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we will. Hurray !—claret goes for nothing. My uncle was telling me that he saw Sheridan drink five bottles at Brookes’s, besides a bottle of Maraschino. This is some of the finest wine in England, he says. So it is by Jove. There’s nothing like it. Nunc vino pellite cums—eras ingens iterabimus (sq—3 fill your glass, Old Smirke, a hogshead of it won’t do you any harm.” And Mr. Penbegan to sing the drinking song out of “Der Freischiitz.” The dining-room windows were open, and his mother was softly pacing on the lawn outside, while little Laura was looking at the sunset. The sweet fresh notes of the boy’s voice came to the widow. It cheered her kind heart to hear him sing.
“ You—you are taking too much wine, Arthur,” Mr. Smirke said softly—“ you are exciting yourself.”
“ No,” said Pen, “women give headaches, but this don’t. Fill your glass, old fellow, and let’s drink—I say, Smirke, my boy-—-let’s drink to her—your her, I mean, not mine, for whom I swear I’ll care no more—no, not a penny—no, not a fig— no, not a glass of wine. Tell us about the lady, Smirke; I’ve often seen you sighing about her.”
“Oh!” said Smirke—and his beautiful cambric shirt-front and glistening studs heaved with the emotion which agitated his gentle and sufiering bosom.
“ Oh—what a sigh!” Pen cried, growing very hilarious; “fill, my boy, and drink the toast; you can’t refuse a toast, no gentleman refuses a toast. Here’s her health, and good luck to you, and may she soon be Mrs. ‘Smirke.”
“Do you say so?” Smirke said, all of a tremble. “Do you really say so, Arthur ? ”
“Say so; of course I say so. Down with it. Here’s Mrs. Smirke’s good health: Hip, hip, hurray ! ”
Smirke convulsively gulped down his glass of wine, and Pen waved his over his head, cheering so as to make his mother and Laura wonder on the lawn, and his uncle, who was dozing over the paper in the drawing-room, start, and say to himself, “ that boy’s drinking too much.” Smirke put down the glass.
“I accept the omen,” gasped out the blushing Curate. “ Oh, my dear Arthur, you—you know her-—-”
“What—Mira Portman? I wish you joy: she’s got a dev’lish large waist; but I wish you joy, old fellow.”
“Oh, Arthur!” groaned the Curate again, and nodded his head, speechless.
“Beg your pardon—sorry I offended you—but she has got a large waist, you know—dev’lish large waist,” Pen continued—the third bottle evidently beginning to act upon the young gentleman.
“It‘s not Miss Portman,” the other said, in a voice of agony.
“ Is it anybody at Chatteris or at Clapham? Somebody here? No—it ain’t old Pybus? it can’t be Miss Rolt at the Factory—she’s only fourteen.”
“ It’s somebody rather older than I am, Pen,” the Curate cried, looking up at his friend, and then guiltily casting his eyes down into his plate.
Pen burst out laughing. “ It’s Madame Fribsby, by Jove, it’s Madame Fribsby. Madame Frib, by the immortal Gods!”
The Curate could contain no more. “0 Pen,” he cried, “ how can you suppose that any of those—of those more than ordinary beings you have named—could have an influence upon this heart, when I have been daily in the habit of contemplating perfection! I may be insane, I may be madly ambitious, I may be presumptuous—but for two years my heart has been filled by one image, and has known no other idol. Haven’t I loved you as a son, Arthur ‘P—say, hasn’t Charles Smirke loved you as a son ? ”
“Yes, old boy, you’ve been very good to me,” Pen said, whose liking, however, for his tutor was not by any means of the filial kind.
“ My means,” rushed on Smirke, “ are at present limited, I own, and my mother is not so liberal as might be desired; but what she has will be mine at her death. Were she to hear of my marrying a lady of rank and good fortune, my mother would be liberal, I am sure she would be liberal. Whatever I have or subsequently inherit—and it’s five hundred a year at the very least—would be settled upon her, and—and—and you at my death—that is——”
“ What the deuce do you mean ?—and what have I to do with your money ? ” cried out Pen, in a puzzle.
“Arthur, Arthur!” exclaimed the other wildly; “you say I am your dearest friend—Let me be more. Oh, can’t you see that the angelic being I love—the purest, the best of women—is no other than your dear, dear angel of a— mother?”
“My mother!” cried out Arthur, jumping up and sober
in a minute. “ Pooh! damn it, Smirke, you must be mad—
she’s seven or eight years older than you are.”
“ Did you find that any objection ?” cried Smirke piteously, and alluding, of course, to the elderly subject of Pen’s own passion.
The lad felt the hint, and blushed quite red. “The cases are not similar, Smirke,” he said, “and the allusion might have been spared. A man may forget his own rank and elevate any woman to it; but allow me to say our positions are very difierent.” _
“ How do you mean, dear Arthur? ” the Curate interposed sadly, cowering as he felt that his sentence was about to be read.
“ Mean ? ” said Arthur. “ I mean what I say. My tutor, I say my tutor, has no right to ask a lady of my mother’s rank of life to marry him. It’s a breach of confidence. I say it’s a liberty you take, Smirke—it’s a liberty. Mean, indeed!”
“ 0 Arthur! ” the Curate began to cry with clasped hands, and a scared face, but Arthur gave another stamp with his foot, and began to pull at the bell. “Don’t let’s have any more of this. We’ll have some cofiee, if you please,” he said with a majestic air: and the old butler entering at the summons, Arthur bade him to serve that refreshment.
John said he had just carried cofiee into the drawing-room, where his uncle was asking for Master Arthur, and the old man gave a glance of wonder at the three empty claret-bottles. Smirke said he thought he’d—he’d rather not go into the drawing-room, on which Arthur haughtily said “ As you please,” and called for Mr. Smirke’s horse to be brought round. The poor fellow said he knew the way to the stable
and would get his pony himself, and he went into the hall and sadly put on his coat and hat.
Pen followed him out uncovered. Helen was still walking up and down the soft lawn as the sun was setting, and the Curate took off his hat and bowed by way of farewell, and
‘passed on to the door leading to the stable court by which the
pair disappeared. Smirke knew the way to the stable, as he said, well enough. He fumbled at the girths of the saddle, which Pen fastened for him, and put on the bridle and led the pony into the yard. The boy was touched by the grief which appeared in the other’s face as he mounted. Pen held out his hand, and Smirke wrung it silently.
“I say, Smirke,” he said in an agitated voice, “forgive me if I have said anything harsh—for you have always been very very kind to me. But it can’t be, old fellow, it can’t be. Be a man. God bless you.”
Smirke nodded his head silently, and rode out of the lodge gate: and Pen looked after him for a couple of minutes, until he disappeared down the road, and the clatter of the pony’s hoofs died away. Helen was still lingering on the lawn waiting until the boy came back—she put his hair off his forehead and kissed it fondly. She was afraid he had been drinking too much wine. Why had Mr. Smirke gone away
g] without any tea ?
He looked at her with a kind humour beaming in his eyes; “ Smirke is unwell,” he said with a laugh. For a long while Helen had not seen the boy looking so cheerful. He put his arm round her waist, and walked her up and down the walk in front of the house. Laura began to drub on the drawingroom window and nod and laugh from it. “ Come along you two people,” cried out Major Pendennis, “your coffee is getting quite cold.”
When Laura was gone to bed, Pen, who was big with his secret, burst out with it, and described the dismal but ludicrous scene which had occurred. Helen heard of it with many blushes, which became her pale face very well, and a perplexity which Arthur roguishly enjoyed.
“Confound the fellow’s impudence,” Major Pendennis said as he took his candle; “where will the assurance of these people stop?” Pen and his mother had a long talk that night, full of love, confidence, and laughter, and the boy somehow slept more soundly and woke up more easily than he had done for many months before.
Before the great Mr. Dolphin quitted Chatteris, he not only made an advantageous engagement with Miss Fotheringay, but he liberally left with her a sum of money to pay off any debts which the little family might have contracted during their stay in the place, and which, mainly through the lady’s own economy and management, were not considerable. The small account with the spirit merchant, which Major Pendennis had settled, was the chief of Captain Costigan’s debts, and though the Captain at one time talked about repaying every farthing of the money, it never appears that he executed his menace, nor did the laws of honour in the least call upon him to accomplish that threat.
When Miss Costigan had seen all the outstanding bills paid to the uttermost shilling, she handed over the balance to her father, who broke out into hospitalities to all his friends, gave the little Creeds more apples and gingerbread than he had ever bestowed upon them,‘so that the widow Creed ever after held the memory of her lodger in veneration, and the young ones wept bitterly when he went away; and in a word managed the money so cleverly that it was entirely expended before many days, and he was compelled to draw upon Mr. Dolphin for a sum to pay for travelling expenses when the time of their departure arrived.
There was held at an inn in that county town a weekly meeting of a festive, almost a riotous character, of a society of gentlemen who called themselves the Buccaneers. Some of the choice spirits of Chatteris belonged to this cheerful Club. Graves, the apothecary (than whom a better fellow never put a pipe in his mouth and smoked it), Smart, the talented and humorous portrait-painter of High Street, Croker, an excellent auctioneer, \and the uncompromising Hicks, the able Editor for twenty-three years of the County Chronicle and Chatteris Champion, were amongst the crew of the Buccaneers, whom also Bingley, the manager, liked to join of a