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her mother (as indeed Helen had by a thousand words and hints) ask her to give her heart to such a man ? and suppose she were to do so, would it make him happy ?
But she got some relief at length, when, at the end of half an hour—a long half-hour it had seemed to her—a waiter brought her a little note in pencil from Pen, who said, “ I met Cooky below ready to fight me; and I asked his pardon. I’m glad I did it. I wanted to speak to you to-night, but will keep what I had to say till you come home. God bless you. Dance away all night with Pynsent, and be very happy. PEN.”— Laura was very thankful for this letter, and to think that there was goodness and forgiveness still in her mother’s boy.
Pen went downstairs, his heart reproaching him for his absurd behaviour to Laura, whose gentle and imploring looks
‘ followed and rebuked him ; and he was scarcely out of the ball
room door before he longed to turn back and ask her pardon. But he remembered that he had left her with that confounded Pynsent. He could not apologise before him. He would compromise and forget his wrath, and make his peace with the Frenchman. ‘
The Chevalier was pacing down below in the hall of the inn when Pen descended from the ball-room ; and he came up to Pen, with all sorts of fun and mischief lighting up his jolly face.
“I have got him in the coffee-room,” he said, “with a brace of pistols and a candle. Or would you like swords on the beach? Mirobolant is a dead hand with the foils, and killed four gardes-du-cmps with his own point in the barricades of July.”
“Confound it!” said Pen, in a fury. “I can’t fight a cook.”
“He is a Chevalier of July,” replied the other. “They present arms to him in his own country.”
“And do you ask me, Captain Strong, to go out with a servant? ” Pen asked fiercely. “ I’ll call a policeman for him; but—but———”
“ You’ll invite me to hair triggers ? ” cried Strong, with a laugh. “ Thank you for nothing; I was but joking. I came to settle quarrels, not to fight them. I have been soothing down Mirobolant; I have told him that you did not apply the work ‘ Cook’ to him in an offensive sense: that it was con
trary to all the customs of the country that a hired officer of a
household, as I called it, should give his arm to the daughter of the house.” And then he told Pen the grand secret which he had had from Madame Fribsby, of the violent passion under which the poor artist was labouring.
When Arthur heard this tale, he broke out into a hearty laugh, in which Strong joined, and his rage against the poor cook vanished at once. He had been absurdly jealous himself all the evening, and had longed for a pretext to insult Pynsent. He remembered how jealous he had been of Oaks in his first affair; he was ready to pardon anything to a man under a passion like that: and he went into the coffee-room where Mirobolant was waiting, with an outstretched hand, and made him a speech in French, in which he declared that he was “ Sincerement faché d’avoir use une expression qui avait pu blesser Monsieur Mirobolant, et qu’il donnait sa parole comme un gentilhomme qu’il ne l’avait jamais, jamais—intendé,” said Pen, who made a shot at a French word for “intended,” and was secretly much pleased with his own fluency and correctness in speaking that language.
“ Bravo, bravo!” cried Strong, as much amused with Pen’s
speech as pleased by his kind manner. “And the Chevalier
Mirobolant of course withdraws, and sincerely regrets the expression of which he made use.”
“Monsieur Pendennis has disproved my words himself,” said Alcide with great politeness; “he has shown that he is a galant homme.”
And so they shook hands and parted, Arthur in the first place despatching his note to Laura before he and Strong committed themselves to the Butcher Boy.
As they drove along, Strong complimented Pen upon his behaviour, as well as upon his skill in French. “You’re a good fellow, Pendennis, and you speak French like Chateaubriand, by Jove.”
“ I’ve been accustomed to it from my youth upwards,” said Pen; and Strong had the grace not to laugh for five minutes, when he exploded into fits of hilarity which Pendennis has never, perhaps, understood up to this day.
It was daybreak when they got to the Brawl, where they separated. By that time the ball at Baymouth was over too. Madame Fribsby and Mirobolant were on their way home in the Clavering fly; Laura was in bed with an easy heart and asleep at Lady Rockminster’s; and the Claverings at rest at the inn at Baymouth, where they had quarters for the night. A short time after the disturbance between Pen and the chef, Blanche had come out of the refreshment-room, looking as pale as a lemon-ice. She told her maid, having no other confidante at hand, that she had met with the most romantic adventure—the most singular man—one who had known the author of her being—her persecuted—her unhappy—her heroic—her murdered father; and she began a sonnet to his manes before she went to sleep.
So Pen returned to Fairoaks, in company with his friend the Chevalier, without having uttered a word of the message which he had been so anxious to deliver to Laura at Baymouth. He could wait, however; until her return home, which was to take place on the succeeding day. He was not seriously jealous of the progress made by Mr. Pynsent in her favour; and he felt pretty certain that in this, as in any other family arrangement, he had but to ask and have, and Laura, like his mother, could refuse him nothing. ‘
When Helen’s anxious looks inquired of him what had happened at Baymouth, and whether her darling project was fulfilled, Pen, in a gay tone, told of the calamity which had befallen; laughingly said, that no man could think about declarations under such a mishap, and made light of the matter. “There will be plenty of time for sentiment, dear mother, when Laura comes back,” he said, and he looked in the glass with a killing air, and his mother put his hair off his forehead and kissed him, and of course thought, for her part, that no woman could resist him; and was exceedingly happy that day.
When he was not with her, Mr. Pen occupied himself in packing books and portmanteaus, burning and arranging
papers, cleaning his gun and putting it into its case: in fact, in making dispositions for departure. For though he was ready to marry, this gentleman was eager to go to London too, rightly considering that at three-and-twenty it was quite time for him to begin upon the serious business of life, and to set about making a fortune as quickly as possible.
The means to this end he had already shaped out for himself. “I shall take chambers,” he said, “and enter myself at an Inn of Court. With a couple of hundred pounds I shall be able to carry through the first year very well; after that I have little doubt my pen will support me, as it is doing with several Oxbridge men now in town. I have a tragedy, a comedy, and a novel, all nearly finished, and for which I can’t fail to get a price. And so I shall be able to live pretty well, without drawing upon my poor mother, until I have made my way at the bar. Then, some day I will come back and make her dear soul happy by marrying Laura. She is as good and as sweet-tempered a girl as ever lived, besides being really very good-looking, and the engagement will serve to steady me,—won’t it, Ponto?” Thus smoking his pipe, and talking to his dog as he sauntered through the gardens and orchards of the little domain of Fairoaks, this young day-dreamer built castles in the air for himself: “Yes, she’ll steady me, won’t she? And you’ll miss me when I’ve gone, won’t you, old boy?” he asked of Ponto, who quivered his tail and thrust his brown nose into his master’s fist. Ponto licked his hand and shoe, as they all did in that house, and Mr. Pen received their homage as other folks do the flattery which they get.
’ Laura came home rather late in the evening of the second day; and Mr. Pynsent, as ill luck would have it, drove her from Clavering. The poor girl could not refuse his ofier, but his appearance brought a dark cloud upon the brow of Arthur Pendennis. Laura saw this, and was pained by it: the eager widow, however, was aware of nothing, and being anxious, doubtless, that the delicate question should be asked at once, was for going to bed very soon after Laura’s arrival, and rose for that purpose to leave the sofa where she now generally lay, and where Laura would come and sit and work or read
by her. But when Helen rose, Laura said, with a blush and rather an alarmed voice, that she was also very tired and wanted to go to bed: so that the widow was disappointed in her scheme for that night at least, and Mr. Pen was left another day in suspense regarding his fate.
His dignity was ofiended at being thus obliged to remain in the antechamber when he wanted an audience. Such a sultan as he could not afford to be kept waiting. However, he went to bed and slept upon his disappointment pretty comfortably, and did not wake until the early morning, when he looked up and saw his mother standing in his room.
“ Dear Pen, rouse up,” said this lady. “ Do not be lazy. It is the most beautiful morning in the world. I have not been able to sleep since daybreak; and Laura has been out for an hour. She is in the garden. Everybody ought to be in the garden and out on such a morning as this.”
Pen laughed. He saw what thoughts were uppermost in the simple woman’s heart. His good-natured laughter cheered the widow. “ Oh you profound dissembler,” he said, kissing his mother. “ Oh you artful creature! Can nobody escape from your wicked tricks? and will you make your only son your victim ? ” Helen too laughed; she blushed, she fluttered, and was agitated. She was as happy as she could be—a good tender, matchmaking woman, the dearest project of whose heart was about to be accomplished.
So, after exchanging some knowing looks and hasty words, Helen left Arthur; and this young hero, rising from his bed, proceeded to decorate his beautiful person, and shave his ambrosial chin; and in half an hour he issued out from his apartment into the garden in quest of Laura. His reflections as he made his toilette were rather dismal. “I am going to tie myself for life,” he thought, “to please my mother. Laura is the best of women, and—and she has given’ me her money. I wish to Heaven I had not received it; I wish I had not this duty to perform just yet. But as both the women have set their hearts on the match, why I suppose I must satisfy them—and now for it. A man may do worse than make happy two of the best creatures in the world.” So Pen, now he was actually