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Tuesday evening, at an early tea, when I shall wear the beautiful scarf which, with its accompanying delightful verses, I shall ever, ever cherish: and Papa bids me say how happy he will be if you will join "the feast of reason and the flow of soul" in our festive little party, as I am sure will be your truly grateful Emily Fotheringay.
No. 3 was somewhat more confidential, and showed that matters had proceeded rather far. You were odious yesterday night, the letter said. Why did you not come to the stage-door? Papa could not escort me on account of his eye; he had an accident, and fell down over a loose carpet on the stair on Sunday night. I saw you looking at Miss Diggle all night; and you were so enchanted with Lydia Languish you scarcely once looked at Julia. I could have crushed Bingley, I was so angry. I play Ella Rosenberg on Friday: will you come then? Miss J>iggle performs — ever your E. F.
These three letters Mr. Pen used to read at intervals, during the day and night, and embrace with that delight and fervor which such beautiful compositions surely warranted. A thousand times at least he had kissed fondly the musky satin paper, made sacred to him by the hand of Emily Fotheringay. This was all he had in return for his passion and flames, his vows and protests, his rhymes and similes, his wakeful nights and endless thoughts, his fondness, fears and folly. The young wiseacre had pledged away his all for this: signed his name to endless promissory notes, conferring his heart upon the bearer: bound himself for life, and got back twopence as an equivalent. For Miss Costigan was a young lady of such perfect good
VOL. IX. — 9
conduct and self-command, that she never would have thought of giving more, and reserved the treasures of her affection until she could transfer them lawfully at church. Howbeit, Mr. Pen was content with what tokens of regard he had got, and mumbled over his three letters in a rapture of high spirits, and went to sleep delighted with his kind old uncle from London, who must evidently yield to his wishes in time; and, in a word, in a preposterous state of contentment with himself and all the world.
IN WHICH THE MAJOB OPENS THE CAMPAIGN.
Let those who have the blessed privilege of an entree into the most select circles, admit that Major Pendennis was a man of no ordinary generosity and affection, in the sacrifice which he now made. He gave up London in May, — his newspapers and his mornings — his afternoons from club to club, his little confidential visits to my Ladies, his rides in Rotten Row, his dinners, and his stall at the Opera, his rapid escapades to Fulham or Richmond on Saturdays and Sundays, his bow from my Lord Duke or my Lord Marquis at the great London entertainments, and his name in the "Morning Post" of the succeeding day, — his quieter little festivals, more select, secret, and delightful — all these he resigned to lock himself into a lone little country house, with a simple widow and a greenhorn of a son, a mawkish curate, and a little girl of twelve years of age.
He made the sacrifice, and it was the greater that few knew the extent of it. His letters came down franked from town, and he showed the invitations to Helen with a sigh. It was beautiful and tragical to see him refuse one party after another — at least to those who could understand, as Helen didn't, the melancholy grandeur of his self-denial. Helen did not, or only smiled at the awful pathos with which the Major spoke of the Court Guide in general: but young Pen looked with great respect at the great names upon the superscriptions of his uncle's letters, and listened to the Major's stories about the fashionable world with constant interest and sympathy.
The elder Pendennis's rich memory was stored with thousands of these delightful tales, and he poured them into Pen's willing ear. He knew the name and pedigree of everybody in the Peerage, and everybody's relations. "My dear boy," he would say, with a mournful earnestness and veracity, "you cannot begin your genealogical studies too early; I wish to Heavens you would read in Debrett every day. !Not so much the historical part (for the pedigrees, between ourselves, are many of them very fabulous, and there are few families that can show such a clear descent as our own) as the account of family alliances, and who is related to whom. I have known a man's career in life blasted, by ignorance on this all-important subject. Why, only last month, at dinner at my Lord Hobanob's, a young man, who has lately been received amongst us, young Mr. Suckling (author of a work I believe), began to speak lightly of Admiral Bowser's conduct for ratting to Ministers, in what I must own is the most audacious manner. But who do you think sat next and opposite to this Mr. Suckling? Why — why, next to him was Lady Grampound Bowser's daughter, and opposite to him was Lord Grampound Bowser's son-in-law. The infatuated young man went on cutting his jokes at the Admiral's expense, fancying that all the world was laughing with him, and I leave you to imagine Lady Hobanob's feelings — Hobanob's ! — those of every well-bred man, as the wretched intrm was so exposing himself. He will never dine again in South Street. I promise you that."
With such discourses the Major entertained his nephew, as he paced the terrace in front of the house for his two hours' constitutional walk, or as they sat together after dinner over their wine. He grieved that Sir Francis Clavering had not come down to the Park, to live in it since his marriage, and to make a society for the neighborhood. He mourned that Lord Eyrie was not in the country, that he might take Pen and present him to his lordship. "He has daughters," the Major said. "Who knows? you might have married Lady Emily or Lady Barbara Trehawk; but all those dreams are over; my poor fellow, you must lie on the bed which you have made for yourself."
These things to hear did young Pendennis seriously incline. They are not so interesting in print as when delivered orally; but the Major's anecdotes of the great George, of the Royal Dukes, of the statesmen, beauties, and fashionable ladies of the day, filled young Pen's soul with longing and wonder; and he found the conversations with his guardian, which sadly bored and perplexed poor Mrs. Pendennis, for his own part never tedious.
It can't be said that Mr. Pen's new guide, philosopher and friend, discoursed him on the most elevated subjects, or treated the subjects which he chose in the most elevated manner. But his morality, such as it was, was consistent. It might not, perhaps, tend to a man's progress in another world, but it was pretty well calculated to advance his interests in this; and then it must be remembered, that the Major never for one instant doubted that his views were the only views practicable, and that his conduct was perfectly virtuous and respectable. He was a man of honor, in a word: and had his eyes, what he called, open. He took pity on this young greenhorn of a nephew, and wanted to open his eyes too.