Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

which Pen used to take his station when engaged in his passion for Miss Fotheringay, and the cavity of which he afterwards used for other purposes than to insert his baits and fishing-cans in. The truth is, he converted this tree into a post-office. Under a piece of moss and a stone, he used to put little poems, or letters equally poetical, which were addressed to a certain Undine, or Naiad who frequented the stream, and which, once or twice, were replaced by a receipt in the shape of a flower, or by a modest little word or two of acknowledgment, written in a delicate hand, in French or English, and on pink scented paper. Certainly, Miss Amory used to walk by this stream, as we have seen; and it is a fact that she used pink scented paper for her correspondence. But after the great folks had invaded Clavering Park, and the family coach passed out of the lodge-gates, evening after evening, on their way to the other great country houses, nobody came to fetch Pen’s letters at the post-office; the white paper was not exchanged for the pink, but lay undisturbed under its stone and its moss, whilst the tree was reflected into the stream, and the Brawl went rolling by. There was not much in the letters certainly: in the pink notes scarcely anything —merely a little word or two, half jocular, half sympathetic, such as might be written by any young lady. But oh, you silly Pendennis, if you wanted this one, why did you not speak? Perhaps neither party was in earnest. You were only playing at being in love, and the sportive little Undine was humouring you at the same play.

Nevertheless if a man is balked at this game, he not unfrequently loses his temper ; and when nobody came any more for Pen’s poems, he began to look upon those compositions in a very serious light. He felt almost tragical and romantic again, as in his first afiair of the heart :—at any rate he was bent upon having an explanation. One day he went to the Hall, and there was a roomful of visitors: on another, Miss Amory was not to be seen; she was going to a ball that night, and was lying down to take a little sleep. Pen cursed balls, and the narrowness of his means, and the humility of his position in the county that caused him to be passed over by the givers of these entertainments. On a third occasion, Miss Amory was in the garden, and he ran thither: she was walking there in state with no less personages than the Bishop and Bishopess of Chatteris and the episcopal family, who scowled at him, and drew up in great dignity when he was presented to them, and they heard his name. The Right Reverend Prelate had heard it before, and also of the little transaction in the Dean’s garden.

“ The Bishop says you’re a sad young man,” good-natured Lady Clavering whispered to him. “What have you been a doing of? Nothink, I hope, to vex such a dear Mar as yours ? How is your dear Mar ? Why don’t she come and see me ? We an’t seen her this ever such a time. We’re a goin’ about a gaddin’, so that we don’t see no neighbours now. Give my love to her and Laurar, and come all to dinner to-morrow.”

Mrs. Pendennis was too unwell to come out, but Laura and Pen came, and there was a great party, and Pen only got an opportunity of a hurried word with Miss Amory. “ You never come to the river now,” he said.

“I can’t,” said Blanche, “the house is full of people.”

“ Undine has left the stream,” Mr. Pen went on, choosing to be poetical.

“She never ought to have gone there,” Miss Amory answered. “ She won’t go again. It was very foolish, very wrong: it was only play. Besides, you have other consolations at home,” she added, looking him full in the face an instant, and dropping her eyes.

If he wanted her, why did he not speak then ? She might have said “Yes” even then. But as she spoke of other consolations at home, he thought of Laura, so afiectionate and so pure, and of his mother at home, who had bent her fond heart upon uniting him with her adopted daughter. “Blanche!” he began, in a vexed tone,—“ Miss Amory! ”

“ Laura is looking at us, Mr. Pendennis,” the young lady said. “I must go back to the company,” and she ran off, leaving Mr. Pendennis to bite his nails in perplexity, and to look out into the moonlight in the garden.

Laura indeed was looking at Pen. She was talking with, or appearing to listen to the talk of, Mr. Pynsent, Lord Rockminster’s son, and grandson of the Dowager Lady, who was seated in state in the place of honour, gravely receiving Lady Clavering’s bad grammar, and patronising the vacuous Sir Francis, whose interest in the county she was desirous to secure. Pynsent and Pen had been at Oxbridge together, where the latter, during his heyday of good fortune and fashion, had been the superior of the young patrician, and perhaps rather supercilious towards him. They had met for the first time, since they had parted at the University, at the table to-day, and given each other that exceedingly impertinent and amusing demi-nod of recognition which is practised in England only, and only to perfection by University men,—and which seems to say, “ Confound you—what do you do here ? ”

“I knew that man at Oxbridge,” Mr. Pynsent said to Miss Bell—“ a Mr. Pendennis, I think.”

“ Yes,” said Miss Bell.

“He seems rather sweet upon Miss Amory,” the gentleman went on. Laura looked at them, and perhaps thought so too, but said nothing.

“A man of large property in the county, ain’t he? He used to talk about representing it. He used to speak at the Union. Whereabouts do his estates lie ? ”

Laura smiled. “His estates lie on the other side of the river, near the lodge gate. He is my cousin, and I live there.”

“ Where ? ” asked Mr. Pynsent, with a laugh.

“Why, on the other side of the river, at Fairoaks,” answered Miss Bell.

“ Many pheasants there ? Cover looks rather good,” said the simple gentleman.

Laura smiled again. “We have nine hens and a cook, a pig, and an old pointer.”

“Pendennis don’t preserve, then?” continued Mr. Pyn— sent. ‘

“You should come and see him,” the girl said, laughing, and greatly amused at the notion that her Pen was a great county gentleman, and perhaps had given himself out to be such.

“Indeed, I quite long to renew our acquaintance,” Mr. Pynsent said, gallantly, and with a look which fairly said, “ It is you that I would like to come and see ”—to which look and speech Miss Laura vouchsafed a smile, and made a little bow.

Here Blanche came stepping up with her most fascinating smile and ogle, and begged dear Laura to come and take the second in a song. Laura was ready to do anything goodnatured, and went to the piano; by which Mr. Pynsent listened as long as the duet lasted, and until Miss Amory began for herself, when he strode away.

“What a nice, frank, amiable, well-bred girl that is, Wagg,” said Mr. Pynsent to a gentleman who had come over with him from Baymouth—“ the tall one I mean, with the ringlets and the red lips—monstrous red, ain’t they ? ”

“ What do you think of the girl of the house ? ” asked Mr. Wagg.

“I think she’s a lean, scraggy humbug,” said Mr. Pynsent, with great candour. “ She drags her shoulders out of her dress: she never lets her eyes alone: and she goes simpering and ogling about like a French waiting-maid.”

“ Pynsent, be civil,” cried the other; “ somebody can hear.” .

“Oh, it’s i Pendennis of Boniface,” Mr. Pynsent said. “ Fine evening, Mr. Pendennis; we were just talking of your charming cousin.”

“ Any relation to my old friend, Major Pendennis ? ” asked Mr. Wagg.

“ His nephew. Had the pleasure of meeting you at Gaunt House,” Mr. Pen said with his very best air—the acquaintance between the gentlemen was made in an instant.

In the afternoon of the next day, the two gentlemen who were staying at Clavering Park were found by Mr. Pen on his return from a fishing excursion, in which he had no sport, seated in his mother’s drawing-room in comfortable conversation with the widow and her ward. Mr. Pynsent, tall and gaunt, with large red whiskers and an imposing tuft to his chin, was striding over a chair in the intimate neighbourhood of Miss Laura. She was amused by his talk, which was sim

ple, straightforward, rather humorous, and keen, and interspersed with homely expressions of a style which is sometimes called slang. It was the first specimen of a young London dandy that Laura had seen or heard; for she had been but a chit at the time of Mr. Foker’s introduction at Fairoaks, nor indeed was that ingenuous gentleman much more than a boy, and his refinement was only that of a school and college.

Mr. Wagg, as he entered the Fairoaks premises with his companion, eyed and noted everything. “ Old gardener,” he said, seeing Mr. John at the lodge—“ old red livery waistcoat —clothes hanging out to dry on the gooseberry bushes—blue aprons, white ducks—gad, they must be young Pendennis’s white ducks—nobody else wears ’em in the family. Rather a shy place for a sucking county member, ay, Pynsent ? ”

“ Snug little crib,” said Mr. Pynsent, “pretty cosy little lawn.”

“Mr. Pendennis at home, old gentleman?” Mr. Wagg said to the old domestic. John answered, “ No, Master Pendennis was agone out.”

“Are the ladies at home?” asked the younger visitor. Mr. John answered, “ Yes, they be ; ” and as the pair walked over the trim gravel, and by the neat shrubberies, up the steps to the hall-door, which old John opened, Mr. Wagg noted everything that he saw; the barometer and the letter-bag, the umbrellas and the ladies’ clogs, Pen’s hats and tartan wrapper, and old John opening the drawing-room door, to introduce the new comers. Such minutiae attracted Wagg instinctively; he seized them in spite of himself.

“ Old fellow does all the work,” he whispered to Pynsent. “Caleb Balderstone. Shouldn’t wonder if he’s the housemaid.” The next minute the pair were in the presence of the Fairoaks ladies; in whom Pynsent could not help recognising two perfectly well-bred ladies, and to whom Mr. Wagg made his obeisance, with florid bows, and extra courtesy, accompanied with an occasional knowing leer at his companion. Mr. Pynsent did not choose to acknowledge these signals, except by extreme haughtiness towards Mr. Wagg, and particular deference to the ladies. If there was one thing laughable in Mr. Wagg’s eyes, it was poverty. He had the soul of a butler

« ZurückWeiter »