« ZurückWeiter »
were so long in coming round." When he came back to the carriage, his usually benign and smirking countenance was obscured by some sorrow. "What is the matter with you now?" the good-natured Begum asked. The Major pretended a headache from the fatigue and sunshine of the day. The carriage wheeled off the course and took its way Londonwards, not the least brilliant equipage in that vast and picturesque procession. The tipsy drivers dashed gallantly over the turf, amidst the admiration of foot-passengers, the ironical cheers of the little donkey-carriages and spring vans, and the loud objurgations of horse-and-chaise men, with whom the reckless postboys came in contact. The jolly Begum looked the picture of good-humour as she reclined on her splendid cushions; the lovely Sylphide smiled with languid elegance. Many an honest holiday-maker with his family wadded into a tax-cart, many a cheap dandy working his way home on his weary hack, admired that brilliant turn-out, and thought, no doubt, how happy those "swells" must be. Strong sat on the box still, with a lordly voice calling to the postboys and the crowd. Master Frank had been put inside the carriage, and was asleep there by the side of the Major, dozing away the effects of the constant luncheon and champagne of which he had freely partaken.
The Major was revolving in his mind meanwhile the news the receipt of which had made him so grave. "If Sir Francis Clavering goes on in this way," Pendennis the elder thought, "this little tipsy rascal will be as bankrupt as his father and grandfather before him. The Begum's fortune can't stand such drains upon it: no fortune can stand them: she has paid his debts half-a-dozen times already. A few years more of the turf, and a few coups like this will ruin her."
"Don't you think we could get up races at Clavering, Mamma?"Miss Amory asked. "Yes, we must have them there again. There were races there in the old times, the good old times. It's a national amusement, you know; and we could have a Clavering ball: and we might have dancea for the tenantry, and rustic sports in the park—Oh, it would be charming."
"Capital fun," said Mamma. "Wouldn't it, Major?"
"The turf is a very expensive amusement, my dear lady," Major Pendennis answered, with such a rueful face, that the Begum rallied him, and asked laughingly whether he had lost money on the race.
After a slumber of about an hour and a half, the heir of the house began to exhibit symptoms of wakefulness, stretching his youthful arms over the Major's face, and kicking his sister's knees as she sate opposite to him. When the amiable youth was quite restored to consciousness, he began a sprightly conversation.
"I say, Ma," he said, "I've gone and done it this time, I have."
"What have you gone and done, Franky dear?" asked Mamma.
"How much is seventeen half-crowns? Two pound and half-a-crown, ain't it? I drew Borax in our lottery, but I bought Podasokus and Man-milliner of Leggat minor for two open tarts and a bottle of ginger-beer."
"You little wicked gambling creature, how dare you begin so soon?" cried Miss Amory.
"Hold your tongue, if you please. Who ever asked your leave, miss?" the brother said. "And I say, Ma"
"Well, Franky dear?"
"You'll tip me all the same, you know, when I go back "— and here he broke out into a laugh. "I say, Ma, shall I tell you something?"
The Begum expressed her desire to hear this something, and her son and heir continued:—
"When me and Strong was down at the Grand Stand after the race, and I was talking to Leggat minor, who was there with his governor, I saw Pa look as savage as a bear. And I say, Ma, Leggat minor told me that he heard his governor say that Pa had lost seven thousand backing the favourite. I'll never back the favourite when I'm of age. No, no—hang me if I do: leave me alone, Strong, will you?"
"Captain Strong! Captain Strong! is this true?" cried out the unfortunate Begum. "Has Sir Francis been betting again? He promised me he wouldn't. He gave me his word of honour he wouldn't."
Strong, from his place on the box, had overheard the end of young Clavering's communication, and was trying in vain to stop his unlucky tongue.
"I'm afraid it's true, ma'am," he said, turning round. "I deplore the loss as much as you can. He promised me as he promised you; but the play is too strong for him! he can't refrain from it."
Lady Clavering at this sad news burst into a fit of tears. She deplored her wretched fate as the most miserable of women. She declared she would separate, and pay no more debts for this ungrateful man. She narrated with tearful volubility a score of stories only too authentic, which showed how her husband had deceived, and how constantly she had 09friended him: and in this melancholy condition, whilst young Hopeful was thinking about the two guineas which he himself had won, and the Major revolving, in his darkened mind, whether certain plans which he had been forming had better not be abandoned, the splendid carriage drove up at length to the Begum's house in Grosvenor Place; the idlers and boys lingering about the place to witness, according to public wont, the close of the Derby Day, and cheering the carriage as it drew up, and envying the happy folks who descended from it.
"And it's for the son of this man that I am made a beggar!" Blanche said, quivering with anger, as she walked upstairs leaning on the Major's arm—" for this cheat—for this blackleg—for this liar—for this robber of women."
"Calm yourself, my dear Miss Blanche," the old gentleman said; "I pray, calm yourself. You have been hardly treated, most unjustly. But remember that you have always a friend in me; and trust to an old fellow who will try and serve you."
And the young lady, and the heir of the hopeful house of Clavering, having retired to their beds, the remaining three of the Epsom party remained for some time in deep consultation.
LMOST a year, as the reader will perceive, has passed since an event described a few pages back. Arthur's black coat is about to be exchanged for a blue one. His person has undergone other more pleasing and remarkable changes. His wig has been laid aside, and his hair, though somewhat thinner, has returned to public view. And he has had the honour of appearing at Court in the uniform of a Cornet of
the Clavering troop of the shire Yeomanry Cavalry, being
presented to the Sovereign by the Marquis of Steyne.
This was a measure strongly and pathetically urged by Arthur's uncle. The Major would not hear of a year passing before this ceremony of gentlemanhood was gone through. The old gentleman thought that his nephew should belong to some rather more select Club than the Polyanthus; and has announced everywhere in the world his disappointment that the young man's property has turned out not by any means as well as he could have hoped, and is under fifteen hundred a year.
VOL. II. T *
That is the amount at which Pendennis's property is set down in the world—where his publishers begin to respect him much more than formerly, and where even mammas are by no means uncivil to him. For if the pretty daughters are, naturally, to marry people of very different expectations—at any rate, he will be eligible for the plain ones: and if the brilliant and fascinating Mira is to hook an Earl, poor little Beatrice, who has one shoulder higher than the other, must hang on to some boor through life, and why should not Mr. Pendennis be her support? In the very first winter after the accession to his mother's fortune, Mrs. Hawxby in a countryhouse caused her Beatrice to learn billiards from Mr. Pendennis, and would be driven by nobody but him in the pony carriage, because he was literary and her Beatrice was literary too, and declared that the young man, under the instigation of his horrid old uncle, had behaved most infamously in trifling with Beatrice's feelings. The truth is the old gentleman, who knew Mrs. Hawxby's character, and how desperately that lady would practise upon unwary young men, had come to the country-house in question and carried Arthur out of the danger of her immediate claws, though not out of the reach of her tongue. The elder Pendennis would have had his nephew pass a part of the Christmas at Clavering, whither the family had returned; but Arthur had not the heart for that. Clavering was too near poor old Fairoaks; and that was too full of sad recollections for the young man.
We have lost sight of the Claverings, too, until their reappearance upon the Epsom race-ground, and must give a brief account of them in the interval. During the past year, the world has not treated any member of the Clavering family very kindly. Lady Clavering, one of the best-natured women that ever enjoyed a good dinner, or made a slip in grammar, has had her appetite and good-nature sadly tried by constant family grievances, and disputes such as make the efforts of the best French cook unpalatable, and the most delicatelystuffed sofa-cushion hard to lie on. "I'd rather have a turnip, Strong, for dessert, than that pineapple, and all them Muscatel grapes, from Clavering," says poor Lady Clavering, looking at her dinner-table, and confiding her griefs to her