Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

examined more than one fashionable novel by the authors of the day then popular, and he thought that his intellect was as good as theirs, and that he could write the English language as well as those ladies or gentlemen; and as he now ran over his early performance, he was pleased to find here and there passages exhibiting both fancy and vigour, and traits, if not of genius, of genuine passion and feeling. This, too, was Warrington's verdict, when that severe critic, after half an hour's perusal of the manuscript, and the consumption of a couple of pipes of tobacco, laid Pen's book down, yawning portentously. "I can't read any more of that balderdash now," he said; "but it seems to me there is some good stuff in it, Pen, my boy. There's a certain greenness and freshness in it which I like somehow. The bloom disappears off the face of poetry after you begin to shave. You can't get up that naturalness and artless rosy tint in after days. Your cheeks are pale, and have got faded by exposure to evening parties, and you are obliged to take curling-irons, and macassar, and the deuce-knows-what to your whiskers; they curl ambrosially, and you are very grand and genteel, and so forth; but, ah! Pen, the spring-time was the best."

"What the deuce have my whiskers to do with the subject in hand?" Pen said (who, perhaps, may have been nettled by Warrington's allusion to those ornaments, which, to say the truth, the young man coaxed, and curled, and oiled, and perfumed, and petted, in rather an absurd manner). "Do you think we can do anything with 'Walter Lorraine'? Shall we take him to the publisher's, or make an auto-da-fe of him?"

"I don't see what is the good of incremation," Warrington said, "though I have a great mind to put him into the fire, to punish your atrocious humbug and hypocrisy. Shall I burn him indeed? You have much too great a value for him to hurt a hair of his head."

"Have I? Here goes," said Pen, and "Walter Lorraine" went off the table, and was flung on to the coals. But the fire, having done its duty of boiling the young men's breakfastkettle, had given up work for the day, and had gone out, as Pen knew very well • and Warrington, with a scornful smile, once more took up the manuscript with the tongs from out of the harmless cinders.

"Oh, Pen, what a humbug you are !" Warrington said; "and, what is worst of all, sir, a clumsy humbug. I saw you look to see that the fire was out before you sent 'Walter

[graphic]

Lorraine' behind the bars. No, we won't burn him: we will carry him to the Egyptians, and sell him. We will exchange him away for money, yea, for silver and gold, and for beef and for liquors, and for tobacco and for raiment. This youth will fetch some price in the market; for he is a comely lad, though not over strong; but we will fatten him up, and give him the bath, and curl his hair, and we will sell him for a hundred piastres to Bacon or to Bungay. The rubbish is saleable enough, sir; and my advice to you is this: the next time you go home for a holiday, take 'Walter Lorraine' in your carpet-bag—give him a more modern air, prune away, though sparingly, some of the green passages, and add a little comedy, and cheerfulness, and satire, and that sort of thing, and then we'll take him to market and sell him. The book is not a wonder of wonders, but it will do very well."

"Do you think so, Warrington?" said Pen, delighted, for this was great praise from his cynical friend.

"You silly young fool! I think it's uncommonly clever," Warrington said in a kind voice. "So do you, sir." And with the manuscript which he held in his hand he playfully struck Pen on the cheek. That part of Pen's countenance turned as red as it had ever done in the earliest days of his blushes: he grasped the other's hand and said, "Thank you, Warrington," with all his might; and then he retired to his own room with his book, and passed the greater part of the day upon his bed re-reading it: and he did as Warrington had advised, and altered not a little, and added a great deal, until at length he had fashioned "Walter Lorraine" pretty much into the shape in which, as the respected novel-reader knows, it subsequently appeared.

Whilst he was at work upon this performance, the goodnatured Warrington artfully inspired the two gentlemen who "read" for Messrs. Bacon and Bungay with the greatest curiosity regarding "Walter Lorraine," and pointed out the peculiar merits of its distinguished author. It was at the period when the novel called the " fashionable " was in vogue among us; and Warrington did not fail to point out, as before, how Pen was a man of the very first fashion himself, and received at the houses of some of the greatest personages in the land. The simple and kind-hearted Percy Popjoy was brought to bear upon Mrs. Bungay, whom he informed that his friend Pendennis was occupied upon a work of the most exciting nature; a work that the whole town would run after, full of wit, genius, satire, pathos, and every conceivable good quality. We have said before, that Bungay knew no more about novels than he did about Hebrew or Algebra, and neither read nor understood any of the books which he published and paid for; but he took his opinions from his professional advisers and from Mrs. B.; and, evidently with a view to a commercial transaction, asked Pendennis and Warrington to dinner again.

Bacon, when he found that Bungay was about to treat, of course began to be anxious and curious, and desired to outbid his rival. Was anything settled between Mr. Pendennis and the odious house " over the way " about the new book? Mr. Hack, the confidential reader, was told to make inquiries, and see if anything was to be done; and the result of the inquiries of that diplomatist was, that one morning Bacon himself toiled up the staircase of Lamb Court, and to the door on which the names of Mr. Warrington and Mr. Pendennis were painted.

For a gentleman of fashion, as poor Pen was represented to be, it must be confessed that the apartments he and his friend occupied were not very suitable. The ragged carpet had grown only more ragged during the two years of joint occupancy: a constant odour of tobacco perfumed the sittingroom: Bacon tumbled over the laundress's buckets in the passage through which he had to pass; Warrington's shootingjacket was as tattered at the elbows as usual; and the chair which Bacon was requested to take on entering broke down with the publisher. Warrington burst out laughing, said that Bacon had got the game chair, and bawled out to Pen to fetch a sound one from his bedroom. And seeing the publisher looking round the dingy room with an air of profound pity and wonder, asked him whether he didn't think the apartments were elegant, and if he would like, for Mrs. Bacon's drawing-room, any of the articles of furniture? Mr. Warrington's character, as a humorist, was known to Mr. Bacon: "I never can make that chap out," the publisher was heard to say, "or tell whether he is in earnest or only chaffing."

It is very possible that Mr. Bacon would have set the two gentlemen down as impostors altogether, but that there chanced to be on the breakfast-table certain cards of invitation which the post of the morning had brought in for Pen, and which happened to come from some very exalted personages of the beau-monde, into which our young man had his introduction. Looking down upon these, Bacon saw that the Marchioness of Steyne would be at home to Mr. Arthur Pendennis upon a given day, and that another lady of distinction proposed to have dancing at her house upon a certain future evening. Warrington saw the admiring publisher eyeing these documents. "Ah," said he, with an air of simplicity, "Pendennis is one of the most affable young men I ever knew, Mr. Bacon. Here is a young fellow that dines with all the great men in London, and yet he'll take his mutton-chop with you and me quite contentedly. There's nothing like the affability of the old English gentleman."

"Oh no, nothing," said Mr. Bacon.

"And you wonder why he should go on living up three pair of stairs with me, don't you, now? Well, it is a queer taste. But we are fond of each other; and as I can't afford to live in a grand house, he comes and stays in these rickety old chambers with me. He's a man that can afford to live anywhere."

"I fancy it don't cost him much here," thought Mr. Bacon; and the object of these praises presently entered the room from his adjacent sleeping apartment.

Then Mr. Bacon began to speak upon the subject of his visit; said he heard that Mr. Pendennis had a manuscript novel; professed himself anxious to have a sight of that work, and had no doubt that they would come to terms respecting it. What would be his price for it? would he give Bacon the refusal of it? he would find our house a liberal house, and so forth. The delighted Pen assumed an air of indifference, and said that he was already in treaty with Bungay, and could give no definite answer. This piqued the other into such liberal, though vague offers, that Pen began to fancy Eldorado was opening to him, and that his fortune was made from that day.

I shall not mention what was the sum of money which Mr. Arthur Pendennis finally received for the first edition of his novel of " Walter Lorraine," lest other young literary aspirants should expect to be as lucky as he was, and unprofessional

« ZurückWeiter »