« ZurückWeiter »
dishonoured, sir,” he continued, with his voice failing; “ and I know she will pay these accounts. But I shall ask her for no more money.” ‘
“As you like, sir,” the Major said. “ You are of age, and my hands are washed of your affairs. But you can’t live without money, and have no means of making it that I see, though you have a fine talent in spending it, and it is my belief that you will proceed as you have begun, and ruin your mother before you are five years older.—Good morning; it is time for me to go to breakfast. My engagements won’t permit me to see you much during the time that you stay in London. I presume that you will acquaint your mother with the news which you have just conveyed to me.”
And pulling on his hat, and trembling in his limbs somewhat,, Major Pendennis walked out of his lodgings before his nephew, and went ruefully off to take his accustomed corner at the Club. He saw the Oxbridge examination lists in the morning papers, and read over the names, not understanding the business, with mournful accuracy. He consulted various old fogies of his acquaintance, in the course of the‘day, at his Clubs; Wenham, a Dean, various civilians ; and, as it is called, “took their opinion,” showing to some of them the amount of his nephew’s debts, which he had dotted down on the back of a card, and asking what was to be done, and whether such debts were not monstrous, preposterous ? What was to be done ?—There was nothing for it but to pay. Wenham and the others told the Major of young men who owed twice as much—five times as much—as Arthur, and with no means at all to pay. The consultations, and calculations, and opinions, comforted the Major somewhat. After all, he was not to pay.
But he thought bitterly of the many plans he had formed to make a man of his nephew, of the sacrifices which he had made, and of the manner in which he was disappointed. And he wrote off a letter to Doctor Portman, informing him of the direful events which had taken place, and begging the Doctor to break them to Helen. For the orthodox old gentleman preserved the regular routine in all things, and was of opinion that it was more correct to “ break” a piece of bad news to a person by means of a (possibly maladroit and unfeeling) messenger, than to convey it simply to its destination by a note. So the Major wrote to Doctor Portman, and then went out to dinner, one of the saddest men in any London dining-room that day.
Pen, too, wrote his letter, and skulked about London streets for the rest of the day, fancying that everybody was looking at him and whispering to his neighbour, “That is Pendennis of Boniface, who was plucked yesterday.” His letter to his mother was full of tenderness and remorse: he wept the bitterest tears over it —and the repentance and passion soothed him to some degree.
He saw a party of roaring young blades from Oxbridge in the coffee-room of his hotel, and slunk away from them, and paced the streets. He remembers, he says, the prints which he saw hanging up at Ackermann’s window in the rain, and a book which he read at a stall near the Temple: at night he went to the pit of the play, and saw Miss Fotheringay, but he doesn’t in the least recollect in what piece.
On the second day there came a kind letter from his tutor, containing many grave and appropriate remarks upon the event which had befallen him, but strongly urging Pen not to take his name off the university books, and to retrieve a disaster which, everybody knew, was owing to his own carelessness alone, and which he might repair by a month’s application. He said he had ordered Pen’s skip to pack up some trunks of the young gentleman’s wardrobe, which duly arrived with fresh copies of all Pen’s bills laid on the top.
On the third day there arrived a letter from Home! which Pen read in his bedroom, and the result of which was that he fell down on his knees, with his head in the bed-clothes, and there prayed out his heart, and humbled himself: and having gone downstairs and eaten an immense breakfast, he sallied forth and took his place at the Bull and Mouth, Piccadilly, by the Chatteris coach for that evening.
UCH a letter as the Major wrote, of course sent Doc!. tor Portman to Fairoaks, 3? and he went off with that alacrity which a good man shows when he has disagreeable news to communicate. He wishes the deed were done, and done quickly. He is sorry, but qua 'uoulez-cous ? the tooth must be taken out, and he has you into the chair, and it is surprising with what courage and vigour ‘of wrist he applies the forceps. Perhaps he would not be quite so active or eager if it were his tooth; but, in fine, it is your duty to have it out. So the Doctor, having read the epistle out to Mira and Mrs. Portman, with many damnatory comments upon the young scapegrace who was going deeper and deeper into perdition, left those ladies to spread the news through the Clavering society, which they did with their accustomed accuracy and despatch, and strode over to Fairoaks to break the intelligence to the widow. She had the news already. She had read Pen’s letter, and it had relieved her somehow. A gloomy presentiment of evil
had been hanging over her for many, many months past. She knew the worst now, and her darling boy was come back to her repentant and tender-hearted. Did she~ want more? All that the Rector could say (and his remarks were both dictated by common sense, and made respectable by antiquity) could not bring Helen to feel any indignation or particular unhappiness, except that the boy should be unhappy. What was this degree that they made such an outcry about, and what good would it do Pen? Why did Doctor Portman and his uncle insist upon sending the boy to a place where there was so much temptation to be risked, and so little good to be won ? Why didn’t they leave him at home with his mother ? As for his debts, of course they must be paid ;—his debts !— wasn’t his father’s money all his, and hadn’t he a right to spend it? In this way the widow met the virtuous Doctor, and all the arrows of his indignation somehow took no effect upon her gentle bosom.
For some time past, an agreeable practice, known since times ever so ancient, by'which brothers and sisters are wont to exhibit their afiection towards one another, and in which Pen and his little sister Laura had been accustomed to indulge pretty frequently in their childish days, had been given up by the mutual consent of those two individuals. Coming back from college after an absence from home of some months, in place of the simple girl whom he had left behind him, Mr. Arthur found a tall, slim, handsome young lady, to whom he could not somehow profier the kiss which he had been in the habit of administering previously, and who received him with a gracious curtsey and a proffered hand, and with a great blush which rose up to the cheek, just upon the very spot which young Pen had been used to salute.
I am not good at descriptions of female beauty ; and, indeed, do not care for it in the least (thinking that goodness and virtue are, of course, far more advantageous to a young lady than any mere fleeting charms of person and face), and so shall not attempt any particular delineation of Miss Laura Bell at the age of sixteen years. At that age she had attained her present altitude of five feet four inches, so that she was called tall and gawky by some, and a Maypole by others, of her own sex, who prefer littler women. But if she was a Maypole, she had beautiful roses about her head, and it is a fact that many swains were disposed to dance round her. She was ordinarily pale, with a faint rose tinge in her cheeks; but they flushed up in a minute when occasion called, and continued so blushing ever so long, the roses remaining after the emotion had passed away which had summoned those pretty flowers into existence. Her eyes have been described as very large from her earliest childhood, and retained that characteristic in later life. Good-natured critics (always females) said that she was in the habit of making play with those eyes, and ogling the gentlemen and ladies in her company; but the fact is, that Nature had made them so to shine and to look, and they could no more help so looking and shining than one star can help being brighter than another. It was doubtless to mitigate their brightness that Miss Laura’s eyes were provided with two pairs of veils in the shape of the longest and finest black eyelashes, so that, when she closed her eyes, the same people who found fault with those orbs said that she wanted to show her eyelashes off ; and, indeed, I dare say that to see her asleep would have been a pretty sight.
As for her complexion, that was nearly as brilliant as Lady Mantrap’s, and without the powder which her ladyship uses. Her nose must be left to the reader’s imagination: if her mouth was rather large (as Miss Piminy avers, who, but for her known appetite, one would think could not swallow anything larger than a button) everybody allowed that her smile was charming, and showed off a set of pearly teeth, whilst her voice was so low and sweet, that to hear it was like listening to sweet music. Because she is in the habit of wearing very long dresses, people of course say that her feet are not small: but it may be, that they are of the size becoming her figure, and it .does not follow, because Mrs. Pincher is always putting her foot out, that all other ladies should be perpetually bringing theirs on the tapis. In fine, Miss Laura Bell, at the age of sixteen, was a sweet young lady. Many thousands of such are to be found, let us hope, in this country, where there is no lack of goodness, and modesty, and purity, and beauty.