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lived, however, with the best society in Europe: he was in no hurry, and could afford to wait any time—till he was oneand-twenty. But he felt (and here his face assumed an awful and harrowing solemnity) that he was engaged in the one only passion of his life, and that DEATH alone could close it.
Helen told him, with a sad smile and a shake of the head, that people survived these passions, and as for long engagements contracted between very young men and old women— she knew an instance in her own family—Laura’s poor father was an instance—how fatal they were.
Mr. Pen, however, was resolved that death must be his doom in case of disappointment, and rather than this—rather than baulk him in fact—this lady would have submitted to any sacrifice or personal pain, and would have gone down on her knees and have kissed the feet of a Hottentot daughterin-law.
Arthur knew his power over the widow, and the young tyrant was‘touched whilst he exercised it. In those two days he brought her almost into submission, and patronised her very kindly; and he passed one evening with the lovely piemaker at Chatteris, in which he bragged of his influence over his mother; and he spent the other night in composing a most flaming and conceited copy of verses to his divinity, in which he vowed, like Montrose, that he would make her famous with his sword and glorious by his pen, and that he would love her as no mortal woman had been adored since the creation of womankind.
It was on that night, long after midnight, that wakeful Helen, passing stealthily by her son’s door, saw a light streaming through the chink of the door into the dark passage, and heard Pen tossing and tumbling and mumbling verses in his bed. She waited outside for a while, anxiously listening to him. In infantile fevers and early boyish illnesses, many a night before, the kind soul had so kept watch. She turned the lock very softly now, and went in so gently, that Pen for a moment did not see her. His face was turned from her. His papers on his desk were scattered about, and more were lying on the bed round him. He was biting a pencil and thinking of rhymes and all sorts of follies and passions. He was Hamlet jumping into Ophelia’s grave : he was the Stranger taking Mrs. Haller to his arms, beautiful Mrs. Haller, with the raven ringlets falling over her shoulders. Despair and Byron, Thomas Moore and all the Loves of the Angels, Waller and Herrick, Béranger and all the love-songs he had ever read, were working and seething in this young gentleman’s mind, and he was at the very height and paroxysm of the imaginative phrensy, when his mother found him.
“Arthur,” said the mother’s soft silver voice: and he started up and turned round. He clutched some of the papers and pushed them under the pillow.
“ Why don’t you go to sleep, my dear ? ” she said, with a sweet tender smile, and sate down on the bed and took one of his hot hands.
Pen looked at her wildly for an instant—“I couldn’t sleep,” he said—“ I—I was—I was writing.”—And hereupon he flung his arms round her neck and said, “ 0 mother! I love her, I love her! ”—How could such a kind soul as that help soothing and pitying him ? The gentle creature did her best: and thought with a strange wonderment and tenderness, that it was only yesterday that he was a child in that bed: and how she used to come and say her prayers over it before he woke upon holiday mornings.
They were very grand verses, no doubt, although Miss Fotheringay did not understand them; but old Cos, with a wink and a knowing finger on his nose, said, “ Put them up with th’ hother letthers, Milly darling. Poldoody’s pomes was nothing to this.” So Milly locked up the manuscripts.
When then the Major, being dressed and presentable, presented himself to Mrs. Pendennis, he found in the course of ten minutes’ colloquy that the poor widow was not merely distressed at the idea of the marriage contemplated by Pen, but actually more distressed at thinking that the boy himself was unhappy about it, and that his uncle and he should have any violent altercation on the subject. She besought Major Pendennis to be very gentle with Arthur: “He has a very high spirit, and will not brook unkind words,” she hinted. “Doctor Portman spoke to him rather roughly—and I must own unjustly, the other night—for my dearest boy’s honour