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so? As you are her dependant, would it not have been more generous to wait before you took this step, and at least to have paid her the courtesy to ask her leave?"
Pen held down his head, and began dimly to perceive that the action on which he had prided himself as a most romantic, generous instance of disinterested affection, was perhaps a very selfish and headstrong piece of folly.
“I did it in a moment of passion," said Pen, floundering; “I was not aware what I was going to say or to do” (and in this he spoke with perfect sincerity). “But now it is said, and I stand to it. No; I neither can nor will recall it. I'll die rather than do so. And I—I don't want to burden my mother," he continued. “I'll work for myself. I'll go on the stage, and act with her. She — she says I should do well there."
“But will she take you on those terms ? " the Major interposed. “Mind, I do not say that Miss Costigan is not the most disinterested of women; but, don't you suppose now, fairly, that your position as a young gentleman of ancient birth and decent expectations, forms a part of the cause why she finds your addresses welcome ?"
"I'll die, I say, rather than forfeit my pledge to her," said Pen, doubling his fists and turning red.
“Who asks you, my dear friend ?" answered the imperturbable guardian. “No gentleman breaks his word, of course, when it has been given freely. But after all, you can wait. You owe something to your mother, something to your family - something to me as your father's representative.”.
“Oh, of course," Pen said, feeling rather relieved.
“Well, as you have pledged your word to her, give us another, will you, Arthur ? "
“What is it ?” Arthur asked.
“That you will make no private marriage - that you won't be taking a trip to Scotland, you understand.”
“ That would be a falsehood. Pen never told his mother a falsehood,” Helen said.
Pen hung down his head again, and his eyes filled with tears of shame. Had not this whole intrigue been a falsehood to that tender and confiding creature who was ready to give up all for his sake ? He gave his uncle his hand.
“No, sir — on my word of honor as a gentleman," he said, “I will never marry without my mother's consent!” and giving Helen a bright parting look of confidence and affection unchangeable, the boy went out of the drawing-room into his own study.
“He's an angel — he's an angel,” the mother cried out in one of her usual raptures.
“He comes of a good stock, Ma'am," said her brotherin-law — "of a good stock on both sides." The Major was greatly pleased with the result of his diplomacy
- so much so, that he once more saluted the tips of Mrs. Pendennis's glove, and dropping the curt, manly, and straightforward tone in which he had conducted the conversation with the lad, assumed a certain drawl, which he always adopted when he was most conceited and fine.
“My dear creature,” said he, in that his politest tone, “I think it certainly as well that I came down, and I flatter myself that last botte was a successful one. I tell you how I came to think of it. Three years ago my kind friend Lady Ferrybridge sent for me in the greatest state of alarm about her son Gretna, whose affair you remember, and implored me to use my influence with the young gentleman, who was engaged in an affaire de cour with a Scotch clergyman's
daughter, Miss Mac Toddy. I implored, I entreated gentle measures. But Lord Ferrybridge was furious, and tried the high hand. Gretna was sulky and silent, and his parents thought they had conquered. But what was the fact, my dear creature? The young people had been married for three months before Lord Ferrybridge knew anything about it. And that was why I extracted the promise from Master Pen."
“Arthur would never have done so," Mrs. Pen. dennis said.
“ He has n't, – that is one comfort," answered the brother-in-law.
Like a wary and patient man of the world, Major Pendennis did not press poor Pen any farther for the moment, but hoped the best from time, and that the young fellow's eyes would be opened before long to see the absurdity of which he was guilty. And hav. ing found out how keen the boy's point of honor was, he worked kindly upon that kindly feeling with great skill, discoursing him over their wine after dinner, and pointing out to Pen the necessity of a perfect uprightness and openness in all his dealings, and entreating that his communications with his interesting young friend (as the Major politely called Miss Fotheringay) should be carried on with the knowledge, if not approbation, of Mrs. Pendennis. “After all, Pen,” the Major said, with a convenient frankness that did not displease the boy, whilst it advanced the interests of the negotiator, "you must bear in mind that you are throwing yourself away. Your mother may submit to your marriage as she would to anything else you desired, if you did but cry long enough for it: but be sure of this, that it can never please her. You take a young woman off the boards of a country theatre and prefer her, for such is the case, to one of the finest
happy undehad it in here ward of hersitetermined to de
ladies in England. And your mother will submit to your choice, but you can't suppose that she will be happy under it. I have often fancied, entre nous, that my sister had it in her eye to make a marriage between you and that little ward of hers — Flora, Laura
- what's her name? And I always determined to do my small endeavor to prevent any such match. The child has but two thousand pounds, I am given to understand. It is only with the utmost economy and care that my sister can provide for the decent maintenance of her house, and for your appearance and education as a gentleman; and I don't care to own to you that I had other and much higher views for you. With your name and birth, sir — with your talents, which I suppose are respectable, with the friends whom I have the honor to possess, I could have placed you in an excellent position - a remarkable position for a young man of such exceeding small means, and had hoped to see you, at least, try to restore the honors of our name. Your mother's softness stopped one prospect, or you might have been a general, like our gallant ancestor who fought at Ramillies and Malplaquet. I had another plan in view : my excellent and kind friend, Lord Bagwig, who is very well disposed towards me, would, I have little doubt, have attached you to his mission at Pumpernickel, and you might have advanced in the diplomatic service. But, pardon me for recurring to the subject; how is a man to serve a young gentleman of eighteen, who proposes to marry a lady of thirty, whom he has selected from a booth in a fair ? — well, not a fair, — barn. That profession at once is closed to you. The public service is closed to you. Society is closed to you. You see, my good friend, to what you bring yourself. You may get on at the bar to be sure, where I am given to understand
that gentlemen of merit occasionally marry out of their kitchens; but in no other profession. Or you may come and live down here — down here, mon Dieu / forever” (said the Major, with a dreary shrug, as he thought with inexpressible fondness of Pall Mall), “where your mother will receive the Mrs. Arthur that is to be, with perfect kindness; where the good people of the county won’t visit you; and where, by Gad, sir, I shall be shy of visiting you myself, for I'm a plain spoken man, and I own to you that I like to live with gentlemen for my companions; where you will have to live, with rum-and-water drinking gentlemenfarmers, and drag through your life the young husband of an old woman, who, if she does n’t quarrel with your mother, will at least cost that lady her position in society, and drag her down into that dubious caste into which you must inevitably fall. It is no affair of mine, my good sir. I am not angry. Your downfall will not hurt me farther than that it will extinguish the hopes I had of seeing my family once more taking its place in the world. It is only your mother and yourself that will be ruined. And I pity you both from my soul. Pass the claret: it is some I sent to your poor father; I remember I bought it at poor Lord Levant's sale. But of course,” added the Major, smacking the wine, “having engaged yourself, you will do what becomes you as a man of honor, however fatal your promise may be. However, promise us on our side, my boy, what I set out by entreating you to grant, — that there shall be nothing clandestine, that you will pursue your studies, that you will only visit your interesting friend at proper intervals. Do you write to her much 2" Pen blushed and said, “Why, yes, he had written.” “I suppose verses, ehl as well as prose ? I was a