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by, listening and nodding his head, as if he understood what was the subject of their conversation, and approved of their opinions. Bungay’s opinions, in truth, were pretty simple. He thought the Captain could write the best smashing article in England. He wanted the opposition house of Bacon smashed, and it was his opinion that the Captain could do that business. If the Captain had written a letter of Junius on a sheet of paper, or copied a part of the Church Catechism, Mr. Bungay would have been perfectly contented, and have considered that the article was a smashing article. And he pocketed the papers with the greatest satisfaction: and he not only paid for the manuscript, as we have seen, but he called little Mary to him, and gave her a penny as he went away.
The reading of the manuscript over, the party engaged in general conversation, Shandon leading with a jaunty fashionable air in compliment to the two guests who sate with him, and who, by their appearance and manner, he presumed to be persons of the beau monde. He knew very little indeed of the great world, but he had seen it, and made the most of what he had seen. He spoke of the characters of the day, and great personages of the fashion, with easy familiarity and jocular allusions, as if it was his habit to live amongst them. He told anecdotes of their private life, and of conversations he had had, and entertainments at which he had been present, and at which such and such a thing occurred. Pen was amused to hear the shabby prisoner in a tattered dressinggown talking glibly about the great of the land. Mrs. Shandon was always delighted when her husband told these tales, and believed in them fondly every one. She did not want to mingle in the fashionable world herself, she was not clever enough; but the great Society was the very place for her Charles: he shone in it: he was respected in it. Indeed, Shandon had once been asked to dinner by the Earl of X; his wife treasured the invitation-card in her work-box at that very day.
Mr. Bungay presently had enough of this talk, and got up to take leave, whereupon Warrington and Pen rose to depart with the publisher, though the latter would have liked to stay to make a further acquaintance with this family, who interested him and touched him. He said something about hoping for permission to repeat his visit, upon which Shandon, with a rueful grin, said he was always to be found at home, and should be delighted to see Mr. Pennington.
"I’ll see you to my park-gate, gentlemen,” said Captain Shandon, seizing his hat in spite of a deprecatory look, and a faint cry of “Charles” from Mrs. Shandon. And the Captain, in shabby slippers, shuflled out before his guests, leading the way through the dismal passages of the prison. His hand was already fiddling with his waistcoat pocket, where Bungay’s five-pound note was, as he took leave of the three gentlemen at the wicket; one of them, Mr. Arthur Pendennis, being greatly relieved when he was out of the horrid place, and again freely treading the flags of Farringdon Street.
Mrs. Shandon sadly went on with her work at the window looking into the court. She saw Shandon with a couple of men at his heels run rapidly in the direction of the prison tavern. She had hoped to have had him to dinner herself that day: there was a piece of meat, and some salad in a basin, on the ledge outside of the window of their room which she had expected that she and little Mary were to share with the child’s father. But there was no chance of that now. He would be in that tavern until the hours for closing it; then he would go and play at cards or drink in some other man’s room, and come back silent, with glazed eyes, reeling a little
in his walk, that his wife might nurse him. Oh, what varieties
of pain do we not make our women suffer!
So Mrs. Shandon went to the cupboard, and, in lieu of a dinner, made herself some tea. And in those varieties of pain of which we spoke anon, what a part of confidante has that poor teapot played ever since the kindly plant was introduced among us! What myriads of women have cried over it, to be sure! What sick beds it has smoked by! What fevered lips have received refreshment from out of it ! Nature meant very gently by women when she made that tea-plant. With a little thought what a series of pictures and groups the fancy may conjure up and assemble round the teapot and cup. Melissa and Saccharissa are talking love secrets over it. Poor Polly has it and her lover’s letters upon the table; his letters who was her lover yesterday, and when it was with pleasure, not despair, she wept over them. Mary comes tripping noiselessly into her mother’s bedroom, bearing a cup of the consoler to the widow who will take no other food. Ruth is busy concocting it for her husband, who is coming home from the harvest-field—one could fill a page with hints for such pictures ;—finally, Mrs. Shandon and little Mary sit down and drink their tea together, while the Captain goes out and takes
his pleasure. She cares for nothing else but that, when her husband is away.
A gentleman with whom we are already slightly acquainted, Mr. Jack Finucane, a townsman of Captain Shandon’s, found the Captain’s wife and little Mary (for whom Jack always brought a sweetmeat in his pocket) over this meal. Jack thought Shandon the greatest of created geniuses, had had one or two helps from the good-natured prodigal, who had always a kind word, and sometimes a guinea for any friend in need; and never missed a day in seeing his patron. He was ready to run Shandon’s errands and transact his money-business with publishers and newspaper editors, duns, creditors, holders of Shandon’s acceptances, gentlemen disposed to speculate in those securities, and to transact the thousand little affairs of an embarrassed Irish gentleman. I never knew an embarrassed Irish gentleman yet, but he had an aide-de-camp of his own nation, likewise in circumstances of pecuniary discomfort. That aide-de-camp has subordinates of his own, who again may have other insolvent dependants —all through his life our Captain marched at the head of a ragged staff, who shared in the rough fortunes of their chieftain.
“He won’t have that five-pound note very long, I bet a guinea,” Mr. Bungay said of the Captain, as he and his two companions walked away from the prison; and the publisher judged rightly, for when Mrs. Shandon came to empty her husband’s pockets, she found but a couple of shillings, and a few halfpence out of the morning’s remittance. Shandon had given a pound to one follower; had sent a leg of mutton and potatoes and beer to an acquaintance in the poor side of the prison ; had paid an outstanding bill at the tavern where he had changed his five-pound note; had had a dinner with two friends there, to whom he lost sundry half-crowns at cards afterwards; so that the night left him as poor as the morning had found him.
The publisher and the two gentlemen had had some talk together after quitting Shandon, and Warrington reiterated to Bungay what he had said to his rival, Bacon, viz., that Pen was a high fellow, of great genius, and what was more, well with the great world, and related to “no end” of the peerage. Bungay replied that he should be happy to have dealings with Mr. Pendennis, and hoped to have the pleasure of seeing both gents to cut mutton with him before long, and so, with mutual politeness and protestations, they parted.
“It is hard to see such a man as Shandon,” Pen said, musing, and talking that night over the sight which he had witnessed, “ of accomplishments so multifarious, and of such an undoubted talent and humour, an inmate of a gaol for half his time, and a bookseller’s hanger-on when out of prison.”
“I am a bookseller’s hanger-on—you are going to try your paces as a hack,” Warrington said with a laugh. “ We are all hacks upon some road or other. I would rather be myself, than Paley our neighbour in chambers: who has as much enjoyment of his life as a mole. A deuced deal of undeserved compassion has been thrown away upon what you call your bookseller’s drudge.”
“ Much solitary pipes and ale make a cynic of you,” Pen said. “You are a Diogenes by a beer-barrel, Warrington. No man shall tell me that a man of genius, as Shandon is, ought to be driven by such a vulgar slave-driver as yonder Mr. Bungay, whom we have just left, who fattens on the profits of the other’s brains, and enriches himself out of his journeyman’s labour. It makes me indignant to see a gentleman the serf of such a creature as that, of a man who can’t speak the language that he lives by, who is not fit to black Shandon’s boots.”
“ So you have begun already to gird at the publishers, and to take your side amongst our order. Bravo, Pen, my boy! " Warrington answered, laughing still. “What have you got to say against Bungay’s relations with Shandon ? Was it the publisher, think you, who sent the author to prison ? Is it Bungay who is tippling away the five-pound note which we saw just now, or Shandon ? ”
“Misfortune drives a man into bad company,” Pen said. “It is easy to cry ‘Fie ! ’ against a poor fellow who has no society but such as he finds in a prison; and no resource except forgetfulness and the bottle. We must deal kindly with