« ZurückWeiter »
which consisted chiefly of numbers of the Pall Mali Gazette, which our friend Mr. Finucane thought his collaborateur would like to see. The papers were tied together: the letters in an envelope, addressed to Pen, in the last-named gentleman's handwriting.
Amongst the letters there was a little note addressed, as a former letter we have heard of had been, to "Arther Pendennis, Esquire," which Arthur opened with a start and a blush, and read with a very keen pang of interest, and sorrow, and regard. She had come to Arthur's house, Fanny Bolton said —and found that he was gone—gone away to Germany without ever leaving a word for her—or answer to her last letter, in which she prayed but for one word of kindness—or the books which he had promised her in happier times, before he was ill, and which she should like to keep in remembrance of him. She said she would not reproach those who had found her at his bedside when he was in the fever, and knew nobody, and who had turned the poor girl away without a word. She thought she should have died, she said, of that, but Doctor Goodenough had kindly tended her, and kep her life, when, perhaps, the keeping of it was of no good, and she forgave everybody: and as for Arthur, she would pray for him for ever. And when he was so ill, and they cut off his hair, she had made so free as to keep one little lock for herself, and that she owned. And might she still keep it, or would his mamma order that that should be gave up too? She was willing to obey him in all things, and couldn't but remember that once he was so kind, oh! so good and kind! to his poor Fanny.
When Major Pendennis, fresh and smirking from his toilet, came out of his bedroom to his sitting-room, he found Arthur, with this note before him, and an expression of savage anger on his face, which surprised the elder gentleman. "What news from London, my boy?" he rather faintly asked; "are the duns at you, that you look so glum?"
"Do you know anything about this letter, sir?" Arthur asked.
"What letter, my good sir?" said the other drily, at once perceiving what had happened.
"You know what I mean—about, about Miss—about Fanny Bolton—the poor dear little girl," Arthur broke out. "When was she in my room? Was she there when I was delirious—I fancied she was—was she? Who sent her out of my chambers? Who intercepted her letters to me? Who dared to do it? Did you do it, uncle?"
"It's not my practice to tamper with gentlemen's letters, or to answer damned impertinent questions," Major Pendennis cried out, in a great tremor of emotion and indignation. "There was a girl in your rooms when I came up at great personal inconvenience, daymy—and to meet with a return of this kind for my affection to you, is not pleasant, by Gad, sir —not at all pleasant."
"That's not the question, sir," Arthur said hotly—"and —and, I beg your pardon, uncle. You were, you always have been, most kind to me: but I say again, did you say anything harsh to this poor girl? Did you send her away from me?"
"I never spoke a word to the girl," the uncle said, "and I never sent her away from you, and know no more about her, and wish to know no more about her, than about the man in the moon."
"Then it's my mother that did it," Arthur broke out. "Did my mother send that poor child away?"
"I repeat I know nothing about it, sir," the elder said testily. "Let's change the subject, if you please."
"I'll never forgive the person who did it," said Arthur, bouncing up and seizing his hat.
The Major cried out, "Stop, Arthur, for God's sake, stop!" but before he had uttered his sentence, Arthur had rushed out of the room, and at the next minute the Major saw him striding rapidly down the street that led towards his home.
"Get breakfast!" said the old fellow to Morgan, and he wagged his head and sighed as he looked out of the window. "Poor Helen—poor soul! There'll be a row. I knew there would: and begad all the fat's in the fire."
When Pen reached home he only found Warrington in the ladies' drawing-room, waiting their arrival in order to conduct them to the place where the little English colony at Eosenbad held their Sunday church. Helen and Laura had not appeared as yet; the former was ailing, and her daughter was with her. Pen's wrath was so great that he could not defer expressing it. He flung Fanny's letter across the table to his friend. "Look there, Warrington," he said; "she tended me in my illness, she rescued me out of the jaws of death, and this is the way they have treated the dear little creature. They have kept her letters from me; they have treated me like a child, and her like a dog, poor thing! My mother has done this."
"If she has, you must remember it is your mother," Warrington interposed.
"It only makes the crime the greater, because it is she who has done it," Pen answered. "She ought to have been the poor girl's defender, not her enemy; she ought to go down on her knees and ask pardon of her. I ought! I will! I am shocked at the cruelty which has been shown her. What? She gave me her all, and this is her return! She sacrifices everything for me, and they spurn her!"
"Hush !" said Warrington, "they can hear you from the next room."
"Hear? let them hear!" Pen cried out, only so much the louder. "Those may overhear my talk who intercept my letters. I say this poor girl has been shamefully used, and I will do my best to right her; I will."
The door of the neighbouring room opened, and Laura came forth with pale and stern face. She looked at Pen with glances from which beamed pride, defiance, aversion. "Arthur, your mother is very ill," she said; "it is a pity that you should speak so loud as to disturb her."
"It is a pity that I should have been obliged to speak at all," Pen answered. "And I have more to say before I have done."
"I should think what you have to say will hardly be fit for me to hear," Laura said, haughtily.
"You are welcome to hear it or not, as you like," said Mr. Pen. "I shall go in now, and speak to my mother."
Laura came rapidly forward, so that she should not be overheard by her friend within. "Not now, sir," she said to Pen. "You may kill her if you do. Your conduct has gone far enough to make her wretched."
"What conduct?" cried out Pen, in a fury. "Who dares impugn it? Who dares meddle with me? Is it you who are the instigator of this persecution?"
"I said before it was a subject of which it did not become me to hear or to speak," Laura said. "But as for Mamma, if she had acted otherwise than she did with regard to—to the person about whom you seem to take such an interest, it would have been I that must have quitted your house, and not that—that person."
"By heavens! this is too much," Pen cried out, with a violent execration.
"Perhaps that is what you wished," Laura said, tossing her head up. "No more of this, if you please; I am not accustomed to hear such subjects spoken of in such language;" and with a stately curtsey the young lady passed to her friend's room, looking her adversary full in the face as she retreated and closed the door upon him.
Pen was bewildered with wonder, perplexity, fury, at this monstrous and unreasonable persecution. He burst out into a loud and bitter laugh as Laura quitted him, and with sneers and revilings, as a man who jeers under an operation, ridiculed at once his own pain and his persecutor's anger. The laugh, which was one of bitter humour, and no unmanly or unkindly expression of suffering under most cruel and unmerited torture, was heard in the next apartment, as some of his unlucky previous expressions had been, and, like them, entirely misinterpreted by the hearers. It struck like a dagger into the wounded and tender heart of Helen; it pierced Laura, and inflamed the high-spirited girl with scorn and anger. "And it was to this hardened libertine," she thought—" to this boaster of low intrigues, that I had given my heart away." "He breaks the most sacred laws," thought Helen. "He prefers the creature of his passion to his own mother; and when he is upbraided, he laughs, and glories in his crime. 'She gave me her all,' I heard him say it," argued the poor widow; "and he boasts of it, and laughs, and breaks his mother's heart." The emotion, the shame, the grief, the Vol. n. B 4
mortification almost killed her. She felt she should die of his unkindness.
Warrington thought of Laura's speech—" Perhaps that is •what you wished." "She loves Pen still," he said. "It was jealousy made her speak."—" Come away, Pen. Come away, and let us go to church and get calm. You must explain this matter to your mother. She does not appear to know the truth: nor do you quite, my good fellow. Come away, and let us talk ahout it." And again he muttered to himself, " ' Perhaps that is what you wished.' Yes, she loves him. -Why shouldn't she love him? Whom else would I have her love? What can she be to me but the dearest and the fairest and the best of women?"
So, leaving the women similarly engaged within, the two gentlemen walked away, each occupied with his own thoughts, and silent for a considerable space. "I must set this matter right," thought honest George, "as she loves him still—I must set his mother's mind right about the other woman." And •with this charitable thought, the good fellow began to tell more at large what Bows had said to him regarding Miss Bolton's behaviour and fickleness, and he described how the girl was no better than a light-minded flirt; and, perhaps, he exaggerated the good-humour and contentedness which he had himself, as he thought, witnessed in her behaviour in the scene with Mr. Huxter.
Now, all Bows's statements had been coloured by an insane jealousy and rage on that old man's part; and instead of allaying Pen's renascent desire to see his little conquest again, Warrington's accounts inflamed and angered Pendennis, and made him more anxious than before to set himself right, as he persisted in phrasing it, with Fanny. They arrived at the ehurch door presently; but scarce one word of the service, and not a syllable of Mr. Shamble's sermon, did either of them comprehend, probably—so much was each engaged with his own private speculations. The Major came up to them after the service, with his well-brushed hat and wig, and his jauntiest, most cheerful, air. He complimented them upon being seen at church; again he said that every comme-il-faut person made a point of attending the English service abroad;