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"I should like to see you in Parliament, and snugly settled with a comfortable house and an heir to the name before I make my bow. Show me these," the Major wrote, "and then, let old Arthur Pendennis make room for the younger fellows; he has walked the Pall Mall pave long enough."
"There is a kindness about the old heathen," said Warrington. "He cares for somebody besides himself, at least for some other part of himself besides that which is buttoned into his own coat:—for you and your race. He would like to see the progeny of the Pendennises multiplying and increasing, and hopes that they may inherit the land. The old patriarch blesses you from the Club window of Bays's, and is carried off and buried under the flags of St. James's Church, in sight of Piccadilly, and the cabstand, and the carriages going to the levee. It is an edifying ending."
"The new blood I bring into the family," mused Pen, "is rather tainted. If I had chosen, I think my father-in-law Amory would not have been the progenitor I should have desired for my race; nor my grandfather-in-law Snell; nor our oriental ancestors. By the way, who was Amory? Amory was lieutenant of an Indiaman. Blanche wrote some verses about him,—about the storm, the mountain wave, the seaman's grave, the gallant father, and that sort of thing. Amory was drowned commanding a country ship between Calcutta and Sydney; Amory and the Begum weren't happy together. She has been unlucky in her selection of husbands, the good old lady, for, between ourselves, a more despicable creature than Sir Francis Clavering, of Clavering Park, Baronet,
never ""Never legislated for his country," broke in
Warrington; at which Pen blushed rather.
"By the way, at Baden," said Warrington, "I found our friend the Chevalier Strong in great state, and wearing his orders. He told me that he had quarrelled with Clavering, of whom he seemed to have almost as bad an opinion as you have, and in fact, I think, though I will not be certain, confided to me his opinion, that Clavering was an utter scoundrel. That fellow Bloundell, who taught you card-playing at Oxbridge, was with Strong; and time, I think, has brought out his valuable qualities, and rendered him a more accomplished rascal than he was during your undergraduateship. But the king of the place was the famous Colonel Altamont, who was carrying all before him, giving fetes to the whole society, and breaking the bank, it was said."
"My uncle knows something about that fellow—Clavering knows something about him. There's something louche regarding him. But come! I must go to Bury Street, like a dutiful nephew." And taking his hat, Pen prepared to go.
"I will walk, too," said Warrington. And they descended the stairs, stopping, however, at Pen's chambers, which, as the reader has been informed, were now on the lower story.
Here Pen began sprinkling himself with eau-de-Cologne, and carefully scenting his hair and whiskers with that odoriferous water.
"What is the matter? You've not been smoking. Is it my pipe that has poisoned you?" growled Warrington.
"I am going to call upon some women," said Pen. "I'm —I'm going to dine with 'em. They are passing through town, and are at an hotel in Jermyn Street."
Warrington looked with good-natured interest at the young fellow dandifying himself up to a pitch of completeness; and appearing at length in a gorgeous shirt-front and neckcloth, fresh gloves, and glistening boots. George had a pair of thick highlows, and his old shirt was torn about the breast, and ragged at the collar, where his blue beard had worn it.
"Well, young un," said he, simply, "I like you to be a buck, somehow. When I walk about with you, it is as if I had a rose in my button-hole. And you are still affable. I don't think there is any young fellow in the Temple turns out like you; and I don't believe you were ever ashamed of walking with me yet."
"Don't laugh at me, George," said Pen.
"I say, Pen," continued the other, sadly, "if you write— if you write to Laura, I wish you would say ' God bless her'' from me."
Pen blushed; and then looked at Warrington; and then— and then burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughing.
"I'm going to dine with her," he said. "I brought her
VOL. II. EE 4
and Lady Eockminster up from the country to-day—made two days of it—slept last night at Bath—I say, George, come and dine too. I may ask any one I please, and the old lady is constantly talking about you."
George refused. George had an article to write. George hesitated; and oh, strange to say! at last he agreed to go. It was agreed that they should go and call upon the ladies; and they marched away in high spirits to the hotel in Jermyn Street. Once more the dear face shone upon him; once more the sweet voice spoke to him, and the tender hand pressed a welcome.
There still wanted half an hour to dinner. "You will go and see your uncle, now, Mr. Pendennis," old Lady Eockminster said. "You will not bring him to dinner—no—his old stories are intolerable; and I want to talk to Mr. Warrington; I dare say he will amuse us. I think we have heard all your stories. We have been together for two whole days, and I think we are getting tired of each other."
So, obeying her Ladysbip's orders, Arthur went down stairs, and walked to his uncle's lodgings.
HE dinner was served when Arthur returned, and Lady Eockminster began to scold him for arriving late. But Laura, looking at her cousin, saw that his face was so pale and scared that she interrupted her imperious patroness; and asked, with tender alarm, what had happened? Was Arthur ill?
Arthur drank a large bumper of sherry. "I have heard the most extraordinary news I will tell you afterwards," he said, looking at the servants. He was very nervous and agitated during the dinner. "Don't tramp and beat so with your feet under the table," Lady Eockminster said. "You have trodden on Fido and upset his saucer. You see Mr. Warrington keeps his boots quiet."
At the dessert—it seemed as if the unlucky dinner would never be over—Lady Eockminster said, "This dinner has been exceedingly stupid. I suppose something has happened, and that you want to speak to Laura. I will go and have my nap. I am not sure that I shall have any tea—no. Goodnight, Mr. Warrington. You must come again, and when there is no business to talk about." And the old lady, tossing up her head, walked away from the room with great dignity.
George and the others had risen with her, and Warrington was about to go away, and was saying "Good-night" to Laura, who, of course, was looking much alarmed about her cousin, when Arthur said, "Pray stay, George. You should hear my news too, and give me your counsel in this case. I hardly know how to act in it."
"It's something about Blanche, Arthur," said Laura, her heart beating, and her cheek blushing, as she thought it had never blushed in her life.
"Yes—and the most extraordinary story," said Pen. "When I left you to go to my uncle's lodgings, I found his servant, Morgan, who has been with him so long, at the door, and he said that he and his master had parted that morning; that my uncle had quitted the house, and had gone to an hotel—this hotel. I asked for him when I came in; but he was gone out to dinner. Morgan then said that he had something of a most important nature to communicate to me, and begged me to step into the house; his house it is now. It appears the scoundrel has saved a great deal of money whilst in my uncle's service, and is now a capitalist and a millionaire, for what I know. Well, I went into the house, and what do you think he told me? This must be a secret between us all—at least if we can keep it, now that it is in possession of that villain. Blanche's father is not dead. He has come to life again. The marriage between Clavering and the Begum is no marriage."
"And Blanche, I suppose, is her grandfather's heir?" said Warrington.
"Perhaps: but the child of what a father! Amory is an escaped convict—Clavering knows it; my uncle knows it— and it was with this piece of information held over Clavering in terrorem that the wretched old man got him to give up his borough to me."
"Blanche doesn't know it," said Laura, "nor poor Lady Clavering?"
"No," said Pen; "Blanche does not even know the history of her father. She knew that he and her mother had sepa