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had got the rank in Paris during her residence in that city. But how could the French king, were he ever so much disposed, give her any such title? We shall not inquire into this mystery, however. Suffice to say, she went away from home a bouncing young lass; she returned a rather elderly character, with a Madonna front and a melancholy countenance—bought the late Mrs. Harbottle’s business for a song—took her elderly mother to live with her ; was very good to the poor, was constant at church, and had the best of characters. But there was no one in all Clavering, not Mrs. Portman herself, who read so many novels as Madame Fribsby. She had plenty of time for this amusement, for, in truth, very few people besides the folks at the Rectory and Fairoaks employed her; and by a perpetual perusal of such works (which were by no means so moral or edifying in the days of which we write, as they are at present), she had got to be so absurdly sentimental, that in her eyes life was nothing but an immense love-match ; and she never could see two people together, but she fancied they were dying for one another.
On the day after Mrs. Pendennis’s visit to the Curate, which we have recorded many pages back, Madame Fribsby settled in her mind that Mr. Smirke must be in love with the widow, and did everything in her power to encourage this passion on both sides. Mrs. Pendennis she very seldom saw, indeed, except in public, and in her pew at church. That lady had very little need of millinery, or made most of her own dresses and caps ; but on the rare occasions when Madame Fribsby received visits from Mrs. Pendennis, or paid her respects at Fairoaks, she never failed to entertain the widow with praises of the Curate, pointing out what an angelical man he was, how gentle, how studious, how lonely; and she would wonder that no lady would take pity upon him.
Helen laughed at these sentimental remarks, and wondered that Madame herself did not compassionate her lodger, and console him. Madame Fribsby shook her Madonna front. “ Mong cure a boco soufiare,” she said, laying her hand on the part she designated as her cure. “Il est more en Espang, Madame,” she said with a sigh. She was proud of her intimacy with the French language, and spoke it with more volubility than correctness. Mrs. Pendennis did not care to penetrate the secrets of this wounded heart: except to her few intimates she was a reserved, and it may be a very proud woman ; she looked upon her son’s tutor merely as an attendant on that young Prince, to be treated with respect as a clergyman certainly, but with proper dignity as a dependant on the house of Pendennis. Nor were Madame’s constant allusions to the Curate particularly agreeable to her. It required a very ingenious sentimental turn indeed to find out that the widow had a secret regard for Mr. Smirke, to which pernicious error, however, Madame Fribsby persisted in holdmg.
Her lodger was very much more willing to talk on this subject with his soft-hearted landlady. Every time after that she praised the Curate to Mrs. Pendennis, she came away from the latter with the notion that the widow herself had been praising him. “ Etre soul au monde est bien onueeyong,” she would say, glancing up at a print of a French carbineer in a green coat and brass cuirass which decorated her apartment—“ Depend upon it when Master Pendennis goes to college, his Ma will find herself very lonely. She is quite young yet.—You wouldn’t suppose her to be five-and-twenty. Monsieur le Cury, song cu're est touchy—fang sm‘s sure—J0 co'rmy cela biang—Ally, Monsieur Smirke.”
He softly blushed; he sighed; he hoped; he feared; he doubted; he sometimes yielded to the delightful idea—his pleasure was to sit in Madame Fribsby’s apartment, and talk upon the subject, where, as the greater part of the conversation was carried on in French by the Milliner, and her old mother was deaf, that retired old individual (who had once been a housekeeper, wife and widow of a butler in the Clavering family), could understand scarce one syllable of their talk.
When Major Pendennis announced to his nephew’s tutor that the young fellow would go to College in October, and that Mr. Smirke’s valuable services would no longer be needful to his pupil, for which services the Major, who spoke as grandly as a lord, professed himself exceedingly grateful, and besought Mr. Smirke to command his interest in any way—the Curate felt that the critical moment was come for him, and was. racked and tortured by those severe pangs which the occasion warranted.
And now that Arthur was going away, Helen’s heart was rather softened towards the Curate, from whom, perhaps divining his intentions, she had shrunk hitherto: she bethought her how very polite Mr. Smirke had been; how he had gone on messages for her; how he had brought books and copied music; how he had taught Laura so many things, and given her so many kind presents. Her heart smote her on account of her ingratitude towards the Curate :—so much so, that one afternoon when he came down from study with Pen, and was hankering about the hall previous to his departure, she went out and shook hands with him with rather a blushing face, and begged him to come into her‘ drawingroom, where she said they now never saw him. And as there was to be rather a good dinner that day, she invited Mr. Smirke to partake of it ; and we may be sure that he was too happy to accept such a delightful summons.
Helen was exceedingly kind and gracious to Mr. Smirke during dinner, redoubling her attentions, perhaps because Major Pendennis was very high and reserved with his nephew’s tutor. When Pendennis asked Smirke to drink wine, he addressed him as if he was a Sovereign speaking to a petty retainer, in a manner so condescending, that even Pen laughed at it, although quite ready, for his part, to be as conceited as most young men are.
But Smirke did not care for the impertinences of the Major so long as he had his hostess’s kind behaviour; and he passed a delightful time by her side at table, exerting all his powers of conversation to please her, talking in a manner both clerical and worldly, about the fancy Bazaar, and the Great Missionary Meeting, about the last new novel, and the Bishop’s excellent sermon—about the fashionable parties in London, an account of which he read in the newspapers—in fine, he neglected no art, by which a College divine who has both sprightly and serious talents, a taste for the genteel, an irreproachable conduct, and a susceptible heart, will try and make himself agreeable to the person on whom he has fixed his affections.
Major Pendennis came yawning out of the dining-room very soon after his sister and little Laura had left the apartment.
Now Arthur, flushed with a good deal of pride at the privilege of having the keys of the cellar, and remembering that a very few more dinners would probably take place which he and his dear friend Smirke could share, had brought up a liberal supply of claret for the company’s drinking, and when the elders with little Laura left him, he and the Curate began to pass the wine very freely.
One bottle speedily yielded up the ghost, another shed more than half its blood, before the two topers had been much more than half an hour together—Pen, with a hollow laugh and voice, had drunk ofi one bumper to the falsehood of women, and had said sardonically, that wine at any rate was a mistress who never deceived, and was sure to give a man a welcome.
Smirke gently said that he knew for his part some women who were all truth and tenderness; and casting up his eyes towards the ceiling, and heaving a sigh as if evoking some being dear and unmentionable, he took up his glass and drained it, and the rosy liquor began to sufiuse his face.
Pen trolled over some verses he had been making that morning, in which he informed himself that the woman who had slighted his passion could not be worthy to win it: that he was awaking from love’s mad fever, and, of course, under these circumstances, proceeded to leave her, and to quit a heartless dece1ver: that a name which had one day been famous in the land, might again be heard in it: and, that though he never should be the happy and careless boy he was but a few months since, or his heart be what it had been ere passion had filled it and grief had well-nigh killed it; that though to him personally death was as welcome as life, and that he would not hesitate to part with the latter, but for the love of one kind being whose happiness depended on his own,—yet he hoped to show he was a man worthy of his race, and that one day the false one should be brought to know how great was the treasure and noble the heart which she had flung away.
VOL. I. 0 3
Pen, we say, who was a very excitable person, rolled out these verses in his rich sweet voice, which trembled with emotion whilst our young poet spoke. He had a trick of blushing when in this excited state, and his large and honest grey eyes also exhibited proofs of a sensibility so genuine, hearty, and manly, that Miss Costigan, if she had a heart, must needs have softened toward him; and very likely she was, as he said, altogether unworthy of the affection which he lavished upon her.
The sentimental Smirke was caught by the emotion which
‘ agitated his young friend. He grasped Pen’s hand oler the.
dessert dishes and wine-glasses. He said the‘ ‘véfsesNwere beautiful: that Pen was a poet, a great poet, and likely by Heaven’s permission to run a great career in the world. “Go on and prosper, dear Arthur,” he cried: “the wounds under which at present you suffer are only temporary, and the very grief you endure will cleanse and strengthen your heart. I have always prophesied the greatest and brightest things of you, as soon as you have corrected some failings and weaknesses of character, which at present belong to you. But you will get over these, my boy, you will get over these; and when you are famous and celebrated, as I know you will be, will you remember your old tutor and the happy early days of your youth ?"
Pen swore he would: with another shake of the hand across the glasses and apricots. “ I shall never forget how kind you have been to me, Smirke,” he said. “ I don’t know what I should have done without you. You are my best friend.”
“ Am I really, Arthur ? ” said Smirke, looking through his spectacles; and his heart began to heat so that he thought Pen must almost hear it throbbing.
“My best friend, my friend for ever,” Pen said. “God bless you, old boy," and he drank up the last glass of the second bottle of the famous wine which his father had laid in, which his uncle had bought, which Lord Levant had imported, and which now, like a slave indifferent, was ministering pleasure to its present owner, and giving its young master delectation.
“ We’ll have another bottle, old boy,” Pen said‘; “ by Jove