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Claudia. Lady Lear and her eldest daughter have not spoken for fourteen years. Kinder and more worthy people than these I never knew in the whole course of my life; for everybody but each other admirable. But they can't live together: they oughtn't to live together: and I wish, my dear creature, with all my soul, that I could see you with an establishment of your own, for there is no woman in London who could conduct one better—with your own establishment, making your own home happy."
"I am not very happy in this one," said the Sylphide; "and the stupidity of mamma is enough to provoke a saint."
"Precisely so; you are not suited to one another. Your mother committed one fault in early life—or was it Nature, my dear, in your case ?—she ought not to have educated you. You ought not to have been bred up to become the refined and intellectual being you are, surrounded, as I own you are, by those who have not your genius or your refinement. Your place would be to lead in the most brilliant circles, not to follow, and take a second place in any society. I have watched you, Miss Amory: you are ambitious; and your proper sphere is command. You ought to shine; and you never can in this house, I know it. I hope I shall see you in another and a happier one, some day, and the mistress of it."
The Sylphide shrugged her lily shoulders with a look of scorn. "Where is the Prince, and where is the palace, Major Pendennis?" she said. "I am ready. But there is no romance in the world now, no real affection."
"No, indeed," said the Major, with the most sentimental and simple air which he could muster.
"Not that I know anything about it," said Blanche, casting her eyes down, "except what I have read in novels."
"Of course not," Major Pendennis cried; "how should you, my dear young lady? and novels ain't true, as you remark admirably, and there is no romance left in the world. Begad, I wish I was a young fellow like my nephew."
"And what," continued Miss Amory, musing, "what are the men whom we see about at the balls every night—dancing guardsmen, penniless Treasury clerks—boobies! If I had my brother's fortune, I might have such an establishment as you promise me—but with my name, and with my little means, what am I to look to? A country parson, or a barrister in a street near Eussell Square, or a captain in a dragoon regiment, who will take lodgings for me, and come home from the mess tipsy and smelling of smoke like Sir Francis Clavering. That is how we girls are destined to end life. Oh, Major Pendennis, I am sick of London, and of balls, and of young dandies with their chin-tips, and of the insolent great ladies who know us one day and cut us the next—and of the world altogether. I should like to leave it and go into a convent, that I should. I shall never find anybody to understand me. And I live here as much alone in my family and in the world, as if I were in a cell locked up for ever. I wish there were Sisters of Charity here, and that I could be one and catch the plague, and die of it—I wish to quit the world. I am not very old: but I am tired, I have suffered so much—I've been so disillusionated—I'm weary, I'm weary—oh! that the Angel of Death would come and beckon me away!"
This speech may be interpreted as follows. A few nights since a great lady, Lady Flamingo, had cut Miss Amory and Lady Clavering. She was quite mad because she could not get an invitation to Lady Drum's ball: it was the end of the season and nobody had proposed to her: she had made no sensation at all, she who was so much cleverer than any girl of the year, and of the young ladies forming her special circle. Dora who had but five thousand pounds, Flora who had nothing, and Leonora who had red hair, were going to be married, and nobody had come for Blanche Amory!
"You judge wisely about the world, and about your position, my dear Miss Blanche," the Major said. "The Prince don't marry nowadays, as you say: unless the Princess has a doosid deal of money in the funds, or is a lady of his own rank.—The young folks of the great families marry into the great families: if they haven't fortune they have each other's shoulders, to push on in the world, which is pretty nearly as good.—A girl with your fortune can scarcely hope for a great match: but a girl with your genius and your admirable tact and fine manners, with a clever husband by her side, may make any place for herself in the world.—We are grown doosid republican. Talent ranks with birth and wealth now, begad: and a clever man with a clever wife may take any place they please."
Miss Amory did not of course in the least understand what Major Pendennis meant.—Perhaps she thought over circumstances in her mind and asked herself, could he be a negotiator for a former suitor of hers, and could he mean Pen? No, it was impossible.—He had been civil, but nothing more. —So she said, laughing, "Who is the clever man, and when will you bring him to me, Major Pendennis? I am dying to see him."
At this moment a servant threw open the door, and announced Mr. Henry Foker: at which name, and the appearance of our friend, both the lady and the gentleman burst out laughing.
"That is not the man," Major Pendennis said. "He is engaged to his cousin, Lord Gravesend's daughter.—Goodbye, my dear Miss Amory."
Was Pen growing worldly, and should a man not get the experience of the world and lay it to his account? "He felt, for his part," as he said, "that he was growing very old very soon. How this town forms and changes us!" he said once to Warrington. Each had come in from his night's amusement; and Pen was smoking his pipe, and recounting, as his habit was, to his friend the observations and adventures of the evening just past. "How I am changed," he said, " from the simpleton boy at Fairoaks, who was fit to break his heart about his first love! Lady Mirabel had a reception to-night, and was as grave and collected as if she had been born a Duchess, and had never seen a trap-door in her life. She gave me the honour of a conversation, and patronised me about 'Walter Lorraine,' quite kindly."
"What condescension !" broke in Warrington.
"Wasn't it?" Pen said, simply—at which the other burst out laughing according to his wont. "Is it possible," he said, "that anybody should think of patronising the eminent author of' Walter Lorraine'?"
"You laugh at both of usj' Pen said, blushing a little— "I was coming to that myself. She told me that she had not read the book (as indeed I believe she never read a book in her life), but that Lady Eockminster had, and that the Duchess of Connaught pronounced it to be very clever. In that case, I said I should die happy, for that to please those
two ladies was in fact the great aim of my existence, and having their approbation, of course I need look for no other. Lady Mirabel looked at me solemnly out of her fine eyes, and said, 'Oh, indeed,' as if she understood me; and then she asked me whether I went to the Duchess's Thursdays, and Vol. n. • o 4
when I said No, hoped she should see me there, and that I must try and get there, everybody went there—everybody who was in society: and then we talked of the new ambassador from Timbuctoo, and how he was better than the old one; and how Lady Mary Billington was going to marry a clergyman quite below her in rank; and how Lord and Lady Eingdove had fallen out three months after their marriage about Tom Pouter of the Blues, Lady Ringdove's cousin—and so forth. From the gravity of that woman you would have fancied she had been born in a palace, and lived all the seasons of her life in Belgrave Square."
"And you, I suppose you took your part in the conversation pretty well, as the descendant of the Earl your father, and the heir of Fairoaks Castle?" Warrington said. "Yes, I remember reading of the festivities which occurred when you came of age. The Countess gave a brilliant tea soiree to the neighbouring nobility; and the tenantry were regaled in the kitchen with a leg of mutton and a quart of ale. The remains of the banquet were distributed amongst the poor of the village, and the entrance to the park was illuminated until old John put the candle out on retiring to rest at his usual hour."
"My mother is not a countess," said Pen, "though she has very good blood in her veins too—but commoner as she is, I have never met a peeress who was more than her peer, Mr. George; and if you will come to Fairoaks Castle you shall judge for yourself of her and of my cousin too. They are not so witty as the London women, but they certainly are as well bred. The thoughts of women in the country are turned to other objects than those which occupy your London ladies. In the country a woman has her household and her poor, her long calm days and long calm evenings."
"Devilish long," Warrington said, "and a great deal too calm; I've tried 'em."
"The monotony of that existence must be to a certain degree melancholy—like the tune of a long ballad; and its harmony grave and gentle, sad and tender: it would be unendurable else. The loneliness of women in the country makes them of necessity soft and sentimental. Leading a