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his mother and uncle his intention not to go down, but stay at Oxbridge and read, Mr. Pen was nevertheless induced to take a brief visit to London in company with his friend Mr. Bloundell. They put up at a hotel in Covent Garden, where Bloundell had a tick, as he called it, and took the pleasures of the town very freely after the wont of young university men. Bloundell still belonged to a military club, whither he took Pen to dine once or twice (the young men would drive thither in a cab, trembling lest they should meet Major Pendennis on his beat in Pall Mall), and here Pen was introduced to a number of gallant young fellows with spurs and mustachios, with whom he drank pale-ale of mornings and beat the town of a night. Here he saw a deal of life, indeed: nor in his career about the theatres and singing-houses which these roaring young blades frequented, was he very likely to meet his guardian. One night, nevertheless, they were very near to each other: a plank only separating Pen, who was in the boxes of the Museum Theatre, from the Major, who was in Lord Steyne's box, along with that venerated nobleman. The Fotheringay was in the pride of her glory. She had made a hit: that is, she had drawn very good houses for nearly a year, had starred the provinces with great eclat, had come back to shine in London with somewhat diminished lustre, and now was acting with "ever increasing attraction," etc., "triumph of the good old British drama," as the play-bills avowed, to houses in which there was plenty of room for anybody who wanted to see her.
It was not the first time Pen had seen her, since that memorable day when the two had parted in Chatteris. In the previous year, when the town was making much of her, and the press lauded her beauty, Pen had found a pretext for coming to London in termtime, and had rushed off to the theatre to see his old flame. He recollected it rather than renewed it . He remembered how ardently he used to be on the lookout at Chatteris, when the speech before Ophelia's or Mrs. Haller's entrance on the stage was made by the proper actor. Now, as the actor spoke, he had a sort of feeble thrill: as the house began to thunder with applause, and Ophelia entered with her old bow and sweeping curtsy, Pen felt a slight shock and blushed very much as he looked at her, and could not help thinking that all the house was regarding him. He hardly heard her for the first part of the play: and he thought with such rage of the humiliation to which she had subjected him, that he began to fancy he was jealous and in love with her still. But that illusion did not last very long. He ran round to the stage door of the theatre to see her if possible, but he did not succeed. She passed indeed under his nose with a female companion, but he did not know her, — nor did she recognize him. The next night he came in late, and stayed very quietly for the after-piece, and on the third and last night of his stay in London — why Taglioni was going to dance at the Opera, — Taglioni! and there was to be "Don Giovanni," which he admired of all things in the world: so Mr. Pen went to "Don Giovanni" and Taglioni.
This time the illusion about her was quite gone. She was not less handsome, but she was not the same, somehow. The light was gone out of her eyes which used to flash there, or Pen's no longer were dazzled by it. The rich voice spoke as of old, yet it did not make Pen's bosom thrill as formerly. He thought he could recognize the brogue underneath: the accents seemed to him coarse and false. It annoyed him to hear the same emphasis on the same words, only uttered a little louder: worse than this, it annoyed him to think that he should ever have mistaken that loud imitation for genius, or melted at those mechanical sobs and sighs. He felt that it was in another life almost, that it was another man who had so madly loved her. He was ashamed and bitterly humiliated, and very lonely. Ah, poor Pen! the delusion is better than the truth sometimes, and fine dreams than dismal waking.
They went and had an uproarious supper that night, and Mr. Pen had a fine headache the next morning, with which he went back to Oxbridge, having spent all his ready money.
As all this narrative is taken from Pen's own confessions, so that the reader may be assured of the truth of every word of it, and as Pen himself never had any accurate notion of the manner in which he spent his money, and plunged himself in much deeper pecuniary difficulties, during his luckless residence at Oxbridge University, it is, of course, impossible for me to give any accurate account of his involvements, beyond that general notion of his way of life, which we have sketched a few pages back. He does not speak too hardly of the roguery of the university tradesmen, or of those in London whom he honored with his patronage at the outset of his career. Even Finch, the money-lender, to whom Bloundell introduced him, and with whom he had various transactions, in which the young rascal's signature appeared upon stamped paper, treated him, according to Pen's own account, with forbearance, and never mulcted him of more than a hundred per cent. The old college-cook, his fervent admirer, made him a private bill, offered to send him in dinners up to the very last, and never would have pressed his account to his dying day. There was that kindness and frankness about Arthur Pendennis, which won most people who came in contact with him, and which, if it rendered him an easy prey to rogues, got him, perhaps, more good will than he merited from many honest men. It was impossible to resist his good-nature, or, in his worst moments, not to hope for his rescue from utter ruin.
At the time of his full career of university pleasure, he would leave the gayest party to go and sit with a sick friend. He never knew the difference between small and great in the treatment of his acquaintances, however much the unlucky lad's tastes, which were of the sumptuous order, led him to prefer good society; he was only too ready to share his guinea with a poor friend, and when he got money had an irresistible propensity for paying, which he never could conquer through life.
In his third year at college, the duns began to gather awfully round about him, and there was a levee at his oak which scandalized the tutors, and would have scared many a stouter heart. With some of these he used to battle, some he would bully (under Mr. Bloundell's directions, who was a master in this art, though he took a degree in no other), and some deprecate. And it is reported of him that little Mary Frodsham, the daughter of a certain poor gilder and frame-maker, whom Mr. Pen had thought fit to employ, and who had made a number of beautiful frames for his fine prints, coming to Pendennis with a piteous tale that her father was ill with ague, and that there was an execution in their house, Pen in an anguish of remorse rushed away, pawned his grand watch and every single article of jewelry except two