing face.
As these two were standing in this attitude, the door of Pen's bedchamber was opened stealthily as his mother was wont to open it, and Warrington saw another lady, who first looked at him, and then turning round towards the bed, said "Hsh!" and put up her hand.
It was to Pen Helen was turning, and giving caution. He called out with a feeble, tremulous, but cheery voice, "Come in, Stunner—come in, Warrington. I knew it was you—by the—by the smoke, old boy," he said, as holding his worn hand out, and with tears at once of weakness and pleasure in his eyes, he greeted his friend.
"I—I beg pardon, ma'am, for smoking," Warrington said, who now almost for the first time blushed for his wicked propensity.
Helen only said, " God bless you, Mr. Warrington!" She was so happy, she would have liked to kiss George. Then, and after the friends had had a brief, very brief interview, the delighted and inexorable mother, giving her hand to Warrington, sent him out of the room too, back to Laura and the Major, who had not resumed their play of "Cymbeline" where they had left it off at the arrival of the rightful owner of Pen's chambers.