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glees, when Captain Strong’s chest was of vast service, and he boomed out in a prodigious bass, of which he was not a little proud.
“ Good fellow, Strong—ain’t he, Miss Bell ? ” Sir Francis would say to her. “Plays at écarté with Lady Clavering— plays anything—pitch and toss, pianoforty, cwibbage if you like. How long do you think he’s been staying with me ? He came for a week with a carpet-bag, and gad, he’s been staying thwee years. Good fellow, ain’t he? Don’t know how he gets a shillin’, though, by Jove I don’t, Miss Lauwa.”
And yet the Chevalier, if he lost his money to Lady Clavering, always paid it; and if he lived with his friend for three years, paid for that too—in good humour, in kindness and joviality, in a thousand little services by which he made himself agreeable. What gentleman could want a better friend than a man who was always in spirits, never in the way or out of it, and was ready to execute any commission for his patron, whether it was to sing a song or meet a lawyer, to fight a duel, or to carve a capon ?
Although Laura and Pen commonly went to Clavering Park together, yet sometimes Mr. Pen took walks there unattended by her, and about which he did not tell her. He took to fishing the Brawl, which runs through the Park, and passes not very far from the garden wall; and by the oddest coincidence, Miss Amory would walk out (having been to look at her flowers), and would be quite surprised to see Mr. Pendennis fishing.
I wonder what trout Pen caught while the young lady was looking on? or whether Miss Blanche was the pretty little fish which played round his fly, and which Mr. Pen was endeavouring to hook ?
As for Miss Blanche, she had a kind heart; and having, as she owned, herself “ suffered ” a good deal in the course of her brief life and experience—why, she could compassionate other susceptible beings like Pen, who had suffered too. Her love for Laura and that dear Mrs. Pendennis redoubled: if they were not at the Park, she was not easy unless she herself was at Fairoaks. She played with Laura; she read French and German with Laura; and Mr. Pen read French and
German along with them. He turned sentimental ballads of Schiller and Goethe into English verse for the ladies, and Blanche unlocked “Mes Larmes” for him, and imparted to him some of the plaintive outpourings of her own tender Muse.
It appeared from these poems that the young creature had
indeed suffered prodigiously. She was familiar with the idea of suicide. Death she repeatedly longed for. A faded rose inspired her with such grief that you would have thought she must die in pain of it. It was a wonder how a young creature should have suffered so much—should have found the means of getting at such an ocean of despair and passion (as a runaway boy who will get to sea), and having embarked on it, should survive it. What a talent she must have had for weeping to be able to pour out so many of “Mes Larmes ! ”
They were not particularly briny, Miss Blanche’s tears,‘
that is the truth; but Pen, who read her verses, thought them very well for a lady—and wrote some verses himself for her. His were very violent and passionate, very hot, sweet, and strong: and he not only wrote verses; but—O, the villain! O, the deoeiver !—he altered and adapted former poems in his possession, and which had been composed for a certain Miss Emily Fotheringay, for the use and to the Christian name of Miss Blanche Amory.
A LITTLE INNOCENT.
GAD, Strong,” one day the Baronet, said, as the pair were conversing after dinner over the billiard-table, and that great unbosomer of secrets, a cigar; “ Egad, Strong, I wish to the doose your wife was dead.”
“ So do I. That’s a cannon, by Jove! But she won’t; she’ll live for ever— you see if she don’t. Why do you wish her off the hooks, Frank, my boy?”
,~ asked Captain Strong.
“Because then you might marry Missy. She ain’t badlooking. She’ll have ten thousand, and that’s a good bit of money for such a poor old devil as you,” drawled out the other gentleman. “And egad, Strong, I hate her worse and
worse every day. I can’t stand her, Strong; by gad, I can’t.”
“ I wouldn’t take her at twice the figure,” Captain Strong
said, laughing. “ I never saw such a little devil in my life.”
“ I should like to poison her,” said the sententious Baro
net; “ by Jove I should.”
“ Why, what has she been at now ? ” asked his friend.
“Nothing particular,” answered Sir Francis; “only her old tricks. That girl has such a knack of making everybody miserable that, hang me, it’s quite surprising. Last night she sent the governess crying away from the dinner-table. Afterwards, as I was passing Frank’s room I heard the poor little beggar howling in the dark, and found his sister had been frightening his soul out of his body, by telling him stories about the ghost that’s in the house. At lunch she gave my lady a turn; and though my wife’s a fool, she’s a good soul—I’m hanged if she ain’t.”
“ What did Missy do to her ? ” Strong asked.
“Why, hang me, if she didn’t begin talking about the late Amory, my predecessor,” the Baronet said, with a grin. “ She got some picture out of the ‘Keepsake,’ and said, she was sure it was like her dear father. She wanted to know where her father’s grave was. Hang her father! Whenever Miss Amory talks about him, Lady Clavering always bursts out crying: and the little devil will talk about him in order to spite her mother. To-day when she began, I got in a confounded rage, said I was her father, and—and that sort of thing, and then, sir, she took a shy at me.”
“And what did she say about you, Frank ? ” Mr. Strong, still laughing, inquired of his friend and patron.
“Gad, she said I wasn’t her father; that I wasn’t fit to comprehend her; that her father must have been a man of genius, and fine feelings, and that sort of thing; whereas I had married her mother for money.”
“ Well, didn’t you ? ” asked Strong.
“ It don’t make it any the pleasanter to hear because it’s true, don’t you know,” Sir Francis Clavering answered. “I ain’t a literary man and that; but I ain’t such a fool as she makes me out. I don’t know how it is, but she always manages to—to put me in the hole, don’t you understand. She turns all the house round her in her quiet way, and with her confounded sentimental airs. I wish she was dead, Ned.”
“It was my wife whom you wanted dead just now,” Strong said, always in perfect good humour; upon which the Baronet, with his accustomed candour, said, “Well, when people bore my life out, I do wish they were dead, and I wish Missy were down a well with all my heart.”