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WHICH CONCLUDES THE FIRST PART OF THIS HISTORY.
EN’S conduct in this business of course was soon made public, and angered his friend Dr. P o r t m a 11 not a little ; while it only amused Ma
jor Pendennis. As for the good Mrs. Pendennis, she was almost distracted when she heard of the squabble, and of Pen’s unchristian behaviour. All sorts of wretchedness, discomfort, crime, annoyance, seemed to come out of this transaction in which the luckless boy had engaged: and she longed more than ever to see him out of Chatteris for a while,—anywhere removed from the woman who had brought him into so much trouble.
Pen, when remonstrated with by this fond parent, and angrily rebuked by the Doctor for his violence and ferocious intentions, took the matter a.u grand séricux, with the happy conceit and gravity of youth: said that he would permit no man to insult him upon this head without vindicating his own honour, and appealing, asked whether he could have acted
otherwise as a gentleman, than as he did in resenting the outrage offered to him, and in offering satisfaction to the person chastised ?
“ Vous allez trap rite, my good sir,” said the uncle, rather puzzled, for he had been indoctrinating his nephew with some of his own notions upon the point of honour—old-world notions savouring of the camp and pistol a great deal more than our soberer opinions of the present day—“between men of the world I don’t say; but between two schoolboys, this sort of thing is ridiculous, my dear boy—perfectly ridiculous.”
“It is extremely wicked, and unlike my son,” said Mrs. Pendennis, with tears in her eyes; and bewildered with the obstinacy of the boy.
Pen kissed her, and said with great pomposity, “Women, dear mother, don’t understand these matters—I put myself into Foker’s hands—I had no other course to pursue.”
Major Pendennis grinned and shrugged his shoulders. The young ones were certainly making great progress, he thought. Mrs. Pendennis declared that that Foker was a wicked horrid little wretch, and was sure that he would lead her dear boy into mischief, if Pen went to the same college with him. “I have a great mind not to let him go at all,” she said: and only that she remembered that the lad’s father had always destined him for the College in which he had had his own brief education, very likely the fond mother would have put a veto upon his going to the University.
That he was to go, and at the next October term, had been arranged between all the authorities who presided over the lad’s welfare. Foker had promised to introduce him to the right set; and Major Pendennis laid great store upon Pen’s introduction into College life and society by this admirable young gentleman. “ Mr. Foker knows the very best young men now at the University,” the Major said, “and Pen will form acquaintances there who will be of the greatest advantage through life to him. The young Marquis of Plinlimmon is there, eldest son of the Duke of St. David’s—Lord Magnus Charters is there, Lord Runnymede’s son; and a first cousin of Mr. Foker, (Lady Runnymede, my dear, was Lady Agatha Milton, you of course remember,) Lady Agnes will certainly invite him to Logwood; and far from being alarmed at his intimacy with her son, who is a singular and humorous, but most prudent and amiable young man, to whom, I am sure, we are under every obligation for his admirable conduct in the affair of the Fotheringay marriage, I look upon it as one of the very luckiest things which could have happened to Pen, that he should have formed an intimacy with this most amusing young gentleman.”
Helen sighed, she supposed the Major knew best. Mr. Foker had been very kind in the wretched business with Miss Costigan, certainly, and she was grateful to him. But she could not feel otherwise than a dim presentiment of evil ; and all these quarrels, and riots, and worldliness scared her :about the fate of her boy.
Doctor Portman was decidedly of opinion that Pen should go to College. He hoped the lad would read, and have a moderate indulgence of the best society too. He was of opinion that Pen would distinguish himself: Smirke spoke very highly of his proficiency: the Doctor himself had heard him construe, and thought he acquitted himself remarkably well. That he should go out of Chatteris was a great point at any rate; and Pen, who was distracted from his private grief by the various rows and troubles which had risen round about him, gloomily said he would obey.
There were assizes, races, and the entertainments and the flux of company consequent upon them, at Chatteris, during a part of the months of August and September, and Miss Fotheringay still continued to act, and take farewell of the audiences at the Chatteris Theatre during that time. Nobody seemed to be particularly affected by her presence, or her announced departure, except those persons whom we have named; nor could the polite county folks, who had houses in London, and very likely admired the Fotheringay prodigiously in the capital, when they had been taught to do so by the Fashion which set in in her favour, find anything remarkable in the actress performing on the little Chatteris boards. Many a genius and many a quack, for that matter, has met with a similar fate before and since Miss Costigan’s time. This honest woman meanwhile bore up against the public neglect, and any other crosses or vexations which she might have in life, with her usual equanimity; and ate, drank, acted, slept, with that regularity and comfort which belongs to people of her temperament. What a deal of grief, care, and other harmful excitement, does a healthy dulness and cheerful insensibility avoid! Nor do I mean to say that Virtue is not Virtue because it is never tempted to go astray; only that dulness is a much finer gift than we give it credit for being, and that some people are very lucky whom Nature has endowed with a good store of thatgreat anodyne.
Pen used to go drearily in and out from the play at Chatteris during this season, and pretty much according to his fancy. His proceedings tortured his mother not a little, and her anxiety would have led her often to interfere, had not the Major constantly checked, and at the same time encouraged her; for the wily man of the world fancied he saw that a favourable turn had occurred in Pen’s malady. It was the violent efliux of versification, among other symptoms, which gave Pen’s guardian and physician satisfaction. He might be heard spouting verses in the shrubbery walks, or muttering them between his teeth as he sat with the home party of evenings. One day prowling about the house in Pen’s absence, the Major found a great book full of verses in the lad’s study. They were in English, and in Latin ; quotations from the classic authors were given in the scholastic manner in the foot-notes. He can’t be very bad, wisely thought the PallMall Philosopher: and he made Pen’s mother remark (not, perhaps, without a secret feeling of disappointment, for she loved romance like other soft women), that the young gentleman during the last fortnight came home quite hungry to dinner at night, and also showed a very decent appetite at the breakfast table in the morning. “ Gad, I wish I could,” said the Major, thinking ruefully of his dinner pills. “ The boy begins to sleep well, depend upon tha .” It was cruel, but it was true.
Having no other soul to confide in, the lad’s friendship for the Curate redoubled, or rather, he was never tired of having Smirke for a listener on that one subject. What is a lover without a confidant ? Pen employed Mr. Smirke, as Corydon does the elm-tree, to cut out his mistress’s name upon. He made him echo with the name of the beautiful Amaryllis. When men have left off playing the tune, they do not care much for the pipe: but Pen thought he had a great friendship for Smirke, because he could sigh out his loves and griefs into his tutor’s ears; and Smirke had his own reasons for always being ready at the lad’s call. '
The poor Curate was naturally very much dismayed at the contemplated departure of his pupil. When Arthur should go, Smirke’s occupation and delight would go too. What pretext could he find for a daily visit to Fairoaks, and that kind word or glance from the lady there, which was as necessary to the Curate as the frugal dinner which Madame Fribsby served him ? Arthur gone, he would only be allowed to make visits like any other acquaintance: little Laura could not accommodate him by learning the Catechism more than once a week: he had curled himself like ivy round Fairoaks: he pined at the thought that he must lose his hold of the place. Should he speak his mind and go down on his knees to the widow? He thought over any indications in her behaviour which flattered his hopes. She had praised his sermon three weeks before : she had thanked him exceedingly for his present of a melon, for a small dinner party which Mrs. Pendennis gave: she said she should always be grateful to him for his kindness to Arthur: and when he declared that there were no bounds to his love and affection for that dear boy, she had certainly replied in a romantic manner, indicating her own strong gratitude and regard to all her son’s friends. Should he speak out ?—or should he delay? If he spoke and she refused him, it was awful to think that the gate of Fairoaks might be shut upon him for ever—and within that door lay all the world for Mr. Smirke.
Thus, oh friendly readers, we see how every man in the world has his own private griefs and business, by which he is more cast down or occupied than by the affairs or sorrows of any other person. While Mrs. Pendennis is disquieting herself about losing her son, and that anxious hold she has had of him, as long as he has remained in the mother’s nest, whence he is about to take flight into the great world beyond